Note: I write these daily Novembers to the background noise of my kids screaming. These days like to run around chasing each other and scream. It’s some kind of game. Their cries pierce right through my ears. They interrupt my thoughts and halt my words and make my brain feel like mush . I stop them sometimes, and other times I let them do it, because it seems like they enjoy it and they need to get it out of their system.
I am actually behind.
I am behind and I could panic about it but I won’t.
I won’t let the overwhelm overwhelm me.
Let this be my 25th post.
It has no substance.
My brain is mush.
But brains are mush. And it is within that mush that ideas grow.
First, what do you call your cup of tea? Just tea? Or are you like my mum, ‘Ooooh I need a cuppa,’ as she sits down after a trip to town.
Are you more northern, and need a ‘brew’ to perk you up for the rest of the day?
‘I can’t have anything sweet,’ a friend told me yesterday, ‘else I’ll need a brew with it.’
A brew, I mused, a brew. How homely does that sound!
I call my tea just plain tea. I am not from the south like my mum, because I grew up in another country. I am not from the north, I just live here. My accent is different; I say ‘dinner’ instead of ‘tea’ and ‘lunch’ instead of ‘dinner’. So I just have plain old tea.
My husband makes rubbish tea. Sometimes when he makes me tea I have to wait for him to disappear so I can pour it down the sink and make a fresh one.
Tea bag in, one teaspoon of sugar. Pour boiling water on top, let sit for a good 3-5 minutes to ‘brew’ (maybe Northerners call it ‘brew’ because like their tea strong?), then a glug of milk, a good stir, teabag out, another thorough stir and bob’s your second cousin.
My husband loves my tea. Says I make the best tea he has ever had. I don’t know if that is a ploy to keep me making him tea.
He has to have something sweet with his tea. His favourite biscuit is the chocolate chip shortbread. Mine is a viennese whirl. Yum. Or a viennese chocolate finger.
My mum likes to dunk chocolate digestives in tea.
When we were small, she would give us a biscuit and we could dunk it in her tea.
‘Can I dip my biscuit in your tea?’ we would ask, whenever we saw her sit down with a mug.
How do you like your tea? And do you have something to go with it? Do you like tea with company? Or a book? Or a scenic scene? Or just by yourself on a sunny afternoon or raining evening?
And it’s the season where spring is kissing the summer, gentle touch, thick green foliage and the promise of waxy green leaves ever-growing.
And the light is waning, fading, pink tinged clouds in the distant sky, their edges grey at the top, the sky brighter here, darker there, and there is a silent darkness descending upon the earth. Plunged into the fringe of shadow, light deepening with every passing moment, but you don’t realise until the street lamps are suddenly making themselves known.
I am walking home, and others are walking home from work, driving home, headlamps thrusting my shadow before me, making it grow larger and larger and then shorter before vanishing.
Lights blink on in the houses I pass, and I cannot help but glance into windows of warm, golden cosiness.
Pictures on walls, fairy lights adorning a heavy oak bookshelf, pretty curtains, trailing plants, glint of gleam, bobbing head of a child dancing in a living room…
And always a TV screen. Flickering. Light flashing, then dimming, then flashing again. Colours and words and laughter waltzing across the screen, thoughts filtering into numb brains. Evening. Shut down. Unwind. Consume.
What did people do before the invention of television?
Sew by the fire maybe. Read a book, or the newspaper, and talk about it. Listen to the radio. Or ‘wireless’ as they called it in the War. Crochet, knit. Paint. I don’t think it’s wrong to watch a bit of telly of an evening. I am sure people talk to each other during it.
I just find it interesting. All houses seem to have a box that beams out ideas and colour and thoughts and content and light, and I wonder if we are senselessly consuming something designed to ensnare our brains?
The next day at work someone says ‘Oh did you see that interview last night?’
And everybody nods and Natasha begins to excitedly give her take on it, and others chime in, and Bob googles a YouTube video to debunk what the interview was about, and they all jump on him, and they end in laughter, each taking their tea back to their desk… but I cannot help but wonder, what if we are being distracted from something?
Living in a twilight world. Can’t see properly and yet… and yet it’s still so bright.
Today I found an old diary from when I was sixteen years old. That was eleven years ago.
Colour leapt out at me from the crackly lined pages of the cheap poundland A5 book. Band names, song lyrics, addresses and phone numbers. Random phrases, supposedly ‘cool’ taglines, self-depreciating paragraphs… and underneath it all a desperate and futile attempt to make sense of who I was.
‘Oh to be sixteen again,’ I thought with a sigh. I thought of my six month old fat cherub and my two year old little terror with a heart of gold and my mundane days and my anxieties and my adult worries and my tedious conversations about paint and toddler beds and sippy-cups..
And life leapt out at me from those pages.
Hope and elation and soaring optimism. I thought there was a road ahead of me and I was giddy because I did not know where it lead and I was full of beans because I did not have a c section scar and loose skin from insane pregnancy weight gain…
I remember running running running as fast as I could down a deserted street in the pouring rain and feeling as though there were wings on my converse shoes. You know the ones? Converse All Star? They were the rage among my group of peers when I was sixteen. I flew down that road. I sailed and my mind was above the clouds and my heart was … safe and mine.
Ohhhhh to be sixteeeeen.
But then I thought more about that. I thought about the vulnerability, the depression, the uncertainty. I thought about being a misfit and uncomfortable in my own skin and feeling ugly and like a failure and having no purpose. I thought about thinking certain people were God’s gift and feeling the desperate need to be liked by anybody.. so desperate that I would sometimes do and say stupid stupid things.
Oh I sure am glad I am twenty seven and not sixteen. I am glad I am on the nerve wracking train that is new parenthood. I am glad I am rediscovering myself again and gaining a confidence I wouldn’t have dreamt I could have at sixteen!
Signalling the happiness that seems to lie beyond reach but… oh hey, hullo, what is that softness I feel in my fingers as they graze the icy air? Could it be…?
Entire streets in my town are lit up. Santas climbing through windows and peering down chimneys and knocking on doors, carrying sacks of what we can only assume is hope. Desperate hope.
And people who never made an effort are making one.
It’s a bit like the American movies.
We take little one out for a small walk before dinner, when it’s pitch black under the heavy drapes of the winter sky at night. And all the houses are decked for conquest. Each competing with the other.
So eerie, if you stand still and let the breath cloud away in front of your face. Stone cold silent still, twinkling lights in the darkness. Sometimes faint bells ring and sometimes a disjointed jingle sears through the thickness of cold.
But then a pair of bright eyes meet yours from down somewhere by your knees, and tiny little fingers grasp your solid warm ones, and little feet stamp stamp stamp excitedly, and it’s not eerie after all. It’s joy. We all need a sprinkling of joy.
I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I am so so scared, but so hopeful too!
What are your plans for the holiday season this year, folks? Can you see and taste and smell it yet?
I often think about politicians and how quickly they age when they arrive in ‘office’. Barack Obama became president with relatively little grey in his hair, and eight years later left looking grizzled, more wizened, but still dapper. Boris Johnson looked like a lopsided clown for most of his time as mayor of London, but you can distinctly see a hollowing around his eyes that was not there previously. A strange look. Age? Narrow escape from the clutches of Covid? New baby? Or just a side-effect of being the face of a nation? Something I think about. Can’t imagine why someone would want that job, but it’s a good job they do, else nobody would be in charge. Not sure how well they run the country but that’s another discussion entirely.
I have been spending too much time on social media again recently. It’s very bad for my brain. It also makes me irritated with humans in general. Like the people who message you demanding you follow so-and-so. No, Margaret. I will not follow ‘Fally’s Fashions’, a small boutique based in South Korea. I don’t live there, I will never visit the boutique, and it does not benefit me in any way. I don’t care if they’re ‘amazing’ and that they’re ‘really good friends’ of yours. It’s not like you’re asking me politely either. Gosh. Why were we friends in secondary school, again? Why are we friends on social media if we have drifted apart and never talk to each other? Back in the day when people drifted apart they did not have constant daily reminders of each others’ lives. I would never know Michelle had twins and is living it up in Australia, for example. Not sure why knowing this benefits me or her in any way. But I can’t unfollow because we used to go to school together and it’s … impolite.
See? What is online etiquette? She would never even notice if I unfollowed her. Or if she did, she would not care.. we NEVER talk! So weird.
I watched David Attenborough’s ‘Witness Statement’ that was recently released. It’s called ‘A Life on Our Planet’ and it basically shows how drastically the planet has changed in the 90 years that Sir Attenborough has been alive. Bloody hell. The timeframes they gave for the inevitable destruction of the earth based on the current trajectory (if we don’t do anything to stop and reverse climate change) is shocking. I found myself measuring it in my son’s lifetime instead of mine. It will be my child and his child who will feel the heaviest impacts of this. It’s so worrying. We can do so many things, but ultimately the hugest changes lie in the hands of the most powerful. And a lot of these powerful policy makers are big fat cheetoes who have lived over 70 years on earth and so won’t be around to see these horrific implications, and who also don’t believe in climate change. Bloody travesty is what it is.
Today, when I sat procrastinating doing some Very Important Admin, I was watching some youtube videos of people’s apartments. Most of these apartments were white, pristine, clean, looking as though they were designed expertly for a high end magazine. It looks suspiciously like there was some artful lighting placed invisibly just beyond the camera angles. The plants were brand new, the sofas hadn’t been sat on, there was no clutter at all.
No coffee cups, no newspapers, no books out of place, no pencils and pens, no thoughts lying on open pages, no crumbs evidencing food was consumed, no clothes absently draped over chairs and no thimbles left to roll on a windowsill. Did these Youtubers actually live in these homes? Or did they pay someone to make a set so that they could get some fabulous content?
I know some people like to live as though they were in a magazine, with no clutter at all anywhere. My husband is like this, which is why he hates my books (which I enjoy accumulating because they bring me comfort). He thinks that if I read a book, I ought to give it away as soon as I am done, so as not to make this house more cluttered than it is.
Anyway the point is, it has now become a trend to declutter your home, and live as though you dare not own anything ‘tacky’ or have any personal taste at all.It has to fit an ‘aesthetic’. Currently the trend is large green houseplants, slim lines, a dark green or blue feature wall, plenty of white, and some rustic ruggedness that is also pristine and new. People on social media apologise for their ‘cluttered’ homes, which are just personal spaces filled with things they enjoy having, depicting their personalities and interests.
So if you have clutter, you get judged. Not me, just people who post things and people who comment things.
Now, this is a stale argument in my marriage, but I happen to think that some clutter is a good thing. A little decoration piece that you got 6 years ago on the edge of a river. A post-it note from your classmate who is now traversing distant lands, but which reminds you of times when you couldn’t control your laughter. A tiny gondola made from murano glass with its edge snapped off, but which reminds you of early marriage days and sweet innocent love. It differentiates you from everybody else who has a feature wall and large houseplants.
It also makes you realise who YOU are.
I read a sad thing yesterday, where a lady who runs a youtube channel and an instagram page said, as though everybody else thought the same as her, ‘I regret painting my wall blue to fit an instagram aesthetic. Next time, you should choose a colour and design YOU like, not what instagram likes‘. It seems like a lot of social media orientated people are doing this.
Folks, sometimes you gotta drag yourself up and haul yourself to each of your jobs, one by one.
That is what I have to do this evening. Drag myself up and put some rice on, haul myself over to the bathroom to run a warm bath for a wriggly little baby, while scooping him off the bathroom floor numerous times and setting him firmly outside on the carpet. Oh no here he comes again, little hands smacking the floor in his excited haste to crawl into the bathroom. That boy loves bathrooms. He loves baths too.
Heave myself off this couch and glance at the stack of dishes in the sink. No way they are getting washed tonight. I am just about done. That bath will knock me out, then it will be getting boy into his pyjamas… mission impossible. He wriggles away and crawls off with a bare bottom, so fast, laughing at my futile attempts to drag him back to be changed. Then it will be reading so many books before bed, boy turning the pages faster than I can read them, because that’s the fun thing to do now.
Then it will be milk time, and then hopefully.. HOPEFULLY… he will turn on to his stomach and splay his arms about, wriggle a bit to get comfy, and slowly fall into slumber.
I say hopefully because last night slumber did not arrive for the fella. It choo chooed into the station, for sure. But boy did not get on that slumber train. He tossed and turned and eventually, frustrated and tuckered out, he cried. For hours and hours. Until 1:45am. YES I counted.
So hopefully tonight my dragging and hauling will yield me some dead time on the sofa before I crawl into bed.
In my life I have not been very kind to those I love the most. I don’t know why I do that. It’s something I can’t control at the time and then regret immediately. I’m not unkind all the time but I do it a lot when I feel irritated.
At the same time, I’ve been told numerous times that I am a kind person. When people say that I feel like an imposter. As a child I was kind, I remember being so, but I also remember being distinctly unkind.
There are many quotes floating around about kindness. The general consensus seems to be that it is an attribute people should strive towards. An action to be carried out without the need for a reward – expecting a reward for an act of kindness makes the act unkind. Despite the fact that it’s still the same action being carried out.
People have been kind to me when I have least expected it. For example once my bike chain broke on the side of the road and there were a bunch of skinheads smoking by the verge. When they saw me battling with my chain they approached me and I panicked thinking oh no they are going to be racist or attack me – but no they asked if I was ‘alright love’ and they fixed my bike chain for me whilst making merry.
They didn’t expect anything in return because they sauntered off once I was back on wheels again.
Being kind makes you feel good inside. Having someone be kind to you makes you warm to them. Humans need kindness, it helps us thrive.
There is something about the word British that makes me feel proud, and at the same time irritated. If you were to look at me, you would not think I was British. Namely because I am not white of skin and fair of hair – or just fair, for that matter.
You would probably change your mind once I opened my mouth.
I used to tell my colleagues that I grew up in Dubai. They took that to mean that I was FROM there, and would say things like, ‘oh you learned English pretty quickly‘, and ‘your accent is quite good‘ and ‘you sound distinctly Southern – who was your teacher?‘.
Well my teacher was my mother. She was born in Tooting, London. I was born there too. We are British, albeit very multicultural, so not English, just British. My accent is British because my parents are British, so even though we lived in another country, they maintained their British culture and passed it on to us. They didn’t design to do this intentionally – it just came about.
Do I get offended when people say these things to me? I used to. I was a bit green. I used to get indignant. Hey, I’m British, this is my country too.
I don’t always feel like it’s my country, especially when people tell me to ‘go back home’. How can I? This is home. This is my mother’s home too. My mother’s parents came from two different countries and so did my father’s parents.
So if I were to go ‘home’ you’d have to dissect my body into a million pieces and divide my cells according to which country they originated.. that would be messy.
I bloomed though, with the knowledge that I came from everywhere and nowhere. It made me stronger. It made me prouder of my heritage.
Some days I feel fiercely British, and proud of my country and its people and it’s polite manners. Other days I feel ashamed of its history and the way it colonised the world. Some days I love its people for their exceptional Britishness, and other days I despise them for their entitlement.
But as I grow I realise something – and that is not everyone is perfect. Every nation, culture, race has its flaws and it’s positive attributes. There is good in everyone and everything, and there is also bad.
It’s important to value who you are and where you came from – to BLOOM into what makes you, YOU. Most of the time you are who you are because of your family, heritage and culture. This is why I choose to embrace the good parts of being British, and how they define me, so I can feel proud to be so. I can also feel proud to be all the other cultures that I am, and how these have impacted my ‘Britishness’, enhancing it and helping me to bloom in the process.
Which aspects of your culture do you like? What do you dislike?