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Writings

Courage

She was on the bus when I called. Her voice was excitable, almost elated. It takes courage to leave the house. For some, it takes immense courage. The heat has been getting to her. It has brought on hay fever. I feel it in my chest, she says. I was cross all week, she says, so I thought I’d get out. I’ve got the bus and will take the same one back, she says. Just to Carmarthen to change some clothes for her daughter. I won’t stay long, she says. It’s enough. A big step. She will be tired, ragged when she gets home.

Knausgaard writes about Flaubert. He thinks that Madame Bovary is the best book ever. He recalls reading it first as a teenager, how he didn’t understand it, it was just about the sensations. They filled him, as they do now. I understand what he means, how books’ meanings often grow on us as we revisit them through our lives. And it’s OK not to get it all, it’s enough to just float across the surface and enjoy the dance of words. I love his forays into sentience. He has courage to, to write what he feels. And to be so confident of his opinions. I spend my life not knowing.

The sun shines but there is more of a breeze. Three youngsters were in the sea as I walked this morning. A girl was screeching with the cold. Their voices echoed across the Prom. An oystercatcher peeped. I walked without gloves or hat. Balmy. Lovely.

Silence soon. I forgot to be silent with him too. Never mind. It is fine. There are no rules, she says. Do what makes you comfortable. Well, can I not participate in the after session, then? I struggle with that, all that group-hugging. Nice, in principle but I want to keep contained. Can I?

I will think of you all in that silence. I promise.

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Writings

Barefoot Girl

A barefoot girl slips out of a taxi on the hill behind Alexandra Hall. She starts to walk up the hill and then stops to look at her phone, its yellow light lighting up her face in the still dark. Switching off her phone, she turns on her heel and walks back down the hill.

There are a few people about, mostly youngsters, out drinking or unable to sleep. Two Americans, a girl and boy sit on a bench on the Prom, he is looking at his phone. I know where I am now, she says. I do too, he says, now.

Lip Lickin’ is open. A large girl stands in its doorway, I was like…she is saying.

Another silent day tomorrow. My work-head wants to say don’t go. But I know that it will do me good. I want the blankness, it refreshes me. My mind is in overdrive at the moment, remember this, remember that. An endless tranche of lists and to dos.

They called to say that there will be no more paper reviews for the foreseeable future. The papers don’t come early enough. I sink and trawl up all those fears of not having enough. He is irritable with the heat and is less than patient. I don’t blame him. He’s heard it all before. You’ve said all this before, he said. I know, I know. And what good is all that catastrophising? I just can’t see my way clear. So be it. Trust. That is the word, just trust all will work out. And then the phone rings….

I keep thinking about the absolute necessities. Water, food, shelter and warmth. Running out. The fear of running out, of death, I suppose. There is no certainty so why seek it? It is an illusion. We get so bogged down with periphery, with the things we think we need to do to show we exist, are immortal. None of it matters. Just the breathing in and out and the kindness. Simple really. Silence gives me that. If only my mind would allow it.

Tomorrow it will. The sun shines and I am glad.

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Writings

Birdcage

I saw it through the window. They’re doing the building up. It’s surrounded by scaffolding. There was a light on. The room looked empty, high-ceiled, just white and in the centre was this huge birdcage. Or was it one of those glass-fronted herbariums? I don’t know. It used to be the extra mural building, where the University gave classes to the people from the town. It’s a little faded but still rather grand. A cake-like shape, its faux royal icing is now rather yellowed. What are they turning it into? So much change. Always change. But I liked coming upon the birdcage. It was incongruous, elegant, like the doll’s house in the house down the road. So tall, in unpainted bleached wood. How wonderful to have one. I would make it my own. Completely.

We don’t have a garden. I miss it sometimes though I have no idea what I am doing. No confidence. But we do have three pots with geraniums in just by our front door. The windows let in the sun. It’s a good spot. I watered them this morning, early. It was still dark and a moth flew out as I emptied the liquid into the pot. It flew against me, no doubt thinking my black top was a space, an emptiness it could hide in. They are such fluttery, nervous things. I pick up on their nerviness.

I watched a feather fall from the top of the roof and down the tiles. A moments movement when I was being still.

I’ve been unsettled over the last few days. Things niggle. Mostly about the way I should or shouldn’t behave. I talk to him about it. He irons it out. Its OK to think that, he says. Be at peace. It’s an inner fight between the child and the adult and mostly about fear. Just trust. Be gracious. The grace. Accept, find your grace.

She has cancer of the kidney. I am sorry. I tell her about it and she is too. A good woman, she calls her. And she is. No side to her, no anger. Gentle.

A few kids wandering about this morning. A tall gazelle-like girl with her friend, wrapped in a blanket. A group of friends, one, a lad, says, I’m going to sit down on this bench and have a fag. Aaah, one of the girls says, I’m cold.

I send a message via Facebook. Do I really want to wake that up again? I wonder how he is. It’s gone. There is no flame. Nothing. No one but him. It has always been so, the rest have been nothing. It’s not what I expected. But how could I have known about such love.

You OK?

A car rushing down Penglais Hill. A Fiesta or a Golf, black with red on its wheels. It comes to a sharp halt just as I am about to turn into Llanbadarn Road. A young man leans over to speak through the passenger window.

You OK?

I’m a little thrown. Is he drunk? They usually are when they speak to me. Should he be driving?

I’m fine, I answer and continuing walking.

I know you want to get on, he says, but are you OK?

 

That’s nice, he said from the shower, when I told him. He was looking out for you, he said. I like that.

Yes. It reminded me of the ‘Angels’ I used to see on the tube in the 80s. They’d copied those in NY. I felt safe when they entered one of the carriages. They wore red bomber jackets and would scan the space and smile.

He replied. You might as well have been peeling potatoes, he wrote.

Well, yes, but I wasn’t. I feel a little put out but at the same time it’s quite funny. They’re all men, the ones I went to for advice. Funny that. We’ll see what comes. And from that too.

Grace. Let them be grace. But for the grace…..x

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Writings

Hello Earth

Hello Earth, sang Kate Bush on Hounds of Love. And so do I, in my head, as I walk out each morning. The smell of moist earth fills my nostrils as I open the hallway door and out into the quad. The ‘building site’ is still there, any hopes of them landscaping it are fast fading. Never mind. To be at peace is to accept what is, or at least those things one cannot change. The birds go there, as do the cats, and sometimes there are butterflies. The earth smells good at 3.45 am. My nose is alert, and alive to all things. The elderflower bush as I turn into North Road, the honeysuckle, still yet to flower, the spreads of lavender, two, no three of them, that I pull through my gloves, stopping to smell the residue. And sounds too. There was a lad in a green sweat top going down the steps to the beach as I walked towards the Bar. I heard the crunch of his pumps on the shingle. A man was by the Bar. I smelt his cup of instant coffee and the tobacco from his little clay pipe. A singular looking bloke, in flip flops, the heavy blue kind, and silky, long baggy shorts. Walking through the harbour I expected to smell the fishy odour of lobster pots, sometimes utterly overwhelming in the heat, but instead there was a strong whiff of antiseptic, like germolene. Do you remember the smell? So distinctive of my childhood.

The sea hardly moved. Heavy as treacle, and inert. I heard that bird again. Was it an oystercatcher or a curlew? Do we get curlews here? It was a strange call, a kind of cur-lee, cur-lee, that echoed across from the cement jetty opposite the Perygyl. Then it stopped. The moon is almost full but it is yellow rather than white and it’s light is minimal.

We talked about my morning tension. I thought of it this morning as I walked. Do I just welcome it in? My back tightens all the way down to my waist. I feel its every muscle and sinew. Rigid. Stiff.

I watched as Elephant’s mother ran out of the house for a run. She avoided eye contact with her neighbour who was cutting the grass, as usual. So it isn’t just us. She and her partner do not engage with the rest of us. He smiled at her the other day as we drove past, she almost smiled back but it was so forced, so uncharacteristic and she dropped it mid-grin and returned to stone. And yet their three children spread themselves about, we hear their laughter and noise often. Yesterday she’d laid out a rug for them and they were playing or picnicking in their back garden. She is clearly an attentive and loving parent. He is less patient, we hear him losing his temper with them. A little irascible, I think.

Let them be, I say to him. It may be a religious thing.

Let it all be.

She replied, with pictures. All is well for now. Thank you.

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Writings

Baker’s Girl

The morning is bird-time. It is theirs. The sky, the earth and the sea. They dominate. The seagulls have taken over from the students. What a noise this morning. A cacophony. They screech, moan and yell. I watch as they soar over the sea catching light on their underbellies, white planes of grace. One came to rest on the pavement ahead of me, all elegance until it landed then it was limping, hobbling. A stunning morning. The black becoming blue, first over Aberdovey then slowly moving south. An opening up of such hope. I stood on the Perygyl, eyes closed, listening to the lapping water. It looked like oil, heavy, languid. Another oystercatcher peeped in the distance. I couldn’t see it. Later, at Morrison’s we watched as seagull ripped at a large bag of Wagg dog food. They do it all the time, said one of the cleaners, nonplussed by it, they gorge themselves.

I sent her a message via Facebook. It’s not the ideal form of communication for me.  She suggested it. I am kept at arm’s length. No, that sounds too loaded. It is how they do it. It is what they do. A managed form of communication, to be responded to if and when, or never. She rarely replies instantly. She has a full life. It brought me down. I feel clumsy, ham-strung by that little box. Is that all, is that all I can say? Trying to keep it light, easy, non-needy. I have to just accept what is. I cannot change it. Yield to it with grace. It is something, she lets me in. That is something.

She was ahead of me, walking ahead of me. I thought it was her. The baker’s girl. The baker’s counter assistant. She must come by train from somewhere. She arrives just before four am. She has a pony tail, and that day wore cotton cut-off trousers and sandals. It was cold and she hugged her sweat-top to her chest as she walked. She stopped at the door of the bakery to let me pass. Sorry, I said, and walked on waiting for that smell to envelop me as she opened the door. I think of her in there. My doppelganger, my other life. My simple other life where I don’t have to create anything, just lay out the bread and serve. A nice ordered existence. People require bread, it is made and I would sell it. Twisting those paper bags with brown loaves inside. Counting out the rolls, the teacakes, the macaroons. Do they sell macaroons? Would I become immune to the smell? They do coffee too. There’s a little café. How would it be to live her life?

There was a girl standing outside the Halls this morning, at the back, as I walk up the hill. She was in the middle of the road. All in black, she looked like a latter-day Audrey Hepburn but taller. She had one arm wrapped across her chest and curled around her waist and she was staring at the sky.

It is my grief. That is all. I can live with it, have done for well over twenty years now. Neither good nor bad. It just is. But I love. I do love. Both of them. So much.

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Writings

Marmalade Cat

I was sitting on the wall when I climbed the little hill above Llanbadarn Road. It was a while till I noticed it. A big furry, orange cat with a very wide bridge across its nose. It stared at me and grew alarmed. Sitting up it then bounded off the wall. Then obviously having second thoughts as to the threat I posed it stopped by the end of a driveway, sat down and curled up its tail. We held eye contact for minutes, maybe two or three. Sometimes it leaned its head to one side trying to make me out.

Two men passed me on the Prom clearly returning from a night out. One, in a white shirt and thin, straight black tie, called out to me. G’day, he said. Hi, I replied, temporarily thrown by being spoken to, or even noticed.

Each of the benches along the Prom have a red piece of paper taped to the ground beneath them. Wet paint, they read. And yet, the benches aren’t newly painted or indeed wet. They’ve been there for over a week now, have they forgotten them?

The sea was balmy this morning, just lapping. I close my eyes when I reach the Perygyl and I can imagine the Mediterranean, that same glugging as the water curls under the rock, the screech of gulls and a pipping of an oystercatcher as it flies across the ocean.

That was when I first met her, he told me as we sat in the sun, when I went up to school to see my O’ Level results. He was sixteen, she was fourteen. She was coming out of her house, he said. The house is still there, the one on the right as you come out of the gates. We pass it everyday. Does he think of her still? He seems content not to see her.

Sir Kenneth Allsop was on the radio this morning, I said as he got out of the shower, was he Debs father or Fabian’s? Fabian’s, he said, and he wasn’t a peer. I’m sure they said sir, I said. He killed himself, he said, something to do with a pain in his leg that wouldn’t go away. He changed their names, you know, from something quite ordinary, he said. He was on Sounds Natural, a replay of an old 70s radio show. I like it. A gentle start to a Sunday.

There ought to be night jars here, he said. Yes. Yes, there ought.

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Writings

Sitting

I’m still enchanted with Knausgaard’s writings. He writes about being unable to fathom Kristeva, Lacan and Heidegger. And that, when he was younger he took it to mean he was unintelligent. I remember MF telling us in a seminar that when he was studying for his PhD he’d read Lacan a page a day. I was surprised and somewhat heartened that he too struggled with such reading. Both of them. I can stare and stare at it and it doesn’t penetrate. He doesn’t care. He rarely read the originals. He made sense of the ideas for himself. So much obfuscation. Why can it not just be clear, lucid, like water? Do they want to keep us out? I value the honesty though. It is what connects us, the failings more than the successes. She told me she’d often cry when she missed her train home. And that her book had bombed in America. Bombed. The word, an ugly clumsy one, lay heavy in the air, like stodge in the belly. We offer up our failings like gifts. See, we say, I too can fall. Wonderful. She called me wonderful. Full of wonder. That is nice. I was touched. Am I wonderful? I am riddled with errors, I stumble daily. Trying to do what is right, blindly. Is this right? He sounded so weary with it all this morning. I just want to stay at home for a bit, he said. Will they come back to me? Work is work.

I want to do so much and yet I also long to rest. To sleep for days and days. I couldn’t last night. My stomach was empty. You’ve not eaten enough, that’s why, he said, perching on the edge of my bed. It’s all the rushing about. I want to be still. To sit.

I’ve thought about volunteering with them for a long time now. Ever since Dad died really. It’s the sitting. I want to be a sitter. To sit in their grace. Are they the wrong reasons? I don’t want to work in the shop or fundraise. I just want to sit with them. But I worry about being able to commit myself to the time. My work is so unreliable, so unsteady. I do not know when the phone is going to go. And I have to take it when it comes. Guide me.

Two nights now there have been bonfires on the beach. Last night they had fairy lights too. Pretty in the semi-night-becoming-morning-darkness. This morning they were packing up when I walked past. A thumping electronic noise was coming from a ghetto blaster. I wanna lay down, a girl was singing. A lad was piling plastic bags of stuff into a car. Two bikes were still chained to the railing. To sit up all night and watch the morning come. To sit.

Writing today. I must make a start. Work is coming in hard and fast. I asked for it and it came. It will be well. I will get it all done. Then rest. We can both rest. He and I.

The sun shines white against the roof opposite. A good day beckons. Thank you.

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Writings

Routine

I read Knausgaard’s little essays very fast. They are like aperitifs. That first taste of something delicious, whetting the palate. It is the best. Small mouthfuls, alerting the buds. The sensations are enlivened, not made sluggish by something too heavy, too laboured, too intense. Just enough. He writes of children needing everything to be the same, steady, routinous, unchanging. Are we adults not the same? Ah, we need times of excitement, of drama but mostly it is the slow, flow of things that keep us sane. This is how it was yesterday, oh, thank god it is still here today. Chaos is kept at bay. It wasn’t like that. She was too unpredictable, we’d never know what mood she’d be in. Ever. Never. Was it the same for her? I suspect her father was routinous, a Virgo, after all, like me. But perhaps a little short-tempered. Had she to walk on egg shells with him too? With her mother, certainly. A tiny woman, so petite, so well-turned out. But had she a temper, was she hard to please? I feel for her. And she couldn’t know the tyrant she’d become. It doesn’t matter. Not now. Not any longer. She is gone. They all are. Lost to the ether.

We sat outside Ta Med Da before work. In the sun, my straps off my shoulders. The wind was still strong. Two decorators sat on the bench nearest me, in their paint spattered dungarees. The younger one held court, the other nodding to him. Finishing off their coffee the younger one put his finger inside the cup to scoop out the foam. Another couple sat near the road. She was wearing a paisley jumper and jeans. I watched as she suddenly lent over towards the ground with her hand outstretched. Has she an insect in there? Then I worked it out that there was a little bird there and she was trying to feed it. She was off the bench now and crouched down, squatting just like I’d seen the Chinese lady at the flats doing before we left home. Her little toddler was aping her stance, and he soo squatted, complete with bright orange crocs. It was a sparrow. I think she just scared it off.

A bitty day yesterday, two sessions and then a bit of my own work when I got home.

Outside the greyness has lifted and sunlight catches the eaves turning the white yellow.

Very tired, but I’ve work to do.

I’d like to weigh you now, said the nurse, we’re weighing everyone these days. Ok, I said, but don’t tell me what it is. She wasn’t thrown by this, as I thought she might be. They’re only trying to take care of you, he said later. I know. And I’m grateful.

I could sleep for ever. But not now. Later perhaps.

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Writings

Possibilities

We became maudlin. Understandably so, we couldn’t help it. I asked him about the woman. He’d mentioned it before I fell off to sleep in the afternoon. The details aren’t that clear yet. She’d been staying in a chalet outside Machynlleth and had gone into a laundry or airing cupboard for some reason in the night and had got locked in. She’d tried the handle but it had come off in her hand. Three days she’d been in there and there had been a water leak too. She’d died of hyperthermia. Bless her. To die like that, it is desperate. They’d found evidence of her scratching on the back of the door. Then he began to talk of the Trump’s new policy for separating the children of economic migrants and refugee’s coming into The States from their parents. I had no idea. He was incensed. I lay in bed later thinking of the woman and those children and indeed their parents. I had no faces to concentrate on, just a sense of humanity, their humanness. The same as mine. I imagined coming upon the woman and talking to her through the door, trying to calm her. Getting help and setting her free. I am too late. We are all to late. I thought I heard banging, one of the other chalet visitors is purported to have said. Too late. Rest in peace. And those children, give them succour, let something turn the tide.

His writing fills me with possibilities. They are short little pieces with titles like piss, petrol, mouth and adder. He is describing the world for his unborn baby. Capturing. He writes without artifice. He writes sensually but not self-consciously so. It is so refreshing. I have wanted to write a series of pieces on the women I know and have known. An act of noticing of capturing. He writes descriptively, factually sometimes and then he throws in something deeply personal, remembered and perplexing, like his father killing the adder. I am taken deeply.

You look like a robin, she said, staring down at my red tights, very trendy. I like her. Stupid cow, he said afterwards, robins have red breasts not legs. She meant well, I said and am convinced of it.

A wild windy morning, I got lashed by a wave on the Perygyl. The clouds move fast across the sky. I’ve a check-up this morning. I don’t like being pricked and prodded. My body is my own. We understand each other. Hey hum. The death of Nurse Barbara in the Midwife is so upsetting. We wept buckets. Charlotte Ritchie is such a joy to watch.

Must off now to work for an hour or so before I go to see the nurse, then into work. A bitty day. So be it. So be it.

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Writings

Nettle Stings

There is too much. Too much to share. Two days of paying attention. Close attention, partly due to the two library books I took with me. Heavy things they were but lovely to hold. Hard backs wrapped in a shiny cover. Richard Mabey on Flora Thompson and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s book for his unborn child, Autumn. So I will have to resort to lists. Just for now.

I put them all in my little book, quick scribbles. How ugly my handwriting is when I do it fast. I have to get it down. No time for prettiness. And I’ve just come upon one from the week before. Did I write it down in here? An overheard conversation between two women on a train from Guildford to Waterloo. I could only see one of the women. Well to do, well-dressed. You can do Coronation Chicken, she was saying, salad and the breads, I can do tomato tarts.

Yesterday the entry begins. Killed pheasant. I was sleeping and heard the bump. He was distressed. I hate it, he said, but it just ambled across the road, there was nothing I could do. We had coffee in Carluccio’s. We were way to early for my train. As always but I like it. Then down below in the subterranean depths of the station, sitting on the train waiting to leave I see three people, one is a woman in a wheelchair the other two are Network Rail staff all sharing sandwiches out of tin foil. The man next to me asks for a tissue. Is that the Home Secretary in front of me, talking on a mobile phone in the quiet carriage? He keeps saying Chuck, obviously talking to his P.A. Next time can you book me an aisle seat, he says, I get claustrophobic in the window seat. He has two phones and spends the whole journey looking from one to another. Is Ellen in? he asks at one point. Good. And then asks if she could prepare some research on policing in West Bromwich. I’m off to New Scotland Yard now, he says.

I felt alive. So much to take in. The walk, the sun, the little bird that bobbed ahead of us cheeping in distress. The little hide. The nettle stings. The bramble, the thistles. All caressing my bare legs. Getting lost and not minding one bit. And talking. And talking. The wonder of her. The pleasure of being with her. The taste of food when I was so hungry and then the bed when I was so tired. And her soap, was it carbolic? I wanted to take that smell of it away with me. It was black and grainy. It stung in the morning after my shower. The lost glove. The box of fruit she’d prepared and left out for me. Her telling me she works in bed. The lipstick on the woman’s coffee cup. Reading and reading. The homeless man on the street in Norwich with the gash across his nose telling me he was living in a tent. I am full up with it all. London. Rushing for trains. Feeling free and high and dog-tired. Then home with him. Mis-communication. my phone not recognising his. Why? So full. So alive. Thank you.