Astonishingly, even though time has sped up to the point you’d think I was 80, as the days just flick past (whilst of course, the individual moments continue to feel presently eternal and stuck, especially if I am unhappy), I still managed to do some writing exercises over Christmas and New Year. And one more this evening. But presently am stricken by both a cold and a downer fit, so decided to just post up what I have, so I can feel like: yes! I got some actual creative writing done, its not just me book reviewing the entire time, now! I’m still having quite a strong urge to write, but can’t settle to anything longer than a paragraph, or with any continuity or real thought needed, as my work day and learning curve and the adjustment of it all is still doing me in. Some days I think I’m handling it all so well, becoming competent etc. Then the next day, invariably, will be bad – I will handle some calls vaguely, or actually incorrectly, or I will just feel so tired that it’s a massive effort between the calls to remain alert – or during the calls, to keep the thread. Ahhhh. One day there will be more of me in some ways, and less in others, eh? And we’re not just talking about my stomach size!
Ok, the way these exercises work are that they are basically freewrites based around an initial word, that I free-associated to get a chain of ideas. Then I wrote a paragraph or so on the memories and thoughts that came out.
The weirdest thing I found, what with the tiredness I’m perpetually sheathed in, is the vividity and strength of the memories that came back – most of this is memories. Some of it was so outright personal and heinously graphic that I’m keeping those bits for my fabled and in another dimension novel, or some short stories or something – but reading them back just now: way too personal, some of it, to go up here – would feel like I shaved off some of my skin and muscle with a fruit parer and offered it to you…with no idea whether you’d even like it. You might not: what a waste of mutilation if so. So those bits will stay with me till I can figure what they’re for. The rest so far – not much, just a little – is here. Hopefully 2016 will be the year I follow Time Traveller’s example, and manage to do little and often. She wrote WHOLE BOOKS that way! I’d be happy with some coherent short stories and paragraphs. A routine, a habit. A tucked away bit of myself that’s not affected or afflicted by work pressure or family. Anyway, here they are – the original word, then the Association Chain, then the paragraphs that came out of them. Hope you like.
CHILDS FEET HANGING OVER BALCONY CASCO ANTIGUO SAN FILIPE PANAMA CITY REPUBLIC OF PANAMA
Ecclesiastical – priest – Father Tracy – rosary – comfort of certainty – childhood – airy balconies – dangling my feet over the edge – now space, all gone
Purple swishing robes and censors swaying, with Jesuitical Father Tracy sitting black and mute, understanding in a little side room at Farm Street Church. Proffering me a rosary he’s given, all crystal and glittery, and to this day I have it and wear it when out of hope and needing the belief of someone else, someone for whom doubt was dealt with. Like in childhood, when everything just was, me on the balcony at Grosvenor Hill, with my little table and chair, sitting in mild summers and writing my school stories happily, knowing to write was my destiny. And with Sarah Joseph, and her long beautiful wavy hair; scaring my mother as we sat on the tip of the balcony, our feet over the edge, swinging, feeling so secure and so free in the sun. (Would never do that now, terrified at the thought alone. That was 6 floors down – what on earth was I thinking, hanging off the edge with only a handrail to hold?) And now all that past, all gone – amazing to think that it only exists now in my head – that there is literally a hole in the air where my home used to be – that there is nowhere to put my feet – that if I appeared there now, I would simply fall like rain, and splat like a tomato.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – books I never read – shortness of life – greenness of grass – brightness of sunlight – smell of roses and honeysuckle – hand in hand under tall trees
Yes, I never read that book, ever – I bought it and sold it without ever reading it. It lulled me to buy it, then Nicholas Cage and the war put me off….or am I thinking about the film with the postman? Life is too short to read books that don’t scream to be read for one reason or another. The greenness of grass, instead, begs to be viewed and touched, and lain in, rolled around in. Under the brightness of sunlight – lying on the back under trees, watching the sky through the leaves, and feeling the perfection of everything in that moment all taken in and transmuted into one golden moment of beauty and love…not hippie love, but love of clarity of vision, of wholeness, of understanding and not. The mythical beauty of flowers, of all they represent – Jane Seymour wandering in the advert gardens of my childhood, advertising Le Jardin perfume, wafting in white, and boho clothes. Skinny as I never will be. Roses and honeysuckle wandering in gardens with my mother and Stanley and Alias Troubadour and Fry, all those wanderings, congealing in the brain to one big sloshy wandering of everafterness, of unending strolls in the sun. The year Stanley and I met and we had this one walk in the sun, in a park far away, and lay down under one tree – possibly the last time I ever did, to this day – and watched the sun as it stayed, while the leaves and branches moved irregularly in the small breeze. I felt still, I felt moved, I felt swayed with the Earth as I lay on my back, I moved with it and with all its trees. It was a delirious and slow and unsettling feeling: almost an ecstatic one. He held my hand, and we lay there silently, an atheist and a believer in all the gods and goddesses and creatures, and I swear we felt exactly the same awe and mesh with it all. His hand and mine, sunk into the Earth. Part of us must still be there.
Blackberries – magic – alignment – mathematics – Fermat’s Theorem – documentaries – Alias Troubadour – squished on sofa – unease, weariness, despair
Blackberries, Blackberry Juniper – powerful and deep with juice and squishy richness. Knowing that magic does exist, having experienced its touch on my forehead one summer long ago when hungover and ill. Seeing the full alignment of all and everything until the skulls on people’s faces and their mortality stood out above all; as ordered as everything else. It is mathematics, the making of perfect patterns of alignment, the language of perfect rhythm that I glimpse in documentaries on Fermat’s Theorem that I glance of off and cannot understand. And Troubadour, sitting with one leg awkwardly, endlessly to the side, all contorted on the sofa. Even remembering him gives me a feeling of deep despair and guilt; weariness and unease. Unease I can’t seem to lose. I don’t think I ever will. I had to sell a part of me and my ideals to leave, I will never get it back, and I have to accept the feeling that gives me.
Trains – resting, scenery flying by – trees – sunlight – cows – sheep – reading – studying – sleeping – being in-between
On a train going where – to my mothers? Always to my mothers, passing by the mother to go and see the mother…passing over the mother, through the mother, gently rocking in her arms, the father nestling me in steel, where I study or read, and watch the shadows of trees, the glint of sunlight, the cows the sheep the way haystacks look weird now…last weekend, the weariness over me, but still I got out my folder and delighted in writing directly over the coursework, onto the page, answering the questions, filling out my life and tastes, till I felt so tired I closed it all, and rested my head on the side. Every time I opened my eyes, more scenery had passed, and sadly, the trees were less and less, and the grey blocks more and more. But until then, until we arrive – I am in-between, neither one nor the other, I am free to roam, eyes over the green, and remember the fox I saw on the siding on the way to Catherine’s? It looked straight at me, and I couldn’t read it’s eyes. It was so different, but so present. It held me, assessed me, thought what it thought in its language (that I really need to learn) and ran off. I never forgot it. Interrogative fox.
Romance – Mills and Boon – dreams of adolescence – being thin – the wall under the bed of friends messages – alias GoodHeart – clean – bathrooms buffed to brightness – films – curled up on sofa with Stanley watching
The romance we dream of, all us girls, who doesn’t? Mills and Boon, Silhouette Desire…we don’t really want someone that corny, or to really think of us, somewhat archly, as ‘enchanting’ or ‘intriguing’, but we do want romance, and candlelight, and dancing in a candlelit circle to Rachmaninov’s music – what was it – the Russian Dances? Symphonic Dances? I forget. The dreams of adolescence when you lie in bed, thinking what a great lover, you or I will be – how to touch someone intimately, and to know all their secrets will be like melding – it will be forever. I lay there, being very thin, a concave stomach – which I don’t have now, do I?! Lay there dreaming the dreams of touch and hug; of reading the messages under my bed sent to me by others, written in lipstick, biro, eyepencil, all those different names and messages – a boy long gone wrote about the Summer of Love – 87 or 89? I forget…First boyfriend, GoodHeart, to whom I lost my virginity in his red room in Mile End. I always end up in the East End sooner or later. He was kind, and clean, and reminds me, for this reason, of bathrooms only ever seen in adverts, where people are buffed, and so are the walls, and all is clean and tidy and lovely. The perfection of film, the set dressing of perfection – would I be good at that? Curled up on the sofa with Stanley watching the black and white League of Gentlemen – falling asleep in a perfect haze of contentment. Stanley is like a one man nostalgia machine, and if you flow with him, you really can be somewhere else for a short time. A holiday taken in the mind. One of many trust games I go along with now without thinking, knowing I will be safe. If only there were more time to look backward with…
Sophistication – models and Chanel – Sapphire – blue dress and perfect posture – wishing I was her: unemotional and poised – clarity of perfect clear Quartz crystal – altar – the extra light after a spell works well
Unattainable airbrushed perfection of models; dreams of Chanel that other people have – I don’t seem to have those. I have dreams of regular people being perfect as they are, with a bit better makeup if they want it – or better hair or clothes. Sapphire and Steel – her perfect posture, her small smile of knowing and poise – how I do wish I was her (my 3 paragons: Moll Flanders for amoral can do, she will never be at a loss; Barbara from The Good Life, for total perkiness under duress; and Sapphire, for poise in all circumstances, for her calm and intuition, her flair and presence). She has the perfect clarity of clear quartz crystal; like the shining faceted crystal I have on my altar – or used to have, at Oversley, when I was there. After a spell went particularly well, the whole room used to glow more brightly; colours would be more intense and vivid. A feeling of warmth and a lovely fragrance would permeate all. I wish I could have that back; I can’t seem to focus these days. I hardly ever spell a thing, too tired. Things spell me though – flowers and trees can get me everytime. Sometimes I really do feel part of them has come away with me for a while, and sits with me whilst I go about my business, comfortingly green and thriving. So beautiful.
Silky – the 20’s, F.Scott Fitzgerald – beautiful damned people who are tender in the night – old Penguin editions with pale green and orange – old musty bookshops – searching carefully, cross legged on the floor – ‘I don’t know, that’s your collection’, in a fusty old 2nd hand bookshop in Worthing – wondering if I will be married to someone like that one day – annuals, pulpy paperbacks smelling of forests and undergrowth
Stanley got me the Collected Short Stories of Scott Fitzgerald; where women wear the sheerest of silk stockings, while they dance with dissipation, and late into the night smoke and chat, while men swarm, drinking too heavily. In school, reading Tender is the Night; still remembering Nicole and Dick Diver – she who could only ever be alone in the bathroom, and breaking down in there. Reading The Beautiful and the Damned, a lovely old Penguin with a black and white photo on the front and a pale green spine; because I couldn’t get enough of Fitzgerald when I first discovered him. Sitting cross legged in musty old bookshops, second hand bookshops; anywhere at all, searching faithfully through lots of piles of old books, moving piles from side to side, to reveal the ones behind. In Brighton that time, finding lots of fantasy books, in my first flush of reading those. Ages ago, on holiday with my parents, in a bookshop in Worthing; one woman says to the man she is with, when he shows her a book and asks her opinion on whether he should get it: ‘I don’t know darling, that’s your collection, not mine,’ and I remember thinking – will I be married in this cosy way at some point? Other bookshops, other places – girls annuals, scary story with that creepy face in Judy 1981 (I still have it, it still scares the hell out of me – one illustration, the malignancy of the eyes); the brilliant copy of The Charles de Lint book about forests that was so attic-ed and mildewed that it smelt like a forest! Inhaling that book was almost as much pleasure as reading it…
Dinners by candlelight – 70’s films – Hammer House of Mystery and suspense – my dad – in Mayfair, holding his cigarette, sitting in the chair – rearranging furniture for no reason other than boredom – saying he can’t remember his childhood – now: thin and rickety, vague, face worn to set softness, eyes ambiguous, can’t read him – never could
When I think of dinners by candlelight, I get a soft focus image, and women in diaphanous chiffon dresses, with gently flicky hair; I see 70s films, Hammer films, the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense that managed to be both Tales of the Unexpected and gothic at the same time. Women with heavy eyeliner and hair pinned in strange buns; Susan George walking through Prague – was it Prague? – before getting shut in an asylum. Watching it with my dad, who sits in his chair, upright, holding his cigarette in his hand, and telling my mother to stop hovering at the door and come in to sit down if she’s watching it, or go away – ‘Woman!’. Sometimes he would rearrange the furniture for no reason other than boredom and the cussed desire to show the place was his and no one else’s. The contrast between him then and as he was the year before his death was marked – then: firm face, intelligent eyes, rigid posture – the man who owns the house, bosses the women, quizzes me on classical music. I used to love to do well at the quizzes – could identify most pieces from 3 notes at the beginning, and random pieces to a composer from their sound. And then in early 2008 – bent, thin, where his arse should be flesh just hangs slack and flat. He barely dressed, barely moved around the house. Had allowed himself to waste away almost entirely. He sat vague in his chair, listening to The Bill or Eastenders, the same few pieces of classical music were played over and over. I would ask him questions and he creased up his face deafly: ‘what?!’ in a resigned, bored and irritated way. He waited to die, it seemed like. Then he got his wish. It’s a shame, and it made me angry for a very long time. He could barely walk, as he had exercised so little that his muscles atrophied. I think it’s a curse on his side of the family – which I share in spades; it’s the depressive fatalistic part of his nature. Sad thing is, I don’t conquer it either. Good thing is, I have never yet given up. I don’t say that as judgement, I’m younger still than he was. And things get heavier as you go on, I am finding. Less clear; or depressingly clear. But…if he fought, he fought entirely in private and I never saw it, or evidence of it. Perhaps I didn’t know what to look for, I may’ve missed it. Today I’ve been talking to him. He’s totally gone, I feel, but occasionally I chat to the idea of him anyway.
Lastly…this strange little thing: A Dream -
The other day, we fell asleep on the sofa, me all sleeping on his chest and him all flaked out with his arms round me, after one of our exhausting unravellings of a misunderstanding, and all was well again, and I had the weirdest dream - that I was in the middle of space, constructing this perfect skeletal pyramid out of crystals and light - and that each argument Stanley and I have was one more adjustment in this perfect work of cosmic art - I was aligning the light itself and checking refraction and I was so pleased with the angles and the symmetry and the way it shone - it all made perfect sense and was beautiful - I woke up still snuggled and smiling my head off, and feeling like I had dreamed the truth of us. It felt really significant, hugely important - you know the way some dreams do? Such powerful shafts of sparkling white light I was building with, it was the strangest dream....just me and the stars and me building, patiently aligning and watching it all come together really slowly, like cleaning my mind with lasers...It still feels strong now (I often have massively vivid dreams when I fall asleep in his arms. I wonder if people affect each other’s dreams when they are closely in contact. And in what way?)
I can still see the pyramid now. But this is the end of this post.
Fluffhead is asleep, Stanley is doing his own thing in his room, and I will make one more cup of camomile tea with honey. I will sit upstairs in the dark and listen to this rain and wind, feeling secure and fortunate and dry, warm. If it rains much harder this will move from Tlaloc or Indra or Yu Shi – Master of Rain!, to being the province of Thor. Herne runs over the wet grass tonight. Moving so fast. Feeling the writing feeling tickling me, but now too tired to take it further. I listen to 2016 and its dark rain. As always, I’ll watch and see what happens next.
(Just for anyone who now has Sapphire and Steel in their heads, plus the state of modern politics and the world as presented to us by the news...I give you this appropriate still from the opening - and iconic - credits.)