Welcome! You have found the home of 'Being Me', Fran Hill's blog. If you like what you read, you will enjoy my funny teacher-memoir 'Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?' My next book - a funny-poignant novel about sibling rivalry in a foster care situation - is out in April 2023 with Legend Press and is called 'Cuckoo in the Nest'. My website is at www.franhill.co.uk. Come and visit for more Fran info!
Evidence that I don't always finish what I start
I've just come across this piece I entered for an 'Opening to a Novel' competition a few years ago. I wrote it, entered it, heard nothing, and years later I find it in my files. I'm most intrigued to know what I intended to write next, should they have written back and said they liked it.
We lay calm in our beds that
night. Even the baby, for once, slept soundly; even the dog, out in its kennel.
And perhaps that was the odd thing, after all: how trustingly we
slumbered. As if fate had gifted us a few last wholly innocent hours, before
innocence fell away for ever. For when I woke, in the early morning – what was
it? A difference in the quality of the light? Some new texture to the silence?
But I opened my eyes, and I knew it. Something had changed.
Even Mother seemed subdued
at breakfast and her eyes were dark and heavy.
I would say, heavy with an omen, but at that time, she didn’t have the
knowledge. None of us did, except for
Marielle, whose tongue was in mutiny, and who just made tunes at the back of
her throat while feeding her baby, and spoke no to us with her eyes when we
tried to guilt the truth out of her with rebukes.
Not having the knowledge was
an ache, because since Marielle and I slid out of Mother’s womb six minutes
apart, we had never withheld private, secret things. We had even shared breaths
in the night, lying face to face so close, and exchanged darknesses that were not for the
ears of Mother and which would have sent Father scrambling for his wide brown
Now, my twin had a secret
bigger than the whole earth, and it sat between the two of us, a solid thing
behind which she played Peek-a-Boo, only not with joy.
‘When is Father returning?’
I asked, while spooning brown sugar into my breakfast drinking chocolate.
‘Soon, I am sure,’ Mother
said, but her words fell like stones, as though each one were dead before it
left her mouth. I even put an extra
spoon of sugar into my china cup, and she didn’t see, or if she did, she let it
‘Will it be a long voyage?’
I said. Father worked on ships as a
circus performer, teetering on high wires until crowds went ‘Oooh!’ I had only watched him once when we were
twelve and he performed in a local show put on by the Lord Mayor, and that was
only because Marielle and I had tiptoed out into the dark evening when Mother
thought us asleep in the big bed with the dip in the middle where our bodies
lay like two halves of a whole. We had
pulled cloaks on over our nightgowns and slid our naked feet into boots which
we didn’t stop to lace, and had edged into the back of the hall just as Father
was placing one long, slim foot in front of the other long, slim foot as though
in a ballet.
‘Is that Father?’ Marielle had whispered. ‘So – so gentle.’
I stirred the sugar into my
chocolate, clink-clinking the spoon against the cup, and baby Georgia tugged
away from Marielle’s breast to cry. Milk
sprayed from my sister’s nipple and she covered her breast with the thin cotton
of her dress as though with shame.
‘It’s a natural thing,
Marielle,’ said Mother. ‘Here, give me
the baby. I’ll rock her.’
But Marielle would not and
had not, since the baby’s birth six weeks before, given Mother the baby. ‘I am grieving for that little one,’ Mother
had said to me when Marielle was in the garden, pegging white muslins and
flannel squares on a line so that the breeze and they could play. ‘I am grieving, and she is only just born,
Mother did not know that I
had seen how she would watch
for when Marielle had turned her back, and then, walking close to the baby’s
cradle, rest the back of her hand against Georgia’s hot, sleepful cheek, or
twist a lock of baby-fine hair between two fingers. I wouldn’t have known she was doing it, but
her breaths would come faster, like they did when she ran away from Father or
chased a chicken around the yard to break its neck.
My try-to-get-fitter walk in the fields today was a silent one. I usually listen to the radio through earphones but have lost one of the soft earbuds and nothing spoils a walk more than having hard plastic nudging up against your fragile tympanic membrane. The BBC's 'Woman's Hour' is a brilliant programme but loyalty has limits. It was disconcerting, walking in silence. Listening to radio distracts from the disturbing reality that my legs are propelling me in forward motion because, if I think too hard about this, I frighten myself. Today, while walking, I had to listen to my own thoughts. And now I've listened to my own thoughts, I remember why I like radio better. The inside of my head is like a wastepaper basket. Be grateful that I only offer you a brief excerpt. Oh, look, that bird is - / Where did I put that mark scheme. I'll need it for - / My shoes are getting muddier./ Maybe mash with the fish tonight / really muddy / The trees are definitely more
Yesterday, a woman on the train who had no teeth was noshing her way through a whole Scotch egg as if it were an apple. (For the uninitiated, a Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and breadcrumbs and fried.) If you'd given me the choice between watching her eat a Scotch egg and not watching her eat a Scotch egg, I'd have plumped for the latter. But she was directly opposite me, and I admired both her skill and her total lack of self-consciousness. I didn't take a photo (one can get thrown off trains) but to help you imagine, here's a picture of a woman with no teeth. And here's a picture of a Scotch egg. This egg is a world-record beater for the largest Scotch egg made in a restaurant. The one she ate wasn't quite that impressive, but, to her, it may well have seemed that way. There are other tasks that could be compared with a woman with no teeth eating a whole Scotch egg. a) Someone eating a whole joint of roast beef
It's Saturday evening as I write. This time last week my body still comprised one-fifth woman and four-fifths pudding. I was so stiff with starch that I couldn't bend at the waist to take off my socks at bedtime. I felt as though all my internal organs had been re-upholstered. Despite all this, non, je ne regrette rien. I had gone with two friends to The Pudding Club. It was their 60th birthday treat to me and - well - what an experience! I'm aiming to go again on my 70th, 80th, 90th and 100th or should I ever tire of life as it could do what Dignitas does but with added custard. Have you heard of the Pudding Club? It was started by people who felt that the traditional British pudding should be saved from extinction and celebrated. Because of this, the evening is full of ceremony and ritual as guests make their way through seven puddings, all paraded in regally, applauded and cheered. Seven puddings? Yes, you heard correctly. Puddings are in the news. There's a