Thursday, 31 October 2013

Four Ounces Of Flesh From The Karmic Ox

Happy Halloween...

On the other side of the glass daylight is filtered by thick mist. It could roll away to bright autumn or a slow drizzle. Either way, it looks good for business. Karl hears Louise drop her car keys on the side, knows the kids are delivered to school. Kettle noise will follow. He should have a shower, although it's tempting just to crawl into yesterday's clothes. He puts them in the wash basket. That way, no temptation: that way, no scowls from Louise. Her hours at the shop have been cut, she makes up for it with extra housework. The house looks lovely, he admits. He thinks of the day he announced their engagement: his mother, saying, 'You'll do well, you two, you're both workers.' Almost time to order another wreath for her grave. The years are getting faster. The mortgage is getting smaller. He heads for the shower.

Ivy heaves the burger boxes in the cold store. There's something about the work that makes her happy. The lifting, the cold: a sort of challenge to it. As a girl she had wanted to be a builder, a solid brickie sort with a hard hat and a tin lunch box. After junior school she stopped talking about it. It wasn't going to happen. She worked in hotels, she worked in clubs, she worked in pubs, she spent a few seasons working in Spain: loved the weather, loathed the ex-pats. One night Edie turned up, in a see-through sundress, and she was all about poetry and saving the precarious planet but there was something about Edie that made Ivy feel like everything was fine. They left the sun and the loud red people, for a third floor flat in Brighton with an inch of sea view. Ivy found a bearable job as a bar manager. She was free to indulge a passion for Buddhist tattoos and the people were okay. Edie drifted through a series of temp positions, found herself a niche in an arts charity. Work was peripheral, really. Ten years passed. One night, Edie didn't feel well. Two weeks of hospice care: Edie was gone. Ivy packed one bag and left the flat. Every day she thinks of this. But her job here, it helps.

'Hey Ivy, how's it going?' Karl pushes through the warehouse plastic curtain.
'Not bad Karl. Business all right?'
'Sure, pretty good. Sore foot but the family's all right, there's food on the table, that's the main thing, right?'
'Yeah.' Ivy nods.
Karl knows about Edie, about how Ivy's friends have most of her possessions in storage for her. She knows about his bunion and his mortgage free plans.
'Your Sarah make the football squad?'
'Yeah, she did. Girl's football is more accepted now, I think. Hoping we might even do a bit of names on shirts sponsorship soon.'
'Not much of a football fan myself,' Ivy admits, 'but dreams, dreams are important.'
Karl checks his watch. 'Talking of dreams,' he says, 'I slept in a bit this morning, best get on. Got the trailer backed right up, I'll give you a hand.'
They load the boxes on: burgers, sausages, white bread rolls, an extra ketchup.
'I'll grab the invoice now, if you like, save you posting it.'
'Thanks Karl, I'll just print it out.'
Karl checks his supplies while he waits, tidies up the fridge.
'I got an open pack, needs using today, just one burger left, if it's any use to you?'
'Save me cooking any real food, I guess. Trade you, one invoice, for one burger.'
'There you go Ivy, enjoy!'
'You too Karl.'
'Here, take one of these too- got a boxful on offer- novelty things.'
'Halloween Fortune Cookie?' Ivy raises an eyebrow. 'Not very Chinese, Halloween, is it?'
Karl laughs. 'That's the novelty,' he says. 'Anyway, they do allsorts, companies now, don't they? It's the same logo, look.'
Ivy checks the box. 'So it is. The slogans don't always translate too well do they?'
'This one's better than the quarter-pounder boxes though, eh?'
Ivy reads: 'Festivity Futures From The Karmic Ox. Yeah, better than the quarter-pounder!'

It's mid morning when Karl makes his first pitch, which is a good time. People who want breakfast from The Meat Wagon don't tend to be early risers. There's a few husbands on muesli sneaking a second breakfast, and Karl doesn't mean to be judgemental, because actually he feels a bit sorry for them, but there are too many single looking mothers slinging sausage baps at their kids. They all seem to smoke, they all seem to be on the phone. He calls them all 'darlin' anyway. He can't help thinking of Ian and Sarah, who go on school trips and have clean jumpers. They had poached eggs for breakfast today. Free range. Louise likes the idea of happy chickens.

The sun is struggling though the mist. Karl sits down and watches light glance from cars. The car park is averagely busy. He guesses the garden centre will have a glut of custom if the sun holds. People always think of improving their lives when the sun shines: go on a diet, plant up borders, paint the spare room. He puts the radio on, there's a guess the sound competition. He closes his eyes for a moment but all he can visualise is a sock full of wet sand hitting something soft, like: more wet sand? Something pulpy? Good job I'm a grafter, he thinks, I'll never win my fortune. He misses the answer, sizzling bacon for a lad with a pierced eyebrow. It must have been something horrid: when he sits back down the voices on the radio are horror-struck.

Sonya pulls out a chart in the paint aisle. Nick wonders if they have the colour of her skin in the golds and soft browns. He thinks of a name for it. Honeymoon Kiss, Sunshine Honey, something like that. Her tan lines are under a cable knit jumper now. Light freckles on her face, her smiling face.
'What do you think, Nick?' She is suggesting a burgundy gloss for the dining room. Nick likes black and white, but he can see her point. The room needs a bit of base warmth. He thinks she has read that phrase in one of her magazines, he likes it; it reminds him of them.
'We have base warmth,' he tells her. She looks at him. He realises she thinks he is teasing. 'Really,' he says, 'not base like animals, base like foundation. I like the colour, that's what it made me think of. Me and you, warm and cosy.'
She laughs, and shows him the name on the chart: Liverspot.
'Okay,' he says, 'that doesn't sound very romantic at all.'

Sonya stands in the queue behind a man who, intriguingly, is only buying a bar of chocolate. She rolls her eyes and Nick pulls a surprised face. She thinks how nice the dining room will be, with a bit of dark red. She might look out for some dark red candles. She thinks of the spare room that is painted white, a black sofa bed pushed in the corner. She thinks of that room with a wooden cot in it, with a tiny little person in it, a little person with Nick's hazel eyes. Outside, the sun swells, streams in through the sliding doors. That chocolate will melt, she thinks. Breakfast was one croissant each and a glass of orange juice, and it seems a long time ago. The fridge is empty. They haven't been food shopping, just got talking about the dining room, just popped out to look, and then buy, and she really wants to get back and paint. The sanding was already done.

In the car park the smell of frying onions beckons them both.
'Cheeseburger?' Sonya suggests.
Nick nods. 'Double for me. And if you're having onions, so will I. And ketchup.'

Karl stirs the onions, smiles at the couple: just back from a holiday, in love: maybe a honeymoon. Not that everyone gets married these days. Him and Louise went to Torbay. They had a fairly cheap wedding, put their money to a house instead. He sees the gold band as Nick hands over a note.
'Been married long?' He can't help asking.
'Two weeks,' Nick smiles.
'No time for cooking then, eh?' They laugh, Nick slides his change into his pocket, helps himself to ketchup.
Karl holds up his banded finger. 'Fifteen years, and I'm still smiling,' he says.
'Congratulations.' Sonya likes that idea.
'Here, have a couple of fortune cookies. Enjoy your lunch!'
'Thanks. We will.' Nick takes the little packets. 'Halloween fortune cookies, that's cute.' He pictures a little girl with her mother's smile, dressing up for a trick or treat outing.
Karl watches them walk to their car. They eat in the car. That's how love works, Karl thinks: a burger in a car park can seem so romantic and sweet. He hopes it works out for them. He opens a cookie, partly from curiosity, partly from boredom, and reads it to himself.
''Tis now the very witching time of night, when farmyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world. William Shakesbeard.' Shakesbeard? Sure that should say churchyard too. Farmyard! Hey ho, they were on offer.'

Nick finishes his impromptu early lunch first. He tears open the fortune cookie packet, cracks open the cookie, unfurls his slip of paper to read: ''Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life, he who opens wide his lips is ruined. Proverbs 13:3.' What does that mean?'
'A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips?' Sonya teases. She puts down her burger to open her cookie up. ''I don't paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality. Frida Kahlo'. And a picture of a bat.'
Nick checks his slip again. 'A skull.' He shows her. They share a bemused chuckle.

Karl sticks it out till five. Business has slowed. He has developed a good sense for when people will or won't fancy grabbing food from the van. He sends Louise a text: 'Heading home xx.' She texts back: 'casserole still hot xx.'

At home, Sarah and Ian do their homework then are allowed to watch cartoons. Karl falls asleep on the sofa. When he wakes up, he makes Louise a cup of tea.
'Sorry about that love, I didn't mean to drift off.'
'Been a busy week,' she says. 'Ian wants to show you his science project.'
'I'd better take a look then.' He wanders out of the kitchen to find his science mad son.

Karl hits the second pitch about eleven. He's built up a bunch of regular lads, they walk out from the bars to get a bit of fresh air, grab a burger; gossip, just as much as the girls; they wipe grease off their lips with the back of their hands, talk about whether they are going the town's only nightclub that evening, or whether they might share a taxi and go further or save money and disappointment and just go home. Mostly habit wins: they go to the club in town. Karl will see some of them later, he knows, amongst the drunk, hilarious, quarrelsome people spilling out of the club to gather at the Meat Wagon: it reminds him of a zombie film he saw, half-dead creatures clutching to be fed, mostly incoherent. A police car is parked opposite, so trouble ends swiftly, and the takings always balance out the chaos. He drives to his last pitch, brings a book and a flask of tea, to wait out the dead hours.

Lorielle checks her purse. Just enough for a burger and a shared cab: if there's someone to share with. Bloody Sally-Anne! Sneaking off. She knows tomorrow the tearful fool will be on the phone: he said he loved me, it's all over with Julie, he said, he's a liar, I'm putting the pictures on Facebook this time.
A man in a pale green shirt says, 'You on your own, a beautiful girl like you?'
Lorielle weighs it up. Shares on a taxi, maybe, exchange phone numbers, maybe; or potential sex pest, stay well clear? She's not really in the mood for any of it.
'I don't like men.'
'Oh. Sorry.'
She likes how easily cowed he is. 'You live in town?'
'I thought you didn't like men?'
'I'm not going to have sex with you. A conversation might be okay.'
'Oh. Yes, in town.'
'Well, me too. If you understand the No Sex, we can share a taxi.'
The man looks at the attempted queue. Boobs are falling out of dresses. Three people are vomiting. He looks at her.
'Yeah,' he says, defeated. 'We might as well.'
Lorielle smiles. She knows most of the taxi drivers here. He will be dropped first, so he needn't know where she lives. It was turning out okay. For her. She felt sorry for Sally-Anne.
'I'm getting a burger first,' she tells him.

John in the pale green shirt offers her a coffee, just for the conversation, he says.
'No thanks,' Lorielle shakes her head. She doubts the conversation would be worthwhile. John likes computer games and warfare strategies. She likes reading, astrology and dreams. 'Sorry if you're lonely but it's 3am and I really want to go to sleep.'
'It was nice talking to you,' he hands her a ten pound note, to cover his share of the taxi.
'Hang on,' she says, and gives him the five she had taken from her purse. 'You already paid for my burger.'
He's about to argue but the taxi pulls away.
'Got another job,' the driver says, 'sorry about that. Should have gone before you could give him that fiver though!'
'Not everyone's on the scam, Marty.'
'I've got three kids and I'm keeping the tips. You don't dob me in though. That I appreciate.'
Lorielle chuckles. 'Your secret is safe, dumb ass. Drop me on the corner, it's quiet there.'
'Three fifty love.'
'You got a fiver?'
'Yeah, sure. Why?'
'Here's ten, you give me five, you keep the change.'
'You are a darlin,' Marty winks, doles out the note, drives off.
Lorielle has her key to hand, walks to the shared front door, up the shared stairs, in to her tidy flat. She eases off her high heels, puts the kettle on. Chamomile tea, then bed. There's a fortune cookie in her pocket, she puts it on the side. Might be nice with the tea. She turns her phone off. Sally-Anne will have to look after herself for a few hours.

Karl tiptoes in. Louise is a good sleeper. He puts his keys on the hook, slips off his shoes, steps gently upstairs. He has done this so often there's no need to put a lamp on. His clothes are slipped off, he slides carefully into bed beside Louise, lightly kisses her shoulder, rolls to a comfortable back to back position.

Ivy thinks the burger was a bad idea. She put it in a white roll, too. Edie would have frowned. She liked her bread brown and her meat organic. At least there was a bag of salad. It's hard to cook for one, sometimes. And not always easy to sleep, alone. Ivy puts the lamp on, pulls on a dressing gown, decides to make a cup of tea. She'll read for a while, maybe, see if sleep can sneak in while her conscious mind is distracted. The fortune cookie Karl gave her is next to the kettle. Edie would have liked that, a Chinese Halloween thing. Quirky, she would have said. Ivy opens it.
Dis-moi ce que tu manges jet e dirai ce que tu es (tell me what you eat I will tell you what you are) Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendent 1826.
'That's not very helpful.' Ivy sighs.

Nick mumbles and turns. Sonya synchronises. In the dining room the gloss paint is drying. They couldn't decide whether to keep the serving hatch.
'Sleep on it?' Sonya had said.
Nick had agreed, with one proviso. 'Let's open that bottle of red first.'
The wedding gift clock chimes but they don't hear it.

Lorielle finishes her tea, it makes her warm and snoozy. Tomorrow she can sleep in. Get the strength to get her cousin through the latest drama. Who knows, she ponders, she's heard that Ant's not happy with Julie, maybe he is done with her. Odds on him finding someone else to mess around are pretty obvious. She doesn't get that bad boys are exciting. She gets that they are selfish, and that seems pretty tiresome. She remembers to take her door key out of her coat pocket to hang on the hook and finds the fortune cookie.
'What's in my future then?' She opens it and reads: 'The vengeful gods are bullish gods, Karmic Ox Company.' There's a picture of a minotaur, the same picture that's on the little paper wrapper. She wonders if it means that Sally-Ann will wreak some havoc on the philandering Ant. 'Fingers crossed,' she says, and cleans her teeth and heads for bed. Karmic Ox strikes her as an odd name for a company. Maybe it's just a mistranslation.

Night blooms with mist. Limbs in beds stir. Roads are quiet. One truck rumbles through the town, unnoticed. Here and there it stops: outside a neat home, where the borders are newly planted and the earth turned over in smart rectangles: at the curb where a sparse bed-sit is scarcely lived in: in the drive of a house that smells of paint, where suitcases stand in the hallway, waiting to be packed away: at the door of an old townhouse where each floor is a separate flat and the hallway lined with locked mailboxes.

Lorielle feels sick. It is dark. Against her back, flat steel. She is not alone. She smells sweat, fresh on stale. It's too hot. The floor and the walls jolt. This is a dream journey, she counsels herself: what does a dream journey signify? It stops, abruptly.

A rectangle of light opens. Nick holds Sonya's hand. After the warm press of the journey the outside air is first fresh: cold creeps in after. They shiver.

Ivy does not want to move, does not know why her legs are moving. It's a dream, that's all: it's the stupid undigested burger's fault. Everything is damp, the air, the thin mud, the grey walls. Mould thrives on a wooden partition. There is a building, a sort of tunnel.

Karl is certain that he should not go into the building. He turns to look for a gate, it's hard to see anything, there are too many people crowding in. He must think of something to do, some way out of this. He walks to the front, to look for a way out. He always regrets eating late.

The walls of the tunnel funnel in. They must walk single file, through the rough damp building, until they reach the door. Nick is pleased that he is ahead of Sonya. He can make it safe for her, whatever is beyond the door. Sonya does not want Nick to disappear. The door will take him and not give him back.

Karl thinks: this must be it. This is where the way out will be.

Ivy says sorry; in her mind; sorry Edie that your life was too short, life is cruel, sometimes, and I ate white bread, I know you hate that, processed meat and white bread. I'm sorry. I miss you.

Lorielle remembers that doors in dreams represent one thing ending, another thing beginning. She tries to think of beginnings but this is not a good dream and the door is shut; it is not a good dream at all. It feels too real. She can put her hand on the dank wall, she can smell something that leaves a copper tang on her tongue; like blood: blood is coppery. The fear that needles through her is real fear.

Karl steps through the door. Nick has a brief glimpse of a gleaming room, a tiled room, he thinks, there is steel in there, clean and shining steel.

Karl looks for the way out. His eyes follow lines; they look like drainage channels; the brightness hurts his eyes. The door shuts behind him: he hears a noise like a sock full of wet sand hitting something soft, something pulpy.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

October Morning

The gulls fly inland crying tales of the sea. They draw misty tears from towers of clouds. Dog on the sofa speaks in her sleep.
Up shines the sun, up shows fingerprints on windowpanes, grandchild sized. Where those dishes came from; crumbed and sullied; is a mystery.
Pale things stir soapy in the washing machine.
Indoors, dark fabrics air on clotheshorses, on the backs of chairs. Work trousers hang from a bookshelf.
Outdoors, sentimental rain falls on a pegged wetsuit.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Twinkle Twinkle

After the night the storm opens its eye.
The walk to the river is shorter than it was, the water much wider.

It flows through the field where the crop grows a hand span high, floods out swathes of it. It curves out through the culvert that was barely damp mud last time it was noticed. Birds had left clear prints.
Tree trunks hold in the overspill, the footprints will be gone.

Upstream is impassable: we must guess that the island, the oak dragon, the beachy flowered banks are sunk.
The sky is bruised.
Deep bruised, blue black.
Stars: I see stars, flicker, blink.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Cabbage Farts Of The Lower Jurassic

Here is some family gathered round a table.
Here is some drawing work by Granma and Little Grandson.

They ink out dinosaurs enjoying a diet of cabbage that plays tuneful havoc with prehistoric digestive systems and may account for dinosaurs not hosting family dinners.
There is some confusion over what a Triceratops looks like.


Next day Baby Girl takes the lead in a pocket-filling pram stroll. They find sour sloes, a sweet apple, blackberries of all kinds, bunches of grapes and one pair of hairdressing scissors in the generous hedges. Nice neighbours give them a cake. A whole iced chocolate and vanilla sponge on a plate. It was spare to requirements in their house.
It sat on the worktop while a roast dinner was appreciated.
But… back at Granma's house… Boy cut his hand in a kayak roll accident and there are bills to pay and the phone won't talk to the laptop.
Pictures are laboriously emailed.
Boy's hand is glued up and wrapped.
Granma asks Grandad to fill up a wine glass and reviews the weekend's artwork.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Three Girls Learning

Family archive picture- my stepsister, now a mother of two lovely girls :-)

Book held picture-side out, some of her hair plaited and some escaped, Little Granddaughter instructs Baby Cousin on the nocturnal habits of farm animals.
'A chicken goes to sleep. A cow goes to sleep. A pig… goes to sleep.'
Baby Cousin, wide eyed, absorbs shapes, colours, direction of sound. Her hair is fair and fluffy and some months away from any kind of up-do.
Her big sister's hair hangs waist long, darkish shades of blonde. There's a spider bite scar on her shin where a white-tail hid in her bedding once. A spooky Facebook tale is the culprit for last night's interrupted rest.
… and he didn't pass it on and they found him in the sewer…
We tell her it is nonsense, of course.
She smiles, sheepish, in daylight, away from fleeting shadows.
Yeah, she knew that.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Zombie Revolution

Zombies are giving me food for thought.
They seem to be rather prevalent (although not being a great consumer of modern entertainments this seeming could be misconstrued.) Regardless of statistics, I observe a moment of soulless chomping and wonder what the creature gains from its diet?
A vampire thrives on blood, a werewolf gets to be part of crazy nature, a ghost has the mixed gift of haunting.
Zombies are naught but insatiable consumers.
They are dispossessed of everything but that hideous, pointless appetite.
I think now not of Halloween, as you might suspect, but all the commercial machinations of festival and life that do nothing to promote the real engagements, the real privileges of living.
I think of being part of a different sort of devouring mass, shuffling over superficial traces, treading down careless infrastructures, recycling the senseless, putting the sharp of my tooth against flabby moral authority.
If zombies were like that, they would serve a function much as maggots do, munching out the bad meat and leaving the healthful to throw a party.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Things To Remember For Caterpillars

Caterpillar likes his life. He chomps his chunky greens and ruminates. He has put a few pounds: that's contentment, a physical manifestation of his ease in the world. Literally, he is growing in importance.
He has a cousin the same age as him, the same growth spurt. Cousin Caterpillar is nervous about his girth though. It makes you a bigger target for predators he says, and what are we growing for?
How a metamorphic invertebrate feels is irrelevant, Caterpillar reminds himself. He spins himself a chrysalis. Cousin Caterpillar must do just the same. If one is a caterpillar, this is what must be done. It's a fine job, velvety, rich looking, it fits to perfection.
But inside the pod it is so dark!
He can hear his heart beating and it doesn't sound right at all.
He can hear the wind rising outside and do nothing more to shelter himself.
He is stuck. He closes his eyes though there's no point.
After this: after this he will not know the world at all.
He will not know anything!
He seeks to remember. He cannot remember.
What should he not forget?
In the dark he feels lost. He dissolves. He is lost.

When the spun pod splits open and Butterfly slides out he knows: he doesn't know how, he just does. He offers his wings to the daylight. As soon as they uncrumple, he will fly.

Monday, 21 October 2013

A Day's Wait

Did we do good..?
In the night a storm has blown in, a lively sort, whips rain and wrestles tall trees. Some storms have an element of brooding: the ones you wait for are usually that way.
Yesterday we made the drag to Bristol, clutching coffee.
Since Friday the Academy has been busy with the people in the white training suits; they have been running up and down the stairs, packed with fears and hopes. They have been leaking sweat, and some tears.
At the foot of the stairs the breaking-horse sits. At the top on the left is the thin room, perfect for queuing, where the theory questions linger and sometimes answers come even under the pressure of those secluded hopes, those self defeating fears. At the top on the right is the room with the wooden floor, the main show. Everything else is peripheral. Here, observed, you test yourself.
If you were there, you know how you think you did. If your students were there, you know how you think they did. But the official stamp is withheld. Tuesday, the results release.
All day the storm lulls, flares, throws the rain about. Back to night and the panes are lashed, the fat-trunked ash tree cracks its sticks fighting back. Indoors we sit, tapping fingers on wood.

Let's dare to hope!

Saturday, 19 October 2013


Slow wind brushes on rain-soft earth and we hear none of it.
We take breakfast at noon before walking to the river.
Green threads stickle the field that was bare brown three days earlier.
Pheasants and moorhens throw themselves up into flight.
Down by the river grows an invasive weed, I've read the seed is edible.
Mr and I take each a bag, indulge in some eco-friendly vandalism.
We say how fast the water goes and look, where I crossed, was it last week, now it is thigh high, it would fill your boots and shove you.
Two bags full and we are weary again.
At home is coffee, some sneaked chocolate.
Foraged goods are dropped in the larder cupboard, for experiments at later dates.
I write. The others do… stuff.
Food cooks, and goes wrong. Hungry, we eat and shrug.
Next time, choose stock cube or salt not both: next time, get the water to boil before fresh pasta drops and sticks. Hey-ho.
Outside the moon rises, circular, silver.
We mooch about, mostly contented. Melon ice cream waits in the freezer.
It's one of those days, drowsy, where nothing much seems to happen. We like it.

A short lecture on the Himalayan Balsam:
Beautiful but overpowering the local flora.
Seed pods explode amusingly- but that's how it spreads so fast and thick.
If you see it and you're not in the Himalayas, look out! 

Friday, 18 October 2013


There is a sharp-toothed wind outside my house, calling. The noise drags through me like a spoon stirring curdled milk. Hedgerow berries are turned to moulded knots. Winter's entourage is waking. It will soon be Halloween…
I think this year's story is ready. Not perfected, and full of risk. Not as stomach turning as it was, perhaps the story line is then exposed as rather banal. I care not. The risk is the point. One must bring the fight to the comfort zone. On the 31st, you can read and decide.
Most of my attention is taken up with finishing The Novel (this is how I think of it now, though the next one will assume the same title, and the one after that, it does not signify a solo thing, it's a misuse of the definite article for psychological purpose.)
I don't like to talk about The Novel. If you are talking about writing you are not writing. Why aren't you writing?
I don't like to write about myself- too much self reflection is a hobbler. When I present my life snapshots here, they are done in a way I have cultivated, to be openly reflective. I'm not sure if I can describe more clearly what I mean by this. I even use the third person.
I prefer present tense. I like to be there. This is a difficult habit to overturn (An Artist Goes To The Shops was a past tense project, felt most clumsy!)
Trying to develop a style, to keep a balance and not be confined to a flat level of achievement, to do this in a world that has heart crushing stupidity and humbling redemption and still have something to say that will reach out and be reciprocated: this is my writer's quest and it scares me.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Theatre Of The Toddler Absurd

'Are you bonkers, little one?'
'No: I'm Daddy's pumpkin!'

Breakfast is served on an upturned box. One must sit sideways in a decommissioned car seat. It's not meant to be comfortable, nor complacent. It was funny but then we saw a cat.
Everyone must regard the cat.
The shop sells only elephants and giraffes. Not socks. If you ask for socks you will be treated as suspicious.
Once upon a time, a monkey. And a sheep and cows are my cows, big cows. The monkey is paintin. Is paint, yes? Please keep up with this narrative or eyes will roll, proving your idiocy.
Obedience costs one banana.
Wellington boots can be put on and kicked off repeatedly. At some point they will put themselves on the correct feet.
When it is time to chase a butterfly, it that time and no other.
Is there any poo? Let's find a poo.

Local Colour

Harvest machines squeeze the lanes, drag the cut maize to store. Maize grows fast and feral, it must be chopped fast, it is the kind of crop that might make a run for it.
It should be quiet then, down by the river, the field there is ploughed neat, lies waiting.
Butterflies: scraps of bombazine caught on thorny stems.
Brown earth, bared, corduroyed. Sky flows blue. In the hedge greens are vivid pips: the purplish sloes, the red hips.
Beyond, below, the river, the bigger river has eaten up all the rain.
Something slaps the water surface, unseen, unexplained.
At the edge, where Dog's swim sets a Mallard drake to wing, one bright thing, turquoise shining, faceted, flies panoramic.
Gorged eyes follow the field edge, the fatted twilled grass, the splay pattern seed tops. They find a spider, tucked in, patiently waiting to tuck in. It sits perfectly still for a photograph.
Brown deer, paused, cashmere. White bobs of buttock flee against the hedged green: leaves quiver.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Finding Buddha

Rain falls all over the park. Sensibly booted feet walk the circumference of the old firs, scenting earthy pine. Across the grass roll big tractor wheels, the grass is kept short all year. On the green the yellow-brown patched leaves show bright.
By the afternoon clouds are blown through, the sun reaches warm, a touch of summer: as though it says to us, do not forget me, I do not forget you.
Daylight darkles. One star is up, is told a wish. Three quarters of a moon crowns silver white, from the belly of night. Backlit clouds hold out, soft as blankets.
Somewhere underneath a car pulls to the road edge.
The driver leans down to find what is tapping her boot heel.
Finds one child's sock and one lost Buddha figurine.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Slow Fast Slow

Rain in grey this morning. Steam and dark coffee part ways as they leave the flask. The road is clear, the car steady.
Here I am holding the hot cup, sat up, under the rain that falls like a coverlet. Is there such a thing as a car lie-in? Should have worn pyjamas.

Have I got my suit, my belt, my licence book, my training fee, my foot support, my water bottle? Yes. Will I check again in five minutes? Yes.

In my suit, belt tied, fee paid, book stamped, foot supported, in the hall. Revved! 200 bodies or more in here, all power and no breathable air. Sweat humidity 100%. Legs work. Arms work. Core muscles get tenacious. If the brain works no time to think of it. Put ideas in a thought-locker.

Drink from the sidelined water bottle. In the body's heat it feels cold. To the changing rooms, before sweat cools to fabric glue.

Rain in grey this afternoon. Steam and dark coffee part ways as they leave the flask. The road is busy, stomachs growl at it. A supermarket car park becomes a welcome sight.

Here I slump, hold a hot cup, the window open a slot. I'm on the phone and the rain falls and Mr is fetching sandwiches.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

An Artist Goes To The Shops

There was no one there, I thought. The shop walls were lined with wonderworks and an island of efficacious products occupied the central floor space. Customers could walk between the shelves in a circular route, dazzled by abundance. There would be something worthwhile and thirst quenching in this place. I stepped in, beginning my curious study on the right hand aisle. I knew there would be staff, of course, imagined that something of import had to be fetched or a kettle to be switched for boiling up water, leaving the counter empty for a short while. Meanwhile, there was no one there but me, I thought.
Too abruptly and too close a face appeared and asked: 'Can I help you?'
Were my nerves not steely I may have shrieked. I was reading shampoo ingredients, though this was not the main purpose of my visit. I put the bottle back on the shelf unashamed. I was being distracted because I was paying attention to my immediate world. Great art and happiness can stem from that meandering root. One cannot be ashamed of it, if one is to be a happy artist. I opened my mouth with confidence.
'I was thirsty so I wanted something to drink. Not shampoo, I was just looking at that.'
She frowned and stared before she remembered to be helpful. She had a strained look, like she was trying to remember some staff training guidance. 'Something to help you sleep?'
'Er, no, just a drink to stop me being thirsty.'
She thought for a moment of how she could help with this. 'Chill cabinet's over there.'
The shop was barely two metres across. I could see the cabinet clearly. It was the only break in the shelf lines. There was only this circulatory route. I would be distracted perhaps but not lost on my travels.
'Thank you.' It would, howsoever, be unnecessary to appear churlish.
She escorted me regardless.
'Beetroot,' I said, lunging for the cold glass door. I got my own bottle and surreptitiously checked the seal. 'Thanks.'
As she reached out her hand to drop the coins of change into my open palm I saw briefly under her sleeve cuff. The human skin was a disguise: the real skin was a gleaming scaled green!
I resumed my stalk through the district's charity shops, and could not help but question my experience. One does like to invent stories for discarded objects and now also for suspicious assistants in health food outlets. An alien, I tell you. Tried yet failed to put me to sleep with a poisoned root vegetable beverage. Also this cup and saucer clearly and formerly belonged to an elf.

Friday, 11 October 2013

12 Sets Of 10 Reps

Trophies won at competition displayed here-
not for curing the common cold :-) 

The pasta machine is snowed under flour, it's cold outside, my wine glass is full of red. Remnants of washing up hang around the sink and there's still a dosh of espresso in my pink metallic flask.
All day I clutched a tissue and rubbed a leaky nose till it was sore and dry. (It was my nose: I should make that clear.)
I stayed in and typed and wore through some elbow skin. (One day I will have an ergonomic desk.)
Enthusiasm for movement is extinct but there is espresso.
Light the caffeine and stand well back!
After an hour my class has a glow warm: enough to cure my cold.

Thank you to all my lovely students!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

At Feather Tor

They climb down the lea of the hill.
No one walks here but us.
Above is a pitch of wind, unearthly. Water pours.
If a mist drops, can I navigate?
Keep the sound of the water to your right.
Out of the crooked gorse they walk, to a clear crossing, shallow, over flat stones.
'I find it!' Little Granddaughter says.
On the other side of the river she tires and takes a shoulder ride. Crow-birds hop. Sheep poo is pointed out, and the flights of linnets from a circling Dog. They are babies, she tells Nam-ma, whispers; 'tiny-baby-birds' regards their flight with indulgent pride.

Not too cold for ice cream yet!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Traffic At Goosey Fair

A zirconium string: the Plymouth road clusters with headlights, lures the quiet passenger up from wordless thoughts.
Sparkle is created here, of a sort that will not rival any star: a mundane piece of loveliness: shine in a domestic setting.
In the cars whole other lives drive by houselights of more lives.
Something about that passing, that unknowingly shared point of time and space: the emotive commonplace in all lives.
Up the Tavistock hill they drive, looking behind them at the axled bling of carnival rides, hear the faint squeals from Goose Fair.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


We have been running free in the woods again, Dog and I, following knots of pathway. Around us trees bend and snake in deliberate shapes, brambles set sinuous ankle traps, fallen logs are my balance beams. Dog is puff and leaf-smacking wag: when she is gone on her chases I hear leaves break stem and land.
Spiders throw galleon lines: they love to play Pirates.
It doesn't have to make exact sense, it is what you want it to be; so we run and we are as we wish. If there is a means to break this spell I will never seek it.