Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Grace





Granma has her hands pressed together, eyes shining with gratitude

Granma Grace at her 80th birthday, candid shot of her looking at her family,
one of our favourite portraits. 

Saturday 16 May 2020 This morning we managed to get through to the nursing home on a zoom call so we could see and speak with Grace. The home is short staffed and she has been ill with a chest infection so contact has been difficult, fleeting. Mercy the always-cheerful nurse took the ipad in and spent awhile angling so we could see, but Grace’s eyes were glazed with sleep. We called Hello, wanting to tell her about last night’s family online meet up (Mr and I, in full glitter make-up, won the alphabet scavenger hunt; Grandchildren 3 and 4 both are missing a front tooth; Grandchild 4’s tooth fairy trap didn’t work - Grandchild 1 is booked to play guitar for the next one; Grandchild 5 ran off being shy, 2 was eating late, 7 was a-bed, 6 all grin and tongue; all the grown ups so refreshed by connection, all the detail she would love) but that was too much. Hello was too much.

‘Do you want to talk to me today Mum?’ Mr says, making light of it. She mouths the word ‘No.’ A twitch of humour we see, but still she means no, she is too tired even for pretty lies. We are watching her when we should be sat by her bed, holding her hand, no words needed. I want to say to her, by touch, don’t wait, find your peace.

Monday 18th May 2020 The climbing rose is blooming - I picked the first flower yesterday. The rest would have been plucked in today. A whim to let them open in the sun interrupted; to have fullness before harvest. I pressed nose to petal, went to ready myself for work. Polytunnel open, flower pots watered, washing on line. Sunglasses on, windows down, drive over open moors, take view of the glittering sea. Content. At 3pm my mobile rang. I knew. With her daughter at her bedside, the breaths of our Grace ceased today. I am at work on a sunny day, the door is open, we have the radio playing, our care-charge has cast off one sock in a deliberate act of glee. I wish to be at home with Mr, but here is not a bad place to be. There’s a lightness. Grace does not call for our tears (they will come anyway) - this soft yes to the world, to the kind small details: this is her gift. If a cake is baked, a needle threaded; these are her bequeathments. Tonight I am opening the champagne (although Grace was more of a merry-on-sherry girl.) If you would care to join us, Grace would be delighted. We will toast - To Grace, to kindness. Right now I’m typing these words, I’m thinking she is here in the breeze, in the uplift of sun, looking over my shoulder, smiling. All welcome, my darlings, she says.



Dog sits at Granma's feet, eyes shining with love


Granma reaches to pat Dog, who basks in the love



Monday, 11 May 2020

Birthday Times



Sunlight makes a rainbow arc over a calm river, flanked by trees in full leaf



Two milestone birthdays today that I know of - of course there are more - one 70th, one 1st, to be celebrated from a distance.
(70 years no longer sounds old, whereas one year of existence is a dot.)
For Grandchild 7 we had sent a parcel by taxi: all the willow branch-and-twig cut down from pruning the arch (deliberately left to overgrow for this occasion) ribbon tied and rolled in an old tablecloth. A willow house kit!
(Although it looked a little like I was disposing of a tall skinny body…)
Which his family have assembled with pallet flooring, and I hope has survived last night’s high winds...
For the 70th (Caroline Osborne-Dowle) a handmade card which dropped into the post box before I remembered that the post had already gone that day so it will be late - but I will call and give the real present, which is a pledge to spend time - to go out, to stay in, details will sort themselves out.
Time is the priceless thing. We will march from dot to dusk, travelogue-ing tales, and even if all that is forgot, if dementia or injury sweeps through, what was created remains in love, in energy.
Think about what you are creating. Do you need help to steer happier?

Meanwhile I go to the river, cool in the wide flow, watch the birds swoop. My shoes are slung in a tree. I have steered, and been tide-shoved, and here I am, and I want to help.
Not to author anyone else’s story, just to even out access to the ink.
To the raw materials.
To the moment. 

Friday, 24 April 2020

We Make-Do, We Mend



Dusk sky, outline of house in background, foreground is a campfire




Friday 24th April 2020:
In the midst of a batch of glorious days in which Mr and me are outside dusk till past dawn, and fall asleep in reclining chairs as the stars gain sway and Venus looks as though she is disappearing down our chimney. Our hands are scrubbed, stained in mud and green.

One morning I had got up early, run to the river, had a swim, run back home, showered, breakfasted, all before work. Another morning Mr and I got up early and did all of our Tae Kwon-Do patterns out on the grass. Then yoga stretches, then breakfast, all before work. Tech troubles we deal with slowly, in small bursts, to mitigate frustration.
We are mostly making lockdown look good, but ache to be with family and friends. People are being bereaved. There is fear in the background. I worry for disadvantaged strangers as well as my own circle; dream of land to share.
A levelling should come of this.

Last night on a whim I picked some red sorrel and dyed an old vest in my soap pan. Not sure what I’m doing or how it will turn out - what does that remind you of?
These are experimental times.
Pictures of baking adorn every social media outlet - triumphal sourdough, epically flat meringues - it is the having a go that is holding on to sanity, that is waking us up.
Celebrity status dissolved in the acid of its own pointless privilege. (Can't help thinking this is healthier for everyone involved.)
The truth poking through: who is it who keeps you alive? Why have we not been grateful before now?
Why aren’t people who have enough money to sort out every problem in the world sorting out the problems?

How To Shun A Billionaire:
We celebrate our ordinary lives.
We live as small-scale and local as possible. The revolution is a farmers’ market. It’s a pot of herbs on your windowsill. We make-do, we mend. We learn baking, sewing, gardening. Pickles. Jams. We check on our neighbours, friends, family. Cultivate green spaces, accessible re-wilding. Ask each other for help because it turns out most of us care.


Graphic reads 'When in doubt, celebrate.'

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Separations


Cabbage white butterfly at rest in the sunshine


Wednesday, April 1st:

No. Monday April 6th: Hand gel and soap at the level where my hands look like I stole them from a museum. Psoriasis flaring. Mr's income plummeted without much warning, with albatross levels of foreboding: and yet really we are fine. My wages will almost keep us, we have just enough, no one should need more. It is merely that the world is changing, is in a mushy chrysalis that may or may not be in dire peril but is certainly vulnerable. The most personal bit of this is Grace, in her end of life phase. The gradual way she has submitted to being in bed since her legs have not regained the strength of her spirit; like ripples diminish, she is letting go. They are kind to her in the nursing home. The food is good. It is still not as we wish. We can’t visit, we can’t hold her hand, stroke her head, feed her those pretty puddings. She sends love: she is love. We are lucky for that. Mr sends me a message that food is cooking, the fire pit prepped. There’s a hammock, a glass of red.
Later: I am lying in the hammock, fire-spit spattered, watching our moon push through dense greenery, watching it slip like the eye of a cosmic fish into a deepening blue. Stripes on the wind-break agitating. Cold fingers. Beautiful heart breaking things.




Close up of fire pit, red embers, fire pit made of an old wheel rim.





Friday, 27 March 2020

Corona Creep Up


Man posing next to large chunk of tree trunk like he has hunted it, looks out to horizon
Mr looks to the future, it looks like hedges.


Saturday March 14th 2020

On the drive to work I got bored of changing the windscreen wiper settings, then a little off-white spider raced around on the steering wheel. I blew it onto the dashboard but it jumped back. Cheeky spider. At work we are bored of coronavirus restrictions and bored at the prospect of it continuing. We don’t know anyone who has it. Supermarket shelves are missing toilet roll, dried pasta, as previously, now also tins of beans and tomatoes. There are travel bans and cancelled events. Last night I had to teach a non contact TKD session - no pads, no sparring, no hand shaking. I began my class with ‘first of all, please don’t breathe because that’s dangerous now.’ All of us are ‘meh’ about these restrictions. We understand that infection control is serious for the immune-compromised, we adhere to protocol for that reason. But the paranoia and boredom: meh. Monday March 16 2020 Yesterday Mr and I did some babysitting for Grandchildren 2,6 & 7. (They have numbers on here, our numbered blessings, mostly to reduce the chance of future embarrassments: they won't be stuck in the roles cast by childhood.) G2 is a grand big sister. The littlest ones are lucky to have this love and encouragement in their lives. G7 is walking a few steps, and has finally rubbed two teeny edges of teeth through his lower gums. G6 climbs into mummy and daddy’s bed, calling for mummy, but is bribed out of bereftness with a biscuit. Then we take her outside where she can wedge her wellies in mud, chase the dogs, and nearly fall off the swing a few hundred times. Takes another biscuit to lure her back in even when her fingers are blue with chill. G2 puts music on, draws her dream house. It has indoor stables and a disco room. G7 and Grandad fell asleep on the sofa while Gs 2 & 6 ate sausage casserole, and their Aunt & Uncle turned up to take the late shift. We ate seaweed together, and sponge cake; caught up on news of Dartmoor walks and work hunting. Mr and me drove home, had a few shots of blackcurrant vodka. I slept well. Today’s adventures began with a lazy drive around Colliford where my car was stuck awhile in the midst of wandering cows and calves. It was sunny so I wore the flowery lace ups my stepdaughter bought me, and a beige trench, and sunglasses. At work we took our care client for a small adventure, along a lonely lane that was too muddy for my nice shoes so I just went barefoot, casually eating a magnolia flower. 22 March, Sunday, 2020 This morning Mr and I crowbarred a few chunks of tree trunk to make a rustic seating area, before I went to work. There is no travelling except for emergency supplies, stretching our legs around the block (to the river sometimes) and my care work. When we arrive we wash hands and check our temperatures. Everything gets anti-bac sprayed. Our client is enjoying not going anywhere, just being chilled on the rug playing her pink guitar. She has a cough, a phlegmy sort, we are taking her temperature fanatically. Had to buy a multipack of batteries for the thermometer. The weather is nice and people are risking going out, which means we definitely don’t. We are in the time where staying isolated or not can tip the balance. It doesn’t feel real, I have a sense of acting out a scenario, like this is a drill only. Had a play at making a video Tae Kwon-Do session, which was kind of fun. There is that odd bit to this, that these unusual times can yield fun. I have roughed out a week of lesson plan ideas, a way to organise and schedule. I have a story telling schedule. My brain is hyper, throwing up ideas but also not able to concentrate enough to plough into novel writing just yet, so I have started the next round of Tales From The Tenets - Tenets In Space. Friday 27th March 2020 I have papers from work saying I can travel so now I feel like an extra in a 1940s film. It’s trench coat weather too, I would look the part if I could master the victory roll hair. We are on a skeleton staff, as no one is allowed to work on multiple care packages and those who have outside jobs at the hospital are needed there and also must avoid cross contamination. Meanwhile in the mornings we have a garden of frost, all sparkles and bright bird song. In the afternoons the sun warms us. The polytunnel is tropical, the hosepipe in use. Seedlings slowly stretch out of their encased slumbers, lift their leaves like little eyes, look at us and ask: what is really important? Um… Soil, warmth, light, water, nutrition, space to grow... The people I am missing. I see them on screens, of course, but the lack of proximity is a chest pain, a visceral thing. How grief is: but the joy of reunion is the privilege of the living, so I am adhering. Meanwhile, we can only contact Granma Grace via the nursing home phone. She is enjoying her dinners and glad we are safe.
Writer in face mask and apron PPE, looking wry
Work wear, Spring 2020 collection.


Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Spring Variety



Tree roots reach like fingers at the edge of a river, the river is just over the bank




The sun appears, edging back from retirement. It has been days of rain. Is that wind that stirs the washing trusted on the line or is it sighs of relief?
Both, let’s say.
The air seems warmer, the mud all soft.
Hot enough to get seeding in the polytunnel: tomatoes, basil, chillies, peppers, radish, carrots, pumpkin, cucumber, aubergine. Seeds flake-like, spear-shape, spherical, familiar.
Journeys continued.
Meanwhile we are asking questions over a piece of land, to see if we can make a connection between where we are and where we should like to be.
I have repotted the lime tree, and the red palms, knowing they are getting harder to move, hoping this works like ironic magic bringing us closer to the place where they can be planted in our own ground.
Clouds roll thick in the sky.
For now the magic is knowing that possibility exists.
Later we may settle for another story, another possibility; preparations help propagation but there are variables we cannot influence.





Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Obstacles And Onwards



Gull silhouettes over churning ocean waves
Thursday 6th February 2020 I have found some new muscles to hurt, hurrah! Discovery due to the wheelbarrow being turned to rust lace, so I improvised with a rescued fish box, dragging it like a sled to spread compost around the garden. Have ordered a new barrow today; currently am sat in bed to write, and appease the aches. Washing blows on the line. Cold sunny day. The crows have chased a buzzard out of the alopecia pine. Monday 10th February 2020 Busy, Tae Kwon-Doing, social weekend. Stormy weather which inconvenienced others more than us. Sunday evening we came home to an electric outage: lit candles, lit woodburner, opened wine. Thankful for a quiet work day. Can’t even immerse myself in research as the weather seems to have stifled internet access. Several rounds of thunder and hail. Did some stretches, did some writing, including this. At home a new wheelbarrow is awaiting and somehow the washing has stayed pegged to the line. It will not be dry, but well rinsed. Dog has creaky hips. Granma Grace has moved to a nursing home in Exeter. There is funding for 12 weeks, and uncertainty after that. Meanwhile my little care-charge (I am at work) is taking a break from keyboard solos to blow a few spit bubbles, put a fluffy caterpillar in her armpit, and stare at a pink plastic beach spade, like a permanently stoned faerie child. Monday 17th February 2020 Grace’s 90th birthday. We travelled to visit yesterday, more like a log flume ride than a drive: the floods higher than we’ve ever seen.
Grace is sleeping more than ever, but waking to eat without pain - the anti-sickness meds in the syringe driver are working and are still the only meds she will take. It is good to see her settled. She is in a private room, her windowsill filled with family photos and cards. She takes my hand after I’ve fed her lunch (chocolate pudding went down especially well) - she stumbles words but she says ‘this is my daughter-in-law,’ squeezing my hand. My sister-in-law is present too; I say only special people can have daughters as special as us. Grace pats her hand on her heart. ‘Yes,’ Mr says, ‘that’s you, Mum.’ She smiles. Today at work we went to view the weather from Perranporth, where the sea was milky-green, a storm-stirred salt soup. Gulls flew more backwards than forwards. Crows tried, and failed in unabashed circles. Tomorrow we are going to view a derelict cottage we probably can’t afford. It may be an underwhelming wreck, it may be an overwhelming love at first sight flight into a headwind. (I should also note that the new wheelbarrow is a fine purchase: last year’s compost is shared out, in spite of storms.) Monday 24th February 2020 I had set off early to take my favourite long commute over Bodmin Moor but as I was more sailing than driving it seemed wise to reconsider. At work, having to choose an indoor activity, we went to Plymouth, to the National Marine Aquarium, where our frustrations could be soothed by the waftings of passing fish. 
Silvery big fish in blue water, at an aquarium
(The derelict cottage we viewed last week was ankle deep in water, had too little garden space and we didn’t love it. Search continues.)


Thursday, 30 January 2020

Doubt And Celebrate



Swirly purple graphic reads 'When in doubt, celebrate.'





Plan was this: to go to the woods then come home and write. I had asked my clever brother to make a graphic for me, of a phrase I use and wished to share, because it is so nearly my 50th birthday it was making me feel beneficently wise.

What happened was: I was watching the happy arse of my dog as she thundered towards the river when a bundle of words arrived with a ferocity equal to her velocity, as though she had tugged them into being. Writing was done awkwardly, immediately, balanced on a knee. 
These words:

'Imagine a sheet of paper, imagine you have a spoonful of ink. You fling the ink at the paper;
some of it will miss.
You are like this ink.
But you are not this ink.
You can refling yourself over and over and in doing this create something more fluid, dynamic, astounding, authentic, than anything any of us can fix to paper.
Please breathe and feel your breath. 
Please love yourself.
Whatever doubt you are in, allow it.
Celebrate.'





Friday, 17 January 2020

Sneaked-in Writing




11th January 2020 Merely a trace of chest plague left, so I’m back to training and now my legs and arms have the pleasant ache of effort.
At work today and doing more sneaked-in writing.
Another fiercely windy day: witnessed a heron in perilous flight this morning, snaking its neck like a pterodactyl. Took my favourite long commute around the back of Colliford Lake where the sky was all freckled with starlings, and white topped waves frisked, and shaggy calves skulked on verges.
I am saying please let things work out well now. I have enough practice finding flowers at the roadside of doom, I say, no more with that now! Time for a rose garden, Universe.

13th January 2020
Third in a hat trick of shifts, nothing too demanding, just the having to get up early and being organised. The weather is all storm warnings - we sat at Porthpean watching seagulls in the shallow froth declining to go further out. We sat in the warm car, bellies full, with a happy client for she loves the wild weather best of all.
We are back at the house now and she is cooing to the thrashing rain, she is studying a soft toy. Yesterday she allowed me to join in with her guitar playing; I copied her two string tune as best I could and she laughed so much she had to stop play and lie on a cushion. I asked her if she was a zen master and her shoulders rocked.
This life is beautiful, Universe, I apologise for my complaints.





Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Wednesday Resolve


1st January 2020
At midweek we have begun a new year and a new decade. The page turning, blank calendar moment. Is this the beginning of pivotal stuff or merely Wednesday? One can pivot at any moment, dear hearts, whereas Wednesdays come by only every seventh day. So, what to attend to?
Still ill from Round 2 of flu, I am sat in bed writing this, also drinking good coffee, also eating low carb homemade chocolate treats. I am watching the evening arrive in my garden, how it is sifting away light and colour, how the shadows darken and spill out, how still it is, paused, imbued with the night-sense of adventure.
Attend to the moment.
Here I am.
Saying to myself: in 2020, maybe I will… brush my hair. Tidy my sock drawer. Eat apples. Jump in the sea. Have tea with a friend.
I have a good feeling about these resolutions. 


Thursday, 12 December 2019

Yule Tale 2019






For this year’s Yule Tale, being short on time due to obsessive novel writing and that lifestuff, I decided to grab outside inspiration from the www.plot-generator.org.uk website. What I got was delightful nonsense, most of which I have kept, with a tweak here and there which was a bit like when children decorate a xmas tree and their parents maybe move a bauble or two after they have gone to bed because aesthetically it is the right thing to do.
Presenting Yule Tale 2019:
Two Surly Uncles Laughing To The Beat

Sparkle looked at the shiny cup in her hands. It was full, which felt like mockery.
She walked to the window to reflect on her surroundings. She had always loved Yuletown’s bleak wintry fir trees; they encouraged her to indulge in feeling mournful.
Pines, pining - there was surely a connection.

Her eyes narrowed, seeing something move in the distance. Someone? That would be a rare occurrence in this unpopulated zone!  As she peered and the figure drew nearer she recognised that this was a someone, and someone known to her: it was Twinkle, a funny sidekick with tiny hair and petite elbows.
Sparkle was a fluffy, kind, eggnog drinker with frail hair and dainty elbows.
She did not know what Twinkle liked to drink. If Twinkle called in, what should she offer? What else might a guest be in need of? A comb? Some elbow cream?

Sparkle, attempting calm, ran through a list of things she knew about herself.
Her friends saw her as an annoying abundant angel.
Once she had saved a snow leopard cub from a drain.
She loved eggnog, though many didn’t.
She would like to feel better about her inner emptiness and maybe she had come here to this stark scenery to face her truth.

To her relief, a sudden snowstorm teased like skipping penguins. She could see nothing but this whirl and surely it would discourage a person from visiting?
It was hard to think of penguins without thinking of their cheery ice-antics.
Twinkle knocked on the door.
Sparkle could not ignore this. She opened it. Cold air slapped at her.
Twinkle of the tiny hair and petite elbows said in hushed tones: ‘I want to be accepted. Do you think I can be accepted?’
Sparkle of the frail hair and dainty elbows looked back, fingers gripped around the shiny cup. She had not expected this encounter or question, nor was she aware that she had the answer, though she did, and it presented itself with confidence.
‘You are good enough,’ she said, bursting into tears that began to freeze, ‘that’s all anything or anyone needs to be!’

They looked at each other with big hurt feelings like two discombobulated donkeys recovering on a sweet holiday which had piano music playing in the background and two surly Uncles laughing to the beat, while somewhere a bad bauble bobbed in a breeze.

Then Twinkle came in for a nice swig of eggnog, and, as one, they watched the sun set, spilling its fire-colours over snowy trees.


 

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

November Stuff

Diary

Bare feet in fine sand.
Friday 1 November 2019 Might be a little hung over. Also there are boring jobs to do on computers. We get through it. Thank you coffee.

Saturday 2 November 2019 Taking the early shift, I drive on a nearly deserted road through a wild storm. Surface water is travelling, like gigantic sliver-toothed silvery flatfish. I love the mild peril of my travelling. At work we dare the storm again, visiting Trelawney Garden Centre which is draped with Christmas delights. We lark about with sparkles and elf hats. We lunch. We make it back through deep puddles to watch festive films under the whirl of disco lights.

Wednesday 6 November 2019 Another early morning, in which I drive towards a rising sun, a levitating half-circle, licking coffee from the corners of my mouth. Dog fidgets in the boot-space, keen to get to Exeter and jump in a river. She is thwarted as our routine has changed and now Granma Grace is up early too, wanting a shower, and takes a nap not a lie-in, in her chair and not till after breakfast. Once naptime is reached Dog’s expectations can be appeased.
We pass a lady with tangled hair, Dog wags hello, I say hello, she smiles.
We pass the man who sits by the river and always speaks. This time we say the colour of the clouds is like snow-clouds, but most likely there will be more rain. A terrier on a lead snarls at Dog, who looks all affronted (but would happily bite it back if they were unleashed).
‘Dog politics, eh,’ the man says, amused.
The terrier owner stops to talk to the man, about growing beards for Christmas.
Dog runs on, past the lady with the tangled hair, and out of sight:  the lady looks worried.
I say that dog is cheeky but won’t go far, I see there is a bag of folded cloth on the wall next to her: is she homeless? But I follow Dog. We go back to Granma Grace and her peaceful snores, we make lunch, Dog has a bit of gravy as a treat.
Later I pop across to the shops; the lady is sat in the same spot, thronged in swans. I see her from the bridge. I have a strange push to drop my bag over the railings and own nothing and sit next to her, which is a blend of compassion and tiredness. On my return journey the lady is walking, though the bag she carries affects her gait, she walks by without acknowledgement, purposeful.
Later still I drive home, feeling grateful for my car and my full tank of fuel and my warm coat. Rain falls obstructively but even that eases so I can walk from car to house without a soaking. At home the disco light I ordered under the premise of entertaining grandchildren has arrived. First I tidy: the process of ridding our house of clutter has begun; then: disco.
Dog sits on the sofa, concerned. Mr gets home, he loves the whirly lights and the clarity. Wednesday 13 November 2019 Not the usual Wednesday routine. Awake though the alarm won’t be beeping for another hour. Sat in bed with coffee and chromebook but concentration lacking. Listening to bird banter, to the whir of wings in the eaves. Today is a funeral day. We are going to Falmouth to celebrate the life of Gillian Mock, Auntie Jill to us. A lady of largesse, with a laugh you could likely hear on the moon, and fabulous bosoms, and unafraid. Find myself worried I have the wrong day or time, so I’ve checked that more than once. At the church, which is packed, the vicar does a lovely eulogy (failed typist, taxi driver/agony aunt for 28 years, first wedding cancelled as they forgot to book the registrar) and folks are wearing colours, and bold gems. I hear her big laugh in my mind.
When we are to sing I catch myself pausing because this is when I still am expecting to hear the trilling of the late great Nanny Mock.
At the church too a line of nieces and nephews who are all grown up - Chap’s beard works like a disguise for a while. There’s a ton of us. The gathering is the good part.
By the time we have filed past to hug the close family, they are all shivering in a cold wind.
The coffin will be taken to the cemetery, with the beautiful flowers and a hand written sign: ‘Jills taxi.’
(Possessional apostrophe omitted but we know there was only one Auntie Jill. She would have big-laughed: love is the important detail here.)
Wednesday 20th November 2019 We are back to regularity, except for yesterday when I became ill and stayed home from teaching but couldn’t sit still so dug into tidying up and downsizing and the office is now broaching on habitable. I find my own illness unacceptable which is pointlessly harsh. I am at Granma Grace’s place taking care not to cough on her. We have done the showering and bed changing and breakfast; Grace is snoozing in her chair, and Dog has run by the river, no swan trouble bar a little hissing. She sleeps curled by Grace’s chair, ready to wake for a compliment or any old snacks. I have my little chromebook with me, all cosy on the sofa, feet up, glass of homemade apple-blackberry cider vinegar at hand, hoping to kill a cold with kindness. On Sunday I had gone sea swimming and not warmed up quickly enough. On Monday I had indulged in a long sunny, hilly walk (pushing a wheelchair, extra points) and let myself cool down too much afterwards. Everyday I am guilty of obsessive purpose. I know that the lesson will not go away until I’ve learned it - I make a practice of calm time, I can even make it masterly for a while: maybe there are some things that are just you doing you and this will keep happening so you might as well enjoy it. The washing machine whirs and whines through its usual cycle as I type, so I imagine the noise as affectionate slurs.
Family group portrait, faces squeezed in, laughing

Friday, 15 November 2019

Derek's Puddle



Swan sits in calm puddle, background is a turbulent river


I had swapped my Granma-care day, necessitating another early start. Light snores greeted my arrival so although Dog had stayed home I took some air by the river. Heavy rain had made it fierce. Droves of geese and swans made grumpy looking progress against it. Winter cold leached into a brisk wind; maybe fallen leaves had stolen the warmth to make their colours. I had put my camera away in order to not view the world always through a lense, nor composed into scenes. I let it jumble. But the lone swan that Granma Grace has named Derek sat contentedly in a sizeable puddle was an image I wanted to hold on to, and share.
'See,' Derek may have been saying, 'here is an example of using one's energy not for fighting the old river, but for allowing the universe to bring you a puddle sanctuary.'
'I was thinking more - make the most of what is available.'
Derek sifted water for snacks, unbothered by thoughts, whereas I went to pour coffee with a tumbling mind. 



Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Halloween Tale 2019: Ansha's Revenge



In which I bring to you, in lieu of a specific Halloween story, another bit of my current Work In Progress. I picked this chapter because it fits as a short story too, and hopefully one that intrigues you to demand the rest. This isn't the first time that Ansha has been murdered, which she doesn't remember but she does seem to be getting the hang of it, and a chance of pay back too. Chapter 34 Scarcely aware of the chair to which she is tied Ansha is lost, lost in a cold fright that is elemental, that consumes like fire.
She has tried to hold on, to listen, perhaps for a bird call.
Sometimes she has heard birds singing, a soft wind pushing through branches.
But then the door shuts.
It smells in here, like butcher's slops.
She has also heard a hum, a refrigerator.
And a voice.

‘Tell me how that feels,’ the perpetrator asks, though they must know she cannot. ‘Isn’t this the most pain you’ve ever felt?’

A phrase swells through her, a sudden heat: I do not belong to you!
And a feeling like a hand on her brow, like flowers growing.
And a calm, as though things are as they should be.
Here I am, Ansha thinks: wherever this is - I belong to me. My life belongs to me even if you steal it, you will not own it. You are talking to yourself, voice, I am not involved.
This is a game, she thinks, not my game; I don’t know how I got here but here I am.
Why me?
What did I do? I was driving, I remember. Did I crash? I don't remember.

‘There’s nothing you can do about it,’ the voice says, before agony cuts out thought.
Ansha hears the drone of the voice less and less, is aware of fading.
Her heart stops, almost with a click. It flips to numb, allows a gentle emptiness. She knows her body will not recover. She knows this is not defeat. She knows because life is so wonderful she has been clinging to it even here, because the birds have been singing, because she has claimed ownership of herself, because her assailant is trying so hard to be in control.
She can feel the hand on her forehead, the steadiness, the loving calm. There is something good here with her.
She can hear a chorus whisper: ‘You can choose to live, this won’t be the end. This is a battle and not the war; this is as much your birthing as your dying, if you wish it, if you stay true.’
She asks, silently: what happened?
‘Too much to explain to you here, Ansha; who came to be by dreams and magic, who was forged from death.’
I remember I was in my car, did I die then too - was that real?
‘It was real in that world which is a story for later; for now you must make your choice, you must fight this battle.’
‘I will win.’ Ansha smiles. ‘I win. Thank you.’ ‘Won what? And thank you? You're dead because I made it so! You - you are not in charge of this!’
The lone voice rises, walks away.
Ansha stands up, out of her body. She looks at the woman who has murdered her, and the woman stares back.
‘I didn’t say you could leave!’
Her face has a blankness to it, even in rage.
Ansha laughs and steps through the wall into a copse of trees where startled birds whir up, their singing turned to clatter. Ansha calls and the rest of the dead gather to her.

She feels their presence at first as a thickening of air, a mouldering that joins the scents of leaf mulch and pine and fresh dug earth. They are wispy as weblines, trembling into visibility. She is heartened by their shimmering, by their coming back to being.
‘What now?’ Asks a ghost boy. He is looking over his shoulder at the lock-up.
‘We do as we please.’ Ansha says. ‘What can happen to us now?’
The silence lasts for barely a beat.

In through the walls the spectres stream, spilling everything out of the refrigerator; opaque bags of flesh and bone, phials of blood. They tear up tarpaulins and let the floor soak while their murderer shrieks.
‘We do as we please,’ they taunt, and one of them whittles a mermaid into a thigh bone.
‘My femur,’ that ghost declares, ‘and now it’s art!’
Even the ceiling is slippery red; the walls flecked in bone. Skulls are being danced, scalpels brandished.
‘I did this,’ the bland faced woman shouts from the centre; ‘this is my work, my art, not yours!’

Something lands on the roof, shaking the lock-up, halting the festivities. Something with claws, with a body that drags. Flowers grow from each corner, covering the walls. The door shakes and falls to ash. One by one the dead turn into butterflies and flit through the doorway.

‘You cannot pass,’ Ansha tells the woman. ‘This door is open only to ghosts.’
The woman takes a gun from her pocket.
‘It’s nothing to me to take a new body. I have my own magic.’
Ansha steps through the door. She hears the gunshot as the door disappears, though she has no idea how she knew to tell the lie.

She leaves a half-headed ghost alone and trapped in the lock up; she leaves light and easy as a butterfly should.