Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is a very special day in the Christian calendar.  It’s a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, conquering death and sin and paving the way for his followers to be with him in the afterlife. So, naturally we celebrate by eating as much chocolate as humanly possible without (in most cases, at least) actually exploding and watching cheesy films from the food-induced discomfort of our cocoa  and brightly coloured tinfoil littered sofas.

Of course, we all have our own traditions. In my house we go to the Saturday night Easter vigil and this enables us to have a lie-in on Easter Sunday, which doesn’t happen on any other Sunday in the year and is much appreciated.  By those it applies to, at least, which doesn’t include me.  No. I get woken up early, by the youngest member of the family who, at 12, is pretty excited about the chocolate feast in store.  So excited that she then discharges bursts of nervous energy in my direction like North Korean missile attacks until I am forced to try and get the rest of the family out of bed.  On the day that they are trying to have their only lie-in.  Yes, as you would imagine, this makes me extremely popular.  Today, for instance, it took me an hour to get my 18-year-old to come downstairs.  I think he might have been trying to claim back the one we all lost last night.

One of the reasons that my youngest gets so excited is because of the egg-hunt.  It’s a bit different to the egg-hunts I hear of in other households. Now, this might concern some of you.  It may even give you the impression that I am somehow curtailing my brood’s childhood, but as I said, we all have our own traditions.  In my house we don’t believe in the Easter Bunny.  I’ll give you a moment to take that in.  That’s right.  I don’t tell, and have never told my children that a giant rabbit (whether visible or invisible) somehow produces chocolate eggs which it leaves lying around in hidden places.  My children are pretty interested in the environment and I’m sure this chocolate egg-laying giant rabbit would only further convince them that we need to look more carefully into GM produce.

No, our egg-hunt involves a set of clues, each one leading to the next, until eventually they lead to a stash of Easter eggs for the 4 ‘children’ (or more accurately named, ‘offspring’) of the house.  This has worked well for years.  I write 5 or 6 rhyming couplets for the purpose with varying degrees of difficulty and they decipher the clues and go on the hunt.  Well, that’s how it used to be, but one by one they have dropped out of the hunt part and now 3 of them sit on the sofa while the youngest finds their eggs.  They all help crack my code.  They’re getting a bit too good at it, to be honest.  I’m going to have to up my game: especially now that the youngest has downloaded a crossword app for her phone.  When I was her age I had to make do with the Guardian and a pencil and it didn’t do me any harm.  I digress.

I’m beginning to run out of places to hide the eggs.  They’ve been in the washing machine, the dryer, a laundry basket (when there are 6 people in the house, laundry can loom large in the psyche), under everybody’s bed, in the under-the-sink cupboard and in the oven.  That wasn’t a good idea, because it turns out that the bottom oven gets quite hot when you make toast, and apparently Easter lumps are just not as popular as you’d think.

This year saw the introduction of what may be a new tradition.   I got my chef-in-training son to be in charge of the chicken for our roast dinner.  As a confirmed veggie, that’s quite a relief.  I hate cooking food if I can’t taste a bit to test it and I’d rather not relive the food-poisoning extravaganza of 1997 (kidding).

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For Liam

I promise that I thought of you when I saw the jumping flame.

And when I had to choose a prayer, I chose to speak your name.

Rejoicing all around me, but I can’t escape the fear

That I’ll never see your face again, that I’ll never feel you near.

 

I think of you so often. When I’m reading a new book,

I reach to pick the phone up, to suggest you take a look.

I always think you’d like it because we share a certain taste,

The unread books I’ve picked for you are our own peculiar waste.

 

You used to be the older one, now I’ve caught you up. And more.

But in my head you’re like you were a long, long time before.

Before that damned disease took hold and trapped you in your mind.

Before you had to leave your possibilities behind.

Your hair is black, your skin is brown, your words are light, but keen.

You joke and laugh, you tell me tales of places you have been.

You’re happy, young and free of pain. You’re what you’re meant to be.

Forever my big brother.  And a treasured part of me.

Dance of the Dead

There’s nothing left to say, it’s all been said.

It’s time I lined my hands up with the dead,

Whose eyes can’t see the misery they cause.

They understand their own pain, never yours.

And there we’ll sit in solitude. Unfound.

Without a hint of warmth, without a sound,

Until the day the author wanders in

And then the solemn dancing will begin.

Around, around we’ll weave our sorry tale

Of bleak regret.  Of how we came to fail.

Our efforts gouging pieces from our lives

As though they were the frozen ghosts of knives.

The dead will cease their dance, will lose the fight.

But I will dance until I find the light.

Snow Day

We’re having a ‘snow day’.  The schools are shut, my job interview has been cancelled, my family are unlikely to get a flight over from Ireland, the man who was going to come and mend my husband’s car won’t be doing that now and there’s a pretty strong chance that the cat won’t be leaving the house this side of April.  Not teaching her to use a litter tray is beginning to look like an error of judgement. 

Don’t get me wrong; I like snow.  I built the world’s most inadequate snowman the last time it snowed.  He made it to about 11 inches because I had to keep going back into the house every 3 minutes to recover limb sensation.  Once you’re in the house you get sucked into Twitter or re-runs of ER or catching up on yesterday’s episode of the Archers.  Chris is on the mend, in case you were wondering. 

I got up at stupid o’clock today, same as usual.  Looked out at the predicted snow, sighed and started to compute all the troubles that would come with it; I think this means I’m a grown-up. I still got dressed as though everything hadn’t been thrown into disarray; I put on a newly purchased shirt and my smart work trousers so that I could impress the interviewer with my ability to buy stuff and look like I have a job but the shoes were problematic. My work shoes look fine from the top but let in water like they were designed for straining pasta rather than keeping feet comfy and dry, so I was forced to go to Plan B: the boots! I like my boots. They’re comfy.  I’m definitely a comfort over style kind of a person as you would be able to assess from a glance if you ever saw me.  However, the boots are a bit scuffed and don’t really go with the trousers and shirt.  Alright, they look like I made them from papier maché, had them sprayed in a tanning booth in Essex then wore them to clog dance my way from Liverpool to Sheffield and back.  I didn’t!  The tanning booth was in Runcorn.

Wearing smart stuff from neck to ankles and raggedy boots made me feel like my feet were the only part of me that was actually me but also made me think the interviewer might give the job to everything from the ankles up but not the feet.  This would make certain aspects of the work tricky: standing up, walking, doing a sly tap-dance in the toilets if the day was dragging on a bit. So it was a bit of a relief when the school texted to say it was closed and the company rang to cancel my interview.  This just leaves me unlikely to see my Irish family just yet and my husband’s car troubles may have to stretch into next week.  Not good, but at least we’re all safe in the house.  With an untrained cat.  Now all I have to do is decide whether I’ll watch ER or the box set of Columbo.  I know! Let’s see if we can make a snowman that’s a foot and a half!

Wishes

Where in the world have my dead wishes gone?

Did they slide down the drain

Like the rain

On wet Thursdays?

Did they dance through the night

Then dissolve

With the light?

Could they come back to haunt me?

Or crush me and taunt me?

Am I safe?

Are they gone?

Were they real?

 

What does it mean when the colours turn white?

Did they drip to the soil

With a sound

Like a heartbeat?

Is it just that your eye

Can’t believe,

Must deny?

If you faced what you’re seeing

Would the colours start being

Bright again?

Are they gone?

Were they real?

Everything inside

In my head is everything I’ve ever owned.  And nothing.

I can touch the fur of loved, long-disintegrated bears,

Hear the rattle of a nut, stuck in a money-box that was really a plastic bottle.

My imaginary hands can stroke the dog I loved and will miss forever.

In my head is everything I’ve ever known.  And nothing.

All the words of all the books through all the hours,

Pictures that made me want to be an artist, or a princess.  Or Odysseus.

I can sing the songs that lulled me into sleep.

In my head is everyone I’ve ever known.  And no-one.

Here, my brother tells me how to tie my laces. 

He seems so grown-up but now I know he’s not.  He’s just a boy.

My friends come over for my birthday, bringing chocolates.

I realise that all along there really was no-one.  Just me.

So, about these 7 signs of ageing

There are certain things guaranteed to make you feel old.  One of them is when your children reach certain milestones, such as graduation, passing a driving test, growing a beard (the day my daughter grew a beard was quite the watershed moment for both of us).  Another one is that moment when you say something and the people who understand what you’re talking about can be divided neatly by date of birth.  For example:

Mum:  ‘Give it a rest; you sound like a broken record!’ Child: ‘What’s a record?’

or

Grandma: ‘Look at that hole. Those socks need darning!’  Grandson: ‘What’s darning?’

or, my particular favourite,

Me: ‘I can’t understand why Maggie wasn’t locked up for what she did to the miners.’ My young daughter: ‘What’s a miner?’

That last one might actually be in a category all of its own.

But recently I have been forced to admit that I may have been developing some of the 7 signs of ageing.  And by ‘recently’ I mean ‘for several years’ and by ‘may have’ I mean ‘have definitely, by the bucketload’.

This ‘seven signs of ageing’ thing seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon.  I don’t remember hearing about it before Oil of Ulay changed its name to something less like some biblical ointment for preparing sacrificial goats and more reminiscent of a Spanish entertainer’s overenthusiastic cry.  Before they came up with this concept I’m sure there were only 3 physical signs of ageing that the advertisers would concern themselves with:

  • Grey hair – God forbid you should let your grey hairs show unless you were auditioning for a part in a hair dye advert. Then you could sit there grey-haired and lonely until, joy of joys, you dyed your hair and started going on dates where you would run down a windy beach with your new man and he’d run his hands through your beautiful newly brown hair.
  • Wrinkles – that could all be sorted out by using Camay which you would only ever rub on your cheeks in delicate, pointless little circles before going out on a date where you would run down a windy beach with your new man and he’d run his hands over your beautiful, soft, wrinkle-free cheeks.
  • False teeth – use Polygrip in case you get to go on a date where you run down a windy beach with your new man and he has decided to bring a picnic basket full of badly cooked chicken and really hard apples. Then he might run his hand over your beautiful false  …well, maybe not. It doesn’t work for everything.

So I will concede that there are at least three signs of ageing.  Grey hair: check!  Wrinkles: check! False teeth: Nope. But only because I insist that I can chew perfectly well with a molar missing on each side of my mouth and I’m secretly a bit scared I’d go and choke on a bridge or palate or whatever it is they call them.  See; if I don’t know the lingo I can’t really be old.  I’ll admit to being middle-aged since I patently have no choice in the matter, although I strongly suspect I won’t make it to 94, but these signs of ageing have a way of slapping you in your wrinkled face when you feel the most down.

I started getting grey hair at about 20 years old and now it’s entirely grey at the top and blonde further down. I look as though I dyed my hair blonde and then got bored of doing it. Which, to be fair, I very quickly would.  But when children ask, ‘Are you a nan?’ (Er ..no!!!) I have to say, it stings a little.  And when you spend 5 minutes trying to pluck an errant eyelash from your cheek before realising it’s actually a wrinkle and you are both wrinkled AND short-sighted, that too can be damaging to the self-esteem.  And when you have to chew with your incisors and end up looking like the 1983 World Gurning Champion, it doesn’t make you feel great, to be honest.

If grey hair, wrinkles and lost teeth are the first 3 signs, then I believe the other 4 must be these:

  • Really asking yourself if it’s worth the effort before you’ll bend down and pick something up from the floor.
  • Finding yourself looking in the cupboard instead of the oven, putting the camera in the fridge and going out in odd boots because you’ve bought so many pairs that are the same except for colour because they’re ‘comfortable’.  I’ve done this last one twice; the second time I was telling the humorous anecdote of the first time I’d done it when I looked down and realised I’d done it again.
  • Finding yourself saying, ‘I would never have spoken to my mother like that.’

But to me, not all the signs of ageing are that bad, because one that I am really enjoying is number 7:

  • Finally just leaving the radio tuned to BBC 4.