Red or Dead

tumblr_nc72uaorcJ1rlvym3o1_500As with my enormous bottom, I always thought of my red hair as a hindrance.

There were times I would curse my mystery benefactor, the one who bestowed the ginger gene upon me without permission and skipped maniacally into the sunset never to be seen again. His myth was replaced with the one about the milkman and I cursed him for decades.

Aunts and relations I had never seen before, nor since, would come out of the woodwork on special occasions to gush about it.

“Women pay thousands for hair the colour of yours” they would repeat, over and over; and I would stand there with my faux-family smile taped on until it was over.

Nothing if not polite.

I was not what you would consider a graceful young person and my teenage years were particularly horrific. I have hair that can be controlled by no man, woman or warrior and even my mother, in all her glory, couldn’t tame the beast.

While my cousin’s strawberry locks were wrestled into delightful french plaits and swinging ponies, with pretty accessories that made her look like baby Carmen Miranda, mine was as coarse as a horse’s. It wasn’t the kind of hair one simply twisted up and before long I ended up with a very unbecoming crop, courtesy of Mama.

Picture the scene. A toothy ginger girl with an orange short back and sides sent into the world to find her way. It was soul affirming (eventually) but then I felt ugly and unique in a freakish way; absorbed in my own adolescent self-pity.

As I grew up and the reins of control vis-a-vis my head follicles passed into my own hands, I took it through a series of experimental phases as all teenagers do. I regret not colouring it better and am highly jealous of all the pastels wafting around today, but I did visit every possible shade of red from pillar box to maroon. You could say, although I dyed it a lot, I never really veered off the crimson path.

Except for once with the blue-black. We don’t talk about the blue-black period…

My new crazy Brighton life saw it cut into the ‘Kelly Osbourne’ circa The Osbournes and that was lovely. I would slap on Directions hair dye like it was going out of style and our white bath took on a vaguely pink tint as the years passed.

As I travelled and settled then moved on again, as my life took many twists and turns, the one constant was my hair. I would always take the time to keep my colour fresh. When I started talking to my now husband whilst still in Canada, I was working Scarlet Power, a dark red that would glow like lava in the sunlight.

In the end I decided to try my natural shade back on for size. It was a decision fuelled by my age, if I’m honest. I didn’t want to be ‘brassy’ coming into my mid-thirties and I’m not one to go to a hairdresser to have it done responsibly. Plus, I have a perfectly okay colour so before it starts to turn grey, I might as well enjoy the window.

Now I get the same compliments I did as a kid but this time round I can appreciate them. My best friend said I looked like a mermaid the other day, and there’s no higher compliment than that, is there?

It’s taken me over thirty years to be okay with who I really am and I’m going to enjoy it now, dammit.

*swishes hair and flounces off into the sunset*

Hand-Me-Downs: The Red Shoes

My red shoes looked nothing like these!
My red shoes looked nothing like these!

Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life. Via The Daily Post (10th September 2014)

I coveted those red shoes for what felt like years. To my childish heart, it felt like forever but in reality it was probably just a few weeks. Those shoes, though, those pillar box red, stiletto heeled mules; they epitomised glamour, making me think of women. Of the woman I so desperately wanted to be.

I must have been about ten or eleven and I was already daydreaming about who I would become.

My aunt owned those shoes and I insisted, every time we went round, that I get to try them on. One day I will buy my shoes just like these, I would think to myself as I trotted around like the perfect cliché of a little girl, except less cute.

I was a tom boy (I think) with short hair back then (not my choice) and my aunt Sine was glamorous to me, with long hair and lashes. Looking back I never saw her wear these shoes herself, and she always seemed to be doing something practical, with two sons it was just the way it was. Still, that’s how I saw it; I wanted to walk in those shoes and be just like her.

I could draw you a picture of them right now if you asked me to, their shape and how they felt is still etched on my heart. They were The Future and when my aunt finally handed them over, I thought my tiny heart might burst with happiness.

I wore my shoes the incredible day they finally became mine and then, as quickly and as childishly as I had fallen for them, I put them away in favour of The Millenium Falcon. I still think of them to this day though and of what they represented to me.

Think Ink

When I was a teenager I wasn’t sure of anything really, but I did have a slightly rebellious streak (that I cultivated to push against an76467164700c60e1c37c733e0cd53e93 imaginary enemy). My lovely mum was pretty cool with most things so I was fighting myself, mostly.

When I was around 14 (in my anecdote I am 14, but I suspect I was actually 16), I convinced my uncle to take me to get a tattoo. We chose a tiny little shop in an alleyway in Hastings Old Town one Saturday and I had absolutely no plans for a design.

I am from a family that you wouldn’t exactly call ‘tattoo friendly’ and before this had never had an older family member with a secret tattoo. If my own grandfather has a fuzzy blue mermaid anywhere about his person then I have never heard of it, much less seen it.

So it was brave of me I think to walk into the buzzing atmosphere of my first tattoo parlour that afternoon. In those days it was easy to fake a birth date on a flimsy piece of paper, no ID was requested and to be fair I don’t think anyone cared all that much.

I pointed to a tiny pink butterfly on the wall and before I knew it I was in the chair, a huge man with a ring through his nose looming towards me with a needle.

I took it well, marvelling at a feeling I had never had before. I know it now to be a flush of adrenaline but my childish heart was just delighted to be doing something so unauthorised. So free.

While he waited, my uncle fell in love with a dream catcher design (or was it a mushroom?) and went back a few weeks later for his own ink. And I’ve been in love with tattoos ever since.

If I didn’t know anything else, I knew right there that one day I would be covered in them if I only had my way.

Today I have quite a few. The artwork on my body varies from very very bad to really great and there are some oddballs in between. People talk about tattoos being a map of events in your life and that is true for me to a certain extent. There’s the 18th birthday present from my high school BFF (shooting stars, ankle), the ill-advised travel tattoos (tiger cub, hip/multiple lotus flowers), the great big Fuck You.

There’s the love token (letter ‘g’, back of neck), the BFF that is no more tattoo (tiny star, behind ear) – and then there are the ones that I just had to have because I like stuff (sugar donut/nail polish bottle/hula hoop). What I have is for me and nobody else, although I do run it past Mr Bee first. It’s not a request for permission per se, just checking in.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what other people say, how many times they ponder when I will stop or if it will affect my ability to get a job in the future. A big oaf in the Co-op asked me if they were real and then proceeded to tell me how much he hates tattoos. Great customer service, my friend!

It is my body and if I’ve thought it through and want to do it, I will. I’m not as heavily covered as some friends, but have quite a bit more than others. Some of my friends have nothing at all and always make me think of what Ozzy Osbourne once said:

If you want to be —-ing individual, don’t get a tattoo. Every —-er’s got one these days.”

This week, today actually, I am popping in to hang out with my friend and tattooist, Alex, who is going to draw me up an epic piece. I’m at the stage where slapping things on empty space isn’t an option anymore, they have to fit in with existing pieces so that the overall ‘sleeve’ knits together.

I like colour and I love the traditional style, and I’m also a massive girl so everything I have has to have a feminine edge, even my lumberjack is drinking from a fine bone china cup and saucer. I don’t really know what I’m doing but I do know what I like so that’s half the plan sorted, right?

As for my family, well my Mum at least, she came round eventually, electing to have a tattoo to celebrate her 65th birthday. Her son-in-law paid and every time I see it I get a glimpse of the bad ass within. She gets complimented by hipster waitresses and I admire her for doing it because she wanted to.

She’s still not sold on the idea of me being covered but that’s just because I’ll always be her baby girl. She loves them on other people.

So what are your views on tattoos? Do you have them/want them/abhor them?

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 98. 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.

Notes on a Weekend Visit

1Much as sometimes it knocks my nose out of joint, I pretty much always come around to my mother’s way of thinking. I spoke to her at the weekend about a situation that had wounded me greatly and she listened and, at the end, simply said “You’re too sensitive”.

I didn’t like it very much. In a way it makes me feel like a child again to be told I’m overacting but sure enough, as my outrage dissolved, I realised that she was right.

It is frightening and also comforting to know that even though you believe you are a complex soul, and maybe you are, there are people around who know you as well as you know yourself. If not better as they get a load of you after you’ve been alone, wrestling with your issues for way too long.

So, thanks to PM, the woman who bore me, I have calmed down on the petty freeze out I had planned and I’ve forgiven the person who wronged me. Just like that.

Who needs God when you have the Wisest Woman in the Western World on speed dial (when she remembers to keep her phone on)?

Mum is the Word

This weekend it was my mum’s birthday so Mr Bee and I rode into my home town on several rickety old replacement buses and a wave of good intention.

As soon as we entered Bexhill I felt myself regress back to being the awkward girl of my teenage youth and I sort of enjoy that feeling now. It’s a simpler time and there’s a peace that comes with being back ‘home’.

If I ever got the opportunity to speak to my Past Self I might tell her to chill out because one day I might actually start to appreciate the small town I grew up in.

It was a quiet, family orientated weekend with a birthday cream tea at The Wholesome Cafe for Mum. It was also a bit of a Welcome Home affair for my aunt, who lives in Canada ordinarily and is back for exactly 12 days. When we first emigrated to B.C., Sine was there to put us up and, in her subtle way, tried to talk me out of being in a relationship with the loser I had emigrated with. Thankfully, I eventually did rectify that situation.

We also got to hang with my cousins’ ladies and their kids and it was a very nice time indeed. Plus there was cake and cake might be my most favourite thing in this world.

On Sunday, we took Mum for breakfast and then pottered around Bexhill town in the lovely sunshine. We stopped off at the jewel in Bexhill’s crown (arguably), The De La Warr Pavilion and saw their latest exhibition, I Cheer a Dead Man’s Sweetheart. Some of it was really quite something and some of it… not so much.

I get that art is down to the way a person interprets it and that, an orange knife stuck to a wall might just be an orange knife stuck to a wall to me, to someone else it might answer all their questions about life and the Universe. So one shouldn’t take the mick too much (even though I so did).

We then looked at absolutely stunning beach houses on the front and then we had to go and catch our next series of replacement buses to get home to Brighton. All in all a lovely, satisfying visit.

PicMonkey Collage

 

 

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