Someone has put more pink bows out. Now they follow the line of lamp posts all the way down to South Marine. The east wind this morning was catching at the ribbon tendrils and making them, flitter like jellyfish, in its gusts. The wind was chill. My fingers nipped at their extremities. I am tired. But I am ready to work. I need to make a start, it is the only way to deal with the fear. It’s a beautiful morning. The clouds, what there is of them, are almost stationery, hanging but building up their mountainous whiteness. A few people milled about. I watched as a group of four party-goers tried to get a key into the door of the Richmond Hotel. The big window of The Castle pub was still lit up at three am when I walked by. It’s a stunning window, like the one in that pub on St Martin’s Lane. Etched white with swirling post-Art Nouveau curlicues. It, both windows, speak of a yesteryear grandness when light was courtesy of candles and they flickered flames of yellow against walls of mirrors. Hang the washing, make coffee and work. Chop, chop.
‘With adulthood there had come a quietening of the soul.’
I often listen to the BBC Sounds playback of plays and short stories on my computer when I work. I usually begin with something I’ve either missed or want to hear again and then let it run of its own accord. More often then not something intriguing will come on that I wouldn’t have chosen to listen to. Yesterday it was a short story by Matt Coward called ‘Clean and Bright’ about a young man’s granny who was so fastidious about her housekeeping that she washed air. A thoroughly contented woman, by all accounts. The young man inherits her house on her death but begins to notice a dimming of the light. Full of metaphors and sentences like the one above, it was a beautiful, rather melancholic (the best kind – a November-day-kicking-the leaves-as-you-walk-in-a-park kind of melancholy) tale. I’m glad it found me.
The sun is out already and the housework, such an effort these days (is it my tiredness or just a general malaise?) is done. I’m ready to work now. I was going to crack on with his quilt but the next article is concerning me and I want to make some inroads. Anything to feel lighter. And next week is looking a busy one. Nice, but busy.
She wasn’t what I expected. Though how I could hope to build up a picture from just a name, who knows? But we do don’t we? She had an energy that I also wasn’t expecting. It charged me up – I hope I can bottle some of it for my writing. I’ve never written about something yet to happen before. May the resources I need come to me. Let it not be turgid.
My body grew full of water yesterday. I felt it was drowning me and my legs like lead. It’s my heart. Heart failure, the surgeon called it all those years ago. A throw-away line that for him did not have the import I attributed to it. The discomfort made me cross and irritable and he, in turn, became resentful. It’s like we were strangers, he said later, recounting how it was over lunch. I was, am, sorry for his disappointment. Sometimes it is impossible to pull such things back. They just have to be lived out excruciating as they are.
I didn’t know what to buy her. I don’t know her, not really. It hurts me. I want to please her, make her smile, genuinely. Even surprise her. It is not in my gift. So be it. I will do my best. Something practical. That smells good. Eh?
I have a drawer in my plan chest containing my sewing work. I am not always at ease with this. Not for the fact that it contains tapestries, or that they are still very much in progress and unfinished, but for the fact that I’m not sure why I’m doing them. One is of a book cover, the other is of a section of an old family photograph. I convince myself that they are experiments. But are they really that? I see things and ‘borrow’ them magpie-like, stowing them away in my mind until I can try them out. For the moment such ‘tryings’ are sewn. There are other motives but they are harder to clarify. I came to sewing for so many reasons, one of which is the stillness thing. And the emptying of my head thing. I need to do both these things. I often struggle with the end result. Is that all there is? I ask. It’s not about decoration or even skill but some kind of continuum, a doing, a simple process of using my hands and doing. Time passers. They help pass the time and my mind is at its most creative when I do them. What is that about? I want to see them through, those two pieces and the several text pieces that lie, in see-through bags, next to them. One cannot judge the success or otherwise of a project unless one does. Do they need to be a success? This conversation raises the issue of what to do with the sunflower pieces. They were props ostensibly. What are they now, now that the project is over? What shall I do with them? Complete them, then frame and hang them or make them into cushion covers? What does that make them? I have no prowess in tapestry. I make no claims for my skill. And I never wanted to create stuff – that was another ambition behind the performance piece – to leave no trace, no stuff. I’m blurting.
A mild morning, almost still. I could hear the waves though. A few bodies, like me, wandering.
I’m tired. My body aches a little. Coffee then work. Wake up.
We were talking in the car on the way to have some lunch in our favourite hotel lounge. He was telling me about an article he’d read by a Brazilian sociologist who’d quoted Karl Hopper and his notion that life has two distinct approaches – the clock and the cloud. One is seeing it in a practical, problem-solving way – all is clockwork. The other is regarding it as a cloud, dense, oftentimes obscure and inexplicable. He’d been pleased with the metaphor and the explanation. I’d been talking about my relationship with her. She’s the clock and I’m the cloud (though I can do the clockworks stuff too.) He used the ‘lighten up’ phrase. No, I said, I need to detach, to let it go. And I do. I’m sorry if my presence can be nemesis-like, it isn’t my intention but I can impose it, unconsciously on others. I did to them, I think.
Tea and lunch was lovely. I felt the tension fall away, muscle by muscle. There were few people there. A couple shared our lounge (the adult lounge (how I love that) and then another. One of the women wandered about the room waiting for her husband picking up magazines or adding pieces to the puzzle on the puzzle table to the right of us. He had cod goujons while I had a salad. His food smelt gorgeous. What is it about fried food? It was glorious doing nothing in that warm, innocuous place. We talk about staying there for a couple of nights – to read, walk, stretch on sofas and be the youngest people there.
Two plays, one about policemen trying to talk two female suicide bombers out of blowing themselves and all the participants at a wedding up and the other about a group of women poisoning people so as to collect on their life insurance. Both about trying to see another’s point of view no matter the horror of their actions and divine forgiveness. The poisoners were hung. The priest walked with them to the gallows sincerely promising them God’s leniency and love. I was moved and thought how poverty and hunger pushes people to extremis and about forgiveness. And when I locked the door in readiness to go and meet him the geranium on the windowsill was a vibrant red.
There is a distinct aura of Mervyn Peake to my drawings. I’m not flattering myself – he was a natural and my drawing is mostly hit and miss. But I can see something there, perhaps it is what happens when I scan them, they become separate from the page and from me.
There are pink bows tied to the lampposts along the Prom, at least part of the way. They are heralding the approach of Race for Life in a week on Sunday. We used to see them running past our window in our last flat. Mostly (or are they all women?) middle-aged they huff and puff their way round. It’s nice. And the town is made noisy with shoutings of congratulations from loud hailers. Not my thing, but I celebrate their participation.
I struggled to write yesterday. It was like wading through porridge but I persevered and something was put down. You’ve broken the back of it, he said later. And now, just now, we edited it a little. I still want to tweak it but it’s almost there. I hope he will be happy with it. I asked and it came. My abundance, or at least the start of it. Two new reviews in prospect. It’s not a king’s ransom, he said. No, it isn’t. And apparently writers are earning less and less. And yet it is such hard work. Nothing like it. I wrestle to get my meaning out. And then I go upstairs and put on the radio and there is this Turkish authoress speaking so eloquently, so articulately and I am floored. I have still so far to go. Sometimes I think I know nothing at all.
Bold girls were hollering in town. Bold girls in sleeveless tops and mini skirts. In the rain. Shouting. I walk through the membrane of their clamour, waterproofed and separate. Lone boys with headphones clamped to ears strolled along the Prom. Who are they all? Are they students? They seemed different. I think about the Turkish writer’s claim that the mind lives after the heart stops. For 10 minutes thirty seconds, I think she said. I am still reeling with the thought. She might have been aware of me as I climbed on that hospital bed to lie beside her cadaver. She might have known my nearness and be unable to respond. Would it have made her sad?
We’re off out for tea and lunch later. A rare thing these days. To just sit and not plan. The next few weeks are busy – take the stillness when you can.