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For ?

I walked past the large student halls of residence known as the Alexandria this morning expecting to see taped up doors and windows. Nothing. A lone security van drove up and down the Prom but all was quiet. No pleas for HELP plastered on the windows, just one sign reading FOR ? which I could make head nor tail of. Is it in quarantine or is it a halls nearer the campus? I find myself giving people who look like students a wide berth and feel bad about it. Will it ever pass?

We sat in the car by the harbour in Aberaeron. It was a beautiful morning. A woman walked past in a tight-fitting see-through waterproof jacket and black leggings. She wore a pink baseball cap which her ponytail swung from the back of as she walked. A man passed her. She’d waved at someone and it must’ve been him. Very snazzy, he said, clearly referring to the top. Do you think so? she said, I just threw it on. If you did, he said, you’ve nailed it.

He was in his stockinged feet when we came into his driveway five minutes late. There was a hole in his socks. I do like him. Such a gentle man. And so obliging. His dyslexia goes unmentioned. Yesterday he wrote about social distasting. Most apt, I think. Thank you for bringing such kind people into my midst.

I am blessed, I said, as I returned to the car after walking over the rocks to look at the sea.

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Writings

Mists

An Autumn morning. I walked through a heavy, damp mist which fuzzed the beam from my small torch. I smelt woodsmoke and wet leaves. There were few people about. I heard voices in the distance but couldn’t make out their direction, and the click of someone’s heels. A security man in a red t-shirt stood outside the 24 hour SPAR smoking, I thought about nodding my head in greeting but didn’t. This semi-lockdown makes one close in, strangers are now a potential threat. Nothing seems real and the usual niceties are forgotten.

Initially I only half listened to her, allowing myself instead to become fixated on straightening some pictures. I felt bad about that. And stopped fiddling and listened. There is a quavering in her voice. She is trying to be brave. She spoke of Christmas how she won’t be able to spend it with her son and his family as is her custom. It’s only two days, after all, she said. I shall just make it like any other. I probably won’t even put my little tree up. I fantasised about driving over with him to see her on Christmas Day. A surprise, bringing presents and a cake. But it would unsettle her and him and indeed, me. But the thought was there, my love. What a dear woman you are, so full of unshed tears.

I wrote. I began. I made a start and for a while was engrossed. That was nice. I was brave. And only he knows how much.

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Writings

Orange Moon and tights

It was there through the window when I went into my studio just after waking. I go in there to get some matches for my candles that I light in both my bathroom and bedroom every morning, scissors to snip the wicks and to charge my phone. It always takes me by surprise, for so often there is cloud and I don’t see it. It wasn’t full but three-quarters and huge. And orange. A Harvest Moon perhaps? In the past people would have known these things. Counting on them, being guided by them. We have lost such knowing. But the wonder is still there, the awe. I felt it, at least.

Mary Oliver spoke of stillness before I slept.

I dreamt of many things, lastly of a pair of tights, a gift. They had velvet tops and extremely sheer nylon legs that were concertinaed up so at first I thought that they would be too short. They came in a leather pouch with a little pot of leather polish (did I think in my dream that they were boots) and a tiny brush, there was also a little sachet with nail files and clippers. It had been a present. It was the detail, the way I was studying these things as a child would, each new surprise, a delight.

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Writings

Marlene on the Wall

It’s a Suzanne Vega song about a spider on her bedroom wall, ‘watching the rise and fall of all the soldiers that have been there’. I have one on my bedroom wall. A tiny thing that have moved from above the door to just to the right of my bed. Does it watch me?

My dreams continue haphazard and full. The last one involved me knocking at a door in a street only to have the door open and a legion of both farmyard and exotic animals, including a full grown Jersey cow, trot out. It was a house where the living accommodation was up some steep wooden stairs. The house upstairs was neat and orderly and presided over by a pretty, pleasant middle-aged woman who told me she wrote ‘easy’ novels and that her husband did a lot of work for the Today programme. Her young son was there too. He chattered away to me. I needed the loo. In fact I had to go twice for which I apologised profusely. She offered no explanation for the fact that she kept her animals indoors and the house seemed none the worse for it. Mind the dog, she said at one point as it pushed its nose up my dressing gown. Was I wearing a dressing gown?

Another blissful morning. Chores have been done, including defrosting the fridge and freezer. Letters have also been written. He has gone back to bed, having not slept a wink, so I shall take the bins. The least I can do. And I have decided to put the disaster of the flapjacks behind me. He says he will eat them. I will probably make another batch next week. They are a sad sight. It’s probably the oven, he says. Enough I have sewing to do and the next instalment of Silas Marner.

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Writings

Dreams (157)

They discombobulate me, often. Last night it was an array of things, one dream falling into another, between getting up for a pee and shutting the window against the new autumn chill. Dreams of journeys, of lost tickets, of sitting in cafes with strangers, of cavernous hotels and trying to find the Ladies, and of clothes, of a pair of bargain-priced massively high-heeled shoes in a taupe colour with one heel coming away that I bought and didn’t want and of a dress, still on its hanger that I stole and tried to return, of being in cars and of trying to find him over and over again. The last remembrance was the worst, that of a young woman crying out her confession to a stranger and her mother, whom I couldn’t see but I knew was there, slapping her face over and over again, the last slap causing a red, bruised welt and may even have broken some teeth. I woke then and still feel shaken.

The morning promises lovely. He didn’t sleep and will forgo his walk to nap. A police car slowly purred its way along the streets of the town as I walked. I saw it several times, once it stopped and its inhabitants spoke to some students. I want to hunker down today, do my chores and rest. I sewed quietly yesterday, feeling my way with the pattern. The sea seems calmer, no white horses as yet. There were a few fallen branches on Llanbadarn Road. The wind yesterday had been fierce. A white plastic chair had been blown across the garden, she told me.

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Writings

Fried Food

I’m not sure what it was. I’ve often smelt it when I woke in the early morning. He smelt it too, waking as he did for a pee. Someone’s cooking, he said. Yes, I said, I think it’s our neighbours on the corner, the two Asian girls. It smelt vaguely Chinese or Vietnamese. It was a sweet, nutty smell, like fried almonds but the oil was sunflower not sesame. But then it seemed to be coming up through the little hatch in his bathroom so perhaps it wasn’t them but our immediate neighbour down below. He was awake when I went for my walk, his light was on. And he likes to make exotic foods, often, as he’s told me making a curry. It wasn’t an unpleasant smell. I try to be sanguine. It is the price you pay for sharing a space with others. And I like flat-living for that reason. I like to hear and feel others around me, especially those who keep to themselves, and know the boundaries of politeness.

The sky is opening to the day. Will I lose my tension? I cried with it yesterday. It needed to be released but I always feel so emptied out afterwards. I shall do sketchbook today, try and wrestle out my ideas and form them into some semblance of order. Just live, he says, just be. I know it is enough. I know it. Help me to learn how to surrender.

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Writings

The Baker

I see him sometimes as I walk past on my way home. Most often he is in the back of the shop, out of sight and it is usually the two women I see, the ones who serve. They both have ponytails, one is a slightly heavier build than the other. Once or twice I’ve seen him drive them there in his car. But I’ve also seen the thinner girl walking to work from a house along South Road. It’s not that I am inordinately interested in them per se. It’s more what they represent, the authenticity of their chosen labour. They are making and selling bread. And have continued to do so throughout the epidemic. It is needed. It is necessary. It is worthy. He has a bald head and is a large, bulky man. He looks kind, not given to great expressions of feeling. He wears a large white apron over his pale blue tee shirt. When I walk past at 3.30 am they are often already there. Armies of tall cooling racks are already lined up with bread. Has he baked through the night? It was the smell initially that stirred my interest. It was a comfort, especially in the rain and cold. Now I like to walk past the lit shop, it’s door open in the warmth. I walk through the fug of yeast smells and feels cheered.

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Writings

Playground

I heard them before I saw them, dark figures clambering over the fence and locked gate of the Castle playground. Most did it quite quickly, vaulting over its bars. One of the girls was slower. Another stayed with her as she gingerly lifted her legs up and over. Were in! shouted her companion as her feet found the ground. Students up to jolly japes. It happens every year. But not so much this year. Their presence is a sparse one. I see a few huddles of them, but that is it. One of the lecturers lives on the estate, we see him sometimes walking up the hill as we sit. He is friendly and happy to spare five minutes to have a moan. It’s all online, he says, no face-to-face seminars at all. I don’t know why they got them back, I say. He makes a money sign with his fingers.

The shuffle on my Ipod brought up a reading I did nine years ago. I let it play as I walked. It was before Norway, before my mother’s and my father’s death, before he and I remarried, before I came here. It was strange to hear my younger self’s voice, asking for a change, something to leave Bath for. She is a nice woman. I don’t read futures, she says. An astrologer, palmist and reader of various new-agey cards, she gives readings that are peppered with her various cosy truisms. She has her favourite words, such as ‘fluffy’. Some of her advice irritates me a bit – I can hear in my voice, in my replies but I try, tried to keep it to myself. She means well, is kind.

‘I want to write about faith’, says the poet. I want to write about my compunction to sew. But not now. Not today. I was caught up with anxiety yesterday, my body racked, taught. It will pass, he says. And it will, does.

It arrived safely. And she is happy with it. I am glad. Very glad. I cannot begin to understand her pain. I hope it eases it, turns it to good.

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Writings

The Poet

I been reading one of her poems a night. One a night to put me in good thoughts as I fall into sleep. And then last night I chanced to look on the back fold of the cover. There is a picture of her sitting on a sofa her face turned to meet that of her dog’s, who is perched on the sofa’s arm. Underneath the photo it said that she had died last year. It gave me such a jolt. And then I was overtaken, for a moment, by a deep sadness. I don’t know her, and the work that I know of her’s is small. But I still felt a loss. Unaccountable really.

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Writings

Gift Exchange

Mercury-retrograde gremlins have been at work. Three, nay four times it has taken to get to this site. I must just go with it and try not to get agitated. It doesn’t help and it is for the most part beyond my understanding.

Do they like to receive my letters? I wonder. I write and then send them with the best intentions. I do. And I feel love for each and everyone as I write. It is old-fashioned, she called it so, it may have been lost in translation. I think about their faces as they open them. Is there that discomfort of guilt at perhaps having to reply. Some do and some don’t. And that is OK.

She gave away her embroideries as gifts. The last was to the man in the asylum. It lit up the wall. I remember the ones in the home. He was encouraged to make her a bird house in return. I think on it. I want to the same but what and to whom. I’ve already begun. Will she like it, want it even? It is for me, mostly. As are the letters. And isn’t that reason enough? He would say yes.