Showing posts from 2015

In Stitches: A Yule Tapestry

The trip out had been put on hold, while the storm was belting. The sky was getting darker.
It seems that nothing much will get done.
Granma is in the kitchen, filling up the kettle. Grandad is looking for his phone/glasses/keys/other item: he’s on a rolling programme of searching. All four grandchildren gather in the next room, out of sight, well in sound.
Grandchild 3 says, with musical clarity, ‘You get on the naughty step RIGHT NOW!’ Grandchild 1 says, with a sense of subterfuge, ’You see, that’s why I don’t like her!’ Grandchild 4 (most likely recipient of the command) simply growls. Grandchild 2 says ‘What the?!’ (She implies an expletive with a comic shrug.) Grandchild 3 appears in the kitchen, dressed in the snuggle blanket. It trails behind her, majestic and soft. ‘I’m Elsa,’ she informs. ‘Let the storm rage oooonnnnn!’ Grandchild 4 appears, drawn to stand on the trail of the blanket. ‘Lie down,’ Granma instructs, picturing a head injury. This is how the dragging game begins. From the b…

Yule Story 2015

The Porcupines In Winter

Winter is known for being cold. That is usual.
Some winters are mildly cold, and some fierce.
In the forest where the porcupines lived, a new winter was beginning.
The trees stood bare, all the flowers hid. This was expected.
And the weather spirits came, whirling around trunks and boughs, whispering forecasts.
In the forest where the porcupines lived, this was usual.
This year would be the coldest yet, the weather spirits told; the coldest ever. Cold enough to freeze blood, to ice a heart mid-beat. Over and over they whispered this. Never had the weather spirits been mistaken.
This winter would be extreme.
Migratory birds took fright and flew. The forest animals were afraid. They grew their fur extra thick and ate as much as they could manage. But as the fierce wind blew, and the ground froze, they began to die, one by one.
The porcupines called a meeting. Old Grandfather Porcupine recalled a winter that had been almost this cold, when he was a pup. His …

Out Of The Mist, With Banana And Hope Intact

Feather Tor was the idea, but when we got to Dartmoor it was lost in the mist. So we left the car and followed along the road till we reached a leat. Even without the mist, or the windswept ponies, or the fire twisted bracken, or the stacked granite masses, this leat flows uphill, so magic is here. I have marched many people up this route, because they don’t believe until they are standing downstream and uphill and the water is still flowing. The old stone cross was our next idea, but visibility was closing in. In my bag I had an emergency banana, but far from fully kitted for any navigational errors. We followed the leat back, and the sound of the road. The wind was throwing horizontal rain. It spat through a gap in my toggled hood and drenched me. Dog was zigged and zagged by it; she wanted to get back into the dry car boot space and lie on her rug. I had to crouch and divest as many damp garments as modesty would allow. We put the heater on and sat. Reflected on magic, landscapes, …

Goose Flight



Remembrance Day:
I read, in those lines of names, all the fresh emotion of loss.
It is easier to think of it as in the past, to fix that hurt to a time long gone; to empathise, but not be involved.
This is not how it is.
War has not ceased. The lines of names are not static.
And, beyond this, we ourselves are not immortal. We will be leaving this world, every one of us.
Loss is what our lives should seek to balance.
Be grateful for this chance - be cheerful and bold and embracing and mindful.
Accept yourself.
The best person you can be is not the one who beats you up for not being better.
Push yourself.
Outside the comfort barriers, living begins.
Who died for your right to shuffle in drabness, bored and unfulfilled?
The dream was freedom from oppression.
What would they want to tell us, the people whose names are on that list?
What would they say was important?
Love. The comfort of a well made sandwich. Sunsets. How Aunt Flo never forgot a birthday. A sea breeze. Those friends and …

Flaming November


A Day Out Of Season

Slept so deep I went underneath sleep, underneath dreams.
I think I slipped out of the universe entirely.
And woke up here.
Warm as summer, the bright air full of small, noisy birds.
I will peg washing out as an offering to this sun.
After walking by the glass river, arms bared; home to drink coffee and eat ice cream, sat at the wobbling pallet table. The seats are damp, nobody cares.
Just sit and taste the bitter-sweet. Enjoying, before winter comes, a late autumn palliative.

The Tough Trough Tragedy: Halloween 2015

I knew that there was something wrong.
Why do we do that?
We know that something is wrong but don’t want to seem silly and somehow that is more important. We do things even when there is a voice in our head shouting not to do it: fear of looking foolish overrides self preservation.
I never knew till then just how strong that desire to fit in was.
I am not what other people would call conventional.
Got purple hair, a half sleeve tattoo of skulls and mermaids, a pierced lip.
Did I listen when people said not to dye my hair or get inked or pierced?
Clearly not.
Did I listen when my instincts told me something was horribly wrong here?
Clearly not.
I was lucky, in a way.
I survived, anyway.
But the others didn’t and that is impossible to forget.
I’m here, alive, but I’m stuck with those images for life.
I lost one finger and my peace of mind.
I suppose you want to hear about it.
Everyone does, like it was something awesome that happened.
It was different; I understand the novelty appeal, …

Lessons In Leaves

Michaelmas is long gone and no one has told the blackberries up here. I wasn’t about to let on. Under stripes of cloud and sun, a fruit feast is plucked, is popped, piece by piece, in to a thirsty mouth. Cut stalks noisy under walking feet, fingers tinged purple; from fields to moors over the river, I spy out. I shall traverse this open ground, I announce, whilst the air holds dry.
But into the small woods we are drawn, Dog and I; her by scent and me by leaf.
Sometimes we see more, standing in shade.
Structures in bright relief.
Dog can easily follow the path as it tunnels under fern and bramble. I follow, stumble, trousers caught in thorny twine.

No less happy - this is adventure. This is story living, story making.
We become what we live, so we should live with care and abandon.
In the light, to stride, to acknowledge happiness.
In the shade, to know the light shines through.
To be of structural interest.

Leaves are falling, as we head home along our winding lane.
They land light…

It Is Beautiful

In the polytunnel.
Draped in sun, I am sitting.
Contemplating on this, sitting, listening.
Absorption happens.
Bird chatter, scent of damped soil warming.
How the sun has dressed this lawn, in beaded rainbows.
Even Dog gives in to the bliss, lolls her head on the doorframe.

Yesterday was the first frost. The first new moon in the tenth month.
I had stood indoors, where the sun streamed in, where it poured through an old glass bottle-stopper; the facets of it spread a party of light on the wall.
I knew the physics of the trick and remained in thrall.
Everything is illusion, coloured by perception.
And lit, by design or accident, by this thrall.
From us, through us: it matters not. Absorb, and surrender to the trick. It is beautiful.

Owl's Answers

Yesterday I walked in the small woods. Up the steep slips of fallen leaf.
Found myself under a dome of tree cover. Something about it caught my attention - the circularity, the floor of dark leaves, when the rest of the woods is strewn with fern and bramble.
There was only the sighs of autumn leaves to be heard, high above.
I raised my eyes, un-expectant, to where an owl was asleep.
Yellow eyes opened: we stared at each other.
I willed it to read my questions. I have much to ask. Time paused. Then the owl flew.
I clearly heard the brisk rustle of its feathers.
I had never before woken an owl.
I walked out of the cut field into redemptive rain.
Just before home, the rain stopped. Out of the hedge, two ripe strawberries were gathered.

In the night, bad dreams came. In the morning nothing factual remains, only the fear.
Had the owl answered my questions? I hoped not.
I went back to the small woods.

Today the sun shone, the owl was not at home. Dog sprang a deer out of the hedge.
A pai…

Roots And Twigs

I just wanted to listen to the wind and the fat trunked ash.
The branches, leafless all spring, all summer; in autumn there is nothing to drop but weathered wood.
A tree surgeon is booked. A gap in the skyline is coming.
Ivy shimmies on the bare shoulders of our old giant. It stands where it has always stood, where once it was supple in the breezes that fly the length of this river valley. Solid seeming, patterned skeletal, neural, calmly falling to pieces.

Seasons turn. Change comes. Unplanted, we make our paths through obstacles, and according to which view we seek. The roots of people are moveable, nourished by dreams.
8th September 1925, Burnley, Lancashire: a girl is born, a first child. Her name is Ida.
Four more children follow her into this family. Through the 1930s where work and food are scare, she looks after this brood while her parents look for work. Things are shoeless, hungry. Two of her sisters take ill: they die.
1939: war brings opportunity. Ida joins the Women’s…

Hedge Life

Overnight the spiders had washed their webs and hung them out to dry on the hedge.
I imagine spiders with pegs, with silk aprons and peg pockets and curlers in their hair.
While the webs blow on the line they brew pots of coffee and settle at a table with a piece of bluebottle toast.
But the butterflies! They seem drunk on life, bumping in-out of leaves, slurring their flight, waving their bright wings. Have they been dancing all night? Are their shoes all worn through?
They will knock over the spiders’ best china, barging about like that.
The spiders seem stoic about it.
Life is a gamble, they say, and thumb through their cookbooks.

The Nights Draw In

Some garden crops lie ready for reap. The rocket (arugula) though flowering still, is falling back. Seed pods turn to parchment, holding bumps of ink. Pumpkin leaves smother the beet, they over-reach - abundant bullies. Some of our tomatoes have been picnicked by mice. Seeds dropped hither and thither: they are not tidy, these mice.
Autumn starts with renewed purpose.
Fruition is the beginning not the end.
On goes the pan, to boil up jam, ketchups, chutney.

Some nights curl in, as a coverlet.
Not this night, this early September eve; this uncovers, supersedes.
We lose the illusory day and are left breathless.
Facing darkness we are reached by pins of starlight. Distance in galactic scales: still they reach us.
We are moth-like, small parcels of heart and instinct.
It is the winter’s cold strike that readies the seed.
The pull of the stars that wakes us.

Cloud Based Activism

Round bales carapaced in black, in the fields, in formations.
Clouds that blew in from an oil painting, circa 1700.
Love how the trees lean from a predominant onshore.
Our white car, new, we even keep it clean, drives by the crossroads where the sheep thief was buried. Circa?
Imagine the dirt under his fingernails; why this detail? They hanged him on Gallows Hill.
Up in the town they beheaded a priest, circa 1600.
Not the same ‘they’ as in people, the same ‘they’ as in upholders of the law.
Home is mildly clean, swept, the garden tangled, verdant.
So what’s the right thing to do?
This history that leads to here, this present time stuck with bits of beautiful, bits of raw inequality?
From global to local, the thread that leads to my own door?
Where does this go?
Simple advice to myself: it is up to me, just what I do. Avoid apathy.
Buy local, there’s a start, make your own bread.
Hand over the earth with minimal apology.
Broken necks are vivid stories: keep the stories, leave the …


It is possible that we did.
Track through the maize jungle, doused in rain.
We were monkeys, giggling.
Slunk big cats, louche, fantastic.
Bright birds.
Or maybe it was something we thought of: today’s adventure could be…
Trespass through the living crop.
Maize grows with toes, it can, at any time, rise up.
Run on its toes like raptors.
Leaves wide as machetes.
Take nothing for granted in here.
Rain forest magic in here.
We have our best adventure-trousers on, and Wellington boots.
It is possible.
Anything is.


It must be a year since the damsons were planted, and the meadow grass grew its gold splay, and now we have it just right to backlight this spiderweb.
A garden takes time but returns it in increments of moments that somehow contain timelessness; like the sun can be caught in one raindrop, perhaps, reflective magic. 
This morning Mr is finishing a sleep that began on the sofa last night. Dog was curled on her bed, Fat Beagle had taken the vacant man-space, before we went out for our garden wander. The mist was thickest over the river. We walked in dots and all the while the sun was clearing it up.
I have my coffee mug, and my camera, a slouchy t-shirt, old shorts.
Two dogs snuffling, for scent-gossip and their favourite grass snacks.
‘Look at this web.’ I say, but they just stare down to the river.

Holiday Pieces

Of beach and field and chips and ice cream, of campfire stories with smoke and marshmallows, of flickery lights and buttered vegetables, of a whale skull and wide skies and unexpected swimming, one holiday is assembled.

Never dressed in day clothes much before midday.

Breakfast served in waves of impulse; eggs and toasts, and bits of fruit peel piling on a picnic table.
Dogs underfoot, wanting to help with anything we might drop.

Children cook at the mud kitchen, making delicious cups of mud, but sometimes they are not children, they are snow leopards and puppies, or ponies, or cows called Betsy.
Grandad gets tethered to a tree; again.

Wet clothes lump on warm stones; dry ones rescued from a tide stranded rock.
Laughing: we spend some time on that.

At night we follow the lines of flames, up, up; all of us struck, over and over, with every sliver, every glint, that there are the stars of our origin. What else could we need?

Water And Skin

Widdershins, barefoot, slowly walk around the block, around the lanes that lay around the fields, warm road sometimes flat, sometimes not.  Kick small stones from a bold instep.
Pods of storm cross overhead.
The maize crop has grown, enough to whisper secrets. Leaves shiver, clustered like spears.
Sun on puddles makes them shining pieces of dropped sky.  In the river tethered clouds skim and bump.  Here, flip-flops in hand, just walking, listening, absorbing.

Later, hear the wind shake; shake the light from the sky.
Rayburn lit.
Water hot.
Light a candle, take a bath.
Water on skin. Rain on glass.
See steam droplets on tiles, sparkled by a naked flame.

Two Rescues

Next-door have a cat, a great advantage in the discouragement of rats.
But here on the ground is a fledgling; feathered, with wobbly flight skills, a wagtail chick.
This should not be cat food.
Dog pays it scant attention, until I pick it up. Then she gives a look that announces both her acceptance of the situation and her opinion that I am a traitor.
The fledgling sits in my hand. It too looks at me. Tiny mites climb all over it. They dot my hands. I get some dust and a box to bath my new friend. It remains unstartled.
There’s no further sight of Next-door Cat so the fledgling is allowed back to play around the flowerpots. Parent birds are watching. I am watching. It hops out to watch me.
The urge to name it is strong.

Next I find a bee afloat in a tub, and pick that up. It revives, and walks up and down my arm and will not leave until it has rubbed its legs and buzzed its wings back to health. I sit in the polytunnel, Dog lies out in the shade.
The bee walks, it tickles.
It fe…

Cooking For Camp

The first thing the grown ups say is ‘Remind me again why I’m doing this?’

The team leaders are thinking of the 5am wake ups, the number of times one child can lose a shoe, or need the toilet, or answer your question about where did you put your shoe with an anecdote about a hamster.
(The shoe will be in the first place they looked for it, but not until you look for it too.
Shoes are magic like that.)

This year I am not team leading: I am on the kitchen crew. I don’t know what it is that I should be wondering why I’m doing it, it’s never been done by me before.

Everyone should have a try at kitchen crew in order to fully appreciate the work that goes on to get the masses fed and the dishes washed. It starts and ends with heavy lifting. I’ve seen the bespoke field oven and the fry table and the gas bottles in place every year and never thought they were easy to shift about. Closing gap between knowledge and experience brings a nice practical sort of wisdom but can also hurt your arms.

Niece, First Viewing

Here she is.
Petal pink, goosey fatted
She had been dreaming of light A sky light
A sky opened up for her
Into air she swam; part aquatic part rosebud grown from the warm bed of her mother -
humidity nothing for her but reminiscence -
Her father breathes deep, for joy barely, for amazement
She breathes: is moving -
one thing to dream of light another to meet it -
The singular miracle closes her eyes Sleep, sleep will make sense of it
They will wake up, of course The new parents. To look at her.
They have been dreaming of this light too.
Here she is.

The Best Smirk We Have Ever Seen

The car slides to a halt. All systems fail.
A few hours later I am happy because I can move my head.
But I was all ready very happy.
These events are not directly connected.
Or they are.
Shall I begin with a beginning?

The Chap, known then as Boy; although his sister being seven years his senior often led to the absentminded title of Maid, and I would pretend I had said Mate; since the age of four, had wanted to be a carpenter.
Had his own tools, collected from birthdays, from approving relatives.
Had graduated to power tools.
Eight years an intended carpenter, this Boy, until the age of 12 brings him to a bigger school and a reconsideration.
Carpentry will be a hobby, now, he says, he might be bored with it otherwise. He will become a Naval Officer instead.
Okay. Mum is fine with supporting her children. Some things like committing atrocities she would not support, but this urge seems humanitarian.
He mentions (in this order) disaster relief, big ships, artillery, a good uniform…