Offerings to the Gods

I’m rushing ahead of myself. I need to get on with work but I just wanted to write something, to touch base as they say in America. It steadies me, just as she said it would. A splurging but also a recounting of what I’ve seen on my walks, during the day. I need to record it. To remind myself of the bliss, the joy. It may end up being a list of things. So be it. That would be enough.

They had been placed in little piles on the edge of the path. A stone-flagged path that marks the end of the beach. There are often things placed there. Little hillocks of stone, little cairns. This time is was fragments of turquoise painted stone. It looked like they had come from an old wall. Had the sea carried them there, to Cardigan Bay? The colour was Mediterranean in hue, from Spain perhaps or Greece? I love such collecting. A gift. An offering to the Gods.

I asked about her auntie again yesterday as she made my coffee. She’ll need to go in a home, she said. She doesn’t want to, but what with all this falling. Yesterday, I told her, her hair looked liked it’d been dyed. A splodge of red on one side, she said, pointing at her own head to demonstrate the place. I told her, you look like you’ve had your hair dyed, Auntie. And my brother, David, had to pick her up. Oh, I said to him, that must’ve been awful, for you, was it? I asked. She practically brought us up, him and me, you see. Do you want hot milk with that?

I do like her. She’s so warm and round. I love her big upper arms. I wanted a mother like that, I fantasised about the warmth. Beautiful, she is, she said. Beau-t-i-ful, she said.

No frost this morning but a cold north wind. The leaves rustled along the road, brittle and dry. Was that a slight dusting of snow? A wetness on my face? I was able to walk the Perygyl today. It was good to be back. The sky was cloudy, starless. The sea black.

She was coming towards me down South Road. She had on her pink anorak, zipped up tight across her bosom. She avoids eye contact. Her head is always down, her plastic bag, full of I don’t know what swinging as she walks. Is she an insomniac, is she depressed? Do people ask the same of me?

I dreamt of my sisters last night. At least one of them, maybe two. I sensed them rather than recognised their faces. We had to go to a party. We didn’t want to go. It was an obligation. We thought we knew what to expect. But looking through the window when we arrived we saw that there were other people there too. Strangers. We had instructions in our hands of how to behave. A laminated sheet of them. We clutched them to us and walked towards the door.

I heard the tick tick of a blue tit as I walked home along Llanbadarn Road. Are you cold little one? Will you survive the winter. Your song is metallic, but loud, almost strident for something so tiny.

Enough. Time for work. Thanks for listening. I appreciate it.


Four feet nothing

I asked about her auntie. She came out of hospital, she said, but then the very next night she fell again walking with her zimmer. She clearly loves her. I watch her as she talks about her. Her eyes are a chocolate brown. I like her, for all her rocket-fire chatter I like her. Then she fell again, she continued, on the other side. Her mind is fine. I do love her. She’s four feet nothing and lovely. A lovely four feet nothing.

He was sitting in my chair when I got into work. Well, it’s not my chair exactly, but it’s where I like to sit, out of the way, away from a computer. I noticed his feet straight away. He was barefoot. I thought he was my guest, arrived early, and went towards him my hand outstretched. I said the name of my guest and he nodded. Are you feeling better? I asked him. My guest had had to cry off the previous week due to illness. Yes, he said, much better. I’ll just get the studio ready, I said walking off. When I returned intending to put him in the studio ready for broadcast, he and a journalist colleague had clearly been talking. He’s not your guest, she said. Oh, I said. I know him, he said, and however much I’d like to be him, I’m not. When my guest arrived they were the spit if each other. Though my guest had shoes on. Is the bare feet some kind of a penance? I asked him. No, he said, though there are many things in my life I could do penance for. Are you on a pilgrimage? I asked. No, he said. I only have one pair of shoes and they have begun to pinch me. Going barefoot is preferable. Isn’t it cold, I asked. Or do you get inured to it? Yes, he said. I asked the journalist later what he was there for. I’d watched him working at something online, reading then scribbling in a very neat script. I have a story to report on tonight about a sheepdog and the information I’ve been given is in Czech. I asked upstairs. They have a circle of people up there who can speak all kinds of languages. They gave me him. I thought his Welsh sounded odd, I said. I hadn’t noticed he was barefoot till you mentioned it, she said.

The phone had gone the night before at 6.30pm. I’d been just about to go to bed. It’s a bit of a long shot, said the voice, but could you put a guest in front of the newsroom camera tonight? My heart sank. I spoke without thinking. I’m just about to go to bed. But it’s only 6.30, he said. I tried to think on my feet. It’s been a long day, I’ve a head cold, an early night. I’d forgotten my singularity. I’d forgotten that my habits are eccentric. I usually keep them to myself. Can you see if he can do it, if he can’t I will? I said. Sure. He rang back five minutes later. It’s OK, he said, he can do it. So you can go and put your pyjamas on. Was he laughing at me? In fact, he said, when I get home I’m going to do exactly the same. It was OK. You handled it brilliantly, he said. I said no. I said no to work and to money. It was too much. A howling gale outside and I wanted my bed. It was OK to say no. Sometimes you just have to.

I’ve been walking home the back way so hadn’t seen it. I saw it this morning. The tree. They’ve put the town tree up. No decorations yet, just a star on the top. It’s beginning. The first door of my advent calendar on Friday and advent candles and song on Sunday. He likes to hear it. First in Norwegian, then in English. Nice.

I dreamt I was watching this old man and a child in a supermarket. They both had nappies on. He was a little unkempt. I was momentarily put off, but then felt warmer towards, more caring. We were looking at a selection of cheeses through a glass chilling cabinet. I noticed that his nappy was not a big one, not doubly incontinent then, I thought, and he was clean. The details are so distinct. I wake wobbly, so immersed, prised from it like a oyster from its shell.

A cold walk but lovely. The stars were everywhere. There was frost on the Perygyl. It glistened in my torchlight. Beautiful.




I thought it was a cow. I heard a mooing, a repeated lowing sound. Anxious to get home out of the wind, rain and darkness, it took some time before I yielded to curiosity and turned round. It wasn’t a cow, how could it have been? On Station Road at 3.45 am in the morning? I ask you. It was a truck. The mooing noise was the driver working the automated platform at the back. He was standing on it holding onto a wire trolley piled high with pizza boxes. Domino Pizza. He was delivering to Domino Pizza next to the Job Centre. You see I’ve been distracted ever since I woke this morning. It was my dream, I can’t seem to shake it off. And it’s making me see things oddly. All is not quite steady, or stable. I forgot to turn on the radio, I sprayed hair mousse into my hand when I didn’t need it. I am discombobulated.

A dream full of symbolic imagery. We were travelling, he and I, on a journey back from somewhere, but we also had to go back to a place (Nerja) to get home. Lots of going through doors to get to the other side, lots of discussions about and actual eating of food. Sitting on coaches, waiting to go through customs. Seeing the landscape from above. At one point I went through one door and came upon a pantry full of slaughtered animals, well, cuts of bloodied meat and there were the most enormous collection of knives on the block. Huge curved cleavers and choppers. No, it’s not that door, someone called after me, it’s that one. And I went through another and there was a white bowl full of clean water. Then I was hungry and there was only meat available. Other people were sitting around eating, I feel embarrassed that I couldn’t join in and then I saw a plate of dried fruits. I ate some hungrily, greedily, again ashamed by my appetite. It tasted of watery sugar. At another stage of the dream I’d lost him and I was sitting next to a beautiful young man I clearly fancied. I held his hand furtively, turning around to see if he could see us. I felt disloyal but my desire for this man was overwhelming. At one point I even bit his hand. You are a one, he said, laughing. (Was this a response to my listening to Johnnie Walker’s tribute to David Cassidy on Sunday? I’d been flabbergasted by my feelings of exhilaration (and indeed, desire) hearing his recorded voice and renditions of Could it be Forever and Cherish. Was this what was playing out in my dream? We’d talked about it and he’d said it was perfectly understandable, teenage crushes were potent things, blah, blah.) The man talked about which restaurant he was going to eat in in Nerja. Then we were walking together towards it and each side of us as the sea was chock-full of fish. A plethora of fish, so much that you couldn’t see the sea. He talked of sharks being spotted nearby. Must be because of the fish, I said. Then I was with him again and the man had gone. We were waiting in an ante room waiting to go through customs and continue our journey. There was a woman there too, who looked rather like Sarah Kennedy. She gave me a bag. Here, she said, something to freshen yourself up with, make you like a woman again. I looked inside. It contained come curling tongs, tampons, sanitary towels, face wipes, make-up and so on. I was unsure what to do. It seemed like a kind offer. But I didn’t want or need anything. No thank, I said, handing back the bag. I better not take anything I hadn’t packed myself. It’s alright, she said you can say I gave it to you. No, I said. I woke to the sound of my alarm. There were many other aspects. A man we were in a car with talking about insurance and buying a home. He was seedy, untrustworthy, I felt unsafe with him, but the rest has gone.

What an outpouring. I must be off to work now. Trying to not get stressed with all that I have to do. And never knowing if it will be today. Soon, I know. Keep her safe.


Mr Pugh

I love his stories remembrances. I know most of them. Others, unfamiliar to me, come out of the blue, unexpected. Little things trigger them. We were sitting in the car after having been to the supermarket. Have I told you we go early? It opens at 6 am. We like to get there spot on if we can. We have the place to ourselves then, that is except for the shelf stackers. They are everywhere. One of them was singing to I wish it was Christmas everyday by Wizard this morning, as I whizzed past. You’ll soon get bored of that, I thought, and almost said something. Still it’s nice that he was singing. Anyway we were sitting in the car, in the dark, at the railway level crossing, waiting for a train to come. Mr Pugh used to work those, he said. He had a little signal box right there, he said pointing to the side of the road. Of course, they weren’t automatic then, he worked them by hand. He then proceeded to tell me about Mr Pugh’s sons. It always amazes me that he remembers names so well. Is it because he has never really left here? This town, his town. Anyway, Mr Pugh, it seems had two sons. One went to teach in St Faiths on Trumpington Street in Cambridge. He acquired a really posh accent, he said. And the other was into music. He used to dress up as a bishop. When he was a boy? I asked, momentarily jolted by such eccentricity. Yes, he said, missing the irony. I saw his name under a letter in the paper. Something to do with women’s voices. In the Cambrian News? I asked. No, The Guardian. He’s written a book about women in music. It must’ve been him.

The rain was relentless this morning, as was the wind. I’d borrowed his coat again. And wore my own set of waterproofs underneath it. You just have to inure yourself to it. Too windy for an umbrella. Just bear it. Listen to the spit spat on rain on my hood. Pull the sleeves down over my hands to stop my gloves getting sodden. Push hard into the wind. There was no one about, save a car with its lights on, waiting, the red of its brake lights reflecting bright in the puddles, waiting in the turning circle by the bar. A white shiny car. Young men. Up to no good? Possibly. I kick the bar anyway, lifting the too long coat up over my knees. No one about save a cat. A black shadow down an alley. And a lit basement window. The torso of a young man through the un-curtained window, the sleeves of his checked shirt rolled up, he is obviously talking to someone. Do I see legs stretched out? There is a skateboard, upright and leaning against a chair. I feel cocooned as I walk. Warm inside. Toasty. Just like the old Ready Brek adverts where the children’s tummies shone red. I used to love Ready Brek, the ultimate comfort food, made with milk, hot and with the sugar melting, that layer of watery sweetness on top. I remember the smell of the opened packet, a mixture of oats, powdered milk and salt. A dry smell.

I wanted to stay in bed this morning. I mostly do these mornings. A herculean effort to rise, out into the cold. Winter is a challenge. So be it. It’s just weather, he says. That’s all. So be it.


Flashing snowflake

I wanted to stay there all day, by that fire doing crosswords with him. I’d asked for a large pot of tea. A pot of tea for two? asked the waitress. No, I’d said, for one but with two tea bags in a large pot. A pot of tea for two then, she’d replied. She was having no nonsense. I liked that. And I’m happy to pay for the privilege of a big pot. It’s what I fancied.

We bagged the seats by the fire and I hogged it. Warming myself like a cat, stripping off the layers bit by bit. The automatic door kept letting people in and with them the sharp wind. Biting. I moved closer to the fire, toasting myself some more. Two groups of men came in in plus fours and woolen socks with those little tabs of ribbon along the elasticated rim. Most wore ties over checked Aquascutum style shirts and tweed jackets. The gentry out for a shoot. Bold in their confidence, they weren’t brash, just self-assured. He bristled next to me turning in his chair to glare. I thought of the one shoot I’d attended as a child, something I still deeply regret. It was more of a rough-and-ready affair. We lived in Lancashire then and there wasn’t the landed classes as there obviously is in this part of North Wales. I’d agreed to be a beater, mostly because I fancied the son of one of the organisers and had hoped for a glimpse of him. I was disappointed and further dejected by the mud, the rain and seeing the, what seemed to me, indiscrimate killing of squirrels. Bastards, he said under his breath, I hate them. Bloody farmers. Are they? I asked.

But they weren’t noisy. Not the braying multitude that he’d expected. They ate their, no doubt, hearty breakfasts and left. See that registration number? he said. That’s this years, he said, still seething. The tea was nice though. I felt lifted, ready to write. Ready to think. We returned on our way back, dropping in for a pee. The shop was inundated with Christmas fayre, food and decorations and all sorts of useless stuff. I saw several young girls looking longingly at it all, occasionally stroking something with a finger, or picking something up and holding it for a while. I remember such desire. Waiting for him I shook a snow scene, one of little church scene (I think) and another of a reindeer. I used to love them. They were magical to me.

We talk about sherry on the way home. I can’t remember how it started. I recall the sherry glasses my mother had, beautiful slim vessels, with a heavy tapered base with an air bubble inside. They were brought out every Christmas. Dry sherry anyone? my father would ask. Harvey’s Bristol Cream, for me. Certainly. That was his job, doing the drinks. The maitre’d, the host, the emcee, he was good at that. Always smiling, his face creased up with one, always. Till later, much later, then the smiles stopped. The taste of sherry was the start of Christmas for me. Just a small one for the girls, Chris, Mum would say. Not too much. Sweet, sticky, heady and potent on an empty stomach. Us in all our finery, our best dresses, waiting for Christmas Eve to officially start. Dinner first then presents. The smell of gravy. Mum looking stunning, always. The intoxicating fragrance of her perfume, her lipstick, the jangle of her jewellery, the sway in her hips. Happy for once. Can you help me get the meat out of the oven, Chris? Sure. Did he touch her arm?

A flashing snowflake in the window of a student’s house on Llanbadarn Road. Flashing red, green and blue. I am lifted by it. Thank you.



It was unexpected. A boon. It comes at just the right time. Naturally. Times have been lean. I am grateful. More than I can say. He wants to spend it, and pulls my leg. My instinct is always to save. Just in case. Put it away nice and safe. Maybe a little treat. Why not?

A glorious day. I walked to meet him. Shall I come and get you? he asked. No, let me walk. Let me walk a little in this sun. I watched a man waiting to cross Llanbadarn Road, his hand up shielding his eyes from it. Never. There’s always the sun, sang The Stranglers. Somewhere, yes, but rarely here these wintry days. I love it. Look at that blue. My soul rejoices. Hallelujah.

I went. I was a little nervous. It made me cold. Do you want me to take you coat? she asked. No, thanks, I think I’ll keep it on. She talked fast. So much information. My head ached with it by the end. I think it’s going to be good. I liked it there. As well as anyone can ‘like’ an institution. It’s the best I’ve seen. It was clean, light, airy. Most of the floors have to be carpeted, she said, otherwise it looks too much like an institution. We had laminated floors, no not laminate, lino, in the rooms for the very incontinent, but that’s all. It makes a difference. Lots of windows too. And each room with its own shower. Can they have their own furniture? I asked. We don’t encourage it, she said. The family heirloom with woodworm. And think of the fire hazard. Yes, I do see. They all have varying degrees of dementia, she said, settling down into the sofa. No, that’s not strictly true there is one gentleman who doesn’t but he keeps to himself. I’m so excited about this, I’ve even told the papers. I look around me and notice a picture of The Last Supper by Leonardo in cross stitch. Three of the women residents are sitting among us. One has a bruised face, another is sitting at a table, poker-faced. This is a piss-awful day, she shouts. The woman behind the café counter ignores her, as do we. She’s been asked to join in in the art activity upstairs, says my companion, but she doesn’t want to. The woman near to us smiles at us. My companion explains to her what I intend to do. She smiles. That’s nice, she says, it’s good to be busy. She is tiny, her shoulders are like a child’s. On her feet she wears heavily embroidered, blue velvet slippers. The woman with the bruised face stares into space. I walk over to her. You’re looking well, she says. Thank you, I reply, so are you. I complement her on her cardigan. She touches it. She has a Liverpuddlian accent. Are you from Liverpool? I ask. She doesn’t respond. She’s still stroking her cardigan. She looks up. You’re looking well, she says.

The thing to remember is that they don’t see things the way we do, says my guide. She shows me into two other wings. She is bright and breezy, making conversations with staff and residents alike. One woman kisses her. She is wearing pink pyjamas and has bare feet. Are you off for your bath? she asks. The woman giggles. Off you go. Another woman is calling out. We go to her room. She asks if she is OK. I want to go to the toilet, she says. I think you’ve already been, she says. What am I supposed to be doing now? she asks. You’re waiting for tea and cake, my companion says. I notice a picture on her wall, just by the door. Its a series of photographs with the word FAMILY cut out in wood and stuck underneath. It is her. A younger version. An elegant woman with her husband and children. She sits hunched in her chair, her hair a wild, wiry nest of grey. I want to go to the toilet. When we walk past her door ten minutes later she is crying.

Can I make a difference? She seemed to think so. We like them to see people from outside, from the community. Can I call you our artist in residence? she asked. She thinks they will talk to me. They will certainly try to tidy things away, she says. A euphemism. Things go walkabout, she says. Be careful with scissors. When one of the residents died her family found three pairs of scissors in her drawers. She’d been a midwife, she said, I think she was trying to keep us all safe. Perhaps she just liked to have tools around her, I said. Perhaps, you may be right.

The New Year then. Yes. And see what happens. I won’t ask you to wear the T-shirt, she said. No, I said.

He liked it. Wonderful and immersive, he said. I’m so relieved. Thank you. Thank you.



Have you seen it? she asked as she scanned a netted bag of oranges. What? The whisky, she said, that bottle by the door, its humungous. No, we said. Well have a look when you leave. I mean who’d buy that? she asked. I looked around me. Straight ahead were plastic wrapped packages of litre bottles of Coke, ten to a pack, a pile of them, four feet high. And surrounding the tills were litre bottles of Baileys. Row after row of them. At the entrance to store tins of Celebrations and Quality Street lined the foyer. So much. So much abundance. Can you see it? she called as we left. There. It was huge as were the three Toblerone bars next to it. The abundance of Christmas. It is too much for me. I used to like going to Harrods to see the displays, relishing the show, the splendour, but not now. Not any longer. It is too much. Too much for me. I just don’t want all that, I said to him when we got into the car. Perhaps its because we’re happy, he said. Yes, perhaps it is.

I thought he was following me. I’d been trying to let loose my mind. To be mind-less and mindful. I’d started to listen to the sounds as I walked. The rhythmic rush and whoosh of the sea, the wind tearing round the harbour, rattling at the boats rigging. I was loosing myself to sound. And then I saw him. A dark figure in the gloom coming out of one of the houses facing the harbour. I kept on walking. He was a little behind me. I took the steps up onto South Road and but could still hear him. My back muscles stiffened. I walked faster. Then I turned. Best get a look at him and remember the detail. My mind was in overdrive, all peace gone. A small, young man with longish hair, hanging straight around his face. He wore no coat, just a shirt outside his jeans. I caught a glimpse of his face, a sad look almost a scowl. I kept on walking, crossing the road fast onto Mill Street. Flashing yellow lights. Two man working a drain. They worked in silence, knowing the moves. In harmony. The man had gone.

I stopped again at the top of the hill looking down onto Llanbadarn Road. I stood perfectly still. Switching my mind off. Imagining a red switch like the one we have for the cooker. Off. I stood watching the wind blow the leaves of a rock crop, one leaf was almost dead and it flapped furiously in the wind. I paid full attention to the leaf, seeing its disharmony with the rest, bearing witness.

Vivid dreams again last night. Dreams about washing. Washing myself and washing our clothes. A shower became a washing machine. All in disarray, dirty clothes everywhere. No walls and no privacy. A young girl watching me. Someone turning off the shower. Then another dream, this time Audrey Hepburn was dancing. She danced under rocks. It was a set, a theatre set and she was dressed Diaghilev-style, with strong pre-Bauhaus-esque colours. Hard to describe. I was a spectator as was a man and we were discussing the performance. She literally danced under the rocks on the stage, forcing her body beneath them. How hard it is to describe dreams, they defy containment or logic. One just knows them. Or at least I do. Playing them over and over, trying to get to the nub.

Bits to do. Bits to order. I go to the home today. I don’t know what I’ll make of it. Keep open, that’s all. Wait and see, she’d say. Wait and see.

A wild wind. The homeless man wasn’t under the castle this morning. Too cold, too windy? He had a dog with him last night as we drove past. I wanted to stop. But what would I say? We are not alone, not really. Are we?



David Cassidy’s died. He came in to tell me. That beautiful man. I was enchanted by him as a child. Too beautiful for me. Too beautiful. Rest in peace.

The fair has gone. There was no sign of it when I looked down the road this morning. A wind-blown emptiness. All gone. Packed up and moved on.

I’m locked out. You’ve locked me out, a girl was shouting as she bashed on the door. I turned the corner and saw her, just before her friend caught up with her. The door opened and a yellow light welcomed them in. Breathe. All is well.

I dreamt of Mum. I’d taken her to my sister. An estranged relationship that I’d wanted to help mend. Mum was young, younger that she was when she died. She was chatty, open. I’d taken her Sweden. I listened to her talking Norwegian. I didn’t understand what she was saying but I knew all the same. She was happy. I could always tell for I was safe then, at peace. I’d taken her, that was the thing. It was my gift. My gift to my sister.

Earlier, another dream. I try to sleep in the afternoons. I’d never have done so as a younger woman, but I need it now. I rise so early, I need that brief shut-eye and it helps the gloom that descends these days. These winter days. Just as I fell to sleep a short dream, more a vision. A child, a toddler, barely-walking. I was watching this child from above. I remember a romper suit, a dotted, black and white one. It was trying to walk. There were three adult figures ahead. I saw them as a child does, focusing on their legs. The tot was trying to catch them up but stumbled, falling flat. The ground was soft, it was grass. There was no damage no pain except that of being left behind, of not being able to catch up and of being forgotten.

The birds massed on the shore again this morning. Terns and seagulls were there, each with their own allotted space. Some were on the Prom too, scavenging. Scavenging after the students. A bin had been emptied of its rubbish. They squawked and screamed. Pizza boxes, plastic bags, food containers were buffeted about. On the shore the birds stood as if in vigil. Waiting. Waiting for what?

Most days I am a coiled wire. Too tight. I snap and snarl at him. I try not to but I need the release. I cried yesterday. Bursting with it. What is it? What is it? I don’t know. I did the trundling yesterday, I thought I’d be safe. But I’d made mistakes, miscounted the pattern, and then my mind begins its carping. I’m beaten down by it. He comes up to help. Let’s talk it through. But I don’t want to. I want it gone. I’m tired of the same narrative, over and over. Pull back. Breathe. Detach oneself and see it from above, on high, from afar. You did what you set out to do, nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing to judge. You are just completing something, preparing the material for the performance. It doesn’t merit all this drama. I think about why I am obsessed with such a way of working. Is it it’s simplicity? What do I want to discover? I think about interviewing her, it’s her life I want to find out about. I imagine it unfettered, uncomplicated and the cross-stitch and the knitting is a symbol of that. Time, leisure, solitude, neatness, ordered, an ordered, managed kind of creativity without the fear of failure, of being shown up as fraudulent. Is that it? Is that what this is about? Interesting.

And then I fussed and fretted over what to do when I visit the home. I’m meeting the volunteer coordinator tomorrow. What will I sew? What do I want to sew or write? What will I be able to achieve? I think about Vita Sackville West’s All Passion Spent. But is that too obvious? I want the words, the text to tell the story. Or maybe poetry? Something succinct, delicate, like the Emily Dickinson envelopes. And then I went upstairs to do yoga and a play was on the radio. Tony and Rose by Nicola Baldwin. I came to it one third in. I waited for a happy ending, there was none. A son returning to England having left home at seventeen to take care of his dementing mother. All boundaries lost. All safety gone. He enters her hell and vice versa. Can what I do make a difference? Even for a moment? I used to ask the same of myself when I went to see him. He didn’t know me but responded, I think, to my touch. A tactile man, he liked to be touched. Loved. Don’t we all?

I just don’t know. I don’t know so many things. And soon the writing will be here. I am at times utterly floored by it, though I have sought it, generated it. Can I just yield? Let myself fall into it. I could never do that. Let myself fall. I’ll catch you, they’d say. You won’t fall. You won’t. I promise.


Gingerbread House

They’ve begun hanging the lights in town. There were two strings of them this morning suspended over Great Darkgate Street and just outside The Angel. They turn them off at night. I’m saddened by this for I love to see them. They lift my spirits immeasurably. I need such comforts in the dark. I seek them out. The smell of baked bread from Slater’s and The Pelican Bakery is one, but in winter their doors are invariably shut and that delicious salty scent of yeast is faint. What else? The birds? A sudden eruption of song this morning as I turned into North Road. There is a little public garden on the right hand side, with a bench and a lawn that is often left to grow wild. I heard it there. Was it a robin? I know so little about ornithology. A warbling, throaty chirruping that was met with another, louder rendition. Two robins? One often follows me down North Road, bounding from hedge to fence, just a little in front. Are they after food? Have they learnt that we are bringers of sustenance, or is it just a social thing? There’s one at the University too that follows me up the path to work. And we used to have one in Cambridge that would perch on spades or clumps of mud just ahead of us as we worked. No mass of gulls on the beach this morning but the starlings were keeping up their din. I tried to describe the sound to myself. It’s a kind of peeping, but a mass of it, almost a hissing. The rafters under the Pier teem with them, hundreds, maybe even thousands. It’s an eerie, almost ominous sound. Do they ever sleep, are they ever silent? Even in their murmuration there is that chattering.

Have you put your tree up? I asked her, as I loaded the bags. Yes, she said. No, I said. Yes, she said. And did your children decorate it? I asked. No, she replied, I don’t let them. Decorating the tree is my job. She is delighted with it all. I love Christmas, she says. And will you bake biscuits with them? No, I’m not much of baker, she said, though I noticed the Gingerbread House kit they’re selling here. I thought about having a go with that. With your kids? I asked. Oh, no, she said, they make too much of a mess. I can’t stand it. I like her. A small woman, with large fleshy arms. She gives a little giggle now and again when she talks. A perfect mix of fun and rigour.

The fair has come to town. It comes this time every year. Ever since I can remember it has been here, he said over supper, and always in the same place. I heard it when I went to bed. A distant clamour of music and a voice shouting through a tannoy system. A comforting noise. We used to go to the fair as children. I was both enchanted and scared. It had an edge, a hint of danger. Had I picked up on my mother’s wariness? Run by gypsies, she’d say. And yet they fascinated me. They all looked like David Essex, earring-ed, with unkempt dark curly hair and that disdainful, unsmiling stare. I loved the Waltzers but they would make me nauseous, and the more I screamed the faster they would go. Make it faster, don’t make it faster. A wildness, it was a feral place the fair. Feral and thrilling. Out of our safe living room into that feral darkness lit by fairy lights. A wonder. A fairy kingdom. I wanted to go last night. To try to win something pink and tacky, to taste candyfloss and to come home with my hands reeking of metal.

I think about asking her to do an interview. I could do it in her break over a pot of tea in the café. So tell me why do you do cross stitch?. I want to understand, to get inside her motivation. She has a flat voice. I like her. I feel an affinity, that is both nice and at times a little alarming. What would she make of such a request? And what would I do with it? So much groping in the dark. All I can do is try.

A gentle day today after all that racing about yesterday. A trundly day. A getting somewhere but slowly day. Sew. Sew and sew. That’s all, that’s enough. And listen. That too. Always.


Lights on

There were a mass of gulls on the shore as I walked this morning. Was it my thrown shadow on the sand that made them move?Taking flight like a whirl of wind blown ashes, their whiteness temporarily lost in in the blackness only to be found again as they turned. What disturbed them? They call and screech and then are quieted. They move and chatter as one. Held together for safety, for comfort. Do they also dread the winter? I heard the lone call of an oystercatcher. Does it too feel dread? Do they fear the cold, the lack of food? Or do they just accept the day as it is unfolds, making no judgement?

There are always houselights on as I walk, even at that hour. They tend to be upper windows, attic windows. Students working? Or are they insomniacs? Or early birds like me? Though I don’t find it easy at this time of the year. The blackness is like a tunnel. I feel myself being sucked into it as I wake. I have to pull myself up, by the boot straps, as my mother used to say. Come on, I say, there’s work to do. And there is, always. I like to see the lights. I like to feel that there are others awake. Going out into the blackness is never as bad as I fear. It is best, always to meet one’s fear, go to it, be in it. It can be managed then. I was fearful of work yesterday. On a Sunday too. Working the newsroom camera always makes me nervous. It feels too important. Make it wider, she said. I don’t know what she means, I said to him. I did it in the end. It’s the not knowing, not understanding. That’s all. Fear of making a fool of myself, of being gauche, awkward, cack-handed.

There was a chicken bone on the floor. I found it when I got back. Where’d it come from? We don’t eat chicken. Had it come from a bag? A second-hand plastic bag? It made me feel a little queasy. I am out of practice with handling dead stuff. Poor lamb. Poor pet.

ODG are advertising their Open for next year. I think about entering my Proust piece and ponder about the how to do it. Should I make a video of me sewing it? Or should I just put forward the piece, unfinished, a work about reading, intense reading. I try to keep it light, see the possibility for testing, for gauging the outside world’s reaction. That’s all. Keep it light. It’s a good forum to try, it is kind. They may not go for it. If so nothing is lost. Ever.

I thought of him as I walked. We have been together twenty years now. Nineteen years married, on and off. He’s been a constant in my life. He has borne witness to it all, so kindly, so selflessly, so wisely. He is my wise counsel, my love. My love.