Rainy Days and Ordinary Mondays

The Sitting Room: Andy Jenkins, Elena Thomas, Lloyd McKenzie, Ian Sutherland. Photo by John Stranks at The Maverick Open Mic Showcase, Stourbridge

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Actually I quite like rainy days.

And Mondays.

It wasn’t always that way though.

I really like the way Facebook pops up “On this day…” every now and again. On a rainy day such as this, I find myself probably spending too much time on a variety of social media. But the rainy days also make me contemplative, so a prompt to what has happened over the last ten years is actually beneficial. I am moaning about the usual self-imposed self-employed cash flow problem, but realise it is short term. That actually I made my choices for very good reasons. I am now time rich and cash poor. But I am not homeless, I have food and clothes. I do what I want most of the time. I have a lot of choice in my life that others don’t. I know that I am privileged and fortunate. I know that I am ordinary.

I had a brilliant job for about ten years, in which I got to spend time with other people’s children, (as well as my own) being creative, laughing, exploring, adventuring, thinking and questioning. It was a very special place to be with some very special people. For a while the three months of awfulness at the end blinded me to all this. This morning a memory from 2009 popped up:

“Elena Thomas……has had a lovely time drawing in the garden with year 5…. counting pairs of mating frogs…. and telling James it’s not sperm, it’s frog spawn…”


Also this week I am reminded of trips around the world with my art to see amazing people and see their art, and see and hear wonderful life-changing things.

Art has the power to change things. Enabling children to think like an artist for a while is a powerful thing. Not just allowing but encouraging discussion of sperm and spawn in a place of beauty and nature and humour is something I will remember forever. Some of those children I taught hold large joyful places in my heart.

“Wow! Mrs Thomas! You’re like a REAL artist…. like….like…. Dick Van Gogh!”

It is however, also right that now I don’t do it. It is right now for me to be making things myself, saying and singing the things I want to say. Life is short. I am older. I have less energy and patience for that, but boundless energy for this.

This week I embark upon the reprise of nine women… in a real gallery space. It has been two years getting it here, almost. The work feels bigger, the songs seem more important. While women are being belittled and objectified by the “Leader of the Free World”, these women I have invented, borrowed, studied and written of become more somehow. While wrapped in tissue in boxes, these women have become more important.

My performance of the songs also is more, I am no longer apologetic, looking for an excuse to make it right to sing them. Quite the opposite. I now feel it is important to sing them… and to do it unashamedly and to the best of my ability.

I have moved on, grateful for the opportunities afforded me. So what I can’t afford a new macbook just yet. Poor me! So what we haven’t had a holiday for years – don’t need one! I’d like some new boots, but it doesn’t matter, I have old ones. I’d like a really good microphone and a new stand… so what? I have friends I can borrow from until I can. Those things are no longer important.

I like to think I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m fat, 56 (just), and I don’t look as good as I think I do, but that’s the kind of body dysmorphia that works for me. It means I am happy to post pictures of myself as exactly that. I’m happy to post youtube video of me singing in a pub in the Black Country. It isn’t all about me. It’s about doing it because I am able to. I was the only woman doing it that night. There should be more. Maybe doing it as fat and 56 and not as good as I think I am is the way to encourage other women?

Maybe ditching one life in order to become something new is a way to show other women that it’s ok? That waiting to be thinner and prettier and less spotty and less wrinkly and more elegant is never going to happen. Do it now. Do it in an ordinary way. Ordinary is great. Ordinary is fine. Ordinary is powerful. We are all ordinary.

We are so privileged in the UK, even post brexit, post truth, post Trump and post May… Acknowledge the privilege and do something ordinary with it I say. Most of us can manage ordinary. Imagine the results if we all just got up one day and decided to do something manageably ordinary? It would be revolutionary!

So get out there, look at frog spawn with children. Teach. Write songs. Bake. Draw. Sew. Make something. Talk. Laugh. Sing. Be the most ordinary you can and rejoice in it. Ordinary can change the world.

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