Sally Fraser’s port of call in a storm


Posted by in March's Magazine

I don’t believe in an interventionist God

But I know, darling, that you do

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But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him

Not to intervene when it came to you

Not to touch a hair on your head

To leave you as you are

And if He felt He had to direct you

Then direct you into my arms.

Sally Fraser’s port of call in a storm

For the first time I have had a birthday where I am genuinely alarmed by my age. I wrote my name on a Tupperware container. I fancy the same person (Peter Capaldi) as my mum and that doesn’t even bother me. There is a new person at my work who shares my office, an adult human woman, and I realised I am old enough to be her mother. I mean, where I come from (Bradford) I am certainly old enough to be her mother. I talk about things from the nineties and she doesn’t know about them because she was born in the nineties. Britain has not won the Eurovision song contest in her lifetime. I bet she has never used a phone-box. She might not know the Macarena. It seems almost impossible.

But my age is showing in other ways. I have started to prefer a nice early night and a herbal tea to most things. I don’t drink alcohol on weeknights, causing quite a stir in one Leith public house recently when I asked our esteemed editor to buy be a non-alcoholic beer. “NON ALCOHOLIC BEER?” he boomed at full volume, every head swivelling, owl like, to observe this monstrous occurrence. I half expected it to be in the local news the next day.

When I travel anywhere my bag is very heavy because I have to carry around a load of increasingly expensive products which I put all over my face. I assume this is what keeps capitalism afloat. I believe also that all my problems can be solved with Better Storage and Finding the Right Cardigan, and all the other lies Satan tells us.

But it’s not all bad news. My eyesight has improved though. Did you know that was possible? That any physical thing in our bodies could actually get better with time? Apparently it can, leaving me wondering if I should have kept all my old spectacles, slowly moving back through them like a sort of ophthalmic Benjamin Button.

There is something else getting better with age though. I wouldn’t call it self-awareness, its kind of the opposite. I am becoming aware that I don’t have a clue who I am. I am a bit like that new Doctor Who in the first episode, a northern woman who doesn’t really know who she is anymore, although I am much less good with electronics.

We did this thing recently where you have to work out what number you are on some kind of weird personality scale. A bit like that thing at school where you had to answer a load of questions to find out what job you should do when you grew up but whatever answers you gave it always came out as Guide-Dog Trainer even though you don’t like dogs.

Anyway it was a bit like that but you had to work out whether you felt things with your head or your heart or your gut, and what drives you and what your vice is. My number is number 8, which means, somewhat surprisingly my animal is (not a guide dog but) a Tiger, meaning I have a constant inner soundtrack of Katy Perry’s Roar, trying to, you know, embrace it. But maybe I am a fairly tame, non alcoholic beer drinking, cardigan wearing Tiger…

And maybe that’s ok. Because the most important thing I am learning is to be ok with not having any of the answers. To just about manage to exist in all the I-don’t-know bits, the uncomfortable places where the difficult bits are but where all the good stuff happens too. All the creativity and mess and love and passion and truth and humanity and everything good and worthwhile that gets the life sucked out of it with black and whites and absolutes. And then sit having a good cry listening to Nick Cave’s Into My Arms when I can’t hack it anymore.

Only yesterday I was sitting on a bench outside out church. I was on a retreat and I was supposed to be praying, but (don’t tell anyone) I didn’t really fancy it. A man who comes to the door quite often asking for food or money came by, and I asked him to sit and chat to me instead. “I don’t know if I believe in all this he said”, looking up at the church and the statue of Jesus standing behind him. 

“I’m not sure I believe, but I hope,” I said. 

“What, you hope there is something more when you die?”

“No, not even that really. I just hope it is all real, that God exists. But if not then I think that Jesus really was a person and what he said about loving other people as much as you can is worth doing anyway.”

“Oh ok, yes I can take your point”.

Which will do for me. I am quite happy to just sit around on benches and chat to people. And Nick Cave of course. The only thing we can all really be sure about, whatever our age, is Nick Cave waiting to sing Into My Arms for us.

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