Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror on the wall….

“Many years ago, he looked out through a glassless window
All that he could see was Babylon
Beautiful green fields and dreams and learn to measure the stars
But there was a worry in his heart

He said, “How could it come to this?
I’m really worried about living
How could it come to this?
Yeah, I really want to know about this”

 (Is It Like Today – Karl Wallinger)

There are several mirrors in our house. The one at the bottom of the stairs is friendly. In reality its exactly the same as all of the others, but , placed where it is, I always seem to pass it, concentrating on something else, toast  usually, and only occasionally catch a glimpse of myself,out of the cornet of my good eye, Righty, and think ‘Not too shabby’.

All of the other mirrors are complete bastards and have no hesitation in showing me exactly what I look like…the bastards !

We’re all WAY  too hard on ourselves. And in those moments when we are down on ourselves we’re inclined to concentrate even more on all of the things that we consider bad or inferior about ourselves, like staring at that spot on the side of your nose in that horribly unforgiving mirror, the one in your bathroom, the one you look at first thing every morning. That mirror is evil, and what do we do ? We give it it’s own wee light so that it can enhance it’s evilness. And as you stare at that spot on the side of your nose in the mirror, it seems to grow , even as you think that I’m too old for spots, it grows…or seems to.

But it’s not growing, and in fact you should celebrate that spot, it shows you’re still alive…and may distract observers from your wild ear hair.

Thankfully we’re surrounded by others that love us for no good reason. They don’t see what we see. They’re oblivious to the spots, ear hair, our shame, guilt, and occasional weird odour…thankfully.

I , like everyone else , am full of doubts. The only difference between me and most others is that I am shameless in talking about them. I doubt my appearance, my heart , emotionally not physically, my parenting , to both my children and Pasta and Tuna, my ability to support others, emotionally not financially, my love, outward not inward, my worth, my contribution, my writing, my heart, physically not emotionally, my running, my friendships, my finances, my love, inward not outward.

The only thing I never doubt is my incredibly awesome taste in music , despite what my Country & Irish muzak loving  neighbours think. And wine…I have great taste in wine…and tee shirts.

So what do I do when I’m staring at that evil mirror, looking at the growing spot, wallowing in self doubt ?
Nothing , is the honest answer. Generally I wallow a bit more. And eventually I open my ears and hear what my Soulmate is saying, trim that ear hair, cuddle a cat, run with Ray, or Gareth or Chris of the Corner Connolly’s, write something that I like. If things are particularly bad I will contact my counsellor, Anne. She’s my third counsellor, the previous two were driven to distraction…and Switzerland..which I believe was completely coincidental to , rather than because of, listening to me.

I’m such a cliché that of course I’m struck by all of this during Mental Health month.

This week, in no particular order, I have been asked to advise two different businesses in a professional capacity, and also to help an organisation radically change for their future…yeah, I know Me ? What were they thinking?
And all week delightful drawings have been arriving from kids entering our Drumlin Giants art competition. And I have been loved by my brothers, my folks,my kids, my Soulmate, and the nice cat…not Pasta. And yet it was still a week of heaviness and doubt…and a spot on my nose.

Slowly things get better. Actually ‘things’ were always better, it’s just that I’m blinded to them sometimes…by the glare in the evil mirror from that big shiny spot on my nose…

…and then I’m back to catching a glimpse of that other fella in the mirror, the one chasing toast, the not too shabby one.

Oh, and I started writing THE book. The first draft of the first chapter follows in the P.Ssss if you’re reading this as the email…if it’s not there you’re reading this on FB or LinkedIn and missing out , so sign up to the newsletter.
P.S. This is Pump It Up

P.P.S As Yet Untitled – Chapter 1

The railway station in Monaghan had always been a hive of activity. From the moment the built it in 1856 until today. Even years after the trains had stopped and the lines pulled up, the station itself was still busy. It had been converted to offices and this was were Jake McKenna sometimes worked for Hubert Theodore Buckland & Sons, Importers of Fine Oriental Goods, known locally as Hughie The Bucks. Sometimes he worked and sometimes he was just there, daydreaming mostly, and definitely employed, just not necessarily ‘working’. He had his own office , which he loved, as it meant that he didn’t have to make small talk with others. It was tiny, one window , open onto the North Road, a little fireplace, which he’d installed a purpose built aquarium in, containing his two goldfish, The Kraken, and Bobby Bob. The little fireplace hadn’t been used for it’s original purpose since 1936, when they’d installed central heating. Jake had made what looked like a lit fire at the bottom of the tank with lights resembling gentle flames, so that it looked like there were two goldfish swimming in the air in the fireplace. He had a very old desk that someone had discovered in the basement years ago and wanted to throw out, but Jake had rescued it and once Mr.Buckland had got his assurance that there was no woodworm or dry rot in it , had helped him carry it up two flights of stairs to where it now resided. He had a laptop on the desk , an extra monitor, but no phone. To tell the truth there was a phone, it just didn’t work as a phone. It was a 1920’s wood and brass contraption that Jake felt was in keeping with his desk. The only other item on the desk was a typewriter, which like the phone, didn’t work, but looked great…to Jake at least.
He had a standing desk beside the window. This had been cobbled together from what had once been the ticket clerks counter. This was strewn with notebooks, coloured pencils, crayons, drawing pads, pens, more pencils, pencil parers, and multi-coloured post-it notes.
On the small mantelpiece above the fireplace/aquarium there were five eclectic figurines, a carved wooden wombat standing upright, a terracotta Sphinx with a broken paw, a tin robot, a little plastic Leprechaun with flaming red hair which resembled his own , and a small piece of glass that may have been a faerie or an angel, it was hard to tell.
There were only two pictures hung up, a framed photograph of the station as it had been in 1889, and a blowup of the same picture focused on a lady standing on the station steps smiling.
There was a small bookcase which had four shelves, each one containing a single book. Piled beside it on the floor was a tower of other books that hadn’t made the grade.
The office was just as Jake liked it. And if Jake liked it, that was all that Mr.Buckland cared about, as Jake made him more money than…Mr.Buckland couldn’t really think of anything to compare Jake to. He had a knack of spotting something that was going to be popular months, sometimes years before anyone else did and this allowed Mr.Buckland to buy products at very low prices and sell at very high prices regularly. There was no rhyme or reason to what Jake would pick, select, or design, but invariably , whatever it was, everyone seemed to want one. So if Mr.Buckland entered Jake’s office and found him with his feet up on his desk, staring out of the window, listening to what Mr.Buckland could only assume was music, he didn’t sigh, raise his eyes to heaven or harrumph, which was just as well as this happened a lot.
There were sixteen people employed in Hubert Buckland & Sons, including Jake and Mr.Buckland, but not including The Kraken and Bobby Bob. There were no sons, Mr.Buckland and Mrs.Buckland had no chidren, but many, many years ago when he had started the company, shortly after they’d got married, he assumed that one day they would have children, one would be a boy and he would …well , he’d never had the heart to change the sign, seemed as if he’d given up if he did.No one else in the company had an old desk, certainly not one that Mr.Buckland had helped carry. No one else in the company had their fireplace converted into an aquarium and no one would dare put their feet up on their desks. But no one was particularly annoyed by this as Mr.Buckland paid them all very well and they knew that they had Jake to thank, as he’d refused to be paid any more that anyone else in the company, and Mr.Buckland knew he had to pay Jake well in order to keep him from being snapped up by his competitors.
Everything was fine.
Nothing troubled Jake.
Nothing really.
It only struck Jake every so often, when he wasn’t particularly busy, or enjoying what he was working on. He could hear someone coming up the stairs, turn onto the landing and then enter the short hallway that led to his office. What struck him was that it was a very short hallway, and yet , every so often, the someone would seem to take too many steps to get to his door, almost as if they were walking in place for a moment or two. He’d be conscious of it for a few moments and then he’d get caught up in whatever it was the someone had wanted him for.
It didn’t prey on his mind, as such, just struck him as odd every so often, for no particular reason.
And then one day, today in fact, as he was heading downstairs he decided to count how many steps it took him from his office door along the short hallway until he reached the turn for the landing before reaching the stairs. He counted seven steps. He went downstairs for a cup of tea, chatted to Nigel, Stella, and Mr.Buckland for a few , collected his comics and magazines from the front desk and then returned up the stairs, slurping his tea, and casually scanning the cover of the top magazine. It was only as he was about to turn into his own hallway that he remembered to count his steps.
That can’t be right. He walked back, counting. Seven. He laughed, turned on his heels and counted loudly “One, two three four five six…” He stopped. He wasn’t at his office door. He shook his head, moving on “ Seven, eight, nine.”
He opened his office door and walked to his desk, putting down his tea and magazines and then going back to the hall. He closed the door behind him, and slowly walked , counting seven steps to the landing. He turned, took a deep breath and slowly counted nine steps returning to his office. He was confused. He repeated the exercise several times, and every single time got two answers. Seven steps to the landing from his office, nine steps back.
“I need that tea.” He said to himself , opening his office door. He froze in shock. Sitting in his chair was a lady in Edwardian dress , his monitor and computer were gone, the fire roared in the fireplace, his bookcase was full of hardback books, none of which were his, his standing desk was gone. Then, almost simultaneously he noticed that his two pictures were gone from the wall and that the lady from the 1889 photograph was sitting at his desk. As he was about to speak the whole room shook. “What the heck was that ?”
“A train perhaps ?” the lady answered and started to laugh.

Author: paul

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