Saturday 20 November 2021

Going to hell in a handcart

I think it's hell you're after, matey.

Blimey yes.  There seems to be an air of malaise and gloom about us in the world.  If what I read and watch is accurate, something bad is happening almost everywhere. Even though I no longer watch the news, read newspapers or listen to the radio, I cannot miss the podcasts and videos on YouTube and from what I can see, there is no hope.  And then I go out from my home here in Bognor Regis, and everyone is still as nice as they ever were, the shops are full of stuff and everyone is going about their business, bustling about together and living the good life.  I wonder then, whether I am just protected in my tiny provincial town by the sea and the badness hasn't caught up with us yet.  I see protests in big cities on YouTube.  I hear Australia is now a totalitarian police state.  I see Austria has declared a lockdown for their unvaccinated citizens  with Germany and Europe set to follow suit and in America, the vaccine mandate is not only now steamrolling ahead regardless, it is successfully legally challenged and still it is steamrolling ahead.  I see on YouTube and in various articles that I do read that Gibraltar has cancelled Christmas, Canada and New Zealand have become wet and authoritarian beyond belief, and I wonder - why is Bognor Regis still managing to get by without all of this affecting us?  Are we just not affected yet?

There is, if you look for it, a change in the psychic weather.  Something has happened to we ordinary people and though most of us have retained our good manners and many are happy to go about our daily business, there are billions bound by a new fear, a new terror, that somehow they are going to die.  Not the old existential we-are-all-mortal die, but a gruesome, germ-warfare die.  It is here in the whole world, this fear.  It is attached to a new threat that was science fiction only a few years ago, but now is, we are told, and we utterly believe it because why would we not, lethal, indiscriminatory and almost supernatural in its power.  It is new and we are all going to die and it comes from China. Aaaaag. Certain actions will save us, we are told, and if we do not do them we not only effectively commit suicide (we die horribly and it is our own fault we were warned) but take others down with us too (they died tragically because we did not do what we were told to do and we knew others would die if we disobeyed, and still we did not do as we were asked and now not only are we dead, but everyone else is too thank you very much), so we are effectively murderers too.  But despite religiously doing what we are told, the fear increases because we start to not only fear dying suddenly from something we can't see that seems to have all the power in the world, we fear not doing these things as if that too will strike us down, and then we fear each other and now, billions of us fear everything.  And worst of all, this great invisible threat to life as we know it ignores all the roadblocks our great leaders and those in charge of what story we are told, tell us will stop it. As far as we can see, it is still out to get us.  It knows where we live.  And still, as far as I can see, life in Bognor Regis just tootles along. 

There is something that goes hand in hand with this fear.  It is compliance, compliance with whatever we are told to do and believe in, which far from making the fear better, makes it worse.  It gets worse because the information about the invisible super killing enemy in the air keeps changing, and the invisible super killing enemy is not taking any notice of what is in place to defeat it, so nothing really works and we have to find someone to blame.  Well it is not us, that is for sure.  It must be them, whoever they are, and we conveniently make them responsible for making we who have played by the rules, look foolish.  

The compliance is understandable.  The messages from our great leaders who thought up the life saving steps to defeat the enemy in the air, are clever, and make us feel like they care, and our great leaders have access to all manner of ways to make us believe in them.  We are all so deeply traumatised by the Russian roulette manner in which they tell us we are all to die or survive, that we hang on to our great leaders' every word, even when not much of it makes sense.  The thing about compliance is that it makes us feel as if we are doing something, we are in control, we are in this together, and as a group the thing we most fear can't get us.  And our leaders tell us that we, ourselves, are the most dangerous thing of all and so despite being in this together, we need to be in it together but far enough away from the next person that we cannot touch or breathe on each other, so that this thing that we are now personally responsible for cannot get anywhere. Or at least, it can, but it may get my neighbour or the next person in the queue and not me, because I am obeying. I am safe.  Unless I come across someone who is not complying and then it is an all over. Oh what to do!  Tell us, great leader, and make it strict and tough so we feel that you care!

Browsing the aisles in a carefree manner.  Not yet in Bognor though.

I do look at social media and I do look at headlines on the papers in the shops.  What I see there is a mad, crazy world of blame and counter blame, a panic driven wish to hide whole societies under the kitchen table in hazmat suits and to denounce ordinary living as lethal.  I see that vaccines are the answer, to protect the world from this armageddon.  Great, that is a relief.  But now I see that they lose effectiveness after about six months, and that they work wonderfully well (thank God) but they don't actually work that well, and it is all very confusing.  The narrative goes now, that unless all people from birth onwards take this magical vaccine, life on earth will end.  And to help us to do that, take the vaccine, we are given free doughnuts and cash prizes and always a pat on the back for our selflessness.  And anyway, if I read the headlines, social media and YouTube correctly, if we don't get ourselves vaccinated (once, twice, three times and now four and possibly more ad infinitum), we are too dangerous to work, to shop, to travel and to be around.  Best get it done then.  Phew.  And yet, many are not vaccinated, carry on living quite happily, and what does that mean for all those who are, and what does it mean for life on earth?  Oh it is all so maddening.  

Back to Bognor Regis.  I do not know who is vaccinated or not and no one is dying in the street.  There is no division into clean and unclean in Morrison's. People wear face masks that they take out, shake off the fluff from their pockets and put on in shops, and that is possibly the only way we are playing our part.  We make our masks suit our outfits and feel lovely in them, taking them off to chat and eat and drink, and to smoke too of course.  The fact that we have them, probably many of them in different colours, is enough. We have not had any riots or demonstrations, and so far, we are milling around and buying all our usual stuff on the High Street.  Maybe those who are still very afraid are still under their tables in their hazmat suits, so of course we won't see each other. 

But there is a malaise in the air.  Things are different out there, beyond Bognor.  It is not a good idea to be ill and need care at the moment.  It is not a good idea to want to travel out of this country.  It is not good to need to work and fear being made unemployable by not having a vaccine that you thought you had the right to decide to take or not take.  Not good to fear our great leaders shutting down everything for our own good, except that it is not for our own good, if we cannot earn money to live.  There is a malaise in the air and it is not good.  If I believed all the hype, I would say we are going to hell in a handcart.  It may be true, but so far, in Bognor, it is not.  

It's like this every day in Bognor.

Subscribe to my two weekly newsletter, updates and thoughts from the studio and life, here

Follow my Instagram stories here

Follow me and my Facebook stories here

My website is here

Saturday 6 November 2021

I'm turning into my mum.


Waiting in the wings to become shameless and lethal too.

I'm turning into my mum.  Blimey, it's not a bad thing as such, I love my mum.  I have written a whole book about her dying, for goodness sake, she is big in my life even now.  The thing is, I point my finger in the same way as she did, my hair is turning into her hair, I say things that she said, I feel myself walking like she used to walk and I find myself saying with feeling in the dead of night, "Back Mother!  I am my own person!"

Mum was such a striking figure.  Small, elegant and ferociously intelligent, she relished a fight with anyone who stood in her way.  Never one to actually swing a punch, Mum would use her super power instead, a forensic perception of your weakness, and a pathological determination to bring you down, and use it without mercy.  As she got older, she became more confident and delighted with the success of her encounters.  Those left in her wake included bad salesmen, disrespectful shop staff, stubborn officials and anyone who refused to give her a bargain.  

Mother was also very kind indeed, and her growing fearlessness as she got older made her step into situations where angels would fear to tread.  In these situations, her forensic perception could be very strong and helpful.  But as children, my brothers and I would relish the idea of someone trying to pull the wool over our mother's eyes when out shopping for, say, some good piece of cloth in a market.  We knew that she could be underestimated, being small and beautifully dressed, but what they did not know was that she was going to kill.  And nine times out of ten, she did.  She got what she wanted - and somehow in the negotiations, mum would find out the name of her opponent, and their mother, father and grandparents' names and she would use them all to bamboozle the poor victim. It was a master class in assertiveness and sheer bloody mindedness.  

Later in life, mother became quite openly shameless.  We went on holiday to Ireland together a good few years ago, back to visit her family and see where she spent her childhood and I was to drive us around Southern Ireland in a hire car.  On the big day, I picked her up from her house, and drove us both to Gatwick Airport with our bags and snacks for the journey.  Though in her eighties, she was a powerhouse of energy and determination, and so looking forward to our holiday.  We were like kids on school holidays - mum could be wonderful company.  Walking happily from the airport car park, swinging our bags, chatting and planning our trip, we walked into the airport building and mother suddenly slowed down her happy, healthful and spritely walk and announced that she was disabled. She needed, she said, the special help that airports offer, the little car that drives you around, a wheelchair, and one to one care.  I was mortified and wanted nothing to do with this charade because I knew from old that she was on a roll, and I was sure she was on CCTV skipping around outside.  I told her she could go and ask on her own because I was going to hide. As she approached the desk for special assistance I watched her from behind a pillar in what I can only think was a perfect display of method acting.  She limped, and sighed, and staggered, and moaned and blow me down, she convinced them that she needed help immediately at the head of the queue, and not only that, because she (now) couldn't walk at all, she said she needed - and got - the special kind of lift apparatus that lifted her, me and her wheelchair into the aeroplane before everyone else, and to be helped into a seat like a dying hero.  I was mortified, mother was delighted and all the staff felt that they had helped an old lady live another day.  It carried on in Dublin where mother (who was still very beautiful) convinced a nice (poor) porter to wheel her off the plane, through customs and then actually right outside the airport building to where the hire cars were waiting a good ten minutes walk away, and put her bodily into ours. He even fastened her seat belt because she had so little time left to live. That, is chutzpah.

No pretending.

But now, back to me.  Obviously the above account is not me, (yet), and I do not want a fight (yet) with anyone.   My mother was tiny, and I am tall.  She was well dressed and loved quality and I, bless me, love colour and sequins.  I look fine, but it is obvious I like the jumble sale look.  How am I morphing into my mother?  I find myself listening to people in exactly the same way that mum did. I remember how careful she was when listening and how she could tell if someone was not interested in asking her about herself.  Sometimes Mum was a bit sharp but mostly, she had this strange kindness as if she knew it was important for her to just let them speak.  I am aware that I am holding my head in exactly the same way that she did, and I hear myself responding using her words.  There are times when my voice is exactly like hers and I repeat phrases and sayings that used to make me say, "Oh muuuuuuum!" in embarrassment when I was much younger.  Now it is me saying them, and they are coming out from my mouth as if I'd always been speaking that way.  I know my face is more like her than it ever was, despite me supposedly looking more like my dad. I can see her in there, she's in my face and when I put on my lipstick, which I wear because my mother always did so, she's taken over. 

Mum used to say she loved a bit of hard, brown crusty bread and butter late in the evening with some whiskey.  I couldn't think of anything more tedious when she was alive but now, what have I taken to having?  I can't wait to have hard crusty brown bread and butter of an evening but as I don't drink alcohol, I have mine with hot milk. (Sorry Cousin Kirsten, this always makes her feel ill).  When did a piece of hard brown bread and butter become beautiful to me?  How? 

I see myself being her when I deal with my grandchildren too.  I can feel myself being her.  I know now how she felt looking after my children, I remember watching her and being very curious about the seamless change in her from being a mum with beautiful long black hair to a stouter white haired grandma.  I find myself thinking about her and what she said and did, and understanding her now because I am also sliding seamlessly into being a stouter grey haired grandma. It is almost as if she knew the path that I would have to follow, that of getting older with all it entails, and also becoming a grandmother, and left little clues and presents for me along the way.  And because she was my mum and played second fiddle to no one, she is making me look and act more like her just for the hell of it.  

I am just waiting in the wings now to become shameless and lethal too. 


Hello Mum!


Subscribe to my twice monthly newsletter, news and updates from life and the studio here

Follow my Instagram stories here

Follow my Facebook stories here

My website is here