Smell

There’s a smell in the house. It’s always been there but it’s strongest when I’ve been away. What is it? Is it a kind of glue that has been used to fix the tiles? Is it cooking odours from the flat downstairs creeping up through our second bathroom, as they do? No, I don’t think so, it stinks of something vaguely chemical, that and a smidgen of decay. It makes me feel nauseous. And I try and often fail not to take it out on him. Have you aired it enough? Did you open the windows? Is it him? Is it a sign of his soon to be demise? Is that what distresses me so?

I’ve cleaned it today and the smell dissipates for a while. I can breathe easy.

I’ve ordered sage bundles. That should do it – if it doesn’t set off the fire alarm first. Sage is an odd smell – dry, almost salty. A purifier and cleanser. I like it.

It’ll be full of big women with bags, she said. And it was. Comforting women in the main with home-knitted hats and scarfs and bad perms. It got too much after awhile – clogged as it was with all those women. But the details were lovely. Rifling around in boxes of threads. It reminds me of something like home. x

 

Potatoes, Post Office and Email List

I’m not fully grounded yet. I’m home but still floating in the ether somewhere. I need to get down to some proper work. Today. Now. But there are so many bits that I want to clear out of my head first. I chant lists as I walk. Potatoes, Post Office and email list. That was one of them. Just to remember – to commit it to memory. I need order. I want to tidy, to clean to buy a load of organising drawers, boxes and containers just to impose order. To feel better, calmer. It is in my gift. Now I need to sit and breathe and then work. Just work. All will be well. Then.

Cherry

The answer was cherry. We’d got it wrong. It wasn’t discomfort but disconcert. Making the first letter of the one across c not f. And yesterday evening was not much better. It was dire, I said this morning. No, he said, not dire but we should’ve done better. I was tired and he was a little distrait. It’s my going away, it unsettles both of us, always. We both like the flow, the steadiness, me most of all I think, and I yet I always break it. I am always the one leaving. There is nothing he wants to do, and I? Well, I want to do everything, feel everything, see everything, and yet, and yet I want to stay still, be here, be safe, unchallenged and whole. I handle it by making lists and over preparing, over thinking. I want him and the house to be looked after – for everything to remain in place as if I were still here. And yet, I won’t be. And it won’t be the same. Why should it? I will be elsewhere, having a different experience. And it will be good. Once I’ve loosed the strings of my attachment to here and to him, it will be good. The adventure will be a marvellous one. And I will raise myself up to meet it, greet it and embrace it. It is just the unknown, like writing this review today. Will it come? Will I find the words?

Of course. It always comes. Always.

Gluten-free Christmas Pudding

I wish I hadn’t said I’d go now, she told me when I called her. I know how she feels, he said. She is a home-bird, like the farmer on the podcast who’s never lived outside Lincoln. She is the same. She has no curiosity, seemingly, to know of other places, to find herself somewhere strange. Her daughter is unwell. They are both a little sickly. And yet, she walks and walks as I do. I asked if it was her church that had organised it. Oh, no, she said, it is for the over sixties of the neighbouring villages. They organise trips, she said, though I never go. I don’t like the coach journeys. And they have this Christmas lunch every year. She said the name of the place but I didn’t catch it. The food is meant to be good. A three-course meal, you order it beforehand, she continued, I’m having the melon to start, then turkey and then I’ve ordered a gluten-free Christmas pudding. I don’t normally have pudding but I thought for a change.

The clue was fruit. Six letters beginning with f. F something e then something r something. I thought about it as I walked. Nothing.

They were ahead of me as I walked home. He had an eagle tattooed on the back of his coat. She wore a tiny mini skirt, ankle socks and ankle boots. On the back of each of her thighs was tattooed a ribbon.

Bath

In my dream I was staring down at it. It was a bath, a white bath, quite small and narrow, not new but clean. I love roll-top baths, I heard myself say to someone and yet it wasn’t a roll-top but an old-fashioned, common-o-garden bath. It was sunk into the floor, very low. Why had I dreamt of this? And why did it feel so momentous? I must have stood looking at it for a long time. Is it because I am going somewhere where there are no baths (well I am assuming that is the case) and will have to make do with showers, when I love bathing so much? Perhaps. Or is it more symbolic than that? About cleaning myself, my thoughts, my life, maybe. I’ve been thinking about the empty space project a lot, where I go in and prepare a space for work. Where I clean it through and through and then paint it white. I don’t make work, for the cleaning, the preparing is the work. There is peace in it, I think. All those empty, unloved spaces, I want to see their potential and make them open, clean, white, ready.

The Christmas decorations are up along Great Darkgate Street. Are they turning them on soon? I long to see the London lights. It will be fun. It will make me ready.

There’s an inset day on Thursday, she said, zapping my apples, I might put them up then. She’s already told us about her little street scene. What with elves and snow? I asked. No, real people, she said, streets and things. She is so excited. Her eyes light up. And will you let the children help? Oh, I don’t think, so, she said, laughing.

We’re watching Brooklyn again. I lap it up. It is gorgeous. And he is enchanting, as is she, but he is especially so. He inhabits the state of being in love so beautifully. That young state. I felt such nostalgia, such joy, such exuberance. I haven’t felt such euphoria of late, for a long while even. Has it passed? Has age withered it’s possibility? I do hope not. I lay in bed thinking of him and what he represents and couldn’t sleep for the idea of him and all those who have gone before. My imaginings. Not real but so tempting. So enthralling. And now I am old. So be it. There is kindness, steadiness and peace, sometimes. It is enough, mostly.

Rolls Royce

They must’ve finished, most of the white Panavision trucks are gone. However, I did see, as I walked that part of the Prom a gorgeous old Rolls Royce, complete with wood interior strapped onto a pick-up. It was in pristine condition. And a couple of yards ahead of it, most bemusingly, was an old Ford, I think, with peeling paint and battered chassis.

Did something happen in Aberystwyth? I asked him when I went in to wake him. Are they commemorating something? I know Charles came here to study for awhile.

Oh, no, he said, they’ll just be using the Castle and the Prom.

They’d asked if I might participate but gave me so little time to respond that I missed the call. Ah, well. Next time, maybe.

It didn’t rain this morning, so no big coat. And it was mild. A few students were about. And a girl tripping along a back street in clickety-clackety heels and a white, sleeveless fringed-dress.

It changed the shape of my day. A phone-call, finally. And just when I was busy. She got married in San Francisco telling nobody. She sounded happy. Looked happy. Such a pretty girl. She makes me calm. She is steady. A rock, except for her little anxieties. What were they – spiders, flying, dirt? Are they little?  I walked up to work. It was gorgeous, I could see the whole town before me against a blood-red sunset.

I’m unsettled by my writing, why? Is it the exposure that is coming? Candid and funny, they wrote about hers. Is mine? She has so much more to lose, or does she? And then I find the competition. That’s nice. That’s something I can do to get it out there, to get it read.

Good fortune. He smiled. He was so happy. Well done. What have I done? It is fortune, good fortune. Our good fortune. And see, the sun is shining too.

So much to do. Don’t forget to breathe. Sometimes that is quite enough.

Change (5)

Is it change for changes sake or am I justified in wanting it? I know that it’s an inner change that is needed not an outer but can’t an outer alteration instigate an inner one too? I yearn for simplicity. Is it there already and I just can’t see it? Probably. I am blessed I know this. I have much autonomy and freedom but I don’t have the security, the safety of knowing what is coming and when. My time isn’t always my own. Wouldn’t another form of work bring a much needed certainty? Or am I pie-in-the-sky-ing again? Do I do that? Am I unrealistic? I want to work hard, I want to earn my way but I also need to do my real work. I need space to develop it, to become better. We discuss the options and I still don’t know what is for the best. And yet I long to change. To throw it out and begin again. To order, to sort out. To wipe the slate clean. It’s all the paraphernalia of working for a huge organisation. It is so shabby, so bitty. And trying to log on a moment ago, and having to change my password and forgetting my last and then having to ring up to report it. Ugh! Such a waste of time when I want to be writing. Or am I just procrastinating? Write then. Just write. Let the rest take care of themselves. I am blessed. He is so kind. So patient. I am in a no-mans land of uncertainty. Let it be so.

I saw him sleeping in the Prom shelter yesterday but not today. The wind was strong. Students still milled about, shouting, coatless.

The morning is trying to break through.

My writing was turgid yesterday, slow and clunky. Keep going, write yourself through it.

Nothing is happening. Everything has ground to a halt.

Your copy will be with you soon, she writes. Good. A fantastic issue, she writes.

Find your calm. It is there. It is always there. Stand there in it. Let the rest fall away.

Observing the silence

The train was virtually empty, at least my carriage was, except for a young man and couple in the seats just ahead of me. They weren’t together, that is, the young man was sitting opposite them and had struck up a conversation. He was from Bath and was travelling to visit his grandfather. I usually drive, he told them. The couple sounded elderly, and the man quite opinionated. They’d clearly been to a service commemorating Armistice Day for he was talking about a rehearsal and singing. Oh, said the young man, I didn’t realise you were professional. I was reading throughout all of this. I would’ve preferred silence but was happy to let the sound of their voices float around me. There was also a man behind me who kept rattling and shaking what sounded like a plastic bag of sorts. I was calm. It was a beautiful day, the landscape a myriad of autumnal colour and I was on the move getting closer to home and to him. And I’d used my ingenuity and more than a little cheek by asking the train manager if I could take that train as mine had been delayed. He had acquiesced. Then I realised the time. I texted him. Shall we observe the silence together? I asked. Yes, he replied. He later told me he’d pulled over for those two minutes. However, the three ahead of me were still talking. What should I do? How can I put it politely? With just three minutes to go I stood up and went over to them. Will you be observing the silence at 11.00? I asked. What? said the man, do you want to sleep? No, I said, the silence for Armistice, the hundred years, I continues, a little thrown that he hadn’t understood. Then he did and immediately took umbrage. Pulling his lapel to one side he showed me his badge. I was in the services, he said, his voice sharp now. And then grabbing what looked like a covered pole from his wife, he said: do you want me to get out my standard for you? No, no, I said, embarrassed, I just wanted to check. I’ve been keeping an eye on the time, said his wife. The man from Bath smiled at me as I returned to my seat.

Then just before 11.00 the train tannoy came on announcing the next station. I heard the man laugh derisively. Was it at me?

They all left at the next station. I saw the wife but not the man, had he gone the other way out? The man from Bath lent over to me as he went by. A nice observance, he said, well done.

Fly

He’s still alive. After five days the fly in our kitchen is still alive. He wants to kill it. I want to somehow transport him out of a window. Of course I don’t know that he is a he. How can I know? Can you sex a fly? He keeps me company, usually sitting on the wall opposite me as I prepare food. Is he dying? Is he getting slower? Has he given in yet? Does he long to go outside?

I was happy there. The anxiety lifted for awhile. We had coffee and then tea. And sat and sat. Doing crosswords, talking, with me with my feet curled up or stretched out onto his chair. We had it all to ourselves downstairs, our peace only interrupted by people coming down for a pee. And unexpected gem of a place. I love the mirrors, the 50s/60s furniture, the collection of mirrors.

I have too much to do. My anxiousness urges me to sort things out, to clear up, to make notes, to order. And then breathe.

It was lovely to see her. She is so complex, so often a surprise to me. Her tenderness, the care she takes with her home and her love. Keep her safe. She is not what she seems and all the more beautiful for it.

Milkman (5)

I like seeing him trundle by in his van. It’s an open van and I can hear the bottles rattle as he turns a corner. We used to see him in the supermarket on a Saturday. I think I’ve told you before, he looks a little like Bruce Springsteen. He was always buying the family groceries. Looks like a big family too. A house full of kids and he doing something else with his real time, a writer perhaps or an artist. My fantasy. It may not be true.

More poems this morning. I had to turn up the radio so I could hear them. An evening of readings, a recording of them with actors like Dan Stephens, Robert Hardy and Damian Lewis, wonderful. I am saturated with the First World War and rightly so. Work has dried up. I must wait. Mercury is going backwards and no one replies. Enjoy the peace, he says. Oh, let it be Ellen. Tomorrow the love of a friend. I so look forward to seeing her. Such a smile and a voice. Honey-ed tones.

Cleaned the flat, did the ironing, walked and it didn’t rain and I was thankful. Off to call her and then down to work. My work. Like the milkman. The proper stuff. Sans pay. Let it be. We have enough. There is always enough. Just trust that it is so. Eh?