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Pruning

He told me once of a girl he encountered way way back who’d told his friends at the time (he’d probably not turned up or was late) that he was probably ‘pruning himself in front of the mirror’. It tickled him then and still does. My love has the gift of not taking himself too seriously, and of infinite self-knowledge and therefore is fully aware of his propensity for vanity. I pruned him yesterday, outside on the tip, the dump or for the moment ‘our garden’. I cut his hair. He’d bought a pair of hairdressing scissors and a pair of thinning cutters. Just now I’ve also shaved his neck of all those rogue loose wandering hairs. He looks better for it. Neater, tidier and smarter. He seems pleased with my attempt.

Another warm night. My hips ache. I thought it was muscle fatigue from walking up hills or striding too purposively. But on second thoughts I think it is more likely a reaction to something my body is trying to oust. A bug, a mystery virus, a bad tummy call it what you will, something is fighting something off. I shall be stoic. There is no point in fasting if one is going to throw it all up and take painkillers. And pain has its own gift. So I sit with hot water bottles and herb tea, and try to distract myself instead.

My work frightens me. I am in fear of the empty page. But if I sit with it, give it my time and my attention something always comes through. It is inevitable. It is the reward of that attention and of my intention which is always to do the best I can, to honour those of whom I write and tell the truth as I know it, now. Yes, there is lots I do not know. I do not profess to genius, or skill, I’m a work-a-day writer who tries to throw off artifice and respond authentically to what is before her. That is all. I make no claims. The fear is mastered by my sitting with it. And my work is precious to me, not only as a means, however small of earning money but as a way of creating that stilling, that focussing on something, someone other than myself. It is a gift. Nevertheless be with me when I write. Please.

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Writings

Gloves

It was too warm to sleep last night. I lay there for what felt like hours moving this way and then that. I did sleep eventually for I dreamt. A later one was of a girl, a singer and a concert that she decided to cancel at the last minute. I was with her but also seeing her in a through a camera lens kicking her feet up high and wearing thigh length white boots. She was a little spoilt, the daughter of a friend who I tried to call but the phone I had was so small I couldn’t read the names or numbers. In the dream that followed I put my trusty black leather gloves on (the ones I wear for walking) and they began to disintegrate. I told him about them. He was there in my dream, in the wings as he often is. I’ll have to get some new ones right away, I said and headed off to do so before I woke five minutes before the alarm. Are these details significant? Or are they just a meld of symbols concocted from waking thoughts and fears?

The morning was perfect. The sea a gentle folding of water. A sheet of blue. From the Perygl I heard the purr of a fishing boat engine and turned to see its lights, full bright in the leaving dawn. I waited a little to see if they’d sail beneath me but they didn’t. The new shoes worked out fine, thankfully. A goodbye to thick socks and walking boots for a while, thank god. Now there is admin to do, a clearing away and a sorting out before other work can be done. So be it. Embrace it for the order it gives. All is well.

He is fifty today. Was he really so young back then? Still enigmatic? Probably.

I cannot tell you of the blue of the sea from my studio window. It is a welcome cool, a deepness. Aquamarine? Cobalt? What do those colours mean to you? DLS began translating the Divine Comedy. I stand humbled. And what is to be my life’s work?

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Writings

Not a Cornflower

I thought I recognised the blue. I thought it was a cornflower and I felt a fillip of joy. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t a cornflower. I think it’s a scabious. They mentioned scabious in the TV adaptation of Cranford. It was one of the flowers that the Major gave Capt Brown’s daughter and she hurried with the Jenkins’s to look it up in the Language of Flowers. I forget what they found, but she was pleased nonetheless by its inference. No, it couldn’t have been a cornflower, what was I thinking, cornflowers grow in fields and meadows on the side of crops, like those ones we saw in Cambridge that summer with the red poppies. But it is beautiful anyway, isn’t it? A spark of loveliness in a mass of debris and broken things.

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Writings

Chores (5)

It was a word she used a year or so ago when we visited her. It sounded funny coming out of her still young mouth.

She continues to fascinate me. Do you know she wrote over 350 reviews of Detective novels for The Sunday Times in just two years? And all the while she wrote plays, novels and short stories. Such busy women, they put me to shame. All of them. And so bright, so sharp. In the biography Coomes includes a kind of mock list she wrote outlining her domestic duties – I’ve not yet finished it but you can imagine the thing (or perhaps not) I paraphrase: get up, wait for the bathroom to become available (husband or maiden aunt using it), then breakfast at 8.30, then reading letters, scanning paper, then telephone calls, then interview with new ‘girl’, then sewing a hem and so on. All of course to be done before any ‘real’ work is done. Remarkable how even though she had a cook, a housemaid and so on she still had so much to distract her from her real aim and daily purpose. Her alcoholic husband can’t have helped. But she was strong and determined. Still I am humbled. What do I achieve each day? So many little things but what of the big?

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Writings

Funeral

It was a dream, again. Do they wake me before the alarm, always a split second? Or is it my body clock as she called it so many years ago sparking me awake? It was a funeral, her funeral, my grandmother’s. Though it wasn’t of course, she died long ago and I was young when I attended the real one. This one was more contemporary. We were in the car following a line, a cortege of sorts of mainly black vehicles. There was a man and then a woman on the periphery, both crying. They weren’t allowed in, they were kept in the wings, ousted, but nevertheless, they’d come. He was hirsute in the face at least and she looked familiar, and wore green. He touched his hand through the car window and I hugged her. We were going in but felt sympathy and compassion for those left outside and not welcome. The sun shone. It wasn’t a sombre day. Not sure where it came from or what it means.

I continue to read about her, getting frustrated with myself when I finish breakfast later than intended. Did she really feel so little about leaving her child with another? The language of the day perhaps pretends an indifference that she didn’t experience. Is the discomfort hers or mine? Last pot of tea today for a bit. A retraction is due, anything to ease the gut and to save the infernal chopping of fruit. The big things reign on out there and I am, as usual, concerned with the trivial, the small. Work must be done for the photography is booked for tomorrow. Another venturing out. A little scary still. And another commission for an article has been secured. I’m looking forward to it. So far. Keep that up. There is joy even in the always daunting challenge of writing. A bientot (sans little triangle, I don’t know how to get it).

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Writings

Paraclete

I didn’t know what the word meant. Dorothy L Sayers used it in one of her poems that David Coomes quotes in his biography. He was reading The Times online and I asked him to look up its meaning on Google. He is always happy to oblige. I find if I don’t strike when the iron is hot I lose the chance and it is forgot. It’s a religious word, usually to do with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit as a guiding force. I don’t even know how to pronounce it. It is para – ‘cleat’ or ‘clet’? She was clearly a bright woman, and more than a little awesome. But we all have our trials, even if we are brilliant. She kept losing her hair. Whenever she was ill it just fell out. A doctor told her it was because she was troubled mentally. Is it such a ridiculous suggestion? He suggested that she find contentment. Just like that?

It drizzles a little outside. No sun today. Never mind, there is much to do. Get everything ready. Then tea. Then work.

She replied almost straight away and sounding happy. I’m glad, so glad.

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Writings

Birdsong (10)

I miss her. I miss them. I want to connect, to see my loved ones. But it must be put on hold. Such is life. Not what we want but what we need. Possibly? Dorothy L Sayers grows more and more interesting to me. I don’t miss my breakfast puzzling, the reading is proving most rewarding. See a small mercy. I tell him all. It tumbles out, all that self-baracking. He understands mostly and when he doesn’t he tries to. What more can one ask? Too much to do. At least I set myself too much to do. Crowding out the creative work, on purpose? Perhaps. The scary bit. The wild bit. The untrammeled bit. Cleaning and cleaning. Nice when it is done though. And mending and emailing. Then shopping and putting it away and then? Then? Sitting and thinking and trying and working. It is enough. And there is the sun and the birdsong. Mopping the floors is made OK with Radio 3 up loud and Petroc warm voice and the sun shining in through the (dirty) windows. Thank you.

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Writings

Dog Roses and Yeast

I love the scent of them, even more than a standard, hybrid garden rose. There is a wild headiness to their perfume that their cultivated cousins do not have. There are several bushes of them in the Castle park and some smaller, white climbing ones near where he parks our car. I push my nose in close. The smell is stronger later in the day or first thing in the morning. It makes me thing of the jasmine I catch in the air in Spain. It is the small things, they are my solace as I age and all those dreams fall away.

I give myself daily tasks, it is a way of ordering my time, of giving myself a structure and an opportunity to weigh up my worth. An hour or so on his quilt. I’ve still much to do but I found that by pulling the table out there was more room to manage its unwieldiness. And I baked some bread using the yeast I’d frozen all those weeks ago. Will it respond? I asked myself, and it did wonderfully, prodigiously. It foamed and foamed. Gorgeous. What a thing. And the bread seems OK. It looked nice liberally sprinkled with sunflower seeds. When I cut into it the texture looked soft, almost cake-like. He is yet to try it. He wrinkles his nose a little over the seeds (they get in his teeth) but seems open to being guinea pig. Besides he likes to know that I’m upstairs doing it. It makes me feel cosy, he says. I know what he means. I like the idea too, even if the effort and the standing required is much. And it’s nice to make things. And bread, even though I no longer eat it, is such a staple. And I like to experiment, adapting the recipes so that I don’t have to follow them to the letter.

Few people were about this morning. A student came out of one of the Halls wearing a pair of shorts. I saw him later climbing Penglais Hill. The wind was too strong for the harbour. I’ve missed the Perygl. Tomorrow perhaps. I shall sew today. I’m stuck on a particularly tricky pattern and have had to unpick several times. Heigh ho, it is my discipline, it keeps me steady. I think of her as I sew. And her. And I finished my glorious Dickens. I am a little bereft. Was Drood murdered? Was Jasper the killer? Who is Datchery? Silence. Unfinished. What a glory. What next? A biography of Dorothy L Sayers that so far looks promising. Listening to Great Lives on Radio 4 prompted me to buy it. Yet I still long for my Crisparkle……

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Writings

Plastic Bag

They promised 50 mile per hour winds. They didn’t feel that strong, possibly 20 or 25. I walked anyway, though the Prom was only really safe towards the Bar. As I made my way along Llanbadarn Road one of those transparent, plastic recycling bags inflated on the other pavement. It had clearly been tied up, loosely, and the wind had got inside blowing it up into a large, tight ball. First it lifted into the air and then fell down with a bounce onto the pavement before bobbing along at the same pace as me towards town. I thought of the young lad in American Beauty making a video of a plastic bag dancing in a breeze and then of the orange space hopper things we had a kids (well, we didn’t have one but friends did). There was something miraculous about it, beautiful in its way. It captivated me.

Weary again today, no doubt a result of the wind and the pattern of fitful sleeping I’ve got myself into. A gentle day today in which I will continue with his quilt (a cumbersome job pushing it through the machine) and baking some bread (the yeast I froze may have died but I’ll see). Keep well and safe.

I found this card written while they were on honeymoon I think. It contains his usual practical concerns, all about meeting them off the train in the Mini. He never did write of love. But he seemed happy enough. Were they? Ever? I cannot remember. I hope so. Did her death speed along his? Fanciful perhaps. Who knows and who cares, it is long ago now. Long ago.

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Writings

Showers

The sky delivered what they promised and I got soaked. I’d been busy with domestic stuff so my walk was going to be a curtailed one anyway but nevertheless I was stymied in my attempts to at least take a look at the sea. The rain had ceased when I first set out but then it came. A heavy shower that was exacerbated by the wind coming down South Road from the sea and which blinded me. I couldn’t see, my eyes were seeped in rain and unable to blink. And it made me cold. And yet it was also quite marvellous. Such is the sensation of living, not always pleasant and cosy but vital, don’t you think? We are rarely physically inconvenienced. And it is good to be so, now and again. I squelched home bedraggled but blown through. To my Dickens. I am in love with his storytelling. I don’t want it to end. Do you feel that ever?