Showing posts from November, 2012

False Start Friday: More Charleigh, 1971

A further extract from what has already been rescued from my personal slush pile, so strictly speaking it's not a false start BUT it has proved popular so one more glimpse before I get back to making this project work. 
*** Mother possessed thin brown hair but her ears didn't stick out.Her belly did.After marriage, after babies, after beer drinking, a belly was the end of the production line.Brown, orange, yellow, swirls and flowers: optional, thank the Bloody Merry Lord, but the life conveyor belt would carry you along. Owning a Strawberry Dress could make you happy but it wouldn't free you from the list that read: School Work Husband Babies Beer Belly The End.
Charleigh wonders when her married sisters will have babies. Damn: more babies, and they'll bring them round here for a bloody bath.They already pop in for cups of tea.Life should span more than a couple of streets.If you were lucky you might go on a honeymoon, you might see the sun set on the sea, but you'd soon be…

Early Winter Postcard

Dear World, I am writing to you from a day near the end of November. This morning the moon lit up the sky, and hung around for a while after the sun turned up. Both of them together made the ground frost sparkle, and helped me find where the surface water was frozen still. In the dip by the Small Woods I thought to find thick ice but the tree shelter had huddled it; by the house where the sun hits, I was surprised by the slippery road. First clouds of the morning were silver, and the second batch was pink. By mid morning they were a soft wash of white and the frost held in the shadows. My eyes were full of sun glare and bare trees. Later the cloud fanned out, reminded me of a white peacock I saw once; a snow peacock. Later still, the sky got darkened drop by drop. Did you ever draw a picture in wax crayon then paint over it? The moon was orange wax in the watery dark. We thought of pressing our hands to the sky, to colour palms with night ink. I would make a print and always remember. …


Unbedded myself in the dark for an early walk with Dog. As I walked, light seeped upwards: it would be amusing if the two events were linked. I could walk backwards into midnight. After breakfast, coffee and driving Boy to school, straight to painting, which forms the main activity of the day. Little pictures, coming to life.
Full moon rolls along the horizon like a beautiful lazy eye. Bright planet beside it is a mere pin. Or a very small eye in a heavenly cubist face?
A young man in shorts flags down our homeward bound car. He has a car but it has bounced off the hedge, rolled, righted, stopped with immovably busted wheels, equidistant between hedges, neatly blocking the road. 'Sorry,' he says. 'Learning curve,' says Mr. We flag down cars while he phones his parents, until the police arrive with flashy lights and high vis jackets.
Big faced moon in a clear sky sees all.
At home, via small detour roads, we drink dark hot frothed up mocha. 

Watercolour Fright

I go down by the swollen river to have an adventure with Dog mainly as a psyching up exercise. Watercolours aren't intimidating unless you haven't painted a picture in a while and now you have ten lined up in front of a deadline. It is good to give yourself a scare. Projects are leaping out from behind trees: ideas burst from my head like birthing aliens. After the walk, after lighting the fire, after making coffee, after hanging up the washing, I run out of viable procrastinations and am forced to pick up a paintbrush. My painting is very much as my drawing is: no one will ever hire me for technical skill. As long as I hold my nerve I have a style that is lively and emotive. The whole is decidedly greater than the sum of the parts. At ten pm my fingers start to cramp so it is time to change media, to tap a keyboard, sum the day's lesson up. 


Two days without a blog post, which does not mean two days without writing. My lucky friends and legitimised eavesdroppers on Facebook and Twitter have had their time enriched by apocryphal drops of my legendary life (eating pasta out of Tupperware in a service station car park, drinking wine from a Travelodge mug: then I read up on them: weary journeying versus the joys of sweat and medals.) This weekend I spent nine and one half hours listening to rain hit a windscreen; less the brief lull of each concrete bridge. Leaves of warm colours drop from trees, at the edge of the road, in clusters in the flooded fields, I watch them and where my eyes wander my thoughts fly. People in autumn wear warm colours; that is the start of my thinking. But in winter they don't drop layers, like these bare branches that best display the stark beauty of the darkest season.  What people take to then is the glitter of ice, is the bright gold recalling the sun, is the lively warm blooded red, is the ten…

Rose Tinted Flesh

If there exists anything more expressive of delight than Dog, freed of her stitches, head cone and lead, galloping through seawater, I should like to experience it. It is a step past my imagination. Her fresh scar is bright pink in the cold salt. I take my boots off. The sea has sharpened its teeth since my last paddle, the first bite of winter fastens to my feet. A lady with a bouncy terrier stops to tell me she thought I had pink Wellingtons on, until she saw the boots in my hand. She can't get down to loosen her laces so easy these days, she says, so best get your feet wet while you can, eh? Submerged in the sound of the surf, watching the running Dog, shivery foam on the tide line, waves that flow in long and shallow, the pearlescent prettiness of reflected sky; feel the icy sting on wet bare skin. See the rocks that the gods of geology fold up like a causal sandwich. Get in my car, the heater works. Dog sleeps on her sandy blanket. 

Heavy Weather

Cat sits on an upstairs windowsill, watching the storm pounce. It may catch a bird or two for her. The birds are erratic, jerking like unpractised stunt kites. Cone headed Dog is caught in a cross wind, I hold her lead tight but she stays ground based. Trees grow a voice from the storm, from a whisper to a full dragon's roar. In the garden the big tent jelly wobbles, holds fast, is assassinated by a flying plank. Vexing. On the road to Bude stretches of glossy black water sidle over the tarmac. They look sticky and steal all traction.

Pros And Cons

Cone headed Dog is on a restricted walking programme. She is on the leash and off the grass, while her belly hosts a row of Frankenweenie stitches. These are not her favourite circumstances, but we take a walk up through Lawhitton which is different and smells different and thus adds interest to the restricted day. We meet a gentleman who extols the virtues of a stiff walk, who tells us that the water has dropped from the moors and the river has come out. Old language converges with new meaning: I picture a river full of gaily proud spangled bikinis, but on looking, the brown fields of flood water lie flat. Most of the day I make tiny marks with my drawing pens, bringing depth to cute pictures. My shoulder aches and a bath, a hot bath is what I want. When I get to it though, it's run out of heat. Warm enough to wash. Meanwhile, I think of things that people like to write in lists, desirous things to do in a lifetime. If you get to the top of the mountain (literal or metaphorical) …


I can scarcely suspend my disbelief: yet again I have not scooped the lottery prize. Ah well, at least this is something to write of that many people can relate to. If there were no disappointment at all there would be no point in buying a ticket. Disappointment often travels in wave form; this one is a mild ankle tugger. It washes away and I still value the shore I stand on. It's a flat silver skied day and I'm working to clink up some coin in the patched up home purse; illustrating a children's story. Doesn't sound like hard work, does it? I work hard all the same: hard here meaning meticulous, unceasing, until my muscles seize up in knots. The easy part of it is creative satisfaction. A lottery win won't buy me anything more of that, but I would buy a mig welder and expand into metal work. If there were an aptitude test for wealth I think my fortunes would greatly improve. 

Cozy In

Twice it seemed that a car approached; the third time I knew but looked anyway; it was the storm wind shouldering tree branches. Wind pressed the rain deep into my coat, hunted through the harsh cut hedges to find anything shakable. Colours of the autumn kept me warm. In the patch of strawberry leaves, some flowers struggle. One ripe fruit waits for me; pops a last sweet summer taste. At home, carpets are swept, floor tiles mopped, cloths sweep surfaces, mats struck on the house wall release dust into rain and the rain binds it to the driveway and the history of our footprints is held with it. All day the fire is lit. 

Grades Of Happiness

Yesterday I wrote only shorthand questions, ticks, half marks and crosses- the accepted system for recording knowledge of theory from the students hoping to progress up a belt level. One new Black Belt sat at each side of me, being instructed and gently overseen in the art of questioning. I often land in charge of the theory table, having a sense for when nerves are dispersing diligent study. My two apprentices caught on to the empathy angle in a heartening way. Let's not get this wrong: we do learn to punch and kick, we do fight, blood gets spilt now and then, bones broken, eyes blacked. But social and emotional intelligence are nurtured and valued. The bonds we build, through training, competing and facing the grading process, spread out over lifetimes. A baby comes to the grading on Mum's lap, she cheers her fellow students on. A big sister holds a Black Belt certificate up to show her little yellow-belted brother. Teenagers in smart blazers pose for photographs. Instructor…

False Start Friday: Charleigh, 1971

This may or may not be a false start; it might be the start of a second novel.. In a rush of a day, so slinging this up without thinking about it- will be round to visit fellow false starters sooner or possibly later this weekend. Or Monday. Busy weekend! 
Charleigh, aged six, looks in the mirror; she's standing on the double bed in the room she shares with two of her sisters; and this is what she can see:- The mirror; a circle of glass in a yellow plastic frame. The wallpaper; a fat field of sunflowers growing in swirls of brown. Herself; only just visible, hidden in between the representations of field and flower like a fledgling pushed out of the nest.
If she concentrates, she can just about trace her skinny framed outline trapped in the rows of yellow blob flowers, just about see, with her chinky blue eyes, that her straight, pale brown hair is still too thin to cover her sticky out ears.Damn, she thinks (but dare not say aloud).Her mother has been wilfully wrong. 'Mum,' aft…

The Pathogen Family

Boy gets in the car, chuckling. He has been passing the time waiting for us to fly past between jobs and snatch him from the designated meeting spot. Mr puts his foot down exactly like a kidnapper so we have time to eat lukewarm fish pie. Boy recounts the failed attempt of fellow students to embarrass him in the underwear aisles of New Look. 'Hey, Boy: pink bra or red bra, what do you think?' Shrug. 'What will you be wearing it with?' Boy has me for a mother. Skinny-dipping, clown-suit-wearing, former smoker of enormous cigars, you get the picture. There was the time that Mr won the Walking In Heels competition: it isn't just me. Slowly, Boy has been inoculated against embarrassment. I should footnote that while bonkers is a suiting word, we also do practical stuff like work for a living and nag about homework and steam healthy greens. One strives for a balance, even with such idiosyncratic scales. 

Green Light

Stitched up and head strapped into a plastic cone, Dog walks uncomfortably but with much determination. Even if the cone wouldn't get wedged in brambles, she is kept on a lead. I do permit drinking from a clear puddle. She likes rainwater. The sun shines. We find four almost ripe hedge strawberries. The hedge is a normal place to find them: fruiting in November, peculiar. The flavour is a foreground of water and earth, a background of summer berry. Something almost always turns up, when you need it. On the squashed up busy road to work there are too many cars but mostly lights are green on approach. Idle thoughts stir as we swing the roundabout: the ability to control the lights to make them green always has no real skill to it. The ability to admire is the one that flows your journey so that red lights coincide with wanting a rest, and green lights with the desire to move. 


I thought it might be another normal November day: trees on fire and sky as grey as smoke. I took Dog to the beach to run in the sea and let the salt water heal up the barbwire slice she came out of the Forbidden Woods with. There's an old fly-tip down there, fascinating and dangerous for all animals including me. As a child growing up on a beach I was programmed to regard seawater as a cure for anything but drowning, but also sensibly banned from climbing through tips. Dog chased cormorants at the edge of low tide and the worn down rocks lay like ossified blocks of things long gone, and I walked, thinking of claws and scaly tails, pressing bare toes into cool damp sand. Back at home I bribed Dog to roll over and let me check the wound, only to find another, deeper gape carved in her flesh: the kind that even I can't believe the sea will mend sufficiently. Knowing how limited our resources are I tried to believe the sea could do it. Dog slunk to her basket, apologetically. I p…

Baudelaire's Party

I don't know why I felt the need to paraphrase Baudelaire's 'Get Drunk' poem: to understand it better perhaps. I read it yesterday and it won't leave my head, although there are worse things to be echoing than this call to be vibrantly alive.
On this table, under the ticking of the clock, there is a glass which should not be empty. The more you fill it the bigger it gets, and the clock shrinks in size and noise; the clock that holds a scythe and is circling for you. Into the glass pour the essence of intoxication, of delirious loves and hearts that beat with wings, pour and drink and be always drunk from it. There may be a time that you wake, cold and sober in a place unknown, but only ask; what time is this; only listen; the answer flows in every thing to every sense; even in the tick of the clock, the answer holds. It is the hour to fill your glass.
I love the appreciation of life, simultaneously am repelled by the suggestion of selfishness, maybe that's the …

Two Minutes

I stood still. I was getting a casserole ready, had a chopping board full of root vegetables and the Rayburn lit ready. I was checking the clock for the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I had the iron pot warming on the coal lit stove. The hands on the clock said it is time to be still. 
The First Two Minute Silence in London (11th November 1919) as reported in the Manchester Guardian, 12th November 1919. 'The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect. The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition. Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of 'attention'. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and st…

Opulent Autumn

Had a sincerely convincing dream that I won £250,000 on the Euromillions lottery; I bought a ticket, on the strength of that. I won £2.50. How dreams can shrink in the light of day! Spent the winnings on Lotto tickets. Sometimes a gamble is a leap of faith, just a way of saying hey, universe, I embrace a change.
All the road to Exmouth was hedged with gold leafed trees.
We spent a day with Little Grandson, assorted grown up children, a bag of toys, ample platters of savoury and sweet. Bouncy Beagle taught himself to eat an orange, which took several wincing at the citric attempts.
Outside the cold wind flowed over the windows and the sun's light poured through. Bolts of gold drape our shoulders. If the ticket pays up, we could all take a holiday, and sit out in foreign heat. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here, crunching up the last jalapeño, content. 

False Start Friday

In my usual daily regime, something fresh gets scrawled, and often it seems like I'll chuck a post together. The construction is not as random as I make it look. When words come slow I just type anything that pops in my head and sometimes this is a white water river ride and sometimes a shopping list. Then I play and snip and tap and between the flow of this present moment and the years of blistering practice, a presentable piece of work emerges. But it had to start somewhere, didn't it? Should I owe something to these words? I had nearly forgotten this story altogether. I think it references the emptiness of needing objects to verify personal identity. It's the work of a student, the sort that walks out of the canteen, accidentally stealing a mug, getting wet muddy feet collecting autumn leaves and most likely has paint in her hair. I think I might follow it all the way through to as far as it got, but I can't face it all in one go!
The Red Dress. Paragraph One:

A Utopian Socialist In Church

Clouds get bigger all day: huff up, big as basilicas, easily as grand: I see a sky full of cathedrals. Except that the building is the imitator, is designed to reflect the creative glories of mountains and caverns and celestial shine. It occurs to me that outside, in the actual presence of mountains and caverns and celestial shine, I am more humbled: connected, but such a mere part of the universe I hardly need pay myself any attention at all. I love this feeling, there is a unique freedom in it. Within the walls of old churches is a concentrated sense of human belonging; of being huddled with endless ghosts, with their warm hopes and aching desires: the whisper of prayers over hundreds of years of footsteps, part of the fabric of the place. That is what a church can hold that I would recognise as consecrated. A space for humanity to express itself, not something segregated, but all voices joined together, worshipping everything that is wonderful, bringing love to heal what hatred has…

Rosebud Restoration Project

The coffee pot was washed, but it is so much a pot for coffee, the caffeine tang resisted. There are four teapots that could have been utilised. Only the whim was, to watch the rosebuds float and brew, and the coffee pot is made of glass. When you have grown, picked and dried the buds yourself, sealed them in a glass jar and smiled at them on the larder shelf everyday for nearly half a year, it makes for an amiable balance of work and indulgence. The pot goes on the oak secretaire, light pours through it, filtered pink. It brings rest to my busy eyes. In the cup, it brings warmth to my hands. Warm fragrance assimilated by steam, by quick liquid sips. A core of heat flickers like a candle flame. Slight sour aftertaste of years of layers of coffee. I do not regret the coffee, not even the day of the espresso overdose when I ended up trembling in a corner with an a-rhythmical heart. But I feel the calm flame, and I think: coffee to sustain me, tea to restore me.

Mysterious Ways

Dog wanted to roll in it. She was not permitted. I didn't know what it was and I didn't have a camera on me and it isn't easy to explain. Whatever it was (this is not fiction, incidentally, this is me on Widemouth Beach finding a sea monster) had a fleece skin and the S-bend body shape of a seven-foot slinky fish. Flesh seemed mammalian. Obvious explanation is that a sheep has tumbled from a cliff edged field and been remodelled by the sea. Can't work out how that sharky shape can be made of sheep. Mysterious: strange. Shook my head and went for a stride in the waves, which were messy and cold. Drove home my favourite way: with bare sandy feet. Later when my feet were dry and zipped in boots I decided to get some mussels for tea, and on the way to the fish counter met one of my junior students. She has a twin brother, who looks much like her but is autistic and does not speak. I smiled at him and he reached out for a hug. This is a rare event, decidedly noteworthy. Myst…

Simmer Time

Here I am, at the beginning of a new project. It has been in discussion for a few weeks and now the practical stuff must be applied. It's a challenge I'm confident with, but this means nothing. The gap between talking of doing something and actually doing something is a place in which other things grow in interest, and you aren't sure if it's disproportionate or not, so one had better have a good distracting think about it. I like a project to simmer in my mind for a while (a very apt soup metaphor. Exactly as I make soup, in fact, I have to get a sense of a flavour and then the herbs and spices work.) But how easy it would be to wander away in this pitch of fascination, wander completely off subject… In the clear day sky, a broken eggshell moon is left. An oversight, or act of defiance? A chair is rediscovered under the washing pile. Old sketchbooks consulted: remember the series of prints done with plasticine and ink? Mixed media abstracts with glitter glue and grease…