Friday, September 30, 2011

Decades of Difference

In your pocket
The First Decade
There are little, unnecessary pockets in babies’ jeans and dungarees and t –shirts. These pockets are too small for anything useful; except perhaps for choking hazards like some copper pennies or peanuts that you wouldn’t want to put in a baby’s pocket anyway, even if the baby doesn’t yet have the hand eye co-ordination to take the choking hazard out of the pocket and choke on the thing. These pockets are often decorated with gender specific items such as flowers and trucks, cars, trams or butterflies in pink or red or blue or glittery purple with the occasional unisex yellow duckling.
Babies have pockets even though they don’t really need them. The pockets are just a decorative flourish adding to the objectification of the ‘baby’ in our lives as a mini statement asserting our place in society.
Ever reached your fingers inside a baby’s pocket in search of loose change? What did you find? A useless, probably gender specific, fluff depository.
Ever seen a baby with their hand in their pocket? Thought not.
The Second Decade
Pockets become a bit more interesting in those middle and end of childhood years. You can use them for storing all sorts of interesting things like stones and acorns and pine cones, if you can fit them in, which you probably can if you’re determined enough.
You can also sneak forbidden toys into your school trousers to show them off to your friends, though God forbid you lose them ‘cos your parents will go nuts. Spare sweets get stuffed in pockets, though not often as they are usually scoffed as quickly as they are received and if they are stuffed unwanted into pockets they are usually found some weeks later fluffy but still edible. In the latter part of this decade, you will still keep your precious things in your pockets but they’re no longer likely to be acorns and leaves. Increasingly they’re small electronic goods that play music and films, double up as cameras and videos and phones and are probably still forbidden at school but you take then in anyway, with less fear and more fecklessness. They are fun and bleep but they don’t have the romance of football cars or Top Trumps.
As you get older, you will probably need, or at least think you may need, someday, the neat little small pocket at the front of your jeans that seems to be especially designed to hold condoms.
The Third Decade
You probably still carry your electrical toy in your pocket, although now it seems to be ‘important’ for work. You also now have a credit card and some cash. Perhaps, for sophistication or ease, a purse or wallet and maybe a lipstick. You will probably have many keys now, for a home, a car, maybe your bike lock, so they have to have a home too.
The condoms may still be there too and maybe a packet of cigarettes or some other form of recreational drugs that you want to keep close to hand. Your pockets have become a more essential accessory to your everyday life.
The Fourth Decade
 You may perhaps have a partner now or a marriage under your belt, so the condoms may have left the pocket for the security of the bedside cabinet. This decade may not differ much from the last, except that now you may carry headache tablets or heartburn remedies or maybe both together in a sign of your increasing age and inability to effortlessly cope with alcoholic overindulgence and too much food.
Possibly, your life will have dramatically altered, with the addition of a baby or two, In which case your pockets will have become depositories of many more essential things; like a dummy; fluffy and perhaps a bit careworn because it´s the only one your baby likes, in particular to sleep, and is, therefore, never placed on tables or shop counters when you are out for the fearful consequences of loss, but always placed in the pocket. Small plastic toys and acorns may also be found in your pockets, placed there by small friendly fingers, or by you when the small friendly fingers of your small friendly child have tired of them. If your baby is still small, you will probably carry all their stuff in an overflowing baby bag which never seems big enough for all you think you may need for a day stuffed into your pocket, with the dummy and the plastic toy and the stray acorn and the wallet, keys and phone, will be the smallest pack of wipes you can buy and some raisins for an emergency snack.
The Fifth Decade
If you had any kids, they will be older now and you may have been lucky enough to evolve through that detritus of baby and young child care, so you´re back to the wallet and the keys and the phone. You may even be wearing the same jeans as in your last decade or two, which means that you may have a faint rectangular imprint on your back pocket where you habitually keep your wallet or phone.
You may occasionally find an unwanted sharp plastic toy but mainly the pockets belong to you again although the credit card increasingly seems to be used by your children.
You may have a garden that you love a bit more so sometimes your secateurs may be shoved carefully, strictly in the back pocket, for safety.
The Sixth Decade
You always seem to have tissues in your pocket, there for you to dab with your tongue to use on your grandchild’s face. For gardening you have a multi pocket jacket which holds everything in it.
After this...
There are no pockets in shrouds, as my mum used to say. Although we probably all do our best to avoid inheritance tax, thus leaving our wealth to stay within the small minority of privilege.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Remembering our riches when we’re broke.

It’s difficult not to think about money at the moment. It’s all over the news, the world seems to have been on the verge of a double dip recession or a depression for the last year or so. I’m not an economist, so I have no idea what the technical definition of a depression or recession is, but I know that petrol prices have moved higher and higher since we arrived in Spain just over a year ago. I know that my grocery bill seems to be more expensive every week even though I’m buying more or less the same stuff.
It’s easy to feel anxious about finances, what to survive on at the end of the month when the visa bill is up to capacity...
The thing is, we’re not poor by any stretch of the imagination. In financial terms we may not have much money at all in the bank and very little at the end of every month, but we have a little money saved. We have a beautiful house even if it does come with a large mortgage, we have two cars and we can afford to feed and clothe ourselves, keep the lights on and have warm showers and the heating on (thankfully not yet).
In other terms we are very rich indeed, we have our own home, two beautiful children. We have our health. We are in love after more than a decade of marriage. Our children are happy at school, they play together well. We have a swimming pool in our back garden for goodness’ sake.
In world economic terms we are rich indeed.
The economies of the world seem to be stumbling around blindly at the moment in the search for growth. Everyone is arguing about the right way to stimulate economic growth. No-one seems to be saying, ok, no more growth; we need to adapt to change. Growth is good; of course, we all want to see our children grow into healthy adults. We’d all like to see our savings grow a little every month. But growth can be negative too, we don’t want to get too big, too greedy because then it’s more difficult to feed the giant that we become. World population continues to escalate but no-one seems to be talking about it. Nobody seems to be thinking about how we can sustain continued population growth.
So what’s the world to do? I have no idea...
In the meantime, we do feel poor some months. It is hard to appreciate what you have got when you see people around you with so much more. The big cars, nice clothes, designer shades. It is human nature, apparently, to compare ourselves ‘up’ with people who are achieving more. Part of the survival instinct perhaps, survival of the fittest. What we have to do deliberately, is recognise the riches that we do have in our life. They may seem small and insignificant sometimes, a home, a car, a partner, but they are enormous riches.
So time to remember that we are not starving, we are not fleeing war. Our neighbours are not our enemies. We live in a country with statehood. We are not being attacked by guns and bombs. Our children are not threatened with starvation; they have been inoculated against disease. They go to school. We have jobs, we are not homeless.
Sometimes we have to remember to thank the universe for what we have.

Ok, enough of the serious stuff...
So, how do we cope with the world financial crisis, feeling poor and depressed? I don't know, well actually I do know, put on some loud music, dance with the kids and drink at least half a bottle of red wine...just done my state of mind a lot of good, can recommend any time!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Birds

I used to work with a man called John Rattigan. As well as being an Art teacher for many years, John is an amazing artist. I was awed when I first walked into the staffroom at my previous school to see beautiful art works on display and very impressed and pleased to see that they were art works by John and for sale.

We have purchased a number of art works by John, my favourites are his monkey paintings and I got one with 40 monkeys on it for my birthday (you know, the big one, the 40). My friend Krissy liked it so much she got one for her husband. You can visit John's website here: and see some of his lovely art works...take time to look at the monkeys!
John recently sent me some pictures of his most recent works, and they have inspired a set of super short stories which I  hope you will read and enjoy. Look at the bird pictures first, because the stories are the birds' stories. ENJOY!

And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God.
King James Bible Revelations 19:17
The Wide Boy
We’s all ‘ere togever like, but not a flock. Nah. Most of us don’t know each ovver from Adam. Don’t like most of ‘em. We come separate ways. Called we wos and come ‘ere and now we’s waiting. We chirp a bit, some of ‘em ovvers are a bit bloody loud, like. Some is just bloody rude. I’ve swooped on some, show ‘em what’s what. Peck at some, stop the bovver. Sort the peckin order innit? Them night birds is a bovver and that’s the truth. The Dove sorted ‘em a bit, got us chirping wiv ‘em before she got fed up of the lot of us and went ‘er own way. We chirp wiv ‘em when we need to; twilight and sunset, in the grey hours or the red hours when the air is still. We’s a bit more ‘opeful then ain’t we? Promises of a new day or a darker ‘unting night stretchin’ out in fron’ of us an’ we’s all a bit less bloody grumpy en’t we? We all get a bit miserable. Only natural like wiv waiting and gavvering ‘ere for who knows wot. Flying at each over’s froats over little stuff, wormy battles.
Some old birds have gone, not happy waitin’ they wosn’t. Some been pushed like, got rid of some of ‘em troublemakers but ovvers are stubborn en’t they. Them peaceable ones, like Dove, no room for ’em ’ere no more. Rest of us just waitin en’t we? Sharin’ tales like, some of ‘em stories is a bit wild en’t they, some a bit older, some been goin’ round the trees for ages past.
Years we bin ‘ere, chirpin stories and waitin’, some of the new eggs flown off to pastures new, makin’ stories they’ll be, from the threads we wove together ‘ere for ‘em.
One fing we all agrees wiv, we all ‘eard it, that call, to gavver ‘ere. Don’t know who or why or when or how but we’s waitin innit. We’re bloody miserable. Lonely. Dark and distant fings crowd our heads. We want that endless sky and sun shine and flyin’ away to new lands following old routes. But we’re ‘ere. We gavvered as we was told and now it’s a wait innit. See wot will ‘appen next. No leavin now. We’s waitin’.

The Black Bird
I wasn’t always a black bird. It was that bloody ungrateful angel it was. I was white once, downey and sleek. Smooth and beautiful. Everyone admired me and loved me. People enjoyed my visits. They fed me and left me water to drink. A white bird is luck and love and divinity. These rainbow patterns look good on the black, I know, but those rainbow shades were sparklier and prettier on white.
I’d be gliding through the air, making clouds with my feathers, reflecting the light on the wing tips to make rainbows in the sky.
Then the angel came and said I was causing too many distractions for the people on the ground. There was too much adoration. Worshipping the clouds and the rainbows and collecting the feathers for ceremonies and worship.
Well, I was happy with that. My feathers deserved worship and adulation. Their span covered the continents and fleet footed clouds followed me to fiery sunsets. The angel didn’t like it though. It was a bit officious and kept coming back; asking me to slow down, quieten the sky a bit, stop showing off. I didn’t like its haughtiness so I told it to stuff itself.
It came again in spring when I was shedding little baby feathers through the sky and watching the little people gather them reverently to wrap their babies and stroke their bare skins. They wove them into dreams and their shamans flew to me in spirit form and I showed them the vast expanse of sky and prairie.
The angel didn’t like them flying, not one bit. It was starting to look a bit skinny itself, with that funny grey pallor on its skin and those feathers, well those feathers were a shocker. They were white and pretty in themselves but sparse and no rainbow colours in them.
I felt a bit sorry for it but enjoyed my swoops and flights around as it vented its increasing rage at my lack of cooperation.
It kept coming back. Looking thinner and greyer. My pity was my downfall because when it asked me for a feather I thought nothing of it. I underestimated its sly calculation. My bounty was plentiful. I could share.
When it snatched at the feather and plucked it out, beaded with a single red drop of blood, I saw that I had made a mistake. The angel planted it, in a cunning reach right between its shoulder blades. One by one the feathers began to glow and grow and the rainbow patterns covered that ugly sly angel all over, foot to head to wing tip in a glorious rainbow sunbeam. It was beautiful and ecstatic and demanded reverence and I had given this thing freely. It smiled at me and I was overawed and glad to see it happy until I caught sight, out of the corner of my eye, of my own wing tip. Small, much smaller and shrinking, shrinking away. Moving and changing colour from iridescence to grey dull blankness, then mud then black.
I was glad that it didn’t stop at muddy brown or sludgy slate grey. The shame would have been too much. The black was glossy. I was smaller and would never again find celestial glory, unless at night, but I was glossy and shiny in my black and my rainbow was still there. In my vanity I was grateful.
The angel had stolen my beauty.
I’m smaller now and earthbound with my black wings and my little rainbow patterns to remind me of my former glories. Never trust an angel, they’re tricksy things. Bastard...

I think this is heaven although I’m not quite sure. Who knows what heaven is? For me, heaven is being in this bird body. A beautiful lustrous bird flying untrammelled; unencumbered.
I don’t know quite how it happened. One day lying in bed, old and tired, watching things die out of my window. Next, this bird body became my soul’s refuge.
When I first ascended I burst into the sky. My soul felt the beauty and joy of flight. Air and sky and the horizon like a promise in the distance.
The bird constraints felt strange at first. So small. Such a rapid heartbeat.
The joys of flight, of soaring through blue skies, grey skies, red skies, black skies, starry skies filled with fire and heat. The freedom of wings and the sky flying through me. The horizon like a promise.
We came to this tree and my soul sings every day as we fly. The earth has changed. Men have died. Trees and animals, plants and insects and birds. All dead. There are not many of us here. Some quarrel and some fight, they peck at each other. Many tell me that they are waiting. I am not waiting for anything. My journey’s end is here; flying through the reckless heights as high and fast as my span allows.

Post Apocalyptic Electric Blue Spy Bird
Everything is stored in the data bank and sent back to the nest via satellite signal through the tail feather link.
The GPS is based on genetics and man tech. Over time I have found that I can override the man tech; the genetics data is vast and more reliable.
I was hatched in a sterile white laboratory with memory chips and data merged into the egg. I have an implanted memory of this.
Parts of me are bird memory and other bits are plastics and data containers. I don’t eat much as a biological imperative. After the ice and the sun and The Burning there isn’t much left to eat anywhere.
I was gathering data when I noticed the returning data streams turn from rivers to ripples then drips and then they stopped. I was at a secret GPS location, information sent via signals and data through the tail feathers. The data showed that the world wasn’t quite as it had been. My previous control directions had set me to reconnoitre and assess data for three months before operational movement was expected. After the three months, no operational movement directions were received. My systems directed me to stay.
The scorching effect changed my data interpretation. The air temperature recognition software and survival data registered many anomalies in the survival assessment data. Human life, I surmised, would be unsustainable over the 365 earth days named a year.
The data systems are more sophisticated than the original nest. I have evolved. My body changes and adapts. The plastics expressed some chemicals that hardened my outer shell and I became more heat resistant. My metals are shaped within feathers and with additional movement I was able to sustain a tolerable heat resistance. The real avians kept their distance initially but came closer when they realised I was eating little but still catching heat baked specimens for research. We hunted together in the dense foliage of the original GPS location. Some of the male avians did not like me and my habits, which they found strange. They pecked at me for a while until I decided to defend myself and my beak is ceramic metal plastic composite. I am enhanced and strong. I do not need much food: they were becoming thinner, weaker, smaller. They stopped pecking me.
When the grubs and insects died away and the rains stopped and the trees died, the avians came more often for food. I had made a negative assessment of their life span. I did not share this data. I’d stored data food samples in a crumbling old tree. I showed the avians where to find them. I began testing my parameters and found that I could barely anything and function adequately.
The avians told me stories as they wilted. I tried to help but my organoplastic compounds could not biologically reproduce and I recognised a zero survival.
Before she died, the last organic avian told me about the tree. It is an old bird story and after the grubs and insects died but before the trees fell some of the birds who fled had left in search of it, not knowing if the myth would survive the world’s destruction. The old bird had a GPS link in her organic memory. She described it to me and the final flutter of her wings signified the location as she lay down and died.
I touched her soft feathers where she lay, my data analysis showed that my metal and organoplastic compound wings were stronger and durable but would never be as soft as hers. A word sprung from my data bank, I do not understand its significance. The word was downey.
I had to over ride a significant portion of my control data. Some circuits were destroyed. I flew out of the scorched earth plain that the jungle had become. My plumage is distinctive. The nest lab technicians were playing with the feather palette when they made me and though I started as a muddy jungle green, my tail feathers soon became the distinctive blue that they are now. They fitted the sky, whose aquamarines had become more vivid in the face of the earth’s destruction.
The journey was full of death. The data keeps transmitting out although no return data has been received for beyond 200 days now. We are still within the parameters of human survival although perhaps my estimates were generous given the heat.
The homing chip started sending some electronic pain signals as I was flying beyond the parameters of experimental flight. By now I could burn out circuits and override original data with ease.
I discovered the beauty of unencumbered flight. I saw no organic avians.
The tree stands alone in the landscape. It is waiting. It is lonely in its life, held together by myth and belief and the solitary patience of the organic avians upon it.  My sensors say it is dead but it still stands and some life forms surround it. The lonely avians here survive through determination it seems. My assessment gives me no survival data. The birds here are stuffed full of data in their small bird heads. They share it all with me and I send back confused data signals of everything. Some have been here for so long that I wonder if they are organic avians at all or earlier models with GPS locations that they cannot override. I cannot detect any plastic ceramic metal compounds. Everything seems organic.
I have not encountered aversion here. I am not embraced but all seem solitary. We are waiting and I find no desire to spread my wings in flight again. The data is sent in a stream. I am content here in the comfort of a shady tree with company again. Waiting.

The singers
I was once in a choir. We sang at sunrise and sunset. Our harmonies strayed across endless plains. The people came, the houses came, the bars, the cars, the buses and trams and streets and trains. Our songs mimicked the singing cars instead of rushing streams. We took turns in a chain of harmony. Sometimes a solitary soloist would show off.
We liked classical and jazz. For years our songs became more experimental. Rock and roll was funny and techno bypassed our sound systems. We moved and adapted but the songs changed and the songs remained the same.
We lived with the high rises and the power stations. They cut down the hedges and the trees. It got hot. Some of the choir died and some flew away. We sang through war and drought as our choir diminished. The cities became quieter and the people died away.
Power stations exploded and tanks and guns became the norm.
We don’t know what happened to the people.
There wasn’t much food. There were only two of us left and we shared the old songs with blues harmonies and soul. The hymns of praise were hollow.
We found the route to this tree in one of our songs. I still sing solo in the evenings and mornings.
I am told we are waiting, that we have been called. I suppose the old song did bring me here but that is no solace for the harmonies that have been lost. I sing each one now alone. The sound of a lonely harmony is sorrow.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Happy days, good days, sad days

It’s been a blank blog for a while, what with summer holidays and children home from school and visitors to our home in sunny Spain, it’s been a hectic two months...but it’s back to reality now, the reality of work and routines, early mornings and homework. Work for me and husband and busy, hot school days for the children.
There’s another reason that the blog has been blank for a while and that’s because I’ve been feeling sad. I’m not a fan of misery memoirs and I don’t like glossy magazines that share the woes of the last celebrity big thing. So as well as having a busy summer I have also been blog avoiding because I naturally want to share the joys and not the sadnesses in life. The sadnesses seem a little too close, a bit personal...
At the beginning of the summer we were planning to get two dogs, we’d named them already and we did actually have them for a week. Sadly, we found out (thanks to a kind and marvellous vet) that one of the dogs had a heart condition. This doesn’t sound much but it can mean reduced life span (early death) and a poorly dog. Medication forever and never knowing if the dog would survive another year.
To some people that may have been a small thing, but my coping mechanisms collapsed when we found out that Piper (we’d named her that) was ill. I could not cope, I felt hopeless and sad and afraid. It was and remains a big trauma. We’d already become attached to her, even though we’d only had her a few hours....
The breeder offered to take Piper back and after much soul searching, we decided that would be our best option. We sent both dogs back because they were inseparable, they did everything together and we didn’t want to separate them.
It was a very sad week, the week we became, very briefly, pet owners. We don’t think we’ll think about it again, it’s been too much heartache and a reminder that emotions can stir up all sorts of difficulties and tempests in life. I feel sad and guilty and lost...the whole experience filled up my sadness scale too much and my coping scale could not balance out...
It was eight weeks’ ago now and I am finally able to write about the dogs although it still makes me feel sad.
Hopefully, will be back to regular blogging now. It’s been lovely to see some new followers, thanks for joining, you have cheered me up on my return...