Saturday, 24 June 2017

Second Half Of The Year Begins





We were waiting for a storm, it was so hot. 
No one had patience for waiting. 
We knew the correct way to break a heatwave - one needs a storm, preferably heavy.

We were luring the cloud, the wind, the rain, like this:
Stand, hold the heat in your baked head, feel it drum.
Feel it slide into your eyes, down each limb till you are slick with it.
Till you are salt-squinty, agitated, percussional storm bait.
The storm will sense you.
It is drawn to heat, to throb, to windows open, to sighs and brow wiping and dogs flopped in shade.

It had seemed to be working: a tongue of mist sneaked out from the sea.
It took the salt, the desperation.
Night came and the windows stayed open for the bliss of cooling down.
As the curtains bellied out, we dropped to sleep.

The storm had broken elsewhere.
We watched the sky anyway, in the morning, holding cold brewed coffee, feeling rested.

And I found myself thinking about the deer again; sad, profound. Too sad, perhaps, yet it happens. I wasn’t going to write of it but it won’t leave my mind. Then I wasn’t going to share it: same persistence.

So, here it is-

At the side of the lane, as I’m driving, I see a red setter dog lying, head alert, seemingly taking a rest. It’s large for a dog. Too large - it is not a dog at all.
A smallish deer, a young one.
It has antlers no bigger than my hands.
I slow the car. The animal holds still, angled out from the edge; the car won’t fit around it, so I stop and open the door and then the deer panics.
Its back legs slip useless under it. A wound on its lower back bleeds profuse: postbox red, thick as paint.
From the car, I call for help. Put the phone down, step out of the car, walk soft, keep a distance.
I don’t wish for it to bolt again.
Little deer, I say; infused with calm; I am not come to hurt you.
The road is hot and dry.
Splayed against the opposite edge now, the creature turns and stares at my face.
The sun strikes right into its eyes, they are coloured glass, cloudy rainbows.
Can it see me? I feel seen.
I am not sure I can help, I say, but I am not come to hurt.
I hold out my dress to make shade. It lies its head in the shadow, looking at me. I want to sit down, put its head on my lap: one should not do that to a wild thing. It is stilled by fright. By a lack of choice. By some cruel accident here it is, half perfect, half destroyed.
Birds sing. No cloud in the sky.
This has happened, I say, this is all I can think to do for you. All we can do is stay calm, I think. Not add to the fear.
Blood, thick as wax, rolls away.
It is quiet.
I hold out shade.
I am seen.
I will dream of you, I think; I will see your eyes shining. I will hear your hooves run; for I never locked souls with a wild thing like this, it will have an effect.





Sunday, 11 June 2017

Tidings From A Summer's Day




Dear Friends,

Today I tidied the unfathomable shed. Under rusting shelves a bag was malingering, clinking, but in a way that seems more like muttering, as I dragged it out. Contents: six forgotten bottles of six year old homemade cider. It would be vinegar by now, useful for a weed suppressant or wood preserver.  Taking the precaution of being outside - having summoned Mr also, should I be in need of first aid - grimacing for glass splinters, the first bottle catch was flipped - and out burst foam that smelled of cider, good dry cider. I dipped a finger, then a tongue - good dry cider it was! So we took a glass each. Shortly after this I fell asleep in my hammock, later to be woken by a heavy bee resting on my cheek. I went to look at the shed, and the bottles, now lined in the fridge to tame down the fizz, and none of it was a dream. There were many more jobs to do, of course, and many of them done. On hanging up the washing I found a slug in a trouser pocket (they come out clean enough at 40 degrees, if a little dead) but really the cider find was the talk of the day. 

I hope this story finds you well.

With love, and a raised glass,
Lisa xx






Saturday, 27 May 2017

Night Storm






This day someone had turned the technicolour on. 
We lift our sunglasses to check, and quickly put them down again. It is hard to tell colour from fire, flower from lava. 
Grandchild 2 is home with us, too poorly for school, and I too am feverish, though it is hard to measure when everywhere is hot. 
We need a sea breeze.
At the beach Grandad has good sandals for walking on low tide rocks; we do not, us Wild Girls, we put bare feet down on every surface, retract some, retry; then know the fullest joy in wet sand, in sea water swirling to our knees, all skirts tucked up. 
(Although on the roughest terrain, to get here, Grandad’s was the best hand to hold.)
The sea breeze is exactly as we had needed it. 
We paddle back, drink droves of fresh water; we drive home, windows downwardly wound, the little one sleeps and sleeps.
Later we go to work. The heat has seemed to dissipate. We come home, sit under stars to eat supper. 
Mr says there are not as many stars as he’d expected, maybe there’s cloud incoming.
So we open a bottle of wine, wander indoors, begin to feel sleepy.
A twitch in the electrics, a hiccup of light, a small clue only - Mr is shouting - ‘You have to come outside!’
Everything is lit.
It’s past midnight, the sky is flashing white - we can count leaves on trees, but their colour is drained; all the heat, all the colour has been drawn up to the sky!
We stand under the thunder, under the lightening, feeling each drop of rain, until the deluge comes - we can’t even open our eyes, we squint to the door. 
Blinds drawn up, we lie on our bed, rain dotted, exhilarated - the sky illuminate, the sky resounding; till we are dreaming gods and hammers, dreaming sea and sky.
In the morning all is washed green, and Mr has swallowed some thunder, it rumbles in his throat.




Friday, 5 May 2017

Cold Kitchen







First day, last month of Spring: 
Even the rain seems pretty, falling to fresh leaves, caught on bright petals; a water veil draping us. Dog has been hose-piped and rain-rinsed and still a trace of spilt wine sits on her shoulders. She cares not. 

The house is cold, a little in mourning - our way of life having shifted lately, with the demise of the Rayburn. One morning at 3am the carbon monoxide alarm sent its shrill noise upstairs; at a more civilised hour the chimney man came, and it couldn’t be fixed.
I thought Rayburns lived forever.
Alas!

So now we wait for the landlord to do sums and calculate an acceptable replacement. Most likely a wood burner will arrive, fingers crossed it will have a back boiler and heat our water too.

Meanwhile we have pulled the pillow draught-catcher out of the front room flue, lit the tiny open grate each evening.
Meanwhile we are using an electric oven, which ought to seem more convenient - but the Rayburn was always lit, there was none of this waiting for warmth. 
Things ferment half paced in an unheated house.

Meanwhile, in the polytunnel, a jungle of sprouting shoots wriggle under the weighty scent of flowering lime, a fat frog patrols for slugs. Down in the garden, raised beds are fixed with new walls, onion leaves spike, wild strawberries climb everywhere.






Monday, 17 April 2017

A Slice Of Wedding

In the way that a wedding cake, or cheese if you prefer, is a whole, of which one has a slice, this is my version, my slice of wedding. It starts well before the day, with making syrups and painting signs, but this writing will begin the night before, with Mr and me and three little granddaughters.

The littlest, Grandchild 5, is teething. Grandad is sent to the sofa, so one of us will be alert enough to drive to the venue. In-between her gnashing of bumpy gums comes adorable cuddles, like she is saying thank you, and admirable wind. At 3:30am magic exhaustion kicks in. 
At 6:27am Grandchildren 2 and 3 appear, complaining that they cannot sleep.
Granma says: ‘Go jump on Grandad.’
6:35am Grandchild 2 returns to complain that Grandchild 3 has snotted on the carpet, closely followed by Grandchild 3: ‘But I’ve cleaned it up, Granma!’
Granma says: ‘Go jump on Grandad.’
Grandchild 5 opens her sparkly fresh eyes.
Granma says: ‘Coffee.’
Bless her, she can’t remember where she’s put anything, but somehow coffee, breakfast, clothes, a packed car, it all happens. (Grandad did help.)

En route, the girls want to play car games. Granma daydreams of a nap. The sky is blue-grey, soft, almost sunny. The venue is an old mill turned hostelry, white and wood and calm, perfect for napping. Only by now it’s all too exciting. Grandsons and their cousins tricked out in bow ties, waistcoats, looking like a barbershop quartet. Grandchild 2 explains her dress as ‘purple and like this’ (hands make parallel vertical lines) ‘then it goes POUF!’ 
They’ve heard there’s an egg hunt and can’t wait to get started - what’s all this nonsense about sitting through a ceremony first?
Granma says: ‘You will be awake, and smiling, if you want eggs. It’s called a bribe.’
The deal is accepted. Flower-fairy girls handed to bridesmaids, Granma scurries to her seat, skimming linen past lit candles.

Here comes Mr, walking his youngest daughter through the bright room, and it is no surprise that she is beautiful and glowing, but it makes us cry. We don’t mean to, the tears are suddenly there, warmly overflowing. It is a ritual, yet not too formal - a naturalness to it, a sort of relaxed perfection.

Vows and rings exchanged, we follow the newly wedded out - children disappear and pop back, and disappear, each time a little more smudged in grass and chocolate, shirts untucked, shoes abandoned - they run up and down the path yelling ‘SUGAR!!!!’
Grown-ups reply: ‘Alcohol!!!’

Everyone happy. Even during the speeches, which are not always a highlight, but here are done without glibness, they make us smile. It’s the hijacking of the speech that is my icing on this slice, however - when the Best Man’s son, the youngest nephew of the Groom, is loitering, and given the microphone, an opportunity to say whatever it is that’s making him hover so.
He says: ‘I love ponies.’

For the record, the young man is a keen horse rider.

That wasn’t the end of the day, of course, but that’s the bit I wanted to share. And that on the way home, bamboozled by satnav decisions, we saw a jaybird, a rare specimen, then two ponies with glittery hooves. 



L-R: Grandchild 1, Grandchild 2, Cousin 1, Cousin 2, Grandchild 3, Grandchild 4

L-R, Groom, Best Man

Amused Bride

Bride with her brother, niece (aka Grandchild 5) and sister

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

March Lion





Paws and claws to the door, breathing storms
In it roars, the third month of this year
Daffodils bow bright manes to the King of Spring.
Each unfurling - leaf, petal, tadpole - belies the windchill
Warmth is washing in.
What is left of our snowdrops - dotted foam of an ebbed wave
By night a waxing moon was pulling up tides, and we dreamt
Our feet, unshod, pressing across tawny sand






Tuesday, 14 February 2017

At The Time Of The Snow Moon





The moon is a frozen pond.
It is The Snow Moon. The Hunter’s Moon.
Someone says a lunar eclipse will happen this night.
And a comet!
We are like children with torches forecasting midnight feasts…
But we slumber deep, lungs with cold air replete, minds a-wander.
An early start.
Wake to the sparsest spaced flakes - ten to a cubic furlong, perhaps.
(Perhaps we dreamt this precise detail?)
Blearish eyes are rubbed.
Ahead, a deer, in no danger from ice-wary driving, springs across tarmac.
From a canopy’s winter bones, an owl swoops, parallel.
In a blink, a hedge bird breaks our reveries.
Clips the car, sends feathers a-puff.





Friday, 3 February 2017

How Will We Know Where We Are?





Without the dead ash looming, we had lost our sense of where our drive is. Each time we missed, reversed, reminded ourselves to find a stump and a grand wood pile: that’s where we live.
The altered reference.
We are getting used to it.

Yesterday Storm Doris broke the legs of Lily Scare-the-Crow. Literally weather beaten!
Was this venting frustration, now storms cannot break branches from the chopped tree?

When Lily was our new scarecrow, we would reverse under precarious boughs, be startled by the  person in the rear view mirror, the flat wooden figure with the child-drawn face.
Now, after remembering where we live, we are startled to not find a face.

Lily has never scared a crow, nor lost her smile. She is, rakishly, propped in the lea of the lean-to.

‘What new times are these, Lily?’ I ask. ‘How will we know where we are?’
Ask your heart, she says (it’s what I hear).
And I think, that’s rich, when you don’t have one: but she’s never scared a crow, nor lost her smile.






Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Out With The Old





Christmas or November - 2015 - a phone call came. The casual branch dropping of our dead ash tree had been acknowledged as a danger; it was scheduled for demolition. Storms came, the tree surgeon was busy.
We become accustomed to vigilance at the garden’s end. No one loiters in the road there. We drag the droppage to the hedge, to rot down into good soil.
January 2017 - another phone call. Tree surgeon and crane are booked, the landlord says.
Uh-huh.
It may storm yet, we say, we’ll see.
But we park the car out by a field gate - you never can be sure.

The crane is amazing. It straddles the road, reaches to the sky. Up goes the man in the yellow mesh box. Chainsaw whirs. Bit by bit, down drops our dissected tree.

Dear Fat Trunked Ash, we have loved your silhouette. We have loved to run and startle off a coat of starlings. Loved to see Old Crow sat, stark black on bare branch. We witnessed the last of your leaves falling, looked for buds that didn’t bloom, changed your name.
Dear Dead Ash, we have our near-miss stories. Favourite photographs of you, looming, a full moon caught in your dry twigs.
We have this amazement at the power and skill required to bring your bulk to the ground.
We have wood to sort.

Blurry, the next morning, from the window, check we are not dreaming.
A new view from this garden’s edge.