Silence in prayer at the sacred Buddhist site of Sarnath, India.
Silence in prayer at the sacred Buddhist site of Sarnath, India.
There is no weather at all outside. The trees vein into the skin of the pallid sky in stillness. The birds are quiet, having their mid-day rest. While the tune of unseen cars from a distant road filters through the glass of the shut tight window.
Inside it’s warm, though bleak from packing up. The light squares on the flowery walls are the ghosts of crated memories. The vase no longer lives on the shelf, and the porcelain couple kiss elsewhere. The rooms in this old house are now decorated with buff coloured boxes, all labelled and tagged, and sealed tight with brown tape. They’ll be gone tomorrow. Along with the squidgy sofa, the coffee table, and the paisley patterned armchair and its worn out cushions. The pots and pans from the kitchen too, though the contents from the fridge have been discarded already. The breakfast table and it’s wonky leg is going in the skip.
Upstairs the curtains have been taken down and the beds stripped. The naked mattress in the master bedroom, stained and fleshy with age, should probably be thrown out, but who can afford a new bed? Empty hangers rattle in the fitted wardrobes and the mirror reflects the emptiness. Dust rises from the bedside lamp as it is boxed alongside the alarm clock. The ballerina sleeps in the jewellery box, protecting the paste necklaces and plated earrings. Underwear from the chest of drawers is stuffed into an old suitcase.
In the bathroom the medicine cabinet is emptied. The contents fill two carrier bags. The still damp bath towel is hung over the radiator. The mould spotted shower curtain is removed and thrown away.
The other bedroom is empty but for echoes of the past. Some dusty children’s toys lie discarded in a corner, with a child’s blackboard bearing the legend ‘I luv granma’ in chalky scrawl. Some old bedding and a fur covered hot water bottle are the only other contents, all of which, along with the narrow bed, is going in the skip.
Nothing more to do. So the house is locked up tight for the night.
Back home, mum is waiting.
‘How did you get on?’
‘ok, it’s all done now. I’m getting a cup of tea, do you want one?’
‘Yes please dear. What about my things? You’re not throwing anything out are you?’
‘How do you know what’s important? It’s all important.’
‘Only the kids things in the spare room, and a few ornaments.’
‘I’ve kept those toys for years, the kids love them. And you’re not to throw my ornaments. Not any of them, they’re my past.’
‘Yes mum, the kids loved them, but they’re all in their twenties and thirties now, and you wouldn’t want their children to play with that dusty old crap would you?’
‘It can be dusted.’
‘yes, but it’s still old crap’
‘Don’t use that language to me.’
The conversation descends into the usual bickering.
She’s got cantankerous as she’s got older, and I’ve got less patient.
In the morning, back at the house, the sun shines through the grubby windows revealing the dust particles dancing in the air. The removal men come and make short work of clearing the house. I’m ashamed of how the carpet looks once the furniture has been removed, but there’s nothing to do about it now.
While they are working I go out and stand in the tiny garden. It’s always bleak at this time of year, but still evident is the love and hard work that my mother has poured into it over the years. I wonder who’ll be appreciating her roses come summer.
Back at my house, I wrap and coddle mum in her big old winter coat and bundle her in the car. It’s only a ten minute drive.
‘Nearer than before’ I tell her. It doesn’t help.
The woman at the home greets us with a cheery smile, and helps me manoeuvre mum into the lift and up to her ‘apartment’. Her old furniture and the boxes are already there, piled higgledy piggledy in the middle of the room. Mum cries.
The woman suggests she takes mum downstairs to the day room while I sort her stuff out. Mum objects weakly, but the woman declines to hear, and wheels her away down the corridor.
The apartment is tiny. Fitting the furniture is a life size jigsaw puzzle, but once I’ve heaved it about, emptied the boxes, put up the curtains (I’ve brought way too many, I’ll need to ditch some), made the bed, and distributed the pictures around the room, it looks quite homely.
I find mum in the residents lounge, cup of coffee in one hand and biscuit in the other. She’s chatting to the blue permed lady beside her.
‘Pam says there’s a quiz every Tuesday and Thursday’ mum says, dropping biscuit crumbs from her lips.
‘Lovely’ I say.
‘and the food is apparently very nice, roasts on Sundays too.’
‘Great’ I say
‘She says to keep on the right side of Sadie, she’s the cook you know, and she’ll give you extra puddings’
‘Sounds perfect.’ I say
Eventually, I take her back to her rooms. She’s upbeat, which I am terrifically relieved about.
‘Ta Da!’ I say as I wheel her in.
‘What did you bring that old armchair for? It looks tatty.’
‘I know, you told me not to throw anything though.’
‘Oh good grief, you brought that ghastly vase, I’ve always hated that.’
‘No you haven’t’
‘Oh and that dreadful picture that Uncle Paul painted, I can’t believe you’ve put that up.’
‘you’ve always had it up in the front room.’
‘I know but I don’t want other people to see it. Suppose I invite people in for tea? What would they think of me with that thing on my wall?’
‘I can take it down.’
‘Oh just leave it for now, let’s have a cuppa.’
And so my mum’s new life began, as it has been and always will be, with bickering and a cuppa.
Well, in my pursuit of creating something arty, I have taken to sticking things. Yes, collage. I make an horrendous mess, with bits of paper, tissue and glue covering every surface, including myself, but I have to say I am quite pleased with the results.
The first one, ‘The New Forests’ was inspired by an item on the news that made me so angry and upset that I didn’t know what to do with the emotion. They’d used a drone to film the extent of the camps in Bangladesh that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugee people have been reduced to living in. They showed the camps sprawling across an area bigger than Manchester or Glasgow. The people, men, women and children, in those camps have little clean water, food, health care, in fact, none of the things we take for granted on an every day basis. It made me consider (not for the first time, I hasten to add) the quite appalling inequalities suffered by people around the world, and creating the collage became quite cathartic for me. In fact, I got so much out of it (never mind the result!) when finished, I immediately started on the second, ‘Elusive Eden’.
This piece was inspired by poetry, and as with the first one, I decided to use relevant text within it – in this case excerpts from ‘I know why the cage bird sings’ by Maya Angelou, ‘Mending Wall’ by Robert Frost, and ‘The Road not Taken’ also by Frost. The result was somewhat cheerier than I imagined, and the poems have all but disappeared, but nonetheless, I quite like it, and whilst I doubt anyone looking at it would immediately grasp its representational meaning as I intended, at least it’s colourful!
The third piece, is frankly, just a flight of fancy. Using tissue paper, which proved much trickier, and generally messier than I could ever have imagined. Lots of fun though!
The steel in your eyes,
sharp as a Japanese blade,
captures my thoughts
in its mirror.
Wielding your words
as a hefty sword
you slice through
my diaphanous centre.
I stand dripping and distraught
whilst your iron core
And though I feel a flinty spark of anger
I cannot melt a missing heart.
For you are nothing
but a tin man.
They don’t tell you about
the dark and drizzly dawn,
or the slippery grey slush
should it ever really snow at this time of year.
Nor the hideously over-crowded shops,
or that early-waking panic
that there’s still so much to do.
I wish that it was over.
Neither do they mention
the endless frustrating wrapping
when the sticky tape sticks
only to itself,
the ribbons tie you in knots,
and you find that every single gift
that you bought is
I’ll be so glad when it’s over
And did they tell you how
difficult it is to dust decorations?
Or how the tree starts to droop
and drop needles
and baubles to the floor,
and the poinsettia starts to die,
way too soon.
It better soon be over
No-one said that we’d have
nothing to eat for a week
because all that food that
is crammed into cupboards
and covers the worktops
in the kitchen is
Oh, when will it be over.
Ah, but did they tell you of the unbridled joy of it?
The shredded un-wrapping paper wantonly strewn about the floor?
the mince pies and mimosas for breakfast?
The jolly music that you were so sick of yesterday?
The luscious smells of long roasting
permeating the festive rooms,
flavouring the laughter with anticipation?
The pulling of crackers?
Silly jokes and hats and clinking of glasses?
The sated sleepiness of afternoon,
watching Christmas specials,
then silly games in the evening
and staying up ‘til three
not wanting it to be over?
… Green trousers, green carpet…. errr… that’s what I ended up with while I was having a bash at this painting.
I present to you my latest adventure with acrylics. My very first landscape. Lots of green. I know it’s a bit heavy handed, and some of the trees have gone a bit awry, but since I’m still trying to master mixing good greens, and I always shy away from attempting to paint anything with a suggestion of water in it, I’m reasonably ok with the result. I feel as if I’m very, very, slowly improving and beginning (beginning) to enjoy the (oh god, here it comes…) Journey.
Ok. This is a terrible photograph, out of focus and indistinct. All the magic tools of photoshop couldn’t redeem it. It’s dreadful. And yet I share it with the world.
Why? you may ask.
Well, one of the main reasons for our visit to Iceland in November was so that I could cross another event off of my bucket list – namely, to witness the Northern Lights. Of course, I’ve seen them on TV, and in books, and there are many, many photographs, but to see them for real….well, it was a dream.
So when it came to it I made a conscious decision not to take my camera, but, for a change, to just live and experience the moment. At the time, there were hoards of others fiddling with camera settings and peering through lenses and I could have been doing exactly the same. Instead, I was standing with my jaw dropping, watching the most fantastic natural phenomenon you could imagine. The lights danced in the sky in rainbow colours and I don’t believe that anyone could every capture the most wonderous reality of it no matter how skilled or fancy their camera.
Of course, I had to just take one snap with my phone, and this is the result. So sorry an’ all, it’s a duff old picture, but for me it captures an absolute dream of a memory, and certainly one of my favourite moments of the year. 🙂
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