Island Blog 54 – All Roads Lead

Island Blog 54

 

I had arrived as a surprise.  My daughter met me in the hallway and we hugged and exchanged greetings.  A little voice from deep inside the house asked ‘Where is Granny talking from Mummy?’ and we both laughed, as did the little girl once she found me.

I could have been using skype as my road, or the house phone on loudspeaker.  Her last thought was that she would round the corner and find me standing there.

But there are many roads we cannot see, such as a span of years or a scene from the past.  We can only find a shape to those inside our imaginations, and no two imaginations will find the same route, although the destination is the same.

Driving Miss Daisy the other day, through the wintry  island wasteland,  I pointed out a wonderful stone formation, obviously man-built as support for the rise of a narrow track, that wound its way down towards the Atlantic shoreline.  There was not a drop of mortar holding it together, but only the skill of the dry stone builder.

We considered the time when this track would have carried man and his animals, and nothing weightier than a pony and cart loaded with hay or feed for the hungry animals. We could hear in our imaginations, the slow march of a day long gone by, the lowing of the cattle, the call of a ewe to her lambs, the odd shout or whistle of the shepherd, and the bark of his dogs.  For a moment we could count the day in hours, smell the changing seasons, according to the rise and fall of the sun, or the flow and ebb of the moon tides.

But our pictures would have been very different.

Sometimes in the clipping season, or when the ewes are brought in for dosing, the hill road from the little town grinds to a halt. The local shepherdess is gathering her flock and calling for them to follow her, through the open window of her truck.  Those of us forming an ever-growing snake are required to dig for patience as we lurch and stall in the wake of a hundred woolly legs. There is no opportunity to overtake, and no possibility of speeding up.

Some of us click our tongues and roll our eyes impatiently.  Some of us smile, knowing we have arrived in an afternoon where time is not the issue, and to hurry along would be to risk lambs becoming separated from their mothers. And we can notice, at this slow pace, the first buds on the heather, the marsh harrier overhead, the way the clouds change and reform into new shapes above the gentle roll of the hills.  We can catch the soft calls to ‘follow!’ as they float back to us on a breeze.

And we will all arrive at our destination.

In the end

Island Blog 36 – Pecking Order

Island blog 36

 

Woken by a bickering of crows outside my window, I leap out of bed to see what’s up.  I know they’re upset, I can hear it.  They sound like bad-tempered witches and sometimes that can mean a big bird of prey has flown into their air space.  This morning is fair and bright and the air quite still, belying the truth of the situation.

The sky is empty of all songbirds, so I know a predator is nearby, and I am right.

On the grass below me a fight is about to begin over the carcass of a large rabbit. Standing over it – a buzzard.

Two crows lunge at the big bird, like louts, juking back pretty quick as the beak comes down like an axe over their heads.  Positioning themselves either side of him, they dance around him, calling him all manner of names, much like thugs at a state visit, in an effort to wear him down until he tires of them and flies away.  Crows can do this for hours I know, so I turn away for just a moment to find some clothes to wear.  Suddenly the noise level escalates into a riot and I dash back to the window.

A second buzzard has landed inches away from the other, presenting a very real threat.  The two huge birds take their positions for battle, wings slightly out, necks thrust forward, feet two-square on the grass.  In the face of such power, the crows bounce off a few yards and watched from a safe distance, one of them pretending not to care by pecking at a cow pat.

For some moments, the buzzards charge at each other, claws lashing as they rise off the ground, as one, a little higher each time.  The crows jig about like hoodlums, calling out, excited by this clash of the Titans.  The sky, which had emptied when the buzzard first appeared, is now a swoosh of songbirds, looping across the morning sky like chiffon, to land on the fences and among the hazel scrub, chattering excitedly; spectators for the show.

The excitement is tangible.

One of the buzzards grabs the rabbit and tries to fly, but the weight of it defeats him and he only manages a couple of feet off the ground.  Buzzard number two lunges forward to grab the other end of the carcass in his beak.  Then all hell breaks loose as the two of them roll each other over and over in a tangle of claws and wings, of fur and feathers.

As they fall apart, one of them concedes defeat, and re-arranging his feathers he rises into the blue morning.  The victor tries in vain to lift the carcass, till he too gives up and, with a sharp cry, takes to the hills.

That’s breakfast for the crows,  I tell my little green teddy bear who was also watching.  But this time I am wrong.

Two sea eagles come from nowhere, graceful and silent.  They don’t even touch down.  One dips just low enough to pick up the carcass as if it’s a pocket handkerchief and then, together, and without a sound, they lift effortlessly into the empty sky and are gone.

Island Blog 32 – Circles of the mind

The Island

This morning is a cracker.  I know it before I open the curtains, for I can hear no rain, no wind, but only the sound of happy birds calling for breakfast.

I sit here and think about this blog, about my writing, my need to write.  Looking at something, a view, a morning, an encounter, is not enough for me, because I can hear the voice in everything, one that asks to be remembered.  It’s not enough to say ‘it’s a beautiful morning.’  There has to be more than that.  Is it a warm one, a Saturday, my child’s first birthday?  Is it busy or quiet?  Do I have something to come that excites and delights me, or am I just a morning person?

All these and more affect how I look upon what I see.  And the person next to me, next to me in the same moment of morning, might say it’s about as beautiful as cold rice pudding, for we all look out from our own perspective, our own context in the life we live.

Some folk look for flaws,  some folk look for beauty.  I just look.

Start a blog, Lisa said, as if it was a really simple thing, the simplest. Lisa is my publisher at Two Roads/Hodder.  She also said I should upgrade my mobile from one purchased at a street market in Africa 3 years ago, with just a few knobs and an On/Off switch, to one fashioned in the 30th century with a thousand applications, including Tetris (whatever that is) and a camera with screen rotation which I can’t turn off.  I have taken many pictures already of things and people tumbling like beach balls, including some mint wrappers inside my jacket pocket, a shot that looked quite artsy once I stopped rotating and my eyeballs settled down.

I used to re-charge my old mobile once a week.  Now it’s a daily thing, and not just for the mobile. If I am not actually writing my blog, importing (!!!???) photos, once they have stilled, from my mobile, I am sifting through my thoughts on life, love and what’s for supper.  Preparing my mind;  pulling at the sinews of it, encouraging blood flow, breathing in the morning.

Initially I resisted, squeaked and screamed and whined and moaned.

I can’t do this! I wailed.  I am a techno-phobe, an island girl, no roundabouts, no traffic lights, remember??

That was one of my voices.

The rest all yelled ‘Shut up, make coffee and get over yourself!

In the face of such encouragement, I had to listen.

Now it comes, more or less, naturally, and what I have learned, in this new process, is that I can change, even though I struggle with it as much as anyone else does at first.

It’s the thought of it that scunners us.  There is comfort and predictability in staying the same.  We think we still move forward, but we don’t. We circle.

The benefits of personal stretching far outweigh the disadvantages.  In fact, I am not sure there are any disadvantages, for, in the light of this new view, it’s not only my mornings that are different, nor, indeed my afternoons or evenings.  I find I think in a different way.  I am more able to face whatever comes next, because I have already done it, and can do it again.  The unknown is no longer frightening, not because it won’t be at some point – I am sure it will – but because I have proved to myself that my mind is not stuck, that my old way of doing things is not all I am capable of, and there is a new beauty in that.

My advice – recognise your circle and step out of it.  Oh, and please remind me of these wise words when I need to hear them again.

Island Blog 21 – To Travel Hopefully

Island Blog 21

As the outside shoots past my grubby window, I take in my fellow travellers.  I know where I’m going, of course, and they are going somewhere too, somewhere that requires them to pack a sandwich and a bottle of mineral water, pick up their book or kindle, their music machine and their mobile phone, just as I did first thing this morning.

I unpack my picnic and sigh quietly (I am in the quiet coach) at the squash of bread and lettuce and crumbly cheese, all gloopy now with the mayonnaise smearing up the window of my cleverly designed sandwich bag with a seal-again top, which I can never seal again, by the way.  You have to match the tram lines or it just won’t seal and it always ‘just won’t seal’ under my fingers.  I could put my specs on, but decide, instead, as I am too hungry, that I won’t bother.  I’ll just post it into my mouth in fingerfuls and chew it…..quietly.

The woman across the way from me is texting.  She has been texting for 40 minutes now and her buttons must be quite worn out.  Her keypad pings with each letter and she obviously can’t spell because, every so often, I hear her puffs of exasperation escape into the warm air of Coach B.  The man behind me has a dry cough, and I feel the punch of each one hit my shoulder as if he is firing peppercorns between the seats.  I shift a little, although I don’t want him to think me rude.

And then there are the whispering people, who hardly move for fear of breaking the rule of silence.

Where are they going? I begin to wonder.  Are they going to or from?  Is one of them running away, or running towards something or someone, and is there hope in their hearts or the foetid drudge puddle of exhausted defeat?

Do they love and are they loved?  Do they sing or write or make the best parsnip soup in the village?  Do they have regrets?

I like to answer some of my questions myself, for I could never speak them out into the polite air of the quiet coach.  I pretend the man with the cough has finally walked out on his over-bearing wife, having told her the thing or two he’s been wanting to tell her for years.  That’s why he has a cough now.  His vocal chords are astonished.

I continue this reverie, developing it to such a degree of joy and happiness on his behalf, that it’s all I can do not to swing round and congratulate him.  Instead, when its my turn to leave, I flash him my widest smile and alight, minding the gap.

Island Blog 17 – Moon Talk

What I like to do around this time is step outside with a glass of red wine; any time of the year, makes no odds to me, for what I am wanting to  join in with is the evolving of day into night, when bustling daylight gives way to the gloaming (Scottish word) and everything around me begins to settle.  The only bird not already in bed is the blackbird, and sometimes, a late robin.  Even if I can’t see them I know their song, and their song changes at dusk (explanation of Scottish word).

Actually, their song changes at other times, like in early Spring when they are rivaling for a mate.  But that’s another blog, another time.

If it is raining hard, I may only manage stepping into the garage, with its open maw, but, in the main, I can stand for a little, watch the sky and let myself both absorb, and be absorbed, by the coming night.  Tonight the moon is wonky, not that she feels in the least wonky, but she looks that way to me, for her fullness is coming, but not just yet, making her an oval in the black heavens.  Full moons mean something when you live by the sea, and I don’t mean beside it, but ‘by’ it.  When your next move must shift to accommodate the powerful pull of the moon and she, the moon, is always guaranteed to make a big statement.  The tides are very high and very low at ebb and flood, and if you work with a boat, you have to know this, or you land in trouble.  Big winds, grumpy weather leading to grumpy seas, high winds and sudden squalls all work together at full moon, to unsettle mankind and remind him he is not in control at all, however much he may think he is.  And women change at full moon.  Have you ever worked that out?  I know that, when I did, it made me laugh and that knowledge settled inside me like a loving hug (for me) and a warning to my man.  Now he knows, and so do I.  I am a creature of the moon mother and now that we accept this inevitability, we can both be sensible, most of the time. In real life, that is, the life where we accept, even if we don’t understand, the balance between our physical and metaphysical selves, we can move easily within that life, without trying to fix or alter it, but, instead, to love it and claim our part in it, for it is wonderful indeed and, by the way, our only chance to shine like the moon in someone’s sky.

 

One man and his dog

Island Blog 15 – Red Wax, White Water

Last night, during dinner, I kicked over a long-stemmed candle holder sitting on the floor.  It was, agreed, a daft place to leave it, down there on the ground, but the red candle sent pretty colours onto the white wall and, besides, nobody was expecting an idiot to walk into it.  I must have been in purposeful forward motion, for the whole thing flew into the air and slammed against the wall.

White wall, red candle, you can imagine the mess.

Apart from feeling awful at the breakage of the glass holder (one of a set of 3), I was horrified at the red dots that seemed to cover most of the room.  Perhaps I should take up football.

This morning I set too with a plastic spatula on my hands and knees, lifting each dot, some the size of a fifty pence, some pinheads and they were not just on the floor.  The wall, the music speaker, the wooden chest; nothing escaped my powerful right kick. Now all is as it was, amazingly, apart from the speaker which, hopefully, doesn’t affect its performance…..and me.  I still feel awful about it.

Why is that?  You may ask.

I think it’s that I don’t like to make such mistakes, to break or damage someone else’s something-or-other.  I think I should have learned by now to move slowly, be careful, THINK before I act or speak.  Rooted deep in childhood are our responses to life as an adult.  I know this, because I know this.  The process of self-forgiveness, at any level, is one big task, at least, it is for me.

So I want to be what……perfect?  As if all those years behind me make a solid and permanent change?

It’s not possible. But what is possible, is my response to making mistakes, and that, my friends, is one of my biggest challenges. Knowing that theory is one thing.  Living it out, quite another.

This morning, coming in from the showy garden, having put red meat scraps out for the kites, (I missed the photo opportunity again!), I saw the white water stains on the wooden floor boards where I leave my boots. I know it’s me, for nobody else does this food-putting-out thing.  My heart sank and I rushed to Google a cure. Mayonnaise, it seems is the answer. I am on it, or will be after I finish writing this.

Please don’t tell me that everything comes in threes…………

white water - Blog 15

Island Blog 13 – Secrets

Secrets are funny old things.  We love to have them for ourselves and we can hug them for days, months, even years and, in some cases, forever.  When we know another’s secret, we have to watch ourselves carefully in case it rises in our throats and spills out in a tumble of words.  Sometimes we are more than happy not to know another’s secrets, however desperate they may be to tell us.  They can be a gift, or a liability, a delightful revealing of something we have always wondered about, or a heavy weight we are stuck with, now that we know the hidden truth.

Sometimes, in the early flush of a love affair, we can think we want to know absolutely everything about each other, but I don’t think that’s healthy at all.  Someone once said that once we tell all our secrets, we are left only with their memory.  We can no longer call them our own, nor feel that sense of mystery, like a butterfly in our hearts.  I have many secrets and I am rather fond of them all.  Nobody can tell me they are a lot of cobblers, because nobody knows them.  Have you ever shared a secret and wished you hadn’t?  The response was too casual, or too earnest and you didn’t quite believe your secret was that interesting.  Or you might have been persuaded you were wrong, or not looking at it right and then you felt deflated like an old party balloon.

Keep your secrets, that’s what I say, and keep the mystery, for isn’t that what makes us interesting, intriguing, a someone who might suddenly disappear without stopping to tell you first?  It keeps people on their toes being around someone who doesn’t lay themselves out like a map for all to study.  I like to say I’m going out, without saying where to. It feels wild and exciting, even if it’s just  to buy milk.

You never know where a snowdrop will appear in the wild, because you didn’t plant it.  Nobody planted it.

Now there’s a secret and a half.