Worth

Lullaby, 2010 (detail of groom)

It’s all about worth, the woman is saying to the radio presenter, I need to feel worthwhile. I want to work to feel worthwhile. What would you like to do? asks the presenter. There is a pause and I wonder if the woman, who is wheelchair-bound, has ever been asked that question. There is a sudden lightness in my voice. Possibilities. Yes. Do? she asks, Oh, anything. Well, I think I would make a very good researcher.

Worth. I remember that word as a child. My mother had some perfume by Worth. The letters WORTH elegantly printed in a black-lined border. Then there was Harry Worth the comedian. I got the two mixed up. Where they connected? Did he sell or even make perfume? As a child I was always trying to make connections. Just to make the chaos less so. Worth. What are we worth? Are we worth more than what we do? Worthwhile. Worthwhile work. The debate had been about paying disabled people to work. Heated discussions. Emotive. Are we worthless? Worth less. Less is more.

Walking in the dark. Will it rain? It threatens to do so. The wind is getting up. A leaf becomes a bird. A robin? I think so. It darts, flashes ahead of me and then lands. Toying with me. Here I am, come and catch me. Here. No here. Down on the prom sits the insomniac. Sometimes I see her on North Road sitting on her doorstep. I see her because of the red end of her lit cigarette. She looks sad. She is sitting on the metal steps staring out to sea. No umbrella. Waiting. Waiting for sleep. Jeanette Winterson’s mother didn’t sleep with her father. She eschewed sleep to keep intimacy at bay. Didn’t want sex. Didn’t want the comfort, the being known. To stay up all night. To not succumb. Some people just can’t. It is too scary, that falling, that renewing. Better the dark. By the sea.

Waiting. Another luscious programme all about waiting. Gorgeous writing. Waiting for what? For God? For life. A poet. She is waiting to be what she is meant to be. Not there yet. Not there yet.

Down by the harbour the boats are on stilts. Makeshift stilts. Boxes, blocks, oil drums. Precarious towers. Watch out it may topple. Nay, fiddlesticks. Safe as houses. Safe as boats. They look lost on land. Like beached whales, sea lions, they are immoveable. They are stuck. Graceless. Barnacle-bottomed and exposed.

A mess of a day. Nothing really achieved. Started to knit. To try out something. So much fear with the new. Push through the membrane of it. I love to use my hands. I watch them working. Tick tick go the needles. I think of Nanny Clarke. She taught me to knit. What was I, four, five, six? The wool was sweaty in my hands. Clumsy. Heavy-handed. Not now. Good hands. Nimble. Jack-be-nimble. Be quick. Nay, fiddlesticks. Take time. Take your time. Feast on your life. Find its worth. Its worth is in the small things. The memory things. Tick tick. Did she wee in the milk bottles, dance naked in the rain? I hope so. I loved her. I hope so.