Love is like a butterfly

You are too big to miss for a day, too loud, too busy, too many words on the end of the phone. I couldn’t feel you in a day. But over many days?

Over many days, the full impact slowly rams me down to the ground and I’ve been left winded, ribs caved in, bruises blossoming on my chest like defiant lavender.

Over many days I replay summer afternoons, lost slippers. I remember the answer to the Sunday crossword, the one that had us chewing our pens and sharing a biscuit – 6 down: artichoke. I tell other people about that time you fell off your chair, and we laugh together. My face feels tight.

Over many days a small crystal tear forms in the back of my eye. It is like a shard of glass, nestled in deep, and I can’t seem to cry it out. I carry it with me like a hidden dagger, only sometimes it shows itself. In the silence, in the grey days, it pokes free and glints back at me in the mirror.

Today is one of those days. Today you have consumed the sky and blacked out the sun, filled the inverted blue cup with criss-crossed fairy lights and wispy lace scarves.

I know this won’t be the only day, I know you will spill out into a thousand others and knock me senseless again.

I know I will wake up and think of your curled fingers waving through the air, conducting a silent orchestra; I know I will seek out breakfast and find myself singing Dolly Parton with you as you make a cup of tea.

And I know, that as I go to hang up the phone, I will hear your voice on the other end calling out ‘Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.’

Ribbon City

Along the side of the freeway is a strip of land, wedged in between racing cars and suburban yards. It is marked along its borders by chain link fences that ripple when they’re touched, the dull metallic scales undulating like the lazy swim of a fish.

It is its own city with rules and family. Tents are pitched, sheets of plastic tied around trees and stretched out to the pins in the dusty ground. Towels, grubby clothes, an umbrella, are piled on top of the makeshift roof, shrivelling in the sun.

The cool blast of air-con is whipping strands of hair back from my face as I zoom past and see an exhausted man in this ribbon city, bending over a small girl. He is topless, the folds of his stomach overlapping the waistband of his jeans and his pale skin gleaming in the harsh sunlight. He is holding a bottle in his hand; squirts white cream into his palm; rubs it onto the child’s nose. Before they disappear I see a grin hoist up the weight of the young child’s face.

A few meters along is a gathering of women, sitting around a small stove fire. They are perched on floral loungers, the rusted legs digging into the dirt. Limp cigarettes hang from their mouths and the soles of their feet are grey. One of them waves and shouts something to a person out of sight.

Along the side of the freeway is a strip of land marked by chain link fences. There is family and love and story telling here. There is dirt and poverty and blistered skin from the sun.

There is a whole ribbon city, in the shadow of the free way to home.

Let me put you back together

Each thick piece of cardboard is tiny between my fingertips. I smooth along the swelling edge, and curl out the scoop on the other side. On the front is an indistinct brown line with dark shading. I bite my lip and consult the lid. It could go here… my hand hovers in the bottom left corner before, triumphant, slotting it into place.

I am practically done. A dated picture of a grinning old man behind a grocery store counter beams up at me, sitting proudly next to a ration booklet. I stroke his face fondly.

At the moment though, he is not quite finished. He has two pieces missing, both skin coloured: one for the hand, the other for the cheek. He looks eerie, like a reflection in a mirror distorted and gaping, and I want to get him finished.

My hand reaches out and scrapes the bottom of the box and finds nothing. The pieces are gone.

For a moment, I stare down at this cheerful man with his honest smile and wide eyes. But then my gaze is drawn to those gaping holes, those roughly-hewn chunks torn from his face and body.

And I burst into tears.

 

Dance the blues away

It is starting to get truly cold outside: that kind of bite of ice that shivers up your face and pinches your cheeks into a startling red blush. Walking through the front door into warmth and love feels like so much more of a blessing when there’s that meanness to the air.

I have just collapsed at home after an exhausting session of zumba. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I shall merely say that despite the promises of wicked dance moves and Shakira hips, in reality it is a bunch of women waving their arms and stomping their feet, blinking the sweat out of their eyes as they ‘dance’ for an hour.

…Well. I love it.

Today’s session was particularly intense – and here’s where my rather grim relay of my exercise routine peters out. Our instructor made it different. She’s a woman who constantly amazes me with her endless repertoire of skills, funky blue hair, and seemingly bottomless pit of energy. She’s kind to everyone, tells funny anecdotes whilst you wobble around in Pilates, and makes time to help you when you’re struggling, be that due to a disability, a minor injury, or just a bad day.

Today though she was wired. On edge. Jittery.

She told us at the start of the class that she’d had some bad news. That she was going to a funeral tomorrow.

She tried to make us laugh about it when she told us the disaster story of her trying to buy a dress to make her feel like a lady. Then she turned the music on louder than ever before and danced like she was possessed. She wanted to ‘dance the blues away’.

And the thing that really blew my mind was this:

Every single stomp of the foot, every twist and turn and shout and jump, was danced for our instructor today.

Every clap, every cramp, every gasping breath was pushed through for our friend; our support and guide.

Every single woman in the room danced that hour for the blues.

 I have never felt such charge in a room, such united love for someone who, despite her wonderful character, remains a stranger in so many respects. Today I felt like a family with a room full of people I don’t know and wouldn’t recognise in the streets.

And it was painfully, heartbreakingly, beautiful.

To my Mini-Me

Do you remember when we were little? You used to copy EVERYTHING I did or mimic EVERYTHING I wore.

I was so mad that day you came home with an identical haircut to mine. I raged when you simply had to build your Polly Pocket city on the exact same rug that I was building mine on. I walked away from you when you announced that your tummy hurt, too, and you also needed the day off school.

You were my Mini-Me: wearing my suit, with my shiny bald crown, putting my pinky finger up to your lips and staring at the camera in that just-so way.

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Now though, EVERYTHING has changed.

You cut off all your hair and are absolutely rocking the pixie cut look. You are searching for your own style in practically every shop that we pass. Little sayings and quirks are slipping in to the way you speak. The heels you’re wearing are making you taller than me; the dresses skimpier than I would ever dare.

But more than all of that combined, I suppose, is that in this past year you have found that elusive thing: Real Love. With a Real Boy. And he has guided you, hand in hand, towards the future – the one meant for you and only you.

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I am so proud of you. I am proud that I can call you my baby sister.

It’s strange watching you come into your own. There are twists to your character that I wasn’t expecting as we grew up together. And I love EVERY SINGLE surprise you present us all with, because every one of them is so utterly and singularly YOU.

I guess what I’m trying to say is never stop being you. You’re far too exceptional for the world to miss out on.

You’re not my Mini-Me any more, but that’s ok. Because as you shed my suit, grow some hair, and stop using your pinky finger in gestures, you become MORE every day.

You become YOU.

And the You you are today is one year older, one year wiser, one year more beautiful.

Happy 18th Birthday, little one.

From your Dr. Evil.

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Someone pass me a macaroon and a cup of tea, my brain is fried.

When in a relationship, you’re never just dating the other person. It would be naive to think that you are. In fact, I’ve found that by dating that one person, you are also committing to a whole host of relationships simultaneously. )Not in a promiscuous way, I assure you. I’m talking of the wholesome, familial way.)

Because honestly, if you’re serious about someone, you’re really taking on a whole new family unit: their mum and dad and brothers and sisters and grandparents and aunts and uncles, and cousins who don’t realise who you are until the family meal at Christmas.

Suddenly, you’re wooing not one person, but MANY people, all with different levels of expectations and varying degrees of prejudice.

Quite a daunting prospect when you’ve just become a part of something so new and fragile.

However, I am a woman on a mission when in love, and at the start of mine and le man’s relationship, I rose courageously to the challenge. I played video games with his brothers, drunk wine with his father, talked periods with his mother, played boggle with his uncle, and shared cake with his Grandpa. I did all the right things and began to feel like one of Them, I began to feel like I belonged.

But it’s funny, isn’t it, how things can change, how people grow up and evolve, and quite abruptly, you’re back at square one.

All families go through it – they are faced with drama, with sadness, with business prospects and school pressures. Life gets in the way and your dating plan with the extended crew can go rather awry in the process.

And it can be SO hard not to take this personally.

Ultimately though, I’m starting to think that you can’t let family drama bog you down. Family is more than a sip of wine and a board game. Family proves itself by going through Hell and back, and still making it home in time to watch Eastenders together of an evening.

They may not be my family by blood, but I am bonded to them by love, and isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

When I met them, I didn’t know them. I simply followed my heart, my love, into that crazy maze and tried with all that I am to get to know them, to make me and le man work. Now I do know them, and I love them like family. But family Love opens you up to family Feuds as well, it’s just a part of life. You take on a new unit of people who can – however unintentionally – betray all of that effort you put in in the first place, and it would be oh-so-easy to walk away.

But I am simply not the kind of person to do that.

Instead, I am taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Things are said, egos are thrown around, and people get hurt. People grow, people change, people are affected by life and that’s completely out of your control. Sometimes life changes a person or a family to the point where you find you don’t know them as well as you used to.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to let yourself get offended, to put your foot down and refuse to see them or speak to them. But that would be so petty. What about all that wooing you did in the beginning?

The thing is, with love of any kind, if it’s real, one set back doesn’t frighten you away for good. You try and try again because they’re a part of your life and you don’t want to lose them.

Put bluntly, I am exhausted of the whole thing. So for this fight, I’m adopting my original tactic. I am going to follow my heart, my love, back into the maze and try again.

Because family never gives up.

Lead the way, my love.

Lead the way, my love.

Who knew I had a Safari Park on my doorstep?!

Today has been BLISTERINGLY hot. Insanely warm. It has felt like a foreign country and I’m pretty sure some of my face melted off in the heat.

However, I am not complaining, because it was also beautiful. It is so rare for us to have weather like this, I am treasuring every day of it. This is what Summer should be like. I got a chance to get my legs out, warm my face with a single glance skyward, and travel with my family to Longleat – a safari park on breathtaking grounds – for the day.

Now, this won’t be a long post. I am too flustered for that and am dying to be in my birthday suit, lying very still in a bath of ice with several fans blowing cool air at me. But I will share with you some photographs of the day – because, sometimes, so much more is said with a picture than with words.

What I will say though, is that today has been one of the best days in a long time. I saw incredible animals, ventured through an impossible maze, and had a cruise on a lake – all with the people who make me smile the most. You cannot ask for more beauty in life.

Though you can definitely ask for more skill in my photography.

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I want a baby goat!

I want a baby goat!

My favourite animal of the day <3

My favourite animal of the day ❤

Sisters feeding the deer

Sisters feeding the deer

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We can be a Big Cat too!

We can be a Big Cat too!

WE CONQUERED THE MAZE.

WE CONQUERED THE MAZE.

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Rather him than me.

Rather him than me.

 

A train ride around the park to finish the day off.

A train ride around the park to finish the day off.

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful day in the sun!