Monday, November 28, 2011

White whine alert: where have all the four-exing sixty-watt light bulbs gone? The proper, incandescent ones, I mean, I still can't abide the save-the-planet ones no matter how much better people say they are. This kind of thing can have me slithering helter skelter into a rant about things in general that I find difficult about the now, looking back with rose-tinted spectacles to the proper lightbulb days of yore. We didn't have computers then, much, or mobile phones. How did we live though? I can't remember. But I do know that it was generally ok to pick up the phone to make or break an arrangement whereas now it seems an indecently intrusive thing to do. This comes to mind because there is someone from the lightbulb days who has for some time - most of the year, actually - been trying to make an arrangement for us to meet up again. Considering where we both are, this should be fairly straightforward, but it hasn't been. Small difficulties that might easily be sorted by having a short conversation become something else when one is texting (her preferred method of communication) back and forth. Emails get lost or passed over. First one who picks up the phone is a mashed potato, and I don't want to be it.

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


This morning someone asked me by the by how I was. I said I was in 'mustn't grumble' mode and we both laughed. Only a nudnik* answers a question like that in a fulsome and truthful way. And anyway I do not properly know how I am, all I know is that I am on that Mickey Mouse precipice again. Or am I being disingenuous, even to myself? I am - or was, at any rate, for several years - a trained bereavement counsellor. I know how when someone dies weird things happen. But it is only today that I have articulated to myself that this present weirdness is the bereavement kind - a very particular bespoke kind, as it always is. Not helpful to speak in terms of generalities, and this person that is gone from me and the world is hard to put a label on. He was an erstwhile stepfather but that says very little - and very little is what I want to be saying. So here I am saying it. But sometimes it is best just to bow with a small flourish and go back behind the curtain.

Back anon - when I can lay my hands on the red nose that I seem to have mislaid and when I have dedided what the hell costume to wear. Not to mention remembered my lines.

*nudnik - someone who if you ask them how they are, they tell you. Yiddish, obviously.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Emergency Soup

This was never intended as a daily/weekly update on goings-on and goings-out. But inevitably things crop up and one talks about them - and inevitably a picture emerges of the person who wears the persona of Signs. We are not overly shy about the Personal, me and the persona who we can call the Supposed Self. We even, on occasion, embrace the Confessional. But everyone knows (blogging peeps, I mean) that though one may appear to be telling the whole truth (albeit slant), behind the scenes Things happen. In Life, I mean (I am using a lot of capital letters and brackets today, I know). Sometimes a thing comes up and for one reason or another you can't possibly blog about it, but the thing is so big and so wide and so tall that it is like a fully-grown elephant in a small room and you can't carry on sipping your tea and eating your crustless cucumber sandwiches.

On the weekend I found out that someone died at the end of January this year. He came along when I was nine years old and the significance of him in my life cannot be overstated. For the last ten years or so - for reasons that are too complicated and strange to set down - he has been out of communication with everyone, apart from one person who took complete control over every aspect of his life. He was a respected, influential figure, well known, and there have been no obituaries because until a couple of days ago his death was kept secret (by the one person). News of his death came to me in the oddest way, the details around it would not be out of place in a Hardy novel, and it fell to me to pass the news on. It is like a firework that goes off and one spark creates uncountable others, each one an explosion that creates more sparks, more explosions. In the world generally there is much anger and grief, looking for a place to home in. I want and need to keep my head below the parapet, in this particular and a number of other situations. The parapet keeps tumbling down, leaving me exposed. Clear boundaries and protective structures never my strong point.

Mr. Signs and I went to the lovely Duke of Yorks cinema in Brighton yesterday to see the new Wuthering Heights, but after a while I began to shiver and it wasn't just the bleakness of the wet, windy moor and the fact that the cinema was (unusually) a bit cold. After the cut-off, I used to think I saw him, this man who promised he would not go without saying goodbye (he knew I couldn't stand it) from the car window or just turning a corner in the street where I walked - the grief/loss thing. After a while it stopped. Yesterday I thought I saw him slumped in the empty seat near me. But that wasn't why I was shivering. I don't mind apparitions, have often wished for them - not like Heathcliff wanted Cathy's ghost, but with my own kind of passion. I thought if he was dying or dead he would find a way of letting me know. I also thought my dead father would come and visit me in dreams. Neither have obliged.

I left Mr. Signs to watch the rest of the film and went back, caught a phone call from the man's son, who I have been close to, spoke about a memorial service, neither of us can face doing anything until next spring. He says he feels lighter, feels closure. I don't. We all process things differently. There was nothing in the house for supper. I found some red lentils in the cupboard and some old carrots and celery in the fridge. Put them into a pot with boiling water and Marigold bouillon, cooked until soft then pulverised with a potato masher. It did the trick. Emergency Soup. Sometimes you just have to go with what you have.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Back on the front line again - fearless on the battlefield. Meaning that I have been laid up and mostly in bed. This is when we (pwme) have to be brave and free ourselves from fear, become incredibly zen and dispassionate about the hours and days that slip into a continuum and there is no telling how long this will last - it might be a week or several months. I walked a short distance along the path by the golf course that leads into the forest. A small moment of overreaching craziness when I was tempted to keep walking, it would have been downhill for a stretch before the uphill climb into forest proper, and then on and on with the possibility of getting lost. Everyone here seems to have a story about getting lost in the forest. But I walked back the way I came, before the rain came down, before I landed myself in a spot where coming back would be an endless uphill slog, before a pointless unravelling.

I feel an analogy coming on - don't you?

I have wandered too far from my story again - the one I should have been working on had I not gone down with this. Story never cares about reasons and excuses for not writing, however justified they might be. Story fleshes out and becomes real when you give it energy and attention and becomes pale and ghostly when you leave it alone for too long. The plot unravels. Getting back is an uphill climb that requires real, physical effort. And today was just weird, hard to pin down: all day waiting for the vet to call back because Cat of Signs was hyperventilating last night; then today she wandered out for an unusually long time and I had thoughts of her perhaps losing her breath again, breathing her last, without the strength to get back. I wandered around and into the neighbour's garden bleating her name. She was fine, scratching her claws on a wooden post. A man came to look at a couple of things that need doing, one of them being to properly lag the loft so the bedrooms are warmer when the cold comes. But he gave me the strangest look as he came in, as though he knew me from some previous and deeply troubling incarnation. Mr. Signs ushered him upstairs and they spoke of this and that. On the way out he gave me the same look, though I smiled nicely and did a faultless hello/goodbye. Trying to think where on earth I might have met him. Perhaps he was once a student of mine and I said something about his work that he didn't like? No, I would remember. Then laptop began to malfunction and made everything look like hieroglyphics, and it was as though I stared at a wall and could not read the Signs. It went on like that for an hour or so, and then righted itself. Sometimes things just do, and leaving things alone to sort themselves out is the best way.

While tapping out this post, a whole chunk of it began to unravel and delete itself. I feel another analogy coming on.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I was clearing out our tiny study space the other day and came across bits and pieces of notebook-writing from sessions with a friend about six years ago. One of the things we did was to have a pick-and-mix of words, and I think this piece probably came from the word 'Home'. We used to go back and underline bits afterwards, for whatever reason. I have kept those in.

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


It's November, novel-immersion month - and guess what? I am clobbered with the mother and father of all colds and have a temperature. I am not overly superstitious but I have noticed that this kind of thing tends to happen immediately after I say anything to suggest that I might have been feeling a bit, you know, brighter. For most of this year I have been post-viral or post-dental anaesthetic. I know this is just a bastard cold, but everyone by now knows that PWME don't get colds like other people do. It isn't the cold itself but the aftermath that we fear. Ditto dental work and anaesthetic.

Ok, dizzy now. Be seeing you.