Bleak (52)

It comes in waves. No, that’s not strictly true. It is always there but sometimes less distinct. You could take something for it, he says. And I think about it for a moment. No, I don’t want to. It frustrates him a little I think, my refusal to seek medical help. It’s what he does after all. But we are different. I know this. I know its nuances, what it asks of me, what it feels like. Taking an anti-depressant would be an unknown for me. Besides, I can cope, I can manage, I can live with this, this bleakness. It is a grey screen, a cloud through which potential joy, a sense of safety, peace and calmness are seen through. Has it always been there? I remember this endless chorus of ‘lighten up’ or ‘don’t take life so seriously’ or just ‘smile’ playing out throughout my life. Have I always been a little melancholic? And yet, I know  myself to be able to experience real joy in the smallest of things. I try to find reasons for it – the menopause, the darkness, not getting enough sleep, getting up in the dark, it could be all of these or none. It just has to be lived out – the tight back, the shortened breath and the endless fretting over timings – seen as something I have chosen rather than it being visited on me. Where is the wisdom in it? Can I seek that out? Work soon but coffee with him first. A treat. And then a reading day today.

They must be cold, sleeping out there on the Prom. They are sheltered from the rain – one in the Shelter, the other in that space under the castle – but not the wind. Can you ever get warm?

Cross Words

I don’t like this bickering, he said. I know, nor do I. It hurts. It hurts us both. It comes without anyone’s bidding. There is an unease. It could be a variety of things, though I suspect, we both suspect it is the new medication. It makes his skin thin, he is irritable, touchy with it. He doesn’t mean to be, he tries to reign it in. I can see, feel him doing it. But when he is tired it is harder. As it is with me and my resistance of it. We bicker over little things. Mostly because we are no longer understanding each other, no longer in tune. Something misses. It is the saddest thing, for in truth we know each other so well. Too well for comfort sometimes. It is a fractious time. For I too am thinned – wary, overly-aware of all things. I try to walk it through. I didn’t want to this morning as I awoke to the sound of heavy rain on the metal roof beneath my window. And this returned dark weighs on me. But I did go. I went out into the rain. It is never as bad as it seems from the inside looking out. I like the smell of the air both after and during rain, it is cooler, fresher, almost sweet. And I like to walk under my umbrella (there was no wind, so this could be done, it only blew inside out once) listening to the pitter of drops on its taut surface. I feel safe under its canopy. It was alright. I walked and thought of my feet meeting the pavement, trying to concentrate on the action of walking, feeling it in my hips, my thighs. There was no one about, another good reason to walk in the rain, except for the smoking woman with the carrier bag who walks and then shops in the 24 hour garage on Mill Street. I wonder why she is out at this time? If we pass each other on the Prom she either looks away, down or keeps her eyes looking straight ahead. There is no eye contact. Perhaps she has been told to exercise. She always wears the same sweatshirt top, pink and with a zip. And the same walking boots and leggings. Her gait is lumbering, she rolls as she projects herself forward. Determined and grim.

I look for beauty. For beauty that will transport. I’m not a romantic, you know, says Charlotte Lucas to Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice (did she actually say that in Jane Austen’s book?). I am but I am trying to shed it, such notions are of no use to me. I want Charlotte’s practicality. All I want is a comfortable home, she says. I think about buying No. 1 but quickly talk myself out of it. It is too dark, dingy even. And the light we have here is marvellous. The morning is coming. A gentle morning today before I have to go into work. Will everything work after the refurbishment? Ah, this constant change. She writes, they both write, to say they will take care of things. It’s lovely. I feel cared for. So what of the beauty? What did I see this morning? The individual daffodils on the little sloping lawn in front of the Veterinary building on the Buarth, bright dots of light in the pitch black. And that bare, leafless tree sparkling with diamond-like rain drops.

Window Boxes

Mind moved its premises a couple of years ago now. I don’t know where they have moved to. I pass their old building most days when I walk. The sign is still up though the downstairs rooms are empty. They used to hold drop in classes there – handicrafts and that sort of thing. When the team were there the place was cared for, neat and tidy. There were a row of window boxes along the front with flowers that were always watered and nurtured. As I say they’ve been gone ages. The place has been empty for well over two years. Walking past the other morning I saw that there were daffodils, tete-a-tetes, in the boxes. They had grown of their own volition, returning, or re-emerging, like birds homing, to where they had always been.

Blue Dolphin

The Blue Dolphin is for sale. The Blue Dolphin is a fishing boat. A rounded tub of a boat, Captain Pugwash style. I don’t think it would cut through waves but bob on that fishing-boat-bobbing sea. There is a handwritten sign, drawn on wood, advertising the sale and the price. The seller wants three thousand pounds. Three thousand pounds for a chunky, lumpy means of escape whether literal or metaphorical. Will you buy?

The night felt odd. All the clocks of the town awry. Kids were still queuing up to get into the Pier Pressure night club, penned in by portable railings. I watched as a policeman touched a girl’s arm. She looked like she’d been crying. He touched her arm, the bare skin of her shoulder, and gestured for her to follow him. Nothing was said. She followed and they joined a group of people near the exit.

I must make a start on my piece this morning but I’m dog-tired. Five hundred words, that’s the goal today to just get something down. It will come. I thought about my fear of writing as I walked. I practised detaching myself, of trying to let my failings just be. Then I tried faith – belief that it will just occur. Then I tried just being in the fear, inhabiting, making it familiar. In the end it just has to be started. The rest feels like procrastination.

He didn’t show. The second time that has happened. My mother wouldn’t have believed it. Not of her countrymen. So be it. We had a nice time. He and I waiting and being silly. I’d like to draw in there. I watched a man with a thick white moustache eating. The moustache appeared to have a life of it’s own, dancing about as he chewed.

Things, sensations, my awareness are all heightened at this liminal time. There was a short story by Ray Bradbury on the radio about a man who walked in the early evenings. a futuristic story, he ends up being arrested for showing abnormal behaviour.

To work now before I fall asleep. Just five hundred words.

The lit church threw an arched shadow of light onto the road.


The clocks go forward tonight. I say it to remember it. To fix it in my mind. Alas, we loose a much-longed for hour of morning daylight. I know it will return soon, but for the moment it is an anticipated loss. We have a radio-controlled clock upstairs in the kitchen-cum-everything else except bedroom and bathroom. When I go up there to prepare breakfast on one of the mornings where the clocks change I wait for it to respond. It can be slow to do so. Sometimes it doesn’t react until gone 3 am. And then suddenly it starts whirring. The minute and then the second hand start to turn, too fast around the dial. I’ve known it to stop at the wrong time, as if cogitating or waiting for the right signal, before starting its circular whirring once more. It is a strange sensation watching a clock hand that is spinning wildly. Some kind of relied upon order goes awry. My heart beats a little faster. All is not safe, it warns me, be aware. One of my alarm clocks, for I have two, no three if you count the one on my phone, ticks to fast. It is a wind-up one, kept because I like its loud ticking, and if I wind it up too tight I gains time. I don’t mind. I don’t tell the time by it. It is a comfort, that frenetic tick tick – rather like my ‘guitar-string’ heart. I like to hear it in the dark of my room and miss it when I am away.

She is getting better, I can tell by the strength of her voice. She didn’t want to break off our conversation yesterday. She was full of it. And then we got talking about the cockerel. I could hear it crowing in the background. I hadn’t realised it was hers. I thought it was from the next-door farm. He starts at five, she said, laughing, and then continues through the day. He’s a real cowboy, a show-off. They only have a few hens. We thought we’d like to breed from some pretty little one that we had, the ones with feathers on their heads. Do you know them? she asked. But then they were gone. Caught by a fox? The rooster is redundant then, for I presume the other hens are more ordinary, kept for their eggs. She seems fond of him. We thought he might keep the foxes away, you know. Then she told me how the other remaining hens scamper up to her daughter’s car when she returns from work. She is delighted by this idiosyncrasy, as is her daughter. She loves the hens, she says.

Another busy Saturday. All the cleaning and washing done for now. I need to finish the transcript, do yoga, make lunch, do the ironing, go into town to meet my second Norwegian ‘conversationalist’, go into work, make supper, eat supper, help him with his shower then go to bed. My fear of writing renders me anxious once again. I will ride this, bear it, shoulder it, for in the doing of writing there is peace. I hear from M. in Oslo, the guest room is ready for me. How blessed I am with my friendships. I think of her often. The treatment burns her skin. Her hair has still not returned. And what of him, how will he be?

To work.


I was nervous. I wasn’t thinking straight. The fare was more than she’d promised. I fumbled in my purse for some change, handing it to him and saying – ‘Just give me two pounds back.’ As I walked to her door I heard a loud fart. The taxi driver was saying something. Had he farted at will? At me? Was it a gesture of anger, irritation at what (once I’d worked it out, and too late) was a measly tip? I didn’t have time to find out for she’d opened her door. I heard the taxi, she said. There was so much to adjust too. A culture shock coming from where I live these days, I’m not used to such vibrancy, such buzz and such a hotchpotch of culture – symbolised by his constant switching of radio stations in his cab. One minute a throbbing Asian beat, then Radio 1 and a DJ talking about picking noses followed by a woman singing a ballad and then to Radio Leicester for the traffic update and what the female presenter called a mixed tape before finally cutting to a disco tune. It was exhausting. And then I was reeled about in the back of the cab as he climbed pavements and jostled with the traffic. Do you know where you are going? I asked at one point. It’s the one way system, he said in reply.

A frenetic day and I was made weary by the journey. Too many full carriages with nowhere to sit and rest. A flame-haired Irish woman asked me where I was going. When I told her she said: Oh, isn’t that the place where that disaster happened, where all those children were killed? I tried to explain that that was Aberfan but I don’t think she was listening. Terrible, she continued, how many died? Then she got into conversation with a man standing beside me. I’d zoned out by the time he got off. So sad, she said to the woman sitting next to her, that he lost his wife.

Why does tiredness make me so tetchy? I can feel it coming on but I can’t reign it in. I feel like a five-year-old sometimes. I want someone to take charge, make me a bowl of porridge, hot water bottles and tuck me up in bed. For all this it was a good day. The sun shone. People sweltered in the trains. I had a good cup of coffee, read, finished my book, and drew. It is enough. And now to the real work.


You ask for something and something else, all too often, comes in its place. Is that so bad? I just love the idea that things are moving, are in motion and a request is answered. That is enough? Isn’t it? To not be stagnant – to be always shifting, moving, opening, living. I am responded to, that is all I ask. To be alive to the world – to be known, respected and loved. Writings. Requests for writings. I am fearful but excited. It opens me, my writing, I become alert.

I thought about sounds as I walked. They are familiar to me now, the sounds that I encounter on my morning walks. Buildings with generators that buzz and rattle, the tinkle-tankle of the boats rigging in the harbour, the whispering rush of the trees on North Road, the drip of down pipes from his father’s old office building and the fizzing of wires in the lampposts. I walk into them, these sounds, in search of them and they calm me. Easing my ever so present fear of the dark.

I must go. A train to catch. A nine hour journey there and back. I shall read and try to calm my anxiety about the new, the strange – the so far away. And then home to porridge and him.

Fertile Void

We call it a ‘fertile void’, she said.

So, that’s what it is. Something to be cherished, welcomed, a home-from-home kind of nothing. A blank space, the white of Jenny Diski’s now, no doubt, long gone bedroom. And when I’m feeling brave I do welcome it. With open arms. That emptiness waiting to be filled with possibility. And when we talked through that luscious hour of anything-is-possible I felt full of purpose, of rightness. She is a good woman, compassionate, bright and potent. I have been fortunate. We were a good fit. So often it can be a bit of a ‘bran tub’ thing. Stick your hand in and see what you get. She is good. I shall miss her.

Another clear sky this morning but pitch, even though the moon, though only half, was out. Is the ‘star’ just beneath the moon the space station? I know nothing of these things but the wonder of them doesn’t escape me. There was one ‘star’ that was moving and moving fast. Was it the light from a helicopter? It seemed to be following me. Could they see me, with my torch lighting my way along the Perygyl? I find things to please me to make my early walkings more palatable, less dread-ful. One of which is the feel and sound of my feet on the Perygyl. Its wooden slats give slightly under my step, they are soft, yielding. And the sound is mellow, soft. Wood is a sensuous material. Warm. Smell tends to be the other sensation that I find ways to delight in that blackness, and they are often intensified like the jasmine in Nerja. The bakers shops have not been playing ball, I’ve sniffed and sniffed but nothing. Perhaps the lack of wind is to blame. No yeast odours, no warm sweetness of rising doughs, no saltiness. Don’t they know that I need this, a compensation for my lack of bread consumption?

We sat in the sun on our bench on North Road. The first time this year, he said. The air was still cool but the sun was warm on my face. I wanted silence but he recognised a painter and decorator so they chatted. A nice, gentle man, I think. Did you mind? he asked later. No, I said, but I didn’t know how to join in. Oh, you didn’t need to, he said, besides what would you have said, it was just Aber talk.

A beautiful, generous email from one of my ‘inner panel’ of judges. I was so touched and had to express it although it was decidedly uncool to do so. He writes with such elegance. An elegant man who makes restrained, beautiful work. And he celebrated me. I am blessed. It was worth it. Absolutely. Now to the void.

Cat Pee

Sometimes it all just unravels. With us it is usually about communication. One isn’t listening to the other. It stresses us both equally. We want, no need, to be at peace with each other. We are each other’s equilibrium. A tiny thing. Tissues. He wants the ones that open easily and I don’t want the ones that have balsam in them. I mean what is that about? It is nothing and everything. Hear me out. Listen to me. Give what I am saying credence. This is what I need, honour it. Then we take that agitation to the till with us.

There is someone ahead of us. It’s meant to be empty in here, he hisses. I wanted to see him, our ‘friend’ on the till. I wanted to know how the weekend had gone with his sister who he hasn’t seen for nine years. The man ahead clearly wanted to know also. I only came in to see you, mate. How was it? I listened to his exuberance, about the restaurant they’d taken him to and Dylan Thomas’s favourite pub. What? I could feel him bristling beside me. There? But I thought DT had lived in Pembrokeshire. Neither of us could remember the name of the place. And that made me more stressed, he said afterwards. We got there in the end. Does it begin with double l? I asked. The guy at the till wasn’t bothered. He wanted to hold to the story he’d been told. The weekend had been so special. It was like eating food from MasterChef, he told the man ahead of us. I’m glad he had a good time, was fussed over. I asked if his sister had commented on the clean carpet he’d spent the week before cleaning with a ‘rug doctor’. No, he said, but me shag pile rug started reeking. What’s that smell? I thought, he said. And it was the hessian underneath. It had got damp from the carpet and was stinking. It smelt like cat pee. I couldn’t leave it there when they came, he said, so I chucked it outside.

I felt bleak this morning. There is no rhyme or reason for it. It could be my dream, though the one I remember wasn’t so bad. I found myself dwelling in a room, in an old people’s home with two other women sleeping next to me. They were silent, heads barely visible under the covers. A clean white room. The radio was on and I worried about how it might interfere with my work. A warden came in and opened the window but it only opened into an inner chamber. I opened the one that looked out beyond the building. It was night outside and the moon shone on the rooftiles.

My final coaching session today. I am reluctant to delve. What will it bring up?


I was washing our clothes. It was in a dream. I was with a group of other people. Things were being discussed, work things, seemingly important things. All I wanted to do was wash. Wash our clothes. His and mine. I put one load in the washing machine and was planning how I could fit in another. I thought about the clothes in the machine. It was so important to get them all clean. Perfectly prosaic but dreams aren’t like that. Things of apparent primary concern are jumbled up with trivia. All judgement is skewed. I abandon myself to sleep these days in a way that I never have before. Sleep used to be a nuisance, I wanted to be doing, working, making, thinking. Now it is something like joy, though a quiet one. I fall into it happily only to be  pulled awake from it by the loud insistent ring of my alarm, to soon and with a struggle.

What is it? he asked me at supper. I don’t know. Sometimes I can find a cause, or at least a trigger. It is just melancholy. A heavy, weighty dragging of feet that turns every task, every expectation into one of dread. It’s true, the smallest thing. Yes, my natural state is one of melancholia but this fatigue of the mind and of the body is not inherent to me. As I walk I think about just accepting it. Living with it rather than fighting it – rather like this new stiffness in my hips. What is to be done with it? An endless series of prods, tests and physio – only to find nothing wrong? The mind stuff could be anything – the menopause, grief or loss of way. All those things or none. I watch myself to find reasons. I don’t want to go out, I go out. I don’t feel like cooking, I cook. I don’t feel like working, dressing, cleaning….But when I do them there is a moment of calm. I’ve done it. I am not defeated. I lap up stories of ill people, people given bed-rest. What would that be like? Could I yield and let my home, my world slide? I began the sewing projects as a way of making manifest my defeat, my loss of way. Are they still taking me somewhere? People have engaged with my ‘Sunflowers’ work. Is there more to say? I believe that the wise thing to do if you don’t know where you are going is to stay still. And yet, I relish the travelling. The travelling for work, at least. It’s the being in motion. So restful. Then I can let go. I am free, untrammelled, unknown. Anything is possible. And then I find my bravery.