Sunday, 25 February 2018

Compost For Stories And Garden

6am. Grandchild 3 stirs me from disturbed sleep - fleeing snores and soothing a toddler and a jumbled dream about my dog trying to wake up because she wants a coffee - with this sentence:
‘Granma, Dog’s done a poo in the kitchen, a really big one!’

Explains the dream.

I say not to worry, I’ll clean it up - does Mummy keep cleaning things under the sink? Yes, says my observant side kick, and opens a drawer to fetch me a dust cloth.
I do not use the duster.

‘I think there’s another bit here,’ G3 advises.
‘Might just be a bit of ordinary dirt,’ I say, but she’s stuck her toe in it, so, yes, it was poop.
Toe and floor are disinfected. I make coffee, strong coffee.
Dog lies in corner, affects an apologetic face.
G3, unaffected, eats two breakfasts before her sister shouts to be fetched.

She’s beaming in her cot, our Grandchild 5, framed in curls, holding up her arms.
She’s also sticky. Too late, Granma!
Straight to the shower, G5, never mind the glower.
That should be enough, but after all that breakfast (we’re up to three and a half by now) G3 needs bathroom assistance and she’s said please, a Granma cannot refuse.

Grandad appears, he cooks up another breakfast and makes more coffee and can toilet himself, all of which I am happy about.

When the parents return and hear about the mess and laugh and make hot chocolate, these grandparents take repentant Dog for a walk at Harrowbeer, which was an airfield where Second World War pilots once mustered, and now people come to tread their boots on the grown over landing strips, and pick their steps through what the ponies have dropped.
We should have brought a bag, Grandad notes, mindful of feeding a large garden.
No thanks, this Granma says, I’ve had enough for today.

But when we get home we remember that we’d ordered ten bags from the annual dung run.
I say, ‘I’ll get my gloves.’

And though the wind has icy teeth, daffodils filter light, snowdrops nod, lumping bags brings on a glow, and there we go: good compost in the making, good memories, good stories.

Sit with another coffee (mug sized cup, perfect for hand warming) thinking of this: always after grandchildren time I sort of digest who they are - ruminate - how they are growing, what people they are becoming.

I have a grand view, hedged fields, the tree line by the river, valley slopes.
I wonder at my own future too - we are all always works in process - tip up my cup to read the grounds.
Pretty sure it was shouting YES, though I hadn’t phrased a question. 

Friday, 23 February 2018

Cephalod Coffeehouse: Book Review February

The Crow Road
Iain Banks

Mostly I'm behind the times on reading, because my books are most often purchased via the 50 pence box of our local secondhand bookstore. This one was loaned to me though. The nice thing about reading old books is if there was a fuss about it at the time, I will have forgotten, and read open minded. I had no idea this was any kind of detective novel when I began, it only occurred to me afterwards that there was a mystery to solve. I was caught up in the main character, and the fun of it. It is peppered with death, but warm hearted, and I loved the landscapes. The change in narrator from Prentice to his father, the moving time line, these made the reading a little fragmented but never disagreeable.
'It was the day my Grandmother exploded' is an engaging first sentence, and it held my attention throughout. I'm terrible at summing up plots so I stole the following from Wikipedia, for those who might need more info:

'Prentice's uncle Rory has disappeared eight years previously while writing a book called The Crow Road. Prentice becomes obsessed with papers his uncle left behind and sets out to solve the mystery. Along the way he must cope with estrangement from his father, unrequited love, sibling rivalry, and failure at his studies.
The estrangement from his father concerns belief in God or an afterlife. Prentice cannot accept a universe without some higher power, some purpose; he can't believe that people can just cease to exist when they die. His father dogmatically denies the existence of God, universal purpose, and the afterlife.
A parallel plot is Prentice's gradual transition from an adolescent fixation on one young woman to a more mature love for another.
Prentice's efforts to piece together Uncle Rory's fragmentary notes and the minimal clues surrounding his disappearance mirror his efforts to make sense of the world, love, and life in general. The narrative is also fragmentary, leaping days, months, years, or decades back and forth with little or no warning, so the reader must also piece things together.'

River Paddle On A Frosty Day

Read my To Do list - threw it on the fire. 

Put on my red coat. 
Found two dry oak leaves in a pocket -  catch a falling leaf, get a wish, I remembered, so I put them on the fire too, to let the wishes be free. 
And walked back to where that tree stood bare, and further through the woods. 
I found treasures, such as stacks and globs of fungus growing in turned up roots - that tree too I knew - before it fell, recalling how its roots were snaky and caught at our feet. 

I found the drowned quarry blooming with algae like some suspect cauldron, stirred with weeping branches.
Heard the wind above singing in a language I recognised but could not translate.

Rested briefly at my favourite bench, a felled tree this one, left jutting over the river. 

Strolled to where the river has a beach, storm strewn in flat stones; the wind chill too much for an unplanned swim by an un-furred creature. 
At my feet, two heart shaped stones. Puddles have skins of ice. 

But I long for the water.

Walk further, to the mossed stone bank, wind-shielded by valley hills. 

Deep green, deep spongy moss where I slip off each boot, each sock, laugh at the pale glow of this skin. The water is cold, biting cold, the un-mossed rocks too slippery and too sharp - this paddle is done in less than half a minute - I love every second of it. 
Sit on a dry slab, chuckling, dabbing off drips, rolling good socks onto bright feet. 

Monday, 19 February 2018


When you work as a carer and your shifts become palliative, the outcome is obvious.
There’s a tumble of variables around how you feel about this: how your relationship was with this other human, were they suffering, and suchlike.
There is a need to maintain professional distance, yet be truthful with yourself.

There are endings. There are last meetings of friends and family. Hard to envision a life shared without tears, regrets, hilarious remembrances. The most complicated things can become simple - the simplest gesture, a kaleidoscope of references.

You look back too and see, that trip out turned out to be the last.
The last time the favourite top was worn, the last time we watched the favourite film.
But that glance back is not sad, exactly.
Because of your work, something wonderful happened. And kept happening.
A luminosity.

When death came - it was as though an artist had signed a fine portrait.

How lucky we were, to be part of that. To witness so readily the joy in our grief.

Grief is deeply personal, I do believe, and fundamental. As much as it can fracture, it can join us, and we can resolve to work together to create better worlds. That’s my universal view.

My personal tribute was impromptu, towel-less. Having kept myself wrapped up all winter to avoid being a carrier of respiratory germs, I saw the sea rolling and kicked off my trousers along with my boots, and nearly lost my abandoned clothes to the fast tide, and dipped my shocked-happy body in the ocean, and swam.