The walker takes up running

•September 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Journal of a reluctant runner

The lone walker has taken up running.

For half a century I have hated running. I have tried it a number of times over the years, and each time I have hated it. Sometimes I just disliked it. During such times of not-quite-euphoria I would keep up the running habit for a while, disliking it less as I became more accustomed to the exercise. But soon the monotony would get to me, and I would find it increasingly difficult to motivate myself to get out of bed, get into some shoes and get out the door. The number of days between runs would add up and, eventually, I was back to hating running.

I hated the feeling of being out of breath almost as soon as I started. I hated feeling as if I wanted to vomit. I hated that sob that got stuck in my throat. I hated running…

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So you want to be a freelance photographer (part 5)

•June 30, 2014 • 1 Comment

So you want to be a freelance photographer (part 5).

Overview – Little Angels

•October 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Overview – Little Angels.

What I'd Say to My 16-Year-Old Self

•September 21, 2010 • 2 Comments

My sixteen-year-old self would have very little patience for anyone’s advice. And, given that those who are most like ourselves are those who most annoy us, I should imagine the my younger self would roll her eyes and sigh at having to listen to a lecture from me on how to and how not to be.

Being older, and knowing that I know more than sixteen-year-old me, I would push on with the dispensing of advice, and I would try to tell her to push a little harder, and to be less distracted by trivia. She won’t believe it, of course, but I’ll try anyway to tell her that she won’t even remember the name of that boy who just broke her heart, or the name of that bitchy girl who excluded her from an inner circle of future nobodies. She won’t believe me when I tell her that creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised every day, otherwise it atrophies, and that she is a more talented writer and artist and better dancer than she gives herself credit for. I would try to tell her that if she just applied herself, if only for a very tiny little while every day, she could achieve great things. If she just believed in herself, no matter what good, solid advice her parents tried to give her from their own fearful, small-world point of view, she would grow wings and fly.

She will think me mad, though, an interfering old busybody who understands nothing. And that’s the way it should be, I suppose. The young should be foolish, headstrong, impulsive, completely lacking in focus, fully confident in their know-it-all-ness. How else are they to make mistakes, stumble and fall, pick themselves up again, and experience – and learn from – life?

That impulsive, stubborn, heart-on-her-sleeve, diary-keeping, soppy poetry-writing girl became me. If she didn’t exist, then nor would I. And then I wouldn’t be able to hand out such very good advice.

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A Great Pick-Up Line

•September 3, 2010 • 2 Comments

Pick-up lines … the holy grail of dating, some seem to think. I'm often asked by guys – nice, intelligent, funny, good-looking single guys – what pick-up line I think they should use. Getting to talk to an interesting, attractive stranger in a public place is a scary thing. The risk of rejection is great, coming across as a total idiot, even greater.

The thing is, it really doesn't matter what you say, does it? As long as you make the move, you're in with at least an outside chance. She'll either like you or not, and her decision to treat you to her best beaming smile, or her most scornful eye-roll, will have been made before you even opened your mouth. Neither you nor she is likely to know what the decision was based on. It's a mystery something or other that can never be pinpointed. Later, when you gaze into her eyes and say 'Why did you smile at me that night at the bar?' she'll try to explain it by saying that she liked your smile, or some such thing. Truth is, no one knows why we are attracted to one person and not another. Call it simple chemistry, if you will, or alchemy.

And so your tentative, heart-in-mouth attempt at a pick-up line, such as, maybe, 'Could I borrow your cell phone please? I'd like to call God and tell him he's lost an angel' could see you standing alone and forlorn, frozen out of the inner circle of attractive women for the rest of the evening. Or it could end in wedding bells a year later. No one knows.

If she likes you, she likes you, and she will be only to grateful that you broke the ice and gave her the opportunity of getting to know you. If she doesn't like you, shrug and move on. Someone else will.

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My Neighbor … please go away!

•July 31, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It's a bit of a cheat – I couldn't stick to ten lines. I had never considered writing a poem about this irritating person – but it was a very good idea (if not a very good poem!).

You live your life invisibly, but not quietly, just beyond the garden wall

where all your sounds and smells can reach me,

invade my sleep, grate against my nerves.

Sounds of a car engine, spluttering and choking, being turned over … and over,

power tools, sandpaper against wood, voices talking, talking, talking in the dark.

Rustling in the garden in the middle of the night … Why?

Endless renovating,

the gritty scrape of steel spade against stone, turning over wet cement.

Acrid tentacles of cigarette smoke yanking me from my sleep.

Oh, and the water you waste … the river that flows from under your gate,

over the pavement, into the gutter, down the hill …

precious water in a dry country sent to sewage and out to sea …

I wish you would go with it.

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What Keeps Me Up at Night

•July 27, 2010 • 2 Comments

What keeps me up at night? It's more a case of what doesn't keep me up at night!

Three ay em is demon hour. It seems that they lurk in the corners of the bedroom, in the cupboard, inside my shoes and in the arms of discarded jerseys all day until I go to bed at night. Then they peer out from crevasses and buttonholes, blinking and grinning in the dark, whispering and cackling, their fat, slimy bellies jiggling with mirth as they watch me roll this way, then that. They throw their heads back and laugh as I change pillows, turn pillows over, pull the duvet over my shoulders, tuck my feet in and then shove them out again. They know their sounds keep me awake, and it will be hours before I manage to fall asleep.

When I finally manage to filter out their annoying, goading heckling, smooth the frown from my brow, still my eyelids, and feel myself lift off from the bed and float towards sleep, they withdraw, clucking to themselves, dribbling drool on my clothes and on the floor. I will slip on the wet patches in the morning, blaming the kids for spilling stuff and not cleaning up.

They leave me to sleep for only a short while, and then they start. One will tug at my eyelashes, another will whoosh past my ears, and a particularly fiendish one will lift the duvet from my feet and blow icy cold air onto my toes. I will resist for a while, insisting on staying anaethetised. I will try squeezing my eyes closed, turn the pillow over and rest my cheek on the cool side, shove my one leg out from under the covers, pull it back in again, roll over onto my other side, think good thoughts about green forests filled with while flowers. And I will sigh. A lot.

The sound of an angry chainsaw will filter through to my brain. No, wait … it's not a chainsaw … snoring … It's snoring! Ah no! Not again! No, it's not the demons, and it's not me either. It is the soundly sleeping beast with whom I share a bed. I will try to sleep through it, but it won't help. Because the demons have me now. They dance around the bed, on top of me, on my pillow … I am surrounded.

The worries start … worries about work, money, wrinkles, fat, creativity, that disagreement I had with someone … is there enough milk in the fridge? Did I set the alarm? Did I lock my car doors? What if I really am totally crap at what I do? It's probably true that nobody likes me. No, it's definitely true. Should I not be more successful – or at least successful – by now?

Oh, how they howl and whoop and snort.

I gently touch the beast on his shoulder. He splutters, stops breathing for a moment, grunts, and rolls over. And merrily continues snoring while lying on his side.

I check the time. Four o'clock, four thirty … eventually the demons tire and retire. They skulk back into the darkness, leaving me to slip back into sleep just as the sun licks the blackness from the sky, exposing the soft pink of a new day.

Another drowsy, sleep-deprived day.

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