Melodious discord and the generation gap.

Life without music is as difficult to imagine as fish without chips, a bath without bubbles or Die Hard without Bruce Willis. Music is my equivalent of Mary Poppin’s spoonful of sugar, and I can often be seen using my broom as a guitar as I do the housework, singing myself hoarse along with Billy Idol on my headphones. So it was par for the course that I was chirping along loudly to 1980’s classics on my way down the motorway to pick up Bigfoot and his chosen counterpart from the lycée last week (more about Bigfoot here).

On the return trip, I flipped the radio back on just in time for Bananarama’s “Venus”. “Yeah!!!” I enthused as I turned the volume up. “Have you heard any Bananarama before, guys?” I was greeted by an uncomfortable silence, and glanced into the rearview mirror. Concerned glances were being exchanged between sixteen-year-old Bigfoot and his chosen counterpart, who then flashed an embarrassed smile at the gear stick and said “Urrr, no….” before they both collapsed into giggles. “Don’t laugh, or I’ll start singing. And I know all the words,” I threatened. They obviously took me seriously, as they then asked for NRJ – a radio station for brainless French teens in need of a lobotomy. I know, I’m a bad loser.

As Bigfoot and his chosen counterpart guffawed on the back seat, I got thinking about my music idols when I was their age. The Cure, The Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, the Eurythmics. Go on, admit it, you’re nodding your head in recognition, aren’t you? My parents must have found it difficult not to smile at my conviction that any group called The Psychedelic Furs, Adam and the Ants or Fanny could produce anything even remotely interesting, let alone be able to take Robert Smith seriously with his pointed boots, powdered white face and sullen pout, his blackened eyes glaring out from beneath his back-combed bush of jet-black hair.

Robert Smith is a prominent proponent of the b...

Robert Smith, the dreamboy I would never have dared take home to mum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I realised that like my parents, I suffer from musical and cultural angst when I listen to the rubbish that spews out of Bigfoot’s headphones, and despair that my children may never discover real music. I clutched my steering wheel in horror as it dawned on me that the wheel of life had turned and I had become my parents. They had always said it would happen. Those famous last words rang in my head: “You’ll understand when you have your own”.

When we got home, the boys were keen to show me how wrong I am about modern-day music. They pulled out my laptop and within seconds, an example of something they considered “cool” was on the screen. What I can only qualify as electronic noise was accompanied by a video of tattooed men who were making an admirable effort to dance in unlaced boots and trousers that were at least three sizes too big for them.

Obviously suspicious of Newton’s conclusions on gravity, they were carefully weighed down with heavy chains that made them look more like abandoned pit bulls lifting their legs against fire hydrants in the Bronx than singers. Shuffling around the screen, they shook their arms like overexcited primates and stared threateningly into the camera through white sunglasses with empty frames as big as manhole covers. One by one, they all took turns at stabbing accusing fingers at the camera lens as they did their best to fit as much bad language as they could into one sentence.

He's a GOOD Boy

A modern-day rapper ready for YouTube glory (Photo credit: Gregory Jordan).

Just when I was about to do a runner for the kettle, a pop star mother of two gyrated into sight. My jaw hit the kitchen work surface. Her hair has been bleached since her relatively innocent teenaged debut, and was scraped into a yellow poney-tail on top of her head. She started shaking her booty with the tattooed lads, and I must say she did a very good job of staying upright in her high-heeled, studded sandals. I was, however, a little nonplussed by the rest of her outfit: my resident teenaged Fashion Police would never let me go out in a jacket that didn’t cover the important bits, to say nothing of a leather skirt that apparently had a dual personality and took itself for a curtain pelmet.

The torture session drew to a close. “So, Mum, what do you think?” I stared into my offspring’s enthusiastic eyes, and put down my mug of tea to give my verdict. “Firstly, I don’t call that music, it’s noise. Now let’s see. The lyrics. Ummm…” I dug out the few words I’d scribbled on the back of a supermarket receipt. “Molly’s here, we don’t fight fair/My buzz big, like Lightyear/ Get a grip shorty, you can’t stand here. Well, kids, I’d say the song’s about as deep as the author’s belly button, and has as much impact as a strategically placed Smartie on the great railway track of life. Now, would you like my opinion on mothers of small children parading on internet, wearing nothing more than leather underwear, a pair of tights and high-heeled sandals? If I picked you up at school like that, I’d get arrested before I had the fun of seeing your faces!”

Cue rolling teenage eyeballs. “Now, kids. Let’s talk business. About that CD we’re burning for the car trip. We’re going to start with Queen, The Rolling Stones, the Police and Billy Idol, then if you’ve survived the shock of listening to real music we’ll move on to The Cure, Blondie, The Who and Madness”. I didn’t tell them that if they put up a fight, I’ll let P.F out of his cage with his complete collection of Beethoven. So there.

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Photo challenge: Forward.

Today’s photo challenge asks bloggers to post a photo that inspires the word “Forward”. This is a favourite photo showing Little My taking a leap forward into life, 100% confident in her big brother’s promise that he wouldn’t let her down. He didn’t.

Forward to discovery, forward to self-confidence, forward to trust, forward to overcoming your fears and growing up. Forward.

copyright Multifarious meanderings 2013

copyright Multifarious meanderings 2013/

Ode to a birth scene scriptwriter.

Thirteen years ago, I was sitting in my bed eating bananas and vanilla ice cream and soaking up my three-year-old’s delight at discovering that his baby brother had shifted from my stomach to his cot whilst he was asleep.

Luckily, mini-Bigfoot was unaware of the collateral damage that Rugby-boy had left behind him in his haste to check out the world: a bleak, perineal Hiroshima, roped off below the sheets with crime scene tape and plastic cones. Rugby-boy is a kid who decides and acts without further ado. His birth was no exception, and he achieved an average cruising speed of one kilogram per hour to be on time for his first scrum with life.

CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS / @CSI?cafe

The aftermath below the sheets….. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you who are worrying about getting a tear-jerking, blow-by-blow account of the sad demise of my pelvic floor, fear not. I have no desire to put anyone off having children, as there is so much more to discover after birth. The delights of an overnight transformation into a cross between Lolo Ferrari and a Friesian cow, for example. Discovering that you too can be a night owl, albeit a reluctant one. Learning how to single-handedly unfold a stroller in the rain with one hand, screaming child under your arm and Tesco’s shopping bag clenched between your teeth. Dealing with toddlers who have no issues with incontinence in public. The list is endless.

However, I do have one small request for any scriptwriters who could be reading this: Can you get a real woman to write the birth bits in your films and TV series, please? You know, someone who has actually been through the reproductive equivalent of crapping a watermelon at least once in her life without the help of gas, epidurals or being hit over the head with a heavy object?

The image you give of childbirth is far from the reality of things. In films, the episode begins with our pregnant heroine walking across the tidy room without a whining two-year-old clamped to her leg. She serves herself a glass of San Pelligrino, then dramatically clutches her perfectly round stomach, tastefully encased in designer maternity clothes. There are no visible stretch marks, and no extra weight is to be seen anywhere on her delicate frame. She isn’t wearing an engineering feat of a bra designed to transport two fully-grown elephants under a Chinook helicopter, and her ankles show no signs of containing enough water to top up the local council’s swimming pool. Her toe nails are both cut and varnished – schoolboy error, Mr Scriptwriter. Everyone knows that from six months onwards, pregnant women cannot reach their feet without having previous training in either yoga or contortion. So excuse me guys, but your scenario is already a bit shaky.

English: View of Hoover Dam with jet-flow gate...

Ship ahoy….. breaking waters. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Oh, honey, my waters have broken!” she bleats to a husband who is not at work, not painting the garden shed and not surgically attached to his pillow with drool at one in the morning.  Whilst all she had to do was think about giving birth for the flood gates to blow like the Hoover Dam, my amniotic sacs were all so resistant that they could have been patented by Pirelli.

“Honey”, alias SSOH (Seriously Significant Other Half) immediately carries his wimpering wife (henceforth referred to as “WW”) into the car – mysteriously devoid of plastic toys, DIY material and food wrappings – and takes her to the maternity ward.  Compare this with my three successive gems for each birth: “Just let me have a shave and a shower first”, “Are you kidding? I’ve only just got into bed….”, or “Great! I’m so excited! Home births are cool. Want a cup of tea?”

Back to our model couple. SSOH drives to hospital whilst WW moans  “It’s coming! It’s coming!” At no point does she burst into hysterical tears, insult him, or underline the fact that giving birth is the only time in your life when you understand that biologically speaking,  you really are an animal. Mother Nature takes over, and there is nothing you can do about it except step back and let her get on with the show. I never thought I had a real muscle in my body until my uterus came out of the closet and showed me what it was made of. If my biceps could work as efficiently, I’d be a force to be reckoned with. It’s the Arnold Schwarzenegger of M.M’s organ mafia. A lean, mean muscle machine so efficient that after Rugby Boy’s birth I asked the midwife to check that it was really just a placenta and not my entire innards that had followed him out backstage.

English: PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (May 4, 2007) - ...

What a uterus really looks like (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to our perfect couple, who arrive in hospital and get immediate service from doting staff. WW gets a wheelchair and a private lift, and does not have to stand in the public lift like M.M, muttering obscenities in English as bewildered French strangers clutching bunches of flowers look on.

Now comes the bit I love in films. Cue sappy music. WW dons sexy gown with delicate black print that ties up at the back then exchanges romantic niceties with SSOH, confirming their everlasting love and underlining what wonderful parents they are going to be. (Easy: they know full well that we will never see the episode thirteen years later when a teenaged John Junior sniffs glue with his pregnant girlfriend behind the garden shed.)

The nurse gently interrupts their poetic pukesome pre-parental prelude and reminds WW that she has to push. Obviously, this is something you do on command in films. Personally, when the midwife had the bad idea to tell me not to push, I told her to push off: One of the few joys of childbirth is that it is the only time you can not only insult complete strangers and lacerate your husband’s palms with your fingernails, but you get away with it too. I informed her that my body had been taken over by alien forces and would be doing what it bloody well wanted to do until further notice. Maintaining that a birthing mother can switch pushing on and off on demand is as ridiculous as saying that you can stop a runaway steamroller rolling down an embankment using no more than optimism and a tooth pick.

WW pushes twice on demand, accompanied by unconvincing and dramatic moaning, and Perfect Offspring is born. PO is suspiciously clean, has dry hair and appears to be rather oversized for a newborn, although WW no doubt has a luxury womb stretching up to her tonsils and equipped with fridge, wide-screen T.V and politically correct toys to get him in the starting blocks for Montessori schooling. WW clutches her offspring and beams gormlessly at her tearful, emotional husband. She is perfectly made up, has beautiful hair, is not dripping with sweat and is not threatening to alleviate her child’s genitor of his reproductive appendages with the obstetrician’s torture kit in a bid to avoid making the same mistake again.

So sorry, guys, but there are a few major discrepancies with real life that need seeing to before you have a watertight birthing scenario. Let me know if you need a scriptwriter. In the meanwhile, I’d happily go back ten years in time and sign to do it all again. But my way, not yours.

Daily Prompts: When nightmares echo reality.

Daily Prompt: Nightmares

by michelle w. on February 19, 2013

Describe the last nightmare you remember having. What do you think it meant?

I have had the same nightmare for the last nearly 24 years. I have never written about this.  It  is distressing and not the kind of thing I felt I should share until today – maybe speaking about it will help.

In my nightmare, I am a few feet from a young boy, lying alone on the turf of the football pitch. His face is tinged blue, his eyes and mouth are open. I push past the people in front of me to the fence separating me from him, but it is too high. The exit gate is locked, I can’t get to him. I talk to him, but don’t know if he can hear me.

More stretchers arrive. More victims. I have to stand there, an unwilling observer of human suffering like the people around me. A man walks slowly down the pitch, trousers soaked with fear, tears running down his face. A drunken supporter screams abuse at injured people.  I hug a sobbing stranger on a step. Later, much later, we get on the bus home. The only sound was that of grown adults weeping.

I always wake up feeling that I have been punched in the stomach by the concentrated dose of human compassion, courage, grief, terror, anger, stupidity, cruelty and inadequacy I experienced that day. I awaken with the guilt of having survived, and the anger that 96 people died on the day they were supposed to enjoy a football match.

I know full well what this nightmare means. My brain has never processed the horror of seeing this happen in 1989, and my conscience cannot accept that I was incapable of doing anything to change the victims’ destinies. Time does nothing to take the memory away, and becoming a mother has made it more difficult.  I see the boy again and again, because I need to know if he survived. I never will.

Daily Prompt: (Not so) far from normal.

I thought I’d have a go at this daily prompt before I jump into my bed!

Many of us think of our lives as boringly normal, while others live the high life. Take a step back, and take a look at your life as an outsider might. Now, tell us at least six unique, exciting, or just plain odd things about yourself.

1. I live with five snakes. I tend to forget they’re there until I realise I’ve lost a visitor on the way to the kitchen for coffee, then return to find them hiding behind a plant, gibbering.  Nine times out of ten, they leave having spent hours playing with one of them. The remaining case drinks their coffee in the garden.

2. I am a ridiculously easy person to please. The three L’s dictate my life: Love, Laughter and Literature. I get endless pleasure out of the simple things that you just can’t buy:  things like the smell of English breakfast teabags, a luminous, blue winter sky and the sun on my face, the thrill of jumping in autumn leaves, singing my lungs out and getting into a bed made up with fresh linen and reading a book before falling asleep. My high point last week was seeing Rugby-boy’s ecstatic reaction when he found out he was going to meet his favourite team and be on the pitch when they started the match. Priceless, unique, unforgettable joy.

IMG_6504

This is enough to get M.M firing on all six cylinders.

 

3. I often delve into my memory and think back to when I was small and didn’t even realise that the world around me isn’t always pleasant. I often yearn to regain that childhood faith and innocence. To erase anything negative from my hard disk and unlearn certain harsh realities that have turned life’s experience sour for me on occasions. As I can’t, whether it’s right or wrong, I am trying to protect my children from these realities for as long as I can.

 

4. One day I would like to invent a full range of environmentally-friendly, disposable clothing for kids and break those damned shackles with Candy the washing machine. Answers on a postcard, please.

 

5. I’m a magician. All I have to do is look at a plant and it dies. All I have to do is clap eyes on a bag of peanuts and it disappears.

 

6. I finally worked out what I want to be when I grow up when I was 43. Now I’m 44, I  just have to grow up.

Time up.

This post is very different to what I usually write. Time to try my hand at a bit of fiction with today’s Daily Prompt: The Clock“Write about anything you’d like. Somewhere in your post, include the sentence, “I heard the car door slam, and immediately looked at the clock.”

Hour Glass

(Photo credit: Ömer Ünlü)

I struggled in vain, my fear and anger fuelling the adrenaline coursing though my veins. I was firmly anchored to the chair, my wrists and ankles deadened by the tightness of the tape. Rubbing my face against the shoulder of my pullover in a futile attempt to remove the tape placed over my mouth, I could smell Emily’s perfume. Emily. Please don’t come home tonight. Please stay at work late, please go for a drink with the girls after work, please get stuck in a traffic jam but please, for the sweet love of Jesus, don’t come home.

It had been easy for Anna to get into the house without me hearing her. I’m always half asleep when I surface in the afternoon, and she knew it. All our married life I had worked nights, and she had gradually replaced my presence in the evening with the bottle. First a glass of wine, then two, until I regularly found her asleep on the couch on my return from night shift. Eyes closed to the fresh-faced early morning T.V presenters, she was spread across the couch with the empty bottle at her side, the glass hanging from her fingers.

The bottle comforted her, never asked her any questions, and was always there when I wasn’t. I was no competition, and she couldn’t face life without her newfound companion. The divorce had been messy, and Emily had been my saviour. Anna had never forgiven me.

She hit me hard on the back of the head as I entered the kitchen.The wine bottle smashed with the impact, and I found myself lying on the tiles in a myriad of emerald coloured shards, staring up from between her dirty trainers into her laughing, drunken face. “Don’t tell me that hurt; it was empty, you wimp!” I rubbed the back of my head. “Wouldn’t be like you to waste alcohol,” I fired back.

She crouched down beside me. “Drink this, it’s aspirin”, she said as she pulled my head backwards and forced a small glass of liquid down my throat. Shortly afterwards, everything went black.

When I came around, I was firmly taped to a kitchen chair. She had swept all the objects off the table, and the floor was littered with opened mail, fruit and smashed crockery. A photograph and the kitchen wall clock had been neatly put in their place. I stared woozily at the picture of Emily and I, immortalizing our happiness after she had scraped me out of my misery and catapulted me into back into life.

Anna took a marker pen from the pen pot. She slowly and deliberately penned a moustache and beard on Emily’s face. Despite the rage in the pit of my stomach,  I feigned disinterest. “Why the clock?” I asked her. She grinned, and pulled a package from her rucksack. She thrust it in front of my nose. “See this? I made it. All by myself”.  Wires, dynamite. Oh, Christ.

She turned the strange contraption over and over in her hands, her eyes sparkling like a child who had constructed a new imaginary world. “The therapist told me I should take up a hobby, do you remember? I bet he didn’t think it would be explosives. It’s amazing what you can learn on internet these days”. She pulled up a chair and started unscrewing the back of the clock. “I’ve been practicing this every week for months. Wouldn’t want to miss the fireworks for a silly mistake, now, would we?”

As she talked, she fixed wires to her package. She admired her work with satisfaction then propped the clock up carefully against the  block of dynamite before heading over to the door, wires in hand.

“You’re not going to do that? Surely not? What would killing us do to make you happier? You’ve lost the plot, Anna, you need help. Let me help you”.  The panic was growing in me. She returned, kissed me on the forehead and stretched a piece of duct tape across my mouth. “This is part of my training,” she whispered softly in my ear. “You see, I’ve met someone. If I get this right, he’ll take me on. Remember the therapist? He wanted me to find a job to get over the alcohol, right? Well, it’s done”.

Anna held my face in her hands, her clear blue eyes boring into my soul. “She’ll be home soon. She’ll open the door, and the dynamite will blow. Time over. That’s good enough for me. If I can’t have you, neither can she”.

She grabbed her bag and stepped over the glass and debris to the stove. Slowly, deliberately, she turned all the knobs. “Oh, by the way. The clock’s not part of the equation; it’s just for you to see time go by as slowly as it did for me when you ran off with your redhead. Watch that clock!”

She climbed through the window, closing it carefully behind her. I concentrated on the sound of the gas hissing out of the hobs and the ticking of the seconds hand as it made its way slowly but surely around the clock face.

As each second passed by, Emily got closer. The hourglass was running out on us. I concentrated on the photo. Emily’s smile, her green eyes, her red hair. I twisted my arms desperately to stretch the duct tape, but it was as cold and unyielding as Anna had ever been. I heard the car on the gravel. The engine cut out. I heard the car door slam, and immediately looked at the clock. The key turned in the lock, and the door handle moved slowly downwards.