Saturday, February 02, 2013

Really Thoughts

There’s a column in The Guardian’s Saturday magazine called ‘What I’m Really Thinking’.  It’s always anonymous, and it does just what its headline suggests: allows someone to tell their secrets without letting on who they are.

I was going to write for it tonight.  I counted the words of this week’s column, to see how many I’d be allowed.  I noted the email address.

It was that, or posting here.  But, I thought, too many people who might just still come here, over a year since I last posted, know who I am.  Do I really want them to know what I’m really thinking? 

Do I?  Do I care?  Don’t my best friends know anyway? 

I’m not sure, is the answer to that one.  I don’t think I talk about this very often.  I don’t know how to.

So I won’t be emailing in an edited-down piece of 250 words.  I will write here, I've decided, and let the thoughts flow: my 'Really Thoughts', that won’t let me rest, or sit peaceably with myself, until sitting on a page:

I’m fifty.  I don’t tell people that very often.  When the local journalist who interviewed me last year asked me, I declined to tell him on principle.  People start to put you in boxes, and decide things about you, and I’d much rather it came out, as it sometimes does once I have got to know someone, as a point of surprise.
Though there is slightly less surprise these days than there used to be, I’ve noticed.  It has long been a source of pleasure that there was always such a very long gap between what people guessed my age to be, and what it really is.  Recently I’ve found myself staring into my face, trying to map the infinitesimal changes which, compounded, ring in the extra years in a stranger’s perception of my age.
I’m a woman at 50 – actually I turned fifty last year, amid a series of gloriously planned, theatrical moments designed to make 2012 one of my best years yet.  It is really only now, ten months later, that the turning of the decade seems to have hit home.
Let’s look at the facts.  There are two ways of looking, I’ve discovered, depending on the day, say, or the weather, or my mood.
The first goes like this: I’m fifty and I have a stunning child of whom I’m inordinately proud and in 2010 I started a business doing something I have never done before, and at the end of last year, with a fairytale-like flourish to round off my special year, I won two awards for it.
The second, and the one currently playing at the cinema, runs as follows: I’m fifty, I’m an older mother, my extraordinarily unsuccessful marriage (which is not officially over yet because I can’t afford to get divorced) left me with literally nothing, having been forced to sell the only asset in which I had a large stake, my house, in order to pay off mounting debts; my business, though a runaway critical success, is a dismal financial failure and, more importantly than anything else at 9.15pm on a Saturday night, I am no one’s person.  I am alone.
The fifty thing.  I know I keep going on about it.  But something is happening over which I have little control, and I need to get an attitude before it obsesses me further.  Slowly, with perhaps one or two more people being thrown into the mix every day, slowly, slowly I am becoming invisible.  It is happening.
I have heard of this phenomenon from women, and their differing reactions.  Some love the fact that how they look no longer bothers their lives.  They can move through their lives unnoticed, reaching their destinations faster, unhampered by having to deal with the attentions and the judgements of men.
Others, like myself, feel bereft.  Now let’s face it, it’s not like I was ever heavily burdened by the attentions of men in the first place – being someone who grows on you with the knowing, and not one who makes an instant visual hit.  But there were, of course, always moments as I moved through the years.  To be honest, there are occasionally moments now – of admiration, of appreciation.  But now that the years are accelerating and the chances of finding a unique individual who would wish to share my thoughts, my life and my bed diminish, I feel the apparent, albeit unconfirmed, loss of such things just -  dreadful.
Having finally recovered enough of myself from the wreckage of my marriage to the Bim, I find the lack of physical contact in my life heartbreaking.  It’s like missing a limb, not sharing myself physically with another.  And I have discovered that it is getting harder and harder to maintain a healthy sense of myself as a younger-rather-than older person without that kind of intimate physical affirmation.  Will I ever, ever, I realise I am wondering, find someone who will embrace all of me again: my lived-in body, my stretchmarked stomach (once so astonishingly flat!); my less than perfect body lines?
These things, then, worry at me these days.  I am so busy with the day-to-day buffeting of life, ricocheting as I do from home to school to meeting, to the odd dinner with a friend, that I can’t often articulate this creeping fear, to myself, or to another.  I want to document it here so that I may know, one future day, what I was really thinking, at fifty, a woman, and alone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting Here

It is almost as though I have had to write, yesterday and today.  It's as though if I don't channel the creative energy I have charging around in me I'll combust!

What happened?  I keep asking myself.  How, how did the shift occur?  I hardly dare trust it, but certainly for some weeks now I have been waking without the constant, debilitating sense of failure and fear of the summer months.  Instead I have a conscious determination to effect the changes I want to see for myself and Anna-mouse.  These changes are much the same as they were a year ago, and six months ago, but somehow they appear to have become attainable, rather than desperate fantasies serving to re-inforce that awful subtext of gloom.

In the middle of August, really not that long ago, there was a day when I gave in: I arrived at the doctor's office, sat with my head in my hands, and wept.  When I returned home I sat at my computer and did the best thing I could have done that day to keep myself sane.  I wrote to a circle of closest friends and told them that I was not okay.

The robust, steady, loving and practical replies I received in response to my outpouring upheld me at that time when I could barely imagine a well and happy me.  And it was the knowledge that I really wasn't alone, even though I so frequently felt it, that kept me walking out.  Literally.  A cleverer part of me decided that moving my anxiety was better than sitting with it, so every day I took myself to a local playing field and walked around it.  Round and round.  As many times as I could.  Which wasn't many at first, because I was weak and my chest hurt and my body had forgotten that it is strong.

Somehow, I began to lift.  After many long and moving discussions with friends about its pros and cons, I decided to put the packet of Prozac the doctor had prescribed me to the back of the cupboard and spent instead an extraordinary amount of money I didn't have on vitamins and minerals and herbs.  I began the tortuous mental unpicking of what was left of the Bim and me, to free him for his new love, and free me to accept it.

A glorious person gave me some money.  I bought some nights in a luxurious hotel, took hot bath after hot bath, and when I returned from that trip I knew that I could begin the previously unthinkable task of selling my house.  It sold!

And here we are, four months, one house sale, one acting job, one school term, one near-perfect first date and one month of daily blogging later, in an entirely different place.  I shouldn't be surprised - I mean, it was me who made the journey - but how did I get here?  Yes, okay, the near-perfect first date has had much to do with my recent delight with life, because in just half a day the lovely youngish man reminded me that possibility comes in all shapes and guises, and that it comes to me, as well as to others.  But now I know that the near-perfect first date might remain a near-perfect only date you might expect me to be diving, mightn't you?

But I'm not - and I don't know why!  Inexplicable.  Really, I wish I could name the thing which took me from that summer place and brought me here.  I want to bottle it so that when the darkness comes again I can unstopper the bottle and take a swig.  Or, more satisfyingly, give it to others to ease their pain.

I have a feeling that time has something to do with it.  A sense of the trajectory of one's own life is a perspective almost impossible to have when young.  Now that I am ending a decade I am struck with an urgency to act.  I have a sense that if I don't act now, while I can, much could pass me by.  I have discovered that it adds a piquancy to the smallest moment, thinking in this way.

While I live some more trying to figure all this out, I want to record that it is simply amazing, recent morning after recent morning, to wake with hope instead of dread.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tea Break

It was a day full of rain here in the south east of England, last Sunday.

Most of the day the clouds held the water just above our heads: great grey cushions bursting with drops.  Finally, around five, they began to fall.

I was outside when the rain began, at the tea tent, because the country house in which we were filming did not allow food and drink inside.  The house was somewhere north west of London, buried in rolling fields dotted with sheep.  We all 'aaahhed!' when we first walked in.  It was the perfect setting for our scene - a library masquerading as a public school staffroom during the First World War.

I had been awake since some ungodly hour in the morning.  It was still dark when my driver picked me up.  The luxury!    We flew around the M25 as dawn pinned the trees to the horizon.  These days, when I find myself actually doing the thing I've always wanted to do since donning a pair of fingerless mittens and a scowl to play the part of Scrooge at the age of seven, I am wise enough to savour every minute.

The 'second' met me at Base Unit and guided me across the muddy forecourt of the outbuildings to my portion of a winibago: my own little portable room, complete with shower and toilet!  Soon they brought me to make-up; then it was back to shiver at the icy hands of the wardrobe lady as she laced me into a corset.  Instantly I am standing straighter, my figure is transformed and once the clothes are on I have become the stern, high-collared person I have been cast to play.

Then begins the waiting, a very special art every actor has to learn - particularly challenging in a corset, when sitting down for too long or in too low a chair is agony.

Just before lunch they call me and the rest of the women in my scene to a 'line-up' for the cameras.  We are driven through the estate to the house and ushered into a billiard room, where we run our lines in a mood verging on hysterical.

I love actors, I think.  I love the way we get through.  I love the way we all know we're dispensable, and make light of it, and deliver, excellently, because we also know that we're better than our parts and that we will make the thing look even better than it already is.

Looking round our characterful shapes and faces, I see that thought has gone into our casting, and I know that it is not often that a chance like this comes around, to work with the best.

Suddenly, we're in the room and 'on'.  One, two, three ACT! a favourite tutor of mine used to say at drama school, and it was a bit like that, really.  We were there to deliver, almost first time, which is what we did.

A couple of hours later the scene was in the can.  There was a little frisson as we realised that a couple of the series' stars were filming in the room next door - they wandered by in evening dress, and for all the world, bar the cables, and cameras, and countless crew, we were there, in the latter stages of the First World War, glimpsing the staircase of a gentlemen's club.

Someone mentioned tea and sandwiches and a couple of us grabbed our coats and headed out into the bitter cold.  Lunch had been hours ago, and anyway we couldn't eat much because of the corsets. We grabbed polysterene cups and thick cut, generously filled triangles and giggled our way through the break.

All of a sudden I was the only one out there, nursing my steaming tea, facing the dark as the rain began to fall.  Rivulets of water glittered in the headlights of a location truck as they coursed from the roof of the tea tent.  I could see my breath.

And I felt happy.  Looking through the rain to the black fields beyond, taking a break from what I do best, contemplating the year that has passed and the year that is to come, I was happy.

Friday, December 02, 2011


Remember that 'really quite possible first date'?



Thursday, December 01, 2011


Oh the luxury of not having to post!

But the eagle-eyed among you will note I have not quite managed to stay away...

Readers will no doubt forgive a little slow down before working my way up to frequent posting pitch again.

And a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who accompanied me on the NaBloPoMo journey.  What a generous, big-hearted community the blogosphere is.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I have to catch the 2255! I shriek above the cacophany that is London traffic on a Wednesday night not long before Christmas.

We are legging it, fast as we can, from Covent Garden to St Pancras to catch the hi-speed home.  A fair old walk at the best of times.

These central London streets that I know so well are aglow with Christmas light frippery.  Every bar, every cafe, every restaurant and hotel sports its share of winking, twinkling fairy lights.  It is mild and blowy, and after the elegance and gravitas of the ballet viewed from the 'gods' of the Opera House, I am crazy with life.

I really can't miss this train!  I'm thinking - and I really can't.  To write twenty-nine posts in as many days, and then fall at the last fence because I can't make it home before midnight?  Unthinkable!

We make it with moments to spare, shouting out short-cuts, dodging day dreamers, hurtling up the escalators and into the train triumphant.  We chat happily all the way and I leave my friend one stop before her own, dashing down the platform and into the car park to my car.

Come on, come on!  I berate myself when I can't find the car key, throwing the contents of my handbag onto the tarmac.

It's an exhilarating, somewhat hair-raising drive home.  I'm gleeful as Kent Town's own lights, tame in comparison with London's excess, fly by me on the bridge, and hold my breath as I accelerate through an amber light.

The cat greets me at the door, I climb the stairs two by two, flick all the switches, press all the buttons... and here I sit in my coat, casting glances at my watch as I have done for most of my twenty-nine posts during NaBloPoMo in order to slip this final posting under the wire before midnight.

The day's sore head and tension have lifted.  I am filled with the possibility of all things.  In the next few weeks alone life holds a house move to the new place which Anna-mouse will make our own; a really quite possible first date, and the knowledge that I can write, fast, anytime, and people want to read it.

Hopeful, more hopeful than I have been in a very long time, that I have come unstuck and am free to move on.

Ladies and gentlemen, thirty posts, a bow, curtain.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New worlds

I keep starting this post and then deleting what I've written.

I've been wanting to muse about love, and the lovely youngish man.

But I'm tired and instead I find myself simply marvelling at what it is - I mean, what's the process? - that the human heart goes through to recover from injury and fully engage once again.  It's incredible, this organ of ours.  Really, I'm speechless with admiration at the human facility to suffer, recover and carry on.

And when I have a look, I see that my own recovery is far more complete than I thought it was.  I guess the Summer had something to do with it: falling into a very black place, seeking the advice and solace of friends, and eventually, slowly, dragging myself out from there.  

My despair was fuelled two-fold, I remember:  it was sparked by my financial situation growing more and more desperate, and then the bonfire was well and truly lit by the Bim meeting his new love.  It absolutely wasn't that I wanted to be with him in stead of her; it was, I later understood, that his meeting Mary left me having to face being, and feeling, completely alone.

It took longer to admit to myself that I was not only alone, but very lonely.  I struggle with writing this even today.  I'm not sure why I find it such a difficult thing to admit to.  I suppose it's because I want to believe that I can be all things to myself, but I found myself alone in the car recently speaking my loneliness out loud for the first time, and I knew then with a heavy heart that sooner or later I would have to look for the remedy.  

But then the remedy came towards me on Friday night with an open heart and huge smile and it didn't seem such a scary thing after all, re-connecting with the company of men.  And yes it would be wonderful to feel that connection again - but if that doesn't happen the gift of the encounter is immense.  

Suddenly, whole worlds out there have come into focus again, and I may not have to experience them alone.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Living the Life

I am currently too excited to think, speak, or write.

It's a long time since 'Livvy's Life' was about... well, life.

Real, live, happening right now Life!

Can't stop.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

This Weekend

This weekend I went to market and found a five pound note.

This weekend I went to market and found a five pound note and a new pair of school shoes for Anna-mouse.

This weekend I went to market and found a five pound note; a new pair of school shoes for Anna-mouse and a house for us to live in.

This weekend I went to market and found a five pound note; a new pair of school shoes for Anna-mouse; a house for us to live in and an art gallery in a disused shop.

This weekend I went to market and found a five pound note; a new pair of school shoes for Anna-mouse; a house for us to live in; an art gallery in a disused shop and a lovely man inside it.

This weekend I went to market and found a five pound note; a new pair of school shoes for Anna-mouse; a house for us to live in; an art gallery in a disused shop; a lovely man inside it and a hour of conversation.

This weekend I went to market and found a five pound note; a new pair of school shoes for Anna-mouse; a house for us to live in; an art gallery in a disused shop; a lovely man inside it; an hour of conversation and a glass which was half full.

This weekend I went to market and found a five pound note; a new pair of school shoes for Anna-mouse; a house for us to live in; an art gallery in a disused shop; a lovely man inside it; an hour of conversation; a glass which was half full and two awards from fellow bloggers for my blog.

This weekend I went to market and found a five pound note; a new pair of school shoes for Anna-mouse; a house for us to live in; an art gallery in a disused shop; a lovely man inside it; an hour of conversation; a glass which was half full; two awards from fellow bloggers for my blog...

...and a large sign right in front of me so that I could not fail to read it which read:
'Livvy, you are going the right way.'

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reviewing the Surprise

Quiet.  Contemplative.  Retreating back into my single space for one and a small, golden-haired half.  The happy, glowing bubble in which we stood to hold our conversation seems barely credible today.  Did it happen like that, I want to ask?

But it was important.  It was momentous!  The lovely youngish man I met yesterday re-introduced me to possibility: to connection: to love.

Often in recent years I have looked at what I assumed to be the mountain I would have to scale even to put myself into an available space and dismissed it as unthinkable.  I began to feel older, really so much older, and with sadness I recognised that the Bim had taken something intangible but necessary from me where relationships with men are concerned.  Something in me shrank so small when I was lied to so many times by the person in whom I had placed my trust.

So yesterday was joyous because suddenly I understood that almost without noticing it I have moved away from that position, and there wasn't a mountain to climb at all!  Instead, there was a clear flat open plain with a beautiful horizon to navigate, and all I had to do was decide to step onto it, which I did, when I persuaded myself to enter the gallery alone.

It is possible I may never see the lovely youngish man again.  It would be a shame that the obvious connection we both felt would not be explored, but it would not be a tragedy.

Loving another person is such a brave thing to decide to do.  Yesterday evening, for the first time in almost a decade, I was allowed to remember how the very first steps to that decision feel.  What I was reminded is that sometimes you don't have to spend an ounce of energy making the decision at all.  Sometimes, if you simply choose to take it, the way is clear.

I began to believe, then.  That love... is a possibility.

Friday, November 25, 2011


I was tired.  I dragged myself there.  My friend the Poet was one of the artists exhibiting; Anna-mouse was happily ensconced with her favourite playdate playmate, and the Bim was all lined up to pick her up, so I had no excuse not to go.

I sighed and gave myself a team-talk as I neared the place: Come on, Liv, you can do it...  Arriving at social events alone is never the nicest.

I kept my eyes peeled for the Poet and found him glowing and happy in suit and purple tie.  I relaxed, and was handed a non-alcoholic beer.  And then someone was walking towards me with a huge smile, as if we were old friends, and I thought yes, I met you once, I've no idea where, but I'll play along.  He knew who I was, though, and we simply began to talk.

What can I tell you?  How shall I put it?  Surpisingly, utterly unexpectedly and in an utterly unlooked for way, this person changed the picture.  The life picture.  My life picture.  Just by standing there and talking and appearing to be interested in what I was saying, and wanting to know more.

At one point the Poet asked me to say hello to his wife at the other end of the gallery, as they were about to leave.  Reluctantly I did as I was told, and I left my coat there saying I was coming back, and when I looked some ten minutes later, there he was, waiting for me, and I returned to the same spot as before, and with a Hello again the conversation resumed.

Eventually, I had to leave.  I was supposed to be cooking Anna-m's supper.  I could only think she must be very hungry, but it wasn't worrying me like it normally would.

I said I had to go.  I said his name and said what a pleasure it had been talking to him.  I wondered how we would say goodbye.  He made it easy by stepping into a brief hug.  I thought, I like the way his body feels.

Driving home, stopped at the traffic lights, I burst into sad-happy tears.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

House Hunting

I am looking for a house.  The one I live in now is sold.  If all goes to plan, I am supposed to be moving out in three weeks time.  I won't go into the financial contortions that have brought me to this point.  Suffice to say that the immediacy of the move dawned on me with force today, now that The Deadline is over for another month.

Yes, I agree, it's quite astonishing I've barely mentioned my imminent move in (quick fanfare) twenty-three straight days of blogging.

The house that I'm looking for will be up for rent.  The house I live in I own.  Well, I jointly own this house with the Bim.  I won't be owning the house I'm looking for, it's to do with the aforementioned contortions.  No, I'll be renting that one.

I did go to see two houses for rent about a week ago.  I fell in love with the first one.  I suspected I was going to when the property details described it as a 'one-off'.  You know something's up with a house when they describe it as a one-off.  A 'house with character', they said.  A one-off house with character: someone like me (who wouldn't mind being similarly labelled) is going to fall in love with that, now aren't they?

It was the quirkiest house I have ever seen.

It's an odd shape, isn't it, I said to the painter putting the finishing touches to the triangular sitting-room.

Ah, he said knowledgeably, that's because it's a wedge.

Trust me to fall in love with a wedge.   He was right, though: the house had been wedged in between two others, like a slice of pizza.  Most of the rooms were triangular-shaped, or some other shape whose name I should have learned in Geometry.  It would have been useful, living there, for helping with Anna-m's homework.  ('Mum, is this an isoceles or a scalene triangle?'  'I don't know, darling, go and have a look at the bathroom').

So anyway, I said yes I'd like to live in this wedge but the landlord cast his vote some other way: probably something to do with the financial contortions and not being able to prove that it has been me, not the Bim, paying the mortgage on our house for years.

The lettings agent, a fierce young man whose untruths I recognised because of my stirling practise with the Bim, took me to see another house as balm for not winning the first one.  I was so disappointed that I wasn't going to have to grapple with wedge-shape problems like how I was going to fit my rectangular furniture into the triangular sitting-room, that I couldn't appreciate the second house he showed me.  I walked around it, yes, and everything about it suggested that life would be easier there than living in the wedge, but I was heartbroken to have to settle for a conventional second best, and said no, I don't want to live here, thank you.

Today something made me drive to the second house again.  I got out and peered through the window and thought Perhaps I could live here.  When I got home I called the fierce young man and made an appointment to take Anna-mouse to see it on Saturday.

I'm looking for a house.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just Imagine

The house has that more quiet than quiet feeling it always has near midnight when Anna-mouse is not sleeping in it.  Strange, on a school night.  I guess this is how it would be if tonight's venture were successful.  Rehearsals two or three times a week, it said on the letter telling me that my first audition had been successful and asking me to attend a recall; and whole days leading up to the big night itself.

Logistically, if I'm successful, it could be a nightmare.  But I'm working on the principle that I don't need to worry about this until I get the email, which is how they will tell us in six to eight weeks' time, saying 'join us'.  The Bim taught me that one.  He never worries about anything he doesn't have to worry about (and sometimes not even then).  So when I said  It'd be difficult, you know, if this works out, he waved away my caution, told me we'd work it out, and that we wouldn't worry about it until it happens.  And I know that the reason he is like this is because he does actually understand what it would mean to me.  I've always loved that about the Bim: his ability to be on my side.

So here I sit at a quarter to midnight, my body humming with tonight's paces.  My skin is warm and my hair is wet because I've just had a bath to minimise the aches I'm bound to have tomorrow morning.  There's nothing like this feeling, especially having sat at the computer for days on end.  I used to have this feeling all the time, during my dancing days.  It suits me, it makes me more... me.  Everything tingling, everything alive.

Just imagine what I would feel if my recall audition tonight were successful!

Two hundred and forty-six days from now I would be in the Stadium, performing in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It is on these days, these crazy mayhem deadline days, that I know for absolute sure that I, Livvy, am alive and well and truly kicking.  On these days I wake already writing in my head, and writing all the time I am making breakfast for Anna-mouse and fussing over her packed lunch and walking her up the hill to school.

By the time I get back to the house I have taught myself (it's taken a year) to ignore the beds, the washing-up, the washing and simply make a coffee on the stove, turn on the computer and... start.  This is a true triumph, for me, over procrastination, which has stalked me in the form of a housewife with a wagging finger for years.  The house, well yes, it's a tip.  But I'm being creative!  More than that, I'm doing the self-made job I dreamed up exactly one year ago.  Okay so it's not making me any money yet but oh!  On days like today, when the cogs were whirring and the phones were going and the keyboard was click, click clicking with my words - who cares?

No that's too flippant.  I do care, actually, that although my venture is a massive critical success, it is not feeding myself and Anna-mouse.  It is what drives me, the will to succeed with this financially in a way that I have not experienced before.

That psychic I went to, you know, that one I saw in Ireland the week I met the Bim.  She always said, sideways out of her cheroot-smoking mouth, that the second half of my life would be successful.  The first had held much unhappiness, she said (I couldn't help but nod, although I was trying not to give too much away to allow her to do her psychic thing), but the second - well!  She had to light another cheroot and pace the room with it, my cards were that exciting.

Now although that was ten years ago, give or take, I am willing, on days like today, when the blood was racing with the thrill of meeting my self-imposed deadline, to believe her.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Keeping the Peace

Several times in recent days I have had the Bim's new love Mary sitting beside me in my car as I drive her to work and continue on to drop Anna-mouse off at school.

Yes, I know, it's a little unusual.

In my defence, if I didn't perform this morning task, Mary wouldn't get to work, Anna-m wouldn't get to school, and, crucially, I would not be able to have the evening off the night before said morning to swan off to London hotels because Anna-mouse stays with the Bim in his new village abode on such nights.  Clear?

I've always been a peacemaker.  I think it comes of being the middle child.  I remember vividly being placed on the (very uncomfortable) middle half-seat on the back seat of our family car, to ensure my brother on one side and my sister on the other did not fight.  I attempted to broker peace between my father and sister through all the years they did not talk to one another and I will always try to see the other person's point of view.

This has not, it has to be said, always stood me in good stead.  Sometimes I see the other person's point of view so clearly that it cripples me.

In the case of Mary, this is not so.  But it does raise some questions as I bob along with her beside me in the car.  Like: how much should you impart to your husband's new love about your husband?

This question amuses me frequently.  I mean, I know so much that might be of use!

It's all fantasy, I know, but it does cheer me as I perform my taxi task, to assemble a list of Things I Know That You Don't Which Might Save Your Relationship.  Chief among these are:

(1)  Do not, on any account, open a joint bank account with my husband (and always stash a little bit away that he can't get at).
(2) If he looks at you as if you are stark raving bonkers when you ask him a direct question about something in his behaviour you don't understand and vehemently denies all knowledge, he is unquestionably lying and you need to communicate about this straightaway.
(3) The Bim is married already - yes, to me, but also to his family.

Oh, and (4) He is not a bad person, in fact he is a good one who has a good, big heart.  But keep a generous portion of your own safe for a while, won't you.  You never know when you might need it.

I say none of this, of course.  I remain steadfastly - one might even say stoically - stum.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday London

London, ah my London, looked splendid today.  I was lucky enough to arrive early enough to find the city still shaking off sleep.  The streets had been cleaned of Saturday night, many places had not yet opened their doors to Sunday shoppers, the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue were closed for their one night of rest and I strode with a bounce in my booted step towards the cinema showing the cast and crew screening of the movie we made earlier this year.

When I emerged a couple of hours later, happy and relieved that I had done myself enough credit on screen not to worry about sending people to see it, I strolled down to Piccadilly, losing myself in the crowds and soaking up the city centre streets I know so well.

Every corner spoke to me of former times: of the young me; of nights with loved ones; of days with the baby Anna-m; of early moments with the Bim; of evenings in the company of friends.  I wandered the streets like a tourist with deja vue: Trafalgar Square (proclaiming that there were only 250 days, 3 hours, 29 minutes and 16 seconds to go to the start of the London Olympics!); Whitehall; the Embankment; Westminster Bridge; Waterloo.

I took out my mobile phone and took photographs at every turn.  Remnants of the morning fog misted the watery sun.  The Thames was splendid with life.

Oh London, my London.  To say I miss you is not quite so.  You're so part of me I can live you when I'm not near.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Drawing a Blank

Let me see...  Tum te dum...



Really not.

Livvy is, officially, unable to post every day.

Back tomorrow xx

Friday, November 18, 2011

Working, alone

Three in the afternoon.  The low winter sun is filtering through the blinds of the spare room where I work.  The day is... quiet.  Long.  I am supposed to be working - and indeed have been working - but I have become slower and slower, like a wind-up toy whose battery is running out.

I realise that what is lacking for me today, in fact what is lacking for me most days, is a sounding board.  I have no-one to talk to.  Because I work from home at this new venture of mine, and because today I have no meetings, no networking and no delivering, and because I am not even picking up Anna-mouse from school (to give me, ironically, more time to work in order to save me from ploughing on into the small hours tonight), I have not spoken to a living soul since I dropped her off this morning.

If I had an office elsewhere, or if I worked with others, or if I had a partner perhaps, this would not be so.

It's difficult, being my own sounding board.  It's difficult encouraging myself to go on. Today is Friday, and I'd like to curl up in front of the television under Anna-mouse's blue and white checked blanket. Or, I'd like to take a break and meet someone in the kitchen as I wait for the kettle to boil.  We'd have, you know, an inconsequential chat, one which would take my mind off the enormous task at hand and return me to it refreshed and re-energised, simply because I have engaged for a few moments with another human being.

Or, I'd like to talk with someone who knows what I'm talking about.  Have that kind of conversation where I can savour the tiniest detail of my project with another, rolling the ideas around like fine wine to extract the slightest nuance of flavour.  I'd like to sound off my ideas, laugh at my absurdities and check my decisions against someone who would say yes, that's right, or no, think of it another way...

I'm sure self-employed people the world over suffer from this self-imposed solitariness.  And to go the whole way with the picture, it is made worse for me knowing that that person is not going to appear at the end of the working day, either.

There won't be anyone in the kitchen making tea tonight but me.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Giving In

The pain behind my left eye which has plagued me for days is worsening, the light of the computer monitor is shrieking at me, the burden of just too many responsibilities in different areas of life are weighing me down and the week's accumulative lack of sleep has at last caught up with me.

I'm going to give in, turn off the computer, take some painkillers and go to bed at the same time as Anna-mouse.  I might even let her sleep in my bed, a once-a-week treat usually reserved for Fridays.  I'll pretend it's for her, but really it will be for me.  Nothing like the sleeping form of your own child beside you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The Gilbert Scott bar at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is a very good place to drink a glass of champagne. 

If you sit on the high stools at the bar, like we did, you can watch the cocktails mixed in front of you.  Intriguing fizzing concoctions are swiftly assembled in glass jars and swizzed about with twisted silver sticks by barmen in starched white uniform.  Huge, differently sized bells hang the lights from the extravagantly painted ceiling, and my friend has heard that nothing in the bar is attached to the walls, including the bar itself, due to the listed nature of this extraordinary, painstakingly restored Victorian building.  One wonders fleetingly about all the silver and glass and mirrors crashing somehow down, and then of course the thought disappears in the fuzzy glow cast by the table lamps, the champagne, and the solicitous nature of the staff.

It's good to take a sip of opulence every once in a while.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Nub of Things

It was early in the morning.  We'd had a little skirmish over her new karate suit, onto which I was trying to sew in a bleary-eyed fashion three cloth badges.  Apparently I sewed the one on the sleeve the wrong way round. As it was in Chinese, it was hard to tell, but Anna-mouse was up in arms.  She had a good shout, flung herself off the bed where I was sewing, and hurtled into her bedroom.

A few moments later she re-appeared with some magnetic words from a poetry kit and began to stick them to the radiator.

The first wonky line of words read:

mum     dad     and     me     now

Then she went back to the bedroom to find more words, and when she came back took the 'dad' from the above and placed it in the second line:

I     see    you     but     no    dad

And then she went into the bedroom, found two more words and returned with these and a photograph of the Bim and his son, her greatly missed half-brother who lives in Ireland.  She pointed at the photograph, and then stuck up her final two words:

him     too

I have left it there all day, her short, eloquent expression of the nub of things.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I love playing dominoes.  I love everything about them.  I love the sleek, cool pieces. Tiles, they call them.  I love turning them in my hand.  I love the way our set of tiles comes in an old-fashioned metal tin.  I love that once you have chosen your initial tiles and placed them in a strategically defensive line before you, backs to the other players, the superfluous ivory oblongs are put into a pile called the Bone Yard.

I was reminded of all this when Anna-mouse announced that I had to play a game with her while the bath was running tonight.  We played on the floor, hugging the heater, because true to form with this house my heating isn't working.  It was quite cosy on the carpet round the corner of the bed, which acted as a kind of draught-shield.

Immediately I fell into contemplation mode, which is another reason I like playing dominoes: it calms me.  It calms Anna-mouse, too, something we discovered with surprise the summer she first played the game, at the time of her fifth birthday.

It was, in fact, the most difficult summer of all - the first after the Bim left the family home.  In one of the many bizarre acts of love and ridiculousness which this separation of ours has engendered, we felt duty bound to honour a longstanding, pre-split booking to take Anna-m to see a performance of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in its live stage show incarnation, which was touring the UK at the time.  Given that we live in Kent, readers will understand that it was no small commitment to honour, given that the nearest performance to us was in Devon.

So we booked two rooms in a Bed & Breakfast - a room for Anna-m and me, and one for the Bim - in a strange coastal village across the border in Cornwall.

It was there that our weekend, which was understandably fraught with tension, was considerably mollified by the gift to Anna-m by the owners of the B&B of a small wooden box of dominoes.  Suddenly we discovered something which could unite us, something which brought all of us to a state of calm - one might even say grace.  I remember sitting round a little fold-up table in the Bim's room, munching snacks and taking long, weighty moments to consider the placing of my next tile.

It was a revelation to us that for the first time our feisty just-five year old chose to abide by the rules of a game with no fuss; indeed took the thing entirely to heart. The July rain slapped the salted windows of the B&B as we played on, oblivious, and we emerged from those games purged, somehow, of our many and various sins.

I was reminded of this tonight.  I was reminded how much I love playing dominoes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Keeping it Simple

When the Bim escaped Kent Town with his new love Mary a few weeks ago, it was to a little village about seven miles away.  A different world.  A good move.  And after comforting Anna-mouse through several anxious pre-move nights, it was thankfully a move that has proved popular with her, too.

One of the things the Bim and I tried to do after we separated was to give Anna-mouse the odd day out, when he she and I did something together as the family that we used to be.  These occasions were often bitter-sweet, usually pretty successful, and only once or twice too painful for words.

Since Mary and the Bim have made a life together, these occasions have tailed off, but yesterday, with Mary out of town, the three of us found ourselves together almost by accident, attending the village hall's fifty year anniversary fete.

It was a sweet, gentle affair straight out of the 1940s, in a traditional little hall with wooden rafters.  Tables manned by locals lined the  walls offering raffles, tombolas and craftsy activities for the children.  My favourite was a free stall manned by a local gardener, fingernails black with compost, who was showing any child who would listen how to plant up daffodil bulbs for the spring.

The Bim and I were almost superfluous to the wealth of opportunities for kids, and found ourselves  standing about chatting as Anna-mouse decorated a CD turned candle holder with glitter, and strung up a necklace.  This last activity was run by the local vicar, a compact young man with prematurely greying hair and fraying dog collar.  He got talking to the Bim, who told him how 'we' had just moved into the village, and because appearances deceive and with no reason to believe otherwise, the young man assumed of course that I was part of the 'we'.

How strange this is, I thought.  Everything apparently the way it was, and yet actually not at all.

I don't mind, I just don't know what to feel when people mistake us for the happy family we are not, which, to our credit, happens more often than not.  We have flummoxed teachers at Anna-m's school by our united front, and mothers of Anna-mouse's friends have been astounded when I say no, we're not together.  We haven't been together for years.

As we were leaving the fete, the three of us laden with Anna-mouse's spoils and laughing at her dalmatian face painting, a woman caught up in our happy atmosphere stopped to ask us if we were attending the evening's concert.  There were two tickets left, she said, but then I suppose you'd have to get a baby sitter, and it is short notice...  And then she invited us to attend the family prayer meetings, designed especially for families with children like us and run by the nice young man with the dog collar, on a Wednesday evening.  Without even glancing at each other to corroborate our stories, the Bim and I played the part to save her feelings and went on our way.  Welcome to the village!  she called after us.

Well, what could we have said?

No, sorry, you've got it wrong - this is my husband, this is my child, but I did not move into the village last week.  My husband moved here with his new love.  My daughter stays here at weekends.  This weekend my husband's new love has gone back to see her children.  Yes, quite complicated!  We are still married, but we're going to get divorced.  Quite soon now, actually.  No, that's all right, I know what it looks like.  We just decided, for our daughter, that we'd be friends.  At all costs.  Yes.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NaBloPoMo Reality Check

So here we are at last.  I've hit it.  On this, the twelfth day of attempting to post every day for a month, I really, really don't want to write.

Bless my higher self for making me show up grumbling at the page.

Here's the thing:  I don't write a tech-y blog.  I'm not a geek.  I'm not a cook who posts recipes.  I'm not a Yummy Mummy, though I am a mother.  I'm not a scrapbooker, photographer or maker.  I'm not a farmer or a woman who has moved countries and blogs about that.

I'm a Livvy, and what I write about is me.  Today I have discovered that some days I want to remain private.   It's my Saturday-night-in night, my one very alone night of the week, and my thoughts are many, and ranging, and they run deep.  I don't want to mine them tonight.

And  I have a terrible suspicion that because I am writing many of my posts very quickly, in order to get them date-stamped before midnight, the quality of the writing is beginning to suffer.  And God knows, it's hard for me to offer up anything less than my best - it pains me (and probably holds me back immeasurably in life).

So tonight I'm having a rant at my decision to do this thing - at the same time as knowing that NaBloPoMo veterans could well say that this is the very  moment that I must keep going.

And just because I'm bloody-minded, and because doing this is all part of the bigger 'make Livvy's life happier' project, I'm damn well going to.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Things of Note

They say that writers are supposed to notice things.  Currently I'm noticing that it is twenty-three minutes to midnight, and that unless I write something very fast I won't have a blog post for this day at all.  And for NaBloPoMo, that just won't do.

So I thought I'd write about what I've noticed, today:

On my drive over to the sailing barge this afternoon, I noticed that my friend the Poet can't bear to colour a conversation with silence.  He must talk through the quiet, and as he becomes more voluble, I make the silences for us both.  After a while I crave it, and sometimes I even tell him to stop talking.  Luckily, because we like one another so much, he doesn't mind.  Today he'd been wittering on for a while when he stopped abruptly and said I'm talking too much again, aren't I?  I noticed that he's noticed...

On our drive over to the sailing barge I also noticed the Kentish countryside, and how the ancient trees struck jagged shapes on the horizon in the mist.  The colours were khaki and willow green and every shade of brown.  I noticed how that horizon soothed me as we drove.

I noticed too how flat the water was in the little inlet where the barge is moored, as if the water would move as one, like a plate, if I had waded in and given it a push.

I noticed how cosy it was inside the barge; how warm the stove makes it once lit; how much I like my connection with the family who run the place.

This evening I noticed how lean the Bim is now compared to when we first met.  How much older he looks, how he has lost his baby face for good.

I noticed for the umpteenth time how beautiful Anna-mouse's golden hair is, and how well she threw together her clothes for going to the cinema and how she will be a faster reader than myself, because she naturally skips the unimportant words on the page.

I noticed a lightness in me, all day, because yesterday I did something out of the ordinary, and today I faced a few, small fears.

These things I noticed, and more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I swore that my next decade, which starts so soon, in 2012, the year of so much hope and promise for us in the UK, would be different.  I swore that I would use the turning of the decade to bring me change.  I swore that it will not be a decade, like the current one, where more things went wrong than right (barring the coming of Anna-mouse, of course, who has always been this decade's most glorious plus...)

I have been stuck for so long.  And tonight, like a little prequel to what's to come, I knew that I am 'unsticking' - it's happening, something's loosening and I'm moving and, well, I knew that the decade to come will be the business.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Risk Business

I've been mulling over risk.  I suppose I must be growing, because I have been taking more risks of late, something I've never found easy to do.  I think, if I wrote a list of qualities I would most like to instil in my daughter, an ability to take risks would be high upon it.

I imagine I'm not doing very well on that score, which is exemplified in my pitiful behaviour in playgrounds, which have long since been places of stomach-churning anxiety for me.  I am the mother hovering pathetically close to the climbing frame in order to be there to break my daughter's fall.  I'm the one who can't concentrate on a conversation with another mother if I know Anna-mouse is seven feet up in the air.  I see danger more frequently than is perhaps healthy, and find myself thinking ahead to avert it.

I know, I know:  I can't wrap her up in cotton wool.  I can't stop her from falling.  I can't keep her from pain.

In an attempt to mitigate this over-protectiveness I found myself a year or two ago taking a decision to exemplify the benefits of risk-taking by living a riskier life myself.  Admittedly, I'm not certain that either the risks themselves or the life this has created are altogether working, but you know what?  I'd rather live like this than not: precariously, uncertainly, working towards a future than stuck petrified in the past.

My hope is this: one day, years from now, Anna-mouse will suddenly find the strength in herself to do that thing she is afraid of, take that turning in the road, or that punt on something new, because some tiny part of her remembers how her mother would sometimes turn to her, take her by the hand and say, "Come on, let's do it!  What have we got to lose?"

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


In a flurry of lateness, hurtling towards an appointment with the optician, I turn the corner of the High Street and there, with his back to me, is the Bim.

I call his name, and as he turns to see me his face breaks into a smile and, unusually, he opens his arms and I step into his hug.  

It isn't often that the Bim and I meet unexpectedly.  Usually we know when we're about to meet because it's pre-arranged, part of the daily round of arrangements concerning Anna-mouse.  We have time to arm ourselves against any residual feelings we might have for one another.  We can tuck away the unseemly vestiges of our love; fold it over and under, starched and sanitised like hospital corners, so that nothing ragged remains.

No doubt it will be all tucked up again tomorrow.  But today, just for a moment, the future became the present, and meeting the Bim was a pleasure again.  One day too much time will have gone by for us to mind the past and this will be how we will greet each other always - genuinely, spontaneously, like old friends.  

Monday, November 07, 2011

A Good Man

I met my Business Advisor this morning.  He’s one of those people who makes you feel better, which is probably why he’s so good at his job.  He’s also that lovely thing, a man who really likes women, something he attributes to being brought up in a household full of them.  He is silver-haired and charming and always immaculately turned out.

We have become friends over a series of discussions about my new creative business and I owe him a great deal.  He ‘gets’ the business; he ‘gets’ me.

I can’t remember how we came to the moment in conversation, but suddenly, flowing on from where we were, he said  My daughter was recently diagnosed with MS.  I looked at him aghast and told him how sorry I was. 

No, well, people know I don’t talk about it, he said, and then proceeded to tell me all about it, which I took as a token of the trust we have built over the past months.

It turns out his daughter is thirty-four, feisty and intelligent, with a husband and two young children.   Life certainly does get the order of things mixed up sometimes. 

My Business Advisor, who is unerringly positive about most things (and if he can’t be positive, is pragmatic), ended the conversation with But hey, you know, nobody’s died… though there was nothing flippant about it.

One night, he told me, his daughter telephoned in the middle of the night.  Something was wrong, something to do with the disease.  He sent them to the hospital and he and his wife went over to baby-sit his daughter’s children.  The youngest woke moments after his parents had left the house.  My B.A. picked him up and brought him downstairs and rocked him and within seconds the boy was fast asleep on his shoulder.  My B.A. then fell asleep himself, right there on the sofa.  He awoke an hour later with a stiff back and a numb arm where the small child slept.  He uses his arms to describe exactly where the child's head is in relation to his when he woke, and lights with the joy of this moment with his tiny grandson.

Soon after this we are discussing my business venture, and he is on the ‘phone on my behalf, making things happen. 

All day his family saga has remained with me.  All day I thank the arrangement of the fates which conspired for us to meet.  

It is not often that you meet a really good man.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunday Haiku

Bears, dogs and Puffles
swathe your sleep and hold your dreams:
could I love you more?



Saturday, November 05, 2011

Remembering November

Another afternoon of canvassing, walking the streets, knocking on doors, meeting more kind people, and more nutters. 

Especially startling is the man who insists the solution to all our problems is for everyone who doesn't work for a living to be taken out and shot. 

One bullet, straight through the head, then up to the crematorium with them, he says.  

I try to maintain my professional integrity by not disagreeing with him, while doing my level best not to appear to be agreeing.  They really don't pay me enough to have these conversations, I hear myself mutter when I finally manage to escape.

Another house has a large sign up, urging me to go away.  It says a 'Beautiful Person and An Old Goat Live Here.'  I knock, and am just about to give up when an elderly woman appears.  I desist from speculating whether she is the beauty or the goat (but can't help musing that she could be either) and get on with the job in hand.

The afternoon turns slowly from slate grey to black as dusk draws down the sky.  The smell of wood smoke cheers the damp air: autumn is finally with us, now, after October's Indian Summer. The trees are shedding, and crimson leaf shapes stick to the pavements.  

I remember a Guy Fawkes night of long ago, when the Bim and I and Anna-mouse still lived together.  In an act of minor rebellion I crept out of our house as the Bim was bathing Anna-m, to find the firework thrills of childhood. What a long, long time ago. 

Slowly the lights are lit, and I find that I am knocking on people's doors in the dark.  When they are opened, the light and warmth of the interiors rush out to greet me. 

After four long hours I turn the car towards home.  It is the first time I have stopped in a frenetic week.  I potter about, absorbed in the bittersweet peace of another Saturday night alone. 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Love Matters

It had been a triumphant evening.  In honour of Halloween and Anna-mouse's impressive ability both to cope with new artistic experiences and to stay up almost as late as I can, I had booked us tickets to see an extraordinary, site-specific dance piece in an equally extraordinary 13th Century Manor House.

They gave us torches and little tokens to hang round our necks and every so often plunged us into darkness, out of which a wraith-like figure would emerge to brush past us and be gone.  My girl was scared only once, and not worryingly so, and calmed herself by clinging to me and whispering her favourite chant, Can I sleep in your bed tonight? To which of course I quickly reassured her with a yes.

I drove us home in the dark, congratulating myself on the choice of event and on my very special daughter, who was the only child there.

Tiredness had begun to tell on us both by the time we got home.  Let's have hot chocolate and a snack and take them upstairs,  I rallied, to maintain the festive mood.

As I stood preparing our midnight feast in the kitchen, Anna-mouse stood beside me at the counter, doodling.  I looked down and to my horror saw that she was writing on a plastic folder holding some of my precious work with my expensive black liquid eye-liner, which I had left lying there hours before after  painting a Halloween spider on one of her cheeks and a spider's web on the other.

Look at this, she says, look what I did for you.

I glance at the writing, and make a snappy comment about her choice of materials.

She dissolves into tears.

But you didn't even look at what I wrote, she wails, You didn't even look at what I said!

For the first time I read her message written in wonky, eye-liner writing:

I love you Mum.

She is howling now, my insensitivity the final straw.  I take a breath and remember suddenly where I am, and who I am with, and what is important.  I crouch down so that our eyes are level and hold her a little away from me so that she can see my face.

I am sorry, my darling, I say.  And you know what?  You are absolutely right.  Mummy wasn't looking, was she, when she should have been, and you wrote something lovely.

We hug, and she whimpers a little and calms in my arms.  And then I straighten up, pick up the eye-liner and write very slowly and deliberately underneath her message to me: And I love Anna-mouse.  

There is quiet in the kitchen as we stare at our messages, and I contemplate silently that the love of a child is never a given, always to be cherished, always to be earned. 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I Can't

This post is for someone I've never met.
It's for the woman like me who can't do it all.  It's for the woman who has found herself bringing up her child alone.  There are people around her, and she is loved, and the child's father is even much in evidence, but essentially, she is alone.
And I want to tell this woman It's okay: I can't do it all either.
I can't be the Mummy, and be the Daddy when the Daddy's not there.  I can't run the business and clean the house and feed the cat and take it to the vet and take the child to the hospital and edit the poetry book and be seen at the networking events and play that acting role and be there for my family and do the food shop and be there for my friends and earn enough to support us and sell the house and pack up the house and mow the lawn and put out the rubbish and write for myself and teach the school kids drama and get the car serviced and fix the heating and sort out the wasp's nest and pick the child up from school and cook us a dinner we'll both eat and go to London and smile to order and - I can't.
I can't do it all.  I want you to know that.  I can't do it all.  I want to break the conspiracy, the Superwoman-multi-tasking-super-organised-managing-everything-well conspiracy to which we all contribute by our silence.
Know this, my friend, and take heart from it:  you are not alone.  
I can't do it all, either.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Evidence of Change

It’s an odd thing, but after almost three years of the Bim and I circling each other’s lives on a daily basis because of our commitment to remain amicable at all costs for Anna-mouse, the circles we are having to negotiate have suddenly become wider.  I guess that’s what happens.  I guess that’s how things move on.  And I admit I’ve been longing for it without being able to make it happen, but now  the ties are loosening, and certainly his finding a new love so unexpectedly has forced my hand.  I have to move on, too.

Friends and family would say this is no bad thing, though I’ve been doing my best, really I have.  It’s just that I take a long time to recover from wounds.  I like to think that it’s because I’m very thorough about it.  Also I just don’t react immediately, it takes me some while to know what I really feel about any given catastrophe.  I remember thinking, in the first days after our decision to separate for good, Well this isn’t so bad, I can deal with this – largely because I wasn’t dealing with anything at all.  I was immune.  Numb to the bone. 

Recently the Bim has moved into a modest little terraced house in a village several miles away.  Well, he was in a dismal part of Kent Town; the sirens kept Anna-mouse awake at night and when someone was murdered across the street from their flat a few weeks ago, the new love and he decided that it was time to set up their first home elsewhere.

Anna-mouse stayed with them last Saturday night and was brought back to me, smelling of sleep and clutching her Minnie Mouse cushion, early on Sunday morning. 

So how did you get on last night? I asked to make conversation as she lounged on the floor before me, not for one moment expecting what ensued.

We-ell, I didn’t sleep very well, she said, in a pretend grumpy voice which made me know she didn’t really mind, but wanted me to hear her little gripe.

Oh dear, I said, playing the game.  Why was that?

We-ell, first of all I had a nightmare and it was about spiders and it was reeaaally scary and Daddy had to come and comfort me, she said, hardly giving me time to make sympathetic noises before she rattled on.

And THEN I couldn’t sleep because Daddy and Mary were doing that THING they do - you know!

And before I could unshape my lips from their little ‘o’ of surprise, my seven year old daughter launched into an astonishingly energetic prĂ©cis of the noises of the sexual act, which involved thumping her body up and down, wailing a bit, hitting the floor a few times and ending with an exaggerated groan.

Then she rolled her eyes at the ridiculousness of it all, and looked at me for comment.

Ah ha, I managed evenly, while my features fought to arrange themselves into any kind of expression at all, and my mind embarked on a nano-second race to uncover what I felt about being told that my husband had so very recently had sex with another.  

I continued to hold Anna-mouse’s gaze and nod sagely as she raised her hands and made an exaggerated, Woody Allen kind of shrug.

And then, wonderfully, miraculously, after a moment of crazed, Disney-like jealousy that the Bim is indulging while I cannot even remember the last time I was touched, I discovered that I wanted to laugh.

And laugh, and laugh, and laugh.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011


A woman struggles out of her car, trailing scarves, catching her clipboard in the seat belt, almost tripping over the belt of her coat.  She goes to the  car boot and puts in her handbag, returns to the driver’s seat to have a last fiddle with some paperwork but within seconds is at the boot again, rummaging in the handbag for her mobile phone.  Standing in the street, she sends a quick text message to her separated husband telling him where she is and what she is about to do, because they tell you to tell someone every time you go door-knocking, and although the irony of texting this particular person is not lost on her, she doesn’t know who else to tell.  She slips the phone into her coat pocket, clips a badge onto her lapel, makes a last check of the clipboard, papers and pen and, finally, manages to leave the car. 
I have been canvassing.  It’s one of the more peculiar jobs I’ve had in that long roster of Jobs Actors Are Good At When They’re Not Acting.  The first stage was easy.  Well, it was supposed to be easy.  It sounded easy on paper.  Deliver nine hundred and ninety-nine forms over a long weekend. 

It should have been okay, but it was during The Summer, and as might be surmised from the dearth-like nature of this blog since June, The Summer was not a good time.  I was sick, then, in more or less all ways.  Sick of myself; sick with the impact of the Bim’s new-found love; sick of having no money; sick of having to borrow all the time; sick of feeling stuck; sick with an appalling cough I just couldn’t shift, about which my lovely healer friend said, “I’m not worried about the lungs – that’s just the grief.”

So, obviously, delivering nine hundred and ninety-nine forms when you’re that sick isn’t easy. 

Recently, stage two has kicked in.  I have to go back to all the houses which have not responded to the call to join the Electoral Roll and encourage the householders to fill out the form with me on the doorstep.  Of the 999 delivered, there are more than 350 forms to chase.

It’s quite a process (once I’ve actually managed to leave the car, that is, which seems to be a key part of it).  Each time I go out I have to fortify myself for the challenge, remind myself that I am doing this in order to be able to afford Christmas, and sally forth.

Knocking on three hundred separate doors is an experience.  In fact, if the occupants are not in the first time, I have to knock on the three hundred doors three times each, and meticulously record each knock on a given form, before I can be said to have done the job properly.  As Anna-mouse would say, that’s a lot of knocking.

I have to protect myself to do this.  I don’t mean physically (although we were given a handy sheet at the start of all this about what to do if threatened by a menacing dog), I mean in the psychic sense: each house approached, each bell rung, each door knocked upon affords multiple glimpses in miniature into the lives of the people who live there.  Garden gnomes, gravel, gate latches; steps up, steps down, ‘No hawkers’; door knockers, broken bells, letterboxes;  dog barks, cat bowls, litter trays; peeling porches, faded nets and odious runaway smells:  all these reak of the effort of living, the attempts to lead individual lives.

I have encountered human nature in all its dreadfulness and glory, on these local doorsteps.  I find myself making up stories for those I meet, filling in the blanks, endowing these neighbours with qualities they may never have heard of.  I remember the man whose gaze was so direct, expressionless and disconnected that I found myself backing down the pathway before the interview was over; I remember longing to step inside, when the Asian man with the kind eyes and empathetic gaze asked me if I'd like him to make me a hot drink.

Above all, meeting so many people who live within the same small square mile I myself inhabit has caused me to acknowledge quietly to myself that the life I am living, this difficult, uncomfortable life of mine, is also acceptable within the scheme of things: it differs in the details, which are important, but I understand that we all, all of us, are trying to look up, and striving for some kind of purer air, and clearer light. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Month

With great trepidation and a tiny leap of the heart, I would like to announce that in order to honour the good and special people who come back to this place time after time to check if there is something new to read - and to honour that something in myself which has never quite let this blog go - I have signed up tonight to NaBloPoMo.

To those not in the know, simply put this is a commitment to write a blog post every single day for one month. In my case The Month will begin on 1st November.  This could be the single best decision of my writing life.  On the other hand...

I am now going to lie down for the weekend.  Because what with raising the child, selling the house, running the new business, recovering from the Bim and trying to get my mojo back, there won't be a lot of time for sleep in the next month.  Certainly not after tonight's impetuosity. 

But oh, what will this bring? 

I love the Livvy that did this.  I remember her from long ago.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


A creaking tree never falls down...
My mother-in-law, who is justabout still my mother-in-law, said this to me last night. We had a conversation on the telephone, her in Ireland, me here.  After years of minor struggle, we have reached a place of mutual respect and understanding, and one of the things that we understand is that both of us have lost her son.

I love her, strange to say.  I never expected to, but it's true.  She once bought a mug out of which to drink when she came to visit and for a long time I hid it at the back of the cupboard when she wasn't here, and looked at it askance, should it ever have the audacity to creep to the fore.

This evening I sought it out.  Its silly, flowery pattern comforts me and I sipped my tea hoping that some of her countrywoman wisdom might somehow slip into me.

She told me the story:  for years a tree outside her mother and father's cottage would worry and wake them with its noise.  Today, the house is long gone, and the tree still stands.

A creaking tree never falls down, she recalls her father saying.  Because it bends, I suppose.

I need to bend.  I need to stay standing.

Sometimes I count it up, just for fun, the astonishing number and variety of life events of the past decade.  Bowed down by my mistakes, I have been close to feeling like one who has failed, recently, and it helps me not to feel like that, reminding myself what this creaking tree has withstood.  Some of the events have been chronicled here: it wasn't long after I started the blog that my subject matter went from the mundane to pithy.

Not all the events were bad, of course (and among the horrors there came a strawberry-blonde girl whose presence nothing can gainsay)  but it looks like I'll be adding divorce, near bankruptcy and moving house to the list before the decade's up.

I write on a Saturday night.  Almost always I am alone on a Saturday night.  It's not alright, alright.  It's the loneliest night of the week, it has been for some time.  I'm too tired to work.  I'm too worried, too sad, too alone.  I have no money, none, and the Bim has finally gone.  The Bim is not alone this Saturday night, he is with Anna-mouse and another.

But tomorrow or the next day, when Anna-mouse returns, I will have the driving force of my life by me again, and remarkably I am not ill.  I creak, and I am always tired, but I am not ill.  And I have a talent to put words together which has led me to a new career - I have started something which I hope, if life's burdens don't become too great, to finish.

Of the decade's ten years, there are only ten months left.  Head down against the mutterings on the wind, I'm going to creak and bend, and try really, really hard to stay standing.