At times it is all over, though mostly on my back. There is no rash, no evidence of disturbance. I try not to respond, to itch. I practice detachment, a separating from my physical self. It works when I concentrate. He tries to help and reads out a long list of possible causes, some frightening, others not so. None of them ring true. It’s the M word, I’m sure of it. That gradual dying of the young self, the physically vital self. So be it. Let it come. I will bear it, millions have done so before me. It saddens me sometimes, there is much lost, and yet what is gained? A promise of death, of departure. Yes. That is OK by me. I shall miss much but I already have one foot outside the door.
Our last days as Europeans. Now that is sad. But I still claim allegiance and always will. I am not one thing. I am a child of many cultures, as are all of us. Do your worst. We will defy you internally, holding true our notions of communuality, brotherhood, sisterhood and belonging to a bigger world, border-free.
We bought our first cut daffodils of the year today. A pound a bunch. And I will love them. If you can’t find the big things that will bring you joy find the little, she suggested. Yes. Flowers help, especially ones that you can watch unfold and open. I miss flowers. The florists here are run-of-the-mill ones, not like in Bath – no cornflowers or sweet peas. Such scents, how I long for them, sometimes. I was turning the radio on yesterday afternoon and I got a ghost of smell. It was the hyacinth that had been then a few days before. It had left its trace. What a nice thought. Do we do the same?
I woke grieving. I cannot help it. The tears come. It is always the way before I go to see her. I expect too much. I know this. And she is not to blame. This has been visited upon her. We do the best we can, she and I. Oh, but the hurt of it. I think of another who did it all right, by the book and still her son won’t see her. The tears are always near, waiting in her eyes. And yet he is not to blame either – he is surviving as best he can trying to avoid the jolts, the memories, the pain.
I was wrong about Larry Hagman’s mother in South Pacific wearing pyjamas, it was an outsize sailor suit. It was a clue yesterday in a crossword. Funny that. Synchronicity, she calls it.
Work now. Emails absorb time. But I need to do it, to neaten up, to order the unorderable. Breathe.
A good good day yesterday. I was nervous. Tea at Rhug helped. But he was a delight, so receptive, so open and so generous. My head is full. I need to come down from it all. It is possible. It is all possible. A night bursting with dreams. I woke to the colour violet. My head was complete with it.
We saw the first snowdrops, banks of them between trees, not fully open but beginning. It is beginning.
There were a selection of books, LPs and DVDs in the window of OXFAM’s bookshop on the theme of the ‘Silver Screen’. I stopped in front of it on my way home. Seeing the LP of South Pacific with Larry Hagman’s actress mother on the front in those outsize pyjamas brought forth a deluge of memories. There was an LP of the London cast singing The Pyjama Game too and a few others that I’ve forgotten now. Dad had many of them. I remember putting them on the record player as a child and singing and dancing along to them. The films were imprinted indelibly in my head and I could picture the characters as I sang. ‘I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair’ and so on. Glorious. I was so open to it all – the escape, the romance and that post 1950s promise of the happy-ever-after – encapsulated in people like Doris Day.
The grief is always there. She pricks it with ease. There is no neat answer, we do our best, both of us. There is no laid-out path, we have to make our way stumbling, mostly. Oh, the sadness of it. The grief, the hurt. Pick yourself up and get on with it. Be grateful for the small offerings from her table. It is enough. It is more than it was. Be at peace. Then rest. And he is there, understanding and taking my hand. I am forever grateful. I know it.
I saw her walking ahead of me. Well it was more like waddling. She was tiny, at least in stature. The width of her was about equal to her height. I thought she might have Downs Syndrome, she had that same rolling, waddle of the girl we used to see walking through Jesus Green in Cambridge, happy-as-a-sandboy (as my mother used to say of such simple bliss) singing away to her Hp3 player. But then I thought, surely not, who would let her wander out at this time in the morning (it was by then about 3.30 am)? She sat down on one of the Prom benches and as I passed I saw that she was crying. She didn’t have DS, that was clear. Her face was heavily made up, her dress, black and figure-hugging was stretched tight across her chest revealing two barely matured breasts. On her head she wore a black woollen hat pulled down close to her eyes, emblazoned along the front was the word WITCH. The tears were streaking her mascara. I went over and touched her arm. Are you alright? Then it all poured out. She’d lost her friends and her feet really hurt and she needed to go to the Spar but couldn’t walk. Her boots, faux Doc Martens were in her hand, her stockinged feet, now wet and curled at the toes, rested on the sandy pavement. Don’t you have your friends numbers in your phone? I asked. No, she said, still sniffing, they’re my flat mates. How will you get home? I asked. Taxi, she said. Patting her shoulder and stroking her face, I suggested that she call a taxi and get them to take her to the Spar (though it was only about 500 yards away) on her way home. And then she could see her friends when she got back. She stopped crying and thanked me. God, they are so young, these fledgling girls sent to University, unformed and unready for the bigger world (though this town is hardly a Mecca but all things are relative). Her loneliness in those post-club-post-booze hours was palpable. Bless her. Bless all of them, squeezing themselves into tiny fake leather dresses, dolled-up and expecting some kind of deliverance. It won’t come, it never does. I want to wrap them all up.
A fully-lit Christmas tree still sparkled from a back upper window in one of the flats along South Marine Terrace. A chocolate digestive, still whole, still round lay in a puddle on the pavement along Llanbadarn Road.
She told me of her daughter who is studying podiatry at Cardiff and the challenging stuff she’d already encountered. She hesitated about telling me. Are you squeamish? she asked. Yes, I said but she told me anyway about the homeless woman whose toe came away when her daughter was observing a podiatrist at work. And of the little boy who was asked to press his foot into oasis at the gait clinic so that they could make an impression of his sole. But it hurts, he kept wailing.
My greed in ordering too many library books has borne fruit. Three came at once.
I’ve been calling her once a week for over seven years now. There were a few others that I used to call too. One, a woman who was deemed a trouble-maker and was thus taken off the books, and another, a man, Irish and much given to ranting (though I was fond of him), who died a couple of days after returning to Ireland for his daughter’s wedding. It was such a trip, one that took an age for him to arrange (fretting mostly about who would care for his black labrador whilst he was away) and then he just up and died. He was home, though, some compensation I suppose, if there is any. So now it is just her. Once a week, every Friday. I’ve ‘seen’ her blossom, though not in the visual sense for we’ve never met. But she has grown bolder, braver and more willing, though it takes it toll upon her, to leave the house and meet new people. It’s just the two of them, her and her daughter. I can only imagine their home – cosy but perhaps a little austere. They don’t have much but they have enough. They live on their nerves the two of them, sensitive to the outside world and all the uncertainty it brings. I don’t think she has ever travelled abroad, maybe her daughter hasn’t either. She is not curious to do so, it seems. She belongs here. She just wants to be safe. She walks with the neighbour’s dog in tow. They have a cat that lives in the shed. A feral thing, it shuns the domestic. They have chickens and a cockerel who runs to greet the daughter’s car when she returns from work. They have a small garden with a greenhouse where they grow tomatoes. She talks of her carrots and runner beans. They are both particular about their food. I love to hear her voice, the lilt of it, the Welshness of it. She is gentle. She feels things deeply. She sometimes has nightmares. Her ex-husband and father of her child hurt her. She keeps things close. She always thanks me for calling. I value her, deeply.
I don’t know why it captivates me so much but it does. And LW writes very well, unexpected really. I know that I have a romanticised view of that time, so much so that a little part of me is scandalised when adaptors of the novels, like AD, appear to take great liberties with the originals. LW does take some of the sheen off my pre-conceptions but only a little. I can understand that her life must’ve been hard, insecure and at times lacking in lustre, just as it was with the Brontes. But we cannot see the past as equal to the now, it wasn’t, isn’t. Their capacity to endure hardship, physical deprivation and discomfort must’ve been greater than ours, for they didn’t have our relative comfort or security. But perhaps they had other things – is that what I crave?
My interest lies in the interior lives of the women. The middle-class gentle gentrified women with seemingly little to do (though LW lifts the lid on this assumption as does AV). Why this is the case (my interest that is) I’m not wholly sure. Because I am ostensibly always at home, perhaps? Because I have battled with my need and love of home and how to treat it comfortably as safe, hiding place and working place, maybe? But I think it is more to do with how such women made their small lives large. As Austen did. The singing bird in the cage. The jaguar in the zoo. The wild forcibly tamed, living out their pulse, their metier in confinement. A throbbing acquiescence.
I read to learn. I read to escape. I read to become more.
I finished my library book yesterday. I can’t say I’m sorry, it was rather heavy going, not so much for its content or story, which at times were engaging but it felt bleak, was bleak. I love choosing books, even if these days libraries’ stock of books is sadly depleted. I love that possibility of the unexpected coming to me, though sometimes I do chose something I’ve read before. It’s like putting on a favourite cardigan, warm and familiar. I’m not sure what I want this time. A classic perhaps. A Dickens or maybe I will return to Austen. I’m not sure.
We’ve begun writing letters to each other. She hand writes her, whereas I type mine. Nevertheless, it is an unlooked-for pleasure. Long may it continue. Oh to be so cherished.
The front door creaks and it really gets to him. Shut up, shut up, he said to it when we returned laden from the supermarket. Then he told me of an ex-next-door neighbour from Cambridge. She was in her seventies and he told me how one day her heard her listening to You and Yours on the radio and how she suddenly shouted out ‘Shut up, Shut up!’ at it. And then how he once happened to glimpse in through her window as he passed by and saw her doing some exercises. She was naked above the waist. It was then that she looked up and saw him looking and promptly dived behind the curtain.
I’ve got the chiropodist this morning which breaks up my work sadly. Heigh ho. My feet must be tended to. And a letter from the cardiac unit finally came through with a date for an appointment. Shall I go? He says he will support me in whatever I chose to do. So be it. Shall it be nothing then?
I hear things on the radio as I do my yoga, snatches of programmes that have already begun. I listen as I stretch, absorbing the odd word, the odd sentence, savouring it as I bend and open. Yesterday it seemed to be set around the time of the French Revolution though the people talking were musicians. A girl and her teacher. The teacher was a haunted soul who talked of a painter he knew who’d gone blind. Just before he’d lost his sight completely he’d asked this teacher to take him to a bluebell wood. The music teacher had watched as the painter had laid down amongst the flowers and immersed his face, his head, his eyes in the bed of them. A cloud of blue, I think he said. Or was it a sea? He did this, the teacher told ‘us’ to remember them, to imprint the blue deep into the memory of his eyes, boring it, them, the scent of them into his brain so that he could remember. In the darkness he would recall the blue.
I’ve been watching, sometimes mesmerised, the links to the two films he made – one of Adam Buick making a huge moon jar and the other of Claire Curneen making a half torso of a woman. Both were captivating. Little happens but it’s the watching of the hands in the process of making and the gentle lull of both of their voices as they work.
I have no craft. I yearn for it. What am I? Fraudulent sometimes, I think. I make. I ape others. But essentially I am a magpie, a borrower, a maker of botch jobs, a putter-togetherer of stuff. These two are the real craftspeople, their passion, their commitment to one material, to one kind of form is utter. I revere them for it. I flit about. I’m too excited by too many things. A jack, a knave. Alas. This is my life. I write about and I celebrate the work of others, let it be. Enough. Let it be enough. This craftswoman manque. Aching. Forever aching for her lost craft. And that yearning to do something really really well.
Somedays I just can’t get my brain to function. Woolly. A mass of wool. I sit at breakfast staring at the sudoku puzzle getting nowhere. Other days I can do two or even three in one sitting. My body is much the same. My legs just didn’t want to walk. I, they did it anyway. It was slightly milder this morning though the cold still bites the end of my fingers. I don’t do well in the cold. Perhaps that is the explanation. Everything has frozen solid. I’ve got to go into work this morning. A broken morning. What shall I do inbetween? There is a mass of small things and big things to deal with. It all feels so disparate. Will it ever come together, or will I always feel this ragged?
A spent Christmas tree lies against several bags of recycled stuff outside those ‘troubled’ flats along Mill Road. It has turned brown. The bin men won’t take it, he says whenever we pass another tree that has been dumped, equally unceremoniously in our refuse area.
The hyacinth he bought me last week is beginning to open. It’s scent slowly begins to ooze. How I love it. That hint of sweetness. Ah, Spring. Shall you come soon?