Showing posts from 2016

In The Middle Of The Winter Feast

On the fourth day of Christmas her true love gives to her:
‘Four German Men Three Finch Hens Toowoo Twurtle Doves And A Part Of A Pear Tree’
But to the dearth of our amusement Grandchild 2 finds a book detailing the traditional 12 gifts and begins to teach herself the proper form. Not so proper she can’t slink off with all the cherry tomatoes. If questioned, we know it was not Grandad. She says it anyway, laughing.
Grandchild 5 can follow the others with her eyes, she wants to be up to mischief like the others say they are not.  Grandchild 1 kicks a football onto the grass he is not supposed to run on because… something about mud… if he asks Grandchild 3 to fetch for him he has contravened no carpet law!  It’s not his fault we were all listening. And where’s Grandchild 4? Not hitting anyone with a stick of course - that was Dog, he says. It’s not his fault we were all watching. Grandchild 3 casually drops a stick behind her back. But we’re all laughing. 
Frost fading fast, a bright sun. Cold meats …

Yule Tale 2016

A Slightly Parallel Cinderella

Once upon a time and place, in a slightly parallel universe (for further reading on slightly parallel universe theory please refer to Dr Cod’s excellent Physics For Storytellers) all children were hatched and raised for adoption. 
They were named in themes, and Cinderella was hatched during a craze for old fashioned, gender orientated, Disney character names. 
She was adopted by a spacious mansion full of fabulous toys. She ate fabulous food. She took fabulous pictures of it all and posted them on her social media. From that she made her two bestest-ever-friends-forever, Lady and Tramp. They each lived in toy packed mansions, maybe if anything a little bit more fabulous than Cinderella’s lavish life but they were good enough to apologise and repeatedly tell her that it was okay not to have the biggest and best all of the time, they would still like her pictures and she mustn’t feel bad about herself, she wasn’t unloveable or shabby or really unfashionable.


A Candle Lit

We live by the light of those we love, whether they are here or gone.
That light is inextinguishable.
To have the light and not the company is an adjustment process we call grief.
Loss is a shadow, equal to the light.
We adjust not to lose the shadow but to see both.
Hard to bear - yet without darkness, light cannot show its full wonder.

Let us look after each other, then, and value our days, our company, and live to leave vast shadows, and understand that pain is a strange gift, a tender, haunting, purposed gift.

And if you are grieving: let your tears flow, let your anger shout, let yourself plead and deny and feel terrible: it is not an easy process.  Know that other people know grief.  Know that other people are hurt to see you grieve.  Know that love is a fundamental response.

There is no time limit to this adjustment process. No right or wrong way to feel.
One day you will stand back and see that the shadow is proof to the strength of the light, and you will be full of wonder.


Last night we tumbled first into wine, then sleep.
We had watched fabulous things on our television, our dreams were amazing.
I evolved legs to crawl from the bed. 
Yesterday was a Thursday, and the first calendar day of winter. She had swept in, draped with rich mist, strong and archetypal. How could we not celebrate?
This morning, the sun still sunk below an unseeable horizon, Dog goes out, crunches crystals under footpads. Our dead ash tree, scheduled to be cut down twelvemonth before, is a bold statement in a world of miniature wonders. 
Do you know we don’t actually have a television?
We bought a projector, we have a blank wall.  It makes watching a deliberate thing.
Sometimes we drink wine on a weeknight but we are careful viewers.

The Silence On Armistice Day

We were writing a shopping list, tapping phones to light up the time.
At 10:59 we fell silent, looked out of the window.

Heavy cloud, clearly defined though the sky also stood grey, the sombre limbs of our dead tree, the blur of bird wings chasing for food and territory, this we saw.
The pattern of rain on panes that need cleaning.
Droplets on hedge-leaves catching a light that’s rising.
It’s always this that catches me: just ordinary people, trooped out, and lost so much, just ordinary people, left at home to watch for letters, to dig into the earth, tend the vegetables, the places at the table that are waiting, waiting.
I sense all the ghosts, and nothing of vengeance; I am not too afraid to fight but this presence, this tide of loss, it tempers the need.
Civilisation seems built on bones.
So, here we are. The new bones. What will they build on us?

At 11:03 we startle, we chuckle, so lost in the moment.
Still - we will not forget.

A Suburban Walk In Autumn

Rain - an ocean of it Pavements, gardens, us, under this Aquatic. All colours deepen The music of it - a song of falling, of flood: red-gold the leaves that settle in gutters Cold, the windfall apple Cupped in a palm The fragrance of it: spiced Musked, humus: What falls now, nurtures next year’s fruit.

Halloween 2016: Miss Olivia Shoreditch Twice Wrestles A Bear

Miss Olivia Shoreditch had been in her bed for three days straight. She had her reasons, though reason itself had deserted her. There was nothing about it she could recall through any medium but her gut instinct. A terrible thing had occurred, she knew, though not what; she was attempting to recover, and she must get up slowly as there was an angry bear in the corner of her room. 

I will describe to you the bear.  If it were in front of us now the first attribute to draw our attention would be the phenomenal size of it. It was standing upright, its head curved along the ceiling, hunched from the shoulders. Darkly purplish fur, thick and warm looking, the texture attractive, imbued with an aroma of stale blood, rank and coppery. Claws, lacquered black - hiding any sort of dirt - light slid along the curve of them. Teeth in dark gums were creamy coloured, stained in rusty blotches. Saliva hung pendulous, a burgundy tongue loitered. Eyes were discernible as glints. A rumble emitted from it…

Around The Time Of The First Frost

Eight days in, October settles as a backdrop. It has been easy to find every warm moment a June/July sort of day, to greet cooling with a ‘perhaps September?’ To wonder if I had seen August at all. Some years are like this, impervious to months. No less imbued. One need not drift closed. But here I am, taking note of the date, coal dust wiped absently across face, bellyful of rich stew, heavy eyed, snuggled in wool, bare footed. House is a mess, of course, of course: bustling life, not all of it human. Here we are, at a time when blackberries begin an ebb, haws and hips glow bold-red, fennel seed dries, marigolds, nasturtiums bloom: yellow to orange, orange to red. First swathes of bronze foliage, first drop of leaf. House spiders return to roost.
Ten days in, first frost. First defrosting dance around the car in the demi-dark, feet in winter boots. Sky spreads red-orange-yellow, opens up blue; at midday we cast off jumpers. In shops vast boxes of pumpkins have arrived, supermarket s…

Portraits, Post Summer

Through thick warm air fly globules of delight for field foraging birds: free range slug stuffed with organic homegrown tomatoes, freshly plucked from my polytunnel, and hand flung over a blackthorn hedge. Served with a shout: ‘It’s the circle of life!’
This is a rare day off, but I’m useless at slacking. An assembly of grandchildren would assist. They would love slug hurling and interrupt every other thing.  I’ve put the last of the lavender to dry, and a batch of rosemary, and calendula. Chives are cut, bagged, frozen. Tomatoes salvaged from predators and blight. Raspberries picked. The washing pile eradicated, for a day. And so, and such until the clouds pink and the sky darkens and a fuzzy moon loiters. Then I sit in my hammock and listen. I hear a mollusc munching. Birds lullaby. Owl.
No further action is required.
No bedtime-stalling supper, no stories to read, no stinky nappy, no ailments or shrieking laughter.
Think of the culprits instead, a little inventory, a list of pictur…

Early Autumn: An Absurdist, Berry Picking

In my mind the seasons have been separate gods.
Spring, a maiden, moving ice to melt; summer, a predator, hot, basking, growly; autumn, a russeted stag, richly coloured, rarely frivolous; winter, a skeletal beast, empathetic, stoic, truthfully harsh.
This year’s transition differs. Summer, gently, in the thick of mist, becomes Autumn.

It’s not that time has existed in seasonal boxes, rather I had thought of each year-quarter as a thing outside of time; eternal, revisiting. Time was something we viewed them through.
This year, something in my mind steps though the window.
One thing becomes; replaces, supersedes; another thing, an evolution, and more precious for its brevity.
I have run with gods for years and years, I have knelt to marvel, not unseeing, not unmoved. But this year? It is only I, feeling heat soothe out of earth, observing leaves slowly gilded, reaching my fingers to a ripened blackberry; yet more amazed, more alive to the miracle than I ever remember. The simpler …

Two Summer Nights, Ten Days Apart

In the dark we lay, in hammocks, wine tables at hand, each with a full glass; watching Perseid meteors, arrows of red-gold in Milky Way foam. Laugh, loudly, forgetting it is midnight.
Ability to be delighted: this too we are grateful for.
Arrows or eels, foam or powder - how a thing is seen, always debatable. Glass half full or half empty? Refillable! We shout, forgetting time has crept past midnight.

Storm winds galvanise clouds.
In the day, sun pierced each break; the escapees had dropped rain, heavy pocketfuls, like stolen scree.
Roses, grown tall, lash at porch glass.
Windows have their latches tested. Roofs are pried.
Too warm, to have everything shut. We would gape, separated from moving air.
It is beyond vantage here - but we feel it, keening - the weight of the wild sea.


Rivers run slick with it.
Cut fields hewn from it.
Bared skin, too, holds a shine of sun.
Into this time slot, to her own unhurried schedule, Grandchild 5 makes an appearance.
Pink-gold, cute as a vintage tea cup.
She slumbers under day’s fine light, wakes in the dark.
Grandchild 3 ponders sisterhood. She observes that babies make parents tired. Could they could be responsible for rain that cancels a trip to the park? Still, she deigns to kiss the infant on her forehead, an experiment in early love.
‘Granma,’ she whispers, ‘look - I’ve got jewellery.’
She shows each amulet on her new anklet. How the star shape has a sparkle in the centre of it. Her very own sparkle. Granma agrees it is beautiful. The gleam of it. How it is crafted. 


Low and hot, the weather was affecting us. We thought in deficits, in morbid fractals. Lost, we retraced an old path: we went to the beach, of course. Trod ourselves over the flat stones, the fine sand, dumped our bags down, set the dogs free.
Dog will plunge in, we know. Fat Beagle will wade to his ample waist and stare out while we decipher his expression: something at once dignified and put-upon, satisfied and wary.
A rare piece of sea glass is discovered, green, the best kind. Into a bag pocket it is hoarded. Our possessions left below the tide line for the tide is far away and still pulling back.
The sea must be clambered to, and swimming is hilarious, for one can only slither between the rounded rocks, and laugh, and our laughing is sea spray, is wings in flight, is sunlight on facets of wave.
Up to his waist Fat Beagle stands. Dog runs so much she lames a leg.
Our hot car smells like seaweed and dog farts. The journey home is gladly broken.
Now we sit eating chips at the …

Hot Evening, After The Beach

At midnight still butter pools in its dish.
Dog rouses for a drink, pads back towards her bed, lies on the floor, sighs defeat.
Ice chinks in nettle beer. The clouds have swallowed a full moon, and nothing cools in digestion.
We lie like butter in our salt puddles, dream of emerging, evolved.
For now, like Dog, we surrender.
Pad, pad, slowly to our beds.
Sand is welded to our soles. Close eyes, recall that push, that cooling incoming tide.
Dog twitches in her sleep. Mr hums a snore.
There’s no sleep here for me. Downstairs, where the windows are left open, a freed moon shines.

Five Days And One Night In A Dowdy Summer

Where clouds are rift, blue shows. Rain holds. Air holds damp, birdsong, scents of earth. Palette of the day, silver-greys, green, dots of bright flower.
A heart is prised open, this beauty stuffed in. Seeking remedy, not respite.

Yesterday was sun and rain. Foxgloves, bolt upright, held their colour. I stole a rose to make tea; first to breathe the steam, then to sip. I had coffee, rich and deep. I had banana tea, sweet and cheerful.
This morning the sky is variant silver.
Coffee brews. Wild strawberry pancakes on the hob; one gets burnt when Dog gives chase to a cat and must be herself chased back inside perimeters.
Dog feels sorry for herself, confined. We pretend stern.

Petal frail, she sends apologies: I can’t do anything, she says.
But you’ve done it all, we say, it’s our turn now and that’s how it comes to balance.
Granma Grace smiles. I like her without the dentures, somehow, it represents her being her, no matter what is reduced; that kind spirit being irreducible.
It’s …


Four shifts at my new job completed. That’s 96 hours, I am surprised to calculate.
Twice as many as planned but there’s a staffing crisis, and therefore an opportunity to redress our finances. I have a list of things we should buy - we aren’t up to making our own power tools just yet, for example.

Mr has been minding the garden. I come back to it delighted. Beans grow, cauliflowers fight slugs, nasturtiums flow: stories, progress, magic. Air shimmers, heavy with birdsong, with imminent rain.

I take up a spade to clear the edge of the compost bins. Bindweed and nettles encroach, they hardly need compost to boost growth rates.

It is glorious to be outside.

Tenderly, pull grasses back from the old cat’s grave, which lies just behind the footings of our composting space. Tiny pink stems in my hand - as though a new cat is growing - one feels a kind of awe, otherworldly, and laughing at the thought, simultaneously. The last roots are scraped back as rain falls. Bird noise clusters in hedge…

Summer Is Icumen In

Warm and dry the wind blows.  Wake up with bedcovers kicked to the floor. It’s warm but we’re unpractised, we’re too hot. Dog stretches out like she’s trying to evaporate.   Our plan is - work in the garden till sweat stings our eyes, then head to the beach for a swim.  Have we swum in the sea this year yet? It seems not! 

Search through tired fuzz, all we remember is hail, the strike of hail, and a rainbow. Whilst thinking, Mr cooks breakfast. 
I discover misdoings of mice in the polytunnel. Some of the sweetcorn will survive, if I guard it. 
The path we dug is mulched, the willow arch sprouts over it, pretty sprigs, tenacious wood. 
Fruit trees flower, fed on compost tea.
Beans newly planted at the base of bamboo arches are wind thrashed, happy. 
Rows of onion leaf tassel twirl. 
Breakfast is ready.
We eat at the old pallet picnic table, laughing, minding the wind won’t steal our pancakes.

Sumer is icumen in, Loude sing cuckou! Groweth seed and bloweth meed, And springth the wode now. Sing cuckou!