Sherborne House - sign

The lights in a building along the seafront are ablaze. It is 3.45 am. It is a large four-storey building, a hall of residence for undergraduates. The windows are curtain-less, the rooms empty. Hopper-esque. The yellow light against the blue-black sky of still-night is Hopper-esque. That same kind of haunted vacancy, that stark loneliness of being awake at such an hour just before the comfort of morning. All the lights left on. They have been so for weeks now. The harsh electric light emphasise the building’s abandonment. Bleak. Across the Quad there are a couple of vacant flats. The upper one has odd pieces of furniture draped in white dust sheets. (I think of that scene from Orlando with its room after room of ghosted forms and then later outside in the garden bushes and grass covered in floating white and the girl-child running, squealing with delight. And in Persuasion as Anne Elliot waits to vacate her home. Everything covered, awaiting the leave taking.) Yesterday a man in a yellow t-shirt stood at the window.

I notice the details. A bright triangle of negative space. A butterfly touching the outside of my studio window attracted to the light.

Roger Ackling died. I remember him. A gentle man, intelligent, at times cryptic. I responded to his work. The small, the detailed. Sun burnt lines into wooden ice-cream spoons. Rest in peace.

They were dark shadows against the custard-yellow of the streetlight. Moving in a hushed huddle through the Castle park. One had a white guitar strapped across his back. I strode behind them. Hi, one of them said. Hello, I said. They stepped aside, clumsily. Sorry, one said. That’s OK, I said. Polite, gentle beings. There is nothing to fear, ever, never.

Morning begins to open.

Details. A young girl in sparkling tights and pink sequin shoes, her feet not able to touch the ground, colouring. This morning a boy on a bench, hood over his head against the night chill. Keeping his father company while he fished. Let me come, can I come? Please Dad, please. And now, so tired, his eyes made red with tiredness. Staring at me empty-eyed.

The violence of the last few days is beyond my comprehension. The priest’s face staring back at me from the newspaper. A wise face, I think. There is no comfort, not here. But there is there. For him. They are in a world of light. May it always be so. Rest in peace.




On Reading (5)

I heard a scrabbling noise. I was striding down Great Darkgate Street on my way home from my morning walk. The noise, a kind of violent rustling, was coming from a short alley cut between The Card Factory and Poundsavers. Litter had spilled out onto the pavement. I lifted my feet over it. And then it came. I’d clearly spooked it. A bird. A seagull, running then flying across my path. I swore. And it screeched. The size of it. That great whiteness. They have the morning. Their screaming calls echo across the sky. They ransack the carefully bagged-up litter, pulling and ripping at the plastic. They scrap and holler. They are the cacophony of the seaside. And yet, so majestic in flight. That great soaring whiteness. Against the moon.

They were pushing him along the Perygyl. It looked proud, sitting there erect and aloof. A white dog, quite large, like a boxer with a  black-patched eye. He said something jocular to the owners. A man and a woman. Late middle-age. Serious in anoraks. It’s a special dog pushchair, I said to him, after they’d walked past. Can you believe it? I said. Surely the dog needs to walk? Later we saw them by the hut. Both of them fussing over the dog. He held the chair while she got him out. It was hopping. One of its  legs was missing. A young dog, a fit dog, with only three legs. It bounced unevenly alongside her, crossing the road to the stretch of lawn by the castle. We were silent. Shame-faced. They clearly loved it. Was it a him? And the dog seemed content, acquiescent, happy to return to its pushchair. Upright, supercilious even, self-contained in his hidden imperfection.

Why not choose joy?



Full moon Nerja

Another full moon. The night air was warm and still. No breeze. I walked down the little hill to the Promenade. There was something on the beach. I stood still and stared. A goose. A grey lag goose was standing by the water’s edge, it’s neck stretched upwards towards the sky.

Aren’t geese freshwater creatures? It was perplexing to see it there. It felt wrong. It displaced me. Was it lost? As I walked I kept turning to see if it was still there. The moon had turned it white.


Hotpotch (7)

Patterns on tiles Nerja

Snippets. Scraps of overheard conversations, like the two women in a café in Camarthen. One wore an orthopaedic boot. Her voice was loud, distinct with a northern accent. Her clothes were loose, flowy, expensive. The scones could be very nice or horrible, she said to her friend. Then later, she said, the things with Crems is that they’re usually not religious.

And when I’m walking. I hear them as I walk past, the young, usually carolling at that time of the day. The other morning a group of them were singing outside the entrance to the Why Not? night club. It took me awhile to place the song. Ah yes, I thought, as I marched down Great Darkgate Street. Bring him Home from Les Miserables. At the top of their voices. Another time one of them approached me. It is rare. We inhabit different worlds. He was very drunk. His body swayed. He lurched towards me, a hulk of a young man in a heavy raincoat. He didn’t look at my face but instead he talked to the space between us, his eyes half-shut. Is The Angel open? he asked. The Angel pub was a couple of doors down. I inclined my head to look towards it. No, I said. He seemed satisfied and lurched back towards his two friends.

It is a finding of sorts. Found conversations and found things. I see them when I’m paying attention. A plastic leg from a Sindy doll, transparent and tiny. A false fingernail, French-polished. A penny. And a pressed wild flower between the pages of a book.

Other times things come as gifts. Thoughts, quotes, all connected with what I am doing, what I am searching for at the time. Sometimes it is just a confirmation, something reassuring – a crossword clue, a word that jumps out at you. Most times it is from the radio or from meeting a guest at work.

I liked her. A matriarch but soft, with a cloud of white hair. She talked of being head of drama in the 70s. The only woman in Senate, except for a female student-rep. When she got up to speak a professor had delivered an audible stage-whisper. It’ll be embroidery next, he had hissed. I liked her. She took time. Asked questions. Was generous. She asked me what I did. Few do. I appreciated it. Then there was a Sheila Delaney play on the radio. A trilogy. Excellent. Four girls in a convalescent home in the 50s run by nuns being made to sew nightdress cases. Who uses nightdress cases? one of the girls asks. We did, I muttered, we did at boarding school and bed-jackets. And then Dorcas Lane in Lark Rise to Candleford. All that cosy schmaltz, not a bit like the book. Hey ho. Dorcas Lane showing Laura her darned stocking. Her mother cutting out the heels so that Dorcas had something appropriate to work on in the evenings.

I think about wild flowers, an installation. Has anyone done it? Are my ideas mine or filched unwittingly? Are we ever original thinkers? Does it matter?

Six degrees of separation – I need to research it. The thought of it hovers.

Three students banging out of a house at 4.30 am. One has a dog on a lead. A speckled, brindled short, stocky dog. Come on Cookie, said the boy, giving the leash a jolt. Come on.

What can we do? Believe in the best of people? I am so sorry. Sorry for your pain, for your loss. Rest in peace those of you who are gone, heal those that are left. It is precious life, n ‘est-pas? Live it while you can. Wholly, open-hearted and in love.



dog sign (1)

He is usually sitting in his car, an estate, with his window wound down and classical music emanating. He comes to visit the sea, to stare, to contemplate. He calls us beautiful people. Keep up the love, he shouts. He makes me smile. He is familiar to me. I know him and yet I don’t. The other day he was on a bench, his trousers rolled up, feet stretched out in the sunshine. It felt odd, overly-intimate to be so close to him without the shelter of his car. He’d been to the Somme for the hundred year anniversary. Information tumbled out. His grandfather had been killed in one of the battles. Of course, I’m Jewish, he said. Are you? I thought, I didn’t know nor cared. How was it relevant? Clearly it was to him. He was irritated by how the event had been organised. Too much top brass, he said. He’d been in the Merchant Navy. My eyes strayed to his arms. Always subordinate, never obeying the rules, he was saying. I’d skippered my own ship before then, he said. Later my skipper said I’d have to lose my anchors for a few weeks. Lose his anchors? We nodded, now both of us looking at his arms. It’s all about this, he said finally. This, this talking, being friendly. Yes, we said. I love the laugh, he shouted as we walked away. Or was it love?

Out of my window I see a feather. A tiny thing. A tiny white fleck of a thing. Floating. Temporarily suspended, caught still. Another moment and I would have missed it.

Early morning on the Prom. A small, neatly-bearded man is walking with a tall, exotic-looking girl. She is all I ever wanted in someone, the man is saying. The girl doesn’t reply.

We are watching Apollo 13. The claustrophobia of the space module invades my dreams. Images of them being encased in their spacesuits are re-lived as I zip myself up into my waterproofs and climb into my wellies. Great galumphing galoshes they are. They stub my toes and rub against the inside of my feet. I am slowed down by them. But it is nice to feel protected. The rain sheets down. No one is about. And the rain smells good.

I send out my writing. So much energy and anxiety invested into it and then nothing. A silence. A nothing. It is enough. It has to be. It has to be enough to just do it. To be in the doing of it. The same with the proposals that I write. It is about the conceiving of them. That is the prize.

Anchored, she sang. Anchored down in Anchorage.


The Cooper’s Arms

Full moon Nerja

It is 4.00 am and a young man is asleep against the wall of The Cooper’s Arms. He is standing up, his neck jutting forward his forehead thrust hard against the pebble-dashed render. Suddenly he wakes, his body jerks. With his head still clamped to the wall, his legs turn, seemingly of their own volition and make to stride forward. His knees are stiff, he walks like a marionette, arms and legs slightly out of kilter. An inebriated Pinocchio off to find his bed.