He got a text saying that she’s had a stroke. They think it’s either as a result of her fall, or that the fall was because she’d had a stroke. It may also be because of the stress of looking after her husband single-handedly, whose memory is failing, during the lockdown. My heart is with her, though I don’t know her well. And her situation reminds me of another’s. She too carried the burden of her husband’s waning memory, though in their case there wasn’t the same love or care. Not by then, at least. Which is worse? I wonder. It is a sad thing.
A few singular souls wandered the Prom as I did this morning. We keep our distance, locked in our own darkness.
Will it rain?
I got all the timings wrong, but she was forgiving and kind all that way away in her mountain home.
I’ve been listening to an audio of Richard Mabey’s Nature Cure. I read it a while back. I like his writing very much. He feels what he writes, and there is such care in both the feeling and the writing. A gentle man, I think. The word is his, he used it to describe house martins making their nests. Robert McFarlane was on DID on Sunday. I’ve read and listened to his books too. Another good man. ‘We go into the darkness to see,’ he told Lauren Laverne. He talked about his Lost Words book and I hanker after it. Some will have to be passed on to make room.
A baby gull was standing by the steps of the small car park I walk through to exit our estate. It was a big fledgling. It gave me a shock. It was something to do with its hugeness, its stillness and also its vulnerability. It doesn’t do to be still as a bird. It stared at me, its eyes full of loss and perplexity. Too much. Just too much.
It stresses him. It particularly stressed him yesterday. We all have our things – things that wind us up. For him it is the non-closing of the outer door of our shared hallway. It drives him to distraction. And we’ve tried everything, notes, signs – all very polite, all very seemly. I’ll just have to go and knock on their door, he threatens, convinced that he knows the culprit.
Yesterday was a ratty day. He was sharp and I was defensive. He says it might have been nerves about the Lions’ match. Who knows. It is allowed.
We watched videos of a friend’s son doing his gymnastics. He is in the Olympics, representing Norway. He was beautiful to watch. It took my breath and gave me goosepimples. My body yearned to do it too. Round and round the frame, flipping over and over, his body like rubber. A dancer, a ballet dancer in flight. Stunning.
There was a barely-fledged chick in the middle of North Road as I walked this morning. Oh, bless it, I heard myself say. It was still yet a ball of fluff and it was pecking at the newly-flattened carcass of another young gull, splattered across the tarmac. Needs must, I suppose but the cannibalism of it made my stomach turn. There is such an excess in this over-hatching of chicks. It is too much for this small town to contain. It’s a bit like the young kids who are beginning to return to their usual night time behaviour. I hear their shouts. A girl in shorts answering her mobile phone, her voice bored. Hello, yes, can you pick me up? Where am I? I’m at the bottom of the hill, you know the hill? And then the boy, later, walking along the prom, no swaying. and suddenly crying out, to someone or no one, Oi Oi, brother. And all the while some house alarm going off, a high keening.
It’s a disintegrating town. Or perhaps it is just the ‘going over’ of summer. Too much. Too much eating, drinking, sun and indolence. A down pipe on the side wall of the Scholar’s pub was dripping – drip, drip, the water staining the wall. A shabby town. I shan’t stay when he goes. The sea has grace and power but the rest is shabby.
Sometimes one gets flashes of insight. Sometimes they come, all glaring and others its a whisper of a thing. This morning I realised why I’ve done all those degrees. It wasn’t the qualifications, or even the proof of competence but more that they gave me a path to follow, my work had a reason, a place to be. I find this empty space (that I have to fill) at times utterly overwhelming.
I watched as one of our neighbours’ grown up daughter chased away a young seagull from their front lawn.
They re-aired the programme about Rimbaud (and Jim Morrison) and I remembered his walking.
I passed The Pelican Bakery on my walk this morning. The door was open wide and the blower was on full blast. No baker, just the two girls and I got a pang after catching the sounds of their easy chat. I fantasise sometimes about belonging to such a life. Are they happy in their work?
I fell. I fell backwards, thinking my seat was there and it wasn’t. It probably looked very funny. But, bless him, he didn’t laugh. He looked so shocked. I cried. I was shocked too and my arse hurt. As it still does. I am too aware of my fragility these days.
I thought about all my books. One day I shall go through them all, particularly the art and picture books, page by page. Perhaps I shall make drawings from them. We have so much, so much that we no longer engage with, so it becomes just stuff.
I tried to explain yesterday and didn’t succeed. I’m a domestic animal. I am reclusive. I live quietly, at home.
I want to see them, all of them. One by one. To re-acquaint myself with their lives. They are my blood, though we have little in common.
My alarm went. I turned it off but went back to sleep. It’s a bugger that. It was the dream that I’d had before, it made me groggy. V. had given me a present but it was a complex one about sparking my imagination and before that we’d been looking through books together, photography books I think. And then there had been food. I can’t eat any of that, I’d said.
Their scent is intoxicating. And it’s only just come. We catch it as we walk along the back path to where we sit (our garden).
There was a man sleeping on the beach. A young man. For a brief moment I thought he might be dead, but he looked peaceful, his hands laying on his chest. How nice, I thought to fall asleep to the sound of the sea. A peaceful sea, that is. When I told him of it at breakfast, he said, he wasn’t dead was he?
There was a notice on the window of the bike shop saying that they had to close because the staff were self-isolating. I’m sorry. It’s not their fault.
We talked about my obsession or should I say, idee fixe about the early 19th century. A very particular part really, well, the part that Austen writes of. I tried to explain it to him. It helps to do that. It’s got something to do with roles. Women’s roles specifically. And a lack of a bigger expectation. The domestic life. You see, I am not longer articulate. I am watching myself too closely. I’m searching for something and when I listen to those fictions something clicks. A yearning is made manifest. A romantic notion? Perhaps. He understood. Then.
The dark is beginning to assail me once more, particularly as I can see the mornings are coming later and later. I try my best to remain buoyant but it lurks. Seeing the boat helped. I’d noticed his lights first but when I walked down towards the harbour I thought I’d imagined it, for there was nothing. And then as I came back from the Perygyl he was there, his lights blazing, heading out to the open sea. I looked down into the interior of the vessel (it was just a small open fishing boat) and saw a lit screen (it looked like a TV but must’ve been some sort of radar/sonar navigational aid). The lights are such a comfort to me, as is the fact that someone else is awake and going out into the wild. What must it be like setting out into that wide expanse?
The sea was gentle again, making no foam.
And there is an excess of gulls. Baby ones stand there in the road, in the street, immobile and staring. Some are flattened into the tarmac, a shambles of feathers.
Is the butchers on the corner of Bridge Street closing? Business has never been brisk, I think.
It was hard to define the sound. I tried. A kind of cracking, like that of breaking of hay stalks, infinitesimal. What was it? I was sitting reading outside. He had gone in. Sometimes I would raise my head and watch the butterflies, mostly white ones (are they Cabbage Whites – I heard someone say there is no such thing?) fighting or mating (again who knows?), at one point there were five of them. I could make out the grasshoppers (he says that they are not cicadas – we don’t get them in this country, apparently) but that other sound was different. It was lovely sitting out there in the heat but with the occasional wisp of a breeze. And with that own private mystery – a field mouse?
The sea was lapping again this morning.
What am I doing it for? Is it for an audience of one? And is that enough?
I got my assignment comments back and my heart sinks at the negative, even though the positive far outweighs it. It’s a habit that makes him cross.
I dreamt that my mother, then still living, was her mother. I spoke to them both, though separately. I often see or speak to her in my dreams and it is always lovely, though a rare thing in real life. My mother told me that they were to meet in Morocco. And was happy about it. She had a renewed energy, I think. I also dreamt that all my artworks were in another person’s house and it was due to be decorated. The decorators were in the middle of putting together a pile of dust cloths that they were going to set fire to. It was to be an insurance scam on behalf of the owner. All my work would be lost. Did I mind? I asked myself. I thought that I could take the most precious away with me but that might incriminate the decorators and the owner. So I let it be. Though I woke before the conflagration.
I feel for them, all of them. Houses were swept away, they say. I cannot imagine the pain of it. To lose so much. I hope that they find kindness, and some solace. And they will recover. And then there was more (after weeping over Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge) when I listened to Fergal Keane’s beautiful writing on FOOC. He writes with such clarity and such compassion. He quoted W H Auden, I forget the poem, something about ‘We had a Country….’ He spoke about refugees and how they don’t leave their lands because they want to, but because they have to. It is there home, after all, where they were born, where their families live or are buried. So much loss. Is it not the same? That same pain of being dispossessed. My heart bleeds for them. All of them. And for my sister-in-law, her voice all slurry from sedatives, or the fall, we do not know. She sounded lost too. She wants to be home where she is safe (though perhaps no longer so) and with her husband.