Wednesday 24 April 2013

Turning Points

This is a school photo from summer 1976 (old secondary school 1st year = new year 7, except in my day it was UIII alpha). I was twelve, I guess. Which one am I?* I'll tell you at the end ...

Why am I posting this? Because over recent months, the past seems to be hitting me from all sides. On facebook recently, there's been a group set up for my old school and it's been fascinating poring over old pictures that I've never seen before. Who knew that there were air-raid shelters under the garden? Apparently everybody else did but I don't remember it at all. There are even photos from the 1950s and 1960s. Is it strange that my memory focusses in more on the strange man caught in the girls' cloakroom one summer's afternoon?

School-days weren't the best days of my life. I was quite bright as a kid and won a scholarship to a private school. In retrospect, it wasn't the best move I ever made - I suspect I'd have been far happier at the grammar school with my primary school friends, but there you go. What's odd though is that while I've made contact with quite a few people I knew from school, virtually none of my actual peer group has made an appearance - the girls I was closest to, who I partied with and socialised with out of school. I'd love to know where they are now and what they are doing.

And there are other people I've caught up with lately. People from university days; friends and boyfriends - people who haven't changed in my mind since the last day I saw or spoke to them and are now older (and probably greyer like me), with families and lives. It's fascinating to catch up with them again, and scary as I realise how much we all change and grow older.

At what point in life do you start looking backwards more often than you look forwards? Is that turning point the moment when you become "old"? I'll be fifty next year and that seems like a milestone of sorts. I don't feel old and people tell me I don't look my age. But there comes a point in your life when you realise that there are things you'll never do - from a world of possibilities as a teenager, I now know I'm never going to be an astronaut, become prime minister or marry into royalty. I'll never be a dancer on Top of The Pops or be a famous scientist/engineer/whatever. Not that I necessarily wanted any of those things, but they were possibilities that no longer exist for me.

That all sounds sad and yet it isn't at all. The world narrows as you grow up and yet it's also richer - where would I be without my wonderful husband and utterly gorgeously talented sixteen year-old daughter? It's something I tell her constantly - that you can be whoever you want to be and achieve anything,so long as you are prepared to work hard for it. There are still things to dream of, things to aim for - in my life and hers.

* I'm the one in the yellow dress. Even then, I liked to be different...

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Calling The Tune

“I don’t believe this.” Michael looked as if he was about to stamp his foot. “Are you screwing him?”
Amanda's hand shook for a fraction of a second and she put the mug of tea down.  “I really don’t think that’s any of your business, Michael.” She was clearly several years older than Michael, and Becky wondered what the dynamic was here. She didn’t look his type at all and yet she was nervous and in some way needed his understanding, if not actual approval.
It didn’t look like she was going to get either. “Do you still not understand?” He was practically yelling at her now. “He’s part of the problem.”
Becky stepped between them. “Hey, Michael - calm down.” She wondered where the man had gone. Who is this guy?
But Michael’s attention was focussed entirely on the woman in front of him. “He worked with Mal Pearson. You know – the psycho nut-job who tried to rape you?”
“That’s not fair.” Amanda took a step backwards.
“Well how about the fact that he worked with Eddie? He still works for Carl. Did none of it matter to you? What I did for you, to try to keep you out of this?”
Becky grabbed both his wrists. She didn’t think he was violent but she’d seen this before, this simmering rage. Danny was like this sometimes when the world didn’t live up to his expectations. “Michael. Stop it. Now.” She held his arms tightly, pulling them down to his sides. “Look at me. Focus.”
Amanda had tears in her eyes. “Of course it mattered,” she said softly, “but—”
“No,” Becky interrupted. “I have no idea what you’re both talking about, but you’re not going to get any sense out of him right now. Leave it.” She steered him across to the window. “Focus, Michael. What can you see outside?”
“What?” He shook his head, trying to pull away but she wouldn’t let him.
“What can you see outside? Describe it.”
“Anywhere. Just talk.” Behind her she heard Amanda slip out of the room.
“What colours are the doors?” Come on, Michael. Work with me here.
“Who cares what—”
Tell me.” She was still holding his wrists tightly.
“And what?”
“They’re not all green, are they?”
“Blue, I guess. And a brown one at the end.” His voice lost some of the anger. “OK, I’m good. You can let go of me now.”
“You’re sure?”
“Yes. I promise to behave.” There was a tiny note of humour in there.
Becky let his wrists go and he turned around, sitting down on the window ledge. He pulled the elastic from his hair and combed it with his fingers absently, like it was some kind of security blanket. Way past fucked-up.