hagiography

the autogeography of a no/body

May 28

14748

I'm nine–> I'm a nasty piece of
work–> I know this because he's screaming it at me from between
flaccid drunken lips and nicotine stained teeth–> I'm sitting in
a chair–> It's brown–> The heels of my feet are tucked up
against my bottom–> To my left is a kitchen–> To my right
is an open window, nine floors up–>

There's a bookcase, teak, plastic
moulded circles covering the screw-holes–> I've read practically
everything in it, including Deep Throat–> There were pictures,
black and white, shiny in a dull way–> She had curly hair, wavy
Linda, and her face was all distorted, sandwiched between those two
men–>

He's spitting on me–> Fry pan
anger–> I don't move–> I don't say anything–> I don't
even breathe–> Inside me is a black marble, right in the middle
of my chest–> We had those bottles, and when you filled them up
the marble blocked the neck, stopped everything coming out–> I
can't speak–>

I'm nineteen–> There's pink neon
glancing off mirrors–> Peacocks–> And everyone's strutting
their stuff–> Out on the pull–> Laughter connects like
clinking glasses–> Like ice in glasses–> Splicing faces–>
Julie smiles–> It drifts across the dance-floor–> Metallic
tinsel–>

I thought I wanted to come–> I'm
sitting at a table on a red velvet stool–> There's heat in my
face and last night's cum in my pants–> Drinking beer from the
bottle makes my lips move in a way that reminds me of speech, but all
the words are stuck–> I'm mute–> I nod–> Run my
fingers through my hair–>

On the back wall a light dis/play
negotiates with a cheap print–> I could wear that frame, feet on
the bottom rung, head pressed up against the top rail–> Imagine
me in silver, in sliver, slavering–> I nod–> Someone's just
told a joke–> I laugh–>

Julie's staring into my face–>
Anson's got his hand on my knee–> I had my legs open for him–>
Miners used to wear denim, hard and protective–> I can't
breathe–> There's something red winking at me–> I think
it's the siren of happiness–> I suck at the bottle neck–>

I'm twenty nine–> I don't know who
that person is in the mirror–> Why is she looking at me? Her
eyes are so worn, like she's seen so much, cried too much–> I
think she's trying to tell me something, with her ears, her lips, her
scary hair–> She seems blue, azure, unsure–>

There's a sink in front of me–> A
toilet on my right–> A bath behind me–> Razors in the
cabinet, white laminate–> Fresh blade serenade–> I don't
want surgical precision–> Fingernails are good–> “Organic”,
announces a half-fucked-bitch–> As if –>–>–>

My head bled, along those furrows,
ploughed by worry and indecision incarnate–> Yes sorry?
Scratching–> Scratching as if it were possible to remove the
detritus of a million years–> A non chemical skin peel–>
This is what happens, but space and time won't carry my load, back to
the man–>

I know I'm a nasty piece of work–>

I'm thirty nine, and there are no
steps, just that huge fucking clock, threatening to strike–>
Disconsolate worker neurons fold their arms and shake their heads–>
Somewhere a brazier burns bright on a picket line of dissension, in
attention to detail–>

Oh yes, it was a good weekend–>
Music–> Brandy–> Passion in spades that we built into
sandcastles on a beach with a rapidly encroaching tide–> I
tried–> To not be a nasty piece of work–> Flying in the
face of slashings and crashings–> Bottled–> Glassed–>
Black marbled crassivity–>

I know this because he's screaming at
me from between flaccid drunken lips and nicotine stained teeth–>
I'm sitting in a chair–> It's black–> The heels of my feet
are tucked up against my bottom–> To my left is a kitchen–>
To my right is an open window, nine floors up–> I should've
fucking jumped way back–>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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May 23

14447

The Correct Way to Iron a Shirt – edited

Orange cupboard doors stared blankly at
us. Wall tiles, stippled cream and decorated with brown flowers,
didn't say a word. There was a carpet, flatly stain resistant. And
a twin tub washing machine. And a blue plastic dish-rack.

The ironing board clattered as mother
assembled it, from vertical to horizontal. It wore two layers, like
an old lady in a twin-set. Things in our house were repaired, only
ever thrown away when deemed completely and utterly useless. Things,
not people. People were disposable. Some people were more
disposable than others.

She half-spat and half-licked her
fingers, lightly touched the iron plate and nodded in satisfaction as
her saliva buzzed against metal. “Don't ever do this,” she said,
“You might burn your hand”.

“But …”

“My skin's like asbestos.”

“How will I know when it's ready?”

“Leave it on for five minutes.”

“Oh, ok.”

My father had lots of shirts, folded
nearly in his drawers. He never wore them. Some years back he'd
left us, mother, my sisters and me. We waited in our neat piles, his
shirts and us, but he didn't return. Every once in a while mother
emptied his drawers and laundered the contents. Maybe she thought
he'd be disappointed if everything wasn't fresh and clean. In
retrospect I think that was the problem in the first place. He
didn't mind dirty. She was a Catholic.

Mother grabbed a shirt and laid it on
on the ironing board, collar dead central, body hanging limply over
the side. “Always inside out and from the outside in,” she said,
slamming the iron down on the collar's right tip. A sudden hiss of
steam escaped from between her teeth. The board creaked. “See,”
she said, as the fabric submitted and each crinkle was forced out of
existence. I nodded at the perfect, crease free, flat horizon.

Once I'd been trained, her job became
my job. I waited for the man who never came home, ironing his shirts
religiously. 'Forgive me father for I have sinned'. It didn't
matter. He couldn't hear me. By the time I was sixteen God and my
father had become synonymously bastardised.

And so it came to pass that she died.
I inherited her ironing board, vacuum cleaner, sewing machine, yogurt
maker and pressure cooker. I'd left home many years ago, in a flurry
of of tears and recriminations, each rebellion a step further away
from the threshold. She cried when I cut all my hair off, “Your
crowning glory,” she wailed. And the day I had my nose pierced/got
a tattoo/discovered I was pregnant. “You could always get rid of
it,” she said, “You don't want to make the same mistakes I did”.

Every time I press on the board it
creaks. Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak. I find its little
noises comforting, like when I hear my husband's tread on the stairs
as he comes to bed, or the sound of him breathing in his sleep.
Familiarity doesn't breed contempt. Frustration and unhappiness are
the chief culprits. It's easy to abandon yourself to both.

He doesn't wear shirts that often. No
need. Mother turned her nose up when I told her what he does for a
living. “Your father was a consultant electrical engineer.” she
sneered. I couldn't quite work out exactly who her curled lip was
directed at. “I thought your private education would have prepared
you for a role as a professional's wife,” she continued. The word
'professional' sounded clammy the way she said it.

“He has a trade,” I replied.

“He works in a factory,” disgust
apparent, exasperation apparent, conclusion apparent.

“As a lathe operator. It's a highly
skilled job and good money.”

She tutted.

I saw a statue of a peacock once, its
tail fashioned from saw blades and its long neck from coiled bicycle
chains. “It's rusty,” mother said. She didn't understand it was
meant to be.

My husband's a good father. There's
always food on the table and clothes on the children's backs. Blue
collar/white collar, what does it matter? At least he comes home at
night. I don't think mother missed this inescapable fact, but she
seemed determined to ignore it. No point in provoking her. With
some people their mind's literally made up and you can't get inside
that fiction.

I touch the collar. It's warm. I'm
used to washing Jim's grubby stains and dirty underwear. This time
though 'Vanish' didn't do the trick. I can't see the lipstick mark
anymore, not in reality, but it's burned into my memory.

It was a shock, one of those sudden
clenching shocks, when everything goes quiet except for the sound of
blood pumping in your ears. I didn't know. Didn't even suspect.
Crouched by the washing machine I felt my throat tighten, as if the
discovery threatened to suffocate me. Did she curl her fingers
around the back of his neck? Rest her head against his shoulder?
Hear his words rattling through his chest, all deep and musical
behind those ribs? My ribs. My husband.

I suppressed the urge to vomit.
Practicality not sentimentality. We have two beautiful daughters, a
mortgage, a life together. What's he playing at? My head whirled
like one of those wheels on a television quiz show. Clack, clack,
clack. Red segment; 'I'll kill him' Yellow segment; 'Stand by your
man'. Green segment; 'Why me?'. blue segment, orange segment, white
segment …

Mother said “All men are dogs”.
Jane, who'd lived at Greenham Common in the 80s, said “All men are
rapists”. She smoked cigars and I'm pretty sure she was a lesbian.
My sister said “The secret to a happy marriage is good sex”.
That seemed obvious enough, until she found a business card for a
strip club in her husband's trouser pocket. She leaned against a
wall as her legs buckled.

The cuffs should be ironed the same way
as the collar; inside out and outside in. My husband has this style
about him. He wears sleeve garters. Doesn't like anything flapping.
I flap a lot. “Neurotic,” he calls me. I bet [i]she's[/i] cool
and collected, uses lip-liner, a vast array of hair products and has
her legs waxed at a salon. I shave mine in the bath and then spend
ten minutes cleaning the scummy tide mark. I haven't been to the
hairdressers in years.

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak.

And I wonder what he does with his
hands. Does he guide her through a crowd, his fingers resting
lightly on the small of her back? When he touches her does she let
him know it's welcome? With a smile? A gentle relaxation? And
where else does he put his hands? On her neck? Her breasts? Her
hips?

Before father left, when I was small,
we used to sit on the sofa with me tucked under his arm. I didn't
mind watching the final scores. I thought it was a special big man
code. “Apple of his bloody eye,” mother said through her twisted
mouth, “Daddy's little chicken wing. Daddy's little flowerpot.
Well where is he now?” I cried in front of her triumph.

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak.

I fold each sleeve at the seam.
There's a stray thread. I want to bite it off with my teeth, but I
could pull the stitching by accident. Along with everything else,
mother left me her needlework box. It's red plastic, the type lots
of men using for storing their fishing tackle. An ugly thing.
Various reels of cotton sit snugly in a compartmentalised black tray.
She chose these, meticulously. Her hands worked with the crochet
needles too. I've forgotten how. The darning wool is of no use
either. Where are the scissors? I can't find them. I imagine my
eldest daughter has taken them. She steals everything, borrows and
doesn't return. “Where's the hairbrush? … my moisturiser? ….
that box of chocolates? … your father's affection?

Before she was born he was mine. By
the time she was one it dawned on me I had to share. The way he
treats her, as if the sun rises and sets with her smile. And she has
his eyes, his sense of humour, his manual dexterity. She has
everything.

The shirt is lying face up on the
board, its arms spread in mute apology. The stray thread curls at me
like a pubic hair on a fresh made made bed. Our bed? He wouldn't.
Would he? Slam, hiss, creak, slam, hiss, creak. He couldn't. Slam,
hiss, creak, slam, hiss, creak. Not in a million years. Slam, hiss
creak. Something turns in my stomach. It's a baby at night, trying
to find its thumb with its soft, clean mouth. I can hear it snuffle,
the sound of baby-gro toweling against against fluffy cotton. That's
how an idea starts; small, almost imperceptible, but then two things
connect, or don't connect, and it coughs into life. At first it's
just a couple of splutters. It could go either way. A moment of
silence. You listen with bated breath. There it is again, more
throaty this time, a forceful blast propelling the cry into your
consciousness. And it's not just your ears that respond. Your whole
body's alive to the interruption. The baby's woken up. It's
demanding your attention.

The sides of a shirt, so mother
advised, are ironed different ways up. The buttons have to be
facing, so as not to crimple the fabric. It's important to skirt the
edge of each one, each issue, each problem.

“Even at your sister's wedding.”

I knew what was coming next.

“In the garden.”

Why this persistence with truth?

“Against the silver birch.”

Where my childish swing had swung. “I
don't want to know mother. I just don't want to know.” I put my
hands over my ears but I could still hear her.

“Do you know how it was for me?”
she screamed.

“I

DON'T

WANT

TO

KNOW.”

“I had over a hundred guests …”

She wasn't going to stop.

“And my husband, your father …”

She spat the words out like olive pips,
like snake venom, like …

“Was fucking one of them up against a
tree.”

Silence.

Slam, hiss, creak, slam, hiss, creak,
slam, hiss, creak, slamhisscreak.

She said the 'F' word.

I light a cigarette with shaking hands.

Does [i]she[/i] even know about me? My
name? The kids' names? Has he shown her that picture in his wallet?
Has she been through his wallet? His pockets? Why did I stop doing
that? I shouldn't have stopped doing that. Last time that's how I
found out. He admitted it straight away, apologised profusely, but
there were reasons. I'd been busy with the children, suffering from
post natal depression. He was lonely. We'd grown apart.

“Your father was a pig. A pig and a
liar.” I remembered the visit to Brookes' farm when I was eleven.
The herdsman told us that pigs, anatomically, are the closest
creatures to humans. I'd been sickened by their penis length and
width and violence. I preferred the dog. His was less threatening.
We called it his 'lipstick'. Mother's teeth were stained with
harshly applied lipstick. “Please,” I begged, “I don't need to
know”.

The other side, where the button holes
are, is ironed inside out to preserve the seam. A straight edge is
everything as far as appearance goes.

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak,
squirt – to soften the dried-in creases and dampen their reticence.

He explained it away so sensibly. We
went to marriage guidance. Our friends were supportive. I still
couldn't overcome the sickening sensation though. It was like being
locked in a waltzer with an evil carnie at my back. “Alright,” I
said, but the word got swallowed down and and vomited up. It sounded
strangled. Half dead.

Mother saw everything from where she
was standing, which was a small place, a spotlit circle on a black
stage. I think she'd spent so long looking into the footlights that
she was blinded by glaring reality. Every time I tried to tackle her
it was as if I was shining a torch in her face. People don't like
that. Problems can be halved and shared but they don't like the
truth staring them in the face.

The back of a shirt comes in two parts,
a lined shoulder piece and the main panel. Starting at the
shoulders. Always inside out and outside in.

I thought I knew him. That first
Christmas – I was already pregnant by then. We spent the day in
bed watching old videos and eating Turkish delight. He said I had to
keep my strength up. I don't think he cares now. “Capable,” I
heard him say last Christmas at the works party. I wonder whether
[i]she's[/i] capable and [i]what[/i] she's capable of.

Slam, hiss, creak.

I feel hot.

Slam, hiss, creak.

I'm tired.

Slam, hiss, creak.

I don't want him to leave, with a
hurriedly packed holdall and not so much as even a backward glance.
I'm couldn't cope with seeing my daughters crying every time his
favourite TV programme comes on, or when they spy some irrelevant
item he's forgotten, just like them.

Pushing the shoulders of a coat-hanger
through the sleeves of his shirt I hang it on the doorknob. If his
body was inside it now I'd want him to be kneeling, begging
forgiveness, promising never to do it again. I hear his key in the
lock. The front door opens. He shouts a cheery “Hello”. That
particular door will shut, seal us in for the night. I need to make
sure others remain open. [i]She[/i] won't know this. It will be her
mistake. She doesn't know him, or me, or the correct way to iron a
shirt.

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May 23

14215

A Rude Awakening

I smell of cigarettes and sweat, a
heady combination that invites intercourse at night and a shower in
the morning.

He's still in bed, the one whose brain
I borrow. I could join him now, unwashed, my hair cluttered in fluff
-filled tangles. He'd wake up, mumbling his way out of dreams,
crows' feet at the corners of his eyes deepening as he smiles.
Instead I announce “Coffee or sex?”

“Coffee,” he replies.

“You bastard.” I pull off my robe
and get into bed, feeling for that tell-tale sign of a manly morning.

“Ok then, neither,” he says,
stopping my hand.

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May 22

14006

King Arthur and Canvas

I am sitting here in my
camp clothes, still unwashed – although fed and purged.

It is odd to start at the
end. Always we must return to the beginning.

I don't think I wanted to
go to camp this time. Ambivalent. Yes, ambivalent. I wanted to
want. I strove to want. It is an awful thing when determined desire
is met with subconscious ambivalence.

The weather forecast was
rubbish. Despite April's heat, May had descended into a mire that
reminded me of Father's 'Ne'er cast a clout 'til May is out'. I
forgot to book kennels for the dog, but fortunately they were able to
take him. Laundry had been neglected, clothing was not packed,
camping equipment remained in the loft …

Friday morning and I drove
the dog to the kennels. On the way I noticed the battery light on
the dash kept coming on, but only in a pale and nondescript way.
Dexter was pleased to be at Badgers' Bottom. In his excitement his
paws skidded across the laiminate flooring, so that he couldn't move,
not without considerable effort. I knew how he felt. When trying to
start the car for the homeward journey I realised the ignition
sounded sluggish. Driving along those narrow country lanes, at the
foot of Devil's Dyke, I knew, simply knew, that if I turned the car
off it wouldn't turn back on again. Parked near home. Engine
idling. Off. Waiting a few moments. On? Absolutely nothing. Dead
as a doornail.

I walked up to the garage
(local), hoping Shane would be in and could repair whatever problem.
'Probably your alternator,' he said. Oh my god the alternator, not
only do those cost a fortune, but also, they're not fixable in five
minutes flat. Walking home, to tell Matt the happy news. We
wouldn't be going anywhere, not today. He shrugged. Suddenly I
realised I did want to go. Put an obstacle in my way and I will try
to get round it, over it, under it. Sure, I'm good at self-defeat,
but I don't like to be wrung out by circumstance – it's happened too
many times in the past.

Phoning round car hire
companies, yes, no, don't know. £45, £53, £61.
Fine, fine, we'll do that. Then Shane phoned back. A bolt had
fallen off the alternator, it had slipped, wasn't working, he'd fixed
it, we could go.

All hands to the pump!
All hands to the pump! Nothing was ready. Car fetched. Camping
gear was pulled out of the loft and slung in the hallway, down the
stairs, into the car. This way, that way, maybe some lunch, no
lunch, no clothes ready yet either. A basketful of black washing
(damp), a tumble drier full of white washing (damp). Yes, yes, run,
run, and then I started crying. Matt hugged me up close. Small
woman, stupid woman. I feel like this, I feel like this all the
time.

We formulated a plan. I
would drop him off with tents, etc, then come back, pick up the kids
and T_____. Soup on, must cook soup first. Two different types of
sweet potato. I congratulated my observances to the gods of sweet
potatoes. Carrots.

I left him in the field.
People were already beginning to arrive. I hugged C___, or rather
she hugged me. When she asked how I was I wanted to say 'Fine, yes
fine,' because I'm tired of turning up at camp a needy mess. Can't
lie to C___ though.

Back into Brighton,
stopped off for a donut on the way, chocolate, covered in icing and
small chips of indulgence. Kids came home from school. I shouted in
my mad rush. I was mean and unnecessary. Why am I so mean and
unnecessary? Picked up T_____. She's not mean and unneccessary.

In the car I realised I'd
forgotten to pack tea and coffee. I can live without tea, but not
coffee. One cup, every day, when I first wake up. It's my ritual.
Espresso, it has to be espresso, cooked in my own pot of exact
proportion.

It was raining, on and
off, things on and off, windscreen wipers, radios. 'Hey, can you
burn me a copy of this?' T_____ said. Maybe this time I'll do what
you ask. She didn't remember she'd asked me before. 'That's the
great thing about senility,' she joked, 'Everytime you hear a CD it's
a whole new experience'.

And then at the scissor
junction, criss cross traffic, I was approaching from the left onto a
70mph road, looking in front, looking over my shoulder, a guy in a
white car up my ass. I accelerated to flow away from him, noticing
the red brake lights of those in front of me. Slammed on my own
brakes. Everyone jolted in their seatbelts. Didn't understand. No,
I was going faster, stopped. Worried I'd get rear ended. Ten yards
in front of me a 'hot hatch' span to face the oncoming traffic. A
silver estate slewed across two lanes. I watched the traffic slow up
behind me. They'd absorb any rear end impact. I was surprised I
wasn't shaking.

'There's been an
accident,' I said in my most measured voice. We had ringside seats.
Two seconds to realise no-one was hurt. Thank ye Gods. My
perameters had become smaller and smaller. I started with 'Do I
really want to go to camp and nothing is ready for camp'. This had
progressed to 'My car's broken, how the hell do I get to camp?' And
now, 'I could've got killed on the way to camp'. Smaller and
smaller, telescopic. Brings things right into focus. Pin prick eyed
reality. Reality?

Sat in a traffic jam for
nearly half an hour.

Supermarket for the
coffee, tea, some sugar and a corkscrew. Six bottles of mead between
us and no corkscrew.

Driving out of Lewes, past
the Co-op funeral home, with the truly horrible stone pointy
structure thing, and I was thinking about what I wanted from the
camp. Difficult. Two things on my mind. Why do I have such a
chronic inferiority complex? Does it matter why? No. How can I
stop being a glutton of self-sabotage? For self-sabotage?
Something, something, I can't identify it. And J____. What am I
meant to do? It's all fallen apart so spectacularly. We were best
friends and we haven't spoken in eight months. I don't know what to
do. Walk away? Try and fix it? Maybe it's like the altnernator on
my car. Maybe not.

Whistling along the A26.
It's beautiful out there. The Downs have given way to the chalky
flatlands. Soon the earth will rise again as the Weild. The Weild,
where the wild men lived, untamed by Romans. I like this place. The
land sings to me, not in a cracked and fissured voice. No. Here the
land undulates in perfect pitch. God I love it. Little lambs were
doing their thing. How does Raven say it? Ah yes, 'Frolick,' a
brilliant world. There they were, white and fluffy against a verdant
green background. They're like clouds with hooves. The May flower's
out as well, I think, although I'm rubbish at these things, removed
from the land.

We pulled back onto the
field. Matt had put on the tents and I apologised for the Heinz
tomato soup, given that I'd burned the two sweet potato frottage. I
can burn soup. That's a rare quality huh?

The heavens opened.
Beating of the bounds was abandoned, instead we met in a marquee
tent. It was lovely, for the strangest of reasons. At home I have
several strings of Tibetan flags. I have no idea what they say, not
being adept in the Tibetan language, whatever it is. Of course, I
didn't buy them myself. Of course? Of course. I'm not Tibetan.
I've always liked bunting, that curious British tradition of hanging
flags across streets to celebrate matters of state. How wonderful,
all those pretty colours. In the tent, strung around the edge, were
hand drawn flags, red, blue, green and white. Little, little, each
one meticulously engraved. Maybe there were a hundred of them. A
wolf, the earth, a tree, strawberries, stories in small blocks of
colour. Someone had made these, some people, and given them, freely,
just so I could have a nice space … The love, the love in that
place. Give. Give. Give.

I was reminded how the
concept of gift works. You don't give in order to receive. There is
no ego in this kind of anonymous giving. They, whoever they are,
create this unconditional love. Holds me. Lets me know nothing is
required of me except respect …

Hello air, of flight and
intellect, winds of change. Hello fire, of creativity and smelting,
I remember the burning times. Hello water, of healing and flowing,
take this floating spirit. Hello earth, of genorosity and bountiful
harvest, give us me somewhere to stand.

Hold hands. Raise the
Awen. Say the Druid's prayer …

Grant O God thy
protection
And in protection, strength
And in strength,
understanding.
And in understanding, knowledge.
And in
knowledge, the knowledge of justice
And in the knowledge of
justice, The love of it.
And in the love of it, the love of all
existences,
For all things are sacred.

Sleep escaped me on Friday
night. Around the central hearth I thought maybe I could let my
dreams rise with the steam from the kettles. No. It stormed. Rain
lashed against the side of our tent. I woke up every ten minutes
listening to the wind. The musicians are brilliant. I heard them
drifting across the field. The human voice is a marvelous thing. It
can sing the storm down when it wants to, has the energy to.
Beautiful. Someone once told me that the greatest of man's
inventions was not fire but music. I give my thanks to those who are
able to bring this melodic truth home to me.

Fitful. Yes. My ears
ached from the attention to weather. I heard it whipping around,
passing over, hurling rain against the tent. I was warm enough, but
unsettled. I don't like wind. It gets into my head and stirs my
brain around with its frenzy. How can one be still when nature is
ripping and pulling? And yet in the morning, when the sun rose,
behind a veil of clouds, I felt cleansed, as I crawled from my tent,
almost incoherent.

To Rowland, I have to move
to Rowland. He's an amazing man. Bacon and eggs followed by a talk
by the leading authority (a professor no less) of Arthurian legend
… He did this thing, asking a couple of people to name their
mother, grandmother, great grandmother, people couldn't get past the
third generation. Three generations to a century, it's a fairly
widely accepted formula. He went around the tent, getting three
people to raise their hands at a time, and stepping back into history
century by century. What was strange was how many hands were raised
to get to 300AD, only fifty three. Fifty three members of my family
and I'd be back to King Arthur's time. Doesn't seem that many. A
small party.

Rowland talked about how
there are two King Arthur's, one that is historical and one that is
personal. Essentially, England didn't exist before the Angles and
the Saxons, a Germanic people, prior to that it was a tribal region,
left in ruins after the Roman occupation ended – well, at least in
the cities.

So who was Arthur and what
did he do? Gildas, who apparently hated everyone, thought of him as
a brigand. Nennius, who considered himself a scholar and merely
wanted to collect and collate the information that was around at the
time, called him a duke of war. Geoffrey of Monmouth, who
incidentally was in the pay of some some aristocrat or other, painted
a strange picture, possibly motivated by the political inclinations
of his patron.

A brigand and a war lord
then? Undoubtedly Arthur, along with the rest of pre-Saxon Britons,
had been subject to Romanisation, but this wasn't Rome and what the
Romans did was dependent upon what their legions, recruited from the
length and bredth of their empire, did. For example, it is said that
the North of England was invaded by a black army. Who? A Roman
legion from Egypt perhaps, or further afield. They were a highly
mobile empire and the tombstones of these leaders can still be seen
in York today. Black men. Yes black men. And what did they bring
with them? The concept of cavelry. Those that had been used to
fighting on the steppes of the middle east, much as they are today,
were master horsemen. Consider the Saxons. Blunt people. Axe
weilders. Spear bearers. No match for a cavelry man.

Over and over again in the
history of Britain we are told of invasions. At school I studied the
Vikings, and yet today I find out they were never called Vikings,
they were known as Vikes (the noun), Viking was the verb. It's
obvious when you look at the word. It wasn't so long back that
archaeologists were insistent that in neolithic times we had been
invaded by the beaker people? Who? Well they were called the beaker
people because suddenly pots started to be made with flat bottoms,
whereas previously they were rounded. Must be an invasion. No. A
development, probably based on trade relations. Our history is
riddled with misinterpretations and incorrect assertions. Like urban
myths they gain credance, and are then trotted out as if they are
true.

Back to Rowland and the
Saxons. They trickled in, initially, colonising by degrees. I
expect there were struggles over resources, there always are, and
power bases will have been challenged, but the one thing that must
remain, in order for a population to thrive, is co-operation. The
Saxons would have needed the goodwill and hospitality of the locals.
Why fight a war when you can achieve your aims in a less costly
fashion? It wasn't an issue of subjugation, rather fairly peaceable
negotiation, each side attempting to exploit the situation to the
best of their advantage. Admitedly, there probably was the odd
skirmish when things didn't go exactly to plan.

The Saxons found it easy
though, to win over the local population, because the peasants
operated on the basis of survival and self interest. After Briton
had been abandoned by the Romans it had fallen into disrepair. The
Romans didn't only take their armies, they also took their craftsmen
and administrators. What had previously been a well managed system
fell into chaos. With no-one to run them, whole cities collapsed.
Masons, plumbers, etc, followed their masters. Why stay in a place
where there was no chance of making a living? We see it time and
time again, even now. When states implode everyone who has anything
leaves. People follow money. The peasants had no money. Those who
had worked for and with the Romans had been granted Roman
citizenship, which they took full advantage of. When it became
apparent that there was nothing to be gained by remaining in Briton
they left to find their fortune elsewhere. Mobile. The Roman empire
was mobile and it recruited selectively. Slaves could be got
anywhere. Skills and knowledge were the key, so incentives were
offered.

Over a period of years
many people deserted Briton, moving to Britanny and establishing a
satellite country there, in much the same way as the founding fathers
did with America. Arthur's job, during this period, was to keep the
Saxons in order just long enough for this to be effected. He had his
horses and his knights – those that rode with him. It is said he
bore the dragon standard, not a flag, but a wind sock, the mouth at
the open end and the tail fluttering in the breeze. An account talks
of how his army would roar, and perhaps this is down to wood carvings
inside the standard, slatted so as the wind passed through they
vibrated and growled. Legend is almost always constructed from a few
facts conflated to make the possible seem impossible, history works
in reverse.

The Saxons were foot
soldiers, accustomed to brawling combat. Arthur used the cavelry
method, and thus was able to cover much more ground, from the site of
one battle to another. Perhaps this is why he seemed to be
everywhere, and omnipotence can appear godlike. Is there evidence
for Arthur being a cavelry man? Probably, but I haven't researched
the subject myself so I cannot provide a reference, but it is
important to bear in mind that somone was funding his exploits. He
wasn't a king himself, just a duke of war. He was fighting for
something. What?

As the Romans and Britons
left they created a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum. They needed
space and time to manage an dsciplined evacuation. They didn't run
like refugees. Instead, they took everything of any value.
Obviously someone had to stay behind, hold off the marauding masses.
One wouldn't want one's nearest and dearest robbed and savaged.
Until the evacuation was complete a certain sort of order had to be
ruthlessly maintained. Is this why Arthur disappears so suddenly and
then turns up again, apparently, in Brittany? Because the aim was
achieved and 'England' was left to the Saxons?

Other factors to
consider:-

1. We had a written
language before the Saxons arrived, before the Romans arrived with
their latin, it was called Ogham. Is language what defines a
culture? Is this why so little remains in terms of documentary
evidence, because it was all written down in a script which is now
largely forgotten?

2. Arthur was probably
not his name, as it means, quite literally, 'the bear'. So who was
he? Where are his relics? If he did go to Britanny that would
explain, perhaps, why we have no grave here, why Camelot has never
been discovered. Camelot. Lancelot. Lancelot was from Brittany.

3. With regard to the
sword in the stone and Excalibur. Few people know that they are two
different stories. In ancient times it was not uncommon for metal to
be cast in stone, so the blade might well have been made in this
manner, and released once the casting process was complete. That
story might simply refer to the process of coming to own a sword, an
incredibly precious thing in those times – spears and axes were
relatively cheap and easily produced by comparison. Excalibur was
given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. Excalibur, Caliburn,
*******, meaning hard star. Hard star? Could that be another name
for a meteorite? Is it possible that Excalibur was made from an
alloy literally out of this world. Perhaps that would account for
its fearsome qualities?

4. And, maybe it's worth
thinking about the nature of immortality and how we achieve it.
Christians believe that, we're good and worthy and have faith, we go
to heaven, forever to sit with God. Pagans? The early Britons
probably held the same view as many cultures at that time, one that
is still prevalent today, that it is good and fitting to die,
especially for one's country – dulce et decorum est propatria et
mori. What did they think happened to them? Were they like the
Vikes, who believed in Valhallah? When you die do you cease to
exist? Of course not, you only cease to exist when you're entirely
forgotten, expunged from memory. Stories are how we keep things
alive. If you can name it then it's real. If you forget how to call
it then it will not come, slowly it will disappear, until it's little
more than a murky feature, sloshing about somewhere in the backwater
of our consciousness. King Arthur is not like that. I imagine that,
at some point every day, someone remembers him. You're probably
thinking about him now. How can he be dead when he's so prevalent?
I suspect he's more real to you than you own great-great grandmother.

It's all buried in the
mists of time, the mists of Avalon, and we will never 'know', not in
the same way that we 'know' our own names, the history of our own
families, all 53 generations, back to the time of Arthur. Arguably
we could rely on the writings of Gildas, Nennius, Geoffrey of
Monmouth, the Mabinogian and Thomas Mallory's Morte d'Arthur …

… I don't read
newspapers that often. I find the media twist events, misses things
out, adds things in, according to their own agenda, driven by a
certain political perspective and mood of the times. Mallory is
perhaps a case in hand. Writing at the height of the romantic
courtly love era, it was inevitable that he would include references
to affairs of the heart, the nature of honour, etc. Arthur the duke
of war became Arthur the king of the Britons, with a bountiful court,
a fair lady wife, a retinue of knights and a mission from God.
Stories both reflect and create the culture they are born from and
into. They are devices; to teach us lessons (such as Jesus'
parables), to maintain a thread of continuity throughout change
(Russian fairy tales) and to enable a people to be a people, a
homogenous mass, a tribe with close identifications and affiliations.

This is Arthur's role. He
was the first superhero, and nations need their superheroes. It is
said, if England ever needs him, Merlin will return, and sure enough,
during every period of unrest and difficulty, the Arthurian legend
has been repopularised, almost like a star that will guide us home.
We know the value of Englishness, not based on some crappy ideal of
patriotism. No. It's not about England for the English. We were
never that inhospitable to immigrants; Romans, Saxons, Normans. They
brought their influences and we, where appropriate, happily adopted
them, using them for our own purposes. But what does it mean to be
quintessentially English? What lies at the heart of this small
island? England didn't even exist until the Saxons arrived, so it's
a bit of a mistake to refer to Arthur's Briton in this manner, yet,
yet, there's something indefinable, because it's what it means now.
Scotland and Ireland have always been separate, culturally and
linguistically, but England and Wales, from the height of the
Brecons, down the Shores of Gwythion, over to Boudica's East Anglia,
up to the city state of York. For millenia we have been occupied by
a savage power and some of that still resonates today.

On the outskirts of
Salisbury there's an ancient iron age hillfort called Old Sarum.
It's colosal, maybe 500 metres in diameter and of an equal height.
This would have been handbuilt, probably by men, without the aid of
mechanised equipment. The ditches that surround it are, even after
nearly 2,000 years, deep gorges in the land. Of course, no-one can
say for sure why they constructed this monumental edifice of mud,
stone and grass, just that they did. At a later date an abbey was
built on top. The ruins are still there today. I've sat leaning on
the crumbling walls eating a picnic, marvelling at the sunset and
listening to ravens call. Strangely, the abbey never got to open its
doors, as shortly after completion it burned to the ground. It must
have been a massive undertaking, hauling all that masonry up to the
top of the hillfort. Many man hours, lots of expertise. They never
re-built it. Perhaps they saw it as an omen, so instead began work
on what is now Salisbury Cathedral in the towm centre proper. They
even dug up the bodies they'd buried on Old Sarum and re-interred
them in a new graveyard. Whatever it was that caused such a
catastrophe plainly also resulted in the good Christian folk
abandoning the ancient hillfort in favour of hallowed land somewhere
else. Our history stretches back thousands of years, and it's
littered with peculiarities such as Old Sarum and Salisbury
Cathedral. No-one can now remember or recall the whys and
wherefores, yet they are not entirely impervious to our enquiries, on
occasion appearing tantalising close. A history makes a people who
they are, why they are, what they think they can be. Ours, the
Englishers, is rich in architecture, mystery and swmming in blood.
Is it any wonder we need a man like Arthur, a duke of war, the head
of the Round Table, a servant of God??? And how tantalising,
because, like most history, he completely vanishes …

On Saturday the weather
was fair, clear sunshine and a brisk wind, still damp underfoot from
weeks of rain and the storms of the previous night. Typically
English. We're dour for a reason. I'd taken my leathers, a set of
old motorcycle trousers, damn heavy but totally waterproof, and my
para boots are fantastic, my feet stayed warm and toasty the whole
weekend through. I don't really have any hippy jumpers, or t-shirts
with pictures of the horned god, rising suns, cheery images of myth
and magic. I don't wear a pentagram either. I found myself,
surrounded by folks in sandals and wide brimmed hats, while I was
wearing an anti-capitalist hoody and a greasy black cap adorned with
a PLO badge. I knew I looked rough. Rough and ready. That's me.

The kids were having a
ball, swinging on ropes tied to trees, running around the field,
fighting with wooden swords. There was a dog called Jessie, only the
size of a cat, who'd circuit camp, scrounging food and cuddles where
she could. By two O' clock I was exhausted, having not slept the
night before, and being accutely aware that I'd have to provide
dinner for five hungry mouths, cooked in a single pot on a Trangia
stove. Sometimes I find it daunting, the family and their needs.
Making sure everyone's got their raincoats on, their wellingtons on
the right feet, knows where the toilet paper is, and not to go into
the marshy field, in case they drown in body sucking mud. It's hard
to let go and just go with the flow. This needs to be done. That
needs to be done. I lay down on one of the kids' camp-beds and fell
asleep, my booted feet hanging off the end, my body incased in that
warm tent atmosphere, when the sun's been on the canvas all morning
and the door's been open.

Outside there is a
lightness to life. Once you accept the mud, the fact you have to use
a shit pit, and the inevitable struggle without many creature
comforts. You realise how superfluous practically everything is, and
how we're surrounded by mountains of crap. Listening to the little
birds in the tree behind me, the cows in the next field, mooing away,
the occasional shout of a child, either squealing in excitement or
screaming in temper, to fall asleep to that symphony is beautiful,
natural, comforting.

I missed P___'s
singing/sound workshop. Nevermind. I don't think anyone was taking
a register.

It was explained to us
that the evening ritual was to be our own personal journey with
Arthur, through his landscape and associated characters. I'd just
woken up so I'm not entirely sure I was listening properly.
Pathworking, a method of walking, inside your own head, but often
along unfamiliar routes. The territory had been explored, that was
the point of Rowland's talk. The map was to be provided by the
people we encountered. This is why we have stories. Without a
narrative there would be no framework. History isn't about places,
rather the folks who inhabit them, otherwise it would be biology or
eco-science. Characters such as Modred, the Green Knight, Guinivere,
the Lady of the Lake, we've all heard of them. This is our heritage.
There are others, Lady Ragnal for example, Nimue, less well known,
but certainly not bit players. It's like looking at a picture,
certain aspects are immediately apparent, nevertheless, it is often
the background, the setting, that makes for a complete image which
can fire our imagination.

But first sword fighting!

P____ had very generously
brought along some of his re-enactment weapons. They were laid out
on several sheepskins and he carefully described each one and its
use. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the names, because they were
foreign to me, however, I can see them still, in my mind's eye.
There was a scythe, cast in brass, with an antler handle. Small.
Used for magic. Originally designed for herb cutting. P_____ said
that we must not touch the blades, as a single sweat print could
damage them, but we were allowed to pick them up. The antler handle
was a perfect mould for gripping, and it felt warm, despite the fact
I was the first to touch it. There were a series of bone handled
bladed items, not the traditional swords we're used to, because they
had no cross at the base. He showed us, with the help of J___ how
these were weilded and how, blade against blade, the warrior could
become injured as there was no protection for the hand. I looked
very closely at the smallest of these. It had been made by strands
of steel being woven, heated, hammered, and again, and again. The
imperfections were obvious, small infarctions could be seen on the
metal. It was was if the blacksmith was still present by virtue of
his method. And then there were the broadswords, black handled,
heavy as heavy things. I can't remember whether P_____ said these
were cast or forged. In any event, it was the design that fascinated
me. Down the centre ran a groove, fairly deep and fairly wide.
Apparently that's there for two reasons. Firstly, when a sword
enters the flesh of an opponent it becomes lodged. There is not a
ready hole waiting for penetration, so the sword gets stuck in a kind
of vacuum. Obviously, it is not possible for a warrior to abandon
his weapon, or to spend several minutes trying to drag it out of
another's body, so there has to be a way of ensuring the seal is
broken, hence the groove. Blood runs down this, air flows up it, the
sword can be pulled out with ease. Secondly, although this possibly
was not a consideration in manufacture and use, the groove acts as an
amplifier. We heard, when P_____ and J___ crossed swords what the
metal sounds like. It sings … There were also two axes, with
wooden shafts and shiny heads, lighter than the swords, more
economical to produce.

It would have been both
impossible and ridiculous for us to really fight with swords, so
instead we were shown some choreographed moves, the attacks and
blocks. The one thing that sunk in was how important it is to
maintain the right angle, 90 degrees. If you don't, then your
opponents blade will slide down yours, dangerously compromising your
balance and the safety of your hands and arms. At no point do you
want to be in a position with your sword facing the ground and your
body left open, or your opponent will whip out his belt blade and
drive it into your gut.

I, and practically
everyone else there, had no previous experience of sword fighting –
unsurprisingly – so we were armed with stiff foam sticks and taken
into the field. I chose Matt as my partner, mainly because I wanted
to see if I could hit him. I sensed, from P_____ that this was not
necessarily the mindset he was looking for, but the size of his
humour matches his frame and every little faux pas is forgiven at
druid camp.

Oh yes it was great fun,
as we stood in our two lines, about 30 of us in total. At first we
learned the moves, slowly and precisely. I thought back, but not to
my own experience, rather I felt how it must of been as the boys of
Arthur's Briton trained. They would have stood in fields. An older
and wiser man would have shown them weaponry and then got them to
practice, while he looked on, correcting mistakes, commenting as
appropriate. I wonder if they got their feet wet, or their fingers
bashed – thanks for that Matt. I expected they would also have
wanted to graduate, quicker than was sensible, from dummy blades to
the real thing. Did their shouts fill the air like ours did?
Perhaps they laughed at their own foolish wrong footedness on
occasion. Maybe their mothers looked on and clapped and cheered at
the spectacle of it all.

The best bit though was
the boar snout. P_____ divided us up into men and women. The men
stood shoulder to shoulder in a straight fixed line, their sword
hands held out in front, their shield hands folded over their chests.
The women were arranged into a wedge. The tallest of us stood at
the front (not me). She was flanked on either side by the next
tallest, forwards facing, their shoulders pushed into each of hers,
strengthening the force she had. The wedge was further re-inforced
by another line, flanking the second in the same manner, and another
line, until we formed a wide triangle, a boar's snout I guess. On
the count of three we moved off towards the men, trying to look as
mean as we could, keeping step by chanting an animalistic growl. The
men were smiling. Sods. We were about to attempt to break through
their line, but there were twice as many of them as there were of us.
And I know it's not a right liberated thing to say, but they do tend
to be stronger, men, than women, physically.

We pushed into them with
measured force, carried forwards by our chanting steps. They barely
buckled. Then I realised the power of the boar's snout. With each
woman pushing on the shoulder of the woman in front of her we stood
our ground. We heaved. The men's line gave way slightly and we
became surrounded by a horseshoe. We had to hold our formation. Our
strength lay purely in our collective will and discipline. It got
hot and dark, because most of the men were taller than us and I put
my head down. There were a few moments of shoving, elbows, trampled
feet, a sense of claustrophia but a refusal to be beaten back, and
then we did it, their line broke and we were through. Of course, on
the battlefield I expect a few at the front would have to be
sacrificed to the sword, but at close quarters the skirmish would
take the shape of brute force and determination.

Life's like that, a wall.
Sometimes it feels as if there are immovable objects standing in my
way. All the pushing and shoving robs me of energy. So often I just
have to keep my head down. But at the moment we broke through,
against practically all the odds, it brought home to me that it is
possible and achievable. I have to carry on. Sure, the walls are
not simply going to disappear, they never do, but with discipline,
people standing at my shoulder, a plan, my feet firmly planted on the
ground and the will to succeed, well, you know, I just might.

This realisation prepared
me for the evening ritual.

I had come to camp with
two issues bothering me. Firstly, why am I such a glutton for
punishment? Why do I self-sabotage so effectively? Why do I have a
massive inferiority complex, more importantly, how can I deal with
it, because it makes me incredibly insecure and aggressive? The
second 'problem' was more concise; What do I do about J____?

At the appointed time we
all met up in the large, hand-drawn-bunting marquee. I'd been
relaxing for about two hours, eating some, drinking mead, chatting,
washing. Matt was dressed in his robe and I always feel he looks
like a stranger in this ritual garb. Maybe that's how it's meant to
be, kind of disassociative, so we're each individuals rather than
bound. I don't have a robe, this is obviously a serious lack. I
must make one, perhaps tomorrow, I keep saying I will but I never get
round to it.

The ritual was explained
to us again; that it would be silent, take approximately 90 minutes,
and we were to be outside, meeting characters from Arthurian legend,
who would speak to us. Fine, I thought I understood.

It started with the
joining of hands and chanting of the Awen. I like the Awen. It
warms me, like a sort of brandy air or how you'd imagine the earth
breathing into your face. The druids have a way of cascading it,
until it becomes watery and you feel as if you're swimming in it.
Everyone sings in their own voice, some high, some deep, and together
the harmony is quite beautiful, comforting yet invigorating.

When he entered the tent,
the bent man in cream robes, I was reminded of Papa Legba, from
Voudon tradition, but that only lasted a minute. The figure before
me leaked some sort of, difficult to explain, an energy of bentness.
I think of Moses as bent, a back that has carried many cares and many
wisdoms for many years. It is not a sign of weakness, rather of
strength, that he is still standing. Sometimes I'm barely standing.
It seems so much easier to give up and sit down or lie down. Nothing
gets done when you are prone though, prostrate. Some days it is a
huge effort to remain on your feet, but it can be necessary.

As the Awens reverberated
around the tent he peered out from under his hood, touching people on
the shoulder in turn. They left, starting on their journey. I was
one of the first. When I got outside I noticed night had fallen
fairly swiftly but not entirely. It was past twilight yet not dark.
Trees were silouetted in the distance, along with other figures and a
skyline which now appeared forgiving instead of raging. It sounds
slightly corny to say 'a gentle breeze was blowing,' but there was

I took a deep breath.

The space had been
prepared earlier. Various tents were dotted around the field I stood
in, and we were told that there were other things in the adjacent
field. I decided to start with the tent nearest to me. There was a
woman sitting on a throne. I knelt almost as a reflex. She took my
hand in both of hers.

“What do you honour?”
she asked.

“My family, husband,
children, friends …”

“Yourself?” she
interjected.

I didn't want to cry, not
after five words, but she seemed to have cut through everything,
right to the heart of my question, my issue, my problem. “No,”
I said, “I don't honour myself”.

“And your mother?”

“My mother?” I
could barely speak. Why was this woman asking me about my mother. I
cannot talk about my mother. I cannot even think about my mother.

It was like being shot by
a bolt. All of a terrible sudden I missed my mum so much. She's
been dead three years now. We had a very stormy relationship. A
massive hole opened up inside me.

“Put your hands on
the earth.”

I lurched forwards, tears
streaming down my face, barely able to breathe. I was panting.

“Can you feel her?”

I could. I could feel the
mother, the mother of all mothers, my mother, me as mother. She was
very temperate and really bloody solid. I felt her size. My hole
seemed small now, it had stopped gaping and threatening to tear me in
two.

“She will support
you, cradle you, hold you.”

It has been a long time
since a mother held me, since I sought that, remembered it was there.
'Yes I will honour myself,' I thought, as mother, as daughter, as an
infinitismally small part of this great universe. I felt connected.
It has been a while.

I cannot remember whether
I kissed the lady's hand. If I didn't I should have done.

Staggering out of the tent
I was grateful for the cool night air. I went and stood the central
hearth and stared into the flames, shaking, crying, a huge upsurge of
emotion inside me, but I was not frightened or overcome. I observed
my breath and waited until it had returned to a regular rhythm.

In the next tent a solider
sat, leaning heavily on his sword, gasping, almost broken. Again I
knelt, but he took my hand and commanded me to approach.

“Have you ever been
wounded so severely that you thought you might never heal?” he
asked.

Oh my god, oh my god, when
I thought Jordan was going to die, after various men have taken so
much it's felt as if my heart has not just been broken but ripped out
from under my ribs, right through my chest wall, when I have lost or
destroyed things that can never be replaced. “Yes,” I
answered simply.

“And who helped you
stand through this?”

“My friends.”

He nodded. I knew he was
the wounded healer, the injured warrior, Arthur himself some would
say. “And now?”

I could not believe he was
talking about J____. There have been occasions, over a period of
years, when I was on my knees and she picked me up, leant me some of
her strength. Maybe she needs me now. Maybe I need her. Oh no. I
can remember once, I was kneeling on the floor and she was sitting on
the sofa. We could not talk about, the 'thing'. You know, sometimes
there just are not any words, or you can't get them out, or if you
name it and speak it you'll make it real and then you're lost,
because it has to be somewhere else, not now, not here, so we held
hands and cried … and as I cried she collected up all my tears and
made them into a waterfall in the sky … and as she cried I
collected up all her tears and made them into a beautiful pond, where
lotus flowers floated and small fish the colour of rainbows swam.

“And now will you
help me stand,” the wounded healer said.

I don't know whether I can
help her stand or she can help me stand anymore. It breaks my heart.
“Yes,” I said, thinking that if this man could get on his
feet … this is how it works … I can help someone stand, I just
have to remember some more, do it some more …

He towered over me. The
sword glinted in his hand. Perhaps we are all warriors, certainly,
we all have to fight, or maybe that is just how it feels. So many
soldiers of fortune, hostages to fate.

He knighted me, invoking
the spirits of earth, and I pledged to defend justice and the land.

What happened next is a
bit of a blur. I needed to sit down. On the way to the adjoining
field I noticed a small alter, decorated with four candles and a
ram's skull. I went to look at it. I heard shouting. At first I
didn't realise it was directed at me. “How dare you approach
and stand like a gawping fool.” I didn't respond. There was a
clattering or armour, metal. “You are not ready yet,” he
bellowed. I turned to see him approaching. I felt angry,
embarrassed, frightened, small. He was fairly close. I strode off,
annoyed. He continued to shout about my impudence. I thought about
how I felt, how often I find myself in a postion where someone else
appears to have power and authority and how I react to that – usually
negatively. I hate them instantly, because I shrivel. Inside me
there is a belief that I am small, insignificant, unworthy. I think
this is an inferiority complex. It makes me reactive. I spit and
claw. Why can't I just walk away?

I found a quiet spot next
to the stream. I cried a lot, not for myself but for my mistakes. I
cried until my shoulders hurt and my breath was ragged. Eventually I
remembered to look up and saw a darkened horizon. Wide trees were
black smudges, solid yet indefinable. The sky was massive, ribbed
with strings of fast moving clouds, going to I don't know where. I
didn't want to jump on though. Here was my space. Another traveler
approached me and started asking questions. 'I am nothing, I am
no-one,' I thought. I suppose everyone is looking for answers, often
in the wrong place.

There was a queue outside
the next tent, so I doubled back on myself. I noticed that the tent
we had started off in had been divided. There was no queue there. I
went in cautiously. The bent backed man was seated on a sheepskin.
I realised my mistake immediately. I could not hear what he was
saying, because I knew I had made a mistake and I could not extricate
myself from the situation. We were meant to come here when we had
finished our quest, not half way through. I should have listened
better, or found the words now to excuse myself. Instead I followed
his instructions.

Would I like to drink from
the Grail.

Yes I would.

He filled a goblet from
the brass bowl and passed it to me. The first swallow was to be for
the past, the next for the present and the last for the future. I
half expected for the water to taste of salt. He blessed me and said
I was welcome to stay, but that I must not chatter. I went and sat
on the grass, furious that I had misunderstood how the process
worked, annoyed that I had not listened, or understood, and now I was
out. It reminded me of being at school and constantly failing in
games' lessons, either in terms of being chosen or actually winning.
So much of my life revolves around the simple truth that I get it
constantly and consistently wrong. There was not anyone else in the
tent. They all seemed to have grasped the rules. Typical.

I went and sat in the
corner.

After 10 minutes another
traveler arrived, but he did not see the man behind the screen. I
tried to work out what would happen if I left the tent and continued
on my quest. Would that be severely frowned upon? Was it possible
that I could hide my mistake? That would be lying though. No. I
had buggered it up good and proper, as per bloody usual. I lay down
on the ground, completely disconsolate. Maybe this was the lesson I
was meant to learn. Inferiority began to creep through me along with
the damp and cold. And then I thought perhaps what I had to deal
with was the fact I can make mistakes and recover from them. No-one
was blocking my exit. I was free to do as I chose. Did I chose to
lie in a miserable heap on the grass or did I chose to go back out
there and find whatever was awaiting me?

I got up and left the
tent.

I thought maybe I had made
this mistake because I had been too impatient. I didn't want to wait
outside in a queue, so I had found the easiest route around this. I
decided to join the longest line. Through the canvas I saw the
shadows of someone reading tarot cards. I heard laughter. I saw
people hugging. I stood there for quite a while, maybe 30 minutes or
so. The faeries appeared, small children carrying baskets of
biscuits. I know one is not meant to eat faerie food, I know this
from way back, but for some reason I took a biscuit and put it in my
mouth. I was not even hungry, not in a physical sense anyway.

The green knight turned
up. He started shouting, about how we were all here waiting, seduced
by the sound of tinkling laughter, when there were other things to
see. I wanted to tell him to go away and leave me alone, leave us
alone. Why did this man keep shouting at me? Mordred joined him.
To be honest, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't work out whether
I was meant to believe them or not. If I stayed was I just
responding to my own stubborn will? If I followed his advice was I
being hoodwinked? I had been standing there for an unusually long
time, but I'd enjoyed the pause, the space, and I thought I knew who
was in the tent. I'd been looking for Morgan Le Fey. The morrigan
has kept me waiting for a long time over a period of years. I
presumed that I'd find Le Fey similar with regard to this attribute.

Above me the sky had
cleared. Out in the country there's less light pollution, so the
blacks are blacks and the stars are bright. Night had fallen
totally. A slight brisk wind and the occasional waft of lush late
spring rose from the earth. Yesterday's rain had cleared the
atmosphere beautifully. I looked up. Wow, everything was there,
laid out in brilliant clarity. I wish I knew more about
constellations, because there was a whole story in the heavens and I
couldn't read it. Unusually for me though I felt no frustration, no
failure, I just stared and stared. This must have been what they
saw, the old magicians, peasants, even painters like Michelangelo.
This is why they decorated their church roofs, when they moved their
religions inside.

A horn blew, three times,
marking the end of the ritual. I hadn't got to be with Morgan Le
Fey, but I believed I'd seen something more. So often I don't look,
or place myself in a position where I can see … there's a lesson in
there somewhere. I walked back towards the main field, then
remembered T_____ had been standing next to me in the queue. We
hadn't acknowledged each other at the time, but I know she doesn't
see too well in the dark, and her knees are knackered so the rough
ground might have presented a problem. I walked back. She was
standing in the same place. I made a triangle out of my arm for her
to hold on to. She slipped her hand through the crook and we left
the field, in silence. Friends don't need words it would seem …
some friends.

Singing round the fire
later was good. D___ and the two P___s were in fine fettle. There
was a particular song I enjoyed, by a woman with a strange and
creaking voice. I can't remember all the words, but it was about a
marriage, how the man found other women attractive, especially the
young ones, the easy ones, the smiling ones. His wife wasn't like
that, not anymore, particularly in light of his behaviour. Neither
were to blame. It's just the way it is sometimes. Importantly
though, she said she would 'not hate other women'. Matt doesn't have
this 'issue', but I knew what she meant, about how we (women) can
occasionally let jealousy colour or relationships with each other.
Again, it was back to that inferiority complex thing.

Around the fire there's
such a feeling of camaraderie. All throughout life there's this
whole struggle thing going on. Getting out of bed in the morning is
a fight sometimes. Who should do what, whether it's the dishes or
work that needs to be delegated within a professional environment.
Round the fire it's not like there, because we're all there together.
Together is such a hard feeling to achieve and maintain in this
world. And we don't do communal things, not as a rule. We eat
separately, sleep separately, suffer separately, hope separately.
Once we get home and shut our front doors that's it. So hard now,
with the TV and our fractured communities, most of us straining to
just get by. I used to do this thing, of smiling in the street and
saying 'good morning' to complete strangers. Some people would look
at me as if I was mad. It shouldn't be this way …

It started to rain and I
didn't want to get wet so we went to bed. It was a relief not to
have the rain smashing against the side of the tent. I fell asleep
almost straight away, but that could also have been due to the mead
and a rapidly encroaching exhaustion.

The end of camp is odd.
It was my fifth time and every one's been different. This camp I
really enjoyed, probably because I came with specific things in mind.
We do this talking stick thing, where everyone gets to speak.
T_____, being the wise old hag she is, said “I'm not sure I got
what I wanted, but I know I got what I needed”. I so needed this
camp. I had to learn, all over again, what it is I love about
Arthur, the wounded healer, the sword bearer, and what it is I can
love about myself. The stories, they give me a way of interpreting
the world around me, by providing a place I can stand in. P_____'s
'boar snout', that showed me what it feels like to push through a
wall, how much effort it takes, the best way to do it, and the sheer
joy at succeeding. The pathworking … I make mistakes, sometimes
big glaring ones, often ending up in a corner I think I can't get out
of, all the screaming around me, the recriminations, that sense of
inertia …

The Druid Oath

We swear

By peace and love to stand

Heart to Heart

And Hand in Hand

Mark O Spirit and hear us
now

Confirming this

Our sacred vow”

It's easy really, when you
strip away the bullshit.

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May 22

13791

There was a time when Fiona could reach
the light switch. She'd stretch her arm, press with her fingers and
then snuggle under the duvet. Now? She was in constant pain. Every
muscle in her body ached. It was too much effort. The lights, like
her agony, were left on. Only the intervention of another, person or
drug, could help.

“Cup of tea?” Adam's voice drifted
through the open bedroom door. In the kitchen downstairs he was
making tomorrow's packed lunches for the girls. Fiona barely had the
strength to answer. 'How can he expect me to shout?' she thought
irritably, 'He knows I don't have it in me'.

Adam appeared carrying a tray, a thin
smile slitting his face. “Up you get then.” Fiona groaned as
she struggled onto her elbows. She flopped forwards, hoping he'd
rearrange the pillows behind her back. Her breath came in short
blasts, beads of sweat began to form on her face, around her
hairline, above her top lip. Adam's smile faded. He put the tray
down and thump-slapped the pillows into shape.

At first, when it started, Fiona had
been grateful for his attentions. Eight months later and his
attitude was getting on her nerves. He didn't know what it was like
to be stranded all day, every day, in bed, unable to perform even the
simplest of tasks. Getting up to go to the toilet was a marathon
adventure. By the time she lowered herself on the seat she felt as
if she'd completed twenty six grueling miles. She was so sick and
tired, of the illness, of Adam, of everything.

Her arms lay limp on the duvet. He
passed her the mug of tea. “Can't I have it in a cup?” she said,
“These big mugs are really heavy, and there's too much in them”.

“But you don't want to get
dehydrated.”

“I'll be up and down all night.”
Tears formed in the corners of her eyes.

“Wake me,” he said, his mouth
getting tighter.

“You'll only complain in the
morning,” she snapped.

He nodded his head.

Last month Adam joined a support group
for partners of people suffering from ME. It was the same story from
everyone – trying to juggle work, domestic duties, the needs of their
children. It was bloody exhausting and completely thankless. He
discovered he wasn't the only one struggling with tidal waves of
depression. Most members were taking some form of medication to help
them deal with the stress and strain. Fiona didn't understand. She
couldn't cope with her own illness, let alone the way it was
affecting him.

Adam was reluctant to go to the
doctors. They'd had trouble with him. Initially he'd failed to
diagnose ME, saying Fiona was suffering from some sort of post viral
syndrome. As the weeks and months passed they'd become desperate.
The doctor was most obliging with sick notes, but Fiona was getting
worse. Eventually they went private, even though they couldn't
afford it, not on his wages as a train driver and the measely amount
of sick pay Fiona got. When they went back to their own GP he
sneered at the second opinion. “Yuppie flu,” he said with
derision. Adam could've punched him.

The television poured audio visual
rubbish into the bedroom. Fiona sat staring at it, glassy eyed, her
head cocked to one side. “I didn't know you liked watching Top
Gear,” Adam said. She'd always complained in the past. Something
about Jeremy Clarkson's leather blouson jacket and Tory politics.

“I don't,” she replied simply,
“Just can't find the remote”.

Adam handed it to her, trying to dredge
up a small portion of sympathy. He looked at her face, the way her
skin now sagged around her bones, creased like laundry left in the
tumble drier too long. She used to be quite attractive. They used
to have fun.

He bent down, untied his shoe laces and
started undressing from the feet up. Fiona paid no attention. There
was a time when she used reach for the light switch …

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May 21

13395

The Correct Way to Iron a Shirt

Orange cupboard doors stared blankly at
us. Wall tiles, stippled cream and decorated with brown flowers,
didn't say a word. There was a carpet, flatly stain resistant. And
a twin tub washing machine. And a folding, blue, plastic dish-rack.

The ironing board clattered as mother
assembled it, from vertical to horizontal. It wore two layers, like
an old lady in a twin-set. Things in our house were repaired, only
ever thrown away when deemed completely and utterly useless. Things,
not people. People were disposable. Some people were more
disposable than others.

She half-spat and half-licked her
fingers, lightly touched the iron plate and nodded in satisfaction as
her saliva buzzed against metal. “Don't ever do this,” she said,
“You might burn your hand”.

“But …”

“My skin's like asbestos.”

“How will I know when it's ready?”

“Leave it on for five minutes.”

“Oh, ok.”

My father had lots of shirts, folded
nearly in his drawers. He never wore them. Some years back he'd
left home, and his shirts. We waited in our neat piles, but he
didn't return. Every once in a while mother emptied his drawers and
laundered the contents. Maybe she thought he'd be disappointed if
everything wasn't fresh and clean. In retrospect I think that was
the problem in the first place.

She grabbed a shirt and laid it on on
the ironing board, collar dead central, body hanging limply over the
side. “Always inside out and from the outside in,” she said,
slamming the iron down on the collar's right tip. A sudden hiss of
steam escaped. The board creaked. “See,” she said, as the
fabric submitted, each crinkle forced out of existence. I nodded at
the perfect, crease free, flat horizon.

Once I'd been trained, her job became
my job. I waited for the man who never came home. I ironed his
shirts religiously, begging forgiveness …

And so it came to pass that she died.
I inherited her ironing board, vacuum cleaner, sewing machine, yogurt
maker and pressure cooker. I'd left home many years ago, in a flurry
of of tears and recriminations, each rebellion a step further away
from the threshold. She cried when I cut all my hair off, “Your
crowning glory,” she wailed. And the day I had my nose pierced/got
a tattoo/dropped out of university/discovered I was pregnant. “You
could always get rid of it,” she said, “You don't want to make
the same mistakes I did”.

Every time I press on the board it
creaks. Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak. I find its little
noises comforting, like when I hear my husband's tread on the stairs
as he comes to bed, or the sound of him breathing in his sleep.
Familiarity doesn't breed contempt. Frustration and unhappiness are
the chief culprits.

He doesn't wear shirts that often. No
need. Mother turned her nose up at his job. “Profession,” she
said, and the word sounded clammy. “Trade,” I replied, but it
made no odds. I saw a statue of a peacock once, its tail fashioned
from saw blades and its long neck from coiled bicycle chains. “It's
rusty,” mother said. She couldn't understand it was meant to be.

He's a good father. There's always
food on the table and clothes on the children's backs. His collar's
blue, so what? At least he comes home each night, usually. I don't
think mother missed this inescapable fact, but she seemed determined
to ignore it. No point in provoking her. With some people their
mind's literally made up and you can't get inside that fiction.

I touch the collar. It's warm. I'm
accustomed to washing his grubby stains, dirty underwear. This time
though, this time 'Vanish' didn't really do the trick. I can't see
the lipstick mark anymore, not in reality, but it's burnt into my
memory. Did she curl her fingers around the back of his neck? Rest
her head against his shoulder? Hear his words rattling through his
chest, all deep and musical behind those ribs?

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak.

Mother said “All men are dogs,” but
I didn't believe her, because she also said “All men are tomcats”.
Jane, who'd lived at Greenham Common in the 80s, said “All men are
rapists”. I didn't believe her either. She smoked cigars and I'm
pretty sure she was a lesbian. My sister said “The secret to a
happy marriage is good sex”. That seemed obvious enough, until she
found a business card for a strip club in her husband's trouser
pocket. She held onto the washing machine to stop her legs buckling.

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak.

The cuffs should be ironed the same way
as the collar, inside out and outside in. He has this style about
him, my husband, wears those gangster chrome elastic garters to keep
his shirt sleeves up. They've probably got a name. She's certainly
got a name. He doesn't like anything flapping. Perhaps it's my
gums, lips, the result of two children, a slightly neurotic
personality. I flap a lot. I bet she's cool and collected, uses
lip-liner and understands the function of various hair products.
Maybe she has her legs waxed at a salon. I shave mine in the bath
and then spend ten minutes cleaning the scummy tide mark. I haven't
been to the hairdressers in years.

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak.

And I wonder what he does with his
hands. Does he guide her through a crowd, his fingers resting
lightly on the small of her back? When he touches her does she let
him know it's welcome? With a smile? A gentle relaxation? And
where else does he put his hands? On her neck? Her breasts? Her
hips?

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak.
Slam, hiss, creak.

I fold each sleeve at the seam.
There's a stray thread. I want to bite it off with my teeth, but I
could pull the stitching by accident. Along with everything else,
mother left me her needlework box. It's red plastic, the type lots
of men using for storing their fishing tackle. An ugly thing.
Various reels of cotton sit snugly in a compartmentalised black tray.
She chose these, meticulously. Her hands worked with the crochet
needles too. I've forgotten how. The darning wool is of no use
either. Where are the scissors? I can't find them. I imagine my
eldest daughter has taken them. She steals everything, borrows and
doesn't return. “Where's the hairbrush? … my moisturiser? ….
that box of chocolates? … your father's affection?

Before she was born he was mine. By
the time she was one it dawned on me I had to share. The way he
treats her, as if the sun rises and sets with her smile. And she has
his eyes, his sense of humour, his manual dexterity. She has
everything.

“Apple of his bloody eye,” mother
said, her mouth twisting, “Daddy's little chicken wing. Daddy's
little flowerpot”. I couldn't deny it. On those rare Saturday
afternoons, after the final scores, when we sat on the sofa, with me
tucked up against him. “Well where is he now?” she said, an edge
of triumph in her voice.

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak.

The shirt is lying face up on the
board, its arms spread in mute apology. The stray thread curls at me
like a pubic hair on a fresh made made bed. Our bed? He wouldn't.
Would he? Slam, hiss, creak, slam, hiss, creak. He couldn't. Slam,
hiss, creak, slam, hiss, creak. Not in a million years. Slam, hiss
creak. Something turns in my stomach. It's a baby at night, trying
to find its thumb with its soft, clean mouth. I can hear it snuffle,
the sound of baby-gro toweling against against fluffy cotton. That's
how an idea starts; small, almost imperceptible, but then two things
connect, or don't connect, and it coughs into life. At first it's
just a couple of splutters. It could go either way. A moment of
silence. You listen with bated breath. There it is again, more
throaty this time, a forceful blast propelling the cry into your
consciousness. And it's not just your ears that respond. Your whole
body's alive to the interruption. The baby's woken up. It's
demanding your attention.

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak.

The sides of a shirt, so mother
advised, are ironed different ways up. The buttons have to be
facing, so as not to crimple the fabric. It's important to skirt the
edge of each one, each issue, each problem.

“Even at your sister's wedding.”

I knew what was coming next.

“In the garden.”

Why this persistence with truth?

“Against the silver birch.”

Where my childish swing had swung. “I
don't want to know mother. I just don't want to know.” I put my
hands over my ears but I could still hear her.

“Do you know how it was for me?”
she screamed.

“I

DON'T

WANT

TO

KNOW.”

“I had over a hundred guests …”

She wasn't going to stop.

“And my husband, your father …”

She spat the words out like olive pips,
like snake venom, like …

“Was fucking one of them up against a
tree.”

Silence.

Slam, hiss, creak, slam, hiss, creak,
slam, hiss, creak, slamhisscreak.

She said the 'F' word.

Slam, hiss, creak.

The other side, where the button holes
are, is ironed inside out to preserve the seam. A straight edge is
everything as far as appearance goes.

I expect he seems straight to her, with
his start over again strategy. No mention of Peter, or Jonathan. I
forgave those indiscretions, mainly because, once he'd explained, I
didn't see them as competition. He explains things so well. I can
understand once he tells me how. It's just a question of looking at
things from a new perspective.

Slam, hiss, creak, squirt, to soften
the dried-in creases and dampen their reticence. He admitted it. At
the time I flinched, sickened by a spinning sensation. It was like
being locked in a waltzer with an evil carnie at my back. “Alright,”
I said, but the word got swallowed down and vomited up. It sounded
strangled. Half dead. We don't talk about it.

I lit a cigarette. My hands were
shaking. “Your father was a pig. A pig and a liar.” I
remembered the visit to Brookes' farm when I was eleven. The
herdsman told us that pigs, anatomically, are the closest creatures
to humans. I'd been sickened by their penis length and width and
violence. I preferred the dog. His was less threatening. We called
it his 'lipstick'. Mother's teeth were stained with harshly applied
lipstick. “Please,” I begged, “I don't need to know”.

Slam, hiss, creak. Slam, hiss, creak.

Peter had been a minor diversion,
perversion, but Jonathan was a full-blown affair. I laughed when he
said that. 'Full-blown,' good God, there's no answer is there? He
thought I was hysterical. It was something he had to get out of his
system, like air in a radiator or steam in an iron.

Slam, hiss, creak.

The back of a shirt comes in two parts,
a lined shoulder piece and the main panel. Starting at the
shoulders. Always inside out and outside in.

I thought I knew him. That first
Christmas – I was already pregnant by then. We spent the day in
bed watching old videos and eating Turkish delight. He said I had to
keep my strength up. I don't think he cares now. “Capable,” I
heard him say last Christmas at the works party. I wonder whether
[i]she's[/i] capable and [i]what[/i] she's capable of.

Slam, hiss, creak.

I feel hot.

Slam, hiss, creak.

I'm tired.

Slam, hiss, creak.

I won't mention it, when he comes home.
No point. We'd have to acknowledge it. I'd get all frayed.
There'd probably be shouting. The neighbours might hear. The
children would definitely hear. I know what it's like, for a woman
to need a man and for that man to be absent. I don't want him to
leave, with a hurriedly packed holdall and not so much as even a
backward glance. I'm not having my daughters crying every time his
favourite TV programme comes on, or when they spot some irrelevant
item he's forgotten, just like them.

I push the shoulders of a coat-hanger
through the sleeves of his shirt and hang it on the doorknob. If his
body was inside it now he'd be kneeling. I imagine him begging
forgiveness, promising never to do it again. I'm glad he doesn't.
That I don't demand it. Some things are best left unsaid. Chances
are [i]she[/i] doesn't know this. It will be her mistake and
undoing. That, and the fact she doesn't know the correct way to iron
a shirt.

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May 9

13058

Perhaps there's only so much you can
forget, ignore, pretend didn't happen. But she remembered, in
daymares, dismembered, in snatches …

One potato – Her sister sat in a
darkened room, naked except for a blanket. A bent-backed lamp craned
its neck. A hand. A bulb. Burning pain connected insanity to
reality.

Two potato – Another time, another
place, another fracture. Her sister screamed, wouldn't stop
screaming. The streets were slick with rain. Why couldn't she stop
her sister screaming? Why couldn't she stop her sister burning?

Three potato – Her father, oh her
father, who art in heaven. She met him at the National Gallery.
They stared at portraits for three hours, never looking each other in
the face. She asked him an unanswerable question. He quoted
Shakespeare.

Four potato – A different he said he
loved her. She believed him. That was seven years ago. But he
couldn't kick the heroin habit, no matter how hard she kicked him.
He preferred brunettes to blondes. He's clean now. He's gone now.

Five potato – She calls her mother
“frosty tits” but keeps her own nipples in the freezer, along
with a withered vagina, two four letter words and a bottle of vodka.
Everything comes with ice and a slice. Everything.

Six potato – Night times are the
worse. She can still hear her sister crying through the walls. But,
if she has the TV on loud enough and the Valium dose is high enough,
mangled dreams come and save her.

Seven potato – I don't know who she
is.

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May 4

12886

It was fine, really it was, until she
turned twelve. Something happened, for the life of me I can't work
out what.

Right now, I'm sitting in my armchair,
absolutely fuming. It's not so much that I can't get through to her,
we communicate very well, more that she's in a foul mood and I'm
beginning to lose it with her.

So yes, obviously I remember her as a
baby, a pink, no a red, screaming thing. OK. As a young child she
was kind of nervous. I suppose we shouldn't have exposed her to it,
her brother, his illness, but we thought he might die and it seemed
inappropriate to lie about this. He didn't. We could have saved her
a lot of heartache. Ain't hindsight wonderful?

She struggled at school. Dyslexic.
They don't like to diagnose them formally, because then they have to
offer support, which is costly, so they skirt around the issue. We
tried at home, but no matter how much effort she put in she still
ended up failing. Great! Just what a kid needs. In an attempt to
encourage success in other fields we invested in ballet, drum
lessons, karate, rock school, endless family based activities,
afternoons at the beach, camping holidays, coffee and cake in
tea-shops, weekly movie nights …

All the time we were also preparing our
child for the world outside, and it's rubbish. There's drugs,
unsatisfying sexual relationships, people who will manipulate you to
within an inch of your life, the future, the past and everything in
between. She was innocent, long blonde hair, big green eyes, but
innocence doesn't cut it. No. Life gets cut with credit cards,
citric acid, knives.

The other day, I was walking in
Brighton, just home from town. There's a wide alley, between
Barclays Bank and Clarkes the stationers. I was with my girls and
their grandmother. A car pulled up and parked on double yellows.
Four men got out. As one pulled on his jacket I noticed a gun tucked
into the waistband of his trousers. I averted my gaze pretty quick,
hoping he hadn't seen what I'd seen. THERE'S A MAN WITH A GUN!

How are you meant to negotiate this
with your children? If you see a man with a gun, make sure he
doesn't see you seeing him with his gun? Don't hang around by the
back of Sainsburys at the Gyratory, because that's where the smack
heads are, waiting for a deal, and if they haven't scored recently,
or haven't got the money to score, then they might behave like total
nutters. Don't walk through the park in the wee small hours
Especially don't walk through the park in the wee small hours wearing
a short skirt because that's just asking for it. Asking for what
goddammit? I don't even subscribe to that sort of shit, but here I
am trotting out Daily Mail lines and then trying to qualify them.
Thank god she did karate. Maybe that's worse, because now she thinks
she can handle things.

So yeah, what's the issue tonight?
Well, firstly she's trying to tie up all her school work, get her
course stuff ready for submission. This has been going on for about
a month. She's tired. She's frustrated. And on top of that she
finishes school in about 10 days. End of an era. She's been part of
a community for five years and it's going to disappear overnight.
Understandably she's somewhat upset, a bit at sea. Alright, I can
deal with that. She's being vile at home. Often happens. You've
got to push at something, at least if it's your mother you know she's
going to be able to absorb the force. That's kind of my job. But
the cheek, the bad mouthing, the sulking, the complete disobedience,
it's beginning to wear me down.

She has two friends round. I agreed to
that. Apparently I also agreed to her going to the beach and to
buying them a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. I have no recollection of
this. She asked while I was driving home yesterday. Perhaps I was
concentrating on the road, listening to the radio, away in a world of
my own, no bloody idea, but I didn't hear her. Now I've let her
down. She's angry with me and talking to me like I'm dirt. I'm
trying not to be angry with her, but I am, I really really am. I
wash for her, cook for her, clean for her and it's still not enough.
You know, it's very strange, living with a young adult who still
behaves childishly. They want the privileges of one while demanding
the attention of the other. I have no idea how to mediate the issues

Once upon a time she was my little
wonder. Right after I had her I remember sitting, staring into her
plastic fish-tank, watching her little fists being all bunched up,
and thinking 'that's my daughter, she'll always be my daughter, I'm
her mum'. She doesn't, and never has, felt that way about me. I'm
part of the furniture. She takes me for granted, as she should, my
love is unconditional …

I'm thinking about my own mother now,
and crying – see, look, this is what happens when you strip all the
experimentation away, I hate this sort of nakedness. We had an
argument once. I asked her why she didn't love me and then went and
hid. She came and found me and told me that one day I'd understand.
I didn't want it to be 'one day', I wanted it to be that very day.
She looked so forlorn. Her eyes went all watery. My mum had very
blue eyes, the palest I've ever seen. I'm sitting here now, just
remembering, and thinking maybe I'm collecting footsteps, following
her, making the same mistakes, and I'm feeling sorry for all the
trouble I caused her, all the times I made her doubt herself,
everything we missed about each other. She's dead. I'll never be
able to sort it out. I'm still angry with her and I'm still angry
with myself.

Jesus god, what do you people do with
this stuff? Where do you put it? Is it that you can forget? Have
to forget? Maybe I should try that.

My youngest kid, she's just noticed the
tears rolling down my face.

'Are you crying? Are you reading a sad
story?'

'Yes,' I said. I didn't tell her it
was mine, her sister's, probably her own. I don't know what to say.
Tell me what to say.

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May 3

12560

Luftkissenfahrzoig

The walls. Pale green. Dense pink. A
glass fronted hatch part way down the corridor. She serves
appointments and a tight polyester smile. There's a man, with a
buffing machine, huffing a shine onto the resistant floor. Vinyl.
Tiles. Seat upholstery. The records here are of an entirely
different nature.

I sit in a nervatoid tangle. Legs
wrapped round legs wrapped round legs. Pipe-cleaner limbs.
Interlocking fingers. Knuckle cracking. Disinfectant smelling. A
man opens a door to a balcony. He smokes, leaning against a
balustrade. My spindle ribs won't keep it all in. He's smoking
through my mouth. He's leaning on my mind. Air cushion drive thing.
I can't keep it all in.

That box we had in the garage, the
brown one, the one I couldn't lift, the one all sealed up with parcel
tape, what was in that box? I think it's still in the garage,
sitting square and even, straight sided. “This way up,” it's
telling me. I can hear its manila whisper. Maybe it's a Filipino
box.

He stubs his cigarette out, opens his
book jacket and withdraws a knife. I wish it was a scalpel. It's
not. I like surgical steel. He has a double edged blade with a
wooden handle. “No, no, the parcel tape keeps it all in!” He's
not listening to me. In the garage. And he didn't listen to me.
“This way up! This way up! You shouldn't open it!”

The green ones keep me calm. The pink
ones help me sleep. There's yellow ones and white ones too, little
daisies of definity. Part man. Smile. Tight down serves onto
glass. She hatches a machine with the floor. Polyester huffing
appointments resist a fronted buffing. A shine. A way. The
corridor.

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