Archives for posts with tag: travel

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I’m struggling with autumn, think it passed me by last year but I see it this time now with all it’s misty dankness, its inviting skies, teasing and flirting. Showing off the colours, how much more blue can it go and the colours scream out like they used to. For how long. before they lose their moments, turning crushed and flat, slippy patterns on those boots and too many times to slip back home with scuffed knees and you had to rush off to work but put the kettle on for me first. And the constant Sunday inevitability, the desire to walk in the forest, our incompetence doing it, the battered maps and tired feet. Confused expressions in the corner of a field and we weren’t cut out for the county, we did it and loved it for twenty minutes but paths always merged and gates looked the same and I’m not sure we ever ended up where we thought we would, ironic really. And we’d rarely get out before two, one pm, if we were focussed and you two would laugh at my rucksack, stuffed with eventualities and triangular bandages for the fall that didn’t happen. But I didn’t have anything for that unseen moment, well you wouldn’t, would you? And we’d do the rounds of familiar places, the villages you knew from before with bits of stories we didn’t tell anymore and round again with our son, new tales and teashops, grateful for hot mugs on burning, aching fingers. And I’d always forget my gloves despite how many pairs I had. The practical ones your Mum bought for us both, the nice but too thin from my 40th and the two pairs I’d adored from the last Christmas, quite similar and two for one, thats why you bought them. And despite bigger gifts, I loved their fluffy nonsense most but I never got to wear them because I forgot them on the last coldness to Portsmouth and then February came. 

And you always drove and I directed and we tried to find somewhere new but it was often somewhere similar or same and we laughed at the animals when our son was younger. High entertainment from ponies and cows, shrieking at it’s head through the window and the seemingly endless fun of following a wild boars bottom down our winding road home.
And the late afternoon air gets up your nose, the huddle of deep pockets, the negotiation over who’s turn for tea and our son, rustling ahead, leaves in hood, bound to be hungry in the car.

And pushing back time brings on these moments and they’re all around me now like the scattered crunch we threw and tried to capture year after year, occasionally timing it right in the umbers and ambers, the old gold leaves of our days.
Seems odd, is this the fourth time we’ve shifted the hands? A pointless exercise in manipulating numbers.  
Not driving to the forest today, not getting up passed your books with the Problem of God et al and now I look at the problem of language though I’m not getting very far. And I only do the clocks that matter, my phone corrects itself, wish I could. My appliances are static, the oven beeps absent mindedly with random alarms, from the days when they stayed and Mum cancelled standby. And I haven’t got round to finding the instructions so it protests and flashes irrelevance while our son sorts and checks the things he needs. Clocks and faces that tick despite evidence to the contrary. Sitting here in their out of synchness. 

I should get up, not run through our  
Sunday scripts trying to spend the day, to not do any of it. And you, not ringing Tim, sponsered by Accurist and your best watch got scratched on that last trip to town.

My problem with time.

I struggle with autumn.

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Twelve years ago I couldn’t walk…
And this is where I came in, last year, this place and a stumbling newness of words. 
I’ve travelled through my unknown lands, a chaos, grappling through the forms. I continue to travel.
And now at 19 months from the event horizon, I drop away, unseen in a flat spin of memories.

Sept 11th 

Don’t know where this is going, lying dazed, approaching the birthday memories, the hours, images frozen outside of time. Week to go remembering my static life, my mornings dozing, finding a position without pain and your sandwiches left in the kitchen. My wooden brick tower, unstable, smooth and bright, clattered down recently with the reality of Secondary School seeping in. Opening up new areas of grief, new pain to look at, but not just now. Tidy the bricks into a pile, I’ll have another go later.

Sept 12th

My strangeness continues. Feel the tightness around my head, temples pulling. Miss the cold air, the early walks. Can’t drop him now but watch him from the window, Mrs Danvers as my Manderlay burns around me. Can’t remember if you’d watched that film now, it was on the list though, the one I’ve taken over. The book pile for me that I need to shake myself into. Stuck on the edge at the moment, decisions to take but can’t quite do it. Pulled towards it with an inescapable force but leaving it, tempting it, hanging on till last moment, before I take the steps I know I need to. Everything’s got bundled together, layers jumbled, jangling in my mind. Newness for our son, carrying his backpack of potential, just doing it because you have to, but doing it his way, our way. His birthday screeching up at me, things to do and be, someone in this time of years guise. All the things that will be done like I used to do, now same but different. And I flash to cake decorating in The Hours before the mother lost the plot and the toddler running after the car. I squeeze the phone tightly as the pressure builds in my head. It’s all coming at me today, cut up images, chopped up magazines of that world, glossy and slippy under my feet, over printed shouting fonts. Trying to tidy the thoughts but they keep falling around me and I can’t help stop and look. 
My day seems set in the 1950s, my buttoned up cardigan, shiny pearl circles, fast forwards to Mother at the sink. I’ve gone away to before the pain, playing on the big floor with the old radio by the chipped cream legs of the ironing board and the clips in my hair, oval hard plastic, pull it out of your eyes. And she has so much to do, that child to get to where I am now. I rub my forehead hard, the water drips down the side of my face as I get a text in the current moment.
Now under your light shade that I watched forever through the dark November when my back didn’t work after the place I’m building up to. The hours with our baby while you bought home the bacon. And back then, right now booked for inducing on Friday, waiting. Sitting still in the time before.

Sept 13th

Watching the light play with shapes on the curtain. Feint movements from the world outside, a broken fleck of sun draws down the side of my upvc. There’s a small distant drone under the sound of the blood in my ears. I bet the dog walkers are out en masse, I miss them, I must go back when I’m through this.
The shadow branch bounces in the obvious wind but I can’t hear it. Feel cornered like back then. Shoved into the edge of the settee, barricaded with cushions as we played Take the Brain and despite my pain induced lack of strategy, I still took you to the last piece. You beat me in the end, of course but I had a huge bag of pic ‘n’ mix to soften the moment. And now I’m up against it again but it’s a self created battle with myself. I know what I need to do but I’m still wrestling with the inevitable. Now and then waiting for the trigger, lying here in my broken clock.

Sept 14th

Watching the cursor flash as our son walks hurries down that road, think his friends were late today, he seemed to be rushing as I oversaw the process through our web covered window. He must be approaching the lights by now, just by that dark tree, that corner that I noticed as we hurried past in the Rover after early morning calls were made and I’d manoeuvred, judged and backed up somehow into the front seat. Up all night thinking today was the day and scared but focussed as we sped past School where our son will be turning left now. And the days and rooms lie ahead of me, the flock of faces at the end of the bed, the table on wheels and plastic food, the waiting, the conversations, the stabbing lack of sleep.
But in the present I have things to prepare. The familiar film runs in the background, know it so well. I flit in and out of it, looking at me, at us, seeing the pain but not quite feeling it. 
My head aches with this new phase, a mashed slop of messy memories stuck on the end of my spinning wheel. Pullling and easing, stripping and smoothing them through the contraption, weaving and binding them into a shawl for our baby. To wrap him up in it’s stories, swaddled in the narrative of who we’ve become. Right now I can’t move for wool, spiky, smelly, stuck up with bits of bark, too many shards to pull out before it becomes yarn. I’ll just stop, lie in it, feel it’s harshness, comforting in it’s complexity. I have little energy to weave, now as then, hanging on, driven by a primal force, to protect and nurture. Clinging on to see the job through to the end.

Sept 15th

Flipping between two hospitals, metres and years and lives apart. Inextricably there, day two, room three, ceilings and sounds stretching out, trapped down the wrong end of the telescope with disembodied feelings, detached above the beigeness. 
And 19 months ago. A dripping unreality, the inked in names on the bedding, the startling bright blue curtain on chrome, altered waiting. Baby pink crisp cotton of then immobilised in hope, wrapped around This Other, a terror of waiting. Lost in my little room, inching fingers through the days.   

Sept 16th

We tried to get a signal in the bathroom, up by the frosted window with the wire mesh crosshatched through it and I leaned up the wall near the end of my strength. Day three, weekend staff change, round we go again, more explaining and the night was wrung out like the day ahead, pitiful, minute moments peeling my resistance.
I lie flat now in the way I couldn’t then, so much to do today, prepare for tomorrow. for me and our son. Must shake off the imagery, turn it down and come back to the present. I look up and away, staring through the ceiling, my head thunders, storming layers of time.

Sept 17th

Don’t know where I am. Yesterdays hopes faded with the day easing me under the arms into their toffee vinyl chair. Sleep was a delusion in that empty hard cocoon, desperate, dependent, clinging to the Dawn. And you, helpful, helpless, riding alongside. The faces, decisions, bluster round my stillness and on my present bed I feel the instinct to sustain, in those grey isolations, a purpose carrying me through pain. 
And flip back now, it’s all in place, a newness tonight, a birthing out into another world. The Eve of something, then and now.

Sept 18th

And I’m slap bang back in it all, my drugged up whole five hours of sleep and I’m wired and I’m waiting. And you’re there in green and blue as our son walks now, to school, with his cough and rustled sweets for the masses. And my head drones on with last night while faces from that room back there hover and plan their campaign. Johnny V pops in the frame, do you remember him with his too black hair, his smoothness, his words and his news? Tucked, miles away in the corner of the room, tinkering, as I began my assault of the day. To the faceless cold hard hostile team I tried to haul my granite, lost deep inside, lying on my side with your fear as they chiseled into the mortar.
And my head beats with the tension between here and there, a whiteness, walls that come and go, a forced angle not fit for my spine. And before the fading takes over I smash myself up by The Other bed, as the other pain calls out and I don’t know which way is up anymore.
And in two different rooms, light-years apart, in both I fade into the loss. 

Numb.
And the hours stretched across the room, my stubborn strength till shove came to push. My early evening end game. Checkmate arrived with the hands of the clock, your words at my weak jokes. And the ceiling changed for the last time. My carefully taped tape, whale calling out through different lights. 
And the sounds and the colours. And the feelings and the heat.

Until, until

The moment, our moment
The holding, the look. 
The love.

Sept 19th

Twelve years ago.
Immobile. Breathing. Each breath for our son through six days that carved me into someone else. 

Until. 

The Second Carving. Six days that live with me in my void, just over there, on my shoulder. 
Both moments frozen in perfect pain, crystallised, distorted, bright and eager, hanging there, known and needed. I drop through my wormholes, flash flick into them, beyond time and space to my unwrapped evolution.

Two moments of permanence, happening now and a lifetime ago. Arcing over me, pulsing from me, feeding my identity, sustaining my growth.

A circle of pain, freezing me, forming me.

My parallel journeys merge into one through love.

This gift of pain
Then and now 
Being and becoming

Holding him. Still holding on,

as I walk.

X

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11/8
Stuck my head out in the blackness after midnight. Wicked, biting wind cut through, my hair whipped and danced around my head, a few lights decorated the distance. I need to sleep, being pulled and drawn into somewhere long and dark, new and romantic, a sharp, strong, vodka kicked cocktail of emotions. Going to bed too late – but don’t care, this is hard but better than the settee.

11/8 St Petersburg
Well Toto I guess were not in Kansas anymore.

Tired. But up and ready in Russia.

Sun tries stubbornly against the slatey, chunky, thin, angular horizon.
While they sleep in English darkness I’m looking out on a country shaped by oppression, carved by change, limping with uneasiness, clumsy, proud of it roots but awkward in it’s reinvention. No wonder I feel at home.

Bitterly out on the steely Neva, under the Bridge of Brides where tradition throws wishes into it, moving swiftly past palaces and fortress, sitting on top of boat. Interrupted sky, getting colder, eaten by grey bleakness, harsh and frozen.
Along Peter’s Great river to the widest part and into arms of the Aurora Dawn hearing her first shot, thinking of our own overthrowing.

My own arms turn to ice, still holding the effects from the Cathedral. Was unprepared for the images inside the Church of the Spilled Blood and how in a beat I was taken back to the Cistine Chapel and the smell and hush in the colours. And the tension between trying to be there and see it beyond the crowds and not to consume it like everyone else. How can you take your own moments while grabbling on to our sons hand amongst the shoulder shove of a greedy band of strangers? And trying to keep sight of the guide and what number on a stick are we looking for? And you were somewhere out there in the loud quiet, in the hot clamouring fug, mind the steps, where are the steps, hold on, hold my hand.
And not far from two years later I stand looking up in a different space-time at a different ceiling, lost in the colours, in the moment, encrusted in the pain, frozen into the delicate detail reaching out to me through the light.

Subdued buildings frame our coldness, soft monochrome symmetry as we catch the stories. Waiting for the Prince of the purple sails, sleeping out amongst the trees until her ship comes in. And he arrives knowing a Princess’ wish, dying his sails to meet her needs. So purple becomes symbolic of hope and I buy a purple scarf for their folklore and my needs.

In the evening we march back through immigration, passed the impenetrable soulless sheet steel of Welcome. Look into the neck twisting mirror, avoid eye contact, wasted smile, stamp and go.
Sit with hope in the theatre and discuss the patterns on the heavy gilt dripping curtains. Our son sees banana gold waves as we look at the columns of smiles. After our chiselled out granite morning, the contrast of sound and colour, a party of fanciful fabrics lands with a comforting shock. The frivolous costumed energy spun its stark revolt against the earlier cruel greyness and we enjoyed what we could in our plush pockets, a world away from anyone. Seemed displaced somehow and out of time, a teasing humour, joyous fun bursting out, unexpected, dancing freely in the way I used to feel.

And back through the night, spots of neon pierce the gloom, wrapped in an enchantment from the evenings culture. The energy, exuberance, so alien to my life, so vibrant, drenching me in a tradition and fairytale.

12/8
Today in the Peter and Paul Fortress, looking up again, away from people. The ceiling, gaudy gold dripped splendor gives me neck ache while I cannot deal with the caskets and the rush-crowd-click of people photographing marble. I can’t deal with the size and the shape and the words and the imagery and although they’re all long gone Emperors of a Romanov resting place, I shuffle past and look up and beyond. I feel disgust as they clammer to consume moments of history. And outside our guide mumbles on in his gruff appealing slightly indecipherable sintax about Anastasia and if they find her there’ll be another funeral. And I close myself off and away and want to escape but I can’t.
Managed agony of the traditional choral Russian choir in a small white hush with nails dug deep into fingertips, to hold on tight through the velvet harmonies. Objectively so beautiful but I had to lock the feelings in layers of decorated wood because if I started… well, you know.

Somehow its too much like Pisa. The cobbles are hard to walk on, hard to see, they take me back to our last holiday and rushing round market stalls before finding you standing, waiting and my bartering for an umbrella that hasn’t seen the light of day yet because it reminds me of back then and the time just before.

And inside to prison confinement, a different suffering, the wire bed, stone floored isolation and a gnawing presence of my own hard cell.
The struggle back today, intermittent successes as we follow the polyester hand holders, sweet but agonising. Walking behind them, magnetic hands, dressed the same, strolling in a land I thought I’d know.

We leave soon heading for Helsinki. I feel confused and restless. Grey, low skies with a beautiful cold symmetry.
The threatening cloud frames gold leaf, a softened shape splintering the skyline. I’m muddled, tired and teary, feeling everything and nothing in one breath. Remembering too much, thinking too loud. Swamped with the days experiences, encrusted with anniversaries and vividly coloured moments that stay inlaid, despite time. The light breaks through, lighting up the old part of the docks, flicking a strange glow on the rough Brezhnev breeze block buildings and the huge hotels.
I can’t think anymore.

The ship stirs up silt, the gulls are busy. My predictive text tells me I’m a King away from anywhere but I don’t feel it. My land comes with me wherever I go, it’s in everything. There’s no escaping this rule, The revolt is always against myself, it’s a tireless cyclical coup.
The water settles to ripples, the breeze twirls and plays, I stare into the distance. We are moving away, we are moving towards our next place taking this with me. It’s ok.
Rebuilding.

I feel calmer now we’ve shifted west. The frosted glass laps and breaks alongside, sun dipping as we glide. A stillness that belies it’s depth. I sit out, feet up with merlot-my own spilled blood, wrapped in my Estonian shawl, warm, cool, tapping on screen. Our son unimpressed by the line of small vessels, he’s in a different place.

Stick with it. Be.

13/8 Helsinki, Finland
Our day, a good day on balance. Both of us laughing and shrieking as we bounced and battered over the snow, following leather tethered huskies. Despite the benefits to my chiropractor it hurtled us through a new experience, slipping us closer, lapping it up in our ice sculpted memory. And after the slapstick snowsuit removal we blinked back out of the dome into the bright Helsinki coach park, our sixty seated sleighs groaning under the weight of Finnish gifts.
After our day of contrasts -5 to 22, I listen to where I am but go back three years and the call from your Dad. We go upstairs to tell you and you just say was that the hospital on the phone and you know and we give you some time alone. And now I’m here and the thick unyielding fog is back and although the sun is on my feet and the rush in my ears, none of this is real.
I am not here, this did not happen x

14/8
Lying here waiting for the motivation to get up looking at the date and steaming, churning slowly towards tomorrow. It’s daylight out there, from the quiet soft patterns on the ceiling I expect a cloudy, thick wash when I push open the heavy striped curtains. Still back in yesterday and thinking of my time with your Mum and the encroaching fog. And that’s all I feel now. A jellied, gloopy greyness, swirling, lumping, sticking to me changing my outline, slowing me though not enough to stop. I feel her on my arm in the first of the homes. That was August too and the little house we rented opposite the train station which confused and distressed her, before the journey back over Pendle and I sat in the back and stroked her hand. And you burst through the fog now like a lost ship, harrowing, calling it’s memories, it’s stories creaking with the swelling wood. And I swoop up and out of the the whiteness, remembering, feeling, right back there in our life with our son in year two, you in familiar conflict with your brother and the slow un ravelling around your Mum. And I am not here, this is too alien, this is not my world. I am not floating gently to the next place in a life I feel displaced in.
I’m fragmented.
I need to get up but I’m a collection of pieces. And tomorrow is the 15th.

15/8
Sat out the other side of Denmark, smelling the seaweed, too far from home. Nothing works, I can’t deal with people, their carefree consuming irritates me, their happy end of holiday faces replete in too much of everything. I feel flat, I’m uneasy with a bile that builds steadily. The suns round the corner, we are anticipating the edge of a storm. I touched the edge months ago, if anything, more queasiness will be a good fit tonight. I want to be thrown around, tipped down the corridors, bounced of a floor that drops away because that’s just how it is. That’s the instability in my head. I don’t care that it’s the last formal night, I plan to shove down a main course and run, only facing it because our son wants to and we spent some of the early nights having tea in the room. I’ve done necessary avoidance for a while. Right now I’m wondering why I bother, is any of this worth it? Should I do something totally different without these significant triggers? How am I going to get through the remainder now? Sun, white speckled deep green, lulling, soothing, calming but it has much work to do to take away this feeling.

I’m in no place to assess the merits of this trip, I do know why I did it, but leave it now, let it be. My eyes and cheeks are getting sore as the heat creeps round. It’s a strange place, manageable when it’s tucked away inside but when it comes out to play, screaming terror in your face, the frivolous surroundings and people push me down, darker, deeper, more absolute into my familiar wound. That’s it I suppose, the wound, hacked off limb with no anaesthetic, throbbing quietly, changing my gait. But now it’s bathed in salt from the North Sea, rubbed up and down the gash, burning feeling back and right now I’ve lost my bearings, compass points to nowhere I know well. Messy metaphors are muddled like me and I can’t do anything, be anything, interact or rest. I’m back 18 months ago, waiting and knowing. And in my current space feel like a waste of carbon.

Sailing home
So what
Void

16/8 Bruges, Belgium
Opened curtains to busy port. Rode out last nights storm, sheets of white lightning switched flashing energy across the ocean. Despite my empty lowness, a clamouring fear seeps in. I feel our paper boat, soaked and torn bashed about on the waves. I’ve run out of what I need, I’ll be glad to get home.

Wandering through quaintness, 335 steps up to the top though we don’t climb it and it still looks like the other old honeymoon towers. Gargoyles in windows preventing evil spirits. I look in their eyes but they can’t stop these feelings. Alms houses, quietly line the lapping river, built for deserving old people and widows, so we’re told and I smile on the inside.
Our son rests his head on the side of the boat, he pulls at passing trees like on that boat trip in Warwick on our way North for your Mum’s service.
Everything looks like somewhere else, like the trip you enjoyed down the river in Canterbury when the flowers reflected in the water and we stayed in the upside down house.
The guide drones on like a cross between Poirot and Captain Manwairing with a laconic, guttural style that quickly loses it’s charm and too many men are wearing your clothes though their height and walk are all wrong and I can’t escape anything, and I’m here and it’s lovely but I can’t click to Enjoy.
Poirot points out the Weeping witch, appropriately a rare version of your tree and an uneasy medieval air follows me around like a child in a red duffle coat.
And we come out, through the market, passed the beer collection and somehow magically, into Florence. And it’s all so familiar, taking me back to before and I struggle with every step, failing to be in the moment.
Sweet bells chime like our Millennium Evening over the shackled church where judgement was passed in a spit and well aimed old tomatoes.

When Piorot finally concludes his act we ache back to the room and a sickly sweetness stays in my throat after too much Belgian fudge, which held some appeal for a moment but can’t take the edge off anything really.

While I tap, I hear the churning port, clanking it’s freight. A place in motion, no time to pause. I’m tired of all the faces and considered accessories. I’m hiding away from the last cheery sail off. I don’t need to wave bits of plastic to mark where I’m going.

We’re going home.

I know it in my flatness, my weary sense of some achievement, my bag of dirty washing, my presents for those that matter, my frustration for the way it couldn’t be, my sadness for the way it had to be, my understanding for the way I try, my pride for me and our son, my acceptance of the need to change, my gladness of the welcome that waits, my resolve to keep at it and my relief at the tears that come so freely now.

As you used to say, in a stolen Martin Clunes line ‘you’re going to keep going out with me till you bloody well enjoy it…’
I think the same may be true of our new life now.
We are heading home in twenty minutes. The sun beats down over the stacked up crates.
I need the quiet stillness of home,
I need to stop,
I need to be.
I know why we made this trip.
I know what we did.
I know.
Following your way.
I travel – therefore I am.

17/8
Drizzly, wet, low, dank Southampton.
Dirty grey hatchback creeps through the early morning mist. The city throbs. I shake my hair down.
Our pilot ship guides us in on our way.
We are home.
Now what?
X

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Watching the thin white line of reflected sun brush the horizon, the constant rush brush, gentle background push of waves, the breeze plays round the back of my neck, the cloud thickens. I still feel vague heat on my feet and the hardness of wood reminding me of the weight of my legs as they rest on the table.  The sea is calm and I sit in the quiet new after yesterday’s challenges and the soul sickness of the evening.
Last night surrounded me in a vomiting panic having sat through a shared table meal, battered by the sweet old couples who had over 90 years of marriage between them. And I did my best to be antisocial and focussed on the middle distance as she painted pictures of when her husband was “so ill and do you know they even did the last rites but look,” arm squeezing laughs, “he’s still here today.”
So glad our son had eaten enough and I’d had enough, I dropped a hasty napkin, nodded my ashen face at them and took the spiral staircase to be sick in the lifts.

And now after a sobbed sleep I am still here, interrupted by voices, so I’m going in. Sun breaks through, spilling light onto the distant flat grey. Need to think how to approach today.
It all seems so pointless, empty, absolutely nothing working and the days drill out before me like the endless sea. This negative wave feels so solid right now and huge windmills appear off on our right and I feel my self railing at things I can’t conquer. It’s pulling up on the horizon like something to sail into.
Something planned for that turns up with expected unforeseeness, skirting round the turbulence but feeling the swell. This is getting me nowhere, unprepared for this hollow cold sharp wanting.
Deep out breath, need to move.
It’s getting nearer.

7/8/12  Copenhagen, Denmark

Woke close to windmills in a busy port of grey spiky tug boats and a weather that’s as unsure as me.
The dense fog of the last two days has eased with the new landscape. This is why I do this. Our way to see outside our boxes.
Six years ago I was surrounded by them, packed high and full and we left the old house for the long journey round the corner, to spread out and grow in the garden. And now the garden gets left as long as possible and I’m trying to help us both grow.
The sun is forcing through over the pillars and cranes. Windmills still waving at me – need to fill the rucksacks.

Inland I stand behind, watching our son move through the clamouring clicking, to grasp his own image of The Little Mermaid and feel an affinity, out of my element with a new identity, striving to get to a place I can’t reach. And we float by spires wrapped in dragon tales and I’m comfortably lost in our story.

I watch the wirlygigs squat gracefully into the horizon trying to hold their image until they become distant sticks,  eaten by the clouds, left in a crisp and clean world, smokeless, efficiently giving it back.
White ribbons build in the heavy, green black, rushing alongside and away. The turbines have become today’s badge. I remain in a strange place, I’m probably trying too hard. 

Back then we’d moved in by now, kettle on, our son back from friends, takeaway for tea amongst the dust and newness.

They’re still hanging on, they’re not quite out of sight yet. White lines caught by the sun. A plane breaks my thoughts, cuts over us at right angles. Some other collection of others, heading somewhere for some reason. So much movement while I stand and sway and watch. I look right, I really can’t see them anymore.
I look left in the direction we’re heading.

8/8
Challenging sea day. I sit out now, need my sleeves rolled down. We seem to be chasing another ship. I lean into the wind, studying the change of clouds and a strange yellow smudge arcing to the right. I realise it’s our trail of smoke, pastel pushed into the whiteness. The clouds hang low and light as a small propeller plane chugs over the stern.
Deep in Baltic coldness, the charcoal rich water threatening a bitterness, while gentle summer blues above me imagine it’s warmer. I feel calmer out here, drifting with it. I have to hang on to what works and ride out what doesn’t.

9/8/12  Stockholm, Sweden
Woke into a still flat grey crispness  and a Swedish landscape that lifted me. Finally a sense of being far from home and finding something new in the clean lines and welcoming gulls. Today needs to be better and right now I’m hopeful.

We head out for a while I listen to tales of oak war ships and short nights. A balanced place to live, thirds of lakes, parks and buildings. Protective copper coated wood blurs by and the too clever loud family telling everyone about everything. Oh-Well-Done-Toby’s mum is on permanent broadcast, filling the coach with tales of Alicante and her superficiality gnaws into the weakened gaps of my armour. We survive the 150 metre high gondola ride to the top of the city between bridges. I turned my back away from their annoying distraction and focussed on our sons face in the morning light. High and away from everything familiar, I  hold the memory carefully in my hands.

We pull away from considered, ordered neatness and leave under greyness as seagulls strafe us in the search for fish. Mixed up monochrome sits heavily over warm soft buildings. My void is filled with something I can’t put my finger on. I wave to strangers. The cranes look like compass points over the rock, pushing development, change and growth. I’m fascinated by the gulls and join them on the breeze. Everything in flux.
My transience remains.

Heading  further East, a coldness easing in. Strange landscape, small obscure islands litter the calm metal sheet of water. Patterns knit and weave across it as we push through. This bleakness has a comfortable familiarity.

10/8/12  Tallin, Estonia
Struggling with our sons button pushing. How do I make this work for both of us?

The dock is edged in odd concrete shapes, curving round, kissing the car park like some herd of frozen creatures. We’re both interested in them for a while and re connect before the search for our coach.
We bounce and rattle over cobbles hearing tales of new brides dropping rocks into lakes, releasing balloons and doves to say goodbye to their old names. And I’m struck by their hopeful romanticism, persisting amongst the un nerving medieval backdrop.
We pass the Palace of Happiness as our light, youthful guide tells us her family were on a waiting list for a phone and if you’re too far down you just don’t get one. I tap away on my screen feeling privileged in my Western pain.

And up passed the Kissing Hill where they come to take photos after the service and the old cars and vans beep their loud tradition at the frequent newlyweds.
Deep into the town and Toompea Castle flashes me back, looks like our Italian lakes and the castle we climbed on honeymoon. And the steps were steep and narrow and you photographed me from the opposite tiny window. And we were trapped in separate turrets, feeling our story unfold over the ochre courtyard beneath.
And I wander round with our son in the current Estonian moments as our still, bright cine reel jumps and crackles it’s plot through the narrow passageways. Passed Long Leg street and Short Leg street, joined at the point where old and new meet and the town limps with contrast, like me.

Sitting out later. Seagulls are back, the shawl I bought is too thin for any warmth but the opposing colours appeal to me.  I remember fifteen years ago and heading south for the start of something new and now I drill in further East, feel the harshness of a culture torn from trust, a bitterness of identity and I feel odd, misplaced, misunderstood, marginalised, uprooted and overthrown.

This day has been a better one on the domestic front. The plentiful, traditional non-essential essentials gave us both some lightness. The delicate, uneven, thin lilt of accents reminded me I’m far from home and the earlier severity of the weeks feelings have frozen to strangeness in this slightly unyielding place.
I see a town split, a contrast of needs and wealth, a place of redefining. Their flags wave blue, black and white. Blue of rivers, black of soil and white for purity – Hope.  Proud to no longer be prize or target..
The gulls follow us and fly so low and near. I watch their feet sway in the wind. There’s a growing harshness, I go inside. getting ready for the feelings and moments to come.

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I’m just floating at the moment, feel I’m drifting lightly with the current, simply, purposelessly being carried. I see me bumping over ripples of water, a small stick with no direction. 

It’s been like this for a while, for this first termless week. Ambling through moments and I feel uneasy like there’s something waiting, something approaching, an inevitable trap and none of this is quite real. 

My finger taps faster as the thoughts and feelings are unlocked. I remember last summer and the constant nothingness of the settee. The late night sneaking to Sainsburys when the crowds and faces had gone. The steely preparation, the loin girding, the pretence coated determination to take our son away…

And then doing it. The saturating fear, the deep yet hollow pride, the choosing, the knowledge, the fight, the resolve, the drip feed strength that came from a natural instinct, to survive, to protect, to build, to heave against inertia.

We did it – we travelled at 6 months.

And in a couple of days we’ll do it again.
The feelings are back, similar shapes to before but now a fairytaled patchworked eiderdown, rich with ancient thread, silky weavings of half recognised pictures, appliquéd layers of days of grief, aged, loved edges  fretted smooth by anxiety, quilted memories dense with pain. I see me from above, shrink wrapped in images, swaddled in this time last year. 

This time last year the blanket was new, raw and rough to the touch, insistent, persistent, factory fresh colours bleeding all over my small white body. I clutched it, wore it, had no choice, hid inside, subdued submerged. Scared and shaking. 

I’m still covered now. The dye has stained my skin, the feelings imprinted on me, tattooed into my being. My stark cold cell with prison wire-wool bedding has morphed into a wood cutters cottage. The clanking steel bed, spine achingly stabbing into my tired muscles has grown into Grandma’s bed, narlded, chewed hardwood, hard work to climb into, deep and crisp and even the pillows patterns entangle themselves into my hair. It smells of ginger biscuits and warm wisdom and the bed fills the whole room, the whole house and the story itself.
I look down on my tiny curled up words, tightly balled under the thick eiderdown. I feel the fabric. Squares bartered for from distant bazaars, scraps found fusty in the backs of cupboards and specially chosen pieces, picked out for their own precious qualities. I see the image of the feelings, the timeless pain sewn in with love. Stitched in tears, embedded in the weft. Calloused fingertips from the dig of the needles, watching the deep hued yarn slip in, out and up, slowly encroaching over the fabric to form my coloured narrative.
 
I flip outside my cottaged world, neighbours voices push through the open window, an out of place anonymous whistling of a disturbingly happy worker and a grey soft stillness of a summer town after rain.

Back in my cottage I burrow down further, pulling the familiar close around me. I see the colours, feel the silk, know the pictures woven through grief.
 
Last year, this year.
Same experience, different shade.  Same loss, different shapes. 

Same story, different cover.
Different moment, same love.

I pull back up and out of the image. See the roof from above, the heat of colours inside diffuse out through the windows, casting a hazy warm light into the air. The red tiles fade to ochre, the chimmney chuggs out the pain until it smokes pencil swirls into the overhanging trees.
The knotted tangles of growth tighten their grip around my shack, the green turns to grey. I float higher till all I see is a wood. Dense, complex, matted with change, hiding me underneath, my place, my rooms and my bed. One heavy embroidered shield cloaking me, small with strength. I sleep under it all.

As I let go, up and away, the landscape falls back, slowly widening my view from the dark forest to the trickled silver river in the distance, the soft flowing water and its relentless rhythm. My focus shifts back to the stick, sodden, peeling, carried by the current. Drifting along with the force.

Our son stomps up the stairs engrossed in his own story
‘Powering engines – Now!’

I need to finish the packing. 
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