Friday, 31 October 2014

Friends: The Witches, the Bitches and the Climb out of Ditches


The older I get, the fussier I am about making friends.  This is not because I am unsociable, far from it.  I absolutely love making new acquaintances.  I love the feeling of meeting someone new -and if they interest me- finding out about their lives, what makes them tick, what qualities attract me.  Occasionally they become a friend.  And there is no tried and tested formula.  You do get natural wastage. Friends who were once mainstays in my life no longer feature.  Through no fault of their own, or mine, just through circumstances or fate or environmental factors they have dropped off the radar, relegated to acquaintances. #WOTW Word of the week is Friends.

And in the spirit of Halloween I have categorized them in three groups: The ‘Witches’, the ‘Bitches’, and the ‘Climb out of Ditches’.

Witches

There’s something spookily fascinating about the Witch friend.  Mainly found in youthful circles, you can also find them in the MaFia groups on which I have written before. She beguiles you from the start, she could be very attractive both in looks and personality.  There is nothing that she wouldn’t do for you, initially. She is very persuasive, and you find yourself arguing on her behalf, without question.  She invites you to everything, you become part of her coven.  You plot and plan and travel in the pack.  

And then you find that the comforting silky spiders’ web of friendship that she has woven over you is actually made of very fine steel.  It’s incredibly difficult to escape.  You find that instead of having an opinion, your voice has turned to a mere froglike croaking.  You look in the mirror and you see a weak reflection of yourself staring back. 

And you realise that you don’t like what you see. And you break free before your get the life sucked out of you, and then get thrown on the pile of carcasses that you have just noticed in the corner of the room.

Bitches

These friends are your ‘Yes’ / ‘No’ mates.  They give fully of themselves in the quest for tidbits of gossip, can always be relied on for a laugh, and would cheerfully stab you in the back.  However, they are enormous fun.  These tend to be the mid term friends, but can and do appear at any time of your life. 

They could be mummies at school that you befriend because little Johnny likes little Freddie.  They could be work colleagues who become mates through a mutual hatred of your boss.  You could go on holiday with them, live in each others pockets, and for a time you would, in the spirit of friendship, do anything for them.  

Until you realise that that is what you are doing – everything for them.  And their favourite mantra becomes ‘I owe you one’, as they disappear off with someone else. When that time comes, and you see that the mutual support structure is based on golden sunny sand, then it’s time to shift.  Either to firmer foundations with the same structure, or you knock the sandcastle down in your memory as one glorious sundowner fuelled holiday romance.

Climbing out of Ditches

These are your best friends.  They come from all walks of life, and at every stage of life.  These are the ones who pick you up, dust you down and set you back on your feet.  They are the people that you would do anything for, no matter how unreliable/irritating/frustrating they can be at that moment in time, because you know that they would absolutely do the same for you.  

They are the ones who understand what is precious to you, and what you hold dear.  They may be late, but they would never let you down. And you can have a bitch and a giggle over a glass of wine.  And you can drunkenly cast spells over those witches that gave you such a hard time.

And frankly, if you fall in the ditch, they will make you laugh trying to pull you out. 

And hell, if you’re too stuck in the mud of despair, they won’t leave you. They’ll get right there in with you. And hug you tight.



Thursday, 23 October 2014

In The Beginning...

I cannot believe that it has been a year since I started writing #Pantomum as a journey into the unknown world of pantomime, and which evolved into snapshots of living with the boys, the family and life in general.  And as the year has passed, so the kids have grown, Little Man is not so little, Eldest Son tops us all at 15 years old and 6ft 2, and Middle Son is threatening to grow his hair just one cm longer so that he is taller than me.  In a year I now have the smallest feet in the family.  In a year our puppy has become a big lolloping hound, the cats have got used to him and even G, our disliker of canines, has been known to invite him over for a cuddle.

One knackered Backstage Mum (and sea monster)! 

In a year my blog has covered a number of things in a number of styles, whether it is poetry, prose, opinion pieces, the odd review on products or books, or simply just a bit of creative writing. It showed the ups and downs of life, and how people coped with good news and bad.  One of the most popular posts was a fairy story that I wrote for a friends little girl who found out early this year that she had cancer. The comments on A Story for Evie and its follow up post were lovely, and the donations to the Little Princess Trust even better.  I’m pleased to say that she is doing well on the bumpy road to recovery, and has been a very brave little girl with the support of her ever loving family and community.

And it has been a year of reflection. Tomorrow is my 16th wedding anniversary, after a whirlwind romance all those years ago of just three months.  We’ve learned to give, take and compromise.  Running our own businesses has not been easy in the present economic climate.  But we still managed to save for a fantastic driving holiday in Italy, which I attempted in some small way (despite some dodgy internet connections) to share with you in The Italian Job posts.
 
It’s been a year of acknowledgement.  I’ve spent most of this year beset with Achilles problems, mercifully coming to an end. None of us are getting younger, and the kids are getting older.  In a matter of months I will have 2 teenagers in the house.  The spectre of GCSE’s is looming.  Little Man is nearing the end of junior school.  And I’m now on the downward slope to 50…

And yet our life still is one big pantomime, sometimes I’m the Dame, often I feel like Dandini as I run around after the kids, I’m constantly expected to be the Genie and produce miracles at the nth hour and on occasion I really, really have to stop myself from being the Wicked (Step)Mother. 

And the person who inspired this blog in the first place, Little Man, skips blithely through life, leaving us scrabbling in his wake.  Tonight at 9 years old he takes on the role of Oliver in the musical at a local theatre, with all the aplomb (and accoutrements) of a seasoned performer.  And we would not have it any other way.

Thanks for sticking with us – are you ready for another year of mayhem, madness and merriment? 
Sorry, I can’t hear you?! 
I said… Are You Ready for Another Year of Mayhem, Madness and Merriment?!   
Pant-astic!  Catch you later…


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Learning to say No

I have a very good ‘friend’ who simply can’t say No to anything – be it going on a dinner date with people she can’t bear, being asked for the umpteenth time by a non- reciprocal friend to pick up her child from a team game or asked if she likes the sack-like garment her companion is wearing.
 
The fact of the matter is that she does it purely for altruistic motives – she doesn’t want to offend, in short, she wants to be liked.  This is, I suspect true of a little bit of all of us.  But, after years of this kind of behavior, she simply snapped and said No.  And she found it so empowering that she said No again and again, and now no one asks her for anything, and she doesn’t have the worry of offending anyone.

 But is this necessarily a good thing for her?  Has the woman who for most of her life relied on others to ask her things to make her say Yes and be needed, now cut off her nose as life whirls on without her, and she is left feeling on the one hand empowered, but on the other hand disenfranchised.

We all do things out of duty.  Let’s take an example. We are hurtling towards Christmas, the day where traditionally familial duty causes the most stressful period of the year.  It is no coincidence that the bulk of divorce applications hit its annual peak in January. We may love our families, but all in one place on one day?  And having to host disparate non life threatening culinary requirements – is Grandma this year a vegetarian who eats fish, or a vegetarian who will eat a little bit of meat?  Who is gluten free this year?  Who can’t eat chocolate, potatoes or will only eat chocolate potatoes?   Who can’t drink anything but the sparkling wine you have been saving in the fridge, but can’t afford to bring a bottle?  What presents do you buy?  How much do you spend?  How do you extricate yourself from the ‘but this is what we always used to do at Christmas’?  

How in short, do you stand up and say ‘No’and not feel disenfranchised or ostracized?  Not No to Christmas per se, but No to the infinite amounts of demands that undermine your sense of being.  There is no point saying Yes to everyone if you are miserable about saying so – it genuinely reflects back, at some point.  Do you wait until you simply snap and start saying No to everything, and then feel unhappy when no one asks your opinion?  Or is there a way to gently introduce the idea of saying No, so that you can say it with confidence and truth?

Perhaps start a little slowly.  ‘You know what?  That dress doesn’t bring out the best in your figure.  I really loved that blue dress you wore the other day.  It brought out the colour of your eyes’.  Or ‘I know you really love sitting in front of the telly for five hours over Christmas, but I thought this year we would play some board games – do you have any suggestions?’  Or ‘Why don’t we do a Secret Santa this year, it would be so much fun and save everyone some money?’

And when you are really confident , you can become the Machiavelli of No - and when that mother asks you yet again to pick up her child, smile sweetly and say ‘Of course I will.  But would you do the same for me next week as I have an appointment?  I am happy to provide the snacks as usual?’  It’s a Yes with a No, and a twist…

It may fail disastrously at first.  It will take a while to come into effect.


And remember -failing all else, you could always go Toddler. Shout No, stamp your foot and run away. 

I have found that this works with immediate effect.

(But you may need to sit on the Naughty Step with a glass of wine whilst other mothers eye you disapprovingly.)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Unsung Heroes

The Lollipop Lady


There are unsung heroes in life
The soldiers, the nurses, the teachers
The man who drives the school bus,
The dinner lady who puts that extra spoonful 
On the little boys plate
Because she knows that he had no breakfast again.
The old man who still walks his dog, who died 3 months ago,
The dog walker who asks for his help, even though she doesn’t need it.
They come in different shapes and sizes, different colours and sounds
One even wears a bright high –vis jacket
She’s the lollipop lady.

She’s not our lollipop lady – we pass her standing at the side of the road
As we drive in our shiny car to school
But she’s always there, and we look out for her
She becomes a start to the day.
In the snow she wears a shapeless long blue waterproof coat
And big blue wellies, her cheeks all flushed.
My kids love it when she stops the car, walking into the road with her sign
As children file like ducklings behind her
And mums with buggies straggle along in bunches chatting.
Sometimes she gets a wave from us, and she waves back
Sometimes one of the ducklings says Thank You, but not often.

And one day she was not there, and my kids were sad.
‘Where’s the Lollipop Lady?’ they asked, their morning stupor gone
And she didn’t come back for several weeks
Cars no longer slowed their pace
In recognition.
My kids stopped looking for her.
Until today.
We saw her at her post
Thinner, hugging the buggy women who greeted her
Noticing her at last
Standing proud, in her high – vis jacket.


©Ruth Morrison 2014

Sunday, 17 August 2014

In tribute to #Robin Williams, and to the many others


Depression


What makes a sigh turn into a smile?
What changes rain into dew for a while?
What chases the thunder with fluffy white clouds?
What stops the loneliness when lost in the crowds?

How does the rainbow shine with watery rays?
How can you focus through the fog and the haze?
How can you grasp at the straws falling down?
How does the paint roll with the tears of a clown?

When does the pain go in the heat of the sun?
When will the laugh come when all is undone?
When is the soul free of unfettered dread?
When can the fear not be left unsaid?

Where is the friend who says ‘You’re not alone’?
Where is the voice on the end of the phone?
Where is the hammer shattering the glass wall?
Where are the pieces that crackle and fall?

Who can hold on through the raging storm?
Who can restore whirling tempests to norm?
Who can silence the crumbling of mind?
Who can sit quietly, until it’s behind?

Why is it so hard to hear and be heard?
Why is it hard to condense to one word?
Why is it considered a temporary low?
Why can it kill to try overthrow?

Will you be the one who extends the hand?
Will you lead the one out of his hellish land?
Will you answer the call because you’re a friend?
Will you listen to their point of view in the end?

Hear them? Be near them? Understand them? Protect?
Hug them? Don’t bug them? Hand extended? Respect?
Hold them? Don’t scold them? Befriend and forgive?
Light up a dark corner, a small reason to live?

Can you make a sigh turn into a smile?
Can you change rain into dew for a while?
Can you chase the thunder with fluffy white clouds?
You can stop the loneliness when lost in the crowds.

©Ruth Morrison 2014


#Word of the Week - Positive

It is always difficult returning from a holiday.  For a start, there’s the house.  It always seems that little bit ‘distant’ – a shock to the system in which one is desperately pleased to be back on terra firma, but where the sense of responsibility and routine smacks you between the eyes like a low hanging sign.

And then of course there are the piles. Of washing. Of bills. Of junk mail. Of filing that you hid away in the excitement of going on holiday. Of decisions that you have been putting off, but with the excuse that you are going on holiday.

And the biggest thing to contend with is the feeling of anticlimax.  The ‘is that it now?’ The thought that the benefits of being on holiday dwindle faster than the tide washes the sand beneath your feet.  That your happy bonded family will be dispersed by the electronic pull of friends far more knowledgeable than silly old mum and dad and their crap in-car music, or the many activities in which your children bond with others, charging towards the same goal with a common purpose, and as a parent you become secondary to these responsibilities of youth.  And the feeling of dread hangs over you like a sword of Damacles as you load the washing machine for the fifth time that day, or go food shopping for a ‘normal shop’ – splashing out on a French stick to hold on to that holiday feeling for just that little bit longer…

Those who are on Facebook may have noticed a recent trend in which people are nominated to join in for a week of Positivity – over 7 days you post a daily list of three things that are or have had a positive effect on you.  This sounds easier than it actually is.  I was nominated by two people when I was on holiday in Italy – and decided to set myself the challenge of doing it when I got back, in the hope that it would offset the post holiday blues.
It was an eye opener.  It involved a different mindset. A willingness to unfetter my exterior shell of capability and culpability and see the world differently.  In a normal situation I veer wildly from a glass half empty to a glass half full.  I had to look past the washing precipice of pessimism into the lake of optimism. I had to fish something out of that lake, three times a day for 7 days.

And I did it.  Sometimes it was a bit of an old boot – a negative on the noisiness of the bin men turned into a positive  - more times it was a revelation – you can have fun in the rain, people can surprise you, there are new discoveries and places just round the corner if you keep your eyes open.

And I’m not sure if it was conscious, or subconscious, but my little family changed too. The boys have all offered, and cooked, meals this week (within their capabilities).  We have kept up with the holiday routine of clearing the table and washing up rotas.  We’ve had some really fun conversations or short trips out. The holiday bonding has carried on temporarily because none of us want it to break. I say temporarily, not to be pessimistic, but realistic  - Life will inevitably get in the way, but for the moment we are all enjoying the positive effects.


Positive. My Word of the Week, for a week.

Til next time.


Have you done the Positivity challenge?  How did you get on?

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Italian Job: The End

*Many of you have been following our month long trip in a Passat estate around Italy with the three boys.  We've had our thrills and spills and ups and downs.  This is the final post about our journey through a simply magnificent country.

The boys were amazing on the car journey home.  I suppose that after 4 weeks away, we had all settled into a ‘driving’ routine, whether it was reading for a bit, limited electronic entertainment or just a general laugh about what we had seen or done. Time flew by fairly quickly, we stopped for fuel and a leg stretch, and a peer into the sunlight after the darkness of the copious tunnels that we had been in.  But it seemed to be getting darker the closer we got to Calais, and it was only mid afternoon.  A quick scan of the news channels on the radio and we realised that the tail end of ‘Big Bertha’ the weather front that had played havoc in the Bahamas was heading our way.

And indeed it was not long before we were caught in the middle of an amazing thunderstorm.  Cars had pulled over haphazardly on the toll road, hazard lights twinkling in amongst the lightning bolts.  Winds buffeted the car, and the roof box thumped up and down.  Rain lashed at the windscreen as G endeavoured to keep steering in a straight line.  Little Man buried his face in my lap and emitted a low moan.  Only Middle Son, a storm chaser in the making, looked genuinely thrilled with the situation. And then it was gone as quickly as it arrived.

Driving through the storm
We all looked at one another shakily.  It seemed a good time as any to pull over and get something to eat.  We asked Garmin the sat nav for any restaurants nearby.  The famous Golden Arches logo popped up on the screen.  ‘McDonalds!’ shrieked the boys in joy, thoughts of home not far from their minds.  And so it was that the last meal of our trip was in a rather funky French McDonalds, with sections divided into Salle Rock, Salle Pop and Salle Classique, as well as a childrens gym (it had spinning bikes)/play area for those who had had that one nugget too many…


McDonalds, French style


Having  arrived at the Eurotunnel quicker than anticipated, we queued for an earlier crossing.  Hundreds of English visitors were returning home.  A woman in a Range Rover was shouting animatedly at her husband and jabbing at him with her finger in accusation.  They’d obviously had good holiday…

G opened his window to be searched for explosives by a man waving an electronic Geiger counter type thing over the steering wheel.

‘But what,’ asked Little Man in a loud voice, ‘If Mummy had a bomb?  He hasn’t checked if Mummy has a bomb.’

‘I don’t have a bomb’, I said indignantly, turning around to face him in my seat.

‘But we could have one in the roof box, or in the back of the car – he hasn’t checked, Mum, we could have bombs everywhere and he hasn’t checked.’

The man was standing by the car chatting into his walkie talkie.  G had gone a rather strange colour.  ‘Can everyone stop talking about bombs please?’ he hissed, as the man waved him on.

‘I was just saying,’ said Little Man huffily as he turned back to see what Middle Son was playing on the iPad, ‘Ooh, are you dead yet?’

And so it was we arrived home, just before midnight, the cats looking at us as if we were utter strangers as we entered the house.

It’s good to be back.  It’s strange to be back.  It’s weird to think of what we’ve accomplished – the places we have seen, the people we have met, the experiences we have had.  And we all agreed, we would do it again in a flash.
He has been warned that this will be the only time I leave the last word to G, but I asked him to sum up his thoughts.  For now, Ciao xx

The Last Word…

I forgot to mention that on the very first night of our travels (Dijon) I witnessed a shooting star.  It's the second I have seen in my life, both occasions being pure flukes when I just happened to be staring skyward. Both times I gained a sense of oneness with the cosmos as if 'it' and I were having a moment.

These past few weeks I have seen so much, travelled so far (easily 3300+ miles - as far as Dubai is from London), that I've had a problem trying to sum it up and so crystalise the memories for myself.  When I think of every place, object, meal or experience a cumbersome montage forms in my mind so I have gotten to thinking about themes and what would be the lasting legacies?  I quickly realised that it wasn't the what, where, when or how that really mattered more than the why and who because these two were the conception and the conduit respectively for the memories.

That's not to ignore a series of personal bucket list ticks; The Colosseum, The Pantheon, the Circus Maximus, the Sistine Chapel, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a gondola ride, Vesuvius or Capri to name a few. Nor does it negate the thousands of driving experiences in the mountains, along the Amalfi coast, through great cities, through the countless tunnels or over the countless bridges (I had wondered where the EU money went other than Spain) These were special but all are repeatable.

 For me the 'why' has always been the same and beautifully expressed by JFK (no I'm not comparing him to me or the moon landings to my holiday).

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” JFK

Although I tend not to flog dead horses, I do like to run things close on occasion.  I like to aim for a goal a little further out than is comfortable; it ensures I remain in a heightened state ready to make the most of things.  I realise this may be an anathema as a vacation but I find it an irresistible state of mind.

Away from the narrative then and my lofty inspirations are those things that are unique of their moment and imbedded into the 'who' and as such are destined to be woven into family lore to become the defining legacy. 

For instance, on the journey back R-indoors discovered a hole in the space-time-continuum when she seemed to observe that Folkstone and Calais where on vastly different Longitudes, it being light when we left Calais on the train and dark when we arrived in Folkestone...neglecting to factor in that we were actually still in the tunnel as she gazed out of the window....Priceless.

She has a bit of form on such matters having once thrown a fit on a previous expedition when map reading because she couldn't locate Barcelona on the Spanish coast...or even the coast itself apparently...before I very carefully pointed out that she was haranguing a map of France...  That said and despite a hardwired inability to discern left from right she's a great navigator and programmer of sat navs following the immortal instruction 'punch it Chewy'.  I laugh every time at my tired Hans Solo gag and every time she responds with that Princess Leah 'not if you were the last guy in the Universe' look.  And so our love grows :)

But.  If this holiday follows previous patterns then the real legacy should be the simple, powerful yet increasingly rare experience of the family being so close together for so long.  80+ meals together, thousands of miles together, walks, talks, games, A couple of old movies together (from my 'you will watch these my son / right of passage' collection [Spartacus & The Vikings]).  Formation carpet bombing Mummy in the pool, annoying Daddy whilst he sunbathes and yes, a few lively arguments together. 

I'll spare us both an examination of just why in today's world so much effort and money has to be invested to do what was once a way of life.....and instead wrap this ramble up with a promise to myself that so long as I can I'll do my best to ensure that me and my family keep one eye scanning beyond Life's horizon so as not to miss the next shooting star.

G



Til the next time!