Wednesday 30 January 2013

Grandpa Welsey's Trip

This is my flash fiction for Julia's Place 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt is this photo:

For more info go to

Grandpa Wesley’s Trip

“Every line,” Grandpa whispered, “is older than the dust in my bones.”
I stood on tiptoes and looked out. I wanted to count them: the purple, crimson, orange layers on fire in the sun. We squinted at the horizon, faces in the hot wind. I held Grandpa’s hand.
“And right down there…” A glint on his cheek; he was crying. One happy tear. “That’s where my great Grandpa went. The first. Oh, the stories Granny Mary would tell. Brave man, a good man.”
We listened to the roar of the river below, shouting back at us from our own history.
100 words excluding title.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

The 'b' word


I've been thinking about babies recently: the when, the why, the how. I guess it's been more in my mind as friends of mine have given birth over the last twelve months; and as I sail off into my own marriage the annoying questions about babies are likely to follow. Actually, they've already made it out of the mouths of many. 

I am not a person who loves babies. I find them boring, and most people who have them even more so. I like to think of myself as a creative and interesting person, with funny stories to tell, about all sorts of things. Does giving birth mean I will only be able to converse in buggies, nappies, feeds and post-birth body effects? Does it mean all my stories will revolve around impressions of my ever-growing baby; giggles at things only I have seen. Other sane non-baby people will lose their faith in me and my stories. They won't understand me. As I lose blood, my hair, sleep and sanity will I also lose my passion for the written word; lose my desire to do exercise and run the streets of where I live; my love of travelling; my want to cook; my need to be with my friends, just them and to also have time alone? Really alone.

As I was growing up, having a family was something I saw in my future. Then I stepped into my twenties and life passed in a whirl of studying, teaching, partying and lots and lots of travelling. That future family got pushed further out to the horizon. I was having too much fun living to worry about giving life to someone else. I was selfish and independent. To some extent, I still am. Though now my selfishness includes other people. Progress I think. 

But I was a baby once and I grew up, so they don't stay that way forever. I think I'd be better with little people, teaching them art and words and dances and place names. I'm not sure how I'll be with teaching a baby not to put Petits Filous pots in their mouths. Babies grow up and become fun sponges: learning, experimenting, experiencing and retelling the world in their own way. That's another fear, though - it has to be their way in their new world. The world is not the same, and I fear for the children I don't have and their ability at 18 months old to search for photos on an iPhone and their knack for scanning multiple screens while never actually reading anything. 

Ideally, I'd be able to take my future children to an island where tree-climbing, shell finding and digging holes for no reason are the order of the day; where browsing means wandering the aisles of a shop; and surfing is something mum is rubbish at, but we're great at standing on our boards and riding the waves. Now, I'm a  romantic. I know, I know, if that's what my children are going to be able to do when they're grown up, I'm setting them up for failure in this world - something we're not allowed to let kids do these days apparently. Shame. 

Yet if I want a try at it, I need to have a baby: that same need that means responding to those prying you've-just-got-married questions with a "not yet". Some time. Soonish. In the not so distant future. I'll never be prepared. How can you be? The 'b' word is big, it's breathtaking. I still need to make sure I can Be. Me.

And when the time comes and my husband holds my hand, reads my eyes and says, "Let's do it" I'll have to not answer with that other 'b' word.


Saturday 19 January 2013

Getting it good

If there's any month for some self/life/love/work evaluation, January usually gets the job. New year, new you! headlines will cry out. Change, change, change, best, best, best, forwards, forwards, forwards: this is what we all need to keep going through life happier/healthier/lovelier/more successful.

Resolutions made in that burst of Januaryness will fade as real life gets its grip back and the old routines, preferences and realities fold you back into your life. The perfect body/partner/job will disappear on the horizon as commitments and deadlines replace dreams and ideas. Instead of change, change, change it becomes can't, can't, can't. 

Perfection doesn't exist. The plan is just to make it good. That doesn't necessarily mean huge sacrifices and a wipe-out of all you have now. Before anything, it means a fair assessment. What you have, not what you haven't. In a world defined by our need for more, it only takes a second to sit quietly and count what you have right now. You'll surprise yourself. You might even see it's already some way to being good.

Good, with moments of both brilliance and despair, is good enough. There is nothing wrong with making something better; one step - one sure, solid step at a time. Jumping a mile ahead, only to get injured, fall down or completely collapse is a lesson that says, 'I am still there, but take your time.'

I have a tendency to jump in with two feet without thinking. No, that's wrong. I am the sort of person who will jump in with two feet without thinking. I used to have no patience and now I have a little bit. This patience helps me look around once in a while. I may have moved just a couple of steps, but I can still see a dream on the horizon. I'm still there. I don't need to try and hitch a ride and change the itinerary. 

January comes from the Latin word ianua, meaning door. The future will never be your idea of perfection if the present isn't good. So open the door inch by inch. Throwing it open might only lead it to it swinging back shut with a bang. 

Monday 14 January 2013

First impressions

Happy New Year!

Do people even care about the impression they make when they meet someone for the first time anymore? Or do they simply assume that you’ve already Googled them, found their sordid life on Facebook, or seen how many Twitter followers they have? I am worried that our abilities to meet people face to face for the first time and create good impression are fading. If prospective bosses can already find our online lives and professional profiles, does it matter about creating the right impression from the moment your eyes meet?

I was struck dumb by this apparent assumption when I met some people for the first time recently. It hit me just how much they didn’t care what impression of them I went away with. And that, also, annoyed me.

Of course, we meet people for the first time in all sorts of ways: those we are expecting to meet; those by chance. Some we’ve already heard about, some come as blank canvasses on which we can paint our judgements. We meet people socially, when they are more relaxed; and we meet them in a professional capacity, where lines of properness and rules of engagement often differ. 

Surely, no matter the situation, the first rule for any situation when meeting someone for the first time is a greeting? An acknowledgement? If I am introduced to someone and I just carry on moaning/singing/larking about/working without even a Hello, I would be being rude. Wouldn’t I? Well, I wouldn’t do it. So I found it very strange when introduced to some new people in a professional setting who didn’t find it rude at all; who simply refused to see my time as something worthwhile. I was a spectator, among others, to their show. 

So, greetings aside: what do you want people to see when they meet you the first time? The real you? The honest, hardworking, chirpy you? The shirty, bemoaning, critical you? The dazzling confident you? Or the worried, fusspot you? It’s got to be as good as it can be, according to the situation. It’s not about living up to expectations that aren’t truly you, but it should be about presenting yourself in the most positive realms of who you are. We are not all the same, I understand that. But why anyone would want to present themselves as an exaggerated, aggressive, unprofessional, ridiculous version of who they are to someone they have just met? I have no idea. Unless that is them; and, well, that’s a whole other problem.

But that is exactly why first impressions should count. You might only get that one time, that one moment. And if that moment comes back to haunt you, who do you have to blame? 

The person judging or what they had in front of them to judge? 

Judy Garland once said you should “always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” In an age when individuality should be celebrated, when being the black sheep can be rejoiced in a way it once couldn’t and personality is king, show it. Positively. And assume nothing. You are someone's blank canvass.

Your first impression then won’t be their last.