Although similar in outlook, the terraced houses were distinguishable by the variety of small front gardens. Ours was enclosed by a red-brick wall of approximately adult waist-height. There was a light-blue metal gate, which was never closed - mainly because the hinges had rusted over - making it look like we had a continual flux of visitors who had inconsiderately neglected to close it behind them when they left. The garden part was paved with crazy-paving, which was just as well because my dad was never one for plants. This was evident in the virtual wilderness at the back of the house. Mum used to hack her way through the overgrowth and undergrowth, safari-like, to hang out the washing. I can see her now, teetering down the cracked concrete garden path - peg bag in hand, washing basket tucked under arm - swerving every now and then to avoid the dark-green nettles that seemed to maliciously stretch forwards as you approached. ‘If I’m not back in an hour send out a search party,’ Mum used to joke.
And while I'm at it Mike Oldfield's, Moonlight Shadow, just because it's great
Our house was situated on the brow of a gently sloping street called Church Lane, which got it’s name from the old church that discretely nestles in an undulating, hallowed, grassy reservoir at the bottom end. A remnant of times long gone, parts of it Norman, the church is unencumbered by the hustle and bustle of contemporary traffic which traverses the busy main road that separates it from us. It is a visually charming site to behold: cream-coloured stoney façade; stocky castellated bell tower inset with a large, circular clock face the colour of lapis lazuli. Gold-coloured roman numerals and decorative hands warn that time is ticking, and that it will soon be time you meet your maker. To some, it remains a seductive and insinuating reminder and that life is relatively fleeting, and that God is forever.
Our house was one in the midst of a row of other houses of the same ilke: red-bricked with two large square windows facing the road: one up - the master bedroom window, and one below - the front room window. Beyond the lower front window, the logically named ‘front room’ is situated. Here inhabited the wood-framed, chintzy, really uncomfortable, three-piece suite, that was generously commandeered by my mum on the death of my great-grandma. A shiny, oak-veneered china cabinet stoically leant against the back wall, presenting to the interested observer a blue, flower-patterned, never used, china dinner service; and several highly-valued (though probably relatively worthless) cape de monte figurines that mum couldn’t resist purchasing from a handsome, sweet-talking market trader one sultry summer afternoon when anything seemed possible, even the implausible rise in value of dodgy pottery purchased on Sunday markets. The front room was generally cold as radiators were only turned on during the Festive Season. Unfortunately, anyone who came a knocking at the front door at other times of the year were invariably ignored as we couldn’t hear them from the distant living room, where we usually reposed. Mum looked upon this as quite advantageous, as she generally wasn’t in the mood to receive unexpected guests.
At one point in my blog I quoted the wonderful French Feminist, Helene Cixous. Her words have become even more poignant since I started to write myself:
‘Woman must write herself: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies - for the same reasons, by the same laws, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text - as into the world and into history.’
‘And I was afraid. She frightens me because she can knock me down with a word. Because she does not know that writing is walking on a dizzying silence setting one word on another on emptiness. Writing is miraculous and terrifying like the flight of a bird who has no wings but flings itself out and only gets wings by flying.’
btw I once had the privilege of attending a conference given by the equally wonderful Luce Irigaray, another of the French Feminists. Afterwards, they were selling a selection of her texts books. For a small extra fee (a few quid as far as I remember)Irigaray would sign it for you (fair dues, fair dues). I have my signed text book in my bookcase at home.
5/1/2017 0 Comments
All Fools day. The First of April. My birthday. Being born on such a day is significant: nobody forgets it. On an annual basis, upon the said day, rather than ‘Happy Birthday!’ I was met with a jovial chorus of ‘April Fool!’ from family members and friends. At school, it was different: ‘April Fool’ was a weapon of ridicule, rudely seized upon by malicious children through which to inflict pain and suffering upon me. So, the label sticks and before you know it you have turned into a self-fulfilling prophesy of foolishness: you play the fool, nobody takes you seriously, you don’t even take yourself seriously. What hope is there knowing from the outset that one is destined for foolishness? On the brighter side, being an April Fool means that you can let yourself off the hook when the occasion arises; I glean some comfort in knowing that I’m not entirely to blame for my own mistakes: ‘I can’t help it, it’s in the stars.’
Admittedly, when looking back at some of the things I have said and done, I do cringe and think, ‘What an idiot!’ On these occasions ‘April Fool’ seems wholly appropriate as a pre-text. Case in point is one episode during A-level psychology. The teacher said she thought it would be a good idea if we all wore (what I heard as) mouse suits. ‘Well, yes,’ I said, ‘it could be interesting and fun. Although perhaps we would get a bit hot, and the long tails might be a health and safety issue.’ She gave me a strange look of incomprehension. ‘Mao suits!’ she said. She slowly spelt it out, ‘M…A...O... Do you not know what a Mao suit is?’ Well, quite frankly I did not. Let’s get this straight from the start, nobody told me anything. ‘Oh,’ I giggled nervously, ‘I thought you said mouse suits. Psychologists and mice, you know…long tradition and all that.’ The rest of the class found all this quite amusing. The teacher did not. She gave me a look of disdain, muttered something about me being a ‘silly girl’ and turned away. My heart sank. Henceforth, she would look upon me as a moron, and they would probably have a good laugh about it in the staff room. She didn’t bother explaining to me what a Mao suit is, or why she thought it would be a good idea if we all wore one. But I was intrigued, and after the lesson I made a point of finding out for myself. This was probably my impromptu introduction to communist ideology. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I’ve had time to reflect on the significance of what she was talking about I would probably agree: ‘Yes, it would be a good idea if we all wore Mao suits!’
I eventually sold my motorbike and bought a three-wheeler Reliant Van. It was bright orange (!) I had already passed the motorbike test, and you were allowed to drive one of these on a motorbike licence, which I always thought rather odd as it’s just like driving a proper car. Anyway, after a few hair-raising episodes I soon became accustomed to driving it; I just needed to remember not to take bends too fast or you could tip over (which I never did). It was great fun, and a bit like being part of a club. Whenever you saw another one, the driver would raise their hand to you in acknowledgement. At the time, there were quite a few of these three-wheeler Reliants on the road; in fact the local garage specifically dealt in them. They came in many different bright colours: orange, yellow, red, light blue - the forecourt was a proper picture to behold! For a while, I dated a guy who had a reliant van the same as mine, only it was brown. He was a bit of a hippie. He had long hair and a beard, and a soppy black dog. He knew about Bob Dylan. We went on a few dates to pubs by canals. He lived with his elderly mother. Unbeknown to her he was growing weed in a makeshift greenhouse in the back garden. I didn’t know about this until I visited his home and he proudly showed me his cultivated crop, and swore me to secrecy. I wasn’t impressed. I was more than a little apprehensive (i.e: apprehensive). I didn’t know about drugs. I didn’t want to know. I needed my wits about me, not off on some magical mystery tour. I didn’t tell anyone, but that was basically it as far as our relationship went. Coincidentally, I ran into this very same person just the other week. He’s married with a family now, and has had his own personal tragedies, which I won’t go into. The odd thing is he asked me if I’d written my book yet. After all this time that's what he remembers me for! I said, ‘no not yet, I have to earn some bread man.’
But my love affair with my Reliant continued. I went all over the place, just for the sake of it most of the time. One Easter, me and my sister decided to go camping in Dovedale, Derbyshire. I threw the tent into the back of the van and off we went. It was Bank Holiday weekend. The weather was glorious, and the tourists were out in force. Anyone who is familiar with the Peak District will appreciate how hilly it is. So, we got stuck in a traffic jam on a really steep incline. My van’s poor little engine started to clank and vigorously smoke in protest at the effort, and, embarrassingly, we had to get help to push it out of the road as we were causing an obstruction on an already congested highway. Thankfully, after a bit of a rest it was fine and we continued on our merry little way. I didn’t keep the Reliant for all that long, having aspirations for bigger and better modes of transport. However, I gained invaluable experience driving it around, and when I took my car test I passed first time no problem. The thing with Reliants is that they have fibreglass bodies and don’t rust, and they generally keep their value. I had no trouble selling it when I advertised it in the local paper…and I got all my money back. Nowadays, three-wheeler Reliants are a rarity on the roads but I occasionally catch sight of one and when I do it always brings a smile to my face.
Memories of me being into folk music for a while, and listening to Pentangle over and over. I can still recall some of the lyrics!
I was overjoyed to find a couple of my favourite tracks on You Tube.
The first track is about a fair maid who is deep in love. Unfortunately, her one true love, Jimmy, has gone off to sea (not sure whether he was press-ganged) She dons male clothing and gets a job as a sailor, in the hope of finding Jimmy. However, fate has other things in store. The Captain of the ship (albeit troubled about his sexuality and worried about what the other sailors will think) takes a fancy to her. (Little does he know at this point that she is actually a woman.)
Anyway, you can listen to the fair maid's tale here...
The next track, from which the album takes it's name, is pretty awesome as well: a haunting melody about a fair maid who gets chucked off a cliff by her sister; her cruel sister...
Last year I started to my write my autobiography.
Then I started to blog it.
It seemed like a good idea at the time...it still does.
It's kind of eclectic and random. It's been fun doing.
I am now developing the material on a MA Creative writing course.
Here follows some of my best bits from 2016...
Thanks for looking (you don't have to)
To cut a long story short: