Sunday, 6 March 2016

Because there's never a good time ...

Because there's never a good time. Because every day I think I'll get time to write, I mean properly write and then when I slip myself between my favourite, creased white sheets, I realise once more, 'I haven't written today, not really written'. Of course, there are the notes and ideas scribbled in pencil on school newsletters and junk mail that sits on top of my fridge forming a kind of paper pyramid art installation, but those words are not transferred from this place to a journal or even here. No. They gather dust and eventually join a new installation. The one on my desk. The desk that I haven't touched in months and months and months. The one that resembles some kind of shrine, the sort of shrine dedicated to someone who has died and their belongings are left, preserved, exactly as they left them. This is me right now. And that's ok. I started a teaching assistant course back in September, and life has been accumulating dust since then as the pace of life gathered momentum and then speed. My role has shifted, changed, morphed. I have dust gathered in the corners of the fitted carpet, particularly in the hallway upstairs. I have a morning schema of looking at the dust ball clusters each morning when I get up and out of bed to take my first pee in the morning. Once I arrive in the bathroom and sit on the toilet, I notice the dirty bathroom mirrors and the stray afro hairs of mine that decorate the light bathroom floor. My Artist self tries to convince my Mrs.Beeton self that there's beauty in the lines and patterns that my dead hair is making, like ripples in water, yeah, beautiful marks in sand. I glance down at my feet as I sit in silence, a few seconds after I've finished peeing. I look at the book mountain that every male in my family has contributed towards making. Comics, art magazines, books, encyclopaedias, fact books and then my contribution, the miscellany of Barack Obama. I wonder if the dust cover of my book is covered in pee since the collection of books are stacked on the floor, dangerously close to the bowel of the toilet and you know, I live with three males. I begin imagining tricks that you see on programmes like CSI and imagine powder and brushes and uv light identifying all the areas in my bathroom that have pee. I think about pee a lot. I realise too as I hear the delicious tap, tap, tap of the keyboard that I've done it. I'm finally here, I've shown up and what am I doing? I'm talking endlessly about pee. But that's ok. 

I'm thinking too about my friend Maggie and how I can't believe that a week has passed since I saw her, how time flies. Last friday, on my way home from the morning school drop off, I decided to pay my friend Maggie (who lives simply a road away) an impromptu visit. The art of 'the drop in' has been lost I fear. There are very, very few people now that I feel free to turn up unannounced on their doorstep. Maggie is one of the few and I love her even more for making me feel crazily spontaneous, when put simply, I am just popping over, dropping round, passing by. I met Maggie a few years back. It was around the time that I decided that I needed to shift the baby weight, the baby weight that was meant to be on a short stay that outstayed its welcome for over five years. Resigned to the fact that this burden was going nowhere, I decided for the first time to join a local slimming group, and this is where I met Marvellous Maggie. We hit it off immediately and sparks flew and then she said 'you have the most wonderful shaped head, I'd love to sculpt it!' Well, being half African that's just about the greatest compliment you can offer and I thought of how proud my Aunty Adelaide would be. So, I think of Maggie, my dear friend Maggie. I call her 'Mad Maggie' and sometimes in my head I give her a full title: 'Mad Maggie Cotton'. She is 79 years old now and was the first female percussionist to play with the City of Birmingham Orchestra. She's a fabulous Yorkshire lass and one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. Last friday, when I called round unannounced, we sat and drank tea and coffee and ate buttered scones next to the fire and put the world to right, just the way you should on a friday morning. We laughed and laughed, about what I can't especially remember but there is always laughter with her and I. I think too of my good head and just how Aunty Adelaide would say these words to me with her lilting voice and Ghanaian accent, 'you have a good head oh'. I ache for her, for her words, for her firm reassuring hand that she would place on my forearm to reassure me. I think of the friday mornings that I spent with her, watching and taking notes as she cooked our traditional food. I thought of this as I prepared jollof rice this week and I took my time as I prepared the food, I took my time, just like she told me I should. And when my family sat down to eat the jollof, we spoke about her and the homeland and celebrated a little and made plans for our return. 

I think about that youngest boy of mine, the one that I can see in the background as I type. The one who is swishing and turning and whacking his light saber around the sitting room. The one who knows he's not allowed to do this but is depending on me being immersed in what I'm doing enough to be able to get his own way. That's ok. I think of earlier in the week, Monday to be specific, when he asked to play on his pogo stick after school. I think of the horrific thud that I heard and the flat indentation on his forehead where it slammed against the concrete slab in the back garden. I think of me shouting minutes before 'stop making holes in the grass with that pogo stick'. I think of the next day, my free day, the day I was meant to be writing a module on how to safeguard children and young people and how instead I had a boy with a bad headache to take care of. I think of how I had to prod him a couple of times in the night and wake him to make sure he wasn't concussed. I think of the pale face of my eldest boy at the scene of the pogo stick injury, his body in more shock than the injured party and I accept there and then, he will not follow his maternal grandparents into the medical profession. Because there's never a good time, during a particularly busy week, we found the time to celebrate the good news of our eldest boy finding out that he had received his first choice of secondary school. We celebrated with curry at our local, served lovely food by people who have been serving us food since our boys were babies. Because there's never a good time, we avoided chores and headed out to Leamington for the day yesterday. We found a parking spot just far enough from the centre to be able to longingly admire the many town houses as we walked in, whilst that youngest boy of ours flung his new light saber around and we added just a pinch of melancholy, by missing the eldest boy and brother who is adventuring away for the week-end with our church youth group. Because there's never a good time to write, yet alone edit and there's definitely never a good time to get back to the drafts in the draft box. And so, warts and all and jumbled and out of sequence words it is today. Because it's always better to do an okay job than not get round to the job at all and today I got here and I wrote words, and they weren't scribbled on scrap paper around the house and then stuck surreptitiously to kitchen cabinets in the hope that in some stolen moment, they will jog my own memory. No. They are here, just where they should be, for now at least. Because sometimes, the greatest gift is time. Time to get round to doing the things that make you happy, time to move the scribbles and the blurry images into their proper place, in spite of the wobbly lines and in spite of the blurs. Because now is always better than later, always.

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