Lights (2)

The sun won’t rise now till 8 o’clock. It is still pitch outside. An extra hour in bed was spent awake. Honestly, your body clock, she used to say. Darker mornings, lighter evenings but not for long. Not for long. In my northern home it is getting darker and darker. It feels like entering a tunnel, a tunnel that tapers and there is no light, no light at the end.

The street lights don’t know that the clocks have gone back and they came on as usual at 4.45 am but it was 5.45am. It was nice not to have to fumble for my torch. Lights are a blessing in the dark. Some people call it pollution, I call it friendly. I love to see the lights on the fishing boats as the chug out to sea, greens, reds and yellows like traffic lights. And the line of lights marking Aberdovey’s coast, way out beyond Cardigan Bay. Nothing this morning, too black, the cloud too low. And then down by the harbour, the other side of the Bay, Aberaeron’s lights. Twinkling lines of yellow stars. Such a comfort. Walking down towards the station on my way home there was a lit door window. It was an oblong of patterned glass, a lozenge of warm yellow in a thick oak door. It pleased me. Lifted my spirts in the drizzly rain. A grey town in the winter. Soon there will be Christmas lights, I thought. Soon.

I don’t usually look at them, there are so many in my inbox. This time I did. A job. I know the journal, I write for it. Why not? A part-time post. Some extra money. Why not? So I emailed with questions. When he woke I told him about it. He looked serious. Asked questions. Do you want it? he asked I went through all the scenarios in my head. Was it possible? Then he went on their website. Have you read this? he asked. Too much. Too specific. It wasn’t for me. I felt foolish, it was too knee-jerk. I understand now. I understand better now. It is about self-worth. A job is neat. I could’ve offered it up. Ah, yes. Something proper. Something useful, something that brings in money. That’s good. And all else will be forgotten. I know what would’ve happened, he said. You’d give more of yourself than required to make up for your lack of experience. It would take up all your time. He is right, of course. I would. Over compensating. Always. What do you want? To be here, to work at home, to make my art. To be me. So why, if I have it, and I do, do I not value it? I wobble so easily. Has it always been so? There is so much I want to do with my work, I tell him. Good, he says, so do it. Do it. Keep steady, my love. Let it be. Let what is, be. Leave it alone. We have enough, he says. We have enough. Enjoy it, be at peace. A good lesson? Who is harmed? Who cares what they think? he says. Who cares?

I am good enough. I am allowed to choose. I am allowed to be this, this me.

The radio broadcasts a programme about Donald Crowhurst. Was it the solitude that sent him mad? Was it madness that made him fake his course and pretend to win? Or the desperate action of a desperate man. A quiet and modest life brings more joy, wrote Einstein. How do we balance the need for challenge with the need for peace. I work on my sewing, a modest occupation, and at the end of each day I ask, is that it? Is that enough? And yet, so much has been experienced, so many journeys in my head. The pendulum was doubtful, lack lustre. But I wanted an easy answer. And yet, I know that it isn’t a change of place, job, situation but an inner alteration. A change in thought pattern. That is the shift. The shift towards acceptance. Wear orange, they used to say, over and over. Accept yourself. Accept what is. All that moving about, all that searching. The answer is here, now, in this moment. There is nothing else. Nothing. Let it be.

Town was full of them. Scurrying, hurrying against the wind. Students in hoards, mirrored in the sky by gulls, squawking. Empty pizza boxes scudding along pavements, fish and chip papers flattened against post boxes, bins and lamp posts. A girl with cat ears and whiskers, another with sparkly devil’s horns. Boys in t-shirts, running. The harbour is quiet. I begin to breathe down there. The sea is marvellous, the tide is coming in.

I saw a jay through his window. A portent, the man with the beard, who always reeked of garlic, used to say.

He was just closing his window as I approached, I smelt the smoke of his cigarette. I must remember to unlock their cupboard. Must remember. So much minutiae. Enough. Empty it out.

The sky is turning now, a beginning of blue and it’s not yet 7. Amen to that. Light. Let it be.


Miss You (2)

The sun shone into my studio yesterday. Pure joy.

They sent a copy of the magazine. Usually they only send me one when I have a review in it. Was it a peace offering, on account of their being so tardy with the payment of my invoices? A nice gesture whatever the reason. I read it at work. So many exquisitely small things. Why do I still get so unsettled by other people’s talent? I need a ballast. I need to steady myself. And then the voice came through, not loud but gentle and clear. This is what I do, it said. That is what they do, this is what I do. Yes. It is like beauty. Another’s beauty can seem so overwhelming perfect, so beyond ourselves. But that is their beauty, what about ours? What about mine? We each have it. We each have some kind of beauty. Something unique, intrinsically ourselves. It could be the smell of our skin, the thickness of our hair, the roundness of our hips, the narrowness of our ankles. There is something. It just needs to be found, seen and celebrated. This isn’t some new-age claptrap promulgated by Kate in The Archers. I mean it. I believe it. I look for it often. In others. Why not myself?

What shall we do about the film? he asked. Scrap it? I said. Yes. he said. Let’s send it back. So we did. I don’t like giving up on things but it was terrible. Perhaps we are the wrong age-group. None of the characters meant anything to me. And the inconsistency of accents – where they Danish or American? – made it all rather ridiculous. I’m not comfortable watching something for the sake of it. Is it a good thing to end on a bad one?

I need my sleep, I always have. I have to find some of the hours during the day. To make up the eight. I rarely do, make up the eight. Seven and a half is the most I can manage. But I am productive. The second load of ironing was done before breakfast, as was the bed change. I like the order. I like to run our home with order. But the voices niggle. I shouldn’t be so fastidious, if I was a proper artist, blah, blah….All those myths about disorder equalling creativity. I swallowed them, hook, line and sinker.

Two boats I missed in the roll call yesterday, Perseverance and Miss Me. Miss Me has been there for months. For a while it had a for sale sign, spelt ‘fore sail’. A little joke. A mariner’s play on words. Just like ‘baited breath’. How we laughed. Rather like The Independent’s daily crossword. Ah…. he says, every time. Miss Me is in a shabby state. Is it a question or a plea? It’s paint is peeling, it’s colour almost gone.

The marina boats’ rigging flapping in the wind sounded like cow bells. A remembered sound from the early 1990s when I visited Oberlangenhard in Switzerland. Clang, clang.

The dinghies have been lined up, up-ended like sponge fingers in a tiramisu.

A girl crouched in the road, reading her mobile phone.

A day in which to work. That is good. I need it. So many ideas, so many projects. And now I am wobbled again by an advertisement for a freelance job. Shall I apply? I don’t know. The steady money would be nice. I just don’t know. I cleave to this freedom and yet, there is so much fear. Ever thus, my love. Ever thus.

My feet were cold last night. It kept me awake. Still dark at seven. Still dark.


Black Pill

I dreamt that I was trying to swallow a pill. It wouldn’t go down. In the end I had to spit it out. It was black. A dream full of food. Was I hungry? Or was it more symbolic than that? I was eating scones while riding a bike. I don’t eat scones and it felt wicked. I ate one than began on the second. I can’t remember tasting them. Can you taste in dreams? It was too much. I put half in my pocket. Then I was in the usual shopping mall. You know the kind, where there is no daylight. A nether world of electric light and white endlessness. We, a group of us, where trying to find somewhere to eat. A continuing theme in my dreams, and indeed my life. What to chose? What will please? What do I want? At least there is lots of choice. We found a restaurant but I had in mind something else, something fresher, I wanted salads. Prosaic stuff. I remember noise, and hurry, and a sense of something more. Oh, and there was a flat, a stranger’s home with lots of young children. I didn’t see them but their things were there. I counted them. Were they toothbrushes? A modern day fairy tale. The seven dwarves? Enough. Dreams make no sense when transcribed.

The boats are out of the water. A sign of winter. They are on stilts down the harbour. I tried to memorise the names. Here we go: Red Herring, Celtic Spirit, Tioga, Lillian, Baited Breath and Oyster Catcher. I whispered them as I walked. The harbour path feels different. The stilted boats flank either side of it. Mountains in the dark. I love them. I love their vulnerability out of the water. I love the idea that they will be cared for, repaired, repainted, prepared for next year’s work. Safe. They are safe and dry. A working harbour, that smells of fish. The lobster pots pile up. Ready. Housekeeping.

Housekeeping today. Hoovering and mopping floors and dusting. And two loads of washing. I’ve already done one load of ironing already. It creeps up. I send it to the end of the week. Get it done. Then I make tea, not coffee. I’m off coffee for a bit. It has become bitter. Then I call her. I think of her often. Will we ever meet? Will that break or seal the intimacy? She has a particular way of saying my name.

The door downstairs keeps being left open. The chill of the night will take my geraniums. And they give such pleasure. I must let what will be be. They don’t mean it. Selfish, he says. Just selfish. No, they just don’t think. Pizza boxes strew the pavement. Boys in t-shirts eat them on the way home from The Angel or the Why Not?

A story. I caught a story on the radio after I came back from work. Should I work a little before doing yoga, is it worth it? No. So I listened instead. Caught it by chance. Bethlehem House I think it was called. An old lady coming back to visit the orphanage she was sent to. Run by nuns. A terrible place. She was a wee bird now. Back from Australia with her daughter. She remembers being punished for wetting the bed. The place has changed, has become a retreat. I don’t remember a garden, she says. She learnt to be clean. Always cleaning. Always picking up crumbs. That’s were the scones come from. At the end she has tea. She sits in the sun eating scones. She has two. The tiny bird has two and doesn’t care that the crumbs fall.


A quiet and modest life

Let me read you this, he said at breakfast this morning. It’s in The Times, a note that Einstein wrote in a hotel about happiness: ‘A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest’ Read it again, I said. And he did. You should write it down, he said. And I have. I’ve cleared my noticeboard of all those things, some important, others not so, to make a space for it. Just that. An A4 sheet with that quote. I like it. It’s what I need at this time, this moment. Such gifts always come. I was unsettled yesterday, you see.

We’d planned to vacate the flat for the morning while the electrician came to fix the Expelair in my bathroom. Neither of us like strangers being here. It unsettles us. And I struggle to concentrate on my work. It’s better that we go out and leave them to it. When we got back he hadn’t come. And so I felt I’d wasted my time. We’d had coffee and gone shopping for her. Gifts for her. An important milestone, I wanted to feel part of it. Make it real. It didn’t work. It felt excessive, a little chaotic. I didn’t know what she needed, what she would want. It wobbled me. And then we went in search of a tripod for the IPhone camera so that I can begin filming myself working. No joy. Nothing. Another waste of time.

It’s still work, he said. later that afternoon. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I keep comparing what I do to others, to people in proper, regimented jobs. And yet, as I talk it through with him I realise that I do far more than I realise. All those hours writing emails, doing my accounts, chasing invoices, ordering material, it’s work. It is work. I wasn’t only working when I was teaching, he said, as I lay on the bed next to him. There was all the preparing, seeing students, and the thinking about it. The thinking about it is work too, you know. I know. And I think about my work all the time. That is unless I am worrying.

I worried this morning as I walked. How to deal with her. How to be kind. How to make sure that it is returned. Fretting about money. Why has that started again? I think it is because I haven’t made much these last few months. Holidays you see. Self-employed has its joys but when you are not there to work you don’t earn. So be it. We have enough. But it is more than that, it’s about self worth. My sense of self is so wrapped up in how much I earn. It is an old paradigm. It needs throwing out. It is old stuff. Old hat. A has-been of a thought. I do what I do. Wealth will come from it when it is ready. I am blessed with abundance in other ways. We manage. And we are budgeting. Is that part of the problem? Am I concentrating on what we can’t have rather than what we have?

Thrift. We go shopping with a limit. Things may have to go back. Do you remember that? Many, many people have to do it, why shouldn’t we? It is an exercise in restraint. It suits me, it always has. Excess scares me. We are doing OK. It was just over this morning. Two pounds. A slippery slope, he said to her on the till. A slippery slope. No, it’s OK, I said, we were two pounds under last time. Slippery slope, he said. And then I forgot the bread. The conditioner will have to go back. So be it. Rigour, she used to say. Yes, perhaps. It’s about intention. I have it.

A quiet and modest life. Yes. Let it be.


Stand up

Stand up! A student is shouting at his friend, who lies curled up in a foetal position halfway down Great Darkgate Street. Stand up! His voice is pleading now as he pulls at the boy’s jacket. Stand up you fucking dick! I’m not doing this all night. He is still shouting as I reach the bottom of the street. Should I have helped him? Don’t get involved, he tells me time and time again when I regale him with tales of students falling in the road, or lying fast asleep in gutters. The boy sounded so distressed. There was a police van parked up just beyond The Angel, hadn’t they noticed him? They drink themselves into oblivion. Why? Is it just that it is fun or is there some darker motive? There was a girl lurching along North Road, wearing nothing but a mini skirt and a short sleeveless top. She talked on the phone as she meandered her way home, hiccupping.

She thought my name was Kate. He told me of it when he got home. Kate. Could I be a Kate? For a moment I thought about it. It might be nice to be someone else, just for a short time. How would that feel?

He came to talk about the National Library. They were to light it up purple last night. Something to do with the Polio charity, he said. A nice man. Jolly. A big rugby player. I’d been expecting someone else, someone more effete. He’s a technician, I think. We’ll just put some coloured gels over the security lights, he said, that’s all. I saw it this morning. A rather under-rated affair. I remember when The Belle Vue hotel lit up with the colours of the tricolor in response to first terrorist attack in France a few years ago. It moved me. A simple act of solidarity. No words. Symbolic. Powerful. The Nat Libs attempt was a little like a damp squib. Still it’s something I suppose. He enjoyed talking about it. Good to get the publicity, he said. Anytime, he said. Anytime you want a gobby sod, I’m your man.

I knew someone in Bath who went around photographing heart shapes around the city. It could be anything a piece of chewing gum, a stone, a smattering of moss, a leaf, a puddle, anything. Once you do that you start seeing them everywhere.

He said no. I thought he would, but I appreciate him trying. That was a nice thing. Try something else, something quieter. I think that is better, more me.

I wrote it in a day. I hope she is happy with it. I took risks. I worrit away over it. I always do. Could I have made it better? Yes, probably but it is what it is. Let it be.

Coffee. Yes, please. Coffee and crosswords, an indulgence. I worked hard yesterday, though it never seems enough. No rain this morning, just fresh air. Lovely. Our last film is on its way. Sad. I will be sad. What will come in its place? Work? Enough. Coffee.



Wait! shouted a disembodied voice in the darkness. I had just walked down along the harbour. Wait, it shouted again. Then laughter. Hey guys, wait. More laughter. Everyone, wait. I continued up the steps to onto South Road. I heard them behind me, down below. Three, four of them. In the top floor of a house ahead a girl was sitting at a window, her face lit by the screen of her mobile phone.

The Prom was not a bad as I’d expected. The middle part is closed off, too scattered with stones and sand to be driveable, and a small section of the pavement has been battered, broken away but other than that it is in tact. Aberystwyth is very much open for business, said the councillor as I settled him into the studio, despite all the news coverage. They’ve just said that we’d had the strongest winds, she said after listening to the Welsh news, 78 miles an hour. She then went on to tell me that she’s seen two teenage girls going walking down to the jetty in the worst of it. I tried to shout at them, she said, but some one got there before me. Stupid. And I wasn’t going to go in after them. We all did it, he said later. It’s what kids do. Yes, I suppose it is. People check in at The Richmond, the councillor had said, when they know a storm is coming just to be in the thick of it.

I lost my temper. I knew it was coming. I heard him call out and then I heard the panting. It circled me and then jumped up scratching at my legs. I lost it. No! I shouted, glaring at it. It crouched down, his eyes gleeful. Is this a game? No! I shouted again, my forefinger erect and threatening. For a brief second I saw myself reincarnated as my mother. It’s owner, had by that time, caught up with it and was at my side breathing heavily. Sorry, he said. I don’t like it, I said. I don’t like him jumping up at me. I’m sure that he is a lovely dog but isn’t it possible to put him on a lead? Sorry, he said, scooping the sheepdog puppy into his arms. It was a she. Come on Pippa, he said, offering me a rueful smile. I was shaken. I told him about it later. Good, he said. I don’t feel comfortable losing my temper. Something of my equilibrium is lost. I feel almost shameful. It’s just not what I am used to. Mum’s dogs, and they were always ‘hers’, were always impeccably behaved. Woe betide if they hadn’t been. It is too chaotic. He lets it run around the estate, he said. Willy nilly. It’s always jumping up. It’s the unexpectedness of it, that’s all. The dog is joyful, that’s all. In love with life. But it is too much for me. It’s like kids, wild kids, I run a mile. I’m used to rigour, control. I am sorry. Sorry I lost my temper. I will do better, next time.


Brian (2)

I didn’t go to the sea. The wind was too strong. I began to feel its force along North Road so took the path along the edge of the tennis courts. At the bottom of North Road, down the hill, there is often a tunnel of wind blasting off the Prom. I wanted to avoid this. My body cannot withstand it. I do not feel strong these days. So I cut through the back streets. Students peppered the roads. One was mock-playing an electric guitar in the middle of the road. They seemed unconcerned by the fierce wind. They are fearless, I am not. I walked up to Laura Place, thinking  I might at least see the sea from there. But the wind had found its way there too, rattling at the scaffolding surrounding one of the Nash properties. I tried to make it to the wall but was beaten back. Enough. I surrender. By the time I got home I knew that I needed to walk some more so continued down Llanbadarn Road. I’ll walk to the church. Yes. It was quiet. A few taxis racing past, that was all. The church was dark, unlit. A solid edifice, rooted, strong. I touched its stone. Immovable.

I thought about her. Was she scared? She told me on the phone she was worried that the wind would take the aerial. Bedroom lights were on all around town. The storm was making people jittery, edgy. And the air smelt different. I noticed it as soon as I left the flat. It smelt metallic. There is a bank of yew trees along the path to the tennis club they were swaying and creaking. A moaning kind of creaking. Would they survive?

I felt calmer yesterday. More at peace with what is. When the peace comes I feel a little empty, missing the tumult. It fills me. It fills my body. But with peace comes detachment. Or is it the other way round? It is all an illusion. Who is to say what is really important? Is it what we do with ourselves, our careers, our achievements, our possessions, or is it more about how we are, what we are, how we behave towards ourselves and others? I know the truth of it and when the detachment comes all is clear. This is what I’ve been given, this, this whole life is my work, not the bits of it that I show the outside world. I am a good wife. Though I rarely refer to myself as one. I don’t like the label. It seems to me it is a diminishing word rather that a expanding one. I take care. I take of us. I like to do it and I do it as well as I may. She taught me that, though with her it was often a bitter endeavour. Save me from such bitterness.

I met a man from Belgrade, he said walking up the stairs still wearing his coat and smelling of the outdoors. He was begging on the street. What brought him to Aber? I should’ve asked him, he said. I will next time. We talked about places I’d been, Split, Dubrovnik, he said. Afterwards I gave him a pound and we shook hands.

I just got on with it yesterday. Now remember, he said just now, tell that voice that it isn’t the thing that’s important. Its just the means, its what you will do with it later that matters. OK. You just tell it. Stupid voice, he said before turning out the light.

Stupid voice that is trying to protect me from failing. The shame of it. Failure. So what? It’s still a life, lived.I shall just do it again today. It is all illusory. In the repeat of Down Your Way with Pam Ayres this morning on Radio 4 Extra she interviewed a woman who’d gone on a course to learn how to make a basket coffin. Were some of the people on the course making their own coffins? Pam asked her. Oh, yes, she said, several. Preparing. Taking charge of the end. The inevitable. That, death and birth are the only two non-illusions. And it is coming. And I am grateful.



Brian is coming. The police are closing off the Prom at nine this morning, he told me, popping his head round the bathroom door as I was bathing. You will be careful, won’t you? Only go where we agreed. Yes, I said.

Brian is coming. Storm Brian. What a banal name for a storm. I can’t get agitated about something called Brian. And, as yet, little is happening out there. A bit of wind, a bit of rain. I walked the Prom after all. There were loads of students milling about when I got there. No cordons, no sign of the police. So I walked it and was glad to. The air was fresh, it blew through me. Nice. I am grateful for it. I need it. Always. There’s always the sea.

I was sad yesterday. Is it SAD? Is it the menopause? Or is it that I am just a depressed sort of person? But not all the time. Sometimes there is joy, exquisite joy. Transient yes, but one couldn’t contain it, hold on to it for ever. I wept heavy tears. My eyes hurt today. I cry for the loss of something. The loss of me. I don’t know. He is so good, so patient. Sleep helps. There’s an article here about SAD, he said at supper. What do they advise? I asked. He read out the list. Anti-depressants, CBT, psychotherapy, light boxes, Vitamin D, exercise and a good diet. Nothing new there. I want to just live it. Accept it. No antidepressants. I want what is, not what is not. Is it OK just to be sad?

I struggle with the listlessness though. I have to admit. I like to do. And I still do but it takes all of my effort. Just finished the cleaning. All done for this week. Such a relief. I just don’t have the energy, it takes it out of me. This greyness. This greyness feels like it is pressing down on me. What is that children’s rhyme about Chicken Licken? Something about the sky falling down on him (or was it her?). I never liked it. It scared me. It felt like chaos.

I wish you could see how much you mean to me, he says. See how much you are worth. It hurts him, no frustrates him when I feel like this about myself. It is my default position, I say. I know, he says. I know. I’m not whingeing. I don’t see myself as a victim. I see the gifts of my life. But I sense I need to live it, to acknowledge it to come through it. And perhaps I never will, not entirely. It is how I read the world. Just let it be. Take to my bed if I have to. Would the sky fall in if I did? It’s the work thing, I know. The writing about it unleashes it all. Good and bad. I remember this Hot Chocolate song from way back, it must’ve been sometime in the 70s. Emmeline I believe it was called. Emma, Emma, Emmeline, Errol Brown sang almost crying it out. I always got goosebumps. Goosepumps, he wrote. A song about a girl who wanted to be a star, an actress. She never made it so she took her life. Schmaltzy, I know. But it touched me then. And I’ve never forgotten it. To him she was a star. She’d made it. It was enough.

I have a head full of good advice and mostly it carries me forward. It’s just when I’m tired that the negative stuff takes hold. A tightrope walking exercise. I want to go out in the wind. It is so alive. Time to work. To make a beginning. Not yet eight. I’ve made the coffee. A bientot. x



The phone went silent. Had she gone? Had she put the phone down? I hadn’t heard the click and there was no droning sound. Silence. I let it lie. Waited. She was crying. Not a boo hoo kind of crying but an almost indiscernible weeping. Poor love. She is scared. So scared. It has been too long and the threat of more invasive exploration is too much for her. I wonder at her age. I’ve never asked her. She can’t be more than late fifties, maybe early sixties, but this has beaten her down. She clings to the natural medicine, to the gentle therapy it offers, knowing that it will not cure it, just keep her steady. I just want to be able to keep going, she says. She and Bonnie have been for a walk, just a quick one, it’s too wet. She asks about the storm on Monday. I wasn’t here I tell her. The sun went red, she said. The runner beans have gone. Mustn’t complain, we’ve had most of them. It was so strange. So warm, but the wind. The farmer next door had some plastic sheets, heavy ones, they flew like paper. She asks about my holiday. I want to talk about her, offer solace. All I can do is encourage rest. She wants to be normal, to have her energy back. Bless her. I want to make it all right for her but I can’t. We talked about going away for a few days for half term, she says, but I’m not up to it. Perhaps in the New Year, when it’s lighter. Perhaps we’ll go then. Take care of yourself. It was nice to hear your voice. Speak next Friday. Thank you. Thank you.

The clock was turning when I went upstairs to make breakfast. Just turning, round and round. Not fast and not slow, an insistent kind of turning. Then it stopped. Just stopped at twelve. It’s a radio controlled clock. I thought it needed a new battery so I changed it. Nothing happened. The hands remained still. Then ten minutes later it started turning again. This time it found the right time and rested, still ticking. It’s happened once before. It unsettles me. There is something electric in the air. I am agitated, weepy, unable to focus on anything. I long for a proper job at such times, something to hold me in place. Tramlines. I’ve busied myself. I’ve done the ironing (first load), two washes, hovered, mopped the floors, dusted his bedroom, made breakfast, washed up, sorted out the post from my accountant, called her, walked, been to work and now I am writing. And it is only 10.23 am. And yet, I still feel rock bottom worthless. We niggle at each other. We always do when I feel like this. We’re not listening properly. He wants me to stop being irrational, to stop fretting and I want him to make me feel better, to steady me. I fixate on the tiny, irritating things and criticise. Ugh. Is it the onset of Brian, Storm Brian that is responsible? Get a grip or just let it all go. Is it part of it, this ugliness? It’s fear, I think, fear of not being good enough, of making the wrong choices, of not earning enough, of not being good. Enough.

We finished the film last night. It was a beautiful thing to watch. The ending was rushed, though, and not clear. But the landscape of New Zealand was stunning, as was the photography and the constrained, gentleness of the performances. A true dilemma. Sometimes there is only one thing to do. Help me to put her first, she said. A Solomon-esque dilemma. I know something of it. But I am one-step removed these days.

I’ve thought of her almost constantly since I returned. We are not alike but there is a pull. I sent her some healing. Thoughts. I imagined her wrists were mine, and her neck too. It helped. I sent healing. Did your wrists and neck feel warm? I asked in a message the next day. Yes, she said, so much so I had to apply ice. She is open to all things like me and told of a phone call that her then husband took in Mum’s old house, a few days after her death. We’d had visitors, the children of her second husband. They were looking over his possessions. The land line went. Hello, her ex had said. It was a woman’s voice, he had said, a rasping voice. Get them out, it had said, get them out. He was freaked by it. Went white. I think I’ve just been speaking to your mother, he’d said. The day before, the neighbours, a steady, rational couple, had seen here, her head poking through the gate.

Who knows? For me it was the sparrows, as I’ve said. Who knows? She is not there now, not now. Though when I am there I dream of her almost nightly. Would she make it alright now? Did she ever? Am I still grieving?

To work. Write. Just write. Write it out.


Who is it?

A young man is shouting at his girlfriend. They are walking along North Road. It is 3.30 am. She hugs herself as he shouts, lagging behind, head down. Who is it? he is shouting. Who is it?

Just beyond the Bandstand I pass a couple. The man wears an England football shirt. He is making big expressive gestures as he talks. I can do all those things better, he is saying. I don’t mean to be rude, but I can.

Further down the Prom, sitting on the steps just down from Pier Pressure, another man is shouting. … a cunt! he shouts. I don’t catch the name. A few yards away a diminutive girl breaks from a conversation she is having with two friends to exclaim in reply, yeh, fuck him man, before returning her attention to her mates.

Yesterday I’d watched as a group of foreign students had encircled a parked University Security van with traffic cones. It had clearly been a case of high spirits. They worked fast, giggling as they did it. I’m off, said one of the girls. And they all scarpered. It was a harmless enough prank. And they were so utterly delighted with themselves.


This is why I get up at this ungodly hour, not to observe all the shenanigans that the students get up to in their cups, but for this dark silence. It isn’t easy, its a truthful hour, a stark time with no hiding place. I often very nearly fall asleep, particularly when I have a hot water bottle on my lap and my little fire on. It is too cosy. Sometimes there are lights on around the complex (is that the only word I can come up with to describe where I live?). I imagine them to be nursing staff, particularly the girl who lives across the Quad from us. I can see her window, more often than not lit, from my studio one, Is she just back from work? What does she do with her time? I sometimes muse about retraining as a nurse. Could I do it? Not the training,, that would be OK, but the all day on your feet sort of stuff, being told what to do and remaining detached. Could I do all that? I know that I would be efficient but as to stamina, I jut don’t know. Until one knows what it is like to do something, be someone else, one can only imagine, encourage romantic ideas about how much easier it would be. But it wouldn’t. It would just bring an different set of problems. I think it is the feeling that I would have done something worthwhile, a day’s work. I remember that sensation when teaching. I was so exhausted by it, particularly by the end of the week. But this is my situation, this inner wrangling, this search for authenticity.

I crave meaning, said the man on the radio. I only caught the end of the programme. It sounded like he had a stroke of some kind and was talking about his life post-paralysis. He was a violinist and was re-learning how to play. I crave meaning. So often I catch phrases from the radio that resonate with me. I crave meaning. It’s true. I want to find work to lose myself in, to surprise myself with. To be busy with. But I need to find out what that work is. I began writing yesterday. It is hard. It is not just writing about my practice but of myself too. What am I about? What am I doing it? Where is it going? And on and on.

Ho hum. I must get back to it. Something is coming through, I’m not sure what. I need to be brave, to admit, to recognise what is gone, and what can never be while being open to what is possible. Go to it. Go. Go, Ada, go.