Mind Changing

Husband, in his blunt, down-to-Earth, masculine way, considers that I change my mind with the weather. And it is true that to procrastinate, to wax this way and that may be seen to be a negative trait. It could be construed as dithering.

But to change your mind need not be a bad thing.

You can change your mind about people. Impressions formed at the beginning of a relationship [I’m using the term broadly here, not just for partnership] may alter as you get to know someone and learn more about their behaviour. I have come to grief in the past from forming an opinion too hastily!

Changing your mind over intentions can be annoying for others. Politicians are inclined to do it, frequently angering large swathes of the population. These procrastinations are often termed ‘U-turns’ and are part of the UK’s folklore, if not anyone else’s [‘This lady’s not for turning’ springs to mind]. Our current leader is no different.

I grew up with my father’s staunch labour party views, although it became clear as I grew up that his left wing leanings were of the champagne variety [or at least of the cheap Spanish plonk sort]. My mother towed the party line, following my father’s views and rarely expressing anything but his opinions.

As a student I inclined towards the left, taking part in marches for the miners during the early seventies even though it was more in a spirit of gung-ho than in any deep understanding of the issues. Residing as I did in halls of residence, I rather enjoyed the three day week with its blackouts which prompted us to light candles and trip around as if our long, hippy skirts belonged to a bygone era.

In the eighties I was persuaded to join the Greenham Common protests, another leftist protest, albeit with a feminist slant and I found sisterhood empathy to be a pleasing, empowering sensation, especially since I was at the time a somewhat beleaguered, unwaged, stay-at-home mum. Whilst I only took part for a day, to help with an encircling of the camp, the shared sentiments stuck and reinforced what I’d felt since reading Marilyn French’s ‘The Women’s Room’ years before at college.

The return to work, the transition to a single mum and the acquisition of my own house were all events that continued to shape my views, however I realised that living in the comparatively wealthy South of the UK gives little opportunity to change local voting results. During the last few decades I’ve attempted tactical voting by choosing lib-dem-[a lost cause here and one that last time allowed the Tories to sneak back in. Husband is fond of reminding me of it].

Since I’ve now accepted that it’s pointless to try a tactical vote I’ve opted to place my cross where my heart lies. This is with the Greens. I have no expectations that they will ever be required to form a government in my lifetime but hey-I like their policies and this, reader is what matters.

 

So Long Leonard!

So Long Marianne

We did love our Leonard Cohen! We’d sit around singing along to ‘Hey That’s No Way to say Goodbye’, or ‘Suzanne’, instead of sweating over essays or reading the next chapter of ‘Ethics and Education’.

“Why does she give him milk and oranges?” I’d always say. “It’s a horrible combination.”

We knew all the harmonies, even recording our own versions of the songs on her battered reel-to-reel tape recorder then shrieking with laughter at hearing ourselves on the playback.

When we went out we’d communicate in code, using pre-arranged phrases for unwanted attention from members of the opposite sex. At the never missed Thursday night discos we leapt around to the Rolling Stones or The Faces until a slow number prompted one of the lads to ask us to dance; then we revolved as couples, coming into contact with each orbit, when she’d make faces at me and whisper. “Double Gristle!” she’d hiss, meaning ‘Get me out of this’.

We lavished too much of our meagre grants on cheap wine from plastic barrels in the Union bar, resulting in puerile practical joking such as crawling back to our rooms on hands and knees or writing notices for all the doors we passed; the inevitable outcome of over indulgence being our failure to attend any of the following day’s lectures. We had endless discussions analysing budding or fading relationships, boys we liked, boys we wanted to be rid of, whether we had, whether we hadn’t, wishing, regretting.

When, in the second year I was forced out into a depressing bed-sit with a repressive landlady I missed her so much I spent regular nights propped up at the end of her bed eating cheese and pickles, envying her for having the foresight to claim ill health and keep her room at the halls of residence.

Once it was clear I’d have to undertake some work if I was to gain a qualification that would lead to employment I began to knuckle down, completing mediocre essays, attending lacklustre lectures, keeping appointments with disapproving tutors and applying myself to placements. As the lucky recipient of a modest income from some shares, Marianne did not feel the pressure to strive for academic success and continued to maintain a hectic social life, made all the more pleasurable by the acquisition of a small car. She continued to live in her tiny room, spend her days shopping in ‘Chelsea Girl’ or ‘Top Shop’, date hapless men and leave a string of lovelorn boyfriends in her wake. Her health issues, a useful weapon in the defence against obligation or duty, morphed slowly into hypochondria and each time we met she regaled me with some new symptoms she’d noticed, or tests or treatment she’d been undergoing, difficulties that prevented her from completing the course.

With no other option than to join the grown up world, at the end of the three years I became a career woman with a flat and a boyfriend I’d picked up along the way. I still met up with Marianne, though less often. She’d found another tiny room, a bedsit in a shared house that eked out the modest income she still had. She spent her days attending hospital appointments, researching alternative therapies and taking courses in obscure, esoteric fields. Our lives began to diverge. I was promoted to a new and better job, split with the boyfriend, moved to a different, leafier part of town. She took a course as a ‘holistic’ healer and did freelance astrology readings in between courses of treatment for various ailments. She moved to a small flat, subsisting on benefits to augment her income, inconsistent now that the shares had crashed.

In another ten years I’d married, moved away to the coast, taken a career break and had two children. We corresponded, letters documenting lives that seemed to be led on separate planets. I was mired in the minutiae of domestic triviality; she was taking to the stage in her debut as an exotic dancer whilst continuing in her quest to find the perfect man, though available men were becoming scarcer and more selective.

I resumed my career, became single again and sought to rekindle friendships that had foundered in the wake of my marriage. When I began a long distance relationship with a London man I contacted her and arranged to visit her at her Streatham flat during one of my metropolis weekends.

 

I got to her road. I stood on the pavement opposite her house and gazed up at her window; but I didn’t cross over, didn’t ring the bell. I turned back and made the long trek back to Hampstead. She rang me, later.

“Where were you?” she said.

“I rang the bell and no one answered” I lied. She was angry. I felt tearful. There would never be another chance.

I continued to send letters and cards for a couple more years with no response. I look at the photos she sent me of herself posing in a leopard print bikini against a background of tropical plants on a night club stage and I wonder what she is doing now, but the clock is set firm in the present; no going back. Here’s to you, Marianne. So Long!

 

 

 

A Retrospective Indulgence

So Long Marianne

[Part 2]

            When, in the second year I was forced out into a depressing bed-sit with a repressive landlady I missed her so much I spent regular nights propped up at the end of her bed eating cheese and pickles, envying her for having the foresight to claim ill health and keep her room at the halls of residence.

            Once it was clear I’d have to undertake some work if I was to gain a qualification that would lead to employment I began to knuckle down, completing mediocre essays, attending lacklustre lectures, keeping appointments with disapproving tutors and applying myself to placements. As the lucky recipient of a modest income from some shares, Marianne did not feel the pressure to strive for academic success and continued to maintain a hectic social life, made all the more pleasurable by the acquisition of a small car. She continued to live in her tiny room, spend her days shopping in ‘Chelsea Girl’ or ‘Top Shop’, date hapless men and leave a string of lovelorn boyfriends in her wake. Her health issues, a useful weapon in the defence against obligation or duty, morphed slowly into hypochondria and each time we met she regaled me with some new symptoms she’d noticed, or tests or treatment she’d been undergoing, difficulties that prevented her from completing the course.

            With no other option than to join the grown up world, at the end of the three years I became a career woman with a flat and a boyfriend I’d picked up along the way. I still met up with Marianne, though less often. She’d found another tiny room, a bedsit in a shared house that eked out the modest income she still had. She spent her days attending hospital appointments, researching alternative therapies and taking courses in obscure, esoteric fields. Our lives began to diverge. I was promoted to a new and better job, split with the boyfriend, moved to a different, leafier part of town. She took a course as a ‘holistic’ healer and did freelance astrology readings in between courses of treatment for various ailments. She moved to a small flat, subsisting on benefits to augment her income, inconsistent now that the shares had crashed.

            In another ten years I’d married, moved away to the coast, taken a career break and had two children. We corresponded, letters documenting lives that seemed to be led on separate planets. I was mired in the minutiae of domestic triviality; she was taking to the stage in her debut as an exotic dancer whilst continuing in her quest to find the perfect man, though available men were becoming scarcer and more selective.

            I resumed my career, became single again and sought to rekindle friendships that had foundered in the wake of my marriage. When I began a long distance relationship with a London man I contacted her and arranged to visit her at her Streatham flat during one of my metropolis weekends.

 

I got to her road. I stood on the pavement opposite her house and gazed up at her window; but I didn’t cross over, didn’t ring the bell. I turned back and made the long trek back to Hampstead. She rang me, later.

            “Where were you?” she said.

            “I rang the bell and no one answered” I lied. She was angry. I felt tearful. There would never be another chance.

            I continued to send letters and cards for a couple more years with no response. I look at the photos she sent me of herself posing in a leopard print bikini against a background of tropical plants on a night club stage and I wonder what she is doing now, but the clock is set firm in the present; no going back. Here’s to you, Marianne. So Long!

 

A few weeks after I finished the story a spooky thing happened. She sent me a card-the first communication for some years. She’d penned some brief, ambiguous notes: ‘the flat is falling down around me’, ‘I must get my act together’. In a fever of excited enthusiasm I wrote back, careful to use longhand, careful not to say too much about my life now. There has been no reply.