Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

I had high hopes for this final post of 2011. Full of insightful wit and charm; something that pushed my readers into the realm of wonder and thoughts and dreams.

But I'm going away for New Year and, consequently, I am surrounded by un-ironed clothes and mismatched shoes, tired thoughts and a mind wired in lists of things to do and to be and at this point, Hamlet always resurfaces in my memory and I am not sure if it is entirely possible to string a plausible sentence in this state.

So I shall leave you with this; this pithy thing that has played through my mind, dashing and delving between the lists and the inappropriate thoughts of Shakespearean soliloquies:

As a little bud with shallow roots
You filled me with wonder
Found in every shard of sand
Handful of dirt,
Speck of dust.
Clouds were friends
Stars were dreams
The sky was my future...

In this dawning of a shiny new year, untarnished and unwrapped, let's look at the world with childlike eyes again. Let's see its potential.

Happy New Year, dearest Readers. Here's to a good one...

Saturday, 17 December 2011

There is still no cure for the common birthday

On Wednesday I began my 27th year crying. Midnight arrived as I sat at my computer. My fingers hovered above the keyboard, my eyes narrowed on a date that used to give me such butterflies as a child. I remember the sleepless night before; the fluttering of hope and excitement for a brand new age. Eight was always better than seven-and-a-half, ten was better than nine-and-three-quarters, and every birthday was welcomed with such unmitigated joy.

As a child you know nothing of responsibilities and the difficulties that adults face daily. Life is a playground and there is so much time left to explore it that you never questioned its passing; the increasing age. You welcomed it with as much excitement as the scores of presents and cards and candles on cake.

But it is different now. The older you get the more a birthday sheds its skin and shine until it is just another day in a week, month and year. Presents are nice and cards are appreciated but the age? The increasing number is no longer something I greet so readily. There are a number of reasons for this: I am not where I want to be in my life, or doing what I always dreamed. I don't currently have someone special to share my day. Imagination and reality are conflicting. I feel so damn stuck. And while it seems like everyone around me is doing the job of their dreams, getting married and having babies, going off on world adventures, I am here. And it is not where I want to be and I am not who I want to be. Now another year has flown by too swiftly and I did not think to reach out, to grab it and go along for the ride. 

I feel engulfed by quicksand and though I've been in the pit for a while now, just the fact that it was my birthday seemed all the more resonant.

At 12.01am the thought of this was like a sharp pinch to soft flesh, a heavy punch to my gut; it knocked the breath from my chest. The thoughts - so many rambling thoughts - bubbled up and tumbled down my cheeks. The realisation of all these things that I had considered fleetingly over the past year; vague moments and wonderings, sporadic feelings of failure, suddenly aligned like the sun and my zodiac. Before me they sat; accumulated like a line of bitter pills I had to swallow. It was not pleasant

By 12.10am the sniffling had decreased and I actually managed to settle down for some sleep. In the morning, when the light was white and my head was clear, I opened cards and presents and felt okay. Later there was cocktails and laughter, dinner and a trip to the theatre to see Driving Miss Daisy. And though we sat up in the heavens with the realisation that my long distance vision had declined (damn you, age!), I thought about how James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, was treading the boards below me with an expertise that amazed and 'well, this isn't so bad'. Not at all.

At the end of my birthday I dropped tired into bed and thought more about the play I had just seen; about Daisy and Hoke and how old they were when they realised they were best friends. Once again the thought struck me; I might not be where or who I want to be but I am only 27. I've still got plenty of time to figure that out; to explore the playground. And even if I am still waiting until my nineties for all these things I have stacked with such importance, surely the journey there will be worthwhile. 

I sometimes wonder why I worry at all. But isn't reflection the very nature of birthdays? Reader, what say you? 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Get cape. Wear cape. Fly?

I was six when my mum found me rifling through the airing cupboard in my room. We kept towels and bed linen on the slatted racks, despite the musty smell that lingered inside. Balanced precariously on my desk chair I stretched upwards, tiny hands lost within soft folds of clean laundry. The floor beneath me was littered with duvet covers, Christmas themed table clothes and doilies. I'd finally found what I was searching for - just one last stretch - when the floorboards groaned behind. 

'Louise, what do you think you're doing?'

Uh oh. Trouble. There was always a little edge to the way she said my name; an extra emphasis on the L. I spun around with a push and twist of glee. That old chair provided me with hours of room-spinning fun.

'Looking for a pillowcase.' I said, as if it was the kind of thing I did every day. It wasn't.

'Are you going to make your bed?'

Me make beds? I assumed some kind of bed fairy did that while I was at school. I explained the complexity of my problem; a pillowcase was needed to complete my very special outfit. With a glance at the carefully ironed table cloths now in disarray on the floor, mum reached above my head and pulled from one of the stacks without any dislodge. Mums really could do everything. Or maybe not.

'No, no, no!' I said, head shaking. 'I don't want a white one.'

'But brides wear white on their wedding day. Don't you want a white veil?'

I may have married off Barbie with Ken a few times (and Ken with Sindy once the divorced had been finalised) but I never wanted to be a bride. Boys were stupid. Did she not know me at all? She stared at me with an increasingly crinkled brow. 

'I need a red one for my cape. You can't fly without a cape!'

At this moment she noticed the rest of my very special outfit on my bed. A bright blue Minnie Mouse t.shirt that I had turned inside out and a pair of red cycling shorts. Beside it a hand-drawn S that I had coloured in, badly, with yellow felt-tip and cut out with kid-friendly scissors that always tore paper rather than cut it. Briefly, mum considered me and flipped through a pile of sheets beyond my grasp. She shook out one of my sister's red bedsheets. I imagined it fluttering in the wind behind me as I soared through the sky and bounced off the clouds. I snatched it from her hands.

With a roll of her eyes, she left me; my behaviour nothing new. I always had a vivid imagination. When I wasn't shouting at my dolls in my makeshift 'classroom', I was entertaining the Queen or pretending to fly on Falkor the luckdragon from The NeverEnding Story. 

My very special outfit now complete, I got dressed with a sense of accomplishment. I secured the yellow S to my chest with a couple of strips of Sellotape and sank my feet into red Wellington boots outgrown the previous winter. As my sister tied the sheet around my neck in a double knot, I was so overwhelmed by the excitement that I forgot the pinch of my toes and the skin growing raw at the backs of my heels. 

It was cold when I stepped outside. At the top of the garden steps I felt the score of goosebumps, the tug of my cape as it toyed with the wind. Hands on hips, I focused on the large tree by the end fence. That was where my mission would begin.

I dragged a rusty paint-splattered step ladder down to the grass leaving a two line trail of flattened green blades behind me. My hands scrapped the roughened tree bark as I wedged the ladder against the trunk. The trail of ants usually would have stopped me from climbing but I had my cape now; I had to finish this. I had one muddy boot on the step when my mum called from the top of the garden. She was watering potted plants. 

'Louise, what do you think you're doing?'

'Climbing the tree.' 

I pushed off from the grass and the ladder wobbled. A few trailing ants didn't survive my sudden grasp for the solid trunk and I wiped their corpses down my top. They looked like dirt. 

'Why are you climbing the tree?'

'Because birds fly from trees.' 

'You're not a bird, Louise. You can't fly.'

'I know I'm not a bird.' I continued to climb.

'Well, you're not Supergirl either.'

'I know that! I'm Superman.'

At the top of the ladder I stretched upwards to a low hanging branch but something tugged and I toppled and tumbled to the ground. Laughter tinkled from every direction and when I opened eyes my sister appeared, all five versions of her head shaking. 

'You're no Superman,' she said. 'He wouldn't have got his cape caught in the bottom of the ladder!'

Well. There was always next time.