Lets ask granny (She isn’t doing anything)
When I mention the word ‘Granny’ what springs to mind?
A plump white haired lady, sitting rosy cheeked, glasses perched on the tip of her nose, in an armchair by the fire clicking two knitting needles, a cat and a ball of wool on her lap?
Well that’s what I pictured.Until I became one.
It’s seven am I am already up and dressed and sitting at my kitchen table.
Laid out in front of me is a large water color pad.
At my right elbow is a jar of water.
Beside that another jar holding paint brushes and beyond that my box of Windsor and Newton paints (artists quality).
At my left elbow lies my smartphone and my headphones.
I panic for momentarily.
Is it silly to do my twenty minute morning meditation before I start painting?
I decide it might help me so I put on my head phones and listening to the voice on my app I take a few deep breaths, close my eyes and start counting my breaths.
A blanket of calm descends before…..Three hens scuttle in front of my closed eyes. Two Sussex whites and a Rhode island red.
‘Just a thought… acknowledge it and let it go’.
Feeling proud that I remember what to do, I return to the breathing.
Focusing on it.
The blanket descends again.
Then a gentle voice prompts me and I begin my body scan.
It’s going well.
I have got as far as my hands.
Another picture. This time harebells, their delicate heads nodding in the breeze.
Manganese blue for the sky I think? no! maybe cerulean? I might cheat and block out the clouds with masking fluid that way I can get a good wash with no harsh lines.
Oops! just a thought! let it go!
I return to the body scan’.
If you become distracted’ the soft voice in my earphones reminds me ‘just acknowledge the distraction and return to the breathing don’t fight it
‘That’s all very well.
ANOTHER picture emerges.
Hens trampling through the harebells!
It’s no use, I pull off the head phones. tossing them onto a chair.
I’ll try to paint mindfully instead and meditate later.
‘We’ve been given permission to hold an art exhibition’ Anne, one of my colleagues, announces excitedly, when I bump into her in the canteen on a particularly busy weekend in the hospital.
It’s so busy that I am only allowing myself a five minute break and and when she approaches I am in the process of cramming a scone down my throat.
‘Would you be interested in exhibiting some of your work? 25% of the proceeds of the sale will go to a charitable cause’.
I swallow half the scone in one go, crumbs shooting out of my mouth and try to remember if I have anything lying around worth exhibiting.
‘Its not till next May’ Anne continues, dodging a shower of crumbs.
‘You have lots of time’.
‘Count me in’ I announce lavishly.
‘I’m setting up a WhatsApp group’ smiled Ann ‘If you can think of anyone else let me know?’
And so, Christmas came and went.
Then work and then new year and then work.
And then Family and then work.
‘Could you collect the boys from school on a Thursday as well as the Wednesday?’ My youngest daughter asks.
Of course I could (Isn’t that what granny’s are for?)
‘Could you give me a hand out on Friday? the carpenters are coming’ My older daughter asks.
‘Of course no problem’ (Isn’t that what grannies are for?)
‘That bread was lovely last week. any chance you could bake some more?
‘Could you hold the baby, take the dog to the vet, take the dog to the groomers, pick up some nappies when your coming up, have a look at these garden designs, let the electrician in. open the door for the painter.
Of course I could.
And so the days/weeks passed swiftly.
‘How is your paintings coming along?’
That’s from the WhatsApp group.
‘Great’ I lied.
‘How many do you expect to be submitting?
‘My finger poises over the keys of my phone.
‘Six’ I type, foolishly.
I start to delete the ‘six’ and change it to ‘two’ but Ann has already seen it.
‘Great! Me too’ ooh so exciting!’
I’ll easily manage six, I console myself.
Spring is here.
‘Have a look at these garden design’ what do you think? Want to meet for a coffee and discuss them’, Should we move that shrub, mow the lawn, Could you hold the fort, mind the dog, the painters need to come back. Would you be free Mon/Tues/Thursday. Are you working this weekend?’
I am working this weekend.
It’s very busy. I’m not coping with it. Most days I am crying with frustration/sadness by the end of the shift.
I no longer have time in the day to do the basic nursing stuff (hold a hand, listen to a worry) I find it upsetting.
I decide to go to therapy to see if there is any way I can manage my work load better. (Should I use roller skates for example).
I check my diary and book myself in for Wednesday morning’s.
Other than collecting my grandsons from school, Wednesday appears free.
I really should be using Wednesdays for painting.
I go on a holiday to a small town in Portugal. I plan to do lots of painting while I’m there.
I pack my paints, brushes, pencils.
I see myself, straw sun hat firmly in place.
Easel placed strategically along the waterfront.
I will, I promise myself, produce my six paintings here.
Easy peasy no interruptions.
Except of course there are many interruptions.
Sun and wine and markets and beaches and coffees on terraces as I watch the world go by.
And meeting people.
‘You must make eye contact’ My daughter remarked, when I regaled them with my story on my return (and moaned about how difficult it is to be really alone).
‘Yes’ my other daughter nodded, agreeing with her sister ‘Random people don’t just approach you on a deserted beach unless you encourage them.’
Yes they do.
I went out to one of the islands and after stopping at a small restaurant for a lunch of delicious grilled mackerel, I continued my way across the island and arrived at a pristine beach.
I walked along the waters edge, following the line of the sand as it curved back around leading to the land side of the island.
I stopped for a swim in the crystal water and was dressed and in the process of stuffing my towel into my backpack when I spotted the lone figure making its way in my direction along the waters edge.
By the time I had added my swim suit and was closing the zip, a woman was standing six feet away.
‘Hello’ She was dressed in white jeans and a blue striped top.
‘Hello’ I replied not wanting to be rude but hoping that by keeping my eyes on my task it would discourage conversation.
‘I wonder if you could help me? I appear to be lost’!
‘Sorry, I’m a stranger on this island myself’ I start to explain.
‘Oh! Where are you from? Are You Irish?’
Before she had given me a chance to reply she was continuing HER story.
Her father was from Co Roscommon, her mother from leitrim, but they had moved to London after they were married and she and her siblings were born there.
She continued to explain how she was renting a friends house on the island (see daughters I haven’t given her any encouragement. In fact I haven’t had a chance to get a word in.)
Her mouth appeared very dry so I offered her a drink of my water. But she ignored my offer waving vaguely instead in the direction of the sand dunes.
‘I think its over there’.
Sure enough I could see some low roofs in the distance.
‘She rents it out! would you like to see it? You’re probably going that way anyway’.
At this stage I had my backpack on so I nodded.
I like coincidences and who knows, it might turn out to be a good place for our whole family to rent sometime. no harm in looking.
‘I’ll make you a cup of tea’. My new best friend announced as we headed off towards the dunes.
At this point of the story my daughters are looking at me incredulously and throwing their eyes to heaven.
‘You went with her and had TEA!!!!’
I ignored them and continued my story.
We were finally on a pathway leading towards the houses when she stopped and nudged me in the ribs.
‘NEVER EVER’ she hissed from the side of her mouth ‘EAT IN THERE’.
The path was running behind the small restaurant where I had stopped for a lunch.
‘Why not?’ I asked, my stomach suddenly feeling queasy.
(I thought she was about to tell me that their fish wasn’t fresh or they had been the cause of a recent food poisoning breakout on the island.)
She looked back over her shoulder, picking up speed.
‘They’ she confided in a whisper ‘Are suspected of all the recent break-ins on the islands’.
I breathed a sigh of relief as my stomach returned to normal.
I said goodbye to her at the harbor and as I sat waiting on the boat, waiting for its engine to start, I could see her figure slowly trudging back up the hill.
I left the island feeling stressed.
My daily holiday routine:
I meditate every morning up on my little terrace in the sun looking over the town.
Its going well!
No hens or harebells impinge on my calm mind.
I sketch every day, people and buildings and the beautiful cactus on the terrace.
But the water colors and paper stay in my bag. I cannot seem to get started.
‘Oh for goodness sake’ My Sister says, when I ring her in a panic.
‘You’re on holidays. Relax! Only do only what you feel like doing’
And so I take her advice and relax and the paper comes back empty and the brushes dry, The paints unopened.
There are six days left before the paintings have to be submitted.
A whatsApp message bleeps on my phone.
‘Are still submitting six? I need to know for sure. I’m figuring out the exhibition space. Oh and what size?’.
I am sitting in my daughters living room minding the children as I read the message.
My eyes alight on a couple of IKEA frames leaning against the wall.
I put the baby on the floor and take a look at one of them. 40cms x 50cms it reads.
’40 x 50cms’ I type .
The baby crawls at high speed for the shoes on the mat.
I scoop her up before she reaches them and she wails in protest.
(why do babies always want to play with dirty/dangerous/ objects?)
I pop her into her high chair and give her a breadstick. pulling the high chair over beside me as I set out my paper and paints on the table.
‘Can I paint too nanny?’
My three your old grandson is mesmerized by my hen paintings.
‘Of course you can’
I push my own paper aside and show my grandson how to wet the brush and apply the paint.
(isn’t that what granny’s do)
I now have three days left in which to produce six paintings.
I get a phone call from my brother.
‘Come quickly! Mom isn’t well’.
I make the 30 minute journey to check on her.
He is right, she is very unwell.
I call an ambulance.
and follow it down to the hospital. They will keep her in for treatment. I stay until she gets a bed and help settle her in.
Its late when I get home.
I have two days to produce my six paintings.
Somehow I manage it.
I’m a super duper Granny.
(P.s I don’t intend sounding boastful! I just learnt a thing or two at my therapy.)