In my mid-twenties if someone had mentioned a fish finger sandwich I would have said "Oh God - I haven't one of those since I was a student", believing it was a lifetime ago. It's nearly 10 years, this June, since I graduated from University. Now I watch little pockets of life creep backwards and forwards. Old enough to know how a motif from of a previous life can pop into a present - even a fish finger sandwich!
Some recurring motifs...
I'm in labour with my second child, it's as close to hell on earth I've ever been, I'm strapped to the bed with machines clicking around me like tutting tongues. The midwife says "I've just got to pop out, won't be a moment", this is the first time she's left us in 3 hours. The three of us squeezed into the NHS high dependency maternity room, on the hottest day of the year, with only Jeremy Kyle blurting his sanctimonious nonsense (on the hour of free TV) as a distraction from each other. The Future Husband turns to me "Sorry Fran, I need a shit" and darts into the en-suite. Contraction 144 starts, I pull the gas and air to my face, I breathe it in and I breath it out, bubbles rush to my head, the room spins and I lean over the side of the bed and vomit.
Then I'm back in 1987, my dad and I are leaving the dentist, I have a tooth in my left hand and my pink knitted cardigan in my right and just when we are in the middle of the road I stop, bend over and retch. Vomit splashes on my maroon patent, buckle shoes and my dad stands there, clad in chinos and a shirt and tie, holding my hair. "Done?" he asks. I nod. We cross the road.
The midwife re-enters the room, the contents of my stomach reign supreme on the floor. She turns to The FH, "Where were you?"
This winter, I stand at the bottom of a white hill, sledge string in hand, two boys on-board. The hill-top merges with the sun's long fingers, masking the rest of the view in beauty. I smell the rays as they bounce of the snow, "I want to go skiing today" I whisper.
I'm walking up a white hill, wearing last night's clothes, with last night's make up smudged upon my face. Each step thuds inside my head and in my stomach, red wine curdles with toffee vodka. I look at the deserted road, hoping to spot the bread van and a lift home. The road is white and empty and long. "I don't want to ski today" I groan.
"Come on Mamma" shouts a mouth emerging from the gap between hat and scarf. I start the journey up the hill. It's white and empty and beautiful.
A bottle of Calvin Klein’s' Eternity stands alone at a school fete. Just one sniff...
...And I'm wearing an oversized ski jacket that drowns a tee-shirt and jeans from Topshop. Cheap cider, from our breath, hangs in the air. The night is cold but full of possibility. We gather in the shadiest corners of the town, obscured by the darkness of winter nights. We believe we're justified. We're harmless. But from the outside we look dangerous; full of teenage hormones, rebellion and Electric White.
"Did you want that?" she points at the half full bottle, with a 50p sticker on its lid.
"No Thanks. Just the memory."
I sit at the lap top and try to conjure the words that sprinkled across my head when I searched for sleep. What to call it? My fingers flex and the words emerge on the blank screen.
I have longed for these cold keys, the smell of the ink ribbon, feeling the letters push back against my fingertips. Rolling the paper, click click click click, finding the centre, screeeech, pressing the ink onto the paper, staining the white, creating something.
"Where's Frances?" My Grandma asks from the kitchen.
"At your typewriter...again" My sister replies.
"Where's your Mamma?" the future husband shouts from upstairs.
"On the pooter" squeals the eldest child from under the youngest child.
"Coming!" I shrill