January 28, 2015 § 3 Comments
I am a terrible dancer. I’ve got rhythm, sure, but I’m unco-ordinated, the very opposite of supple, I’m not terribly graceful, and I can’t ever remember the steps. And yet for a large part of my life, I’ve danced.
My illustrious dance career began in Grade 1, and ended a few short months later. Our ballet teacher, you see, wanted us all to put our noses on our pink-stockinged knees. It was never going to happen. And so she dubbed me ‘Granny’. I left a few weeks later, my knee-less nose severely out of joint, and my slightly-too-big leotard discarded in the corner of a drawer.
But I got to use it in Grade 2, because I decided I wanted to do drama lessons after they were advertised at school. I had no idea what drama was, mind you, but my mother thought it was a good idea, so the leotard was retrieved and I happily sang, danced and acted my way through several musicals until I was in my mid-teens and had a falling-out with the drama teacher.
I was actually cast as a dancer in a musical revue at age 16, and all of the other cast members were adults. So perhaps I wasn’t as terrible a dancer as I thought I was. Somewhere there’s a picture of me in fishnets, a tail coat and a top hat, and I remember sewing black sequins to the underside of those coat-tails so they’d catch the light as I moved.
I remember groaning through ‘Movement’ classes as part of my drama studies at university. I remember being whirled around the floor at a ballroom dance school’s open night. And a year or two ago, I joined a group of other middle-aged mommies and we huffed and puffed and swore our way good-naturedly through a series of salsa classes.
The thing with dancing, is that even though I’m bad at it, there are moments where suddenly my body does what it’s meant to do, and I feel the air move around me in just the right way. I feel light and graceful and in control of my body for that split second. And suddenly, I can fly across those sprung boards. I can dance.
But what I really love the most is to dance in community with others – at weddings, at birthdays, at celebrations of any kind. I love all the characters and dance styles. I love the guy with the paunch who surprises you with the lightness of his feet and his shimmying hips, or the great granny who kicks off her shoes and joins in with the line dancers. I love the circles of girls and the showy-off boys and the two-year-old in her twirliest dress, dancing on her daddy’s feet.
Why don’t we dance more? When did we stop?
I dream of street parties in small villages, or on town squares, with long white-clothed tables, and bobbing lights strung up from pole to pole. I dream of people whipping out their guitars and violins and accordions and making slightly messy, happy music with each other.
I dream of girls in summer dresses, pressed against their lovers’ taut bodies, whirling and smiling across a square. I dream of elderly couples who still treat each other with tenderness and care; they look on and see their younger selves reflected there. I dream of the laughter, the food, the fun.
Because there’s something to be said for moving your body to music as part of a community of people. There’s something joyfully primal about the noise and the rhythm and the sweat.
So dance. Dance more. Don’t wait for an occasion, or an invitation, or even for co-ordination to improve. Just dance. Throw caution to the wind. Throw plates on the floor. Throw your hands in the air. Throw a party.
But dance. Put on your favourite song, and dance.
January 21, 2015 § 3 Comments
My weeks have recently been so arranged that on a Wednesday night, most weeks, it’s just me and the dogs for a couple of hours.
For those few hours the house transmits the low throb of silence. I feed the dogs and they lie down for a post-prandial nap. The odd car swishes by; a neighbour’s dog gives an indolent yap, and then the most blissful part of the evening begins: not making dinner.
I sidle over to the bread bin, extract two slices of bread from a packet and pop them in the toaster, and soon, one of the world’s greatest fragrances wafts warmly through the house.
Minutes later, a whorl of butter melts lazily over the nubbled surface, and sometimes, if I’m feeling extravagant or especially energetic, I might even add a scrape of salty, yeasty Marmite and some Cheddar.
I’m beginning to look forward to this little ritual. It smacks of freedom, of rebellion, of doing what pleases me. I don’t have to think about nutrition, or other people’s preferences, or what ingredients we have in the cupboard or freezer. My choices are simple, and limited and most importantly, delicious.
For me, toast is medicine. There’s something about the smell, the crunch, the way the butter drips off the bread and onto my hand that immediately comforts me, makes me believe that for those few minutes, at least, everything is alright in my world.
Nigel Slater, in the opening paragraphs of his childhood memoir, Toast (Harper Perennial, 2003) writes: “It is impossible not to love somoene who makes toast for you.” I’m inclined to agree.
January 14, 2015 § 13 Comments
Blame it on the moon; blame it on the stars. Blame it on the boogie if you must. I am out of sorts.
I feel pressed down by my senses, though the room is dim, the neighbourhood quiet, my hunger and thirst assuaged. I claw at my clothes, at the constraints of collar and cuff, though to your eyes the fabric is feather-light, forgiving. I pick up a million activities and discard them each in turn. Stitches are dropped, pencils are blunted, a single string vibrates and is stilled.
My skin stands to attention; the nerves relaying discomfort and dissonance and a measure of pain. My mind feels confined; my brain crawls with a myriad scurrying ants of doubt, of fear, of I-don’t-want-to-be-here.
And I don’t. I wish I were a runner so I could fling open the front gate of my life and run till the air is squeezed from my lungs, till I’m bent and wheezing and my sweat splashes into the dust.
I’m not lonely, I’m not angry, I’m not sad or despairing. I’m just in limbo. And I’m tired of holding my world together. I’m tired of the responsibilities and the preparing and the second-guessing. Tired of the bills and the demands and the never-ending will-I-make-it-through-this-day-without-collapsing-in-a-heap. Tired of grown-up, of adult, of what-are-we-eating-for-dinner.
I don’t hate my life or the people in it; far from it. In many ways it is finally starting to look a lot more like my life, like a life I’d like to lead. I am enveloped in a cocoon of love so strong that I am grateful for it every day, every hour, every minute.
I’d just like to take a break from the decision-making part of my life, just for a while. The part that worries and plans and lies awake at night wondering. The part that waits to be found out every day; to be exposed, revealed as a fraud, uncovered as a child in a middle-aged body who spends a lot of her time just making it up as she goes along, and hoping desperately that it will all come out in the wash.
That child has other needs. She needs to run and jump and skip stones, jump puddles and sing and feel mud between her toes. She needs cool grass and hot sand and the whoosh of the ground past her feet as the swing flies in its creaky parabola of pleasure. She needs cool sheets and ripe fruit and hot bread with soft butter.
She needs freedom. She needs space. She needs play.
January 7, 2015 § 4 Comments
I am tired of the information age. I am tired of the endless onslaught of people’s opinions, of their stupid online arguments and shouting matches, of the exclamation marks and capital letters and one-upmanship of their social media feeds.
I’m tired of the intolerance. I’m tired of the trolling. I’m tired of the racism and hatred and rage that so many people seem to spew into the digital space. Spend some time on the comments sections of online newspapers or on social media, and you discover an underbelly of (barely) human beings who will leave you despairing for the future of this planet.
I tell myself that it’s not the full picture; that it’s like that one child in your class at school who spoils it for all the rest, but sometimes I’m not so sure. I’m not sure what to believe in a world where people set out to offend others for their religious beliefs, or for their lack of religious beliefs for that matter. Where a concept like rape culture even exists. Where children are abused and sexually exploited. Where we discriminate against people purely because they look different to us.
It’s too easy to write something in anger and hit the ‘post’ button. It’s too easy to vomit your vitriol onto the internet without thought for the consequences. It’s too easy to hide behind a keyboard and screen where you don’t have to see the impact your words might have. It’s too easy to hunt in virtual packs of scraggly, always growling hyenas, picking hungrily at the bleached, exposed bones of those who are brave enough to disagree.
And sometimes – quite often, actually – I find it’s all too much. I can’t read anymore. It’s completely overwhelming. Too many words. Just too many words. Ugly words. Words designed to hurt, to wound, to antagonise and vilify.
Words are the currency of my life. I live and breathe words, and I’m endlessly fascinated by them. But sometimes I just want to scream at the internet, at the online world in its entirety: “Just. Shut. Up!”