Archive for June, 2009

Little boxes

I am a bit of a squirrel and after reading Millie Johnson’s book ‘A Spring Affair’ I decided to have a bit of a clear out myself. I am the one who says to my daughter, ‘tidy house, tidy mind.’ You can imagine the response and her bedroom still looked like a major explosion had happened in it. Until, that is, a friend was coming over for a girly day in. For two days before she attacked things that I wouldn’t go near without checking my vaccinations were up to date, but they say penicillin grows on mould so maybe I was being a little melodramatic. According to Tabby I was anyway. Well, she emptied all her drawers and her cupboards into a huge heap on the middle of the floor. ‘I don’t know what I started,’ wails she. I went to look, it looked no different to me but she assured be it was such a mess! Over the course of the entire two days she medothically hung clothes up, sorted the washing, gathered her make up together into a little basket, bagged up rubbish for recycling, throwing away and the charity shop and sorted her CDs and DVDs. At the end of it all there were three bags of rubbish besides the recycling and I mean black sacks, not bad for one room. She polished, vacuumed and washed walls, changed the bedding and cushion covers and really worked hard on it. At the end of it all she came downstairs. ‘I hate to say this,’ she says, ‘but you were right.’  ‘Oh?’ said I innocently, ‘what do you mean love?’ ‘I feel really sort of clear in my mind, it looks really good and I feel so much better.’ I resisted the impulse to say I told you so instead congratulating her on what she had acheived. 

All this made me think about my own tidiness. I love everything to be neat and then I can relax and write or do whatever without that nagging guilt taunting me. I also like things to be neatly put away so … I collect boxes. I have always been a collector, as a child it was those little wooden matchboxes , scrap books, little charms from jamboree bags, ‘diamonds’, -well coloured glass beads – and I had a place for everything. Today I still collect, glass bottles, books, bits of paper with interesting writing on, all my papers from University, pens, pencils- forever searching for that perfect pen or pencil, little things that I won’t throw away in case it is useful, paints, art paper, brushes, wool, sewing things, oh, and of course boxes. I used to have a beautiful collection of tins, old tins that I kept buttons in, pressed flowers, ribbons, needles and pins, all the sort of things I use from time to time. Useful things yes! Then I moved house two or three times and each time I had to thin my stuff down until now it is , and I even say so myself, a manageable amount for the way my life has changed. So, why is it I am still drawn to keeping little boxes, tins, containers that could hold….. I find it so hard to throw these things away and I do use them from time to time. I am good at justifying. Harry recently said to me, ‘Do you really need all these jars in the shed.’ ‘They’re for when I make jam or pickles and things.’ Says I. I went to look, I was never going to fill four boxes of jam jars, sauce bottles, pickles jars etc. How easy it would have been to say ok I’ll keep one box but the memories of when I wanted to make pickled onions and jelly after someone had given me a lot of fruit to use up and I couldn’t find a jar anywhere… this was after I had thrown everything away on one of my moves… sprung into my head. Instead, I had to go through every one and keeping those that looked pretty, had a nice shape, was just perfect for sauces and on and on. Why can’t I just throw things away?

I got to thinking about my life while I was having a clear out today and it has been so complicated, sad, bad, unhappy, ecstatically happy, so many things I didn’t want to remember, so many things I did and it suddenly dawned on me. I even store little boxes in my head. Many things from my childhood I didn’t want to remember so I started to build a cupboard with lots of little boxes in it, a bit like my grandfathers shed. I filled each little box with those I didn’t need to look at often and labelled them ‘ for when I know the answers’ Then, to counteract the bad ones, I filled the box next to it with ‘happy memories’ then ‘my Grandparents’ or ‘sunny days in the garden’, ‘ sad times’, ‘painful times, ‘joyful…’ and so on and so on until my mind was an organised room of memory boxes. Once that was done I was content, the past was no longer an issue, I learned to forgive, and I could look forward to the rest of my life wthout the jumble of thoughts and feelings tripping me up or popping up just when I didn’t need them to. In this case it was tidy mind, tidy life… Well it has hardly been that but little boxes are important to me. I know where everything is when I need to look at it or use it, There is always room for more, They don’t get in the way when I don’t want them to… it keeps me happy anyway. Today I looked at a small cardboard box that I had been saving ‘just in case’ and decided it hadn’t been used for nearly four weeks so I threw it away, I was proud of myself for that but I did notice in the store the other day a nice little set of basket work drawers that would look so nice beside my settee…….

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The dark ages

I live in a turn of the century, the 2oth century that is, terraced house. Its very typical with single rooms from front to back which means in the winter, the middle room downstairs is dark, moreso because of the conservatory that was built outside the dining room and kitchen windows. Nice to have a little utility area after the small kitchen offers little cupboard space but it does cut a fair bit of light,  I do love the dining room though, it reminds me of a miniture castle hall with all its recycled wood and huge, renovated original fire place. We even bought a small crystal chandelier type lampshade because it goes with the room. In the winter I moan about the darkness, we use all eco friendly light bulbs which don’t always give enough light for my needs so I complain, and then there is the electric bill… it goes on.

Summer sees the house much brighter and of course there is access to the garden now the weather is good. Take in a few rays of vitamin D, good for health and the spirit. A little while ago I wrote about my moon gardening and well it all seems to have paid off. Like the house the garden is long and thin, the people who lived here before landscaped the garden so beautifully, with a large pond complete with breeding fish, and a smaller overflow that I have turned into a water feature, a shed, two side beds a patio area with washing line and a huge BBQ. Circular paving stones provide a place to sit too and everywhere else has peashingle and stepping stone paths. It looked really lovely and is, well was, low maintenance. I say looked because as previously mentioned we decided to grow vegetable in containers, mainly because of the lack of actual growing area. So I watched the moon phases and planted. I waited and waited and they all  began to grow, and grow and GROW. The triffid had an enormous flower that is now growing fruit/seed pods the weight of which makes it lean over the main path. Potatoes, having survived daughter’s watering , or lack of it, during our holiday, are nearly as tall as me. runner beans too high to reach, tomatoes, kohl rabi and beetroot with huge strong foliage and baby fruit developing nicely. Trouble was I never realised just how big it would all get. The patio area has now been reduced to a tiny square with barely enough room to put up the washing line as courgettes and butternut squash plants spread bigger and bigger, the path has disappeared beneath flowers and plants that are fighting for space and I thought there was plenty of room, but, it is wonderful. In this tiny town garden I can escape into a totally different world of green. No birds unfortunately, unless you count seagulls, crows and starlings but I do get a lovely selection of butterflies and moths, Oh and spiders.. I have the most diverse collection of different species you could ever imagine… When we first moved here there were garden spiders, big and fat, so big I could see them easily from the kitchen door as they strung across the paths at the other end of the garden… Ugh. not my favourite creature, especially as I know we have the false widows out there, the most scary ones. Others are bright flourescent green, brown, black, black and white, so many different shapes and sizes. It’s like walking down a garden of horror as webs wrap around your face and you come eyeball to eyeballs with some arachnid or another… yuk.

Today has been so hot and with weather reports of even hotter weather over the week and I am melting, even the greenery in the garden, cool as it is, fails to keep the heat of the day off me. Even if I brave the spiders, stick in hand to wave before me as protection, it isn’t long until I surrender and go into my dark little house. It is then she comes into her own. The house I mean, where the light doesn’t get in, neither does the heat and I can enjoy the luxury of a cool room while everywhere else is sweltering. Harry comes in from work and sighs, ‘it’s so cool in here.’ Supper is eaten in comfort and we spend most of the evening in the dining room where it is its coolest. Ok so it’s cold in the winter but for now, I shall not complain about our dark little terraced house, well not at least till the garden is bare and empty and the winter days make her cold and dingy again.

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Grrrr…

Don’t you just love weekends? Those days when you can laze around in pyjams till noon, eat when you are hungry and not when the clock dictates, do the things you want to do or do nothing at all. This weekend we kinda did nothing but did everything. On Saturday we spent some time with Harry’s daughter. It is her birthday and she is going for a short holiday abroad with a friend… wonderful, she works so hard as a chef/manager and is always on the go, If we can catch her in it is wonderful, rarely does she stop. So to go down around eleven oclock and find her in her PJs and her other half lounging on the sofa watching TV was wonderful. We spent every second just drinking tea and enjoying their company, they were going nowhere and we had nothing planned, we talked and talked, exchanged recipe ideas, walked round the garden and treasured precious moments. Apart from a little necessary shopping, we did little else, we dozed in the chair, pottered in the garden, watched a little TV. Sunday was the same, we were up early enough but we showered and dressed before a brunch around eleven then went to visit a Polish friend in hospital who had been in accident a week before when she had been knocked off her bike on the way home from work and had her foot crushed. The only thing we planned to do was to get on the computer and order a few things we needed, do some writing and a bit of research for our writing. That was when the lazy weekend came to a full stop!

My blog was impossible to get into, Google inaccessable, mail – forget it… I never realised just how important a part of out lives the internet was… Well the utcome was that we increased our … now what do you call it? hmmm anyway it was from 2 whatever it was to 10 something bytes, just to see if it made a difference…. No! the internet was off all day! Until now that is. The whole afternoon wasted, no I lie, I wrote some more to my novel which is now coming to its conclusion and I am feeling quite excited because the main bulk of the work will be over, the story is complete. The editing will improve it and little untidy ends will become neat… but research is so important and for that we rely upon… yes the internet… So what does one do? I can tell you… take a deep breath, accept it isn’t going to be and do something else far removed from the computer.

These machines have wormed their way into everyone’s lives, they control what we do, who we speak to, the things we want to believe in, yet, it is not in their influence or addictiveness the power lies. It is their ability to refuse to work when we need them most. So many of us live virtual lives and yes, if you are house bound or unable to go out, it is a great thing to have contact with the rest of the world. Myself? I keep in  touch with my children, in Switzerland, America and Spain as well as local, well in the UK. Then the internet goes down, fails to work, has problems connecting and we are left stranded on a shore of sand. This is where they obtain their control, anything else is personal choice, or maybe addiction, who knows? but when it all fails to work, we are lost. Grrr…

So why do we allow this machine to control our lives, what are the alternatives? Well there is the library, but even there, it is computers that supply the information, we can spend hours searching for something and be none the wiser. No press of a button, no screen full of options just rows and rows of books to plough through. Then we are travelling there and back, maybe to find nothing… Where else is there information… unless we know a scholar specialising in the subject, we have lost it, spent hours and hours searching for what we want that can be found at the press of a button in our own home… That is why we rely on the computer. For those spare moments that would otherwise be spent idling away time, for researching the hobbies we do, contacting friends and family, learning about the world around us, meeting people and making friendships we would otherwise never make. So why, Oh why can the service providers not get their act together and provide what we need?

So thats my grrrrr for this weekend… a Fantastic weekend but our time ruined by  having the little time we spent on the internet taken away. But maybe tonight, as it seems to be working well, I will at least be able to post my blog entry. OK now I will put my soapbox away. The weekend was good at the end of the day… we talked with friends, laughed with relatives, shared time together and eventually managed to get in touch with friends and relatives via the illusive internet. But we do that anyway! The difference was, we were in control and when we couldn’t do what we wanted to do, we did other things and made bloody sure we enjoyed it all. Who needs the internet after all……………… ok, we do!

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Today I am still reeling from the book I wrote about yesterday. So many thoughts have been triggered,  images and sounds whirl round and round in my head and I ask myself, is it just because we are bound, as mortal beings, by beginnings and ends, definitions, colours, sounds, images? What if there were no boundaries? what if sound became colour, liquid became sound, solid became a feeling, words became a completeness that encapsulated all those experiences as a single communication and spoke far more in a universal language than we, at this moment in our present mortal situation , can never begin to understand? Then I think back to an experience I had a few years ago whilst walking in my garden and admiring the beauty and colours of the spring  flowers and plants. I stood in front of a forsythia bush laden with yellow flowers and just looked. I noticed their shape, their colour, the brightness of the yellow, I saw the buds of the leaves waiting in the background until the flowers had reached the peak of their beauty and could no longer give any more to this world before they too, then burst open to share their colour. I was half meditating and half just being thankful that I could experience such amazing beauty when something changed. The colours of each individual flower merged with the next and the yellow spread and glowed. It stood out from the bush and vibrated as a golden aura. At first I thought I must be about to faint and shook my head but I didn’t feel dizzy so I watched. As I watched, the aura surrounded me, touched me, warmed me, and I became a part of it and it of me. The colour was no longer solid but a liquid, no longer liquid but a sound, no longer a sound but a fairy tale, a story, a lifetime and I was a part of it all. There was no beginning, no end, nothing solid yet everything real, no sound yet the most beautiful of music, no colour yet irridescent colour so vivid it became its whole. It was many things that, separately, in our world we all know but here in this precious moment, I experienced the total amalgamation of every sense we are aware of. I heard the colour, saw the sound, felt the words… the words…. It is a little like the quote from ‘Landing on Clouds’ that I wrote about yesterday… totally undescribable, but in those moments I learned that there is a place, a time, a knowledge, an understanding of things that are not bound by our limitations. I learned that there is, somewhere in another place and time, no need for language, for image, solid matter, liquid, sound, music, colour or many more ‘things’ that I am unable to describe with our limited language, because they are all one and the same total experience and completely understandable and fulfilling to the spirit. Maybe it is the language of angels that I was honoured to have shared for those moments, but I now know of its existance. I have written about it and shared my experience but contained in our physically limited world I can only use words to describe it, those words are so completely inadequate to share what is undescribable. Then even though I know, I cannot ‘tell’ anyone about it because it is so unbelievable in our physical world. I know it existed. Something in me connected to another world, another time, another place but, I cannot prove it. I therefore shall treasure that feeling, that experience, and I feel happy that, even with the limitations of language, I have shared this experience  and hope that somewhere out there in this world of ours there is someone else who knows, really knows, what I have always known, that we do walk with angels. It’s just that we have to be in right the place in our lives, the right time and the right emotional state before they can slip in beside us and touch us.

I shall continue to read the works of other writers because I know that every time we write, we leave a little of ourselves on the paper, in the words, in the story. I also believe that as we do, it is as it should be. We inspire, comfort, touch others who are at the same place as we are and we give confirmation, encouragement and an understanding of who each of us is. We connect minds. Writing is more than a hobby or an art, it is a means of silent communication, communion, a reaching out and a giving to others who, at any given moment in time, are at the same place we are and need to hear what we are trying to communicate in order to move another step forward in their lives. Yes, writing is more than just words, it is a timeless act of communication and love between the  writer and the reader, and as such a communication between souls and a life beyond who we all are in this world.

So, I hear you say, she’s lost it! but what if? and who are we to question such things? Maybe others feel the same or have had similar experiences, then this is what being a writer is all about. Add the imagination, relate to what others understand but most of all believe what you write about and let the forces beyond our comprehension do the rest.

PS. Any publishers in the real world out there, we need your help too . M X

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Inspiration

I have been rather lazy today, I was waiting for the gas man to call and service the boiler, and yeay, he fixed the leak, apparently a ‘union???’ had come unscrewed so no it shouldn’t leak water onto my towels and need topping up every so often, anyway I have been reading a book while I waited for him to call, actually the  first book of four, by a friend of mine. She is an amazing philosopher and deep thinker which her book reflects entirely and I am loving it. It makes me a little sad though because although I have a great degree of intelligence it was never developed because of the circumstances I was born into and it makes me feel so frustrated. On reading her I feel so hopelessly inarticulate and she is able to write the things I know and have in my head but cannot verbalise, still I am delving into her wonderful mind and finding a lot of comfort and excitement there and I wish I had not been born into poverty and had the education that might have made me such a different person, maybe even the person I dream I want to be… Ah well.

Anyway, the book I have just finished is ‘Landing on Clouds’ by Olivia Fane. Apart from making me feel so inadequate as a writer, which is my problem, nobody elses by the way,  this book has given me so much inspiration and I decided that even if I was an intellect I could never measure up to Olivia … she would deny this profusely and accept and acknowledge me as a person and everything I know as something so wonderful… by the time you leave her she has made you feel good about yourself and it makes you question what the hell is in your mind to be so negative….oh forgive me, do, for using her christian name, but I know so much about her, and so little, that I feel as I read her books I delve more and more into the person I know. Olivia is an amazing woman apart from her writing. strip the world away from Olivia and you would still have a person who is interesting, articulate and interested, a person with an incredible understanding of people and the world around her, a philosopher, a mother, a writer and a person with so many exciting stories and a zest for life that I can only weakly aspire to. I have written many a poem from experiences I have had with her and the children. My own children love her and look forward to being with her but ok I am going on… It is just a book but I have been criticised for using a similar style of writing and have then struggled to replace it with something other readers were happy with. I needn’t have bothered and now I have decided to write the way I want to. So if it doesn’t make publication, we all dream of that don’t we? it has made me happy to write it. Olivia’s books are so very much ‘Olivia’, in each one I see her character, a piece of her personality , so why should I write my books to please other people. I have to include a quote…. a fair explanation of Olivia from ‘Landing on Clouds’…

QUOTE’…what does a ghost feel who stretches out his ethereal fingers and arrives at something solid? Isn’t it infinitely easier for us to imagine a spiritual existance than for a spirit to imagine a corporeal one? I can imagine the spirits debating the existance of physical bodies. ‘mummy’ says one of them, ‘what does “touch”mean?’  ‘It’s a myth my dear,’ says the mother spirit, ‘some say there are tiny particles in space, some say they’ve had a personal experience with them.. But they can’t prove it, and they can’t begin to descibe it. Take my advice darling, the modern way of looking at it is simply to suggest that the inexplicable doesn’t exist.’ Well, the son spirit grows up and lo and behold, as he’s floating over a sunny part of the ethers, he suddenly experiences the warmth of the sun, but he can’t talk about it to his friends –  they consider such words as ‘warmth’ to be a mere metaphor. The son spirit says ‘No, no, I promise you, this happened to me.’ but the experience is so other-worldly as to be unimaginableand they say to him, ‘Are you sure you felt something more than an ordinary feeling of love or wonder or goodness?’ ‘It was better than any of those,’ says the son spirit, ‘but I shall never convice you. You will only know the truth of what I’m  telling you when you feel the warmth for yourselves.’ QUOTE

And that is the exact way I feel. I  want to write what I feel, not to explain it to others, not to make others believe what I see, feel or experience but because it is what has made me , well, me!  So I thank my gas man for giving me the waiting and reading time, for dear Olivia for writing the book but mostly I thank my life experiences and the people I have met along the way, both positive or negative, who have contributed to my understanding of the world around me… and who have inspired me to continue writing, as Olivia has, about what I know, about a part of me… If someone else reads it I am thankful that, for just a short while, I shared a little part of me with someone else….  [quote from ‘Landing on Clouds’ by OLIVIA FANE]

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Lazy, sticky, airless days

Phew! Today has been hot, hot enough to dig out the electric fans from the back of the cupboard under the stairs, hot enough to look at the housework and say ‘ Yeah, when it comes cooler.’ and open a good book while curled up on the sofa in front of aforementioned fan with a cup of Earl Grey. Well that was the theory and was a good one until I remembered that the blood donor team were at the local hall and that I really ought to go. Luckily a friend offered me a lift because he was going there anyway, hooray for air conditioned cars! The hall was warm despite ceiling fans whirring away. I hadn’t been for a few years because I had been trying different pain relief for arthritis but I made a decision some time ago that I was quite mad for taking a drug that needed to have the side effects counteracted with another and well you can see where the story was leading. I decided to try natural methods of pain control, so healing, a Tens machine, hypnotherapy as much natural food as I get away with, young people just hate the stuff don’t they? and a handful of vitamin and mineral supplements. It keeps it under bearable control without the drugs, so hence the reason to go back to giving blood. I asked a lot of questions and put my concerns about the arthritis but they were happy and off I went. The fun started when I had to get up onto the couch. Now anyone that knows me knows I am not a small woman and getting onto the couch very gingerly and watching the metal hooks that held  the bit you lay on very carefully in case I suddenly disappeared into a messy heap through the middle, I did the deed. The real fun happened when I tried to get off, The dip in the couch and the higher outer frame left me with my legs dangling in the air totally unable to shift far enough onto the edge without leverage to get off the thing. Damn I tried, in the end I had to swallow my pride and ask for help. The burly mail nurse came along and  made as if I was an elephant to lift me. No! says I, I can do it but I need to just have a hand to slide onto the edge. He was quite surprised that I just needed a hand not a hand, arm shoulder and full body weight… Oh, the indignity of it all. Believe me the worst part of giving blood is getting off the trolley.

I get back home armed with the instruction to take it easy and no heavy work…. that does include housework doesn’t it? If my decision re the heat before wasn’t a strong enough reason then I had one now. Normally I would just get on with my day but nearly halfway through a good book was my second excuse. The day got hotter and hotter and having had my fill of reading and a break for lunch I decided to get to work on the last of my novel in preparation for the new one that I had been doing the research for on holiday and was bubbling about in my head waiting to burst out. A small desk fan as my companion and inspired by the book I had just been reading the words just popped out of the keyboard. Now at least I could say the day had been productive. A quick tidy round and a meal cooked before the family arrived home for dinner, sorted! A dear friend had called during the day and offered me some black currants so after dinner we drove out to see them. The car windows and sun roof wide open allowed the cool breeze to play with my hair and soothe the heat of the day from my brow. When we stepped out of the car the other end of the journey, the air was cooler and fresh. I was whisked back to the memory of the cool air that blew across Cornwall and mentioned it to my friend. ‘Ah,’ says she, ‘ that’s urban air.’ Well I had never heard of that but on reflection she was right. All the heat of the day was trapped in pockets of space between houses and buildings and any breeze skimmed over the top barely touching where we need it. Open doors and windows had little effect when there was no breeze to stir the air round a bit. Once again I yearned to live back in the country. Still never mind, once the gas man has called tomorrow to give the boiler its service and I have done the Friday clean before the weekend I can escape once more with book and fan or maybe dive into my own novel and escape the sticky heat of ‘urban air’ until I can find another excuse to visit the countryside again and breathe some real stuff.

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Recovering!

Yeay, I’m back and yes the holiday was fantastic. I did all the research I needed to, visited many beautiful places and met some lovely people, most of which will be a part of my next novel. It never ceases to amaze me how different places can be. Here in Hampshire we bump and rumble over shoddy roads that have been dug up so many times it is a joke, unadopted roads are common and traffic is often unbearably busy but down there, even the smallest road is immaculately tarmacked and smooth.
Talking of roads, we travelled on some amazing ones that we would call a track yet they are through roads connecting to bigger A and B roads, What was amazing apart from the condition of the surface was the width, as we drove along them the foliage beat the car on both sides. Thankfully few cars were on them but those that were had to be passed using tiny little passing places cut into the banks. They also travelled about 50 mph which scared the daylights out of me. Talking of the banks, Cornwall is very hilly and as we joined these roads they took us down hills so steep we feared we must topple over, the banks either side didn’t change so by the time we got to the bottom the tops were so high it was like being in a tunnel especially if the trees that grew on them were dense and touched over head. It sort of reminded me of Alice in Wonderland and the rabbit hole. Often at the bottom, which could be anything from a mile or more down, we discovered farm houses and smallholdings. Miles from anywhere! Water was obtained from wells or boreholes but I am sure they could never get a mobile phone signal or internet because we were on a hill and couldn’t, so they must be totally isolated. Perfect.
Anyway once at the bottom of these roads the only way out was up. Then it was as steep the other side going up as it had been going down. In places it was nearly dark despite it being full sun above. But each and every road was smooth and well looked after and best of all round many corners were some quaint little places, some superb architecture in the form of bridges or viaducts, picturesque rivers and any number of other beautiful places, some of which took our breath away. These places alone were worth going to Cornwall for. It is a totally different way of life and we loved it all.
Best of all when we got home the house was tidy, the cats still alive, nothing out of order and daughter learned a lot about housekeeping… like … ‘Can’t be bothered to cook for one so I didn’t bother unless there were others there.’ meant there was still a full freezer, bonus! I think they ate out most of the time.
Trouble is with holidays that it takes time to recover from ‘doing very little mode’. So today I have cleaned the house, laundry done and my new recipe for Cornish pasty tried and tested. Tomorrow I can relax and do some serious writing.

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