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A Project, Not a Day 

“I love you. I haven’t written your card yet and I haven’t bought you a present but I do love you,” I said as he left my vitamins next to my cups of tea and walked away. I need 3 cups of tea and magnesium and vitamin B supplements to get me out of bed these days.
“Good,” he answered with much weight for only one word, and closed the door behind him. He’s unwell today and we’re not planning any conventional celebration. I have painted my nails though and am working out how to cook a special meal with no oven.

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2016’s Anniversary flowers

22 years ago today: exhausted, nauseous and anxious, carrying a modest cream roses and freesia bouquet, and wearing a sale dress, I took his name and we committed to one another. I didn’t need to take his name – I had my own name but I wanted ours to be the same name and to have a family all sharing this name. In the years since I’ve thought about all the women’s own names that have been cast aside for marriage and how my own surname was not my mother’s or grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s. But their names all came from men too, and it seems to be one of the last remaining vestiges of patriarchy. Besides you’d have to go a significantly long way back in history to find a name that didn’t come from a man, and that wasn’t a topic up for discussion when I was 24 and in love.

The beginnings of tiny baby Gemma were growing inside me and I wanted us to all share a name by the time she was born. So 22 years ago I went along with tradition without question. (And being pregnant before marriage was part of my family’s tradition!)

Our relationship was over 5 years old by then, we’d lived together for nearly 3 years and we’d been engaged for 2 of those but we’d never planned a wedding. We both found it daunting for our own reasons.
In the end it was a small, inexpensive registry office wedding with no time to do anything lavish and not enough time to overthink or over-plan as I am prone to do. I’m still glad we did it that way and, knowing myself a lot better these days, I’m quite sure it was the right thing to do.
On our anniversary each year I think only very briefly of the day – it served a purpose and an important one to me but I think mostly about the years, the numbers, the clocking up of shared experiences. I think about what’s changed through our commitment and through time, about what’s been gained and who has been lost. Somewhere there is a group photo of our wedding day. It’s stuck in a box. (We didn’t have a photographer but our tiny group of family and friends brought their own cameras – and they were a talented, artistic bunch!). But I like our relationship today so much better than the one we had then and I’d rather live in the present.

It may seem an awful thing to say but I wanted to get the wedding out of the way. I just wanted to be married and get on with being married. By the evening I was not enjoying myself at all, was completely knackered and had run out of the ability to make conversation. Big events and big, long days are not for me.

But the big, long years are for me. The learning, the shared mistakes, the getting things right through error, argument and experience, the way a relationship balances over time. Boy, we’ve made some awful cock-ups – and we will continue to make new ones but I do believe we’re getting more right than we are wrong and for me this means that being older and deep in a love is a lot more comfortable than being young and in love. I am never certain of anyone’s feelings for me. I am forever afraid of losing people and often won’t work at friendships for fear of failure or rejection. But this has been one relationship I was prepared to risk all for and really work at it. We have both perfected The Right Royal Pain in the Arse, and have a most nasty, mean, thoughtless side which we save only for each other.

Result.

I didn’t expect much from our wedding day, I certainly don’t expect much from today. What I have is a certainty that through joy and pain and suffering and general life shit, I have loved someone for 27 years and somehow he has committed to me for 22 years and shown me that he loves me back and my own commitment has been repaid. So I love anniversaries and I love that we both survived another year. Each passing year that slowly becomes less and less certain through age and ill health becomes more of a celebration. I never took any of this for granted and I never will.

Throwing your whole being into one relationship isn’t for everyone but it is for me.
And commemorating the overlooked numbers like 22, and not just the rounded ones, is important too.
I am a project girl. And project family and project relationship have been two of my absolute favourites.

Happy 22nd Anniversary to me and him. And thank you, Richard, for yet another beautiful bouquet of flowers.

My Happiness is Not My Own

I’m touching the edges of today’s latest horrors in my mind. My pulse skitters and I choose to distract myself; to float a little away from it perhaps. Acknowledge but not absorb. No photos yet for me, no TV news. Not yet. 

It’s always there that the world is peppered with horrors. I know I will take some time at some point today to imagine a celebration gone wrong, see a truck advancing, hear screams of horror and desperation but I try to keep a little away from it for now just to function. 
On top of so much sadness already, on top of so much disappointment in other humans: another layer of pain. And the reasons, the consequences. What good are we if we don’t think about those and try to change things, try to change ourselves?

I’m still blinking away photos of animal cruelty I came across against my will yesterday. Shared thoughtlessly. My body and mind sank into the suffering. My chest ached. I can’t un-see, un-feel. 

I took as much as I could bear of our political chaos yesterday and allowed some time to ponder consequences for those who will suffer the most and for the future of our world. I’m so sad for the narrow, short-term way so many minds work. For so much to go unchecked, unchallenged. I’m so hurt and horrified by nastiness dressed up as necessary. 

I can’t detach myself from any of this. I am part of this, part of all of this. Everything is connected. Everyone is connected. 

I can look away. I can distract myself. I can think I have removed myself. I can know what I don’t trust, what I don’t believe. I can know what is good for me me me me ME!!! But deep down I know that what is for the greater good, what serves the most people- what gives the widest health and security is good for me. 

My happiness is not me. My happiness is my world.

So I’m here. In it. Waiting for it to hurt. Again. Because helpless feels a little bit better than detached. Feeling feels awful but not feeling isn’t an option. Wishing it really was so simple as a time for everything but knowing some people never ever get to dance.  

Familiar Unfamiliar 


The morning is heavy. Ominous and “Back to School”

My legs like lead long to lead me back to bed. 

An Untelling grey sky of early Autumn

A mid-summer where anything seems possible yet reliable seems impossible. 

A new turn, a new term. 

Expect and accept what’s around the corner. 

Too many turns, too many corners. 

Unfamiliar and Unknown

Flying fast on wheels

I’d rather walk 

Slow down 

Where are we going? 

Dragged powerlessly into “that’s how it is”

All the feigned choice and democracy of an institution

You follow the signposts, you don’t choose your way 

Where are we now? 

Is this another lesson?

Intricately, Profoundly Simple 

A tiny hoverfly on a tiny chive flower

A tiny hoverfly on a tiny chive flower


We insult our own and each other’s intelligence with descriptions such as “the little things”, “simple pleasures”, and we leave ourselves wanting, expecting more of life and of ourselves. We tell ourselves little and simple should surely never be enough. We deserve bigger, better. We should have ambition and drive and strive for a place high above the simple. Little things and simple things become merely a break or a holiday from the important things – the things we should really be wanting and really be aiming for. “Big” things. 

“Complicated” things. 

The hard work things. 

And yet the not-so-simple truth is that the things which bring us simple pleasure and which we have long sort to degrade with labels of “ordinary” and “boring” are in fact phenomenally complicated, rich and interesting, and often hard to come by and hard to hold on to. 

Once we start to appreciate the complexities of the little things, the hard graft behind the simple things, and the time, motivation and aspiration needed to keep and protect those things, we can begin to see that which we thought of as important and aspirational were really just empty trophies of greed and insecurity. 

There is nothing simple about the simple stuff. 

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