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midget

The Midget got married

Wild rose, Asolo, Italy. May 2018.

The Midget got married so she and the Blacksmith may now collectively be known as the Siblings.

And these dear siblings of mine are all adorably in love and what with the house smelling of roses and raspberry and white-chocolate cheesecake, they had a most perfect little wedding. The Siblings have a grin that could swallow the world. The clouds and the rain couldn’t compete. The sun tried its best to, and so summer finally turned up, but nothing could beat the Sibling’s smile.

Understandably I’ve been busy doing hair (the smaller sibling’s) and sewing because the Father wanted a tie to match his new waistcoat and so presented me with the material and made his request and smiled and being a dutiful daughter what could I do but clamber back into the loft, find the machine and learn how to make one. Back into the loft I say because I’d only just put the beast away – so much bunting.

The midget-sized sibling wanted me to plait her hair and so I did in a thousand plaits with handmade paper roses, long blue ribbons and my mother’s headdress. The one worn many years ago, before I was born, when she and the Father said their vows to each other.

And the Midget was beautiful and ever so elegant and managed to be entirely herself even though I played with her like a doll and she even let me put mascara near her bright blue eyes. She was pandering to me, but it’s not often that I get to play such games. I painted her toenails and promptly stood on her feet. We never mastered this hair and make-up thing like other girls do. I remember watching another bridal prep – one where I took the photos – and there were makeup artists and false lashes and trays of paints and an expertise I couldn’t understand. I did the Midget’s make-up the same as I do my own, and I did my own in the same as I do any other day and she looked like the Midget and I looked like me.

The Little Mermaid said she’d prefer to have lots of beautiful clothes rather than lots of beautiful make-up. I told her I’d rather a plane ticket and good food with friends. A dear friend of the Siblings and I fell into a conversation about ceviche and I told her I’d take her out for dinner the other side of the world and buy her a pisco sour. It’s a good plan.

But even before the bubbles and chinking glasses, the wedding was most definitely an adventure. Planned and re-planned, with risk assessments and hand sanitiser and masks and the Tall Aunty alert system – the fastest pandemic news source on the planet. And yet despite the world being in chaos around them, never knowing what would be in the next call from the registry office, the Siblings seemed to keep it in perspective and whilst the Mother negotiated and renegotiated with the catering, the Midget thought and talked about the adventure that would follow – being married.

So in my mind, the Siblings deserve every milli-second of their joy because they’ve worked out that if you want a relationship to work, you work at it. That love isn’t simply a game of infatuation but an act of warrior like bravery. That it’s an act from the heart of pure and unfaltering courage. That, as a wise man once said to me, the wedding is nice, but it’s the marriage that counts.

‘Adulting’ (Is that even a word?)

When she had grown-up, I took the Midget travelling. As you can see by the date, this was a long time ago.
The Dragon Bridge Ljubljana, 2014.

My little sister, the Midget, put three loads of washing on, one after the other, pinned them out on the washing line which stretches the length of her back-garden and commented on how, with the wind and the sun, it was perfect drying weather.

I rolled my eyes a little because she sounded just like the Mother, adult-like.

A little while later we headed out of the house and went for a walk

It rained.

However, as we were walking, she mentioned how being an adult still surprises her. Like being an adult was something as peculiar as being a fairy. Something unnatural and kind of weird.

Of course, I was curious about what she meant by the term she used, ‘adulting’, and being grown-up. After all, my little sister is a house owner with a stone carrying ring on her finger. I might be the one without the regular job and traditional lifestyle, but I’m not ‘adulting’, I’m an adult.

I dug a little deeper wondering what all of this meant.

The other night one of her colleagues came to visit

We played the board game Carcassonne and I cooked dinner. Early in the evening, the Midget sighed, declared it was time for some ‘adulting’ and disappeared out to the shop. Her colleague shook his head with bemusement. He finds her comments about growing-up funny and totally out of character as her supposed incompetence is in sharp contrast to her behaviour at work, which he described as confident.

So, on our walk, I asked my sister about how she feels at work and if she feels like she’s ‘adulting’ when she’s there. The look she gave me said no before she even opened her mouth.

At work, she said, she just felt inexperienced. There was so much more knowledge to acquire. At work, she feels like an adult. She’s an adult who’s learning what’s required for the next step in her career.

I moved the conversation onto sport.

Sport has always been a big part of her life

She’s not doing quite as much as she’d like to right now perhaps, but for the last however long, she’s been in and out of physiotherapy after being taken off a pitch on a backboard and in a neck-brace.

For a few months, I could lift heavier boxes than she could. It was incredible. But, in general, I’ve become used to the idea that she’s fitter and stronger than me. At one stage I could beat her on a long-distance run, but I’m not so sure now.

But because of the injuries, she’s feeling unfit. She might be unfit, but she knows what she’s doing. She’s got the first-aid kits, the tape, the punch bag and the tackle pad. When it comes to sport, she feels like an adult. She’s an adult who’s training to be faster and stronger.

So where is all this ‘adulting’ happening?

I pinned it down to right here in the house. What my sister seems to mean by ‘adulting’ is form filling and kitchen floor sweeping.

It takes time to learn to do these ‘adulting’ tasks

I think the real issue here is she hasn’t accepted the learning process and expects perfection from the get-go. She’s so good at almost everything that she believes something so ordinary and everyday as writing a supermarket shopping list should come easily. And then it doesn’t.

I’m reminded of my Great-Nonna’s housekeeping book

The one where she systematically made a tiny amount of money feed and clothe the whole family. The difference between the challenge facing my sister and the challenge my Great-Nonna faced is vast. My little sister, confident and capable at work, respected and admired within her sporting circles, doesn’t have to worry about looking after the individual pennies. She just needs to get enough food in the fridge to eat during the week.

The Great-Nonna had to treat budgeting like an art form. It demanded time, patience and took time to learn.

I think this is the step my sister is missing. Her to-do list doesn’t include ‘learn to write a shopping list’.

And I think the Midget is doing herself an injustice with her terminology

She’s not playing at being an adult, she is one. Her theory is she makes too many comparisons to other people. Not to me, because I’m ‘unconventional’, but to other people who seem to manage to keep their kitchens clean and refrigerators stocked.

Well, one of the many things I love about my sister is how she is not the same as everyone else. I love how she has priorities and she’s fierce about putting them first. You can’t prioritize everything, so some things fall to second place. If we run out of food, the supermarket is probably open 24 hours. It really is not a big deal.

But comparison is a hard-to-break habit.

The other week we watched a chunk of a home video

In the video, my sister was a cooing baby and I was toddling around bashing things. Our parents were the age we are now but seemed to look younger.

Except it’s all perspective, and how old we look tends to relate more to a context than anything else. Children can’t guess the age of adults without clues like grey hair and such a clue is less viable when so many people dye their hair. At work, I’m often assumed to be younger than I am. I doubt this would be the case if I was in a different job, but many language assistants tend to be just post-university age. Not all, I know a fair number who are the Mother’s age, but many.

What’s more, I’d look quite different wearing a formal jacket, my nails manicured, and my hair styled. Or if you could also see a photograph of me ten years ago.

I look in the mirror and see my grey hairs and contemplate that I am getting older

Meanwhile, whilst the Midget fusses about ‘adulting’, the Mother is ageing backwards. Having got the art of ‘adulting’ pretty much perfected, she’s likely to be found running around the garden in her welly-boots, swinging on her wooden garden swing, or trying to hula-hoop on one leg.

Truly, my family are the best.


As a side note here, this post came about because I asked the Midget what she wanted me to write about and she said herself. If you have something you particularly want me to write about, let me know.

What is the difference between holidaying and travelling?

Jardim Botânico da Madeira
One of my many photographs from the Jardim Botânico da Madeira.

For the first time since I was a child, I have a good night’s sleep before an early flight. So good in fact that I awake to the half past four alarms (we set a few), startled. I’m genuinely unsure where I am or why I’m there.

The Mother does a passport check – yes, I have mine – and we take the shuttle to the terminal. In the queue to drop off our baggage the Father takes my passport from me. He hands all four, in a neat stack, over to the man at the counter. I’ve stuck at the back and have to pop my head up for my face to be confirmed as a match.

My seat on the plane is a window seat. I laugh at this. For almost all the flights I have ever taken on my own, and there have been many, I have been allocated a window seat. Feeling that I have had the delight of the view many times, more often than my sister for example, I offer the seat up, but nobody wants it. I don’t understand. The sky in the early hours is a beautiful thing, even if it’s chucking it down. I’d always chose the window seat.

Once landed, we pass through security. All four of us manage to negotiate the electronic passport machines. Ahead of me are the carousels, the Father and Midget look ready to pounce on our luggage. I smile, the airport signs for the toilets are a match to the ones I saw in Faro in March. I like them because someone’s dared to be creative – the women aren’t in skirts. There’s also something about a sense of familiarity.

My brain jumps, as it now always does in a language explosion, to the adverts and posters. I read every sign and spend most of my time in the terminal with a furrowed brow. I don’t speak Portuguese, but travelling, especially travelling alone has made my brain pay attention to words I don’t know. I’m beginning to believe all that science about neuro-plasticity.  I’m working not with one language, but with a weird multi-language pattern recognising zone of my brain which a few years ago barely existed. I’m still no better at speaking any of the languages I don’t speak, but I’m getting noticeably quicker at recognising patterns.

However, I spend the holiday surrounded by English. I can say ‘por favor’ and ‘obrigado’ but when I greet the man at the bread counter I’m ashamed that I can’t even count to ten – all I want to do is get four bread rolls – this ineptitude I feel is ridiculous.

But this isn’t travelling, it’s just a holiday. It’s a beautiful holiday. I swim in the pool with the Mother, play tennis with the Father and pool with the Midget. I buy and eat fruit from the market that I can’t name in English, and bathe in the gorgeous warmth of the sun. After a few days, I begin to realise that it’s been a long time since I’ve had a holiday like this. It feels deserved.

Which just goes to show how much I’ve grown in the last few months. My endeavour to have a gentler brain is working. There was a point where I criticised myself when travelling, even though I genuinely believe that’s what I want to be doing, and that it’s good for me.

The grandmother would ask, “Are you off on another holiday?”

And I’d not know what to say, other than, “Yes.”

Perhaps, at a first glance, the difference isn’t so big. When I lived in Barcelona I swam in the sea, sunbathed on the beach and, in the evenings, drank wine with a couple of American ladies. Taken at face value, it certainly looked like a holiday.

The difference however is in the mindset. On holiday, you’re getting away from it all, you’re relaxing, you’re allowing yourself to be diverted from the normal course of your life – temporarily. When travelling, (at least for me), you’re getting under the skin of something. You’re learning, listening, thinking intensely and allowing the experience to change you – permanently.

Toilet sign Faro Airport
The toilet sign that made me smile.