Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 31st


My canine naturalist is intent on her daily study – the life of the garden. Attention aroused, her body stiffens. I follow her intense observation. Two cheeky starlings strut about on the ridge tiles of the kitchen roof. A gregarious couple, checking out the gaff in a dash of silver, determined, in their dotted hurry, to bag the best nest. 

Monday, 30 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 30th


Before the creep of dawn, when night still caresses the windowpane, the chilly sea of wakefulness laps at my pillow’s edge.
I lie twisting under the duvet, my feet smoothing chasm-like creases and acres of gritty sand from the surface of the bottom sheet.
I close my eyes and blot out the myopically blurred room, flooded in its chalky dust of indistinct greys.
Breathe deeply. Tense toes. Relax.
His and hers alarm clocks echo in uneven ticks.
Feel my ankles push into the surface of the bed.
Breathe deeply. Tense legs. Relax.
A horse neighs in the field beyond the garden. Or was that a whinny? What’s the difference?
Work up my spine. Let my shoulders sag limply.
Breathe deeply. Tense neck. Relax.
Listen with jealousy to the gentle puffed snores beside me.
A train in the distance hooks my thoughts. Life scurries on. Freight is carried.
Breathe in, breathe out. Try and melt into the darkness.
Silently accuse the clocks of getting louder.
Admit defeat.
Reach for glasses, book and light.



Sunday, 29 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 29th

We step out into the monochrome morning, the dog and I, and wander through a gossamer shroud laid low over the riverside. I follow the bend of the tarmac path into a silky world of solitude, while she noses through sparse shrub, her position given away by the softest snap of a twig as she gingerly pads across mulchy ground beside the stream. Over the hunched back of a small bridge I stop and stare down. Long green tresses finger the stony bed, bringing an image of Ophelia into my mind. The dog’s head snaps up to something beyond my senses. Involuntary fear makes my heart race as I stare into the ethereal fog. Fuchsia clad, a jogger pierces the pearly film and, hand hooked in collar, we stand and watch her pass. Fading away, as if fashioned from the mist itself, she becomes something imagined on our morning walk.



Saturday, 28 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 28th

I cannot write today. Exhausted by anger, I wallow like a sad dishcloth, depressed that an eruption of rage can obliterate all promise for the day. Weary of misunderstanding and provocation, my evacuated brain flits restlessly. My soul is empty after a flood of hot tears and I am unable replenish the joy, for that would mean swallowing my pride and revisiting the same tortured words.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 27th

The chilled hand of this breath stealing wind hinders my progress, while sending my hound wildly bounding a full field away. No small bird is safe from the ear-flapping frenzy of her pursuit.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 26th




Wrestle with the wind,
As you traipse the muddy path
Under low slung clouds.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 25th


Feeling blue, producing doggerel,
Now my temperature is high.
My nose stuffed up with clogging clay,
It hurts to view the sky.
My shoulders ache profoundly.
My mouth is filled with sand.
I need to drink another Lemsip
And hold a tissue in each hand.
I feel less like editing my novel,
And my notes beside me lie.
Deserting the blank screen and keyboard,
I take to the sofa and die.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 24th


Day Out

Mobiles on tables, laptops out. Passengers prepare for the journey.
Business suits and briefcases, laughing friends, day-trippers, museum goers, shopping expeditions.
Leisurely crawl towards city perimeter, through a periphery made dingy by its wealth of factories.
Speed picks up in a new estate where ugly boxes crowd humbly in small groups.
Garden sheds hug back fences and rubbish is dumped over to accumulate on sidings.
Next the cemetery. Rows of graves begin to blur. Grey stones become ribbons of death – insistent and badgering.
Eyes cannot keep pace with the nearness of things.
Look away to meet the tantalizing horizon as the long train glides beyond.
On past quiet farms. A meadow full of cows lying down stimulates a silent plea for rain to be delayed until tomorrow.
Open country under grey streaked arches tacked on the cobalt sky.
Tracks stretch on, slicing up acres of emerald damask.
Sunshine flashes on a mirrored surface. Windsurfer tacks across, making use of the abandoned quarry.
Uneven line of beet pickers, like sliding knobs on a control console.  A factory field complete with conveyor belt.
Dogs in a field. Obedience class. A mini-gymkhana of exercise and control.
Distant spire, seen through hedgerows, announces a destination.
Rectangular patches of small scale horticulture. Hobby growers, digging for victory over bland, commercial giants.
Industrial estate, shiny new. Warehouses selling advanced prosthetics, made to order, and children’s wooden toys.
Don coats. Gather up handbags.
Laptops away.
Stand, phone still glued to ear.
Hurry. Be first off, though the platform is not yet in sight.
Arrive.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 23rd


Man Outside the British Library

He sits outside the crowded cafĂ© eating a ham panini. The brushed steel of the chair sends icy shivers through the thin worsted of his suit trousers. He glances through the steamy windows and wishes he had bought a coffee, but when he ordered the white wine he had not known there were no seats left. His hand brushes his chin. He should have shaved. Instead, he chose ten more minutes in bed. Better that than face the frosty dawn. A finger of breeze flicks through his small pile of papers, threatening to lift them from the table. He places a large, leather bound volume on top of the errant heap. The red book is itself overflowing. Stuffed between its leaves are loose letters and clippings from newspapers. His documents are a metaphor for his life - a messy affair, cluttered, disorganised and inconstant danger of flying out of control. 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 22nd


This morning it starts again - the daily intrusion of calls breaking into my time, disturbing my mindfulness, always asking for that one name and never pronouncing it correctly. This number has been reassigned. She is no longer here.
I know you’re just doing your job and since politeness runs through my veins I’ll put up with your small talk, even though I find it unlikely that your name is Kevin.
Me? Oh, I am very well, thank you. Yes, the weather is nice today. Actually, I’ve never had an accident. No, I don’t have a mortgage. Good lord! You’re ringing from Microsoft Support? I’ve never been able to get hold of you in the past.
Well no, I don’t need anything. You see, I’m pretty much content, or I would be if the phone didn’t ring so often when I’m trying to write.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 21st


Searing irons thrust upwards through the raging inferno. In a self-induced medieval torture of rising bile, sharp, acrid explosions in poppy red burn raw tracts through my chest. In a bitter malady of regret I recall why I stopped drinking red wine.



Small Stone - Jan 20th


Bright sun follows rain, reveals bare branch, crystal draped.
A wealth of shimmering diamonds hung on a slender brown throat.



Thursday, 19 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 19th

I dreamed of glistening caves, their walls streaming with rivulets of ice-cold water.
I woke to rain running along the guttering below my open window.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 18th


Nothing but a Hound Dog

I imagine you stepping elegantly from a medieval tapestry to run beside horses through the yellowed winter grass. Lips held in a smile as you fly, ears flapping in joyful, random bounds before stopping, head high, eye to the horizon. Attuned to the slightest movement, you stop, stand motionless, head still, and stare. A sudden sighting of something too distant or minuscule for my eyes and you are off. The chase is on. Hunter and hunted sharing the same open field. A bird launches itself into the pale blue sky, swerves teasingly above your head and flies high. Back trotting by my side, paws held high in a wet grass avoiding prance, you nudge my pocket as if to say “I’ve come back. I deserve my reward.”

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 17th


The conversation was important so I wrote it down, taking copious notes in one of my green, hard backed journals. For days now I have spent frustrated hours on fruitless searches - over shelves, through drawers and rummaging in my mind – until I even doubt the green book. Maybe they were on loose leaves of lined paper?  Fretting fills up neural pathways, overtakes my silent time, and now I cannot hold all the words in my head. They are falling away like grains of sand. The one I want begins with ‘dis’. I’m sure it does, but then I was sure about the green book.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 16th


A heart can beat. It can beat a little faster, or at a smooth steady rate. It can stop altogether. What it cannot do is sink, or leap into your mouth. So why does it feel as if it misses a beat when the telephone rings at an unexpected hour?

In the time it takes to stumble downstairs a thousand thoughts carousel around the brain, running through every family member, starting with aging parents and a husband on the road.

Floodgates open on hearing an automated voice, but grateful relief is rapidly replaced by the milder worry of unexpected activity on a bank account.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 15th


Slow to arrive, a crystal grip has today clenched its fist. Reaching into the lush heart of a sheltered courtyard it steals the soul of Lady Acanthus. No longer resplendent in her flounced emerald ball-gown, she now reclines in an ungraceful heap on the cold, grey slate.



Saturday, 14 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 14th

Bright sun makes a screen of my garden wall. A steep hill cuts across a lilac sky. From the silhouette of tangled grasses struts a sharp edged pigeon. A solitary shadow puppet on sentry duty, onwards and upwards.  

Friday, 13 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 13th

This morning becomes one of controlled destruction as the dog runs around the house in frenzied glee, shaking the imagined life out of the furred monster, lilac and grey and larger than a cushion. A rare treat provided for the selfish reason of wanting to write. I type to the sound of tearing fur. Kapok cannot be good for a dog’s digestion. To prolong the activity I stitch up a hole, her head placed endearingly on my lap as the needle works its practical magic. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 12th

Hours of darkness amplify everything. Dull aches magnify to become heavy boulders. Sleepless thoughts jog relentlessly on along their marathon courses. Niggling twinges, shaken out with short-lived moments of triumph, are replaced by frustrated annoyance.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 11th

Smoothing my hands over the softly crinkled surface of the paper, I reverentially lay out each sheet as I unwrap new mugs. Allowed to wander, my thoughts explore the deep colour of this delicate, insubstantial tissue.

Scarlet to surround a Valentine gift given with love, or torn into a heart and glued to a card above gold penned kisses.

Silken smiles on the lips of December as poinsettia petals grace the Christmas table.

One moment of perfection shared as we passed that swath of poppies covering the corner of a Norfolk field.

Red paper lantern hung high above the decking. Diffused light glowing through thin walls at the end of a golden day shared with friends. 



On Trying to Write Mindfully


Since starting the January writing challenge –  River of Stones – I’ve been thinking about how to write ‘mindfully’. There’s plenty of advice out there for anyone who cares to do a quick search, but here are a few tips which have helped me.
First, I set the scene:
  • I sit quietly in my writing space and set aside a time when I will not be disturbed for about thirty minutes.
  • I have a pretty book my husband bought me to write in and a pen which writes smoothly in blue ink. I guess your book doesn’t have to be pretty, or your ink blue, but I do think that using things you find pleasing sets up a good mood for writing.
  • I like to play gentle music, with no lyrics. My favourite writing music is ‘Mnemosyne’ by the jazz saxophonist, Jan Gabarek, and the classical quartet, The Hilliard Ensemble. The pure, clean choral work and haunting melodies remind me of church music, and helps me relax into writing. Music doesn’t always work for me though, and sometimes nothing but silence will allow me to listen to my thoughts.
Second, I sit:
  • I spend some time free writing, almost brainstorming, making notes around whatever has come into my mind, with no concern about writing complete sentences or punctuation.
  • I try to think about all of my senses as I write, though having almost no sense of smell I am more or less forced to skip that area. Thinking about my other senses often brings up images and feelings to explore.

Third, I stop:
  • I try to stop after about thirty minutes and read back what I’ve written. I may then leave this as it is, or I may work it up into something more polished, which usually ends up being written on the computer with my ‘notes’ beside me.



Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 10th

She is a fairy-tale told on crisp parchment, of a graceful elven queen, reaching skywards with slender white limbs. She sheds her silver robes in papery curls, oblivious to her beauty. Her striped, moonlit scarves flutter in the breeze as she outshines all the other dark, bare trees.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 9th


You wouldn’t have to be a quick brown fox to jump over my dog. I put it down to the unknown greyhound in her make-up, though I don’t know that for sure. A puppy still, she does have bursts of frantic, frenetic energy as she races round her imagined track, full speed and grinning manically, but largely she lazes about, long legs concertinaed with elegantly crossed front paws.

This morning she manages to combine two of her favourite activities. She lounges and she looks. Stretched out beside me on the bed she is at the same time perfectly relaxed, yet immersed in observant scrutiny as she peers out at the field beyond my garden. To my eyes the expanse of emerald green is empty of all life, yet still she stares.

I change from reading to distance glasses, in an effort to catch a glimpse of whatever is holding her attention, but all is still. No horse stretches his head over my fence to eat nettles, no rabbits dart across the verdant green down to the narrow stream, not even a bird flies past to lightly settle on branch or shed roof.

I look at her eyes. Do they focus on a secret world invisible to humans? Tomorrow I will fetch binoculars along with my morning cup of tea.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 8th

Pinned down by the soft warmth of a dog on my duvet I find I am unable to rise from the comfort. Forced to wallow beside the steaming mug of tea I accept that there are no obstacles to overcome. Having no million things to crowd my day I lie and enjoy the sunlight as it plays my neck, made damp by the soft nuzzling of the Sunday lie-in dog, and I turn another page, eager to find out whodunit.

Small Stone - Jan 7th


Fingers made inelegant by viscous, white sludge become a pungent temptation. An intense saltiness explodes in my mouth as I lick the creamy feta.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 6th


A pigeon sits immobile on the wall, beneath palm leaves made ragged by a week of hard buffeting. It’s eyes, black, map-pin orbs, in an amber sea, are fixed on the bearded bark. Perhaps it contemplates a warm nest lined with the fibrous thatch, or is just wondering how alien the tree looks here in the eastern shires. A sharp gust ruffles the bird’s composure. Chest feathers puff up like a lilac pillow, reflecting the strange paint choice on the courtyard wall.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 5th

Fireworks blossom white as toe meets solid wood in the full myopic darkness of deep night.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 4th


Settling into the plastic chair, he dabs behind his glasses at rheumy eyes, their colour a ghost shade of pale blue. Bending forward he shuffles his papers, revealing tufts of thinning hair which languish in grey curls over the tips of his ears. As his head rises to bestow a benign smile on the class I notice two dark stains down the front of his purple cashmere jumper, each approximately the same size as a fifty pence coin. I make assumptions based on so small a detail, weaving a tale of unkempt eccentricity which is broken by his erudite, pertinent comments. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 3rd


Brash, harsh tones filter in from the background. Loud, personality disfiguring laughter accompanies comments made indistinctly in the room beyond the telephone. How ugly the drink infused voice sounds as inaccurate memories spill out in an insistent, ‘listen to me’, rant.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 2nd

The day began full of beans, roaring, rearing up, raring to go - an infusion of excess energy which proved prey to thievery, stolen amid descent into the mundane and routine, to leave behind a rage at small things. Chaos crashed in, fuelled by laughter without mirth. Exaggerated anger directed white hatred at breadcrumbs left on a kitchen surface and a single sock carelessly lingering among the dropped pine needles. My taut string let loose on the tea stained white enamel of the kitchen sink, and the dishwasher was loaded, piled with resentment, along with last night’s pans, a muesli bowl and the butter-knife. Into the garden with the detritus of food scraps to pile on more worm food beneath the sharp shadows of the bare tree, my gaze directed outward, to the field where horses sunned themselves in the day’s brief, sharp glare and I was washed clean, my thirst of overwhelming fury quenched, banished by a drink of crisp, calm restoring purity.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Small Stone - Jan 1st

He thrusts cold steel tines into the rich blackness to reveal an intricate cream filigree - the hidden strength by which the stubborn stump clings to its home. Fingers delve into the sifted velvet loam to tug and snap. He kicks, with grunts and sweat, before the final triumph and the trophy held above his head.