The tale of a holiday romance gone right.
I often tell people that Tom and I met in Florida. We didn’t, but we might as well have done. Florida was where we had our first meaningful conversations, where I got to know him, and where I discovered that my first impression of him could not have been more inaccurate. It was a trip I almost didn’t go on, and had I not, I am fairly certain we would not be together now.
Tom and I had actually met three times before, but for various reasons, I had paid him precisely zero attention. If, on any of those occasions, someone had told me that we would eventually end up together, I would have laughed in their face. We were such wildly different people-or so I thought-that the prospect of romance seemed beyond farfetched. Now, more than five years into our relationship, I am the first to admit that I was completely wrong about him. …
Most of us have one, don’t we?
The one that got away,
The one we will wonder about
Until our dying day…
We don’t wish we were still with them,
Or want another go,
The problem is uncertainty-
The fact we just don’t know…
We do not know what might have been,
How far me might have got,
If the ending was inevitable,
Maybe, maybe not…
If we’d said this or done that,
Might the outcome have been swayed?
Could they have been persuaded?
Might they actually have stayed?
We tie our minds in sailor’s knots
Thus fashioning our own madness,
We carry it around with us:
A soul-deep, aching…
It was a tale as old as the town itself. No one knew how the story of the monster in the well first came about. All they knew was that the well in the woods behind Southcote Farm was said to be home to an immortal being with a rather unusual way of feeding. Instead of food, the monster supposedly fed on the unsavoury opinions of those who visited the well. Of course, most people didn’t believe it, but that didn’t stop parents from using the story as a way of teaching their little ones to watch their words.
‘You don’t want to feed the monster in the well, do you?’ became the go-to refrain whenever a child was in danger of saying something unkind. The obedient ones would immediately fall silent and shake their heads, but there were always those mischievous children who would loudly proclaim that feeding the monster was indeed their intention, before proceeding to shout whatever hurtful words their parents didn’t want them to say. …
My Grandma always said happiness was like a bobcat: stunningly beautiful but notoriously elusive. She spent the last ten years of her life sitting on this very deck, hoping to get just one glimpse of the animal that supposedly roams these forests all year round. Sometimes she’d sit here into the small hours, dithering with a blanket wrapped around her, breath coiling upwards in spirals, but to no avail. Not only did she never see a bobcat, there was no sign that one had ever been in the vicinity. We checked the woods beyond our property many times, scouring the ground for signs of pawprints and even keeping an eye out for dead animals. Nothing. Not a dicky bird. Despite this, her dreams of seeing one never faded, not even when she was dying. But mine did. I saw the disappointment in her eyes after every fruitless night-time watch and I abandoned the hope I’d shared with her since I was a small child. The bobcats clearly didn’t want to be seen, and so I let them go.
It was the rain that drew me outside. One of those summer downpours with droplets so fat they ping off the decking like they’re made of rubber. My plan was to sit on the bench beneath the corrugated plastic that serves as a roof and just listen. Let the sound wash over me, driving out all thoughts of the shoddy day I’d had at work and the moronic drivers with whom I’d had the misfortune to share a commute. I poured myself a glass of merlot, slid back the patio door, and there it was.
She was just sitting there looking at me, not twenty yards away. I’m sure it was a she, although I can’t explain how exactly. A certain softness in the markings around her eyes perhaps. She was so beautiful I felt the breath snag in my throat. Moving carefully so as not to startle her, I inched forwards until I was leaning against the metal fence that borders our decking. I half expected her to scarper, to turn and dart down the slope and away into the trees, but she just sat there blinking her lazy cat eyes.
‘Why couldn’t you have shown up earlier, eh?’ I wondered aloud. ‘She wanted to see you so badly. It would have made her life.’
She stayed just long enough for me to finish my wine. I sipped it as I stared at her, bewitched by the intricacy of her markings and the litheness of her limbs. As soon as my glass was empty, she got silently to her feet and slunk away down the slope. I craned my neck trying to keep her in sight for as long as possible, until eventually she vanished with one final flick of her tail. Only when she was gone did I realise I was soaked through, that I had unwittingly stepped out from beneath the protection of the roof and as a result had got thoroughly drenched. Chuckling to myself, I shook my sopping hair from my eyes. Grandma was right: happiness is like a bobcat. …
Don’t be fooled by the crying,
It’s just Emotion Wall,
It happens when I drink white wine
And means nothing at all,
It’s just a stage I go through,
A phase and nothing more,
You’d know that if you’d ever
Seen me get wine-drunk before,
First my speech gets louder,
The giggles follow fast,
Then comes the verbal diarrhoea,
But that cheer cannot last,
Soon my mood begins to dip,
Anxieties rear their head,
Soon merriment and laughter
Are replaced by tears instead,
For long-lost loves and friendships,
Mistakes made long ago,
For old slights and rejections,
Or for reasons I don’t…
Time to wash the day away,
To let the water unknot both
My shoulders and my mind,
Kneading away the hours
Of accumulated tension,
Soothing the angry red grooves
Where my bra has been,
And other marks I cannot see.
Time to wash the day away,
Exhale as the stresses and strains
Of work go down the plughole
With the stubble and the suds,
Chased away by coconut bubbles
Or night-blooming jasmine,
A splash of the exotic
To banish November’s chill.
Time to wash the day away,
To slow down the tempo
With soft, lilting vocals
And acoustic guitars,
Far removed from the
Fast, punchy baselines
I used to jolt myself awake
Eleven long hours ago. …
Teaching is a strange profession. A craft that needs to be honed over time, it’s part art, part science, and none of us are ever the finished article. Being a teacher means constantly learning-about pedagogy, psychology, behaviour management and a whole host of other things. It never stops, so with that in mind, here are eight of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since starting my teaching career.
1) You cannot do everything.
It is not physically possible to do all the things on your to do list. Not without foregoing food, sleep and personal hygiene. Some things simply will not get done, either because you forget to do them or because there aren’t enough hours in the day. There will be times when you forget to set homework, or take the homework in, or respond to an email. There will be things you know you should do but somehow never find the time for. Forms that never get filled in, behaviour points that never get logged. Do you know what happens in those instances? Absolutely nothing. So long as you’re doing the things that must be done-the planning, the teaching, the marking, the reporting-it doesn’t matter if some things slip every now and again. …
Everyone I’ve spoken to says your twenties are better than your thirties. Until very recently, I didn’t believe them. I didn’t see how settling down could possibly be better than partying the night away to thrumming baselines while knocking back cocktails. I thought getting older was a bad thing, that my life was at its peak and the passing of time could only make it worse. Much has changed since then. I’ve done a lot of maturing, so much so that that version of me might as well be a different person.
I remember turning twenty so clearly. I remember because I was newly single, freed from a relationship I never really wanted to be in, and which had turned decidedly sour towards the end. I was so relieved to be rid of him, so excited to the prospect of a sparkling new decade in which to start over. The timing of it felt symbolic. It was a double whammy of clean slates, and I was right to be excited. …
My Dad always told me there would come a time when I stopped liking most modern music and instead stuck primarily to the songs and artists I grew up listening to. I didn’t believe him. It wouldn’t happen to me. I was adamant that I would somehow manage to skip this peculiar milestone, that I would always have my finger on the pulse of modern music. But it did happen to me. I hit 25 and almost overnight I found myself saying things like, ‘Music has really gone downhill,’ and, ‘All this modern stuff sounds the same.’ I’ve become one of those people. Nowadays I’d rather listen to Absolute 80s than Radio 1. I can often be found muttering, ‘They don’t make music like this anymore,’ when Bowie or Queen is playing. …