I miss summer, with its sudden thunderstorms and endless light.
Hot, silent, still.
The grass crackles and folds and pales under the glare of a ferocious sun.
And then the rain gushes down in a torrent akin to a waterfall. As quickly as it started, an invisible tap turns off, clouds scudding away to reveal the bluest skies.
Endless deep contemplation in the vast azure.
Stretching over the world and into the distance.
Paling even as it speeds away, until it dissolves into ethereal nothingness.
Hours seem endless, meditation and reflection come with ease. Welcoming atmosphere. Gentle breeze.
I suppose there is a beauty to autumn too. Summer has to burn itself out, and bow to the change in season. Accept the rain, accept age. Accept that life must stand still after months of ravenous growth.
There is a beauty to lashings of endless rain, droplets light enough to dust eyelashes like the smallest jewels. Smooth conkers, waterlogged grass, windfalls aplenty. Trees become sparse, pale, and then explode in a plethora of colour.
Amber and saffron and gold.
The earth sighs and releases her deep essence. The aroma of life. Mud and grass and dying vegetation, rich even in their demise. Generous in their sacrifice. Nutrients seeping into the soil, waiting to sit through icy months, feeding the dormant seedlings that will once again spring to life when the earth turns her face achingly towards the sun.
I miss summer, I do. But I know that in order for us to have a summer, we must also have an autumn and a winter and a beautiful spring.
She was a jellyfish, floating under a wave. Bobbing gently with the ebbing current. Her translucent hair swaying silently around her still face, eyes tightly shut, sealed like death merged with life.
She was the calm in a strong wind. The centre of a storm. The silence as the raging destruction hurled life over a precipice and into the unknown. The deep breath, pregnant with dread.
She was the shadows when you slept, the coat behind the door, the woman silently watching as you tried to coax yourself to sleep. She was there, even though you convinced yourself she was just the dressing gown. Everything looks frightening in the dark.
She was surreal reality, dread behind a closed door. She was the exhibit they ignored, because it made them feel uncomfortable. She was the haunting in Connecticut, the dried eyelids in a box. She was the soft breeze that blew out the candles when the windows were closed. She was the buzzing sound of a wasp when there was none to be seen.
She held her breath for as long as she could, and when she surfaced, life flooded into her in the gasps she took of the air which hummed with oxygen. Her eyes flew open, and reflected the vivid blue stretched over her head. The waves crashed on the distant shore, and her muscles ached with the struggle for life. She kicked, hard, and glanced back. Silhouettes stood on the beach, children’s laughter carried off by the wind.
She was alive, not dead. Death hadn’t captured her yet. The current was far from her curled toes, and she pushed her chest forward with strong strokes of her slender, young arms. Back to the shore.
‘Darling, you were away for so long!’, Mam said, as she meandered with long, swaying strides towards the blanket which lay slightly rumpled in the hot sand. She bent over and towelled her hair dry.
‘I was drinking the sea,’ she murmured.
‘Do you want a sarnie? Before Chris eats them all. We’ve got egg mayo and tuna.’
‘I nearly died, mam.’
‘Don’t be silly, we were watching you the entire time.’ her mother said, cheerfully, handing her a sandwich out of a fat orange Sainsbury’s bag next to her foldable beach chair.
She took it, a fat rectangle stuffed with filling and molded like a pillow in saran wrap. She looked at the sea, crashing gently on the shore. Swimmers splashed as the sun beamed down beautifully.
I am nearly finished reading this booked called ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover. Oh my goodness. I CAN’T put it down. It’s a memoir that certainly needed to be written. You know how some 20-somethings write ‘memoirs’ and you’re just reading it thinking, ok first, did this person ever read anything apart from the back of a jam jar? And secondly, this person did not live life yet, and the life they lived already is so mundane that they really should not have written about it.
But, like, teenagers buy this book by the millions because it’s a famous YouTuber that they love.
Yes, this book is NOT like those books. Sure, Tara Westover is relatively young, but her life is so strange and odd and powerful, and the way she writes is so intense and gripping, that I have to read it every second I get, and when I am not reading it I am thinking about it.
It’s all about how she was brought up in the isolated mountains of Idaho as a Mormon, with an extreme father. She never set foot in a school and her family thought the Medical Establishment was part of the Illuminati and the Government were evil and wanted to control everybody. She barely learnt anything ‘academic’, but her life was filled with roughness, injury, thinking on the spot and extreme resourcefulness. In spite of, or perhaps because of this, she managed to succeed at exams to get her into a good university, which then allowed her to get a very prestigious scholarship into Cambridge University.
The story is gripping, detailing, among other things, the horrific injuries she, her siblings and parents obtained from reckless and ruthless actions (driving through snowstorms with no seats in the car and enduring severe accidents, climbing into dumping baskets in a junkyard, setting themselves on fire ‘accidentally’) without medical intervention, just recovery at home at the hands of their herbal expert mother. I cannot get it out of my head.
Above all, this story inspires me so much. That a person who had never studied or read anything apart from the Bible and Book of Mormon could then go and write the ‘best essays seen in 30 years of teaching’ (Cambridge senior profession proclamation) SHOWS me that sometimes what we pin as of ultimate importance, perhaps is just not that important. Maybe training kids from an early age to think the academic thoughts others have had before them and which have been refined for their brains is the wrong way to go about it? Maybe you ought to let children be as free as possible, and think as much of their own individual thoughts as possible, in order to create great thinkers within them?
Tara Westover describes her childhood as ‘loveless’, she was abused physically by her older brother, and felt that all her siblings and her mother suffered at the hands of her bipolar lunatic father. Yet at the same time she was given experiences that very few other children have. She worked in a junkyard with her father at age ten and learnt so many things which she applied in her later years studying at college, things which were not academic in the slightest but gave her a high advantage over others who had been trained for this sort of education their whole lives.
One of the main things to take away from this book is that the author suffered crippling depression from the aftermath of what she endured as a child. She became ostracised from her family for daring to speak up about the physical and verbal abuse she received from her older brother, but she still weathered through it and got a PhD, achieved her goals, and above all, did not let her experiences mould her. She decided to take control and mould herself. That is what is inspiring about Tara Westover.
If you love reading about lives that are out of the ordinary, and minds filled with the richness of learning, both physical and mental, and experiences which are painful and horrific but also very true, and which shaped a life in such an interesting way, then this book is certainly for you.
It’s for sure for me. It’s made me even more determined to get a Master’s degree, something I have been wanting for a while but have been dubious about following through with.
Writing a book is an incredibly hard thing. I fancy myself a writer but I have never properly finished writing a book. Sure, I’ve written drafts, but it’s a mammoth task turning a draft into something that flows with the smooth syrupy confidence of authentic maple syrup over some self-assured pancakes.
I have read plenty of books and judged them mercilessly. Some books feel cheap to me and I can SEE the potential in them, the words leap out in broken shatters, begging to be re-strung, imploring the author to please re-dress them, as they tumble about their pages in clumsy clusters. Some books just need a good editor.
Then there are other books that lift my feet right off the ground. I find myself amazed and defeated all at once. I find myself nursing an ache that won’t go away. How do people put pen to paper and release such magnificent things? Worlds and vivid imagery and passionate characters with all the dimensions of a kaleidoscope.
As an example, I was reading Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and when I reached the end I felt despair when I realised that he had attempted to dumb his novel down, since it was written by his heroine, Briony. I opened the first page of Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ and was floored by the ushering in of a leaden August sky by a biting wind that blew out July. The life in their words seethe and sizzle on the faded pages on which they were printed. And I don’t know how.
So yes. Writing a book is a very difficult thing. And I am sure the people who wrote the ‘badly written’ books must have thought that their books were ‘well written’, else they would be ashamed to have them out in the world. So, that begs the question, HOW do you know your writing is ‘good enough’?
Have you heard a lot of that lately? How are you doing? No, how are you doing?
It is nice to see people checking in with each other more. There are still a lot of terrible things happening, but so much positivity too. It’s totally up to you, what you want to pick up when you sift through the piles of panic and mess.
My husband has started using my tweezers lately. I only have one pair. My husband likes to think he is the tidy one in this relationship but that is so not true. He never puts things away! I always grumble about this, and put the things he has left out away. He is a lovely guy though, and cleans our house beautifully, and makes sure I come down to pristine tidiness every morning because mornings can be chaotic with a baby. He is caring and sweet (he doesn’t like to be known as ‘sweet’, it is not ‘manly’), and although he is a ball of stress, he is the only one who truly knows how to calm my stormy nature.
Except he keeps taking my tweezers from their designated space and never puts them back! So now, for three weeks, they have been missing. We have both hunted high and low for them but with no luck. I feel so annoyed with him. My eyebrows are growing out and they are itching to be tweezed!
I know that is something petty to say considering the state of the world right now. I know I have the luxury to focus on petty things right now as we are staying indoors for the foreseeable future. My son is asthmatic so I worry about him. And of course, I worry about those who are so much more vulnerable and who are at dire risk if we unintentionally pass anything on to them. So we are staying indoors.
And I am focusing on petty things! Like my missing tweezers! If you have seen them, can you please tell them not to be so dramatic and send them my way?
First, before I delve into anything, I just want to say that if you are wearing shorts and have bare legs and live in a cold-ish country, don’t put your metal laptop on your lap. I just did that and the cold metal felt like searing heat on my poor legs.
Anyway. When I was 19 and still rather green, I read this wonderful book called ‘The Sky is Everywhere‘ by this vivacious YA writer named Jandy Nelson. I honestly thought the sky soared out of her pen. I was captivated and mesmerised and just head over heels in love with how this woman wrote.
Which is why, three years ago, I saw one of her books at a charity shop and picked it up immediately, nestled it under my coat to protect it from the rain, and placed it lovingly in my bookshelf where it sat through a new job, pregnancy, new motherhood … to now.
It’s called ‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ and I am writing about it because I have realised that I am just plain old, folks.
Jandy Nelson writes like there are fireworks in her fingers. Her brain has ethereal, colourful wings. Her mind is ridiculously fantastic. She writes so wonderfully, and her magic still made me hooked on her story, but I couldn’t help thinking how contrived it all was.
Let me make myself clear. I’ll Give You the Sun is a YA novel about grief, love and growth. It centres around a pair of twins, boy and girl, who used to be inseparable until a tragedy befalls them, and deals with how each twin navigates this tragedy, how it affects them individually and their relationship with each other, as well as how they view the outside world. The boy is gay, so there is some LGBTQ romance in there too. There is a lot of talk about soulmates and artistic genius and, told from the point of view of 14 and 16 year olds, every emotion is heightened and you can FEEL the hormones just leaping out of the page…
It is a beautiful story, but my 25 year old self is not my 19 year old self. I honestly felt like it was just a tad too wishy washy and dreamy for me. I scoffed at times, while reading some of the romantic exchanges. Like, how can you fall in love and be SOULMATES after having had just one conversation?
Like, a LOT of the feelings of love being described made me grin. I was 16 once. I was ‘in love’. It’s all just screaming lust. Not that lust cannot lead to love, of course, but adult me shared a grin with adult inner-me. 19 year old me would roll her eyes and say I was just cynical. I am not.
But this story is not just about romance. It deals with so much more and deals with it so well, that even cynical old 25 year old me felt some emotions and was hooked till the very last page. So, if you like contrived soul-matey very lucky teenage ‘true love’, grief, happiness, art, vivacious writing and lots of metaphors, then this book is for you.
Some people do their best writing while they are depressed. And others write beautifully when they are happy, their emotions lending wings to their minds and their fingers. It’s all down to emotion at the end of the day, and how one perceives feelings, and reacts to them.
I’ve learned that people react so differently to the same emotions and situations, which is why you can never win at situations no matter how hard you try. If you can’t get through to someone, you can’t get through to them.
In my previous life I have managed to write the best during my times of depression, but now that I am 25 and feeling a way I have never felt before in my life, I find that words somehow escape me.
I don’t know why this is. I thought that if I let my emotions out in stories they would somehow live a life on paper that they couldn’t live inside my mind. But it doesn’t work. On paper they seem mundane and mismatched. They teeter and totter on the edge of a cliff and fall off. They are the missing planks in a swaying wooden bridge, and you just fall right on through when you try to follow the track.
They just do not do the truth any justice, and it leaves me feeling frustrated and sad.
So I have come to the conclusion that my best writing happens when I am marginally sad, but not overwhelmingly so. When I see hope shining like a beacon at the end of a time period. Now time appears to stretch endlessly before me and hope is dragging her heels behind. Why, Hope, WHY? Well, she replies, I really don’t think that time has anything for me at the end of her path. I feel like time is shaving pieces off me as each of her seconds drip off her chain, like desolate, worthless diamonds.
Did you know that diamond rings are worthless if you want to resell them? Jewellers will only charge you for the price of the band, whatever metal it was made from. A fascinating piece of knowledge I got from my husband’s friend’s wife, who is a jeweller. I’d always wanted a diamond ring but now I am glad I don’t have one. But I digress.
You see my sadness cannot be fixed with time, or so the naive youth in me bemoans. It knows it will have to go through a harrowingly narrow tunnel before anything changes. Or it could get solemnly worse and I will just end up old and regretful and the vicious cycle continues.
So there. I am an in-between writer. I can’t write well when I am happy and I can’t write well when I am desolate, but there is a good in-between niche that hits the spot just fine.
Apparently L M Montgomery wrote her later Anne novels when she was in depression. Perhaps that is why the Anne voice we know and love recedes massively in her later novels.
Some people can write when they are both happy and depressed. Others can channel their particular emotions while writing and produce work that is representative of it, challenging themselves marvellously and being just ridiculously talented at making terrific use of their mental state, whatever it may be, to produce written work.
What kind of writer are you? Do you write best when you are happy, or sad? Or both? Or do your emotions not feature in your creativity at all?
Also, secret question, are all men afraid of conflict? Is it an inherent trait of a man? Is that why they don’t communicate with their wives/partners?
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?