My Solace

Sometimes London feels like one of the loneliest places on earth. When it all gets a bit too much, I often think of my grandmother. I sometimes talk to her, ask her for guidance. I don’t call myself religious, I don’t know how I feel about any of that stuff really, but I like to think my grandmother chose that day a year ago to leave this world, as I left mine, so she could follow me on my journey.

Coming to terms with the fact a year has passed since that day leads me to the realisation my childhood was now so very long ago. It’s one of those things I think long and hard about, literally trying to remember as much as I can if I forget one day how wonderful it all was. It’s a sad reminder time moves at a ridiculous pace. You should believe it when people tell you so.

But those blissfully sunshine-drenched, sugar-coated, laughter-filled childhood memories.

Me, picking mulberries, while my grandmother in her handmade shift dresses and strawberry hair, tended to beds of technicolour flowers. And in his long-sleeved shirt and floppy cotton fisherman’s hat, my grandfather sat on his wooden post watering the vegetable patch.

My grandmother was one of the most creative souls I’ve ever known. Alongside her love for Lucille Ball she spent hours scrap-booking. I can still see her pasting every clipping painstakingly into those yellowed pages. With her collection of McCall’s patterns, she was a whiz on the sewing machine,  sewing our dance costumes or pouches for our trinkets. She encouraged creativity to pour out of our hearts.

She had this contagious laugh that would make everyone around her chuckle as much. It was one of the best sounds to hear, only surpassed by her singing voice.

My grandmother was the decision maker. The tough nut. The rock. The perfect companion to my cotton-hearted grandfather.

And this love my grandparents’ had was like something movies are made from. A love that survived fleeing the war, starting a new life in a foreign land and being by each other’s side through sickness and health.

That sickness was my grandmother deteriorating from Alzheimer’s, while my grandfather travelled almost every day to the nursing home to make sure she’d been fed and looked after properly. Going to see her kept him going. He held her frail hand as she made tiny movements to show joy and listened kindly to her befuddled foreign tongue. He kissed her forehead as she dozed off to sleep. Their relationship is my benchmark. What a wondrous love.

So even though my grandfather is without his lifelong love, and my mother is without her own, she left behind so much we can hold on to tightly until our fingers become comfortably numb.

I can’t hear her sing-song voice again, or see her kind face. But I do feel a strange comfort in knowing she may be watching over me. She’s probably chastising me for all the stupid things I’ve done, wanting to yell at me a little. Maybe she’s proud of me, or super embarrassed? It hurts that I will never know these things, but I like to think she’s guiding me along anyway.

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Daily Prompt : Unconventional Love.

He built useful things. Like kitchen benches. With his hands.

The appeal of someone who doesn’t require daily interaction with a computer or other technological beast was something I’d never thought twice about.

It could actually be, that for the first time in the longest time I’d met someone I was compelled to know.

He was leaning towards me the entire first few hours at the table as we drank. His confidence was mildly distracting. I was completely dumbfounded by his presence as I was having an ongoing internal argument about whether or not I even found him attractive. I don’t even like blondes.

On that date night, he took me on a journey to half of the most interesting pubs in my neighbourhood. Drinking bourbon to Johnny and June at places called Slim Jims. With every new pub, we got closer to my flat. He was not to know.

We walked in a tipsy state to the next pub. As he set off in front of me I noticed he walked like a cowboy. His leather jacket, so rock n roll. And that longish, unkept hair and scruffy beard. Don’t even get me started on that English accent.

Or the revelation he played guitar. In a band. Or two.

2am at the Lexington and I was ordering another round at the bar as Death from Above 1979 ‘Romantic Rights’ played. I thought the night had reached it’s peak.

But then he grabbed my hand and we danced through the smoke filled room like school kids at an underage disco. It’s about this time when I shamefully admitted to myself like a pathetic, lovesick teenager, I could have died happy. Six months of loneliness in London washed away by a guy like him, dancing to a song like that.

Arriving home at 4am my flatmate told me she watched a happy couple carrying on at the gate to the flat and wanted to be that girl. ‘They looked like they were having so much fun,’ she said. ‘And I realised it was you’.

But swiftly the promise of one perfect first date petered out to an average second date, followed by nothing.

He left me wondering what his favourite colour was, the foreign lands he’d travelled to, the albums he loved the most and the name of the girl who first broke his heart. He left me hanging on sentences, analysing conversational idiosyncrasies that meant something positive upon interpretation.

I started to create a fictional character based on filling in the blanks of who I thought he might be. A made up man I could have been falling in unconventional love with because the one I wanted, I would never actually know.

More unconventional love here>

Sun and Shade

In a state of lethargy you start folding and packing a fragment of your life into your newly purchased suitcase perched on your parents’ bed, as the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy you’ll watch, plays in the background. You let your mother neatly piece together your belongings in a way you could never manage – with some space left over. It’s this attention to detail and labour of love you will miss sooner than you know.

Arriving in your new home on the other side of the world you didn’t think it would be so trying even though it was your choice to do it alone.

The reality of the loneliness is gut-wrenching.

Your beloved grandmother died the morning you flew out on your new journey and you start to berate yourself for your choice. You can’t eat properly. You have no real friends. You have no idea where you’re going half the time. This new city is full of nightlife but you’ve got nobody to explore it with. You get booted out of your temporary abode via text message by a girl you’ve known for over a decade. You flatshare with countless others in a place resembling the United Nations as well as a family of mice running rampant at night as you surfed the net accompanied by the stench of dirty plates fermenting in the kitchen.

The lounge room you fell in love with once, is continuously clouded in a thick weed haze you’re forced to walk through to figure out how to reset the hot water. The saving grace being how damn good looking your pot-head Italian flatmate is even if he laughs in your face because he’s so stoned as you ask him for his help. You get evicted a few weeks before the Olympics start, then spend two weeks after work trying to find a new place to call home.

You tell yourself these are all just speed bumps. An adjustment period. A learning curve. It will all make you stronger apparently. And how many times you hear that cliche that there are people who have it so much worse than you.

Everyone you speak to says the first few months are the worst.

You shamefully bawl your eyes out when you Skype home as your family is doing everything they can to persuade you get back to the rut you so desperately broke free from. You watch your elderly grandfather shuffling over to the table, seeing how he’s aged in the time you’ve been gone. You cry yourself to sleep at night sometimes, wondering what you’re even doing here. Is this a mid life crisis brought forward some 15 odd years?

And then suddenly, you are not alone anymore. A social life starts to materialise. You accumulate friends. You conquer places you really only saw in your favourite films. You watch bands you’ve admired for the longest time play five minutes from where you live. You drink pale ales and lagers in crisp Northern Hemisphere Springtime. You have conversations with people who’s accents you just don’t understand. You see snow and feel it burning your nose on the way to work in the morning. You stumble drunkenly beneath Christmas lights lining Oxford Circus. You get your delicate heart broken by a boy in a band.

One year on, you’ve made it. You’re in love with this place. Its history, its grime. Its rain and its snow. Embracing the sun and the shade in a wondrous place you could have so easily flipped the bird at.