Mothers Day & Two Years of Blogging

I started this blog coming up to Mother’s Day 2017; I write this one on Mothering Sunday 2019. Didn’t really know back then what the blog was for, other than a desire to share what was in my head. I am somewhat surprised to find, looking back, that I have actually carried out what I intended to do – write about family ramblings, history and observations. I don’t even need to edit my “About” page – except to note that I’m now 65 – as it’s pretty much what I would say today.

I don’t know why I should find this so surprising. I suppose its reassuring to find that I can look back on my 60-odd posts with a degree of pride, and realise that it was probably in me all the time to write consistently and regularly, instead of my rather sporadic attempts in the past. I suppose there was a fear at the back of my mind that I’d make a start only for it to peter out after a while. But it hasn’t. I have what you might call a body of work behind me now and I no longer worry that I’ll run out of things to say. I have screeds of topics lined up that will keep me writing for weeks, months, years to come.

pencil

Some posts almost write themselves, pop in to your head practically fully formed. Others (like this one!) are more of a process of discovery, of delving into one’s skull to try and find out what it is I want to say about a topic. Even when there’s a lot of research, there’s always the question of how to present it, what to leave in, what to leave out. Because I’ve realised that the way you tell a story reveals much, above all, about yourself. You don’t necessarily write it all down, but the process forces you to examine and perhaps re-evaluate what you thought you knew. If you are delving into the past it’s almost inevitable that you will find pain and hurt, whether its your own or someone else’s.

I’ve mentioned before that my intention here is not to uncover dark secrets, but rather to appreciate better the circumstances that made people – and yes, myself – who they were. And more than that, to understand and forgive. The stories, the facts, are always fascinating, the truths universal, and, I venture to suggest, worth sharing!

it-is-a-truth-tom-gauld

I have to confess I felt a bit bereft when I recently came to the end of what turned out to be the 10-part saga of the history of my childhood home. I’d imagined it would be worth two or three posts when I started, but once I got into it…! And the latter part of course was largely about my mother, whose story, for more than half of her long life, was inextricably entwined with that of our house.

And yet she left it without a backward glance. I always felt, in that time when she became confused and lost the ability to safely be left on her own, that it was a kindness that her brain had drawn a veil over that period. She didn’t know it, but we sisters took over the care of the house from her, cleared it out, gave it a fresh coat of paint and, not without some considerable soul searching, let it pass on to someone else.

The one thing my Mum never forgot was her love for all of us. Names would come and go, but those feeling were at her core. I could (and probably will!) grumble on about the shortcomings of my upbringing, but at the end of the day none of that matters any more. I read once that one’s parents’ shortcomings are what make us who we are. I really hope that’s true because, though we do our best, we’re only human and we all fall short in one way or another. I never cease to be grateful and proud of the amazing, delightful people that my own children have turned out to be.

In the end, what matters to me on this Mothering Sunday is the love of my children and grandchildren and the infinite tenderness of my memories of that singular woman who was my mother.

mother_and_child_silhouette_clip_art_23538

Advertisements

A Wee Break

the end

I have to confess to a touch of post-holiday blues in the last week or two. If that’s what just four nights in Majorca does to you, maybe I’d be better staying at home!

Not that I didn’t enjoy the sun, sea and sand, of course I did (just as long as I stayed in the shade in the middle of the day). And then there were the relaxed family evenings of tapas and paella and talking philosophy (armchair variety) under the stars, with the little ones running around and the teenager making sarcastic remarks on the folly of adults. What’s not to love?

majorca map

But I suppose that’s the problem isn’t it? It’s amazing how quickly you can adapt to your new surroundings and imagine a completely different lifestyle from the one you have. One involving taking your morning tea and a notebook out on to the terrace for some creative scribbling while the mediterranean sun slowly rises above the mountains. Eventually your big sunhat isn’t enough to protect you from the heat, so you retreat and cool off in the pool before a bite of lunch and siesta time. Evenings comprising more of the same…

It’s a bit of a let-down to come back to a chilly, rain-sodden Glasgow. Why do I want to live here? Can anyone remind me?

reality

However, that was a couple of weeks ago. Today, for once, I’m looking out on a lovely sunny day – albeit 15 degrees cooler than Alcudia – and I’ve just had a wee sit in the garden where there’s a nice secluded corner that protects you from the breeze while you catch a few precious rays of sunshine (post-holiday resolution – get out in the sun whenever I can).

So – however reluctantly – I suppose I’m more or less back in the swing of things again. I’ve caught up with all my emails, had daughter Sarah to stay for a few days (wall to wall box sets and late night existential conversations – “yes it’s okay to put the fire on in August mum”), realised that I WOULD rather live in a place where I’m not kept up all night by unbearably itchy insect bites.

cheers

And then there’s my blog – I have been feeling somewhat frustrated at just how disrupted my daily writing routine could become in such a short period of time, how difficult it has been to pick up the threads again. It’s not that I don’t have plenty to write about, it’s that I’ve lacked the motivation to just get on with it. This is scary because along with that comes the thought that maybe you will NEVER write another post, or anything else. So, believe me, this rambling effort represents a huge victory over inertia and it would be nice to think that you would raise a glass with me to celebrate the unblocking of the creative juices – cheers!

Let me tell you about the inspiration that finally got me going again. Sarah lent me a book; Tim Marshall’s “Prisoners of Geography – ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics”. I know, snappy title or what? Anyway, I’m reading the first chapter “Russia” and I hadn’t got too far when it struck me forcibly that my Mum, in her prime, would have loved this book. I’ve written before about her cultural visits to Russia and various Baltic republics. She was completely beguiled by all things Russian and would read everything she could get her hands on about its history and art; myths and magic. She loved telling you all about Czar Nicholas, Catherine the Great, the treasures of the Winter Palace, the siege of Leningrad … the list goes on and on. Here’s her first impression of looking down on the country:

cartoon-russian-old-wooden-village-vector-2098183 (3)

As we lost height to refuel at Riga in Latvia I could see out the window and the country is completely flat. Roads stretch for miles as straight as a die and there are many canals. Nothing is curved – everything has straight angles. There are forests. The country is quite remarkable. And vast. I could see small groups of houses and houses on their own and some cars on a road – but usually rivers and in the distance the sea. We flew for an hour and the landscape did not vary. Rivers, canals, roads, what looked like fields and even the forests were all squared up as straight as a ribbon – quite extraordinary and fascinating. Could hardly believe I was looking down on Russia!

POG cover final.indd

“Prisoners of Geography”, while completely factual, also feels to me like a fairytale with the storyteller spreading the map out in front of you and showing you just why and how the history and politics of this great land inevitably rolled out the way they did, constrained by the shape of its geography, from the romantic sounding Carpathian Mountains to the west, right across the vast plains of Siberia to the Pacific Ocean in the east. As I read, I could so easily imagine Mum by my side nodding eagerly and pointing out the places where she’d been and saying, “Yes, yes, that’s right, that’s the way it is”.

Geography is a marvellous branch of knowledge, don’t you think? It makes sense of everything because despite whatever advances we may make in technology and science and engineering, and however invincible we think that makes us, we are always either working with the shape of the planet, or striving to overcome its restrictions. And sometimes, sadly, we are at its mercy, vulnerable to droughts, earthquakes, tsunami’s and other natural disasters. Look at a map and it will tell you everything you need to know.

africaAnyway, next time we’ll return to the small corner of the world known as Lochaber, and the further exploits of my MacFarlane ancestors and how they contended with the constraints of their geography.

corfu
Not me, sadly, but a scene from BBC’s The Durrells, where the family really DO start a new life in Corfu…