Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Harbinger Bird





Houseguest Ben arrives at the door of the polytunnel.
‘There’s a bird in the bathroom,’ he reports.
‘One you know?’ I ask. (This is not a play on slang terminology for female persons.)
‘It’s not the chaffinch.’ He laughs, glances at the hedge. (Ben was stalked by a chaffinch one memorable afternoon. It is this bird to which I refer.)

This unknown avian visitor is a summer bird, too quick for him to catch: I come down to see if I will have more luck.
‘You’re beautiful,’ I say.
Dark glossy plumage with a red throat, sleek split tail, pointed wings; sat on the shower rail, head at a listening tilt. A compliment is what it has been waiting for, for as the words are uttered it flies out of the window, leaving a tidy curl of dropping on the bath lip.

Next door’s garden hosts a teddy bear’s picnic party. A swallow has nipped in to use our bathroom. What else might happen?

The new car is out there somewhere still: Southampton, the man on the phone had puzzled, our cars come from South Shields, not Southampton. Be another week.
But we don’t hand any money over till the machine is in possession, so it hardly seems to matter.
It is not the new car: although, yes it must be.
A new car: what did we do!
Something quite different: of course the new car is on our minds.

Feels like a ton of earth is potted on, or tipped into the newest raised bed. A layer of top soil and cardboard alleviates silage stink. Strawberries are ripening. Nearly time to net the currants. Clouds gather and shift. The air gets damp. In comes the washing, just in case. Mr paints frames for the melon patch in his almost tidy shed. Rain is coming. A storm wind on the horizon. A gravy pot on the hob. Still, something else, this sense of something else…

Tickets. Tickets for a long journey.
I can do this.
Press some buttons and then: Christmas in Taiwan, booked.
Drive to the airport in a new car, fly to Taipei. My brother and his wife will be there: holding a baby.
Our first meet with that new life!
Our suitcases, full of tinsel, dropped: there will be hugging.

A list of other things to do: kennels for Dog? Airport parking vs get a train. How to get to the train station? What shirts to pack. Do we have shirts?

Should we have done this: I don’t know: not regret, this is not regret I struggle with; it is the old fear of poverty, of everything being scuppered, or of myself, a turncoat, becoming pampered and apathetic.
And if we hadn’t done it? If we had made no gesture of faith in a new phase? Then regret would have lingered.

Better fail than regret non action.

What else, I ask, sat by the window where the rain slides glassy drops; it’s dark out there.
I am tired.
The night whispers, I like to hear its voice.

I’m so tired I could drop into the hollows of my own eye sockets and wander as a ghost.

And everything is fine.
Perhaps I had flown in, as the swallow did, and life said everything is beautiful: enjoy…






Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Spring Break Sequence






Saturday: Garden: wheeled up topsoil from the heap in the horse field with a borrowed barrow, ours needed a new tyre. 
Mr went to buy a new one, twice: first the wrong size then the right, then the pump broke. 
We have a new flat tyre. It’s closer to perfection than it was.

The newest raised bed stinks with rotted grass.

Saturday evening: drove over the Severn Bridge, squinted at sun-bloom on the wide river, admired the geometry of cables, the bold shadows. Arrived in time to watch theatrical acts compete on various televisual shows. Eager and numerous as the flies on our rotted grass: this is what it is to be an artist my dears. 

Just be the fly you want to be.

The six year old who was staying up late decided she would rather be a dog. She would go to bed, but she would be practicing her bark, quietly; but her brother had already woken from his own coughing. 
Everyone went to bed later than intended.

Sunday: morning brought rain. While the earth drank it up we stayed under cover; conveniently, this day hosted the 2015 Welsh Championships. I had my Welfare Officer shirt on, assigned to Ring 15, where the polite sparring of green belt ladies was followed by bouncy black belt boy cadets. 
Only one injury stopped play: a kick blocked awkwardly by a regretful shoulder. The lad with the broken toe finished his fight. 
All of the unfortunates who caught low kicks had a bit of time to deep breathe, they all got back up. The importance of keeping a guarded stance is easy to forget in the heat of wanting to win. But if it should happen to you: kneel down, breathe slowly and deeply, the pain fades. You can carry on. Later you will tell the story and feel better.
Later we went back to our friends in Taff’s Well, told them the stories.
Wine was opened.

Monday, freed from work, we went to a park, took the two children: dusted them in sand and soil, dipped their faces in ice-cream. A picnic basket was opened. After lunch the basket was carried back to the car.

‘We are literally unhampered,’ I said. 

After archery, around the teepees we ran, and through the fairy woods, back past pygmy goats, Mr swinging on his crutches. In the car we asked each other questions like:
‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’

A cup of tea and time to go: one little boy was fast asleep in his cot, one small girl kicked out a sand pile in the hallway, abandoned socks and boots to come and wave to us: we would build a pirate raft, we planned, when the visit was returned, when they came to view our famous garden. 

Summer is so close! 

Tuesday: I would get up early to go for a run, I had said that. Wide awake at 5am I was not expecting. So widely open to wakefulness that sleep would not return. At 5:40am this was acknowledged.

Might as well go for that run…

Dog didn’t mind; she inhaled deeply in the wet air, followed the night’s stories along the hedge, while I was lost in birdsong and mist, in the breakfast squabbles of crows, in the bright banded shells of their snail feast. Flowers were opening. Wild strawberries profuse with green fruits. 
At the steep hill I checked my legs, they were still moving. This was amusing: all conscious attention adrift in a landscape obscured with mist…

It didn’t seem to matter. The sky would clear to bright day.
For breakfast there would be eggs and strong coffee.









Thursday, 21 May 2015

A Gesture Of Faith And Fox




In Southampton, there is a brand new car. A mid-spec economical white because that’s the least expensive colour car…
It is waiting for paperwork. Just routine paperwork. Finance is approved.
What will happen?
Life will be buzzed with a paintwork gleam, though it’s the same life; this is good, we are grand fans of our lives here.
The financial commitment makes us scared, this is not a change. Money worries pelt us with such consistency, we should have learned to dodge by now. But we’ve compromised: we have become bold.
A few more bits of paper will move and make the car get on a truck, to be brought to us.
We will go to the garage and drive it away.
A gesture of faith in ourselves?
Yes, we say. Yes.

Meanwhile the garden grows. We toil to help it; dig holes, fill holes, fit raised beds.
Hand feed our seedlings.
The picnic table drops into weathered pieces. We sit at particular angles to keep safe, bowls of rice steaming, birds flinging in bursts of food finding, territorial dispute; flowers shaking petal heads, bees drink like kissing.
Meadowsweet leaves thicken, Cow Parsley begins to seed.
Evening air has a humidity that swells open these hedgerow scents.

At night the foxes yip: Dog perks at it.

The day we went to view new cars we had walked in a field. I was picking a feather bouquet; pheasant and pigeon, hands full, mind calming. Unprepared for the view of Dog playing with two fox cubs. It explained the abundance of feathers. My stumbling in broke up the play, for which I was sorry, but such a thing to witness: a blessing.






Saturday, 16 May 2015

Car, Free





The old red car did not pass the MOT. Too many things to fix so we had to let it go.
I had turned out all the bits of shell and pebble, untangled the travelling charm from the rear view mirror.
Wondered how many hours would add up to equal time spent viewing the world in that back looking glass.
Breathed in the earth-salt squalor, the mould, the spills of coffee.
Heard myself singing. Ouch.
It is only a material thing, a car, no matter how immersed, how we feel our fibres are joined. Everything is a shell, I think: me too, I am made of stuff, so what I feel for the car is a universal compassion, personified, made specific to my story.
I lent life to it, and now I’m taking it back.
The thought of it crushed was saddening.
It was a reprieve when the young mechanic asked, could he have it: I signed it over, handed him a key.

So, no car, for me, for a moment. While I think and headache over figures, projections of cost and risk, while I long to live in a hedge.
Why can’t I just live in a hedge?
I like to travel though.
Used car? New car? Pictures of shining paint, neat interiors, future road trips, easy finance.
Glossy dreams are fun.
Figures are practical.
The urge to be boring is not strong, but: hearts and impulses and spontaneous joy, these are so easily manipulated, mirage-flimsy, distracting.
How is it that I wish to live?
I’ve been road-sided enough!
I think of all the time spent waiting for transport, how much I progressed in that pressed boredom. I can sit and rediscover the world, and such stories come to me, because I have learned to be engrossed, interactive. I think of navigating buses, trains, all that forced company, all that window gazing, how many surprises would be found: absorbed, the element of it became part of me.
The effort of travel: this I appreciate. Sore feet. Hands swelled out of shape from the handles of shopping bags. The satisfaction of reaching a destination: this I appreciate.
A new car?
On conditions of finance and never forsaking appreciation.
On condition to travel, not commute.
To remember that reality often is a construct of expectation.







Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Quiet Day After A Busy Weekend


7 May, 2015


Rain lingered but it could not rain: the sky was so full of birdsong, there was no room.
Only sunlight could shine through that clear mass of sound.
Lawnmowers and birds, singing, and somewhere above, an aeroplane; a ruffle of foliage from an indulgent breeze.
All the weekend noise: speeches from Churchill on VE Day, knives and forks and spoons scooping up pie and mash and suet puddings, the band were fun, people were dancing and trying to dance; the hoot of grandchildren wrestling on a lawn while the barbecue spits and somebody catches a ball, the glee sounds of toddlers with chocolate cake; makes us smile to ourselves.
Striding around the garden, planning doom and repellence for pests, planting seeds; smiling.


 8 May, 1945

9 May, 2015




Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Notes From A Car Park





It rains.
Car park trees hemmed in, captive.
Symbolic of a lessened world?
If the roots go rogue, then what?
Dream of growing beans up the sides of the prisoner trees, of everyone planting and making car parks futile.
A power of fertility.

More rain, in spite of the blossoms and pretty leaf: autumn weather.
Under the copper beeches, light and water drops.
Nearly a rainbow.
The leaves are russet-rosé.
Under the copper beeches you can bathe in a sparkling pink
Raise a toast to autumn:
To future harvests.








Sunday, 3 May 2015

Three Days In May







Friday
Here begins the last calendar month of Spring.
Half-fledged pheasants flee car wheels. Has the frost left? It had clung to the land for too long. This morning’s air is warmly damp. The hedges have grown lace, kept colour.
To the beach we traipse; one Granma, one grandchild, one grandchild’s friend, one dog.
We are lucky with weather. Mild-damp until the ice creams are eaten up. Fat drops smack on the way home, burst on the bonnet. The girls sleep.
At home we hear giggling, and the crunch of apples bitten.
They watch a film, they say, ‘Oh I love that. Do you love that?’
Anything with sequins rocks. Grandma agrees.
Evening comes, it brings wine.

Saturday
A garden day. The barrow rolls badly, inner tube beyond repair. Another expense: leafed green growth, the recompense. Future dinners, medicines, sweets, inebriations, perfumery, decorations; the story of our year wiggles up, shakes in the wind. This is the year we added a scarecrow and all the arches need mending because the hedge sparrows are lining nests with our string.
Evening comes: Grandchild 2 and Granma take torches and walk around the Horse Field.
‘I’m afraid of the big bad wolf, Granma.’
‘The wolf isn’t here. Granma is. The wolf is afraid of me.’
‘And Doggle?’
‘Yep.’
‘Okay.’
Clouds blow, blur the moon’s edge.

Sunday
More garden work. The barrow rolls, badly, inner tube overlooked. Bumping on a flat wheel is still easier than dragging bags of silage.
Off and on rain. The washing comes in drier than it went out.
Rotted grass smells like the earth had digested it.
New mown lawn, dung, fresh turned earth, rain, an edge of old cabbage, soft citrus. In the polytunnel, a half-door open, hot and dry, aware of the deluge; aubergines are planted on, and tomatoes, chillies, nasturtiums, basil, sorrel, coriander, lettuce, salad onions, carrots, pot marigolds.
The evening will come, with a sky of darkening cloud, scented like stewed herbs, like bath steam.