Come Back To What You Know

I’m feeling nostalgic.

I don’t look back on the past with rose-tinted spectacles. I think every decade in human history has been seeped in tragedy, usually man-made, of some kind. But there is something in me at the moment constantly yearning for simpler times.

I wouldn’t do away with the internet or mobile phones, but only for one reason. I’d never sell a single book without either of them!

But I find myself tiring of it all. I suppose everything becomes tiring after a while. Everything loses its shine. Sometimes though, we go back around again, we go full circle and return to things we once turned our backs on.

For me lately, this has been bringing some unexpected comfort in an increasingly fraught, depressing and uncertain world. I’ll just talk about a couple today; things I have returned to and how they are helping me navigate these seemingly endless difficult times.

Walking

I’ve always liked walking. I feel I have some sort of affinity with it, like it is something I am supposed to do. I like how it is so solitary and gives me time to think. So many stories and ideas came from walking when I was a teenager. I thought nothing of walking an hour or more to get to a friend’s house and I hated buses. I would always rather keep walking. I used to run too, mostly in my late teens and my twenties when I got rather caught up in trying to control my figure. But these days, 44 year old me is a bit kinder to myself (most of the time anyway,) and I worry about falling over or hurting my back or my knees. So I think my running days might be over but my walking days have begun again in earnest. I now walk to save money on petrol and I feel good about this. It’s good for my wallet, my body and the planet. I also sort out all my plot holes and writing struggles when I am walking.

Letter writing

During the lockdowns of the pandemic my eldest sister who lives in a very rural location a few hours away from us, started writing letters and cards to my youngest son. He loved this and wrote back every time and they have kept this up ever since. A few months back I decided to join in, so now me and my sister converse through letters. Of course, we text, phone and Whatsapp each other too! But there is something so calm and patient about writing a letter, posting it and waiting for one to fly back to you. Whenever I receive one, I wait for a special moment to read it. I need peace, quiet, a comfy spot and a cup of tea. I have also started writing letters to two friends. It’s not something you do instantly. It’s something you wait until you have time for. And then you go back over everything that has happened since you last wrote and make sure you also address and respond to all their news. This all takes time and that’s what is so nice about it. Knowing that someone took time over doing something for you, knowing the extra effort that went into it – it really is lovely and I feel like people talk differently in letters too. It’s interesting.

Wearing a watch

I got my first mobile phone when I was 19. I think that must have been the last time I wore a watch. I can remember that last watch too because I had it all through my teens and I really loved it. It was a chunky silver Timex and rather than a strap and a buckle to fasten, it was attached to a stretchy silver bracelet. Weird, I know, but it made taking it on and off easier! Gradually it started falling apart and I really missed it. I think I kept the clock head for a while somewhere. After that, phones took over and recently I realised that whenever I need to check the time, I check my phone. I think we all do. But carrying a phone everywhere is getting annoying. They’re not just phones anymore, are they? They’re mini computers we lug around with us, which means we have the entire world in our pocket weighing us down. It’s annoying, especially in the summer when you are less likely to have good pockets! I also thought about all the post-apocalyptic TV I watch and books I read. In that eventuality, phones become useless but watches return. My husband bought me a lovely watch for my birthday and I’m in love with it. I absolutely adore it. I don’t have to take my phone everywhere anymore and I am prepared for the end of the world. Win, win!

Childlike curiosity

There are so many things I don’t know about. I am 44 years old and I still can’t identify that many birds, trees, or plants for example and I know barely anything about the Universe or space… As adults I think we stop being curious. We stop asking questions. I am sure you have all experienced the incessant questioning from a young child who wants to know why, why, why…. I am trying to get back to that. If I don’t know what something is, I am trying to find out. Mostly nature based things! For example, I have a plant identifying app that has helped me learn the names of a lot more plants and trees lately. And I just got this cool app that records and identifies birdsong for you! It’s really addictive.

Collecting stones

Walk around my house and I can guarantee you will find a pile of stones in every room thanks to my youngest son. Like most young children he still has the habit of picking up natural objects that look or feel nice. Sticks and stones mostly. There are sticks everywhere too, though of course really they are guns of various sorts. But stones… I looked the other day and found a pile on the kitchen window sill mixed in with fossils. Another pile on the table. A few more on the side. Some on the stairs. A few in the lounge on the coffee table. A whole gang of them in his room which seem to have been decorated with various spots which apparently mean different things. This stone obsession reminded me that when I was his age I had a whole shoe box of them under my bed. I wasn’t as good as he is at finding cool ones though! He really does have an eye for it. The other day I emptied his school bag and found a whole pile of smooth brown pebbles at the bottom. They were all almost identical in size and colour. Today he brought home a big stone which had been sheared in half at some point, so we could see inside it. My son is right about stones. They are fascinating – apparently pebbles on a beach can be as old as 4 billion years! It’s not like we often get the chance to hold something so ancient in our hands… They can be beautiful, colourful, smooth, jagged, tiny, large. I recently found one with a sad face but then I lost it again, which was sad. Anyway, thanks to my son, my love of collecting random stones just to hold them for a bit has been well and truly rekindled.

Longhand writing

If you follow my social media writing updates, you will know that I often write in longhand. This is also something I have returned to. As a kid I wrote in notebooks of all sizes and shapes. I wrote on anything I could. I was very excited when I got my first electric typewriter! Years later, and it’s all laptops and Word and Google Docs and so on. I still use these things, but I love starting a story off in a notebook. It means I can carry it about with me, write in it at weird times, like when cooking dinner or waiting in the car. Sometimes I end up writing the whole thing in a notebook, just like Black Hare Valley I blogged about last week. Sometimes I’ll get so far then start typing it up. Short stories and poems nearly always start their lives in notebooks these days. There is something about holding a pen in my hand, scratching words out on paper that returns me to me, that makes me feel more connected to it.

What about you? Are there any ‘old-school’ things you have returned to? Or any you never gave up in the first place? I’d love to know so feel free to leave a comment!

Character Interview; Terry Dacosta from ‘Sucker’s and Scallies’ by Kate Rigby

Are you ready for another character interview? This week I am talking to Terry ‘Tez’ Dacosta, who I hope won’t mind me describing him as a bit of a rascal. You can find out more about his turbulent childhood in Suckers and Scallies  by Kate Rigby

1) Tell us what your positive character traits are.

 I’ve got a loads of positive traits, me.  I’m resilient, I bounce back when the going gets tough, you won’t catch me moping about.  I’m driven and I’ll fight my corner and that of my family and those close to me.  Oh yeah and I’m big enough to own up if I’m in the wrong or if someone makes a suggestion, like how I can improve my attitude or my work I’ll always take it on board.

2) What would you say your negative traits are?

 Anger is my main one.  I told you I’ll fight your corner but you don’t wanna get on the wrong side of me.  If I’m under attack you will know it. I do have a bit of a short fuse and I’m not gonna make the usual excuses of my upbringing and all that shite. Not like our Jackie who blames our old fella for all his drink problems and his dodgy back and sits about whingeing in groups and that. OK, so I’ve sat about at Anger Management groups but that’s because it’d got out of control and I had to do something about it. I’m not proud of it.  But I think our Jackie is just avoiding responsibilities and blaming others for things that have gone tits up in his life but one thing our ole fella taught us as well as standing up for ourselves was to face up to our responsibilities.  Not go blaming others.

3) What are your current ambitions or dreams?

 My main ambition is to be a better father to my youngest daughter than I was to my first.  I let my first daughter down by being an absent father.

4) What are your fears?

 I’m pretty fearless, me. But I don’t mind admitting that I hate going the dentist. I don’t like someone else being in control that way and inflicting pain on me.  Another thing, I hate standing up in front of an audience and reading out my own stuff. I agreed to do that a couple of times in open mic sessions with some hard line poems I wrote but I was bricking it.  It’s weird that, coz I’ve been in bands before and don’t mind all eyes on me when singing and playing front man.

5) Do you have enemies?

 Do I have enemies! I’ve been Public Enemy Number One at some times in my life. Like when I lived in Jersey and it felt like the whole of St Helier wanted me and our Chas gone from the island (when he was living there an all).  OK, so we did get up to a bit of trouble and my ex’s family hated us and the name Dacosta.  But you get these stuck up people who hate you coz you’re a Scouser and if you get on in life they can’t wait to do you down or they think we’re all on the rob or smackheads and that.  I’m not saying that I’ve not done bad stuff in my time, who hasn’t, but I’ve no need to go on the rob – I earn decent money as a graphic designer.  But yeah, I’m used to having enemies, it comes with the Dacosta territory.

6) Tell us about your best friend

 Our Jackie was always me bezzie. It’s that blood thing, you know.  There’s less than a year between us so we were like twins growing up.  He’s in Ireland these days, mind, so I don’t see a lot of him.  I did have this bezzie called Kit. He was a kind of blood brother, we even did the ritual when we were kids.  He was from a posh family but he was sound.  We bounced ideas off each other.  Good times they were.

7) What’s your biggest secret?

 Well, they’re not such big secrets these days but when I was growing up, we sometimes used to mess around with other lads, me and our Jackie. We were bad lads, I suppose. We roughed Kit up a bit, we were just messing about, experimenting. In those days you didn’t want to be called a shirt lifter but these days it’s no biggie. Gay, straight and all shades in between – who cares? But I do remember the time when you had to keep stuff like that secret or risk being battered.

 8) Do you have any regrets?

My biggest regret which I touched on earlier is not being there for my oldest daughter, Holly. I was too selfish back then.  Her mother and me split up and I didn’t keep in touch. I didn’t really wanna be saddled with a kid.  I just wanted to have a good time, playing in bands, doing mad stuff, you know. So I missed out on her growing up but I’m not gonna let the same thing happen with Ciara, even though me and her mum have split up.

9) Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

 A lot more settled and not so turbulent, I hope.  Seeing a lot more of my daughter and making my latest relationship work.

10)  How would you like to be remembered?

As that tenacious Scouser with a chequered past who proved you all wrong and won you round! Something like that anyway.

Thank you so much Terry! It’s been great fun catching up with you. I’d been wondering what you were up to these days…