Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Birthday cups

It is morning and I move around the kitchen with the pale, lukewarm sun sitting hesitantly beyond the window. I take down a tea cup without its saucer and think about where it came from. A birthday gift of little sense because I don’t drink much tea and don’t really have an eye for nice crockery. But the shop where it was bought was walking distance from his office and he’d have been able to pop out at lunch time, quickly, grab a sushi roll and his dry-cleaned shirts and a present, sitting on the sale table in front of the shop.

The cup’s design is twee and too many young people work nearby the shop for it to have been a popular purchase. The cup would have sold better at a department store where the grey-haired, pearled set usually shop because it’s quiet and the music is unobtrusive.

The cups wrapped nicely. Their odd shape inviting beneath the clean, white wrapping paper. Funny, that after all of these years in between and without him, these cups have kept. They have survived. Followed me, unbroken, relentlessly and unforgiving. Reminding me that the choice I made to leave was the right one and to let me know on a strange but daily basis, as I open the cupboards, that there are no regrets.

I’m not so sure about that. About no regrets. But I am reminded of him every time I take one of the cups down from the cupboard above the sink, preparing tea for my mother-in-law. Yes, I think of him. I think how he would have appreciated the cups but how now my husband does not notice them tucked amongst the odds and ends of other cups.

In fact, had my husband noticed them he would have thrown them out. Just the two cups with their saucers. To him, this odd pair is clutter. And this house in which we live is clean and white and a bit stiff but without clutter. In our house there is little sign of two small children. Aside from Callum’s room, proving the point he really is just like me. He has an abandon about things and seems perfectly at ease amongst his own chaos. He enters his newly cleaned room removing odd books and figurines from the shelves, to give the room life or perhaps for inspiration for the next game although he always, always returns to the trains.

Callum likes the cups. He likes sipping tea from the cups. A splash of tea with milk. When she’s here, he likes to sit with my mother in law and I having tea.

Recently, when I sat with him outside a café in winter, I told him I had a son named Callum and he reminded me that it was his grandfather’s name. I had forgotten.

All mothers love Raymond

I’ve written recently about the angst of working from home as a mother. It seems that others too are addressing the issue. While for a long time I’ve eschewed the label WAHM (thinking that soon I’ll be going ‘back to work’), I’ve realised from my reading in the blogosphere that this label now sticks to me.

How funny then to find a beautifully written essay by Raymond Carver in which he addresses this very issue: work and family balance. How to work well while looking after you children effectively. How to commit to your writing,  but also be a present parent. He speaks of similar struggles that we all have.

…the fact that I had two children. And that I would always have them and always find myself in this position of unrelieved responsibility and permanent distraction.

YES!! Could he have said it more eloquently. This is exactly what I find myself thinking time and time again as I search frantically for that 10 minutes (10 minutes for god’s sake) every day to write!

He also writes about his own assumptions about ‘writers’ and the lives he assumes they lead. This idea completely tapped into the excuse I seem to come up with time and time again as to why I’ve never truely committed to writing despite my passion for it.

At that moment I felt – I knew – that the life I was in was vastly different from the lives of the writers I most admired. I understood writers to be people who didn’t spend their Saturdays at the laundromat and every waking hour subject to the needs  and caprices of their children…..At that moment – I swear all of this took place there in the laundromat – I could see nothing ahead but years more of this kind of responsibility and perplexity. Things would change some, but they were never really going to get better. I understood this but how could I live with it? At that moment I saw accommodations would have to be made. The sights would have to be lowered.


He goes on to speak of the myriad and multitude of jobs both day and night that he and his wife were compelled to keep in order to support their family. So yes, on top of having children, Carver accepted mutual responsibility for their care in order that his wife assist in their financial support. And he tried to begin writing, to begin being a writer at the same time because it was compulsive. Because he had to. Because he’d ignited a longing that he couldn’t ignore.

In those days I figured if I could squeeze in an hour or two a day for myself, after job and family, that was more than good enough. That was heaven itself.

Oh yes it is.

And I felt happy to have that hour. But sometimes, one reason or another, I couldn’t get that hour. Then I would look forward to Saturday, though sometimes things happened that knocked Saturday out as well. But there was Sunday to hope for. Sunday maybe.

We’ve all been there.

But what I loved most about his essay – aside from the consistently spare and beautiful writing – is his comment that his children are his work’s influence. Asked time and time again which other writers have influenced his work, he cites his children has giving him more influence, more consistent creative fodder than anyone else because they were his everyday. “I’m talking about real influence now. I’m talking about the moon and tide.”  So, I guess, while having children and looking after them limited his opportunity to write, the fact is he wouldn’t be the writer that he is were it not for them.

Influences. John Gardner and Gordon Lish. They hold irredeemable notes. But my children are it. Theirs is the main influence. They were the prime movers and shapers of my life and my writing. As you can see, I’m still under their influence, though the days are relatively clear now, and the silences are right.

Sunshine and cleaners

So, I’m on the improve. Well, my mood is. You know, things find they’re normal rhythm again pretty easily. Everything feels like it’s slowly shifting downwards and then someone changes the gears and you start reversing back up again. Slowly sure, but up nonetheless.

I still feel sick and I don’t know why. I’d like to work that out.

I’m thinking of getting coaching for my writing. It’s like a drug (not writing that is). I know it’s bad for me and it only feels good (or at least easier) momentarily but then I feel total crap for not doing it. So, I’ve come to the point where I can actually admit I need some help and am voluntarily checking myself into a 12-step coaching programme. I hope I see the light soon!

Oh, and we’re getting the house cleaned by professionals this afternoon. Thank the lord. It  has become crazily overwhelming and made me feel like shit all week – how crap the house looks that is.

Anyway, due to the lighter note round here, I thought I’d share the following. You know, I attribute much of my shift back up to the inspiration I receive in the world around me. It’s up to me to seek it out because when I find it, it lifts me higher and highter. I am deeply grateful for this. 

listening to:

and LOVING it

coveting: this website. I love his work and his words.

reading: sweet read. I’m enjoying it alot.

looking at: this beautiful site. It touches me deeply. Grief (death) is something I actively avoid contemplating and I know that I need to be more open to it. The expansiveness that this guy demonstrates to the impending loss of his father is remarkable and meaningful.

eating:  this bread which just makes me feel warm inside.

watching: finally finished Series 2 of 30Rock (llliiizzz llleeemmmooonnn). Great laugh-out- loud amusement

Is this strange?

I was engaged before meeting C (not when I met C which would be another, far more interesting story). Without boring you with the details of that relationship (whole other story, whole other post(s)), basically we got to a stage in our relationship where I went on a trip to Brazil with my sister and he flew over to surprise me and ask my to marry him. But, might I add, by default. Because I’d gone feeling a little lost. Because he knew this. Because it freaked him out. Because he thought it was what I wanted. Because he thought it was the right thing to do. Because he was convinced he didn’t want to do it. Because he thought it would make people happy, not just me, and him.

Anyway, I had no idea. I get an email saying he’s arriving the next day when we’re in Sao Paulo. And he did. Arrive that is. I picked him up at the airport. He was an excruciatingly lovely surprise to say the least. The taxi ride back into town was fun. Drinks that night were fun. So was dinner. Sex in the hotel room bathroom that we were sharing with my sister that night was fun too. Next morning he had a medium size, rectangle shaped flat box on the table at breakfast. He said there was a story behind it and wanted to tell us about it but he wasn’t sure it was the right time. He ummd. He ahhed. But decided that he’d tell us later. Yes, us. This whole time (except the bathroom in the middle of the night) was shared with my sister. He kept saying he couldn’t wait to tell us the story. He couldn’t wait to share it with us.

Before leaving Sao Paolo that day for a trip into the countryside, he went to an internet cafe to touch base with work. I bought an orange juice and a jumper and came back to the cafe to wait. I walked up behind him as he was typing an email to his secretary. Yes, his secretary.

Francesca’s father has called. I told him you’d flown to Brazil. He’s very worried that something is wrong. I told him not to worry about anything, to call Francesca’s mother That we should all be hearing some very happy news soon.

Yes, secretary. Yes, we. Yes, happy.

Is it strange that everyone knew we were getting married before I did? Is it strange that he was planning on asking me while my sister was there? To me it was bloody weird. Bloody unbelievable but bloody predictable. And that’s why we’re not married. Although, I did say yes.

What the flat-white hell?

Many years ago I worked in a cafe in a busy, business district. We worked hard and churned out coffee after coffee. We were proud of how quickly we made good coffee; of how well we remembered our regulars and their orders; of how many commendations we received; of how hard we partied while at work; with how much money we made; with how much money we quietly stole.

We had many regulars. The cafe was staffed only by young women, attractive, bubbly, helpful. We had as many female regulars as male, but yes, the men seemed most happy when they returned. We were invited to Friday night drinks, to parties, to lunch, on holidays.

One guy was quiet but he came at 11 o’clock everyday. He didn’t say much but always ordered a flat white. We chatted sometimes. For me he was a challenge because he didn’t say much and I was outgoing and irritating so I made him talk. He started coming twice a day. Once at 11 and then at 3. He still didn’t say much but in a strange kind of slow way we began getting to know each other. He was cute but I had a boyfriend and he was no cuter than the many of other guys who traipsed through regularly. And they were more fun to flirt with.

One afternoon as the cafe was closing, I walked outside to pack up the table and chairs. He was sitting on his own at one of the tables. The sun was low in the sky and people were hurrying past to the train station. I was obviously surprised and he was obviously awkward and we really didn’t know what to say to each other. He asked me out for coffee. I laughed, ‘flat white?’ He said (without laughter), ‘No, when you finish work. We could go to the beach.’

I’m not smart in these situations. I never have been. I said yes. I was happy to but I knew it wasn’t sending the right messages and I also knew I simply wasn’t that keen. We went. It was fine but slightly strained. He talked more and I laughed too much. He dropped me home. My boyfriend was in the lounge room with my flat mate. They’d been wondering where I was. I said I needed a shower.

This guy then started coming on real, real strong. He visited the cafe a lot. He wanted more walks, more trips to the beach. I was uncomfortable but pretended not to be and at no stage did I say I had a boyfriend.

Easter was coming up. Easter always means days off and drinking and hangovers and chocolate. He asked me whether I wanted to go away with him and his friends to a place he had on the coast. I said I couldn’t, I was going away with my mum. He was disappointed. Sad and kind of frustrated, like he’d been working up to asking me and all the adrenalin was now making him ansty.

I left work early on the Thursday before Easter. I wasn’t going away with my mum. My boyfriend and I had planned a camping trip to the beach. We wanted to get away early Friday morning so I bunkered off Thursday to pack. And buy a tent. I forgot about a sleeping bag.

My coffee guy came into the cafe after I’d left on the Thursday and spoke to my co-worker, who also happened to be my flat mate, who by this stage had guessed something weird was going on. He asked where I was, she told him, innocently, of my camping trip away with Matt. Coffee guy lost it. Yelled at her. In front of customers. Derided me and cursed my lack of candour.

I was at home. I lived close by in a soul less house positioned too close to the corporate world to be homely. I’d bought my tent. I was listening to Indigo Girls and dying my hair. There was a knock on the front door. He stood there fuming. “How’s your mum?” he said. “I thought you two would have left by now.” “She can’t leave until tomorrow,’ I lied. “We’re catching our flight first thing in the morning.” “Bullshit.” Crap. How the hell? “I spoke to Carla at the cafe. Seems you’re off camping. This is bullshit. Total bullshit. You’re a f**ing liar.” I shut the door. He knocked again. And again. And again. Finally he stopped. Then my phone rang. “If you were happy with this guy, you wouldn’t have been hanging around with me.” “I’m sorry. I really am. I’m sorry if I gave mixed messages. We never spoke about it. I didn’t know what you wanted.” “Crap. You knew exactly how I felt.” He was really mad. Strangely mad.

I went away with Matt. We had an OK time. The relationship was unravelling. I hadn’t said that to coffee guy. Too complicated to try and explain. Anyway, it would have just confused things for him.

Coffee guy didn’t come back to the cafe. He must have been embarrassed. But he kept ringing and he came round the house a couple of times. It was the same conversation each time. We were perfect for each other. I must be unhappy with my dude. What was I doing? Once Matt answered the phone both of us knowing it was going to be him. Coffee guy tried to convince Matt that he and I were perfect for each other and that we both needed to face up to that.

Then the calls stopped at my urgent and pretty upset request.

2 years later I bumped into coffee guy again. We became friends. He invited me to a party. I talked to his friends. One guy told me coffee guy was looking happy for the first time in three months. “Why? What happened?” I asked. “He just broke up with his girlfriend of 7 years. They weren’t working but he’s been pretty upset. He can’t stop talking about you though.”

What the hell? the dude had had a girlfriend. The whole time. When he visited the cafe. When we went to the beach. When we talked on the phone. When he implored me that we were made for each other. When he told my boyfriend the same. He had a girlfriend.

July 2020