Monday, January 31, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I work in a building that sees a steady stream of politicians. And the great thing about politicos is that they're never backwards about coming forwards. So a single word exchanged in the ladies' led to "Oh, is that an American accent? Where are you from?"
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Dylis sat in the courtroom with silent tears running down her face. She’d always feared it would come to this, but had hoped that her love for her boy would see him right in the end. Norman’s bright red hair had always been her secret pride, a legacy from his father, but now it hung lanky and dull over his face. The boy who, for whatever his faults, had always been full of the spark of life, a fire in his eyes, now stood defeated in the dock waiting to be taken down. Mummy’s little treasure, as she’d called him, didn’t look much of a prize now.
The solicitor hurried past on her way out. She had told Dylis to expect a custodial sentence, but Dyllis had let her hope triumph over sense. He wasn’t a youthful offender anymore, at 19 he’d be treated as an adult.
No one took much notice of Dylis in the long bus ride from the Crown Court in Swansea to the village of Pontypandy. She was just another old woman, clutching a plastic bag, bundled up in an old raincoat to keep out the rain of the valleys. She stared out the rain speckled windows as the bus strained against the steep hill roads.
A string of minor infractions, small fires set here and there, escalating to more serious events over the years had left him with a criminal record. His father may not have ever acknowledged Norman, but he had intervened on his behalf countless times. He’d put out countless fires for his son, literal and metaphorical. He had fixed his mistakes, covered for him, and tried to make things right. But maybe if he could have taken a stronger role, a guiding hand for the boy as Norman had been growing up things would have been different.
But that was never going to happen. She would still remember his shocked expression when she’d told him that the single night they’d shared had had repercussions. She felt foolish for letting him talk her into keeping it a secret for all these years. Maybe if she’d made him face up to his responsibilities then, things would have turned out differently. She could see now that he would never have made the offer of marriage that she’d hoped for, but he could have acknowledged the boy, surely. But she’d wanted to keep him sweet, to see how reasonable she could be and perhaps he’d see, one day, that they could have something more. Most of all, she feared that he’d leave Pontypandy for some bigger place.
Dylis knew she’d been no beauty even in those days. What few charms she’d been born with had faded away as she cared for her mother in her final years in that little flat above the shop while she’d kept that going, too. When her mother had finally slipped away, Dylis began to think of finding a new life for herself. But then there had been Norman on his way.
Norman’s father had been young, much younger than she. He’d just returned from Cardiff and there had been rumours of a failed romance. Apparently she had been some dark eyed beauty who had left for London, a boy from the valleys, no matter how handsome, had not been enough for her. In those long summer days after he’d returned and her mother had died, Dylis had been in the habits of taking long walks in the hills - grieving and planning what she might do next.
She’d found him on his own in an old stone and wood cabin, near the mountain rescue station. He was already a little drunk and had offered her a can of cider she’d remembered selling to him. They drank and chatted quietly as he’d tended the fire in the little hearth. After a little more cider, they’d begun to laugh together - laugh at their own misfortunes. She told him how she wanted to leave the valley, but didn’t know how. He told her about the girl who’d broken his heart. A moment of kindness, as she’d reached out to brush her fingers over his bright red hair, turned quickly to a moment of madness. He’d reached for her then tumbling her down against the old mattress. She’d accepted his fumbled embraces with fervour. She’d let herself hope it might be the beginning of her new life. But his pained apologies the next day had extinguished that spark.
That old cabin had long since burned down. No one had proof, but they’d all suspected Norman. Dylis had always wondered if it had been his father who’d struck the match. He’d been able to get to the scene fast enough.
Her steps from the bus stop to the shop were slow and heavy. Her brother had been minding it for her while she was at court, and he was eager enough to get away from it now. Those villagers who still came in to the shop eyed the Price family with silent pity. “Poor Dilys,” she could almost hear them say “left to raise that handful of a boy on her own with no man at her side.”
The bell on the shop door jangled, and she looked up. He was still handsome, though his red hair had faded a little with age and was now streaked with silver. He was still tall and firm of frame, and the uniform of fire chief suited him. His face with etched with worry. He had always cared for Norman in his own way.
“He’s been sent down for three years. My little treasure in prison.” she sobbed.
“I gave a good report for the sentencing recommendation. He’s a good boy at heart,” he told her.
She stared at him, her accusation plain to read in her eyes.
“Great Fires of London,” he swore. “I did what I could, Dilys.”
“Did you? Even though I never told him you were his father, he always felt close to you. Always wanted to be like you, a fireman. He just wanted your attention. Even what he did this time, burning down the fire station was just to be closer to Fireman Sam.”
Saturday, January 08, 2011
But what I also saw on Twitter was quick condemnation of Sarah Palin and rhetoric which borrows heavily from text of Guns n' Ammo. Yep, Ms Palin is certainly one to rouse emotions. I'm not a fan of her approach generally and I disagree with her on pretty much every political stand she takes. But she didn't pull the trigger. Yes, apparently she put Rep Giffords in the cross hairs on her website. In retrospect, it seems more than inappropriate. But a target seat is still a target seat. Everyone uses language like that. Everyone talks about picking off vulnerable opponents and some talk of political hit lists. I don't know how common cross-hairs are for political maps, but I wouldn't be surprised to see flames and bulls-eyes. Maybe we need a slightly different discourse. And we mustn't tolerate anything which goes further than this.
For sure, politics is a rough sport. And I wouldn't for a second wish to curtail freedom of speech. But surely we can all do more to counter aggressive, violent speech. To shun it. To repudiate it. To not tolerate or cosset it. No matter whom it's targeted against, as it lowers the tone for all of us. And that includes harsh responses, labelling Sarah Palin a murderer and demanding retribution.
I know a lot of people give their small children home haircuts. Especially for boys. It's not supposed to be hard.
I have a long history of giving very bad haircuts. Disastrous haircuts. Too short. Uneven. Reminiscent of mange. Most of these unhappy experiments have had my brother as the victim. Once my husband. No one else has been so foolish to come near me when I'm wielding scissors.
When I was pregnant, I made the Vol-in-Law promise that he would never ever let me near my own child's head with shears. It was for the best really, I said.
Buddy was a bald baby and didn't have a lot of hair for a very long time, so it was easy for me to keep my resolution and my husband to keep his promise. The boy's first several haircuts were given by a relative and a brilliant Polish hairdresser who seems to have now moved on from giving haircuts to children.
Last summer, I had a go. We have a hair-clipping set that my brother had left here. And I didn't do a bad job. I didn't do a good job, but it wasn't shameful. Buddy sits quietly enough if you worked quickly.
This past week though, I tried again. And I'm afraid I returned to old form. A very bad haircut indeed.
I think we're going to need professional help.
Update: Hair Repair
After posting this, the Vol-in-Law took Buddy down to the barber's for a little repair job.
"Get your coat on, you're going to get your hair cut, Buddy."
"Where are we going?"
"To the barber shop. A man's going to cut your hair."
"The barber, he's a like a hair doctor. He's going to fix your hair."
"Mommy's not going to cut my hair?"
"No, she's more like the hair butcher."
He came back a little while later like this:
With gel in his hair. (I'm not too crazy about that) and informing us that only men could cut his hair. He thought a moment before adding. "But not Daddy."
Sunday, January 02, 2011
The Vol-in-Law is a squeamish sort of chap. He puts it down to being raised vegetarian. Whatever. Anyway his squeamishness means that corpse removal duty falls to me. And this is a regular job. Our cat Fancy has a respectable kill rate.
Fortunately for me, she leaves beautiful corpses. Or at least intact ones anyway, with maybe just a nibble or two from the tail. I don't really mind picking up these dead critters with a plastic bag and disposing of them. I'm not really freaked out by mice.
But we all have our limits. I mean RATS do freak me out. I screamed like a little kid when I walked out of our back door one day and saw a rat. I'm shuddering in remembrance.
I haven't seen a rat in a long time (thankfully!). But yesterday's New Year's gift of a dead mouse was enormous. It was really big. It was the size of a hamster. And as far as I'm concerned, hamster is just a little too close to rat. But I womanned up and dealt with it.
Buddy, isn't so squeamish. "I like it when Fancy kills a mouse," he said yesterday. But he did call his dad to deal with the thing.
"You need to call your mom," he said. "Mouse disposal is woman's work."
Buddy at three and a half is starting to be aware of gender distinctions and the difference between girls and boys. He questioned his father over what women did (rodent removal) and what did boys and men do? What sort of animal did males deal with?
"Your mother deals with the small animals. But if we see any wolves, it will be our job to get rid of it."
Yes. I can see that. Wolves roaming the streets of London. Not this century. (Though I note that he said nothing of foxes which are a regularly seen beastie.)
But the boy was excited and started planning his toolkit. "We need knives and hammers and swords!" he exclaimed.