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Writings

Mousetrap

I can’t remember his exact words. We were getting ready for bed. For instance, with that journalist, the one who is in prison in Iran, he said, I saw that you wrote about her in your journal. You don’t have to feel for them so strongly, he said. But I do, I wanted to say. I want to stand by them, to sit with them, to be with them in their pain, their fear, their desperation. It is all I can do. You empathise too much, you give away your light, Steven Speed the medium-extraordinaire said to me, all those years ago (may he rest in peace). I don’t know how to temper it, I tell him. How does one live with the knowledge of so much inequity, so much darkness and yet be light? I have tried to empty myself each night. To make myself white, cleaned out. To be an empty vessel, open. I don’t want the darkness but nor do I want to forget. I listened to a radio documentary yesterday morning, its premise being that the brother of an abused and then murdered boy in 1945 was being taken (now a grown man) to see Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, a play that was based on his, their story. In the interval he told his story. He and his brother had been evacuated to a remote farm to be fostered by a farmer and his wife. They were beaten daily and practically starved. It was a harrowing account. His elder brother took the brunt of the abuse and died. The farmer was tried for manslaughter and the wife, neglect. They were both imprisoned. The story horrified the public and prompted huge changes in Child Protection Law.  I carry it with me. As I do with the fictional abuse of Jim ‘The Prof’ Lloyd in The Archers. It is a truth for some, for many. I weep for them. I have read their stories, such as Don’t by Ellie Danica. I want to understand from where the cruelty stems. Are we all not born with the potential to be kind?  

I dreamt I was pregnant. Pregnant at 56. Well what a thing, I thought. I may miscarry. He was sanguine. And I dreamt that an ex-lover was planning to tear out my vagina. He was sweet-talking me, but I knew his plans. What is to be made of that? I suspect the pregnancy refers to my writing. It may miscarry. I tightens my back. It is so clumsy, so awkward. Yes, I must just write it out. Keep going. No one need know. I can just do it for myself. Can’t I?

Has it made any difference? Her hunger strike, has it made any difference? Will they set her free? Now? She had some porridge and fruit, her husband said on the news. So prosaic. Did it taste good? We haven’t forgotten.

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Writings

Summer Rain

I heard it before I felt it. A pitter then a patter on the pavement behind me. I looked up. I thought it was a sudden rush of wind in the trees. It was still dark but the morning was coming up, bringing its blue and I could just make out the spots on the ground. Nothing on my face or head. Not yet. Summer rain brings gorgeous smells. The earth seems to open to it, porous and thirsty. It smells of longing, of promise, of visceral life, teeming. It didn’t make me wet. It was a kiss, a breath of freshness.

I tried to write. I tried to take that second-hand advice about how the artists should not be their own critic but just make. Just make. Just write. Just write. The right to write. I’m trying to find something through my writing and to get to it I must go through the murk of clumsiness, of awkwardness of excruciating lumpen-ness. There is no other way. I think. Least not for me. I want to take her guidance. I want to work like she does, with all that petite elegance but it is not my way. I’m trying to loosen up, to find my expression. Mine.

We went down to what he calls the ‘Coll Fields’. Groundsmen were marking out the white lines on the pristine grass for the school’s sports day. There were too many people coming and going. I wanted to lie on the grass and show my skin to the sun. He kept having to cover me up. Someone’s coming, he kept saying. I let him do it. It was nice to be so protected. How I loved him yesterday. The grass smelt divine. Summer days. A group of Muslim men, some in those long kaftan-style over dresses they wear hung back near the car park, talking. They must be cool in this heat, he said. Then two women drove up and left their car. Where are they off too? he said, cross and territorial. He talked about cricket and how his Dad taught his brother, and playing tennis on the grass courts. All his life is here. Cambridge is forgotten.  

House cleaned. Hot work. Spots of rain on the window. Lovely. Work now. I may keep the silence for a little longer.

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Writings

Transit

It was all too much and I started to cry. Sitting on the floor of that train carriage, my head in my hands, weeping. It was that series of unkindness’s. Or what felt to me like unkindness. To them, the perpetrators, it was probably just a show of irritation. And it was the delays, the heat, the cramped carriages and the fear of never getting home that did it for me. And on top of the same chaos two days before. I don’t seem to be able to keep the flow back. And I didn’t care. It felt better to just let it out. She’d been pointed, spiky. She’d picked on me. And the others, the Virgin staff at Birmingham had been rude. Was it my fault? Had I given off negativity? Had I seemed unreasonable? Can someone help me? I’d asked. He’d barely turned his head. We’ve all had a long day, he’d said, dismissing me. The woman on the train had been equally unsympathetic. A young woman, blond with catches in her tights. We’d all like to sit down, she’d said. And I hadn’t taken a seat just lowered myself onto the ground. Later, the kind man with the red beard who’d put my case on the overhead shelf, had turned to me and smiled. Ignore her, he’d said. And then when he left he’d touched my arm. You al ‘right?

And I’d had such a lovely day the day before full of sunshine and peace. And he came. He drove all that way to rescue me from the train that was going nowhere. Someone on the bridge threatening suicide. What can you do? Wait? Then the duck in the carriageway. Almost laughable. Move little one, move. And then the final straw. A diversion. That’s going to add another 30 miles, he said. Don’t take it out on him, I said. It isn’t his fault. It never is anyone’s fault. Just systems. They treat us like cattle, I said to the man without a coat waiting to press into the train along with hundreds of others. And the woman who objected to the smell of my hand cream or was it my mouthwash? It took me aback, I thought she’d turned to me to pass the time of day. And then there was the blind woman. How else was she to get to the toilet? And she couldn’t find the flush button or the out button. And there was a tiny poo in the bowl. She smiled the whole journey, lost in her happy darkness, trusting. So trusting. Humming, singing under her breath and laughing after every sentence. A holiday to Cornwall. Her holiday. And why not?

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Writings

Silver Foil

I thought at first it was a collection of plastic bags of food from a barbecue. It was in a jumble on South Beach near the kiosk that sells coffee and ice cream. Then I noticed the silver foil. It was a silver foil wrap the kind they put around the runners at the end of a marathon. It was draped over something, though one side had come lose and was waving in the breeze. I didn’t want to stare. I keep to myself when I walk in the early mornings and I respect others’ privacy in equal measure. I guessed it was a man sleeping and the bags were his belongings. There was room in the shelter on the Prom but perhaps he wanted to sleep alone, even if the beach is pebbled and far from comfortable to lie on, I know I would. I saw two groups of kids huddled around bonfires on the North and South beach. It looks so evocative. A lovely way to see in the morning. Which, this morning, is rather overcast. 

I am sleepy. Sometimes I shut my eyes even as I am writing.  

A gentle day today to prepare myself mentally for the journey. I shall read through it and hunker down as best I can. It will be good to be on the move. And to see her. Quiet and talk. Quiet talk in the garden. And tea. Lots of tea.

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Writings

Cockerel (7)

He is there in the background whenever I call her these days, crowing. Though it isn’t really crowing, more of a cawing, carolling sound. I understand why children are told it’s a cock-a-doodle noise but that isn’t it either. I can picture him in my mind’s eye with his head and throat extended to the sky calling out for all his might. I don’t think she hears him anymore. Apparently, he runs to greet her daughter’s car when she returns from work. The idea of their relationship (hers and her daughters that is)  warms me, though I can see that it might have it’s issues. They are so intertwined, so scared for each other. Scared of their separate fragilities. It reminds me of L. P. Hartley’s The Shrimp and the Anemone, though the protagonists were a brother and sister not a mother and daughter. In the end there is much love and that has to be a good thing, a warm thing. She’d broken her rib. Gosh, you are in the wars, I say. She is sanguine about it but admits to being in pain. She fell walking, luckily she wasn’t alone. She has to go, she’d got a doctor’s appointment.

The scent of a woman’s perfume hung in the air as I walked along South Marine Terrace. It was 3 am. A cluster of students were sitting on the beach warming themselves before a bonfire. They had some music on but it was low. The all stared at the sea.

I saw them twice during my walk. He was tall and thin with a long white beard. He had on heavy walking boots and strode ahead. He looked distracted, a little lost. Behind him trailed a youngish woman wrapped in a rug or blanket. She was waif-like thin.

Housework done for the moment, ironing later. And my admin. A beautiful morning shines through my studio window. Another cup of tea then work.

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Writings

Wedding Car

It had been placed directly outside the Elim Christian Fellowship Church. A kind of make-shift barrier made up of a plank of wood laid across two chairs. The plank looked like a painted floorboard, its layers of paint long since peeled. Several A4 sheets of paper printed with the words RESERVED FOR WEDDING CAR had been sellotaped to the board. Some had come away from their tape and one was trapped under a wheel of a car further up the road. The chairs were plastic, austere. There was no hint of any extravagance, pomp or flurry to come. What would the wedding car look like? Would there be confetti thrown? The Elim Church was the congregation that Jeanette Winterson’s adopted family belonged to with the now infamous exorcism and full-body baptismal insertions. It makes me shiver a bit. When I walk past. But that was then and perhaps now they are a little less fundamentalist. Even so, the prospect of a wedding car arriving there bedecked in ribbons and bows seems an anathema. We wonder if Elephant’s parents are members, it is the only way to explain their utter lack of sociability. 

He started speaking to us as if he knew us, or at least him. He’d been doing up a mobile van, a bright red thing. It’s going to New Zealand tomorrow, he said, pointing at it. It had to be cleared of all cobwebs before it went, he said, proudly. It gleamed. We admired it noisily and walked on. The mobile van parked outside Alexandra Hall is a little shabbier. The raised, glue-d on lettering on its bonnet looked like Japanese script, illegible to me. But as I walked past I suddenly saw it. It wasn’t oriental at all but English. The word was MABEL.

Two girls were sitting hunched on a bench near Pier Pressure. A jacket and two phones lay on the ground ahead of them just beneath the railings, looking like they’d been thrown there. One of the girls was crying, the other was comforting her.

I see the slug trails as I walk along North Road. The glisten and shine in the lamplight. There are shiny things on the ground everywhere. My eyes search for them: silver paper from a chewing gum packet, bits of cellophane, an odd coin, a button embed into the paving.

No writing today. There are my accounts to do and I must do a few hours on his quilt, then to work.

She was a healer, undoubtedly. Her hands were hot with it. But things were a little haphazard. I don’t find even a small amount of chaos relaxing. I want it all to go smoothly. She asked questions of me, I didn’t want to talk and was mono-syllabic. Did she think me rude? She was good. I felt floaty and out of synch afterwards.

We sat on a bench in the sun. He was loquacious, happy. Let me show you Prospect Street, he said.

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Writings

Gooseberries

They called him to say that they’d got some in. And there they were when he picked me up, a cardboard punnet of them covered over with a brown paper bag. How I love them. They are so evocative of summer, of orchards, of skin prickly with sun and from thorns while delving for currants, fingers stained blue from currants. I lump them all in together. Soft fruits. The tartness of them. I don’t use sugar. Too sweet, to dangerous. The next quest is blackcurrants then damsons. A concentration from childhood. A punnet of joy, zinging on the tongue.

The prospect of writing spasms my back. Let it happen. For when I am in it, when I am writing, it is peaceful. I accept what comes out, letting it do so, without judgement. I need to get somewhere. And it, this outpouring flow, is taking me there. What a learning curve. I’m trying to find my voice, authentic, unforced, mine. The sewing I’m working on echoes it. Just doing it. Just working it. More books arrive. Two from the library. I go there for them when I can. They excite me. Thrill me at times. Two are from Amanda Vickery. The interior lives of eighteenth century women. Fascinating. I merely dip my fingers. I want to find a something, a hint of a path I might follow. This is why I am doing what I am doing. Perhaps it won’t come like that. Who knows?

I am nervous about later. A new practitioner. A new space. I hand myself over. You have to trust in the end don’t you?

Sometimes it feels like I am writing her alive again.

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Writings

Fiver

I set my alarm for an hour later. I was nervous about doing so. I hold tight, too tight I know, to my regime. It keeps me in place, like a corset, held in, taut. But I’d had a late session the night before and knew that I’d be too tired to function well if I didn’t snatch an extra hour. But everything is shifted forward. I missed several of the radio programmes I like to listen to while I make breakfast. Though I did catch the end of one of Julia Darling’s series of short stories about the Post Office, which was nice. I must listen to the rest. And I did try to see the positive side of being later. Such as the oncoming daylight as I walked. A blue really. A lifting of night. Different people were out. I’d missed the woman with the Tesco Bag for Life who seems to do all her shopping in the 24 hr petrol station on Mill Road. A woman with a shock of white blonde hair passed me but kept her head down. A few lights were on in the houses along South Marine and someone had neglected to switch off the fairy lights in the breakfast room of the Shoreline guest house. They were flickering their candy-like colours wildly when I passed. I love looking in on breakfast rooms in B&Bs. I love the tables all laid out ready. The cups upended in saucers, the ironed napkins, the posy of flowers, the butter pats. It’s the order, the pre-planning, I think. It calms me. The walls are full of paintings of ships and ships in bottles grace the mantlepiece and window sills. The lights of Aberaeron glimmered across the water. I couldn’t see Aberdovey, the mist hid it from view. We were supposed to go there today but worked called. No matter. The earth smelt sweet, damp, cloying as I walked along North Road. Still wet with rain. 

I saw it on the pavement on one of the back streets that lead up to the little hill. A bright azure blue. A fiver. Thank you, I said. I told him of it at breakfast. Shall I take it to the police station later? he asked smiling.  He knows me so well. I am sorry for the person who lost it. But I am also grateful for the abundance, the gift, the sign of something unexpected.

I wrote. A wrote a thousand words, well almost. I like having written, said Andy Robbins on the radio, the stress being on the ‘having’. Be patient, you have to find what is lost, said the spirit guide in Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time. That is what I am doing. Writing to find it.

The comfort of smells. Old Spice. He wears its, always has. I come downstairs and its aroma permeates the fuggy air. It makes me feel safe. It is him. The comfort of him.

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Writings

The Dark

In the middle of my life I am walking through a dark wood. So said Dante while writing the Divine Comedy, according to David Whyte the poet, who I listened to as I walked this morning. I don’t walk the dark woods but the dark streets and the dark Prom. Though in June, now, in the blueness of now, it grows lighter faster. I woke from a dream in which I was working for the royal family and living in the Palace. I wasn’t doing to well, there was still so much I didn’t know. I forgot to change Prince Harry’s lunchtime menu. He was going to end up with Roast Beef two days running and there was nothing I could do about it, save make up for it with an irresistible sweet dish. Then I was working in a shop in the palace, a canteen with a shop. Someone was teaching me the ropes. There was so much to learn and I couldn’t remember it all. There was something to do with a bonus payment but the procedure was so complicated. And yet I was left to my own devices, trusted with it all. I was scared but not scared. But I do remember looking at my watch and realising I had a whole day ahead of me to get through in this state of not knowing.

I caught the tail end of the TED talks and heard an author and ex-Olympiad swimmer talking about failure and how the fairy-tale myth perpetuated by story and mass media is that failure is also followed by some meteoric success. There is not always a rise, she said, not everyone rises. Sometimes this (this ‘failure’ for want of a better word) is your life. I found her words profoundly restful. I fell into them like an eiderdown. The pursuit of success if so tiring. I’m not sure I want it. Not anymore.

I’ve decided to begin writing. A curtain, thick and black comes down before my eyes at the thought of it. It is timely. I need to reduce my fear of it.

I’ve always been afraid, I thought as I walked, for as long as I can remember. Mostly unnamed, unimagined fears – sometimes it was her, or school, or just being alive. And yet, physically I had enough, was fed, watered, kept warm. It was just in me. Was it hers, a hand-me-down dread? Or was it of my own making? I will live with it. Working with it even if fear is a counterpoint to creativity able to sabotage, strangle the joy and courage out of it.

So, coffee on and write.

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Writings

Happy

I looked up list poets but none were listed. But there is such a thing as a list poem. I wanted to write a happy list. Not as a poem but as a reference point that I could return to when bleak. Things I could do. I always like to have  things I can do. Small things. Sometimes miniscule things. Like  walking near the bakery so that I can catch the smell of freshly baking bread so as to alleviate the dreariness of walking in the dark and the pissing rain. Or the breathing in the scent of the dog roses, sharpened in the wet, just beyond the Castle. So often happiness, or is it bliss, or merely pleasure comes to me via my sense of smell, such as the perfume of night-scented stocks on a warm evening, or the warm sweet-buttery-ness of a Danish pastry straight from the oven or that of ground coffee beans in Covent Garden’s Monmouth Street’s Coffee House. One has to be specific. That specific. Smells can disappoint. For the moment I think of sun. Of sitting in the sun. Of sitting in the sun on a balcony. Just sitting. Doing nothing but sitting. Warming my bones in the sun. The sun empties me out. It roots out the mouldy darkness, the dread, those corners of impossible-to-articulate dread and washes it white. A white-out. How I want that. A white-out. Clean white sheets. Never patterned. Have I ever said how much I prefer not to sleep in patterned sheets? Sleep, bed has taken on a holy state. I need its warm, then cool white emptiness. So that I can empty out. But not before sending out love, good thoughts, healing whatever you want to call it. To her in that prison. They call it languishing. The word seems wrong, inappropriate like  Lydia Languish of The Rivals. Languishing implies a prone body, stretched out bored on a chaise longue. Not so in the case. I thought of her today, this morning. I thought of her as walked in the relentless rain, shopped in the supermarket and as I put away the food. Don’t let her be forgotten. Somebody do something now, soon, please. I want to feel for others. Sometimes it is all I can do. To stand beside. To sit beside. To be in their story. To listen. It seems such a small thing. What am I for? Perhaps it is not about happiness, a sometime scary thing, a wildness, but more about peace. Is that it? Is that what I have to offer? My peace? A lifetime’s work. To be at peace with oneself as a gift to the world. Here. When I have it it is yours.