Entries in holidays (9)



Home. West Wittering beach

The sensations of sea and air and sand are what come first when I close my eyes and remember this summer of Atlantic beaches. The slam and lift and ceaseless pounding of a sea at full surge. Hot blue air that burned skin and bleached hair. Salt in eyes and hair and on lips already roughened by the battering of tiny particles of sand and shell that flew on the wind. Utter happiness.

And now, as we tilt further into this new year and towards the final months of dark and cold, I turn to our own english coastline. Coat and scarf replace swimwear and boots hide bare feet but when the sun slants low and the waves pound hard in a wind that makes hair a nuisance, it's as if bodily atoms reform to their proper shapes. It feels good. 


The sill is peppering with storm-flies.

Colours deepen. Too close. Time to change.


Shed your clothes like pointless wings.

Now it's just the weight of you.


Rocks, sun, waves have kept a place for you.

Expecting guests? No matter. Go.



Feet on the brink. Avoid brushing earth

from your soles. Some trace of it


can cross the border with you:

flecks of other people on your skin and hair,


their wounds in your scars. 

Their memories? The ones they told you.



Look down. Don't. It's up to you.

If you can treat the view as abstract, then



reach up with your arms, as if this was 

less dive, more surrender,


less surrender, more ascension. Stretch

until your heels lift from the sandstone.



Technically, this is the crux.

You are living a half-life between


two elements. You may wish at this stage

to be photographed or painted.


Now you know what your solidity is for:

so gravity has something to work with.



You begin to melt, head first,

hair diffusing, clear lines of your form


dissolving. But you gain slow-motion.

Everyone looks graceful underwater.



Out in the nick of time, the strong sun

reconstitutes you. Back. Round your mouth,


a lick of salt. At home, casement 

windows bang. Net curtains haunt the rooms.


Your visitors stand in their coats,

looking for a note, a trace of you.


(extracts from Anatomy of a Perfect Dive - the last poem in Corpus.  Michael Symmons Roberts)



these days

They move slowly when you're in them but then you realise that they've gone - and so fast. I'm taking deeper breaths and letting things drop. 'Standards' as my grandmother would have called them. Obligations. Expectations. I'm not someone that all this comes naturally to. In fact, my husband would laugh to think that any of these have been dropped. I expect a lot from myself; from everyone. But when it comes to Joel I'm more able to let it go.

The side of my self that I like most is the one that takes life lightly and it's the one that having a son draws out. Perhaps a child, I don't know. But my son is all I know and I know that I like myself better for being his mother. Not all the time by any means but that's for another time. 

This time is about swimming outdoors, tennis and table football, drawing, playing with Lego and being silly. Hugging. Which is heaven for me, except for that point in the middle of the day when I need to draw breath and draw myself into my self for a little. So he goes up to his room with his books and I do - whatever I need. I need a lot of things but with him in my life it makes it easier. 



a little blue

Joel at 2. taken with old film.

This morning's dawn chorus was different. Instead of starting slowly, with blackbird and robin calling out politely to start a birdly murmur, there was a brisk and purposeful bird-wide chatter as if they all woke up at once and knew that the rarely-seen sun would shine for a few hours and there was work to be done.

I'm also jolted into action in the knowledge that tomorrow marks the end of the school term. There have been so many school and personal commitments filling up the days that I've kept my eyes averted from the calendar simply not to feel the acute sense of time limited. But they're suddenly here. The holidays that I've longed for just a few steps away. There is an odd sense of sadness about the closing of this term as it marks the end of Joel's time in the comfortable, homely early years. In September, he moves to another part of the school and another type of learning and a longer day that breaks my heart. Over these last months we've deliberated about home-educating Joel for the next year to avoid the working week school hours. That's what I would like to do. But he loves his school and his friends so on he'll go and we'll take it from there.

And on I'll go. I'll take my coffee outside now and watch the busy, birdly times outside. The buzzards wheeling lazily overhead now, confident of speed when they need it. The little wrens moving so quickly and beautifully from bush to fence to perch in the honeysuckle that's just beginning to bloom. Blue-tits hanging upside down on the willow. I'll sit in the noisy silence and have my fill of the solitude that will soon be a memory.   


week's end

The closing days of the short school holidays have come too quickly and we're refusing to look Monday in the eye. It's been a gentle time, suddenly warm and springly sunny, and we haven't ventured far from home. The list of activities I had planned was ignored. Instead, the stream has been dipped, some tennis played, drawings made, books read. Fields walked through and the alpacas conversed with. A chocolate cake baked and devoured. Films watched in front of the fire, with soft toys tucked under a blanket. Good days.


quietly happy

Back in our own little house after several days staying in rather glamorous surroundings it's the pleasure of the familiar that has us excited. I'm happy to live at a gentler pace after the rush of these last few weeks and to enjoy looser days before school enforces its own routine. 

These first days of a new year always take some adjusting for me: I've only just dug out the new kitchen calendar. It's a ritual that I write in all the birthdays and important dates for the year - and a ritual still to be running to the postbox with a card at the very last minute and just hoping that our postal service will perform a miracle. And since I have a stock of cards always made, and envelopes and stamps and the dates faithfully written in my diary why should it still happen? I think because I feel I've already done the hard work. 

I hope this first week sees you settling in happily into 2012. 


of stars and silence

1. Untitled, 2. Dye Party, 3. nine., 4. rainy day pears, 5. stars + deer embroidery, 6. perfect night, 7. House., 8. 'arlo's space' embroidery, 9. Pojagi - Korean Style Patchwork, 10. oops., 11. paper, 12. Untitled, 13. Day 2/Dream Journal, 14. Untitled, 15. Untitled, 16. the eucalyptus is always greener

The longer a silence goes on, the harder it is to break. It becomes more important to say the right thing. But all too often lately, my ability to choose the right words has deserted me. I'm undermined by a series of griefs, hastening one after the other. By profound misunderstandings only heightened by candour. Some things, it seems, really are best unsaid. And I'm left feeling oddly mute. But the time has come to reach back out into the world and start trusting my voice again.  

Looking out at the ochring leaves it seems impossible to recapture the heat and languor of the South of France, or the gentle playfulness of our summer days at home. So I've chosen instead to introduce some of my favourite photos on flickr, inspired by Kristy's gloriously autumnal mosaic. It's only now that I'm looking at my choices afresh, right here, that I see how they reflect my recent mood and pre-occupations. Domesticity; silence; stars.

Looking up at the stars re-orients me: life is unknown and living it can be hard but there is so much that is beautiful. And when I look at these photos, their quiet beauty reassures me. Makes me look forward - to breaking the silence, reaching out, a new season. A new telescope.



When I woke up I was in a forest. The dark

seemed natural, the sky through the pine trees

thick with many lights.


I knew nothing; I could do nothing but see.

And as I watched, all the lights of heaven

faded to make a single thing, a fire

burning through the cool firs.

Then it wasn't possible any longer

to stare at heaven and not be destroyed.


Are there souls that need

death's presence, as I require protection?

I think if I speak long enough

I will answer that question, I will see

whatever they see, a ladder

reaching through the firs, whatever

calls them to exchange their lives -


Think what I understand already.

I woke up ignorant in a forest;

only a moment ago, I didn't know my voice

if one were given me

would be so full of grief, my sentences

like cries strung together.

I didn't even know I felt grief

Until that word came, until I felt

rain streaming from me.

from The Wild Iris - Louise Glück 


easy days


These have been a lazy couple of days. With Joel still not at school but not terribly ill, we've been able to make the most of the sudden warmth to swim outdoors.  Drifting along on my back as he jumped and practised his tumble turns I discovered the perfect combination of supervision and pleasure. Ears underwater and the sounds of splashing satisfyingly muffled, I could tip my head one way to watch the acrobatics or another to see the distant trees bending in the wind. The gentle movement of my body in the water, combined with the scent of thyme and honeysuckle, a faint tinge of chlorine and warm skin, induced a satisfying sensory langour.

Eventually, time to dry and rest in the sunshine before moving slowly home.



forest getaway

There is another little house we visit regularly, a tiny forest-enclosed cottage belonging to John's family. With no TV or mobile reception it offers a welcome step away from normal life. And that's where we were this weekend. Breakfast is early for the boys, before they take a walk to look for flints. I prefer to eat alone, a little later, after I've wandered through the garden to see what's happened overnight. A new set of blooms or piece of pottery unearthed by an industrious rabbit, perhaps.

Later, some football will be played, bikes ridden and more walks taken through the forest. The piano will get a workout and tea with cake will be eaten.  For the grown-ups, the day ends with a quiet supper, some reading and a nightcap. 

It does us good to take time away together and makes returning home, to our own beds and our own lives, seem so much more enticing!


reasons to be cheerful


At the end of a week that's seen difficult decisions, sad news and no hint of summer, I needed a little cheer. So when I unearthed these photos, taken in Sweden last summer, I was reminded that solace can often be found in little things. 

I hope the week has been kind to you.