Walter

I’m not good with spontaneity. I’m not good with the unexpected. I rise to it. I’m a stalwart. But I’d rather know what is coming, so that I can plan and be ready. And yet I have a job that is all about the moment, responding to the now. The boys are out. They are safe and the media is in a flurry even here in the sticks. He is the top man, a spokesman and they all want a part of him. For now. It will die down, it always does. It was TV last night. He was nervous, his voice breaking a little. Understandable, it isn’t easy talking down the line to a faceless camera in a noisy office. I tried to wish him calm. I’m here, I wanted to say, you are not alone. And then the threat of another late one. Newsnight. My heart sinking. What of my sleep? And then relief, they’d booked my colleague. I would’ve done it. I’m a stalwart.

I want to write today. Not for anybody but myself. I saw the show. It surprised me. I thought I knew his work. I didn’t. I don’t know what to say, not yet. It will come. He said hello. I don’t know whether he remembers my name or not, it doesn’t matter. He knows me. And that felt good. I was making sketches of the work and he led me into the other gallery to talk about the ceramic show. Even lifting up a tiny porcelain pot for me to hold. I love porcelain, he says, I love it’s unevenness. I didn’t have long, but didn’t want to be rude. And I was pleased to be noticed. He followed me back into the other gallery and we talked about his work. He left me only to come back again with a signed book. You get it, he said, it’s because you get it. We discussed collectors. They’re all getting old, he said. The young don’t buy. They don’t have the money. Yes, I said. He told me of a tea set he had and some cups by Walter Keeler. The tea set was expensive. I asked if he used it. For special occasions or on a Sunday, he said. It depends on what I’m drinking, he said. If it’s herb tea it’s always a Walter. He waved when I went. It felt good. I felt good. Happy. Yesterday was a happy day.

Trips

I like our trips, he says. But he is tired this morning, so I have relaxed my rigour and suggested he sleep for an hour before we set off. I am eager to be gone, to be off, to be on the road. I didn’t think we’d make it. Work has been busy but no phone calls so far, so we are to go. The exhibition closes this week so it is the last chance. Shall I write about it? I’d like to. At least have a go. The choice is mine, and that is nice. Though I rarely write for money. There is nothing in it. But usually I am encouraged to do it by being commissioned, there is someone expecting it. This way is different. We’ll see.

I saw her again today. A large girl, tall and broad in a summer dress and flip flops. She was walking as I do in the early hours, on the Prom. I saw her near the newsagent just up from the castle. She was wearing the same cotton dress. She looked a little distrait. Aimless, even. I often see wanderers at that time. Wanderers like me. Insomniacs, the homeless, students, night-workers and revellers. There is the woman who always wears a hoodie and carries a plastic bag. She smokes as she walks. And the homeless man in the blue cap. And the one with the crutches. I wish them well, muttering salutations quietly as I pass them. Mostly, there is no eye contact.

A short one today. Safe journey. The day bodes well.

Rush

Rush, rush, rush. It began with a text followed by another text and another last night. Breaking news. The Today programme then Good Morning Wales. I understand it is beyond their control and that David Davies’s resignation was unexpected, as was the death of that poor woman. And I know it is petty but my plans go awry. It is better that I don’t make them, perhaps? Just let life be. Here it is, throw it to the wind and see what happens. Nevertheless it is almost all done, but no time to sit and stare. The Chinese grandfather was out again this morning as we rushed to the supermarket. Staring at plants this time. A meditation? I love their quietness. A cultural thing, I think.

It was a gentle morning, only a few kids outside the Why Not? club chanting, John, John, John. Who or what John was God only knows?

I listened to Philip Treacy on DID yesterday. Such a gentle being. I loved his statement about wanting to sew as a child, grabbing moments at his mother’s sewing machine when she went out to feed the pigs.

And more about sewing, or hands to be more specific in Sennet’s The Craftsman. He writes about monotonous tasks and about their process in our learning finesse. It’s about rhythm, he states. Yes, that is it. I want to deconstruct it. Why do I want to sew? What is the calmness it induces? Monotony, no, familiarity, yes. Treacy talked about the pleasure of joining two pieces of material together. For me it is the in-out, the flow of the hand. Always.

Time. I clutch at it. He is calmer today. I hold him. I hold him fast. It will be alright my love. I promise.

Clinician

I was thrown a little yesterday. It is always the same when I have to work at the weekend. The usual world-order is cast awry. I felt out of sorts. They were nice enough, but I was an oddity, and the language separated us, as it usually does. I did my sewing regardless. After a while it balanced me, grounded me. But my foot swelled. Then there was the football game. He watched it during supper, his iPad resting on the table in front of him. So I did the crossword alone. There were just three we couldn’t do. (England’s win meant he could take over halfway through.) One was a music one, ending in o. The other two were a doctor who works directly with patients and something that separates. We couldn’t get them. Surely all doctors work with patients, he said. Not if they’re doing research, I said. No, I suppose not, he said. I was in bed when they came. He’d just left me and I called out to him. It’s clinician, I said. And spacer.

The Prom was busy this morning. People leaving the clubs. Mostly middle-aged couples though there were a few young ones. A strong smell of fried chicken hung near the Pier Pressure night club out of which the music throbbed. A group of kids walked past me. A blonde girl in an orange boob tube was shouting to her friends. Do you remember when we went on a club-crawl and then we had a fight….

Someone had pitched a tent on South Beach with a wind sheet next to it. Voices were coming from the tent. Oh, my God, said a female voice, that’s amazing.

The perfume emanating from the honeysuckle, elderflower, lavender and petunias carried me along. I hold myself so tight with the discomfort of my sprained foot. But I need to be out, moving and experiencing the dawning day.

Turning down the road towards the station I can hear someone running behind me. I look round several times. Its a man in a hoodie. Is he out jogging? I let him run ahead of me and then watch as his foot misses the pavement and turns over.

Are you OK? I ask, stopping.

I think I’ve twisted my ankle, he says.

Have you far to go? I ask.

No, he says. I was just fetching some wood for our fire, he says as he hobbles towards some bags of kindling that had been laid against a wall. I’ll be alright, he says.

When he said fire I’d imagined a wood burner in a kitchen or living room. Then it dawned on me, he meant a fire on the beach. I’d seen a group around some embers, one with a grey trilby.

I’ve printed out Psalm 23. We listened to it on the Midwife. It is beautiful and so comforting. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

The rooks scrap and screech outside. We hear them scratching on our roof.

The morning breaks and the day is going to be lovely. Sewing and HT’s quilt beckons. As always I’ve no idea what I am doing. But it is a gift. It is what I can give. My time. Make it lovely. Make it divine. Amen to that.

Seagull Fledgling

We’ve seen him a few times now. How do you know he is he? he asked as we sat on our bench on North Road looking down onto the bowling green. I don’t, I said, but I’m am assuming he is. What shall we call him? he asked. Frank, I said, Frank Fledgling.

We first saw him a couple of days ago, shading from the sun behind a flowerpot that had been placed along the edge of the green. He was making a racket, wailing and cawing for it’s parent. One came eventually, though whether it was mother or father, who can say? She or he didn’t seem to do much. It came to rest by the fledgling for a while before wandering off. I didn’t see it feed the youngster, or comfort it. The players seemed unconcerned. Perhaps the parents nest there every year. Frank wasn’t crying when we saw him yesterday. Though he was at his usual spot, shading himself in the shadow of the pot. No parent appeared. Is his adolescence now complete?

The green is no longer green. They were playing a match yesterday. Two players and a referee and one spectator. A wife, probably, he said. One was a real natty chap. Do they have to have special shoes? I asked.

One day we saw a white dog bound onto the grass when a match was being played. It’s owner was sanguine, the dog’s lead hanging, nonchalantly from his neck.

He was standing looking at a heap of builder’s rubble that had been taken over by weeds. He was still in his pyjamas. He didn’t raise his head when we walked towards the car. It’s the Chinese Grandfather, he said. He remained still, his gaze caught. Is he meditating, do you think? I asked. They are a nice family. One little boy and an adoring mother. She’s made a little garden outside her flat’s front door. A large oblong planter serves as washing line too. Everything is neat, just so.

I’m off to work soon. A three hour stint. A busy morning and I am tired, already.

I shall take my sewing in. Will I be self-conscious?

He talked such sense yesterday. I am grateful.

Indecision

He doesn’t want to go. I knew this but hadn’t really acknowledged it. I am sorry for it. I want to make him feel OK. He was worried about telling me. The worry turns into anxiety, too easily. We are not so different. I too want to stay still, keep within the tracks of our routinous life. Although it isn’t really, any moment our plans are upended by work. But mostly it is still. I understand. Travelling is a challenge, as is unfamiliarity and being out of control. I understand, I feel the same way. But I need to see through my promises, I won’t let people down. I have to move, to go forward and mostly I see the adventure. Nothing is still, not really. It is always shifting, tiny steps but life is moving. Better go and greet it than have it take you unawares. Put it over there, I say to him. It is weeks off. Put it in a box. And keep a door open for the possibility of it happening, of it being alright. He might not go, or he may. I must support him in whatever he chooses. With my fingers crossed that he will come, with me and see life.

I am so indecisive. Shall I do this or that today? I try to impose some order on it. There are no deadlines, no exhibitions, no buyers, no urgency to finish. And yet, I need to see ends, to see completions, if only for the satisfaction of them. I want to complete them. I am uncomfortable with drawers full of half-started projects. Else how can I know that they have worked? Is there an answer? Shall I finish them all and re-perform them? Is this a giant, waste-of-time cul-de-sac? How will I know? I cannot know. Just put one foot in front of the other till an answer comes. And if it doesn’t? Do it anyway.

Find the joy in it. Even if it is just the thread weaving in and out. Honour it. Honour the work for where it is taking you. And pay attention.

Nightwatching

I spend so much of the time in my head rubbishing myself.

What is that about? Where did I learn to do that? Many believe that it is a waste of time trying to unearth the beginnings of such negativity, that is much better to concentrate on changing one’s attitude. I can see the efficacy of this. I know that I learnt it from one who’d learnt it from another. A chain of self-loathing. And yet, there is a core of me that is at peace with myself, who does in fact like who I am, who I’ve become and indeed, always have been. I think about myself as a child and often invite her to walk with me. I like her. She is reserved, self-contained, serious but kind. Acutely aware of others, she listens, pays attention and does what she can to make everything OK. She is not demonstratively brave but is quietly courageous in her endeavours. She is my source, my beginning, she made herself. The rest is borrowed, a hand-me-down bag of fears, self-consciousnesses and uncertainties. Am I good enough? Is what I am doing good enough? Am I loved? Am I loveable? My inner voices and no doubt hers. Though she displayed her fears differently to me. She hit out, defended while I hid, cowed.

This is it. This is the sum of my life. So be it. It is enough if I look at it deeply enough. If I pay attention. I had hoped for something bigger, and yet, I know that in creating the bigger, the wider much of the detail would’ve been overlooked. I want to be good at everything from the inner world to the outer. And I need time. I need quiet. And I need to be at peace. I learnt to strive, to push myself. I know nothing else. And it is this that I need to unlearn. ‘A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest’, wrote Einstein. Yes. But how does one yield to the modest, when the ego cries out to be noticed? A life challenge, I think.

So I pay attention. I see the moth resting on the outer side of the window, its wings fanned out, pressed flat against the glass. I hear the voices from the dark beach as I walk in the late night hours. Those clusters of youngsters, huddled in duvets, daring the night with their vigils. The air smells good, everything is intensified, even the petunias by South Beach smell sweet. I listen to the radio, just as intensely, and the dramas become my own. L. P. Hartley’s short story, Night Fears, about a night watchman dogged by a dangerous stranger, Val McDermid’s crime story about a ‘Fat Club’ with its wry narrator and the trilogy about the land girls. They all play into my work, literally, as I write them out in cross-stitch.

We are re-watching the Midwife, and my mind harangues me for not doing something more useful. I jump from longing to be a baker to being nurse. How would I fare? How would it feel to spend your day being kind, saving lives, preventing pain? What do I do for others? You won’t be disappointed, he said. Am I disappointed? My longing for bigness is an ego thing. That searching for rightness. And yet, the peace, the serenity is in accepting what is. And this is what is. I have time. I can write. I can make. I make some money. It is enough. I care for him. I tend to our needs. I keep a gentle momentum. I please him. Is that enough? It is more than most have. And my work? I carry it within me. I am writing it out. I am making it out. Does it matter if it isn’t seen or read? I feel my time, my allotted days and wait for wisdom. That greater knowing. That perfect understanding that all is as it should be. And it is.

 

I dreamt of a diamond ring. I’d put it in my mouth. I carried it in my mouth, feeling it on my tongue.

Elderflowers

The warmth of the nights seems to increase the headiness of the perfume emanating from the shrubs and flowers. The elderflower bushes on St David’s Road and the on North Road are particularly pungent. Gorgeous. I love it. I could lose myself in their aroma. Just like the jasmine in Spain. Stunning. I drink it in. I plan my walking route around it when I’m there. The tree at the end of the road, then the one in Capistrano and then later, nearer town the one on the corner by the Asian restaurant. The smell roots me, lifts me, lessens the fear. A comfort. Smells have always been a comfort.

I remembered a little of my dream yesterday. She was in it. I wanted to feed her. She was tired and wanted to get back to the baby. Eat, I said, wanting her to make herself strong. She relented in the end and began eating the rolls of unbuttered brown bread I’d put out for her. Is the bread a symbolic detail, seeing as I don’t eat it? Then she’d talked about a stall at the weekend. She was showing some of her work, jewellery I think. My sister, she said, wouldn’t be able to make it.

I walked with a stick this morning. It was to give me confidence. I can walk, but my foot is sore. I’ve pulled something, my gait has gone awry. I feel every step. Not a bad thing. I fastened a bag of ice to it when I came home. Attached with a rubber band. It soothed it.

A cat miaows below. A moaning sound. Well, a kind of moaning wail, with its mouth open. I can’t see it. The rooks of the roof sound agitated. Can they see it? Are they warning each other?

I’m lost again. London is over. I’ve written the piece. What now? Do I finish the tapestries? Then what? I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself if my life had been different. I’m an artist and writer, it is natural to me to make, to respond to my ideas, to produce. But I have other qualities too. I like order, I like to solve problems. And I like to earn my keep. What else can I do but accept what is? This is what I am, I must make the best of it. And cherish the details.

I’ve finished the two commissions and got low over it. I couldn’t give them all they asked for and now I wait for his yea or nay. A pot-boiler. They are pot-boilers but I still want to do the best I can.

The rooks have gone silent.

A man was playing a guitar and singing by the shelter on the Prom this morning. He didn’t stop when I walked past. A few people wandered about. A tall boy with extremely long legs was sitting on a bench just up from Pier Pressure eating fried chicken from a box. He raised his head to look at me but continued eating.

Another lovely morning. What a boon. A gentle day today. All I can do is wait to see if he is happy. Work offers sessions only to cancel them again. So be it. Can I accept it? Can I just yield to the see-saw of it all. And trust?

Blackcurrants

A dear friend sent me some blackcurrants from her garden. She’d wrapped them with such care. First they were enfolded layers of kitchen roll, then enclosed in a Tupperware box, sealed with gaffer tape and then finally in brown paper. They got here in one piece. Nothing squashed, just a little warm. What a lovely thing. A gift from her garden, smelling of summer. I love that taste, the tartness and they way they coat the tongue.

I keep asking that I remember my dreams. It hasn’t worked so well recently. I get glimmers, I know that so and so has featured, and I have a sense of place, but the details, the meanings are lost. I have a recurring one. A dream that I seem to revisit, or at least I believe I have most nights. Its about me trying to find a restaurant. I’ve been there in the past and they gave me what I wanted but each time I look for it (and it is in this kind of open-air market/mall with white painted floors) it is either gone, closed or I can’t find it. It is foreign, unfamiliar yet familiar. Small and intimate. Its also on an upper floor. I have to climb to find it.

Two large groups of gulls gathered on the shore line. Evenly spaced, all of them had their heads turned to the North.

On South Beach a man was bending down over the embers of a fire blowing them into life. His dog was tethered to a rock, sitting waiting on the sand to be called for.

Most of the students from the Alexandra Hall have gone home for the holidays. One window was alight as I walked past. It was shimmering, alive with brightly coloured spots spinning around inside the room. A mirror-ball effect, a rainbow of colour. It lifted me.

My foot is kaput. I still walk but I have to consider every step. Something is misaligned. I think of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid and how she felt she was walking on knives after exchanging her tail for legs. Pain is a great leveller. It is wisdom-bringing. I need to harness it. I think of my gait, my posture, each step is felt. I will improve.

A beautiful morning, the sea was a millpond. The stink of fish hung around the harbour. Work now. Sit, then tea, then work. Bonjour.

Beetroot

I’ve told you of his habit of quizzing me on birthdays over breakfast, haven’t I? He reads the names from The Times and I have to guess their ages. It’s mostly celebrities and authors, some politicians and some sportsmen, though with the latter he usually says, you may not know him or her. When did they play? I ask, then I can give a rough guess based on how old I was at time. How about some beetroot? he said this morning. Beetroot? he said to himself, before I had a chance to question him. Beetroot? he said again, I meant birthdays. Sometimes I get them spot on. But I was way out with Olivia de Havilland. Over a hundred I think he said. And I was right out with Carl Lewis. I like it. He is usually impressed, and I bask in it. A little thing. A cosy thing.

I’ve cleaned the house before it got too hot. Three hours from 6.30 to 9.30 am. And we went shopping first. And I did some of the windows. I do find cleaning windows a challenge. It’s so unsatisfactory. I don’t have the skill to make them mark free and in the sun the blemishes stand out a mile. I remember doing the windows as an au pair for the first time. The family had windows everywhere, from floor to ceiling. I was given vinegar and newspaper to clean them with. It was messy and frustrating. And then she’d come home and point out the marks and I’d have to do them all over again. I didn’t mind. I understood and shared her wish for perfection. It isn’t so now. She has relaxed into a more smeary kind of living. She is old now, though still energetic, and perhaps doesn’t see or care as she did. Other things have taken over. He hasn’t long, she tells me on the phone. I want to go and see them. It is so far away, and so expensive. But it is in my heart to do so and I will make it happen. By hook or by crook. What does that mean?

Small gangs of boys haunted the town this morning. Feral lads on the prowl. My back stiffens. Two on the Prom, stopping every two minutes to check their phones. Another group running along South Road. Another three in the Castle Playground. The Perygyl was mine though.

Why are you so bad-tempered? he asked last night. He lost his temper with me. It is rare. But I was scratchy. I had been all day. I couldn’t articulate it. Then it came, the tears and then the laughing. All that bile, all that disappointment. That’s why your tummy was out, yesterday, he said. Yes. It was. I hadn’t realised it. What a nightmare, he said, when I told him of the day. The stress of being amongst strangers, the discordance of us all, the flies, the ridiculous expressive dancing, the blue shorts, the pants showing under skirts. I made him laugh. It was better. He understood and so did I.

I dreamt that Jennifer in The Archers committed suicide and I was the one who broke the news to Brian. They hadn’t been told. How did I know? Had I seen the script? I felt sorry for them. They would probably be written out of the show. I could see the fear across Brian’s face – he didn’t care about Jennifer. What a bizarre thing to dream about, he said, when I told him. Do you think so? I said.

I love the summer sounds. I can hear rooks, cawing and a peeping sound coming from the Quad down below. Is it someone’s fire alarm in need of a new battery? Generators, lawn mowers, and children’s laughter. The noise collects and hangs in the air like a sound cloud. It makes me happy. I like to be around people. At a distance but part of it. I do care deeply. Really.

He was sitting on a corner of Llanbadarn Road. He recognised him by the crutches. He was in the shade. That’s the lad I spoke to the other day, he said. I remembered, he’d told me he’d wanted to see if there was work in the fishing tackle shop. What can we do? I asked. Shall we ask him in for dinner? No, he said, you don’t know what you are letting yourself in for. I know. I know. Then he told me of the homeless man who killed a mother and daughter. I want to open up. I want to help but the intimacy of it is always a stopper. Always.

Give me the grace to do what I can. x