Archives for category: bereavement

 

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February 27th

It feels like November today, any sniff of spring has been blown off course by these squally showers and as I watch the fields through the raindrops on these windows, I think of back then.

My boots still smell of the farm, the hay sodden around my low heels and I trudged. The grain made my eyes water as I followed through the mud to find the sheep. And here and there low murmurings, deep bleating and they huddled and bundled themselves up. The new lambs are still unsteady and they trample around their mother’s teats. Some shy away but most are interested in the presence of the strangers.

And I am such a stranger, I tiptoe through the sopping mud, it laps my boots, it cries out for wellies as I watch. The farmer says they’ve bought the sheep into the barn because the weather had turned bad. He apologised – as though he should have controlled the sun, as though lambs should only come out to the smell of fresh grass with the rays warming up their plastered down fur. They nuzzle, he points out the next one ready for labour and she stretches her neck out, she paces and pads the earth.

She has found her spot. Once they’ve chosen their place they will not move from it, he says and they nestle down. She sniffs at the new borns in the next pen, keen for her own and I watch.

The herd wander around with little plan, like my thoughts, like the mess of images in my head. They jostle for attention, compete for food as I think of my friend on her beach at the start of her journey and me and our son stepping out then, on ours. I remember writing words for the service while she spun in chaos far from home. And there we were, unknown to each other, on that day being birthed  from the safety of our respective worlds into a land we didn’t recognise, blinking on new straw.

There was something so brutal about the farmland today, so essential, the irresistible force to push on and out and I felt it in the bristle of the mother’s tongue, in the grasp of the farmer’s hand as he eased out more new life. There in front of me dazed and bewildered, finding its feet in this pulse of nature, as I think of my friend, as I think of my preparations back then.

Nature charging on regardless, relentless and driven.

 

February 28th

I’ve been watching the clouds again, how they’re pulled into a vortex to my right, the shadow trees were waving at me this morning as I passed by and now the rain is back. It’s dripping cold onto the farm pastures, the animals are inside and I arrange flowers back at home.

I bought alstroemerias, they look like tiny lilies and as I shuffle and tweak them in the vase, the rooks and the crows take flight, they cut up the air in such haphazard patterns. They look like they don’t know what they’re doing, absent minded winging on the winds but they’re guided by instinct, by nature and far away from them, in the warm, in our home  – so am I.

 

March 1st

There was a stillness down on the farm this morning. it wasn’t cold or warm, no biting wind or early rain, no spring sun, just a grey heavy cloud cover and a sense of the land waiting. The crows circled and landed, poked about and waddled in the mud, they’d found a puddle to drink from and gathered like old men at a wake, heads bowed, arms folded behind their backs and they nodded and paid their respects to the earth. They sipped and pecked around for food, then took off in a scattering, zig zaged black in my view and then the seagulls came in. They flew across in a broken badge, in a triangular twist with such purpose and I watched them pass by like my thoughts, like my feelings of back then.

I didn’t see the farmer today but his wife rushed out, their daughter was stuck in the mud, her truck revving up, going nowhere and she waved and laughed. I noticed her pony tail, hair scaped up for the day’s business and her practical clothes as she jumped from the cab, a round reinforced girl, fed from the land, unattached to the animals she raises and then eats. She didn’t mind being stuck, it happens and sooner or later you get out. She clambered back in the truck, plumped down on the the ripped leather seat and reversed out of the ditch.

Sometimes you have to go backwards before you can go forwards again.

xxx

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I used to love chicken, with a hint of salt, the way it melted in your mouth and whenever I went out to lunch, which to be fair, didn’t happen often, I would order a chicken salad sandwich and peer inside in case any of the meat dared to be pink. I could only do white meat, not grey, or darkened near the bone. If I was feeling reckless I’d have a Cajun chicken salad and pick my way around the bits that were too hot.

I can see the white ceramic bowl from the first meal in the Fat Cat restaurant where we checked each other out over my drizzled rocket and basil. And the radical chicken carbonara that I ate on one of the early visits up the motorway when we went to a new place by the garden centre that I’d found. I found bits of bacon in the creamy sauce and was surprised at how much I liked it.

And when I’d relocated South, Saturday mornings became the trips into town, a visit to the book shop (obviously) followed by a baguette stop in the café on the long main road. We looked out from a window seat, on high stools where I would have sliced grapes and green peppers in my packed chicken salad roll. I can see us leaning into the melamine, spotting strangers. I wonder how their lives have changed by now, those abstracted people we never spoke to. They wandered past, oblivious, heads in the air, wrapped in their own universe, unaware of the couple in the cafe looking out.

And far beyond them, up the road and miles away to a Christmas table, precision laid with finely sliced turkey in a lean-to on the edge of the hills. A gong still reverberating to summon us to the table and the best cut-glass glinted as we sat with napkins on our laps waiting for dessert.

I seem to have anchor points in my life secured by one foul or another and they lined up with me recently as I stood by the deli counter, waiting for the nylon hatted assistant to rip it from the bone. I thought of the cottage pies, the diced turkey hid away under my best leek filled mash, how it scalded your mouth if you bit in deep too soon and in those days we had table mats, procured from various places, usually scribbled on in crayon with images of trains and random birds.

And then the tasteless chicken came, the thick white bread stuffed with something rubber on a platter, in the visitor’s room, when other people said that I should eat – when I’d fainted on this day back then. I tried to eat chicken but couldn’t swallow, so I sipped water and stared out into space.

***

It’s raining today, an ambivalent, half-hearted drizzle. It feels like it wants a downpour to clear the stale air, but it can’t. Waves of cool drops come in then leave, the patio is dark grey and in my peripheral vision the robin nips in, grateful for the earth I’ve turned, hopping amongst the fresh seeds.

At the deli counter the other day I stood staring at the samosas, the premium quality scotch eggs and hunks of meat. How I used to relate to the image of a carcass, in the early months and years, something left over from the creature it used to be, something strung up on a hook with its insides hanging out. I’m more a piece of reformed meat these days, changed and reconstituted, shaped into something different, fit for purpose and as I stood on their sanitised floor by their gleaming glass, I thought of my absent face years ago at the same counter, going through the motions, ordering food. An assistant who I half knew said she hadn’t seen me for some time and had I been away? I remember staring blank at her moving mouth, not really caring what she thought, not being able to form words and I made some attempt at an answer then held it all in and rushed home.

I rushed home the other day too when the foyer of their store was full of a school trip with staff I used to know. An even though I was wrapped in my best hat and scarf, even though I was the best version of myself that I could be. I couldn’t walk up to them and say hello, I couldn’t even hurry past and nod but then I wasn’t having the best of days. Instead I took my reformed shape and hid behind the clothes and bags peeping at them through the 20% Off bright red tags. And when they moved down the shop I took my chance, I chucked the basket back outside and ran for home. My short shopping list could wait. It was a day when I couldn’t handle the old world pushed into my face.

Today it’s quiet, inside and out, it’s grey but my hyacinths are being delivered soon, I look forward to their pungent smell and buds searching out for the sun. My road beyond my windowsill is often full of vans, plumbers and Outreach men, fiddling with wires, landscape gardeners who live nearby and my neighbours’. Their extension is nearing completion, the huge grey wall out the back will he be rendered in a white finish. And although it hems me in, I see such potential. I will hang garden mirrors to reflect the light and I will grow clematis and buddleia for the peacocks. I will sit in the bee-loud glade when summer comes but for now it’s still my winter. All the vans are away today, the building work has stopped and the road is empty, it’s almost as though they know I need some silence, as though the dankness of the day is just for me. Memories come and go like the showers, I top up my earl grey and wait for my flower delivery. The only sound is the whirring of my dishwasher and the chuntering of my head.

At the deli counter I chose roast turkey. It felt appropriate, the finely sliced pieces, carved and weighed, wrapped in thin paper, neat and contained in my basket. But how I empathised with the bird, with the assistant’s hand inside it, and she wrestled and ripped, her hand full of giblets and I winced as she tore and looked away. How I wish I’d asked for a scotch egg instead.

So, it’s lunchtime on the 15th, my mind playing its little games. I drink tea and write as the rain falls, now a chicken goujon in the memory of my carcass. And so it goes.

xxx

hyacith

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It’s just over one day to the end of this year and I can’t help wonder which other celebrities will not see in 2017.

Bowie went on my birthday and the year started as it meant to go on, they kept on coming, or should I say going, thick and fast. Reaction seems to fall into a few categories – much younger people, mainly untainted by loss, referred to it as, (in the case of my son’s friend), The Year of the Dead Celebrity, while much older people note yet another death, having a tally chart on their bed ends, having outlived many family and friends. But it feels like it’s my contemporaries, us middle-agers, who are shaking our heads the most.

Some of it is inevitable, many of those familiar faces came from the baby boom era, becoming famous around the same time and hitting late middle age or early old age en masse. For those of us, menopausal women, midlife crisis-ed men of a certain age, it seems to have kicked away a cultural crutch. These were the faces and the voices we grew up with, the musicians that were always there, who put words and sounds onto the feelings we couldn’t express, the Bowies and the Cohens, the poets for our teenage dreams. All of us with our moments and fragments of how these lives intersected with our own.

For me, school uniforms were worn to the comfortable voice of Wogan and delight when he read out my poem, Saturday evenings with sausage and mash watching The Two Ronnies and ‘four candles’ learnt off by heart. Then leaving home, dancing on a table in a Liverpool club, watching Pete Burns spin through the fug of late night neons, before the taxi to my digs back out of town. And much later, the home town chattering with a mate obsessed with Prince, how I helped her to start up her band that came to nothing and their home, which smelt of great dane and cigarettes, in the years before my husband came along. And when he did, when we danced to George at our reception, when I swished and he smiled, when we watched Carrie in the multiplex with our best man, there seemed no sense of time. No thought that all these people, exaggerated in our minds through fame and internet would be so vulnerable, could be so human, as we were.

Of course, we were younger then, not scarred by loss and change, the world was still unpredictable but felt safer somehow and now and again a celebrity died, but not like now, now when it’s a weekly occurrence. Sometimes I read posts from people distraught that their idol has gone and I can say nothing. To them, in their world that’s not mine, it is overwhelming (at least for a while). In my own early grief their reaction would have outraged me but not now. Their reaction is their business, it’s their genuine view of the world, where they walk without my shoes. How shocked they are, that he or she was only 60 and yes, it’s young but then I think, they had 12 years on my husband…and then the older ones, the ones that made it to three score and ten, how it’s alright really as their innings were so good.

When you live with loss, when it’s carved out the person you’ve become, you learn many things but one thing stands out. All loss is felt at 100% whether it’s for an ancient movie legend or a pop star taken ‘too soon.’ It’s the impact of that life, the ripple effect of their talents, their stories, the real people they were to their families. And in addition to the fan’s devotion to their work, an immeasurable fact shines out, that they lived. They achieved, they failed, they fought their demons like we all do and made connections.

Grief is as unique as the relationships that created it, whether the loss is for the first crush of your youth, the poster on your wall, or the actor who’s films you never missed, or your husband – the person you planned to spend the rest of your life with. All life is precious. There’s no half way house with grief, it’s the whole relationship to be looked at, to be mourned along with layers of secondary losses. And these frequent deaths this year throw spotlights on our own pain with a reminding terror of the raw, illuminated in a stark white light by Debbie Reynolds running to catch up with her girl.

It was this time of year, another lifetime ago, that I found out I was pregnant. The joy of knowing new life beat and pulsed inside me was a feeling like no other, bringing another soul into this world, into this time based place where everything is temporary. And now as this turbulent year closes, as more people prepare to mourn, to dress for funerals at the opposite end of life, it seems to underline one thing. Famous or not, infamous or invisible we all have an impact on each other with the skills we bring, with the talents that we share. So share them well, find your bliss and know it, make a difference while you can. We’re not all posters on someone’s wall but we all matter, we’re all fragile in the storm.

I’ve lost count of the number of deaths this year, the tweeted ones and the nameless ones but each life was a universe in itself, each an individual with such impact on others. This cultural hacking away, this chipping out of the pieces of my life reminds me of our vulnerability and our transience in this world.

Time will catch us all in the end.

Be good to each other. Be kind. We have such responsibility, such potential to enrich each other’s lives.

With love.

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I’m sat at my screen and I type like I did back then, when all I could do was to sit at my screen and type and words tumbled out in no particular order but they came out and they come out now. Now I sit at my screen and I’m aware of the fragments in my head, of the way my mind is trying to process the news but like back then, the images and thoughts are coated in a thick gloop, they pull apart from each other, they struggle to make sense but they don’t. In my head, like in the early times, there’s just a fug, a twisting, churning mess and I just follow it. All I can do is let the thoughts and feelings bubble up and jostle for position. There is a sense of being propelled from a familiar place again into somewhere strange, into a different land and so I type.

My devices are all active, they hum and bleep with updates as a spectrum of people post and grapple with the news, all affected by the connection to you. I remember sitting, staring at the flashing curser, in my week three, the TV bleating out downstairs, my son watching cartoons in his own fog and I took calls. I rambled and sobbed to the friends who reached out and then I posted. I typed and wrote the words and you responded, from out there, lost in your own hell at day nine, still counting on your fingers as you reached me.

And now I keep turning over the words and the messages, the encouragement and support. And while I type, I can feel the buzz of updates I haven’t read yet, of people calling each other and reaching out. A web of connections from your life, I can hear it now, a background radiation of complex links and all of us with our own stories, our narratives of how we knew you and for each of us somehow, in the places where we collided, there is a tearing now.

I used to post so much in the early days when every journey to the shops was an event, when the smallest interaction provoked a stream of emotions needing to be expressed and you encouraged me to start a blog. I remember being in another country with my son, away for the first time in our new world and as I took the hairpin bends in a coach, miles above sea level, riddled with anxiety, surrounded by strangers, I planned out my first post. There up a mountain in my chaos, I was anchored with the knowledge that I would write it out. I held the thoughts, I made mental notes and I coped because when I got home, when we’d survived what others saw as a holiday, I knew I had a vehicle for the pain and so I typed. And when I was finished, I sent it to you because you wanted to link it to your blog and give me the springboard into a world I relish now.

Now I process everything, up and out from the dust filled corners and the dark places that hide around the back, to the joy and the lightness that come from a full world and when the feelings make no sense – like now, now in this concentrated tapping on the keyboard, when the desire to check updates makes me type faster than I can, I turn to words. You were two initials on a forum, you were the stretched out fingers that reached mine and we travelled together. And now all your fellow travellers struggle to make sense of this place, we reach out to others like you did and we hold on.

Through my open patio doors, the sound of another Saturday seeps in, people mowing lawns, toddlers shrieking and my washing machine churns like my head, like my stomach when I heard the news. I must check my newsfeed; I need to keep close to the others touched by this. We stumble, our virtual family but we reach out, like you did on our journey. Our paths entwined, a patchworked tribe and I’m one of the many threads,  grateful for the entanglement, so thankful for the hand of a friend.

My washing has finished but my stomach still churns. I must check my newsfeed.

We are all connected.

❤️

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On a much earlier part of my timeline our son had a remote controlled car and he took it out into the road by our garage and he played and he jumped and he fell. The movement of the vehicle tripped him up, unexpected and sudden. I was in the lounge, I heard him cry and I was there,  you know, like you are when half of your genetic material is entwined and buzzing in another’s form and I held and wiped the tears. It’s what you do.

Sometimes I wonder how much of the joy of repair is in the fact that you can do something to help, that although it appears outwards and all for the other’s sake, that on some level it is for yourself. In the act of wiping tissues around the smallest of noses you are soothed yourself, not just because you take their pain away but because you yourself are soothed by the act of being useful.

We spent many years with a background of usefulness under the sound of peeping engines. The Fat Controller ran an efficient yard and we lived and loved through a variety of scares and disasters but somehow it was always resolved by a Really Useful Engine within the hour or even under ten minutes in the early morning breakfast pre school slots and they were part of our world.

In games and often in life I became Mummy Fat Controller because I made most of the decisions around him and when behaviour needed railing in I would put on my best yorkshire accent and pull him to the sidelines and resolve the situation, kneeling by his side with my virtual top hat and words. We had our favourite engines, he would be Thomas and I would be Percy unless we passed on the stairs. In this precarious manoever we moved up a gear to his guise as Murdoch on the down line which,  in turn, made me Spencer on the up line and we peeped to each other and we chuffed in our days.

The wooden replicas have dust on them now, although the odd one can be found, as I did the other day, lost behind a photo frame, a frozen shot of me in my wedding dress, taken just before the reception when friends and family peered out of the windows while I twirled and smiled, and they waited for the photos to finish and they waited for their food. They watched us from the sidelines, observers of our land.

Now this ancient picture masks the old train shunted behind it and I picked it up the other day, a random plastic version with a turning knob on the side. I turned the knob and the wheels whirred for a while, relieved to have purpose after years of being caked in time and they span for a moment and then stopped, clogged up and chocked with dust. The familiar sound of motion, the background radiation of our world.
I put it back behind the photo. The wooden ones live out of sight, a stored story in the waiting, packaged up, narratives for grandchildren down the line.

And I look out. The leaves have all gone from the tree outside our window. The berries are bright almost orange like Murdoch, almost vermillion like James, hundreds of tiny red engines waiting for the beaks to come, to pluck them from the rain.

And I look back.

I think about our home, the first one not far from here and the way I ran to his derailment and the warmth of holding him close, the plasters, the soothing biscuits and the role.
The commitment of being the balm to another, of having purpose and being able to heal. And my wounds are aching, it’s easy to get stones in these old cuts, easy to feel them rub and scrape along the scars and I dab.

I treat my own injuries and I crave. I crave the scrub of the carpet when the hardest thing about the day was the build of the track, when we puzzled over making the pieces fit. And now I sit here, desperate to make his pieces fit, needing to help him build his route. Our derailment, a constant in our narrative and all I want is to scoop him up but I can’t, I want to brush away the gravel and all it would take to stop the tears would be a warm drink and a hug. And my comfort in the primal need to sooth it, to wrap around him and to take away the pain.

But I have no plasters now. The autumn winds blow around the wounds, the train is on its side behind the photo and we make new tracks. Our scar tissue turns to steel as we construct, like when I used to kneel beside him.

And in this autumn, calling winter –

I still do.

xxximage

 

 

 

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A special post today, from my favourite blogger – our son xxx

It’s here! It’s arrived! And just time for Father’s Day! My very favourite episodes from Star Trek Deep Space 9 and Enterprise, enjoy:

Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

Move Along Home
Series 1 – Episode 10

A new species boards DS9 (the Wadi) they bring gambling games and Quark is naturally interested. But as he plays the game, the senior officers vanish in a maze of death and danger. Can quark save his friends or will they die when eliminated?

If Wishes Were Horses
Series 1 – Episode 16

In this episode a strange energy force consumes the space station causing every member of the crew to experience exactly what they think. The promenade becomes a blizzard, Rupelstilskin turns up and the space station is uncontrollably sucked into an obliterating anomaly (capable of destroying solar systems).

Crossover
Series 2 – Episode 23

Who remembers the TOS episode Mirror Mirror? Where a transporter accident creates a parallel universe full of death and violence. Well, Bashir and Kira have a plasma leak inside the wormhole, this sends them to the parallel universe, where the empire is at war with the Klingons and DS9 orbits Bajor.

The Way of the Warrior – Parts 1 & 2
Series 4 – Episodes 1 & 2

After the destruction of the Enterprise D (Generations,) Worf joins DS9 to assist Sisko with a fleet of Klingon ships helping the Federation to prevent a Dominion attack. However after Worf uncovers a plot to attack Cardassia he tries to stop General Martok (Second in command of the Klingon Empire) from doing so but when accords get out of hand Sisko must prepare for a full scale Klingon attack on DS9.

Trials and Tribble-ations
Series 5 – Episode 6

After Kira finds the Bajoran Orb of Time a runaway miscreant of the Federation steals it and sends the Defiant back in time almost 80 years to deep space station K7 where a well known TV hero is dealing with tribbles. Sisko and the crew must blend in to stop a bomb disguised as a tribble from destroying the U.S.S Enterprise and all her crew.

Call to Arms
Series 5 – Episode 26

In the outbreak of the Dominion war Sisko and crew are forced to abandon DS9 and retreat to safer territories. But Sisko won’t hand DS9 over to Gul DuKat that easily. He minds the entrance to the wormhole with self replicating bombs and bar obliterating DS9 he utterly ruins all systems leaving just Kira, Quark, Odo and Jake to greet the unfriendly arrival.

Sacrifice of Angels
Series 6 – Episode 6

Out numbered by two to one on Sisko’s riskiest plan ever against over a thousand Dominion and Cardassion ships, the Federation tries to retake DS9 from the Dominion.

One Little Ship
Series 6 – Episode 14

Starfleet gives Sisko a break from the front lines and tells them to study an interesting astronomical phenomenon, fly into it and all sense of size shrinks by a hundred and fifty percent. But when O’Brian, Dax and Bashir get stuck at finger nail size, can they do anything to stop a Dominion invasion on the Defiant and more importantly stop being the size of half a paper clip?!

Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang
Series 7 – Episode 15

After a new interactive hologram programme malfunctions, can the crew do anything to help the new holographic counsellor from going bust?!

Star Trek Enterprise

Shock Wave – Part 1 & 2
Series 1 – Episode 26
Series 2 – Episode 1

After destroying a planet, Enterprise is ordered back to Starfleet Command where a special visitor reveals what is actually happening and when the Enterprise is over run by the Suliban and the Vulcans want an end to Earth’s space programme, Archer is dragged to the 31st Century because he’s the cause of a drastic change in the temporal war.

Regeneration
Series 2 – Episode 23

When Starfleet find a perfect sphere and a frozen cybernetic body buried deep on the Arctic circle,
Enterprise is recalled home to investigate. They unfreeze the bodies to see if they are friendly but what they find is far worse than mean.

Twilight
Series 3 – Episode 8

After a shock wave causes a piece of the bulkhead to land on T’Pol and Archer rescues her, an unusual infection causes Archer to be unable to form any new memories. Almost 35 years into the future he wakes up in a camp where T’Pol explains his condition and the dreadful outcome of the Xindi conflict. Can Phlox eradicate the virus and ultimately restore the timeline?

In a Mirror, Darkly – Parts 1 & 2
Series 4 – Episodes 18 & 19

In the 700th episode of Star Trek ever to be broadcast, we find Archer in the evil parallel universe. The uniform has been changed, the Vulcans are in slavery and there is an all new title sequence! Archer find a rip in space time going to an alternate universe (the original universe). He also finds that the rip goes approximately 150 years into the future. He decides to enter it in the hope of finding second Empire but what he finds is the U.S.S Defiant (as seen in original series episode, The Tholian Web). Archer uses this new found power and attempts to become Emperor of the Empire but it’s not just him who wants to grab futuristic weapons…

These Are The Voyages
Series 4 episode 22

The crew faces one final mission to rescue Commander Shran’s kidnapped daughter. After a mostly successful mission but the unfortunate emotional death of Charles Tucker 3rd (Trip) Archer makes a speech that will be the beginning of the Federation as we know it. Which is then memorised by 24th Century grammar school students.

This marks the end of great series of episodes and even though J J Abrahams continues with his films it will never be the same as good old fashioned Gene Rodenberry’s Kirk.

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I’m away in the back of a taxi and the foreign radio bleats out some news and we’ve learned the rhythmic qualities of their accents as we travel from Oost to West or was it West to Oost?And I remember a long barren train station, hanging around for the last one back and the mountains that came into view and the snaked hill houses, chaleted rooves on either side and the path waves up and out of the village, away and up to the clearing.

And I remember the photos tucked away somewhere now, with that close up through the trees and later downstairs in the empty wooden restaurant, where the wicker chickens were made just for me and we guessed at the meal and laughed when we were right. And somewhere I have the little wooden carved out frame with the postcard that doesn’t quite fit and I remember the feel of my top and your new watch, the one that got scratched the last Christmas.

And I see us at tables, white cloths and plans and the air was so thin it made you dizzy and we sat somewhere high, by smoked glass, looking at the view and we bundled in cable cars with your proper camera and we got to the top and I screamed.

And I stood up there with you, dazzled by heat and light and the shapes went on forever, peaking to the horizon, in an unreal distant place.

And the camera caught us, young and new, me wrapped up like Greta Garbo and the moment itself, frozen like us, just before I chucked snow.

And I’m surrounded by it all today, as I was then and I flip to the top of Norway with our son in this world and the shapes were familiar but the coordinates had changed and I looked out and down at the path we’d negotiated when we were just at six months. And I tried to hold the pain as I stood there but went back to Zermatt and in the warm coldness, in a high improbable place, I took my brittleness to the souvenir shop, empty fingers fiddling with change.

And it weird. This place, this road, this journey. I have lots to do today, now, in this still low land but I’m flipping through the images, head bouncing to keep up and we sit in the carriage and I hold onto the scene. The colours, white iced down through blues, pined angles rich and deep, to the twisting web of sparkles, the stream by the side of the track, dotted with coloured spots of flowers, juddering on our way. And the window surround is old and chipped, like me now and our backpacks are full, our trainers new but tired, breaking them in as we walked, as we made our way back, then, in that world, with those faces.

And I lie here trying to start the day
but I’m not sure where I am. I feel spread out across it all, this thinly stretched life, rich and brittle, still rattling along.

still travelling.
xxx

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April 14th

I’m back in Paris on the first trip, the fear on the rattle trap plane, the closeness of the engines and I remember waiting in the dark in the alien lit streets by too many suitcases, while you looked. And we were lost and tired and couldn’t find the Rue. And we’d misread an ‘h’ for an ‘l’ and stumbled upon it later in our aching feet and disappointment. And the room was a box and the bathroom had no door and somehow on Easter Sunday we took our induction crisis on the metro and found a brand new place. The small round owner rolled out to the breakfast room, the polished stone stairs, the arched brickwork, our cellar under the city with warm incessant croissants and I see it now, in my morning under our son’s steady breath.

And the bateaus were confusing and we learned how to negotiate the traffic swarm, in those hours by la Gare when everything began with a le and we wandered around the boulevard trying to reach the other side. And it’s cropped up now for the first time, though it’s the third time around this date and it’s sneaked out at me, these ancient images and the biting chill and fusting heat. And I sit on the hard stone in Our Lady and wonder about the women who came to help and I couldn’t see her face although you did but I remember her deep patterned dress and her blessing to us as the taxi arrived.

And the hours ticked days until our venture up the tower and I can see the top with my parka inside out, the one I’d bought for Cornwall and we were worried but did it anyway. And somewhere there’s the photo, me-hair everywhere, lying backwards into the wind, its force taking my weight as I squeal in the gust, a flying squirrel, battered, smiling, in our beginnings, above our new selves looking out.

April 15th

Bit adrift today, anchor up, no wind in sails and no sense of land, not that I can see.
Just float for a while, the weather will change soon.
Earl grey in my chipped ceramic warms my leg, sun’s trying to come up, I’m trying to get up. A sense of heading out into something but I’m not quite packed and the condensation on my compass makes it difficult to read.
I feel my breath against my hand as I breathe out. Waiting. Drifting.

The post forces itself into my hallway.
I’d better move.
26 months.

April 16th

Been looking back at old notes, the walks from school in the rain, the hill and Bailey’s wet paws and the cast iron bridge, my path from there to now. The necessary walks that sustained me, the easing out of a world, the osmosis into this one and I have photos that call for a canvas. I promised myself I’d do that, my triptych of scenes from a time, from the shifting and I know each leaf and each stem and when they hang on my wall I’ll see them all, all of me in those moments, wrapped around each soaked blade of grass but others will just see a hill.

My morning walks faded with the growth of our son, an unfolding seeping of change and I see myself on the bench, through these old curtains, oblivious to weather putting one foot in front of the other. Other people use the bench but they don’t know it’s mine.
And the bridge over that road always sensed a change, a move away from the brush of traffic, a dropping into trees and paths and hiding in the undergrowth that grows wild despite my absence.

And I’m in, not out, encased by old walls today and I acknowledge the pull but stay where I am. It’s like the trick photo I took of our son, different shots in one, copied and pasted into a panorama of ten children and I leave this place and float above the house, over the wet roads to the open spaces filled with me and we walk over every blade in haphazard directions, looking out to a strange horizon, looking down tapping on here and our matter buzzes within its form and we wander and wait and exist.

And I see her curled under your rainless sky, your clouds cropped for no one, not today. And I fly back to the first house and the testing out of cameras, light conditions and bikers jackets up the little pathways, through nettles to the top. And from way up there we’d spot our roof, nestled in three just below, just in view if you walked just far enough.

And I’m there now, over us and in that tiny place I see your Mum, curlers and dressing gown, down for the event. One night on the sofa bed before tomorrow. And I was one silk flower short for the place cards and whizzed around the shop in the town, by the hotel that encased us, in the hours after the moments, the moments spent when we went from that house, the house I revisit from here on the hill, as I lie on our bed, displaced, on this bridge between the worlds.

16th – later
Wet pebbles

The pond is greening up, layers of life taking hold. From this angle the stir of water is chaotic, patterns fight and dance for position. The force creates a reaction, underneath swirled grey green reams of silk, a submerged altered beauty waves and ripples under the thin molecules of water. Gushing folded clouds of form carried by their current. The waterfall, highlighted white faded glass, cycling down into the waiting storm. A veil of power over the spewed up spheres that cluster, hurry, smash and pop. The small stone bridge is mottled with age, worn down steps either side, their difference barely showing.

It was placed here years before me and will erode long after I’ve stopped thinking about water. Flecks of warmth from our son’s new fish sparkle up at me. There’s a golden light to the greens, it looks cooling, a welcome seduction on a summers day – but I know it’s cold. The algae builds, holds its prey, an old autumn leaf, its crunch soaked out, gives in and sticks in the gloop. The weak sun dots the surface, nearly enough to shield my eyes and I watch the effects of water under this micro world village as it spools and billows, loud and gentle, a freedom of form, an inverted taffeta dress of molecules.

This bride over pebbles, churning through cycles, a certainty under the laws.

I feed the fish, they break the surface, shaking circles out in unison, stretching the puddle of sun.
They forage beneath me, eager and woken, responding with instinct to their world.

The sun’s going in, I’m cold.
I’m following its lead.
The wind messes my hair backwards as I hang on to the bridge for support.

April 17th

And now its back…
The empty house full of anticipation,
waiting for Diane to arrive.
Sat by the stairwell with women doing jobs around me. Diane battling with victorian laces, hot hair and the smell of lilies.
Tea going cold on the shelf at my side while nails turn shimmered pink.
Peter back from his walk getting changed in the tiny packed room, bringing in flowers while I prepared myself upstairs.
Stepping into reams, Diane at the back strapping in.
Everyone waiting downstairs, while the photographer moving table.
The old mirrored sliding doors and trying to turn at the top of the landing.
The tug of the weight of the fabric, the slow descent.
The smell of the lipstick.
The clamber shove of climbing in the car, the high packed seat of clouds,
rustled swaying on the journey up the road.
The swishing to the door, the heavy wood, the iron lock out of sight.
The chain around my neck.
The hush brush of turning right, the short steps to there.
And the stopping.
And the waiting.
And the look.
And later out into the glare of light
and the trees were full and the ‘Dean Martin’ photo is loud inside my mind.

And each moment flutters around me, delicate pastels, sticking in my hair.
And we’re herded around for the smiling with the duck pond still to come. And the memories line up like our guests, in a row, each waiting to have their time with me and they stretch down the hotel hall, biding their moment, their chance.
The silk of the cravats, the lines and jokes, Negotiating veil as I stood to speak. Beating your Dad at his own game and all the faces blurring around me in snatches of time.

Re-runs in April loops of strangeness, all of us with younger hair, playing our parts on this day.
And I let it play out, like the guests, the ones you seek out, the ones you hang onto and ones you try to avoid.
They’re all here in their finery while I look at the milky sky through my empty glass.
Through this sense of perception, from the brim to the dregs, still pouring long and clear, out from under our bridge and beyond.

xxx

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We were in Padstow now, the maze of a cottage with a fire to stoke and ceilings to bang heads on and an old red phone box down the road that I used in the days before mobiles. And you rode the Camel trail when I stayed indoors and wrote in your journal on Easter Sunday, it always seemed to be Easter Sunday and the paper was made of fine quality, with the quotes on each corner and it travelled with us as we moved. Your Mum bought it for you the Christmas before me, I think and I peered through its pages, trying to undo your skrawl in the early days when I sat on the carpet and you were up the wooden stairs. And that holiday took us to places, passing by the sights that became familiar, the scenes that we returned to, the conversations over the harbour with me ducking passed lobster as you fired the snaps of orange. And we hadn’t even reached the contents page, not then, not really.

And after your trip out (when you found the injured bird) we found ourselves in quaint corners and negotiated the cliff walk to Bedruthan. I had the first of the parkas and it whipped around me as I ran and the caves were off to the right, the beach rock scattered in ancient things and the sand a wet squish, a powered pale grain beneath our feet. And my pockets heavy on the walk up the hill, treasure troved with the stones I picked up. The slabs of age that sit in their place, where they’ve lived for years, on the windowsill now absorbing heat in their solid memory, their time crushed permanence, slatey grey in our emphemera. And we clambered up to the tea shop, the perfect out post, white washed and small, battered tin sign creaking a welcome and the teacakes dripped and chipped mugs thawed our fingers in our found shelter at the top of that world.

And I listen to the sounds of this world, our son blowing up sea monsters on the kitchen floor, the wicker basket straining here, the quiet grey clouds hiding the days first sun. I hear him humming, some warfare enfolding and all I can see is the work ahead, the wondering, the easing, the exploration to come and none of it’s made of Lego and all of it has to come out.

And I’m beached today, a great whale carcass, shining rubbered blubber on my shore. I’m still in Cornwall by the pretty boats, the crisp air up our nose, the clank of my netted seashells, the best meal on our last night out and I walk passed us with our family, ten years into the marriage when we all returned. And we followed you by the harbour, holding our son’s hot hand, looking across to the chip shop as our first trip replayed out in parallel. Harbour on the left, walking back and in the distance, we were there, in the remnants of us, in the chip shop, warm and wet, drying out over the white and blue napkins.

And I found the cottage, back then through archaic old brochures. I managed to find a lovely place without fishing the internet and I rang and spoke to owners and took directions with a pen. And those years later we drove by, when my Google search did its job. And scrunched up now, here and estranged, I see us all in the car, laughing and silly, waving to ourselves in the past as we sped by on the trip home. And our car was full of us, our plans and detritus and ways and our son was full of the moment, like he is now, though different.

And at this moment I doubt any of it is real and I need to move from the bed but I’m stuck. I’m stuck in Padstow with the crackle of fire, longer hair and eyes that haven’t seen this world. It always seemed to be Easter Sunday and now it’s me that writes. Our son breaks bows downstairs, some catastrophe on his ocean like your ancient mariner quote on the last holiday. But the albatross was flying straight for me and now I can’t see the waves ahead for the flapping and feathers around me.

I need to let it all settle but at the moment there is no now, only the embryo of who we became, trying to find who we were, in the salt air, in the March sun, passed the stately home wall with the deer on the gate, in that universe, expanding.

Easter Sunday when we were young.

Ps (you rescued the bird).

xxx

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I’m back there in their small hallway where I used to live, with the heavy oak door, cherry stained in my mind, and you turned up early in that jumper, the one you liked but I questioned. And we chatted over salad, no doubt, and their cloth was honeyed rust in velvet, the knap short and firm but soft to the touch. And we left for the walk in the village with that joke about our pine trees, the one we never could agree on, even after all the years.

And old pubs from my youth, thick sticky carpets and everything swirling in the places I used to go, when college finished and we took over tables and laughed late, in the simple years before you came. And I took you back there and the chat rambled around and I strayed from the path of your thoughts, reeled slowly back in as we discussed the things that defined us and the park was wide and ambling.

The awkward newness of the bench and the bird enclosure where all but us had flown. And the evening’s rearrangements before a meal at the Fat Cat and the first of the chicken salads, oversized bowls and us, there, tiptoeing through the first course.
And we were so young somehow, frozen there on my doorstep, held in that moment of looking and I pulled the door closed behind me as we set off on our way.

I sit here still, in moments. I know where the jumper is and I unravel its colours as I see the glass corridor and their starchy blues and whites, the smell of sterility and the chrome wheels as I left, my coat and face older, my battered leather satchel, soft and creased with age. And they pulled the door closed behind me as I was carried off on my way.

And I’m here and there, lost and present with 19 years in between them, the girl at the door, and your eyes, your eyes that took me from there to here, to this women and her work and her love and this life.

This moment. Now.
x

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