2021 gave me a lot of life lessons- These things shall be.

I actually spent a lot of 2021 overcoming a variety of somewhat self-caused health adversities. I began the year with a goal of completing a 5km park run, it was a rollover goal as the Covid pandemic had thwarted my efforts in 2020 and it certainly continued to do so for the first six months of 2021.

I adopted what I thought was a sensible regime for a person of my age and health status to get to the required level of fitness, speed and stamina to achieve my 5km goal to be completed in under 40 mins. The first two months I suffered with shin splints and invested in good running shoes and compression socks and then for a couple of months there was no stopping me.

I did really well in the first five months and got to a place where my base run was 3.4km and I could comfortably complete 5km in the 40-minute bracket but just as the summer sun began to shine my desire to hit 20km per week with 4 main runs saw me acquire a hip strain which put me out of running for a full six weeks, just as the park runs opened their doors. I wore it well and used the bike and cross trainer and began a journey into pilates to strengthen my core so that as soon as possible I could resume my running journey. 

It was August 4th and it was the day of reckoning, I donned my shoes and out the door, but after a mere 2.1 km had to stop as my right calf was seriously hurting, I limped all the way home, and did every variation of raise ice bathe through a full shift at work before dissolving into a heap of tears at the end of the day and getting hubby to take me to A and E. I explained that I thought I had stress fracture in my tibia, they were busy and triaged me standing in the corridor and thought my story laughable especially as I was still standing and sent me home to go to the urgent walk-in centre the next day.

Xrays, one MRI and 10 days later it was confirmed and they finally gave me a pair of crutches and sent me home with a moon boot. The recovery was slow and I was told in no uncertain terms that running was off the cards for the rest of the year.

What did I learn, I learned that I should have been content with the fact that I was able to run 5km and kept a regime that was suited to me, and not the same regime that everyone else seemed to have adopted. I was part of a FB running group for more mature folk but they were all notching up marathons at weekends and managing the likes of 5km a day and they all had stories, and yet they weren’t natural-born athletes. I didn’t need to run 20km a week though or a marathon at weekend. I liked the fresh air and the rain and the scenery and the exhilaration, the challenge, the sweat, the sweet joy of success, all of which I could easily achieve in what was my base run of 3.4km. I could run 3.4 km two or even three times a week and it was working wonders for my cardiovascular health and self-esteem and I didn’t need to feel that this was inadequate or not good enough. That goal of competing in a 5km park run is still a goal  I can still aim for it, but maybe I have to recognise that at my age with my bone health there is no shame in a little bit of jeffing along the way especially if that means my bones won’t break.

2022 is going to be the year of acknowledging me as myself and not as something that needs to be compared to anyone else. I am going to run because I enjoy it, but get to a physical point first where it is going to be possible to do it safely. I have started by looking at running off road as the shock through the bones from tarmac is significant and I am going to ensure that for every amount of running I do I give my body the right amount of time to recover. I have started by gradually increasing my walking and by researching and finding some good off-road routes, they are better walked at this time of year when the winter has rendered most of the local terrain boggy sludgy. Walking takes a little bit more time so I need to make sure I plan accordingly, but already it is bringing its own joys, in my late afternoon walk today I encountered a Hare, some pheasants, two Highland cows and witnessed a beautiful sunset. 

In 2021 I learned that it is now time for me to learn about me, the me that lurks beneath. I had pineapple juice with my tea tonight because I like pineapple juice, I have gone back to playing in a band because I enjoy music and I love playing in a band. So much of my life has been centred around caring for and pleasing others that I have had to actually physically take stock of which few moments are mine and which are because they are expected or belonged to someone else. It is a time of experimentation. I have never really had a big sweet tooth, and I can finally verbalise that it is largely because I do have a preference for darker chocolate. I like after eight mints, dark gingers and walnut whips. I like smoky bacon crisps and eggs on toast. I like tomato soup and spicy food. I like a glass of Port and Wensleydale cheese with cranberries.

I like listening to music, making things and learning new things. Today I have been teaching myself how to use formulas in spreadsheets and that’s okay, because I enjoyed it.

So 2022 is a year of liberation and freedom, I don’t have to be an instagram post, I don’t need to be the best at anything at all, I don’t need to win at anything, I don’t need to measure myself against anybody else. It really doesn’t matter. Every moment where I derive pleasure in some aspect of my own life, no matter how simple is a win for me. I have absolutely no idea why it has taken me 55 years to work this out.

We were brought up as hard-working, strong working-class women, we had access to a good education, these things shall be, but there was also a great deal of passivity that was ingrained in our very being and that boiled down to the fact that we always deserved less, somehow we were never worthy enough and someone else always deserved more. The truth is though that we never deserved less, and we were always worthy enough.

ⓒ Alison Jean Hankinson

Apposite. A shoe story.

When you have lived in different places it is almost as if you can never unlive those experiences and you become almost spiritually homeless. It isn’t so much about not belonging as belonging to more than one place. When we went to New Zealand we suffered huge culture shock at the beginning but then became assimilated and the reverse culture shock when we returned to the UK more than 10 years later which was just as punishing. What was suddenly glaringly apparent was that anyone who had never lived in another country with another culture had no real concept that in other places there might be other ways of doing things that are almost opposite and yet apposite and make perfect sense if you are in the other persons place and shoes.

In fact shoes are a prime example.

We arrived in Whanagrei in the early summer of 2006, and the first thing I noticed as we drove through the centre of town and along the main street was that the children were barefoot, they weren’t wearing any shoes. You have to remember that we had never visited NZ, and I had engineered all of our migration from the living room of our detached house in the Isle of Man with the aid of my trusty computer. All my assumptions about Whangerei were based on what I knew of towns of that size based on my exisitng experience of the UK, US and Europe and a little bit of applied logic. Shoes had never entered my head, I had never studied shoes. My first thought and reaction was- Oh no they must be poor. I have brought my family to a poor place where they can’t afford shoes.

My knowledge of shoe habits was entirely linked to my own poor range of experience and my very working class roots where shoes were actually a symbol of security wealth and status. The wearing of shoes indicated that your family could afford them and they were worn with pride and tended only to come off your feet at bedtime. There were also cultural overtones to shoe wearing, there were new shoes or special shoes for special occasions, in childhood the Whit walks always guaranteed a new pair of shoes, generally white (so very different to school shoes) and obviously the start of a new year at school was always a new pair of appropriate footwear. I also got into very big trouble one year when I was sent out with money to buy my own shoes and came back with an aquarium and two terrapins from the market- no shoes.

In the early 1970’s some family friends of ours emigrated to South Africa, we helped them pack and saw them off and when they came to visit in 1983, they regaled stories of barefoot children, and even though they said they strolled barefoot, to my mind it conjured up images of sand and dirt roads and I wondered how their feet were not cut to ribbons on glass and debris. The stories did little to challenge my clealrly poor understanding of culture geography or shoes.

So here we were in a hire car, all our wordly goods in the car-boot, two children aged 6 in the back, and we had moved half way round the world on a whim to wonderful Whangarei and despite the drizzle and the umbrellas, there was no mistaking that these people were roaming the streets with no footwear. So I had resigned myself to the fact that our new home was a place where there was abject poverty. The truth was and still is, that to some extent Northland and Whangarei could be described as of lower soio-ecomomic status compared to other parts of New Zealand, but what it lacked in economic wealth it more than made up for in culture, compassion and collaboration and the shoe issue was absolutely nothing to do with the economics of the place.

It soon became apparent that in this new place it was more respectful and appropriate to be barefoot and in fact in virtually every Northland place and home there was a cultural expectation that you would remove your shoes and leave them at the entrance/doorway. We learned this very quickly as even when viewing houses this expectation was a non negotiable. We quickly learned that the best and most appropriate footwear was footwear that could be removed quickly and easily and not mourned and grieved for if it was forgotten or left behind.

We soon adopted so many of these unwritten and previously unknown cultural customs and practices. It was apparent that all children under the age of 12 seemed to go everywhere barefoot. The girls would go to school with shoes on and somehow come home without them. Endless visits to the school on Friday afternoons to try to retrieve shoes were largely frutless, there just seemed to be a bagful of totally unrelated shoes in every cloakroom. You would take shoed children to Mcdonalds for a treat and arrive home to find they were shoeless. On May 3rd 2006, shortly after we moved into our own home in Kamo, my husband called me from work before I had taken the children to school, to alert me to the fact that we were on a Tsunami alert following a significant earthquake at sea. My snarling response was related to shoes not impending doom. I have two children to get to school and I can only find one size 8 left shoe and one size 9 right shoe and how am I supposed to get them to school. I gave in, and my children went to school barefoot like everyone elses children. We were officially done with shoes.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Cat did a whoopsie

Cat did a jobby on the carpet

Mum’s not happy

Dad’s kinda snappy,

Gaffer might have to join the pigs at the market.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Well I know this isn’t a literary masterpiece, and I now realise that it isn’t national poetry month, apparently that is in April if you are in the US, no idea about anywhere else, absolutely no idea why I thought it was March, maybe it is in March somewhere in the world. I feel I have committed now, so I will stick with having my poetry month as March this year.

In northern brogue and also in Scottish brogue, a jobby is a non offensive way of describing a whoopsie or a poop.

Light-hearted day 2 of Alison’s poetry month.

Shade of Seasons

New year full of promise as winter fades to grey

Blue skies remind us that spring is on the way.

Blood red roses with valentine’s love ooze

Rainy days of April splash in shiny black patent shoes.

Bright yellow sunflowers against the garden wall

Wearing mumma’s high heeled sandals to make me look so tall.

Green grass growing wildly under orange summer sun

Blackberry picking and licking purple fingers in autumn fun.

Silver stars a shining against a dark moonlit sky

Brown brindly witches broom at Halloween we fly.

Pink and fluffy slippers for cold and wintery nights

White sparkly lights on the Christmas tree so bright.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

P1090358

 

Whisper lass.

She was tip-toe soft,

kind words and whisper slippers

mid-winter moccasins.

treading cautiously through a world of steel toe-capped hobnailed boots.

 

Soft-shoe shuffling quietly amidst the stomping and the striding

Reminiscent of dreamlike dawdle at dusk.

She was tip-toe soft, compassion and comfort

Her steps could caress the conscience of even the sturdiest stiff leather loafer.

 

She was tiptoe soft

Lambswool laughter

words of wisdom suede-like

midwinter moccasins.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

 

So tonight at d’Verse Bjorn challenged us to write with metaphor in mind. I also wanted to use sounds, and I am not sure if I have mastered this or not, but I gave it a go.

Sing a song of ninepence.

Sing a song of ninepence,

we’re all going to die

Mummy caught the budgerigar

and baked it in a pie.

 

Whilst the pie was cooking,

she made the kitchen clean

and served it up for dinner

with custard and ice cream.

 

Dad was in the garden shed

Sharpening his tools

The kids were in the bedroom

Polishing their shoes.

 

The cat was in the dining room

and stealthily- I kid you not

Upon the table it did leap

and stole the blooming lot.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

 

So for d’verse poetics we were challenged to write a Kafka-esque children’s rhyme????? Oh my.

I chose this phrase for inspiration-

I am a cage, in search of a bird

Brighouse Bay

Over the stones

we stumbled

eager to race the tide,

the last rays of summer scorching the sand between our toes.

 

Tiny crab

hermit hides

beneath the sodden shells

tidal drift and rock pool teems with life.

 

Brighouse Bay

Sunset lingers

Last days of summer languish,

this moment frozen forever in time.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

The wealth and beauty in the time-worn.

In Japan they have a word Kintsugi and it relates to keeping something and continuing to use it even when it has become damaged and care-worn. I am finding that as I age in our very materialistic and modern world that this idea resonates greatly with me. I feel that I myself am almost Kintsugi as I have been broken and fixed so many times.

I no longer feel the need to have everything shiny and new and in the latest style, it is as if I feel now more than ever that there was a time where it was the meaning that gave the value and this was more important than the monetary value of the “thing”. On my wall I have a clock that my mother got for me many years ago and its monetary value is meaningless but it still adorns my wall, she got it for me because she thought it would appeal to me and it still holds that value and the love that came with it deep within.

Sunday afternoon was very cold and wintery and in an attempt to stave off the cold we ventured into Bruccianis for a hot chocolate. Bruccianis is on the promenade at Morecambe and it opened in 1939 and still occupies the same building and much of the interior design and decor is still untouched and it is now a grade 2 listed building.

For me the comfort is in its menu. It takes me back to days gone by when I would warm my hands on a mug of Horlicks in the Bus Station cafe in Rawtenstall after shopping with mum, Terry Jacks and “Seasons in the sun” playing on the radio. The menu here boasts Horlicks, Vimto, Bovril and the ultimate decadence of the Knickerbocker Glory. It isn’t shabby chic, or modern art nouveau but simply still the same as it was many years ago.

Its wealth and beauty is that it is what it is. No charlatan here. A place to warm up with a hot chocolate in the winter-time and chat with family and friends or a special ice-cream treat at the beach in a red-hot summer when the sand feels like it is on fire. Sometimes we don’t need perfection what we really need is congruence and familiarity.

 

Morecambe by the sea

Icy cold toes, winter sun

Horlicks comforts me.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

I am submitting this for Haibun Monday at d’Verse, it breaks the rules a tad, but I think it reflects change and perhaps it is also indicative of a change yet to come, a return to a different set of values.

 

The Ugly Grubbly.

Once upon a yucky time lived a grubbly gringly monster groo

He jiggled in the midnight sun

and feasted on wibbly bungaroos

 

He gribbled beyond the wobbly fronds and bumbled in the forest froo

He wimbled with the flowersong

and with the frimbles flew.

 

Once upon an ugly time when gringle monsters knew

That clovely bubbly mischief makers

Made life worth living true.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

For d’Verse poetics.

 

Pakaru

The car is at the garage

The engine is Kaput

Another worry in the bag

And now it won’t stay shut.

 

We appear to haemorrhage money

There’ll soon be nothing left

It isn’t remotely funny

Friends family fortitude bereft.

 

Pakaru and redundant

For all my story’s worth

Broken beyond replacement

Nothing left but mirth.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Pakaru- broken for Mental Health Awareness week 2018.

 

 

 

 

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