Charlatan

Sewn letter small text detail (2)

It always helps, talking to him, that is. He irons out my creases. He calms my inner chaos. I lay it all out before him. He listens, bearing witness with his gentle wisdom. It always helps, talking to him.

It’s something to do with being in that particular environment, it makes me a little stir-crazy. I feel hemmed-in. Held in. Locked-in. They are all so furiously busy, well most are. Doing what appears to be important things. Telling important stories. And there is the alien language. I am shut out by that too. I know the feeling too well. It isn’t their fault. They don’t intend to alienate me. They are just doing what they do, speaking what is, after all, their mother tongue. Sometimes, when I am more ease I am happy to sit there letting it all float above me, unconcerned, not responsible. On the outskirts. But other times it really gets to me.

I take in my sewing. And that is an act in itself. Unconventional. Un-art. It is a considered act. I was nervous at first. What if they ask questions? I don’t know how to explain it. Not yet. But no-one did. No questions. Except one. The authoress. She strode right over, whatya doing? Is it cross-stitch? I mumbled something about letters and Charlotte Bronte. Oh, she said, have you read the new biography? Do I want them to show interest? I don’t know. It is all ego stuff. I can mostly let it go. There is an ease to what I do. It is just time, that’s all. And in that wasted time I can at least think. Think as I sew. I read somewhere that girls were given sewing to keep them quiet. Keep their hands busy. It is an act, a performance, sewing in public. Whatya doing? I don’t know. I feel like a charlatan. I always have. In every art school I ever attended. A charlatan. Whatya doing? I don’t know. I just don’t know. No yet. Maybe never.

Anita Brookner has died. It never seemed fashionable to like her books. A very particular readership, I think. Melancholic novels. Elegant restraint. Unrequited love, foolish passions, un-spilt. Women lost in a fifties greyness, waiting to be saved. Edith Hope was my favourite, the romantic novel writer of Hotel du Lac. Anna Massey played her in the film. Beautiful. Rest in peace. And thank you for the gift of your stories.

And Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. They said on Radio 3 that he went to live on Orkney. Why do I keen towards such tales of withdrawal, isolation? I see it in my mind’s eye and long. He wanted to concentrate on his composing, undisturbed. Do you have to be important to do such withdrawing? Is it enough to just wish to be ordinary. Quietly ordinary.

It’s been a while since I called her. She weighs on me. I want to reach out but the phone is so difficult for both of us. It was the first time she didn’t recognise my voice. She wouldn’t speak English. Her voice was strained, cold. I must put down the phone now, she said in Norwegian. Have I lost her? Try her again, he says. Try her again another day. It may be just a blip. She was like that once before, don’t you remember? Give it a few days. OK, though I am scared that I’ve lost her. I love her, you know. I know. I know.

The congregation had swelled. Seven in all. One of us had to wait for a second sitting for Communion. Walking home the birdsong was a cacophony. On Llanbadarn Road a woman comes towards me with a spaniel on a lead. They stop at the junction. The dog sits patiently awaiting her command. She makes him wait a little too long. There is restraint there. A control. The dog, however is at ease. Floppy with trust. I smile at her. It isn’t returned.

Still no word. Shall I text again? I just don’t know. Stay still just a while longer. Trust like the spaniel.

Let be just a while longer.