Pigeon Moments (Wood Pigeon)

My bedroom…. Wallpaper with zebras that looked like Muffin the Mule, squirrels as large as monkeys, monkeys a third the size of the giraffes all at the back of the bed.  The place where Daddy showed me how to make shadow puppets with my hands against the dim light of my Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe night light.  Where, when I was a little older I would listen to Journey into Space before bed and have even more nightmares than before! But also the place where I would experience something so beautiful and so mysterious that I would remember it clearly for the rest of my life.  At dawn every day I was invited by the Wood Pigeon outside my window to join the muffled cooing and I slipped into the call as if I were a Pigeon through to the tips of my wings.  Back and forth we would call and the wall disappeared and the branches of the tree outside the window hung over me.  The bed disappeared and nothing separated me from the Pigeon. Time stopped.  This continued on and off for many years until I was around ten or eleven.  There were so many reasons why I let this precious time slip away.  I slept later, I had to get my school things together, Kinny came up to wake me earlier/later  pre-pubescence, change of school, self awareness, and probably most significant of all the loss of innocence.   Now as I approach my second childhood, there is a part of me that is actively seeking this experience again, which means losing, at least for a brief time, the sense of my separate self and training the mind to be still.  No easy feat, but one well worth the effort as the Pigeon call outside the window of my present bedroom reminds me.

Silk screen at JW3 London yesterday

ir·ri·tat·ed

  [ir-i-tey-tid]

What was it that made me urgently need to stop the sound of my mother humming?  Looking back, the ‘humming’ ‘trilling’ sounds she made were perfectly acceptable, tuneful, charming even to most ears but to me they were an irritant.  As she hummed she was far away, dreaming of another life and not my Mummy any more and all this information floated through the air from the kitchen into the breakfast room where I was happily immersed in my own dreams and there lies the irony of the situation.  We were both somewhere else lost in thought but my dreams and reveries remained silent as I scratched away with my pencils whilst hers, cloaked in sounds filled the room with romantic longing. I had to get my mummy back and I did it the only way I could think of at that time, by diverting her attention.   On this occasion I remember putting my pencil down and going into the kitchen and asking her about her childhood.  Eventually I got back to my drawing and of course the humming started again only this time I called out “Mummy, Mummy Mummy” and I had the sense to add “When will lunch be ready? I’m really hungry.”

Bottom line is that the indirect approach to problem solving doesn’t work but go tell that to a five year old!

SILK SCREEN ROCKS!

After many attempts over the past twenty years to do silkscreen at last I have got the hang of it.  It’s delightfully unpredictable and therefore you can get results that make you look as if you really thought the whole thing out whereas actually you did nothing more than put down your image, roll on the colour and there it is complete with random pointy bit and something like a mountain or a path… great fun except for the cleaning up!  

"Daddy Hit Me!"

I was momentarily speechless. My father had just smacked me on the hand. My mouth opened and nothing came out, I held my breath and then crawling off the bench ran towards the door and the screaming started “Daddy hit me! Daddy hit me!”  I ran and ran.  Down the steps into our small back garden, through the gate into the communal gardens. Turning to the right away from the grumpy man who grew the runner beans, crying and screaming all the way.  I was on the other side of the gardens still running when my brother caught up with me and took me back home.  What happened then?? I don’t remember, probably after some prompting I apologised to Daddy for spitting and I expect he kissed me and told me that I mustn’t do ‘that’ again.  But  something happened that day with that one smack that was to have consequences for at least three people.  My brother, the observer, noted that this was the time when my mother determined that I should never be at the receiving end of my father’s wrath again and to that end she and Kinny would protect me. Kinny had been horrified but interestingly not by my father smacking me but by my behaviour and was still able to feel the sensations of shame as if she had been the one behaving badly seventy five years after the event. Dad talked of his banishment with sadness a few years before his death at age 94.  And me, well from the moment I felt the sharp sting on my hand I sensed that the big man called Daddy was dangerous and worse still, the big man called Daddy doesn’t like me let alone love me and it took a while to get over that misconception.  Forty years later I got it!!!

HE CALLED ME ‘MADAM’!

This moment was spoken of throughout my life. For my parents and K and others it was a sad but amusing story… the little girl sobbing “He called me Madam,” all the way back home, incoherent except for those few words repeated over and over.  The word “Madam” directed at me by my scholarly Uncle Sammy, standing in the poorly lit doorway using his authority like the high court judge he had been, was a word he chose because it was familiar to him.  After all he called his wife Moselle ‘Madam’ because it was their joke. ‘Madam’ ran the show, the home, his world, though she was tiny and quiet and he large and rambunctious… With a sense of irony lost on me at five years old I get called Madam, but to me it’s an order, a command, I have no choice but to accede, he has all the power to change my life with one word.  And so I cried and sobbed and sobbed some more and we all stood there and there was some talk between Kinny and Uncle S, maybe my Aunt joined in, maybe my cousins peeped out into the hall.  I don’t remember anything other than the short commands and then we turned round and went home. As with all stories we all have different memories.  Kinny thinks we stayed for an hour or so and then left!! Whatever actually happened the neural pathways set up the beginning of a lifelong story of needing to keep my loved ones within easy reach because they might just disappear if I didn’t.  

Scissors for Toddlers don’t cut the mustard - or anything else!

My Dad was pretty special, he did magic tricks, made ‘two little birdies, Peter and Paul’ disappear from his fingers, chased me up the stairs and terrified me in a good way, made mango mice from mango stones, showed me how to make shadow puppets, but one of the best things he did was make rows of little paper dolls by cutting up folded paper! When I was given my first pair of scissors I was so excited and decided I would make rows of paper dolls, endless paper dolls, disregarding the fact that although I could draw stick people with huge heads which might have been ok joined together, I couldn’t work out how to hold the scissors and saw them more as an instrument of torture which needed to be held very tight and plunged into the offending piece of paper.  No doubt that is why a child’s first pair of scissors is made with completely blunt edges which seems to hold the paper quite nicely but has not been designed to cut. Rather like the disappointing plastic ‘lipstick’ replicas that were to come later in the 1950’s and were sold as “My First Lipstick” they resembled the real article only in shape but not in purpose. I remember to this day the deep sense of disappointment as I finally realised after many attempts, that my paper dolly kingdom was not about to happen, nor indeed was the birth of a single paper doll. Fortunately, I only had to wait another year for a much better pair of scissors, proper scissors, small and silvery with rounded tops (to prevent a child stabbing her/himself or anyone else) but with fairly sharp edges and then all hell would let loose. But that’s another story!

Happy - Unhappy

Childhood was always a bit up and down, I guess it’s like that for most of us.  Can’t remember if I told anyone about the let down, but I never forgot it!!  I so wanted to be like all the other little girls who seemed to have dresses with frills all over the place but I guess the decision to get me a nice simple pink dress was the right decision.  It was lovely and I did love it but oh those ‘frills’……. 

Nazi Morning 8th January 1914

Just one of those days! Had been thinking about Kristallnacht the day before and K’s family and the whole thing escalated into a complete doom fest and culminated with hours of trawling on the internet for details… not a good idea…. 

Holding On

Sometimes the experience of holding on, however uncomfortable, seems an infinitely better proposition than letting go.  As a child the experience of nausea was an ever-present companion and I would resist its natural conclusion, the act of throwing up, with the same fervour as a soldier whose life was under threat from enemy troops!