Eight Minutes To Midnight.

I can’t quite believe that I’ve finished the first year of my MA already! My last module was ‘Life Writing.’ It made me delve into my own life and examine my relationships and personal experiences rather than make it up! Here’s what I wrote when given the task to write  about  ‘a time when I changed my mind. ‘

I hope you enjoy.

P.S. It feels good to be back! x

Eight Minutes To Midnight.

At eight IMG_0556minutes to midnight, on Tuesday 24th October 2006 I didn’t change my mind. It was changed for me.  My cotton nightie was ripped open at the neck and William was laid slick with blood and a cheesy coating of vernix on my bare chest. A sheet was pulled up over us and my life inverted. He was the best decision I’ve never made.

I had not wanted a baby. My pregnancy was unplanned. Our marriage could still be counted in weeks. A whirlwind romance from which I was still breathless. Children were a hazy responsibility in the future. Something for my thirties, something for once I’d established my career, something for when I was a proper grown-up, or maybe never at all.

It took me over two months before  I went to the Doctor and faced the truth of what my body was already telling me. Growing and morphing out of all proportion into shapes it had never been before. At least please make it a girl, I’d thought.  I was truculent.  I thought my life was over. My freedom lost. The fresh foundations of our marriage had not yet set. We wobbled and it was terrifying.

At eight minutes to midnight, I would find out what it feels like to find gold nuggets at the bottom of a pan full of gravel.

As the years have passed, our love has become elastic. We no longer need skin to skin contact to know that we belong to one another. I’m not the epicentre of his world anymore. Each year I am gently nudged a little further towards the periphery.  I’m instructed there’s to be limited association in public and certainly no kisses. It’s been years since I’ve had a proposal. I remind him, of how each night at bedtime, he used to solemnly ask me for my hand in marriage and he screws up his face in disgust, “Gross Mum.”  I’m more likely to get put in a head-lock these days as get a hug.

William doesn’t know that he was the glue that kept our marriage together when vows could not. He was, and is, too young to understand that he made us try harder, that he is the reason for us, as we are now; stronger, better. We had to wait four long years before the miracle of our cells would combine and stick to me again. Mother nature didn’t care that I’d changed my mind about being a mum, she made sure to punish me for my insolence the first time round.

At eight minutes to midnight he left my body, but I swear I still feel the tug of his umbilical cord, like the stroke of a bell ringer, deep in my gut. I watch him, playing with friends, or sauntering out from school; chatting always chatting to someone. Like his dad, he is tall and broad across his shoulders and I feel my throat tighten and my chest fill up with grateful joy. My boy. My immeasurable, handsome, kind, funny boy. How wrong I was; my life didn’t end with him, the most meaningful part of it began.

Before eight minutes to midnight, I thought I knew love. I didn’t.

 

 

Going back to go forward.

 

I’ve big news. I’m going back to University. As of yesterday I’m a fully registered and enrolled student, again! In July I got accepted to study for my MA in Creative Writing at Queens University Belfast. Fair to say that I am excited and terrified in equal measure – What if I’m the oldest in the class by decades? How will I juggle it with motherhood? What if everyone laughs at what I write, or what I’ve got to say? What if I’m not good enough? All these questions, and more, have been whizzing about my head and feeding my internal monologue. And yesterday they were joined by a healthy dose of ‘What the F***k am I doing?’ Everyone was so, so young. I’m not in the habit of hanging around with folk barely out of their teens. I’m either with little folk who still need help wiping their arse, or people with faces like my own; faces with creases, faces with stories to tell. NOT faces that look so… new. And here’s the other thing; they are all so sure of themselves, they seem to know exactly where they’re heading, they already know their place in the world. It was terrifying. Borderline traumatic. Where have the past twenty years gone? Surely there must be a mistake? I felt completely out of place. Unlike my self-assured compatriots, panic and fear seeped through my system.

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I gathered myself over a coffee (though I felt more in need of gin) and I stopped judging. I stopped presuming that everyone was looking at me with pity thinking I was a sad old woman still in pursuit of her dreams at almost forty! I thought of myself at nineteen or twenty years old. I thought about the things I would do differently, if I had my time again. I thought about what my nineteen year old self would make of my thirty-nine year old self. I thought about what I might say to her, if I had the chance. Because I remembered that once upon a time, I too, was a confident young woman who thought she knew her place in the world, who thought she knew what she clearly didn’t. I was that girl. And even though, she has all the benefits of youth on her side, the woman I am today would not swap with her. As the Dixie Chicks say, ‘I’ve gone the long way around’. Maybe not everything in my professional life is how I might have envisaged when I was a nineteen year old university student, but it’s only when you get older that you realise not everything in life goes quite to plan. I feel lucky and blessed to be healthy, to have a happy marriage and two wonderful sons. I guess all those fresh-faced students will have to live a bit longer to appreciate just how precious the simple things are. To realise that sometimes you have to go back, in order to move forwards.

Classes start next week. Please God don’t let the lecturers be young enough to be my off-spring!

Christmas Hits: oranges, an invisible note and a book.

Hello! Happy 2016 one and all!  I trust you survived the Christmas festivities intact. Can you guess what oranges, an invisible note and a book have in common? No -? Well, they were my best Christmas gifts of 2015.  I’ll start with the oranges.  They arrived a few days into the holidays. Two huge boxes filled to the brim with gorgeous Valencia oranges. I swear, you could smell the sunshine when we opened them!

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A gift from the family of our spanish au pair; orange farmers, of course. I promise you they are the tastiest, juiciest, oranges ever.  I credit them for keeping us bug-free over the Christmas holidays. I’ve even started freezing the orange peel to put in my G&T’s!! Fact.

FullSizeRenderMy second favourite is the wonderful ‘The Long Gaze Back’ edited by Sinead Gleeson. This has been on my ‘must buy’ list for ages so my husband got mega brownie points for this one. (I might have hinted once or twice) Each story is superb. Not only does it feature some of my favourites female Irish writers, but it has also introduced me to some new ones too. I have had to read each story numerous times – there is so much to unpack. Each one is a master-class in storytelling; a guaranteed way to give yourself a sharp, short slice of brilliance. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s pages are going get well and truly dog-eared and it’ll have pride of place on my shelf  for years to come.

FullSizeRender 3My third ‘gift’ ( I use this word loosely)  is a note from my 9 yr old. I know it looks like a blank piece of paper, but its written with his new invisible ink pen! (thanks Santa) Now you’ve got to consider:  he’s a boy, he’s 9yrs old, mostly he thinks I’m embarrassing, all he  currently cares about is football and Star Wars, he thinks farting should be included in the Olympic games and the extent of his vocabulary is usually ‘epic’, ‘lol’ and ‘yeah right’.  He is not prone to writing  affectionate notes. Anyway, on Boxing night he’d tucked it under my pillow. Thankfully he’d flagged up that he’d  left it there, otherwise it would have  likely gone in the bin, because to the naked eye it is essentially a blank piece of paper. But under his special UV light it becomes something magical,

‘Dear Mum,

I love you so much and I hope you like me too.

Love William

What can I say? BEST. PRESENT. EVER.

It’s in my jewellery box, but nothing in there comes close to the value of that piece of paper. Only problem is I’m going to have to buy my own UV light so that I can read it! As the boy himself would say LOL!

I hope your 2016 is going with a swing so far. Would love to know what your best gifts were and why….

Happy No-Resolution New Year!

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It’s that time of year again. As 2015 fades out and everyone exclaims, ‘Where has the year gone?’ We begin to look towards the sparkly unspoiled year ahead. It lies before us like fresh undisturbed snow.  As we lie around eating Christmas leftovers and feeling bored countless people will begin to make their New Year Resolutions. We will promise ourselves to ‘do more things’, lose the weight, give up this, give up that, drink less, don’t drink at all, exercise, be kinder, spend less, spend more, spend our time more wisely, blah, blah, blah and so it goes on.

I’m in awe of the women I’ve discovered through the #selfishmother network. Clever, (so, so clever), funny, brilliant women who manage to pack in unfathomable amounts between wiping baby puke off their shoulder and the school run. I think it must be our suffragette heritage that makes us attack each day as though our lives and sanity depend on it. I know many of you will be listing up your resolutions as I write this, well,

I’m here to say NO! I’ll be standing strong and giving a big fat two fingers to New Year Resolutions and here’s three reasons why I think you should too:

  • Because January is hard enough!

Most people fail with their New Year resolutions before the end of January. Why would you do that to yourself? Why would you set yourself up for failure during the hardest month of the year? It’s the dead of winter. The days are short and cold and everyone is recovering from their Christmas hangover. If you’re like me, you’re financially crippled. January is horrible. It takes guts just to face January, just to get through it. Who needs the extra pressure of taking up tiquando? What twisted mind ever thought listing things to ‘fix’ about yourself in January was a good idea? Here’s my proposal; if you want to start something new, why not do it in the Spring, that’s when mother nature makes her new year – make it yours too. Don’t feel pressure to start ‘afresh’ just because the calendar shows different numbers on it.  I bet if people made spring resolutions the success rate would be a lot higher!

  • Because you’ve done more than you think you have.

Scrap your ‘to do list’ for 2016 and write a ‘done it’ list. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by boxes left to tick why not celebrate your ticked boxes. I wrote about this in a previous blog, you can read it here. So, put the kettle on, or pour your wine and write down everything you’ve accomplished in 2015. No matter how small, or how amazeballs. Write it down.  You’ll surprise yourself and you’ll start 2016 on a high buoyed up by everything you’ve already done.

  • Because you are enough.

It’s 2015 and the unfortunate fact is that women still have to work twice as hard as men to get noticed, to get promoted, to even get near the glass ceiling. All too often our careers hit the buffers when our clocks time-bomb us into motherhood. It’s true that the majority of women, working or not, still do the lion’s share of the child-rearing and and the domestic duties. I’d love to do a survey on the gender divide of households when it comes to Christmas; who buys the teacher’s presents, the Santa presents, the nieces and nephews gifts, cooks the Christmas dinner, decorates the tree, moves the elf on the shelf – the list goes on and on. I know there are exceptions, I know there are some men who do their fair share, but let’s be honest they are few and far between. I’d like to state that I’m no man-bashing feminist. Feminist yes, but not because I hate men because I love men. I love my husband, I love my sons, I love my brother, I love the company of men, I love our differences and our contradictions. (I especially love it when one is handy to lift a heavy object.) But unfortunately, we are not yet truly equal in the world.

Girls, women, mothers, friends, I am here to tell you that you do enough, you are enough, you have enough. We produce other humans! And then we look after them, we clothe them, feed them, wash them, we love them. Whether you have given birth or not, you are still a caretaker of the next generation. They will follow your example. They will become what we have allowed them to believe they can become. That alone is enough.  That’s not to say you can’t do more. I’m all for doing more, but I am here to tell you that motherhood alone is also enough.

If you must make resolutions please do it for yourself; a resolution should be for you, and only you. Don’t do it because the magazines say you should, or because your favourite celebrity is doing it, or your next door neighbour is doing it. Do it for yourself, because you want to, because you need to, because you know it will benefit your life in a positive way. Only your reason is good enough. If you fall off the wagon, who cares? Enjoy doing it. If you consume more than your allotted calorie intake for January in one lonely day, make sure you savour every mouthful. Women, in everyone of you I see a hero.  In 2016 make a resolution to be kinder to yourself and start by saying No to New Year’s Resolutions!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and A Happy carefree New Year.

xxx

 

Reverse The Curse!

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When we meet my main character, fair to say she’s having a bad day. The kind of day millions of women have every month. It might put off some squeamish male readers but f**k it, my market is women’s fiction. My readers are going to be predominantly women, so I’m writing for them. Here it is, I’d love to hear what you think; good and bad.  Would you part with cold, hard cash to read more? I’m hoping ‘The Curse’ turns out to be a blessing for me.

ANNE.

15th September 2011

The blood, when it came, was always a relief. She told herself they took adequate precautions, but in truth, she knew they erred on the side of carelessness too often. Anne had felt wound up for days; the smallest aggravation made her disproportionately angry, or ready to burst into frustrated tears.  Recently, she’d noticed it getting worse. She felt as though she was at the mercy of her emotions and was in danger of becoming a female parody, or even worse; more like her mother. On top of her pre-menstrual tension the death of her beloved Gran three days before meant she was experiencing adult grief for the first time. This wasn’t like anything that had gone before; it had shaken her to her core and she hadn’t known what to do with the unfamiliar feeling. The bleakness perched on her heart, its claws digging sharply into her soul’s centre. If she didn’t know better she might think that is where the blood was coming from. Maybe it was coming from both places? Maybe her body was bleeding for herself and for her grandmother? Anne knew she should paint to try and make sense of her myriad of incommunicable feelings. That’s what they’d been taught at Art College, ‘to paint through their experiences.’  She should. But she knew she probably wouldn’t.

Death had made the left hand side of her chest feel heavier than the right. At times, she felt it hard to breathe. It had made her think about things. Ironically, death had made her think about life. It had made her think about her own life; it was passing too quickly before she could grasp it and wrestle it to the ground and make it the shape that she had always wanted it to be. At thirty-four she was getting on the old-side of young. Anne had learnt there is nothing like death to make you feel as though you need to hurry up in life.

She reached for her bag and located her small cosmetic purse. Nowadays, manufacturers try to dress-up woman’s monthly bloody mess in happy yellow or pink parcels, as a way of getting around the rather ugly, uncomfortable inconvenience of shedding an internal lining every four weeks. Advertisers show women jumping with glee and smiling idiotically as they trampoline through their periods while pouring blue liquid on sanitary pads to show their superior absorbency. Anne had never found anything blue coming from her uterus. On TV and in magazines ‘The Curse’ was transformed into an unrecognisable delight. Yet more bullshit, thought Anne.

Anne’s relief had quickly washed way to leave a hollow feeling. Her body was reminding her that she was empty inside, nothing was growing there, and perhaps nothing ever would. Anne had never had a desire for children so she couldn’t understand why this bothered her – but it did. Lately she’d become aware that she desired more from life, but she didn’t know what. Maybe it was just another strange by-product of death. Death. The cold, hard insurmountable fact of it was staring her in the face. Her grandmothers’ funeral was at 12 noon. Her indomitable and sagacious ‘Gran’ was gone. Anne had not seen her in over two weeks. She should have made the effort to visit more, much more. Anne was learning that was another thing death was good at; it was good at making you regret.