Quiet

Sometimes I don’t have much to say. And that is OK. This can be a quiet, empty space too. I sewed my alphabet yesterday and listened to fiction, one of which was a play based on the real life account of a young Scottish girl’s murder trial in 1857 where she was accused of poisoning her French lover with arsenic. It was marvellously, and shockingly, played (mostly for her ambiguous naivety) by Clare Grogan (was she in Gregory’s Girl or was she the one who sang Happy Birthday or both?).

We walked through The Avenue yesterday. It was nice to stroll with him. I love to hear him chatter about his past. It is everywhere, particularly in the sports grounds. A particular gate, a hill, a turning all set off sparks of memory in him. I don’t have this about anywhere, at least not as deep-rooted as he does.

I am sleeping longer but still I am tired. All this thinking, all this trying to understand how to be peaceful, acquiescent, accepting of my lot, this lot. Which after all, isn’t so bad. She has been in touch with offers of work. I am glad though I twitch with nerves about doing it well enough. She wouldn’t ask you if she didn’t like what you do, he says. No, she wouldn’t. She is rigorous and not afraid to say it like it is. Let is be so, be grateful, it is work and work that I am proud of, happy to do (when it goes well) and derive joy from. Thank you. I never forget, you know, how fortunate I am. I am stuck a little, in a habit of being blue. Let the sun shine in, lighten me. Lighten me up. Please.

Jay (5)

He remained on the tree outside my bedroom window for quite a few minutes, hopping from one branch to another. An ex-colleague told me that seeing one is a portent of something coming, be it good or bad, but something pivotal, important, significant. I didn’t tell him. He is not a superstitious man but in these wobbly times he could take it the wrong way. And he is unsettled enough, though trying to remain sanguine, as he was last night after waiting over half an hour to register with Morrisons (not his first choice but Tesco is full) delivery service only to be bounced back when his turn came up. We are all having to adapt in big and small ways to this strange time. It is surreal, sometimes almost dream-like so that when they mention it on the radio, referring to listener’s requests and emails, I do a double-take, so it’s happening to them too, is it?

I finished the second sampler and am a little bereft. Working it kept her close. And then I had a brainwave. And what joy it gave me when the idea came in and settled inside of me. I shall make one for her too. And then one for her and for her. All my loves. And I shall design them myself. New projects do give me a lift. They represent possibilities, to learn, to work and to develop and they distract me from this ennui, this malaise that still resides deep within.

We lay on his bed yesterday afternoon and talked about the sound project. It helps to test it in the air, to say it out loud. I put my hand on his arm, encouraging him to keep quiet as I talk. The ideas are raw, they need to nurtured, fed not cut down before they shoot. I need his responses, he is an excellent sounding-board and I trust him, but sometimes it is not the time. It needs to percolate, it can’t be rushed. I feel better when I let the concept take hold, flood my mind, like it is beginning to do. I want to work alone, to find my feet with it. It is much more about a soundscape – an audio snapshot of three art spaces – the extraneous sounds of a gathering place, caught randomly and played back in that space, its own vital hum. I want to capture the sound of feet on lino, the clatter of crockery from the cafe next door, doors opening and shutting, telephones ringing. Will it be time specific, date specific, what are the lifeblood sounds of the space? I want to keep it small, intimate, un-showy. Will you help me make it happen?

I caught the end bit of a programme on Rimbaud, on the back of one about Jim Morrison. Arthur Rimbaud was a walker, apparently. He would walk himself into a state of exhaustion, believing it helped his mind unloosen its creativity. And yesterday I listened to the third and fourth of Katie Hims’ radio play series Listening to the Dead. What a gem, she is. What a find. See there is pleasure in the small things, when the large is beyond one’s control. And I baked shortbread for him. I promised and I did it. And it was OK. They came out OK.

Thank you.

Deaths

I dream of food all the time. I am usually with other people in a restaurant and I’m having to negotiate what it is that I can eat. It’s as stressful in my dreams as it is in real life. All that loss of control, of handing over my plate to another to fill with I know not what. The other night I had to ask if they had any plant-based milks and in another I was served up a piece of fish with spinach, at least it isn’t meat, I thought. It is often about choices, but mostly about the discomfort of having to make my desires known, understood and satisfied. Mostly, in my dream world that is, they are not.

I forgot to say that he died. The man on the hill, that is. The man, the architect whom I met once at work when he came in to do an interview, who lived in that modernist house on the hill. He died a week or so ago. Not from the virus but from Parkinson’s, I believe. He had a lot of grace. A real gentleman. Another such gentleman also died, the day before yesterday. He came home after his walk with the news. He was a doctor and he lived just down the road from us. He knew him, professionally I think. A quiet man, a modest man with a passion for cars. He had about six or was it seven? All with Ceredigion number plates. How does he get to drive them all? he said on several occasions. He loved his garden too. A neat and tidy bodger one, with rose bushes in the front. He died in the night with his wife lying next to him, he was told as he queued for the paper. They’d moved him downstairs when his illness took hold. It was the same with my father, a precaution against falling. He too died of a brain tumour. At least he could be at home, with his family, his loves, and close to his garden. Can we take some consolation from that? Will you go to the funeral? I asked him at breakfast. No, he said, you’re only allowed 10 people at funerals at the moment. Of course, I’d forgotten. The townspeople will be disappointed, they all turn up usually, in their black suits and black ties. Rest in peace you gentle souls. Rest in peace.

It was hard talking to him about it yesterday. And we didn’t do The Avenue, it rained. We lay on his bed instead. I wept. It’s the uncertainty, the not-knowing that gets to me. So just let it be so, he said. Let it stay, and wait. And this morning I do feel a little better. Fieldwork was the word that came into my head. Fieldwork. I want to tape the chatter myself, perhaps using one of those old fashioned reel-to-reel machines. Be overt about it. It’s anthropology, he said. Make the performance the recording of it. And then, don’t edit it but just let it play, all of it. And make it something I do collaboratively with three galleries not just one. I’m capturing the extraneous sounds of gallery life. People talking. It gives me hope, all is not lost. Just take each moment as it comes, one at a time, no great leaps. Let it happen. Like breath.

Ticking Off

Granted I was walking down the middle of the road, but it was half past three in the morning and the town, courtesy of Covid-19 was deserted. And when I saw the headlights of car flood the tarmac yellow I did step promptly onto the pavement. Nevertheless, the car slowed down and pulled up beside me. I knew even before I turned round that it was a police car. The passenger side window was let down. It’s probably best if you walk on the pavement rather than the road, he said, smiling at me. Of course, I said, after I’d stripped off my various hoods and headphones so that I could hear him. He had a nice face, open, fair and amiable. But, I continued, there was no one about.

Do you think it is a little over-zealous? I said as I told him about it when I went in to wake him up. Yes, he said, but I suppose that they’ve little else to do. Why does it irritate me so much? Is it that I feel like a child being ticked off, or is it more that my sense of personal liberty is under threat. I want to be free to do as I will. Not, of course if it harms anyone but I wasn’t harming anyone. The road was clear. And I love to walk in the road. There is space to stretch out, to break the rules.

She would never have broken rules. She was a good girl. I suspect that I no longer am.

I slept an hour longer. He was delighted when I told him my plan. I think I should try and get eight hours, I said. I’m so pleased, he said. And I did it. But it has left me discombobulated. I am in my studio an hour later, everything has got shifted forward. And, as yet, I am not feeling more rested. Give it time, he said, give it time.

We are to have a seminar today, walking in the The Avenue (he wants to show me the primroses). That’s what we call it. One of those sessions when we talk about what I am to do. He helps me straighten myself out, to put things in order. I am all at sea. Wobbled. Just focus on today. I’ve got the sampler to finish and perhaps start some baking and my accounts for March (not there is much to do there) to do – no money coming in and not much going out, thankfully.

I don’t know what I want anymore. Help. Did I ever? I search my vision of the past in mind. What was I then and what am I now? Ria Parkinson threatens to incarnate inside of me. All that soul-searching of hers bores him, and me a little bit, if I am honest, though I recognise it. She is bored, she is unspent, unused up, listless and lost. Just what is her role? What is she to do? Ditto, eh? What exactly am I for? Is that the point that I am nothing, for nothing, just nothing, no thing. Just be, he says, just be. But how? How do I do that?

Child

Brian Cox during his interview last weekend with Lauren Laverne on Desert Island Discs, exhorted us to nurture the child within. And he didn’t mean some psychoanalytical notion of a child, but as we once were. It’s who we are really are, he said. Yes. I agree, Brian. It is. It still is after all these years. My child is about five or six, and very earnest. Sensitive, quick to cry but also quick to feel joy. An optimist yet a worrier, life is full of pleasure for her but also pain. She senses things deeply. She has a huge amount of empathy for others, she seeks out the vulnerable, the weak, the abandoned ones. Lame ducks, her mother used to call them. They were the ones she brought home for tea, the ones she keened towards at parties. Those shy, reticent ones. Her mother couldn’t understand why. I carry her with me as I walk. Sometimes I take her hand. I like her. I always have. She had lovely skin and a sweet dimples on her face when she smiled. She had so much potential to shine. She worked hard at everything. She was careful, diligent. Quiet. Are you disappointed in me? I asked her yesterday, as I walked. No, she said. You have done the best you could, always. Is that enough? Of course, she said, with a smile steeped in a wisdom beyond her years.

I felt better walking this morning, my legs weren’t so stiff. And I was less edgy about being stopped. I saw more people out and about. A dog-walker, a couple. All were far off. No one disturbed me. One of the windows of a house on a terrace of dwellings in one of the streets that lead onto the harbour had been covered in a child’s drawings. They were taped onto the window, painting side out. They were glorious. They were of blue skies and rainbows. A happiness of painting. Shared with us. Thank you.

Supermarket

I was stressed about going. It felt like a great mountain to scale. What would it be like, queues all through the car park? And then when we got there, nothing. No one there. So there we were standing outside the doors at 5.50 am, waiting. It looks well stocked at least, he said. A member of staff turned up and pulled aside the doors. Better wait for the manager to open them officially, he said. Yes, we said. By 6.05 I was abuzz with agitation. I just want to get it over with, I said. So he stepped forward and pulled aside the doors, and we went in. This is OK, I said, where is everybody? We went our separate ways, he going to one end I to the other. It must’ve been five minutes later that one of the staff, the one with the ponytail, asked how I’d got in. Had they opened the doors? he asked. I don’t know, I said, feeling my nose start to lengthen. Then he said, it’s just that we’re not meant to open until 8. My heart sank. Then the manager turned up, followed by him, looking a little nervous that I might lose it. There were no signs, I said. There are, she said, and we played it over the tannoy all last week. She was very nice about it, wheeling my trolley-full away to put behind the customer service desk. What a bugger. I don’t think I can go through that again, I said to him. Let me do it, he said. What a love. And he is going to do it too. Soon. I feel bad letting him, but perhaps it is best. I am useless at this loss of control over the life I live. It’s the minutiae that gets me. The bigger stuff I am better at. Mind you, that will come. That will come. So I got home feeling at a loss and did a meditation. And promptly fell asleep. It’s all sliding. The structure has gone flaccid. What am I, anymore?

Police Questioning

They pulled up beside me along Llanbadarn Road. The passenger window was rolled down. Can I ask what you are doing? asked the policewoman. Yes, I said, I’m having my walk. We are allowed a walk still, aren’t we? Yes, she said, and her male colleague at the wheel nodded and smiled. I thought I should explain further. I forget sometimes how odd it must seem for someone to be walking at such an early hour. I thought, I said, that walking at this time I’d be less likely to encounter other people. Again, the male policeman nodded in agreement. The policewoman was less affable. Just so long as you remain mindful of what the prime minister says, she said and then rolled up the window. Why do they always make you feel erroneous?

Yesterday was a bleak one. The clocks have gone forward and the dawn wasn’t too long in coming, thanks to you. There was no one about except for a lone police car. It was probably the same one. I hid a little behind a telephone box until the drove past. I want my silence. And then I climbed the hill up to the Buarth.

A simple day today. I want to let it all fall away. To slough it off. And see. And see what happens, what emerges.

Structure

I wake up and test my mood. It’s usually the same. A bleak one. I try to reason it through, to analyse, to step back and apply some logic to it all. But it doesn’t change that the fact that I wake up blue. And it isn’t a question of space, or indeed, what the day holds. It is always the same, this grey, underlying bleakness that floors me. And I have to pick myself up from it every morning, to bath, to dress, to walk and to prepare breakfast. The light of morning helps a little, but even now, I am not much lifted. I need structure. I need to know that I am doing it right, living the life I should be living. Properly, mindfully, kindly, living well. Am I? Giving up the structure, as we have been forced to do, is unsettling. I am left adrift. What am I? What am I for? What is my purpose? Am I living right? And the questions hover around me, dogging my steps. I just don’t know. I have drifted along in life. Following what felt right. Is that good enough? Will I be held to account for not being proactive enough, for not designing a proper, useful life? He thought I was ‘stirred’ up by Ria’s plight in Butterflies. I’m not. That was too long ago and I am appreciated. The fight is my own. It is internal. A not-knowing that eats away at me. How can I be peaceful? How can I be kind amidst all this internal warring? Can I make it stop?

Letting Go

I decided to put it away for a while, to have a rethink, to stop, it. It needs to change. I have lost my way with it, allowed it to get too big. This is better. This is good. And talking to him yesterday really helped. I get a lot from that kind of interaction. I am interested. I care about these spaces. And I like to problem-solve. The project had lost its heart, in my desire to reach the deadline with all ts crossed and dots dotted, I lost my way with. Where is it’s intimacy? I want it to be conversation, a tete-a-tete, a one-to-one. So I will retrench, re-think and continue talking to people. And if it is smaller I will have more time, more flexibility. I’m in it for the long haul, she said. She wasn’t but I’d like to be. With this. With good people. Like him and him. So breathe a little. Do domestic things, sew, bake and sit in the sun when you can. Let it go. Leave it go, for a bit, for a while and let it percolate.

Re-thinking

I always take criticism personally, I know I shouldn’t, for it mostly isn’t. People don’t know me. And, in the main, criticism, if it is creative, is constructive. She was spiky, but then again, as our discussion was a written one, it is hard to say for sure. If we had met, face-to-face, it might have felt warmer. She has left me wobbling. But then again, I have always wobbled too easily. My confidence, as he pointed out this morning, while sitting on the bed getting dressed for our bi-weekly adventure to the supermarket, is brittle. It was ever thus. Can I change? I doubt it. So what do I do now? The powers-that-be have cancelled all new funding applications, so it is halted anyway. Perhaps it is timely? Can I make this into a good thing? Why not? It was getting large, maybe too large. Possibly taking stock is the best thing I can do at the moment.

The sun is out already and it’s only just gone 8. Another lovely day is promised. There was a new manager at Tesco’s this morning warning us that next time we shop we will have to go in alone. Only one person to a trolley, he said, looking sadly apologetic. And you must keep 2 metres apart from other people, he continued, and there will be police in to enforce it. Ah, it is beginning to frighten me, this. In my agitation I assault one of the self-service tills. He shouts out my name embarrassed at my infantility. And I am soon shame-faced. He forgives me, as does S, one of the managers. Everyone does it from time to time, she says. You take care now.

And you. And you.