Monday, May 14, 2007

Cratloe Woods

For years, as I was dragging myself,through childhood into adulthood, Sunday mornings had a reassuring, monotonous colour to them. Stumbling out of the scratcher, in a relative state of cleanliness - due to the Saturday night ritual of bathtime - breakfast and then Mass. Our mother fed and watered us, checked that we were "presentable" which usually entailed rearranging the clothes, wiping the sticky marmalade off our ears, clearing the boogers out of our noses and then herding us out to the car where the Boss was waiting patiently. Somewhat of an ordeal for her I suspect.

Then off we tootled, en famille, to perform our Sunday duty.

The spirituality and sanctity of the whole exercise was a bit lost on me. I was much more interested in what was going on around me. Who was there, what they were wearing, who was very holy, lips moving in silent devotion, who was asleep, who was fervently running the rosary beads through their fingers at breakneck speed intent on garnering credit for the afterlife, who was glaring crossly at me for staring at them..... any bit of distraction at all was more exciting than the ancient one on the pulpit droning on, and on, and on, sometimes in Latin.

Much fidgetting, shuffling, twisting and turning later, it is over. Forty five minutes and we were well on our way to getting into Paradise.

By my mid-teens I had stopped going to Mass. My parents knew, I'm sure, that my Sunday morning excursions to "Mass" with my friends were fabrications. Not having a reasonable account to give of what the gospel was about probably gave it away. But they gave me my head. No bitter arguments, no tyrannical tirades, no fire and brimstone. Maybe they realised the futility of arguing with an angst-ridden teenager. Such wisdom.

But now I'm back at the Sunday morning ritual.

Only this time it is not a church, or a synagogue, or a temple.

It is a tract of land covered in high trees, dotted with hollies, ivies, ferns and all kinds of growing specimens that I can't put names on. Anonymous monuments to a greater power.

Now, I still stumble out of the bed, the state of cleanliness is usually passable, breakfast is skipped - a postponed pleasure - the runners are donned and off I go for my spiritual fix.

Twenty minutes later, I am there. Ready, willing and able. Spiritually speaking. Physically, I remind myself of a very old, very delapidated, Model T Ford that needs to be cranked by one of those thingies that you stick in the front and twist until the engine bursts into life. But 10 minutes of forcing one foot in front of the other up the steep hill at the start is rewarded by the familiar feeling of elation. I'm here, I'm upright, I'm moving, I'm still breathing.

And then. It is pure heaven.

The trees, tall and stately, sometimes swaying in the breeze, sometimes roaring angrily, sometimes as still as death, are always magnificent. The paths are just dirt tracks which nature endeavours to cover with cheeky tufts of grass and more sedate ferns. These paths trail through the forest like meandering ribbons, going this way and that but never leading one astray. Bit like Himself, really.

And the silence. My soul yearns for this silence.

Sometimes I go to the hills and can recall nothing of the run after the first, hard hill. I suspect my soul has left me momentarily and gone to play in the real world. I don't mind being abandoned like this because when my errant spirit does return, it is usually rejuvenated, calm and content.

It certainly beats the socks off sitting and listening to someone telling me I'm damned forever.

For whatever sins and misdemeanours I have committed.

On Sunday mornings, I feel more at one with nature and the true essence of myself. I feel, its O.K. to just be me .... warts and all.

It takes effort.

Sometimes, I really would prefer to loll on with the papers and my dreams.

But the price is too high.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Today, I am tired.

Tired into my bones. Tired into the recesses of my brain.

I have a good idea why my body is tired but am a little perplexed as to why the thinking apparatus is shutting down.

Could it be because I am weary of being bombarded through all of my senses with the chaos and insanity that is 21st century living? Or am I just being pessimistic? Has the earth and its inhabitants lost the plot altogether? Or am I just being cynical?

A little while ago, the national newspapers carried, on their front pages, a large photo of a young man and woman both holding small children in their arms, happy, smiling, celebrating a big football win ... and underneath was the following piece of information:

Man, 28, kills his wife, 24, smothers their 2 children - 4 years and 18 months - and then, hangs himself.


Nobody knows.

Everybody was shocked and appalled. " Why did nobody do anything ... why were the authorities unaware of the danger this family were in .... why didn't someone help these people "........ why, why, why ....... Lots of outraged questioners. No answers.

A little over a week later, the general public have stopped asking questions. Have stopped discussing the awfulness of this event. Have probably stopped thinking about it. Have probably stopped caring.

I am tired of trying to understand this.

I know that we all lead very busy lives and cannot, realistically, be concerning ourselves, unduly, with happenings outside of our immediate spheres. But whats to stop us caring? What prevents us from having a tangible reaction to unwholesome events? Why are we not REALLY bothered enough to get out of our comfort zones and do, think or say something, ANYTHING?

I don't have any answers.

Ultimately, I can do very little about any of the wretchedness in the world.

And its this impotence, I think, that is making me weary.

And, in the blackness of this weariness, I am holding on for dear life to my own, personal maxim

"First, do no harm...."

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Real Women 2

Finally, again.

After much deliberation ........

R ........Resourceful, rooted, resplendent, rollicking, riveting

E......... Earthy, eager, emotional, elderly, empowered, enduring

A......... Anonymous, adventurous, alive, authentic, aching

L......... Loyal, lonesone, loopy, ludicrous, luminous, listening

W........ Wild, weary, worriers, wrinkled, whimsical, warm

O......... Ordinary, overjoyed, overawed, obsessed, okay

M......... Mortal, musical, mellow, merciful, misbehaving, magic

E.......... Energetic, exhausted, endeavouring, essential, exposed

N.......... Nameless, natural, nourishing, needy, necessary, nuts

Real Women 1


When Molly tagged me for the real women meme panic set in. All the real women memes I had read were very professional, erudite and some, even, awe-inspiring. My inate desire to keep my end up led to all kinds of doubts and ditherings, hence, the long delay.

Well, here goes.

Firstly, for the last couple of weeks, whenever my mind turned to thoughts of "real women" and memes, I had some difficulties, in fact, lots of difficulties.

Real. Well, if you're not real, what are you?

The Collins English Dictionary defines real as genuine, sincere, honest. The opposite of real is fake.

So if one is not real ... . is one a fake?

Fake is defined as artificial, false, counterfeit ........

At this point the dictionary is no longer required.

I know quite a lot of women. Not very well but well enough to know that all of them consider themselves to be very real. Because of the line of work that I'm in (the fitness industry) I tend to come across all types ..... young, old, tall, small, fat, thin, pleasant, unpleasant, beautiful, not so beautiful, content, discontent, happy and unhappy. But they all share one characteristic.


A need to have their existence acknowledged and accepted. A need to be recognised as unique. A need to feel part of the greater scheme of things.

A lot of the women recognise these needs either openly or at some other level and deal with them in their own way. Others do not.

Its these others, who are sometimes, leading lives of quiet desperation, that I feel are the real women because they are the survivors.

They survive physical, mental and emotional abuse.

They survive tragedy, loneliness, heartache and anonymity.

They survive illness, rejection, poverty and wealth.

They survive life.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Right Pair of Wans

Under normal circumstances, shopping does nothing for me. It doesn't matter what kind of shopping. Grocery or clothes, electrical or doodah, personal or impersonal .... it doesn't make a blind bit of difference ... I still cannot get enthusiastic.

I have 2 daughters, aged 26 and 20, who, unlike me, love to shop ... well, really, one who loves to shop and the other, who is, a more than willing, poverty-stricken accomplice. And nothing delights them more than when they manage to persuade their less than ecstatic mother to join them on one of their jaunts to the big smoke for a few hours of retail therapy. What, you say, do they want with the reluctant, old bag who hates shopping? Well, they tell me "It'll be FUN!" ..... you know " you really could do with some NEW clothes yourself Mum" ..... " It'll be just us girls".... "Quality time with your darling daughters ?" they ask, querulously and I am suckered, persuaded, against my better judgement, mind you, to accompany them on the expedition.

Against my better judgement, because experience has taught me that spending "quality time" with this pair of wans usually entails the "spending" of large quantities of cash on my part.

Anyway, because I love them dearly, I am usually cajoled into accompanying them.

Our most recent expedition was during the Easter holidays. Daughter No.1 was home from London for a few days so there was great bonhomie and general gaiety. Daughter No. 2 (the impoverished one) was practically barefoot for the want of a hole-less pair of shoes so was aiding and abetting daughter no. 1.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. Everybody out in summery type clothes, smiling happy faces all around us. Lots and lots of people, mainly of the youthful variety. As we're wandering the streets through the milling masses it starts to dawn on me slowly that people are looking at us and smiling. A lot of people looking and a lot of people smiling. Its the weather, I thought to myself, everyone is in better form when the sun shines. In and out of every shop, up and down each street, and they are still smiling. I do a quick check to make sure I have'nt my trousers on back to front or odd shoes on my feet. No, I seem to have been able to manage to put an appearance on myself. And the girls, as usual, are gorgeous.

Ah yes.

The gorgeous girls. No wonder they are looking. Because, on closer inspection, the people looking and smiling at us are ALL male. They all PRETEND they are not looking. But I know. I see them adjusting their flight paths to get closer or suddenly changing direction which will necessitate an "Excuse me, I'm SO sorry" accompanied by a dazzling smile. And the less bold ones, well, they gaze from afar, smiling. I'm beginning to enjoy this.

When I tell the girls they laugh and seem unfazed by it all. They are used to this anonymous adoration.

"Time was" I tell them "when I could turn a few heads myself". Being well brought up young ladies, they didn't snigger. But that was a long, long time ago.

For now, I am content to bask in the reflected glory. Content to stroll down the boulevard, beautiful daughters each side of me, to smile benevolently at all and sundry. To feel an inordinate amount of pride in the beautiful, happy, loving children that I have managed to drag, by the skin of my teeth, into adulthood.

All my own work.