Monday, 24 March 2014

#Once upon a time - Five Years.

Once upon a time .....

I turned to Younger Dad, 'we should have booked.' The cafe was full; couples, friends, children sat upon laps. A Saturday buzz lifted the intimate space. Candles on tables. Walls hidden in local frippery. The window display; a forest of wide leafed flora subduing the incoming light, now small and tip toeing. Vintage bicycles, rusted and buckled, hung from their frames, a fake canary on miniature tricycle swung from a wire; a yellow feathered trapeze. I love a bit of broken character. I totally dig the kooky. And I so wanted to eat here, in the The Bicycle Shop. But alas, it wasn't to be... an interesting ambiance often makes for a sublime menu, and in my undecided stalling - do we stay here? do we leave? - my attention was found wanting, carried from handwritten letters on a chalkboard, deposited on the thick set bloke behind the bar. Why on earth was he wearing that light blue jumper? The colour accentuated the merino curls spilling out over the v-neck, all splayed and shaggy. A dark wiry pelt. I had never seen anything like it. Ever. 'Look at that chest,' I said to my husband. 'Don't stare,' he replied, 'c'mon, let's find somewhere else to eat, we won't get a table here...'

I was so absorbed I forgot to frame the detail, the camera forsaken in my shoulder bag. We meandered around The Lanes of Norwich, taking in the sunshine; people sat at tables outsides cafes, smiling, welcoming an unusually warm spring day, the air swelling with flirtation and chit chat. Look at that spotty green bag. I want one of those notebooks... and we paused outside a wedding shop; flowing taffeta for the ladies, heavy tuxedos for the gentlemen, 'can you believe it's been five years already?' I said to Younger Dad. He held my hand that little bit tighter. In Biddy's Tearooms we sat at an old sewing machine table, surrounded by chintz and bric-a-brack; old suitcases piled in corners, a lampshade balanced on three tea cups, delicate bunting stretched across the ceiling, and we talked as a couple, about our individual aspirations, our future as a family; my pot of lapsang souchong smoky and perfect, the last crumbs of a very fine vanilla cupcake gathered in the middle of my plate, leftover particles of what seemed like a first date.

We strolled back in the late afternoon sun, blossom deepening in the retracting light, the odd fresh petal caught on the curb of the road. We stopped at an interiors shop, bought ourselves an anniversary present; a lap top table for the bedroom, made from wood, the element of this year's celebration; to write and tinker on propped up by pillows, comforted under a warm duvet. When we arrived back, the house was empty; Little A and Granny at the park. She returned half way through a film we began watching, launching herself into our arms, 'are you still staying in the hotel?' she asked, 'I'm worried something might happen to my parents.' 'Don't worry, we cancelled the hotel earlier, but Granny's still putting you to bed, okay?' 'Okay.' 'Feeling better now?' I asked. 'Feeling much better,' she replied. Maybe not this time, but the next we would stay away. One step at a time.

Pre-dinner drinks in a boutique bar; we were early for our booking, so we meandered again, around quieter streets this time. A man kept passing us by. Back and forth. Back and forth. I couldn't help but make up a story; his first wife had died a decade before, and now he was sole carer of his son and frail mother. This was his first date in a decade, he was so excited, so nervous, and yet he felt conflicted between his needs and those who depended upon him... The restaurant was an experience, billed as one of Norwich's foremost, a rare treat; desert was a pineapple sorbet with mango and coconut palm mousse, lovage jelly, spiced with mint sherbet. I had never tasted anything quite like it.

Later, light headed and contented, we cuddled up and watched the remainder of the movie on the newly acquired wooden table. Five years together as a married unit, we felt proud, all we had come through over recent years. Older Mum. Younger Dad. And we made a solemn promise, to have many many more days like this together... today had been one of the best in a long while.

Once Upon A Time

And if you like my writing, please, please, please could you vote for me in The Writer Category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BIBS).

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Launch of My First Anthology

It's here. It has arrived...

Seasons Of Motherhood is now available.

Twenty four pages of prose and accidental poetry.

My first self published anthology.

You can order your copy here. 

To anyone who pre-ordered, thank you ever so much, your copy is winging its way to you.


Ps. Any review or feedback would be most appreciated...

And if you like my writing, please, please, please could you vote for me in The Writer Category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BIBS).  

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

#One Week - Winter '14 - The Turn

This year I remembered; I bought a bright red sledge. It lent against the hall way wall for weeks and weeks. Sad. Unused.

'It's not winter yet Mummy, it hasn't snowed.'
Only wind. Only rain.
'I'm hoping it will,' I replied, silently cussing the clouds, 'there's still plenty of time.'

Is there? Do you think so? I have since transferred the sledge to Little A's garden play house, the bulbs and blossoms arriving early; pinks, blues, oranges, yellows... I'm not complaining, it's really truly lovely; but winter isn't winter without one thick dumping of white the stuff, and anyway, I'm rather partial to icicles.

I had hoped to take Little A sledging on the gentle inclines of Cassiobury Park... Scarves, woolly hats, three pairs of socks. Misty breath. Catching snowflakes in gaping mouths, on nose tips. Cold pink cheeks. And desperate times called for desperate measures; so we satisfied ourselves with indoor snowball fights - fake snowballs, crunching like the real thing, bought for Little A's birthday party - bouncing off face and limb, scattering over the living room floor. Snowballs that can be bagged and saved for envelopes of boredom...

But it's all so beguiling. It could all change; turn so suddenly. Apres ski in April anyone?

#oneweek winter '14 has proved to be such a challenge... I have struggled with ideas for posts, and the words haven't flowed easily, inspiration sorely lacking; its been such an unusual season...

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 in spring, dates TBC. So 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 ...

<a href="" title="One Week"><img src="" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>

Monday, 10 March 2014

#One Week - Winter '14 - Drip Drip

Indoors looking out. Everyday another shower. Every hour a deeper puddle. The rain bounced off the grass, the wind howled down the chimney; dirty pebbles bouncing through the vent in the bedroom wall, charcoal smudges on the carpet. I found myself stuffing cotton wool in my ears before going to sleep; anything to silence the wailing wolves.

'Mummy, can we play in the garden?'
'Mummy, can we go to the park?'
'Not today.'

With the outdoors making a nuisance of itself, all noise and clatter, I forgot to have my camera at the ready. I have no pictures of the rains and floods; only a few raindrops here and there, and that's when I remembered. Will it be like this every winter? Wet and windy? Now there's a slight understatement... was a bit more than blowy, a little more than drizzle or down pour. Monsoon teardrops. Roaring tempests. Boiling seas. Breaching waters. Shakespeare would have been so so proud. Squally and riled are my descriptors for winter 2014.

We turned the corner on our way to preschool, and there it was, in our way, a flood across our road; lapping over curb, licking garden walls, rolling down mossy drive ways. We couldn't go over it. We couldn't go under it. We had to go through it. I picked up Little A, I picked up her scooter, and waded through our reflections. A car passed through, the driver's face apologetic, sending cold waves splashing against my ankles; soaking boots, soaking hem. 'Mummy, you'll have to change your trousers.' When I returned for Little A, the water still stood, flat and grey, no sign of relent.

Later that afternoon, we were caught in the body of a long long jam; a tail back that wound its way beyond a round-a-bout behind us, and down a hill in front, rear lights flashing secret code. At the bottom were clusters of bright yellow jackets, and a policeman's poker face, his arms flagging the traffic in the opposite direction, back the way we came. The river had burst. A deep sheet of water blocked the main thoroughfare into town. A large hosepipe was failing. Sandbags were being piled against doors. Frantic. Desperate. Another storm predicted the following day... Winter's ruin.

'Mummy, can we go to soft play?'
'Sorry sweetheart, it's knee deep in river.'

The garden. Well it took a battering. The fence to be exact. Half blown away in October's great storm. The rest torn by February's teeth. It's definitely our fence, Younger Dad checked. Odd having such a transparent view of our neighbour's garden; I'm sure she feels the same. A new boundary is required. Windproof. One with concrete foundation. In preparation, I spent the other weekend digging up all the plants and bulbs, transferring them to another bed; either destroying them or delaying their growth. A necessary evil I guess.

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 winter '14. 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 ...

<a href="" title="One Week"><img src="" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>

Sunday, 9 March 2014

#One Week - Winter '14 - In The Basement

This is my world. Inside another.
A favourite place.
This was my third time.
For her, a first.

Earth. I'm quite fond.
Of lava, carved away,
amber and bronze.
She prods a rock with her stick.

Outside is sun. It is hot. Blue.
Down here is a constant. Warm.
Hollow and echo.
'How deep are we Mummy?'  

I want to bottle IT, 
whatever IT is.
Unbroken. Endless. Now.  
She wonders, in awe of drops, of holes. 

You hear drums and silence.
Rhythm under sole.
Resonance in soul.
She bends beneath scarred tunnel.  

This is winter.
Underground. In the basement.
What I love. Where I should be.
'Mummy, I'm bored, can we go back up now?' 

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 winter '14. 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 ...

<a href="" title="One Week"><img src="" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The All Dayer

Beth looks surprised to see me so early this morning; I have a long day ahead of me. Breakfast. Lunch. Cake. I settle myself at a table, plugging the laptop into a wall socket behind the bench. Today I'm not sitting at my favourite window seat, I can't have any distractions - not cars or lorries or passers by in lurid yellow jackets - I have to get my head down, finish the final chapters of my novel; it's taken far too long. So I decide on a small square table near the counter instead; tempting croissants, scones and teacakes behind the curved glass panel. I'm hungry.

I overhear a conversation on the table opposite. A stocky bloke has had his working day cut short. He began at six, crashed his van, has to spend the rest of his hours getting the damage sorted. What a shame I think, to have the day turned over like that, like a spoilt pancake. I am curious about the pile on his plate. Quesadilla, poached egg, avocado, round fat slices of chorizo sausage. I change my mind. I can't have toast. I can't have porridge. I need protein. 'Beth, can I have eggs benedict with bacon please?'

...Eggs ben, yummity yum. Thick comforting hollandaise sauce, yolk soaked muffins; this will fill the spot, just the ticket for the words ahead.

Coco, the chocolate brown labrador, insists on curling under a table next to mine. I have to mind my legs, wouldn't want to squash her soft splayed paws. Coco is an old, sad eyed dog; the cafe's mascot and namesake. She lifts her head, her legs, and takes a lumbering stroll about the place; under tabletops, the odd sniff of a chair leg, flops her body back down, expends a doggy sigh.

A mother makes herself comfortable with her fourteen month old toddler. A wriggly pig. Her daughter won't sit still. She smiles a mouth of sharp front baby teeth, giggling, tapping on her mother's ipad, prodding it like a puddle of mud. We are all enchanted by her, the way she points at a cup, and spits out tested syllables. They don't stay long, time for a play in the park...

By lunch time I am lost in nouns, verbs and sentence structure. Customers come and go. I pay little attention, if any, to their shapes and textures; only the vague hubbub of chatter around me. I need something simple. I look up at a black board on the wall. Soup. That's what I'll have. Vegetable and white bean soup. Lower on calories, a compliment to the morning's egg fest. Slurp. Tap. Slurp. Tap. I can write more this way... but it's not as easy as it looks; I have to wipe thick gloop off the keyboard several times.

A group of tanned women, dressed in bright lycra and track suits, talk exercise and detox. I feel guilty. When was the last time I did yoga? Surely it wasn't three days ago? I don't care. I will have a slice of cake. I will. I will. I will...

A three year old jumps up and down on his sister's pram. She screams with bubbles and delight. His parent's don't seem to mind, he's entertaining his sister, a window for proper chat. The pram wobbles, making an unsteady lilt to the side. A parental hand stabilises the carrier. 'Stop that,' a voice reprimands, 'stop that right now.' I need another cup of tea.

A pit stop. The cake. A moist slice of lemon and blueberry drizzle. An all time favourite. Tart in my mouth, crumbling on the plate, fuel for the afternoon. I order an extra mug of hot chocolate; forget the calories, I need the word count...

And I don't leave until Coco closes, until I'm past two thousand words.

If you like my writing, you could do two wonderful things for me (pretty please);
1. Vote for me in the MADS (best writer). 2. Preorder my anthology, Seasons Of Motherhood (published in March). Thank you. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

#Once upon a time - Alchemy. Part Two.

Once upon a time .....

I followed him up the stairs. He didn't smell too good, smelt of fags and ash; over his top lip, strands from his moustache - a fat wiry brush - hung, curling, tinted in a colour swatch of nicotine yellow. A long term smoker. Forty a day probably. Every other step, a cough and a wheeze, an asthmatic rattle all the way to the top. I remember only counting twelve steps.

'So this is it, ' he said, clearing his throat in the ball of his fist, 'take a look around.'

First a bed room, strange angles. Then the bath room, nice size, loving the position of the window. Another bedroom, this will be the master. And through a final door into a vacuum of space and light. That's when I knew, decided right there on the spot. Why wasn't Younger Partner with me?  The roof had been scooped out like a pumpkin; wooden beams crossed the ceiling and where suitcases and roof racks and boxes of bric-a-brac would once have been stored was a mezzanine kitchen. An eat-in kitchen in the roof? Now I loved that idea...  

A first property bought together. The first night; glasses of champagne, fish and chips out of the paper, a gift of chocolate cake from the neighbours downstairs. The joy of discovering a new area; Chiswick, Shepherds Bush, Turnham Green. The best Thai restaurant on Askew Road.

We lived here for seven years.

This wasn't any ordinary flat, this was a crucible made of magical stuff; where gold was fashioned from waste basket junk, where sapphires poured from the bathroom tap, where dreams bubbled in fairy wisps of kettle steam...

I shed my skin a dozen times. I ditched the DJ'ing, spent five years retraining as a psychotherapist. I never worked so hard; the late nights at college, weekend workshops, seminars, clients, personal therapy, essays, case studies; all juggled with full time jobs, those soul sucking rent payers. I found myself under proposition one warm July evening. A Friday. 'Would you marry me?' Younger Partner asked, propped on the edge of the chair opposite; his expression earnest, puppy dog eyed, a tad nervous. 'Pardon?' I replied, 'could you say that again?' 'Will you marry me?' he repeated, this time his cheeks burning lanterns, 'Er... er... yes, yes of course I will marry you.' I exchanged Ms for Mrs. Under the living room beams, early March gliding through the panes, my best lady and I were plucked, pruned, kneaded and painted; two wedding dollies immaculately sculptured for a big big day. I grew a bump, solid with fluctuation and hard movement. The day I carried her over the threshold, into the living room, it was if she'd always been with us; right from the very beginning. I battled the closing walls of post natal illness; our home a muted sunken place; my life pre-baby, a flaky shadow, alien, a distant memory. I began writing. This. A blog. A new existence; words, words, words... and I bade farewell to my thirties; hello to middledom and swathes of silver hair. (and cake).

There were parties; Younger Dad's infamous thirtieth. The beer stains. The bass. A five course New Years bash. A first birthday, a second...

And almost a year ago, after the sign said sold and the paperwork cleared, we moved.

So much change, different people.

Once Upon A Time

If you like my writing, you could do two wonderful things for me (pretty please);
1. Vote for me in the MADS (best writer). 2. Preorder my anthology, Seasons Of Motherhood (published in March). Thank you.

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