Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Sunday, 5 December 2010

stealing a day

Last Friday, I stole a day. It was given by the snow, which fell in dancing flakes and soft rolls of wonder, blocking roads and closing the hospital. The snow gave me a morning to sit with a steaming cup of freshly ground Tanzanian coffee and peel a pile of apples to make pale brown compote. The snow gave me the minutes and hours to clean my apartment, which, afterwards, shone silently with pointed corners. The white flakes allowed me to pick up my youngest daughter early from school and walk with her little fingers tucked inside my palm. The snow stole the day and wrapped it in cinnamon scented tissue paper, tied a scarlet ribbon on the top of the box. The snow gave me a day which I chose to not devote to action but to being in time, drifting at the speed of frozen white crystals.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

At the theatre

At the theatre I get bored, watch the naked man strut ; as he walks around the stage, I think of the course I have been doing for two days on assessing suicidal behaviour. Before the theatre, we have met old friends, drunk coupes de champagne and eaten miniature vegetable kebabs : red, green and yellow roasted cubes impaled on wooden spikes. At the theatre, I listen to the machine-gun dictation of the French actors as they proclaim: NON, Non, non, non. At the theatre, I see the scarlet curtains, the exquisite back lit tableau of a shadow puppet wedding; toasted in black and white. At the theatre, sat in the second row, I hear a sudden gun shot. I Jump Right Out Of My Seat. Heart beating. At the theatre, we sit in a dull grey, muted silence as I long for the Shakspearean days, the Elizabethan theatre when people tossed rotten apples and walked free when they didn't like the play. In my theatre seat, I am itchy, bewitched and enjoying being in this dark live place; a double space to let my mind wander. Here. At the theatre, I feel sad and tired and suddenly remember all of the happy things that make my life worth living. I breath. At the theatre, I look at my watch - time ticks on and everything changes - I squeeze my lover's knee and surpress a giggle as the melodrama unfolds.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

working through

I am working through the tiredness. It's sat in my bones this part week, clouding my vision, numbing my brain as I fall from stretched arms into tracing words, from a train to a tissue-wiped nose. Today we drove along the bay, watched the sky turn from ash to pencil grey ; drift back into cobalt blue. The sand was a somber muddy brown, then a startling, mustard yellow. The sea moving from milky green to a dark dangerous blue. Crouched in the rain, a man in a cadmium raincoat dug for seashells with a rake. Sheltering from the storm, we ate buckwheat pancakes filled with cheese, mussels and chips and drank dry cider and orangina. We giggled as I drank two coffees pretending to be dessert. I came home and showered while the little one slept. I put sweet lavendar oil on my tired skin, enhaled the comforting smell. I wrote emails, grabbed dates and time and refiled my life into a respectable chaos, embracing the beauty of the disorder which is mine.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


My daughters are in the bath. I listen to them counting, splashing, giggling, fighting over plastic toys. Today, I've redrafted pages of my book, picked up toys, dipped chips in ketchup and looked in Thesaurus to find synonyms for 'orange', I found words such as apricot and flame. I've read articles about strikes and talked about petrol shortage with friends and passersby. I've watched videos of almost riots and wondered at the French capacity to say 'No'. I've heard about cuts in the UK, about losing jobs and I've made cheese and marmite on toast. I've carried a trombone and comforted a tired man and listened to tales of survival. I've been tired, chirpy, giddy, silly, inspired and now I'm at the end of my day. I can hear my daughters talking about farts and tickling in the bath. That is the end of my day.

Monday, 18 October 2010


Today, I sorted through their clothes: pink T-shirts, odd white socks and third-hand cotton dresses decorated with green umbrellas. I unrolled blue plastic bags and put things aside for one child and packed another for a friend. We found new second-hand dresses. Treasures put aside for a rainy day; despite the fact that it was sunny. I folded a tiny floral blouse, bedecked with little red roses, into a neat square and wondered whether I would hold another baby in my arms, need miniature trousers and 1 month old tights. I sighed with my seven year old as we tried to hold on to all of our favourite things, our arms too small for the weight of everything. " But, I want to keep it Mummy" my seven year-old said. I explained that we couldn't keep all our old clothes because there wasn't enough space on the earth. We had to learn to share and to say 'goodbye'. I was understanding, harsh, slow and fast; the odd mixture of the mother that I am.

Saturday, 18 September 2010


Today I cleared books, changed where things lived, tidied places, looked at grey-haired cobwebs, chucked out decrepit objects. I am a keeper of physical things. I collect old magazines, buttons, other people's shopping lists, hats, shoes, bits of paper, books, newspapers, 1960's magazines, vintage fabric, worn clothes and second-hand china. I like things people have lived in, objects shaped, metamorphosized through their relationship to us. Stuff which is touched by time. These articles have been smelt, held, sweated on and in, hated, loved, believed in, ignored, chosen and discarded.
I have problems throwing these things away; I imagine that these objects will become a costume, a prop, a collage, a sculpture, refashioned and given, photographed, inspire a story, carry a novel inside their crumpled and stained outer shell. I am attached to their singular identity. Yet, when I clear a space there is a sense of carthasis, of a cleansing, of a purging.
Everything needs to change.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

what we do with time

Time. Bend it, stretch it, eat it up by glancing at watches, slow it down by observing fireside flames. Count time in stitches, laps, cooking minutes, sun and moon cycles, growing wrinkles. Time is what makes us know that we once began, that we are in the middle, that there is an end. Days and moments can feel like eternity and then children change overnight. You look around and they are no longer babes. You can make art from time and make time into art. You can be scared of time, like in a waiting room, or relish every moment, like a good slow breakfast involving people, newspapers, eggs, cheese, apricot jam, pretty napkins, green tea and then coffee. Time is repetitive, cyclical and then sometimes things happen which leave marks in time which makes a time start that never happened before. A new time. Childhood time is endless, flexible as a strawberry jelly fom a Spanish supermarket, especially before kids learn about death. My daughters say, " I will be like that when I am younger". Time, I want to make it last forever.

Friday, 13 August 2010

coming home

We are home. On the journey back from the South to the North, we leave dry Aragon and the deep Spanish lakes; an arid red land patched with blue. We drive up and through the Pyrennes, with black smoke steaming from the back of our van. We slip into the tunnel that goes under the mountains. We stop in France, eat melon, cheese and chips, sat on a wall in the sun. We fall down the slopes into rolling countryside. The Gers makes us think of soft English landscapes. A man drives a silver rolls Royce in the summer sun. We stop in a town and buy blue sandals for two euros and a toy parrot, which my daughter calls Sky. We sleep that night in a municipal campsite near a man travelling with a tent the size of his body. He has walker's calf muscles and a sturdy face. Yesterday, tired in the white stone of the Charentes region, we find ourselves stuck in a leisure park with country-dancing, giant barbecues and far too many people. Too many people.
Today, we are home, sucking up the bits of the voyage. There is the washing, the answerphone, the emails, the post and the smiles of the courtyard neighbours. The emptying of bags. Crumbs of the holidays falling on our floor. Packets of tortes are arranged on a shelf. The flat feels big after the space of the van. There are the seagulls and the iodine smell of the sea. The small, quiet sadness that a trip is over. The happiness of the return.

Monday, 9 August 2010

here in aragon

Here in Aragon, Spain, we are steeped in the shadows of spindly pine trees whose shadows shelter us from the blinding heat. The tiny campsite is almost crushed by cliffs of red rock, which surround us on all sides. I write on paper, we swim in another lake daily and drink beer in the waterside cafe. The temperatures sear, the landscape is arid, frighteningly bare. We all melt at some point in the day, recovering as night falls, after a six o'clock dip in the turquoise blue water. We have just eaten a meal of squid, red juice seeped in bread, drunk local wine, finished with sweet white melon. The light is fading, the insects are singing. We've being visiting hillside towns, watched priests chanting in beautiful byzatine cathedrals, drunk cafe con leche, searched for unfound cheap sandals. Got to go now, dark is coming.

Friday, 30 July 2010

in the forest

Sneaking a post on a borrowed computer with a two year old on my knee. Here, we drift amongst green trees, watch coffee drip into a brown clay pot, swim in the lake daily. With no Internet connection or radio or TV, we yawn and watch the trees at sunset, as lizards dart at our feet. Whispering leaves sing hushed lullabies as we fall asleep to grasshoppers chants and the regular croak of a frog. Everyday, I write. Building words, wanting to take care of my characters and their lives. My daughter says that she's too tired now. I have to go and finish my tea. Watch the sky.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

the tumble dryer

Clothes are spinning in the tumble dryer- falling and rising inside the heated cylinder, cuffs touching trousers, caressing a hem. Tomorrow, we are leaving for the green forest. Rest. Space. Slow drunk coffee. Idle green tea. Words making a story unfold. This is what my dreams are made of.

In the last fifteen days, I have journeyed to Paris, flown to Korea, given a conference paper, tasted hot chilli cabbage, drunk fizzy fermented milky pale rice drinks, peeked at the elegant beauty of unvisited mountains, admired the stationery, flown back to Paris, spent the night in a stuffy yellow curtain-stained station hotel, caught the Eurostar, watched a girl cry too early in the morning, camped in a storm and woke thinking I was inside a flying spaceship, been to a red velvet cupcake Brighton wedding, returned to France, worked at the hospital.

Tomorrow, after work, we drive down South, hit the autoroute in our new second-hand VW camper, watch the kids grin in the back of the van.

For now, the children are sleeping in soft sticky slumber. The washing turns in the heat.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

early in the morning

It's early in the morning. Before they awake, before he awakes, the cat and I have opened our eyes and are creeping around the half-lit house. In the dusky, nearly-dawn, I half dream of what might happen. At the moment, doors are opening in my house, in my life. People are interested in my writing, which has been travelling around the Internet, neatly packaged in a file for them to open. Hope has been glaring at me from under my bed, reclaiming the light of day from amongst the dust bunnies. This summer, I must brush off the cobwebs from attic dreams, tie an apron round my waist, put my hands to work, finish my book. I will shelter in the deep green of the forest, drift in the emerald leaves and type.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

disturbingly beautiful

I would love to go and see Marion Mitchell's exhibition.
Unfortunately I'll be on the wrong side of the planet. Go if you can.

Monday, 28 June 2010

late at night

Late at night; I sit on the sofa, tucked into the warm sound of a cat licking it's fur. In the soft lamplit evening glow I feel the day stretched into my legs. Around me my house sleeps gently in a chocolate darkness. Hours of movement have come to a slow, slumbering halt. "Sssh", that is what the night is saying, "Listen".

Thursday, 10 June 2010

May and June

May and June. Months for growing. June brought wet, greasy rain that soaked into the dry earth. In May, the sun shone, burnt the earth desert brown. We bought bright flowers and planted out our window boxes with sweet multi-coloured petals. I sat, back bent, eyes fixed to the pixeled screen and wrote, wrote and wrote some more. I sent my dreams up into the sky and imagined fairy dust for my daughter's birthday cards. We ate summer soup for the first time; rich, spicy minestrone, speckled with barley and courgettes, fresh tomatoes blended into deep red. We swam in the freezing sea, plunging winter white skin into icy water. For seconds. May and June. Unforgettable months with surprising answers. I catch a train, run a course, sit waiting at the station in the still of the heat. While waiting for my connection, I learn that immobility and stillness are essential in the cocktail of travel and high temperatures. I rest on a chair, eat sprouted spelt bread and wait. May and June. I neglect this space, do not unpack my case, have left washing dirty and to do lists unticked. May and June. I feel like the shape of my life fits my body and soul.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Postcards from my travels : 2. San Sebastian

In San Sebastian we drink soft café con leche, admire sharp mountain landscapes, eat stewed red beans served with slow cooked cabbage and tiny pickled thin green chillis, play in parks with gentle carpeted floors, drink rough red wine, feel the heat, ignore keen drops on the winding roads, peer through the yellow beehived glass in our appartement's sliding door, eat a hundred second breakfasts of tender croissants standing at the bakery's wooden sculpted bar, feel exhausted, try to sit, walk through chic shops, spot Spanish fringes, bluntly beautiful, have a morning off the children, sit in the rustling comfort of a Reading Room in a Spanish public library, surrounded by old men, turning pages, browse articles in art reviews about John Cage and the Anarchy of Silence, relish in small bits of thinking time, fall into the colours of Stephen Dean, buy five litres of olive oil and a big blue sunhat, discover Spanish charity shops with my eldest daughter, search, look at the elegant remains of a Basque Palace, green seed packets and admire the smell of hanging laundry inside the internal courtyard.

Postcards from my travels: 1. Ten things to think about when you are driving to Bordeaux

1. Think about the distance - it's five o'clock and five hours drive, 520 km. I've just finished a day at work; run workshops, seen patients, eaten a plate of pale institutional pasta, imagined.
2. Think about entertaining two little girls; bubbling in the back of the car.
3. Think about black coffee, eating food, having a pit stop. Starting and stopping.
2. Reflect upon death. A close relative just came to stay, talked peacefully about where he would be buried one day; a spot in a rural graveyard. When he left, I felt like weeping. In the car, I feel at peace.
5. Think about trees. As we drive further South, they line the roads to shade us from the heat. The trees change shape with the geography of the land.
6. Ponder upon the taste of creamy leeks and chips, at the restaurant in the giant blue shop. Relish in the fact that I love cafeterias, the anonymity, the meeting of people, carrying my tray, being in this strange, multi-coloured, plastic world.
7. Think about driving, hands on the steering wheel, over-taking, using the indicator, leaving it on when you're in the left-hand lane. He says that only old ladies leave indicators ticking. Tick tack.
8. Think about sleeping, resting your head on the seat belt strap, when he takes over at the wheel. Try to stop the buzz of your brain, drift off with the sandman.
9. Reflect upon the innocence of sleeping children, when I see their heads nodding in the back. Remember the early weeks after their birth, the terrible vulnerability of a new-born child, a fragility that is hard to bear.
10. Think about carrying on forever, never stopping the car, just driving through darkness. Drifting along in the inky blue motorway night, lit by the yellow lights.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

my wall

on my wall: a soft pencil drawn baby duck takes it's first flight, a glaring bobby baker carries shopping home, two anonymous female relatives from the 1940's grin in gum boots and baggy trousers, cobatt blue hugs burnt sienna, keri smith explains how to be miserable as an artist, a photo i took in bombay from the inside of a dark metal bus shows an indian man holding a pink balloon, my eldest daughter jumps, three green old ladies cluck in a pen and ink drawing i made when i was 16, i stand facing the camera with my siblings and father in my grandparent's shadow-ridden emerald garden, a jumble of printed letters bedeck a hand-made postcard, a bluebird flies on a vintage wallpaper envelope, flowers bloom for spring.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

3. Learning about knives and thinking about objects in space

I bought these knives on a market stall last week. Their colour is my favourite green; fresh and mossy, a 1930's dulled, creamy emerald. They are also small, reduced and I like petite things, despite the fact that I am tall. I think we are all comfortable, fit with certain shapes, dimensions and places. What objects and spaces we chose (or have chosen for us) are part of who we have become, influence where we are going. These ideas evoke this artists' work. I spend a lot of time in my theatre work standing in circles. A perfect, divine, but also closed shape. These knives are hallmarked with the letters EPNS. I have discovered, this means Electro Plated Nickel Silver, a technique used to fuse silver to the top and bottom of a sheet of copper or base metal. The knives are perfect for spreading peanut butter, soft ewe's cheese and mushroom paté on toast. Their almost blunt edges and slight size means they are also perfect for chubby two year old fingers and little six year old hands. Since they've been in our possession, they've been used everyday; the little green knives are gently cutting their way into our history. Their shape fits neatly into our lives.

Sunday, 28 March 2010


Today we all awoke and they ate pancakes made with spelt flour. I sipped endless cups of green tea with smoked rice and crunched on yesterday's baguette. It feels like Spring is nearly here, an almost soft emerald touches the trees. Dreaming of holidays, road trips down South and an appartment that I have booked in Spain, I think of climbing mountains daily, imagine my feet pounding, the view from the top. These broad-backed dinosaurs carry my dreams.
Yesterday I cleaned the house in a rage. Strangely enough, I observed a while back, I often clean with anger. I scrubbed and I swept and I scraped and I hoovered. I do my best cleaning furious. The house was beautiful once I had finished; outlined, sharp and new.

Friday, 19 March 2010

greek myths

For your information. You get get the Greek myths book here. The text has been challenged, is quite old-fashioned and some ideas need double-checking, but what a fascinating read!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

2. Learning about greek myths

I've been reading this book. I love these old non-fiction Penguins, the muted colours of the covers and the old-fashioned, articulate texts. I have a secret collection at home. I've been understanding the sociological and anthropological background and the tales behind the stories of Greek myths. It's archeological, like hebraic study where scholars examine the bits and pieces that make up each word, scratching behind the syllabuls to the root of language, revealing a million meanings. In Grave's book myths are dissected, retold, understood through History. I learnt that the Three Fates invented the vowels of the first alphabet, that Palamedes added eleven consonants and that Hermes reduced these sounds to charcaters, using wedge shapes inspired by the formations of flying cranes.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

being two

Today we walked to the granite city. We wearily trudged by the lapping sea, bitten by the chill of the wind and went to meet friends for coffee. We chatted and drank dark strong bleu de bresil. Outside, our kids were playing. Outside, my youngest daughter ran. In the sunny cobbled street, under the blue sky, she walked backwards and then ran down ' WEEeeeeeee'. After a while I went out and crouched down, and she fell into my arms at the end of each race, joy on her two year-old face. 'WWeeeeeeee' and ' Boooom' colliding flesh and emotion. She loves running my littlist girl. She loves planes, trains and automobiles. She has curly blond hair and is as stubborn as a mountain. She is two.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

1. Learning about lying fallow

Amy has a project about learning. I want to join in, to go for the ride. Today, I learnt that part of making art is having the time to breath, drift, do nothing, drink coffee and listen to 18 year old French kids laugh, drink coke and gossip about Spanish teachers who swear. Henry Miller called this lying fallow. 'The plowing or tilling of land, without sowing it for a season; as, summer fallow, properly conducted, has ever been found a sure method of destroying weeds.' You plough the land then leave it empty, unsowed, rested. Who knows what can happen next?

Following Paris

I drifted in Paris, met friends, went to the 104, a contemporary arts centre in the North East of Paris. I watched plays, walked in the snow, bought a pair of dungarees that I have not worn. I nibbled on Jewish cheesecake, gulped coffee, dreamed and stamped my feet on urban land. I took photos, rang my family and bought cherry flowers in salt from an exquisite Japanese boutique.
Following Paris, I've been researching and writing, caring for sick people, eating spelt and lentils cooked with caramalized onions and topped with white feta cheese.

Friday, 29 January 2010


Tomorrow morning I shall awake in the winter darkness and ease myself silently out of the house. I shall cross dark streets and the midnight blue sky and drive my car through empty roads, lit by yellow street lamps. I will slip onto a monolithic train and ride my way to Paris. Alone. In a capital city. A present from time, an extraction from everyday living.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

rushing or my being is doing

I rushed today- collating research for a conference paper, making soup, baking a fish, writing emails, buying nappies for my friend's new baby, drinking coffee, drinking green tea, drinking Lapsong Souchong; drinking everything and anything to keep the seconds ticking while I planned a trip to Paris, thought about sitting down and read my daughter books and sent invitations to an artists event I am organizing. I was bred like this, through nature or nurture, through watching my mother or through my DNA programming; a large part of my being is doing. I split days into hours and minutes and seconds and check diaries, emails, blogs and bank accounts. The weather report can be accessed, along with the latest news and checking out cheap flights for a future holiday, while stirring a sauce and when I am at work I do not walk I run. My life partner is the complete opposite of this, thank goodness. I have the energy of a toddler, the buzz of a power station.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


The tumble dryer has just stopped turning. This morning we walked to the granite citadel, we stepped through the bitter wind, marched against a heavy ashen sky,we drank Brazlian coffee and talked of trips to Germany and pragmatism versus hedonism.This afternoon I made fairy cakes decorated in thick white icing with multi-coloured hundreds and thousands. Then we drank Japanese green tea and held a tiny new-born baby and felt the fire of new beginnings. This evening we made egg mayonnaise, did the washing up and danced to Grease Lightening à trois while he swam. Now, the day is finishing and I will fold hot washing as the tumble dryer has just stopped turning.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

back again

One year later and I am back again. I started writing here on January the 24th 2008. I wrote posts for one year, stopping in December 2008. One year later and I am back again. Back here to write of waves, upside down journeys, dark skies, the blue sea, granite walls, sleeping children and the little moments which set my fingers clicking on the keyboard; words falling soft as midnight snowflakes, white and cold against the navy sky. I am back with vowels and consonants, words and sentences and paragraphs to fill my pixel landscape. I am back scratching stories into the empty screen, snuggling inside the letters that I write. I return because of the very evrydayness of this exercise, this electronic trace of space and time. I go now to finish my bowl of carrot, sweet potato and cumin soup, my slice of brown bread and feta cheese.