My paternal grandmother will be 100 this year. My mother died 13 years ago. My father, in a blend of grieving his wife and tending to his mother, has taken to giving his children pieces of family significance with every visit. At some point, he gave me a sugar bowl my grandmother purchased when she visited my parents shortly after my birth.
It’s a piece of pink English pottery. It is painted with a pastoral scene. It was once broken and glued back together, although one small piece was never found, so there is a small chip in the unlikely place of the middle of the bowl. I use the sugar bowl daily, although it doesn’t technically contain sugar. I say technically because I use a sugar substitute. Not everything my father hands off to us is quite as appreciated.
Angela Leadsom’s use of the word ‘exposed’ in relation to lessons about LGBT people was not OK.
However, she didn’t say (as has been reported) LGBT students represent a contagion. She was glad her own children had been expected to accept the rainbow families at their primary school.
She still wasn’t right, though. Parents can’t be allowed to withdraw their kids from any of these lessons.
She also missed a golden opportunity to explain what school-based sex ed is actually like. All lessons are age appropriate. They teach children to respect different types of families: they’re not supplying Cosmo-style sex tips.
Lessons that celebrate diversity? Every child needs those.
For older teenagers though, imagine if there were proper queer sex ed lessons. Or even just ones which taught about female pleasure. Chance would be a fine thing!
I wrote an angry letter to the council yesterday.
As you probably know, this is both an art and a science, with rules pertaining to both.
The science bit involves precision. They must be persuaded that they are Just Plain Wrong and should change their minds immediately. Here you must stick to the facts.
But let’s not forget that this is an Angry Letter, and strictly speaking, ‘I find this situation unacceptable’ is a fact too. And there’s the art of it – the invoking of emotion. Of course, the artist has little control over the audience’s response, but I’m hoping for something like contrition that inspires action, which brings us back to the objective – and further from the notion of art.
If it is an art at all, it’s disposable, once it’s achieved its aim. As is the anger, thankfully.
I have a birthday soon, one I once imagined I’d never reach. I expected youth to last forever, but at around fifty, it finally became clear that it wouldn’t, it hadn’t, and it would never be mine again. That was a decade ago. Time now for a brief review.
In my fifties, I have, among other things:
- Deepened into sickness, and got better
- Made friends
- Lost friends
- Changed location, and changed again
- Explored my depths with shamans and sacred medicines
- Bidden farewell to all of them
- Seen my nest empty
- Become a widow
- Learned to grieve
- Questioned the nature and existence of happiness
- Proved myself wrong
- Seen my name on a book cover
- Met myself in other incarnations
At thirty, or forty, or fifty, these things were as unimaginable as being sixty was. Was youthful me so lacking in imagination?
So, France is for the future, but for now, roots must be planted in Cornwall, which is almost as different.
Let me count the ways…
- They have their own language, used on street signs and buses only.
- Possessors of Scottish accents are exotic. And no, I don’t know Andy Murray.
- It‘s inappropriate to be offended by otherwise patronising endearments. Everybody is everybody else’s ‘andsome, sweetheart and lover.
- To someone who could drive through six county boundaries in an hour back home, it seems vast, and self-contained. Many natives see no reason to leave.
- The beaches are magnificent and, at the right time of year, secluded.
- Sunsets can be breathtaking.
- The delightfully alliterative obsessions are pasties and Poldark. Both must be indulged in.
Disclaimer: Given that residency is granted only after seven generations, these first impressions may not be accurate.
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!
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.
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.
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.