Thursday, 31 May 2012

My Own Kind Of Beautiful

Engines running, while wheels are stuck static in a traffic rut. I spy a scale of negative facial arrangements. Blank. Bored. Submissive. Resigned. Irritated. Aggravated. Angry. Here and there, music plays, a happy carload bounces with seated dances and karaoke voices howl from wound down windows. My guess is correct. They are indeed, young people. I hope they can keep this feeling, not as a nostalgia; as a sustained part of their older lives.
My least favoured expression; on a face, in a voice, lurking in a mind; is dissatisfaction. It is the enemy of appreciation.
Mr is facing the enemy today, trying to track down a parcel, following a trail of expensive unhelpful phone numbers. He is already irritated. On a number of occasions I too have made a customer service manager feel like they have earned their annual salary in just one day.
‘No, I’m afraid I did not make a record of the name of the employee to whom I spoke. This is because I was under the delusion that you employed competent people, that maybe you had given them some sort of rudimentary training, a delusion which has now been addressed; which is why I am now talking to the manager. Are you competent or should I ask for the CEO?’  
The fight of it can be rather fun. It digressed me. Back to point: back to the traffic queue.
The people sat, trapped and fuming, are reliant on an external factor for their mood. Maybe they were already having a bad time, and along comes this frustration, the queue represents frustration, they hate it. I can’t spy all of their lives, just this. There is little they can do to change this, short of abandoning the car, which is unlikely to solve the problem. External factors aren’t always controllable, and sometimes the control of them can take over a life; eating disorders are a prime example of that. If you are not your own kind of beautiful, no diet can help: nor any helpline, or book, or relationship, nor any open clear road.
For me; what it all boils down to in my know-it-all soup pot; what I observe is people feeling that they are missing out on something. It is true. They are missing out on their own lives. No-one else gets to see through your eyes. Do you honestly think that is not extraordinary? Just because it is true of everyone? Extraordinary is commonplace: in the ordinary, lies the extraordinary. One is still alive, in this queue, and one is significantly alive if able to appreciate the view.

[Here is someone who helped me realize and value what I was looking at:]

Dangle Like A Chrysalis

Checking emails: spam, selling stuff, Facebook birthday list, and a reply. Craig from Buglife ( identifying the Jewelwing we thought we saw as a native Beautiful Demoiselle. Calopteryx Virgo, though not rare in this habitat, does not disappoint. (
Spiders weave webs, or hunt, they plot, they stalk, they trap. They cannibalise freely for they are not obviously sentimental. But over the fields each year, the web pod nurseries are fixed into grass clumps, keeping the spider young safe. Ants are many acting as one, sublimated to purpose, a society of absorbed co-operation. Bees speak to each other in a language of dance. Woodlice are an early design, a segmented ancientness. Metamorphic invertebrates are my favourites, for their symbolism.
Head brimful of glittering wings, of flight paths, lazily drive into town. There are traffic lights at the double roundabout. A colourful configuration of cars are filled with inconvenienced people. Put the radio on, wave at the splendid lady in the blue metallic mini who doesn’t block my drive.
Things I like about my town include a parking space bartered for with homemade cider, the Norman castle and the little tin men who hit the bell on the town hall clock. Also we have shops, not just chain owned stores. I buy a pack of card from such a shop, from a man who asks am I making wedding invites, only it’s the season for it. A wedding card, I tell him, my niece is getting married in June, and there is a first, a sixteenth and a twenty-first birthday all in June too. A busy month, he deduces; his daughter loves to make cards. I consider buying a stamp, with a dragonfly on it; content myself with a look and a maybe later. Now is not the time to collect anything but my thoughts and some cardboard boxes, while we wait on news, and I tell myself, wait with poise, with purpose, with catalystic intention, dangle like a chrysalis. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Suppertime, And The Living Is Easy

Over the fields this morning, a hot air balloon. It is the shape of a light bulb, like the valley has just had an idea. Tethered to Fat Beagle, I follow far behind, along the top path, the closest I can get to climbing into the basket. Dog, who can be trusted to return, runs free. Fat Beagle is pleased to be out on the tasty sheep poo snack trail. The chunky tail wags.
Foxgloves are in flower, vertical globules of pinkish purple. We all go back to the house for some wholesome breakfast.

Under a wide brimmed hat, I sit, legs tucked under the pallet table, to finish shading the picture of the ink-drinking monkey. Last time I was out here the wind stole my eraser. All I could find on the ground nearby was a half chewed mouse. This did not seem a fair exchange, not for me, nor mouse. The air does not move, today, and the little body lies still in situ.

It transpires, from Mr’s venturing into town, that the letting agency write badly worded letters. The whole big scary amount is not unrefundable, just the (nonetheless irksomely expensive) credit check administrative charge. I can’t find some of the required credit check paperwork, but alternatives come to hand without the dropping of blood or tears.
The printer does not run out of paper. It clatters out financial details.

I recall the balloon, distinguish in it the escape of flight; and the mouse; the escape of not knowing. My back aches from hunching over the monkey. Tap my statements into a neat edged pile; smile; these fiddly bits, of course, of course, though boring, are of good consequence. Attitude remains the greatest escape.

Mr, me and Boy sit on the sofa as the day gets dim, eating cheese on toast. Fat Beagle snores in his basket. Sleeping Dog, from the armchair, makes huffly noises. The mouse is half full, I think, but the glass metaphor works better. And it doesn’t put you off your supper.



From the collection 'Sublimely Cheerful Postcards'

Last night, I read this quote, and then, of course, had to write. Curtain Call was my first title idea, but this morning I prefer ‘Encore;’ it holds the sense of something to continue. The metaphor shifts, but the sense of tiredness is sustained, so the title is all that I have changed:

‘I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes... and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so’. Joyce Carol Oates

I could write all night. But then I would be tired. Thinking of sitting here, with the window open, just tapping out all the changes in the air. But there are other things that need my attention. Time to shut down, conserve energy, regroup my scatty, distracted self. But, first, a little light writing to direct my dreams. Stream out some sentences, in a loose consciousness. Stream like driving.
To Roadford Lake:
We ferry the dogs lakeside, to find play and shade. In blown-through hedges, cheerful ox eye daisies flail in a hot dervish whirl.
From Tavistock, At Sunset:
By the time we get to an open viewpoint, there is one half of a slice of a moon in the sky: no sun. The great dramatic act has passed. We set our eyes on the aftermath, the pink light lingering in clouds, the soft folding of day into horizon.
Fold myself into horizon.
Words fall effortless, like the flow of a dance. Dreams dance, the years of training paying off.
Take a bow.  

Monday, 28 May 2012


The window is open all night. Whatever the weather did then, I slept through it. Woke to coolness, to a low sky of watercolour greys.
Boy is up, eating cheese on toast. Boy looks at his watch. His morning routine is breakfast and cop drama. This morning some fanatical plot to reintroduce smallpox is not quite foiled yet. In principle, I do not like tv and breakfast. In practice, Boy relaxes happy before hitting the exam desk.
‘You can have a lift,’ I say, stirring soya milk into a bowl of oats. My breakfast is paler than the sky.

The big news today should be the big cheque handed to the letting agent. If we don’t pass the credit check, there is no refund. At this point, homeless and penniless thoughts haunt every level of our minds. One attends to practical acts to appease uneasy spirits, such as the dogs need walking, then we should write a menu plan.

As we are striding across the corner of the lowest field, out of habit eyeing up wood sources, a marvellous thing flies by, a dark winged thing, shaped as a damselfly, as skittering in flight as a butterfly. Most damselflies; Mr and me must confirm out loud, to each other; they hover, dart, they have a purposeful nip of movement. Curiosity pulls us from the path, has us wading in shallow brambles. We have not dreamt this thing, which perches now on a blackberry leaf.  Six thread-slender legs; an iridescent tube of body; the eyes are one-at-each-side wide; folded wings are gauzy-black; it all shines like finely glazed ceramic.

(This is what we saw; that changed the emphasis of our day; a long way from the native habitats, it seems:

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Weary Animation

Hard gummed Baby, slimed in drool, falls deceivingly swiftly to sleep. The heat or the teeth or an unknown third option turns the night into a series of walks connecting bed and cot. As birdsong trebles through an open window, Baby is wedged into bed between grandparents. As the sun rises, she sits up, claps hands, slaps Mr Grandad on the shoulder. Rain falls heavy, it’s still hot, the birds call.
Downstairs the clock reads 5.55am. Baby rubs a piece of jammy toast over her hair. I reach for a mug the size of a god’s forearm. My sense of scale is half asleep. But it is a big mug. It is filled with a quagmire of coffee.
At this hour, caffeine is best served with cartoons.
Mostly dabbed clean of blackcurrant, Baby bobs about the room, delighted by two dogs, a drawer of toy cars, a spoon and a brick. She miscalculates clearance height under the coffee table; refuses comfort; demands comfort; slouches slowly to sleep.
Granma slow motion slouches too, after correctly guessing the Scooby Doo villain.

And A Sleepy But Gracious Acceptance:
Thank you Mr Botanist at for my (second, I smugly add) Kreativ Blogger award. I will of course cheat and neatly refer to my previous facts:

And, in the spirit of lazy rebellion, have picked six other blogs here to check out:

Most of whom I came across because of other recommendations, prompted by sociable schemes like the Kreativ Blogger Award, so I hope my sleep deprived cheat isn’t construed as any kind of disapproval. 

(I cut and pasted the addresses, but if the link fails, please let me know- sometimes the should have been .com instead. Thank you everyone!)

Saturday, 26 May 2012


Yesterday’s brain, under surface calm assertions, sounded like this:
‘Oh. The twenty-sixth day of May? We could be moving house in four days. Four days, or five? Five years since I started stripping the bedroom wallpaper, but we never had the money for paint. While Boy is doing his exams? We have no boxes. Will the big cheque clear in time? To give notice requires 30 days. Where did I leave my coffee? Stop eating sheep poo, Fat Beagle!’

Farmer Landlord phones that evening:
‘That’s fine dear, you sort yourself out. Take your time over it- that’s fine, yes, no, don’t pay us any more rent, that’s fine. Longer someone stays in the property, the better for us, if you see what I mean.’
Quick words construct sentences. Regret in every pause.

Apologetic kindness.
Advantageous sympathy.

Assuming, self-assuredly, the sought cottage is rented to us, between there and here, a buffering state is mapped. Out comes the elderflower champagne, it flowers effusively all over the kitchen floor.

This morning’s brain, dredged grudgingly from dreams, sounded like this:
‘6am? Please stop snoring, Mr… Why can’t I sleep through this? Coffee… 6.30am? That nudge would have woken a stone, yet Mr can sleep through… Coffee!’

Take brain down to sit at the kitchen table, set up laptop, steam up kettle, make a dark tower in the cafetiere. The table has splayed legs, which I forgot once, and broke my toe.

Drink coffee. Only two bottles empty on the draining board. Hob is stacked over with supper plates. The steel gleam of the double oven goes on the list of things I will miss.

Glorious nostalgia.

When Farmer Landlord first moved to Rosehill, he was 11 years old. Previous occupants had painted the interior with red, lead based tractor paint and ducks lived in the middle porch. His mother had the kitchen renovated, he told me:
‘What was that year called, when England won the World Cup?’
‘Twas that one, yes.’
The table was crafted by the local undertaker: I imagine coffins made of oak and Formica. The work surfaces confirm that Mother was short. She had a new fangled cooker, coal powered, which caught fire. Mother went straight to fetch the axe: she broke that home wrecking iron oven to pieces.
‘Tiny little pieces, it was.’
Behind the broad gas oven there is still a scorch mark. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Arduous Magic

Heat follows me into the house. Around the edges of the fields fleece-laden sheep graze shaded grass. Fat Beagle, our houseguest for the week, struggles to clamber up to the cool sofa leather. Dog watches derisively. She curls her lips when he wanders close. She curls up next to him when he whimpers. Not love and hate; comfort and scorn.
I make coffee and leave it to cool. I fetch my laptop from the cupboard that is my office. It is an old Mac, bought with a redundancy payout in 2006. I dropped it once, halting the terrible fall with my broken foot: literally, a painful experience. The casing fractured. The plastic splinter is still held in place by a sticker from a Thornton’s chocolate. Thus it became an object both useful and quirky.
Stuff I own is on my mind, today. I will not classify it as a painful occurrence, but I do not deny being discomforted. Moving from a sprawling crumble of a house, to a neat cottage, not all of our possessions will fit.
I believe that life is more important than stuff. Today I start to find out how strong that belief is. I challenge myself to a fierce strict clear out, in preparation for moving on. Can I relinquish the stuffed red squirrel? The dressing up box? All of the freaky fantastical objects from the Cabinet of Curiosities? This stuff is imbued with overwhelming sentiment and memory and crazy ideas.
Will the baby of inspiration be thrown out with the bathwater of emancipation?
I take a dramatic pause, to drink my cold coffee. Sensation is inspiration, I tell myself. I stop talking to myself. Bitter stimulus performs arduous magic.
Today, we live at Rosehill, observing the strange beauty of decay, snuggled in dangerous clutter, like dotty faded gentry. The roof is collapsing.  In living for the present we risk hiding from the future.
I will make a list of what will fit into our next home, what will fit the pared down life.
On the other side of this purging act, I perceive myself, liberated, in a lucid space.

(The forms for the letting agency credit check came today. A big cheque is required. Fear kicks in. This is all we have. We are lying in the magician’s box while he sharpens up the chainsaw. We know what the trick is. Repeat the mantra, hold your nerve.)

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Cider Tramp

Lately, it has all been about The House; our real quest for an archetypal place of secure residence. Some balance is required, firstly because too much poignancy will make you sick and secondly because the rest of the world is still there, shuffling uncomfortably while you mutter to yourself.
Embarrassment may cause you to refer to yourself in the third person, maybe even the third person plural, Lily Tequila, and all of her aliases, awkwardly note.
So, still believing that in the particular lies the universal, I look outside myself and pick this for a subject. It has the essential edge of oddness.

Cider Tramp.
This is a terrible thing to name a person, obviously, but then so is village idiot. Sometimes the external labelling is socially understandable, if not wholly acceptable. Every village needs an idiot, it could be argued, this idiot being a vital unifying force, a source of comedy, provider of the jester function, the safety valve of social pressure.
Towns have cider tramps, though I hesitate to say they are necessary. I would be happy if they all got sober. But there they are, drinking cheap white cider, symbols of subdued hope, giving us something to talk about. Let us not be judgemental. They are undeniably part of the human condition and experience, because we all are. These notes are, by intention, only observational.
We haven’t seen our town drunk for a week or two, so the perpetual rumour that this time he is really dead is due to surface soon.
I did hear an educational story from a neighbouring town. It centred on their resident alcoholic, who drank so much cider his teeth floated out. Not all in one day: they changed angles and came adrift over time. Sometimes a slow moving target is easy to miss.
“What’s up with your teeth?’ was a frequent question.
“There’s nothing wrong,” he decided, errantly.
Therein, the lesson.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Feathered Blessing

Opened the window this morning to release a sleepy wasp. Opened the window out wide to the warm sky. A split-tailed bird flies in to circumnavigate my head. It seems flustered. I consider it a fortuitous sign, albeit rushed. Advance boldly to letting agency. Two properties are listed with the magic words: Pets Considered. Just about affordable. More expensive than here. We drive out, scouting. These places are picturesque, in good repair. Rosehill is picturesque, crumbling, bizarre. These places have neighbours. Do we like people? I can’t remember. I’m nervous like Robinson Crusoe leaving his island. A fission of thoughts.
Take a cup of coffee outside to listen to the birds sing. A pair of finches flit into shadows on the laurel stump. They are so small in the big world, I think, and then I think of moving the fruit garden and remember that we only got our bed into the house because a window was being replaced. The finches fly close. One hovers as a hummingbird does, speeding wings on the verge of invisible. 
Mr does most of the driving, because his car is the more comfortable and mine smells like a bin. He drives and I dream. The car curves with the road, through tunnels of fronded trees, over the narrow river bridge, under the low sun. Simply, I see how beautiful it is. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Seventy Days

Dabs of mist linger on grass. Spider webs are easy to find. Where yesterday I found half of the wing of a dark feathered bird, there are loose feathers caught on damp foliage. Dog has her nose down, forgets we are playing fetch. There is heat promised, in this humid air.
While we were walking, the washing machine has rumbled to a halt. I roll wet clothes into the basket, lug it out to the line. Hoisted whites lollop in a lazy breeze.
I get one very brown arm sat outside, at the pallet table, attempting to draw an ink-drinking monkey. In this story, the monkey represents chaos.
On my paler arm is a training trophy; an amethyst bruise, bigger than a thumbprint, smaller than a plum.
In the afternoon I brave the fields in flip-flops. I watch my footing, around sheep dung, nettles, thistle leaves, barbed wire, creeping bramble, random rocks, over the ankle twisting grass tufts. I have a flower in my hair. Panting Dog detours to the stream after we rescue a Longwool from a fence tangle.
Voices float down from the house. Farmer Landlord is standing atop a ladder by the brewing kitchen door. Builder Pete is wedged between the bank and the back of the house, lifting up a roof panel to clear out rat’s nests. They both wave hello. Farmer Landlord tenses his shoulders as he turns back to chat with Pete; something about the gesture tells me I had best put the kettle on, there’s bad news coming.
Farmer Landlord holds a mug with an unsteady hand. I’ve put a sugar in for him.
Rosehill will be sold. The last date of legal residence is named as the last day of July, seventy days from now.  

Monday, 21 May 2012


Allergic reaction to spreadsheets

In spite of it being an elegant palindrome date; 21.5.12, in UK format; numbers are not my favourite contraptions today. Format has a lot to do with it.  Attempting to finalise accounts on an excel spreadsheet grinds at my resolve to savour life, my nerves are visibly sparking. Resistance is expressed in most uncouth terminology. Swearing is one of a short list of things that differentiate private-me and public-me. I won’t be sharing these words but the braggart in me wants the world to know I am doing it impressively.
Escape to the bathroom, the unofficial sanctuary of the house, to pick up reading Wittgenstein.
‘The origin and the primitive form of the language-game is a reaction; only from this can the more complicated forms develop. Language- I want to say- is a refinement, “in the beginning was the deed.”
 ‘To smell a rat is ever so much easier than to trap it.’
It feels like the philosopher has rumbled my skiving. Guilty deductions: which brings us back to numbers; accounts in particular.
The spreadsheet is laid out, at a level of order that will be legible to the longsuffering accountant. It is dispatched by email and trapped in a pen drive. Bits of paper are boxed up; the query pile is prepped with post-its.
The morning is gone, we are at the palindrome’s midpoint. Validating sun appears over mist.
With cups of tea, outside where writing on the dazzling paper is a welcome challenge, Mr and me make a menu plan, followed by a shopping list. Three onions, one bag of flour, some bananas: one balancing sigh of relief. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Destiny Might Have A Point

Last night: set up laptop, lost myself in editing.
This book is taking on a life force, I think, I can feel the energy of it. I get a literal buzz from it. This story I am working on is from a real biography- turning life into art that improves life is an energetic passion.

This morning: is a 5am start: we don’t get back home till past 7pm, 166 miles and a bunch of fights later. Welsh Championships today. Three of our students, out of the four competing, are displaying trophies. I have jolly things to say to them; and the people who are straying too close to the edge of the ring, to all of the competitors, fellow officials, paramedics, organisers, sports centre staff, ladies in the loo queue and random strangers in the car park. My verbal sparring, thanks to years of mindful training, is flyweight, light contact.

When I first tied my white belt, hilarious Girl said; ‘Mum’s learning to kill people with her hands and feet, you know, in case she loses her voice.’

In the days when I used to read to Girl at night, there was, in a folktale compilation, a story of a midwife called upon to deliver a fairy child. The reluctant birthing assistant is handed a special ointment to dab on her eyelids, so she can see the fairy world, which exists here in our world, invisible to un-enchanted human sight. I think of this sometimes when I write, because I want to dab my words over your eyes, to make you see magic, to make you marvel and appreciate.

Had I mastered this at a younger age, that kind of power, indubitably, would have gone to my head.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Two Kinds Of Jam

The Jam Store Cupboard At Rosehill

Farmer Landlord makes contact by phone; he has missed the latest smoke alarm episode. He is calling, from a wedding in Wiltshire, to see has anyone stopped by to look at the broken electric boiler. 
While he is on the phone, apologetic for the alarm, and the long list of problems to address which he tries not to think about, I press for news on the mortgage foreclosure. Salt meets badly patched wound. 
This is a wincing silence. 
Followed by a rush of ‘Well, I haven’t done much about it, I must get to see the bank;’ followed by the truth; ‘I don’t want to sell,’ ending with the admission, ‘I think the bank will force me to sell.’ 
I tell him we are now starting to look for alternative accommodation, but there aren’t many rentals that will take pets. He has a brainwave that a cousin of a cousin has a farmhouse lying empty, not too far away, he will make a call and see.

Mr and me take breakfast outside.
‘Somewhere with a garden,’ he says,’ and a big shed.’
We are working on a wish list. He says we should go to the beach, and he’s right.

The sand has blown inland, built a sand ramp down from the car park wall. Dog plunges through puddles and into the sea. I’m not too far behind. The waves are mildly cold, the rock pools soothingly warm. Perfect weather for barefoot with a light windstopper coat; I am excellently dressed.

Driving back we spy properties we could live in. We debunk the myth that art and honesty only thrive with poverty by spending imaginary fortunes in inspirationally creative ways. I say I have enough source material for rags, it will be safe to move on to riches. It will, in fact, be new territory to discover. 

If you want facts and figures, I can reveal (from the BBC website, so can be regarded as acceptably true) that my current earnings are 27% of the UK average wage, and 56% of the world average. 
I have been far poorer than this. 
I do not forget the day I opened my food cupboard and cried because I had two kinds of jam: I was thinking, two kinds of jam means you are rich.

Back at Rosehill, I google map the empty farmhouse. There are sheds, big sheds, and a garden. I don’t set my heart on it, I’m eccentric, not (necessarily) foolish, but… I like the look of it. Plenty of space for storing my jam. 

Wanted: slighty bonkers rural property, must love dogs 

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Bat Scale Of Oddity

Sleep is a heavy tide, pulling at my ankles. Walk along through the day, like a long stroll on a long beach under an overcast sky, strong water sucking the sand from underfoot. This anxiety fluttering inside is difficult to categorise. It reminds me of two things: stage fright, and larvae.
It doesn’t stop me loving the first time I see Baby trying on my shoes- rainbowed sequined lace ups. She chews one cerise lace, admiring bumpy sparkles. We have lunch together, she practises her spoon work. She holds both ends to stop the food falling off.

Back at Rosehill, the smoke alarms are going crazy. There is no smoke: the rats have stripped the wires causing short outs. Messages are dispatched to Farmer Landlord and the electrician. Annoying, but fairly average for a Rosehill drama. I can sit and write with a scarf wrapped over my ears.
This anxious thing is my distraction.
Once, not being particularly regular with my housekeeping, I swept the bedroom floor and found a dead bat under the bed. I kept it, in a flowerpot on the kitchen windowsill, where it still is, because it just gets more desiccated, and I don’t know how, when the house is so damp. This anxiety is every bit as strange as the bat, and, therefore, of compelling fascination. 
Mr removes the alarms, as advised by the electrician. 
It does occur to me that there might be somewhere easier to live than here. 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Epiphany In Blue

A whiff of death has lingered in the downstairs bathroom since the rat in the roof space incident. We have not seen a rat since the first day of May. From the thickening of the scent it is feasible that another rat corpse reclines nearby. Not something I look forward to investigating. I’m here to climb around the brewing bins and squeeze under the shower, after checking that no spiders lurk in reach of drowning and no slugs are exploring my exfoliating gloves. Not adverse to the company of invertebrates, they just don’t make good shower companions.  
The shampoo bottle pops open, foams up a nicer aroma. Fresh water has an agreeable fragrance. I think, plain water has a smell, doesn’t it, or is it that the nose detects a body of wet stuff and the brain registers this as a smell? Does this make sense, or have I been neglecting sleep in favour of espresso and writing sprees, to the deficit of my overall cognisance? Shut up brain. Slough off the dull layer of skin cells, with slug-free gloves. Brain says, a shower is a renewal. You could get out of the shower a whole new person. I like this idea better.
Out of the shower, another fragrant thought. In the pantry cupboard there is a jar of dried rose petals. Last summer’s blooms are sifted into a teapot, making a pint of drinkable perfume. Sit, rest, sip.

Driving back from Bude the sky is full of blue clouds. Splotchy blue, like one blue sock with unfixed dye went in the cloud washing machine. It reads like proof this day has something different going on. Not as different as the day I followed my intuition to the beach, found a headless dog (decomposed, not decapitated, I must add, it was not a crime scene) and the sea was crammed with blue jellyfish, but the same feel of bizarre epiphany. 

About The Boy

A momentous day for Boy. The Thursday that starts his exams. He opts for walking to school, maximising fresh-air time.
‘You’ve revised for this,’ says me, in pep talk mode, ‘you’ve trained, like Rocky, you can do this!’
He puts his fists up. He is ready. He goes out of the door, punching like a montage shot. This is mainly to humour his mother.

When he was barely three, sat in an aeroplane, Mum showed him the white view from the lozenge shaped window.
She tells him, perfectly straight faced, to look out for polar bears.
‘That’s not snow, Mum,’ says the Boy, carefully breaking news, ‘That’s cloud.’
Girl’s laughter bounces off the window, squeals round the plane like a tiny monkey.

‘I can do this!’ Punch, punch, smile hovering at the polite edge of patronising. Dog studies him, as this may be a new signal for imminent walk around fields. Clouds thicken, and if I were looking for a sign, this would not be ominous. 

Wednesday's Portrait

I drive up to the supermarket with my sunglasses on, leave the car unlocked, bring some milk and pain au chocolat to the counter where the friendly lady sits to beep my items and exchange my coins for a listed receipt. Down the lane, out of gear, seat belt unbuckled, radio on, window open, singing to the sheep, moor and sky sprawled in clear view.
Boy has time for second breakfast if I drive him to school, so I do, anticipating the view on the way back; it still makes me whoop.
Breakfast outside; hot pain au chocolat, cold wedges of melon. Overhead is a lucid pool of sky. Dock leaves grow around the fire pit, brightly flaming green. Every bit of ground is sprouting exultant flowers.
The washing machine gets on with cleaning our clothes, while I gather up pens and sketchbook. I put them on the table Mr made out of an old pallet.
A whole illustration is marked out, shaded in painstaking dots. Between each stretch of concentration, details of the day filter in. Vietnamese coffee fills a hand made mug. Dog and Cat have various comical interactions. I’m hot from the sun. Wasps gather in the kayak seat to drink yesterday’s rainwater.
Mr and me take bicycles out of the shed, ride up the crazy lane. I passed my bicycle proficiency test in 1979, I think, struggling to find my last memory of riding a bike. Progress is erratic. Saddles are less comfortable than hoped. All the passers by are smiling.
This day assembles itself like a mosaic: joyously coloured pieces constructing Wednesday’s portrait. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Fox's Lunch

Postman was right: this weather has the fidgets. Sun-bright 7am, wind-lashed 8am, the cloud has landed at 9am. Either smoke from a gorse fire or a wedge of mist lodges in a crook of moorland. Under scrutiny, it seems too immobile for smoke, unobserved, it seems to shift. Fact or fiction, fire or mist: definitely distracting.
In the sun gap, I walk down and around the fields, smiling at Dog’s indulgent pursuit of uncatchable swallows. Or swifts or martins, I have never remembered yet. Split tails and dark wings, skimming over the grass.
After lunch, the clouds look set to part. Washing is pegged to line. I return to the kitchen, thinking of sitting outside to sketch, and before the kettle has time to boil, bulbous raindrops are falling. I have a very rude word to say about that. However contrary the weather may be, not even randomly will it try caring what I think.
Waterproofs are pulled on; I may as well clear my mind with a field walk. Dog supports this, actively. We scale the gate in quick succession, and the clouds part. Rain steams off the grass.
In the second sun gap: more smiling. The weather is impervious: my reaction is my choice.
Dog surprises two pheasants, and above their clacks of indignation, I think I hear a fox yip. My next find is the fresh, flesh-stripped foreleg of a rabbit. The joints are still connected; it’s mechanically beautiful. I can make out chew marks. There is no other evidence. The rest of rabbit is part of fox now. It seems gruesome, but my interest is respectful. My fields are full of acknowledged ghosts. 

Monday, 14 May 2012

Matisse On Monday

This morning the sky is subdued, it droops over the moors, and rain fills the low gap between cloud and earth. Undeterred birds still sing. I sign for a parcel while the postman names the weather; ‘Unsettled.’ 
In the habit of revisiting books, seeking to turn out anything which has ceased to inspire; maybe I have outgrown it, or just absorbed it so much the original can carry its light to another shelf, I swoop a book as I pass through the front room; one I remember buying on another rainy day. 
The colours drew me first; the words took me to the till with my rattling purse, tumbling pennies onto the counter. April ’93, I have written inside the cover. 
Today also I seek colour; luminous, calm, luxurious colour. I think to scan the words. Instead I sit and read the whole book. Three quotes I pick out to share.

Henri Matisse, son of a grain merchant, discovered his vocation by accident, given a gift of a paint set, whilst in convalescence from appendicitis. Paint on paper wakes his world up:

‘Everything is new… everything is fresh, as if the world had just been born; a flower, a leaf, a stone, everything shines, everything shimmers, everything glistens as if it were polished, you can’t imagine how beautiful it is. Sometimes I think that we profane life itself. We are so used to seeing things that we no longer look at them. We experience them only is a superficial way. We don’t feel any more. We have become blasé.’

(Hard work will beat talent if talent doesn’t work hard:)
‘I have always tried to hide my own efforts and wished my works to have the lightness and joyousness of springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labour it has cost. So I am afraid that the young, seeing in my work only the apparent facility and negligence of the drawing, will use this as an excuse for dispensing with the certain efforts which I believe necessary.’

And this, which is what my descriptions aspire towards:
‘In a drawing the character of a face does not derive from its various proportions but from the spiritual light which is reflected in it.’

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Spider Quest

This morning: I recall we have a shower, so I stand under it, foaming up shampoo and showery scrub things. There are three brewing bins to climb around, the floor is dank, and the room smells faintly of the long ago rat that died in the roof space. 

Once the shower is cranked the water abundantly trickles out at a temperature somewhere above warm and below hot. Outside I sit with my paper, pens, coffee, sunglasses. My hair can dry in the sun.
The arrival of Girl and Baby forms an impromptu picnic. Baby grubs in the mud, digging up some stones with my dinner fork. She has her first knee scuff. We try to keep a sunhat on her.

This afternoon: Through the car window I observe the underside of the overhang of the garage roof, while Mr wanders in to the garage shop to pay for a bag of coal. The white plastic grooves above are ornate with darkly clogged web lines. In shades of dirty white, pockets of spider eggs inhabit the ninety degrees of angle between plastic and concrete. Further down, between the squares of the lockable cage where the log bags stack, pale downy web strands float in a puffy little breeze. I look, until the coal is loaded up and we drive away, but don’t actually witness one spider.

This evening: Tomorrow’s hot water is being made by the lit fire and the back boiler. Today’s washing is brought in from the line, hung to finish in the airing cupboard. There is no spider in there either. Maybe they are out in the last of the sun, topping up on vitamin D to make stronger exoskeletons. If it works like that, for spiders. There are no arachnids in the porch, or the front room, or the bedrooms, or the bathrooms. Find two, finally, fingernail sized, in the kitchen window, next to three spider egg-pouches.