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Monday morning

Awake at 5am today, it seems that Monday morning could not come fast enough for me. I love my commute into work. It’s a space in the day that is for me and me only. I queue with the hordes on the platform, waiting for the tram to arrive, hoping along with everyone else that when it stops the door is in front of me so that I am first to get on.

My stop is a school stop. Crowds of children tumble out of the tram, filling the platform. It’s hard to believe that they all fitted. People shuffle around within the tram, like atoms in a boiling kettle, spacing themselves out. I won at the game of roulette today – the spinning line of door/carriage/door/carriage stopped in front of me at – DOOR! I move decisively, a seasoned traveller now. I know where the spaces are to be found, further down the tram, alongside the seated travellers where there are hanging straps to cling onto and fewer people choose to go.

I have my Kindle in my hand already, I lift it in front of my eyes and the shoving, complaining hordes disappear. I cannot use this time in any other way. This is guilt free reading. I am not wasting time, I am not avoiding the washing up, I am not worrying about anything. I am travelling to work.

This, and the day ahead of me, is taken care of. I don’t have to steer or drive. I surrender to the journey.

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Seizing January by the Horns

January is a beast of a month, and it has often bested me. Given that December was a disaster, and my usual method of dousing the whole month in alcohol and downing it along with a kilogram of chocolate, wasn’t helping, I decided on a different approach.

I stopped drinking on the 27th December. I spent Christmas Day with my estranged (ish) husband and my daughter, and drank a bottle of Amaretto. I regretted the bottle of Amaretto so much that I decided to stop drinking immediately (well, as soon as I had finished the rest of the wine in the fridge).

Far from being the nightmare of craving and boredom it is advertised as, being teetotal turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be. A holiday from hangovers, with the benefit of better skin.

‘With everything that’s been going on in your life, I’m surprised you haven’t gone under,’ said my lovely, if lugubrious, neighbour at work, as we tapped away at our keyboards. I have to admit, this was a difficult month in which a bullying issue at my daughter’s school escalated to the point that she is no longer going in to school and only the fact that I live with my long-suffering, retired parents has saved me from losing my job.

Which is why I went one better than mere teetotalitarianism (which sounds more like evil dictatorship than abstinence, but my daughter will vouch that I couldn’t dictate a full stop at the end of a sentence…) I decided that if I could not control what was going on around me I would control how I felt about myself – and what quicker and more drastic way to do that than to join a gym and get a personal trainer?

I have spent this month lifting weights instead of drinking wine. I am a little bit thinner – not very much so – but I feel stronger than I can ever remember feeling. It’s amazing how the physical strength somehow transfers to my brain, so that problems seem less overwhelming. As my brain slowly rehydrates from the shrivelled up nut that was left from 2014’s daily bottle of wine, the days seemed to pass much more quickly and painlessly – yet still contain enough time to do everything that needed to be done.

For the first time in my life, I questioned the theory that drinking was fun. I also questioned the logic that women shouldn’t lift heavy weights in case they got ‘too muscley’. I wondered, in what other areas of my life had I been holding back, trying not to become stronger, trying not to grow – in case I got ‘too muscley’, too strong.

Are all women afraid of their own strength, I wondered?

For possibly the first time in my life, I reached unashamedly and wholeheartedly for the strength I needed, built it from within – and wrestled that beast of a January by the horns.

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I Miss my Blog (or, my 100th post turns out to be pretty banal…)

I miss my blog.

What do you do, when your blog is all about your family life and your marriage – and your marriage ends?

This is a personal blog, but it isn’t THAT personal. I couldn’t write about those things – they’re not mine to write about. The marriage was ours – mine and my husbands’ – and I was never in the habit of airing its darker side. It remains between the two of us – all of it, the good and the bad…

So, I’m building much of my life up from Ground Zero – but I am still here, and this blog is still here. I miss writing it and I miss looking at my reader and seeing what other people have written.

Life goes on. My blog goes on. I’m still here, and I’m still observing life, through rose tinted glasses. I can write about the sky, wine, my daughter and chocolate, and watching Arcade Fire play Glastonbury – from the comfort of my own sofa.

Those beguiling rhythms have been keeping me from my bed for at least half an hour, and resulted in considerable over-indulgence on the wine-drinking, chocolate-eating and blog-writing front. If you are reading – hello! I would like to leave you with the following message: you really should listen to Arcade Fire. They’re very good.

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Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections

When I was six years old I wrote a story called ‘The Little Dinosaur’. Everybody loved my story and it was pinned to the classroom wall, along with my name written in big letters. All visitors to the classroom were directed to admire my story, and I would raise my head as the teacher pointed to me:

‘This little girl wrote it.’

I knew then, that I was destined to become a Very Famous Writer.

I don’t remember much about how I felt when I wrote the story, other than that I loved spelling out the word ‘Diplodocus’, which was a silly-sounding word at the same time as being very clever, because using this word meant that you had learnt the name of a type of dinosaur. I also remember that I could not draw a dinosaur and this was annoying, but it didn’t matter too much because when I was a famous writer I could just use long words like ‘Diplodocus’ all the time, and everybody would be impressed.

Books, old and new, were all around me in those days. Books that my mother read as a child, books that smelt of fresh glue and pine. Books to lull me to sleep at night, my head on my Dad’s scratchy wool jumper, listening to his voice reverberating from his chest as it carried me away on a rhythmic sea of words. Books that I would read again in a few years, silent in a cave of blankets, the thin beam of light from my torch taking me deeper into imaginary worlds.There were forbidden books on my parents’ bookshelves (‘too old for you’) – these books I would dive in and out of, opening them at random to read a couple of chapters, hastily returning them when I heard footsteps. Eventually I would have read every page of the book and would piece the plot together like a jigsaw.

When I won a regional poetry competition at the age of 11, and got to choose myself some silver hoop earrings with my prize money, I didn’t realise that I had peaked too early.

Only a year later would come a defeat, in front of my high school class – after all those years of praise from adults for my writing, it was put to the test in a classroom writing competition, the winner voted in by the class.

My story didn’t win.

I realised that no matter how perfectly crafted my writing, if people didn’t find my stories interesting then I would never be a Very Famous Writer. I would just be someone who was good at writing.

From this moment, my writing became a secret thing, and my ambition something I never dared to mention. I wrote every morning and every evening, but never when anyone was looking.

I wrote a diary. I described and mused upon my life in minute detail.

Strangely enough, my diary was interesting to my peers, as I found out when it was discovered on a school holiday.

‘It’s very good. When you read it you feel as if you are actually there,’ said the diary-stealer as she handed it back to me, having gleefully discovered (and told the whole school about) my secret crush. Her compliment did not cheer me up. Not one bit.

It was the first time that my writing got me into trouble, but it would not be the last.

At 22, I learned to touch type. Now my thoughts could unfurl on the screen faster than the speed of thought. I discovered email, and I was trigger-happy with the ‘Send’ button.

I found that I couldn’t stop writing – the words would find a way out one way or another.

And the Little Dinosaur story? My Dad had an artist friend draw the Diplodocus family; on each page of my words, typed up on an old fashioned typewriter, was a different illustration.

It’s still there, in his drawer – waiting for the sequel that I will write, one day….

This post was written in response to the Daily Post Challenge ‘Writerly Reflections’.