Thursday, 7 December 2017

Wasp And Map

So, where are we?

There’s a wasp in the bathroom again, wandering on foot, has an air of lost yet determined.
Can relate. I photographed it.

Where was it we wanted to be?
Can’t recall. Mostly we have dropped the habit of expectation. There does need to be space for spontaneity. 
A map point check, that’s what we need.

We had started out on this journey, let’s presume a mountainous route, not on the mountain at all, but way below sea level.
Mountains were myths. 
Nevertheless, we trudged upwards.
Trudge is an apt word. Eyes almost shut, one foot at a time, weary, that word holds the feeling well.

Don’t be sorry for us though, we also had good coffee and places to go wild swimming, and car park picnics, and belly laughs.

And a sort of destination.

A bit of land to call our own. A house we built. A sanctuary. I want a lake, and woods, and probably a pirate ship, and a hillbilly hot tub, a sauna made of old tyres - it’s all so real in my head, but we’re not there yet, we shouldn’t over-design it.

The route is mysterious. Mist shrouded.
Planned and unplanned, events help, hinder, help, hinder.
Make a guess.
Brave the step.
You get the picture.

As less and less of this year is left, it’s a natural reaction to look around, check co-ordinates.
SO: after a slew of working 70-100 (plus!) hours, and still growing vegetables, and still writing books, and being (a bit) tearfully delirious, I find myself here…
Business school course: done. We’re on to the mentoring phase now. Intending to start to a charcoal business, diversified into foraged syrups. All to fund the land, these enterprises, without ruining the earth.
Work: slowed down to an average 48 hours per week. All 15 modules of a shiny new care work certificate completed too. Smug: but I rushed it, might need more effort yet.
Garden: red sprouts in season. We love them. Limes aplenty on the polytunnel’s most iconic tree.
Books: one got published, I remember. I did that. Next couple in process. Written, need re-writing, as many times as it takes.
Teaching: been an Assistant Instructor (with the Tae Kwon-Do Association of Great Britain) for years, have recently, somehow, survived the requirements to gain my full Instructor certificate. Not sunk in yet, this news.
Family: lots. Bonkers. Grandchild 1 is weeks away from being 8 years old. 2 just earned her 9th Kup belt. 3 wants a works van. 4 is in love with her book advent calendar. 5 is coming out of her clingy phase. 6 can’t wait to pile in.

Idyllic, on the whole, lingering exhaustion and the state of the kitchen aside (#many have eaten here, few have died) the trudge makes us appreciate it all the more. 
Not boastful, not bragging: grateful, and surprised at what we’ve got.

Last night, after class, I sat in our car, our smelly, dirty car, listening to the irregular percussion of rain, watching a line of beech leaves, how they snaked in the strong fingers of the wind - and it was, surely, exactly where I needed to be.

I don’t know where the wasp went. I wish it well.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

November Cold

Poorly me sat in bed, looking through a window:
I see the grey-stone shed has chartreuse lichen and one tawny leaf stuck in the centre of a wobbly tile: all the roof looks like the teeth of a doddery monster. There's a job to be done before winter storms in and floods out the dodgy electrics.
Roof dentist.
I see drab olive clouding the polytunnel - it needs washing, so what there is of winter's light can filter through, keep our greens growing.

Later, when my cold-head clears, none of that will trouble me; nor the rat burrow newly appeared under the compost bins, nor the pruning or the planned adventures with miscible oils, or setting out the fruit cage frame which should have been done months ago. So I will not fret.

Patience for resting is a new skill.
I shan't say I've mastered it. The dusting got done, and the carpets swept, rosehips brewed, and maybe I did flavour some sugars, and wring the juice from an orange. And one load of laundry. Perhaps.

The air is like a reverse heat haze, not quite rain, not quite mist, a sort of smudge and glimmer. I'm watching plumes of fir darken to silhouettes, and how the fence is lost under ivy, and how the wooden slats on the big shed have weathered in. It looks like an upturned barge.

There's bare twig in the back hedge, new growth in the field beyond.
Dormancy, winter brings: potent in pause.

Friday, 24 November 2017

An Incomplete Review

Here’s the introduction to the book I have almost succeeded in reading this month:

‘We live, we love. We laugh and grieve and learn and grow. Life is a forge that burns away the surface, strengthens the core, and reveals the soul. This collection of essays and memories plunges through more than a decade of the beautiful struggle that is marriage and parenthood and finding one’s self amidst the tangle of both. This journey weaves joy and sorrow, passion as well as isolation, into a tapestry that makes such an ordinary life, more splendid than its solitary threads.’

Note especially: ‘collection of essays and memories.’

Available on Amazon:
where there is no mystery about the publisher:
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 3, 2016)

I bought it because I very much liked the blog it sprang from, Splendour In A Plastic World.
Plus the author bought my book and I also like reciprocity.

There are eight reviews listed, seven giving five stars.
I haven’t entirely finished reading the book, but it is as it claims to be - real, from the heart, attention to life. I am jealous of the cooking skills, if anything, and do see here and there that it is a tangle, there’s room for a bit of trim - if it were a story book, but acceptable for essays and memories. I think it’s fair to say that if you don’t take to the introduction, if live, love, laugh, grieve, grow, and forges and souls and tapestries, aren’t to taste, then you probably won’t like this book. Overall it has the feel of sitting down with a friend (hopefully she’s invited us for dinner) and it has engaged and entertained me so far.
(Not the book’s fault I haven’t completed it - tired, busy times!)

Then, there is a one star review:
‘I'm not sure how this got published, unless it was self published. There was clearly no editing done. The rambling, trite, painfully awkward sentence structures made me physically ill. The author seems to think that I am as interested in her shallow attempt at appearing introspective as she is. I will be using this...this...abomination as a teaching tool to encourage students to edit. To the author, if you feel you have something to say, say it, Then go back and dress it up, if you Must. You have failed utterly to compel me to read further. In fact, I found you through your blog, which I believed was a parody account. Never have I been so horrified to realize that someone took themselves seriously. While I do not want you to give up, I will not sugar coat this: try harder. Better luck next time.’

Wow. Clearly it was not the right style for that reader, but why did they not pay attention to description of the book in the first place? Or ID the self publishing platform, since the publication was such a mystery to them?

However, the following response to that comment provides a clue:
‘Your review took me by surprise. Having read the book and reading the other reviews as well as mine that are polar opposite of yours, I could not understand what prompted such a negative review from you; that is until I did a search of your name in face book and noticed that you are friends with the authors ex-husband who happened to lose a court hearing on the same day your review appeared. You must be a very close friend to him to be willing to compromise your own integrity by writing a review that is inaccurate and fictional. I also noticed in your review that you will be using this book as a "teaching tool", I'm guessing your "students" are as fictional as your review since your occupation is listed as an "office assistant" and your previous work as a "massage therapist". 1 person found your review helpful... I feel certain it was the authors ex-husband.’

There is no reply to this response.

I don’t personally know the people involved. I don’t like to judge people when I haven’t given hearing to their story. I think it is fair to say though that when an opinion is given one should be honest and also polite, if one is to be taken seriously, or one has effectively broadcast one’s trollhood to the world.

(I edit as well as I can: my words, and my self. I welcome help with both.)

I didn’t quite fulfil my assignment this month, but this book had an unexpected extra bit of story to it, and I couldn’t resist a share. 

Blog hop post! Check out the Cephalopod for a full list!

Friday, 10 November 2017


I was driving, at night, down a country road into a lit street; the dashboard lights had broken so I was keen to check fuel levels and such: when I saw the rain, the uncountable droplets, the illusion of steadiness - had I never seen this before? 

It seemed not.
Silver streams hitting tarmac, splintering, glittering.
The light, the liquidity together formed something like a living jewel. 
And this merely part of a cycle, rain, surface water, evaporation, cloud, just how our planet pours with resources.
If you are chasing beauty, I think you will get lost. 
If your wealth can be scraped into a heap, made a throne of, I think you will be alone.
This is my status symbol - me in the rain being amazed - anyone can be here.
We can be amazed together.
All the way home I was driving, rapturous, a little bit cautious with the blanked out dash, in need of nothing. 

In need of nothing, but thinking still – of every sacrifice that it took to build this world in which I drive this car on this road, which deserves the dignity of official days, which we must never forget, and always count blessings, or at least begin to. 
Thinking still – how each life is a liberty to be lost or gained, and there is more to be done till we can stand on our one earth, at peace, truly in awe. We all could have true wealth, true beauty.
Remember, and act in accordance.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Halloween (-ish) Tale 2017

No scariness in here, this story is inspired by the Samhain festival, and the time of year when one may meet with the dead. No zombies, no ghosts, not even a black cat in here! Contains melancholy only. Read without fear!

Sula In The Garden

When you feel the pull, you'll know.
The first time she heard of this she was an eavesdropping child, not supposed to know anything, wanting to know everything, not able to sit still under the table where it was dim and cramped and toast crumbs stuck to her legs.
Her aunts and her mother would hiss, 'Little ears!'
A warning to each other that a child was in earshot.
Sula smiles.
They knew she was there, of course; she can see the memory on a wider screen now, she can stand where the women are gathered, the tea cups and toast plates dotting the tablecloth, the crumbs speckling random and correlated, like constellations.
They would change topic, ask decoy questions: when shall we go to the park, sister?
And she would know not to ask what they really spoke of, because she was smart like that, a thinker, and she didn’t want to be found at their feet.
Little by little, years crept, and she did not fit under the table. She loitered, needing a drink, a snack, a hug, an opinion on the weather, a fuse for a plug.
Her aunts, then her mother, little by little, began to speak to Sula about the Garden.
Do not seek it, do not avoid it. It will find you. It will happen.
You will know, they said, there'll be no need to ask how. You'll feel the pull.
But your garden will not look like any other, so we cannot tell you more.

She looks at the wrought and rusted gate, paint flecked, gothic: she had always liked those kind of hinges, that kind of old melancholia. It was her gate, but it could have been here for a hundred years, could have seen thousands of people, all those life stories passing through. Of course, a gate would symbolise connection, wouldn't it?
She smiles.
She pushes the iron open, hears it sing. Perfectly pitched hinges.
And the wall, grey granite, gloomy, a walled garden, it is the one she had dreamt of, exactly the one.
'I did know.’
Sula puts a hand to cold stone, and then puts her hand on her cheek, feeling the cold transfer.
‘But if I know, why do I have to be here, to see what I know is here?'
There is a question she forgot to ask.

The hinges sing shut. Mist lays lightly on thick hedges, on thick-mossed paths.
It is neither day nor night.
For a moment she forgets which path to follow. She hears the water, silver toned.

She can hear Aggie: her six year old best friend.
Six and a half years.
Aggie was older - she was - until the boat tipped.
And even now Sula says to herself: did that really happen?
Aggie had a particular laugh, high-toned, pleasant. It's easy to hear.

Sula steps around a green corner, finds the pool she knows is waiting. It is deep, deep enough to reach down, to link up with oceans, though it's flat as a mirror.
'I know you are here, Aggie,' she says: 'should I have saved you? Should I have known?'
I feel guilty, she thinks; I can't help it. I couldn't have known, and it doesn’t matter, I still feel guilt.
When I was six I didn't understand. I knew what death was but you couldn't be dead, because you were just here, we ate ice cream.
But you were gone.
And you are gone.
We can talk to the dead, for ourselves. Our purposes, not theirs - what they had is dispersed.
But Aggie, I do not want to forget. That would be traitorous. I can't get you back, but I will meet your memory here.
Sula feels sun on her face, smells the melt of ice cream. She sits at the pond edge, quiet, till the pull returns.

Many paths: you follow the pull. And if this is your garden only? The paths are things not yet done? A multiverse of potentials?

A patch of grass abuts the hedge, housing a glass case, in which lies a locket.
Ah, yes. Here you are.
Love, rejected.
What could have been - that life!
What I thought that life would have been… Oh, it hurt, to lose.
It used to hurt.
Like I fell, the loss was the falling, the nothingness, the ground gone!
And then landed, bruised.
What felt so fatal, wasn't.
The ground was there all along.
'You,' Sula says, 'you I can let go of. You don't have to come back.'
She feels lighter, and absentmindedly dusts off her legs.
She feels the pull.
One more.

One more but the hedge opens out to a small field of bumped, kempt grass, like a graveyard without headstones. This she did not recall from her dream, it makes her jump.
'Well,' she says, aloud for bravado, 'room for future losses, I suppose?'
Not losses, her mother had told her, not really. You learn, you gain, my lovely daughter, you see. And you cannot really regret a good education, can you?

No, Mother.

Sula's last memorial object is the kitchen table of her own childhood home. Where her aunts and her mother drank their tea and always knew where to find a new fuse for an old plug.

This time, it was me that left. Packed up and left my home. And took this travelling path, and don't know if that was right, or smart, or what will be in this place next year. My mother, my aunts: I think they have this table too, in their gardens, the one the children gathered at.
Aggie was there too. We stole biscuits!
Sula catches a laugh and a sob in her throat together.
‘Next year I could bring biscuits,’ she says, ‘we can have a picnic. Your mother, she gave us a bag of sweets, but we were so greedy!’

Sula recalls Aggie’s mother; they had a table too, and more children: how her heart must ache, and carry on.
Would she have an empty place set? A wild flower, in a beautiful vase?

There is nothing on the table in front of Sula. She is glad of it. She will not forget to call home.
‘To see isn’t always to know,’ she says.
She walks back to the path, the green velvet shadow of a path, trailing her fingers in the dark hedge.