summer I was drawn to the cold sea at Brighton.
I went into it, became accustomed and stopped flinching.
I began to understand how people did this all
year round, and why.
It shocks the body
into a kind of alertness – wakes it up.
On one of the colder days there was just me in the sea and a woman in a
pink rubber bathing cap, the kind you don’t see any more.
There was a faint smear of matching pink on
I pictured her applying it
earlier, preparing for her date with the sea.
She had English sea-blue eyes.
She said, I like to do this until
December, but I don’t like it so much when the boys have gone.
She meant the lifeguard who sits in the
small enclosure made of deckchair material, between the yellow and red
Lifeguards are there from May
The other person on the
beach was an old man, very thin, a little bent but sprightly, and he hopped
over the stones barefoot as though all of him was used to this and at home
Stones no longer cut his feet,
his skin was tough enough to withstand the wind and the rough sea only made him
I was there with M.E. and my
clutch of auto-immune diseases, pretending to be like them.
Later I would have to balance the benefits
against the after-effects.
I seize the days any way I can - pretend to be strong.
It doesn’t make me strong but sometimes it lends me
something I can put about me like a temporary cloak – a cloak made of thin,
diaphanous material, not suitable for rough weather, but it’s something and it
covers me for a while. S
with sleep and insomnia.
Some nights I lie
for hours knowing that I am not asleep but I keep lying there faking it, which
is nothing like the real, deep sleep that renews you, but it is something.
And it can happen that if you pretend enough you
fall into the real thing for a while – the wellness, the dream-time, and you
gather something ( that dense, warm substance tinged with rose and gold) in the core of you.
How hard can I pretend?
I can take on the sea, I can sleep underneath insomnia, but I don’t know
what to do about my mother’s husband, who has decided that I am to be an
A good old family friend
(doctor/psychotherapist) tells me that mother’s husband suffers from
He needs his enemies.
He has also nominated one of his own
daughters and hasn’t spoken to her for years.
When she was three years old she screamed when he tried to lift her from
He has not forgiven her.
My supposed sins are many and there is less
reason to forgive.
If I begin to look at
myself through his eyes then each apparently innocent remark, or even the act
of bringing a cake on a plate, can hold an unexploded bomb of malign
If the evil is not in me then
the danger (for him) might be that it runs riot in the rest of his world.
So I know that I am in a sense serving a useful
But it doesn’t make anyone
happy, and to be thus nominated has brought that other substance into the core
It is a grey, cold substance made
of fear – a strange sense of guilt also, as though the evil he perceives is
becoming an entity in its own right.
may not belong to me but it needs somewhere to call home.
I have been filling myself with chocolate, with sweet things
and with the pierogi my Polish friend brought with her – she filled half a
suitcase with them, enugh to stock the freezer and still give some to my
The chocolate and pierogi help
but there are blood sugar issues to be considered and inner DJ has Sinead O’Connor’s
90s song on a wailing loop (but nothing –
I said nothing can take away these blues
), or Joni Mitchell (I wish I had a river I could skate away on
My mother, who was not allowed to come to my
recent birthday gathering, is only minutes away from me by car.
She wants to see me, loves outings, fish and
chips in a café, a walk on the forest, the yellow gorse flowers that are always
We had a terrible relationship
for years but things had come right between us – the possibility of gold and
the substance of rose.
Her husband would
prefer things to be as they were and is now her keeper.
Nothing can take away these blues.
If I can’t meet with my mother then it is easier to be
closer to the sea than the forest, where she also lives.
I flit between one location and the other,
give myself the illusion that my feet don’t properly touch the ground, pretend
that I am always on the move or a seagull (how my mother could imitate their
cries) – in flight.
I love sitting on
aeroplanes and trains, being in transit, and wish I had the reasons and/or
resources to do a lot of this. I'll get on the train at East Grinstead with a harmonica and pretend that I am going nine hundred miles ....