Jane Eyre

It was the last thing that was said in my dream as I woke. I’d said it to the actor who plays the Prof in The Archers and who’d played a character the Agatha Christie radio adaptation of And Then There Were None that I’d listened to yesterday. Why not go for Jane Eyre? I said. I’d been suggesting that he acted the part of Jane Eyre, that I do know, and at the time had not thought it odd that I should do so. Perhaps it was the influence of listening to Rupert Everett on Desert Island Discs and his recounting playing Titania and his dressing up as Mary Poppins in one of his mother’s tweed skirts. I love the idiosyncrasy of dreamscapes – anything goes, anything is possible.

I’m nervous about beginning work again today. Not only going into the studio but initiating this potential project. It feels huge. A huge mountain. I want it but at the same time I want to run a mile. To hide. I don’t feel brave. Does it matter? Can I do these potentially big things without courage? There is such a pull in me between needing to create, to challenge myself and to step beyond the confines of what I know to be safe and this, at times, overwhelming desire to hide, to shrink down and wait life out. I feel like one of those push-me-pull-mes of Dr Doolittle’s, so uncertain which part of myself to follow that I end up going nowhere. And yet, I love the charge I feel when I am fired up with the prospect of something – the engagement, the opportunity to step outside of my small inner self but oh, the pain of not knowing whether I will do it well enough. There is no way around it I have to straddle the two selves and manage the best I can. Acknowledging each of their two separate presences and needs is part of it, I think, listening to both and trying to find some kind of compromise. So, this is where I am, here now, vulnerable, uncertain, scared but willing to give it a go. It’s life after all. Well, as far as I know it to be.

The sparkly things have come down, though some will do it today. Have they resolved when twelfth night is yet? Meanwhile the dark reigns supreme. Though there will be snowdrops and crocuses and daffodils soon. Amen to that.

Sensitive

You’re such a sensitive girl, he tells me, as I recount yet another radio programme that I have listened to that has moved me. But it’s not about me, I want to say, and sometimes do, it’s about those whose lives have been shared with me, and what they have had to endure, such as the woman yesterday, that child of a liaison between a married white British woman and a black GI during the Second World War. Her tale was harrowing from her ‘father’s’ (he thought she was his till her skin changed colour) and then her mother’s rejection of her, the children’s home, her adoptive parents and, what I found most shocking, the blatant racism she encountered from one particular primary school teacher. She would be just a little older than he is and yet her voice still breaks when she recounts it. Such cruelty. Why did we do it, still do, this abusing of those who appear different to us?

We’ve been watching Sanditon and this too is attempting to ‘deal’ with racism, namely the slave trade that made so many of the British landowners wealthy. Otis, the lover of Miss Lambe, talks to Charlotte of the man who gave him his ‘freedom’ and an education. And of course, there is Miss Lambe herself, the daughter of a black female slave and a white plantation owner in Antigua. It is only her 100 thousand pounds that makes her acceptable in white society. Though when she is apart from those who know her wealth, as she was when she tried to get a coach to London, she is seen as just a mulatto.

We spend too long concentrating on our seeming ‘differences’ and not enough on that which binds us, joins and entwines us. Give us grace to learn this, and just be kind. It is enough.

Bypass

He told him a few days later that they would be coming round to discuss a bypass with him. He hasn’t said anything further except for text moaning that he couldn’t ‘kip’. He tells me that is what hospitals are like. He had the same experience when he was there in A&E for three days.

My laptop is playing up again. I try to keep calm though I feel the stress rising like a tide in me. He is so kind, so patient with me. It will be solved. Eventually. Meanwhile no one answers the phone. The curse of the Christmas period.

Give me peacefulness and a serenity. And the ability to trust. And yet, even in this panic I know that there are so many in terrible situations that I cannot even begin to comprehend. May they too find peace.

Heart Attack

He called him during supper to say that he’d had a heart attack. The paramedics were with him, he told him, and they were going to take him to hospital in Swansea. He sounded a little shaken but chattered away sometimes to him and sometimes to the female paramedic whom we could hear in the background. This lady, he said, has just put something in my ear. There is a hospital just up the road, but apparently, and again we heard the paramedic talking, ‘they’re taking everyone there (the hospital in Swansea) now’. He wanted to help, understandably so he is kind, and reminded him to take his ipad and charger. How long they will keep him there who knows. I shrink from his encroachment, and am embarassed, and indeed ashamed of it. He is alone with this (one daughter lives in the US and the other is in London). But there is something chaotic about him, there always has been. He feels it too and has admitted as much. But I too want to be kind. It is frightening when things like this happen to your body, unbidden. He is ill already but a heart attack was not on the cards. Help me to be more compassionate, to put others needs before my own convenience. Let my boundaries, my barriers soften. For in the end it is only fear.

Yesterday was dread-filled. An unknown, unformed dread assailed me. I’m embarrassed by it. I have no reason to be so fearful. I am safe, loved and nurtured. I listened to an excellent programme on the radio called Last Christmas – a series of spoken essays curated by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson. They were heart-rending, stories from refugees, a homeless man, a heart-surgeon, comic and from Wise and Thompson themselves. I need to listen to such narratives, I need to be taken beyond the small confines of my blessed existence – to feel for others and stand in their shoes awhile.

Still so so dark. I light candles like my Norwegian forbears would’ve done and wait it out. I finished the sampler, but with loads of mistakes. Your learning, he would say. One more to go. A labour of love. A gift. Will she like it? Them? It’s in place of words I struggle to say and she is reluctant to hear. Let it, them, speak on my behalf. A covert offer of love, of constancy of thought. I have always thought of you, always. Know this.

So

Whenever I ask her a question she begins each sentence with ‘so’. I know it is a habit that many people have picked up, not unlike the ‘you know’ that used to prevail when I was young. So many people end up doing it that you don’t notice that you are also. I like her and don’t like to criticise. He would say it isn’t a criticism but an observation. I wait for her to say it. I ask questions to fill the silence and as a way of acknowledging her presence while she scans our shopping. She mentioned her partner this morning. I hesitated to say ‘he’, who knows these days, but then she said it and so I continued. They live together, he is also doing a filling-in job until they can each begin their careers. He studied Maths, apparently. I immediately think he must be bright. Is that always the case? It’s nice to think of them starting out together. She with her curvy body and lovely soft spoken voice and a name from a Leonard Cohen song and he? Well I know nothing of him but I try to imagine him. Has he a beard? I don’t know why he would. He comes from the valleys, so Welsh then. It is a distraction thinking of other people’s’ lives. I remember that spirit of youthful optimism, where anything might be, and indeed was, possible. Is she optimistic? She doesn’t betray much enthusiasm, she is balanced, even-tempered, nice to be around. I was so brave when I was young. No, that isn’t strictly true, I took risks, certainly, sometimes and only sometimes I felt invincible. Not any longer. I tread carefully, no longer certain of my capacity to see things through. My energy is shorter-lived. But that is how it should be, I am older, much older and life is a little more daunting.

I light candles and the fairy-lights, anything to dispel the gloom. The walk was still. No one was about. I walked through the area that they have cordoned off for the ice-skating rink. The castle and the playground are alight with bright oranges, greens and blues. It is a kind of empty fairyland. It finishes tomorrow and all the Christmas sparkles come down on Sunday. Then there is January, February and March to survive. Still no lighter. It will come, Spring will come sure as day. Won’t it?

Ground Flower

I was hoping to find some empty rocket holders, or at least something that looked vaguely like a spent firework but there were only a few cardboard tubes that reminded me of tampon inserters and some other labelled tubes with the name ‘ground flower’ written on them. I presume they are the kind you place of the ground and they spout a coloured sparkling mist. They were scattered along the Prom down by the harbour. Though there were two still lit tree lights in holders at the Bar end. There was kids everywhere, with Pier Pressure still spitting them out from its doors, rather worse for wear, coatless and stumbling. Two of them arrived here in a taxi just as I was leaving for my walk. She wore a sleeveless dress cut up the thigh, and there was I in my thick coat, rainproof trousers, hat, gloves and hoodie. Good morning, I said to them as they tripped in through the shared-hall door. Hello, he grunted in reply and kept on walking through. I heard the fireworks going off at 12 but soon returned to sleep.

I’ve enjoyed listening to the radio once more, I am out of step with it all, there has been so much disruption. There was a delicious programme about Mr Pollock’s Toy Theatres hosted by Simon Callow. How I used to love nipping into their shop in Covent Garden, though sadly I think it has long since moved. And then there was one about Sooty and Matthew Corbett, this time presented by Jack Dee. Wonderful memories, though as one of the contributors said, it was all there was, you had no choice but to watch it. But nostalgia is often unconditional, the past is sacrosanct and rarely stands up to much investigation. It was puerile, even as a child I thought it silly but it was intended just for us and that meant something.

Someone from the past got in touch. I cannot remember her. I’m sorry for that for it seems we may have a lot in common. Maybe it will come back. She gives herself two different names which doesn’t help, and her surname which is most unusual I cannot for the life of me recall.

May I wish you all a happy new year and may the fires burn out in Australia. Keep safe and well. x

A Minor Inconvenience

It is nothing. It is nothing compared to what some people are experiencing day in day out. Like the refugee children traumatized by war that that academic spoke of on the TED talk yesterday or the thousands who have fled to the beaches in Australia to escape the bush fires. How must it be to be so displaced, homeless, all order, all structure in tatters? This is nothing. It will be resolved, one way or another.

I woke wanting to feel detached. All those fears rising to the surface on waking, I wanted to step back from them, to see them at a distance, be at arm’s length from them. I can see clearly then. One step at a time. Let the truth, the wisdom of each come through. What is it I want to say here? What is it that I need to learn?

So the fridge is bust. And now my laptop is behaving oddly. Does it matter? Well, yes, but not that much, or at least there will be something good that comes from it, something will be learnt. I think my cold helps. I am a slight distance from things, suspended, encased in my seemingly swollen head. I wanted to wake him, to spread a kind of panic at the waste of it, the inconvenience, but then I pulled back. No. Do what you are doing. There is nothing that can be done yet. Wait. Let him sleep. All will be well.

The woman on the TED talk spoke about how she reached the parents of the children in the camps by arranging for printed parenting advice to be attached to the bread wrappers of the food that was handed out to them. Bread wrappers bearing messages of hope, of support, of acknowledgement. Brilliant. And yet, my creative self can’t help thinking about the idea and perhaps adapting it to my work. I love the idea of something designed to do one thing while becoming a carrier of messages for another, and at the same time.

I need to marshall myself and try to salvage what I can of the peace of the morning before the disruption of a possible, fingers crossed (though I promised not to throw a paddy if it isn’t) delivery of a new one. I cleaned the flat, well a spit and polish and now my body aches, even my teeth. But it is nothing. Bless those on those beaches. There will be joy again and safety, I promise. x

Blackbird

I heard it as I walked in. And then when I walked back. Where is it? I thought. And then I saw it.

I’d taken the road up the little hill towards home and the sound of its song had grown stronger and stronger. I stood still for a moment. Might I be able to see him? And there he was sitting on the wall just in front of me. I could’ve reached out and touched him. He saw me from the corner of his eye but didn’t halt his singing. It was wonderful to watch. All that energy he had to expend and his tail almost acting as a lever, like the kind you’d find on an old water pump. He trilled and trilled. And it was so loud. Such a loud sound from such a tiny creature. I felt privileged to both see and hear him.

See there is joy. However small.

I heard him again this morning.

Still Dark

The still dark of midwinter is still upon us. Still pitch. Still black as your hat. He has gone out into it. I have returned from it. It feels like it will swallow me up sometimes. The day is done. It is over for another year. There is always this anti-climax even if not much is done. The expectations are too high. What will change? we ask and the answer is little. We went to church. I’d expected crowds there weren’t any. Just a smattering of people sitting at odd pews, at a distance from each other. I was glad we went. As was he. He sang lustily, as his wont and I felt his pride, his quiet pleasure at being there in his boyhood church where he’d sang as a child. The service was bilingual, an odd thing, it tried one’s patience and my mind wandered. The church looked splendid, such crisp white-washed walls and elegant wooden ceiling.

We walked there and back which was nice, arm in arm. It is enough such belonging. This hasn’t been a towering life, or even a particularly big one, I haven’t touched that many people, made that much of a difference, if any, but to have found this man, this man so prepared to open himself to me and love, is enough.

I dreamt I was travelling on the top deck of a bus. I was up there with a man. I think we had been intimate though were still a little shy of each other. We filled the whole space. I had all my things there. I needed to remember my stop, and looked out of the window. There it was. I called out to the man, its my stop, get the driver to stop. But the bus kept on going, then I realised that it was a Sunday and where I wanted to get off, including a group of shops and somewhere I could find sustenance, would be shut. The driver was clearly moving on to the next stop. I tried to get my shoes on in readiness. My hands wouldn’t work properly. I was all ham-fisted. They were a kind of sandal, or espadrille. And then I began to embrace the man as a leave-taking. I felt the strength of his back and kissed him. All the while I was edgy about getting off the bus before I missed the stop. Then I woke.

Sometimes I write such garbled stuff but I don’t want to edit it too much. This is my indulgence, this page, my splurging. People say they read it. It would be nice if they did but I don’t expect them to. What was it I quoted yesterday, you write to find out what you think? Or was it know? Either way it is a getting it down so that one can see it clearly. So be it. I hope your post-Christmas anti-climax isn’t too uncomfortable. Rest. Be at ease. Enjoy the details today, I certainly shall. Now tea.

Jule

No one about when I walked this morning, except for a man staggering home from town and the security men from the University driving their van along the Prom. It was a lovely walk. A light breeze from off the sea but other than that the air was still and not too cold. Seagulls soared silently above the Pier no doubt bemused at the lack of noise and take away cartons from which to scavenge. I remember past occasions of walking on the beach in St Ives and that same lovely sense of peace and space. I think of all those I love and who are far from me. I send them love through the ether and wish them joy. But I am content. He and I will walk to church later this morning. He is doing it for me and for that I am grateful. I want to be there on his arm. I go there to think, to share communion and prayers and to step outside of my own concerns to a place where the bigger, the global is acknowledged.

Another programme of the excellent Telling Tales on the radio. I cannot remember the name of the writer, Jeremy someone, what I do know is that he was one of the contributors to The League of Gentlemen. He spoke so eloquently about the process of writing. ‘You write to find out what you think’, he said.

I just need to let it be, all of it, and most of all me. A simple day today – the Christmas flurry belongs to another time. We shall do little. It is enough to light candles and be together. I am blessed.