Wet Paint

They’re painting the Prom railings. It’s a bit like the Forth Bridge. It is endless. Though it’s been two or maybe even three years now. Council savings, perhaps? We see the painter in Morrison’s sometimes. He always says hello to him. Is it the same one? They are doing section by section. The bar end first. They put a coat of undercoat first and then the gloss. Black and yellow ticker tape had been wound round the uprights warning of wet paint. This morning some of it had been wrapped around the entrance to the shelter. It has come loose in the wind. It made me think of the scene in American Beauty when that boy films a plastic bag being lifted and tossed by a breeze. Here the tape danced. Winding and swirling like a light-as-air snake. Beautiful. I wanted to stand and watch it for hours. I could’ve done. I wanted to.

The lack of rain brought the kids out. Two walking towards Pier Pressure, both the boy and girl in shorts. Do you dabble in ..? he was saying. It sounded like dairy. Surely not? Another group of three, two lads and a girl, on a bench. They were fucking dropping those clubbing sounds…, one of the boys was shouting to much hilarity from the other two. I smelt pizza and fried chicken. Lip Lickin’ was open. A girl with purple hair was queuing inside Pizza Lush. Their music boomed. Following another threesome home. One of the girl’s lagged behind. Come on, the other two implored. The girl in front was tall and thin with legs like pins jutting from a pair of black lace-edged shorts. I’ve got the worst headache imaginable, the lagging girl moaned. And my house is at least ten minutes away. I could cry.

I was snoozing though the clunk sound woke me. It’s alright someone’s just hit my mirror, he said, it looks OK. He’d pulled out to avoid some cyclists. Later, he started to slow down. Someone’s flashing me, he said. He stopped the car and a woman came to window. She was very agitated. You’ve just broken my mirror. I’ve been following you. I’ve got you number. Her face was pink, even under the face powder. Look at it, she said, it’s half hanging off. I can’t afford to pay for a new one. We softened, both of us. Who’s to say whose to blame. But she was in such distress.

He called her last night. I just want to be reasonable, he said. And will call again tonight when she’s checked out the cost. It felt good to be kind. It is always the right thing to do. No matter the consequences. Is this car jinxed? Is there such a thing? Wasn’t it just another route to remind us of kindness and its centrality to our lives.

Another white page to wrestle with. I always get so nervous. Will it come? Will the story come. I liked the show. An intelligent artist. Let it come, let it flow. Breathe, Ellen. Just breathe.

Spider-Man Umbrella

It was lying in a municipal flowerbed just beyond the station. A child’s umbrella, a merchandised Spider-Man one. It was opened but flat. Had it broken, been blown inside out by the wind? Had the child dropped it and someone had picked it up and put it in the flowerbed? Had it been loved? Rather odd to have an umbrella in Spider-Man’s colours. I mean, would that particular super-hero have needed an umbrella. I never really get the merchandise thing. We didn’t have much of it when I was a child, or was it just that my mother wouldn’t have bought ‘plastic rubbish’. Were those her words, or am I just imagining them? I’m sure I would’ve loved a Snow White dress, or a Cinderella crown but I suspect I would’ve seen the shoddiness of the imitation pretty early on and felt swindled. For me the magic always belonged inside the film, inside the cinema. Though when I watched them later one with her, the magic had gone. I was transported no longer. Little does that for me know. Except perhaps London.

We would’ve still be there. Our last full day there today. I mourn its loss. You have it to look forward to, he says. I know. And I need to let it go but a part of me is getting on that train to Covent Garden or Leicester Square and walking to Monmouth Street for a coffee. Even in the rain there is so much joy to be had.

A short one today. We are off to Newtown to review a show.

She told us never to use clichés. I know. But sometimes that is all there is. The blossom petals strewn across the pavement by the wind look like confetti. What else can I say? They do. The mess of them. Pink spots of light papery-ness, lifted by the wind.

I made a start. You’ve made a start, he said. And I have. Drawings from twenty, almost thirty years ago torn up. All that decision-making. But I am lighter for it. I wonder if these constant dreams of trying to find a suitable restaurant are linked to this. I am seeking something that will nourish me. Something foreign, unfamiliar.

She just thanked me for the copy. That’s all. No other comment. I have to get used to it. If it is wrong they will let you know, as he did. Otherwise just be grateful it has passed muster. It is enough.

Aground (5)

They are digging up Llanbadarn Road, just before the junction with Penglais Hill. They’ve sprayed all sorts of pink and yellow hieroglyphics onto the tarmac. It looks like a hopscotch game. Do you remember hopscotch? I still get a frisson of fear when I think of it. Such a long time ago but those years lived out on school playgrounds still haunt me. I didn’t get on at all. Not with the girls or with their games. Hopscotch, skipping and that elastic game. I didn’t want to do them, to participate but to not do so separated you from the crowd and that was unthinkable. I just wasn’t athletic. I was uncoordinated, or at least that was what I’d been told and believed it to be so. I wanted to be alone. It was a strain having to fit in, to talk, to take part. Go and play, adults would say. Go and play with the others. But I want to be by myself. Stop moping, go and make friends. Such a long time ago. But is it? I want you to work in twos, she said. Find someone you want to work with, make eye contact. If there is someone you don’t want to work with don’t make eye contact. There were only six of us. What could I do? The first time I acquiesced, the second time I said I didn’t want to do it. Didn’t want to play. I knew it messed things up. One would be left partner-less. She stepped in. It was fine. I just lay there and cried.

I saw its lights as I came round the corner. I thought it was making its way out to sea and expected to walk along side it as I approached the Perygyl. But it wasn’t moving. It had run aground. Or was just waiting. Waiting for the tide to come in. All its lights were on. It was so near I could see a man in a grey hoodie on the deck talking on a mobile. There was a car parked up at the end of the harbour. It’s radio boomed through the door. At some point the driver must have got out, switching the headlights off as he did so. I saw him as I walked back down the Perygyl looking out to sea at the same boat. Was he waiting for him? The boat was lit up like Oxford Street at Christmas.

Waiting. Aground. We were supposed to be in the National Gallery today, performing in front of the painting. I am grieving a little. Yesterday was productive, domestically. And I felt better for making all clean. Today, I plan to do more, to spring clean my studio. To discard old work and make room for new. But anxiety has taken hold. It started almost on waking. It’s the space, the gap of none work. I want to root through, to root out what I no longer use, to make room but I fight it too. I know how important these empty spaces of time are. Busy-ness is the ultimate distraction. It crowds in, not allowing us to see anything else but the deadline and what is being asked of us. There is nothing to do, she says. There is nothing to achieve. No there isn’t, not really.

I seek peace. I know this. And a simpler life. To be able to notice all things. To have time. To breathe. Maybe I will never achieve it, or at least not for long. Is that OK? To aim for small chunks of peace. This clearing out is part of it. So much clutter in my head, my body and my home. Or so it feels. Actually we have very little. Neither of us are acquisitive, except perhaps for him and his jeans. He has his fads, but then so do I. I just smother them better.

Enough, now. I’ve my monthly accounts to do then begin. There is power in beginning. I paraphrase Goethe. Make a start.

Circle

There was someone sitting on a bench on the Perygyl when I arrived there this morning. I tried not to be irritated. It is mine. At that time in the morning it is mine. I want to be alone there. To stand unobserved at the end of it and look out to sea and the stars and the sky and be alone. I couldn’t tell whether it was a man or a woman. It was too dark. I just saw the boots extending out from the bench. We didn’t greet each other. It didn’t feel appropriate for either of us. That time is a liminal time. Often I can’t find my voice. I think we both wanted silence and solitude. Perhaps they were just as disappointed as I was. I stood for a short while and moved on. Let it be. There is room. There is room for all of us.

The moon was a circle this morning. Flooding my studio with white light. No torch needed. A circle. A perfect white circle.

A sign of summer. Kids making bonfires on the beach. I love the smell. I can smell it from a long way off, carried as it by the wind. I saw their shapes against the yellow-orange of the flames. Mostly they build them on South Beach.

I wanted to make it bearable, enjoyable even. I asked him to stay out. I wanted the flat to myself, to clean it unhindered. To be able to leave all the doors open, to take my time. I think that was what worked. I gave myself to task, even the hoovering. How can I make this OK? I asked. By not fighting it, the voice said, by letting it be. I turned on the radio. Radio 3, nice and loud. Petroc’s calm voice made it OK. And it was. And now it is clean. The sun shone through, the birds sang through the open windows and it smells fresh. I love it when the floors have been mopped, all that dust and fluff, for the moment taken away.

We didn’t go. And that is OK too. Even having to pay the deposit. It is OK. The weather here is kinder. We have sun while London has rain. It is for the best. I will let it be so.

It is time to let it go. We gave her a name though I cannot remember it now. We’ve only had her for five years, but oh what an expensive love she has been. He wanted her. And we’ve enjoyed her, certainly. But I am happy to let her go. And he is excited, test-driving her replacement this very morning, I believe. I shall leave him to it. And I have to let go too. Of my safety. Be kind. That is what I tell myself. I want to give him joy, security, and love. So yes, he can have it.

The sky is cerulean. A few clouds. He says he will walk with me to North Road to our bench if the sun is still shining this afternoon. That would be nice. Will they be playing bowls?

I finished the review. I worked hard. He was kind, supportive. Though I was scratchy near the end. It’s when I put pressure on myself. It has to be done NOW! Does it? Breathe. Let time take its course. I like being in the writing. In it, in the process of it. The start and end are always a little uncomfortable. The start because I don’t yet know where I am going and the end because tiredness brings on doubt. An ugly, self-abnegating doubt that kills all joy of achievement. It is so good to have him there. I take it in with a board or book to lean on and pen and leave it with him. Will he like it? Is it any good? Sometimes I just don’t know. But it feels right to keep on doing it. I reach out with my writing beyond myself. And that is good.

I will call her on Friday. And her. And her.

Five Minute Warning

Ok guys and dolls, this is your five minute warning.

The voice was coming from the fire escape on the top of the Pier Pressure nightclub. An officious voice but warm. Was it a security man, telling the smokers who congregate outside on the fire escape that the club was closing? The music was still pumping out, so it didn’t seem likely. Or was it a friend geeing them along because a taxi was due? Who knows? The voice was carried across the sea and lost, its content and sound soon gone from sight and memory.

Nothing matters, she said, her eyes too weary to cry, but oh, so blue. Tell your children, she begged, while they are still young enough. She was incredible really. Is incredible. Such courage, coming all that way, each week, her body weighed down with such leaden anxiety. She asked me to call her. I’m in the phone book, she said, there’s only two of us, the other is my son. They all looked so much better, their faces shone. Not mine, I was grey with disappointment and fear. I didn’t think I’d get through yesterday but I did. I did it. And the review is almost written.

Then I found the poem. Each one has been so relevant. It was about kindness. You have to lose it all to find it. Let go of it all. Ah, that is so difficult but I will try. Nothing matters, said that wise old woman. Young woman too, still locked, as she is in her childhood. Nothing matters. No thing matters. Not now, not ever. Just this interplay of relationships and a willingness to be kind.

A beautiful morning, the sun lights up the trees in the distance.

I have work soon. I’ve made a flask and I will take a book and my sewing, not yet sure what it is I want to do. I shall sit first. My silent time. Ten minutes to just breathe. It is enough.

Popcorn Sheep

I don’t know where it came from. Such outpouring, rolling down my cheeks as I lay there, not wanting to join in, not wanting to speak, just listening to the rise and fall of their voices. I am exhausted by it. Is there no end to the grief, to the grieving? It is fear of emptiness of having nothing to do, to say, to be, all prompted by the cancellation of our trip. We had to do it. To be sensible. The car is not well but we cannot find out why. To drive all that way would be pure folly and for what reason? So that I can escape for three days, be busy and filled-up, only to return home to the grief that would meet me as I walk through the door. Better to stay here with it, embrace it, live with it, know it, even if we have forfeited a cancellation fee. So be it.

Do you want a hug? she asked. No, I don’t, I wanted to say. Go away, I wanted to say. Leave me be in my ugliness. My snot-running, ugliness. Take your serene, ballerina-like loveliness to the other side of the room. But I didn’t. How could I? She felt small but strong. I was embarrassed, tight and uncomfortable, her hair against my face. I was lumpen against her grace. And yet, only three days before I’d been so joyful. First the light and then her and her. Both bringing me such joy. What do you want to do? she said, still hugging me. You can keep doing this, she said. Or you can go for a walk outside, or make a cup of tea in the kitchen. I opted for the kitchen, longing to free myself from her warm hold.

The kitchen smelt musty. It’s cold in here, she said following me in, I’ll put the fires on. Then she left me. I put on the kettle and rooted around for a cup and a tea bag. Several of the cupboard doors were marked ‘Quakers’ as were some jars of sugar and instant coffee. I found a box of Camomile Tea that was unmarked and dropped it into a cup. Then I went and sat at a wooden table by a window and watched a pair of sparrows hopping in and out of a bramble. I’d been in there before, though she’d forgotten. And I remembered the pictures on the wall. There was a pin board with various leaflets about the Quakers and images of an upcoming group holiday somewhere in North Wales. Tucked under this were two children’s drawings. They were the kind that you colour in, the shape already drawn out. They were of a sheep. A sheep with stuck-on goggly eyes. Pieces of glued-on popcorn had been used to suggest the wool. Someone had written the children’s names at the top of each drawing. The top one was mine. My name. It made me smile. In spite of the weeping it made me smile.

That is enough for now.

Vicissitudes

We expect ease. Or perhaps I should say we aim for ease. And are narked when it doesn’t come. The car is fucked once again. This is the third time in a month. What is that about? I try to keep sanguine. It doesn’t help to rant and rave. It isn’t personal after all, is it? But as a result we may not be able to go. He doesn’t like trains, there is no point me even mentioning it. He took one once to see in me in Cornwall when he’d damaged his shoulder and couldn’t drive. I should’ve been more flattered. It was a big gesture on his part. Not now. Not now. So we will have to postpone. Do I mind? No, not really. I was looking forward to it. So was he. He said so in the car yesterday. But we’ve done so much driving in the last few days. Miles and miles. And to be still would be nice. At least for a while. I have much writing to do and I want to clean, to sort, to order, to sleep and be steady for a short while. If I can. So I will be sanguine. Am sanguine.

The rain has come as promised. I will have to walk this morning. It’s OK. So long as I can find my way, it is fine.

She’s changed her tune. That was always one of my mothers’. You’ve changed your tune, she’d say. She offered to do it, was happy to do it but now says she hasn’t the time. I feel about it as I feel about the car, detached, far away. What can I do? What can I do right now? Nothing. It is far away and so heavy with emotional baggage. It was a gift but a hoary one. What will transpire? Can we trust? In her and in providence that it will sell? Oh, to be free of it all. To be at ease.

Is it meant to easy, this living thing? I cannot say. I am tired. I am weary with not enough sleep. Though yesterday was nice. Another four hours in the car. They know me now. They know my name. And the show was a revelation.

The air down by the harbour this morning smelt of the farmyard. I smelt cows and wet, damp hay. Is it the odour of crop spray being carried in the sea mist? It stayed dry and the wind had gone. A nice walk. My back tightened a little but not as much as usual. It is working. I noticed the difference in you after three weeks, he said yesterday. Yes, I do feel different. It will always challenge us, this living thing. I suspect it is meant to. We learn from it, that rubbing up, that eroding, that jarring. More than we do with the ease. I am grateful for the small things and the regular rhythm of my moving, my walking, my stretching, my stilling.

It is OK. She is there, that precious body of sweetness and he. My love, my calm, my sagacious soul. And, I forgot to say, she replied again. I dreamt of her yesterday. She wrote of her mother’s sewing box. A treasured family heirloom, fought over by all siblings. I am touched by such a connection. I think of her up there in her small, perfect house. She is a part of me, as is she, and she and he. Always.

Dressing Gowns and Swiss Roll

We drove right passed it, easily done, tucked away as it was behind a Shell garage. Drawing up to the front eventually, we were faced by a raggedy collection of smokers outside the reception, one a double-amputee with no legs, and wearing a Man United football shirt, was perched on a wheelchair. It shouldn’t have done but it brought me down. They’re only people, I kept saying to myself, smile, be warm. We greeted them and went in.

I’d prepared myself for it and it didn’t disappoint. A badly-lit room, a little shabby and very basic. I’m tired, it will be alright in the morning. It wasn’t really, not really.

I didn’t walk to Hayle, having to manage that roundabout was too daunting so I walked to Connor Downs instead. The first morning it was later and becoming day but the second was dark. The bird song was gorgeous. I forgot how nearly-rural it was out there. There was a man smoking outside the front door as I walked out the first morning, wearing a black and white spotted fluffy dressing gown with a heavy silver chain hanging deep into his bare chest. Nice dressing gown, I said. He smiled. It’s me missus’s, he said, his voice gruff with nicotine, it’s warmer. Another smoker stood outside as we returned in the evening. Nice motor, he said, grinning and revealing a mouth devoid of teeth. I chatted with him as he parked. I’ve put some cake and tangerines in reception, he said, help yourself. He then went on to explain in a fast, bullet-like voice, how he was homeless and waiting to go into a wet house in Falmouth and that they’d (the hotel) was giving him a room till then. Free? I thought, surely not. Anyway the cake and tangerines (or mandarins, he said) was his way of thanking them. There’s only two slices of Swiss roll left, he said, so you better hurry. He’d been dry for six years since losing his girlfriend. Eighteen years we were together, he said, an’ she was eighteen years older than me. He showed me a tattoo of her name on his neck. He then went on to talk about what they get up in the wet houses, using expressions like ‘tootin’. God alone knows what he was talking about. He tipped his cardboard cup towards me. Cranberry juice and vodka, he said. I thought he was ‘dry’. Perhaps vodka doesn’t count. As we left the next day the no-legged man was smoking outside again. I watched as he finished one only to start rolling another. Why not? What the hell, eh? The skin on his face was wafer thin, hard, bitter. Do you think he was a squaddie in Afghanistan? I asked him as we drove off. No, more like a diabetic, he said.

We won’t go again.

There is much more to say. There always is. All the bliss in-between the dinginess. And there was much. The warmth of friendship. And holding her, that little potent body. And that light. The sun coming in through the window. The turquoise sea. And my other love, just being next to her.

We will go there again. Again and again. Please.

White Sage

I thought at first that she was lighting a roll-up. It looked like one. That thin roll of paper-wrapped tobacco with a twist at one end. But no, it was sage. It’s white sage, she said, I get it over the internet. And then she showed me one. It was a leaf, grey-white, dried and hard. You just burn it, she said, lighting the end, and waft it about the room. I’ve grown accustomed to the smell. It’s quite pungent at first. Is it about cleansing? I ask. It purifies, she says. And yet it is such a rum, earthy, grassy almost salty kind of smell.

Nature’s perfumes are not ours. Though I love them all, both hers and ours. They threaten to rid the world of sprays, of atomisers. I understand the planet has to be saved, though I suspect it is we that are in danger not her. She will regenerate. We perhaps will not. If they do I will miss the perfumes. I love beautiful smells (though their beauty I own is subjective), associative smells. The coffee I put in the jug long before necessary because I want the kitchen to smell of it. The bread smells from the bakeries in town as I walk by. This morning the air by Pier Pressure smelt of marshmallows and toffee apples. Usually it is fried chicken.

Shall we cross the road? I suggested.

I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to go home. I’d been unravelled, I felt timorous, unsteady, unsafe. I didn’t want to talk.

She saw us. He saw us. She was all smiles. The two of them with their shared first initials. She has shrunk, gone thin. He looks the same, always with that hat on, no matter the weather. Both have sticks now. She seemed pleased to see us. And looking so fit, she said, grasping my upper arm. He kissed her cheek and I felt moved to do the same. A wave of compassion for her swept over me. She has to manage so much. I haven’t been well, she said, I had to go into hospital. Who looked after him? I wanted to ask. He is losing his memory. He walks and manages to get home again but they are going, his wits are going. He’s forgotten you, she said. We smile and he smiles. Is he used to her upfront-ness? She keeps it together, clearly. She used to be his secretary, I believe and him a once eminent physician. What’s it all about? All that respect, all that reverence and importance, gone. Now he’s just another old man wandering about town. She holds it together, just but the strain is beginning to show. They used to have a big house, now they live in a tiny cupboard of a flat, just like we used to have. We’re still looking, she says. But I suspect there isn’t the will, the energy to move again. I’m glad we stopped and sorry for my initial reluctance. If I open I am rewarded, that is clear.

We sat in the sun on a bench on North Road and talked. I need to make some physical representations of my jury. My imagined jury. I could get some Russian Dolls and affix photos of their faces, or finger puppets. I need to see them, engage with them. Hear their judgements. Which are my judgements put in their mouths. He is so good, so patient. I look for boredom, for irritation but it is not there, not really. He wants to help and he does, he does.

I sigh at the thought of the journey, the not so glamourous hotel. It will be fine. No word from her, so I must just trust. Can I do that?

The sky is misty. Seagulls are flying through it in the distance. All are still abed. Onward. Much to do. Much to do.

Painting by numbers

It’s going to be a beautiful day. The sky was clear when I walked. A sky full of stars. And a town full of youngsters, drunk and reeling. Mostly girls. One in a strapless top, leggings and high heels and falling off the pavement. She giggled, her male friend scooping her up. I’m so pissed, she said, threatening to fall again.

What a different experience we have of it, those kids and me. I so lost in my thoughts, and they so lost in the fug of alcohol. The air smelt heavenly, a perfumed woody, smoky smell. A mist hung over the sea. No Aberdovey, no Aberaeron. And no homeless man on the bench. Aretha Franklin’s Respect was blasting out of the Pier Pressure night club’s doors. I sang along as I walked. I’m going to give you all of my money, all I’m asking for is….

I lay in bed last night and thought about Painting by Numbers kits and how I loved them as a child. Well, not loved them. I found them exasperating. I wanted to keep them so neat. I wanted to not go over the lines and yet the paint they supplied with them was so runny. Is it a crisis, this? Am I unravelling? It feels like it at times. I don’t know what I am about. Truly, I don’t. All this questioning. All this searching for the one answer. Perhaps there isn’t one. Shall I go back? Is that a way through? To take myself back to that point? Shall I do a Paint by Numbers kit? Follow those tramlines of ordered, managed creativity and see where it takes me? I don’t know what I am about. I try to catch at ideas that burst into my head continually. What about that? Or that? A short story where he talked about a wish that is granted if you make 1,000 paper cranes. Shall I? Why not? It is as good as any thing else I might do. Is this a crisis? Is this an artist’s block? Am I blocked or am I just exploring the gap, the space in between?

Needle painting. I’d never heard of it. Isn’t it what I am doing with the Sunflowers. Copying, I’ve always been fascinated by coping. Is it about confidence? Learning by imitation. Is it for those who doubt their own ability to come up with something new? Is there ever anything new? Following the tracks. The ease of it. The supposed ease of it. For it isn’t often easy. Mary Linwood was the exemplar of needle painting. Look her up. Now forgotten, she was lauded in her day. What accomplishment. What feminine accomplishment. So tidy, so un-messy. No paint-splattered dungarees for her. Bet she never pissed in the fire place like he did.

Is it OK to not know? To be in the dark. In the light. In the gap. Lost in the gap. Mind the gap. Write it out, he says. Write it out.

The birds are having a field day, she would’ve said. They’re giving it the gun, he’d say. Nice that. We live on in our sayings.

I should coco. x