The February air is zesty with unexpected sunshine and the northern wind softened to a breeze. Spurning my faithful duffle coat I reach for the cashmere coat with a fake fur collar that I haven’t worn since leaving London. This coat has been on a long journey and in storage for two years. Its chic appeal seems incongruous in this land of anoraks and woolly hats but why not be different today? Should I wear the sheepskin gloves or the fluffy angora ones? I go with the fluffy. The dusky pink matches my suede boots.
The street is quiet, not even the builders around and no sign of my elderly neighbor who likes to feed the seagulls every morning. A battered red pick-up truck rattles down the road towards the harbor trailing an aroma of fish. I’m heading to the village shop for milk and bananas. As my clumsy fingers place the house key in my coat pocket they dislodge a crumpled piece of yellow paper from the silk lining. It flutters onto the waterlogged front lawn. The sulfur color reminds me of old moss, the sort that clings to old stone walls.
It’s not a discarded shopping list or a receipt for some long-forgotten object of desire but a couple of cinema tickets; Twenty One Grams. It’s a poignant film about how people’s lives intersect and fragment due to a random event. The story reveals the patterns concealed beneath the surface of everyday life. The twenty one grams refers to the amount of weight which is mysteriously lost at the moment of death.
I went to see this film on my thirtieth birthday, the first of March, many years ago now. We ate lunch in the roof top restaurant of an art gallery overlooking the Thames before going to the cinema. After the film we drank cocktails in a trendy bar in Knightsbridge. It was an enjoyable day in a faraway life. Tom and I were both in a good mood and we didn’t mind the cold wind, dodging the rain showers without an umbrella or searching for an elusive parking space. I didn’t complain about the dirty pavements, the crowds or the traffic. At that time I’d never heard of Caithness and living in Scotland was a romantic dream. I was wearing this same grey coat with a leopard fur collar. It felt like the wrong coat for a wet day.
Today I queue in the village shop while two incomers, a mother and teenage daughter stock up on junk food. They are horsey types who have adopted a feral lifestyle. The mother wears a red bandana and a dirty shredded t-shirt any eighties punk would be proud of. Her bare feet are encased in flip flops. Jagged green toenails protrude from a crust of mud. Both women exude a smell reminiscent of rotting potatoes. They spend more than twenty pounds on sweets and chocolate. As they exit the shop Elaine reaches under the counter for the air freshener and sprays it around in a protective circle.
On my way home I wonder if I’m wearing the wrong coat.
“Life is a circle of happiness, sadness, hard times and good times. If you are going through hard times, have faith that good times are on the way”.
To those of you who will be celebrating during the Festive Period whether that be Winter Solstice, Christmas or whatever your personal belief system may be, I wish you peace, joy, good health and happiness.
Thank you to everyone for supporting my new blog during the last three months. I’m very grateful to all my followers, visitors, for your comments and likes. It’s been a therapeutic, exciting experience to create this blog and a privilege to share my writing and images with you all. I will be taking a few days off now to recharge my batteries and do some fresh writing. I’m looking forward to returning to blogging land some time very soon!
A woman can make a million
when she downs the victory drug.
I would be typewriter with self.
I would be keys without doors.
I would be hands grown powerful.
I would be least still.
I would cross wild borders,
a wagon for home. I dream of grass in crisis
and it is blue.
I am too late to quietly slip under,
too late to bring the machine.
I decline. I can,
maybe, wheedle a stick?
I am open dark.
I am heart of embers.
I am to have the man.
Storm broke orange cloves over Orkney. ‘Stop your moaning, Mother’, Dorothy scooped porridge into two porcelain bowls, poured coffee. Another morning of sobbing, droning noise flowed from Mother’s open mouth. ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh …’ Soft sounds so soothing for Mother, now mourning son Tom, so overwhelming for Dorothy. ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh’.
Tom drowned into moon shadows, one of numerous boys lost, lonely boys longing for turquoise pools who took rough roads. Our boys journeyed to consult Oracle One, Cloud Four. No-one found comfort, only old stones, confusion, sore bottoms or cold oatmeal. Oracle One enjoyed comedy. Oracle One roared, jolly from beyond mountain tops.
Down below, smoke rose from glowing bonfires of Stroma. Hope smouldered for mothers who understood abandonment. Outside melancholy cottages on the shore, words floated unspoken.
Note 1:- Cold Oatmeal is an example of a univocal poem, that is, each word contains the same vowel, in this case the letter ‘o’.
Note 2:- The small island of Stroma lies just off the north coast of Scotland. It is part of the Orkney Islands and was abandoned by most of the population in the 1960s. The lighthouse keepers and their families were the last ones to leave in 1997. There are nothing but sheep on the island today. The reasons for the abandonment were mainly economic.
Last week was Resilience Week according to the Scottish Government. Citizens were asked to think about how well they would deal with any emergency situation such as terrorism, pandemics or power outages. This got me thinking about the meaning of resilience. Is it the same as ‘strength’?
The dictionary definitions are:-
1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
So it occurs to me that people with physical or mental disabilities are more resilient than the non-disabled. It’s through dealing and adapting to problems that we become stronger. Living with any Disability is a test of survival skills. It’s strange that society tends to dismiss disabled people as weak because I think the opposite is very often the case. Just to get through one day can be as tough as climbing a mountain or winning a war. Many non-disabled complain about the slightest of ailments and crumble when things don’t go exactly their way. Any disabled person has to confront obstacles every single day, not least of which is discrimination and the patronising attitudes institutionalised within society.
I’ve decided to do a regular feature on this blog highlighting famous people whose achievements were due to the resilience gained from being disabled.
The first of these is Ian Dury. He had a difficult childhood after contracting polio, being brutalised by the healthcare and education systems. But later he channelled this rage and energy into his music. It’s doubtful that he would have written such unique and passionate songs if not for his experience of Disability. He was unafraid of what people might think, unafraid to be different, unafraid to speak truth about his life. He was one tough cookie.
Here is a YouTube video of Ian Dury performing one of his most controversial songs, Spasticus Autisticus which was banned at the time by the BBC and created a public furore. Stick around when the video is over to hear Ian Dury interviewed about why he wrote the song and how he was influenced by the film ‘Spartacus’.
I would welcome your suggestions for other famous disabled artists, musicians, writers, scientists, explorers, etc, who deserve to be featured on The Purple Hermit blog. Please leave a comment. Thanks.