A little bit of Green

The diggers have come and destroyed the daffodils on the green,
creating a vast hole in my childhood.
The rocket ships that looked like swings,
the slide to the bottom of the big blue sea,
the café and the benches where mums sipped their tea,
all gone.

That tiny park of recreation, a slice of nature nestling
between the buildings.
Football on Saturdays, cricket on Sundays,
and marigolds on a dismal day.
The place of get togethers and breaking hearts,
all gone.

Replaced with those tick tack wall to wall houses.
Their mean gardens room enough only for a
trampoline and barbeque.
Maybe the laughter from the past will reverberate
through the lives of the families living there.
Those that have stolen my space.

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The artist in me

IMG_1738As you may have noticed from previous posts, I am a member of an art group. To be honest, I find it a bit of a paradox.  Generally it seems, that just from the fact I am a member of an art group, people assume I am some sort of artist.  I can assure you this is not the case.

I joined the group a couple of years ago, as a ‘something we could do together’ thing with my husband.  I’d never really painted before, but knew I could draw a bit, so thought I’d give it a go.  My husband had painted in the past but not for a while and was happy to take up his brushes again.  I was in for a bit of a shock.  Shocked at how talented my husband is, and shocked at how cack-handed I am.

Oh, I’ve always been cack-handed and clumsy.  Can’t throw or catch, and my hand writing is, frankly, an embarrassment, but somehow I thought even I could create something wonderful by slopping a bit of paint onto some paper. It might not be Rembrandt but it would be my own.

Since the very first session, I have been nothing other than frustrated with the whole caboodle.  I have ideas, loads and loads of ideas, and I pick up my brush enthusiastically, only to find those perfect, exciting, unique pictures in my head, come out as a muddy mish mash when applied to paper.  I’ve tried watercolours, acrylics, pastels… all with pretty much the same outcome, though my pencil work is marginally better, and I quite enjoy creating collages even though they’re messy and again, not quite what I intended.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the art group, the company is wonderful, and everyone has their own talents, and sometimes, mishaps.  However, despite their encouragement, I still feel embarrassingly bottom of the class, and wish to hell I could manage to just translate my imaginings on to paper successfully, just now and again while I’m there.

I try to be philosophical about it, honest I do, and am generally able to make a joke of it when I’m at the group, however, at home, I feel monstrously angry at myself and my ineptitude. It must be the paper/brushes/paint I think, and end up buying tons of equipment in the futile hope that it will miraculously make me better.  I watch endless youtube videos to learn about techniques, and pour over books that promise to give me new insights into where it’s all going wrong.   Not a single thing seems to help.

Is it worth throwing the towel in?  Giving it up as a bad job? Going off to sulk and sob in a corner to tell myself that I should have known better than to try?  Burn all that expensive equipment?   No.

NO!!!

You see, I’ve also been watching the painting challenge currently on the BBC.  The people taking part are amateur artists who clearly think they are good enough to enter the competition.  While I still think all of them, to a man/woman, are far more talented than I (those in glass houses etc..) they are having some real disasters and seem to make many of the same mistakes as I do.  Of course, the work they do, in private, at home, in their own style, looks far more interesting and accomplished than any they try to do whilst ‘on’t telly’ and under pressure. The styles they are expected to replicate for the judges are often decidedly outside of their comfort zone, so appreciably more.. um, duff.

It has led me to ask the question of whether or not you have to be able to paint anything, in any medium or style, to be considered an artist.  I think not.  This is as true for people on the X factor trying to sing in an alien genre, or a ballet dancer trying out ballroom.  We can all have a bash at something but we will always be better at doing the thing we naturally lean towards.  Although Picasso did some admirable work in other styles, we generally think of his cubist pieces when we think of him.  Turner and his seascapes, Constable and his green and pleasant lands, Manet and his dancers, most of the brilliant artists I can think of have a particular style or subject that they are particularly known for.   That’s not to say they were one trick ponies, but those are the paintings that we all know and love them for, and the ones they seem to have produced the most of (I may be wrong here, I’ve not done much (any) research on this – just thinking out loud).

So basically, I guess the trick is that I really should appreciate and keep working on the things I have slightly more of a flair for, whilst striving to improve without embarrassment or losing my temper those things which I find elusive.  It’s a hard ask.  But I won’t give up just yet. I’ll keep telling myself that I’ll never get better if I don’t keep trying. So, I’ll carry on slopping on the paint in between doodling and sketching, and one day I’ll create that damn masterpiece.

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What I consider to be one of my slightly more successful pieces, done in my own time and style, in watercolour.

Woman in the Waiting Room

Hands clasped tight in my lap
I watch the child crying in the corner
while the mother tuts and coos
and the old man coughs
that old man cough of
clogged lungs and
failing heart

The incongruous laughter
leaching from the back room
is an insult
as a scruffy teenager sniffs
on the too close chair beside me

I study the ebbing of life
in the clock face
I can smell disease
feel it spreading
seeping in through my skin
I dare not fidget
for fear of contamination

People leave clutching their
life lines
I hope for one too
A pain easer
A mood lifter
A miracle
but when they call my name
despair drips
onto those clasping hands

 

The Shape of Love

There are no corners to hide in,
and no straight paths,
or sides to take

There is no long and short,
nor tip of the iceberg,
or points to make

No, love is a circle,
delicious, curvaceous,
a two tier cream cake

A full harvest moon,
a banging drum heart,
a promise you make

A ring on your finger,
a cuff on your wrist,
a hunger that wakes

A bowl full of spices,
a bouncing beachball
that gives, and, that takes

Oh love is a circle,
a merry go round
of tender heartaches

Yes, love is a circle
Two people conjoined
as endless soul mates

Unless, of course, it becomes a triangle…

Moving

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?’

‘Nothing important.’

‘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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heavy Metal

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
remains unmoved,
unrepentant.

And though I feel a flinty spark of anger
I cannot melt a missing heart.
For you are nothing
but a tin man.

 

Merry Christmas

Christmas 11 063

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
oddly shaped.

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
for Christmas’.

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?

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