Saturday, December 24, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
The profound thought that barged into my consciousness is this: complaining is really a luxury activity. Don't get me wrong - I am all for complaining often and loudly, especially about poorly-administered service agreements. My 'musn't grumble' stance is ironic, not from the heart or from any conviction that there is merit in keeping stumm about the variety of aggravation that life throws at you. But complaining, if you are going to do it properly, takes energy, life forces, sure ground beneath your feet of the sort that stems from a feeling that all is fundamentally well, were it not for the malfunctioning fridge light (the sound on my computer has gone mute btw, and there is a crack in our recently-acquired toilet seat, just so you know).
Consider this: when you are in your mid-thirties you complain about the fact of getting older. You crack on about how you are now, technically, middle-aged, you don't stay up all night drinking as you did in your teens and twenties and you can't so easily ignore the bronchial cough from all the cigarettes you smoke. In your mid-forties you are much less loud about all this. You paint over the grey bits and generally stop drawing attention to age-related matters especially as some of them might have become embarassing. In your mid-fifties you either kind of shut up about it or you say something properly interesting, or write poety. You understand in your soul that we are mortal and memento mori becomes a mantra worth considering. It is all too close to the bone for mere complaint.
When life becomes properly hard, with fear, pain, illness or hunger as constant presences, things go quiet, or something quite different happens.
The silver swan, who living had no note,
when death approached unlocked her silent throat.
I do not think you will easily find someone with M.E. complaining about what the disease has done, is doing, to their lives. You disagree, perhaps - think that there is an endless stream of complaint from the M.E/CFS community, enough to make you want to switch off, but what you see does not touch on the heart of the matter.
I have said this before and will say it again: there are people living the severe version of the condition you have heard referred to as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and what they endure is unspeakable and heroic. Some, with difficulty and extraordinary tenacity, manage to write about it, speak the truth. When they do, the words are song-like. They give utterance to something mysterious: how we can be in seemingly impossible conditions, maligned and forsaken, and yet bear witness. Lament is the purest form of song I know.
Greetings to y'all this newly starlit Advent - and to you, the singers: I listen, I hear, I lend my voice.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I have always thought: if you look at something for long enough you do, to some extent, become it for a space. I wanted not to be this human thing stranded on dry land with my two thin legs, the laces of my Doc Martens all unravelling on the rough stones by the mouth of the river that comes and comes to the father/lover rush of sea. I was jealous - landlocked in unsuitable footwear, I wanted to be seagull. There is something hidden in deep sea that even the sky can't read. It is said that the moon has power over sea, but I don't believe it.
I wrote: I could have been stone at the bottom of your bed, moved from this place to that, grey flint with a hole in my heart, a grain of sand - something, or almost nothing. This yearning on the shore by white cliffs is the farthest I can go - the closest I can get.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Nanowrimo has passed me by, but I am back into my novel - in my fashion. Short bursts and a bit of plod plod. But is has ignited in me again and I have found a way forward after a lovely writing time with the daughter, who is working on another play. Sometimes one just needs a small shift to get unstuck. To keep going is the thing. I have no real sense of how achievable it is, the satisfactory completion of such a task as this, but the travelling (the carrying on, the writing), rather than the arrival is really the thing, and without it I feel strangely lost.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
The question of how to keep the fire burning is ongoing:
I still don't know where it is. Am only just beginning to feel that England may after all be it, because after all, where else? Germany - but we were nearly wiped out there, and home should never be in a place where they once tried to kill you off. And anyway, this is where I am - this England, this particular village which I may or may not move from. I have a restlessness inside that both looks for home and seeks to avoid it. I want roots, to feel connected to a place, yet I don't want to be tied and constrained, unable to leave in case a move kills me. You have to be careful with roots. P (friend) always talks of renewing the ancient hearth. He has a ready-made hearth, one that he also tends, at (place of work). My hearth is where I light my candle or, failing that, where I come alight in a group of people with something to share that is more than just a box of chocolates. Though, a box of chocolates can be a hearth too, for a few minutes, and perhaps in this time and place we can't expect more than a series of temporary homes and hearths. The I Ching has told me, The wanderer has no place to lay his head; and once I wrote, I lay my head on my lover's shoulder, it smells of grass and reminds me of home.
When you lose a lover, a marriage partner, a close friend, you feel a sense of exile. The lay of the land is suddenly different. I feel this all the time, the ground shifting beneath my feet; also, the fear of coming home to oneself and no fire in the hearth, no lamp lit, nothing to eat. I have my own hut, and a good one too, but the walls have gaps in them where the wind whistles through and I forget to bring in the wood so I have something to burn, to make fire with. Without fire, no home.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
It's Hallowe'en and I'm unashamedly promoting this lovely vid made by the Zig Zag Birds. It's a band that Son is in, see if you can guess which one is him (clue: torn white T , hollow eyes and you don't see him very much but he looks distinctively intense). If you like it, pass it on.
There is a small but hopeful-looking pumpkin sitting outside in the rain waiting to be given a face. But Mr. Signs is clobbered with a cold, and pumpkin-carving isn't one of the things on my C.V. On the other hand, I have stocked up with a few goodies to give the Hallowe'en knockers - but the kids are polite here and if they don't see a lit pumpkin they won't knock. And if they don't knock, I will have to eat all the goodies myself, which I would love to do but it is bad for me.
Tomorrow is the beginning of NaNoWriMo, which I am signing up for, if only to be along in spirit. There is no way I can bash out fifty thousand words in a month, if I manage between five and ten thousand I will be pleased. But I like the idea of a novel-writing month. It's good to tell stories. It's good to feel one is in the flow and swim of things, and I intend to be. In my fashion.
Postscript: While I was putting up this post Mr. Signs did something to the pumpkin. Punk art, people - and expressive!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
This is a pyjama day - my red, white and tinsel ones that go on surviving, a bit like my Purples, or like me. I have been winging it for a couple of months, meaning that I have not been spending most of every day lying down and that I have been seen out and about (shops and stuff, a poetry reading), and with my new short hair people say, oh you look well, you look better, you look - well, whatever, clearly I look brighter. And if someone asks me how I am, I say good, even though there are substantial grammatical issues around this ('good' is actually more correct than 'well' but we won't go into this now) - because while I have ME/CFIDS it is not truthful to say that I am well, but there are days that are, for whatever reason, good. And therefore I am. In my 'winging it' times I can move through the day as long as I keep, in some way, moving. The moment I rest or sit down I feel something more akin to the true state of things. Gravity homes in, sucks at my limbs; electricity, and all the strange manifestations of the malfunctioning body that goes by the name of me, begin to buzz, twitter and growl.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
There is no right way with this. You make your choice and feel bad about the other things you have opted not to do. Or you make your choice and decide not to feel bad about anything because you are doing your best. I no longer understand how everyone else (without M.E.) lives. This is strange, because when I was in Monaco looking at all the super-rich peeps on their yachts I could quite easily begin to imagine how it might be if one had unimagineable amounts of money so that you could, for example, spend a quarter of a million just on getting the right kind of fridge/freezer for your floating monstrosity. Monstrous perhaps, but I could imagine it. Money is just another kind of energy. So why can't I get my head around the idea of an ordinary day in the life of someone who does not have to negotiate with the bastard disease? How do you work, shop, clean, go to the gym, see a film/play, get on a train, do admin, cook a meal, talk on the phone - all in one day? How do you even do two of those things and feel ok? Energy aside, I do not know how anyone can process everything without becoming overwhelmed. I belong to the one-a-day club, whose members can really only do one thing a day. Even so, I break club-membership rules. I push myself, do more, pay for it - can't do the pacing thing, stupid me, but on the other hand, the moments, each splinter and fragment - I want them so much.
Cat of Signs is now taking a daily pill (cunningly hid in sliver of tuna fish) for her hyperthyroid condition. We discovered also that her increasingly wretched state was due to fleas, picked up from the cattery in August. Dealt with. But she won't leave the kitchen and basically lives in an empty Abel and Cole vegetable box. The vet says that this is because she associates the rest of the house with fleas. Also, that we need to vacuum the house every day paying particular attention to corners and edges (yeah, right) so as to avoid a nasty infestation situation once central heating is switched on. And that we should be spraying something (toxic) around the skirting boards - just to make sure. Strategies.
If I say fuck off enough times, will the fleas get the message?
If I bring C of S's daily saucer of cat milk up to the living room will she leave her Cinderella abode and come back to us?
Because otherwise, I don't know what.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
But I am still better than I was heretofore, the betterness having begun several weeks ago for no discernible reason and it is not a particularly trustworthy state, relying to some extent on being a little excarnated or in the air, like Mickey Mouse strutting off the edge of a cliff, and it's ok to keep on walking as long as you don't look down. I probably shouldn't say the B word at all. Headquarters doesn't like it.
And there are Things on my mind. Does it get longer, I wonder, as one clocks up the years, the litany of Things? Probably not, but one is less easily distracted. One of the Things is Cat of Signs, whose over-active thyroid is becoming increasingly manifest. Her once beautiful coat is thin and scraggy, as she herself is. Having been a dainty picker before, she now eats like a horse but grows leaner by the day. Sometimes she goes outside and lies stretched on the wooden patio table, but mostly she has taken up residence on the kitchen table and won't go upstairs any more. We are treating her homeopathically (as per Vet's prescriptions) in the hope that her condition can be, if not cured, managed. Other options are: feeding her pills twice a day (impossible, she won't), surgery (too old) or radioactive iodine. This last offers the chance of a good outcome but is hideously expensive and, disorganised hippies that we are, we never did organise pet insurance.
So what to do? Though not exactly loaded, we could raise the money. But spending nearly two grand on our sixteen-year-old cat seems inappropriate.
We love her, though, and in her animal heart there is love for us too. I have never loved an animal before and it is a significant love because it has opened my eyes and changed me and my relationship to all animals.
She stands four-legged by the window
looking at the moon. Her heart is full
and empty, she cries like a human
Monday, September 26, 2011
The phrase/title has been echoing in my head: What Lies Beneath - because of London smoke-friend and her recent blog post, and yes I know it is also the title of a horror film that I never saw. The blog post speaks about an art exhibition beneath Waterloo station that I would love to see, but it ends today and getting to London is for me in any case, you know, a big deal so I don’t do it much. It is a literal underground place - but also speaks some larger message “about the dank, dirty, unexplored places where art comes from, under ground, under consciousness...”
I have been thinking about this recently in connection to my own writing project (see how I shy away from the word ‘novel’). It draws deeply from my own, early life which was, as I experienced it, full of magic but also full of danger and darkness. In her book, Writing as a Way of Healing, Louise de Salvo cautions against being too casual about dipping your pen into the vein of troubled experience. I picture a manhole, the cover of which is lifted - and out come the monsters and creatures that you never expect to see above ground, and you are suddenly defenceless, disarmed, made small and weak again by their potent presences. I think one of the reasons I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer was that it covered this terrain and drew on powerful archetypes. At some point you probably, if you are going to Make Art, have lift the cover or go down there because the underground life will undoubtedly find a way of making its presence felt, will emerge from the Beneath and challenge you to engage with it or go dry and wordless - and if you write, you can’t have that. How to do that, and have the right defences in place so that you are not overwhelmed, is a challenge and not for the faint-hearted.
The creativity coach, Eric Maisel says that an artist is someone who must learn to manage her/his emotions and if there is any truth in the notion that artists tend to be several skins short of a a sausage then it is particularly important that they learn to do this sooner rather than later. I am doing it later, but never mind. You have to begin where you are, and I am here, at the tail end of my fifties, raw and undisciplined (still), and I never learned how to kick-box. What I did learn, by hook or by crook, and by deep immersion in fairy tale, was to trust the story - that it would take you to the place where you needed to go, and that it would, if you allowed, stay with you and be your sword; and how, if you undertook to make a journey, you would find helpers en route. And how if you found yourself out in the dark forest completely naked, the stars would see you and throw down their gold.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
There are times I long to be one of those who can flit from one point of focus to another with a kind of perpetually adjustable tunnel vision: now I am chopping the parsley and coriander for a kedgeree; now I am working on my novel-in-progress; now I am moving into the substance of a poem or arranging the contents of my sock drawer. This last is for illustration - I do not have a sock drawer, but if I were such a person then perhaps I would have one.
I know a writer who describes herself as having ADHD and believes that it is a blessing in her case because it gives her the ability to do many things. She brings tunnel-vision to whatever it is that she is working on and can achieve much more than most in twenty minutes. How useful this would be. But I am not one of those and require a substantial amound of dream-time, which you might think I have in abundance, but I separate good-quality dream-time from laid-up ill-time where thinking is scrambled and one is too much in the body, with its delinquent demands and malfunctions.
And where, in all this, does social networking fit in? Earlier in the year I joined Facebook and now it is Twitter. Last night I watched snippets from Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC4 and began tweeting about it! Why? Because it was fun, is the obvious answer. With the hash tag thing, I saw who else was tweeting, made a sparky connection with someone I don’t know and most likely won’t see again - we shared a moment that brought a smile to each of us, is all - is enough. But there is another impulse: I want to feel connected - whatever that might mean - to the world as it is now. I don’t think social networking is necessary for this but it is something that offers itself easily. I can’t physically zip about to poetry and other cultural events, but I can to some extent keep up with what is happening in a way that would not otherwise be possible. Yes, sometimes I very much love the internet. And sometimes I am very much aware that I have to be careful not to lose myself in it, remember that Notebook is my best friend, steady and true, always giving my proper reflection back to me, waiting and listening with a golden ear for the words that come into its pages.
“We are in it for the long haul,” says London smoke-friend. And the loneliness of the long-distance writer, especially when there is no end yet in sight, and no guarantee at all that persistence will bring what the world calls success, is something to be nourished and embraced.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Sail-ho, me hearties, that's all ye be gettin' out o' this sea-dog now, but I'll be back ere the mold on me mizzen falls off, firin' a cannon through yer porthole before ye can say yo ho ho an' a bottle o' rum.
So watch it.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Home again, I was up till the small hours, limbs and muscles refusing to settle, then awake again early. I was beyond tired today, but kept afloat in a small frenzy, attending to this and that, admin things and making a vegetable and barley soup to make up for yesterday's cream, sugar and caffeine.
Autumn, its urgency, begins to move in and around me. Body hurts but I whisper it to buoyancy and don't let myself lie down. The year has been too long, too hard. I want to keep going.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
As a child, I would sometimes copy out poems - verses that I liked - and feel as though it was written by me - that I owned the words as much as the one who composed them. If words are bread of a kind, then in a sense I did own them for I had ingested them and they were now a part of me (one benefit, had I known, of learning by heart). Some of A Child's Garden of Verses did sustain the soul-life of me in ways I could not have articulated.
The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter, and all,
And the star of the sailor, and Mars,
These shown in the sky, and the pail by the wall
Would be half full of water and stars.
This was probably not the first of such experiences, but the pail that was "half full of water and stars" was an initiation into the power of metaphor. It was a poetry-shock: something could be itself on a mundane level, and yet be a doorway to magic and otherworld. Luckily I did not hear it read out loud at school. When teachers read verse they put on a 'poetry voice' and deadened it.
I remember the poet George Szirtes at a reading, saying that he did not do "cabaret." I think I understood what he meant. He was there to read his poems, not to deliver entertainment or do Performance poetry. I squirmed a bit, though, because the truth is that I find poetry readings with an element of performance much easier to take in. This is partly because poetry is often dense with meaning and also because (having M.E.) I am cognitively challenged and brain can get quite suddenly overloaded. But mainly I think it is because not all poets are able to stand fully in their words and deliver them. Well, and why should they? The words we write are sometimes better than we are, and when written they are (and really should be) gone from us.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Well, so I am back, with a radical hair cut, short and spiky, all the old colour gone and the grey is - though I say it myself - pleasing. I was actually only away for a week, cavorting in Monaco harbour, the yachting playground of the disgustingly rich. The yacht that we were on was a mere dinghy in comparison with some of the floating hotels I saw. It was horribly hot and humid, but sailing out into the bay, swimming in the sea, was very good, and I slept well on the boat. But enough of that, I don't want to be telling you about what I did in my summer holidays. No, I have more pressing things on my mind.
Autumn is upon us, says the wind that has been tearing about in these parts, bending the boughs of the oak and ash. It is early, and summer didn't have much of a look-in, but never mind, it is here; and so it is time to review, re-dedicate and focus on what next because that is what I do in autumn, whether or not it seems practical because of the restrictions imposed by M.E. My plan is always, in any case, to be feeling, by whatever degree, better. If that is scuppered it won't be by me, but by M.E. So:
Out comes the new notebook and the intention of doing the Morning Pages again, because doing them is a good thing as long as one does not fall into a pit of writing only about illness and despair, and I do not intend to. My focus will be on process (creative) and the lovely incidentals of life in ordinary, which is good for the soul and for poetry.
The novel is progressing - so slowly that you can hardly see it move, and I've been so hammered with one thing and another that it hasn't been given much time, but still - the evidence is there in black and white word count that it is progressing, and it is still alive in me, the characters have not wasted away, as can sometimes happen when you don't give a story enough attention. A sizeable chunk is waiting to be transferred from notebook to computer. I still find composition best to do with pen and paper and even the beautiful Mac is unlikely to change this.
Not writing much new poetry. Can't be helped, I have promised the novel that it will get the best of my sustained attention. But there are readings coming up - one at the end of this month and another in October, and there is enough to be working on and revising.
Courtesy of lovely Kindle, I have been reading Titus Groan, the first part of the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake, a wonderful, fantastical, poetic creation. From time to time the narrator makes an observation that I take to be Mervyn Peake, writer and artist, speaking about how it is when mind is fully present and engaged in the creative act. Here, one of the characters, a young girl called Fuchsia, entering her secret attic place:
As Fuschia climbed into the winding darkness her body was impregnated and made faint by a qualm as of green April. Her heart beat painfully.
This is a love that equals in its power the love of man for woman and reaches inwards as deeply. It is the love of a man or of a woman for their world. For the world of their centre where their lives burn genuinely and with a free flame.
It is always a work in progress for most of us, I think, to reclaim or inhabit that world more fully. To this, with the strong breath of autumn, I re-dedicate myself.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Wearing a bra with wire underneath might make your breasts look glad and uplifted, but at the end of the day you will have a red rim underneath them.
Eating a lot of vegetables for several months is almost certainly a very good thing but it is unlikely to be a cure for M.E.
Solitude is a fine thing, but when you find yourself having many serious conversations with a stuffed bear it is time to review the situation.
Giving up cigarettes doesn't necessarily mean that you will ever stop wanting them. Giving up sugar, though, probably does.
I seem to use the words 'probably' and 'perhaps' a lot.
My Dell laptop has suffered a clutch of Blue Wall attacks and is probably dying.
I want a Mac Airbook.
I am going on holiday to France.
Meanwhile I wish you the serenity of the season. We need serenity, without it we get into deep trouble. That's So Pants says something about this. It is the fifth birthday of her lovely blog today.
Be seeing you.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
So back I go to M and S, this time in Brighton, which is convenient. I get white linen trousers, summery tops, cotton nightshirt, multipacks of knickers. I have to be focussed and not get diverted into Primark or any of the more interesting Brighton boutiques because after an hour or two I will turn into a pumpkin. The woman in the bra department says she is run off her feet and has no time to do a fitting. I say, that’s ok because I know my size. She asks to see what bra I’m wearing and when I take my top off she says the strap is riding up my back, which is a very bad thing. I have chosen to try on something called a T shirt bra, not the kind of thing I would usually get as it is padded and has wire underneath but I have been reliably informed (by someone whose bosoms looked glad and uplifted) that they were just the thing for wearing under summer tops, and they are only £16 for a pack of two. But the wire rides up and presses unkindly, the padded bit perches above the bosom and I can’t see how anyone manages to wear something like this. Moreover, between the time it took to get the bra and try it on, I have turned pumpkin and have to sit down. From the other side of the cubicle door, the bra department woman asks how it’s going, I say I’m not sure and she says ok and not meaning to rush me but there’s people waiting to get in and would I like to make an appointment for a fitting later on or tomorrow?
Never mind. I did not get all the things in one day. I have taken the best part of the week to do the shopping thing because I know how it goes – and the sandals I bought (not M and S but Birkenstock) needed to be taken back and exchanged because the leather cut into my ankle (and yes I know about Birkenstocks and how you need to wear them in).
But the sun has properly shown its full-on, beautiful face; I have done a bit of writing; second root-canal treatment seems to have done the trick and it almost seems as though, for a short space at any rate, I will not have to visit the dentist again; two good writing friends visited today. Apart from that, I have been on my own since Monday, and will be until the weekend. Twilight. A great canopy of lilac sky. The mew of seagulls.
Tomorrow – Bravissimo!
Monday, July 25, 2011
Even so, I see possibilities for getting it righter with M.E.-related life and stuff. I have lost the plot a little, allowed myself to become innerly unravelled by the past year’s relapse, the on-goingness of it and the vague state-of-emergency feeling about health issues generally. I have not brought the necessary acceptance that allows one to live the situation with a measure of serenity and grace. Because there are times when I do manage this, I know the difference. In saying this, I am not blaming myself for the unravelling, and I am doing the best I can. But inner Zen master needs to come and sound the bell, light the candle, remind me not to be afraid or discouraged.
I have had a nice response from a poetry editor. Whether it will lead to anything substantial I can’t say, especially as it depends on the quality of energy and focus I can bring to new work. But it is not nothing – actually, it is something, especially in today’s difficult climate – when an editor takes enough interest to really engage with one’s work. I still can’t bring myself to decide on whether to focus primarily on poetry or prose project. I am unwilling to give up either, but at some point I need to decide because I can’t do both. At the moment it is rather academic because I can scarcely attend to anything very much. I have moments, but not enough for sustained work or focus. This too, I can probably get righter.
Out in the world of the working well, things also go pear-shaped, as we know. I have been following the extraordinary business at the Poetry Society who, if they don’t get their house in order, seem to be in danger of losing the funding that keeps them in operation. Some of these funds have (needlessly, it seems) been spent on employing the same lawyers that Rupert Murdoch has been using. Anyone interested can get a pretty clear picture over at Jane Holland’s. This has not been brilliant P.R. for poets generally, and the Guardian, as George Szirtes says, has been having a right good snigger at them all, even though many of those involved are not actually poets themselves.
I do recall, though, Ros Barber (poet and now also novelist) saying something to the effect that being in the company of novelists was lovely after the poetry scene, which resembled a knife fight in a phone box. Another good reason, if one had a choice, to stay on the edge?
Friday, July 22, 2011
Just as soon as seems decently possible, I would like to have a really chilled white whine. Only recently heard about this particularly first world activity where, in the words of my informant, "we complain of things such as the internet connection on my phone breaking up if I get a phone call into it while I'm online, or that my iPad weighs so much in my back pocket that it tends to pull my tracksuit bottoms down in an unsightly fashion." Love it. Can't wait to indulge. Need to clear the decks a bit first though.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
I am not well-travelled, and twenty-five plus years of chronic illness has made me cautious about any kind of journey. I am trying to remember what I dreamed of doing when I was little. I don't think that travelling was a motif. In my teens I wanted to be somewhere wild and remote, and self-sufficient, but with a red enamel kettle and wooden kitchen utensils. Well, I have partially achieved that - hardly anyone has heard of or knows where Edge-on-the-Weald is, and it is (after a fashion) pretty wild. I have the wooden utensils. The red enamel kettle, though, is missing. I have a serviceable electric one.
When Son was little he said to me that he wished Mr. Signs were an explorer: because then I could go with him on his journeys. We talked about what he wanted to be when he grew up: an astronaut, a train driver, a farmer; and he wanted to travel - to Australia, Greenland, Canada and Scotland.
He wondered: what had I, as a child, wanted to be when I grew up? One of my answers would most certainly have been a ballerina - why, I can't think because when my aunt took me to see Swan Lake (Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn), I was bored. It was probably the standing on points, and the illusion of weightlessness; the fact that I had always wanted to be able to fly.
When Daddy was little, did he want to be a person who worked in a office?
I remember the question, but not what I answered. I told Mr. Signs about it. How we laughed!
Sunday, July 17, 2011
In Brighton for the first time in weeks, laid up - in particular, because of recovering from dental anaesthetic. Tooth trouble, and more to come - root canal etc. which may or may not work.
In the dentist's room I try to have the conversation (he being new to me and my Condition) about M.E. and after-effects of things like anaesthetic and antibiotics. He picks up that something, at any rate is amiss (I had seemed so nice, grateful, amenable), and fears that I might be about to make some kind of scene. He doesn't begin to have a clue what I am on about. Never mind, for something has to be done, whatever.
I am bruised and super-myalgic from injections, and the rogue nerve is still in me causing toothache. More treatment and injections next week - a two-hour appointment, but at times like this toothache is king.
The food regime continues, after a fashion, though it scarcely seems possible to be eating vegetables plus prescribed amounts of protein and carbs every two hours (to calm the blood sugar situation, to alkalinise the environment that is me). So I cheat, with spelt crackers and oat cakes. What? Those plus hummus and a carrot stick equal carb, protein and veg. Today's fish and chips at lunch do not, but give me a break. The cup of decaf tea with milk and a knife-end of honey is also not kosher, but I am in dire need of the small comfort it gives me - and it washes down the Anadin I have just swallowed.
Son of Signs is in Trinidad right now, where the warm rains come down monsoon-like for a short space most days. Brighton monsoon rain is a more dreary affair, but still, it caught my attention this afternoon. A lone pigeon was sheltering on the railing outside the bedroom window and giving me the eye. We kept each other company for a good half hour until I asked Mr. Signs to take a photograph, and then it turned its back.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
I am your daughter, you my good mother,
rough and grainy against my palm.
I could be small enough
to climb inside.
Though you are whole and perfect
and I am only human,
adopt me. Feel how you grow
warm in my hands.
We are made for each other.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Heat wave nights, lying under a polyester sheet, talking about who would have the coffee cups, the tea set, the Joni Mitchell records, and what to do with the wedding presents left on ice for the house that we would never buy. We still reached for each other and I woke in the night with a shock, felt him next to me and was relieved: not apart yet. What do you know at twenty-two about the bonds between people who love, have loved each other?
July was our last month living together. We went to parties, danced until three in the morning, joked that we would have a splitting up party and drink champagne. At one party, a group of gatecrashers stormed through the house. The girls who lived there asked my husband to help get the gatecrashers out. They were drunk and belligerent, one of them punched him and he folded up onto a floor-cushion, winded. I fell to my knees beside him and screamed. Stop screaming, said someone, they've gone now, but I had to put my hand over my mouth to stop.
I don't remember how we said goodbye or when it became autumn and winter. We were together in the first days of August, dividing up the things we had, watching Old Grey Whistle Test at night, eating chocolate biscuits in bed in the morning - then we were in different places and everything became cold and quiet. I went to his rented room in south London, we made love on his single bed; in the morning he said, I feel fragmented.
I got a chest infection, then asthma, went away to recuperate, wrote him a letter saying, I love you and I think of you, please come. The letter never arrived. he had no telephone. I waited for him. He waited for me. The moments came and passed and were gone.
Now I think that you can't marry someone and still love them and then split apart, and I can't remember how we did that. When you are twenty-two you think you can do everything. We waited for each other but he didn't get a letter, and he didn't come to me.
Then we met other people.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I am afraid that the country we are sailing to is called Death. I ask the question, but no answer comes back. Soon there will be nothing but blue, as far as the eye can see, just a line between sky and water to remind me that I am still alive, and we have not yet arrived at the place that might be Death. But perhaps this voyage is all I will ever know from now on: the receding land, the line between blue and blue, the changing colour of the water.
Life, even at this distance, I love you.
I went to see the wise woman who follows the ley lines in the body and listens with her hands to what is living there. She said that I was not properly there in the body, not sufficiently incarnated.
If I am not here, I said, where am I?
The question to ask, she said darkly, is: if you are not here, who is? And what - if there is no-one at the gate to see them off? The door is open for all kinds of trouble.
I have, I said, all kinds of trouble.
I can see that, she said. I can see that very clearly.
I have a picture in my head, I said, of a dusty room, a basement where there is very little light, and the furniture in the room is broken.
That is, she said, the situation.
I said, sometimes everything is so dark. I don't know how to make it lighter.
She said, you must light a candle. Wherever there is flame, the forces of the will are strong. You must build a fire in the grate and keep it burning.
But there is nothing in the room to burn, and I have no kindling.
Some people live in basement rooms and make their own light, build fires, light candles, find their existence in the circle of light cast by an anglepoise lamp on a wooden desk, the soft grain of it visible, or they find a door through a computer screen and set up home there. But I have no kindling; there are no switches for me to flick; there is no way out of this room that I can discover. Through the bars of a small window I see the shadows of legs and feet moving above me in the street where people live and go from one place to the next, conducting their busy lives.
I am so grateful for my illness, says the born-again nutritional therapist . It taught me how to appreciate the moments. You must learn to appreciate the moments.
I have taken, I said, the advanced course.
I have a white handkerchief and I wave at the shoreline, calling one after another to see if my voice carries, if anyone can still hear me. But we are too far out, my voice won't travel the distance.
In that country, people go about their lives. They imagine I will be back some time, any time soon, and that they will hear my knock on the door.
The silver swan who living had no note,
when death approached unlocked her silent throat.
But I have been singing for a very long time now. The sound is no longer beautiful, and it engenders trouble in the soul.
There is no conclusion.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
So this is the project right now. Mr. Signs is away in the States on business and I have given myself body and soul to my own business, which is food preparation and trying to get the eating of it (timing, quantities) right. The cat is happy because I spend more time in the kitchen, which she likes, or in bed. She never did like me staring at a screen and tapping keys.
I met a woman in the village today who I haven't seen for some years. She said, you used to write all those - things, didn't you? I don't know if she had actually read or heard any of my things, but I suppose one has a reputation. She wanted to know if I was still doing that. I said yes. Because it's still what I'm for, the Writing, and will be - when I get stronger.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
look, I'm sorry but I can't come here any more - ok? I really like and respect you but it drags me down and, to be quite honest, it's boring. You only get up to do essential things like washing and preparing your increasingly dull meals - we don't do enough fun things together. I've got stuff to do. I'll send a postcard - bye.
Before you go, I say, what actually are you planning to do?
She scratches her head, distracted. She is wearing my Purple Trousers, Weird Fish hoodie and Adidas trainers.
Long walks on the South Downs - I want to get a dog, did I tell you? Staying with a friend in her caravan in Scotland. Signs Cottage needs attention, plan to sort that out. Theatre, poetry gigs, concerts - and swimming again, in the sea this time.
Sounds good. What else? Anything you missed out?
Writing, she says. Lots and lots of writing - my novel, and poems.
And then the truth strikes. She needs me for that. Wherever she flits in the astrality, if she wants to write, she has to come home to the ground of her being, which is the person lying there in the pyjamas.
I am seeing a nutritional therapist and am on a really impressive hardcore regime, almost everything you can think of cut out, morning smoothie includes linseeds, quinoa flakes, rice milk - you get the picture. The therapist is a medical doctor who was herself chronically ill for ten years. She comes recommended. Any substantial improvement, I'll be shouting about it.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Or, perhaps - here I am, still, having absolutely nothing to declare but my genius! This is perhaps stretching the Lawks a bit, especially if one hasn't actually done anything in particular to prove one's genius. Never mind, I am testing the boundaries of sugar addiction. I am alone in Brighton with a packet of sweets - mint crumbles - that a friend left lying in the cupboard after her stay here as a gesture of appreciation. Actually, she left walnut whips and booze as well. Alcohol gives me such a headache these days it is easy to leave that alone. Mr. Signs ate the walnut whips as I sat and shivered. He is not here right now and I have eaten a mint crumble - just the one. Instant bliss, and a kind of shine hovering around. There is elevation. It will not last for more than half an hour and is very interesting to observe. I used to work in a drugs crisis centre where people were withdrawn from whatever they were on before going on to long-term rehab. Withdrawing someone physically from a drug is actually the easy part. If an addiction is established, the deep, visceral longing for a drug is written into the body and won't be so easily erased. For a sugar-sensitive person, sugar affects brain function the same way that heroin does. First the sugar high - the feel-good rush that addicts crave, then the withdrawal. I am learning all about it, remembering how, over twenty years ago, I told a homeopath I was seeing that I was concerned about the amount of sugar I seemed to need. She said it was ok - if you need sugar, then have it. But the feel-good rushes grow less over time, you need more of the stuff, a steady supply that increases. Then the insulin receptors become deranged and mere anarchy is loosed upon the system. The centre will not hold, the falcon will not hear the falconer - etc. My guess is that W.B. Yeats probably knew something about blood sugar disorder.
This is all so rockanroll, isn't it? Makes a change from boring old M.E., at any rate. Not that boring old M.E. has moved out, but looking on the bright side, I have something else to bang on about now - the pain and ecstasy of it all. More pain than ecstasy, but - Peeps, I can feel a Youtube coming on.
But laptop - or something - won't allow me to embed. Bugger.
"I'm waiting for my man ....."
Friday, June 3, 2011
My London Smoke-and-Writer friend came for a visit and we talked about The Writing, which for my part has mainly been going on in my pea-souper, pillow-pressed head. I have not put finger to keyboard for a month or two but had some pages scrawled in an orange A4 Silvine notepad (I like Silvine, we go back a long way), so I read that out, and in spite of the clear first-draftiness of it, the place of story is there, waiting for me. It is as though M.E. Headquarters got wind of this and has hit back hard. It is, as I have said before, a jealous God. Ah well, I have been here before, though not quite this bad for some time, and have lifted up again. The worst symptom is the feeling of electricity in head and limbs. Well, it is not just a feeling, there really is electricity: I have seen it go into the dials on a wristwatch which went whizzing round. One of those weird things - don''t ask. I'm not the only one. Walking barefoot in the summer is good, helps it to discharge.
The new food regime is going slowly. I am making myself have proper breakfast every day. First steps. And the sugar does, of course, have to go - though I do, of course, love it so, being addicted to the White Lady. Letting her go now. It will be better so.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I am going to quote my old grandma again. Sorry, but it is just so worth repeating, I really think it should be everyone's mantra: Be heppy! Things can only get vorse. Ach Mutti (we used to call her Mutti, don't know why, and she wasn't really the maternal type), if I never really heard you then, I hear you now.
M.E. is probably one of the least kinds of fun you can have on earth and the deeper into it you are, the truer this becomes; and then you think of all the other times when, relative to this time, you were still in the land of the functioning moderates and didn't appreciate all the privileges; and then you think of how far it may still be possible to fall, and you see from the corner of your eye M.E. God smirking, as only He can smirk, and hear him singing in your ear: I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden, and you feel yourself falling onto the first level of the pit of despair which, Gawd knows, is the place of mortal sin itself. What to do, Peeps - que faire? Begin a new regime, of course.
I have begun a new regime. It has to do with seemingly boring things like sugar and food intolerances as well as slightly more interesting (though strange) things concerning the potato. Yes, naturally I have been down the road of food intolerance before now, but this time I am doing it differently, and I believe (am telling myself) that by following this new path I am creating a new possibility. It's good to hope. It's essential. And yes, things can always get vorse. But they can get better too, innit.
Say yes for me, please.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The bluebell remark is really to indicate a disinclination to communicate anything of substance right now. I could speculate on the reasons for this, but then I would be communicating something of substance. Heigh ho. My inner (is there an outer?) introvert seems to be in the ascendant, pressing me, perhaps, to husband my resources for various tasks I have laid on myself. I have made this sound a little heavy, but they are tasks that I wish to engage with wholeheartedly and with as much strength as I can bring to them.
When a theatre is between one production and the next, I think it is described as being "dark", and this is one of those times in the Theatre of Signs.
Be seeing you sooner or later.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
So where was I? I am on the edge of this amazing, ancient forest that becomes intense at this time of year, breathing the spring at you like some fine and fragrant lover so you could almost lose yourself in it and if you didn't have M.E. then you really might just do that. Even with M.E., even from the window or walking a short distance - it's good. The postvirals keep piling up in one though, and Mr. Signs has been under the weather. So it still feels as though one is waiting for the winter to go, for the year to begin. But I have, so to speak, been preparing the ground and adding to my new opus, bit by bit, keeping it alive-alive-oh - much easier this time, as the roots are autobiographical. I have ordered a long out-of-print German children's story from Abebooks (Deutschland) and am excited about this for the substance of it is in what I am writing and I haven't seen it since I was about seven years old. The book must have got lost in one of our many moves but I carried it in my consciousness along with the other important stories, the fairy tales.
De-cluttering is still on the agenda, and probably should be hereafter, as a matter of routine, because I feel the difference. Objects have a forcefield of energy around them and take up psychic space. Plans are in place for the (modest, perforce) re-organisation of Signs Cottage. For the time being I am perching myself with notebooks (no computer) in Son's room, he only using it occasionally as he lives in London now. I am near to the sky and look over treetops. It is not only outer space that must be organised and claimed - inner space too needs this attention.
I saw the liver specialist this morning, following the most auspicious of blood test results - the meds are working, PBC under control, no liver transplant on the horizon. But we can't, he shrugs, do anything about the fatigue. Some people have transplants for that reason alone, but of course in your case - . Need we say more? Not that he knows much about M.E., looks baffled at the idea that autoimmune disease may be connected and, really, I cannot be arsed to enlighten him, nor would he be interested. There is a coffee machine in the waiting area, I press the button that says Mocha, help myself to a biscuit, make an appointment at the desk to come back next year. Done and dusted, like one's shelves.