Showing posts from September, 2013

Hedgeberry Jelly

Rain, the dour forecast tells. A frown at the sky gives hints of otherwise: an even tone to the humid grey, no rain lumps thickening. This and a stirring wind encourage washing to the line, where it swells to corpulence, seems contented. The dogs bark at a grocery van; are reprimanded; slouch and sulk in their beds. All of us are late to bed and early up and not the better for it. There can be no sympathy for this, no surprise: do the same thing, expect different results? Confess to idiocy and pull on boots. A little humility and lots of fresh air. We are but made of human stuff. The rayburn is lit, the coffee strong. The dogs cheer up.
Down to the river we go, Mr, Dog, Fat Beagle and me and a tub for berries, to follow the river-fed hedge and see how the water is rising and pick as we find:
Cadmium-red rowans: poisonous till cooked please note! Deep-red haws: hanging clear of thorns- Blackberries and elders, both squish to bloodied maroon: fingers and mouths smeared, sweet gruesome juice! Crims…


Aurum drifts from an avenue of beech: we scuff up fibrous coinage, walking the riverbank path. Two hounds bound into the clear brook and out, sniff stumped trees, scrabble claws on flood-smoothed granite. It's good magic at Golitha Falls. We breathe it: the scent of clear river, green fern, tree bark, wet rock, fresh leaf fall. Otters live here: we will not see them, we know, we must imagine it: Dog and Fat Beagle make too much splash. We love the road signs seen on approach: Caution Otters crossing. Tree roots bump the path, mossed green: can be mistaken with delighting ease; serpents; dragon tails; giants' fingers: emerging like stories, irrepressible, earth-nourished. I think of Midas: how wrong he was, turning everything to gold with indiscriminate touch. Autumn is the wiser alchemist, truly rich. Two hounds bound: scatter fulvous treasures. Before home, coffee appears in a shining flask cap.

A Short Reality Check

In between the word-blurs there are moments where I am surprised to find myself not typing or holding a biro or stooped over an open notebook. And now, while I am typing, I am thinking of them. There was Little Granddaughter sat on the edge of the moor, bathed in ice cream, legs wetted from adventures in the leat. She has a new game: one of us says 'Wait a minute…' and taps a finger against lips in thoughtful pose. She sprawls limp in laughter. There was the river raid made by me and Dog, across the Tamar to Devon to scrump a few blackberries. They were all to seed, so we came back to our own bursting hedges.

There was that hungry stare into the fridge, the reassurance of congested shelves. I made a jam sandwich, brewed fresh coffee. There was the oddity tonight of arriving home to find lights flickering: a mystery solved by the discovery of a TV remote under a Fat Beagle. In short, back to the word-blur I may go: we are laughing, walking, eating, sharing dog care: there is no negl…

The Extra Rinse Cycle

That first walk out, all gauze and swaddle; hedge webs are things spun from mist; blackberries bend stems, dew-rinsed, delicious. Flowers on the bramble bloom; last year's magic strawberry patch, though frugal, is not absent petals. Slowly the hazy cover slips; clouds keep the sky barely modest. Meals are taken at the indoor table, the windows open full stretch. An afternoon coffee is left on the sill. Two figures in the garden take washing from the rotary line, throw pegs into a pot, hasty and wet. Rain starts sparse, swells to downpour.

Fruit Fatted

Chandeliers spilt; a morning sparkle; an air of morning after, of drunkenly flung. Spider-webs' irregular geometry strings the hedges, celebratory. It is a feast of fruit fatted flies for them, a larder of sugar buzz wasps; wrapped parcels hang from diamond lines. Abundant autumn, busy, glutted. Through silk-sticky marvels walk home, squinting in the lit up mist. A feast of toast for us. The jam was over-boiled, it spoons out like sweets, rounded and night-coloured.


I did write this in the car, and managed (first attempt at such technological advancement) to email it, from my phone, as a draft blog post, which I have not edited because I like the free tumble of tired words:

Poor eyes all hollow and shaded like the horse of sleep has landed a double back kick. Horse of sleep? Perhaps I was thinking of a nightmare? Tired? Oh yes. In the car, typing on my phone, when I get home sleep is the next listed task. Lovely travels even with this weary nag. Enough equine reference now it all is like a laundry basket, when all the colours are chucked in, and one thinks of how this was worn for that and all is jolly, never mind the mess. I was not thinking of a nightmare, only a mulish stubbornness. Kick off day clothes, clean your face, lower eyelids, hush now mule, dreams are waiting for you.  
Sent from my LG Mobile


Fleet of foot, the fox slips over the brow of the hill road; body dark, eyes lit: a photographic negative. Boy misses it but we are in good time for his early bus. He heads for London with a coach of arty students, two cheese sandwiches and a camera. (Return time: roughly midnight.) The house is quiet, bar the thump of Dog's tail. Sleep is not calling. There is leftover coffee in a silver flask. From the porch steps I see the sky lighten, the early cloud drift, the tree silhouettes still leafed, like dark lace; the oak reminds me of a Spanish shawl, a widow's dress. -Imagine a widow in this breaking dawn light: the sun rising on such a different life. Birds are piping shrill; traffic on the A30 flows, a constant churn. The steps are cold: I have on a woollen coat, and flip-flops. -All over the world, such changes are happening: seasons and circumstances. History seems a clumsy lurch: if we get to hold hands awhile, that is grace in a clumsy world. Good to be stoic but one must leave …


A slice of grey matter in the sky; the moon; flung up, pancake style, round as a bubble with no wobble, so confident in flux: full with it.
Tired, not exhausted, driving, full-beams dredging hedges, a small catch of wild eye reflections, all along the tree tunnel the moon is flickered off and on, the tree tunnel: edged in gold leaf.


More coffee, less sleep! At 3am, realize I have fumbled this advice. Also that I have forgotten several birthdays and not posted that anniversary card. Sometimes I think these words are physical pieces of me and I write more life than I live: they are demon words each dragging a stealthy slice of me and one day there will be only words left. Some thoughts can be cured by sleep. Must unfumble that advice.
The wind is a cloud-herd, over fields that have warmed earth smell and curves and busy hedges. Where feet stand is still, vibrantly still.
Is my life all inked out? Shhh, says the wind: you should sleep. Where feet stand is thick with flowered cover; the hedge plants run to seed. Words are flowers. Words are seeds. Shhh, says the wind.

Auspicious Glitch

After the washing up, the washing (small house, wet weather, no tumble dryer, don't underestimate the skill required) and a basic level of cleaning is covered, it should be writing time, only Boy has sent a plaintive text: please can someone fetch him his photography folder? And while so close to town, I figure, why not drop in the banking and buy some cup hooks and root ginger. And while I'm near-ish there's a sale and I might as well try on some dresses, there's a wedding reception to go to on Saturday: it would be transcendent to go out and be wearing new clothes. The sale is ultra-cheap: the vision viable. This dress and that, I deliberate: mid-lengths, mostly: leopard print; lovely, but not in my size; skinny fit feather motif; looks good full of curves but it won't hold its shape; embroidered nouveau folk; so quirky but so shapeless; and a random dress picked up accidentally in the clutter of the other choices; this is the one that I buy. At home I hang it up…

Park Banter

Winter sends some weather from the future: it's been some months since my hands felt bitten like this. Double-coated Dog cares not a jot. We are in the park admiring the width of old firs, the silvery trunks of birch, the feral pre-schooler in the undergrowth. 'I should have just got a dog,' the mother says. She is holding his raincoat open and smiling. Ice rain puts him off the feral life. He runs for coat cover. We are at the hill's brow when the rainbow breaks. A dinky white terrier stops to wait for a damp man. 'That's the trouble with this weather,' the man says, 'you never know.'

Gemstone Jam

A Sunday blown through with rain, buffetty, quite plain. Consideration is given to finding long trousers but for now we muddle through with shorts and boots. The front door is open and the stove lit, the jam pan scrubbed from yesterday's boiling; that bubbled obsidian and set ruby; four crammed jars wait for labels, another is open, waiting for the halt of the bread maker's ruminations. A greedy glimpse shows azurite, under the kitchen's electric bulb. Washing in the lovely machine tumbles. The fabulous smell of bread. Dog eats up her chicken scraps and upstairs the sneaky rain-damped Cat is sleeping on some folded clothes.


Handfuls of rosehips and some new scratches are found in the field by the river. Formation geese make a fly-by, flanked by rankled pheasants. Blackberries get picked on autopilot now, it's so natural to step and pluck. Skin gets hot under a light coat, under a thick cloud blanket. Nettle stings edge the welly-tops, provoke no reaction. Just down by the river, standing, the truth filters in: watching the water move around the fallen oak: it could be a film set, a fairy tale: it is not. (Not so awake, walking back to the house; the writing desk; the obsessive notes; nor so asleep.)
One gets to work and launches in: follow the syllabus: do this kick, add this routine back-fist; perhaps not such a routine job; in the last class a baby rolls in, fast asleep in her pram. 'If she cries, I'll pick her up,' this nice Instructor says. So for part of the lesson the tiny one burps on the Instructor's shoulder while her mother finishes a kicking drill. 'Sorry about that,' Mum s…

Locker Room

Water from the showerhead trails, cold and limp. Bracing: one must think of it thus, if hair is to be washed. And besides, it's simply different to do this. Think of odd hotels, the quirks and inconveniences of adventures. Put a hand on the tiled wall, the sleek white squares. Watch the loose pattering of spray, see how the locker room lights shine through the water's twist. Brace, and step under the chill. Cold awake now. If you are this far, push on. Wash hair, wash skin: watch the foam carry the comfortable dirt to a gridded drain.


Alcoves in the hedges hide the blackberries and the picker. Muddles of flora from bud to seed; spiders, the sort with banded legs, spin thick webs; slow wasps can be picked off the fruit and left to be confused; into the open pot the ripe fruits are dropped. On the other side of the hedge are whispers: hazel fronds or ghosts, it cannot be told. The story is indecipherable, the noise fascinating. This sky could bring any weather. The wind is colder than yesterday. Purple fingers sneak through brambles, pluck away the ripe fruits: into the pot they drop: hazel fronds or ghosts: whispers and wind chill bringing welcome shivers.


'A meal of green tea, scandal, hot Sally-Lunn Cakes, and a little novel-reading.' Pendennis; William Thackeray; 1849
Solange Luyon fled France: in 1680, she arrived to the City of Bath, to Lilliput Alley, where a baker's business bloomed, and she baked the bread of her Huguenot heritage. Her name was anglicized, and the popular breads known henceforth as Sally Lunn's Buns. The baker's house still stands and the breads are still made, though the oven is updated now.
But what became of Sally Lunn, refugee, entrepreneur? When her recipe was rediscovered in a secret compartment above the fireplace, was there no clue of the writer? She disappears, in a puff of blown smoke.
Marie Byng-Johnson is almost as vague. She bought a run down town house, in Bath, in 1937, and turned it out as a tea room. She found a secret compartment and there was a secret recipe and she told Sally's story and baked her buns and business was good. If you google Marie, you will find Sally, and some…


Since our old college is shut down, Jen thinks Bath would be a good central point. Several dates are negotiated. Sorry, I'm in New York! We're away camping, it's booked. Ect! The 7th? Yes!
I drive up. Girl says: I hardly remember it at all. It's 20 years ago, I say. We park and check in and get on a bus. Always on a bus, in those days. The 484. Still had to walk a mile or so down the drive to the college. Carried all our laundry on that bloody bus. In those days. Shared a house, all of us. Formative years!
I know them, as though we had never parted company at all. Hugs and exclamations! Girl was five or six: and now she's 24?! Ridiculous! That's older than we were… Elaine slides the photo album from her bag… Oh! I remember that jumper; those knickknack things in the fire surround; hideous carpet; that tall girl- Yes, she was at Leeds- Paul the landlord; didn't care for wearing trousers around the house. Afraid of girls though. Here's Girl, waving cute hands at the ca…


Consciousness glides, up through the shallow snores. Awake? Yes, awake: thinking of coffee and outside. The windowscape is cloud and blue. Walk? Dog's supine loll is compacted and sprung. Ah, we are both renewed this morning. The fields are calling: they are stubbled and bleary, waking like drunks. Wine glasses wait by the sink. They have stains the colour of lips. Coincidental. Out holding a tub, to stalk the edge of stalks, peering for dark gleams. Some will fall into fingers, some require a twist, some a reach, a risk of nettle rash, of wasp, of scratch. Rain circulates, light as breathing. Three horses out, they have heard the field call too. Will the dog mind if they gallop? No, she will thrill at the hoof thump and later eat some dung.


The Nextdoor Chickens quit their dirt pecking and look up. They make a noise that echoes quiver. Swallows take to wing. Damp air brings dinner even if the sky shakes. What is thunder to them? A gutful of gnats, a dinner bell? All day drama has built in the clouds: such scenery! Kiss curls cast in solid iced white. Puckered anthracite. Contortionist flecks. Charcoal smeared with candy-floss. All of it, only water! Rain shakes down, rich quenching drops of it. After this is a flattening off, a sky pasted uniform grey. Early for work I sit in the driver's seat and inspect: the layers are there, subtle, idiosyncratic still. I mark the light and shade of each droplet on the windscreen slope, the crescent curves of reflection.

Little Buddha

Nam-ma is driving as the first leaves fall. She remembers how they skitter. Jerky, comedic, enthusiastic: once she had a wind up toy, a pair of chattering teeth, a similar quality of movement. Little Granddaughter, red cheeked, has slumped to sleep in her car seat. It is hot, even with the windows down. Dog lies panting; a tail thumps, irregular, for various scents. They park near Feather Tor. Nam-ma pours a flask cup of tepid espresso, looks forward to the cold leat water. The little Buddha is missing, she sees, stooping the coffee flask down to the passenger foot well. He is not in his usual nook by the gear stick. He was there… when? The day the brakes failed and no-one was hurt. That morning she had rubbed his tummy: she remembers; the cool, the smoothness of it; she had said, 'For happiness.' LG awakes, is enamoured immediately: 'Cows!' Beyond the cows they walk, to the leat, where a dragonfly circles an ancient granite cross and wild ponies drink. One foal comes close, cl…


From faded tarmac steams this end-of-summer heat. Our headlamps catch spools of white vapour, it moves, circular, in the throat of the road, like a liquid pours, only lighter, slower. Things we should recognize loom unknown from the fog. Pairs of lights drive by and sound just like cars.