When I was young I always thought Sunday mornings were such a lovely fresh sheet of paper on which you could write the perfect day. As you get older, that sheet seems to come already half scribbled on. What’s your idea of the perfect Sunday morning?
Personally, I like an early morning walk with the pup (occasionally I manage to make it a run), buy the paper on the way home and then have a huge breakfast, whilst listening to The Archers.
And of course, reading this is now definitely part of the perfect Sunday morning….
It’s been a week
… since I lasted posted on Instagram, five days since I temporarily disabled my account. For the past 26 months I’ve engaged with IG almost everyday and posted nearly as often. I’ve ‘met’ virtually hundreds of people and a few in real life too. So how does it feel, a week on, to be without my Instagram feed?
Well, I am now really good at BubbleWitch.
The initial feeling of not being on Instagram is purely physical. I am so used to being welded to my phone I don’t know what to do with my hands. Of course there are emails and texts and What’s App messages but that constant ‘flick, flick, flick’ that my hand and eye were so used to is absent. Initially I replaced it with a certain bubble pinging app. That certainly didn’t help my headaches any, so I’m weaning myself off that too!!
But the space I find I have in my life without Insta is quite astonishing. I’ve written and painted more in five days than I usually do in a month. It’s not just the time and hands free, but the creative space. Initially I found Instagram a very creative platform but I hadn’t appreciated quite how indoctrinated I’d become. What was the point of creating anything if it wasn’t square and 2-d? Or didn’t fit in with the aesthetic requirements of IG? We all know what works with the algorithm and I struggle with that at the best of times.
I’m very aware that I’ve cut my community down by about 99%, (although I’m loving how many people did start to follow this blog last week, thank you, beautiful ones!). I do miss seeing, at the swipe of a screen, how all the ‘Grammers from around the world are doing. I wonder “how are @allmyfriends doing” on a regular basis. But summer holidays are like that, aren’t they? And we all catch up again in autumn.
I don’t think it’s the cause of my Insta-escape but clearly related to it, that I’ve been really struggling emotionally recently. This year has not gone according to my well laid plans. My husband’s ill health is increasingly a chain that binds all the family to a life we didn’t choose or expect. As it’s not something that can be changed or abandoned, acceptance is the only path for us and that is very hard. It’s a process and I’m not even out of the starting gate yet.
Right now, I’m wondering how I’ll ever return to the Lexiland feed. I’m sure in a month or so I will feel differently and of course, one day I’m hoping to translate all of this creativity into something money-making, at which point IG will have a marketing importance.
But for now I just want to sit and paint and write and make my little books and short stories and work on the big novel and if any of you want to look or read, I am thrilled. But likes can take a hike. For the moment.
“The problem is, they’re always too sweet.”
“Yes, why are they so sweet? Or, if it’s chocolate, it’s a really heavy fudge cake. Which makes you feel sick.”
“I love a good, dark fruit cake but they seem impossible to find unless it’s Christmas.”
A moment of silence.
“When I was a teenager, if you’d told me I’d be in my little car, with my wife next to me and my sick dog in the back, discussing cakes, I’d never have believed you.”
“No. I suppose not.”
“I was going to be a rock star.”
“Yes, I was too. I rather think I still might be.”
Another moment of silence.
“I could try a fruit scone instead. That would be nice.”
….. was at a theatre summer school all last week and on Friday my mother dog-sat a post-op Mabel so we could see the end of week show. It started with a song and dance act from the whole group. The Boy stood as far to the back as possible and had shrouded himself in an enormous hoodie. He can actually move pretty well when left to his own devices but jazz hands choreography is not his thing. His big dark eyes can look fearsomely judgemental when he’s not happy and they glowered from the back of the stage. At one point he was forced to the front and had to do a knee slide. I have never seen anyone do a knee-slide so resentfully…
But then the song was over and suddenly he emerged on stage, hoody off, hat on and prop violin in hand, to perform as Sherlock Holmes in a two-hander scene. Clearly influenced by the swishing, pouty Cumberbatch school of Holmes performances, he had the longest, most complex speech and had to leap around the stage whilst doing it. I know I’m his mum but he was brilliant! He hadn’t told us what he was rehearsing, never practised the speech at home or needed help learning it. The Boy is a constant surprise. I’m not quite sure where he came from….
…. has a perforated ear drum. On Thursday I was back and forth from the vet six times, including a late night dash for pain medication. Whether this is from a grass dart or from one of the previous procedures to remove grass darts, we don’t know. We do know that she has a very sore ear and is quite grumpy. She’s working it, though. She looks at me from under her furrowed brow and cries, wanting me to bring her food bowl to her. I did it once, just after the operation and now she’s decided she likes being waited on. Then she lies by the back door, in full Elizabeth Browning languish mode, right up until a pigeon lands in the garden, at which point she forgets her pain and charges at it, yelping in indignation. Next week I’ll hopefully have a photo for you of her in her Mutts Ear Mitts, as recommended to me by the lovely Lara of Life and Love in London. I’m pretty sure Mabel will cute in her protective ear mitts but even if she doesn’t, she’s damn well wearing them. Every time I look at her I see the two Mulberry handbags I could have had instead of paying vets bills….
In my corner of England
… summer is clearly over. That’s fair enough, it started early and we’ve had many baking days when the only way to cool down was slipping into the cold green waters of my local swimming lake. But now the midday sky is dark and brooding, the heat is a kind of washed out clammy and rain spits down in random, derisive bursts. I found the September copy of Red magazine nestling in my post box (I don’t look in the post box very often; what’s the point?). Summer is over and it’s not even August yet.
So now I’m worried about August because I’m the kind of person who likes to know where I stand, season-wise. I really, really don’t want to give into autumn yet. For decades I’ve lived with my mother bemoaning the onset of winter and I’ve always been dismissive of her fear. But now – and yes, this is definitely age related – I’m starting to understand how she feels. Last winter there were evenings so dark and cold, I felt utter despair at having to venture out in them.
When I was growing up, August was a hot, bright and robust month that roasted you continuously for 31 days. But that was because I grew up in Malta where the average summer day temperature for August is 32 degrees. Days were spent in the sea or on a boat or seeking the shadiest corner of a courtyard and lying flat out on the cold marble floor tiles, shifting to a colder spot every so often.
Then, about a week into September, just when you thought you couldn’t take it anymore, there would be the first rain. The sandy roads would be suddenly awash with a thick yellow mud. My village held it’s summer Festa in early September and often one or more of the nights of celebration would be invaded by a heavy downpour. Undaunted, they would still set off the immense and dangerous firework displays, so that the village square was suddenly filled with a dense, fizzing white mist and that particular smell of burning in the rain.
It’s a truism that the older you get, the more to revert to your childhood self. I’m not sure I ever really moved on from my childhood self anyway. I do know that I miss the relentless heat of those Augusts. I don’t know what to do with this fragile English summer….
Conversation Number Two
“This month I’m going to really get to grips with loving myself.”
“Are we talking physically or emotionally?”
“Emotionally. I’m fine with the other kind.”
“Ok. Why’s that then?”
“Well, I don’t love myself. I constantly judge myself based on other people’s opinions. I constantly seek validation for my existence in other people’s responses to me. It makes me self-obsessed, really boring and I’m never going to be truly successful with that attitude. So this month, I’m going to learn to love myself.”
“Well, I have a feeling any therapist would question your reasons for wanting to love yourself. They might suggest that you’re simply setting yourself up for failure so that you can continue berating and criticising yourself. Not least because you’re going to get this life long quest that philosophers and moralists have debated for centuries, all done and dusted in just this month?”
“Errr, yeah. Well, I’ve got world hunger next month and I’m already pushing peace with North Korea to October.”
…. I’ve been reading The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson. It’s a fictional murder story but uses the real life writer Patricia Highsmith, as it’s protagonist. As such, it manages to be a compelling and eerie suspense story, whilst also considering women’s sexuality during the last century and exploring the difficult process of writing. It combines the glamour and satisfaction of a Golden Era detective story with a much more complex and dark undertone. It was such an enjoyable experience, like eating a box of chocolates and then discovering that they made you healthier. The ending is perhaps up for debate – if any of you have read it, please let me know what you thought.
…. Golden Era detective stories, am I the only person to be stupidly excited about the new Murder on the Orient Express film? I’ve always been in love with the Orient Express, although I’ve decide never to go on it because it will be £5000 worth of disappointment (what do you mean my neighbour is a retired insurance salesman from Clapham? Where’s the film star murdered by the deposed princess?). Anyway, I am very much looking forward to my trip to the cinema to see this version, which features every old movie star and their newly acquired faces (who is it that Johnny Depp looks like nowadays? ‘Cos it ‘ain’t Johnny Depp).
I last saw
…. the trailer when I went to see Sofia Coppola’s film The Beguiled. I was really hoping to like this mysterious tale of a wounded soldier trapped in a house with group of sexually oppressed women and many reviews were good. Coppola even won the best director award at Cannes for it. I would love to tell you about it but I can’t because I went to sleep shortly after the opening credits. So….thoroughly recommended for insomniacs.
…. the first of my Accidental Heroes. This week I’ve chosen someone who many of you will have heard of, not least because she made a huge success of her Instagram feed. Not I think because she knew how to play the algorithm but because she has talent in spades.
Helen Downie, also known as Unskilled Worker, began to paint at the age of 48 and posted her experiments on Instagram. They soon acquired a huge following. I’d been aware of her work for ages but it was only when I stumbled across this video interview that I realised her philosophy of life is one to share and cherish. It’s only short, so please watch and be inspired.
And finally, finally …. The fruit on my plum tree is almost ripe so next week, Lexiland could be full of plum cakes and pies!
Tuesday I’m posting the first of my little books (still thinking of a better name…) which a tribute to the iconic blonde.