stray thoughts
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Postcard from now

Wildeve | edge of eveningLavender | edge of evening

This is from Friday, when all I had for you were disconnected thoughts. I think, maybe, things are improving. Or at least, the sun is shining. Holding on, holding on.

One of the first signs, always, avoiding myself. I stop getting up to write. Days go blank.

This morning, on the way to pre-school, I remember the boys of my childhood. Craig Harwood. Ian Stanton. Ben Luker. Paul Catchpole. Robert Thompson. Richard Colvin, Old Colv. Richard Roberts, Boo. Some of these boys I haven’t seen since I was eleven. Some continued to be in my classes at secondary school. Boys who were always there in the background. Names & associations that might be with me forever.

A pattern to the weeks. The weekend’s momentum carrying me through Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, a pause. The first pre-school day. Reading, not writing. Thursday, a headache. Friday, pre-school again, but too late for anything but tears.

Thinking of the boys reminds me of Jo Ann Beard’s The Boys of My Youth. I came to it through her wondrous, perfect, impossible essay The Fourth State of Matter‘. Have you read it? You should. It, in turn, reminds me of Imperial, of the days of physics. Of labs that were pretty much exactly the way Beard describes them. This connection, this leaping from one thing across a gap that is just the size of my thoughts, I don’t know where it takes me.

I download a period app. It asks me to describe my mood: happy, sensitive, sad. I am sad and sensitive every day. I show it to B. He is so freaked out by the words ‘fertile window’ that he asks me what I’m using it for.

For years, we were moving away from our childhoods. I had an image in my head of the people I knew at school spreading out, tiny moving specks on a map that ran forward in time. Then, it became possible to find out what people were doing. Remember Friends Reunited? That was the last time I knew what anyone was doing. I know that if I joined Facebook I could probably find out in minutes. But I kind of like leaving them back there, when we were all five, or sixteen, or twenty. And of course, though, I left, plenty, like my own brother, stayed, and are still in touch with these people who have known them for 30 plus years.

My mum tells me that she’s bought my birthday present. In my mind, my birthday is months away. Mid-September. I never think about it before September, perhaps because it’s the only birthday I don’t have to think about. I still don’t want to be 38.

There is a collective aspect to the sadness. Nearly everyone we know is devastated by the ‘Leave’ vote. T’s class of nine-year-olds are heartbroken. Everything is uncertain. And we’re at that point in the term, two weeks before the summer break, where it seems impossible to catch hold of anything — concerts, sports days, parties, picnics, school meetings about next year — we’re just accelerating towards the end. It doesn’t help that the weather is persistently awful: wet, cold, predictably unpredictable. It’s the stage of just holding on, holding on and hoping.


Back soon with some more short story recommendations.



  1. N asked me recently about the people I was at primary school. When I told him I wasn’t in contact with any of them anymore he looked at me like I’d just crash-landed from another galaxy. It made me think: once so crucial to my life, when did they become superfluous? I didn’t know and, worse (to him), I didn’t mind. Like you, I’m comfortable with where they are in my head: playing Star Wars with our coats as capes when we were five, sketching out a sleigh we were somehow going to haul, sled-dog style, when we ran away aged nine, and scrawling messages over each others’ shirts two years after that.

    Anyway, keep holding on. Keep hoping. There’s Monday evening to look forward to.

    • Yes, it’s partly thinking about how the people our children are with now at school will be in their heads forever, whether they stay in touch or not. (Though I suspect that T, like my brother, will.) And, yes! Monday evening — can’t wait!

  2. I’m a longtime Facebook holdout, and I go back and forth wondering if joining, and knowing, would make me more or less melancholy about the past. I recently had dinner with my old roommate from university, with whom I haven’t spoken regularly for a few years, and found us to be such strangers that I felt too awkward to ask about her divorce, which she’d divulged by email. A mutual friend, who is connected with her and her ex-husband online, had no idea that they had split (this was over two years ago, now). Sometimes I wonder whether the appeal and comfort of fiction is the illusion that a character can be known, when we so often fail to know each other.

    • The whole online/offline thing is so strange, isn’t it. I find that there are people I have never met who know more about certain aspects of me from reading them here than people I see every day. But then, of course, people I see know far more about other aspects of my life. And then the confusion of people I see & who also read what I write here. I love what you say about the comfort & illusion of fiction — though some of the books I love the best allow for the impossibility of ever truly knowing the other. I don’t have doubts about Facebook — I’m fairly certain in my resistance. But then it’s interesting knowing that there’s a door you could go through, and you’re choosing not to. (We weren’t sure whether to find out whether our first child was a girl/boy, so we asked the sonographer to find out & write it down for us in a sealed envelope. We opened the message which said ‘Congratulations! It’s a girl,’ when she was three days old and lying in my arms at breakfast. Which is just to say that I seem to like knowing things are there *if* I wanted them, without feeling the need to actually know anything.)

  3. In the last few months of my undergrad, I reconnected and started dating a boy I’d gone to school with from ages 5-8. With hindsight, it was all ill-advised.

    • Sounds like the opening lines of a short story, Kerry 🙂 I’d love to read the rest. Cryptic & intriguing!

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