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Fearful (7)

It takes so little to unsettle me these days. I am too soon upended, floored and flummoxed. Something is out to get me. Or at least that is how it feels. I am consequently, on my guard and edgy. I snap and jar. And yet how I long for peace. An internal peace that radiates outwards. A warmth. I try to be kind, thoughtful, aware, doing my work, whether it be professional or domestic with care. But I feel so vulnerable, so open to attack. From whom or what, I cannot say. He thinks it is the menopause. That that is the root cause of my anxiety, my waterlogging, my  breathlessness, my un-wellness. Is it? Is that all it is? After all women have lived through it for centuries, haven’t they? Is it truly such an affliction? I want to accept it. To embrace it. To see the changes it wrings through my body as a good thing, a curious, a wondrous thing. I am ageing. I am moving towards my death, my cancellation. And I am ready, now or later, whenever, to return to my starting place. That nothingness. I don’t mind. Truly, I don’t. But before that comes I’d like to live as well, as kindly, as openly, as joyfully as I may. But how? With this fear, this fearfulness assailing me?

I managed an hour’s rest yesterday afternoon. I’d finished the piece and A. had photographed it. A treat was due. I slept while he watched the World Cup on TV. The dream I woke from had played out what we’d discussed in the car earlier. There was an old woman. She was tiny, miniscule. She’d worked as a trolley dolly on a train and had been promised something different, better, more lofty. But her friend and colleague had tricked her, or so she believed, and there she was back on the train doing exactly what she’d always done but this time the train was speeding backwards. He was hurt that she was disappointed. And pointed out the compensation that was that this time she was to dress up. When I saw her, before I woke she was wearing an immense bright red wig like one of Ken Dodd’s diddy men high on her head and a tartan skirt.

This morning I woke with the sentence: ‘ There are little boys everywhere..’ in my head.

I called myself ordinary. I said it, allowing it to be. Not to me you aren’t, he said. I know. But in essentials I am. Does it matter? Really? Just put one foot in front of the other. Do the best you can.

It was warm as I walked this morning. And in the house when I returned. The sun of the evening before had left a residue of comfort. I like that. Laurie Lee wrote of the joy of a Spanish morning after the heat of the day before. I keen towards the simplicity of existence he writes of. The walking, the violin playing for money, the sleeping in barns, the eating of figs and goat’s cheese. A life stripped bare of care, of the heaviness of ownership. I have had such moments as a young woman. They are rare these days. This body is a weight as is my mind with it’s demanding ten thousand things. I have still so much to learn, to slough off.

And there is such cruelty. We are capable of so much. Listening to the programme about noise and it’s re-envisaging of the amphitheatre in Ancient Rome where they were purported to have killed ten elephants. That sound was truly dreadful. And the crowds watched and bayed. They chose to watch. The same baiting goes on today but less overt though just as cruel. Is it not simpler to just be kind?

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Writings

Salt

More strange sentences on waking. This time it was: ‘you’ve got to salt over the barrel.’

There’s an artist that I know of, Simon Lewty, I believe he’s called, who makes work from his dreams. Not visions. He doesn’t try to paint them but writes them out in beautiful copperplate script.

I did it. I worked my sampler (for want of a better word) all day. It’s coming on. And it felt good to give it my attention. It is a knotty, fiddly thing requiring all sorts of decisions that I don’t always feel best qualified to make. It is a beginning. I like forming the letters and the way the nubs of black cotton create an unevenness, like a kind of bleeding of ink that you find in old letterpress manuscripts. And I like the focus of it. But my back fought it. I was rigid as a board. I could hear it clicking and clacking as I lay in bed last night, still there. Still responding to my inner wrangling. So be it, eh?

I listened to some marvellous readings and programmes as I worked. Laurie Lee setting out for Spain, Robert McFarlane and his adventuring around Surrey (I think it was) and Fergal Sharkey and Claire Balding rambling beyond the outer reaches of Greater London. I scribble down quotes in between stitches. These two are McFarlane’s, writing about two nature writers he admired, I forget who is who:  ‘He came to know his landscapes by walking’. ‘The marriage would be durable, childless and loving’.  And this one is Lee’s ( I think I have it right – my handwriting sometimes eludes me): ‘a tantalizing strip of voluptuous boredom’.

It was a blessed day. I was both tense and content. There was healing, rest and contemplation and glorious, glorious writing.

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Writings

Just off the white

At suppertime we invariably do crosswords and chat intermittently. The last few days the chat has dominated. Idle stuff. We tend to just let it roll along, sometimes inspired by a clue or an answer and other times it just comes in unbidden. The clue was spoke and I began thinking about a cycle shop in H. near a wine bar she’d made puddings for to boost her income. So long ago. The answer to the one before had been putty and we immediately agreed that  we’d disliked the smell. Then he’d begun telling me about the decorator that his parents used to use. A Mr Edwards. He blinked really slowly, like this, he told me, demonstrating a slow blink as he did so. And he told me what he used to say. ‘Just off the white, Mrs Jones. Every time. Just off the white. Just off the white.

Just do it! He said this morning. Put something on the radio to take your mind off and just do it. He’s right, of course. No more procrastinating. Just do it.

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Writings

Order

In her marvellous autobiography Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson writes about home representing order. Order and safety. Order. A sense of order, of rightness, of calm. Things in place. Routines that follow a pattern and method. It struck me. Order can be in place on the outside. Clothes can be washed, bodies fed and watered but a chaos can still reign. A volatility that cannot be contained. I loved and continue to love imposing order. It does hold me in place, but when I am without, I am more than a little bereft. And yet, I see my rigidity and am, at times, sorry for it. It is straitjacket and corset to me, tether and noose. But I can still thrive. Bloom where you are planted. Be who you are. And then breathe. Let it be. Let it be as it is. Not how you’d like or imagine it can be. I didn’t write about my grief at not being selected. And it came, even though I’d prepared myself, and saw that it probably wasn’t for me. It is so often an ego thing. I needed, or thought I needed, to feel chosen. There were 58 applicants the email informed me. We hope you are not too disappointed, it read. How I hate such missives. They do nothing to ease it, the failure, the gloom, the wish that you’d written something better. But it’s OK. My current workload is done. I can rest a little, gather myself for the next tranche of emails sending out suggestions for writing. You never know when they are going to come. Enjoy the space when it presents itself. It is a gift and there is so much you’d like to fill it with. Isn’t there?

The train entranced him. He was aglow. I loved the steam in the air before us, the sharp tooting of the whistle, and it’s slowness. We took our time climbing. And the meadows looked so beautiful. Untouched long grass, vividly green. Stunning.

Sentences, phrases, words come into my mind,  my head on waking. Are they mine, or do thy belong to another voice or plane? I’m at a time in my life, it said, when I’ve married a dead person. That was it. Word for word, verbatim. What does it mean? he asked at breakfast. I don’t know. It sounds wise, knowing.

Time for coffee, the radio and, as I need grounding, sewing.

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Writings

Not Vanilla

I woke from a dream in which I was in a classroom of sorts. There were other students and we were all waiting for our teacher. DH turned up, late as usual and singled me out, talking about me in front of the class. It was jocular, or at least it appeared to be. He didn’t embarrass me, if that had indeed been his attention. It had been years, and he seemed as pleased to see me as I had been to see him. The class was on Thomas Hardy.

I wrote some notes in my notebook on the train, notes I would’ve used to write my journal the morning after. I never got the chance. The first was about two boys sitting on a bench in the Castle Park. It was dark, all I could hear as I approached them was the hum of their voices in the gloom. One of them was leaning forward and pointing to the ground. There’s Whitehall, he was saying. Then I wrote about being on the train. I love setting off, anything could happen. And then in the station café. It was a Starbucks and they always ask you your name so they can write it on the cup. Why not give yourself another name? I thought. So I did. I even spelt it out but he still wrote it wrong. Then in the next station café, a Pumpkin this time with a perfectly dreadful coffee in my hand,  I sat and listened to four women of a certain age chatting as they waited for their train. I think they were going to Chelsea, though were unperturbed by the cancellation of the London train so perhaps I got it wrong. They were talking about a hotel or country club when I sat down. They are completely rigid over afternoon tea, said one.  And I’ve been with you, said another, and we had a champagne evening. We’d had the menu chosen and everything, replied the smallest one with tiny, black, bird-like eyes, but they don’t really care. This lovely man called Cosmo, said the red-head, apropos of nothing. To the right of them a woman in a navy coat was talking on the phone. She held a speaker to her mouth. She stood. She looked like R. and mentioned Steve Redgrave. To the left of the women a man was also on the phone, a large man striding back and forth. And I was saying to Graham, he said, still walking to and fro, ‘not vanilla’ is a phrase he loves.

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Writings

Travelling Shoes

Why does travelling make me so tired? I was only sitting. Is it the being between places, that liminal space of not belonging, that does it? I read and read. Sad stuff mostly. Simone de Beauvoir and Jeanette Winterson. Both about mother daughter relationships that were taut, hard and heavy. And the middle train was so full, so fraught. People stood in the aisles, it was hot and delayed. Fridays on trains should be avoided at all costs. But it was worth it. I felt rested and made healthy by the walking, ferry rides and those hours sitting doing nothing in that beautiful garden. And I return to the last reading of William Trevor’s novel:

‘Her tranquility is their astonishment.’

I shall look the complete collection out. And find it. Such writing.

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Writings

Deckchairs (7)

They’re up again. The deckchairs have returned. The giant deckchairs, that is, that promote the PR company Advancing Aberystwyth. What a nonsense, he said at breakfast, no one elected them. It makes his blood boil the idea that people are taking over his town. There’s one by the Bar and two in the paddling pool now soon to be sandpit again. They get vandalised. Considered a jolly jape no doubt to slash away at the striped fabric. But they are always repaired. Perhaps they have lots of spares in reserve. Sad that. He read out the story of the ‘trashed’ model train exhibition and how donors (including Rod Stewart) sent in thousands of pounds in support. Nice.

Another beautiful day. Or at least the promise of one. Much to do. Another journey tomorrow. I make the best of it. I can read and rest.

The work is done. Sent off. Wait and see. I worked hard at it. Is it enough?

Oh, and I almost forgot. This line from William Trevor, heard on the radio as I made breakfast:

‘He wondered if his wanting would be all there ever was.’

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Writings

Dapper (5)

He’s a dapper little man, no taller than I am, who gives the impression he’s rather pleased with himself. I give him the benefit of the doubt, as I try to with everyone I encounter. We all have shadows that follow us. He dresses nicely, is spruce, jaunty. But I’ve seen him on the Prom with his child with Down’s Syndrome. Other people’s lives are never how we see them. We need to be thankful for what is. Here now. Here.

You’re welcome, he said as I passed him on the wee incline, his having stepped aside to let me go by. He smelt of beer. I rarely see people on that hill, though it is a convenient short cut for Llanbadarn Road. He was young. A student. Nice voice. Polite. Have a nice evening, he called after me. You too, I replied. You too.

The moon was full and huge.

Must I give up grapefruit?

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Writings

Onions

I caught the tail end of an adaptation of a story called ‘Cuckoo’ on the radio this morning as I prepared breakfast. It flitted back and forth from the past to the present and ostensibly was about a mother who was sent away from her children, home and husband because of her volatile mental state. A state that was ‘created’ by a so-called friend who ousted her. ‘The word mother should never be mentioned’ – she told the children. One of her sons is looking back trying to remember what happened. ‘My mother printed a hundred copies of her memoir’, he says, ‘and then threw ninety-three in a skip.’

They’re meant to be good for your heart. I love them baked and steamed but the smell can be noxious. One of the contributors on From Our Own Correspondent on Radio 4 yesterday spoke of their importance in Indian cuisine and its economy. Onions. Know your onions, what is that all about?

He answered. I’m on the Perygyl, he said. He’d walked. I was pleased. He was pleased. It’s lovely, he said.

So much to do. Sit with me as work. Help me to find the words. Help me to be relaxed, to let the narrative unfold.

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Writings

Hullabaloo

Town was a din. Kids in shorts and mini skirts, bare-legged and noisy. It’s mayhem. They shout and bluster across roads into the path of mini-cabs as they duck and dive. The debris of half-eaten pizzas and burgers and their containers litter the streets. Gulls fly overhead, swirling and screeching or swooping down to scavenge on the scattering of chips outside ‘Finger Lickin’. They seem perturbed, unsettled by the clamour. Or are they joining in, participating in the chaos? We talked about it over breakfast. He thought it might be to do with their nests. They nest in the roofs above this particular student drinking ground. Maybe they are being defensive, warning off rather than merely adding to the melee. One gull’s wing whisked past my ear as it landed. So near. I felt the power of it, it’s force, it’s might. You have to be careful, he said, they can attack. There are all sorts of tales, some tall no doubt, others apocryphal, of seagulls dive-bombing people to protect their young or to steal food. Some call them ‘flying rats’. I don’t know. Everything has it’s place. In those early mornings they are more like a mirror – the madness on the ground being reflected above.

I listen to William Trevor’s writing with such pleasure.

I am scared they don’t want it. Give me the strength to resolve this. Amen.