Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Plots And Protagonists

As well as hunting for land, as well as finding amusement in the circumstances of care work, as well as the half-wild garden and foraging almost hunter-gatherer existence, I write stories. Little ones that I share here (Halloween and Yule, usually) and big ones that go off into books that sometimes people read.
I was busy getting part two of my 'ordinary life' trilogy into order when another story barged in and demanded to be written.
This story, which won't even give me a clear working title, was butting at me like a cheeky goat.
At first I thought it was a return of an old theme - regrets of the dying, who then construct an afterlife that completes their life learning - and it almost is. There were no clear stakes in the story, only a learning curve, until this last week when suddenly the plot burst out, and I found that my main protagonist was not the character I thought at all, and the stakes were everything.
(Part of my childhood was spent wrestling a goat, not sure if that's relevant.)
I forgave the prangs that had jolted me from sleep, I was scribbling notes that pulled together events like the death of a maybe imaginary mermaid, three goddesses on a drinking spree, a naughty chicken, and some excellent cake in many dietary variables.
This year's Halloween story may have to be an excerpt but that's enough spoilers.
This post is me breathing - is the relieved exhale.
Now all I have to do is write the book...
There may be further blog posts with titles about plot holes and tired brains and what is the name of my book please, interspersing the land hunt updates, the amusing/poignant points of care work, the observations of natural phenomena - if there is no contact from me at all assume no news is good news and, if you wouldn't mind, smile with confidence, slowly nodding your head.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Post-Equinox, A Rainbow

Wednesday 25 September 2019
Not everything gets written down - sometimes I think I’ll have a Virginia Woolf day and scribe the way thoughts wash around here. Sometimes I think I will report on all factual happenings and it would be no less absurd. Stuff about river weed, rum shots, lost shoes and breast milk: that was Saturday night, although I, blamelessly babysitting, was introduced to these circumstances early on Sunday morning. Sunday, sans sleep: scraping strength from somewhere to view my daughter’s next home, a largish cottage with a spread of neglected garden perfect for wild children and rum-weary adults.
Monday: it is the Equinox. I am at work. Co-worker, client and me sit in the car, on Falmouth’s sea-front, letting the wind rock us, listening to the rain.
Meanwhile, most other days, Mr and I clump around bogland, farmland, overpriced land, looking for our land. Yesterday the common reeds at an edge of woods shook themselves into a young roe deer. This patch would do but we either we felt no passion for it or we have become numbed to even sensible potential, even with the enticement of prancing wildlife.
On the way home we stopped to pretend we could afford to buy an old chapel - which we did love. We are not immune!
‘Bring it to us, Universe, please.’ Says I, launching another online search, finding suddenly a slew of lovable places.
Meanwhile, at the house move, I am back to babysitting, rocking a teething but smiling Grandchild 7 into a snooze while his toddler sister, sporting a jaunty facial bruise, finds a left over half-cup of tea to paint the wall with, before washing her hair and sharing the dregs with her toy pug-dog. On the way home I rescue the rusted trampette.
This morning; brave me fighting off a cough with blackberry vinegar; Dog and I take a stroll by the Exe before spending our day looking after Granma Grace.
Above the traffic laden bridge, a rainbow briefly lives.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Diary Of A Simple Week


Wednesday 11th September 2019 Dog is curled by the airer where Granma Grace’s cloths and clothes are drying. Granma is gone to bed although it is not yet 7pm, having felt unwell, and afraid of becoming too unwell to get to her bed. I would say not to worry, I can carry you there, but she would hate to be a bother to anyone and would not wish to be carried for my sake and might start not getting up at all for the fear of that.
There was a swan asleep in the garden - Derek, a regular guest - he has heaved himself away towards the river.
Two petals have fallen from the rose in the vase.
This afternoon I answered my mobile to a flow of toddlerese from Grandchild 7 who had absconded with her Daddy’s phone.
‘Hello my darling, what are you up to today?’
‘Haha phone (+ gibberish)’
‘Is Mummy there?’
‘Er? Mep?’ (Meaning yes, but she doesn’t need to interfere.)
My daughter’s voice: ‘Er, who are you phoning?’
Me: ‘Tell her it’s Granma.’
G7: ‘Nah.’
My daughter: ‘Hi Ma, me and S are rapping and cooking tea. It’s chaos but I knew all the words.’
There was music and cackling and the clank of pans. We called ‘Love You!’ and got back to our respective days.
The world is choking in the background of all this, melancholia like fog. It is hard to focus, pointless to panic. We are making tiny good choices so at least we tried. Sometimes we do things like buy new socks and feel guilty yet grateful for the opportunity to have a good day before we all get flooded or scorched. Friday 13 September 2019 This year’s Harvest Moon is behind the plum tree; the plum tree’s shadow stripes through fire-pit smoke. Flames chomp on a log from the felled ash. I am bleeding like a sacrifice, a menstrual resurgence. Wine in our glasses. Dog wags her tail over burning wood without consequence. Close to midnight and moonlit enough to wake a few hedge birds. Some other thing snuffles in the field behind. We recline our chairs. We are layered against the evening chill, not quite enough. Over the river mist is forming, ropey, shiny-white, like unspooling tripe. Now what, Moon? Is there still magic? Will it work? Tuesday 17th September 2019 Tuesday morning we get up, we do weights Boom! And the accounts Boom! We might creak out of bed at first, we might grumble: the afterglow is all worth it. There’s no witnesses but us, so we escape the crime of smugness (until this typing gets shared, then guilty.) So why write about it? To remind myself how lovely it is to be strong and healthy, to have this most excellent of fortunes. A patch of moon in the morning sky: I say, ah yes, dear Moon, I like this magic, very much. I think I will gather blackberries from our ample hedge. Autumn sun in the sky too, nary a cloud. Washing pegged out that undulates in the fine breeze. Fingertips purple from picking, I wade through nettles to the fat crop behind the shed. For over forty years I have been a fruit forager and this is the first time that a cricket has leapt out of the brambles and knocked my sunglasses from my face. It landed on my chest, slid under my t-shirt, scrambled out, jumped into the berry pot, and back to the bramble-tangle - I think I might have become an extra in an insect martial arts movie sequence. The orb spiders held to their webs. Wednesday 18th September 2019 Today it is my intention to eat all of the roasted pumpkin seeds - a particularly chewy batch so not without challenge, but simple and agreeable and it’s sunny out and all of this together makes contentment easier to reach. 

Workouts make us look like mad professors.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Progress Report: Love and Lists

We nearly bought a patch of pine woodland, all prickly and sweet-smelling and blooming with potential but not quite right for practical purpose.
Mr fell for the wetland meadow with the railway bridges, I for the land with a sea view, where the wind had buckled every tree.
The woodland was a mutual crush.

Dog loves every bit of land we find, her purpose being that much simpler. She has minimal need of shelter or planning permission or financial forecasting. Happy Dog.

At the time of writing, happy Dog is sleeping, a light huff emitting from dreams. I am daydreaming of the life we nearly had or may have had in the weird woods, or anything other than this island of Rural Planning Law upon which I have marooned myself, and where I have become like a vintage cup, a thing of privilege with fine cracks under my glaze.
I am writing this in hope of looking back and admiring.
I am writing this because there was a time when we didn’t know how we would get here.
Progress can be tired and confused. Dreams can be a labour. This I write with the shame of self-pity, as I am not made of china at all.
I love a sting of fear, revel in (mild to average) peril.
Also - however - wary (on older, wiser days) of defining myself with the struggle of this journey.
I am made of learning curves, of granite, of choices, of accidents, of rubber, of instinct and impulse. I do not require a definition.
I am pouring over property maps with a sensible face and tearing up the map of self with happy-maniacal laughter; it is possible that I need to pause here for coffee.

Coffee: cold-brewed, served in a cup-mug hybrid. A lack of pattern matching amuses my attention; the drink is dark, chocolate hinted, centring.
Perked and calmed and back to where we are with this:

Our land requirements are:
Planning potential.
Established trees, or area suitable for planting.
Space for polytunnels, sheds, charcoal kiln, sundry working areas.
Lake or potential for lake; or river.
Area suitable for wild camping.
In suitable distance of other workplaces.
We have to love it enough to graft for it. We have to remember if it does not match requirements we have chosen a different life.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Falling And Laughing

river Exe

Wipers smudge road spray from the brow of the car. Even through the last of these storm clouds a staring light necessitates dark glasses. The windows are open, finding some freshness from the warm wet ground. We are on our way to Granma Grace, Dog and I, running late, catching up time.
I had put my food bag in the foot-well at a poor angle; on arrival I find blood from Dog's food has spilt and everything needs rinsing out: my breakfast strawberries smell of butchery.

We had caught up with time - Granma was sleeping, oblivious - so we took the parking pass to the car and embarked on our routine stroll by the river, walking on a shadow strewn path past the shallow water where the summer has sprung a mush of weed and iris leaves are striking up from soft mud. Where two gulls struggle for mastery of a pigeon corpse, in full view of the other pigeons; for which I criticise the victor and it flies off.

Dog is at a nonchalant trot, smelling stories out of grass. 
Later we will find a deeper river, swim together through reflections of sky and treetops. Maybe a kingfisher will swoop, maybe dragonflies. Maybe trout will brave a swim-by. Maybe Dog will keep herself busy and not excitedly fetch sticks to me while I'm wrestling out of wet clothes in the undergrowth and do not wish to be noticed.
A swan hisses but we're out of reach.

At Granma's a clock ticks, a sleeping breath rolls gently out-in. Dog is glad to have her food. Strawberries smell like strawberries. Coffee brown and soft as mud in the mug I like with the pale pattern of roses. 
I am - again-  readying to consult the internet for news of land for sale. 
I will need more coffee and maybe a bowl of ice-water to drop my brain into.
Much as Dog sniffs findings from ground sources, every piece of land holds for us a future story direction, a mass of potential for joy and/or desperation.
In truth I am ashamed of finding this process difficult. Our means are meagre or amazing, depending on the financial privilege of the onlooker. We have made a simplifying list: a need for water, power, access, trees, isolation, affordability; which has thwarted our hearts cursedly now, but of course we will be glad of it... eventually... Sometimes the adventure is squashed by the responsibility we have to the dream becoming real. There is climate emergency, there is political chaos enabling horror: how to be sure we are combating that? Sometimes the reality is threatened by the power of the dreams, the fun we can have: though fun is essential. Sometimes I remember that the difficulty is part of the adventure: is the very peril I thrive upon: I should not have forgotten.

Later, maybe, when we're walking, Dog and I, we will find a suitable tree. I will practice balancing, remember my rules to live by (courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit). I will know that life rarely lacks regret, but here too should be balance: it is possible to enjoy doing what you shouldn't have done: it is all part of your story and your flow of learning.
I will think of the river and how stagnation breeds poison.
I will be lost in laughter if I fall, and, dear reader, you will be welcome to join me.

River swim at Plymbridge

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Hedgebirds And The River Jump

It was the second time I had witnessed this death.
A small bird, a hedge bird, skimming traffic, mistimed.
The first time I heard the thunk, saw the bird spin. This second time I see the body, the size of my fist, hit the road's edge; I see the last breaths drawn in; breaths that seem bigger than the body. 
A sadness strikes through me: for the creatures' fate, for the parallel with the plight of earth; a heavy hold of it.
All day I cannot be comfortable, cannot find peace with it.

Inaction seems like inertia, seems the wrong surrender.
But what action is required: how to push this weight? How to use it?
To make a pendulum and keep hope?
I take my sun-heated brain to the river to think.
It will be different for each of us, says brain, from the willow's shade, though maybe the crux is the same: along the waterway comes a decisive breeze, trailing its weather-fingers through leaves, stirring the river's surface where beady eyed fish pop up to swallow gnats, where kingfishers dart to stab up fish, where storm-felled trunks stick out leafy growths - fuelled by what? And why?
I look.
This instinct towards life has common root. This is the comfort the river brings.
Even in the murk, under the weed, in the mud, bubbles are streaming up.
There's probably more to it, says brain, but please now may I have a nap?
So we walk home, making our cooled feet dusty, and rest.

Art, says brain (quoting Tolstoy) is a hammer, not a mirror.
Rest has been restorative, says I, recovering myself, recovering love, regathering my river kit.
I raise myself - above the river pool, on the little poser's ledge - leaping (taking my dull throbbing fear of heights with me) and jump.
A hammer can swing, and spark joy - retaliative, effervescent!
And with those thoughts we will march: towards the beautiful strike, where the hammer breaks the fear and we dare.

In my garden, hedge birds sing and hop, and nourish the ground, while the river wet t-shirt drips from a line. I'm not a natural diver, I tell them, but the hopeful leap is a worthy start. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

A Rainbow Strikes

June is rolling by, awash, so everyone has forgotten that it's summer now. 
This morning I peered into the vegetable plots, into the swaying minarets of onion buds, the splay of cabbage seed pods, not sure if the raspberries were the summer or the autumn kind. 
Lovage flowers, tiny spray on tall stems; lavender in bud: summer.
Wild strawberries and rose petals in the dehydrator and the windows open to better hear the thunder: summer.
After an evening swim one must wrap up: always. 

I am busy writing a story that seems to be running in rings about me, I am busy wild swimming to clear my head; working to pay the bills, reading up on rural planning law to wrestle reality from a dream. Picking the roses, the strawberries, the onion flowers. Tending the cabbage bed. 
Standing still when I remember: see the swallows swoop by.
Or floating, bobbing up toes, while each rain drop ripples out.
Or that stop on the beach, while I am looking ridiculous with a towel on my head; two lumpy layered jumpers, damp jeans, barefoot; a rainbow strikes through darkening cloud. 

Monday, 13 May 2019

Grandchild 7


Waiting, yes. A particular kind of waiting like a string pulled.

This week I have been looking after Granma Grace, we call it our Girlie Sleepover time.
Grace holds this tautness most of the time, close to the bones of her. If I made representative art I would play with the idea of a pulled string twined with blooms - roses, tulips, cyclamen, all colours bold and pretty.
This day the wait has a clear focus. We are waiting for baby news.
Outside it rains heavy.
We watch geese cross the lawn and leave again as though they had discovered something. We hear machinery whirr next door and workmen chattering.
I have to recharge my phone twice from looking: no news.


Granma has stirred and gone back to sleep this morning, for rest calls her more and more. While she sleeps in her bed her foot tapping stops, while she sleeps in her chair it activates. I leave her have a lie in for this reason. Eighty-nine years to process, physical decline from age and stroke damage to accept.
Last night she sighed, 'I wish I had a Mummy to hug me and tell me everything will be all right.'

Luckily I am a mummy, so we could put this right. She laughed at her self: all frail, all loved.
News comes of slow progress - last time this took five days, we remember.
My stepdaughters arrive with flowers and teacakes. Sun pours in. Granma wakes and needs her dark glasses on. She's eating her breakfast in a room full of family. There's a nice cup of tea, there's yellow roses and purple iris.
The vases here are rarely empty.


Slow progress still, so I go to work. All the childcare is coordinated, in place through to Tuesday, just in case. I have my phone, which is old and glitchy. I tell my co-worker, so she knows why I am lingering over my phone. We take our care client out for some fresh air. We sit outside a cafe and I watch a man shake out change for a hot pasty. He holds it like the only good thing that has happened in his life. I wonder what his story is, where it began, if it will find better fortune. Today he is sat on a bench in the sunshine, in a brisk breeze, with hot food.
My phone has nothing to say.
We head for sea air. At Par the sand is glittery. Sun skims gold on the facets of waves. Happy dogs dart. Seabirds gather on a shaded rock. Seaweed twists in the water, moves in drifts, sea-confetti.
No news. I send reports of no news back to Grace. Both of her feet will be twitching by now.
We head for the market, to dally where there's bright things and music and the air is sizzling with onion and spices.
My phone has a photo loading. Me and my coworker are in the Food Hall staring and Oh!
We meet Grandchild 7, with his crumpled rosy face, his calmly stirring fingers.

Here's our new boy with one of his big sisters :-)

Tuesday, 7 May 2019


Summation of my blog posts:
- Weather
- Birds are singing
- Coffee
- Look, words

Today is no great exception; wavy minded, grey glare sky, geese-clatter lost under the roll of the washing machine and the volume of royal baby coverage that Granma Grace is entertained with, empty mug number 3, novel outline on a bit of foraged paper. 
It's hard to think so maybe I should take this as a sign.
A bolt of sun drops through the window. There's pink blossom wobbling on a potted bush. Daisy dots across the lawn, a backdrop of swaying willow. Grace is snoozing through the adverts, tapping her feet as she does for all the things that are going or may yet go wrong for the whole of the world, everything from a stain on your shirt to the sixth mass extinction. In balance of this she also is happy for everyone. If you are feeling anything less than splendid, she is sending you a hug right now, and love, and a biscuit/piece of fruit/check the cupboard, take what you fancy. 

Later I will do the Serious Writing. 
For now, make lunch, drink water, eye the flora, tidy up the expectations.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Difference

camper van at sunrise, on the cliffs, Widemouth Bay

Ten years of talking, I think, before the camper van dream was dragged to reality. Not just talking - lots of working lots of hours, and meanwhile making other plans and working for those too until the world was swimming in front of my tired eyes and I had to sit down. 
Sit and dream of living in a quiet field, planting trees, making foraged soups and syrups.
We have the van, which may never be finished, being a learning project. 
We have plans which if you took them out of our heads would fill a hangar. There are alterations for variables and equations of 'if this, then that, if not, then this other way' and it is tricky to keep track of where we are going. The underlying why is the desire to live in nature, and to be part of not letting the world be ruined.
In April last year we collected the van. It stunk of diesel and promptly developed an electrical fault. Today it is crammed full of - I'm not actually sure. It is being a temporary shed. But it works, we make good use of it. Two grandchildren have been with us for overnight camping adventures, the rest are pending. We go to the beach and get cold and cook tea, and #vanlife, and it annoys us and we love it.
It is tricky to keep track, with all the working and the planning. 
We are shopping for land now.
We have a list of requirements which we must adhere to, lest we be lost in impractical beauty. 
We have confused faces, not expecting this to be actual.
We are shopping for land now...

Dog in the River Otter
This was Dog's favourite site. Vetoed for poor access, alas.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

At The Start Of The Day

Happy dog on the riverbank, Exeter

Day began unwelcome but I was the one who had set the alarm. I made coffee and peace with myself, opened the door for Dog to slink out, let the birdsong in.
Looked up.
Grey sky - the marbled kind, like smoke frozen.
And the sun bled upwards, orange-gold, worshipped by field flowers.

Most preparations had been done the day before; clothes set out, bags packed with food, laptop, notebooks, comfort things like a wallet and more notebooks and spare pens. The dog walking bag which slings easily about the shoulders. Water bottle. The right keys. 
The drive is good, with this sky to view and smooth moving queues, and Dog settles in the boot as she recognises the journey to Granma Grace's house. There is even a parking space near to the house, a rare treat. One with room to reverse in and still get the boot opened and let Dog leap out, tail at full whirr. 
We sneak in to get the parking pass - hear a light snoring which is the noise of All's Well. 
Put the pass in the car; I have the dog walking bag, my keys, a phone for taking pictures. The right shoes to negotiate mud and goose poop. 
Dog gives me cause to fish out a poo-bag... Of which there are none. There is the empty packet, so I improvise. 
Ten steps later Dog squats into position again. It is not a urination squat. 
Children play here. People come walking. The willows sigh and the river runs and the swans are majestic and the moorhen is terribly cute. It is no place to abandon responsibility. 
Back to an unwelcome experience. I will spare you, dear reader, too many details as long as you can understand that I was innovative and heroic in my construction of a miniature stretcher, and successful in reaching the bin to dispose of all unpleasantness.
Dog and I could then run the gamut of geese along the river path, and find her a place to swim. 
We could admire the reflections, the bold graffiti that brightens up concrete inside the bridges, the nervous-aggressive edge of pigeons staring out from behind spikes (that, presumably, prevent their droppings from streaking the murals?) 
Gull noise hammers at the sky till the grey flattened out. Traffic burbles over bridges. 
A tidy man perched at the verge-side with a rucksack at his feet puts down his cider can to roll a cigarette. He watches Dog, smiling. He looks like he has stories but we have a job to do and coffee in a flask that is calling me, so Dog is dried off with a quick jaunt over grass, and we hustle back to Granma's, feeling adventured.

Willow tree, River Exe, dog walking

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Tidy Up Time

Oh gods - how long had the house been so terrible?
We have been cleaning it, our distractions wrestled till there was room for tidier habits. Vacuuming has evolved to a regular sound; vacuuming through a shrinking floor space. Boxes of stuff: bottles for syrups, display cloths, kitchen kit for the van; the usual clutter of punch-pads and breaking boards, the pile of foraged cloth for projects.
It all has purpose, it all lacks organisation. We have crowded ourselves out of our home, crowded our time with doing: we have got used to it and irritable with it. Little by little we have stopped using our impeded desks. Then last Friday I was closing my eyes, except I was driving, and then stopped my car to breathe night air, afraid. Enough. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, these were all booked for work. On Tuesday there was room for rest, by which I mean I was gifted a day without needing to look at a clock, without obligation. After coffee, no need to be at home, clutter-haunted. Stuffed the car with fuel, jollied off to Tavistock with my best brogues and gaudiest coat. Rifled charity shops for a stack of books, a jumper in twists of pink and purple, a green pashmina, two vintage brooches; rested my bones with carrot cake and more coffee, sat swinging my feet on a cushioned bench. I bought a half round of creamy goat in Country Cheeses. Headed home, so laden, so richly indulged. Mrs Millionaire. Sat down, fell asleep. Woke to the sound of rain. Swapped town clothes for country, took Dog to get muddy. Tilted my face to the sky at the top of the hill. Then it was me, and the house, and - look at the clock or not - it was time. And before my eyes went closing again, the office had become habitable. Oh gods! My arms are aching. Typing hurts. But the next room is calling. There is a level of tidiness required for the mess to remain in play.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Wandering The Coffee Dunes

coffee, writing, tired, life, fresh air, springtime

I went to bed late, woke up early. It's warm for February so while the kettle fizzed I opened up windows. Birdsong flitted in. I found the last scoop of coffee in the emergency pot. Soft, fine powder and for a while I imagine a coffee dune and what sort of erratic foliage would tug a living there?

(Answers appreciated - flora and fauna. I have a twitchy spider that looks like bonbons...)
Sat in bed, lap top propped to never quite the right height. I've been working on chapters that are like a crazy patchwork and just trusting that they'll balance better than my keyboard and not result in carpal tunnel syndrome. 
Musty-coffee coating my tongue. 
How long has that pot been lurking? 
Birdsong, blue sky...
The answer is, get your hammock slung up. 
Because of the tired way I am dropping and forgetting stuff, and drinking strong but muddy water. 
Fresh air, rest. 
Find your way then.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Meet The Goddess 1

Dragon stories

Update: the question of appropriation sat heavy. I went away and did some research and some long hard staring at colonialism in particular. Because this story arrived as a dream I had let it be, as though one's unconscious mind would be free of all complicity. What an idiot! But consequently wiser, rewriting the whole book, and finding the plot to be revising itself. I have three invented (admittedly similar, but this repetition of types is common to most mythologies) Goddesses now, one for chaos, one for order, one for compassion. Currently leaving this post up because mistakes and misfootings happen, it feels wrong to pretend they don't. And I loved Makari so much! He's a lizard now, still grumpy, and unnamed. Original post: Another excerpt and another cry for attention here: firstly, how's my writing? This is first draft stuff and can take a hit, please be honest! Secondly I am drawing on existing deities, so I am using their names and while there are precedents for this, am I appropriating? These goddesses (there are three of them) turned up with the story - one to sit with you in times of pain, one to say how to put things right, and one to bring the compassion and love to endure all karmic trials - so I could make up names. Maybe I am overthinking/over caffeinated. Anyway - here is the introduction to our first goddess and I need to go sort out compost.

Over the broad domes of their temple a vast sun is rising, creating a shadow temple that ripples across the river. Through shadow palm trees swims a sinewy, shaggy headed dragon, smoothing out limbs, eyes half shut, a hint of red at the edge of each pointed tooth which is just the sun’s fire reflecting. It breathes in and out deeply, slowly, blowing bubbles in the muddied water, smiling, stirring the mist that lingers on the riverbank. Birdsong shrills. Large flowers, heavy with colour, begin to open; bright birds seem bee-sized next to those bold petals. Night colours roll away to a vignette.

In their temple, the first to stir is Akhilanda. Her name means She-Who-Is-Never-Not-Broken. She has been waking and un-waking all night, as she does every night; hearing every scuttle of the mice, every stir of night wind, every cry of every creature.
Her scarce sleep when it came would come to her as though she had dissolved, and waking would be like swimming up through ink.
When she is lying awake, every pain you have ever felt, she feels. It breaks her, over and over. This is why her skin is dark volcanic rock, finely cracked. Inside she is made of light, a shifting bloom of compassion: a quality of light more than a colour or level of intensity.
Akhilanda looks at her hands.
A light that makes them feel whatever it is they need to heal the wounds without the scars making them brittle; she thinks this sentence every morning, it stops the pain from driving her to madness. It does not stop her being tired or grouchy, she adds, to herself, so it would be best to get up and get some coffee brewing.
Her crocodile, Makari, is grumpy too: Makari is always this way.
She pushes her arms up to the sun’s warmth, rolling her thin cover to the floor where Mak is lurking. He grunts and snaps. She stands and sets her cover back on the flat sandstone of which her bed is made. Every morning she must stretch and realign her limbs.
‘Ugh,’ she says. ‘It isn’t easy, Makari, being like this. I am like a loose jigsaw puzzle.’ She takes up her broom and sweeps the floor, as best she can with a crocodile shuffling about. ‘It isn’t easy, with you being in the way either!’
He sneezes the dust pile into a cloud.
Makari’s fat haunches sway indignantly towards the yard, taking her irritation with him. Akhilanda watches his progress, eyes shining. From her doorway she can see the shaded yard, the low wall, the palm tops, the sky. She hears the birdsong, feels the cool of the river in the air. She can smell dust and a rise of humidity.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019


How we might perceive the world

*A Work In Progress

There's a book that is demanding to be written. All my work is bossy like that, but this one more than any previous endeavours. It is kicking its way out, then throwing itself like a possessed jigsaw. All I have to do is put it together. 
This particular piece of it is from the point of view of a person with a profound congenital disability, and hopefully gives a voice where a voice would not easily be found. I don't know where it will fit in the big picture. Anyway, feedback appreciated... 

The ‘I’ that is writing this does not exist.
No one can know what I can or cannot articulate, what it is that I know, even if I know myself at all: as you could not articulate the difference as you passed from unborn to born, but only react, involuntary.
So this ‘I’ is a supposition.
There are sheets of medical words to explain this condition. And there is this ‘I.’

Life was a dream to be woken into, a beat of hearts, a warmth we did not process: we only knew it was different when air entered our lungs and our bodies unbundled.
Nor did we know ‘we,’ nor do I know it now.
There is a loneliness of which I may not be aware. Maybe that first missing is with me still. I cannot tell you.

Existence was physical. Air in lungs. Noise. Light. What sense I made of it - it is not translatable. Something was summoned from me by external stimuli.

The world of sight was - is - light and blurs. I am named blind but light - the sparkling kind, the flickering, I will follow that. I can reach a hand to a thing, hold, caress, reject, fling.
To touch - is this a counter to isolation?
When the rain blows in my face, I am smiling. Laughing. This joy is observable. Do I mean you to observe it?
I cannot tell you.

Sound is hearing and feeling. I will pluck a string and press my face to the vibration.
Here I seem content, self-contained, missing nothing.

When something feels wrong - a pain, an unhappiness, I cannot tell - I will thrash my arms. No voice comes from me. Indigestion, ennui, migraine, same thrash.
Here I seem locked in, attempting to escape.

Questions, answers, sticky weblines.
How different we are, how alike. How any ‘I’ can be a supposition, invention, brought to exist, ceased to exist. How fickle existence is unless our attention is mindful.
How the blow of rain can wake us.

Thursday, 3 January 2019


trinkets, memories, china cups, family memorabilia, grief, happiness

Granma Grace has weathered five or more (the doctors are not certain) strokes; she has a confusion that thickens as the day goes on, a deepening layer of impending doom. She has a foot that twitches, even while she sleeps, with this certainty of worry. Something somewhere is wrong, or will go wrong. That’s one layer out of many though: optimism is not obliterated, gratitude abounds, the love of simplicity: draw the curtains back, she will wait for the birds to alight on well stocked feeders. She will ask that the little cat who warms on the step be fed a treat. She will check the sky for the beautiful weather about to happen. She will love to go for a walk, however brief. Sometimes she cries for the loss of independence, quiet tears. She says she does not know how to repay us for our kindness in looking after her. Mock-strict I tell her this is prepaid love, and there’s a very healthy balance on this account. She blooms into laughter - it’s so good, it gifts me a halo. Today as the curtains are pulled across there is a lone swan waddling about her garden. He was here yesterday too, and had tried to follow me into the house when I fetched the washing in. He is a widower, she says, he visits here alone always. He nearly came to tea with us, I tell her, but I shut the door because those things can poop a pile! Yes, she giggles, that would not be good. I watch it graze, and walk at ease through the goose-gaggle that arrive later. Granma Grace drops into a deep nap, feet elevated in the recliner chair, legs blanket wrapped, foot a-twitch. I am staring from the window still. I see a magpie hopping (one for sorrow, as the old rhyme goes) I say, yes, Magpie, I know. If I see another (two for joy, as the old rhyme goes) I will laugh - that too, I will say. The good with the bad. (Like a flower in midwinter. Like our prepaid love.) I see a brightening of cloud. Hear myself think: After all the terrible facts have been met, dear Grace, dear All, what will have we become? What breaks us, makes us: if we will bend, we will bloom again. Life is not meant to be unbroken. We must learn how to be broken. We must learn that we are not broken, that is not the right word. We are works in progress, unfinished always. At the end of a life you see a wholeness, an alpha to omega circle. You can hold that up to the light, admire it: but it is not really finished. Memory connects. Love connects. What connects, affects. What affects, continues. No wonder we love the weather so; the tides. Connect. Affect. Continue.

widower, swan, grief, happiness, memory, perception, love

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Down With Maps And Plans

Van, adventure, Dartmoor, life, family time
Once we were on the beach, though not planned, swimming was obvious. Wellies off, socks off; just having a paddle in this clear water, it's not so cold, we should go out deeper... Leggings off, wade out oops, a wave rises. Now me and Dog are swimming, not walking. Floating fur blurs her edges. My dress darkens, green-black, moves like kelp-fronds. We are lost to the elements awhile. After this dip I wrap up, skin a-tingle, pinked, glowy.
No one is surprised, except the owner of the spaniel that peed on the wet clothing I dumped on the shore. Oops!

Back at Granny’s house I am peppered in sand, laughing. If I take off my socks there'll be a dune in here. We all warm up with tea, and more laughing. Me and little niece use fuzzy felt to create a goat headed farmer, a horse headed pig, a pig headed cow: then we name the imaginary objects we are throwing at each other.
Slice of panettone. Tea.

Tired from laughing, tired from a long shift finished that morning.

Mr does the driving, we go home to change clothes and vehicles. We have a plan.
We will take the van for the night, park up, in the morning take a swim. We will look for a place named Crazywell Pool, which we’ve been waiting for a chance to discover.
It is dark as we head across the moors; the map is taking us down tiny soggy roads, more tracks than roads, grassed over, boulder strewn. We decide to turn back. We take a short cut to Burrator, following the same map to a lane where there’s a tree branch down, so rather than risk being stuck we promptly reverse the van’s rear tyres into the mud from which they cannot escape.
There is no phone signal, no internet.
No amount of jacking up wheels, nor building bespoke roads of stone or branch, or formerly pristine van mats, will create the necessary traction.
Torch batteries run out. We abandon self rescue in favour of getting the bed set up, (slight tilt, seems sleep-able) and open the emergency wine.
Dog is having the best time, running after owls and foxes, fetching sticks. She sleeps soundly.
We sleep a bit.

Daylight seeps through tall pines, and one old beech tree fixed in curves.
One historically important barn solid beside us.

After coffee and a few more tries at rudimentary road building we manage, with gymnastic balancing atop of a stile, to get a text message to a friend, and then one back, and so on, till, eventually, the rescue van was dispatched. I chased it down, waving a high-visibility jacket: nearly burst a wild pony with surprise hollering. Sorry, pony.

A mere sixteen hours or so after our accidental park-up, there's no time (or energy) for swimming.
Not too late to get to Plymbridge Woods to walk with granddaughters. If we can find it...
Again the map is thwarting though we did not get wedged or sunk merely perambulated in unnecessary circles, arrived on the wrong side of the river.
Walked over the bridge, up the hill. Legs reluctant.
Grandchild 3 waving at us - opening arms for a warm big hug. She doesn't throw those hugs around, this is a real welcome.

Even so, the inner monologue is grumbling: so tired... so fed up, plans not working and this is my one day off and the stupid maps…

Ah, but this hug, it's not perfunctory. A grand press.
And there’s Grandchild 5, peering around her ice-cream, puckered up, and I lean down for a sticky snotty kiss and a smile, and a little hand takes hold of mine.
‘Come on Granma,’ she says, like I was here yesterday but this two year old hasn’t seen me since when- September? October? When they moved away.
Granma does as she’s told, follows two of her counted blessings along the river trail; salt on skin, mud on boots.

(Dog has the best time, in and out of the river. Sleeps for days. Makes no plans. A world mapped in scent and instinct.)