Issue 4: Old Age
2. Editor’s letter
3. Oscar Rubio A look at the winner of our first Brikolage competition in more detail 4. Grandad’s Leg Image by Tommy Maguire 7. Old Age Two untitled illustrations by Kamila Ratajczak 9. Old Robot An illustration by Andrew Dunn 10. Writers and Old Age Neal Alexander looks at literature’s fascination with old age with an illustration by Paolo Caravello 13. At Her Grandmother’s House A poem by Rosanna Hall , accompanied by an image by Piotr Klarowski 14. Old Age An illustration by Mohan Ballard 15. Scottish Soul Survivor [featured artist] Jessica Rodgers interviews our featured artist Rossco Galloway Image by Paolo Caravello 18. A New Life An interview with the woman who breathed life into the old clothes of St Margaret’s Hospice by Rachael Macintyre 22. The Chickens Creative piece by H L Miller illustrated by Sanna Dyker 24 Images inspired by Old Age Illustrations by Lauren Ellen Anderson and Emmeline Pidgeon 27. Remembering
Creative writing by Rachael Macintyre with photographs by Florencia Garcia Chafuen
EDITORS ’ LETTER I t’s Old Age, the last issue of Brikolage in the Age series, but it’s never felt more full of life as it does right now. Running Brikolage this year has been full of ups and downs; always ending in an up. With team changes and unfortunate funding application failures it’s sometimes been hard keeping the magazine going. But then we produce an issue and it looks fantastic! I’m approached by so many people who want to be involved and who tell me they love reading it, I just have to think there’s a way to get round these problems and to turn Brikolage into the fully blown concept that’s bubbling away in my brain right now. So, in 2011 that’s what is going to happen. The theme is Shapes starting with Square which is already getting me very excited. I’m interested to see what visual images will come up and what people
will write about! We’ve got plenty of ideas in the Brikolage team of how to develop this magazine and I feel now we have a strong, together group which can make it happen. So with these new developments on the horizon sit back, put your feet up and enjoy Old Age. We have a bundle of superb illustrations; the one you see on the front cover by Oscar Rubio won the first Brikolage Cover Competition to illustrate our feature artist Rossco Galloway. We have an interesting essay on Writers and Old Age, a fashionista who turns old clothes into stylish and eccentric pieces and some great short stories too.
Next year will be Shapes and I can’t wait to see you there!
This Winter we love... Rachael Macintyre Creative director ... wood burning stoves, leg warmers and aerial classes at DanceBase http://bit.ly/d7gynE
Alison Wilson Head Designer ...comedy knitwear, exotic flavoured teas and listening to the Merchants http://mysp.ac/c3KTtB
Indira Kemp Editor ... chilli chocolate (and mulled wine!); jumper dresses; playing with kittens with a noscratch guarantee! http://bit.ly/duJtgW
Piotr Klarowski Designer ... hot and spicy Indian takeaway, grande mocha and sheepskin trousers http://bit.ly/bOoAwe
Poppy Bending Beckett Marketing Manager ... my GNU snowboard, Miss Wax Jewellery and lots of mulled vino! http://misswax.com/ Assistant designer: Matt Woodruffe
Amanda Svensson Falk Marketing Manager ... warmer weather, mulled wine and Frank Sinatra http://bit.ly/cZTExa
For the last issue in the Age series, Brikolage held a Cover Competition. The challenge was to illustrate the music of our feature artist, Rossco Galloway. We were enamoured with so many different illustrations, but the one you see on the cover, by Oscar Rubio, we felt was a perfect depiction of his music and it is a brilliant front cover for our Old Age issue. Oscar Rubio is our first front cover artist not living in the UK. Residing in Leon in the north of Spain, Oscar loves using watercolours, ink and pen in his illustrations. He has a blog called the Bed & Breakfast Blog which is written in Spanish and English, where he puts up all of his news, illustrators that he loves and, of course, his own artwork. Oscar is currently illustrating two books and, as well as his blog, check out his website for all of his latest work. Blog: www.oscarrubioilustracion.wordpress.com Website: www.oscarrubioilustracion.com Twitter: www.twitter.com/O_Rubio. 5
gran , dad s le g
by Tommy Maguire
My Grandad James was a funny old bloke. He was also a lying old shit.
ne of my first, fully formed memories of him involve him sitting in his old brown chair, watching telly, shirt open and pot belly on full display. I must have only been about four as I ambled up to him and asked him why his belly was so perfectly round. He said he was pregnant. I may have been young, but having a baby sister I knew that it was women who had babies, not men, and informed him of my knowledge. He was adamant that he was pregnant and with one hand on his bulge asked me if I wanted to feel the baby kick. I said yes and put my hand where his had been, then he kicked the legs out from underneath me. Like I say, a funny bloke, but an old shit none-the-less. Grandad James walked with
a very pronounced limp for most of his life and when I was young I’d occasionally enquire about it and always get a different answer. The first one I remember, when I was about six, was “Well, Sam, when I was in the war I got shot three times in the leg by a German soldier. The bullets
are still in there, that’s why I never fly anywhere. Airports won’t let me through their security; I always set the metal detectors off.” A week later it was a Japanese soldier and it was four times he was shot. A week after that it was a parachuting accident, then an ‘incident’ whilst skiing.
When I was ten he told me he’d been swimming in the sea and a shark had bitten off his foot, so he’d beaten up the shark and got his foot back but the doctors couldn’t stitch it all back on and his left leg was an inch shorter than his right. I thought he was the strongest, bravest man alive. Thinking back on it now I was a gullible kid, but his leg did have a lot of scar tissue on it towards the bottom so it leant weight to his stories. When I was about twelve I realized that all I was ever going to get from him was lies on the subject so stopped asking him or indulging him if he ever looked misty eyed and started a sentence with the words “Did I ever tell you the story about my leg…?”
with my family, sometimes on my own. It was during one of these solo visits that I looked at him and realised just how ill he was. I stood outside his door for a moment and saw him just staring at the wall, and saw for the first time the old man that he had become. He seemed to be waiting, confined in his bed. I walked in and gave him a hug, but before I could say anything he asked if he’d ever told me how he came to have his limp. I laughed, because it had been ten years since I’d stopped believing the stories he told, and a good four years since I’d heard one. I said no. “Get yourself a seat then, Sam, because it’s time for the truth.
Over the years his health started to fail, nothing terrible like Alzheimer’s or cancer, he just got old and weak. He was never the healthiest of people, he smoked, he drank a fair amount of ale (hence his perfectly round stomach) and he had a fondness for beef and other artery clogging foods (another contributing factor to the stomach). When he went into the hospital he was really weak, but still making jokes to all the staff and with us. I visited him a couple of times a week, sometimes
“When the war was over and I was back in Britain, I was still quite a young man. Not much older than yourself. And like most young men I enjoyed a drink or two, or twelve. There was three of us that used to go out every weekend to the dance halls and drink and dance with the young girls and generally have a bit of a laugh. It was me, John, and his cousin David. Anyway one night we drank a lot more than we should have and found
ourselves up in Muswell Hill. John and David were living in Tottenham at the time and I was living in Wood Green. We’d spent all our money and no one fancied walking home so, well, we stole a bus from the depot. Sheer stupidity on our part, but also the bus company’s. They’d left the keys in the ignition and we were able to just stroll into the depot and swipe it. Me and John climbed in the back and David started her up and away we went. We went straight down the hill towards Turnpike Lane then turned onto the High Road. We were all laughing our heads off before John realised that we couldn’t park a bus up in front of one of our houses. After shouting this through to David at the wheel he made the decision to drive up to Ally Pally and dump it there. Me and John were happy with this and settled back for the ride. David chugged it up that big hill and we all got out ready to finally walk home when John saw that there was a big motorbike show set up for the next day with ramps and bikes all over the place, even another few buses that they were going to jump over. We had a bit of a laugh sitting on the 5
bikes going ‘Vroom Vroom’. We probably would have pinched them as well but they’d been clever enough to take the keys out of the ignition. Before long I turned on my heel to leave and John started following me. We stopped when we realised that David wasn’t with us and when we found him he was staring at one of the ramps. He didn’t look at us, just stated very matter of factly that he reckoned he could jump the bus we’d nicked over ten of the bikes. Neither of us said anything. That’s when he looked at us and said ‘How many opportunities are we going to get to try?’ Like I said Sam, we were young, stupid and very drunk. We pulled ten
bikes in front of the ramp, David got in the drivers seat and me and John got in the back. He started her up, revved a load of times then bloody went for it. I still remember the feeling of coming off that ramp. Me and John were looking out the same window and time went in slow motion, we actually counted each bike as we passed over it, one… two… three… we were soaring and thought it was going to make it, four… five…, plenty of air space, we were still a good thirty feet over them, six… seven… mid-way over the eighth the bus came crashing straight down, BANG! As it was going down John and me went straight up to the ceiling, side by side, then we crashed down, him straight
onto my leg. The bone came out of the bottom where it had snapped clean in half. And that’s how I got my limp”. “Fucking hell Grandad!” I was in shock. “What happened though? How come you came crashing down if you were doing so well?” “Well after a few moments David came stumbling in and we screamed the same question at him. He said he thought one of us had rung the bell.” Grandad settled back into his pillow and laughed harder than I’d ever seen him laugh in his life. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; my Grandad James was a funny old bloke, but he was also a lying old shit.
“I’ve ’ said it before, and I’ll ’ say it again; my Grandad James was a funny old bloke, but he was also a lying old shit .”
illustrations: “Old Age” Kamila Ratajczak 7
Old Robot by Andrew Dunn
& old AGE by Neal Alexander Image by Paulo Caravello
hat does ‘old’ mean? As is the way with these things, the answer depends on what we think we know about time. Asked when exactly Lucky has lost the power of speech in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Pozzo responds furiously: ‘Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It’s abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day like any other day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? (Calmer.) They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more’. There’s a grim sort of humour to this outburst, where the popular understanding of time as a succession of happenings
capable of precise measurement that move steadily, remorselessly from beginning to middle to end is stretched to absurdity. Born over a grave, received by the gravedigger’s waiting forceps, our lives are collapsed to the infinitesimal gap between birth and death. Growing old takes no longer than it does to fall six feet through the air. Pozzo’s image, one of the most powerful in twentiethcentury literature, effectively abolishes ‘accursed time’ by accelerating it to the point where human experience becomes negligible, next to nothing. On the other hand, Beckett’s play also presents a contrary view of time as infinitely distended, for Didi and Gogo experience each day as pretty well identical to the next, waiting by a country road for someone they do not know, who never comes. Gogo doesn’t even remember what happened the day before, existing in an eternal present without beginning or end.
changes and everything changes all at once; time is irrelevant and all-pervasive simultaneously. In a sense, Beckett’s characters are born old; but without a contrasting notion of what it might be to be ‘young’, what can ‘old’ possibly mean?
The irony of his lack of memories, however, is that whilst for him there can be no movement either forward or back, he is nonetheless incapable of registering continuities and so encounters each experience anew in a context
of continual change. ‘It’s never the same pus from one second to the next,’ he complains. Similarly, as a young man, Beckett wrote: ‘The creation of the world did not take place once and for all time, but takes place every day.’ Nothing
Beckett once remarked that old age offered ‘a writer’s best chance’ because physical and mental decrepitude lead to acute self-criticism: ‘Now my memory’s gone, all the old fluency’s disappeared. I don’t write a single sentence without saying to myself, ‘It’s a lie!’ So I know I was right. It’s the best chance I’ve ever had.’ The poet W.B. Yeats felt similarly ambivalent about the process of ageing, finding its symptoms both unwelcome and essential to the vitality of his late work. He regarded ‘lust’ and ‘rage’ as his dominant characteristics in old age, asking rhetorically in ‘The Spur’: ‘What else have I to spur me into song?’ Age equates to virility and creative strength, even as bodily weaknesses and infirmities of health are regretted. For Yeats, experience was structured through a network of antinomies and dialectics, the dynamic counter-posing of abstract oppositions – 11
love/hate, self/other, order/ chaos, youth/age. These oppositions were, for him, always unstable, susceptible to shifts and reversals but also productive of the tensions and difficulties that made life worth living. Ironically, life in many ways became more exhilarating and intense the nearer he approached to death, and his literary powers increased until his very last days. At the same time, aging was also experienced in the familiar terms of regret and nostalgia for the opportunities of youth. In one of his very last poems, ‘Politics’, Yeats’ speaker attempts to concentrate on the political discussion going on around him – the crisis on the Second World War is only months away – but is distracted by a pretty girl across the room:
that I have been writing my thoughts in prose and verse, but I feel that I have not said the thousandth part of what is in me.’ The writer’s words and works overflow the short duration of life he has been allowed, and death will cheat his readers of the masterpieces unwritten. If death means silence, though, old age entails a race against time, and so partakes of the essential vitality and creativity that we typically associate with life. Time is not progressing steadily from zero to infinity but, on the contrary, it is counting down an allotted span. The key point here is that old age is a part of life rather than the first phase of death. Simone de Beauvoir defends this view in the preface to her marvellous book, Old Age, when she asks ‘what does growing old
is gradual death? Certainly not. A paradox of this kind disregards the basic truth of life – life is an unstable system in which balance is continually lost and continually recovered: it is inertia that is synonymous with death. Change is the law of life. Need we, asks De Beauvoir, conceive of the changes that are particular to old age as being necessarily negative and unfavourable? Does old age always and everywhere equate to decline? And if so, what does that say about how we imagine the meanings of our lives as a whole?
And maybe what they say is true Of war and war’s alarms, But O that I were young again And held her in my arms. If nothing else, these lines make clear that even writers like Yeats could be silly old fools like the rest of us. A different sort of regret is voiced by the novelist Victor Hugo, writing late in his long life: ‘It is half a century now
mean?’: The notion is bound up with that of change. Yet the life of the foetus, of the newborn baby and of the child is one of continuous change. Must we therefore say, as some have said, that our life
At Her , Grandmother’s House by Rosanna Hall
t was before the fields were shorn, full to the brim the rivers flowed’ I drop another sugar lump into my tea, Somewhere far away, glass clinks, She blinks, I try and think, Of something I haven’t already said. ‘It is like walking through fog, my dear.’ Time had poured itself in. It had already left her gasping. But back then, The Seine, Big Ben, paying Yen Into old museums, capturing crumbled monuments, With disposable cameras. Their negatives could together roll for miles, They’d held hands by the Nile, two secret smiles. But now, Now through thick, rounded spectacles. She looks up, at his face, not at the photograph above the fireplace, But at his face, worn smooth in her mind like a much rubbed coin. She turns away, He watches as her body curls into the light. And we hear the silence of the street, But for the soft wind on the panes.
image: Piotr Klarowski 13
Old Age by Mohan Ballard
Scottish Soul Survivor By Jessica Rogers Image by Paolo Caravello
Rossco Galloway talks about his Scottish roots, gigging in Edinburgh and the musical heroes that inspired his passion.
are gentle, arms are open wide...’
The chorus of Rossco Galloway’s ‘Drem
Sunset Song’ is an enchanting homage to the ethereal folk music of old Scotland. The simple yet captivating harmony and lilting voice conjures up a haunting scene of misty hills, rolling valleys and a lonely kilted figure, singing wistful ballads. Rossco to look at does not, however, cut the figure of the wistful romantic. His shaved head and piercing gaze at first glance give the impression of someone one wouldn’t want to fuck with. Leaning forward, with that ever intense, all-seeing gaze, he is a far cry from the floppy haired knitted jumper types usually found occupying corners of cafes strumming guitars and singing about love lost. He is, however, articulate, sensitive and intelligent. Attributes which become apparent once he begins to talk. When I ask him if the Scottish tone of this music is something which he does on purpose, he bristles slightly. ‘My ex was into a lot of Scottish music, and that influenced me to explore a lot of it, which in turn sparked the Scottish sound in my music. And the accent’s not affected.’ End of. The Scottish influence of his songs, although something which has only recently come about, is obviously important to him. Originally from Gullane, 34-year old Rossco has lived on Iona, the peaceful picturesque isle off the west coast, before finally settling in Edinburgh. As his interest in Scottish music, both old and contemporary,
has grown so the range of his musical ability has widened further. Now the list of artists he reels off when I ask him about music he loves is as varied as you could imagine. ‘I’m really inspired by The Fence Collective,’ he states. ‘And I grew up as a kid in Gullane listening to the country singer Stuart Adamson.’ There follows a lengthy discussion on artists ranging from Joni Mitchell to the Sex Pistols, via John Lennon and The Rolling Stones. ‘I remember the moment I decided I wanted to be a musician, though. I was 18, I’d just got home from work, and playing on the telly was Noel Gallagher performing with Paul Weller. They were singing ‘Talk Tonight’, and I don’t even like Oasis, but I went out and bought a guitar the very next day, and the rest is history.’ Having just completed a three-year residency in The Royal Oak on Infirmary Street, Rossco now performs at The Jazz Bar on Chambers Street every Friday with his band The Chans. A veteran of the Edinburgh scene, he is clear on the benefits, and disadvantages of having such a small capital city. ‘I think Edinburgh is full of relatively untapped talent, but I don’t think any of them are that high on the totem pole. It’s a small scene, where pretty much everyone knows each other. ‘Glasgow is more about the image, it’s frequently changing. But Edinburgh artists have an integrity. They’re
committed to improving their craft and writing. And they’re a pleasure to work with. But there aren’t that many people, for a capital city, who love making music, or seeing live music. A venue like the Corn Exchange can draw crowds of thousands, but for smaller acts it is definitely hard to get an audience sometimes. There’s not the same passion here as there is in Glasgow...’ I change the subject. How would he define his music? ‘Well, my sound has been described as Scottish Soul. It’s modern folk. But there are aspects of hip-hop, country, jazz... It’s a melting pot. Those are good words to describe it.’
called A Spanking in Paradise!’ When I tentatively ask what the film is about, he laughs. ‘A friend of mine grew up as a towel boy in his uncle’s sauna. He saw a lot of sights, and set and filmed the film in Edinburgh. It’s a comedy. It’s very Scottish. In fact, someone from outside Scotland might have difficulty understanding parts of it.’ The trailer for A Spanking in Paradise promises a dark comedy, thoroughly Scottish and thoroughly rude. I ask him about the future of Scottish music, and intense Rossco turns into far-off dream-world Rossco. ‘George Harrison once said that on his jukebox
‘I’ve also just finished the soundtrack to a film that a friend of mine has made. It’s called A Spanking in Paradise.’ When Rossco says it’s hard to pigeonhole his sound, he has a point. The mournful lilting folk-y song I mentioned at the beginning of the piece sounds nothing like ‘Get Free’, a feisty blues track that is a celebration of life, and being a total c***, apparently. Get Free is the title track of the studio album that Rossco and The Chans have just completed. ‘My friend Gavin Duvet has done the artwork, we just need to send it to DJs and have a launch party! When will it be ready? ... ... ... Hopefully before Christmas!
he only wanted music that he would want to listen to for the rest of his life. I think that that is why musicians like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and The Band have the power to last so long that people are still listening to them and being influenced by them today. They have longevity. And I think that Leslie Feist and King Creosote both have that quality. I think people will be listening to them in years to come.’
‘I’ve also just finished the soundtrack to a film that a friend of mine has made. It’s
e f i l w e n a Kennedy
with Jill w e i v r e t n i An intyre c a M l e a h c by Ra let’s turn these je an fantastically biza s into a r shorts with leg st re pair of raps !
With photos by Andy King
remember the first time I saw the St Margaret’s Hospice shop on Byres Road in Glasgow because it looked different. They’d put vintage nick nacks around the shop and made it look all second-hand chic, but without the ridiculous price tags. Now all of Byers Road has transformed into trendy vintage heaven (from We Love to Boogie to the upmarket Oxfam), but there was, and still is, something about what St Margaret’s Hospice sell that caught my eye. Led by Jill Kennedy, three Glasgow shops take second hand, old clothes and transform them into eye catching high fashion garments. Not “let’s turn this long dress into a short dress”, but more “let’s turn these jeans into a fantastically bizarre pair of shorts with leg straps”. It turns out I discovered the brains behind this form of “upcycling” just in time as Jill has now left the shop and moved to London. But her legacy remains in the form of fabulous one-off outfits so before she left I caught her for a wee Q&A session.
Why did you start this process of regenerating old clothes into new ones? Customising and altering clothing is something that I have done since my mid teens. During my time at school, at art school, and still to this day in all honesty, the major motivating factor for me has been my own financial limitations. I wanted clothing that stood out and could hold its head up beside the best high street (and as my skills grew) designer offerings. So altering things from charity shop finds and family cast offs was the only option. Do you have a personal attachment with the charity? How did you become involved in the charity and in the shop? I have a personal attachment to the charity now, but that was born of them giving me an opportunity to flex my creative muscles as a new graduate, when no other employer would. No connection or indeed awareness of the charity existed prior to my employment with them. This is something that I am almost ashamed of now as the
work that they do at the hospice in Clydebank really is remarkable and it was the first ever hospice in Scotland. It seems crazy that they are not talked about and written about more! I, like many other Scottish graduates from the creative disciplines, found myself in the frustrating position of feeling that I had much to offer but that there was really nothing by way of job options available to me. I had been working in a contact centre for a year and by chance saw the St Margaret’s shop manager job advertised online. The shop, in the sense that it now exists, was not around when I started with
the organisation. The 3 shops I have set up in the 2 years I have worked for the organisation have been entirely my creations and my bosses at St Margaret’s have been wonderfully supportive, allowing me to experiment and encouraging my
strengths. For that I will always be grateful to St Margaret’s. What is your background in regards to fashion? I graduated from Glasgow School of Art having completed a BA (Hons) in Jewellery Design. In hindsight I would say this probably was not the correct path for me, given that I was making my own clothing before, during and after the course! However, since graduating, I have taught myself the basics of pattern cutting and construction by participating in various night classes and by a lot of trial and error. I feel that having completed a jewellery degree has given me a unique vantage point when it comes to considering shape, material choice and examining ways in which garments relate to the body. I have just begun a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design (women’s wear) at London College of Fashion which should, finally, get me started on the path I should probably have chosen in the first place! I think what you’ve done is a unique selling point in regards to the shop as a business. Where do you think this could go? Where do you want it to lead?
I think that people’s views on consumables as a whole have changed dramatically over the past 5 years. People, for the most part, would prefer to reinvent and reuse rather than disposing of something that still has life in it and buying new. In this respect I think what we are doing is a feasible business model as it caters for what people want now. On another level, what we do appeals as everybody wants to be individual and walking away with a genuinely unique, bespoke garment is a pretty persuasive pull factor for most people. We had a great deal of interest in the upcycling workshop we ran at T in the Park, where we showed people the basics of customisation and how to do simple alterations on garments, and this is something we may be continuing in the form of an evening class in the future. We may be rolling out a design consultation service where we will basically give people ideas on how they can breathe new life into the worst of what’s in
their wardrobes, and supporting new designers is always something I would push forward. I have been talking recently to a group of 3rd year art school students with a view to showcasing their work in the shop for a small donation to the charity. You’re leaving the shop, what do you hope to leave behind? How would you like your ideas to be developed? In leaving the shop my main hope is that I have challenged some people’s perceptions on what a charity shop is. I have long felt that, just because the proceeds of an enterprise are going to a good cause, this is no reason for the organisation to be any less customer focused or innovative than a more traditional retail environment. I have tried to create an open forum for creative types to express themselves, motivate each other and generate money for an extremely worthy cause. As far as I can see everybody involved wins. There is so much that can be gained from exchanging skills and creating a sense of community in a charity shop environment that this, in whichever guise it may take, is what I would most like my legacy with the organisation to be.
The Chickens by H L Miller. Illustrated by Sanna Dyker
he sun’s setting again, of course it is, it always does, but so quickly, always so quickly. My granny warned me, “Time speeds up as you get older, flies by it does”. Well she was right in some ways, the months and years do but not the hours and minutes, not the seconds, not in here. I don’t know what I’ve done but they won’t let me out so I suppose it must have been bad.
Never stop, the noise wakes the children in the night, I can hear the crying.
Mrs Levitt, she means well and she says she’s fed the chickens, I know she’s lying she doesn’t even know how many there are.
Mary’s baby will arrive soon, John if it’s a boy, Ruby if it’s a girl. I need some white, or yellow, two ply and number 11 needles, but apparently knitting needles aren’t allowed, health and safety. I ask you! There’s bombs dropping all over and
I’ve been wanting to get into town for ages now, I need some wool I’ve got so much knitting to do. I haven’t even started on the teddies yet, not a thing ready for Christmas. Everyone else is all sorted. They say “you just relax, you’ve got all the time in the world”. But I haven’t, have I? There’s the school jumpers, they all need new ones, Mrs Evans thinks she can palm me of with little scrap, silly little balls of wool that aren’t even the right colour. Maroon it’s got to be maroon. Ruby starts school today, little Ruby in her long white socks and grey pleated skirt, I hope she’s not cold, without her jumper. I should have told Mary to put an extra vest on her and her socks! They’re meant to wear short socks, I should have rolled them over. The lorries are loud tonight, I don’t know where they all come from, there used to be about one a week now they’re never ending.
They’ve not put the chickens in again, we’re meant to be doing our bit but what’s the point of me hatching all those eggs if they leave the chickens out for the fox. I might as well have fed them to the children.
what how socks? in all
they’re worried about knitting needles and about the socks, Mum knit Dads His feet will get sore that mud.
They say he’s dead, my dad and my mum. Rita, my sister Rita, they say she’s dead too,
of old age but she’s younger than me. I know they’re lying because we went on holiday last week to Barmouth and Dad bought me and Rita buckets and spades and a kite for James. I don’t know why they don’t come and see me, they haven’t been for months.
them that the children are outside but they won’t listen. I can hear them crying, they can’t get in to the house or the Anderson. They must be cold without their jumpers.
James is dead. He was playing on the railway track. And little baby Sally, I called her Sally but they said she’d come too soon to have a name. I cuddled her for as long as I could, she was so still, I suppose that’s why they call it a still birth. They took her away, not just the tiny body that I’d wrapped in my cardie but her very existence, we all pretended she’d never happened.
Mrs Miller says I have a visitor so I go to the mirror to tidy my hair. There in front of me is an old lady, a very old lady with deep wrinkles and a drooping mouth and saggy eyes. What happened, where did the time go?
It’s teatime again. The cake is dry and the tea is stewed. I do miss my kitchen.
“Oh, I’m so pleased you’re here! Can you let the children in and put the chickens away?”
It’s dark now and the tanks keep rumbling past. I tried telling
My room is a bit quieter than down stairs and they’ve made me a fresh cup of tea.
“Ruby’s here to see you and she’s bought you a lovely cake.” I turn round to see a short fat middle aged woman “Ruby!” She smiles, I give her a hug. “How are you Nan?”
Her smile goes, just for a second, and she says “Already done Nan, the children are tucked up in bed and the chickens, all eleven, are fed and in the coop” I kiss her cheek and we enjoy the cake.
Images on Old Age
above: Lauren Ellen Anderson
right:, Emmeline Pidgen
by Rachael Macintyre Photography by Florencia Garcia Chaufen
The sky was clear, ice blue. In the distance a small glowing sun could be seen; it seemed so tiny and there was no evidence of its warmth on the frost bitten ground. The leaves still left from the warm autumn fall had turned grey and begun to dissolve. The black trees towered above the icy tarmac pathways that snaked through the park, and they pierced the sky with their bare claws. Miriam sat on a bench, in the middle of the path at the top of a small hill. It didnâ€™t have the best view over the park, and the city, but it was quiet and from here she could
smell the damp leaves at her feet and feel a sharp, biting breeze through a gap in the trees. She folded her fur collar up and over her chin and her mouth. She felt an immediate rush of warmth, before the wetness of her breath began to soak the fur across her face. She pulled the collar down again. She looked up, squinted her eyes and tried to catch a glimpse of something in the branches. She did the same, but this time to her right side; as if trying to see something in the distance. Both times she saw nothing. She closed her eyes and saw
Harryâ€™s face. His thick, black rimmed glasses pressed into his fat cheeks as he sneered at her. When was that? She opened her eyes and shook her head to rid herself of his image. His features popped out in the corner of her eye; a nose, his eyes, his crooked bottom tooth. She tried to think of something else. Of someone else. Of Jonathan. And lovely Louisa. Oh they are so wonderful together. Miriam straightened up and shuffled herself on the bench as she thought about them. She smiled and felt relaxed. She saw Harryâ€™s face again and frowned. Stupid Harry. 29
Oh! She quickly put her hand to her mouth. What an awful thing to say. Miriam turned down the corners of her mouth and frowned as she thought about it. So what if it’s an awful thing to say? She hated regret and guilt and wished she could just say something rude or do something daring and wouldn’t feel either of those things. Even now she does. That makes no sense. But then… She blew on her leather gloves and watched the steam form a cloud as it left her lips, before dispersing through her fingers; evaporating into the crisp air. She isn’t sure why it does that, but it does. A couple walked past her, hand in hand on the path through the park. They looked at each other, stopped and kissed. Miriam whipped her head away. Oh my. Hesitantly, she turned her head back slightly and flicked her eyes as far round as they could go. A brown gloved hand on the small of a back. The coat is thick, but the hand presses down and
the fingertips imagine what is underneath. Their faces are the only flesh visible. Pink cheeks and noses touching. Eyes closed. Two lips apart, moving together, closing and pressing wet against each other before they move away. The couple stopped and walked on. A kiss that probably only lasted a second, but to Miriam it lasted an hour. She watched them go and just as they began to blur, to turn into smudges against the clear silver backdrop she closed her eyes and repeated what she had just seen in her mind. Harry had never kissed her like that. She saw Harry’s face. His fat cheeks. Oh Harry. Miriam shuffled again on the bench. Most people would probably be freezing cold by now. She would have been too. She would stay there a little longer and maybe she would see Jonathon and Louisa later on.
She liked to see them. She often thought if she’d had another child her relationship with Jonathon would be easier. She thought that as she sat on the bench. She’d hounded him, hadn’t she? Bothered him all of the time. She tried to remember why; more specifically she tried to remember what it felt like. She had been pushing him away, but her feelings had taken over logic. What were they? She listed the reasons and each one was a synonym of protection. That was all it was about. Although now, when she remembers it she sees her pushing her son away with all of her badgering and there is no sense in that. He had forgiven her. He had cried. But, he didn’t know how sorry she was. She could never tell him that although every time she saw him she tried. She just couldn’t get it out. She would go and visit them tonight.
visited Harry on a Tuesday. Miriam couldn’t abide seeing him. She did not want to face it yet. Remembering him was enough. It wouldn’t be long before he left life behind. She would have to wait until then.
Oh, but Harry. There he was again entering her thoughts, her world. It was a Tuesday. They
Remembering him was enough.
Miriam looked up and through the trees to feel the breeze on her face. It pinched her cheeks, jabbing tiny needles on the plump curves of her cheeks as she lifted them in a protective squint of the eyes. She looked up at the trees. They were black earlier on. Giant shadows against the bright sky. Now the sun, still so small in the distance, was setting and the sky had turned a pink shade of orange. It warmed the trees with a tender glow. It caressed them with a beautiful light. She sighed and leaned back. She wouldn’t visit anyone tonight. She didn’t want to see Harry.
Thank you to everyone involved in Brikolage: the fantastic team who worked with me to put this and all of our past issues together and the wonderfully talented contributors who make the magazine beautiful and interesting. Without all of your input there would be no Brikolage and with your continued support we can turn Brikolage into a hub of creativity; where people come to be inspired and where they have the opportunity to showcase what they do.
Old Age is the last issue in the Age series, but in this case death definitely isnâ€™t the end; rather it signifies the beginning of something new. Yes next year the theme is something completely different, something far more abstract. Shapes. There will be Square, Triangle, Circle and Line. The first issue in the theme will be Square so get creative! Whatever medium you choose; writing, painting, photography, sculpture, dance or fashion we want to hear from you! Weâ€™re giving you the whole of the festive season to mull it over so in 2011 weâ€™re expecting great things.
Be inspired! For more details check out www.brikolage.co.uk Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brikolage
Published on Dec 14, 2010