Archives for posts with tag: nature

14th

I’ve been tiding up today, in old corners in preparation for Monday. Our teen is approaching the end of school and planning a break from revision with a take over in the lounge, with his mates, with their games, with their testosterone. And I’ll be upstairs, away from the event, in my own event in my mind.

Amongst the dust and old receipts today, I found our life, scrumpled up in dog-eared magazines in the scrawl of our younger boy’s hand and the photos. Lost days caught in pixels, faces I used to know and they looked back at me. Deep sea diving, distorted thumbs up from a submerged world in our past and I went back. Back to the presents from friends, to the trips and the linear life that we knew and while I brushed remnants into the dustpan, our son woke himself up watching You tube.

He has subscribed to many channels now, some fascinating, some nonsense but it’s his world and on Monday while I’m away in my head, his world and the connections he has made will fill our room. I’ll welcome the loudness of teenage boys, the inescapable movement of time in contrast to the blossom in my thoughts. It’s nearly here.

The sunlight pours in through my blinds as I take a break from tidying. The edge of petals deepen red, the purples turn to pink and I stop.

There was such excitement eighteen years ago, nervous energy getting the final jobs done. Long distance guests arriving tomorrow and everything gearing up for the day. My friend would make the journey south, her toddlers at Grandma’s for the day. She would strap me into my dress and lace boots. Her toddlers are adults now and, like our son, full of verve and possibilities with virtual worlds at a touch.

We had no fb to post our wedding pictures on, no tweets about the highlights of the day. No instagramed tweaked shots, filtered to perfection just an aperture and the light flooding in, just a dark room and the chemicals bleeding us out of the paper, in our finest clothes, in our silk and taffeta, in our scarlet and cream. In crisp suits that smelled of corsages and we emerged, an image at the church door, an imprint on glossy paper in a tray. There was nothing instant in those days, just smiling and waiting and wondering.
And now the excitement builds again, our teen is planning food and games, a re-charging of batteries in a multiplayer universe where I don’t belong.
On Monday my home will be rich in the scent of lilies, now as back then, perfumed in petals from my roses, under the vibrant sound of youth.

On my stairs there will be a portal, an aperture where I’ll cross between the worlds, a necessary doorway between this present and our past and I’ll move through.

And while our boy winds down and whips up I’ll return to my own multiplayer universe where all the faces are frozen in time, where I pause and rewind and play again because I can, because it’s a game I love so much. Away from the hubbub downstairs, back in the spring sunshine with confetti in my hair.

16th

And now Sunday is around me as I finish favours and take place cards to the hotel in my mind. In every re-run I’m one rose short, so I rushed to haberdashery shop, bought a single silk flower and stuck it in position while relatives nattered, before I was driven home. I rustled the bagged dress up the stairs, felt the nerves surround me and watched the clock.

And back here in the now, the bunny ears have arrived for our son. He’s agreed to tell his mates the gaming is off and instead an egg hunt has been arranged! I’m so tempted to come back downstairs tomorrow and ask the hoards, using my best playgroup voice,

‘Would anyone like a jelly ?’

And we laugh, he knows I won’t, of course. I’ll be away amongst the daffodils with the Cathedral to my side and I will smile.

The afternoon is ticking, my lilies are opening up and in the pungent air of our teen prepared lounge I pause, I watch the blackbird bathe – tomorrow is approaching.

17th

Our son’s asleep and all around me in the opening of petals are the moments, fast forward and rewound, and paused and played again. The sepia pixels finding colour as I check the clock and watch myself in the corner of our little lounge, with women attending and flowers arriving and the air rich with perfume and nerves.

I need to put the sausage rolls on, in the present, our son needs to do his last minute checks and the home is still. All I can hear is the throbbing of the fridge and cars brushing away outside while in my mind the layers build, the fragments flutter round me and I am younger, I am preparing and I am there.

And the tarmac fell away to fields, distant crops and clouds, and closing in as the birds sang out, to the gate and the rush of last minute friends. Downstairs now, the food and drink are piled high, devices are charged as I swish up the path, past old stones and ancient trees to the welcome faces at wooden doors.

And our son waits for the cars full of mates while you wait in the hush as I walk in. Our son’s party starts soon. The lilies open wide their faces to the clouds. Heavy pollen drenched, like memory.

In hope, in certainty.

xxx

My friend’s husband retired last year. She talked about it the last time we met and how she felt it would be strange, how odd to have him there all day, every day, getting under her feet and tripping up the routine that she’d made her own over years. I listened. He was always into trains and, without doubt, would take the time to wander down to the stations, to stand around and watch and note the numbers. He would tinker and mess about and finding himself with the hours, would reflect on his years, would adjust to a new way of life. And my friend would make adjustments too. Arguments would come and go, redrawing boundaries and negotiating space in the way you do when you spend your life with someone. I’ve been thinking about her recently, wondering about her world and how they relate now as their children grow up and they face old age together.

And when my parents retired I remembered a lounge full of boxes, of china birds and paperweights, of cards and the smell of orchids and as I type, a blackbird darts in front of my window, wings stretched wide so that I can see each feather and the sky is so heavy today, solid, thick grey as if it’s holding in so much and there is stillness.

Our son left for school an hour ago, knee deep in revision, challenge all around and I think of your mother pulsing out new life back then, creating lungs that filled with air, that bought me to here, that bought our son to the edge of the man he is now and I wonder.

I wonder about our other world, one where you left this morning, where we teased you about the day. And you’d feel strange, such a mix of emotions. All the years of dealing with their blue sky thinking and politics in their air conditioned rooms. And the names and faces that came and went like Colin with his manicured nails, easing you out to your next job and suave Bob Clarke, grateful for your endless knowledge. We used to drive near the building back then and you pointed it out as we drove past. And the ship builders that came before and the East of the County who came after that.

You had two cars in those days, a company one you didn’t use and then we met. I know where the card is that I sent you, when I still lived at home, your interview on the horizon and how the new job formed our world, the commuting and my trains trips down.  I wore a Santa hat and waved to the directors and their Christmas parties came and went, corporate games in a different town. And the work that came later, near to home and our new son with the hours, the frowning as they tightened budgets, the gravitas, the stress and the respect.  It feels like a favourite book now, a story covered in dust, on your bookshelf, tucked away though I know it’s all still there.

And how strange it would be to wave you off on this day to know the relief to come, the stories and gifts, bottles of wine and then what next? And we’d laugh and make plans like we used to do and after you’d caught up on sleep and reading you would drift in to charity work. I’d be a teaching assistant by now and our son would be marching to school (as he does,) but in a different world, with balloons on the door and alternative potential in our minds.

I wonder how my friend is getting on in her new world, when the routines laid in stone came to a stop. And we would have been similar I imagine, rearranging our priorities to fit our changing needs. I’d look forward to tea and a meal in the oven when I’d come home, the only one at work and you’d have humoured me…for a while.

But I’m not a teaching assistant and our son prepares for GCSEs in a parallel world where we keep on keeping on. And while I type and listen to the silence of the house, I see us all in that other Eden,  flat bottomed clouds, cropped to fit our view, nettles you could roll in, under our rainless painless sky.

There in another universe, with a different road ahead. There in your office, with your colleagues joking, they slapped you on the shoulder, they shook by the hand – in the other land, today, where you retired.

xxx

 

 

 

 

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February 27th

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature charging on regardless, relentless and driven.

 

February 28th

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

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

 

March 1st

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

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

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

xxx

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

xxx

hyacith

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I used to walk a lot in the early days, I’d drop my son at school and then head back across the field near the top of my town. I started writing there, sat on an old bench, avoiding the mashed bubble-gum and smashed late night bottles. The parish council took my bench away after a few months, replaced it with a picnic table, where I leaned and wrote and watched the pigeons on the wire.

And the tribe of dog walkers came, I didn’t know the owners but grew to know the dogs by name as they called out for them, as they ran. My favourite was called Bailey, a daft springer spaniel, who would come up to me and say hello, fuss around me with his damp fur and snuffling nose and I’d think of you. In those days your blog was still quite new, a big part of my week, like it became for so many of us and I learned whatever I was feeling, was similar to others, that we were bound by an invisible thread that your writing underlined.

And I’d sit in the cold, in the rain, in the sun, seasons moving around me as I wrote, and when the landscape had done its job, when I’d aired the feelings that were too big for the house, I’d wander home. I’d hug a warm mug while I edited, and you were there at the click of a mouse, behind the scenes in my inbox, with a solidarity that comes from pain. Your messages helped me carve out the life that I have now and I want to tell you about it. I want to tell you that I’m waiting, any day now, for the result of my degree, I want to chat with you about the new projects I’m working on, but I can’t, not in the way I used to.  I want to hear your news, open up your replies, to read your words and stories.

And today I can feel others preparing, its moving around us, the memories, the triggers from back then, timelines plaited as they travel, to be together because of you.

I think about my walks in the field while you wandered on the Heath but I never owned a dog. I’m too allergic to their fur, but I love them. I love their wild abandon, their joy and verve and loyalty. I think of Bailey back then, charging towards me, desperate for the connection, the need to nuzzle and say hello and just for that moment, I’d take his wet head in my hands and ruffle him up, then he’d spin chaotic circles around me because he knew. He knew I needed to sense his spirit, his energy urging me to live again, to run with him, to stop and sniff some detritus that’s he’d spied and to be free.

And when I sat in my field, nodding to dog walkers, I used to think of you and Boris, his russet coat shining in the rays and you striding out, churning thoughts of blog posts in your mind, and we’d inch forwards together. Stumble backwards, stand still then creep back out again, all of us, with or without a dog to guide us and now we’re here.

Here, in this morning and in the stillness of the house I think of friends, some I know well, some I’ve chatted with and some I’ll never really know and they head out, bound together in our stories and the linking up of hands.

It’s cold today, bright and clear, the tail end of autumn, calling winter. I want to be back in the field, hanging on the internet and blog posts to lead the way. But I’m inside. I’m still in my parka, hat and scarf, I lean up the radiator and imagine myself on my bench. I look out towards the Cathedral as the mist clears and you march out towards me, smiling, lead stretched out in front of you with Boris scampering, his paws kicking up the dried leaves, the sunlight caught in the flecks of dust around you as you walk.

 

With love to your tribe, travelling,

With love to you for the difference you made.

Thank you, Helen, so much.

Jxx

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February 22nd
It’s quiet – apart from the birds opening their breaks, trilling their throats to the skies. It’s quiet apart from the over the fields sounds of traffic and high above this quietness is the hush brush throb of a plane. People going places, like they do. To the right, out of sight, the ubiquitous farmer pulls his trigger yet again, startling a flock of large birds. They scatter in a cluster over me, a few stragglers hurrying behind and rain pats at the old patio knocking down the moss, splitting a splot on the car roof and I watch.

I try to hear a rhythm in the rain, a haphazard pattern almost there. I’ve been learning about counterpoint and variation with our son and everything seems to be made of music, of repeated imagery, broken up with altered patterns and we note the numbers underlining it all, the circles of fifth that encase us and we are this song.

Today is the first day after half term, it’s grey but almost fresh. And although the dates lie one week out I remember. Five years ago we went back to school for the first time; the first time since we’d been changed; the first time since the world we’d known had been severed away and our friends walked us in and I left. I took our son to the door, everyone had been informed and I watched his back as he started his new day. I peeled myself away to the headmaster’s office and there in the black sphere that became my cell, I started to try to find words. And afterwards I must have walked back home where my parents waited and people came and went with flowers from the day before, with faces and information that I couldn’t understand and then they left.

The unseen farmer interrupts my thoughts with another salvo, he’s on a mission again. There was a dead rabbit on the drive yesterday, maybe stopped by the circling kite and somewhere in the prickle of hedges a family carries on foraging because they have to.

I remember this date from seven years ago. We were leaving for school when our son noticed that his fish was on its side. I told him we’d check on it later and later while I was at work you rang me to say it had died. We’d bought three fish, one each and I sighed that it had to be his that was the first to go. We discussed the plan for the evening, how to manage his first loss and when, if he wanted to, to go back to the pet shop and buy another, and we did.  I remember the sound of the door closing as we’d walked up to school, then with a fish floating, and two years later in our brittle broken world and the sound, the leaden searing sound of closing the door again from the inside, when all of the visitors had gone.

And now. I watched our son’s back this morning, his trousers are slightly too short. I used hemming tape on some new ones but it didn’t work well, so just for a day or so he’s still in the trousers from last half term. They sit just above the shoe, showing his growth, showing the passing of time. He has mocks around the corner and I help him prepare, now like back then, I support, I encourage him to find what he needs but then I watch him go. Into his world, to deal with it all in his way, in that classroom five years ago, in the school hall soon, this week and next and in life. Trousers getting shorter, birds calling out for food and our planet, turning.in its orbit.

On the way to school we pass new builds. I notice the lintels hanging from cranes, the fluorescent men manipulating windows. Someone will live there someday soon, in a new way, in a new world for them and they will stand at their window, like I stand at mine. The rain will wash the muck away, cars and people will go about their business and the birds will open wide their beaks and sing.
A repeated song, a variation on a theme. The music of our life.

February 28th
I brushed up brittle bamboo leaves in a chilled afternoon. I must have disturbed so many creatures building homes underneath the mush of winter. I looked out for them as I cleaned but they were too small to spot. They were busy rolling in the dust, startled, wiggling their feet to find more soil again, to right themselves and regroup.  I watched a sycamore spore twirl in the air, it spiralled up and across in haphazard patterns till it settled out of sight. Our son was warm indoors, studying atoms, how the outer shells will seek out what they need, if they haven’t enough electrons they will bond to other elements, they adapt and  make changes to their structure. And I prepare the new food for the birds, hang it in the tiny cage up high, sprinkle more seed on the brushed patio and go back inside.

February 29th
And now before he strode off to Chemistry and English, I reminded him to watch out for marriage proposals from all the girls today. He checked his watch for the date but the small rectangular plastic still flashed out that it was the first of March and somewhere deep inside, it still was.

Steam rises up from the new flue outside our window. I watch the conservation of energy, the water transforming, changing shape and form. As its elements become a part of everything, the birds peck and fill their bellies with fresh food from our patio round the back.

Its early, I have work to do. We have all we need.

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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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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I wake. My life pours in and I remember, as sleep dribbles then pools out, forming a puddle around me. I lie in it as the morning soaks my skin, I’m still not quite awake as it seeps around me, slow and steady. Nothing rushes these days. It forms great lakes of reality (that word I’m supposed to use) though it’s never felt more irrelevant and the water of my memory gathers like the leak on my kitchen floor.

A few days ago my seemingly ageless machine found the process of time too strong and it whirred and rattled, steadfastly washing our final selection, gently braking at the edges, quietly easing out its contents, glossing over the old chipped floor.

And of course, obviously, it took it’s chance to release itself on the anniversary of the world bursting, the day of my morning horror.
My tumbled chaos of elements then and now and I mopped and squeezed and moved products around, jumbled up boxes of brightly coloured bits, varieties of soap, things that freshen, things that spray, squeaky little aerosols, honeyed unused dusters, super charged nuclear cleaners, random pretty dolly-mixtured pegs, left at the back with the spider carcass, from the days when I used to hang out. And a big box of half soaked cocaine, solid, sodden, clumped up memory of spring fresh families, clinging, smiling at the lush green meadow of their life.

So I busy myself looking productive, as helpful hands heave and strain and poke and tip, as the years of fluff and muck, gush and rumble through the snaking plastic over the threshold and out, a grey stream on our path.

And all the time I try not to let it show, that I’m running through that day in my head, that the immediacy of a wet floor can’t wash out the stains from then, the permanent patterns tattooed into my cortex, playing games around my puddles, coming at me through the dripping towels, the wrinkling fingertips, saturated with the images.

And I know it’s time to look at new machines and how can it matter at all? It’s only white goods, it’s only a noisy hulk in the corner, it’s only the wedding present bought for us by Mum and Dad, bought early when still engaged. When your bargain make do machine ceased to make do and the replacement fought with the water softener in a running battle that seemed to go on for months, (but probably didn’t), and the Hotpoint troop stood his ground, in his overalls, in our kitchen, against the frowns and disbelief of the Solent Water Treatment man. And it was all quite comical, badged tops, product loyalty, clashing points of view when all I wanted was clean knickers, at whatever the cost. And they agreed to differ, by-passes were by-passed and the problem solved with the smooth sleek purchase. And it was shiny and new, options and lights, buttons and panels and it gleamed at us with intelligent care and it worked and it washed and it hummed.

And it sat silently when we honeymooned, saving it’s power for the baby years, the dribbles and sick, the seven shades of stains, heaved and squelched in, in the night, in the dark, between your toes, when you tried to find clean bedding through heavy sleep filled eyes. And toddler fun behind the gate, the wobbly stairgate, caging off the temptation of buttons and sitting on the threadbare carpet next to him, warm full pull-ups, rattling at the bars, laughing ‘woo woo woo’ as it spun, as he learned, as we played, as neurones jumped gaps and he formed and he grew as it whirred.

And I leaned into it, taking my weight, supporting myself as I washed up for the first time, when I could finally get off the bed, when my back and legs tried to work, with my achievement of getting downstairs, loading up the pushchair with our wriggling mass of needs. And you came home to find me by the sink, semi distracted son beside me, aching but proud of wet hands and I was like a ‘proper person’ – almost.

And filling it with school uniform when dinosaur tops were too small, and crawling on the floor passed by it with the trains, in the daily building, the clipped construction of our world, when we’d explored the carriages while he slept before wrapping up the years ahead.

And it chuffed on and we chuffed on through changes and moves and momentum, under the soundtrack, the churning vibration of a place marking time, illustrating entropy. The evidence of life in the mess we create, the stains and creases, the smell of crumpled clothes, the chucked in t-shirts, emblazoned phrased and citied, the souvenir of places, the proof that we were here.

And it turns and heaves and cleans washes away the by products, the old emerged properties and we give it no thought, fill it up and switch it on and it thunders and it circles and it turns the wheel within it, while we dance and creak, twirling passed in life, in our clothes, invisible.

And that phrase has clung to me, through the years, from the first reading, to the last. When I tried it out in seminars before I really understood, to knowing it well now. And I hear it in everything, in my cycles that continue despite me and I hear it as I walk passed our machine, to turn the wheel, make complete revolutions and its wisdom is hard but true.

And I see you steamed up in wet shirts, the tradition pile, the occasional onslaught, while you watched something on the Mayans and I crept into the dark bedroom and tried to quietly but unsuccessfully free the hordes of hangers and bought them to you, jangling like a Victorian gaoler. A heavy torture of keys, clanking and spearing me as I walk and I unleash them to the settee in the familiar sauna of the lounge, in that world, in those places, in that turn of the wheel.

And I’ve been looking at shiny new things, comparing revs and ratings, gleaming factory fresh flashing lights and whistles, as they line up before me, an identity parade of features, all smiling and winking, promising their tricks, shouting their virtues in the confusion of online emporiums.
Can’t decide, can’t think. I’ll come back to it later. I have enough clean clothes for now, but the pile is reducing, steadily marking time. Tick tick tick…

And now, sometime later, more details clicked on, needs considered and decisions made, choices and options all dealt with. Added to basket, all done.
Now all I need to do is arrange to unplug the old one and wait for the new arrival. Our son will enjoy playing in the box and I’ll adapt to new buttons and lights, flashing and glinting at me from the corner, in that space, where that world used to be.

How hard can it be – anticipating a familiar process – after all, it’s just a washing machine…

x

P.s
Playback

I had to go back to the hill yesterday, retraced our steps up to school for a favour.
Wandered through it, swept back in time, through the bashed out undergrowth, matted soil and giants steps. Up to the old castle through my portal on the hill.

Hair blowing in front of me like it used to do. Battered by icy blasts, a strangeness, weird, like someone else’s life. And I feel like a wound down toy, something old, something losing it’s thread, like walking above, detached, through someone else’s body, with her hands that are icy red from blasts, in that bitter gloveless world.

The late day sun shafts across our old houses, Lego creations where someone else used to live but I’m way too early so I wait around the corner. Loitering with no intent, by the fence, looking out above the traffic, blustering in the scene. I prepare myself for whats to come, reducing my time in an old place, amongst new faces and old ones that pretend they don’t know me.

And a few minutes later an old familiar hand insisted we wait for his brother, by the class, not by the gate. And I retraced all the old places, the old rooms, the memories streaming out of the doors, hot and sweaty, whipped up with tales of the day. And past the door from that February, to park by the door from before and back out with a pretend face, swinging bags and chatting while our son was elsewhere, coming home his new way.

And I was lost in a re run, a fractured replay through the anomaly of my life.
And one smiled face, one at the bottom of the hill. The one I remembered, who took the time in the transition, who walked up to me with genuine care, while they all swept by, fascinated by something in the opposite direction. And she said she was sorry and stroked my cheek. And we crossed paths again and I remembered and I suspect she did too.

And I couldn’t get home quick enough, dump off stuff by the door and and it was all there, a loud blaring revision of the way it used to be. But I can’t dwell, can only feel and note and move.

Have to go back out tonight, in my new place, in my new way with the ghosts of who we were filling our home and my head, loud and insistent, a strange overwhelming of sepia rawness.

x

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It’s the first snow I think, don’t remember it last year, I know I took our son to town for the bright blue plastic but it came to nothing and I shoved it in the cupboard.

And the year before there must have been some but it’s very hazy, that winter just before, just before the last trip north, just before the meal with Nigel, just before the blues with Al. And now the blues are dark and not quite black, it’s early and school’s closed. I’ve told him to go back to sleep before another of those days of childhood, days of innocent whiteness, numbed red fingers, heavy crunched wool and a bite you don’t feel for hours because you’re out in it, laughing and the freeze tells you you’re alive. And I popped outside, not fully dressed, scrunched out my mark and stood in the pinpricking bitter. A dawn somewhere out there an expanse called to morning, not quite yet, beyond blue beyond white.

A black shape startles me, looking for food, a disappointed flash into the trees.
And I want to get out there, wrapped up in sealskin layers, huddled in arctic softness, a silky rub against the cracks of time, with tennis rackets on my feet and steaming huskies panting our way. And it takes me everywhere, to the last garden I remember, when you were tapping away upstairs, working from home while we constructed three snowmen. Out the back and we wrapped them warmly, one for each and I have the photo somewhere, our son on the edge and proud, an expression of an older face to come though we still had a year but didn’t know.
And our snow, squealing up the Jungfrau when my hiking boots were stiff and I beamed at the top of the world and we were new and cold and the air made us dizzy.
An under it I’m in Svalbard on a quest I’ve just begun, tapping my compass and watching the twitch, pointing a route to the lights. And I drift back to now, conscious of my elbow as it leans on a book, that book and the blue has faded grey. There should be Alps out there somewhere but this changing light brushes up a hint of green, a weak shade undercover and down the lane the little angled rooves shelter one small dot of orange, a tiny slit of warmth shining, someone else looking out.

It’s strangely familiar odd, dusty iced specks, a distant whiteout but no blizzard, not yet.
Think I’ll finish this in the garden, force my feet into fur, the pond will hold a mirror out there, in the quiet mist of dusted fields, the charcoal etch of trees, the endless sheet of sky and mountains beyond it that I can’t quite see.

Looking out through the frozen water to the aching backs of snowboulders caked in slimed leaves and twigs that we shaved sides off to shove through the gate and the early morning rushing when I got him up before the alarm, to cocoon ourselves out there, for a quick grab and roll, the wet gloves before school and you saw us from the window in the days of the old world when the snow blanked out a different place and I usually wore red, but not now.

7.59a.m – in it, forgot this noise, the soft burning pittering on my hood, the fired up hands, nose and eyes run in the cold soft fall of memory.

The first snow – I don’t know where I am.
X

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