Every now and then, in amongst all the pains and pressures of survival, life brings you…a worm.
There you are, like a starving baby bird squawking for sustenance, your mouth wide open (or beak if you really wanna stick with the bird comparison), waiting for a tasty morsel to see you through another day.
You watch as the stronger members of your species thrive; they can reach higher and squawk louder than you, they get the fattest worms and they won’t share with you because, well…because in this analogy they are birds and therefore have no conscience, but in human terms they don’t share because, why should they? ‘Tis not their fault you are weak and pathetic while they are strong and go-getty and plan-makey.
But sometimes, by chance or by might, you get your worm. And because you don’t get many worms, you savour it, you deeply appreciate it whilst also panicking that someone might steal it, or that you’ll lose it because you are a weak, pathetic, egg-laying, feathered vertebrate who will likely never learn to fly.
I am that wretched vertebrate. The purpley/baldy runt of the pack.
Yesterday I writhed my way through the day, pitifully squawking for a wriggley morsel, lurching from one feeble, unsatisfying moment to the next.
The list of things I had to do was no longer than on any other day, but yesterday appeared before me like an endless unravelling scroll of things to fail at. By tea-time my eyes were as swollen and slitty as a newborn sparrow.
The washing was undone. Ditto the dishes. Youngest had acquired a ginormous gash down the side of his face which he insisted could only be remedied by being permanently attached to my legs. Eldest needed my full attention to make crucial life decisions. The cat emptied the contents of her stomach on the stairs, the landing and finally, on my bed. The hamster emptied the contents of his cage, poos and all, onto the hall floor and into every shoe. Also Gwyneth is working away again. Also I need to pay for that school-trip. Also my jeans don’t fit anymore. Also I really need an uninterrupted week to write my book. Also all the light bulbs are blowing. Also Trump. Also racism. Also sexism. Also Brexit. Also Syria. Also the future of the planet…
I placated youngest with a handful of shut-up sweets and then made the brilliant decision that this would be the ideal moment to try out an untested recipe. I may be a shit-shovelling excuse for a human being but I can at least feed my children! I am the mother bird, bringing the worm to the nest!
This is what happens when you place vegetables and salmon fillets attractively on a sheet of baking-parchment, seasoned with herbs, garlic and lemon juice, all wrapped up into darling individual parcels and then bake them in the oven for 20mins.
You will open the parcels and cry. You will scrape the contents onto plates, leaving most of it behind, stuck to the parchment paper. Then you will swear and smoke outside.
You will place your youngest child in front of an inappropriate tv show with a bowl of cereal.
Then you will place an enormous glass of wine into your face and declare yourself entirely unqualified for the job of existence.
Eldest dutifully gnawed through the mixture of under-cooked veg and over-cooked fish, declaring it delicious. She is delicious. She said she was struggling with poetry at college, so I dug out a few of my favourites and we dissected them while picking slivers of parchment paper from between our teeth.
Oh, this is a classic – what’s the rhyme scheme? Look there’s an octave followed by a sestet, so what form is it? Can you find any internal rhymes? And what is it about? And how does it make you feel? Listen to the pleading tone of this one! What does this rhythm do to the meaning? God how incredibly sad is this one?
That’s when I got my worm.
Can’t cook, can’t clean, can’t plan, can’t achieve, but can talk art and words and truth and beauty and watch my girl’s eyes sing with a new understanding of poetry’s pleasures.
I am sustained for another day.
Also, good to know that there is clearly no need to fret about being the proverbial early bird. There are plenty of worms to be had in the dead of night at your own kitchen table when – YAK, let’s stop with all this wormy biz, we’re having spaghetti tonight.
I surely can’t fuck THAT dinner up!
NB. Don’t eat actual worms, folks…