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Letter to Tron

Letter to Tron

There is a young person that has recently returned to my family fold. Her name is Tron and she’s best friends with Medusa, my niece.

I’m good at goodbyes, I’ve had a lifetime’s training, but Tron has taught me something. It is too easy to forget how nice it is being with some people. You may have fond memories but it’s nothing to the easy interaction when they are there. Most of my goodbyes have been permanent but Tron’s absence was a blink and I am so glad. I am enjoying having her around so much that I am sad when she has to go home.

Tron, I love having you in my family. You are funny, beautiful, kind and smart and you will always have a place with us. I love you and when you made the joke that if you had a pound for every time someone called you beautiful, you’d have £1! – ‘Thanks Mum,’ I wanted to bump up your money!

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If you, who are reading this, know a beautiful, good-hearted person like Tron, tell them. Tell them in a way that they can’t deny to themselves. I’ve put my Letter to Tron on my blog. Whenever she denies her good qualities, it will be here waiting to remind her how much she’s loved. Boy will she blush.

Negativity is too easy. It’s too easy to hurt without realising. Let us make an undertaking to find a way to show people that we appreciate them and that without them our worlds would be greyer and sadder.

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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Family Life, Musing

 

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Pink Floyd and a Broken Freedom

This is raw and immediate so forgive me if comes out a little confused. I will come back and edit it but I feel a need to get this out there.

Pink Floyd are celebrating 50 years as a band. I just read, a few minutes ago, an article about two of their surviving members unveiling a plaque at their old college and, in the connected articles, was a link to Comfortably Numb. It has finished playing as I write this sentence and here am I trying desperately to nail down my evaporating emotions on a keyboard.

Isolated. Living in a rural part of Sussex. One dog, one cat and the four of us Goulands. This was a period where my mother decided to pick up our education again after a lengthy gap. Probably because she was bored brainless with her life.

It’s approaching Christmas, 1979 and Pink Floyd have released a new album The Wall and my mother wants to buy this as a Christmas present for my father. Having done so, she waited until he’d left for work (he was either selling showers or working as a private investigator at this time) the next morning and played the album to make sure it was all right. She tested that cassette all day, every day (except weekends when father was home) for almost a month. By the time my father unwrapped it on Christmas Day, that was one very pre-loved item. When he went back to work, the cassette went straight back into the stereo.

Much of Pink Floyd’s canon is etched onto the souls of St F and I but it is The Wall that resonates most strongly.

Their music had arrived in our lives in my father’s sea-going kit bag, three years earlier. I was eleven years-old and my father insisted that I sit between the speakers and listen to the album he’d brought back from his ship. It was Dark Side of the Moon. From then on, my mother made every effort to track down as many of Pink Floyd’s albums as she could. St F and I loved most of it – some of it was just plain weird and some of it I heard too much of. There was an 8-track stereo in my mother’s car and the same album was always in it. When she started the car, the tape would play. Again and again, for years! It was a long, long time before I could listen to Wish You Were Here again.

The Wall came back to Norfolk with us. Home was an even more isolated place in a rural area. No school – for us.

Isolation, separation, suffocation are recurring themes that I’ve dropped into this post. And they are recurring themes in The Wall. I haven’t listened to the Floyd for a while so finding, and listening to, Comfortably Numb, blew away thirty-five years of my life.

‘Wrong, do it again’ builds into a cacophony of voices all saying different things and then … silence. When the song starts again, it is quieter, muffled, as if the singer has turned inwards. That muffled, quieter – even deadened – quality is how my life felt, to me. At fourteen, I understood what Roger and the boys were saying. I knew about walls. I didn’t realise they were walls. but Pink Floyd handed me the perfect description. Walls didn’t protect me from being punched in the mouth and losing my front teeth. Walls didn’t protect me from having baby food mashed in my head and being thrown up the stairs by my hair. Walls did give me somewhere to hide my mind, though. Young as I was, I already knew that owning or hurting people physically wasn’t enough for some. They wanted, not only power over your mind, they also needed to see inside you. To see how you work, what your thoughts are. For them it’s like watching rats in a laboratory. That’s why the wall came in useful, it hid me. That and music, of course. I sang along, I absorbed the lyrics, I daydreamed, St F and I acted out whole chunks of The Wall when we were alone and each segment of the album became a small magic spell. All of the frustration, anxiety and confusion I poured into my renditions of those songs has stayed in them, trapped by a web of magic and memory.Play any part of that album to me and the spell pops. I am drenched in those painful feelings again – even just the voice telling me I’m wrong and I’ve got to do it again shoots me backwards instantly.

All of this comes across as a bit doomy and gloomy but wait … I haven’t listened to the Floyd properly for some years – The Wall, probably not since I was in my thirties and the gap is a good thing because there is a cut-off point, unlike with my Strawbs albums which never stopped collecting memories, so I went back to a place I haven’t been for twenty years, maybe. Yes, my wall was imperfect and some of my worst demons were thrown over the top of the wall into my deepest self but I listened to that particularly meaningful song as a (nearly) free person. My wall still stands and is still in use but I have been actively dismantling it for the last few years and now it less resembles a wall, more a Stonehenge.

And that’s a good thing, right?

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Musing

 

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The Luck of the Irish

For years my sister has amused herself by gathering groups of drunken Irishmen and pointing them in my direction. She only does this on one night of the year and only when we are out on the town. Yes, I am a St Patrick’s Day baby. On hearing the news, these chaps rush (stagger) towards me and demand that I kiss them for luck.

Hold on a minute … I thought the Irish were already lucky? Admittedly, not all these guys are really Irish, judging by the dreadful attempts at accents that land somewhere between India and Wales, but enough of them are and I feel cheated. Shouldn’t I be kissing them for luck?

I realise now that all my recent problems are attributable to this phenomenon – All my luck’s been stolen. Therefore, tomorrow I will be hiding in my attic.

Having said that, Happy St Patrick’s Day everybody, whether you are really, really Irish or just pretending. Have a wonderful day. Just stay away from my attic because I’m trying to recharge my own luck.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Musing

 

What Happens When…

… you’ve drifted too far from the shore and you can’t get back?

What happens when…

…you’ve swallowed and held down so much bitter brine that you have no voice left to call for help.

And …

…you have no desire to wave.

After being a good girl and doing the right things – taking the pills, talking to the doctor/nurse/counsellor/psychologist, what happens when you’re left in no-man’s-land ‘on a waiting list?’ Nobody calls. Nobody checks that you’re still alive and still in need of an appointment.

People who know, forget. People who don’t know say, ‘oh, but you always seem so cheerful.’ People who are close to you say, ‘well no one’s going to help you, you have to help yourself. You have responsibilities.’

They still bring their problems, their miseries, to your attention though. Funny that, how can such a no-mark be worthy of asking for advice?

You can ask, ‘hey come to my house for a cup of tea or dinner or just to say hi. Let’s hang out and have a laugh,’ but no one comes. You stop asking. You know that no one wants to spend time with you and, if they should remark that they really must come and see you, you feel the light go out in your eyes. You struggle to smile and say, ‘yes, that would be nice.’ but it is hard. It is so fucking hard.

Maybe there’s a party that you really don’t want to go to because you are so far from the human race now, that you can’t relate to anyone there. But you have to go. Maybe someone breaks a bottle of drink and you find a piece of glass, by chance, and you take it into the toilet and lock the door and hack your arm because you can’t scream. And the hilarious thing is, an hour earlier you did the same thing with a drawing pin that had been left on a shelf but that wasn’t a sharp enough scream.

What happens when you decide to stop taking the anxiety medicine because a. you can’t force yourself out the door to see the doctor for more and b. it does little more than take the topmost edge off of the pain so what’s the point? You can see the deterioration in your face. You can feel the utter hollowness inside where every last drop of hope, every last ounce of pulling yourself up by the bootstrap-ness has been scraped dry?

What happens when you turn away from the shore and stop treading water?

I’ll tell you.

You will be condemned as selfish.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Musing

 

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Invisible Angst

The charcoal grey haze of defeat, studded with black chips of despair hangs, like an iron cape, from the shoulders. Pressing, squashing, tiring.

Can it be seen? Touched? Tasted? Does it leave the smell of decayed bitterness on the skin?

Decayed bitterness – bitterness that once was – but the wearer of the cape has stumbled beyond bitterness. All that remains are flaky, powdered traces buried in the deeper layers of self-loathing. Even bitterness can be crushed, can become irrelevant. Bitterness indicates a belief in the unfairness of it all. Only the true connoisseur, the long-term wearer of the iron cape, knows that fairness and justice are illusions. There is only the glacially slow oppression from the cape. It is what it is, what is always was, what it always will be.

Some stars can’t be changed

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Musing

 

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I’m Old But I Ain’t Fell Over – Yet

Two days ago I celebrated (mourned?) my forty-ninth birthday. Like every other person of a certain age, I live in a no-man’s-land extreme maturity and utter childishness. I can be relied upon to give reasoned advice on almost any problem whether it be teenage spots or how to use a self-contained breathing apparatus and … then when I get in the car with my sister, St Francis, we slap the beejaysus out of each other when we see a yellow car or a mini. (With a mini you punch the other person and yell ‘punch buggy – insert colour of car. Woe betide if you get the colour wrong because you get six punches back for your mistake followed by a punch for the correct colour!) I am very aware of my age but despite the knowledge that I am now a crumbling ruin, I utterly refuse to grow up.

When I lived up north with the love of my life (he is still the love of my life despite the 300 miles that separate us), I felt myself growing older by the minute. He is fun and daft like me but hangs out with a lot of older types. We went to a lot of funerals. I made one friend who is as juvenile as I am and she helped me stay sane but, sadly, I needed more. A move back south was the only way to protect my inner child.

But. Even an eternal bambina like me gets pulled up short sometimes.

St F’s neighbour, The Morrighan  is a feisty (and I don’t use that word lightly) pensioner who keeps herself to herself. It’s taken years to get close enough to be invited into her house and we both know that we are privileged in this. In the last year she has asked me to help with her rather large garden and, recently I’ve dismantled a storm damaged shed for her. St F has taken her shopping once a week and all was well up until about three weeks ago. The bad back she complained of was diagnosed as arthritis. She also has a frozen shoulder. The prescribed painkillers knocked her out and she napped much of her day away. Suddenly, almost overnight, she became a pain-wracked old woman. She was unable to go shopping so St F shopped for her. For fear of disturbing her (and getting a flea in my ear) I worked in the garden and left again without seeing her. We were no longer allowed in the house.

Today, The Morrighan was due to have a blood test at the local surgery. St F and I assembled at the car, waiting for her. She is usually punctual but not today. Five minutes past the agreed time, St F went and knocked on her door.

‘Lorraine, come and help me,’ St F called. ‘Morri has fallen over and can’t get up.’

Morri’s children are grown up and live far away. They visit often but they are out of reach in a situation like this. St F and I took turns to talk to Morri through the letter box until an ambulance turned up followed by a police officer who broke a window so that we could get in. Living alone for so long, even in such a quiet area, had made Morri concerned about security. No windows were open, all the doors were locked and the security chains on. With out the police officer and his truncheon, we couldn’t get in. Once in, we realised why we had been denied access lately. House-proud Morri was unable to cope. OK, this only meant a bit of washing up in the sink and her fire had gone out but to her, that’s unforgivably lax.

Dazed and a little bewildered, dehydrated and hungry, Morri had been on the floor since 6 a.m. It was gone 4 p.m when we gained access. She was still on the floor in her nightdress but as ornery as ever. After climbing in the window, St F patted her arm as she passed to let the paramedic and the copper in.

‘I don’t need patting,’ Morri grumbled. ‘I need lifting off the damn floor.’

Tonight, Morri is in hospital where they are monitoring her low blood pressure. Tomorrow morning I’m going to her house to finish the washing up that St F and I started while the paramedic examined Morri.

Morri has long wanted to move somewhere smaller and no doubt she will get her wish now but in the meantime, we want to make sure that her home is clean, tidy and welcoming when she comes back. I hope that will be soon.

I, meanwhile, am looking in the mirror and saying to myself, ‘How long, Lorraine? How long before you can’t manage? St F and I are two tough, physically capable old birds but we both have arthritis of the spine and we’re both accident prone ( I currently have a black eye from a frisbee-related incident. Yes I threw it. Who knew it was going to act like a boomerang?). What if I fall over and can’t get up? I live with a food obsessed dog who was once starved. Is he going to think all his Christmasses and birthdays have come at once?

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Family Life, Musing

 

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Is That All There Is?

I think I was about fourteen when I first heard Peggy Lee sing that song.

Is That All There Is? she asked and I experienced a profound melancholy. God didn’t visit our house, I was brought up by a lapsed catholic and an agnostic and while there were many lively and thought-provoking conversations, there was no sense of faith or belief. I don’t regret that. I’m a full-blown atheist now. I was then, really. I refused to kneel or close my eyes during prayers at school assemblies or when forced to go to church because I felt the whole idea of religion to be a nonsense. I was a very opinionated child. I was also a very sad child.

Looking at the world around me, I saw life as a long, hard road of endless travail. From the secret alcoholic next door with her bottles of cider hidden in a shopping basket, to the posh, elderly woman around the corner caring for a husband who’d been afflicted in middle age by an illness that left him prone to wandering around the village in his underwear with a dazed and confused expression on his face. No one had it easy. Wherever you were and wherever you were from, the only variable was the degree of difficulty. I knew all this at fourteen and when I heard Peggy lamenting that she might as well just keep dancing, I became depressed. She was confirming my world view and not contradicting it. You are born, you marry, you breed, then you die. I felt trapped. Claustrophobic. Rudderless.

I’m very fond of that song these days. It’s lost none of its meaning for me but I have become more philosophical about life – or have I? Wandering the countryside with my dog, watching the cycle of life and death turn through the seasons, I’m OK with the idea that one day I’ll be dust like the summer-scorched grass or the car-flattened badger. I don’t think my spirit will wander or ascend to some higher realm but my dust will always exist. I once heard Professor Brian Cox say that all our precious metals, here on earth, originated from the heart of a dying star. Everything that is will become something else. That is the miracle of our universe, I believe. But what of life? What about the ordinariness of every day existence? I plod through life, struggling, grafting and getting by. I still have ambition but a lot of time has got behind me,  the future is shorter than it was and hope has become tarnished by reality. Am I really more philosophical or simply more inclined to shrug and sing along with Peggy?

Sandwiched as I am between the shiny-faced excitement of my teenage niece and her friends and the watered-down compromises of my age group, I look from one to the other and wish it wasn’t so. With or without a god in your heart, life is bloody hard work. A friend of mine is an evangelist christian whose only topic of conversation is God. She firmly believes that if I accepted the Lord Jesus into my heart, I would be happier. Life would have meaning. My soul would be saved. This comes from, probably, the unhappiest, least fulfilled woman I know. God may move in mysterious ways but, crikey, he’s taken this poor creature all round the houses and back again and she still doesn’t know if she’s coming or going. It will be OK though because she’s going to Heaven. That’s the pay-off isn’t it? Life is a bitch but there’s always the afterlife …

I haven’t written this post with any idea of knocking religion, or sneering at people’s beliefs. I only mention it because I want to preclude anyone from telling me that it would all make sense if I just believed. No it wouldn’t. Life is life is life and it is tough whether you believe that there is a purpose to it and a reward at the end of it, or you don’t. I don’t.

Two days ago, my sister, St Francis and I delivered a small second-hand couch to a friend that St F has known for years. They worked together back in the days when they were both young, free and single. When the light that I see in my niece shone in their faces. Now St F is a single mum and her pal is a weekend dad living in a tiny bedsit in the city. Both are grey-faced with fatigue and clench-jawed with the stress of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Of solving problems for themselves and their kids, of hiding their fear and frustration.

‘I love you, mate,’ St F said as she hugged her friend goodbye.

‘I love you too,’ he replied holding her close.

Standing off to the side, I watched as he put his head on St F’s shoulder and closed his eyes. In that moment I saw the utter misery in his face as he drew strength from my sister’s embrace. Then, they drew apart and he was the kind, funny, decent guy we know and love again.

And in the back of my head, Peggy Lee sang, Is That All There Is? Is That ALL There Is?

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Family Life, Musing

 

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