Marmalade Cat

I was sitting on the wall when I climbed the little hill above Llanbadarn Road. It was a while till I noticed it. A big furry, orange cat with a very wide bridge across its nose. It stared at me and grew alarmed. Sitting up it then bounded off the wall. Then obviously having second thoughts as to the threat I posed it stopped by the end of a driveway, sat down and curled up its tail. We held eye contact for minutes, maybe two or three. Sometimes it leaned its head to one side trying to make me out.

Two men passed me on the Prom clearly returning from a night out. One, in a white shirt and thin, straight black tie, called out to me. G’day, he said. Hi, I replied, temporarily thrown by being spoken to, or even noticed.

Each of the benches along the Prom have a red piece of paper taped to the ground beneath them. Wet paint, they read. And yet, the benches aren’t newly painted or indeed wet. They’ve been there for over a week now, have they forgotten them?

The sea was balmy this morning, just lapping. I close my eyes when I reach the Perygyl and I can imagine the Mediterranean, that same glugging as the water curls under the rock, the screech of gulls and a pipping of an oystercatcher as it flies across the ocean.

That was when I first met her, he told me as we sat in the sun, when I went up to school to see my O’ Level results. He was sixteen, she was fourteen. She was coming out of her house, he said. The house is still there, the one on the right as you come out of the gates. We pass it everyday. Does he think of her still? He seems content not to see her.

Sir Kenneth Allsop was on the radio this morning, I said as he got out of the shower, was he Debs father or Fabian’s? Fabian’s, he said, and he wasn’t a peer. I’m sure they said sir, I said. He killed himself, he said, something to do with a pain in his leg that wouldn’t go away. He changed their names, you know, from something quite ordinary, he said. He was on Sounds Natural, a replay of an old 70s radio show. I like it. A gentle start to a Sunday.

There ought to be night jars here, he said. Yes. Yes, there ought.

I’m still enchanted with Knausgaard’s writings. He writes about being unable to fathom Kristeva, Lacan and Heidegger. And that, when he was younger he took it to mean he was unintelligent. I remember MF telling us in a seminar that when he was studying for his PhD he’d read Lacan a page a day. I was surprised and somewhat heartened that he too struggled with such reading. Both of them. I can stare and stare at it and it doesn’t penetrate. He doesn’t care. He rarely read the originals. He made sense of the ideas for himself. So much obfuscation. Why can it not just be clear, lucid, like water? Do they want to keep us out? I value the honesty though. It is what connects us, the failings more than the successes. She told me she’d often cry when she missed her train home. And that her book had bombed in America. Bombed. The word, an ugly clumsy one, lay heavy in the air, like stodge in the belly. We offer up our failings like gifts. See, we say, I too can fall. Wonderful. She called me wonderful. Full of wonder. That is nice. I was touched. Am I wonderful? I am riddled with errors, I stumble daily. Trying to do what is right, blindly. Is this right? He sounded so weary with it all this morning. I just want to stay at home for a bit, he said. Will they come back to me? Work is work.

I want to do so much and yet I also long to rest. To sleep for days and days. I couldn’t last night. My stomach was empty. You’ve not eaten enough, that’s why, he said, perching on the edge of my bed. It’s all the rushing about. I want to be still. To sit.

I’ve thought about volunteering with them for a long time now. Ever since Dad died really. It’s the sitting. I want to be a sitter. To sit in their grace. Are they the wrong reasons? I don’t want to work in the shop or fundraise. I just want to sit with them. But I worry about being able to commit myself to the time. My work is so unreliable, so unsteady. I do not know when the phone is going to go. And I have to take it when it comes. Guide me.

Two nights now there have been bonfires on the beach. Last night they had fairy lights too. Pretty in the semi-night-becoming-morning-darkness. This morning they were packing up when I walked past. A thumping electronic noise was coming from a ghetto blaster. I wanna lay down, a girl was singing. A lad was piling plastic bags of stuff into a car. Two bikes were still chained to the railing. To sit up all night and watch the morning come. To sit.

Writing today. I must make a start. Work is coming in hard and fast. I asked for it and it came. It will be well. I will get it all done. Then rest. We can both rest. He and I.

The sun shines white against the roof opposite. A good day beckons. Thank you.

Routine

I read Knausgaard’s little essays very fast. They are like aperitifs. That first taste of something delicious, whetting the palate. It is the best. Small mouthfuls, alerting the buds. The sensations are enlivened, not made sluggish by something too heavy, too laboured, too intense. Just enough. He writes of children needing everything to be the same, steady, routinous, unchanging. Are we adults not the same? Ah, we need times of excitement, of drama but mostly it is the slow, flow of things that keep us sane. This is how it was yesterday, oh, thank god it is still here today. Chaos is kept at bay. It wasn’t like that. She was too unpredictable, we’d never know what mood she’d be in. Ever. Never. Was it the same for her? I suspect her father was routinous, a Virgo, after all, like me. But perhaps a little short-tempered. Had she to walk on egg shells with him too? With her mother, certainly. A tiny woman, so petite, so well-turned out. But had she a temper, was she hard to please? I feel for her. And she couldn’t know the tyrant she’d become. It doesn’t matter. Not now. Not any longer. She is gone. They all are. Lost to the ether.

We sat outside Ta Med Da before work. In the sun, my straps off my shoulders. The wind was still strong. Two decorators sat on the bench nearest me, in their paint spattered dungarees. The younger one held court, the other nodding to him. Finishing off their coffee the younger one put his finger inside the cup to scoop out the foam. Another couple sat near the road. She was wearing a paisley jumper and jeans. I watched as she suddenly lent over towards the ground with her hand outstretched. Has she an insect in there? Then I worked it out that there was a little bird there and she was trying to feed it. She was off the bench now and crouched down, squatting just like I’d seen the Chinese lady at the flats doing before we left home. Her little toddler was aping her stance, and he soo squatted, complete with bright orange crocs. It was a sparrow. I think she just scared it off.

A bitty day yesterday, two sessions and then a bit of my own work when I got home.

Outside the greyness has lifted and sunlight catches the eaves turning the white yellow.

Very tired, but I’ve work to do.

I’d like to weigh you now, said the nurse, we’re weighing everyone these days. Ok, I said, but don’t tell me what it is. She wasn’t thrown by this, as I thought she might be. They’re only trying to take care of you, he said later. I know. And I’m grateful.

I could sleep for ever. But not now. Later perhaps.

Possibilities

We became maudlin. Understandably so, we couldn’t help it. I asked him about the woman. He’d mentioned it before I fell off to sleep in the afternoon. The details aren’t that clear yet. She’d been staying in a chalet outside Machynlleth and had gone into a laundry or airing cupboard for some reason in the night and had got locked in. She’d tried the handle but it had come off in her hand. Three days she’d been in there and there had been a water leak too. She’d died of hyperthermia. Bless her. To die like that, it is desperate. They’d found evidence of her scratching on the back of the door. Then he began to talk of the Trump’s new policy for separating the children of economic migrants and refugee’s coming into The States from their parents. I had no idea. He was incensed. I lay in bed later thinking of the woman and those children and indeed their parents. I had no faces to concentrate on, just a sense of humanity, their humanness. The same as mine. I imagined coming upon the woman and talking to her through the door, trying to calm her. Getting help and setting her free. I am too late. We are all to late. I thought I heard banging, one of the other chalet visitors is purported to have said. Too late. Rest in peace. And those children, give them succour, let something turn the tide.

His writing fills me with possibilities. They are short little pieces with titles like piss, petrol, mouth and adder. He is describing the world for his unborn baby. Capturing. He writes without artifice. He writes sensually but not self-consciously so. It is so refreshing. I have wanted to write a series of pieces on the women I know and have known. An act of noticing of capturing. He writes descriptively, factually sometimes and then he throws in something deeply personal, remembered and perplexing, like his father killing the adder. I am taken deeply.

You look like a robin, she said, staring down at my red tights, very trendy. I like her. Stupid cow, he said afterwards, robins have red breasts not legs. She meant well, I said and am convinced of it.

A wild windy morning, I got lashed by a wave on the Perygyl. The clouds move fast across the sky. I’ve a check-up this morning. I don’t like being pricked and prodded. My body is my own. We understand each other. Hey hum. The death of Nurse Barbara in the Midwife is so upsetting. We wept buckets. Charlotte Ritchie is such a joy to watch.

Must off now to work for an hour or so before I go to see the nurse, then into work. A bitty day. So be it. So be it.

Nettle Stings

There is too much. Too much to share. Two days of paying attention. Close attention, partly due to the two library books I took with me. Heavy things they were but lovely to hold. Hard backs wrapped in a shiny cover. Richard Mabey on Flora Thompson and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s book for his unborn child, Autumn. So I will have to resort to lists. Just for now.

I put them all in my little book, quick scribbles. How ugly my handwriting is when I do it fast. I have to get it down. No time for prettiness. And I’ve just come upon one from the week before. Did I write it down in here? An overheard conversation between two women on a train from Guildford to Waterloo. I could only see one of the women. Well to do, well-dressed. You can do Coronation Chicken, she was saying, salad and the breads, I can do tomato tarts.

Yesterday the entry begins. Killed pheasant. I was sleeping and heard the bump. He was distressed. I hate it, he said, but it just ambled across the road, there was nothing I could do. We had coffee in Carluccio’s. We were way to early for my train. As always but I like it. Then down below in the subterranean depths of the station, sitting on the train waiting to leave I see three people, one is a woman in a wheelchair the other two are Network Rail staff all sharing sandwiches out of tin foil. The man next to me asks for a tissue. Is that the Home Secretary in front of me, talking on a mobile phone in the quiet carriage? He keeps saying Chuck, obviously talking to his P.A. Next time can you book me an aisle seat, he says, I get claustrophobic in the window seat. He has two phones and spends the whole journey looking from one to another. Is Ellen in? he asks at one point. Good. And then asks if she could prepare some research on policing in West Bromwich. I’m off to New Scotland Yard now, he says.

I felt alive. So much to take in. The walk, the sun, the little bird that bobbed ahead of us cheeping in distress. The little hide. The nettle stings. The bramble, the thistles. All caressing my bare legs. Getting lost and not minding one bit. And talking. And talking. The wonder of her. The pleasure of being with her. The taste of food when I was so hungry and then the bed when I was so tired. And her soap, was it carbolic? I wanted to take that smell of it away with me. It was black and grainy. It stung in the morning after my shower. The lost glove. The box of fruit she’d prepared and left out for me. Her telling me she works in bed. The lipstick on the woman’s coffee cup. Reading and reading. The homeless man on the street in Norwich with the gash across his nose telling me he was living in a tent. I am full up with it all. London. Rushing for trains. Feeling free and high and dog-tired. Then home with him. Mis-communication. my phone not recognising his. Why? So full. So alive. Thank you.

Party Hat

Sometimes it all seems so fragile, so impermanent. Do you ever feel that? A shifting. Nothing is safe, nothing is solid.

The wind was strong as I walked. No, not strong, just gusty. The students have mostly gone. A few stragglers that’s all. Three men were in the shelter. A mess of duvets and sleeping bags around them. One of them seemed to be wearing a  party hat, a white plastic glittery affair. They were wide awake, the one in the hat standing, then lurching.

An oystercatcher called from what seemed like across the sea. I couldn’t see the lights of Aberdovey.

I just don’t know if I’m good enough. At any thing. Shall I try this, or that? When will there be peace to it all? I walk past The Pelican Bakery hoping for a smell of bread, something comforting. I often fantasise about being a baker. I want something real to do, something with a beginning and an end. Something that is tangible, true and of use. I’d like the solitude, I think, and the sensations. And the hours. And the warmth, particularly in the winter.

Off soon. I will have to wake him. Morning was coming up over the sea. That white line of hope.

A bientot. x

Ginger Chai

I tend to listen to it on a Saturday when I’m doing my yoga practice before making lunch. The writing is exemplary. And it engages me with people whose lives are often so hard, so relentless. I am moved by it. Yesterday the programme ended with a correspondent talking about he and his family leaving India to return to the UK. It was so touching, so deft. He pitched it around his daily shave in the local market. He’d go there each day for a wet shave in the open air under the trees. As he sat on the chair, a towel around his shoulders being lathered up ready for the blade he reminisced about his experiences, the stories and political events he’d covered. But he also relayed the sights and smells of the market and how the perfume of the ginger chai being sold on the next door stall would always remind him of that moment. He ended his piece with a plea that we might always live in a place as if we were about to leave it, alert, alive to every sensation as if it were our last. Amen to that I thought.

I did my 500 words and a little more. I will finish it today. A simple piece of writing. It is just about showing her voice, her thoughts and her practice. Nothing more. No flourishes, no showing off.

I go into overdrive when I am about to travel and leave home. Just a day. Just one more then home for a bit. To catch my breath and work and clean. My mind keeps writing lists over and over. Don’t forget that or that.

Town is quiet. A few stragglers. Boys with ties on outside their shirts, loose tails.

A quick sit to gather my thoughts, a pot of coffee and then work. Last stint then rest.

A bit cold this morning. I had to put the fire on. And then I remember her telling me about the new dog she is baby sitting for. She loves smoke, she said. I’d made a fire, you know it can be chilly first thing and I caught her staring up at the chimney. Funny that. I’m glad she has a new companion.

To work. Adieu.

Gooseberries and Deckchairs

They’ve got gooseberries, he shouted from the bedroom.

He’d been calling our local health food shop. He always calls first, usually on a Monday morning, to place the order and they bag it up for him. It’s a nice touch. They all know him by name and remark on it if he doesn’t call. The owner usually takes the call and says yes, after each item, with a slow deliberate stress on the word, as she writes the list. He puts his hand over the phone and mimics her, in a kind way, for he is fond of them all. He likes being known, far more than I do. This is his home and it enfolds him.

The gooseberries are lovely. I stewed them this morning and put them on top of my fruit salad. I love the hairiness of them and that sharp tangy taste. Gorgeous.

They’ve put two enormous deckchairs in the paddling pool now sandpit. They are super size and no doubt for kids to clamber over. They didn’t look too safe this morning as I walked by. And what about the rain that has just come? They are doing their best. The name of this shabby old town is emblazoned across them.

500 words. That is my aim for today. Half today, half tomorrow. The beginning is always the hardest. Where to start? I get waves of fear. And I try to steady myself. I love the process and at least it is within my control. It is only writing. It is already there in me. Its just a case of letting it out. I can do. I can.

A girl in Doc Marten boots walked past me using a walking stick. It made her look interesting, elegant even. It is getting quieter. The students are migrating home for the summer.

Enough. Work now. Cup of tea. A quick sit and then write. It will come. Breathe.

Paddling Pool

They’ve filled the public paddling pool on the Prom with sand.

We’ve only been away three days and already there are changes. That’ll please the parents, he said, sand everywhere. Though I suppose it’s better than nothing, he said, as we left for the supermarket. Why can’t they mend it? I ask. Perhaps they haven’t the money, he said.

I haven’t got much time. I’ve got a head full of stuff to do and the house needs cleaning. No time. Breathe. All will get done. I’ve done the technical things at least. It always makes me edgy. Did the audio work? Did the videos take? They are sweet. Slightly shaky. I ask so much of him. And he is ever willing.

So much to take in, to digest. It has been a rich few days. But there is sadness too. I come down hard. And then the phone call on the way home. I did say yes, and she was grateful. Though it was cancelled in the end. A god send, for I would’ve only had four hours sleep.

Must be off now. I know, it isn’t enough. I want to stay, to tell you of my trip but work calls though it is her call first.

Does she still grieve for Bonnie?

Such life. Thank you. x

Good Morning

I thought about possible collective nouns for night clubbers leaving the clubs for home in the early hours. A madness, perhaps? They lurched and sprawled. Admittedly, I am stone cold sober as I stride along past them. They in their now dishevelled finery, me in my waterproofs, hat and gloves. Our worlds do not meet. They do not see me. And I watch them as if through glass. A large man in a white linen shirt is moving towards me. His eyes are closed as he walks. Is he asleep? No, he jerks awake, but his gait is unsteady. A big man. Nearer the Pier Pressure club, a group of youngsters sit on a bench, all female. Another it standing up clinging to, or wrapping herself around, a sign post. Just beyond them a boy is lying on the ground. A girl leans over him. Do you need the kiss of life? she asks, then cackles. A taxi driver observes the scene from behind his windscreen.

I think I go unnoticed but it is not so for the man who I see often sleeping under the Castle calls out to me, just as I turn the corner. He is wide-awake and drinking from a large spirit bottle. Good morning, he shouts, in a voice that reminds me of Will in The Archers. Good morning, he says again, and I wave and say Good Morning in return. I see you every morning, he shouts before his voice trails off, bored now. But I am cheered. I’ve not known what to do. Do I greet him or not? Does he want to be left alone in solitude? Just because you sleep in the open air it doesn’t mean you want to be disturbed by every Tom, Dick or Harry who passes by. And yet, I am also wary of intimacy, what are the rules, the boundaries. Wait and see. He knew me and that was nice.

I am slipping my moorings. We go to London tomorrow. I am excited, yet disarrayed. I hold too tight to it all, I know this. It will be an adventure, I know it. And yet, to be home is safe, safer. I need to travel but the physicality of it tires me. My energy is precious. I shall do my best, try out these experiments, meet and talk to Caren and wait and see.

Just wait and see. You know you’ll love it, he says. And I will. I do. It was once my home, after all. Adieu for now.