Thursday, October 26, 2006

Birth Plan

Anna-mouse loves telephones.

Yesterday I heard her make the following call on her very pink, very fake mobile 'phone:

"Hallo, hopital? Please can you check my belly button please, yes. See if it's working? Thankoo! Bye-bye".

This could of course have something to do with Baby Cousin who is, to everyone's delight, 'coming soon'. She saw me touch pregnant Sister-in-Law's stomach a week or so ago, and later on that day announced that she had a baby in her tummy, too. "Feel my tummy, Mummy. Feel my baby."

Probably just wanted the 'hopital' to check said baby's exit route.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Spilt Milk (Note to Self)

What have I been talking about? 'You don't know you're born', and similar unhelpful cliches have been flitting through my brain all day. Shame is not a comfortable state. Some things happened to cause me to regret my yesterday's post:

This morning I caught a few minutes of Radio 4's usually wonderful, always thought-provoking 'Woman's Hour'. In my moments' listening I heard a woman tell Jenny Murray how, 17 years ago, she went to her missing daughter's house because her son had told her there was a bad smell there. To cut to the awful nitty-gritty (those of faint disposition look away), she was drawn to the bathroom where the smell was at its worst, and after only a little searching pulled open the bath panel to find her daughter's decomposing body inside.

Words fail me. The mother in me shrieks with anguish for that anguish suffered by this woman. But how can I know? I can't. I can only thank God it's not me, and send her loving thoughts. Now, not only did this woman not curl up in a ball and die, she went on, in the intervening years, to campaign to get the Double Jeopardy law changed, so that the man the family suspected of killing her daughter could be re-tried. (He was, and eventually, this year found guilty).

And so I continued my humdrum day, beginning to be more and more thankful that it was, indeed, humdrum.

And then I got an email from someone I had barely known at school, who in fact, if truth be told, I had little time for then. She wasn't one of the girls you wanted to be seen out and about with at break-time. She kept her thick mousy hair in an untidy pony tail and wore her skirts unfashionably long. This girl, now woman of a certain age like myself, found my email address in the Old Girls' Magazine which had found her in South Africa where she now lives. In her message she had put a link to one of the 2 NGOs she now works for, and within the web page that brought me to there was a link to a film she had made about abused women coming to terms with what had happened to them through the quiet transformatory moves of Kundalini Yoga. In fact she has won an award, the page states, for her work with marginalized women. And she raises three children.

What is it about the Universe? I suppose I needed humbling in some degree. Or a kick up the arse. Tonight I'm just feeling sore and nursing that ol' kick, but maybe someday soon it'll push me into a little action, too.

In the meantime I'm trying to keep a perspective. This is best kept by pausing to listen at Anna-mouse's door for her soft breath and nocturnal snuffles. You are, for God's sake, bringing up a child, I keep telling myself. This is a work in itself. This is important work, if you get it in the slightest degree 'right'. Never mind that other people juggle 58 jobs and 5 kids, or whatever. Never mind that. Never mind them. Acknowledge them, doff your hat, deal with the longing, the wistfulness and stay on the path. Your own.

Never mind that you haven't a clue where it's going.

Monday, October 23, 2006

About Nothing in Particular

How's that for a dejected title?

And dejected I am. I'd like to loudly state that this was, officially, one HORRID day.

For a start, it has rained all day long, as only our country can rain; switching between mizzling and drizzling and the all-over-drench.

Maybe it was inevitable, to have a little bump down to earth after the gleefulness of Livvy working again. Which, by the way, went well. Although I could have been truly awful, I've no idea; it was a crazy blur of rushed scenes, working with kids and pigeons and seasoned RSC actor with lovely voice (no, not luvvy voice, lovely voice).

But there are days, aren't there, when the ketchup top does come off the bottle all over your favourite cream fleece; when adored child starts behaving appallingly 5 minutes before the first-time visitors arrive (and stops 5 seconds after they've left); when you and your beloved miss one another completely, even though you're in the same room - every word misconstrued, misinterpreted and leapt on, so that you're left in a well of crossness and frustration when he goes to work. Need I go on.

I can't have a drink because I'm so badly hormonally-challenged I'll go to bed with a hangover, let alone wake up with one in the morning.

I can't do what I need to do, ie. type my Dad's play and earn some sorely needed money, because my head is a jumbly mess.

I can't have a cracker and Marmite because my stomach hurts.

But I suppose... I can blog.

I can believe my own blurb and use my drug of choice.

I can make myself feel better for not writing for a week by thanking all those, er, 3 of you out there who are staying so loyal...

I can say I've never had an experience like blogging before.

I can ponder that I've rarely kept a secret for so long (no-one I know, except the Bim, knows I write a blog).

And I can wonder as I often do why I still haven't done a huge round-robin email announcing where I am in the blogosphere. Certainly would increase my traffic.

Tonight, as the rain beats on the window, and adored child sleeps after 8th try, and the Bim isn't due for another hour, I know that I keep it that way because writing a blog gives its own special buzz on a wretched day like today. The achievement can feel truly massive: 500 or so words strung together to make some kind of whole which will then be published into a beautiful space with a quote I treasure at the top. There is great grace to me in this. Great hope for sunny, time-filled days in the future spent stringing together 5,000, even 50,000 words. Each post, each present five hundred is like a little pledge towards that time.

Mmm, ahah, yes, you know what? Drug of choice is working.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rogues and Vagabonds

And yet it comes at a price, this creative urge.

All day I have felt myself slowly slipping away from life-as-I-know-it; I may have paid my pound and got my bin liner to fill with second-hand goodies from the NCT Nearly New Sale, gone through the racks and decided to be extra specially frugal and only get what I came for (Grobags, as it happens) - but all the while the essential being that is me, well, wasn't there.

A strange morphing of self has been taking place. I warned the Bim a few days ago that I might be a bit vague in the days running up to the job (I leave for the North tomorrow), but until today I only half-remembered why. To become someone else, and do it really well, you have to, yes, become someone else. Literally. There is a massive amount of concentration and thought that goes into the creation of a believable character for someone like me who has the craft in her blood. As a child I well remember hearing my mother, also and still (passionately) an actress, rehearsing her lines at the kitchen sink and wondering who on earth she was talking to. And there was I, a mother become my mother today, doing the same thing.

"What you doin', Mummy?" Anna-mouse chirps.

Something twangs at the back of my neck, like it's been twanging all weekend. The tension between these two beings of mine made physical.


What? What can I say? My answer is precariously conflicting, emotional, unneeded to a toddler. I'm preparing to leave you and be solely, utterly who I am, and do solely and utterly what I do know how to do in this world, I might say. But the only reason I can do it so well and so happily these days is because of you, little one. Because you and your father exist, and will keep the notion of me here at home and loving you alive in your tea parties while I am away...

"I'm learning my lines," I simply say.

Anna-mouse of course already has a book about Fred and Ursulina, the bear twins who appear in the school pantomime.

"Well done, Mummy," she says, as she toddles off.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

To Thine Ownself be True

So here's the thing.

Way back when, pre-Anna-mouse days, what I did was act. Even further back, I trained as an actress and most of my decades before meeting the Bim were spent in an anxious and frustrating pursuit of fame and glory. Well, kind of. I got the glory occasionally, and even the odd moment of fame. In fact my jobs tended to be pretty classy - mostly theatre, mostly classical, or quirky - just far, far too spaced out for my soul's or my bank balance's liking. That's how I know how to massage, and type, and run someone's office, and teach, and dance, and... That's why most actors have hundreds of strings to their bow.

When the glorious empress that is Anna-mouse was born, I had to tell my Agent that I couldn't do theatre anymore, not for a while, seeing as I had found a love to usurp my love of the stage. So I said 'Go and find me some TV jobs, ones I can do in 2 or 3 days'. And he did. Lots of them. Detective-type progs, and spooky drama progs and the odd historical film in period costume (if the light's right I have the face of someone straight out of the eighteenth century). And finally, after getting really rather despondent on these strange days going up to London to audition and getting the train right back again, finally I have been offered one. I have a job! Hoorah.

The part is the guest lead in a sort of soap. Okay, okay, it is a soap. But it's one of the better ones, honest. If I say I've got to do some research on agoraphobia, schizophrenia and depression, you'd be right in thinking my particular episode isn't a barrel of laughs.

But... I've noticed something lovely has happened to me in the days since I've known I'm doing it. A certain jaunty spring has appeared in my step. Domestic chores are done before I think of them as chores. Anna-mouse can be howling and I won't mind. I'm holding my head up high. Sometimes there's nothing like a job for giving your sense of identity a little pick-me-up. And, when we're so very hard-up, the thought of a few pounds which I have earned myself is very gratifying (after fending for myself for so many years I've found the transition to being kept child-minding woman quite harrowing). Yes, the week has been transformed.

So I am brought once again to ponder my frequent, fervent search for a sense of balance in these autumn days. And that in going for and getting this job it has been somewhat restored. For the first time in a long while, I can hear the beat, beat, beat of my creative heart.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Make 'em Laugh

When I was ten, there was this joke that used to tickle me pink. It still does.

Q: What comes out of the sea at 100mph shouting "KNICKERS!"

A: Crude oil.

(Just in one of those ten-year-old moods).

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Three Beautiful Things

A tribute to Clare's idea. My own, on this 7th day of October:

1. Finding an slow, easy acceptance in myself of today's picture of me: aproned, domestic, biscuit-baking, breadmaking, child-holding me. Last night I went to dance, so I guess today, as the house filled with Anna-mouse, and her Uncle and Aunt and Baby Cousin-to-be, I could accept that not all days can I be both mother and spirit that is free.

2. Anna-mouse in her pram being wheeled by the Bim round the picturesque streets of Quaint Town:
"Muuummmy, can I get out of my pram, please" Mother strides ahead, oblivious, pointing out local landmarks to our visitors.
"Mummy, I want to get out of my pram!" Mother again doesn't hear.
"Mummy I want to walk, Mummy." Still no response.
"LIVVY! I want to walk!"

3. Placing my hand on my sister-in-law's belly, waiting for signs of life. It's hard, taut, warm. A little chant begins which stays with me into the night, long after they are gone: this is a person, this is a new person, this is a person I will know and hold and love.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

This Writer's Life

Something about me: I like lists.

I like making them, physically passing my best pen over any blank space I can find - best notebooks, flyers, backs of envelopes, receipts, anything - and I like ticking the items off as they're achieved. Some lists, like Life Goals, are important documents, some, like the weekly Shopping List, are random necessities for an easy life placed incongruously, deliciously, side by side.

Writing a list invariably brings me a sense of order imposed, of control regained; a sense, in other words, of myself as a woman who knows what she wants and how she wants it, even (and especially) when I'm living life in a state of unrestrained chaos.

So I thought today I'd write a list or two. You know, balance things out a little, calm a soul which has been too frazzled and distracted to write lately. And they're dedicated to queendebbee - as far as I know my one and only regular reader - who has made me keep the faith and keep writing:


1. My middle name is Rachel, after actress Rachel Roberts ( This Sporting Life,Yanks etc), because my mother went to drama school with her.

2. I met my husband at a bus stop.

3. In 1997 I went to the Academy Awards for a nominated friend of mine who couldn't attend... he asked me to take his aged mother, who didn't recognise Al Pacino but got very excited at Julie Andrews... It remains one of the favourite moments of my life.

4. I once met the Queen. Aged 10.

5. Shortly after I met the Bim I went to a psychic, who said she'd never seen a spread like mine, was shocked into chain-smoking cigarillos throughout our session and told me several things she never could have known. The oddest was identifying an enormous rift between my sister and me, which I strenuously denied because... it hadn't happened yet. A year later my sister and I fell out so badly she didn't speak to me for a year.

6. My father, my mother and myself have all worked at the National Theatre.

7. I love dancing. I once danced blind with Ned my Salsa teacher. There was no sex, but it was one of the sexiest moments... and I danced naked on a roof in Herne Hill with a dear friend, in the rain. I think dancing could change the world.

8. Anna-mouse was born between two blue moons. Just think. No wonder she's a wonder child.

9. When I was 18, and thinking I was very plain, after staring at me for some time a man in Central Park came up to me and said: "You have beautiful bone structure."

10. I am practising writing. I'm practising now. I'm practising allowing myself to write badly and still press the Publish Post button. I've read this is the only way for a perfectionist with gremlins on her shoulder trying to make her stop (like, er, me) to continue. So bear with me. Here goes...