Writing 101: Day 20: My most prized possession

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What is my most prized possession?  That’s a tough one to answer.  Of course, the first thoughts I have are of my health, family, friends, home and job, for which I am extremely grateful.  Yet, if we talk of actual possessions, then that’s a trickier prospect.

My music collection is very important to me.  My life is there, among the plastic CD cases and the discs inside them contain memories, good times, bad times; some of which are limited edition, so I’d be sad to lose them.  Naturally, for a book-worm, my little library has brought me hours of pleasure and learning over the years.  I haven’t kept every book I’ve ever read but still have treasured ones from my childhood, and both hardback and paperback editions of The Lord of the Rings, which I treasure.  So, from my love of music and reading to that of films, and yet more discs with hours of joy on them; but all these possessions could be replaced, for the most part, although the loss of them would pain me.

My photographs however, are not replaceable, and these are definitely among my most prized possessions; capturing moments, experiences, sights I’ve seen and loved throughout the years.  Most of which were taken with a film camera, and once I changed to digital, I stopped printing my photos as often, which was a shame as I rarely look at them on my laptop.  So last year, I started printing the digital ones too and it was as though I had seen them for the first time.  For me, photography is a physical thing, the result being an object you can hold, frame, arrange in an album and admire, or use to remind you of something, or someone.  Although I’m happy using digital, nothing beats a film camera, and the chemical smell of a darkroom as magic is created and an image appears on a piece of paper.  And that’s it!  That’s my most prized possession; my film cameras.  I have a Minolta XG1 and a Bronica Zenza, which take wonderful photographs.  I love the square format of the latter of the two cameras, and the necessity placed upon me to think carefully about each shot before I take it.  The Minolta has been with me since I was a teenager, and I’m approaching forty now, so that’s a long time, and apart from the light meter, it’s still going strong.   The Bronica also has extra significance because I couldn’t afford to buy it at the time, and so my brother kindly lent me the money so I could realise my long-held dream of owning a medium format camera.

Yet even as I write these words, I know that, despite all the pleasure these possessions afford me, there’s one thing which I really couldn’t manage without; my freedom.  Without that, I could not buy such material objects, nor could I live where I choose to, earn a living and support myself entirely, without having to rely on anyone else for financial security.  I can go where I please, wear what I like and make my own decisions.  I am mistress of my destiny, and that, in all honesty, is my most prized possession.  I am so lucky to have been born when and where I was, and even though the fight for equality still continues today, it is still considerably better than in my grandmothers’ day, let alone the during the time of the suffragettes, who fought and died so I can go along to a polling station this coming week and have a say in my country’s future.

The fact that I can go to work and pay my own rent means I have complete self-determination, which is still denied to so many women across the world.  I can love who I wish, or no-one at all; choose to marry, or not, choose to have children, or not.  It is all up to me, and how I respond to what life offers me.  As a woman from a working class background, I was fortunate enough to have a free education, and then I supported myself through university and if possible, I’ll keep learning my whole life.  All that I have; my books, music, cameras and films have all been possible because of the good fortune of my birth and the freedom that has been bestowed upon me, for which I am truly grateful.

What do you fear my lady?

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(This is the second post on the theme of fear from day 17 of writing 101.)

I have a reoccurring anxiety that one day I’ll arrive home, put the key in the lock and suddenly realise that it’s not my flat and I can’t remember where I live.  I’ve had it for years, and it always happens as I’m walking through the door to my building and up the stairs to my front door, and hoping that my fear hasn’t come true.  It’s completely illogical and I’ve no idea where it came from, but I think it’s a manifestation of the fact that I’m afraid of losing my mind.  Again, there’s no evidence to suggest I might do; no history in the family that I’m aware of.  I’ve had depression in the past, but dealt with it on my yoga mat and by talking things through.  Yet there’s still this random worry that within the constantly swirling flux of thoughts inside my head, I’ll lose the ability to control what’s within.

My other great fear is one many share, and that’s death.  Not the actual process itself as such, provided it’s a painless demise of course, but the non-existence which it will entail.  The separation from all I love, forever.  I’m not religious, and long ago decided that the whole concept of an afterlife just doesn’t ring true for me, so I guess I have little to look forward to.  Yet I’m also aware that I’m not meant to stay.  I won’t belong here in a hundred years from now, my time will have passed.

You’d think that this would make me a fearless consumer of all life’s offerings, but the opposite is true.  I’ve always been anxious about the unknown; new people and places.  However, I was incredibly shy when younger, so that didn’t help either.  I can manage this anxiety though, and have challenged myself more often over the years to try and welcome the unfamiliar rather than run a mile from it.

Yet both of these fears have also had their benefits.  I notice so much more of what’s around me.  I try to absorb everything; the blossom on the trees as I walk home from the shops, the stars on a clear, cold Winter’s night, the funny observations make students make in class.  All of it, everything, I try to cram as much into my head as I can, almost as though I’m storing them up for some purpose later on.  The irony is, I don’t have a particularly good memory, but at least I enjoy these little moments at the time.

I guess with all fears, there comes a point when you have to look them in the eye and say ‘you won’t win you know.’  ‘You won’t beat me.  I will overcome this and be stronger.’  Every day, we all struggle with our fears, both big and small, and we have to keep pushing back at them, and not allow ourselves to be knocked down, unable to get back up.

A letter to …

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(I’m a bit behind with this post for Writing 101.  Prompt: Pick up the nearest book and turn to page 29.  What’s the first word that jumps off the page?  Use this word as your springboard for inspiration.  Write it in the form of a letter.)

 

To my students,

Well here we are at the end of term, and I know you’re all worrying about your exams, and starting university too, but trust me, you’ll be fine.  You are at the beginning of everything; of three years of study, hard work, but also fun, I hope!

As I’ve told you before, I didn’t enjoy university; it was a very lonely time for me, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.  So no matter how hard it is to do so, force yourself to make friends and get involved in activities.  Don’t wait for life to come to you, because it won’t.  Don’t say later, because before you know it, time will have passed and later will be yesterday, and the opportunity will have gone.

Remember that you can achieve anything you want to in life.  You only need to reach inside yourself and draw out your strength and power to make all that you wish for, a reality.

Good luck and best wishes,

Vicky

(The word was ‘power’ from page 29 of Sacred Celebrations by Glennie Kindred.  My main focus was on inner power to achieve our dreams.)

Fear is other people?

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‘Why don’t people just talk to each other anymore?  You know.  Why don’t they just talk?  Like hello.’

This was the repeated refrain from a lady, who I think had had one too many, and was trying to engage her fellow bus passengers in conversation.  Now, while she may have been a tad tipsy, I sat there listening and thought, she’s right; why don’t people talk to one another anymore?

I was at the front of the bus, so couldn’t see the lady concerned, nor our fellow passengers, but I suspect that the vast majority had their eyes firmly fixed on their phones and their ears plugged into whatever music they were listening to.  It’s the same situation at the gym, which I was on my way from after a swim; people don’t talk there either.  Instead they walk around, encased in their own MP3 world, which may keep them focused during their workout, but doesn’t keep them open to interaction with those around them.

I’ve stopped using the actual gym area unless I have to because I prefer to swim, and find that I don’t mind the social isolation so much there as swimming for me acts as a kind of moving meditation.  However, I have noticed that in the two Jacuzzis at the end of the pool, people chat.  Why?  Because they’re not closed off by technology.

So as I listened to the lady on the bus this evening, I began to think that we’ve become fearful of one another.  Afraid of those we don’t know; and that’s why we don’t make conversation with strangers anymore.  We don’t trust them.  I wonder where this has come from, and is it just technology?  Maybe it’s because of overpopulation, and people move around a lot for work and so the old connections are no longer maintained.  What about the media?  Is that to blame for our mistrust by filling our heads with stories of assault, rape and murder every day in the news?

Yet this fear is what possibly keeps us alone too.  So many people now, in all age groups, are single and seemingly unable to find a life partner.  Why is this?  What has gone wrong in society that we have such a hard time trying to connect?  It is easy to blame technology, and too simplistic.  It can’t be one factor alone; and technological developments have also greatly enhanced our lives too.

I guess I don’t have the answer here.  However, when thinking of fear, it reminds me of Eowyn’s response when Aragorn asks her what she fears;

‘A cage.  To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, and all chance of valour has gone beyond recall or desire.’

I think our fear of others has caused us to build our own cages, from which we now cannot escape.

(This post is a combination of day 12, write a post based on a real world conversation, and day 17, for which the topic was fear, of Writing 101, although I certainly haven’t met the task requirements entirely.)

Writing 101: Day 16: Third Time’s the Charm

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(Prompt: Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings.  Describe a day in which you came upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.)

You’d be surprised what people bring in here.  January of course is the busiest time.  We’re up to our eye-balls in unwanted presents and New Year clear-outs.  Round here you can pick up some good quality stuff; name brands and the like.  The local well-to-do ladies shed their clothes every season like skin.  Of course, you sometimes get the other type of donation, when someone’s passed on.  It’s hard for the relatives.  One young girl came in the other week.  I say young girl, she was to me, but I guess she was about 30; had a load of men’s clothes and shoes.  Lost her dad, she had.  Not fair on someone so young.  Still, working here, I’ve realised how loss is often tied up with gain, for someone, and many people will benefit from her donation.

At the moment, we’ve got a lot of video cassettes; can’t shift ‘em.  Mind you, I read the other day that some might be worth quite a bit; people looking for old films or something.  No-one listens to CDs either.  It’s all downloading and the like nowadays, so we’ve got piles of them, almost up to the ceiling.

Books?  Yes, loads.  Naturally, they’re a good seller for us.  We had a load of Penguin classics in the other day.  They’ll go well.  Oh, yes, and that 50 Shades book; we’ve had quite a few of those in too.  But we do get some interesting books, like a curious one I found a few weeks ago in a big box.  As good as new it was; a travel book, with lots of lovely photos in.  It must have been a present and they didn’t want it, which was a shame.  There was a message inside.

To a friend who has yet to see all the pictures of the world, but one day undoubtedly will.  Love Nick x

I thought, I wonder if they’d donated it because they’d gone off travelling.  It got me thinking too, and that’s when I made my decision.  Yes, it was the book that finally made me do it.  It was something we should have done together after retirement, but when I lost him I sort of went off the idea.  Didn’t fancy going alone, so I stopped work and started volunteering here three days a week, but I always thought about it and watched lots of those travel programmes on TV.  So, when I came across that book it felt like a message, something telling me ‘now or never,’ you know?  So, tomorrow is my last day.  I’ve sold the house and I leave from London on Friday.  My first stop is Paris.  We went there for our honeymoon, so it seemed right.  Then I’ll just keep going until the money, or my body runs out, whichever happens first!

(This was inspired by a Lonely Planet photography book I bought in a charity shop  six years ago, which had the message below in it.)  

©vcuzzell2015

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Writing 101: Day 13: Serially Found

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Writing 101: Day 13: Serially Found

(Prompt: write about finding something – interpret however you wish)

Courage

At 18 I was an extremely shy, music-loving girl, who used to frequent a local record shop every Saturday.  I sported a sort of grungy-hippie look of flowery dresses, A-line skirts, velvet jackets, Doc Martin boots and very long, dark hair.

He also had long hair, but fairer than mine, and had beautiful eyes; seriously, deliciously brown eyes.  Typical of my type; he wasn’t too tall, was kind of skinny, looked very cool, and had a warm smile.

I was hooked.  Yet what could I do?  He was way out of my league.  I was not cool or attractive as far as I could see.  I could barely look at him, let alone make conversation.  What was I to do?

Then I had a slightly crazy idea.  Especially for one so introverted.  I decided to give him my phone number.  The next time I went into the shop, I would slip a piece of paper to him when I bought something really cool.  After all, I had to make the right impression and show I was serious about my music.

So one Saturday I walked into the shop as usual, with the ticket to love in my hand.  I casually attempted to wander about and check out the new releases.  He wasn’t the only person working that day, so I had to time it right so that he’d serve me.

My moment arrived as he finished helping one customer and I went and stood behind them to ensure I would be next.  I went up to the counter, attempted a smile, waited anxiously as he searched for the album I was buying, paid him and … walked out.

I chickened-out!  I’d blown it.  I couldn’t do it.  I stood outside in the sun, but only felt the heat of shame at my lack of courage when my opportunity had arrived.  I put my sunglasses on, and was about to go home, defeated, when something made me walk back in, straight up to the counter, and say ‘I forgot to give you this,’  before handing over all my hopes on a small piece of paper, and leaving rather rapidly.  So fast was my entrance and exit in fact, that I hadn’t even taken my sunglasses off.

Smooth, eh?  No, not really, but at least I had tried, and felt elated on the journey home.  For the next week, every time the phone rang I froze, half expecting to hear mum call my name with a slightly curious tone to her voice, but she never did.

He never called.

Writing 101: Day 11: Where did you live when you were twelve years old?

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(Twist: Write about this topic using a mixture of sentence structures.  The beginning of this post contains some of the same material I wrote for the one on childhood food last week.)

I spent most of my childhood in a three bed semi-detached house next door to my maternal grandparents.  It was the first and last house my parents ever bought, and when we moved in in 1981 I instantly fell in love with the large garden that surrounded it.  A Sycamore at the front showered the grass below in helicopters every spring, while a Weeping Willow at the side of the house provided shade on sunny days.  I would often hide in between the Laurel bushes and eavesdrop on people’s conversations on the other side of the fence, and played with the ‘money’ picked from Honesty plants. I also loved going down to my dad’s huge shed at the bottom of the back garden to indulge a fondness for the smell of wood; I was allowed to saw some in half, although it took me quite a while, by which time I’d got bored and therefore never actually made anything.  Which come to think of it, I don’t remember dad making much either, except a rather wobbly bench that was supposed to have been a table.

My mum was a keen gardener and every spring and summer the garden was full of colour.  That was until dad came home one day with Lucifer.  Not the much feared lord of the underworld, but an extremely lively Doberman who he’d bought, probably from a man down the pub, and had already been given his ill-suited name by his previous owner.  Ill-suited because he was a complete softie, more fond of running around in circles, digging up mum’s plants and drinking cups of tea on cold winter mornings than frightening off potential burglars, which is what dad had intended him to do.

The house itself was heated by two wood-burners, which my mum still laments the loss of, and had a dark wood fitted kitchen, which she doesn’t.  The living room had a large, brown corner sofa and doors onto the patio, which dad had made with my help mixing cement.  My bedroom was at the back of the house, with a view over dense woodland and another housing estate beyond.  The fitted wardrobes in my bedroom were one of my favourite places to be; although not inside them but on top.  They were next to the window, as was my bed, from which I would climb onto the window sill, open the shelved part of the wardrobes and use them as a ladder up to my lofty perch.  I’m not quite sure why I did it, maybe I preferred the view from up there but mum was always furious if she ever caught me.  They probably weren’t that strong and I could have slipped while climbing up and gone through the window.

Aside from having a desire to climb things (I climbed trees too), I spent most of the time playing on my own until my brother was born when I was eight.  Once he was old enough, he became the willing participant in what is still my favourite hobby, photography, and played up to my camera at every opportunity.

By the time I turned twelve dad’s work as a roof-tiller had started to dry up, due to the slow-down in the housing market, and eventually the bank repossessed the house and we rented a small bungalow, which took quite some getting used to after all the space I’d been used to for so many years.  My new bedroom was much smaller and the view was of a hedge in the tiny front garden. My brother had the large back bedroom, which looked out onto concrete instead of the flowers and grass we’d had, while our parents slept in the living room on a mattress they’d lean against the wall during the day.

I missed our old home dreadfully, but the same thing happened to many other families too, and still does, of course.  The main thing was that we had a roof over our heads, and we had each other; oh, and Lucifer.

©vcuzzell2015