Thursday, 24 July 2014


One young fox pads across the village road, unnerved by a squabble of magpies. Heat is thickening. Flowers reach unbearable brightness. Dark fleas show on Dog's white fur. Back at the house six excessively purchased bags of cheap salt sit on the kitchen worktop. It is hot work to salt the carpets. It takes one bag of salt to cover all of them. The other five sit, over prepared, lined up, a show of strength. A couple of hours wait is recommended, while the fine mineral dehydrates insect eggs. Fleas are poor swimmers, too, they thrive in the moderate zone: not immersion, not desiccation. It makes the river obvious.
Dog hobbles (infected paw: she is having an unlucky week) over the dry grass. The crop field is unstirred. All the wheat stands as though it would crumble to dust: we dare not touch it. But the water is close: cold, clear, edged in light that flows up, that plays over the broad tree trunks, over the tumbling weeds. Wading in happens fast. Heat calms, damsel flies spark blue, little birds spin so close we could breathe one in if we timed it right. Thoughts that were crammed in open up like leaves of fine tea in a glazed pot.
Tired still from a weekend of Junior Camp hilarity, triumph, mud and eggy bread. Campfire tales were gobbled up: the illustrations need some finish, but it would be simple enough to make an ebook of them. Next year perhaps a tale about the motives of parents who ply their children with terrible sweets…
Boy is far away, being tested: three days of interview and tests to see if he can follow his dream. Yesterday a text to say he had thrown up whilst on a run: the heat, too much food, not enough water. A mother worries, of course! He has a solid back up plan. But he could do it, we know he could.
Next week we will all be running. A week of camping and training and hoping that the housesitters don't forget to water the plants. Or feed our limpy Dog. Or get bit by fleas. We should ring the vet.
Fleas, be fish food!
Float, thought-free, eyes skyward.

Later, when the house is unsalted by borrowed vacuum, when Dog is lavender bathed and oddly lively, when the river wet clothes blow dry on the line: the phone rings. It's Boy.
'I passed,' he says.
His mother is looking out of the window. The air seems watery, lit up.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Thursday's Thunder

In The Afternoon:
The loosest cotton still traps heat. Every breeze is embraced. People are walking in food halls to linger in freezer aisles, they are loitering at every air-conditioned doorway, they are sitting on shaded benches, postured like slightly deflated balloons. There's no explanation for the girl in a woollen hat. Girl and hat cause ripples of surprise. Only ripples: it is too hot for waves. Plymouth's streets hover heat.
In The Evening:
All the city errands are done. The air is thick, a clear fog, even in the wood shade, even at the river's edge. Coolness lies in the murk of water, calm as a carp. Beyond the upside down trees, clouds reflect.
Later, wet clothes are dumped in a washing machine; from the doorstep of an untidy house, a thunderstorm is observed. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Five Songs Of Summer

Castle Beach, with my daughter, 1990

One: The first sounds of summer are not song, exactly, but I can't ignore them. They are too entwined in this experience of life. My strongest sounds of summer are primordial: waves that wash slow over quartz pebbles and medium grain sand; chirrups of split tail birds; the breeze idling though a full-leafed tree. After this I think of beach chatter: what you hear when your eyes are closed in full sun, when the beach is busy, that blend of every human social vocal. There are human musical sounds that evoke summer things too, though, stuff you could put on a mix tape. There are:
Two: Kelly Marie. I Feel Love. Because disco works best in the heat, because this is the song I associate with going on the Waltzers at the travelling fair. Sequins, candyfloss, coloured light bulbs spinning. Walking in a wonky line with innocently sticky knees; everything smells of sugar, onions, cigarettes, fruity lip gloss. 
Three: Janice Joplin. Summertime. An obvious title, but I love it. The ease of a fine summer and the emotive gravel of voice. There's never been a time when it didn't work for me.
Four: Nina Simone. Feeling Good. August 2007. My friend Ian sang this while I was walking down the aisle of a former slate mine. Mr was waiting at the end of that aisle. (And when his nearly bride stepped up on the staging to stand by his side she whispered 'Don't look at me' because she didn't want to cry. So they giggled instead.)
Five: Kate Bush. The Red Shoes. I think this album was an autumn release, but the eponymous song was one I danced to frequently, in my kitchen of course, with a coffee pot close at hand, the year I was finishing my clever degree. Dancing plus coffee equals Ideas. And did I leave college to get myself a securely salaried job? Nope. The red shoes do not quit.

Castle Beach, date unknown.
I grew up here :-)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Dorothy And The Self Made Pie

I walk Dog and my elderly neighbour around the block. I do not put Dorothy on a lead, please understand, although she does alarm me as the tractors pass.
'That's all right,' she says, stopping unpredictably under the bucket of a Massey Fergusson; waving at the grey bearded driver; 'is that one of ours? Oh yes, I know his mother. That's Christopher.' 
Christopher waves back.
'Yes, I know his mother,' she grins, walking on, after the machine has crawled carefully by. 'It is lovely to be out here,' she says. Her eyes flitter like a butterfly over the hedges, the old chapel all done up, the quarry busy with forklifts today.
I had been walking past Dorothy's garden when she asked where was I going: around the block? Could she join me?
'Well of course.' I wait for her to check that she's turned things off in her neat home, and she keeps pace very well and breathes easy up every hill.
She tells of how she used to walk around the block, all the way down to the river sometimes; but she's afraid to go alone now, lest she fall. Her friends have took falls, she says, and none of them are too good after. She speaks of six sisters; one has sadly passed, aged but sixty-three, but that does happen, sometimes; one doted brother; how they would go walking with him while he rode along on the pony. They had fields and land near the Tavy river. Grew vegetables, cooked their own pies. She looks at me, to see if I understand. I nod. 
The self made pie!
Fat cloud wobbles, rain does not fall. Sun is appreciated. We have washing hung out. 
Two prisoners of war lived here, she remembers, as we clear Treniffle: one in the bungalow, kept it tidy, the other was in the cottage next to where Dorothy lives now. Married two sisters, they did, and old Mr Perry gave them work. Did Max go back to Germany, for a visit? Only once, maybe. Married two sisters, she repeats, they had work, so they stayed. One of the children, she thinks, moved off to Australia.
'I've forgotten your name,' she says, laughing, mid conversation: because she can recall Hans and Max but not me.
They've cut the hedges, she notes, they had to widen the field gates too, to get the new combine in. Christopher told her about it. Or was that last year? She points out fields near ready to crop, a colour like nuts, she says: sorry for slowing you up. She grins.
'It's the old lanes.' Dorothy seems satisfied, that there has been change and no change, as she had hoped and expected. 'Will it rain, do you think?'
'Later,' I say, and would make the point that rain will turn up and maybe something else about how it all changes and stays the same: but Dorothy knows this. And has forgotten the girl is come to cut her lawn. She scurries to greet the girl, to say 'Sorry, I've been around the block: you know how I used to walk the block, all the way to the river sometimes…'
I am smiling because I am sure Dorothy has also forgotten the girl's name; and the girl is a grown woman; but I bet she never hesitates over the recipe for a self made pie.
Back to my garden I go, to cut marjoram for drying. 

Dog waiting for marjoram sticks to chew up.
She loves to help out.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Weekend Diminuendo

Saturday: begins with finding a butterfly in a newly opened sunflower. A day in which one drives a loop of town hoping for a free space, settles for a car park, finds the pay machine is out of order. Pennies earmarked for parking are counted over to the proprietor of the second hand bookstore, the remainder buys an avocado. 
On walking Dog, a tennis ball is un-lodged from a hedge; wild strawberries and meadowsweet grow; ransoms and red clover offer up ripe seeds. A swimming costume is found in the shoulder bag underneath the unneeded raincoat; there's a stretch of water clear of rocks. Swimming with Dog, upriver. Skin shivers, damply redressed, jumps old storm felled trees to warm up. 
Home to show Mr foraged goods, and how a poppy has appeared in the vegetable patch. 
A granddaughter is brought, tired, with cake to share.
'Did you have fun at the party?'
'We played football and chasin-' she prods the icing. 'I don't love blue. I love pink. And brown. And purple. And…'
'Yes. Of course!' She takes up a look of contemplating an existence in which she prefers matte blue, followed closely by an amused snort.
Clouds mass. Forecast rain may fall tomorrow.
Night arrives, thick with colour, heavy, heated.
Sunday: begins with finding Cat sneaking out of the office where Little Grandaughter's cot is set up. She is awake, pointing at a turd pile.
'I didn't do that,' she states.
Downstairs it transpires that the house is so dirty it must actually be cleaned, and Dog has three big ticks to be unhooked from her head. There are only three slices of bread left. Little Granddaughter is certain she will eat two of them. 
While the washing is hung up, Cat sneaks onto the pallet table to lick peanut butter from neglected toast: is promptly expelled from the garden by demonic shriek.

Soothing picture of river :-) 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Surprised By The Memory Of A Pen

Trying with the borrowed laptop. Not liking the borrowed laptop. Feeling apologetic. 
Such a first world problem!
Trying again. The moon that is sighed to is as wide as it can be, milky as glaucoma. Mistakes every third word, at least.
Tap tap- oh, not that- tap- oh…
Try again: oh…
Conscious of a lack in flow.
Hands tap knees instead.
Outside the moon has worn thin. The sky is swirled out and sequined: one star is spun free.
Remember the fibre tip pen you had? After the years of cheap biro that leaked ink in your pockets? The lump on your finger from gripping the plastic? How beautiful that fibre tip! It glided.

(Special effect produced by
a marshmallow on a fiery stick)