A Deed Without A Name

John has been unrelentingly taking the piss for a week about this, spouting all sorts, from tongue of newt to muggle-born, so you may as well join in.

Eight days ago, the English sun was pouring unwontedly generously out of the blue sky, and John, Harry and I were playing in one of our local children’s parks. A particularly nice one, this, alongside a pretty village, set in the huge meadows right on the the banks of the River Avon.

There is a well fenced-off playground section which Harry highly approves of. While he was scurrying frantically from playframe to slide, bouncer to swing, trying to do everything all at once, I saw a slim young girl with pale skin.

I would, if cornered in the witness box, put her age at a tall 9. In actual fact, I feel she could have been… any age. Absolutely any age at all. She wore white leggings with a lace trim, a blue and white t-shirt in horizontal thin stripes, and a white headscarf holding back a mass of long, straight dark hair.

She glided across my path on her long legs and folded herself elegantly into the spinning cup; she span round smoothly, head cocked into the small portable radio she was holding close in to her ear; all contained, seemingly, in her own existential bubble.

Something about her was jabbing me right in my forebrain and my hindbrain was hitting what passes for my forebrain with a large metal club. I felt compelled to keep watching her; inexorably drawn to her without knowing why in the slightest. Then, she lifted her head and I saw that her irises were… black. Absolutely black. Seen from the side, there was no white visible at all. It wasn’t aniridia; it was simply a black emptiness in a pale ivory face.

I can’t describe that face to you, other than to say than she looked ordinary and yet remarkable, because her exact features keep sliding out of my memory. I find this exceptionally odd, considering I was so completely transfixed by her. I drifted after her as she moved rapidly around the playground, trying not to make my interest in her too obvious, but so wholly hypnotised that I was in real danger of tripping over toddlers.

She spoke to no-one and seemed to be there alone. Disbelievingly, I saw no-one turn their head in her direction – not even when she passed them close. No-one whose antenna were screaming like mine. No-one receiving on that frequency.

I began to doubt my sanity.

I am fairly well-regarded in re my sanity, incidentally. 

While she was intent on driving herself into the skies on the swings, I turned to look for John and Harry and scurried over, even less articulate than usual.

‘Look! That girl! Over there! Extraordinary! Look! She’s got absolutely black eyes – go have a look at her!

John glanced vaguely at her, but we were side-on to the swings and Harry chose that exact moment to attempt an ascent route particularly challenging to one of his stature. I suppose it was a minute by the time he’d reached a safe platform and the maternal uneasiness subsided. Maybe two minutes, tops, and I was looking in the direction of the main river-facing gate out of the park all the time.

You see where this going, don’t you?

When I looked around again, with the firm intention of dragging John directly across her bows so that he could see The Eyes properly… she’d disappeared. That very hackneyed Vanished Into Thin Air trick.

The Park is bordered by the river Avon, a toilet block, a car park, a road, a wire-fenced basketball court, and quarter of a mile of dead flat mown grass. There’s a few trees and cars, but the only thing really blocking the view in any direction is the toilet block. There’s a second gate out of the park by the basketball court, but it points toward the cricket pitch – not renowned for its hilly features. To move out of sight in the time I’d had my eyes off her, she would have had to A) head for the road hedge – straight past my eyeline and B) move like that Bolt chappie.

I looked for her. With John cackling like a black and midnight bloody hag himself, and enduring his execrable jokes about broomsticks, I scanned the river. I looked around behind the toilet block. I peered behind trees and parked cars on the meadows. Eventually, admitting defeat, I walked over the ancient bridge, where 4ft of clear Avon flowed underneath, towards the village. We could clearly see shoals of beautiful fish, some 18 inches long, swimming among the weeds. Harry was delighted; the sun was still shining; we were out together as a family; it was a good day. But not an average day.

The hairs on the back of my neck still stand rigidly on end when I think about her.

And I will always wonder just who and what the bloody hell she was.

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Can’t I Use My Wit As A Pitchfork?

Hello! Anyone still here?

I was last seen making a wedding cake. Happily, the cake itself was munchable, consumed at a gratifying rate, and thus I wasn’t precisely displeased with it… yet vaguely grieved that the finished article had not turned out exactly according to the picture in my head. In my aesthetic defence, not very many wedding cakes are A) constructed to withstand a 100 mile journey in the back of my car and B) made without a single structurally bracing currant/raisin/sultana.

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The weight of the cakes militated against a trial-stacking of the tiers with all the icing damage risk inherent in that process, so I didn’t realise quite how zigguratty the middle tier was until I actually got there and… yeah. This is interesting to no-one except me, correct? It was edible. Everyone important seemed pleased. Call it a B-minus pass!

Harry and hotels mix badly in our imagination, so  we towed the caravan down and stopped in Wellington Country Park. I’m not much of a one for forest campsites, generally – my primeval lizard hindbrain likes to spy predators coming early – but this was a collection of In The Night Garden-like sunny glades, which was really very pleasant indeed. Our particular pitch boasted a fallen tree, which served Harry as boundary marker, climbing frame, racetrack, horse, garage, and balance beam. Entry to the adjoining park was free to campers, and Harry certainly had our money’s worth out of everything.

Highly recommended for active Smalls, but take either a packed lunch/bank loan for their cafe.

The wedding was lovely. Just lovely, lovely, lovely. I felt so privileged to be there and we had simply the nicest time. Harry was, broadly speaking, quite well-behaved –  although his single episode of screaming, spitting, kicking meltdown, during which he was escorted (‘Mind your backs, folks!’) to the quiet front garden, did manage to rather discombobulate some of the older children, one of whom asked me, wide-eyed,

‘Is he… OK? He looks like he’s about to be…’ she backed away a little, eyeing his retching, lawn-punching little body with barely-suppressed horror, ‘really sick!’

It’s fair to say that Harry’s behaviour has taken a distinct dive again recently; linked uncleverly to some unusually late and disturbed nights. I’d forgotten quite how tricky it is to subdue a small yet resourceful Ultimate Fighting Champion angry toddler into a car seat. My specs were 10ft behind me – in the road – where he’d kicked them off my nose, he had an iron grip on both the door frame and the car, his feet were drumming all over my face and chest and God help me if I strayed within reach of his teeth. I used to get this on an almost daily basis, and while I am enormously thankful that his communication skills – and hence, his temper – are so much improved of late, I was depressed to discover that he’s now 6 months more developed in strength and cleverness. I’m worried that one day soon, I may not actually win.

The school holidays are a mere week away, and I was curled into a tight ball of misery at the thought of EIGHT long weeks of NO School Fabulous. Jesus God. What to do? What to DO??

Answer: bugger off, get a job and let some other poor sap worry about it.

In answer to the prayers of both my husband and the Hairy Exchequer (synonymous), I am going back to work. In what has been termed the laziest career move ever, I am going back to my old job part-time, except it isn’t actually my old job because the original organisation went bust earlier this year (my foreseeing this inevitable event was a core reason for staying on maternity leave forever) and has now been bought by a chap with whom I always got on well. The industry playing field has shifted substantially because of this liquidation, but the goalposts in terms of my role are in the same relative position, so I am hoping it won’t be too much of a shock to my poor 3-years-off-work system.

I am being deliberately vague because A) the (tiny) industry in question is inextricably meshed into local and regional politics as well as B) being a focus of the local media – who, thanks to the MAD awards, know exactly who I am, and that I write this blog. I have no intention of writing anything defamatory about the clients – even in the unlikely event of my wanting to: I have read Dooce, thank you! – but I am a little squeamish of the thought of sitting in a meeting with a bunch of awfully professional suited chaps who have been reading eye-popping details about my undercarriage.

You know how it is.

I am officially Not Sure how the childcare thing will work out this side of September, when Harry settles into 15 hours a week at pre-school. I have pulled him out of the local daycare centre for various cogent reasons, so Mum is having him 2 days a weeks for the short-term and John’s mother is having him for at least one day a week; I can also get work done during the evening when John is home. Of course, that thing called Harvest is rapidly approaching and will trample over absolutely everything time-wise. We’ll figure it out, I expect, and New Work understand very well about Harry and are happy to be flexible.

I am still playing happily with my stationery business, and it keeps me nicely in pin money (unfortunately, I spend great-big-knitting-needle money. Harry has expensive tastes, you know.) although I will likely never set the world alight with it. I am off to a fete tomorrow and spent most of Monday in a Birmingham hotel getting quite ridiculously excited over a preview of my new Christmas stock. Don’t groan!

How does one end blog posts when one hasn’t precisely finished, but one actually wants to go to bed? Ah. A fullstop. Like this>.

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