A distant dream…

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I twitch and I am awake.

There is no blinking back to come around from a dream before rooting myself in reality because I know exactly where I am.

Flickering light half illuminates the room as a long forgotten film plays, almost silently, from the bookshelf opposite the bed.

It’s gone four am and I shouldn’t be here.

Your warmth radiates through the duvet and pulls me back, closer still. You are also awake but you don’t say a word. We both know what you should say. We both know I wouldn’t listen if you did. So, instead, I stay.

You smile. You sit up and turn on the bedside lamp before rearranging the cover to accommodate your new position. I shift my stance and sit up too. The bedside clock tells me that time is ticking by but still, not a word. We won’t be rushed. I take a sip of last night’s wine.

An eclectic selection of books are scattered on the floor amongst day old t-shirts and half drunk cups of sugary tea. Words read together that seemed to seal our fate. Shoes wait alongside an empty wine bottle, watched over by the shut door. The air is stale; stuffy and still, the stench of cigarettes and too much time hiding away.

You kiss me and I know this means I will have to go. You are right. You often were.

I close my sleepy eyes once more in a desperate attempt to cling to the night. A time when the world would stand still and all there would be, all that would matter, is you and I.

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Insomnia

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There is something strange, yet magical about the world when you awake in the middle of the night.

Far from silent, the sounds seem amplified and enormous in the otherwise still space. Cars pass headed to who knows where. A train rumbles by. The house softly groans. I feel the same way. My rested brain is more intent on interacting and yet the rest of the world is rightly reluctant. My mind drifts to dream of all of the people in all of the places with something to do other than to simply lie here. Still. The world seems to want to keep the action far away and out of reach and yet remind me that it is always there.

Minutes feel like a lifetime as you are left alone with nothing but your thoughts. Time to think is always a killer. The clock becomes an enemy and even an off hand glance in its direction is too much to bear. So I lie perfectly still and straight and hope that my mind might find it fitting just to fall…

The sound of others sleeping is a funny sort of comfort. A reminder that rest does exist. Frustration and reassurance come with each steady breath. And yet, I have come to almost enjoy this space.

I am free from obligation. I can breathe. I can exist and simply be.

Little pieces of me

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I always was a hoarder. I would keep everything, afraid to throw it out in case I forgot. Every possession I treasured, I treasured.

It was all there. Ticket stubs from first and last dates, flyers from clubs, love notes, letters unsent… I kept a keep sake from every moment that had made me smile. Items that held nothing but happy memories. And hope.

As I grew older and the memories moved further and further from my mind I still clung to these mementoes. It was as if just by having them I held the bricks, the keys, for happiness.

But I didn’t. And often, in retrospect, these treasured reminders simply made me sad. Made me long for a life that was no longer mine.

Piece by piece, and then in piles, my treasures became just trash. No longer items of importance because my identity had shifted. I was no longer to let things hold me back…

Let’s get lost

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So, this week heralds the start of this year’s Glastonbury Festival and, just as last year, I begin to turn down the volume on the radio as I get in the car and avoid logging in to Instagram. I cannot face the excessive excitement because, essentially, I am ridiculously jealous.

Instead, I will spend the weekend texting my best friend, just as I did earlier in the year as Coachella played out without us. Texts filled with promises and prospects of future fun. I will text her whilst I drink wine in my pyjamas on the sofa waiting for my daughter to fall asleep.

I have never been to Glastonbury and, let’s face the sad truth, I am now never likely to go. However, having been to a few festivals, as I am attacked by the build up from every angle, I can honestly say I wish I was there!

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Because I need to get lost. I need to shake my hair out, dress in clothes that cannot viably be worn anywhere else and play pretend for a few days. I need to run away from reality.

Everybody needs to escape. Everybody need to explore. Everybody needs an excuse to be somebody else for a few days.

But sometimes finding a few days is simply unrealistic. There are days (like today) when finding five minutes feels like an impossible task. And I know that, instead of walking out of a tent in to one world of make believe, I will climb under the covers and find an alternative world all of my own.

I will draw the curtains and turn on the bedside light. I will find an old, treasured favourite, inhale and begin. And, page by page, I will walk away. Slowly at first and then completely. I will reject reality and embrace my escape…

A favourite photograph by Tim Walker that speaks to me of the beauty of escape.

Through closed eyes

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When I was twelve I didn’t see anything.

As I sat on the steps and, with all too much anticipation, watched the world expand, my eyes started to show the first glittering signs of defiance. I ran my fingers through my strong, straight hair to pull it back in to the agreed ponytail and looked on as older girls sat, surrounded by boys even older still, in the centre of the room. Their smiles spoke of something else. Something still secret. And I longed to hear it. To taste the excitement that escaped each time they laughed.

But I didn’t see a thing.

I didn’t see how quickly I would transform in to one of those girls. A transformation greater than rolling the top of my skirt over three times and upgrading to a pair of platform soles. I didn’t see how my smile would speak to other people, how my laugh would echo in their ears. I failed to notice at all so how could I consider the effect? I didn’t see how those glittering sparks would grow to burn hot and angry, silently screaming where my voice would fail to be heard. Where words would struggle to show what my heart would become afraid to say. I didn’t see how strikingly beautiful I would become. Or how little that mattered. Or how much damage that could do. I didn’t see the dangers the excitement disguised. Or how I would ignore all the warnings. I didn’t see my dreams beckon me and whisper gently of all that I might have. I didn’t see how easy that might be. Or how hard I might have to work. I didn’t see how quickly that beauty might transform into something different, into something dark.

I didn’t see how I would long for those innocent eyes. That honest heart.

When I was twelve I didn’t see anything. I was too busy looking for it all.

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The first sign of fear

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If popular culture is to be believed (and, let’s face it, it isn’t) then every woman has that moment; that moment when their heart sinks, their eyes widen in disbelief, when they break out in a cold sweat as panic takes over before locking the bathroom door to cry in front of the mirror. That moment when they realise things will never be the same again.

The moment when they discover their first grey hair.

Obviously this is not the case for every woman. Most of us are lucky to get five minutes alone in the bathroom let alone enough time to embark upon our own existential crisis there! That lone, wiry, grey hair has simply become an unwanted symbol.

But with the UK beauty industry valued at fifteen billion pounds and a considerable amount of this made up by the sale of products and services designed to keep us ‘looking young’, can we really deny that this symbol has become highly effective in speaking of, and in turn to, many women’s fear of growing old?

This is, of course, due in part to the media’s representation of women. Women shown to be of any value are presented as thin, pretty and, of course, young. And there may be Dames Helen Mirren and Judy Dench showing us that this doesn’t have to be the case but, sadly, they have become examples of the rare exceptions that prove the rule. Fabulous actresses and women in general, they are still hailed as the solution to the portrayal of older women in the media (and yes, I appreciate the irony of mentioning them here!).

However, I truly believe that most women in the twenty first century, despite buying in to the latest fad or quick fix, are, ultimately, savvy enough to see through these models for manipulation. So why then does the prospect of ageing fill so many of us with fear? Surely it can’t be beauty alone?

Might it be the futility of and failure in attempting to avoid the inevitable – a sense of being powerless that only serves to reinforce many other doubts and fears? Or simply a sadness in mourning the loss of childhood hopes and dreams – a realisation that that reality is often a difficult place to reside?

A grey hair most certainly does not mark the end. But maybe women can be too insightful.

And maybe in this symbol they see the start of the long search for something more meaningful. And taking that first step can often be very scary indeed.

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Final marks

Love, Uncategorized

Now that you are lost, I find you everywhere. Soft sparks that remind me of that long extinguished flame. Sparks that make me remember and smile.

In a city I wish we had seen together, I hear the distant rumble of wheels on concrete. Words hidden in a long forgotten book. I see some ill fitting jeans. A film. A photograph. I walk down a once familiar street as someone new and there you are.

And I know my face has been replaced. As has yours. Time and again. Age and change have transformed us.

Something so strange at first, I now begin to recognise my reflection in these moments. Glimmers of myself, illuminated by blue light in a second floor bedroom at 3am. Safe and secure and certain of who I am. Who I am going to be.

I thank you for these scars. So deep and so true that they took a decade to discover. Marks to remind me of me.

Permission slip

Fashion, Uncategorized

Fellow girls,

I want to share a secret with you. Something more like a confession. Something you may find shocking. Something I’m a little ashamed to admit;

I have let my standards slip.

I have always been a little high maintenance when it comes to my appearance. And, ok, I don’t spend thousands on nail technicians or hairdressers. Essentially because I am too much of a control freak, but also because I don’t have the money. But I always did have the time. And the inclination.

I would spend hours getting ready for a night out. Often the best bit (and certainly the part I could remember), I would painstakingly apply product after product with expert precision. Primer and base and powder and bronzer and blusher and shadow and highlighter…the list is endless.

And I loved it all.

I planned outfits to within an inch of their life. Entire phone conversations, taking place days in advance, would be devoted to discussing the outfit options. Always accessorised appropriately; complimentary shoes and bag, statement jewellery, well fitting (and, yes, always matching) underwear; a look for every occasion.

And hair. Hair was always my favourite.

I am proud to say I am a perfectionist. But perfect is a problem.

At first others told me this. Apparently getting up at 4.30am on a work day Wednesday to wash and style your hair before trying on every item of clothing in your wardrobe, rejecting them all and then refusing to go to work because you have cried so hard your make up is ruined is not normal behaviour. I didn’t believe them.

And then it happened. Time was no longer on my side and so it started with the eyeliner…

Terrified, I ventured out with tired eyes . Too sore. I simply couldn’t look.

And do you know what happened? Did the universe implode upon itself? Did strangers stop, gasp and recoil in horror as I passed them in the street? Did friends pretend not to see me and turn the other way?

No. Nothing. No one even noticed.

They failed to notice the day I got up late and opted for dry shampoo. Or when I forgot to buy a new foundation. Or wore a skirt with slightly stubbly legs.

And that made me sad. Why, you may ask, was I sad that something dreadful, terrible or horrific failed to happen? But it is my hope that I am not alone in knowing the answer because that would simply be sadder still.

The truth is this: I have wasted over fifteen years of my life believing that how I looked made an impact, that how I looked mattered, that how I looked even changed the world. Wasted time.

And I may not be ready to ditch that make up bag completely. And I can’t ever see myself opting for sensible shoes. But that decision may now be driven more by love than fear.

So this is me giving myself and, in turn, you, permission to lower the standards. To give yourself a day off. To forgive yourself for your flaws.

Permission to be imperfect.

Because who knows what else doesn’t really matter?

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A second chance?

Love, Uncategorized

I stumbled my way through the years. Lost without you. I wonder now if you could feel it too?

I had cut you from my life with blunt, childish scissors. Attempted to repair the tear with false confidence and ever failing dreams. We were too young. Another time, another place.

But time came and went and places passed us by. Alone again (or often not) I would catch myself wishing for you by my side. Finding your face and your voice and your touch absent when I needed them most. Finding that void.

Too proud. Too fearful. Too ashamed. There could only ever be one second chance.

But time had patience and worked in its way. Places have pulled us apart again and again and again.

And all that time finding it hard we let that happen.

A matter of perspective

Family, Uncategorized

Age twelve, I was terrible. Not yet a teenager but causing my parents more than their fair share of trouble. Their house, my home, became more a drop-in-centre for me and my newly acquired following of friends.

A place that felt small when I was too big for my boots.

My bedroom, a recent garage conversion, provided the perfect private space; a flight of narrow stairs separating us, from them. Pastel paint and ‘Forever Friends’ spoke of my all too recent childhood whilst shared secrets and first kisses were played out in front of an audience of tatty posters from the middle of magazines that screamed from the walls of an attempt to become someone new. Dim light cast doubting shadows.

Down the corridor, the kitchen had become a cold and deserted space. The spacious extension never stepped up to the mark. And the back door marked the boundary between all that was familiar and the world I wanted so desperately to explore. Never locked, it became the direct route to my first attempts at freedom.

Upstairs was different. An oversized TV provided a non-stop soundtrack to the 90s. Tatty pink sofas, that were yet to be replaced, saw my parents take time to stop and rest. When they were home, that’s where they could be found. A constant, my brother would be attempting to transform the scene into the backdrop to some of the greatest sporting victories the world would never see with each bounce of a ball. Upstairs was home.

And nestled at the top of the house were their bedrooms. And somewhere I would soon sacrifice the space and freedom of my downstairs for in favour of angular ceilings and a cramped child’s bed. Just to be near them. Just to feel close. Subconsciously trying so hard to remain a part of them whilst the rest of the world slowly succeeded in pulling me under and away.