He fell out of the back of the library book as she opened it up on the train home. A strange photo of a photo, showing a section of slightly tatty wallpaper and a cornered, accidental Cheese plant, as well as the real subject. A drawing of a boy. Charcoal or pencil, hard to tell. He is looking up, pleading. He holds an empty glass.
In her pocket, picked up from when she had her sandwich on the beach at lunchtime, there's another face. This one shows the profile of a man whistling. He's proud. Carefree. Optimistic. He has a strong neck, neat hair. In his head, there is a space, marked by a pale area on the dark grey blue stone, that reminds her of a view looking out from inside a sea cave, onto calm seas and empty skies. Across this sea and sky, lies a real frond of purple seaweed. Pressed. Adhered for now.
It's only when the photo lands on her coat sleeve, that she remembers about the stone. She puts the book down, and holds a found face in each hand, all the way home.
The shadows are defined in greater detail than the things they are created by, from an eager sun, blasting it's heat through the cold air. And just as I step onto the promenade, I see the amazing shadow cast by the first beach shelter, ahead of me.
At a slant. Elongated. Looming far bigger than the real thing. An odd skew-whiff angle. Crooked house about to fall down, if gravity ever has it's way with shadows. Like it could fold itself back at any moment and be as mundane as a cardboard box flat pack.
The sun strikes at the panes of toughened glass, and strange beams and bars of slow hatch, file out. Against the dark amalgam of the tarmac, with it's tiny jewels of quartz, glinting flint shards, and bubble gum pink gravel splattered into the mix, it looks like a dark night sky twinkling with stars, even though my peripheral vision can see blue sky all around.
The golden orbs on the roof are suspended on the ground now, like a row of stranded grey moons.
And while I have these wonderful moments, I am sad that I can't just take off and fly above this spot, able to capture this lovely transitory happening in the freeze frame of an eye-embedded camera, linked to my eternal memory bank, so I can always recall.
Somehow, we coexist - the tanned and toned volleyball players in their neatly marked out court, and even neater shorts - the happy kids digging and building in the best sand for miles - the dogs with noses snorting low, tails on fast speed, paws relieved to run here - me, barefoot, daydreaming.
Whatever the weather, and whoever is there, I always walk through the volleyball pitch sand. It reminds me of home.
This morning, in wonderful sun, there was only me.
The first cold day, today. In blinding sun, I sit behind groyne no.9, out of a cruel and cutting wind that snatches at the pages of my notebook. Hot enough sheltering there, to take off my jacket and scarf. Before the end of the page, I had closed my eyes. The sun had pulled me into sleep at word 53.
The nectarines refused to ripen in the bowl as the label promised. I am stewing them, as I write, with a handful of blueberries, dark sugar, and a tablespoon of wine. The house is fragrant with their nectar. Now they are doomed.
Just before I clicked on PUBLISH POST, I had to try them so you would know. No surprises, really - heaven in a bowl.
Late-night poetry reading in the gallery, was made even more wonderful by having stumbled upon it by chance. It was moving, it was passionate, it was humorous, intimate. But when I saw her take a diaphragm deep breath, I knew her voice was going to rise into a 'do join in' song, and I cringed. Part of me wanted to run.
Did I miss something? Some connection from what went before? See, I'm not sure why they had to end it with a rousing version of 'Oh, dear, what can the matter be', like some strange mix of hark back to an Edwardian music hall singalong and repetitive nursery school songs.
I didn't look around at the other people in the audience, I gazed at a beautiful painting instead, but I'm sure I wasn't the only person not joining in. I was very well-behaved and stayed sitting until the end of the piece, like I would at any other performance. Surprise Community singing does not always fit the occasion, no matter how great the performer is at delivering the material to a slow-to-respond crowd.
Good to move on to other performances, but I was sorry that the poetry set had ended that way.
Always the subject of intense fascination for me as a child, tonight we change change the clocks from BST back to GMT, gaining an hour in the process. Back then, every year, twice a year, I was stunned into wide-eyed silence at the thought of playing dangerous tricks with time. I had frightened myself by reading too many books.
In the late hours of this very night, here in Brighton, to celebrate the extra hour, there are strange events and wonderful spectacles happening that would have thrilled me as an impressionable youngster. Top of the list to me then, would have been a trip down the sewers.
While I won't be putting my Wellies on ready for a trip into the underworld, instead of luxuriating under the duvet, I will be out and about in the middle of the night, listening to music, looking at art, exhibitions and installations around the town, seeing films.......I might even return my library books at midnight!
That such an idea feels like a small act of rebellion, must be a sign of advancing years. I hope I can stay awake through the concerts!
Walking in the dark after work. Right by the sea. Caught between the shush and push of a near high tide and the low throaty roar of Friday night traffic. Stereo sound.
Coming into and out of vision, the sea is only visible when the shock of a breaker casts a long flash of teeth chomping at stones. Horizontal curtains open up, momentarily, then close fast. Shutters. Blinkers. Screens. Sight on and off, in time with the red blinks of the warning buoy, bobbing out at the end of the pier.
I hardly see him as I walk past. A tall dog sits on the only occupied bench along the whole promenade. Neatly poised. Statuesque. Gazing out to sea. Beside him, a man wrapped in warm layers against the night, is writing in the dark. He wears fingerless gloves.
I smile as they melt into the darkness again. I thought it was only me who did such things.
Wonders of technology brought me 8 messages at midnight. At 00.01, I woke to bleeps, and then more bleeps after I ignored them the first time round.
Lying awake later, I was thinking about the air around us and all the things it now contains in comparison to even a century ago.
Gridlock in the airwaves, backlog in the skies, messages in the slow circling stacks of a spiral above a dark forest at night, unable to come in to land.
As I ate a slow breakfast before starting work, I was wondering about how noisy it would be if we were able to tune in, somehow, to those frequencies. Wondering what it might sound like. Then, the DAB went down.
After the home-growns are finished, tomatoes flown in from afar, make for sad pockets. Tasting them, later, is sadder. Saddest of all, is to still want them when you see them in the shop next time.
While roots and greens are wonderful, I am missing the taste of the sun that vine-ripened tomatoes bring. Through September and October, I try to save the last pickings. Eat only one a day, ration out the last small fruits, until the fragrant bowl waits, empty.
Behind my eyes, the filmscape still plays, continuous and parallel with what I do now. And it is seeping into some place of memory where I can feel it's closeness with the slightest turn of head, or at the sound of some turn of phrase whose words I do not understand. Recurrent images flood in like slow streams of threading seaweed in deep bright water, and I am tangled in with their suspended dreams.
A flight at dawn, looking down on the lemon-grey rivers of France and over the dark dry creases of mountains. Strolling in tree-lined streets. Bikes and scooters beneath the Orange trees. Bronze field mushrooms on every table at the market, that tasted like heaven that night. A content yellow dog waiting outside the baker's. Playful mosaics, art made public. A red squash, sliced with a hatchet to leave a segment of a smile with teeth astray. The stonemasons' workshop in the centre of the cathedral with brilliant stained glass like a fire's eye tearing at the sun, beaming down rays like knives of light. Plums like sun nectar, ecstatic to run down a chin, a neck, a sleeve. Traffic filling the night, gushing in through the window. Old backstreets where everyone slows down. Cool squares with watching balconies waiting for the breeze. And people who stroll......
From above, the pink-grey cloud burren blankets a world wrapped away, kept for later. Like a karst landscape, the shapes are stark as skull, with dark potholes where my feet would find their tread if I were running there. Plunge pools overflow, drip by drip, down into the lush green caves of valleys beneath and the welcoming wide hands of pink rock. The mountains funnel, forge, gorge a way through, to a new vista which we have named as another country. But there is no line to fence in the slow progress of moss, the shape-shifting of wind-bitten rock. Golden lichen is holding on and creeping.
Listening in the dark, old style. Finely-tuned, until static crimped the heavy clouds and a white tailed storm lashed in. And somewhere between the live concert and the late night reading, I lost my fraying hold on the world and you whispered right into the flood of my dreams, with slow liquid words and strange spells of intoxicating voice. Against the roar and splutter of the cracked night, I kept watch on the skies with unopened eyes.
Busy weekend coming up, so will be having a short break from posting. Back soon, Sx
Against dry flurries of golden leaves, winding string onto a spool becomes the lead rhythm, hooks him in until his feet start to tap a loose-kneed groove on the hollow heart of the bottom step. He listens to the head bound wisp of an old love song, and laughs as he remembers that odd thing someone once told him - "They don't whistle in Spain, you know."
Sudden. It didn't sweep in. It was just there as soon as she made contact. A lake of incredible stillness, strange beneath the sight of her fingers. A surface that felt it would disappear if she breathed too deeply. And she wanted to gaze into that quiet lake forever, and for it never to be ravaged by the wild dances of wind and weather, the pull of tides, or slammed doors of ice.
Swans on the beach. I've seen them there so many times before, so why does it still strike me as odd?
Cooling off in the shallows, all of us, in the heat of a surprise sunburst, I hear their distant cranking song, like they turn the wheels of an old rusty machine.
A Cessna swoops down low, banks steeply to look at the crowd of white confetti. As the engines splutter like unhappy Bluebottles, paddle feet trip and stumble to lift braced wings into flight. They remind me of the first moment a hesitant crowd begins clapping for an encore. Awkward and unsure, the slow applause of feet is out of sync and un ab le to get back to geth er. The beats and syllables don't meet until they are all free of the ground.
And there, as they join to circle, as wings fall into rhythm, they hum out that strange ghostly hoot, that seems to come from closed off throats, the excitement of held breath, and the friction of broad wings.
Had to be tough with myself this morning. Laid down some rules. Very simple, really. Make one cup of tea - sit down and write with pen and paper- SWITCH NO OTHER GADGETS ON until you have written for an hour.
So that's what I just did. In fact, I wrote for a bit longer than that. Phew! It has restored me. What I needed.
See, yesterday, it was great to go with the lovely flow of awards and posting a long blog and sending messages and cake and sunshine walks on the beach and all the rest of it. It was fun to have a different kind of day. However, the casualty in all of that was MY WRITING and by the time I had to go and work, I was all ratty round the edges because I had only spent about 20 minutes with a pen in my hand. Mostly, I twiddled the pen, and worst thing of all, did TOO MUCH THINKING. To be honest, that time could have been better spent tidying one of the kitchen cupboards or being on the beach for a bit longer!
I'm uncomfortably aware that I might have pushed others off their creative flow, yesterday. While we all have the choice to respond or not to such things as nominations and tags and celebrations and polls, it's very easy to get drawn into yet another distraction, this being one of them, with everything just one little click away. Before we know it, an hour has gone by, and sadly, so too has that little flicker of a fragile whisper that wanted to tell you something through the magic of paint or sound.........
In the luxury of being able to have a slow start this morning, I was gazing out into my quiet street where the trees are burning gold in the sun. I was in free flow, with all sorts of memories and ideas, thoughts and imaginings, while wondering about today's blog post - which I knew was going to be something about communication. I have time for a long walk by the sea this morning, before working later, so I had planned to post after my cobwebs had been swept away. However........
When I opened up my e mails, I had a message from Kristen Hovet vespersescape.blogspot.com who has nominated me for an "I love your blog" award. I am thrilled. WOW!! Part of the idea is that the award gets passed on. There's no-one here to celebrate with, so I am kicking off the party by sharing the cake in the blogging world. We can go to the pub after work tonight if anyone who knows me is reading this.
Here are the rules -
1 - Add the logo to your blog
2 - Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3 - Nominate at least 7 other bloggers
4 - Add links to their blogs
5 - Leave a comment for your nominees on their blogs
1 - soundofsplinters.blogspot.com written by Jem. It's a beautiful haven of calm and haiku that reminds me that less is more. Jem has been a great blog buddy and companion on my blogging adventures - one of the people I am listing today, who has made a huge difference in my keeping on blogging campaign! Thanks Jem x
2 - Harry Bell's boogiestreet.blogspot.com is one of the first ever blogs I discovered, way before I had my own. Without excellent pages like his on the web, I wouldn't have taken the plunge myself. I love Harry's cityscape paintings and his tales of the day to day. And he has a sense of humour which seems to match my own.
3 - Neda's inspiring blog is www.papierscolles.com She creates haunting collages that I ADORE. Her pieces resonate long after seeing them. What could be better than that?
4 - Rima's blog intothehermitage.blogspot.com is a remarkable and inspiring world all of it's own. I have to be careful with getting so absorbed in it that I don't get on and do my own work. When I first saw this blog, it nearly took my breath away.
5 - poefusion.blogspot.com by Michelle Johnson is a new discovery for me. It has a vibrant mix of all things poetic. It has a feel of friendly magazine to it that I love. Hope to get to read the back pages soon.
6 - thealteredpage.blogspot.com by Seth Apter is a treasure trove. It feels like a gallery and museum all mixed into one - with no-one standing in front of your favourite piece, of course. And it is full of links to explore. Inspirational.
So, cheers to all of you. It has been great to link up on the web with other creative folks. Thanks for comments, for support, humour and friendship.......... And thanks again to Kristen for giving me a great start to a Friday. Hope you enjoy reading some of these other blogs.
Off to the beach now. Enjoy the cake! Love, Spot x
PS Links are sorted now, I hope. Thanks for telling me how.
Prompted by National Poetry Day and it's theme this year, of work, I was thinking about how lucky I am to be able to do a reasonable "day job" and to still have energy left over to pursue other things. It's a juggling act a lot of the time, but such simple pleasures are not available to all. I am grateful for mine.
Above the humming snake den, unafraid of the fall, they mock the breeze, clamber and claw at the high wire fence, flirt with passing girls. All tongue and tendrils, they call out in brazen, rude red. Laugh in loud orange. Spit maroon blood. Swear yellow obscenities. Make shy heads turn.
Wedged against the luggage rack, coat rolled up and resting on his ankles, he began to empty his harassed mind. Lucky to have made his normal train to London, despite the last minute rush. He closed his eyes and thought back to the last 50 minutes at home. It had been a strange way to start the day.
Opening the curtains to let the new day into the lounge, the whole curtain rail, plus curtains, plus particularly sticky cobweb, plus an unhappy inhabitant - the whole lot just fell down on top of him. The weight of it had surprised him and in stepping back, he had pushed over the magnificent Cheese plant that then puddled the floor with both wet soil and water, because he had watered it before he went to bed last night. He didn't dare put the hoover on. Mrs Downstairs would have bashed on the ceiling with her walking stick. He had mopped and swept and scooped and then realized he had knelt in the soil in his new pale blue pyjamas. Had to dismantle the whole curtain rail to fix it and then hook the curtains back on, one hook at a time, clumsy with the small pieces.
Anyway, he'd managed to catch himself up. Had the fastest shower ever, and then mixed the breakfast fruits in with the cereal to save a bit more time, only one small cup of coffee. Ran down the hill.
In the train, a minute before departure, a lilting sing song voice with smoothed out consonants, announced, "Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Welcome aboard the 7.34 to Kingston, Jamaica." This was followed by a small stampede. About half of the people in the compartment grabbed their possessions and left the train. The rest looked around, sheepish and silent. He started to laugh out loud. Couldn't stop. He sat down as the doors slunk to closure and thudded, locked. He was still laughing, with tears streaming down his face, as the train glided along the platform. In the blur of it all, he noticed that the remaining doomed passengers were moving into the next compartment, avoiding his eyes.
There was another announcement as the train picked up speed. He assumed it apologized for the earlier mistake, but he didn't hear it too well as he giggled his way towards town in wonderful legs stretched out solitude. He just about managed to pull himself together before the first stop, miles away. But he was still grinning as the train welcomed a new set of faces who wouldn't have understood the joke. He didn't care that no-one sat anywhere near him. He felt restored.
It was a small, but resonant regret. He wished that he had gone to live in the tower block near the broad curve of the river. It would have been better, at that stage of his life, not to have been so earthbound. Waking every day to the damp heat from the bakery beneath his flat in the main street, seemed to send him out into the heave of the city half primed. It always felt like he had to escape, hit the road as soon as he could. Just get out. But once on his way, he realized he had cruelly cast himself out. His body always felt frail to the pounding fists of a city that kneaded his insides in the wrong places. Too much, too soon.
He wished he had taken the other flat offered to him. Cubes in the sky. From floor 14, he could have started and ended each day gazing out into an enormous sky, the slow grey mirror of the working river and the dragging snake of traffic and trains heading to and from the city. It would have given him a better perspective on life, instead of looking up from his breakfast table to dusty windows that saw no sky, sighing crawling traffic and the sporadic leaves of a Rowan bricked in by the kerb.
Back seat, upstairs, number 12 westbound. Quiet, in that odd lulling hour before the crowd turns back into town, only an hour after it left in droves like starlings massing to roost, unable to settle. Coast road cliff riding. Low tide hisses white. A raging sunset washes a quivering page.
Nicely settled on the beach. You have chosen a spot away from everyone, down by the waves, but out of the spray. In the glorious optimism of a sunny October morning, with no clock watching tyranny for the next few hours, you sit out of the wind behind a groyne. You shuffle about a bit on your backside (because the beaches here are covered in stones) and you throw a few sacrum cripplers into the sea, creating satisfying plops and gulps. In this wonderful solitude you pick up a pen and venture forth into your sketchbook with freedom and playfulness. The energy builds and you turn over the page as words tumble out with an unselfconscious verve.
Footsteps crunch and slither towards you, and a voice talking LOUDLY on a mobile, obviously with a very bad connection to someone very far away. They sit down so close you can smell their perfume. A big lolloping puppy dog flounders along behind. It bounds over to greet you, all tongue, big paws, panting and wagging, like you are their long lost pal. Dogs are adorable, however..........It dribbles on your sketchbook, grabs your hand in it's soft mouth and sits down heavily on your foot. Then, it sniffs loudly at your bag which contains 3 chocolate biscuits and a small flask of tea, all wrapped against spillages, possible dog visits and frantic seagull peckings, and proceeds to push it's nose into the dark heaven of a challenge. The owner throws a ball for the dog, just missing your head, in fact, you feel it leaving a pathway through your hair. The ball lands in the sea, and the next time the dog comes to look for the biscuits, it spin dries itself about a yard away from you. There is a whole beach to sit on and this person comes to sit right beside you.
It doesn't happen a lot, but over the years I can remember several extraordinary situations like this. One involved a whole family arriving with surfboards, wetsuits and barbecue. They set up camp in front of me, so that my view of the beach was blocked by a row of writhing naked bottoms of various sizes and sexes being squeezed into wetsuits while the charcoal started to smoke. Another involved me and a friend reading on a massive beach with no-one else in sight. A large family appeared far off in the distance as little specks. And they walked and walked and walked, getting closer and closer until they reached us, whereupon they immediately switched a massive ghetto blaster on.
Someone I know will tell me that I need to work on my protective shield. In response, I will joke about making a three mile exclusion zone around me, complete with KEEP OUT signs. Then she will tell me that she was only trying to help and why don't I just avoid the situation by staying at home writing at a desk.
Safehouse is an experimental music collective in Brighton where the focus is on free improvisation. Musical conversations evolve between players in the moment, without the usual musical safety nets of structure, tonal area, groove or riff. Some of my musician buddies curl lips in horror at the thought of such freedom, assuming that all we do is make a perpetual racket. Well, sometimes we do! But some of the music that takes flight there takes my breath away.
It has been a huge inspiration for my playing since I first joined and I have been collecting word images from the sounds I hear and play there. It's very much at the scrapbook stage of work in progress, but here are some of the images I am currently muttering to myself and trying out for poetry some day soon........
sounds trip and stumble, find their way, blind
tom-tom chokes like a start stop heartbeat
tenor snarls like breathy metal rain driving in
ecstatic flurries of birdsong tumble, in the fury of a dark hedge
cello engine splutters, lurches forward into the race
thin still stem of flute rises towards light
restless textures unravel, tangle and knot
cobwebbed strands of a Prague cafe lurk beneath a cool dark lake of restless violin and flustered accordion
Cross legged on a bench, in the last copper light of the fast falling sun, a young girl with hair that echoes the shape of a wind sculpted hawthorn tree, plays guitar. As I get closer, I hear her haunting staccato voice. I slow down to listen. She sounds like a walnut faced crone, exhausted and brittle after a Winter of harsh frost. Her voice seems to come from back in time.
Out in the black blue of night breakers, a lone surfer walks an endless wave like he is strolling home. In the soft shushing of the low tide, I can hear him singing his operatic lines, appassionato, molto vibrato. When I can't see him anymore in the fading light, I stand in the darkness and listen to his phrases riding across the beach.