Showing posts from May, 2012

My Own Kind Of Beautiful

Engines running, while wheels are stuck static in a traffic rut. I spy a scale of negative facial arrangements. Blank. Bored. Submissive. Resigned. Irritated. Aggravated. Angry. Here and there, music plays, a happy carload bounces with seated dances and karaoke voices howl from wound down windows. My guess is correct. They are indeed, young people. I hope they can keep this feeling, not as a nostalgia; as a sustained part of their older lives. My least favoured expression; on a face, in a voice, lurking in a mind; is dissatisfaction. It is the enemy of appreciation. Mr is facing the enemy today, trying to track down a parcel, following a trail of expensive unhelpful phone numbers. He is already irritated. On a number of occasions I too have made a customer service manager feel like they have earned their annual salary in just one day. ‘No, I’m afraid I did not make a record of the name of the employee to whom I spoke. This is because I was under the delusion that you employed competen…

Dangle Like A Chrysalis

Checking emails: spam, selling stuff, Facebook birthday list, and a reply. Craig from Buglife ( identifying the Jewelwing we thought we saw as a native Beautiful Demoiselle. Calopteryx Virgo, though not rare in this habitat, does not disappoint. ( Spiders weave webs, or hunt, they plot, they stalk, they trap. They cannibalise freely for they are not obviously sentimental. But over the fields each year, the web pod nurseries are fixed into grass clumps, keeping the spider young safe. Ants are many acting as one, sublimated to purpose, a society of absorbed co-operation. Bees speak to each other in a language of dance. Woodlice are an early design, a segmented ancientness. Metamorphic invertebrates are my favourites, for their symbolism. Head brimful of glittering wings, of flight paths, lazily drive into town. There are traffic lights at the double roundabout. A colourful configuration of cars are filled w…

Suppertime, And The Living Is Easy

Over the fields this morning, a hot air balloon. It is the shape of a light bulb, like the valley has just had an idea. Tethered to Fat Beagle, I follow far behind, along the top path, the closest I can get to climbing into the basket. Dog, who can be trusted to return, runs free. Fat Beagle is pleased to be out on the tasty sheep poo snack trail. The chunky tail wags. Foxgloves are in flower, vertical globules of pinkish purple. We all go back to the house for some wholesome breakfast.
Under a wide brimmed hat, I sit, legs tucked under the pallet table, to finish shading the picture of the ink-drinking monkey. Last time I was out here the wind stole my eraser. All I could find on the ground nearby was a half chewed mouse. This did not seem a fair exchange, not for me, nor mouse. The air does not move, today, and the little body lies still in situ.
It transpires, from Mr’s venturing into town, that the letting agency write badly worded letters. The whole big scary amount is not unrefu…


Last night, I read this quote, and then, of course, had to write. Curtain Call was my first title idea, but this morning I prefer ‘Encore;’ it holds the sense of something to continue. The metaphor shifts, but the sense of tiredness is sustained, so the title is all that I have changed:
‘I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes... and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so’. Joyce Carol Oates
I could write all night. But then I would be tired. Thinking of sitting here, with the window open, just tapping out all the changes in the air. But there are other things that need my attention. Time to shut down, conserve energy, regroup my scatty, distracted self. But, first, a little light writing to direct my dreams. Stream out some sentences, in a loose consciousness. Stream like driving. To Roadford Lake: We f…


The window is open all night. Whatever the weather did then, I slept through it. Woke to coolness, to a low sky of watercolour greys. Boy is up, eating cheese on toast. Boy looks at his watch. His morning routine is breakfast and cop drama. This morning some fanatical plot to reintroduce smallpox is not quite foiled yet. In principle, I do not like tv and breakfast. In practice, Boy relaxes happy before hitting the exam desk. ‘You can have a lift,’ I say, stirring soya milk into a bowl of oats. My breakfast is paler than the sky.
The big news today should be the big cheque handed to the letting agent. If we don’t pass the credit check, there is no refund. At this point, homeless and penniless thoughts haunt every level of our minds. One attends to practical acts to appease uneasy spirits, such as the dogs need walking, then we should write a menu plan.
As we are striding across the corner of the lowest field, out of habit eyeing up wood sources, a marvellous thing flies by, a dark wing…

Weary Animation

Hard gummed Baby, slimed in drool, falls deceivingly swiftly to sleep. The heat or the teeth or an unknown third option turns the night into a series of walks connecting bed and cot. As birdsong trebles through an open window, Baby is wedged into bed between grandparents. As the sun rises, she sits up, claps hands, slaps Mr Grandad on the shoulder. Rain falls heavy, it’s still hot, the birds call. Downstairs the clock reads 5.55am. Baby rubs a piece of jammy toast over her hair. I reach for a mug the size of a god’s forearm. My sense of scale is half asleep. But it is a big mug. It is filled with a quagmire of coffee. At this hour, caffeine is best served with cartoons. Mostly dabbed clean of blackcurrant, Baby bobs about the room, delighted by two dogs, a drawer of toy cars, a spoon and a brick. She miscalculates clearance height under the coffee table; refuses comfort; demands comfort; slouches slowly to sleep. Granma slow motion slouches too, after correctly guessing the Scooby Doo …


Yesterday’s brain, under surface calm assertions, sounded like this: ‘Oh. The twenty-sixth day of May? We could be moving house in four days. Four days, or five? Five years since I started stripping the bedroom wallpaper, but we never had the money for paint. While Boy is doing his exams? We have no boxes. Will the big cheque clear in time? To give notice requires 30 days. Where did I leave my coffee? Stop eating sheep poo, Fat Beagle!’
Farmer Landlord phones that evening: ‘That’s fine dear, you sort yourself out. Take your time over it- that’s fine, yes, no, don’t pay us any more rent, that’s fine. Longer someone stays in the property, the better for us, if you see what I mean.’ Quick words construct sentences. Regret in every pause.
Apologetic kindness. Advantageous sympathy.
Assuming, self-assuredly, the sought cottage is rented to us, between there and here, a buffering state is mapped. Out comes the elderflower champagne, it flowers effusively all over the kitchen floor.
This morn…

Arduous Magic

Heat follows me into the house. Around the edges of the fields fleece-laden sheep graze shaded grass. Fat Beagle, our houseguest for the week, struggles to clamber up to the cool sofa leather. Dog watches derisively. She curls her lips when he wanders close. She curls up next to him when he whimpers. Not love and hate; comfort and scorn. I make coffee and leave it to cool. I fetch my laptop from the cupboard that is my office. It is an old Mac, bought with a redundancy payout in 2006. I dropped it once, halting the terrible fall with my broken foot: literally, a painful experience. The casing fractured. The plastic splinter is still held in place by a sticker from a Thornton’s chocolate. Thus it became an object both useful and quirky. Stuff I own is on my mind, today. I will not classify it as a painful occurrence, but I do not deny being discomforted. Moving from a sprawling crumble of a house, to a neat cottage, not all of our possessions will fit. I believe that life is more impor…

Cider Tramp

Lately, it has all been about The House; our real quest for an archetypal place of secure residence. Some balance is required, firstly because too much poignancy will make you sick and secondly because the rest of the world is still there, shuffling uncomfortably while you mutter to yourself. Embarrassment may cause you to refer to yourself in the third person, maybe even the third person plural, Lily Tequila, and all of her aliases, awkwardly note. So, still believing that in the particular lies the universal, I look outside myself and pick this for a subject. It has the essential edge of oddness.
Cider Tramp. This is a terrible thing to name a person, obviously, but then so is village idiot. Sometimes the external labelling is socially understandable, if not wholly acceptable. Every village needs an idiot, it could be argued, this idiot being a vital unifying force, a source of comedy, provider of the jester function, the safety valve of social pressure. Towns have cider tramps, thoug…

Feathered Blessing

Opened the window this morning to release a sleepy wasp. Opened the window out wide to the warm sky. A split-tailed bird flies in to circumnavigate my head. It seems flustered. I consider it a fortuitous sign, albeit rushed. Advance boldly to letting agency. Two properties are listed with the magic words: Pets Considered. Just about affordable. More expensive than here. We drive out, scouting. These places are picturesque, in good repair. Rosehill is picturesque, crumbling, bizarre. These places have neighbours. Do we like people? I can’t remember. I’m nervous like Robinson Crusoe leaving his island. A fission of thoughts. Take a cup of coffee outside to listen to the birds sing. A pair of finches flit into shadows on the laurel stump. They are so small in the big world, I think, and then I think of moving the fruit garden and remember that we only got our bed into the house because a window was being replaced. The finches fly close. One hovers as a hummingbird does, speeding wings on…

Seventy Days

Dabs of mist linger on grass. Spider webs are easy to find. Where yesterday I found half of the wing of a dark feathered bird, there are loose feathers caught on damp foliage. Dog has her nose down, forgets we are playing fetch. There is heat promised, in this humid air. While we were walking, the washing machine has rumbled to a halt. I roll wet clothes into the basket, lug it out to the line. Hoisted whites lollop in a lazy breeze. I get one very brown arm sat outside, at the pallet table, attempting to draw an ink-drinking monkey. In this story, the monkey represents chaos. On my paler arm is a training trophy; an amethyst bruise, bigger than a thumbprint, smaller than a plum. In the afternoon I brave the fields in flip-flops. I watch my footing, around sheep dung, nettles, thistle leaves, barbed wire, creeping bramble, random rocks, over the ankle twisting grass tufts. I have a flower in my hair. Panting Dog detours to the stream after we rescue a Longwool from a fence tangle. Voic…


In spite of it being an elegant palindrome date; 21.5.12, in UK format; numbers are not my favourite contraptions today. Format has a lot to do with it.  Attempting to finalise accounts on an excel spreadsheet grinds at my resolve to savour life, my nerves are visibly sparking. Resistance is expressed in most uncouth terminology. Swearing is one of a short list of things that differentiate private-me and public-me. I won’t be sharing these words but the braggart in me wants the world to know I am doing it impressively. Escape to the bathroom, the unofficial sanctuary of the house, to pick up reading Wittgenstein. ‘The origin and the primitive form of the language-game is a reaction; only from this can the more complicated forms develop. Language- I want to say- is a refinement, “in the beginning was the deed.”  ‘To smell a rat is ever so much easier than to trap it.’ It feels like the philosopher has rumbled my skiving. Guilty deductions: which brings us back to numbers; accounts in par…

Destiny Might Have A Point

Last night: set up laptop, lost myself in editing. This book is taking on a life force, I think, I can feel the energy of it. I get a literal buzz from it. This story I am working on is from a real biography- turning life into art that improves life is an energetic passion.
This morning: is a 5am start: we don’t get back home till past 7pm, 166 miles and a bunch of fights later. Welsh Championships today. Three of our students, out of the four competing, are displaying trophies. I have jolly things to say to them; and the people who are straying too close to the edge of the ring, to all of the competitors, fellow officials, paramedics, organisers, sports centre staff, ladies in the loo queue and random strangers in the car park. My verbal sparring, thanks to years of mindful training, is flyweight, light contact.
When I first tied my white belt, hilarious Girl said; ‘Mum’s learning to kill people with her hands and feet, you know, in case she loses her voice.’
In the days when I used …

Two Kinds Of Jam

Farmer Landlord makes contact by phone; he has missed the latest smoke alarm episode. He is calling, from a wedding in Wiltshire, to see has anyone stopped by to look at the broken electric boiler.  While he is on the phone, apologetic for the alarm, and the long list of problems to address which he tries not to think about, I press for news on the mortgage foreclosure. Salt meets badly patched wound.  This is a wincing silence.  Followed by a rush of ‘Well, I haven’t done much about it, I must get to see the bank;’ followed by the truth; ‘I don’t want to sell,’ ending with the admission, ‘I think the bank will force me to sell.’  I tell him we are now starting to look for alternative accommodation, but there aren’t many rentals that will take pets. He has a brainwave that a cousin of a cousin has a farmhouse lying empty, not too far away, he will make a call and see.
Mr and me take breakfast outside. ‘Somewhere with a garden,’ he says,’ and a big shed.’ We are working on a wish list. He s…

The Bat Scale Of Oddity

Sleep is a heavy tide, pulling at my ankles. Walk along through the day, like a long stroll on a long beach under an overcast sky, strong water sucking the sand from underfoot. This anxiety fluttering inside is difficult to categorise. It reminds me of two things: stage fright, and larvae. It doesn’t stop me loving the first time I see Baby trying on my shoes- rainbowed sequined lace ups. She chews one cerise lace, admiring bumpy sparkles. We have lunch together, she practises her spoon work. She holds both ends to stop the food falling off.

Back at Rosehill, the smoke alarms are going crazy. There is no smoke: the rats have stripped the wires causing short outs. Messages are dispatched to Farmer Landlord and the electrician. Annoying, but fairly average for a Rosehill drama. I can sit and write with a scarf wrapped over my ears. This anxious thing is my distraction. Once, not being particularly regular with my housekeeping, I swept the bedroom floor and found a dead bat under the bed…

Epiphany In Blue

A whiff of death has lingered in the downstairs bathroom since the rat in the roof space incident. We have not seen a rat since the first day of May. From the thickening of the scent it is feasible that another rat corpse reclines nearby. Not something I look forward to investigating. I’m here to climb around the brewing bins and squeeze under the shower, after checking that no spiders lurk in reach of drowning and no slugs are exploring my exfoliating gloves. Not adverse to the company of invertebrates, they just don’t make good shower companions.   The shampoo bottle pops open, foams up a nicer aroma. Fresh water has an agreeable fragrance. I think, plain water has a smell, doesn’t it, or is it that the nose detects a body of wet stuff and the brain registers this as a smell? Does this make sense, or have I been neglecting sleep in favour of espresso and writing sprees, to the deficit of my overall cognisance? Shut up brain. Slough off the dull layer of skin cells, with slug-free glo…

About The Boy

A momentous day for Boy. The Thursday that starts his exams. He opts for walking to school, maximising fresh-air time. ‘You’ve revised for this,’ says me, in pep talk mode, ‘you’ve trained, like Rocky, you can do this!’ He puts his fists up. He is ready. He goes out of the door, punching like a montage shot. This is mainly to humour his mother.
When he was barely three, sat in an aeroplane, Mum showed him the white view from the lozenge shaped window. She tells him, perfectly straight faced, to look out for polar bears. ‘That’s not snow, Mum,’ says the Boy, carefully breaking news, ‘That’s cloud.’ Girl’s laughter bounces off the window, squeals round the plane like a tiny monkey.
‘I can do this!’ Punch, punch, smile hovering at the polite edge of patronising. Dog studies him, as this may be a new signal for imminent walk around fields. Clouds thicken, and if I were looking for a sign, this would not be ominous. 

Wednesday's Portrait

I drive up to the supermarket with my sunglasses on, leave the car unlocked, bring some milk and pain au chocolat to the counter where the friendly lady sits to beep my items and exchange my coins for a listed receipt. Down the lane, out of gear, seat belt unbuckled, radio on, window open, singing to the sheep, moor and sky sprawled in clear view. Boy has time for second breakfast if I drive him to school, so I do, anticipating the view on the way back; it still makes me whoop. Breakfast outside; hot pain au chocolat, cold wedges of melon. Overhead is a lucid pool of sky. Dock leaves grow around the fire pit, brightly flaming green. Every bit of ground is sprouting exultant flowers. The washing machine gets on with cleaning our clothes, while I gather up pens and sketchbook. I put them on the table Mr made out of an old pallet. A whole illustration is marked out, shaded in painstaking dots. Between each stretch of concentration, details of the day filter in. Vietnamese coffee fills a …

Fox's Lunch

Postman was right: this weather has the fidgets. Sun-bright 7am, wind-lashed 8am, the cloud has landed at 9am. Either smoke from a gorse fire or a wedge of mist lodges in a crook of moorland. Under scrutiny, it seems too immobile for smoke, unobserved, it seems to shift. Fact or fiction, fire or mist: definitely distracting. In the sun gap, I walk down and around the fields, smiling at Dog’s indulgent pursuit of uncatchable swallows. Or swifts or martins, I have never remembered yet. Split tails and dark wings, skimming over the grass. After lunch, the clouds look set to part. Washing is pegged to line. I return to the kitchen, thinking of sitting outside to sketch, and before the kettle has time to boil, bulbous raindrops are falling. I have a very rude word to say about that. However contrary the weather may be, not even randomly will it try caring what I think. Waterproofs are pulled on; I may as well clear my mind with a field walk. Dog supports this, actively. We scale the gate in…

Matisse On Monday

This morning the sky is subdued, it droops over the moors, and rain fills the low gap between cloud and earth. Undeterred birds still sing. I sign for a parcel while the postman names the weather; ‘Unsettled.’  In the habit of revisiting books, seeking to turn out anything which has ceased to inspire; maybe I have outgrown it, or just absorbed it so much the original can carry its light to another shelf, I swoop a book as I pass through the front room; one I remember buying on another rainy day.  The colours drew me first; the words took me to the till with my rattling purse, tumbling pennies onto the counter. April ’93, I have written inside the cover.  Today also I seek colour; luminous, calm, luxurious colour. I think to scan the words. Instead I sit and read the whole book. Three quotes I pick out to share.
Henri Matisse, son of a grain merchant, discovered his vocation by accident, given a gift of a paint set, whilst in convalescence from appendicitis. Paint on paper wakes his world …

Spider Quest

This morning: I recall we have a shower, so I stand under it, foaming up shampoo and showery scrub things. There are three brewing bins to climb around, the floor is dank, and the room smells faintly of the long ago rat that died in the roof space. 

Once the shower is cranked the water abundantly trickles out at a temperature somewhere above warm and below hot. Outside I sit with my paper, pens, coffee, sunglasses. My hair can dry in the sun. The arrival of Girl and Baby forms an impromptu picnic. Baby grubs in the mud, digging up some stones with my dinner fork. She has her first knee scuff. We try to keep a sunhat on her.

This afternoon: Through the car window I observe the underside of the overhang of the garage roof, while Mr wanders in to the garage shop to pay for a bag of coal. The white plastic grooves above are ornate with darkly clogged web lines. In shades of dirty white, pockets of spider eggs inhabit the ninety degrees of angle between plastic and concrete. Further down, be…