Polly Stands Still

Polly sucked the end dregs out of her bitter Krong Thip and left the beach hut. She had just finished the dog-eared copy of the Jackie Collins novel that was the last dusty deposit in the book box and now felt a little lonely. Her beach hut neighbours had moved on.

Polly felt static even though she was ‘travelling’. The stasis was a internal throb – a low drone of boredom from her very core. She had been doing yoga on the beach every morning but it definitely wasn’t ‘the hum of the universe’. She was somewhat perturbed that having paid all that money to get away from her job in the paint shop in Bedford, she now felt exactly the same as she did before she went away: totally unclear of her direction. She decided to seek some help.

One of her friends had given her the address of a woman soothsayer that lived in the neighbouring village. Polly was certain the woman could rescue her from her low drone feeling and resident existential crisis. With some new-found energy and intent she got in a cab and headed north to discover her new beginnings.

Polly climbed the rickety old steps to the woman’s elevated wooden hut and knocked feebly on the door. The old woman opened the door slowly but deliberately and invited her in. She gave Polly a cup of very herby tea and beckoned her on to a mat, nodding sagely without speaking. Polly settled herself down and felt the woman’s passivity draw the words out of her, almost as though they were being pulled up from the empty drone deep within.

  ‘I need to have some sort of certainty or outcome about what I am going to  do with my life. That is why I have decided to leave everything and go  travelling: so I’ll know what I want when I get home’, Polly said plaintively  to the old woman, struggling with the great void of the unknown that stretched out in front of her.

She had reached some sort of strange plateau in her life where there was a sudden dearth of plans, events and exciting opportunities. Things were pedestrian. She had got bored of going out and all of her friends had paired off. Her job was ok but she didn’t bounce out of bed to go to work every morning. People had exciting stories to tell but she felt that life was a drama that belonged to other people that was being played out outside of her.

It is not about forcing life to dance for you my dear’said the old woman. ‘It is about you shaking your feet in your own shoes to your own rhythm in only the way that you know how.’

Polly blinked and thought of an awkward moment when she had been at the Blue Oasis, and Harry Woodward had asked her up to dance sober to Ricky Martin.

 ‘But where do I find my rhythm?

The old woman now had a playful twinkle in her eye.

Where do you think you find your rhythm?’

‘In my heart?” replied Polly.

 ‘Yes of course’ laughed the old woman ‘but your culture has taught you to  tune out your own rhythm and tune into the relentless Noise from the outside: the TV shows, the movies, the celebrity gossip and the news. You are taught to think that as soon as you press ‘pause’ on that great big external boom box you will be bored, miserable, lonely and without hope. That is one of the greatest myths that your society peddles. Just to be in your own skin and ok with your being is how you tune into your own rhythm again.’

 Polly looked down at the ground and heaved a big sigh.

 ‘Ah but if I just ‘am’ then it feels like it’s pointless and boring and I am not doing anything with my life’.

The old woman continued:

 ‘Well whatever you do, if you’re doing it because you’re meeting some sort of unfulfilled expectation, whether it’s climbing the ladder or raising a family, you will always feel like you’re not doing anything with your life. You can allow your mind to spread its propaganda that you’re not happy because you’re not there now or you haven’t got this or that but it’s not the truth. Only you know where you are going by feeling whether it is right or not’.

Only you can know whether you want to get back into the Noise. Only you know whether you want to continue to be carried way on that slipstream of messaging. The Noise will tell you that you’re not slim enough so you will make yourself unhappy trying to compare yourself to other girls. The Noise will tell you that you are not good enough because you haven’t got a husband or a four by four, comparing you to those who have followed the beckonings of the Noise. The Noise will tell you that you are wasted as a woman because you don’t have any children but if you have children and  want to achieve career success it will accuse you of neglect and selfishness. The Noise will indeed spin you lies and one of the lies is that what the Noise says and thinks is true. Only your way is the right way.’

Polly thought for a minute. She felt betrayed. She had been brought up to believe that the life she was meant to live would be a linear path starting with school and university and building up to a resounding crescendo with marriage, children and a fabulous career. For her, it did not feel as though she was simply good enough to ‘be’. That might be selling out. She wondered whose dream she was ‘selling out’ of – her own, one that she had been sold by the Noise or one that had seeped into her from her parents and possibly from their parents. She did not even know what her dream was any more. She started to cry snotty, snivelly confused tears of woe and defeat.

The old lady smiled compassionately and passed her another cup of very herby brew which she sipped gratefully.

‘It is ok to drift into the land of the unknown’said the woman ‘for that is when the adventures start to happen. You cannot know and it is not for you to know. The Noise sells you the notion that you can buy everything to control your life with but it is not true. You’re never really in control. You just have to trust that the boat that you are sailing will be carried by the winds of fate in the right direction. Don’t worry. You will feel whether it is    going the right way.’

Polly felt the woman was being too cryptic. She thought she sounded a bit like something out of a fairytale. She wondered how the old woman could possibly know how she felt. She did not have to navigate the wilds of internet dating or a sullen, sweaty boss who treated her like some sort of second-class citizen. It was all very well for her to talk in metaphors as she lived a simple life in a village in the hills. Not everyone could have that luxury.

Polly wanted some real answers about her life right now and she was annoyed that she had been signposted to some old crone who had not told her what she needed to know. She now felt even more lost and alone. It was like not being able to find the right answer to your college coursework on Google or even worse – finding too many answers and not being able to pick the right one.

‘Well I best be going’ she said ‘Thanks for your time’. Polly thrust a few large notes at the woman who smiled inscrutably, her eyes as deep as pools.

‘Very well my dear’said the old woman with a mischievous glint in her eye. ‘Come back and visit if you need to talk some more.’

 ‘Hardly! What a rip off’ thought Polly defiantly as she turned on her heel and left the old wooden shack. She was entitled to so much more than some stupid talk about rhythm. She might as well just go home, watch Strictly Come Dancing and have a stupid boring life like everyone else.

Copyright Fizzy Wisdom 2018 

 

 

Annie and the Tale of the Unexpected

Annie sat looking out of the window thoughtfully. She wasn’t musing, contemplating or otherwise channeling her thoughts in any creative direction. She was thinking in loops of fear which seemed to spin round in her head without settling on any final well-reasoned destination; much like a toy train going round in a circle on a plastic track. As she looked into the middle distance, her brow, already ingrained with deep pensive creases, furrowed some more. The intensity of this fresh furrow made her head feel dense and foggy. The furrow acted like a trigger for her inner dialogue:

  ‘I have to pick Chloe up from school because she can’t walk home with two  bags….. and if I pick her up that limits the risk of her getting abducted…….   and I will save her from being tired……but then I also need to be finishing off  this piece of work for the boss and if I don’t get it done by 5 o’clock I will be   in trouble…… and then I might lose my job……. and in any event I need to wait for a delivery to come………but then I need to go to Tesco’s or there        won’t be any dinner and if I don’t cook sea bass in a fresh tarragon sauce then I will be depriving my family of the food they need…..and God forbid we would otherwise have to eat baked beans and then my husband will divorce  me and run off with Cathy Barratt who makes her family pavlova on a  Monday and soufflé on a Tuesday.’

 Annie froze as she looked at her watch. It was already 3.30. She was late for the school run. The phone rang. It was her daughter, Chloe.

Alright Mum, I’m going round to Lindsay Barratt’s to do some homework. I’ll be back around 7’.

Annie was slightly thrown by this turn of events, which she had not foreseen. She usually sought to plan all eventualities before they happened. She not done any reconnaissance  in her head and it was therefore outside of her control. She took a moment to gather herself and the quickly applied her thoughts to the thing that she now had control over: her work. She would sit down and finish her work.

Annie sat down at her desk and turned on her laptop. She only had the conclusion to finish and some editing to do. No sooner had she settled herself at her desk, an email from her boss flashed up on the screen. It read:

Don’t worry about the report Annie: Stefan has already done one on the same subject for another project so we are going to use that’.

 Annie readjusted her thoughts. Now she had only one thing left that she had planned for: dinner. She now had two people to cater for instead of three as Chloe was not coming home. She also had a small megabite of space left in her head now that some of the afternoon’s anxieties had unravelled into nothing.

The megabite of headspace was not free for long. As she got into her car to go to the supermarket, the furrow deepened and the angsty thoughtforms descended like a doom-ridden fog:

‘Oh no look: someone has reversed into the back of the car! I can’t get it  fixed on my insurance because then my premiums will go up but if I pay for it there won’t be enough money for the new fridge I have to buy. What will I  do?………… Oooo and those new neighbours down the road have got teenagers who look like they are up to no good. I can’t have them living round here: they might be a bad influence on my kids……….. the garden is         not tidy as the lawn has not been cut: I am bringing up my children in a  property surrounded by weeds………aaaaaaaaagh!’

Annie sat in her car and sighed a big sigh as she put the key in the ignition. As she accelerated down the street, she started to plan the evening’s meal: see bass, white sauce, fresh tarragon, lemon, romanesco rather than broccoli and perhaps some potatoes dauphinoise on the side. Wine. White wine. It was always better to get two or three bottles just in case. It would be a disaster if there was no wine left which would almost certainly result in her husband going off with Cathy Barratt. There was no doubt that she had to get two bottles of wine to save any risk of impending divorce.

Annie loitered with intent at the fish counter. She did not want to be too close to the smiling woman in front of her in case she started up a conversation. She stood waiting and looked at her phone just to ward off the possibility of eye contact. As she glanced through her emails, her husband’s number flashed up on the screen. She pressed the red button. ‘Hello?’ she enquired, slightly surprised by the prospect of hearing from her husband at this time of the evening. She was expecting him back within half an hour.

Hello honey. Listen. Something’s come up. I have to work late and I won’t be home. In fact I won’t be back till tomorrow morning because I’m going to stay up here in London to finish what I have to do.’

 There was an uncomfortable pause. Annie started to process what she had been told. ‘OK……I will see you tomorrow then’ she said and ended the call.

Slightly affronted, she picked up a lasagne for one and headed to the checkout. She caved and picked up a pavlova as well. She could have some tonight and her husband could finish it off tomorrow on his return from London. She was hoping it might be nicer than Cathy Barratt’s. That reminded her to give the Barratts a ring on the way home to find out whether she needed to pick up Chloe from Lindsay’s or whether Cathy could drop her back. She phoned the landline and a male voice answered.

‘Stuart Barratt here’ said the voice.

Annie had not foreseen the prospect of anyone other than Cathy answering the phone. This caused her to take a sharp intake of breath before she spoke.

‘Hi Stuart. It’s Chloe’s Mum. Is Cathy there?

‘No. She is in London working. She won’t be back till tomorrow’.

Oh that’s a coincidence. My husband’s staying in London tonight as well’ she said, ‘I wonder if they are aware that the other is there. I just wondered whether you might be able to drop Chloe back.’

‘No problem. I’ll drop her round in an hour’ said Stuart.

Annie’s furrow started to deepen. She rang her husband.

Hi darling. I just wondered what you were having for dinner tonight’ she said.

‘Chicken curry’

And for dessert?

‘Pavlova’

 Annie ended the call. He was having PAVLOVA! Her husband and Cathy Barratt were in the same city and her husband was having pavlova for dessert. It was Monday. That could only mean one thing. Her husband must have been having an affair with Cathy Barratt.

The catastrophe was there, laid bare in front of her like a newly-discovered murder victim. She was the crime scene investigator. She had the damning evidence now. Her worst fears had come true. The nightmare of nightmares had begun. Perhaps it was because she had served him a tin of macaroni cheese instead of home-made salmon fishcakes last Wednesday.

Stuart Barratt dropped Chloe home. Annie did some more sleuthing as he got out of his Audi.

Where is Cathy staying then?’

‘At her Mum’s in Kent’

‘Are you sure?’ asked Cathy

‘Well yes: I spoke to them both just now’ said Stuart

 ‘And where will they be eating?’

‘There of course. Cathy’s mum always cooks’ said Stuart with a puzzled look on his face.

Annie was surprised yet again. She tried to process the flaws in her detective work but could not quite compute them. She decided to settle down with her chardonnay and work it all out whilst looking out of the window. Perhaps the vista of the garden might give her some inspiration to get the real answers she needed.