I long for some. He went to see if he could he get me some, just like Rapunzel’s mother and her hankering for lettuce, or spinach or whatever the particular storyteller chooses. The butcher said he was expecting some from a man in Oswestry. The man came but there were no damsons. He brought me home some Victoria Plums instead. Give me a call, tomorrow, Deri the butcher told him, I might have some in then.
I do get too hung up on completing things. It’s a need for order, I know. To wrap things up, to get things done. To feel satisfied, at peace with myself. And yet, I so often don’t, not till long after. I always remember the character Edith Hope in Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac bathing and changing her clothes after spending a day writing, made grubby by the work. I usually feel the same when I put away my work for the day, that same slight sordidness of not quite doing it well enough. The feelings of childhood linger. Never being good enough. Yes. Always. And with each piece of work I long to feel that. Perhaps I don’t know how to. Order helps. It is on the surface only, how can it be otherwise? The world is disorder. We do our best in our small ways. And mine is even smaller. I don’t mind. I have much to do. To try to solve. And there are wonderful compensations. Though they too seem small, though they are not.
Trevor’s short stories captivate me. I watch my own life as I read. It’s the detail he captures that enthralls.
Much to do today. All those little pieces to pull together. More anon.
It came into my mind just before I woke. I think it was the question rather than the name. Or was the question mine? Sleep and dreams confound me. Not in an uncomfortable way. No, I love their unreasonableness, their serendipity and flights of fancy. Last night I returned to a dream I’d been having before I went for a pee. I rarely do that, though I’ve sometimes wanted to. I’d gone to Australia. I think it was an escape, a holiday. I’d gone on a whim, not telling anyone. I was full of expectation of adventure. But the details of what I’d left behind and how I was going to manage still niggled at me. I remember snippets. My suddenly realising that I wouldn’t be able to call him and then his being there in Aus with me and telling him. He seemed unbothered. Will you email? I asked. I suppose so, he said. I remember a long road and walking down in it a half-light filled with such sensations of freedom and hope. Then being concerned that I’d lost him by wandering off and that he didn’t know where I was. I asked a woman in deshabille where the airport was. She told me it was in the direction I was going up some narrow, rickety stairs with rope banisters. It wasn’t the route I’d recognised. I kept going back and forth with time. Once I was on the plane and my sister was telling me that she always travelled in her dressing gown. Then I was in Aus staying in a University Halls of some sort. My room was a tiny cabin and it was daylight and several lecturers were in corridors marking essays, one was talking to a cat. I had a meeting with a principal who was talking to a very luxurious dark-haired woman who had a wadge of notes. They were for me but the principal wanted some change from me. I told her I’d go back to my room to check whether I had any. I recall the notes were huge and dark blue. I cannot remember what the denomination was called. It doesn’t make sense, of course it doesn’t but I recognise some of the imagery and from where it has come. I hang onto the sensations though. They were nice.
A piece of music playing on Radio 3 as I went downstairs to wake him for breakfast. A choral piece by a German choir. It’s title was ‘Bird Tempting’. Caterwauling, my mother would’ve called it.
I watched her as she walked around the wasteland. She had her stick but her legs were still a little stilted, and unsteady. For 101 years old she is remarkable. Her gender is less and less defined. The roundness has been eroded. Her elasticated-waist trousers hang from her, flapping loosely at the ankles. There is no bottom. She walks there everyday, she tells us. (It has taken several attempts to attract her attention, for she is profoundly deaf.) She asks if we sit there for long. Is she worried about us getting too much sun? Don’t let me disturb you, she says and walks away to sit for awhile on a pile of bent railings. She seems to accept the gracelessness of this open ground as we do. Making the best of what is available until it won’t be. There’s a digger there now, so it won’t be. Our garden. And hers.
It smelt of autumn this morning. The wind was blustery and too much for my puny umbrella. And it didn’t feel like the 19 degrees that they’d promised. I walked but longed to return home. I’m not quite right. A bladder infection, I think. Everything aches. The aching makes me acutely aware of my skeleton, the bones of me. And I’ve a touch of sciatica too. Age. Age hurts. Or at least if not hurts it reminds one of infirmity. The approach of it. I’ve much to do, else I’d go back to bed and sleep it off.
A pot of tea soon and then get down to it. The piece is still clumsy in its rawness. I’ve much to do.
I read William Trevor’s seemingly simple prose and ache to learn. It is an aching. An aching to find a voice that is true. I can apply the same principles to all that I do, that of not reaching to be more than I am. To just tell the story as succinctly as I can. It is enough. It is always enough. She was articulate. Does that make my job harder or easier? It is difficult to say. Let her tell it. I am but a conduit. That is all and that is enough.
A grey start. The morning light struggles to make itself known. A mizzly rain, hardly there at all.
I think I am sanguine about the pandemic but it invades my dreams.
Literature sustains me. No, it does more than that it nourishes me. I like to take it nice and slow like my food, chewing over it so that every burst of sensation, of taste is acknowledged and felt. I listen and read. They are different but the ingestion, in the end, is the same. Yesterday, while working, it was George Eliot’s Silas Marner – read to me rather than adapted and acted out. Sean Baker read it. He has a marvellous voice, rich, throaty, real. At breakfast it was William Trevor’s Last Stories. How exquisitely he writes. So succinct. So much left out and yet you think afterwards that he has told you. He hasn’t. They are full of compassion, of sadness. The sadness of lonely rooms with too little light. I read to learn but I also read to live.
There is a small accumulation of mould on some of his bathroom tiles. It has been there since we moved in over 5 years ago. I spray it with a de-moulder and leave it soak in. The spray smells of swimming pools. It doesn’t work. I scrub away at it with a toothbrush, bought specifically for the purpose. It won’t shift. So be it. It will have to be another one of those flaws I must learn to accept and live with.
I made him toast for breakfast. I sometimes spread it with honey but he prefers jam. I love the smell of toasted bread. It lingers up there long after the grill has been turned off. I think I love it more that I no longer eat bread. Brown bread toasted is the best. It has a deeper aroma when grilled, the caramelising of the grains and sugars are more honey-ed more nutty. It smells of comfort, of home, of safety and familiarity. When he has gone from me I will no long smell it.
Yet another phrase that entered my head as I woke. I never know to what they refer but I like that for that. Gift? Possibly. It is written. It is done. Afterwards other ways of tackling it come forward. It is enough. I did my best. Last night I dreamt of a friend, amongst other things. Not a close friend but there is an attachment. We were talking of one of her children. They have all been given biblical names but the one I called him, as did she (did I take the cue from her or vice versa) was wrong. I knew it was wrong in my dream but it was only on waking that I realised what his real name is. I cannot remember the rest, not like the dream from the night before when it all came forward, the immense richness of it – blackened hands, costumes, foreign lands, newly-acquired brothers’ in-law, old-fashioned sweet shops (was it a sweet shop?).
A colder morning than of late with a strong gusting northerly wind. I hear him outside the door preparing to go for his walk. The sky has opened up to blue and even some soon. It’s one of those immense Titian skies.
The wasps are beginning to come into the house. One came in early while we were at breakfast. It was clearly disorientated, bless it, diving about everywhere and eventually flying down behind the radiator. Are they dying? That is the impression my mother always used to give – that come September they would start acting weirdly because of their approaching demise. She didn’t say it like that of course. The spiders are in too. At least one was, in bath yesterday. One of those spindly-legged ones. Why they go into baths when they can’t get out again, who knows? I helped it or him or her out and she, he or it clambered across the floor and then up the wall to take rest under my mirror. I want to learn to love them. I can accept them but they still make me a little uncomfortable. We all have our part to play. Don’t we?
Edgy with the writing work I have to complete today. It’s still very rough and clunky. It is never easy for me. I fret so much about making it right. Let it go smoothly. Help me to be clear, unpretentious and honest. It is enough, that.
We aren’t alone in using the small piece of wasteland that is due to be built upon for our garden. The other day the ‘house-husband’ who I’d always thought of as Dutch, on account of his tallness and amiability, but is in fact Eastern European, was sitting on the edges of it with his little daughter having a tea party. He’d wanted to go somewhere on the bike with her but she’d insisted in placing her red plastic table and chairs there. Does she always get what she wants? I asked him. Mostly, he said with a rueful smile. At least that is what I took it as. One has to be so careful about other people’s children. It wasn’t a criticism but could so easily be taken as one. She clearly is a tour de force. A beauty, with her cloud of blonde hair, but a handful. And then a day or so later our 101 year old neighbour turned up. Are you sitting in the sun? she asked. Yes, we replied. I usually sit here for a bit each day, she said and promptly turned her back on us and perched down on the edge of a pile of metal fencing. She sat there for about ten minutes staring back over the estate. We continued with our crossword though I felt distinctly uncomfortable sitting on a chair when she had to sit on some bent fencing. But she seemed happy enough, till she eventually raised herself up and shuffled off. Why shouldn’t they use it? It’s everyone’s but it unsettled me and him I think.
She was lovely. And I wish that nerves didn’t assail me so. The writing will happen if I just sit with it and let it unfold, open out. All will be well, is well.
I walked in the rain. The air smelt nice, clean and wet. Can’t you just knock it on the head for one day? he’d asked. No, I need some fresh air, I replied. And I do. I did.
To work. 1,000 words to do today. First draft. Get it down. On that white.