Occasionally its been enough effort to get up, let alone write. But I’ve got a garden and lots of unfinished projects like repainting the shed! But I’ve managed to re-draft a few poems and written a bit more of my memoir. I try to share something positive on my story on facebook every 24 hrs, partly in an effort to cheer myself along! It’s a disturbing time, scary, will we catch the virus, what can we do to keep safe or even sane? So here I am again just sharing a few tales.
The guy and his unicycle.
I’ll always remember him, avoiding eye contact, thin, unshaven, in his mid twenties, a unicyclist and freelance entertainer from Covent Garden.
He said he had always enjoyed the bustle of bars and cafes, music, fellow artists strutting their stuff, magicians, fire eaters, the crowds, the jingle of coins in his hat. He had made friends and enough dosh to muddle through.
I was a therapist at the time, I worked freelance for Primary Care Trusts and charities, but how does one get a guy back on his unicycle?
I don’t even know how he discovered me, but there he was, plodding along to my house near Ashburton Park from East Croydon Station.
At first he’d sit with head in hands talking life and depression, but gradually we worked on visualising some of the good stuff again! The third time he came he brought his unicycle with him, pushing it along Morland Road like a buggy. He had started caring for it again, cleaning it, oiling the wheels or whatever one does to befriend a unicycle.
After a few weeks he told me he could get up on top of it again, at first for a few minutes, then a bit longer and finally trying out his whole performance! He called me up from London “Hey Ann, you’ve got to get up here” so naturally I did.
Passing the time.
I’ve re-strung a few of my marionettes. discovered a 3 minute film marionettes in the loft from 2008 on an old memory stick, so I popped it on Youtube with a few lines from Weaving Spells for the sound track. So for better or worse here it is.
I’ve moved furniture about, cleared out boxes, catalogued photographs, hurt my back, my leg, got a cold, recovered etc.
Sleep does not come easily. Last night I awoke at 2.am from a dream about serving canapes in a black frock and tiny white apron at a reception at an embassy near Trafalgar Square! This really happened! I once worked part-time for the June Hicks agency that sent us out to do promotions. I remember giving away tiny pieces of edam cheese, dressed as a Dutch girl, in the food hall at Selfridges, Hula hooping on a bandstand during a musical interval. Cooking paella at the Food Fair at Olympia when the pan full of chicken wings caught fire, when all I ever wanted was to be the model draped over the Alfa Romeo!
My partner and I jog along with reasonable good humour. He practices his music and we have two gardens one front and one back, so plenty to do.
The one at the back we created ourselves, so change it about, admire the roses, check on the frog pond, grown a few more veg.
The campervan sits motionless on the front drive, so I opened it up, sip a cool drink and imagine I’m on holiday!
It has taken us on some brilliant places especially to see our friends near Toulouse.
Eating Apricots in France
for Jean and Mado
Under the sun umbrella
on the terrace
old friends meet.
Watching the mist on mountains
listening to the call of the cowman
urging his herd to milking.
Eating apricots, sipping wine,
a gentle informality
born of shared memories.
Discovering the remains of charcoal burners camp near Toulouse.
A forest near Toulouse
The mist of mountains bring in tears of rain
Where charcoal burners sought to set up home
The forest floor is thick with fern again
Their labours lost, their bodies buried bone.
Strong men cut trees to feed the furnace mound
The smaller boughs formed shelters where they slept
As darkness fell their families gathered round
So far from home in Florence, women wept.
Young men reap death on fields they did not sow
In Ypres, Verdun the slaughtered sons of France
The migrants had no choice of where to go,
But played their part when love then stood no chance.
In silent tribute to the dead we stand
Where ghosts are working still this unclaimed land.
The van was the the first and only new vehicle I have ever owned, and the money to buy it came from an unexpected contract.
Just as I was thinking of retirement and was keeping an eye on my mother who had moved to live nearby, I was offered a 12 month contract to support residents and staff at The Star and Garter Home on Richmond Hill. The home was going to be sold and residents, all of whom who had served in the armed forces, and the staff were to be moved to smaller homes around the country. It was an incredibly responsible role, one that brought both joy and sorrow for everyone involved.
I’ve learned a new editing system. So now I can transfer old tapes to digital and then edit them. I once taught gypsies on a permantent site in Soutth London and went to Appleby Horse Fair regularly. The films run to six tapes!
These are stills of my first attempt with one tape taken with my phone.
Nice things can just happen…
A child who lives nearby, suitably masked and gloved like me, sometimes comes to play with my small collection of Pelham puppets either in the garden or the garage, with the door wide open. Last time she decided to draw scenes and improvise the story of Hansel and Gretel
If it is really sunny, she comes and sits outside the van door and reads me a story.
Yesterday it was time to celebrate 76 years of the NHS.
These memories seem appropriate.
I discovered the receipt for the 12/6 my mother paid for my keep in 1940 a few months after I was born in Middlesex Hospital in London.
I was born with a cleft palate and the the surgeon treating me was also treating wards of injured soldiers. He noticed my ready smile and asked my mother if I could visit his wards and cheer them along. It was a gift that he promised my mother that he would perform the operation to repair my mouth himself if she took me back a few months later, which he did.
On a warm sunny Sunday I slipped from my mother’s womb
greeted by the buzz of bombs.
London in the middle of a war, a baby with green grey eyes
and a cleft palate
But my smile soothed the souls of burned and bandaged soldiers.
talking only with their eyes.
My mother sought lodgings in Wales
near father’s barracks, alien territory to say goodby
before his active service.
In forlorn kitchens on grimy stoves she heated milk.
I coughed and choked as she poured warm waves of it
from a tiny spoon.
Poor mother, a girl caught on tenuous threads of life.
Later, curled up together our mutual dependency
slumbered in the silence of the night.
Zooming I’m lucky to have a partner with his own interests and I decided early on to tackle Zoom. So now I can still run my cafe writers group and also attend a poetry group that used to meet in the library.
Arvon, The Poetry Business, The Poetry School and Poetry Society all run events on zoom and some readings are free. A few can seem a bit like school, with rules such as no one is allowed to see each other or speak until the end, but hey ho!
Brighton has a friendly Stanza group ran by a guy called Jobe, New Writing South has discussions, Mister Tom still runs his open mic at Poetry Cafe in Eastbourne and Pier Poets are back in September, all on zoom.
Kindly neighbours bring our shopping, My two sons and daughters-in-law live further away, but both parties have come over separately with things we need and recently we have had socially distanced cups of tea in the front garden.
My eldest grandson works in the NHS and video calls me from time to time. The middle grandson has just arrived home from three years in Japan with intriguing stories and thoughtful presents for both of us. The youngest has just gone of to Lancaster to his first full time job.
I’ve only been out three times and would really like to go to my tiny allotment in Hove, but can’t face my neglect of it and am still worried about travelling anywhere ever!
Many of my age have effectively been locked in their flats, lonely and without family support. It must feel a bit like house arrest and its a scandal that so many old people have died, some in care homes. It’s such a mess and we are left to make our own decisions against a muddle of information.
I am lucky to have a family and friends and am grateful for everything! But sometimes when I do get low, and I do. I like to think of that guy and wonder how exactly he managed to get back on his unicycle!