Weasel

The Welsh thing really gets to him. There was a man at the doctor’s, he said, he was behind me in the queue and I gestured for him to go ahead of me. And he replied in Welsh. And I told him, in English, that I didn’t speak Welsh. Were you rude about it? I asked. No, he said, I was polite. And do you know what? What? He continued to speak to me in Welsh. They make it worse for themselves, he said. They get people’s backs up.

I don’t know how I feel about it. I listen to them in the studio, chattering away and if I’m happy to be separate, it is a nice, pleasant hum. I can tune out, willingly. But if I’m feeling low, or isolated the sounds are harsh. It was the same with Norwegian. Language can make one welcome or unwelcome. No, that’s not strictly true, language couldn’t care less, it is the users, the manipulators of the language that do that. I think of the Irishman, and the Breton girl, both happy to embrace Welsh. I am too affected by him over this. I try not to be, but I absorb his hurt. It makes him feel less Welsh in his hometown. Or at least that is what he believes. Fucking Welshies, he says. Fuck ’em.

The smell of bonfires was gorgeous yesterday morning. How to describe it? Smells are tricky and too often conjured up via hackneyed phrases. That smokiness. Dry, sharp, almost acrid, it catches in the throat. Get to close and your eyes smart. It is a grey-black smell. But hot.

3.45 am and a girl in shorts runs barefoot across the main road beyond the Prom to her car, her feet tiptoeing on the tarmac.

Three rock pipits twee-twee from the rocks by the Perygyl.  I cannot see them.

The sky is a mass of stars.

Walking back home along Llanbadarn Road an animal runs along the pavement, and crosses the road. In the semi-darkness it is hard to see what it is. Is it a cat? No, it’s too small and its back is arched upwards, a mound, a moving, skittering hillock. Is it a weasel, or a stoat? Surely not. They are countryside, not urban creatures, aren’t they? But there is a stink. A smell, not of cat, more like fox. A sharp, hot, bitter stink. The shadows swallow it up.

New work. Always new things to learn. Be with it.

Two hours of Diski. I read of her cancer treatment. Hard going. She doesn’t mince her words. I am sorry. She was spiky. And why not? It is authentic, that not wanting to be nice. Nice. Nice.

Sweet Peas

I saw them in the supermarket. Not as packets of seeds but as little plants, their twisty, frond-like stems already emerging. I longed for a garden then. Their scent intoxicates me. I remember two years on the trot when I managed to grow them by our kitchen door. Lovely. That burst of joy at their sweetness. I failed to grow them from seed in Cornwall. Nothing. No show. Could I plant them in a pot and put them on the flat roof outside? Would there be enough sun? I’d have them to cut. The more you cut the more they grow. But I lack the paraphernalia. Trowels, top soil, mulch. All that stuff that I hear them talk of on Gardener’s World. One of my fantasies is to be invited onto Desert Island Discs. And what will you do on that island all alone? Kirsty Young will ask me. I’ll learn how to garden.

Back in list mode. There is too much to mention. I have a little pile of post-it notes, lurid orange and green and torn sketchbook pages and even some scraps of newsprint, scribbled on during breakfast. It all backs up when we go away. Two away days last week. Mobberley then Hay. More of that later.

First. Chats in Morrisons. Our favourite till person. She warms to us. She talks now. It all came out. I can’t remember the question that prompted it. I’d joked about cross stitching being more exciting than going out to Rummers (our local wine bar, positioned somewhat bemusingly next to the town sewerage plant). No one at the moment? I’d  asked. Then we’d talked about surnames. For the moment it’s ____ she’d said – revealing a surname shared with a famous sixties actress who had had a fling with Prince Charles. Oh, do you intend to change it again? we’d asked. Not likely, she’d said, laughing. I’ve had three already. Three marriages. We found ourselves looking at her afresh. Well, well, we said. Then she listed the ways in which they left her.  Fifty ways. One had a kid and a girlfriend on the side, another went off to Denver, Colorado and the other, she’d spat, went off with a trollope. Well, well, we said. Well, well.

I have a head full. A head full of ideas. And yet, there is this domestic pull. Just like Mole in Wind in the Willows I want to spring clean. I want to wipe down skirting boards, clear out cupboards, wash windows, defrost the fridge, bag up old clothes, and make the flat smell like new.

At work I read Jenny Diski’s In Gratitude. A book about her cancer and her relationship with Doris Lessing, a surrogate-mother (sort-of) to her when in her teens. I am so absorbed that sometimes I cannot separate me from her and vice versa. In her foreword Anne Enright wrote about how ‘shifting between genres helps a ‘writer’ (and for this also read artist) dodge judgement, it also confounds some sense of authority…’ I raised this with him in the car as we drove to Cheshire. I do the same, I said. He didn’t agree. And yet, it had pinged in my head. A flash of recognition. Perhaps I am being too sponge-like again. Yet, I cannot help it. It is how I traverse this life, feeling intensely for others, being of the same skin. (A scribbled note accompanied this quote – order Diski’s other book, called something like ‘smoking in bed’ and read her past articles for The London Review of Books.)

Sometimes I don’t know what to write. It is too much. The experience beyond sense. Beyond understanding. We snapped at each other afterwards. Nasty words. Sharp tongues. I was sorry. He was sorry. It was me. It was all those feelings that I couldn’t make sense of. He is so changed. It is what, six months, nine months since we last visited? My sister had warned me of the loss of teeth (skin cancer does that apparently) but I thought he’d be the same mentally. He wasn’t.

Take the lift to the second floor and ring the bell. Numbers are punched and the door opens. We ask for him and she gestures to a figure at a table with two others. His head is tiny and his body, once huge, has shrunk. He has what looks like a white skull cap affixed to his pate. I touch him. Say his name. Nothing. No recognition. Eyes dead. He is humming, singing, making noises. He used to do this when telling stories. He’d used accents, booming them out. He thought he was good at it. Didn’t mind the attention. This is gibberish. This is nonsense. I sit across from him my hands on his knees, looking into his eyes. He stares back. His singing gets louder then stops. He calls me a nice lady. Is this your husband? In his hand he holds a spoon and half a piece of toast wrapped up in a napkin. He bangs it on the table. I tell him my name and he makes up a song with it. That’s not very nice, he says, do you want to marry me? He smells of decay. His teeth are rotting. There are gaps along the front. His clothes hang off him. There is a label with his name on his belt. We don’t stay long. I kiss him goodbye, hold his hand. He accepts the touching without questioning it. His neck smells of aftershave. He talked of the office, of having people who are looking after things for him. He cannot find the right words, but it calms him talking of it. That was his power, his sense of self. My name was unfamiliar to him. It was nothing. I am nothing.

A slow death, she called it. We’d sprung ourselves upon her. I needed the comfort of her. Her neatness, her smallness, her cosiness. Surrogate mothers, I seek them everywhere. You’ll have to take me as you find me, she’d said over the phone. Had I irritated her, coming unannounced? But then it was alright. She hugged us, made tea, brought slices of cake and we talked. Her house was a little chilly. The tea out of the best china was good. I needed that. I needed her. How was he? she asked. We told her. Ah, she said, it’s a slow death.

Then the next day sitting in a bookshop in front of camera, talking. The sun flooding in. The smell of books. Shoes-off in an armchair. Did I give her what she wanted? Not sure.

Walking my early morning walk with an umbrella. I liked the patter. I felt protected. Windless. Two students. I saw their shadows first – looming up across the castle wall. He wore a parka, a furry-lined hood over his head against the rain. They both carried plastic cartons of food. It’s kinda mad, she was saying as they passed me on the steps. Then by The Angel, a girl in patterned leggings standing outside Pizza Lush. Such perfect bodies. And another in a black silk shirt-dress, a coat held over her blonde hair. Her legs in skin-coloured tights. Moments of stillness as I walk by. Beauty. Time stops then continues. Voices. Snap-shots. Then I am home scribbling it down on paper before it is lost. And yet, it is lost, most of it. That heightened looking, that intensity is lost in the flatness of daylight. It is inevitable.

Off to make waffles now? I asked her as I dropped the studio line. Yes, she said, it’s a weekend tradition. She’d come in to talk about Trump. So soft, dulcet like a meringue.

Enough, now. I’ve paperwork to do and a fridge to defrost. Heigh-ho.

Fire

I write in my head as I walk. I don’t want to but it is compulsive. Jenny Diski claimed that writing was a means of escaping the nothingness. Yes, I concur. I do it for that. I name things, I make stories in my head, keeping up a continual descriptive chatter. For me it is about documenting, circumnavigating my presence as watcher, observer. Never, ever as participator.

I make mental lists, chanting them to myself as a make my way home before they are not lost. Shorthand scribblings, scratched on my brain. I am immersed in her writings, and even as I write this I am aware of a new self-consciousness. In her shadow. Nonsense she would probably have said. Be yourself. It is enough. Or perhaps she wouldn’t have. Being nice wasn’t her way it seems. And good for her. That, I cannot shake off. So to the lists, or the lurid green not-so-sticky post-it notes.

Our friend on the check-out at Morrisons talking about knitting. I’d asked what she did in her spare time. Knit. Knit jumpers. I like Aran patterns, she said. She’s knitting a seamless one at the moment. With summer coming, she said. A circular needle, I asked. No, she said, just long ones. It’s really heavy. I also crochet and cross stitch. There’s no man at the moment. No Friday nights at Rummers. I’m too hot-headed, she said.

It was always him that did it. Chat to people, that is. Strangers. I hated it then, I wanted anonymity, to keep myself to myself. I do it now. Why? Curiosity? I don’t know, the reasons are complicated. To make a connection, but one that is contained. No coming knocking on our front door. Absolutely not. But sharing the time of day at the checkout. Yes. That’s OK. Howya doing Reg? he asks a short, middle-aged man pushing an electric floor polisher. He turns of the machine and starts to tell him about how they have to carry all the garden produce out onto the front of the shop each morning and back in again at night. It takes two hours each time. It’s a fucking shit-house, says Reg, a fucking shit-house.

There was a union jack flying from the National Library the other day. I’ve never seen a British flag there before. It was at half-mast.

Bits of radio chat. A promo for a late-night programme on Six Live. Jarvis Cocker’s voice whispering about the liminal time between night and morning. The grey line, they call it, he whispers.

The TV on overhead at work. I don’t want to watch it. The voice of a relative of the American killed on Westminster Bridge. They bear no ill will, no grudges. There is no bitterness, he wouldn’t of wanted it, he was a very positive guy, the man, a neat, clean-looking man is saying. Killed by a car driving at 70 miles an hour along the pavement. The dead man’s wife is still in hospital. It was their anniversary. Gone. Over. Such forgiving is humbling.

I catch at things. A magpie. A wanting to understand. To know. All the while knowing I cannot. Words stay with me. A woman writing about dyeing textiles. Using natural dyes. A whole new vocabulary. A layer of meaning, previously unknown to me. Saddening. Saddening is iron in the dye that makes everything a moss-green colour. Saddening.

We’ve spent the weekend nights watching Amy. I expected it to fiction but it was a documentary. Compelling, compulsive – we stayed up long after bedtime. A fragile being for all her mouth. What a voice. Wasting away to a nothing. Poor love. Poor baby. The flash of the paparazzi’s cameras. No peace, no hiding place. Rest in peace. Do you have it now?

There are a row of earth movers down by the harbour, giant monsters that loom in the dark. Why are they there? Two of them stood poised over the entrance to the mouth of the Ystwyth this morning. Are they clearing the river bed?

Yesterday there was a man peeing in one of the Prom shelters. I heard the noise, so distinctive, a stream of liquid hitting concrete. He had his back to me but I could see his face through the little window as he turned to face me, mid-pee.

A girl in black tights and shorts trailing behind a young lad. In one hand she carries a Kentucky Fried Chicken carton, the other is held between her thighs. I’m going to wet myself, she is saying. She moans and wails. He is irritable, striding ahead. We’re almost there, it’s just around the corner. His place? Their first date? They both seemed cross, out of sorts.

On one of the unkempt front lawns of the student houses along Llanbadarn Road there is a sprinkling of primroses.

Walking along South Marine Terrace I hear a flapping. Paper. A line of A4 sheets taped, rather haphazardly, to the glass door and windows of a ground floor flat. I thought it was a warning of Wet Paint, but coming closer I saw that on each was written just one word. Different handwriting, different pens. The script was small, awkwardly penned. Clumsy. One word, in block capitals. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE.

 

Bonfires (5)

I love the smell. The smell of bonfires. The smell of the embers of bonfires on the beach. It’s the sunny weather, students stay up all night on the beach huddled around fires. There were two this morning, the smoke wafting softly across South Marine Terrace. I hear their voices, muted by cold. A rite of passage, I suppose. It’s a warm smell, smoky and rich.

I rush in writing this, I’ve work to do. As always, and too much admin. It sucks up my working time. But I feel better when it is done. An emptying process. I make lists, I fill post-it notes, in an endeavour to do the same, emptying myself, my head of minutiae. What am I emptying myself for? Space. Silence. Non-thinking, non-being? Nothingness. How glorious. Free of concern, free of burden, free of trying too hard to be good. Just being. Like cats, like birds, like trees. Precious unconcern.

He keeps coming into the coffee shop and disturbing his newspaper reading. The butcher. The green-van-owning butcher. He made him laugh yesterday. They were talking about the Welsh predilection for giving people nick names. The butcher told him about a friend of a friend who had gone to prison for murder. He’d shot his wife’s lover. However, he’d applied for a re-trial on the grounds that he’d not intended to pull the trigger but just frighten him by wielding the gun. He got off. And now he is known as Bryn Bang Bang. Others I can recall him telling me about are Dai Top Shop (he and his brother used to run a garage at the ‘top’ of town) and Dai Coat Hanger (his shoulders are permanently up close to his ears). As affectionate as Under Milkwood. Thick-voiced cosy.

My lovely, the courier called me yesterday. Young enough to be my son, I suspect. My lovely. Sign here, my lovely. Miss or Mrs. Ms.

She poured it all out yesterday on the phone. The first time she has mentioned her husband. Now ex. I strain to hear her. Her voice, dulcet is often muffled by wind and dog barks (she is often out walking when I call, and the neighbour’s dog, Bonnie goes with her). (Bonnie had a stroke a couple of weeks back. Her eyes went all funny, she told me. I ask how she is. She’s keeping going. She wants to live, she says.) I didn’t ask too many questions, I just let her talk. Her daughter won’t see him. I got frightened of him, she said. I felt such warmth towards her. She uses my name often. I like it. I feel connected to her. We talked of cremation, of taking flowers to her parents grave. Some daffodils.

Grahame Greene was kind, the writer said. The writer’s book has been serialised on Radio 4 extra, I’ve been listening to it before I walk in the mornings. Graham Greene as mentor, as lodger in his head. He followed in his wake, to Cuba, to America. Kindness. Greene used to send Muriel Spark money so that she could continue to write.

The fish lorry was down by the harbour this morning. No one was about. No fishing boats. The driver must have been asleep in the cab or cosied up in a B&B. There was no fridge noise. No whirring. Silence. I walked the Perygyl. Stars flickered on and off. A seagull traversed the sky, a gliding line of white. Past the Castle then into the wall of noise. Outside The Angel the kids gathered, reeking of stale beer and cigarettes. Swaggering youth. Shouting. Down the hill and crossing the road at Boots Opticians a group of three lads in hoods. Still dark. They come too close, talking gruffly to each other. Do they sell ciggies in garage? one asks his friend. Hackles down, they turn the corner towards the station. No threat, ever.

I am safe. Safe in my nothingness. They do not see me. I like that. I watch, listen and wait.

I pass the Pelican Bakery, open at 6.30 am just like in France and Spain. The early morning flurry of buying breakfast sticks, brioche and croissants. And the buzz of hotel vans collecting their sacks of bread. One-day bread, too dry for the next. Can I have butter, mantequilla por favor, avez-vous du beurre? Daily bread. Our daily bread.

To work. Off. Now. A bientot.

Pyjamas

There is a figure in white, standing, Christ-like by the water’s edge. It is not yet, 3.30 am. It is cold. The roofs of the cars are frosted. The water will be ice. I walk closer and peer down onto the beach as I kick the bar. One, two, three. It is a girl. A young student in pyjamas. She stands immobile, letting the water run over her soft soled shoes. Turning to continue my walk, my heart jolts when I look again and she has gone. Don’t make me go into the water, I plead. What to do. What to do. Do I intervene? I stop and look again. There she is. I hear the crunch of pebbles and watch her return to the Halls entrance. Her arms are bare. She shivers. Her hair is lank by the side of her face.

They seem immune to the cold. The young. I see them coming out of the clubs in the early hours, t-shirted or short-skirted. The girls skittering in heels.

My coffee is percolating and I stand at our living room window looking down onto the quadrangle below. The man with the basement floor flat is cutting his nails, letting the parings drop onto the pavement. A fastidious man, I think. He washes continually. It is always out with the sun, hanging from a line or  an airer. A welshie, he would call him. He works for the Welsh Books Council. A Welsh flag is suspended from a rod outside his door. I thought it was just for the football, but it is still there.

Later I watch the cat, the one who lives in the ground floor flat above the welshie. They leave a window open for her. She jumps in and out with ease. I watch her pouncing on leaves, stalking flies. A pink label has recently been attached to her collar. She doesn’t wander far, is nervous. The children across the way play with her, she shows them her belly, sprawling, legs akimbo.

He came into the studio early. His hair, grey, was a mighty quiff, gelled sticky. His trousers were baggy and he wore over-sized walking boots. Nervous, edgy, he shook my hand. Water, I asked. No, thanks, he said, shaking a bottle, I have this. I asked what he’d come to talk about. Meteors, he said, meteors hitting the moon.

 

Spider-Man

The funeral of a not-so-old man is all over the papers. A killer turned peace-maker they are calling him. One man wished him to hell, another, the son of his rival recognised he’d changed. Redemption, forgiveness. I remember his face from childhood and how it was recently. He had warmed, grown softer, kinder it seemed. Rest in peace.

He keeps parking his big green van in the driveway. Aled, one of the town butchers. He knows him. Not well but to say hello to and banter with. That fucking van, he says. I bet it’s Aled’s. It is. I saw him getting into it this morning, he says. They laughed about it. I bet you think I’m real trade, he said to him. An energetic man. He and his wife have just bought a large house in St David’s Road, hence the parking of the van around the corner. Butcher and entrepreneur. All sorts are put on display outside his shop. Plants, Christmas trees, cut flowers, fruit, vegetables. He had a short spell in prison for fraud. It was years ago. He’s open about it, sanguine. A resilient man. A cheerful man.

Two sessions at work yesterday. A chance to return to Jenny Diski and her fear of spiders and how to write about real people without offending them. She calls her the Farmer. The woman from whom she is renting the cottage in he Quantocks from. How do you write about someone without undermining their privacy? It is something I wonder about to. I need to write about things that happen to me. The real is so much more potent for me than fiction. I need to tap into the sensation of it. What do you do? Change names? Or use titles like the Farmer. I don’t want to hurt. It’s just that it is my life too, my experience. Can I own it in print?

Walking past the Why Not? club at four this morning there was a sprawl of students, one of which was in a Spider-Man outfit. He head was uncovered. I’m Spider-man he was saying to a girl who wasn’t listening.

Bod

I’ve got cystitis. I haven’t had it for years. Not since I was in my twenties, I think. And yet I remember my mother-in-law was forever getting it, and she was well into her nineties. They all did, in the home. Bodlondeb. Or Bod. There cranberry juice was treated like fluoride and drip fed into their water. Bod. We were always there, in those last few years. It’s something to do with an acid imbalance, I believe. I used to use yoghurt. A messy business. It stings. It was a sad time for him. I thought it would break his heart. An airless, shabby place but the staff tried their best. They were kind. Are kind. An endless round of tea, biscuits and changing nappies.

We’re watching The Theory of Everything, the film about Stephen Hawking. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. It made me uncomfortable, the thought of it, squeamish. I am ashamed of this. So I move into it – move towards it. And am rewarded. It is a fiction, of course, but a gripping one. Eddie Redmayne is marvellous. His eyes glister with life. The loneliness he portrays is palpable. How has Stephen Hawking lived so long? A friend’s mother had Motor Neurone disease and was dead in six months. Devastating. Is it will? Pure will? He must be well into his seventies now and yet he was given two years, at most. Questions. Questions about the nature of life. All life is sacred, I read yesterday. Amen to that. Yes. And yet, we have free will, do we not, should we not be able to end it if it gets too unbearable? But what is bearable? I remember the programme on euthanasia that Terry Pratchet hosted with the man going to the Switzerland to die. He had Motor Neurone disease. And the other man who took the pill because of depression. One person’s bearable is another’s unbearable, I suppose. In the film a French surgeon (after Stephen contracted pneumonia) asks his wife, Jane, when he should turn off the life support system. Angrily, she replies, Never, Stephen must live. Is it enough? To be completely reliant on others, to have no physical means of movement, to not speak. I don’t know. I cannot say. But his eyes still shine.

The wind howls. I was blown about this morning.  I like it. It is alive. As indeed am I.

The piece is written.

Ten

How much out of ten? he asks. Every morning. It’s usually four. Sometimes three. Sitting in the sun in Aberdovey sharing a pot of Lapsang Souchong tea from proper silver tea pots, it was nine. Ten is reserved for Spain or Italy when the light is so white. It was a good day. I felt warmed through. Our faces pinked. To just sit and stare at the sea. Nearing bliss for a mid-March day. Thank you.

Walking yesterday, early, there were a couple standing in the road. They stood arms around each other. Quiet. He kissed her forehead. She wore a red short-sleeved shirt and her ankles between the end of her jeans and her trainers were bare. Later, on the way home, they were ahead of me. They walked slightly apart, not touching. Quickening my pace, I managed to read what was written in white transfer-printed letters on her shirt. ‘Rory Thrush Makes Me Gush’. Half and hour before I’d passed The Angel. Across the footpath outside the Academy a cluster of youths lent against walls. A girl was pressed up against one of them, talking. Your shoulder’s fine, she was saying. I know it’s fine, the lad replied, but going out, it’s killing me.

Caught in the rocks beneath the Perygyl are two trees. Dead now, and carried there from god knows where, they are stripped bare. White now, they shine in the dark. Pearlescent. Shorn, sheared of their bark-ish protection. Denuded. Vulnerable. The next morning they are gone.

A kindred spirit, though I suspect she would not of appreciated such appropriation. She wrote of her fears, her anxieties about how to behave amongst strangers. She fretted, as do I, about seemingly small things. For me it is the anticipation of a loss of energy, a draining. The draining that goes on at night. When I have to be up late. It is sucked out of me. And tonight I must be out. If I am honest I’d like to be in bed by 7 pm. The nighttime is not for me, it is the morning I cherish. But tonight I need to observe, find material for an article. I anticipate the event with pleasure, it is just the lateness. The draining of my precious energy.

So be it. It will be done. And there is always a reward. Always.

On trying to keep still

I reread Jenny Diski’s On Trying to Keep Still wholly mindful of the fact that I cannot. I try. But it is this moving, this doing that I must do, always. I want to be still. I keen towards those that are. Like mothers. Still mothers. Mothers who sit, watch, smile, returning inward to their secret womb. Diski goes to a wooden shack in New Zealand and a farm cottage in the Quantocks to be still. And yet it is more about being alone, being left to her own devices, to do as she pleases that she seeks. The stillness is a whole different thing.

Glorious birdsong this morning. 3.30 am and they were in full song along Llanbadarn Road. I don’t know them all, but I could make out blackbirds and blue tits. Layer upon layer. I let it surround me, enter me, take me over. I become nothing. A sounding board, a sponge that exists only to absorb their song. Nothing down by the Prom. There, there is only the occasional screech of a gull, the chitter of the starlings under the Pier and the now and then pip of an oystercatcher. It is like walking through a membrane of sound. Pushing through. Hard. Resistant even. I pull myself out of sleep for this. This connection, this forgetting of self. The swallows have returned, he said, reading from The Times’s Nature Diary. Apparently, he said, we’ll see them in the West and the South West.

I’ve begun the clear out. Out. I wanted to give my drawing board away. A great cumbersome thing. I remember it from Bath. My bedsit in Bath. Everyday dragging it from under by bed to lift it up onto my table. Then back again at night, under the bed. But he talked me out of it. He looked grave, cautious. He knows me. Hang on to it. You never know when you might need it. Drawings have gone. Writings have gone.  Sewings have gone. Making room. Today it is paperwork. Shred it. Shred it. He throws out clothes. Jumpers. Passing them on. The women in the charity shop are delighted. We love your things, they say, pulling them from the bag.

I want to lighten myself. To relieve the heaviness of the matter that keeps me here. Like a balloonist dropping stuff over the side of the basket. The lighter he is the nearer he is to heaven. Up and up he goes. Sailing upwards. Light as air. I felt light when I went to Norway. All my stuff packed up in storage. All I had was one enormous suitcase. I felt light. I felt unencumbered. I carried them in my head though. The things. And sometimes I longed for them. Thought about them bubbled-up in Mach.

My sister calls and I am thrown off course. The day’s plan momentarily awry. And yet, I love the love I feel. It pours from me to her. She has it. Whether she knows it or not. It is there. Uncomplicated. Love.

Just like I feel for her, and her, and her.

Is this work? I ask myself. This clearing out. It needs to be done but my mind wants to create, to plan. Hold fast. Wait. Make space. Be still. Still.

Rose Tattoo

Six hundred miles. Over six hundred miles to see a rose tattoo. A tattoo in the shape of a rose hidden beneath a sleeve. Do you have any more? I ask. And she dips her head, lifting her hair from her neck to reveal a cascade of stars. Her movements are slow, measured, careful. She is tender. Any more? She smiles, catching his eye across the table. Just one, she says. A butterfly. To her they are more than beautiful, they are her right. Don’t tell, she says. I won’t. I won’t tell.

Six hundred miles. Neither of us slept. Not him, her. Churned up with joy at friendship and encountering such a well of loving. For all of them. I couldn’t rest, there was no peace in such feeling. A misted rain. In between a trying for sun. The ferry to St Mawes. Dozing in my hotel room. Two pots of tea, Assam then Yorkshire and a black vessel with its kiss of gold, to take home.

Coming home and all that re-adjusting, not there but here. Walking in the early hours and a boy coming out of the sea. I couldn’t work it out at first. So pink. What was it? A boy. A naked boy. His friends standing way off under the shelter, laughing, one with an apricot dressing gown spread wide waiting to enfold him. Making him walk, in the rain, barefoot and bare-bottomed along the Prom. He walked slowly, his hand over his genitals. I was behind him. Far behind him. I heard their whoops. Even when he got to them he didn’t rush to dress. Happy in his nakedness. Proud. Walking past them I saw he had a beard. A Christ-like figure. Neat in his youth. Perfected.

I need to clean. To sort out. To sort out my studio. Too much stuff. I need to clear a space. Space. To begin again.

Why do it? she asked. A good question. I mull it over. I gnaw away at it. Be all that you are, he says. You have so many talents. Listening to Marian Keyes on the radio I am thrown. How nice to be just one thing. One perfect thing. Not me. I am magpie-like, searching out the shiny. So be it. Write it out. A sewing diary. Write it out. Stories about women. My women. I see their details, not their whole. So be it. Write it out. Begin.

There is power in the beginning, Goethe said. So begin.