Saturday, 28 February 2015

Owl And Leaf

Friday Afternoon:
In daylight, I saw the owl. White, the colour of ghosts and beginnings; deep in purpose, flying over a road.
Tired, I was, but in warm clothes. The sky was rinsed blue, the roads wet.
How the old car still rolls is mysterious.
But, there I was, driving rust through road-spray, struck admirably dumb.

Saturday Afternoon:
Rain span out from the edge of a storm.
From inside my polytunnel bubble I hear it.
I am smiling, tidying up, making ready.
My running shoes mud-sodden, left on the porch step. My legs feel good.
Earth browned hands untangle roots.
Here and there budlets burst from a stem.
Here: peeping from a pot, the pretty faces of winter pansies. 
Put into my pocket rich leaves for soup. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Spring Fortitude

What a show this is, the Weather Spectacular!
Hail strikes and sheets of lightening - gripped we are in the drama of it - agog for thunder which rolls elsewhere - where did that thunder go?
And when the sun strikes up the wind cuts ice cold through unwary bones.
And then rain, heavy  rain that would flatten a rainbow. How can water be so cold and not ice? The sky so dark and not night?
And if there were a time to venture tender petals, would this be it?
A time for buds to birth from bark?
But here they are: vulnerable, with fortitude. The miracle of reoccurrence. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Sadness And Brightness

This urge to write is to let words follow a course.

To think of Granma Grace, 85 years collected, armfuls of flowers, roomful of family, all fetching more flowers till the vases are full. Sat, adored. Lauded. Looking at her cards.

To think of home where a crocus appears in the lawn and rats are infiltrating the compost. We are outside, clearing up, working on deterrents, finding a blocked drain, a wall of calm spiders.
And one starling, deceased.
Mr calls me to it, thinking it is injured, breathing: it is not. A sharp wind ruffles the feathers, makes illusory movement.

To think of Dear Old Clarice: how like a hedge bird she was, the same spark about her, the same work ethic, the same amused head tilt.

We had come home to find an ambulance parked outside her house.
‘Did she fall again?’
‘No,’ the paramedic says. He has a perfect pitch of calm. They must wait for the family.
The sky warm blue; the air blows ice.

We busy ourselves making space. Drag out a pile for the tip, a pile of repurposeful things.
It’s messy, with some kind of a plan.
Chinese New Year, the Green Wood Goat, we talk about that: it means kind, prosperous, hyperbolic horoscopes.
Dog paws about, learning more about rat paths.
I throw a ball and she chases it, over and over, till she flakes in the chilled grass.
I see the luck in it, this standing here, mid-afternoon on a weekday, outdoors, playing with Dog. The rats, the drain-stink, even that: part of my prosperity. Armfuls of stories.
Clarrie had them.
Uncle Den had them.
A long list of people, names that shine.
Shine that flows, riverlike, swells, carries.
This embraceable flow: death is ever the prompt for life.
Which I know and yet always need reminding.
Always need this - what should I call it? Recalibration.

Okay, so following dreams may work or not work, but not dreaming is no option at all.
Fear of failing is flung aside: on the tip pile.
It is this extra daylight perhaps, ushering this renewal?
I will try - I will not try, this thought is diverted quickly: I will do. I will discover what happens next. Throw open my arms to the mess and the clearing up. Relentlessness is part of the cycle. It takes fortitude to follow dreams. I remember this now. Another thing I know and need reminding. We all do.
Sorrows and joys come to shake you, to wake you up.

I had put the starling in the hedge. The firm, palm sized body had no marks on it. It died, that was all. I had put it in the hedge to be a spirit in the lanes. To tell Clarrie we will miss her.
To think of it on her shoulder as she walks her old lanes back through time, back to the source of all light.

Friday, 20 February 2015


I do not want to get out of bed.
It is the right weather for hiding in bed with a book.
Mr does not want to get out of bed. He is sure he has more sleep to attend to.

But if your Granddaughter requests to see you fly, out of bed you get.

Dog does not want to get into the car.
What if there is a vet involved? An injection?

Reluctance and rain, that’s how the day begins.

To the Eden Project we go, park up, send Girl, Grandchild  and Dog to the viewing platform with all the bags.
Mr and me jump on a bus to the Skywire shed office and hand over cash for wrist bands. We sign forms to say we are unlikely to die of an existing complaint.
(Nothing on the form about a restrictive fear of heights, luckily.)
We are put into harnesses and weighed in kilos, which I only use to buy sugar for brewing and begin to calculate how many gallons worth am I?
The safety talk is simple: Do Not Touch Anything.

Meanwhile Jenny takes the van to the landing site. They will transport bags for you, so Girl’s shoulders could have been spared. Too late now. Off goes Jenny, ready to land us like big fish. A catch of seven climbs the steps. 
Except the steps aren’t built yet. Our first piece of resilience training is (safely clipped) to clamber to the top of a bouncy ladder. 
It gives a treehouse ambience. It feels like a long way up. 
I try to fog up my goggles to forget about height. 
One rung at a time and a sense of deep satisfaction: there am I, at the top, in the cool rain, looking over the Eden Project, tethered up and queuing.
Like washing on a line, a lady says. She isn’t scared of heights but we all do that sort of jokey conversing which is prompted by nervous situations.

And then, it is me. 
I have to stand on a bigger box than the others to reach the clips up to the rolly thing that links me now to the skywire. 
I have seen the procedure five times now but leaning forwards to make the harness into a sling takes some bravado. 
Legs are pushed out behind, hands in, as a bird in a dive would be.
That question is not for me, it’s for the landing crew.
Out I go: voomph!
This is high up, wobbly, fast: I am fleet, airborne, FLYING (might die, don’t think that) FLYING over the bubbles of biome, tops of trees, over the road, tiny people- nice boots down there- in the sky! 
Fear is forgotten. 
Flight is felt, speed, freedom: like Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, that’s me.
Uh oh, here comes land. Fast. 
An image of feet sticking out of the stony ground.
This doesn't happen.
Lauraine is right about the brakes. They work and you notice it.
My feet are on the ground and wrestling backwards out of the harness is a final test. Manage to keep my clothes in place, eventually.
‘Wow.’ I say the word that Jenny possibly hears most in a day. It is the right word though. I am wowed.

If you can get over nerves and doubts, life is better. This is the point, for me. To open up the world, to keep adventure in my soul.
Flying, I was!

I watch bullet shaped Mr hit the brakes and tangle-wrestle out of the harness.
‘Wow.’ He grins.

We are both broad of mouth as we walk back to ground level. Girl, Grandchild 2 and Dog jump from a door to greet us.
‘You were AMAZING!’ The grandchild fizzes with glee.
As you would if you believed that your grandparents could fly.

With thanks to the Crew: Hangloose at Eden

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Everything Is Painting Pictures

A phone call comes, brings the news in low voice. We knew he was old, of course, not immortal, but our picture of the world has an Uncle Den as a building has a foundation stone. With his passing, a puzzling gap appears. We have stories, of course, like how he loved to paint, he liked rum, he wasn’t so keen on the gout; we paint him back with our words, with our gratitude. He knew the world before we came to it. He knew the world at war. He knew to be kind. He was happy. He was a grand and gentle role model for a flock of children.

Into the car, we go. We fit one granddaughter, one godson. Find, at a train station, one son. Gather at a house; children are spilling everywhere. Sun shines, draws us out. There’s the usual comedy of one car following the other and being lost at the traffic lights and a car park reunion. Tiny ones are strapped to a pram, they kick their legs, sometimes each other. The older three bounce like Tiggers, all the way to the ice rink. We can hold them still for a moment only, to snap the skates shut on eager feet. None of them can skate: pah! A mere detail! As well as skates we hire two helpful penguins and a ride on banana. Every penny counted out for this is well spent. Maybe the tinies don’t agree; one sleeps, one snacks, slightly bored. Fat Beagle sits, would like to snack. The older three slide, eyes wide; Uncle Chap flies the banana sledge so fluently the rest of us are sacked from that job. Our feet hurt in the mean old skates: pah! A mere detail! We laugh anyway. There is ice and open sky and sharing.
After this we turn our aching feet towards the sea. One of the tinies is loose, she runs through the city pigeons, whooping. I scoop her up to cross the road. Everyone holds someone’s hand, or pushes the twin pram, or holds a dog lead. We find an open space, let all the children run crazy till their tummies rumble. There are cafes in a row, we take one that allows Fat Beagle to sit in hope under a table. Two highchairs please and a dog treat and room for three more bonkers children and five grown ups: into the quiet room we bring our jollity. It befuddles the waitress. As she takes back the misunderstood scone, Grandchild 3, loud and clear, chimes out: ‘Silly lady!’
‘You shouldn’t call people silly,’ her Granma says, quietly, advisory; ‘it might make them feel sad.’
‘Don’t say that Granma,’ she whispers, ‘you’re making me feel sad.’
Also, her ice lolly is too cold. She gives it to her cousin who gives me his ice cream which has bits in it, so Grandchild 2 has the correctly buttered scone but doesn’t like it and swaps again for a sausage from her Uncle’s sandwich. A piece of scone falls to the floor. Fat Beagle wags his tail.
Back to the house, after a harbour walk, for dishes of slow cooked stew. Uncle Chap is fast asleep on the sofa. The children puts dolls’ clothes on him and a nappy on his head. Grandchild 1, puffed with pride, calls us to look. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


Morning sun becomes more than light. Rays of warmth reach sleep soaked limbs. Land mist shimmers.
Daffodils begin their yellow crop, even a crocus has been seen.
Spring runs like a pup through the legs of Old Winter: Old Winter laughs at the circular twist.
It has been the purpose of this dark season all along: to nurture life, bring forth spring.

Late evening, along the line where mist becomes fog, we are driving. The world seems splashed with pale watery paint.
Warmth, we speak of it: we feel it still, this gold promise.
Mist fans out, plumes and plumes of otherworldliness.

Six thousand three hundred and thirty miles from here my brother and his wife settle in to their new apartment. They have other news to share.
A picture of an ultrasound, of forming bones, light as butterfly limbs.
Tiny thing, welcome. It seems to us we feel the warm beat of you and the distance is nothing at all.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

New Shoes And The Unsurprising Pheasants

There is an opportunity for extra sleep this morning, even if the ability is lacking.
Sit: at the box room window, watching coffee steam, watching starlings fly through mist, watching fields pastel-green under frost.
A pigeon waddles; that one would suit a bonnet; a crow struts; a top hat candidate.
In a box, left open on the bedroom windowsill, a pair of purple shoes wait for their inaugural run, wait for the ground to melt.
In the eaves house sparrows fuss with nest materials.
From hedges other birds sing: all but the pheasants who hold their shrieks, their wingwhurs, their comically paced walking, for now.
Perhaps they are watching the horizon appear: a series of block shapes undraped as the mist wanders elsewhere.
The sky could be porcelain, this morning.

Bright new shoes glow in the grass, looking good, running clumsy. 
It is more learning how to run than actual running. 
Every muddy puddle, every mud patch, the part-frozen wetlands of the lower fields that spray up mud-frappé, the muddied culvert stream, a shallow stretch of river, every fallen tree on the wood path: all are for learning.
Dog goes by, a pelt and a blur. 
She brings two roe deer out to race across the low field and pheasants rocket up like rescue flares. We knew they would.

~ Lately there is much writing of running. This, dear readers, is because I am throwing myself out of my comfort zone (on March 21st) into a 15k obstacle littered mud run. Training for it is a push through reluctance, doing it should be scary-hilarious. I have the advantage of a team, some scared like me, some scarily competent. We will help each other: that’s the bit I’m confident about. Everything else is a mystery.
It is a perfect counteraction to being a writer, where effort can feel isolated, ignored, unrewarded; because it takes so much to get noticed and more again to gain a living from it. All vocations have a downside, I’m not complaining, merely giving in to venting. Normal stoicism will return immediately. I will add that the cheers received from all Dear Readers do make a difference: you also are My Team.
I cannot say I lack luck lest I be a liar :-)
Thank You xx 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Wide Eyes For Everything

Hills are okay.
They have an easy goal: get to the top, eye the view, then it’s downhill, legs follow gravity. On the flat, goals are the next tree, the next corner, always a succession, not like the one easy hilltop. Flat running is not my favourite.
Today, between markers of gate and tree, the road is obstacled with iced mud, the air uncomfortably chill. I lose grip, underfoot and in mind, breathing cold irregular air, shoulders tensed solid. Unsure if I am shivering or shaking, a screaming noise arrives, or I think it does; I am dropped in fear and sinking.
At the point where sanity seems to have deserted me, Dog leaps into the hedge, flushes out a fox with a mad rabbit in its jaws. Fox drops Rabbit, Dog is making a decision, Rabbit runs, right across my boggled path, into a hole, Fox streaks up the lane, Dog chooses: she chases Fox; returns shortly, tail in a wag spin.
‘Can you do that every time I doubt myself?’ I ask her.
We round the corner and run. Dog has her nose to the hedge: I have eyes, wide eyes for everything.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Snow Moon And Furniture

On the day of the Snow Moon we bring the lime tree indoors. 
In the polytunnel plant pots were huddled and coddled; still some had frozen; the broad bean was stricken, it may not recover. The lime had dropped fruit and leaf.
Our house is not capacious. Fitting the tree in makes a puzzle of the front room furniture: for if the tree goes here, where does the table go? And if the table goes there, does the sofa fit?
Dog curls on the sofa for refuge before she gets brave and in the way.
She finds that, in its new position, there is room to accommodate her habit of sneaking under the table to look out for dropped food. A mat is laid under the plant saucer to keep outdoor dirt from the carpet: she is determined to lie on it.
Shooed back to the sofa she keeps an eye on us, an eye on the interloper.

Outside Dog and I have the run of three frozen fields. Sun throws light, it breaks into a thousand icy splinters, right under our feet. Every old puddle changes; there are micro landscapes, miniaturised miracles in the crystal earth. Snow falls out on the moors and all the peaks are mountain tops.

Indoors there is a new view from the table. There is soup, and a dog under our feet. Birthday flowers in a jug. A coffee pot singing from the scruffy stove. A lime tree in a vast blue pot. A list of things that seem satisfactory.

When night comes it is cloudless.
We see the Snow Moon, see its wide beam touch the whited rocks; how it reflects up, how the dark is opaqued, how the stars are crystal splinters cast across the sky.

Monday, 2 February 2015

The View Before Breakfast

Snow dabs the contours of a squinting face, fleeting, fleecy, light: the fingerprints of a curious element. Footsteps press markers around the lanes, leave an easy pace of clue.
We took the longer route today.
Mr is cycling, another circuit that will cross with this. 
Will he make it back unscuffed?
Dog pads at any pace she pleases.
Under the snow flat ice hides.
At Treniffle we see his tyre tracks, they make a snake print.
Dog follows scent clues, down the steep dip, up the long steep other side.
Slowly running is easier, should that be a surprise?
Not in theory but this is not theory, it is experience.
Laughter flows openly, it curls warm and visible and here is the very top of the hill, here is the view to stop for. Dog sniffs, pulls a face like smiling.
The tyre tracks pull in under our feet. Exactly here.

At home, coffee brews; heat seeps from the Rayburn’s bright coals. Mr fries two eggs.
‘Did you go round the triangle?’ He shakes the pan.
‘Did you see my footprints?’
He nods, reaches for the pepper. I ask him:
‘Did you stop on the hill, to look over to Carzantic? See the white peaks in the distance?’
‘Yes, just at the blocked in gate-‘
‘I know, I saw the tracks!’
Mr laughs.
A plate fumble gives Dog extra breakfast.
We have coffee and half an egg sandwich each.
She sleeps on the sofa, replete.