Wild Brush and Autumn Breeze

I stood on the top of the moorland amongst a thriving crop of dandelions, chrysanthemums, daisies and wild grasses bound with thistles. I turned slowly taking in the panoramic view of the hills to the west carpeted in forests with the carriageway cutting along its edge delivering traffic to the city. The green land faded into modern urban blocks of apartments as sharp and functional as a razor blade lining the waters edge and a quiet white noise of tyres on tarmac filling to air.

It was the perfect end to the morning run event. I had done all the chatting at the end that is so enjoyable. A community spirit in this one morning each week that I can really be myself without any judgments or negativity. An escape from people with people. Even so the walk to the view was inspiring. Burning sun between spacious kettle-fresh clouds, it was the right place, the right time, a moment captured that any other time just might not have produced the same feeling. A feeling that time just wouldn’t move – providing I stayed on that spot.

Who would have thought in such a short a space a time as three or four years I would be standing in my home town in the running gear that I want to wear with the way I want my hair and interacting with people without a care of what they might think and, it would appear, they don’t think anything, at least nothing bad. Accepted amongst people with a similar interest in keeping fit.

It’s funny how I feel so comfortable there now without a thought of worry and yet the odd moment elsewhere I can, at times, feel a bit frozen, not like years ago, but I guess its all part of the dipping-the-toe in the water kind of thing when it comes to gender identity and once I find the shallows of the lapping tide is summer-tepid everything become clear.

It would seem a huge departure to the rest of these last few weeks. A return to my career, at least a short return to keep me going for a year or so, became poison and toxic once again. It wasn’t long before I found myself tending notice. Despite the looming count down of my bank balance and limited time to figure out what I will do next I find that standing amongst the wild brush, and the August breeze that had a hint of September about it, I was calmed and reassured that things just happen and as long as I’m honest with myself, not just about the gender thing but also with what I do with my time. Forty plus hours is a lot of time to spend in a mix of hot and cold toxicity, especially one where I certainly wouldn’t see myself progressing to any kind of gender contentment.

I suppose this year could well be the most important in my life in every way possible and be as subtle as standing alone in the sun in exhilaration after running a few miles. There was a brief moment when I thought of that famous line, “I could die here.” It wasn’t the place, take away the sunshine paint across that grass and the pathways cut by feet, and replace it with a grey sky, rain and some drunk scumbags and suddenly it’s not that place. But it’s not just the place at that time, it was the feeling – at that moment and at that place. Contentment and oneness.

Isn’t this is what life should be about. Finding those moments of contentment and being able to recreate them.

– ❤ –

Every key press feels like blocks of wood talking for my heart. I feel and hear the fibres in the felt on each hammer scratching at each metallic string shedding a tear for all the memories. The piano, an outlet for memories of the last ten years all wrapped up in a few two or three minute solo songs. When I play I play with emotion and allow myself to express feeling through the varying tempo, and yet it is only when I play it back I realise what is behind those songs.

I suddenly realise that what I have written in music without words is telling a story. The welling-up of the high notes with their plinky delicate shade of sombre and the thunderous low notes of the tears and sadness that have ever fallen.

Expression through music is an enhancing and liberating experience just like a pen on a diary or the exploration with a psychologist. I feel gifted to have been able to find the ability to write through music and yet it can also feel like watching the pain on playback listening to my past self telling me what I had been through in my thirties from self female discovery and the loss of a long relationship ending with living alone with my own memories and company.

It is a life of depth of thought. Nights of glowing candles and intellectual reasoning with myself. Hannah, always thinking – again. There is a choice of course. Do something else, something to move a little further forward, or stay where I am. Settle on a comfort spot. A gamble just a like a game of poker.

Isn’t moving and change what makes life – well, life. Without movement nothing happens, darkness, stillness, frozen, yet a painting, as far as our observation is concerned, still and locked in a moment of time and yet can say so much. I find myself at another subtle junction in my life and a time where I see life racing by. I sometimes feel like for every heart beat others have beat ten times.

I suppose it comes down to this. When I look back in twenty or forty years time, am I going to say to myself, “if only” or will I raise a small smile and a small glass and say – “great choice.”

Until next time,

Hannah x

Subtleties of the Stars

I sat on the decking at lunch. It was burning hot and summer had definitely arrived even if it might be only for a coupe of days but there would be no shortage of vitamin D for me, even if it meant putting up with a little hay fever, the lapping of the water and the squark and laughing calls of sea gulls and chirps of little sparrows hoping around cafe tables waiting for generous patrons to carelessly drop crumbs from a fat saturated croissants and hot cheese goo cafe paninis.

It was nice, at least, and despite being sat on the floor, to lay back against the cold stone wall for a moment, close my eyes and just listen to those sea front sounds. That glug of the diesel boat waiting for tourists fares was even relaxing. I had felt a bit lost the last few weeks. Ups and down without explanation and a laissez faire attitude to the gender thing despite feeling elated at the end of those weekly park runs.

A small ex-fishing boat bubbled it’s way across the near flat water of the bay with a mother and daughter sat at the front royally and a sailing boat in the distance slowly made its way over in replacement. A US citizen grabbed her camera and pointed it down at the water from the metal railings several feet above the waters edge and exclaimed to her ‘couple’ friends in a thick Californianesq accent, “Look! A swan! On the ocean!” We were a few hundred miles from the ocean and it would probably be difficult to know whether the still water was even part of the sea, but the surprise and almost child-like glee at something that seemed so simple on the surface was something to behold. Life shouldn’t always be so deep, sometimes appreciating the supposed simple things the world has to offer is the key to happiness. It was by chance a social media post popped up, right now, by the great Paul McKenna, “Take a moment each day to step back, evaluate the task in front of you and let your thoughts flow.” It doesn’t get more true than this, and I know this, I just have to remind myself to ‘remember’ this.

I think one of the main things I tend to think about these days is age. I know people sort their gender identity out at any age and like most I wish I’d done something about it when I was 20 but each morning I’m sure I find another grey hair. It’s not like I have lots of grey roots and the rest is dark, I’m dark all over with full length grey hair strands amongst the rest. I found my first grey the day before my 30th birthday, which itself seems so long ago, and ever since they’ve been sneakily populating their way amongst my hair. If I use straighteners after washing my hair, I’ll see them all easily. I felt like I wanted to catch them now rather than going all grey and then one day miraculously everyone will see I’m brunette again.

I had mentioned it to my Mum a few weeks ago and after some colour matching the week before I decided to go ahead and get some permanent colour done but it was funny the day before how I suddenly questioned it much like any other gender identity change I might suddenly decide on. How was I really going to feel about this? I looked in the mirror. I had been for a run and so my hair was still damp and it looked dark. Did I really need this. Would I suddenly feel fake? The last thing I wanted was to feel fake, non-genuine and unauthentic. I always felt so lucky that unlike some male family and friends that I have kept my hair. Not just long but actually kept it. It hadn’t decided to buy a one way ticket for retirement in some island off the coast of Thailand. I was also proud that it was still thick, luscious and generally, on the whole dark brunette with gold streaks bleached by the sun.

I kind of went into automatic. I couldn’t come up with an answer and before I knew it I was sat in a chair in my Mums kitchen having permanent dye syrup painted onto long strands from root to tip and twenty minutes later with my head over a bowl having it washed out with the bowl water slowly turning brown. It was done. “Don’t worry –” she said while I was looking at a bowl of small choppy waves centimetres away and froth trickling down my face, “the brown on your skin will wash right off.”

“That’s ok.” I said, “As long as you didn’t mix it up with a tube of Veet and I’m going to suddenly see a bowl of brown hair.”

I checked in the mirror once my hair was dry. It was fine, subtle, barely noticeable until I got home. I don’t know what it was about the large gold painted framed fancy mirror in my hall but I could suddenly see the difference. Natural but I felt like I’d gone back in time. It wasn’t a typical, ‘do you feel ten years younger?’ It was just like I’d been repaired. It was like I’d replaced an old t-shirt with a brand new one that had fresh thick screen print on the front and the smell of fresh unwashed factory dyes.

A weekend – a week later – I found myself at sunset on top of the hill just a mile or two down the road watching the crayon saturated orange sky sink behind silhouetted forest lined hill tops. Things were still changing. They were slow and so subtle that they were nearly unnoticeable. Like watching the tide coming in or the moon and stars move across the sky, you can see them move if only to take the time to stare and watch long enough. It’s the same with moving with identity. Take that deck chair out into the 10pm night sky, lay back and, just for a moment, take in the change and enjoy finding that happiness.

Until next time,

Hannah x

White Sky of April

Paving that seems to stretch forever through the urban main road sprawl that seemed well kept but lifeless other than the commuter boxes keeping the air carbon dry. The kind of housing that you could have used as a filming location for any British suburban sitcom of the nineteen eighties. Wiry branches of juvenile green summer awaking bliss givers passed overhead as I wandered aimlessly killing time.

Black wrought iron wide gates open on the other side of the road enticing me in. The fence with a single, cable tied, plastic poster for The Moscow State Circus was the only thing vaguely commercial. A triangle bordered by traffic. An escape but not idyllic. It was, at least, my escape for half an hour. A typical park with the typical path lined with equally spaced ageing trees.

There was a thought of ‘was it all worth it’. Not the gender thing, that’s here to stay and there isn’t a lot I can’t do about that, but the process. That process of having to come all the way to London for an appointment for someone to reflect back at me – whatever I say I am – all to satisfy a process just in case I need some kind of surgical intervention or medication. That’s not to say what they do is not valuable but I sit here on a bench alone, a breeze with an edge to cut goosebumps, totally shattered and not feeling particularly well on top of a long journey and not quite sure what I’m going to get out of this that couldn’t be done over the phone or through a Skype call.

Another jet has flown over. Four engines howling in a drone reminding me how close to Heathrow and how far away from home I was. Not envy felt for the exotic location those people might be travelling to. At this moment in time all I can think about is home and a hot chocolate. Comfort where I live. The park might be a rest stop that I need but it’s still cold.

I look at the traffic slowly trickling down the main road edging inches here and there. My normal curious self would be taking in the hustle and bustle of busy people all in a rush to go somewhere slowly while I sit amongst the early spring leaf trees. Yet all I can think about is the traffic I’m going to have to join for the trip home.

If I’m not ready now for full time outward gender identity then I ask why am I doing this now. Going through all this? Why don’t I stay home and once I’m ready go private for whatever I need. I think looking back all I wanted to do was push myself forwards to make sure I didn’t stall and get on that stupidly long waiting list that got even longer through maladministration.

A police van fills the void of little else that the rumble of traffic with sirens bouncing off the London stock brick buildings. Nothing changes though. The traffic still moves slowly without choice. I have choice. I suppose that’s what keeps me looking forward and thinking about me as the years pass.

It’s nearly time to go. My fingers are frozen as is my state of mind. I should be on the sofa with that chocolate and a few hours later alcohol to numb my fears. On a hard park bench, an orange band keeping my hair tied as it lay down the front of my shoulder and over the front of my black denim jacket. One or two runners lap the park passing by on the grass. I look up and the branches cut through the white sky of April.

There is a man and a woman. They must have seven or eight dogs. All small and yappy running around the centre of the park. I seem to be attracting a group of pigeons pecking around the grass while some strange bird up in the trees is making similar yappy noises as the dogs in a sub tropic impression. Ten minutes to go and suddenly the park seems interesting. Either that or I’m finding ways to normalise my day. I like interesting days. I like excitement but I suddenly want normality. A sea of contradiction. A trip to a gender clinician over one hundred and fifty miles away just doesn’t feel like normality. Today it feels prescribed.

The waiting room was quiet. A young couple chatting in what seemed to be that nervous jokey chat that people do in new situations to make themselves feel at home or appear outwardly confident. I recognised one of them from walking down the high street, a bright silver jacket that was unmistakable. I caught the eye of someone else sat at the far end opposite me who seemed to acknowledge my recognition of that nervousness.

My session was hard without seeming challenging on the surface. While I was straight and upfront about some of the things I wanted next my decisions were challenged by the clinician. Not so much in a negative way but digging deeper than in my first session. Presenting new modern concepts like non-binary and fluidity when it came to gender. I found it had an effect on me. It started my introspection. Questioning my own authenticity and allowing me to give answers that were not quite the full story because I was no longer sure if I felt confident enough to give them. I left the room after our time was up with one half of me feeling a little lost and lower. I felt I hadn’t been quite forthright enough.

I sat back in the waiting room to fill in that questionnaire before I would leave for the long trip home that was even longer in the easter traffic. I glanced up before starting to circle the feedback. The room was nearly empty apart from someone at the far end who caught my eye and smiled. Someone who wore a small section of green hair in a way that most people couldn’t. It was as if they were saying, ‘don’t worry, it’s all part of the course’ with just a look.

The golden evening sunlit gateways of the Severn Bridges were revealed as the top of the motorway gave way to the horizon that was painted with the Welsh hills in the greys of the distance, an entry to Celtic culture and the place where I grew up.

I randomly stabbed at the car radio as I got lost in the menu system which started Oasis equally randomly. Somehow comforting. I don’t know why. I only have two of their albums and one of those is a best of. May be it’s because it takes me back to uni days where I was so self assured with an outlook on life that anything could and can happen.

Gender fluidity is strong at the GIC, looking at people in the waiting room and making assumptions or the explanations that come from the clinician on how modern times have changed. A day later I’m suddenly more comfortable with myself and who I am; my identity expression. The onset of confusion and self doubt had lifted and left behind a foundation of clearer thoughts and a little more confidence. I wore my hair how I wanted that day in a way that was just a little more revealing of my identity than the last time I changed my hair to be more me. It continued to the weekend. Here and there little things I stopped worrying about and new attitudes to my expression. The challenged talking therapy had a positive effect even though it wasn’t directly what we had talked about. I move forward once again.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Bridget Malaise

I would have been about twenty six, may be twenty seven. A time before Facebook and mobile phones didn’t have cameras. My career was at it’s height in a kind of not-really-achieving-much way but working on projects for huge name clients. I remember, when thinking back without the rose-tint, how bored I was becoming in work but nights out with friends was fun, Hannah-time, a nice house if only booked for a period of time like a hotel room. I remember being out one evening with a whole bunch of friends and we had to pay to get into this bar. One of my friend’s-friend didn’t want to go in, “I can’t afford this, I’ll go home.”
“I’ll pay, just come in.”
“You sure?”
“Hell yeah, this gravy train won’t last forever.” she didn’t know what I meant.

I knew at that point the writing was on the wall. I remember a little light just blinking dimly in my head just after I’d said it. My workplace in the city were already making scores of permanent people redundant. I would get back from lunch and someone would be missing. “Where’s Molly?”

“She got a phone call to go to the hotel next door. Told her to bring her bag with her.” and that was the last I saw of her. I knew it was coming for me too in about a month with a quiet word from my manager, “I’m going to renew your contract for another month, but after that – you know, with all the redundancies.”

On that night out I remember knowing this was coming but it strangely didn’t bother me on the surface. It was just a thing that was happening and I would deal with it when it happened.

Bridget Jones’s Diary had been released months before. It struck a chord with me. Something different about it compared to other films. It was something inside the film that I related to. There were similarities. The place she worked, feeling undervalued and not really performing the way they wanted; distracted by a social life. But putting aside the comedy and the going-out and getting drunk scenes it would be a few years later that I would relate dangerously to the serious plight the film described of Bridget, thirty-two feeling old before her time. A depressed spinster with no future happiness in sight. It was talked about in the newspapers of the time and how it had resonated to so many women.

I had left that city and the company which soon after emptied it’s office of the entire staff, office-scooters and toys and disappeared with many others into the obscurity of the dot com crash. I found myself living in an apartment on my own with a new job, eventually, but without realising that within just a few years I would also find myself slowly sliding into the same situation, coincidently aged thirty-two and feeling a bit empty much like the bottle of red on a Saturday night in the living room. I found that I had something more in common with that story of Bridget and I didn’t quite see it coming. I so wish I had.

I promised myself, in the early part of my thirties, and by early I mean.. well – my thirtieth birthday eve, that I would do something about the gender thing once and for all and just make a decision one way or the other and just stick to it and get on with everything else. I gave myself until New Years Eve; a new years resolution of the unfulfillable kind. The problem was I didn’t really give myself the reality of pace. Everyone has their own pace. For some it’s just as quick as flicking on the light switch in the kitchen and for others it needs careful consideration and time to come to terms with themselves.

I felt so disappointed with myself through my thirties that I hadn’t made that decision. I would mentally beat myself up over it. Bully myself of how I’d failed my own ability to make a decision and act on it; let alone not doing something at thirty I’d not done anything in my early twenties either.

Thankfully as I hit thirty-eight or so I did make a decision to speak to a professional about it. Get help. Talk it through. Demand the right person to discuss this with in an intelligent, open, honest, almost academic way. Like a conversation between two psychologist academics in leather wingback chairs discussing over a metaphorical brandy by an equally metaphorical fireplace flicking light onto the walls of the room, except it was in a plain room with just a couple of chairs, a notice board, a dull computer terminal, and a set of blinds; but the discussion was much the same. It wasn’t just progress, it was also permission to stop the internal conflict and disappointment. I finally was allowed to actually feel okay about who I was.

–♥–

Outside, right now, midnight, the road a glossy oil black street, drips clinging to the windows and the occasional rush of wind against the window dying off slowly. The street in silence of a relative lack of life of an urban sprawl in the countryside. While I now have the kindness of being released from self abuse of guilt by seeking help I feel my life, aside from the gender thing, really hasn’t changed much and just seems to be getting quieter and a little more hollow as the inside of a seed rots away and leaves just a husk. Things could be so much worse, I know, but then to live is to grow and enjoy. When days are just passing me by I feel, much like those days in 2002 when I knew the writing was on the wall at that company I worked, that I’m starting to feel that I’m already recognising that in several years time, may be ten or so, that I will suddenly realise I should have done so much more right now and I’ve missed my chance – at whatever it is I should be doing with my life. At least this time I seem to be more aware that long slow days are passing quicker than I realise.

It doesn’t help when outside the remains of a storm is still dousing the estate with grey and rain. Even if it were a warm starry night I would still have to do something with it to feel warm inside and that every moment is worthwhile. The problem is I feel so paralysed by the future that I feel too nervous to be sat by a log fire with a good book without feeling I was wasting time. A contradiction if I ever wrote one.

Until next time.

x

Salt in the Recipe

People around the table, all friends, laughing and chatting about times past, a bad day had at work. What started as a ‘Hi, come on in. Dinner is cooking.’ gradually becomes louder through the evening with glasses emptying and the bottles closely following behind. A candle on the table dashing back and forth in the light currents of air provided by the glowing conversation around the dinner table.

It’s funny that when I think about it, in our society – at least here in Britain, where drink is generally consumed from moderate through to just getting pissed out of our heads in an attempt to dull away the tedious sides of our lives and that alcohol is to our personalities that salt is to the recipe. Sure there is drunk which is that time where inhibition is suspended which takes away a part of our personality that makes us whole but before that, the band of tipsiness, which enhances who we are to others; the only time that may be we know we’ve gone too far is the day after when soberness asks, ‘did I really say that last night.’

I don’t drink that often anymore and when I don’t I realise that things aren’t really that different. I can enjoy a great movie that I love with or without a glass of red, the film will still have the same immersive effect on me, I just might not be quite so wide eye’d at the end. Yet there are times that I know if I’ve had that glass that I will feel just that little bit more immersed emotionally with whoever the characters were and the story. Things will be just a bit more contrast, saturate and the emotion will be wider and deeper.

If we do this with alcohol then what do those with the whole gender thing who go that step further with replacement hormones that the body can’t provide take from it. Part of it is medical and physical to make those subtle changes but some people have spoken about small changes of mood and approach to life. At what point do we take this as a change of personality or just a difference in outlook. Someone many years ago told me that they wondered if it changes who you really are and I thought about this on and off since. I do wonder if really there isn’t a change. It’s the same person, the same recipe, the only difference is the heat. A cold spaghetti bolognese is just a cold Italian inspired meal. May be it’s the person’s reaction to being happier and so more relaxed and a positive outlook on life or may be more stressed from a new life and the way some people react. I guess we will never know for sure but the important thing is that whatever the salt we add or the temperature we serve ourselves we just need to feel happy in ourselves, whether it’s identity, work, friends, the books we read or the beach we sit in the summer.

Coffee has much the same effect as alcohol in it’s ability to change how I react. I know I talk faster and ideas must be met quickly under the influence of an espresso. That said my timing in music flies out the window and goes on holiday for several hours. Neither coffee or alcohol are subtle in their changes in our personalities and I wonder how subtle everything we consume is and so who are we really? Are we just the person we are at a particular moment in time or is there an innate thread that runs through us and everything else around it are just clouds of vapour that come and go depending on our moods.

Many years ago, not long after I had graduated and had enough money to travel on the weekends with my friends I would drive us to other cities and towns just for a wander. We went to Cheltenham once and spent more time chatting walking the regency lined streets than really doing much else. It seemed aimless but it was time to spend with a group of friends that over the years we gradually drifted into our own lives. I think how I’m a different person now in how I was around those people then and how they were. We’ve matured and become subtly experienced.

We would leave in the early evening and I would drive the black ribbon country road, the sun seemingly taking forever to drop away with just a red and orange powder on the horizon and the calmness in the slowly flowing River Severn that would come into view as the road swept in and out of the country to the riverside. I discovered a compact disc that I used to listen to in that car on the way back and instantly I remembered the sky, the river, the remoteness of where we were and the warmth of a moment that already felt drenched in nostalgia even then. Even as the seemingly different person I am now that inner thread is still the same. I see the world in a similar way and it has a similar effect on me. The thread changes very little and only the shell matures. We can change the bits we want to change whether it’s coffee, wine, medication or just self improvement. As long as we are genuine and authentic in our reasons then the changes themselves really are a part of our personality. Change is who we are.

Whatever you decide to do each day you can decide what is authentic. Honesty with yourself will tell you and if you’re not sure then you’re not ready for the answer – may be.

Until next time.

x

Twenty-Something

The rain spat gently on my face after just a few feet from the house but if I didn’t leave now then I would have to cook and who run’s on a full stomach. To the north the charcoal lifted up and over the forest covered hills and to the border of the county in the south inviting blue and gold. It just seemed luck was on my side today that the weather was fairer on my usual route and did it really matter if I got a bit wet. I’d had a headache most of the weekend and even though it had subsided like a sponge that had been squeed dry I felt the worse I could look forward to would be a paracetamol and may be another cold.

It may have taken a mile and a half before I escaped the threat of a real soaking and I still couldn’t make my mind up if I was really awake or at least energetic enough on this lazy Sunday to actually be running but I’d surpassed the bridge where I’d planned to take shelter if rain turned to waterfall and I didn’t need it..

I tried to think of deep memories or come up with some kind of enlightenment or elucidate, as I ran with the intention of using those powerful endorphins that always seem to problem-solve so well, but I can’t choose what I want to solve in such a prescriptive fashion. Whatever needs sorting just comes to mind while I tread the black ribbon and dodge cars, some that give a wide gap and the rare few that keep to the straight in the narrow country lane at the speed limit.

It usually doesn’t take much for me to reminisce about the early Norties where I played out my mid-twenties. A brit-pop or that fleeting set of chillout albums that declared prominent license to fill the entire office, where I thought I was at the top of my career, injecting ostentatiousness into all the permanent staff. This was an era where the cult drama This Life had left it’s mark where some thought they were those ambitious twenty-something lawyers charging around with a wallet full of notes and drinking to stupidity in an equally ostentatious bar in Clifton – the reality was they were a bunch of computer programmers trying to out-one-up-man-ship each other in skills in the bore of I.T. only polished by the big corporate names we worked with.

Within nearly two years I’d seen people dart around the office on Go-Peds, remote control silver air ships that would land in front of your screen, watched the crowd of staff standing around the large wide flat-screen TV in the supposed ‘hip’ break area with jaws dropped as the Twin Towers fell. It was a time of thick vibrant colours of opportunities, and thick “startup glasses” on our promotional posters and to add to the emotional rollercoaster the Internet crash. Before the likes of corporate tax avoidance of the likes of Amazon and Google, when companies first started offering shopping on the web and venture capitalists would plough millions into hopeful bright-eyed promotional smiles hanging from a black cab in London telling them they’ll make even more millions. They didn’t.

I got back from lunch one afternoon and sat at my desk, one of many rows in a large curving open plan office, someone was missing. I asked the relatively quiet lad that had sat next to me for the last year and a half, “Where is Kate?”

“She had a phone call. They said she had a meeting in the hotel next door. ‘Oh and bring your handbag.’” he said casually as he continued to stare at the screen and tap away at the keyboard as equally lethargic as his own casual, and rare in that office, attitude.

Within my last month there they culled forty employees. When my freelance status ended after my kindly informed last renewal I heard they culled another forty. Some months later what was left of the company and the office was closed-down and absorbed into the parent company in London. No one survived. Even one of the Daniel-Cleaver-esq management Mr Cool in his light sand coloured suits who would stroll in from time to time was gone. I never met any of the people I knew there again and all I was left with was dwindling finances, job board web sites devoid of work and those Chillout albums which no longer vitalised but drained the enthusiasm from the battery of being young. I’d only have to hear one of those tracks and suddenly life would take on a different meaning and I would feel sad for the past in the form of some sort of grief for what seemed exciting at the time. I think this was probably the end of the need to climb the career ladder and probably the end of what it was like to be twenty-something.

I heard a short blip of one of those tracks as I flicked through the car radio trying to find a radio station that didn’t woosh and fade while I travelled to my new job. I clicked back through a few presets until I found it. The thoughts came back as they normally have of those times I spent back in 2001 but it didn’t really have the same emotional charge. And while I’m sure if I thought about it long and hard enough, may be even fuelled by alcohol, that I could get those sad feelings, I didn’t have them. They seemed to now be in a much deeper past. It felt almost a by-gone youth full of naiveté and false ambitions. A photograph that was no longer crisp and vibrant of colours but faded taken with an old film camera. It felt good to be unshackled from the power of those rose tinted memories.

I got to the castle and the lake at the mid point of my run with the roots of my hair damp with sweat and a salty top lip. The black clouds were still visible but they were distant enough to the north to know it wasn’t going to rain on me. I stopped at the small wooden pier that pinned it’s way into the lake with golden flashes of sunlight flickering in the ripples that emphasised the golden-sand colour of the grass reeds where geese glided around looking for anything to take a taste of from the surface of the water.

I don’t think it mattered that I couldn’t use the magic of the running endorphins to think about my twenty-something memories as I’d already considered them and finally, after many years, those times have been put to rest. It also didn’t matter when I returned to the village to find the road soaked with determined rivers flowing along the gutter and my trainers flicking aftermath of rain onto my calfs. The sun shone at the lake and that made a good end to the weekend.

Every Step

I walked out of the office into the high street. The front door clicked shut behind me with that authority of security. That rush hour feeling was already emanating from the surface of the road as cars shifted along to the next set of traffic lights and skirts and suits strutted hurried down the pavement as they did in the morning commute. Taught well by a game of Frogger as a child I crossed the wide street between the work-horse saloons and tail-gating flat fronted city busses. I walked along side the over shadowing regent apartments only lightly toned with the stain of diesel fumes that hung above the traffic.

He walked at a pace that could only be measured in millimetres. Shuffling steps aided by a shopping bag frame on wheels. Grey bristles jetted out from his cheeks and chin and a look of both determination and fear synergetically. He must have been in his eighties and if he wasn’t then he was physically old before his time. I thought to myself how this gentleman, who was walking down a busy high street barely aided and where a whole day would need to be put aside just to go to the news agents, was still out and about trying. As I approached him he looked up and caught my eye. “Could you do me a favour and open the door with my key. Only if you’re not too busy.”

“Of course I can.” I said feeling honoured to help, “Which door? This one?” I pointed back to the nearest door of the ageing building.

He handed my some dead lock keys and a fob and I walked to the door which though only several yards away must have been a good ten more minute for him. I looked at the keys and tried to guess which one would fit the old brass plated lock on the large solid wooden doors that must be getting on for a hundred years old. “It’s the white one.” he shouted across, “Press it to the thing on the wall.”

Some small electronic pad stood out from the wall to the side of the door. I put the fob against it and click, the door unlocked. “There is a hook on the wall, if you lock the door open…” I hooked the door on a long chain and headed back to the man. I gave him his keys back which he filed somewhere in his deep shopping bag. I didn’t feel I could just leave him. Leave the story at this and carry on home as if he would be okay. “Can I help you in?”

“Only if you have time.” he said. I wondered how he managed everyday. How many people might have stopped.

“Of course I have time. Besides –” I said trying to lighten any feeling of burden, “the later I leave the less traffic I’ll be stuck in.” there was a glimmer of a smile over the strain.

I took his weight from under his arm and allowed him to lead shuffling his wait patiently a millimetre at a time. Through his shirt I could feel every bone through what little muscle was covered in his delicate and bruised tail telling skin. When we got to the steps up to the front door of his apartment block I wondered how on earth he would get up to the door. He slowly let me know his method that apparently was tried and tested. He had to get to the rail along the steps and pull the trolley up a step at a time. After twenty minutes though we were still only little closer to the rail and at this point moving no further. “I had a nasty fall last week.” he informed him. I could feel his nervousness. Despite his efforts we were getting no closer. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today but my leg just doesn’t want to move.”

Eventually two strangers decided to stop and asked if they could help. Between us with me taking his weight and the woman who firmly encouraged the man to let go of the trolley, we got him into the lobby. Once there all his fears of falling were gone. The woman insisted that she could help him from now on and appeared to be a resident.

I continued my post-office walk to the car. I wondered about my thoughts. I felt sad for him. I felt emotional. What I didn’t feel though was that sudden zest for life that these sorts of things usually bring, that damn it i’m going to do everything I want to moment. I just felt the realisation that it’s slowly creeping up on us all. By the time I got home I felt odd about it all. Sad but unusually helpless about it. Could this possibly spur me on to do something about my own life while I can? Stop myself moaning about not quite having the right shape body I want or worried about being outed because something about my face might give me away.

I ached. My arms ached from holding his weight. May be the moment just wasn’t profound enough to effect me in that way or I just wasn’t in that place. Something had to be done about my fuzzy head. The lack of clear thought and mixed confusion that I’ve had of late. Stuck in this damn stressful demanding job and allowing people to walk over me. Something needed to change.

Until next time.

x