Monday, 31 May 2010

in the moment

in the moment

sometimes it’s not easy what to think…
sometimes it is hard to catch a thought…
sometimes it’s best not to think

you’re swept along with what is in the moment, when the phone rings or the lawnmower growls, do-it-yourself hammers, dog snores, breakfast, lunch and dinner, cobwebs when the sun shines, dust in the corners, un-ironed washing mountains, socks that might be darned and windows that need cleaning…

…so what’s with the memories?
sometimes they catch up with you…
sometimes they paint pictures of the past…
sometimes it is good to sit

…we were a good bunch, the children of the 40s. Not all of them are left now, some died or have lost touch but those who are, are loyal still and safe in one anothers’ company in spite of aches and pains and some complaints… like Ellie’s knees and Elsa’s back, Mathew’s bladder, Rowans’s nose and Rita’s problem with her weight…we haven’t had it easy really, the in-between kids that we were, war babies they called us then and that is why we have so many problems with our health. It’s not as though we had been fed well when we were small, there wasn’t much to give us and to build us with…the fittest lived, the weak ones died. That’s how it was and the tears that sent them to their graves had to be put on hold and had to wait until all the battles had been fought. Flower children we became and hippies and we loved one another, gave each other daisies but not sex…that was another generation, that was for the beatniks. We were children of the 40s, a good bunch, really, the children of the war, the in-betweens.

…sometimes it is good to sit and wonder…
…of what became of all the others…
…sometimes it is right to ponder…
… what of their fathers and their mothers…

…Ellie’s china doll and Elsa’s dog, Mathew’s ginger tom and Rowan’s stamp collection…Rita and her love for sugared almonds…and what of me who cannot think so well these days…

…best not to when it is like that… leave it as it is and has become…
and simply just to sit
and dream
warm your soul…

home remedies

pee on it
my Grandma said.
Grandma’s grandma told her that.
pee on it.

And with a shiver down my back in disgust I did, I peed on my chilblain in the bath. We didn’t have a potty I could dip my toe into so the bath would have to do and it worked very well. It stopped itching almost straight away and it was gone before I could think much more about it. The old folk had their remedies and a way of life we’d no idea of.

They had sex not different from us, just attitudes that were not quite the same, ideas were other and though life could be tough in 1800 Grandma’s grandma who knew about sex and bringing up children she knew about cures and herbs and what to do when a girl had been too young for sex.

Grandma’s grandma’s kitchen was something to behold when you came in. There were bottles on the kitchen table, bottles for this and bottles for that with yellow liquids or brown, essence of nettles and nettles in bunches, lavender and syrup of figs that she had made, jars of honey and pickles and herbs and dried ginger. Grandma’s grandma always knew what to do for what and anyone ailing or sad or sick would pay her a visit and leave a gift for her on the table before leaving for home, refreshed and nurtured, Grandma’s grandma had time for all who came to her door.

When Grandma’s grandma sat Grandma on her lap she talked to her about cures and whispered all her secrets in her ear. The walked hand-in-hand together when chores were completed. She looked out for Grandma when her mum was out working. They walked in the garden, picked daisies and made daisy chains and hung them about their necks, made daisy earrings and looked for herbs to dry to put in the basket made of young willow by my Great-great Granddad.

He’d coppice the willow and used the thick rods for the fencing to keep the wind off the garden where he grew cabbage and carrots, the thinner ones to make baskets for the Manor and others to sell to put a bit by.

He’d died far too young, got the fever and Grandma’s Grandma could not help him and had watched him die. They starved him and they purged him and they cut his vein with a knife to bleed him till his lips went pale….and then they burnt all that was still in the cottage as was the practice with the fever and Grandma’s grandma had to build her life anew to help with sickness and with health, to help the old, to help the young, to birth or not to birth, to cure the cough and constipation, itchy scalps and fungus under toenails, toes and fingers plagued by chilblains… she had saved the jar with what Great-great Granddad had put by and she remembered what her mum had said to her…

Grandma’s grandma’s mum had said..
just pee on it…
Grandma’s grandma told her that.
my Grandma said…
pee on it…

when I was eight

when I was eight

there was a prison in our town
iron bars on the windows…

there was a man behind a window
he smiled.

He looked down from a height and he smiled. Sheer terror of the man behind the bars made me run across the cobbles, through the castle gate and along to the canal where I sat on the grass, caught my breath…how could a criminal smile! He was supposed to sit there in his cell, have only bread and water and be sorry. That’s what we were told…but smile? How could a bad man smile?

What had he done, I wondered then and could not imagine what he might have done that was so bad he had to be locked up.

there was a graveyard in our town
gravestones and with concrete angels…

there was a man behind a gravestone
he smiled.

He looked at me two graves away and smiled. Sheer terror of the man behind the gravestone made me run along the sandy paths. He wore a long grey coat. His smile slit his face, big teeth and his chin was black. My knees turned to jelly but I ran, I ran as fast as I could and a couple tending their grave with a rake and a bucket for weeds looked up as I ran and I ran through the cemetery arch where black plumed horses stopped to let a coffin out, ran along to the old moat of the town, through an alley and into the courtyard, through the back door of aunt’s summer kitchen where I was safe. He followed at first but I was too quick, I knew the way to safety and he had been seen. My chest was aching and my breathing hard, heart pounding… how could a bad man smile?

What had I done, I wondered, that he would smile and want to chase me?

there was a chaffinch in a tree
the prison window

there were bars in the window
we could hear the bird sing
the man
behind the window

Not yet spring

I saw a lapwing today
I saw curlews

The walk along the estuary did us good. It warmed us and lifted our spirits. The sun warm on our faces warmed our souls as well and we felt good. It felt as though we had been together forever, that we were an old couple and we were…at 70 we were an old couple…it’s just that we felt as young as we were when we first met…only we knew each other now….

We walked along and my hips ached a bit, I kicked at the last of the snow and made the catkins on the hazel wiggle…he walked beside me, held my arm linked under his very tight…he wore gloves…he was silent…and after a while we sat in the sun for a while…could not say whether to rest him or me or both of us…I leaned my head on his shoulder and we both clung to this moment as if to preserve it forever…and then we turned back, past the hide to a bench that was taken on our way out…. we sat there a moment or two.. the bench fairly new, well preserved and freshly painted. It was Pat Walter’s bench. Pat Walter who loved this place. That’s what it said on the little brass plaque…in memory of Pat Walter who loved this place and who died in 2008.

I wonder who she was.

She loved this place and she shared it with us and we could see why she did…love it.

That’s what we want too, when we are no more. The one who was left would erect a bench to sit on…in memory and in love and remembrance…in a place we both loved…

We walked on then, no longer in silence…we talked and we laughed and we dreamed like the youngsters we once were…a long time ago.

We saw oystercatchers
the curlews called
a wren flitted into the hedgerow
the sun warm on our faces
not yet spring…
we were happy,
he and I


I never knew that silence could be loud…
I never knew that it could speak…
I never knew it felt so good…

It was still very early and a gentle rain fell, clung to the thickening buds on the trees and began to lie in the dips of the pavement I was walking.

There was a sun rising above the grey and there the grey would be pinks and vibrant reds. The tarmac under my feet was grey too and patchy and I thought that deep beneath the grey that had been boiling tar and steamy, laid and rollered from man’s dream lay the soft earth and then the rock, glowing crystal and the molten centre of our earth, pulsing, living. I saw a meadow underneath the tarmac, lush where once a gentle rain had fallen as it did today, where buttercups had grown and a mole had lived and dug his tunnels, where butterflies had dried their wings in the sun after the rain.

I sat, quiet when I was home again and listened to the rain falling on the roof, heard it running and gurgling like a distant brook. Crows called in the distance, a robin sang its plaintive song. The wind changed its tune when it touched my window and my soul became one with the wind and the bird and the rain and the earth. There was silence and I was happy in it.

I know now just how good it feels…
I know now how it talks…
I know now how to listen…



Sunday, 30 May 2010


sometimes I don’t know
what to think
I don’t…
…better that way.

Sometimes a day passes gently, easily, like gossamer silk in a gentle breeze and sometimes it stops and starts in single moments, not joined up and unrelated… staccato.

Each different moment of that day is like a reminder to something or a reminder of something, only I don’t know quite what. It could be to show it’s best to be in a single moment and no more, no past, no future, just the now…the only moment that is real.

Real to the cyclist was the pain he felt, the shock and real his scream when the car hit him. He had not ever heard himself scream or was it the brakes of the car? And what of his bike? His beautiful bike he rode on this beautiful day…it lay crumpled now by the roadside. The ambulance flashing blue lights, police cars, people gathering, people staring, craning their necks out of cars passing, slowly, painfully and inside the ambulance they were working. And all there was, was the moment and the broken man the men were working on to save…

Lethal, roundabouts for cyclists…even if you wore your helmet and your gloves…less than the blinking of an eye, the moment from cycling, being to not being…a moment’s all, and that was all you had.

‘Would you like a cuppa duck’? is what she asked me every morning reaching for the teapot. Table set nice every day with a little flower in the little vase from Dartington Glass she’d found in the ‘seconds’. None of your teabag in the cup with a quick stir and a splash for her! The pot had to be warmed first and one of loose leaf for every cup and not forget one for the pot an’ all. She’d pour in just a little water on the leaves so the tea would mash and the fragrance was released. Five minutes and no more and then she’d fill the teapot with water still so hot it was still spitting! Mum knew exactly what she liked and she also knew the secrets of the brewing. ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’… I soak you your prunes every night duck but I forgot last night, you’ll just have to have them as they are. Anyroad, they are quite soft, they are and they are pitted, so it alright really, in’t it… she nodded her approval to herself…they would be fine and do their daily trick. Not that they didn’t taste nice neither… ‘Toast and Marmite after’? Be all set then, won’t you. Tea’s a bit milky, next cup will be better duck…awright? Her smile embraced him and all the world, her hair was grey now, a little coarse but curlier than ever, long and quite thick still and hung about her shoulders in sleepytime ringlets, her face was lined, her bue eyes not as blue as they once were but when she smiled the sun rose…he loved her more with every day that passed and he dreaded the day when he would be alone…

…they worked hard to save him…

…sometimes I don’t know
I don’t…