Archives for posts with tag: ships

April 13th

I do love a quiet cafe, and here near the river it seems to have been constructed just for me. I was here six months ago with friends and I sat and sipped while wearing my cap and gown and the whole town seemed to know I’d just graduated and it was a day when I was full and filled the streets.

Today I am smaller though, today I’m head down, writing and I consider whether to walk near the river on my way home.

I’m on the corner of my town, near the oldest part and it’s my history that floods this place now. If I come out and turn right I’ll pass the Bridal shop. Of course, progress had swept in and now there’s no smell of taffeta, no swishing or sighs but a Bath Store. Those rooms I stood in, pinned and poised, nipped in at the waist, when I still had one, are now full of taps and waterfall showers, bespoke mirrors reflecting back the streets I used to know.

I’ve been drawn here today and it feels right. I’ve been swamped by old objects in recent weeks, buried under the weight of things that have flown. My home smells of dust, not just mine but fluff-coated trinkets from my Auntie’s house, her eighty-four piece dinner set is hiding in my cloakroom until I can find it a good home. And it’s the dust of her life and her choices that bring me near to the river now.

This cafe will close up soon so I need to move and that’s the point, it all seems to be about movement or the lack of it, about the flow and the essential swell of time.

And now I’ve made it to the riverside, to its rush and Ollie, a whipped up cocker-poodle gambols and charges around its owner’s legs, it’s wet and tousled, beyond free. I can hear the traffic, the roads being pummelled by rush hour wheels but I am soothed by the nylon poncho wearers with terriers, by toddlers at the end of holidays with scooters out for one last blast of fresh air.

The river isn’t bothered by anyone, the river finds its way despite the people and their problems. It churns, its wisdom far greater than my own.

And how quiet it is here, how I see people escaping, push chairs and new prams, pink babies lulled by the lapping and a booted up mother, smart blue coat and take away coffee in hand, strides by and she’s out. Her baby’s wrapped up warm and I feel myself unravel, here at the edge of the town I belong in, here with my head full of Auntie’s house of hoardings and my own stuff.

The river is good. It flips up plumes of white and despite its greyness, despite its thick green twisting form, it seems content.

The toddler in bike helmet and stabilisers trundles back the other way, releasing an end of day fractious cry and smart office workers, tired of the meeting room, take in the late afternoon air.

It’s busier for a moment, more people sneaking into my world but I’m cosseted, brushed by the river in my stillness and I move with its form.

I walk along in pace with it as though on a ship, as though wandering along the promenade deck of my boat. I look for fish, I anticipate their colours but I see none. The microscopic life is beyond my vision but I know it’s there, chundering, plummeting and pummelling, carried by the force.

And now further upstream the traffic fades and the here by the bridge where cars are forgotten I can only hear ripples and I think of a game of Poo Sticks.

I can see beneath the surface here, the smooth pebbles underneath, some resting some turning with the waves.

Today it’s a cold April afternoon, but under the thick bandaged sky, this river feels like home. I watch the water, how it find its way around the plants with no resistance.

April 16th

Back at home I think about the river. I can’t see it from here, I can only see the builder’s van next door, hear the sounds of renovation and old cupboards coming out. In my Auntie’s cupboards we found many things. Her photos from the life before widowhood slowed her down, her precious tins of bit and bobs, of ration books saved from the 1940’s, of faded letters from my Uncle in the war.

And it was all there, a life frozen in amber, a collection of ephemera that stretched back to when my mother was a girl. We took the vases and figurines over to my parents. The car smelled of old things, dust – caked things and grime.

Above all else it smelled of memory and before we left, I rummaged through yet another bin bag and found the photos she’d taken on our Wedding day. They were saved in a haphazard order, in a half full album, another piece of the past found in a chipped wooden chest in the corner of her unused back room.

I keep wandering back to the river in my mind. But I didn’t think about it back then when I hurried to pick up my dress, when the staff folded it into the boot of the car and laid it with care, like the placing of a baby in a cot, soothing it with love and a reassuring hand. And the river flowed nearby but I didn’t think about it as I bought one last cream and red silk flower for the name-place cards. And back at home sometime later, while I glued the final rose in place, and while my Aunty, miles away, prepared her luggage for the trip, the river flowed.

And it flowed over the years between then and now and it was never still. It slowed, it swelled, it stagnated in places but it never stopped in its relentless nature, in the wisdom of its form.

April 17th

The sun’s come out now. It came out back then and I wonder if it came out on my Auntie’s wedding day. Looking through her stuff I came across a small plastic Woothworth’s bag and folded away inside I found her receipts from over seventy years ago. The paper, yellowed but her handwriting still visible. Dress, belt, hat, gloves and stockings all itemised and pounds, shillings and pence added up. Numbers in frozen pencil marks for all the finery, for her day. And I think of my own, of the dress that hangs in my parent’s wardrobe and of my boots, somewhere under my bed. I peer through the fragile papers, almost too delicate to touch. I wonder how she felt an hour before the vows, I wonder if my mother helped her to get ready and I remember my long distance friend, strapping me into my bodice and the photographer waiting downstairs.

My Aunty kept many things, in fact she never threw anything away and though I didn’t really know her very well, through the wall she built around herself, through the things she hung onto to keep her safe. But I connected with her, in the thin bag of memories, in the silver paper flowers she tucked away.

The sun’s so bright now, like it was back then when I stood with my parents under a sap full tree before my mother and my friend left for the church, ahead of us.

I found my wedding favour tucked in a drawer, chiffon wrapped silk roses and a raspberry ribbon. There would have been rows of them, lined up on the crisp white linen by now, waiting for the guests to arrive in the afternoon.

I wonder if I’ll have a relative who’ll find this piece of my life, fifty years from now? And I am fluid today, I am the river that I’m far away from, as I sit by my window in the sun. And I am there, rustling into the car by my father, with the scent of lilies and I’m my Aunty on a distant June day with her sisters in tow and the life to come, ahead of us all.

I’ve spend a lot of time recently opening old stuff, peering into corners and brushing dust. I feel dustful, I feel coated and caked like the patina of an antique and I am covered in age and her stories.

And as the younger me is whisked to the church, I take my mind to the river, to its force, where dust has no chance to settle, where it renews with no resistance, where it oozes with ease and grace.

And I think about a book I found in my Auntie’s back room, amongst the upturned chairs and tea sets, next to the box of Christmas bows and packs of unopened napkins. I found an old paperback.

There is wisdom in clearing, I have found, in releasing the things you no longer need. But under the weight of the hours some things will always remain. Silk flowers and fragile papers, floating around me like the flotsam on the river, linking us to the movement of time and a permanent reminder that we were there.

The paperback was titled Light in the Dust and I see dust particles dance in the light and I see photons of energy flow through the dark as the sun sparkles up from the river.

xxx

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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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April 14th

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

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

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

April 15th

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

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

April 16th

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

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

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

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

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

16th – later
Wet pebbles

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

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

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

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

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

April 17th

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

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

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

xxx

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