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What is it about a cold or other minor illness which brings out the tetchy five-year-old in me?
The first sign of a sniffle, a temperature a couple of degrees above normal, and I want to huddle in my bed with blankets over my head. No matter that I have not had blankets on my bed since I left home, I want them now.
And I want Lucozade, which we only ever had when we were ill and which I believed to have magical healing properties.
Maybe even a hot toddy – they’d never approve of that for a five-year-old now.
Of course, what I really want is my mother.
I would, however, settle for a willing, kindly nurse or maid to bring me endless cups of tea and cooling flannels, and to tempt my appetite with carefully prepared dainty morsels. Perhaps even to read me a story, though on the whole I prefer to read my own (or would if I could settle on which of a dozen books I actually want to read).
It would be nice if she (or he) were easy on the eye, but it is not an absolute requirement.
A gentle soothing voice, however, is.
In praise of heights.
The taller I stand, the more I can see.
High heels would let me look over the heads of the crowd; a stepladder or chair lets me discover the secrets lurking at the backs of tall cupboards.
From my top floor window I can see more of the streets around; from the top of Blackpool Tower I can see far out to sea.
And from such a height, I could maybe fly. Not fear of heights, but an almost irresistible urge to step out on to thin air and let it take me where it will.
With apologies to Virginia Woolf, I need more than a room of my own in which to be creative. A floor of a house, maybe, or a whole house. A whole
house, with workrooms and libraries and heaps and heaps of storage space.
I am tired of making things in tiny corners, miserly areas of flat surface.
It takes twice as long to make anything, because each time I stop I need to put everything away, the materials and the half-finished creations.
No, three times, because before I start I have to remember where I stashed everything last time.
I feel I am scraping around for a hundred words tonight.
Oh, there are dozens of things I could write about, no doubt, but none for which I feel sufficient enthusiasm.
This is not the apathy of depression, thank goodness, just the lingering tiredness of a viral infection and the effect of miserable, rainy weather. I am easily influenced by the weather.
It is not the rain alone which is inducing this apathetic mood; a good, energetic shower can brighten me up. It is the type of rain: persistent, invasive, grey. It is huddle up and wait it out weather.
Old photographs remind me of how I have changed physically over the years, though in truth when I look in the mirror the face I usually see is closer to those pictures than to that which looks out at me from more recent photographs.
It would be fascinating to see some such record of how I have changed mentally and emotionally during that time.
The closest I can get to that is reading the scraps of my writing which have survived numerous moves and clearings-out: odd lines of poetry, and a couple of ancient diaries.
Like blurred, torn, crumpled photographs.
One of the things about living in a city is the number of beggars, buskers, and Big Issue sellers on the streets.
I am grouping them together, not because I think they are necessarily the same, but because there is often an overlap. For example, is the woman playing the same two notes over and over on her accordion a busker or a beggar? Is the Big Issue seller who sings as she sells also a busker?
And they have this in common, that so many people pass them by without acknowledging their existence.
A smile doesn’t cost a thing.
I am a book addict.
I blame my mother. She introduced my impressionable mind to the magic of the written word when I was too young to know where it would lead.
I don't even remember a time before I knew how to interpret those marks on the page, though I don't suppose I was born reading. (My family do joke that I was lured out of the womb with a book.)
Libraries served to feed the addiction for years; then I started buying the odd book here and there.
Now I sit surrounded by volume upon volume.
Eyes heavy, want to sleep.
Thinking of pillows, big soft fluffy pillows, and a duvet to nestle under.
And dreaming. I need some dreaming. Daydreaming is all very well, but the night dreams are the stuff of magic, the place where my imagination can take me anywhere.
Some flying, maybe. I haven't been flying for many a night. Just walk along, lift your feet and there you are hovering above the world. (Careful, though. You'll get unsteady if you fly too high, you’ll start to wobble and then to plunge earthwards.)
Come fly with me? I think I’d like that.
I sneeze, and my chair rocks. I sneeze again, and I am almost blown across the room.
Some people manage to sneeze daintily, almost inaudibly into a delicate lace-trimmed handkerchief. I have never managed dainty, in this or anything else.
I am no-one's idea of a lady. If I itch, I may scratch it, though I try to maintain some dignity in public. I take big bites of my food, which I eat with my fingers when that’s the easiest way, and sauces have a way of ending up on my shirt. I like to paint with my fingers too.
I complain about the weather. I'm a Brit, it's what we do.
The weather is a handy starting point for conversations with strangers on the bus. "Do you think we're ever going to get some sunshine this year?" will get a response from all but the frostiest of fellow-passengers.
It’s true that the weather this summer has been particularly miserable, with more rain than even we are used to.
Then I look at the world news: hurricanes and floods, people being forced to leave their homes and almost everything they own.
A little rain no longer seems worth bothering about.
My first library was the one halfway up the side of the valley, with the steep stone steps.
I got my library tickets early, having shown the librarian that I could read. I devoured everything in the children's section, especially the collections of folktales and the juvenile science fiction; I remember particularly a series with alliterative titles (Journey to Jupiter, Mission to Mars) and telepathic twins.
It was a long walk back from the library, and I had mastered the art of reading while walking along, so I often read most of a book on the way home.
My next library was the newer branch library, a shorter walk away and without the steep steps but with fewer books.
By this time I had already had adult tickets for years, as the friendly library staff had accepted that it was not fair on my parents that I kept using all their tickets for my books. This was fortunate, as I doubt my parents would have approved my taking out
The Well of Loneliness
. (How that novel had slipped on to the shelves of a library in chapel country in the Seventies still astonishes me. It was an eye-opener.)
I do not listen to my body enough.
I let my eyes stay uncomfortably dry for hours, even though it takes only moments to put in eye drops.
I forget to drink, even when my tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth.
Food is a different matter. I often stuff that into my mouth whether or not I am hungry, even knowing that I will feel sick afterwards.
As for sleep, I seldom let myself have enough. I push myself past sleepiness and back awake, then wonder why I am grumpy and tetchy the next day.
For once the universe has got things right.
Today a very special little person has come into the world, daughter to two of the loveliest people I know.
Everything will be fresh and new to her, and I wish her joy in discovering the beauty that life has to offer. Love she already has in plenty, not only from her family of birth but also from those who have come to regard her mum and dad as family in their hearts. Her virtual aunties and uncles all over the world have been waiting eagerly, as I have, to welcome her.
The mid-month slump, when inspiration fails and I wonder if I will be able to produce my allotted century of words.
Let's see. Looking around my room should surely give me some ideas, there is so much stuff crammed into it.
The teddy bear with the purple hat looks as if he knows something, but he's not telling, and Yarn Kitty is ignoring my plight entirely.
The crayons give inspiration for pictures, not words. (Maybe later.)
The books have potential, but if I start on those I will be lost in other people’s words, not my own.
That’s one hundred.
Thinking about fire, about flames and light and heat.
This peaceful candle, its flame contained, controlled, its light filtered gently through the painted glass, is the focus of a prayer, a loving thought.
That paper, its words of confession painfully written, refused to burn cleanly, to char to the ashes that the spell required.
In the flickering redness of the coals, the imagination of my childhood saw dragons and castles and whole kingdoms, as I toasted my doorstep slices of bread to crisp perfection on the end of the toasting fork.
Danger and warmth, beauty and destruction.
Who by fire?
You are such a tyrant, my little furry friend.
Not that you pester loudly. Oh, no, you are far too subtle for that. The indignant, accusing look at the empty food bowl, the paw reaching out to tap at the arm, are so much more effective than any crude yowling.
And you are persistent. Removed from my lap, you simply climb back up, and continue to do so until I give in. You know that you will eventually break down my resistance.
If all else fails, you will use the ultimate weapons: the purr, and the tummy exposed for tickling.
Ar, me hearties, ‘tis Talk Like A Pirate Day. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum and all that.
I would like to be a pirate, but only in a romantic, picture-book sort of way, not with all the scurvy and sea-sickness and being shot at and drowned.
Love song for a pirate girl
Your dark eyes flash like cutlass blades;
I cannot but surrender.
Board me and take me prisoner;
I'll give you all my treasure.
Tell me of seas I've never sailed,
Of islands far and lonely
And, captive, I will sit and smile
To listen to your stories.
One of the characters in the book of short stories which I am reading was puzzled by the way we use 'love' to describe so many different feelings and relationships. In his civilisation, there are different words for the range of emotions we encompass in that little word.
Some would think that an improvement. I'm not sure that I do.
In emotions particularly, there is much to be said for a little ambiguity, a certain looseness of definition. When I tell a friend I love her, I like the roominess of that word; I’d rather not pin my feelings down.
What is it that drives me to distraction about someone looking for a mislaid object? I cannot be in the same room as that person without wanting to scream or break something, and the longer the search goes on the worse it gets. It has something of the quality of fingernails scraping down a blackboard.
It is unfortunate, then, that the two people with whom I spend most time (one at home, one at work) have in common an inability to stop looking for something until it is found. And it’s no use my saying ‘It will turn up eventually’.
The beginning of autumn, according to the calendar, though by the trees' reckoning autumn began a little while ago. The leaves are beginning to change one by one into their red and gold splendour.
It is strange and sad and lovely that only in their dying are they so beautiful.
The delicate greens of spring are pretty enough, but they do not make the breath catch in the throat like the splendour of a tree all aflame with autumn.
Especially magical is sunset. The light has a different, almost unearthly quality, and where it touches the leaves they are enchanted.
My family of birth often seem like strangers to me, strangers whose histories I know but whose lives are less relevant to me than those of people thousands of miles away whom I have yet to meet.
I have not lived 'at home', in the place where my parents live, since the brief time I spent there as a teenager after we moved from my childhood home.
Even before that, when I was living with them, I never really fitted in. My parents were, still are, proud of me, but they were always slightly bewildered by their little cuckoo too.
I don't feel much like creating a careful construction of words tonight, putting them one by one in logical order.
I want to slap words on the page like splashes of paint, without thinking overmuch about their meaning.
velvet splendour, silk and shadow
eyes that flash and darkened lips
lovely and terrible as summer lightning
I drown in light and tears and beauty
the ripe taste of autumn in your kiss
a cobweb hint of touch, oh delicate
the lost music which the phoenix sings before she burns
shatters the crystal heart to rainbows
the dreamer wakes with empty hands
It will soon be Breast Cancer Awareness month, but I am already more aware of breast cancer than I would like. This week, another friend was diagnosed with it: a particularly nasty kind, so I am told, though of course no cancer is good news. I have had my own scares in recent years, and am grateful they were false alarms.
I think I should do some fundraising for breast cancer charities. I am drawn towards a sponsored head shave, both because it seems symbolically appropriate and because I have long harboured a secret desire to see my scalp naked.
Does a person's sexual orientation matter?
In an ideal world, it would be irrelevant unless you were contemplating a sexual or emotional (or sexual and emotional!) relationship with that person.
But then, this isn't an ideal world.
It will not be an ideal world while an eighteen-year-old man can be beaten to death in a supposedly civilised country for being gay; or while posters go up in Sarajevo saying 'Death to Gays'; or while loving partners cannot marry because they are of the same gender.
And so, yes, in this less than ideal world it matters. I wish it didn’t.
Some of the things that please my senses
: rainbows and rainbow-coloured things; bubbles shining in the sunlight; butterflies; complex patterns which draw me in to their heart.
: silk next to my skin; the soft, soft fur just behind Tarot's ears.
: chocolate, dark to the point of bitterness; the perfumed sweetness of muscat grapes and lychees.
: blackcurrant body butter; freshly brewed coffee; ripe strawberries (the smell promises so much more than the taste delivers); earth after rain.
: bird song in the morning; the crash of waves on the shore; singers who sing from the heart; silence.
Today is another day that is not good for coherent thought and measured prose. The headache which was making me queasy and tearful earlier has faded to a vague discomfort, just enough to blur my thinking.
So, some rambling words, with no clear purpose.
For all bewildered angels and lost souls
who walk with me in paths that twist, frustrating,
through darkened lands beset by monsters
to destinations barely rumoured and to dreams
half-formed and half-remembered, on the border
of sleep and waking,
I give my hand, my heart, my feeble comfort,
for what it's worth, which may be nothing.
It is looking probable that I will be shaving off my hair next month. (I almost wrote 'all my hair', but it is only the hair on my head that is going!)
I am rather looking forward to it.
I used to have masses of curly hair when I was a child, but in my late teens it thinned dramatically for no obvious reason and has never become thick again.
I dislike visiting hairdressers, because they always seem to need to comment on my thin hair.
I think it will be liberating to bare my scalp entirely for a while.
The last day of the month.
It is tempting to write something controversial or very revealing, knowing that when I hit the 'Submit this entry' button the batch will be completed and will be published to the world (or at least this tiny corner of it).
But there is nothing I really want to say that is startling or provocative and that I feel brave enough to say in a public place using this screen name. So, just a gentle winding down.
I think I’ll take a break next month and come back with fresh thoughts in November.
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