Jam

‘Why do you always get blackcurrant jam?’

‘Because it’s sweet but also sharp. I like a little bit of sour.’

‘Well, try this jam.’

‘OK. Ahhhh, strawberry. Tastes like a childhood love affair when there were fairies at the bottom of our garden. We grew them there. I forgot how much I like strawberry jam.’

‘Yes, I realised that. You are stupid. Forgetful. Neglectful. I suppose we forgive you though, frail human.’

Shattered Light

She is screaming out in the street again, a crying toddler in her arms. He has tried walking away several times, but he keeps going back to answer her accusations. The kid is crying. They go out of sight towards their house. I hear bin lids crashing and broken glass. Those two look a match for each other.

 Worried about the child more than anything, I call the police. An impersonal voice takes details. I explain what I have seen. I say a toddler is at risk. I give all the details twice.

 I say, ‘They have gone out of sight now, while we have been talking. Gone back to their house.’

 ‘You have an address?’

 ‘No, I don’t. I’m not sure which house is theirs. There are three or four houses in a row. It could be any of them. The back gates are all obscured by trees. So no, I don’t know.’

 ‘We can do nothing then. Call us again if they come back outside.’

 She hangs up on me before I can protest.

Nothing more happens. Not that day. Soon the lamps are on and the street is quiet. I watch the lights flashing and blinking and changing colours on a Christmas tree in a window across the street. I don’t really have room for one in my place.

The next day, I go downstairs and outside. The broken glass turns out to be a smashed light globe on the edge of the communal garden for our block of flats.

 ‘I saw that little shit deliberately hit it as he walked by,’ Eva says. She shrugs as if to say it’s normal. ‘Now the landlords probably won’t replace it for months, like everything else around here.’

 ‘I was worried about the toddler,’ I say, trying to refocus the conversation onto my main concern.

 Eva looks at me as if I am from another planet and says, ‘Yeh, well that one will grow up to be a shit too.’

 I open my mouth to answer and think ‘What’s the point.’  I know she is a racist. Her Carer is from Jamaica. Eva is nice enough to her face. But that’s not what I have heard her saying to neighbours, calling her a monkey.

 You can’t convert total idiots. Especially the ones over eighty. She isn’t my generation. She won’t change now. No point even worrying about her opinions. Not everyone over eighty is a fool, thank god. My mother wasn’t.

I don’t want to go to a party

I don’t want to go to that party or any other party ever again. I have never liked parties. Now I like them even less. Everyone laughing and playing as if the world is the same as it was, as it was before but it’s not.  How can they play at a party? Don’t they know or care that we’re all going to die. Everything dies. My dog died; my cat died. I cried. It was sad but the world was still normal. Now my grandad died, and it’s changed. Christmas is not going to be the same. They said Father Christmas isn’t real. Nothing is the same. It’s all nothing. The world feels like it’s wrapped in an old damp sock that I can’t take away from my mouth. They told me not to cry so I don’t. They said I will make it harder for everyone else if I cry. I wouldn’t cry now anyway. I am stuck inside a bubble. The world used to be light even when it was cloudy. My grandad and I played a game with the clouds, seeing shapes and making up stories. We saw a dragon swallow itself in the wind, one little puff at a time.

Penny’s Desk

Penny was trying to tidy her desk of the piles of stuff that had accumulated since she last did any work. She felt she couldn’t deal with the task at hand until the desk was clear. She looked at the withered poinsettia her mother had given her at Christmas. Like her mother, it had died. This made it hard to throw the plant away. It was the last gift her mother gave her and during the rushes back and forth to the hospital she had neglected it. She shut her eyes a moment and then, closing her mind to sentimentality she tossed it into the bin.

     Next, she looked at the business cards she had carried in her wallet for years when visiting clients. She certainly didn’t need them anymore, though she was proud of the corporate title she had once achieved. Into the bin they went.

     The Tarot pack was gathering thick dust, she wiped it over and put it in the drawer. That Tarot pack had been useful when she was made redundant. It had boosted her income. She had never charged for a tarot reading in her life before, but needs must when the devil drives. Those readings had paid for her groceries for several weeks. She hoped she wouldn’t need to do that again, but the future is always uncertain. She placed the silver locket on top of the pack and closed the drawer.

     She shifted a pile of books and papers and discovered a pack of red hair-dye. That must be well out of date. She gave up dying her hair as soon as she left her job. It was a relief to be able to stop using the dye and watch the grey roots grow longer after she didn’t have to look presentable to clients anymore. Penny was not interested in being presentable these days. Another one for the bin.

Syringa – the white princess.

EPSON DSC picture

The rare smell of syringa drags me back in time to the path that ran through our garden beside a slope. A large syringa tree stood there. As summer ended it dropped damp blossoms all over the path making it slippery. I think it dropped catkins at another time of year, but I may be wrong. My grandfather said the tree had to come down. It was my favourite tree. Like a tall and slender, pretty friend. I begged mercy. Repeatedly and at length. But no. Down it came leaving only a stump in the bed of earth. I was disgusted and shocked. That was the first time someone destroyed a thing I loved.

     My grandad said I could make my own little garden around the stump. We planted primulas and a lot of other little bright flowers. I didn’t love them. I neglected them. That’s how life generally goes.

No Change

I thought he would never change, and I was right. It’s not that easy. Oh, I don’t deny he probably wanted to, well, at times. People say it’s about making new habits and discarding old ones. I expect that’s true on one level. But some habits come from deep rooted places.

     I know that as a child he had, oh, what’s that condition called? Ah yes, meningitis and his father used to hit him round the head with a plastic hairbrush. These days the news is full of the consequences or early head injury, aren’t they? And then of course he moved to the city as a child and at heart you could see he was a country boy. He was so much more relaxed away from towns. He was good with children, cats, horses, and plants. If he had been that nice to me, I would have thought I was in heaven. Instead, I lived in hell.

     People say it’s typical of me that I make excuses for him. It’s not excuses, it’s reasons. Knowing the reasons doesn’t mean that I think what he does to me is acceptable. It’s not. The problem is I can’t get away. People say leave. So naive. I have stopped telling them about it now. They don’t understand the problem.

In the bowl at Templeton Cove.

I am not at home. I have come here for peace and quiet. I hear the river lapping against the shore, a regular rhythm that doesn’t disturb. Dusk is falling. I hear an owl hoot, plaintive and musical. A dog barks in the distance. The only other sound it the tapping of my type-writer keys. Coffee, strictly too late for drinking stands on the desk close at hand. The smell of the beans I ground earlier still hangs in the air and a scent of fir trees wafts through the window. The desk still smells of polish. I stop to think and run my hand over the surface of the desk feelings its grain. Its an old desk, slightly pitted and roughened by use. I run my finger along a small dip, a dimple. I wonder how that happened and when. On the desk is my camera, a lamp and a notebook and a small round bowl. The little bowl is nothing more than itself, yet it holds on hundred years of history and reflects the shape of this valley.

Rain

The rain was constant all night. I listened as it drummed heavily on the outside window ledge. Blocked gutter, for sure. In the morning the rain had stopped. I looked out of my bedroom window at the pavements. The smooth tarmac had a damp gloss and the world looked clean.

     Before breakfast, I took a coffee outside and sat on the bench regardless of the damp patch it made on my pants. The grass was waterlogged and felt spongy. It smelled good out there. I can never quite define the smell after rain but it’s slightly metallic unless it’s fallen on hot earth. 

     I was happy to see the blackbird and threw him some raisins and sunflower seeds I had brought down especially, hoping he would come. The clouds were clearing, and little patches of blue were appearing. The smell of frying bacon wafted over the fence from next door. She was yelling at the kids again. The blackbird flew off and I went back indoors.