Saturday, 30 June 2018

Late June: Sketches

On the longest day: rise early, missing sleep. Drive towards the risen sun, sunglasses perched. Across the cobbles of Exeter Quay snick-snicks an urban fox, slips quick paced under cover of scratchy shrubs. 

At the home of Granma Grace, an ambulance is summoned (spoiler alert: this turns out okay).
Paramedics Julia and Maria are asking us about end of life care: revive, we say, the quality of life is diminishing, the interest in it not piqued at all.
At the hospital, our Grace is so lovely everyone must be lovely by return. She brings the sparkle. 
A doctor brings her toast with maramalade, both paramedics pop in to see how she’s doing.
We’re home in time to broil chicken for her lunch, she’s having a good food day. 
(Angina medication to be revised.)
Back home there’s Grandchild 2 picking strawberries, she tells me a whale’s tongue weighs as much as an elephant. A cold wind whips up around us, a lovely respite.
We head for Bude, for two hot hours of training and teaching, then we slither to the sea pool at Summerleaze.
The cold wind comes, it keeps Grandad and Grandchild 2 in the shallows.
This Granma is in the water, the water is not cold. It clings around a body like silk and magic.
In the sky, a half moon, a full sun.

Hello Longest Day - here I am. In a saltwater pool contemplating diurnal pivots.
Later, one glass of wine, one bed.

Next day: in the garden is witnessed a blackbird flying by, a whole ripe cherry in its beak.
That day we pick the cherries in. (Most of them, some are for sharing.)

And then: bright round moon in a blue sky, sunset pouring orange red along the horizon, it’s so hot the night is sluggish to start, everything is: the van we bought is having an electric fault fixed, the van lent for its absence needs a jump start.
Everything is lava, the weighted and slow kind. 
We have cold fruit tea and stick some vodka in it.
We see, as the van hood slams, a fluoro-glow at the base of the willow arch - a glow worm!
And then we are running up and down the lane, sloshing our simple cocktails, ogling living lumps of light. 

And then: eat breakfast outside in spite of heat, a sort of protest. Drink cold coffee. And select a car insurance package out of a mass of text and promises and prices. The least popular job is done! 
Do other stuff but we’re too hot to remember what we are doing. Pour water on growing things. 
Wilt. Until the evening when the river water at Meldon turns my hands blue and I’m so happy to have that cold water pressed into my skin.
Sit in the car with a hot coffee, the filling moon behind us, sunset at our feet.

It’s Wednesday again: Mr and me go to visit Granma Grace, we take a stroll to the river so Dog can dip and while she splashes a little snake swims by. A young female adder, we think, but it could have been a grass snake - either way it was a joyful thing to see.
That afternoon, Mr, Dog, and Grace slouched down for a nap, while I wrote these notes and the yellow roses nodded at the open window.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

An Afternoon Nap

At the house of Granma Grace artefacts line each shelf. 
There's a lady in a yellow dress, she's been waltzing for years – decades – caught in a turn, petticoats fixed in a spin - she looks to her absent partner. 
There's a lady in festive red, and three more china beauties above dressed for spring, delicate, all looking to an absent return of gaze. 
On the room's highest shelf a china couple are fixed, blue and white, a dab of yellow, an accordion on his lap, they both look ahead. Toby jugs flank them, one has a roughly groomed beard. 
Below, in her adjustable chair, Granma nods her head in sleep. 

Myself, sat on the sofa adjacent, I would not pick out her life in figurines. I would think of a tablecloth - something just as pretty with cotton lace, with embroidered flowers, with variable shades of white where food stains had been scrubbed out, where one of us had spilt ketchup, another had splashed wine. 
Today I heated her breakfast milk, she ate her warmed cornflakes with the bowl on a lap tray, in her adjustable chair.

Granma Grace sleeps. 

Pigeons flock to the bird feeder she had set up outside. For now she does not watch them, nor comment on who prefers which seed mix nor tut when the crow noise scares them off. 

She is fast asleep, and could be anywhere. 

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Coffee Break On A Long Shift

I am listening - by which I mean absorbing - by which I mean I am becoming part of this - as though easing into the sea, arms and legs afloat, just drifting. I am tired. 

Last night I was tired - but the evening air was so refreshing and my garden was there in the magic dusk, glowing with iris and rose and dots of closing day flowers and the bath-pond so little yet in its stillness infinite deep and I grew to be awake, alive, embracing. 
Then it was midnight so I took a glass of dark wine to let sleep find me. Indoors was hot, I opened a window wide, then sleep did find me though twas all tumbled up, as though I had slept in storm waves. 
Then it was birds shrieking, singing, it was 4.55am, sleep had fled, untraceable. 
Pulled on garden clothes, went out to pour water on plants, ready for a hot day. I knew I would be at work, missing out, glad for bills paid, longing for my own land and no alarm clocks - the birds can wake me and I will find naps in hammocks, I will hunt them, feral.
So all day now I must stop to listen, to remember. I am here and here is valid. 
There is learning to be done.
Gulls cry to the salt breeze, clouds drift - and where has that water travelled?
Sip coffee, cold brewed.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A Favourite Joke

Granddaughters (aged 4, aged 6) in my hammock, reading a joke book.

“Why did the chicken cross the road, roll in the dirt and cross back again?
Because it was a dirty double crosser!”
Grandchild 5 (aged 1) has a hot-tired-left-out grump going on so I scoop her up, the whole squishy chunk of her, and she snuggles her head to my shoulder.
Plan: put blanket in the other hammock, to cover the bump of the knot work, to make a cozy nest.
Problem with plan: forgetting this sling of string has been left out all winter and is likely to be perilously frayed.
We fell through it. 
I hit the metal frame, G5 bounced unharmed off my ribcage, runs off wailing. The six year old retrieves her as Granma is caught in the net.
(Soft tissue soreness, wrenched, crunched, dignity obliterated, nothing serious.)
Granddaughters (aged 4, aged 6) have found their favourite joke of the afternoon:
“You fell through the hammock, Granma! You were stuck!”

Granma rather likes the one about the chicken.