Saturday, 24 March 2012

Time she was gone

I realised this morning that there’s another spectre lurking in the shadows of my consciousness. This one looks like my mother. (Sorry Mum. I hope you don’t read this.) This one tells me my duty ‘as a woman’. As follows.

Women’s first duty is to be decorative. This means being thin, wearing nice clothes, removing hair on some parts of the body and titivating it in others, wearing makeup. Disguising one’s true self in all ways possible.

Women’s second duty is to run the household. This means cleaning, tidying, cooking, shopping – at least organising, even if others help.

Women’s third duty is to put the needs of everyone and everything above their own, whether children, dogs, relatives, friends, the community, house, garden.

I’m engaged with a furious struggle with the spectre at the moment because I wrote a major scene for the novel on Wednesday and ever since ideas have been pouring out. By the time I’ve fulfilled my duty as a woman however, I have no time and energy left for writing.

But it’s writing, I’ve only just realised, that makes me happy.

It was the alchemy of this blog that unstuck the novel on Wednesday (after I’d written on Tuesday about making changes and my glorious future). May it do so again.

Begone, foul spectre.


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Oh glorious future

Yesterday I had my hair cut. This may not sound like much but it took two and a half hours, mostly because Michelle does love to talk. She works from a converted barn on the coast, a gorgeous spot, and Frog came with me. Afterwards we took the dog for a walk – inland along a river to a watermill where we had lunch. Then we detoured to have a look at the sea and came back through some woods.
    The sun shone, blackbirds sang, enormous celandines gleamed in the grass. Everything was perfect – except for the relationship between me and Frog. And the source of the problem was – surprise, surprise – Dog. I think Frog’s too strict with her and he thinks I’m too lenient. He shouts at her and then I shout at him. Oh dear. We need more practice, says Frog. I’m taking the dog out on my own from now on, thinks I.
    On the drive home Frog put the radio on and I heard my horoscope. You don’t like change, it said (not true, I love change) but now is the time to make changes and think about your glorious future.
    What glorious future? I’m 58. I’m not interested in a career. I’ve done that. I’m not after fame. In fact, I think I’d hate it. (Or would I?) And I try not to think about money. (It makes me panic; it’s secondary, not primary.)
    What I really want, I think, is to unravel the mess inside, to feel that all of me is present all the time, to have a tap into my subconscious that I can open and close at will, to spend what remains of my life being whole and happy and purposeful.
    It has seemed to me for the last decade or so that writing is one way to enable all that, but this morning I got stuck again on The Novel. 
    Today is the Spring Equinox. A good time to turn one’s life around. A good time to face up to conflict and uncomfortable emotions. To take the dog out with Frog, even if it leads to disaster. To work out whether it's fear that stops me getting on with the novel or whether I'm just rubbish at writing.
    Which way, oh glorious future? Change, I embrace you.

Sunday, 18 March 2012


The weeping willow by the ford,
bursting into leaf and gladdening the hearts
of those of us lucky enough to live nearby.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Same place, different season

Inspired by David Hockney, I took a picture this morning of a track I've photographed before. The earlier picture I published in October last year (see 'Spot the dog'). Here is today's (dog invisible, deep in the undergrowth).

Writing less

Writing less is so much more difficult than writing more, as I found when I produced my New Age Encyclopaedia and had to describe subjects like Hinduism in half a page. You have to know just as much about the subject, if not more.
    Signs ( and I were discussing blogging every day and she suggested encapsulating each day in just one or two sentences. I wasn’t sure I could do that so I decided to practise in secret and then maybe publish a week in one go.
    I couldn’t do it! Since Friday, I’ve been writing reams about my days. I was going to publish the reams but then, when I looked at them this morning, I felt weary. Who wants to read all that rubbish?
    Instead, I’ve picked out one or two sentences. It was easy at a distance to see what was important.
    Maybe, with practice, I shall be able to go straight to the short version.

Walking the dog in a new wood today as she disgraced herself in our usual place by chasing sheep. The noise from the motorway thunders through my head like a migraine. Spring sunshine pours through the trees. It is so white after the yellow and grey of winter. By the carpark a row of wild cherry trees is in blossom.

I wake sad. In the afternoon I read Fire Bird’s blog post ( about the suicide of her father. I think of my father who seemed to retire from life when he retired from work in his mid-fifties. As far as I could gather on my brief visits home, he spent the next twenty-five years waiting by the whisky cupboard for the magic hours when he could start drinking again. Sometimes I’m like that myself.

Frog gets out his chainsaw and helps me prune some shrubs. He loves destructive gardening. This time last year the dog would have been lunging at us, growling and attacking our legs. Today she plays with the cuttings and then trots beside me as I drag branches to the bonfire pile. She can be adorable.

Some signs of spring. Frogspawn in the ditch up the road. A rook flying up to a nest with a twig in its mouth. The reappearance of the roadsign warning of toads crossing. An orange-bottomed bumble bee in the garden. The weeping willow by the ford changing from yellow to green as the tips of its leaves emerge.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Time he was gone

There is a demon who lurks in the dark dusty corners of my consciousness. He looks and sounds like my father. This is what he says.

‘You will never amount to anything.’

‘You have no right to think that you can write a novel.’

‘Art is a waste of time unless it earns money.’

‘Be secure. Don’t take risks. Worry about the future.’

‘It is your duty to be unhappy.’

It’s time he was gone.