Sunday, 22 December 2013

Saturday, 21 December 2013

joybook 21

In the midst of my grief I give thanks that I can cry without restraint or fear or guilt and it isn't about me.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

joybook 19

We smile at each other as we pass in the crowded aisle; this simple conspiracy restores faith and hope.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Monday, 16 December 2013

joybook 16

And even if this isn't work and we are all here because we like to be here, there's still that end of term feeling, that breaking up for the holidays feeling, and all the fun of wishing each other well till next year.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Saturday, 14 December 2013

joybook 14

The joy of being able to read words and travel to where they take me. Just that.  

Friday, 13 December 2013

joybook 13

Knowing that I hadn't thrown that €5 note in the trash by mistake was so joyful that I quite forgot to shout at you for picking it up from the table without saying anything.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

joybook 12

....this secret joy of not having to do, smudged around the edges with a little dusting of obligatory guilt, but not enough, no not enough to eclipse these smiling eyes...

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

joybook 11

Inhaling the green scent of artichokes, the precious ritual of their annual joybringing.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

joybook 10

To have friends to meet for coffee with, to laugh with, to feel silly with, to rant with, to make a date for next week with.

Monday, 9 December 2013

joybook 9

Monday morning and the air is sparkling washed and clean and I'm alive. Yes, that feeling.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

joybook 8

Christmas tree lights
Work their eternal magic
Unwrapping childhood memories
Of mysterious parcels
And lumpy stockings

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

joybook 4

Pouring the ink
Inhaling the aroma of its promise
Five leaves of bamboo

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Monday, 2 December 2013

Sunday, 1 December 2013

joybook 1

This month I'm embarking on quite a challenge, 31 days of Joy, reflecting on those small and large moments of pure pleasure  every single day...a challenge because I am by nature a rather mournful and melancholy person who feels things in quite an even, neither up nor down sort of way. So. But I think that finding something every day to be joyful about and making a note of that in some way is just another extension of observation, awareness, mindfulness. It's all about waking up.

Blessings and sincere thanks to Writing Our Way Home for this precious gift.

Joybook 1
Full metal December  
Damp dark earth
Perfume arising

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

before the storm

while pavements cower
under a lowering blackened sky
dervishes of red purple leaves whirl up
rising and whipping and flying ahead
chattering and skittering
and leading the way home

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Take me home

I don't belong here on these streets
High rise blocks of ochre and cream
No jacket in November and a sky so blue.
I don't belong amongst these women
In their widows tubes and wedge heeled shoes
Juggling their rosaries and mobile phones.
I don't belong where puppies are thrown in the refuse
And kittens are kicked to death for fun.
I don't want donkey stew.
Take me to some british suburb
Red brick houses, victorian semi's
Where men in aprons are lighting bbq's
And washing cars and drinking pints.
Show me gravel drives and much loved house cats,
Leafy places where  the dead sleep under flowers
And children play in gardens and neighbours say hello.
Let me hear a welsh choir singing and the theme from Dr Who.
Then I'll kiss you in Sainsbury's car park
And there'll be sausage, egg and chips for tea.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Wind beats at the harbour walls,
Lifting the gulls laughing into the clouds,
Streaming through clanging mast rings
The bells of a thousand watery churches.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Mindful Writing Day 2013

Amongst  the red rooved cacophony
Of chimneys, cables, aerials and dishes
Two doves chatter
Baring their pearly oyster breasts
To the 9.00 am sun

A mindful writing initiative created by Satya and Kaspa at Writing our Way Home - follow the link if you want to take part.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

31 stranger

Social media, nothing stranger.
Possible apocalyptic nuclear wipe out just around the corner.
Let's all post pictures of pumpkins.

page 31 word 31 stranger
Tender is the Night
F.Scott Fitzgerald.

And all of his stories have that tender spot, that bruising at the centre, a kind of despair, barely discernible amongst the flapping and drinking and craziness of obscene wealth and lives idling in some glamourous lay-by in the South of France or Long Island. 

This has been a challenging project but having to overcome the sometimes tedium and often having to search for even a few words has been good training for NaNoWriMo which starts tomorrow. I will be doing it and I'm going to try my hardest to be doing it every single day. I won't be trying to reach the word target of 50,000 but hopefully I'll be able to match my last year's total of 16,000. It all depends on how the story unfolds.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

30 lane

There was a lane at the back of our old house in Queens Road. It ran up from Auntie Anne's in Baldwin Road, up past our houses, then round to the right and out into Queens Road further up. We used to call it The Alley. Right outside our house was a bomb shelter, a square, red brick building - but as I think about it now, it wasn't under ground so what use would it have been? There was a small bit of open ground next to it, where my dad used to keep his old car and where all the neighbours used to contribute regularly to bonfires. That's where I found the letter.

page 31 word 30 lane
The Wishing Chair Again 
Enid Blyton  - 

And appropriately, to echo this childhood memory, here is one of my beloved childhood books by my most beloved author Enid Blyton. Quite a few years ago some idiot educationalists decided that Blyton was a terrible influence on us and banned her books from public libraries and not because of the Golly. No. Because those of us who read and loved and lived and breathed  the Famous Five were exposed to dangerous upper class values which might have given us poor working class children the impression that the majority of other kids had parents who owned small islands off the coast of Cornwall, went to boarding school and loved it, had boats and endless holidays and adventures and drank only ginger beer and ate only thick ham sandwiches  and chunks of home made fruit cake cut by plump and kindly farmers wives, and had ice cream all the time, except Timmy the dog because it was a waste of time giving an ice to Timmy as he just gulped it all down in one and went off camping in caves where they made wonderful beds out of armfulls of fragrant springy heather and feasted off tinned sardines and tinned peaches and is Enid Blyton I have to thank for my lifelong love of books and what they can be to us. Hurrah!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

29 talk

Less is always much much more.

page 31 word 29 talk

The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro

Stunningly written and hauntingly sad story which I read just after one of his other books, Never Let Me Go. I love being melancholy in a too sad to cry sort of way. But I have yet to finish The Unconsoled as I ran out of courage. I will return. The Remains of the Day was also adapted into a superb film, which again involved Emma Thompson, this time acting opposite Anthony Hopkins. This film is second on my list of those that made me weep, the first on the list also involves Anthony Hopkins but that's another story.

Monday, 28 October 2013

28 clothes

I still have those flared pants, the jersey ones
two pairs, flowery, brown and blue.
I still squeeze into them now and again
Just for old times sake.

Heartfelt thanks to my sister in law Jackie Perry for everything.

page 31 word 28 clothes 
The New York Trilogy
Paul Auster
I love me some bizarre and this book is still crazy after all these years and so influential for me still because it never fails to remind me that the rules don't have to be followed. For some reason it has also  always reminded me of you James Spader, perhaps I read it around the time I saw Sex, Lies and Videotape and the two have got melded together in the big memory pot.  We're both older now and we both have less hair. You still do that funny sideways kink with your mouth, you are still beautiful.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

27 Kent

Oast houses
Apple orchards and a paper mill
Cherry trees laden with fruit and birds
White weather boarded cottages
Peonies and hollyhocks
A pint of Shepherd Neame
Southend at night
The forts and the Isle of Grain
Wild cliff tops and pebbly beaches
Hag stones and sea glass
The train to school, the lifting bridge
Bluebell woods and dockyards
I am a Maid of Kent.

page 31 word 27 Kent
The Noel Coward Diaries
edited by Graham Pyne  and Sheridan Morley

'something eggy on a tray' 
Again I thank my mother for one of the best reads I'll ever have and keep having.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

26 cheap

Love costs nothing, but it doesn't come cheap.

page 31 word 26 cheap

Jan Morris

I imagine it would be filed under Travel Guide but really this is a love letter to the most hauntingly beautiful   city in the world. I fell hopelessly in love with Venice one early evening about 15 years ago, as the No 1 vaporetto from the bus station turned into the Canale Grande. This book brings me back to those first heady days of our love affair.  

Friday, 25 October 2013

25 needed

pale golden space
a window open to endless blue
curtains lilting
incense and beads
somewhere a bird is singing

page 31 word 25 needed
The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold

The only book that has ever made sense  to me  of the concept of heaven.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

24 social

The two cats buss each other on the nose, tails flicking upwards saying hello.

page 31 word 24 social
Sense and Sensibility
The One and Only Jane Austen

There can be some post modern critiques of this with some post modern whinging about how Marianne is disposed of to some old ( 40 year old) man in 'punishment' for her earlier selfish recklessness but as I can never separate the book from the film I have to ask myself who wouldn't want to be disposed of to Alan Rickman? Can a film adaptation ever be better than the book it is based on? Can Austen ever be bettered? I have to admit that if it wasn't Austen blasphemy to say so, Emma Thompson's script almost improves on the original story.* This adaptation, and the BBC Firth in a Wet Shirt P & P  are so perfect in every way that they demonstrate what can be done with excellent writing, excellent actors and an excellent director -  and there is absolutely no need and no excuse to resort to the sort of inaccurate and heretical  trash of a dogs dinner that was the Kiera Knightley version of P&P. 
*In the JA museum in Bath ( how she would have hated that!) there is an autographed copy of Emma's Oscar acceptance speech - perfect, priceless and beyond wonderful. 
six thirty sky
peach melba

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

23 she's

She's waiting at the bus stop on a Sunday morning.
She's going to have lunch with her boyfriend.
She's just been speaking to her ex on the phone.
He wanted her to come over, to talk.
She's explained that she can't and why.
He tells her she is letting him down
He radiates disappointment.
She offers to cancel the lunch date.
He shrugs the offer off.
She doesn't insist
He doesn't insist.
Fear of the known.
Loving too much and too well.
They give it up.

page 31 word 23 she's
The Portrait of a Lady
Henry James

Don't ask me when or how my love affair with Henry James started. He isn't an easy companion goodness knows. His writing is often impenetrable. His best works have no comfortable resolution. It took me five attempts to read The Golden Bowl ( now my favourite). I still don't really understand the end of Portrait or The Wings of the Dove but that's ok, I am a bit thick and Henry rocks. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

22 custom

It is our custom to sit together each morning.
Practice makes perfect company.

page 31 word 22 custom
Nellie, letters from Africa
Elspeth Huxley

Remember I was talking about those few accounts of women's lives that I would read and re-read? I don't know how many times I've returned with love to this wonderful recounting of the liife of Elspeth Huxley's extraordinary mother and her life in Kenya. And when I think I just can't do something, or I can't go on or can't face something and it's because I'm too old, I recall Nellie. Her life, all of it, has been such an inspiration to me because however tough things can be in this world today, she and women like her had it much tougher, yet never lost that enthusiasm for a new challenge, a new adventure.

Monday, 21 October 2013

21 next

In my next life
A delphinium
Gracing a herbaceous border
Tall and swaying blue
Bending to the wind
Scattering my flowers
Returning to earth
Being reborn

page 31 word 21 next
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
Alexander McCall Smith

One of those strange and rare occasions when I had perhaps a little more money than sense and judged a couple of books by their riotous funky covers and bought them both. Thankfully I loved the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency  and was never more happy to be seduced. Interesting Inspector Frost link too.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

20 door

opening the door
breathing october
warm liquid sun
soft downy air
the smell of green
threads of wood smoke

page 31 word 20 door

Italian Neighbours
Tim Parks
You know those terrible books written by expats who claim to buy tuscan mansions and restore them with only a months wages in the bank and no money coming in for the forseeable future? And how they patronise and condescend to the 'locals' who are so quaint and full of colour and goodness quite a struggle because they don't speak our language? And those terrible boring blogs written by expats who think they are being so funny and original when we've already heard it a thousand times before and here we go with the condescension  and eh allora???
This book isn't that. This is how it is. Coffin furniture, the terrible (and so funny) joke about the 3 men in a train, poisoning dogs that bark in the night, how to bribe.  This is the real thing. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

19 other

other stuff

page 31 word 19 other
Julie Salamon
Behind the scenes of the making of the film of the Tom Wolfe ( hello again) novel Bonfire of the Vanities and quite simply one of the best books about film making ( and the vanity!) ever. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

18 sustained

twenty three years of love sustained
with only small fractures
at the beginning and at the end
little crackly snappings
that would have split and shattered
or closed and healed
or neither
and in the middle of it all
that gaping cavernous hole that he made
and not by himself
that they both fell into
and stayed there struggling
for air for light for warmth for comfort
too proud to turn to each other

page 31 word 18
Piers Paul Read
Moving and ultimately inspiring account of how a group of young men survived a horrific plane crash high, high up in the Andes. The miracle of their survival, rescue and return to this world long after they were given up for dead really does transcend all the laws of probability and it seems to me that it touches on something other, some greatness beyond, greater than us.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

17 I

Extract from my journal, working with Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg .

A time I washed the dishes

One time? One particular time? There was a Christmas. In Essex. Before Mum moved into the bungalow. I liked that house but no-one else did. Anyway there was a meal, it was probably Boxing Day and must have been evening because I remember the blackness at the window over the sink. No curtains or possibly they weren't closed which is more likely - I think they were those white open weave ones with the orange abstract shapes cut by horizontal and vertical black lines. I loved those curtains and I think Mum did give them to me in the end.
I was sulking. Why? Perhaps because I had been told to do the washing up. I was so lazy then. I hated any kind of housework and more than that, I hated being told to do it. It's not as if I was a teenager either, I must have been 22 or 23 for goodness sake! I did those dishes with very bad grace, as I did anything I didn't want to do - why are we so selfish when we are young, does selflessness really have to be a lesson learned?
My aunt had provided some small delicate glass dishes for the dessert, perhaps the dessert too. As I washed these dishes, they kept breaking apart in my hands. At first I didn't care. I was glad. It suited my sulk every time one broke; it felt like revenge. But after a while my aunt came into the kitchen and I had to explain what was happening. I know she was very fond of those bowls but even so she told me not to worry. And then of course I felt guilty, And when it happened again, I felt mortified. I think that washing the bowls in hot water and then rinsing them under cooler water weakened them - the glass was so fine and fragile. At least I learned how to treat delicate glassware. And the guilt just got sewn into the growing  patchwork guilt quilt that I carried with me everywhere and which would become bigger and more multicoloured as the years passed.

page 31 word 17  I
The Beckoning Silence
Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson is one of my favourite mountain climbing writers and one of my favourite writers in any genre. Go read any of his books, it doesn't matter if you hate mountains ( so does he sometimes) and if you don't get why people do it ( neither does he sometimes). This book explores fear, the fragility of the relationship between mind and body and circumnavigates the globe before culminating in a  hair raising climb up the deadly north face of the Eiger. A literary adrenalin rush sustained over nearly 300 pages. 
There is a guilt trip here too  concerning myself and Joe, but that's another story. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

16 which

Which foot hit the floor first when you got out of bed this morning? *

What if your life and death depended on that awareness? 

They do, wake up. 

page 31 word 16 which
All He Ever Wanted
Anita Shreve
Shreve writes thoughtful quiet dramas that centre on events and feelings which I think we can all probably recognise and relate to. Another book that in different circumstances I would never have read, enjoyable at the time but not memorable.

*Thanks to Kaspalita for his Eastern Therapeutic Writing Course and the David K Reynolds quote which was the inspiration here. 

15 going

The secret life of cats

Where is he going,
his tail erect and full of purpose?
Places to be,
things to see,
under the shade of a tree
he'll be,
in a garden where I cannot go,
small secret paths
that I will never know.

page 31 word 15 going
Iris and Ruby
Rosie Thomas

A book that, turn another corner I would never have read, which tells of a troubled girl running away from home to her Gran's - in Cairo. It's simply a lovely read, full of colour and light and hope.

Monday, 14 October 2013

14 scabbard

Scaften threw the chalice to the rushes, scattering the dogs, the dregs of the wine arcing and spattering, ominously redolent of blood.

"By the sun, I will stand afraid of no woman", he snarled, the low pitch of his voice turning the defiant words into a threat.

Mardwn sheathed his sword, his eyes never leaving the younger man.

"You would do well to reconsider, my lord". He spoke softly and without emotion, but Scaften was already turning his back, gathering and marshalling his men with the sweep of his cloak, the stench of war already in their nostrils, the taste of death blossoming blackly on their tongues.

This courage, this bloodlust they display now, let us see it come the day of battle, Mardwn thought bitterly as the belligerent men swaggered from The Great Hall. He remained on the loggia, staring out over the wild country that swept below the city walls and thought of Gajha, the woman at the centre of Scaften's malice, the woman Mardwn had known, down through all the long seasons of sun and snow, life and death. He thought of her strong weathered body, unbowed by war, unbroken by child bearing and hardened by suffering and endurance. He thought of her bow reach, her agility even now, all that she could outwit and outrun. He thought of her hair, a river of molten lead chased through with silver. He thought of her eyes and without knowing touched his sword's scabbard, for he knew all that was hidden in their dark shadowing depths.

No mother was she, this woman warrior, untouched and unsoftened by the natural love that the life maker and giver feels towards other living things. She knew no caprices, no fleeting affections, where she loved, she loved deeply. But Mardwn knew also the Gajha who had soft, vulnerable places beneath the carapace, the irrational attachments to certain of her beasts, the helpless passion for some young warrior or other that would overtake her and storm and rage within her, tearing at her until it was assuaged and spent.

Aye, mused Mardwn, if he but knew, he could defeat you by your own desires my lady, easier than any battle he might ride into against you, for there he like as not will lose, driven by powerlust and defeated in turn by his own impetuous desires.

As the pallid spectre of a ghostly dawn crept out from the shelter of night, Mardwn looked away into the west, toward the sea and an unknowable, unseeable future.

page 31 word 14 scabbard
The Crossing
Cormac McCarthy

I love this book but I can't it's a beautiful or uplifting read - it's harsh, uncompromising, brutal. But the writing is heaven......if you only ever read one Cormac McCarthy make it Blood Meridian, apocalyptic is all the words I have. And in true CC style, the word scabbard was a bit of stretch, but I did have this bit of an attempt at fantasy hanging around for just such an occasion. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

13 air

biting at sea air
blustery kisses
salt on my tongue

page 31 word 13 air
The Silent Cry 
Kenzuburo Oe

Minimal, distressing, incisive, Oe's writing isn't easy to read and once read isn't easy to forget. This  family drama moves forward in the shadow of inevitable tragedy and yet Oe still manages to weave a small,wry comic thread through his narrative. Oe won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, with The Silent Cry being singled out by the committee...'his poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament'.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

12 laws

We don't have a lot of routines and regulations in this house, but certain things although unspoken, are understood. Between us has stood a house rule that has become law - no more pets. Too much responsibility and we are growing older - I cannot risk having a beloved pet outlive either of us. We have both been happy, relieved even, to come to this decision.

But then along came Milli. 

page 31 word 12 laws
The Sisters
Saga of the Mitford Family
Mary S Lovell

The Mitfords are the perfect example of eccentric upper class Brits, there's a sister for every occasion, from marrying into the Stately Homes of England to falling in love with Hitler. The real thing, the down and dirty Downton. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

11 death

Make your nine lives last and last
For I cannot face your death

page 31 eleventh word death
Fanny Burney, A Biography
Claire Harman

I'm usually drawn to biographies of authors because I loved their books. That wasn't the case here. I'd heard about Fanny up and down the years in connection to different strands of literary history and jumped into this book without reading any of her work. A later look at her novels showed her to be funny,  incisive and  highly satirical, and no doubt a great influence on later writers such as Jane Austen ( to whom she had some connections). She was a prolific journal writer, giving us an authentic insight into 18th century politics, society and culture. And quite simply, she had an extraordinary life. In her 40's she had a lump removed from her breast - without an anaesthetic- which she later wrote about with great dramatic flair and in great detail, sparing us nothing. It probably wasn't cancerous, as she lived to be 87. There are three or four accounts of womens' lives that I have read and re-read and would recommend to anyone. This is one of them.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

10 fifth

Bonfire Night -  the Dads build the bonfire, light it and poke it about. The Mums have organised the buying of the fireworks and the Dads set them up and set them off, remembering to find empty milk bottles for the rockets and a hammer and nail to fix the Catherine Wheels to the wall or a tree. We've chanted the song over and over, we've had the lesson at school as usual, we've drawn men in funny hats with big round black bombs, we've been titillated by the hints of Guy Fawkes unpleasant end. I'm drawn by things that frighten me. I have a love hate relationship with the fireworks because they terrify me and they  thrill me. I worry about my little cat. I worry about the house catching fire. I worry about getting burned or losing my eye. I worry about my Dad getting his hand blown off by exploding Roman Candles. There are sparklers. I really hate the sparklers although I want not to, I want to be like the other kids and hold my sparkler in my unmitted hand and wave it about and write letters in the black night air with it. Uncle Ron brings me a sparkler and tries to make me take it but I scream and burst into tears. He is upset that I am upset and tries to comfort me. Luckily, even at this tender age, I can be comforted by food. A jacket potato, cooked in foil at the bottom of the bonfire, all charry and black and dripping with warm melting butter, can put my small world to rights. And after, I love the smell of woodsmoke, of spent bangers, of onions and soup. And the next day I love to see all the dead fireworks on pavements and garden paths, damp squids every one. 

page  31 word fifth
Tom Wolfe

Which I only bought  - in a charity shop - because of my fascination with the book about the film adaptation of a better known book by the same writer, more of which on day 20. Meanwhile, this first collection of Wolfe's observational essays which heralded a 'new journalism' one lives up to its glorious title. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

9 breakfast

While watching and not appreciating The Prince of Tides, my mother remarked that a film hadn't been made that was worth watching since Breakfast at Tiffany's. She couldn't grasp that some scenes were flashbacks - no visual clues -  and this was the first time that I really understood what the language of film means and how that language changes and evolves exactly as our spoken and written language evolves.

Page 31 word 9
Two Tramps
Amy Le Feuvre

And with all of the interconnectedness that I now realise weaves us all together, this word came from one of my mother's favourite books when she was a young girl. She was a voracious reader all of her life and I doubt that she ever re-visited this rather preachy tale, but she kept it all her life and I feel obliged to do the same, for her. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

8 wife

The day before she asked you, you and your lover had agreed the affair must end. The day after she asked you, your lover rang you and you went to her. But on the day she asked you, you felt justified in denying it because as far as you were concerned it was over. And later when it all came out, you felt misunderstood. After all, you hadn't actually lied and your wife should have taken comfort from that. The same way she should have taken comfort from the fact that you and your lover hadn't technically  had sex. So technically you hadn't been 'unfaithful', just deeply in love and that didn't reflect on your wife at all. That counted for something, surely?

word 8 page 31
Everest, The Unclimbed Ridge
Chris Bonington and Charles Clarke.

The Northeast ridge took no prisoners, allowed no breach and  claimed the lives of two young mountaineers in circumstances that can only really be guessed at. Heartstopping and heartbreaking and still one of the best ascent books I've read. Only Joe Simpson competes, but more of him later.....

Monday, 7 October 2013

7 looking

The white hibiscus  trembles
Weighed down by strange and sudden fruit
Small kitten eyes looking out
Too quick to pick
Too good to eat
Too sweet to resist

word 7 page 31
Daphne Du  Maurier 

There's nothing to add here that hasn't already been said about this wonderful, extraordinary book - a love story within a love story with strange and disturbing undertones and a startling unconventional finale.But if you want to read an enthralling biography, I recommend Margaret Forster's Daphne du Maurier, even if you've never read any of her books it's still going to be one of the best biographies you've ever read

Sunday, 6 October 2013

6 decoration

Her cool crystal beauty,
planed, all sharp and ice,
hides secret dancing ghosts
of reveling colour,
which only a third eye divines.

word 6 page 31
Steve and Megumi Biddle

Not a cheap little book but has given its worth and had as a bonus a huge swatch of beautiful origami paper which naturally I could hardly bring myself to screw up into sad apologies for cranes, frogs and chopstick stands. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

5 tree

Vecchio amico ormai
Con me sempre in questi dieci anni
Siamo cresciuti insieme

Old friend
Always with me these last 10  years
We've grown together

Word 5 Page 31 
The Crimson Petal and The White
Michael Faber

A beautifully constructed, post modernish  Dickens meets John Fowles ish novel  which still manages to be wholly original and totally enthralling. Sufferers of Post Book Depression be warned, there is no resolution here - our narrator leaves us bewitched, perplexed, frustrated and confounded. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

4 camp

We are in Newport, Pembs for the annual family holiday. While the rest of the family choose B&B, we   stay at the campsite on the Parrog. This is before we discover Bessie's pub up in the Gwaun Valley. We have a tent for two so because there is no space in the tent, and because it means not having to crouch down to cook, we have put the gaz stove in the back of the van. You take my picture. I am standing by the BT yellow doors of the van, both arms raised in supplication, a spatula in one hand. I am wearing a white, pink and mauvish 50's style sun dress. It has broad shoulder straps, a fitted bodice and a full skirt with two large square patch pockets. I have very short cropped hair and my face is tanned. I hold my head to one side, screwing my eyes up slightly as I smile into the sun. It is before. We are happy.

Word 4 Page 31
Everest The Hard Way
Chris Bonnington

One of the more curious interests my Mum and I shared was a bizarre fascination with mountain climbing, particularly those huge army style assaults on Mount Everest back in the day. Given that Mum had MS and I can't stand on a chair without severe vertigo, I can only think that this interest might have had its roots in our watching a film called The Glass Mountain together, probably as part of the Satuday Matinee series on TV. Many seeds were sown watching those movies and I'm pretty sure this one sprouted our mounaineering obsession. This book is a bit of a collectors item and is one of my very favourite Everest books. It's now looking pretty tatty but still readable and the photos are amazing.  We had also watched the BBC documentary together, shared the triumph and the tragedy. I fell in love with Dougal Haston and probably had the first seeds of my Dharma path sown in me while watching the sherpas perform their traditional pre-climb Buddhist ceremony.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

3 mythologies

Primary school - I was in the playground one morning waiting to go into the classroom. I was so cold that I had to go into the toilets and throw up in the basin.

We were on the beach. Dad swam out to sea. He swam so far I couldn't see him anymore. I had hysterics at the edge of the water calling after him and sobbing, because I thought he was never coming back.

I was on holiday with my Nana in Riccione, Italy. One day we came back from the beach and there was a newspaper stuck in the rack by the reception desk - Marilyn Monroe's death was headline news.

I can remember all of these events as if they happened 10 minutes ago.I can feel the cold, see those little kiddies toilets, see a blob of vomit in the basin. I can smell the sea and taste my tears and my fears at never seeing my Dad again. I can see the trellis of the rack, the tiny space that the reception desk was in, the name Marilyn Monroe in huge black letters.

Yet. Surely I couldn't have been so cold that I threw up? I have the sense that I was crying or had been crying? Was it something else that made me sick? My Dad couldn't possibly have swum out of sight, he would have ended up in Southend! It wasn't until I was 8 years old that it was discovered that I was chronically short sighted - perhaps he just swam out of my sight ( not far at all then). I discovered only a few months ago that Marilyn Monroe actually died the year after I went to Riccione. I was in Riccione on August 5th 1961, so where was I on August 5th 1962? It must be Belgium. Really.

Childhood memories. Childhood mythologies.

Word 3 page 31 
A.S. Byatt.
Which came into my possession I'm not sure how and that I remember just enough of to know that I loved it, but not enough of to spoil another visit. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

2 Think

I think about thought, the shape, the size, the sound.  I have an idea that  thoughts are like words running behind my eyes but when I look for them there, there is nothing. So they must be images. I grasp at shapes in vain,they don't materialize,there is nothing. Perhaps a thought is spoken then? I strain to hear a voice, but there is nothing. I think about the place where thoughts begin and where they end.
And there is nothing.
And nothing there is.

word 2 on page 31 
Barchester Towers
Anthony Trollope

If you think a series of books set in the 1800's about the trials and tribulations of the clergy in a quiet west country town must be the most boring thing you could read, you should think again. Trollope is a superbly observational writer, witty and tender, sharp and soft. Trust me and try him.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

1 Dates

Waking up in the middle of the night
Thinking I hadn't slept
Waiting for the stocking
And the morning and fried eggs.

 The ribbon and the wrapping,
The batteries they forgot to buy,
The tiny clothes that mummy knitted,
The paper chains that came unstuck.
The tangerine, the walnuts,
The chocolate pennies and the sugar mouse.
Snowballs with a cherry,
Babycham and sherry,
Roast chicken and brussels sprouts,
The sixpence in the pudding,
The rabbit blancmange and trifle,
The Queen and the Christmas tree.
Aunties and Uncles and Nana
My little brother, mum and dad.
The Christmas cake with marzipan,
A real coal fire and chestnuts,
The selection box all eaten now,
The Roses and the Quality Street
And fighting for the whirly one
The brazil nut and the orange cream.

But nestled in their coffin box
All lined with ruffled white,
Camels and palm trees and pyramids,
Handsome kings and desert sands,
Eat me!
Eat me!
The fat brown fruit cries out.

And the real mystery of Christmas is this,
Who ever ate the dates?

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Page 31 
First word : dates.

Such is the power of Nabokov's use of the English  language ( not his own) , that despite the unlikeable subject matter and the equally unlikeable protagonists, the narrative sweeps us along, drawn in and down and under, completely immersed and drowning in that rare and particular heaven that all literary experiences   should be. Extraordinary and ugly and beautiful and unforgettable.

31 Days 31 Books 31 Words

A bookcase stands in the hall and from that bookcase I take 31 books at random, one at a time. I turn to page 31 and choose the first word. I put the book back, take another, turn to page 31 and choose the second word. I continue in this way until I have 31 books and 31 words all from page 31. Sometimes the word is  and or the and those are sadly  rejected , otherwise anything goes.  Now for the 31 days of October those 31 words will be my inspiration.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

dusty bougainvillea

The last flames of crimson fade
And threadbare flowers,
Now grey as ash,
Like paper lanterns
Drift, whispering, away.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Daughter of the Ghost Cat

Here and now there
On the patent leather of her coat
One delicately etched white hair
As if to accentuate the glossy.
And on the tiny Zorro mask of her face
Above her eyes
A sweet preciousness
The smallest starbursts of pale hairs
Almost invisible
Nothing more than a ghost whispered hint
Almost imagined.

Her skinny whippy tail
Runs like a necklace through my fingers
Waving at its tip
A smudge of white
As if it had in passing
Like the finest bristle brush
Flirted briefly with an artists palette
And then run purring into a new adventure.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

august moon 31

The ripened August moon is fading.
Her fecund bloom all blowsy, overblown.
Her best has passed, her glory trailing,
Her day is done.
And in the dusty air
The smell of still distant sea mists
And summers ending.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

august moon 29

suddenly awareness manifests
it is not within
nor without
and it is both
and it is neither
and there are no boundaries
and beyond this horizon
there is no horizon

the veil falls whisperingly
like mist
like smoke

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Monday, 26 August 2013

Saturday, 24 August 2013

august moon 24

in the fabric of this dress
is the echo of another dress
and a little girl
in pale blue poplin
sprigged with rosebuds

today is my grandmothers birthday

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Sunday, 18 August 2013

august moon 18

and if sometimes
you are deeper
and darker
around the edges
as your small sweet life grows older
that precious
unchanging heart
blooms bright
and eternally
full of light

Saturday, 17 August 2013

august moon 17

the yellow of watering cans
and sou westers
and beach chairs
and a dressing gown
and of sun
and fun
and egg yolks
and madness

Friday, 16 August 2013

august moon 16

the raj quartet

and the mysteriously pleasurable sensation
of a shuttered room
and a fan

for Paul Scott with thanks

Thursday, 15 August 2013

august moon 15

where the air loves the green
and the sea kisses the earth
this precious gift rests

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

august moon 14

we talk of sitting
of our Lama
of refuge and retreat
we weave that special stuff
of heart and faith and metta


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

august moon 13

flushed and luscious flesh
cool sweetness drenching quenching
watermelon days

Monday, 12 August 2013

august moon 12

Delphiniums sweep into the room
Carried on a breeze
Of fresh white muslin

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Friday, 9 August 2013

august moon 9

Kitten Incursion.

Looking up, I see the cat stalking the hallway, his tail fat and low with disapproval , his grumpy old man ears snapping with disgust.  

Thursday, 8 August 2013

august moon 8

Yellow oily sky
Slick with heat
Pressing down like iron
Upon a cowering silent sea
The breathless moment suspended

Before the tearing and the ripping
The beating and the breaking
The jagged light
The bellowing wind
And the ominous taste of metal in the air

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

august moon 7

we lay on the white sheet
in the shutter shadowed room

side by side
like two beached fish
browned on a very hot grill
too hot  too tired
to kill that one fly
you know

that one fly

Sunday, 4 August 2013

august moon 4


caressing the soft downy skin
inhaling the mouthwatering perfume
the erotic promise of teeth nipping sweet flesh
and warm juices
that clothe the tongue
and close the eyes
and steal the breath

Saturday, 3 August 2013

august moon 3

the mother is texting
the father is texting
the child plays silently in the sand

Friday, 2 August 2013

august moon 2

Under the fecund green canopy bearing ripening fruit,
the sudden dry whisper of a withered and falling leaf
acknowledges that death, like life, is always present.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

august moon

on this dog day afternoon
a sliver of moon
hangs suspended in the blue
the bottomless depth of burning sky
while a tiny shiny jet
goes winking and sparkling by

*august moon is a creative project I've challenged myself to maintain for this month.

Monday, 15 July 2013

small summer stone

al fresco
dappled sunlight on spaghetti
and the pungence of  fresh basil

Friday, 31 May 2013

Friday, 10 May 2013

What I live for

Stringing beads

I am stringing beads
Some are cheap bright plastic
Some are precious and rare.
There are hag stones,
Bits of coral and turquoise,
A twig and some silver
Two old gold rings and a ruby.
Some are made of paper and glue
With writing on them, sad, and funny too.
Some are brassy, some are onyx,
Dragon glass and sea shells
Some are made of leaves and bark
There are petals and cigarette ends.
And one I baked in the oven
And a little Buddha
And some seeds tied with red string.
Some look like pretty boys
And kisses and loving
And pretty girls too,
A few, too few too mention
Almost resemble regrets.
Some look like tears
Seen obliquely through laughter,
Diamonds and Pearls.
There are lots that look like words
Mantra shapes that vibrate
And birds and a dog and rain and joy and pain

I am stringing beads
On this necklace
Which will never end.
But stringing
The beads
 I am.I am. I am.

Written for the What I Live For event curated by author Satya Robyn to celebrate the relaunch of her books in her new Buddhist name. Satya's wonderful book Thaw, about Ruth, who gives herself three months to find out what she lives for, is available at a special price for short time - read it and laugh and cry and remind yourself how precious this thing we call life really is.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

look up

grey grey pavement cut with shadows
drifting plastic and estate agents promises
gum and spit and leaves and shit
third floor balcony loving the sun
brazen geraniums and a smiling dog
music and light and fuchsia and white

Sunday, 5 May 2013

private dancer

A fly dances the barren white
of the garden table,
two front legs performing
a constant tango of exploration,
even in rest,
even in the stippled shadow
of the lowering purple geranium.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


A dog barks into the stillness,
the hollow rasp of its voice
like the unsheathing of blades.
Cold iron slicing across the flesh of dawn.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Memory Lane on Google Earth

I read the words
Student Union Bar
And I suddenly remember
I kissed a girl
And I liked it


A waterfall of hazy blueviolet wisteria flows down over three balconies, the soft pastel sweetness of its colours bleeding into bright white walls and seablue sky.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

new nikes

Grey cats eyes 
Perfect young skin
Her tiny athletic frame 
Wrapped in Adidas grey
I allow the delight of her sweetness and youth
To sell me the more expensive trainers.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

sunday morning

Sharp mediterranean light leaps through the window, illuminating the thrillingly aesthetic geometry of the fuschia bath mat on the anthracite floor tiles.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

 A single orchid flower falls and lays like a bruise on the honeyed wood of the table.
Only silence witnesses its soft perishing.

Thursday, 4 April 2013


the suffocation of a cluttered dream
a yearning for shibui

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


a sudden softening of the air
tender unfoldings
rapt with the scent of living green

Thursday, 28 March 2013

lazy cat

lazy cat on the dressing table
stretching luxuriously
one earring and a photo on the floor

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


We wait
We chant
We rest in silence
We don't look at each other
We don't speak
We simply feel the joy
It sparkles in the air we breathe
It brings our hearts and minds together
It weaves the Dharma into the very core of us
We smile

Saturday, 16 March 2013


Cat in the sun
Basking, stretching, yawning, rolling.
Neither thinking of the past
Nor of the future,
Neither hoping for the best
Nor fearing the worst,
Neither wanting nor lacking.
Aware only of this joyous moment
And living within it completely.
Cat in the sun
Teaching the Dharma.

rabbit interrupted

week has passed.
My palm still cups the memory
Of his downy egg shaped head.
The carrots remain uneaten.

Monday, 11 March 2013

monday morning

Two women on a balcony,
gaunt and grimfaced
blanketed in dark plaid
flick ash on to the heads of passers by below.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

another sunday

Waiting at the door
Cats with coats of many colours
Sunday congregation

Saturday, 9 March 2013

at the green grocers

a basket of mushrooms
their speckled boles with the world still clinging
their concertinaed flesh all moist and creamy
breathe the lush and earthy living essence
of dark and occult places

Sunday, 3 March 2013


writing by lamplight's
soft womanly glow,
shadows arc to secret corners
where white chrysanthemums whisper
and a skyblue paper fan unfolds,
above a single silken peony,
its carmine petals reflected
in the baroque and gilded mirror.

a distant shutter opens
to the beckoning clamour of sunday bells
and the wheeling gulls are laughing,
suspended between sky and sea.

coffee in a pearly seagreen mug,
cats, like lovers, between my legs,
words drift across the  page like clouds,
an inky memory,
a breathy silence,
a ticking clock.

ghost cat

The rabbit stills
flat eared, fastbreathing, eye of stone,
the sound of one leaf falling,
to earth, to death, to rebirth,
fluttering down the trembling silence,

no birdsong
no shadow

the Ghost Cat cometh.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


 Discarded without a backward glance

Left drowning in an oily puddle
along with the other detritus
created only this day and already waste,
the crushed plastic bottle, the can, the wrapper.

Thrown away because it no longer serves
like youth, like love, like life.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

popular culture 2

pouring red wine
bloodstains on the table cloth
mrs overall

popular culture

 crouching tiger
she bends into the wind
ears flattened
eloquent tail twitching
fur rippling
a field of brindle wheat
sensing the ghost cat
she blows bridles snarls
hidden dragon

Sunday, 17 February 2013

shadows on the ceiling
great ghastly skeletal fingers
pointing to the door

Saturday, 16 February 2013


a tiny batman
shuffles through drifting confetti
while assorted dalmations
drink espresso

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


biting back the wanting
and making do
with bitter cold coffee

Friday, 8 February 2013