Sunday, July 25, 2010


I've seen a new dentist because my usual one is away. Your x-rays are very interesting, she says to me. She is not like my other dentist. She is attentive and grounded. She attends to the most pressing problem and asks if I have any medical situation of which she should be aware. I tell her about my situation; why do dentists always ask questions when you have your mouth open with an instrument poking about inside it? But anyway, she hears me. Auto-immune disorder, she says. I nod. Before I leave she tells me that she would like me to have a thorough examination, more x-rays and a special kind of procedure involving (I am guessing) much prodding about before considering any crowns, bridge work etc. I tell her I don't want bridge work, that I want only what is absolutely necessary. A look passes between us. It is potent. Good. Afterwards I wonder what it was made of, the look. Compassion (her to me) and truth (I spoke, she acknowledged). Something else I can't quite name but it brings to mind the "passionless love, impartial but intense" of Thom Gunn's poem, Sunlight. Not bad for a quick once-over with an unfamiliar dentist, but such encounters are often found in unexpected places. There is something restorative about the kindness of strangers.

The summer is opening up - much heat, which I find difficult. But I was longing for an end to the cold. This year we will not be spending our usual week at the Edinburgh Festival because of Brighton and the fact that we haven't yet spent a decent chunk of time in the new flat. Son is going to be performing in the Festival again so if you are there look out for The Harmonics because they are going to be brilliant.

I might astrally project myself there to see them.

It has taken me several days to put these sentences together. I think I need a break and a couple of Kit-Kats.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sleepless in Brighton

I want you to know that I'm still on duty: keeping the night watch so you can all rest easy in your beds. You probably were already doing that (unless you are one of my transatlantic friends, in which case hello, I hope you are having a nice day), but I'm just saying. It reminds me of working night shifts when I was an auxilliary nurse in a psychiatric unit. We had to do a month of nights every so often and by the end of one of those I felt like one of the undead, a lone, prowling creature of the night (though when I was working shifts there were usually others prowling on the ward and we would play drafts together). By the time I got used to ordinary life it was time for night shifts again.

It is an hour later than it says on blogger, by the way - just so you don't think I'm bleating about being up a few minutes after midnight. Even the seagulls have stopped their ullulations, and the barbequeuing revellers a few gardens away have gone inside. Mr. Signs has been asleep for over two hours, a good thing too as he is off to Shrink school again tomorrow. They are doing Personality Disorders this weekend and he has brought home one of those at-a-glance print-outs. I've been studying it trying to work out whether I'm Borderline, Narcissistic or Schizoid and have decided I'm none of them, especially not Schizoid, but everyone else I know is somewhere on the spectrum.

On the other hand, just looking at the column View of Self: Borderline people are helpless victim/caretaker/unloveable, Narcissists are special/inferior and worthless, Schizoids are outsider, "alien"/independent and self-sufficient/little needy baby.

No question about it, tonight I am definitely Schizoid. And suddenly blissfully tired. It is 1.43, whatever Blogger says.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I am talking to you from the middle of the middle of the night - the small hours when it is no longer today but not yet tomorrow and there is absolutely no-one awake in the whole of the universe except for you. But in this case it's me. I am doing the insomnia shuffle, so you don't have to. Well somebody has to, that is understood. Here is an interesting fact: whenever there is something I particularly want or need to do the next day the odds are that I will have insomnia the night before, either the kind where I can't get to sleep or where I fall asleep only to wake up an hour or two later feeling as though I've just had a couple of double espressos - wired. Today - or last night, if we're going to be precise about this - it was the former. I was tired enough when head went down but once it met pillow - bang: wired. I have a number of remedies up my sleeve for this kind of thing, all manner of things both natural and unnatural, and sometimes the remedies do the trick, especially if I act quickly before insomnia demon has properly grabbed me.

Tomorrow, or later today, in about nine hours time to be exact, I am supposed to meet Mr. Signs, who will be coming straight from Shrink school, at a venue on Brighton sea front where there is to be a university (his) reunion lunch party. I will know some of the people from when we lived in London. It will be jolly, or might be if I were now sleeping instead of talking to you.
Off I go to kick Morpheus's backside.

Sweet dreams, peeps.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

the day today

I have just eaten a bacon sandwich. This isn't meant as a confession - I don't feel virtuous about being a vegetarian, I just fell into being one because I stopped wanting to eat meat. Why it should feel more ok to have the occasional bit of cured pork rather than, say, a fillet steak (which I used to adore), I don't know; one of the reasons I stopped wanting to have meat was because I began to shudder at the notion of eating living, sentient creatures. And I once had an intense eye-to-eye encounter with a pig on an organic farm that I can only describe as a meeting of souls. Ah, go ahead, tell me I've got the soul of a pig! But the pig in question was a very intelligent one and quite clearly had a soul that was finer and infinitely more sympathetic than many human creatures one encounters (or perhaps I'm just turning into a veggie/misanthrope type). We had a connection.

It's a symptom of how things are. My already-delinquent immune system is misbehaving. I'll skip the dreary facts, but one of the side-effects is that I don't actually seem to be properly absorbing nutrients. I eat plenty fish, pulses, tofu and what-have-you but nothing ever seems to hit the spot. No wonder I'm thinking about cake and chocolate all the time. Or is that just greed? No, shut up, inner malicious voice, the malabsorption thing is an established fact - and greed also perhaps, but shut up anyway. I need to be kind to myself, and that means schokolade, kaffee und kuchen mit the odd roll-up cigarette (how the devil did that creep in?) and glass of prosecco. Actually, boringly, it means none of those things, it means regular, small, bland, low-fat, nutrient-dense snacklets, it means calming everything down, not doing the regular swimming thing, immune system clearly sees this as a call to arms.

I went into the sea twice with Daughter on the weekend. There is simply nothing like it and how many days in the year can one do that in Blighty anyway? Today, back on the Edge, the wind is gusting about, bending the top of our remaining cherry tree, reminding me that we must get it cut back this year. Everything wants to become forest here. The gravel path that leads to the lawn and apple tree is covered with bracken and something else that I don't know the name of.

It's too early for autumn.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

in and out the water

I went to the leisure centre pool again today, swam up and down while at one end of the pool an intensely toned woman was calling instructions to the aqua-aerobic people. There was some kind of disco-bop music in the background but my inner DJ was singing something about swimming, swimming for my life, same tune as the (we are singing, singing for our lives) Greenham Common women once sang. The pool is longer than I've been used to, too deep to stop in the middle and rest. I did my fifteen minutes, with breaks. Afterwards I went to the sports shop in town and got myself a new Speedo swimsuit, blue and neat, compared to my disintegrating black one from BHS which has served its time. The chlorine gets them in the end - gets me too. But there is much less of it in the leisure centre than in the country club pool. Afterwards, in the intense heat, I thought the Signsmobile looked particularly tired and dusty so took it for an auto-wash at the garage nearby and sat eating my tuna salad sandwich while water jets and brushes went to work on the outside.

Slept for three hours in the afternoon and dreamed of Shrink. Funny thing - his practice is just around the corner from Brighton flat. Perhaps not so strange, seeing as there is a nice cafe nearby where I used to go and I found it wandering into a nearby estate agents, post-latte, after one of our sessions. I dreamed that I saw him walking along the road. He wore his black-rimmed spectacles and stooped forwards as though leaning against the wind. He took some time to remember who I was and I sensed he was losing the plot, a bit down at heel, his Shrink practice not doing so well. He remembered that I wrote poems and asked if I had found a publisher.

Actually, that was the last thing he said to me: goodbye, I hope you find a publisher. In the end, that was what mattered to him, what he always came back to: writing is your life-blood. The wordsmith in me cringed. It isn't something I would ever say about myself - that writing was my life-blood, certainly not out loud. Ah, he only loved me for my talent. You only love me for my talent, you don't love me for my problems and disorders. I don't remember what the dream-Shrink said - probably nothing.

You are a ball of courage, he said to me. Why did that sit uneasily? Because I know that I am courageous. But I am not a ball of it. I am made of pliable stuff.

I am again reconfiguring, re-imagining, feeling my way into what is really important, and actually it isn't particularly the writing (which I'll always be doing) or the achieving of anything in particular. Just the living, the seasons and how they turn, the pizza we had for supper in the village tonight, capers, anchovies, olives, us eavesdropping on the next table. Life and stuff.

Tomorrow I am going to Brighton to spend time with the Daughter. I hope very much to go into the sea. I have a special pair of sea-shoes. I may be gone some time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Comments (and possible end of world as we know it)

Something is malfunctioning, and for once I'm not talking about myself - all Blogger's fault.

Some people's comments (mine included so I can't reply) are not appearing. I've tried several times to put a comment under my last post but it gets disappeared. All a bit Nineteen Eighty Four, if you ask me, and reading the signs, as I cannot help but do, it probably means the end of the world as we know it is nigh. You can argue with me on this if you like, but odds are nothing will appear in the comment box (though it may in my inbox).

First the business with the aerial, then the dentist muttering darkly to me about "a very difficult situation" and hinting at worse to come but he couldn't say for sure until we see What Lies Beneath - and now this.

Pass the tranquillisers, someone.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Signs Cottage roof now has a dish on it. I never thought to say this because Mr. Signs has strongly-held prejudices against dishes and when our aerial packed up we were simply going to replace it with another aerial and make do until everything goes digital in a couple of years. We are apparently so deep in the sticks here we have only ever been able to get four channels and were quite prepared to carry on like that. But the new aerial didn't work, picture was fuzzy - something to do with "all the new technology" - so Dish it is, and very nice it looks, like a small art installation, black, elegant and suggestive (of what I am not yet sure), and we can get a hundred and forty channels if we want. I don't imagine it will make a jot of difference to the rhythm of life in Signs Cottage, just that when I feel like watching TV I might find something I actually want to watch. On the other hand I might find myself faced with a hundred and forty different kinds of unsatisfactoriness and become someone who compulsively channel-hops, effing and blinding about how crap it all is, in which case it would have been better just to have stayed as we are. I will keep you informed, but don't be expecting very much in the way of reviews. It's as much as I can do to keep up with reading the juicy bits of the weekend newspapers, fave blogs and the books that lie for much too long by the side of my bed.

Still no swimming. And tomorrow I see the dentist. But a couple of new poems. Doing what I can - and how can that be a bad thing - If it's the most I can do?