Friday, 28 February 2014

Cephalopod Coffeehouse Review (nearly)


Finished reading the book I'd like to share rather early this morning and have not written a review today for which I do apologise. Will be joining the party tomorrow/later today (depending on when this apology is read.)
Meanwhile please do enjoy Dog's well groomed smile :-)

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Coffee Stitch



If I pick a moment to savour it's often coffee. There are other things, other colours, textures, scents, flavours, sounds that draw emotive pictures all over every level of my brain and soul. But often, it's coffee.
This morning somehow the flask, the dinky pink crackled flask brimming with cold perky coffee for optimum morning alertness, is left on the kitchen worktop.
Thoughts of it standing by the red plastic kettle and the crumby white toaster, waiting, have to suffice.
In the supermarket there is something I am supposed to buy yet forget: the lure of bargains, perhaps the thought of biscuit dunked, the classic bitter sweet: anyway, the self-serve checkout beeps through two organic chocolatey packets: it fritters away a mere pound sterling.
At home, an old friend arrives, all the way from France, unexpected: how lovely then, to have biscuits!
And post arrives, in a box.
A box of Vietnamese coffee.
A thick brew at lunchtime accompanies a retrospective: though our caller prefers tea: all the things that once were and how they move on and what is important and how splendid if we could reciprocate the visit and there isn't much we lack but more travel, how we would like that. How we have liked where we have been: crossing the road in Hanoi: we mime it for him: the diminutive lady, white haired, leading us through the moped sea.
We wave him goodbye; in his hired car; send him with fine wishes.
It is not, I think, that the coffee is better than anything else, but that it represents the moments where I stitch all these pictures together.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Dock, Knock, Duck


My old friend the river returns: runs softly by, waves as though we had seen each other only yesterday. Sit down, the burbles say, down here on the felled tree bench. Swing your feet and dream. Sing Dock Of The Bay. See how the foliage reflects, and the sky, tessellating portions of coloured water. Line up sticks to lob for Dog, it's safe for her to swim.
-Sitting in the morning sun-
A heft cut from a horizontal trunk; that water, cheery calm, carrying images of quivery leaves. Feet catch in the surface. Dog's cape of wake spreads behind her.

-I'll be sitting when the evening comes-
Time is out: not stopped or the river would not move: we're just: out.

-Watching the ships come in-
A leaf plays the part, though it's inexpertly navigated.
'Hey leaf, when's my ship coming in?'
It pretends not to have heard. Maybe it dislikes the cliché.
Clichaic: that should be a word. Should it? As in: read this novella, you'll hoot, it's so clichaic. Favourite cliché: suddenly there was a knock at the door. How does one knock gradually? But it's nice that the knock arrives, expressly, to strike change in the narrative. Most unforgettable use of a cliché category goes to the cheap noir thriller where the hero, trapped by an armed man, lets the reader learn this: I felt a sitting duck. Forgot the title, the author, the story, the cover art long ago but this sentence is mine forever.

Storm clouds cluster, slow down. Wind picks up. Time to climb the bank and walk home, attempting harmonic whistling.



Sunday, 23 February 2014

Netherworld At Northcott Mouth


'I fancy a walk to the woods, to see that upended tree,' Mr says. His eyes are narrowed, ready for peering.
We look out of the windows. Debris blown from hedges and bins escapes across the currant patch. Cloud cover; unfathomable. Plaintive whir of wind circles the old aerial.
Thoughtful furrows mark his face. 'It might not be the weather for it.' 
We try the back windows, just in case. Next door's tall fir bends.
Is that a full ninety degrees? I'm thinking.
He says: 'Beach?'

We know at Northcott Mouth these winter storms have uncovered remains of a wrecked ship; we have no tide table, we just like the idea of it. It's enough. Once you have the spark, you should follow it.
The espresso pot burbles. Coal scrapes loudly from the scuttle into the red mouth of the little Rayburn.
Goodbye house!

Where the wreck lies, the waves are foaming. They make sea-snow over sharp dark rocks. Foam bobbles fly over bared pebbles, over storm-killed seabirds, over the bold plastic flotsam, up to the crumbled footings of cliffs. They move in puffs; erratic yet assured; like butterflies, like ghosts. In pursuit we stumble, over loose sliding cobbles, around the feathered dead, over to the slanted exposures of rock, a mere ship all forgot, minds filled with geological form, texture, the white globules dancing.
A break in the rock is a portal: another arc of beach lies beyond.
We have discovered it.

Here on the smooth stones lies, oddly, a badger with a seabird, his snout pushed out towards the bird's reposing head, an uncapped bottle at his claw tips. Eyes of the bird hold a faint gleam: unpolished jet beads. Those neat wings, made for diving. We stand awhile to note the curve of their resting. So much purpose in each form, a sense of movement is retained even in death.
More than we look up, the precipice looks down: stern and ancient. Around our feet, sea-snow flies.
(I keep watch on a marker rock: please note: unsure of how the tide is moving, with the cliffs unstable, the wind high, the waves strong, a cut off from the main beach would be high risk. Fascination stows deathly enchantment.)
In the hedgerows, on the drive home, we count springing flowers: dandelions, snowdrops, daisies, celandines, narcissi, one clutch of purple crocus. The beach was sublime, we say, adventurous, bizarre.
'A badger? A beach kill badger?'
'And the seabird? What story there: and the sheer face of the fiercest cliff? There was an eye in it. It saw us.'





Saturday, 22 February 2014

Transmutational Meditations


 Somehow over Dartmoor there seems to be more sky: more headspace. It's the perfect place for freethinking wanderers. The ground is bogged, so land level observation is required except when the boots strike granite. It's rare indeed to sink in granite. Astride the Tor top rock eyes lift to see how clouds pattern.
How fleeting it appears; how easily dark and light can shift. Yes, I suppose the lesson is just this.
Refreshed by literally lofty thought, feet follow spindly trails through low gorse. As though an old grass tussock there transmutes, a bird suddenly exists and flies. A mouth, awed, forms an Oh.
And while this distraction leaves a sharp impression of fine beige feathers, the eyes swoop further, inspired, vaguely aware of a person paused up on an outcrop; standing somewhat short of stature, rotund in a white puffer jacket.
Oh!
The person shifts, reveals four legs: is actually a sheep.


Friday, 21 February 2014

Visuals

A diversion from routine today: word play has ensued offline and here I have a series of pictures from my second walk to the storm felled tree. 
Picking up a camera (or a sketchbook) is another way to interpret to yourself what in your surroundings is beautiful, inspiring, worthy of appreciation. Some locations are easier than others :-)












Thursday, 20 February 2014

Drift Day


The dream follows me all day, without objection. A twinge, barely detectable, of some regret, of a lack; of wanting, that is the worst of it.
In the woods, stumbling; all this crunching underfoot; it looks as though the trees have had themselves a wild ruckus. Where the wind does not reach the quarry pool surface, a meditative mirror lies. The river runs riotous. A moss ball nods in the moving air; seems like a sage old head on a young spike, like it knows what I aspire to.
A room of my own, a writing shack: something that would not seem out of place in this den of iniquitous fought out trees; I would gather the debris for my fire; or half buried in a sand dune; on the roof, paint an X. An attic corner, shared with spiders. A travelling desk in the back of a camper. An office room with safety conscious furniture, all rounded edges and stern colour. In the dust of a long abandoned ballroom, under the chandelier… underground, with luminescent rock. A geothermically heated foot rest.
Imagination flames, burns up the ache, smoulders it out: the smoke hangs picturesque, not obscuring the view.



Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Undertree


Above the lane a blue clearing leads towards the woodlands.
When I was a girl growing up on a beach sand paths led through rock pools as the tide drew in clear amongst the weaving bladder wracks: this is how the sky appears.
Tarmac is storm pitted like bad teeth. Off road mulched: storm chippings.
Boots crunch: like sand. Boots sink: wet sand.
Hear the river waves, how they curl over rock beds. Under the spread of the woods; freshwater damp, dappled, pale bright buds, ground cover leaf, dark earth trail, sallow slash of snapped branch… this pushed over tree: the roots rise, drag fine soil out of the slate ground, flattened in profile, a wall of undertree: like the underwater: another world.
This earth path winds around up out of the woods, returns to the clearing in the clouded sky.
Sun paints: red gold on a smiling face.

Photos are of an older split tree- forgot my camera today!

Monday, 17 February 2014

An Administrative Error Of Weather


Today we were given our old weather back, which must have been an error: a muddle up of cloud paperwork perhaps or a practical joke, or the storm had got home and remembered it had left its keys or a glove and had to come back to retrieve: it had a half hearted feel to it like it was bored of all this flood destruction too. Someone says, convincingly, that tomorrow the sun is strongly rumoured to be thinking of paying us a visit but, despite this swell of optimism, meticulous inspection reveals the weekly forecast symbols as a series of repeats: one podgy cloud, wringing wet. Days like these are good for dreaming.
Coconut rice steams in the oven. Lime pickle sharp against the salt-sweet rice; balmy spices in our Leftovers Curry. A conservatory is dreamt of: humid and abundant. It smells of citrus and coffee with undertones of damp slate. Viewed through glass roof frames the sky is continuously perfect.
Back in reality, in the field, the welly boots stick in mud, squelchy, still funny.


Sunday, 16 February 2014

Goodnight Bunny



Morning comes, cloudless blue, a trim of river mist: at the garden edge water vapour stripes up like ghostly fence posts. Four rain filled teapots on the pallet table have stood untouched through all the storms, a fact we remark upon almost daily and still seems unfeasible. The phone rings, interrupts this musing on fragility.
Girl's voice blubs, indecipherable: says something like- it's silly I know- the words blur. Sorry honey, her mother says, I can't hear you. Girl says, 'Bunny: Bunny is gone.'
Ian Button Bunny was his full name. Eight years his dwarf life spanned. He lived both indoors and out, often pursued by toddlers. He took everything in a cute yet charismatic stride. He liked the snow, and cuddles; disliked white cabbage. He would give you a look. This last year he had got arthritic.
Should she tell her little daughter, my grown up Girl wonders? She feels silly for crying though she knows it's right. She knows the answer to her question too. Isabella Hamster; Apollo Gerbil; Montague Hamster; Chilli Chinchilla; Tyson Sparkle Bunny; Turnip, Parsnip and Carrot Snail. Lived, loved, taught us stuff: about life and how to let go.
Dog pushes her way through the door, looking for attention. Sun unimpeded in the sky. We go to the beach.




Saturday, 15 February 2014

Flip-Flop Recollections


Warmth on the face is traced to source: proof that the sun is gathering influence: that summer is not always absent.
Enough warmth and light to ignite memories: so while the feet paddle now in the saturate field; the mud like clay slip; flip-flops are recollected, and hot beaches, and cold pretty drinks in dainty glasses, and other emblems of optimism that infuse a sense of steady contentment.
Flowers will grow. Fruit will follow. 



Full Storm Moon


The full moon in February is known as the Full Snow Moon, having the reputation of drawing down the deepest snowfall. Snow is scant, this year, here: blown far northwards. Friday brings another storm. It shakes until we fear it: so much pitch and toss we are not sure if we are on land anymore. Trees bend like seaweed. Limbs are broken. The sky is a surge of cloud: almost mythical. Car tyres catch on splintered wood, in the suck of flood puddles.
It will be okay, I soothe; there's a bottle of wine waiting, a wedge of cheese. Glasses clean in the cupboard and the fire lit. It will be okay; the gears go down, the revs go up, the car pulls through, leaves a proud wake; there is red wine, a rich slice of Bowland cheese.
The house lights are shining, multiplied in the slants of rain as the car reverses and is tucked alongside the stone shed, at an angle where the roof tiles won't slip through the windscreen. Hopefully. The glance up is squinted: automatic: stymied. Clouds flare, they cloud: reveal: a Full Storm Moon.
And what is commonplace can also galvanize.
And what can jolt can also amaze.



Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Elephant Keeper's Face


Oh pretty! In the lanes, Little Granddaughter sing-songs delight; plucks the white bells from their stems: why would anyone want to pick the stems? She peers avidly inside at the green petal stripes, the stamen's yellow flame. With these treasures she can buy several elephants.
(That plain line of stem? A technicality.)
At home, the elephant food must be mixed by hand. There are other things to do: sweep up, chop root veg, fill up the washing machine, reflect on life. But the elephants are hungry, Little Granddaughter says. Four bowls of acorns should suffice.
Nam-ma look!
Partially hypnotised by repetitive acorn pouring, Nam-ma looks up. Little Granddaughter presses the clear bottle to her face, distorts the familiar grin. Nam-ma bounces with surprised laughing.
Oh, funny! At the table they sit, two warped chortlers.




Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Painted Sky



Thinking of ice; of the inconvenience caused by the car doors' propensity to freeze; of a winter postcard drive with scarves and the heater slowly cranking; the car that works was wrapped last night in an old duvet cover. But this morning nothing is frozen, nothing stilled: storm wind flares the cover, rain streams the lanes, the ivy is blown off the house, bits of it whip over the ground, tentacle-ish.
Every window is squeezed shut. No one looks forward to walking the dog: not even the dog.
Time presses till there's no more excuses.
Time for waterproofs; Wellingtons; walking. To venture under bending trees and test the depths of mud. But this afternoon sky is clear. Sunshine crinkles eyelids, turns water into gems. Beautiful is a shade of blue, a hue of green, a soft toned pebble: it's in the curve of the earth, in the open sky. The wind is charmed, gets sleepy, stops.
Dark and cloud return together, like a curtain dropped. But then lightening; a thunder roll; heavy sleet; paints the sky a winter white.


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Late In Winter


Snowdrops white-flare in sun: overcast they embrace a wistful prettiness.
The sky is gathering dark: into the cold pool of sky: clouds are beginning to dissolve.

We are working in a school while the old town hall hosts a musical production. It smells like soap; fake floral, somehow reassuring. Outside, the last winter month splices into spring. In here; the lunch benches, the climbing bars, the bold childish brushstrokes on thick paper, the wires that hang from the back of a stereo; that clean scent.

The last class gather in through the fire doors, in from the night.
It's snowing.


Monday, 10 February 2014

A Short History Of Modern Philanthropy

Are you sitting comfortably?

Once upon a time there were gentlemen, outwardly gender defined by tailoring and facial hair. There were gentlewomen at this time as well, with plump hair and laced in waists. And the fashion of this time was not all coiffure and garb but also social.
Support for the orphaned, the bereaved, the enslaved, the badly housed, the homeless, the sick, the malnourished, the uneducated and the generally oppressed was the height of good manners.
Social conditions improved, though they were never perfected. Gender identification became less important to intelligent people, and the costumes more user friendly, though sometimes less pleasing to the eye.
Philanthropy remains chic, to this day. Money is after all quite useless unless in some kind of use. Beyond a certain level of stuff, there is too much stuff and it becomes oppressive, not fun: not glad to be alive at all. To effect joy is a regenerating act: it brings freedom to the giver and the receiver: what's not to love?
All things in fashion reinvent. This year's philanthropy filters down to suit any budget. If you have any old time left lying around; or a beautiful smile, or a friendly ear, a practical skill perhaps, a gift for entertaining? Share!
And what of the future of kindness? It is not time that will answer that question, of course: it is us.

[NB: It is advised to accessorise with minor expectations: some people retain annoyance with a determination almost admirable. You might as well admire it, in that case. Just don't aspire to it.]



Saturday, 8 February 2014

Saturday At Work And Play

Photograph by Layla Burford: thank you :-)

Breakfast is messy; thick, hot, sweet; baked banana pancakes. Leftover espresso recycled with boiled water. Steam does a little dance over the mugs.
We think we might be awake.
Shirts pressed, ties tied, blazers brushed. Outside everyone winces in the wet cold.
The paperwork is safe in plastic boxes. A short drive is admired for its convenience. We do not always have the benefit of convenience.
In the car park are people shrinking which has a logic to it: less rain falls on a smaller area. We greet as we walk, brisk, chirpy, into the school and down the corridor and into the hall and say more hello, hello and get on with jobs. Wheel the meal tables out, stick floor numbers down, lay out the paperwork, find pens, count students, file them out. Herd them into grades, say Do This Do That and what, for example, can you tell me about why we do it. Sigh for their disappointments. Admire their achievements. Herd them up again for the Group Photograph. Watch them filter out, how they talk and share.

Stack back the paperwork, wheel in the meal tables, unstick the floor numbers: goodbye goodbye.

At home Dog sleeps. The sofa is how she likes it best: all to herself. She watches while we heat up with soup. Butternut squash. Home made bread. Rain lands lightly on the windowpanes.

Under the shelter of slender mossed trees wanders a muddy Dog and me.
Is this life lovely; one ponders; or is this delusional? Because one could grumble of things? Studies suggest attitude makes a life: is this true or a hoax to stop poor people blaming the rich? But rich people are unhappy too? Or just as delusional? Who knew such questions linger under these trees? Something to do with that moss shade of green? The branches hook overhead. They introvert.
Dog hits a leaf pile and slides. She looks ridiculous with her tongue flapping from the side of her mouth. She looks happy. We run down the bank together, so clumsy, laughing.
I think the trees were teasing.

At home the oven sits: a cute white box full of chicken and root vegetables, sputtering. More banana bakes in the Rayburn. Candles on the table, lit. Coffee, fresh, as the sun sinks and the weather climbs and how lucky we are, sitting here.

(Although Dog did steal Cat's food. Enough disharmony to make us normal, perhaps. Further queries may be found under the slender mossed trees.)





Friday, 7 February 2014

Prequel Storm


Yesterday in the polytunnel it was discovered: a short distance of panel had blown from its fixing: swiftly mended: battened down before it becomes a hatch. Tomorrow the biggest storm is expected. Cornflower, now, this morning sky: smooth as plaster in a fine country house.
Boy goes walking to take in the blue, to breathe some dry air. As he steps up the driveway the backdrop blackens. He looks over his shoulder.
'I enjoyed that calm,' he says.
Exit stage left, pursued by cloud
Wind catches like flames, roars over the fields. It sings in the wires and throws rain everywhere.

On the city road colours trail; finger smudges in wet chalk; neon signifiers of modern isolation; a beautiful city stoicism. In the car just me and music communing with weather and deep water hues.
Out from the city the unlit roads draw glitter from headlights. Shadow trees bend. How rain dances: silver on graphite: siren calligraphy.

First crocus! Cheery precursor of spring time :-)
So far the storm has brought us a polytunnel minor breach and intermittent internet:
so far so lucky...