Self Portrait 365|132 • February Collage

by Katie Paul on February 28, 2015

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I was almost going to take a photo of my legs in crazy tights today and pass it off as my self-portrait but then I realised it was the last day of the month and that it might look weird with one odd photo in the collage. So here’s a photo of my head again.

February Collage

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Self Portrait 365|131

by Katie Paul on February 27, 2015

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My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.

― Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic

 

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Self Portrait 365|130

by Katie Paul on February 26, 2015

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I’ve been battling a headache all day. This is my brave face. I’m off to lie down.

 

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Self Portrait 365|129 • The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

by Katie Paul on February 25, 2015

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There is a drawing of a spotted cow on my blue mug. She is stranded midair on a crescent moon. ‘Nothing is ever easy’ the caption reads. The mug was a leaving present from a job long ago, I can’t remember which one.

On my way to the study I take a mouthful of the hot drink. The black liquid is sour and dirty, reminding me of old men and stale sweat. My disgust is intensified because the taste takes me by surprise. My tongue, my throat, my entire body are expecting something sweeter, lighter and smoother. Instead of drinking hot black tea, I’m drinking coffee.

I return to the kitchen, to the other mug on the bench. It is one of the six that belong to his dinner set. I don’t have a dinner set. All I brought with me was a random assortment of novelty mugs. Somehow, in the morning fog, I have made our drinks the wrong way around.

I inherited my preference for tea from my parents. Neither of them drank coffee so I never grew accustomed to the taste. That’s what it is — an acquired taste — a sharp, earthy, gritty experience that you don’t like straight away. It’s an adult taste, like beer and wine, endured for the effect it has. Morning coffee, full of caffeine to wake you up or in the evening to keep you from falling asleep. While my friends at University sucked down great quantities of coffee to fuel their assignments, I stuck with Coca-Cola.

My mother drinks milky tea with one saccharine tablet and my father drinks it black. It used to take tea to work with him in a silver thermos flash with a lid that turned into a cup. He would come in from painting the outside of houses at 10am and 3pm for morning and afternoon tea. He called it smoko, because he used to have a cigarette at the same time. Up until the seventies, that is, up until he found Jesus. Christians didn’t need Pall Mall or beer or wine to get them through the day. But tea was okay — more than okay — tea was the beverage of choice after church on Sunday mornings, the perfect accompaniment to home-made cakes and biscuits supplied by the wives.

It makes it easier that my boyfriend and I both take our drinks black. There is no running to the shops early in the morning to get fresh milk because the carton in the fridge is out of date and has turned into a rancid blob. As long as there are teabags, a jar of coffee and a box of saccharine tablets we are prepared to face the day. I drink Earl Grey or Lady Grey. When I was obsessed with being thin, I switched to green tea. The weak yellow liquid never provided the same level of satisfaction. During my recovery, reverting back to real tea was easy.

I keep the supply of teabags in a metal tin my mother used to own. When I was a child, the white container with blue flowers was the receptacle for tea leaves. ‘One each and one for the pot,’ my mother would say as she spooned the black powder in a china teapot. A tea strainer sat on top of the cup to prevent stray tea leaves getting in. It didn’t work though because inevitably at the end of a cup of tea there was residue of leaves in the bottom. My mother’s friend Barbara read the future from the pattern the tea leaves left behind. That stopped too when my mother found Jesus. ‘Thou shalt not consult witches and psychics,’ my mother said.

Barbara wasn’t a witch or even a psychic, she was simply having a bit of fun. She looked like Jackie Kennedy with her back-combed dark beehive hair and huge black sunglasses. After a while she stopped coming for a visit. My mother replaced her with Denise, a petite blond woman who never raised her voice above a whisper.

I take a mouthful of tea from the mug that isn’t mine. The familiar taste washes away the lingering sourness of my boyfriend’s coffee. I sigh and wonder what happened to Barbara Benson. I hope she is still alive and enjoying a life filled with sunshine and grandchildren. I hope she reaches across to hold hands with the person she loves when she wakes in the morning. I hope the bright future she saw in the tea leaves came true.

But as I grow older myself, I’m not optimistic. After all, nothing is ever easy.

‘Good morning, beautiful,’ my boyfriend says as he walks into the kitchen. His hair sticks up in eager spikes, styled by the motion of his head on the pillow during the night. His chest is bare, his stomach indented where his abdominal muscles connect. ‘Morning abs,’ he says when I point them out. ‘They disappear once I’ve had my coffee.’

He rubs sleep from his eyes with the heel of his hand and looks at the blue mug on the kitchen bench.

‘Where’s mine?’ he asks. The morning sunlight slides in through the windows and splinters into coloured shards through a glass candle holder on the sill.

‘I made them the wrong way around,’ I say. ‘Yours is in my mug.’

He takes a sip, screwing up his face as a defence against the heat of the liquid.

‘Mmm.’ He sighs. He tilts the mug slightly to look at the side. ‘Nothing is ever easy? Is that what you think?’

I shrug. ‘Maybe.’

‘You’re easy,’ he says.

I raise my eyebrows in mock surprise. He laughs. ‘Easy to love,’ he says. ‘That’s what I meant.’

 

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Self Portrait 365|128 • Right Now

by Katie Paul on February 24, 2015

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Prompt: Observe everything about the moment — tell yourself you want to remember it three years from now.

It is a cold for summer. Usually in February the sun beats down relentlessly forcing the temperatures into the thirties. But today there is a cool wind blowing off the ocean and dark grey clouds covering the sun. The sliding door is closed so the bamboo curtain designed to keep insects out doesn’t flap around in the breeze.

My boyfriend works beside me. He has chosen today to work from home. He seems to spend most of his time answering emails and phone calls. I remember what that was like — everyone else’s problems carving away at the day, leaving you with no time to do anything new or productive. ‘What should I do about …?’ or ‘How do I fix …?’ are the opening lines to a song that gets stuck in your head. I wonder sometimes how people are able to dress themselves in the morning without having to phone for help. ‘Where do I put the button again?’ In the fucking button-hole.

We are having trouble sleeping. Well, I am having trouble sleeping. I wake every hour and a half drenched in sweat and anxious. At that moment it seems impossible to remain still so I get up and go to the bathroom. Sometimes I go outside and have a cigarette on the balcony where the breeze evaporates the moisture on my skin, and sometimes I lay on the sofa, feeling the cold fabric against my back.

Last night I gave up at 2am and slept in the spare room. The queen sized bed is mine, the one I bought when I left my husband. It holds the imprint of three men— my married lover, my one night stand and the new man I have now slept beside for the past five years. I don’t think about any of them in the middle of the night, I just think about how much better it is to sleep alone right now. Somehow when I’m by myself the sheets don’t feel like hot slices of aluminium foil wrapped around my skin.

As well as the bed in the master bedroom belonging to my boyfriend, the desk I work on is his as well. It is a heavy, old timber desk that looks as though it was once a dining table. The vanish has grown dull and scratched — not all of it my fault — it came already damaged. We all come damaged to some extent. I’m not one for refurbishment, I like to see the age of something, the testament to the fact that someone or something has had an interesting life.

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Self Portrait 365|127

by Katie Paul on February 23, 2015

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And just so you don’t think it is all glamour around these parts, here’s me sporting a granny bun I fashioned without looking in the mirror.

It’s Monday today so I’m in my workout gear. I start off each week with great intentions and then I ‘forget’ as the week goes on. Who would believe that once I used to get up at 5am every morning to go the gym before work? Seems like a lifetime ago now.

Today I’ve lifted some weights and done half a YouTube ballet class.

They say something is better than nothing.

 

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