Showing posts from January, 2013


Not one raindrop slips from the sky. Sunshine cartwheels across the afternoon. One of those days where one makes plans but the lines blur: maybe because the sun is in your eyes, or because your neighbour from the end house has lost her handbag. It wasn't in the back of the taxi; not the coal shed, not the greenhouse. It wasn't put away with the groceries in the cupboard or the fridge. In the bag is cash, bankcard, passport sized family photos: all the rectangle jigsaw pieces to connect up modern life. It is just reaching that point where the possibility of a handbag dematerialising is a consideration. Maybe, from the corner of the windowsill, behind the edge of the curtain, the bag is actually sniggering at this trick.
'I never leave it there,' my dear neighbour shakes her head, opens her arms. We hug each other, having shared kindness and relief. 'I'm always so careful with my bag!' She shakes her head again and laughs. 'Well, I can't say that n'…


The pink flask has seen prettier days. Sun through car windows bleaches out metallic finish. It is pink-ish, matt, mostly looks like a Caucasian prosthetic, but still we are fond of it. It keeps the coffee in warm proximity, here in the car café. The cup twists off. Silver shines under the pink, patched, a map: silver lands in a pink ocean. Espresso is the magma of my little cup planet.
Rain distends the river again, overspills, over fields: the fat streams flow.
Even the moon is swollen. We see the lower curve of it on the last stretch home.


Thoughts on: how to be comfortable and not get stale. Which is not yet a problem: I'm actively pre empting. Like everything, it bubbles in the pot, sputters down to attitude. I am rich. I have always been rich, in experience, in appreciation. Actual material wealth seems tacky by comparison. Just enough to get by keeps you sparkling. Think: what can getting by include? A house, some land, a campervan? What I would say to someone else: Yes. Because it all fits in the pot of thoughts and it sputters just the same. What I remind myself: Yes. Because you hold a link between want and invention and yet once you held a cigarette that gave you powers of calm, remember, and when the very last one was stubbed out, idiot, the calm was stood just as quiet and lovely. If you are good inside you are good in any tax bracket. Will it hurt anyone if I rake up a heap of gold? No. Because it all fits in the pot of thoughts.


Up the flue the brush is pushed. Matt black soot absorbs light: only in specks, for light is not easily consumed. Lit, the fire hacks thick smoke. The soot still bothers it, still catches in the throat of the house. Outside, gluts of rain slick the roads, bog the fields. A brash wind bullies tall trees. -How else to dry the washed clothes? Lit, the fire stays.


As I type, a queen wasp is circling inside the light shade. White washing dangles damp from the clotheshorses: it has been fetched in from flails of chill wind and waning flares of sun. Indoors, it has been warm enough to wake a high-ranking wasp. The fire is not even lit, because the flue is choked with wood ash. We resorted to electric heat to keep Little Granddaughter cozied up this morning.
She runs around the living room, condensing meaning into strings of single words. Doggle: meaning this in some way relates to Dog. Mow: meaning this in some way relates to Cat. Nam-ma: meaning Granma there is a job for you to do here. Down: abandon the coffee cup, there is important other stuff to do. Yeh-plea: what children have to say to be obeyed.
I hand her toast in a plastic bowl. She looks at me, says phonetically: 'Szis breakfast?' 'Yes.' A satisfied nod: the expected answer.
There was no dialogue to be had with the wasp.


This morning, a chicken stole into our house via the broken cat flap. I cornered it in the bathroom and carried it back outside. I think that Cat had ripped off the duct tape but not that she had expected the appearance of the chicken. Cat and Dog both sat in the kitchen with saucer eyes, aghast at the interloping.
Cold and bright, the day pops up, takes me to the beach. Two horses gallop about; as many dogs as people; seabirds and crows steady in a bracing onshore blast; no chickens. Dog follows her tennis ball through waves and pools and the toothsome castellations of rock. My eyes follow Dog: over a row of molars and juts of incisor and around the chunky buttress. Press my feet over soft sand. The beach graduates from fine particles to rockfall slabs. Small white pebbles: the teeth of the drowned: salt polished, scatter evenly throughout.


False Start Friday: in which writers share some words that didn't make the final cut, or were in some way unwanted.
Here's a failed competition entry of mine from last autumn: a tell-a-story-in-100-words challenge. It wasn't a terrible fail: Boy liked it; it's always good to practice one's skills.
It isn't a whole story, it's more of an extract. It has a monster from the abyss theme that relates to the prehistoric and thus the deepest unconscious regions of the human mind, but how would the reader know that? Go too deep and you compress too much! It is exactly 100 words, of course J
Hunts By Eye 'At first it is a space, darker than the deep water, indistinct under thick ice: the distance makes us brave. As the shape gains clarity, we grow chill, like the ice melt runs straight into our veins, but there’s a level of curiosity that breaches reason. The pale glaze melts thinner and thinner, a stir in the still water breaks cold sweats: we keep going back. Shin…


Starlings pour from a tree, noisy as a waterfall. As I walk I heat up: flinching eyes in the brightness of sun. Here by the old barn, something blooms red in the ivy: a robin, not a flower. It blooms and flies from the open field, into the wide calm sky. We amble on, over the gate, over the grassy bumps of lane. In the shadowed woods there is old bones and there is fresh; splayed with wing feathers, a blooded fan. Cold holds on the low path. As I climb I heat up: clumsy as a troll in the bracken and sticks. Look at these caves and holes and kicked down trees: badgers here are big as people.


One minute past midnight I lie in the bath. One glass of hedgerow wine rests quietly at hand; sound of rain beats heavy on the window. The house smells of steam. The density of the steam was such as I had to fumble for the bath and the cold tap: it was the one that didn't pulse painful heat to my fingertips. One minute past midnight: technically, the start of a day. Any sentence requiring the word 'technically' usually involves some form of deception. Heat, wine: remember to leave the bath before sleep: a reluctant but practical remembrance. Upstairs the air is a pinching thing. Bed is safe. Rain flicks the window and dreams I do not later recall are taking place. I think I dream of lying in a hot bath, listening to fat precipitating smacks, watching a wine glass fog. If it were a pleasant dream, it would appear this simple. I think of a cold cottage I lived in once and there was hardly any hot water then, hardly any of anything except coal dust and cobwebs. Life was so pared…


This morning we woke to find the earth had a new skin. Cold, opaque, so smooth we could not walk on it. It had grown over the cars so we could not move them. It was not as obdurate as thought, and wore thin by mid-afternoon. The cars were wet, unskinned, and could be moved: tentative at first. We coaxed ourselves along the roads, vigilant for lingering shreds. Between tyre and tarmac is a place where friction makes a positive contribution. Later, night brings a white hypnosis; in the headlights, falling, mellifluous, muffled, profuse, resolute.


Toes curl, because the floor is cold.
Feet into woollen socks go; socks into welly boots; boots into frozen plains of mud and mottled puddles.

Cattle at the gate, curious, outbreaths steaming.
Here is mud, ice, cut fat twists of old tree. Chainsaw buzz.
Play with foot-shapes: printing in lines: test depths.
Feel the breaking point of the crackled flats: smooth to crunch to thick squish. Feel the pull on the boot: leave a crazy paved scene.
Sawdust flares, logs drop.
Where the glove was ripped and not repaired, cold takes a bite of thumb. Sliced to size, wood chunks pile in the back of the scruffy car. Enough stock for a week.
Fingers, cold enough for now.


And after our post walk defrosting yesterday we went ice-skating: an infrequent event. Rented skates never fit: we are clumsy and make jokes: are proud of ourselves for venturing to fail.  And after we take Ben to the first aid room (an off rink tumble: suspected stress fracture to the right radius) it's time to go home, where there's picture of Ben on Facebook. His arm is in plaster, and he's smiling.  And this morning the warm bed is reluctantly quit. Fill the flask with coffee, fresh brewed. Admire the monochrome of snow on hills. We know the training hall floor will be cold. Shiver in the queue: everyone is cold together. Not everyone has this though: a gifted handmade box of handcrafted chocolates. That's the picture I share to Facebook, today: you can't see me in it: you can guess I'm smiling.  All the thoughtful shares add up. I'm always smiling.


We've been watching the old barn, from the road: the field bullocks jostling inside it, snorting. Dog has no idea that cattle aren't fond of her, so we hadn't climbed the stile before. But now, the curves of sodden earth stand empty, so we cross the edge of the fallow fields, forge the stream, heave up the bank, over the wooden steps, near lose our boots in mud suction. A raw and sizeable badger build draws first attention: all of the hedges are part of this gigantic set. We make sense of all the tracks that lead this way from the minor set-city in the small woods. 

We make our own tracks to the old barn and fall in love with it. Mr holds his arms out. A pond, over there: he points: in the natural dip. Drainage would be important. I ask if we can stock it with trout. Room in the barn for a smokehouse. Water tanks, underground, store up irrigation. The pond evolves into a natural swimming pool. South facing, Mr stands, pointing where the sun rises, where it sinks, so we know how…


Snow, finally. It arrives on the night wind. News travels by phone before the blinds are lifted. Mere handfuls here, thickens cover towards the town. Not cold enough to keep for long so we leap to the fields, grabbing urgent gloves on the way.
Boots stall in the white impediment. Everywhere you look there is a picture.

Over there, iced moor hills: where the creatures that can live and die and never be known are free, making unseen tracks. I have thought of them, today: how I think of them: longingly, with envy, as things utterly connected, self-contained, without need of ego or any way to measure time.

Little Granddaughter has soon had enough of falling in this crunchy water: holds mittened hands up: a vote to spectate.
We are still lost in the novelty of contact. If it doesn't last, it must be precious. No-one needs to know we are here: the joy of life is in the moment, not the record. Tracks follow us back to the car.


Mournful wind song shudders the old aerials. 
Solid thud of shotgun sounds from the banks of the swollen river, under a plain sky coloured like thick ice. 
Any leaf that has not fallen shivers in the moan of the wind. 
Birds' song carries a restless note. 
Beauty strikes starkly. 
Beyond the river, a faint view of moorlands, where any creature can live and die and never be known. 
Bones are weathered, lay stoic in clumps of enduring grass.


Far too cold for the roads to lack ice. 
Drink the darkest hottest coffee I can find in the flask. In the pass of headlights, tree shadows lunge. Mr swings the car arse first into the drive: swoosh: home. Out I get, before the low wall will stop the passenger door from opening. Into the kitchen to greet Boy (louche in loungewear), Dog (submissive grinner) and warmth (Rayburn, stuffed with coal.) Cat does not stir. (Yeah, whatever, Cat.) Check Rayburn. Because I put the chestnuts in the lidded iron pot they survived the accidental eight hour cooking period. By survived, I mean they are not on fire. They are crinkled like slow baked spider abdomens. Interesting. Tastes sweet, tastes burnt.


Editing today: working on the mysterious novel and the final layout of my (first) book of Tae Kwon-Do tales. An extract here, from the story of Jung Gun and a glimpse of illustration as drawn by me and coloured by my brilliant designer. 

'A north-westerly wind, on its journey across Siberia, blows sharp dry frost into the air. Plumes of steam rise in the same freezing air stream, feathering out like the headdresses on funeral horses. The station shrieks with whistles, resounds with the clanking of metal, the slowing rhythms of wheel rims on the track, the hisses of steam as the train arrives, on time, at 9am. His hand slides into his plain, dark shaded bag, and prises open the tin box. The thin metal is cold. He fumbles the pistol grip, pretends he is looking for his ticket. As he searches, he hears the train doors clatter open. He can smell the smoke from the steam engine, feel the heat of it in the cold air. People stride past, purposefully. He has the pistol in his hand, hidden …


"A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood." Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Along the hall side, the wall of windows is covered by drapes of a medium weight, enough to hold out most drafts. But when I take my foot from its sock, I find that Winter has crept in at our heels, and sunk into the wooden tiles: a seasonal infestation. We all pull the cold floor face. Toothy weather fastens on bare feet. It hurts, until it numbs and discolours, stopping blood flow: symptoms of a poisonous temperature. Make use of this logic: if I can pop a flying kick with these comatose feet, when I have circulation, surely, unstoppable laudable fantasticness awaits. (Do you know it? The equation we all hope to be true: Struggle + dedication = superlatives.) Stomp, stump, back to socks: back to boots, back in the car with the heater taking too long to find a warm point. The radio works; strings out Tchaikovsky to the chills of a vibrant night.


Soft stripes make a sky: pretty blue, fleecy white. Sun disc blazing, hazed, a white-hot dilation in an icebow iris. This halo is made from sunrays, teeming through frosted crystals in the cotton folds of cirrus cloud. Backlight blurs the edges of the boundary trees; it is called bloom, this excess of brightness. Mid-sky, dropped under the sun, appears a smudged oval of rainbow colours, like a clumsy thumbprint: a thing unknown. I jot a note, amazed, but busy, I forget. Evening comes, icy dark and sparkling; time to settle in and refer to notes and fuss at the internet to find a word. I don't fix on one; only infer an explanation of sun-glare refraction through a specific angle of ice crystal. A partially formed circumzenithal arc, perhaps? This arc turns upwards, fully formed, is called 'the smile in the sky.' An elliptical beam: exultant surprise.


All the hob got was a cursory wipe: it loosened the dirt. Time had to be spent washing up dishes because there were no more dishes. Time was well spent, finding waterproof trousers. 'What's the tide doing?' 'I forgot to look. Let's just go. There'll be a beach.' Mr shrugs, and we think about it. He is correct. A concurrence of mutual nodding.
Cold rain at low tide: wind swoops offshore, plays with sea spray. White furls ride, giddy, we keep pace, pouncing: look, always look: a jelly fish, a lost glove, a left shoe, the light, the light, the variegations of sand: see that mane flail, this one is tiny, a foal, see how it moves, a little sidewards, unsteady on new legs. In the rocks, unnerving texture: resonant of bones and teeth: in pockets, treasures of pearlescent shell.

Picnic in the car, forcing cold fingers around hot cups, eyes fat with sights.
'Campervan.' Mr says, and all our heads are nodding: yes.


Basa fillets, frozen, are too long for the steamer basket. The layer above, bearing broccoli, stacks jaunty. Hisses from the potato pan: hot starchy water boils out, the hob's a mess. Slices of root vegetable, jittering in the current. Steam shimmies up, melts the iced fish, levels settle. The washing did not dry on the cold line, but it was drier, I notice this, unpegging. Half notice: busy thinking where a new washing line might go, where a paved path could lead.
After work, eat a bowl of cold mashed potato and a slice of cheese. Ah, I can clean the hob tomorrow. It's late: I'm too content to move.


This morning the clouds had dropped and hidden every horizon around here. Walked with Dog till we found a chink of sky and marvelled because it was made of blue. Took a muddy car for a haircut, which sounds funny because cars don't have hair, only the joke is, mine does, only it's dog hair. In fact, the cut was for my unkempt locks, that stuff that gets tied back out of the way and rarely has any fun. The car stayed parked outside. Attention is lavished over follicles while I look backwards through mirrors; confusing mirrors with no smudgeprints to differentiate what is real and what is reflected. Light bounces all over the room, gets tangled in neatened tresses. Outside, light bounce is subdued under rain. Later this day I am driving in the dark, singing. Stars are burst all over the sky: the marvellous abyss.


One tin line-caught tuna; one half tin leftover chickpeas; one rough chopped smoked garlic clove; one spoon light mayonnaise; one pinch paprika; two pinches grated nutmeg; move from bowl to stomach, which stops grumbling. Washing up stacks up, is on tomorrow's agenda. Today's list, flanked by ticks: victorious flourishes in a diary margin. Birthdays, greeted; menu, listed; shopping, listed, purchased; classes, taught. One novel, line by line, appearing.


Awake, and out walking, before the day, which does not break into existence but permeates from indiscernible source; colours are not the same, without light, this is a different world, a world at the edge; if the edge exists; here the boundaries are snicked twists of bare hedge, like brainstems; this thought leads; or does it filter into; the lane being a synaptic path; and then there's me, got my high-vis jacket on, a fluorescent spark: starting the day as an imagined electric pulse in a science museum landscape.