Archives for category: Loss

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March 15th

Twenty years ago I sent you a card and you thanked me for the ‘home-made’ one. At the time I was almost offended, from my old bedroom masquerading as a studio, where I painted with care, in soft subtle shades, where I’d sat, considered and produced the piece. Home-made? It was a one off, obviously, Designed by Hand watercolour, finished off with my finest 000 sable brush, of course. You never quite ‘got’ my work in those days. I showed you the cats at some point and we talked about what I was doing and why but we both knew they were too garish for your sensibilities.

You commissioned me once at Christmas, and somewhere in a drawer I still have the small sign I made for your front door, the door I got used to, at the side in your small cave by the candlesticks and curtain rings and the wooden stairs over your corner.

Sometimes I used to try to prove that I could draw ‘properly’ with sketches of our baby and all sorts. I was going to copy that favourite photo of your Mum, the one where the negatives were reversed and she came out back to front like this parallel world now. Like many things when life was linear, I didn’t get around to it, like finishing sticking in the photos in her big brown book. I remember you delegating the onerous task to me when it slipped into being a task too difficult, not long before I had tasks of my own.

The only drawings I do now are silly ones with our son, his People City concoctions. And I don’t paint now, hardly ever, I don’t need to anymore
– I write.

February 27th

I got into the back of things today, underneath and out of reach and found the bits that we’d forgotten, the bits we’d shoved away and the hard fast memories of the lives we used to know.
The collection of pots that are going to Mum and the toy remnants that I can recycle, the skipping rope from the last days at primary, the mug tree from the old place when your Dad used to send us presents. It was all there, the things I’d hung onto just incase and under the fluff and muck and time I find our son’s first changing bag, battered with love with tissues in the front and I remember how it felt to push it over the handle of the pushchair, the tight fit and early shopping when we lumbered round panniered and loaded like the amateurs that we were. And it travelled with us to Grandma’s home, up the hill singing that song and she used it when she took over, when she cleaned and cooed when we lay in, in the Devon days when we were all young.

And behind it I found your old briefcase, the lock pinged up despite rust and it had lived in this cave since you placed it there, when the job encouraged less formality and you tucked it away with the things that I found. I peered inside like Pandora, half mesmerised, half petrified and found letters and slips of notes and documents that document things that have long since passed. I found a letter to William from your on going discussioned debate and you leapt from the old paper in an unformatted type with all the strength of your convictions and enquiry. I was grateful for this print, the hand written stuff was always a challenge to read, but this was neat and thought out and sent to him who struggled so much. Strange how the most religious of your friends couldn’t cope with the event, couldn’t deal with me or the service and for all his faith and intellect he crumbled and disappeared like the arguments he’d trounce you with, when you listened and learned until you found your own way. I found your dissertation too, unseen throughout our marriage but I found it today and skimmed through, the type of a world before me on a typewriter before we had Word and it was kept locked safely away, a part of you that time can’t touch.

And I started a new road today, long and complex but it rises up behind me gives me momentum, gives me torque. I can feel it pulling me to sort, to discard and to keep and I’m here on the carpet by our life, in the dust and moments holding on and letting go, respecting the transient and being with permanent. I move while I’m here, in time.
It’s only time.

February 28th

It’s cold outside although it looks warm. I get layered up and find my gloves. I’m continuing with the work I started yesterday but now I’ve gravitated to the garden and its jobs.

We were never gardeners. We got ‘men’ in even when our terraced courtyard became overgrown. I fiddled and failed with hanging baskets, tweaked on the surface but ran away from the bugs. You did the lawn and watched nature do its thing, studying the leaves from where I sit now in the sun. We weren’t really designed for outdoors, we liked the idea of it, appreciated seasons and force but hacking and pruning weren’t in our books so we paid out and sat down and looked on.

Our friend The Gardener took root, helped out in the days before I let the garden grow. We were keen to employ him and talked about it before that world stopped and I took over the jokes about the ‘staff’ and you’d have found it funny too if we’d have continued on that path.
I’m brushing up now, annoying beetles and soft brown worlds that I can’t see. These leaves seem to have etched themselves into the fabric of concrete itself and take all my weight and a coarse broom to shift them. There’s something quite respectful about clearing up from storms, renewing and breathable and I feel it as I struggle and fight with my gloves. The cold burrs my nose, my eyes runs and my hair gets in the way as I pick through sodden memories of where we used to be. The table we built the last snow shapes on had long since given up, its cheap coating sagging with the weight of mud and slick. We were out there me and our son, too early, the snow too powdery to do anything so we just made his school logo and photographed it before the thaw. His old wheelbarrow’s there that we picked up from ‘you know who’ at the car boot when you bought their book on Italy because we were heading out that way.
The bamboo is still in charge, forced back where I cut it last year. It’s relentless isn’t it? Nothing is still despite leaving it, it piles and seeps and mulches down, feeding the earth turning round. But while we’re here, we interact, we have effect if we choose, we work with nature not against it.
I like the sound of bristle on wet concrete, something determined, something focussed about it. I gather leaves. I notice their colours and shades, a glossed out collection of polished wood, deep and aged, crumpled in my hand.
I may clean the windows later…maybe. The patio is cold, chilled through from the saturation of winter. I’m cold but it’s ok.
I feed the earth, I’m turning.
Everything moves, including us.

11am – Today
Sun’s up, first time in ages after months of rain. Pools of white shining off our life, lighting up the places I need to look at. It’s warm, our son wakes – I’m waiting for a delivery.

xxx

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February 15th 2014

As we float out again, me and our son, into these familiar waters, I see how we’ve learned to sail. It’s odd, the skills you learn when there is no choice, nothing but to hold onto the rails, to feel the rope burn in your palm, the saltwater bite your skin and your sea legs gaining strength because they have to.

It’s raining, it seems to have rained forever, as though the thought of sun on your face was a chink of memory from someone else’s life. But this grey ocean is known and understood, somehow the whip of wind is no problem, these gales can only hurl us as we steam out of port again. The salt scrubs our face and stings our eyes but we keep going. Our leathered skin maps our journey, shields us in the storm. We tap the compass, watch the needle twitch, looking back over our log book now that we are sailors.

October 9th 2013

I look out from my lump of carbon through the condensation, dripping white worlds upside down and watch the steady smiles peel down the window. Though my feet feel carpet I’m not here, I’m three years ago up high on our deck, I stand by the outlet pipe with our son and we squeal as the blasts push around us. My scarf and hair compete for position till we find seats in the warmth and watch the people and land get smaller. I remember standing down at Weston or was it Woolston in the years before we slowed and we perched on the edge of the jetty waving at the ships leaving home. And later or maybe earlier, leaning up a barrier in the skirt that doesn’t fit me now and my favourite white top, clutching my sunhat in the breeze, smiling into the lens with Enchantment or was it Independance behind us and we raced up by the old sheds, parallel with the water, bombing it in the Orion to catch one last glimpse of the beast.

But I’m back on board now, excited and scared with unknown storms ahead of us. I see us wandering, working things out, testing ourselves in our new glistening place. I’m there in the cold, in the anticipation, in the promise of the waves ahead while I sit behind these steamed up windows in a room where the floor keeps still.

And further underneath it all, I travel to my start, the first day with our son on my own, when all the help had gone. Proud of myself, washed and dressed before the midwife arrived though it rarely happened again and I positioned his kit on the bed armed with all equipment, playing solitaire around his needs. I learned to change a nappy kneeling into the bedside, him kicking springing legs on top because I couldn’t bend to the floor and my days and nights merged into an inching journey, in that room, by those curtains from this day and ever outwards. And I feel his soft new warmth, his smells and dribble, a comfort of heaviness in my hand and an ache I grew to live with.

And I live with different pain now,
moving things around to meet our needs, focussed on the job, the path ahead. I’m layered, waiting for the doorbell of the midwife, as I lean up railings looking out at blue and wherever I am, I am travelling, my luggage changing shape while I heave it alongside with us, muscles straining, strengthening in the weight.

We pull out of port,
the midwife turns up.
I need a drink in the present.
I brush the hair from out of my eyes across these three realities.

Plaited journeys – on my path.
xxx

Thursday October 10th

The light throws out strong contrasts today, the shadows are long and stretched in the low bright sun. I make shapes in the condensation till it liquifies the image out there. The tree ripples and drips, distorted in front of me like the shattering of its temporal signature.

I remain fragmented myself, back in an early visit, Mahler and the Celestine Prophesy on the day I took photos that didn’t come out.
I go outside now, called by a strangeness in the tree, I can’t make it out with the light and my eyes but I find it to be an odd clump of turned leaves, crisped and auburn amongst the green. I investigate its dryness, not quite brittle but almost, as I’m sandwiched between heat on my back and a biting breeze in my face.

Back inside the ancient timelines in a room where the bookcase was stronger, years before its current lean, I wander around watching her while this day is outrageous in bright with leaves twirling into windscreens, crumbling and dancing with no thought.
A shimmer of space time and I’m nearer to now, that grey heavy black morning, Voyager on TV and I’m rushing in a coat too big for me now.

And I drift on the air blown in and out of my places, curled and orange in the passage of time, my shape holding true despite elements as I am carried by the day and the season, leaves of moments, crunched loud colours, from the forests in my head.

The creases in the sycamore spore mirror the waves in my fingerprint. I hold it up in these unforgiving rays. Something cheeps over my shoulder like a creaking door as we leave your shack, packed up and heading out to plough new fields.

And in the distant fields I see from now the whirligigs twiddle and twirl, spinning silent circles at the edge of my view.

xxx

October 12th

I remember this day in Nice after the breakfast fiasco and the stressed rush to Cannes We stood high up on the curved road, looking down on white, bleached walls reflecting us in heat, markets that led to Matisse’s place and a beach, wide stark and alien. And while I tap the sand from my new trainers I feel me sitting by the bed on a Saturday evening in a different world, days and dates doing their thing and I leave them to it while I wash up by hand.
A novelty, like years ago when I stood by the sink, son roped in, in pushchair and me proud and resplendent in marigolds and suds as I’d managed to take my own weight on what remained of my back, for the first time in the strange land of motherhood.
I see the old dishwasher, that belonged to Mrs Mouse, that you started up while I looked after our son, and we got used to its clunks and forgot how to use bowls of water. Though you never really liked washing up bowls, too scanky underneath and I didn’t like a full sink, snorkelling for the plug through the debris of our meals.
And now this bit of back then has broken and I clean round in preparation for men, tomorrow’s job of welcoming something new and shiny into this changing place.
I remember leaving your early cave, at the start when you were at work and my mid morning trips home on Mondays. Tidying round everywhere but the kitchen, leaving jokes in the lounge while the dishes piled high
and tommorow I’ll pile them here in polar white, the old things, the chipped things and our son’s best Star Trek mug.

October 20th

I find the photo of our son in a sombrero, dates shouting out and the last frame I bought which clashed with the colours, in these old rooms with the smell of encyclopaedias, the preserved smell of childhood, the ancient book from his Great Grandad
presented eons ago in a different world before engines had grunt or TV on demand, from a slower, stranger time than my strange world now.
He can almost lift me now, growing solid, sinewed, with strength to come and the trees are heating up now in this late autumn sun, flaring Spanish colours as we pass by and somewhere on a distant sea of pitching waves we sway home, tired, travelled, bagged up washing and memories, sailing into new water, in our way with gifts yet to open, in the dregs of a journey, in the preface of the journey to come.

Xxx

P.S
You know what it’s like when you travel – you always over compensate, take too much, forget something else. Lug heavy cases around full of ‘just incases’ and wherever you go, you find you had enough anyway. We pack with great care. The anchor is heavy but we can lift it, steering out with wind through our hair. We plot a new course and head out.

x

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I remember the late days of pregnancy, the heat of summer evenings and the walks up to the ridge before my back went. It was the first season of Big Brother, a novelty – something to watch back in those days. I see our tiny house, the faded green carpet that we inherited, your rug from the people at work and our airer by the kitchen door, by the breakfast bar space that was just used for boxes.

I have boxes now, different ones, full of toys and years, the jobs in front of me stack higher than these memories, things to sort, to sell, to chuck and everything needs looking at. I’m overwhelmed by the work ahead but can only chip away, paying attention to the moments and moving towards now.

I need to find the old book I wrote in, in that other life, where I scrawled something in it every night, even if it was just a sentence and I kept it for months and months. Years later I would add to it on key dates. The book was filled up, evolved to become folded up A4 sheets, in a stash inside the cover, notes and thoughts of the world you’d passed through. I remember changing the style and the tone. I hadn’t worked out when I’d give it to him, maybe aged seven? Couldn’t imagine having a seven year old, what would that be like, what do they do? What are they into? what do they need? Or maybe I’d keep it till he’s ten? Still writing to a child, adapting memories to my perceived sense of what he’d understand by then.

Unresolved. Maybe it was best for an adult, a gift at twenty one, so it shifted and changed as our life moved and the hardback red book I originally wrote in moved from its home by my bedside to some box, in some cupboard waiting to be unearthed, tucked away by your old telly, the one you used to watch from the floor in your first home, a floor more comfortable than that settee.

So the words remain in the cupboard though I’m drawn to get them out, pour over that life and write up and neaten the things I need to. Looks like it’s heading for an adult gift then and by then he’ll have these chapters too. This other book that evolved from the sidelines, from out of nowhere, this record of movement and change, a permanence of thoughts in this constant flux. He will have your book too, the one that sits on your bedside table and the printed up version lying flat in the bookshelves. Collections of words that form us, tell this story, map the journeys as we move and through the ink splots and lines of print he’ll see it all, see the process, the patterns and the love.

Some time ago, in the old world, I bought a book. It talked about the power of Story, about gifts handed down through generations. Nothing tangible, wrapped in bows, or beautifully packaged like the slick layers of an Apple product box – but tales, stories, memories carved through eons, the sounds of a soul through its ages. It talked about a gift for a child, to write them a story about who they are, their qualities, skills and dreams woven through words, something you can’t buy. A story of them from the inside out.

Somewhere I made notes, had thoughts on the structure, tried to form it from a wondering of who he’d become. But I didn’t write the story then, I just bought things to wrap, life pushed in the way and we slipped suddenly between the worlds to this place now.

Looking back to that old red book about broken nights and full nappies
I see the start of this road. It feels high up here from this distance, like the top of the hills that we climbed and the stones we picked up, kept tucked away, safe in pocket, another solid something to look on, to hold a piece of that place. And I feel the gusts blow around me, make my eyes run as I look down on the town and fields, the life before us, down there, in the cradle of hills with the winding path up to this one.

It’s just turned September today, I was due to give birth back then but it didn’t happen and continued not to happen for another two and a half weeks. And that story was thirteen years ago – thirteen, really? I remember your words on that subject and now I’m here on a different page, writing it, breathing it with him.
I see all the strands entwined, the individual tales weaving one coat, worn by us all but hanging differently on each of us. I take a deep breath as I push out into this next chapter, I’ve written what I can for him so far. We’ve given him his own pencils and paper, I help him sharpen up the colours that he chooses, the colours that belong to him.

Sept 4th
Sat in that familiar space, the first day of term. Same yet different as the condensation obscures my view in my wooden place. The pigeons are close. I feel like I’m inside a flock, soft battering of feathers all around me. I could be anywhere on the planet in this sense of space-time and this feeling would wrap around me now. I brush my fingers down the glass, confused that the mist is on the outside, I don’t understand it. I stick my hand out of the window and draw shapes from the other side. It’s all different to what I’d expect but that’s how it is.

I’m cast back to last September and the moments that came years before when the fabric on the rocking chair was still golden and rich and the pine bed was new in its warm honeyed glaze.
And here now, by the pond in this gentle ripple of morning, under this cloudless sky, I see his book wide open, the parts we’ve written and the smooth pages calling him, (with these flutter of wings), calling him to fill them with his own words.

I remember writing in another world, in another place, that the spiders had reclaimed the swing. It’s a similar feeling now though I can’t see the swing from here. The pigeons are so noisy today, prompting me to move, showing me the way.

I feed the fish and go in.

September 14th
I’m in both places, aware of the act of memory, aware of the act of seeing.
I have an all permeating sense of my story and its sounds and shapes are jangling around me now.
I see where the stories start to merge, existing dependant on each other and I see their separate paths, letters and words forming new routes as his story evolves in parallel to mine.

I have a sense of sitting somewhere,
moving through time and experience, my colours changing and deepening. Paint loaded on the brush, nib shined gold under this sharp pungent pool of ink. The black blue drips onto the page as I stroke through it, forming lines and curves, this story in some guise – through time, being in the words.
I hand the pen to him, but he already has his own, he’s busy, focussed – becoming.

We write.
xxx

September 17th
The night whips around me, the trees sing in the storm. I remember the willowing calls, the pierce of lightning on my glass, the loud tick of clock as I slipped into sedation, in the late evening of my longest day to come.

I bring the presents in, in the present. The moon shuffles behind a country sky, its bluster fits the day. The night plays around me, peeling back layers of our world.
Everything tingles on the turn of this new wheel.

x

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I always liked compasses, as I child I coveted their slick shined domes, arrows twitching mysteriously. I can’t see them from my youth but I know they were there. I can only see the recent one, bought in a gift ship at end of a walk, half for our son as he chose the green one. And the image flips me to another shop buying up bits while you rode the mud together and I met you both by the front low wall as you screeched up and leaned by the side. I remember the tyre marks on the back of his top worryingly strong and clear but he’d only been leaning up the wheel as you stopped for juice from the little carton with a ‘stwor’ and he was smaller than now and the wheel was big. And I can see you bombing off from the carpark up the dusty road while I wandered to the shop and once, just once, I came with you and stood by the wooden bike hire shack, trying to find the one for the fit and wibbled and wobbled with you through the undergrowth, by the station and booted it over gravel before my knees gave in.
And my compass banged up and down on my small red rucksack, the one I bought for the Alps from the old sports shop where my hiking boots were a size too big to fit my fuzzy socks and our son wasn’t made and my jacket was red and yours blue. The rucksack lasted on all the walks, a tardis of treasures that you both teased me about, in the forest, in the teashop, warm butter and china mugs, laughing at me as you ticked off the things I’d carry while I triumphantly pulled out the ubiquitous banana. And the table was wide old walnut, just up the road from the horses where you clopped down the lane and I followed.

August 10th

In this world a proper summer has returned, like those from 70’s of my childhood when you were back in the North and I sweltered in the South.

I wake, the overnight fan blows strong and loud, its confident whirring sounds like a plane. I’m up high somewhere in metal hurtling but directed, the pilot knows where he’s going.
On land in my bed I’m muddled in memories, the morning before the birthday meal, tipping up the old camp bed and laughing in the hours before the quotes. The quotes around a different table at the last meal, the last Sunday, four days before this one. Rushing back from school now to the start of the end and although I know where the dates are leading me, I’m sticking with the thought of flight, watching us in my little room pack and prepare for this journey. Younger eyes knowing much less, a different world view from this Unknown.

I bounce all over in the turbulence finding things that I’d forgotten, peering through old windows and looking carefully through the fragile and delicate, the solid and permanent, the moments of our world.
The engine’s strong, directed. I may go into the cockpit have a word with the pilot. I’d like to know what he does but maybe I’m not allowed, maybe I have to stay here in my seat, bump along the air pockets and look down, observe the scenery with awareness be in the moment of flight.

He has his altimeter, I have my alethiometer still heavy, strange, a precious responsibilty. But it was given, this gift, in its rust velvet sack, the chord golden and twisted.
I know when to hide it, I know when to fetch it out, to tap its crystal screen, watch the needles spin and twitch, then feel. Feel where the symbols are pointing, lift up into their meaning, let the images dance and shift until they make sense.

Then I move, then I act, reading the symbols, wrapped in fur on my journey North. The snow bites as I follow bear prints. It’s cold, it’s confusing but I’m learning through the dials.

Guided, driven.
In this plane, on this journey.
Here in my bed on this day, drifting and watching. The fan burrs out across the room. I’m lying flat watching ceilings, just like back then.

Such a strong sense of travel.
I am everywhere. I grab the compass.

Time to get up.

August 14th

I remember being lost in Valencia with our end of trip verve we branched out and split from the herd. Our insurance policy was the guide ordered taxi who would whisk through new streets to the cathedral. With a tour pick up from there with bright buses to show us the way, we couldn’t go wrong… So we peeled off and piled in our rattle trap taxi, bouncing on the low soft sprung seats, our son unsure of the steps we were taking but we reassured him, we had instructions, we knew what we were doing.

The driver dropped us in his appointed place, I can see it now, light, heaving, chaotic with tourists and sights and though the cathedral shouted out to us from its gothic spires, it was quickly obvious we weren’t at the right side. Amongst concerns from our son about what we would do if we missed the boat and all our possessions sailed without us, we hid our concerns and stumbled into tourist information. In broken English with biro stabbed maps we grappled to find the direction and as our clock ticked down we rushed and flustered to a different street, clutching our son’s hot hand, to find the boarding point we needed later.

In our noticeable relief you found an outside table serving Guiness while confident of our directions, we plotted where you were in relation to the shops and spires, straight up passed the fountain and swung our rucksacks in the glare of Spanish sunshine to find a fairytaled sweetshop. The owner who appeared like Mr Ben from behind a twinkling curtain helped me part with the last of the euros in exchange for a plastic cement mixer loaded with marmallows (such an obvious souvenir). And though the clock ticked we didn’t care because we knew where we were, we knew where you were sat and we knew where we were going.

Sweets in hand, under the loud blue sky we made our way back to you and in the carefree moments before the jostle of bus, we took a final photo, you and our son by the fountain, shining into the light, him in holiday brightness and you in the same alluring pose from that first ever photo all those hours ago, from the world before I knew you, when you sat infront of Niagra in those vile and zany lemon shorts.

We caught the bus in time despite our fear, despite out foolish challenges, despite losing our way for a while. Travelling, testing ourselves, finding answers on our path.

Two and half years ago tonight I was shoved off the path, knocked down and smashed my compass.
Still clutching our son’s hot hand as we fell inexorably towards tomorrow.

August 15th

It’s raining today, I can hear its hiss through these thin windows. The drops are quite uniform, speckled on my glass, varieties of wishes upside down in each one, a world turned on its head under the breaking grey of sky.
My back’s playing up, just like 13 years ago in the month before I gave birth. In today’s careful steady steps I remember those movements, the inching along and I flip around to the memories locked away.

Our son is messing with the sprinkler, firing droplets into the trees. The sun pushes through, I tell him he may make a rainbow as the water flys and dances in photons. He tells me ‘Yes, but you need to sit inside the raindrops to see it…’

Pointing towards Polaris, through the rain and rays.

x

Ps
And now a word from our sponsor – our son…
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https://thetaoofgrief.com/2012/06/17/the-final-frontier/

pick out your favourite episode, then leave it as a comment on this post. I will then describe it in a much detail as I can, in my next post entitled
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Thank you:-)

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Last day of year 7. I’ve been in the garden, in this quiet before the storm. The bamboo has moved in, left to run free, has flourished and beamed its way to fullness. The rain’s overdue, the soil waiting for revival. We have work to do out here.

Last month I approached the first Secondary parents’ evening.
I walked with him through the tumbled leaves and by the steps where he waits with his friends a feather caught and played with the breeze, (my eyes locking it for a moment as I passed.)

And I’d been dreading it all day, this looming evening and I wasn’t quite sure why. Was because of my chance to talk, to meet these people who’ve known him nearly a year, to look into faces who don’t know me and snatch a chat to put it all in context.
I was cold on the inside, familiar management of a hoard of feelings.

And the PTA smiled and welcomed and I couldn’t find his name, couldn’t make sense of an alphabetical list as I searched for his first not his last and it only served to make me feel incompetent as we were sent off with a map and a tick.

And a shift had taken place as though I’m still the parent, he had taken charge, he knew the maze, which stairs to take and I didn’t so followed him dutifully seeing the change. And the more I saw of him and his environment the more I saw his world and the leaps and strides he’s taken because he had to and because he’s our son.

And I was glad, glad to be looked after and escorted by him as with my head and my sight, in the glare and the heat, I’d have lost the plot without him.
And the signs were not quite big enough and the light not bright enough and the corridors swelled with parents half knowing what to do and the doorways were chocked with children, bored, out of uniform on iPods waiting for the imminent praise or fallout.

And I waited with him, beaming and wailing on the inside, smiling and nodding through my practised thin exterior.
And we waiting and hovered with the cattle while he acted up and I let things ride in the busy fug of his rooms.

As eventually we were seated in a heated room around their sweating clamour and I breathed and listened and played my part. My confident handshake disguised my brittle mind as we weaved out of chairs and in between summer clothes to rush to our next slot.

And even now, reviewing this and writing it up later, it’s still surreal. Not quite gettable, not understandable. And we’re still waiting for you after drama lessons near the highly polished floor and you sweep in through the heavy doors with your Saturday morning face. And he’s younger than this, not so lippy and I try to work the vending machine before we pile in the car and go home.

And of course I see it all on the way in, his walk along the wall with smaller shoes but I have to just note it, watch us pass by, and need to keep moving and I do.

And I’m told he has a maths brain and we know it’s not from us. While the science teacher smiled and nodded. We scuttered around too fast to think much, to follow him and his enthusiasm and his animated stories about the rooms that are his world and I nearly lost the plot with Spanish and her warmth and words.
But it wasn’t what I thought, I thought there’d be space and time and I could mention our world and our challenge and they might be surprised and I’d try not to let the emotion out. But it wasn’t like that, it was loud and heaving as huddles of parents sat, hot in waiting and while the plastic chairs heated up I changed my approach of what to say and what to ask.

And it was strange, smiling and conferring and I felt false and shaky because they didn’t know and even if they did know back in September it wasn’t mentioned now. And I wanted to shout and clear the room,
I wanted to be free of this surrounding, rise out of this sweating sea of dads in an assortment of sizes. I wanted to follow you, following our son and feel the pride together as we compared notes with our secondary lives and shook heads at how he’d changed and I wanted to sit there with you and your questions and come out with our words and our ways and drive back to one last chat, feeling the years shift around us. A glimpse of things to come and your eyes looking at him, a teenager in the making, a product of us, a forming of self, seeing you, seeing him and the things I see now.

And by the final teacher who put him on the spot, (which I didn’t like, as you wouldn’t have liked) I had my act sharpened and polished and he wasn’t like the other younger ones, he was like our-day teachers and he waffled and rambled and I smiled knowing how we think and the subject encouraged more questioning, a syllabus geared to the things you talked about and knew about, while I held myself sticky taped together through the fresh aired walk outside.

Back out passed the trees where you used to wait, (grateful for the lift back home) and in that buzzing place, those rooms of words and hurdles, I negotiated this new way, and in the presence of polished up teachers looking at the slick knot of his tie, as he ran through his script, I saw our world and my work now in the way that I got through it, in the feelings that I hold and in our son’s eyes, steely and bright, making the connections in his new way, with our roots and his shoots leaning into the light,

becoming.

Ps. July 23rd
Yesterday he was off with his friend at an activity centre, the one he negotiated last year. And he went to face his challenges. His older face was full of news on his return, as he tumbled over tales and triumphs from the day. He beamed out his rock climbing achievements and explained,
‘It’s strange, you just keep going, looking for the next hand or foot hold, focussed on what’s in front of you and you keep moving up. But it’s only when you look back down you see just how far you’ve come.’ (Indeed).

And now, I’ve got about an hour till his end of year face bursts through the door, from a year of growth and planting. Our little boy, one year down at Secondary, shining out, surrounded by new leaves.

I can smell the rain in the air, I’ve pulled out the bindweed, I study the growth and note where I came in at the start. Photos and photons, light breeding light. I’ll get out gloves ready for later – a thorough job together.
Roots and shoots, as always.

Doing it.
x

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The final Sunday of the tournament always signified the end of school or end of college, it was something to look forward to on all levels.
I’d buy strawberries and sit on the floor and whoop at the sliced shots and groan at the chalk flying high.

My match started in the seventies, Virginia Wade, me on an early green settee and Dad explaining the rules. And I came to understand and follow, grew up to cheer for Agassi, knew too much, remembered too many score lines and summertime hung on the start of July.

But you didn’t do sport, really not your thing. You were designed to sit and watch, apart from the odd thrash at badmington with Al, and the Pitch and Put that put your hip out in the park where we found the pedaloes, when we listed over in the fibre glass swan, as the water came in quicker than you could row.

But tennis was ok, you used to watch it with your Mum in the lounge, with the dog-haired carpet that I grew to love, despite the fluff. So we watched and took sides and bets and negotiated the game around our baby’s bottom, changing nappies when they changed ends. We tried to engage our toddler, knowing the finer points of the game would be lost on a four year old as I learned to follow in fragments, in-between the priorities of our life.

And the final set, with Al, the year before, 8 months before your last shot. When he was round for a Sunday, like normal. And I fiddled with food and half baked and he would stay till the match was over but it was one of those games that pinged back and forth and I can’t even remember who the game was between. It carried on and on and we found more and more food and made more jokes. And they equalised and bedtime came, bath time for our school boy and in the heat of a late Sunday, Al decided to head for home and made it back with a set to spare.

And somebody won and we laughed on the phone while our son went to bed in an endless summer Sunday. An afternoon of daz white, barley waters and fluorescent fluff flying
across in HD. Chantilly cream and Taste the Difference ripe redness bursting round our mouths.

I don’t remember the first summer after, it fuzzed by me in a land belonging to someone else. July was just a word and last year I may have peeped at proceedings but I didn’t stay too long.
And now I’m here and know the day, know who you’d want to win and though I’m busy with our boy, struggling with a playing up PowerPoint, I stop and search my phone. I find iplayer and I drop into our old place. I watch a set and wonder where we are. I’m sucked into the hush of the crowd, the scorch of centre court, the hopes and heat of faces focused until I pull away, leave them to get on with it.

Someone will win, someone will lose, newspapers will extol or attack and everything goes around again.
Patterns in my life. repetition and change, tradition, transition and flux in the whip of aluminium, in the sweat of muscle, in the striving to be the best they can. Knowing when to lob, when to slice, when to dart into the net or hurl everything you have into a green smudged white, a thud-thump streak across the ground as you reach with everything inside you, to make the connection, to fight to win.
Your point, your game, your life.

I sit here, listening out for us in the back of my mind, while we watch them somewhere else, when the only game that mattered was on the screen and we were unaware of the tournament ahead.

My muscles ache from the match.
My skirt is torn and grubby, I need a drink, need to sit and re-group, sweat under a towel for a while and then come back. I need to come out head up, secure in the strength of my muscles, ready to take the next shot, seeing myself doing it, watched over by our younger selves on some distant settee.

I throw the ball up, sunlight sparking off the edge of aluminium, skin shining in the hot photons.

This is the point.
x

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I stepped inside an old place recently, faces I knew from before I carried this and I was startled by their lines, their faces that had aged while I’d been away. And I looked out of myself at them and their uncomfortable smiles and we all did our dances, our little false phrases and retorts and they passed by on their way home, in their world, that I used to know when everything was safe and dependable.

And we carried on in ours, our son laughing, rolling down the bank with his friend, his new good friend who knows us now and I stay outside it all, watching with my face on. And in the places he didn’t see, I saw us all there, the last time, the only other time there, ambling around chatting to friends at car-boots and picking up that book for 60p, the book we took on that holiday, when you watched the world go by – and it did.

And I stood by the tight privet hedge where I’d smiled, last time at the bands and the music, before the women who annoyed me with her ways, flounced by, annoying me with her ways. But now everything annoys me, the view and the people, the little matchstick cliques parading around without this, this solid stone that I lug around me on these events, in-between their chiffon smiles. These lilting light and frilly sun drenched days when the laugh of our son lifts the weight a little and I sit inside my body feeling time and all its nonsense while I look out from within at the job I have to do.
Yesterday in pieces at Summer fair.

Later:
The wasp is outside today, motoring to get in, he sounds loud and insistent but he doesn’t bother me. I focus on the cool air on my foot, last year’s flip-flops hanging on to their form and the carefree gush of water, churning round the rubber, unleashing itself into my teeming pond.

In the sunlight, with layers of time echoed patterns, this symmetry, sitting on my shoulder.

x

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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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