As I walk I watch out for new Christmas decorations I haven’t seen. The Marine Hotel has huge lighted snowflakes in each window. There’s a row of them, looking like giant rosettes. Most festive. And trees have sprung up in several of the student’s rooms in halls and in houses. They leave them on all night, as I would, falling asleep to the glow of them. It helps in this winter’s dark. It does. As does the moon, who even now is shining full through my window.
Do you think Ronnie has been found? I asked him yesterday, for the flyer announcing has gone. No, he said. But why have they taken away the flyer then? Because they’ve probably given up on him. I hope not. I really hope not. These seemingly small griefs hurt us. Greatly.
I thought it was a stuffed toy, and I stood in my bedroom looking at it through my window for some time waiting to see if it would move. It did. I’ve seen it before. It sits in one of the flats opposite, in the window looking out. It’s a black and white cat, like the kind you see stuffed with kapok and made with fake fur. It stared back at me, holding my gaze. What was it thinking?
Only a short walk this morning, just a round-the-block kind of walk. A quick smell of the bread baking in The Pelican Bakery, then up Edge Hill and home. A man was ahead of me, and he kept turning round and staring. I slowed down to let him get further on before turning down Thespian Street.
I’ve decided that the only way to get through this low period is to concentrate on the sensual. Yesterday I was low. It’s a kind of gloom that I do my best to stay above, like floating over the mist you see over fields on an Autumn morning, but by lunchtime I had sunk into it. He tries to help and I snap at him and then am very remorseful. He is so kind and attentive and he knows my moods. We went out into the sun and I cut his hair. A little short but he seems happy. And the sun helped a little. Then I came back in and hemmed cloth pieces. That helped too. I like such work. No real thinking or solving is required and I watch my hands as I do it.
Yes, to concentrate on the sensual. I began this morning by trying my new body butter, warming vanilla they call it. A new smell. I watched my hands smoothing it over my skin, slowly. Then I smelt the smokiness of the Lapsang Souchong tea bags I put in the teapot in readiness for later. Then I paid attention as I peeled the paper cases off his muffins (sans blueberries like a dope) watching the sponge spring back, though not as much as it should. I missed the smell of toast though. Tomorrow. Enough. It was enough, for now.
There was a bird calling out in the dark as I returned home. A new call. A kind of whish, whish. What is it?
It’s written on her wheelie bin. I don’t know what it means. Perhaps it is the Welsh for rubbish or bin or garbage or somesuch. It looks like a phonetic spelling of tough. I like that.
The Chinese girl in No. 1 has finally taken in her parcel. It has been leaning against her back door for oh, ages now.
A discombobulating day yesterday. There is so much to process, to put in the right boxes in my head. And always it comes down to a letting go of ego, of dreams and of fantasies. This is what is. And it is enough, if I let it be so. I try to focus on the detail. Even when I am doing something I’d rather not do, like cleaning. I concentrate on the action of my hand, sometimes watching it or just feeling it, or the smell of the wood polish, like rhubarb and almonds, or on the end result and how I love to have things, clean, neat and ordered. It helps that.
And there are other compensations – such as my current joy in the re-reading of Austen’s canon. I thought I knew them inside out but with each re-reading there is a new spark, a new bursting of something marvellous.
I dream and dream, no doubt down to the moon, just as shining this morning but a little more round, but I cannot remember them at present. I feel a little lost at this unremembering. What if I am losing some much needed wisdom?
It was huge, or so it seemed and a little squidgy – not a neat circle. I love walking under moonlight – it’s an eerie, very white light that cleanses me of all greyness. A few mobile homes clustered around the harbour. They shouldn’t be there, he said at breakfast when I told him. I feel the same and yet I understand that need to be off and out on the road, I’d do it if I could and those vans do look cosy. I think of them sleeping tight as I trudge past. One had a little light on outside, like a house, a home. Neat.
We couldn’t go into the hotel for tea yesterday. Well, he didn’t want to and I get it, I do. But how I long to have a pot of tea served at a table, and watch him pilfer my little piece of shortbread that they place on the saucer. We had tea and coffee out of flasks in the car instead. A not unpleasant thing but not the same. Not the same. I waited for him while he abluted in the public toilets and let the sun shine full on my face.
I thought about my work, as I do all the time. It is easier, no more satisfying if I work with someone in mind. Later, as I walked I thought about words, made, formed letters. There may be something in it.
I heard the whooshing chattering hiss of the starlings roosting under the pier, and caught the stink of guano. And there were the pip squeaks of the oystercatcher breaking in between the cacophony. The night is alive with birds.
They are not really encounters. They are more like parallel happenings, like ships sailing past each other. We are both there, here breathing the same oxygen, possibly smelling the same smells but our experiences are so different, so a relationship is unlikely. Nevertheless, I see them and they seem to see me. Take the moth for instance. I saw it in the dark, just at the top of the hill where I turn down behind Alexandra’s Hall. A white flying spec, tiny. And yet, it appeared to be following me, flying alongside. And then there are the robins. There must be several not just one. They are everywhere, and they do feel like they are engaging with me. Hopping along as I walk, or stopping and leaning their heads to one side as if in wonder or bemusement. I sometimes stop my striding, my always rushing to get somewhere or something done, and listen. I listen to the birdsong, or watch the female blackbird that has just bounced out of the undergrowth in front of me.
And I forgot to tell you of the seagull flying high above the Pier and how its whiteness was tinged pink by the perpetually changing roof lights. Oh, and of the orange lorry from Redruth in Cornwall awaiting the arrival of the fishermen at the harbour, lights full on and blazing like a dream.
It does sound like that sometimes, particularly down by the harbour, like the air, the world, the cosmos is holding its breath. Waiting. Waiting for something to happen. The day? The coming of morning? And yet, there isn’t silence. The sea is a perpetual noise, this morning it was a rolling, not a crashing but a turning, a folding kind of rolling. And then there is the hum of generators. I don’t know where they are but it’s there nevertheless – that humming, low-pitched and endless. I hear it more in the dark.
They were sitting on the low wall outside a block of flats on Llanbadarn Road, talking. Students probably. They were young, in their early twenties. They stopped talking and stared at me as I approached on the opposite pavement. But they soon grew bored of me and resumed their hushed murmurings. They were still there when I returned an hour later though they were standing now. She was coatless and her arms were bare. He had on a coat yet he was still alternately banging his feet on the ground in an effort to get warm. They stared at me again and I crossed the road. Were they lovers struggling to part? Another couple parted on South Road, he waiting on the pavement to see that she got in safely. She was polite to him, speaking English with in an Eastern European twang.
I want to do something repetitive today – even a little mindless. I have much to do, much to solve but today let it be a flow. There is promise of more work which is always gratifying. I yearn for the gap, the space in which something could happen but I am fearful of it too. Let it be. Let it be what it is.
I think of Christmases of the past, the homes I have spent it in, the other families who have taken me in. It was nice. But it has gone, all that fuss, noise, food, games and bustle. It is OK like this. And I can dream of the other, can’t I?
He told me I was wrong. It is Ronnie not Reggie who is on the run, or captured, or ransomed or lost or dead. He told me that for a time she had one of the padded ‘cages’ she straps to her body to transport them about or collect them in when they go walkabout out by her front door. Perhaps she was hoping she’d wake up one morning and he’d be snug inside it. It wasn’t there this morning. Has she given up hope or has the prodigal returned?
I think of such things as I walk and of work and today the piece I’ve just written. Are they ever good enough the things we give our time to? I’m weary this morning, my hips ache and walking was a chore. I took a detour to the Market Hall to see if there was a cobbler there. I’d thought there was but it seems we are bereft of one here. How can that be? Don’t people still need their shoes attending to? Or do we just throw them away when they become a little down at heel? Shall I learn and take up the trade? I still fantasise about being a baker. Silly, I know. I saw the baker stride across the darkened road to go to work this morning at 4 am. The girl with the ponytail is usually in there before him and the smells are there too. Does she switch the ovens and machines on? Is she a baker too? What is his role then – a master baker applying the finishing touches? Today the smells were of fruit loaves and hot cross buns. Yummy. My soul is comforted by such scents as it is by the lit Christmas tree twinkling in Sophie’s Cafe. He will have to take my shoes to Mach and I shall have to manage without them and clump about in my walking boots. So be it. At least I have a choice. Are you well shod? she asked the maid servant. My parents keep me well-shod, my lady, she said lifting up her skirts to reveal her boots.
I’m re-reading Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. I tried to read it in Norwegian all those years ago, translated it word by word. This is clunky translation. How could you let your child be raised by strangers? Nora asks her nurse. Surely your daughter has forgotten you. No, Anne replied. She hasn’t, I heard from her just the other day.
I could smell it when I locked up ready to leave for my walk. Meat, fried and then stewed meat. Then the smell of toast. I could see that the light was on outside, then I heard him close his window. Phew. I could leave unmolested. It isn’t him. I just don’t want to talk, not then. I want to remain in my thoughts and face the blackness without small talk. He is a good man. I know this. And as a neighbour, perfect. Neither he nor his mother bother us, they keep to themselves as we do. But we know that they are there, like when he fell and I couldn’t get him up off the floor, and they know we are there too. It is mutual. I hear their TV (loud because she is profoundly deaf), the radio and his coughing, but they are not troublesome noises. Sometimes they are comforting.
I worried that it was dog poo. I’ve stepped in some before down by the harbour. Why don’t people clean it up? But it wasn’t, thankfully, just some mud. It is hard to see in the dark and my torch isn’t up to much. The wind was stronger than I’d expected and the sea a little raging. Nice though. The air felt clean and I could walk the Perygyl.
They’ve cut the tops of fir trees and stuck them in those holders above various shops in town. Why do they do that? I feel for the trees. They aren’t decorated just stuck there for the duration of the festivities. The smell is good but they will soon die. And for what? I feel torn about it all. I love the lights, the decorations, the fay extravagance of it all. I need its cheer. But there is so much waste too. Too much when so many have so little.
A black and white cat stares at me from a front yard of house along Llanbadarn Road. It has a bell hanging from its collar. I wonder if Reggie Kray has been found. I think of her, grieving still.
I came round the back hoping to miss him but the light was on and he was at his window smoking. You’ve been cooking, I said. Yes, he said, curry for tomorrow. I told a white lie, said it smelt nice and that it was cosy. It didn’t and it isn’t. But I’m always awkward talking to him. I take charge, bulldoze, hijack the conversation to compensate. He must think me a real oddity. I wish him well though. And hope that the curry is a success.
It’s been a few days and I’ve been a little bereft not being able to write here. But it is back thanks to a kind wizard of technology. But I shan’t write more until tomorrow. This is the wrong time of the day – and I’m out of sync. Adieu. Till tomorrow.
The wind kept me awake last night with its howling and rattling. It makes me fearful, timorous. I walk in it anyway and allow it to buffett and badger me. I avoided the Prom, I neared it but it was too much. I watched as an empty crisp packet was lifted from the pavement and bounced and jangled along.
She said she was a journalist and recounted a story of buying a music box with a recording of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns with her mother and how shortly after her mother died this music box started up of its own accord, not having been wound. And how it continues to do this whenever she is sad or thinks of her beloved parent. It gives her solace.