Candy floss

candy

 Isabella

The day my mum ran away from home was the best day of my life.

I remember waking up, with a cold knot travelling from my stomach all the way down to my toes, reminding me about the looming English test that I had not prepared for.  I knew that this time I would not get away with it as easily as last time and I decided to dive underneath the duvet.  Whenever I was worried it always helped me to imagine I was cocooned inside a pink candy floss.  My toes felt warm again.

‘Mum, my head feels hot. I ’m not sure I can make it to school today.’

Mum appeared at my bed with Alice, my younger sister, and  touched my forehead, asked me to stick my tongue out, and then a gentle pat on my head followed a strict order for me to be downstairs in three minutes and no later.  Dad had already gone to work; the sounds of his never changing habits still echoing in the house.  The buzzing of his electric toothbrush followed by a murmuring shower and then tap tap tap down the stairs finished with a big bang of the door.

I followed the faint smell of Dad’s aftershave down in to the kitchen where Alice had just finished creating her cornflake version of the sun.  I jumped over to her, put two grapes as eyes and drew a smile with my finger.  All that time Mum was standing with her back to us.  I could see her face reflected in the kitchen window.

I froze and pulled my hair.  Not again mum. Please.

I dropped a spoon on the floor; the cold sound of the metal against the stone.  Chink.  Mum jumped up.

‘Off we go girls.  Hurry up.’

I quickly scooped some of the cornflakes and hid them in my pocket.  Sometimes mum forgot about us and our breakfast and cereal was easy to hide in the pocket of my uniform and to share with Alice on the way to school.  She was so forgetful, my mum.

A slam of the door.  A fumble with seat belts.  Two neatly packed lunch boxes, resting on top of each other on the kitchen table.  My stomach grumbled angrily, louder than the rattling car engine.

See that girl, watch the scene, diggin’ the dancing queen was blasting out of the car speakers and I almost forgot about the test until we stopped outside the stern red brick school building.  Miss Marble, my English teacher, was standing at the gate in her usual brown cardigan and carefully styled hair that looked like my cycling helmet, herding her little sheep to later slaughter them in the mid-term English exam.

There she was, waving her arms, smile twisting into a growl, as mum slowly reversed the car and drove past the flock of my classmates.  I pressed my face against the window and showed Miss Marble my tongue.  Time stopped.  I pinched myself. Ouch.

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life.

‘I just need a bloody break.’ muttered mum, lit a cigarette and put on her big sunglasses.  I chuckled.  She looked like a fly.  Last time I was laughing at her she pulled my ear, and when her blue eyes met mine, tearful and sulky, she would not let go.

‘ I don’t like naughty girls.’

Today was different.  The air was hot and sticky, not a cloud to protect our  white arms and knees from the scorching sun.   ‘A family of vampires.’ was mum’s usual comment as she was smearing me, Alice and Dad in aloe vera gel after yet another day out at the beach.

There we were – back to our usual spot at the beach.

Hooray.’ Alice swirled, her red hair setting the world on fire.  I didn’t join in.  We hadn’t been here for a long time.  Not since that FIGHT.

Sunday family afternoon.  Dad behind the newspaper, clearing his throat.  Mum and her handbag, always clinking.  Alice rolling in the sand and I, pink clouds of  candy floss melted on my cheek.

Mum’s hand diving into the bag, dad’s had catching it.  Her bangles jingle as he tightens the grip.

‘You’ve had enough.  We have guests tonight.’

‘Don’t tell me what to do.’  She grimaced.  He folded the paper with one hand and turned the handbag upside down.  Tissues, sunglasses,  lipsticks I had secretly tested on my dolls and bottles with poison that mum had said would kill children if they touched it were scattered all over the sand.  Brown, green and blue bottles, glistening in the sand.  Her treasures. Dad let go of her arm and she screamed so loud I covered my ears.  Alice stopped rolling in the sand.  Mum didn’t stop crying and throwing sand at dad when he kicked the picnic basket that wouldn’t close its lid.  She yelled when he dragged me and Alice through the sand.  I stumbled and fell, the sharp pain of a rock cutting through my skin.  ‘I’ve done a pee pee.’ cried Alice, a wet streak behind her quickly swallowed by the sand.

My parents didn’t speak for a long time after that.

But today was different.  Alice and I found a blue and red kite floating in the water.  I caught the string and ran with it across the beach, with Alice stumbling behind me.  Mum waved and laughed.  I couldn’t remember the last time my mum was laughing out loud.

Tired and sleepy we climbed into the car.  Mum’s phone buzzed like an angry bee, she ignored it and when after a short pause it started moving across the dashboard again she opened the window and threw it out. Whoosh.

‘Let’s go and surprise dad.’  Mum’s hands were shaking as she reached for her bag.

Mr Very Important Bloodsucker was what mum called dad but he never laughed at the joke.  Neither did I.  He did not look like a Bloodsucker that mum drew for me once, more like a tree.  Tall with long, thin branches reaching out to me and Alice, always missing us by an inch.

Not a Bloodsucker and not a tree but a king of a very shiny tower with a door like a big, hungry mouth that swallowed and spat out people all day long.

As we were standing outside dad’s fortress , Alice and I holding hands, with Mum behind us, I sighed. What a day.

‘Stay where you are girls.  Mummy needs to get something from the car.’

‘Can I come with you?’

‘No, I won’t be long.  Close your eyes and count to one hundred.  I’ll be back when you finish.  It’s a surprise!’

‘I need a pee.’  I tightened the grip as Alice tried to wriggle herself away. 

‘Shush.  Mum will be back soon and then we will go home.  With dad.’

Alice stopped pulling my arm and before I closed my eyes, I briefly I saw Mum’s face swaying above me.  Her skin, almost transparent, was covered in a web of black streaks that disappeared into a secret place between her jaw and neck.  When she smiled, I noticed some of the red lipstick had stained her teeth and made her look like a Bloodsucker.  I covered my eyes with my arm and took a deep breath.

I smiled, squeezed Alice’s hand and started counting as the sound of Mum’s clicking heels disappeared behind us.

I have linked this short story to Prose For Thought     and Summer of Words.  Go and check out some brilliant writing!

Copyright:  Both the story and the doodle belong to BlueBeretMum.

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A Short Story of Mrs G

 review

I’m linking up my first short story with the lovely Vic and her Prose for Thought – go and have a look at some great poets and writers!

A Short Story of Mrs G

Teratoma. So it has a name.  Mrs G swallows a cough and reaches for an empty plastic mug in front of her.  Next to it, the water jug is empty too, with white deposit settled at the bottom.  She squeezes the mug in her hand.  Crack.  It is mid – June and the heat manifests itself in the sweat stains on her best “Sunday church” blouse.

“We need further tests.  Most cases are benign but this tumour is growing fast.  We will test the tissue and take it from there.”  The doctor takes off his glasses and starts polishing them with a hanky he fishes out of nowhere.  “Any questions?”

(more…)

Help Yourself

help yourself

Hi everyone – you can read this week’s post about self-help and parenting at The Real Super Mum Blog. Warning – those scribblings may change your life!

On (Un)Conditional Love

love cats 

A few days ago something extraordinary happened.  I blame it on the spring and the two sun rays that managed to make it through the thick clouds all the way to Scotland.  My cynical armour melted and my corny sore sipped thorugh and flooded the blank page in front of me.

Warning: this post comes with a lot of sugar… Have some mint tea before reading.

Love is…

Looking at your scrunched up angry face a few minutes after you were born and thinking “You got it from me mister.”

Finding 1001 words to describe how fascinating your poo is.  And bringing it up at dinner parties.  And chuckling at everyone else’s dismay.  I can’t help it.  I tried.  No, I really did try.  Now off to join Baby Poo Addicts Anonymous.

Chirping “Good morning sweetheart!”  after you’ve been implementing your Matricide by Lack of Sleep strategy for the last 336 nights.

Picking up that spoon you threw on the floor again, and again and again and again and again…

Burning up as you pull down my top and start squeezing my boobs with a loud “Maaaaaaaa”  in front of 5,398,549 other people in the doctor’s waiting room.  What the heck, I lost all my dignity when I was giving birth, right?

Binning that nutritious organic lunch I slaved over for the last 3 hours.  Then watching you pinch a cold slice of pizza off my plate. Yum.

Wiping my face, after you spat in it.  Yes, and this is how I found out that penicillin stings like hell if it gets in your eyes.

Repeating “Lalalalalala” while clapping my hands 1,385 times a day.  Because you find it so funneeeeeeeeeee.

Letting you chew on my Chanel lipstick (before you gasp, it has the lid on).  It was a gift that I cherished.  You got to my makeup bag first.

Tickling you so much you get hiccups.

Beaming with pride when you have decorated the back wall in the kitchen with tomato sauce.  Jackson Pollock style.

Falling asleep to the soothing sounds of your snores, gurgles and babbles.

Discovering that you have inherited my “can’t stop myself from devouring any grapes in my vicinity” gene.

Instructions for Peanut:

Dear Son

I’m writing this for you to read when I am old, fragile and in need of your help with mixing some alcoholic beverages to keep me jolly and chopping some wood to keep me warm.

Now there is some wisdom I would like to share with you.  It goes like this:

Love is You:

Undusting my false teeth

Mixing G&T without me having to ask you.

Combing through my garden that you call a hell’s heath

Knocking on my door and shouting “Peekaboo.”

And reading out loud to me, like I used to do with you.

Doing my dirty dishes.

Rubbing my old feet and finding my keys, gloves and hats.

Remembering Christmases and birthdays, sending me best wishes.

Finding a better home.  No, not for me, the 100 stray cats.

Giving me a cuddle when I’m sad and unhappy.

(psst, but one thing I won’t ask you to do is to change my nappy)

Lots of love

Your Mum

P.S. Shoo, fetch me that G&T!

 

Honour by Elif Shafak – Review

review

Reading a new novel is like going on a blind date.  There are the butterflies in the stomach.  The anticipation.  The sweaty palms.  Will we click?  Is it going to be worth my time?  Or should I have stayed at home, digging into Ben&Jerry’s while watching endless repeats of How I Met Your Mother?  

Then there is the chat up line.  The one that can either make or break the magic.  You know, the kind that will make you quickly retreat to the toilet, squeeze your bum through the way too narrow back window and leg it or the kind that will glue you to your seat, deep in the conversation with the other person until the cleaners throw the both of you out with the murky mop water.

To me, that very first opening sentence is crucial.  If I like it, it means that most probably the characters and I will have a great journey together.  It means commitment and long-term prospects.  If it doesn’t grab my attention, it means that we will both muddle through that short “word fling” and after I’ve hit the last page I will never want to see that book again.  Ever.  My obsession extends even further to my notebook (compulsory lined pages) where I jot down gripping opening sentences (from Poor old fox has lost his socks” to “I will not drink more than fourteen alcohol units a week.”), great words (this week it’s bucolic), and anything else that takes my fancy.

So, with a sweaty palm (the other equally sweaty hand was holding on to Peanut climbing up the bookcase to get to my iPod) and racing heart I opened Honour by Elif Shafak (a critically acclaimed Turkish novelist, columnist and academic who writes both in Turkish and English ) which arrived on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago (thank you BritMums and Penguin Bookclub).

Honour by Elif Shafak

“My mother died twice.”  It had me at that.

I lost myself in a tale of two twin sisters – Pembe Kader and Jamila Yeter (Pink Destiny and Enough Beauty).   This is an intricately woven family saga that with its twist and turns takes you on a journey to London, a small Kurdish village near the Euphrates, Istanbul and Shrewsbury Prison.  A tale that provokes questions about family tradition, history and honour and paints a vivid picture of clashing cultures (Western and Eastern ; age versus youth; us and the outsiders, honour versus shame).

I could be waxing lyrical about the skilful narrative, the poetic language and magic realism (I wish I had a little djinn in my house to make me tea…sigh) filled with spirits, omens and enigmas.  I still remember a beautiful passage describing a mother and her child waiting by a river for a passing stranger to name him.

I could draw diagrams of what the book’s title represents at many different levels.  I could even make a PowerPoint presentation on how Honour fits in somewhere between Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits with its storytelling exploring the darkest territories of love, faith and betrayal . I could even ….

…but I don’t have that much time.  Co-raising a baby, working and catching up on my snooze kind of take priority.  Writing this blog and reading is all I have left of so-called fun in life.  That and endless cups of tepid tea with an occasional ginger nut.

As for my book reviewing qualifications… Well, when I get to discuss books it is mainly with pint-sized adults who are pondering the metaphorical depths of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I didn’t mind sacrificing my precious sleep time to get from the first sentence to the very last word.

If it was a blind date, I would not be forcing my bulging behind through that small toilet window.

This is the best recommendation for this compelling story you will ever get.

What other books do you currently recommend?  I’m keen to expand my book dating horizons!

***

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of Honour.  I’ve received no other payment to write this review , and all opinions are my own.  It’s my blog and I will write what I want to.

Life’s Quirks and Oddities

3

A year ago I started writing a novel.

It was on the top of my List of Things I Want to Achieve in Life at Some Point Before I Die (And Before the Baby Arrives). This goal was not to become a famous author or to get published (although, I wouldn’t mind either, ehm…ehm).  It was to overcome my fears of inadequacy and to stick to my guns.

Sometimes the writing was all tears, sweat and toil and sometimes the words were pouring out of my soul straight onto the pages.  Even when I only scrawled a sentence or two I was excited to see my first great novel grow alongside Peanut inside me.  Often I was typing to the rhythm of him punching my ribs and he still is fascinated by the sound of me hammering the keyboard.

Pregnancy was a very happy time and a very scary time.  There were days when I was mourning my soon to be lost complete freedom to do whatever I want and whenever I want.  I convinced myself that I was no good mother material, mainly because I had always been dodging other people’s sprogs.  At the same time I could not wait to meet this little person who loved to jiggle and wiggle (but why always at five in the morning?).

The days went by, I grew bigger and more ball-shaped and more pages filled with my “nonsense”.  I can’t sew.  I can’t knit.  I can browse the Internet for deals on baby paraphernalia (psst, and I’m good at it).  So I did that for months.  I liked getting lost while following the myriad of old railway paths around the old harbour in Newhaven and whispering to Peanut about Sartre and superiority of Ben &Jerry’s ice cream over any other ice cream in the world.

Then one Saturday, BlueBeretDad raced the car through the sleepy streets of Edinburgh and around 4am we entered the birth centre as two only to twelve hours later leave it as three.

The plot’s twists and turns intertwined with my own upheavals.  Everything was new, a big question mark hanging over our heads, more often than not with no answer to follow.  After having read countless baby books, BlueBeretDad and I went for the “make it up as you go along” parenting approach.  It has been working for us just fine. Phew.

Maybe it was the sleep deprivation and exhaustion or maybe a natural turn of events, but I dropped my writing. Just like that.  The more Peanut grew and surprised us with new skills (Look, he can touch his foot) the less I had and wanted to say. I felt as if all the words I had in me had been consumed by motherhood.

Somehow, with Peanut becoming more independent (as in causing mischief when no one is looking) and me becoming a more relaxed parent, the door to my inner writer’s room unsealed.  I started by undusting my notebook and writing an odd word here and there. Then I kicked off with scribbling down a few poems (bad ones I ‘m afraid) and odd paragraphs of peculiar thoughts whenever I found a minute or two. I stopped watching TV (still make an excuse for some car crash telly when my brain cells crave mindless entertainment) and went back to basics.  Writing.  Not judging. Letting stories happen.   And this is how, ten months after Peanut joined the BlueBeretFamily, this blog was born.  I would not be here typing this tale down for you without my wee boy.  I would not have it any other way.

My novel is still waiting for that last chapter.

My fingertips are still itchy.

Happy First (soon to come) Birthday Peanut.

We love you very much.