Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Festival of The Middle-Aged

Well this took me back. At least I had an en suite shower, eggy but functioning. Back in the day it was the communal washroom, a corridor of fifteen or so lecture-hardened women legging it for the last dregs of hot water each and every morning. I never made it. I blamed my daily misfortune entirely at the door of the banana skins I'd smoked the night before. But when you're nineteen years old, tepid will do, and anyway, the hang overs were worth it.

And here I was again - de ja vu - a student for three days. Not stoned but brain addled from motherhood and middle-age. No tie-dye or kaftans but neutral woollens and lycra-stretch trousers. The comfort factor. For two nights, I replaced memory foam for bed springs circa '87. I. Felt. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. And did I mind? Absolutely, categorically no! You see, I was in attendance at The Writers Festival, an event I'd been looking forward to for months. It didn't disappoint. Wine. New friendships. Fine dining in the student refectory - the mango and brie filo parcels were heavenly, and of course, cake and biscuits - a writer's staple.

It was wonderful to spend a weekend in the company of other writers talking about, well, writing. But I wasn't fooled by the mini courses and workshops or the presence of agents and publishers disguising the real agenda of the Festival, that we were all participating in a giant meeting of WA (writers anonymous)....

'It's a drug, I can't control it, I've been doing it for years, sometimes in the open, brazenly, in libraries, in coffee shops, but mainly behind doors, when no one's watching, no one else understands, but you do, that's why I'm here, to come out, as an addict I mean, this is so hard..... my name is Older Mum, and I'm, I'm, a blogger/writer, writer/blogger. Don't shoot me.' 

The average age of the festival goer casually rested on forty five years young. Sedate. Relaxed. Apart from Pam that is, a silver haired, 70's+ party wagon. I loved hanging out with her. She missed out on the Saturday of the previous year, totally hungover, rollickingly drunk on red wine the night before. She told me - little miss innocent - that people kept plying her with booze. I raised a questioning brow.

Then there was Tor, my life saving anchor for the whole event. Isn't it lovely when you just click? And someone who was writing magical realism and another who'd spent five years writing her post second world war crime thriller and another who..... it went on and on. And when someone asked me about my novel I was left scratching my head, 'it's about a DJ who, er, loses her record box...' I really know how to rock a pitch (not).        

But as it turns out, I received very positive feedback on my writing from both an agent and a book doctor (big-up yourself Older Mum). And that's left me in a bit of quandary....

Now I'm ever so determined to finish the first draft of Four Gigs. End of the year is my goal. I'm in an uncomfortable situation where it's novel vs. blog. What do I do? All that consumes me is the next chapter and what my characters are doing. I've even caught myself talking like the main protagonist! This has left no head space for ideas for blog posts. It's completely full at the inn. And I have to participate in NaNoWriMo this November, it'll give me such a push....

....So I might have to blog a little less.

Please don't shoot me! 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

#One Week - Summer '13 - Not Vintage. Just Good.

I've returned from a holiday. Seven days and seven nights. It's never enough. I need more time... More sunshine. More sunsets. Ankle deep in warm waters and sands as fine as golden breadcrumbs. I'm not in shape for Autumn. After only two months of visible sun, the stock pile of vitamin D is low. I could do with an Indian Summer - a complimentary burst of happiness. One last hurrah.

It could have been the Algarve. It wasn't. We were in England. Lounging on The Lizard. And Carbis Bay was a delight. Palm trees. Clotted cream. Daily triple chocolate ice cream. An open view of St Ives and flat, turquoise seas from the decking.

But Little A was in a grump. Insistent whining. She just pushed and pushed....

"What's up Little A? What's upsetting you?" I asked kindly as we walked down a slope towards the beach.

"You're upsetting me mummy... you're annoying me."   

"How am I annoying you?"

"All you do is go blah, blah, blah."

Pardon? What had my three year old just said to me? Blah, blah blah?

Her cheek was out of the ordinary. I knew it, and I knew what it was. Anxiety. Apprehension. The lack of structure over the summer. That Younger Dad would be returning to working away from home the following week.

Little A has had a landslide of change thrust upon her this year. A new home. A new school. Younger Dad's absence five days a week - Sunday evenings regularly infused with bedtime dramas. And if she needs a target for her confusion, I will happily play the bulls eye to her angry darts, reassuring her that all is well in her world.

This summer has notched up a tally of new experiences.

Play dates with friends (that's Little A, not me).

An ant invasion. An army of pesky crawlers over the hallway and kitchen work tops, found behind cereal boxes, on top of the microwave, in between supermarket coupons. Younger Dad enticing them with noxious, sweet, sticky stuff. Then one day, they were gone.

Wasps. A first sting. Little A screaming for her Daddy. A remedying cocktail of vinegar and anti-histamine. Soft cuddles from Grandma and Mummy.

A little wooden garden house. Painted in sea grass and holly. A new secret hide-away. Home to special treat tea times and clandestine talks with teddies and rag dolls.  

A very steamy stroll through the rain forest biome at the Eden Project. Electric blue butterflies gliding like gulls.

I have salvaged a forgotten garden. Grown courgettes. Courgette tart, grilled courgette, chopped courgette in salad. Have harvested half a dozen plump ripe tomatoes. Charmed strawberries, lettuce and sweetcorn.

And such precious time with Little A, a budding comedian and philosopher....

"Mummy we have to drink lots of water or our pee-pee will turn like Daddy's beer."

"When someone dies they go to the moon and stars."

And at last, she has reverted back to addressing me as Mummy again. Answering to my first name was starting to grate....

I took my blogging hat off over the summer and put my novelist's boots on. The words came marching out. I am not the fastest of writers, but I am pleased to say that I have now written thirty thousand words of Four Gigs. Getting there. And this weekend I am going to a three day Writer's Festival in York. I can't wait but I'm so very, very nervous as well #goingonmyown. Wish me luck!

I guess it's time to close the curtains on summer. The heating's already on. I've already worn the first woolly jumper of the new season. Summer 2013 was a good one. Not vintage I don't think. Just good. And that will do for me.

This is the third and final day of the seasonal linky One WeekI wanted to say a big, big thank you to all those lovely bloggers who joined in, and those who commented, and tweeted, in support of this project.

One Week will return this autumn 18-20 November. Get your cameras at the ready and imaginative hats on! For more details about One Week, take a gander here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full three days...

Badge Code ...

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Monday, 9 September 2013

#One Week - Summer '13 - In Full Bloom

I think I am forgetting.

May be I have forgotten?

What it's like to be young(er).

I can barely see my twenties, faintly sniff my early thirties, but fully taste my forties. Oh I'm gorging on middle age alright, fat and full on lattes and chocolate fingers. I've swapped clubbing and guest lists for weeding the borders and a vegetable patch. Hundreds of records lay piled in storage, their place taken by giant sized jigsaws, miniature tea sets, organza princess frocks, and boxes of glitter and pipe cleaners and glue.

And a walk down Brick Lane with a good friend one warm July evening sealed the deal. We were misfits among the younglings, their ironing board stomachs, their kicker-length dresses. Oh the curry was good. The curry was wonderful. An in-the-know curry house down a side street. Prawn Pathia (no 52.). Tarka Dhal (no 83, as a side). Tiger Beer (cool, straight from the fridge). For the first time, I didn't feel part of a London jigsaw. All the pieces were in place elsewhere. Snug. Watertight. I was an outsider looking in, a suburban creature now, petunias and lobelia hanging from garden baskets.

But do I care? Do I really care? Actually no, not one minuscule jot. I always thought I'd spin vinyl forever, hearing aid on, false teeth floating in a glass beside the 1210's. So glad it won't turn out this way. I became a mother. Anxious, terrified, hormonally insane. Fragile. The meniscus formed on water. But over time, the edges levelled and rounded. I greeted the hidden notes, I met myself, all the shitty narrative. Acceptance. I discovered love without limit. My skin was safe, a good place to be.

I am in full bloom. Not the brilliant petals of a young flower, they belong to years gone by. My cells are dry and sagging. No, I'm like an ageing sunflower head, one you might find at August's end. Hundreds of seeds. Dark grey and tear shaped. Ripe with insight, with purpose. I'm getting the gist of this middle aged lark. Now is the time of harvest, when originality might finally find place, and shine. I am both neurotic and at peace with myself. And this makes me smile...

This is the second day of the seasonal linky One Week. From Monday till Wednesday, I'll be posting a photograph(s) and a few words that diarises and distills my experience of summer '13. Take a peep at the details here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full three days. And don't forget to add #oneweek on Twitter, and comment on each others posts...

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Sunday, 8 September 2013

#One Week - Summer '13 - The Zen of Washing

...And so I stared at the naked notepad in front of me, then to the calendar, then back to the white pages. How was I going to fill the six weeks ahead of me? A list. I had to make a list. An itinerary of entertainment. Visits to farms. Visits to parks. Play dates...

We had busy days and slow days, and not-putting-on-clothes-till-gone-lunch time days.

And what was the common thread that wove together the full and the empty?

Why the washing line of course.  

I finally have a washing line. Not even since the days of my mother's whirligig. It stretches from a grey pole at the front of the garden to the fence at the back. This line has become a ritual steeped in yoga. Everything slows down pegging up the knickers and socks. There are wooden pegs and pink pegs and blue pegs. I use two pegs for shirts, three for bed sheets, one for bras. There's something undeniably satisfying when the washing dries in the blink of an eye. Then, the smell of air dried, sun-kissed clothes. Perfect.

No, I am not a fifties housewife; but I have discovered a middle way, a slice of zen, in watching Younger Dads boxer's waft in the breeze, or the way the arms of his upturned checked shirts swing like those of lazy monkeys.

My washing line. A not so subtle social commentary. Here's what it says about us. Father. Mother. Child. That I wear too much blue. That Little A has the best socks. The garden across hangs uniform rows of dark socks or plain white shirts. To my mind, that says corporate worker bee. Clock in. Clock out. What my line doesn't reveal is lover of cheesecake, and writer, and listener, and friend.

My washing line. A transparent narrative in the art of obsession. When I dress the line, I am clothing a body from top to bottom. First Younger Dad's shirts, the hanging monkeys, followed by t-shirts and trousers, underwear and socks; all dangling over the wooden play house. Little A passes the pegs. We make our way up the lawn item by item, the odd drunken butterfly, tissue winged and white,  looping towards the buddleia nearby. I don't like to muddle the order of clothes. Visually, it would look plain wrong. A row of broken teeth. Jagged and disjointed. I prefer a smooth graduation, from long trouser legs to size-eight-little-person socks. A flow respecting an order in height.

The bedclothes are an entirely different story, one told every Thursday morning. The duvet covers and bed sheets divide the garden in two, hiding the borders and the gravel pathway. When they're dismantled, I'm a magician reuniting a pair of legs and a lonely torso. A garden conjured, complete again.

I love nothing more than unpegging the line at day's end, a calming marker, in company of mellow wood pigeons, shy rustling of silver birch, and the screaming children two doors down. I take pleasure in folding the clothes, watching the pile grow; a multi-layered cake. I roll Younger Dad's boxers into giant cigars, shove Little A's knickers down available spaces. And when it's completely full, the line bounces up with joy, a return to freedom; relieved from the weight of our family of three.

This is the first day of the seasonal linky One Week. Over the next three days (Monday till Wednesday) I'll be posting a photograph(s) and a few words that diarises and distills my experience of summer '13. Take a peep at the details here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full three days. And don't forget to add #oneweek on Twitter, and comment on each others posts...

Badge Code ...

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