The Mystery of Mark Carter’s Feet

Today, I invite you to take a trip with me down memory lane.

Let me set the scene. It is 1978. Big things are happening in the world. Louise Browne, the world’s first test tube baby has been born. Jim Jones followers commit mass suicide in Jonestown. In the Vatican there is a new Pope- the first non Italian pope in more than four hundred years.

Zooming in to St Mary’s Primary School, Cornwall- little Marie is standing in the dinner queue along with two hundred or so other kids. Note- we are calling this dinner, not lunch, even though it is 12 noon.

The dinner bell sounds and seating is  randomly allocated by the teacher on duty. The system runs like a well oiled cog. The teacher, no doubt, cannot wait to get into the staff room for coffee and a fag.  Marie sits next to her best friend Sally. Sitting opposite her is a little boy called Mark Carter. Mark is talking loudly and excitedly to the boy next to him about Star Wars- a movie which hit the cinema screens last year.

As they wait for dinner to be served, Mark slips off his shoes. Marie slips off her shoes too and waits. Marks foot seeks out her foot and their feet intertwine. Mark’s feet are warm and slightly damp. Whenever Marie sits opposite  Mark, their feet intertwine. Sometimes they swing their intertwined feet backwards and forwards energetically. Other times, their feet remain motionless. They will stay like this all the way through dinner. She likes it.

Today’s dinner is stew. Marie hates stew. She mushes it around a bit on her plate and leaves most of it behind. Dinner helpers come and take the plates away.  The volume in the dinner hall increases as the children prepare to go out to play. Marie and Mark slip their shoes back on. They do not make eye contact. They do not talk to each other. They run off and are engulfed in their separate girl/boy universes until next time they happen to sit opposite each other at dinner. 

Big Marie has often wondered what in the world was going on with Mark and his feet. There are a couple of possible explanations.

  • Mark Carter really liked Marie and sought out her feet above all the other feet in the school??
  • Mark was a nascent foot fetishist and did this with everybody??

But hold on, but let’s apply some GROWN UP perspective here.

Big Marie, mother of three, now sees that Mark Carter was the sort of child, beloved of grannies and aunties all over the world. What Granny/ Auntie wouldn’t adore an angelic little lad with blond hair and puppy dog brown eyes? Furthermore Mark was NOT an angst ridden swot (like someone not too far across the table)  He was a laid back, chilled sort of child. I imagine  he went home in the evenings, threw himself on the sofa, cuddled his mother/ dog/ cat/ auntie as he watched copious amounts of boy TV and eat sweets.

Not being a fan of small boys, all this was was wasted on little Marie.

And- as a Sociologist/ Feminist, Big Marie now understand that it is not easy being a small boy in the rough and tumble, gender stereotyped world of primary school.

What better way to take five than some comforting, under the table foot time with another warm, soft, damp foot? It’s not quite the same as a cuddle with mum but hey-it’s something.

Mark’s foot instinctively knew this!

And we’re back to that puppy dog quality of his. Don’t you just love the way dogs throw themselves in a heap and fall asleep? So companionable and unselfconscious.

We could all learn a lesson from dogs – and I would add- Mark Carter’s feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lady Alone…

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This week I am alone. No big deal, right? A lot of  people are alone a lot of the time.

Not me, though. I have been ensconced in family life for what feels like forever.

Not so long ago, I couldn’t eat a meal without a baby crying or a toddler tantruming. I certainly couldn’t have a shower in peace. There was a time I thought I’d never sleep again or talk to my friends again.

Those years have whizzed by in a blur of noise, squabbles, children’s parties, school and food fads.  There was the time small boy had a  seizure, then big boy had a collapsed lung. The panics, dramas and joys all intertwined in that soap opera known as family life.

I’ve worried, fretted and aged in an attempt to keep the show on the road, keep the troops happy – or at the very least, not too traumatised…

But things change. Kids grow up and move on and our parental job description changes.

‘ Cheer them on-do their weekend laundry and provide a safe haven as and when required. ‘

Happily, I’m not yet at the point of waving them goodbye and wallpapering my empty nest. But I am getting a taster of what it might feel like…

It all started with big boy getting a job. Having finished school, he’s spending the summer washing pots to earn some money for college. So that’s big boy gone. Hostage to the dirty pot producing public. I miss him- big time, but couldn’t be more proud.

And now Ger, medium and pre-teen are off for five days. Pre-teen is doing a computer course in Cork and needs family on side to cheer him on, make his sandwiches and collect him at 3.30.

Which leaves moi and the dogs.  Alone. Holding the metaphorical fort.

So how does it feel?

On the plus side:

It’s nice and peaceful.

If I clean something up- it stays clean. 

Mealtimes are infinitely simpler. 

Wash up is infinitely simpler. 

Laundry is infinitely simpler

I can breathe freely (The house is free of deodorants, bodyspray, hairspray and perfume)

Interestingly, whilst day one in ‘alone city‘ had a bit of a holiday feeling, day two is a somewhat more sombre and restrained affair. Whilst there are no squabbles or raised voices, neither is there any silliness, no laughs, no hugs. Even the dogs look a bit subdued.

That old truism;

‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ is kicking in.

Big boy has rang to check in with me five times (fall over in surprise!)

The times I have begged him to send a simple, ‘I am OK,’ text when he’s out and about. Now he’s making actual unprompted calls to see if I am OK!!

Medium and pre-teen have texted multiple messages of love and smiley faces- (aww sweet, eh?)

It transpires that they miss me, and I miss them.

And what about all those things I constantly moan about? i.e chemical sprays choking me, people dirtying things up the minute I clean them, hormones (theirs not mine, of course!) endless scheduling requests.

I’d be lying if I said they don’t matter a toss- just give me back my babies.

They do matter a bit- but not that much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lady in a hurry

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A lady goes into a supermarket-it’s one of the German discount stores that have sprung up everywhere. She is obviously in a hurry.

She pauses at the door, realises she has no coins for the supermarket trolley and grabs a wheely shopping basket instead. It is a fatal error of judgement.

She rushes around the store throwing things into the basket. There is something trance like about her movements. You can see she has done this a million times before.

Having completed a whirlwind tour of the fruit and veg aisle, the chilled produce and the dried goods, she pauses at the wine aisle and chooses a bottle of white. The bottle of white is a reward, no doubt.

Shopping mission accomplished, she get into the queue and unloads the contents of her basket onto the conveyor belt. She then engages in a marathon race with the till attendant (who for present purposes we’ll refer to as Speedy)  to repack her shopping, before he totals up the bill. He moves onto the next customer before she has had a chance to finish what she is doing.

She has brought two plastic bags with her. They are not big enough, so she piles some stuff back into the wheely basket. She pays Speedy and makes her way out of the shop.

She is near the exit when Speedy shouts after her.

‘Hey- you can’t take that basket out of the shop.’ He has a loud voice. Everyone turns and looks at her.

‘So it’s not OK to bring the basket outside for a few minutes and then bring it in again?’ she says, looking hard at him.

It’s not an unreasonable request. It would, however, require a certain amount of rule bending on the part of Speedy to agree to this.

‘No, you can’t take the wheely basket outside,’ he says spiritedly.

Someone in the queue next to Speedy says to him, ‘Go on, be nice!’ Speedy ignores her. He is not going to be nice.

Our unfortunate shopper attempts to manoeuvre her stuff into a nearby corner. As she does so, her basket topples over, spilling all her groceries onto the floor. She really should have got a trolley. She feels pretty stupid.

A young man leaps to her assistance. He is a customer, not a store employee.

‘This happens to me too,’ he says as he picks up her toilet rolls. ‘ALL THE TIME’

She guesses that this has never actually happened to him before. He’s just being nice.

His mother should be very proud of him, she thinks.

She leaves her shopping basket and carries out her two bags. Emptying the contents onto the back seat, she goes back in and retrieves the rest of her shopping from the wheely basket.

Her two teens are waiting for her in the car. She tells them what happened. They are outraged on her behalf. Girl teen launches into a rant about how she would have just walked out- regardless of what Speedy said.

It is a rant about authority, something which girl teen has problems with at the moment.

Boy teen takes her phone, and by some magic known only to the young, transfers one of her favourite songs onto the car speaker.

She wipes away a tear from her eye and pulls off to the sounds of Manu Chao singing;

‘I’M THE KING OF BONGO’ very loudly.

As she makes her way home to unpack her shopping a thought crosses her mind which brings a smile to her face.

This is something I can blog about….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slippery fish and the Sea of Uncertainty

slippery fish

 

Whats going to happen next? Who knows. The world waits with baited breath to see how things will pan out in the Trump versus Clinton saga.

Not so long ago it was Brexit. Will they, won’t they? Then when they did, we were all shocked. We are still shocked.

When it comes to the big stuff, stuff that is going to impact on all of us, we feel a need to predict outcomes.  Uncertainty makes us uncomfortable.

In the past, it was customary to follow  political parties in the way you might follow a religion. Party allegiance was central to who you were.  Frequently we followed the same parties our parents and grandparents followed. EASY PEASY.

It’s not so easy now. Somewhere along the path to shiny modernity, the cord has raveled, the anchor chain slipped. A lot of us are now  adrift on a sea of uncertainty.

Maybe the political arena is too vast, too confusing? Maybe we have lost faith in leadership? Maybe we never bought into it in the first place?

For whatever reason, when it comes to exercising our democratic rights, many of us fall into that big camp of unpredictables known as ‘floating voters.’

And the floating voter is a very slippery goldfish.  How s/he will vote is the subject of much speculation.

So the POLSTERS enter the fray- armed with statistical software and social science in an attempt to gauge the pulse of the people- see into their heads.

At best the polls offers some sense of normalcy, some degree of predictability but never certainty. Despite the best statistical software, they don’t always get it right.

Having always favoured shades of grey to black and white, I completely get indecision. I also have to stick my hand up and say that compared to my parents, I am a current affairs dunce, a disaster zone. A lot of it bores me silly.

But, hey- when it comes to something as concrete as our futures and those of our children, it seems to me that there is a responsibility to take a stance; to decide which side of the fence we stand on.

FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED!

We need to do something to prevent lunatics and nutters ruling the proverbial roost.

And so, a heartfelt message to potential floaters and slippery fish- Go on. Inform yourself, read the papers, watch those boring current affairs programmes, make up your mind. Don’t be swayed by last minute hype.  At the very least, ask your mother!

But enough of heartfelt pleas. Let’s digress.

It was with some surprise that I learned the phenomenon of political last minute-ism- is not altogether new.

Take Merry Olde England back in 1485-Richard III is happily ruling the country when along comes Henry Tudor (all the way from France) to challenge his title.

Richard is not overly bothered as he knows his army is far superior to Henry’s. He has also been promised more men in arms, from his nobles, should he need them.

In the ensuing battle Henry wins. Why? Largely, I would say because of ‘last minute-ism.’

Some of Richard’s most powerful nobles (who really deserved to be knocked off the christmas card list) held back, gauged which way the wind was blowing- then threw in their lot with Henry, who appeared to be winning. With the help of their private armies, he did win.

And so the Battle of Bosworth began early in the morning of the 22 August 1485 and was over by noon. In those few hours the Plantagenet dynasty was defeated, leaving Britain poised to enter a new era under the House of Tudor.

Momentous, ground breaking stuff.

The point I am making is that neither soothsayer, necromancer  nor opinion poll analyst could have predicted that one.

Then, as now, it seems that in the domain of politics, the only certainty is UNCERTAINTY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why blogging appeals to me

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I’ve said it before I am a technophobe. I don’t get social media. I tried facebook, but ran out of steam. I don’t do selfies because I am inherently unphotogenic. I promised my teens I wouldn’t post pictures of them- and there are only so many flower and craft project shots a body can manage.

Words, on the other hand, are big for me. Ever since I was small, I’ve enjoyed writing. I probably spent thirty years enjoying words- surreptitiously. I remember writing a report about waste water management (yawn!!) and still thinking there was space to turn a phrase.  Put a bit of a spin on some description. Inject a modicum of humour. Sad really.

Five months ago, I discovered blogging. I’ve taken to it with all the vim and vigour of a convert.

Blogging lights my fire. IT IS MY BIG JOY!

Initially, it was the headiness of thinking that I could write about anything I liked.  Then it was the fact that somebody might read something that I wrote.  As a wannabe writer ( inured to the million rejections clause that accompany the status) the fact that real people were  prepared to  read something I’ve written and engage with it blew my mind.

Then, it got a bit deeper. I started reading other people’s blogs. Again, it took a while to find my people- but when I found them it was like a homecoming.

Other people are writing all this profound, articulate stuff about things that resonate with me. There are bloggers who make me laugh. I love their style, their wit, their sas.

And there are bloggers who make me cry. HATS OFF to the people who share their vulnerabilities. They  are pivotal in helping other people feel less alone.

 

I love the bloggers who are out there putting mental health on the agenda.

Painful and intense but also transient and RECOVERABLE from.

I just want to express solidarity here. I get it. I have always got it.

And then I get really excited when I find blogs about things I’m interested in-old stuff, art deco stuff, doors, words, old sayings, recipes, crafts and etc.

Then there’s mindfulness. Time after time, I read a blog and it’s just what I need to hear.  I get jolted right out of my comfort zone- and encouraged to right thinking by people who are walking the same road.

There is a lot of talk that screen time is inferior to time spent in other ways. I disagree. For me, time spent in the blogosphere is good time.

Since I’ve started doing this, I feel like I’m getting to know some really interesting, genuine, lovely people. It is a pleasure to check in with them. If I don’t see their posts popping up in my reader, I’ll go and visit. I want to know what their week has brought. I’m sorry if it has brought something difficult and happy if it has brought something good. Often, I’ll get a good laugh along the way.

So what’s not real about that? What’s virtual?

I am blessed to have family, friends and neighbours in the touchy feely world of everyday. I also feel blessed to have friends in the blog world.

So that’s it for today. Thank you the blogosphere and the people who inhabit it. Big virtual hug!!

Narry of the Bog

Driving along a country road yesterday, we spotted a grey heron. We see them occasionally. Big, flappy, ungainly birds- very prehistoric vibe about them. In Ireland they are commonly known as Narry’s of the bog.

heron

It was apparent that Narry was not happy. Ger stopped the car and we watched him for a couple of minutes. He made an attempt to fly off and failed. Just then a dog came bounding down to the road, barking like crazy.  So what to do next? Having stopped the car, we felt involved.

At this point, I should say that I have tried to stop getting involved in situations like this. Ever since I was small, I’ve rescued birds. Recently I connected with a former student flatmate on facebook. We hadn’t met in over thirty years. Apparently, her stand out memory of me is rescuing  a beat up, half dead pigeon that I brought home and attempted to keep alive. I think I made everyone take turns to feed him during the night!  The sad thing is, that despite my best efforts, 90% of the things I rescued died. I console myself with the thought that at least they had a happy death, knowing that someone cared. But, still and all, they ended up dead.

Given my past experience, I  was not disposed to taking Mister Nary dinosaur bird home. Did I mention his beak? It was sword like in it’s proportions. A lethal weapon for spearing fish. Pigeon rescue is easy. Rescuing this Jurassic relic took guts. And that’s where my beloved shone. He picked him up- tucked him under his arm and sat in the passenger seat. As we pulled off, the bird started squawking- raucous, dinosaur like sounds. Very Jurassic.

The grey heron  is approx 1 metre in height. His wing span is 1.6 to 2 metres. Suffice to say, he’s no pigeon. Sitting in the front seat of our car, with his mad, black, haunted eyes, he looked like a crumpled chicken. There was nothing to him under all the feathers.

Funnily enough, the grey heron has been revered in Irish mythology since time immemorial.  There’s a story about two girls, Aoife, daughter of Daelbeth, and Luchra, daughter of Abhartach. Both of them fancied  this guy Illbreac, who was a son of the great Sea God, Manannán mac Lir. Anyway, Manannan preferred Aoife and Luchra wasn’t happy. So what did she do? In a fit of pique, she turned Aoife into a heron. Aoife the heron, flew off and lived to be 200 years old. Manannan was so upset when she finally passed away that he decided to commemorate her in a very special way.

Remember Silence of the Lambs? Manannan would have loved that film.

To honour his lovely Aoife bird, he skinned her and kept all his treasures in a little bag made out of her. Ah, love’s true dream, eh?

When the Christian church hit our shores, somewhere back in the 5th century, it too had some thoughts about the grey heron. The nice thing about the early Christians was that they were very fluid in their interpretation of the way things were. Completely unphased by the strong hold of the indigenous Celtic pantheon, they simply altered some pertinent facts; inserted saints where there were previously gods and goddesses and proceeded to assume absolute control of the hearts and minds of the population.

So, the heron, once sacred to the Triple Goddess, worshipped as the keeper of secrets and shamanic travel, maintained a place in the popular imagination as a fallen sinner. Word was that if you failed to make it to heaven on account of your bad deeds on earth, you might well have to come back to earth as a heron, and this was by way of penance.

But, I digress. Back to the present day and the plight of  Mr Nary.

We came to the conclusion that we should bring him some place where he could recuperate, safe from dogs and cars. Not too far away was a  lake. Ger found a sheltered spot and we left him there. By way of remembrance,  our friend gave Ger a parting gift: a two inch scratch down the side of his face.

Who could blame him? He was freaked out, big time. The wound looks worse than it is. It will heal.  I sincerely hope that Mr Nary will recover and live to fly another day. The younger me would have brought him home and fed him worms and put him a bucket of hay.  Maybe that would have been the right thing to do. I don’t know. It’s tricky with wild things.  The shock of being out of their environment can be too much for them. Many of them don’t survive the trauma.

Anyway we drove off, went home and thought about what had happened.  Being up close to such an ancient, scrawny specimen of life was pretty special, humbling even. I love that about life in the countryside. Those rare, insider moments when you get to experience the natural world in all its diversity. Truly, we live on an amazing planet.

 

 

 

 

ME TIME BLUES

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Unaccustomed me-time! Two hours to stroll through the emporiums of bling, maybe stop for a coffee, buy a little treasure somewhere along the way. Sounds nice?

The sun is shining, the summer sales are on:  Life is good.

So what I do actually need? In truth, not a lot.

Things are, however, a bit grim on the underwear front. I locate the nearest M&S and head straight for the undies dept.  There is a spring in my step. I feel like a six-year-old in a candy shop. I want everything…….

A whole  lot of other ladies, whose underwear drawers must be in a similarly depleted state to my own, are already hard at work.  Together we embark on a frenzied raid of the sale rails.

Some time later, the underwear has been selected and its time for coffee.  I order a cappuccino which comes in a  bucket sized mug. These days, I mostly drink herbal teas, so am not prepared for the scale of the caffeine rush. Pumped up with adrenalin, I hit the shop floor some twenty minutes later. Ready to go again.

This time, I wander into the kids department, which is swarming with people. Deep breath as I remind myself how much fun I am having!

A blond lady is perusing the PJ’s with her affable pre-teen daughter.

‘Darling,’ she says, ‘We must buy this! (holds up floral print pj’s) Even though they are too small for you, they are just soo…. pretty!’ The pre-teen emits girlish squeals of joy.

Maybe I should buy some for my  teenage daughter?  However, I really can’t buy pj’s for Jude without getting some for Iarla. But would he like stars or dinosaurs? Decisions, decisions. Maybe I should also buy some for my friend’s little girls. After all, I’ve had it on good authority that:

  • They are pretty
  • They are half price
  • Children like them

Twenty minutes later, I have selected four pairs of pj’s. My arms are overflowing with treasures, my heart with beneficence.

SMALL REALITY CHECK.

How much are all these bargains going to cost? I do some quick mental arithmetic and realise that I must put something back. But what? Who can I leave out? Actually I can’t  leave anyone out, so I  put all the pj’s back and hang on to the underwear. After all, that was what I came in here for in the first place.

By now, it is all getting a bit much. I am succumbing to CONSUMER CONFUSION

Doubts creep in about the selected underwear. Do I even need it? Probably not. Is it nice? Not sure. Maybe there is better, more perfect underwear in another shop. Should I go and check?

Yes-but first a little rest would be nice.

My yoga teacher has shown us all these wonderful positions you can do when you need to recharge your batteries.

Suddenly, I have a longing to do a calming position. Zone out for a couple of minutes in a Downward Dog.

An image of my teenage daughter pops into my head. She is waving a finger at me.

‘Don’t even think about it Lady,’ she warns

‘I know, I know,’ I snap.

It’s not as if I really meant to- but a chair would be nice.

Given the average age of Marks and Spencer’s clientele, I am surprised there are not more chairs around the place. By now the bucketful of coffee I downed earlier is taking its toll on my bladder. Not only are there no chairs in this emporium, there are no loo’s either.

I locate an aisle in menswear and stash my underwear under a rack of ties, promising to return and commit the final act of purchase  once I’ve found the loo.

Due to time constraints the promise is broken.  Operation UNDIE REPLACEMENT  has to be abandoned til another day.  My ME TIME is up and I’m glad.  I willingly revert back to mummy mode and scarper off to collect my boy from summer camp.