Tuesday, 22 January 2019


How we might perceive the world

*A Work In Progress

There's a book that is demanding to be written. All my work is bossy like that, but this one more than any previous endeavours. It is kicking its way out, then throwing itself like a possessed jigsaw. All I have to do is put it together. 
This particular piece of it is from the point of view of a person with a profound congenital disability, and hopefully gives a voice where a voice would not easily be found. I don't know where it will fit in the big picture. Anyway, feedback appreciated... 

The ‘I’ that is writing this does not exist.
No one can know what I can or cannot articulate, what it is that I know, even if I know myself at all: as you could not articulate the difference as you passed from unborn to born, but only react, involuntary.
So this ‘I’ is a supposition.
There are sheets of medical words to explain this condition. And there is this ‘I.’

Life was a dream to be woken into, a beat of hearts, a warmth we did not process: we only knew it was different when air entered our lungs and our bodies unbundled.
Nor did we know ‘we,’ nor do I know it now.
There is a loneliness of which I may not be aware. Maybe that first missing is with me still. I cannot tell you.

Existence was physical. Air in lungs. Noise. Light. What sense I made of it - it is not translatable. Something was summoned from me by external stimuli.

The world of sight was - is - light and blurs. I am named blind but light - the sparkling kind, the flickering, I will follow that. I can reach a hand to a thing, hold, caress, reject, fling.
To touch - is this a counter to isolation?
When the rain blows in my face, I am smiling. Laughing. This joy is observable. Do I mean you to observe it?
I cannot tell you.

Sound is hearing and feeling. I will pluck a string and press my face to the vibration.
Here I seem content, self-contained, missing nothing.

When something feels wrong - a pain, an unhappiness, I cannot tell - I will thrash my arms. No voice comes from me. Indigestion, ennui, migraine, same thrash.
Here I seem locked in, attempting to escape.

Questions, answers, sticky weblines.
How different we are, how alike. How any ‘I’ can be a supposition, invention, brought to exist, ceased to exist. How fickle existence is unless our attention is mindful.
How the blow of rain can wake us.

Thursday, 3 January 2019


trinkets, memories, china cups, family memorabilia, grief, happiness

Granma Grace has weathered five or more (the doctors are not certain) strokes; she has a confusion that thickens as the day goes on, a deepening layer of impending doom. She has a foot that twitches, even while she sleeps, with this certainty of worry. Something somewhere is wrong, or will go wrong. That’s one layer out of many though: optimism is not obliterated, gratitude abounds, the love of simplicity: draw the curtains back, she will wait for the birds to alight on well stocked feeders. She will ask that the little cat who warms on the step be fed a treat. She will check the sky for the beautiful weather about to happen. She will love to go for a walk, however brief. Sometimes she cries for the loss of independence, quiet tears. She says she does not know how to repay us for our kindness in looking after her. Mock-strict I tell her this is prepaid love, and there’s a very healthy balance on this account. She blooms into laughter - it’s so good, it gifts me a halo. Today as the curtains are pulled across there is a lone swan waddling about her garden. He was here yesterday too, and had tried to follow me into the house when I fetched the washing in. He is a widower, she says, he visits here alone always. He nearly came to tea with us, I tell her, but I shut the door because those things can poop a pile! Yes, she giggles, that would not be good. I watch it graze, and walk at ease through the goose-gaggle that arrive later. Granma Grace drops into a deep nap, feet elevated in the recliner chair, legs blanket wrapped, foot a-twitch. I am staring from the window still. I see a magpie hopping (one for sorrow, as the old rhyme goes) I say, yes, Magpie, I know. If I see another (two for joy, as the old rhyme goes) I will laugh - that too, I will say. The good with the bad. (Like a flower in midwinter. Like our prepaid love.) I see a brightening of cloud. Hear myself think: After all the terrible facts have been met, dear Grace, dear All, what will have we become? What breaks us, makes us: if we will bend, we will bloom again. Life is not meant to be unbroken. We must learn how to be broken. We must learn that we are not broken, that is not the right word. We are works in progress, unfinished always. At the end of a life you see a wholeness, an alpha to omega circle. You can hold that up to the light, admire it: but it is not really finished. Memory connects. Love connects. What connects, affects. What affects, continues. No wonder we love the weather so; the tides. Connect. Affect. Continue.

widower, swan, grief, happiness, memory, perception, love

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Down With Maps And Plans

Van, adventure, Dartmoor, life, family time
Once we were on the beach, though not planned, swimming was obvious. Wellies off, socks off; just having a paddle in this clear water, it's not so cold, we should go out deeper... Leggings off, wade out oops, a wave rises. Now me and Dog are swimming, not walking. Floating fur blurs her edges. My dress darkens, green-black, moves like kelp-fronds. We are lost to the elements awhile. After this dip I wrap up, skin a-tingle, pinked, glowy.
No one is surprised, except the owner of the spaniel that peed on the wet clothing I dumped on the shore. Oops!

Back at Granny’s house I am peppered in sand, laughing. If I take off my socks there'll be a dune in here. We all warm up with tea, and more laughing. Me and little niece use fuzzy felt to create a goat headed farmer, a horse headed pig, a pig headed cow: then we name the imaginary objects we are throwing at each other.
Slice of panettone. Tea.

Tired from laughing, tired from a long shift finished that morning.

Mr does the driving, we go home to change clothes and vehicles. We have a plan.
We will take the van for the night, park up, in the morning take a swim. We will look for a place named Crazywell Pool, which we’ve been waiting for a chance to discover.
It is dark as we head across the moors; the map is taking us down tiny soggy roads, more tracks than roads, grassed over, boulder strewn. We decide to turn back. We take a short cut to Burrator, following the same map to a lane where there’s a tree branch down, so rather than risk being stuck we promptly reverse the van’s rear tyres into the mud from which they cannot escape.
There is no phone signal, no internet.
No amount of jacking up wheels, nor building bespoke roads of stone or branch, or formerly pristine van mats, will create the necessary traction.
Torch batteries run out. We abandon self rescue in favour of getting the bed set up, (slight tilt, seems sleep-able) and open the emergency wine.
Dog is having the best time, running after owls and foxes, fetching sticks. She sleeps soundly.
We sleep a bit.

Daylight seeps through tall pines, and one old beech tree fixed in curves.
One historically important barn solid beside us.

After coffee and a few more tries at rudimentary road building we manage, with gymnastic balancing atop of a stile, to get a text message to a friend, and then one back, and so on, till, eventually, the rescue van was dispatched. I chased it down, waving a high-visibility jacket: nearly burst a wild pony with surprise hollering. Sorry, pony.

A mere sixteen hours or so after our accidental park-up, there's no time (or energy) for swimming.
Not too late to get to Plymbridge Woods to walk with granddaughters. If we can find it...
Again the map is thwarting though we did not get wedged or sunk merely perambulated in unnecessary circles, arrived on the wrong side of the river.
Walked over the bridge, up the hill. Legs reluctant.
Grandchild 3 waving at us - opening arms for a warm big hug. She doesn't throw those hugs around, this is a real welcome.

Even so, the inner monologue is grumbling: so tired... so fed up, plans not working and this is my one day off and the stupid maps…

Ah, but this hug, it's not perfunctory. A grand press.
And there’s Grandchild 5, peering around her ice-cream, puckered up, and I lean down for a sticky snotty kiss and a smile, and a little hand takes hold of mine.
‘Come on Granma,’ she says, like I was here yesterday but this two year old hasn’t seen me since when- September? October? When they moved away.
Granma does as she’s told, follows two of her counted blessings along the river trail; salt on skin, mud on boots.

(Dog has the best time, in and out of the river. Sleeps for days. Makes no plans. A world mapped in scent and instinct.)