Monday, 14 November 2016

Of mice and Mum

My mother has always drawn mice; not the anatomically correct, scrabble footed, twitch eared images from the pages of a nature book ; but stroke of a pencil, pointy nosed, whip tail squiggles on paper scraps and the back of envelopes..
An enduring image from childhood, they peeped from the pages of  home made books to remind us when to sit 'quiet as mice' on unyielding church pews during Sunday service.

My father would find uniquely mousey gifts to bring back home from across the seas; my childhood favourite being a gilded green bellied brooch with fiery red eyes and an articulated tail, that we would beg to have pinned on our warm woolly jumpers. My mother would willingly oblige..... until the day it was taken to the jewellers where she discovered it was, in reality, far more precious than we had all believed it to be; not just paste and glass after all! After that, it was assigned to the jewellery box to be worn only on high days and holidays.

Over the years mice of every shape, design and texture arrived in the guise of birthday , Christmas and Valentine gifts; slowly jumbling the shelves of the corner cabinet we named 'the glory hole'. They were an eclectic collection; treasured by stubby fingered wide eyed grandsons who were granted leave to touch and explore just as long as each mouse was returned to its allotted place.

This weekend marked the first anniversary of my father's death. A bitter sweet time to gather as a family and celebrate his life. I would have taken flowers to arrange in vases and brighten each room; but then I saw these pink nosed, beady eyed felted marvels; dressed in the colours of our childhood, just begging to be set free from the dusty confines of a forgotten bargain bin. They seemed such a fitting gift somehow, and I have the strangest of feelings that my father would have thoroughly approved.

Thursday, 4 August 2016


Walking under tall trees, where dappled light casts moving shadows on dusty paths, and small creatures rustle under feathered ferns.
Our footfalls break the stillness as we step from path to bridge, led by signs mapped out in twigs and fallen branches gathered by small hands. As we stroll the sun catches exposed trunks where fungus blooms with soft strange beauty all its own; whilst in the shade oozing mud awaits a careless slip from wooden logs, that serve as smoothed down stepping stones. 
From woodland route the earthen path transforms itself to rutted gravel; cracked and scared by frequent rain. A scattering of wild flowers straggle their way along the verge and unseen birds sing warning chimes somewhere beyond the hawthorne hedge. And now we take the grassy track, mown flat across a grazing field; where doe eyed cows of every hue stare soulfully into middle distance, chewing on  cud and dreaming their bovine dreams.  

Monday, 20 June 2016

After the fall

These weeks after the fall  find me anchorless; ghosting through days, slipping in and out of worlds between pages, as I search for comfort away from this dull ache of knitting bone. Sleep is fitful, and often I find myself gliding through a soft breathing house at dawn to submerge in deep, hot water swirled with scented bubbles; where I lie waiting for pain to ease, accompanied by a deep throated dove cooing in the morning.
To temper this aimless existence, I make new routines, setting small goals on this exhausting journey back to fitness. I forge deals with myself - scrubbing and cleaning in awkward wronghandness  before curling on cushions, book in hand and cat on lap.This strangely rigid interruption in my normally fluid existence, is a way to fill the hours and keep torpor at bay.A way to ignore this dull ache that accompanies my every movement,until the sweet relief of a heated wheat bag and a few moments of calm.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Morning has broken

Lately, it is the sharp sound of an insistent blackbird that jars me from sleep; often to discover a small ginger cat curled under covers by my left knee.
We rise together, slowly stretching in the half light of a pale sun filtered through dark cloud and slatted blinds; before he gracefully leaps onto the windowsill, where his tail twitches in time to the cacophony of magpies squabbling  on nearby rooftop perch.
Today is mostly grey, the odd shaft of light breaking through; and has been given over to snails who languidly dance under the patio table; tentatively elongating tentacles beneath rain washed skies. One inches his way up the window pane and I fleetingly wonder if he studies me as keenly as I study him.
In the corner of the cloud washed sitting room,the first coffee of the day steams as I curl on cushions, pyjama clad, luxuriating in this little oasis of peace before the scramble of the day begins.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

A small death

 We found her this morning, head gently resting on outstretched paws. Not on her cushion, but  tucked away in a favourite hideaway beneath the table. 
She looked in death, as she had in life; comfortable and content, curled in a question-mark, ready to dream the day away. Yet no soft purr vibrated through her chest and the tips of her whiskers remained untwitched. 
Gently , we carried this now cooled body into the sun warmed garden, and  laid her in rich brown earth beneath the apple tree. 
She was loved.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Hitting the floor

A week ago I fell. Not one of those small, inconsequential trips easily disguised by a quick double step and wry smile; but a messy, flailing, uncoordinated affair, played out in public. One minute I was balancing carrots and tomatoes in overburdened hands, the next I was hurtling towards a room divider; frantically twisting to avoid full impact.  I landed, as gravity decreed I must, hard; shoulder first upon unforgiving floor, as discarded vegetables rained down around me.
 In my head, I pictured jumping up with a loud " tah daaaaaaaaaaa" and comedic curtesy; but in truth I sat, dazed and clammy,  watching blood slowly dripping onto lino.
The quiet chatter of concerned colleagues faded into white noise; my body bracing at the first wave of pulsating pain. Eyes closed, I focused through each assault...  in two three; out two three....breath technique from maternal memory riding the surge and fall. And then, through half closed eyes, a flash of green uniform  proffering the welcome suck and hiss of gas and air, that pushed pain into dark recesses as I finally rose to my feet.

 So here I sit, my upper arm and left eye a palette of colour; greens and blues slowly seeping into deepest of purple. No plaster cast or tapestry of steristrips; just a simple collar and cuff to immobilise broken bone and a scar, newly formed, to dissect my eyebrow and lend a rakish air.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Out in the field

Out in the field, crows perch on high branches still bare from winter's ravages; overseeing the to and fro of wild geese gliding down to graze the fresh grass.
Here we stand, braced against chill breezes, wrapped in layers to ward off the creeping cold; focused on a small yellow circle.
 Bows in hand we begin the now familiar ritual - inhale, draw, focus, breathe, release;  a rhythm born of muscle memory, forming the focus of a morning meditation.
There is no need for words; the silence broken only by the slight vibration of a  loosened bowstring, and  solid thud of arrows meeting their mark.
Looking down the line, we wait for the final release before a short stroll to the boss, where the tug and click as arrows are gathered and  requivered is masked by a pair of rowdy magpies laughing from their fence post perches.
This is the field, and this our moment of peace in a hectic world.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

dull, damp day

The house breathes quietly to the rhythm of soft paws on carpeted stairs, the slow click of needles and  rustle of turned pages; as rain slowly trickles down the window panes. 
Today I have draped rebellious joints in the softest of fabrics, as they rage against the cold damp air; causing slips, trips and loss of grace. I used to run, not fast; but sure footed on sprung treadmill to the rhythm of music set on shuffle. Now I stride, then slow apace as hips and knees rebel and seize like a faulty engine in a clapped out car. 
The daffodils are blooming, yet still I hibernate , curled on comfy cushions; waiting for storms and gales to cease, and the sun to shine its thin pale light through slatted blinds once more. 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Creating calm

Yarn.....soft to the touch strings of glorious colour, that fade then deepen as they loop and turn around smooth metal needles. The click, twist, turn and slip create a rhythm flowing through once fumbling fingers, as stitches tumble from pointed ends. 
Needles click and my mind empties of all but the mantra of a counted pattern , beating time to the pull of skeins through my hands measuring deftly intertwining loops, that weave together in ever growing intricate ways.
From hesitant beginnings, structure is formed; a rib, a seed, a measured fold; even the most delicate of cables snaking through a mundane stretch of stocking stitches ..... and suddenly I am taken aback at what these loops and twists can do, as elvish hats for bright eyed children slowly  emerge from depleted skeins.... and my mind is calmed by meditative motion.

Sunday, 3 January 2016


Grief has a complex rhythm all its own. Staccato....beating triple time; then suddenly syncopated.
It swells and ebbs as grey days seep slowly one into another, and nights stretch beyond endurance.
With old photographs and fresh memories to anchor us, we move in time to this strange music; finding solace in remnants. A penknife, smooth and heavy; that sits in the curve of a palm, or the whisper of cashmere; a final warm caress.