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Pentameter

A form of pentameter, he said, before adding, umm, yummy eggs.

We were having supper and doing The Times crossword and I got completely the wrong end of the stick. Is it some form of geometric shape? I asked. I felt so foolish. No, its poetry, he said. Iambic, I said straight away. How can I be so stupid? Is it mouth engaging before brain? I never truly believe that poetry is for me, even after the MA, until I hear it read, then it belongs to me and I belong to it. Absolutely. Without question.

It’s the rules that freak me out. I am awed by them. I am with all forms of creativity. You must do this, you must do that. I’m a Johnny-come-lately, a mountebank, a fraudster, a charlatan with all things creative – I take shortcuts, reinvent the wheel and all those other clichés. I cannot follow. Ever. I love poetry’s succinctness. Its condensing of emotion. Making breakfast, Rick Stein came on the radio guest-hosting a programme called With Great Pleasure where the guests chose a series of their favourite readings. He chose a Ted Hughes poem, I believe it was from Birthday Letters. It was from the period of time that Hughes and Plath lived together in Devon. It was just one line, so simple in its construction and syntax (is that the right word? – you see) – ‘people stare at you in wet shops’. Just exquisite. That use of the word ‘wet’. People sheltering in there out of the rain, the fetidness, the steam on the windows and this remarkable blonde-haired American, shining like a beacon, a candle to the moths. And I am to go to his house. To stay there. What a gift.

I’ve been cracking jokes all night, he said. He was a young man standing with a group of friends outside The Pier Pressure nightclub. He was tall, straight-backed and well-spoken. I’d noticed his red cloth baseball boots first – new and clean. His hands gesticulated as he spoke. I’ve been cracking jokes all night, he repeated, just to get my message across. What message? I don’t know. I’d walked by by then. Cracking jokes sounded such an old-fashioned turn of phrase.

I’ve been cracking eggs too. I did it with gusto, I said to him. Yummy, he said. They’re perfect.

The sun on the trees last night was stunning. A yellowy orange, like an egg yolk, a burning that lit up the bank outside my window. Come and see, he called from the hall, wanting me to see the flash of sun on the hill. But I’d already got into bed. Too late.

I walked up and over the Buarth on my way home. No bakeries open this morning. No smell of hot bread. A cat trotted towards me in the gloom.

I dreamt that I had four warts on my middle finger or was it my ring finger. A chemist did give me something for it. She was confident that they would go. But I had to wait before I could take it. Various internet interpretation sites offer different explanations. One said it was about the loss of personal honour, another said it heralded difficulties and another said it meant money was coming. Who knows? Isn’t it just fear?

I am racked with it today. Nameless, rootless fear. My back is rigid.

Now for the Big Sleep, said my sister in my dream handing me a small brown paper bag. Did I open it? I think it contained a bottle with a syringe. Prior to that she’d played me an audio of what she listened to to get to sleep.

Why is she such a challenge to me? Is it her confidence, her bright shiny newness? I am so full of uncertainty. Over everything, big and small. I am a wobbling jellyfish, formless, always shifting, changing with the tide and at times highly poisonous. Or so it feels. I want to be kind, to be good, but sometimes I just cannot do it. I seek certainty, completeness, endings and a sense of something solid. This is right, this is me, this is meant. All the while knowing that such things are illusory. Nothing stands still. Nothing. And yet, I long for it.

Bless those the wave has taken. I hope it was swift, no time to fear, to drown, just gone. Without pain now. Lifted. Spirited. Away.

Fergal Keane’s piece for Our Own Correspondent yesterday was beautiful. Ah, the radio. It is a joy to me.

Will I make them today?

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Writings

Plus Fours

Is he the one that I’ve seen sitting by the loos down by the harbour?

What is it about eccentric dress? It is often just teetering on madness.

He was coming towards me. His gait was stride-y, with long steps and a little over-jaunty. It was three am and he had on a big bobble hat, a tweed jacket, walking boots and matching plus fours. You don’t often see them, except on a shoot or sometimes on a golf course. He raised his hand in greeting as he walked by. Was he the one who offered me chips a few weeks ago? He said hello. He had a large bushy, grey-ish beard. I was glad that we spoke. He was coming back towards me ten minutes later. Where had he been? No greeting this time.

There was a police van outside the clock. I thought the police man was holding something like a water pistol. I couldn’t quite make it out as I walked past him. Then he called out to me, Water?, and offered me a bottle. No thanks, I said, touched and yet a little perturbed that he thought I might need some. The students milled around, drunk and loud. It’s sweet, and almost paternalistic, a nice gesture, looking after the freshers, dehydrating their drunkenness. Is this just an Aber thing?

Flat cleaned, emails done. Time for work. Did I tell you about the royalties? I am so pleased. It’s come from me. All of it. And it’s proof that people read it. My words, my thoughts. That has to be good. Doesn’t it?

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Writings

Grandicourt

It was on my lips when I woke, or at least on my dreaming lips. Grandicourt. I was someone’s name. I cannot say who. It reminded me of a character from George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda and I’ve just checked. Grandcourt. The evil, dastardly Grandcourt. Not far off. Is there a connection? Who knows the workings of the subconscious.

I was late going to bed last night. Well, for me. We started talking about work. Trying to even out the creases, make it OK in my head. It’s the thought that I may have done something wrong, offended them and that that is why they are not calling. It hurts. I know I often get such things utterly wrong. You’ve got the wrong end of the stick, she’d say. Have I? Possibly. I pick up something but like a medium and her spirit guides it’s all in the hearing and the translation.

I concentrated on the word trust yesterday. What does trust look like? It is a warm word, a fulsome word. It’s like falling into sleep, into bed cuddled-up, coddled-up, safe and sound. It’s like yielding, falling and someone’s catching you, soft as down. I want to let it go. I never liked it, not really. It is too unsettling. I make plans and they go awry. I want to work here, in this room, using my real skills. I thought of all the people I could approach as I walked this morning. There is much I can do, I will not be disempowered. I will keep my nerve. I just have to find enough. And enough is doable. It’s all about opening up to possibilities and seeing what is there.

An expected royalty payment. Just a little. But enough. I am pleased. Proud, even. Always.

I’ve been listening to the short stories that have been on Radio 4 Extra this week. How I love being read to, even James Bond – which isn’t really to my taste. It’s the voices, the threads, the narratives. I write down quotes, lovely sentences that resonate with me, like: ‘Their hearts were on the shipping lanes running away from home’ – an extract from a story about a ‘disgraced’ American woman destined to wander the high-spots of Europe yet longing to return home to the US and a BLT. Was that what it was called? They’re all chosen by Stig Abel. Should I know his name? It sounds familiar. And then yesterday he said of Truman Capote, before introducing a marvellous story of his about a mink coat, that ‘he preferred to underwrite’. Yes, such spare prose.

I’ve also listened to the latest omnibus editions of Homefront. What a marvel. Fiction based on fact and following life in Folkestone exactly a hundred years ago during WW1. Again it is the voices that seduce. The familiar voices of Joanna David, Anton Lesser and now Geoffrey Palmer. I weep and smile.

The student populous is dwindling on the Prom these mornings. Less sick on the pavement, less hullabaloo.  A gaggle of girls hung around on the corner of Pier Street, one of them broke away to chase a squawking fledgling sea gull. Are your alright little guy? she kept saying as the bird trundled away squawking even louder.

Our neighbour was at his window when I returned home smoking. My heart sinks. I don’t want to talk. But I do. You have to. And I over compensate running on about nothing except students, sick and Fresher’s Week. Cheers Now, he says as I turn to go. Bye.

Bye.

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Writings

Big Moon

He couldn’t sleep last night. I’ve just looked out of the window, he said, coming into my bathroom, there’s a big moon out there.

Is it waning now? It’s seemed big and round for days now. Is it a Harvest Moon? he asked at breakfast. I don’t know. I don’t know anything about such things and I feel like I should. I love it. I love seeing it light up my studio first thing in the morning with that rather eerie silvery light. And when I walk down St David’s Road as I begin my walk the houses on the right hand side are shining in its light I feel uplifted, raised out of the darkness and unafraid.

The students are losing steam, I remarked to him at breakfast. Or so it appears. The clubs are still open each night but there is less noise, less clamour. I mean you can’t drink yourself silly night after night for ever can you? The last few mornings Pizza Time on Northgate Street has still been open as I walked past. Today a man was moping the floor. Who goes all the way there for a pizza? Is it the ones who live up Penglais Hill? Is there enough trade? So many shops open and then close within the year here. I am cheered by the entrepreneurial spirit but saddened when it can’t stay the course. I tweeted about Crimson Rhino but no one responded. Is it not missed, even a little bit? I thought that their idea of a game night where people could play Scrabble, Chess and Draughts together was lovely. Did it work? Its a ramshackle street, Northgate Street, at the best of times. It need some love. CR was a bright spot. As is the Pelican Bakery, long may it last.

The Perygyl was lit by the moon this morning. I caught my breath, absorbed as I had been in listening to my footsteps on the wooden slats. A body. A body lying on one of the benches. A homeless man in woolly hat and walking boots. Was he asleep? I kept on walking and stood at the end looking out to sea as is my wont. When I walked back he had gone. Had I imagined it? I’d felt uncomfortable knowing he was there. I like my solitude there, I value it. Where had he gone? I walked warily until I was up by the Castle. Bodies walked around in the shadows. Music thumped from inside The Angel. How do they sleep in the newsagent next door? Poor loves. A door opened from a house along the main road. A clanging. A boy almost fell out. Then bashed against the window. He couldn’t stand up straight. Gone. Don’t get involved, I hear him say. Leave him. A huddle of students stood in a cluster further along the pavement. They were laughing. Something about Mark the Raper. Is that really what she said? They looked so young, so gauche. Eager to make friends, to belong. So long ago.

He woke me with his text. And I lay awake afterwards fretting and trying not to. I have to accept. Accept what is. Let loose. Let go. It will be what it will be. He is a good man. Kind and gentle. I bear him no grudges. His abundance is not mine and vice versa. It will come. And besides do I really want it? Wouldn’t I rather be doing something soulful, using my skills? Absolutely.

Have I told you lately how much I love you?

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Writings

Teddy Bear

Town is bursting with Freshers. They steal my silence and replace it with noise and shouting. I don’t mind. I can’t be churlish, this is their time, their freedom. All is new. And there are so many to impress, to rub up against and get to know. The police are out in force too, as are the St John’s Ambulance. They have to stand around for hours by the town clock watching the youth snogging, yelling and throwing up. Bless them. They’re barely much older themselves. It’s a wild, frenetic time. I walk into the chaos of it from the Castle park, the pounding music from The Angel and the Why Not?, the heated, sweaty raucous clamour outside the Pizza take-away shop and the general mayhem in the Square.

I try to catch their sentences, uttered often in a slur as I walk past. Such as the girl with white blonde hair down by the little road off the Prom, running ahead of her friend and hiding behind a wall, saying Boo! as he walked past. Then hand in hand they walk to their digs. It’s just a joke, I hear her saying as they push in through the door. Then further along the Prom there are the three girls walking towards me, their arms around their shoulders. The one on the end wears a white sequinned-dress that sparkles in the moonlight. Are you OK? she asks the one in the middle. They are all lurching a little. Are you going to in be sick? she asks, more urgently. Are you going to be sick? she asks again. No, says her friend.

Coming down Great Darkgate Street I have to inch past a cluster of blokes, one, a small man in very baggy linen trousers. Further down the hill a lad is shouting, seemingly at the man in linen. C’mon midget! he shouts. I turn in alarm. Is this going to end up as fight? No, he is joshing, they are mates. C’mon shortster! he shouts again, amiably.

None of them see me. I am an observer. It will calm down. They will get down to work but for now let them be free.

The moon is gorgeous . I walk in its light, glorying in it.

Ahead of me on Llanbadarn Road, a lad walks with a giant teddy bear under his arm. The bear is white with a grey bow, it flops about as he strides, looking rather forlorn. Where has he got it from? There is a window in a house on North Road that is chock full of bears, huge ones, pressed against the glass.

A gentle day yesterday. Work is still fitful. But I have my own to do. My life’s work. It is enough.

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Writings

By the light of the silvery moon

I think it is from a song. A little clichéd but I often find myself singing it as I walk under the moon’s white, luminous light. It was stunning this morning. I walk in the dark to lessen its fears for me. The complete dark, the pitch that is out there now, is so terrible but less so once one is out in it. It did make everything look silvery – the sea, the rooftops. There was barely a breeze but the air was cold. I had on my enormous, extremely expensive coat which is, if I am honest, more than a struggle to walk in. It is long and tight to the body, I cannot stride out. So I walk holding its skirts, lifting it up a little so that my legs can stretch out. But it is warm and I want warmth, am greedy for it. My fingers are a little numb with cold now – though I have the little fire on and a hot water bottle. Work has begun to return and I breathe a little. One last night and one this morning. Did J say something? Mind you what can he do. I prefer to think of it as serendipity. Out of my control. It will come when it is ready.

I also think about doing a PhD. It is my default mechanism when I am wobbly – or downright scared. This will whip it into shape. And yet, what will it bring me – more of that hard relentless judgement. Do  I really need it? Won’t it be a thorn in my side? Isn’t it just that it would give me an explanation, something to say. A legitimate reason for what I am doing. And yet, might I lose the fun, the experimentation, the following of my nose? Let it be as it is. All of it. Every aspect, just let it be what it is.

I keep falling asleep at the keyboard. I went to bed later because of work. Time to spring up now. Up you get. Greet the day, the darkness…….

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Writings

Cake

I have this hankering to bake a cake. To make a cake. I don’t have all the paraphernalia, not anymore. I’ll have to buy a cake tin, a baking tray, icing sugar and greaseproof paper. I think about the stages involved, the mixing, the cutting out of rounds of paper, heating the oven, peeling off the paper, placing the cake on a wire tray to cool and the smell. Is that why I want to do it? For the smell. The cosiness of hot sweetness permeating the flat. I won’t eat it. He may, though ideally he shouldn’t. What will I do with it? Take it to work as the other women do? Leaving the tin opened. Go on, help yourself. The men eating it between typing, not worrying about hips or tummies. One piece left out of politeness. Oh, I couldn’t, I’m stuffed. Or I could divide it into pieces and leave it at various places around town where the homeless sleep. A gift. Will they want it? Does anybody want my gifts? Something from home, a gift from the kitchen. Do you remember? Those Friday nights. Those dark November Friday nights. Me sleeping in your car on the way home. I want to make it, as I want to make so many things. A full life, a layered life. A domestic life. She makes one every Friday. I like that. I’d imagined a big family, a full house, and baking. There is no need now. We live quietly, just the two of us. I could take one to her, as gift. But I don’t know what she likes. She said she’d like me to make her a cake. Is that where this has come from? We were still there this time last week. The day after my birthday. How time passes. She hasn’t left the house. Housebound and anxious. Has she changed that much? She was always fretful, as was I. All that sun. Glorious. I miss that. But today looks good. The sky is big, the clouds softly pink.

She stopped me. Called out to me. Her car had gone flat. She needed help to push it. I couldn’t say no. She was in what looked like huge-spotted pyjama bottoms, almost a clown outfit. There was a Canadian flag flying from the aerial. It’s not a heavy car, she said, as I got behind it. We tried it twice, nothing. There is no hill on the Prom. I ran over to two lads walking past the Bandstand. Can you help jump start the car? I asked pointing at it. Jump start? one of them asked, you’ll need jump leads for that. I should’ve said bump not jump and felt suddenly silly and ignorant. It throws me, encountering my not knowing. And there is so much I don’t know. Ah, it is scary, having to go out into the world with one’s uncertainty. Should I write that book, I’m half way through? Is it crap? What will they think of me on the course? So scared of being judged. Ah, find your courage, Ellen. Even with the boys help, both of which reeked of booze, the car refused to start. Sorry, I said. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. The lads, it seemed were more determined and began to push from the front. Oh, the girl said, we’re going backwards. I left them too it. I wanted to walk – to be in silence with my thoughts. Sorry.

Later walking down Great Darkgate St I noticed a pair of lovers outside White Stuff. She was a tiny thing with long curly hair, he was taller and sported a white baseball cap worn backwards. As I got nearer I realised that they were arguing. How can I be expected to believe you care for me, she was shouting, if you walk away from me? I was sorry for her, for them. Their rancour hung heavy in the air. The town was teaming with drunk freshers. The Pelican Bakery didn’t disappoint, lovely odours of baking bread hitting my nostrils way before I crossed the road. The usual pony-tailed woman wasn’t in there as I peered through the window, it was a man in a grey t-shirt.

I want to finish it, soon. I have just over two weeks. Why does it make me a little nervous? I want it to be lovely for her. My gift, to them both. I fills in for all the silence, all that space between us. Wanting to know them, to cherish them, to hold them dear. My loves.

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Sleeping on the Lawn

Did I hear him or see him first? I can’t remember. North Road is always in semi-darkness at that time of the day. I like it for that. I saw him because the house ahead had its security light on. His form lying there on that front lawn was lit up. He turned and murmured as I walked by. I got a little shock. It was unexpected. You think you are alone then you realise you are not. But he was out. Out for the count. Fast asleep on the grass. Wasn’t it wet? Didn’t he care?

They’re back in force. The students are back – a returning made manifest by the boom, boom of the music pulsing from Pier Pressure nightclub and the various, ill-clad bodies making their way home to Alexandra Hall. I watched as three girls pushed in through the door of one of the other ‘Homes’ just up from the Hall, the other two waiting patiently as one put the code into the lock. There was much shouting, much sitting around on benches eating. KFC boxes, empty now, stood abandoned on the roads and pavements. Seagulls, as if in competition, also screeched and exclaimed, waiting for the scraps of pizza and chips. Others stood in a messy array on the shoreline, watching, waiting for the dawn.

The Shoreline B&B is full again, no doubt with parents bringing their issue to University.

A lad slept, head in hands, on a table outside Wetherspoons. Taxi fishes darted here and there.

Back to normal and I’ve a day of sewing ahead. Emails written and sent. Another list complete. Rest now before the next. A grey, cloudy sky. I think of a house out there in the sun and warmth. A part of me left behind. I have an apron and a little wooden animal stolen from a Noah’s Ark. What is it? A porcupine, a hedgehog, or even a bear? Who knows?

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Sunday School

She sounded better. Much much better. I went to the doctor, she said, he gave me some anti-biotics. Usually she is averse to them but this time she succumbed and benefited. I am glad, it is good to hear her being so bright. I’m out walking the dog, she said. Then somehow we got on to talking about Sunday School. She was animated on the subject. My grandmother was Church, my father Chapel, she said. It was a two mile walk to Church, she continued, with Sunday School in the afternoon. So to save us having to make the journey twice the vicar’s wife would make tea for the children in the Rectory. There were jellies and trifles, she continued, clearly delighted by her reminiscences. A bachelor led the classes, she said. Imagine that now. Sometimes there were three or four. It’s all changed now, the congregations are so small. Are there still Sunday Schools? I certainly went. I remember colouring books of stories from the Bible, orange squash in metal jugs and cream eggs at Easter. Cosy. Safe. She clearly thought so too. She remembered a congregation that met in someone’s house. We even had communion there, she said.

I am rushing. There’s been too much to do this morning. I hurry to complete those small, fiddly tasks and get nowhere near. But the house is clean. That is something.

No rain this morning as I walked.

The girl seemed on fire. Green emerald fire. As she got closer I saw that it was a sequinned top. Gorgeous.

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The air smelt different

The air smelt different this morning. Was it the storm? It raged most of the night. I didn’t want to go out into it. That great howling and the lashing of rain. But I did. Though not for long. I thought I’d be alone out there. Not so. Some giggling girls hugging pizza boxes to their chests tripped up Pier Street in their high heels and boob tubes and three students, coats over heads, hurried into a doorway just beneath the old Library. The storm made boys shout. I heard them on my way home. It is easing now.

They got him out. After two months the body is out. What a state it must’ve been in. It doesn’t bear thinking about. What about if it were your loved one, or yours? Terrible.

I’m rushing. Too much to do. A review to write. Not sure what yet. And my Friday phone call to make. And another set of images to send. Wrong ones. Confusion. It is often the way. Why don’t you call? he always says. And he is right. But there isn’t time for the niceties.

She died last January. I didn’t know. I didn’t feel the passing. I would’ve liked to have gone to her funeral. May she rest in peace. I loved her.