Showing posts from August, 2013

Summer Follies

It's morning. Pigeons chatter. Window open to sunlit breeze, to a pleasing chill that wafts over bared legs lying wryly on a guest bed. We are in Plymouth. Briefly one has dreamt of a pigeon teaching golf. It advises wiggling one's bottom and aiming into the sun: and be sure to squint, it says. Golf? Legs do not want to move. Everything is post-party dehydrated, aches from overindulgence. I had misjudged my tolerance for something; alcohol, buffet food, dancing, heat; a stamina of some kind has been undermined. Poor stomach, all pressed with that purging heat. Tentative toast and water begins the restoration process. Happy 40th Birthday Samantha Redmond! Another glass of water, sip by sip, held up to the light in the kitchen and it glints like sequins. I have brushed my teeth, am enlivened by the mint. I am able to put my day clothes on, the right way around, in the right order. Things bode better. Here are sunglasses, a car window that winds all the way down. Mr drives across the c…

The Ham Under The Plank

Grandparent Pack Mules, hungry children, pregnant Mrs Mac, and Mr Mac; in charge of dogs; are veering from sharing a pleasant trail to enduring a march. One picnic area bans dogs, and the other demonstrates why dogs would be omitted from food sharing areas. Grandad is the first one to see the potential in the old railway bridge: the wide girder edge is a buffet table. The old sleepers slanting are almost benches. If we gather to one side the cyclists have plenty of room to whizz by, and spout little phrases of envy for our proper plates and superior olives. Little Grandson, Little Granddaughter both: they take this dining arrangement as they take all things: in chunks of awe and acceptance. Of course one sits on a slanty plank and eats ham with bike wheels whooshing where the condiments would normally be: of course Granma says not to climb on the table or you'll fall in the river. One must interrupt this feast however to point out the miracle of being able to hide a piece of ham und…

Breakfast Only Looks Impossible

Written myself into a fug, though the windows are pushed so far open it's a dangerous reach to close them. I have notes everywhere, things barely legible smudged on paper in blotches of biro ink. I have notes scrawled over several areas of brain and circles and arrows and optimism. I have skin that tingles with possible things: this, one can imagine, is how a cephalopod feels when it changes colour. Like a firework swallowed. Like chemistry in motion. Sensible enough, the day starts with a run but then breakfast has a look of impossibility and that's how the day runs on. In dazed intervals, venture out to the sweep of lawn. Mr is digging feverish holes: the shed begins. Oh! More mind-body shivers! Whichever universe this is, I like it, I choose to stay. I plant my flip-flops firmly in this magnificently cut grass. Breakfast takes three sittings. Well done, tenacious us!

Go Sleep, Moontime!

Morning: A small convoy of Nam-ma, Little Granddaughter and Dog greet the ghosts of horses through morning mist. They tread their dew-proof boots: 'You boots, me boots, one two boots!' up the side track in the ploughed field. 'One boot, five boots, one moon, round and round.' Moon in the blue sky, halved, ends like froth, is somewhere between broken egg and breaking wave. 'Go sleep, moontime!' She has an expression of a person who is pretending to be cross for comic reasons. Then she clips Dog's lead onto Nam-ma's shorts and this is very funny. From here, those rubber booted steps are set towards honey and toast.
It develops into the sort of hot, blue, shiny day where plans such as finishing the accounts are bypassed in favour of more scenic things, such as fixing a stable door to a polytunnel project, such as a fever pitch of writing by a wide open window, such as walking over the beach into the sea: where the waves break messy like the edge of a brok…

Philosophy, Coffee And Yoghurt

One is up and out before breakfast, again, though it hardly seems repetitious to be trawling hedges for dark fruits. This time a horsefly bites. The wasps are presumably well fed: calm and slow. Two of the cut fields are ploughed over. The ground is neither damp nor dusty. Being turned it has a soft give, like ample Earth Mother curves. At the corner of the field, the straightness of the hedge, a glimpse of telegraph poles, the bare earth, the clumps of stalk turned upside down: it's odd, I think, to have all these signs of human life and feel so far from civilization. I remember having a sensible job and the joy of looking out of a window, how the rain sounded on the fabric of my leopard print umbrella when I took a lunch break stroll. If anything, those stinted years were the best training to be here and appreciate this scene. At home, a bath is waiting. The Rayburn has smouldered all night making this hot water. On the stove is a brand new Bialetti Venus 10 cup espresso pot. Aft…

A Staycation Safari

Before breakfast a list of experiences edges on smugness. Two litres of blackberries, a wasp sting, an owl's feather, discovery of another cut-crop field, four spider apologies for web breaking, a short walk through a dance of brown butterflies, a revolting heap of badger poo and the attempt to wash a thousand sticky grass seeds from a spaniel's fur. Before breakfast. Breakfast was outside with an audience of this year's fledgling sparrows. We ate steak and egg-fried rice. Lots of pepper.
This afternoon Boy and me are back in Britain's Ocean City where the sun and wind are tussling up and down the straight wide streets, chopping up the water in the urban ponds. Today we opt for a Park and Ride bus. It's like a tour. I point out several men of generous proportions, in shorts and Plymouth Argyle football shirts, eating pasties as they walk to Home Park. Given the variety of people also walking in their football paraphernalia, they are not representative of the average …

A Very Eccentric Triathlon

Yesterday's air was viscously thick. Three of us: Boy, Dog, me: pad on foot. Mr commands a bicycle. We all pant. The chap at the cottage is out painting and while we stop to rediscover normal breathing he bemoans the loss of lead in paint. It used to be so much tougher, the old style stuff. There's a high percentage of eccentrics per capita here. There's us in our lycra mixes and him in his overalls that are for coloured painting jobs. The other pair do for white paint. He laughs while he says this, though he misses the old style of paint. 'Well, you always knew a painter and decorator, in those days, they were tall and very thin.' 'From the lead poisoning?' Mr suggests. 'Well, yes.' He chuckles. 'That's right. From the lead.' He leans on some fresh sage-green paint, but it's okay, he knew he would do that. He has the colour paint overalls on. When we are able we say goodbye. We run to the river and clamber on rocks till we are all in the c…

The Why Of It

The drives back from work are not to the dipping of the sun but the rising of the moon. It catches orange light in its early stages, as though to acclimatize us to the loss of sunset. This evening, on the horizon in perfect focus is the silhouette of a cow running uphill. It reminds me of the nursery rhyme: 'Hey diddle diddle The cat and the fiddle The cow jumped over the moon The little dog laughed to see such fun And the dish ran away with the spoon.' The scene is absurd, therefore fabulous. Thoughts flow with the passing landscape, these curious snippets of outlines and de-familiarising shadows. Ordinary things are beautiful to an attuned eye. Extraordinary things are easier to view, no less imbued. That's the why of it, explains my brain. Writing is a daily practice, for me: even without access to pen or keyboard I form sentences, sometimes out loud, sometimes in mind. I composed one this morning about swallows preening on telephone wires. Gorgeous words, left to float away over…

Tree Bench Busy

Alongside the river in the edge of the woods a path runs a course. Thorns are thin here, so bare legs can swing safely in the shade. Underfoot is a firm textured mud; the air smells of earth and water: a lively calm kind of damp. Dog makes clumsy sticks crackle in the undergrowth. There is bird song, there is the river burbling, there is my own muffled stepping on the soft track. For a while I sit, on the fallen tree bench, and dangle legs and throw sticks into the burble, and Dog throws herself with hilarious splashes. A swim is a tempting thing, but there is all this veiled scattering of light through the leafed trees and over the river to be watched. There is the surround of ornithological sound. There is the weight of legs, the ease of unburdened feet, the press of wood grain. There is the canine comedy. There are scents to appraise: musky, woody, fresh: sun on skin has a particular smell. Salted human caramel? There is coffee to be brewed and breakfast cooked: Dog catches up. Her w…

A Cinematic Nap

The densest substance in the universe, briefly, is made of eyelids. I have no hope to prop them up. Hope abounds everywhere but in these lids. They shut as velvet curtains do at the old style cinema, to reopen on a lit screen where pictures move, lifelike, with a flickering light. Everyone is smiling. It's a replay, not quite reality. I hear the cool leather creak, the tractor chug: know I am lying on my sofa by an open window: know I am dreaming. Out takes of the day thus far: Boy in his crisp white shirt, leaving his acceptance letter on the car seat: I am asking; so, what questions did they ask you; release from pre-interview nerves unfetters hunger; we think about the view from the top of the big wheel, but the view from the café is fine and there we sit to celebrate with baguettes and beverages. Sun blares. The car park time is generous. We walk and say how things look.


It is my first foray into the newly cut wheat field. Stalks under sun are briefly gold: Dog runs through filigree, entirely impervious to the grandeurs of colour. She rolls in some olfactory delight, which might be of equal mystery to my understanding, and runs and rolls and her tongue lolls and her tail whizzes. I have missed the musical plink of these stalks under the tread of Wellington boots: zigzag a path just to hear more of it. In the hedge are blackberries, ripe and palatable. Dog eats some grass, the tall wide bladed stuff, dew-dotted. What seems a sentient moment passes between us: this simple recognition: 'Oh look, we're eating.'

40 Years Of Steve

This day, 1973: In the patterned house of things both lime and purple, in the polyester breeze wafted by maxi skirts and the turbulence of corduroy flares, in the shade of my father's sideburns, there grew a bump in my mother's tummy, quite unmarked by myself. At three one notes the joyful melt of summer chocolate, the enticing mew of wild cats at the end of the garden, the difference between sand crunch and sea splash: one does not note the changing shape of one's maternal parent. Parents are considered a stable entity. It was quite dark when my father and his shady sideburns shook my shoulder to wake me up. It was therefore either wrong or of great import. He whispered, which was pointless. A whisper is something done when you don't want to wake a person. He whispers: 'You have a little brother. Come and look.' What? But his tone was reverent, it told of a significant event. I put my feet on the macramé carpet and pulled on my lime and purple dressing gown and f…


It is after the rain bearing clouds have blown by: after I hang the washing out and the white shower curtain reflects the sun to make me squint: I am indoors, running upstairs: I don't know why, I always run upstairs: I am looking for a thing, a coffee cup usually, and that is the point of first startlement. A house sized shadow flies across the horses' field. I feel the noise. Boy jumps out of his room. 'Two propellers,' he says, peering through windows for sign of the beast in flight. 'There it is.' He points. It is low and heavy: a cargo of something leaden. The shock of the shadow replays.
The warmth settles and there is no need to be indoors. I have coffee and paper and a working pen and sit at the pallet table writing serious notes when a second startlement occurs: smaller, with grey tone wing feathers splayed to slow its course: a predatory bird scouts the hedge, light and low, then curves a path into the greenery of the ash tree.

Lullaby Trees

The world looks like one of those panoramic pictures, letterbox shaped: viewed through a visor. Yawns burble up, are caught in an inconvenienced palm, pushed away. All the house is busy or crowded, all the garden sodden. A pitch is set in the polytunnel where the air is warmed to torpidity. Seedlings stand upright in a row, an earwig scouts the book pile, a fly makes a journey. The rest of us wilt. I see how the ash trees in the hedge have slender reaching branches, good for whirring in a fast breeze: hear that soft rustle, that low song: follow it into a dream, head on a pillow of folded arms.

Beach And Quiche

'Cuddle.' Little Granddaughter lifts up her arms. Her face has a glow of high temperature. All her energy seems burnt out. 'Beep beep.' She squashes Nam-ma's nose and giggles. After her nose is beeped by return she rests her head on Nam-ma's shoulder, watches waves swoosh, the shenanigans of Dog, the cluster fuss of gulls. 'We go back now,' a tired thing sighs. 'Go back Nam-ma's car, now.' 'Shall we just look around this rock?' 'Okay.' 'Oh, s'pretty shell!' She points at a whirl-patterned pebble. 'That's a stone.' 'Oh. S'tone. S'rock?' 'Yes, a small rock.' 'Uh huh.' She nods as though, in her opinion, the question is answered correctly. Wide spaced raindrops are blown from the warm grey sky. She pulls up her coat hood. 'Not 'gain.' A head shakes, is placed gently back to the shoulder. 'Back Nam-ma's car?' A muffled voice requests. Nam-ma stands in the shallows, …

Observing The Alien

Two moments from the Kids' Camp weekend, interspersed with a memory: I often wonder what odd things will stick in these children's minds. One can hope it's a tradition of magnificent story telling and wise counsel, one can hope it's the excited discovery of achievements: the first time they step out on the zip wire, the first stay away from home… but it might be a dead or deadly insect. *** I was sorry that we drowned the wasp. There were plenty that didn't slip into the simple trap. It helped to keep a sense of calm, I suppose, to know there was a way to halt their stinging sprees. Some of the children were allergic. The drowned wasp did not scare them. They could observe the shape, the infamous stripes, the articulated legs, those mournful eyes, the tiny slack mandibles.
Boy shrugs. He has tried the old trick of luring them off with a picnic lunch of their own: an apple split and left open in the hedge-line. Evident from the creature that lands on his own sandwich t…

Sun King

Morning sun in ermine mist, certain of ascendance, watches me peg the washing: the irregular bunting. By noon we are prostrate. No other body could centre this universe. The sky is courtly blue; clouds move as respectful whispers.
Later, I see, behind concretized blocks, the simple circle blurred with intricate fire: the colour that belittles gold.
At the traffic lights, where the roads are widest and their convergence sweeps obstructions: there the settled sun watches us retreat.

A Wait To Celebrate

The object of today's wonderings is not an object. She is a baby of seven pounds and fifteen ounces: by the time of writing this, about five hours in age. While I am wondering I am wandering: around the lanes, before breakfast, where I see the harvest has begun in one wheat field, but not finished, the rain has seen to that. Green berries are gaining blush and size. Dog follows badger scent sagas. Some bits grip so deep her tail freezes. In the afternoon my car is delegated transport for children to reach the beach. Boy loads the surfboards, hmms at clouds. Dog is relegated to the boot space, next to the bodyboard, to make room for Boy and friends. At Widemouth South the shallows are warm and lively with the foam of little waves. Between the lifeguards' flags the sea teems with impossible numbers. A fan of empty sand, I find this blast of close quarters humanity endearingly cheery. If Dog and I play over by the rocks, it is only so I can throw her ball without clouting a bodyboar…

Let's Blame The Weather

Everyone has days, I believe, where anxiety is niggling underfoot and close to causing a fall. Perhaps it is because it is not appreciated that the anxiety returns? Maybe it is the sense of all the hostility that lingers in the world, the fragility of all you have? It is the flipside then, of appreciation: the unpleasant side of not taking life for granted. It does not seem fair, that fatheads can live untrammelled. Fingers tap on desk: thought occurs. To have confidence in a thing, is that to take it for granted? I have been without lots of things; the washing machine is a good example. I have one now. It works, and I am grateful every time, for every turn of that drum. I love what I have, have no need of dissatisfaction. Except, I don't love that anxiety. Fingers tap on desk. When the dice are always rolling, the thrill wavers. The lack of security frustrates. I would have a haven, a place for buds to grow un-nipped, for roots to stretch. If I could. Years enough of worry have passed…

Beach Colours

At first the rain was of a mild grayish sort, a good sort to wander a shore under, watching surf roll, the light all low contrast monotone. It's after the car parking is paid for and we are walking the cliff top path to Widemouth South that the Super Rain strikes. Swimming is superfluous by the time we reach the sea. Every thread on our bodies has reached maximum saturation. Nothing to do, but run in the warm sea and laugh. Back to the car park, more of a squelch than a walk. There's a lovely café here. No one has remembered to bring a wallet. There's a small bag of change which is counted out at the take away window: enough for three portions of chips. We peel off wet things, wrap towels, sit in the car with our chip boxes and plastic forks, listen to the buzz of car fan, the slide of wipers, wait for the rain to drain from our eyes, finally get to watch the surf roll: blue and white.

The Sky Will Always Astound

There's not an inconsequential cloud here. They are things of marvellous substance. Sunlight blares between. Such loud weather. It calls us to the moors, to seek a good walk and a vantage point. Once I saw the glow-edge of the Northern Lights: the sky was shaded purple: it quite surprised my eyes. From the top of Feather Tor, in the unnerving tug of wind, the shades of this heaven are not unexpected, yet hold that thrill. After deeds of mild daring and a vanilla cone, we drive slowly home in phenomenal torrents.


Fresh cut hair flares rakishly. Sweet stodge of bread and honey behind a fine smile. Sky full of giant cloud poodles. No rain, only heat falls. Physics says hot air rises, of course, but I am sure it is hotter lying here than it would be riding on one of those broad backed clouds.
All the fire exits are open for evening air. Boy and I are in the third hour of hall space rented from the Okehampton Table Tennis Club. I have opened my coffee flask while he commands the warm-up and I say to the parents assembled: 'It's lovely, having an assistant.'
Under rain, the hall roof is a drum skin. Lights dim and flick. Under thunder we must mime: this kick, this block: to a line of faces: avid, awed, timid. The hall roof is played like timpani.
I have always loved a storm and shut the doors reluctantly. I am glad to hear the bellow of it. Feels a long time in the making, comes with such clearance.

'Are we safe?' Asks Harry, in the lull. 'Don't touch anything metal.' His …

Carpe Chickens

The eighth month begins bright. The forecast is a line of cloud, the doom-laden rain-spilling sort. One sullen puff emits lightening forks. I tell Boy he is banned from the planned room clean and must be outside instead. Carpe diem is a phrase birthed for a temperate zone. One does not need the forecast to be correct. It stands as excuse and impetus. Lovely washing on the bobbing line: all my paper weighed down on the pallet table (my eraser is stolen by a wind, but found again caught in a grass clump under the rusty garden chair.) I hear chicken cacophony next door: they have broken free and are drinking from the paddling pool. I don't know that they were responsible for pushing the folding chair into the water, nor do I know that they weren't.