The blackberries on the bramble bush down the lane towards the ‘coll’ field will be ripe soon. I want to pick some for my breakfast, they taste of childhood, of warm late August days before the return to school, so different from the shop bought ones. He thinks others will get there first. Really? Do people still go blackberry picking? How nice.
The flat smells of fried butter, just like it does when I make him pancakes. It was croque monsieur last night. The fire alarm went off in the early hours in the block opposite. I could see them all out there in their smalls, in the rain, waiting for the clamour to die down. Did someone burn the toast? Were they cross?
I dreamt during my afternoon nap that we were both sitting upstairs having supper. In my dream I told myself that this was a dream and that I was really downstairs lying next to him. I made myself return to my body and woke up.
The wind was wild. The flagpoles along the Prom leant and bent with it. The noise down by the harbour was almost mythical. A screaming through the hollows, a rattling of rigging and bashing of boats against buffers. It jars, it stirs one up, making one edgy and nervous. And yet it is also quite magnificent. The sea was alive with it. Back in town a lad slept outside Wetherspoons Free House. A police car flashing blue overtook a car on Mill Street who had pulled in to let him pass.
I am tense about writing. I make too much of my fears. Just do it. Just write it. Get it down. Simple. A thousand a day. That’s all.
They were standing outside the Pier Pressure nightclub. She was pressing his body against the wooden fascia of the Ice Cream Parlour, a lit cigarette in her right hand as she did so. They were kissing hard, their faces pushed up close, hungry, urgent. As I walked passed they must have pulled away from each other for I heard him say something. His voice was casual, talking as if to an acquaintance, or someone he had just met. There was no intimacy, no secret code. A stealing.
It wasn’t what they promised. The wind was not so strong. I walked my usual walk. And even the rain didn’t come.
Most of my domestic work is done. Good
I think we have found someone to help. I need to accept what is. I’d like to keep it a little longer but if it is too old, then so be it. Let the abundance come to cover it. For all is stagnant for now. No work. Just this. And this is enough. I think. I worry over it. Is it worthy of my time? Is it well written enough? I’m learning, I told myself as I walked, I’m learning to write. Let that be enough. That is project enough for a life. A life time, I think.
I’m discombobulated. My laptop still hasn’t been fixed and the alternative of having it’s precious memory, my memory, swiped clean appalls me. It would be like a lobotomy. All that history. It spent a night away from me (is this how people feel about their phones?) and I longed to bring it home. He went for it early this morning, bless him my absolute love. It was away and I couldn’t write. I suppose I could’ve written it by hand but I’m used to this way, used to watching the words play out before me. And my other writing, I need the daily purge now. So I sewed instead and got little solace though the listening proved inspirational, namely a radio adaptation of Lahr’s biography of Tennessee Williams. I remember doing some ideas for one of his plays at Wimbledon, I think it was the ‘Milk Train’, marvellous, even to a very naïve eighteen-year-old. Dare I admit to an affiliation with writers these days, it is presumptive? I see my failings all to clearly but I am trying. That is all I can do. On Williams’ writing, Lahr writes: ‘His mess was (now) outside him’. And when he had writer’s block in Italy, ‘he had fallen under the moon of pause.’ Isn’t that stunning? But no, writing isn’t meant to be beautiful. I try to ape Camus. Just tell the story, simply. I’m rambling. Too much tea and a longing to do this.
The empty room in the flat opposite was still lit. Someone had forgotten to switch off the light, clearly. An empty room and the emptiness of my desk this morning. The room offers possibilities the desk, as it is, none. I love the clarity of empty rooms. I could dance in there.
The rain was torrential this morning. Downpipes gushed water, rattling with the force of it. A coastguard boat was out at sea, its green light a beacon of something like hope. A broken umbrella left on the street. The smell of someone’s perfume, a cloud of it, hanging as I walk through it. A trace a memory of a presence.
The smell of him was too much. A wall of garlic. He’s a kind man. He talks fast, a rushing of stuff. We both were overwhelmed by it. He couldn’t mend it. I am stressed. I cannot see how to solve it. We were both wearied by it yesterday. Can’t you support me in this? I asked. He was tired, and worried about offending him. This morning he is charged. I will sort it, he says. Leave it to me. Gladly, my love. Gladly.
A light had been left on in one of the ground flats opposite. An oblong of yellow against the black of night. Across the quad two of the upper floor windows are also lit up. It is the flat of the man we assume is a PhD student. He is awake at all hours and will come out, his hood over his head, and smoke by the path, reading his phone as he does. I love seeing lit windows in the dark. A Hopper-esque scene, that custard yellow against black. It is a comfort to us night-time wanderers, not just the warmth of the light but the idea that someone else is awake. Lit windows dot the town. Student-living, no strict pattern, no strict code.
We talked till late last night, well, late for us. I hope I have eased his worry. I will be kind. I am not in this alone. Of course it matters to him and it distresses me to think he has been concerned. And that letter in his bottom drawer. I haven’t been kind. But I cannot always explain it. My feelings are not logical. It swirls around. All this change. And yet this need to control. Control the impossible. The impossible that will not be controlled.
He is coming to mend it today. Well not mend but put right. It makes me nervous. This is my communication tool. I need it to remain steady, trustworthy and true. But he is a kind man. Shoes off and licorice tea.
Another appointment with the nurse. More blood. Oh, you’ve got good veins, they always say. He used the word modest in the letter. A slight aberration of the heart. Will it take me? They’ve all said that I will live long. And she said there is nothing wrong with my heart. Who speaks true? It was horrid to read about myself being described like that. I am odd, no question. A little mad, perhaps? No, he said, I prefer your word, singular.
Love, need, fear of loss makes him angry. Doctors, female doctors in particular get his goat. They’re always away on fucking holiday, he says. I am shaken sometimes by the fierceness of his concern for me. You saved me, he said. Did I? I am small thing, a fleck. I love him too. But it isn’t a raging love, like his can be sometimes. I hope he knows how much I cherish him, nevertheless.
She completely overwhelmed me. I hadn’t thought this would be the case. You don’t have to do all she says, he said to me as he left this morning. No, I know I don’t, but it was sensible advice. I know this. And I trusted her. But I get so stuck in my ways. I am so stuck in my ways that change is a stress in itself. All those things I am supposed to excise from my diet, good things. Spinach, grapefruit, sunflower seeds, yoghurt, cabbage – what will I replace them with? I could look on this as an adventure, a way of trying new foods but it unsettles me terribly. And there are all the other actions she wanted me to take like body brushing and wrapping a compress of castor oil around my liver and my darling, weakened, sorry little spleen. All good sense. All perfectly valid but where do I find the time? And she also wanted me to take a sleep at between 9-10 am. I need to breathe and approach all this calmly and methodically. One thing at time. The Bach Flower remedies I can do, and the other tincture and the drinking of 2 litres of water a day. That too. But the changing of all my skin and hair care products to non petrochemical ones, that’s going to be quite a shift. Let alone the expense. Bit by bit. Breathe. Keep breathing.
It’s my spleen she said and my small intestine. They are depleted, under par. I know this. They need some nurturing. So be it.
I feel unsettled, shifted. And my laptop needs some attention. He is coming tomorrow to help. Shoes off and licorice tea. A nice man. But I do struggle with strangers coming into my space.
I keep writing, sometimes it is all I can do.
We had a long discussion about Christian Scientists. He got heated. I tried to see both sides, and wound him up in the process. And I get it, some of it. We are not just a body, and our soul, our precious marvellous souls do get forgotten.
I send out feelers for work and nothing comes back. So be it. I am meant to be here writing. So take the chance and do it. You will feel better for the purging.
No rain this morning. And no barking dogs. Just wind and a majestic sea.
The mornings are getting noticeably darker. I walk in the murk now. It is especially dark down by the harbour. No walk on the Perygyl though as it was too wet. I walked around the turning circle now flanked on either side by mobile homes and SUVs. Out of nowhere the sound of a barking dog. I couldn’t see it. It seemed to be coming from a van, parked at the end of the line of vehicles. I shushed it as best I could before another dog began to join in, a smaller dog, clearly from the yappy quality of its bark. Then a man’s voice telling them both to be quiet. The van’s side door must’ve been open and he and he dogs must’ve have been sleeping there open to the wind, stars and rain. And why not? I would have loved to do the same. I am sorry if I disturbed them. The town echoes with the plaintive cries of young gulls. They have been ousted out of nests and have to fend for themselves but they are clearly disorientated and thrown by the rejection. They promised rain but so far it is holding off. Fingers crossed he will be dry.
I think about my writing as I walk. It’s been difficult the last few days. I have got stuck with it. I still write, still try to make my quota but the results have not lifted me. Is that really what it is about? Being good at it. Or is it about being good enough and concentrating on just doing it. As Julia Cameron says, ‘showing up at the page’. I don’t know where I am going with it, what it will become. Again, what does this matter? The important thing is to do it, just do it. Get it all down and then begin to edit afterwards. ‘The right to write’, JC calls it.
We lay on the grass and got covered in its dry strands. The smell was so evocative, and it was so pleasing to feel my belly about the earth. I watched the life teeming beneath me, the ants and beetles. The sports field groundsmen waved a greeting, happy in their jobs.
I thought it was a bank holiday today. I can’t think why I thought that. Perhaps I’d seen it in my diary (I believe, or so one of the women in Tesco’s said, that it is one in Scotland), or perhaps I was confusing it with May where there are two, one each end of the month. He is taking the piss unremittingly. And why not? It is his way. I must bear it, nobly. Fair game, eh?
I asked her if the tattoo on her inner, lower arm was a quote. No, she said, showing it to me, I got it done when we got married. They are separating now. I’m going to cover it with an image of feather, she said. I’ve already booked it in for November. Did your partner have one done too? I asked. Yes, she said, she did, exactly the same.
A girl walking towards me in the semi-light. Her t-shirt reads ‘Babygirl’. He calls me that sometimes.
I catch the tale end of a play about a home care-worker called ‘Flying visits’. She attends a council meeting to complain about the impossibility of managing each visit within the allotted 15 minutes time-frame. She gives a moving speech, describing how her clients ‘can’t be rushed’ and the time it takes to prepare them for a shower and what a ‘privilege’ it is to bathe someone. Beautiful. It stood me still.
And it is the end of Academy Street on the radio. I shall miss it. I shall miss Tess. So much so that I have got the book from the library. I think I have read it before. It is so familiar. A part of me already. ‘I shall never lie with a man again, Tess, now in her fifties says to herself. But she relishes all the books she has yet to read. Amen to that.
Then there is a clip of Stephen Fry’s upcoming programme of Fry’s English Delights with his guest David Sedaris, with Sedaris admitting that if he doesn’t do his ‘laundry’ at 7.00 am on a Sunday morning he is utterly thrown. I know this all too well, and it sometimes hurts. He tries to soften my self-criticism. You just like order, he says. And I do. It calms me. There is so much chaos.
Those poor people in the US. So much needless killing and pain. How can you protect yourself against that?
Sometimes, says Brian Aldridge in The Archers to Ed Grundy, all you can do is endure it.
A trivial thing, and I know it, but I long for a cup of coffee. And maybe, just maybe, she will tell me tomorrow that it is a no go, for ever. And even, grapefruit, possibly. Do I want to know this?
Rest in peace all of you. I am so sorry. And then there was the ‘seed saviour’ on the Food Programme with the glorious Dan Saladino. What a warm glow that programme gives me. Sunday’s are a roller-coaster of listening. And DID with Sir Tim Waterstone – not sure what to make of him. I was wobbled a little. I look for a gem of something. And it wasn’t there. It wasn’t there.
My belief deepens while my certainty lessens. It feels like I’m standing on ground that is being rocked by an earthquake, splitting and I have a leg either side. Acceptance. That is it. That is all I, we can do. Not in a passive way but an open energetic way. They cancelled one then all of them. I have to let it be and hope that abundance will come from elsewhere. That is all. That is all.
I remember the phrase from childhood. There was a clothes shop with the same title in the small town where I was living at the time. It sounded impossibly exotic. San souci, without care. And walking home with my headphones on Rufus Wainwright’s song with the same name, about a night club in Germany, came on. A happy song, it reminds me of our times in Spoleto. One cannot separate place from sound. A song listened to in a certain place will always bring it back. And I remembered the answer to the crossword clue about a decorative embroidery loop. Well, to be fair I didn’t remember it just came forward, like that, picot. It is picot. Will I recall it next time?
They were all out this morning, looking slightly the worse for wear as the clubs began to close. Three to a bench, girls without coats or cardigans, obviously, bare skin exposed to the night-cum-morning air. Legs akimbo, modesty gone. Bare arms, bare legs and full, in your face, décolletage. Some wore sequinned tops. And it brought back a memory of one that she had had in her wardrobe. It was all zipped up in a plastic dress bag. I opened it once. The sequins were like mermaid skin, all luminescent blues and greens and pinks. It was beautiful. I would go and peek at it now and then when she was out. Another girl on one of the benches had glittered platforms. They were like bambis, all legs, so vulnerable. I hope they get home safe, for all their giggling bravery.
They were standing on a street corner halfway down Pier Street. The woman who was talking had a pair of suede fuchsia high-heeled espadrilles hanging down from her right hand. She was talking to a man and a woman. Her high heels had been replaced by a pair of salmon pink ballet pumps. She was middle-aged and her voice slurred a little. It was 3.00 am. She reached over and embraced the couple beside her. You are my soulmates, she said, you GENUINELY are.
I saw something whirl on the pavement ahead of me. I was striding down Northgate Street. I thought it was a feather or a piece of litter. It was a moth, on its back whirring.
We sat on the ‘Coll field’ in the sometime sunshine and he talked about cricket. I love to hear him ‘witter on’ (Dinnerladies, Victoria Wood, may she rest in peace) like that. He sounds happy, or if not happy, content. We watched as groups of Muslim men kept appearing and heading to what must’ve been a prayer meeting in the little hut behind the Pavilion. Some sat outside on the wall or talked by their cars. It was an amiable atmosphere, calm, masculine. White lines had been drawn on the playing field. A crocodile of nursery school children walked past, on the path below us.
All my work is done. And there is a chance of something unexpected coming. We shall see. So often they come to nothing. But it is nice to be considered. Perhaps she will be put off by having to deal directly with me. Who knows? I like to think it might have pleased him though. That will do me.
No sun. A grey heaviness. I watch a rook on the roof preening. It threw me yesterday. It’s because I don’t understand it. I will try. With calmness. There is nothing to be afraid of. Ever.
I walked thinking, I want to know my death, to carry that knowing with me, to let it help me to see that nothing really matters. Whatever I do here will pass, become nothing. And that is good. That is as it should be. My trace will be as if it never happened. Passing through. I am just passing through. Let it be so. Home soon. Let me come home soon.
There is a sort of wilderness outside and beneath our flat. It is a building site really, and we often hear a JCB winding its slow, heavy way down the slight hill and then round and through its undergrowth. I hated it at first. It was so ugly, so unkempt, but I’ve grown used to it and almost enjoy its wildness now. For it is wild. Ragworts and buddleia have grown in a profusion and there are some marvellous trees. The estates cats roam it pretending it is a forest. One of the Kray twins was out yesterday afternoon, I saw it from my bedroom window just about to creep into a clump of long grass. It was on high alert, its tail and sleek, spotted body razor-sharp with intense concentration. It looked like a leopard, or the tiger in Rousseau’s jungle painting. They’re worth a lot of money, he said of her two cats, she has them tagged. We pass this wilderness along the path to the car and yesterday the buddleia (he always struggles to remember the name, the butterfly bush, he called it yesterday) had a sprinkling of butterflies on it. I saw a Red Admiral and several Painted Ladies. There must’ve been about twenty in all, not that many, I own but an improvement on the few Cabbage Whites we usually see. Butterflies make me feel well. Soulful creatures – they fill the air with their grace.
Still not allowed coffee, how I want one. I miss the smell, the routine of preparing it. I roasted some flaked almonds last night to go on top of a salad. The smell, though subtle is divine. It lingers, like the mist this morning hanging high over the town. It will have to do. I catch it each time I go upstairs.