Showing posts from March, 2012

Sworn to Secrecy

This morning was a get up early and make espresso and get in the car morning. Boy was reading, Mr and me doing our habitual tree spotting. No mistletoe grows in our patch of the world, we don’t know why. Do the birds that eat the seeds not travel beyond a certain point? If Mr could fly he would go everywhere. He doesn’t understand why birds should take their abilities for granted and be rooted to a territory. Being rooted and having wings seems contrary to him; an interesting point, I concede, but one unlikely to cause a finch any sleepless nights. If death leaves a spirit-self, Mr’s ghost will be swooping the skies, while mine will be tumbling surf. Since the sky and the sea are always touching, we can still hang out together. On the return journey, we view blossoms; the hawthorns are looking lively; and play the family travelling game- making phrases from car registration letters, which degenerates so rapidly into making naughty phrases that it is called ‘Three Letter Filth.’ It is …


I drive to my Friday Baby-sitting shift, wiping mist off the windscreen with wipers set to intermittent. The sheep are pressed in a bunch, collectively suppressing yesterday’s heat in their straggled chunks of fleece. Farmer Landlord has brought this modest flock to the fields recently, I'm not sure what breed but they are a rustically cute animal, a bit dilapidated, so very much in keeping with the rest of the property. I fetch Baby back to our cottage. She gets wood-dust knees and develops her friendship with Dog. After lunch, she is tired and tetchy, so Mr, Boy, Baby and me press in a bunch in the kitchen for singing and expressive dance. It reminds me of a John Cage quote; ‘theatre takes place all the time wherever one is, and art simply facilitates persuading us that this is the case.’ Our show is a resounding success. Baby sleeps for over an hour.

What The Bluebells Cannot Tell You

I notice the weather, every day, mainly because it changes so frequently, although this day is the seventh consecutive sunny event, and here I am, eating fruit for breakfast with the windows open again. I wonder how easy it would be to take the weather for granted, if it was reliable, if you lived in one of those places where you could look at the calendar and know what would be happening in the sky. Maybe I would write more about flowers and birds, and what happens in trees and streams. The stream is perfectly interesting and even pretty, despite the junk it curls around, but the only life I’ve seen in it is Dog. Trees are twitching with birds so busy I’m afraid they might have a mass coronary. I imagine the sound of all those feathered bodies thumping onto the grass; hopefully most of them will survive and just have to do less frantic nesting, be a bit more relaxed about sharing territories. Spring buds are evident on the damsons, the pear, and the ridiculously tall cherry. Our hedg…

The Simple Act of Breathing

This morning was made of speckles. Not literally, not the whole morning, I am exaggerating for effect. I was adding dots to a storybook illustration, peripherally aware of the fabulous day outside, the windows were all open and the air all fresh, much nicer than the usual wood ash and damp dog aromas that loiter in our living room. Breathing became noticeably pleasant. I was aware of enjoying the simple act of breathing and quietly applying ink. The morning passed, the picture was finished and scanned and sent. Donna tells me the lambs have come a week earlier than expected, and her sister has been helping, trundling her baby daughter through the pens in a wheelbarrow.

Just Add Water

Everything we had planned for today got postponed for a mundane but pleasant list of reasons. Out came the sun. Disciplined me used the extra time to catch up on sensible work indoors, which is not a bad thing, but in a bid for a balanced life and a need to atone for yesterdays grump, a run to the beach was, in retrospect, inevitable. Mr, Dog and me piled into my scruffy car and unpiled at Widemouth Bay, low tide. I walked down the beach and forgot to stop until me, my clothes and my Dog were in the sea. It was more extreme paddle than swimming. The water was cold but the kind that skin can acclimatise to. Mr is not convinced. Mr is amused. The waves catch a beneficent wind, spray rises in a plume. In the shelter of the car door I do the traditional clumsy changing from wet clothes to spare sarong. I must have a ‘Just Add Water’ Acme Happiness Device fitted. Drove home perfectly balanced, after cleaning the salt from my shades. A buzzard rises over the car, and I toy with the idea tha…

Unsheathing The Mean Streak

Everyone has the odd bad day, no matter how fabulous the philosophy or the view or the shoes.  It didn’t start badly. There was a chill mist opaquing a fat sun, which sight I smiled at as I drove to do my bringing up Baby shift. My grey check lace ups were looking cool, pressing the pedals in my clunky quirky car. Baby was hilarious. Today she crawled out of the kitchen after raiding the washing machine, holding a clean vest in her mouth like a small animal off to cozy up a den. At home, Mr and I sat outside with our diaries and espressos and talked dates while a buzzard patrolled the fields.  I have had some emails back from letting agencies, because we might need to move. This is the first prang into my usual perkiness. Impending upheaval and empty pockets, this gets to the crux of the slump. I am allowed a certain quota of slumpage, I tell myself, even if I don’t like it. What I am not allowed to do is keep any, or dump it on other people.
At this point, I cheer myself up with some c…

Summer Time Skyflake

And here we are, sprung forward an hour into British Summer Time. This daylight saving time scheme is also known as Western European Summer Time and is practised in the Canaries, Portugal, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, theChannel IslandBailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and the Isle of Man, as well as the UK. Whatever we are calling it, the sun feels obligingly bubbling hot. It’s a spring heat but winter being the nearest season we have for comparison, it seems hotter than it is. In a temperate climate, and especially if you should happen to live in a rain-belt, a sunny day is something to leap on. I have jumped as far as the sun lounger, sprawled back on full tilt, flip flops kicked off. Dog lies down, chewing a bit of grass. Last night’s bonfire gives out a shudder of dew-damped ash. I watch aeroplane trails smudge and disperse, while a little blue butterfly sits on a honeysuckle leaf, like a flake of sky.

Off Shore

Today is so laid back, it doesn’t even think of starting before ten hours have ticked by on the clock. Not that we observe the clock much, on such a pleasantly indolent day. Warm mist hovers over the horizon, a balmy breeze blows, the sun is testing its strength. It is a day designed for pottering or surfing. I think of the lovely waves, of being suspended between sea and sky, and the salt smell, and the joy of sitting on the beach, reclothed, warmed up, exhausted, looking at the ocean and my mind still playing in the waves. Tempting, but not the resting I’m supposed to be doing. If you don’t rest, you don’t get better. The best thing about being ill is the flood of happy relief when you get better. That’s the wave I decide to wait for, while I alternate an amble with a spate of sun lounging, while I watch the buzzard on the thermals, and my mind is paddling in a sea of possibility. Mr has just lit the bonfire, so I’m going back outside now to stare at stars and fire sparks. 


Sun follows mist, so this afternoon I am able to lie on the sun lounger and read. I am trying to ignore the symptoms of being ill, but craftily resting to speed recovery. Maladies are not popular with me. They interrupt play. The plus side is, on resting, one can practice calm quiet skills like the art of self-awareness, which is importantly distinct from selfishness. Although while I take the time to lie on the sun lounger, gripped by the actions of an entertaining thriller, immersed in sun, faintly aware of the birds’ blathering and Dog’s wish for me to throw stuff, I have a teeny weeny epiphany: if this is selfish, a bit of it must be healthy for me. Having recalled this valuable lesson, I am disappointed that the illness doesn’t immediately evaporate. 

Ballerina Arachnida

Nearing midday, I’ve just rewoken. I tried wakefulness at seven, but it didn’t feel right, and I didn’t have any responsibilities I couldn’t shirk. Before I crawled back into bed I walked past the dressing up box, noticing the dark hunch of a big house spider in the folds of a white tutu. Even if one feels poorly, any day where one sees a spider in a tutu has got to be a good day. Tegenaria domestica is a chunky looking species, so she has probably not got a place in the corps de ballet. I think it is a she not because of the costume but her healthy size; females of this species can live for seven years in quiet indoor places. Outside, where cold weather will limit a spider’s lifespan to just one year, the moors are shrouded under mist, the treetops are still, I hear Mr thwacking the axe through firewood.  The spider is still in the white folds of tutu netting, maybe it seems like a web to her. I put her in the Bromeliad instead, which is in a rare flowering mood. 


The sun ricochets into our bedroom this morning, bouncing all over us. The sky is split in two. Upper strata of a mid to light grey sinks down over a still pool of blue. I watch the slow cloudslide while poaching two eggs and brew coffee. Boy drops his dinner coins down the side of the sofa, and needs assistance to venture into a crevasse of dog hair, reminding me that at some point in my life I might need to do some housework. I wander outside to see the sky without a glass barrier and clear thoughts of sofa detritus before sitting down to enjoy breakfast. Boy leaves for school, striding the lane under the last stripe of blue. I observe the dark-dipped sky. Expectation says this is how today will look, grey-shaded, but the cloud doesn’t stop sinking down into the blue, leaving just a few bits bobbing in a late afternoon sunspot. 


Today is the official poise between day and night hours. But it clashes with a rare day to devote to writing and illustrating so I only know that because I just read it on Facebook. I still walk out with Dog. The air is so full of birdsong there’s no room for weather today. My head is packed with bits of story, squashed in like a badly packed suitcase. It gives me a concentration headache and then I drink too much coffee and feel a bit queasy. Described as such this does not sound like a successful day, but all I describe here is the cover, and the book inside it, my own personal journal of today, is perfectly poised and happy with what I have achieved. So happy, it’s bordering on obnoxious. 

The etiquette of stars and flowers

The lane daffodils are in the full burst of flower. The orchard daffodils flurry to catch up. The grass patch daffodils are still green. They have not long since pushed up, a cheeky phallic mob of chlorophyllic buds, waving in the wind as I drive past. I can imagine them heckling me, but I can’t think what they might be saying. Something immature, slightly out of earshot, mischievous, a daffodil in-joke. It’s a bright sharp spring day. Fat white clouds shuffle across a classically blue sky. When the sun drops, the stars have the night to themselves. They are much older than even the lane daffodils, and do not need to heckle anyone.

Road to Telford, and Back Again

Firstly, a coffee in a Wetherspoons, Bristol. I am mostly thinking how happy I am to own prescription sunglasses, for on the drive up I have seen, in sharp, perfect detail, so many trees throwing mad shapes in hedges and fields; dead looking stumps with stabby branches, the type of fir trees that grow on mountains in oriental paintings, sweet fluffy buds of willow. Then it occurs to me how much attention I pay to trees, and maybe this is a good opportunity to watch people instead. A lady at the bar, at 10am, is reaching for a pint. ‘It’s my birthday, tomorrow,’ she explains. I look at the faces, weary from drinking, and they all have their stories, but mostly, after roughly three or four minutes, I am missing the trees.

Then we follow a rainbow, which leads us to Telford. I think the rainbow might be lost. Secondly, a vodka soda in a Wetherspoons, with friends, before Mr and me slink back to our hotel. There are hardly any pavements on this leg of the journey so we sling our legs over …

The Happy Cartographer, January 1994

Been a while since I checked the old diaries. There are lots of entries for 1994, despite how busy I was, I wrote everywhere, I was so excited by my discoveries. Although I do start with a bit of bitching… maybe if you could have heard the nonsense those poor desperate to impress boys were spouting, you would have thought ‘tongue scissors’ too. If I could revisit this scene I think I would just laugh, being older and generally more tolerant. The crap I refer to is their banter, not daughter’s charming dinosaur centric babble.

‘On the train. Oh dear. How many stories can you begin with ‘me and my mates, right’…. I’m sure they’re very nice, individually, but I wish I’d brought my tongue scissors. Daughter not stopped talking either but at least she’s not freezing my imagination with tales of how she fished for Yorkshire. To distract me from this crap I’ll think about yesterday’s walk on the beach. I went to talk to the sea about losing the train tickets (had to buy another set…) What I see…


The mist has lifted up to be more conventional, to lay across the firmament, easily identifiable as cloud. Indecision has not left the sky. Over the fuzz of cloud and the chill wind, the solid warmth of sun is waiting. Will the opportune moment come today, or will rain prevail? It could go either way. Mr and I walk up from the field, each with a cut slim branch on a shoulder. We step side by side, mindful of the possibility of a very literal slapstick injury. Experience has taught us well. We watch a pheasant slink up from under the cover of the big oak. Dog runs, nose to ground, but does not find it this time, neither did we see where it hid. The birds are very purposeful this time of year. Two wagtails fly in the confines of a hawthorn, round and through, oblivious to sharp spines and human presence, caught in a territorial dispute. Mr tells me two black belts were fighting at the top of the lane, and would not stop even with the car driving at them. He meant blackbirds. 

The Tree of Life

Last night the mist was missing. The sky was full of stars instead, and much taller than I’d remembered it. I wasn’t sure what this morning would bring, and I’m still not sure. It is the exact pivotal point between fine rain and mist, so for want of a more definitive word, I call it cloud. Mr has gone to tackle the shopping, while I have taken on the washing up and walking Dog, and, just to be flash, I have also wrestled a pile of unclean clothes into the washing machine. While the dishes drip-dry and the laundry tumbles, Dog walking is done. We discover Mr’s latest work, a neat wall of cut alder logs. They share a colouration, but each log is subtly different in size and twists of shape, a pleasing irregularity within the context of conformity, which I point out to Dog. In response she requests that I throw the ball. The rest of the tree is already up at the house, brought by wheelbarrow and strong leg muscles. The roots of the tree are in the hedge, bringing in nourishment to make n…

Land of the Morning Calm

I am the first one awake this morning. It’s quiet except for the spring-frisky birds. Yesterday evening the mist was a soft blanket, hanging it out overnight has damply chilled it. Dog follows me outside, listens to the birdsong and seems to shrug before returning indoors to rediscover sleep. Cat stretches her back for scratching. She is purring before I’ve put my hand on her lumpy fur. Since Dog is happy snoozing and the air is cold I opt to settle on the sofa with coffee, toast and laptop. When the toast pops up the rest of the house wakes up, like some kind of sympathetic magic. While I am drinking my coffee, Boy talks. While my laptop bings into life, Mr tells me about things I need to finish the accounts. The TV is turned on. Feet tread the stairs in search of things. The marmalade is delicious.

Zombie Patrol

At half past noon I am lying in a bath. The water is hot, it smells of nice soap, bubbles make map shapes on the flat surface. The window is pushed open wider than usual and the tall geranium flower is peering out at the blue sky. Mr, Dog, me and my wet hair all walk round the fields and it’s too sunny to be wearing a scarf but you don’t really know that till you’re half way round. Being in good spirits we play the target game with the ball and the throw-sticks. I get two good hits on the post (requires moderate skill) and one close touch on the high wire target (requires excellent skill.) The high wire mark is a ball-on-a-rope dog toy that Mr threw one day and it never came down. It has been there for years now, we have watched it fade from fluorescent orange to a blotchy pale peach, like a bloated zombie goldfish. 

Midtide Mist At Midmorning

Mr draws back the curtains this morning and his head is literally in the clouds. All there is to be seen of the usual scenery is the top of the holly tree. Everything else is light grey. At 10am some more trees begin to evolve, which the noisy birds will be glad about. Foreground extends to the fields, mid ground and beyond is diffused sunlight. Updating the website slides from routine easy to I Don’t Know Why This Is Happening, at which point I look up and save myself from frustration by going outside and drinking tea while the buzzards circle over the fields. By lunchtime, only the edges of the world are hazy. We toss washing on the line and hoist it into a light breeze with much satisfaction. I have always loved that sight. It always tells you where you are in life. After training, I walk out into the car park, too hot to do up my coat, and the cooling mist tide has rolled back in. 


Early this morning I let Dog outside, and the world had disappeared. Mist swirled like the dawn of time. Then the sun shimmered through, smiling at the deception. I lie out on the green sun-lounger, reading a book on symbolist drama. The washing line is in full use. Six buzzards ride thermals far above, wing feathers outstretched. As they spin away, a fleet of clouds arrives, neatly spaced. If Dog would stop dropping stones on me, I would be asleep. I wonder what I would dream of. There is a quote in the book that I re-read; ‘What we have to do is to bring poetry into the world in which the audience lives and to which it returns when it leaves the theatre; not to transport the audience into some imaginary world totally unlike its own, an unreal world in which poetry is tolerated.’ [TS Eliot, from Poetry and Drama, 1951] I recognise the intention, although its possible that I live in an unreal world and my tolerance of poetry is actually unnatural.

Open Capillaries

Set off driving as the sun was rising. It was shy about it, coyly remaining behind cloud until mid morning when we were walking indoors, away from the delicious spring day. A coffee after a long drive is an under rated pleasure. My brain has a healthy flush of opened capillaries. Around the middle of the afternoon we are back in the car for the long drive home. Me, and my passenger, have been learning how to organise competitive fights. We are too injured (one does not say ‘old’) to compete these days, so helping other people is the next best thing. We talk of this and admire the landscape. I love how the tree branches are formed like brain stems. The clouds are pretending to be mountains. On the home stretch, passenger safely delivered, there is just me in the car as the sun disappears. Just me, winding the car through the dark and the mist, under the tree tunnels, over the river, back to home where the wood burner blazes and the pork stew is hot. Mr hands me a glass of wine. 

Knicker Fail

Mr has picked a ridiculous day to have his birthday this year, a day in which he has to get up early and work till late. He is treated to a cup of tea in bed, and last night we had cake for supper. I have an early hurried start and it’s not until midmorning I realise that my underwear is inside out. Since grumpy baby has capitulated to nap time I sit down and watch the athletic competition on TV. Long distance women run the track, they look like beautiful hunters, slender and solidly lithe, in pursuit of medals. Outside the sun loiters behind cloud cover, maybe it can’t decide what to wear today. Sometimes a cloud shakes out a pouf of fine rain.

Lamb & Ice Cream

Sun sifts through cloud, fattens up the buds on the blackthorn tree. It percolates; spring is the season of percolation. First lambs, born in the frost, are plumping up, new lambs have slithered into a green world, edged with budded hedges. It feels like wakefulness, after winter’s deep important dreaming. While the earth dreams, I am awake in the cold. When the sun arrives, I drowse in light and heat, my mind wanders like a curious breeze. Every experience has its own beauty. The buds of spring have obvious prettiness, conversely easy to take for granted. They require as much careful attention as anything that I observe. My favourite season is always the one I’m in. But if I had to pick one, it would be the summer of 1976, because I was six and recall it all in Technicolour, garish, kitsch, hyper-real. Every day the sun shone, we swam in the sea and we ate ice cream. My swimsuit was the reddest object on the planet.

Monocloud Morning

Rain fell all night, light as spider silk. Fat water beads on the grass blades are splashing over my cheery Wellington boots, as I’m out with Dog in the fields on morning walk duty. I am not convinced that this can be the same water as last night’s delicate precipitation; part of the same costume, like netting and sequins, but not the same material. The sky is made of monocloud, softly overcasting the day. Dog explodes five pheasants from some reedy undergrowth by the stream, but later fails to take notice of a rodent which quietly vacates the path behind her. I see a waddling brown fur back in the thick grass, big for a mouse, small for a rat, and it disappears into a tunnel system under the blackberry thicket. 

Winter & Pasta

Sky was so heavy with cloud this morning it was tilting. While I was being fed a row of wooden bricks by a chuckling Baby, it must have sorted its self out. Baby hasn’t localised her laugh, it happens all over her body, as does her lunch. We look out of the window at the hazel catkins twitching in the chilled breeze, at the bridal white buds on the blackthorn trees, at the straightened layers of low cloud. Winter has not gone, but stands at spring’s shoulder, overseeing the new season. In the middle of winter we light fires to call back the sun, but in the middle of summer who wishes back the dark? I don’t begrudge winter’s lingering.

My Office Is Sat In Bed


The Wholehearted Breakfast

I should be soooo tired but when I look out of the car window everything is so sharply in focus, I notice more detail than I can fully process. When I woke up too early this morning, Mr was snoring and most of our cash had worked its way behind the bar of the Bristol Hilton. Left him sleeping, put on my favourite red swimsuit, wandered to the pool. There was only me and the water and the steam room. Dried, dressed, smelling of complimentary body lotion, back the room where Mr is putting on trousers and talking of breakfast. Breakfast is a fantastic idea, we pursue it wholeheartedly. Later at home I am walking around the fields with Dog, the wind is cold, the tree joints grumble. The wind rattles through everything like it is trying to find its car keys. What does a wind need car keys for, I ask myself, the kind of question that tells me I am indeed rather sleep short. Getting in a car and going to a Dinner Dance, I decide, the wind is jealous of my weekend adventure; answering my own …

Spurtfire farts

Without being unaware of the kind of sunny breezy day it is, wakefulness is submerged. I’m looking upwards at the day from shallow bleary waves. Baby is good company, and she sings at the trees thoughtfully when we walk round the fields. There are two babies in the house this afternoon, the littlest one drinks milk, farts like a machine gun, sleeps. Baby girl senior rolls in the dust, gets stuck under the table, sleeps. We are amused. Later, when I look out of the window, Cat is poised at the edge of a puddle dipping her head to drink. A robin watches from the scooped branch of an ash tree, indignant chest puffed. Cat will not be hurried.

Chainsaw In Shadow

The sun was obvious behind the mist this morning, like a grandparent plays a game of surprise from behind the curtains, we know what is coming but the delight is not blunted.  It has been a long time since we knew the sun would keep us warm, since we have not thought of coats or even scarves. Anticipation we didn’t even know we had flowers into joyful embrace. I hold my arms up to the sun like petals and get buzzed by a furry fat bee. All the windows and doors are wide open. Mr is down in the shadow of the hill with the chainsaw and a recently felled alder tree. Day heat comes from the sun, night heat from the combustion of wood.

Tag Post Questions

I don't necessarily understand this game- jumping in anyway! Answering 10 questions posed by Teresa Cypher, 10 clumsily assembled questions of my own listed underneath. Answer in a comment or leave a link so I can find the answers on your blog :-) 

1. Tell me what you think of love--is it overrated or underrated? I think it's misunderstood. People want the floaty magic feeling but the everyday effort escapes them mainly because they underestimate how much effort can be involved. It's a very important part of life.  
2. Dogs or cats? One would not be as much fun without the other! Dog is a bigger presence in our lives but Cat does work for a living here, so I had better be diplomatic. 
3. If you could have either a helicopter or a bulldozer to play with for a day...which? Bulldozer, after some careful consideration: because we have fields, and a very bumpy lane.
4. What is your earliest memory? I remember pre-school. I called my te…