Tag Archives: Marella Albion

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I had a good day, it wasn’t today. I am a weather refugee, I am possibly the only person who migrated to the UK chiefly because of the weather (with sense of humour as a close runner-up).  I am not much of a summer person. I come from a hot country and, unlike the Brits, I recoil in horror when the temperature soars above 22 degree Celsius and duly scram in the shadow.

So, while every Londoner is heading to the nearest park, to bare their flesh after work, I, the Mediterranean, am struggling and I have turned turn into a cast iron curmudgeon. I am also waking up, after a surge of pain that made me laugh.

Here’s the background. I have had a tough two years.  I don’t mind too much, because I have also learnt quite a lot about myself. Nothing, however, could have prepared me to what happened in February; the death of someone I loved dearly.

Some say that if it does not kill you, pain makes one stronger. It made me weaker, more tired, it banished me to a land of muffled sounds and toned down colours, until something happened yesterday, that makes me hope.

I found a note that my friend wrote to me once, in response to one of my silly letters I used to write to entertain him. It was part of my modest contribution to a man who knew how to live and gave his illness the finger in style.

This note, in flowery note paper, said: “You are funny, God has blessed you.”

He signed it ‘Hony’, the phonetic version of my nickname for him: Honey. (My friend did not speak English.) It was that ‘Hony’ that did it for me. When I read it I started laughing, I laughed so much I ended up sobbing. Not a pretty show; since a walrus has more grace than my sobbing self, believe you me.

I am sharing this with you because I have decided to grow up and not feel guilty and ashamed simply because I am not ship shape 24/7. If life has knocked you about a little and your self-esteem is not sky-high, you know where I am coming from.

I have had enough of impossible, self-imposed standards. I have lost a dear friend, I am mourning. This pain is necessary. So, here it is, for all of you to see, I trust you to take this message and understand it. It’s in your hands now. This is my note to my darling friend, in a style he would have appreciated:

Hi Honey,

I saw your old note. Thank you.

It’s 30 degrees out there. Imagine a cross between a human and a sour lemon and you will know what I look like these days. Thundering Zeus would look more conciliatory than me as I write this, except that Zeus did not have to walk back a mile in the sweltering heat to retrieve a forgotten key. It’s a dangerous thing to have no brain and two handbags.

I can see you raise your eyebrows and patiently fold your arms. I can see you nod, inviting me to unroll the long papyrus of complaints.

YES; we are in the middle of a heat wave. What’s the use of living in the United Kingdom if you cannot count on rainy summers?

I felt seriously short changed all day yesterday, until I saw your note. Now I feel human again, up to a point though: my hair is still frizzy, my limbs swollen, my face  could give a Hieronymus Bosch character a run for its money, but I feel like a mist is slowly lifting.

I feel as though I had stepped into a world re-acquiring its colours and sounds. I am waking up. I would not feel on the cusp of awakening if I had not had your support.

Thank you for offering everything you were and had, even when you had very little to spare. I feel rather than know it is time to wake up and be funny again. Let’s face it; I make people laugh without even trying, so I might as well do it properly. I will continue make a 1st class clown of myself  especially as I rebuild my life.

Here’s to a new beginning.

Herman Hesse used to say that there is magic in every beginning. He was German, which means he could speak it without thinking about it. I am a rotten German speaker, so I will say there is potential for fun in every beginning (and I am saying it in English too. There!)

Do you know , Honey, today I stopped to look at a tree and I actually saw it. It was a cherry tree; its trunk slim, its leaves dark green.

I saw it. I saw the gold light that, as I walked past it,  made that tree look like a large column surrounded by hundreds of verdant splinters. The tree somehow touched me. (NO, I did not bang my head against that tree. )

I am going to see a friend late tonight, I am going to enjoy  the experience very much. When I  see her, I will listen to  her every word. I will play with her kids, shrieking with delight as they push me around. I will grab her younger brat and hold him upside down, and will drink in his cherub-like face creasing with delight.

This is to let you know I love you and I will not disappoint you. I am back, I will laugh again. I can do this, I am ready. Plus, the weatherman tells us rain is on its way. I will live, I promise. But don’t leave me. Keep watching over me.

All my love!

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How to punish children properly (and get their attention)

Reforms are afoot in the United Kingdom: children in the UK will be taught languages and coding and teachers will be able to impose old-fashioned punishments, like writing a sentence over and over again and pick up the rubbish. Just like the bad old days, when education was synonym of  discipline, but not necessarily development.

I am not a teacher, but I know a few children and if they are anything to go by, these kids are not likely to be impressed or scared by forced line writing. OH NO. They know better, so if this cabinet wants to teach them right from wrong, it’d better change strategy.

Since giving unsolicited advice is easy, I will volunteer.

Dear Mr Gove,

if you really want to instil sense of  duty and discipline in these kids, you must rise to their level, touch their imagination, their intelligence, their creativity, their sense. Kids may be young, but they are sensible, practical and resilient. If you really believe in punishment, you might as well do it right.

Here’s a piece of advice from a partial member of the public, with no teaching experience, but one who has had 1st class teachers and a 1st class mother (also a teacher); get a mirror.

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Get each class a mirror. Every time a child is caught talking or being disruptive or being lazy (read: no homework done), you get the teacher to hand the mirror to the offending child and get him/her to say: “I have taken myself for a ride. I have let my laziness/giddiness stop myself from doing something good for myself.”

The other kids will laugh, the offending child will wish to be elsewhere, but at the same time s/he will also get the message: if you misbehave or are lazy, you lose out in the end. That’s one lesson they will not forget in a hurry.

You shake your head, Mr Gove, you don’t believe me but I can guarantee you that it works. It worked for me.

When I was 8 I was a chatterbox. I could not help myself: I had to talk, until one day my teacher made me stand up and, having given me a beautiful hand mirror, she made me say: “I let my chit-chat stop myself from paying attention and now I will never know ___ (whatever she was teaching at the moment). I have lost out, I have taken myself for a ride.”

I still remember. It hit me where it hurt: my pride. I don’t remember my friends’ laughter, and I did not feel humiliated, but angry: I had lost something.

I had missed a moment of complicity between my teacher and those who had paid attention, I had missed a trick and marginalised myself. 

That hurt. 

In her punishment, my teacher had shown her respect for me, her willingness to believe that I was mature enough to see the silliness of my actions. She had also left room for hope. Silliness is not incurable: all I had to do to be included in the magic of the lesson was to pay attention. I could do that and I did.

She achieved her purpose without having me write overbearing sentences 1000 times. I would have forgotten that in a hurry (plus my super Lady mother would have roared at the teacher’s outdated methods. Yes, I said ‘roared’ and parents would protest just as energetically today in the UK, albeit in a more Anglo-Saxon fashion)

Bottom line: kids are kids and they need our guidance, but they are not stupid. Respect them and they will get the message. Push them around and they will declare war on you. Can we afford to wage war on them? Here’s a war with no winners, if I ever saw one.

So, save us all tons of chalk and a generation-worth or resentment and admit you got it wrong. Get a mirror, utter a mea culpa and start again on the punishment front, if you must. Only, this time, ask a few teachers and parents for their opinions, while you are at it…

Best Wishes,

Marella

Give us Barbie on the Dole

This week I came across a blog published by the high-brow, intellectual daily The Guardian, which attacked the gender stereotypes and sexualisation, rife in the toy/kid’s entertainment industry.

As a woman I agree  with the author: mainly because my mother refused, point blank, to buy me Barbie or any other similar doll – unless and until they could give me a ‘positive role model’.  Apparently, one day I would understand.

Being a child of the rampant consumerism of the Eighties, I struggled to see the problem in owning a doll, which in turn owned a collection of pink ballroom gowns in every cut and in every shade of pink.

Don’t get me wrong; I had many toys and dolls,  such as Monchichi the clever monkey, beautifully illustrated atlases (to check out whence monkeys – and our ancestors –  originated), discs with matching (and beautifully illustrated) books: Andersen’s Tales , the Grimm Brothers’ Tales, Aesop, Ancient Greek Myths, Norse Legends, Alice in Wonderland,  and from Scandinavia , the land of happy kids,  I got Alfons and the Karlsson-on-the-Roof.

Still, it was Barbie I coveted. I pestered, argued with, cried, begged, protested with my mother, to no avail.

Barbie speaks…

This went on untill… Barbie spoke to me, while I gazed, enraptured at the latest Mattel addition, proudly occupying the centre of our local department store’s toys window.

I cannot remember exactly what Barbie told me, but hers were not  soft-spoken words extending invitations to shopping sprees and longs lazy days on the beach. Barbie uttered a call to arms:  “Go on, take the plunge, make a statement, buy your own Barbie doll”

So I did.

In the spring of 1988 I finally turned up at school with a Barbie, purchased with my own pocket money and during a school trip, miles away from my mother. Faced with the fait accompli, the lady mother acquiesced.

 There I was, clutching my long-limbed, smiley Barbie, showing off my own plastic representation of unattainable human perfection to friends (and their friends). Result!

I had won, Barbie had won, the Eighties had won.

And so had my mother, because of all the Barbie dolls I could have bought, I chose Barbie Doctor. So perhaps it was my mother,  who had always encouraged me to take charge and to stand up for myself and what I thought right,  who laughed last.

Life after Barbie…

My Barbie Doctor sported a beautiful, frilly lab coat, a stethoscope, and, if memory serves me well, a pink doctor’s bag for emergencies.

I soon tired of Barbie  anyway (kids are fickle), and saved next for a subscription to Poochie the Pink Dog’s mag. Poochie’s copybooks and stampers and even ear muffs followed. I loved Poochie because she was fun and organised, friendly and resourceful, not because she was pink (though I did not object to that)

So, in conclusion: dear parents, I understand your worries but, please, relax a little. Kids are practical and shrewd individuals. If you talk to them, they will listen.

I agree girls (or boys) should not be under the impression that they will necessarily grow into long-limbed, narrow-waisted, white-toothed adults.  Keep telling girls and boys that we can all make a difference, we can aspire to give something back, we can try to improve ourselves (whatever size we are) and that makes us special and beautiful.

Keep saying that they are beautiful because their minds are creative, intelligent, honest and a little wicked. Incidentally,  keep insisting that they eat well and are active, for their own sake, not to look like Barbie.

But should we really ban Barbie?

Barbie on the dole

Barbie appeals to kids. Period. So, it’s Mattel we must tackle!  

I’ll start: Dear Mattel management,

please, give us more natural, credible Barbies.  I would like to see

Barbie Professor,

Barbie Mathematician,

Barbie Fund Manager,

Barbie Business Owner,

Barbie Cashier,

Barbie Anthropologist,

Barbie  Campaigner (complete with pink placard),

Barbie on the Dole (now that would capture the Zeitgeist), applying for jobs

Barbie Chef,

Barbie Builder,

Barbie Cab Driver (ok, the cab can be pink, if you really insist),

Barbie President of the WHO/UN/USA

Barbie Detective

Barbie Judge

Barbie Waitress

Barbie Teacher

Barbie Fight Fighter

Barbie Cleaner. 

I want to see Barbie living in a normal flat, or still living with her parents, because she is paying off her student debts. (BTW who are Barbie’s parents?)

Give us Barbie looking dishevelled after a run, make her a little plumper, while you are at it.

Do that, and I will buy a Barbie for my Godson and every child I know and care about!

No, I don’t have any New Year’s resolution (especially when I am at the dentist’s)

Last Friday I was languishing at my local dentist’s rocking with pain and massaging a cheek, which would not have been out of place in a XVIII’s freak show. 

Picture a woman with a face half normal, half resembling a rugby ball, eyes glassy with terror:  what will the damage be like?

Not to my oral cavity, mind,  but rather to my depleted bank balance.

What will the dentist charge me for restoring me to good, ruddy health? Will I be able to pay for food, drink and rent after this brief dental encounter? 

Absorbed as I was in such mundane feelings, I had not seen the ethereal receptionist approach me.

“Hi-ya. Can I get you anything? A glass of water?” this slight, soft spoken woman asked. I shook my head, but not too much, as I was too busy feeling the pain in my mouth, torn between the desire of relief from the pain and the pain of being relieved of my annual savings forthwith (I have no dental insurance).

Next I noticed the receptionist had actually brought me a glass of lukewarm water and was offering me the plastic cup in a manner worthy of an ancient Greek prophetess, gracefully passing on the latest message from Zeus to mere mortals.

“What’s your New Year’s resolution?” this throw-back from Delphi asked, while I gingerly sipped water.

I must have produced a very ungracious stare, because the poor woman beat a graceful but hasty retreat.

Four days later and 12 antibiotic capsules to my credit, I feel well enough to be less truculent, so here’s my answer to the well-meaning, polite, sympathetic receptionist at my dentist’s. 

Dear receptionist, 

I am sorry I might have given you frostbites just by looking at you last Friday, when you so kindly tried to take my mind off my pain.

Just as well that you were not having tea, or I would have turned the milk sour too, just with my gaze. I am sorry I looked like someone after a session on the rack at the Tower of London, I am sure I was not a pretty sight rocking on that chair. I feel better now, so  let me reply to your question: NO, I do not have New Year’s resolution.

Here’s why:

1) I do not believe in sudden, extreme changes. Bad habits are hard enough to break, so why would I put myself through the extra bother of changing while it is dark, grim and cold? I believe in accepting myself.

2) I have noticed that most  NY resolutions pertain to weigh loss. ‘Weigh Loss’ does not even begin to cover the matter, it sounds like you  achieve a svelte figure by chance, by accident. If you want to talk to me about such enterprises, label them properly ‘weight demolishing’ ‘fat destruction’, for instance.  Even if you call a spade a space, I am not likely to join the debate: taking exercise is not something I relish.  I do it to keep myself reasonably healthy, but weight loss is NOT a fit topic of conversation for me. If your NY res is about something else, I will be receptive. Try me next time I visit your honourable establishment. 

3) Driven as one can be, NOBODY, I repeat nobody visiting the dentist in my predicament could have the strength or the presence of mind to chat about resolutions. Did you notice it took me a good five minutes to fill in the form you handled me? That’s because I had to concentrate hard to remember basic things such as my name, my age, my gender or other basic personal info you request before I get to see the dentist. 

So, here I am, a difficult customer, perhaps, but at least I am straight with you. Which is more that can be said for my tooth, the source of my pain. 

I shall soon see you. You will recognise me, I am sure: I am the one who will arrive with a sackful of cash to settle the bill.

We can exchange pleasantries then, if you like!

 

Why I am giving away my 1st book

Call it Christmas spirit (No, not that spirit: I am NOT drunk), but I have decided to give away my 1st book!  ‘Auntie Rita is coming to London’. 

It’s a story that means much to me. It is partly based on real events and has taken me three years to write (also: 12 drafts, two editors and a lot of cheek to self publish it). After considerable hesitation, I have forced myself to publish it and would like to share it with you.  Why should you invest your precious time reading my stories?

If you are a writer, you know the excruciating pain and happiness of sending your book out into the world, not knowing if it will be read, or even worse, not knowing whether it will be understood or liked. You brace yourself for harsh critique, but hope someone, somewhere will treat your characters kindly. You hope that somewhere, somehow, your story will bring a smile and some relief to someone. You hope.

You overcome the fear of ridicule, of unwittingly offending, of rejection, because your wish to share your story is stronger. So, perhaps, you will understand why I am allowing you to upload a free copy via Story Cartel.

I really want to share this story with you, I want you to know about auntie Rita and her journey to London, to give her niece a letter that cannot be posted.

Meet Gigi and laugh/wince at her farcical bid to bag her dream job at ‘The Venerable Institution’.

What would you do if a dear friend got married in secret?  See what Ian, Charlotte and Bea go through in ‘The Sudden Bride’ and if you have ever wanted to know the truth, cost what might, you will know why Henry is so bent on finding his beloved Artemisia’s secret in ‘In the Shadows’

If you are addicted to reading, you know the magic bond that a story can form between a writer and his/her reader. I see it is a joining of hands between people who will never meet, and yet come to share something meaningful and intimate.

This is the magic that books only can create. It belongs to us, lovers of books, it’s ours.

And so, dear readers to be, I hope you will not find me presumptuous and will accept this offering. I know you are likely to be busy, but if you can, read my collection of short stories this Christmas break, and, if you can spare time, let me have your thoughts.

Believe me, I will not squander this chance: I will take on board your views, as I sit to write my second book. 

New characters, new stories, new beginnings, here’s one.  Here’s to you all. May 2014 bring us all more and better books and a fulfilling life.

All the best, Marella

How to be a ‘beta’ person – Tip #2 accept you may not radiate light (meanwhile hold on to your cash)

Hello everyone, still interested in finding out about my journey to ‘beta’ ness, previously described in Tip #1? Step this way to Tip #2.

Has anyone informed you that you radiate ‘mauve’ light or any other light? I have not been told anything of the sort, until last week. Picture this, I am checking out a school Christmas fair with a dear friend. My eyes are darting from jars of home-made jellies and jams to colourful ‘surprise’ bags and I am trying not to step on toddlers dressed as Santa or trip over kids.

Gingerly negotiating toddlers, kids, prams, voluminous parcels, I am moving towards the cake stall, when a glamorous young lady rugby tackles me and virtually manhandles me to a stall, where she and a bunch of equally young, glamorous, alabaster-skinned youngsters sell beauty products, which do not  contain or involve chemicals, pesticides, explosives, wheat, sugar, palm oil, olive oil, margarine, tested and untested animals, mines, child labour, underpaid labour, co-operation with totalitarian regimes and/or politics of any sort (to name a few attributes).

Not only that, I am also told in some detail that these products actually do the Earth some good, in fact, buying them would be akin to practically giving to charity (I am not quite sure how, as by the time they had finished with the list of  nasties included in usual down-market moisturisers, such as mine, I am no longer listening to these youngsters, I am busy checking whether I am on fire)

That’s when the mauve/magenta light comes to the fore. Apparently I  –  or rather my head and neck –  radiate such waves, a slightly older, equally glamorous woman at the stall tells me.

Was I not aware of this? My shock must have heralded my ignorance.

My head and its content have been likened to a great deal of weird and wonderful things, but never to a source of radiation, of any colour. But THAT was the past, behold me, a beacon of light- I think.

So, I briefly consider buying one of those moisturisers, more in deference to my newly-found radiations, than an actual need –  but I swiftly remember my depleted bank balance, so I explain the situation and try to back off.

That’s when the older saleswoman informs me that I (and my magenta/mauve light, presumably) would make a wonderful sales rep. I am assured thousands of pounds would practically fall on my lap, resplendent  people like me had retired after two years in such magnanimous enterprise, having made their fortunes and enlightened the others to the virtues of those products, in the bargain.

I’d also meet like-minded sources of light, ready and willing to help me, as well as providing camaraderie and fun AND this (new friends/allies, thousands of pounds a week, mauve light, fun, philanthropy) in exchange for only £500 to pay for the first stock. My eyes well with gratitude.

I briefly consider it: could I  convince people to ditch their toxic concoctions, do the philanthropic thing  and buy these new products, turning me into a millionaire in the process?

Then, true to my beta nature, I have a quick reality check. Unlike alpha people, who know they radiate light, who think that daring is the best policy, that you are your own limit, I embrace my limits and work around them.

PLUS, the following occurs to me: buying stock, cashing thousands of pounds for hardly any work, early retirement, basking in my own light… that sounds too good to be true. In my  beta world, hard work and A GOOD DOSE OF goofy, unfruitful attempts, are usually prelude to success (if any at all).

Could I, someone who works 12 hours on her start-up, fork out the monumental sum of £500 on products I hardly know to sell them to family and friends? Could I, surrounded by affectionate but humorous friends and family, with a strong sense of value for money and utterly oblivious to my mauve radiations,  flog these products to them?

The answer is an unequivocal NO. I had better focus on what I AM DOING NOW.  So, when the sales woman rings me a couple of days later to fix my first appointment and deposit the £500, book my first stock, meet my new friends, I tell her what I think.

My magenta light must have started waning there and then, because it takes me 20 minutes to get the message across. I do not succeed when I express doubts about my credentials as radiator of mauve light, or when I describe my adorable kith and kin but when I say I do not have £500 to invest in such worthy adventure anyway.

That switches off my light… and the conversation.

Moral of the story: I am not sure I have one. But if I had to give you one:  accept your limits. Challenge them, work around them, don’t let them defy/define you, but acknowledge them. What works for others, does not necessary works for you and when something looks too good to be true… it usually is.

Here’s to the light that comes from us all, especially if you stand next to a Christmas tree these days… Here’s to taking ourselves seriously, but not too much. Here’s to laughing at life and ourselves!

Letter to the fellow shopper who pushed me aside to get on the bus first… a memento of the occasion

Dear fellow shopper who pushed his way to number 38, scattering around whoever stood in his way,

good morning!

With the festive season upon us, you will probably not be up yet:  maybe you are coping with a hangover after a massive bash, unless you tripped over your own trousers, which were so low that I could practically see your lingerie…

Wherever you are, in a quiet hospital ward, recovering from a broken nose, or in your own bed, I have decided to leave you a little memento of our meeting yesterday, to greet you, when you come around.

These few poor words are for you: in praise of your unique approach to using public transport, show them to everyone you know, especially your mum and dad. 

THANK YOU, dear fellow bus-user, for your forward thinking, which to this narrow-minded person seemed like bad taste and rudeness. After careful reflection, I see it for what it was: a sophisticated attempt to educate your fellow human beings. (That’s us, the people around you, you probably cannot see us under your fringe, but if you brushed it aside now and then, you could!) 

After mature and careful consideration, I have finally understood the reason why you shafted me aside together with a couple, one actually eligible for a free bus pass. (For people outside the UK:  this is a perk for the over 60s)

You wanted to educate us.

Your forceful passage through us naive people, who were (sort of) queuing to gain access to the bus, was a witty lesson in history, anthropology and religious studies all at once: you wanted to act out Moses’ parting the Red Sea, to lead his people out of Egypt. You were Moses and we were the Red Sea. This would explain why, after boarding the bus, you cast a vague glance at us and gave us a sort of smirk.

You felt like the patriarch, the leader who admonishes the slow, older fellow travellers to catch up. THANKS, I had not grasped this immediately. My first, uneducated, thought was: “Do you think you are clever, don’t you? You low-life, low- waistline moron!”

Now, I blush at my unworthy thought!! Peto veniam, I beg your pardon …

There could be a further explanation: hearing your melodic voice in your witty exchange on the phone (I see now that there were actual words in between your grunts and swear words), I gather you like science: Dr Who seemed to be very much in your thoughts, so I see now that your precepts could have something to do with science.

I thought, I re-thought and I got it: EUREKA!! You were giving us a practical demo of Newton’s  Three Laws of Motion

1) You shafted us to prove that an object’s natural tendency is inertia, until a force is applied to it: you were the force, we were the objects. 1st Law of Motion proved! 

2) My falling (face down), was a handy reminder that, when a force acts on an object, the object moves in the direction of the said force. The larger the force, the greater the acceleration. That’s why I fell just in your direction and, because you are a such strappy young lad, my acceleration was quite considerable (you should have heard the thud! You did not because you had your smart phone playing music not only audible to you, but to all of us – thanks for a further gift BTW)- 2nd Law of Motion proved! 

3) When the others were thrown off balance by your youthful exuberance, they – bless them – proved the 3rd Law of Motion right. When force is applied to an object, the force of reaction is equal and acts in the opposite direction to the force. That’s why they fell in the opposite direction of your irresistible force.

NEWTON’S ALL EXPLAINED in a few seconds! HOW I wish kids had been present to see it all!! Maybe we can arrange it, we could go to schools re-enacting the whole episode – much more useful than carol singing! What do you reckon? Are you in? (I don’t mean ‘in jail’)

So, dear fellow bus pass traveller, I conclude this letter with tears in my eyes: THANKS. And, please, forgive this hasty and judgemental woman who had you down for a manner-less Neanderthal, when in fact you are benefactor to human kind.

I look forward to our next meeting. Perhaps next time we can approach other subjects: maybe a revision of the Cultural Revolution (we could report each other to the police, you could report me for giving you a black eye and I could report you for GBH due to your dazzling bus-boarding technique)… just a thought…

Meanwhile, I wish you a very happy Xmas Season and may you find friends worthy of you.

Yours in hope,

Marella Albion (the one who fell at your feet on bus 38)