Monday, 13 May 2019

Grandchild 7




Thursday

Waiting, yes. A particular kind of waiting like a string pulled.

This week I have been looking after Granma Grace, we call it our Girlie Sleepover time.
Grace holds this tautness most of the time, close to the bones of her. If I made representative art I would play with the idea of a pulled string twined with blooms - roses, tulips, cyclamen, all colours bold and pretty.
This day the wait has a clear focus. We are waiting for baby news.
Outside it rains heavy.
We watch geese cross the lawn and leave again as though they had discovered something. We hear machinery whirr next door and workmen chattering.
I have to recharge my phone twice from looking: no news.

Friday

Granma has stirred and gone back to sleep this morning, for rest calls her more and more. While she sleeps in her bed her foot tapping stops, while she sleeps in her chair it activates. I leave her have a lie in for this reason. Eighty-nine years to process, physical decline from age and stroke damage to accept.
Last night she sighed, 'I wish I had a Mummy to hug me and tell me everything will be all right.'

Luckily I am a mummy, so we could put this right. She laughed at her self: all frail, all loved.
News comes of slow progress - last time this took five days, we remember.
My stepdaughters arrive with flowers and teacakes. Sun pours in. Granma wakes and needs her dark glasses on. She's eating her breakfast in a room full of family. There's a nice cup of tea, there's yellow roses and purple iris.
The vases here are rarely empty.

Saturday

Slow progress still, so I go to work. All the childcare is coordinated, in place through to Tuesday, just in case. I have my phone, which is old and glitchy. I tell my co-worker, so she knows why I am lingering over my phone. We take our care client out for some fresh air. We sit outside a cafe and I watch a man shake out change for a hot pasty. He holds it like the only good thing that has happened in his life. I wonder what his story is, where it began, if it will find better fortune. Today he is sat on a bench in the sunshine, in a brisk breeze, with hot food.
My phone has nothing to say.
We head for sea air. At Par the sand is glittery. Sun skims gold on the facets of waves. Happy dogs dart. Seabirds gather on a shaded rock. Seaweed twists in the water, moves in drifts, sea-confetti.
No news. I send reports of no news back to Grace. Both of her feet will be twitching by now.
We head for the market, to dally where there's bright things and music and the air is sizzling with onion and spices.
My phone has a photo loading. Me and my coworker are in the Food Hall staring and Oh!
We meet Grandchild 7, with his crumpled rosy face, his calmly stirring fingers.




grandchildren
Here's our new boy with one of his big sisters :-)


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Again






Summation of my blog posts:
- I am THIS TIRED
- Weather
- Birds are singing
- Coffee
- Look, words


Today is no great exception; wavy minded, grey glare sky, geese-clatter lost under the roll of the washing machine and the volume of royal baby coverage that Granma Grace is entertained with, empty mug number 3, novel outline on a bit of foraged paper. 
It's hard to think so maybe I should take this as a sign.
A bolt of sun drops through the window. There's pink blossom wobbling on a potted bush. Daisy dots across the lawn, a backdrop of swaying willow. Grace is snoozing through the adverts, tapping her feet as she does for all the things that are going or may yet go wrong for the whole of the world, everything from a stain on your shirt to the sixth mass extinction. In balance of this she also is happy for everyone. If you are feeling anything less than splendid, she is sending you a hug right now, and love, and a biscuit/piece of fruit/check the cupboard, take what you fancy. 

Later I will do the Serious Writing. 
For now, make lunch, drink water, eye the flora, tidy up the expectations.


Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Difference


camper van at sunrise, on the cliffs, Widemouth Bay



Ten years of talking, I think, before the camper van dream was dragged to reality. Not just talking - lots of working lots of hours, and meanwhile making other plans and working for those too until the world was swimming in front of my tired eyes and I had to sit down. 
Sit and dream of living in a quiet field, planting trees, making foraged soups and syrups.
We have the van, which may never be finished, being a learning project. 
We have plans which if you took them out of our heads would fill a hangar. There are alterations for variables and equations of 'if this, then that, if not, then this other way' and it is tricky to keep track of where we are going. The underlying why is the desire to live in nature, and to be part of not letting the world be ruined.
In April last year we collected the van. It stunk of diesel and promptly developed an electrical fault. Today it is crammed full of - I'm not actually sure. It is being a temporary shed. But it works, we make good use of it. Two grandchildren have been with us for overnight camping adventures, the rest are pending. We go to the beach and get cold and cook tea, and #vanlife, and it annoys us and we love it.
It is tricky to keep track, with all the working and the planning. 
But...
We are shopping for land now.
We have a list of requirements which we must adhere to, lest we be lost in impractical beauty. 
We have confused faces, not expecting this to be actual.
But...
We are shopping for land now...


Dog in the River Otter
This was Dog's favourite site. Vetoed for poor access, alas.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

At The Start Of The Day




Happy dog on the riverbank, Exeter



Day began unwelcome but I was the one who had set the alarm. I made coffee and peace with myself, opened the door for Dog to slink out, let the birdsong in.
Looked up.
Grey sky - the marbled kind, like smoke frozen.
And the sun bled upwards, orange-gold, worshipped by field flowers.

Most preparations had been done the day before; clothes set out, bags packed with food, laptop, notebooks, comfort things like a wallet and more notebooks and spare pens. The dog walking bag which slings easily about the shoulders. Water bottle. The right keys. 
The drive is good, with this sky to view and smooth moving queues, and Dog settles in the boot as she recognises the journey to Granma Grace's house. There is even a parking space near to the house, a rare treat. One with room to reverse in and still get the boot opened and let Dog leap out, tail at full whirr. 
We sneak in to get the parking pass - hear a light snoring which is the noise of All's Well. 
Put the pass in the car; I have the dog walking bag, my keys, a phone for taking pictures. The right shoes to negotiate mud and goose poop. 
Dog gives me cause to fish out a poo-bag... Of which there are none. There is the empty packet, so I improvise. 
Ten steps later Dog squats into position again. It is not a urination squat. 
Children play here. People come walking. The willows sigh and the river runs and the swans are majestic and the moorhen is terribly cute. It is no place to abandon responsibility. 
Back to an unwelcome experience. I will spare you, dear reader, too many details as long as you can understand that I was innovative and heroic in my construction of a miniature stretcher, and successful in reaching the bin to dispose of all unpleasantness.
Dog and I could then run the gamut of geese along the river path, and find her a place to swim. 
We could admire the reflections, the bold graffiti that brightens up concrete inside the bridges, the nervous-aggressive edge of pigeons staring out from behind spikes (that, presumably, prevent their droppings from streaking the murals?) 
Gull noise hammers at the sky till the grey flattened out. Traffic burbles over bridges. 
A tidy man perched at the verge-side with a rucksack at his feet puts down his cider can to roll a cigarette. He watches Dog, smiling. He looks like he has stories but we have a job to do and coffee in a flask that is calling me, so Dog is dried off with a quick jaunt over grass, and we hustle back to Granma's, feeling adventured.



Willow tree, River Exe, dog walking


Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Tidy Up Time




Oh gods - how long had the house been so terrible?
We have been cleaning it, our distractions wrestled till there was room for tidier habits. Vacuuming has evolved to a regular sound; vacuuming through a shrinking floor space. Boxes of stuff: bottles for syrups, display cloths, kitchen kit for the van; the usual clutter of punch-pads and breaking boards, the pile of foraged cloth for projects.
It all has purpose, it all lacks organisation. We have crowded ourselves out of our home, crowded our time with doing: we have got used to it and irritable with it. Little by little we have stopped using our impeded desks. Then last Friday I was closing my eyes, except I was driving, and then stopped my car to breathe night air, afraid. Enough. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, these were all booked for work. On Tuesday there was room for rest, by which I mean I was gifted a day without needing to look at a clock, without obligation. After coffee, no need to be at home, clutter-haunted. Stuffed the car with fuel, jollied off to Tavistock with my best brogues and gaudiest coat. Rifled charity shops for a stack of books, a jumper in twists of pink and purple, a green pashmina, two vintage brooches; rested my bones with carrot cake and more coffee, sat swinging my feet on a cushioned bench. I bought a half round of creamy goat in Country Cheeses. Headed home, so laden, so richly indulged. Mrs Millionaire. Sat down, fell asleep. Woke to the sound of rain. Swapped town clothes for country, took Dog to get muddy. Tilted my face to the sky at the top of the hill. Then it was me, and the house, and - look at the clock or not - it was time. And before my eyes went closing again, the office had become habitable. Oh gods! My arms are aching. Typing hurts. But the next room is calling. There is a level of tidiness required for the mess to remain in play.








Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Wandering The Coffee Dunes




coffee, writing, tired, life, fresh air, springtime


I went to bed late, woke up early. It's warm for February so while the kettle fizzed I opened up windows. Birdsong flitted in. I found the last scoop of coffee in the emergency pot. Soft, fine powder and for a while I imagine a coffee dune and what sort of erratic foliage would tug a living there?

(Answers appreciated - flora and fauna. I have a twitchy spider that looks like bonbons...)
Sat in bed, lap top propped to never quite the right height. I've been working on chapters that are like a crazy patchwork and just trusting that they'll balance better than my keyboard and not result in carpal tunnel syndrome. 
Musty-coffee coating my tongue. 
How long has that pot been lurking? 
Birdsong, blue sky...
The answer is, get your hammock slung up. 
Because of the tired way I am dropping and forgetting stuff, and drinking strong but muddy water. 
Fresh air, rest. 
Find your way then.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Meet The Goddess 1


Dragon stories

Update: the question of appropriation sat heavy. I went away and did some research and some long hard staring at colonialism in particular. Because this story arrived as a dream I had let it be, as though one's unconscious mind would be free of all complicity. What an idiot! But consequently wiser, rewriting the whole book, and finding the plot to be revising itself. I have three invented (admittedly similar, but this repetition of types is common to most mythologies) Goddesses now, one for chaos, one for order, one for compassion. Currently leaving this post up because mistakes and misfootings happen, it feels wrong to pretend they don't. And I loved Makari so much! He's a lizard now, still grumpy, and unnamed. Original post: Another excerpt and another cry for attention here: firstly, how's my writing? This is first draft stuff and can take a hit, please be honest! Secondly I am drawing on existing deities, so I am using their names and while there are precedents for this, am I appropriating? These goddesses (there are three of them) turned up with the story - one to sit with you in times of pain, one to say how to put things right, and one to bring the compassion and love to endure all karmic trials - so I could make up names. Maybe I am overthinking/over caffeinated. Anyway - here is the introduction to our first goddess and I need to go sort out compost.

Over the broad domes of their temple a vast sun is rising, creating a shadow temple that ripples across the river. Through shadow palm trees swims a sinewy, shaggy headed dragon, smoothing out limbs, eyes half shut, a hint of red at the edge of each pointed tooth which is just the sun’s fire reflecting. It breathes in and out deeply, slowly, blowing bubbles in the muddied water, smiling, stirring the mist that lingers on the riverbank. Birdsong shrills. Large flowers, heavy with colour, begin to open; bright birds seem bee-sized next to those bold petals. Night colours roll away to a vignette.

In their temple, the first to stir is Akhilanda. Her name means She-Who-Is-Never-Not-Broken. She has been waking and un-waking all night, as she does every night; hearing every scuttle of the mice, every stir of night wind, every cry of every creature.
Her scarce sleep when it came would come to her as though she had dissolved, and waking would be like swimming up through ink.
When she is lying awake, every pain you have ever felt, she feels. It breaks her, over and over. This is why her skin is dark volcanic rock, finely cracked. Inside she is made of light, a shifting bloom of compassion: a quality of light more than a colour or level of intensity.
Akhilanda looks at her hands.
A light that makes them feel whatever it is they need to heal the wounds without the scars making them brittle; she thinks this sentence every morning, it stops the pain from driving her to madness. It does not stop her being tired or grouchy, she adds, to herself, so it would be best to get up and get some coffee brewing.
Her crocodile, Makari, is grumpy too: Makari is always this way.
She pushes her arms up to the sun’s warmth, rolling her thin cover to the floor where Mak is lurking. He grunts and snaps. She stands and sets her cover back on the flat sandstone of which her bed is made. Every morning she must stretch and realign her limbs.
‘Ugh,’ she says. ‘It isn’t easy, Makari, being like this. I am like a loose jigsaw puzzle.’ She takes up her broom and sweeps the floor, as best she can with a crocodile shuffling about. ‘It isn’t easy, with you being in the way either!’
He sneezes the dust pile into a cloud.
‘Out!’
Makari’s fat haunches sway indignantly towards the yard, taking her irritation with him. Akhilanda watches his progress, eyes shining. From her doorway she can see the shaded yard, the low wall, the palm tops, the sky. She hears the birdsong, feels the cool of the river in the air. She can smell dust and a rise of humidity.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Inarticulate


How we might perceive the world



*A Work In Progress

There's a book that is demanding to be written. All my work is bossy like that, but this one more than any previous endeavours. It is kicking its way out, then throwing itself like a possessed jigsaw. All I have to do is put it together. 
This particular piece of it is from the point of view of a person with a profound congenital disability, and hopefully gives a voice where a voice would not easily be found. I don't know where it will fit in the big picture. Anyway, feedback appreciated... 


The ‘I’ that is writing this does not exist.
No one can know what I can or cannot articulate, what it is that I know, even if I know myself at all: as you could not articulate the difference as you passed from unborn to born, but only react, involuntary.
So this ‘I’ is a supposition.
There are sheets of medical words to explain this condition. And there is this ‘I.’

Life was a dream to be woken into, a beat of hearts, a warmth we did not process: we only knew it was different when air entered our lungs and our bodies unbundled.
Nor did we know ‘we,’ nor do I know it now.
There is a loneliness of which I may not be aware. Maybe that first missing is with me still. I cannot tell you.

Existence was physical. Air in lungs. Noise. Light. What sense I made of it - it is not translatable. Something was summoned from me by external stimuli.

The world of sight was - is - light and blurs. I am named blind but light - the sparkling kind, the flickering, I will follow that. I can reach a hand to a thing, hold, caress, reject, fling.
To touch - is this a counter to isolation?
When the rain blows in my face, I am smiling. Laughing. This joy is observable. Do I mean you to observe it?
I cannot tell you.

Sound is hearing and feeling. I will pluck a string and press my face to the vibration.
Here I seem content, self-contained, missing nothing.

When something feels wrong - a pain, an unhappiness, I cannot tell - I will thrash my arms. No voice comes from me. Indigestion, ennui, migraine, same thrash.
Here I seem locked in, attempting to escape.

Questions, answers, sticky weblines.
How different we are, how alike. How any ‘I’ can be a supposition, invention, brought to exist, ceased to exist. How fickle existence is unless our attention is mindful.
How the blow of rain can wake us.


Thursday, 3 January 2019

Unfinished


trinkets, memories, china cups, family memorabilia, grief, happiness

Granma Grace has weathered five or more (the doctors are not certain) strokes; she has a confusion that thickens as the day goes on, a deepening layer of impending doom. She has a foot that twitches, even while she sleeps, with this certainty of worry. Something somewhere is wrong, or will go wrong. That’s one layer out of many though: optimism is not obliterated, gratitude abounds, the love of simplicity: draw the curtains back, she will wait for the birds to alight on well stocked feeders. She will ask that the little cat who warms on the step be fed a treat. She will check the sky for the beautiful weather about to happen. She will love to go for a walk, however brief. Sometimes she cries for the loss of independence, quiet tears. She says she does not know how to repay us for our kindness in looking after her. Mock-strict I tell her this is prepaid love, and there’s a very healthy balance on this account. She blooms into laughter - it’s so good, it gifts me a halo. Today as the curtains are pulled across there is a lone swan waddling about her garden. He was here yesterday too, and had tried to follow me into the house when I fetched the washing in. He is a widower, she says, he visits here alone always. He nearly came to tea with us, I tell her, but I shut the door because those things can poop a pile! Yes, she giggles, that would not be good. I watch it graze, and walk at ease through the goose-gaggle that arrive later. Granma Grace drops into a deep nap, feet elevated in the recliner chair, legs blanket wrapped, foot a-twitch. I am staring from the window still. I see a magpie hopping (one for sorrow, as the old rhyme goes) I say, yes, Magpie, I know. If I see another (two for joy, as the old rhyme goes) I will laugh - that too, I will say. The good with the bad. (Like a flower in midwinter. Like our prepaid love.) I see a brightening of cloud. Hear myself think: After all the terrible facts have been met, dear Grace, dear All, what will have we become? What breaks us, makes us: if we will bend, we will bloom again. Life is not meant to be unbroken. We must learn how to be broken. We must learn that we are not broken, that is not the right word. We are works in progress, unfinished always. At the end of a life you see a wholeness, an alpha to omega circle. You can hold that up to the light, admire it: but it is not really finished. Memory connects. Love connects. What connects, affects. What affects, continues. No wonder we love the weather so; the tides. Connect. Affect. Continue.

widower, swan, grief, happiness, memory, perception, love

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Down With Maps And Plans



Van, adventure, Dartmoor, life, family time
Once we were on the beach, though not planned, swimming was obvious. Wellies off, socks off; just having a paddle in this clear water, it's not so cold, we should go out deeper... Leggings off, wade out oops, a wave rises. Now me and Dog are swimming, not walking. Floating fur blurs her edges. My dress darkens, green-black, moves like kelp-fronds. We are lost to the elements awhile. After this dip I wrap up, skin a-tingle, pinked, glowy.
No one is surprised, except the owner of the spaniel that peed on the wet clothing I dumped on the shore. Oops!

Back at Granny’s house I am peppered in sand, laughing. If I take off my socks there'll be a dune in here. We all warm up with tea, and more laughing. Me and little niece use fuzzy felt to create a goat headed farmer, a horse headed pig, a pig headed cow: then we name the imaginary objects we are throwing at each other.
Spider-bellies!
Phone-children!
Haha!
Slice of panettone. Tea.

Tired from laughing, tired from a long shift finished that morning.

Mr does the driving, we go home to change clothes and vehicles. We have a plan.
We will take the van for the night, park up, in the morning take a swim. We will look for a place named Crazywell Pool, which we’ve been waiting for a chance to discover.
It is dark as we head across the moors; the map is taking us down tiny soggy roads, more tracks than roads, grassed over, boulder strewn. We decide to turn back. We take a short cut to Burrator, following the same map to a lane where there’s a tree branch down, so rather than risk being stuck we promptly reverse the van’s rear tyres into the mud from which they cannot escape.
There is no phone signal, no internet.
No amount of jacking up wheels, nor building bespoke roads of stone or branch, or formerly pristine van mats, will create the necessary traction.
Torch batteries run out. We abandon self rescue in favour of getting the bed set up, (slight tilt, seems sleep-able) and open the emergency wine.
Dog is having the best time, running after owls and foxes, fetching sticks. She sleeps soundly.
We sleep a bit.

Daylight seeps through tall pines, and one old beech tree fixed in curves.
One historically important barn solid beside us.
Mist.

After coffee and a few more tries at rudimentary road building we manage, with gymnastic balancing atop of a stile, to get a text message to a friend, and then one back, and so on, till, eventually, the rescue van was dispatched. I chased it down, waving a high-visibility jacket: nearly burst a wild pony with surprise hollering. Sorry, pony.

A mere sixteen hours or so after our accidental park-up, there's no time (or energy) for swimming.
Not too late to get to Plymbridge Woods to walk with granddaughters. If we can find it...
Again the map is thwarting though we did not get wedged or sunk merely perambulated in unnecessary circles, arrived on the wrong side of the river.
Walked over the bridge, up the hill. Legs reluctant.
Grandchild 3 waving at us - opening arms for a warm big hug. She doesn't throw those hugs around, this is a real welcome.

Even so, the inner monologue is grumbling: so tired... so fed up, plans not working and this is my one day off and the stupid maps…

Ah, but this hug, it's not perfunctory. A grand press.
And there’s Grandchild 5, peering around her ice-cream, puckered up, and I lean down for a sticky snotty kiss and a smile, and a little hand takes hold of mine.
‘Come on Granma,’ she says, like I was here yesterday but this two year old hasn’t seen me since when- September? October? When they moved away.
Granma does as she’s told, follows two of her counted blessings along the river trail; salt on skin, mud on boots.

(Dog has the best time, in and out of the river. Sleeps for days. Makes no plans. A world mapped in scent and instinct.)