Category Archives: Writings

Ambition

Clearing out the garage of her new house she found some of my old school reports and sent them to me. My father must’ve saved them. They came to me in a neat plastic sleeve.

They got me thinking about ambition, about outside judgement and about what I want to do with myself. Now. Here. I wasn’t yet five in some of them. A wee girl. A precious girl for whom I feel a great deal of fondness. I know her. I love her. She always tried hard. Much of life perplexed her. She did her best. Always. Quiet, self-contained, she worked hard and tried to please. Others. She always tried to please others.

Art wasn’t a strong point then. At least not the art they taught, nor was writing particularly. Reading was, and so was craft. Whatever, that was. Making things I suppose. I always thought of myself as ham-fisted, clumsy. But if these reports are to be believed, I wasn’t. Such is memory, eh?

I felt a little lost yesterday. What am I doing with myself? Getting hung on making something perfect. And fretting that the review I sent wouldn’t do. That it wouldn’t please her. And it did. She wrote it that word brilliant. And she wants more. More of what I can do. Nice, eh?

Zadie Smith is reading from a collection of essays on the radio as I make breakfast. Lovely. Beautiful, in fact. I really enjoyed them. There is an ease in her writing that I really aspire to. No puffing up. A conversation. Easy. Not, I know, but that is how it comes across. Effortless. Super.

They called me from the hospital. If you put that you are claustrophobic on the MRI scan form they won’t do it, the man’s voice said. Well, I say man but he sounded more like a boy. Can we scratch that out? he asked. Yes, I said. Let’s just do it, eh? Fear and all.

Pink

Just for a moment the sky was pink, a wispy streak of cloud lit pink. All is calm. The calm before the deluge. Silence, just the whirring of my laptop, which has just reminded me that the blurring on its screen will have to be fixed. Which then brings in all sorts of stress about when is the best time and who can do it. But I park that away in the back of my mind. I’ve things to do till then. It will be solved in the end as all things must, death being the final leveller. I think about it now and then. Not a bad thing to do, I think. I thought of my body this morning, this carcass that at the moment is waterlogged and heavy to carry around, and how it will one day be consigned to the furnace. Gone. All my careful nurturing of it, ended. And his. His precious frame will go the same way. What a grief it all is. I must detach. It isn’t all there is. It is a small thing. A tiny thing. Focus on the sky. Now ain’t that marvellous?

I like her. The woman who served us this morning. I asked about her tattoo. She is still determined to cover it over with a feature. We talked about her garden, how she likes flowers. I slowed her up. But I like her. I feel safe with her. She has nice eyes, he said.

His phone has gone kaput. Gone, died, just like that. It stresses him as it would stress me. He’ll go to see the man in the market about it. Most towns have an indoor market full of stalls selling broken biscuits, pet food and cheap cards. I like them. They also have men who can fix things. Super. We couldn’t find rubber bands this morning in the supermarket. There was a time when there were hardware shops for that sort of thing. No more. It is no more. I’m getting old and the world is getting younger.

Almost completed the review. I’m not sure about what I write or say. I wobble. No, I should accept that this is my opinion. A little damning with faint praise, but perhaps she won’t see it that way. I hope not I want to be honest but not hurtful. Never.

Still no name. Will she let me know? They must have their hands full. Are the family putting in their pennyworth?

I cannot call him. It is like so many of my dreams, I’m trying to find him, get in touch with him and can’t.

The owl was hooting when we came home for Tesco’s. No, not a hoot more like a wail. A wail owl.

Enough. Work now.

Dirk Bogarde

I was later preparing breakfast this morning and ended up hearing the whole of the radio programme hosted, this week, by the poet Brian Patten. The premise is that each weekly host selects a series of written pieces that are read out by actors, it could be poetry, prose, songs etc. Mitchell ended the programme with a reading from Dirk Bogarde’s last book from his 5-volume memoir. I think it was the last page, for Mitchell introduced as an example of how to end an autobiography. The writer has lost his long term partner to cancer, has left their home in France and is now living alone in a flat in Chelsea. He has had a mild stroke and is contemplating going out for a walk. Putting on his anorak and going out into what I think is rain. He muses as he walks and quote comes into his head, I don’t know where it has come from.

‘If you can’t have what you love, love what you have.’

I met Bogarde years ago when I was a FOH person at a theatre in Manchester, he had come in to give a lunchtime reading. It was a brief hello as I opened the door to the stage for him. He was shy, polite, self-contained but with a weight of sadness about him. I read many of his books as a young woman. Perhaps I will return to the last one.

Love what you. Accept what you have. What is here now. Like my knees that are huge, bless them. No room for pity, just keep moving forward. Perhaps next week I will see Lily. No coffee though. So be it.

I have a review to write. I shall begin soon. Get some words down, allay the fear. It will come. It always does. A damp, muggy day. The house is heavy with it. We are all waterlogged.

As we drove home I saw her lines everywhere.

Haircut

Two students walked ahead of me along Llanbadarn Road, arms linked. A girl and a boy. He was talking and she was giggling her encouragement. It’s the fucking haircut, he was saying. She laughed. I don’t think that I’m attractive, he continued, but…. I lost the rest as I overtook them. She was a tiny thing. Tall but tiny in waist and in rib. They have it all ahead of them. Careless, light.

A new poppet. A new darling. With lips like rosebuds. It is joy. He is joy.

I try to capture the sentences that come into my head just before I wake. Perhaps I will make a piece of work with them. The other morning it was:

‘I want to be the biggest shut in the world.’

The morning after it was:

‘My mother used to call it broom.’

A night of dreaming. I was travelling, variously in an airport and train station and I lost things, left things behind. Someone else’s coat. Then I was overhearing a conversation in a restaurant kitchen. The kitchen staff member, a man whom I knew was being bullied by his boss. It distressed me to witness it, he looked so downtrodden, I determined to talk to his boss.

Dave Sheasby’s play The Shifting of Sands (?) is delighting me. An elderly lady visits Cornwall reliving her time there at 18 working as a chambermaid at the Tregenna Hotel. He writes so poignantly and with such kind, compassionate wit.

I feel lighter today. I hold the new joy to me like a treasure.

Water (551)

I’m heavy with it this morning. My legs are rigid, unmoving. I push through as I pushed through the wind and rain on my early walk. We fight over it, he and I, in the car outside work. He wants me to go back and try something else. I want to wait, to take stock, to get clean inside. I’m tired, weary and this hard rain against the window doesn’t help. There is little light. More like a grey November day than a September one. It will clear. I will heal. The sun will come out. Meanwhile I get those scrappy things out of the way, all my endless notes to self.

She answered this morning. We talked about the cat not missing the kittens that have gone. Do they really do it as easily as that? She still scratches her. I keep going back for more, she says, laughing. A feral cat, clearly who prefers to sleep in the shed for all her coaxing of her into the porch. Such a pretty cat, she says.

We are going. We’ve booked, though the prospect of the journey makes me weary today. But it’s fine. It will be so wonderful to see her, to see them, and to be on the move, carried. And to sleep. And to see her. Let me heal. Let me find my energy, my lithe-someness soon.

Tambour Frame

I love the imagery of sewing, particularly how it is portrayed in nineteenth-century fiction, such as in Austen’s Mansfield Park: ‘…. Mrs Grant and her tambour frame were not without their use, it was in harmony‘. Though one is never sure with Austen whether she is being playfully censorious or not. I suspect the implication is that her embroidery is in fact ‘not of use’.

Yesterday was a little tough. I sank like a souffle left out of the oven too long. And the phone kept ringing with bookings. I don’t mind, I want the work but it disturbed my equilibrium. Four today, heigh ho. Back and for but I am grateful. No writing or sewing. I need a break from both sometimes. Lots of reading instead. It feeds my soul. It is good.

We both got soaked. My boots, I’ve discovered, are leaking.

Home for a bit before out again. Feet up doing this with a much needed coffee. The studio was empty when I arrived. Perfect. And the guests were lovely. Sometimes it is OK and I can see how I am blessed. And he? Well, he never lets me down. Tireless in his kindness and appreciation. I send him my writing. I need it to be read even in its raw state.

I will heal all this. They want a 24 hr urine sample and more tests. I shall acquiesce for now.

Wilkie Collins

The lilies continue to captivate us. Small things.

I caught the tail end of Wilkie Collins’ short story ‘Who Killed Zebedee?’ yesterday morning when I went upstairs to prepare lunch. I’d heard an earlier instalment the week before. It was beautifully read by Ronald Pickup. I love the way Collins weaves a story. I believe he is considered as the pioneer of the detective novel. This one is a beauty. And there was a line in it that sparked my interest, particularly at this time. It was about a cook in the boarding house where the murder had taken place. She’d left afterwards, too perturbed, like the other domestic staff to stay on. And now she was ‘supporting herself by her needle’.

I have begun the second sampler, while I await the receipt of the other one, the not so tiny stitched one. It is slow going but I felt better about it yesterday, not so clumsy and ham-fisted. And it is very striking, well to me it is. The red thread against white. Gorgeous.

It was the first time that what I had been writing had made me cry. The tunnel of it is still dark. But I didn’t know that the grief was still present. Perhaps it never leaves. I will persevere today. Another 1,000 words. Just get it down. Work is quiet after all, may as well take the opportunity to concentrate and be focussed.

He was cock-a-hoop about the Supreme Court ruling yesterday.

I got soaked this morning walking. But it wasn’t unpleasant. I love the smell of the air in the rain. The kids were still out in force as were the emergency services. Kids walking home in the rain, coatless, arms bare. Two girls walked arm-in-arm, one skinny the other wider of beam, both in tight short mini skirts, their hair plastered to their heads.

Ho hum time to work. Coffee on first. Then.

Random Person

I woke from a dream in which I’d been calling out ‘Help Me’. I’d been out walking, I don’t know where but in a town somewhere and two men were coming towards me. They were what he would call toffs. They were carrying opened bottles of champagne, half drunk. They were carousing noisily. I tried to pass them on one side when one of the grabbed me and began to pour the champagne down the back of my neck. My initial thought was Oh, God I’m on my way to work and I will be wet and sticky and reek of alcohol. My second was that I couldn’t feel the liquid. I’d expected the feeling of cold, of being drenched. Nevertheless he was hurting me. He was gripping me very tightly by the arm. And I began to call out. Hearing myself say it, over and over. Help me, help me. I knew that people could hear me but they did nothing and he just kept pouring.

It made me wary when I went out early this morning. Such dreams leave a residue that can last all day. Town was full of freshers weary now after their all night revelry. Walking towards the hill that climbs behind Alexandra Hall I saw two students ahead of me. The girl turned at my approach. ‘Who is this?’ she asked turning her head to look at me. I didn’t respond but kept on walking. Her companion laughed at her. ‘You can’t just talk to random people,’ he said. I heard her behind me talking about the speed I was walking and how it looked like I was marching. She slurred a little as she spoke, her body made floppy by inebriation.

Writing was hard yesterday. I stopped in the end, the tunnel had become too dark, too murky for me to see my way. I also struggled with my sewing. I am learning new techniques and I am slow and clumsy. I sew, unpick, sew again and unpick again. I always go for the harder option. I always have. Run before you can walk. Always. It shames me. I feel foolish. He came home and picked me up. Of course, you can get another, he says. Try the easier one first and come back to the harder one when you are more confident. I sink with it all sometimes. Yet my mind for all its sabotaging also tries to offer solutions. I stopped writing and then how to continue came forth. In Hotel du Lac the principal protagonist, the romantic novelist, Edith Hope is struggling with a particular chapter and realises that her approach is all wrong. She puts it away and then, like me, comes up with how to proceed the next day. It is so succinctly put. It’s always stuck with me.

They’d promised thunder showers. It was dry while I walked. He has gone prepared.

The lilies have only just opened after over a week. Their scent, so delicate, like pear drops fills the flat. She said it might bring joy and they did. They do.

Will she heal me?

Order

Another dry morning though they’d promised rain. I put on my new white dress today. I look like a bridesmaid, or perhaps Grayson Perry. I get why he does it. It’s rather pleasant to be girlish, now and again. The clouds are building up in the distance. The shopping is all done. We are there at the supermarket by 6 am and all done and packed away by 7 am. We both appreciate the quiet of the store at that time. A few shelf-stackers are dotted around, mostly students and Eastern Europeans, but there is no piped muszak or indeed many other customers. The tall girl with the multi-coloured hair was at the till. She is a gentle soul, and refers to us in the Welsh way as ‘both’. I don’t mind. We pass the time of day, talk about the weather, mostly. As I did with our neighbour at 3.45 am. He was at his window smoking as usual. Does he know that my heart sinks a little when I see him there from the distance? Does he feel the same? We do the necessary. It is pleasant enough but I struggle to talk at that time, so wrapt am I in my thoughts.

I shall write for a couple of hours then return to my handwork in the hope that I can complete a little more of the sampler that I began yesterday. What slow work I made of it. It’s a gift and I want to get it right. You’re learning, he said. Yes, it feels like it.

So, to work. A bientot.

Landscape

It was so distinct. I saw the snow, the footprints through it. It was an immense vista, it seemed as if I was flying above it, looking down. And moving fast, covering ground. I saw the Pergyl in snow, covered, so much so that I couldn’t make out the end. A dream landscape. It was in my dream. Wintery. And then beyond more land, more snow but with patches of green coming through. It was beautiful. A people-less scape, wild open, treeless. What it portends, if anything, I cannot say.

He was perturbed. The unsettled nature of the weather unsettled him. It was warm when I walked, too hot for all the gear I had on. Should he put shorts on or jeans, should he take an umbrella, should he put on waterproofs, and what shoes? He was agitated, poor lamb. It isn’t personal, it’s just weather.

My legs are swollen again today, it’s like walking with tree trunks for thighs, no give, no flexibility. He suggests changing the drugs. Ah, not again. I am weary of it. Shall I go to Lily for more of her strange potions? NO COFFEE and NO CHOCOLATE.

I’ve started to re-read Mansfield Park. It is a joy to re-encounter. I love the references to sewing, and how the work the characters choose to do so perfectly reflects their status, station and pecuniary needs. Such as with the lady of the house: ‘Lady Bertram was a woman who spent her days sitting, nicely dressed on a sopha, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty.’ Whether Austen means Lady B or the embroidery she is working is of little use of beauty I cannot be sure. It wobbled me reading this. My resolve is always so easily shaken. But I love how the needlework is a manifestation of what she stands for. Languorous idleness of no use or ornament. (And note the spelling of ‘sofa’ as ‘sopha’ – a new one on me. )

Town was full of what I can only imagine to be freshers. They look young enough. Virtually every bench along the Prom was occupied by couples canoodling. And vomit spattered the pavements. It is to be expected, I suppose. The seagulls, normally the bovver boys of the Prom have been eclipsed.

Here comes the rain.