North Wind

I could hardly hear her when we spoke on Friday. She must’ve been holding the phone too close to her chin for her voice was muffled. I strained to hear her words. It happens often, yet I don’t like to interrupt her, she is so easily spooked, thrown. It appeared that she was still in bed. Not good, I thought, she is an early riser, a morning walker like me. What about Bonnie? I asked, have you been out with her? No, her daughter was home because of half-term and she’d walked her. Good, I said, I’m glad that you are not alone. She went on to explain her symptoms. It sounded like she had pus in her throat. All this infection. She tries to play it down but I could tell she was low. I asked if she was eating. Yes, her daughter had made her something. But I only eat it because there is someone there, she said, adding, if you know what I mean. I do. I do know what you mean, I said. She eats to please her daughter, to ease her worry. The two of them, so closely interwoven. Both clinging, though I suspect it is the daughter that clings tighter. Was it she who suggested she apply for telephone befriending? I want to do something. To make her well. What is it about? A festering. An eating away. Is she unhappy? I would’ve said that what I know of her she is capable of contentment with little. She doesn’t want travel, they have a home, they keep to themselves, she has a few friends, kindly neighbours, but she is scared, low. I’m taking some herbal remedies, she said. No antibiotics. I understand her reluctance. They seem such a crude cure. What can I say? Thank you for phoning, she says, it’s nice to have a chat.

What does it do? What do I do? It’s like the residency, I cannot make a material difference, I can only sit and bear witness. Is it enough?

The moon was yellow this morning. Over half now, it is growing. I watched it sink into the sea. A great cheese. It cast little light, just a spilling of yellow on the water. No lit fishing boats this morning. Just a smattering of students in various stages of undress. Room lights were on around the town. A figure stood at a top flat window looking down on me before closing the window against the night. In the basement flat on Llanbadarn Road three students lounged on the black leather sofa staring at the TV. The gritter lorry sped past a fine, constant spray of salt spilling from its rear.

A simple day. Sewing, sit in the sun, Telegraph crossword then sleep. It will do, for now, for today.


I felt something like joy yesterday. It’s been a long time. The greyness, I have to confess has assailed me. Even the usually blessed Aurum has made no difference. It was but a short interval, however, for my back is as rigid as ever today. Thoughts. Just thoughts. Tiny things, inconsequential things that enter my head and take root. At least I know them now. They are familiar. My familiars. So joy. Yes. Yesterday. What was it? Should I deconstruct what it was? Will that help to secure it again?

We went out for the day, well half a day. Once I’d done my chores, written and done yoga, it was the mid-morning. But that was OK. And it was, for the sun shone. The hills were made hazy by it. Look at the hills, he kept saying as we undulated towards them. Softened, they took on tones of pinks and pale oranges. So hopeful. So promising. It’s on it’s way, he said.

When we got there the lounge was empty. Our favourite lounge. The adult only lounge. Someone had finished the jigsaw and had left it, no doubt proud as punch, for everyone to see. The adjoining lounge was busier for they have the sun in there. We were happy for our quiet and ordered tea. A big pot, he stipulated. A gigantic pot. No stinting, this has to last.

I had too much. It fills my tummy and raises my spirits. Tea is the new cocaine. Lapsang Souchong. Oh, you want milk, said the waiter. Where you from, I can’t place the accent? he asked of him. I’ve spent a lot of time in Dudley, he replied, smiling, warming to us and itching to linger. It gets stronger when I meet people from the Midlands, he said. Yes. He had a small beard and a pager clipped to his belt.

The tea made me fizz. Not sure you want it, the waiter had said earlier, coming to us with the box of teabags prior to making it. It says smoky, he said putting on his glasses and reading the box. Yes, I said, I want it. It is a rare taste, better with real leaves. They used to do real leaves but clearly tea bags are simpler. The pots are still metal though. Small mercies, eh? I love the taste, the smoke, though a slight nausea can come on. Too much but I was feeling better and wanted it to last. And the joy? Well, it was sitting out.

I’m not going out there, he said, it’s freezing. In the end he suggested it. Ten minutes, he said. It was glorious. The sun on my face. Joy. Joy is the sun on my face. A man came to near where we were sitting and lit up. Let’s go, he said. I don’t want other people. His partner joined him but they soon left. Was it his scowls? So delightfully anti-social.

I walked behind a man carrying a plastic carrier bag at 3.10 am. He had no coat, just a white shirt and his ankles were bare. He walked sharply. He must’ve been cold, it was minus 3 at least. The air hurt my face. Nearing the bandstand he threw something in the bin and then, walking up to one of the handrails that lead down to the beach hooked the bag onto it. Then he just walked off. What was in the bag? Why had he left it and for whom? I continued to follow him. He walked up to one of the bouncers at the Pier Pressure nightclub. What time does it close? he asked. Everyone out in twenty minutes, he replied.

The festive lights hanging from the ceiling in the breakfast room of the Shoreline B&B were flashing, red, yellow, green and orange. An impromptu disco in that cold dark air. Down by the harbour the large fishing boats were back, lit white and stark. And the Samways truck too, its engine cold. From port to plate in 24 hours.

The moon was a half when I woke. The mornings grown lighter. It’s coming, he said. It’s coming.


They are renovating the building where his Dad used to work. They’ve been doing it for a year or so now. Yesterday I noticed that the scaffolding had been taken down. There was a long pick-up truck parked outside with some of the scaffolding poles piled up inside. It’s engine was running. There was no one inside. It was 3.00 am. Then further down the Prom there was a car, its windows steamed up and engine running too. This morning, it was a van, down by the harbour. And walking past the Old College, the Old Col as he calls it, I heard the generator outside. It’s a kind of chugging hum. A thrumming, a throbbing. The fishing boat in the harbour, lit up and ready to sail, had a different kind of engine noise. I love it. It makes me feel safe. I tried to understand why as I walked past it. It’s a low hum, slightly irregular, like a relaxed heartbeat. It’s a waiting sound, a patient, no-hurry, kind of rumble. Lovely. Just lovely. A truck waited for the catch, but it’s generator was off. I also love the sound of my feet on the wooden slats of the Perygyl. We call it that, it’s really a jetty. Perygyl means danger in Welsh. There is a sign at the start of it warning of slipping. When wet it is slippy, the bruise on my hip testified to that. I am cautious now. I don’t walk it when it rains. The sound is also warm, homely. The wood gives a little under my feet. Soft, yielding. A gentle echo of a noise, the water lapping underneath. No wind this morning. No pushing into a force.

I need to let go of it now. I’ve had enough. I am at a loss what to do. She is rigid, immovable. So be it. I will wait till wisdom or a way forward comes. Meanwhile I shall just click delete.

We are off to Aberdovey for the morning. A cup of tea, a crossword and a sit and stare. It’s been too much.

Yes. There is power in non-action. As there is in forgiveness. And I can forgive her. And I will, in time.


Yet more dreams of tables. A round one this time, in a restaurant and encircled with strangers, men and women in suits. They do not smile at my arrival. Do I say something? Do I whisper my reluctance to join them? For join them I must. Young women in business attire. My cousin is sitting next to me. He is playing some sort of golf game. I ask about his son, is he really living in Barbados now? Then I begin to play the same game. It involves pushing this tiny pea-size ball through gaps and holes while keeping it in a 2D frame. Rather like a hand-held pin-ball machine. I become absolutely entranced by it. I am doing it better than my cousin. I am calm, in control.

Did I say that I looked up dream meanings and that tables were supposed to be about conferences and family discussions?

I have had enough of thinking about it. Having those conversations with her in my head. She is a good person, I know this. But we are so different. I do not understand her, try as I might. Is it important to understand? Is compassion, a willingness to stand in her shoes, bear witness to her life, enough? I cannot know. I flail. I have flailed about. My vanity got in the way. I thought I could bring reason, sense, calmness to the table. I could not. I couldn’t even get to the table. I wanted to make it all right for every body. But mostly for myself. I want to be at peace with them all, the way that I wasn’t with her. Could never be, for she wasn’t a peaceful person. She didn’t engender peace. But it is gone. A different country.

Everything gets shaken up. I am rattled by it. It impacts my work, my way of seeing things. It sucks the little joy that there is these days.

I stood on the shelf and stuck my head out of the skylight. That was joy, for that moment, I smelt freedom, like a dog’s first nose-full of air after a night of being kennel-cooped. Delicious. Morning air with the sun on my face. Yes. Joy. I can still feel it. I closed my eyes and let the sun seep through my skin. And then later, he’d said yes, we went to our seat, in front of the sea and in the sun. The first time this year. I was still agitated, a back full of her. But I closed my eyes and let the sun soak through me. Fifteen minutes of sitting, the cars rolling by and him beside me.

When I woke this morning the flat had still remembered the sun’s warmth.

I will write today. I want to sew but balls need to be kept moving. All of them. And I want to complete my book this year. The first draft at least. It’s unfinished-ness weighs on me. I want to know that I can do it. Form it, hone it. I am trawling through, trying to instil some sort of order. Order the chaos. Is that not what I try to do all the time? An impossible task.

Flickering lights. The one in the hallway across from us, the bulb downstairs as we come in the front door and a neighbours tree wrapped round with Xmas lights. All flickering. Not clear. About to go black. To go out. I often dream my torch doesn’t come on. What am I not seeing? Show me how to be kind, to weigh my words, to know what I am really saying. She knew.

I’ll play, the student was shouting, his words slurring, his gestures loose. I’ll play. I’ll play ball.

Yielding (105)

It was a kind of warm-up exercise. I think they got us to try and do it during my teacher training, or it could’ve been as far back as my the Theatre Design degree. I cannot remember. Anyway, it involved letting oneself fall. Letting oneself go limp and dropping knowing that someone would catch you. Essentially it was about falling backwards, not rigidly, but softly, in the belief that you would be caught. Trusting. Trusting that you would be caught. I found it supremely difficult. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself go and trust that someone would be there. And yet, I longed to do it. To soften, to trust, to yield. I love it when someone takes my head in their hands during a massage. I love the feel of hands around my skull and letting my neck let go of all that burden of thought. So heavy.

Yielding. It’s so simple. Just let go. Just let it happen. Stop trying to make it happen, to influence, to bully life into going your way. Simple. Just stop. Let be what will be. Let be. So wise, so simple and so impossible. We are encouraged to go for it, to take charge of our lives, be warriors. And I am sick of it. My knowing is small. My knowing is nothing. I know nothing. I KNOW NOTHING. Not a thing. How can I know what is right? What if there isn’t a right? Or a wrong? Just being. Just being. And letting be. Ah, yes, of course there are all those arguments about war, about self-defence, about protecting the weak, the vulnerable, the innocent. Of course. But essentially isn’t it about promoting peace? Inside. Inside first. To let go is a potent decision. It may not appear to be, but it is. It is charged. Alive. Just to stop. To stop all this pushing.

So much fear. I listened to her talk on the radio about the ancient Greeks going off to consult the Delphic Oracle. What should we do? What should we be? What is going to happen? Give us hope. Hope is what they wanted, needed. To be saved. To be saved from the not knowing. And yet, we don’t know. We know nothing. All is guesswork. She had her tarot cards read. The Justice card came up, and she seemed pleased. I like the tarot. I like the symbolism, the magic of them. But I have stopped reading them. It is enough. They seem to churn up more fear rather than lessen it. We are not meant to know. Our state is to be in the dark. To act from within that darkness. Deep within it at times. To engender a peace within that then manifests without. And to trust. That is all we can do. Oracles, tarots cannot decide our way. For life will come regardless. Life will come with its shocks and changes.

What do I want from her? I want to reach her. To find a warmth between us. I want us to be at peace with each other. I do not understand her. We are so different. In my head I accuse her of bullying, and yet, am I any different? I send out a prayer to let me reach her. If it is to be. Then so be it.

Sewing Machine

I offered to help. I wanted to help, to do something practical. To give my time. I like the notion of mending, of making do. Is it the puritan in me, my prudent self? I struggle with excess, I always have, and yet I do love beautiful things, elegant things, the best that life has to offer. A conundrum.

She’s too long for her age. Model-material. Too long for her 0-3 months baby grows, her toes reach to the end. So I offered to see what I could do. Add an insert to lengthen them perhaps or cut off the feet. I wanted to help. I wanted to do something for her. And then he brought home a packet of five. I was only expecting three at the most. Where would I find the time? It made me anxious. My breath coming quicker, as it is doing now thinking of it. And they were so tiny to manage, to manipulate. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? But I had promised, though I wasn’t sure, never am, whether she wanted to me to do it or not. Nevertheless, I set to it, stressed that it would be taking me away from my work. My real work. But isn’t this work? he asked. What is work? It’s important, he said. It’s for her, for both of them. I managed two and sent them off. She sent a message a couple of days later. She liked them, seemed to appreciate the gesture. Especially the blue, she wrote, she’s going to love them. And then I worrit over whether I should’ve bought some special ribbon. I just wanted to solve the problem, the colours were secondary. Is it good enough? Will it ever be good enough?

The other stress point is that I decided it would be quicker to use my sewing machine. I hadn’t used in years, not since making the paper work. I used to have an old 1950s Bernina, a great lumpen thing but perfect for tiny stitches. We knew each other well enough. But it went and repairing it was not worth it, I was told. So this is a new one. You know, white plastic and not so sturdy. But it does. And I had it serviced recently with the idea that I might start making my own clothes? When, exactly? And bake scones. Nice idea, he says, but when exactly? Back to the machine. So I got it out. Would I remember how to thread it, how to fill the spool? Panic. But I did it. I did it. It worked fine. I relaxed. He came in half way through. That’s nice, he said. It’s so nice to see you at your machine again. Like the old days. What is that about? Seeing me at work. It’s more than that. It’s the sewing thing, the fixed-thing (pronouncing the ed – that ever fix-ed mark) steady, calm, making. It is therapeutic. It is part of our life together, him watching me work. Hearing me work. And I’m glad.

I heard them before I saw them. A group of kids chanting at 3.15 am just down from North Road. The were ahead of me up the hill towards Consti. Four or was it five of them? Five, six, seven, eight, they were singing, then one, two, three, four. One of the lads was waving a plastic bag in the air while he chanted. The girls, of which there were two, wore shorts and sweat tops around their hips. They stopped halfway up the hill and I walked past. One of the girls had a t-shirt on with the words ‘get naked’ written on the back. ‘Scuse me, she called out to me, have you got a lighter? She had a slight burr of a Scottish accent. Sorry, I said. No worries, said one of the boys. There were more kids outside the Why Not? club, younger than usual. One girl, a large, big-hipped girl had on a short ra-ra skirt and a t-shirt with a picture of a gremlin on the front and the word ‘STITCH’ above it.

The light was strange as I walked out. It wasn’t the usual pitch. It was yellowy like smog. The air was damp, misty. I didn’t use my torch, I didn’t need to. From the sea line an oystercatcher called out, a piping, high call.

I woke from a dream in which I was showing a stranger round my mother’s house. There were lots of different levels, and the rooms were dark and all of them were filled with tables. Empty tables that took up all the space. This is where we eat our lunch, and this is where we eat our dinner, I heard myself saying. Then we went up to the top of the house and out into the garden. I had to crawl on my belly across sticky, man-made gooey stuff to get to the grass and out into the sunlight.

Shall I apply? I can not judge what is best these days. My instincts are awry. I took a remedy this morning. It promises gold and calm. I wait.


It’s one of his. A top, a black top with casse pieds written on it in white that he bought from agnes b. in Oxford years ago. He would have it. As he would have the black leather coat we saw in that market in Amsterdam. He hasn’t worn it for ages so I thought I might. I’ve washed it in readiness but I don’t know now, not now I know what casse pieds means. It should be hyphenated. Casse-pieds. Something to do with feet, that much I did know. French always sounds and indeed looks beautiful. What did I think it meant? Something positive, up beat. No. Casse means broken. Broken feet. Put them together and it means boring, a drag, a pain in the ass. Will I still wear it? Possibly.

No rain again this morning. Still so pitch black though. Driving North yesterday morning towards Ruthin we watched the morning come. I love that blue sky. A mellow, yet deep blue that slowly lightens as dawn breaks. The world is still in shadow but there is life, a promise of light. Not that dulled, coating of black that is the early, early hours. I came upon a couple talking in the street. He was standing at her front door. Had they just met? Was this a date? He stood on the pavement, she was in her doorway. I observed his body language. He stood some way away, his hands in his pockets. She was talking. She was animated, And it took like…., she was saying. I walked past the 24 hour garage and saw the smoking woman with the plastic bag coming out. This is clearly where she does her shopping but at 3.30 am? Her bag was full and there was the usual light cigarette between her fingers. Earlier, down by the harbour I’d walked down the ramp, shining my torch to light my path and had come up a figure emerging from the gloom. It gave me a start. My torch caught a glint of a row of buttons. An old army coat, headphones and long, lank hair. Was it a man or woman? I couldn’t tell. The house on St David’s Road where the woman who comes into work to do paper reviews lives was lit up. At least the front porch was. The door glass is stained and bejewelled, it’s window orange in the blackness. A police van drove up to the Pier Pressure night club and deposited an officer on the ground. He was wearing a short sleeved shirt and smiled as he jumped down. Trouble? Behind Alexandra Halls a male student got out of a taxi and a girl got out after him. He took her hand and they walked a little down the hill to his door. He opened it and stood aside ushering her in. A gallant gesture that seemed old-fashioned, a little overblown. Is this a first date? Are they first-time lovers. She walked awkwardly in her cheap shoes with their cumbersome, clumping heels. They weren’t beautiful, weren’t special but to each other perhaps they are.

Its the white page, or in this case screen that scares me. Trying to find something out of nothing. A nothing. And to make it alive, potent, worthwhile. The gallery was busy. Two big men in fleeced jackets wandered around. It was a while till I realised who they were. Guards. They were there to guard the silver. I liked the work. It is quiet, peaceful and simple, un-egotistical.

I think about it all the time. The rage of her grief, how am I to manage it? I have enough trouble regulating my own. But I do believe in talking, in ironing out through talk. It has to be done. Let me be kind. Let me be wise. Let it resolve itself for the best. The best for all.


It was a crossword answer. I couldn’t get it. Extinction, death seven letters and it began qu. What a beautiful word for a seemingly unenviable state. Wipe out, end, final, zilch, nothing, nada. The end. Quietus. Just quiet. Imagine that. Just quiet. I long for it, and it is within my grasp daily but I cannot allow myself to take it, to be in it. I stood for a moment, duster in my hand and listened to the birds in the trees outside. Do they know how beautiful they sound? Do they know the joy they bestow? And would such knowledge affect their singing? Quietus. There wouldn’t even be birdsong. Would I mind? No. The idea of nothing, the nothingness of absolute peace is bliss to me. The end of anxiety, this endless anxiety that saps the soul from me. And yet, in between, in the small spaces in between the eternal fretting there is something like knowing. It is enough at times. See to the details, I tell myself and let the bigger stuff take care of itself. As it will. It inevitably will.

I go to bed early. 6.30 pm if I am lucky. I need to. Even then I only get six and half hours. I need eight. One in the afternoon, perhaps an hour and half and then I am well and strong. Sometimes work calls like they did last night. She was so embarrassed. Were you sleeping? Oh, I am so sorry.  It’s fine, I said, not wanting to draw too much attention to my singular habits. It shatters me though, that being woken from sleep, even though it was only 8.30 pm. Hardly late by most people’s standards. Sometimes my oddness feels good, other times I am shy of it. Wanting to keep it under wraps. Just lie, he says. But I don’t want to. Lying is not good. A denial of good truth. Can’t people take the truth if it is given kindly? And then, just after I put the phone done the banging started.

I couldn’t make it out. In my grogginess it sounded like crashing, or some object being smashed. But it kept on happening. A crashing then a kind of spattering, shaking sound like metal ball bearings being rattled in a tin. Then it came, in my semi-waking-ness it came to me. Chinese New Year. They were fireworks being set off, no doubt by the cluster of Chinese families who live in our Llys. That made it OK. I was glad they were celebrating their special day. Glad that they felt able to. Sleep came then. Precious sleep.

My walk was lovely this morning. The air was fresh but not too cold. No rain and little wind. I walked to music. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. There was no moon, the sky was dark, thick black. I saw stars. And as I walked back from the harbour Nina Simone began singing I Love You Porgy. Sublime.

We bickered. He couldn’t get the IPad to work and it made him tetchy. I was embarrassed and tried to sssh his anger. It made him worse. It was too public. I was on show. We were on show. They all knew us. Oh, you’re the lady who comes and sews. It was all a kerfuffle. She worries that there is nothing for me to see, to participate in. It was non stop.  Such a palaver just getting the residents into the lounge for lunch. Two needed hoists. Others required wheelchairs, ‘prams’ as he calls them or an arm for support. They all shuffle. Everything takes an age. One lady was eating porridge when I arrived. It took her all of two hours. I’m ninety-two, I heard her tell one of the staff, and I never tell a lie. In between sucking her porridge she fretted over her bus pass. No one’s stolen it, the staff member said, it’s in your bag, and besides there are no buses today. Not today. A paramedic came to look at her chest. Not in here, let’s get you back to your room. This involved a hoist which had to be wheeled in. It lifted her off her chair and suspended her in mid air before dropping her into a wheelchair. The straps of the hoist rucked up her jumper revealing the flesh of hips, stomach and breasts. So tender. So pink. Shades of womanhood still present in the curve of her hips, the slope of her breast, yet gone. Empty, emptied. A quietus of sexuality. Her chin covered in hairs while her wedding finger still shone with diamonds.

It is hard to witness. I watch and find deep compassion in the watching. There go I, my loves, in you, in you and in you. Some stare at me, their eyes blue with curiosity and never to be articulated questions. He is kinder than I. He sits with them, holds their hands. I merely bear witness. Is it enough? Is it ever enough?


Kind. Mankind. Man kind. Are we not kind? To be kind. To find that core of rightness, of altruism. Is that not a quest?

The morning is still. I hear crows, rooks, blackbirds even though all the windows are snapped shut against the window cleaner. The water seeps through. Plastic windows, they are not my cup of tea. They feel wrong in the space, they do not fit with the stone. Ah, convenience. Yes, I understand and I remember plastic was the great thing in the 60s when I was young. Everything that could be formed in plastic was. I remember a set of plastic beakers we used to take with us on picnics. I loved them. They smelt of happy days and that a faint residue of sweat and orange squash. We did have happy days, you know. I recall their smiles and laughter. Oh, Chris, she’d say, her head thrown back. Plastic was brightly coloured, opaque or see-through. It spoke of freedom, of affordability, ease, convenience and youth. There were plastic chairs, tables, sofas, everything. And now it is the great no no. The oceans are full of it. Where else was it supposed to go? Shall we go back to glass? We all create so much waste, so much stuff. A life of it. A life of amassing it. I grow weary of it. How to be lighter? How to be lighter on this earth?

We do the best we can. I truly believe that we do. It cannot be neatened up. It cannot be contained. It is messy. It is necessarily so, I think. Kids were out in the rain this morning. One tiny girl running her jacket over her head. Yesterday I passed two lovers standing on the Prom. He was wearing a woollen hat and his hands were jammed in his pockets. They stood close to each other, their bodies almost touching. She was stroking his face. I walked round them. They didn’t move.

A woman has replied to my call for interviews. How sweet of her. But as always she is miles away. There was nothing in Wales. Never mind, he says, I like our trips. And I do too. I think it is good for us, though tiring. It takes us out there. To something new. Still dog tired. What is it, the shift from routine? My third day at the home today. Always these jittery nerves beforehand. It is still so unknown – what I am looking for, what I will see, witness and experience. I just need to let it be. Let it become what it needs to become. Shall I give it six months? And then what? What will they want from it? What will I have to show for it?

I think about her, about what I will say. I just want to sit with her, be with her, just her. Sit and wait. I know she is hurting. Can I help? Can I help any of them? Can I help myself? Perhaps it is not about helping but as I am doing in the dementia home, just being present, truly present before another being. Am I present as I sew? I pay attention. My head is bowed but I am alert. Such a layering. It is a mess this life if we seek perfection, that is. I had no idea that anorexia and perfectionism were so closely linked. See here, she told the doctor showing him her emaciated arm, there is still so much flesh to be got rid of. It is something one can do, the shrinking, the shrinking of one’s physical self. Bless them, bless them all.

He’s got two to three years, she said. I don’t know how to digest the news. It’s his blood. He is just very tired. I’m eighty-one on Saturday. A party, no, just the family and the grandchildren. We’re to have lasagne.

I’d like to go and see them. Family. They are my family.

Show me how.


I don’t know how they can stand it. All that noise and clamour. Machines clicking, clunking and banging. And the flashing lights, on and off, on and off. And that grim overhead strip lighting. Are they getting something from it that I don’t see? Or no longer recognise? My six year old nephew loved it, kept badgering to go back in there, to change new money for old so that he might play the coin game. I remember those in an arcade in Blackpool. I remember the smell of money on my hands. It was brass then and copper and the smell, along with that of sticky sweets and toffees, clung to ones hands. Rather sickly but heady too. I knew it was trashy, all of it, and yet I, like my nephew was drawn to it. Martin Sixsmith in his excellent radio programme on psychology was talking today about the lure of advertising and all the subliminal tricks they use to get us to buy. Are arcades like the one on the Pier doing something similar? It was busy with kids, older kids playing the slot machines, shooting at ducks, throwing balls into a basket ball machine and riding static cars. It felt like a free for all, no ne seemed to be overseeing it. No parents hovered. Were they allowed to just run riot, their  money slipping from their hands? A cacophony.

I came upon a marvellous programme on the radio on Sunday, a kind of spoken diary written by someone coming to terms with having early onset dementia. She was amazing in her willingness to turn her affliction into something positive. I say yes to everything, she said, committees, trials, lecture tours, teaching, everything. But the poignancy was the way she dealt with loss, loss of memory, job, status and feeling of usefulness. She also talked about how she could no longer bear noise. Even at Christmas she couldn’t sit at the table with the rest of the family, it had become too much. She had become hypersensitive to sound. But she had also noticed that now she took time to sit, to watch, to listen and pay attention. There is always good but sometimes you have to look really hard for it.

It has been a trying few days but there have been shining bits. I love to be around their lightness, not all day but for a while. I forget myself in their pure pleasure in being alive. We did a murder mystery hunt in the wind. Or at least we began it. It blew right through my bones. But the sun shone. The day before there’d been a rainbow. They looked better for their visit, revived. And I have forgiven myself for only giving what I could.

I made the pancakes. I found the resolution and the energy. And we finished Middlemarch, re-winding the end quote several times for George Eliot’s words and Judi Dench’s honey-ed tones.

I wasn’t happy with what I wrote yesterday. I need to return to it today. Three hours, I should be able to turn it around in three hours. Shouldn’t I? Trust. All will be well.