Showing posts from September, 2012

Low Water Lie In

Sleep is a tide and the moon is full. Eyelids slip, disappear under the swell, swept deep. Travels, toils, triumphs pass; the languid limbs move, quieted, under the liquid weight. On dry land, covers are kicked, bodies shift, sprawl, knock pillows to the floor. As the light turns, so does the tide. Minds shiver up from the lunacy of dreams. They come up in silvery pieces, in a shoal of bubbles, up to the shallows, to bump the shore, to nestle into rock pools where the remnants of dream are caught. When this mermaid finds her legs, she makes coffee, remembers only the emotive rapidity, the cogent force of it. 

Interplanetary Seaside

Feels like distant memories, like we’ve been stuffed in cryogenic suspension and travelled half a galaxy since we last came to the beach. And since an outpost of family is camping near Woolacombe, that’s the side of the sea we drive towards. It would be easy to never leave home. We live in a beautiful place, have lots to do, are not bored. Who could feel sorry for us, stuck in our beautiful rut? And yet, it surprises me, always, the change in a change of scene: no matter how good I am at looking, new things open my eyes wider.

Mr takes his mini-mal into the pitch and trough of white-topped ocean, me and Boy take a handful of dogs, walk, ogle, untangle leads.

A landscape of textured craters rolls out flat, rolls into a lunar haze. At the water’s edge bumps an alien pod of jellyfish. Boy catches digital images. My mind shutters click, over and over; look, the pools are sky mirrors, see the clarity of that cloud shadow, the turning angles of waves, the reptilian bump of the beached tree …

A Surprise At Treniffle

Dog and me, jogging in the lane; no other human or canine in sight. In through the window of Luccombe Cottage a television screen is filled with talking face. Two horses play in a field, spin like dizzy kids. A bullock somewhere is making a cow-trumpet noise; me and Dog exchange a look; such a fuss. We peek in through the gate. They are running around, pelting helter-skelter: as they see us, they stand still. Then, eyebrows already twitched, still pondering this mystery, we are at a place where the lane is deeper than the field level, a few paces from Treniffle. Ten feet above, a steam of breath, a line of bullish hair flanked by soft black bovine ears; this is all we can see of the creature. Stand in the pit of the lane: yes, this could be a labyrinth. And even without a minotaur, clouds are of a shade mostly described as ominous. 


Been etching at the novel today.  Protagonist Anya, throughout the book, tells her story mostly in retrospect but also in the present tense, because of how the past clings. She takes us to relive directly, using italics to denote her own direct thoughts, and indirectly by allowing a third party narrator. Today's big scene happens around 1973, although the events could have happened any other year. The next novel I might have a go at has more period detail. (I love how this makes it seem; that I just slap and dash my keyboard, throw a couple of hundred pages together.) This is what I edited and wrote and edited today, with the odd pause to discuss sheds and eat.

Anya stares harder at the horizon. In her chest, a cold heaviness presses, as though she is turning to stone, like one of the granite maidens in the old stories, cursed for dancing on the Sabbath, and the little flecks of silver mica will be her frozen tears.  Frank drives on. The road shrinks, twists, the sky darkens.  They …

Death By Midnight Espresso

I recall a quote from Girl: ‘having my child is like having a liquidiser, only I don’t have a lid for it:’ I am following a trail of cat litter, shampoo and odd shoes to where Baby is feeding Dog an envelope. Baby gets all her work done, but mine gets neglected today. When Baby is gone, I’m tired, I register fully how tired I am, but it’s not the liquidiser effect, it’s really the coffee I drink too late at night and my brain bounces in my skull and wakes me up well before the alarm. I have three optimum writing times and late is one of them, the only one today I will be taking advantage of. I love the cloistered dark; a throw back to the intrigue of impressionable youth, to the image of The Poet: the cold, hungry soul alone in a garret, nourished only by words, inking intensity by the flicker of a goose-fat candle. Poor Poet, too romantic to sustain a life; the blood flecks of tuberculosis have ruined your cravat. I can poke fun at the appeal, you see, just not quite let it go. But i…

Lovely Time

7.30am. A wood pigeon clatters in the oak. I look up at the tree, it’s all knees and elbows. The lane hedges are tall here, they channel vision. I see a cloud, anvil shaped; a western anvil with a curled out lip; and the parallel colours of a rainbow section. It curves from a cloud, like the leg of a cosmic lizard. 10.30am. Girl and Baby and me, we drive to Tavistock, park by the river, swim in a pool. Baby has a sumo swimsuit. She splashes my face and rubs it; there you go Granma, your face is washed, in the big sink. I put 20p in the machine to dry her hair, she leans her head into the warm airflow, looks quizzical; this is a peculiar telephone. ‘Hiya!’ She listens but no-one answers, they are just blowing air on her. She chuckles like a pan boils over. 1pm. The afternoon comes with darkening cloud and the washing on the line is a risk. I dare myself to do it. I keep a weather eye out. I forget all about it because I disappear in my writing, because I’m in Bristol and it’s 1972. Nex…


Soft cloud this evening, the sort that I want to pull down and wear as a cloud fur coat. This image bumps into another, swings it from shadow to conscious surprise. 1981: the full length beaver skin coat arrives in our house; the way I remember it, almost like it had come to stay, like it had brought its own monogrammed suitcase, arrived straight from the funeral of a relative. We couldn’t turn it away, because we were related, because it was bereaved. Fur was a huge taboo. To kill something you don’t eat, to plunder nature for callous profit? It definitely arrived with baggage. Inevitably, it was an object of wonder. When the house was empty, I took it from the wardrobe; it had a fine hanger, carved wood, maybe cedar wood. The lining was satin, smooth as a liquid. I put my hands on the rich opulent decadent fur. I understood why my Gran always said ‘fur coat no knickers.’ You would want to feel this against your skin. You could lie furled in this softness, the cold could not touch yo…


No sight of the sun in the mist on this morning. Day is a spillage of grey light. Mist separates into cloud and rain. I would be almost in Bristol, by now, I calculate, if I could have afforded to take my Second Dan grading. Offset disappointment with a cozy bedside coffee. I’ll just keep training, I think, the money will turn up. Sigh, because my cup is empty. With reluctance, add a waterproof layer. From the moment I have put on socks, Dog has bustled between me and the door- socks means boots means a walk means happy Dog. ‘Well, if I was in Bristol, I wouldn’t be here with you in the rain, would I?’  Dog takes this entirely positively, and we tread out to the wet world. The coffee was lovely, but not much of a breakfast. Realise I am hungry just as my boots leak. Okay, I say, the hedgerow will give me breakfast. And can I find a single blackberry? Hmm… Okay, I say, I think it goes like this: the universe is made of energy. Energy that flows is energy that works. A grouchy mind does …


Fine mist opaques, obscures. On the fat trunked ash there are several stark dead branches. Silhouettes like this are where ogres come from. On the lane, a soft carpet of plop. The risen sun, a concentration of brightness in the white sky, has heat, but the ground is a drop colder than yesterday. On the thick slate chunk of the pantry windowsill there is the skull of a light brown fox, maybe the oddest thing we have cropped from these hedges. At our old house, we famously found a whole Land Rover in the undergrowth; that has been the most surprising thing. A 1964 model. The mist sneaks back to the river line while I’m making coffee, while I set the washing machine singing. Its song is rumbly and full of pauses, very modern stuff. I have a well documented adoration of the machine that washes my clothes. When its song spins to a finale, I slither out the wet cloth, lump it in a trug, lug it to the line. A transformation need only be simple. Wet cloth, pegged to line, under the sun and th…

Cyclic Stink

Across the light blue dressing of new road surface lies a layer of slopped dung, bumped from a series of high-sided trailers, jigging along behind tractors, from the muck store to the cut fields. The thing I recall most about my day is how it smelt. Not pleasant, exactly, but reassuring: the cyclic nature of it. Which part of the cycle you focus on, that’s up to you. By day; and that I am happily relating stench demonstrates the truth of this; the writing, the editing and the bout of illustration all goes well. Today I do not need rescuing by a Buster Keaton spider or culinary hypnosis. This evening I stand outside, under a sky that would be clear if it weren’t for all the stars. High beats and low bass sound out: a party in the direction of Treniffle. The air is fresh, and stinks. Spread my hands palms upward, fill my lungs.  

Kitchen Triangle

If I tell you I have been writing and editing today, the words are tidy, the actions sound entirely civilised. But I feel like I have been dragging my intestines out. I feel like my brain is so swollen with story it’s not healthy, it’s gone too far. Impatience growls, rattles the sharp points of my teeth.
Big House Spider climbs the woodchip paper; loses his footing several times, dangles by a leg or two, clowns me from this perturbing desk fug.

Time to get out of my chair, clatter some pots in the kitchen. Soup is not on the menu today, and on our budget, the meal plan must be respected. Macaroni cheese is the plat du jour, so I can simmer up some sauce to soothe and settle this story-cholesterolled mind. Opening the fridge and surveying the size of the cheese block Mr brought home; it was on offer, of course; that should ease the growl and get me grinning.
I take a cheese cleaver to the cheddar brick, take the cross section to the grater, pare it down to crumbs. Fat slaps in the warm…


Furling mist in the valley line this morning, heralding afternoon heat.
We stand a while, trace the unseen river, until cold jabs us to a brisk walk. Arm hair bristles. Extremities are chilled and spiky. Stolid bullocks, legs askance, are rendered part ghost in the haze. The sweetcorn field has no edge; might be infinite.
Washing is pegged above fresh mowed grass; blows hot and cold in the afternoon tussle of sun and breeze. I’m sat at the picnic table, paper weighted, drawing a sketch of stylised waves. Mr is snicking out lengths of ash sapling, to neaten the garden boundaries. He fetches me a cup of tea, a circle of clear bronze in a flat-bottomed cone.
The dogs need a second walk.
Wild strawberries grow, just past the curve of the turning to Treniffle. We should study the geometry of this curve; I think; we should replicate it, to catch and keep such a measure of sun that persuades midsummer plants to flower and fruit in September. The berries are a clear toned red, bobbled with se…


Today’s weather is loose blocks of summer heat. Cold wind blows through the gaps. Some people have a favourite season; I love best the play of seasons in flux. We have a day off work. We think: a change of scene is a healthy act. Fat Beagle can’t jump into the boot space of my car. We have to hoist. Dog leaps next to him with a minimal gloat. She prefers the back seat but it’s full of Girl, Baby and pram. Mr has the sandwich backpack in the front footwell, on top of a collection of stuff I always forget to put anywhere else: three newspapers, a butter knife, two bungee cords, an empty water bottle.

At the edge of the Bude canal we undertake the slow paced walk known as pootling. Except Dog, of course, who prefers swimming along side, in the waterway, in the thin deep mud of the neighbouring ditch. Consequently she changes colour many times. Fat Beagle takes an unintentional dip, miscalculating his centre of gravity. Dog slips into the water with comparative grace, sometimes needs a he…

Inexplicable Acts Of Spider

I see Big House Spider on Sunday morning, running away from the laundry basket. Furtive is the word that jumps in my mind. I forget about it, because there is Baby, breakfast, Dog, Fat Beagle, more breakfast, an incident with Cat and a load of washing. And washing up, and don’t touch information- Rayburn hot, Fat Beagle’s bottom unclean: important stuff. Eventually, Baby, both Dogs, two Grandparents, a pocketful of poo bags and a pram hood balancing plastic pots for blackberry collecting, are out in the lanes. Fat Beagle trundles on a thick lead, Dog whips in and out of badger tracks, Baby sings to the sway of the leaves. Mr regrets short trousers. Nettles bustle in the base of the hedges. It might rain, it might not. We might fill the pots, we might not. Maybe the child will cry, the hounds will misbehave. One step at a time, we stroll, spying out fruiting stems, under the heavy grey sky. The pot lids are pressed on. Through translucent Tupperware, baubles of blackberries bulge; I pla…

Lily Stock

Promise of the morning mist held through to evening. Much food chewed by many people, sat at the picnic table, under scrutiny of three puppy-eyed dogs. Between Baby, six other Family Guests, plus the three of Boy, Mr, and me, also the three dogs, Rabbit, Cat, two tents, the Rayburn, the washing, blackberry picking, cooking, washing up, tea brewing, wood chopping and the ongoing construction of a lean to shelter, barely any quiet seconds tick by. It’s the loveliest kind of busy. By the evening our total numbers have waved down to four people, two dogs; responsibilities diminished to checking the Rayburn, putting Baby into her travel cot. While I wait for the overtired protest mumble to drop revs, I plan to have a bath. Now the Rayburn is kept lit, there is hot tap water. I envisage the stove as a domesticated volcano, providing scalding springs. I plan to lie, like a spa tourist, in a room of steam, with a glass of chilled apple wine, eyes closed, senses open, limbs succumbed to heat. I…

Rich Rumination

The value of things is not the same as the cost of things: that is not such a strange idea. Dog and I have returned this morning from a priceless walk- she flushed a deer from a thicket; intense, graceful, precise springs took it across the field before my ‘wow’ had finished forming. And, I have been interrupted from this writing by the crude brrring of our cheap pink plastic house phone, but it turns out pertinent. My mother and stepfather will be arriving tomorrow at lunchtime. Recently Mr came home with a bargain pack of steaks: cost, 89 pence sterling. I foresee steak sandwiches being popular: my mother says, knowing how low the budget is here, not to worry, to keep the rare treat for ourselves. But the value of the pack is greatly increased by sharing, so she is convinced. She understands, and is bringing bread. To know the value of things, of people, of moments, makes for a happy life. Not such a strange idea. But, does one actually have to be struggling for costs to maintain an…

Autumn Holiday

First edge of day pokes at the dark, first tendrils of winter creep in and pinch. Two forms of crane flies are appearing all over the house: six pointed star shapes stuck on surfaces, wiry dead maquettes rolling in drafts. They aren’t any trouble, unlike the houseflies, who care not, they never did have a sense of unwelcome. The Rayburn is lit. The hob kettle makes a whistle like a deflating balloon.  Big house spider scouts the kitchen. Tea steam gets its soothe on. Day spreads out wide and sunny. Blackberries picked, hot from a suntrap, burst on a surprised tongue. Heat haze haloes the stalky horizon; draws us out from shade and provision, to walk right through it. Two jets holler so low; I check my hair is not on fire. Dog’s tail skips one beat. We kind of laugh at each other. Last night, the rain’s static hiss on the windscreen, it seemed that winter would just turn up in a sudden lump. But here we are, skipped back, wide and sunny. 

1970: Prologue

{Some fiction for today- the prologue to the novel I'm scratching out... Anya is not her real name. She is a real person, interesting, to me, as someone who epitomises the mining of strength from difficult circumstances. You don't have to suffer to find strength, that's not the message I want to promote. I loathe drama, actually, but for a story conflict is useful and since it all happened in real life it's a kind of recycling. The constant renewal of a determined life, that will be the crux of it. 1970 is the year, not the title. Finding a title has taken as long as writing the book, so I am being mysterious about it.}

The curtains are closed. A breath of night air flares one edge, unnoticed. The windows always rattle. Ink scrawls, slowly, over paper.
In the myth of Sisyphus, it says he is condemned to pushing a boulder up a mountain, watching it roll down again, and pushing it back to the top, he has to do this task forever. His story symbolises hopelessness, frustra…

September Rose

Boy is talking and he knows I’m not fully engaged in listening. It’s a pre-agreed deal, that he may speak of anything but his mother’s mind is feasibly busy reconstructing aspects of modern life in hope of restoring loveliness and wonder to the whole of the world, working out whether a dark or a light wash should be next entrusted to the beautiful fantastic washing machine, remembering left from right at the roundabout, that sort of thing. He tells me if I need to listen. I am rapt attention then. But for now, I drive, Boy thinks aloud.
I see the roses. Against a white wall, last sun is shining, it touches the flowers, the warm peach flowers, they glow; the warmth of it stays with me. The most beautiful thing: how I can hold the thought of the September rose, how this epitomises the idea of memory, the idea of resilience, the calm sweet balanced glow of remembrance.
At the school meeting, the proposed trip to India is expensive, for us, not for what it has to offer. This evening Boy h…

Queen Of Infinite Space

‘O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a
 king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams.’ [Act 2, Scene 2]

Dog and one dreamy owner strike out over the thin pipes of the cut wheat field. So easy here, the space so open, thoughts roll out over the landscape like distant thunder. They don’t even form, just roll in fuzzy atmospheric waves, undulate like deepwater weed, dip through elemental metaphors without care or constriction. So much space, with a bit of a run up, flying seems perfectly feasible. Hmm, brain interrupts the reverie with a tap of common sense; the wind is likely to deposit you in the quarry. No flying today. Never mind, I console my flumped imagination, remember how last night a steam liner sailed you to the top of a mountain and there was a coffee pot that never ran out? Dog and one whimsical owner scamper round the haystack, laughing. They find a slab of wood, it looks like a pulled tooth. Rain comes, hits up that smell of damp earth whi…

Let All The Children Boogie And Make Jam

Hoist the blinds, view from the window, on bared soil, crows as fat as seals rake up bugs. I note how we have woken to a world made of misted shades, to a subtle, evocative depth of field. Also, giggle: from where the pots are placed to catch the growing rays of sun, it seems that I use my car to grow basil. Outside, I sit at the table Mr made, working on an illustration. Look up to a sky, and if love were a clear uncomplicated shade of blue, here it is. And then the kettle must be filled and heated: here are our guests, our first official new house guests, welcomed in with steaming tea and bowls of bolognaise.  When bowls are empty and bellies are full, we traipse the lanes, dropping berries into tubs, pointing out items of note to inquisitive sisters. This is a hazel nut; honeysuckle flowers can be eaten; this is the skull of a fox; a quarry is where stone is cut from. 

They are like kittens, two different kittens. One that pounces upon an answer, plays with it, drops it, moves to th…