Archive for October, 2014

Watching for Dust

October 3, 2014


These are the hours of expectancy. This is when the day begins to scurry. Until now the minutes have dragged their feet but, come early evening, soles are lifted a little and Time begins to trot.

This is the kind end of the day. (My mornings frequently overwhelm me: what will I do all day?)

The sun tips and shadows lean long and low and the tea is gilded a quite different green, limebright; this morning in the mist it was sullenbottle.

And this is when I can anticipate Ant’s homecoming. I see his dust long before I hear his car. Some evenings, if the light catches it right, if his timing is bang on, the cloud of dust his wheels kick up looks like a pall of pink smoke in the setting sun. I watch him then, making his way down a road that threads its way through tea bushes.

We sit on the verandah, briefly, with a cold beer. Just until the sun slips behind the forested hills on the opposite side of the valley. As it tips from sight, the last vestiges of the afternoon’s warmth are snatched away. In an instant. We don’t linger; the temperature plummets.

I draw curtains and light a fire in the sitting room. I have learned to light one well and quickly. In minutes long tongued orange flames lick the logs I’ve piled upon my kindling. It crackles and spits and I must roll the hearth rug right away lest we’re all set ablaze. As it settles so the dogs settle before it and the cat too. I stand with my back to it as I finish my beer, until I’m warmed.

But many evenings I don’t see that rising telltale plume of dust. Many evenings Ant works late and then the verandah vigil is abandoned. I write until the light goes and I suddenly realize I am cold. I light a fire but don’t’ draw the curtains. Every few minutes I move towards the French doors and peer into the dark.

Scanning the gloom for the heartening pinprick of his headlights.

Making It

October 3, 2014

indian lamp 1

Lately I have begun to make lampshades.
I have no idea what I will do with them all; they are bulky objects and quickly fill the airing cupboard. Find a market one day? A market a million miles away. On the metaphorical moon.
I don’t know why lampshades. Why glass before that?

Because I needed something tangible to do when the words failed; you can give a shade away, or a bowl, but you can hardly present a person with a piece of writing that didn’t sell. Here. I wrote this for you. Oh. Thanks. They’d stammer, wondering what on earth they were going to do with 1200 words on Why Multitasking Isn’t Good for You. Writing that doesn’t sell is filed invisibly in the ether. Forgotten. A platter gathers dust on the sideboard until somebody says, ‘did you make that’. And your admission that you did proves you don’t just sit here in (not so) splendid isolation doing nothing.

You see, even in the absence of anybody to buy the accumulation of stuff I craft, it makes me feel useful: the doing.
Until I began to play at creating, using my hands, I had imagined I would only find satisfaction in the cerebral. In the poring over research and plucking from it the necessary to deliver copy to an editor, in the piecing together of prose. But over the years, as commissions dried up, as time weighed heavier on idle hands, I realized that writing, especially when there was apparently no market for that anyway, wasn’t going to be enough. Indeed it only endorsed the feeling of redundancy. I was somewhat startled to discover that I, no artist (I cannot draw or sew or paint), could find some fulfillment , some occupation, in colour and shape and texture.
And I have noticed that it is precisely in the careful working with my hands that solace comes. Ant knew it would, it’ll be therapeutic, he said, which I dismissed as a platitude at first (I ought to have known better: my husband does not spew platitudes).


This week has been especially difficult and long and the hours very, very heavy and so, because I need to tick off the seconds and the minutes that finally add up to a single day, I have disappeared to my studio (a lofty word: an afterthought, a once store, stuck gracelessly to the end of the house), my space, cluttered with kilns and tools and tiles of glass and bottle of glue and ambitious books about all the things I aspire to make and it is there, as I apply attention to cutting and measuring and concentrated folding and tucking so that my paper and fabric take shape as a shade, there that the peace descends. The focus on a line, a pattern, the blades of my scissors as I shear material just so and my head empties and the afternoon slips past. I only know it’s nearly gone when the dogs begin to snuffle impatiently at my feet because it’s time for a walk and I am astonished at the time; where did it go?. My making has massaged the difficult hours away and something like contentment is left; my husband was right. Therapy.
And I have something concrete to hold up to the light, to touch, to turn and examine for loose threads, something to show Ant when he comes home, look at what I made. And he will take the thing, a shade, a bowl, in his hands and scrutinize it for quality partly because he is a perfectionist like that but mostly because he knows that in the careful examination he will endorse my efforts as something that counts. Something important. Something that made my day matter.
Well done he says, and smiles.



October 2, 2014

black on white 2


This is Gippy. As in Gyp(s)y. Don’t say the s. Like the Goose, (E)gyp(tian) Goose. And the Lake. Jipe. Spelt differently. Pronounced the same.  She is the newcomer. She likes to rest her glossy little black head on warm things: Pili’s older, wiser, yellow one.

Sometimes – in this vast sprawling lonely place – my life distills to the very tiny. There are few sounds, and no busy-ness, to drown the silence out. A luxury I hear you say. No. Not really. Overwhelming isolation is a difficult commodity to grapple with. It overflows my space and spills from my hands; I frequently cannot manage it.

The Outpost taught me a little of how to fill it though. A little. This is a larger void to stopgap.

I learned that I needed to concentrate on the smallest elements of my day. Join up the dots. Make a picture. Something I could present at sundown. This is what I did with my Day.

So I really taste that first cup of tea. Its fresh picked-piquancy and sweetness (I always take a spoon of sugar in my first mug).

I stop and stand and gaze, head tilted back, upon a flock of Turraco that are feasting in a tree we walk beneath on an early morning soujourn. I hear them often from the house, their gutteral, throaty call. But I have never seen one here. Until now. The tree was thronged with birds, their scarlet feathers as blood flecks against the green. They cackled crossly, leave us in peace, to eat. So we did. The dogs and I.

I prepare supper with imagination, a glass of wine to hand. Provisions are not easy here. Butter is more than an hour away. If you’re lucky. So I have learned to stretch the culinary deliverance of an aubergine.  Get some small jolt of achievement from reinventing last night’s steak as something with chilli and yogurt.

I eke out the day’s every flavour to make it go a little further. I have to.

This habit, this new habit, has a name I read. It is called Mindfulness: a heightened awareness, a deliberate concentration, on the details of the world around us. It’s touted as a wellbeing tool. Will it stop me going Mad, I wonder. (For in my solitary space I know I think too much) Google assures me it will.

So I ponder this piece of writing, select each word more carefully now, thread them as beads on a rope.

Gippy, aslseep at my feet, shuffles to find a new spot and settles her soft head upon my slippered foot. I notice her small weight. Her warmth.

I promise myself to write a post every day for the next 21, when I will have written 500 on this blog.

I promise myself to notice the little things more. To mind less.

I promise myself to be Mindful.