Living

It’s funny how affirming it can be just to get on a bus and go somewhere new, on a week night, before going back to work a slightly different person, even before the weekend. Somehow, that’s a win, and a reminder that I am active, and interesting, and grown-up, and capable. Because before, I was just stagnating. Monday-Friday, doing “nothing that finishes too late”, taking no chances, gaining nothing, avoiding activity out of a needless commitment to routine safety. In getting on this bus, going somewhere I need the driver to tell me I have arrived at because I don’t already recognise it, I am growing. I am adding to my experience, my repertoire. I am changing, I am moving, I am living.

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Back in the Habit #7 : Rachel’s Biscuits

Rachel stands at the window, looking out. She munches widely, jowls giving way and crunching back in, folding in on the half-wet biscuit matter between her teeth. Compressing. She watches the nothing; the driveway of the multi-storey car park next opposite her side-street window. There had been a noise, a siren or a brief wail or something, demanding her inspection.

Her laugh is part guttural windedness, part disapproving groan. But it is a laugh. It trickles out and down when things aren’t funny to me, but seemingly awkward, not satisfactory. I avoid the collective gaze of the room. I glance up sometimes to smile at her simply because she has continued to laugh. Infectious.

We all enjoy the treats. The cultural microcosm of cakes and sugar gathered on snatched trips outside; on holidays, lunch breaks and weekends. We all reach, sometimes self-consciously, for the red box with but one finger-aiding opening dent. We smile at ourselves (but for the benefit and audience of each other) as we give in to the game, accept the exposure of our weakness – once one has started, we can all play.

Rachel reaches without qualm, without hesitation. She raises her eyebrows, she inspects the contents of the box, she carefully selects her prize. We all find something in that box, but we know in our hearts that they are all really Rachel’s biscuits.

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Here For You

I’ve gone through a few changes of perspective over the past few years. Maybe it’s just been in the past year. It’s certainly been more concentrated in the past year. “Everyone seems to be having babies and getting married and settling down.” That’s been a thing for a while, and, as I’m in my mid-twenties, I’m sure it’ll continue to be a thing for a while yet.

About eighteen months ago when my youngest brother was born, I held him in my arms for a few hours and had a huge cry. A big fat, ‘Where is my life going?’ kind of cry. I wasn’t thinking about the funeral we were going to that day, or much else in any kind of structured way really. Rather, the feeling of sitting there, quietly, spending time just looking at something small and delicate, breathing, just blew me open. My whole body heaved out a release of emotion with no real instantaneous cue. I felt aghast at my own reaction.

I think there was a lot of pent-up confusion inside me then, which was possibly just a time bomb waiting to go off at the slightest sneak of a smile from something that didn’t yet know politeness, like a puppy or a baby. Some hint of pure, unguided affection. But the baby did eke it out.

These days I feel a lot more relaxed around babies. I don’t need to be around them. Don’t get me wrong, your baby is adorable, and fascinating, and I will more than happily babysit, but first, I came here for you.

There is a silent tragedy playing out in the lives of a lot of new young mums. People make a bee-line for the baby and tend to forget about the mother. They stare at the little one, desperate for cuddles. Desperate to assert their stamp of maternal maturity. People who had no interest in the mum before are suddenly clamouring to see them on a regular basis; good friends forget about them and get that Christmassy level of excitement about spending time with Baby. They forget about what would really display an expert level of maternal understanding – knowing what’s best for the mum, and for the baby. When to entertain and when to be calm, when to give baby back. I’ve noticed that some people don’t really get this. They think that, in ‘wow’ing over the children, they are flattering the parents, and to a certain extent I’m sure that’s often true. But I see a lot of parents slipping into the audience when Baby takes centre-stage. It’s interesting to notice the look of someone who is not being watched.

It’s understandable, when you see this, that a lot of mums get jealous, or depressed, in the early days of motherhood. Or, indeed, the later days of it.

I’m here to tell you that I love your baby because it’s yours and I love you, but that’s as far as it goes. I understand the need for adult conversations, reality, and down time. Yesterday I caught up with a friend who has a one-year old daughter, and we ended up chatting for ten and a half hours straight. Ten. How often do you get that kind of time? It was uninterrupted fun. Her daughter was there, sure, and we had a few cooey moments, no one was ever ignored, but it was ultimately about us. Which was fantastic.

Life goes on, babies grow up, and this fascinating and captivating thing about tiny little people is a transient phase. And that’s fine. Because I came here for you. You may be a mummy now, but you’re still my good old friend.

What are your thoughts or experiences of introducing new babies into families and friendship circles?

27

It was my birthday this week. The inevitable internal stock-take becomes me. The past two weeks, I have mostly been:

Playing Yellow Car
Performing nightly in an original Fringe show, and enjoying it more each night
Wandering the Brighton seafront
Painting myself grey
Trying to read, but getting distracted by good company
Playing tourist at museums and stately homes
Giggling at the names of roses
Sharing rooms and swapping beds
Reading reviews
Meeting my friends’ families and loved ones
Watching free live comedy
Having vivid dreams, and apparently grinding my teeth, which is new
And, of course, thinking about a boy. Frustratingly dull, but true, and perhaps a pattern I am destined to follow always.
Thinking about the largeness of life, the wide, open world of opportunity and excitement and new connections and journeys
Feeling inspired and relaxed to a point of meditation, by the sea
Feeling proud of my company and our ideas
Feeling closer to my companions

I said a week ago that I felt “old and tired”. I think this is somewhat untrue since then. I feel refreshed and ready to move on to a new phase of life. My company is taking exciting new steps this year and I am very happy to say that I think we are making personal progress together too.

I am sorry I haven’t written in a while – I had been distractedly working on a series of posts about music, but have been suffering on and off from insecurity, or apathy, with my writing over the past several months. I have neglected a habit which used to serve me very well. More to come, and soon.

Slipshod Sugary Female Thinking

(… Thank you, Mary Poppins.)

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This year’s greatest achievement so far…

Happy new year! A pinch and a punch for the first of the month, and no returns. And other traditional nonsense.

Today I am filled with excitement and optimistic energy for the coming year. I feel rested. I have had a rare week off, with absolutely no agenda, so sleeping and enjoying oneself have taken vital priority over the Christmas period. I am sitting here watching A View to a Kill with a good friend and the dog, and probably going to watch The Hobbit for the second time later on. Banana bread has just come out of the oven, (my second batch in two days; I intend to cook more from now on) the house is clean thanks to my brand new Henry, and I have furniture and finishing touches for my bedroom on order. I am wearing Mary Shelley around my neck.

For the first time in about five years, this year I went ‘home’ for Christmas. When I say home, (I have a few hometowns) I mean the Forest of Dean (or rather, Gloucester this time, as little bro’s all grown up now and has a place of his own, where I stay) and then Ivybridge, in Plymouth. I got to see my mum and oldest younger brother, (twenty-three) which was lovely, and then my dad, step-mamma and baby brother, (nine months) which was just as lovely, and different. Christmas was a quiet, subdued affair compared to the drinking, music, large family gatherings and games that I have been used to.

In the place of forced tradition and routine and scheduled fun, we spent our time ambling around at a leisurely (very, including the spa day mamma took me on) pace, doing exactly as we all wished, eating, walking, watching films, and going to look at animals (perhaps a trivial-sounding activity but oh-so-revered in my humble view – visiting Pets At Home is something I like to do regularly, just for a quick fix of furry company.)

I taught baby bro to wave, which he apparently now does at Guinevere on Merlin, (they think she must sound a bit like me) and anyone who waves on TV. He’s a bit of a screen-lover, and grabs at phones whenever they’re in sight. He loves Skype, and phonecalls, and seems to respond to familiar voices now, which is absolutely lovely. He has skipped crawling and gone straight to walking while holding onto nearby thumbs. He loves being outdoors and near water, and squeals every time a dog goes past. A man after my own heart. I had a great time staying with them and can’t wait to go back. Saying goodbye was actually quite hard, simply because I remember how far away I am.

Last night, per tradition of a few years, I spent new year’s eve with a bunch of my closest friends up North, drinking and catching up and dancing like fools to nostalgic tunes from our teenage years. I was then, and am now, filled with warmth and gratitude for what and whom I have around me, because it’s all pretty damn great.

A few things I will take from 2012:

  • Day-jobs are okay as a part-time compliment to your true passion. You can benefit from different kinds of work bringing respite from each other, and challenging and exercising you in different ways.
  • Sometimes, love is not enough.
  • I am capable of change, but I find it quite incomprehensible until it happens.

And I think that’s enough for now. :) I am going into 2013 with an open mind and heart, and a bit of slipshod sugary female thinking. I wish peace, love, health and happiness for you all.

Accents

I have a nasty habit. I know I’m not the only one. I pick up people’s accents when I speak to them. Especially when I agree with what they’re saying. I lived with someone from Alnwick at university, and sounded like a Geordie for two years.

It works both ways; I also seem to discover my own ‘true’ accent when I am passionate about something, although this is also guided by my mood – when angry, I tend to sound more Cockney. Swearing in particular is much more satisfying in said accent. And, of course, I’m allowed, because I’m technically from Walthamstow/Tottenham (I seem to collect hometowns.)

On the other hand, when I feel authoritative about something, I sound more Radio 4 R.P. Adopting a lofty, elevated focus on annunciation perhaps serves to sound intelligent in my mind’s ear, and I think I can convince anyone listening that I am indeed the final word on the subject.

For example: I remember one time getting into a red Astra in my college days, to be driven around by boys, and settling in next to my best friend who was seeing the boy that I wasn’t (all was shared out fairly in those days) to rant about something, loudly and and energetically to talk over the stereo and to make my entrance a bit more fun. London was definitely with me, and I’m sure it also had at least a fraction to do with the fact that my bestie happened to be from Wimbledon.

Australian is the worst. To begin with, I thought the Asutralian person I was copying would find it funny or endearing somehow. God only knows where this idea came from. I can only imagine how mortifying and annoying it might be to have someone attempt to copy my accent when talking to me. But then, I don’t really like the sound of my own voice (unless I’m doing Radio 4), which is maybe why I feel the need to collect others. Certainly, if I sound anything like my Burnley boyfriend did when doing ‘Southern’, when I copy anyone else, I have a feeling how I must come across. Especially as I only do it with people I don’t know very well. People who are warm and infectious, and happen unfortunately to hace an accent that commands copying. Oh dear, is all I can think, in retrospect. How can I stop myself, oh lord?

Bizarro Me

Image from Wikipedia

How hard it must be to write about the polar opposite of yourself. How are we to know ourselves? And when describing our opposites, thus defining ourselves, surely our desires and ambitions of self-image will come into play, skewing the resulting image. For example, I think the Bizarro me would be completely carefree and easygoing, without worry. But is that just a quality I aspire to myself? Yes. How do I know where I fit on that scale? I also guess my opposite would be sexually promiscuous, because I am loyal and careful myself. But again, the promiscuity comes up in fantasy for me. Perhaps that’s what our opposites do? Act our our unulfilled dreams? Achieve our aspirations? Or would my opposite be someone who dreamed of opposing qualities, but was equally unsure of how to achieve those things, or indeed whether they had already? Food for thought…

One thing I know I do is value honesty. So my polar opposite would be very dishonest, or closed. She would hate James Bond and period dramas, be good with people and streetwise. She would have strong self-discpline around food, sleep and love. She would be ‘cool’. She would rarely smile and be difficult to amuse.

Another, slightly connected thought going round my head tonight is: When do I turn into a proper woman? When do I become good at baking and sewing and crochet and stuff like that? I see a lot of social network updates on cakes and other handmades, and think it’s all really impressive. I used to make cakes. I used to cook a lot of things. Before shift work took over my life and all my energy. I used to make a mean curry. I used to host an open mic night. I used to be good at a lot of things that I have kind of lost sight of recently. Perhaps just a void in my creative satisfaction that can be filled when we build up our cabaret and festival presence as performers. Doesn’t take long for that hunger to come back after a show finishes.