Wednesday, 27 September 2017

What's happened to make me who I am?

This is a post in my sporadic 50 Things series, and I've been avoiding it for a while, a bit like the 32nd photo one, which I still haven't done, because scrolling through 32 photos just reminds me that I need to delete more of the pictures I take!

Anyway, why have I avoided this post? I justified it by figuring that I wasn't that interesting, that I am fed up of talking about myself and want to look outwards, and that it was none of your business anyway.

I've changed my mind. Studying Women's Studies I learned that the personal is political. There is history and politics in my story which is relevant to more people than me, and to be honest, I'd love to read this kind of thing if it was written by someone else.

So where to start?

First off, I was born (and for some reason, stuffed into a meringue). My parents were questioning the normal way things were done and tried new ways. That was a beautiful and brave thing to do and I am grateful they did it. They did many things, including divorcing, which showed me that they are people with their own concerns. That helped me to understand that we all are, and helped me to avoid having 'respect' or distance from people in authority. I thank them for that and for all the ways they introduced me to other adults and didn't ask me to stay out of the conversation.

I gained a brother whose pleasant demeanour threw my more caustic ways into sharp relief. I am still delighted that he is in my life. He is lovely and pretty normal really, and makes me look like the wicked witch of the west. He also makes me laugh my socks off.

I got married young, which I would not recommend. I'm not saying that the relationship won't always work, sometimes it will, but if it does you can always get married later. Anyway, my marriage failed and despite not having been married for very long and having no other ties between us the divorce was hellish. I wasn't actually sure I would survive it. The divorce taught me two main things:

  • you cannot expect things not to break just because no-one wants them to.
  • you can survive things that feel awful.
I am really sorry for younger me having to learn those lessons.

Anyway, now I have a lovely husband and a family. Motherhood has shown me my patience and my kindness (don't go fooling yourself I'm nice though!). Motherhood has also underlined the importance of love, which before I had associated for a while most strongly with romance. Now I am repeatedly amazed with the ferocious strength of mother-love. Even when I am reminded of just how small and insignificant I am in the face of things happening to those I love, I have this strength.

If I could face again pain like that I experienced on divorce, and so save my children having to face it, I would, again and again, though I may not survive.

Now I write, and I am grateful to those who support me to do it. People have always told me I'm creative. I can see that too now, but I don't want to write poems about myself all the time, so today I'm just writing this.

One more thing, and it's big. Something that has literally shaped me: I'm fat. One side of my family is fat and I am not convinced we could be otherwise without constant struggle. My mother works really hard not to be, and I know I am happier to be fat than failing to be otherwise. It's not all genes. Pizza helps, cake helps, chocolate helps, always always always thinking of the next meal helps. If I could take a magic slim pill I would, but I'm OK like this.

What about you? What's made you who you are?

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Blue Sky All Sorts

I'd like to thank Marija Smits for nominating me to take part in this. I love the work she does, her glorious style, and her multiple names. All I gave myself was an L when I wanted to hide in myself, but here I am. Here's Marija's post with the answers to the questions she was given. It's a really interesting read.

Here are the 11 questions Marija gave me, with my answers:

1. How are you? (No, really, how are you?)

I'm doing OK. Getting overwhelmed sometimes, worrying about my children (isn't there always something to worry about?), and feeling frustrated that so many brilliant women I come across are struggling to have their work noticed, while same old same old usual suspects are there again and again and again. Sometimes I feel like I should hide the womanly aspects of my experience in my poems to get them taken more seriously, but I don't want to do that. Anyway, I'm running out of funds to concentrate as much as I am on my writing, so I've applied for a minimum wage job, that's all I can find to fit around when I need to be there for my family. The job requires intelligence and experience and shouldn't be minimum wage, but is, because lots of women need to work the hours it's offering. Because of that, I'm spitting chips!

2. How do you feel about the season changing from summer to autumn? Do you have a favourite autumnal poem? (If not, simply share a favourite poem.)

EBay once asked what my favourite colour was. I told it Autumn. I feel aggrieved that the doctors who forced me out of the womb two days early. I don't care what they say, I was due on Halloween. Summer this year was rubbish. The weather was so bad that we didn't get to do half the things we wanted, so I'm kind of holding on to the hope that it's still going to happen. I'm beginning to accept that I'm wrong though.

There's a tree in the neighbouring village which changes first. Your body and mind are still telling you that there's hope for summer and that tree decides to rummage through its wardrobe and put its red dress on.

There it is, firmly into its change now, and making me want to wear my boots and see if I don't have a bit of red velvet somewhere (I'd be buying this if I could).

Marija asked about Autumn poems. My first poem that did anything was about Autumn. I read it at the school's harvest festival, up there with the eagle. I can't remember it now, but it was positive and rhyming and might have had leaves coloured in down the sides (I can't help but think that a bit of colouring in might be a good thing for my poems now. Just now I've got a poem which is being considered for publication which imagines emotionally dark trees experience of seasons: "In Autumn the trees burn/with rage justified..."

I generally write darker poems, but I do love the colours and the smells of Autumn, and the returning to warmth, cosiness, and home.

3. On the introvert-extrovert and sensitivity continuum where would you put yourself?

Oh there are so many continuums (continua?)! 

I'm OK at performing socially, but I don't make friends easily. That said I do need to have those connections, and so I force myself to come out of the little box I'll tuck myself in if I have the chance. Marija describes herself as a Highly Sensitive Person, and that's a label I'm drawn to. I cannot stand screaming - some children do it outside of school, I think they're happy, but my children know that I just kind of shut down when there's screaming so as soon as it starts they take me straight away, do not hang around to chat with friends, just get out of there. I hate amusement arcades, and although I like parties for the people, I need to have somewhere I can escape to. I swear I continued smoking for so long because it gave me an excuse to get out! I cannot stand some synthetic fibres and prefer to shop in actual real shops where I can touch things. If I touch something that feels horrible I have to wipe the feeling away.

4. Have you ever been ‘stuck’ in life? Or are you ‘stuck’ (in some way) right now? Any tips for getting unstuck?

I think we're always stuck in some ways. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, as they say. Everything is a process, and sometimes there are things we can't do, even though we're ready to do them.

I had envisaged having three children, but I hadn't understood what being a mother would be like, how all-encompassing it would be. When I had my first child I intended to go back to my previous job, but once I'd had him I realised that I couldn't. I couldn't pay someone else to do what I considered to be my most important job, of raising him. Happily we were able to find a good job for my husband, and we chose to get the job done of having children. We had three. I wouldn't be without any of them, but it would be a lot easier to have two, or to have one.

I would like to do paid work and get paid at a rate that reflects my worth, but I cannot do what I used to do and have a meaningful career because of the work culture in our society, which undervalues part time workers (which is crazy, because part time workers are happier, more driven, and less likely to exhibit presenteeism). Things are happening, which is exciting. There are organisations now like Part Time Professionals but it's taking a long time. So I guess I'm stuck, looking after the children, but I'm glad I get that opportunity, there are lots of people who can't.

5. How do you balance family life, work and creative time? Is ‘time scheduling’ the way forward? Or do you have a more relaxed approach?

My work is my creative time at the moment. I work when the kids are at school, and at other times that I can get a chance. My children are now 7, 10, and 12 (as of today, happy birthday Mr 12), so they can entertain themselves more, but I must admit our house isn't very tidy!

6. What creative work are you focusing on at the moment?

I'm writing poetry. I've been reading the bible a lot this last week, and finding out about interpretations, looking at the story of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-4). Arising from that I've written a poem about David's motivations for taking on Goliath, and another about his love for Jonathan. I find Christian stories fascinating. They are really odd. Christians tell stories about their god and then these stories are blatantly contradicted in the old testament (but somehow that doesn't count because it's the old testament). I like to imagine that their god is actually real and see what comes out of that. He's a good stand-in for all the patriarchal nonsense he's used to justify.

I've also been reworking some of my poems, and have written a new one about a slightly magical love affair between a witch and a merman. Although I'm not sure I've pointed out that it's a witch and a merman.

7. Are you a one-project-on-the-go person or do you flit between different creative projects?

I try not to flit, but I'm easily distracted. I'm so much happier working on poetry than trying to work on something big like a novel. Poetry gives me a small piece to work on which I can get as right as possible (and I love that that changes over time). I am supposed to be going through all of my poetry and working out themes to put together a pamphlet, but I am so easily distracted from that job it's unbelievable.

8. Some of your favourite books…?

I love the A Song of Ice and Fire series from George RR Martin. It's not perfect, of course. His portrayal of women could be improved, but some of it's smashing, and I love the way he plays with the tropes of fantasy. I will never forget where I was when I read the bit in the first book where you're wondering just how exactly Ned will be saved and then, he isn't. Oh my word! I read that when I'd been reading lots of fantasy, and I was blown away.

I love Storm Constantine's Wraeththu series. The world building is amazing. I particularly love the fabulously flawed Cobweb. "We dwell in Forever."

I'm currently reading Laini Taylor's Smoke and Bone series. I like the world she's built, and the audacity of the relationship at its core. It's a really interesting idea.

I've also recently bought Rebel Sun by Sophie McKeand. Here is where you can buy it. She's an amazing poet.

9. An inspiring piece of music?

So much of what I write is inspired by music. Sometimes I take a whole song to use as the rhythm to a poem. I did this in my mucky imaginings about Jarvis Cocker poem, Wanted, published here, and in Up Here - inspired by a couple of New Model Army songs. Another poem - Know by Now was inspired by the Editors song, Munich (and a crappy 'friend'), and by the structure of Muse's Hurricanes and Butterflies.

I've been writing less structured poems lately, and spending a lot of time listening to The Red Paintings.

10. A favourite ice cream flavour? If you don’t like ice cream, here’s another question: tea or coffee? (And how do you take it.)

Ice cream - it's a glorious thing. My favourite is orange marmalade ice cream from Nardinis in Largs.

Generally I drink coffee - decaf sweet coffee with plenty of milk. It's basically hot ice cream. Sometimes I drink tea, usually herbal, although I do love a London Fog - my favourite is the lavender version. Lush.

11. A photo of one of your favourite places to create (or the place you mostly end up creating, though it may not be your favourite!).

I'm assuming you mean the place I work. Here's a picture of my always messy desk, with my lovely Loki assisting me (I usually have one of them helping - at the moment Glameow is watching over me). I use fountain pens and proper notebooks, this colourful one was from Paperchase. I want another one, it was perfect, but my notebook box is full so I'm not allowed any more!

My desk has been passed down through my husband's family. It used to belong to his great uncle, who ran a bus company from it. It has a rolltop and lots of cute little drawers and extra writing spaces, and I can't bring myself to drill a hole in it for the computer wire so there are always wires to trip over. I use lots and lots of those tiny postits, to note which poems are out seeking publication. When there are a load of them stuck in a notebook that's because they've been rejected - I call them poem graveyards, but actually, once they're rejected I get to work on them again and send them off somewhere else, or not. Some just linger and eventually get sent to the great big folder of nothing else happening.

The places I create aren't generally real, and I wish I could draw them, but I get so frustrated - my pencil can't go fast enough for my mind. I don't think I give enough attention to places generally - they're not what I'm generally focusing on in the tale I'm telling, especially not in a poem. However, in the novel I've written I do have a stronger sense of place, and this is one of the places which is a portal to the realm of Faerie.

This is at Kelburn, a castle and country centre near us, and is close to the castle itself. In my story the castle is called Carter Hall, and lived in by Lord Carter. Lord Carter has particularly lovely (magical) roses in a walled rose garden which is where the children's garden is in real life.

11a. And just to be awkward here’s a bonus question (feel free to expand or not, as you see fit): Where are you on the limerent/non-limerent scale?

Wow, that's an interesting question. I would really like to know everybody's answer to that. It is the sort of question you might consider when developing a character.

I had to google limerence to check what it was all about, and my understanding is it's how obsessively you're in love.

So here's my answer... I am practical and pragmatic. I consider my relationship with my husband and kids as a unit and plan to be in it for life. I don't expect hearts and flowers the whole time, and I don't think that there might not be other people who would be great to be with, but breaking up this unit wouldn't be worth it.

That said, I had a totally obsessive relationship with my first husband, and I think it was the pain of that breaking down which made me step away from all people to avoid becoming that obsessed again. That was amazing and then hideous, and I lost myself in there. I would rather be in a relationship like the one I'm in, where everyone brings something to the table and everyone takes something too.

Marija, your questions were awesome. Thank you for tagging me to answer them. I'm excited about passing the baton of blue sky questions on.

So… quoting from Marija here, via Dawn who nominated her…

For those of you who don’t know, the rules of the Blue Sky Tag go something like this:
  1. Thank the person who has nominated you.
  2. Answer their questions.
  3. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
  4. Tag your 11 nominees.

Here are my 11 questions:

  1. What's frustrating you in your life just now and what do you think you might do about it?
  2. How do negative relationships make you feel and how do you deal with it?
  3. What word do you do that you get paid for? Alternatively, what would you consider doing?
  4. What was the most fun day you've had lately? What did you do?
  5. What do you use for writing? Any stationery favourites?
  6. Do you believe in magic? Ghosts? Faeries? Gods?
  7. Do you take inspiration from games or from TV? Any recommendations? Any favourites?
  8. How do you feel about sharing photos of yourself? Please share one!
  9. What are your favourite things about Autumn?
  10. How did you survive adolescence?
  11. What three bits of advice would you give my kids? (Pictured below - Mr 12, Miss 10, and Miss 7).

Here's who I'm tagging to take part:
I hope you can take part, I'd love to hear what you've got to say. Cheers!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Web-logging - September 2017

My irregular round up of what's going on with me and mine. I did take that photo above this month, on the 2nd. Now I'm glad that the kids decided to sack off all my plans and play in the sea because it now looks like that might have been the last nice day... ever.

Right now I'm:

Sitting at my desk. It was seriously messy and I promised myself I would tidy it up properly before I sat here again - you know what they say about tidy minds and all that (although I'm wondering if I'd want a tidy mind?), anyway, I cleared away the big stuff and have made a slightly wobbly pile of all the other stuff. On the top bit of my desk is a bit of paper which says 'DEPTHS' - this is so I can get people to say it without tainting them with the way I say it. I'm yet to meet someone who doesn't sound odd when they say it.

I've just got a glass of wine, because it's Thursday. Thursday is my favourite day because long ago I proclaimed it so and it can't just have been because of Top of the Pops and Tomorrow's World.

Today is also a good day because it's my daughter's birthday. We have a Miss 10! We have had a homework free day and tea out (at Subway because I've managed to kid my kids that that is an awesome treat), plus fancy cup cakes. It's all been lovely. She got the new Playmobil Cruise Ship, which is absolutely awesome. Her party is to come on Saturday, and will involve karaoke. If I told you that organising this hadn't been stressful I would be lying, but I shall not dwell.

Currently reading:

I've just last night finished reading Bitch Doctrine by Laurie Penney which is basically essays so was a bit repetitive at times but brilliant. I had to use a pencil as my bookmark and I swear half the book is underlined. It's really really really important reading, plus it introduced me to the word 'bloviating' which is a perfect description for Donald Trump's style of address.

Tonight I get to start re-reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, which I'm excited about. 

I am also reading Rebel Sun by Sophie McKeand, who is the sort of poet who makes me want to give up poeming and leave it to the professionals. Wow. Do go buy her book, and Laurie Penney's too. Rebel Sun is here, the cover is designed by Andy Garside who I'm hoping is going to become a tattoo artist.

Listening to:

At the moment I can hear my daughters getting ready for bed and my son playing with his friends. My husband is busily emptying bins. 

Before I started writing this (I write in quiet), I was listening to a Radio Westeros podcast. They might be my new favourite Game of Thrones podcast. Nice and simple while in-depth, their work makes me wonder new things (and think of new ideas). Also they have nice accents and don't seem overly impressed with their own opinions (there is so much of that about in my opinion ;-)).

I've just got a new phone, and corrupted the SD card I've had for years. Now I've only got the tracks I've downloaded, and my phone doesn't know which ones are recent and which not. It's all gone a bit random, and I keep hearing stuff I didn't know I had, while I'm missing things I'm more used to listening to lately.

The next songs coming up on my random shuffle playlist are:

Having fun:

We had a very stressful end to the summer holidays, with Miss 10 (then 9) getting really poorly and ending up in hospital for a few days. It was rubbish. We were stuck in there through the nice days and came out in the rain. But we came out and she's good and healthy so that's awesome.

We had to cancel a couple of events because of her not being well, so we went away last weekend to stay in the caravan in Maidens. The plan was to go to Culzean. We went to the beach instead.

That was it. That was summer, we've had it. It started raining on Saturday night and it's not stopped yet. Rumour has it we might see that ball of fire in the sky on Saturday. Cross your fingers for us!

On Instagram:

Allison Sadler had anoter fab #freeupmyinsta challenge, which I started taking part in, and then the weather and lots of things to do got on top of me, and I got lost in it all. I disappear when that happens, but I've been catching up today to make up for it. I still like using the prompts, but I'm also enjoying playing with the Instagram stories. Now that my Insta feed is clogged up with adverts and I miss most of the things the people I'm interested in post, I must admit that I mainly seem to use Stories, although I hate the ones where people use a story to tell you to go and look at their posts.

and here are three accounts I'm loving at the moment for their stories:

  • @allison_sadler_ Allison is full of Brummie joy and positivity. She runs a shop which looks amazing, engages beautifully with her followers, and is doing the #freeupmyinsta prompts I'm trying to take part in. She shares just enough about her day and the things that interest her, and also shares lots of love for others' accounts.
  • @margotmeanie Margot has 32,000 followers and yet still she engages with people and makes you feel like part of her circle. Her circle is fabulous. I would love to have an ounce of her style, and luckily you can buy just that because Margot also has the time to be a personal internet shopper!
  • @ikiwn Zoë, of I Knew I Was Next, is a fashion blogger who is tall, fabulous, from Yorkshire, but living in Scotland. We have so much in common 😉. She's great at amending clothes, which inspires me (although I am yet to take on a zip, unlike her!).
Here's my most popular picture so far this month... I think that if you're going to have a national animal it should be a fantastical one.

A post shared by Cara McKee (@caralmckee) on

Perving over:

Nothing. Tumbleweed is blowing through my fevered imagination.


Miss 10's birthday party tomorrow, various social events of various people in the next few weeks and Mr 11 (soon to be 12)'s birthday event next weekend. 'Tis the season, hence we're not planning much else. I was hoping to take a break over the October holidays but it isn't happening this year!


I read this really interesting article about Sylvia Plath, which is making me see her work in a new way, and to wonder just how mad the mad girl actually was. For women it is more true than for others that we are what people say of us. As I mentioned, I'm re-reading The Bell Jar. I've also been looking at some of Sylvia's poems again. I started with an obsession with Mad Girl's Love Song, which worked out well as it got me into villanelles, and I had one of those published in The Interpreter's House recently.

  • Just come to the end of Game of Thrones
  • Starting Tin Star (not watched any yet)
  • Watched No More Boys and Girls, which was interesting if a little binary for my liking in the way they kept making people put words like 'strong' into a box and then commenting on the fact that they did it. It was an interesting idea, but I find it very odd that the person leading the programme was a man, as was the teacher, particularly considering the fact that most primary school teachers are women. Still worth a watch though.


I've not managed much poetry this week, but I have been making some rather awesome posters for Miss 10's party tomorrow. This is the only one I managed to save in a version I can share here.


The boy has started secondary school and now school is a closed book to me, he's got all this stuff going on and I want to give him the confidence to do it himself, which he's getting with a little support a home, so I'm staying out of it, I haven't got in touch with the school about anything (although I'm keeping totally up to date with everything I can find out in other ways and I chuffing love the Show My Homework app).

The girls are doing great at their primary, enjoying their new uniforms, but not so happy about their new houses. They're not in the same one! And they're named after birds! Sigh. We have one Kestrel and one Osprey. They had been hoping that a neighbour might become house captain, but now they're not in the same house and, with the schools in the process of merging, there is only one captain per house in our bit of the new school, so he is not in, and we are gutted 😢 

We will probably get over it in a minute.

Another neighbour launched a new fish and chip shop in the town three short months ago and has recently won the award for being the best fish and chip shop in Scotland! TBH it's very well deserved, plus they give you a bucket and spade with a kids meal, so if you're in Largs pop to The Fish Works (and we'd recommend Geraldo's for ice cream, although Nardini's is pretty good too) 😉

Anyhow, how's it going with you?