Showing posts from March, 2014

Abundant Dirt

Seeds are poked into fine loam. Seedlings shifted from their tiny pot confinements to larger earth. Blue pen squiggles on the plastic markers. Little Granddaughter views the sunflower progress, satisfied. 'Are they growing?' Nam-ma asks. She looks again. 'Yes, they are. Yes, they have.' The tone: toddler-imperious. Nam-ma grins. They are and they have. She likes that the present tense precedes the past. She likes the emergent confidence. 'Good,' she says. Two coats are heaped on a workbench. Broad bean leaves are a midgreen, rounded: the peas paler and sneaking up in curls. Sunflower leaves pair like cupped open hands.

My Black Moon

Before the night, there is a clear sky, and the sun has a satisfied sort of glow. It warms a brisk wind so on the beach it matters not that trousers are dragged through deep pools. Dogs and children run in circles of exuberance. We speak of curves in waves and rock formations and stroke fingers over the smooth levels that the storms have stripped. Gulls call, the air is thick with salt. One lost boot is wedged in seaweed. In the rocks are many things mysterious; the tide comes, jealously, to take them back. Lying on hot granite, we eat ice cream, watch the seabirds fly. Dog buries and exhumes pebbles. Secretly we are laughing at a man adjacent who talks loudly of his lifestyle. In the car a spontaneous parody causes much amusement. Ah, poor man, you did nothing to hurt us. You were a comedic gift. We just knew by your desire to impress how fine and centred we are in our world. Still, once home and sat, in dry clothes, sipping soup, while Dog chews the ham bone retrieved from the stock…


Edging to the far end of Spring's first month. The clock hands will slip forward tonight. Time melts. Winter's ghost sings in the night wind. Another new moon is nearly begun. When two new moons fall in one month, the second is called a black moon. It makes a cauldron of the sky, fills it with unknown things, with a power to catalyst. We can write phenomenal lists. We can think of all that we wish; entireties of other lives; swimming, dreaming, in unbounded dark. Morning comes as a brink.

Rain-Damp, On The 510 Bus

There's a particular type of cold to be found at bus stops: whether rain damped or wind chilled or bit with ice. It fosters a particular type of appreciation for the thick piled fabric of the bus seat cover. The fabric pattern is avant-garde, brightly coloured. The bus doors are open. Onions are frying, over at the Gong Fu Kitchen. The driver waits for an elderly couple to recover suitcases from a taxi. He steps out to lift the cases in, while they worry that the taxi driver has left without a tip: I meant to give him something, the lady sighs. They look for their bus passes, synchronised. I never would have thought of the bus, the lady sighs, but eight quid it saves. She shows her pass. Her husband nods and holds out her cardigan sleeves so she can slip her arms in and warm up. The driver asks them which stop; there are two in their village. The second one, they say. He is a foreigner, the lady notes as they sit down, for no discernible reason. At the rear of the bus a man speaks,…

Approaching the A-Z, Uncertainly

In April a chunk of the blog-populace play a game called the A-Z Challenge. Everyday but not Sundays we write posts that follow the alphabet: a 26 day commitment. Some prepare in advance and I am in the other group. All groups do their best to visit and engage with as many other bloggers as is feasible. This year although I cannot commit to a topic- it's just not how I like to work- I have decided that my game rules are to open a dictionary to the relevant letter, close my eyes and point. Those words will be the title and starting point for each of the alphabet days. That should be just enough structure to keep the task in hand and not let it smother me. The right kind of uncertainty. Although, what happens if I pick a naughty word? (Laughs first, thinks second.) Errrmmmm…. (Thinks again as though checking a sum.) I shall daintily misspell it, not because I fear to offend but because I prefer not to offend by accident. I should rather cause deliberate exasperation and I should rather t…

A Sky Painted Flat

Today's path is not complicated. It follows flowering lanes, between the bell hyacinths and the bluebell leaves. It pilots under a sky painted flat, with cameo ware cloud. It loops the cool grass in the field where the wind blows over badger bones, where vivid slime grows in the stream overflow and daisies tinge pink at the petal tips. Buzzards wing thermals and the cattle are sat, chewing. Dog runs, dip dyed in mud. And the evening is straightforward too, is routine. A drive across Plymouth as the daylight fades and neon softly flickers. Small groups of people stop to communicate. One here holds a pint glass, another, a bag from the takeaway counter. The air has a tarmac earthiness: tangs of tyre rubber and buttery garlic.

~110,625 words make up The Novel so far. Working on Chapter Nine out of ten. End in sight! But I fell asleep over my laptop this week. Much energy expended. It makes one jittery. It has resulted in a thick cough and a thin delirium. The end is sighted and will be…

Black Belt Trials: Round One

Ate a falafel sandwich under a Church Road bus shelter, watching hail bounce. Between hail showers we sat outside; the sun blazed but sometimes it rained too. It was exhausting: taking off a coat, a scarf, a jacket, rolling up the wool trousers, the shirt sleeves, and swiftly reassembling it all, shivering, and repeat, repeat, repeat. A small cough flourished. It was a Bristol pre-grading day. Twelve of our students were there to be studied, amongst the nervous batch of 100 or so. The question was not pass or fail, though that's how they felt. The question was, are they ready? If they could do better, then try again would not (it should not) be a negative. We should remember all that disappointment can bring: the priceless grit of perseverance, how it lines the path to a destination of deeper import: but it still hurts to hear it. Sometimes philosophy must be augmented with a hug. While we all waited, under an indecisive sky, I thought to do some writing and then my pen was out of i…


The front tyres at the outer edge show a zigzag of tread, as one would expect, but when the wheel is turned to park, no pattern at all is visible at the inner edge. To the tyre fitters the old car goes; the driver alarmed and repentant. She drives straight in, the way being unimpeded, into the tall rectangle of the workshop, leaves the key in the ignition. She opens the door marked Reception.  Out of the wind it is warm. In this building within a building a large window attempts to bring in natural light but the plant has withered despite this and the careful bit of string support tied through a ceiling tile strut, and the tennis ball sized glitter ball hanging from a cable tie on the bamboo stick. The leaves were heart shaped, once. A man with a face that has known weather sits at the desk. He asks after tyre sizes, and they'll check the tracking for free. Would she want it fixed, if the tracking is out? Yes, she says, emphatic. It's not usual for tyres to wear like that: it mi…

Spring Equilibrium

This year, if I think of it as alive, has a yearning for adventure: more specifically, a quest: a pulsing and a push. Not this shared calendar year: this, my year. One can own time: one's own time. Who else would have it? Who else does have it? My utopia is a work of art: is a collaborative work of art. Living is a creative process. An ongoing, interactive, lit up process. Life has such vitality, firsthand and through memory: and memory need not be something that is carved out, but can be a plastic art, informed by one's own experience: is like a torch passed on, it lights one's own view, yet burns a previous fuel.
All this is thought, walking steep up the grassed hill; the wind blows cold, the clouds, rowdy, travel in packs. All this, thought, whilst stuck in the hedge, caught by a wire barb. Two cuts neat on a boot toe: one triangular hole in the back of a coat. Happy with a wet toe, sliding down to the river banks where the anemones chuckle. It rains, it falls in pellets…

Crock Pot Soup

Surprised by a squeeze from the transverse abdominis whilst dropping onionskins in a pot for stock. Could be a result of rapid furniture moving or clambering loose-footed paths on steep slopes; with a couple of prized deer bones gripped in hand; or wandering waist deep in the slippery cold river, favoured bones slung makeshift in a scarf. But despite the upper abdominal flinching, thoughts are focused on soup. Soup is made of items found. It is made when we are not sure what else to do for nourishment. It is best made slow. It is best made with time to scent the earth inside each mushroom as the knife slides through: to let an onion sting, to smile at the orange flesh of a drab skinned sweet potato: to feel each density, hear the thock of knife edge contacting the chopping board: to see the irregular, the pleasing collection, chopped and mixed in the old iron crock, glossy with melted ghee: to feel the anticipation as it is set upon the Rayburn hob with stock water and sprigs of garden …

Nearly Home

Settled in the Iron Age, in modern times known mainly for its sauce: Worcester, that's where we began our return journey. The journey up encompassed a visit to our youngest granddaughter, who is breaking out teeth and standing up, ready to morph through toddlerhood. In spite of teeth she smiles and cuddles: brave and cute. The journey up was obstacled only by inner Bristol road works. We paused overnight there, guests of my brother and sister in law, treated to fine Taiwanese dining.

I slept like a hog, too accurately, Mr says: snoring, he says. Oh karma, says I. I pour him coffee. Set up the navigation device. Feed him honeyed sesame and the roads are clear and the sky bright. Venue parking is all used up: the next spot is a pleasant canal side walking distance during which we learn that Worcester also homes the world's oldest surviving newspaper. Berrow's Journal, should you wish to look it up. The parking has cost two pounds sterling for the whole of the day. The car is …

Lively Bones

Mist covers the morning, greyed, as though the road dirt has tainted it. No sun burns through. Cold holds the day. Snow could fall. The field where the old barn sits, beams cracked; calm in the process of demise; is unpopulated. The walk leads off road, over the stile and finds a line of spine and rib, a skull, the bones of two back legs. What was badger lies on grass, posed like a medical illustration, too unusual to be repulsive. Shinbones poke down into feet, a dancing skeleton in boots. Because of this: the curiousness, the nonchalance, it seems composed to this fate, even celebratory; it retains a certain vitality. I lived a badger's life, it says, and died a badger's death. And that is how wise badgers judge success. Dog sniffs, seems to agree, trots along the hedge, down the broad curving grass, over the opposite stile. Mud, ankle deep, heaps on rubber booted feet. They wash clean in the brook. A swirl of wet earth flows over flat stones, under the reflected sky. Footprin…


Woke inadvertently having slipped into a parallel realm. It has no sense of humour. It is clumsy and it frowns too quick, although the day begins in bold white fractals of mist. Nothing in this time is less beautiful, yet the empathy for it is absent. Whether the change is irreversible is unknown. As a cure, time is spent outside, where the mist merges into blue sky, shiny untrammelled sun. In the sleepy heat some semblance of normality shimmers: and the rich tang of earth turned with dung in the surrounding fields is not unfamiliar. It is the right Earth, of course, it is the person who is wrong. It is the usual kind of wrong, of course: simply overtired. Deceptively simple and infiltrative. Easier to put one's self in another dimension than admit that the idiocy has struck again. Or to say, the creative output is worth it, or even that it is tied into this delirium: but life is the most authentic creative experience: but then this is part of the experience: a strength being also…

A Secret Blog

A similar ping of intuition to the one that gave life to this cure-all blog: I recognise it. It must be followed. It makes not so much sense at first: to start a private blog that only I read. I have notebooks and a pen, I have always had notebooks. What is wrong with my notebooks? Apart from the lack of organisation? Yet somehow it does feel… sensible? So yesterday, unbeknownst, a secret blog was duly initiated. Not so clandestine that I can't speak of it. It's more that I can't explain it. I'm building it as a small child constructs, artful and subconscious. Meanwhile Dog is arching gracefully on the sofa. She appears adorable and wafts an eggy cloud. My Buddha-self says this is a lesson that one must not be too caught up in appearance for the substance may be rotten. My nose suggests a new lid for the Dog-raided compost bin. There is no discrepancy in following the spiritual and the practical advice. There is washing on the line in the dark waiting for tomorrow's …

Happy Birthday Mr

Much as the skeletal shed haunts us, it is a weekend for treats. So on Saturday we take in a self defence workshop, which might not be everyone's idea of leisure but Mr learnt a new application for W-block and my wrist restraint release moves have perked up measurably.

Saturday evening Little Granddaughter comes over, over tired, unimpressed. Spongebob calms her. She sleeps for twelve hours.
Sunday morning she wakes in a helpful mood. We cook Grandad some breakfast. Teddy must help too. Also one has to stop to play the recorder. And catch some clouds in a jar. And find the missing duckling. And explain why it isn't time for a bath yet. And help Teddy learn to play the recorder. Teddy looks after the ducks but all the clouds escape. Teddy is not a good at multitasking. Nam-ma makes a LARGE COFFEE and plates up. Slow cooked breakfast is the best kind, after all. Sunday afternoon a planned trip to Minions, with Girl and Miss Kirsty and Dog added to the entourage, diverts to Golitha F…

The Universe In Coffee

Mindfulness is seeing: this circle of dark coffee held in a mug. It is thinking of the journey the coffee has taken: from the plantation slopes, growing; harvested, roasted, packaged, shipped, purchased; all those transactions bring it here, to this encircling mug, steaming hot like the slopes of its origin. Mindfulness is feeling: chilled tiles under bare feet, faint heat of sleepy eyes, morning air fresh against skin, the comfort of thick socks, hands holding a mug drawing in warmth. Mindfulness is hearing: next door, the Rayburn rattles, riddled to unburden ash; outside the wind sings, the birds respond, loose ivy taps glass; in this room a dog sighs and the arm of the waving cat tocks like a grandfather clock. Mindfulness is smelling: coffee, moss on the dampish logs stacked to dry, pungent old onion in the compost tin, clean sap in the split kindling, charcoal in the smoulders of last nights fire, fine dust of ash; hints of dog and soap and leather boots. Mindfulness is tasting: thi…

The Carpe Diem Dance

Today: Only this morning I knew exactly what to write: held it just as clearly as if it had been written down. Somewhere in the day it has slipped from memory, is lying somewhere metaphysical, ink blurring in soft rain. Yesterday: 'Dance Nam-ma! It's a man-an-a-tar!' Little Granddaughter demands as we walk past the busker at the low end of Plymouth. After this exertion we eat pasties and two buses collide on Royal Parade. The accident had been there all along, a man says; it was waiting to happen. Nam-ma extrapolates that therefore it is a happy accident, being fulfilled: but one should not wait to happen, as a rule.


Nothing seemed wrong, not entirely. Small clues, like the way the cereal pack was inside the fridge and the milk on the shelf. The sky was draped in rainy fuzz, it came all the way down to the ground. It wasn't cold as winter, but it wasn't warm. Daffodils were opening up. They shivered in the wind. I was writing in the past tense, I noticed: it had been an unconscious choice. A sense of grief pervaded. A sorrow that could pour out and down and seep into unfrozen ground; touch the waking seed, the feathery splay of root; and up will grow such fabulous blooms, such tender shoots: raw at first then weathered in and growing, always growing into something that spreads out like branches; gives out limbs to climb and dangle heels from and think of childhoods; a shade for quiet thought; blossoms for the beauty of fun; fruits that ripen, nourishing, fermentable, bringing cheer.

Chasin' Fox

Out of the culvert a red-brown body streaks, a four legs bushy tail body. Distance makes it vole sized. Hunched angle of head makes it angry. One hundred yards behind a white-brown body bounds, a four legs tail wagging body. Enthusiasm has rendered this one conveniently deaf. After some joyous time it returns, tongue akimbo. As suspected, it is Dog: glorious Dog, her mud all glossy and giving a slight steam to the cold midday air. She has lost her tennis ball and still looks to me to throw it. She is not a creature of detail in any sense but the olfactory. We head homewards.
Half a dozen items dangle from the washing line, blowing lazy. 'Where d'you go?' Mr asks from his skeletal shed-in-progress. 'Chasin' Fox,' I tell: I tell the diminutive narrative of our field hike: how the tennis ball is dropped unheeded in the undergrowth and the fox is cross.
In the kitchen a jug of pancake mix is ready for cooking up. Four fresh daffodils poke from a makeshift pot. An exten…


The sky, hung grey, is handsome. Across the hills are cloud stacks, lined up as if for a chess game. A spill of indigo beneath these silvered pieces. Between the flat slate and the snow-capped cerulean, a wide curtain of colour drops, as the rain drops, as the spectrum splits. Trees peer at their pooled reflections, see how buds swell from wet bark. Hedgerows are polkaed in primrose. Water rises to greet each footprint.


I had set myself a story challenge, for one must have trials in order to grow. We need it like the spring flowers need to feel the earth unfreeze. He or she: you will need it (whomsoever and wheresoever in space and time you may be. You may even be plural, it still applies. Maybe that's enough pronouns and tenses for now though…) And like a growth spurt, out and up the stories pop! A rude clown, a tempted magpie, a lucky explorer, an unfortunate robot and advice for children in a zombie apocalypse; a bad stomach, a dragon-eye gem, tropical monsters, regrettable sausages, some new shoes, camouflage and suitable retaliation. Happy sigh!
Yesterday Dog and I strolled a field, new to us: steep and possessed of a wide view. Over the corner curve we found deer bones, sun bleached, porous as coral: a line of trees with tentacle roots, storm twisted branches. Familiar with the elements, ne'ertheless, it is a new world. Through a hedge gap squeezes four legs, two legs: run the wooded path…

Cephalopod Coffeehouse Review (actually)

The Snow Child is inspired by the Russian fairy tale The Little Daughter of the Snow. I am partial to a renewal of an old tale, it's a reminder that the important themes of humanity don't change so much. It is set in 1920s Alaska, and the landscape forms a good part of the story. Jack and Mabel are looking for a new life, looking to escape the grief of losing a baby. They find solid happy company in their neighbours. They find a child who lives feral in the wilderness. The rest I won't spoil for you, even if you can guess the story.

This is a book that encompasses the visceral truth of nature but doesn't dwell in the negative. Neither does it enforce a positivist view. It flows and describes:
'She had no way to know its age or gender, but there was something in the light-colored chin and long, coarse whiskers that reminded her of an old man's beard. From a distance the otter gave a comical, mischievous impression, but when it slithered close Mabel could smell fis…