Town is full of baby seagulls. They stand in the middle of the roads, looking perplexed, often opening their beaks and soundlessly calling to parents that have now abandoned them. They are big, though not yet white. Their mottled brownness equates their gaucheness. They don’t know what to do.
He got a text and then called. She had fallen out of bed and is in hospital and her husband kept forgetting. It is sad. It shakes one. I am fond of her, and she is his family. She wet herself too. She would’ve been mortified that her son would’ve found her that way.
We both remembered that attic hotel room in Paris. I remember being inside you, he said. It felt lovely.
We went to sit out after a later supper. We were both tired. He’d wanted to cut his fingernails out and had got out his scissors and clippers in readiness. Walking to where we sit, he’d complained of his left foot hurting. I need to explain a little. He has neuropathy which means that he doesn’t really sense things properly through or on his feet. These are my walking shoes, he said, and they feel really gravelly. I need to explain something else. He has a little bit of a thing about shoes (perhaps I do too), though these days he leans more towards comfort than fashion. Anyway, he’d recently got some new ones and had worn them earlier. Perhaps it’s a result of having worn your new ones too soon, I said. Well, we eventually sat and I offered to look at his foot. He was right. It did look sore and there were strange wheals on it. Two circular ones and one long straight one. Having taken off his shoe he put his hand in it and pulled out his scissors. He’d walked with his scissors in his shoes. I’d put them there to remember them, he said.
While I waited she told me about her son’s wedding that was supposed to be in Sorrento but had been moved to Bridgnorth. I’m not sure how we got on to talking about noisy eaters. I can’t stand them, she said. Oh, yes, she’d been telling me about seeing patients in an institution in Carmarthen and how she never ate with them. She makes me feel a little grey. I try to combat it, but she is a powerful persona and colours things.
Oh, those floods in the low countries. Poor loves. May there be some light for them. There was a light this morning far out to sea, a boat possibly.
I scrabbled around and he was a saint. But it’s OK. I can rest now.
They’re painting the Prom railings again. It is a long job. I think it is over a mile and half long. I smell the gloss as I walk.
The window cleaners came on Tuesday and most of the huge splat of bird shit has gone, though I noticed a little smear this morning. A sign that perfection is never truly within our grasp, perhaps?
One of the Krays is on the Americans’ balcony, I shouted up to him. What? he shouted back down. One of the Krays has got onto the Americans’ balcony, he’s lying between the pots, I reiterated, more loudly this time. I’ll see to it later when I’ve finished up here, he replied. He was laughing when he came into the studio some time after. You should put that in your blog, he said. And here it is.
Do you remember the Krays? They are one of our neighbours two cats, Ronnie and Reggie. They are stunning but lethal. And expensive (she has them tagged and follows their ‘jungling’ exploits in the undergrowth around the estate on her phone, often going to ‘collect’ them when they stray too far). Did they climb up to get on the balcony, which I can see from my studio window, or did someone leave the back door open? Either way, Ronnie or Reg had gone when he went down. (I can’t tell them apart – it’s a mother’s prerogative, I suppose.)
I want to sit and write but must go out and have my feet done. A six monthly thing that never comes at the right time. Breathe. All will get done. It’s beginning to work itself out in my head, now all I have to do it get it down on paper.
I walked through the Castle Park this morning. There’s a temporary sign up with directions as to how to use the play area during the pandemic. Someone has put a piece of black tape over the ‘u’ and now the sign reads ‘Sing the Play Area’. Made me smile.
Shambles was one of our crossword answers and he told me that the space outside The Angel was a shambles. I didn’t know. Then I told him what shambles means. There’s a car parked in the street just before that said walk street with all four of its wheels flat.
I thinking about the town sleeping as I walk. Some are awake, as I see the lighted windows, but most slumber. Some of them I know and I send them wrapped up comfort and others are passing acquaintances and I wish them well too. I like the quiet. Though this morning there was a shouting girl.
It’s open, he shouted at her, pull it. It jars a little the way he talks to or shouts at his mother. She is profoundly deaf (and sometimes I shout at him too, though he is not so deaf) but nevertheless she is such a stately being that it still appears rather disrespectful. I wonder if they are happy cohabiting. Perhaps he stays up into the early hours to have that time to himself.
Must work now. Three days of it. So be it. She was lovely. Ah, the weight of doing such good people justice.
I was sitting out reading when one of the estate’s cats sauntered into my eyeline (I heard the jingle of its collar bells first). She or he (who knows) stood for a short time staring at something (I couldn’t see it, perhaps it was the cicada-cum-grasshopper that keeps me company in the afternoons) in the undergrowth and then did a rather clumsy pounce, but caught nothing. She walked off, seemingly unperturbed. I saw her again later when I walked back to the flat. She was running then with a strange brown contraption attached to her hindquarters. Her owner, a girl in a black and white striped t-shirt was running after her. Come here, Heidi, she shouted. C’mon girl. I heard the owner continue to wheedle and call, but Heidi didn’t appear. We crossed paths up the little hill and I asked her what it was that was caught on the back of her legs. Flypaper, she said.
Lifting my eyes from my book I saw a plume of white smoke beyond the trees and in the valley. It took me a while to work out what it was. The toot toot came later. It was mesmeric to watch. Those lovely puffs of white clouds, leaving their slow trail in the air as the little steam train chuffed and huffed up the hill. The shouts from the children on the Col Field (as he calls it) having their sports day was equally pleasing. An unexpected pleasure. Aren’t they the best?
And the reading fills me with so many questions and yearnings.
I dreamt of my mother’s house. It had been sold but there were still things in it that were ours. I could see them. I was there looking at them while still with my sisters discussing them. There were coffee pots and coffee grinders. The old fashioned kind with a wee drawer underneath. I need one of those, I told my siblings. And there were foldable ladders or stairs – like the kind you get in old libraries, several of them with beautifully turned, beaded – I don’t know what you call them, uprights?
They’re renovating the paddling pool in the Prom. I told him of it at breakfast. Yes, he said, I read about it. They’re going to put in seats. Seats? I asked. Yes. So there won’t be a pool any longer. No, he said.
The house I liked on Queens Road has sold. I felt a pang when I saw the sign this morning.
The seagulls dominate the town in the early hours, particularly above the empty streets where they scavenge for litter. They are nesting and soar and dive and squabble with each other over territory and food. In the sky they are magnificent. I saw seven of them in a makeshift skein, white and majestic high above the castle. On the ground they are huge, and somewhat scary. They are part and parcel of a seaside place like this. Though more jetsam we discard the more they will breed.
A rook sits on the rooftop opposite, preening. And I can see a gull resting on a distant chimney pot. The sea looks straight and calm.
I finished it. A restful day today, I think, till the next one begins again tomorrow.
I’ve been reading Joan Didion. I heard some of her writings on a radio programme hosted by Laura Barton about American road trips. So I bought South and West. It’s a small book. Thin. I like that. She writes like that too, using short, terse sentences. But it is her capturing and relaying of speech that most thrills me. And it does. Does she get scared about writing too? Does she still write? Is she still living?
I asked her if she still had the cockerel as I hadn’t heard him for a while. No, she said and then explained how a friend of her daughter’s had wanted one and instead of taking the younger one he’d gone for the older one. We only want it as an ornament, he’d told her. We won’t want him to do anything. The younger one clearly isn’t as vocal. She wasn’t sorry to see the old one go. He was a nasty bugger, she said. I’d never heard her use a swear word before, it sounded odd. She laughed. Apparently he’d started flying at them. I had to use a stick to keep him away, she said. The rabbit no longer troubles them as all the ‘fine’ beans are now gone. She’s eaten them all. There must be a nice fat rabbit out there on that field, I said. Yes, she said, we like to watch them. Nevertheless, she is sorry about the loss of the beans. They were coming lovely, she said.
I worry about the ethics of relaying these snippets of our conversations. But I hope she won’t mind, and will see it as a tribute, a sharing of the warmth I feel for her. Love, actually.
It’s a test of my acceptance skills. It has covered (or dripped over) two levels of windows. It looks revolting. It’s because they’re nesting on the roof, he said. Yes. And they shit in the air and the wind carries it and splat. He called the window cleaner (it is too high for me to get at) but he’s off for the weekend (where I wonder?) and can’t do it till Monday. So be it.
I heard what I thought was cicada as I sat outside and read. Do we get them here or are they a purely Spanish phenomenon?
It began to drizzle as I walked. I don’t know why it irritates me. Is it because I expected it to be dry? I have on my waterproofs so it’s no big deal but it doesn’t half get hot with my hood up. C’est la vie. And then I saw a small fishing boat setting out. How I love that. It’s such a hopeful thing. That tiny craft in that huge expanse of uncertainty. I watched his lights for a few minutes at the end of the Perygyl.
There are night-scented jasmine and wild honeysuckle to delight my nose as I return home. You see.
Strange, sometimes exotic, smells drift into my bedroom through the open window at night. This morning it was the odour of smoky bacon crisps. It wasn’t bacon but an essence of it. Where it was coming from I didn’t know.
Our downstairs neighbour was at his window smoking when I went for my walk. I asked him if he’d managed to return to his quiz nights. He said no, but that he had gone to the pub for a drink. Scholars? I asked. Yes, he said, before going on to tell me that there is a new manager there, the old one having gone a ‘bit mad’ had been found wandering naked on the Prom. Poor man. Why does ‘madness’ always seem to inspire the shedding of clothes?
I finished it after about two years in the making. There is always an anti-climax. An ‘is that it?’ kind of feeling. I need to put it away and think about it. Where next?