Life, before.

Daily writing prompt
Do you remember life before the internet?

I am glad this prompt came up because I was thinking about this today as I wiped the dining table down with a vigour I reserve only for pre-bedtime stress release.

I thought about when daily life was devoid of access to everything and everybody all at once.

I did not exist before the internet. It was officially established (according to… the internet) in 1983 and I was born eleven years after that, in 1994.

However, I like to believe I lived a life devoid of the internet for the longest time possible. Mainly because my parents were what they call ‘dinosaurs’ and what some might call a ‘luddite’ – a person who is fearful of and disdainful towards advancing technology –

My parents believed that television was extremely bad for children’s brain development. So we didn’t have one. We didn’t get a wifi router until I was 16 years old, and I distinctly remember a time in the early 2000s where we did not have a landline telephone.

When everybody started getting mobile phones my mother resisted and resisted until one of her friends finally gave her one in 2007 because they needed to get hold of her and were frustrated when they couldn’t.

So yes, I can remember a time before the internet. I used to call my friends on their own landlines in their own homes and talk to them for hours. We used to agree on a time and place to meet when we had weekend plans and had no way of knowing if one of us was stuck in traffic or wasn’t going to make it. I used to send letters to my friends back in the UK when I lived in the Middle East and it would take months to get a reply – until we finally got email via dial-up internet in 2008.

I don’t think of that time in any particular fond way, I was just too young I guess to enjoy the simpler things life had to offer before everything became more complicated whilst simultaneously becoming easier.

I do think there is some joy to be obtained from complexity.

That can be applied both ways.

I have run out of steam.

Goodbye.

On Puzzling

It took me two hours to complete a simple cuboid puzzle yesterday.

My 9 year old sister in law took it apart and asked me to put it back together, and it stumped me. I told her not to tell me the answer, and just sat there for two hours trying to figure it out. My inlaws were playing with my kids so I had no parental responsibilities – just me and this cloud of despair.

What’s wrong with my brain?! I said to my mother in law.

Nothing at all. Was her response. I couldn’t do a puzzle like that. We mothers are just not in the right mindset.

As I puzzled over the puzzle, growing increasingly frustrated, my fingers itched and tingled because I knew I could point at the solution, but it was just tantalisingly inches out of my grasp.

I became determined that I would not stop until I solved it.

It won’t take me all day. I vowed. Impossible. I simply must solve it!

As I slotted the pieces in and out and over each other, I thought about why it was so difficult for me.

Well, firstly, all I do in a day is organise, plan, change nappies, haul babies this way and that, assess moods, feed hungry bellies, clean messes, and then collapse in bed in a heap of exhaustion. I am not solving puzzles, I am organising little lives and keeping small people alive. So my mind is in a different mental mode.

My puzzle brain is rusty, old, replaced by the adrenaline brain.

The brain that makes my heart beat right out of my chest when I hear a loud crash. The brain that detects the slightest variation in a pitch of a child’s cry to determine whether to kick the panic into gear or not. The brain that has existed for four years just for the survival of someone else. Bonded deeply to two little humans, alert to every need, every desire, wholly invested in their safety. Little pieces of my heart traversing the world, and I throw out a net of consciousness around them – that takes all my brain power.

It’s not that I can’t do it, I realised. It’s that I haven’t done it enough recently.

My husband, by contrast, solved it in 3 minutes. But he spends all day puzzling things, finding solutions to complex problems at his place of work. His brain has been puzzling non-stop for years, so he can easily apply his puzzling skills to this simple little puzzle and figure it out.

People are not stupid or dunces, they just haven’t oiled the various parts of their brains which makes them adept at certain things.

Anyway.

I solved the puzzle after two hours.

The solution, as I knew all along, was glaringly obvious and shamefully easy.

And I felt wonderfully elated!

The end.

Image Credit: Andrew Judd

Nineties

I love nineties movies.

That’s such a globalised thing to say.

The way old me – the me not tainted by the internet and TUMBLR – would put it is ‘I love films made in the nineties’.

I do.

They make me nostalgic.

Which is funny because my life in the early nineties didn’t exist. I was just an egg.

Then in the mid-nineties I was born.

I was really a child and adolescent of the naughties.

But I do rather much prefer the nineties.

It was like the teetering cusp.

Of what?

Old and new, I suppose.

Archaic traditions marrying new age technological revolution but we were still mostly analogue so there was a lot of purity left in the world.

Now I peer out at my world through pixellated curtains and it’s a burning shambles is what it is.

But I don’t want to talk about all that. While I can, I sometimes like to hunker down under three blankets (it’s cold in my part of the world. Spring blossom appears on trees but it’s below freezing and there is frost on the grass in the mornings) and watch films made in the early 1990s.

The hair.

The clothes.

The speech.

The lack of identity politics. The lack of fury for the sake of fury.

Just people livin’ their lives – ‘unproblematically’.

Call me ‘old fashioned’. Because yes I know each time period comes with its own set of problems. But – the heart yearns for what it yearns for.

I would like to hunker down with a mug of earl grey tea with some milk and no sugar and watch films made in the nineties.

And read books written by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

And lose myself in lost lands.

On Things

Hello! (Said in a voice like Izzy. Loud, there is an upwards inflection on the ‘o’ at the end, it’s cheerful, but there is a hint of trying something – too hard?)

It’s March! (Said in a voice like ME. A GIRL. No. Not a girl. A WOMAN. The child me cringes at that word, I used to think a ‘woman’ was an awful thing. I always wanted to be a ‘lady’. The woman me cringes at ‘lady’. Seems to me that to be a ‘lady’ is a patriarchal invention. To keep the WOMEN looking pretty for the male gaze. Staying prim in their kitchens and nurseries and painting pictures and filling their heads with frills. A WOMAN hoes onions. Hoovers stairs. Lifts two children with her solid, muscular arms. Works hard. Loves fiercely. Fills her mind with knowledge. Whatever it may be. She writes and reads and [read the following as verbs] mothers and daughters and sisters and wifes [no not wives – she VERB wife’s] and she is an entity in and of herself and…. I DIGRESS!).

it’s march.

the month I adore.

mainly because I was born in march.

i was loved when I was born. i was loved till I was 8 or 9, and then I was just… there.

Anyway. I adore March.

March in the UK this year is blustery, I am afraid. Cold. But we have glorious blossoms on glorious trees and my neighbours recently trimmed their apple tree and a couple of the branches fell over into our side of the garden, and I could see the buds forming on the branches so I seized them, precious things that they are, and put them in old glass jars filled with water and in my kitchen, right now, a miracle is happening. Buds are opening their delicious petals to the warmth of my oven and hob and the hum of my woman self humming as I prepare meals for my family. There is a spring in my kitchen. And it makes me so glad.

But folks, I am tired. I am on my feet from 5 am most days till about 1 am. And then I sleep a deep sleep only to be seized out of it and shaken viciously awake by a new day and my responsibilities.

I have no time to write or read. Just work. And kids.

And I am also prioritising time with my kids. To play with them and teach them. Things like fungus growing on old tree trunks and how not to slap each other when one doesn’t get their way. Things like washing one’s hands after one eats and how to not squash a ladybird to death everytime we examine one. Things like a cup full of fat juicy wriggly worms. Things like not eating soil. Things like ‘mowing the lawn’ with a pair of scissors. Things like not pulling Grandma’s cat’s tail. Things like days of the week and months of the year and years of the decade and century and what people did. Things like not wiping your hands on the chair in the same breath you use to tell me about the solar system.

Wondrous wondrous eyes.

Wondrous children.

Bittersweet, sad, joyful and frustrating.

If you are a parent, and if your child has long flown the nest, how do you manage the heartbreak? Or are you sensible about your emotions?

A Quiet Life

What’s a quiet life, to you?

If the first thought that sprung to your mind is … a comfortable retirement?

Comfortable retirement. Dancing in the living room. Through the dining room. Tap on the shoulder in the kitchen, lit only by a lamp and the shadows of the plants behind his back moving as they sway gently across the hall. Lines deepening on faces, death followed by new life. Leaves falling and blooming again. Piercing cries in the night, but this time they belong to the generation below their progeny so they sleep a little deeper. Urgency no longer beckons them in their dreams, it does not sit on their shoulders anymore and they do not hear it when they are in the shower. Piercing cries. Precious baby they can love without shackles.

What is a quiet life… to you?

Oh, you there. Yes you. I see it in your eyes.

Your quiet life is still. Even in the chaos there is a dark stillness that shrouds your heart as you wander slowly through a crowded hall with two beautiful loves clinging to your skirts, and you see those who are like you, but not like you, and you feel on the fringes again.

Urgency calls you.

It’s a silent kitchen is a quiet life.

Voiceless.

Echo.

Empty buildings, the sun setting and slanting through the dusty glass and the road outside is still, dry, dust pooling on the pavements because..

Nobody calls you.

You grow alone and you may die alone.

That’s a quiet life.

And there is frustration because you have always felt this deep chasm of loneliness. And you thought it would go away. In your teens you waited. In your twenties you yearned. And you approach 30 and it’s banging on your door this desolation and it won’t go away.

You tell yourself, your mother, your people.. you tell them you’re cosy in this cocoon of isolation.

But you aren’t.

You aren’t.

You worry this will seep through the invisible gossamer veil that hangs delicately between you and your children, you worry it will shroud them too like a clingy web that won’t go away.

You don’t want this sadness to be theirs. This loneliness to ache in their chest. Their precious hopeful faces.

You don’t want a quiet life for them.

So you aren’t. Cosy. Happy. Content.

What is your quiet life?

Were Their Faces Dirty?

I really like to look at old buildings as I sit in the modern day life of hustle and bustle and minds sucked into a cloud of technological machinery grating against each other.

The clock tower, with its ancient clock, still ticking away one hundred and fifty years after some hands carefully welded it all together. Single pane windows underneath a plaque set in bricks which reads ‘AD 1859’ and I think, who peered out of those windows in 1860? Who walked the streets I now walk? I think of how they were dressed and what they could possibly have thought about, and whether they wore hats and then pssshh, of course they wore hats.

They all dressed well back in those days, or at least we like to think they did. Were their faces dirty, though?

The clocktower I was looking at today, as I sat having a chocolate chip shortbread biscuit in Chatwins, the bakery opposite this Market Hall in Sandbach, Cheshire. It did not look like this today, as this photo was taken in the summer 🙂

Beautiful Moment

I went out to get ice cubes today. Morrison’s is just round the corner from where I live and so I set off with a short list in my hand, and some change gathering sweat in the other.

It was a sunny day. I passed a lot of charity shops (thrift stores) on the way, and I paused as I always do to look at the selection of books they usually set on pretty tables outside. Lots of nice things, really. Only I am a bit poor this month, so I shook my head and walked on. An old lady started to smile at me.

I quickly looked away. Then in that split second I thought, why.

Why do I always look away when I catch people’s eyes? What if they fancied a smile and nothing more?

I smiled at her and the expression on her face appeared to be one of pleasant surprise.

So I decided to let go of this people avoiding shell and be a bit more friendly. I am new in this town afterall. Might as well make me some smiling buddies.

As I was walking towards the entrance to Morrison’s, an Indian lady walked out. Well, she looked Indian. For all I knew she could have been Sri-Lankan. She wore a bright pink and purple traditional shalwar-kameez, and her hair was gloriously snowy white. He face was brown as a nut; the deep rich brown of being out in the sun and living and there were wrinkles on her face painted in the gesture of a smile.

I smiled at her because her face looked so inviting. It was a bogus smile at first. The tentative dipping of one’s toe in cold, unfamiliar waters. Then I saw her look at me, and her face lit up. As though she knew me. Her smile in return started off small, but as the seconds passed it spread all over her face like sunshine.

I was so taken aback that I reflected it with one of my own. I felt my mouth sliding upwards of its own free will. I felt it surge deep within me.

She was smiling at me like she knew me. Like she was my grandmother looking at me after years of being apart. Like our souls had met before and this was their glimpse of each other in physical form.

Then the moment passed and I was walking through the sliding doors of the supermarket. I couldn’t help but glimpse back at her as she trudged on with her shopping bags, without a backward glance. 

Perhaps I am exaggerating this moment, perhaps I am reading too much into it. Nevertheless, it is one which I will never forget! I shall make it my point to smile, really smile, at people more often. The aftermath of it is so rich and joyful.

Perspective

What annoys you?
That is what she asked.
But there was no frown on the other’s face, so I assumed it was a general question.
I did not hear what the other said.
The rain fell on my nose.
Sometimes that would annoy me, and sometimes it would please me.
Do the things that annoy you annoy you all the time?
Or is their annoyingness contingent on the situation in which you currently find yourself when you’re annoyed by them?

This is a Monet. Specifically: The Thames at Westminster, by Claude Monet.

Hug

“Do you want a hug?” I asked my sister.

We don’t do affection. At all. Ever.

“She doesn’t,” my mum said, when my sister didn’t answer me.

I was at the door, leaving home to go back to my home after the christmas-new year break.

“Ahh, I think she does,’ and I went to hug her.

“I’m just awkward,” she murmured into my shoulder, so I gave her an extra squeeze for good measure.

My family do not show affection. It’s clumsy, awkward, strange.

Once my sister was in a state of Terrible Hurt. She was crying alone in her bedroom, in her bed, under a pile of clothes and blankets. Normally we are catty with each other, but that one time I went into her dorm room, climbed into bed with her and held her while she cried.

‘Go away” she said in the end, sniffling.

I didn’t go away, and she didn’t ask me to again.

I don’t know why it’s strange and weird and awkward to give my family affection, when I do it so freely with my children and husband. With my cousins and aunts. With my friends.

Why is it so hard?

I love them all so fiercely.

So why is it so hard?

Liver Pâté

Are you a parent?

If you are, I think you can attest that one of the toughest, most worrying things as a parent is seeing your child ill.

My son has been so ill recently. He has caught one thing after another from nursery, and has developed huge dark circles under his eyes, and lost some weight. I can feel his little tiny bones through his skin, and he has lost that round chubbiness of toddlerhood.

It’s the most troubling thing and frankly I am just burdened by it.

Now of course we are having him checked up by doctors and whatnot, but I also sat down to research some ways to add nutrients into the body after bouts of illness and weightloss.

One of the biggest causes for dark circles around eyes is vitamin A deficiency. I have no proof (yet) that my son is deficient in vitamin A but it can’t harm to get some down him, can it?

Liver is apparently one of the biggest sources of vitamin A, so I sourced some liver from the local butcher.

I hated liver growing up. My father loves it, and the Moroccan way to cook it is to cut it into small pieces, fry it up with onions, garlic, coriander and a bit of cumin. Lots of seasoning, and the resulting liver in gravy concoction is eaten with some crusty bread. Freshly baked french loaf is the tastiest option, according to my family. I could never eat this food. The smell of liver alone put me off, and therefore eating it was simply impossible.

I am an adult now. And I know that liver is an excellent source of nutrients for my unwell child, so I looked up ways to cook it where it would not taste so… LIVERY.

One great way is making liver pâtĂ©! It’s liver cooked up with onions and garlic, some dijon mustard, balsmic vinegar, herbs and seasonings…. and a LOT of butter. You can spread it on toast or crackers and it’s just a really tasty savoury spread. So I made some tonight while my kids were in bed.

Let us see how well it goes down tomorrow, ey.

Image credit