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Phases: A Short Story


Phases. It’s Never Too Late.

In the earlier part of my life, I went through phases that usually lasted for five years, after which time they faded out and left me free to transfer my attention to something else. Some people took these phases as signs of a weak character. I took them as a sign that there were a lot of interesting things in the world and we have a limited time to discover them. While waiting to fill our empty house with children my husband and I thought it might be a good idea to first fill it with furniture seeing we didn’t town a stick. I was introduced to auctions and became hooked after sitting through the first one. Five years of frenzied bidding followed.

House Furnishing

We ended up with the house so stuffed with second-hand bargains that we were forced to walk around sections of the house sideways. My final purchase was a huge oak wardrobe, glossy with age. Most sensible people had forsaken wardrobes for built-ins by then so I didn’t have much opposition and got it for “30. My long-suffering husband’s dislike of the piece was so extreme I had to pay the two exhausted removal men, who had just finished manoeuvring it up the stairs and assembling it, to pull it apart again and take it back to the auction rooms. It later sold for “4 and helped signal the end of that particular phase.

“You’re telling me you cut up pieces of fabric and sew them back together again? By hand?” a friend asked in disbelief. “It”s very calming,” I said. “And I have to do something while I”m keeping my eye on the children.” For the children had arrived: two beauties who were lucky to become a lifelong delight, escaping the fate of being classed as a phase. While they grew and flourished I sewed together fabric squares, diamonds, strips and circles in medium, dark and light shades to create three-dimensional effects. Phases. It’s Never Too Late

By the time every bed in the house was covered by a patchwork quilt and every available wall space covered by hangings my neck had become so painful and immobile that all forms of sewing became impossible. The constant bending over was blamed for my condition. As it turned out that wasn’t the case but by the time the real cause (ankylosing spondylitis) was diagnosed, my interest in stitching had evaporated.


Later five-year interests ran concurrently or overlapped. They included gardening, art history, theology, fashion, paper making and pastel portraiture. At the age of fifty, I took up painting. No more phases after this, I believed. There was so much to learn that ten lifetimes wouldn’t provide enough time to scratch the surface. Colour is the most important ingredient, I thought at first. No, the subject matter is. A good eye should choose an arresting composition ” that was the defining thing. What about the individuality of brushstrokes? The seduction of lost edges? It was exhilarating wrestling with these questions on a daily basis and I had no wish to move on to anything else. But there was one more surprise in store for me after I turned sixty.


During an enforced break from painting, I began to write to pass the time. That’s how it started, anyway, but it wasn’t long before writing took over my life. Relatives and friends were dragged in to read one draft after another so that we could discuss the characters as if they were real people. (I secretly thought they were more interesting than real people.) We argued over their fates. One villain almost caused a split among us as we couldn’t agree if she should be redeemed or punished. I was forced to make the final decision which was only fair seeing I had allowed her to put her devious plan into action in the first place. Phases. It’s Never Too Late

So here I am in my seventieth year buoyed up by two enthralling occupations. I have had many creative interests in my life, but, apart from the wonder of giving birth, I think I have kept the best until last. It’s never too late to do the things you love.

Phases. It’s Never Too Late: A Short Story. By Rosemary McLoughlin.