It isn’t something I’d usually listen to, it’s a little dated and a bit full of ‘daring-do’ for my liking but it’s read by Julian Rhind-Tutt and therefore easy to digest. And besides Bulldog Drummond isn’t frightened of anything. What a thing, to be without fear. Think of that.
She told me that she keeps rescuing geraniums from the Close’s shared tip. They think that they are annuals, she said. We’ve had ours for years now. They are all woody and knotty but they keep flowering and that’s good enough for me. It’s a sign of life after all.
I still see them as I walk in the early hours catching glimpses of lit up interiors as I do. All those forgotten or perhaps clung-on-to Christmas trees still lit and still standing. Will they ever take them down? I remember one house along South Marine Terrace had theirs for months after Twelfth Night. Who cares? I understand that need to hang on to the cheer of lights and sparkle – especially now. And the nights are still so long and dark and dismal. I forgot to notice if they’ve taken down the town tree, the lights have definitely gone. How could I have missed it, its huge? That’s the dark for you and being wrapped up in my own thoughts. I didn’t walk far this morning just to the post box opposite the bakery. The lad that I sometimes see in the morning was there waiting for his lift. I didn’t notice him at first. He looked up at my approach then returned his gaze to his phone. In the phone’s light I could see that he had an earring in his right ear.
No ice or frost today. I walked sans stick. The rain is due though. So be it.
I’m out of temper this morning. I’m doing my best to master it but self-pity is mostly winning out. It shames me and I know it well. Things hurt that’s all and Sunday means some housework before I can settle down in here and work – meaning sew. And I’ve some letters to write, which I like doing but they too take me away from what I want to be doing. What a child, eh? Look at my life, so blessed, and the work is part of it. Accept more, he said, and expect less. How wise he is. I will try. I promise I will try.
More hard frost this morning. Will it be the last for a while? I walk out with my tentative steps – gingerly crossing the road onto the footpath, with my stick in hand. It looks beautiful. The glistening on the ground is beautiful, magical even. It twinkles and glitters, I am enraptured by it but also fearful. Ah, get a grip.
I heard his cough and then smelt the smoke from his cigarette through the open window in his bedroom. It’s amazing how far it travels. It’s an acrid smell, dirty at times. He doesn’t sound well, nor does he look it. We see him rarely these stay-at-home days.
My knee is giving me jip. It’s the knee I bruised when I fell. It is healing for it itches at night, a sure sign but it is stiff and awkward. I walk anyway, sometimes with my trusty stick to guard me from further tumblings and sometimes not. The Pelican Bakery is open again – thank the lord – and its smells delight me once more, as did the large fishing vessel I saw down in the harbour, lit up like a christmas tree. There were two young lads on the beach beside a raging fire – the aroma of burning wood is such a comfort, as is the sight of the flames in this dark blackness. The starlings under the pier were chattering awake as I strode past. And another bird called out from across the invisible water – I don’t know what it was, a curlew, a guillemot or an oystercatcher? I also heard the screech owl as I walked down St David’s Road – its cry more like a wooo than a twit twoo. I don’t want to walk these mornings, the cold and ice are not welcoming but when I see and smell and hear the world in this liminal space it is worth it.
And as I walk I write stories in my head. They are cooking away in there. I want to give them life on paper but for the moment I enjoy being with them as they are – small embryos of possibility.
She’s still in hospital after over two weeks. Poor love, she cried over the phone. It doesn’t suit her. She is a tender soul. And then I find out that that isn’t her name and then she is so much older than I’d previously thought. I want to do what I can. Send her a bag of things as succour. I wish I could go and see her. Just to hold her hand and make it better.
The other night I dreamt that a woman was preparing a home for me, a basement room with now windows but one that was flooded in white light (even though her son had broken the light). Then last night I walked through a house with old wooden panelling, a beautiful house but there was no furniture, it was empty and yet I’d known it full. I remember the textures. And I dreamt of a pizza. It was because of what her daughter had said about hospital food. ‘We don’t eat pizza,’ she’d said.
He walks later on these cold, frosty mornings, which means that he walks in the daylight and can see things. He comes back with news and pictures of the graves of friends and acquaintances he’s found in the cemetery. All long gone. There are his golfing cronies, the parents of his sister’s first husband and those of his younger brother’s wife. It doesn’t seem to make him sad, it is more a rather pleasant continuum and one that gives him comfort. He tells tales of them. Some I’ve heard many times, others are new.
He came back with four bunches of daffodils, or was it three? We talked of seeing them and of the joy the first sightings would bring. I didn’t expect them so early. I’ve placed them round the flat, I even have some in here. He is kind. And generous.
I listen to people talking on the radio, so many speak with such confidence of what they know, offering it as truth. How can they be so sure? Do I envy such knowing? And then there was one voice that quavered. Here was a real person, an uncertain being. He was speaking about the song ‘The Look of Love’ and how he’d bought a record that had Mireille Mathieu singing it in French. He loved it and still had the LP. He’d given it to his mother when ‘she left us’, he said. Everything hung on that line. She left them, him. When she died she made sure he got it back. I still have it, he said. Oh, the ache of other people’s unspoken pain.
I keep dreaming about him. I haven’t seen him for years. I loved him once, passionately. And now he keeps cropping up and there is that same hint of nervousness in his company. I’d made him a christmas card and he clearly wasn’t impressed but when he folded it he could see that it was stunning – even I was amazed. It had an image of church or Abbey on the front and it seemed to burn with light.
Do you get jumbly thoughts just before waking? He calls them ‘jumbly thoughts’. I lie there after the alarm has sounded just for a few moments giving my thanks for my warm bed for him and thinking of the day ahead and sometimes I doze slightly. This morning, in that pre-waking doze this sentence came in: “with this chasing of experiments is there any…?”
He comes back from his walk with videos that he’s taken on his phone of the shooting snowdrops. He is delighted with them and wants to show me. I look at them as I prepare supper and hear the twittering of the birds and see his shadow on the ground. What a joy he is.
I told him of how in one of my dreams I was teaching Sister Julienne (aka Jenny Agutter in Call the Midwife) how to use an electric toothbrush while tactfully suggesting that age makes the gums recede. He laughed out loud. How I love to make him laugh.
He came home the other morning with pictures of green shoots. What are they? he asked. Snowdrops, I said.
I caught the end of the news bulletin on the World Service and my panic bubbles up. Don’t listen to it, he says, I will tell you what you need to know.
I’m not sure if the man in my dream was John Wayne or not. We were getting into a car together. I knew that he had died but accepted that he was present, and there with me. He was getting into the front passenger seat and I was to get into the back. I only saw his back. He was a big man, though he’d lost weight due to age and illness. He wore baggy, American-style jeans and a loose jumper. I noticed the pattern of the wool, a kind of spotted black and white fleck. The radio was on in the car, perhaps it was a taxicab, and someone was discussing politics.
Someone was outside their back gate as I walked behind South Marine Terrace this morning (I still had my stick but thankfully there was no ice). He was fiddling with bags of rubbish and recycling and wearing pyjamas and a striped dressing gown. It was 4.00 am.
The radio often brings me what I need or want to hear. Yesterday it was the TED radio hour with speakers talking about activism and then one came on and talked about activism for introverts. Are there angels?
I am often ashamed of myself. I know the trivialities of my mind, my obsessions with order, with cleanliness, with a petty control over my environment – the fuss I make over spots of blood – and I am sorry for it. He is forgiving of me, for it is he that is most inconvenienced. But worse, worse, I forget the others who have nothing, who are starving, who have no home, no shelter, no source of warmth, of water, or care. I fill my head with nothing and by doing so become nothing. To hear those stories of the starving people of Yemen and of Syria – grown men who weigh but 6 stone, towns where there are no cats and dogs because in extremis they have been eaten. It is shocking to hear such truths. But I need it. And then there is my ‘fussiness’ my mother used to call it over food. I, who can pick and choose, I who have never known a hungry day (food has been short on occasion but there has always been something). I am sorry for my ridiculousness in the face of such suffering. Truly.