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Writings

A Minor Inconvenience

It is nothing. It is nothing compared to what some people are experiencing day in day out. Like the refugee children traumatized by war that that academic spoke of on the TED talk yesterday or the thousands who have fled to the beaches in Australia to escape the bush fires. How must it be to be so displaced, homeless, all order, all structure in tatters? This is nothing. It will be resolved, one way or another.

I woke wanting to feel detached. All those fears rising to the surface on waking, I wanted to step back from them, to see them at a distance, be at arm’s length from them. I can see clearly then. One step at a time. Let the truth, the wisdom of each come through. What is it I want to say here? What is it that I need to learn?

So the fridge is bust. And now my laptop is behaving oddly. Does it matter? Well, yes, but not that much, or at least there will be something good that comes from it, something will be learnt. I think my cold helps. I am a slight distance from things, suspended, encased in my seemingly swollen head. I wanted to wake him, to spread a kind of panic at the waste of it, the inconvenience, but then I pulled back. No. Do what you are doing. There is nothing that can be done yet. Wait. Let him sleep. All will be well.

The woman on the TED talk spoke about how she reached the parents of the children in the camps by arranging for printed parenting advice to be attached to the bread wrappers of the food that was handed out to them. Bread wrappers bearing messages of hope, of support, of acknowledgement. Brilliant. And yet, my creative self can’t help thinking about the idea and perhaps adapting it to my work. I love the idea of something designed to do one thing while becoming a carrier of messages for another, and at the same time.

I need to marshall myself and try to salvage what I can of the peace of the morning before the disruption of a possible, fingers crossed (though I promised not to throw a paddy if it isn’t) delivery of a new one. I cleaned the flat, well a spit and polish and now my body aches, even my teeth. But it is nothing. Bless those on those beaches. There will be joy again and safety, I promise. x

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Writings

Blackbird

I heard it as I walked in. And then when I walked back. Where is it? I thought. And then I saw it.

I’d taken the road up the little hill towards home and the sound of its song had grown stronger and stronger. I stood still for a moment. Might I be able to see him? And there he was sitting on the wall just in front of me. I could’ve reached out and touched him. He saw me from the corner of his eye but didn’t halt his singing. It was wonderful to watch. All that energy he had to expend and his tail almost acting as a lever, like the kind you’d find on an old water pump. He trilled and trilled. And it was so loud. Such a loud sound from such a tiny creature. I felt privileged to both see and hear him.

See there is joy. However small.

I heard him again this morning.

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Writings

Still Dark

The still dark of midwinter is still upon us. Still pitch. Still black as your hat. He has gone out into it. I have returned from it. It feels like it will swallow me up sometimes. The day is done. It is over for another year. There is always this anti-climax even if not much is done. The expectations are too high. What will change? we ask and the answer is little. We went to church. I’d expected crowds there weren’t any. Just a smattering of people sitting at odd pews, at a distance from each other. I was glad we went. As was he. He sang lustily, as his wont and I felt his pride, his quiet pleasure at being there in his boyhood church where he’d sang as a child. The service was bilingual, an odd thing, it tried one’s patience and my mind wandered. The church looked splendid, such crisp white-washed walls and elegant wooden ceiling.

We walked there and back which was nice, arm in arm. It is enough such belonging. This hasn’t been a towering life, or even a particularly big one, I haven’t touched that many people, made that much of a difference, if any, but to have found this man, this man so prepared to open himself to me and love, is enough.

I dreamt I was travelling on the top deck of a bus. I was up there with a man. I think we had been intimate though were still a little shy of each other. We filled the whole space. I had all my things there. I needed to remember my stop, and looked out of the window. There it was. I called out to the man, its my stop, get the driver to stop. But the bus kept on going, then I realised that it was a Sunday and where I wanted to get off, including a group of shops and somewhere I could find sustenance, would be shut. The driver was clearly moving on to the next stop. I tried to get my shoes on in readiness. My hands wouldn’t work properly. I was all ham-fisted. They were a kind of sandal, or espadrille. And then I began to embrace the man as a leave-taking. I felt the strength of his back and kissed him. All the while I was edgy about getting off the bus before I missed the stop. Then I woke.

Sometimes I write such garbled stuff but I don’t want to edit it too much. This is my indulgence, this page, my splurging. People say they read it. It would be nice if they did but I don’t expect them to. What was it I quoted yesterday, you write to find out what you think? Or was it know? Either way it is a getting it down so that one can see it clearly. So be it. I hope your post-Christmas anti-climax isn’t too uncomfortable. Rest. Be at ease. Enjoy the details today, I certainly shall. Now tea.

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Writings

Jule

No one about when I walked this morning, except for a man staggering home from town and the security men from the University driving their van along the Prom. It was a lovely walk. A light breeze from off the sea but other than that the air was still and not too cold. Seagulls soared silently above the Pier no doubt bemused at the lack of noise and take away cartons from which to scavenge. I remember past occasions of walking on the beach in St Ives and that same lovely sense of peace and space. I think of all those I love and who are far from me. I send them love through the ether and wish them joy. But I am content. He and I will walk to church later this morning. He is doing it for me and for that I am grateful. I want to be there on his arm. I go there to think, to share communion and prayers and to step outside of my own concerns to a place where the bigger, the global is acknowledged.

Another programme of the excellent Telling Tales on the radio. I cannot remember the name of the writer, Jeremy someone, what I do know is that he was one of the contributors to The League of Gentlemen. He spoke so eloquently about the process of writing. ‘You write to find out what you think’, he said.

I just need to let it be, all of it, and most of all me. A simple day today – the Christmas flurry belongs to another time. We shall do little. It is enough to light candles and be together. I am blessed.

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Writings

Juleaften

It’s the memories from that time that are often the most potent. Why is that? It represented a warmth, a belonging I yearned for. And yet I didn’t belong, not really. I was an interloper, an invited participant, yes, but one who was always under threat from intimate exclusion – in the family and not. But the details were joyous. The tree, (she tells me it has just gone up with H’s help or was it S’s – age or is it the usual maternal mix-up made her say the wrong name yesterday regarded who is getting a divorce and who isn’t making me blunder in) is up but not decorated and she is going to hang some wreaths on the doors today. I can see it all. I can transport myself there. The magic of it all. And I think we had snow the first year. The walk to the little church at the top of the road, the snow heavy on the fir trees. The candles on the table, the name cards, the smells of Christmas biscuits, the cod, the buttered-potatoes and all that chocolate. And all the men in dark suits and the woman in national costume. I couldn’t absorb it all. It is so quiet now. And yet I don’t mind. I like the peace and the contemplation and his pleasure in the simplicity of it. It is a balance. My appetite is different. I need more solitude.

He didn’t say no. He was open. I cried a little. Fear I think. I like to sit in there. The place was empty. Tea in a metal pot. A biscuit, for him, in cellophane. And she is sweet. They’re closing up for a week in January and going to London. I love London, she said, her face lighting up. An Aber she is not loyal. It’s drab. They’ve done nothing with Christmas. She needs the lights, as do I.

I wish you all a peaceful one. May there be spaces in between the eating, the games, the drinking and the wrangling for some thought – spared for those not celebrating. The lonely, the ill, the dying, the poor, the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the incarcerated – let them experience some rest, if nothing else, and let there most of all be hope for all of us now and always.

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Writings

Blackbird

I’ve only just found out that he died. Two months ago. Why should I assume that anyone would’ve let me know? And yet, I would’ve like to have known, even gone to the funeral. There was a time when I was almost part of their family, or perhaps that was in my head. We were never close, he and I, I didn’t really hold much interest for him, other than my Englishness and the opportunity I gave him to tell and retell l the anecdote about Summerville College in Oxford. Nevertheless, he played a part in my life. He was kind. He was generous. He welcomed me in. Towards the end he looked so scared. I hope the fear went and that he welcomed death peacefully. And she? I will try to call her today. She still has a part of my heart and will do always. Rest in peace, J., and godspeed.

Lots of dreams again. Near the end of the final one I was attacked by a blackbird. A fierce little thing it went for my face. I held it back with some kind of weapon, though only to block it, I didn’t harm it. Then it changed, shrank and smiled at me (yes, with its beak). You worry too much, it said, looking me in the eyes.

In an earlier dream I was told I was going to be someone’s secretary and I wasn’t displeased.

I wish I could’ve helped her more but she has her family. It is enough.

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Writings

Trawler

I saw its lights as I approached the harbour. It was huge and lit up like the ghost ship of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. It looked unearthly. I walked towards the pergyl first before rounding the railings and turning down towards the harbour. It was all pitch black at first and then I saw them, what looked like six men humping big plastic sacks of stuff into the back of a juggernaut. The lights from the trawler was the only source of light and that coming from the back of the lorry. I thought of smugglers from long ago working in the dead of night, undercover, hushed-voices, working quickly, hurriedly, each only too aware of the danger. Unnoticed by the men I squeezed my way through the channel between the truck and the piles of ropes and lobsters nets built up against the wall of the boat club. The left–hand door of the front cab was beginning to open as I passed. I could still possibly get through but then I was seen. I felt uncomfortable, spotted, as if I was somehow trespassing. It was a young lad, clearly hitching a ride with his father or as company perhaps through the long drive over the mountains. His hair was short, dark, he saw me and pulled the door back to let me pass. Thank you, I called out though I was uncertain if he heard me. It was nothing and yet, in the dark, it felt dramatic, potent, alive.

I took her some biscuits but this time she was awake and walking towards the other side of the Prom as I approached. I walked faster so as to catch her up, then, saying nothing I just handed her the packet of oatcakes and touched her arm before walking on. What did she do? he asked at breakfast. Nothing, I said, she just looked rather annoyed as if to say, is that it? He laughed. It doesn’t matter. I did what felt right. If she doesn’t want them she can discard them. One mustn’t expect sweetness, she has a hard life, though I was pleased to notice that she was dressed in warm clothes, particularly her boots, they looked like a kind of reindeer fur. In fact, if it wasn’t for the dark of her hair she could be a Sami.

I woke from a fearful dream, though when I told him of it it just seemed silly. In my dream I’d woken and heard a sound in our hallway. I never dream about this flat, so that was unusual. Someone was coming up the stairs. It was my usual time of waking and it was dark. I was terrified and couldn’t call out his name. I tried to articulate it but terror made it impossible. And it was him. He’d been out to sleep in the tennis club. He said that he’d been frightened sleeping here and had gone over there, though he added, the breakfast was a bit pedestrian. I was so hurt. So hurt that he’d just left in the night like that without telling me and that he’d found comfort, safety, sleep elsewhere. In my waking hours walking I’ve struggled to make sense of where such an anxiety dream has sprung from.

Still pitch out there and he’s gone for his walk. The second load of washing has been done, just the drying now. Then tea. I finished my last article yesterday and now it’s time to rest awhile. Good. Enjoy your Sunday. x

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Writings

Offerings

I have taken her things. Yesterday it was some satsumas, two mince pies and a pair of socks. Today it was two shortbread biscuits. I leave them on the far end of the Prom Shelter bench she is sleeping on, just beyond her little square red suitcase. I approach quietly so as not to waken or frighten her. They are small gestures. Offerings of solidarity, of awareness, of, I am all too aware, scant comfort. I think of her each night and wish her a home, safety and warmth. I hope she is safe there. And I wonder what has brought her here. Why here, of all places? He tells me she can’t speak English. How did she find her way here? What does she dream of? What did she think she’d find here? He thought she was in her 60s but perhaps she is younger and poverty and homelessness has cast an ageing care across her features. There but for the grace of God……May the grace of God deliver her.

He tried to articulate it but though I tried to question him I didn’t really understand what he meant. It happens whenever I see young children, he said. I get this kind of physical response, a kind of shiver that goes through my whole body. I asked if he got the same feeling when he saw H and K. No, he said, they have to be strangers. I think it is about a profound sense of empathy, of feeling for them, their vulnerability, the journey they must go on but I cannot be sure. His childhood was so happy, so safe, so contained, that at times he has struggled to leave it. Our experiences have been so different.

He was so open, so ready to embrace what I had to say, I hadn’t expected it. What a good man, what a warm man. I am pleased, though daunted. So be it. Grant me the courage and the energy and the stamina to see it through and make it a success for him and the whole Centre. I feel welcome there. His assistant remembered my name. It took me by surprise. And I sat a while with the lettering exhibit and saw it anew. He talked. He is so full of stories of life of joy for his metier. I am bowled over. Keep me steady but with one eye open for joy.

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Writings

Help is at hand

It rang in my head as I woke. It had been the title of his lecture. Help is hand. I’d seen it written on his sheet of notes. We surrounded the stage. It was more performance than lecture. I saw my friend H in the distance. She had been with me but had chosen to sit apart for the talk. I watched her as she settled herself in the chair. I was both above him and directly before him. Dream views can be like that. Not necessarily from just one direction. He prepared to start and instead of talking began behaving like a horse, a child’s version of horse where they smack their thighs as if it is a whip and start to gallop. Round and round he went, making horsey sounds. How funny dreams are, it made sense to me at the time. Of course, I thought, he is acting out a wild west movie where he is either waiting for the cavalry or he is the cavalry. I woke before any more was revealed. The phrase was nice, it cheered me a little for all its old fashioned-ness. Help is at hand.

She is a woman, apparently. Rumanian. He told me he’d seen her in town. She is just a body in sleep when I see her on the Prom, covered in blankets. She had a red suitcase, he said. I gave her two pounds and she took my hand. I will take her some food tomorrow and a pair of warm socks. I am moved. And my own winter-despairing is overshadowed. Good.

I am struggling. I lay on his bed in the afternoon taking a short rest while he listened to ‘Party’ once again. Whenever I turn to look at him he is invariably chuckling to himself. We both share a liking for returning to familiar things and places. Which is good. It feels like a tunnel. It feels like the clouds in the sky are bearing down on me. I fight to keep going, to keep things normal. I work, I cook, I even baked the second batch of mince pies. I will take her some tomorrow. But it is a Herculean effort. Is it the winter? Or is it something more ominous? I’ve work again today when I wanted to write. But I must do it. It funds this. It funds my way, though this month poorly.

The houses along North Road each had huge bedecked Christmas trees in their windows. At least the ones before the multi-occupant ones at the end did. Opulent trees, bursting with decoration. The house with the huge teddy bears in the windows was a mass of tinsel and gimcrack. OTT but delightful to pass in the dark and rain.

I’ve more notes to make before I can begin to write it. The coffee has been drunk time to start.

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Writings

Solitude

There were few people about when I walked, a man hurrying down the Prom carrying a plastic bag from the 24 hour SPAR, the milkman in his van and an ambulance driving into town and then back along Llanbadarn Road. Several lights were still on in Alexandra Hall. Perhaps some students haven’t yet gone home. It is mournful being so alone, but not unpleasant. The wind, an easterly was sharp on my face.

N was amazing. I was abuzz with our conversation. He brought me alive again. I want more of it. Now I must make sense of it all and begin to shape a piece. I always get nervous about writing. Is it the same with everyone? I’ve hoovered and mopped the flat – part displacement and partly to get it over with. Now there is no excuse but to get down to work. The bane of self-employment, it is up to me. Do it. And it will feel better.

I baked mince pies yesterday. Mind you that was before he came home with directions from the diabetes nurse that he needs to cut down on carbohydrates. How do we start doing that? His diet is wholly-based on them. Heigh ho. I shall do my best. Then there is the news that our washing machine may combust at any moment! Lordy. Another batch to bake today. Perhaps I shall give some to the man I saw sleeping in the Prom shelter this morning. And so cold, poor love. May he find comfort.

And S and R. Does he have it? She with her cauliflower nose. I couldn’t help touching her. That brusqueness just a show to hide her concern, her fear of losing him. Her toy boy I called him. He laughed. Bless her, bless them and keep them safe.