This is a pretty accurate representation of my favourite jumper.
It fits me – well, if there was one and a half of me!
It has a hole in the sleeve I keep picking at.
It is more shapeless than I have drawn it.
It is Shetland wool – the place I holidayed every year as a child and where my mum lives now.
I bought it in a shop across the road from where one of my dear friends lives. In Manhattan.
Yep that’s a lot of airmiles it has – Shetland – New York – East Lothian.
It is the jumper equivalent to a warm bath, clean sheets on the bed after two weeks away, a mug of hot chocolate, that floaty feeling you get at around 3am on New Year’s morning when everyone is still singing: half asleep, half-cut and cosy.
I do wish I had room in my life for more than one obsession. Or more appropriately, j’aimerais avoir plus d’une obsession. (My online course suggests I should re-enact my day in French, and my current level does require simpler sentences.)
It’s been longer than I’m letting on since I spoke the language beyond the bonjour, merci, et comment ça va of the casual tourist. It will have evolved and anyway I seem to have forgotten more than I ever knew. But the New Life turns out to involve a home in the Dordogne, and with time running out before the next visit, learning French is crowding out everything else. Though at this stage my needs are simple (shopping at markets, opening a bank account), fluency is a priority. Wish me luck – or should I say souhaite moi bonne chance!
You know when, at last, you make it to the sofa for a bit of TV, and you wrap yourself in the blanket, and take a deep cleansing breath, and –
ew. What is that smell?
Yes, it was the living room blanket’s biannual wash night the other day, and I got to thinking. My sister bought me that blanket, just after I had moved out from home. At first I didn’t think I liked the colour.
But it was huge and comfy and I brought it – and four boxes of books – to Mr HB’s house. I have a photo of his daughter, now 21, asleep in it, aged about 8. My youngest two fight over it every weekend, watching cartoons.
I know it’s only a thing, not a person, but it’s a special blanket. Now and then it deserves a good clean.
Domesticity – don’t you just love it? Here’s my personal top ten least favourite tasks, in no particular order:
- Scrubbing urban seagull shit off the front window.
- Swabbing all kitchen surfaces after Beloved’s weekend cooking extravaganza.
- Wiping down every single white surface in the house. (Who – exactly – invented white surfaces? Any why?)
- Disinfecting the toilet. (No. Flushing water does not do it.)
- Hoovering the plants. (Yes, there’s an art, and hoovering isn’t recommended. But it’s much quicker. Sorry plants!)
- High speed dusting – complete with hoover attachments.
- Cleaning the ‘self-cleaning’ oven. (Really? Yes. Some Nameless Numpty forgot to include the metal racks.)
- Disposal of soured milk. Especially when you are dairy-free.
- Bouncing cold mailshot letters. Ignore at your peril, they multiply exponentially.
- Pest removal – including ants, bees, wasps, moths, flies, rats and mice. Not forgetting the occasional deceased squab/baby seagull.
‘So hang on, you say you have social anxiety, but you perform, sing and do spoken word, and go to events to make contacts?’
Well now. Here’s how I put my game face on.
- Have an aim. If I have to, once I’ve tried to achieve, or achieved it, I can leave.
- Get close to the beginning of the line up if possible. Once I’ve done my ‘bit’, I can relax.
- I don’t drink alcohol if it’s a work thing.
- I don’t eat garlic for three days before the event.
- I leave myself extra time to sort out my hair (I could conquer the world if I thought my hair looked good).
- I recognise and accept the presence of ‘anxiety sweat.’ It smells different from exercise sweat.
- I check my teeth in the mirror.
- I (never) have tissues.
- I floss.
I had a normal-sized life, albeit with a tendency to uncomfortable swellings, until recently. In the months after my memoir was published, though, it became tiny.
There’s only five-foot-one of me, so I’ve never taken up much space. Tiny is my natural state, and as I was past middle age with no notable features, I was perfectly placed to reduce this life to near-invisibility. In producing a book, I had written it large – or in 12-point Times New Roman at least – and ventured way beyond my comfort zone. It was exhilarating and I loved it, but playing it tiny felt much more me.
But life won’t be played like that, and comfort zones won’t contain it. The tiny life whispers increasingly, incessantly, that it too, deserves to be written. So here I am, at the keyboard, ready to begin again.
Don’t judge me for shopping for school shoes three weeks after our term started.
OK, judge me if you like!
But I just had to share – especially after the whole dolly-babe nonsense – that we had the best surprise when we went to Clarks yesterday.
I was all for going to JD or Schuh, but it turns out my children are creatures of habit. So in we went, to the shop we’ve gone to since my oldest was getting their first walking shoe. They have gravitated to the ‘girls’ side since they could toddle.
Yesterday, I looked at the ‘girls’ side. And there was no girls side.
Clarks at Fort Kinnaird have mixed their shoes – they’ve got a trainer wall, and the smarter shoes are on the right.
To some people this would mean nothing. To me it means so much.
I spent last week in Inverness with around a hundred young people from England, Scotland, Malta and Chicago who congregated at the National Theatre of Scotland’s Exchange Festival.
Casting myself as an anthropologist, I observed the use of the ubiquitous mobile phone – how it was integrated seamlessly into conversations and performances, the quick fact checking, the intimacy of capturing and sharing images, how texts shoaled individuals like fish into the next workshop, the next show, a place to share food and thoughts, a prop for breaking the ice.
Mobiles as tools for inclusion.
And the shows these young people made – experimental, moving, funny and savvy about human emotions; willing to tackle some of the BIG stuff, mental health, migration and sexuality to name a few. This is the future of theatre making in Scotland. I came home excited. It’s contagious.
‘Ug I hate that phrase. It’s so sexist.’
‘Bang for your buck. It’s clearly a reference to sex workers.’
‘Dunno. I thought it was about fireworks.’
‘You know, if there was a way to check…’
‘… you mean like a magical encyclopedia on your phone? OK. Let’s see…
“Bang for the (or one’s) buck, which means ‘value for one’s money’, was originally a political one. Its first use was quite literal: With bang referring to ‘firepower’ or ‘weaponry’, it really did mean ‘bombs for one’s money’. The alliteration of bang and buck helps to make the phrase memorable. (Random House, via Wikipedia)”
‘There, you see. Isn’t education a wonderful thing?’
‘You’re just delighted I was wrong.’
‘Not delighted. I’m pleased for you. You’re growing.’
‘At least I can admit when I’m wrong…’