I dreamt of a swan, but I’m not sure of the context. Did I see one? I know that in the end it was a dream about problem-solving and I’d decided to make a flip book using a swan as the image. I was pleased with my resolution when I woke. My father was there too, somewhere, but again I don’t know what he was doing. A presence, that’s all and not particularly relevant.
The moon was shining strong into my studio when I woke. Just lovely. It gives me such a lift, that white silvery light. And then it was gone. The wind gusted as I walked. The harbour is strewn with seaweed, there must’ve been big tides last night.
Tracey Emin has cancer. He was reading an interview with her yesterday at breakfast. It sounds like she is riddled with it. Her bladder, parts of her bowel, lymph nodes and vagina have all be removed. Poor girl. Poor, poor girl. She cracked a joke. She must be scared. I wish her well. She has been an influence. A light.
I’m reading Sanditon. I wanted to see if the adaptation I’d watched recently was true. It is not. Why do they mess with something that has merit, as it clearly does? Why introduce all the skullduggery, the suspense that they did? Not to mention the sex. Why? Aagh. Austen is too subtle for them.
The rain is relentless. I got soaked. Heigh ho. Winter approaches. My spirits need much to raise them.
I recognised the smell, that sharp sweetness that always used to make my tongue water. It was in my bathroom. It came from nowhere and didn’t last long. Some say that visiting spirits carry scents with them, or at least smells that evoke memories in us. Pear drops in paper bags measured out in the sweet shop up the road from us. Pink and yellow hard-boiled sweets dusted with icing sugar that made your mouth pink. It made me feel a little happy that smell.
A new commission just when I thought everything had stopped. It pleases me more than him. I want to contribute, to be useful. My own work must be put to one side, just for the moment. And that’s OK. It’s always been about a balance.
I wake very early and when I wander about the flat and look out into the darkness I see other windows, across the complex and beyond into town, also alight like mine. There is the Asian girl in number one, her lights are on through the night, never during the day. Is she still keeping Chinese time? I think of her all alone in a strange country (I imagine her as a student coming here to study and having to do it all online) and how unfamiliar it must be for her. And the lad who works in the cycle shop whose girlfriend is a nurse (I watched him from my studio as I worked as he painted his outside wall), his bedroom light was on when I woke. As was the other lad, still at school, the one who smokes out of his window, his too was on. What has woken them? Or are they still awake? The other smoker, the one who used to hold seminars in the car park, is frequently awake in the early hours too. His night time light of choice is green. I like to think of these fellow ‘awakers’ – it gives me solace.
A man was walking around the harbour when I arrived this morning. I didn’t like it. It doesn’t feel safe. I walked quickly away in the other direction. A gentle breeze they promised this morning. They were wrong and I swore as my umbrella blew inside out yet again. And then there was a runner. I thought it might be OS but this one was was heavier in build and in foot.
A student (most probably) has decorated their windowsill in a house along Llanbadarn Road in readiness for Halloween. There are fake pumpkins, leaves and an odd little figure that I could place. Others have plastic cobwebs fixed to their windows and the occasional skeleton.
I noticed small details as I walked, some mornings it is like that. A tiny gnat was flying about in the window of the cycle shop, in thrall to the light fixed on the the display bike. A gust of wind caught at some leaves and they rattled down the main causeway sounding more like a clattering of cans. I smelled a cigarette. It seemed stale, old. Had someone walked past smoking? No, it was a Chinese girl crouched in a doorway in her pyjamas and an anorak on the phone and smoking. She stood up as I walked by.
She used the word often in Jane Eyre so much so that I began, as I listened to a reading of it, to believe in docility as a merit. It appears that she thought so, though in Jane’s character there was also resolve and courage. And the desire to serve. How she fires that up in me. Oh, I know it is a fiction, as is Dickens’ Edwin Drood, but how they get under my skin these characters. Is it a lockdown thing this inward-looking, this melding of the real and the unreal?
It woke me. I couldn’t work out what the noise was. A crash. Then I looked up and the lid from the flue – the thing that had leaked a year or so ago – had come off. Was it the wind? It was certainly raging outside. There was plaster all over the floor. No help for it but to get out of bed and get the hoover. Ugh! In the end brown parcel tape had to suffice. This morning I tried white insulating tape but the ended up coming away. How I hate to botch things up. I tried masking tape just now but I’d better go and check whether that has worked. Some mornings are like that and I long to just get on. No, so far so good.
I’ve finished it, hearing those words, ‘Reader I married him.’ I shall miss it. What next? And Sanditon is a joy, if I can forgive the shabby library book. Why do adaptors miss with such delights – supposing what we modern audiences will and will not like?
I dreamt I had a huge wart on my face. It looked and felt like one of those conical shells. I was distressed by its size and the attention it would attract but he was nonplussed. And every time I felt my fingers straying over to check on it it seemed like it was shrinking, inwardly, wizening even.
A wild windy morning. I dressed for it and felt cosy under my two waterproof coats. Even the rain in my face didn’t irritate. Town is quiet. People are behaving.
The house is cleaned and here I sit ready to write and trying to send those demons packing. It doesn’t matter what happens. Just let it come. This is mine, no one else need see it or read it. And besides to not to do it, or at least try to, hurts.
I finished the other Trevor. What a pang I feel at the close of each book. Not just his. Now I’ve begun Sanditon. We finished watching adaptation for the second time last night. I want to know the original. The book is from the library. An old copy. The pages smell musty. And there are old stains.
I can see blue sky between the clouds. Now to work.
It’s the second time I’ve dreamt of a pheasant. The last time was when I was in my mid twenties. In this dream I want to rear one. I didn’t see the bird. Perhaps it was young and I’d rescued it. But I was preparing for its arrival. A box was washed out, an area made ready for its roaming. He wasn’t sure. I wanted to do it well, to care for it assiduously. He was in the sink after I’d used it, bathing himself, quite happily. I was concerned out how he’d get out.
The extra hour’s sleep was nice, though it has left me a little grumpy, I fear. The wind was strong when I walked. And it rained. Everything was rattling at the harbour. The rigging on the boats jangling. I walked back through town.
It is yellow. A bright yellow. The kind of yellow of Bird’s Custard Powder, or the yolks of the eggs we get from the health food shop on Chalybeate Street with the shells that are so tricky to peel off or the yellow of daffodil heads or Colman’s English Mustard or marzipan (not the kind they have in Norway, that is more of a grey colour). A yellow tree that looks like it’s the lamplight that is making it so. But it is not. The leaves have turned and they are aflame. They light up the dark as I walk along Llanbadarn Road. And I am grateful. Grateful for any such illumination.
I often find myself mirrored in the characters I read about. Is it that the experiences they experience are common to most or is it that I am relating so strongly to them that I find a kinship that is not true? Florian Killderry fails at all the creative endeavours he attempts. The son of two artists he knows that he has no talent. His photographs, his writings, started and unfinished, fall short. He know this. And there is Ellie Dillahan, in love with him as she is, though married to the kind but taciturn heartbroken farmer who killed his last wife and child in an accident, still going about her chores while her heart is breaking. And then there is Jane Eyre now in her small village schoolroom or in her two-roomed little house, content for now, though still heavy with her longing for Rochester.
How the ordinary carries us through. The familiar tasks that mark out our days. Waiting, always waiting for the extraordinary. Aren’t you?
Some days I achieve little. Like yesterday. Spending hours on a piece of sewing not much bigger than Jane Austen two inches of ivory. I worried away at it, stitching and then unpicking. Over and again. I’m not good with working patterns, my brain is not a straight-line, counting sort of brain, it goes off on trails of other things. I finish work and weigh up the good or bad of it. At least I’ve learnt something. What is that exactly? How not to do something, perhaps? Or where to begin next time?
And today, my writing day, I know I need to change tack on my story. It’s not right. Shall I spend the day thinking and making notes when I long to just write and be led by it? I don’t know. I want the safety of knowing where I am or that the road I am in is the right one. But it is not to be, not yet. There is still groundwork to do. It will pay dividends, I hear a voice in my head say, his voice, if not his words. I think about work all the time, all those different strands who demand from me noisily when another is being attended to. So be it. Let is be as it is. And just be in the doing of it, whatever that doing is. Remember what he said, expect less, accept more. Wise man.
It’s always been about the details for me. I love it when writers pay them attention. William Trevor did it well in Love and Summer, as did Edith Wharton in Ethan Frome. The first I am in the middle of reading, the second I’ve just finished listening to. Both describe scenes in farm kitchens. One is in Ireland in the summer, the other is in New England in the winter. Both are slow. The spoken language, the conversation, is rare. The rooms are sparse. In both there is a stove. In one a rocking chair, in the other a sagging sofa. The inhabitants watch each other. Changes in mood are noted but rarely commented on. I love to read, or hear about the women moving around these kitchens. The laying of tables, the putting out of food. The banal sameness of the daily rhythm of things in between which life happens. Sometimes slowly, sometimes fast. And there is such a feeling of loss when the story ends. Even of grief.