The theme of Mothers’ Day and the contemplation of what it is to be a mother, to provide nurture, led me to think about the act of giving birth when it comes to bringing our dreams to life.
There is the moment of fertilisation – that time when an idea takes hold and declares it’s possibility of life outside your heart and head, and from there it takes root. You cogitate over its potential, play with it, work out where it could go and where you would want to take it.
Slowly it grows and takes shape. It begins to have an identity of its own. You may give it a name. It gets to a point where it is so large in your mind that you have to commit to hitting the keyboard.
The first time you write its name on the screen or sheet of paper it seems oddly familiar – it has been living with you for so long that to see it stand there, separate from you, on its own legs, can be quite scary. You wonder – can it have a life?
You probably then continue to develop and grow this dream that has now morphed into a project or series of projects that you’ve devised to bring it about. You put in hours thinking about it and planning. It’s almost like having a love affair – if it really is based in your passion you will lose hours to it as you work away without it seeming like actual work. You will start to reference parts of your life to it that you used to defend from any kind of work or career reference and it will become a part of who you are and what you do, whether it is named or unnamed, every day you walk the earth.
And then one day, when it and you are both ready, you’ll launch it. You’ll cast it at the feet of the world and hope they love it as much as you do, because it has become a part of you and what you’re really doing is putting that part of you out there for the judgement of the world. You’ll worry what friends and family will say if this is a part of you they haven’t seen before. You’ll worry that you will appear foolish or getting above yourself. You’ll worry that you fail.
But that won’t stop you, because it’s born of your passion and a part of you that hasn’t previously had a voice, so relax. There is no failure, only feedback, and the only fool is one who doesn’t try to push their boundaries to see just what they can achieve.
Believe in yourself and in your dreams – they are your future. Nourish them, nurture them and whether you are man or woman, let the Mother in you birth them to the world. They are your contribution to your community, they are your legacy, and they will keep you sane when everything else seems a bit bonkers.
How do I describe the afternoon I’ve just experienced?
Along with my Three Stuffed Mums colleagues Kate and Kehau I spent the afternoon at Goolwa, a small town south of Adelaide at the mouth of the mighty river Murray, and had the biggest amount of fun. We were there to perform a Three Stuffed Mums show as part of ‘Just Add Water’ – the Country Arts SA Regional Centre for Culture festival that takes the arts to the regions and for a year settles in and works with the people who live locally. A main part of the festival is that projects there should leave a lasting legacy for the community.
Three Stuffed Mums project was to perform our show there and then over a period of a few weeks teach and coach local mums in standup or other ways of telling their own stories with humour. Then at the end we’ll present a showcase with the women performing their work. Today was the show and we’ll conduct the course from May to July.
It had become plain to us that women these days can feel isolated in bringing up children, and that they might not realise we all go through the same challenges. We had women coming to our shows the past two years and saying to us afterwards “Thanks! Now I feel normal!”
As far as stand up goes, this show today has to be one of the highlights of my ten year comedic career. The feeling of over 200 people cacking themselves with laughter at you is rather heady, and even more so that they were mostly women and they knew exactly what I was talking about.
I had a ball and so did everyone else. And now we have the opportunity to pay so much forward with the course – can’t wait!
Our lives, particularly in our early years, are moulded by external factors that create, shape and imprint memories of our places and our journeys. For me it was the three bus routes that travelled out of the housing scheme where I lived in as a child to different destinations. Starting with the number 31 route, here’s some reminiscences.
Part 1: 31
31, 22, 37.
No, not someone’s vital statistics, but the route numbers of the buses that linked our particular part of the satellite housing scheme in 1960s Glasgow to the city itself.
They were numbers learned from early childhood in a place where no one really owned a car and the concept of ever owning one wasn’t really in the orbit of most folk. However, as long as you knew to catch the 31, 22 or 37 it would bring you home to Castlemilk from wherever you might be.
The 31 started its journey from the village called Carmunnock, a few miles up the hill from our place. Carmunnock seemed magical in my childhood. In the summer we’d set off on a walk up Carmunnock Road (carrying the obligatory mik bottle filled with water in case we died of dehydration, and the pieces n jam wrapped in wax paper for a picnic), and once you cleared the Council housing flats you’d hit what was colloquially called the First Farm. I think the people there actually bred Clydesdale horses, those beautiful gigantic beasts with hooves that looked like someone was wearing flared trousers with platform shoes.
Once past there the road wound through fields, and the bitumen changed colour to red. There was always speculation as to why this was – did it mean that we were now in another county? We never found out but it added to the exotica.
Then when we got to the village itself it was a world away from Castlemilk; ancient romantic little cottages and a seemingly even more ancient churchyard with graves bearing skull and crossbones and dating back to the 1700s. There was also a small park where we’d play that seemed to have an air of being right out of Alice in Wonderland. We could dream that we didn’t live in a Council housing scheme; we could dream that we lived in one of the little fairytale cottages with doors that led onto gardens, not up two or three stories in a close. That we were like the other kids in the park whose parents spoke to each other like the people on telly – as if they actually liked each other – and didn’t fight all the time and seemed to have enough money for nice things.
So, the 31 would begin its journey there and make its way down the hill to the stop just past our street – Lainshaw Drive. From our kitchen window you could see up the hill slightly and one of my brothers – I think it was John – would prefer not to wait at the bus stop in the cold but wait at the kitchen window til he spotted the bus coming down the hill and then sprint to the stop, racing it to catch it into town.
The 31 would then make its way further down the hill to Croftfoot and then through Simshill, Cathcart (where there were bought houses, not council houses) and then Mount Florida and Govanhill with its Victorian tenements (and where I lived for many years much later in life), then through the Gorbals which changed as the years rolled by. First it was a warren of old blackened tenements. Just before I
started school my mum, who was a tailoress, went for a job in a small operation up one of those closes in that maze of streets. She had to take me with her as there was no babysitter available and I’d play on the floor of the factory. I remember the grimy unpolished floorboards, the harsh lighting and the piles of offcuts littering the place, all accompanied by the smell of oil from the sewing machines.
Then all the old tenements were knocked down and in their place they build multi storey flats and new tenement buildings called maisonettes. It wasn’t long before the nice white concrete went grey, and then was covered in graffiti, and eventually even these had to be demolished as their damp conditions did nothing to improve the residents’ lives. Nowadays that part of the Gorbals is a pretty smart looking place with nice flats and a sense of renewal.
Once clear of the Gorbals the bus would cross the river Clyde and make its way down Clyde Street, past the ship berthed there named The Carrick, but which we
found later to have the original name The City of Adelaide. It was called that because it originally brought migrants to the new colony of South Australia back in the 1800s and returned to the UK with cargos of sheep fleeces; from my old home to my new home.
It is ironic that as I devoured the vision of it from the top deck of the bus, with its glass-encased naval club dining room showing the white linen, silver cutlery and crystal glassware in a golden lamplight, it seemed to show me a new world that was unattainable at that time. The remains of the ship are to be brought back to Adelaide this year, to much excitement on myself and my sister’s part, and something I’ll write more about later.
Finally the bus would reach it’s the terminus at St Enoch Square. This was another place that seemed magical.
It was a gateway to the treasures of the city centre. It had the most romantic buildings that fed a young imagination – the old disused but grandly gothic StEnoch Railway station;
the almost indescribable but aesthetically pleasing GlasgowUnderground station
St Enoch Subway station
and opposite the bus stop was Galloway’s the Butchers with its lame neon double entendre “Meat at Galloways”.
For many years the whole square was cobblestones and with the shops behind it including RS McColl (sweeties!) Peacock’s the Bakers (great little cakes) and a seemingly exotic fishmongers in Howard Street, all seemed a fabulous backdrop.
And there was also the back way into department store Arnott Simpson, where my auntie Jean was one of those ladies in the Berketex ladieswear department who wore a brown dress and cardigan uniform, and had a gold chain to keep her glasses around her neck when not in use. As such she was the epitome of ‘posh’ to my young eyes.
When waiting for the 31 back to Castlemilk I remember standing at the railing which was just the height of my nose. The strong smell of that steel, through boiling summers and freezing winters, stays with me. Its harshness was the smell of the city, a two finger salute to the visual aesthetic care taken in the design of the buildings around us; and it was the smell of going home.
An interesting train of thought was sparked by Rebecca Dettman’s blog (http://rebeccadettman.com) on how we teach our kids about spirituality.
It’s a good question, because outside of organised religion we don’t have that formal framework as parents, so we’re thrown back on our own experiences, thoughts and the things we’ve come to know that are authentic.
When I had my son, I hadn’t a clue about raising children. The only thing I did know was that I didn’t want him to grow up as I had – so my mum actually did me a favour in the way she brought me up, in showing me what I didn’t want to do.
As I’m a person who loves a certain amount of structure in which to play, I needed a framework, so I coined my philosophy ‘The Martian Parenting Style’.
The basic precept of this was that I would treat my son as if he’d dropped on to the earth from a different planet, and my job was to teach him the rules of the game of life on earth.
This neatly removed the need for the wars between good and evil that I’d had drummed into my catholic childhood, and also the concept of unnecessary guilt.
I taught him that while some things aren’t necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ they are more or less appropriate in certain situations. One example was swearing – I taught him that swear words are simply that – only words – and that they only have the power you give them yourself. In saying that, they’re not always welcome in the wrong context or situation so one has to be aware of that.
I taught him what I believe about metaphysics, the notion of God, we did guided meditations and visualisations together and then as he grew older and became less inclined to talk about such things, that was the time for me to step back and let him formulate his own philosophy from his own experience and beliefs.
To me this seems so much healthier than blindly accepting someone else’s teachings. By all means accept teachings from those older and wiser who’ve gone before us if they resonate, but do it only after questioning it with an open heart and mind.
Educate our children in ethics, morals and spirituality (if that is part of your experience). Do it early and consistently, and then trust them. Teach them about the stuff they won’t learn at school; relationships, family, rights and responsibilities by demonstrating your values every day, for the rest of your life. It’s the utmost in accountability and be prepared to make mistakes – we all do – but the rewards are supreme.
It’s been a busy week, with stage managing Mother and Son at the Holden Street Theatres, and my first professional after dinner speaking gig for the National History Teachers’ conference at the National Wine Centre, and fitting in work around all that too.
A busy week, but a good week. I was reminded once again of the value of good friends – not only friends who you love to spend time with, but friends of the heart who encourage you, promote your self-confidence and tell you that “you can do it.”
Friends like these are gold – I really believe they’re sent like signposts to help you on your way.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a few friends like that in my life and this week one of them – the wonderful Kehau – shone like a beacon. We’ve been friends for a long time but this week it’s been like our connection has shone even brighter. So, between Kehau pointing the way and my fabulous hubby Steven supporting me and ever so gently encouraging and pushing me from the other side I’ve taken a couple of steps this week to propel the story forward. Reasonably soon I’ll be boring the ears off you about what it is, but for now I’m letting it brew and settle. More on this anon.
Can love be sent across the ages? Can strength and healing be sent back in time? Something has happened this week that’s made me desperately want this to be possible.
Having just dipped my toes into the whole genealogy thing, looking at my family mainly from their time in the late 1800s in Donegal, their move to Glasgow and subsequent generations, has been a revelation.
By what seems sheer chance I’ve been put in contact with a cousin I never new I had (hi John!) – a grandson of my grandfather’s sister.
It seems the genealogy bug had also hit John and he’s amassed an amazing amount of information, but one episode stands out and is particularly heartbreaking.
My grandfather Thomas was the eldest in the family. By the time he married my grandma in 1917 his youngest siblings were still young. His mother had died and soon afterwards his father died leaving Bridget (11) and young John (10) as orphans – that’s them in the photograph below with my great grandmother Margaret Gallen, Sarah and Mary at the back, and in the front row, Bridget and John.
From what we can see of the documents my grandparents applied for some relief to the responsible body, saying they were happy to have the children with them but they would need some help as their total earnings were little more than two pounds a week – not much to house, clothe and feed five people, as a baby had appeared by then.
It seems the request for relief was refused and the children were taken and sent to the poor house.
Not much is known after that bar a few notes on the official documents that John found (and wisely advised my sister and I not to read them at work).
On Bridget there isn’t much. Some papers later say that she bore a male child in 1929 at Stobhill Hospital. There is a record that he was baptised but no name and no birth certificate found as yet, and certainly no marriage certificate – she was still listed as McGinty, our family name.
On John, when he was admitted he was diagnosed as being ‘mentally defective’ and ‘feebleminded’. This poor wee boy who’d lost his parents and now was taken away from the rest of his family – even his sister. Of what happened to them later, John seemed to catch TB and was discharged from hospital back to the guardianship of the state as a ‘mentally deficient’ in 1925 and he died in 1940 at the age of 32 of ‘acute pleurisy and myocardial insufficiency’. We don’t know as yet what became of Bridget.
The thing is. I knew I had photos of John and Bridget and this weekend I searched them out as they were pics of them as adults. I’d looked at them before with interest but now, knowing their story, well, quite a few tears were shed. There were photos of them as adults, but I also discovered some of them as children too and I just wanted to grab them and take care of them myself, but all I could do was a bit of useless weeping.
So, if by some miracle of deity or science there is a way of sending love and comfort to two little children over the distance and time back to 1917 at 61 Oran Street, Maryhill, Glasgow, then please do that.