Stitches – A novel (2020)

I feel nothing but sorrow. I feel a sense of loss, of sadness as I walk down the well trodden streets of Bath today. Some people are wearing masks in the street. Others are not. Some people are wearing masks in the restaurants and cafés, others have removed them and forgotten to replace them when they go to queue for the loo. There are gaps everywhere. Gaps of confusion.

We live in a small town in the south west of England where the people are probably demographically elderly, by and large.

It is only people like me, over fifties that think of writing phrases like “by and large”; young people wouldn’t understand it. They have their own language. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an underground language they used to talk about old people. There’s a film they’re delaying launching. It’s called ‘Live and let Die’. It’s a Bond Film. He’s a fictional character, a sort of dare devil; a charasmatic spy who loves beautiful women. He has, or had, this friend Leiter; Felix Leiter. (Just now, even though I never added it, an algorithm has altered ‘Leiter’ to ‘Letter’ (even though I used a capital), three times, and I have had to manually change it back, which is what comes of using a mobile to type a novel). I know this because I read several of the author, Ian Flemming’s books as a teenager, not the algorithm thing, the name. I was always attracted to rogues. Raffles was a Frenchman I used to enjoy. He had been serialised on television when I was a child. A gentleman thief. We were attracted to cool, suave, sophisticated, we called them, men, as children. I digress. The film has been put back because it has a distasteful title; in the circumstances. We’ve lost over 40, 000 people to Covid-19. Most people call it Coronovirus. I call it Covid-19. Mostly I listen to the scientists, and that is what they call it.

In September the schools will all go back, and I suppose people will start to die again.

I feel nothing but sorrow.

I know I’ve said that already but I’ve always enjoyed litany. I began writing this for the oldies anyway. I dislike stereotypes, but I thought well I am old, I suppose. And if I am writing for myself then I must be writing for someone over fifty. It isn’t fair though, to stereotype me, because when I was around ten I was in love with older people and I should have read more of them. I wasn’t directed to good, strong writers until I was thirteen and I never found the right book. That would be an idea for a blog though, If you’re looking for one; books for thirteen year olds. Still, I’ve a habit of digressing. I’m missing my mother. I suppose she has done me a favour placing so much trust in me not to contact her. She knows what a good girl I am. I will comply. I just read an article in The Times (god knows why I continue to rifle through that paper looking for inspiration, it turned over to the other side during the other crisis, Brexit; I almost forgot the name of it; but Brexit seems so far away now). Where was I? Oh yes. Here. In Coffee 1. Listening to the buzz of voices. They’ve invented an app for office workers (they all use them), because they miss the hum of their colleagues. I discovered the soothing qualities of “the hum” in 2017. I’d recently moved to a town. In ancient books of the last century they’d leave a gap there, usually with a name, as though they were incinuating something, thus–.

I’m not going to reveal where I live. And I know you’ll keep up because you are as old as me and you haven’t lost the ability to read minds.

It was just this sort of conversation I used to have with my mother. We’d text and discuss maybe three things at once. Picking up loops of lost words like stitches. Perhaps I’ll call this stitches. Perhaps we’ll be in “stitches” later on. You never know. I may begin cackling with laughter at any moment. I know it is an old cliché but laughter really is the best medicine, and if you are reading this mummy, mother, don’t contact me now not now that I have found the page again. It is always the page that saves me from my own dark and desperate thoughts. The tree that sustains life becomes the paper or the symbol of it. God knows why “apple” it’s obviously “Word” and “WordPress” isn’t it? I never know whether that final question mark is supposed to be there. I mean wasn’t that a rhetorical question which doesn’t require a question mark? And so on and on it would go, like stitching. No not stitching, stitches. Stitching is so final, whereas Stitches can be unpicked and you can start all over again.


On Beauty and Botox

I didn’t grow up in a world of Botox, although my thirty-something children did. My daughter once told me that getting work on your face was perfectly normal for her generation. At the time she was in the sixth form. I was quite shocked at the time. But I’ve rarely attempted to overtly influence my children, except with regard to taking pills. I made sure they knew that I was very anti pills, as they grew up because of the side effects and risks. When they were unwell I always asked them what they felt like eating and we were lucky enough to be able to afford to buy it for them, whatever it was.

I suppose Botox is a kind of quick fix solution if you’ve been squinting at a screen all day in poor light. Except it isn’t a cheap one, like chocolates for someone who has forgotten to eat.

I often wonder whether people realise how good you look when you walk for a couple of hours. Your skin glows, your eyes sparkle and you can lose a great deal of weight through walking 12k a day. The only difficulty would be finding the time, especially with computers and phones calling to you to take more photographs and compare yourself to everyone else. When I was a child it seemed to me like there were about three rival women in the world, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, and Debbie Harry.

The icons were film stars from Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Bringing up Baby. They seemed a million miles away, in an old film you could rarely get access to.

Men rarely seem to be involved in this debate. Although Simon Cowell used to get the injections, and it was never a secret.

I suppose there wasn’t that constant pressure to look good. The main mirror was a reflection in the glass of the shop window as you walked past. And imagine a man looking at his reflection in a shop window; which gives me an idea for a story.

Still, there is always gardening to lift the spirits and take us out of this constant need to compare ourselves with others on a superficial level.

I’ve been practicing yoga too, which is calming and doesn’t involve the use of a device.

Building in regular health enhancing habits, is a good way of taking your mind off your flaws.

When I was a child there were very few mirrors in the house and if we ever looked in one our grandmother would tell us not to be vain. Now that is a word you rarely hear anymore.

I remember I used to enjoy dressing up in the sort of clothes they wore in the twenties.

Red lipstick gives the face an instant lift too. It always puts a smile on my face.

Black and mixed raced people.

Lately, there has been a great deal of debate on black and white binary perceptions, in all media.

As the manager of a grade 4 concession for British Shoe Corporation, I interviewed for a supervisor in 1984/5 and recruited my first “black” member of staff. I was just nineteen years old. However, I believe that one’s blackness or whiteness, rather like one’s sex, is something invisible.

I don’t like binary terms. I never have. I recruited this member of staff as a person. She was right for the job. She never let me down. As a supervisor, she ran the concession on my day off. Her name was Juliette Foulger.

Here we are dancing together when we sadly had to close the concession down as the store, Army & Navy Kingston upon Thames closed down during the 1980s recession. I advised her to apply for a similar role, as I couldn’t take her with me to the grade 10 High Street store, Lilley and Skinner, around the corner where I was offered my next role. I hope she is doing well. Although the matter of what colour we both felt on the inside is something personal to us.

On abortion; a positive story. inspired this post. I just read her post, which is a little political. Although it is also anti-abortion.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about this subject, of late, myself.

Let’s just say I know a woman to whom it was once suggested she have an abortion by her well-meaning father-in-law. That woman had already given birth to three wonderful, unique children. She loved every moment of being a mother. There was no question of her getting an abortion. She was married, deeply religious, and she trusted god to provide for the child. Her husband was struggling with the idea of a forth child.

This woman became very depressed during the pregnancy because she was happy about the child but it seemed nobody else was. Even her, so called, friends tried to tell her that she would end up needing a hysterectomy. None of the terrible proclamations came true. The friend gave birth to an angelic child and became a fitness coach with a great figure.

She is now retired.

The forth child is multi-talented, and, guess what? Out of all four children, the only child that has visited her during Lockdown is that child.

Truly a blessing.

My own abortion story is a little different. My grandmother refused to abort my mother in the 1940s.

As a result of her decision, my grandmother had a difficult life as a char lady. My mother had to endure being put in a home, run by nuns. My grandmother was turned out of houses when they found out that she had a child out of wedlock. Her sisters barely ever visited and she spent almost her whole life alone, because of the stigma of having a child out of wedlock. My grandmother was a quiet woman who rarely spoke about her life and listened to LBC every day as though she was hoping for news of something. She had travelled from Wexford in Ireland to make a life for herself in England. I think she was a brave woman.

Despite this difficult start to her life, my mother survived, went on to give birth to 11 very well behaved children, brought up to never discuss money or politics, and one of them, of course, was me.

Me aged nineteen, or twenty, letting my hair down, and dressing up, with my staff.

Although lately, I’ve become less prim and proper, as I think that it is sometimes useful to share experiences, and after all sharing is a way of showing others that you can overcome obstacles.

More of the Same?

I was reflecting just now on my response to someone who offered to do me a favour. I expected to be asked to pay for it.I seem to have become conditioned to expecting to do things for people and to pay myself or get no financial reward. Why is this? How did this happen?I have a habit of reflecting. I suppose it is born out of being an over-thinker. Over thinking is when you run the same scenario over and over in your head and try to arrive at the reason you’ve had a negative interaction with someone. It is rather pointless because you will arrive at the same conclusions if you are in the same frame of mind. And growth that way is difficult.Now reflection is something else. It is quiet for one thing. For another it requires that you look very closely at your motivation and what pushed you to react in a certain way. It is useful because it shifts the responsibility back to your own door. You have to make the change, to loosely refer to a song lyric by one of my favourite of all time artists MJ. (I was lucky enough to see Michael in concert in the 90s, but that is another story.)Where was I going with all this? Well, I’m analysing why I was so, well, punishing, to the kind person and myself. I suppose I was expecting someone to want something for nothing again.Lately, with Lockdown and being ostracised from my near and dear ones, I’ve been using music as a way of getting a fix of empathy. Old music; music that has been with me for years. This means lyrics are at the forefront of my mind. (I’m writing from Costa today; for some reason they have excellent internet and I’m managing to avoid errors/typos, so I thought I’d give them a plug.) Usually I’m in Coffee 1. I have a gardening business and I was sitting the rain out, but it is incessant, so we’ve agreed I’ll do two hours next week. Still, I’m glad I went out because my phone works better away from the house. Don’t ask me why, it’s only a 12 minute walk up the road into town. Had I not gone out at 8 am anyway, I would not have chatted to my son. And we’ve missed one another for the past ten days. He’s studying medicine, and rings me whenever he can, in between shifts. So lovely to be blessed with such a boy. Anyway, again I digress.I was interrupted by calls and messages and things as I sat in the gloom of Coffee 1. I like it in there, as I enjoy hiding away and fading into obscurity. Yet, how about being seen instead? So here I am sitting in Costa, down the street and looking out at the rain. No rainbow in sight. Or is there?And so, because I have allowed it to, this story has come full circle, meandering to and fro with the lovely lilt of an Italian accent in the background. I know this because I’ve worked with Italians, and been to Italy twice, and here I am, sitting in the light and taking a photograph out the window to share with you. And now that I have let the light in who knows what treasures and abundance await?


A blog that practices involved philosophy.

Emotion Doodles

Children's book illustrator & writer

Social artist

Blog to Serve

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