Supermarket Sweep

A shop assistant told me off the other day for sitting on the floor in isle 6 at the supermarket. It’s against shop rules apparently, to sit down when you’re bored of searching for everything on the very specific shopping list you’ve been given by your obsessive aunt.

“You’re not allowed to sit here,” said the guy wearing an apron. His nametag was scratched but I could make out he worked at the fish counter as he smelt like as open tin of tuna that hadn’t been refrigerated. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not doing any harm just sitting here, minding my own business. I just wanted to assess my next move in this busy store and rest my legs in the process.

“Really, you’re going to have to get up. Where’s your mum?”

I suppose it’s fairly normal to assume that when a 14-year-old girl is sitting on the floor in a supermarket it’s due to her rebellious nature towards her mother who has most probably walked away in humiliation.

My reply was monotone, “She’s dead”.

After these words left my mouth I realised this could also be another presumed reason for my collapse on the supermarket floor. It could be that I’m inconsolably upset that my mother has died and due to my underdeveloped coping skills as a teenager, I’ve come to the supermarket to vent my pain and seek the help of strangers. This wasn’t the case for my sitting on the floor, I just wanted to rest my legs because when you’re 14 food shopping is boring. It’s most probably boring when you’re an official adult too (I’m not sure what age you can stamp yourself an ‘official adult’ as Aunt G still cries if we run out of digestive biscuits and she’s 58).

“Shit, I’m so sorry. Are you Ok?”

Am I Ok? I don’t know the answer to this question, I seriously don’t.

“Not really”

“Do you want me to call anyone? Does your dad know you’re here? I can call him from the phone in the back office”.

Wouldn’t that be incredible, if this guy could just call my dad using a special phone in the back office? Imagine if this phone was so miraculous it could dial into a part of my dads mind, a part of him so deep it’s heard nothing but a death tone hum since my mum died, 6 months ago. This phone could tap into his maternal psyche, wake it up, inform it that my behaviour has become so out of the ordinary that I’ve taken to sitting on supermarket floors. Undoubtedly his awareness of my current behaviour would draw him back to London, even if it’s purely out of curiosity (he’s a nosey bugger). Even if he wanted to go someplace else, like Dorset or Cumbria or the highlands, I’d happily jump on a train and meet him there. Dad always wanted to live in Cumbria. He had this idea about buying a farm, even though my mum was vegan. He said that he’d raise the cows with so much love that when it was time to send them off to slaughter, they’d be the happiest cows on death row. Mum was obviously disgusted by this idea but liked the idea of Cumbria so they’d often talk about moving there and buying an old farmhouse with plenty of cats and no cows. Dad still asked if he could have a shed to make cheese in, mum agreed. She later told me that he’d never actually do it, as he can’t even nail a banister to the staircase wall, even though she’s been asking for two years now. Her exact words were ‘how the hell is he going to manage sitting in a shed, churning cheese when he can’t even hammer a few nails into the wall… dumb idiot’. We never did have a banister. You also need cows to make milk but dad really was a bit of an idiot, most of the time.

I felt this was an appropriate time to explain my situation to a stranger. “My Dad’s living on a barge in France and he doesn’t own a phone. I suppose he could be anywhere by now but we’ll never know. Well not unless he sends one of those pigeons with a message tied around his neck but my dads never handled birds so he wouldn’t have a clue what to do”.

I didn’t move, I know I should have, just to break the awkwardness. The shop assistant who’s name I couldn’t make out, well he looked puzzled and rather worried I might cry or something. He smiled and nodded sympathetically but said no more to me. He beckoned to his colleague who was reducing the price of bagels with his red sticker gun.

“I think we have a situation here”.

This is not a situation.

I believe screaming in public is considered ‘not the done thing’ but I bet my whole £20 savings that many have contemplated, even fantasied about screaming the house down more than they’d like to admit. Lets say if you get to the post office and the queue is so long it’s out the door, then you see there’s only one member of staff in service and the parcel you’re posting is for someone who has their birthday tomorrow so you have to post it as you made them a promise. This scenario has never happened to me, however that doesn’t stop me from imagining it could induce a frustrated scream and maybe even some swear words for good measure. I was now beyond just resting my tiered legs during a shopping trip.

Maybe I should create a situation.

If I hadn’t felt like screaming before I was observed as a ‘situation’, I sure did now. I wanted to empty my lungs like they were full of lethal fumes and only death awaited if I didn’t release immediately. I could feel the well of rage filling up, my tears patiently waiting for the red light to flow purposefully down my cheek. Powerful electrical currents possessed my feet, pulsating, taunting me to stand up powerfully and swipe the shop assistant across the face with my right hand. My right hand was getting ready, preparing for war.

The shop assistants were not fuelling my battle imaginings; the sticker gun was not enforcing primal instincts to attack! One instructed, “I think we should get the manager over”

War had begun.

I crossed my legs and swung forward, hauling up my body in one heroic movement.

I am a warrior!

“She might not be right in the head”

I am a warrior!

“Kid, you’re going to have to leave the shop”

I am a warrior!

“Kid, say something, you’re being weird”

I am a warrior! Except I’m not a warrior at all, I couldn’t talk, my tongue felt bigger than my mouth and my right hand numbly remained at the side of my hip. I then did something that would make my Aunt G proud. Something that completely negated all the sadness that rose so abruptly inside of me. Something that pushed the rawness of my pain deep inside my tummy to live with the night terrors and panic attacks. I smiled at the shop assistants and picked up my basket, in one carefree motion.

“Where do you keep the tins of tuna?”

Changes

A beautiful sky today, the moving clouds are playing with the sun. The sunlight comes and goes. In this moment I’m appreciating the change of mood as the varying sunlight brings constant movement of shadows. There isn’t much I’m lacking right now, to be honest, its dawned on me lately that I have never lacked, only thrived. I’ve made it to now; I’m alive in this moment. My body is well, my mind is full of magic, I’m writing and I’m smiling. I still love dancing around the room in my pants in the morning, who doesn’t? My breath comes easily with no force or discomfort, I am blessed in this moment and I want for nothing.

I’ve been observing the shadows within lately, a place I’ve been led to as I surrender into (and slightly obsess over) my spiritual practice. It’s felt a little involuntary yet absolutely essential, a lesson in trust and letting go of control. I have often believed myself to be in full control, or at least I’ve wanted to be at all times. I am the one steering the bus, honking the horn and choosing who gets on. The truth is, I’m totally not. I’ve never really known where the hell my bus was headed and I’ve let anyone on who seemed like they needed a ride. In my need for control I’ve only tightened the elastic, restricting the blood, the life.

What the hell is normal anyway, I’ve wanted that feeling of ‘normal’ so bad that it’s swelled up inside my belly to prevent the release, literally, I used to go for days without pooping. Once I hit a record of not pooping for FIVE days. All because I didn’t like the girl I saw staring back at me in the mirror. I’m not sure what alternative I was desiring but I blocked what felt right for me, I wanted to be like the other girls who were most probably suffering the same pains as me during those ‘joyous’ teenage years. I guess those expectations of self are extracted from a place that feels like ‘no-where’ yet is actually someplace incredibly sacred, a soul space that needs cherishing, not demoralising. That space where the programming happens, often filled with other peoples stories, things we see on TV and all the placed ideals about ourselves, moulded by the hands of almost everyone else – the invited, the not-really-invited-but-come-anyway and the I-really-don’t-like-you-but-I’m-a-people-pleaser-so-please-come-in-and-feel-free-to-roam-around-my-psyche.

I feel completely capable one moment, like I’m embracing the totality of me and it’s wholeness and I love where I’ve been and where I’m headed. Then I loosen the reigns and hand over my power to the outside, the external, as I don’t want the responsibly of being in charge anymore. BOOM… then happens, that distorted view; the haze of darkness that compresses every part of me, all I can do in that moment is breathe… well even that has proven tough in the past and low and behold, along comes old pal Panic Attack. I say pal as we know each other pretty well now, its not healthiest of relationships and I’d say panic has been alpha in the partnership. I’ve known panic attacks since a very young age, we’ve grown up together and has always been my fall back mode, default if you like. It’s not so easy to say goodbye to such an old habit. It’s become pretty easy for me to loose sense of myself and centring becomes a struggle. I float to someplace unknown that I now seem to know so well yet never feel welcome. My senses become heightened and all I’ve been able to do in the past is resist and revolt. “This is not normal behaviour,” I tell myself. “I’m loosing grip,” “I can’t do anything without feeling like this”. I’m then overruled by panic; an angry judge has commanded the rise of fear. That angry judge wants to sentence me to a lifetime of confinement and get the hell outta that courtroom as he’s someplace better to be. All eyes are on me, mine being the most judgemental of all. The Jury is pointing, speculating and agreeing in absolute certainty that I’m only going to reoffend if I’m given any freedom.

Shit, I can be a real bitch to myself, a real no-one-wants-a-friend-like-you-friend.

We all have it right? That voice that only we can hear, that voice that only we can change but truly, once it gets carried away there ain’t no positive punch that can take it down. I feel like I’ve given my control pad to some 6-year-old kid on a Nintendo 64 (yes, probably me playing level 8 on Super Mario Bros 2 as that shit was hard!) and they’re ruling my game. They’re fighting the war between good and evil, what a rush when good is leading but then WHACK, that evil boss at the end of each level bursts that euphoric sense of completion.

It’s fucking hard work!

There isn’t a good or evil, I know that. Beginning and fuelling that war inside is dangerous and harming, I know that too. I don’t have to give my controls to the inner 6-year-old, or the angry judge or be defeated by the character that shoots fireballs at the end of an accomplishment. I know we have to feel that balance of light and dark. That nothing can exist without an opposite and I know it’s the in-betweens where peace exists. In this moment as I type, it’s all falling into place. I’m making complete sense to myself yet in a few moments all may change. That’s where the beauty lies. Magic rides alongside change.

The blossoming of the magnolia tree is mesmerising and I’m blessed to see many in the area where I live. Weeks ago the tree was bare, the small bud was apparent but the branches were exposed, naked in the grey light of winter. Now the tree is in full bloom. It’s absolute perfection. The pink in the petal brings out the blue in the sky and its beauty empowers me. The strong winds of early spring will strip the tree bare again and carry the petals, cradling them as they fall to the pavement. Yet that doesn’t matter because they’ll bloom again, without fail the cycle of life continues. Perfection lies in the death and re-birth of all. I see this with the change of winter to spring yet why have I been so attached to my old stories, the self I was 10 years ago. Why can’t they be carried away as gracefully as the magnolia petals. I guess I’ll know when it’s my time to know.

Yep, right now I’m making complete sense but all could change in the next moment, with the next gust of wind on this blustery day.

Free Writing Experiment

Free writing exercise to get the juices flowing, to dislodge what little creative thought I have going on in the department of writing today. Timer was set for 15 minutes, pen hit paper and I hand wrote the following:

Free

Free

Free

These are the first words that pop into my head as I think about this activity. Well drrrrrrr.

Stop Thinking

But I gotta otherwise I die.

A constant struggle between what I think I should be and what I feel. Common right?

Sometimes its good to question a situation in feeling rather than analytical thought. If I think of what I should be thinking about a current situation and I thought that my thought was right, it’s always ended abruptly. Dead end. Maybe that’s been my destiny to bring me to now, to this moment. Maybe this moment has already occurred and I’m re-living it with different outcomes as the previous experience taught me an alternative way of being, behaving, taught me a new lesson to not be repeated.

Ate too many tortilla chips at lunch. I knew when I was eating I needed to stop but the salt monster inside kept munching.

I’m shuffling in my chair, feel weird to write with no stop, it hurts my hand too! I can’t stare out of the window. I love to stare out of the window. No wonder my writing is still in my head, my stories aren’t birthed into the physical yet… they’re cooking. I need to just get shit out of the oven to feel the cool breeze of release. That’s what I need to do but what I want ain’t what I need and what I want ain’t gonna do me no good sometimes.

That’s the truth Emily Goldthorpe.

Names. They’re funny things. If I were called Charlotte like my parents were thinking about before Emily popped into their head… was it mum or dad who thought of Emily? Question for them. So if I were called Charlotte would I be different, do names bring a certain frequency into our existence? Why all the labels anyway? I’d still be lovable (I hope) if my name were taken from me. My heart doesn’t beat because of what I’m called.

Maybe I’d be the one that no one can relate to, as they’ve never met anyone without a name before. What would they call me in their phone contacts? My Facebook would be different but who really gives a crap about that, Facebook is a strange, addictive, I-don’t-really-wanna-be-on-here-but-I-am crazy thing.

I’m still intellectualising my thoughts as I write… I’m forward planning my words, my thoughts. This is not flowing as organically as I’d expected. I was hoping for some grandly obscure masterpiece, once the blocks were down, the magic happens. Maybe it is. Problem in life? Probably

Flow

Flow

Flow

There’s a big void, it feels normal to intellectualise my thoughts at this time of the day. I set aside meditation time, yoga time and then I can let shit go. I’m getting better at that during the moments I set aside for it. The rest of the time feels structured, must more challenging to just ‘be’. What is ‘being’ anyway? I am a human being. I’m being. I’m being right now. I think language is a gift and a curse but then I suppose all things are. Through good intentions comes pain in misunderstandings. The Yin and the Yang, with the bad can tail the good. We need opposites to experience the fullness of existence. So much to think about when you’re trying not to think too much and just let the pen flow.

So much

How much

Much

Fuck much

I knew I’d swear at some point. Dirty habit. When I do something unexpected like bash my arm on the door or kick my left foot with my right (it can happen) I often, more times than not… SHIT. I shouldn’t swear but I do and I ain’t got kids so who worries?

Beep, beep, beep. Time is up.

 

Goddess With A Unicorn

#1. My first Encounter with Mama J

So when one is born they have no say in their surroundings, this is an unfortunate disadvantage that hinders… the unfortunate. Some love where they’re born, if I was born near a beach and the sun shone 90% of the time, I’d wear a smile morning, noon and night. I’d also love a house with a porch, covered in night-lights and a swinging chair by the front door to chat to all the passers by. A house like this wouldn’t work where I live because people look at me funny when I smile at them. I also swear I was born a vegan, I hate milk and love chickens, I’d rather see them alive than dead. Yet each Friday my dad would feed me chicken. Apparently a kid’s opinion isn’t worthy of serious consideration, all thoughts are believed to be a ‘phase’; something a kid will grow out of when the next phase is encountered. Kids go through so many phases but my hating milk and wanting-to-keep-chickens-alive phase stuck. I was glad to have my dietary requirements accommodated when I went on hunger strike at the age of 8. This is exactly why every girl needs a hippie in her life. A straight talking, takin’ no shit, nature lovin’, herb drinking kinda woman. Mine is Mama J.

Sometimes you meet someone who shines brighter than others. Once you’ve met those shining stars, you want to take their picture, stick it on your mood board and hope their presence stays in your life forever. Mama J is my ruby in the sewage swamp and she’s vegan too so the heavens must have brought us together.

I met her when I first moved in with my Aunt G. She was sat on the concrete steps that led up the main door of the house. Mama J lives in the basement flat, just below Gene’s flat on the ground floor. The main door of the house is painted black; it has a small carving by the letterbox that says ‘RL & GK 1982’. This is evidence enough that no paint has touched this door since that poetic inscription. I’m guessing the whole building, inside and out, hasn’t seen a retouch pre 1980.

She was smoking a cigarette as I stood outside the house for the first time, about to move into a flat that I’d never visited and live with a woman I’d met three times in my life.

“You must be Gene’s niece”

Unfortunately, yes.

She put out her cigarette to help me move in, even though the burning tip hadn’t reached the yellow filter. I knew she was a good egg as an abrupt halt to your addictive pleasure is not an easy task and most would continue until every last pollutant fume was drawn out of the death stick.

Aunt G just stood at her front door watching as we clumsily manoeuvred my entire life shoved into one suitcase up the stairs.

Aunt Gene is a self-diagnosed agoraphobic; she has a panic attack if she leaves the flat. Unless it’s a Sunday as she goes to early morning mass each week. When I question as to why she can leave the house on a Sunday but not pop to Sainsbury’s to get the weekly shop her response goes something like “possessed by the devil are those who willingly choose to buy ready-made mash potato and additive fuelled Angel Delight”. I love Angel Delight. If I’m doomed to hell then at least I’ll go with bright pink insides and chocolate memories. However, she has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and had 6 counselling sessions to help her overcome her fear of germs and people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ. I’m not sure the counselling sessions did much other than convince her that all psychologists are God fearing as they tried to convince her that not all people who eat ready-made meals are evil. According to Aunt G, they are the sick ones, not her. Needless to say, she doesn’t have many friends.

On the day that I moved in, Mama J told that if I ever needed anything, I could just knock on her door. I did need something 20 minutes after Mama J left me with Aunt Gene on my first day. I knocked, just like she said I could and I now have Angel Delight at Mama J’s every Monday, Wednesday and Friday after school.

The Boy Under The Tree

He sat under the Eucalyptus tree at the bottom of our communal garden. He was intensely focused on his fingernails, his breath was slow and his gaze did not wander. He forcefully pressed the nail cuticle into his mouth, biting hard on the skin. His gaze focused forward, not looking at anything in particular but concentrated on this surprisingly mesmerising nail biting activity. I’m sure he’s going to make his fingers bleed.

I too had red and puffy skin around my cuticles from picking my fingers so I was very aware of the satisfaction this self-harming habit brought on. He continued to nibble at the same spot on his finger for longer than was comfortable to watch but I continued to stare at him out of my kitchen window all the same. He then went on to bite his fingernails. Then he moved onto picking the dry skin from the bottom of his feet.

Boys are so unapologetic about their primal grooming behaviours. I live with my Aunt Gene and her pruning habits are pretty disgusting but at least she attempts to hide them behind the bathroom door, although I always find toenail clippings and blunt, hair infested razors on the side of the bath.

Boys are so proud of how smelly their poops are at school. If a girl spends longer than a minute in the cubicle… “Gross, she must be doing a shit, couldn’t she wait until she got home?!”

I’ve never seen this boy before, I don’t recognise him from school and he doesn’t live in any of the four flats in our London townhouse. His clothes are really odd too. He’s wearing a pair of brown shorts, they look like leather but then the heat of this summer’s day may be affecting my eyesight. Who wears leather shorts in mid August in a heat wave, actually who wears leather shorts, full stop? His chest was bare apart from what looked like a piece of thick string draping from his shoulder to his hip, it could have been a bag strap but boys don’t wear bags.

I consciously make an effort to lesson my judgements of others (I think it’s impossible to make no judgement as I would never willingly approach a naked man walking around the supermarket unless I was carrying a spare pair of mans pants but that’s not something I often keep in my jean pocket). Plenty of judgemental comments are catapulted my way at school, as I don’t own any matching socks and my white school shirts get washed with the darks. Aunt Gene shows no colour prejudice when it comes to putting a wash on. Her choice of only wearing black comes from her belief that it’s the only colour to compliment her complexion and she doesn’t have to worry about choosing what to wear in the morning. Of course it’s my fault that school enforces such strict uniform policies. Its my fault that she can’t afford two washing cycles to accommodate whites as if she wasn’t lumbered with me after my mum died and my dad bought a Barge and disappeared, she’d be living the life of riley. So, consequently I have grey shirts and I’ve picked at the seam of the bottom of my trousers to hide one sock black and one sock grey.

The boy is still picking at his feet and I’m still staring at him out of my window. The decision I make at this very moment could be life changing. My options are as follows:

  • I approach the boy with a plate of digestive biscuits, offer him counsel should he seek it.
  • I approach the boy with a plate of digestive biscuits and he kills me with the knife he’s hiding in his man bag.
  • I just ignore him.
  • I don’t take him any biscuits and shout at him from the comfort of my window. I tell him he’s sat on our property illegally and if it were legal for me to own a gun, I’d be within my rights to shoot him. (I wouldn’t shoot him. Last time I accidently killed a spider I was so mortified I wrapped it up in one of Aunt G’s black socks and had a little spider funeral in the garden. No one questions a missing sock)

I didn’t partake in any of the above although I did stay at the window and shout down, I decided not to mention a gun.

“Hey, are you ok?”

Boys don’t like complicated questions.

He stopped picking his feet and looked up.

He smiled.

“Hey”

His teeth are perfect.

“It’s a nice day, why don’t you come down and join me under the tree?”

Scenario 2 could become a reality; he’s inviting me down to kill me. I go anyway.

I’d highly recommend sitting under a Eucalyptus tree in the sunshine, it’s a very pleasurable place to be. His name is Josh and he’s two years older than me. He doesn’t seem like the murdering type and he smelt of lavender, which struck me as bizarre as boys don’t smell of flowers. When a boy does smell of a botanical garden it’s very comforting and deadens the anxiety of being slaughtered by a carving knife.

He told me he’d come here to see me.

There are many instances in my life when I believe myself to be going mad, especially as living with Aunt G is so unpredictable and her behaviour often makes me question my own. The insanity in our flat pours outside the four walls, flooding my thoughts as I attempt to merge with society. Merging doesn’t seem to be my forte. I’m a walking breakdown waiting to happen. Aunt G’s insular take on life and her OCD tendencies are infesting the air that I breathe each day. It’s too late, that toxic oxygen has invaded my blood and all I can do is observe her murky force pumping around my body. When a boy you don’t know tells you he’s sat under a tree in your garden because he’s waiting to see you, well this is one of those bite-me-on-the-butt-insane moments that you knew would encroach your existence at some point or another.

“Would you like to come in for a digestive biscuit?”

“I don’t think I like digestive biscuits and I like sitting under this tree with you”

Well colour me happy, I was glad of his response and if I’m honest with myself, I don’t think I like digestive biscuits either.

 

 

One Hundred and Three

Ah, tis back in the day when the war was on

Sorry, not at all! I seem to have it all wrong!

I’m not back then, but in the now you see

Oh what a bloody good age being one hundred and three.

 

So I have no teeth and my eye sights bad

My clothes are worn as forty years I’ve had.

But I have my health, well not exactly in tack

As my bones are brittle and a left leg I lack.

 

Now my physical state may have seen better times

As my skin hangs lose, with a face full of lines.

But I was never a beauty even back in the day

‘A beauty skin deep’ my dear mother would say.

 

But I still go dancing, at least twice a week

What I lack in a leg I make up for in chic.

A special comfort shoe with heel rather low,

And pink floral dress with a silk slip on show.

 

“How naughty” you’re thinking, for an old goat like me

You’d expect me at home with digestives and tea.

But that’s not for me with my second rate youth

Age carries wisdom and style a la couth!

 

Ok, what about this, I still have my mind

It’s strong in will, though years behind.

And my memory’s bad but these days I don’t care

For I have a new love who is charming and fair!

 

He’s sixty seven and Albert’s his name

Whose face could put Glenn Miller’s to shame.

With teeth pearly clean which he takes out at night

For that smile which sends my heart into flight.

 

Was in Asda we met, down isle number four

He was perfect to me, I clocked not one flaw.

Well apart from his trousers being one size to big

And a bald patch covered with a second hand wig.

 

But young love is blind so forgive him all this

A precious old slipper, once gone I would miss.

So I take his arm for the whole world to see

It’s a wondrous age being one hundred and three!