A technicolour life in a dark November day

Darkest before dawn

It was quite a day today. A visit to the doctor, workplace stress, family strains, worries about the health of a loved one… This was combined with enough rain to make Noah take notice and enough cloud that it never got fully light. And I’m in the grip of one of my periods of insomnia.

The insomnia may explain the quirkiness of my thought processes – but for some reason it occured to me as I trudged on through this gloomy day that it could be summed up in a series of photos – black and white photos at that.

The photo thing is most likely to have been sparked as a result of the talk I attended on Saturday afternoon. The talk was by artist, *Nicky Bird and was arranged by  local arts organisation, Atlas Arts. Nicky is a photographic artist and she works with ‘found’ photographs. The black and white photos might have been taken  long ago and are no longer in the possession of their original owners – so the people in them are no longer identifiable. Or, the photos, although taken some time ago, are still in the ownership of the photographer, the subjects or their descendants. Either way these photos have their own very personal stories to tell – and, along with the landscape in which they’re set, are self-contained historical records. In their own way these photos are every bit as important as official portraits of ‘important’ people and events.

So what small personal history would the still, black and white shots of my day today tell?

Picture 1: Small figure – a woman –  swathed in waterproof trousers, jacket and under large umbrella walking in the rain under a dark sky.

Picture 2: Same woman in doctor’s surgery, sleeve rolled up, doctor taking blood sample. Both doctor and patient look serious.

Picture 3:  The woman – no longer in waterproofs – but in smart white blouse and navy trousers stands at a whiteboard in front of a class of primary school children.

Picture 4:  The woman now sits at a table in a classroom – no children are present. Several other adults also seated round the table. The expressions on the faces of the people tell a story of worry, pressure and stress.

Picture 5: The woman is with a man. They are sitting in a living-room. They are discussing a letter from a hospital. Their expressions are serious.

But this would not be the whole story. Because, later in the day, I was re-reading some inspirational quotes from Rumi, the thirteenth century Persian poet and I was reminded me of the importance of our attitude to events. We can’t control what happens in a day but we do at least have a measure of control over our reactions. The quote that jumped out at me was:

‘Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.’

So let’s revisit the day – but this time we’ll pick out different scenes and they’ll be in full colour.

Picture 1: The woman is seated at a table in a classroom. Five eleven-year-old children are also seated around the table. The children seem to be listening to the woman talking. She looks relaxed. She is pointing to something in a book and is smiling.

Picture 2: The woman is a corridor in a school. She is talking to another woman – a parent of a pupil. The parent is smiling at the woman and is shaking her hand.

Picture 3: Now the woman is in the living room of a house. She is sitting on the floor and playing with a baby girl who looks about a year old. A young woman sitting on the sofa looks on. The woman’s smile is that of a besotted grandparent.

Picture 4: The woman sits on a sofa beside a man. The couple are looking at an email confirmation for a hotel booking for a trip they are planning to the city at the weekend. They both look happy.

Picture 5: The woman is sitting at a desk. She is typing on a laptop. She is obviously enjoying the act of writing.

I have so much to be grateful for. Awaiting important blood test results, the worry of the other half’s imminent heart surgery, a job with a lot of stress and responsibility, a dreich November day – all formed part of the day. But, so did a bit of a breakthrough in the learning of a group of my pupils, a conversation with the grateful parent of one of my other pupils, playing with my lovely wee granddaughter and planning a shopping trip to Inverness at the weekend combined with going to see ‘Skyfall’ and a stay in our favourite hotel in the Highland capital. And then of course, there was an evening of writing.

Life is good and it sure beats the alternative…

Be happy.

* Nicky’s website  is http://www.nickybird.com

Granny Rides Pillion

Zen and the art of geriatric motor cycling…

At the beginning of this year I decided my watchword for 2012 would be NOW. This is to be the year of no procrastinating. As I advance through my fifties, my sense of urgency about life becomes more acute. I acknowledge that I’ll never be finished with life, never be able to say ‘that’s it, I’ve done it all now’ – at least I hope that’s the case. But equally there’s lots I definitely do want to accomplish before I enter the Twilight Home for Bewildered Teachers to await my departure for the staff room in the sky.

Hence I have a packed writing schedule. There’s so much I want to write – so many ideas and notes waiting development – not to mention the two novels in progress. I have a garden project and places to visit, walk and climb. And there’s the 2012 ‘to be read pile’.

But as well as the above I wanted a real challenge, something daunting to accomplish NOW. I recently read a quote from the Sufi poet, Rumi – it was his take on ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and it was ‘Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.’

So on Sunday, after many years of waving Mr Write Enough off on his motorcycling trips, I decided to join him. I decided to ignore my terror of riding on motor bikes and to forget safety. In borrowed biker gear, I climbed aboard the big BMW beast – getting on was no mean feat for a little old lady like what I am but I did it easily – placed my arms around the husband in a vice-like grip, and off we went.

And, reader – I LOVED it. What a fabulous feeling! I loved when we overtook camper vans and caravans with ease – something that, as a car driver, it is often impossible to do as our island roads clog up with slow-moving, dozy tourists. I loved the different perspective you get from the elevated and open position on a bike. I loved being able to smell the gorse and the sea as we sped along. I loved leaning into the bends and the way bikers always acknowledge one another with a wave in passing. We did a 140 mile round trip to Lochcarron on the mainland, where we stopped for a bit of lunch and a walk. Yes, I also managed to dismount unaided. Still some flexibility in the old bat yet! (I’d been dreading having to call the fire brigade to bring a hoist to get me down as the passenger on a bike has to dismount before the driver).

What a high! I wish I’d done it years ago. I can’t wait to go again. We’re already planning a biking weekend to the outer isles in the summer and I’m trawling the online biker clothing sites to order up my own gear.

There was also a bit of an ironical twist to the day – and to ideas of safety. While I was risking life and limb indulging in a relatively dangerous activity, and surviving unscathed, my son’s poor girlfriend tripped over the corner of the duvet and smashed her arm on the bed frame – she’ll be in plaster for six weeks. There’s some sort of moral in there I think.

PS I hope you like the blog’s new look .