Adult Visions

Prompt via The Daily Post (23rd July 2014)

As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?little girl shoes

I always thought that when I finally became an adult, I would feel like one. That hasn’t happened yet.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t own my own house or have a ‘proper’ job. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have children or a car. I don’t know. All I know is that it hasn’t hit me yet.

When I was a kid I don’t know what I expected from life. I was a live in the moment girl (I think). I loved music and dressing up but I didn’t dream of white weddings and horses like many of my peers. I suppose I assumed it would just happen and I would do all the things people were ‘supposed’ to do when the time came.

I have done some of it but most of my decisions in life have not been very sensible. I guess I equate adulthood with being sensible then. Although, I’m casting my mind back and growing up the only adults I really spent time around were my Mum and her cousin, Aunty Sine.

Both these women were my ultimate heroes, even though Mum was terribly uncool at times (guys she’s my Mum, of course she was!). I think I looked to them as such because neither of them needed a man to get through. Their situations were very different but they seemed so Can Do and found strength in each other. I think maybe I found strength in their strength (plus apart from them, I was surrounded by smelly boys and Star Wars toys, so had little choice).

Later on, I did turn to men for the things I thought I needed – but give a girl a break, at least I learnt eventually that’s just a crock of sh*t. Ultimately, the only hero you need to save you, is you. *VOM!*

Despite these two ladies dragging us up by the scruffs of our necks, all by themselves, I wouldn’t describe them as particularly sensible. I remember the bottles of wine once we were in bed, guys… Maybe then, being grown up is about strength; about just getting on and doing life the best way you know how?

I’ve had some cray jobs (dating agency, adult material mail order, turkey plucking), went travelling instead of going to University, fell in love with stupid boys (who hasn’t?). I’ve lived alone (for a bit) in a strange foreign city, accepted a free tattoo from a man who lives in a hut in Thailand; all of these things make up the fabric of my rites of passage and the end result is: I’m still just a kid at heart. Sensible? No, not really, but strong? Better believe it!

The most grown up things about me, to date, are: 1) I always pay my bills on time 2) I’ve committed myself for life to another human being and 3) I’ve filed my own tax returns (in 2010 and 2011).

So, to recap: how far off was my idea of adulthood? Pretty far, I guess.

I though 30 was ancient and I assumed I would have kids because Mum did and so did Sine. I don’t think I actually pictured the man I would end up with (and I like to think that’s because then, I didn’t even want one).

I thought I’d have a better job, maybe something creative like fashion designer or an artist, like Dad (shame I can’t draw for fudge). Beyond that, I don’t think I had the normal expectations. I knew I’d see the world, make friends, be happy.

Guess really, I’m not such a bad non-adult adult after all, huh?

Gramps

Definitely not my grandfather

Definitely not my grandfather

Write About A Grandparent (via Writing Exercises)

You know that old adage, “He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard”? (To paraphrase the original quote by Frankin D. Roosevelt, made in reference to his Secretary of State).

That’s Gramps.

Bastard is a little strong but I’m being kind when I say he is a difficult man. It’s not like he’s pure evil or anything like that, it’s just he’s so… Gramps.

Growing up there was no closeness. In fact, I found out quite recently that when we moved to England from Canada, my mother was given strict instructions to only bring us grandkids over once a week on a Sunday, for no longer that 20 minutes at a time. Charming, eh? Considering we were so bloody adorable!

This sort of sums up the rest of our relationship with the old timer, though I have some funny memories. When you get to a certain point in life, even the tragic things start to become amusing.

I’m going to say here that these are my thoughts on my grandfather. I could wax lyrical about the ways in which he has hurt his children and how I will always hate him a little bit for that, but that’s not what this post is about, not now.

Gramps is 97. A year or so ago he was finally confused enough to be moved into a care home. He now resides in the care home where I held my first job, aged 13. My old boss, who sacked me for letting another carer pierce my ear at the end of a shift, is still there. Thankfully, she doesn’t recognise me.

She refers to Mum as “Child”.

Gramps loves it. As a young man living and working in India back in the day, he had a household staff and, as he delights in telling anyone he can pin down for long enough, he didn’t even need to dress himself then. He would have two servants to dress him and another to press a glass of whiskey on the rocks into his hand.

*Rolls eyes*

As my brother and I reached work age and became more independent, it became apparent that our grandfather (Cyril) had no interest in what a girl could do. While Nana secretly cheered me on from the sidelines (more that I realised at the time), Gramps assumed I’d marry and it wouldn’t matter much what I did anyway. Tim was the Golden Boy with the Bright Future Ahead.

As a former bank manager, Cyril is delighted Tim ended up in Futures. My brother, and our cousin, Ricky are the favourites. They earn money y’all and are men. Sadly, my Grandfather measures success in monetary terms while my family; Mum, Tim and I measure it in experience, love; richness.

Surprisingly, I once had a job working for a purveyor of filth in my hometown. We sold adult material basically and my mother was horrified. Wishing to shock him, I told Gramps what I did (it was an admin role, relax!) and he was actually supportive. He even went away and researched the company, coming back to say that he was impressed with their profit margins (or something).

My happiest memory is of my grandfather taking us for long walks after Christmas lunch every year. Each of us four grandchildren were allowed to choose a walking stick and take it with us. All these beautiful walking sticks, with carved heads like ducks and stags. I loved that the best about Christmas, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone.

When I brought my husband around for the first time to meet Gramps, he walked straight past him and barely mumbled hello. He never explained his behaviour to me but later he told Mum it was because he didn’t like us and we lived in sin.

Who says that about their granddaughter? (We’re not a religious family at all).

Still, Gramps liked my demon ex and I think this an important thing to note. He liked him because he has ‘a strong handshake’. Fabulous judge of character, Grampy, well done.

Over the years I have lost touch with my grandfather, through living away from the UK or just not bothering to see him. I’ve seen him a few times in the home and he barely knows who I am. I can safely say that I have never felt any love emanating from him, for myself or anybody else.

But he’s my grandfather and I love him. I don’t care if he can’t love me back. I’m a better person than he is, so are we all.

This post is actually quite emotional to write now that I’ve started, it was supposed to be more tongue in cheek. I’ve talked myself into feeling bad for him; that he’ll never know the utter joy we could have brought to his life. That when he’s gone we will say things like “He was our bastard though” and we’ll get on with our lives. I will watch my mother be very sad but she will be the only one, I think.

That’s not a successful life, Gramps. Sorry old boy.

Things Are Going To Get Easier (Then Harder), Then Easier Again

Write a letter to yourself aged sixteen (via my trusty Writing Exercises)tumblr_n74xzvbK091r7621zo1_500

Dear Christa,

Honestly, this is a hard note to write given that I know how sensitive you are. You’re still sensitive by the way and you cry a lot; happy, sad, angry (especially angry), you have excellently functioning tear ducts. Well done.

Where to start on this very important document though? First of all, let’s get the obvious one out the way: you aren’t even that fat. Over the next two decades, you will wonder what the hell you were even worried about. Right now, aged sixteen, you look pretty great.

When you get to my age you will have more confidence with less to be confident about. Which, when you consider it, is almost as good as having a flat stomach. When you get here you’ll understand.

I realise as I type away at this, that at my core I’m not that different to you. A little bit less insecure yes but still prone to moments of crippling self-doubt. And I still haven’t the first idea what the f**k I’m going to do with my life.

The only difference now is that I know that’s okay. That living a full and happy life is as important as setting the world on fire, although there is still time. There really is still time.

Keep writing though. Write often, write honestly – basically don’t just talk about it willy nilly; do it, okay?

36 year old you is still as hopeful as you are; still deeply faithful to the theory that everything is going to be okay in the end. Still a romantic twat, even after three years of marriage and over six tripping on shoes left in the kitchen (in front of the sink!). Oh, did I not mention that? Yeah… you get married.

I’ll give you a moment to process that. In fact, let’s just talk boys for a second.

Boys are great, as are the men they grow into. They are fun and funny and you’re not sure about them now but you will find this out for yourself. Some of your favourite friends will be and are, boys. At the moment, you are probably doing one of two things as you read this, or both: a) turning up your nose snottily as if to say ‘ew’ and b) thinking about boys again, for you think of them often.

In fact, it’s impossible for you to talk to one without forming a crush and then fantasising about them, like, all the time. You aren’t even particularly sexual by now so those daydreams are pretty tame.

I can’t remember if you’ve even seen a penis yet, let alone touched one. I think you might still be petrified of the idea of them (they’re not that bad).

You should be experimenting by the way, so I’m not going to lecture you on that. Enjoy the ride, for god’s sake. Actually, I’m not going to talk you out of doing any of the things you will do, except maybe one big one. The choices you make will make you into me. Plus, you’ll have stories for later. My friend told me I have the best dating stories the other night, and it made me proud.

So, carry on. Do everything exactly as you choose.

Do me one favour though. When, aged 24, you get your heart obliterated by a bad man (worth it) and you hit rock bottom with a thud, DO NOT accept the offer of dinner with the first person who asks you. This will not be a good scene and it will last six long years that you will never get back. Trust me on that. (You don’t even get dinner).

Although, didn’t I just say all these things will turn you into me? Maybe scrub the above paragraph. But take less shit and remember, when he says you need help, that you are crazy; he’s projecting.

So yeah. You’re a wife and it’s awesome and not at all as you would imagine. You’re not a mother. I don’t think you have any desire to be but just so you know, I’ve decided not to do that. You have a step son though, he’s nine.

You fancy your husband a lot and you like beards now.

There it is, kid. A recap, if you will: write lots, experiment a lot, penises are actually pretty okay, collect stories for later use and don’t let shitty relationship keep you down for long. Oh yeah, and travel, as much as you can afford to and as often as you can. You’re going to love Thailand.

You’re going to be okay, you know?

Peace out,

Christa xoxo

Ps. Your friends trick you into wearing shorts to school round about now. Don’t fall for it, it rains that day and they all bail on you.

Old Girl

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What does getting old mean to you? (via Writing Exercises).

I feel old often. I am 36.

Sometimes I refer to myself as “Almost 40″ and I get told off for that and rightly so because that’s just wishing life away in a negative fashion. But I do, I feel exhausted sometimes from the effort of it all. Do all people feel that way sometimes?

When it’s hot like it is this Summer and oppressive outside, I start thinking I am too old for all this, can’t I just go to bed for a week? Maybe it is just the heat but maybe I am also going through a transition; no longer young and not yet old.

I’m surrounded by young people. In the pub, at work and although there is no bridge between us, no gaping void between my age and theirs, I look at them and I feel different. I’m not bitter or jealous, if I was told I could go back to 20, I would say no thank you very much.

I’ve done my time there on the precipice of adulthood. If anything, I embrace the fact that I know myself finally. I know my limitations, my likes and dislikes. Myself.

Getting old is not a bad thing, despite my grumbling (and for the most part I am joking). When I really think about it I am at peace with the idea. My thirties have been my greatest yet, the ‘This is me, suck it up’ period. Sure, I could always be more assertive, less diplomatic, more honest; but it is within this decade that I ‘grew a pair’.

I found freedom. I found, and finally understood, real love and I stopped letting people walk all over me.

I broke the Broken Bird cycle, in which I collected damaged souls one by one and wondered why, in the end, all I got for my troubles was heartache. The strength to change these things came from experience and from learning my lessons.

It came from getting older. So imagine how wise I will be in my forties, fifties – seventies. (I shall take that nap throughout my sixties).

Growing old to me means relaxing, no longer having to be judged on the things that in the end won’t matter. I will be so set in my ways by then that nobody will dare to change me. I’ll be sure of who I am, comfortable in my skin (hopefully) – gloriously, spectacularly eccentric with no fear.

And I’m going to wear a lot of high fashion pieces, like Iris Apfel.

 

Brother

250065_10150617858235018_5939880_nToday’s Random Subject via Writing Exercises – What does having siblings mean to you?

Growing up it seemed to me that as soon as we were old enough to go our separate ways, I would never see my brother again. If you’d asked me at 12, 14, 17, 19 what having a sibling meant to me, I would have probably said “Not much, I hate him”. I would have stared off into the middle distant like a good baby Goth and I would have fantasised about being an only child.

We were not what you would call ‘close’ as we grew, although I look back and he was always there. We rowed like cat and dog but he was never not there. All my memories swirl around him, all of them, even the earliest ones. Sitting in the garden with this new fat baby in my lap (my memory or one I have borrowed from a photo album?), the evening Mum told us Dad was gone.

Our old house in Canada, playing with the neighbourhood kids. The day we moved to England to stay with our reluctant grandparents, playing with our cousins, the Christmases, the childhood injuries, the arguments; climbing trees. We weren’t friends but perhaps we were uneasy allies out there in the world because who else did we have?

I was not a cool teen. Most times all I wanted was to be alone. Now I realise I was suffering typical adolescent depression but then I just wanted to be in my room, feeling things. This did not translate well to my sociable, always popular brother though maybe only in my own head. He would pick on my insecurities to cut me down and I am quite sure I did the same right back.

Still, he woke me up one night to tell me he had lost his virginity. I think it was then I thought that one day we might be okay, that I still had a use to him, even if it was just my inexperienced ear.

It was several years later but I remember the evening vividly, he was at my house for my birthday. I was 26 when I realised we’d be fine. Mum was there and my best friend, too. I was in a relationship with my demon ex then, recently moved into a big Suburban home I had never wanted, unhappy but not yet without hope.

We were laughing and talking and Tim said I was funny. Publicly, in front of other people. From that day on, to me at least, he was no longer the lazy toad who wanted to make me cry, he was my brother and my friend – and he saw me as a person, finally.

I knew he must love me because he was nice to that horrible boyfriend, tried to see the best in him when the best wasn’t much. Later, I couldn’t believe he had kept it up, after everybody else’s façade hand long since slipped. That’s love, I think.

He could have told me to leave, wondered what the hell I was playing at but he didn’t, he let me find out for myself.

We’ve been close ever since, although hardly ever geographically. I’ve been in Asia and then Canada, while he lived in both Hungary and Greece for extended periods. For six months he lived in Brighton and that was one of my favourite times, though we still didn’t hang out every week. We’re just not that kind of family.10374460_10154083560640018_306736340812671119_n

Even now, my brother is in some of my very happiest memories. He gave me away at my wedding because my Dad couldn’t; made everyone cry with his speech. He made a mix CD for the sit down dinner segment and it had my favourite song on it (You’re So Cool by Hans Zimmer).

Now we meet up every couple of months or so, since Tim and his fiancé, Maddy live in Kent. When we hang out it’s like no time has passed at all. I’m so proud of the man he has finally become and now I’m getting excited to see what kind of husband and father he’s going to be.

So, if you ask me now, what does having a sibling mean to me, I will tell you: it means everything.

The Regular Show

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Like my good friend Hannah, I have recently been pondering this whole writing malarkey and what it’s really all about.

I’m the absolute Queen of thinking about doing something for a long time before I actually get off my lily white arse to do it. Look at running, for instance, an activity I am very much into the thought of but am yet to seriously attempt.

Writing is the same, although I do write from time to time. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t but what do I actually say most days? A lot about nothing and nail polish, that’s what.

It’s time to start stretching myself and with the help of some writing prompts, I think I can get a lot out. So, with the encouragement of Han, who has recently posted some brilliant pieces, I’m going in too.

I’ll be looking to The Daily Post and also Writing Exercises for inspiration. I’m also going to set aside regular writing slots every evening this week. Basically, have lap top will write; have prompts will free style. Something like that.

Where do you get your inspiration from, writers?

Going Underground: Neverwhere Review

91Zw9iS4sRL._SL1500_A quick review of a book that most people and their dog have already read a long time ago. There’s a reason for me doing one and it’s more for Neil Gaiman himself than for the story.

I’ll explain. I’ve read a fair amount of Gaiman’s novels and, of course, Sandman in up there for me as one for the greatest pieces of literature ever committed to the page.

Apart from Sandman though, I’ve always been a bit meh about his stories. Or not the stories so much as the delivery. He’s a great writer and I love his characterisation but… I feel like I should love him more.

So he’s become a running joke in our household, with Mr Bee trying to force feed me more and more Gaiman until I submit to loving him as much as he does.

It took me a long time to pick this up. American Gods took me about seven years to wade through and ditto for the Ocean at the End of the Lane. Both were okay.

This. Well, this was… brilliant!

I won’t waffle on too much about the Adventures of Richard Mayhew and Friends. Chances are you already know, you may be a long-term cheerleader for Neil Himself, as many of my friends are.

If you don’t already know then I don’t want to ruin it for you. You should read it though.

The brief synopsis is this: something happens one evening while Richard Mayhew is on his way to dinner with his new fiance. This something changes both their lives forever.

Turns out there’s a whole other London below the one we know; London Below. Rat infested, dark and twisted, this London is home to all manner of creatures including the wholly unpleasant Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. There’s Door the waifish ‘door opener’ and the Marquis de Carabas, a charming but roguish chancer who may or may not be untrustworthy.

Then there’s Hunter and Old Bailey, The Serpentine Sisters, the Velvets and Hammersmith; all of whom may just change the way you view the underground map forever.

So, to Neil I say, thank you for this. It was amazing. It reminded me of Sandman in some ways and made me fall in love with your imagination all over again.

To Mr Bee: you win. This was great.

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