Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Far End Of Early Autumn

Saturday, Northcott Mouth Beach
Wellies are dragged off, after the climb over barnacled rocks.
One day, this beachcomber thinks, that hunched cliff will stick out legs, the cave mouth will shut, the land will swim into the ocean.
Bare feet slip into sand, that finely ground metaphor for time. Dogs run and surfers sing, sliding down rock slopes, hopping over stones, splashing happy to the cool clean barrels.
Sunday, Exmouth
Little Grandson gets strong by eating cabbage. His baby brother waves a Yorkshire pudding, yells triumphant. He has cheeks like a moon, like Old Gilbert, theres a photo of Gilbert smiling I remember: the same moon beam from both faces. In the highchair Baby Girl twirls broccoli in her curls. Out of the highchair she not only walks but marches and spins and performs a most graceful collapse-in-angst. She is drawn to Great-Granma’s pearls. Spectacles have the same enticement of shine but one is told no, again! Baby Boy shoots past in his walker. Pee-yow! He has a bump from a trike disaster and a big big laugh.
Monday, Exmouth
Little Grandson explains to Grandad how to tuck in a shirt.
‘You stand on a chair,’ he says, ‘and do it slowly. That what Daddy told me.’
Grandad nods. We admire the boy’s shoes. He shoulders the back pack with the apple and the water bottle and the book bag and his drawing of Jack and Jill tumbling down the hill. Mummy and Granma and Grandad and Baby Boy and Fat Beagle and Dog all walk to school with him. He strides into the playground. ‘This is my friend,’ he introduces and the bag is handed to Grandad’s feet and he is running with his friend. There’s a pack of them, smiley boys in the sunshine, running and inventing the game  as it happens.
When they line up he knows where to put his apple and his water bottle. He sits on the carpet looking at a book.
Tuesday, Lawhitton
Wet clothes are slopped onto a rock, after the river swim, after the hot run over the cut fields. Sunlight scatters through cloud like a blown kiss.
I don’t know what will happen, this wild swimmer thinks, but I see what I have.

Friday, 26 September 2014

A Farmyard Faux Pas

Cows turn their angled heads to lean through the bars. Little Granddaughter holds an open hand up to their raspy tongues and unnerves them with the pitch of her delight. They are getting used to her though, they soon settle to it. She repeats that she loves all of them and especially that one and this one and all of them.
‘We need to get shovelling,’ Granma reminds. The dung pile is on the opposite side of the yard. Granma has forgotten to put her boots on but it’s a dry hot sort of autumn day. Dry dung dust skitters in a warm breeze. They haul bags and a spade and a small gardening fork out of the car to begin. Little Granddaughter sticks her miniature fork gamely into a dung globe and tips it into the first bag.
‘That’s hard work,’ she says, rubbing her back. ‘Phew-ee.’
Granma has ten bags to fill. She smiles.
‘We can go and see the cows again in a minute,’ the little one decides. She prongs another dung ball in.
Granma has the spade. She is thinking about the sound of the spade on the concrete yard, how the scrape sounds shiny because it’s metallic, it’s the association of shine and metal. The thunk into the dung heap does not sound shiny because one hears rather the thickness of the matter.
Little Grandaughter prongs in a third lump. She uses both hands to keep it balanced.
Granddad saunters down to help, he brings the big garden fork.
‘Hello,’ he says. He wipes his brow. he’s been building the supporting walls for a new raised bed. This is what the dung is for.
‘Shall we see the cows now?’ Little Grandddaughter asks. She is looking at her fork, which is small, and the dung pile, which is not. She puts the fork down.
‘Well, we can fill these bags first,’ Granma says. She leans down to jiggle a half filled load, to get a bit more in. She is about to suggest that the little one walks over to the cows anyway, it is only on the other side of the yard, a few metres distance.
‘Here’s some Granma!’ Pragmatic Little Granddaughter, beaming, angelic: holds in her bare hand a dried dog turd.
On the way back to the house Granma explains about how some poo is useful and some is less so but that none of it should be picked up with hands.
‘Yes Granma,’ she sighs.
They leave Granddad in the hot dry morning, shovelling up the good stuff.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Tales From The Tenets And Other News

It’s all over Facebook and Twitter (on my accounts if not all) so it is time perhaps to speak of it here too.
Tales From The Tenets.
You will most likely be familiar with the concept of a tale. A tenet is essentially a principle, a guideline, you may know this also. These eponymous tenets are known to many Tae Kwon Do practitioners, being in common use as rules to live by. Courtesy Integrity Perseverance Self Control and Indomitable Spirit! We spin them out like a chant as we explain them to our new students/remind regular students why they are doing those apology press ups. But how to make our mantra stick? How to show these rules are to make you a good person, how to explain that good people are happy people without sounding like this: blahblah do-as-you’re-told blahblah be a sheep baa baaa? You could try telling some tales, of course.

Ronko The Rude Clown, for example. He has such selfish mean behaviour that he can’t even be bothered with personal hygiene and as a result of this he has a socially unfortunate accident. He is not popular so the other clowns laugh at him. This is not terribly polite of them but he understands why. He learns.
There’s the magpie, the dishonest thief. If he had told the truth his head might still be attached.
There’s Elenora, persistently exploring, persistently vexed. And thanks to her persistence she remains persistently alive. (No one is quite sure how the hammerhead shark came to be in the undergrowth.)
There is Timmy O’Tomkinbert the loveable robot whose self control panel was tragically compromised in a thinly veiled dig at shabby modern industrial practices. Sci-fi, sausage making and shoes gone wrong!
And then there is the Zombie Apocalypse: prep or die? Your choice… only remember how delicious you are to those grumbly-tummied undead…
These five educational stories were written for fireside sharing at our Junior TKD Kids Camp (the cub scouts may have regretted joining us) to nurture a little moral reasoning. The stories proved popular so I put them in a book. An ebook initially, as there’s currently no capital available for printing. My publishing enterprise Black Belt Books is a slow grower, which is fine as I have no particular plan, only curiosity and enthusiasm. And I’ve been invited back to camp and some other venues too: and there exists a list of ideas for the next five years worth of Tales From The Tenets. And other ideas! 

Other News
The Novel, the grown up novel of which I sometimes speak, is close to ready. Today I met my Chief  Dear Reader. There are a few alterations to make: nips and tucks only. This is not Black Belt Books catalogue material. Do I set up a second publishing enterprise? This is not a rhetorical question yet requires no immediate answer. It is more a way of wondering what I will do next.
Meanwhile blackberries get fat in unexpected heat: my fingertips are wrinkled from indigo juice. Dark demijohns in the kitchen sing bubbling September songs.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Early Start, With Ear Flip

The warm night wind blew round and round till it circled to a faraway storm. 
Morning comes, and mist settles over the river. It makes shadow puppet scenery with our horizons and the sun is a creamy blaze.
Dog wakes reluctant, obedient. Me too. 

I put on my running shoes: she sighs: I know. 
Both of us will pad to the lane. We will breathe in musty farmyard, sour-fresh hedge, damp tarmac, we will feel the air, humid, moderate. Reluctance sheds off, I know it does.
We pad to the lane, breathe in. 

The sequence occurs as expected, as previously experienced. The way Dog looks, an ear flip, a jaunty tongue, is firsthand delight. Untrammelled. We run.
Some of it is plod and grumble. Some of it is pure sprint: uphill: steeply uphill. Some of it is stretch-the-legs (walking for a bit, whilst maintaining a mindset of running, which may or may not be cheating but at least is still moving.)
All of it under this sky. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Of Sticks And Fish

Are you playing Sticks?

Oh... I'll wait...

With eight fruit bearing trees a garden officially becomes an orchard: we have fifteen planted now. Eight are the new hand reared damsons. They look barely more than twigs, too slender to survive. But I remember that the cherry was dog mauled (she thought it actually was a stick, ate most of the bark) and thrived. It was the most productive fruiter this summer although the cheeky blackbird ate all but two of the cherries. There is no knowing, only doing and thus with wry grins we had collected from our neighbours; marched it, one at each heavy corner; their old bath. This will be my new water garden and may even house a fish. For now it is a perfect nook for lolling and reading and the occasional visit from a spaniel. It is so comfortable, slumped, dozy, watching the washing blow: a warm wind brushing my forehead: eyes could close here and open anywhere, it has a portal feel to it, a comfortable portal reflecting sunlight. Perhaps it would purpose as a garden chaise longue, or should I sit in here in the water: winter out in a thermal wetsuit? I’m sure Dog would still visit. We must remember not to buy a fish that resembles a stick.

Damson twig or tree?

An idyll, wet or dry :-)

Monday, 15 September 2014

An Unsolved Sum

This morning’s mist lingers as though it had forgot where it meant to go. It worries itself to a warmish haze. Some of the cows lie down, similarly bemused. The hedgerows’ first rush of abundance is cooler, slower. In the stone shed a deep freeze rumbles, thumping cold at boxed windfalls till they ice: it will take a day or two and the apple press needs fixing. Meanwhile holes are dug for damson saplings that have each been raised from foraged fruit, that have been pushing out of pots with longing roots. In the back field maize grows unreasonably tall, it spikes up over the hawthorn trees. It whispers not words but feelings and enticements, it calls to the story in us. We want to know where it goes, of course, that story-path that is the sum of work and nature.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Of Leaves And Socks And Banana Soup

Across the car park a few leaves scuffle noncommittally. They are new to this, their movements unsynchronised, lightly wooden. Out of lit streets cars roll, caught slow in lines behind combines, trundling hay lorries. Headlights strobe variant shapes in roadside foliage, a country road rendering of the Northern Lights.
Clear night, misty morning, sun and cloud afternoon.
The weather pattern repeats but the heat fades. On an organised day a washing load will dry on the line.
Little Granddaughter visits. She loves her expedition collecting dung for the garden, down by the cowshed. She friends the cows, liking this one best, then that one, then ten all at once but only because she only has that many fingers but she loves them all and babies, she loves babies too.
Indoors she plays a game of doing her work, which is writing, making soup and picking up the dog’s poo. Outdoors she raids the tomatoes and makes her own rainbows with hosepipe water. Indoors she helps Granma cook up chicken ice cream and banana soup.
‘Noooo!’ Her snort is remarkable endearing.
Outdoors she forgets her boots and her socks are first wet then lost.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Well Dressed Chap Leaves Home

Every morning is mist. Afternoons simmer till we float poached, feeling lazy, strangely refreshed. Down at the river summer lingers, trailing hot fingers in the water. A wade out will become a swim. The mud stirs up but the sun turns it topaz-gold: it will be the leaves next. Everything will cool down but the treetops will blaze.

On Sunday evening we lit a fire. The Chap brought out his wooden ship, the one he built so carefully as a boy, the one with tiny balsa planes and a fine layer of dust and cobweb. He brought out his bottle of dark rum. One ceremonial tip of rum went on the ship, one went into his mouth. A fir branch flared the flames: onto the fire went the beloved replica. We watched, we let it go.

For no particular reason I think of one afternoon when the electricity had run out. My son was four years old or thereabouts. It was autumn, perhaps that’s the reason. We had a key meter for the electric, the key could be recharged with cash at the local garage. I had put on my favourite coat which was soft as a rabbit, faux fur, pale silvery grey. The children loved that coat: they would hug it like a pet. But my son was still wearing his summer coat, thin cotton, sun faded yellow, one blue stripe on each arm. It was cold in the shade so we swapped coats: one small boy in ankle length bunny-fur, one mum in a demi sleeved bolero. We laughed all the way there and back. It took twice as long to walk the short distance because we laughed so much.

The Chap, tall and serious, stood atop the pirate raft that had kept the Little’uns amused all afternoon: saluted the shipshape ash.

On Monday afternoon we drove to Totnes. The Chap had everything packed. At the rendezvous we hold back: a hug is mandatory of course, a well wishing too.
‘Shall we wait here?’ I ask. We are looking for other smartly attired youngsters carrying ironing boards. (This is how one enters Officer School: in a suit, ready to iron more shirts.)
‘If you like,’ he says, which means yes, please, let me have the dignity of independence.
A minibus pulls up and out of it spring many officers, buttons blinding in the sun, dazzlingly white capped, wielding lists. They look like they are going to start jumping and clicking their heels together, so chock full of jolliness, like a well rehearsed show that the cast love performing.
We watch the smart youngsters shuffle from one group to the other as they are signed in by the jovial staff. They stand making introductory small talk. No hands in pockets, I note, although they must be nervous: they look friendly, I think, as we drive away: The Chap waves, even though our car is the one that clearly is not washed nor valeted. He is busy talking. He is one of the youngest there, I note, but he does not look out of place. Noting is a good distraction: that and all the work he has done to get here, the sunshine, the happy show and in particular the surreal detail of the ironing boards help to make it okay for our well dressed Chap to leave home.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sunflower Moment

This picture is for the memory of Tina Downey, with whom I no more than shared a few emails and the fun of a few A-Z blog challenges. She loved sunflowers and was as cheerful as these scatty petals. I am sorry for her loss. I hope a legacy of cheerfulness is some comfort to her family and friends. Those of us who knew her briefly through blogging are posting pictures of sunflowers today in tribute  to a bright soul. If you have lost someone who made you smile this is for you too. Cheerfulness and love endure. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Coffee And Cold Waters

Overnight a coverlet of mist soothes thirsty fields, settles restless limbs with its skilled easing of heat. After a long sleep weariness is loathe to leave. Coffee is the answer, probably. The kettle is filled. Yawning goes with stretching: why is that? Strength 5 the packet announces. Full bodied, robust. That should rout the weariness, of which we are bored: this is inevitable. Tired people have little patience. Somewhere nearby a cow snorts. And we lack concentration, probably. Or decisiveness? Several more nasal expulsions follow. We drink coffee and pretend that bovines do not care for colder weather. They will not miss the horsefly bites though, no more than we will. Perhaps the snort was aimed at the back of summer? Their derisiveness is in vain for the sun soon burns away mist and makes hard cakes from mud.
Yesterday was bright with summer colours from the start. Little Granddaughter stomped welly boots to the riverside; nettle-stung, unphased, she stopped to pick a dock leaf and rub the injury away; charged with clumsy confidence out of one boot, two boots, on with swimsuit, arm bands, sandals. River rocks can be sharp or slimy, previous paddles have taught this. Before the weather changes before the river rises before the water temperature drops, we wade out further till it’s called a swim. She laughs in the pull, grabbing my hand, falling and laughing.
‘It’s cold!’ She says. ‘Let's do it some more times!’
When the thrill of cold wears off she lies towel wrapped next to her Granddad while her Granma swims deep and her Doggle shakes water which is hilarious and decides she wants a sandwich. Tall flowers make a jungle path back to the field. But first one must be dressed even though it seems tiresome. One must remember the nettles.
‘Did you like your first river swim?’ I ask.
‘Of course.’ She detours to the hedge to eat blackberries.
‘Is there any bread left?’ I ask Mr. I am thinking about sandwiches.
‘One roll, perhaps?’
It seems amusing, somehow. 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A Box Of New Dimensions

All new worlds bring opportunity for bravery. Here I am, typing on a silver sliver in yesterday’s same cramped office so the sensation of standing as though at the opening of a breathtakingly vast airlock to discover a new world is disproportionate, somewhat… Microcosmic, I settle for that explanation. My tiny world navigates and connects with The Future World. There should be no barriers now, all communication should flow, just as soon as I work out which buttons to press. All new worlds also bring burdens of learning which can alter one’s perception of the journey. Overall one must chant something inspirational along the lines of:
This is by choice
This is my journey
This is not actual space travel with limited oxygen
Time is finite for people so get on with it
Cool view
Remember why you started.
Not beautifully phrased but workable. This new machine that I have unpackaged, plugged in, lumped a load of untidy files onto is a continuation of a choice made on how I would spend my time on this planet. It’s not about looking pretty, although it is silver and sleek and coincidentally Girl has revamped my hair this week and the wild strawberries have reflowered. They are wild first, strawberries second: they do not wilt in this early autumn heat nor will they fail in hail.
Empty boxes scatter the office: berry stained tubs line up by the hosepipe: upstairs storage boxes wedge and trip us up. The Chap is leaving home to follow his dreams in four days time. Preparations fluctuate and are frequently interrupted:
Is this worth keeping
I remember

I have no idea
This would be useful for.
Out in the lanes blackberry stems bend with gleaming weights of fruit: autumn starts cute as a vintage tea cup, in spite of the brave new world vacillations. Prettiness, toughness, abundance; we hope The Future World has all of this.