As 2012 draws to a close I look out upon leaden skies, waterlogged lawns, a small but fast flowing muddy stream running off the paddock, over the cobbled drive, gushing into the gutters of our village street and I seem to remember beginning the year with warnings of widespread drought across the British Isles. Oh dear… My heart goes out to those who have been made homeless and suffered misery, discomfort and hardship due to the combative nature of the weather these past twelve months.
I’m looking forward to a new year and as I wonder what it will hold I can’t help but reflect on the surprises that slowly unfolded during 2012 and how different life is now to when the year began.
My man moved in just before Christmas 2011 and so this year has been one of discovery. I’ve learned more about myself than about him – living on your own for five years (children don’t count here, because however tolerent and liberal you are – and I am quite – you’re still the ‘mum’ and ‘in control’ of your environment…) makes you among other things; anal to an autistic level; bossy; obsessively tidy and extremely intolerant of other people’s irrelevant stuff however neatly stacked although conversely, completely blind to your own orderly piles of highly important detritus; unreasonable; moody; someone who drinks more, both in frequential and quantative terms, than one ought; someone who possibly deserves to live out the remainder of their days as a spinster… He, however, although on the opposite end of the spectrum to the harridan he’s found himself cohabiting with, re moods, tidyness and organisation, is tolerant, kind, patient and willing to change, or at least to try. Mmm. If I were one to make resolutions I’d know where to start.
The year almost got me divorced from my husband of twenty-two years. I wish I could remove the almost, but not quite. Everything has been agreed, in principle, just the i’s to cross and the t’s to dot. Won’t be long now. It was a hard slog and our solicitors are richer than they were, although without them he’d have eaten me for breakfast without even leaving the bones of me to spit out, so I’ll always be grateful… And perhaps that’s as it should be – It is half-a-life-time after all and we’ve three children and the machinations of a business to sort out.
I ceased working in the ^^ business. What a relief! I didn’t realise what a weight I’d been carrying until it was lifted from my shoulders; the struggle to maintain a working relationship with a man you once loved, who’s the father of your children, but whom you no longer know or understand was both more consuming and exhausting than I realised. I am no longer a fashion designer. I am no longer a businesswoman. I am no longer an employer. I am a writer! And not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate how lucky I am to have made that change. Friends often remind me that I worked hard for it, that I sacrificed time with the kids when they were little, that we struggled financially in the early years and often did without, that one makes one’s own destiny… All perhaps true, but I’m still grateful!
This year also got me back into my home – the one I spent eighteen months gutting and renovating nine years ago. It held me safe whilst I recovered from severe depression. It nurtured me whilst I gathered my wits and accepted that my marriage had disintegrated. It reminded me that I could still create and that I could still discover beauty even where it lay buried. The house has been rented out for the past five years and it was with happy hearts that we returned this summer. We have our library back, where our books can breathe, where my man can leave his piles of highly important stuff undisturbed, (well almost) and write unperturbed, (well almost) where there’s space to set out the weird and wonderful objects we’ve collected on our travels and hang all our paintings and display all the treasures the children have made and space to have friends and family to stay and to feed them and enjoy their company. It’s very lovely.
My parents died. They were eighty-four and I lost them within two months of each other. It didn’t really hit me until we cremated our mother last week and suddenly it was over. I’m no longer a daughter and I’ll never know ‘that very special love’ again. Life changed in a moment. It wasn’t without it’s own release – no more responsibility, or guilt, and it certainly wasn’t without grief or regret, but it was with an understanding and an acceptance of the order of things. It was their time and we had to let them go. The journey my sisters and I took together throughout their illnesses, hospitalisation and deaths was momentous, unimaginable, shattering and life changing. We learned more about each other and our own relationships in those months than we ever have before and for that we have our parents to thank. We are all closer as a consequence and it’s a closeness we’ll nurture forever. I know I will. I love them more than I ever knew I could.
Friends were key as always – old muckers served up their customary wit, humour, support and love in bucketloads and I was frequently reminded why they were exactly that, and those few precious newcomers that have found their way into my heart will never be allowed to escape.
And my boys… My boys – all now taller than me, all generous, talented, beautiful young men with gorgeous girlfriends and delightful friends, they make me feel very proud. They grow from strength to strength, constant companions, constant joy and constant love. Whatever I have yet to achieve, they will always be my greatest legacy.
The year has dealt a good hand of literary pursuits – The Leicester Stanza groups continue to be the most stimulating way to spend a Saturday afternoon and I look forward to them every month. I really value the considered, intelligent feedback I receive on my poetry and love to read and discuss other’s work. I attended a really good one-day workshop at the Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester, which I thoroughly enjoyed and was sorry to miss the annual visit to the Sculpture in the Botanic Gardens. I am sure I have grown as a poet since attending for I always learn so much, but most of all, these afternoons are brilliant fun and I cherish many burgeoning friendships that are fast forming.
Leicester Writer’s Club is a wonderful weekly event. I joined the committee this year, but due to my parents and other family commitments was unable to seriously fulfill my role as press-officer. I am looking forward to more settled times so I can return with new vigour and make up for my neglect. At the annual awards ceremony this autumn they awarded me the Short Story Prize – one I don’t feel I yet deserve, but do feel the need to honour, so I will strive to do so next year. I shall take a well-sharpened scythe to the twenty odd stories I’ve written this year, hack, hone and wittle them into some kind of decent shape and I intend to start submitting them. I’m prepared for rejection, I’m prepared to learn, I’m prepared for hard work and I’m hoping for some small glimmer of success.
I spent another fab week in glorious Andalucia this October on a writer’s retreat organised by The Literary Consultancy. My man was the tutor again and it was lovely to return, this time as a couple, and also to have the chance to reaffirm and reinforce some of the unique and precious friendships we made last year.
Vanguard Readings in London is a newly discovered event and we attended our first in December at a lovely pub in Camberwell on the coldest day of the year (possibly the decade). The man read from his novel, Pynter Bender, to hushed and rapt appreciation. All the readers were excellent and I definitely want to return for more of these events next year.
I have been working on my first poetry collection – DressCode and now have forty-two finished sonnets, all about clothes… The excellent John Gallas (poet, teacher, bard, wit, fellow fag smoker and coffee drinker extra-ordinaire) has been a wise and generous mentor. Crystal Clear Creators were good enough to publish one, Twinset, in Hearing Voices V, their excellent literary magazine. I’ve also enjoyed many of their Shindig! evenings at the Western Pub in Leicester which they run in conjunction with Nine Arches Press – always a quality night, both the featured poets and the open-mikers.
I’ve read many superb books, some of my favourites being:
So… Aims and ambitions for 2013… To write, write, write, submit, submit, submit, more poetry, more short stories and get that bloody novel properly started. And be a sweeter, calmer, gentler, more tolerant human being.
Good luck to all of you, friends, writers, poets and followers and I really hope that Two-Fousand-and-Firteen is filled to the brim with ferociously fantabulous frolicksome fun…