Trying to get into the 30 minute a day walking habit again. The ongoing rain has made it difficult, but the past few days have been brighter and more cheerful. Yesterday I set off at 5 pm. My usual walking time is about mid-morning but, due to the late arrival of a courier, 5 pm was my new slot, and I didn’t realise what I’ve been missing. It was still daylight, but about half way round it was suddenly dusk and the sky was just as suddenly filled with birds circling around and around, making the most awful racket. Just the kind of unholy racket you’d want to hear if you were directing a re-make of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Swarming above my head they seemed to follow me, until I got near the local castle, when the entire flock swooped down towards a couple of impressively tall trees, silhouetted against the sky, and covered every branch, so it looked like each tree had spawned a new variety of evil black leaf. Behind the trees the sky changed to a sort of impossible purple, streaked with white, orange and red. Ah, silly me, thought I, to have been missing all this natural twilight radiance in favour of four walls and a set of drawn curtains.
Also, about half way round, I decided to do a sort of ‘face the fear and do it anyway’ type of exercise. I promised myself that if I came across anyone I vaguely recognised, I would accost them and try to initiate some sort of conversation, in order to practice stammering at people without feeling like a lesser species of human. This was an easy decision to make, since the odds of coming across anyone I knew (I know an embarrassingly small amount of people) was guaranteed to be nil; except that the God of Chance Encounters seemed to have got it in for me.
I saw three people I sort of knew. The first was my hairdresser, who I had only ever previously spent time with via the curious medium of hairdresser mirror world, every 6 weeks, where it seems perfectly natural to engage with someone in a sort of Alice through the Looking Glass kind of way. She was cycling down the pavement on an old fashioned bike, with a large wicker basket at the front, wearing a long woollen scarf. She looked just like a prettier version of Miss Almira Gulch, before she transforms into the Wicked Witch of the West. In fact, I had a clear vision of my hairdresser and her bike suddenly taking off, pedalling madly into the centre of that Kansas tornado. Now, my hairdresser is voluble, funny and far more socially adept than I could ever be but I accosted her just the same. It turns out she recently moved into one of the grade II listed buildings near the castle.
Lesson number 1: forget further education; leave school at 16 and go into hairdressing.
Person number two was a friend of my next door neighbour, a lovely 70+ lady I had been fleetingly introduced to twice over the garden fence, a few years ago; but I have a good memory for faces. As she came towards me I hovered and then moved in for the kill. ‘Hello,’ I said (none of the obligatory Hi! for me.) She took about four paces backwards, a look of abject terror on her face and managed to gasp ‘do I know you?’ ‘I’m M’s neighbour,’ I said, with a big smile on my stupid face. ‘Oh yes, I’m surprised you recognised me with my grey hair’ – like me she must have stopped dying her hair. Surprisingly, grey hair doesn’t turn you into an entirely different person. I showed her my crop of white hair (I’m about half and half now in the non-dyeing process) and she asked ‘how are you?’ Uncharacteristically I resisted the urge to regale her with every one of my current ailments and said I was fine. She said she’d had a terrible cold for 2 weeks but thought she was getting over it, and hadn’t it been a lovely day but it was now turning cold. We chattered for about a minute more about absolutely nothing, then cheerily waved goodbye.
Lesson number 2: Take special care when accosting ‘old’ people, lest you give them a stroke.
As I hit the home stretch, person number three appeared, as a vision from the past. A woman I have not spoken to for close on 15 years. We both peered intently as we got closer. I said ‘hello,’ and she cried: ‘Haven’t seen you in ages.’ Person number three was the mother of a child son No.2 used to know, whose husband owns the garage where we’ve had our cars repaired for donkeys years. How opportune, thought I, being that my car is currently in said garage for the 4th time in 2 weeks, having developed further troubles due to the fixing of the troubles it was put in for. I rapidly gave her the lowdown, asking if it was likely we’d have to pay, when a faulty part had been installed by the garage. (Later that night the husband admonished me severely for this barefaced cheek.) However, the lovely lady (she had been one of the nicest young mothers I ever met) said she’d quit her desk job at the garage ages and ages ago and couldn’t tell me anything. She then said I’d met her coming off the train, as she was now studying for a degree in x and x at x university. ‘Wow,’ I said, ‘did you have to study for A levels too, to get in, and how old are you?’ I realised later that the A level bit could have been insulting (as was the age bit) – as how did I know that she didn’t already have masses of A levels, but no, she’d gone to evening classes for 3 years and got the necessary qualification to get in. And she was 49. ‘You don’t look it at all,’ said I, which she didn’t, she looked about 35. There was then rapid talk about the sons and that she’d had some difficult years, which she was about to explain, when I suddenly remembered that son No.3 was walking home from work and I had the door key. ‘I’m sorry, the son will be locked out and I have to go,’ I said, really wanting to stay and hear more about her brave new life.
Lesson number 3: People are full of surprises, and it’s never too late for anything, really.
Knitting-wise I’ve started a tearoom bear from mary jane’s tearoom, using the most lovely wool. It’s by Debbie Bliss and is like knitting with butter, if there was such a thing. The texture is so smooth and silky and so easy to knit, therefore the knitted pieces are flying off the needles. Here are a couple of bear legs with boots.
Sylvanian-wise, I’m renovating the log cabin in a very slap-dash, haphazard way. I painted the walls cream, the windows red, hand stitched some curtains (which are really terrible) and am painting the furniture. It’s all done in lurid primary colours, which doesn’t really suit a log cabin in the woods. I’ve also wall papered the ceiling and partly re-upholstered the Sylvanian chairs, using felt and cheap off cuts of material available at the shop around the corner.
Blog writing-wise, I’ve noticed that the ‘reader’ page I’m linked to gives a daily one word prompt, with which to inspire the writing of a post. Current words have been ‘juicy’ and ‘squat.’ No thanks, thought I. Writing something around just one word might be a good idea though. The word ‘sometimes’ came to mind and, as the word ‘sometimes’ seems quite poetic to me, I decided to inflict readers with a poem. This exercise might be repeated.
The art of poetry is dead, as we all know, I mean who actually reads the classic poets, except those engaged in an English degree. And you’re never going to make shed loads of money being a poet. But then it dawned on me that a more ‘ordinary’ poetic type is out there, one that doesn’t go in for strict iambic pentameter or convoluted words, for which you require a dictionary. It’s a ‘poetry’ present in those awful Facebook quotes, that I wish people would just keep to themselves; in those new Nationwide adverts; in Eminem’s ‘rap’sodies; in the lyrics of any pop song.
I don’t write poetry, except once for a school competition when I was 12. I’ve italicised my poem to make it look like a proper poem and not something I knocked up last night. I showed the poetic effort below to the husband and he said, ‘I don’t get it,’ which is the highest sort of praise for a poem, don’t you think?
Sometimes, when the sky is velvet black,
and the stars are diamond bright,
and the faithful moon is full,
I wonder if there might be something more.
Sometimes, when the sky is cobalt blue,
and the clouds porcelain white,
and sunlight glints on a songbird’s wing,
I wonder if there might be something more.
Sometimes, when time is standing still,
and I walk upon a distant sea shore,
as the foaming waves come rippling in,
I wonder if there might be something more.
Sometimes, when I walk among the trees,
and hear the earth breathe,
while unseen creatures move under leaves,
I wonder if there might be something more.
But then I remember that long, long ago,
your tiny life’s spark momentarily glimmered, then disappeared,
and the cold, cold heart, at the centre of this unknown universe,
didn’t miss a beat
8 thoughts on “Odds and Ends”
I read this when you posted it but have only just had a chance to comment. Apologies for lateness. I love your poem – it made me wonder what made you write it – but I really like it. I’m not sure poetry *is* dead, but I don’t read it very often. That said, I used to love it as a child. Oddly enough, my favourite poem was the Charge of the Light Brigade, which my mum said was generally awful as I would ask her to read it and then just cry while she was doing so. On the other hand she used to like reading me poetry as it was short and I’d go to sleep quicker!
Track down person number three and get more details about going back to university! I think about doing this all the time – but where would it end? Ask her. Having never met me, she’s bound to know the answer to all my questions…
And finally, I am very jealous that you have a local castle – and glad that you’re talking to people. A cheery hello here and there never goes a miss. It’s interesting and you never know who you’ll end up talking to…
Unless you’re an incredibly focused young person, I think going to university when you’re ‘old’ is probably much the better idea (although not practical career wise etc) as you’d appreciate the learning much more. I know I read so many books at uni with a ‘do I really have to do this’ kind of attitude and put no effort into the essays at all – think I’m making up for that lack of work ethic, writing wise, on this blog 🙂 Only after uni did I really engage with literary works. Thomas Hardy is my favourite poet, especially since his great poems were written in old age when he was full of grief and guilt – proving it’s never too late.
As a housewife with time, I tend to post frequently on this blog, the downside of which is coming up with stuff, and this post was me just wittering on for want of anything else to write about; hence the poem too. We’ve had some sharp, clear nights here and it started out: ‘sometimes,when the sky is very very black, and the stars are very very bright’ etc but I thought, that’s not poetic at all and shoved in some poetic description! It doesn’t really have any structure or even rhymes for that matter (I do like a poem that rhymes.) The ending came out of nowhere and took me by surprise and is about my fourth son who died at 4 days old, 26 years ago – seems like writing is cathartic, whether you’re aware of it or not.
Not sure I can track the uni lady down again, unless I wander the streets at 5 pm every night! I’m more comfortable talking to people one to one, it’s group situations that make me behave like a deer caught in the headlights, when the stammer holds up the flow, all eyes are on your facial contortions and you wish you could transport yourself, Star Trek-wise, out of there.
Thanks for reading and commenting:)
Ah. I did wonder if the poem might be inspired by something like that, but I hoped not. I think it’s perfect. And yes, hopefully cathartic. I’m not a great literary critic, but it felt really right to me. Really human. Thank you for sharing it.
Blogging is odd isn’t it? Putting stuff out in the world and then suddenly it turns out someone you’ve never met has read it and it’s connected. In lots of ways, this is why the internet is amazing.
That said, I am disappointed at your refusal to walk the streets stalking mature students on my behalf..! I have to agree though, I think mature students get much more out of the educational experience than younger students. I guess younger students are there for the life experience as much as anything. I think what I’d like really is a way to carve out the time for learning. At the moment I find myself desperate to get away from the computer and anything that resembles work at the weekend. Even with crafty stuff I want to get things *right* and get frustrated when things go wrong. It feels like there’s not enough time for things to go wrong. Actually I think I could do with a holiday…
‘It feels like there’s not enough time for things to go wrong’ – that made me think of Carroll’s ‘it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place’ – don’t know why as probably not the same thing at all. But I know what you mean about time. I’ve always been obsessed with the rapid passing of time but with advancing age that feeling is just getting worse, that there’s now not enough time left; that it could all come to a sudden stop! There’s always the thought, is this what I should be doing at this moment in time? Am I just wasting valuable time? The answer, we’re told, is to live in the moment and I’m really trying to do that now, instead of my usual constant, lurking background anxiety about the future.
‘Live in the moment’ is probably the best thing. I did hear someone say ‘If you lived each day as if it were your last you’d constantly be calling people up and sobbing down the phone telling everyone how much you loved them and apologising for everything’. It would be awful.
That’s funny; stuck in a sort of groundhog day loop
First, love your work on your log cabin. Brilliant to paper the ceiling. It’s all quite cosy looking!
Second, I admire your social bravery. If I’m honest, I most likely would have been racing for home after the first interaction. In person social interactions are so draining to me!
I agree with you about uni being better as an older person. I’ve taken some online classes recently (two anthropology courses as well as one each of geography, and geology) and it’s been very fulfilling. Not that I’ve suddenly become brilliant, but I can appreciate things so much more than I would have as a young person who was easily distracted by young person goings on. I really think there should be more encouragement for middle aged and older people to take a class or two every so often, even without a degree or certificate in mind. It’s good for so many reasons.
You can never get enough education in my opinion Terra. Ongoing learning can make you more receptive to new ideas and less stuck in a rut. I’ve just recently discovered the world of online courses as one of my sons is currently doing a course in Data Science to try and improve work prospects – they can be pretty expensive though! I’ve yet to knit blankets for my log cabin mice, for the hammocks, but it’s quite a time consuming process. The internet can be a godsend for people who find being around other people draining can’t it? 🙂
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