Monday, 31 December 2012

Three Flowers, One Bridge, Two Paddles




Three strawberry flowers in the hedge, too damp and dark to make fruit. Cheerful little things, they seem happy to be nodding in a winter breeze. Dog waits for me at the corner, patient with my need to think.

The last day of any year calls for reflection, itches for projection. We see how we got here, and where we should like to be. Sometimes we remember where we thought we would be by now, and feel inclined to give up. I've had those years, where the idea of making resolutions was the idea of setting oneself up to be disappointed: where I have forgotten to factor in how life can wallop a person off track.


I won't give up on building my bridge, from here to where things are so much tidier and we own a camper van. I think, while Dog splashes. All the lanes teeming with streams of turning water, noisy like a running bath.


So much surface water, sees me, and still a skyful of cloud?

Two kayaks in the garden, and two paddles…




Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Work Of Maneki-neko




Dark and early, the storm struck. Thunder, overhead, close enough to knock birds from perches; the window panes flex, but hold to their frames, and rain is burst from rift heavens.
Baby and Grandad don't shift or twitch, they must be in some other world. No booming there, only snoring.
When Granma gets out of bed, she needs coffee.

Everyone talks about the storm. The fear of God is rediscovered.

'I thought the world was ending,' Girl says, 'I thought, those damn Mayans got the date wrong- it's today!' She pulls that face where her eyes are two glazed earthenware saucers.
The end of the year is close, I am thinking, what sort of reality should I like to live in next: how should the 2013 world look?

On the wide wood of our windowsill, the beckoning cat keeps busy, hustling luck from silver clouded sky, arm clicking like a metronome.





Saturday, 29 December 2012

Wine & Appreciation





Eating toast, suppertime toast, with a choice of toppings. Butter, I reach for, and uncap the whiskey marmalade. I have a wide bladed knife in hand. The butter is room temperature, the Rayburn has been lit all day. The bread had staled but a stint in the toaster makes it fine.

From rising late, the day has yawned, stretched as far as walking in the park. The house has a scent of wood dust, as Mr has a new shelf in progress, and a scattered mess of chewed cardboard, as Baby had a grand game with Dog, before being transferred to her travel cot, where she sleeps now, huddled by old teddy bears.
Downstairs, full of supper, her Grandparents get a wine buzz going.

[Some Credits:
Whiskey Marmalade, made by Mrs Naylor (mother of two junior Black Belts)
Choice of toppings included Turkey Liver Pâté by Mrs Philpotts (mother of a future Black Belt)
Baby, raised by Girl
Choice of wine with thanks to students, parents of students and family]





Friday, 28 December 2012

How Small We Are In This Weather






Southwesterly, the wind,
the accumulated magnitude, the breath of the tempest;
presses against the body of the rippled ocean,
drives it in mad waves onto rocks,
spume flung atop the cliff where we hover,
balanced with outstretched arms, with tugged coat sleeves,
the wind with such strength:
we can calculate how to move,
how to fly in this unrelented howl:
if only we had wings.
No bigger than gulls:
flecks on rockscape.




Thursday, 27 December 2012

Practise Practice




Slants of rain hit a tribe of pheasants in the field opposite. Thirteen have gathered, Mr has counted. Through rain and a lumbrous effort of cloud, sun diffuses strong light, gives the unwary a dose of starburst eyes. Our solar powered waving cat is busy bringing in luck, and a rainbow passes close by. Maybe good portents, maybe not: if I focus correctly, how can they be less?

I practise my attitude through the medium of words, until it becomes my practice. Always that infusion from verb to noun, from the present action to the future reality.

'It is often forgotten that (dictionaries) are artificial repositories, put together well after the languages they define. The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature.'

Jorge Luis Borges.




Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Three Dogs Running





In spite of the laden table; the clove studded ham, the barrage of cheeses, pâtés, breads, soups, cheesescakes, crumbles, crisps, olives, grapes; everything even has its own knife or spoon or ladle and the plates match the bowls; in spite of this carnal level of celebration, I do not believe we would revel like this if the company was wrong. The main thing is, we are here together. That is the real rich stuff.

Dog sleeps under the table. She is all run out from a stroll at Sandy Bay. Fat Beagle galloped like a puppy in the wave spray. Bouncy Beagle ran through the landslide mud, made a terracotta hound of himself. Wow, we said, will you look at the grand scale of the slid earth there, and those tonnes of thrown down stone? It has a look of a communal exodus; suddenly, all those tonnes, landing. The beach must shake. Remarkable, we agree: but if the time were tallied, more of it is spent admiring the happiness of dogs.





Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Keys



Presents and feasting and company later.
Here, first awake in the house, I sneak myself downstairs to play with words which are always my favourite toys. If this seems a trivial thing to say, you have misunderstood the art of playing.
Three chocolates slip into my mouth, longing to melt. Coffee keeps the sweetness in check.
Smells like a coffeehouse: pithy, pungent first brew.
Starling song and choral harmony and footsteps next door I hear.
Letter squares on my keyboard, set out in a grid like the table of elements; beyond this, the washing that still needs drying but is tucked back from the centre, the snoozing dog who knows I have the wrong socks on for walking, from twin windows, the sky so soft, gauzy rain falling. Gloss of wet ivy on the fat trunked ash, this is what I see.
Under fingertips, these smoothed well-worn keys. All the words waiting to be unlocked. This is what I feel.

Unlocked or unwrapped?

The strongest magic is in the sharing. This too I feel. Fingers on the keys find the best phrase: Thank you.





Monday, 24 December 2012

Not About What, All About How




Astonishment at the surprise wedding rings around our heads. Stopping and smiling happens frequently. Easy to be almost cross, because of the shock: more powerful than I would have guessed. Impossible to be cross, because it was utterly brilliant. Perfect life theatre.
Plugged the stereo in this morning, rang out the Christmas carols, spun, balletic, across the swept carpet while Dog sighed on the sofa.
Plenty of other drama going on in the world.
Music wrings out a release of tears- exaltation and sorrows in salted drops. Too much emotion before breakfast. One banana, one ginger tea: ready for a quiet day. Girl is away on a family tour, so I go to her house to feed Bunny and borrow a vacuum cleaner that works, and furthermore actually do use it to clean all of our carpets. I wrap some presents for Boy right under his nose. (Again! Score 5 mum points!) There isn't much, but there isn't nothing.
In the evening steam from the fire heated water soaks the whole bathroom. Candles are lit, the table is laden with food.


Be Of Good Cheer!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

After Party Shock







The party we turn up for is an engagement celebration. The couple are running late. I am keeping a fidgety Baby amused and Little Grandson is sat eating a bag of crisps. I can't see Mr Craig when he steps into the Saddler's pub, only I hear him call for our attention. When the crowd quiets he says, and his voice is so serious:

'There isn't going to be an engagement party tonight:'

Earth stops turning. You can feel hearts thudding.


'Because in half an hour Natalie and I are getting married.'

Jaws drop, eyes swim, we check on Granma's pacemaker.

When I see how he is dressed, it makes clearer sense; though it's all a pinch past articulation, we are not convinced this is not a dream. To the gorgeous Georgian venue we go, all shook up: such a sneaky well orchestrated boggling fantastic jolt…







Saturday, 22 December 2012

Breakfast Before The Party



Bacon fizzing under the grill. Egg whites spread in the little iron pan, lace edged. My coffee has the strength of a healthy elephant. We are doing that happy with a hint of panic, enjoying the day but so keen not to be late for the family fling thing.

Can't recall which farm the bacon hails from, but it's close to here. Eggs from the Nextdoor Chickens. Bread from Parker's Bakery. Salt and pepper from ceramic aeroplanes, holiday presents both. Cutlery from everywhere, some of which matches. Crockery, ditto.
For a moment after eating, stilled contentment.

Washing machine rolls a load of work clothes. There's no hurry on when they dry.

I'm not sure what I'll wear for the party. I had better go and throw lots of not quite right attire onto the bed.


Dog is ready! 

Friday, 21 December 2012

A Nocturnal on St Lucy's Day



Another day the earth was destined to end passes by. It goes by faster than other days, which is why I'm sat typing earlier the next day, by GMT time. But it's not faster than every day. It was the solstice day. The tipping point. There are always times when it seems the world ends. This poem by John Donne has always evoked for me that sense of personal doom, so sadly, beautifully linked with the winter pulse:


'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,

Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
         The sun is spent, and now his flasks
         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
                The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar'd with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
         For I am every dead thing,
         In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
                For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
         I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
         Of all that's nothing. Oft a flood
                Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
         Were I a man, that I were one
         I needs must know; I should prefer,
                If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
         At this time to the Goat is run
         To fetch new lust, and give it you,
                Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night's festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight is.'


And here I am, at the day's deep midnight, at my front room table: Mr is watching Fringe and handing me glasses of wine he has brewed. Rain hits the window glass. The morning will be that fraction earlier. The night, a fraction further. 





Thursday, 20 December 2012

Air Disaster Aversion




The river is wider than its banks. Enviable lawn space of the house on the end dips into an unplanned stretch of pond. This morning's rain, soaked up on a round trip of the park, seemed slighter than it was: my coat stays wet all day. Maybe I wasn't as attentive to the weather as is usual.
A chance examination of the coat rack finds a spare. It's bright blue, brings a touch of Mediterranean cheer.
While Dog tries her luck at smuggling wet fur onto the sofa, I'm googling post car crash brain injuries. Recovery of our crashed out friend is protracted, trickier than anticipated. As if some sort of universal sympathy is channeled, to start and finish a job today is rare. Highlight so far is the hour and a half wait for the soup, left defrosting on the wrong hob placement.
When Boy watches Air Disaster Analysis, these are the kind of trivial incidents that add up to a blazing wreck.
I will leave the keys to the plane at home tonight, pull on the ebullient blue coat and open my eyes to the weather.

And though I have returned to my house to burn toast and forget to hang up the washing, I have returned through deep reflective pools, having heard the pelt of the rain.

In the back seat of the car, a cold bag crammed with the gift of a turkey: 20lbs of homegrown turkey: a bundle of cards, a ribboned pot of something to pop in the fridge, a glass dish of homemade pâté. A note that reads 'you two and taekwondo have kept my feet on the floor.'
Good to be grounded.




Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Punk Chic




Tired. Close to end of year. But here is a snippety bit of the third novel I am being slavish over right now- this is a work in progress piece, but it sums the character up and she is getting ready for a Christmas jaunt. This is the 'before' of the writing: might post the 'after' next year! 

***

Lilith wakes up in a cold bath.  She has no time to wash her hair now so she degreases her self-cut bleach mop with some glittery talc, which spills all over her body.  She peels on her short red dress, discovers all her tights are in the wash, she finds some red satin trousers.  There isn’t much time for make-up either so she draws on some red lipstick and splodges on more glitter.

‘Punk chic,’ she tells the mirror, as though it is questioning her outfit.

                                            ***





Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Winterwolf

[Fiction inspired by the weather- and just in case it is not clear a) I am not a werewolf; b) I do not own a wolf skin coat. ]





The wind is singing, all those wild wordless sounds that shiver out the feral heart of me. I want to pull on my wolf-skin and run through the dark. There are millions of teeth in my mouth, each one is crazy and fierce. I can run until my feral heart beats so loud all I can hear is myself and it's dark and there's nothing to be seen and there is only me running through space for nothing else exists at all.

When I return to the world, in human skin, I will lie on the couch and listen to the wind song and settle into sleep. Dream of the unchecked run: dream of space.




Monday, 17 December 2012

Memorial



Did you ever wade through rock pools and find a sea anemone filtering food from water with a cluster of flower bright feelers? As curious children we often held a fingertip up to the suctioning limbs. The anemone would spit us out and hide, all the bright feelers folded in a dark wet ocular mass.

There is only so much that can be filtered.


Under one sky and over one earth, children do these petty things and lose their jumpers and tell ridiculous fibs and nevertheless represent to us the strongest bonds of love. Where you are placed, under this sky, over this earth, is irrelevant to love, and to grief. 



Sunday, 16 December 2012

Ergo Dog's Hero



Baby strides the living room, wearing Grandad's pants as a cape. This is how I can discover that her superhero hideaway is inside the folding clotheshorse.

-Where's my superhero lair?

How silly of me to forget. It's in my head, where I left it. I have simply neglected to think of it.
While I rediscover this wonder carved from a solid crystal; circa Me Aged Nine; Baby addresses her lessons to Dog.
'Thay! Thay!' She holds a ball in her hand. 'Woooo!' Permission to fetch the flung item.
She rehangs the underwear on the airer. Time to be sensible and fetch some supper.

'Baby, why is Dog eating a slice of cheese?'

She looks at the ceiling, shrugs, smirks: the sign that we will never know all of her secrets.



Dog? Is that you?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Wintertime, And The Living Is Easy

(Dragonfly by Jon Tremaine)



Here we are in Truro, town sized city.
While Boy is at a meeting about a narrow boat expedition, his friend intends to take on Christmas shopping and win. A rendezvous point is decided. It will be my second of the day. My parents surprise me by not being late.
Cobbled streets hiss and spit with frying food. Wide faced woman in a blue coat taunts the human statue. She calls him 'Magic man! Magic man!' He moves like stone, heavy with patience. Children hoot. Stalls are boxed and spread with colour and things that shine. I buy a card from an artist in Victorian dress, a finely lined drawing of a dragonfly, wing patterns wound with depictions of native wild things.
Granny Meg leads the way through a line of charity shops. Granpa Jim left his last coat on the rocks. She gets him a replacement for a fiver.
'Fishing,' she says, affectionately annoyed.
'Yeah and I lost my phone.' Sheepish Granpa.
We find a table on a mezzanine and order lunch. Warm foccacia, the gloss of good olives, sharp sip of espresso. Tranquil, languid talk. After goodbye at the Park & Ride bus, I find the boys and light rain slips from the sky. Shoppers stop, look up at the double rainbow.
We're early to the cinema, out of the rain, we have a row to ourselves.


'portraying an abundance of nature'
www.jontremaine.com

Friday, 14 December 2012

Patchwork


Compared to the ear snuggling warmth of a fleece hood, the air blows chill. Otherwise, a mild day; rainy, unstormy, a settled sort of grey.
In the park, Dog chases her ball through more mud than other dogs, somehow.
It's a run around day, I get in the car and out the car and back in again, saying the next destination and task out loud to myself.
Boy to school. Baby to Ella's house. Words to paper. Marinate pork. Do not remove car seat. Remove chainsaw. Baby to Nanny's house. Wash car windows. Boy from school. Eat. Friday: Okehampton.
In snippets, a piece by piece day.
Last drive home; under clear dark and stars.
Time now for apple wine, then a fat quarter of sleep. 



Thursday, 13 December 2012

Business Meeting


Ground ice slackens back to water, lurks in the shadow at the road's edge. The shape of these puddles always reminds me of crocodiles. So we drive home, by the reptilian lines, noticing the clouds that dampen our chances of viewing the Geminid meteor shower everyone is posting about on Facebook. Visible from all time zones, weather depending. Moods stay clear: new horizons are clear. We are close to owning three clubs (not nightclubs; not quite like that. Think sports club without a permanent venue.)
'Bude,' Mr says, 'Okehampton, Plymouth. BOP. Is that too cheesy, because that's what we do: bop!' (Mimes punch. Can't mime kick: is driving.)
I am laughing. Explain my answer. 'No, it’s funny.' In case he misreads the laugh as derisive.
The in-car focus group approves, so BOP Tae Kwon Do is invented.
This isn’t the grand unveiling, this is the initial, work in progress point.
Drive past the crocodiles, feeling brave. 


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Surveying The Brick Wall



The brick wall represents the one thing I cannot write: blurb for my novels. I can do hyperbolic, predictable hook questions:
Will she wise up before death hits her some more in the struggle to break the pattern that will see her grow stronger or die…?
I did exaggerate that, but only slightly. It's because I dislike the set up, the need to sell oneself and I daresay it's not uncommon. There are too many people out there blowing trumpets they don't know how to play, I don't want to be one of Them.
(Secret snob! And the ones I am thinking of are enviably shameless so if you are worried that you might fall into this category, you instantly exclude yourself.)
These books are portraits of ordinary people. Most lives are odder than you think, when you look at them.
Is that a strap line though? Would I read anything advertised so casually? So I have inadvertently set myself the task of reinventing the blurb genre?
Cast an eye over the metaphorical blocks.
Think about the protagonist of the first book (logical order, to counterbalance my confusion.)
Anya is not her real name. She is a real person, interesting to me as someone epitomising the choice to be strong even when times are dire. You don’t have to suffer in order to find strength, that’s not the message I want to promote. I loathe drama, actually. But for a story, conflict is useful. The plus side of suffering is that you get to know how strong you are. You can get to develop that strength. And, being a real story, it’s already been lived, so it’s a kind of recycling really and although I do drag the reader through some horrible moments they are never the focus. The constant renewal of a determined life: that is the crux of it.
I couldn’t have written this if I hadn’t lived my own ordinary life. Every day of just about making ends meet means I know how it feels to be just one of billions of people milling about the planet, getting by and getting stuff wrong. Once you accept the humility of that, life becomes much happier. I don't want to compete or judge, just observe, attempt to help.
Later I will read through this, and pick at bits of it, and maybe I will chisel out a doorway or at least a spy hole to the other side of the brick blurb wall. 




Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Power Of Three


Woke up to a sparkling frost with grass like peppermint ice. Had a bother with the car door, which sometimes freezes shut. Today it locked itself open, hence the drive to the garage with binder twine tying me in, thinking I need a new lock on this, how much is a new lock? I have forty-five pence in my purse! Mr Garage Man squirts some WD40 and laughs at me. There is something wrong with the lock but it's the wrong time to protest: the right time to say thank you and drive Boy to school. He has his walking boots on and I brought Dog, thinking we might all have to walk home while the car was garaged. 
Take Dog to the park instead, where ancient pines hold symmetrically foliaged twigs up to cerulean sky, and the horizon is made of rolling moor hills. After much running, fantastically backlit, she comes back to the car with icy belly fur, dog-stalactites.
At home, I don't have to fumble for my house key with numb fingers, as Boy has thoughtfully left his in the door for me. I warm up with some housework, mainly dragging Dog fur off the carpet with heavy handed vacuuming. Until the tube snaps, then I have to get the brush. Brushing carpets warms me up very well indeed. After handling chili peppers, at lunchtime I also warm up my eyes. When they've calmed, I shall seek out some duct tape and mend the hoover. These things are not turning out as presupposed, but not so bad: with deft surrender, rather fun.

(Wondering about the title? Binder twine, WD40 and duct tape are the three most useful objects in the universe.)





Monday, 10 December 2012

Paraselene



Sat at the front room table so I can be next to the heater and the heater, though portable, is best here where it can also dry washing. Sun blazes outside but the cold damp air has brought the washing in. I have sunglasses on for writing. This morning's walking was partly on ice. Brittle ice.
Tap on my keyboard, find comfort in words.
Also paint patient Christmas roses onto folded card, also make chicken pie. With sauce, this week. Reach for saucepan. Jollied up. There is a rainbow in it.
A round one, like the aura that gathers round the moon. Excited enough to take a picture of it. Paraselene is a fine word: it means the image of the moon inside the lunar halo. 



Sunday, 9 December 2012

All About The Things




Brain is tired. Brain has been working hard all week; interlinking a trio of novels, amongst other things. Also Body is tired, and a cough is taking residence, quite unasked. Danger of taking a wrong turning and then - the horror! Danger of being lost in pity.
Will things turn out okay… Brain ticks over a little too fast… Jumps through subjects without conclusion…
Walk through lanes with Dog, pelted with midges. Find a half ripe wild strawberry, which, in a way, changes everything.
I eat it, of course. It tastes of strawberry and water. Some alpine varieties do fruit through the autumn, so these must be of that ilk. But a strawberry swelling up in the hedge in December, a berry I pick and place, rain damp, in my palm and devour, seems as something that grows from the stratum of miracles.
Struggly bit. Then comes things turning out okay. Brain squeezes these words into consciousness. Body, wrapped in many layers, is warm and manages a cough free sigh.
Also this past week, slightly grotesque amusing things include:
Found a slug in a cereal bowl. Boy assures me it was an intentional slug trap, not him forgetting to round up his washing up.
Baby's nappy leaked yellow poison on my trouser leg. Had to tie trousers in a plastic bag to take home from Girl's house, and still nearly barfed in the car from the stench.