Sunday, 28 November 2010

Pearl Necklaces of Wisdom

My Granny is a grand 90 years old tomorrow. To celebrate this fact my family had a gathering at her house yesterday and it pushed me to finally write a blog about her, a woman I hold incredibly dearly in my heart.

She is now losing her short term memory, she is, of course, aged, slowing down but there is not a single slice of her spark missing. She often tells me stories about her life, recalling with impeccable detail things that happened years ago and no matter how many times I might hear the same story it will always fill me with wonder, I could, can and do listen to her for hours on end. She has lived a life that not many could compare to.

My Grandmother was born in 1920 in New York, to first generation German migrants. She lived through the Great Depression and served in the American Navy during the Second World War. She did things that were just not done in her time and often giggles as she recalls her mother frequently saying, "Dorothy whatever will you do next?". She trained as a professional ice skater, toured all over the USA and Europe as "Lady Rebecca" in Holiday on Ice, which coined her the nickname "Becky" which she still is called today. Following the war she went with her GI Biller Rights and studied in Paris, lived in the South of France, married once, divorced. Shared an apartment in Paris with a man who worked for a fashion magazine, has had drawings of her as a model in fashion magazines, went to modelling school. Met my Grandpa, a Navy Officer, whilst visiting friends in England and whimsically tells the story of how it really was love at first sight. After marrying my Grandpa they lived out in India on a tea plantation with my uncle and aunt before returning to England shortly before my father was born... and these are to name but a few things. She still tells me she opens her curtains of her sleepy little village on the outskirts of Preston and says, "How on earth did I end up here?". We have all said to her for years that she should've written her life story, sadly I think it's a little bit late for her to be able to do that now but it's been crossing my mind more and more these days that maybe I should do it for her. Her stories are imprinted on my heart and I'd love to share with the world the wisdom of this incredible woman and her stories that would out shine any fictitious piece.

She always was until very recently impeccably dressed. We used to share cups of tea on a Sunday afternoon both flicking enthusiastically through the Sunday Times Style supplement. She has the largest collection of berets of anybody I've ever met, all with matching scarves. She delights in my dressing and I love hearing her recounting various garments over the years and showing me beautiful black and white photographs of her in her youth. "Quite the diva" as my Aunt commented on Saturday and then looked pointedly at me. This "passion for fashion" is inherited it seems. It was she who pushed me to keep modelling and delving into a fashion career. Over the years she has given me many of her garments and pieces of jewellery - all of which I wear frequently and often delighted in showing me off to her tea guests before recounting another of her stories from her youth. A far cry from a "typical" Grandmother figure and she frequently protests at my giggles at her crackers comments, "but you wouldn't want a boring Granny would you?" ... to which I always respond telling her I wouldn't swap her for the whole world (and I mean it even more each time I say it).

My Granny and I hold a special bond, I lived with her at a young age and again as for a year and a half at 19, though I know she loves each and everyone of us equally, the extra time we have spent together has given us something, there is an underlying understand of the other and a very deep affection. She has had a massive influence in my life and I think out of all of my relations she and I have a very unique relationship - we share a spirit, a gumption for life, an attitude to go out and grab absolutely everything. It is hugely attributable to her that I look at the world as a mirage of riches, a kingdom of magic, a plethora of possibilities. I feel deeply honoured when she tells me that I remind her of a young version of herself - we live an awful lot through each others eyes.

It was incredibly moving that upon my Dad making a toast to her yesterday that she sipped her champagne with her shaky hand, she took a deep breath and made a speech. Words which I've had her say pragmatically my whole life, "I'd say to anyone, that in life you have to just go out and do things. See and find opportunity then do it. I have lived my life and I have lived it well. I don't regret anything- you will doubtless make mistakes, make wrong choices but I think it's far better to do that than to never have experienced at all. I think there can't be anything worse than getting to being old and sitting back saying I wish I'd done that... It's far worse to regret the things you haven't done than those you have. Go out and seize every opportunity because life is for living".

I can take my Granny's words from this day but more importantly I carry her soul with me, her spirit lives in my genes and I would be very, very content in my life if I live to be just even half the woman she is.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Mon Corps - C'est Mon Histoire

I have been contemplating getting a new tattoo for sometime now, I flirted with a few ideas, things I like and came to a few various conclusions based on where I am at this particular point in my life. This, of course, is something that is going to be imprinted on my body for the rest of my life so it needs to not only be meaningful but also have significance.

I view my body like a map of my life, it tells my story, which continues to be written daily with the aging process.
I was born with two birth marks that I still have, an upside down crown shape mark at the top of my thigh and a small non-descript one on my right ankle. I have a marking from being a toddler, a small tablet sized white scar at the top of my thigh on my crotch line from where my Dad (so I am told) squeezed a spot there whilst changing my nappy. My knees show faint silvery scars and purple patches from grazes as a school child playing in the street, falling over my first bicycle handle bars. My first pet Rosie, a black and white dwarf rabbit, has left me with a little line scar on my left ring finger where she bit me (and wouldn't let go) whilst I was cleaning out her hutch at seven. If I stick my tongue out, I have a noticeably "flowery" edge to it from where I fell off a bar stool at nine and bit my tongue in my Dad's kitchen and reaching behind me for a drink. The roof of my mouth has a smooth patch from where I burnt it eating a cheese and potato pie from the bakery near my Granny's house at eleven.
My little sister's place in my life stamped by the small scratch dint she left on my face when she was a toddler. Freckles that increase as the years go by, my fair skin aging and being exposed to sun, remind me of family holiday's abroad and getting sunburned whilst playing in water. My growth and development are noted by stretch marks, hips, thighs, breasts 12, 15, 18, 22. The passage of becoming a woman. Skin on my face already aging, crease lines on my brow - years of laughing and frowning. The fashionista's feet are a patchwork of colours from rubbing shoes and mishapped from wearing teetering shoes with pointed toes. Holes from piercings and dints from those closed up.
Turmoil is marked too, my knuckles on my right hand remain scarred by callouses from years of bulimia, I have faint white scars from periods of self harm. A tiny egg shaped scar at the bottom of my back from when I first moved out of home and still plagued by self harming thoughts I kept my razors in my bed and lead on one by accident.
My body for the most part will tell it's own story, as it has already done but does not always tell the stories of the mind, it does not denote the opinions and emotions around the marks. My tattoos however are deliberate and meaningful in their own right. The card print down my spine, the club, heart, spade and diamond; a tribute to my survival of my anorexia. My view of life being a game and having to play the hand you're given and also in relation to the "Solitaire" poem I wrote about my experience. The little ruby on my left buttock - both comical due to it's positioning and important in it's meaning. The ruby was done with my oldest friend (Lucy) Quinn as she too got the same design in black (Lucy in the sky with Diamonds). The ruby to me represents reinvention, regenerations and rebuilding the self - renaming and re birthing. It's a salute to the more frivolous things in life, joie de vivre and the riches life has to give as well as being a representation of my nickname.

I know my body will naturally continue to write it's story on itself but I too wish to add further to the story of my mind, express my creativity and pay tribute to the trials and tribulations, joys and triumph of my spirit too. I'll keep thee posted on what I decide to have inked next...