Island Blog 70 – Life is a simple thing

Island Blog 70 - Freedom

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It’s all about breathing in and out for decades, something that happens to us quite naturally.  We can take no credit for this and it’s not complicated, until it stops, of course, or struggles to continue.  All we have to do, as out heart beats and our lungs fill and empty a thousand times a day, is to get on with living.

Ah, you might say.  That’s the rub.  My life is so much harder than just breathing in and out and getting on with things.  My circumstances, you see…..well, life is not simple at all.

Yes, I say, it is.  It may not be easy, but it is simple, and then I draw back in case I get swiped, because why?

Because people love to complicate things, all things and especially their own things.

I know people who have come through cancer and people who have not come through.  I am not one of them.  Therefore my life is a breeze.

I know people who have lost a child.  I have not.  Therefore my life is a breeze.

I know someone disabled, paralised, in prison,bereaved,destitute and hungry.

I am none of them. Therefore….etc

At Jenny’s funeral yesterday, I listened to the tributes.  I counted 250 at least in the church.  I caught the sparkle of a woman who refused to moan, although, believe me, she had plenty of reason to. In fact, she had absolutely no time at all for moaners.

On the way to the church, down winding country lanes, I saw a land rover parked  in a driveway.  Across the top of the windscreen the words in bold black said this:-

ONE LIFE.  LIVE IT.

Jenny did.

Short or long it is the same for us all, as far as we know, although one friend whose family are fisherfolk, plans to return as a crack shot seagull.

Whatever our piddling ailments, our list of miniature disasters, we were born with laughter in our hearts and we all know it.

We might consider laughing more and particularly at ourselves.

Island Blog 65 – Follow me follow

Bumble Bee

Yesterday, the Bee Father decided to investigate all his hives.  It’s the time for swarming, he tells me and I remember one of those not so long ago;  a great blackening of the back garden and the Sun quite peely-wally behind  a thousand whizzing bees.  I heard the noise first and went up the garden stets, well, two of them, or maybe just one.  It was mightily clear to me that the cup of coffee awaiting me on the table was going to go lonely cold for I, sure as hector, was not taking one more step into that melee.  I could have disappeared completely and would likely have swatted and begun a war.  The swarm finally cuddled up with the New Queen on a bough of larch, bringing it at least two foot closer to the ground.  The solid ball hung there in a perfect shape until the BF climbed up to unhook the ball and drop it into a cardboard box and covering it with a piece of white cotton.

Whilst he worked high above me among the lofty Soldier Pines, where the sun dapples the wild orchids and the bees live in harmony and peace, I could hear a marked rise in the tonal buzz.

We are not enjoying this, all of us, it tells me, for we buzz as one.

After the BF had gone right through 3 hives, discovering all was well, that there were not too many queen cells growing new queens to generate a swarm or two, down he came, quite bridal in his white and veil, to sit and eat a quiet lunch with me.  I had carried up an array of dishes, bits of this leftover and that leftover with salad.  For a few moments, all was peaceful munching, until She appeared.

She is a Follower, one of those female worker bees, set the task of making sure any unwelcome visitor goes a very long way away.  Whilst he sat quite still, she bumped against his face and his head, never landing.  After a few minutes, he got up and walked slowly down to the cool of the garage, thus planning to let her know he was leaving.  He came back without her but it was only minutes later and she was back, bumping her warning against his face, head and neck.  She came nowhere near me and I was right beside him.  I watched him never swat (fatal) and sit calmly, waiting for her to get bored or decide her point is made or whatever it was she wanted to tell him in no uncertain terms.

3 more times he walked away, waited a little and returned.  3 more times she found him.  By now I’d had enough of this lurching lunch and removed myself indoors.  The little bee had popped over to check me out, but I was spooked by her right in my face.  I don’t mind once or twice, but she was just too persistent.

Much later in the day, after another hive was checked, the dog walked, church over and thoughts of supper in my mind, we went back up to sip a glass of wine in the warm evening sun.

Within seconds she was back and bumping round and round his head.

I think it’s that aftershave I put on this morning, he said, as we re-settled inside, but we both know the real truth.

Charisma.

Island Blog 64 – Square Rainbows

Island Blog 64

This morning I set off along the single track road from my little stone built home in warm sunshine.  My task today is to help paint the school shed in a small (but vital) island primary school.  The head teacher had already talked with me about what she would like the shed to look like, using as decoration, all the beach litter the children had collected since last summer.  Each time there is a high tide or a high wind, the beaches are covered with flotsam and jetsam, some of it intriguing, some disgusting.  Obviously the disgusting bits are appropriately disposed of, but the colourful bits of plastic and rope and twine, shells and bones,  and all those things careless folk toss overboard, all are gathered, cleaned and stored for the Grand Shed Occasion.

Which is now.  Well, the beginning of it is now.  It may take some time to assemble, not least because little children have attention spans extremely short but sweet and by the way, not one of them can stand still without fidgeting.

We walked them around the brown slatted shed, and asked them how they would like to see the end result.  We fed them the odd line as they began heading off into Disneyworld, just to reel them in a bit, but not too much.  We explained the deck chair stripe idea and the starburst of plastic milk bottle tops on one side; the butterflies and daisies on one end, to compliment the big tubs of wild flowers already established to encourage butterflies.  We said that once the stripes were finished, they could play with spatter paint, flicking brush loads (well, not LOADS) against the wall.  The boys arms were already flexing and they did have to question whether we really meant it.  Their mouths formed a WOW.

Throwing paint at the wall…..like THIS????

Can I use a gun?  asked one boy.

Er……I think brushes this time, we told him and there was a chorused ‘Awwwww’ with that sweep up at the tail of it, as if we just might say…….Ok then, why not?

We plan a sort of mural on the side nearest the road, to impress the tourists.  Deck chairs, they thought.  We could stick one on the wall!  chirruped one girl.

Not with PVA, I said, sorry, but you can paint one on.  I could hear my voice go all dinky winky but she was no fool, and lost interest immediately.  She decided, instead, to paint a square rainbow.

Excellent.

A pair of swallows chattered at me as I worked.  Birds on the wire with plans for nest building arrested.  Sorry I said, but I’ll be gone soon and there’s plenty of daylight left.  A pair of lapwings serenaded me from the seaward field,  and sparrows dived in and out from the eaves;  everyone so very busy.

It’s good to be busy, among little fidgets, in the sunshine with a salt wind blowing my heart around.

Oh, and a square rainbow about to appear.

Island Blog 63 – Silver Girl

Silver Girl

 

On June 1st Jenny  died.

We have been friends for over 4o years, the same as my years of marriage.

Our children knew each other as little ones and those children now have little ones of their own.  We had a bet going, she and I that her daughter-in-law would give birth before my own did.  The due dates hold hands, they’re so close.  I will see my new grandchild, but she won’t see hers.

Over the years, our roads travelled in different directions, but we kept in touch.  When she first got breast cancer, she was completely herself about the whole thing.  No time for this, she said, need to sort out treatment and keep moving.  She went sailing after that, for 7 months, she and her man, in a yacht to beat all other yachts with big-ass sails and comfort below deck, every comfort, and the wind in her hair and salt on her tongue, whilst I became an Island Wife.  But women who connect at a wild and deep level, who recognise each other’s spirit and love it, never lose touch, even if the contact is once a year.

We sailed with them once, meeting them on a Greek island.  We all wondered how it would work, four of us converging where Two Roads meet, after 30 years apart, and living in close quarters for a couple of weeks.

I could have been a big pain in the ass, I said.

You are.  She replied and handed me a beer.

In the evenings, moored in a little warm harbour, we would cook, eat and make music.  They taught me songs, and I them, and there was something magical about the candlelight, the warm nights, the laughter and song.

She did much with her life and was never still.  She was the second woman ever to command a Royal Navy warship.  A transatlantic skipper, a magistrate, a wife, mother grandmother, although that title sounds way too old for her.  She adored her family, and actively showed it.  She was feisty, impossible, decisive and noisy and there is a big hole left now she is gone.

But what will stay with me for ever, and this may sound selfish, is what she gave to me.  She never faltered and when I did, she whooped my butt.  I’m not saying, or even imagining, that she had life sussed, because I know she didn’t think that at all.  I saw, at times, such sadness in her big eyes, and she might tell me, briefly, or she might not.  When she knew she had only time left, she would still pick up if I called, or answer a text with humour.  She came to my book launch down south in a bright pink wig after aggressive chemo.  It was our last hug.

I salute her.  She is a woman who challenged me to be the best I could be, just as she challenged herself.

Sail on Silver Girl.

Island Blog 58 – Through a Glass

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You know you’ve got it right when you leave someone feeling better than they did before you came.  I hope I can do that for another but I know for sure someone can do it for me, and not by trying to. It’s all about your heart being right.  I have spent some time observing and reflecting on this and know for certain that if a person is the same on the inside as they are on the outside, then there is no fog of confusion around them.  Let’s bring this into focus…. If I wake in a frightful grump and want to bash anyone who gets up my nose, then let me be honest about it.  Let me not answer, when I hear the nervous question from a shadowy corner of the terrified room, ‘FINE!’ to their ‘What’s wrong?’  thus creating a gale force wind in a confined space and sending everyone to the Fire Exit doors on winged feet. Everyone loses this way.  I who breathed fire am now extinguishing the blaze with copious salty tears and they are outside in the fresh air wondering what needs doing in the garden for the rest of the day, and still none of us knows what’s wrong.   If I had the courage to admit my failing, which is how I really see it, and to pre-empt the ‘what’s wrong’ question (one I deeply hate) by stepping up and telling it out, I would probably have been off on a lunch date by now.  Instead, I can hardly move in the kitchen for elephants and you, who were blasted forcibly outside, are now whistling tunelessly in a most irritating manner, one which will eventually make the whole thing your fault entirely. When someone comes to stay or just to play, they bring good intentions, as a rule, but they also wear their own lives about them, their own troubles and concerns, and if they have never learned to address them in private, to shake hands with each one and listen to what it has to say, these troubles and insecurities will spill out from the darkness and into the room at the most inconvenient times.  If a couple visit and he doesn’t like the way she corrects him, and this happens, her anger will rise and surprise us all.  Now she appears domineering and rude and he is upset and nobody wants to hear the end of the story which by now is quite forgotten.  The root of this lies in childhood, as it always does, and she thinks she has grown up and left childish things in the way back when.  If, however,  she took the steps to walk back in time, to find and recognise, admit to and release the way she felt when she was publicly ‘corrected’ (thus inferring she was a silly twit) it would never ever rise again. We are human and deliciously so.  We are awkward and clumsy in our loving, but life is not something that happens to us.  We happen to Life and therein we have considerable levels of control.  We know who we want to be, to whom we aspire.  We are all basically good people, kind generous-hearted people, but we are much mistaken if we think we can float through and be accepted warts and all.  If raising children requires the employment of intelligent energy and dynamic thinking, and if our jobs require the same to a different degree, do we not realise that our own self demands no less?   The wonderful thing about the inside and the outside of each one of us, is that when there is a mis-match, everyone can see it.  Whatever we might say, it’s who we are that speaks louder and with greater clarity. If we have done the inner work, really paid attention to our own face in the mirror instead of hardly bothering to look and expecting others to allow it, we won’t have to think about what to say next.   ‘Whatever is in your heart –  that is what will spill over.’ In my childhood, there was a woman who made out she was something she was not.  She made my mother feel frumpy and old-fashioned which could not have been further from the truth. Don’t mind her, my granny said.  She’s all fur coat and no knickers.’

Island Blog 53 – The Colour of Children

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In the night I listen to the wind rising up like an angry woman.  By 3 am she has bullied the curtains into a right state.  The snapping of upset floral chintz wakes me with a start.

Gunshot, I tell myself as I burst up from another of my apocalyptic dreams.  I had just been wandering across a dead grey wasteland, somewhere beyond Thunderdome, and looking for my children. I can’t go back to sleep to find them once I’ve left the dream.

The curtains lift out into the room exposing the window glass, but no light falls in, for this night is just plain black.  The only light, if I can name it such, sneaks up the stairs from its source- that disco ball of a mouse.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that shutting down my laptop would shut the rodent down too?  But nothing will persuade it into sleep and on it glows, red and blue, all night long, but irritating me a little less tonight, as it lights my way down the stairs and all the way to the kettle.

During the day we had visited a little school over the hill.  The sun was warm and yellow (well, maybe not warm) and the sky ice blue with scuds of snowy clouds as we climbed our way up, over and down the hill.  The little isles were still where we remembered them to be, but faded a little inside a veil of mist. Ewes with their bright white lambs, peppered the roadside and, behind a wonky fence, slow cows peered at us through long russet fringes.

Neither the island husband nor I had remembered to make packed lunch.

We spent an hour in the light bright classroom on little plastic chairs, discussing her plans to decorate a school shed with beach gatherings;  bits of fishing net, bits of rope, colourful plastic, shells and so on.  The children do many beach cleans during the summer and after a big tide, pickings are treasure for those who care to think so.  Ideas flew like swallows around that little classroom and we could just see how wonderful it would be, once we got beyond talking about it, of course.

The children came back from some outside adventure just as we were leaving, all breathless and excited, their cheeks rosy and their mouths full of chatter.  We watched them settle in their places around the wide tables.  The teacher introduced us, and explained the hut project, the abstract design ideas, the use of shape and texture and lots of colour.  I wondered if those little heads could imagine what we had imagined.

I burped ten times.  said one little girl a propos of nothing.

Green burps, she continued, then furrowed her brow.

No, not green………what’s that big colour Mrs Eden?

The big colour?  We were all wondering.

Big as your dad?  asked a little tousle-headed boy.

No, silly, she replied.  Nothing’s big as that.

As we drove back along the little winding road, sucking toffees to quiet our growling stomachs, we considered big colours a bit smaller than a dad, and we felt the awe of it.

Island Blog 42 – A Tale to Tell

Island Blog 42 - pic

 

By now, my book is out there in the world and you may even be reading it.  You may be loving it, you may not, and over this bit, I have absolutely no control.  It is how it is.  My responsibility ended as I caught the words from the air around me and laid them down upon a blank sheet of A4.  The thoughts and feelings that will arise in you as a result of reading those words, in the order I chose, will relate to your life, not mine, and, in that moment of connection, become something new.

Over the years I have found such connections myself as I devoured the stories of many folk in many places and times.  Sometimes I have been tearful for the writer, the hero, or for myself as I become lost in a life that connects deeply with my own.  Sometimes thrilling with delight at the way a story bubbles and chatters over the stones like a clear fall of mountain water after new rain.  In a well written tale, I can hear the voices and see the landscape.  I can smell the wind and taste the grit of it in my mouth;  I can feel the warm skin of a dancing child and shiver at the ice cold of a closed mind or a bitter Arctic night.  I can twist and turn in the sweaty damp of an unfriendly sleeping bag and I can pull quickly back into the shadows to hide as a cruel drama unfolds before me.  I can waken in the night to remember, and then wish I could forget.  In short, I become part of the story, and yet play no part at all.  I may follow this person, or that.  I may long to go back, to see what happened to the child, or the old woman, even knowing that I may not;  not until the writer catches the words and lays them down for me on the page.  Sometimes I even forget to breathe, so lost am I in the story.

And every one is real.

Although it may be a work of fiction, you can bet that the writer is in there somewhere, for, if not, the tale would be as dull as a Monday shopping list.

But it is not just in books that I can connect with another life.  I can find stories in faces along the island roads and they can touch me just as deeply.  Of course, we don’t often get to this level on a daily basis – merely exchanging husband news or word of new additions to the family, new accomplishments, new sofas, new guests and so on, but the eyes are the windows to the soul and no mistake.  Some bright chirpy person can tell me one thing with their mouth and quite another through their eyes.  I do it myself, did it for years.

You are always so bright!  They told me, and because it was the done thing, I kept doing it.

Just like you do, or most of you.  There are some that might consider leaving their list of ailments and complaints at home, for we all have them to some degree or other and I have found from experience that those with most to complain about, usually don’t.  And when I meet those people, who have made a decision not to bore the bejabers out of the rest of us, telling us things we can do nothing whatsoever about and causing rain to fall on that precious moment of shared sunshine, I find my supplies of compassion and respect, verging on reverence, threaten to overwhelm me altogether.  My whole day changes as I guess my way into their life and out again feeling humbled.  Suddenly my load lightens, supposing I thought I had one in the first place.

There is always an argument between reality and fairyland.  I have always preferred fairyland, finding reality way too matter-of-fact for me, and, as we know, these Matters of Fact change daily according to the latest discovery/statistic/breaking news. Shifting sands I reckon, whereas fairyland is always fairyland and you can depend on it remaining so forever, for in that world (the real world in my opinion) we are allowed to be individual in our response to that which we observe.  All views are acceptable.  Nobody is right and nobody is wrong, for we all see things in different ways according to our creed, birthright,childhood and experiences. And we should stand tall and proud inside our own story, and sing it out, for it is the only one we can really tell.