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And now Key Stage 4 scoops up the child we knew into the confident teenager he’s becoming. Armed with fresh hormones and a barber’s shop cut and he’s off again, polished up to take on the new timetable with a refuelled sense of what lies ahead. And in all the change I see that nothing changes, that the permanence sits below the shifting patterns, the threads that bind us tight. And we move and we grow and the deeper things remain.

New bags and a brushed up resolve. Our son, heading out on the next part of the journey. The keratin in his hair catching the early morning light.

Ps

July 1st
Long ago in a distant land when our son was first learning language, we started to name all the animals. His expanding repertoire included a selection from the farmyard:  Le Ma (sheep), Le Mei (cat), Da Woof (self-explanatory) and Le Moo (ditto). We never understood where the Frenchness came from but like all things it was a transitory phase. Wild animals were also covered with a particular favourite being an elephant or ‘A Twunk’ as he would say, swinging both arms as the two trunked creature stomped around the lounge and of course there was the lion. A-Wor, loud and fierce prowling the kitchen for the next biscuit or two.

Years and worlds later he has gone back to school tonight to see the evening production of The Lion King. His best friend is playing the young lion cub and I wonder how that will be. Watching James act out the rights of passage that our son has had to live through.

We had both wanted to go. In the old world I almost lived at school, helping out here and there, in class supporting, Governoring and Chairing, more assemblies than I can remember and any production going. At Primary I would not only have been there, I’d probably have run up a few lion costumes in the process.
But by last week there were no tickets left.

This afternoon he announced that Phoebe didn’t want to go and that she’d offered him her ticket… so with an earlier tea and tightly squeezed in home work, he decided to go by himself.

The temperature is cooling now, though I wonder how hot it is in the hall, I wonder where he’s sitting and if he’s buzzing with some friends.
We had a brief talk before he left and then he strode off wearing his new top looking older, with a swagger that comes from pushing boundaries and testing out his worlds and I’m sat here, quiet in the echoed scent of underarm spray with his discarded comb on the chair, wrestling with a foreshadowing of the empty nest to come. A lounge packed with the prowl of conflicting emotions.

I like to believe we’re ageing well, me with my deserting hormones, mellowing into my new roles and our son, sat there now, not here on the Pc but there, on the plastic chairs under lights with his mates. I hope he’s found some familiar faces to sit by, not just surrounded by whole families sat together. I hope his face is turned upwards towards the stage, glowing in the heat, projected colours reflected off his changing contours, eyes watching James as he roars.

Our son, striding forwards, his mane brushed back from his forehead, stretching out, growing strong towards the light.
In his best shirt, without me.
Finding new lands, our heir taking it all on – and he roars.

An end of hot-day-fly hums around the house. The trees brush rustle against the sky with the hope of a storm to break the heat.

I wander to the kitchen for some earl grey.
It’s quiet – I’m surrounded by lions.

Xxx

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It’s getting close now, it’s February 5th, moving around again, noting the dates as you can’t help doing.

Our son is off in the frost, no winter coat. It’s not the done thing as it’s more to manage at the other end. Bags and bustle to organise so you don’t need anything else to complicate the process even if it makes you slightly cold.

We’ve had the letter now. Next week is Options evening. Somehow we’ve arrived at that point, already planning for the next two years. I wonder about the conversations we’re not having, the other versions of everything from a parallel world. And I wonder if the end results would have been much different, if we’d been talking on un-reupholstered settees. Would he still be taking triple science? I believe he probably would.

I can’t know of course, I have to just work with what we have, with these conversations and the choices we make now. I find it so hard to keep up with him these days. I’ve been left way behind with maths, not hard really as we were both so rubbish weren’t we? I think he’s skipped a generation and picked up the skills from your Mum. Maybe it’s just who he is – the sum total of all his genes and experiences fermenting into so much more.

I guess he’s down the long road now, he walks so fast these days and the pavements are full of children chuffing, red cheeked, dripping noses, bags stuffed ready for the day. If I listen deep enough I can hear it. The sound of traffic, the floof of exhaust fumes around the car behind and the footsteps. Quick, focussed heading off to do what needs to be done.

It’s grey today. Solid low cloud, not like the rain from back then. I remember walking through the puddles with Jenny and following your Father’s back when I couldn’t raise my head. Some of it is so fragmented now like a broken mirror on the past. But it’s still there in the pieces and I can look at the shards and if I choose to I can reassemble the moments with care, hold the sharp edges in my hand and look deep inside.

He’ll be nearly there now, in the noise and throb of day. I need to fill in the form for the meeting, need to talk to him about the questions we need to ask, the things we need to understand and the decisions that we need to make.

I watch him straighten his tie in the mirror, the reflection clear and strong. And next week we’ll be going out to have conversations in different rooms with different faces. Walking alongside him as we plan the times ahead.

It’s after the 11th now. We negotiated the old faces on the bus, felt the shock and judder of who we used to be in their awkward smiles and I followed him around the rooms, sat through the presentations that explained the jobs to come, the roads that he would walk down.

It’s the 15th now as I tap this and I remember walking home with him after the Options evening, down the long road that seemed shorter as we talked. He’s just taller than me now and he was buzzing, so sure of the direction he needs. I can’t take it all in, the distances we’ve travelled, the new lands we’ve found. He walks so fast, like he talks when he’s in full flow just home from school. I wasn’t looking forward to Options evening, it seemed so out of place. But part of me looked out for people I might have known and felt less inclined to hide that night. And I sat next to him with my silver shot hair and best coat and scanned the crowd for the backs of heads from our past. I felt us pivoting into some place new and did my best to hide my beaming as he nodded to mates and clocked girls from a world that’s all his own. We did it all and did it well, an unexpected excitement running on top of these parallel lands underneath us.

Somehow so many tiny steps are making miles now. We are right where we belong.

We have choices.
It’s up to us.
xxx

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Through the dark and scary woods, a long long time ago we visited Brei in Oxford. I believe it was the winter after we’d lost your Mum and we pulled up and parked by their tiny stone cottage and waited for the sound of the dog. I can’t remember which breed it was now but I wasn’t comfortable around it and with a certainty, protected our son. I remember when we visited their workshops in the woods that the dog would be locked in the toilet. A rescue dog, the potential to be so lovely but they were always too busy to train him so he forged his own path with no boundaries, galloping around the rooms and leaping up at customers.

That was the last time we visited. We talked on the final stretch of the journey home. She hadn’t seemed that interested in the things you needed to say and you felt it wouldn’t be worth the effort to divert our route south again. But she still promised to re-upholster our settees. We confirmed phone numbers and emails, she vowed she’d get back to us but of course she never did.

I remember when they bought them down, right at the start in the autumn. Both she and Colin negotiating our new threshold and squeezed the sofas through on their sides. We paid for one each didn’t we, (though I’d agreed the fabric) mine was the terracotta one, a slight nap to the fabric, almost suede and yours was old gold, although she insisted the shade had another name. I’d bought fabric too for curtains and took forever to make them up. Always more confidence than competence when it came to sewing and I was there in full bloomed pregnancy, over two years later, crawling on the floor with pins in mouth trying and just succeeding to get the others finished for ‘the baby’s’ room. I believe my plan was to alter the lounge curtains to make them fit the play-room, years later when we moved in. But as with many things in that world, it didn’t quite happen and I didn’t get around to it and now the sun comes in with ease through those windows at the back with nothing to block the light that falls in, charging photons on the things I need to sort.

It’s the end of the year as I tap here, another swathe of time moved through and at the bottom of the stairs I have some swatches. Our son has chosen the new fabric and new colour. Soon as the days dance into weeks they’ll come to squeeze them out of these new doors, just after my birthday will be the way to go and I’ll watch the shapes of memory as they pile into their van.

Jan 1st 2015

And now I’ve crossed that bridge again into another year. My birthday tears up at me, somehow welcome, somehow unknown. I drop back to our hotel and the waiting faces that you planned for me. Ten years back then, with the friends who cannot be there for me now and the ones who remain by my side. And our settee that I sat on, on the eve of our eve that was piled high with cushions months later when my back had had enough and I sat through the hours like the Princess and the Pea until I could sit once more like a proper person again.

There’s something right about the timing now. Easing the old for the new and I’ll look to the door and our son as he tries it out for the first time. Making indents in new fabric. The fabric that sits on the top, the structure solid underneath. The foundations firm under a wave of change. The places where we sat, the life and times around us. Us in the moments, in the threads that bind and us now testing out of new material. Making our way, with new places to rest and to be.

Jan 10th

Fifty years ago my Mother went into labour and last week on a rare trip to town, I stood behind a fresh young couple. They bristled with new life, chirping over the pinkness that was snuggled deep in their pristine pram. I overheard their conversation with the cashier. How the baby was born at the start of the year, they were in the papers, and the Father yawned about how tired he was. I didn’t see the Mother’s face, but I could sense it, her exhausted euphoria, her aching pride and her primal commitment to the work to come.

They were on their way to the Registrars, they were excited to sign proof of her birth. I remember the building, where you went fourteen years ago while I lay upstairs on the bed, immobile with our own wrap of pinkness by my side.
I walked past the building many times in the old world, buses to catch, places to work. I see it now, from my wrapped up place on the journey home, I pass the small window by the railings, where from my inside view back then, I saw people’s feet walking by, and Jenny sat beside me and I couldn’t hold the pen. Couldn’t form the letters, couldn’t focus and all I remember was the enduring sense of Jenny on my left, their Pc screen and rub of tissues.

Same room, different forms and the circle completes again. My wanderings around town is framed in the look in their eyes, their joy carved out in the moments that lie ahead of them. And me, framed by the seat I sat on at the beginning of this journey. A document signed to force a new me to begin. And it’s that new me now who, with our son, has chosen the fabric to coat our life for the years ahead.

They’ll be taking the sofas away soon, peeling them back to their basic form and building them up again, into something new, something more padded, something able to withstand the moments to come. And we will sit and settle and welcome the newness.

Sofas and softness, stainings and scars and a life turning to renewal.
The re-upholstering of the girl I used to be.

I think of my Mother in labour,
I remember myself in labour.
Your face, his face
and our sofas at the door.

xxx

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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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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…
Hello viewers of my Mum’s blog. I need your input on my next post. Please look back at my post called The Final Frontier,

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
‘To Boldly Go Into As Much Detail As Possible’
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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