Jobs, people and faces, places hidden in dark pockets of memory; lost in the mounting years they flicker like lights with failing power, sometimes glowing bright enough to catch my attention, to match importance with present-day issues. I’m seeking the linear history, the long road from 1969; flashes of purple bell-bottoms, retro fur capes, and skirts riding up thighs, falling down legs, sometimes midi length, sometimes skirting the floor, lending me that Biba look. Music sparks flames and I drag names, hair styles and bowls of oxtail soup with hot roast beef sandwiches off a high shelf and see me in The Starlight Room at The Muscular Arms, lunching in the quiet time when bars closed between 2.30 and 5pm…days where life split in two and work became my world while home fell into a dusty childhood.
January 1st in the year 2013
This is the first of 365 – three-sixty-five days. I’m alive with the sound of Buffy festing in my ears, on my eyes. I rise half-way through Season Three, me, closeted in my cave, full of porridge and toast and dark chocolate-coated ginger biscuits. There is barely a world outside and light seeps lightly through my curtains; it hovers over rooftops across the road still but will be gone soon. On this day I slept ‘til two, catching up on the lost, eating into my time off but I don’t care. I am satisfied, sated and expectant of more Buffy. No resolutions except to fill this space, coat this paper with ink, and sink into solid intentions. I will create a new convention to reach all the days of my life.
4 days later…
The dogged rain settles in; it’s had its feet under my table for a month now, hung around all year like a friend’s baleful sister – I’ve forgotten the sound of dry roads, the bare essential of warm air lifting my hair, my senses. In this country the sun only delves skin-deep; the memory is long gone even though summer is a fact I can’t excavate a pebble of hope that these seasons will ever change. And yet, sometimes there is that magic, a lighting of the sky that makes me ask questions – does the sun exist?
…another 3 takes us to the 8th
Get rid of old frozen soup; sup it up in a week of lunches. Eat the year-old fish snuggling on the bottom shelf – I am a canny Scot and will chance food-poisoning before throwing good food away…I might be throwing it up but never away. Get rid of mess of photo files; the laptop is in distress, has been for a while but the thought of all that saving, copying, deleting copies, burning discs discs discs discs makes me ill. This computer is so full of my life I’ll die with the housekeeping of it! Get rid of the layers of fat surrounding me, keeping me prisoner in my own body – I am far too horizontal for my own good because willpower slipped out of a side window years ago. Get rid of the woman wielding the mashed potatoes and chocolate; they are powerful weapons and I’m not fit to run. Get rid of these ultimatums and see the gutter, write a path through the woods and challenge the cottage within…I am a cottage, a singular structure, built to slay tourists. There are witnesses to the preening of my bushes. Shrubs shrug themselves against my walls – they snuggle into my foundations, support me when strangers peer over the fence, whispering their awe at my beauty. This outside world grabs at my attention; it hypnotises. Threads escape, threading the breeze out and away from this hollow in the hills – I lose track, am losing my mind. Inside, the world is deep, cosy; it creaks and gleams in a soft-focus glow from hearty embers in many hearths…and the smells keep me basking, hold me prisoner where I’m warm and safe, cluttered with colour and layers of cloth and tuneful memories with voices sailing in and out of dusty corners to light up hearts, sparkle eyes. I am a home. I grow smaller every year but such is my power will never completely disappear. I can slip into a drawer, a wallet, a flash in the pan of remembrance.
I wish I could afford to be that cottage! I’d much rather spend my money on books and wool than on heating…but then I have lots of lovely blankets to wear round my shoulders, and remain connected to those I give away; I imagine them flying around the world – only recently one travelled to Australia.
Complaining about the shortcomings of my coffee in The Café on the Loch but the staff are more than stupid enough to offer me the explanation that the cup is so light because there’s a lot of foam in it! It was nice but not nearly worth £2.30.
The sun is shining on me, forcing my eyes closed, drawing me into peaceful rest; I will wait and let its warmth seep – I don’t need to see to feel lucky on such a November day. The story behind my eyes sprinkles itself in film clips even though my ears place me in this place in time; a piper throws out his tune and scattered tourists break into chatter at the sight of the loch, of Ben Lomond with snow on top.
The whole of my life is not equal to the sum of its parts and I search for a place to begin; my auto-immune system is fused together so this autobiography cannot be automatic – that way madness lies. I would like to be methodical but my methods of order will never sit in a basket with anyone else’s. So be it. I begin with today, a beautiful, sunny November day at Lomond Shores, waiting for Katy, Gareth and family to arrive; they’re late, but is has been pleasant sitting here and watching the day unfold. As I arrived a man was playing an accordion in the car park, with a kind of French jazzy buzz but now a piper plays Scotland the Brave – I hear that with my right ear and the mumbling wail from the sea life centre with my left…and, oh, that sun is warm, though there are still frosty patches on the shady ground. I’ve been here for an hour…wonder if I’ll get a winter tan.
I wish I had a big floppy hat, or at least a skip hat but somehow I don’t think either would look right with my woollen poncho. I’ve brought the ‘house’ poncho I made Trina as part of her birthday present; it’s a little bit late but just in time for the cold weather; it’ll keep her warm as it is the ultimate shawl – really just a blanket with a slash in the middle for her head. It appears I’ve got a thing about ponchos; I’ve just finished a green n white one for Susan and have started a multi-coloured one for me.
Almost half past twelve now and they’re still not here! This never happens so I’m not bothered…and it is sooo nice, just being out and about…and I walked here! These days it takes some effort to make myself go out of my way for anything. I’m always wishing that willpower would arrive in my life and drive me out of the flat, up to the loch regularly…as well as losing weight. Oh if only willpower was my best friend – I could go places.
They arrived eventually (Gareth and Lorraine had slept on because the baby slept on) and we had a gorgeous little afternoon. Katy led us all on a walk (trudge) to Balloch High St and Corries café. I entertained them with the information that I haven’t quite reached my old age yet but already found myself walking along the road with my pop-sox rolled down to my ankles…and on the walk between Lomond Shores and Balloch showed off the proof – I’m sure that Gareth with always remember the little flash of my white legs and black-clad ankles.
Although I was knackered from all the walking I was happy to have been shackled and drawn down that path but please note that nary a scream left my lips. Instead, the event of the day was the effort that emerged and shaped itself into this document.
Tuesday the 12th of November
This is the last year with a five in front of my age; next July I turn sixty…the big 60. There have been many musings about how I came to this – all afternoon I’ve been thinking and working out life-changing crossroads at which I might have taken a different path so I now plan to write alternative biographies. If I didn’t move back to Scotland when my mother was ill and then died, I would never have done the care work or the psychic work or met Katrina. Lee had already moved to Glasgow so my moves wouldn’t have affected him meeting Susan and the creating of my collection of grandchildren. But, I can’t go off on that tangent right now – keep the heed, stay focussed on this tale.
All the days of this month I’ve lived under the threat of snow, and it did show itself twice but just a flash and gone like my breath, in and out. Now it seems this is a country of rain and ever the deluge falls in a pale monotony. This dreary damp continues its conversation outside my walls; I hear it murmur to my heating system as they pass each other at the vents. Rain holds itself to the windows but is barred from entry and I smile at its sad station in life from my happy kitchen with its home-made soup and digestive biscuits. I dream of mince and potatoes with doughball but want to avoid the rain and its petulant tantrum drumming the streets into permanent black. I also dream of grey pavements and long shadows from sun shafts at the end of summer days. Our world is well-washed, waiting for spring to blow us dry.
Every single day the cloud of my mistakes sails over my head and stops to ponder how I turned out. I churned out three children and gave them all the freedom a young adult would want, then I returned to my own life and continued the path to death. Now, at least one of them thinks I don’t love him because I don’t spout the words at the end of every goodbye; he counts the days I don’t visit but is happy to borrow money from me and continue not paying it back for ever whilst insisting that he’ll pay it back. To date, I have scrubbed his debt at least twice and a third is on the horizon. What is love then? Is love the continuous pressure of expectation, of solicitous presence? Does personal freedom given freely equal neglect? I’m talking ages upwards of twenty-three here where childhood should have slipped away peacefully in the night.
Spring is on hold while the rain catches up. I keep thinking of running the rake through the clumped grass; I want to comb it out, ready for cutting, untangle last season’s dead leaves to make way for machinery. My mind coaxes visions of me out there wearing my floppy straw hat under the beating sun. but the space down there is bigger than it looks from my kitchen window up here. When I’m there it feels like a windswept moor and I’m an ancient Cathy calling for her Heathcliffe – but I’d only want him to tidy the garden.
I like the wind but much prefer the feel of it from a bench on the lochside…there is a bench in the garden but sitting on it won’t get the grass cut, will it? Sometimes I sit down and hoover the living room rug but that’s because I can. I have the technology, just need the persuasive arts to fish my son off the river to get his butt over here to ply my grass before the council Nazis arrive with their complaints. But first I must carry myself out into the world again, experience spring, rake up the leaves.
DO NOT DISTURB. Don’t knock or post advertising clap-trap; this domain has particular tastes – unlike some breeds of dog postmen aren’t amongst its favourites… nor are salesmen or god-pushers. Please keep off this patch of carpet. Take your hand out of my letterbox – I warn you, it bites, and future upgrades in technotronics would include electrification. Shock treatment is free and sometimes compulsory, so please read the small print and keep your distance. In case you can’t read or understand the language I’ve taken the trouble and time to illustrate the danger, using lightning bolts and frizzle lines escaping from the letterbox. Disturbing, isn’t it? I imagine your shocked face, and after climbing these stairs but that’s life. Have a nice day.
TRUE BLOOD APRIL
Surfing obsessions I’ve lived buried deep in another world – in two other worlds, with people I know better than anyone. Whether the audio life of the books or the stretch of a drama series, their days roll like waves, constant motion churning every what-if scenario, tossing characters from sunset to dawn. My ears sucked each voice into my circle of concentration and I walked miles in their shoes, held their tears in the cups of my eyes. Now I’m bereft; there is no more until there is.
Dead to life. Vampire love is the same temperature as blood and it beats to the tune of wishful thinking, a song that clamours through the chambers of their hearts. I would be such a beast, turn back to front and face a new world with adventure throbbing in my throat – against the dark blackout.
MAY is twelve days old and still there is no consensus whether summer is coming or not. Rain drizzles like a girning baby and I find myself humming the old song, ‘When will I be loved…’ yes, when will I feel the kiss of the sun on my shoulders, melt into a lawn chair with my straw hat and book? I yearn for global warmth to wander over here and take a long stroll in Scotland, stay awhile and bring colour to our milky skin.