Archive for the ‘memories’ Category
Ahead of time, I give you day 18 of the challenge,
the prompt: cheap earrings
We laughed as we walked
through the streets,
boys calling out,
We got lost,
found our way, by asking
‘dove il Duomo?’
working back from there.
We tired of statues of David,
laughed some more,
arm in arm through the Uffizi,
then stopped as we caught sight of the real one,
illuminated by sunlight,
at the far end of the gallery.
In a street behind Santa Croce,
I bought those earrings,
brass crescent moons,
cost me 6000 lira.
I lost them years ago,
and then the other,
but I still have the copy of A Room With a View.
Maybe we should go back,
now we’re old ladies,
see who calls out
this is getting harder and harder. Whether that is because the prompts aren’t prompting anything or because maintaining the momentum is hard, I’m not sure. I know when I started I was off work and staying in Cornwall, right by the sea, just me and my youngest, plus dog. Maybe it’s harder because I’m trying to cram this in between all the usual domestic stuff and day job and poetry job. Well here goes for Day 14…
Prompt for April 14th: Trickle Down
A girl stood on the stage,
or rather, a raised platform installed for this event.
Back straight, hands held by her sides, head high.
The sun cast its light across her hair,
which was reddish-blond.
The room was silent.
Once the scene of balls and parties,
now host to civic meetings
and these few weeks,
a festival of culture.
We gathered to share our skills,
compete for silver cups engraved with names of former winners.
I never hoped that I might be one,
but somehow it was expected,
that we should show up and do our thing,
receive a certificate, a critique.
Here I learned the word ‘adjudication’.
And so she stood,
the girl with golden hair,
and took a breath to start her recitation.
She faltered, stopped.
We watched and saw a pool of golden liquid gather at her feet.
except a gasp from one on our adjudication panel.
The girl cried out and ran the length of the glittering room,
up the aisle between the seats,
the faces of the parents and the teachers and the children.
Each of us then,
performing our set piece,
slightly off centre on the stage,
to avoid the remains of her embarrassment.
I remembered not so many years before, when I,
sat cross legged with the big kids on PE mats at the front of class,
too scared to raise my hand and ask to ‘be excused,’
allowed the rush of warmth to leave me,
sat in it till it was cold.
Played alone all afternoon,
for fear someone would know
the damp patch on the mat,
was made by me.
Prompt for April 7th
She was from the valleys.
That made her small town
but she had big ideas.
Trouble is, when you’re born in the valleys,
it’s tough to shake it off.
She never really made of her life
what she had wished for so hard.
When I moved away,
to a warm Mediterranean island,
I learned that here,
‘the valleys’ translated as ‘village’ .
‘She’s so village,’ they might whisper
about a less popular girl,
including me in their precious clique.
‘But so am I,’ I thought,
at my roots.
Because however high
my grandmother climbed,
she was very village too.
Prompt for April 4 –
sometimes you have to walk away
“My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life.”
― Miles Davis
Sometimes you have to walk away, she says.
Shakes her head like she is wise.
Wise old she-elephant.
Slow and deliberate, jowls flapping,
that amber pendant of hers shifting across her chest,
chain catching across remnants of salmon-en-croute
in asparagus sauce,
on the front of her blouse.
The one we bought her when we came visiting last year.
I wonder if she wears it to show that she remembers,
or if she pulled it out of the drawer by chance.
Or is it all she has to make a show of dressing up
for a family occasion?
We do not visit as often as…
We do visit,
based on a complex algebraic formula
calculated via emotional osmosis.
Hope and hurt replacing integers,
x = trust and y = disappointment
But running away is all I’ve ever seen her do.
This time I’ll take the advice.
Sometimes you have to walk away.
There were swans flying over the motorway as huge as gliding jets.
Sudden reminder that nature belongs more than we do,
with our outlandish modes of transportation.
They flying ‘as the crow’ and us having to follow roads.
They seemed magnified, and out of scale
with the stuff that went below.
Thoughts of mating for life, swan song
come to mind
and leave me thinking even more
I am not for this world
I cannot glide.
Another starting point for a poem
Key of Me
At ten years old I used to sing
and hit that C above top C.
My mother didn’t call up Richard and Judy
because they were still in school
and book clubs and over-night sensations not yet a twinkle in their eye.
Instead she sent me to a choir
where I sang ‘negro spirituals’
alongside ladies in A-line skirts and pastel sweaters.
All the men had beards,
or at least moustaches.
Because I could not sight read
I had to mouth the words until I’d caught the tune.
Then I would sing it loud and strong and close my eyes.
In the break they’d stop for tea and biscuits
talk about work or their fiancée,
sometimes smile and ask about my day at school,
but mostly I stayed quiet until we sang again.
We sang in German and Italian “Mi piacce re re.”
I don’t know what it means.
Soon I stopped and stayed at home
because it was lonely
standing between elbows,
I have not sung,
I do not sing,
beyond the in-the-bath type
It often surprises and so embarrasses, when a big voice comes out,
so I have learned to keep it down,
sing in someone else’s key, not mine.
That’s much easier.
But this last year, I’ve started tuning up
and doing things in the key of me.
I find I cannot hit that note, I’ve lost the chance.
I should have used it while I could.
But I will find a new key, sing in that,
maybe find another way to shine.
I am feeling rather grandmotherly as I prepare for the imminent arrival of two little-ings from Paree… the step-children. A bouncy boy (more of a Tigger than a boy reallly), who smiles at everything unless it displeases him in which case we get a quick scowl before the smile returns (he can’t keep it up for long) and his sister, for whom I believe, life is a series of puzzles and conundrums that she is forced to deal with at the hands of adults. Whilst her brother bounces around crashing into the day, she eyes it up, assessing the pros and cons, gauging the players in it before responding to them – the result being, when she does accept and react to you, a feeling of such satisfaction, it makes the wait worthwhile. I’m covering all bases here as far as sleeping arrangements go… pink bedding in The Lovely J’s room, put-you-up at the side for one or two boys, or… girls dorm and boys dorm with the two boys top-and-tailing in Curly Boy’s room, or… visitors in our bed with dad, and me in Lovely J’s bed or… “I expect,” their dad says, “you’ll all end up in one bed, with me on the floor.”
Now I’ve done this stepping thing before… sadly it has all come to an abrupt halt due to, I do not know what… since their father and I parted ways I have not heard a whisper from either of them… less of a concern for the older one who is now almost 30, but for the younger – we met when she was 7 and now she’s 18 – it is like losing a part of the family. I have no way of knowing exactly why she has chosen not to respond to cards and letters and emails, even texts. The break up with her father was an extremely complicated and dramatic one, involving lies about being hospitalised, which uncovered a web of lies stretching back over 10 years. I am left, well actually we (friends, family, children) have all been left wondering what was true and what was not – sadly the little girl I have watched progress from long white socks (which she wore with everything) to having her first tattoo, seems to be a casualty of it all.
My nature is to be persistent, to let the people I care about know that I care, but in this case I am wondering if it might just be best to let it all go and leave that decision to her.
I have just finished reading Anne Enright’s ‘The Gathering’. What a bloody marvellous book. My good friend Maxine told me it was the best book she’d read in decades and so off I trotted during my lunchbreak to buy a copy (with the WH Smith voucher I bought off Tall Boy – an unwanted gift at Christmas.) I have read it in two days flat – and that with work and family getting in the way – standing waiting for the kettle to boil, stirring spag bol in the pan and sat on the toilet (lid down) whilst curly boy is in the bath.
She writes with such embarassing honesty. Maxine said it was so good it almost made her want to give up writing, I do hope she won’t. For me, on the contrary, it made me rethink how I am writing. I am resolved to write as honestly too, no holding back, cut the gentility. I have no aged relations who may take offence at what I have written. She says stuff that all of us must think some of the time, or at least some of us think, some of the time, or at least wish we could think. She doesn’t bang on about being Irish (sorry Frank McCourt – loved Angela’s Ashes, but ) it is just who she is. I didn’t feel excluded from a special club, ‘well you’re not Irish..’ ‘ well you’re not Catholic..’ she deals with men and sex and marriage and children and love and grieving and held me in limbo along with Veronica, who waits for her brother’s body to be shipped back to Ireland. Memories floated around, tangled and confused, much as they do in my own family, ‘you weren’t even there,’ ‘that wasn’t Summer, that was Easter,’ ‘it was a blue car,’ ‘ we never even had a car when we lived there,’ you know how it goes. It made me cry like funerals of virtual strangers can make me cry, because I’m afraid next time it will be someone closer to home, and because I know one day it will be somone closer to home. It made me cry because on some days that’s exactly how I feel, except I’d never even get as far as Gatwick airport, I only get as far as wanting to run away. It made me cry because I run around being indispensable too, when actually if I stopped doing it, it wouldn’t matter at all, because most of it is pointless in the greater scheme of things.
And look what it’s done as well – I’m back blogging – can’t be bad – just had to have something worth sitting still to write about.
Well here we are – some, not all of us. Our old school building is now home to the junior school and the head teacher had kindly opened up to let us have a wander round for an hour or so. Some of us found our way back to the old rose garden and we took a few photos on the bench. We wandered around the old grounds and marvelled at how we were expected to play rounders on such a steep hill.
I had not returned with trepidation at all, but it is fair to say that some of the girls had. Whilst I was happily drifting through my school years (well not happily all of the time, obviously, a good helping of teenage anxst too) some of my fellow pupils were agonising over home, school, exams, life in general. My demons were well and truly dealt with as they appeared, for others they lay in wait within the walls of the old school building. That aside – we had a massive turn out and the general concensus seemed to be that it was a good day. A fair amount of verbal teacher bashing went on, although some were very fondly remembered. Frau F the German teacher joined us for lunch and she was just like one of the girls. She, along with one of my school friends who is now Director of Public Health for a health authority, helped form my vaguely feminist/political ideals. Frau F’s oral lessons often comprised of translating the Guardian Women’s page into German – I thank her for that!
The day went all too quickly, but was exhausting. We hope to meet up in London sometimes to have another catching-up session. The general topic tended to be ‘you haven’t changed at all.’ The most remarkable thing for me was to discover that for the most part we slipped straight back into our school girl roles from 25 years before and that despite the years it was really as if we had only been apart for a few months. Some of the friendships I formed then have never been equalled since and I sincerely hope that this time I don’t let them slip away.
And how about that thing ‘success’? The main topic was family or partners, whether we were settled after all these years – quite a few girls have packed in the high powered jobs and started new ventures, a dress shop, art degree, homeopathy, pure and simple parenting, even the ‘oldest holiday rep in England’ and the Lovely J-A, our old head girl, has packed it all in to be a writer so I hope to rekindle that friendship and have some long talks with her. Writing? Have I done any? Not for weeks.
Too much this weekend – my school reunion with the old girls and the collection of the new girls (battery hens). I was torn. The very day that I am due to travel to Bath to meet with the girls from school an emergency batch of battery hens were being rescued from a farm in Shropshire, the lovely BHWT called to ask if I would like some. Of course I would! That would mean that Laurie would have to pick them up without me and I’d miss out on the fun.
This poor old girl hangs around by the fence all on her own. Her bum is pretty bald and she seems quieter than the rest. I called Laurie on Saturday night to find out how the collection had gone. He told me that there were 200 hens in all and he, Curly Boy and Un-Wicked Step-Daughter were third in line for choosing. “We chose six of the best ones!” He proudly announced. I was secretly afraid that he had left some poor shabby girls behind, who were far more deserving of a new home, in favour of strapping chickens. As you can see that is clearly not the case! If our six new girls are the pick of the bunch, goodness only knows what the worst ones are like!
They had no idea how to walk at first and also seem to drop off to sleep every now and then. They have begun to scratch and eat and drink and have even flapped their wings a bit. One of them only has one eye, “didn’t notice that!” Says Laurie. I am secretly pleased, what’s the point of having rescued hens if they don’t look the part? Although I’m not one for naming hens, I quite fancy calling her Bette (eye patch? The Anniversary?)
As Laurie set off to take Un-Wicked-Step-Daughter home, I rounded up the poor girls, showed them the pop-hole and shoved them inside the hen-house. Until they work out that’s where they should be after dusk I am going to have to round them up and stick them in every night – that should be fun as the nights draw in!
So the Old Girls – the Reunion? Well that was interesting and I think I need a good night’s sleep before launching into it. Last night was a late night and I spent an hour or so at the end in a hot tub, in the open air (‘daahling I know its’ chavvy but with my knees it’s the only thing that helps at the end of the day!’ My ex gymnast school chum explained – and who am I to argue?) with a nice mug of tea and a lot of swapping stories of how the day had gone!
Let’s just say that although I harbour no demons from way back then, some of the other girls do!