The Personal Touch - Gifts and Cards
I woke up this morning to a lovely 'Happy Songkran' card from my friend Duang in Bangkok. She is also the esteemed illustrator of two of my children's books 'The Day the Wi-Fi Broke' and 'Just Five More Minutes'. (She draws under the name NokIsMe). The card featured a Happy Songkran message with the star of the book, a little girl called 'Lucy' wearing a protective face mask. It made me smile and once again, I wondered whether I should return to this series and write some more titles. (A thought for another day!) My thought for the current time was how nice it is to get personalised messages, cards, and small gifts. This took me to a podcast I'd been listening to yesterday, which emphasised how completing altruistic acts can reduce anxiety and generally make a person feel better. This is something that we could all benefit from right now!
Kind Things to Do When You're Bored
With this in mind I have come up with a few ideas of things to do that are kind, altruistic (thus anxiety reducing), fairly cheap and easy (I'm not the best crafter) and can fill the time during these strange times of self-isolation.
Right now, I seem to feel quite busy - in fact, overly busy, some of the time - the truth is that I am only busy (fulfilling my personal goals, (as designed by Annie) and being mum, daughter, etc. (sadly not wife so much at the minute, as Mick is stuck in Bangkok.). I'm making my day as full as it can be so as to stay sane. I'm not sure my kids will vouch to the fact that I'm succeeding, but ...
Looking back at my suggestions, for things to do when bored they do seem to be a bit nostalgic, leaning towards getting in touch with people we haven't seen in a while and might not see in a while. It is nice to keep in contact with people though and now is definitely the time to share good feeling and kindness.
I definitely plan to pass the time by completing one or two of these activities today. The focus of doing so will hopefully make me feel a little less stressed with life too. If you are bored and complete any of them, let me know in the comments how you get on.
Missing your Boyfriend or Husband
The Flint and the Flint Smith ladies are all without their men! Dad is in a carehome with a broken leg in pot. This is particularly hard on my mum as she can't even visit him now. Mick is over in Bangkok overseeing online learning at school. He isn't allowed to travel in case the schools suddenly open. This is, in my opinion, utterly rubbish. Betsy's boyfriend is down in Dagenham. As an 'at risk youngster' he wasn't able to travel to spend her birthday with her as planned, so that was a blow for them. Finally, we dragged Annie away from Spain, wanting her to be back here and quarantined with the family, Poor old Annie, what with leaving Bangkok, then London and now Spain she seems to spend most of her life saying, if not goodbye, at least farewell to special people in her life. :(
So, all in all, you would expect us to be rather gloomy. We all do have our down moments, but overall we are doing pretty well at staying positive.
Ways to Deal with Missing your Significant Other
These are our tips for keeping our spirits up:
Communicate Frequently. The Flint and Flint Smith ladies are all doing this as far as we are able. As I mentioned, it is much harder for mum and dad than the rest of us. Dad's sight is too poor for him to easily use a phone and the carers are in the home are very busy, so we don't want to be a nuisance by continually taking the careworkers away from the residents. I am able to ring Mick. I like to chat whilst I am doing my daily 'isolated' walk. This is heading towards Mick's headtime where he is very ready for some interaction after a day of isolation in Bangkok. The girls, communicate late into the night. Their communication techniques are far more advanced than ours and include playing online games, watching shared films and series as well as good old fashioned chatting.
Complete Tasks. This is something that I try to do anyway when feeling anxious and the current situation is certainly anxiety inducing. In our household we have our days divided up into 'tasks' time and 'chilling out' time. (Betsy hates the word 'jobs', but that's what 'tasks' are!) and goals. Our jobs include regular day-t0-day stuff like washing, hoovering, folding laundry etc. (but the iron has NOT been out!). In addition Annie has been keeping busy by painting the fence and garden bench, I've sorted out the garage and Betsy has become a dab-hand at bathroom cleaning! We have all agreed to be mindful that tasks do need doing so as to live harmoniously together!
Remember to be Grateful and Kind. In recent times it has felt, occasionally, that the cards are stacked against the Flints and Flint Smiths. There is, though, a lot to be grateful for. We ladies, at least, can be together; Dad is being well-cared for; the weather is good so we are not completely confined to the house, but can get out in the garden. There's loads more things too. My strategy is to write three different things down every morning which sets the day off positively.
Take a Challenge. I like nothing better than ticking things off a list and tracking my achievements, however small they might be. (I've been doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge for several years now and it still gives me a thrill when I complete it.) Annie has a similar mindset to me regarding challenges. She has made a 'goal calendar for April where we tick off daily the things we accomplish. My own goals are to improve on the piano, do some exercise and either read or blog daily. Betsy has also 'allowed' her name to be added to the April challenge, but I'm not so sure that it is quite her thing. 'Lists' are another one of her taboo words along with 'jobs' and this particular challenge does include an element of ticking off and recording what we've done.
Try to Avoid Over-Worrying. When apart from a loved one it is very easy to focus on them all of the time. This, of course, makes sense and is fine to a point, but it can be anxiety inducing. I am quite a fan (in principle at least, though it doesn't always work in practice) of using Cognitive Therapy Techniques to manage worry. It helps to phrase events as positively as possible. Instead of thinking "we will never be together again," it is, perhaps, more helpful to rephrase to something like "there will be an end to this situation and we can look forward to being back together."
Accept your Sadness. Whislt there is lots that we can do to distract ourselves, fill the time and channel our negative feelings as positively as possible we are still sad to be apart from our loved ones. I'm a believer in transparency in all parts of life, "better out than in" is something I often say. I think being mindful that it is fine to feel sad and to express sadness is a good thing to be. A good cry is cathartic and 'getting the sadness out' will make it easier to stay positive for the majority of the time.
Do Something Romantic. Being apart doesn't mean that you can't still indulge in a bit of romance. My mum, for example wrote my dad a letter for one of the careworkers to read to him in the home last week. I thought this was a very speical thing to do. There's something lovely about receiving n old-fashioned card or letter. Being romantic doesn't mean you have to 'splash the cash' but if you're feeling extravagent then why not. Judging by the review Mick wrote here, I can tell that he was very happy to have a special anniversary gift last week!
Stand by your Man and Tell the World you Love Him
I once heard Tammy Wynette saying she has spend a lifetime of defending the song 'Stand by her Man' to feminists. I am a feminist and to be honest her defence of the song doesn't help her case! I do like the song though, and choose to interpret it along the lines of if you've got a 'good guy' in your life then what's wrong with shouting out that fact of the rooftops. (Perhaps that's because I'm always talking about Saint Mick of Thana). Absence, it has been said, makes the heart grow fonder. There is no doubt that our hearts are full of fondness right now. Perhaps you are also missing a partner. What strategies do you have for managing time apart from a loved one?
Book Review of Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
The story, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, shares the events prior to and following the disappearance of several children who go missing in a slum area of India. It is a powerful story with beautifully drawn characters, revealed to us from the perspective of nine year old Jai, The 'Afterword' provides factual context and tells us that up to 180 children go missing every single day in India. This turns a poignant and moving work of fiction into a tragic insight into reality. In fact, I can't think of a book with a more powerful 'Afterword' in any work of fiction I've come across.
Having a child narrator in fiction can be problematic. They are required to share with the reader that which is likely to be beyond their own sphere of understanding. Anappara manages to combine a childlike narration of a nine year old with an omniprescent narration brilliantly, without any jarring of purpose and voice. The reader can share Jai's excitement regarding 'solving a mystery' whilst simultaneously empathising with his parents fear and despair about any harm coming to their children.
There is a sense of inevitability and loss that pervades the text. The circumstances leading to the abduction of Runu-Didi is particularly powerful and enlightening, as it explores how she sees her own role as a female growing up in contemporary India. The structural and narrative changes of these interspersed chapters work extremely well as a tool for exploring social, economic and political issues.
There is nothing romantic about Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. It doesn't have a happy ending and praying to 'Mental' isn't effective. Nevertheless, it isn't lacking in hope and is an exquisite observational account of humanity.
Book Discussion Questions for Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
Discuss the title of the book. Why is the story called Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line?
Why did Runu-Didi stay in a quiet and deserted area of the basti?
Were you surprised by the level of corruption in Jai's neighbourhood?
After the events of the novel Faiz's family decide to move to a different neighbrouhood with more Muslim and less Hindi residents. Around the same time Pari wins a scholarship to a 'better' school and leaves the neighbourhood. What is Anappara telling us by including these details?
The character Quarter is in the 'background' of the novel throughout, largely presented as a sinister figure. What is your opinion of him and what is his role in the novel?
At what point in the novel did you work out who was abducting the children?
What did you find the most brutal observation within the book?
If you were to write or read a sequel to the book what would happen to Faiz, Jai and Pari?
The first chapter begins with 'This story will save your life'. On a first reading did you find the opening difficult to understand? If so why? How do you interpret the opening chapter having read the whole book?
What genre do you think Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is?
If Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line was a film what child actor (past or present) would you allocate the key roles to?
Bookclub Questions for Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (if you haven't read the book!)
What other books have you read with a child narrator? Did you enjoy them and why or why not?
The book uses several Hindi terms that might need translating to someone living outside of India or not familiar with Hinduism. Do you like books to have a glossary in cases where authors make an active choice to use language specific to a place or culture? Is this question negatively indicative of Western bias?
Do you believe in Djinns?
In Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line some of the parents and siblings blame themselves for the disappearance of their families. This is the case, for example, with Chandni who wants to make the night better for her family by buying sweet treats so venturing out in the dark. How quick are you to take the blame for things that you are not necessarily able to prevent from happening?
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line begins by saying 'This story will save your life'. Have you read a book that have massively impacted your own lives? How and why has it been important to you?
Share with the group any books by other Indian authors or books set in India that you would like to recommend. What did you enjoy about them?
Personal Reflection based on Deepa Anappara's Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
In the very dim and distant past I, and my now husband, spent several months back-packing in India. Our budget was tiny and we stayed in many 'low end' hostels. We met a lot of local people, travelled the length of the country by train and had a lot of experiences - good and bad. This was all with the knowledge that if the chips were really down then we could fly home. We loved the trip and India has remained a special place in our hearts.
Reading Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line brought back so many memories, smells, tastes, insights and love for this vibrant country. Over and above this made me, for the first time, reflect on the arrogance and sense of entitlement I had during our visit. I'm finding it difficult to express what I mean but I know that I'm currently feeling ashamed of how little I even really tried to understand the country and the people from a perspective other than my own. Reading Djinn Patrol made India real to me in a way that my extended visits to it didn't. I can now make connections to what I saw and experienced, enabling me to try and move beyond a subconscious post-colonial bias that I didn't even realise I had. This, I hope will positively influence my future attitude and outlook and make me just a little bit less egotistical and self-centred in how I perceive people and places outside of my norms. For this, I thank Deep Anappara.. Djinn Patrol is one of the most powerful pieces of fiction I've read. I'm putting it right up there with Bernadine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other for great books I've read this year!
A Reprieve from Empty Nest Syndrome
As my friends and family know Mick and I really struggled when both girls left home to go to University. I've talked a lot about the girls finishing school and posted about managing Empty Nest Syndrome several times. It is strange then to be posting about how to manage having grown up children back at home...
Annie is in her third year at UCL, but was abroad in Spain as an Erasmus student at the University of Salamanca, and Betsy was studying at York, when the Coronavirus brought them both back home to me in Broughton. (I should probably say me back to them, as thery had both returned back before I left Bangkok to return to them and my parents).
I guess to show that I had really managed my Empty Nesting Anxiety successfully I ought to be saying that it is now a hard adjustment to have two fully-fledged grown up women back living in our small bungalow. That would be a complete fib though - whilst the circumstances leading to their return are rubbbish, I am DELIGHTED to have them back with me. It is hard on the girls though; it feels like Betsy has had uni life interrupted before it had hardly begun, and Annie has had to leave an independent and full life behind (one that she might not return to) and instead hang out with her old mum. In addition, both girls have to get used to being around each other again.
Tips for Living With Grown Up Children
We are only two weeks in, but so far are doing ok. These are my tips and blunders so far:
Empty Nesting No More
I've always been a firm believer that I am the girls' "mum" not their "friend'. I think though, the final thing that can help for a harmonious return to grown up kids living at home is to change this mindset just a little bit. Of course, I am still their mum with all that comes with that, but in terms of actually sharing the same living space, treating the whole experience as equal friends (well nearly equal) living together will ('m telling myself) create harmony. I have a feeling if I tell my girls that's what we are doing though, they might just laugh at me and ask who I am kidding. Perhaps I am trying to return to my lost youth!