School Trip

The week has come to an end, and so has my thunder cloud mood.

We went on a school trip today with Year 1 and 2, and despite going through four seasons of weather in one afternoon, it was an enjoyable trip. Kids are sweet, and they do come out with the funniest things.

We hiked through a forest, and mounted a summit. Some children were being blown away by the wind at the top of the hill, and their terror combined with the way they were reaching out to the teacher, but being pushed further and further away, was a pile of hilarity for me and my sister in law.

Obviously we kept our laughter in check at the time, but my oh my what laughs we had later.

I have to say, though, that I think the trip should have been cancelled, and it wasn’t such a good idea to take a bunch of six year olds on a hike because they aren’t going to appreciate that. They just want to play.

I did try to engage them by pointing out different kinds of trees and how you can tell an oak apart from a birch. We also examined animal droppings (once we got over the toilet humour!) to see which animal might have passed by before us.

All my knowledge of nature has come from books. I grew up in the desert, and walks like these were few and far between (every ten months when we came back to the UK for summer holidays and to see our family and grandparents, obviously), so I relished things like oak leaves and pine cones and rabbit poops. The kids in books did all the things I could only dream of. These kids sure are lucky, I tell you that much.

I think they were interested, because they kept bringing me dead leaves saying ‘Miss, this is an oak leaf, see, look at all its ridges!’

They are a bunch of cuties.

I have to say, though, that I didn’t get to sit down all day and am only just sitting down to catch up on internet stuff. In fact, I have been so busy all week that I haven’t been able to wash my clothes and I am travelling to Shropshire tomorrow to have a look at the place where they filmed Narnia (Hail C.S. Lewis!), and then to Birmingham to see the places where Tolkien grew up! Who knew he grew up in Birmingham? I don’t particularly like Birmingham but after finding out about that little Tolkien tidbit I might have to change my mind. We’ll see.

I hope those clothes dry overnight outside. You know, it’s too cold for April! We have been hailed upon and snowed down on, and the sky looks mighty troubled tonight, and breath is coming out thick and fast and hanging in the air as though it was too cold to dissipate.

Which it is.

Have a great weekend and bank holiday!

The Darker Side of Parents.

Because I tutor children, there are some things I have realised about different mothers (who are generally the primary dealers with me).

The main thing, of course, is that they do like to talk about their kids. The thing is, you see, I really am not interested in what Aaron ate for lunch last night, or how late Peter went to bed (theoretical names).

I genuinely DO NOT CARE. I care how much your son knows or if your daughter has done her homework, but all those little details about how good they are… I don’t care.

A mother’s opinion is highly subjective, of course. I know lots of mothers who take it too far. For example, my mother in law, doesn’t like it when anybody else highlights anything bad about her kids even though some of them are right brats. RIGHT brats, I tell you, and it really annoys me. They aren’t perfect just because you birthed them, you know. And they genuinely are horrible and mean, e.g. one of my bro in laws is pretty mean to my little brother so my mum doesn’t want them to mix as much.

Even with D, if I say something, even if its so small like ‘Oh, D couldn’t cook to save his life’ (because I always cook and a girl gets sick of that you know? And he can’t cook but you could darn well learn to, even if you hate it, and help your wife out a little. He acts like such a baby when it comes to cooking I swear) she will say ‘awww but he’s my baby, he’s such a good boy, his heart is in the right place.’

Um, I’m married to him, I know how he treats me sometimes, it’s like he is a massive child and it’s because he is constantly coddled. I won’t mother him. And I will secretly really seethe when you coddle him and treat him like a child, because that just makes him act like one with me and lately, after living here for a good four months now, it’s getting worse. Gah. I need to move out already.

Anyway, so some mothers like to say how good their kids are and how well-behaved etc etc… BUT I REALLY REALLY DON’T CARE.

I will be the judge of that, thank you, based on how they behave with me. A lot of mothers just can’t accept that their son back talked me or their daughter keeps disrupting the class.

‘Oh but he’s such a good boy he can’t….’

He jolly well can and if you aren’t going to take responsibility he will grow up an arrogant fool and nobody will like him.

For example, a student was late for his lesson and his mother texted that he couldn’t wake up, and it’s fine, of course, sometimes people can’t wake up because they need the extra sleep. So I said,

‘Ok, that’s fine. We can resume next lesson.’

There. End of.

But then she goes on to say, ‘Andrew wakes up at night, he struggles to wake up, and he has poorer health than others. He ate cereal last night and it didn’t agree with him, I think it’s the milk, maybe I should start giving him fruit if he wakes up hungry.’ [this is the literal text, by the way]…. ON and ON and ON.

I get that you want me to understand that he isn’t being spoiled and there is a genuine reason for his tiredness, but spare me all the details.

I really don’t care, lady. It irritates me because then I have to REPLY to it, and I really don’t want to because I didn’t want to know the details about Andrew anyway. He is so rude to me, honestly, and gets really pissy when I correct him, even though it’s my job to, and when I try to explain to him where he went wrong he just grunts at me. Which is rude for a 12 year old boy. But his mother brushes it off saying his cereal put him in a bad mood, or ‘he takes his study so seriously and gets really upset when he gets it wrong.’

Son, you are going to get it wrong plenty of times so learn to deal with it and move on. So I roll with it and smile and nod and say ‘good job’ while inside I am just really wishing I could tell him to stop whining and get on with it.

She also has to bribe him to have lessons, by promising him sweets. Makes my blood boil. She is basically bending over backwards to make him out to be this angel when really he is disrespectful and is too big for his boots, and needs a slap.

Some mothers think that other people have no right to say their kid has done wrong, even if said other person is dealing with their kid for hours and hours a day, even if said person is MARRIED to their kid. No, only you can decide if your kid is being naughty. I think that is very wrong.

My mum’s friend told me she saw that her daughter was being told off by her class teacher at school and suddenly she was gripped with this rush of anger making her hurdle down the stairs so fast to intercept it.

What? I said, But surely the teacher has a right to do that? How else will the teacher maintain discipline in the class?

The lady wasn’t having any of it, though.

Oh no. Not to my baby. She’s an angel, she would never do anything naughty, nobody else can tell her off but me!

I really, really have had it this morning. It’s a combination of lack of sleep, D acting like a big child and being moody with me (because, I dunno, my hair’s a mess?), his whole family in the room last night at 10pm when I just wanted to go to bed because I have been awake since 5:45am and need to get up at 5:45am again tomorrow, and my head pounding like a thousand Thor hammers creating a racket in there, but no, they can sit around and chill while I am blatantly waiting to sleep, his mother babying him (if I hear one more ‘awww my baby’ I will explode!), and all these mothers making excuses for their rude little children.

If I spoke to my teacher like that (I wouldn’t dare to, out of respect), my mother would nip that in the bud quicker than I could blink. She would march me over there and make me apologise, and forget watching movies or having treats for a good week (which is AGES in child time).

Well. Who knows what I will be like when I am a mother. Hopefully I will be sensible and recognise when my child has done wrong, rather than make them think they are angels walking on this earth.

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The Naughty Boy – George Bernard O’Neill

Quest

Today, I had a day all to myself.

I woke up early, as I usually do, around 5:45am. I helped D leave for work at 6:20 and then I ran around gathering all my things like a maniac, throwing it all in my car and zooming off to the train station. As I started the ignition I realised my windscreen was frosted over. In April! Good heavens, what is the world coming to?

But I had a train to catch in 7 minutes and I hadn’t even collected my tickets so I zoomed off anyway, sitting low in my seat so I could see through the gap at the bottom of the windscreen between the hard frost on my car. Heater on full blast, windscreen wipers scraping away furiously as the heater melted the solid ice slowly but surely.

Parked in a carpark right next to the station, that charged me £4 for the whole day. Not bad for Britain, frankly, and for the area.

Grabbed my tickets and flew down the stairs leading onto platform 4, where a pile of people stood close to the edge, eyes bagged and clutching cups of steaming coffee with tired claws, as though they were grasping at their lifeline for the day.

For many, it probably was. A lifeline, that is.

Anyway. I was early for my train yay and as I stared at the large rocks surrounding the train tracks, right on the edge of the platform, my breath coming out in puffy little clouds (it’s APRIL!), I thought apprehensively of what awaited me at the other end.

I mean aside from getting off at the Grand Central in Birmingham and marching through the throng of town to Moor street and getting the train to Warwick and walking it to Warwick Hospital where a dermatologist awaited me.

She checked my hair. My scalp was perfectly healthy. The hair count at the back of my head was normal, but on the top and on the sides my hair count was significantly decreased. Widening part.

‘You have female pattern baldness.’

What. No blood tests? No genetic tests? No checkups? No second opinion? Is that it?

So it seems my research was correct, and I do have androgenetic alopecia? Inherited, most probably, from my father, who was bald at the age of 25? Well. I shan’t take that with a pinch of salt. I will have to get a second opinion, of course, but generally, I (almost) know what is wrong and what my options are.

Anyway. As I said, I had a me day. I went shopping in Birmingham and bought myself a really nice scarf with bold patterns. It would make me look quite classy, I thought. It smells like peaches and brand-new-ness.

I had a smoothie, and sat down for a little bit of spiritual contemplation. And you know what? I am content.

I (sort of) know what is wrong with me. I know it’s not the end of the world. I am a very lucky, very blessed young person. I have so much going for me, why should I waste my life feeling sorry for myself because my hair follicles are choosing to misbehave? Let them. I am me.

I am a Lenora Sparrow, aged 22 years old.

My MIL said to me today, ‘Oh I remember, Len, you had such thick, curly hair.’ because I lamented that I probably always had thin hair, but she (she’s watched me grow up you know) affirmed it. My hair was luxuriously voluminous and I am happy because naturally, I have great hair. It’s just this disease that is hindering it from flourishing.

Anyway.

I am content. There is a cure. There is help. Everything is not bleak. If you have stuck with me this far, I wish you well. So well. And I send you some love.

Love Letters #5

This love in tinged in darkness, I’m afraid.

I stand alone, in an empty bedroom. My clothes are strewn all over the floor. I can’t tell if I am in love, or if I am afraid.

A crumpled letter is gathering damp from my sweaty palms, clenched around it so tightly that I cease to feel where my clammy skin ends and the paper begins.

My hair is a black, scraggly mess, and my frame feels small under the weight of the large black hoody that shrouds my shoulders, several sizes too large for me. My feet are like lobsters, spread out flat on the varnished floorboards upon which they stand.

If I could go back in time, I would. I would change everything.

His face looms in front of me, long and hard, his nose so sharp it could slice cheese. His lips so thin they ceased to exist when he smiled, baring his teeth that were gapped and tinged in brown.

Dear Cecelia,

You broke my heart. You are an evil, horrible girl. How could you do this to me. How dare you. I won’t let you leave me, Cecelia. I will hunt you down. I will knock on your door and take you away. I will report you missing and find you that way, and drag you away with me, kicking and screaming I don’t care you will love it. You belong to me, only me. You hurt me so much I punched a man in the face for shouting at his girlfriend. How dare he shout at her, how dare he, when my girl left me. Come home, Cecelia, please. Come home to me, come home to where you belong.

I don’t belong to you. I belong to me. I don’t belong to anybody. And why should I stay with somebody who treated me so horribly for so many months? Somebody who forced me to do things I didn’t want to do, who preyed on my naivety and innocence, when you knew so much better. Somebody who lied to me and made me lie? Your girl? I am not your girl. I never was, you lying scumbag. Kidnap me? You think any sane person would be enticed to go to somebody who threatens to kidnap them, and who calls them a hundred times a day?

If this is your kind of love, I don’t want it. This is no love.

Come home? You aren’t home. You are cold and barren and terrifying, with your threats and your tempers and your blackmail. You are loneliness and depression. You are fear and hatred. You are misery and fury. You are not home. You could never be home.

I belong at home, yes, millions of miles from you. I wish you were dead. I wish your brain were ash, I wish you would get run over by a car and be mutilated by ten lions before I ever set eyes on you.

The sun is setting. The room is cloaked in dark twilight, the gentle light of street lamps  outside filtering in through the net curtains. My clothes are shadowy mounds on the floor. My heart palpitates as my breath becomes loud and shallow.

Stop writing to me.

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Dear Lenora

Help me.

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I am terrified. I want this to be over. Why can’t it be over?

If somebody ignores any contact from you, manipulative psychopath, for years and years and years, then why do you persist in trying to get in touch?

LEAVE ME ALONE.

Can’t you hear? Isn’t this deafening silence an answer to you? You thick, selfish, disgusting, revolting, ignorant, arrogant, pretentious psychopath?

LEAVE ME ALONE.

I hate you. I HATE YOU.

I hate you.

I hate you.

I HATE you.

Thick, thick, skull. Loud grating voice. Evil cackle. Abusive, manipulative ways. Terrifying threats. Horrible, evil texts. The words on the screen make my flesh creep and my blood run cold.

Lenora. Help me.

 

What are you Afraid of?

Do you know what I’m really scared of?

I’m scared of the dark. I am terrified of the sharp shadows when I lie alone in bed. That is why I don’t like to sleep alone. I have never slept alone except that time when my family were all away for four months and I slept in my mother’s room in an empty house.

It took me hours to fall asleep every night because every creak of the house would jolt me awake, and every shadow frightened me. I have always shared a room with my sister, and when I moved out of home I shared with my husband, obviously.

I am scared of being alone. I don’t like loneliness, even though I relish solitude. I am scared my husband will see right through me and then just leave. I don’t tell him this, of course. He will see that I am a flaky fake and he won’t love me anymore.

Maybe.

I’m not a flaky fake. I am very real and solid and very much all here. But he might wake up one day and say,

That’s it, I would like to find a new human to live with thank you very much.’

I wouldn’t be the first person this has ever happened to, certainly. I am scared of that because I love him greatly and he is good for my soul and my heart and my brain.

I’m scared of failure. I am scared I will work my butt off and not get the results I need. Or not work my butt off and not get the results I need.

I am terrified of losing my parents/family. I would be devastated and heartbroken and so guilty because I am a moody git to them and it has something to do with my siblings not pulling their weight and it annoys me so much that I can’t be nice. When I moved out I realised that they are really lazy and don’t clean up and leave it all to my mother who is already doing so much and is half blind.

And that is why our house is messy.

There.

I said it aloud. And I hate that. I don’t want to go home to visit and always clean up. I am sick of them and their selfish ways. If you live there, you need to take care of your home. So I am a moody git. And I really don’t want to be.

Why, I think, can’t they be like normal people.

I am also afraid of fear. Living in fear is gut wrenching and tummy twisting. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

The last thing I am scared of, and it certainly isn’t my least biggest fear, is the loss of my soul.

Soul is very important. It is what makes you moral and kind and real and genuine and unpolluted. People who have rotten souls are generally horrible and don’t have any kind of filter and are cruel to other people and not compassionate. They are desensitised to horror and filth and unacceptable behaviour. People who are exposed too much to that sort of thing will never regain their innocence, unless they work really hard.

Like, for example, I used to swear a great deal. It was always eff this and eff that. It is just harsh and vulgar, and a sign that my soul wasn’t that great. I mean, people can swear all they like and still be kind etc but when I did it, I was really horrible and misguided. That’s just me personally. Now, when somebody swears, I flinch a little. Which might be wimpy and cheesy but it’s true. I don’t like it. It depresses me, all that swearing. It’s petty and childish and really unoriginal. I think originality is warmth.

I think that language is so diverse and there are millions of words out there and swearing might cut it if something terrible happens or whatever but there are so many more creative words to use than the ‘f’ word. So, so many more, to be said by creative minds and to be received by minds hungry for creativity.

For example the other day when my sister was cross with me she called me a ‘bulging toad’. Which was funny and made us laugh and also wasn’t a horrible swearword insulting my mother’s birthing abilities.

Anyway.

What are you afraid of?

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Frowny. (stop correcting me autocorrect).

D: Are you okay?

Me: *types furiously*

D: Are you okay? You look… pissed off.

Me: That’s my resting face. You should KNOW this by now.

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But yes, I am frowny. I frown when I am writing and when I am driving. Other drivers don’t like me because I always scowl at them, even when I raise my hand in thanks for letting me pass. I frown when I am walking to get a sandwich from the bakery. I frown when I am lifting weights at the gym so I can get a nice booty.

When I realise I am frowning, I try to stop, of course. But it creeps back seconds later when my mind wanders elsewhere.

I am going to be a frowny, wrinkly old lady.

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She looks cross for a reason though.

 

Why do you Write?

Hello.

I love to write. I don’t know why. Usually I fall asleep telling myself a story. It has crackling characters, spitting with energy. They get up to an awful lot. It’s a bit like a soap opera that has been going on since I was about eleven.

It’s not really a soap opera, though.

Ugh. Who am I kidding. It is exactly that. How embarrassing to admit it. I despise soap operas.

Not that I judge soap operas or their people.

Who am I KIDDING. I do judge them. Terribly so.

I like to write because I feel like I can explore aspects of my personality through other people that I have created. I could also make them do things I could only dream of doing – although, if I really wanted to do those things I would jolly well get up and do them, but I’m too lazy, that’s what – so I just write about them doing those things instead.

I write because I could make my characters do things I couldn’t morally do, unless I am having an intrusive and unsociable thought.

I write because sometimes I have a lot of feelings and they want to manifest themselves into words. I sit back and survey these words and I think, ‘gosh, Lenora, that is exactly how I was feeling, you got it so right.’

Of course, that is only true for me. For somebody else reading my words, well, it might just be a clutter of irritation, or inconvenient confusion. Take your pick.

Then I generally have a cup of tea because tea and words get along like peanut butter and jam. (Very freaking well is how they get along)

I love words. I love how some people can twist and shape them into intricate chains that inspire fireworks of thought in my brain. Wow. That string was so amazing, how did he do that? Or, my gosh, that phrase was arresting, was she descended from the angels, to speak to my soul so?

Wordsmiths are kindred spirits. I think people who write so well must be earnestly passionate. Not sexually (although, maybe, right?), but their minds must be enigmatic. Electricity. Like a Mr Rochester (oh, I didn’t like him though.). Or.. or… well, a Mr Bhaer! Or a Ned Worthington (from What Katy Did Next). I fell in love with Ned Worthington and I still secretly harbour a literary affection for him. If I were fictional I might be awfully horrid and try to steal him from Katy. If he looked at me I would probably faint. Don’t tell my husband.

 

So, dear reader, why do YOU like to write? I am sure everybody has different reasons. Please feel free to share, I am so curious.

Procrastination.

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I drew. Damian tidied up my rough edges and colour spillage. I’m the messy one, he is neat and meticulous. It was 3am. We were drunk on fatigue. Saturday night, laptop screens illuminating the room with poorly constructed sentences about topics neither of us cared about. We spent forty minutes drawing procrastinating.

There is something so divine and therapeutic about lazing about and drawing, taking turns together, knowing full well there are assignments to be submitted by 7pm tomorrow.

The house is dark and still. There is complete silence, save for the tap tapping of the pencil on the screen.

Love Letters #4

When I was nine years old I wrote a poem, for a girl called Lilly. I put it in her pocket while we were waiting in line for PE. She smiled at me, not noticing what I had done, and when she went home her mother washed her dress and she never saw it.

When I was eleven we sat next to each other in science class and dissected a frog. She turned to me afterwards and stared solemnly with her large brown eyes and said,

‘I want to be a doctor.’

When I was sixteen, I caught a bus because I saw Lilly’s heavy brown hair hanging over the side of her shoulder as she slept against the window. I stood at the front, holding the rail, as the bus tilted her head this way and that, her cheeks flushed with exhaustion. On her lap was a pile of books about brains and bodily functions. I got off before she woke up.

When we were both seniors about to apply for university we sat in the darkness of an alcove at prom night and she told me she wanted to save people.

I told her I wanted to fix things.

She leaned over and put her soft cheek, faintly sprinkled with fine glitter, on mine. I closed my eyes. Her scent was cinnamon and chocolate.

At university there was a girl called Lilly. She wasn’t my Lilly. She was loud and brash and fainted at the sight of blood. Her hair was bright red, and her face was tiny and pretty and she knew it and flaunted it, which isn’t a bad thing at all, but it made her a little arrogant. Still, I kissed her one night, and then carried on kissing her at different intervals, very frequently, for eight months, before I found her behind the medical building in the arms of a hunky athlete.

While I was a student doctor at age twenty, injecting needles into the hands of outpatients I saw a flash of long brown hair passing by the waiting room but couldn’t run after her because my hands were tied. My heart picked up pace and my hands were unusually shaky. Was it even her? I don’t know. Maybe I just desperately wanted it to be.

I got married to a Lillian when I was just twenty one. She had a short blonde bob and a sharp little nose. She was a nurse practitioner and I was a student doctor. We rarely saw each other and when we did, we had only time for passion. Perhaps that was why our marriage lasted for three years. When we finally came home one day and kicked off our shoes and sat down to dinner, we realised we didn’t know each other, and what little we did know didn’t entice either of us to know any more. So, very amicably, Lillian packed her bags and flew to Tanzania where she did charity work in a hospital. She sent me so many postcards, and sometimes called, her voice fuzzy and broken up by thousands of wires over thousands of miles of desert and sea between us.

When I was twenty five, I was a doctor. I worked in the emergency department and I fixed people as best I could, holding their limbs together and picking out tarmac from their fractured skulls while their mothers and spouses and siblings sobbed in the waiting room. Sometimes they were wheeled away from me, my hands bloody, a sheet laid gently on their faces, and when I got home I lay under the hot water of the bath with my eyes tightly shut and suppressed my emotions.

I want to save people.

I want to save people.

When I was twenty six it was 2am. I sat on a plastic chair with my head in my hands and stared at the pale green floor under my shoes. There was shouting around me, suddenly, and I heard my name being called urgently and when I stood up they were wheeling her in. Her face was deathly pale against the pillow and her small mouth was turned downwards, her thick brown hair spread around her. She looked like an angel, except for the mangled way her tiny little limbs were spread out and the heavy bloodstain on the front of her small little dress. Her father was frantic beside the stretcher, his own face speckled with blood, and the nurses were trying to push him back but he was heavy and strong and there was anguish in his teary eyes.

‘Car accident.’

‘Please. She’s my baby. I just want to be here. Incase.. I just…’

They led him out, consoling, calming, holding his back, and we began to defibrillate her small fibrillating heart. The beeps on the machine showed that she wasn’t responding so we tried again, and again, and again and again until the room swam around my head and we had to pull yet another sheet over another child’s face, inhibited with but not alienated by the icy stillness of death.

Dear Lilly,

I’ve learnt you can’t always fix people, and you certainly can’t always save them, and sometimes, you can fix them but can’t save them. 

My heart had hardened a little. It had to. I had no other choice. I came in to work, I pushed and I stitched and I clutched lives by their final threads, pulling them slowly, gently backwards, careful not to tear them and in doing so rip apart so many people’s lives, then I went home and soaked my body in hot water and socialised and visited my family and laughed and joked and blotted it all out.

When I was twenty six I was full of hope but also aware of grim reality. So when I saw her, her hair pulled up and away from her gentle face, a white coat on and a clipboard in her hands, following another doctor down the corridor, I didn’t chase after her or slip any poems into her pockets as she passed me by so closely that I got a whiff of cinnamon and chocolate. I watched her walk slowly away, my hands buried in my pockets, exhaustion making my vision tinged with red, and I turned and went back to my reports.

Dear Lilly,

I don’t know if you know, or even if you remember me, but throughout my years, you have helped me grow.

 

End note: The painting below is ridiculously stunning. The level of skill in those paint strokes are making me sick with envy. I can’t believe it, can you? I want to learn to create stories like that with paint. Check out more of Leonid Afremov’s work following the link below, if you like. I don’t know who he is but isn’t his name so gloriously romantic? His painting inspired this story. I hope he doesn’t mind me using it on my blog.