Earth stood cold as iron

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Trees are up rooted and planted upside down.

Head fuzzy too much red wine with cauliflower cheese.

Candles to the left of me, tea with soya milk to the right.

Sound of a dog barking.

The gas fire humming, clicking, clacking, whooshing.

Sat in my sheep onesey a present from my parents last Christmas.

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The iron tree by Ai Wei Wei perfectly positioned in the graveyard by the chapel.

Ancient tree, rusting red,  glowing in the winter sunlight.

Branches bolted together.

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The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is covered in white.

Each sculpture is picked out by the snow.

Children are sledging between Henry Moore’s

There’s a snow man family complete with dog and cat.

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The snow has frozen in the night and there is a crust of ice lying on its surface.

As I walk there is a delightful crunching sound.

The sky is blue blue blue and the sunlight makes it all glisten and bright.

Naoise delights in the winter landscape, he runs down the hill side, stands and kicks a collapsed snow ball.

He lies down on top of  the Henry Moore Sculpture and takes photographs on his red camera.

At home the other evening he carved a little tiny maquette of this sculpture out of candle wax.

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Looking at the Ursula von Rydingsvard’s work.

I want to climb inside these womb, tomb, cacoon wooden spaces.

Naoise wants to touch them.

I am drawn to some gloves knitted from wire with fake nail’s that suggest talons.

I imagine these scratching at skin and wounding.

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On the way to the park, my friends played a memory game in the car.

I went to market and I bought ” a pie, a pebble, a purple giraffe, the moon, a fluffy kitten, some sausages…..”

The strings of words made nonsense poems and Naoise squealed and giggled.

I just drove and avoided the black ice and sludge.

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New Years Eve tomorrow, the time of reflection and resolution,

I find resolutions irksome, but I make some,

Eat less, move more, get a job, apply for a PhD, smile with the children,

I will not be sad to see 2014 disappear, I will welcome the new

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The buzzer on the oven has sounded, so I can’t write about the highlights of 2014

The children fishing off the pier in Assynt, the harbour porpoise that me and Syd spotted on our way back on the boat from the Summer Isles.

Or the lowlights, the car that ran over the foot of my eldest son that caused him such pain and discomfort, that caused me great distress, that disrupted our lives.

I hold them close, I hold them dear, for all the resolutions of improvement, I have my two beautiful boys, my partner and my home and the gas fire burns warmth when the earth is cold as iron and the water is like a stone.

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Tell me why I don’t like Monday’s

I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols at the piano promised never came to pass.


― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

The road down glistened with frost, you could see all the stars, the crescent moon. Me and my two friends descended from the isolated farm house on the hill. It had been a night without children or men.

The hairpin bend was treacherous. We opted for progressing through the mud. Sloe gin’s and tonics, fizzy wine, cheese and crackers, our bellies overfull. My friend kept referring to the advice of Bear Grylls, keep your weight forward so that you don’t slip in the snow. I laughed and laughed that I almost wet myself.

I am carrying extra weight. Weight of mince pies and wine and chocolates and yuel log and pudding and home made bread. All this food love. How the food taunts me, how it hates me, how it makes me lumpy and bumpy. How I love its comfort but hate its affect. We talked about the fasting diet, and I imagined lots of miso soup and lots of scoffing. Maybe I will try this diet out. Maybe.

Two flames of candles, box of matches with penguins cuddling, kitchen science kit, blue fleecy hat, kitchen roll, kitchen cloth, germolene tube with end cut open by Naoise,  canister of de-icer, roll of sellotape, a torch, bunch of keys, teaspoon, a plate of lego. The fire crackling, splitting, pushing gas through to fire. The train passes behind the house. The cars move readily today. Monday the first day after Christmas, people back at work.

Thick ice on the windscreen of the car.

Spoke to my brother in Spain, he travels to Madrid today, passing through two mountain ranges, he has packed flasks and blankets and food just incase he gets stuck in the snow, its a five hour journey. Madrid all I can think of is sun and jamon jamon and beautiful bakeries and The Prado and art and culture and red.

Patrick arrives back with bread to make sandwiches to take to a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. We will pack flask and blanket and food and take care not to skid the car on the ice. The Longsight gallery is closed due to snow. Snow how it closes down the world. Cold how it screams caution.

Speaking to my brother in Spain, Naoise did his best to disrupt the flow of the conversation, he wrote me a letter of apology.

Mum I am sore Fre dsreBihe Yoo

(Mum I am sorry for disturbing you)

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How sweet his messages are.

How sweet my friends messages are.

P won’t be meeting me today: “snowed in, now iced in, at the top of a hill and the local shop ran out of bread 2 day’s ago!…xx

F: “Weather forecast chance of rain 3% but its going to be *cold*!”

The snow scream

Half an hour set on the oven timer. Why half an hour ? Just because its about long enough to construct something of any sense.

The gas fire on pumping out its whoooos and its cracks and fuzzes, taking the edge off the cold in the stone flagged front room. A tin of deicer, dinner candles almost burnt down, a metal pot of tea, tube of germolene, two pillar candles lit on a plate, kitchen roll, soya “plant power” milk, a clay effigy of Jimi Hendrix, a bowl of sugar and spoon. A sip of tea.

Lying in bed arm around Naoise, I listened to his snores, so warm, so cuddly. I tucked him in with the extra duvet, best to keep him asleep, I want to write and he has had too many late nights.

Blank. Lying in bed all I could think about was what I might write. Write about snow and screaming. Write about sledging down the hill and the release of girly squeals of delight. Write about the boys screeching as they repetitively jumped on my body slouched on the sofa. Write about the screams of an unborn child in a womb. Write about the sreams of a mother giving birth. Think about Munch’s silent scream emanating out of painterly gesture and expression. Write about snow. Snow screaming as it melts in the sun. Then you think about Pieter Bruegal paintings and the greatest Christmas card scenes ever.

Here am I sledging through the greatest christmas card scene ever. Screaming like a girl. Reconnecting with my inner child before I march off to the supermarket to buy food for the family visit. I enjoy marching off and leaving the boys on the hill. I pass the farm shed with the tree embedded into the roof causing collapse around. Two squirrels freeze on the bridge of the roof. A robin shows me its red breast. Not much battery left on my phone to capture the picturesque, the quiet, the aloneness. The blissful aloneness. Falling back into the valley floor the cars annoy me.

The supermarket is busy with food buyers. Food so much food. Food glorious food. I am pleased that I have hunted down some reduced deluxe pizza. My sister, Niece and her children are visiting today. The house will be cramped and busy and filled with adult talk and children’s laughter on the stairs.

The gas fire. A blank.

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I talked to my sister about all my dad’s slides. She is the eldest. There are a lot of images of her as a baby. When it was just her, the number one, they probably had more time, more time to construct images of their lives. I talked about the image of my mum holding her in the garden in Orpington. She was just a day old. My mum looked so young. My sister looked so unfurled in the face. Would have been spring, but the London sun was bright as a summers day. I show her my hazy documentation of the picture in question then the one of dad holding her. We talk about the photographs the one of us in Matlock in the snow. Mum’s fantastic coat. She didn’t like the coat at all, it was “different” made my mum stick out, “wasn’t like the other mums coasts” and “she hated that it was made of animal fur”. I just thought that it looked cool. She looked like Abba arrival. Dad loved Abba. Dad loved my mum.

The children’s drawings that hang above the gas fire move like leaves on a tree with the rising of the heat. The candles occasionally burn smoke as well as light. Still a little dark outside. Snow still clings to the top of the car. Glistening.

Today I will take Syd ice skating in Manchester. Its our last day together before he departs for a week with his dad. I will shower him with my attention. Me and him will waltz around the outdoor ring and I will imagine that we are part of a Bruegal painting, but instead of hunts men and trees we will be surrounded by shoppers and towers of metal and glass. It will be fun.

No back to black on a white christmas

My neighbour just shimmied past my front room window returning from her nightshift at the care home. She wants to retire but instead she has to work a few more years to get her pension. She is tired and has certainly done her service to the community. I admire her. In-between caring for other people’s elderly relatives she cares for her own mother, grandchildren, daughters.

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Care not to fall on the stone slabs outside my front window.

A window covered in coloured snowflakes blue tacked onto the glass.

Last night to the childrens joy it snowed and it snowed. We drew back the curtains and watched the heavy flakes drop. Curtains of white providing a seasonal backdrop to the flickering of the programme playing on the computer screen. Naoise wanted to reach out and touch it. Patrick took in some snow that had landed on top of the car and then he threw it back out again. Really I should have got both children dressed and gone out for a winter wonderland walk, but I felt tired, drowsy, lazy, overfed and slow.

Two too many glasses of red wine and chocolate log and christmas pudding and brandy butter. Too much excess. The consumption makes me feel blacker. I couldn’t stay awake just watching watching the screen. The gas fire lulling me to sleep seated. Naoise on my knee covered by a thick blanket. Four people on a sofa for two. I went to bed. I gave up.

Syd didn’t want me to go to bed, his time with me is limited, but I will shower him with attention on Sunday. The day we have together on our own. All this cooking and hosting perhaps is just a distraction from where my focus should be. I will so miss him when he goes. Only for a week, but each day will slip slowly more quietly, I will feel out of sink. I will sink. I will miss him.

The snow has turned to sludge on the road. The children will be disappointed, its not sledging snow. We love the snow. There are plenty of hills to sledge on here. The sledges have remained redundant. Last winter was so mild there were flurries, but nothing that would stick, nothing sledge able.

I wish that the snow had fallen thicker, then the cars would not zoom past, and the silence would descend.

Two years back the snow lasted weeks and after it fell it turned to thick ice that covered all the pavements so that the only way to travel to nursery was by sledge. I dragged and dragged the sledge along the canal, a fine way for a three year old to travel. All the dog poo, all the mud was encased below the snow and ice. Whiteness temporarily provided a clean path.

Sipping coffee, run out of tea bags. The washer is drying clothes. The pixel pig is sitting upside down on top of the leather sofa. All the crackers are gone from the tree. The branches hang lower and more needles drop. Plates of lego pieces, a lemon conducting watch. Kirikou DVD box. Kirikou was splendid. Kirikou an animation b Michel Ocelot , that begins with a boy child who speaks from within his mothers womb. Watching this film, all the colours, the patterns, the story, the baby hero. It made me want to draw. Perhaps if I had drawn I wouldn’t have felt the blackness. The blackness creeps up on me. The blackness makes me feel tired and slow. The blackness is poison. The blackness. I sit here in my onesey. I enjoy these moments of reflection. I struggle with the hectic. I struggle with the pull from one child to the next. Each competing for my attention.

All I hear is the chug of the washer dryer. All I hear is the train pass behind the house. All I see is the snow, an occasional bird, a pile of washing folded on a chair in the corner of the room. A bag of party poppers that wait to be popped. Only two tangerines left. Its a non- day. A Saturday. An ordinary day. A day for my eldest sister, niece and grand niece and grand nephew to visit. The house will be busy and packed and full and laughter and chaos and washing up will return.

The washing machine beacons with its incessant beep. The oven buzzer sounds. Today I gave myself 30 minutes to write.

The jungle in my front room

Yoda and me are up and enjoying the peace of a candle lit boxing day morning. Fire on grey wet damp foggy outside. The force was with me. First Christmas with my folks as an adult with children. A walk up the hill and my mum didn’t stumble, fall or trip in the mud, the gates could be unbolted so that she didn’t have to negotiate the stiles. It was like “going on a bear hunt” squishy squashy squishy squashy.

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Dad’s slides, Mum & Dad’s house, Borneo, 1962

The sound of the gas  lighting the four bars of the fire. The zip clanging against the metal drum of the washing machine. An occasional car passing outside. Coloured snowflakes blue tacked to the window. Branch of the Christmas tree stroking my leg.

Empty party popper canister. Kitchen roll. A pink stuffed pixel pig. A box of matches with penguins huddled together. An orange paper tissue hat resting on the side. The white sheet attached by clothes pegs covering magnetic board and pictures that created a temporary projection screen.

The slides. My dad. My mum. Glimpses into the past, our collective memories. Myself then. Myself now. Naoise star wars lego, held in his hand, flying, occasionally breaking the light from the projector.

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Dad’s slides, Mum (pregnant with me) my brother, eldest sister and grandmother, 1971

First, second, third, forth child, documented in 1970’s colour, patterns, and places that they lived and before. Borneo, Orpington, Bromley, Matlock, Etwall….then nothing.

Mum so slim so glamorous. Dad’s keen eye and orchestration of space. Prams and grandparents and parties and cakes dripping with white icing and silver balls. Dad collecting his degree from Oxford. Why was dad collecting his degree from Oxford when I was five years old ?

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Dad’s Slides, Me, Bromley, 1972

My parents were amazing. In the early 1960’s they did VSO in borneo. Lived on the edge of the jungle. From Oxford to Borneo. They married out there. Mum in her white silk shift dress dad in slacks and a white shirt, no tie ? His glasses thick rimmed at the top, kinda cool. What year 1962 ? Need to check. A pink house with a corrugated roof and the washing all hung outside. Images of dad typing with his top off. Its hot humid. So this was mum’s picture, but mostly its him looking on. Him looking at mum, then mum with his children. Looking on, framing, assessing, pressing the shoot button on his old 35mm camera. The camera I remember, kept safe inside a brown leather case.

Washing machine on spin.

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Dad’s slides, Mum, me, brother, eldest sister, Matlock, 1973

Tea with soya milk, trying to shift the weight again. Wanting to be slim and trim like mum in the slides projected on the wall in my front room.

And outside. Outside severe weather forecast, snow to arrive today or tomorrow. The love activists had to serve up the food for the homeless outside their headquarters despite a high court ruling that they could use the inside of the building that they had squatted. Polar icecaps melting, an election year upcoming, the beeper on the oven sounding. Twenty minutes has past. I gave myself only 20 minutes. I’ll press it and end this.

The magical disappearing golden sequin

I am tired. I am tired.

I collected Naoise after school and his teacher told me that he may have put a small golden sequin into his right ear. The incident seems to be true Naoise is looking a little pale and is gesticulating at me towards his ear.

First investigations begin at the local health practice, we wait and wait and wait. Naoise plays and plays and plays banging and bashing at the generic waiting room toy, marvelling at the noises that it makes. The sequin clearly is not causing any distress as he is delighting in his music making.

The nurse peers inside one ear and then inside the other, “Oh Yes she says I think I can see something glistening in there, but you will have to go to Halifax A & E as we haven’t the equipment to deal with it here”. Sigh a 24 mile round trip to Halifax is not what I feel like doing tonight.

Me: “Why did you put  gold sequin in your ear Naoise ?”

Naoise: “I was playing a magic trick with my friends I was making it disappear”

When they get that golden sequin out I want to keep it, keep it as a trophy a memory of this time, and how such a small festive fun thing can cause so much disruption.

Naoise and I spent just under 3 hours in A & E clearly I was deluding myself by thinking it would be quiet on a week night. 3 hours spent with a family of one small baby and a baby about to be born in a brightly coloured family friendly room with battered toys and Harry Potter playing on the yellow robot encased TV screen in the background. Naoise span around and around on the blue table, and the 18 month old baby crashed a pretend shopping trolly around and around the room. Some entertainment from the misprouncunciation of  “Naoise” name everything from NAY-OISE to NASH-HEE.

Naoise made a beautiful drawing illustrating the golden sequin lodged inside his ear and we returned home with it the still inside and an appointment to return next week. They mentioned suctioning it out.

The golden sequin inside Naoise right ear
The golden sequin inside Naoise right ear

I should be preparing for a PhD meeting instead I am writing this, sitting in the remnants of the breakfast table between mugs and crumbs and plates of half eatens.

Mum’s missing poem found

I am delighted, I have found my mum’s missing poem that was published sometime between the  summer and autumn of 1979 in Contact, The Magazine of the Pre-school Playgroups Association . As anticipated it was placed somewhere too safe to readily find,  filed with my research on motherhood and arts practice. Before it disappears again, I will publish it again here, 35 years since it was written. At the time she wrote this she had four children (aged 4, 8, 10 and 12) and was nursing, working the night shift at  the local cottage hospital.

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Tommorow by Irene Sargeant, 1979
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Cover of Contact, The Magazine of the Pre-school Playgroups Association, March 1979 Issue