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Red Tea Cosy

He bought me a tea cosy. I’d thought I’d wanted an old-fashioned one. You know the kind, knitted in a complex pattern, multi-coloured though rather drab looking, the epitome of 1950s cosiness. He called me from The Mecca, sellers of coffee and tea. They’ve only got modern ones, he said. It’s a kind of half-moon and large. Which one do you want, red or black? It’s fine. Clean, fresh and simple. We don’t live in a cosy way, he and I. We don’t have enough stuff and I lean toward the austere, if truth be told. Well, spartan at least. Cosy is for other people’s houses where I don’t need to feel responsible for the dust. Now I need the confidence to try it out. I get used to do things the same way. I’ve got used to my thermos cup (which leaks) and breaking those habits can be uncomfortable. Give it a go, Ellen. Small things, eh?

My back is all tightness again. A tightness of fear. It’s the writing. Julia Cameron used to have to drink to write, I understand that totally. I see his face, his expectations, and yet it is a mirage. He asked me to do it. Not somebody else. So I shall write as me.

‘There is no true life. Your true life is what you end up with.’ I re-listened to Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grown-ups and wrote down this quote as I worked. The character who says it is Poppy, a hundred-year-old man who lives with Rebecca the main protagonist. I love it. It follows the same lines of that song by John Lennon. Was it something like Watching the Wheels?

On Mondays he rings up the health food shop with our weekly order. Now that is cosy and brings it home all bagged-up. They give us herbs, seeds and spices in little brown paper bags for me to decant into jars. The smells are gorgeous – cinnamon, fennel seeds, cracked pepper and turmeric.

No one about this morning. All was still. He has a funeral today. The deceased requested that colours were worn. No black. All the great and good of the town will be there. The wake is at the golf course. I watch from the outside looking in.

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Writings

Cabbages

It intrigues me the things that the unconscious fixes on to dream about. Last night, for some reason, perhaps it is that I watch him sometimes from our window, I dreamt of one of our neighbours. He works for the Welsh Books Council, sometimes babysits a white Highland Terrier, puts his washing out on an airer in the Quad below us and keeps himself to himself. In my dream he kept bringing me food and putting it in my fridge. I’m not sure whether it was  a gift or he was just taking space in the fridge. They were mainly vegetables and mostly cabbages. Great big footballs of cabbages, some rather raggedy. He complimented me on what was already in there. Nothing really happened. There were journeys and ones ahead that I was preparing for. I just remember irritation and stress that the food might go off.

I sewed yesterday. I wanted the nothingness of it. I sewed an off-white nothing, lines and lines, rows and rows of magnolia. The peace of nothing, no thought, no plan, so problem-solving. Just colouring-in. And I listened to 1962 adaptations of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories followed by the Archers. It was an emptying out, of sorts. Tony Archer was telling Natasha about his son, Tom and how he had lots of ideas but got waylaid, distracted and lacked the vision to see them through. Am I like that? Sometimes I wonder. I just want to finish things, how can you judge their success or otherwise if you don’t?

‘I was reduced to being an artist.’ A quote that I read somewhere, I can’t remember where. I like it. Is it tongue and cheek? I was reduced by being an artist. I was reduced as an artist. Lots of connotations. I think it was a man. And that he felt he had nothing else to offer.

It rained as I walked, pitter pat on my umbrella. I spent the first ten minutes trying to remember Leonard Cohen’s name. I go through the alphabet like he does now. I could’ve sworn there was a G in there somewhere. All I had was ‘Suzanne’ and the gravelly, spoken-ness of his deep voice. I turned the corner, walked down to the sea and it came.

She hasn’t replied. She is not alone. Let it go. I did what felt right. There is nothing else to do. Let it go.

I saw a clump of what looked like bodies on the Prom by Pier Pressure. Where they dead? Oh, no they are moving? I can’t quite make it out. Oh, please don’t let them be having sex. The rain was heavier by then. There were three of them. A lad was on the floor and a girl was trying to drag him up, wrench him up. Another girl in what looked like a cross between a swimming costume and a child’s romper suit was standing up looking at them, her handbag discarded on the ground. Should I have done something? I asked him at breakfast. Oh, God no, he said, leave them to it.

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Writings

Wind (594)

The wind was still strong when I walked this morning. I was buffeted this way and that. Boats rigging jangled and rattled down by the harbour and the waves roared their approach. I didn’t chance it on the Perygyl, too wet and too exposed. I wanted to feel safe, and out of the gust so I walked through town, protected by houses and high walls. We did go out yesterday afternoon once Storm Hannah had eased. I walked the length of the Prom and met him at the harbour. Again the wind was a force, sometimes it was as if I wasn’t moving at all. But I needed it. I need to move, I need to stride, else my body, my heart, my circulation just grinds to a halt, my legs go thick with liquid and my breathing is slowed. The colours of the town look different in the day light, sharper and more vibrant. And I noticed that the college students who did the mural under the castle have extended their reach to an area beneath the monument.

I think about her often. She is an enigma to me. I remember when I cried, she clearly didn’t know what to do and just continued giving directions, keeping it practical, immediate. Does she cry? I can’t remember the last time, I…..yes, yes I can. It was that occasion that cemented something for me. She’d revealed her vulnerability. He had meant so much to her. Symbolically, I think. I feel better about her when I am with her, it was the same with her. Just to keep them in my sight. I know what I am dealing with then. She doesn’t reply to my messages like she used to, she is busy and wrapped up in the negotiations of her life. Is there empathy between us? I don’t know. I feel like I have to prostrate myself before her and ask forgiveness for every past demeanour before we can be at peace. She has a sharp kind of beauty, like her. Hard at times. Hard-edged at least. There is no falling into her, cushion-like. Perhaps men feel differently. I want her to be happy. For her sake and mine. We are so unalike. We didn’t chose each other. We are found together in this life. We must make the best of it. She doesn’t see what I feel, what I do. Though it is not altruism, merely survival. It was the same with her, though more difficult.

Drawers are neater now. And the semblance of order, for it is but a semblance, does quieten me. Now I will sew, listen to The Archers and dream.

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Writings

Serendipity (248)

I worked intensely yesterday. It is exhausting. Not so much for the act of writing but the taking on of my fears. And yet it was such a good process to go through. Both of them were. Nothing may come of them. It doesn’t really matter, though I’d love to be selected for the last one. But I don’t know if I got myself across well enough. Was I clear, non-wanky and lucid? Did I put across a good idea? Aagh, there is nothing more I can do. But there is no doubt that I feel better about myself for having worked well, and given my best. And then I go upstairs to make lunch and do some yoga and there’s a woman talking on the radio about the same thing I wrote about. And she was discussing it with the same uncertainties I have. Serendipity, beautiful, powerful happenchance. I felt held. The afternoon brought a long sleep and dreams of the picture hanging in his bedroom. I was looking down on it from a balcony in a photographer’s studio. I’d been out for a walk but there had been two wild cats I’d seen chasing a herd of what? Wildebeest? And yet, I was sure I was in Scandinavia. I wanted to report it but didn’t know how. Then I couldn’t find my way home and returned to the photographer. I got vertigo on the balcony this time. And he, who was now in my dream, was convinced the photographer wanted to buy my picture and was mouthing a price to me. I felt excited. V. came through the door with several people, I thought I’d ask her about the lions, (or were they pumas?) but she was drunk. M. from work was there too and was disdainful about my desire to take action. Just leave them, she said. But people were screaming, I said.

A sorting day. A cupboard and set of shelving done. It feels better but the satisfaction only lasts for a short while. I re-arranged some of his drawers too. He hates change. Will he be cross?

I didn’t walk. It has thrown me. The wind and rain were too much. He says he’ll take me to the Prom this afternoon for a blow.

She answered. I’d woken her up. We talked of nurseries, carrots with worms and the weather. Her runner beans are doing well.  She lets me in. For those 15 minutes I give her my attention. And it all matters, every last thing. Bless her for her sweetness.

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Writings

Spring Clean

Does anyone Spring Clean anymore? It always makes me think of Mole in Wind in the Willows and the distemper on his nose and fur. I want to do it. I want to do it because neatening, cleaning, sorting out makes me calm. As does the shedding, the shedding of stuff, of clutter that weighs me down with it’s unlooked-at, unresolved unnecessary-ness. There is so much I don’t need. Yesterday two of my little wooden tool drawers got stuck. I joggled and jiggled them, shouting and hollering in frustration. It just needs dealing with, sorting out, neatening. That’s all. It’s time really. Well, and a decision to give it time. And I will. Saturday, God willing. Just for the peace it will give me. And I’ve invested in Muji things, you know, those eco-friendly plastic-style trays and boxes – momentarily they rest in the bottom of my cupboard crying out to be used.

There was a house alarm going off while I walked this morning. It was the kind of high keening noise that only dogs usually hear and there was a flashing green light. Were they all asleep? What is one to do in such a situation? Call the police?

Claudia Hammond has been hosting a repeat show on Radio 4 Extra called Team Spirit. She talks about how team-work functions in various situations. In one she spoke to the Antarctica team but it wasn’t their conversation that interested me so much but something she said in passing about how the scientists and facilitators out there cope with the extremes of cold, solitude and lack of light. She said something about how enduring such things increased, or fed, their sense of self. They were, in effect, made proud by it. It’s such a tenuous thing. And our sanity is closely intertwined with it. Every day is a balancing act.

Oh, and have I told you how the adaptation of Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grown-ups is such a source of pleasure? And it ends tomorrow. And then the storm is due.

The woman with the bag for life walked passed me again this morning, her head down, no eye contact. I wish her well. Good morning, I say in my head as we pass, may it be a peaceful one.

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Writings

Forgetting (5)

Sometimes when I forget it comes. It’s a letting go of sorts. And now, there, she has responded. It doesn’t set my life on fire what she says but it is something, she has thought of me. A little. I am wound up today, it started on waking. My back is a taut band. I try to walk it out but thoughts keep assailing me bringing forward fears of future things that I cannot, as yet, resolve. At least I know it. I know it well. And I need to get on with work. I have much to do. I like that but the fear of failure is, at times, intense. He is kind, he tries to let me down gently. He’s forgetting too. Words mostly. We laugh more about it now, then we did. All becomes easier, in the end. We’ve opted for a no frills one, a cremation and that’s it. I prefer it. All that fuss when all you want to do is crawl away and hide. Family may be disappointed but heigh ho. It’s our deaths, eh?

No rain when I walked and no one was about. I began the application. I tried to be open, honest, genuine. I want it. But know that I need to do it and then forget it. Let it go, like a breath. Do you best then exhale. Simple.

My return to coffee is a real pleasure once more. The little pot works like a dream. Just one. Just one cup. Rich and dark. The kitchen exudes with the aroma of it. Lovely. Can I thank you for that? And our full fridge. I am blessed.

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Writings

Six plus three

There is a couple ahead of me. It is three-thirty am. They are young, possibly students. He is in long shorts, she wears a mohair jumper, off the shoulders, and a shiny silver belt in her jeans. She is swaying, leaning into him. He steers her along the pavement. I am closer now. I can hear his voice. Soft at first, then more insistent. What’s six plus three? he asks her. She mumbles something but I can’t hear. Six plus three, he says louder and more insistent, come on, what’s six plus three. Is it some kind of game or a mental breathalyser test? It’s nine, he says, exasperated. Nine.

She was coming out of the garage, her customary plastic bag for life now full. She must’ve seen my approach, though she didn’t acknowledge it, for she hesitated and crossed the road. She stayed on the other side of the road, walking in that roll of hers, slowly. I turned to look back at her and she dropped her head. Does she talk to the man in the garage? This town seems to be a harbour for such introverts. All moods, all personas, however idiosyncratic are, if not welcome, tolerated and let be. I like that. May they continue to feel safe. Yesterday I walked past the shelter and there was a man, sitting erect on the bench smoking. Was he the ‘jackass’ of a few days ago, who said ‘woman’ to the girl who claimed to be IRA? He had a thick, black moustache and I could smell the sweat of him. I nodded my head in greeting, a half-hearted attempt at implying all was perfectly tickety-boo. He didn’t react, merely stared at me, his eyes cold and hard. I felt a frisson of fear. And walked on, my step quickening.

Standing in the queue in the post office waiting to renew my passport (and nervous about the inevitable taking of the awful photograph with me looking a hundred and ninety) I saw a young man in one of those woolen Outer Mongolian hats with stripes, toggles that hang down from the sides and topped with a bobble. He’d not joined the queue but gone straight to one of the cashiers’ booths and asked for some kind of a form. I left it. But then he must’ve picked something up for he turned and gestured that I should take his place. It’s OK, I mouthed. (The photo, as I’d expected, was awful. Happy with that one? asked the assistant. No, I said, rather too brusquely. I had to go with the second one which was equally bad. I should’ve put some make-up on. Heigh ho.)

The milkman went past as I turned for home. His van was careering. It’s a comfort though. There is something so normal about the milk delivery. Now to work. Another application. I will do my best. Get it down. Tell the truth. No fudge. No obfuscation. It will do. It will do.

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Writings

Superwoman

I am a mess of indecision. Should I walk with music or not? I decided to do so and walked home to the lush, chocolate-y tones of Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker singing Get the Healing Done. ‘We’re going to get the healing done. Till you’re satisfied with your life. Till you’re living in the light…Till you find your original face…’ Gorgeous. I love to walk with shuffle on. Anything could come on. Norwegian lessons, Proust, Christmas carols, whatever. I let it choose. I should live more like this. I always trust it is the right thing for me to hear – why not live the same way?

She talked of striking a pose like Superwoman. A TED lecture. She was good. It was something to do with aping animals when they are scared or under threat and making the body big. So arms akimbo and legs astride and think of that blue leotard, red tights and gold boots – that’s it. Apparently it stimulates brave, go-getting hormones in the body. It fools it. Go on, she said, fake it. And keep faking it. And soon, she said, you will belong.

‘She felt almost afloat with the sense of possibility.’ I was listening to an audio reading on the radio this morning of Back When We Were Grown Ups by Anne Tyler and I scribbled down this quote. I am entranced by the book and by her writing. I identify so much with Rebecca the main protagonist. She is searching, lost, and going back to the past to find her way back. I think. I’ve yet to get to the end. I too feel that afloat-ness with possibility but usually when I am out of my life, travelling.

I haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting it. And I feel wobbled by my uncertainty – should I still put in an application that is so wanting? But I tell myself it is an exercise, an exercise in getting myself onto paper, in seeing what is possible and what might come back. In the end it may just bring me back, to here to what I have here, my writing, my making, my loving, my being, my thinking, my walking, my hoping. Would that be so bad?

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Writings

Fear (357)

What is it I am frightened of? I mine the depths of my psyche as I walk. It is simply fear of being found wanting? I’ve always had to battle through my fear when writing any application. That struggle of how to put oneself across on paper, in a few lines, enough to say give me a chance, I can do that. And the years haven’t helped, if anything they have made me more fearful. I could just not do it. I could go back to bed, take another walk, go for a coffee, read, sew, or just sit and stare. But I cannot. I must face this. Move into it. Do it. And the other one. I have to try. Even if the chances of anything coming of it are so slim. I need help. I need help to do it well.

The morning, so far, bodes well. A lovely pastel  blue sky. There was an east wind as I walked but still it looks to be set fine. We sat on our bench yesterday afternoon. How I love the sun on my face. Glorious. Town was noisy this morning. All sorts of shouting and clamour coming from outside the Why Not? and Pier Pressure clubs. The seagulls,equally noisy, glide above the din. What do they make of it? Taxi cabs weave and glide along the streets, a busy hour for them.

Make a start and complete it by tomorrow. An open letter, outlining my skill and celebrating the diversity of my career to date. Five hundred words, two-fifty by the time we have to go to the supermarket and then another two-fifty when I return. I’m dog-tired again. A cup of tea then down to it. I will feel better when it’s faced, head-on. I promise.

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Wonder (55)

I’ve been self-indulgent. Discontent is but an ego-trip, a presupposing of something better. And yet, this is where I am, here now in this mid-Welsh town watching the sun come up through the window of my small studio. I am so blessed. Forget myself and remember the wonder. It is possible to feel it. I know this because I am beginning to remember. Surely the trick is to celebrate, hugs one’s life to one’s chest and be thankful. Must I go on? Is it clear yet? I apologised. And yet, when I got in their to wake him and say my piece, or should I say peace, there was a yellow post-it note on his chest of drawers. He’d written a series of questions about my unhappiness, was it to do with his being ill etc. It was so tender, so generous. How like him. I adore you, he said last night.

I think I need to explore the application process, go for things and see it is an exercise in writing. How to get myself across. But all the while being present, alert to what is – the sun, the sea, safe walks and a loving husband.

A gentle day today. A grounding day. I was still in Copenhagen this time last week. Think of that. Time flies.

A programme I listened to last week about the Parisian bouquinistes (itinerant book sellers) still plays around in my head, particularly something one of them, a woman, said. I sell books, she said with that French savoir-faire, and I’m free.

All that is to be mine will come to me. I will not mourn the rest but be thankful.