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Writings

Shedding

I caught the moment it took hold. That sharp tightening of the back muscles, making them rigid, iron-like, an armour of resistance. I’d suddenly thought of a writer that he used to know. He writes for radio and TV mostly. A kind man, a modest man. I used to see him too. I’ve been listening to one of his adaptations over the last few days. It’s rich, funny and cleverly crafted. And warm. I was running my bath when it came in, that overwhelming feeling of awe at another’s skill. To have made it. To be in the lime-light. And yet. How good it is to write it out. I should do it more often, every day in fact, over and over. It is abstract this. All of it. This imagining-up of other people’s lives and then using those unrealities to judge mine. It is all about accepting. I accept. So easy to write, so easy to say. Is this enough? What is it that you want? To be valued, to be heard, to be noticed? Or is it more about valuing yourself? What would that take?

I talk to myself endlessly when I walk. Not out loud by internally. Weighing it all up. Shedding. I want to shed this skin of ego-wanting. I wanted to shed my sense of an artist self. I wanted to make anonymous work. To step out of the lime-light. Remember? What has happened? Why the seeking still? What is it you are after?

Will it always be like this? Or is this a crossing point? I lay on the couch succumbing to the massage and began to compose a poem. Well, it wasn’t quite like that. That sounds far to grandiose. I am not a poet. I just want to form a series of words. Its been bugging me for months, years, I need to write it out. A morphing of mother into daughter using the images of wasps. I began that short story at the start of my course, what was it three or four years ago. It cooks away inside of me. It needs to come out. You see that is part of it. I don’t know where it is destined. I’ve always had a destination of sorts. I don’t now. So can’t you work with that? That blankness. I think of other artists who’ve reached this stalemate. Michael Landy burning everything and then making those drawings of London’s weeds. So simple. So different from what he did before. Art for art sake. The work is it. Why not just do the work? Why do you need an audience? Why do you need an audience, Ellen? Is it really about the work?

I did my seven times table as I walked. Fifty-six and I am nearing my eighth period of experience. Can I shed? Can I shed my ego skin? What would it be like to be skinless, to be free of it? The glory will never come. It is unreal, it is not real. There is just this, this internal experience of being. That is all there is. And it is enough. Therein lies the richness, the wisdom, the yielding to the not knowing and being grateful for that. Think of your death, he says. Summon it up. See the unreality of it. The fiction of it all. You are nothing. No thing. Just experience. A minute spot. A thought. A moment.

Perhaps there is nothing to understand. Do the work. Write it, write the poem. Sew, write, perform, walk, eat, and breathe. Or if you like just breathe.

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Writings

Panic Attacks

It rages in me.

What it is is hard to fathom. Do you want to talk about it? he asks, so kindly. Not now. Not really. It would be opening a lid that I don’t think I’d be able to shut again. But we do. A little. And I cry, a little. It is everything and nothing. Everything and nothing. What is it? My work, the trip to Spain, all that re-visiting of her pain, her bitterness, her locked-in-ness and mine. It is simple really. This is where I am. Here not there. In this life. A small life, mostly, but inside it is infinitesimal – enormous, gigantic. And mostly I am sated. It is enough but there is still this raging. Something isn’t right.

You’re drifting, he said, switching off the TV, after a brief watch of Lark Rise with Twister and his tiny twist of his head. So beautifully done. That’s a nice kind of re-visiting. I love this programme, he says. It is easy on the eye. No sex, no violence (at least not graphic). And the acting is subtle and sublime. We watch on his bed and he strokes my feet. Glorious. I want nothing more, then. But during the day I feel worth-less. Less. Less and more than less. What am I doing? What has happened? Do I just need to let go of all expectations? Do what you love, he says.

You do not have to be good, the poet says, you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. What does it love? Making, forming, using its hands, writing, being still, sitting in the sun, walking by the sea, the smell of the morning air, the smell of baking bread, wearing Miss Dior perfume, silence, whiteness, lying in white sheets, being absorbed, listening, capturing, reading, being captivated, enraptured, transcending. Let it be, I want to say. Wait. Wait for what is to come. Not by anticipating but being in the what is, now. So you are lost. Be lost. How does it feel to be lost? Let it be and you will find your way.

What about your drawer full of projects? he asks. Yes, what about them? What if I just see them through. It is ego stuff this pain. An ego that needs recognition, to be valued, noticed. Let it go. How would it be to let it go? To just do for the sake of doing. Get up and work. Get up and work. And let the doing be the reward. Not the ending. The ending is beyond my control. So do them. One a week, alternating. See them through. Let that be the reward. Seeing them whole. It is just time. And you have it. Become immersed. But stay a little detached. Watch, notice, pay attention and write. You are not one thing, you are moving, always, changing, always. Spirit, not flesh. So be it.

The sky was clear. The stars alive in the black. And the moon beginning to wane. Few were about. The cold was a shock. A couple of people stood outside The Angel. A girl’s voice. A girl with pigtails, wearing a vest and glasses. A loud, confident voice. So basically, she was saying, he said ‘what yer doing on the beach on yer own, yer drunk and the tide could come and take you away. Well, said the girl to her companion, you know my sense of humour. So I said to him, ‘Well they’re worse ways to go’.

I walked down Great Darkgate Street, hearing her cackle ringing out.

They say she has anxiety attacks. Who wouldn’t. Let her go. Set her free.

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Writings

Home (16)

I am a routinous person. And many of those routines border on rituals. I have rituals when I walk. I choose to walk past the two bakeries in town so that I can catch the delicious smell of baking bread as I go past, I go up the hill past Alexandra Hall or cut through the Prom, alternating the choice, I stop at the end of the Perygyl and stare out to sea and I stop just below the Castle, by the hydrangeas, just for a few minutes to slow my breath and feel my feet on the ground. I like the silence, I like to hear the hum of the generator by the public toilets and to see if the lights are on in St Michael’s. It’s like a kind of mapping, but it also eggs me on as I move from landmark to landmark.

I got ready to stop beneath the Castle this morning when I heard barking. It was pitch black and I couldn’t see where it was coming from. A dog, clearly. Then a man’s voice. I gave up any ideas of standing still and continue walking. The man with the dog was ahead of me. The dog was still growling. The growling increased as I near. The man was young with a large set of headphones clamped to his head. He called the dog to him. Was he saying shut up? And again. Then the dog, a sizeable black, hairy, rather non-descript mongrel promptly leapt into his arms. The man stood there cradling him as I walked by. The Angel and the Why Not? were open. A few stragglers hung around underneath the town clock. A girl in a black and white striped satin sleeveless top stood before a group of people. I wish, I wish, she was saying, well stating. She shouted rather than spoke clearly vying for attention. There’s no place like home, she continued. And again, there’s no place like home. Then I heard her say, who said that?

I think about notions of home.

I found one, I told him in the car on the way back from work. I found a house in the Shetlands that I could afford. I need this, I tell him, or did I just think I told him? It’s a fantasy, I know this. The house is  a mean little thing, cluttered and probably badly put together. But just for a while I think about making it mine. Everything just so, just as I wish it to be. Shall I buy it and make it mine, for later? And yet, such an action would go against my principles. Houses should be lived in. I am troubled by the idea of second homes and the impact they have on communities. Communities, particularly small ones like the ones up there, need people. A white, uncluttered space away from work, from difficult relationships, time to be, to unravel and put myself back together again. Shall I do it?

Shall it be my secret?

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Writings

Bank Holiday

Neither of us like them. They unsettle. Everything is up-ended by them.

We got to the supermarket early and were waiting by the door with a bunch of others. S. was there leaning on a trolley and wearing a pink baseball cap. S. is short in stature and wide of girth. She has that energetic cheerfulness that makes me like her. He is less favourably inclined, re-telling the story of her move from the COOP to Morrison’s and what she said to him when she did. I sense a kindness in her that he doesn’t see. She told us that she was planning to do some shopping before her shift started. He said something to her. She knows him name. I might be a mystery shopper, she said. We know the other early shoppers but not by name. The man with the lump of his head asked if I’d gone to the Festival. He meant the one in Lovesgrove where there had been a tribute band 3-day concert. No, I said, it’s not really my thing, did you? I was being silly, but he laughed, not my thing either, he said. J. ex-Tree House, now seemingly not ex,  turned up, his only concession to the sharp wind was a grey woollen tank top over his short-sleeved shirt and shorts. He wears shorts the whole year round. He doesn’t feel the cold, apparently. He collared me near the apples and told me that he hadn’t realised it was a bank holiday. I could’ve stayed in bed, he said. And I was just off to the Tree House and it’s shut. And then he told me of his daughter ringing up yesterday asking if he could give her a driving lesson. Her partner has just got a job at Ultracomida, he told me, leaving the one he had here. So the lesson ended up in here, he said smiling ruefully, using up his discount card. Another impossibly optimistic person. How can you not warm to him?

I enjoyed my walk this morning. The wind was slight and town was hushed. There was a man in waterproofs hurrying past on the opposite side of the road, then an elderly man with a white beard who’d dashed out of his flat along South Marine and dumped a black bin bag of rubbish next to a town bin. I saw the woman who smokes and carries a carrier bag, and another man later, who stood reading his phone in red shorts and vest by Slater’s Bakery. Was he one of the bakers? His arms were choc-a-block with tattoos. So often, I find, people who prepare food have unsavoury, unhygienic appearances. A few cars drove about and there was the single police officer on watch outside the Belgrave. Other than this it was quiet. Two youngsters walked towards me past what used to be Lilley’s café. The boy had a strong Northern Irish accent and she had a pretty face and wore an opened Parka. And plus, he was saying to her, we don’t know that they won’t take it…She interjected with, I know but.

I told him of my wish to buy my own home. Someday. He accepts it. Knows me. It eases the ache to talk about it. It may never happen. It may not be possible. But I can live it, if only virtually. It all came on because I looked at things on John Lewis’s website. I am not avaricious. I don’t need things. It’s just sometimes I long for the beautiful in our home, a la Morris. I want to pass on those wooden bookshelves and get him a decent bed and chest of drawers. They are so cheap and tacky. There is an alternative me who is living in light-filled elegance. Everything is immaculate from her body to her living space. There is no building site outside, her furniture is not bashed-about IKEA stuff. Her clothes don’t have wool-pile. And her work is exquisite. Not a foot is put wrong.

Another me is a baker. But that is another story.

I shall dream it up.

I listened to Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont Hotel by Elizabeth Taylor on the radio. It was superbly read by Eleanor Bron. So moving. I love the detail, the minutiae of her small concerns. The immensity of her small concerns, her love for the strange boy who became her grandson manqué. And I sewed. I want to be at peace with it. To see it as an interim. I don’t know what to do so I do this. I will do. It is a track to follow. As I walk I judge and my back tightens. Let it be. Be in that space of not knowing, of foolishness, of hopefulness, of blankness, of grief.

I thought of her again last night. I sat in her cell with her. Gently, being present.

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Writings

Window

Neil Ansell in his book The Last Wilderness writes about losing his sense of self when he is alone in the landscape. Reading it makes me yearn. Truly yearn for that solitude. To be away from judgement, from social responsibilities. And yet, I know that I don’t have his practical skills for survival, or indeed his resilience. I like my daily bath, my warm bed, my warm food and clothes. And yet, and yet, when I am out in the ‘wildness’ here, that is the wind and rain and at the far reaches of the Prom along the Perygyl, I do get it. I too lose myself for a moment and it is glorious. Life feels to me about learning to free oneself. Day by day the tethers become more and more embedded, as I grow towards death I long to let them loose. Is it just romance, fantasy, this desire for solitude, my own space high up North? I struggle with the dark, the lack of sun, the cold and yet here am I longing to go up there. It is nonsensical. But the feeling is strong. And what of my melancholy? And my liking for being around people? How will I satisfy that, or escape and manage the other? I am at odds with myself. I always have been. Nevertheless, I am enjoying reading him. I walk with him. Safe.

I told him about my pleasure. I shared my lowness with him. I told him of my fears. It’s just copying, and yet there is something there I want to pursue. I wrote of the pleasure of it. The pulling of the wool through the aida, the colours, the time spent. Then I wrote of wanting to impress my individuality upon it, perhaps ‘mess-up’ the colours – fauvist-like. It is all just flickers. Nothing concrete. And sometimes the possibility of stopping altogether. I wanted to when I went to Norway. But I couldn’t let go. Perhaps that is what the Norway/Au Pair book should be about, wanting to let it go. To start afresh. I just got ill, and I missed him. My house, the one I fantasise is mine alone. I live there alone. I don’t want to buy one here, even if we could. It needs to be mine. No compromising. My space, my magical haven. Is it disloyal? Would he understand? My natural state is solitude (I paraphrase) writes Ansell, so is mine. So is mine.

I dream of my disquiet. It translates into imagery. We were buying a cottage. I wanted to see what improvements I could make and ripped off some wallpaper that was damp and peeling. It revealed an enormous window. I was so pleased, more light but then discovered that the window was unsafe that the wind was trying to blow it in. We’ll have to ask the landlady, someone said, but it is mine. Still need to get permission. Even in dreams. That was yesterday afternoon. This morning I woke from another detailed image-filled dream. I was trying to find a café that I’d been to many times. I found it once but couldn’t locate it again. It was inside a mall of some kind. I found another but it was more like a beauty salon. I was with H. Then someone was showing me how to feed a baby with automaton dolls. They ended up fighting each other. They’re farmers, someone said. Open wide, someone said.

It was all about the wind this morning. A man was sleeping in a cardboard box on one of the benches in the Prom shelter. A lad was being sick in the bus station as I walked past, surrounded by his mates who chattered to him as he puked. Eeerghhh…then coughing. All out? one of them asked. Then joining Llanbadarn Road I could see a blonde girl with a boy. Go away, she was shouting at him, her voice, petulant. Fuck off. Steph, he called, whined. Step. Then it sounded like he was crying.

The wind makes them wild, off course. I remember our horses were the same. I like the spirit of it. There is much going on. A clearing out. I want to be alone, to think, to lose myself, to escape. Always. But it is not possible, not yet. And I want to care for him too. He needs my steadiness. Though he would survive.

She is back in prison. I think of her as I go to sleep. Bless you. Remember the joy of seeing her. Hold fast to that. We are one and the same. Your pain is mine, and your joy is mine. Hold fast. You will be freed. As will I.

 

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Writings

Pink Fascinator

She was in a chatty mood. Sometimes it can be tricky to bring our conversation to an end. I like it when she is bright. We talked about her going shopping with her daughter who has a wedding coming up. I don’t think it is going to be a very fancy wedding, she said, they’re all going back to the farm for the reception. There’s a marquee. She says ‘how to say’ a lot. I think it is because she is trying to translate colloquialisms from Welsh into English. It is a hinter world I can never enter, that Welsh one to which she and her daughter and many of the people I encounter at work dwell within. I felt the same living in Norway, I couldn’t get under the skin of it. Always on the outside looking-in, a restful place to be most of the time, but sometimes I long to belong. She talked about the navy dress her daughter opted for in the end, so that she can wear it again. The pink fascinator would be just the thing to make it special. Not a bright pink, she said. Dusky? I replied. And she found some shoes in exactly the same colour. Dorothy Perkins and Debenhams. So cosy. I like the inconsequential nature of our chatting. It is light, easy, and she is in a good, safe place. And I am glad.

I’ve begun Neil Ansell’s memoir about his four trips to the North of Scotland. He writes of his encounters with wildlife. I feel like I encounter something similar when I walk the Prom in the early hours. The other morning there were five bodies stretched out on pebbly beach just by South Marine Terrace. They were silent, utterly still. Were they dead? No, one, a girl’s, ankle was turning in  circles. Where they watching the moon, as I’d been? I walked by. And then today a mass of happenings. Again on South Marine, walking along the Terrace, I noticed that at least one of the B&Bs were full and then I saw a young man, a skinny man, begin to climb up onto one of the houses’s porch roofs. Had he locked himself out? Should I say something? He moved silently, except for a bashing noise as he hauled himself up. Once up he just turned about and sat down. He was still sitting there, high up, as I got to the Harbour. Prior to that I’d walked behind a couple. He was a huge man and she was small and stocky wearing  silver lame top. They’d been holding hands when I drew close but after a few minutes the hand had been dropped. Don’t, she said, as I neared. But I thought, he was saying in a tiny, weasly kind of voice, and burping and then belching. DON”T! she hissed again. Before then, two men has been standing outside the Pier Pressure nightclub, both had been in shorts. I’ll just have one more, said one, swaying imperceptibly. And then, prior to that (not sure why I’m doing this backwards) I’d watched as man walked up to another man sleeping on a lurid blue mat on a bench in the shelter and leaned over him. What yer doing? the sleeping man had shouted. I want to give you a kiss, the interloper had said. Then there had been the two lads with their bikes on the Perygyl. I’d heard their voices in the dark, as I’d approached. They went silent as I walked past. The moon had gone behind a cloud as I stood at the end. Wanting to be still and quiet. But they have a much right to be there as I, so be it. They’d turned their music on again as I made my way back. Rap music, most deliciously profane, emanated from one of their bikes. Hiya, said one boy to me. Hiya, I replied.

The author Jason Reynold was being interviewed on Radio 2 last week and he admitted to crocheting in his spare time. It’s not unlike the discipline of writing, he said. I think about wanting to interview people about their practices. I like the notion of time-consuming works, how do they sustain themselves?

She was let out for three days. What gorgeous photographs. What a smile. What a smile, he says. I wish her well, I wish her more joy like that.

I hope she goes to the carnival.

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Writings

Tod

On your tod. It was one of her sayings. She used them a lot. A kind of vernacular, learnt parrot-fashion, who from I don’t know as I don’t remember my father using them. Tod. A nice word. Like Bod. Bod was an illustrated cartoon character I remember from the TV of my youth. There was a farmer too, was he Barleymow? He’d been given a funny walk where his right leg raised up slightly as he walked. All uneven-like. TOD was the first three letters of a registration plate I saw on a old Morris Minor as I walked this morning. I can’t remember where now. Was it behind South Road? I went a different way, to get away from the wind. What a clattering down by the harbour. The boat rigging was jangling, the vessels jostling and the tarpaulin fluttering. It is quite a cacophony. And eerie in the dark. The howling becomes a song, a siren’s song. How must it be to out at sea in it? Do the boats go out in the wind? he asked when I went in to rouse him. I don’t know, I said, I haven’t seen any for weeks. And it’s true, not a sign. Has the lobster season ended? The pots are all stacked up. The smell of them catches my nose with its stink. Primal. An inner, almost sexual smell of hot salt, sand, and brine.

I keep going over it. Have I said enough? Have I done the poems justice? I thought about the notion of being good enough as I walked. It is an unsatisfying, discomforting way to live. Shouldn’t it be about doing the best you can and then stopping? This is what I had to say now, the best I could. There is more, there is always more. Always room for improvement, as they say. Of course. Why this constant seeking of best-ness, of being the best. It’s all about insecurity. Needing reassurance. How about just being this, this messy, awkward, sometimes brilliant, often clumsy being? Can you live with that? No doubt she will come back with it and I can make changes. But mostly, as in all that I do, I need to learn to leave it. To not fiddle. To let it be.

Coming down that dark street after the bus station and then towards the little hill that takes me down to Llanbadarn Road I saw two figures wrapped in a blanket. They were standing utterly still. The light from a streetlight illuminated them from the front. I couldn’t see their faces or determine their sex. They were a tableau, almost biblical, prophetic. Then I heard a ping. They moved. They moved as one beginning to ascend the hill, one of them looking at a phone. The other being took it and dialled. Hello, a feminine voice said, We’re not going to stay. There was a pause. Then she started to speak again. Only if you come for us. The stress was on the us, as if there were others to be considered. I strode passed them. Still unable to make out if they were two girls or a boy and a girl. They walked behind me. A single unit wrapped as if in swaddling.

A simple day today. I shall sew, ground myself, listen to the radio and wait for clarity.

The tickets are printed ready. The thought of it hollows me out.

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Writings

Never Satisfied

It’s not that I don’t want to be, satisfied that is, it’s just my default to not be. It could be better. Always. I like the books very much, particularly the one about Kierkegaard. I want to do them justice. To be kind but also to offer a reasoned, incisive response. Is it good enough? Is it ever good enough? Am I ever good enough?

Look at me there. What a sweetie. And that smile. That is me trying to hard, on my scooter at my grandmother’s house. Though she never wanted us to call her that. Just her Christian name. Was it vanity? Or a reneging of the role?

I want to live without judging. To just be at peace with myself and others. Let it be what it is. It is a lifetime’s work, that.

What a gentle girl. So earnest. Her mother was bright, full of life. And so pleased to be here, in that house. It’s got four floors and four cafetieres, she said. Imagine that? I like such meetings that occur in-between all my fretting over time.

It’s almost done. I haven’t said all I wanted to say, but I tried. Sometimes it’s just time to finish. There is nothing else to be done but close. Finish it. Left hanging? Maybe. There is space in that, room to improve, to become. Better.

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Writings

Vigil

They keep a watch all through the night. I see them as I walk by in the early hours. Sometimes there is one van, other times two. Sometimes the vans are empty, today there were two police officers standing beside them. There were a group of kids, well young adults, slightly the worse for wear by the decking in front of the Belle Vue. The officers were watching them, alert to ructions. Otherwise they keep vigil. They must be doing so. He is still in there. Still in that burnt out hotel. It is too badly damaged for anyone to go inside, apparently. And they are trying to get to him by removing brick by brick. Hard to imagine. Such slowness. Must it be so? They’re using a crane. It’s called Dylan Thomas. What must it be like for his family? Knowing he is still in there, decomposing.

I got warm walking this morning. There was no breeze. I saw the white belly of an oystercatcher, illuminated by the light of the streetlamp, as it fluttered across the sea. The morning smells of damp earth, Autumn is coming. We sat for a bit yesterday afternoon. I love to do so. The sun on my skin as we watched a small group playing bowls and a family playing tennis.

I began it. I feel my fear like a wall. But I persevere and allow the pleasure of the writing to come through. That forming, that sensing of words in my mouth. It is gorgeous, when I forget myself.

No self, no problem.

I lie in bed and welcome the emptying, the white space of nothing of non-being. It is restful.

Another early session. So be it.

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Writings

Reading Rooms

A lot of life makes me uncomfortable. It is always an adjustment. A weighing up of other people’s viewpoints against mine. Think again. How could you have handled that better? I am uncomfortable with anger, with irritation, even. I am scared to be in another’s black books. His in particular. He gets this look over his brow. It is a cold place to be outside of his lovingness and warmth. And she was so sharp. A hint of German or possibly a Swiss accent. She was sarcastic, hard. I could’ve yielded. I know this. But I was irked. I hadn’t been considered. My amor propre was rattled. Does it matter? Does any of it matter? Not a jot. There is so much more that does. Nevertheless, I wake and I feel grey.

An early morning session this morning. But he is nice. A good man. I smell of the new perfume. I used to wear it a lot. It reminds me of younger days.

I want to begin writing. To make a dint in it. To make it less scary, less daunting.

She liked it. Said it was fresh. It felt honest, if a little un-cohesive. I am tired. The darkness is back. No sign of the blue of morning. No wind this morning. I stood at the top of the little hill and watched the rain soaked shrubs, not a flicker. Nothing.

New ideas for project come through all the time. Reading Rooms. I want to travel the country, preferably on foot going from one public reading room to the next. Do they still exist? I know of the one in Aberdovey but anywhere else? What would I do once I got there? Read, write, sew? Would I write a journal? I want to do a journey, to connect it with silence, reading and nostalgia and a sense of place. Would it just be in Wales? It is an artificial affiliation. Belonging. The play was about belonging. What is that? Do I belong? I yearn for it. From my family mostly. I keen towards my sisters, their femininity. Their femaleness. I want to be in their light, not their shadow. She has grown cold. Can I warm her, ever?