Long Hand

Long hand.

I am returning to writing in it. Today I decided to pick up my pen again.  To write long hand.

Long hand is the long, slow way.  The long way round.  Travel for the sake of travel.  Journeying for enjoyment.  Taking time.  The long hand of the clock moves slowest, but marks the greatest measure of time.  So long hand can be the long way to the purest, most reasoned, most considered, most deeply felt words.

Writing long hand forces us to take care of the journey, to take our time, to look at the view, to slow down.

This morning I noticed how untidy my writing was and realised that I was trying to write long hand as fast as I am used to typing.  Impossible!  So writing long hand takes on new meaning.  As I write with a pen I’m thinking about the way I’m forming my letters and words.  Thinking about ink pens and calligraphy.  Perhaps, in a time when most of us clack away on our keyboards, long hand will return to the revered art form it once was.

For years I kept a specially bound plain page notebook into which I carefully copied the poems I’d written that I felt merited keeping for history – to show my children and grandchildren.  A fresh page for each poem, carefully lettered in real old-fashioned ink.  To me I suppose it was a way of honouring my own words, or the words that had honoured me by appearing in that particular order, organisation, understanding.  The long way.

I think our words, poems in particular, arrive via the long way round, even though sometimes they seem to appear as if by magic.  They have travelled, brewed.  A loved one does not appear magically in ‘arrivals’ at the airport!  Sometimes we write the journey, sometimes it’s a long and arduous one we are keen to discard – how quickly do we leap in the shower after a long haul flight.  At other times it’s all about the journey and it is this that we show to our reader, rather than the arrival itself.

However words arrive, they have journeyed, the long way round, to be here.

Giving our words, or the words of others, the honour of being written in long hand is, I think, an art form that will not be lost or forgotten, but rediscovered, studied and cherished.

When I grow up, I want to be a scribe.

(c) Naomi Madelin 2011

For more on writing, see my blog post here


All We Need is Just a Lot of Patience

What is patience?

The ability to wait for a bus without giving up and going home.

The skill of walking slowing with a toddler and being amazed, with her, at every stick, stone and flower.

Telephoning a friend and listening to his troubles, when he never returned your last call and forgot your birthday.

Patience can be small and easy, or deep and difficult.

A dictionary definition says it is “The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”

Look it up on Wikipedia and the explanation includes:

“Patience (or forbearing) is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties.”

Sometimes don’t you just hate Patience?!  I think of myself as quite a patient person, and then I read this and feel ashamed for even thinking that!  Damn you Patience, for making me feel bad about myself…

Patience is sometimes easier over a distance.  If the friend or family member you had an argument with is overseas, it might be easier to wait for their postcard, or their call, with distance you are able to cool off, see things as they really are, forgive.

But equally distance can try your patience.  Your partner’s away and all you want is a word of tenderness, a hug… You don’t want to wait.  A text comes, or a phone message, and you’re forced to interpret its true meaning.  You feel annoyed, angry, frustrated.  Argh – patience, where are you?!

Wikipedia also says that “Patience is the level of endurance one’s character can take before negativity….”    Antonyms include hastiness and impetuousness.

How often have we hastily judged another, rather than waiting patiently to see how a situation plays out, or to allow them to explain themselves better, or to give ourselves time to step into their shoes and see the situation from their perspective?  

How often have we impetuously tooted our horn at another driver, snapped at our partner or done something selfish as a result of impatience?


If we sow seeds in our garden we wait, we water, we watch.  We don’t dig it up the next day and stamp on it, or pour kerosene on it and set it alight because it didn’t grow.

Things that require our patience often require our nurturing too. Be it a big idea, saving for a holiday, or a relationship.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”  Rilke

“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.”  Dutch Proverb

Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.” George Jackson (1941 – 1971)

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.”  Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)

Top That : Party Nightmares

Leading up to my daughter’s 4th birthday I became obsessed with strawberries.

She likes ‘Strawberry Shortcake’, and I thought that would be a good theme.  There are, after all, limited birthdays for which fun parties will be required.  Soon enough she’ll just want me to take her and her best friend to concert (bring back Take That, I say), or have ‘the girls’ over for greasy pizza, a horror film and a sleepover.  God forbid.

I scoured the internet for the right ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ themed party ware at a reasonable price, and plunged into every ‘$2’ shop I passed to see what fruity goodies may lurk there.

What games to play?  Treasure hunt, buns-on-strings, musical chairs, pass-the-parcel, pin the hat on Strawberry Shortcake. How many games should there be?  What the prizes?  And what the food?  Oh, the organisation….

A week before The Day we went to the 4th birthday party of one of our daughter’s small friends.  The house was decorated with unusual streamers, brought over from Europe. The party table was adorned with party poppers, small gifts, all sorts of party naughties to eat and featured a stylish red cupcake stand.  The guests were all lovely – even the children!  Pieces de resistance were the handmade necklaces the hostess had done for all the little girl guests – being the mother of a boy she had relished this foray into girliness.

It was a lovely party and the children – girls and boys nicely balanced, I thought, had a whale of a time.

Now, I thought I was verging on appearing like a competitive party mum with all my strawberriness.  For by now pink strawberry shaped biscuits, strawberry shaped shortbread and strawberry shortcakes (a bit like scones but sweeter) lurked in my freezer in readiness, with homemade ‘cheesymite’ sticks and vanilla cupcakes each waiting to be iced and topped with a berry-shaped sweetie. A box in the cupboard was full of hand-made strawberry shaped chocolate lollipops I’d made, and a jar stuffed with every strawberry shaped sweet I’d come across over the past two months.  My Mum, bless her doting grandmotherliness, had even sent from the UK some wonderful ice lolly moulds in the shape of strawberrries, where the handles were the wee green stick part of the fruit. Ingenious.

Or perhaps overkill?

Anyway, after this other party, which we attended as a family, my dear husband looked at me and in sincere consternation said “What hand made things have we got at our party?  Is it going to be as good?”

I laughed, then looked hard at him and realised he was deadly serious.  “It’s not about being the best,” I reminded him, “It’s about Daisy having a good time on her birthday.”

That night we sat and cut out strawberry shapes from concertina’d tissue paper, and strung them on strings for streamers.  He seemed happy.  Then went into the kitchen to hand make some marshmallow, just in case…

Finally we got to bed and fell into a fitful sleep.  In the early hours I woke from a terrible nightmare.  It’s the day of our daughter’s party.  As requested, James (the husb) is helping me out and not just standing drinking beer with the other dads.  “Pass the parcel time,” he calls, corralling myriad children and sitting them in a circle.  My heart leaps.  I haven’t prepared the parcel.  Small gifts are lying unwrapped in a drawer somewhere while wrapping paper is gathering dust on the top of the wardrobe. Anyone who has ever made a pass-the-parcel knows that these dastardly things take three times longer than you think to put together.  There is no way I can do it in time.  DISASTER.

Next morning, as we laughed about my nightmare, I realised it was time to stop obsessing over strawberries, after all I had more strawberry themed party gifts, prizes and what not than twenty children ought to require – and I certainly hadn’t invited twenty.  Thank goodness I had maintained a little sense at least.

Trouble was, I hadn’t quite designed the birthday cake yet. I had this Strawberry Shortcake doll I was thinking of putting into the middle of a bowl-shaped cake to make one of those ‘doll with a big flouncy skirt’ type of cakes.  But everything just seemed so overwhelmingly, well, pinky.

I had another doll I’d scored for $1 from an auction site.  Strawberry Shortcake on a skateboard… That night, James and I sat and worked out how to cut a large marble cake into the right shapes to make a skate park.  Then I dyed my my home-made moulding icing just the right shade of pinky grey for the concrete, rolled and stuck it onto the cake while James graffiti’d ‘Happy Birthday’ with food colouring, and tagged it with the names of all the children who were coming.  Rock on.

The moral of my tale? Well, there isn’t one. The party was gorgeous, if the children didn’t totally appreciate it, all the adults certainly did.  They wondered at all the strawberry-themed home made food, the pretty cupcakes (adorning the same red cupcake stand I’d got my friend to bring along!), the red, white and pink balloons and strawberry shaped streamers.  When I brought out the strawberry ice lollies I felt parents hearts sink.  Dads at the barbeque marvelled at James’ home made burger patties.  I think the birthday cake (which the children loved because, well, it was cake) was the absolute killer though.  It was for me.  Especially since for some reason I failed to take a really good picture of it.

Ah well, there’s always next year.