Monday, 26 September 2016

If I leave this world in a loaded daze....

I had a weekend when I nearly drowned.

Ms M and I went to the sea and the waves were crashing up over the dock, but still I went in, not even thinking about it. I don't know what combination of arrogance and stupidity and deathwish it was. But I was repeatedly submerged by big waves that held me under while they crashed over me to the beach. 

I did get out, covered in cuts and scratches from being thrown on to the shingle, and without my glasses, which is the really stupid bit. I am short sighted to the extent that I only take my glasses off to sleep. It didn't occur to me to take them off to go into the water, even though even I would have been able to find the sea without help. Being without them, and being in shock from the minutes of ceding complete control to the sea, made me strangely helpless. Luckily, Ms M was driving, and I lapsed into a strange tripped out haze for the journey home, marveling at the disembodied car head lights as they came towards me in a huge pixelated mass, waiting for the swoop of them to form back into a blurred version of something that I recognised as they got close enough to pass.  

Something about that experience made us decide when we got home that we should go out, as it was a club night at a pub where we drink. I found spare glasses and a dress, and we walked in to this world, where I knew Snake and the new Mrs Snake would be amongst the clientele. 

It's not that I have a problem with Snake (well......) or the new Mrs Snake. More that my extreme self consciousness makes me want to avoid situations that might make other people feel awkward, or situations where people might think they know a version of me that I have had no part in creating. So while I have met friends for quiet drinks on week nights, this was the first time in a year that I had been out to any event or gathering in the woefully small town where I live. 

Anyway, it was a fine night. I was greeted and absorbed into groups and conversations, with people I've known for years but haven't seen in this most difficult year, but who have been living their own hard lives and have come through their own tough things while I've been fighting through the waves of my life changes. One person who I haven't seen since school. People who I thought might not want to talk to me again, but who made efforts to say hello and create a space for me. 

I publicly greeted and hugged Snake and the new Ms Snake, spoke to strangers about my tattoo, drank too much red wine. Meandered home, feeling I'd lived through a couple of things that I thought might kill me. Feeling that if, like a cat, I have a limited number of lives, then I was shorter on lives, but more alive than I had been for a while. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Only lasts the season

Snake is getting married tomorrow, a year on from when we separated. It all seems bizarre and far too fast and a bit unbelievable to me, but then I move slowly (in terms of thinking and emotions,,,I move quite fast physically). I'm still at the " did that really happen?" stage about us splitting up, and he's committing to a whole new family.

I don't set much store by dates, mostly because they're numbers and I don't remember numbers. The day I moved out is an easy one to remember (easier than wedding anniversaries or birthdays) because its the day my rent goes out of the account each month. I can remember months alright because they are words, and words are real. I can assign emotions, impressions to months in a way that doesn't work with numbers. September is one of those pivotal, transitional months. which moves us on, whether we like it or not. Settling down towards winter.

I keep thinking it's nearly September, and it's not really, we still have some days to go, and it's as hot and bright and Augusty as it can be. I'm hoping I've absorbed enough light and heat to jolt my serotonin levels into working well enough to get me through the next few months.

Anyway, the by product of the wedding is that the girl is coming home and will be here with me tonight, and I've taken Thursday morning off so that we can spend a little more time together, hopefully with Goldie too. And tomorrow night I'm going to watch Great British Bake Off even though I'm not very good at watching television _ I forget when things are on or can't find them or I lose concentration in the middle. But if Snake can commit to a new wife, then committing to a television series should be possible for me (a piece of cake, even). And I've taken to sewing in a weird don't know what I'm doing way - not creative sewing as such, just patching up old things with other old things. At the moment I'm trying to save an old style bedspread that I think was on my grandmothers bed before it was on mine all through my adolescence, and then went to the girl, and then I found it on a pile of stuff all packed up in boxes at my old home, because there's a boy in my girls room now, one I don't know, in another strange but sort of OK turn of events. So I'm using bits of old sweatshirt to patch the holes in the old pink (hardly even pink anymore) chenille bedspread, using a stitch that doesn't have a name. The patches have to be big because the fabric is so worn and it's a matter of trying to find some solid....flesh, I was going to say, as if I was working on a heart, or a liver.

It's all OK, I think, It's all new and strange and unsettling but I'm where I want to be, for now, and tonight I get to see my girl.

Lit Up The National


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Really not that far away

We went on the sleeper train to Scotland, me and Goldie, to stay with my cousin Fru and her family. One night Fru and I took blankets, a flask, chocolate, and climbed a hill as the sun went down, in the hope of seeing meteors. We saw deer, bats, and were inspected by cows before settling wrapped up and leaning against a dry stone wall, waiting for the sky to go dark and the clouds to pass over. The moon was clear and the breeze lifted so that the smell of pines moved across us, and it was as quiet as any place I've ever been.

It wasn't until we'd stumble tripped back through the dark wood to the car, and back to their house that we truly saw stars though. It was suddenly the kind of night sky that shrinks you to nothingness and makes sense and nonsense of every worry and every pretension. Still no meteors, the universe being unimpressed with our desire for more of a show than it was already giving us.

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We went swimming in Loch Kinord. I plunged in fast, as I've learnt to do with big bodies of water, and swam out into the stillness. I kept moving, reluctant to ask the two most relevant questions - how deep is this, and what lives in here? Feeling the cold, but not really feeling it until we got out when it hit, hard, despite the sun. Getting dry and dressed, eating the sandwiches and biscuits we had with us, huddling with Goldie so that we could share the deep coldness we both felt and hope it would translate into a shared warmth. So cold that when we touched the earth it felt like it was exuding warmth, in contrast. So cold that we were all exclaiming as we felt our individual organs regain feeling. So cold that later that day I ached all the way through, not from the swimming but from the violent shivering that continued until we got to my aunts house and perched on her aga drinking tea and eating buttered gingerbread.

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We went for evening walks with bats flying around our heads, swooping right between me and Fru as we walked side by side along the road. We went for climbs up hills covered in low blueberry bushes, picking free bags full of the fruit that is sold in English supermarkets by the heavily packaged handful for some ridiculous sum, and we took them back to Fru's and made summer pudding, weighting it down over night with stones, including an ancient arrow head that had traveled to Scotland from Wiltshire with the family when they moved to start their new life, 40 years ago. We spent evenings watching the Olympics and trying to understand the rules of diving, of cycling, of judo. We met up with another cousin, and talked about fathers who died this summer, and fathers who are ill, and how have we got here with our homes and our children and our lives, like we're grown ups or something? We absorbed the wonder and luxury of all kinds of space that for all sorts of reasons, it's hard to find down here just now. And then Goldie and I got back on the sleeper and we traveled home,

The National - Hard to Find



Saturday, 6 August 2016

Coming out of my cage and I've been doing just fine

I went to a silent disco on a luxury yacht,

An old friend feels strongly that my ambition to spend the majority of the rest of my life alone in a quiet space, reading, is not enough. She keeps telling me that now is the time for me to start again, to have adventures and do new things. She sends me lots of invitations and opportunities that she comes across, and sometimes I say yes. Last weekend I went to her house and spent an evening with a group of her friends making alcoholic toffee apples. Yesterday after work I drove back up the M11 and changed into party clothes and 5 of us headed off to Victoria Dock to climb onto the Sunborn. We were directed to a big, quiet room leading onto a deck with views to the city, and handed head phones.

The way it works is, you wear your headphones and can pick between various channels to find songs you like and want to dance to. Around you, other people dance to their choice of song.

There are several advantages to this as an extremely enjoyable night out. You get a choice of music, of course (among the songs I listened to last night were Mr Brightside, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Jolene, Bohemian Rhapsody.....). Fear of dancing is reduced considerably (or is that just another example of my fear thresholds changing?) as, if nobody knows what you're dancing too, how can they judge? Not that they struck me as a judgey crowd - people seemed to be there for wholehearted, uninhibited fun. And another advantage is, if you want to talk to someone, you take off your headphones and have a conversation, in your normal voice, with no blaring music.

I didn't do a lot of taking off my headphones. I loved that there was no real expectation to talk to anyone. I loved that I was a bit dressed up, and out in London. I loved that it was a long summers evening and we were on the water. I loved that there was an excellent assortment of cheesy music alongside proper dance stuff. I loved that I felt comfortable and confident enough to dance to my own tune for 4 hours without pause. I loved watching other people absorbed in their own happiness. I loved being taken out of the dullness and self obsession of much of the last months and thrown into somewhere alien and happy, and I loved feeling able to embrace that.

Late at night we gaggled back to the station to catch the train. My feet in my high heeled boots (I think of them as my divorce boots - bought on impulse the day before Snake and I separated, and rarely worn, because at 6" tall without shoes I really don't need heels) suddenly started burning when I asked them to stop dancing and stepped off the yacht, so I took the boots off and walked in stocking feet across that reclaimed bit of London, coming back down to earth .

Today I ache in my arms and legs and my feet are still expressing some middle aged shock at what was expected of them. Given the chance though, I'd be back there, doing it all again.

Mr Brightside - The Killers

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Put an ocean and a river between everything, yourself and home

Ms M was taking her boy and other boys and another mum to the coast, and there was just enough room at the very back of the car for me and my small dog. I was far enough from the grown ups to mean I didn't need to join in with their conversation, and invisible enough to the 12 year olds for them to ignore me too, except for occasionally passing me a gummi bear or fizzy coke bottle.

We went to Walberswick and ate a picnic on the green, then while the rest of them set up lines for catching crabs from the bridge, I went down to the beach and waded deep enough into the sea that I could leave the ground. It felt less like swimming and more like being swum - being rolled, submerged, lifted and dropped. I was carried further out and horizontally away from where I'd left my pile of belongings on the beach, until the decision needed to be made to make my way back. It was hard work - easy to imagine giving up the effort of will and accept that the strength of the sea is irrepressible, irresistible. In the strange way that my fear of some things has been muted by depression, I am slightly removed at the moment from belief in personal disaster. But I made it back to shallower water, and then was joined by the boys who loved the crash and push of it, and who I herded and shepherded into staying where they could keep their footing.

We had fish and chips on another beach before climbing back into the car, where I curled into the small space and slept for the journey home.

I will make more effort to go to the sea. It energises and relaxes, and there's familiarity and ritual but also an element of adventure about it. The most accessible coast to us is beautiful - there are a series of small towns and more isolated coves and crumbling cliffs that all have their own appeal. In between visits to the real thing, several evenings a week I cross the road and walk 5 minutes to the leisure centre, where if I time it right, and with a bit of luck, I am left as the last person ploughing up and down, the only noise the pull of my arms through the water, with silence between my strokes.

England The National

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Keeping the horse between me and the ground

Moments of happiness over the last little while -

...dancing to a DJ set by Suggs, at midnight, in a wood. On one side of me a dread locked smiling stranger, on the other my beautiful daughter. The daughter and I had just climbed up through the trees after watching The National headline at Latitude. I love The National, and they played well, but it was Suggs and his incompetent playing of an excellent choice of music (in that he never quite got the hang of the deck) that made me move out of myself to a space where it was just straightforwardly good to be alive. 

After that weekend of living outside in bright sunshine surrounded by music, having dropped the children off and said good bye to friends - walking alone into my flat, my sanctuary, my own safe undemanding space. A spontaneous smile as I unlocked and threw open the door, and saw everything the way I left it. 

Listening to the radio on the way to work (I changed my car recently and have a digital radio in there - I didn't even know that was possible - BBC radio 6 at my fingertips as I move around is a life improver in it's own right) (there's a whole other post in how my loyalty to radio 4 has been severely shaken over the last few months by the absolute disaster of the political state we are in...but this is about happiness, so.....)

.....listening to the radio and Seasick Steve being interviewed, and him describing how he'd made a record in his kitchen and sent it off somewhere and somehow it had made it's way to the makers of Jools Holland's hootenanny, and now 10 years on he's playing Wembley, and he said that at the time of making that record "I'm pretty sure that my neighbors wouldn't have allowed me to play in their house" And it made me laugh and the remainder of that, the shadow smile, stayed with me as I walked through the place where I work and caused people to smile back at me, and it was that thing that gets lost in depression - the payback from the risk of raising your head and making eye contact. The opening up against the closing down. The trusting the world not to throw a hardball in your face if you raise it from the floor.

Seasick Steve - Summertime Boy