Juggling life through a bi-polar lens. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Mostly trying to tread water in the middle. Creating a likeness to a normal life. Whatever "normal" is...

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Never trust a hairdresser who has short hair

- It's true.
I don't know what it is.
Surely it isn't jealousy?
I mean, how can it be in their INTEREST to lop your hair all off anyway?
But here it is, irrefutable evidence.........
Photo one- taken the beginning of August, up in Yorkshire:

Photo two: taken on a "Falconry Experience Day", 17th August, after my ONE INCH TRIM:

See what I mean?
OK here's another "before" shot, taken same day:

Know what she said?
"Oh well, my inch is like that," while shaping about 3 1/2 inches with her finger and thumb.
It's enough to make you chew your own foot off.
Nice owl, though, isn't he? He's called Sid.

Monday, 27 August 2007


I'm sure this is what really happens.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Finding My Way

I wasn't going to put up any long posts on here, but here's an exception. Skip it if you want.
This is a version of my latest assignment for my Writing Course. It had to be around 1500 words, and autobiographical. The theme had to be about a book, a baby or a wrong turning. I took the latter. Let's hope he likes the one I sent him more than he liked my poetry, huh? ;^)


me, Easter 1974, age 6

I jog to keep up with mum, head down, staring at the pavement as it rolls past underneath me, my scuffed blue shoes dashing along, my white summer socks, grey from the rain. Her scarf flinging flag-like from the February wind, she looks forward, her taut features stubbornly fixed towards home.

I hadn't meant to get lost.

All the Catholic seven year olds at St Thomas More's primary were to take their First Holy Communion in the coming June. Today, after school, we were to have our second class on the Catechism. I knew this. Or at least, I must have known. She must have reminded me at breakfast, because that's what she told me she did. When she found me. When we found each other. And I had forgotten about it because I never paid attention to anyone but my Dad. And he wasn't here. He was Away At Sea. And that was where my brain was.

I couldn't make out why she wasn't at the school gates to meet me. I waited with Joanna's mum. I liked Joanna. She had neat hair in a "page boy" cut, and she wore shoes with three buckles on each foot. She had a cat called Thomas O' Malley and a toy submarine for the bath that doubled up as a flute when it was dry. I wanted to be just like Joanna. Standing with her and her mum at the gate, I was part of her family. They didn't argue and their house was neat with fitted carpets all one colour. But as the sky grew darker and the crowd thinned away, Joanna's mum bit her bottom lip and shook her daughter to one side.

"I'm sorry, Helen, I'm sure she'll be here soon. Perhaps she's gone up the shops! We have to go. I have to get tea, for Jo's dad."

And so they left me. Joanna turned back to say something but her mum pulled her arm along so strongly that my friend was lifted off the curb in a twirl that made the skirt of her Proper School Uniform Coat spin out like a wintry ballerina.

I smiled at their backs till they turned the corner, then dug deep into my pockets for my gloves. Not there. Maybe I should go back in. I turned and looked at the school. The windows were all black and Mr Stokes, the caretaker, was pulling the silver gates together and threading a chain through them. I turned to the church on the other side of the drive. Lights were on, and flickers of red and yellow were tickling the windows. What was going on in there? Better not go over. Sr. Callista is probably in there, whatever it is. A scary headmistress; an even scarier nun. Pale bumpy skin and a black veil. Like the bad Queen in Snow White.

I scooped the front of my coat up with my chin. If I stuck my neck out, I could get it to stay there and double as a scarf. But the mohair on my numbed skin became itchy, so I dropped it and stared up towards the main road. Should I walk home on my own?

Mrs Morrison, the Lollypop Lady, should be gone by now. If she’d seen me, she’d make me go home with her and then how would Mum find me? She’d put me indoors and then go and look for Mum. That is what grown-ups mean by “trouble“. I mustn’t trouble her, or cause trouble.

I go to the corner and check that she’s gone. Then walk on towards Silverweed Road.
After all, Mum will be worried about being late. If I walk on, and meet her half way, she will be relieved. Her eyes will open wide and she’ll smile with all her face so that her top lip folds up. She’ll be happy and laugh, and tell me that I’m clever. We’ll stop at the cake shop on the way, where Toni’s mum works, and we’ll get cream meringues for tea, the ones shaped like butterflies. Then, when we get home, I’ll tell my two elder brothers why we’ve got cakes, and they’ll be nice all evening. It’ll be great.

With my head bowed against the drizzling rain, and my thoughts far from the details of my journey, I have gone on far past the spot where Mrs Morrison usually helps us cross the road. Out of the corner of my eye I see the trunk of a tree foreign to my usual walk home. I stop and look up. One, two, three trees. Where am I?

Big black branches pour down towards me like treacle as the wind pulls up another heavy gust. I stare up at their clawed limbs sprawling out against the charcoal sky as the rain finds the gap around my neck and collar. I start to cry, and run.

Puddles lie in ranks along the path, mirroring street lights now fully lit. I splash through their yolks in my panicked sprint till I am too dizzy from the wind to go on, folding up to squat on the curb, shivering, with my arms wrapped round my knees. I sniff cold mucus into my throat, coughing and crying.

Suddenly I am blinded by a beam of white light making a stream of raindrops glow towards me. A new panic, as I realise a car is stopping by me. I don’t know anyone with a car. Least, I might know someone who has one, like Joanna, but I’ve never seen them in one.

The door swings open and a wrinkled black shoe splashes into a puddle.

“Helen? Is that you? What on earth...?”

Oh boy. Sr Callista.

Just pleased to feel warmth again, and to be near a person bigger than me out here, I gladly climb onto the back seat.

“Weren’t you coming to Church, then? No? Well where’s your mother, then?” She drives off in mid thought in the direction of the shops. All the mothers from our estate walk down to the school along past the shops. It’s when bread for breakfast is bought. And cakes, for tea, if your Mum’s in a good mood.

But I’m not listening. I’m investigating a beige cardboard box on the seat next to me. Little disks of plastic made to look like silver, with faces of old people on. Most of them have haloes and “Pray for us” written in the circle. Then there are small crosses with Jesus on and “JHS” underneath his feet. I wonder what this could stand for and decide on “Jesus Has Suppered”. We did about The Last Supper last week. I feel pleased to have remembered.

“Ah! Isn’t that your mother?” She pulls up not far from the shops, alongside a small figure hunched forward with one hand on her headscarf, holding it against the tugging wind.

Is it her?

The voice is familiar, but it isn’t Mum’s. It’s higher pitched and says different words.

“Oh really? Oh dear! Helen? Are you all right darling?” She puts her head into the car. It IS her. She opens the door for me.

“No, no, Sister. That’s fine. No, of course you have to go. No, we’re not far from here, anyway. Thank you. Thank you!” She waves energetically and smiles as Sister drives away.

I feel soft and warm inside my chest. I can feel my smile cracking my lips but it doesn't matter, and I relax into her presence. It’s all going to be all right now.

“Can we go and get some cakes?”

“CAKES?” She grabs my arm an turns me around towards home. The raised voice has cut through me more sharply than all the rain and wind. I trot along trying to keep up, head down. We march past the cake shop with its welcoming lights glowing over the last of the buns. I see Toni’s mum laughing with a customer as she reaches for one of the big Bun Rings, the ones with white icing and a cherry in the middle. We had one of those for Dad’s birthday. The customer leaves, still laughing, letting a whiff of warm, sweet air escape and tease its fingers under my sore, red nose.

“I just can’t believe you sometimes, my girl. I just can’t believe you.”

And so it starts.

My eyes on my shoes, I think of Joanna’s, with the triple buckles. I imagine them stuffed with newspaper by the fire as she and her dad have their tea. I think of her purring, ginger cat, and decide that I will draw it when I’m sent to my room.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Summing up a place

A few weeks ago I was in Yorkshire.

The advantage of a digital camera is that you can click away without worrying about quantity. So I came home with over 600 photo's. Of course, you tell yourself that you'll delete lots and only keep the best ones. But going through that many is a job easily put off!

I certainly wouldn't want to try to put even a tenth of them on this blog, so I looked for one that summed up the place. Would that be possible? Just one photo to sum up all that?

Well, I think the one above is a good candidate. In case the notice isn't clear, here it is in close-up:

I took this near Bolton Abbey, which is set in the middle of lots of hills and paths that obviously appealed to hikers and explorers. It was on the wall of a Post Office. Inside was also a gift shop, grocery store and tea bar.

I think this notice sums up the spirit of the place. Lots of people outdoors in all weather, faithful friends, hospitality and welcome.

OK that might be a typical visitor's sweetened view of a place. But the photo isn't a typically sweetened postcard view, is it?

Saturday, 18 August 2007


Like apostrophes,
swallows punctuate the sky;
gathering, to leave.

I'm always sad to see them go. It always happens mid-August here. But this year, I'm noticing their leaving more than ever because I've seen so many more of them around. Especially when I was up in Yorkshire a few weeks ago.
I miss their high-pitched calls, high up in the sky, and looking up to see them, up and out from the busy High Street in town. I enjoyed seeing them, while all around me the crowd of shoppers carried on regardless, unaware of the glimpse of wildlife above their heads.

So beautiful, so sweet looking. Goodbye, my innocent little ones. I hope for safe journeys for you all. Avoid the French shotguns. Avoid the Greek glue-traps. Come back to us safely.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Is it just me, or does this look a bit spooky?

Whilst up in Yorkshire last week, walking through some beautiful gardens, I spotted this tree. I was immediately drawn to its base. To me, it looks like a hand. I can imagine the tree running along on its fingers at night, and settling in a different spot each day, keeping an eye on the visitors.

Slightly spooky!