Tonight, the stars shine for me.

Today, for the first time in a long time, the year has felt like it is at last where it should be. Today has been one of those idyllic July days; infinite blue sky, heat without humidity, the scent of cut grass, good coffee, lingering honeysuckle. All that was missing was the old fashioned tang of creosote – it was a good day for weatherproofing your exterior woodwork – the thock of leather on willow, and the low hum of a light aircraft crossing from there to elsewhere. And neither unfeasibly wet, nor unseasonably hot. Really, that’s how good it felt, like one of those perfect days that seemed to last forever when I was a child.

And the night has been a good one too. I went to see The Dark Knight Rises with my friend Nina. We loved it. I’m not going to bore you with any attempt at a review – there are enough both glowing and detracting out in the wilds of the net if you want to judge by other people’s opinions. All I will say is that it hit square on all the plot points it needed to hit with the character ensemble, and it did it loudly, and stylishly. It made me – and a large number of the other audience members – jump in our seats. It pulled no punches. But some of the little details… the minor things that niggle, or distract you from the full suspension of disbelief… come on Hollywood; you don’t have to get such simple things wrong. And that’s all I’ll say on the matter. That, and that I REALLY want to go and see it again. Now, preferably.

I enjoyed it so much in fact, that I danced all the way home along Slad Road. It helped that my iPod shuffle threw me Hallogallo; vintage krautrock doesn’t come much better than this. And walking away from the orange streetlamp glare, into the tall shadows cast by dark houses, high hedges, framing the night sky away from urban light-spill, the stars shone clear in all their millions, strung across the sky. The night breeze and the stars, and the music and me. The kind of night where it would be so simple just to keep on walking, into the darkness until the sky turns light again. And I stopped, mid-step, and gazed and gazed. And I saluted the sky. I did. And then I carried on dancing. And yes, there was a lone cyclist who doubtless thought me completely mental, but I really don’t care. Because all during that homeward dance, I was perfectly happy. And the stars shone, for me.


Last night…

The benefits of standing barefoot in the garden in the rain are not to be underestimated. The decking, rain-slicked yet still holding some of the day’s warmth, and flecked with fallen rose petals; the pergola, smothered with hundreds of tiny, dark pink roses; lemon balm and thyme spill over from their respective pot and bed, a warmly medicinal scent, clean against the deeper sweetness of honeysuckle and philadelphus. All these things offer a simple restorative to a turbulent mind – and especially if one manages to avoid treading on a slug – when night thoughts grow too dark to bear.

But there is something better. To stand in the garden, skin bare to the night rain’s cold caresses, roused to a state of almost wanton wakefulness, is both stimulating and soothing, as I discovered last night. And if it rains again tonight, do not doubt but that I will be doing it again.

Some Kind Of Fairy Tale

Last night I did a thing that I have not done for a a very long time. Last night I was impelled to stay awake in order to finish the book I’d begun reading earlier in the day. The book? Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. Buy it. Read it. Love it. (And when you buy it, why not go to your nearest independent bookseller – it’s Independent Booksellers’ Week. Keep books on the High Street, help prop up the pitiful excuse for our economy, and keep people like me in our jobs.)

And now that June is almost ended, the philadelphus joins with the honeysuckle in scenting the briefer hours of darkness. And I’m galumphing through another book… and will soon be galumphing back to the Second Draft. I’ve been re-inspired.

Barefoot days

One of the things I love about good summer weather is being able to go barefoot – all day, if I don’t need to leave the house. The feeling of hot wooden decking beneath my feet as I hang out the laundry, and the garden scents swirling around me; roses, clematis, wisteria, aqualegia… but no honeysuckle, yet. It’s late this year, and I miss it dreadfully. Nothing quite fills the senses like woodbine does, coiling in clasping tendrils around the pergola, scrambling over the fence, clambering up the walls, its golden trumpets delicate, but never shy. Its time will come, and soon, I hope. In the meantime the wisteria does its best to make up for it, and makes my head swim like wine when I open the windows, laced with cut grass from the larger gardens, and the park… intoxicating!

Despite the golden days, and warmer nights, the black bitch Depression still slyly bites, every now and then. And there doesn’t seem to be much that I can do about it, at the moment, except to endure it. Or sleep through it. Not that I mean to sound defeatist – I certainly don’t want  to beaten by this thing! – but somehow it seems harder to be in the dark, when there’s all this gorgeous light around me. And yet, summer is the time of deeper shadows, lasting longer… seeing the Hockney exhibition in March made me appreciate that; his paintings of the same place viewed through the changing seasons, the changing light, and shadows.

But there are plenty of things to look forward to. I’ll be running away for a long weekend with friends in Scotland next month, for a start. And this Sunday I’m taking part in the Stroud Short Stories Site festival event. Which I’m quite excited about. And nervous. Very nervous. Oh yes, and last week I had another flash fiction (200 words, the shortest thing I’ve written so far) accepted by Ether Books. Which made me squeak with happiness. It’s called ‘Bread and Olives’, if you fancy downloading it to your smart phone or iPad. And that’s enough shameless self-promotion for now. I need to go and breathe in the garden.

Rain, or How I’ve Always Loved English Summers

You can’t talk about the weather in England at this time of year without someone complaining about the rain. (As a matter of fact it is a truth universally accepted that you can’t talk about the weather in England at any time of year without someone complaining about it being too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too anything, even when seasonal: it’s supposed to snow in winter for fucks sake.) But rain, summer rain, can be a fine thing. Yes all right, the rain in 2007 was a little excessive in these parts, but I am getting to my point. Who has not felt the gently smug animal comfort of lying in bed, drowsing on the edge of deeper sleep, and listening to the thrumming of cloudfall on roof and window? A night-pleasure for every season, intensified in summer when lying there with the window open. Then the circle of sensory pleasure is completed by being able to smell the rain on the warm earth, with the ever-present top notes of honeysuckle, roses, cut grass, and in earlier summer, philadelphus. Only in the licentious heat of summer is the scent of rain truly intoxicating. For of course, warmth is the key. Who would want to splash barefoot across a rain soaked lawn in any other season? Too cold, too cold! Who would willingly forego the protection of coat or umbrella to stand or dance in a heavy rainfall in spring, or autumn, or winter? But when the skies burst, and cool the humid fug of sticky heat with heavy drops like freshwater pearls, that drench the air, my skin, my hair, and cleanse away the drier scents of dust and faded greenery, then is summer magic indeed, the obverse of the coin of long hours of heat, and light, and blue blue skies. There is romance in summer rain, and lust, and the perfect pleasure of simple sensuality, sun-warmed skin and sweat, rain-slicked and refreshed.


Sometimes life just throws stuff at you, stuff that can’t be avoided; great steaming piles of Big Stuff. Stuff that takes time to process. Suffice it to say,  I have been mostly failing to deal with the latest big lump of Life Stuff, and unsurprisingly, the writing part of me has been scuppered. Yes, for the past two weeks, I have been having writer’s block. So much for this, and this, then, although there may still be hope for the latter, if only I can actually succeed in wrapping my head around what is happening and DEAL with it. Sorry to be cryptic, but the thing is too personal, and huge, to talk about directly. The issue under discussion here is the effect on my writing. It is frustrating and stifling, and feels petty and trite, and yet I know that it isn’t, it is only a side effect of what is going on. At least I don’t feel guilty – that’s one less thing to deal with. (Small mercies, etc…)

I have had writer’s block before, for other personal reasons. I got through it, despite some people unhelpfully telling me that they never suffer from writer’s block, don’t understand it, and possibly don’t even believe in it. After I overcame the urge to remove their head from their shoulders via their bowels, and practised some deep breathing, I did feel much better. And I will get through this, I just have to bite the bullet and deal with the Thing. But it is going to be a long process, and not easy.

In the meantime, there are other pleasures that I have been enjoying; the day to day business of motherhood, the summer holidays and my daughter’s suddenly active social life – lots of birthday parties recently – and watching the skies for rain, whilst the scent of honeysuckle intoxicates the warm night air. And yes, I have been indulging my fetish for hanging out laundry in the small hours of the morning, often while mostly dishabille.

Sleep beckons now. This is the most I’ve written anywhere, in the last fortnight, so I suppose it must be regarded as a kind of progress. One word at a time…