Showing posts from June, 2013

Pros & Cons At The Halfway Glass House

At the end of the sixth month, the year is half done, or half undone. The first phrase invokes either a mild panic- is everything planned achieved? Or a smugness: everything planned is achieved. I do love to tick off a good list: satisfying, yes: but a life with no room for surprise is tourniquet-ed. Yesterday we came home late from a birthday party and the kitchen was dangerously pebbled with broken glass. The shelf above the Rayburn had lurched from its moorings. It was not planned, nor convenient, but we rose to the clearing challenge. Leaking over the floor was sterilizing fluid, not three gallons of lovingly crafted home brewed wine. Under the striking range of the shelf was one gold teacup, one bowl sized coffee cup and a floor: not any of us. The shelf will be re-pinned, its security re-planned, to be ready for the rest of the undone year.


Little Granddaughter says: 'What's that noise?' Last week she said only: 'Noise!' Language grows like shining mystical bindweed, crawls around everything, confines, illuminates, defines, shadows. (She still makes those silent movie star faces though.) 'It's the A30,' Grandad says. 'Cars, brmmm brmmmm.' 'Oh, cars.' Cars are soon forgotten. She finds a feather, and Dog has hair. 'Doggle got hair,' she informs. 'Hair.' She pulls her own strands, to demonstrate a connection. 'Dog has hair all over. It's called fur.' Granma can be pedantic too. 'Doggle fur. Teddy!' Weeds are flowers that grow in places where they are not wanted. These words are not weeds: I think, language is a bindflower. At the end of the green path, she launches the feather into a tree. 'Wheeee feather! Bye!' And having released it back into the wild, walks away up the stony path with the poise of a person who is greatly skilled.


The kitchen smelt of elderflower, until the grill warmed to cook sausages, until the boiled water hit the coffee grounds. Outside we ate breakfast, seated over new mown grass. A pink rose, open, bowed a stem. Later, where there is a shallowing over the brown shaded rocks, the river was forded. An elder bouquet, plucked and fetched home. A bucketful of perfumed, foamy flower heads stands ready for brewing. Now, rose tea steams in the pot. Sweet spiced vegetables simmer on a slow cook. Under the petal scents, too, mouthwatering fat-blobs linger in the grill pan. Somewhere in the sky an aeroplane carries Boy away, from Heathrow to New Delhi. Ten days to wait before we hear those stories. I can't help but think of the market in Singapore, where the smeech of deep-frying ducks made his eyes water. We went to a cafĂ© for breakfast then instead, went busily about our day. When we walked from an air conditioned shopping centre past a sizzle of food stalls he said in sweetly youthful innocence, wi…

50 Pegs

Yesterday morning, after a lazy run in hot mist, but before the shower is free, I am waiting for the 99p store to open: I need a new glasses case. I hope to come back to the car with this solo item. I have huge sunglasses on, there's no case big enough for these. Also one giant t-shirt, ripped leggings, flip-flops: technically I'm still in the queue for the shower. Across the car park I see a lad sporting a grey suit; it looks new. He tucks his trousers into motorbike boots. A Massey Ferguson tractor pulls up, it has a trailer and two shiny trail bikes behind it. Squeals from the road, and the bob of balloons: an open topped bus full of frocked up girls rolls by. Ah! It's the Leavers' Day Parade! Aged 16, after 11 years of schooling, a rite of passage and celebration, quick: before the weariness of adulthood can grab them! The suits and the dresses and the modes of transport shimmer in the sun and everything is possible in those launching minds.  May their energies carr…

Journey Under The Moon

Important to note: that a fish, stranded, exhausted, flips on the shoreline, gasps for more life. It won't worry about how it got there, only where it has to go. If the gravity of the moon has called to the ocean in you, if it has swayed the emotive deep: that is a wave undeniable. Celestial it is: alien, since it ranges beyond human touch: yet we were born of stars, so it is part of us, part of our carbon based heritage. Sometimes we have such feeling, it reaches across space. Full moon storm or full moon calm, wherever your incarnation has placed you: just as the fish knows it must be in the water, you know where your footprints should press a path.

Girl And The Gang Of Friends

In Girl's front room there are an unruly row of legs. Fake tan on a mitted hand makes bold strokes. 'Is that too streaky?' Girl peers. Someone fetches another jug of Pimms, and there's a false lash re-gluing session going on in a bedroom splattered with beauty debris. 'I googled it,' says the lady in the leopard print dress, of the look they are seeking for this evening's theme. 'Lots of black eyeliner.' Outside it rains, which is the sworn enemy of glammed up hair. An arsenal of hairspray is lined up. 'Are we doing your hair Mum?' Girl's friends ask in a kind of chorus. When Girl was only very small her and a gang of friends would frequently paint my face in unwittingly whorish glitter, tangle elastic bands in my hair. It was scoops of hooting fun. I take a plastic cup of the Pimms and sit under the hairspray. I'm all ready laughing.

Pivotal Poise

To represent a full cycle of natural rule, there is the Oak King, god of the waxing year, and the Holly King, god of the waning. If there is a Sun King, he wears a fine cloud cloak for his longest day. I like these annual pivots, whatever the weather. In honour of the hours of day and night being at their extreme, therefore, some words:
Everything waxes before it wanes Wanes before it waxes It all flows and nothing is static Acknowledge yourself here At this point, under this sun In the spiral of season, of experience Ask for illuminated change For a path lit: Ask for the courage To walk unlit: Poised, as the year tilts Facing fears, embracing love.

Art Nouveau

Day rolls lazily out of night's blanket. It will only half open its eyes, so everything looks fogged and groggy. Breakfast was decadent. The gold china was used. A cup and a crumbed plate sit in the sludgy light. This world is reflected in gold curves. Now the sky is frosted glass, hills swoop in etched motifs. Lying down, the cows seem unimpressed, but they have beautiful eyes.
At lunchtime, a scatter of showers patters the coast. Little Granddaughter holds my hand and we walk out too deep for trousers in the warm sea. We laugh, and we love the way the seaweed swirls.

Elizabeth Tudor

The frame of my mind is accepting, it lets death into the picture. It is not morbid though, as death and life give each other such power. Today is the 15th anniversary of the death of my father, whose resemblance to Henry 8th always made me hope I would grow up to be Elizabeth 1st. I liked her fierce brightness, her big dresses. I didn't want to be Mary, all glum and locked up. My brother is nothing like sickly Edward either, so the Tudor analogy is humorously selective.
Here is a little old diary juxtaposition:

'June 11, 1998
death is too much, too final… one moment and everything changes… You keep going over it: there: gone: there: gone…
June 19, 1998
My Dad eased from life to death: no fitting or terrible pain: gradually his breathing was slower, breaths far apart, then no breathing… It was hard to tell the moment when he stopped breathing.'
The best preparation and comfort for that moment, whether clearly cut or vaguely lingering, comes from the embrace of life. Which is why…

The Oak Dragon

Last night, midnight, the windows are ajar; after the rainstorm. We have the urge to breathe that cool earthy damped air. Morning is hazy, impossible to decipher. One might as well stride out to find a dragon, in this mysterious weather. We take the long route, enchanted by pastoral views. The path is a tractor track, bumped and pocked with bird prints. Off track is waist high in the smoking grass pollen. To the riverside is a climb; through barbed wire, nettles, brambles, thistles; over steep muddied slipways. And if I didn't push through that, I would never know of this fallen tree dragon.
Walk, marvel, make a beautiful life.

Housework, Summertime

Our washing machine busies itself; zips and buttons catch the inverted dome of glass door, add chinks of percussion to the comforting rumble. The sky lies low, hot, heavy with cloud: one imagines it panting, a grey dog. I wonder if a storm is due, but the birds are not silent. They chirrup shrill from branches and guttering pipes. The rain has stopped. The house is cluttered, though clean. Thoughts light on the next bout of clearing in our small space. We have a dream, we work towards it. Meanwhile, one admires the absence of dust. It is still not raining as the washing cycle spins out. Washing on the line is blue and white, beach hut colours.

Fourth Leaf Luck

This happened yesterday, but I'd already written a post, so I saved it for today. It's raining today, so even luckier that yesterday had an adventure in it.

The old wood path is disappearing. Brambles gain impressive ground and girth. The ferns are most prolific and big enough to eat me up. Smugly, all my skin is covered. Once or twice I must stop to get my ankles back, but I walk the path bold enough. Bluebells in ebb; foxgloves and campions surge. There's a clover flood in progress. I never had much patience for searching out the four-leaved lucky stem. 'I don't need your fourth leaf,' I say, 'just a bit of fourth leaf luck please!' All through the woods, past the troll caves, the trees all mossed, down through the leaf mulch, me and Dog: at ease. At the path junction, a decision: we will go to the river before striking homeward. At the river, meet the retired farmer and his retired farm dog, and they are on their way back from a different route. We hav…

Hedge Lesson

Yesterday's morning: the hedgerow grasses rubbed like dry lips. Clouds wrung out drops. In the afternoon, wet-dabbed flora shivered. A choppy sun was there, sudden and warm. All day the wind howls. A half load of washing takes every peg.

Brave Old World

It came good, the weather, by the afternoon.  A thick weight of sun arrives, lies on willing shoulders; glints and heats and drapes like chain mail. In the wood shade it is cooler and dangerous. In search of skin are the bites of sharp insects: thorns, faery tale thick; nettles, the height of men, bristling with stings. The bluebells are in retreat. Campions pattern in their stead: pink petal polka dotted in the deep green. Hedges have edges of meadowsweet frill. Dragonflies are dark sparks over the bright river. Every step is worth the peril.

Giant Slumbers

Bullock heads stoop in the field, take breakfast on a slope. Rolls of bumped fields, crumpled in places like coverlets: at any moment the incumbent could throw them off and rise. Crow holds his branch tight with piercing claws: feathers blown, eyes sharp. No ancient gargantuan stirs today. Only leaves that catch the wind and curl branches into dervish shapes; only crow on the wing, only strolling cattle. Tarmac lanes are wet grey, reflective of the sky. Towards the town the wider roads fill; the inch and spill of morning traffic, pent concerns of the late, sleepy grumble, a glint of excitement; for the most part, stiff and slow.

A Stuffed Head

While the sky is busy with rain and cloud and an unsummery breeze, windows and doors are pulled shut, indoor things are done by people. I assume Mr is doing work, though he may just be walking up and down stairs and turning his laptop on and off as part of some ritual. As it also involves bacon sandwiches there is no need to interfere. What I am doing is work though it confuses me by throwing visually pleasing, interesting, provoking and fun into the mix. And there's bacon: is this recipe correct? Research progresses through classic patterns of order and chaos, expansion and contraction. From flat stated facts, figures, folk art, the cold glaze of a pot, the captured life of a photograph, knowledge makes connections with imagination, with experience. One stuffs one's head and allows to ferment.
['The sprouts of modernity?' Into the pot!]

On The Couch Substitute

Frequent thick clouds puff out the sun. The wind is brisk. But I am wearing a cardigan, being accustomed to a temperate climate. With a duvet and a rag rug, the old couch substitute is a passable sun bed. Down the lawn, daisy heads shake, as though I have just told them a very funny anecdote. Dark washing on the line billows: vampiric, cloak-like. Columbine florets in ballerina whirls. 'There is little in this world that stays still,' the wind says. The house door is open and it sweeps in, looking for things to blow through. My belly is full of good lunch. My eyes are full of wonder. Sometimes when I was thus occupied, as a daydreaming child, my father would be saying something and, vaguely aware of words, I would turn to look at him. 'In one ear and out the other,' he said, often amused, often annoyed. So I tilt my head now and let the wind blow, in through one ear, and out the other.

Sunday's Sofa Mission

Yesterday's adventure was a sofa. A second hand green leather squashy comfortable three seater. Available now, for free, or it goes to the tip! Out comes the tape measure, the soft rack, the sense of intrepid determination. The sun is bright, the air is still. It's a solidly heavy piece of furniture. The car roof gets a scratch: no buckling. People are staring, smiling, pointing. We are a curiosity adding to the ambience of a summery day. At home, Mr takes the lead, proceeds into the house. I can only see his hands, wrapped around the pouffy green padding. A wiggle and a shove or two: we have a sofa. Just shy of twelve months, we have been sitting on a couch substitute. A mouldery old bed frame, pocked by woodworm; poisonous foam padding on splintering slats. We put it in the garden, make a sun bed of it for the last of its days. Boy comes home: it's his birthday, and he is delighted. We could go to the river with our picnic basket, but we don't, the novel allure of sitting…

Plat Du Jour

A day that crumbles through my hands, yet lands pleasingly. After the trek to the police station to report it missing, the lost wallet turns up, for example. I made it to the first hour of tournament training, rediscovered side kicks, skipped a shower because I forgot to bring spare clothes. A steel thermos lid-cup of coffee waits on the dashboard while I rig up the sat nav. Metal conducts heat, I am reminded. But there's a cloth to hand, to insulate my fingers after the first burn. Drove to meet Baby Girl, and she is the one who was only born yesterday. She pulls a face when I steal her from Grandad. Granmas used to smell of talc and palma violets, not sweat and muscle rub. Baby Girl has robust hiccups. All the time the sun shines. At home, eat the last of the fridge chilled brioche. Crumbs on a gold plate wait: I'll wash up tomorrow.


This morning Mr's phone will insist on bleeping. It bears news. I can't sleep on that news, and we have no bread. The bread maker is dragged out from under plastic baskets of brewing paraphernalia. The bread maker book opens to the page for brioche. Sugar. There's the left over chicken to simmer into stock for noodles. Spice. While the wait hovers, because that how waiting is, not quite landed: washing is hung on the line, dogs shuffle nosy in the morning grass, a warm breeze blows over open blooms. Coffee brews: strong, strong coffee. Buttery baked aromas drift from the open kitchen window. Most of the washing up is done and drips on the draining rack, upside down and clean. A notebook open to a blank page lies on a table of life in motion, on a tide of lists and receipts and a card bought for this occasion. There is a stamp for it in the back of a floral print purse. All things nice. The phone rings. 'A baby girl,' Mr repeats: 'a granddaughter. Ten past twelve?…