Heart On My Sleeve

Last weekend I was in Portugal, to celebrate my youngest brother’s wedding. It was a joyfully beautiful occasion, in a beautiful location, with beautiful people. I wore purple shoes, and red lipstick, and I danced the night away with the new friends I made. The sunset was amazing.



My brother has always worn his heart on sleeve, despite the risks. His closest, dearest friends admire him for this bravery. And now at last he is truly happy. And I am so happy for him. And I admire my little brother, because wearing my heart on my sleeve is a thing I have been unable to do for a very long time. I doubt I ever will again. I fear to give myself away. And I think, perhaps, that this is partly why I write. I might give myself away in fiction, but fiction gives me some distance from the things I cannot otherwise say. I know that I cannot be the only one who does this, among the writers I know. And who, among those who read what I write – and who knows, even like what I write – can say with any degree of certainty which detail is personal, and which is not. To borrow from Margaret Atwood, only I can say how large – or small – is the blood transfusion given to the Ginger Bread Man, in order that he may live, and run.



Sometimes, or rather, more often than not, it takes something simple to remind me that Life, capital L, Life, could be as limitless as the sky. Could be. Living in the subjunctive mood means being open, to wish fulfillment, to fantasy, to the dream world, to the possibility of magic. There is everything under the sky, and, perhaps more. Perhaps.

The world is everything that is the case, said Wittgenstein, a statement that is both austere and beautiful. But this photograph reminds me that there is more. There is the world we can know through our senses, and there is the world we can know through our dreams. We were not made to fly, except in dreams, and wishes, and fairy tales. And yet, we found the way to reach the sky, to touch, and surpass it.


AmpersandMy daughter, my beautiful ten year old daughter took this photo. She sees magic in everything, and that is everything that is the case.

Moments of Pleasure

Today is Kate Bush’s birthday, so of course – OF COURSE – I have been listening to her pretty much all evening. Moments of Pleasure has always been a favourite, but it resonates with me particularly because it reminds me to think of those moments of pleasure, big and small, shared, and solitary, that in my darker days are so easily lost.

So here is the video to what is, in my opinion, a perfect song. It is, for me, a moment of pleasure.

London, Summer 2012

I went to London for the weekend. I felt very nearly like a person I remembered being, before. I stayed with my brother, and we watched Absolutely Fabulous, and laughed a stupid amount. We also did a lot of singing along to the Eurythmics, loudly, in the car, because that’s what we’re like. And we went to see the new Spiderman flick, which I rather liked – it was FUN. And loud.

But mostly the weekend was about Picasso. On Saturday afternoon I went to the British Museum to see the Vollard Suite. This was one of my favourites,

a strong yet ambiguous image; what is the Minotaur doing? Will he wake her or kill her?

Sunday was the last day of the Picasso And Modern British Art exhibition at Tate Britain. It was interesting, but did not quite grip me as much as the Vollard Suite had, although the Hockneys did amuse me.  It was also very crowded, which afforded a wonderful opportunity for people watching. In fact when it’s so crowded that you can’t get to the paintings, people watching is all there is. One woman I overheard was unsure whether or not she’d already seen a particular painting; she was explaining to her male companion that she was almost certain that she hadn’t, because she didn’t recognise the frame. She gave me rather a strange look as I tried to smother my giggles in my sleeve…

White Midnight

It is almost a quarter to two in the morning, and I’m sitting at my desk with a cup of peppermint tea, and the fire blazing merrily. I am very aware of my ears.

I am aware of my ears because they are still cold. It is snowing in my part of the Cotswolds, and I have been out for a midnight walk.

There is something peacefully exhilarating about wandering out into the darkness, leaving the lights of the little town behind me. For in the snow of course, the darkness is never quite complete (and I take a torch with me). All is cold and clear and calm, beneath a heavily blank sky. The only sounds are the wind in the trees, the crystalline stutter of falling snow, and the brook deep in the valley below. And my footsteps, crunching in the crisp blue-white blanket. When I turn to look back the way I have come, my footprints stride back beyond the bend in the road, already blurred by the fresh fallings, and crossed here and there by the tracks of a fox following the line of the road before he skulks down into the fields.

I stay beside the road, for the undulating valley is treacherous when you can’t see clearly how to place your feet, and I am known for being clumsy. I have no wish to be stranded in the freezing shadows with a sprained ankle. It is enough to share the valley with the fox, and the trees, and the few sleeping houses. It is enough to pause beside the blanketed camber of a dry stone wall, and stare across to the rising slope, the outlines of fields and trees marked black against the wide white covering. I stop often to stare, to drink it all in. I am well wrapped against the cold, and the wet, and my long coat swirls with the wind, and billows behind me with a pleasing sense of drama. (I know.) I am sure footed in my sturdy boots, and stride in a comfortable rhythm.

I walk, and I walk, and I stop, and I stare. The cold pushes thin fingers past my coat collar turned up to half cover my face, and the steady breeze blows through me. I feel as clear as glass, and wildly happy.

I walk to the next village. It isn’t far, but it’s far enough.

Returning, the path always seems shorter. Walking back towards the lights, away from the small freedom of being alone in the darkness, it is tempting to take a slower pace, to stand and stare some more. But my returning stride matches my outward bound pace, as I can tell by the faint indents where my feet trod before. The cold is penetrating deeper beneath my layers of warmth,  searching for my skin. Snowflakes are catching in my lashes, and matting on my shoulders. And my ears, I am very aware of my ears, even beneath the woollen protection of my hat.

If the snow lasts – and if it deepens – then I will venture out at midnight again.

Jam today?

Jam every other day, that was the rule, as the White Queen told Alice; jam yesterday, and jam tomorrow, but never jam today. In the last six weeks or so since I finished the First Draft, I must to confess to feeling as though jam today was an unobtainable pleasure.

But jam today is steadily becoming something tangible – and without being sticky. Although the prospect of redrafting the WIP still fills my soul with a sort of apprehensive horror, other ideas are beginning to filter through to the front of my brain. So far I have two ideas for short stories, one tentative and one strong; and the other morning in the bath I had a blast of inspiration for the next big project after the WIP. It’s a long way off being ready to begin in earnest, but a keystone in one of the supporting arches to its world foundations has magically slotted into place; it will work, its internal logic will be – reasonably – logical. It may even – gasp! – be able to slip into the interstice between hard SF and space opera.

It ocurrs to me to wonder why it is that inspiration seems to strike so often when I’m wallowing in hot lavender or geranium scented water. It almost never happens in the shower. Perhaps I should indulge in baths more often? If only to wash off the stickiness when it is at last jam today.

NB. By stickiness I suppose that I mean the ache of sitting hunched over the keyboard, heedless of the passage of the hours. Either way, writing will soon be taking place. The Muse is returning.

Autumn pleasures: a short list.

The smell of damp earth as heavy dew glistens in early morning sunlight.

Kicking through leaves in every shade of red and gold, finding conkers gleaming silkenly in fat split capsules of spiked green.

Colour slowly leaching from the sky, each day less blue than before.

Hedgerow harvesting, elderberries, blackberries, cob nuts and sloes.

Butter melting through hot toast, and the purple sweetness of damson jam.

Cox’s Orange Pippin sour on the tongue; tang of damp earth and woodsmoke.

Swarming starlings sky-dancing at evening.