Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Bear Up, Ye Of Many Small Heart Attacks, Thou Shalt Be OK
If I were to write in Biblical terms of a conversation with God, with a bit of Hollywood, this is how it would go.
And Lo, the Heavens parted and there unto my eyes were Angels of Light and in the midst was a Light more bright than any I have seen. "Thou," said the Light in a thundering voice that rattled my teapots on their shelves, "thou art in a proper mess."
"Oh tell me who you are, Light that is too bright for my eyes," I said in a whisper, quaking with fear. "Are you God?"
" I am." Said the voice. "And I have words of comfort and wisdom that wilt be of enormous benefit to thee. Hast had enough? Thought so. Make thyself comfortable, oh my daughter, it is not just thee that hast loads to cope with, thou joinest an enormous throng of parents that despaireth that their offspring will ever be normal." And with that, each of the multitude of Heavenly Angels lifted up their instruments and played a fanfare of terrific joy and then - and then - was that a piano? Was one of the Angels playing a piano? "As a token of my personal attention," said God from the midst of what was now a wonderful virtuoso display of music, "I have commanded that we conduct this interview to music that you adore. My seraphim and cherubim will play Scott Joplin for you." And it was true. We were speaking to the gentle but syncopated rhythms of Fig Tree Rag played in harmony by a thousand Heavenly Hosts.
"Now," said God. "I knowest that one of thy offspring is off tripping the light fantastic. He will return. It is written that he will do this thing. I have made him with love and free will, and I will be beside him even at the crummiest of night clubs; I will be with him. His soul is never lost, I have it in my hand, but his way may be dark and dangerous. Fear not, oh Artist Lady, for though his path is many forked, and there are many choices he could make, at no point is he alone as I am there with my hand on his head waiting for him to work it all out."
There was a pause and the angels started to play Maple Leaf Rag. "Feeling better, oh thou of huge need of a lucky break?" said God.
"I think so," I replied.
I gazed with wonder around me. I had been standing in my kitchen which was transformed into a place of wonder and light and love and Scott Joplin; I was enveloped in the light that was pouring into the room from the vision of glory that filled my entire line of vision. I was in awe, I was both afraid and unafraid, I was longing to hear more.
"Thou art longing to hear more," said God from the centre of the joyful throng of Angels and pianos. "And now I say unto thee, listen up and thou wilt have peace. Thy son who is 14, he who they call Boxing Boy, he who is of a golden heart but mighty of fist, he who is now in a pickle and mighty are the consequences. Courage!" the voice boomed. I jumped and spilt my tea. "Courage! He has only the semblence of a mountain troll, in truth, thy son is nice fellow. I have given him the ability to do many things, many wonderful things, and as yet, he cannot see them. Thou hast found a piano teacher for him? Good. And he will, I say unto thee, go back to rugby and boxing and all will be well, he will pulverise others in a controlled and legal manner. And lo. These children are yours, remember that, they have quite a few of your genes and thus may become nicer as time goes by. Thou hast a daughter too. I have shown that all will be well, thy daughter has an ISA and a pension and has pulled herself back from the abyss. She is training to be a nurse and is a jolly good one too."
A pause. We both remained silent. The Angels broke into Magnetic Rag. The light beamed and filled the room and I heard God shifting and clearing his throat. He was right. Beautiful Daughter, she who fell as a teenager headlong into a hell of chavviness and drink, is now a force to be reackoned with. She is now working and studying at the same time, and is living with Dolly Parton as a role model in Brighton.
"It has been tough," said God quietly, " and it is not over yet. But Hey! I am with you and I hold all of you deep in my heart."
"But everything is so goddam hard," I said from the kitchen. "I don't know what to do next and nothing is being done and I can't think clearly."
"Oh My Lovely Artist Lady!" said God with a chuckle. The Angels broke into the Entertainer. "All things are possible! Much is being done, much is being achieved, you cannot see it and you do not expect it, but all is good and all is being done that needs to be done, and Lo! There is time! Why not trust me, love your ghastly offspring, and get an Indian Takeaway. Take thee to London and see a show! Thy painting work is ongoing and a whole different kettle of fish, trust me that thou art a good painter but right now, it is not the priority. Get thy lads sorted and take it from me, I have you all in my sights and know well what you feel, and somehow, it will all sort itself out."
And with that the Angels upped the volume of Heavenly Rag Time, and a hand came from the sky and wrote in the white board I have for notes in my kitchen -
Bear Up, Ye Of Many Small Heart Attacks, Thou Shalt Be OK.
The vision cleared, and silence fell. My heart felt light and the room looked brighter and cleaner. Wow, I thought. I have been given a thumbs up from On High. I am not alone, it is not all a wasteland of gloom and dreadfulness, though I have to say it feels like it. I looked up to where the glory of God had been, in the centre of such a wonderful light, up in the ceiling of my kitchen. And as I looked, the faint chords of Scott Joplin could be heard echoing in the distance and fluttering down to my feet was a piece of paper. "Special Offers At Your Local Indian Takeaway" it said. Thank you God. A sign indeed.
Thursday, 7 July 2011
Madam, You And Your Children Are Unruly. How Was Ireland?
Madam, Fate says this morning, Your Children Are Unruly. Yes, I say, I think you are right.
I wonder how many mothers live like this. We have our selection of children, we have one, or two, or three or more, and we do our best. We get on with raising them and hope that they are all still there and breathing at the end of each day, that they will go to bed and sleep like the cherubs we hope they are, somewhere deep inside their subconcious. We need to keep tabs on each child as they grow, because they know that they know best. We were born, they think, fully formed as adults and know nothing about life and are really stupid. The older they get, our little babies, the taller they get. And in my case, I ended up with tall, glorious and powerful children, one of which is tall enough to use me as an elbow rest. For that child in question today, with the height comes power, and with this sense of power comes the lust for battle and with the lust for battle comes regular punch ups. It is as if I am looking after a toddler who is the size of Godzilla. But Godzilla, King Kong, The Terminator, Thor the Thunder God didn't understand that they didn't have to thwack things and flatten whole cities when they were annoyed. No one was there to tell them not to. A chat with an understanding adult may have helped. A game of rugby, a round of boxing in a gym, a bit of time spent on a survival course in the North Sea, anything but Incidents Outside School where there are no sensible adults (or kids) to say Go Home You Fool.
Madam, said the school this morning, your son has not turned up for class. Are you aware of the Incident Outside School yesterday? And having got one furious, resentful and disgusted offspring off to London yesterday from where I am to be disowned as a punishment for being alive and wrong, I wake up this morning to the next furious resentful child thinking My Turn Now! Watch This!
Yes, I say to the school, I know about the Incident Outside School. I feel that waves and waves of consequences are coming. Gird Your Loins, I say to myself in the mirror, Life Has Its Ups And Downs, And This Is Another Down. By implication, an Up will follow, so I paint my toenails red and say Bring It On. We Have Done All This Before, We Will Do It Again. And I think, this is my youngest child that is on this rocky path, and when he is grown up, I don't have any other younger Visigoths In Waiting. It will then be time to hire a camper van with my old school pals Caroline, Sarah, Sharon and Vicky and go in a convoy to the ends of the earth where everyone is sensible and fun and before anyone hits anyone else, they have a jolly good chat and a cup of tea, tell each other some really funny jokes, and sort it out.
When my kids play up, I feel as if I were to blame. I feel the unspoken words at the end of every phone call about them is And You Madam, Are A Disgrace. I feel that I missed important signals that they needed help. I feel that they must have been trying to tell me that things were not right and that I merrily ignored them. I was too busy chatting to friends about the meaning of life and what constitutes a great blueberry muffin while my darlings were agonising over whether to bash so and so or not, or whether to furiously disown me until they needed more money, to teach me a lesson for being so embarrassing. Maybe my dear Boxing Boy, my youngest son who is trying out Thuggery as a bargaining tool, longs for something I am not giving him. Maybe I should allow him to do Junior Cage Fighting. Maybe not. I feel the frustration of those who have to deal with the misdemeanours of my kiddies, and long to say I Am A Disgrace. I Am Sorry. We Are All A Disgrace.
Ireland was not a disgrace. Ireland was absolutely wonderful. Briefly, I took my Furiously Independent Son to Dublin for his birthday, and stayed with Darling Dublin Friend and her husband, The Nicest Man In Ireland. We joined the Husband and about 28 other Dubliners and their children, and went up a mountain in Co. Wicklow, where we camped for a magical midge infested night. The next morning, we woke (those of us who slept) and having packed up, left the stream by which we had become a Midge Banquet, and walked down as a tired, happy and very dishevelled bunch of campers to end up at one of the camper's homes where his wife had made us all a special gourmet breakfast. I will never taste better food. There were over 100 pancakes, which the kids finished before us adults could say Guinness Loaf. The lady in question is a trained chef, and is probably the best cook in the world. To me. Now.
I was too, the only Mum to go on this camping holiday. I put my name down with huge excitement and asked no questions at all. It turns out that all the Dads went with their kids, and all the Mums stayed behind with a view to visiting each other for an almighty knees up before helping out with the mammoth breakfast the next day. It should have been obvious. What Irish Mum would choose to go up a mountain for a night with midges and dirt and their husbands while the kids go quietly ferral, when they don't have to?
The Dads had fab tents, equipment and know-how. Darling Dublin Friend lent me her tent and when I unpacked it, I was not only the only Mum, I was the only one with a cow tent.
Madam, you are not a disgrace, you have slept on a mountain in Wicklow in a Cow Tent. And your children are not a disgrace either. They just need time, a padded cell and to join the army. Fear not, Lady Artist, all this shall pass and one day you will be in a camper van far far away telling jokes and drinking tea with the Bedouin with all your friends in camper vans of their own. Cow camper vans.