Tag Archives: Zero to hero

Loves

As Valentine’s day approaches and the shelves in my local post office still groan with ugly cards, a reflection on loves.
A fellow blogger mused on things and people she loved – so now me too.

I love –
Bananas for breakfast. Always have. Currently in these winter months in porridge slightly cooked. Brings that bit of sweetness into the sternness of a bowl of oats. As a child I seemingly refused anything but bananas and milk. Worried parents checked with the doctor who said I’d grow out of it. Months later I did. Can’t have been easy for my parents.

I love –
My parents, getting older and frailer, my mum in particular. Lucky to still have them both so treasure the time with them. Careful to leave nothing unsaid. No regrets on how a visit goes. Be there for and with them. Letting them know how much I love them. Feels like I’ll never be old enough to be an orphan.

I love-
Travelling. Soaking in the sounds, smells, sights and feel of different places. In Australia recently I’d forgotten the very different birdsong in the mornings, the smell of eucalyptus, the taste of Vegemite on Turkish bread at a cafe table on Bronte Beach, the feel of my toes in the warm sand. Lots of memories come to mind of my almost two years living in China. An overnight sleeper train, frozen eyelashes in Harbin in temperatures of minus 25, vegetarian delights at Buddhist temples, the market at Kashgar, the amazing warriors at Xian, early morning tai chi in the park in Beiijing, old people dancing in the streets of Shanghai, having my shoes fixed in the street and being made to wear fluffy slippers while it happened, fireworks all night at Chinese New Year’s Eve. I love all these memories.

I love –
My friends who stepped forward to catch me when my marriage ended. Literally crossed the world to be there for me some of them. Megan who took me in and let me be with my loss as I was able to later do for her. My friends in Edinburgh, Achmelvich, Shanghai, London, Sydney…. Scattered around the globe. My friends. Happy and sad times shared over decades and decades now. Right at the heart of me.

I love –
My brother and two sisters. Each so very different. Not always close. Sometimes fraught as we each grapple to find our way to deal with ageing parents. Each expressing our caring in our different ways. And yet always there for each other. Photos of being younger that make us all smile. Holidays and toothy grins.

I love-
Movie nights with John on the big black sofa. An arm or leg touching as we immerse ourselves in another world. Twelve years a slave. Phillomena. Gravity. Some fabulous ones of late. The ease that comes with knowing someone so well. Loving and being loved. Lucky me. I didn’t imagine I’d let myself love again. And there he is, right there beside me.

And last but not least I love –
The energy rush and fun of Zumba and the not caring how I look in last years gym gear in a class full of beautiful young women
The irresistible deliciousness of chocolate
Making a difference for and with people – those moments when you know you have helped someone be more of who they can be
London galleries – and the fact so much is still free
Mangoes in the sunshine
My technology gadgets – the beauty of apple products – a recent convert
A great coffee… And then just one more.
The tiny moments of life, the smile of a stranger, the beauty of a sky, the sound of a friend’s voice, an unexpected kindness, a shared giggle.

I love them all.
And more.

What is she thinking?

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This photo, taken by a friend of mine Andrew Pegram, caught my eye.

A mannequin, of course she is. So heavily made up for what looks like a fancy shower cap. What is the story there?

There’s a look that to me suggests she is somewhat appalled to find herself in a small forgettable shop somewhere in a suburb of a London in this bizarre hat. Really she should have been there, centre stage in a Harrods window wearing a little designer something at an eye wateringly high sum. Or as she’d see it, something reassuringly expensive. How did the fall from grace come about ?

I look at her face and wonder if she is thinking about her lowly fate, the tragedy that led to such ignominy, drummed out of the Knightsbridge set and cast adrift in the far suburbs for an eternity. Or is she just thinking who is that grey haired old duck looking with such envy at my fabulous headpiece.

I’ll never know…

Nearly…

A story within a story.
Today I was helping my nearly 84 year old father with proofing his book, the story of his life. He says he never really knew his own father so wanted to make sure none of his children or grandchildren said the same.

It’s full of stories and photos of times gone by. A home on Lake Naivasha as a child. Unspoilt beaches in the south of Spain where now tourists in droves stay in big apartments and hotels and eat food they can have at home. Being sent off to boarding school at 7. A trip in one of the very first coach trips ever to Italy with his very eccentric mother at the end of the Second World War, surviving hairpin bends through the mountains. Fabulous photos of my glam looking mother and my father with his famous grin and sense of fun. Lots of adventures while stationed in Gibraltar, Kenya and Cyprus. Army, family, travel and times and people he will always treasure. Then settling finally in Plymouth, the end of army life and the beginning of a new one. A full life, and wonderful to have so much of it captured there in that book for us all.

A small observation read today I had forgotten hearing him talk about before. He writes about coming into a barn in Kenya when I was about 3, drawn by my squeals of laughter. There I stood, laughing and pointing. And there reared up facing me, very close, a cobra.

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He still shudders now at what might have been.

Nearly….but not.

Daily prompt :SOS

Today’s challenge for bloggers set is imagine you are on the beach and you find a bottle with a message in it….
So here goes:

Eyes closed and enjoying the feel of sun on my skin, my heavily factor 50 protected skin of course. So long since I’ve felt it. A British winter that went on way too long. Grey. Way too much grey. And wet. So I feel like I deserve it, this week of indulgence doing so little.

I remember being in my teens and covering myself in coconut oil as all my peers did. I can almost hear the sound of sizzling skin. What were we thinking? Now a tan is a kind of guilty pleasure. I know I shouldn’t but this soaking the sun’s rays up feels so good. And a tan under a white top. Little can beat that.

So there I sit at the water’s edge, the water lapping at my feet, eyes closed, just being, oblivious really to all around me. It’s just me and the sun and the lapping water.

Then an object bangs against my leg… Once.. Twice. I reluctantly open my eyes. A bottle washed in by the tiny waves. Small, bluish, new looking. Not sure what it’s been a bottle of. I reach out and spot inside a piece of rolled up paper. I suddenly see myself as the heroine of the piece in a story of rescue. Opening the bottle I fish out the paper, full of expectation. When it’s lying flat I laugh.

“Fancy lunch yet?” It says in my partner’s oh so recognisable script. I turn round and he’s laughing at me, knowing all too well where my imaginings will probably have taken me.

I put aside fantasies of intrigue, obstacles overcome, derring do rescue and becoming an item at the end of a news programme in the human interest slot and head off for a sandwich.

Next time perhaps….

Daily prompt: write here, write now

This daily prompt challenges us to blog just in the present tense
So here goes

Time travel is operating now and I am 22 again and an English as a foreign language teacher in Morocco and once again alarmed to find out the school has a contract with the Moroccan police. I am starting a fairly beginner level English class for them the following week.

Eeek…

I turn up one week later, ushered through gates and more gates and then doors and more doors and I make it to a room. Wobbly legs and an urge to throw up out of fear are my strongest memories of the feelings. As the door swings open a group of about 30 Moroccan policemen in rows jump up. I am a 22 year old, very inexperienced, leftish wing young woman in her first job after university realising there is no way out. Can’t leave now. Feels like nothing in my life so far is helping me in this moment right now. It’s just me and them and right now. Eyes fixed on me. I can’t disappoint.

The first session is a blur. Some laughter, not at me but with me. I think. Terribly polite. All very surreal. Longest hour Ever.

The present tense. The subject of this blog and the tense these students were up to. We stagger along in the classes. Me dreading each one, fearing being found out to be someone masquerading as a real teacher and somehow getting away with it week after week. Yet they are learning, laughing, relaxing, all coming back time and time again.

I am getting braver. My naughty side decides that singing is a good idea and I know just the track. This one :

Perhaps little known fact: Eric Clapton’s “You look Wonderful tonight” is all in the present tense.

Perfect for this blog then.

And perfectly surreal to be a 22 year old English teacher in Morocco singing along with 30 Moroccan policemen to “you look wonderful tonight”. They loved it. Me too.

Always a memory I treasure.

So if you ever in Morocco come across an older Moroccan policeman singing “You look wonderful tonight” you’ll know why.

In the queue

You have to be prepared for a lengthy wait in the queue at the post office (which doubles up as tourist Mecca for all things London and mostly tacky). Postcards I understand though why you’d buy a completely black card saying London at night is beyond me. Some have been there so long they are curling at the edges and look somewhat faded but still full price. Cheeky I think.

It’s all a welcome distraction as we wait mostly without moving, occasionally edging forward a centimeter or two, while English as a second or maybe third or fourth language speakers grapple with the mysterious forms and processes of a British post office. There’s no such thing as privacy. We all hear their struggles and the incomprehensible information given by the counter staff.

My favourite bit is the blatant upselling at the end of any transaction “would you like a phone card? ” or some such offer, even if you’ve come to send a parcel. There’s an equality of opportunity. No-one is denied the chance to avail themselves of these surprising end of transaction offers.

So we wait, we shuffle forward, we wait some more and we listen in and yet try not to.

I peruse my surroundings. I wonder why the man in front thinks the combover us a good idea. He’s very short. Very few people aren’t granted a view of the structure on top. Perhaps a better strategy for the very tall. I wonder how that comb-over looks first thing in the morning and then cast around me for something to distract me from that not too appealing image.

2 boxes of indoor fireworks to my left, behind glass. Memories of family occasions when my dad would get a box of these out, much to my mum’s real or mock disapproval. I was never sure. They smelled bad for sure and there was always a possibility of something being set alight but that added to the enjoyment. I remember the little silver cones that once kit, turned into a large turd looking thing. Perfect in my child’s eyes.
Then ahead the Valentines cards. What a hideous display.

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So much emotion for so many around this day. Perhaps for some a hideous card is better than none.

And over in the corner some half price Christmas cards. It’s a land without seasons this post office. No matter what occasion- thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas or valentine’s day and you won’t be disappointed. If ever you actually make it to the front of the queue.

Only two in front of me now but from previous experience I know that just two people can have multiple and highly complex transactions to complete. So I put aside my hopes for a speedy arrival at one of the very few counters open.

Two more things catch my eye. A suggestion box and a photo booth. The suggestion box I think is only designed for tall customers with great eyesight, so high is it on the wall and so tiny the script on the sign. The short comb-over man in front of me will have to just keep any suggestions to himself unless he enlists the help of one if his fellow queue people. He doesn’t ask me. No suggestions perhaps.

The photo booth seems to promise to turn you into healthy attractive youngish people if the images on its outside are anything to go by. No- one seems to be taking the opportunity. Perhaps they don’t feel they can live up to such images. And in our heart of hearts we all know that everyone comes out looking startled in their photos and reluctant to have this be the image in their passport for the next decade.

I finally make it. An envelope weighed and stamp bought for Australia. My transaction even with phone card offer us over in about a minute. Somehow I feel cheated after such a long wait but I resist the temptation to find out how to renew a tv licence, driving licence or even buy a phone card.

I’m off.

Til the next time.

Weekly writing challenge – leave your shoes at the door

This challenge asks you to step into the shoes of another. What’s their world like?

I do love her. That’s not in question and she knows it. I’m still mystified why me, why she’s with me. The explanations she gives me somehow don’t convince. For as long as it lasts though, that’s good for me. But I won’t be surprised if one day we have the kind of conversation I imagine might come. Hopefully not but I’m a realist I think. I know she’d like the public commitment and admire her optimism after her experience of marriage – I just can’t muster up that same optimism and couldn’t face another failed marriage so best avoid it. It was all so incredibly painful last time for me. I just can’t let that happen again. Just can’t. I am sorry though as I wish I could say yes. Making her happy is so important to me. I’d do anything, well almost anything. Just not that.

Anything that annoys?
Annoys is perhaps too strong a word. Surprises. Let’s call it that. Or maybe mystifies. How is it that she just can’t put the top back on anything – jars, bottles, tubes of toothpaste ? Anything with a top. It turns the kitchen and bathroom into a potential assault course – things slip from my hands without warning, time and time again. I’ve asked her gently about it and she says she will do something about it. I am sure she intends to. Perhaps even manages for a day or two but habits return. It’s just now a feature of my life.
And while I’m on the subject of slightly annoying things I never cease to wonder at her capacity to create piles of stuff around the flat. It’s like a field with a family of moles. A new pile appears, and then another. Good intentions kick in every so often and a pile or two are tackled but there is always a new one that pops up somewhere else. What is all that stuff and why can’t it just be somewhere out if sight in one of the many drawers or cupboards ? And I’ve never seen so many bathroom products. Who knows what they all do.

She tells me it’s nearly four years now. Nearly four years of tops off jars and piles about the flat, but also nearly four years of loving and being loved, sharing, putting up with me and my crazy work hours.I wouldn’t have missed any of it. And I tell her so. Probably not often enough. She likes it all that talking about relationship stuff. More than me. Makes me edgy. But she knows I love her and she tells me that’s what matters. And I do.

Monday musings

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Reluctantly dragged myself limb by limb out of our very warm bed. Trainers, gym clothes, fluorescent pink socks – all tracked down, put on and off I set to my personal trainer session. What was I thinking to agree to Monday morning at 6.30 am? Cold, dark, wet outside so sped round the corner to the gym. A half hearted smile by the girl on the desk – felt like a mandatory requirement of the role to smile yet there wasn’t anything she felt less like doing. Can’t imagine how early she’d have got up to be there for gym opening time so the wan smile was fine by me. Heroic even.

The gym was pretty quiet. I wonder how many had succumbed to that pull back into bed…just five more minutes, then five more and then just too late to go. I’ve been there. The intentions the night before are so clear, everything seems possible. Reality hits though when the alarm goes off and the possible and desirable of last night suddenly doesn’t seem so possible any more. A momentary virtuous feeling came over me to note how few others had made it.

Jara, my Estonian trainer, friendly, encouraging and just the right amount of pushy, wasn’t yet there so I started anyway. A mistake perhaps to start with the lying down on my back on the mat ones. Took some effort to get back up again but the fear of being found asleep on the mat was just too powerful. Up I got and crunched and stretched and squeezed and lunged and was well underway with the programme when Jara arrived and immediately the pace picked up. Didn’t want to disappoint.

One hour later, I headed home with a strong sense in various body parts of a good work out and undeniably wide awake. Ready for the day. Quick shower, change, make up applied then breakfast and off to work. Transformed from reluctant sleepy gym goer to woman on way to work. Maybe after all a good start to a Monday. Must do it again tomorrow….or maybe not.

Oh to be in England…

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Headed south from London to the depths of Surrey yesterday. A catch up with a friend I’ve known for almost 30 years. A walk in the most English English countryside I’ve been in for a while. Rolling hills , snowdrops, catkins, muddy paths through green fields. Lovely.

Soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of that little corner of England we walked and as we walked we traversed the areas of our life – relationships past and present, feelings, fears, work, death, joys. There’s such an ease that comes with so long a knowing of someone.

Carrot and honey soup. A strange concoction but a tasty warm break after the walk. Stranger still given the wooden spoons provided. Lots of big tables where other pairs like us hunched closer together to create a bit of privacy in the imposed sharing.

Then dropped back at the train station to head back to London. All topped up with the warmth of our friendship and the beauty of this little piece of England.