Part 1

I sometimes think I’m like Elizabeth Bennet. I’m paraphrasing, but I never feel like I can write or say anything unless I’m going to utter something that will astonish the whole room. Therein lies my mistake. I think I have nothing to say that is deep and worthwhile, but how can that be? How can I have lived through all of my adventures and have no comment? As it turns out, I have plenty to say, I just have to stop censoring myself.

Of course, like most aspiring writers, there’s a fear of revealing too much, fear of insult or need to justify opinion. So, why bother? Why live in fear if you can not be honest and bold in your writing? Are we (I) so afraid of embarrassment and misunderstanding that I’m prepared to go to my grave without saying what I think? No, It’s not worth it. I have no kids, no legacy except my family who will also someday shuffle of this mortal coil and then what? I would be as if I hadn’t existed at all. Some might think that is no great tragedy, but for my part, I begin to find it terrifying. I must exist. I must be remembered and imagined and something of my life must linger. Egotistical, perhaps, but there it is.

I believe the easiest thing to do is to begin with the basics and start from there. Here are the vitals, the things you write on a job application or a census sheet. My name is Eliza Dashwood nay, Ruvalcaba. My parents, probably sensing that I would have a hard enough time with my other two names, chose not to provide a second option in the form of a middle name. My brother got one, but unfortunately, it wasn’t one that would be useful as an alternative to his given first name if he didn’t like it. So, there we were, two kids with “Z”s in their names. I have one excellent sibling, but more on that later.

I’m from California. If people ask, I usually say I’m from “near Palm Springs” since it’s a place most people have heard of. In truth, I was raised in San Bernardino . When I was small, we lived in a nice neighbourhood where all the houses were single story and what a Brit would call a bungalow. There were little strip malls with shops and a single supermarket. My mother bought our clothes at a boutique called “Baby News” and as we became pre-teens, Miller’s Outpost was the height of hip. The shopping mall was “downtown” and all the local cinemas were single screen. The “Pussycat theatre” still existed and my innocent mind could’ve conceive of what “XXX” meant. Across the main road at the end of our park was Parris Hill park and to me, the hill seemed steep and unclimbable. I can now see that it was probable no more than 100 metres to the top. I learned to swim, if my splashing in despair can be called that, at the local YMCA and my mother, sitting a few feet from the edge of the pool, threw her car keys into the pool for me to retrieve. What she probably doesn’t know even to this day, is the while I held my nose and dipped my head under water, I felt for them with my toes and transferred them to my failing fist with my eyes firmly squinted shut. I hated water in my face and that is something that has never really changed. So, thanks Mom, but I now swim just enough to keep myself from drowning in a paddling pool, but I think I need a vest or rubber arm bands in open water.

* * * * *

One of my earliest memories of childhood has me standing, leaning against my father’s knee trying to articulate what I know now was the abstract concept of imagination. He sat there, in a big upholstered chair one evening, a rare time when he wasn’t working on his model planes in the garage after dinner, with me the sole focus of his attention. It was probably circa 1979, when the greatest movie ever made was Star Wars and its paraphernalia littered every child’s bedroom. Model toys and lunchboxes cluttered my brother’s half of the closet floor and I wanted nothing more than to watch it again and again.

As he put his arm around me and leaned in to listen to me, my baby six year old voice squeaked in his ear, “TaTa, when I close my eyes and think hard, I can see pictures!” He smiled at me and said “Si, como, que miras?”

I tried to contain my excitement as I tried to explain what I saw. “You know, if I close my eyes, I can see R2D2! Just like if he’s right there.” I said pointing at nothing but air across our living room. “Can you see him?” I asked, still pointing. I can still see my father smiling as he closed his eyes nodding, “Oh yeah…yeah, si lo miro.”

I was excited that my Dad shared my vision of my imaginary droid. I can still remember with perfect clarity how he humoured his tiny girl, with her questionable straight black fringe and pink corduroy jeans, clinging to him before he sent her off to bed. It was past bedtime, but in my excitement to share my discovery, he listened to me. That’s how I discovered what that word was, that creation of a perfectly formed picture in my mind’s eye; imagination. I went to my little twin bed across from the room I shared with my brother happy that night.

So, here is the start. I’ll add a little more every day, and who knows, maybe I’ll learn something about myself in the telling. X

Self Isolation: Day number, who the Hell knows?

I’ve been i the house for about three months now. I ventured out for 1 day to have a scan and a blood test. I have another one tomorrow, so I get the treat of venturing out in the car into London to visit my oncologist’s Harley Street office for another blood test. Drive, in, wait, blood taken, out, drive home. It’s tragic when I look forward to a drive that leads to something tedious, but there it is, we live in a new reality.

In my last post, I said it wasn’t the end of days and although I still believe this is merely a bad patch, it does feel like we’re on the verge of something. Apart from the awful business of Covid-19, there are riots and protests globally in support of Black Lives Matter and a stand against racial inequality and against police brutality. I’m in total support of that movement and it’s about time, but I worry that for everyone’s good and noble intentions, we might be seeing a resurgence of the virus with everyone packed together on the streets. These are strange times we’re living in. Still, I try to do m part. I sign petitions and I sew masks and scrubs for the the NHS and i keep my head down and try not to make a fuss. I don’t complain that I can’t get a haircut, though some people see that as a serious infringement on their liberties. Sad. What spoilt and fickle creatures we are. What little discomfort we can tolerate!

So, now I write, sew and tend the garden, something I never thought I would do. I’m going to be up to my ears in home grown courgettes, tomatoes, spinach, peppers and onions. I see myself harvesting everything and putting vegetables out on the end of the drive for my neighbours to scavenge before too long.

I have been reading a great deal, as my Book List page will indicate, but I haven’t written much. This, I intend to change. Starting today.

For now, I will lay down a challenge: In this three months of madness, what have you learned? It can be something about yourself, a new skill or an observation on human beings in crisis. Try writing about a character stuck in isolation and give them a crisis to be overcome while they’re alone in the house. How do they cope and what do they do? How does being completely alone when one is in trouble affect one mentally, physically, morally?

Enjoy.

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