MadgeMahoney in the morning

thoughts in the mornings

May Day and Miracles

It was May Day and Madge had had a really good night's sleep. It was a reason for celebration in itself, so rarely could she say she had really slept well. She put it largely down to the latest attempt at the restoration of her body to its factory settings of good health and strength. Part one had been the broth. Part two was a grounding sheet. A fabulous bit of modern tech that meant one could sleep as if sleeping on the ground, the Earth's magnetic force bringing balance to a world full of random electric forces. As one who had always been a bit of a live wire, being grounded was a real comfort.

The other comfort was knowing that at least some of her friends would be getting a day off for May Day. The traditional worker's holiday that had its roots in revolution. Or did it? She realised that she didn't know enough about the history of May Day and indeed, had only been aware of it when she went to university all those years ago. Before that, she'd had no idea. No clue about politics beyond the lyrics of The Jam. She smiled at the memory of getting her 7 inch copy of A Town Called Malice in the early 80s. She'd had felt terribly cool and loved the song without truly understanding its meaning. “You better cut down on beer or the kid's school gear, its a big decision in a Town Called Malice...yeaaahh”

It felt that in many ways, not much had changed in those 40 years, even though the world had changed beyond recognition. It was the same class warfare that it had always been she supposed. Some have more, others have less. It was ever thus. She thought back to her first May Day event, back in 1992 when she had only just met the woman who, three years later would become the lover who became the wife. Life was full of surprises she thought. Surprises and miracles.

That year, still in her first year at uni, juggling the transition from sales rep to student, she had been invited by the SWP to attend the rally for May Day. Oblivious to the Socialist Worker Party and all they stood for, she had gone along because she had a crush on the cool woman she had met in the canteen some months before hand. It was held at Ally Pally and was an open, free event full of tents and speakers and people milling about on the grass. Madge had been utterly transfixed but still contained within herself. She had never seen so many people in scruffy t-shirts sipping warm beer and giving out pamphlets. Up the workers. And so on and so on.

She recalled the woman from the SWP who she had once heard telling a comrade that she was going to America for the summer but that her friend should ring her ' if the revolution started.' Madge had always found this an odd thought. What would the revolution look like that one could fly back for it? As it was, the woman had gone to America and returned for the rest of the course and no tangible revolution had taken place. Perhaps that's how it is with revolutions thought Madge. They happen quite. Certainly, Madge had been through a number of quiet revolutions within herself. She thought back to that sunny day, students sprawled on the grass exchanging radical ideas.

“One day, you'll stop wearing all that shit on your face, stop shaving your armpits and stop wearing those dainty shoes. Then you'll be free.” The radical revolutionary from the SWP had declared her prediction to Madge in front of a small group of, frankly, quite grungy looking people and Madge had been horrified. She had cultivated a power look from the late 80s and had yet to discover the freedom of fully flat shoes. It still made her smile to think how long she spent each day applying make up and making sure her hair was just right. In corporate world, it mattered to wear a mask. University and meeting people from everywhere had changed that.

Now it was May Day in a post pandemic world and she had no idea where the woman from the SWP might be but she would have loved to have seen her just once to show her how right she had been. Madge had long ditched the make up and heels and indeed, those who knew her know would probably struggle to imagine how the journey of liberation had started. Today she was without makeup, often without shoes and rarely did she reveal the nest that was her hair. Her nails were short because hands were for working, though not today.

She wondered what her friends would be doing and hoped they would get some rest, however that might look. She knew it unlikely that all would have time off in the 24 hour availability expected in the modern world but she had learned that people found their space where they could. Certainly, she had found the space over the years to find her freedom. It was in the mind. She had a free mind and a free day to celebrate the freedom of love. She had fallen in love with her girlfriend some years ago and today, they celebrated an anniversary. It was a good day to send out love, cosmic hugs and wishes for a hahalala revolution. Time for broth and a bit more bird watching before the world woke in earnest. Binoculars really were a great gift. xx

Madge had spent the weekend in a contemplative mood, enjoying the space to do not very much. She had finished her book, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and she had been so thoroughly immersed in it, she had managed to keep away from the screens. It felt liberating to finally be able to read properly again. Losing her memory all those years ago had played havoc with reading but it seemed that she was rebuilding the skill. She was chuffed. The lovely daughter had now gifted her with a beautiful copy of Pride and Prejudice and though it didn’t promise quite such a feminist slant as far as she could tell so far, it was nonetheless a beautiful book. Gorgeously bound with gold edged pages.

In between reading and cooking, she had been thinking much of her grandmother. The next day would mark 8 years since she had died and it still seemed like only yesterday. She couldn’t believe how much life had changed since that dreadful time and she was glad that her darling Nan had not had to see it all. She would have been devastated by the news, the reports of wars and children dying. She would have been unimpressed with the government, respectful though she was about those in charge. The woman recalled a time years ago when the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown was being mocked in the media. “They shouldn’t say such bad things darling. After all, he is the prime minister.” There had been an innocence about her Nan, experienced in life as she was. Madge missed that a lot.

She missed so much about her grandmother that it was rarely possible to put it into words. She spoke of her daily, spoke to her often and she knew that all of her friends felt that they knew the tiny woman, even if they hadn’t met her. She was Dot and she was fab.

The woman allowed herself the luxury of really sitting with the memory of her nan as the sun rose and the week began. Mondays were always for what she would call her ‘post office work.’ She had been a highly organised woman who lived within her means and kept in touch by airmail with friends and family all around the world. In the old days, she would make all her calls on a Sunday, taking it in turns with relatives to make the call. Dot could talk all day on a Sunday after she had been to church and said her prayers. She had connections mainly in India, Australia, Canada and America and over the years, until she reached her 70s, she would travel to visit as often as possible. The loss of Dot had been huge, despite how diminutive she had been. Madge knew the whole family missed her.

She imagined that like herself, they missed the early morning birthday calls, and the knowledge that Dot would always remember. She remembered everyone’s birthday and it was only now that Madge could really see how that had instilled a sense of worth in people. It was important that you had been born and it was a reason to be celebrated. Madge loved that and hoped that she now conveyed some of that to her loved ones on their birthdays. She didn’t dare do a 6am rendition of happy birthday but she aimed to send messages that told people that they mattered. People do matter she thought. It’s just that sometimes, we think we don’t and therein lies the trouble. Even more trouble comes when we think we matter more than others and again, Madge thought about her Nan.

Dot had been a very steady person, keeping to her routines, eating simply and enjoying a flutter on the horses before Saturday bingo. It was one of those oddities that Madge still smiled about. Deeply devout, committed to Catholicism, always willing to place a little 25p bet on the Saturday horses. Her late wife had also loved a flutter and it was one of the connecting points between the radical feminist lesbian from an Irish family and a devout, tiny Indian woman with grey hair and a permanent set of Saints medals pinned to her jacket.

They had been sweet together and the day they had taken Dot to the casino in Leicester Square had been a highlight of their adventures. Dot had loved the experience of the casino although she had been a little confused around the roulette table as she watched people play with piles of cash chips. “What happened to the credit crunch darling?” she had asked in her Anglo Indian lilt. Madge had laughed as she so often had when she had been with her Nan. She missed that so very much.

When her late wife was given an OBE by the Queen, they had taken Dot to Buckingham Palace and it had been a dream come true. Madge had loved her wife for making that happen for her. They had laughed together that Dot kept her anorak on the whole way through the ceremony. “Lovely house darling but little chilly.” Afterwards, they had visited the Diana memorial because Dot had loved the Princess as if she had known her all her life. Now both Nan and wife were gone and life was very different for all of the world. Madge thought about them both, hanging out somewhere in the stardust. She wasn’t sure about heaven and hell and all that it entailed to believe in such, but she did like the notion of the two fabulous women who had loved her and who she had loved, sitting together, feet dangling over a cloud as they swapped tips for which horses they fancied for the race and drinking tea together. Tea had always been important.

Remembering the tea, the adventures, the smiles, the absolute love and the lessons in moderation, Madge smiled, her heart warmed. We must take time to remember, even as we sit in the present she thought. The kettle was calling. She sent out the cosmic hugs, reminded her friends that they were the treasures of her life and wished the world a hahalala week of moments that matter. The sun was up and it might just stay. Big love xx

Madge had been paying vague attention to the outside world but in the main, had enjoyed a lovely few days of peace and quiet with her book. It had been a long time since she had really read a book, preferring instead to listen via the Audible app. That itself was a strange thing she thought. Apps. Applications. Always being asked to download apps for better service and more benefits and all that promotional stuff. It was irritating and helpful at the same time and like everyone else, she had a phone screen full of apps.

Yet there was nothing like a real paper book to take a person into another world. Years ago, when she was first ill, she had lost her short term memory for some months. Along with all the other inconveniences, it had meant she couldn’t really read anymore because by the time she had finished a sentence, she had forgotten what she had read. She’d been able to compensate by buying books on cassette and later, CD but now it was two decades later and all the tech had changed. There was no longer any need to go to a bookshop or a library at the weekend. Instead, one could download an app, pay a monthly subscription and get new books to listen to in just a few seconds. It was convenient but Madge couldn’t help but feel that something had been lost with the instant accessibility. She was glad of her book and glad that her memory had recovered sufficiently to be able to read again.

It was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, a text she hadn’t read since university days and which she had no recollection of. Loaned a beautiful copy by her beloved’s daughter, herself an avid reader, Madge had been entirely engrossed for days. Listening and reading at the same time had proved an interesting re introduction to the full act of reading a novel and she had found herself frequently exclaiming aloud at the disgraceful behaviour of the characters. It had been wonderful to be so immersed and given that the day before, there had been cavalry horses running through the city, one covered in blood, it had all seemed rather alarming out there in the modern world. Madge was glad to be in her book and away from the news feed and the doom scrolling.

She’d been thinking about the impact of the constant news feed on the mental well being of the nation. It was strange to speak of ‘the nation’ as if it were a collective whole, given how divided the country was and yet, she did feel that ‘the nation’ was experiencing a collective phenomena. The phenomena of living in a land that had once felt like a reasonable, even decent place to live and which was now feeling broken and distressed.

She was seeing it amongst her own tribe. People who had managed to keep going throughout the pandemic, holding themselves and others together, delivering services, taking care of kids, finding ways through the new ways and now, the strain was breaking through. She had many friends who felt they were having mental health crisies and breakdowns. She knew children who had become depressed, even suicidal and she wanted to ask the powers that be whether they really thought it was ok. Is it ok to keep pretending that everything is ok when everyone can see it clearly isn’t?

She wasn’t sure quite what she thought any of them could do but there was a sense that ‘something needed to be done’ whenever she read the papers or headlines or political commentary. All the voices, clamouring to say they had the answers whilst a nation had become impoverished and more money was being spent on defence than school dinners. It was all very odd and yet, perhaps because she had switched off and been in another world, she felt a quiet optimism. Something had to change. Something would change. The key was to be part of a change that brought kindness not cruelty into people’s lives.

Kindness was key and as she looked up and out across the garden with its majestic clematis reaching for the early sun, she wished quite simply that more people would get the chance to receive kindness in their lives. She didn’t think people had lost their minds but rather, that the world had become insane and trying to make sense of it was the thing that was putting a strain on people. That and all the other stresses of course but she thought what she was probably saying this morning was that despite feeling overwhelmed at the scale of the issues, there was some resource to be found in a good book and a few days away from the news. Time with friends was where it was at and this morning, she was due to meet with two of the men in her life to discuss how they could bring more hahalala to the world. A constant process and we do it for love she thought. It was already broth o clock and now that her girlfriend was on it to, it had an extra edge of delight. Cosmic hugs and big love. It was important to remain hopeful. xx

Easter was over and the woman had enjoyed a simple couple of days with her beloved, hanging out, pottering about, dropping in to see old friends and eating lemon cake made by one of the young ones. Gluten free. There was no chocolate involved because the woman had long ago developed such an intolerance for the beautiful cocoa bean that she was now unable to eat it in any form. Not even mini eggs with a crispy coating,

To have no chocolate in one’s life had been a source of much sorrow and sympathy. People were genuinely sorry for her when they heard that she could no longer eat it, such was the physical impact of eating a combination of sugar and caffeine. It wasn’t an allergic reaction per se but rather, an emotional one. She became incredibly depressed and this was something that had taken some years to work out. She would eat something deliciously chocholately and the next day would feel both exhausted and absolutely miserable. Not just a bit fed up but full on desolation and misery. It seemed to make her argumentative. She was like someone who couldn’t handle their drink. Could start a fight after a Galaxy bar. Before she had realised what was going on, her mood would be made worse by eating more chocolate to cheer herself up. It had become a bizarre cycle of aggravation and so, reluctantly, she had given it up. It just wasn’t worth it and after rowing with her late wife after a night on maltesers and a bar of whole nut, the whole thing was stopped. No more chocolate. That had been over a decade ago and she had to admit, she didn’t miss the desolation. She did however, always miss the sweet stuff itself.

It had got her wondering about food and mood and the impact of what we eat on how we feel and it had been this that had been the true liberation for the woman. She had struggled with moodiness all of her life. She could be be perfectly upbeat and optimistic and then, for seemingly no reason, she could be plunged into a low mood that could last for days and couldn’t seem to be shifted. She was a child who saught comfort in sweets and so it was a complex way to work out what was what. In a complex world, chocolate often seemed an answer so she’d spent a great deal of her youth eating vast amounts of it.

She’d eaten every kind of chocolate as a child. Whole Nut, Fruit n Nut, Bounty, Minstrels, anything with caramel, walnut whips though that was more of a grown up one. Easter had been the big haul and because they were raised as Catholics, there was much to be celebrated at Easter. For her grandmother, Easter was even more important than Christmas because Jesus was resurrected. She didn’t know what that meant as a child but was always delighted by how many eggs they got. Creme eggs were the real treasure because they only came out around Easter. It seemed a shame that every thing was available all of the time now. Like hot cross buns. They used to be for Easter only too.

She had to be careful. It was too easy to go wondering down the paths of the past, especially when the current was looking quite tricky. She hadn’t listened to the radio for days and had found the respite helpful. This morning, she was having an MRI. A brain scan to check where things were at and she got to thinking about the first time she’d had to lay in the cluastorobic machine that made grinding sounds as it took pictures of the brain.

She’d been terrified 20 years ago. Just been told she had a disease, told to lay still while the pictures were taken, told she’d never be cured. Two decades later, she was entirely different. No fear of the machine, no chocolate in her system, no cure and no doubt that the only way to live a full and meaningful life was through the heart. She had indeed become a hippy who had bone broth for breakfast and she was alright with that. She sent out the cosmic hugs, reminding friends again that there was no obligation to read, reply or respond but she did ask that they grow a bit of hahalala for themselves if they weren’t already. She flicked the switch. The broth was getting earlier by the day. Hahalala xx

The Struggle is Real

The day before had started with a news item that took up the whole day and the woman had immersed herself in it. She hadn't listened unconsciously to the news in the background or scrolled without thought on her phone but rather, she had listened intently all day to the news presenters trying to get their heads around the latest insanity of government. She had listened to callers on the phone-ins during the day, and in the evening, the serious newscasters had continued the theme. The theme was racist mysogyny and whether it was ok to call for a member of parliament to be shot. It was staggering that it even had to be discussed.

The woman had listened all day because it felt important to be aware of where the country was at in its views. She wasn't sure why it felt important but it did. Perhaps because as a woman of colour, whatever that actually meant, she was feeling increasingly vulnerable in the land of her birth. Perhaps because, as much as she hated a lot of what was going on, it was still her homeland and so she had no choice but to be part of it. That was part of the struggle though she thought. We all think we are part of this land but the people in charge don't seem to want us here.

Who did she mean by 'us' she wondered? Certainly, listening to the radio, lots of people felt that 'us' was everyone except the people in charge. Perhaps the 'us' was whoever wasn't different. That raised the question of who is different and that led to her wondering how the differences are defined and who defines them. All of it was divisive and this of course was the struggle.

She felt that most people could tell that division was a problem and that those in charge of a nation, if they themselves are in trouble, will seek to exploit and expand those differences. That's what was happening and had been happening for a while now but surely, we have reached our limit of acceptability? She sighed. That old familiar sigh of hope meeting reality and still reaching for air. Deep breath. Was that better than sighing? she thought it probably was because there was more of a sense of hope and determination in a deep breath rather than a sigh. Who knew?

She knew that she had felt the exhaustion in the voices of the black women who had called the shows to say how tired they were of the abuse. The struggle. The pain. She had felt roused and enraged and reassured and terrified and all the way round again and when she had finally switched it all off for the day and sat in front of the fire, it had been a relief. It was important to be tuned in and it was important to switch off.

Now it was a new day and after a reasonable night's sleep following a full day of news and broth bravery, she was ready to see what the new day might bring. She had some packing to do for the monthly trip to Devon where she would spend time with herself and the new friends she might make whilst her beloved would spend three days working with a group people seeking to integrate their understanding of bodies. She was a trained anatomist amongst her many skills and this made it fascinating for the woman who herself had not studied as hard as she might but who was deeply interested in the ways of the human being and body.

Amongst the packing, she hoped to see the woman who had become a daughter to her over the years and to see the young man who was so essential to the smooth running of her life. There were bits of real life that needed to be attended to and bits of dream life that needed time and space to mellow and grow.

It was the usual way she supposed. See it, acknowledge it, move it on. The struggle was real but she had a strong mind and a big heart and this was all she needed to stay steady. She sent out the cosmic hug to friends and thought she ought also to reassure them about what she was sending every morning. If they were getting her posts and hadn't had time to read, reply or respond, that really was ok. Nothing needed beyond a commitment to grow hahalala, however that looks.

She was pleased. She had a great group of people in her life and she valued each of them for who they were. There were the titles, firefighter, student, checkout staff, headteacher, cobbler, cleaner, politician, psychotherapist, caterer and so on and then there were the whole people. People from across the globe, with backgrounds she would never know and whose hearts were full and who she loved. Yep, writing it out was definitely a healthier way than keeping it all in and once again, for the umpteenth time in her life, she was grateful that she could read and she could write. Not everyone could and so she didn't want to take that, or anything for granted. Hahalala. A mood, a mindset, a moment. A way of life for everyone. Big hugs.

Disagreeing agreeably

It was the challenge of our times she thought. How to disagree with someone else's opinions and views whilst remaining agreeable. The world felt so charged, so full of views and perspectives that it felt intimidating sometimes to share one's thoughts. The pushback was real and the consequences significant, wherever one stood, whatever view one had. It was interesting to her that she had been writing for some time about a range of stuff that occurred to her first thing in the morning and had only just met some resistance. The difference was in the definitions.

Today was International women's Day. In writing about women and men becoming women, the woman was aware that she had raised her head above a parapet. She'd made a declaration of sorts and the response from friends had been surprising. She'd had a number of messages that had agreed with her view that things were complex. Some had thanked her for saying things that they didn't feel able to say for fear of repercussions in the work place. Others had simply found it interesting.

The response that had surprised and to be truthful, upset her a little, had come from a friend whose opinion she had always valued highly. The friend held an entirely opposite view and had declared that she didn't want to read such stuff anymore. She was happy to meet face to face to talk about why she thought and felt as she did but she didn't want to read about it because it wasn't good for her energetically. All of this was entirely reasonable and yet the woman still felt disturbed. Had she got something 'wrong'?

The wrongness and rightness that people felt was, in her view, part of the problem. We are so wedded to our beliefs that we seem to struggle with being wrong. In a world that had been turned upside down and inside out, it was bound to be the case that views would be different. The trouble was the intensity behind the views. The stakes were high in a world of inequality amongst the identities.

She got to thinking about identities and whether they really were helpful after all. She could think of a number of ways to identify herself and all of them felt real and valid. To that end, was it not the same for everyone, in which case, what was wrong with people deciding for themselves who and what they were? Hmmmm. This is where its all become so tricky I suppose she thought.

Perhaps the problem really came down to trust. If we could trust our institutions, our societal frameworks, perhaps we would feel more open to those we see as 'different'? It certainly felt that it was the trust that was missing in a world that was sickening for love and understanding.

The woman could see how so many young people were questioning themselves. She had done it herself as a teenager searching for answers. She wondered if her life would have been different if she were born now. She had always wanted to be a boy when she was young and perhaps that was still the same for girls. She just didn't know and it was this that troubled her but also reassured her. The not knowing was more important than the knowing. Did that make her right or wrong?

It felt important not to be wedded to the idea of one's own rightness. There was enough evidence to say that she was wrong about some things and enough to make her feel she was right. Presumably this was how most people felt about most things. We tend to think we're right and others are wrong she supposed. This didn't feel good enough though. Surely, if we really are going to build a harmonious world, we have to begin with ourselves. We have to interrogate ourselves before we question others surely. The context for conflict is everything. She hated conflict.

She thought abut what she had written and how she had written it. She could see that there was perhaps a flippant tone that didn't acknowledge the complexity of the journey for some and this was something to be considered.

It felt good to reflect and she hoped her friend would feel that she was being listened to. She didn't want conversations about controversial subjects to be shut down and so she had a little word with her sensitive self that struggled with any perceived criticism. 'You're a grown up, your views are valid and your friend still loves you. “ It felt a bit odd to give herself such a talk but it was also important.

She was a woman celebrating womanhood on international women's day. Sending love out into the cosmos to the women of the world, she could feel herself expanding. Friends you could trust truly were worth their weight in gold. She was grateful for all of them.

Man, I feel like a Woman

It was the day before International Women's Day and the Shania Twain song was bouncing around in her head, despite her having only been awake for 20 minutes. It was a funny, twangy kind of tune and she couldn't really remember the lyrics beyond the opening, doop doop guitar riff and the chorus of, “Man, I feel like a woman.” There was a country twang to it if she recalled correctly and she thought perhaps Shania Twain had long har and a hat. Oh shit, she thought. I hope I haven't been going around looking like Shania. It was unlikely of course for many reasons but because her hair had grown ridiculously long during the lockdown and because she had worn a fedora hat for many years, she had a sudden worry. Had she looked like she was trying to be a country pop star?

The thought disturbed her. As did the song in its own way because when it was first released, many years ago though she couldn't recall exactly how many, what it was to be a woman was fairly straightforward. You had simply been born a girl and then grown into an adult version of girl known as woman. Apparently however, it wasn't that simple and the modern definitions of woman were up for discussion and derision. The woman sitting at her keyboard couldn't get the song out of her head. A bit like a Kylie song years ago that had got stuck. “I just can't get you out of my head. La La La.” Enough already she thought. This was her head some days.

It was unlikely that Shania would have been allowed to release such a song now she thought. There would be a backlash and the threat of cancellation if the definition wasn't broad enough and wide enough and indeed kind enough, to include men who wanted to be women. Men who defined as women. It was called self identification and although she hadn't said it publicly yet, she really did think it was a dangerous Trojan horse for men's right's groups.

A bit heavy duty first thing but she needed to be clear in herself about what her issue was with the changing landscape of what it was to be a woman. She had watched the debates unfold over the course of two decades. One of her friends, a journalist, had been embroiled in rows about self identification since the start and had faced an unbelievable amount of hostility because she believed in the biological reality of being a woman and had argued that men simply couldn't change sex. The woman agreed with this. Yet surely there must be something more.

The difficulty came in the nuance. Or rather, the lack of nuance. Simply defining and therefore ignoring the structurally inequalities seemed to mean that lots of men who now identified as women were in top positions that women didn't ordinarily reach. Woman of the year in various magazines had been given to women who were once men. Women who wanted women only spaces were accused of being bigots and it had become so extreme that rape crisis centres were closed down because victims of rape did not want to live with men who were in transition. It was all so very surreal and though she wished no one any harm, she was more concerned with the material reality of women's day to day lives across the globe than she was about the right to identify as women by men who were struggling with their own masculinity. Was that unkind? She didn't think so.

It bothered the woman that she was in any way excluding anyone from living their best life. She was a kind woman and of course, if the world was a cute and cuddly place where everyone could safely be a fur baby and wear what they wanted, parading and prancing and displaying their pronouns, that would be great. However, the world was not that place and women and girls seemed increasingly unsafe.

She wondered what her friends thought of it all. She knew some were at the forefront of fighting for the rights of trans people to identify and access areas as they saw fit. Others were vehemently opposed and had been barred from spaces and places for having what were defined as 'gender critical ' views. Others didn't have a clue about any of it and were surprised that it was even a 'thing.'

The women herself still wasn't sure about where she stood on the whole issue. Almost 30 years previously, she'd just graduated and had a teaching placement in a Hackney secondary school. Young, fit and full of enthusiasm, she had introduced the first International Women's Day event. A day of celebration of what it was to be a woman. Looking back, she couldn't quite recall what that had entailed but she knew she had been able to talk to children about her pride at being a woman and to call attention to the continued imbalances between the social and economic lives of women. She doubted that it would be that straightforward now. It would be a quagmire of definitions and divisiveness and it saddened her deeply that girls nowadays didn't seem to have the space to be proud to be on the way to woman hood. She had her suspicions about why and put social media, prolific pornography and a lack of political commitment down as the three top reasons for their distress.

She sighed. That really is a lot first thing she thought. She decided that she would play the Shania song in full whilst she started the day properly. Perhaps it would throw some light on what it was to be a woman. At the very least, music would get the legs moving and she could spend the day feeling the pride and privilege of being a woman who loved women. It was a good life and she planned to embrace it fully.


It was turning out to be what could only be described as a normal weekend. Old normal, before the pandemic had turned the world upside down, not new normal where everyone had become used to people in masks and not being too close to strangers and having to book everything weeks in advance and show evidence of testing. No, it was like old normal in a new world.

The woman had spent Saturday with her girlfriend doing ordinary things like having brunch with friends and then going to see a play. It was part new normal because the play was being live streamed from the National Theatre to a cinema in Finchley. Closer and more convenient than trying to get to the West End, it had been a delightful afternoon watching a one man rendition of Chekov's play, Vanya.

She smiled to herself. She hadn't known anything about Chekov or his work and yet, almost 24 hours later, the themes of the play written more than 100 years ago were still reverberating. Relationships, recognition and the sheer ridiculousness of the human condition. One man had managed to keep the audience mesmerised for two straight hours and as she always did when she saw live theatre, she was amazed at how anyone could do such a thing. Truly it was magical to watch one person perform so many parts and the woman had left with her girlfriend feeling revitalised and ready for more art.

She hadn't really been someone to go to galleries and exhibitions in her previous life. There had been an annual exhibition at a local gallery that she and her late wife would go to but in this new life, with new people who were no longer new but had become essential parts of her world, she would go often to see things she didn't know existed. This was one of the many reasons that she was so grateful for the woman who had come into her life at her lowest point and raised the game again.

They had met through yoga and the connection had been immediate. Looking back to those early months of meeting, still navigating her grief and yet needing to live fully again, the new woman had been an immediate blessing and within a year of meeting, they had become lovers.

Lovers. Such a powerful, gentle word. She'd always liked it as a way of describing the person she loved. Yes, one could say girlfriend, partner, wife and all had a powerful validity. But lover appealed to her romantic nature and so, in the main, lover was the word of choice. Yet, there was more to the connection than she could have ever anticipated and it was this that she was so very grateful for.

When one has made a commitment to another for life and that life is cruelly cut short through cancer, it might be expected that widowhood would remain the state for the rest of one's own life. Certainly, her late wife had expressed a preference that she remained single for eternity once she was gone and they had laughed sadly when the woman had said she was too young and too gorgeous and it would be a waste. In true tradition, her wife had said, 'fuck off swami, I'll haunt ya.” They had laughed as they so often had. It helped with the pain. It didn't help that she died and the woman's grief had been total. And widely shared. Another reason to be grateful.

It was almost a decade now since they had found out what the problem was and how little time was left and somehow, so many details were still etched in her memory. She was grateful for that because it had been too magnificent a life, even with all the pain and loss, to ever want to forget it. Even the dark bits felt important to recall because it was a way of honouring what her wife had gone through.

What she also didn't want to forget was the importance of living in the moment and this is what her new love had brought to her. Along with her patience and kindness and incredibly smart mind, the woman had brought a wider perspective. A shared belief in the magnificence of people when they feel held and safe and able to fully express who they are. She knew she hadn't been an easy find for someone.

Sprawled across a beach of her own emotions, furious at the loss she'd had and at times incoherent with the complexity of it all, she was hardly what one might call a good catch. Yet someone, this new woman, had seen through the hardened jawline that clenched to keep the tears in. She'd seen past the swagger that was intended to hide the stagger. And she had opened up a world of theatre and classical concerts and trips to Devon and exhibitions of movement and, an additional bonus, a world of anatomy. It was quite brilliant and she had fallen very much in love with this woman who was so unlike anyone she had met before.

It wasn't straightforward of course and she knew that some of her friends had struggled with the new order. It was hard for them to see their friend with someone else and the shift had sometimes been tricky. Then had come the pandemic and the whole world had shifted and now, nearly four years later, the new layout was becoming clearer again.

She was grateful because she had managed to ride the waves, keep hold of her friends and have another beautiful relationship. It was all about an attitude of gratitude she thought. Thank god I've managed to grow one. It was going to be a great day. It might even include more of the dreadful bone broth because actually, she could feel it working and that, was just fabulous. What a wonderful life.

Miraculous March

Waking up to the rain on a Saturday morning was somehow a comforting thing. Of course, a sunny start with the promise of some warmth would have been preferable but she had to admit that at 6.30 on a Saturday morning when many were perhaps having a lie in, the quiet sound of the rain was a reassurance. At least nature seemed to know what was going on.

It was grey and the rain looked likely to be an all day affair. The garden would no doubt benefit but she couldn't see herself getting out there any time soon. That was the thing with gardens she thought. You really do have to just go with it sometimes because with the best will in the world, there was no way to really control nature. She wasn't a hardy gardener like one of her aunts who would be out there no matter the weather if the plants required it. Dead heading, re-potting, taking cuttings, sewing seeds, there was always something. These days, the seasons didn't seem so clear and she wondered if that really was what global warming looked like. Daffodils out in January and blossom already appearing on the trees. Was nature confused by human activity or did she know something we didn't? She couldn't tell.

In her younger years, she too would have been outside at any opportunity and this had been a constant battle for her parents. They were people who came from warmer climes and hadn't understood a need to be outside when it was cold. As a child, the woman had always wanted to be outside, wanting to sit in the apple tree in the garden and look out over the rooftops. She smiled, recalling even now the sense of triumph she'd felt when she had climbed into the tree by herself. She had been so delighted and when she had eventually managed to get a piece of wood and lay it between two branches to make a seat, her happiness was complete. She felt like Huckleberry Finn, the boy who had endless adventures in the book she had been given for Christmas.

She wondered if children now would be so pleased with a plank of wood and an apple tree. It was about boredom in part she thought and this had been a topic in the news for the week. The inability of young people to be ok with being bored. She was often bored as a child. Growing up in the 70s was really boring and that's what made it so much more interesting than now she thought. We had no choice but to go out and find something to do and this reminded her of the TV programme Why Don't You. Surely everyone of her age would remember that? The song itself was a political commentary really..“why don't you just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead. Sitting at home, watching tv, turn it off its no good for me. Whhyyyy don't you? Whhyyy don't you? Go go go.”

Was that it? Did she really remember a show from 40 years ago? She'd loved the programme. As she had loved Bagpuss and Mr Benn and all the cartoons and even Little House on the Prairie. She was really into TV as a child as most of them were she realised but the thing that had saved her generation was that it wasn't available 24 hours a day.

She tried to imagine what it would have been like to always have a screen available and to have access to the whole world. It must be horrible she thought. It would never have occurred to her child self that when she was an adult, she would be able to watch tv all day every day from her hand if she chose to. Would she had chosen to? She hoped not but she suspected that given half a chance, she would be like today's children and consume whenever she could.

There had been reports in the news all week about the inability of children to be bored and to be able to stand their own company without needing external input. The death of boredom was being cited as the reason for so many of the troubles that children were facing but this felt a little too simple to the woman who had a life time's experience of feeling she was bored and then finding something that interested her.

She thought the problems were more likely to do with having over stretched parents, ultra processed foods and a lack of time in fresh air amongst plants doing things communally. She was sure that most of the young ones who were already feeling burnt out through lack of boredom would benefit from some of the old ways. Limited tv because there were four channels not four hundred. Time with adults who weren't stressed to their eyeballs would be helpful. Perhaps proper food too but maybe now she was being a dreamer. And a hypocrite. She had lived on sweets as a child and hadn't eaten a green vegetable till she was 25. She'd like to say that it hadn't done her any harm because this seemed to be what people said about the harsh parts of the past but actually, it had done her harm and she had spent a long time rectifying that harm. Part of that recovery included the bone broth that had arrived the previous day.

Bone broth. The age old miracle of nature that promised to repair and restore and leave a person full of vitality and shiny hair. Well, hopefully not full of hair but certainly a facial glow would be nice and hair that was a little less straw like would be a post menopause bonus. It was going to be a mission because despite the lovely packaging and the booklet full of information and recipes, it smelt dreadful. Truly dreadful. It was suggested that one had a cup of the broth within 30 minutes of waking. This was to do with proteins and muscles and some such reasoning but there was no possible way, surely, that anyone could drink such a thing first thing?

The rain was still falling but the sun was up now and the woman knew that the broth programme was going to take some planning. Her lovely girlfriend had already turned down the offer to join her in the miraculous reboot that the bone broth promised. it was disappointing but understandable and so she had resigned herself to embarking alone on a journey of drinking the most dreadful smelling drink she ever tried. She flicked the switch on the kettle to make a second cup of tea. Perhaps she could have the broth for elevenses instead. Having it all would be a miracle.

Leaping into Miracles

The extra day had been a delicious day of quiet and rest. It was mixed with an element of sadness. It had felt right to sit still with it all and she was grateful to have the space to do so. The woman had woken to the first day of March feeling refreshed. She had spent the day in a state of conscious restoration, taking her lead from a woman she had met 8 years previously at the hairdressers in Hoxton.

Her hairdresser had become her friend over the decades and when her wife had died, this particular woman had looked after her with such gentleness and generosity. Each week, on a Wednesday, she would go and have her hair washed and dried and she would have a pedicure or a manicure and be able to talk about her wife who the hairdresser, like so many, had loved and respected. She hadn't charged a penny and had ended each session with a hug. It was love and friendship in action and the woman would always love her friend for it.

It had been ironic really that she even had enough hair to warrant such attention. When they had first met, the woman had a buzz cut, needing it trimmed by razor at least every fortnight. Now, she had long flowing locks that she largely kept under a hat. Streaked with grey and glossy with the ministrations of an expert, it had been a clowning glory for a while. Now that menopause had hit, it was not some much crowning glory as a dry haystack that would be made wilder every night. She often thought fondly about her old haircut and wondered if she night have it again. She thought perhaps not. What was cute at 25 many bot be so at 55? Who knew.

The weekly Wednesdays at the start of widowhood in a swanky salon had meant she kept some of her sanity when grief had threatened to take it all and along the way, she met interesting women, one of whom became a friend. another woman had decided to use the tradition of women asking for a hand in marriage in leap years and had married herself. She'd even bought herself a ring. She had honoured herself.

Looking back to those times 8 years ago, she could see that they were times of ease compared to now. It was why she had decided to spend the leap year day with herself. She wasn't in need of a ring but she did need to make her commitment to herself clear and so she had withdrawn from the world, managed to sleep for two hours during the daytime and then have a dinner that included rice, potatoes and bread. A super carb top up for a system in need. It had worked wonders and she had managed to get to bed without hearing anything about the outside world. Perfect.

Today though was new day in a new month and she was all set for March to be miraculous. It had started with the deep pinks of the morning sky when she went downstairs to make tea and she was blown away once more at the sheer beauty of nature. There was the silhouette of the blackbird, just as the sun was showing its first rays and she thought about the city starting its day.

Some had already started of course and she thought about her friend who would already be waiting at the bus stop to go to her job where she kept the home running for two other friends who had high flying jobs and no time for daily domestics. It troubled the woman that her friend had to make such a journey, not through choice but because the changes to the rules meant older cars couldn't come in without paying at least an hour's wages or risking a day's work in fines. It was a shame but it was becoming clearer that the changes were going to keep coming and so people would either have to flow with them or resist and hope for revolution.

She hoped for revolution but feared what that really meant. Certainly it felt like the population needed hope and the politicians weren't offering any. What was the alternative? Revolutions in books were messy affairs that ended in bloodshed so that couldn't really be the way forward could it? She sighed. Why do you always have to ask such big questions in the morning.? Why can't you think about breakfast or what to wear? Why are you always thinking about the past and how to change the future?

These seemed like sensible, legitimate questions and of course, she had no answer. Well, she had a mini answer. She didn't want to think about breakfast because she was starting one of her new health regimes. There had been many over the years and she credited this with her general good health in the face of disease. The latest however was a specialist bone broth that one was meant to drink first thing. Committed as she was, this seemed a big ask before the birds had even begun and so, world peace and a hahalala revolution felt far more palatable.

She had hoped the pink sky meant a clear day but the rain had already started and the sky already turned grey. Hmm, not quite the start she'd hoped for but she was at least able to give her friend a lift home today and that would save that particular journey. After that, she'd have the broth and then surely the miracle of March was on its way? She hoped so. She'd read somewhere that hope is the essence of what it is to be human. That seemed pretty deep too. She hoped the broth wasn't too bad and got on with her day.

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.