Autograph Book

Where are U
Gerard Duvall?
2 cute 2 B
4 gotten.

Leather coat,
groovy French name,
eyes cool as mud,
auburn mane.

In teenage shade
U left your cabbage
heart 4 me,
white as paper.

27
frozen kisses,
star-crossed
in my book.

I counted
empty pages
awaiting
butterflies.

 

Note:- Before the age of Facebook and digital ‘likes’ adolescents used autograph books with pastel colored pages to collect signatures and messages from their friends.  These often included humorous rhymes.

 

45E6AFF8-2B75-4F13-80EE-7F0C039CF0FF
Original Photograph- The Seeds of Love, created by the author.

 

A Tiger in Your Tank

Cars have always played a positive role in my life so the inevitable news that petrol and diesel cars are to be banned in the UK from 2040 fills me with nostalgia.  Of course it’s an essential step towards decreasing air pollution and global warming but the internal combustion engine will be missed by many of us.  Technology keeps moving on with the advent of electric and self-drive vehicles (the latter being a terrifying prospect when I think how often my laptop crashes).  The traditional petrol car has been a cool cultural icon for nearly a century, a symbol of personal freedom, style and aspiration.  It has featured in many wonderful movies:- Rebel Without A Cause, The French Connection, The Italian Job, The Driver, Thelma and Louise, the list is endless.  Can you really imagine an exciting car chase in an automated electric car?  Would Thelma and Louise make their heroic stance against conformity and authority while sitting passively in a car with no steering wheel? Is this new technology a sinister portent of a future where citizens lose control over their lives?

I grew up in the sixties when petrol was cheap and motoring was a carefree, guilt-free experience.  Cars were affordable even to many working class families and it allowed them to escape industrial towns to explore the countryside and the coast.  Our first family car was a second-hand black Ford Consul.  I remember the smooth, comforting contours.  It felt safe and reassuring long before the compulsory seat belts, inflatable air bags and zero tolerance of drinking and driving that we take for granted today.  We lived with a certain amount of risk and people didn’t stress about all the horrible possibilities of what might happen.  That said, there were far fewer cars on the road and people were more respectful of each other.  No-one had ever heard of road-rage.

 

54EE1B5C-5336-42BC-AA6B-E5683DF43CCB
This photograph was taken by my maternal grandfather on my third birthday.  I am standing by our first family car, a Ford Consul. The dolls were called Nina and Nadia.

 

Nearly every summer weekend we would pack up provisions and our little orange tent and head for the seaside together with numerous friends. In the cooler months we would go for long drives around the countryside and have picnics in the back seat or bravely shivering in a lay-by.  We couldn’t afford garage repairs so my father maintained the car himself and took great pride in his immaculate standards.  It was typical for many working class men to repair their own cars.  Before the digital era and the concept of built-in obsolescence it was relatively easy to replace parts.  Our Ford Consul lived to a great age and was eventually sold on.  We replaced it with a two tone, blue and cream Humber Sceptre with curvaceous chrome trims and sculpted wings.  My father was devastated when the bodywork  was damaged in a minor scrape with a dry-stone wall.  He took to his bed for a week and didn’t speak or eat.  The car had to be scrapped because he couldn’t find a replacement panel.

Now I live in a remote rural area where once upon a time there was a petrol station in every village.  Like the village shops,  the petrol station was a focal point for the community, enabling human contact and the exchange of information.  Buying petrol used to be fun.  There were free gifts such as drinking glasses,  (I still have one chunky tumbler at the back of my cupboard!), coasters, sunglasses, sweets, posters.  As a little girl I remember being thrilled with a free kite.  In the UK there were Green Shield stamps, paper tokens you were given with petrol purchases that you collected and glued into a book.  The books were exchanged for gifts at a Green Shield Centre.  Petroleum companies had jolly slogans such as ‘Put a Tiger in Your Tank’  by Esso.   All that has gone.  In the eleven years since I moved to this area the few surviving petrol stations have closed.  The only remaining one is part of a large supermarket chain.  We now have to drive over fifty miles to obtain fuel and you need to plan ahead.  Life is becoming more difficult and more isolated.  There are no local jobs selling petrol, work that suited many women and students as it was part-time.

It’s sad to see the derelict petrol stations at the side of the road.  In recent years I’ve photographed the decaying buildings, old signs and rusting pumps.  Grass and weeds are reclaiming the former concrete forecourts.  I find them bleakly beautiful.  Many of the old designs had an Art Deco influence.  Will the new electric charging points of the future have the same sense of design? I fear not. The future is less concerned with aesthetics and humanity. There will be no-one to chat to about the weather when you plug your car in to an impersonal machine.

So I hope you enjoy my photographs of the bye-gone petroleum era entitled Ignition Switch.  There are more to come.

And if you are a bit of a petrol-head or have any memories to share of motoring experiences in the past I would love to hear them.  Please leave a comment.  Times must change but sometimes you can’t help wishing they would stay the same!

Uranium-235

Our new English teacher wore corduroy and a Polio limp.
His hair curled over his shirt collar. His flares hung loose
on his wasted shin, inciting an uneasy silence. He was unlike
the others. I forget his name as he didn’t last.
Our first English lesson was unlike the others.
Our pubescent class took turns reading aloud
a poem by Toge Sankichi, a survivor
of Hiroshima. Can we forget that flash?
We learned about the four minute warning.
We heard an air raid siren, oscillating ice
through our veins. Seek cover immediately.
We were told to write how we would spend

our last four minutes.
This is not a test.
I descended stone stairs
to a cold, dark place.

 

0212A99F-07FB-457C-BB2F-ECCA70C24EA5
Photograph by the author

Red Blush

Seized by the scent of sun on skin
I make the first cut, split the almost sphere.
The morning ritual slicing from the center
around each segment, skirting the circumference,
parting flesh from flesh.  Blood perfect,
topped with a glace cherry
and served on blue china.

I want to cry out when she opens her gown
showing husks of missing breasts.
She was a stewardess before,
on the Queen Mary criss-crossing the Atlantic.
Now, she’s the kind lady on Ward 5
sharing grapefruit with a braided child
as winter sun breaks.

 

48B8577C-29ED-4BF1-9FA6-70D53DE1C5DD

 

Narcissus

As far back as I can recall, my mother has been my number one problem.  I’ve spent most of my life trying to understand her behaviour and fix our dysfunctional relationship.  My childhood home was not a sanctuary filled with love and support but a battlefield where any tiny mis-step by myself or my faded father would result in a massive explosion of rage and abuse from Mama.  Nothing I ever did or said was good enough.  No matter how hard I tried to become the daughter she wanted, it was a lost cause.   I was a clever, pretty child, straight A+ grades in every subject at school and glowing reports from teachers.   But she wanted perfection and as most of us know, only God is perfect.  It was impossible to be the daughter she required but I still kept on trying.  I longed to see love and pride shine from her eyes but when she looked at me her face was always twisted, crumpled with disappointment and contempt.

There was never any peace as I grew up.  My mother would go days and weeks ‘not speaking’ to my father or myself due to some mysterious minor transgression.  Sometimes her mood would escalate to violence, smashing up ornaments, ripping up family photographs,  stripping naked and running around the house screaming.  I never knew what might happen next.  She would go to any length for attention and control.  I remember nights when she would exit the house like Betty Davis in a 50s melodrama swearing she was going to kill herself.  My father and I would spend anxious hours searching the dark canal bank with a torch, expecting any moment to find her floating in the cold water.  Or we would cruise the suburban streets looking for her.  When we found her marching, head erect and facing front like a furious soldier, she would ignore our pleas to get into the car.  At the age of 13 I took an overdose of aspirin in a moment of loneliness and despair.   I slept through nearly 24 hours.  My mother never noticed.  She was always busy cleaning the house which had to be immaculate at all times. She was always looking in the mirror and applying make-up.  She was always dressing up in fur coats and gold jewellery. Image was everything.  Other people thought she was a devoted wife and Mother.

 

8ECDF0FC-8E62-4F1D-9C32-05365FB9CBC4

 

I married the first boy who came along at the age of 18 just to escape my home environment.  Then I tried to create as much physical distance as possible between myself and my mother.  But she continued to exert power over my emotional well-being for many years.  It could take just two minutes of hearing her voice on the phone to propel me into a severe depression.  It’s only gradually, through counselling and reading and writing that I’ve come to understand that my mother has Narcisisstic Personality Disorder.  She is concerned only with her own needs and ego.  Other people are mere objects, tools for her gratification.

According to Wikipedia:-

“A narcissistic parent is a parent affected by narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder. Typically narcissistic parents are exclusively and possessively close to their children and may be especially envious of, and threatened by, their child’s growing independence. The result may be what has been termed a pattern of narcissistic attachment, with the child considered to exist solely to fulfill the parent’s wishes and needs. Commonly parents attempt to force their children to treat themselves as though they are their parents’ puppets, or else be subject to punishments such as emotional abuse. Relative to developmental psychology, narcissistic parenting will adversely affect children in the areas of reasoning, emotional, ethical, and societal behaviors and attitudes as they mature. Within the realm of narcissistic parenting, personal boundaries are often disregarded with the goal of moulding and manipulating the child to satisfy the parents’ expectations.”

We are taught by religion and society to respect and obey our parents.  But what if they do us harm?  What if it’s either them or us?  Our first duty is to protect ourselves, to survive.  Sometimes, sadly, there is no solution to dealing with a narcissistic parent.  The only way is to break away, have no contact.  This hurts.  There is grief, guilt and loneliness,  even though it’s not rational.  I envy friends who enjoy spending time with their mothers.  I envy harmonious families.  In fact I find it hard to understand because my experience is so different.

I believe it’s better to be alone than to live with abuse.  If you have a narcissistic person in your life, beware.  They are toxic.  You will never fix them.  Their satisfaction depends on your demise.  You can only save yourself.

Arterio Venous

Her country was besieged.
The Great Saphenous Vein,
a lonesome road to nowhere,
a waste-land, booby-trapped with incendiaries.
Scarpa’s Triangle sailed a quiet sea
and Hunter’s Canal lay stagnant.

Beyond a cotton screen of chrysanthemums
her body bore a map no longer secret,
sketched out in clumsy biro, red for arteries, blue for veins.
Red and blue make purple, she’d learned at school.
Legs splayed a landscape across the table,
roads and rivers marked
soft, pale flesh, inert on padded leather.
Like seagulls scavenging an empty shore
the white coats gathered in freezing stares
while she traced the tangle of petals,
leaves and stems interwoven beyond.

Pointless, she listened to foreign tales;
remembered a white horse
galloping circles in the wind,
her purple coat flapping open
as she ran down the road.

 

6 Bubble by Lydia Popowich