Island Blog – Nowhere to go but Here

I am gradually learning the art of engaging fully with the day. Yesterday is gone and we all know tomorrow never comes no matter how fast we run. I suspect this engaging thingy may be age-related. It is also a time in my bonkers life when there are few demands on either my time or my superwoman skills, although a dash of those colours is always welcome and I am the first to leap on my motorbike in order to save someone’s day. But living fully inside the warm arms of this day is key to peace of mind, a softly pumping heart and no need for the Rennie packet. And the arms are warm. The weather is just weather. The hours are the same length they always have been and always will be, the ordinary daily tasks much the same even if I sometimes hoover/wash up/ repot geraniums or make soup in my neon tutu and top hat, at others in my dressing gown. I am a thankful woman. I have learned how to be that woman and she, me, is so very full of gratitude for all that comes my way, be it the excellently wonderful or the totally shit. All of it. And why is this? Because I have woken up once again, can spring, more or less, out of bed, choose my breakfast, watch the birds and the garden, the sea-loch and the sky taking not one look for granted. There are millions of ghosts who would give everything for just one more day in this beautiful world.

Worrying was what I did when my kids were, first, around my feet and peering up my nose or skirt, then later as towering sort-of-adults, able to wheech me over their shoulders. I worried, oh I worried. They are imaginative, enterprising and full of mischief, just as we taught them to be, but we were sensible and they absolutely weren’t. However this worrying was never a good thing, mainly because every disaster I imagined never happened at all. Also the art of worrying is not a pretty picture for the one being worried about. It indicates to them, quite clearly, that they are not to be trusted, that they don’t really know what is best for them. It turns their straight line into a curve at first, rounding into a circle of control in the end. Not healthy at all. And, for me, it unfocused my mind, addled my brain, upset my kidneys and unsleeped my nights. In short, worrying is always a pointless exercise, no exceptions. Oh I get the feelings of fear, anxiety and sometimes sheer terror, of course I do, but worrying is a choice and above all a method of control, even though most of my worries back in the day were more than justifiable. Just putting them on the school bus did not necessarily guarantee they arrived and and the simple act of coming home from the village was not without hazard. They lay in wait for each other with weapons of mass destruction and many a bruise or cut called for the nurse in me, the soother, the sorter out of complexities, the cool angel of peace, moving like Florence, over a wilderness war zone. A tapselteerie childhood and motherhood by the way for I was right in there, enmeshed in a time when compassion and fury lay together in my heart like unhappy bedfellows.

The truth is, and always was, I want my children to fly free, to make their own mistakes, sort their own lives out, find their own paths through the tangle woods even if this letting go wotwot is the hardest of all letting go wotwots. I know I don’t need to watch their every move unless of course I have made chocolate mousse. Dunked finger holes in the chocolate mousse, particularly if said finger kinks into a curve for maximum effect, is not a good look either for the mousse or for me, the cook. There is a limit to how much whipped cream can disguise such mining.

Needless to say I am always there if my help is needed and always will be, but that isn’t worrying. Instead it is an awareness and a readiness, boots at the door, my mini fuelled up, cash in my purse and a clear head to help sort out a problem; my ears open because I know that just by listening to the issue, asking the right questions and keeping quiet (a lot) will find them their own answer. It will also tell them without saying so that I believe in them, that they know how to deal with this, that I know they can sort this, because haven’t they sorted such warsle many times before? As, indeed, did I, this clueless wife, mother, nurse, storyteller, sorter of problems, such that threw me shapes I did not recognise at all. However, the temptation for we mums (and dads) is to think we are IT and without this IT, our children, friends, anyone we love who has just been blasted into space without a rocket, or a parachute, or breathing apparatus, is first to worry ourselves into a tremble of an eejit and then to buck forward with rocket, parachute, safety net and hot soup instead of what really works.

I see you up there. I am watching. Can you feel your toes? Look down and aim right. How does this bit of ground look to you? Do you think you can point towards it? Yes I know it’s the unfamiliar but you have moved on since yesterday and, as we know, tomorrow is a right pain in the neck because it absolutely never comes, no matter how fast you run. Yes, I am watching. I’ll be there with a sandwich and a flask when you land. No, I am not going anywhere. It’s ok this bit of ground, this new bit. There’s heather and saltgrass, orchids too now that it’s spring and birds…..you should hear the birds and you will. Soon. Then we will sit together, marvel in the moment and you and I will walk, not back into our lives, but forward. Not yet, thought, not yet. For now we will sit quietly in the present moment and say our thank yous to the love in the sky, the love that is always there for the asking. After all, there really is ‘nowhere to go but here’.

(not my words but borrowed from another)

Island Blog – I Can Do This

Having my young and strong bodied children with me for a few days shows me my age, not that I have any problem with ageing for it is a very natural part of the living process. Nonetheless, my observations shunt forward somewhat around such ebullient fluidity of movement, of thought. I smile, I did smile a lot, as they leapt off steps, landing two feet square, knees flexing whereas I consider each step, paying close attention to my feets and pausing prior to each cautious descent. In fact it chuckles me. It seems like just yesterday I watched my own mum, my in-laws doing this pausing cautious thingy whilst I was still a gazelle, albeit minus two legs. In a doorway with a step down into and up again from the garden, on the stairs, at the top of a set of steps or when wheiching a body in and out of a car seat, I could flow then as they could not. Now I am experiencing it all for myself.

I find the same around packaging, lids and cork-pulling. But, unlike some, I am determined and my favourite of all phrases is my mantra. ‘I Can Do This.’ It might mean I need to ascend a hillock on all fours. It might mean the descent is on my bottom. It might mean I have to cut the packaging with sharp scissors instead of using what are left of of my teeth. It does mean, in the realms of cork-pulling, that I must needs squat on the floor, hold the bottle between my feets and brace myself against the kitchen unit in order to avoid a backwards somersault when the cork comes out but I will succeed because I Can Do This. I say it out loud, just to ensure the full attention of my whole brain, expecting it to communicate new strength to all required limbs. And it does.

When speaking an affirming and encouragingly defiant phrase out loud, I can feel my body responding immediately. Ok, she says, wake UP you sleepyheads! The Boss requires an elevation of pep right now. It always works. When himself vacated his position as the strong one I did flapdoodle a bit, I confess, but there is something about finding oneself on the spot that brings the opportunity to rise strong in circumstances as yet uninvestigated fully. I didn’t then need to find the strength, either of mind or body, to achieve the result I wanted. Now I do and with that ‘I do’ comes the option to falter, fall back, to bemoan my lack as if that lack is terminal. It isn’t. I have succeeded in more situations wherein I was lacking, or believed I was, since being alone than I would ever have believed possible back in the lack. The thing is this:- I don’t want to miss out on anything. Allowing myself to miss out would be my way of dying long before my death and to hell with that shower of nonsense! Ok, others may run far ahead of me, skipping down 3 flights with alacrity, popping corks with one hand or skipping over hillocks, but I will allow myself my place behind them all and I will find my way. I will run the gauntlet of my ouches and my anxieties and will think of life and not on the demise of it because demise is for someone else who gives in too early. I don’t even like the word.

I Can Do This, I tell myself when I have to barrow a load of wood into the shed. I Can Do This, when I manage to press the wrong button on the right machine and it goes into either chatty overdrive or a huff; when I find it hard to twist a lid or descend a hill or climb a fence or any other little challenge that comes my way. I will even manage to free a toothbrush from its ridiculously tenacious package, because I Can Do This.

What are your favourite words of self-encouragement? If you don’t have a line, pinch mine. I have it written in fat felt tip on a card where I can see it all the time. and each time I feel a falter coming on, I read it, speak it out, lift my chin, straighten my spine and smile. Suddenly I am invincible and it feels so very good. Life is for living no matter a person’s age. And remember this……

Circumstances do not control man (or woman)

Man (or woman) controls circumstances.

Island Blog – A 3 Frock Day

The wind is up and my wheelies are dancing. Only yesterday I freed them from their storm restraint, a rope affixed around their bellies and secured to my fence with chandler’s hook thingies that would normally keep boats from taking off to Holland. I forget their names. I was certain the gales had stopped and it laughs me as I watch the newly freed and recently emptied bins having a blast out there. My fence is smirking at me, I know that look. As a new gust, circa 40 knots, barrels up the loch, one bin, then the next open and shut their mouths. I can’t hear what they say but they are definitely talking. Or laughing.

It’s a three frock day for me, as I cannot risk going out there with anything light and floaty. Light and floaty could bring on an exposure I would rather not experience and nor would anyone else who happened to be nearby. And yet walking in high winds is exhilarating so I will still go out to watch the skinny trees bend towards each other, towards me, creaking and groaning like old women at a WRI meeting. There’s always lots of chat on gale days. The mail might not arrive and the ferry may not run. We are used to this even if it is an infuriation to the best laid plans. Deciding to pop over to the mainland for a shopping spree can lose its shine if a person is still over there 3 days later without a spare pair of knickers and a dog shut up at home. We live dramatically on the island. Nothing is ever a given and I think that’s what makes us so enterprising and so ready to help each other out.

There was no indication yesterday afternoon that a gale was filling its lungs in preparation for a dawning onslaught. The barometer read ‘Set Fair’, and this morning it shouts ‘Hooligan’. I don’t mind so much if I have warning, the time to batten down flapping things, but coming all of a sudden is just plain rude. Birds are flying backwards or in scoops and dives and the bird seed is half way out to sea by now. The feeders swing like ships lanterns in a force 10 and any bird that dares to catch on must feel bilious. I do, just watching them and am very thankful that I can eat a poached egg from a dependably calm and static plate.

The sea-loch is a rise of spume and irritable wavelets, wind blasting over the incoming tide, a conflict of interest. Geese honk over the house and I have no idea how they manage to stay the right way up. If I was up there I would be spinning like a top. It’s hard enough to remain the right way up with two feet on the ground and 3 frocks for ballast. But the weather up here is what keeps me balanced which may sound bizarre until you understand that the capricious sudden-ness of it has become the norm. When visitors rapture on about a beautiful sunshine day of calm and tweeting, they don’t see the truth. Make the most of today, I smile at them. Tomorrow could lose someone their garden shed. They eye me as they might a crazy woman. Sometimes they decide to move up here based on the untruth and then they meet the winter which begins in November and might possibly depart mid May. Endless rain, persistent gales to excite the wheelie bins and power cuts are all a given but we who know this are usually prepared. We have nourishing soup on the hob, loads of frocks and a great attitude. Or we don’t live here at all.

I could live nowhere else.

Island Blog – About the Real

I walk into another evening alone. Oh yes I did have a great friend staying and other friends here making music, yes I did. And then they all go back into their shared lives. And I am so thankful they came. I loved the moments chuckled between us, the laughter, the conversations, the music. I really did. But after them there is just me, just the old loneliness.

In our ‘out there’ lives, we don’t mention loneliness and yet it is rife among us. We don’t want to speak out the word because it invites questions, or fixings, or mentions of Spring and daffodils and light. We see it coming so we keep quiet. We say we are fine and after a little chat about this, that and the weather, we turn back into the lonely. It doesn’t begin after the death of the one we shared everything with. No. It creeps in after the probate is sorted, the paperwork filed, the busy time that keeps us, well, busy and then stops dead like a train hitting the buffers. The shunt of silence is deafening and it isn’t going to make noise anytime soon, bar the odd visit of friends, the lift of music, laughter and shared time.

So what do we Lonelies do about this? Good question. I will work on it. Many of us are just short of 70. What options are out there for us, we who have stayed solid throughout maybe 50 or more years of being one of two? Well we may not be able to see them options but they might just be there, out there, somewhere. So what I say is this, as I wander, restless, through an empty house, more empty than it was when the other of two was away for a bit…..do you remember your dreams? I am working on that. Dreams I had as a young woman with no clue just don’t make sense now. However, a person without dreams, without aspirations, is basically dead whilst still breathing. It doesn’t matter what you do in the loneliness. But it matters if you do nothing. I catch the lift of the young woman I was, at 18, before marriage and kids and a most adventurous and demanding life subsumed me, or tried to. It never worked, this subsuming thing although it took all my spirit strength to remain Me. And now, on my own is mostly wonderful. I no longer have to say where I am going, nor when I will return. I no longer have to explain myself. I no longer this or that, and that is a void I do not know how to navigate. I was this woman and for decades. Now who am I?

There’s a question. The real is the truth. Lonely is real.

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.