Friday, 28 September 2018

A Chapter In Progress

Not my most current project, since I'm out on a Granma Grace care week and can only bring my l'il Chromebook with me, which limits projects and keeps logging me in on the wrong Google account and suchlike minor mischief. An opportunity however to work on something that could take another decade to finish but if this seems daunting I must remember that the time will pass anyway. Also I have got a little more blogging done which I have enjoyed and hope you have too.
This developing chapter is written in the past tense which I struggle with, please do pick me up if I've unwittingly swapped anywhere. It is not a dramatic scene as this is a calm point, which will suit this book (but no spoilers, I want the finished article to surprise you). Any feedback is valued.

Cafe table, where writers work best, stripy espresso cup
Mr Longhi wiped his brow. The heat grew heavier each year, he thought, little by little, a courtesy so he could get used to it; or he was slower and that was why the ice cream seemed to melt faster. Here I am: heavy limbed, old, warm and weary, happy to open the door of my walk in freezer. If I were a plant all my flowers would be dropped, all my seeds scattered out, and I would be photosynthesising to feed a rootstock. If that’s how it works? But if I were a plant that is what I would do. Yes, I would be feeding something and soaking in every hour of light, soothed in every dark hour. He huffed, laughing also. The heat made him fanciful. He checked his list. They were low on mint, vanilla, strawberry. He stacked the tubs, lifted, hugged them in for the cold before going back up the steps to restock. There is only good ice cream here, he said to himself. It tastes of real things. And I have kinds for everyone - no dairy, no sugar, no fat, full cream, sugary, all kinds. In cones, in tubs. Recyclable tubs, wooden scoops. He had tried to think of everything. Not just because of competition, although one must pay bills, pay wages, and think of this too. ‘Yes.’ He nodded, and looked out of the window at the street down which many people walked. He could see his customers sat under the canopy; bowls of ice cream, little cups of dark roast, tall glasses stacked with ice cluttered little tables; he heard their chatter, smelled coffee, a blend of fragrances, the river water. He looked beyond to the rails that edged a drop to the wide river, the troughs of flowers bursting bright, the benches where a few folk rested under the shade of pollarded trees. Older folk. A pregnant lady with a toddler sleeping in a pram; she looked half asleep herself. ‘Such a long time ago,’ he whisper-sighed, all of his children being grown up, being far away. Funny how you have such a longing. The love has not diminished, of course not. It is not so - visceral? They were once in your arms, the mess of them everywhere. The physical connection. But they have good lives, are good people. It feels like a reward. But of course, there is also luck. His nephew, for example; his brother in law. But he does not want to think of that now. He looked at the painted mirror behind the counter, at the map of his face: a patient terrain, that too is good. He will phone his sister this evening. Invite her down when the heat is easing. They will remember being children themselves. Going to get ice cream. She loved mint best then but she was more inclined to chocolate now, or rum and raisin. A scoop of each! The door was propped open so no bell rang when the young woman came in. She flicked her gaze over the cakes as Mr Longhi washed the ice sheen from his hands. He saw her in the mirror and guessed she would not order cake, nor ice cream. He thought mango sorbet, but the blackcurrant, the lemon, the rose petal: all the flavours were worth having. She lingered over the choice. ‘Let me know if you want to taste any, they’re all delicious of course.’ ‘Thank you.’ Only good food here, he was pleased to repeat to himself, but it depends how you think of it, of course; some people choose not to eat cake, to keep healthy. They order the light meals, which is right for them. If they ate cake maybe it would seem like defeat, like a snub to their own choices. The joy for them is in physical health. Though those people are rare. More common is the struggle to choose health when the joy is in pudding! Moderation in all things, the old man smiled, including moderation. Keep balance. Lose balance to know balance. ‘The mango is sugar free,’ he informed her, ‘the rest have a little to sweeten and preserve, all organic.’ ‘Oh,’ she looked up and smiled, ‘the mango then please.’ ‘Anything to drink?’ She reminded him of someone, but perhaps she had been here before. ‘Could I have just water?’ Yes, plain or sparkling?’ ‘Tap is fine.’ ‘Where would like to sit? I’ll bring it over.’ She looked around, pointed to the round table in the corner. ‘There please.’ ‘Good choice, do take a seat.’
Lisa Southard, writer, coffee drinker, cafe writing, work in progress

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

What Is It That I Want?

Cute duck walking out of river

This week I'm Granma Grace-sitting. We are having a fine time so far, I have only frustrated myself by attempting to get better search engine optimisation while our Grace takes pleasant naps. It isn't a silly thing to try (SEO or naps). I think I have over-tried though, and need to stop before I get reckless - there's a sort of madness in this grasping for success. Perhaps I should go back to querying, find an agent, seek the traditional publication route. What am I actually wanting from this? To get my words in front of more people; to sell books to help finance buying a field. I'm always busy, always working; out at work, working from home, relentless. I stop here and there, recharge, go. 
Bringing a dream to life can be a tough gestation. 

So, this dream, this field and the living we will make and do within it, why do I want that? To be living in tune with myself and the earth, to spend quality time with family and friends; a sense of achievement comes into it too. The van conversion is near finished (it will never be entirely finished, being a first project especially, one is always learning and adapting things) and this time last year having a camper van was only a dream. How did it happen? We made ourselves rich by making our wants few, plus long work hours. This scores high on the sense of achievement. Maybe the land will come the same way. And with the land comes projects; swimmable water, woods, field kitchen, charcoal kiln, hillbilly hot tub, old tyre sauna, maybe a pirate ship on a little island for my ducks to live in? (Yes, I definitely want that!)
And a space for my writing - whether anyone reads a single line or not, underneath all of this dream making is the compulsion to write, the words that seem anxious to find me. If I had nothing else, if no dreams appealed, I would want to be writing.
The words come now and they say - stop chasing, keep working, it will all happen, pay attention. 

Today Grace and I will go walking, by the canal, to a park, somewhere where her memories are gathered. Yesterday we strolled to the river and down by the flood defences which are all new. Out of the water hobbled a little duck, just as curious to observe us.
Come live in my pirate ship, little duck, please; come remind me how to be.

Things to do by the river Exeter: say hello to a duck. Granma Grace leans from her wheelchair to chat to the little curious duck.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Egg And Moon

Flash fiction comparing moon, skull and egg

Three Kinds Of Rain

Rain smudged view of a fence top, photo taken from inside car

Rain today, two main kinds.
Heavy: each drop has a discernible weight, the drops are close together.
Light: the water barely felt. Drops fall sparsely and, where acknowledged, are perceived as a change in temperature as they touch the skin.
Until you are wet the air is warm, a summer vestige. Leaves burnish, fruit drops. Blight flourishes - we watch for it, harvest, cut back, holding onto bounty; basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, physalis, aubergines, samphire. This year the lime tree has not blossomed, it may need a new pot. We’re ticking over here, though, not rushing to mend. Make do will do. Our minds champ to be on the land we will buy. Patience, the rain says. It brings the word from the sky, from the sea, from millennia of water cycles. Uh-huh, we say. We can breathe this day’s air, watch our crops, brew and chop and fill the freezer. We are here in this moment but can’t stop the fear or the thrill or the gnashing of ideas - the future that is coming, we want to meet it - the rain is laughing, of course, it knows these words too. Night. I’m driving home from work. The weather is a rain-fog, a whole cloud dropped to earth.

Steep hill top viewed through wet window

Friday, 21 September 2018


Beautiful glossy acorns

If the storm had a body, this was one jab from one fingertip, no more; elsewhere the hurricanes tore, here the road was lost under mulch, here light branches fell. We felt the roar, the joyous power, we were safe in our home. In the morning the sun rose, an orange fire caught in grey cloud, sparks that lit tree tops - copper and iron. Images of a weather god, hammer swinging, forging - a ploughshare, I think. To turn over earth and plant a green crop, to keep our soil safe through winter.
Day and night draw even. Nights will start to stretch. We must think of winter stores; hunkering down, shoring up.

I feel like we will have enough, we will get the work done. Often when contentment loomed I had feared it. It seemed a dulling of my senses, of this edge to edge living. This time I am plumping cushions, setting the wood burner. And yes the house is full of boxes and bottles and things to be done, we have not reached the still point of cosy - but I am ready to be comfortable. Nothing stops storms, whatever zone you inhabit. In the temperate zones the seasons will morph, the days and nights will shift their hours. I too am changing, and yet not: I am sky, all this is but weather.

Silhouette of tree against grey sky

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Autumn Soundtrack

Hogweed seed has dramatic umbrels

September, mid afternoon; we hear the constant fluctuation of wasps in the willow arch, hungry and heedless of the hornets that are raiding wasp-grubs. Leaves are drying, edging into new colour, whispering. Indoors, every hour is backgrounded in blips. Apple wine, timing its own fermentation, a liquid metronome. September, first autumn month, the ninth month, the evening: against the dark, logs crackle fierce in the fire pit. Wine sloshes into glasses; a soothing mesmer made. Eyes droop. We stoop to bed hearing ourselves list jobs to be done, plans that slide into dreams of us on our land, and there is music playing and we are laughing (but this is us snoring, by now.) September dawn, birds’ chorus bursting bright. Later in the morning, coffee softly drops into a pot.

A log glows purple in a fire pit at night

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

September In The Water

Quarry pool on Dartmoor, with two happy swimmers bobbling about

Lisa Southard takes a bow... and dives off a rock

Lisa Southard jumping off a rock, mid air, before the big splash

Like a pirate, Lisa on an island wearing a stripy top.

Summer signs out on the calendar, maybe distractedly: it leaves a trail of warm days.
In these days we can find a body of water appealing, strip impromptu, dip and swim; strike out limbs, put trepidous feet into murk, thrilled by the press of weed.
We can be merfolk, pirates, explorers, in our storied dialogues; jumping from rocks, invading an island of boggy grass.
Then we put coats on, walk brisk, eat a pot of good olives.
We can run down a beach into shallow waves for miles, till the dog gets tired and swims back.
We can slither back through rock pools, joining a gull tribe. Hear the kittiwake's call. Days are busy busy - too much needs doing - but nothing more than this.

Out of the water when we are wet and the breeze finds us we recall that summer has signed out, that we are in the remnants. Clothed again skin has a buzz of circulation, a flush of warmth.

A tired dog sneaks off to rest after a long sea swim