Category Archives: writing

Hogs’ Pudding and Breast of Spring Chicken

The past twenty-four hours have been busy and emotional. I don’t want to go into it, but it hasn’t all been bad. I spent half the evening crying, and the other half trying to figure out what to do about my neighbour who turned up in a state about some hogs’ pudding.

For the information of the uninitiated, hogs’ pudding is a nasty, anaemic looking, giant sausage which – for some unaccountable reason – is popular in this area.

This tale involves me, my daughter Laura, Dave (her fiance), a neighbour who we’ll call Bert, although he’s really called Harold – but that’s not true; it’s just a cunning double cover-up, to protect his identity.

Speaking of cover-ups, this morning, when Laura stepped out of her fiance’s brother’s shower, she had no idea that there was anybody other than her fiance in the flat. Had she been aware of the presence of Bert/Harold – who (in order to cause further confusion) I’ll call Gregory, she might have chosen to shower with her clothes on, so, no cover-up there…

Moving swiftly on to this evening; I was near the completion of some nifty and essential six-way texting with a smattering of phone calls, while trying to eat without dripping tears into a meal which had already gone cold, when someone knocked heavily on my door.

“Oh, deary me, who can that possibly be?” I asked myself – although it came out more as a muttered “Bloody hell, whoever you are, why don’t you just bugger off and leave me alone.”

Had I known the answer to my silent question, I might have been inclined to increase the volume of my under-the-breath mutter so that my visitor would hear me. I opened the door to discover my neighbour – the one I’ve decided to call Gregory, his face displaying an interesting combination of startled, terrified, distraught, apologetic and lustful expressions. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but at least he didn’t have the remains of his dinner on his face, as he usually does.

On second thoughts, perhaps the absence of bolognese sauce should have served as a warning – he’d taken particular pains to make himself respectable before coming to see me.

At this point, perhaps I should describe myself:

I have all my limbs, digits and and organs, both eyes, several teeth, hair on my head – and being only about 14lbs overweight, around here I’m considered to be slim almost to the point of anorexia. In addition, I look as if I was probably reasonably lacking in pig-ugliness about forty years ago.

Yes – at the tender age of 62, I am the babe of the over-the-hill stag’s brigade; a real catch, if it wasn’t for the proven fact that I can run faster than any of them. It’s becoming embarrassing, although I admit there are only four men in this block who are actively chasing me.

Gregory is one of them, but he pretends he just sees me as a friend. I had to invite him in, since he was peering round the door looking longingly at my sofa, all the while telling me that he was terribly sorry for bothering me and he didn’t want to cause any trouble, but he didn’t know what to think about Dave’s hogs’ pudding. Naturally, I thought that in addition to him seeing my daughter naked, he must have witnessed Dave in a state of undress, but he said that the hogs’ pudding was in his freezer, so after a moment’s concern for my future son-in-law’s well-being, I realised it wasn’t a euphemism after all.

While I made coffee, he continued to apologise for bothering me. Eventually he explained that Dave had given him money to buy some revolting piggy sausages, and he’d done so, but he hadn’t been able to find Dave and give him the offensive swill. He seemed terribly upset, so much so, that it took me a while to notice that the more he looked at my pullover, the more agitated he became.

I have two swellings which sort of stick out of my chest. It’s nothing to worry about – lots of women have them; they’re useful for small babies to chew on when they’re teething and it makes them forget their hunger, so you don’t have to give them steak and chips. I keep my bumpy things under my clothes, so he might not have been aware of them before. Having seen my daughter naked, I think he was curious to find out if I had similar things. I strongly suspect he’d have liked to investigate further, but was too polite to ask.

I wondered how I’d missed the atmospheric hint of testosterone, floating around the room like a concrete block wrapped around a stone.

His hogs’ pudding story was just a ruse to get into my flat. He could have quite easily rung Dave’s brother, since they’re close friends. They’re going out for lunch together tomorrow, so, come to that, the hogs discussion could have waited until tomorrow.

Even after I’d told him that I needed to go to the corner shop before it closed, I had trouble getting rid of him. He kept clutching my hand, telling me he loved me… “as a friend”, gazing at me, trying to hug me, putting his hand at the back of my waist, to illustrate how long Jane Ayre’s hair was.

By the time he left, his face was purple, his limp more accentuated.  He looked both physically uncomfortable and disappointed, whilst I felt mentally discomfited and disjointed.

Maybe I should go back to writing in the dark, so he won’t know I’m here.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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If you are Ginger

 

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Here in the UK, if you have ginger hair, you learn at an early age, to approach strangers gingerly.

Until they’re confronted with a head of glowing copper or titian locks, their faces don’t show whether they are gingerphiles, gingerthropes, or cringing gingerphobes.

Few folk are ginger-indifferent, so some try to knock the gingers down, deflate them, break their self esteem; and they often succeed.

Not many people know that I’m ginger, since the brightness faded away many years ago, leaving only hints of it between the blonde. So you could  accuse me of being a ginger in disguise — although that would be unfair, since I don’t deliberately hide my ginger status.

Do my blonde tresses make me acceptable to the gingerthropes of the world, or would they consider me subversive for hiding my true colours? Should I dye my hair to reveal the truth about myself, even though by doing so I would be lying about the current condition of my hair?

And why should anyone care, anyway?

Gingerphile – my word for someone who loves ginger hair.
Gingerthrope – my word for someone who hates ginger hair.
Gingerphobe – my word for someone who is afraid of ginger hair.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

Dem Bones

Although we have a few days left before the ghosts come out to play, in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, I’d like to present a short Disney animation from 1929, the year after Walt Disney created the immortal Mickey Mouse. By the time I first saw this surreal film, it must have been around for about thirty-five years, but it didn’t seem dated, since our TVs were still in black and white. Even now – almost ninety years after it was made – it still holds its appeal for me.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Low-Down.

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Oh Gloria, you’re glorious
your face is quite adorious,
but it must be most laborious,
to paint it up just foree us.

Please bear with me – I have a point to make…

I’ve been reading my old posts, with a view to deleting some. It’s a time consuming task, since I keep going to the posts, and reading the comments below. I’ve come to the conclusion that, with the exception of three or four which I shouldn’t have posted, I’m going to leave them be, since they are a part of my story.

What comes across more than anything, as I read, is how traumatised I was, up until this year. My honesty was less a virtue than a response to stress and grief. My life has changed dramatically since then. For some years my addicted son and daughter gave me little cause to hope that they would survive for much longer – let alone go into recovery – and whenever hope presented itself, its visit was brief, leaving me more devastated than before.

I had to take tough action, so I pretty much cut myself off from them. It was recommended by my support group, my family and my friends, and I knew it was the right thing to do. It’s called ‘release with love’, but it didn’t feel like love, and apart from the freedom from daily crises, I didn’t feel particularly released. Although I knew that my abandonment might give them an opening into recovery, I suffered a terrible sense of guilt. I feared that they might give up on life, thinking I didn’t love them, that they may genuinely need me, that they may die because I wasn’t there to resuscitate them. At times I missed them terribly, while at other times I was furious with them. A combination of superstition and shame prevented me from speaking of these things, even at my support group.

My refusal to engage with their addictions was part of a series of good and bad events which occurred in a serendipitous order, and resulted in them both going into recovery. So in the last six months, my life has changed dramatically. I wouldn’t go so far to say that I am now well – every time I make that claim a physical or psychological crisis follows – but I’m often happy. It feels as if I have had a reprieve. However, I am all too aware that this reprieve could be taken away, since recovery is a precarious condition. I celebrate the strides my children are are taking, but these celebrations are sandwiched between panic attacks and debilitating hours of both horror and depression.

If you speak to any realist in my position, I think they would agree that, although there is less cause for trauma, anxiety levels can increase, or rather change shape, when someone they love goes into recovery. Hopes are raised, the stakes become higher, and we often find ourselves in a state of shock. It’s a strange twist that is all to familiar to many of us.

I am recovering, but life contains a series of falls and recovery; it carries us along particular routes, and we are shaped by our experiences along the way. I am not the person I may have been in different circumstances; I cannot guess who that person would have been. Come to that, I can’t know how any other circumstances may have shaped up. As my eldest daughter said to me a year or two ago, when my life was atrocious: it could be that what we have now is the best possible result of our lives so far.

Since my children went into recovery, I have found it increasingly difficult to write. When I manage to write, I often don’t finish what I have started, or if I do, I don’t like it enough to post it, and this brings me to Gloria. I wrote the ridiculous rhyme about Gloria in response to yesterday’s word prompt. When it was inside my head, it seemed funny – albeit inane – but typed out I could see that it wasn’t. It’s a perfect illustration of my current state of mind, and the reason I’m not posting much.

Today’s word is ‘tentative‘, which is appropriate, since I feel a tentative pride in having managed to compose this, and I will post it, even though a large part of me doesn’t want to. It has taken me hours of tentative writing to finish this post and when I press ‘publish’, I will do so tentatively. This is a tentative step towards getting back into a proper blogging routine, and overcoming my recently acquired, literary shyness.

Press publish, Jane…

Press publish…

NOW!

PS. I forgot to add today’s word for peace, dedicated to Raili, who kindly supplied it. Maybe you can engineer an opportunity to use this word in the next twenty-four hours.

Words For Peace #2
 
Finnish:
 
Rauha

 

©Jane Paterson Basil

My First Thought

Joan Baez. That’s the first thought that comes to mind when I see or hear the word Overcome.

I could write a poem, or confess to the way I’ve been feeling lately, but the thought of Joan Baez makes anything I write about myself insignificant. She didn’t write the song, We Shall Overcome, and she wasn’t the only one to sing it – it’s been recorded many times, by many artists, and millions of people in audiences have added their voices, but she sang it for the crowd gathered on the Mall during the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., on August 29th, 1963, and she was still singing it in 2010, notably to Barack Obama, at the White House. After 45 years and countless repeats, this incredible woman still sang it with conviction.

I couldn’t choose between a 1965 recording and the White House one, so I give you both of them. When I listen to the first one, her voice makes me feel as if I’m going to melt, while the second one gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes every time.

©Jane Paterson Basil

That Shrinking Feeling

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“Mum!”

She told me it would be dangerous to use my power lightly, but when I saw the insect just standing there in the park, I couldn’t resist shrinking so I could take a ride on the back of the fly. It was exciting, like the best fairground ride, but without the predictability. It was fun watching mum wondering where I was, and getting scared.

“Mum!”

She can’t hear me. My vocal chords are too small, and although she’s frantically looking for me, I’m too tiny to see.

I wish I’d listened when she said I was not experienced enough to reverse the effect without her help.

“Mum! MUM!”

Mum, please come and set me free, before the spider reaches me.

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Written for Michelle’s Photo Challenge #101. Click the link to join in.

©Jane Paterson Basil

A Flaw in the Design

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This linear mind
with its instinctual limits,
feels fake and dysfunctional
in its unchangable ways.

This unchanging mind
fails to hold sway the sly wiles of the days, as
chained by ingrained constraints,
I play compliancy like an ailing pro,
whilst, as if unfazed, my vague rebel
makes the hollows rhyme.

This rebellious mind
is a flaw in my design;
daily, my core tries to rise out of hiding,
but cannot fight my innate nature —
I make it wait while I finish writing,
and every night I pity its failure.

This failing mind
inhabits an unfathomable place;
writing fast-forwards my false-steps in life,
raising me, making me fly,
even as I nip my fantasies away.

I cannot restrain my flame-shy right to hide
from the strangeness of the fire-bait day,
so I write, write,
write.

©Jane Paterson Basil