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Lightning

He had warned me. Perhaps I ought to take my umbrella, I’d said to him the afternoon before. I’d forgotten and when I’d looked it was bone dry outside, so I left it behind. There’d been another warning, when I’d been upstairs preparing breakfast. A flash of lightning. It lit up the whole room. A white, bluish light. A shock. I felt unsettled, edgy. I walked into the dry air, slightly cooler than of late. It smelt good. It smelt of dew laden fields. Then they came. The raindrops. Heavy, large drops, splat, splat. It was a deluge. I got soaked. I kept walking thinking about when my waterproofs would fail and begin to leak. It didn’t take long. My boots, my gloves, all sodden. So be it. There is beauty in it. The raindrops caught in my torch light, under the street lamp glare. And then stripping off once home, my skin cold and warm at the same time. Getting dry, warm and cosy. Rain calms the thoughts. It becomes a focus. I walk fast into the puddles. My boots, it seems, are not that waterproof.

I write this before I go to work. Another early. The same guest as yesterday though this time he is coming in to talk about Texas and Hurricane Harvey. Such devastation, it is unimaginable. I hear the survivors or should I call them victims talking on the radio. So upbeat, so strong. It is the American way, it seems. I hope they get the help they need.

We ended up talking. I went to bed later than I’d intended. The grief is still there, raw, hurting. I think it is the not knowing what to do for the best. I find it hard to separate what I ought to do for her and my own feelings of need, or expectation. I call and there is nothing. Just nothing. A continuing silence. It is just like her, the other her. Letter after letter, nothing. Just nothing. Making me feel like nothing. Do they not want me? When I see her there is much warmth, love, I think. And then this endless, interminable silence. Show me what to do, for the best, for her and for me. He sanctions non-action. It hurts him, the what he calls, unkindness. Is it unkind? Is silence, no response, unkind? I cannot understand her, get inside her head. We do not share the same rules. She lies, I know this. I have done of course, I am no saint. But she is so trick-sy, my mercurial girl. So elusive.

The clouds build up outside. Mountains in the sky. Daylight is good. Things feel better in the daylight.

We will have another seminar, he said. Talk about everything. Yes. Tea and talk. No work. Escape.

I’m re-reading Sara Maitland’s Book of Silence. She writes about hermits, a particular one who lived in a cave in the desert. He made, he created for no one – all year making, only to burn it all at the end. Make destroy, make destroy. It was about the industry, making to keep sane. Not the product, not the object. Just the doing. It needs thought. It goes against the grain. We shall see. Talk and tea. Talk and tea. Tomorrow.

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Writings

School Reports

They’re doing a repeat on Radio 4 extra featuring celebrities talking about their old school reports. It was the turn of Wendy Cope this morning. She wasn’t good at lacrosse, apparently, nor indeed any sports, she liked music but found Wordsworth boring. All that judgement at such a young age. Could do better, might amount to something. How can they know? Those dried-up women at my boarding school, spinsters a lot of them, virtually a cloistered life for them. I can have empathy. It can’t have been easy, all those high-spirits to curtail. Judgement, it is a stone in my heart.

You should do a PhD. a friend said over lunch. I was tempted for a while, for an hour, for a day and then I thought no. Not again. Why would I do it? What for? God knows I don’t need another qualification. And I don’t want to teach in academia. And all that money, for what? Would it stimulate my creativity? Perhaps, it would depend on my supervisors I suppose. But then there is the writing. So cold. So severe. I think of, no I see them in my mind’s eye, all those judges. They are men mostly, vague figures, unsmiling, cold, harsh, logical. I love to write but not in that way. I write to clarify not obfuscate. And I did start one. I loved going to Dartington. I loved its wildness. I loved its wackiness. I loved walking along its roads. That sweep of countryside. I did make some good work but having to then contextualise it, box it up, contain it, I struggled with that. To be fair her suggestion was a result of my bemoaning the fact that I had nowhere to place my current work. And that’s true but maybe that is where my investigation, my research should be begin.

The question is do I really need to exhibit, to show what I do whether it is my writing or my making? It is all a question of changing my point of view. I’ve been shown a particular way of approaching creating, that’s all. You make you show, you write you publish. It is always for the consumption and judgement of others. Else it is not valid. I went to art school, university to validate my creativity. Do I need to keep repeating this process. Might I just make and write for myself. Why just? Isn’t that the most important thing. Can I finally let go of the sense that I am not good enough? Can I?

We were fractious again yesterday. A phone call. I struggle with them. I struggle to be myself. I feel fraudulent. He sees my difficulties and snaps. They are not kind to you.

Rain this morning. I walk under the canopy of my umbrella, it is nice. Nice to hear the rain.

I’m wearing my second-hand dress. It reminds me of one from childhood. It has a beautiful covered button at the back.

Listened to the second part of Bernard MacClaverty’s novel. I want to write it out word for word. Sublime.

The boom boom of a car stereo followed me round town as a walked. Ghostly. Two lads in baseball caps. A small car.

Work has just called. Have to go. Tomorrow. A bientot.

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Writings

Wasps (7)

It was a fretful kind of a day yesterday. Sundays often are. Even though I cherish them – that stretch of time in the studio. The wasps were a symbol of it. That inner fighting. Snappish. He was also unsettled. It’s bank holidays. Always. He hates them. Hates the influx of people, often those he feels obliged to visit. He wants the same old, same old. No obligation. No chit chat. So do I, mostly. Though sometimes I want change, a shake-up but always on my own terms. Always. Yes, the wasps. He wouldn’t go down to the Prom. Not today, not with all those people. It’ll be heaving. No to all other suggestions so it was the University again, to sit outside the closed café. Fine. But there was no sun.

First it was a bee. Don’t flap at it. Then a wasp and then another. I’ll be fine if I keep still. Stop flapping. It was me they were interested in. Was it my perfume? I heard them in my ear, then they encircled my arm. I felt them crawling along my flesh. I wanted to be still. Let them fly away. He wanted to help. It made me edgy. She’d been the same. We’d egg each other on my sisters and I, no not egg but stir up hysteria. First one then another running down the beach. Don’t run, she’d call. Stand still. They won’t hurt you. Our panic made her cross. She had little patience with it. Then she’d swot at them. Sometimes crushing them between her fingers. I didn’t want the killing. It was a case of see what your silliness made me do. The responsibility had been ours, not hers. They were big then, and agitated. Yesterday they were small wasps, sleepy, irritable, disorientated. I didn’t want the killing nor the stinging. I gave him his pocket Archers and then we left. Dissatisfied. The sun hadn’t shone. (Pocket Archers – a pocket-sized version of the Omnibus with voices. He likes Joe Grundy best. I do a kind of growling nonsense, impossible to tell what he is saying. He never listens to The Archers himself. Telling it back the way I do makes him laugh. But even that made me stressed yesterday. The stress of having to be funny. Sometimes I’m just not.) Sylvia Plath wrote about bees. Her father as beekeeper. I need to write about wasps. My mother. My sister blowing them from my face. Our last get-together before Dad died at my youngest sister’s place. Eating out on the patio. Wasps everywhere. Adults agitating over small children. They crawled all over me, my face, my ears, my arms. Stay still, she had said. And I did, though it was excruciating. Oh my god, my elder sister had said, they’re all over you. How can you? And my younger sister leaning over to gently blow them away. An act of love. And then way, way back the taking of the wasps’s nest. All the men from the estate. A posse. It took on mythic proportions. I wrote a story about it. I want to revise it. Sharpen it, hone it.

We talk to them at the checkout. I like to do it. I like hearing about their lives. One lives in a cottage a way away. She leaves home early. Before the house is awake? I ask. Yes, I only put the downstairs light on. No breakfast? No breakfast, she says. And today. Another lady, our favourite, telling us about her mother. She hasn’t seen her for twelve months. She’s the kind of woman who stops talking to you over nothing. Impossible. We were on holiday once and me Dad was cooking. Watch those potatoes, she’d said, they’ll boil over. Everything’s in hand, he’d replied. And that was it, she said. She wouldn’t talk to us the rest of the holiday. It was dreadful. She wouldn’t come out, nothing. I watch her face as she talks. Trying to read her experiences. She is sanguine but it must hurt, mustn’t it?

A quick burst of work. It’s something. A busy morning. A professor of law talking about migration. Scottish with a Russian surname. As thin as a rake, he’d said when I’d got back into the car. Town was heaving this morning as I walked. The clubs had been open last night. £1 party at the Why Not? club. Three girls talking on a Prom bench. One saying, I lost weight when I first got to Uni…

Work. Now. A milky sky. Any chance of some sun?

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Writings

Giggling girl

We used to do it all the time as children. So much so that my elder sister often used to wet herself. It usually started at times of stress, or when we were cooped up, inside or at the table or at a funeral. It would drive my mother to distraction. Not just the noise, the hysteria of it, but the fact that it kept her out. It was private mirth belonging to our childish world. She was doing the same. The dancer that came into the studio to do various interviews. She came in with her co-star and they, she, giggled all the way through it, pausing only to talk. They all reckoned it was because she was enamoured of him, he, after all, was making her laugh with his ‘snap chat’ antics. We could hear them in the office, through the external speaker. It was a high-pitched squeal, rather out of control. Giggling like that is exhausting and what a come-down when it is over.

The other morning we were having coffee in Ta Med Da before work. We’d seen several girls dressed up in their body-hugging finery walking through the car park. It was too early in the morning for night clubs and cold to be without a coat. There were more in the canteen, and boys too in fresh suits. He asked one of them. Oh, he said, its our summer university graduation. They’ve been here over the summer studying, a kind of high-brow summer camp. There was the very tall girl who flapped around noisily with the wasps, she must’ve been one of them. The boys looked like boys be-suited by their mothers, hair dampened down, the girls looked older with their bordering-on call-girl chic. To them it is beautiful. To them it is important. But they looked so cold.

We sat out there yesterday, even though it was shut. Avoiding the hoards down on the Prom. Quiet. I watched a magpie. The sun was warm. We talked of Bernard McClavery’ s novel, A Midwinter Break, that I’d listened to on the radio that morning. A gentle piece. We talked of Ireland and its troubles. I said how I’d found myself listening to it as writer, word by word, sentence by sentence.

I often see her as I walk in the early mornings. She is out on her own. Always the same sweatshirt top and plastic carrier bag. Usually she doesn’t give me eye contact but today she looked up. Is she an amnesiac. Is she going to the 24 hr SPAR?

It is never completely silent when I walk at that time. I eschew headphones and music for the paying attention to what is. From the town there are distant sirens, the hum of generators, gull screeching and kids shouting. Down by the harbour the boats’s rigging rattles, the wind winds and calls. Today there was the sound of a siren.

A police van was parked outside the Peer Pressure Nightclub. They were just watching. Two queues of people still waiting to get in at 3.30 am. A raucous crowd, much jostling.

He wrote about Julian of Norwich and her cell. To not move. To be willingly incarcerated. Another poet wrote about the meditators of Asia (I can’t be more specific because I cannot remember) being holed in for three months and three days. To be alone, to meditate, to think. I cannot conceive of not moving, of not striding out, of walking, shifting the body along. But that devoutness, that austerity, Julian only a had a bed) appeal.

I worked steadily yesterday, though progress is slow. I think about making that kind of work. How does it feel to work a hobby-ist project into something that mattered? The approach is the same, the concentration, the diligence. And though the doing of it, watching it develop is gratifying, the end result is disappointing. I want it to shine, to be luxurious. It’s not the thing but the process, don’t forget. But alas the desire to make the beautiful, the shocking, the amazing is so strong. Now I must be off to get on with my other project. The repeated sewing of ‘work’. Just to see where it takes me. It’s uncanny how what I listen to while I work imbues itself into whatever it is that I am making.

More Moth Radio Hour? I’d love to do that kind ofstand-up, to tell life-stories. I thought about my work as I walked this morning. I’d like to find a way of filming myself. Its a kind of discovering, an intense watching, trying to find what my practice is all about. What I am about. Hire a cine camera, perhaps? Can I set it up in my studio? Wait to see what it captures….perhaps in Super 8 where it goes all juddery. Think about it. Off now. Go.

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Writings

Clearing the decks

Is it a naval expression? I like it. I like doing it. I like a clear deck before I start work but it can absorb, eat time. Emails, notes, photocopying, tidying away, getting things out. Stuff. Time eating. Eating time. And yet it feels so good to cross things off lists. I still have a Filofax. Old-fashioned, I know. But I like to write things down and my phone is an ancient, simple thing. My Filofax holds it all, images, cut-outs, notes, bits of coloured paper. I like the feel of it. I like my address book, a mass of crossings-out and additions. It is my life, a hot-potch of ideas, of jobs, of aspirations somehow contained.

No more writing for a bit. I need to concentrate on preparing for my performances in October. I am happy to do so. Sometimes this pick up and put down attitude towards both my writing and my making does neither of them any good. Or perhaps it is fine, it is just me that is unsatisfied. Stop start, stop start. I read back what I wrote on Tuesday. So long ago, but I’ve been busy with other things, earning money things. And it is awkward, clumsy. Some bits are OK. But I must leave it, let it go where it needs to go. A complex layering that I long to simplify. It is hard to let it rest, unresolved. I will need help, I can see that. I want it. I want to work with an editor on it. A fresh look, an outsider’s view. Is it any good? I don’t know. It doesn’t need to be, not yet, not yet.

So back to making. I’ve much to do. Shall I talk about it? Two performances. One in the National Gallery where I intend to sew a copy of van Gogh’s Sunflowers in front of the painting. Is it still there? Can I be photographed? Can I get near enough? I don’t know. I have the image of it so clear in my mind, I have to try it. Meanwhile, I have to prepare the tapestry so that it is recognisable as an imitation of the painting. And it takes time. And I’m not very good.

(You do not have to be good, the poet wrote, you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves… I forget her name, it’s called the Wild Geese, it will come, it will come.) Soft animals – that reminds me. I saw a little creature on my way up to the studio yesterday. A soft, brown little round-ended creature. To rounded for a shrew and seemingly no tail so it couldn’t have been a mouse or a rat. A mole? Surely not. I didn’t see side-flippers. It happened so quickly. A delight. A precious sighting. It took me somewhere else. The knowledge of this other world, this ‘family of things’ to which we belong.

So, yes. The sunflowers. It takes me back to being a child. I was never any good at keeping within the lines when I coloured-in. My elder sister’s work was so much better, so much neater. I’m the same with this cross-stitch piece. I’ve miscounted, mis-read the plan. It’s OK no-one will know but I will. I will. And I feel the same disappointment at my apparent lack of skill that I did as a child. I’m just not good at following instructions. Persevere. I think of the women who are. My friend’s daughter, a logical, ordered, confident young woman and the woman on the check-out. We pass the time of day. She’s a knitter, crochet-ter and a maker of cross-stitch. She’s good at it. Does loads. I’m fascinated by the kind of women (and indeed, men) who choose to do such things as hobbies. Such a commitment for an end result that is swamped in kitschness. And yet, it moves me. Is it the dedication, the silence, the inwardness of the work? I want to collect quotes – the things people say about sewing. Make it contemporary. Much was said in the nineteenth-century when women sewed regularly but what of now?

And the other? I want to perform my ‘work’ piece on the tube. A tapestry of the word ‘work’ cross-stitched over and over again. Why? I’m interested to see what my fellow commuters will do, if anything. It’s about thinking about notions of stillness when all around me is moving fast, it’s about the nature of work, of seemingly gendered work (how much more powerful it would be I was a man doing it – do I need to dress up, man-up?) of being made invisible by an activity. Test pieces. I want to see what happens and how it makes me feel. I will write about it. Get him to document it. He is nervous, not confident with the camera. It’s OK, I want the images to look spontaneous, snatched, snapped. We shall see. But for now I must prepare. It is slow work.

I think of the French artist spending ten years erasing Proust. Ten years. A page a day. I like that discipline. That routine. How did he keep himself going, confident, believing? A beautiful piece of work, not only the erased, ghostly book but the dust too. A pile of grey matter. So much to think about but I must clear the decks. Get to work. Switch on the radio and pay attention.

Adieu. A bientot. x

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Writings

Serendipity (7)

Has it ever happened to you, you know when certain words keep appearing, uncommon words that you find yourself speaking or writing? She calls it serendipity, I like to think of it as evidence. Evidence of a connection, a connection to something beyond what we know or understand. A playful thing. A reaching out beyond the veil, the wall, the ether, whatever you want to call it. It happened a few times yesterday. Ebullient was the first one. I’d written in my memoir and then struggled with it, was it right? Did it say what I wanted it to say? And then it appeared in a crossword I did at lunchtime. The same thing happened with digs. I don’t use the word. It is unfamiliar, a little crude. I tried it in my writing before settling for lodgings, or would room be better. And then it too appeared in the crossword. Is it just coincidental? Of course it could be. But what a coincidence, of all the words…..And then there was frenzied. That had been in the crossword of the night before. Perhaps the compilers are a small band of men and women who confer and share clues. Or is it the Gods at sport?

Same time as yesterday and I’m still a little weary. No writing today – I’ve to go to the studio this morning, so I will do the ‘housekeeping’ work. I’ve quotes to type and ideas to collate and paste into my sketchbook. It’s a lovely morning, no wind and the clouds are breaking up to reveal a blue sky. I wrote concentratedly yesterday – it sucked itself out of me. I just told the story, trying not to fiddle too much with the exposition. It is tricky, she is right I want to see only the perfect and the polished come out of me and onto the screen. And yet, it is changing. The way I write is changing. There is a pared-back feel to it. Economical. Just letting the words say what they mean to say. I don’t know if it is any good. What is good anyway? Who sets the premise? Is it still worthy if it is not? Your work is important she wrote in the email. Is it? Yes, I suppose it is if only for the fact it absorbs my time. My time here on earth. I am trying to work it through, understand why I made the decisions I made and their consequences. Is that worthy enough? I look up the stats to see who reads this. They are not logged, so who knows, perhaps no one. It doesn’t matter, does it?

A few stragglers about this morning. A few bedroom lights still lit. Chillier than of late for there was little cloud cover. I saw the stars. A dishevelled bunch sat outside the Why Not? club, taxis purred on the ranks and bus stops. The girl who works in the Pelican Bakery arrived for work just before I walked passed. She was opening up the double doors. What does the early morning mean to others, is it a hardship to rouse oneself? I struggle some mornings but when I’m out there, the air so sweet, it is worth it. Just to move, to stride, to feel the strength, the energy. An article in yesterday’s Times claimed that forty per cent of middle-aged people don’t even walk 10 minutes a month. Hard to credit it. Sally told me her grandmother, now passed away, refused to walk anywhere, had to be picked up and delivered. She wouldn’t let a doctor near her if he didn’t speak Welsh either, but that’s another story. I love her stories, positively pump her for them. I like the everyday funniness of them. Other people’s families. Easier to handle, easier to like….I miss my mine, as it dwindles and shrinks. Such distances. Do they know? Do they know how much I love them?

She writes of her brother. A dearly-loved brother who has Alzheimer’s. She needs to see him before he ‘disappears’.

Adieu. Till tomorrow.

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Writings

100 things (2)

It’s almost ten to seven in the morning and I can’t tell you how much I long to go back to bed. But this is my time. A day, so far, to myself, in which to write. And yet, the knowledge of this sets me on edge. On edge with myself. An internal battle. A battle of fear. And bed seems such a blissful alternative. I talked to myself as I walked, talking through the usual sticking points. It’s OK to write badly, just get the story down, just write, just, just…….be yourself. My mind is wandering, just as it does when I meditate. It’s had to get a grip on it. Fifty years of fretting. Even as child. Fretting about whether I’d remember to put on my knickers for school, my homework or irritating my mother. Just now my mind switched out, went somewhere else, napped, I suppose and there was a voice coming through my internal tannoy,just your car, it said.

It is a murky grey outside, a brief shot of rain then this insipid grey hanging. More one hundred things? To cheer me up. Favourite things stretch one, confirm one as an individual. I thought of some more as I walk but now they are gone, temporarily lost in the ether. Yr Hafod is still full, Shoreline has vacancies. A few people about this morning. Two on the beach, shouting at me, Hi, Hi and waving. I smiled but didn’t wave back. Earlier I’d seen a girl on a bench with a hard-shelled pink suitcase with wheels beside her side. She was sitting on one of the Prom benches reading from her mobile phone. Then down by South Beach there was a forgotten child’s trainer, brand new, and in pink.

There was a beautiful scent this morning as I walked down North Road, was it North Road? No it was Llanbadarn Road. I stopped and sniffed. It was a honeysuckle, could have been a wild one if there is such a thing. So sweet, like lilac. And stronger in the night air. There is an equally sweet perfume as I walk through the ruined Castle grounds. Yesterday there were two cats there, twining themselves around the legs of a group of students. A man in a Security Company van stopped me as I loped down Great Darkgate Street, asking me if there was a Santander nearby. After what is now over five years of living here I’m beginning to know my way.

The wind was blustery, a south westerly, I think. And what sounds it creates. The harbour is especially noisy. Rigging rattles, sails slap, beams creak, a cacophony of noise. And that howling. I think of sailors of the past dreaming of sirens, undines and other unearthly creatures. It can seem so wild, too powerful.

Any more 100 things yet? Going on trips, giving myself over to the car. Brazil nuts.

So how do you feel about writing today? Nervous. My mind keeps wanting to unsettle me, talk me out of it. And yet, it doesn’t matter.. It is my story, my life, my experience. Get the ideas down and work on it afterwards. I’m at the beginning of so many ventures and I don’t know where either are taking me. Let go. Let go of the need to control. Let it be. Let it appear, write. Enough.

100 things. Sleep. Sleep in my own bed.

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Writings

100 things

List one hundred things, she writes, one hundred things that you love. Gosh, where do you start? It’s not that easy, I’m hard-wired as a worrier, as scaredy-cat, thinking lovely things is new one for me. Make a start. Hyacinths, to be specific the scent of hyacinths, when the blooms have just begun to open. And Night-Scented Stocks. I love that smell too. And Sweet Peas. The colour of cornflowers. Fields of cornflowers and poppies. Porridge, not with milk but just with water, no salt but a sprinkling of nuts and seeds. Hot water bottles on my tummy as I write. My darling boy, my man, my love. My girl. The sun. The light in Italy, in Spain. See it isn’t so difficult. Stewed gooseberries, no sugar, still hot. Stewed blackcurrants. Clean, white cotton sheets. Grapefruit, big fat ones. Oranges, ditto. The smell of freshly cooked bread. The smell of freshly ground coffee beans – the ones in the Monmouth Coffee House most of all. Having my feet stroked by him. Deep tissue massage with the Brute. Sunshine on my face. Drinking Lapsang Souchong at that hotel, feet curled up on the sofa. Doing crosswords with him. Walnuts. Wasabi Kale crisps crumbled over my salad. Christmas carols. Brass bands. Walking on the Perygyl in the early morning lit by a full moon. Breakfast. Enough for now. I’m spent. There is more. It is interesting to see what seems like one’s priorities. Smells and tastes first. Smells first. I live by my nose. What did that reader say this morning on the radio about dogs’ noses? Did he say they had more than one? That doesn’t make sense – I was listening with half an ear. He did say they love all smells, putrid, fetid, rotten smell delight them. Walking past The Pelican Bakery this morning at 3.50 am they had their doors wide open. I tried to describe the smell to myself as I walked.

It doesn’t grab you first off. There is a delay. Then you are in it. A cloud, a thick cloud of yeasty warmth. Today there was an undertone of buttery-ness. There is salt, a moist scent of slightly off-milk. Sweetness. A sweetness like breast-milk. I am filled up by it. It is my compensation. I don’t eat it but I can ingest it via my nose, my pores.

Three boys in the morning dark sitting on a wall. Geeky sorts. One quite large, his flesh rolling over his trousers, the other two small in height and thin. They are silent when I pass by, then the large one begins talking as if there had been merely a pause in their conversation. I’ve literally had my time, he says. The others do not reply.

Tired from our journey yesterday. So many homeless on the street of that city. They sit dull-eyed their hand outstretched holding a polystyrene cup aloft. What can we do? One man was fast asleep on the pavement, wedged between a wall and a fuse-box.

A rainbow family. Two women with their brood. A shared one? I couldn’t tell. A girl and boy of mixed race, a white girl and white baby boy. One of the women had a shaved head with a peppermint tuft of hair at the front. She wore pink Doc Marten boots and a heavy leather jacket. She held the baby boy with such tenderness. Outside the café window I watched a Chinese woman and her white male partner and their child. More rainbows. It heartens me to see. We drove round and round entering bus lanes by mistake. Will they fine us? It’s happened before. Alarming. There seemed like there were no exits. The city would not let us go. We ate lunch in the hotel I worked in over twenty years ago. That same drudge-ness, service was slow, uninterested. They’re eyes only lighting up when it is time to pay the bill. Three floors up, I sat and watched people at the bus stop below.  Glad to return home. Weary. But what a joy to see her. The warmth of her friendship lifts me, nourishes me.

Chores done. Amen to that.

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Writings

Geraniums

I bring so much fear to the making of my work, whether it is art or writing. Sometimes it completely floors me. This dread. This heavy, stomach churning dread. What is it? What is it that I am frightened of? This is my work, my story, my tale. I do it alone, in a safe, private space. And yet, the demons, the frightening ones follow me in here. Not just in here, in my studio, but into my head. So this is what I shall do. I shall write them out. Here on this page. Everyday, 500 words. Writing out. A purging before the real work is to be done. And yet, this is work. This is as real as the other. Perhaps a distinction need not be made. Is it safe to write it out here? This is a public space. Yes. I believe so. It’s rather like my performances. I am in public, in a public space and yet I am also invisible. Made invisible by the nature of what I am doing. Claws retracted. Domesticated, made tame.

No Donnie-don this year, he says as we walk the Perygyl, I wonder why. Donnie-don or Donnie-doris. Our name, his name for the dolphins we usually see out at sea in Cardigan Bay. Perhaps it has been too cold, I say, or the fish haven’t come. Who knows? Who knows? I register his disappointment and indeed, mine. It is glorious to see them. (If indeed they are dolphins, might they be porpoises? The dead one I found on the beach a year or so back was definitely a porpoise.) They make one feel light, joyous, connected to something larger, important.

A very large spider scurried about by the front door as I stooped to put on my walking boots this morning. I shuddered but found myself talking to it. It eased my panic. Might I be ugly to him too?

She mentions them every time I see her, he says. He’s talking about the geraniums and Margaret. Margaret our ninety-year-old neighbour. She sees them each day when she goes out of her front door. They have blossomed, bloomed. I am inordinately proud of them. You’ve done it, he said. It’s your nurturing. I just hit and hope, I say. As I have done with both gardens. The first in Cambridge, the second in Truro. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. One year the sweet peas came. Glorious by the kitchen door. Inhaling the scent, the sweetness. Then in Truro, nothing. Not a sign. The rhubarb was abundant though, and the lavender. I want to be good at it. To take care.

Each morning I check the B&Bs. Mostly still vacancies, though yesterday Yr Hafod and Shoreline were full. That’s nice. I am pleased for them. The rain has kept people away. It has been too relentless. And the wind. The Prom flags are ripped ragged by it. In shreds. Do they replace them each year? Who makes them?

I listened to The Moth Radio Hour yesterday for a full three hours. It was a toss up between that and Little Dorrit. I’ve heard LD before so I went for the Moth. Such wonderful stories. And told by real people with all their ums and ahs and hesitating emotion. One particularly struck me told by Jona L a writer. He wanted to talk about his shame over a mis-quote in his book about Bob Dylan. He was  publically castigated, lost his job and self-respect. He talked about looking after his young daughter, about why he writes and quoted a Sufi saying, that went something like, God breaks your heart over and over again till it is open. And then there was the Sudanese refugee. Such a life. How can we not offer shelter to such people? I was moved as I worked. Worked my Work. So slow but imbued with thoughts. It is enough. Is it enough?

He is concerned about one of the cats. He keeps seeing it lying down, motionless. It is old. It is dying. It distresses him. I want to do something, he says.

I found another shopping list to add to my collection.

Braces’s Bread….enough said.

Brilliant, he said.

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Writings

Sunflowers (5)

I tried to find ones that were still closed, their petals retracted like cat’s claws. They can be iffy from supermarkets, just one step up from garage flowers. They’re great hulking things. I have to use a sawing motion with the scissors in order to sever the stem. But they fill me with joy. As they did van Gogh. Dishevelled things, even in death there is beauty. And the colours are surprising, so many tones of yellow. In his paintings the backgrounds were yellow too. A real innovation at the time. It is shocking, alarming, such yellow. The yellow of hot suns, of jaundice, of fevers, of madness. I always place them in my blue jug. The blue of summer skies in Provence. I haven’t seen cornflowers this year, or indeed sweet peas. Neither last long once cut. Too precious, too fragile. And the sunflowers, how much more glorious to come up fields of them. This is joy though, this taking of the outside and bringing in. My little bit of heaven.

The sunflowers project causes me the most stress. My idea? Well my intention is to perform the sewing of a copy of van Gogh’s sunflowers in the National Gallery. You know, in front of the actual painting. I want to ape those painting students who stand with easels copying the great masters, stroke by stroke. It’s all about testing. Seeing how it feels, seeing how I feel doing it. It may not be possible. Perhaps we won’t be able to take photographs. Maybe I will feel too exposed, too foolish. But you see, the ideas come in, thick and fast, I can see them in my mind’s eye, so clearly, and I just have to see them through. But oh, the lead up. Such tension. Is this worthwhile? Is this worthy? And I am useless at counted cross stitch. I couldn’t colour in the lines as a child. Knitting patterns make me hot and bothered. I veer away, I can’t follow the rules. So it becomes my take on a pattern, an  adaptation. No one would notice, but I know. I know. It doesn’t matter, it isn’t about the product. It’s the experience of doing it. And what a realm I encounter. Hobby world. All that kitsch-ness. I baulk at it. So make a necessity out if it. Find what they say, these women, who intimidate you so much. The upholders of twee. Find out about them. Make them real. Specify. How does it make them feel? It was better yesterday. For now the critical voice has a new, stronger counterpoint.

Been listening to Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome all week as I make breakfast. So clearly written. And the ending. Ethan and Matty on the sledge, their last rush for freedom, for the thrill of contact, of closeness. And then Matty, unable to walk, being taken in, cared for by the presumed sickly wife. The misery of being the one left behind. The tyranny of the not-quite sick. Then later I listen to Little Dorrit, and his mother, never venturing out, ruling her empire from her bedroom. Air-less, inward, despotic.

As I walk in the morning, my way is lit by the swirling, be-jewelled lines of slug mucus. They dance across the paving slabs, trailing their saliva that glints in the yellow lights of the street lights.

At 3.40 am and I pass a girl standing on the Prom with a group of friends. She holds a carton of Kentucky Fried Chicken in her hand. After each bite she sucks her fingers dry. Each finger, pushed into her mouth.

The sun is meant to shine this morning. Amen to that.