Island Blog- Balance

I realise something and every something is something.

For over a year I have been completely involved with myself and my situation. Although it is understandable, it is also, at times, questionable. I don’t mean to question the depth and length and horribleness of grief, no. I get that bit, even if it is clown-tripped by a happy face painted on to a sad one. The ‘process’ is both eye-rolling and unavoidable, dammit. I am a woman who makes things okay no matter the shards, the damage, the blood and the disaster. It is hard to step away from that and to allow this slowness to inhabit my mind, sleep, body and mind.

Every alert alerts me. I have learned this, being a woman who will not, will not, be confined by someone else’s peripheries. I have allowed that too many years back and back is back and I am a forward person. My ankles are strong, my body agile -ish, my soul questing, my mind curious. All good so far. Far. A wonderful word. We all love ‘Far’ if we are honest because not one of us wants the opposite, which might read as Not Far, at best.

My alert is twofold. Not one being the either to other, nor more powerful in impact. How strange life is. One is the birth of a new life, a new girl, a new little girl within my huge family. The other is a death of a woman I know to have fought like a battleship throughout her life and who is dead too soon. I do the scale balance thing in my head, see the ancient star sign, Libra. I make no sense of it, of her, in my head. Balance, after all, surely, is something I can understand in a worldly way. This balances that out, that balances this in. No. Never.

When we try, when I try, to make sense of awful things happening to good people, I founder on the rocks of confusion. I draw back, pull back out into the ocean and still I can’t make sense. Am I counting the rocks, feeling the tide pull, the onslaught of a capricious onshore wind as if somehow the math in me will come up with an answer? Yes, perhaps I am, but no amount of worldly knowledge will protect me from the unknown. The new birth, a celebration, something wonderful and then a death, too young, too unfair and with no explanation. I think that’s it, the no explanation thing. It is almost impossible to explain, and let me rest there because what I want to do is to honour her life and what she meant to me.

The new girl is but 2 days old. The dead girl ditto. I am working on balance.

Island Blog – Grace of an Otter

Life comes and goes in waves. That’s what I think, but as I think the think, I wonder what I mean by that. Life, by definition, as long as I am alive, is a constant. More a line than a wave, like a path I walk each day. It is my nature to deviate as often as possible, but even my deviations are visible. Oh, yesterday I must have pathed off this way and last week, accordion to the way grass has grown back, I meandered that way. Unless the path is well-trod and regularly, grass will grow over quickquick, beginning it all over again as an opportunity to head off piste and, perhaps this is good enough in the limitations of my deviousness.

One of the most infuriating, at worst, or thought provoking, at best, sayings is ‘I always do it this way, or I usually walk this way, or I always have lunch at midday and so on. I work on not falling into the always and the usually, simply because of my desire for deviation and also because it heralds a setting in of routine and the shutting down of curiosity and imagination. Living this way is living in the past and not with an eye on the future, in my opinion.

Today I set off for my ‘usual’ walk. Oh, Hallo. As I wander up the track towards the sea, I stop to locate the sudden of fragrance, stand quite still and just breathe it in. Honeysuckle tumbling over a long fallen pine trunk. I watch the bees disappear into the cream and yellow trumpets, whizzing like an electric egg whisk pulled from the froth of albumen, and then emerging laden with pollen and free to fly. I notice brown leaves beneath the Horse Chestnut and find my eyes looking for conkers. No No Silly…….not yet (please not yet). These leaves just fell and turned brown on the track, that’s all. There’s a soft warm breeze and I shuck off my jumper to feel the sun on my skin, nice skin, brown skin thanks to these glorious summer days. My tattoos catch my eye as my arms swing. Each one marking an event. This one, Pegasus the Flying Horse, affixed in Glasgow when Himself was airlifted into the Uk after a massive African stroke. I had to do something that flew me above it all and Pegasus came to life. That one, the dragonfly curlicues, on a visit to Edinburgh with a lovely friend. She bought a lighthouse and I, a tattoo. This is my favourite. The artist so talented. There’s a Butterfly, a Quill, another dragonfly and I am not done yet. I have a date with my niece in Glasgow to visit her tattooist and, although I cannot go there yet, I enjoy searching through designs and placings. It matters not to me that my skin, my lovely skin, is wrinkled. Not one tiny bit.

I turn down towards the sea on a sudden whim, open the gate and read the sign affixed. YOU ARE NOW ENTERING…….and then nothing. I enter. Walking through thrift and wild grasses we reach the flat rocks, smell the salt and the kelp. I sit whilst the wee dog bolts in and out of the shallows barking at nothing. The tide is flooding, the air warm, the sun hot, the peace complete. There is nobody here but me. I remember things, like the whale-watching boat departing from the pier just behind me, returning with happy visitors, day after day after day. I hear their voices, their laughter, their whoops of delight if they had encountered whale. You will sleep well this night, I told them, and they always did. I remember Himself, all grizzled and strong, the Whale Father, the cantankerous hero. Suddenly a head pops up, sleek, black, fleeting and is gone again. I watch the water for some time. A young seal perhaps, a big otter? I am not sure, it was fleeting.

I am just about to leave when the sleekest finest dog otter rises effortlessly onto a rock not 12 feet away from me and the wee dog. She doesn’t see it and I grab her collar to stay her with me. The otter rests on a rock and crunches away at something. He is so clear to me but with his poor eyesight, he doesn’t see me. I watch him complete his meal, slide back under the kelp and reappear moments later with another crunchy thing. He is even nearer now, looks straight at me, but still doesn’t see. The wee dog makes a small bark and he looks at me square, holds, holds, then goes back to his meal. I can hardly believe my luck. I watch this wild creature, flow like liquid, sleek dark, effortless, easy in the tide tow, the flood and ebb, the wild and calm of an ocean. Elemental grace. I totter carefully away across the rocks looking back again and again. The otter just keeps being an otter. It reminds me that my very best bet is to be what I am. A woman aging, a woman strong, a woman who likes adventure, deviation and tattoos. A woman open and wild. A woman who cannot take on an ocean but who surely can take on her own life, the tide tow, the flood and ebb, the wild and calm and with as much grace as an otter.

Here comes a wind change. A door slamming, fly curtain whipsnap sort of wind. Puff clouds rise above the Blue Ben and the sea-loch ruffles and skids to the shore where, if I could hear it, there would be an argument with the rocks. From up here I can only imagine it, unhook the fly curtain and retreat into my home. Changes. At times infuriating, at best thought provoking. I like the latter best. I will be an otter inside my life of changes. I may have to swim faster or hunker down within the safety of rocks. I may enjoy sunshine kelp slip and slide days when apparent threat just observes me but does not confront. I may face off fears, imagined or real. I may bask in family or feel completely alone. None of these are in my control but I am. I. Am.

Think Otter and take on your ocean. It works.

Island Blog – I am Woman

I am woman, my own woman, and yet all women.

I have been broken more times than could be repaired, had I been born a teacup.

I am soft as down and hard as stone.

I have loved with all my beating heart and lost and known it beat again.

I have run over hot coals to protect my children and even with a burned soul I run on.

I have faltered, failed and fallen more times than rain, have dawned and dusked, ebbed and flowed, waxed and waned a million times and I will do it all again.

I have drawn my sword and I have sheathed it.

I have been actively, consistently kind to those I didn’t like and don’t relate to.

I have welcomed my child’s choice of partner, not because I attended the selection process, but because I did not. They have taught me new lessons and I have learned to love them all.

I have read more books than Finland on self-development and applied that learning to my daily life.

I have run into walls, tripped over rocks, fallen off see-saws, swings and roundabouts and may well do so again.

I have fallen in love and out again.

I have nursed, nurtured, carried and cared for children, adults, days, months and years and they all got better.

I have cried ugly and alone for nights and with another until the smile came back to my face.

I have looked in the mirror and felt sick, delighted, upset and happy.

I have given away my last bite as my stomach rumbled.

I have run too fast and reached too high.

I have lived my life.

I am Woman, I am myself, and I am Every Woman. I don’t need to know the details of your life, nor hear your voice for Every Woman knows exactly what it is like to be one.

I honour every one of you.

Island Blog – A Glorious Freedom

I set myself a challenge. This day I will not say a single negative word about a single soul, and, if a negative thought comes in about any said soul, I will picture them happy, laughing, safe, peaceful. Easy Peasy from my breakfast table, easy indeed from the early hour within which I awoke to a new day. T’was a lovely soft morning, the moon still hovering, the sun rising pink across the over-by hills. No worries.

I set off on the alpine switchback road to the little harbour town to hook up with a friend for a bench picnic, feeling quite the thing, until I met a ‘toddler’. This is a car inhabited by, usually, two old folks, with no plans to hurry. However, the driver does have plans. Whilst he, usually a ‘he’, and his she are watching the sky for birds, the hills for a Wow, the sudden dips that show deep lochs all blue and fabulous, and causing them to slide to an almost stop mid road, I am about to be late for my bench picnic meet. I hold back, understanding, until my understanding muscle is a taught rope, and I, politely, move closer. No change. We swing around another 25 bends passing endless passing places, and still he will not let me pass. Incoming friendly suggests to me that he might now pause so that he and his she can watch the flowers grow without me in my sassy Mini Cooper hooking onto his old butt. No, he pulls out quick. He stays his course. I hear my inner talk. He is telling me I should not be in a rush. I consider this ‘rush’ thingy. Ah, maybe he is right. Maybe I, too, can watch the flowers grow for another 8 miles. I think on the past year when the only people I ever met on this single track were carriers, workers, carers, the postpeople. All of a sudden, the toddlers are back and I know, I know, we need them and they are welcome and I love all people ya-di-ya.

Eventually he lets me by and his face is turned away from my ebullient sunshine thank you smile. Okay, whatever. I collect my friend and I tell her of my personal challenge for the day. She chuckles. Ah, you may have invited in something there my friend. Ha! I say and we swing into the big harbour car park because I need fuel and this is where the garage is located. As I drive in, just as I have done for over 43 years towards the pumps, a big ass vehicle comes right at me, nose to nose. I stop, thinking no judgement, and reverse back. As he (!) comes forward he winds down his window. I smile. I think you will find that this is a one way system, he says. For a moment I am confounded. A lot goes through my head. I have been here 43 years. I know this is the way to the pumps, or one of two ways. I see no one way system sign. Then I feel outrage build. But I cannot allow it because of my stupid self challenge. My friend beside me snorts into her hands and the giggle rises in me. I didn’t say Why, Thank you Kind Sir For Guiding Me Right. Sadly. I wasn’t quick enough with myself. I just looked at him in amazement. I thought, gosh how sad your life is that you need to be aggressive on your holiday. And I binned that because I wasn’t seeing him happy, laughing, safe and peaceful. What shall we we do now? asked my friend. This was an easy answer. We, I replied, are going to drive all the way around the one way system that does exist, the wrong way. And we did.

The picnic was fab. We sat on a bench in the sunshine having bought quiches from the bakery and we laughed like girls. We are both heading for 70 but somehow nothing changes when girls/women get together. We laughed about the One Way Man and sent him whatever he needs which is probably quite a lot, and walked, talked and helped the Navy moor up their ships on the pontoon. What I learned from this, from my self challenge, is that irritation is human, hard not to buy in to. But not to buy into it feels like a glorious freedom.

Island Blog – Ebb and Flow, Days of Minutes

This life without himself can feel like a loss even thought he was (often) a pain in the ass. As, I imagine, was I. The days are minutes to be filled, and I am advised thus:- to write my list of things I want to do in this new life when nobody ever asked that question in the old one. Not never. It begs the question. What do I want? Well, I don’t know. Can someone tell me please because I know that place, a place of ‘no I don’t agree’, of ‘seriously….what?’ of ‘okay then, if I have to.’ This is my comfort zone which btw has abandoned me. The peripheries of my world are blown like a bubble burst and the world beyond is one scary zero. I turn back. I oftentimes (love that word) do. But what I turn back to is a day of minutes and there are many, oh so very many. So, I don’t like this minute thing. I don’t like this nothing, nowhere, nobody thing. So what? Hmmmmm. So what.

I was once alone, for about five minutes having been expelled from school(s) and college and my first job. Sacked. I was, so they told me, a muttering disturbance, a rebel in the corridors of whispers. Had I been not me, I probably might have led a revolution but I was never that courageous and I laud the ones who did, who will do in times to come. I was taught to be a lady. Not to upheaval, not to upset, but nobody taught me the wisdom of being such a creature. It isn’t about being a doormat. No. Being one of those lady women is to be wise living with attitude. within structures, confines and male domination without aggression, without fight, without loss of self, but clever enough to get what this lady wants. I wish I had learned it from my mother’s milk but she had not the skills to help me there. I am learning them now.

So, I walk, run, dance, play within the minutes of days. No, it is more than that. I am loving the journey. Yes there are times I wring my ankle on memories, on moments, but I am still a dancer. I watch my bone-awkward fingers as I work my keyboard. I say, hallo, swollen joints, well done you. Just see what you have done, achieved over the minutes of days in your life. My toes, bent and bony, my body skinny and scarred. Hallo you all. Well flipping done.

And then, suddenly, as though my thinking has been heard and taken to heart, in comes the painter to redecorate the upstairs rooms, ridding them of short term history, the falls, the clutches at cupboard doors pre a fall, the rust, the grease smears, the smoke of an old pipe. All opened up in brilliant white, fresh, the promise of a new future, a new strength of days. Then comes the gardener, to cut my grass. I kept my grass long, my dandelions fierce for the bees and butterflies till now and he gets that. Now the bees and the butterflies are sucking from the bluebells so it doesn’t feel so bad to cut the heads off my favourite butter yellow sun-followers.

This is the flow. People come in. Someone leaves the table. Nobody else can take that seat, but the loving hands that reach out can somehow help the day of minutes into something else, something that has new life, that can move on into more days, more minutes and can, with their investment, change everything.

Island Blog – Woman, She Says

There is an old woman I know. She is not very old but she is definitely no longer new. She can feel it in her bones and her mind. Those arms that once could heft potato sacks from ground control to the bed of a lorry now find it quite enough to lift a few books onto a shelf. Her hair is silvering, with a stout refusal to do it uniformly. She hates that bit about ageing. Eyebrows salt one hair at a time, each salt hair stronger and with a complete disregard for the calm-down brush. She catches sight of them occasionally, when she has her specs on, and is horrified. Now she must, with specs remaining in place, locate said strong, disregardful hair, with slightly shaky fingers and her small tweezers. It really is not fair, she mutters, this unpleasant process. Recently she misfired and made a rather interesting gap in one brow. Huh! she says. See if I care, she says. I’ll call you a scar and own you. You won’t bring me down, she says, and once she removes her specs, the evidence has disappeared completely. A similar challenge arises at make up time. She is careful not to apply slap in the dark, or in half-light. The day must be well and truly risen before slap app. She remembers older women with orangutang faces, with MacDonald Red cheeks, lips loose with pink leak and alien eyes. She vows never to look like they did, just as they did.

She loves flowers and colour, frocks and boots. She buys too many of the latter. There are three pairs of glorious boots that stand in anticipatory waiting beside her back door, polished but never worn. She has had to expand her wardrobe pole oftentimes. She does this by wheeching some frocks, unworn for well over a year but retained, just in case someone threw a ball on the island or invited her out for a formal dinner. In her heart she knows this is never going to happen, but she bought them anyway for their gorgeous folds and perfect lines. The flowers she loves pepper the drystone walls and freckle her garden. She arranges them in vases around the house and breathes in their fresh sweet scent. She watches them close at night, open at first light, just as she does, following the rise and fall of the sun. She plays music all day long. She loves music. Sometimes she plays Vivaldi, sometimes Radio Two, sometimes her own playlist of beloved tunes and songs that yank her into rememberings, or strum her heart strings with their lyrics, their cadences, their rise, rise and fall into a pool of golden warmth that brings tears to her eyes for no reason at all.

She loves her dog and the way the windows keep out the rain. She loves her new bed and the electrically inspired mattress cover that warms her all the way up to number 6 and which turns off in an hour. She loves the way the curtains breathe like lungs on a windy night and the way the light turns moody when a grey day morphs into a greying night. She loves clouds and grandchildren, the way they laugh so easily and cry without embarrassment. She love spontaneity and change, boiled eggs and wildness. She loves nature, singing out just for the hell of it, walking in the fairy woods and talking to trees, stones, the men who delivered wood just as she ran out. She loves sea salt and balsamic rice cakes, tsaziki, Barcelona and Africa. She remembers holidays, moments, weddings, births and deaths. She remembers her life, a yawling wiggly line of a million wonders, of pain, of divine intervention when nothing human could offer help. She talks to God. She reckons he is there somewhere. In fact she knows he is, or she is, because too many things have happened to save her bacon. She loves art, from Michael Angelo to Banksy and even further back. She can easily listen to music from all genres, depending on ear tolerance.

She loves sewing things for others, repairing and patching. She loves moving things around so the room takes on a new song. She decorates things, any things. A tall standing lamp reminds her. Covered from toe to shade in patchwork material and dangling with pretty lights, baubles and beads, it shines its individuality to the world. Well, no, not the world, says the lamp. About 5 people pass this way on a regular basis. Steady on old woman with the ‘world’ delusion. Okay, she says, you are right. But I don’t do any of this for others to admire. I do this for me. The lamp is silent. She looks around the room at the family photos, canvases of captured moments. She is holding her first granddaughter in her arms at a wedding. Their smiles are rapt. She is sitting in a cafe in Spain and laughing. She is in Africa playing scrabble in a welcome shade whilst zebra, giraffe and warthog wander by the stoep in an evening cool. She is singing at a wedding, dancing at a birthday disco, eating sushi, playing with grandchildren.

All is well, she says. I am well, she says. I am who I made myself and my life is every colour on the wheel.

She says.

Island Blog – Taking the Biscuit

My album is out. Who would have thought it? Edge of the Wild is a compilation of my own songs, worked into magic by my musician/music producer friends at Wild Biscuit (www.wildbiscuit.com) who came up with the idea and then gentled me through the process. I was scared, lacking in confidence and quite certain I had no song left in me. They knew I was wrong and they were right.

It took 3 years to bring it all together. The demands of dementia care meant I could only work with them in fits and starts, short stays and intense effort on all our parts. Staying with them in a delightful farmhouse in Argyll was the perfect place, not least because I met the piano to outsmart all pianos. I could not believe the beauty of this big grand and it seemed to me that all I had to do was to come up with melody and lyrics and the keyboard did the rest. My fingers, creaky after years of no dance with ebony and ivory, were set free. They seemed to float across the keys all by themselves and I hardly had to look or think at all. It was a taste of magic, and heady. For periods of 2/3 days with many days in between, we focussed and recorded. I know the talent Wild Biscuit brought to the process as I was guided firmly but gently up and up and up till my Achilles heel was suitably stretched and my tiptoes elevated me higher than I had ever been before. It was exhausting and exciting, rising me early each morning with more stories to sing, more ideas to explore. The dynamic between Wild Biscuit and me was electric.

Now it is done. Now my album Edge of the Wild is out in the world, on Amazon as a CD or download, on iTunes and on Spotify. (https://open.spotify.com/artist/69ZRY6E6uKAcUmD8G5cF4Y?si=_rlES-ADR8OGIg5s8s7-Cw) I am proud. I am a singing granny and I wonder how many others can say this? Had Wild Biscuit not approached me all those years ago, saying ‘You have a voice, woman. The world needs to hear it.” I might have died with my songs still in me. Thanks to them, this is not the truth.

I invite you to listen. Each song is birthed from an experience, a memory. I recall each of them, remembering how I felt at the time, how the outside of me belied the inside of me. I hope this comes across. Many may relate to each songstory, and to you I say Hallo. We walk our own paths through this extraordinary and complicated life but there are meeting points all along the way where we can share, laugh, cry and find the ‘brave’ to move on.

We all, if we are honest, live on the Edge of Wild. Our dreams and hopes may dash against the rocks but I have seen enough boats pull themselves back to safety, enough courageous people turn their backs on those rocks, to know that it is never too late to make a songstory. I don’t mean everyone needs to make a singer/songwriter album, but I do mean that for a life to mean anything at all, those songs need to be sung and that will take introspection and jack boots.

Island Blog – I and the Ghost

There is one in my system. A ghost. I know it is there, can feel it, smell it. Sometimes it is a catch of earthen mulch, autumny, wet and visual, sharp with the glint of long buried crystals, and stories. Other times it is lavender or lemon pressed close to my nose and causing me to pull back from the attack to my senses. It is never rose or bergamot or patchouli. Never. Visual. yes. But fleeting, so fleeting. I wonder if I am now too slow to turn my head, that, if I were still a young woman, I might turn faster and snap! Catch it. I wonder, too, if I my snap-catch might arrest it, for it and I seem to be strangely connected by an invisible line. It might pause for no reason other than this. But I cannot and it does not. It slips like mist through me, serving only to stop me for a second and to fill me with a sense of discomfort and perplexity.

I am curious. I am intrigued. Who or what is this ghost? Then I wonder more. Does this ghost have purpose? Does this ghost know who it is, if, indeed, it is a ‘who’ at all and not merely a what without purpose or function, identification or mission like a sudden rabbit bursting into my space as I wander along a track in the wild lands? What if it has blundered into me, by mistake and is now trapped somehow?

All these questions beseech answers I cannot give, but here is something I do believe. As a human, being the top predator, the top of the pecking order etcetera etcetera, and thus, that all things weird happen to me, this may not necessarily be the truth. Now this is, at first, confounding, ungrounding. It baffles me and I must explain it, for if I cannot then I am all at sea, so to speak. But what if it is just where I need to be? At sea, I mean. I have sailed enough dodgy oceans in ever dodgier seas to know that, at such times, when the balance of power shifts to an unfathomably powerful force, I find my place. I find my lack. I find my feet, my hands and my brain.

And here I am with the ghost, at a worldly human level, limited by what I was taught, what I learned, whom I trusted and who let me down; on my sibling dynamic, my understanding of how it should be and of how it should not; through religious curfews and constraints, through expectations and demands; through loss, anger and frustration. But the ghost will not explain itself, nor do I have the snap-catch to arrest it long enough for such a demand. I am the ‘I’ of the beholder and much good it does me. ‘I’ stands taller than a lower case ghost and yet has no supremacy over it. This fleeting misty invader holds it all with its ability to arrest and confound, to take a free flow morning into chaos, albeit momentarily, for the human ‘I’ will immediately rise into armour plating with his, or her, lance at the ready. But we are fools. The ghost can move through walls, through empires and lives and through history without a second thought or any thought at all.

So what is it? I decide to acknowledge what I already know and so what I say is this. The ghost that apprehends my normality (whatever that is) and challenges it, is a friend and, like a friend, it challenges me. Like a friend it leans in closer than anyone else. It is easy in my company. I need no armour plating. It tells me there is something as yet undone, unfinished, even unexplored and it will not leave, this laughing wraith, until I have addressed the issue. I might ask, what issue? But it will just laugh and wisp away, only to come again and again and again, because it knows that ‘I’ know exactly what needs to be addressed. My weak humanity is avoiding it and we both know it.

I am glad of the ghost in my system. It is my helpmeet at every turn, even if there is a great longing in me for no more turns. It stops me folding in, giving up, turning weak and feeble. It makes me strong and fiery, all punch and growl, all fight and roar. It also makes me impish and jocus, wild and circus with belief. It friends me in ways I would not, could not fathom; would never ever have invited in. Am I privileged in this ghost invasion? I doubt it.

I think we all know this ghost.

Island Blog – Keep the Girl – Write the Woman

I watch the little bus round the sea-loch from the warmth of my conservatory. This bus looks warm, cosy even, all lit up like a party, although I know that inside there will be a smattering of grumpy teenagers heading for school. The headlights sparkle the frost, caught in the beam, striations of fairy dust. Then it is gone and the meadow settles back down again. The top of my car is white. White on black. Startling. Sweet peas, still standing, show me soft pinks and purples; a rose lifts crimson against the sunrise as the songbirds line my fence awaiting breakfast.

I remember waiting for the school bus. Grumpy, teenage, cold, isolated even inside a group. The world was a stinkhole. I wanted to join a circus, flee the country, anything to get me out of those awful school shoes that were made of steel and offered me no warmth at all; that uniform; that ridiculous beret that perched like a mushroom on my head. I blush now even to think we were made to stand out in such a way, like jokes. Does nobody think it through, this uniform business? Scratchy all the way down to the knickers, rigid enough to negate the chance of running anywhere, never mind to the circus, and all of us looking the same. Except we didn’t, of course. Some of us looked positively svelte inside those confines. Some of us had mothers who bent the rules a bit, thinking of the child first and the design of shoes, second. I had a friend whose mother bought her soft leather with pointed toes and a subtle design on the tongue. My tongue was also made of steel and stood up like a cows ear no matter how tightly laced into submission. My toes froze. Frost was my anathema.

In those days, when mothers and teachers, doctors and policemen told me how to live my life, giving no quarter whatsoever to my opinion, likes, dislikes or dreams, I gave in, as many others did. The svelte ones with avon guard mamas and papas were just lucky, that’s all. They were probably rich, owned lots of land, and sat on the board of directors. They had big homes and holidays on the Costa Del Sol twice a year, at least. Their daughters weren’t lumpish, or limping from chilblains, and they actually looked good in berets. They both fascinated and repelled me. I wasn’t allowed to write my own life, not even a line or two. I decided to go under cover.

Writing my own life was not the breeze I thought it would be. There was something deeply scary about stepping out of those steel shoes. The world is a very big place, buzzing with opinions and temptations and I felt I was walking into danger most of the time. When someone asked me what I wanted, my brain emptied of all thought. Nobody had asked me that before and now here I was, in a mini skirt, a tight-fitting top, lipstick and kohl, swinging on a bar stool and completely confounded. I won’t pretend I got it right first time. Babycham is disgusting after all. So were most of the men who slithered up to me looking like wannabe Bee Gees, all smiles and roving eyes. I was way out of my depth and I knew it. As I walked myself home, feeling colder than I ever did in my steel shoes, I decided there were as many ways to live a life as there were people and that I could choose for myself. I wrote down my plans.

Find a man older than those idiots. Get Married. Have lots of healthy children. Live in a wild place right beside the ocean. Cook warming stews and bake bread. Fill the home with laughter and song and people. Write a book. Keep the wild girl but write the woman.

And that is exactly what I did.

Island Blog – Woman Gone

This morning I walked in sunshine down to the village to stand with many others. A friend I made the minute we arrived here in 1978 has died. She, who, without effort, was unequivocally loved and respected. A farmer’s wife, a mother, a business owner, a wonder. She, unlike me, wasn’t fussed about chicken shit on her boots. She, unlike me, ploughed with a chuckle through mud-fast tracks to reach her car which was hopefully above the waterline. She, unlike me, fussed not about the cold rushing in with every door opened longer than half a second. She just never seemed fussed about anything at all. I don’t know and I probably should, if she had grown up on a farm, thus ‘in clue’ of all of these so-called deprivations, these threats to comfort and warmth. It wasn’t that she had fat on her bones. It wasn’t that she had anything easy. She was just herself. She was Lorna.

Over the 42 years (today) we lived here on the island, she was always there. I confess that, latterly I saw her less often. Our lives had slipped apart once our children no longer shared the primary school playground, once I abdicated my farmer’s wife role, wrote my book and looked for my pension. But I saw her in the shop and that smile pushed aisles apart, that welcome. It was in her eyes. It was real. She was real. She was Lorna. Unlike me she knew who she was. I have been wondering for years who the heck I am. Today grounded me somewhat. I watched her go, encased in flowers, waved to her much loved family, heard the pipes play her away. And the sun shone.

As it always did, even in the rain. As it always did around Lorna.