Thursday morning

I am doing that thing where you drink a glass of warm water with lemon every morning. Someone told me about it. No, she didn’t just tell me about it, she raved about it. She told me how it Changed Her Life, or at least her mornings, and threw in the word “amazing” a bit. I hate to admit, but I can be very susceptible to that sort of thing; I’m influenced greatly by people’s ravings. It’s why I started watching Game of Thrones. And I have not regretted that. Well, except maybe for the terrible nightmares I have afterwards because, well, the violence … but, you know, it’s worth it – it’s Peter Dinklage and dragons and Peter Dinklage.

Anyway, I am doing this lemon thing. I have managed to remember to do it every morning for a week and I feel good. I don’t know if it is due to the lemon or due to what my mind believes is happening because of the lemon … I also don’t know if that matters.

The thing is though, whenever I smell the lemon I get this craving for the pancakes Mum used to make us when we were kids. English pancakes. They were sort of like crepes. She would throw them on our plates, straight from the pan, and we would add lemon and sugar and wish it would never end. Seriously. You could eat those things forever …

I don’t think that is quite the point of the lemon drink thing. I mean it is all about digestion and detoxing … not sugar and butter and flour and more sugar. Right? I mean, surely the Pancake is the antithesis of the Lemon Water. The Lemon Water is Obi Wan and the Pancake is Darth Vader (or would that be the other way around). Lemon in water is what we are meant to do; lemon on pancakes …

But I drink my lukewarm lemon water and remember the pancakes my food intolerance will no longer let me eat. That little memory alone makes for a nice start to the day – even if you are left craving pancakes and childhood.

 

when life gives you lemons - @jesswheatys

when life gives you lemons – @jesswheatys

 

The post I wrote about not knowing what to write about

I wanted to write about breathing and homesickness and how long it took me to learn how to tell the time and jump rope and how meditation looks a lot like the word mediation but it is a very different thing and kiss-chasey and the idea of toxins in the body and hating the smell of hospitals and being too polite and not comparing yourself to others because YOU ARE ENOUGH and why hasn’t my agent called in months and (kind of) meeting your idol (kind of) and joy and how our printer sounds like some song I can’t remember the name of whenever it starts up and not drinking enough water and sometimes I will ignore the phone and Paris and expectations and are you ever too old for a treehouse and weird nightmares that make no sense when you wake up but are terrifying at the time and looking up when you walk and what if no one remembers me and packing and credit cards and breathing … just breathing.

Maybe tomorrow …

 

autumn leaf - katy warner

 

Someone and Clump: A Love Story

They had this story. It went like this: We never fight. Except this one time. This one and only time about nothing in particular. I threw my copy of Harry Potter on the floor, she would say, I was so angry. And then we both stopped arguing and just laughed because, well, my face must have, I mean, I loved that book and I … she would trail off a little there. It was very funny – not a real fight at all, he would add. We just don’t fight, they would say together, not really.

It wan’t true. Of course. It was their story and it wasn’t true but they believed it. So did everyone else. Because that’s what they were told.

She caught herself thinking about that story that was once their story- thinking about it and believing it again. It would trip her up when she least expected it and she would look around, embarrassed, hoping nobody had noticed.

They had fought. A lot. He had cheated. A lot.  She had cried. A lot.

They had fought some more.

The real story goes like this: He took her trust and shoved in the back pocket of his jeans. Like a hastily scribbled mobile number on the back of a receipt. Like a dirty tissue. He forgot to remove it when he did the laundry and it turned into a shrivelled clump that fell apart the moment anyone tried to open it up, smooth it out, read whatever secrets were written there.

He got new jeans.

The clump got left behind.

As it should. After all, it’s just a clump …  So she believed …

Until someone saw something in the clump and tried to ease it open, to gently smooth it out, to discover the secrets that were written there.

It took time to get that clump unclumped. He gave her time. And so much more.

She (who was a clump) and he (who is still someone) fight. They argue and disagree and say mean things they don’t mean. We fight, they could say if anyone asked them, really. They don’t try to believe otherwise. They keep Harry Potter on the bookshelf along with the other made-up stories. They fall asleep holding hands.

Now she has a better story. Their story. A true story.

Their story goes like this: Love.

 

love in concrete

Climb: A Play in Fifty Words

fish creek5

–  Just sit up there.

–  Here?

–  Nah, go up, like, another branch … yeah, and another one … another –

–  It’s high

–  Yeah.

–  I could – I could fall.

–  Yeah.

–  It’d hurt.

Pause

– You should look scared.

–  I’m not.

–  You need to look it but.

–  OK. Like this?

–  That’s good.

–  Now what?

– Dunno. 

They wait.


Weekly Writing Challenge - Fifty

Finding inspiration or: The joy of writing in your local café

After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game, or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in.

Henry Miller

 

Cafe Writing

 

Lately I have been trying to write in cafés. OK. I tend to do less writing and more eavesdropping-disguised-as-writing. It makes me feel a little bad.

A little.

Because I know I am going to stumble on some gold soon.

I remember chatting away with Steve in this little teeny coffee shop hidden away in some teeny lane-way, as Melbourne likes to do, and there was this guy sitting nearby with his notebook open, pen poised … I was sure he was writing down our conversation. It made me whisper even though we weren’t saying anything all that intriguing or eavesdropping-worthy. If we had I would have written it down.

That is the gamble you take if you enter a relationship with a writer.

Just saying.

I remember thinking how I couldn’t do that. Sit in a café and steal write.

Until I did.

During my masters I wrote an entire scene (even stole some direct quotes) from the very loud, very interesting, conversation a mother and daughter were having near my lonely table in a café. I took it to my lecturer for a dramaturgy session (code for – I am going to rip your writing to shreds and you are going to take it) and waited, with bated breath, as he read through it. He loved it. I, not good at taking compliments, had to dismiss it in some way and explained how I had stolen it from a conversation at a café. “Do more writing in cafés then,” he said.

So I have been.

And I think that’s OK.

I like my café. The coffee is good. That helps. And there is a sunny table. And whole range of characters to watch and listen in on. That helps too.

I watched a woman gulping water. It made me feel sad for some reason. Her shaky hands sneakily applied lipstick, one hand holding a tiny mirror, the other wobbling around her lips. She kept her bag nestled on her lap like a precious pedigree cat. She kept her head lowered at an angle that suggested she wasn’t well or didn’t feel worthy to look up or both.

I saw another woman looking at the waiter through squinted eyes as he explained the specials. She kept her hand elegantly under her chin and asked a lot of questions in one those affected Australian accents. She ordered a latte to have after the meal. The meal she chose was not the one she had asked a lot of questions about. She had wondered if the goat’s cheese was very strong. She didn’t like strong goat’s cheese. The waiter told her it was very young, very fresh. I don’t think she believed him.

At another table I saw someone who used to be someone. He kept his head in his hands, pretending to not want anyone to notice him or attempting to recover from a hang-over or both.

Another waiter was just waiting. Cloth in hand. Hoping for a spill. I hoped not to accommodate but I do have a tendency for spilling things and other general clumsiness … “Spilling things and other general clumsiness” – could be the title of something, someday, maybe … The man who used to be someone makes me question why I even bother writing at all. He used to write and star in a sit-com. And now look at him. I wish he’d speak so I could scribble down his conversation.

I overheard a couple talking about dividends and CEOs and maintaining the asset and fragile infrastructure and the sector. They talked about the sector a lot. And repeated what the other said, a lot. She was very agreeable. He was very loud.

SHE:   You’re sounding a bit disillusioned about the sector.

HE:      I’m not disillusioned about the sector.

I think they’ll be popping up in something.

I overheard a conversation that jumped from conspiracies about MH370 to Shane Warne to the GST on baby clothes.

Gold? OK. Maybe not yet … but I am filling up my notebooks with characters and ideas and weird little snippets of conversations that could, maybe, one day, turn into something. Hopefully … we shall see. It could be the change of scenery, it could be the ridiculous amount of coffee I am drinking but, either way, there is inspiration to be found and stolen from your local café.

On realising you’re in your thirties or: Isn’t age just a number?

"When I grow up I want to be a teacher" by me, aged 6 (1986)

“When I grow up I want to be a teacher” by me, aged 6 (1986)
Actually, I wanted to be a gypsy or a racing car driver but I went with the safe option for my grade 1 scrapbook.

The casting brief asked for a woman in her 30s – 40s. I thought there must have been some sort of mistake. Me? Play 30s – 40s? Seriously? I’m only … no, hang on, wait up … I remember now … I am 33. Turning 34. That is my age bracket.

How the hell did this happen?

I mean, obviously, we get older. Mum always says, “I’d rather be old than the alternative”. By “alternative” I assume she means dead rather than not-ageing-but-staying-in-the-blissful-carefree-stage-that-is-your-twenties. If the latter were the alternative then I would be going for that. Anyway, my Mum also says she’s just “visiting her aunt” when she heads off for the bathroom, so I don’t know how seriously I can take these little sayings of hers. (I love you Mum.)

When I was a kid I would always tell people I was the age I was going to be rather than the age I actually was. So, in 1989, a month after my 9th birthday I would tell people I was 10; after my 10th birthday I was already telling people I was 11. Needless to say, I stopped doing that – I’m still 33 and won’t be telling anyone I am 34 until that day in July when I eat too much cake and wonder what the hell have I done with my life?

Back then, when I’d say I was 10 but I was actually 9, it wasn’t because I wanted to be older. There was just something more interesting and exciting about the year ahead. What would 10 bring that 9 just couldn’t comprehend right now? In reality it brought nothing but the wonderful butterfly cupcakes Nan would make for our birthday parties. They were amazing. I wish I could recreate that. Surely I should be able to bake by now? Be able or, at the very least, interested in baking? I am 33 after-all.  Who am I kidding? I don’t bake and I’m OK with that.

I had no desire to get older. I got quite upset after receiving clothes for Christmas one year. I think I was 10 but telling everyone I was 11. It wasn’t like the clothes were awful, it wasn’t as if I didn’t like them … but Christmas presents were meant to be toys, right? Getting clothes meant I was getting older. Only kids got toys for Christmas. If I didn’t get a toy I was no longer a kid. I wasn’t ready for that. Mum said I’d love to get clothes one day … she was right, of course, and the next year I forgot all about the no-toys-for-Christmas saga and desperately wanted a denim jacket. So it goes.

Whilst I hadn’t wanted to be older, I had always looked forward to being sixteen. “Sixteen”: mythologised in popular culture and American teen books where the kids are all rich and drive sports-car and hang out at the beach or the local diner. The fact that we weren’t rich, that there was no way in the world my parents would let me get in any car driven by any teenager and that diners weren’t really a “thing” in Australia did not deter my somewhat clichéd imagination. I was dreaming of this sixteen year old version of me when I was only 12 and reading way too much Sweet Valley High. At this age I also read George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, delved into The Odyssey of Homer and got through many of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets – sadly it seems that Francine Pascal’s awful trite influenced my somewhat impressionable mind a little more than Orwell at that point in my life.

Anyway, despite being pretty well read, I thought sixteen was going to be this amazing year full of school dances and high-school romances and hanging out and eating pizza with my friends and first kisses and fun-fun-fun. I pretty much thought it would be just like Beverley Hills, 90210 – the fun parts, not the serious, issue-based stuff, and I’d be Kelly Taylor, of course …

As the wonderful 16 got ever closer I like to think I matured enough to know it wouldn’t, couldn’t and, possibly, shouldn’t be like that. I am sure I knew but a little, tiny part of me still dreamed of this Hollywood version of sixteen. When the day came I had a little party with my friends. Most of them left early because there was a bigger, better, non-supervised party with a bonfire and older boys and beer happening within walking distance from my place. It wasn’t the Sweet Sixteen birthday party John Hughes had led me to believe I would have. The all magical sixteen wasn’t as magical as I thought it would be. There was a lot to deal with; heaps of homework, exams, simply surviving every day at my terrible high-school, bitchy girls, idiotic boys – there was reality.

Naïve, optimistic, sixteen year old me doesn’t seem all that long ago. She is not a distant memory. She was only … nope, hang on, she was 17 years ago. How the hell did that happen? Where did the time go? And why do I still have the exact same hair-cut?

So, it was with surprise that I read the casting brief for a woman in her 30s – 40s. I had to stop and think … surely they have sent this to wrong person? But, no, my agent can do math – that is my “age range” now.

Wow … that went fast …

And I was OK with it, I think.

I mean, I never wanted to grow up but here I was – suddenly in shoved into the 30s – 40s bracket and that was OK. It was actually OK.

Until the meeting with the literary manager of some theatre company.

She wanted to talk to me about my work and I was thrilled. It was going well, until she asked me how old I was. I answered, honestly because, well, I hadn’t thought anything of it. “Don’t tell anyone that,” she said in this hushed tone. “You’re not as impressive now I know how old you are.” That was my chance to interject with a comment dripping with wit – it didn’t happen. “We thought you were some kinda child prodigy thing or something,” she laughed and the meeting was over. I never heard back from them.

It made me panic. I was too old. I’d missed my chance. Clearly the only people worth supporting in their creative endeavours are the young. I still thought I was young. I still thought I had my whole life ahead of me. I didn’t know there was an expiry date on creativity and I really didn’t expect that expiry date to be in one’s 30s …

So, what’s wrong with being in your 30s? I’d rather be old than the alternative … thanks Mum. Being in your 30s doesn’t make you old. 30s is the new 20s which makes 20s the new teens and, as much as I thought I wanted to be sixteen, I wouldn’t be going back there in a hurry.

Of course there isn’t an expiry date. Of course not. Well, there is that one big expiry date but there’s nothing I can do about that one … People will always have different perceptions on age – different expectations they place on somebody based merely upon the year they happened to be born. Well, let them. You are only as young as you feel, that’s what they say, right?

I have always looked younger than I am. I am sure it will catch up soon. I still get asked for ID which makes me feel great. I still get spoken down to like I am an inexperienced 20-something which makes me feel like crap. There is such an emphasis on being older or looking younger that I don’t think I ever enjoyed just being the age I am.

There seems to be this idea of what you should have achieved and by when. Just like all the pressure I put on the idea of being sixteen – at sixteen year old I should [insert implausible scenario from awful teen film here] – now it is the pressure of what I should have achieved in my 20s (but didn’t) and what is expected of someone in their 30s (which makes me incredibly anxious) and on and on it goes until you are in your 90s and then you can do whatever the hell you want and no one can say a word because you are 90, damn it (except maybe the people in the 100s).

Age is just a number, right? A concept. Aren’t we all just deceived into this perception of past, present, future? Isn’t everything happening all at once? Aren’t there scientists who believe there is no such thing as time? Einstein told believed that

the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.

I could be 22 and 16 and 106 and 2 all in a matter of moments, all at the same time. It hurts my brain …

So, I am just going to be 33. Until July 10. Then I’ll be 34. And I’ll tell people my age. And I will enjoy it. I have never been 34 before … (according to Einstein and others I have been, yes, but … oh, it is too much).

I may not be doing what people are “supposed” to be doing in 30s. I may not have achieved all those things I was “supposed” to achieve in my 20s. And I will be OK with that.

And I will start looking forward to my 90s. That sounds like a fun age to me.

***

Part of the DP Challenge

Being a wimp

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr

I stepped into a teaching position at school that was recovering from a horrific bullying incident. Incident doesn’t quite do justice to this life-changing event; life-changing for the instigators and their families who faced court, certainly life-changing for the victim of the attack. A group of boys thought it would be … I don’t know … fun? … to abduct and torture a classmate, a peer, a fellow human being in bush-land near the school. For hours they tortured him, pissed on him, tied him up, made him dig his own grave, psychically assaulted him … He was a vulnerable kid – skinny and small for his age. They were taller, bigger, stronger and had a lot more friends.

I have found myself thinking about this event a lot over the last week or so – particularly in relation to the ridiculous language and downright disgusting behaviour of the so-called leaders of this country.

“You don’t want a wimp running border protection, you want someone who is strong, who is decent and Scott Morrison is both strong and decent.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott (Feb 21, 2014)

It is bad enough that our Prime Minister is using such juvenile, throwaway language better suited to a “jock” in a John Hughes film than serious humanitarian issues; it is incredibly disturbing when we consider the actions of Scott Morrison and the government.

So, what does it mean when Abbott makes such childish comments? If Morrison isn’t a wimp then what exactly is a wimp? Is a wimp someone who shows compassion? Someone who is not prejudiced? Someone who helps the vulnerable? Someone who tells the truth, is honest, is kind, is empathetic …

By Abbott’s standards I would much rather be a wimp.

In Abbott and Morrison’s world, a strong and decent person is one whom persecutes those who most need protection and support and assistance. By these standards, a strong and decent person is someone who is cruel.

What does this mean in the playground? I’m not even sure the word ‘wimp’ is still part of the colourful vocabulary of school-yard bullies but let’s imagine, if you will, that it is. “Don’t be a wimp” translates to don’t defend that kid who needs your help, stick with bullies, hurt him, he deserves it, he is the minority, he is different, he doesn’t deserve friendship / kindness / help …  No one wants to be a wimp because, clearly, it takes integrity, strength of character, compassion to be a wimp. It is difficult to be a wimp.

I wish there were more wimps in the school-yard. If there had been some wimps around on that life-changing day at that school by the bush then maybe a child would not have suffered. Maybe one of those bullies would have had enough wimp in him to stop his friends hurting an innocent, vulnerable kid.

If there were more wimps running this country then maybe Reza Barati would still be alive. Maybe we wouldn’t lock up the vulnerable who have turned to us for help not persecution. Maybe we wouldn’t be creating a country that is intolerant, cruel and selfish but a place that values equality, peace and compassion.

Being stood-up

SONY DSC

I hate waiting.

And yet here I am.

It is a lot warmer than I thought it would be. The flies are those sticky, needy types that just want to sit on my arms / legs / face no matter how many times I brush them away.  Sweat is running down by back, inside my dress. I hope like hell that no one notices. Sweating is disgusting when not directly related to exercise; even then it’s not very attractive yet more acceptable. Here I am sitting at a café sweating like I’ve just run 5-kilometres or something.  I shouldn’t be sweating like that. Should I? Women don’t talk about sweating so it worries me that it is abnormal or a sign of something abnormal … I didn’t expect it to be so hot.

The flies continue. The sweat continues. I wish I had worn a hat and sunscreen and been sun-smart and slip-slop-slapped. Why didn’t I think of all this before choosing the outdoor table with limited umbrella coverage? If I get skin cancer because he is late I will kill him.

He was meant to be here twenty minutes. We had arranged this coffee catch-up only a couple of days ago. The place was his idea. The time was mine. 10.30am. I texted him as I left my apartment. I texted him when I arrived. There’s been no response.

When I arrived, I told the young woman who called me “ma’am” and made me feel incredibly old, that I was waiting for someone. The people at the other table heard me. The waitress brought out an extra glass of water and an extra menu – “Here you are ma’am, in case your friend wants breakfast” she smiled and added “ma’am”. I wanted to throw the water in her face. But I didn’t. Besides, she’d probably call me ma’am as she cleaned up the mess and offered me another, fresh glass of water and so the cycle would continue …

I sit with the empty chair in front me, the untouched extra glass of water, the unread menu.

Half an hour late.

Now I’ll look like some kind of jilted bride if I up and leave before he arrives. I will look like a complete idiot. I’m sure that couple at the table near mine live in my apartment block. I’m not entirely sure but they did walk from the same direction as me to this spot, look a little familiar and seem to be watching me now and then, sizing me up. Probably wondering if I am the girl from their apartment block. They’ll probably go home and laugh about that neighbour being stood up at the café. I’ll hear them laughing too. You can hear so much in the apartment block; couples’ fights, couples’ make-up sex … and so the cycle continues. They probably think I’m having some sort of secret affair and I’m waiting for my lover who has decided to stand me up on this day after Valentine’s Day. I really, really need my dear, gay friend to turn-up right now so they can see I’m not cheating on my boyfriend, so they can see I’m not some philandering loser.

But he still hasn’t answered his messages.

Maybe he met someone last night. It was Valentine’s Day. Maybe that’s it.

The waitress who called me ma’am just looked at me very apologetically. I don’t know how to make my getaway …

“Would you like a cool drink or something ma’am?”

Shit. She notices the sweat. She can see it. Why else would she ask if I wanted a cool drink. A cool drink? At a café renowned for its coffee …

“I’ll have a peppermint tea.”

Shit. Shit. Why did I ask for peppermint tea? It’s hot. It’s hotter than I had expected.

“Yeah, just the peppermint tea. While I wait. For my friend.”

Shit. Shit. Shit. Why did I say “My Friend”. Friend could mean anything. Anything. I remember when I had my first boyfriend in high-school and if he came over to any family sort of thing, Mum would always refer to him as my “friend” and I hated it. Hated it. It sounded so patronising. Now it just sounds like code for “my lover”.

“Of course ma’am. Right away ma’am” – what the hell is with this ma’am thing? It sounds like she’s the Prissy to my Scarlett O’Hara or something. I’m not looking for a maid. I’m not living in the deep south of 19th Century America. I’m not old enough to be a ma’am, surely?

She moves away with her ma’am and her apologetic look and I keep on looking up and down the street, keep checking my phone, keep writing, looking busy.

Someone else brings me the peppermint tea and this one doesn’t say ma’am. Thank goodness.

The sun is moving so it’s not as sweaty as before. But the flies don’t let up. I should have sat inside … Thirty-five-minutes.

On my first date with boyfriend I must have been half and hour late. Half an hour is a long time. I hope I texted him back then to say I’m just running late, oops, sorry, I’ll be right there. I feel bad imagining him sitting there, waiting, wondering if I was even going to show up. I hope I did text him. I will have to ask him tonight.

Maybe my friend had an accident.

No. I’ll go with the other scenario. He met someone. That’s better.

The couple next to me have finished their organic quinoa salad with soft boiled free-range egg, sumac corn, coriander, pomegranate, avocado, pistachio and citrus dressing … and side of bacon. Somehow bacon just doesn’t seem to fit that equation … Oh well. At least they’ve finished. Once they’ve gone I can go.

He gets up. This could be it.

I think he has gone inside to pay the bill. She is cheating at the crossword they were attempting over breakfast with the assistance of an app on her Smartphone.

He comes back and now she goes inside. Why can’t they just go already so I can leave without looking stupid?

If only I had a dog. That would solve everything. The dog could drink the extra glass of water. He may even sit up on the extra seat. I’d call him Dave or Corey or something and order him his own side of bacon.

The dog I would call Dave or Corey or something …

A woman in exercise gear (the brunch uniform even if it looks like you haven’t actually exercised in the gear ever) has just tied her dog up near me. I can’t claim this one as mine; the guy at the table saw the exercise-gear-woman tie it up and wander inside for her skinny latte. Now the guy, clearly deflated by his girlfriend’s successful completion of the shared crossword, comes over to pat the recently abandoned dog. I think he wants to see what I’m writing. You can read it on my blog, I want to tell him. But I don’t. I just do that not so subtle arm across the page thing, like the super-smart kid in math class who didn’t want anybody riding her mathlete coattails.

11.15am. That’s 45-minutes. I can’t wait an hour, especially as I’ve heard no word that he is even coming. No word that he is actually OK and not lying in a coma in the local hospital … no, he has met someone. I am sure that is it. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.

An overweight, shirtless man with a vast collection of tattoos stalks past me, muttering something about the dangers of choppers. Or coppers? I don’t like to ask him to clarify. I don’t think he’d like me to ask him to clarify. My dress sticks to my back. My once straightened hair is shoved into one of those cool messy buns all the girls do now, except mine is more mess and less cool.

Finally, my maybe neighbours leave.

47-minutes.

Still no response.

I am going to get up, hold my head up high, march inside and pay for this overpriced peppermint tea. The other teas here sound amazing: Silver Fox, Genmaiche, Ancient Moonlight … No, don’t hide in the menu – get inside. Go.

11.25am. Peppermint tea finished. Operation head-up-high, this-was-not-a-date-and-I-haven’t-been-stood-up-at-all-my-friend-is-just-busy-or-hung-over-or-madly-in-love-or-in-hospital-or-something is about to take place …

I pay without one sympathetic, questioning, judgemental look.

I leave –

“Thank you ma’am,” the waitress smiles weakly as she picks up the still full extra glass of water from my table for one …

Detaching the shadow: letting go of anorexia

“I wasn’t crying about mothers,” he said rather indignantly. “I was crying because I can’t get my shadow to stick on. Besides, I wasn’t crying.” 

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

The old demon is back. Actually, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure it went anywhere. And if I was honest … No, if I could be honest, about this thing which they call anorexia (a word I find difficult to verbalise and even more difficult to write without feeling stupid and apologetic) that would probably be a good start. But I’m kidding myself. Maybe.

It is always lurking. No matter how often you declare look I ate all my dinner and feel happy and not guilty at all about it. No matter how often you remind yourself that when someone says you look healthy they don’t mean chubby or fat or obese. It’s a good thing. Healthy equals good. No matter how often you run and refuel body. Because you know that. You’re not stupid. Refuelling. Like a car. Think of your body as a car she told me. That will help. And it does. Sometimes. But it is lurking. Still. That big, grey shadow lurks, waits, eavesdrops, niggles and niggles, somewhere between the bottom of my ribs (which probably aren’t as obvious as they used to be which, if I was honest, makes me anxious from time to time) and the pit of my stomach.

Today the shadow bounded from its hiding place full of bad energy and cruel words. It bounded like a pretentious child from the pit of my stomach to the top of my head, filling every part of me on its frighteningly quick journey. Cement. It’s quick-drying cement.

To be honest, which can be hard with this grey shadow, the journey probably wasn’t as quick as I’d like to think. I’d like to think; wow, where did that come from? That took me by surprise. But it hasn’t. Not really. I know it has been meandering on its well-trodden path for sometime. I was just able to slow it down. For a bit. But now it has taken the front seat. Shotgun! it must have shouted, leaving common-sense and you-know-better and grow-the-hell-up to squabble over who had to sit in the middle. No one likes that middle seat.

But why today? Today I got a call-back and an audition. For tomorrow. Both of them. It’s not like I ever get a lot of warning about these auditions and things but something about getting these two opportunities, in close succession, just made me feel so ….under-prepared. Not from lack of research, reading the script, practising, rehearsing, training. No. None of that. Under-prepared because I haven’t been suffering from anorexia for nearly a year now. Because when I was thin anorexic I felt I was the perfect size for film and TV work. I felt good. People said I looked thin and good – god, you look great, look how thin you are, they would say. The camera adds ten pounds, right? Right? I mean, it must be true if the Daily Mail says so. Plus, those actors always look so much smaller in real life …

I think I am fairly intelligent woman and I know the damage an eating disorder causes and I know that I’m not fat. I know it. But I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that the film and TV industry wants someone who isn’t an Australian size 4. Emma Thompson recently spoke of the pressure on female actors to be like models. And it is true. I get casting briefs that provide me with “character references” that are descriptions of models, not characters. I sit in casting waiting rooms with women whose legs are as tall as me. I have listened as the casting director bemoans the fact that the models can’t act but that’s what the producer / the director / the production company wants. Because anyone can act, of course, but not everyone can be a perfect size 4. Now, I am not saying models cannot act, or vice versa, but, well, sometimes …

I am not blaming the industry for my problems. I mean, it all started long ago – I link a lot of it to watching Ariel’s waist in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. How is she so skinny and beautiful? thought 10-year-old me who now wishes 33-year-old could go back in time, smack myself in the face and shout IT’S A DAMN CARTOON IDIOT – IT’S NOT REAL! EAT THE FRICKIN’ POPCORN!

No, I am not blaming the industry but I know what it wants. I worry I don’t live up to those expectations, those thin, tiny bodies it so adores. As soon as that worry sets in, well, the grey shadow can sneak up and grab the front seat. I’ve left it wide open.

This grey shadow. It’s boring. It’s predictable. It’s the most selfish thing in the world; there are people dying of starvation, dying of obesity, living in poverty, living in fear, not living at all …

But this grey shadow isn’t so great and letting me see things with honesty.

It used to make me run in heavy sweatpants – even when it was warm. It used to make me do a lot of math – but never count over 1000 but, better still, 800 on a “successful” day. It used to make me obsess over jeans and brush my teeth at weird times and stare in the mirror and not leave the house. It used to make me tired. It used to give me dry skin and rings under my eyes. It used to make me believe you could never be too thin and thin was everything. It used to make me think I was happy – that was its second biggest lie. It used make me think it could define me – that was its biggest.

Honestly I will try honesty – I will call it now that I’ve seen it. I will take notice. I will do those things I have been taught to do and I won’t let it define me. I will eat. I will drink. I will be merry. And I’ll keep reattaching my true shadow and not this dishonest, unhealthy version of me. I’ve already made a start here … honestly.

New memories in old places

My sister, Claire, and Grandad fishing at our piece of beach (circa 1987)My sister (Claire) and Grandad fishing from our piece of beach – circa 1987

We all headed to the spot we thought was the spot where, as children, we played on the beach for a week in February. It looked different but Dad worked out a path from the tree he remembered which I said I remembered but I don’t really know if I did.

The asbestos chalets and caravan sites were gone, replaced by two-storey mansions with balconies and timber decks and six-burner stainless steel barbecues and expensive cars in double-garages and signs warning people not to enter beyond this point because this is an exclusive resort for the people who can afford it.

We squinted as we tried to look through the mansions; superimposing over their imposing structures with the little green asbestos chalet we’d call home for week in February. It was hard to imagine but I desperately wanted to get it back. That’s when Dad said that tree was the tree that was once in front of the chalet we’d called home for a week in February, and that’s why I said I remembered it when maybe I didn’t …

We traced a path from the tree Dad recognised to the beach and all agreed that this was the spot; our little plot of sand and sea that was our beach for a week in February. The beach looked smaller now, the sand not as white, water not as clear. But it was the spot. We all agreed. It was too cold to swim so we stood in the water and I sang that stupid song that we made up one holiday which we all found hilarious back when we were four and five and eight and ten but now it simply made my 12-year old niece look at me with that funny eyebrow thing she does when I make a joke.

We weren’t all there, my brother had plans and one of my sisters had just had a baby, but it was still a good turn-out. We were all staying in this new two-storey holiday house which lacked both character and enough bathrooms. I wanted it to be the same as it was back then but it wasn’t; we couldn’t hear the waves as we fell asleep, there were no bunk beds, no early morning runs along the beach with Grandad, no card-games, no jelly-fish stings, no straining our ears to hear what the adults were talking about when we reluctantly went off to bed. We are older. We are adults. My sisters now have their own families to bring here or somewhere like here and make new memories.

On our last morning I went out for a run to retrace the steps we would take with Grandad on his morning jogs during these annual family holidays. He would jog, or attempt to jog, whilst we got distracted by the treasures that had washed up on the shore overnight; shells and sea jelly and cuttlebone and seaweed.

I ran to the point he would run to. It seemed a lot further out when I was eight. I walked out onto the rocks and waited for a sign. For something. A vision. A rainbow. A dolphin leaping into the sky. Even just a slightly different wave to break up the tempo a bit. I breathed in the fresh, sea air and waited … But the waves kept on in their hypnotic rhythm, the sky was clear and the dolphins weren’t playing along.

I had desperately wanted a new memory, a significant moment, to sit alongside all the memories I had of this place. I wanted something that would reinforce the importance of our time spent here all those years ago. I wanted to feel as if they hadn’t gone; my Nan, my Grandad, those childhood memories.

I ran back to the house to find my niece waiting for me. Everyone else was asleep. She was up. And dressed. And waiting.

“Want to go the beach?” I asked her.

We went back to that piece of beach which was our piece of beach. We threw our shoes off and walked on the sandbars. They still felt like they could go on forever, into the horizon. We marvelled at the flat sea and the colours of the sky. She drew her name in the sand. We collected handfuls of shells. We walked in the freezing cold water until our feet ached, and then went back for more. We talked and laughed and told stories. We watched old men walk their old dogs. We walked and walked without getting anywhere in particular. There were no dolphins or rainbows or visions but it didn’t matter; I loved that morning spent with my niece.

I couldn’t recapture the childhood memories of that place but I did get a new memory – something that will now sit alongside those older memories.

That simple morning beach walk – I hope that will become a memory for my niece and one day, in twenty years time, she revisits this place that was hers for three days in December and builds another, new memory to sit alongside it … and so it continues.