Saturday, 26 May 2012

Update on the Pagan Reading Challenge 2012 so far

Remember the Pagan Reading Challenge I signed up for?  (For info – click on the little pic at the side of the blog of a maiden reading beneath a tree.)  This is how its going so far, since January – what I’ve read this year that’s relevant to it.  (I’m in the middle of many more books, pagan and non-pagan, as usual, but the only ones I list are ones I have actually finished with.)

Forgive me while I get a bit nerdy and categorize them for you:

Fluffage – as in, related to serious topics, but done in a very ‘we must sell this book by the thousands!’ kind of way

  1. Goddess Signs, by Angelica Danton
    (A nice idea, to mix the Chinese astrology with Western, and to add goddesses.  But it didn’t work for me.  I didn’t feel exclusively or only like my designation – a Metal Pig, a Protectoress Goddess, like Demeter, a Mother.  Its just one part of me.  The learning resonated, but nothing else.  A seller.)
  2. Llewellyn’s 2011 Witches Companion
    (Some trash *and* some very good thoughts – notably the one about wealth by Calanteriel: comfort, freedom, security – an interesting system for thinking about money, how to approach it, identified.  And the section on your own fairy tale story, as a useful tool, that really appealed to me.)

Ghost Stories (always deserving of a category of their own)

  1. The Winter Ghosts, by Kate Mosse
    (A very nice idea that would have been a wicked good short story.  But was ruined by being self indulgent, overly long and oh my god so badly written; all portentous in the wrong places etc.  Dreadful. I hate to say that about any book - but I could see how truly wonderful it could have been.  I hope other people liked it.)

Anthologies – collections of (usually reasonably academic) essays on whatever topic

  1. Hecate: Keys to the Crossroads, edited by Sorita d-Este
    (Some very interesting stuff in here.  A very friendly book, on the whole, about a rather scary seeming goddess.  Some awful bits too – I think it was the essay by one contributor where she slavishly talked about the ‘high born’ Hekate that really put me off.  I can’t relate to the gods as if they are so much better than me.  That probably sounds odd.  I can’t be dealing with entities in a way that suggests they would be doing me a great favour by simply noticing my existence, let alone interacting with me, or helping me.  I prefer to think of it as making friends with someone from a different culture: carefully done, with sensitivity; but both on the same level, just offering different things to the relationship.  David Rankine’s essay made her sound very scary, too.  The book didn’t manage to explain why so many people find her so much the be all and end all of goddesses.  I found that a bit strange.  But I am sufficiently interested to read more; and have a nice satisfying looking reading list to be getting on with.)

One Book Primers on esoteric subjects

  1. Essential Asatru, by Diana L. Paxson
    (Now – here was a book where the gods were treated as “friends and allies”, and toasted, not fawned on.  And I have started working with some of these gods – Thor, Odin, Frigga, etc – they all sounded wonderful, and friendly.  I really enjoyed this book, and seem to be having a real almost obsessive THING for the Norse gods and myths at the moment.  Am talking about it all with an Asatru follower on FB – who also has a most brilliant blog, here it be:  He has humour, a certain force and authority to his words – and that thing prized highly in these circles: a grasp of the lore and an ability to quote and do the homework.  I actually fit in quite well with this mentality.  I shall borrow some.  The author of the book, to get back to the point,  worked with Marion Zimmer Bradley for a long while; that was where I first knew her name from; she co-authored some of the later books.  A fine fiction writer as well as an explainer of this strand of paganism.)

Pagan and/or Magically based Fiction

  1. Moondance of Stonewylde, by Kit Berry
    (I enjoyed this a lot more than the first book.  Magus is still a terrible character, getting oddly more cartoon villain and yet real at the same time, as is Clip becoming more the ‘worm’ of Yul’s trip-vision.  There was less outright suffering to make me miserable in this book.  Sylvie’s suffering was real, but was offset by Yul’s strength and growth in respect and understanding of his destiny– you felt challenges would be coped with, hard, but met.  Him running around the stones touching them each as he went until he drew a storm, to stop Magus feeding on Sylvie’s moon magic was tearful and memorable.  There were some brilliant characters in this one – Professor Siskin, and Old Violet.  What is Kit Berry’s obsession with old women that are outrageously ugly, have claw fingers and all smell so bad???!  Very odd.  But I loved this one and can’t wait till the next; which luckily I have on the bookshelf…glad Buzz was disposed of.  Can’t wait for Jackdaw to be got rid of too.)
  2. Solstice at Stonewylde, by Kit Berry
    (Read all in one day, almost hallucinogenically, while laying in bed with a stinking cold and feeling dead in the body, but the brain was still moving in curious neon circles.  Jackdaw got well and truly disposed of in this one.  As did Magus, in the most un-action action scene.  She managed to make it like a repeating pattern, happening but also happened many times before.  Professor Siskin came home for good; Mother Heggy understood the meaning of the fifth candle…and Sylvie had a windey time in this instalment, but came good in the end.  Miranda saw the light; and Yul became the beginning of what he needs to be.  This was so good I’m scared the next may not be as great.  Because Stonewylde needs to be a place where good wins out.  But I think Kit Berry knows that.)
  3. Book of Moons, by Rosemary Edgehill
    (Another good Bast novel, one of the trilogy Rosemary Edgehill wrote, always readable, and always more authentic than lots of others in this wonderful hybrid genre.)
  4. Shadowland, by Peter Straub
    (A re-read, for possibly the 8th time? Not as good as I remember, but so many parts of me are in this, and things I think and feel to be true for me – this was THE book of my 20’s.  I seem to have moved on since then – but I have no idea where to or who I am currently, so there is no book of my 30’s or 40’s to define me as yet.  It’s all a confusing fog.  I remember when I had a vague idea what was going on, and maybe I will again at some point – who knows?  Some days I do.)
  5. The Gold Falcon, by Katherine Kerr
    (The series goes on and on…and I wish it would never stop.  Even the less exciting parts, like this one, are full of characters so familiar and cherished.  The bit with Branna calling to Rhodry at the end – it’s rare anything makes me cry in one line, for the lost ideal of deeply returned love, these days.  But the last book did it when Rhodry turned; and this book did it, as I say, with one line at the thought he might, at some point…come home.  Jeez, crying just thinking about it.  That’s powerful writing – when you wish you were there not here.  Even when here is fine.  I’ve read her books ecstatic with my own love and hope, and in the pits of disillusion – no matter where I am, I go to where she is, and dwell there.  THAT is the purpose of writing, to poach people’s consciousnesses, and have them live in yours – true communication, the receiving of a clear vision of some else’s mind.  Never alone, with people all around, all of whom you understand, even if you do not like.  The world only makes sense through stories.  Even if one day, my need to pattern may backfire on me.)

The next step on whatever path books…

  1. Living Wicca, by Scott Cunningham
    (On the whole, a very reassuring read, in that I liked his clear and informal, simple tone.  I liked being told, just because others say this is the only way or contradict one another, doesn’t mean you have to do it this way.  There were several very nice turns of phrase for invocations and small rituals, that I would like to borrow.  Then I was rather put off by his saying the goddess and god ‘are deities and bigger than us’, created everything, and other rather Christian turns of phrase though he was clearly not friendly to Christianity.  (As you know, I couldn’t give a stuff whether the world was ‘created’: it’s what you do here that counts.  And the HOW of evolution is fascinating.)  I liked and disliked the fine line he walked between telling you to follow your gut (and ‘pray’, rather than meditate on, or some less Christian –like buzzword), and you DO have to do this or that thing, or else ‘you’ll be inventing a new religion’.  To which I wanted to say, ‘Yes, and?  If I do, it means ‘traditional’ Wicca wasn’t for me, so..?’  It was thought provoking.  I also did like his insistence that I re-examine in depth all my ideas and correspondences etc, to make sure I have everything straight in my head should I come to writing my own solitary Book of Shadows.  He kept reminding me that I would be forming my own ‘tradition’ as a solitary.  Perhaps I just dislike that word, and want to think of it as simply my own path, my own variant on what other people do.  Either way, it was a read that made me think – disagreeing with him in a way that expanded my thinking rather than limiting it.  So good.  Disagreement is vital for thought production!)
  2. Wiccan Warrior, by Kerr Cuhulain
    (Best and most down to earth Wicca/magick book I’ve read in some time.  Why does he not write more often?  I like his calm confident tone, his reasonable way of talking and his sensible suggestions for incorporating Wiccan ideas into life.  I like the organisation of the chapters; and the way the idea of being a warrior is used not in its strictest martial sense, but in a strengthening of purpose and sense of self way – much as the Asatru emphasis is, on similar subjects.)
  3. Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, By Melusine Draco
    (This was a funny read for me, as she was a very opinionated writer, and full of ‘what a real witch does’, as opposed to a…new agey pretend one.,  I get bored of all the division in the pagan world.  No, that’s inaccurate - let me re-state: I think its very healthy there are tons of different flavours in the pagan world, but I get fed up with some of them always doing down other ones.  Live and let live if no harm is being done!  Anyway, despite the fact I found her a bit contentious, amazing things happened to me while I was reading the book, directly relevant to what I was reading – so it seems the material resonated with me, despite her annoying, at times, tone!  It was during this book’s reading I found my magickal name, after over 10 years of looking for it, for example.  She helped me see that it was right in front of me.  Also, right when I was reading about a Witches Pouch, used for strength and protection, I found a very relevant thing for mine, in the garden.  It was all nicely serendipitous.  So I will read more of this annoying, opinionated woman, and see what happens next.

If you’re thinking this was an odd and arbitrary selection of books – it’s true.  The year is only half gone, I have loads more.  My magical and pagan and nature bookshelves burst, with their contents all crying out to me, all wanting to be read right now.  My Santeria, Heka, Hellenism, Hoodoo, Voodoo, Feri sections…all that relevant social history stuff…so many stories…

If you wonder where the shamanism or Druidry was in that selection, remember I just finished the Bardic Grade of OBOD – so its been there all along, lived every day – just in something I’m not counting as a book (though I did, ehem, read it all, all the many many moons of it…). 

Also – it takes, and I am only exaggerating a teensy bit here, hundreds of years to read and learn through the Norse and Germanic lores…I have been reading the Prose Edda for 4 months now, around other things!  And I think I will be reading that and Beowulf and various others of the Lores, for many months to come! I am becoming very fond of Thor.

Lastly, what I’m not including here, partly out of embarrassment, I spose – is my obsessive devouring whole of the wonderful English annuals and comics of Misty (in particular) this year.  Anyone who used to read Misty as a girl knows you got an awful lot of supernatural/paranormal/pagan notions in there…And I’ve always been a great believer in returning to the things of childhood to regain a simple understanding of things that have become unnecessarily complicated by people’s personalities and baggage, as adults. 

A friend once read my horoscope and summed me up in a sentence.  She said: ‘You go forward by going backward.’  Yup, that’s me.  I will always go back to fetch things I forgot if I think they are still likely to be useful.  New things, old things: all can be helpful.

2nd Guest Postage by Frank Key, of the Ever Wonderful Hooting Yard website

I have never read Touching The Void, Joe Simpson’s 1988 account of clambering, crawling, and hopping down a snowy Peruvian mountainside with a broken leg. It was recommended to me, by someone whose recommendations I generally trust, but for some reason I never got round to it. Today I learned, via the Grauniad, that the book has become a set text for teenpersons in our self esteem ‘n’ diversity hubs. I was startled, as I had no idea they were still encouraged to read. It was not this revelation, however, that was the point of the story. Rather, it was that various scallywags have been conversing with Simpson through the medium of Twitter. All this social networking and internettery can bring writers and readers together, you see.

(As I know myself. In a fit of madness, I once sent an email to Alain De Botton to berate him for not knowing the difference between deprecate and depreciate. He replied, the sensitive soul, within about thirty seconds, to protest that he did know the difference, and went into a lengthy and convoluted justification of his misuse. I was not convinced.)

Anyway, I am afraid I must report that, rather than taking the opportunity to applaud Joe Simpson for his valour and grit and gumption, the teenpersons have been whingeing at him. Much of this is not worthy of comment, but I have to applaud the youngster who coined the term “crevasse wanker”.

Now I tend not to use the language of the gutter myself, not from any sense of prudery, but simply because I consider it a bit lazy. I once knew a man whose every single utterance included at least one “fuck”, and usually more. It was very tiresome to listen to him, and after a while one wanted to stuff a rag into his mouth and have him whipped out of town, as they might have done in an earlier, less barbarous age. Or perhaps I mean more barbarous. If so, it would suggest that a certain modicum and type of barbarism is actually a good thing. I must ponder that.

Generally speaking, the rarer the fuckery the more effective it is. Pansy Cradledew, for example, a woman of great elegance and grace, lets rip with a “fuck fuck fuck!” about once a year, on average. So unexpected is it that jaws drop, glass tumblers shatter, and birds fall stone dead from the skies. Ms Cradledew’s last outburst, at some point in the year of Our Lord MMXI, was occasioned by some finicky faffing with thin strips of cardboard and adhesive paste in the course of constructing a cardboard model of an important building. She was not using the proprietary paste known as Cow Gum. Perhaps that is what caused the sudden fuckery.

If one must swear more often than annually, then I think one should at least approach the task with mad creativity. The baroque flights of sweary fancy in the scripts of The Thick Of It are a model here, but I think it is no accident that they are, precisely, scripted. Few of us could come up with those verbal fireworks spontaneously. The sadly-unnamed Twitterer who called Joe Simpson a “crevasse wanker” belongs, I think, in Malcolm Tucker’s company. It is a phrase of genius. I only wish I could think of occasions when I might use it myself.

Knowing not a jot about Joe Simpson, and not having read his book, nor seen the film documentary which was adapted from it, I have no idea if he deserves to be called a crevasse wanker. But without for one moment discounting the valour, grit and gumption of those who pit themselves against nature’s terrors – mountains, oceans, uncharted territories, polar wastes – there is something faintly laughable about the whole business, is there not? I have read more widely in the accounts of Simpson’s predecessors in earlier centuries, and part of the pleasure, if not most of it, is in the contemplation of the sheer foolishness at large. The following quotation, very dear to me, seems to sum up an entire ethos. In Ex Libris : Confessions Of A Common Reader (1998), Anne Fadiman writes
Who but an Englishman, the legendary Sir John Franklin, could have managed to die of starvation and scurvy along with all 129 of his men in a region of the Canadian Arctic whose game had supported an Eskimo colony for centuries? When the corpses of some of Franklin’s officers and crew were later discovered, miles from their ships, the men were found to have left behind their guns but to have lugged such essentials as monogrammed silver cutlery, a backgammon board, a cigar case, a clothes brush, a tin of button polish, and a copy of The Vicar Of Wakefield. These men may have been incompetent bunglers, but, by God, they were gentlemen.
Incompetent bunglers, gentlemen, and very probably crevasse wankers. It is a term we can also apply to the doomed Scott and his chums, perishing at the South Pole a hundred years ago. I am beginning to think it would make a splendid title for an anthology.

Incidentally, does one have to be British to be a crevasse wanker? Perhaps I am blinkered, but somehow certain foreign persons seem less preposterous when pitting themselves against the etcetera etcetera. For example, Werner Herzog’s various forays, and accounts of others’ forays, into inhospitable wildernesses are, to be sure, ridiculous, but there is a mad grandeur about them. Could Aguirre, The Wrath Of God be retitled Aguirre, The Amazonian Jungle Wanker? I think not.
(~this post was up on the immortal and wonderful Hooting Yard website yesterday.  It made me wet myself with giggling, so I thought to do the same joyful thing for you.  Aren't we lucky he let me borrow to put here for you?  Do go to the website and be entertained and wiping your eyes from tears of laughter, for the rest of the day.  Find it in my blogroll.  Thank me for discovering this for you, later, preferably with cake, chocolate or girls comics from the 70's or very early 80's…)

Writing Exercises, Part 5

So.  Apologies for my long absence.   

I had a week’s internet outage, courtesy of Virgin Media; Stanley had a health scare (that warranted a worrisome short time in hospital, he’s better now); and then I (not to be outdone of course) had one too – that will go on much longer and probably not be sorted for months.  (I win, she says glumly.)  I’ll no doubt bother you all with this latest health scare sooner rather than later; but not now.  Not today.  Today I am catching up on my lackage of posts this month.   

Today, here are some more writing exercises.  It’s my favourite, my literal favourite, and you’ve read me do these ones before.  Just pick a load of random words – concepts, things, emotions, whatever.  Write your list, and then image away.  Just see what comes to mind.  A scene, a feeling, a speech, a tiny flash fiction – you get it.  And then, if I like any of them, I can use them later, incorporate them into something else.  Or re-write them.  Etc.  So here are some.  Little flashes of nowt in particular.

More postage in a minute…

…often cursed her dead mother.  A consequence of living with lots of old Catholic women, was that Mary was often compared unfavourably to the Blessed Virgin.  Mary was neither dressed in a pale blue robe, meek, nor blonde.  She had dark curly hair that she kept cut short, and she felt angry a lot of the time.  She held her head up and looked people in the eye, always.  She wore black as it felt like limitless space and possibility to her.  She never felt meek.

I carry my sorrow with me, as a stone in my pocket.  Some days it swells and I have to get it out and hold it in my hands, to stop it tearing my clothes and making me fall over.  Looking at it magnifies it, but also makes it manageable.  Some days, like today, it is but a small piece of gravel in my shoe somewhere, I can barely feel it.

…is the blue sky overlaid with a heavy lace of clouds, and green leaves shaking and straining against the branches of the cherry tree.  Caught by wind, caught by nature, caught here on earth but waving at the sky.  All possibility is within those things: all possibility here and now and always, all at once.  Joy stretches through me and runs light like a cat, quick through my garden, heavy as a bee dusted with pollen, drunk and greedy.

…as the walls of her last bedroom: a sky blue, a stretch out forever blue.  The whole room looked much bigger, the bed a white clean plumped up haven on a sea of calm.

Amanda knew her mum would love the Royal Wedding mug, even as she ‘tsked’ at the £9 Waitrose was charging for it.  At least it said ‘Kate and William’ and not ‘Kate and Wills’ – which would have made it sound like a marriage between a human and a dog.  It was an ugly mug though – strange toby jug style with a flat disc at the bottom to stop it falling over, and a large lip around the top.  An over stylised handle.  Lots of beige, and badly transferred gold leaf.  Still.  Her mum would love it.

When she saw it in the charity shop, she knew it was the kind of skirt that provoked dreams of another life.  Chiffon, deep dark red, and cut A-line on the bias – it would swirl, demanding dancing.  She stopped, ignoring the rain, ignoring Ben in his buggy craning round crossly and starting to yell, as she stared at it and calculated the damage if she bought it (approximately one nights dinner for herself). She allowed herself a vision of dancing at a fairytale ball – something Viennese, echoes of the seventeenth century, Robin dancing with her, his hands heavy round her waist and shoulder.  He would look into her eyes (while wearing his own brilliant flouncy shirt), and she would feel a click of completion.  She escaped the rain, and went into the shop.

(Four months later, the skirt lay in her wardrobe, with some others.  She hadn’t been quite able to do up the zip and didn’t want to break it trying.  She was telling herself she was dieting into it; whilst sitting downstairs and eating her daily bar of Dairy Milk.)

When she had heard the story of Cinderella, she had thought that if a girl was to wear a glass slipper it would turn her to glass.  Why would it not?  A perfect shoe, unmoving, ungiving, no humanity could wear that – so to slip in your foot (which would try so hard to spread a little, to find comfort), would of course turn you into a glass person.  It was the only explanation.  Otherwise the glass slipper made no sense.  Penny liked things to make sense, and modified the story each time she heard it.  Of course, this meant that she changed the story entirely from the moment Cinderella got dressed.

…worried that if he didn’t start writing soon, he would just die and that would be that.  It was bad enough to have imaginary conversations with one’s biographer one’s whole life (and now be 70), without having achieved a single biography worthy action or consequence.  But to simply die and still have achieved nothing?  He coughed again, feeling the gurgling phlegm rising again.  He went to the toilet to spit.  Chromic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease wasn’t anything romantic like typhoid (no La Boheme here), but it was still a slow death sentence to an unfit man of his age who had also had 2 previous heart attacks.  He sat again at his desk.  His fingers waited over the keyboard.  He thought about bravery, and time.

…was the worst day of the week.  Monday had a horrible inevitability about it. Tuesday meant Monday was over, there was almost a lightness to it.  Thursday meant the end was in sight, Friday just had to be endured, though with small pockets of joy.  The weekend was when life got actually lived.  Wednesday was adrift in the middle – Wednesday really was work.  Wednesday was a long day.

A car was what you did when you didn’t have a horse, Carly thought, with joy.  She sped along the field, feeling the amazing sense of Kelt beneath her, an engine, a breathing passionate welding to herself.  She felt the wind in her hair, felt the clods of earth torn loose by his hooves spray out.  In the corner of her eye, between gasped breaths, she saw cars slide smoothly along the A-road.  They had carved a path, they had their straight lines.  But Kelt: he could practically fly.

In the morning, after the honey cheerios, came the one and only thing that would weld her to the day: coffee.  A plain and cheap instant coffee, made interesting (and palatable) by 3 teaspoons of diet hot chocolate.  She held it to her face, cupping the mug with both hands, to feel its warmth and energy.  She smelled its curling sweetness.  Then drank it down in 3 or so mouthfuls, ingesting it like the drug it was.

Newspapers were things that annoyed her on the tube.  Broadsheets spread and flipped in her face by self important men with no sense of space.  They were also responsible for a lot of worry and angst under the guise of education.  Phoebe opened her novel and felt superior.  I might be reading fiction, she thought, but I’m not being depressed by it; I’m being inspired.  She lowered her head and surrendered her consciousness to the story, blissful.

It was her first garden, and she almost didn’t want to touch it or do anything with or to it.  It grew and grew – brambles in the hedge, the hedge sprouting messy tall shoots, and bumping out at the sides, like a fat man with a huge beard.  The lawn became a meadow with a random self seeded sycamore shooting out from the top left hand side.  She watched the grass wave and shy in the wind, hypnotised.  Then David mowed it and all at once it was tidy and that was amazing too.  The mad borage and comfrey infestations fought with strong stemmed thistles and giant poppy plants all around the edges; but the lawn was stripy and calm.

The rosebuds were all neat children compared to their overblown and floppy mothers: red and curling outward so much their scarlet petals dripped one by one to the ground.  So open they fell apart.

Upstairs in the old Law Library in Senate House, Anne looked out over everyone.  She sat, with a comforting tower of books barring her from the stranger at the next table, and watched the studious below.  Heads bent over their books, highlighters and orderly pages stapled together.  She returned herself to her own work, seeing a similar collection of highlighted notes, tidily pinned together.  I belong here, I work too, she thought.  A soft smile warmed her, her bent head shielded by hair.  Alone in a collective hush of learning.

Seeing someone look at you, and knowing that if you turn up your mouth and let your feelings of joy at seeing them flow to your eyes, you will see it mirrored back to you: this is one form of love.

Winter holiday
The idea of a frozen landscape, a captured white.  Steps cracking and crunching a path through silent trees holding still with cold.  Seeing far into the forest and confusing the horizon for the ground.  The idea was to come here for quiet, for isolation.  With a puff of vapoured breath on the air, you realize with a chill: there is no one here but me. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A broken tooth, a broken car, and then The Imaginary Beach of the 1970s

This is how I feel, see, this:

Alias True went for a walk yesterday, in the amazing sudden sun, and took loads of pics and sent me some (this and the one at the end are examples).  All his pics are lovely, he has a good eye.  I was totally caught by the blue, just gazing on, forever.  The pastel little huts, the scrubby green.  That darkish sand.  See, I have been feeling very seaside-y this week and last.  It’s been creeping up on me.

After those 3 posts on feeling sad and talking about my dad, I felt a bit of blog fatigue.  I had tried to make those posts good, and real, and relevant (to myself and whoever else may feel them helpful), and I had to push them out in a very quick time frame because of when I was actually supposed to be on the Eric Maisel blog tour thingy – the last day, the 3rd post day. 

So much was I concentrating on this and being quite single minded that I bit into my bagel for lunch on the Wednesday (my last day of any babysitting before the 3rd post had to be up on the Thursday, so I had to write then); and almost didn’t notice the pain when a tooth broke in half and fell out.  I did however have to pay attention to the blood dripping on the keyboard…My number one thought was ‘bloody hell, I’m going really well, I don’t have the time or the money to go to the dentist right now! TSK!’  Of course, I did have to go.  So I took the Eric Maisel book with me, determined to carry on quote mining as I waited, increasingly jellylike, in the dentists waiting rooms, to be caused pain and financial inconvenience.[1]  I felt most existential indeed as they drilled away and rebuilt a bit of the tooth, saying ‘that’ll last you a couple of months, but you really should…’ etc etc.  How brave of me to deal immediately with this ‘fact of existence’, and to not shilly shally about because I am phobic about dentists.  Bravo, me! 

I had a different fact of existence the next day though, a harsher one.  Fry visited, at my insistence.  He was sposed to come up in the car and bring with him something mum had forgotten when she went back home the day before.  I insisted he stay the day and be fed pizza, and hang out with me, as I don’t hardly see him at all now, what with his warehousing jobs, and living so far away.  I made us go out in his car because Lil Fluffhead loves cars.  So off we went to the enormous nearby Tescos to stock up on Honeynut Cheerios and suchlike.  We had a stupid incident in the car park just as we were about to leave, where we were faffing with putting Fluffhead’s pushchair away and fitting it with difficulty in the boot, and I put the car keys down; followed by Fry shutting the boot door and realising we had effectively shut the keys in the car.  A good start, really.  I had left Fluffhead’s door open, as I wasn’t finished giving him things to nibble on the way home.  So I snaked into the back that way and Fry put the back seats down so I could feel about in the boot for where I had dropped the keys.  All sorted.  He was a bit cross with me.  I was contrite and offering of chocolate buttons.  All strapped up, off we went again.

On the way out of the only exit, I was chatting away and singing to Fluffhead, and Fry was murmuring about a lorry waiting for us to go, because he’d been there for ages, pausing.  ‘Yes, he’s definitely letting us out’, he murmured away to himself.  I was conscious of a large beige thing in the side window.  ‘Hmmmm,’ I said, vaguely, not a car driver, so only being polite.  We turned into the traffic, and within a second, there was quite the most astonishing sound.  A grinding of metal, hissing and groaning, right by my right ear.  We shunted up onto the pavement, something I didn’t see, only felt, as the minute the noise started – so LOUD – I had closed my eyes completely and was waiting for it to be finished.  It’s odd, as I had no consciousness that were having a car crash – only that we were being taken over by a much larger force than us: the metal grinding noise source was definitely in charge of the event.

After another couple of seconds it stopped.  Fry was saying ‘oh shit’ very loudly, Fluffhead was crying very loudly and I was turning round to get him, all at once.  ‘I can’t get out,’ Fry said, in a voice simultaneously panicked and angry.  I then saw the lorry.  Completely mashed against the side of us, and Fry’s door bent inward a bit.  I turned to my side door and saw that I could open it a couple of inches but only that, as a large lamp post was in the way.  Fluffhead roared.  It wasn’t clear if he was scared (which you would think), or whether he was simply reacting to our sudden fright (which they do, do small children – they mirror your reactions to things often).  Or whether, as I later realised, he was mostly extremely angry that we had stopped, and weren’t moving any more, and he really didn’t understand why – he loves cars like you wouldn’t believe.  He fought to get back in it and be strapped into his car seat again.

Strange, all of it, ‘cos I didn’t feel scared.  I felt immediate, that’s all.  The lorry driver appeared in front of us: an initially scary figure, a young man with an ‘oh for fecks sake!’ angry expression, and a knitted hat pulled down low on his brow.  (He actually turned out to be a total sweetie, he was from Rumania, and working to send money home to his family there, he was kind and concerned.)  I gestured to him that we couldn’t get out, and could he go round and open Fluffhead’s door and get him out.  He saw immediately the need, and very quickly got Fluffhead out.  I didn’t establish it, but he must have had children; or taken great care of his siblings or somesuch, as the man was a natural with children: the way he instantly grasped and confidently soothed Fluffhead, who though mightily surprised to be suddenly held by a stranger, looked at him and judged him ok, and though he carried on yelling at the mightiest of roary volume, did not also struggle.

I managed to snake out through the back (an odd hark back to not 10 minutes previous, when I had been squirming in the back for the keys).  Fry did the same, and then went round the bit where the car was melded to the lorry and gestured at it, almost in tears.  That may sound dumb, as in we were all fine; but he works minimum wage jobs – that car is how he earns his living and gets to the remote places he works in the countryside, where he lives.  Places the buses don’t go.  He was looking at the end of his income.  And it has worked out that way.  He has lost all his jobs.  The car is history, what with one side being mashed in, and Fry only being able to afford Third Party insurance; he’s a minimum wager. 

The lorry driver gave me Fluffhead and moved the lorry, which occasioned another shunting of the car, and another loud grinding sound.  The wheel on the drivers side fell off, with all its concomitant bits.  The wheel on the passenger side at the front practically did the same, being so ground into the kerb that it had bent double.  Lots of other bits of metal littered the pavement and the road.  A rather wonderful man from Lithuania came over at this point, and offered me some of his energy drink, I forget which one.  This nameless person hung about for a good half hour, giving me a pen, some paper (sad excuse for a writer I am – I couldn’t find any paper and my only pen didn’t work…), and loads of moral support.  He just stood about in case of need and made encouraging faces at me a lot.  He had hardly any English, but the man was kind and reassuring.  He took off his jacket and draped it over Fluffhead, who shrugged it off as it smelt of Not Us, and he was a bit freaked out.  He stopped his wailing pretty soon, as I hugged him loads and didn’t put him down, and kissed him and rocked him and spoke in a normal voice to Fry and everyone else.  As I calmed; he calmed.  Soon I got Fry to get the pushchair out of the boot, and I strapped him in to that, so I could have free arms (Fluffhead, at two years and three months, is a heavy bean now).

And that’s that really.  We stood about for 2 hours whilst it got increasingly cold, an hour waiting for the police to come (the car had created an obstruction in rush hour traffic, just at the only exit point of the Tescos), and then another hour trying to get insurance details from the lorry drivers company.  This was all complicated by his being an agency employee, not a permanent member of staff.  At one point I asked him what he thought had happened.  He said he had let a woman out before us, but hadn’t seen us.  He said he was sorry.  I said we were sorry too.  We don’t remember a woman before us.  But it doesn’t matter in that the insurance company, well into its own faffing now, says that bar any CCTV footage within the lorry (apparently a lot of them have CCTV now, in case of accidents), Fry will get the blame as he was the one turning into traffic, and regardless of how long the lorry driver paused. 

Fact of the matter was, we were all fine; Fry’s livelihood has vanished and there isn’t another one on the horizon, he’s back on Jobseekers and ‘he’s rather down’ is an understatement.  I wasn’t capable of any objective or existential or any kind of balanced thinking about all this for a few days.  Along with my blog fatigue from those articles, I suddenly had absolutely nothing to say.  I was a bit obsessed with trying to help Fry.  I felt massively guilty for getting him to visit me, and being the cause of the outing that lost him his jobs.  With no money to give him, no car to lend him, no contacts with which to get him another job/s, or the possibility of any, I ended up being on a mission to find the car itself.  The police had towed it away (as Fry’s insurers were helpfully closed when we called them at 5.30 p.m. that day to arrange for a tow), and seemed remarkably unable to tell us where they had put it.  After 4 days, I succeeded, and with a flourish gave Fry the number of the towing company who were storing it.  (Turns out these people have a wonderful scam running where they charge you double whatever the police said the tow would cost, plus £20 per day storage for the car.  They say when you call that they can’t take payment over the phone, only in person.  If you crash out of your area and have gone home, and then have to pay train fees to come up; it starts to cost.  They also say the bill is in the post.  Of course, it doesn’t come.  These £20s are building up from the moment they get the car, so they can busily not send you the bill for a month, by which time – it would be over a thousand pounds…Anyway: you tell them of this iniquity, and they say your other choice is to sign the car over to the Metropolitan Police, for scrap.  Then you pay no tow, no fees at all.  They give you quite the proposition.  It’s no option at all, unless the car is a limo and really worth saving.  If you’re a minimum wager – it’s really no choice at all.  This is all legal, amazingly.  So I found the car, only for more frustration, followed by Fry’s losing it anyway.)

It took a few days to get all this squared in my head.  (Fry still isn’t square at all, but obviously not; he’s a lot more affected by it, than me.)  For a while there, I went into a nice cottony vacuum (when I wasn’t being very irritable).  I looked out of the window when Fluffhead slept and just observed the clouds and the rain (what a lot of rain we are having, for a month now – definitely the Biblical 40 days and 40 nights period has been passed…).  For a couple of days I had constant odd flashback like experiences, where it felt like every second I was still in the car, still hearing that grinding sound, feeling the shunt.  Constant replay.  Then that started to fade.  The other day I went back to the Tescos and looked at the place where we crashed.  I found a bit of the broken wing mirror on the ground and brought it home.  I felt sorry for the car, all hurt and then suddenly abandoned, and not farewell-ed properly. (Yes, you know me; I think everything is alive, including man-made things – why wouldn’t they be?)

I don’t have any great message of coping as a result of this post, by the way.  That’s not the way this story segment goes.  It’s just some things happening.  That’s it.  They happened.  After a while, I felt a bit better about them; partly because I am trying to think clearly, and partly purely because they are further away.  And because Fluffhead is fine.  Fry is very not fine in one way, and fine in another.  In the here to not feel fine way.

After a while, I was seized by a fit of…relaxation.  I finished my Bardic Grade, for OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, a UK Druidry org, on the web here), and passed a point where something I had been doing for 3 years ended.  (It has been the only course about anything I have actively doing since Fluffhead's birth.)  I had thought that the Bardic Grade would never be over, and had become cross with it many times.  But as I sent in the Review, and realised I was done, I had one of those odd moments where things shift and you realise you actually learnt a lot.  I am waiting for info about the Ovate Grade to come now, to see if I will go on and do that (if I can afford it, I will.)  That, coupled with the fact I had no intention of blogging for a bit, meant I was free in the moments I got, to relax.  I found 3 amazing channels on Youtube, where some lovely people have uploaded their entire collections of hard to find late 70’s and early 80’s horror films, of cinema and TV.  I found another of Hindu chants.  I drifted off. 

I rediscovered my collections (I am a one for collecting this and that in an unashamedly nerdy way) of UK Girls 70’s and 80’s Annuals and Summer Specials and comics.  I started re-reading my Misty’s.  My Tammy’s.  My Jinty’s.  I slipped into these simpler worlds.  I had a really strong sensation of being on a beach, in the late 70’s, on a large li-lo, sucking on a Strawberry Mivvi ice-lolly, and listening the gulls in the distance overhead.  Getting snatches of my dad’s tobacco smoke wafting past, its sweetness mixed with Malibu sun cream and coconut smells.  The flap of the windbreak, since when was it not gusty on the beaches?  The yells of small children paddling.  The sun on the page making it difficult for me to read, even with sunglasses on.  Feeling myself quite the little woman (about 10!).  Wearing a very natty little brown bikini with gingham lacy trim.  Mum constantly covering up my legs in case I burned (as I did tend to do).  Dogs running past, kicking up sand; it sticking to my arms, where I had always rubbed in too much cream.  Me watching the sand on my arms, its glinting golden quality.  Mum saying she’ll go to get tea, do I want to come.  And sometimes, I remember, I would leap up, brush myself off, and put my little orange frilled skirt on, and my flip flops (I can’t walk in them anymore, don’t know when I lost the knack), and take her hand and shuffle off with her, through the sand, so warm and dry and lovely.  Shushing shushing, like the waves.  And other times, I would say no, and flop over and feel the air on my now sweaty stomach, and watch the clouds in the sky.  My dad would read to me, something from the book he was reading, or I’d hear the flint of his lighter going, as I closed my eyes, and allowed myself to drift.  Gulls, children shrieking, bags zipped, unzipped, the waves in the distance…

And that feeling has stayed with me.  The spaciousness of that time, and that place.  An archetypal English type beach is where I am.  So peaceful.  I will stay here a bit.

[1] It should be noted that I broke the tooth at 3 – by 4.30 I was at the dentists in town; the NHS is not to be sneered at – it cost be £17.50 I didn’t have, but it could have been a shiteload worse.  Apparently I need a crown, but I really don’t have the money for that; plus: one gold gangsta style tooth is quite enough for me to be going on with.  I’ll need a fake diamond in it, really, if I get another…just so I can mock myself in the mirror, correctly.)