Category Archives: Writings

Cold (2)

I didn’t walk. I reset the alarm and had another hour and half in bed instead. Then I dreamt about Brian from The Archers and J from the writing course (who for the purposes of my dream were married) walking in the Swiss Alps when all I could do was sit and watch. They came passed me twice as I sat on a chair with all the other residents of that Swiss village, looking all smug and self-satisfied. I missed my tramping. Though I don’t feel strong. My voice is going and my chest is hard and resistant. I must see it through and accept the rest it is insisting I give my body. I dreamt frequently in that in and out time between when I normally wake and that later time. I had to wash and get dressed but the clothes weren’t mine. And M was there in an awful shirt. Did I want to have his bath water? he asked. No thanks, I said, I’ve already bathed. Did he believe me? Did I really care?

I have to adapt my application. Of course, I do. I must be steady and act on his advice, it was, is, well meant. Do it for the other people involved. Let them benefit. I shouldn’t have told her. Shouldn’t have put it that way. I am shamed by it. Keep it to yourself and question all things. Remember the mind is not always to be trusted.

One baby step. I’ve ordered the books at the Nat Library and all being well with my chest I will begin my research tomorrow. I know so little. Let the adventure begin. Let it unfold. So much is in the dark. I am working in the dark. No safety. And yet I am safe. I am choosing all of this. Did they miss me? The seagulls, the starlings, the police patrol, the milkman, the late-working students in their windows – did they miss me this morning?


I have a cold. It came on swiftly. It cocoons me. I feel slightly out of this world. And it is back to work time. To all that regularity and frustration. I need to let it go. I didn’t get tense walking this morning. My hazy sensation left me outside looking on. I didn’t have to go. I wanted to sleep. I always do but something takes me out. That need to keep moving. He doesn’t understand, would take the rest if it was offered. Why can’t I? We talked about writing. So much fear. Fear of doing it wrong, of failing. Jeremy Deller on DID talked about a retrospective in which he included some of his failures. Interesting and so bold. I liked listening to him. I can’t do anything, he says. I was never really good at art. To be so confident, so clear. Can I have some of that? What is my fear? That I won’t manage it? That I won’t be able to write it? Who knows?

Town was quiet. A few wanderers like me. The decorations are down but the town tree still stands but its smell has gone. The ice rink has also been dismantled. January stretches ahead. A crossword clue last night suggested that the 13th January is the coldest day. A mythic belief perhaps? The papers are full of diets and fitness regimes. The same old same old.

I wanted to do a nice thing for her. I like her. She said it was so. I’m glad. I worried over it. I watch myself too keenly. Let it go. Take a leaf out of JD’s book. Be that clear. As clear as a bell.

Nick Boulevard

Did I tell you about the hyacinths she bought me, all those years ago? Almost eight now. Hard to believe. Do they ever think of me? I doubt it. I passed through, that’s all, three months of tending to their house. A flicker in their busy lives. But the hyacinths were kind. I watched them grow, drew their progress as I waned, grew greyer.

It was a name this morning. Nick Boulevard. What’s that about? It made him laugh in the shower when I told him. It’s good to hear him laugh, that open kind of full mouth laugh, it’s been awhile. I’d been thinking about how authors find names for their characters and perhaps that’s what sparked it off. A name. No narrative. Just a name in my head before I woke.

Her name was from a sixties song. Or was it a sixties singer? She told me about her when we met for that cup of tea and her Chelsea bun (I love Chelsea buns, she said. Can I have some butter?) I’d never warmed to her as a child. We were a similar age. What was it about her that I didn’t respond to? It shames me when I feel that way. Perhaps she didn’t warm to me. Anyway she told me she’s in a nursing home. It was a throwaway comment, perhaps she thought I already knew. I did not. She had a brain tumour, she said, though I think it must’ve been an aneurism and she’s paralysed in both legs and one arm. Her husband is very good. We talk in that kind of shorthand. There isn’t room for the pain, the despair, the horror of it. Did they have children? I asked, in that noisy station café while I surreptitiously and guiltily watched the clock for my train. No, she said, they tried IVF and all sorts, but perhaps it is for the best. And then she tells me that her mother, the mother of this girl, now woman, is also ill, with only a few days to live. Her two other children have moved in with her, she tells me. She doesn’t want to see me, she says, those tears still unabsorbed on her face, she says it will make her cry. Is she in pain? I ask. Not so much. She manages to get about, she says. She told me on the phone that she’d made the trifle for Christmas. She’s my best friend, she tells me.

It’s all in the details. We just do our best, keeping our heads down, keeping it small, else it would drown us. I walk my hated dark and I’m sorry that I do, hate it. For it is just the flip-side of day. I walk those shadows and long for light. Let it be. As it is. Just as it is.

What is the fantastic option?

So often I wake from a liminal space between sleep and wakefulness and a phrase is there in my head. Like this one. What is the fantastic option? What does it mean? Fantastic as in marvellous or fantastic as in over-the-top, magical? There is a lightness, a playfulness to this voice though, no doubt a twin to the grinning mouth of the other day. I also dreamt I was at my old teaching job. He was with me and we went downstairs to it. Familiar faces didn’t seemed pleased to see me and the other people who’d come with me. Coffee and tea was made but there was a confusion as to who’s was who’s. There was ice in one cup. They were those glass, Duralex cups.

I slept on the train. A gorgeous letting go kind of sleep, waking only when my head lolled forward. A woman was talking to a man across the aisle. Twenty-three quid to get to Wrexham. I could do it for eight pounds in a car, she was saying. I’m going to visit my ex-boyfriend. He’ll have to re-imburse me. Twenty-three fucking quid. Silence. Then. I ‘ate travelling, me, she said.

She came. And it was fine. She was shining. For all her grief, and the tears stayed on her face, not absorbed by her skin, she was shining. We sat in the same café he and I had sat in weeks before. I wasn’t sure she’d like it. But it was fine. She talked of her death, the months leading up to it. Her driving off. We were going to a concert, she said. And we’d gone to the supermarket to get some food in so we wouldn’t have to cook. Just get some of those Warburton’s currant buns, I said to her, she said, and she was fine then. I love the detail of her life. Her neatness, compactness and the way she holds my hands. I don’t know her well, but how I love her.

I saw a falling star yesterday morning. It looked so close. A fireball, a burning coal of orange-yellow fire. A meteor? A comet? I don’t know. Did anyone else see it. Or was it a spectacle the Cosmos staged purely for me? A police car patrolled town. Then I saw the milkman in his truck. Well, he’s Bruce Springsteen really. Our neighbour across the walk bridge has put bubble wrap around her plants.  Against the frost, no doubt. She told me once that it was the nearest she got to a garden. The downside of flat-dwelling, I suppose. I listened to Maigret’s Christmas on the radio, read by Derek Jacobi and I ached to be in Paris, in his apartment drinking Madame Maigret’s sloe gin.

It was good to get away, to be somewhere different. I walked around the Market Hall. I loved it. So much stuff. So much cosy endeavour, people in puffa jerkins chatting over mugs of tea, and the smell of bacon, cold fish and pasties. I read and drew. A good day.


As I walked out this morning I was over-taken by the smell of wood-smoke. It followed me all the way along North Road. Was it from wood-burning stoves? I love the smell, that burnt, rather black odour that is so evocative of clear, cold autumn days. I took the mince pies, and the hat and scarf that I’d intended to give him for Christmas – all wrapped up, a surprise, something for him to open. But then he’d gone. Was gone for those festive days. So I couldn’t. I carried them in a W H Smith’s bag and left them against the wall of the shelter, while he slept under that distinctive orange blanket. No sign of the standing man. I saw a torch light on the beach. A square block of light shining in the blackness. Why is it sinister to see a light like that? I like to feel that I am alone, but I am not. A police car crawled past, on patrol. When I got level with the light I could see a man then another with fishing rods on tripods, their lines cast far into the water. One was hunched over a box of some sort, fixing his bait no doubt. They worked in silence. A communion of sorts. It was cold, -3 apparently. My feet crunched on the sandy gravel that still spread across the Prom. Coming back the back way up the steps I saw a large girl in a pink tracksuit. She stopped when she saw me. Why? I thought. Morning, I said. She had those tattooed eyebrows that hold of look of slight surprise. And there was an unlit cigarette in her mouth. Nice morning for a nice walk, ain’t it, she said, rooting around in her pocket. For a lighter, perhaps? Is that why she’d stopped, to ask for a light? So many do. Yes, I said, cold but nice that it’s dry. See you later, I said, knowing I wouldn’t.

I woke from my dream trying to catch my thoughts before they brought in the gloom. A voice and then an image of a disembodied mouth smiling with its teeth showing. The details will take care of themselves, it said.


He told him we coped. Coped. We cope, he told me he said. Such an unsexy word. Coping, keeping heads above water. It is all part of it. The growing up the letting loose of all romantic notions of being saved, of escaping of becoming something other than what one is. We cope. Is it enough? Is it epitaph enough for myself or our relationship? They coped. She coped.

We watched it again, as we do, over and over. He likes it and I do too. And there he was before me on the screen stirring up my desire body. I didn’t bid it. I didn’t want it. I’m in coping, keeping-my-head-down, mode after all. What is it about him that does it to me? It’s not a chaotic, crazed kind of desire but a gentle awakening. Sunlit. Not rapacious, ravenous but an awareness of an appetite for something specific, something rarefied. He is so much younger than I. His skin is honeyed. At least it was then. What is it about him, that particular actor? It’s intriguing how he does it to me. So few do, these days. It’s all locked away.

I need to let go. I walk and plan. I walk and fret. I walk and try to catch hold. Let it go. Let it happen. And it will somehow or another. Can’t all the solutions have their own satisfaction? Let go the rigidity. Let it be. I chant it as I walk.

I was going to bring the last of the mince pies but wanted to check if he was still there, after all it was a cold night. A clear sky and 0 degrees. He was there but so was a man, who I mistook for a coat. He was standing leaning against the wooden wall of the shelter as the man slept. Was he watching over him? It gave me a shock. It felt sinister. Was it?

Reading through my sketchbooks yesterday stays with me. Impressions of drawings I made and the places I took shelter in. I mostly recall the sensory sensations. Whether I was cold or hot, wet or dry, whether there was good coffee to drink and somewhere private to sit. Another drawing from a favourite coffee shop, a chain, but still decent, near Bygdoy Alle and the tramline. I wanted so much then. I hoped for so much. Then.

It does absolutely nothing..

It does nothing, wrote Nan Sheperd of a mountain brook, nothing but be itself. I heard this on the radio. Robert MacFarlane was recording a visit he made to the Cairngorms in Nan Sheperd’s wake after she wrote a book in the 60s or 70s, I can’t remember what he said, called the Living Mountain. How to do absolutely nothing? It flies in the face of all that I’ve been told or indeed led to believe. That fine Protestant/Lutheran infused upbringing of mine, encourages action over stillness. It is my life’s work, I think. To do nothing but be yourself. Ah, that is another thing. For what is yourself?

I find myself in my sketchbooks. I keep them all. All those writings, those drawings, not done for any real purpose but to capture the thought, the passing idea, a stranger sitting opposite me in a café. This one is from a series of drawings I made of hyacinth. She had given them to me during Christmas. A kind thought. I needed it in that dark, darkness. I was in Norway at the time and deeply unhappy. At least so my sketchbook tells me. The days out in town, the cafes were my solace, even if the ride back on the bus through the dark and snow was a challenge.

Six years on and it is New Year again. We’ve had a sad, low time of it he and I. Yesterday was the crux, the crisis. I couldn’t talk for fear of exploding. The boil has been lanced for the moment. He is calmer. He’s found a sympathetic doctor from Sheffield. What are you doing here? he asked him. I fell asleep on the train, he said.

I woke to fireworks bursting, then a text from my dear friend. It woke me from a dream I wanted to remember. It’s gone. I walked the other way round again this morning. I wanted peace. A few revellers hung around the Pier Pressure nightclub. A girl’s cleavage virtually falling out of her top. Another woman, in white lace shorts and gold sparkly strappy heels, lit a cigarette in her mouth as she traipsed behind a man, creasing up her face as she did so. I kicked a can in the dark as I walked. I didn’t see it. It rolled behind me, clanking three times until it was finally silent.

I remembered a dream from yesterday. I was in a butcher’s shop with a woman from my writing course. She is Icelandic. There was a queue, I must’ve complained. It won’t take a lifetime, she said, laughing in that way she has. I looked at a display of cold meats, why was I there, I didn’t want any of it. I think I asked her if they had such choice back home. And she replied talking about the cleanliness of it being dodgy. Was I really interested in the response or just making questions up to fill in the silence? Then it wasn’t her but one of my tutors from the course and it was now a fish shop. He was eating mussels I think. At least trying them before buying. I prefer them raw, he said. As we prepared to go, he called out. Don’t forget my soup.

Is there some wisdom to be had?

Struck Dumb

I’m struck dumb by a desire to not say something unkind. I was boiling over with it and it goes straight to my gut, causing it to lock tight, spasm and bloat. I can see both sides. I always can. Ever the scales, balancing, weighing-up, trying to be kind. And this time failing. I want to rant and rave. It is trapping me. He can’t be relied upon to do what he says he was going to do. And yet, I understand that need to close everything down. But not me too. He wants to close me down too. I can’t let it happen. I want to fly, to flee, to escape to a city somewhere, stay in a hotel, drink tea in cafes and just watch, step outside of this inwardness, this imploding. I’ve had enough, today I’ve had enough. Is that allowed?

I’ve still got loads of work to do. Too much detail. I need to finish it and then I can put my head above the parapet and think clearly.

They were talking in the shelter when I walked past. He was sitting up under his blanket and another man was sitting next to him talking loudly. I didn’t catch their conversation. Otherwise it was quiet. A big man shuffled his way past me eating. Another was smoking in a dressing gown outside Alexandra Hall. The rain came in drizzly outbursts. I put up my umbrella. The smell of the starling guano under the pier was salty, brackish. I could hear the hiss of their chatter. Getting ready to mumurate. They’ll be gone soon, he said.

Yes, I said, they will.

A different way

I walked a different way this morning going straight to the harbour and then backwards to the kick the bar on the Prom. It felt odd. I wanted to shake up my perspective, try to see things differently. I noticed things I hadn’t seen before, signage, Christmas trees in other living rooms, another star like the one our neighbour has in his window. There were other hills to climb. It was good to do but it’s interesting how unsettling it is. Just that tiny change. A miniscule thing. And I had the quietness first rather than last.

She wrote it again, saying it was the ‘hardest thing we’d ever had to do’. And yet it wasn’t. And how can she know? How can she know how the rest of us felt? I remember us laughing, particularly when the ashes covered us. Does she want it to be so? Does she want people to feel for her? I suppose so. It is an odd thing social media – is it real? Someone who was my friend at school, so long ago, is now hers and writes about her memories of her. Did she ever meet her? I cannot remember, possibly. We each own our own truth – let it be so. But just don’t speak on my behalf. I can’t tick it. I’m sorry.

This application is such an elephant to push up the stairs or perhaps a piano is a better metaphor. A great galumphing thing. My back is rigid with the anticipation of it again. He is a help and it is a help to him, taking him out of his maudlin state. We went to bed out of sorts with each other, he wants to stay still and I need to move. Let it be. We are not in each other’s pockets. I shall take trains. I want to move, to be on the move. But only when this thing has been done. Good enough, well enough. I want to reach out to her. Will she meet me half way?

Tell me where to go

It was a dream, just a dream but I wanted to catch it before it went. I was at Cambridge University. I’d got a place on a course, though I couldn’t remember in what or whether it was for a PhD or an MA. I was in this enormous hall and climbing down these huge steps, some of which I had to let myself down bodily, towards a central part where I thought I could find someone to help me. People, students were scurrying off to lectures. Then I realised I didn’t have any paperwork with me or my notebook. I kept walking arriving in a suburban setting with houses and then rooms. A woman who looked like the typical rather dotty art teacher was standing at the threshold of one of these rooms, I could see easels and students drawing. Come in, she said clearly delighted. Her hair was grey and wild. No, I said trying to explain that I was looking for something else. Was it the English Department? Then she began to ask about my father and whether he painted. I said that he may have done. Then she wanted to know what size. I got angry with her. Why can you tell me where I’m supposed to go? I shouted. As I left I saw another door slightly ajar. Should I close it? I thought. And then I woke up.