Someone has laid six roses on the windscreen of his van. They are not wrapped in cellophane, the stalks are uncut, bare. The van has been moved since the weekend. It is now outside his house, though the gates remain closed. White wrought iron gates, they are rarely shut. A busy family, so much coming and going.

We didn’t know him, not really. He knew his father. A rugby player and a transvestite, though that is by the by. A tall man, good-looking, with greying hair, though he was only 41. You only find out their ages when they die – a newspaper detail. He was out in Malaga at a funeral. Killed by a car. Apparently drink had been taken, he told me yesterday. I was quick to react, hating the idea of the creeping pf insidious gossip, small-town stuff. No, I didn’t mean that, he said. It just may be that he didn’t take care crossing an unfamiliar road. Yes, I see, I said.

We didn’t know him, and yet, I feel grief. He was an electrician. We’d see him in his van. He had two. Must have been a success. Nice house. Nice family. Nice wife. A local man. It will be in the paper tomorrow. Can you stop them printing it? I ask at breakfast. If it had happened to you I wouldn’t want it. No, not really, he says, it’s news. And it will remain so for a little while, till they bring home his body, have the funeral. Then what? A family shattered. How do you recover, repair? What can we do? Acquiesce? Rail against it, fate, God?

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the pain of it. There is much and yet, at least it is evidence of love. There was love. And it will return. It has to for it never goes, not really.

It stops us, death, stops us in our tracks. We are not above it. We are at its mercy, any time. So be it. Let it make us cherish those we have till we have them no more.

I listen at his door each morning. Still there. Still here. With me. Thank God.




I get to the till before him. He is off somewhere searching for baked beans. She is happy to wait for him, her hands poised over the cornflakes packet, ready to start scanning when he appears. Do you still see you friend? I ask, feeling obliged to make conversation. Would she rather I kept quiet? Would she rather be silent? Does she want to share her life with us? No, she replies, it was over some weeks ago. I express sadness. Oh, it’s OK, she says, I ended it. Her voice still carries a touch of Birmingham. I got to the stage, she continues, when I thought there’s no excitement. I nod. When I told him, she said, all he could say ‘well, that’s your prerogative’.

It was wet and stormy this morning. The rain like pricking needles against my face. I move into it. I accept it, feeling the discomfort but also the warmth within. It is so alive, the wind. I lean into it, like a tree, bending to its will. I cannot resent it. It isn’t personal. It is just weather. Yesterday it was all moon. A super moon, they called it. Big, white, an oversized circle of power. The rocks were lit silver by it. No need for a torch. This morning it was just black. No one about. Last week, the students frolicked. A man in a dress and a blonde wig. Another dressed as a Tequila Bottle. A fantastic costume, with an intricately embroidered label down the front. I saw the red lid on his head first. In the dark it was hard to make out, the realisation came slowly. He was sitting on some steps with his friends. The night was over. He’d forgotten he was dressed in fancy dress. His feet were splayed, I think he was rolling a cigarette.

Later, I saw two magpies, then another.

The sky is a cerulean blue. The wind follows him in.

Yesterday the poet did two sessions, one for Front Row and the other for BBC Scotland. She is gracious. She uses my name. I like your tunic, she says. Her voice is husky. She is full of enthusiasm for the book. The other poet is in London or is it Salford? They greet each other down the line. The other poet has a cold. I listen to her reading a poem by Rose Macaulay, my head up close to the speaker. He is right, it is like the Seamus Heaney poem.

It is always good to get home. I can breathe then. Why do I find the company of people such a challenge when there is so much good will? I am solitary. So be it.

Poetry. Sunday and I am immersed. Chopping sprouts, preparing porridge, soup and fruit listening to a programme about Ezra Pound. A Scots sounding voice and yet he was an American, born in Idaho, I believe. They kept him in a cage with no shelter from the Italian sun. Then he was incarcerated in a mental institution. He has fallen out of favour with the Brits, says the presenter He’d gone to Italy to ‘find him’. The Cantos, impenetrable. I tried to read some once. I found them in the Library. I like his Imagist poems. Small, concise, a tremendous condensing of sensation. I felt a sadness listening to his fate. He returned to Italy. Was it for the sun?

Will we ever return to Italy?

For now I am here and happy to be so. In love. In love with the dark harbour with its cacophony of rattling rigging, made noisome by the stink of landed lobster pots. I walk, eyes closed into the wind, missing the Perygyl. Alas, too wet, too wet today. The black of winter beckons. So be it.