A Toss Up

I found out the other day that I’ll be going back to work very soon, and I feel very much in two minds about it all. On one hand I’m delighted to be beginning the process of creating a new normal to get back to, but on the other hand… the reality of risk is rearing its ugly head along with the fear of the unknown.

Intellectually, I know that the country – the world – cannot go on forever effectively hiding from Covid 19, holed up in hope of a miracle vaccine that can make us feel safe again. At some point in time we all have to face our fears, adapting and making the necessary changes to society that allow us all to live with Covid 19 in the community rather than potentially die from it.

But emotionally I feel decidedly anxious and wary, because however much I’ve found it frustrating at times I’ve got used to feeling snug and safe in my own home and it seems crazily counter-intuitive after months of a very successful ‘Stay at Home, Stay Safe’ campaign to now be told it’s OK, it’s safe out there too even though the virus hasn’t gone yet – basically it has to be OK because the economy is collapsing.

It’s all about finding a precarious balance, isn’t it? We balance the risk of going out into the scary world where a deadly invisible virus awaits by wearing some kind of protection from infection, and because full Hazmat suits are not practical daywear for most of us in our daily lives, we compromise and stick to wearing a simple face mask and using hand sanitiser and keeping our distance from others to keep us safe.

We have to balance the risk of catching a virus that might kill us against the risk of having no future income to live on, which in a very different way also might kill us in the end. So somewhere along the line we have to meet in the middle. It has to be done, and I know it’s almost time for me to get back out there and get on with it. And in a weird way I’m quite looking forward to it, except for when I’m not.

The department store I work in seems to have created a well-managed environment for both staff and customers to move around in, with plenty of safety measures in place to protect everyone as much as possible. So I can’t help but wonder how I’ll be feeling on my first day back, smiley and safe or frowny and fearful? Right now it feels like it could be either, and it’s going to be a toss up as to which actually wins out on the the day… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Toss

Coffee, Tea, or Milk of Magnesia?

I thought I was going to be totally stumped today by Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt of Coffee, Tea, or Me – flirty phrases are just not me, especially not embarrassingly dated stuff like that.

Then I read John Holton’s SOCS post mentioning about air stewardesses back in the day writing a book of that name and suddenly it all became clear. Yup, in the context of the sexist world of the original ‘trolley dollies’ (such a ghastly, demeaning name) I can see how that phrase might come about.

But to be honest the thing that struck me most about John’s post is the 1970s ad he’s included at the bottom for Milk of Magnesia – because oooh, there’s something I can post about, family medicine cabinet staples from my childhood! I suppose it’s a kind of Stream of Consciousness post once removed – related to Linda’s topic, but indirectly, through reading John’s post.

I so clearly remember the blue bottle of Milk of Magnesia, we were usually given a spoon of that white milky liquid for the solid kind of bellyache caused by constipation – I can even remember the odd taste of it. It was joined in its choice of eye-catching blue glass bottle by a little jar of Vicks Vaporub – its powerfully strong menthol heating sensation when rubbed on your chest and back was used to relieve congestion due to a cold.

My dad used to be bothered with indigestion a lot so there was always a tin of Andrew’s Liver Salts to be had – a spoon of that dissolved in water would fizz up into salty bubbles to be drunk down straight away, usually followed immediately by a huge belch, to settle any stomach discomfort. And I remember dad also carried little white square Rennies tablets in his pocket at all times for his heartburn.

Another duo of products that spring to mind is a tub of Vaseline petroleum jelly and a tin – a proper round tin, not a tube – of thick, pink Germolene antiseptic ointment. Now there’s a smell to stick in your nostrils. In my mind’s eye I link the strong smell of Germolene to the memory of fabric sticking plaster strips, because scrapes and grazes were cleaned with the sting of diluted Dettol, Germolene antiseptic ointment was applied, then a plaster cut to size was stuck over the top and you were sent on your way.

The painkiller I remember most from childhood is Disprin, a dissolvable asprin. If there was such a thing as ibuprofen available way back in the 1960s and 1970s they definitely didn’t make it as far as our medicine cabinet. These were the main generic products I remember, but I was ill a lot as a child so had my prescribed medicines to take too – Phenergan Syrup for my allergies tasted absolutely vile… yuk!

OK, that memory has put me off now, so I’ll just stop there while the going’s still good 🙂

Fuzzy Background

I love the fuzzy background you get from a narrow depth of field – it tells you look, this is the bit of the image I want you to focus on, the rest is just setting and context. Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to see the bigger picture, to look at everything across the frame with equal concentration, but sometimes it’s just too much and distracts too much from the main subject.

Right now in life I feel like I need to focus in on the little bit of world right in front of me, and blur out all the rest into fuzzy obscurity. Not ignore it or pretend it’s not there, but just have it all sitting there blended softly into the background, allowing me to focus sharply on noticing and nurturing the immediate details of my everyday reality closer to home 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Zz

Things I Am Not

I’d love to be one of those people who can look back on life and say – Yup, I’ve absolutely nailed it! But in order to be able to do that, you first have to know clearly what it is you want out of life, have a long-term plan to work towards, and then stick to it. I don’t really have a fixed plan – to be honest I’ve never had a fixed plan.

I’ve always been more of a non-plan plan girl…

When I was really young, I was ill a lot, and I remember thinking I might want to be a nurse. Then as I got a bit older, I thought I might want to be a doctor. And then when it became clear my school grades weren’t going to make medicine an easy possibility, I shifted away from healthcare and towards thinking creatively about studying art instead. I even applied for Art School in my final year, but wasn’t accepted straight away after leaving school.

At that point I just drifted away from the idea of study.

So not long after leaving school at 17, while working locally in retail and still living at home, I started going out with a local boy I used to go to primary school with, and we soon got engaged, planning our wedding for the following summer. I’d discovered sex with a bang, felt grown up in the smug self-important way that overly-hormonal teenagers do, and the thought of studying became a distant memory. I was going to be a wife and that felt fine.

And then not long after I turned 18 I got pregnant and embarked on the trepidatious journey of motherhood.

It wasn’t a happy marriage. I tried so hard to make it work, we had three children together but the honest truth is I know now we should never have got married in the first place. I struggled with depression throughout, as I did before and after. I still struggle on and off with depression today. We separated when I was 24, had a very acrimonious divorce that took four long years to go through, and in the end the children stayed with me.

Over the years I did my best in bringing them up, but sadly I made many mistakes along the way. Messed up some, lost my sense of direction, took more than a few wrong turns.

And so one way or another my ongoing non-plan plan has continued evolving organically ever since. Decades have past. Lots of water has passed under lots of bridges, none of which have been burned beyond repair. I’m not a nurse or a doctor, but for a while I did work in a hospital as a physiotherapy assistant. I’m not an artist, but I am still quite creative. I’m not actually a career girl of any sort in any way, shape or form, full stop. I’m still a mum. I did eventually study though, graduating at 40 with a First Class Honours Degree, and thankfully at 56 – I’ll turn 57 later this year – I’m now happily married with six grandchildren.

Hopefully life is finally mending and healing for all of us.

So I wouldn’t say I’d nailed life, I’d say it was more screwed up than nailed down. But it’s still holding together and at this point I’m not about to quibble over whether I should have used a hammer or a screwdriver to get here – a tool is a tool is a tool. You use what you have to hand, and you get on with it. Stuff is fixed in place, is where it needs to be, and that’s all that matters. It’s my life, and I try not to have too many regrets. I’m not exactly proud of the convoluted path I’ve taken to get here, but I’m no longer as ashamed of it as I used to be.

And I think overall that has to be a good thing… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Nail

Blue Tit Bathing

After some overnight rain the other day my husband and I were sitting outside on our conservatory doorstep, having a peaceful cup of tea while surveying the back garden.

My husband suddenly flinched, and commented that he though the rain was starting again as he thought he felt a few drops fall on his head. We looked up at the sky and all was blue and clear, not a cloud in sight, so feeling a bit puzzled we just sat tight and carried on drinking our tea.

And then I felt it too, little light splashes on my head and arms – I looked up quickly and there in the conservatory guttering immediately above us was a little Blue Tit taking a bath, spraying us with tiny water droplets as he shook out his feathers.

We laughed and moved to sit elsewhere, leaving him to it – but I guess we better check our guttering soon to remove whatever is blocking it to make sure all the rainwater can flow away freely 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Spray

Revisiting the Past

Choosing to revisit the past – invoking half-forgotten memories of an unhappy time in my life, long long ago – feels a bit odd, but yesterday it was a choice I made anyway. Part defiance at myself for not usually going there, and part cautious curiosity at testing the waters to see how it feels now, looking back at an old disjointed story from a new perspective.

It all came about quite innocently, quite naturally, as part of an everyday conversation with my husband, who had been chatting earlier with a colleaugue at work. They had been discussing their respective commutes to work – we live an easy 10-minute walk from the supermarket where my husband works. But apparently his colleague has a long daily drive from the back of beyond, and when my husband told me the name I said – oh, I know where that is, I used to live there!

So I opened my laptop and looked it up the area on Google maps, showed my husband just how far his colleague comes to work evey day. And then on impulse I chose street view, clicked onto the actual farm cottage I used to live in, the house we lived in when my youngest daughter was born 35 years ago, and there it was. It felt odd to see it after all this time, but not upsetting.

I was going to write – there it was, just as I remembered it – but the point is I don’t really remember it that much. I had an unhappy first marriage to the father of my three children, and a lot of my memories from that time are buried in a kind of fog of fuzzy forgetfulness. I don’t talk about them not because they are secret, but because I just don’t go there, out of habit.

But yesterday I chose to open that difficult door inside my mind, and it was OK. So using Google maps I showed my husband all the houses I had lived in during that difficult period of my life, four homes in seven years with three young children and a very old-fashioned traditional-style marriage that, in retrospect, had clearly been doomed to failure from the start.

I found I easily pointed out which rooms lay behind each window, exactly where each door opened into, explained which things looked different in each building all those years ago. Memories came back, and surprisingly I handled them without pain, without feeling the need to protect myself from that past any more. What I feel most now is a lingering sadness about it all, and that feels about right…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: ‘Ch’

Weekly Prompt: Story

Chicken Soup for Lunch

Today I want soup for lunch, so here it is in the making.

Being an old-fashioned sort, I always have a bag of chicken bones squirreled away in the freezer, added to bit by bit as I go along until I have enough of a collection to boil up for a big pot of stock. And in turn the resulting chicken stock makes whatever I fancy at the time. Usually the base for soup, but sometimes a hearty stew or a risotto.

But as today I want soup, I’ve added a handful of oatmeal for thickening, a handful of pearl barley because I love the creamy conststency it makes, chopped garlic, onion, carrot and sweet potato, and seasoning to taste. For me today that means black pepper, a shake of chilli powder, and a good dose of mixed dried herbs, parsely, and of course bayleaf.

My soup needs to simmer gently for a couple of hours, and then about half an hour before I want to eat it, I’ll add a decent portion of frozen sweetcorn kernels to cook through – and then after warming through some crusty bread to go with it, we’ll enjoy some yummy soup for lunch! 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Want

Cee’s Fun Foto: Sense of Taste

Ecce Romani

For this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday post Linda has given us the word ‘cave’ – and if memory serves me right, in Latin-speaking ancient Rome, cave (pronounced cah-vay) meant ‘beware’ – like in caveat emptor – buyer beware! And salve (sal-vay) meant the equivalent of ‘hello’.

I studied really basic Latin at school, an extra class I took for one year only. The text-book series we read was called ‘Ecce Romani’ (which pretty much meant ‘Look, Romans!’) and over time we followed a reasonably well-to-do Roman family through everyday life way back when, effectively increasing our vocabulary along with their dubious exploits as we all went along.

Limited stuff I remember (or perhaps mis-remember) from my beginners Latin class circa mid-1970s (Book 1: Meeting the Family) includes the following useless phrases:

Claudia et Cornelia amicae sunt (Claudia and Cornelia are friends)

Marcus et Sextus in horto ludunt (Marcus and Sextus are playing in the garden)

Canes in fossam olfaciunt (the dogs are sniffing in the ditches)

Oh, and I remember our teacher used to get irritated at us for constantly translating servus as servant, when it should have been ‘slave’…

Yup, told ya, totally useless! 🙂

Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy

These are the kind of directions I like best – once you’ve followed all the other instructions to make your instant soup in a mug, the last direction is to ‘sit back, relax, and enjoy’!

Much as I love cooking from scratch, occasionally I also love the very un-natural taste of processed packet food – especially packet macaroni and cheese, made with a bright orange powder reminiscent of the colour left on your fingers after eating cheesy Wotsits. Or tomato packet soup, red and thick and a real comforting blast from the past from childhood.

I love the real home-made stuff too, but at different times and for different reasons – growing up in the seventies with a mum who is the first to admit she’s not the world’s best cook, reconstituted packet food was often the tastiest food we ate! 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Directions

The Geometry of Life

If I were a geometric shape, I think I would probably be an oval.

The trouble with perfectly-shaped shapes is that they are mostly military-precision angular and straight-line-true in their geometry, and that’s not really me. Of course the most obvious non-angular shape is a circle, quintessentially pristine in every proper Pi-r-squared calculation, and that level of conformity is not really me either.

So I would probably be an oval – equally squat and elongated at the same time, curvy-edged but only showing symmetry from a couple of particular viewpoints, a circle with attitude. Yeah, that would be me… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: ‘Val