Showing posts from April, 2013


April's A-Z Challenge is put to bed :-) 

Sleep is the drift between one day and another. Dreams come from this: tumbles of thought and hope and things that happened that we saw, or heard about, or felt. Night spreads like wet ink, slippery as squid, heavy eyelids sink, sink. Deep, down: drowned in sleep: subsumed. Held in suspension: sleep is a chrysalis. As we wake, shade becomes colour.
Yes, I remember now. And if I were never here, the lightness would mean so much less.
I remember, I regain: swim upwards, laughing.


A-Z part Y

'What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.' Richard Bach.
An Emperor Dragonfly, tattooed on my shoulder, in flight, is always wings stretched, always having climbed from egg to grub to chrysalis to this leap of faith.

Grub form lingers in half-light, calls the shadows home. Much is learnt in these formative shades. Grub feels comfortable in this mud, in this formational half-light: feels safe being half-formed, being unlaunched. This is the comfort zone of discomfort. If I hurt, if I am failed, I need not fear waiting for pain or failure to find me. Foolish grub! Life is not only harsh truths: not all truth need be harsh. Sunlight is no lie. Grub at the base of the reed, looking up, hesitant: drawn.
What is it that I want then?
To live in this half-light, as most people do, but to leave a body of work that is the beautiful, truthful guide to living in economic vagary, though people might never read it? To blossom in all ways and come to a…

X is for Algebra

X is the unknown, the independent variable: also the mark of treasure, of affection, of the illiterate. Here is a formula to consider: My life + X = perfect
Dog and me, we wander the woods, hear only the wind, the river, a whir of duck wing. Thirsty eyes drink up the green, and cheer. There's a bough over deep water that I've seen, and dare to climb. Here, even my slight shiver of fright is refreshing. Giggle and get down, gently, as the bank is not sturdy. Walk then, over anemones, primrose, wild garlic, baby stalks of bramble and rose, down where the fallen tree has gathered a shale beach, and off come my boots and the water is not so cold and the rocks mud-slippy. If I had thought of it, I would have drawn an X in this shored up silt, where the sun was shining through the edge of the new leafed trees.

Wishbone Story

A-Z challenge part W: This is a mash up of my writing, or perhaps I should think of these words as simmered into something tasty and nourishing?

I have been strolling the fields with Dog. The weather swirls from hot to cold; an assortment of fattened clouds are dumped across the sky, humidity fluctuates from one step to the next, like the dial has broken. It reminds me of when I’m tired and trying to cook. The weather is trying to remember how to knock up a thunderstorm, but keeps putting the cumulonimbus down somewhere in the troposphere, and promptly losing it. Then it forgets the dew point of water. And how much turbulence to add? Tiredness is a great friend to forgetfulness. I’m tired now, and there’s a tired pile of dishes soaking in the kitchen sink. Only the thought of coffee is strong enough to pull me back up the slope of this slippery field, in through the heavy clank of old farmhouse doors, into the kitchen.
On the crumb speckled worktop, over the surf-stickered fridge, is a …

Vacation vs. holiday

The A-Z reaches V! 

Holiday- a day set aside by law or statute as exempt from regular business activities to commemorate a date or festival. A Holy Day: a part of a nation's history. Vacation- a scheduled period of time during which regular business ceases. Vacate: relinquish, empty, withdraw. Please mull over that in your own time: which you would prefer, whether it matters...  Right now, my perfect time would be spent with an espresso machine, a library, a laptop, a blank sketchpad, a sunny beach. What I have is a stovetop espresso pot, a small bookcase, the internet, a laptop (slightly cranky) some clear sketchbook pages and a damp garden. This is not a complaint, for it's not too far removed from the ideal. This damp garden has primroses, chairs clustered around the bonfire ash, a rogue chicken and eight budding currant bushes. My answer to the question is: forget semantics, let your lexicons fall: if the sun shines, close your eyes, bask. 


Once upon a time I was never going to start training in Tae Kwon-Do. I tried it, because I am always curious about things and it seemed polite to pay some attention to the profession of the man I was dating. All I ever seemed to hear was 'Are you going to do Tae Kwon-Do then?' (In an annoying singsong fashion: not how it was said, that's how I heard it…) Being a strong, independent, working mother I did what I did, not what my boyfriend did: but I liked him enough to try a lesson. Both things worked out rather well. I never liked gradings, though, they made me horribly nervous and full of distracted mistakes, until I reached red belt, when, in spite of nerves and still with odd errors, there was a confidence growing. It was the confidence of having made it through all the previous gradings, the confidence of knowing my training was ample. Also, before we grade, we have the ritual of the pre-grading, where the Instructor tests the students to see if they are ready. At the Bl…

The Time Travelling Tae Kwon Do Tour Bus, And Other Stories!

A-Z Challenge: a different kind of story collection featured here!

There is so much more to Tae Kwon Do than punching and kicking. Each pattern (a sequence of attacks and defences against one or more imaginary opponents) has a meaning attached to it, which students are required to learn. These pattern meanings are intended to inspire students, showing the five tenets; courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit; in action. In practice, students tend to memorise a bunch of words, not always correctly. It is very amusing to be told by an earnest six year old that Yi the First was an expert on Neon Confusion but if he knew the real story of Yi I he would be getting a much fuller Tae Kwon Do experience. Pattern meanings are a marvellous, under-used resource for teaching Tae Kwon Do, for teaching about life and death, about another very different culture, about philosophy and true bravery. Which is why I wrote, illustrated and published a book about them!
Today I h…


A-Z story installment S The last bit of this story, although the alphabet isn't quite done Life can be confusing...

She carries the little bundle up the stairs to bed. Echo curls under the quilt. Claire makes a wall of rolled up blanket behind her, to stop a fall, anchors it inside the sheet. She strolls back to damp the fire. Her ribs ache. The floorboards are smooth and cool underfoot. She pauses at the window. Stars ping out in a thickening sky. There they are, millions; millions of stars, casting down light in diamond lines, all through space, millions and millions of stars. She sits at the window seat, her hand pressed against the glass. She cries without effort.
Shadows get deeper, they overspill, make a rising tide all through the small house. There is enough illumination left to find a match. Claire lights a candle, treads back upstairs, her silhouette lurching by her side, slips into bed. ‘Obscure,’ she whispers, ‘a speck, nothing more. Unique to the one who holds it.’ Her e…


A-Z story, installment R. 

Claire's mind drifts. She finds herself in a garden: herself as a barefoot child, running, easy as a lazy wind, through swathing grass. Lilting air presses her face, whispers, indecipherable and ticklish. Light tilts, she jousts back. Broad leaves on a smooth barked tree: in the sun, the leaf glows, shows its skeleton. She holds her hands to this bright sun, then cool mist, then shivering wind, then fresh rain: years of seasons pass, they tangle up like riverweed: they knot and twist until she remembers all of it, receives it like a solar plexus kick. From the edge of the bridge, how the air pushes back at her, how her fearful limbs flail; the icy metallic smack of the surface, how sudden it is; the water that closes over her head and how her mouth opens, closes, silent and pointless. A swell of tears wakes her up. The fire glows. Shadows play, against the light. ‘Like stars fell,’ she says. It kind of makes sense now. Perfect Echo is lost in sleep. Claire…


A-Z Part Q

In the alcove at the side of the fireplace, a brass box holds kindling sticks and firelighters. There is coal in the scuttle and logs in a basket. The grate has some ash, craters of it, like a moonscape. Claire ponders raking it out, but then again, it is a light layer, it won’t choke out the draw of air. She has done enough work to be happy with her day. She opens the brass lid of the box to pull out a square of firelighter, a handful of sticks to make a fast blaze. Echo, meanwhile, has wandered over and poked the curious ash. ‘Careful,’ Claire warns, gathering the child to her lap. ‘You can watch this, okay, but then I put the fireguard up and you don’t touch. Ouch, hot!’ Echo, intrigued, makes no comment. She studies the white cube of paraffin as it catches the proffered flame. She studies the flames that spiral around the skinny kindling. ‘Woff,’ she whispers. ‘Fire is lively, like the dogs,’ Claire tells her. ‘Kind of sounds like woff, doesn’t it? Woff woff, like Cerberus…


The A-Z story: installment P It's what cushions are really for!

Echo explains she has finished by tipping her plate upside down. Claire scoops up leftover clumps of sandwich, stacks the plates, crunches her last wedge of apple while she whisks into the kitchen. Echo climbs up onto the un-cushioned sofa, hollers triumphantly. Claire can’t help but laugh. She returns to the living room and re-poses the cushions; makes a wall to hide behind. Echo slides herself, legs first, to investigate. The wall tumbles. They cheer, and rebuild; cheer, and rebuild. The cheers magnify, the rebuilds wobble, flimsier each time. Laughter swallows them up. Claire lies on the floor, chest heaving, eyes overflowing: strange noises squeeze from her bagpipe lungs. The more hopeless she is, the funnier it becomes. Echo’s giggles reach an explosive frequency. She does a sort of hiccup and sighs. ‘I think,’ Claire says, recovering her breath, looking at the lowing sunlight on the wall; ‘we shall get you scrubbe…


A-Z story installment O

Echo climbs the sofa while Claire cuts chunks of cheese, butters bread rolls, peels some apple. She hears the child babble nonsensical formative words in a purposeful manner. From the fridge she fetches grape juice. She remembers the plastic bottle with the pop up lid, easier for Echo to drink from than the mess of the cup. With a plate in each hand, she wanders in to the living room. The sofa cushions are on the floor. ‘Oh,’ Echo gestures, in the manner of one surprised to find a floor full of cushions. ‘Oh,’ Claire repeats, ‘how ever can that have happened?’ She stacks two of the cushions to make a soft table, then one each for a chair, places the plates. ‘Shall we?’ She sits. Echo catches on to the game, plonking herself down with a grin. ‘Nomnomnom.’ Each little hand fills itself with cheese and bread. She presses as much as she can into her mouth. ‘Good bread, isn’t it?’ ‘Mmmm.’ Echo’s mouth is too full for comment. She nods enthusiastically. They eat, save fo…


A-Z Part N

Echo loves the water hitting her hands. She laughs and presses a chubby palm to the tap, spraying cold water into her face. Shock follows splutter, then she tries it again. This time it too is joyous for her. Water hits the walls and floor. ‘Enough!’ Claire is laughing also. Echo grins. She pats a wet hand on Claire’s cheek. ‘Nom,’ she says, decisively. ‘I am a bit peckish, now that you mention it.’

And a little apology: for I have not been as busy visiting other A-Z challenge folks as I would have liked: life is somewhat bowled over right now: if you have dropped by and left a comment I will get around to returning the favour! 


The dog pack springs apart at the field entrance, scatters out in separate paths, fascinated by smells of ground and air. Claire watches Flooper follow Brasso. He is starting to get braver, even runs to chase a scent by himself; briefly, but this is how it starts, how they rehabilitate, how suddenly things can change, just that littlest shift of attitude. ‘Woff!’ Echo waves. ‘Walk?’ Claire lowers the little chatterbox. They hold hands, and the child stands close as Lady returns, licks Echo’s hair, trots off. ‘Woff, woff, woff!’ Echo squeezes her eyes shut, shakes her head, smiles back at Claire. Hand in hand they follow the dogs, and the dogs follow the stories of scent that they can read from wind or earth. They know everything that has passed. The afternoon sun eases down, makes bold tree shapes, shapes that move and shift, animate the field stories. Dimsum is the first to squat. Claire pulls a poo-bag from her back pocket. ‘Foo-ey!’ She says to Echo. ‘Foo,’ Echo agrees. They make seve…


A-Z Part L Tied but not fettered

The warmth of the afternoon is densely packed, cosy. Echo rests her head on Claire’s shoulder. ‘You are still kind of heavy to carry,’ Claire tells her. Echo huffs, as though this is of no real importance. The wind drops, everything holds still in the sturdy heat. Barking dogs break the spell. Claire lowers Echo to ground level. ‘You can do some walking,’ she tells her, ‘at least until the dogs are out.’ Echo takes hold of her hand, leads confidently back up the path until distracted by the sun sifting through the wide leaves of a tree. Echo reaches her hands towards it, palms up, fingers splayed. She tilts her hands, emulates the leaves gentle lilt. Claire feels a pull of affection for the gesturing child. Heartstrings, she thinks; this is where the word comes from. An invisible tie between lives; only there’s nothing fettered about it. Connective. It’s connective.

Know Name

Part K of the A-Z story challenge...  In which some identity (and other stuff) is cleared up... 
She is putting the dried dishes away when she hears the child stir. It is sliding feet-first off the sofa, pulling a face. ‘Ugh.’ ‘Oh!’ Claire says. ‘Nappy! Now what? Improvise!’ She looks around the kitchen, plucks a first aid tin from an open cupboard. ‘This might work,’ she tells the child, who stands, uncomfortably, waiting for a solution to arrive. ‘To the bathroom!’ ‘Ugh!’ the child reiterates, and peers over the edge of the bath. ‘This might be a learning curve, okay,’ Claire admits. The child eyes items on the bath rack. Claire unpeels the tabs. There is some kind of liner inside, which she manages to catch all the contents in.  ‘Good thing we had lunch already, or I might be a bit off my food now. You actually make a worse stink than the dogs, did you know that? Pooey!’ The child laughs. ‘Foo!’ ‘Foo-ey, young lady,’ Claire agrees. ‘I think that can go in the outside bin. At least now I…

Just A Moment

A-Z Part J: In which a splash becomes most reflective

Tap water refracts from each plate, splashes the draining board, the dry dishes not yet put away, the windowsill, Claire’s t-shirt. Lines of droplets race down the windowpane. Claire lets them run to conclusion before she wipes the cloth over. She looks out at the precise shadows playing on the ground under the ash tree. The sun, as she understands it, is a sphere of burning gas. Not poetic sounding. But she thinks of how fire burns in a grate, the hiss and twist of escaping gases, the unexpected colours, how ornate and snaky. She sweeps the floor, unsure of when the softly snoring cherub will awake. 

In The House

The A-Z segmented story: Part I (as in the letter not the Roman numeral.) In which some further sandwiches and mess occur.  

In the house, Claire lowers her little guest to the sofa. ‘Half a sandwich wasn’t quite enough lunch for me: more cheese for you?’ She walks through to the kitchen, opens the fridge; hears an enthusiastic ‘Ah!’ ‘More cheese it is.’ Four slices of wholewheat make a square of squares on the wooden chopping board. Slices of cheese are pressed onto dots of butter. ‘We’ll eat in now. Don’t share yours with the cat this time, or the floor. I’ll put some water in a cup. Can you use a cup? I have seen things like cups, I think, for little ones, with lids and spouts.’ The child resumes its original solemn faced stare. ‘Well, we’ll soon find out, eh?’ Claire brings the slender feast to the front room on a tin tray. The cup of water is taken in two chubby hands. Most of it seems to be washing the child’s neck. ‘Ahh!’ Lips are smacked. Claire concludes that enough liquid has …


A-Z story: Part H Oh, those crazy dogs! 

The dogs leap up when Claire appears, expecting play. The child clings to her. ‘It’s okay,’ she says, to the toddler and the throng of animals. The hems of the miniature jeans are soon wet from damp noses and tongues. ‘Not now; not now; come on, every one out in the pen!’ The child clings, though curiosity compels her from hiding. She peeks at the bouncing hounds, shrinks, repeats the process. In the pen the dogs fetch toys. Claire kicks a football. ‘Woof,’ she says, ‘see, little one- they are bonkers but they are fun, eh?’ The child observes. ‘Fetch!’ Claire commands. Brasso dutifully retrieves the ball, holds it up, importantly, pushes through the pack. Claire takes it.  ‘Ready?’ She steadies the child. ‘One, two, three, THROW!’ The child gasps, eyes cartoon wide. ‘That’s Blunder, the clumsy one,’ she points; ‘Caribou, chunky; Dimsum, short; Brasso, bossy, Lady, intelligent; Wellington, hmm, lollopy; then there’s Flooper, the newest. Cries in hi…