Friday, 31 July 2015

Water And Skin





Widdershins, barefoot, slowly walk around the block, around the lanes that lay around the fields, warm road sometimes flat, sometimes not. 
Kick small stones from a bold instep.
Pods of storm cross overhead.
The maize crop has grown, enough to whisper secrets. Leaves shiver, clustered like spears.
Sun on puddles makes them shining pieces of dropped sky. 
In the river tethered clouds skim and bump. 
Here, flip-flops in hand, just walking, listening, absorbing.

Later, hear the wind shake; shake the light from the sky.
Rayburn lit.
Water hot.
Light a candle, take a bath.
Water on skin. Rain on glass.
See steam droplets on tiles, sparkled by a naked flame.







Saturday, 25 July 2015

Two Rescues






Next-door have a cat, a great advantage in the discouragement of rats.
But here on the ground is a fledgling; feathered, with wobbly flight skills, a wagtail chick.
This should not be cat food.
Dog pays it scant attention, until I pick it up. Then she gives a look that announces both her acceptance of the situation and her opinion that I am a traitor.
The fledgling sits in my hand. It too looks at me. Tiny mites climb all over it. They dot my hands. I get some dust and a box to bath my new friend. It remains unstartled.
There’s no further sight of Next-door Cat so the fledgling is allowed back to play around the flowerpots. Parent birds are watching. I am watching. It hops out to watch me.
The urge to name it is strong.

Next I find a bee afloat in a tub, and pick that up. It revives, and walks up and down my arm and will not leave until it has rubbed its legs and buzzed its wings back to health. I sit in the polytunnel, Dog lies out in the shade.
The bee walks, it tickles.
It feels like it is licking my hot arm. Do bees lick people?

Later Dog has her owner back - we run to the river and swim. We jog back. I hope the little bird is okay. The bee I know is busy in the flowering parsley.

Across the lawn a fledgling hops. Parent birds in tow.

What did I do today?
Amongst the usual work, I gave a bath to a baby bird and was licked by a bee. I swam in the thick of the rain-stirred river while the sun dried my washing.
And, in the oven, homemade pizza, nearly baked.










Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Cooking For Camp



First pans on: no time for photographing after this!


The first thing the grown ups say is ‘Remind me again why I’m doing this?’

The team leaders are thinking of the 5am wake ups, the number of times one child can lose a shoe, or need the toilet, or answer your question about where did you put your shoe with an anecdote about a hamster.
(The shoe will be in the first place they looked for it, but not until you look for it too.
Shoes are magic like that.)

This year I am not team leading: I am on the kitchen crew. I don’t know what it is that I should be wondering why I’m doing it, it’s never been done by me before.

Everyone should have a try at kitchen crew in order to fully appreciate the work that goes on to get the masses fed and the dishes washed. It starts and ends with heavy lifting. I’ve seen the bespoke field oven and the fry table and the gas bottles in place every year and never thought they were easy to shift about. Closing gap between knowledge and experience brings a nice practical sort of wisdom but can also hurt your arms.

Luckily the ironman chefs do the heaviest lifting - I secured the job of pressing the button to make the hire van lift go up and down. Not so taxing on the arms, which meant that they were available to assist with egg cracking, mixture whisking, bread dipping, eggy-bread flipping, hot oil splashing (sorry about that…) bacon sizzling, mushroom sifting, potato jiggling, water fetching, tea bag locating, spare spoon finding, fry-table scraping, scrubbing and eye wiping.

It was volcanically hot. I regretted the thermal socks but at 5am, before the burners were lit, it was cold.

First perk of this job is the sitting down afterwards.
I think my forehead may actually have been steaming.

Then there is the trip to the shops to top up lunch supplies. It comes with coffee and cake.

The opportunity to shower off grease is a half perk because the ‘shower’ is a trickle of water that requires the showeree to press against cold tiles in order to achieve any level of dampness. Still, none of us are here for our own convenience and it is entertaining.

I have the personal perk of sitting by the camp fire on Saturday night and reading a story. This year I read a brand new tale (borrowed a bit from Shakespeare) ‘Elf Night.’
The beard wrestling is very popular (Shakespeare missed a trick there! All my own work, the beard wrestling.)

Here’s what we do it for: of course: these children, away from home, learning to link with other people, learning to become good people. The sort of people who would give up a weekend to offer this experience.

Looking up from words on a page, I see rapt admiration, I see half asleep dreamers, I see contentment, appreciation.

5am isn’t so early.
The oven doesn’t get any lighter.
Everything must be washed and dried and bagged and put back in the hire van.
We end up rather tired.
‘Remind me again…’ we say.

‘How was it?’ I ask the children who were new to camp this year.
One says, ‘I loved my breakfast.’
Good answer!
General consensus: they will be back.
And so will we.

What you do for yourself leaves this earth with you: what you do for others, lives on.



Malvolio from 'Elf Night'




Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Niece, First Viewing









Here she is.

Petal pink, goosey fatted

She had been dreaming of light
A sky light

A sky opened up for her

Into air she swam; part aquatic
part rosebud
grown from the warm bed of her mother -

humidity nothing for her
but reminiscence -

Her father breathes
deep, for joy
barely, for amazement

She breathes: is moving -

one thing to dream of light
another to meet it -

The singular miracle closes her eyes
Sleep, sleep will make sense of it

They will wake up, of course
The new parents. To look at her.

They have been dreaming of this light too.

Here she is.





Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Best Smirk We Have Ever Seen



This well earned smirk, caught on film.


The car slides to a halt. All systems fail.
A few hours later I am happy because I can move my head.
But I was all ready very happy.
These events are not directly connected.
Or they are.
Shall I begin with a beginning?

The Chap, known then as Boy; although his sister being seven years his senior often led to the absentminded title of Maid, and I would pretend I had said Mate; since the age of four, had wanted to be a carpenter.
Had his own tools, collected from birthdays, from approving relatives.
Had graduated to power tools.
Eight years an intended carpenter, this Boy, until the age of 12 brings him to a bigger school and a reconsideration.
Carpentry will be a hobby, now, he says, he might be bored with it otherwise. He will become a Naval Officer instead.
Okay. Mum is fine with supporting her children. Some things like committing atrocities she would not support, but this urge seems humanitarian.
He mentions (in this order) disaster relief, big ships, artillery, a good uniform (but not so much the one with the shorts and long socks) a regular pay cheque.

Over years by turn (outside of home) he is patronised, teased, almost told not to dream lest it bring failure.
Maybe if this was you, you didn’t mean it.
Perhaps you did.
But whether you present yourself for repentance or a punch in the face (from me, he is too busy, I will choose a knuckle-punch btw) it matters not. You matter not.
Undistracted, he pursued this goal. Afraid of failure, yes. But quit not.

Meanwhile his mother sits and taps a keyboard on a succession of mostly improvised desks.
She is a writer so she gets the fear of failure do it anyway approach.
She is me, who writes in the third person. Everyone says not to do that. Lol.
(Never lol either!)
I am not a cult of personality girl.
I am about character.
If you are about character, it will show. Regardless.

Click back. 9th July 2015.
At the British Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, UK
A rain of fine spiders, new hatched, spin over us, the audience, them, the participants.
34.8 degrees, the thermometer shows.
Hot lines of almost officers in woollen suits and simmering caps hold up swords.
Helicopters are showing off.
There’s even a side story featuring Eddie Izzard who looks fantastic in heels and navy blue.
We cannot be star struck today though: only eyes on Chap and his new sword.
Clouds and breeze make brief visits. The heat holds. Someone will faint, or several. There are bets on it: 15, one person reckons. Nine in the last batch, we learn.
We can see our Chap clearly and how his face goes pale. Clammy pale.

Twice: twice he falls in the heat!
He is not the only one, just the stubbornest one.
He will not be persuaded to the shade.
Twice he unkneels and puts back his cap.

[Meanwhile this writer mother of his is distracted. She is not one for giving in either but what she doesn’t know is that one of her neck vertebrae is misaligned. Years of ill fitting desks plus that overly aggressive game of swingball… yes, more dangerous than you might have thought… has knocked out, bunched up, turned muscles to bullies, pinching up nerves. And sleeping in a tent (having cleverly spliced this week and a low budget with a camping holiday) which usually she loves. Not that she gives it too much thought on the 9th July. Well she tries. Not a wimp. But this really hurts. But how pleased she is, how proud, how glad! ]

All those doubters and twice the weather couldn’t rout him.
Good work Chap. Characterful.

He marches past: that is the best smirk we have ever seen.
Mr gets a picture of it: it’s a favourite.

Mum turns like Herman Munster; does anyone remember him? Like she is back braced.
Smiles for photographs.

And the next day she is useless, packing up camp. Tired. Can hardly move.
Says to her self, I will be mindful still. Hear the peacock in the park make his cry. Taste the coffee.
This is a fine test of mindfulness.
I am glad to be here.
Mr says he will drive his car behind hers, in case the pain is too much.

But when the car stops, when the dials slump and nothing will respond at all and the traffic is heavy, she snaps: is this a reflective joke, you mechanical fool?
Wake up car!
Into the hedge the car is slid.
People who are not good at guessing gesticulate. But this is funny; I’ve just parked here for no reason, is that what you think? This hedge is so awesome I just had to get closer!
Mr pulls up, puts on hazard lights. Phones the rescue service. An hour or so, he is told.

Ah well. There is a grass bank and we have picnic chairs.

The car is not as expensive to fix as it could have been.

There is an appointment free the same day at the surgery. One cranial manipulation later the pain is on the way out.

Note to all selves: from niggle to excruciating, life offers experiences. You deal with these as you deal with them.
Throw yourself at it. Pick through it.
Maybe you’ll learn what works: then do that.
In the interaction, this is how your life is lived.
And this is what will decide how your story ends.

Not circumstance.
Character.



Before the parade.
Here's Eddie.
Our Chap is 3rd row back, 2nd body in.
Our Chap assumes the faint-without-impaling safety kneel down position.
34.8 degrees hot.
And marches off.
Post-smirk smirk with sword.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Comfort Baulks




We say, if he doesn't put his toys away, does that mean he no longer cares for them? They could be gathered up easily in a bin bag, bundled to a charity shop?
I’ll get new ones at Christmas, says Grandchild 1.
Okay then.
(But maybe he remembers that time at the Eden Project when Granma took his ice cream away?)
He tidies some stuff, it makes his arms slow and heavy.

Somewhere on tv are his parents, dots in a damp field, best-friend dots drinking cider up and watching bands, holding hands, eating good food, good simple important stuff. We look for the blue tent. There are a lot of blue tents.
Humph.

Grandchild 4 has a bump, holds his hands up for Grandad.
Gets cuddles. Comfort.

We go to run in the park, the one that is just grass.
It will be boring, Grandchild 1 huffs.
They have races. He is the fastest.
Look at this tree he says, it’s tiny, but it’s a tree!
He finds a dock leaf for his nettle sting.
The nettles are taller than him. He looks up, sees the sky, the wisp-clouds, birds on wing.
Gets reprimanded for wildly swinging a poo-bag.
Humph.

Grandchild 3 makes a run out of the park. Granma catches up. Grandchild 3 holds up her arms.
Gets cuddles. Comfort.

Grandchild 1 say he didn’t push her, in fact she scratched him.
But Grandchild 2 refutes, holds up her arms, gets cuddles. Comfort.

I’ve gone up a reading band, says Grandchild 1.
Good work, we say. Let’s read some books.
But yes, you will be required to eat some vegetables.
And not boss your brother so much.
He’s my brother, he says, so he belongs to me.
Not quite, we say; he is growing up, is his own person, just like you are. And your cousins too.
But I’m the oldest, he says.
Yes, but the others are eating their vegetables and will get bigger and faster than you.
He eats some vegetables, they make his arms slow and heavy.

Grandchildren 1&2 do quiet colouring. They can stay in the lines. Because they are five and four years old, not babies. Five is old, at five you are all ready at big school.

Grandchild 4 has his bottle and hits the sleep.
Grandchild 3 is bathed, eased free of debris, full of sun and food and play. She slips into sleep on her father’s lap.

Grandchildren 1&2 are bigger, they can have a later bath time.
The water fight is okay because Granma is laughing and joining in.
They have squirters, she has a jug.
In your face kids!
In your face Granma!

Pyjamas on. Grandchild 2 has her story first from Granma, then Grandad.
Grandchild 1, vice versa. He wants a told story, not a book. The one about the Rude Clown.
Granma tells that one the best, because she wrote that.
You’re telling it different, he notes.
Yes, says Granma, sometimes the words come out different. We should read your school book too, shouldn’t we? We’ll do that together.
Some of the words are difficult.
Good job he is five.

I’ll put your book away now, Granma says, so it doesn’t get lost.
Grandchild 1 makes drama eyes, flops on the bedcovers.
It’s just because you want to leave me, he says.
Granma can’t squash her laugh.
It’s not funny, he says.
No, she agrees; it’s not that, she explains. It’s the idea that I want to leave you, that’s making me smile. Ridiculous.
Her arms circle his shoulders.
Comfort.

All the baulks of the day are tidied away.
Granma sits and writes while the small boy settles.