Frosties

Did I tell you we go all the way to Oswestry for a hair cut? Two hours there and two hours back. Ridiculous I know but it’s only every 8 weeks and we’re cut to the bone, both of us. Like shorn sheep. Prickly. Yummy. I love the clean-ness of it. I feel my skull, the tiny fragility of my head. So tender. Waiting in a garage forecourt as he filled up with petrol I saw a man walking past, a large box of Kellogg’s Frosties under his arm. That’s all, just that. A special cosy treat? I used to love eating cereals. As a child I thought they were healthy, we all did, believing the hype. Cornflakes and Rice Krispies felt austere, as did Bran Flakes, Frosties were yum, all that sugar. I didn’t know. And Coco Pops, my sister’s favourite turned the milk brown. I liked the top of the milk. Top of the milk on top of a bowl of Frosties, lovely. That was then, not now, not now.

We’ll have a seminar, he said. We’ll talk it out, talk it through over a pot of tea. Yes. So we went to Aberdovey to the hotel on the hill that overlooks the sea and drank tea. Darjeeling this time. It was very weak. Only one tea bag for two people. Looked like piss, tasted of nothing. Can we have another please? The waiter with his silver tray was apologetic. It was how I was taught to do it, one bag per pot even for two people. I apologise for complaining not wanting to hurt. I see his red cheeks. But I want to taste. To taste such treats. Later the sun came out and we sat in it. Clean. It cleans me right through. The heat on my shoulders. He was so kind. He gave me his whole attention. There were a group of elderly women in the lounge when we arrived. Four of them. One was talking about a wheelchair for her mother. It was too heavy, I told her, she said. I told her, I’ve got a bad back, I can’t be carrying that. They didn’t stay long, at least not all of them. Two remained for a while. One read her kindle, the other, whom I couldn’t see kept getting messages on her phone. I’d hear the ping, ping. We talked and talked. We talked of writing, of Julia Cameron’s suggestions, distraction techniques for when the critical voice came in. I wrote them down in my book. Dancing, baking, drawing, walking, making a pot of tea. We talked of art. Making art. I told him of my plans for The Parsonage Museum, my performance on the tube. You must write it out, he said. I understand it when you explain it. I felt good. I felt high. I felt whole, enriched. A good day. Home then. Yoga, sorting out his pills then nap then supper. Then the rain came. Torrential.

Dry this morning as I walked but windy. I love and resist the wind. It’s wildness thrills me but sometimes I am just to tired to walk into it. I do though. I always do. I have a long to do list. Things to do that will help. This is one of them. Morning pages. My version. 500 words a day. I will try. Get it out. Writing is getting it out. Getting it down. Paying attention.

There was a hedgehog in the road. I got out of the car but it was dead. Blood leaked from it. Then later a policeman came to the studio. They didn’t tell me you were a policeman, I said. A gentle soul. Scottish. A tender, tender being who cried afterwards. I cry easily, he said as he put his knife-proof vest and walkie-talkie back on. His phone went. Ah, my first text, he said, smiling. Well done, Sarge. Well done. He hugged me. It’s tricky hugging a policeman with all that gear on. Something jabbed my chin. Driving back down the hill we saw Darth Vader dragging a suitcase, one hand texting on his phone.

Barcelona. Friends condone. We are part of it. Part of Europe. How can we leave, beleaguered together, as one? My heart goes out to all. Rest in peace. And the rest? May you find solace.

No more blackcurrants

Blackcurrants on the list. No, the shopkeeper said over the phone, we haven’t seen blackcurrants for weeks. No gooseberries either. Tart fruit. Soft fruit. They’re still picking them on Adam’s farm on The Archers. I miss them. The blackcurrants staining my mouth, my tongue purple, the grainy, almost gritty taste of the skins. He says he will try again today. Frozen ones perhaps.

Autumn comes, I feel it. The air is cooler, fresher. And that luscious promise of warmth is gone.

All gone. Soon no films. Amazon is closing LoveFilm. I am sorry. I enjoyed the spontaneity of it. What would come? We’ve enjoyed the choices. They’ve taken us elsewhere. What now? More box sets. Safer, a known place.

She didn’t call. Did I think she would? She sent a text, no explanation, just a promise to call today instead. Does it matter? Just to know she is OK, still breathing, still here.

They were a tiring few days. It turns me inside out being with my family. It always has. I never feel good enough. My own doing I know. And yet, there is so much love and good will. The children are a delight. She smiles like a sun. A bright shining warm thing. I remember the holding of her, heavy, solid on my hip. And the way she counted the birds in the painting. She just began to do it. Stunning. And only two years old. And he too captivates. Beginning sentences he has no hope of completing just to be in the spotlight. I listen to him avidly. Watching him learn, develop before us. And her, a soft cat of a woman. Beautiful.

Sun and rain. Days of sun and rain. Autumn comes.

Butterflies all over them. Too hot, my heart beginning to race.

I must begin to write. I have to go back. I have forgotten the divorce. It is for the best, I need to find my stride once more. Always this disapproval. Take your time, he says, don’t expect too much.

I heard my name being called. A fellow writer from the MA. He looked well. He too is writing. A book, I ask, he nods. We talk of time. He snatches a few hours here and there. It needs our attention. This creating. So be it. And it is mine. No one else’s, I can do with it what I will. All is well. Just turn up at the page and let it happen.

I will. I will.

Bee

Busy, too busy to write this as much as I’d like. Applying for funding mostly. When is the work to be done? Yet, I’m grateful. Grateful for the possibilities. You have to be in it to win it, my ex-tutor’s mother used to say. So I put myself in it and wait.

I’ve been stopped by the police twice in the last week. They drive around in the early mornings, up and down the Prom. The first time they stopped me it was about a missing girl. Had I seen her? What does she look like? Long dark hair. No, I hadn’t, sorry. And I was. Poor girl, poor parents. The second time was this morning. I’d seen their van down by the harbour. That slow crawl. Lights on the ground. They called to me from their van just beyond the Castle. Was it me they’d seen earlier? Yes, I said. Why, are you looking for someone? I asked. Yes, the two police women answered in unison. Not me then, I replied. They laughed. Is it OK to make the police laugh?

A shopping trolley on the beach, it stands by the edge of a bonfire. Flames are fanned by the wind blowing smoke across South Marine. I walk into the smoke, eyes smarting.

I’ve worked hard this past week. Too many late nights, not enough sleep. But the evenings were beautiful, my senses heightened by being out beyond my usual bedtime. The headlights shining on the grass, lit up like a photogram.

And there has been such wind. The flags on the Prom are ripped ragged.

I watch a kite (bird) from my window. It lets something fall from its beak. The next day we find a dead shrew, blood oozing from its neck. Not a cat, he said, they rarely maim them.

I dreamt I was responsible for feeding a hoard of children. Symbolic of my work, too many projects requiring my attention, my nurturing, perhaps?

Finding debris the morning after the Carnival. A dark silence.

I heard a buzzing. He must’ve got into my coat somehow. He whirled around my bedroom floor, disorientated. A bee. I woke him. I need help. The buzzing alarms me. Don’t kill him. He’s on my bed. Seeking flowers, he’d flown onto my floral quilt. I’ve opened the window. Out he goes. Gone. Safe. He’s dying, of course, he said. Yes. He looked weary. World weary.

I’m tired. Eternal sleep would be nice. Soon. Very soon. Will you come?

Blackcurrants

No sun, just a grey sky. August soon. Need some heat. She rang up yesterday to say that there were blackcurrants. I’ve had some for breakfast all this week. No sugar, just cooked through. They stain the tongue. A tart, deep blue taste. And gooseberries. Even harder to find. Is it that we no longer preserve, make jams, bake pies, make crumbles? Tart fruits. Soft fruits. A sting on the tongue. It is the small things. All else is chaos.

There was a cat playing with a dead mouse, batting it with its paws and throwing it up in the air.

Two young men talking on a bench on the Prom at 3.30 am. I understand, one of them is saying. I understand Brian has his feelings.

Unicycle

It’s been a while, again. I’m busy, caught up in internal stuff. Not at peace, yet longing to be. It is in my gift, I know this. And there was a brief moment, as we sat on those sofas in the hotel in Aberdovey in the sleeping lounge. Peace then. Lovely nothingness. I can call on it any time. I know this.

So, the notes have stacked up. The unicycle I saw chained to a lamp post. The snail I stepped on in the dark. I heard its crunch. I’m sorry. Rest in peace little thing. Then, his meeting John in the supermarket and them talking about my knee and other stories. He tells him what I do. Oh, said John, I thought she was a business woman. La di da. A business woman. Well I never. Whatever next. Me?

Our estate (for want of a better word. It is actually an old school) is full of cats. There is Betty, Ronnie and Reg (the Krays) and various others. All good mousers, it appears, except perhaps for Betty who seems to spend her time greeting people as they drive up. There was a dead shrew on the step the other morning.

Work, real work, paid work, has been busy. L.A. was a highlight. Reality TV star complete with face-lift bandages. What a sweetie. Outer skin tough but such a soft one. I ached for her. Don’t give so much away. Keep something back. She came with dog. Hackles were raised but, I’m here on holiday, I’ve no one to leave him with. A few days before there was Jack, the newly trained steam engine driver. Chuffed with his own success.

I’ve kept walking, even though she told me to cut it down. I can’t, won’t. I need the air, the space, the freedom. I hobble and try to act normal. The stick has been left behind the door though. That’s something. The rain has kept the Prom quiet except for one morning – a figure down by the harbour. I saw the red circle of her cigarette first, then the furry edged lining of her parka.

I am distrait. All a wobble. My confidence is so brittle. Longing to hide to run away like the painter in the French film we’ve watched over the last couple of nights. A gentle one. They explain little the French. But how I delight in the details.

I am low. I know this. It erodes all that I try to do. And then I walk and see the homeless man and his dog sleeping in the Prom shelter. Last week it was so hot he was in his boxer shorts. Good morning, I called. Hello darling, he replied.

It’s an opportunity not something to be frightened of. Just try it. Try it all. There is much to be learnt in the process. It’s an avoidance of decisions, so much nicer to be in the middle of something, flanked either side by something done, something concrete. This hurling oneself out into the blue into that white space of nothing is sometimes so terrifying. Everything must come from me and sometimes, just sometimes I have nothing to give. It will pass. I know this too. Until it does I must remember to be kind. Good and kind. It is the least I can do.

Rain, rain and rain. And the washing machine, despite Andrew the mender best efforts, continues to sound like a helicopter taking off. Just when you need everything to be alright. So be it. Little inconveniences. I think of that German girl on the front of the Times yesterday. Caught, trapped, her fingers playing with her scarf. All sadness, all fear in that gesture. I hope that will be kind to her. We know not what we do.

Stick

I fell. Well first I flew. High in the air and then landed hard on my right knee and then my left. I cried out from shock and pain. There was no one around. Should I limp home or continue? I wanted it to be OK, to be as normal so I went on and walked my three miles. And then? Then I was spent and wept behind my dark glasses in the supermarket.

And now? He bought me a stick. A wooden one from Craft. Four pounds. A bargain. I can walk without it but my right knee is still very swollen and stiff and it gives me confidence. I am back to doing my early walk and getting a little faster each morning. The stick seems to attract attention. Those early hour kids out cavorting notice me. Hi, they say, you a’right? I like it. I feel warmed by their care. A little thing, but normally I am overlooked. Perhaps I am different. I’m glad I persist in walking, the air these last few mornings has been beautiful. Keep moving, said the physio. She had been kind and reassuring but I hadn’t managed to warm to her. I wanted to. Truly. She chattered away trying to put me at my ease. I just felt awkward, clumsy, exposed and vulnerable. She is so cheery. Sometimes you just have to let the dis-ease be. I touched her arm at the end. It was all I could do. Was it enough?

A brutish group sitting on the Prom bench. Two lads play fighting and a couple drinking. My hackles twitch. The stick again. Hello, lovely, the older man said, lovely morning. And it is. Stunning moon, I say. It is full. My words are lost on them. It is enough to make contact. To be responsive. Then up by the Pier Pressure nightclub a couple are deep in conversation. They stand slightly apart. She is crying, holding her handbag up to her eyes. Her dress, a gaudy-patterned silk, is riding up her thighs. You’ve got to be strong, he is saying to her. You’ve got to be strong. She continues to cry. He stands back, his hands in his jeans pockets. You’ve got to be strong. No matter what comes between us, you’ve got to be strong.

He calls it our cwtch. We see him most days. He’s got a PhD., he says. Tried various jobs, had a shop, don’t know what he does now. He’s always cheery and brown, from walking as he does, up and down the Prom. Our cwtch. Other people comment on it too. The man with the lump on his neck in the supermarket. Saw you today, he says, like two lovebirds. Our place. Our little nook.

I heard a noise upstairs in the kitchen. A banging, a tapping. The fridge? I went up and it was a bird, a rook bashing his beak against one of the skylight windows. When he saw he flew off. Then two days later there were two of them. Why do they do it? he asks. Search me.

 

Straw Hat

She was ahead of me. 3.15 am in the morning and she was wearing a ribbon-trimmed, wide-brimmed straw hat, a cotton skirt and ankle socks. An incongruous attire for such an hour. As I turned into North Road she began to talk to herself, her left arm making jerking gestures.

They were gathered in a cluster just by the Bar. The kicking Bar at the north end of the Prom. Wearing high vis jackets, some on walkie talkies, they all stood staring at the sea beyond Constitution Hill. One of them, a woman, turned to look at me as I walked down the hill. Their cars and vans had been parked in a line on the turning circle. Some had HM Coastguard emblazoned on them, others read HM Revenue and Customs. Was that right? My mind doubts it now. It was still dark. The light was only the yellow light of the street lamps. It felt officious. Was it a training exercise? Was a boat lost? Was it smugglers? A suicide? A drowning? I said nothing. Kicked the Bar and walked by.

By the station five lads were bundling themselves into a taxi, one was being sick in a corner. I heard his yell and then the retching. A man with a heavy rucksack on his back called out to me. You alright? he shouted. I’m fine, I said trying to smile. I strode on, hackles raised, walking too fast in case he followed, avoiding those pockets of dark.

Earlier another boy had called to me. Got any credit? he said. Pardon? I replied. Look him in the face, be gracious. Pardon? His voice was slurring. Got any credit on your phone, love? he asked. Sorry, I said, I’ve no phone on me. Love. That made it alright. That’s OK, he said. Goodnight, love. Goodnight.

Rain kept me off the Perygyl yesterday. This morning it was dry. The sunrise was a joy – a sharp pink turning to orange. See what we’d miss if we’d slept in. See what we’d miss.

Circus (5)

Gossamer threads. Threads of ideas, of things noticed, caught in the corner of my eye and so easily, too easily forgotten. I murmur them to myself as I walk home. The glove puppet on the ground. A teddy bear? I couldn’t tell. It looked fresh, too clean to have been discarded and come upon at that liminal time between night and day. The next day a strapless bra in the same tone of beige, both found on Great Darkgate Street. Is the loss of them mourned equally, I wonder? Then two bakers. One standing outside Slater’s dressed in white shorts and t-shirt, floured apron around his midriff. The other, inside the Pelican Bakery. A large man, lumbering around in the back. The smells are always a little late. I catch them a few blocks down, sweet, then salty, musky and warm.

For the first time this year the B&B at no 1 South Marine has hung up his NO VACANCIES sign.

There was a dead seagull on North Road this morning. An adult. Too white in the night gloom. It’s carcass was untouched. How had it died? Such huge birds. It’s eye stared accusingly.

The honeysuckle on North Road has ceased to emit it’s scent. Now it is the buddleia’s turn. Sweet and sticky.

The other afternoon I saw a man carrying two large balls of fake box. They hung on chains. I’d seen some hanging outside a council house in Oswestry. Such things, like china dogs are remnants of something grander, made egalitarian. He was traipsing after his wife. Had she bought them and told him to carry them? Odd things. Not real, a fake circular topiary to hang outside a door. He looked cross.

The heatwave brings beach barbeques, the smell of the smoke is still there when I walk in the early  mornings. The other morning some were still alight. Fire in the sand. Further on a large bonfire. I could see the burning skeleton of a pallet. Black shapes encircling it. The smoke swept across South Marine. My eyes stung with it.

I heard his cry, then his retch as he vomited outside the station.

Radio stories. Robert MacFarlane’s Old Ways and his encounter with the middle-aged traveller who sold his house when his wife died to walk the world. He with the old, now unlabelled coke bottles, that he constantly re-fills with water. You go on ahead, he said to the author, I’m in no hurry.

Revisiting Sara Maitland’s Book of Silence and my longing for that cottage in Skye. You must go then, he said over supper. Shall I? Can I

The circus is in town. A great bouncy castle like blue tent down by Morrison’s that bobs in the wind. Fliers put on every car. They used to alarm me. We went once in Cambridge. I wanted to draw. It seemed so much smaller that I’d remembered. The smell of sawdust. We were too close. I could see the faces under the make-up.

No rain yet.

Crow (5)

I watched as he landed on the window sill and then hurled himself at the glass. Flapping wildly, he did it several times. A crow. He hangs around the rubbish bins, sits on the fence. After bashing against the window he stopped and just pecked at it. He stayed there several minutes and then flew away. He did the same thing the following afternoon, then the next. It’s not our house. It’s on St David’s Road, where his ex-girlfriend used to live. Not the crow’s, his. I wonder why he does it. Was he given food from there once? A mystery.

Later, on the Prom, a seagull side-stepped a dance in the wind. Funny.

A child’s welly with handles, lost.

Roger Ackling died a few years ago. I didn’t know. He had Motor Neurone disease. He was a presence. We all vied for his attention – the tutorial list filling up the moment it was hung.

A group of lads singing Is This The Way to Amarillo? Shouting not singing.

The fishing boat thrumming. Arriving or leaving? A fisherman a large fish hanging from his hand. A sewin?

The Fire of London. I cannot fathom it. I am so sorry. More sorry than I can say. Rest in peace. And the rest, the living, may you be given the help and solace you need. x

Dog Roses (5)

Must I mention it? I don’t really have much to say. I feel at a distance from it. I care. I do. I care about the fact that he lost his seat. A nice man, a good man. I enjoyed him coming into the studio. So be it. Perhaps he will welcome the rest, to be out of the limelight for a while. To spend more time with his family. Change. Always change. So be it.

I sent it off to her. I wasn’t wholly happy with it. Sometimes the mediocre is all one can do. There is a lesson in that. I feel constrained by her. I know this. Perhaps this will be the last time I write for them. Something will come in its place. Sometimes I am scraping against metal. Jarring. And yet, I can see something there. Misted up. The writing brought me further on. It always does, even the failing. I was reintroduced to his work. I remember it now. The ice-cream spoons with those burnt black lines. He never touched the work. Only the sun. Did he still make work when it was cloudy? I ache for the same simplicity of working. Beyond thought. Just lines. Not about reading, about making sense of something. Nor about pattern or colour. Beauty or intellect. Just being. Ach.

Walking early on the Prom in the rain. A girl coming towards me, KEEP IT REAL emblazoned on her t-shirt. A yellow moon dropping from beneath the clouds. The smell of bread past the Pelican Bakery. The scent of dog roses in the Castle grounds.

I was woken by the splash of raindrops on my face.

She is pregnant. The grief of it. Life and death, the big stories, the only stories. Keep her safe.