There was no sound from the sea this morning, not even a lapping. How fickle the weather is. A clear sky spreads out before my window and the sea is a deep blue. The cleaning has been done. Now I’ve admin to do. I’d like to take the Bank Holiday as one but I’ve never been very good at that. That sitting still lark. Or even the sleeping in one. There is so much I want to do, to achieve, to learn and to become. I can still hear the pulsing in my ear. Was it always there but I didn’t hear it? He’s found another house. It’s in the sticks but the rent is much cheaper. Should I look? What an upheaval it would be but there is a garden and a vegetable patch. Shall I yield to what could be? But is it light? Like this home. I like it most when I’ve cleaned it from top to bottom, though it is sadly in need of painting. Heigh ho. Time to work. I think of you. I think of you all. x
I’m still deeply engrossed in Austen’s Mansfield Park.
Fanny is now with her real family in Portsmouth and she decries the want of order, rationality and peace that she’d been used to in Northamptonshire. I remember Jeanette Winterson wrote in a similar vein in one of her autobiographical pieces – saying that home should be a place of order. I need it in my home, certainly. And in my life, seemingly more than ever. It gives me a sense of calm. For that reason, and that reason alone, I shall be happy when this impasse over my job is settled. Let it be over, properly over so that I can focus on the work I really want to do at my pace without the unsettling-ness of phone calls and booking. I need time. I like to have time so that I can take time over things. Rushing has never been my way. I like to do all that I do properly. At least as well as I can. I cannot do this in a hurried way, too many things are left undone like that. The adaptation we are currently watching of MP is from 1983. It is slow, measured, more like a theatre production than a TV one. There are only a couple of cameras, so there are no close-ups of faces and there is little background music. The drama is in the language and the gestures. It takes a while to adjust but I like it. I like its understatedness, its gentleness. And the character of Fanny opens up before me. What shall I do with her?
It’s beginning to feel autumnal. The sky was clear when I walked, a bursting of stars. And now the sun is coming through the clouds that have built up since I returned home for breakfast. It’s nice to have some brightness, the week has felt a little gloomy first thing. I can hear him ablutin’ in his bathroom getting ready to go out for his walk. I thought about the eighteen-year-old I heard talking on The Podcast Radio Hour (was she really only eighteen?) and how she said she was in constant pain. How would I be in that situation? Would I be active as she is? I hope so. She was a gentle soul making podcasts about her condition and how our greatest achievement can be just surviving. We are all dealt such different cards, and some really make the most of what has been given to them. Like her. A brave girl. And then I thought of my nephews and nieces, though mostly my nieces and her. And how brave they are, each with their own challenges to manage. The sky looks glorious, a Titian Blue interspersed with huge tall white clouds. I like to look at it from my studio window. I juggle all my projects, trying in between proper paid work to give them all equal attention. It is the sampler book today and I have a huge turn-a-round of concept. It might work. We’ll see.
It flew onto the bonnet of the car just as we’d arrived home. I couldn’t say what it was. I said it was a Red Admiral but he suggested it might have been a Painted Lady. Red Admirals are the ones I remember from my youth. Those long summers spent in the fields. It was a beauty whatever it was. And then Richard Attenborough began talking of them in his short radio programme, though mostly about Monarchs and Cabbage Whites. He talked of the rarity of butterflies and how he often dashes outside when he sees one. They give me a feeling of joy, they always have done. And while I was working on the commission they seemed to be everywhere, Cabbage Whites certainly.
Writers talking. I keep coming upon writers talking on the radio. This week it was Patrick Gale and then Anthony Minghella. Both were very articulate – each sentence they uttered was a gem for someone like me, a learner, a fledgling scribbler, a sponge. Both listen to music while they write. Gale says he only has to put a specific piece on and he is back in the plot. He also said that he begins with a truth, a true happening. I liked that. My story hums away inside my head. I am slow to write it. But it doesn’t matter, it needs to take its time and for me to become more confident in writing it. It is taking on flesh.
I can hear it in my right ear. It’s a kind of irregular pulsing. It must be my heart. It’s not a pounding or a thumping but a throbbing. It sounds like a moan, a dull complaining sort of noise, almost a wheeze. Why am I hearing it now and not before? I will have to get used to it. For maybe it is here to stay. Always these little changes to get used to. That’s the thing with getting older, with dying, which is what we are effectively all doing. Is this the sound we hear in the womb? Or are all heart beats different? Is this what a doctor hears through a stethoscope? It’s a sound of life, I suppose. A reminder of its force and fragility. But do I want it forever in my ear? Perhaps I have no choice. It will be heard it seems.
A long journey yesterday, over 300 miles there and back. It wasn’t unpleasant. We talked, I dozed, we stopped to rest, pee, do crosswords and drink coffee and tea out of flasks. We hardly stepped foot in Bath, though it looked magnificent in the sunshine. The work is delivered. And I took myself out into the world once more. She remembered me, she said. Sadly, it wasn’t mutual. It is hard to return to a place once known and loved, different.
He is out on his walk and it has begun to rain. Poor love I hope he isn’t too wet.
Sometimes it is enough, just that, to start. To make a start. To start out. It can be the most difficult thing to do. That white sheet of paper, though these days it is more likely to be a blank computer screen. I did it though. I began and watched my every word. It will ease, that watchfulness and the words will flow more easily.
We are to make a journey today. Just a small one compared to the one tomorrow.
The rain was relentless this morning, though the air was warm and the sea a gentle lapping.
The storm before this one was called by my name. I didn’t hear or see her. Nor I think will we see much of Francis. We sat out in the afternoon and one of our neighbours was cutting the grass with a strimmer. A noisy thing. He called out to apologise and said that he wouldn’t be long but that he wanted to get it done before the storm.
Another commission has come through. I am so grateful, more than I can say. To earn my way is so important to me. So important, especially when it can be made here in this studio and using my skills. Thank you. All of you.
It took me hours. I was in two minds whether to do it or not. I could’ve stayed with the errors and adapted the pattern accordingly. It would be a bind, I told myself, but it might be a good way of breaking out of the strictures of the prescribed format and imposing my own scheme. I thought about it all Saturday, in between thoughts of her. I’d sewn the initial part over a year ago. It had been my first one and flush with the energy of ignorance I’d purchased the harder one. And it was too hard. Fiddly and troublesome to count. At least it was then. A year later I am defter and more confident perhaps. So I’d picked it up where I’d left off foolishly not checking whether my first attempt was right. It wasn’t. It was way out. It frustrates me how easily I err. After all it’s only a question of counting. But it’s always been the same, I’m not good with following patterns, rules or colouring in between the lines. So I unpicked it. Stitch by stitch. I thought I could save the thread but it was impossible. The tension of my initial stumblings was too tight, the thread had to be cut. Denuded of thread the linen still holds a ghosting of what was there before, a hint colour and form. It is done. It is unpicked. Time to begin again.
I want to help her, to make it alright. But I cannot. The associations with her situation and mine all those years ago are acute. It cannot be the same and yet I feel as if it is. I wish her strength. I wish them both strength. Such deprivations take their toll on relationships. She just wants a home. And why shouldn’t she have it? They have done nothing wrong. Let is be so. Let it come for them.
He said that his occluded eye had improved, more than he could’ve hoped, apparently. Isn’t that an amazing thing? He seems rather sanguine about it. But to me it is a sign of a healthy constitution. It is still fuzzy but he says that he can make out more shapes.
We talked of her garden and the impact of the recent rain and wind. She seemed distracted having just come in from a wet walk. I could hear the dog barking outside. The storms have destroyed their runner beans and the courgettes that ‘were coming beautiful’ have begun to rot. I couldn’t lift her. I’m in a muddle today, she said. Sometimes I can’t make it right. I wish I could. I worry about sharing snippets of our conversations here on this page. I keep her anonymous and it is only a way of celebrating her. For I do. That soft lyricism of her voice and her concerns spoken so quietly, continue to move me. She has been nowhere since the lockdown was first imposed. Let this sharing be alright. I would never wish to wound.
A wild morning but he has gone out nevertheless. Has summer ended?
I’ve struggled to sleep these last few nights. The day before yesterday I tried reading a William Trevor short story thinking it might help to make me tired. It did the opposite, the beautiful succinctness of the writing stirred me up.
He bought the radio for me, did I tell you? It is now on my table all washed clean as I’d dreamt it would be. And it’s perfect. The tone is good and the dial was on my station, the one I listen to in the mornings. Thank you. It was unnecessary, I have umpteen radios but it is a pleasure nonetheless. It’s an objet d’art, he told the woman in the shop. Well, she said.
I saw two baby gulls as I walked. One was lying in the road, taking a nap, I think, all tucked up and neat. The other was on the Prom, its feathers ruffled, looking lost. They seem so bleak, so alone, so abandoned.
It’s raining outside so he won’t walk. In fact I can hear him snoring now. I, on the other hand have work to do. More anon.