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I see myself. I am an observer. An ordinary holiday maker laying stretched on a white plastic sunbed; my towel scrunched beneath me, my hot cheek stuck to my hand as my head rests upon it.
Marinating in Piz Buin my ears are filled with 80’s, 90’s, keep going, pop songs. A paperback; yesterday’s pages crispy, today’s pages damp, is visual on top of my beach bag – Primark – £6.99 – more than I’d wanted to pay for a throwaway but it has adorable pink pom poms dangling from the handles.
Sauntering toward the pool, in a fitted floral bikini, I’m not self conscious; I’ve had a full leg wax and Brazilian. I’m slim in a comfortable way. My hair is styled in a short wavy bob. I look down at my feet; my nails are painted in Russian blue. I love them.
I linger at the poolside appreciating the hot sun baking me nicely at 39 degrees whilst I search out my children among the bobbing heads. Caitlan and Paddy are negotiating a gigantic rubber ring; laughing, plunging, splashing; their factor fifty legs and arms entangled. With large green diving goggles suctioned to their faces they are the sweetest frogs I’ve ever seen. They wave madly at me. I return with an SOS wave, smiling so wide there’s no posing for cool selfies here. I like my smile; the sensation of its corners stretching up and outward. I don’t care if I’m inviting wrinkles. I want a face that’s lived, not a smooth, alabaster bust capturing a version of me.
Leisurely swimming, my arms stretch out wide in a circular motion and my knees come together propelling me forward. I feel the strength in my limbs. My stomach muscles tighten as I surge back and forth. Twenty lengths – easy!
At the deep end, folding my legs, I use my hands to wall walk to the pool floor. I resist my body’s instinct to float up. I sit cross-legged, holding my breath, enjoying a moment that’s completely mine. Until I see a set of Russian Blue toes that match mine. Submerged I pull Caitlan’s leg. Surfacing I meet her mischievous green eyes; she constantly looks like she rolled down a hill, she’s bursting with adventure. Paddy’s face pops up over her shoulder. His smile is totally disarming. A friend To Everyone states a school certificate on the fridge door back home. I hold my hand straight and stiff, the thumb resting against my forehead to form a shark fin. I hum the soundtrack to Jaws and the games begin.
They play water polo. My husband is ultra competitive. He lunges for the ball, throws it to Paddy who tosses it to Caitlan who scores; she is her father’s daughter.
Resting my back against the pool side, the tiles rough against my skin, I look up at the glorious sun; its heat rejuvenating. I want to bottle this moment. I could selfishly say I wanted this minute to last forever but then Caitlan and Paddy would be 14 and 13 eternally.
My husband swims toward me. I like how he looks in sunglasses, his hair wet. Putting his arms either side of me, we kiss. It’s slow and tells a story. A marriage, not made in heaven but made from sunshine and rain.
Reaching up to the handles of the pool ladder, I put my foot on the first step and feel the muscles in my arms tense as I pull myself up. Water falls from me. I run my hand through my hair, droplets race down my already hot back.
I’m running with my husband, to the beach, the kids up front. My breathing synchronizes with my stride. The grassy ground, hard-baked and cracked by the intense Turkey sun, is beneath me. Running is my thing; I fall into a comfortable rhythm. I’m connected to the earth, to the infinitely clear blue sky above me; In my own way I’m beautiful: my strength, my gregariousness, I make every day mean something.
My husband passes me, he becomes a dot in the distance, I can’t see the kids and I feel a tightness across my chest and a hoarseness in my throat. At the beach bar I’m breathing hard, bent over, puffing out a stitch. My family are in the sea, jumping over waves with frothy white crests. I look a little mad but I’ve an aura that catches the attention of the odd passer-by. For a brief, infectious moment they too feel carefree. My happiness is contagious.
Sitting at the beach bar, my throat a little raw from running, I enjoy a cappuccino. I recall the night before. Our early dinner to avoid the all-inclusive rush hour The amphitheater sipping mojitos and tequilas with rainbow umbrellas pierced through limes and oranges. Below us, the stage with twirling mini princesses. We played gin rummy, twenty one and traffic lights, serious stuff with Euros at stake. Something niggles. I hadn’t won a game. I couldn’t keep track of what card, what suit, went down. Me the master cards woman outwitted by teens?
After the entertainment, the kids meet up with their German friends and we follow them to the beach disco. They are not shy – I like that about them; there’s no awkwardness. They prank around and dance in a circle. Pop and Garage beats out, its base shuddering through my feet and upwards. The kids jump in unison, arms punching the air, singing along, chanting. I notice the tall blond boy; he’s playfully pushing Caitlan around. I see the first spark of attraction between them.
I glance nostalgically at my husband. His eyes reflect a nineteen year old girl, in a bright red dress, playing pub darts. She’s at the bar counting coins from a pink, soft leather purse she purchased in Greece. He cheekily chats her up. He’s confident; she finds him alluring. He’s says his name’s Tinker.
Hips swaying, shoulders shimmying I’m dancing and I feel on top of the world. I look above at the glitter balls and the pink and blue LED disco lights and WHAM and DURAN DURAN pop randomly to mind. Tinker pulls me to him and we move in unison. Thirty years and we’re each other’s shadow. My head nestles into his neck. I kiss it gently. I’m still in love.
I think I’m tired, too much sun perhaps. The music becomes an aural assault. The glitter ball stings my eyes. Walking to the chalet the kids tell me the night was bangin’ but their voices are distant. Their is a nagging persistence in my brain that all is not well; nothing it what it seems.
I see myself; the rose tinted glasses removed. I’m the same but different. Still the short wavy bob, but my frame is fuller, my poise diminished, my posture stooped but the easy smile flickering at the first glimpse of my family is me. My heart is still huge but my head is muddled. My body is awkward. I laugh; it’s warm and real and I feel comforted by that.
I’m putting sun lotion on Paddy’s back; it’s what mums do. My arms feel weakly heavy; they are alien to me but I continue to rub and I massage a little into his ears. He’s so gorgeous, I want to encircle him in my arms and keep him safe; always.
A member of the animation team spots us. He knows Cait and Pad. Yesterday they went paintballing with him. He’s a bit of a joker. He’s young, about 26, his nose is large but it suits his face. He has a six pack and is hench as Caitlan would say. I note a glimmer of interest in his eyes; he’s not sure what to make of me, of us.
“Hey Paddy, Katrin (he can’t pronounce Caitlan), hoopa hoopa it’s pool games.”
In unison Paddy and Cait scramble off their sun beds and join the forming crowd of teens and menopausal men.
Tink is already in the pool. Shit! Getting off the sun bed, without help, is a feat in itself. I turn onto my side and raise my outer leg toward the ground – my bottom is now upright and on full HD view; wide angle). Straightening takes a while. The muscle spasms, the rigidness at my joints, the pain that’s deep in the marrow of my bones, make moving exhausting.
“Yeahhhhhhh – I’m upright – independently; joy!” I’ve begun to talk to myself. It began as quick, motivational comments and now I mutter most of the day, often incoherently.
Squatting I retrieve my camera from my bag. It’s not lady-like but I can’t bend over; I get dizzy and fall. “But it’s hard getting up from a crouched position; very stressful on the knees.” See! I’m talking to myself again.
Chart music vibrates from a large speaker, it floats into my ears and beats in my heart, I feel light and elevated and young. I linger momentarily and embrace it. My hips sway gently. I yearn to dance so fucking much “But it’s difficult, my legs beat to their own drum now”.
I reach for my cane; my fingers are stiff, it’s hard to grasp. Walking slowly toward the pool, I consider each step, it’s a slippery surface, I teeter then regain balance. My gait is unusual. I see sunbathers speculatively watching me.
“What do you think is wrong with her?” they ask in hushed tones “MS, Motor Neurons, Stroke”; they’ll never guess; on holiday with little to distract I’ve become the center of attention. “I’m a celebrity. Cool!“
Sitting on the poolside, my legs dangle in the water; they are lean no longer – such a shame. My husband swims over and lifts himself out of the pool.
“You’re scaring the holidaymakers,” he says abruptly. He’s not impatient with me, his voice just always sounds abrupt, a little rude, He’s telling me I’m at it again. Giving a running commentary to my life.
I look straight ahead and feel the increasing pressure of keeping my head upright, unsupported, only a neck brace, between me and pain. Paddy is racing across inflatable stepping stones. He’s a whippet in neon orange shorts. The way his body moves, hia quick reflexes astonish me. He’s on video, I rewind and watch, again and again!
Caitlan is so cheeky. She was out first round but no one noticed. Now she’s in the final of the ‘Spoon Diving Competition,’ with two bulky Belgiums wearing inappropriate shorts. We all know only Daniel Craig does Speedos. I watch her, she’s got a killer look, her toes just touch the edge of the pool and she’s leaning forward. She has a glass hour figure; her legs are strong and tanned; her flamingo bikini is perfect; feminine but modest. She glances at me and I give her the thumbs up; she’s already a winner. I love her so much I can barely breath.
My husband assists me to my sunbed. I’m a disaster: my leg dragging, my fingers involuntarily flicking, my neck hunched into my shoulders. Sitting on the edge of the plastic bed, I’m withdrawn as he covers me in sun screen. I say something benign, to fill the silence of reality, of disability. Something about getting a full flush at cards tonight. He says something equally meaningless, yet his pause speaks volumes. We both know I’m not the wife he chose.
I lay stiff; an embalmed mummy unable to alter position. I lose myself in music: Latin, Maroon 5 and Eur. I retreat to a parallel universe. I’m the old me, gracefully leaping from one inflatable step to another. Paddy is behind me but I’m too fast, I stick my tongue out at him and leap for the sky and plunge into the water.
I’m plunging to the bottom of the pool, waiting for the bubbles and white water to settle. Where is that spoon? My heart is racing and I’m struggling to breath. My lungs are bursting but as I spot the spoon excitement oxygenates me and I grasp it tight to my chest. Resurfacing, the animation team clap and my husband gives me that look and I know in about ten minutes we’ll be naked somewhere…but it’s SciFi.
Walking from the pool to our room is wearing; the day takes its toll. Friends don’t always understand…that when I’m with them, that’s my best genre; Chick Lit. Behind the scenes I’m Drama, Thriller, Horror. Pregabalin, Amitriptyline, Tramadol, Naproxen, Oxycontin; my hand trembles slightly as I pop pill after pill. I’m a rerun of Trainspotting.
Our room in spacious with two sets of twin beds divided by a lattice partition. We take turns in the bathroom getting ready for dinner. I sit on the wall of our patio; the kids intermittently appear with a snippet of information about endangered animals (satellite T.V.).
“You look pretty mum.”
It true I’m wearing a green emerald dress that cups my breasts, comes in at the waste and floats round my legs. My skin is golden. I look a picture of health.
It’s still hot; we walk together toward the restaurant. It’s ironic that the hotel gardens are home to tortoise. I watch Shelly move, each step she plods is laboured. ‘Forest Gump’ comes to mind. The impulse to drop my cane, pull my arm free of my husband and run, strikes from nowhere but I swallow it. Instead I move closer to him shutting out the loud voice in the silence, “Run Alison, run!”
Dinner is always a success. I absolutely love all-inclusive. I sit at the table and Patrick places a dinner plate in front of me with tasty morsels from seven continents – of course noodles go with chicken tikka! I look at my son who thinks of me before himself and I feel joy.
Getting food from plate to mouth is taxing. I’m grinning because my meatball rolled across our table and onto the floor; oops! I look at Kitty, she spotted my misdemeanor and we share a secret smile.
Laying motionless in bed, my husband asleep long ago, I feel sad. I live a life I didn’t choose. I won it in a game of fate. My bones are hollow, dry, brittle, dusty. I was born with this malformed spine, with its missing discs and fused vertebrae, that sits in a spinal column that’s too narrow, where the cord is pinched and compressed. My heart tightens; my husband and children didn’t chose this life either.
Tomorrow we go home. We say goodbye to adventure, to a hot, burning sun, to soft golden sand, to pool games and teenage romance. I say goodbye to me.
Lately I feel this rotating bubble of energy inside. Filled with possibility. I want to say I can to everything instead of I can’t. I can’t implies weakness; my body maybe weak but my aspiration to become a successful author is strong. It’s ironic that at this point in time my balance, walking, neck pain, headache, fibromyaligia strikes so haphazardly that embarking on anything is a risk…but I don’t care. I’m taking my chances…and a cocktail of painkillers. I know the side effects of all my different tablets but I’m fifty two this year, ridiculously healthy other than my spine’s crumbling like Flake, so I need to embrace life now. God. Yes. Take the drugs. I need to live my best life now. Just typing these words evokes a thrill…a flicker of a future beyond my four walls.
Like last Saturday was Book Club. The consensus was, I should stay put the day before, the day of, the day after. I couldn’t. This restlessness that has a hold of me had me heading to the local tanning shop. For the first time in thirty years the buzz of bed three flashing on, heating my skin, warming my bones, browning the pale skin of my wasted muscles was medicinal. I can’t describe how peaceful and content I felt for five minutes. My son bought me a course and I’ve been three times now; skin cancer is the least of my worries. For a while I was in this vortex of negativity; the sunbed is a form of self care. Something I need a lot more of. I’m off to the House of Lords on Tuesday, to a reception for Myelopathy.org the charity supporting my condition. So that day I’m getting my nails done, it’s a luxury, but essential to my well being. It’s going to be a tough day travelling to Westminster, standing around, turning my head to talk to people, getting home but I need to be with others with my condition, I’ve not met anyone else like me todate. I’m excited to meet those that had the determination to create first the facebook group myelopathy.support then the charity. It goes without saying I hope there is champagne and canapies.
Book club was great fun. It’s very sociable; nibbles, dinner, alcohol, pudding, Jeffrey Archer. I love it. I’ve made new friends, there’s catching up with old buddies, everyone is so considerate of my condition, the book chit chat is topical and indepth. The charity https://myelopathy.org/ is supported by the group; I deposited £18 yesterday.
Once Random Attachment takes off a little more I’ll be putting a percentage toward Myelopathy.org. Once I cover the printing cost of paperbacks, paid Amazon their share, there is hardly anything to put toward promotions. I’m trying giveaways in return for a review should the person enjoy the book, Instragram promotions, Random Attachment merchandise for photos. Published authors tell you it’s near impossible to self promote, you need professionals and I agree but I’m not in that financial position. It’s fun though…coming up with mad ideas, arranging random items for a photo. I think at the beginning I exhausted myself, I’ve taken a step back. That’s why I haven’t blogged or vlogged for a while. I have to avoid dips in my energy level as negativity will creep in. Inside all of us is a pocket of self-doubt, helplessness, anxiety, anger…having a long term illness with chronic pain my pocket balloons with negative emotion if I’m tired or rundown so I must take a steady pace. So, sprawled on my soft, pink sofa I binged watched The Crown. It never appealed to me on TV but during Easter Kitty and I came upon it after procrastinating over Netflix and Now programmes. I’m so happy we did; it was addictive whilst being relaxing and a change from our American teen dramas.
Anyways the Sunday after Book Club I had a taste for more adventure. I can’t just go anywhere. The longer I’m on London transport the more my neck will jerk. The further I walk to a location the tireder my limbs will get. Together this leads to pain, immobility and my enjoying the event less. So we trained it to nearby Harrow, to an Italian coffee shop that’s more a cafe. It was highly rated on Trip Advisor and rightly so because the atmosphere was vibrant, the choice of food was varied from a full English to lasagna to cake. Kitty had a vegan breaky and I had the most delicious cheesecake. The average person probably doesn’t give a passing thought to going for coffee. That’s how different my life is…my flare ups are not fibromyaligia or myelopathy…these conditions are my norm, my everyday life…my flare ups reduce my symptoms: a burst of energy, remission of pain, a steadiness on my feet. Once, I too ran around the city from coffee shop to wine bar to brasserie. Popping off to Oxford Street, going to the theatre, clubbing in the West End. I count myself lucky I experienced that. I’m glad I was unaware of my congenital defects. That I’ve paraglided, abseiled, danced the eighties away, birthed four beautiful babies who make every day brighter for me.
My ‘hold onto the seat of your pants’ life reduced to a ‘slippers in front of the fire life’ and the carer became the cared for. I felt like I was lost in space but actually I was an astronaunt in hypersleep because I woke up with an idea that I could be an author…that I had another life yet to live. So it’s a great high when I get positive feedback. https://www.instagram.com/p/BwnQQeTnPtp/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=6l7axdn0aghk&fbclid=IwAR2D_rM4mGI4MlOEK0jsFcn5FVJY_2nGbhfEjnhFOBRjNu3WvP05NgUpN50
My favourite book of 2019 so far is A Curse So Dark and Cruel, a contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I knew it would be hard to follow and it was tough reading my book club book Kane and Abel. I read it in my teens and couldn’t get enough of Jeffrey Archer material until his court case. Back then, before social media, authors were as enigmatic as popstars, so it wasn’t often you heard their dirty laundry. Also I found him a bit pompos and up himself so rereading Kane and Abel, although it’s a simple rich man, poor man tale, was pants. However I did come across some jems recently: the endearing Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine who like Mia from RA has serious mother issues and two YA sure things by the fantastically named Rainbow Rowell: Fan Girl and Eleanor and Park.
Music wise my song of the week is Lil Nas’s Old Town Road; both versions, his and the collaboration with Billy Rae Cyrus. Where do I get this bare chilled music from? Spotify and my son Tommy who is constantly dropping me links of new music. I don’t like all rap or all Emo, it’s got to have a distinctive voice and a killer corous.
Not only have I not blogged in ages I haven’t vlogged so I’m hitting it hard today.
Realistically I know I’m not going to be an overnight writing sensation but I don’t need a miracle I need for readers who like RA, to star it on Amazon, mention it on Instagram and copy by copy my identity as a writer will be validated. So if you love YA and you’re considering your next purchase take a chance on Random Attachment. It’s a simple romantic thriller, nothing highbrow, nothing fantastical or magical but I’m proud of it. I think it holds its own among other YA thrillers. It would be lovely if you subscribed to my channel or followed me on instagram…slowly I’m building up my numbers. Even if you don’t do any of this thank you for reading my post.