Tag Archives: schooldays

Crossing Places

A few days ago, while playing among our books, The Toddler pulled out a slim volume which caught my eye. It was a book – or, more truly, a notebook – which I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

A very long time.


Photo credit: SJ O’Hart.

This notebook was a gift from my schoolfriends to me on my 17th birthday. In it, they had each written a little note wishing me a happy birthday and how much they were looking forward to celebrating with me; some wished me a bright future, and others shared funny stories (some of the details of which, sadly, have blurred with time). Many put their first names and their surnames, just in case I lost the notebook and didn’t find it again for so long that I’d have forgotten who they were. One spent four pages insulting me in the most colourfully hilarious language imaginable and didn’t bother signing his name because he knew (rightly) that we’d be friends forever and I’d never get around to forgetting him – and his message still made me laugh out loud.

I read it with a huge grin and, if I’m being honest, a few tears too – and not just because my 17th birthday is so long ago now that you’d need a telescope to see it.

This notebook’s reappearance in my life made me think a lot about intersections and choices, the random algorithms that bring people into your life and take them out of it again. I’m delighted that most of the people who wrote in my book are still my friends; a few I haven’t seen in a couple of years, and one I haven’t seen, sadly, since we left school. But I remembered them all, even without the surnames. Each of them was important to me, and many still are – and there’s not one among them I wouldn’t be glad to see again, right now. They’re all (as far as I know) still alive and well, and though most of them still live in Ireland there are a couple who left – one for America, one for the UK – and very few of them still live at home, where we all grew up. We all entered one another’s lives through the simple coincidence of being born at around the same time and either growing up in, or moving to, the same place in time to attend secondary school together. Besides that, we are as disparate a group of people as you could find.

And yet, we are bound to one another forever.

I was thinking, recently, about the ‘quantum’ versions of myself – by which I mean, fancifully, the versions of me which exist in every other imaginable universe. Would I be doing the same things I’m doing here, in this space? Would I be the same person? Would I live in the same place, with the same people? Who’s to know. Every life has its ‘crossing places’, points at which the choices you make determine the path you take. My life has had several of those, some of which I would dearly love to relive. If it were possible, would I take different paths? Would I make different choices? I have some regrets; people I have lost whom I miss, people I loved who never knew it, things I wish I’d had the bravery to do when I had the chance.

And yet, the choices I made have led me here, to this room, in which I’m typing. My child is a few feet away, playing. John Grant is on my stereo. The proof of my first book is sitting on the table beside me. Things are not perfect: the world is far from good. I, like many, have found the last few days very hard, for many reasons. But as lives go, I can’t complain about mine. It has been circuitous and challenging, and I look back on so much of it with a nostalgia bordering on pain, but – in one manner or another – everything I have ever wanted or worked for has come to pass.

But as my child grows, these are the lessons I will impart:

  1. If you love a person, tell them. Even if they don’t love you, and you know it; even if you fear rejection. Tell them, without expectation, because regret is a far heavier burden than embarrassment, and it grows heavier with time.
  2. If you have an opportunity to travel, take it.
  3. Ditto with studying.
  4. In fact, if you have an opportunity to travel and study, take it. With both hands. And don’t worry about how you’ll work things out – you will.
  5. If offered a job you don’t think you can do, try it anyway.
  6. If you want to go on an adventure, do it.
  7. Always treasure your friends.
  8. And never stop working for what you want, fighting for what you believe in, and doing everything you can to help others, as far as you can.

Every life has its crossing places, but hopefully my child’s will have fewer than mine – and, with any luck, friends and friendship will be a big part of it, as they have been for me.

Thank you to my friends, all of them, past and present and future. I’m lucky to have, and to have had, such love.


Wednesday Write-In #40

This week’s words were:

blogging  ::  redhead  ::  golden days  ::  explain  ::  storm


Posted February 20
Best Days of Your Life? Yeah, Right!

Okay, peeps. Hold tight. It’s been one of those days again. Batten down the hatches, whatever that even means.

School! It should be banned! Right?!

And, by the way, if my gran tells me one more time that I’m living through my ‘golden days’, the best years I’ll ever have, I think I’ll literally swing for her. Literally. Ugh! I don’t know what sort of school she went to back in the seventeenth century or whenever, but if she had to cope with what I have to cope with, on a daily basis, she’d probably just crumble right away. She’d end up like a little pile of dust on the pavement, and the rain would wash her down the drain. Gone, end of, dead.

But that won’t happen to me.

So, anyway, she started her usual nonsense again today just before lunch (if you’ve been here before, you know who I mean, so I won’t waste blogging space by naming her again), her stupid hair and her stupider earrings wobbling up the corridor towards me. Her ridiculous shriek of a laugh sounded even more like someone smacking a cat off a wall than normal. I mean, seriously!?! Why am I the only one who notices how irritating she is?

Oh, yeah. I forgot. It’s because I’m the only one she makes a show of, day after day. After day.

Anyway, I just put my head down and hoped to sneak past. She was surrounded by her usual crew, and they were all hanging off her every stupid word, so I thought I’d make it.


One of them – I’m not sure who – stepped into my way, and wouldn’t move. Whenever I tried to get around her, another one of them would box me off. We probably looked like we were dancing, or something, to someone who didn’t know any better. If only.

‘Oh my God. Guys, do you get a smell? Like, an unwashed sort of smell? Like, dirty clothes and stuff?’ she said, sniffing the air like some sort of rabid, eyeshadow-wearing dog. ‘I wonder what it is?’ All around, her cronies starting throwing up suggestions. Sewers, said one. The gym, said another. Someone wearing dirty socks.

‘No, that doesn’t explain it,’ she said. Then, she turned to me, and pretended like realisation was dawning over her big, thick head. ‘Oh, now I get it! It’s the stink that hangs around the flats. That’s what I’m smelling!’ She smiled down at me, but it wasn’t a friendly smile. It was a smile that tells you how stupid and small and ridiculous you are, and pretends to be nice about it.

Then, she reached out a claw – I mean, a hand – and she patted me on the head.

‘Maybe you should go home and ask your Mummy to show you how to wash properly,’ she said. ‘You do know you’re supposed to wash everywhere, right? Not just the places people can see?’

I felt a growl start deep in my stomach, and I wanted to clench my whole body up into a huge fist and just pound her into the tiles. She knows about Mum. Of course she does. Everybody does! Then, it was like the inside of my nose was on fire. I swallowed, and the hot pain travelled down my throat and into my lungs. I wanted to puke, but I didn’t.
I let the pain give me an idea, instead.

‘I’ve always wanted to be a redhead, like you,’ I said, taking in her long, loud locks. ‘Is your hair – you know – real?’

‘What are you on about?’ she said, with a frown. I’d been counting on taking her by surprise – so far, so good. She stared at me with her cow-eyes, and before she could laugh again I took a jump for her and grabbed a handful of that stupid hair, and pulled as hard as I could. She didn’t know what to do besides yell her head off. I yanked my fingers right into her scalp, and when I pulled my hand away a load of her hair came with it, and it was like there was a storm of red-gold mist, all the way up and down the hall. Her mates just stood around gaping like a bunch of goldfish, keeping well out of range of my fists.

It. Was. Brilliant.


But who am I kidding. You know I’m lying, right? What gave it away – was it the concept of me taking any sort of initiative, that word Mrs. Willoughby loves to bleat on about in Business Studies, or was it the idea of her mates standing around and just letting me hurt their precious goddess? I bet, as you read it, you were thinking ‘What a sad little loser, lying to herself on her own blog which nobody ever even reads, anyway.’

Gran always says, when I try to talk to her about this stuff, that walking away with your head held high is better than fighting back. Turn the other cheek, and all that. I’m not so sure. What does she know about anything, anyway? She just doesn’t get it. Not at all.

Sometimes, you know, I really wish Mum would just find this blog, that she’d just Google my name and find it. And that she’d read it, and come home.

Whatever, right? It’s ridiculous. I know.

She wasn’t able to cope with me when she was living here, so why would she care now? It’s not like a stupid blog can bring her home, but there’s always a chance. Isn’t there?

Anyway, so, goodnight. Goodnight, Mum. Goodnight, whoever.

I’ll Get By, With a Little Help…*

Ah, friends. They’re great, aren’t they? Indispensable, one might say. No matter what’s going on in your life, good or bad, if you have solid and dependable friends, you just know things will be fine. You can rely on them to be interested in your life, to get in touch, to want to hang out, to care, goshdarnit. Friends are the best.

Unless you keep a blog, that is.

One of my best friends dropped out to visit me yesterday, and we had a lovely time. We spent hours laughing, talking, drinking tea, and sharing our life’s burdens. Everything was going wonderfully until she admitted that she’s addicted to my blog. A good thing, you might think? Perhaps not, gentle reader. Perhaps not. ‘That’s why I don’t ring you any more,’ she joked. ‘If I want to know what you’re doing, I just have a read of the blog and it gets me right up to date again.’

Well. Did you ever hear the like of that?

One is not amused. Image: patheos.com

One is not amused.
Image: patheos.com

I never anticipated this particular drawback to keeping a blog, I must admit. It’s easier to just summon up my words on a computer screen than it is to go to the trouble of making an actual telephone call – that’s undeniably true. So, in a way I can’t blame my friends for relying on the blog to keep themselves informed. However, it would be nice if they’d ring or text once in a while, just to say ‘Hey. How’re you doing?’ Is that really too much to ask, in this technology-saturated age in which we’re living?

Image: allposters.com

Image: allposters.com

Anyway. The only upside to the whole thing was that we started to talk about things we might not normally discuss, like politics, perception of women in society, music, and so on. The fact that she already knew all the minutiae of my life meant that we were free to get stuck into the deep stuff, so that was a bonus. But it sort of felt like a cup of tea without that extra squeeze of the teabag, or a piece of toast that’s only half-buttered; something wasn’t quite right. The foundations were missing. Don’t get me wrong – it was fun, and brilliant, like all my conversations with this particular friend. But – I don’t know. It just felt weird.

Among the things we did discuss though, this friend and I, was the ageless topic of ‘Where Are They Now?’ We named as many girls from our old class at school as we could think of, and tried to work out if we knew whether they were married, if they had children, what had become of them, and where they were now. We realised that while we’d done an excellent job of staying in touch with one another, and our own tight little group of mates, we’d lost touch with a lot of people, too. We amused ourselves by sharing anecdotes and memories from school, dredging up a lot of stuff I thought I’d forgotten. And – of course – as is almost inevitable these days, one of these dredging missions dragged up a story idea. If we’d been too busy talking about me, and what I’d been doing, we may never have managed to start sharing our school memories, and – logically enough – today, I would be idea-less. I have the blog to thank for that, and I am truly grateful.

It’s sometimes strange to think that there are people all over the world reading the words that I write here. Sometimes  – as happened recently – a relative will tell me that they follow the blog, and that they read it whenever they can, and I’ll immediately start to feel flattered but also slightly embarrassed. I’ll wonder if they liked what they read. I’ll wonder if they think what I write is worth reading, or if they just cast their eyes over it out of a sense of duty or family loyalty. It’s easy to sit here and type out into the void, but when I think about all the eyes that take in the words I throw out, it makes my head spin a bit. (Admittedly, that might be due to still being rather unwell. I’m not completely back to myself yet!)

The blog, of course, would be nothing without its readers. Whether you know me in real life and read these musings because you feel you should, or whether you wouldn’t know me from a hole in the wall in real life and read the blog because you like it, I’m thankful. And to all my real-life friends – thanks for the support and the encouragement, and rest assured I’m not hoping you’ll get in touch just so I can rummage through our conversations looking for things to write stories about.

Well, maybe a little bit.

Anyway. I’m off to start working on the idea my friend sparked off in my head yesterday. Let’s hope it goes places!


*Just in case it wasn’t immediately obvious, this entire blog post is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and no insult, injury, upset or offence is intended. If you’re a friend of mine in real life, rest assured I love you.