Found: Saxaphone

On Thursday the weather finally started to behave like late May (we’ve had weeks of rain). After dinner, we decided to go for a walk. Little did we know this walk would change the course of my Friday.

It was mild and quiet, with a few other people and dogs having the same idea as us. Then we spotted it leaning on the fence around the children’s playground: forlorn, nearly invisible in the dusk light, the Beanie Baby plush keychain stood out more than the grey and black case.

We called out and scanned the playground, but we knew it was futile: we hadn’t seen any kids the entire walk except for the smoking, littering, drinking teens further afield.

We opened up the case and all the pockets for clues or contact info, but all we had to go from was a colourful tag with a girl’s first name and set – not even the school’s name.

The start of the rescue mission. (And yes, I’m rocking a Canadian tuxedo. Don’t judge me.)

As I peered through the various saxaphone paraphenalia, I thought, “I swear, if after all this time, I contract Covid from some kid’s spitty reeds…”

There was nothing to do but take it home, hop on Google, and make some calls in the morning. It was well past 8:30pm at this point, so it was bedtime for poor Little Miss who was likely distraught and in a bit of trouble for losing her saxaphone.

It was the right thing to do, but there’s something inherently dodgy about taking something home that doesn’t belong to you. And, as we walked home, I realised that saxaphones are really bloody heavy.

I messaged our street’s community WhatsApp, asking if anyone recognised the music department’s logo on the nametag. The flat downstairs messaged up to make a suggestion. Next door chimed in agreement. I said thanks and I’d call the school in the morning.

Before 9am, I had a message from a neighbour down the road who said she knew who it belonged to. I called and left a message for the mum, who rang me back less than 10 minutes later. Never underestimate the power of the group WhatsApp.

Mum was very relieved that Little Miss’s instrument was safe. “You found it on the playground, didn’t you?” she said flatly, and we both laughed. I could hear a bit of chaos in the background and said I’d be happy to drop it off at the school on my lunch break to save her an errand. She said thank you and that it’s amazing, here, in London, people were so nice to help others and return items to strangers. Who knows, maybe Little Miss was destined to be the leader of a new wave jazz momement – we had to get that saxaphone back into her little hands!

Again, saxaphones are really bloody heavy, I thought as I made the trek to the school that afternoon. On the approach, a cheerful man with a colourful tie grinned at me and said, “Alto sax?” and pointed.

“Um, I think so?” I replied, holding it up and shrugging. “I found it on the common, just returning.”

Ferdinand the Fennec Fox (nicknamed “Nando”) & Saxaphone Pup say goodbye for now.

“Ah, well,” he paused. “Thank you and good luck,” he waved and continued on his way. I wondered if that was the music teacher. And I liked that he wished me good luck – the hard work had already been done, but maybe it was a wish for life general, not specifically related to The Great Saxaphone Rescue Mission of May 2021.

The receptionist – an older woman with kind eyes and wearing a floral dress, exactly the kind of person you’d imagine on reception at a primary school – took the saxaphone. I mentioned Little Miss’s name and said I’d spoken with her mother. She repeated Little Miss’s name. Her eyes smiled under her mask. “I’m sure she’ll be very relieved it’s safe.”

Outside the school, I texted Little Miss’s mum to let her know the saxaphone was at the school, and for her to reassure Little Miss that her puppy keychain had a fun slumber party with her new best friend. I sent the photo.

It was a fun adventure, and a silly and sweet reminder of the power of community, kindness, and that if you keep your eyes open, you never know when you might find a small adventure to liven up your week. It also made me appreciate another layer to the complexity of having children – stuff. Kids come with, and generate, lots of stuff. And no matter how good or smart they might be, kids are little space cadets who live in the moment and who may, at any point, forget their saxaphone on the playground.

On Being an Official(ish) Writer Person

It’s Day 6 of the 14 days to a kickass writing habit. Yay!

Today was hard. We were asked to think about our writing habit (or lack thereof) and figure out the conditions that make our writing thrive.

Bingo. The root of my writing problems and the reason for signing up for this course in the first place:

1. Right place – um. See below.*
2. Right time – while I like the idea of being a morning person, I am distinctly not a morning person. But I’m also not a night person. Maybe I am a potato person, preferably toasty warm and accompanied by cheese.
3. Right amount – more than I’m doing now…?

Behold: two butts in a one butt kitchen. Rebels with a cause…lasagne.

*BELOW: I work a desk job full time. Except that desk job has been from the tiny 100cm x 100cm Ikea table in a one bedroom flat’s combined living room/dining room/extension of the one-butt kitchen for the past 13.5 months. I can’t quite scoot my chair out all the way because then I’d bump into the built in shelving and cabinets, disturbing the books a-flutter and wine bottles a-chime and espresso machine a-hiss. And then there’s me, the bumbling clumsy human with my puny writing needs.

And staring at a laptop at home for 7-8 hours a day definitely takes the shine off the privilege of spending extra time per day staring at a different laptop to do writing.

HOWEVER.

All the grand, beautiful things done in this world are done by tired people making time out of nothing.

Gremlin sighting

So I hereby promise (writing this out to y’all to hold myself accountable) that I’m going get up early this coming week. That’s right. I am a goblin in the morning, but so help me, I’ll cling to my coffee for dear life and squeeze in 25-30 minutes of uninterrupted writing time before work/studying for financial exams/blah blah blah.

Giddyup.

P.S. This is where I tell you about my greatest writing inspiration: The Boy. My fiancé. The scruffy dimpled Australian of my dreams. This guy woke up at or before 5am every morning to finish the draft of his novel to meet a deadline. That deadline was a competition. And that competition was the Fogarty Literary Prize. He landed the longlist, which became a shortlist, which became a publishing contract, which became a fully-fledged shiny Where the Line Breaks published by Fremantle Press in April 2021. Which is now flitting around on Instagram with happy book people, in snapshots of book reviews, and one particularly gorgeous human made a special torte in its honour and now I’m craving cake. But his Instagram says it best (click the pic):

His book on cupcakes I was actually allergic to = big fianceé points

To sum, you never know what will happen. But I know for certain what happens if you sit around feeling guilty for not writing: nothing.

Don’t Annoy the Javelinas

I’ve just signed up to “14 Days to a Solid Writing Habit” on Writers’ HQ. Why? To sum, the pandemic has thrashed my brain and sucked up my writing mojo. Turns out I take a lot of inspiration (gasp) from the real world.

Also turns out you can’t just sit in your flat and eat cheese for a year and expect magic creative writing things to happen. It was a tough experiment, but after 13 months of scientific research, I have definitively proved once and for all that novels will not write themselves. In case any of you were wondering, I’ve done the hard research for you. You’re welcome.

I should be fair and kind to myself. I’ve done other creative things: lots of reflection, organising, painting, drawing, and thinking. This is all good…but my first true love, writing, has been woefully neglected.

This 14 day course promises to set up good writing habits and the community is fantastic. The Boy and I went down to one of their in-person writing marathon days in Brighton two summers ago and it was incredibly helpful, supportive, and fun. So why not?

To kick things off, today we watched an 8 minute video pep talk and were sent off into the abyss for a timed 15 minute free write on our fundamental human truth. It sounds more intense than it is – fundamental human truths are flexible and open to discussion. My 15 minutes turned into a little cheerleading sesh/free writing ramble.

Excerpt:

I have no idea where this 14 days of jumper cable ZOLT infusing into my writing life is going to go, but I’m going to grab my flashlight and water bottle and go venturing into the dark because if summer camp taught me one thing, it’s that you don’t need to be afraid of the forest at night. Nothing will eat you. But don’t piss off the javelinas.

(Not sure if that’s spelled incorrectly or Microsoft Word is woefully uneducated about Arizonan feral bristly swine that run around snorting and eating rubbish).

And it turns out Giphy also needs some updating/educating, because this is the only thing that came up when searching “javelina” to add a gif to my post on the Writers HQ website…though I do rather like this rainbow flying tusked pig:

animated flying bristled pig on a rainbow
Found via Giphy, but original source is apparently the Nomadic Agency in Scottsdale, AZ…no surprises there!

But back to the writing: I believe that storytelling is an utterly essential and fundamental part of the human experience. I’m not just talking about books or fiction, here: telling your partner about a funny thing that happened at the shops or translating an idea into visual art (hello, javelina rainbow gif) count too.

I saw something floating around social media that “languishing” is the word to describe the last year. Basically that state of not moving forward and improving – lying prone upon the sofa, channeling the energy of a potato. Yep, that’s been my writing life.

But no longer! From this point forward, I shall channel the energy of this smiling, tusked flying feral pig. It’s not the elegant metaphor I need, but the one I deserve.

Onward!

Decade of Dreams™

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Our last photo of 2019. We rang in the new year with good friends, a bit too much wine, vegan snacks, silly card games, and not socially distanced dancing in our friend’s living room. (Remember when you could HUG your friends??)

Ha. HA. Back in January I wrote something that went like this: “Seven days into the new year and new decade, we’re on the brink of WWIII, half of the southern hemisphere is ablaze, and I think I’m coming down with a cold. Still, nothing can dampen my spirits: folks, like it or not, this is the Decade of Dreams™. Buckle up, buttercup.”

A dearly adored colleague of mine said it back in late November in a voice bursting with screw-you-2019 enthusiasm and the term stuck. I was using it for everything: annoying, passive-aggressive person I don’t want to deal with? Stop spoiling the Decade of Dreams. I swipe the last almond croissant? Bring on the Decade of Dreams! Southern Rail is late again? Obviously they haven’t heard it’s the Decade of Dreams.

It was my alternative New Years resolution. I’ve never had much time for those – if I want to make a change, I make it now. I started weekly yogalates (yoga + pilates = feel the burn, but be mindful about it) in September*. I made joint financial goals with my partner in November*. I loosely planned the next decade of my life in June*.

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My phone couldn’t handle the lighting on the train and decided to automatically apply this edgy filter.

Oh naive, sweet Katherine. You had no idea a global pandemic was about to get all up in your – and everyone else’s – business: #WFH becoming commonplace, wrecking holidays and tips to see family, cancelling plans, grounding planes, overwhelming hospitals, forcing families to contend with sudden “crisis schooling” (people, I was homeschooled – believe me, you’re doing an amazing job for just trying), all complete with the cherry on top: blubbering spluttering useless politicians who slander science and ignore those in need.

I digress.

The Boy and I are well. We’re healthy. We’re safe. And aside from London melting (it’s been above 90F/32c for a few days in a row and we live in an adorable Edwardian [I think] building that was designed to entrap heat), we’re fairly comfortable.

Maybe it’s not the Decade of Dreams we planned, but it turns out I don’t look half bad in a face mask, especially when that’s a cobalt face mask was made by a lady named Geraldine in the Midlands who included a handwritten note in cursive to tell us to stay safe, wash our hands, don’t touch our faces, and reminding us that her masks were not medical grade.

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**Welp, anyone know any great recipes with figs? Preferrably with goats cheese and carbs?

And there are the sweet neighbours across the road who texted me to ask if The Boy might be able to help them pick some figs in their back garden (in order to reach the figs, “you need a ladder which we have and long legs which we don’t have”), and afterwards we sat socially distanced in their conservatory to drink beer and share stories. The Boy and I don’t particularly like figs but we agreed to take one or two home. We were given four, individually wrapped in a paper towel each to cushion the long journey back across the street. Now I need to find a recipe.**

I’m trying to look on the bright side. Some days are harder than others – but today, even on less than 6 hours of sleep and slowly melting into my sofa, everything seems ok.

 

*Plans altered due to COVID-19.