An Open Letter To The Fathers of Daughters Around The World:
Starting at a young age, at a very young age, make father/daughter time a priority. Make it a such a regular, natural occurrence that by the time she is a teenager, she expects you to take her out for sushi or ice cream.
When she's six, laugh at her knock-knock jokes, teach her to fish.
What is it with the sea?
We sat watching the sea-green waves roll in, continuously never-ending, entranced. The waves were high but not fierce, despite the windy day; perhaps the curve of the bay broke some of their force because it was likely choppy further out. The waves at our local beaches behave very differently, the coast is more exposed and the shingle and stone beaches are long, almost continuous mile after mile, so they are not moulded by high-rising rocky cliffs and slopes; however there is a mighty shelf not too far out which seems to temper their height and which makes swimmers and other water babies cautious.
Occasionally as we sat there watching, mesmerised, our eyes were drawn to the rocky side of the bay closest to us and of which we had the best view. Towers of surf and spray crashed onto the rocks but it wasn’t the fear-inspiring crash of a storm. This evening the sea was playful and sunbeams danced on the water.
And they weren’t the only ones enjoying the water; there were other water babies too, human ones. We sat and watched those too. I confess that I was rather bemused by their antics, for as much as I loved to swim, I cannot see the attraction of becoming a human seal in rubber armoury on what was a pretty cold day for the time of year. Heads and feet were left painfully exposed and they seemed to be spending most of their time plunging head-first under the waves as each one rolled in, which to my mind wasn’t quite the point of surfing. I understood surfing to involve surfing, riding each incoming wave triumphantly. There is a kind of attractive glory to that but watching them plunge under to lessen the break upon them made me uncomfortable, reminding me of all the vulnerability and risk that water poses to us.
A little later, we moved on to a sheltered harbour. Relatively sheltered, that is, because the waves, although tempered by the harbour wall and the natural shape of the opposite cliffs, were causing the small boats anchored there to rock, not bob, with each roll. A rock that at times was more of a lurch and once again, I was reminded of man’s vulnerability and found myself, yet again, wondering at those for whom the sea has always bewitchingly called.
Water is the story of human civilisation, great cities and cultures have risen and fallen with the availability of water. Or, perhaps ironically, the over-inundation of water. Humans depend on water for everything: to drink, to give them food to eat, to water the animals they tame and use, to give them building materials, to give them opportunities to trade.
As I watched the small dinghies rock in that sheltered harbour, I thought of how peoples, not so long ago really, went to sea in vessels not much bigger or much more secure. Great trading networks were founded by the determination of people in small, vulnerable vessels; great discoveries and voyages of exploration were undertaken by the determination of people in small, vulnerable vessels. And I wonder why. Being in a boat, even on a proverbial millpond, holds little attraction to me. I see the vulnerability and the risk. I fear water.
But so many don’t. I have great respect for those who chose to go to sea even as I baffle at their choice. We still depend on those who go to sea; those who transport the goods that feed our insatiable hunger for material things; those who transport the actual food for our actual hunger; those who catch the food. Presumably the sea calls to them, it sings a song of enchantment in their genes, it lures them. And lures never end well. The sea is to be respected.
But feared? Perhaps. Because as I watched those gentle harbour waves, I realised too how unstoppable, how uncontrollable those waves were. And that is what I fear; to me water is a powerful force, one that can never be dominated or mastered by mere humans, however experienced or knowledgeable. We are nothing against its strength, we can be swept along by it just like the tumbling weed or the churning sand. And however mighty or impressive the civilisations that we keep on building, it can all be swept away by one wave, like a sandcastle built too far down the shore.
I am not a water baby; I keep my distance, admiring the beauty and charm of a simple, single wave but still deeply conscious of who is more powerful.
It turns out that runcible spoons (AKA cake forks) are also perfect for fish’n'chips; fork prongs to stab the chips with, sharper edge to cut into the batter. Who said that they were just for posh people?!
When do you become a parent? Some go through heart-breaking agonies over countless years pursuing that very dream. To others it’s a surprise revelation, a shock, maybe something that they weren’t planning on. But most parents have a time period before the arrival to adjust, to plan, to adapt, to prepare. For mammals, it’s called pregnancy. These days parents can clutch a hazy, grainy photo and say that’s my child. But are they parents in that moment?
I don’t think you become a parent until you have that small, fragile, vulnerable life form in your hands, until you can feel the tiny, delicate heartbeat, until you have a life in your hands which is depending on you. At that moment, two souls meet and join, a relationship begins and every instinct and fibre of your very being swears an oath of protection and care to this small, fragile, vulnerable life form.
Being a parent isn’t just about having physical charge of a child, it’s not even about bloodlines or looking after one of your own species. It’s about a very special bond between two beings, two souls, one dependent, one caring.
Even when that little one grows, leaves, fledges, matures, however they progress, that bond will always be there. Your heart is joined to theirs and you simply care in the truest form. Their well-being is intrinsically tied to your own, their pain is your pain, their hopes your hopes, their achievements yours … Your heart soars with theirs. And sinks too.
You can’t ever lose the emotional tie of a child, of being a parent to a little one. It is more than memories. It’s not facts or even really feelings. It’s two hearts, two hearts that cannot be separated even when that little grows, leaves, fledges, matures. And when the little one is lost, it is a heart that has lost part of itself.
Nine years old, would you believe?
It turns out that I have discovered the most dangerous words in the entire Universe, two innocent little words that when used in conjunction tend to have serious consequences.
A lot of people have picked up on the dreaded ‘what if’; ‘what if’ can be used looking forward or looking back but there is always a tinge of regret. In hindsight, we can wish that we had taken another course or path and with doubt, we can wonder if we’re taking the right one now or in the future. Another variation is ‘if only’, which features in lyrics where it is declared to be ‘the loneliest words that you’ll ever know’.
I don’t do the looking backwards ‘what if’. Things happen, life happens. We can’t undo the past and, normally, I can’t grasp the concept of future. Looking forwards, well, you know what I’m like for worrying. And I have the kind of vivid and fertile imagination that allows me to conjure up all the billion and one dreadful possibilities for any one insignificant moment.
But those are not the two dangerous words; as surprising as it seems, my negative attitude is what keeps me strong and moving forwards. I know that things rarely, if ever, are as bad as I think that they’re going to be. And when bad stuff happens, truthfully, I’m too busy dealing with it, I go into crisis mode, to fret myself dreaming up even worse things.
So what are those two dangerous words?
Together they are potent. And have serious consequences.
I’ve never used the phrase before; after all, I’m pretty good at knowing automatically all the billion and one reasons why I shouldn’t do something. But as you know there’s been a lot of psychological DIY going on this winter and I decided that this year would be the year that I would risk, that I would dare.
So I found myself asking ‘why not?’
When someone said that they’d really like it if they had a bag or carrier for a water bottle when they go away, I asked myself those two dangerous words and before I quite knew what I was doing, I had my hand up, yes I would make them one.
I even sketched a quick design on a napkin.
I can’t draw.
It’s a fact that everyone else in the entire world can.
(Someone further up the table couldn’t quite work out why I’d drawn a picture of a toilet pan (apparently) so I may not draw again in public for a loooong time again).
I offered to make something.
Something with a needle and thread, something with fabric, something that involves sewing.
I can’t sew.
And the two girls who I was making these for can sew.
Like properly sew.
With sewing machines.
And they make clothes.
‘Why not’ is indeed a dangerous phrase.
With consequences, serious consequences.
I was committed and I had to start sewing.
Husband helped me with the pattern (which we invented along the way) and did the cutting out (which terrifies me).
But I did most of the sewing.
In my pretty irregular way.
I then asked myself ‘why not’ again.
I don’t do embroidery.
Embroidery is for artistic people who sew.
I am neither artistic or a sewer.
(That word written can be read two very different ways, fortunately I am neither).
But I picked up Husband’s embroidery stitch guide book and thought ‘why not’.
Maybe other people just start at the beginning, maybe other people just start by following the instructions step by step, maybe other people don’t know it all automatically.
So I embroidered.
I took a needle and some floss (not dental) and I follow the instructions, carefully, idiosyncratically but still irregularly and I gave it my best shot.
Because that’s all other people do isn’t it? They just try to do their best. And that’s all anyone can do, including me. I can only try. And if I don’t try then I can’t do.
So here’s what we did (thank you Husband for all your help!):
I used some thick cotton fabric that we already had from another project years ago so I gave them a choice of three colours: orange, red and green. I also had a brand new fleece that had promotional slogans across it so I decided that the best use for it was in pieces. Lining the cotton bags with fleece makes the carrier a lot more insulating as well protecting the bottle better from knocks.
We modelled the dimensions on the largest (fattest too) bottled water bottle we could find locally but found the first one came out a little too cozy so we upped the size a little for the second one.
We also discovered that a circle at the bottom of a cylinder is neither the same diameter nor the same circumference as the cylinder. I was very baffled. We did eventually come up with a scale based on other measurements found on various online bottle carrier tutorials, a circle is a third of the diameter of the cylinder. Even more eventually, Husband discovered that it was something to do with pie. Well, I’m always glad to have pie in my life.
For the straps, we all agreed that a long strap was best, this is so it can be carried comfortably for long periods over a shoulder or across the body. Not taking any chances with guestimation, I got them to provide their ideal measurement (they went home and measured a bag strap that they use). This was just as well because the shorter of the two wanted the longer strap. Obviously. (I kept the text message with the measurement just in case! I wanted proof).
Just as in knitting, straps always take a very long time. Our friends were going away the next day and I didn’t get them finished until five that evening! That was stressful. Stress makes me tired. But I’m glad that I did it, I’m glad that I said ‘why not’. Even with the consequences, I rather like this new confidence. I’m enjoying being creative again, I’m enjoying daring and risking for the first time ever.
(Oh, and the toggles? I nicked them off the ‘up-cycled’ fleece along with that rather nifty cylindrical elastic).
[ there would be a picture here ]
Are bees busy? Well, what I mean is, why do we perceive bees to be busy? Most bugs and bichos are notable for their state of activity rather than otherwise. Take the ant. Ants are industrious. But maybe they aren’t cute enough to enter popular colloquial speech? (Are bees are cute? Husband would argue otherwise, he has a major problem with the entire species (and anything else that speaks the same language – bzzzz) because he cycled into one once upon a time whereupon the unfortunate creature stung). Ants creep. Humans, generally, don’t really trust creeping things. Or is it simply the pleasing alliteration of the phrase? Well, in that case, maybe we could make a case for assiduous ants. After all, being busy doesn’t have to have a purpose.
(I’m going with alliteration, the French apparently don’t do bees).
Anyway, that’s a nice random paragraph, a classic case of my idiosyncratic mind in full operation, but there really needs to be a point to this post. I mean, you don’t come here just to read random wafflings about apiformes, do you? No, I didn’t think so.
The point that I’m trying to make, and may well do so eventually, is that I have been a busy bee. Or just a busy human. Very busy. And, of course, being busy has meant that I’ve also had to spend quite a bit of time recovering. That is why I have been absent. (Is absence usually associated with busyness? Hmm).
Life has calmed (hopefully) and I’m bored of being rather poorly and bed-bound so I might have recovered, in which case, blogging will resume.
Where do I start?
When I got up at ten to eight so I could be ready by half past nine only to discover that it was now, for reasons that I really can never fathom, actually TEN to NINE?
I don’t do mornings at the best of times.
I am very slow in the mornings.
To find that, for reasons that I can never really fathom, I now only had a mere half an hour to eat breakfast, shower, do my hair, get dressed and get ready was a little bit too much to ask.
And definitely a lot more than I can cope with.
I should have given up then and crawled back into bed.
And yes, feeding me is a priority. Without food, I cannot do anything. In fact, I normally wake up at half past eight, have my breakfast then go back to sleep. Without food, I don’t even have the energy to sleep!
But, somehow, unbelievably, I managed to do it.
I was frazzled.
And had to exit the house unpainted.
I don’t like going out of the house without my slap.
It doesn’t feel safe.
It’s definitely not kind to or fair on other people.
I was frazzled.
And then a half a dozen other minor things just didn’t go well.
You know, the sort of piddling trifles that really aren’t hugely important most of the time but when you’ve already had such a rotten start, they really don’t HELP.
I had to leave early, a proactive choice because I really didn’t have the energy to deal with a panic attack.
And by that point slowly crawling home on foot up a very nasty steep hill was actually preferential to staying put.
I came home.
I knew that I had a cake to make for this afternoon.
A basic, simple, straightforward cake.
(The previous one wasn’t, at all, and I will be telling you all about that another time but that cake does not belong on Bad Days, it was a surprising triumph (relatively)).
I made one exactly the same earlier in the week but plain not chocolate.
It took 45 min in the oven.
I started with just over three hours to go before I had to go out, me and the cake.
The cake, naturally, because this was already a very Bad Day, did not cook.
How can a cake choose not to cook?
I had to leave without my cake.
I was feeling so miserable by this point that I left the house in my slippers.
There was no way that I could face boots and bootlaces only to take them off five minutes later at my friends’ house.
I remembered my knitting bag.
And my mobile.
And the DVDs that I’ve been promising to lend for the last month.
But forgot my ‘handbag‘.
My handbag is also a security thing. I feel safe with my handbag.
I didn’t feel safe without it.
It was the kind of day where having my handbag with me would make all the difference.
Well, probably not, but I’d at least feel slightly better equipped to face the Bad Day.
(Maybe I should start sleeping with my handbag as some sort of Bad Day prevention device? Hmm).
(Come to think of it, I didn’t sleep well either).
It wasn’t too bad though.
There was a delectable cream sponge and profit-roles.
I like profit-roles.
Then I got the news that my external hard drive is irredeemably fudged.
I have lost my entire life.
Because, of course, my entire life is stored in data on a 500 gb hard drive.
Well, a lot of it was.
I think the Baby Photos were on it.
And all my downloaded knitting patterns.
And all of this year’s photos.
(Husband made a really cool shark biscuit the other day).
And all of the recipes that I’ve spent years writing up.
And probably a whole more ton of stuff that I have yet to desperately need and therefore miss.
I’m not bawling, not just yet.
But the Voice is trying to come back.
It’s just that I don’t like losing things.
And probably I do ‘hoard’ things, ‘useful’ things.
The kind of ‘useful’ things that probably mean that my life will go on, somehow, without them.
And husband says hoarding things ‘virtually’ is just as bad a vice.
But I just get so attached to things.
And I remember them all, just like old friends.
Each pattern or recipe or photo.
They mean something to me.
There is security in saving things, in having everything that might ever be needed.
And my blanky died.
Blankies are meant to last forever.
And I certainly wasn’t big enough to be ready to let go either.
So as I have no photos, I’ll leave you with a song.
A song that kind of describes today.
(Some of the lyrics might not be kosher, however).
Oh, and this evening I just found out that a dear old friend has passed away.
It’s been a Bad, Bad, Bad Day.
Can I go to bed now?
(So, of course, this link won’t work either).