Thursday, 8 October 2015

Going Back

I've decided it's all Aaron's fault.

Yeah, you heard me. You were the one who challenged me to check out clearing. I snarked back (in that really annoying I'm-right-you're-wrong tone of voice) that of course clearing wasn't still open. It was September, and Freshers' started in less than a week.

I checked it out the next day (because I said I would) and of course it was still open. And we sat down, slightly stunned, and threw the idea of me being a fresher again into the air. I would be almost 6 years older than most of my coursemates. We'd decided to go for a quiet year, just to get used to this craziness called marriage, and suddenly there was an offer from Sunderland to study the degree I've always wanted (but never had the courage) to do.

You see, French was an easy option. There are so many writers already in the world, and it was a good, solid choice if I wanted to be 'marketable'. And I love languages. I love taking them apart and squishing them back together in fun ways, and I love that history can be traced by how we talk. Words offer hushed echoes of people and places we don't recall, who once upon a time stamped something of themselves onto their time. Language remembered them for us.

I was too scared to write "properly". We were supposed to have figured out what we were going to do at the tender age of almost-eighteen, and I remember sitting with my Mum on our sofa and bursting out that I had no idea which to choose. English? French? How was I ever going to make it as a writer? How could my voice ever be unique or interesting enough in a chorus as loud as the literary world? I would have to shout, I worried. And despite being a 'proper natterer' I have never been good at shouting. I can't even return a badly made hot drink.

So writing was my thing. It was the thing that I kept in a box, and brought out in certain situations or to certain people. It was so incredibly personal that the idea of sharing it, of putting it outside my little corner of the web and actually making it my job? That terrified me. It hit so close, so deep, that I ran as fast as I possibly could to the first 'marketable' idea I had, and I chose French.

I miss French. I miss Bristol. And yet, I am so utterly content and at peace in this tiny little university, on this small campus, in a way I never was in that city or that degree. I wanted to fit Bristol, so I squished myself into this 'idea', and wondered why I ached in certain places after a long time of a body and soul contorted to fit.

I live in Newcastle, in a little flat that smells of cigarette smoke despite the fact we took that massive sofa from the last tenants out. The North couldn't be more different from the South. It is busy in a different way: it is a rhythm rather than a buzz, and I love it. This ebb and flow that breathes life into art and history and people and music, in this no-nonsense cut-to-the-chase attitude that has stripped away my faffing and left me breathless.

There isn't really the space to say in four sentences what you could say in one (which still doesn't stop me, but I'm learning). There is a bareness that is beautiful, and incredibly rich. I have people who will tell me, to my face, if my writing is crap and when I need to start again.

I no longer want safe and pretty. I want real and raw, and if it is uncomfortable I will learn to embrace it (probably with a fair amount of whining which you're welcome to slap out of me), because living in a real way is surely the only way worth living.

I had this idea of myself. This fierce metropolitan woman who reviews theatre and discusses politics and explores little side streets and let's face it, is just pretty damn cool.

Well, when I meet people like that I'm always thrilled that they actually want to be friends with me. Because I am not cool. I tuck my pyjama bottoms into my socks. I make lists before I go food shopping. I watch house improvement programmes and laugh too loudly at my own jokes. I write down the exciting festivals in my diary and will more than likely forget to go, and we just built a shelf for the microwave to go on in our kitchen. I still beam proudly whenever I go past it.

No joke.

I'm learning, slowly, that actually it's alright to be just me, as I am right now. That sounds like be-yourself rubbish, but I'm learning that it's exhausting and pointless to post this polished version of myself online and to other people. They'll love someone else.

So I'm a fresher. I'm a nearly 24-year-old who is basically the new girl at school. I'm a wife (that one still makes me feel weird but very very happy). I'm a rather amused slightly more-grown-up person who looks back at my 'I know everything' attitude and laughs, because I really feel like I know nothing at all.

But that's probably the best place to start. When we are empty, we can be filled up.

(... With chocolate, preferably.)

Friday, 3 January 2014

Quiet Magic

I was going to write a post on Christmas, and New Year resolutions. It's a bandwagon that we bloggers try to jump on at this time of year, because I'll have you know that being pensive and stuff is interesting. I even have a fantastic poem I've written. No, really, it's great.

But I found myself thinking of numb fingers and smoky peat smell and mud on my boots, and I wanted to tell you about it.

2013 stretches back for me as one long, big lesson of a year. It's been hard, and instead of feeling as though I learn each lesson and come out of the other side, I feel more like God's been dismantling my personality, hopes, dreams, disappointments and character bit by bit, and slowly sewing them back together. And I still feel pretty raw and incomplete.

That's ok. That's not what I'm going to talk about, but I needed to say it because otherwise the next bit won't make sense! I live in the middle of nowhere. A sleepy little town that's been waking up to modernity part by part, so that it's a jigsaw of cottages smothered in honeysuckle and small, intimate backroads, and imposing new buildings made by architects playing Picasso. Our 'town centre' is more of a 'town sprawl', and the fact we can now boast a Costa is more a point of shame than anything else.

Welcome to Verwood. 

If you walk through the copse next to Morrisons (I call it Dog Crap Alley) and walk soft and slow towards the rec, then you'll find yourself meandering through beaten mud tracks and past scout huts - and then -

onto the heath, where the gorse is boasting bright yellow buds right now, in a sort of laughing defiance at Winter's daring. Do your worst, they seem to say, and I'll still be here being slightly and ridiculously premature, but I'll feel good about it. 

And the smell of peat beneath your feet will hang heavy and smoky in the air, which nips at your fingers and your nose because you were stupid enough not to wear four pairs of gloves and you haven't yet invested in a balaclava. Silly you. The air is so cold it chases the warmth back into your lungs and freezes you from the inside, but it tastes so freaking delicious you end up not caring.

And you toil up the hill, up the rugged, weatherbeaten sides and onto the peak and you feel as though you're on top of the world - as though nothing and no one can bring you down. Trees stretch for miles. Roads look like faint, silvery streams in the distance and the sound of far away traffic could be the quiet growl of some animal.

Because, like, we're so in touch with nature out here.

But there's another, very hairy reminder wagging its tail right in front of you. The dog is sodden and muddy, and it takes one look at you before tossing an equally sodden stick at your feet, with a wide, hopeful grin. Its person doesn't seem to be anywhere near.

You pick the stick up. It's slimy, and you waste no time throwing the dog-made boomerang across the heather and watch the dog hare after it, pounce on it, and bring it back. It drops the stick at your feet, bouncing back on its paws with an oh please oh please and barking in shrill delight as you reluctantly pick up the stick again. 

It's only after the tenth time you've thrown it that you realise it's not going to leave any time soon. And you're reluctant to carry on walking because you're worried you'll be charged with dog-napping, so you bend and throw and bend and throw until its person comes into view a few minutes later, and is a mess of I'm so sorry he got you - how long has he been bothering you? He never lets you stop once you've started as though I haven't figured it out by now but we laugh with something genuine and I wipe muddy dog-slobber hands on my jeans in a supremely hygienic gesture and we part ways.

And I walk soft and slow back down the hill and through the rec and through the town and through the copse as though I'm on a bear hunt, but all that I'm hunting is a steaming pot of tea and dry socks. And when we get home I retreat up to my loft-room, which is all sorts of cosy, and the best place for Thinking, and I think about the gorse-flowers and the dog that would have persevered forever.

And I think, that's not a bad way to be. Being fruitful when it's not the perfect environment and in fact seems to be the exact opposite of everything you need. Persevering with the freaking stick again and again and again because you refuse to lose joy and delight in the little things, even if making a Grand Stick Throwing Machine is beyond your abilities. (Like so -)

And then retreating, if you need it, for a little while, to dry socks and good tea and soul food and people, because although it's not the answer you may be looking for -

it just might be enough.

Much love and laughter for the New Year!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Kitchen Fairy

If you so desire to munch
A smidge of breakfast or some lunch,
Then go ahead! Enjoy your treat
But after you've had it to eat
You'll be so kind to not ignore
The shiny thing that waits next door.

It opens onto magic land
Where things are washed by no man's hand
But that man's hand must put them in
Or bear the shame of KITCHEN SIN.
So get your spoons, your plates, your knives,
And stack them - one two three four five.

As many as goes row on row
Within the dishwasher we own.

"Oh no!" you sob, "it's all full up!"
Then wash your single dirty cup.
Or better yet, you lazy plum -
(A way to look a tad less glum)
It might be good to now unload
In prep for this thing's full-up mode.

"What's this?" you say, "it doesn't do
This by itself - CLEAN-UP MODE TWO?"

No. It doesn't.
Do it yourself.

Yours sincerely,

The Kitchen Fairy

Was so fed up of dirty plates when there's a dishwasher right next to them. Don't know if anyone else ever feels this? I wrote this in under twenty minutes and taped it to the side a few weeks ago.

Our sides have never been clearer. Hooray for sarcasm!

PS. Please note, the reference to men in the poem isn't saying it's only guys who don't do this. It just rhymed better.

PPS. 'Kitchen sin' isn't theologically sound. Again, I'm a slave to good rhyme. And I kind of wanted to make a point. (Eh, it worked!)

PPPS. I... kind of think this sounds a lot like some of Roald Dahl's doings. Channeling one of my favourite authors from childhood. Hooray!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Let me introduce you to my new companion.

You will never guess what. 

Finished trying yet?


Yep, that's right. Betcha didn't expect that!

An actual, bonafide, grownup car - not a model one, or a toy one, or even a picture of one. One that can drive me places! Hooray!

I was in Brizzle a few weeks ago, seeing people, being tackle-hugged, weeping all over the place at how beautiful my city is and how beautiful the people I love are and how beautiful life is (eh, I was in a weepy mood - and have no fear, I found time to drink tea and smile and that). And to pick up my new car.

Things that are amazing about said vehicle:

We were both made in 1992. (A good year all round, I say.)

It is bigger than Mum and Dad's car (which makes me feel smug).

It was a gift. From fantastically generous friends and I'm still fan-girling at how incredible God's timing (and theirs!) is.

It has a massive boot. No more asking poor friends and family to help me move!

Best thing of all? I was rooting around for nicknames, and was gazing thoughtfully (no, not blankly, with purpose) at the license plate, and found out something incredible.

My license plate starts K810.

K + 8 + 1 + 0 = K9.

Yeah, that's right. As in, the lovable robot dog from Doctor Who. 

SO. Meet my faithful metal companion. I'm hoping he'll be around for a long time to come.

True die-hard Whovians, please don't pummel me. I know it's not a perfect representation! ;)

And it has a calculator, an' it talks, an'... oh wait, that's the original. But my car is still pretty damn cool.

Now? Well, now all I have to do is learn to drive.

On it. Like a car bonnet.


Ok, ok, bad pun/rhyme. Over and out!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Insert Bonfire Night pun here.

Hands up whose bonfire night experience was less like this

and more like this?


We had a Harry Potter war with sparklers as wands. I kid you not.
My tenderly-loved and spiced baked apples exploded. All over the oven.
We celebrated this traditional British festival with mexican food. Rebels.
We ate too many chestnuts and not enough mulled wine.

And took advantage of the roaring fire in our metal dustbin to burn all our unwanted correspondence. Basically a middle class average family's version of Guy Fawkes (an enemy that has seditious plots in the works and that could make your life go up in smoke if you don't keep an eye on it), so we burned it and we burned it good.

Much love and laughter,