To the top of the hill leads to my little house. Along the way is the greengrocer, the baker, the butcher and the fishmonger. Every Friday the library man wheels his trolley all the way up, so we old folk don’t have to carry our books.
It gets very blowy up here in winter, but never mind, the views of the river running towards the sea and the town with it’s church spires are beautiful. In summer lots of visitors come for the day. They puff and pant, and many of them give up along the way. I don’t mind when they knock on the door to ask for water, because I can always sell them a bag of my special hill town fudge. The cobbler does well, he hires out sensible shoes for the day, He has a sign saying ‘Ladies, rent my shoes or break your ankles’. City women can be so foolish, how do they think pointy heels will fare on the cobbles?
When the snows comes at Christmas, hundreds come and pay a shilling a time to toboggan down. We decorate with lights and holly, the whole place looks magical. Old Wilf dresses up as Santa and there’s mince pies and mulled wine for the grown ups.
Maybe you’ll come to visit one day? We’ll make you very welcome, as long as you spend lots of money and go away again. But be warned, villains and scrooges will be fed to the wolves in the forest.
Paula has a Thursday Special photo challenge and this week the theme is ‘Winding’. My head is scrambled after a manic week, so I thought I’d share my madness with you.
Paula said she would like to visit and asked for directions, so here they are.
Get off the train at Exeter St Davids, next cross to platform 5 for the Tarka line. After an hour and 3769 seconds get ready to jump from the train. Don’t be frightened of the crone in the hedge, and whichever way she directs you choose the opposite. After a nod and 3 blinks you will see a white gate, it’s easy from there as long as you sprinkle coins!
They’ve gone, my husband and my son. In my mind’s eye, I can still see them waving in the distance, as the boat drifted further and further towards the horizon. And then they were no more.
My baby and I are alone, and we wait to hear that they have arrived but I’ve lost count of the weeks, and the crossing should have taken just days. I’ve heard of boats not arriving, but that couldn’t happen to my Miran and Sami, could it? They have Allah’s protection. I pray, and they pray, five times a day and we lead good lives, remembering the Pillars of Islam, so we must wait patiently. For how long? another week, another month?
He left me with 100 euros, I can’t spend it, no one will change it for me, they think it’s fake money. We are hungry, this girl child will starve soon. The camp is full of rats and the grain has bugs in it. The toilets are a poisonous death waiting to happen. I have to walk three miles a day to get to a clean place, but then the heat bears down on me. My clothes are rags now, the girl is hungry and was crying all the time, but now today she has stopped. That’s not a good thing, she’s giving up, missing her father and brother. I miss my men and feel frightened all the time. The men that wait for boats look me up and down, desperate to see if I have money. If they find my euros they will take them.
I have a wound on my leg that festers and this morning I scraped a worm from it. I am worried now, but must hold on to my husband’s smile and promise to send for me, as soon as they find work and save enough for us to join them in Europe. Italy, Greece? Anywhere will do if there is food and shelter over our heads. We need medicine as well. I bleed all the time and have no protection just grimy rags, my child has shit running down her legs.
We must keep safe, I must keep the girl safe. If the aid workers see us, they may try to take the girl or lock us away and send us home to Syria. Ah, if only we didn’t have to leave Syria, but we would have been dead already if we’d stayed. I watched them kill my brothers and my Miran’s father. We had to leave.
There are thousands of people here, all hungry, all frightened and desperate. The boat price goes up every day and still people find the money and go. If I was a bad woman it would be easier, I could sell my body and make lots of money to get us to Europe. But it’s too late, even if I was a bad woman, no one would buy my body now, it’s full of insects and sickness. I must sleep, perhaps tomorrow I will hear from Miran that they are safe. Suppose they got separated, what would become of my son on his own in a strange land with nothing but a few words of English? They wanted to pick grapes, work in farms or factories, anything, all hours if they could get it. They will get it, Allah is with them, we are good people and this pain will end, Insha’Allah.
This writing was inspired by a Picasso painting ‘The Desemparats, (the abandoned) displayed in the Musee Picasso, Barcelona.
It’s strange isn’t it, how memories are triggered?
The other day I was talking to my friend at work, about our battles with weight. In the six or so years we’ve known each other, we’ve both dieted a few times, with some success and some failure. I’ve often said that our office makes us fat, because there are around 16 people, birthdays happen around 16 times a year – now that’s a surprise. Each one of those means a cake day, and regular visits from outside agencies like auditors, also bring cake, chocolates, biscuits or all three. At Christmas, the quantity is obscene and it lives on a table at my end of the room! I can resist some of it, but home-made cake beats me. And there are occasional fund raising days where the more charitable slave away over a hot stove, so that we can indulge while feeling generous.
So, the lovely M was browsing the internet during her lunch break, looking rather pleased with herself. She’s a bit of a minx and I asked her what mischief she was making. ‘I’ve just ordered something’ she said, ‘to sort this out’ she rubbed her midriff, ‘I’ve got to do something about this bulge’.
I laughed and she went on to say that she’d ordered a corset. ‘Ooo-er, a saucy little number for Valentines? With laces?’I asked.
‘Na, here it is’, she took out her phone, ‘I’ll lose weight with this one’. The photo was a bizarre looking thing that seemed to be in two pieces, a tight bit underneath a vest shape bit.
‘What are you on about, lose weight, it’ll just squash up your insides, just like Spanx, really uncomfortable’ I said.
‘It’s supposed to make me sweat because it’s tight, and that will make me lose weight’. Now M is always hot, I’ll have a chunky jumper on top of a vest, with a scarf around my neck and shoulders, while I’m sat at my desk, and she’ll be in a thin sleeveless blouse. I reminded her that she suffers from the heat as it is.
And then the half-formed memory burst out.
When I was a little girl my grandmother was a bit plump, as ladies of a certain age often are. The best grandmothers are plumptious, but mine was quite short, so couldn’t get away with it as well as some. I remember her ordering herself a rather expensive corset, that was also supposed to help her lose weight, by making her sweat. Funny how things go around. It arrived from the Traffords mail order catalogue, and she was so excited when she opened it. Made of skin coloured rubber, rather like swimming caps were made from, and with hooks and eyes that I had to help her do up. It was incredibly tight, but she hoped for a miracle.
She had a few of these corsets
, they had a tendency to tear, and she would get very angry and curse the manufacturers for selling ‘a pig in a poke’.
She did lose weight sometimes, I remember her grapefruit diet, but invariably she regained it, as do I and my friend M.
It’s easy to lose, easier to regain and I hope my memory made you smile.
‘Run Gill’ Linda and Delamie shouted in harmony.
I bent to tie my shoe lace and then dawdling, stood again, turned in the direction that all the noise was coming from, hand to my brow to shade the early evening sun from my vision. Then a stillness settled and that strange crescendo rose from the silence just like it does before a storm is brewing. I watched as if outside myself. The biggest boy picked up a stone, weighed it in his hand.
‘BLACKIEEE’, he shouted. There was just him and me, at least that’s how it felt. That’s how it felt, him, me and the missile, cruising, impossibly slowly towards my third eye.
‘Come on, it’s going to hit you’ Linda Wright’s voice pierced my stasis, and in a split second the target became my brow bone instead of my eye. But it couldn’t have hit me, he was too far away. The red rain told a different story as it rippled through my lashes. In disbelief I placed my index finger to my head, saw the trickle of blood, and finally started running blindly, away from the building site, where we shouldn’t have been.
So very close to blinded.
A pale blue and cream police panda car took me to hospital, to three stitches and a scar I still bear. I don’t suppose the racist bully remembers. No-one punished him, a little brown girl didn’t matter much in 1967.
Yesterday I received a nomination for the Leibster Award, from my dear blogging sister Meg. It’s my first award for some time, and I remember in Lucid Gypsy’s early days, seeing awards flying back and forth and wondering if I’d ever receive one. One they began, they came thick and fast. Flattered, I accepted and shared the love, until I realised that I was spending way too much time on them and decided I wouldn’t take part anymore. Awards seemed to peter out a little anyway.
The Leibster was one of the first that I received, but when I saw Meg’s post I decided that I would take part, simply because it was Meg! Then, I remembered that I haven’t posted for three days, have lots of photos and things I want to share as it is, how on earth could I fit anything else in?
Time. My nemesis and many other peoples. Of the 168 hours in a week, I spend 43 walking to work, being there and walking home again. I spend 56 attempting to sleep (and usually achieving about 42). Probably 26 hours are taken up with cooking, housework, grocery shopping, and self-care. I might watch TV for 3 hours a week, 5 hours a week might be social times, 10 if I have a day out! That still seems to leave 4 hours a day
to be too exhausted to move uh, have fun, be creative, walk the dogs.
Write. That’s the one. That’s the reason I began blogging, at the end of a three-year period of study, that was undertaken to improve my creative writing skills. Twice a month I go to my writing group and sometimes share some work, but I actually write very little these days. I’m one of those people who is too interested in too many things. I want to learn everything, read everything, experience everything, from block printing to training ants, and talk to everyone I encounter.
My writing blog isn’t, it’s a photography blog. Lured in by the Weekly Photo Challenge and similar, I get to indulge another of my passions. Sharing photos is far quicker and easier than writing and I’m kind of cataloguing some of my life, that’s how I justify it to myself. But the reality is, like Meg, I’m addicted to blogging, both posting and visiting my blogging friends around the world. Some of you are very special, you know who you are and you’re the other half of what fuels my addiction.
I’d like to be able to say I’m going to change, that this will become a writing blog, but I’d be kidding myself. So dear Meg, thank you for choosing me for the award, but I’m declining. Instead I’m going to schedule my weekly events and of course I’m going to write, perhaps, maybe, sometime. Meanwhile, I went hunting for my Leibster Award and instead I found this poem from 2011, and thought I’d share again.
By Train Through Somerset
Country gulls flushed by the 10.53
arrow from fields with frosty periphery
like yuletide tinsel under threadbare trees
lamb filled ewes felted and jacketed
join blanketed ponies to nibble on nothing
awaiting a ride or a jar of mint sauce
depart the Levels undulating uphill
where railway huts stand derelict lonesome
the sizzle of pylons shoot towards ozone
old man’s beard helplessly clings to dense hide
of hedge where Roe stags lurk in dank
acres furrowed and ready for spring
spires crack the mist near burst banks
where Saturday shoals of angling young men
Who has lost this small pure heart? asks Tish. She has offered up this image for anyone who is inspired by it, to write whatever springs to mind.
Twisting, tumbling from a dense hedge
with a brief moment of gratitude for space.
It fell, it turned, raised a shocked face,
damp with the tears of morning mist,
when a thousand more dropped en masse,
to perish, impaled on blackthorn’s blades.
This Eglantine heart in gentlest Tyrian hue
will bear no royal crown, but a floral wreath
of Earth Chestnut will encircle its place of rest
and join with the detritus of seasons before.
This heart unbroken will nourish any tiny seed
and root that finds itself climbing skywards.
Thank you Tish.
All rights to this photo belong to Tish Farrell, Writer on the Edge.
Recently I was walking home from work and gang of young lads were coming towards me, rowdy and fooling around. They were daft, squawking and pushing each other, but I knew there was nothing bad happening because they were wearing the uniforms of the public school over the road. Interestingly, I made a spot judgement based on their appearance that there was no risk to either the puniest one of them, or to myself. Rather sad really, but if a gang of lads from the Academy half a mile away were heading towards me I’d feel rather different, possibly a tiny bit anxious if I had to pass them. They would probably be pushing at the uniform boundaries with hoodies and trainers, this bunch had polished black shoes and crisply pressed shirts.
All these thoughts passed through my mind as they got closer. They were giggling and jeering and I had the distinct feeling that some of it was at my expense, I sucked my cheeks in to stop myself laughing. Next, the tallest and probably sweet sixteen year old, detached himself from the rest and followed with his hands behind his back. The giggles of four pre-pubertal boys, with unbroken voices, got louder as they drew level with me, and then I was eye to eye with Mr Sixteenish.
‘Excuse me’, he said ‘would you like a flower?’ He held out his hand to offer me a freshly picked sprig of blossom. I took it with a smile and a thank you. Meanwhile, of course, he’d trotted to catch up with the younger boys, who were convulsed with laughter, at his accepting what was so obviously a dare. I called after them that they should ‘learn from their handsome friend, he will be a success with the ladies.’ More laughter.
A young boy was brought into my office for a work experience day. He spent some time with someone in the opposite team and then was given to me for the afternoon. I welcomed him and asked him why he had chosen this particular experience, in a busy finance department, he muttered something that sounded like ‘It’s what I want to do’, ‘really?’ I said ‘what school year are you in, have you chosen your GCSE subjects?’ Another mutter.
He didn’t listen, so he made small mistakes, the same one several times, so to help his learning, I got him to correct them. I found out later that he had been in another finance department for four days, somewhere a lot more sober and serious than mine, with rather more senior staff. I have no idea how he survived. I was gentle and kind to him the whole time, trying my best to bring him out, and I rarely fail, but oh he was hard work. It turns out he was just 14, imagine knowing that you want to be an accountant at that age, I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was middle aged! I hope he succeeds in his chosen path, but I can’t help feeling that he was just too young for the situation, he was cocky, bright, but not as clever as he thought.
Driving home across the city, close to the University campus, dark apart from the street lights, I saw the silhouette of someone in the road twenty metres ahead. I instinctively slowed down and the car in front of me swerved sharply as the man reverse staggered back to the curb. I could tell it was a guy, late teens in jeans, tee-shirt and a beanie hat. Several vehicles came towards me but as I crept very slowly, they were leaving a 20 mph area and speeding up, unaware that he was about to dash and wobble on to the road again. Horns sounded, he nearly fell but just saved himself. My mind was flying through the options, stopping with hazard lights in the hope that he would cross safely and away from the traffic, shouting at him, I really thought he was going to be run over. Where are the police cars when you need one? This lad was desperately drunk, alone and vulnerable. Then there was a pause in the traffic and he reached the opposite path and sat down. With my eye on the rear view mirror I eased slowly away, and as I moved I saw him up and still swaying around. I still hoped to see a police car as I got closer to the city centre, and hoped even more that I wouldn’t hear anything nasty on the news in the morning.
Seven young boys, 36 hours.
If you had to live forever, what age would you choose, childhood, adolescence or adulthood, and why? This is the question posed by the Daily Post today.
I’ll start by saying why I wouldn’t want to be an eternal child. I had plenty of fun as a child, simple fun, where I could play for hours sitting in a den under a table, covered in a chenille cloth or eating raw sausage meat when my grandmother made sausage rolls. A wooden box full of buttons was perfect to let my imagination run wild, as I conjured up the garments they had fallen from.
But I also had strange and difficult times as I struggled to know where I belonged. No, belonged is the wrong word, it was more that I was trying to work out how I fitted in, an answer that I didn’t get until I was middle aged.
My teenage years were worse, expected to and indeed wanting to go out and meet the world, I was often fearful and I most definitely did not fit.
But that’s the past. Now my skin fits. It won’t fit for many more years though, in stead it will become looser, as the subcutaneous fat redistributes itself, and I take on the guise of the crone.
So I want to stay where I am right now. I want to keep the strength I have, keep the ailments that come with age at bay. No arthritis, hypertension, high cholesterol, thyroid problems or dementia, because I need time.
I didn’t begin travelling until I was in my forties, I’d always wanted to but hardly dared to dream. I got my hit of exotic destinations watching Michael Palin, everywhere he went, I wanted to go. It wasn’t until I began to break free, that some of those places became reality.
But oh, there are so many places I need to see. Ethiopia, Mali, Uzbekistan, Namibia, Chile, Libya, Israel, Jordan, Greece. There are places that I couldn’t go to at the moment, even if I had the time and money. Pakistan, I’ve always wanted to visit, but I’ve just this evening watched a documentary, about it’s incredible history and culture.
I dream of being able to walk safely around the cities of Nigeria, to travel Ibgo country freely, meeting more of my family there and really understanding the culture. As things stand, it’s doubtful that this could happen in my lifetime. Who knows, give it fifty years and some miracles then, perhaps, it could be possible. So, I need to live forever as I am now, with the wisdom, confidence and experience that I have, and the brakes on the physical deterioration. This is my Golden Age!
I’m adding this comment I found on Facebook this morning. It’s from my lovely extra son, my daughter’s partner Steven, who has hidden talents that I hope he will use one day. Thanks Steve xx
This is a tough question. On first thought it seems easy, however who would truly want to live forever? The fact that we have such a brief sneeze of time to enjoy this crazy, heart aching, beautiful thing called life is what makes it so truly special. We live each day never truly knowing if it is our last, so we grab hold of it, squeeze it for every little drop and savour every morsel. If we live forever then surely part of that essence fades, knowing that we have forever to do the things we want. We lose the sense of urgency, the need, the desire to do today all the things we fear to delay until tomorrow. The fear of tomorrow makes us live today.
But then I realise that I could spend forever with my beautiful family, watching my daughters play and grow. If only….
This was written in response to a prompt from a member of my writing group, Word Central. We meet twice a month and I’ve been going for a year now. I love it, everyone is friendly, good fun and encouraging with their feedback. Anne-Marie said ‘Write about the worst holiday you’ve ever had’. I’ve never actually had a bad holiday, but I wrote anyway. So with apologies to Madhu and my other followers on the Indian sub-continent, and my tongue quite a way into my cheek,
Missing Jodhpur and Climbing Savitri
Have I ever had a bad holiday? No, only holidays during which I was sick, sick again and then sick some more. The most annoying of those holidays was the one where I completely missed the two days I had in the blue city of Jodhpur. Of course it was Jodhpur that make me sick with its spicy lime juice. Or perhaps it was the malady of enrapture, the one where I fell under India’s spell and briefly lost all common travel sense.
I’d survived the rigours of a night in the Thar Desert, where my friend was nearly paralysed by her camel, so I thought I was on the home run. It was enchanting to sit in an exotic courtyard, surrounded with moist greenery, after several days of scorching my nostrils every time I inhaled. Amazingly the mosquitos were kept at bay by the strategically placed candles, including the ones under the table, flickering dangerously close to the pants of my salwar kameez. The lilting sounds of unnamed instruments kept me entertained while the lime juice quenched my thirst, but if only I’d stuck with the lassi, I might have been saved. If only we hadn’t lingered so long on the road that afternoon we might have reached Jodhpur in time to see some of the promised blue.
I was woken from a blissful sleep a few hours later, my friend was ill and I rushed to help her. The emptying of her stomach seemed relentless. Half an hour later so did mine, and we were in danger of dehydration. We both slept and vomited, vomited and slept, through the whole of the next day, and every few hours our driver Muggan Singh would knock on our door, his face lined with concern that his two madams were so poorly. He arranged for us to move to a new, clean room, away from our infectious cave, supervising the hotel staff personally as they moved our every possession.
The next morning we were unable to travel on to Pushkar. On one of Muggan’s visits to bring us the bottled water that that was beginning to stay put, he brought some medication with him. The local cure was apparently Ayurvedic, small brown pills that had a vile smell and were very difficult to swallow. The western remedy we had ‘gone prepared’ with clearly didn’t work and I have faith in traditional medicine. Convinced that we had dysentery, we were desperate enough to get them down. Shortly after taking them we began to feel better.
We still didn’t manage to see any of Jodhpur. Teasing glimpses of Mehrangarh fort peered at us from its high perch, but spreading ourselves out in the four wheel drive vehicle, we had little energy to return its gaze. We had to let Jodhpur go, goodbye, maybe next time.
If we hadn’t had air conditioning that 120 miles would have seen us off. Neither of us wanted to have to use a squatter in some godforsaken roadside café, so we’d had as little water as we dared, and no breakfast. We couldn’t tell if poisoned belly or empty belly was making us feel so lousy.
After Jaisalmer, Pushkar was the place I most wanted to see, but we could only stumble around in a daze when we arrived. There were temples, there was without doubt a taking off of shoes and much to ooh and ah about, but I have little recall if so. We dutifully sat at a table in the Sunset cafe, admiring the sunset, pushing masala omelette around our plates, trying to digest Muggan’s announcement as well as our first solid food. We had to get up at 5am, he said. You need to climb Savitri Hill and be there for sunrise. To argue with Muggan was futile, besides we’d found that trusting his knowledge of Rajasthan made sense, he was a proud Rajput through and through.
He dropped us in the dark at the bottom of a hill, with handrails and a slope broken by a step every twelve feet. It didn’t seem too bad – to begin with. We took our time and there was no one to witness our walking like two very old ladies. At the top of Savitri is a very sacred temple and as the light began to come through, we saw a couple of very, very old ladies, with skin that looked like a mixture of leather and prunes that only elderly Indian women have. They namaste’d us as they sprinted by, we watched with loose jaws.
The path was no longer smooth and gentle, it was a rocky horror trail and any cool morning air had long since vanished. We sat on a low wall and stared back to our start point, then ahead to the temple. We were two thirds through the one mile climb and had no hope of making it to the top. We waited what we considered was a reasonable length of time to convince Muggan that we reached the top, actually that’s a lie, we sat there until we had the strength to move.
Muggan never did know our secret, we thanked him and said that the view from the top was incredible. Back in our hotel we slept for two hours, dysentery wasn’t far behind us after all.
So was Rajasthan the worst holiday I’ve ever had? Absolutely not, it was unforgettable. To have not been sick would have been better, but hey, shit happens. We did manage to extract from Muggan what the active ingredient was of the ayurvedic pills, it was cow dung.