Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Designed to disturb















Never a quiet day.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Poison



 


 

 
One of the most enjoyable months in the Knicker Drawer Creativity Centre when books of this season without light start to take shape ... books formed around poisoners, vengeful angels, persecutors, bone hunters, tormentors, magical creators, destroyers, darknesses and wish makers.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Oh! Frabjous Day!

I am on Cloud Nine!

At last! A line is made against the language which eats away at the humanity in us all; the language of deceivers made to skim truths, swerve sharp right and left; sustain the practice of weaving alternative 'facts' to hold power and control over a narrative.

We have here a line against the language which only pretends to support and sustain, but in truth serves to undermine and destroy trust.

Fakers, deceivers, vipers in the bosom - I don't care whether you walk in shirts and trousers or blue dresses with dangly earrings - you deserve now to ever sleep with one eye open.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

I recommend the bicycle of loveliness for sturdy mental health


My inner hippy is unburdened. I am cycling about this wonderful place of Milton Keynes, discovering its patterns of cycle paths, canal paths, woodlands and walkways.



I love it. And my bike. I love that too. Even though it is an old boneshaker with a wobbly wheel I sweet-talked off Freecycle.


And Squirrel was right! My lady garden has become numb to the pain of being totally flattened.




As you can see, my blogplace is become beautiful places to be.


At bike-height, I can enjoy the world with a different eye! I notice little things that I would never see from the windscreen of a Citroen. Like the detail on this driveway gate. Impressive juvenilia. (Much more engaging than a spray-canned penis.)


Pedal power has such supreme advantages over the motor car too! Here, I legged it to a local old-geezer music festival, where I can choose to drink beer without a second thought.


The only downside I have yet found is that cycling in the rain is fecking misery.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Okay, I admit to a touch of sarcasm. But they started it.

These days I consciously set about creating moments of laughter, fun, whimsy and enjoyment.

Grateful indeed then, to have one such opportunity come straight at me.

Go on, fill it in. Took about 30 minutes and I enjoyed myself.

https://consult.education.gov.uk/school-frameworks/children-not-in-school/

Closes 24 June 2019.

Don't put it off. Fill it in now.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Forking Path




A suitable place for a burial.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Bike it

Giving up the car for a 5-mile bike ride to Hobbycraft to buy 4 sticks of charcoal?

I start the journey with gritted teeth. Because (almost) worse than death, loss, sorrow and betrayal, is being guilt-tripped by Greta Thunberg to get on a bike.

Off I wobble, thinking, Greta, I have done this for you and the planet. A personal letter of acknowledgement would be nice, thank you.

After five minutes I consider this is indeed my noble sacrifice.

As we all know, saddles are designed for men. They can swing their giblets out of the way but I cannot readjust my lady garden. Frankly, it has been flattened. I am advised to 'just get used to it'. (Well, I may do, but not without first declaring my martyrdom on a public forum.)

But on return, with my charcoal sticks shoved down my bootleg, I am reluctant to stop.

I have loved it, the cycling. It has been brilliant. Exhilarating. I am aged fourteen again. Rat-like, I can slip through the back-streets of town, watching but not watched, evading scrutiny and being quick about the exit. I can find high freedoms on the three-mile road out of town, towards the next suburb - the beckoning place of so much brighter lights than my familiar street scenes of home. And I can discover routes and tracks and knowledges where the car-strapped cannot go.

Best of all, I stop and start and push and walk and freewheel when I choose. It is a blissful experience of remembering I have my own leg power and I get to choose how to use it.

Also, Greta, I am reminded that round these parts, the scenery is marvellous. Better than the back end of an Audi.

The scenery is only outdone by exquisite bird song of spring and the beating of my heart as I pause to take in the view.


In truth, Greta, you have guilt tripped my soul and I am glad. Also, Tiger is grateful because the charcoal was for her.


Friday, 3 May 2019

Gratitude, today you are...

A white lattice bench beneath the Mexican orange blossom.


Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Other stories to tell

People did not know how serious was Dig's illness: he kept it well-hidden.

But over the years, his presentation of himself grew more fragmentary. This person would appear in one place at one time and speak to people who listened. He came home and was different again. Defiant, vulnerable, weak, strong. His many presentations of himself was, to his way of thinking, not deceit, but an essential tactic. Illness and long-term medications whisper of chaos and fragmentation, of misjudgements and unreliabilities. Who can admit to those and stay whole? Who can get work? Who can go about the world as if complete, when all your life stories are escaping control?

A long-term Crohns sufferer, Dig was held together, at times, with steroids, codeines and chemical combinations of pain relievers. The steroids grew not rages but fantasies and imaginations. Life became more profound in places it was shallow, and less careful in places that needed more care. Cracks appeared; Dig covered them over with a silver tongue.

But it was all breaking down in the final months. Sitting with him at the hospital, I would watch him respond to a message on his phone, a shallow Wechat voice hectoring him for his lack of involvement on this enterprise or chastising him for failing to honour another promise made in another time. To me, both with the need to tell truth and the need to tell stories, he said, 'She doesn't know'.

But Dig was ever a good story teller. I have learned, never trust a story teller. They beguile people in different places at different times, telling fictions of themselves and others. A story teller has plots and characters at their disposal; they set out villains and heroes, victims and perpetrators. They weave one plot with another, add voice and intonation, make meanings from fragments. They leave out essential details: they let the listener assume what they need. Good stories are useful to get in and out of situations: especially if you want to escape responsibilities along the way.

In the unkind times, Dig's narratives began to gently disentangle. He was given to misjudgements and fancies. They were accompanied by ferocious clarity and terrible self-awareness. At times, Dig grew confessional under the sway of his truth-telling drugs. He suddenly said, 'I have made a terrible mistake!' I would say, 'it's okay, tell me about it, we can sort it out'.

Yes, he made mistakes, he fooled around with absences, loves and loyalties; he was weakened to flatterers and whisperers; he bent to people with careers to pursue, agendas to forward, vulnerabilities to exploit. He was led into places where he could not say No. In moments of clarity, he knew it, and told me so.

Cancer is horrible, plain and honest truth. You lose some of the person you knew while another person takes their place. All the time, the stories that hold their life together become more unmanageable, more rambling. As the drugs took hold in the last few months, he was increasingly gripped by magical thinking - I will do DIY, I will mend the car, I will move to Milford Haven - and then would follow his profound and grateful recognition of reality. Here is home where all love is given by us all; a force of love, forced by no-one. Where he loved and was loved, without control, without condition, without boundary. We make our own world, and our world was made together. One of his final moments at the hospice was to laugh with delight and say 'I am home!' I answered, 'Yes, you are.'

This future, his real, long-term future - if ever he could have escaped the drugs and the madnesses - was home, here. To this point, to this place, he returned, again and again. In his heart, he loved living in this house, with this garden, surrounded by his ridiculous piles of old stuff. On his reflective days he was glad for the comfort of life at home. What gratitude there is in a calm and restful space of complete acceptance and complete welcome.

In the last year, he said, 'I want us to grow old together'. We created it in the time allowed. Each day we would lie in bed and watch the line of daylight slowly slip across the wall and ceiling of our room. Its intimacy and predictability was comforting. In the middle of uncertainty, daylight soothed.

The morning cuddle I miss: it was the sustaining moment of the day. He knew he could return to that point, and know that whatever happened next, whatever was said, whatever he did, whatever human stupidities were offered up again and again, he could come back to this point, this morning routine of Don't get up without a cuddle. Here, in this moment we made together, he was safe from all the mess outside. Once, in a misery of self-pity, I said, 'Who could love an old woman like me?' He answered, 'An old man like me'.

Now, in my new state, I am finding death is an efficient teacher of life. I am learning about anger and calm; freedom and restraint; truth telling and deceit; poison and balm. On the worst of days, as I face down my lesson, I walk and stamp my forward path into holes the size of craters. I blast apart the earth and I rage at common betrayals. In the worst hours, stolen things taunt me. Time, words, actions. Things that should have been mine - my ordinary every day moments with you are like miracles - the words I gave freely, stolen from me, like my futures, thrown away to undeserving nothings. These are the ordinary betrayals of life and death, love and loss.

But I have the best of days, too. I break and I mend. Ahead is all new. I can walk my own path: I can construct my own reality. I need accept no stories from any other. I can see things clearly and I stare with vision learned from years. I can assess the past landscape with its borderlands and shadows with my detached eye. I can see better works ahead made of real substance. I gain balance and perspective. The borderlands are vanished and the shadows are transitory. Insubstantial, they slither away; they have gained nothing. I still have my own values to live by - honesty, integrity, vows made unbroken - and they stay, to guide my forward way.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

'I am here for you'

I cleared out rooms of Dig's things.

Hoarding temperament? Yes. Much.

I wonder if we'd sold this house (been here 30 years). I wonder a) How he would have moved all that shit and b) Who would have said, 'No problem! Stack your boxes in the bathroom!'

Of course, when you love someone, you turn a blind eye to 18 boxes of cables going back 30 years stacked in a bathroom. (Incidentally, the bathroom was made unusable mostly thanks to 18 boxes of cables stacked next to tool shelves propped against a wall.)

And then I stayed through a belly full of more than everything else.

Once, Dig said to me, 'Only you could love me'. I replied, 'No, you are a lovely person'. But I think, in truth, only I could have loved him with the huge scope that I did. I gave thirty years of range and depth, possibilities and impossibilities, grudges and resentments, forgivenesses and tolerances. Hatred and love, hope and despair. There were times when I laughed so much in his company the world turned round us. There were times when we both would have done away with that spinning wheel in the snap of a finger. We didn't. Brief Encounter? The truth is, the responsibility of giving up his daughters, home and family would have been too great a consequence to commit.

Then I sat 24 hours, every day, 10 days at the hospice, by Dig's side, breathing the last seconds of life before us.

Later, when it is all done, all gone, I catch up with messages on his phone. Some are from family, some are from groupies; there were star-struck types, parasitic types, flatterers and the career advancers that Dig collected. One message read, 'I'm here for you'. I reward our family with a hollow laugh. Yes, you are. In your synthetic Wechat/WhatsApp landscapes, you do indeed slip away with all your final nothingness, into the shallow depths of a plastic screen.

Thirty years got me the truth of my public vows. I never betrayed them. My wedding ring was made stronger than any transitory sparkle bought in temporary fits. My truth is, I fell in love quickly and I never lost that love. Through all the good and bad, regardless of others, I wanted my husband: no one else came close. My desire was thwarted, often by others more manipulative than me; sometimes by my husband who allowed himself to be easily led. But when I could not have him by me, I was in sorrow and loss. His absence gave me my reason for this record to exist. This is my truth.

For my vows, I was here when we lived on virtually nothing. I was here as a partner in inspiration and aspiration when we created our company and brought home contracts. I was here through health; I was here for sickness. I never left. I stayed. I loved. Nights, weeks, months of constant watchfulness, sleeping on floors besides beds, driving at midnight and at 3am backwards and forwards to hospitals. Thirty years brought me the care of vomit, urine and faeces. Thirty years threw me the harrowing knowledge that Dig's judgement was fragmenting under addictive painkillers, where he would never know the problem of withdrawal. Thirty years got me dealing with his stories, confessions and truths. Thirty years got me head, heart, family. Thirty years got me the past and the future; being here fully, totally, physically, immersively, viscerally, with every emotion wrung from me, holding the last hand to life and the true, incontrovertible right to claim, 'I am here for you'.

I am here.


Love in the time of chemotherapy

Monday, 18 March 2019

Tick, tick, tick, punch, cry

Yes, for in the wake of Dig's death, I have done form-fillings: legal/medical/registration/cremation/certification. I have called insurance and DWP. I have braved VAT and corporate liabilities. Paid HMRC. Taken thirty-plus bags of recycling to the tip. (This expedites Plan A: rent part of the house to someone who can afford it.) Visited accountant, four times, once with minor breakdown (me, not them). Scoured bank accounts for direct debits, standing orders, subscriptions, annual charges. Dumped phone contracts, decommitted from expenses, rang up people to ask, 'Why am I paying you?'

Yet to do: press destruct on the economic relationship with Arse Hong Kong.

I boasted about my progress on this March of the Dead to the woman at the bank. She looked at me warily and said, 'You have to have time to grieve'. I answered, 'My outgoings are steaming off the racetrack like a Tesla Roadster. My forecasted income is a toddler push-bike with a flat back tyre. Grieving this week equals 1.5K, so let's keep going through the bank account, please.'

It might sound harsh to the sensitive ear, but it is the cold hard edge of a morning in my land, true whether it dents the sensibilities of an Account Advisor or not. Dig lived his life with a casual approach to small items, like a few hundred for hotel, first-class lounge access and airfares - and I question his judgement in later years (I hope no handbags were actually purchased) - but as in so many areas of life, I pick up the result. Just as well I am never going to be defeated and will always stand up fighting.

Which reminds me. I am not sleeping. For two weeks. Three hours worst, six hours best. I am powered by adrenalin, waking at 3am swinging punches like a drunk from a bar, conjuring in the darkness the face of someone I'd like to see bloodied and toothless, before I twist their neck to a satisfying snap. Then I push them down in a sea of mud and set a never-sleeping monster on them to make sure they never emerge to further touch my life. (This could be a metaphor or not and I could be hallucinating again. Not sure.)

But then the day. And I am reminded of the crystal clear sparkling wonderful brightness of people I know; people who leave flowers. People who quietly bring a hamper of loveliness and goodness. People who write a line or a word, people who send blessings in an envelope, who listen to me rave and finger jab, who are there and who care, ready with their loves and loyalties and gentleness, that I cry, touched more by their generosities than for any death or loss, but for kindness. Kindness given to me so readily and freely and with such open-heartedness honesty that I feel strengthened to face the world where I know there is everything I value, ahead.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

What I learned

The last few weeks have been gruelling. Each hour came upon me with its own special form of gruel. Spiced, on occasion, by an extra serve of pain delivered straight to the gut in a skewer-grinding way. None of that for public consumption.

But I have learned this! That my children fill me with admiration. I have deep respect for them. They are remarkable people, made deeply resonant by experience. The world is a better place because they are in it. And I am indebted to them for their love, and their loyalty.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Friday, 4 January 2019

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Monday, 31 December 2018

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Monday, 24 December 2018

And for that, I am truly grateful

So many gratitudes. First, to the people who, through the year - inbetween, at the start and to the end - have sent good wishes, magic wands and generally happy news to make us smile. Thank you. I'm sorry that I don't always manage a prompt reply. Your words are lovely, beloved, cherished.

And we are all here, still: Dig is not receiving chemo at the moment. 2019 will bring, waving a magic wand with extra sparkles, a different round of treatment.

Then the gritlets. What reasons for gratitude they each are!

Squirrel, for the largest part of the year, has been the only family member with an actual paid employment from an actual real employer. Her job is crackingly good. I would half-inch it myself if I wasn't already performing my own daily dramatic performance. Working at a local theatre in ushering, support, selling, dogsbody, is giving her experience from the ground up. Hopefully she can wangle free tickets soon extend her abilities and interests in theatre to help it form part of her future career options.

Shark, meanwhile, is putting her gap year to excellent use. She's notching up volunteer work with the local hospice (all-round good egg), studying for further maths and, her icing on the cake, starting a job with a robot company, so she can put you all out of work. She also managed to lure Squirrel away from school in September (not hard) to go travelling in France, Germany and the Netherlands. (Not too difficult to get leave of absence, by the way. I wrote, ahem, a persuasive letter to the Camp Commandant, composing the national press invisibly between the lines, and they looked the other way for two weeks.)

Tiger is settling nicely into a sort of illustrative brilliance and natural gifted talent. If you don't see her drawings in some form in the future, then something has gone wrong with the world. Donald Trump has blown it up, or Tiger has nobbled her own abilities by going bonkers in a seriously profound way. Pity me then, daily trying to prise her out her room, coaxing her from the ceiling with pasta, and telling her that she is loved, no matter what, even when she has to do worse than worst.

There remain two other points of gratitude yet. One is the fact that HSBC haven't given our last meagre quid to the Chinese government - yes, I went to Hong Kong and swore my oath and made my prayer to the courts - and the other is the best, the very best, the reason we can be grateful now and forever, alpha to omega.

This reason was given, unprompted, like a gift into our family. It is now my new hymn, sang at the day's end with my other treasures, alongside, From little acorns grow big trees, and Things will take a turn for the better by Friday:

Yesterday I went to meet a horse! Wow, what a bad idea that is. It has gone on my reasons to be cheerful. I don’t have a horse.

Monday, 5 November 2018

I believe there is a vulgar phrase for this

The first time I heard it, was from the mouth of a Californian. Shit happens! I wondered what he was talking about. For a split second I thought he needed the bathroom.

But it is a useful phrase, is it not? Albeit from my perspective, not quite vulgar enough.

I am out to Hong Kong for two days. Sleeping on the plane (saves money); hotel in Wan Chai (run down); definitely not eating out (7/11 will do me a loaf of bread).

This is all thanks to the bank in Hong Kong, closing our humble company, freezing our account (yes we were in the process of closing the residue down) and giving the remaining money to the government. Unless we lodge a legal appeal at the courts. Which means me turning up, in person (wild-eyed, scary hair), to sign on the dotted line.

Cue: Shit happens!

Well, we have done the maths. It's worth one shot trying to wrestle our savings back from them, but not any longer case nor cause. The solicitor reassures us that the procedure is normal for 3-5 months. Well, yes, I can sort of believe this: what administrative 'crime' would you like to commit?* There is a scale of charges for that. When we overstayed our visas, a cash register sang a merry tune at the end of the paper trail.

And then. The hospital changed Dig's SuperJuice. The first line stopped working. His new chemotherapy recipe will no doubt bring new challenges to us all.

But his spirit of fortitude/endurance/obstinacy/constancy should be bottled too, then we could carry a token of Dig Resolve and nothing will ever ruffle us, ever again.

Even under extreme circumstance, Dig shows the same sort of constancy and supreme command of events which reassures me, regardless of wherever and whatever I am doing.

The same sturdy resolve, in fact, when I telephoned him in 2002 seeking his calm and firm reassurance. When throwing myself off a tall building seemed like a good idea because the children wouldn't go to sleep. I was in England. He was in Japan. I was off my head, sobbing. He was at a fancy celebration involving a diplomat and a tray of sushi. He removed himself immediately and talked me down from the rooftop. It was the best £200 I ever spent on a phone call.

Yes, he is still showing that sort of resolve and I need it. It will get me through the week, when there will be nothing suspicious about me as I hit airport security, unstable and unblinking, clutching a bag full of legal papers, an old DVD player, and three pairs of knickers. Without it, I fear for the hours. Even grit can be ground down.

But! There are bright, bright sparkles of everyday! Just like normal. When Shit happens!

I just created a lovely range of note books for a bunch of storytellers. You are fundamental to me, you lovely people, and I don't much care what form you take - in writing, vision, talking, telling. You take me into other worlds where all is not a simple daily desperation.

* By the way, we haven't done anything to merit closure, apart perhaps from not doing anything.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

The Blasted Hour of Marketing Hangs Heavy on Me Again


Just come to Stall 13, Handmade and Vintage Doodah, CMK this weekend. Okay? It's a lot easier on all of us. To sell my beautiful Knicker Drawer Note Books I won't be wearing Shark's apocalyptic facemask, although I might dress up A Bit Steam. Not enough to frighten you with the goggles and plumbing and copper piping, just enough to enjoy myself.



I have a lot of lovely books for you there. Ridiculously under-priced. And, if you are the right person, I might even hand one over to you completely free. Yes, that might be a bit off-trolley, but I'm not out to make any more than simply feed my own addiction.



The Knicker Drawer Note Books are passion. Vulnerability and endurance; loss and remembrance; blasted hearts and broken souls and resilience and bloodyminded determination to hold the little things that matter. Like postage stamps and handwritten notes, which are timeless and endure well beyond any day's trials, like body blows and mortal wounds. Intimacy. Yes, that as well, in the materials I use and the crumpled cotton bedsheets from which I stitch. Am I rambling? Who gives a toss. I'll put those thoughts in a notebook.








My next step is to sit in front of the computer, DOING MY MARKETING. Pity me there. I will be cursing and threatening Facebook (which I hate, much like a 17thC Puritan facing down Satan), and Twitter, which is maybe not so bad, because at least Donald Trump gives me a laugh.

Ramblings. Better committed to a lovely tactile sensory notebook, tied with ribbon, scented with perfume, and stashed away in a Knicker Drawer for my great grandchildren to wonder at and assume that I just drank a lot of gin.