Friday, 2 July 2021
Saturday, 19 June 2021
I MUST get blogging again. I must! I must! At last I've given myself a whole week completely away from work and routine to allow myself a recharge, and d'you know what? I think the writing cogs are just about starting to whirr again. It may take me a while to get back to more frequent posting but I could try by revisiting some of the many mini-series I've had on the go here at one time or another. At least that way there are old themes I can work with, e.g. this one....
So yes, it’s on days like this that a certain "semi bohemian suburban childhood" memory comes to the fore. Summer rain is pouring down as I type, distant thunder reverberates, and I suddenly find myself thinking about tortoises…
We were a family with animals. As well as two tortoises we had cats, goldfish in the bathroom, a pond full of frogs and newts, a bat (albeit a dead one, but pickled in a jar following an unfortunate window incident) and a tankful of African aquatic toads (alive and well on a diet of earthworms) in my sister’s bedroom. Let's not forget the guinea pigs nor, in the dark recesses of the larder, a house spider called Fred. Of course Fred was not so much a pet as a squatter, perhaps several different squatters, but welcome anyway. Occasionally we looked after the odd stray cat, and once fostered ducklings in an old metal bathtub.
But the tortoises… well, Twinkle and Toby roamed free in our long, hillside garden during the Summer months. They were natural weedkillers, munching their way through the dandelions, and making the most of the shade cast by my mum’s small stone sculptures when the sun beat down on a clover and daisy-studded lawn. And this is where I recall the rain and the storms, on humid holiday afternoons, when I rushed out to rescue the tortoises from the downpours and… well, it was never as easy as it sounds.
I’d search everywhere. I’d call their names. Toby knew his (honestly!) and would often come when he heard it, suddenly appearing from within a flower bed with more haste than you might think possible, knowing that his reward would be a lovely sticky banana… and who doesn’t like a lovely sticky banana? But on rainy, stormy days they were nowhere to be seen.
The bedraggled cats would come into the kitchen and get pampered with a towel dry. The guinea pigs would be safe in their hutch and the frogs and newts no doubt enjoyed the jacuzzi-like qualities of their rain-splashed pool. But where on earth had the tortoises gone?
I would go on a desperate mission to find them. Sift through the compost heap, check behind the stones in the rockery, peer through the screen of bamboo shoots… Then came the lengthy process of inspecting every single plant and flower – and there were a lot - until finally I would be relieved to glimpse the back-end of a hard, shiny shell concealed in the undergrowth. The tortoises had always burrowed face-first into the earth beneath something with thick stems and tight leaves, beautifully camouflaged like pebbles in the bedding. Safe, asleep, oblivious to the weather and, unlike me, completely dry - of course.
So, the rain pours down and what am I doing, thinking back to around 50 years ago? The only things with shells in my much smaller, flatter garden are the snails, and I rather miss having tortoises - but it’s funny how vivid the memories can be, prompted merely by the weather. Time for a banana.
Saturday, 3 April 2021
I'm afraid life's a little fraught and tiring round these parts at the moment... My poor old mum-in-law is in a bad way, both physically and mentally, and every day (and night) seems to bring with it a new drama / development (with liberal sprinklings of weirdness) to ramp up the stress levels around me. Of course we know there'll be no happy ending either so it's all a bit heavy-going. Therefore please excuse a lazy post today in that I'm just going to share a video but I hope, if you have around 12 minutes to spare, you'll get the same pleasure from it, and perhaps reminiscences too, that I have...
I was around the same age as these four lovely young guests appearing on Irish TV in 1983 and, in spite of our different family backgrounds and geographical location, I felt an immediate kinship - maybe you will too? I'd have certainly spent the same amount of time and effort on my hair... and didn't we have a lot of it?! The third interviewee, John, is particularly engaging, and reminds me very much of some of those brilliantly individual kids I hung around with in art school (well, of course!) It wasn't always easy - but it felt so important at the time.
Ah, youth tribes, eh...
Happy Easter hols!
Sunday, 14 March 2021
Saturday, 27 February 2021
Thursday, 4 February 2021
You know, there is something about walking at 3.30pm on a cold, rainy February day. Oh, something special, something... a feeling, a memory, a Proustian rush, if you like.
I'm walking home from school. When I get in, the cat will be sprawled out on the huge boiler in the kitchen, mum will be there, it will be warm, there will be condensation on the window. The only light in the living room comes from the gas fire with its flashes of blue and pink licking at the grills, and the table lamp in the corner of the typical G-Plan shelving unit - it's ambient, not quite dark outside. I kick off brown shoes and damp white socks, give Cleo a stroke so she lazily licks my face (ooh, such a raspy tongue - like sandpaper!) - then I perch on the yellow stool at the kitchen counter to have a bowl of Weetabix with warm milk. We seem to be incessantly hungry at 12 years old, I already had a gingerbread man from Simmonds on the way home (who can possibly ignore the temptation of sweet baked delights in the window of the best cake shop in town after double Maths and a Geography test?) 'The Changes' will be on telly soon.... chilling but compelling, I'm hooked.
Why am I telling you this? Simply because I was walking at 3.30pm today - a cold, rainy February day - and the words I've just written were floating around in my head. The rain soaks my hair and I don't care, the high collar on the warmest coat that has ever been invented (honestly, it's amazing, like a blanket) is turned up, stroking my cheeks. Thank god no school uniform...no damp socks, or Double Maths, but I still get that feeling. Green doors do it too, you know that really strong shade of mid green; I've no idea why. Anyway I'll write this down when I get in and post it, I thought - not much, I realise, but a way to break the silence at last, if nothing else...!
I appreciate that the comfortable memories of simple things from the past hold their appeal more than ever at the moment, but I've always had that rainy afternoon thing, a place to go to which can't be spoiled, and I like it very much.
Is there anywhere you go?