Accept

I only have ten minutes before I have to leave for work. Ten minutes to check in, to say something, to let loose, to let go, to express. Town was busy with late night clubbers. Do they still call themselves that? Party people, perhaps? All young, well mostly. Many had paired-off. A couple stood on the beach. I saw them below me as I walked along the Prom to the bar. He was very tall with what looked like green hair. She was small with blonde tousled locks. They weren’t talking just standing slightly apart from each other, frozen like a tableau. Just before the Castle I passed another couple. They were sitting on the mini wall that leads up to the Pitch-and-Put. She had her head down and he was talking. I couldn’t catch what was being said. Sometimes I catch it sometimes I don’t.

It’s the Race for Life today. There has been signs warning of its arrival for weeks but there are still cars parked on its route. I saw three or four with yellow laminated signs asking their owners to politely ‘Remove this vehicle’. Will they? Do they care? At least the weather promises nice.

Accept, said a voice in my head as I stood at the end of the Perygyl. I stand there and close my eyes feeling the breeze from the sea on my face and I am content. I could stand there for hours. I could even sleep. I feel safe there. I like the emptiness of just the horizon and the line of the sea. Nothing to distract. Just black, a grey-black really, just before dawn. Liminal. What must I do? What am I meant to do? I ask. Accept. Just accept. Accept what is. What a brave thing. What a tremendously difficult thing. To fall into it, to submit, to embrace the nothingness, the uncertainty, the un-clarity, the stuck-ness, to accept what is.

My dreams are but shadows these last few days. I ask to remember them but they slip through my fingers like gossamer as soon as my alarm sounds. It is the moonless-ness? The dark side of the moon. The secretive, non-revealing side. If so, then so be it. I will wait. I will accept. I will acquiesce.

Certainty

Certainty. There is no such thing of course. Not any longer, at least. There never really was. I just wanted to think there was. To believe it was achievable. I breathed it in. If I can only do that, I used to think, be with that person, earn that kind of money, acquire that thing, all will be well. It never was, I’d turn a corner and a whole new set of doubts would be there facing me. It isn’t the achieving, the getting there, the decision-making but the travelling toward. And what happens along the way. I know this, the sagacious me, knows this and welcomes it. It’s the learnt strength what counts. What have you learnt? What scar tissue have you developed? How much stronger are you? It isn’t romantic. It never was, I just made it so. It is humdrum mostly. An endless waiting. Yes, but how do you wait? Are you clenched-up like a fist or at ease like an oak tree, steady but open to the sun, the sky, the air and all that passes underneath and above it?

What a revelation. I can recycle it, chuck it, unplug it. Get rid. I’ve never liked it. A cheap, tacky thing that never worked properly and used an inordinate amount of batteries. The other phones seem to work fine without it. We shall see.

It’s going to be a lovely day. Such promise.

They’ve buggered up our pay. It had to happen sooner or later. And this is an example of uncertainty manifesting itself. How will I respond? Will I catastrophise – telling myself that this is it they will only pay the basic from now on? Or will I breathe and calmly wait for it to be resolved?

I get quite stressed at the thought of it. I’ve never responded well to them, they flummox me. Online forms. Yesterday it was for HMRC and today it is for a visa waiver for the US. Just be steady. It will make sense in the end.

It really unsettled him. Our neighbour parking his car in another bay really unsettled him. We all have our numbered slots. Ours is round the back. And how he hates it when someone takes our space. It winds him up like mad. He, my darling boy, does like rules. More than you’d think. He believes it is about respect, paying dues to what belongs to someone else. He can come in quite shaken. It’s the anger, he doesn’t want to lose control. So when our neighbours blue BMW was in another neighbours’ place he was truly flummoxed. His space is empty, he said, why has he done that? Perhaps he’s on holiday and their guest has parked it there in error. He wasn’t away. I saw the light on in his window this morning. Has he asked him yet? Has he solved the conundrum?

There is a plan, said the man with no teeth and the Siamese cat that miaowed all through the reading. There is a plan, I can tell you that, he said, and you won’t be disappointed. I expected, hoped for mastery. Mastery of something. It seems that this will not be. I must settle for a mistress of many things, a chatelaine of a many-roomed castle. Is that OK? It has to be, doesn’t it? How will I manage it, conduct myself with care, lightness and compassion?  Wait and see, I whisper, wait and see.

What are you staring at?

I thought she was talking to someone ahead of her. I was coming down Great Darkgate Street and she was crossing from Terrace Road. She had a hair band with white furry ears on her head. A plump little thing, she seemed to be singing and laughing at the same time. I turned to watch her as she continued along the road towards the station. I was just being curious. Was she OK? Did she have someone looking out for her? Then suddenly she wheeled round glaring at me. What are you staring at? she spat. What are you fucking looking at? Keep calm, I said to myself, hackles of fear or anxiety rippling across my back. It’s alright, sweetie, I said, I’m not looking at anything. I wanted to say, at you, I was worried, I wanted to see that you were safe. But her wall of aggression unsettled me. I kept my voice quiet, steady and kept on walking.

How horrid, he said at breakfast. And it was, though I’d forgotten it till I told him. I’d walked into a membrane of her making, it had nothing to do with me. Where had it come from? She could hardly see me, we were too far away. Perhaps she was scared, defensive at least. It was so unexpected. Usually I am unmolested, left to go my own way in the mornings.

Yesterday, I’d walked to the bar and been met with a figure all in white climbing up the stairs from the beach. A mermaid in a white, skin-tight sheath dress. She had flip flops on. She didn’t look at me but strode across the road to one of the Halls. Had she been swimming? A mermaid come from the water bent on mischief.

A crazy day yesterday, so much juggling, so many little things to do. And today. One thing at a time. Breathe. Just breathe. All will be done and if you are left with only an hour in which to write it is OK. Just do the best you can.

Another poignant morning at the Home. I will write of it soon. The woman hugging and seemingly defleaing a teddy bear and furry cat. The man picking his nose as he wandered about. The man who’d wet himself and refused to let the staff member change him. The tiny woman in the hoist. The other tiny one with the booming voice, what you doing, boy? And me, avoiding the other little man. Next time.

We sat on the bench watching the four men playing bowls. The wind was cold but the sun was warm. I love to be there with him. At least we had that, that quiet time. At peace. It’s always there, if you want it. It is, truly.

 

 

Longue Duree

He writes about the longue duree of craft. The time taken to make something, to learn something, to become something. A lifetime. A long life. A long duration. The next chapter is about hands. He quotes William Carlos Williams and about how he is tired of ‘soul talk’ that there should be ‘no ideas but in things’ – ‘things touched by hand during the day’. Ah, me and here I am trying to get rid of things. And yet, the desire to make is continual.

I made a start. It makes me feel tired, weary. So many decisions to make – do I need this? Do I need two of these? And then it’s all those journeys, back and back. Photographs are the worst. My work? Well, initially it feels good to chuck it. But then I get seduced but what was. All those trannies – some are really good photos. I was lucky with photographers. They were so kind. I was prolific, then. But there was so much stuff. I like to slough it off, as much as I can. I didn’t open his envelope of stuff. He likes this process less. Not at all, in fact. He’ll get rid of clothes, making room for new. But memories, no not those, they must be kept even if they are never looked at or visited.

We looked his name up on Google and found a match for a photographer and someone who works in Ancient Monuments. Neither was correct. He’s a biker, arriving at the studio with a helmet on his arm.

I did what she told me she did. Bought the cardboard bobbins and wrapped the silks around them. I wanted to sit too but there wasn’t time. Did it make me feel good? It used to as a child. Neatening, ordering, and making room, making space. It did briefly but then tiredness comes in – a weariness that makes everything grey.

I feel unused. And yet, in this emptiness there is a richness that is new – a trace of something important that I cannot yet articulate. I need to follow this. It has not worked out the way I expected but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong. Perhaps this space, this unknowing-ness is important, significant.

She replied. And I will go. I look forward to it, deeply. There is a connection.

And so did she, with the number. I think about what I will say. It has been a long time. I need to complete a circle. I belonged to something once, a loving thing. Is it still there?

 

Jays, Dolphins, Tricycles & Helicopters

I’ve got an early. A paper review. So this will have to be quick. I don’t feel quite right if I don’t write something. It isn’t just the recording of what I’ve encountered, seen or thought about, it’s the physical act of writing. It steadies me. Grounds me. So it will have to be a list, of sorts.

Jay. I saw it yesterday afternoon, well almost night for me. It flew onto one of the trees opposite his window. That square of white on its wing. I called out. Where is it? he asked but it was gone. Portentous a colleague at work used to call them. Are they? I’ve seen maybe five in my life. It feels good, I like to think something is going to happen. I always do. Life is always moving, I know that but sometimes it can feel stagnant. What will you bring?

The dolphin I saw yesterday morning as I walked. It wasn’t a real one. It was an inflatable one, left by a wall below the Prom. Abandoned or forgotten, I know not. Was it bought as a bank holiday treat from Stars or another of the tourist shops along the front? Was it too big to put in the car? Or had it been lost at sea and then brought in again on the tide. It was a clear blue plastic. A dolphin with a smiling face.

The tricycle I saw today. It too seemed to have been abandoned. A young child’s trike, clearly. Highly painted but a little shabby with masking tape wrapped around it’s seat. It was resting against a lamppost along South Road.

The helicopter whirred in the sky for hours last night. Our neighbour was at his window smoking when I returned and he said he’d heard it too. It was over the golf course at first, he said. I heard it about half past twelve. I had too. And then seen its lights over the sea. It was hovering, clearly. Heat-seeking, like the London helicopter that the Liverpuddlian poet Paul Morley went on for that radio programme Night Vision. It was fascinating and amazing what they can detect from up there. Was someone lost at sea? It is an ominous sound, making me think of Kate Bush’s song on Hounds of Love – with its noise of helicopter blades and a voice shouting, Get out of the water, get out of the waves…

A good day yesterday. A peaceful day. I kept it at bay.

Sleep well, I said opening the door. Cheers now, he said.

Curry

There’s a spot of blood on your duvet cover, I said to him at breakfast, is it from your shin?. Yeh, I know, he said, I saw it last night but I can’t work out where it is from. It’s the pills he takes, they thin the blood, so if he cuts or scratches himself he just bleeds and bleeds. Mind you, he always has, ever since I’ve known him. We’re not big bleeders, he says, mimicking one of his mother’s saws. It always makes us laugh. It’s such a preposterous thing to say. As if a family bleeds alike. Perhaps they do. We’re not big bleeders could also be referring to size, to stature, of course. I never heard her say it. Did she do it tongue in cheek? That little person, that definitely not ‘big bleeder’. Shall I wash the duvet again? I ask. No, just leave it, he says. It doesn’t matter to him, these things don’t. To me it does, but perhaps it is a good thing to let loose a little. Sponge it off, they use to say. Come here and I’ll sponge it off. Just like the face being wiped by a bit of your mother’s spittle. Come here, let me see. Rough love.

I woke to the smell of curry coming through my bedroom window. It was so strong, the cooking process have just begun. Was it from our neighbour below? Like me, he is often up in the early hours, though unlike me he then sleeps through most of the morning. I temper my irritation. He means no harm, the fact that I feel assaulted by such strong smells is not his fault.

My waking dream stayed with me for the first time in days. I’d asked that I remember it but was less rigid about it and it seemed to have worked. I was in a small chapel or church. It was of domestic proportions, a busy, rather cluttered environment. I was trying to reach for something and climbed up onto two tables, straddling them, one foot on each. It was precarious. They each had a table cloth on top of them. Beneath me women were starting to come in sorting out hymnbooks, flowers possibly for the service. Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne from Midwife was there officiating. I thought I would be told to get down, or at least asked what I was doing. But no one troubled me. The women were active, engaged in their tasks, their faces looked strained, stressed, cross even. I felt high above them, separate and now steady.

The morning light was smoky with mist. A fine rain dusted my face though there was no real evidence of wetness. There were more people about than I expected. Down by Alexandra Hall the air smelt sweet, like new mown-grass and ice lollies. Towards South Marine it smelt of last night’s barbecues. On Northgate Terrace a seagull ripped at a dustbin bag.

Another neighbour, Betty the cat’s owner, has planted some herbs in the planter that she hooks on the railing opposite her window. There is thyme, basil, oregano and parsley. It’s the nearest I can get to a garden, she’d said to me last year. Perhaps I can branch out too. There’s a little shelf on the roof below us. I’d love to grow sweet peas. Would they climb the fence? Perhaps it is too late to plant them now. Maybe next year. The geraniums give at least three people joy. Myself, him and our neighbour’s ninety-nine year old mother. I can’t see them very well, she says, but they give me such pleasure as I come out of my door. It is worth it for that. I think of her as I water them. We don’t really own anything out right. It is shared. A shared ownership, a shared joy.

To work. I keep thinking about emptying myself. There are no shoulds, he says, over and over again. I’ve allowed work to define me, working hard makes me believe that I am a good person, worthwhile. I need to be in the spaces in-between. What am I then? Am I more myself then? I think of being abroad, on holiday sitting in the sun. I let it the space come in then. I let it become blank. Wait and see. Make the space and an answer will come.

Sea Mist (5)

It’s coming off the sea, he said. Now it’s hanging over Pen Dinas. It’s strange. I don’t understand why it does it. It looks otherworldly. A dirty looking mist, a little brown. Like smoke.

Town was mayhem this morning. Lots of noise. Lots of drinkers.

Two lads with Swansea accents walking towards me, their shirts wide open revealing pink skin from the sun. They are eating pizza from a box as they walk. The way to resolve it, one is saying to the other, is you go that way and I go this way. Later four or five lads can be heard shouting and singing in the Aldi car park. First they chant the name Cardiff City and then they sing a traditional Welsh Folk song which I know but can’t spell. My back tenses up. A not unusual phenomenon but this time perfectly natural. They could do anything those boys. I need to be on my guard. But all is fine. I am invisible in my boots, hat and waterproofs. Electronic music thumped out of Pier Pressure night club. A woman stood next to a man, the word OBEY written three times on the back of her bomber jacket.

More serendipity. Abi Morgan on DID yesterday morning talking about meeting Margaret Thatcher when she was waitressing at an event at the NPG. Then recalling how eight years later (or so) she was writing Iron Lady. We talked about it, he and I as we walked back from North Road. She said she was small, I said. Was she? he asked. Apparently, I said. Then lo and behold it was a cross word clue that evening. Coincidence again? Methinks that academic protests too much.

It seemed to work. I got pictures of them all, my current panel of judges, stuck them in my book and put speech bubbles coming out of their mouths. Though I struggled to really decide what it is they are saying to me. More today. Some supporters – others hindrances. And yet, it isn’t that clear cut. Not really. It held off. I did work without so much tension but it came later. As if it waits. It feels like that sometimes.

He sat on my bed. Budge up, he said. He soothed me, as he always does. We are in this together. He is my witness as I am his. Nothing matters, not really. Except this that we have. This precious thing, this kindness, this love. Love that is kindness, kindness that is love. I am made good by it. He makes me good. It doesn’t matter what I do. I am proud of you, he says. And I know that. But sometimes this falling away of all that I’d hoped for, vague though it is when I examine it, breaks my heart. I am become so small and yet inside I am immense. How that can be I don’t know. Will never know. I don’t think.

Be kind. May the sun shine through the mist. x

Pants, Fog and a Pink Highlighter

They were there yesterday and today, though this time they were lying in the gutter rather than on the pavement. The reminded me of the kind of knickers my mother bought me to wear for tennis. Big pants with a row of frilly lace on the back. They looked ridiculous. I felt reduced by wearing them, as if I’d somehow regressed back to childhood, to babyhood. A fluff of saccharine sugary-ness under my simple white, functional tennis skirt. It was what was done in those days. Not now, the female players wear shorts under their skirts or dresses. These pants clearly belonged to a child, though. They were white with a broderie anglaise-d bottom. Had they just be dropped and forgotten? Or had they fallen out of a pram?

He was at his window again this morning. I do prefer it when he isn’t. It isn’t that I don’t like him, for I do. It is just that I would rather not have to talk at that time in the morning. It is my thinking time, my solitary time (for all the people I see and encounter on my walks, I am still alone). I’m sure he feels the same way. Our conversation seems to be just as awkward for him as it is for me. He wants to stand there and smoke. And contemplate and stare. Cheers now, he says as I make my way down the steps. What did I say? Something inane. My mouth struggles to form words. Sometimes I wait in the hallway until I think he is gone.

The Shoreline Guest House is full. The first one this year. Congratulations.

Two bonfires were still burning on South Beach.

The fog felt wet. Was that rain? A real pea-souper. I couldn’t see the Pier from the Bar.

Would he still call it a coincidence, that Cambridge academic that I heard on the radio? Would he? Shall I tell you of it? I was trying to think of an artist’s name. As I always am these days. Joseph Beuys, I was trying to remember his name. I thought I would look it up in a book on Performance Art that I bought second-hand a while ago. I knew that he was something to do with the Fluxus movement. So I thought I would start but looking up references to that word in the index. It was there. I found it easily because it was highlighted in pink. What are the chances eh? No other marks in the book, it is pristine. And yet, there it was in the one place I need to find. A gentle nudging portent, perhaps.

I’ve agreed to write something down, to have statements there in my book ready to challenge the doubters. Those critics that I’ve invested with knowledge way beyond their years or experience. But it is hard to start. My sense of my own foolishness being exacerbated by the articulation of it. But I will preserve. I am looking for clarity. The fog is apt. A thick whiteness.

I thought of her last night. Thirty years ago. An age and yet a brief flicker.

Happy birthday, my love.

Lapsang Souchong

Sometimes finishing a review can leave me a little unsettled. Is it good enough? Have I been unkind? How to encapsulate all that I feel? I just don’t know. I wanted to go out. To go to Aberdovey. To drink Lapsang Souchong in that warm sleepy lounge. To implode. To talk, to unravel. And make all well again. First he had to have his feet done. A regular occurrence when you’re knocking on and a diabetic. They have to be watched apparently. Not that he is decrepit. Not by any stretch of the imagination. He is well, lively, sharp.

We had coffee in town first. I want to go somewhere where I am anonymous, I said. He makes friends, well acquaintances, wherever he goes. All the café staff know him. Hi, they say. I am less known. I keep myself to myself, plus I don’t go out as much as he does. I just want to sit and not feel obliged to greet people. Is that OK? Of course, he says. I wanted to go to the Carlton but he wanted decent coffee. So we compromised. Coffee first then I would sit up in the Carlton and write till he was done with his feet. I like sitting up there. It’s a no-nonsense caff. Regulars, painters and decorators in shorts, students and couples, go in there for full English’s and pots of tea. The smell of fried eggs and bacon pervade that upstairs room and Heart blasts out of the speaker in the corner, but nevertheless I like it. I like to sit at a velour-covered banquette and watch the street below. I watch him walk away, nipping into to Nero to say hello. I sit and write, my bottle of water at my side. Two women at the next banquette are talking about dentists. One is due to see they hygienist and is scared. It’s been five years, she is saying. My teeth are so sensitive. I’ve got the Ibuprofen in my bag. They then go on to discuss the merits or otherwise of electric toothbrushes. I use my electric in the morning and my hand one at night, says the first woman. I do too, says the other, but at night I first use the electric and then the hand one. They don’t feel clean enough with the electric.

He’d forgotten to put in petrol so we had to go beyond the hotel to fill up and then drive back. The tea was good. And we talked and talked. Good things were unravelled. I don’t really believe that I’m an artist, I said, not really, not deep down. It’s true. And then later, a voice, strong distinct coming into my head as I closed the fridge door. You can do anything you like. I told him. Now, that’s a break through, he said.

Town was crawling with revellers this morning. What an old fashioned word. Drinkers, kids, students…whatever you want to call them. Is there a generic word? They sit on benches eating fried chicken and pizza. Eh, she’s loyal, shouts a girl sitting on a Prom bench eating and flanked by two blokes. Guys and dolls, five minutes, hollers a voice upstairs in the Pier Pressure nightclub. Then up by The Angel  a group of girls are remonstrating with a group of lads. It’s jovial, a play fight. Don’t give me your shit, one girl shouts. Making my way down Great Darkgate Street, a girl in a bright-green football shirt sits cross-legged on the pavement outside the SPAR. A boy sits opposite her staring in the other direction. Listen, right… she is saying, her voice trailing off.

A cyclist rode down to the end of the Perygyl as I walked, his red taillight flickering in the darkness. I hovered until he left wanting it to myself. I watched the mist over the sea. It’s going to be a good day. a lovely day.

I deadheaded the geraniums as I left. The blossom falls heavy on the ground. Cherry blossom confetti.

Out

What’s it like out? he asks as I go in to wake him. I love the regularity, the repetition of the words of our life lived together. It is generated by him mostly. He did the same with her. And she always giggled. They wrapped her up those sayings, they coddled her. They were the continuum, the unchanging steadiness of a cosy life. We have ours now. What’s it like out? Drizzly, I say. Not what they promised. How’s the weather, who I see, if the kids are out drinking, if the tide is in are the questions he asks. It isn’t the passing on of information but the ease of the sounds. The familiar, the known, the uncomplicated. What’s it like out? Wet.

It was manic in work yesterday. Too many people. All speaking Welsh, feasting on cake. You don’t know what you’re missing, he said, biting into a fairy cake. She made them. I didn’t know. A cool girl. More than a little cold. Is it shyness? I try not to take it personally. Yesterday she spoke to me, but only later when the rush had gone. She thanked me for doing the permits. It’s OK. She’d made the cakes. It changes her aspect. A maker, a creator. It changes how I see her. I watched her pack away her cake tin. A nice tin with a metal handle. Do remember the endless round of biscuit tins? They were the cake tins of my youth. Though not at home. Mum didn’t make cakes. It wasn’t her thing, baking. But my grandmother did, my English grandmother, that is or was it Nanny? The other, the Norwegian one, probably could but didn’t in my sight, at least. We saw little of her. Fleeting visits. The boat, the sea-sickness and the language I couldn’t fathom. How does it feel to sit amongst a crowd of people and not understand what they are saying. No one is at fault. It is what it is. I try to switch off, to let it roll over my head, but bits of words embed themselves there and come to me in my sleep. I cannot spell them – sounds like  ‘bobod’ – is that something to do with people? Individually they are all kind, good people, en masse they unsettle me. I am adrift.

Adrift. Stay with it. How would it be to not plan, to not seek, to not ……how would it be to be still? Just still. Not doing. You want to achieve in your life what most people achieve in six. I thought that it was a good thing, now I am not so sure. Are we only what we do?

The drizzle is clearing. Will we get to Aberdovey? The piece is written. I fret over it. I need to complete and send. It is enough what I’ve done and I have made the criticism gentler.

I think about bits of plastic bags caught in trees looking like birds, I see them as we drive by.

To be still but moving. I am still in the car but moving. It’s a perfect kind of stillness. Don’t you think? Or is it cheating?