The Writer

He looked different, more substantial somehow, filled out. He is satisfied with himself, or at least that is how he appears. He is chatty, open, confident that we all know who he is and what he does. A celebrity in a small town, a small world. And he was brown. He’d been sitting in the sun, clearly. An unexpected thing, for I see him as a night creature, a burrowing, underground sort of animal. A mole, a fox, a badger, a earth smelling being. And dark. An denizen of dark places. And one who’s skin remained pale. I like him though, there is an openness to him amongst the guardedness. And were you controversial? I asked him after his interview. I’m always controversial, he replied.

I do what he does. I do it, I’m doing it now. I make words appear on the page. There is no mystery, no alchemy to it. I just do it, as he does. I make no bones for what I do. I’m serving my apprenticeship with it, as I do with all things creative, just learning. Don’t mind me I’m just learning.

I like his work. I like it’s intensity, it’s stubbornness. But it is always the same thing. The same darkness, the same taciturnity. That’s OK. Didn’t someone say we write the same book over and over again. And that’s OK. I suppose it takes a lifetime to get it right. And who’s to say what is right.

It’s a beautiful morning. Cloudless. There were many kids on the beach this morning as I walked. Kids as in young people, students, trippers all japing on the sand, shoes off. A young man sat on the wall facing South Beach on the phone. He was on the phone as I walked down to the Perygyl and still on it when I walked back. His voice was loud. Outside The Angel a lad was sitting on the pavement, his feet stretched out before him. A friend was holding his head as he cried. I wanted to kill myself but I didn’t have the strength, he shouted. A large girl in short white dress scuttled down Great Darkgate Street her arm linked through that of a boy on her left. She threw her head back to laugh. At the same time a seagull squawked. The two sounds became one. She laughing like a seagull.

She said yes, she’d do it. So kind. Now I have to begin making sense of it. A good process. My confidence ebbs and flows. So be it.

I thought of her last night. Why is she still there? Why can nothing be done to release her? I tried to imagine being in the cell with her and sitting with her, a companion, a witness. Would it help? I cannot begin to think what she is going through. Do something, please. Now.

And I thought of her. It’s so exciting, she said. And it is genuine, that excitement. Every new step to be cherished. She gives herself over to it, to her. And I am glad. Truly.


I know I dreamt. And I know that they were complex, rich experiences. But I cannot catch them. Not this morning. Though there was something. Something about perfume. I had a lover. I wanted to ready myself for him and reached for some perfume. It wasn’t my usual one. I recall delving into some luxurious, velvety material to find the bottle and thinking I can’t wear this, it isn’t my usual scent, he won’t recognise me by it. An image undoubtedly inspired by a scene from one of the Midwife series we have been watching where a man blinded by an accident on the docks calls out for his wife after recognising her fragrance. They had made a big thing about his sense of smell being heightened by his blindness, I can smell every tea leaf in this cup of tea, he says to the nurse, but it still didn’t ring true. It unsettled me. Would she, a baker’s assistant in the East End in the early 1960s have been able to afford perfume? It must’ve stuck with me. And then there was my beginning to read Deborah Maggoch’s Tulip Fever at work yesterday. An intense immersion in all that sumptuous sexiness. (Though to be honest, I know I was meant to find it so, but I didn’t, not really, though the writing is gorgeous.) That, no doubt provided my dream with the sensuousness of the material. Nothing comes from nothing they say.

The harbour stank of fish this morning. I’d seen a dark line the morning before, seemingly coming from underneath one of the sheds. I leaned in closer, even retraced my steps. Was it oil, or worse, blood? No, it was fish. It stank. To high heaven, as my mother would’ve said. And it wasn’t coming from one of the sheds but a trailer outside. Had they been gutting the fish there? And the sea too, on the Perygyl reeked. A brackish, salty, clammy, mouldy smell. Is it the warmer mornings that is increasing the potency of smells?

I walked out with music this morning. I hummed and haa-ed. Isn’t it better to be alive to all, to hear all? But I longed for music, to be distracted. A new tactic against anxiety. I don’t have it loud. I can still hear the outside, though I didn’t see the taxi turning and had to stop him, my hand raised in apology as I crossed in front of him. But I did still hear the oystercatchers peep-peeping across the beach. I walked out to Kate Bush’s Big Sky. Caterwauling, my mother used to call it. Turn off that caterwauling, she’d shout up the stairs. It was fantastic. I yelled silently along with her.

There’s a front garden along Llanbadarn Road that has a crop of enormous Mexican poppies. Bright red they are. More and more are opening out. The hard, almost prehistoric-looking hairy shells are falling off to reveal the silken petticoats of petals beneath. Their cores are inky black, blue-black.

I have much to do. To send out seeds of questions, requests and favours. I don’t know what will come back. Maybe nothing. It brought me down yesterday. I could…I thought, why not? Then tiredness saps me, and the doubts weigh down my shoulders and my precious optimism. I can but try. And try I must. I will ask. I will send out my requests. All they can say is no.

Be, and be not afraid, sings Tracy Chapman.

Gooseberries (5)

I make plans. I do it all the time. I impress order on the chaos. To no avail, life, work, fate, and other people send them awry. So be it. I need to learn to be less rigid, less set in my ways. To step back, to detach from the detail, my obsession with time. Am I obsessed with it? It feels like it. It is the nature of my job, I suppose, timing is all. And yet, I watch others and they seem so much more fluid. They appear to laugh at it, not watching the clock at all. It’s to do with wanting to fit so much in. And what I do do to do well, to the optimum. You do not have to be good, whispers Mary Oliver. Don’t I?

I tried to catch it as I walked this morning. There got it, like a eiderdown feather in my fist. That was it. I was comparing. I was climbing the little hill up North Road and I caught my mind comparing. Or was it more about other people’s judgement. No, that was it. I was talking to one of my dear friends. A beautiful girl, sometime woman, skin as white as snow and hair as black as coal. My lovely girl. I know she cares for me, celebrates me even, and yet, I found myself in conversation with her trying to explain why I was no longer ‘out there’. She always approaches discussions about my work with such enthusiasm. A way of encountering what she sees as my passion, I am sure, but it is genuine too. I believe she values me and, in turn, values what I do. So, she was asking, during this imaginary conversation, what are you up to? Nothing, I wanted to reply, I’m lost, stuck, floundering, reduced. I felt the awkwardness, it was as real as if she were there in front of me. My body felt heavy with it, my back tight as the skin of a drum. Do I tell the truth? Will she think less of me? Is my status of friend bound up with my identity as artist, creator, writer? I didn’t resolve it, I was just made heavy with the weight of it. That was then the comparing started. She, such a star in my eyes, with her important work. So clever, so able, so shining. And then another friend. Again, so able, so resourceful, so brave and talented. I was shrinking under the weight of them as I walked. Breathe, I said to myself. Concentrate on your breathing. In and out. In and out. I passed the honeysuckle bush. Is there a scent yet? I think so, a sweetness was coming through. More to look forward as the warm nights come.Then the house with the clumps of lavender that I usually stroke with my gloves to capture their perfume. No, no flowers yet. Soon.

Why do I visit these imagined judgements? Both of these friends care, have supported and responded to my work. What is it about? Just be it. Be that person. Be stuck, be lost, be floundering. Life is about experiencing. Not about whether the experience is good or bad but just living it. Feeling it completely. Noticing. Who is to say what is the right way to live? I am trying to unravel, to discover something. I think about a book that is beginning to form itself in my head. Though perhaps I shouldn’t see it in that way – for it intimidates the hell out of me. Perhaps I should merely call it research, something more flowing, open-ended. I want to research artists and writers ‘talking’ about being blocked. Not as a kind of self-help thing but more as an exploration of how it feels and if it can, indeed, be a creative act in itself. There is so much baggage from education. I’m still not wholly convinced it is a good thing to do. I’ve over-qualified myself as a way of giving form to my need to make, either as a writer or artist. I belonged to those institutions, though never happily, they gave me structure, guidance but they also stymied me. Or at least, I let them do so. Yet I long to be back in one, someone responding to what I do, giving me a place and forum for my ideas. The world is too big. I cannot make a ripple. Do I need to? Cannot it be work for work’s sake? Going through the motions. Just being at my desk, my laptop, doing it for myself. And yet, it goes against all that I have learnt. It is this unlearning that is so painful, so unsettling.

Abe Lincoln was a quiet man, a melancholy man…Charles Dance’s voice was coming through the radio. It was a recording he made to accompany Aeron Copeland’s music and they played on Radio 3. Those words stuck with me. To be a quiet man with such a responsibility. How did he live it? With grace.

Will you ask if there are gooseberries?

Girls in their summer clothes

A pile of foil throw-away barbecue trays was leaning against a bin along South Marine next to an empty bottle of wine that lay on the pavement disgorging its dregs. The remains of the day before. A sunny day. A Prom day. The house still remembered the warmth when I woke. I moved into the womb of it, not yet ready for the sharp cold of morning. Pockets of people still about when I walked at 3am. Mostly lads, in groups or alone, lurching, shouting or staring fixedly at their mobile phones. Embers of a bonfire glowed red on South beach. And girls, two girls, all alone coming home from the clubs in their summer clothes. That song by Bruce Springsteen singing out in my mind. The first was wearing a ruched cotton, floral top, falling off her shoulders. The other was in a striped wrap-a-around dress. Had they expected to walk home unaccompanied? Had they gone with friends? They looked sad, their shoulders hunching slightly, the one in the wrap-a-around carried her strappy sandals in her hand.

The lifeguard hut is up on the Prom. Summer has begun. And this morning bodes well. I’m dog-tired. I own it. I accept it. But I need this time, this morning time. I love its opening. The coo-cooing of the wood-pigeons, the smell of the dawn air, the blackbirds song.

How was the walk? he asks, when I go into wake him. It was OK. And how was your mind?

I tell him about it. He listens. He is so patient, tireless even in his willingness to listen to the same old, same old. Walking is good but it stirs up my thinking mind. The minute my boots are on it’s off. Trying to solve, to answer, to make good the fear, the lost-ness, the stuck-ness. I asked to remember my dreams last night. And on waking the last bit came to me. Just a flash of it, a brief memory of something bigger and far more complex. I was under a lorry. It was a big lorry loaded up with goods. I wasn’t in pain, wasn’t even fearful, I was just stuck. I couldn’t move for the weight that was on top of me. We were at some kind of a junction, the lorry and me. Did I see the white line? I heard the driver above me, shouting out to a colleague. I thought I heard mention of a school. He was obviously frustrated by the hold-up, the stagnation, the not-moving. And then suddenly, the boxes that were pushing me down, holding me trapped, began to be lifted out of the way. I could see light. And then I woke.

You’re jealous, he said. No, I’m not. Jealous isn’t the word, I said. Well, envious, then, he said. We were sitting on a bench on North Road in the sun. I’d taken off my top and trousers and was sitting there in my body. A man on a bench further down the road kept taking surreptitious glances at me. Am I jealous? I’d told him. I told him really as a way of unburdening, of getting something out so that I could look at it clearly. It’s just that she’s got it all sewn-up, I said, by marrying him she won’t have to worry about money, or what to do with herself. It’s all mapped out for her. You’d hate it, he said. I know, I said. It’s just when I’m feeling lost like this, stuck, it appears so appealing to have it all sorted out. Giving over responsibility, you mean, he said. They don’t have your freedom, he said later. I know, I know they don’t.

I could do anything. It is my choice. And the ideas come thick and fast – mostly about writing. What do I want to write? Well, I want, no need, to finish my Motherland book but I also want to write about au pairs, and this morning another title came into my head, that of The Housekeeper. I need, again, to write about my experience in Norway. And then there is a notion of something, a book, an essay about being blocked, writer’s and artist’s block. I want to write about where it takes people, what they do to stave it off, to placate it, to get through it and what happens if they never do. All this fertile stuff. Fertile seeds but with no garden to plant them in. Nothing. No place. Do I just write as I sew with no end in sight, no site in which to place them? Do I just do it because I need to and bugger it that it never sees daylight? My fear of not being good enough paralyses my every move. Truly. My arms ache with the tension of it.

Do I just wait? Acknowledge the discomfort, all that inner wrangling and wait and see? Or do I make a start, with all the awkward stumbling that that involves. It’s like the cross stitch. I’m not good at it. I make loads of errors. It brings me down, it did yesterday. Even the simplest thing….the voices say. And yet, I can see it differently. It is an experiment, the sewing is a prop for the performance. And today, it is a relief. Something mechanical, something with which I can go through the motions of working. What’s wrong with that? he says. Nothing. What? he says, I can’t hear you. Nothing is wrong with that, I say, it’s just not what I expected.

Wait. The load, as in the dream, will be lifted and it will become clear. Meanwhile, like Terry Waite in his cell listening to the World Service on that transistor radio, or Rauch in his San Quentin yard collecting his spiders, frogs and snails, just pay attention to the details. They are exquisite.


It made me smile. It had been wrapped around some wrought-iron railings outside one of the houses halfway along North Road. A row of plastic union-jack triangles, one of which was a picture Meghan Markle, flapping in the breeze. It was so gloriously tacky and so out of place in this very Welsh town. I thought of them celebrating in front of the TV. Would they drink champagne, eat canapés and wave flags throughout the ceremony? It’s such an odd thing, a kind of appropriation, this owning of the royals. I wish them well but the rest, the flurry, the fuss and bother I can do without, as I am sure could they. Is she scared? Is she nervous about what she might have taken on? We cannot know them. There was a writer on the radio the other day talking about a book she’s written about Harry. She only met him for twenty minutes and that was enough, apparently, for a book. We want to dig, to delve, to scratch at the surface of their privilege, wealth, birth and stardom. Are they like us? She will never have to do this again, I said to him, scrubbing the plates after supper. She’ll never have to wash up, cook, do the washing, the ironing, put the bins out for herself again. Think of that. But she’ll also never be able to leave the house without someone taking her picture. How would it be to be without money cares, to not have to work? But it’s not like that is it? Their time isn’t their own. And they are in a goldfish bowl, gold-plated perhaps, but a goldfish bowl nonetheless. Poor things, poor loves. I suspect they rue their privilege daily.

So here am I in my anonymity – ever alert to its freedoms and its limitations. My flying high is all inside. Is that not better, more lasting and utterly unreliant upon another’s whim?

She did answer the phone. He recommends an operation. She is reluctant. And then there is the funeral. She is clearly shocked by the frugality of the show. No funeral, no funeral tea, just a burial. We want the same, well I want it and he is happy to acquiesce. (I won’t be there, will I?, he says). As far she as she is concerned it’s not right. When her dog died, she told me, there was a ham supper. She was alone, with just her son running the farm. She buried her husband five years ago, she said leaving me with an image of the woman with shovel in her hand.)The family fall-out has distressed her. She feels torn between the rights of the mother and those of the daughter whom the family have ostracised. I had to turn my phone off in the end, she said. Poor love. Such a sensitive soul. I feel and care for her. Truly. And I recall a friend of a friend refusing his sister the right to visit him as he died. Such an harsh act. Nothing can be done. Leave well alone, he says.

But she didn’t. I wonder if she is OK. She asked me to ring her. We have much in common, she said. Perhaps they are away. I will try once more.

And neither did she. I wasn’t expecting her to. She is nursing her grievance still, obviously preferring that to talking to me. So be it.

Town was busy this morning from the night before. Conversations, chat reached me as  I walked along. A girl on the phone by the Prom shelter, her feet, at the end of large, fulsome thighs encased in skin-tight jeans, in dainty ballet pumps laced up the ankle. I’m fine, she said, I’m fine. And then more slowly, deliberately: I will make my way home. Then walking through the Castle grounds I catch two boys with the glare of my torch. L.E.D., one of them says as we cross paths, then, F.E.D. I’ve no idea what he means. Outside The Angel two girls are sprawled on the steps leading up to The Academy. I’m so pissed, yeh, one of them says, her head lolling forward. Walking down Great Darkgate Street a lad on a mobile phone is shouting: Hello, he says, you still outside The Angel? Finally, two students trundling home towards Penglais. One in rocky biker gear is earnestly telling the other: You know you’ve just got to try.

Go compare, the advertising slogan says. No. It’s time I stopped doing that. It is enough to be me in this constant state of trying. Trying to be good, to be better, trying to try. We fail when we do not try, she said. Yes, that is the heartache of it. We have no choice but to go on trying. So be it. And there is such a view to admire along the way, don’t you think?

Rice Pudding

I went for a tin of rice pudding yesterday. Not for me for the food bank. It’s something. A gesture. It’s for my benefit, rather than theirs really. I need to be jolted, to be reminded how fortunate I am. And I am. And this is what I would like, in those circumstances. Some comfort, as I said. Traditional rice pudding, it read. Would that be with the skin then? Traditional rice pudding with sultanas. Will they hate the sultanas? I dither at the aisle. Take the risk. I remember school rice pudding. It was served in these enormous tin trays and there was always a skin on the top. A skin like a crust, often very brown, sometimes burnt. Many of us liked it and would vie for a piece. It was sickly sweet and the rice was cloying and heavy to digest but it was warm and comforting. Did she ever make us rice pudding at home? She made it for the dogs certainly, without sugar but dosed up with cod liver oil. They wolfed it down.

We’d sat watching a lone student practising on the tennis court beneath us. His serve is all wrong, he said, my love, my once Wimbledon junior champion. It’s his drop, it’s not high enough. Then there ensued a discussion as the rights and wrongs of interfering. Should he say something? He was itching to do so. But might he just offend him? Perhaps he is content. He’s trying at least. Yes, he said, but practising won’t help. It won’t help. I thought it was all about practice. Practice makes perfect. Such sayings spin round and round in my head. Other people’s voices, guiding, cajoling, bossing. I thought that if I wrote and wrote I would get better, that it would happen, just by the sheer repetition of taking myself to the page and writing. Isn’t this the case? I know no other way. And often it is a long and tedious way. It has always been so with me. I’m no child star, no protégé material. I’m a plodder, dogged in my desire to better myself, to get better, to become good. I felt an affinity with that student. He was practising alone. Over and over again. But he’s no good, he said. Had it been easy for him, a natural athlete? Perhaps. It was long before I knew him. Be kinder I want to say. But I don’t.

The morning begins to shine with promise. Back to my practice. My writing. I want to sleep but won’t, not yet. Work first.

Will she answer this morning?

Jesus Christ

They were piling out of a flat just off North Road. One after another. There must’ve been five or six of them. Had there been a party or something? First they trailed off along the street that cuts onto the Prom only to turn back again and head up the hill ahead of me. Jesus Christ, one of the boys said.

I did it. I called her.

I may have said so before that I don’t find phone calls easy. I mean work ones are fine, they have an obvious purpose, and a beginning and end. It’s the other kind, the social kind where boundaries, particularly of time, are more fluid. She took ages to answer and her voice, so familiar even after all these years, was tentative, hesitant. She sounded pleased to hear from me, though she had been warned. Had she fretted about me calling? I hope not. It was well meant. There is nothing but love. Really. He doesn’t understand, not truly. But that doesn’t matter. This is about me, and her, and her. The three of us. We are a grandmother, I said and she laughed. And we are. A shared gift.

It took me back. That longing. That longing to belong. The delight I felt in her. Her wit, her generosity, her openness, her kindness, her ease. At least that is what I saw back then. She’d been wary. And rightly so. Me too, but then I opened to her, the need too great to suppress. I’ve always done it, sought mothers. Still do. Did she know this? Did they all? How many has it been now? Five or six. Not all to the same degree but mother figures certainly. Belonging and not belonging. Because you don’t, not really. There is no blood connection. However much you love, serve, yield to them you are not theirs. Does she feel the same? I shouldn’t think she thinks about it, not deeply. I hope not.

It took me back. The bustle, the chaos, the busy-ness of it. The chats, the cups of tea, the dogs, the walks and the noise. I welcomed it then, wouldn’t do now but then I suppose she wouldn’t either. A big life contained in that house. Uncarpeted floorboards, all of them crashing about in their slippered feet. Pyjamas on in front of the TV, Neighbours, Coronation Street and The Beautiful South on the stereo.

It took me back and it was nice to go there.

A testing day yesterday but we managed it. We solved it. We survived it. You shall not be overcome. How beautiful. You may be assailed, you may be diseased but you shall not be overcome. Is that a promise? Can I hold you to that?

Two girls holding hands. Where was it? Yes, on campus. And then later the next morning, two boys doing the same. In the dark. I like it. I like that fact that they feel able to do it.

I chase time. I know I am doing it. So many things to relish, to anticipate with pleasure and there is time to do it. I have so much freedom. So much.

I looked at it when I’d finished working on it and the yellow was just gorgeous. A lemon-cheese kind of yellow. Take them in, such moments, they count. They count against the doubt.

Fucking gossamer, he said waving his hand across his face as we carried the shopping from the car.

How I love him.


I pass by a girl and boy talking outside The Angel. Well, he is talking, she is lighting a cigarette. It’s like, like…,he is saying, it’s like if you’re gunna like….She smiles, leaning her head to one side as she listens. At the other end of the walk street another girl is sitting on the pavement, leaning against the door of Ahmed’s Barber Shop. A tall, rake-like figure of man is leaning over her, cradling her face in his hands. I love you to bits, right? he says, with a trace of menace in his voice. Or am I reading that into it? Yeh, I know, she replies, her eyes still downcast. I carry on down the hill hoping that I wil get a lift from the smell of baking bread from Slater’s Bakery. But no, there is nothing. There rarely is these days. Perhaps they’ve had air-conditioning put in and no longer need to open the door. Outside the mini Tesco a lad stands uncertainly, his body keeling slightly as in in a strong wind, watching a lorry driver beginning to unload. They drink so much. I tell him of it when he wakes. Perhaps it’s not just drink, he says. An owl whoo-whoos in the distance, over head. It’s the eeriest noise. No oystercatchers this morning, just a few seagulls screeching, and one that I watched soaring about the students’ hall along the prom, a white glider, elegant, sublime. They’d promised rain but it stayed dry.

My neighbour was up when I returned home, though his bedroom light was switched off as I opened our shared hall door. A thin slither of light could be seen through his front door. Then it opened. He was there pulling a suitcase. Are you going away? I asked. Yes, he said, to Vietnam. His father had been a missionary and I think he was actually born in China. His siblings live all over the world. He is going to see one of his brothers in Vietnam. How long for? I ask. Three weeks, he said, look after my mother for me. Of course. Of course we will. Will she ask for help if she needs it? I hope so. Though at ninety-nine she is amazingly fit and fiercely independent.

A bitty day today. I need to have an eye test. Well, I don’t need one, it is due that’s all. It breaks up my working time, but heigh ho.

We talked of the massacre of the Palestinians last night before I went to sleep. He sat on the edge of my bed. Shove yer feet up, he said. It’s nice to hear his voice, it calms me. What do you do with such information? I ask him. Where do you put it? What can you do to be at peace with it? Well, he says, I read about it, I find out about it and then I try to put it away. I can’t do anything about it, after all. No, I said, you can’t. But aren’t we meant to feel for them, ache for them, stand alongside them? Yes.

Don’t give up your light, he told me, years ago, the man with no teeth. Don’t. After all there is as much good, as much love as there is not. I am sorry. Sorry for your pain, all of you. And my concerns are but specks in comparison. Rest in peace. You are so brave.

Oystercatchers (16)

I rarely see them. Sometimes a few can be seen scuttling on the shore but it is too dark to make them out distinctly. But I hear them. They call out through the night. Their call is a kind of peep, a high-pitched peeping, that shatters the black, breaking it. I feel an affinity with them, I don’t really know why. They are odd creatures, a little ungainly and their cry is imploring, feeble, ghostly. I like to see them en masse in the daylight, a gathering of black and white bodies, bobbing.

I heard the clang of bottles being dropped into a bin. Two people were ahead of me. One, a long-haired man, was sliding empty wine bottles into the mouth of the wastebin and the other, a girl in a hippy-esque patterned jacket was standing by the railing with a wine glass in her hand. A third man was on the beach below them putting what was obviously the remains of their meal into a plastic bag. I couldn’t catch their speech but they sounded foreign, possibly Scandinavian. It was the wine glass that stuck out. An elegant detail. She waved it about, dancing with it.

Tuesday is bin day and all along Llanbadarn Road recycle food and bin bags have been put out, most in neat rows tied up with a crisp knot. In town it is different. The gulls have got at these bags already and food spills onto pavements. The gulls shouting out warnings to other gulls. A screeching that tears at the still air. I see half a bread roll, an unopened salad cream sachet and a white plastic fork.

But I want to do it, I tell myself on waking as I wait for the inevitable grey, heaviness to descend. But is it worthwhile enough? Does it have meaning enough? But I want to do it, to see it through, to see what it will become. Isn’t that reason enough?

I have a drawer full of such projects. All on the go but what energy, what talking-to it takes to get them continuing. What is there? A cross-stitched beginning to Proust’s Swann’s Way in English, then one in French. Then there is the piece I want to return to today, a list of drama recordings that I have listened to while I’ve sewn. A kind of written negative space. Then there are the three van Gogh’s Sunflowers cross-stitch kits. One is nearing the end, another mid-way and the other just started. And then there is the tapestry of the same painting. All on the go. Going somewhere, feeling like nowhere. And yet, to not see them through, aagh, therein lies the pain. I feel like I should concentrate on the Sunflowers because they have a distinct purpose, they are to be used for my performance next month, and yet, they are a trial to me. Intellectually I can stand back and smile at the cheek of it, the subversion of all that is creative, that they represent. But when I’m in it, doing it, I am lost in the stultifying inwardness of copying, of rendering ‘wild’ painting into ‘docile’ stitch. And yet, writing about it excites me. Yes, I think there is more to explore there.

Just accept. Remember that word. Accept. Live it. Live the frustration, the uncertainty, the indignity, the stuck-ness. It will come right, he said. It will all come right.


I remembered. I remembered the last dream I had before waking. I love preserving my dream worlds, they are visionary states to me, full of wisdom. And often, though not over the last week or so, it is the last one that stays with me, the one I have usually between 12.30 and 1 am. The worlds are familiar. Time and time again it is that hill, outside, a street, a busy street, a foreign street. The road is white, like the marbled pavements of Spain. The sun is shining and either side of the street is flanked with coffee houses and shops. There is bustle, noise and clamour. In this particular dream I was walking with him down a busy inside corridor and we passed a dear friend of mine. She was talking to someone and I thought she hadn’t recognised me. I wasn’t sure what to do so greeted her and moved on. Then we were in her flat. A one room apartment. She was inside with us but had also posted a letter for me under her door. I could see it being pushed under. Inside was a ten pound note, a present for my birthday and a note about where to go for a massage and a reading (things we have done together in the past) with names and prices. She talked about her plans for a business making cakes and handed me a leaflet. Then she talked about getting some birds and how she would hang their cages from the ceiling. I asked her about how she could afford to live in London. Then she told us of a huge Council Tax she’d had to pay, over £52 K and the depression that set on a result, but that the mistake had been rectified and that she was living on the rebate.

I felt good when I woke. It had been a dream of lightness, of friendship, of being loved, of opportunities and possibilities.

And yesterday was a good day. Work was fine. I was acknowledged, spoken too and engaged with. I practised making origami cranes and scotty dogs, even leaving them there, on the window sill, a gift. I don’t know where I am going with this but something, something may come of it. I was fired up with my conversation with her and was prompted to email some contacts just to see if they might be interested in my current work. Who knows? It’s about not being stuck. Seeing what is possible.

The sun shines. The house has been cleaned and after my second cup of tea I am positively buoyant.

All my troubles end tomorrow, at least as far as money is concerned, she says. All to do with Uranus apparently, and how it has been in the house of other people’s money (and surely, mine as well) for what seems like ages. We shall see, my noble soothsayer. I’m open to it. Let the abundance rain down on me. Then pass it on.

A jar of peanut butter. I wouldn’t eat it now, but if I was in their situation of need, as indeed I have been several times, I would. That gooey mass of crunchy sweetness and salt would be a comfort. Brown toast and peanut butter. Yes. The wire stand where the Food Bank items are stored at Morrison’s was piled high with bags of pasta and tins of tomatoes this morning. Sensible, yes and perfect for an easy meal but the cosy foods are nice too. Rice pudding, tins of custard, Bonne Maman strawberry jam, chocolate digestives and good coffee. At least one a week. Yes.

It was to be my way of sharing my good fortune. I’d given up my job to start life as a full-time, self-supporting artist (while also doing a part-time PhD.) and decided to donate a percentage of all my art work sales to charity. I did well for a couple of months. Then it all dried up. It was 2008. What a year to begin my adventure. I was sorry to renege on my intention. And now, well I count every penny. As I count every blessing.

Let’s see what we can do, eh?