A little boost

My “other” boss rang me today. I was scrabbling around on the floor trying to sort out all the piles of lesson plans and materials and handouts from the last 7 months so I have some way of finding materials etc again when I need them and discarding old class lists, surplus print-outs and notes. I’ve now got a big pile of paper to recycle later but I’m much tidier. I can almost get my legs under my desk again.

Anyway, my trip to Lille is still waiting for confirmation, but a different one, taking in Cologne, Aachen and finally Lille on the way back has come my way. My colleague from school (Ingrid) has previously taken this group but she’s now decided she doesn’t want to do these trips any more. Her words were (after a heavy crossing last winter) “I’m getting too old for this!” and so I have a couple of days work in November.

There may be more but my boss is waiting for confirmation of the probable one and also for other groups to say whether they want a courier or not. Now to be honest, I think having a good courier can make a trip go much better; but also a bad one can really put a damper on it.

So that’s work in November. December I don’t yet know about. January is still empty but if the French group who were dithering about an October trip to the school decide that Swine flu is still too much of a risk, then they will probably come in January (don’t quite understand that one but hey!). I hope to find out in the next few days if they decided to come or not; even though we’re off, I’ve said I’m available if really needed. 

But the best news is that I am still wanted to go to Austria in February for maybe six days. I know the school is going to want me then, because they’re going to need 10+ teachers for that halfterm week but to be honest, added up, I suspect that the probable teaching hours and a few excursions is not going to add up to what I will be paid for going to Austria. My boss is apologetic that my pay isn’t that great; but I’m not bothered because when it comes down to it all my board and lodgings and my flights and so on are paid for and if it comes to a contest of which is going to be more challenging and look better on a CV, then Austria wins hands down.

It’s a little better. I’m still feeling alarmingly low and prone to fits of tears, but at the very least I have a focus for the next months: getting my German up to scratch and also practising my French.

Since I’m going to no less than three Christmas markets (Cologne, Aachen and Lille), I may even do some Christmas shopping as well.

I really ought to trust more.

Pennines Passing

I wrote this poem back in April while in the car going to Scotland for a family wedding; I’d not crossed the Pennines in a very long time and it struck me how wild they are. There was still snow here and there. I forgot to transcribe the poem until today.

Pennines Passing

April 2nd 09

 

Clear skies the whole way

Distant wisps of cloud

Over heather-honey hills

Wreathed in mist and unborn bracken

Dry-stone walls snake and slither

Along hidden boundaries and farms

The bones of the land protrude

Like ribs of a starved dog

Laid over with a thin coat

Of burgeoning springtime grass

Sheep and lambs like clouds laid low

Huddle in hollows

From biting winds and bright sun

Trees still winter nude

Stand sentinel on high points

Strong against the gales

Along the road, notched poles

To mark the road when snow drifts

Too deep to find your way alone

A splash of daffs to prove the spring

And snow like cream atop a pie

Coats the sunlit summits

A down day

I’m having a down day. One of those days where you wake and everything is grey. I get them a lot when I’m having a depressed period and so far I have been quite lucky to have had so few in this section of time. I guess it may be a reaction to the last few days of internal revelations and moving on.

The temptation is to beat myself up, blame myself for everything, punish myself for hoping for better times and situations. The fact is, despite the departure of the Goblin Queen and her minion, I’m in a job that has no real prospects and after my trip this afternoon, has no work for me till God knows when, quite possibly February or March next year. I may have work from my other job but that’s also subject to the vagaries of the economy and so may not happen at all. My dog has a serious illness. I could go on with what’s wrong but the truth is it’s not a single issue or even a conglomeration of them that has created this grey day inside my soul.

It simply is. Outside the sun is shining, little white clouds are bustling along in the sky. I have a home and  a family and no major problems in my life but I still feel very low. I’ve tried counting my blessings; doesn’t make a scrap of difference.

I just need to endure; use some of the many tricks I use for lifting mood sufficiently to function, and just get through.

Dreaming of Honey

I’ve yet to explain the events of yesterday afternoon but I shall get round to it when I have ordered my thoughts.

But I want to share this section of dreaming while it’s still fresh; it’s down in my dream journal but I would appreciate feedback.

I dreamed that I was out in my garden and discovered that bees(my bees? I don’t know) had built honeycomb not it their neat little national hive but in the branches of our forsythia tree. This is a shrub/tree that produces a wealth of yellow-gold flowers in spring; ours is a small tree. The bees had built masses of honeycomb all through the branches and as well as being busy with bees drawing out the wax and filling the cells with pollen and honey, the combs were dripping with glorious golden honey. The combs were easy to reach and I could have scooped them up without having to stretch.

Now yesterday’s ritual ended by being visited by a single bee who flew round and investigated all the ritual objects and me before flying away. Bees shun the area immediately around their hive/nest because that’s where they “do their business” as well as dispose of any rubbish and dead bees, so it’s actually rare to see a bee around my garden despite having a hive there.

I don’t know what it means but it certainly feels like a good sign.

Equinox

Today is the Autumn Equinox, that extraordinary moment in the year where day and night are paused at equal lengths. After tonight, the nights will get longer and the days shorter.

I have a problem with darkness, the lack of light the winter months bring. I’m not a great fan of wallowing in sunshine either; I’ve never been one for lolling around slathered with suncream and basting myself every hour. But I do spend a lot of time outdoors and I am feeling slightly sick at the thought of the diminishing hours of daylight. I get S.A.D. I have a special lamp which takes the edge of the worst of it, and I take St.John’s wort too. I’m also feeling resentful of the fact that my summer was spent either working or getting stuff ready for work and extremely little doing the things I enjoy like walking along beaches and in forests and working in my garden. I know it was my choice, albeit a Hobson’s choice as after this week I don’t know when I will next get work, but I still resent it.

It also occurred to me that barring accidents or lethal illness, I am roughly at an equinox of life. My grandmother lived to be 85, and the mid to late 80s seems to be the lifespan of much of my family that I know of. Given that Nan lived through two world wars, smoked, ate stupid food and had 8 kids, the likelihood is that at 43, I am probably about halfway through my allotted span of life. I might get more, or I might get less.

I’m thinking that just as I don’t want to waste the sunny days of my summers again doing things I don’t love doing, I really don’t want to spend the second half of my life the same way. I’ve had a good life and made good choices, but that said, I haven’t achieved very many of the dreams and ambitions I have always had deep inside. I was brought up to believe that I’m not very important and that my dreams too are just that: dreams.

A bit later today, when I’m dressed at least, I want to do something to celebrate this double equinox and to fix in my mind that every day needs to be savoured, rain, snow, bills and triumphs and all. I’m loathe to make a big deal out of this because I have a horror of show, but I do want to mark it in some way.

I’ll fill you in later what I do.

A night of soap bubbles

I didn’t go to bed last night until after midnight and I slept quite soon after that.

I woke with nightmares somewhere after three; I think I got too hot or it might have been the cheese on toast I had for supper. It’s a nightmare that crops up from time to time, where something evil and unearthly has somehow inflitrated my home and I am required to perform an exorcism. I remember reciting the Lord’s Prayer and demanding that the thing (under my bed at this point) leave at once. I might even have directed it to move into the light but I can’t be sure. One curious thing for those of you who interpret dreams (I am talking to you, Robert) the dream was set not only in my parents’ house, but in the bedroom I had as a child but not a teenager. It wasn’t exactly as I remember it; the drab wallpaper was there but the double bed that inhabits the room today was there instead of the single bed of my childhood. I woke up partially during the dream and took better control; the monster(which I never saw) had been reluctant to obey me, but when I became lucid within the dream, I found the atmosphere of dread and terror dissipated and I work feeling OK. Usually after such a dream I wake in a cold sweat and turn the light on for a while; I often also reach for some item of religious comfort, or my husband (who could be said to be that too, given his calling)

I went back to sleep and dreamed assorted dreams that have left me with fragments of bubbles, solidified slightly to shards of very fine and sparkly glass. I’ve been playing with them since I woke, rearranging them to make pretty or interesting patterns.

It feels rather good. I feel like a child with a new Fuzzy Felts set, one with glitter and satin as well as the usual bright and not-so-bright colours, to play around with and make new pictures. None of them are permanent because, if you ever had Fuzzy Felts, the joy of them was being able to change the pictures at will to tell a new story.

The really  funny thing is that even though I didn’t go to sleep till almost 1am, I woke at about 8am, feeling ready for the day. Even when I got to bed at 9pm and sleep till 6.45 I wake often as if I have tossed and turned all night. Obviously this needs more thought; recent research suggests that sharing a bed is not actually good for sleep, but I do suspect that NOT sharing one is likely to be bad for marriages. I don’t yet know if it was the skewing of my sleep pattern that has effected this change, or if it’s a mere one-off, or whether as is equally likely, that I am just relaxing from stopping my work schedule, or because I slept alone.

More research needed. I suppose I could always go and sleep in a tent in the garden to see what effect that has….

The Witching Hour approacheth

It’s pretty rare for me to be up this late. I am usually ready for bed from about 8.30 so being up at 11.45pm is quite strange.

And that’s how I feel. Quite strange. I know I must be tired as my typing is a tad erratic but I don’t feel sleepy or tired in the slightest. I feel wired as if I have been slurping down the coffee all evening. I’ve been writing a lot tonight, mainly here but I have done some fiction earlier. I’ve mostly been bouncing ideas around.

I do feel as if I may be running headlong into a manic high episode, though. Normally I crave sleep like a junkie craves a fix. Now I just don’t feel like sleeping. I’m going to go and get ready for bed shortly and hope the routine of washing face, cleaning teeth and so on trigger the desired result.

The trouble is I’m a natural owl. There’s a theory that people are either owls or larks, in terms  of the setting of their body clocks. I’ve always felt I’m an owl. I work best in the darker hours of the night, even though it’s been decades since I pulled an overnighter to complete an essay. I married a lark and birthed one too.

So an owl living with two larks and living a lark lifestyle of early rising and daylight working….No wonder I’m so screwed up and struggle with insomnia despite being exhausted by 9pm. My whole bodyclock is in denial.

I’m not sure what the solution might be, given that much of society works by lark rules and therefore most jobs are run on lark time.

I’ve got six minutes now before midnight arrives. I shan’t turn into a pumpkin or lose my slippers but I know something has shifted in me.

Five minutes now. Tick-tock.

That’s the sound of today dripping away to tomorrow.

Good night and sweet dreams to you all!

Ghost Walking

I’ve promised I’d write about the ghost walk last week so here I am. Normally I’d already have gone to bed but now I have finished at work for the moment I’m happy to burn the (not quite) midnight oil and tell you all about it.

Now let’s get something straight: I do believe in ghosts. Not the stupid stuff you get on Ghost Hunter, Ghost Whisperer and Most Haunted. That’s just hokum for entertainment. No. I believe that as far as ghostly goings on are concerned, there’s something real happening. I am not sure what. My dad has long held a theory that some places act as a kind of video recorder and certain people act as a receiver; we may actually be seeing something as a kind of coded playback of events. My dad is a pretty openminded sort of chap about the paranormal; given that for a period of time in his youth he used to dream the names of the winners in the following days’ races, I guess he’d be a bit daft to be closed minded! I do believe in the survival of the spirit after death too and having seen a number of ghostly things over the years, I’m quite happy to accept that indeed, there are more things in heaven and earth Horatio….

Back to the ghost walk.

I wasn’t convinced that taking 39 exciteable Spanish 12 year olds round this town in darkness and telling them ghost stories was the best of ideas but I do what my bosses ask of me. My colleague Dillon didn’t think it was a good idea either and since the Spanish are almost always late for everything, we got to the park where we were to meet to ghost walk guide about 20 minutes late, hoping he’d have given up and gone home. Our boss had said if that were the case we could take them all down to the bowling alley!

The poor brave man was still there and immediately voiced his concerns to us. We told him we agreed but we wouldn’t hold him responsible should anything happen. God knows who would be hauled over the coals; probably me. He took us through the park to the bridge over the ravine and when we’d got the kids to shut up, he told us of one memorable suicide there and of the ghost that still haunted it. He then told of Black Shuck, the red-eyed devil-dog that haunts East Anglia. If you see him and speak of it to anyone something terrible will happen to you, you see.

The vast crocodile of squealing and jostling children made its way down the road, stopping at various points to hear about what ghastly spectre had been seen there. I nearly got crushed against some railings when I said I could see red eyes down in the park below; a screaming mass of kids lurched to try and either see or get away. The eyes were bicycle lights, by the way.

To add a slight frisson to the proceedings, I’d brought along my set of vampire teeth which I would slip in and allow one or two students to see for a second or two before discreetly removing them and smiling back normally. It probably says a lot about me that not only do I have fake teeth but also fake blood stored at the back of the spice cupboard.

Now as well as a healthy assortment of rather dubious spectres, my town has a lot of actual history and while none of it is of any nationwide importance, it’s quite interesting in a general way. Some of the last witches to be executed died here, having been tried by a kangaroo court of superstitious locals and then hanged. We had packed into one of the Scores (narrow steep alleyways that travel from the top of the cliff where the town is to the beach below; made either by fishermen’s feet tramping for centuries or by the action fo spring water) where the ghost of one of the witches is sometimes heard calling for help. Wilde’s Score is narrow and cobbled with flints and descends so steeply it had steps cut into the rock. It’s also pretty dark and when we’d got the kids to shush, he started telling the story. At a crucial moment, a back gate jerked open and one of the students fell backwards into the yard behind, creating wild panic and screaming fit to melt earwax.

After that we took the whole group down Maltster’s Score, which twists and turns as it descends from the high street. Historically it was the Score where you were most likely to meet a violent death as robbers used to simply lurk round the corners and wait for drunken sailors to come from one of the pubs or from their boats drawn up on the beach below( the Harbour wasn’t built until well into the 19th century) and relieve them of their valuables and often their clothes and their life as well. I was last in this mad cavalcade so I could hear the screams and shouts as they made their way down in semi darkness. I was disappointed as the local council have fitted an automatic light halfway along that comes on if someone walks through.

I’m sad to say that no one saw anything remotely ghostly and nothing untoward(beyond the backgate) happened, but sufficient students were scared stiff by the whole experience for it to be a likely memory for most of them. I’m slightly concerned that it might be repeated again but I know I shall recommend that it not be done with more than 20 people. It might be more fun if people could be persuaded to be quieter when the guide is talking but that said, the poor guy did a great job of coping.

I used to work on  nature reserve and it was always frustrating that except on one memorable occasion when a red squirrel started throwing twigs at my head, the wildlife NEVER put it an opportune appearance. It’s just as frustrating that phantoms are even more unlikely to appear just for the amusement of visiting students.

Where’s the Canterville Ghost when you need him???

Solitude

I’m sitting here on my own tonight; husband and daughter are in Wiltshire. He’s camping out somewhere in the countryside around Avebury and she’s in the comfort of a pub near Stonehenge as a part of a dig that’s a part of her degree.

I love my family and I miss them but I have noticed something quite powerful since I’ve been on my own when I got home from work yesterday: I can think more clearly. I don’t mean the usual humdrum what am I cooking for dinner and I must remember to water the plants kind of thinking. I mean the creative story telling style of thinking I remember being able to enjoy a few years ago.

We live on top of each other by comparison with our previous homes. And since my daughter’s illness, she’s seldom away from the house for more than a couple of hours at most. In the past she was at school or college or out with friends or whatever. When her fiance lived here too, I spent a lot of my time feeling unbearbly crowded out and unable to think or feel anything other than sheer frustration and mundanity. He’s been gone now since February when they broke up and he was here very briefly today to collect some belongings, which made me sad.

This house is a nice house but compared with the places we used to inhabit, it’s pretty small. In the (almost) three years since we moved here we’ve managed to either organise our stuff better or get rid of what we can’t keep, but even so, we still have too much in many ways. It doesn’t make a lot of difference to the actual amount of space we have; whatever we do, the house is still smaller than we were used to. There are still only so many rooms and nowhere to hide from each other. And because my daughter is ill, I’m often the only company she has, so she comes to me for hugs and to talk numerous times a day.

None of this is bad as such. I’m lucky to have a loving child and husband. But the ideas and images that come into my head waiting to be nurtured into stories are at first as fragile and ephermeral as soap bubbles and it only takes speaking or being spoken to and they reach that rainbow nirvana moment and pop. Then even though I may remember their import, I have lost their irridescence and the shining promise of their being. There’s only a wet imprint left that conveys none of the sparkle and excitement of those bubbles.

I also wonder whether the magical beings who sometimes throw those bubbles of beauty our way are put off by us being focussed constantly on washing up, laundry lists and remembering to put the bin out on Monday. I wonder if they prefer to send those bubbles to those who gaze into the middle distance at the trees turning to gold and who sniff the autumn smells of wet leaves, bonfires and fungi and think about inconsequential matters like the mid-ribs of leaves turning to filigree lace as they decay and what the fur on a bat’s tummy feels like. I hardly feel worthy of bubbles these days when I have rushed home to write lesson plans and get housework done so I can collapse into bed and sleep, to start the whole thing all over again in the morning.

As I write with only the light of the monitor, I can see a shadow on the wall behind my desk,  a dreamcatcher, the first I ever made, crisper and more defined than the physical one. We cast shadows with our creations and sometimes the shadows have more power than the creations.

I need to have more of this solitude, even if it means shutting myself away in this room or our bedroom, and gently but firmly shunning the distractions of everyday life so that I can watch in wonder as those pearlescent bubbles float by and sometimes lodge deep in my unconscious. I need to let my unconscious have time and space to go and play, to dabble in the mud and sail paper boats on ponds.

Then and only then will the stories begin to flow again.

Identity

After J made me write out a hundred lines, I started thinking about my own identity. Basically, who am I?

How do we define ourselves? By our names, our jobs, our families, what we are good at , by our beliefs? There seems to be a powerful need in humans for labels that define and quantify us.

But when I started to go through the labels that I wear I found endless discrepancies and inconsistencies. Things that don’t match, like the sock drawer after a hurricane has gone through it.

If I look at how other people see me, which can be a useful thing because the views of others can be valuable mirrors, I find there are serious problems. For example, at work I am regarded and even referred to as a hippy. It actually rather annoys me because it’s sloppy thinking, and lazy at that. It seems to be based on a few rather random things: that I have very long hair, that I sometimes wear slightly bohemian clothes and have views on the environment and on spirituality. I was born halfway through, near enough, the Sixties and I don’t really remember anything except a pair of psychedelically striped trousers I wore when I was three and hated because they were not the kind of trousers that the super hero Superman would ever have worn and since I wanted to be Superman, I didn’t like wearing them. In truth I am rather a long way from being a hippy. True, I have long hair, but since it’s rather beautiful and unusual in colour and texture, I consider it my best feature and my one true physical beauty. I wear slightly bohemian clothes because they appeal to my sense of the aesthetic and sensual and they suit my figure; they are not chosen as a statement of anything more than that. In addition they are always clean and neat. I buy some fairtrade clothing but only when I find it within my price range and that will suit me; I’d like to buy all clothes that are made without exploitation of people or planet but I can’t afford it.  I don’t speak much about my views on the enviroment or on spirituality unless it comes up in conversation and someone actually asks; I don’t believe in ramming it down throats. Unlike the hippy movement, I do think that war is sometimes a neccessary evil, and I do not belive in FREE LOVE. I’m actually quite a prude when it comes to carnal matters; I don’t believe sex is another contact sport or an amusing recreation between friends and consenting adults. I do believe that the recent phenomenon(or at least the recently coined term) fuck buddies is an unbelievably damaging diminution of the sacred act of love. The trouble is people don’t know how much it damages them because they’ve often no way of comparing. I know from stories from friends and acquaintances that in almost every case, whether it’s ever admitted or not, someone is being exploited and used. I don’t believe The Beatles song lyrics that LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED; I believe very strongly that love is a good start and after that comes hard work and committment, whether we’re talking about world peace or relationships. I don’t believe I’m the most important person in the world or that my needs or desires are that important to the grand scheme of things.

I’m a devout Christian but I’m also a permanent doubter of just about everything, including the organised churches and of any form of orthodoxy. I’m also a trainee shaman healer, though I can’t tell you who is training me or why. I believe that all life is sacred, and yet I eat meat. I believe that even rocks have a form of consciousness and that unseen by almost all, other beings walk among us constantly. In the liturgy of the Church of England it mentions Angels and archangels and all the company of heaven; for me this means those unseen beings. I don’t believe as so many New Agers do, that angels are there to do our bidding, nor do I believe they are much interested in us in the main. With so many other races present (but unseen) it’s actually unusual for any of them to wish to interact with us. I also believe that as many of the unseen company are good, just as many are bad. Something or other has hidden or purloined my favourite lipstick and I’d like it back. Please.

My identity becomes even more blurred when it comes to what I do. I don’t consider myself a teacher even though that’s what brings in some money; I’m actually quite a good teacher but I’ll never be the best because it doesn’t interest me enough. I find people quite a strain much of the time. I know I am unusually intelligent; probably somewhere in the genius range if my remembered score at IQ from childhood is anything to go by or means anything beyond I was once good at IQ tests. I don’t believe this makes me a better person or a more useful one. I have almost perfect recall and yet I am forever forgetting where I put things. Including lipsticks. I know (thank you J!) I am a good, even a great writer, but as yet this is not borne out by more than a few published items, the feedback from friends and the positive comments from agents and publishers. Believe me when I say that if you get a positive comment scribbled at the end of a rejection letter or even more so typed up as a custom written letter, take that comment and cherish it. They simply don’t have time to be kind; if they say it, they mean it and you so nearly made the grade at that point it would make you scream in frustration to know it. They just don’t bother if you didn’t strike them as worth it. As I said I know I am a good/great writer and I do wonder if this will mean more to me once something makes it to print and starts getting reviews. As an aside, Metro the free London newspaper commented on Dan Brown’s new novel as having a plot that was as intellectually taxing as an episode of Scooby Doo. I’d feel quite sorry for Mr Brown if he wasn’t earning so much money from it all!

Much of the time I feel quite empty, like a pair of eyes floating in an ocean and somehow simply observing the universe. I get quite hurt when people don’t seem to “get” me but that’s a tad silly when I don’t “get” me either. I ended up in floods of tears last years when a colleague at work had a go at me for being a know-it-all as she said. I was braced for more of the same a few weeks back when she asked me how I knew so much; I was unsure of whether she was working up to another attack. I simply responded that I read a lot (and very widely too) and remember about 99% of it. 

I think I like writing novels and stories most because I can lose not just a sense of personal identity but also the need for it. Not only that the people in my stories are more real to me than the people around me; and they can’t hurt  me either.

In the end, I don’t know who I am. I’m not sure that it really matters. Do you?