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Writings

Writing

I worked hard. I was trepidatious. Perhaps that was the problem. I brought so much fear to it. Why? I wanted to write it. I wanted her and her work in my head. It was a stunning show. Even he was engaged, and moved. I shouldn’t say, even, for he often engages. He is open to my life, to what fills me up, much more, really than I am with his. Though to be fair, that is usually sport, and he doesn’t ask me to. He is a solitary watcher. His tension is contained, he just goes quiet. No, he is more generous than me in all sorts of ways. So, back to the writing. I did it. I worked on it all day. In three stages, having to go to work mid-way. It is a struggle, that. I just want to make it alright. And having to break off before it is resolved is a wrench. And then there was lunch to get. And then back to it. Another two hours when I should’ve been resting. It was worth it but I feel it today. I am a little spaced, not quite here. Though I’ve been productive – shopping, walking, two loads of washing, admin, emails and now this.

He tells me there is to be torrential rain. It’s coming from the South, he says. From over there, he says, pointing. Are you pleased with yourself? he asks over breakfast. I don’t know, sort of. I am sort of. It’s an unfamiliar feeling, I know I worked hard but was it good enough?

Enough. That’s the word that rolls around inside my head as I walk. Am I good enough? Is there enough, money, food, ideas, work, time, love….What is enough? I have all I need. I am given all I need. All I need is here now. I waited for my back to tighten. It is automatic, like breathing these days. The kids made it worse. They jangle me with their noise and chaos. A mess of bodies, all legs and arms sprawling on the pavement on Great Darkgate St at 3.30 am waiting for taxis. They seemed younger this morning. Sixteen year-olds, possibly. Where are they from? Is it post-exams already? They shout and holler. It was shit, shouts a Chinese boy. It was shit. And a white boy, I have not! Others sit on steps and weep, a friend comforting them. Standard practice with booze, it seems. The gulls squawk and sail overhead. Taxis buzz around like flies. Pizza Lush was open and so was Finger Lickin’. My peace waits for me on the Perygyl where the sky and sea meld in the mist. No horizon line and the water laps against the rocks.

It is done. It is enough. Did do her justice? I cannot. She is too good. Was too good. I need a quiet day. So take it. Take it.

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Writings

I’m a moon

Five students were walking down along the Prom towards me. It was not yet 3.30 am. They were laughing and talking while one of them ran around them, encircling them like a sheepdog with it’s flock, his arms held hard against his sides. He was laughing as he did it. I’m a moon, he kept saying, I’m a moon. I saw another group around a lit fire on South Beach, it’s smoke mingling with the clouds overhead. When I walked back they had gone and the fire put out. There was just a trail of smoke lingering. They’d put it out with stones. The Beach is dotted with them. Little hillocks of stones, totemic cairns. Walking through the Castle Park I can see three figures in the gloom. One appears to be weeping, his head bent over, a girl in a sleeveless vest is comforting, her arm around his shoulders while another boy stands in front looking down. A tableau of grief. They are still, unmoving.

I thought about the review all night, in and out of hot, sticky sleep. I want to do it justice, her justice. My gut tightens with the fear of it. And yet, I have chosen to do it, isn’t there power in that?

Town was noisy. Both The Angel and the Why Not? were open. Kids spilling out onto the pavement, the road.

I’ve tow hours to make a start. A start, that’s all. There’s power in beginning, he wrote.

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Writings

Fathers & Three-legged dogs

I love walking early at this time of year. It’s the dark merging into light, mostly. That black into blue coming from the east. It is so hopeful, you begin to believe that everything is going to be alright. The ten thousand things still dog my brain. And my back still tenses like hard steel but there are moments of ease, of lightness. I track them on my walk. Turn this corner and it will get better. Reach the Perygyl and stop, lean against the rail and breathe. The moon is full, the sea just laps and what a sound. It is holidays, rest, thoughtlessness, the encapsulation of the joy, of just being. Thank you. Thank you for this. And then I stop and stand by the hydrangeas in the Castle, just for a moment feeling my feet on the earth. Are the lights on in St Michael’s? No, not today. A couple walk along the Prom, she in what looks like pyjama bottoms. They are walking a three-legged dog. It seems perky enough, a shiny black little thing that hoppitys along. A remember another and the couple that pushed it in a pram.

I called him. Why do I always struggle when talking to him? Are you well? I ask. Of course he is not, he is dying. A quasi-father. He is not my father. Yet, I have the same need to please, to be good enough. I never really interested him. Did any of us? He is concerned with himself, undoubtedly. A very self-centred person, but good. I wanted to talk to her, to see how she was. But I felt love when he answered. He is so reduced, scared. In fear and angry, I think. No, comfortable resignation like him. He became a bigger man as he was dying. I loved him most then. I remember them together, vying. He looking askance at him and then at me. Could you really have come from him? I believe he thought. Is money the only thing he thinks about? I do love them. I love them both, all three, all four. We are the same.

Ah, my brain…ugh, my brain. A long-haired girl walks down Great Darkgate Street with her boyfriend. Another with a girlfriend, she is walking with crutches. A bearded man outside The Angel is on the phone. See you in sec, he murmurs.

Trips, he calls them. We’re off on a trip to see the Kathe Kollwitz show at the Glyn Vivian. It will be nice to be on the road. To be on the move. I keep dreaming about airports. The birds are giving it the gun out there.

It will be good to see her, and them and them. I send emails reaching out. Saying I care, I think of you. I want to see you. I miss you.

In my dreams she points upwards, see, he is there waving at me.

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Writings

Making

It was a beautiful morning as I walked. The sea was lapping gently. People were about, the clubs, post-Sunday-bank holiday, were still open, booming music throbbing from their doors. Couples meandered along the Prom, girls walking barefoot with their shoes in the hands. A group of students encircled a bonfire that was still blazing on North Beach. I drew in the smell – charcoal, wood smoke and a faint miasma of barbecues. Being on the Perygyl was gorgeous, just standing there looking at the yellow moon, almost full, I felt at peace for all the jangling in my mind. I can separate myself. My back is tight from fear, but I can still smell the warm air and appreciate the stillness. As I walked back along the wooden slats (how I love the feel of my footsteps on the soft boards) I wondered why the yellow moon doesn’t give off the same light as a white one. It is fine. It was fine. I take what is given. It is light.

Too much to do – cleaning then work then shopping – and I do want to make a start on the quilt. It is a gift. I don’t know yet how to make it but if I start the fear of failure will lessen. Be easy on yourself. One step at a time.

He is nice, a gentleman. We talk about what he is to discuss. The Irish Referendum. About slavery. About the way men have oppressed women’s bodies. A pause for thought ending with a 17th century Welsh hymn. He translates it for me. Lovely, thoughtful, a good man, I think.

She’s trying to lose weight. A stone and a half so far. I hadn’t noticed, he had. He was kind about it. I’m not eating bread, she said. Oh, do you miss the smell? Absolutely.

I dreamt of him. I’d had such a longing for him and thought I wouldn’t see him all day as I had to work. And then he just came through the door looking stunning, beautiful. It’s only 5.45 am, I said, delighted but surprised. Then I woke. It made me think. See what I have. Such love. Such kindness, such cherishing. I am blessed.

I must go. Just a short one today. Breathe. All will get done. Now and always. x

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Writings

Compelling

Was it compelling enough? I go over my application in my head, as I walk, as I brush my teeth, as I write and as I sew. I just don’t know. How can I know? I needed to contain it, give it a certain amount of time and no more. I did it. I sent it. Isn’t that enough? No, never. It is a pattern, a pattern of behaviour. I just don’t know how to celebrate my achievements. Not big. They are not big achievements, but I get them done any way. A small life. I do have a small life but inside it is cavernous. My inner world is limitless. My dream world too. The end of a dream I had yesterday afternoon had a bird pecking at me. It was biting, not pecking, biting my hand, my thigh, my bum. It was eerie, scary. And I knew it was biting because it was scared. I wanted to let it out. There were too many people in the house. (We’d gathered for a party.) People where everywhere in this huge house, kitchen, living room, dining room and hallway. I called to him to help me, to help wrench the attacking bird from me and put it out. I tried to pull it off myself but it was jagged and thorny and it fought me. This morning’s dream had me anticipating a journey. I had to find somewhere to stay before my flight the next morning. I was with someone, a woman, and discussing where to go. I knew she didn’t want me to stay with her, though it would’ve been feasible. Could I stay in the school? I wanted to ask. Instead I began to write down possible places on a piece of piece. El Candil was one of them. This is a restaurant in Nerja. I knew this in my dream, and thought it would be fine to stay somewhere in Spain even though I would be flying from London. I was hurt she didn’t want me, and couldn’t work out why, but wanted to be practical, to resolve it for myself. Then I woke.

Did I do enough? Was it enough? Was it good enough? Let’s unravel it. The idea is a good one. And you know that you have the determination to see it through. The issue, as always, is the funding. It’s a lonely course to always be doing the inventing alone. It takes so much energy and these days I am depleted.

No more challenges, he said. Just sew. Just sew. I need the simplicity of it. I wanted to write about the clinging to routine. The lines that one has to follow. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t come, make a pledge to do it anyway. But it’s not just the funding is it? It’s the acknowledgement that winning brings. The acknowledgement that it is worthy work. You are worthy, it says. You have been chosen, it says. The chosen one.

The sky clears, the grey thundery clouds pass. I saw a flash of lightning across the sea as I walked. The railings had been moved but the tour trucks were still there. Drunk students ambled along the Prom in the drizzle. No swimmers today. I slept for an hour and half yesterday afternoon. I was dog-tired.

A gentle day. Coffee, sewing and The Archers. Grounded. Held by smells – coffee, elderflower and lavender. She writes promising gooseberries. Yes, please, I say. And blackcurrants? Will she send some? Wouldn’t that be marvellous? I miss her. But I feel so small this days.

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Writings

Chastened

He sat on my bed. I feel chastened by it, I said to him. He’d come to tuck me in, as he always does. I’d asked him if he ever got a bit low at night. Oh, yes, he said, often. It’s melancholy, I said. Yes, he said. Of course, that why people use alcohol, I said. Absolutely, he said. It takes the edge of it. Yes. It’s made me feel grey, that’s all, I said. I know, he said, taking the hot water bottle out of the bed. You did nothing wrong. It was an experiment. And you can always write about it. Yes, yes, I can.

She’d emailed me the following day cancelling it. It’s that hoary issue over photography, and possibly more. It was a tricky day on Thursday, I felt unwelcome, not by the residents but by the staff. They know me, must’ve recognised me but didn’t acknowledge this. I understand, they have their work to do. People like me must be a hindrance, a nuisance. It’s just the way it was done, the rug pulled out from under me. Did they give her a hard time? He holds her responsible. But she was just doing her best. I’m sorry for her, she wanted some credit for its novelty. So be it. I cannot do anything about it. I must just accept it, for all the heaviness it brings. It will pass, other plans will take over. I always recover. Always.

I missed her, then she called back via 1471 which I then missed. I knew it must be her, so I did the same. Her voice sounded shaky. The dog had died. Died in its sleep after collapsing while out walking. Poor love. She was her companion, her walking companion. She died in her sleep in daylight while they were with her. Her handyman buried her in the garden. He’s a friend, she says. He talks to her about his failing marriage. If you don’t talk you burst, she said. Would it hurt her to know I write about her? I hope not. It is a loving thing. I want to record what we talk of, her sayings and idiosyncrasies. To cherish her.

The town has been overtaken by camper vans and lorries for the great downhill cycle race. There are diversions and barriers laid all along the Prom. It unsettles me, I feel hemmed in. It is not ours anymore but usurped. Meanwhile the students play out their leaving routines. I heard three lads shouting from the other end of the Prom. They were perched, apparently naked, on the edge of the steps ready to jump into the sea. One did. Fuckin’ hell it’s freezing, he shouted. Is that a good idea? I want to say, but don’t. They are young, careless and exuberant. Let it be.

Application writing day today and I am weary of challenges. Breathe through it and write. It is my space, my words, I am in control. The winning isn’t what it is about but the making sense of an idea, carving it out, fleshing it out. Just let it be, breath into the fear of it.

The moon is almost full but hidden, just a tiny crescent peeping out behind a cloud.

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Writings

Fire-juggler

I was walking down Llanbadarn Road when I saw it. It was too fast and it was too dark to make it out. Was it a cat or a fox? It sped across the road, low, low to the ground. It caught my attention, I was taken dream-like to the time I saw a fox in our garden in Cambridge, it’s eyes holding mine in a long stare. I must’ve heard a noise, or perhaps caught the flash of flame, I turned to glance down a small side alley to the right of me. Two balls of orange flame dancing in the black. A man bare to the waist juggling fire. I gasped, openly. It was such a shock, how, why? I continued walking, not stopping. I think I’d seen him on the beach years ago. Two, maybe three.

A restless night. It was muggy. Dream after dream. Only the last remembered. I was in the company of two others, he was one. The other was a woman. An older woman. We were watching a film on TV. It ended. I missed the beginning, I said to them. It was the beginning that made me want to write, said the woman. I felt a longing then. Could I find the beginning, could I watch it too? I felt suddenly claustrophobic, trapped. Shall we go for a walk? I said and then woke.

Two dark shapes were perched on a bench as I walked down the Perygyl. I saw the red circle of a cigarette and then heard the voices, muted, Eastern-European, I think. I kept silent, not wanting to interrupt their intimacy or mine.

I feel edgy today, my skin thin.

The update has fucked-up all my settings.

And then she writes to end the residency. It’s the photography thing. I knew it was getting close. Let it be. Let it go. It has been rich. It is enough.

When I walked home past the little alley the fire-juggler had vanished.

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Writings

Sleeping on a wall

She called. It was late. Well, late for me. I recognised that voice. Querulous, tentative, it must’ve taken some courage. Bless her. I want to say, bless you my love. I’m much older than you are, she says. And what courage there is in that aging. Almost 29 years between us. She could be my mother but isn’t. We are similar. Do you feel that too? she asks. I’m glad she called. My hands fizzed with a desire to make it alright for her. To heal her. I quoted a song by Billie Holiday. It made no sense to her. Did she even know of her? Why should she? She quoted a hymn. Different experiences. She has her garden, I have my work, my walking, my man.

Voices as I walk. A girl sitting on the steps of the old Registry Office. You should be so lucky, she is saying to a boy, her eyes heavy with kohl. And then another girl sitting on the steps down to the beach. A girl with a Polish accent. You only have one life, she is saying, in this life, you know. And then another, walking with a friend down the Prom towards the harbour. She in a large Hawaiian shirt. I was ninety seconds, she is saying, and then the audience…..

I couldn’t write the computer, my computer was updating. An hour, more. Stymied and nothing from EMI. Is he unwell?

Soon. Perhaps I should call. Wait. And see.

I see a shape, a form. It gives me a start. It is a man sleeping on a low wall, the sort that are erected in front of terraced houses. He was curled up, foetus-like. Fast asleep, balancing.

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Writings

The Writer

He looked different, more substantial somehow, filled out. He is satisfied with himself, or at least that is how he appears. He is chatty, open, confident that we all know who he is and what he does. A celebrity in a small town, a small world. And he was brown. He’d been sitting in the sun, clearly. An unexpected thing, for I see him as a night creature, a burrowing, underground sort of animal. A mole, a fox, a badger, a earth smelling being. And dark. An denizen of dark places. And one who’s skin remained pale. I like him though, there is an openness to him amongst the guardedness. And were you controversial? I asked him after his interview. I’m always controversial, he replied.

I do what he does. I do it, I’m doing it now. I make words appear on the page. There is no mystery, no alchemy to it. I just do it, as he does. I make no bones for what I do. I’m serving my apprenticeship with it, as I do with all things creative, just learning. Don’t mind me I’m just learning.

I like his work. I like it’s intensity, it’s stubbornness. But it is always the same thing. The same darkness, the same taciturnity. That’s OK. Didn’t someone say we write the same book over and over again. And that’s OK. I suppose it takes a lifetime to get it right. And who’s to say what is right.

It’s a beautiful morning. Cloudless. There were many kids on the beach this morning as I walked. Kids as in young people, students, trippers all japing on the sand, shoes off. A young man sat on the wall facing South Beach on the phone. He was on the phone as I walked down to the Perygyl and still on it when I walked back. His voice was loud. Outside The Angel a lad was sitting on the pavement, his feet stretched out before him. A friend was holding his head as he cried. I wanted to kill myself but I didn’t have the strength, he shouted. A large girl in short white dress scuttled down Great Darkgate Street her arm linked through that of a boy on her left. She threw her head back to laugh. At the same time a seagull squawked. The two sounds became one. She laughing like a seagull.

She said yes, she’d do it. So kind. Now I have to begin making sense of it. A good process. My confidence ebbs and flows. So be it.

I thought of her last night. Why is she still there? Why can nothing be done to release her? I tried to imagine being in the cell with her and sitting with her, a companion, a witness. Would it help? I cannot begin to think what she is going through. Do something, please. Now.

And I thought of her. It’s so exciting, she said. And it is genuine, that excitement. Every new step to be cherished. She gives herself over to it, to her. And I am glad. Truly.

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Writings

Perfume

I know I dreamt. And I know that they were complex, rich experiences. But I cannot catch them. Not this morning. Though there was something. Something about perfume. I had a lover. I wanted to ready myself for him and reached for some perfume. It wasn’t my usual one. I recall delving into some luxurious, velvety material to find the bottle and thinking I can’t wear this, it isn’t my usual scent, he won’t recognise me by it. An image undoubtedly inspired by a scene from one of the Midwife series we have been watching where a man blinded by an accident on the docks calls out for his wife after recognising her fragrance. They had made a big thing about his sense of smell being heightened by his blindness, I can smell every tea leaf in this cup of tea, he says to the nurse, but it still didn’t ring true. It unsettled me. Would she, a baker’s assistant in the East End in the early 1960s have been able to afford perfume? It must’ve stuck with me. And then there was my beginning to read Deborah Maggoch’s Tulip Fever at work yesterday. An intense immersion in all that sumptuous sexiness. (Though to be honest, I know I was meant to find it so, but I didn’t, not really, though the writing is gorgeous.) That, no doubt provided my dream with the sensuousness of the material. Nothing comes from nothing they say.

The harbour stank of fish this morning. I’d seen a dark line the morning before, seemingly coming from underneath one of the sheds. I leaned in closer, even retraced my steps. Was it oil, or worse, blood? No, it was fish. It stank. To high heaven, as my mother would’ve said. And it wasn’t coming from one of the sheds but a trailer outside. Had they been gutting the fish there? And the sea too, on the Perygyl reeked. A brackish, salty, clammy, mouldy smell. Is it the warmer mornings that is increasing the potency of smells?

I walked out with music this morning. I hummed and haa-ed. Isn’t it better to be alive to all, to hear all? But I longed for music, to be distracted. A new tactic against anxiety. I don’t have it loud. I can still hear the outside, though I didn’t see the taxi turning and had to stop him, my hand raised in apology as I crossed in front of him. But I did still hear the oystercatchers peep-peeping across the beach. I walked out to Kate Bush’s Big Sky. Caterwauling, my mother used to call it. Turn off that caterwauling, she’d shout up the stairs. It was fantastic. I yelled silently along with her.

There’s a front garden along Llanbadarn Road that has a crop of enormous Mexican poppies. Bright red they are. More and more are opening out. The hard, almost prehistoric-looking hairy shells are falling off to reveal the silken petticoats of petals beneath. Their cores are inky black, blue-black.

I have much to do. To send out seeds of questions, requests and favours. I don’t know what will come back. Maybe nothing. It brought me down yesterday. I could…I thought, why not? Then tiredness saps me, and the doubts weigh down my shoulders and my precious optimism. I can but try. And try I must. I will ask. I will send out my requests. All they can say is no.

Be, and be not afraid, sings Tracy Chapman.