Monday, January 31, 2011

31st January ~ a walk in stones (125 word diary)

a lone coot on the water
one ripple flows the length of the riverbed

Jake stops to stare at a pylon
and the airplane flying overhead

He notices the water level in the river
and the reeds growing out of them

I take him to the bridge
and he stops to throw sticks

we turn and see a heron
still as a statue
I snap a photo
and then it flies away

walking home
our shadows from the sunset
lead the way

a gull flying west
takes on a pale cherry breast

the island on the reservoir
is now alive with bird calls
black shapes alighting on nests

the sunset reflects on everything
treetops, upper story windows
eyes looking up to see


Although the river of stones project is coming to an end, I've enjoyed the trip so much this month, meeting fellow stoners (hee hee), having my eyes opened, sinking deeper into the stillness of the moments of the day-to-day, that I will carry on writing stones, though perhaps not every day.  I have a new project I'm looking forward to starting for the month of February, one that will redress the drawing part of the drawing / writing balance in my life and which will perhaps include the writing of stones.  I don't know exactly how it will go but I look forward to figuring it out.  I hope to catch some of you along the way.

Thank you for dropping by!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

30th January ~ 100 word diary made of stones

A grey tabby washes his face
on our green garden chair
pale sunlight reflects off the puddle
on Jake’s overturned paddling pool
patches of blue through speckled window
squares of yellow light on the wall
Our 2.5yr-old stands on a chair and says Bollocks!
doubling over with chuckles
Bollocks! Bollocks! Bollocks!
egged on by our unrestrained laughter
I piss myself laughing
while doing jumping jacks
Jake says, “That’s really good Mummy!”
then decides to lie down on top of me
during the abdominal crunches
pressing his face against the window
Jake catches the sunset
“Wow, look at that colour Daddy!”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

29th January ~ a stone for the river

a crowd of gulls
swoop and glide and circle and call
before leaving
a lone crow
perched on an antenna
stillness in their wake

Friday, January 28, 2011

28th January ~ my morning in stones (100 word diary)

Brushing my teeth
Jake stands next to me
imitating the sounds of a Hoover
I look down and see him using
Bagpuss’s tail as the Hoover nozzle
I laugh
Jake laughs too then says
“It’s not funny Mummy”
“But it’s cute,” I reply
“It’s not cute,” he says.


Dried pineapple chunks
the shape of sunken squares
tinkle against the sides of the bowl


Words from my magnetic poetry kit
scattered on the carpet
I see words I want to form into sense
Jake says “Let’s make a tower”
He asks for more
I place Love in his cupped palms

Thursday, January 27, 2011

27th January ~ a walk in stones (in 100 words)

Snowdrops in a neighbour’s window box,
smashed baseboard of an acoustic guitar,
the door to no. 46 slightly open,
a large woman pushing a shopping trolley trying to run for the W12,
a stoop painted fire engine red,
a ripped bin bag spilling clothes onto the street ~
chiffon polka-dot blouse
one cork-heeled sandal
a pink and cream striped tail catches my eye
sticking out amidst soft toy torsos
I stop and lift it out
Bagpuss! Brand new with the tag still attached
I place him in the seat of Jake’s pram
furry striped body rattling
all the way home.


This is from my walk along the same stretch of road as yesterday, returning home after dropping Jake off at nursery.  I love that I can walk the same road every day and see something new each time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

26th January ~ a walk in stones

a nest with conifers hanging off it,
a whippet the colour of a yellow labrador,
a small boy clutching an amber recorder in one hand
and his mother's hand in the other,
a jogger in black, her red hair swinging in a pony tail,
an abandoned cup in someone's front garden
advertising Thirsty Fun,
a discarded packet of cigarettes
bearing the image of a diseased lung next to a healthy one,
the smell of soup mingled with fried onions,
the chatter of magpies

What I saw on one stretch of road, walking home from dropping Jake off at nursery this morning.  Everything I see seems so connected, I'm having trouble separating them and picking just one.

26th January ~ a snippet from the other day (150 word diary)

Lunch at Tokyo Diner
Jake tries edamame and likes it
He takes a pair of unseparated chopsticks
and pokes at the compartments of my bento box
stirring the seaweed, turning over the salmon sashimi
He points at it - “Jake want try this”

I slice a bit off, dip it in soy sauce, offer it to him
He looks at it
“Do you want some?”
He shakes his head, then nods.
I offer it to him again

This time he opens his mouth
chews chews chews then
makes a face as he swallows

I imagine the feel of the fish on his tongue
“Don’t like it” he whimpers, pointing to his water bottle
I hand it to him and he grabs and guzzles

I’m just proud of him for trying
I never would have tried sashimi at his age
I wasn’t even brave enough to try it in my 20s

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

25th January ~ At the Museum of Childhood: 100 word diary made of stones

A child in tomato red jumper
lies down in front of the crisps and screams

Tiny-legged Alice in a blue dress
escapes from her flustered grandmother
ordering macchiato in the café queue

Bigger children
wearing fluorescent vests
choo-choo around the model rail display
edging Jake out of the way

Strawberry Shortcake still in her box
takes me to the car park at Toys R Us
Long Island
a bright cold day

Drawing an American Teddy Bear
from 1904
the bear’s torso shakes
as children stomp by


At the Bethnal Green Gallery Café
two labels beneath paintings
Grief, £150
Joy, Not for Sale

Monday, January 24, 2011

January 24th ~ 160 word diary made of stones

gifts wrapped in deep blue paper

a mug thrown by a friend
shiny deep blue glaze
creamy speckled inside
ripples on the base
and her name stamp

a perfectly sized copy of
The Hare with Amber Eyes

another gift in a tiny brown envelope

flat teardrop pendant
creamy smooth surface
crackled cream glaze
with a red stripe through it

Oscar the neighbourhood cat
scratches his paws on a silver birch
standing on his hind legs
his black and white belly exposed

Oscar jumps on to a low wall
to bump his head against
our shoulders and outstretched hands

The dentist’s receptionist
sings me Happy Birthday

People I hardly ever see
leave me messages
on a virtual wall

My son tenses his legs straight
and goes on to his tiptoes
as he hunches over
his arms around me
trying to hold in his poo

I sniff the plaster on my finger
it doesn’t smell good
but I can’t stop sniffing

Sunday, January 23, 2011

23rd January ~ 100 word diary made of stones

The windows are being taken out
from our ex-neighbours’ flat

After Paul leaves, Jake clings
to my neck, my leg
asking “Where’s Daddy, want kiss him”
dragging Paul’s brown jumper in circles
pointing to his blue work shirt
going to the window and looking out
his hair pressed against the
white cloth blind

slicing carrots
the knife slips
blood runs from a gash
there is no pain

until later

typing with one finger padded in a washproof plaster
a cup of tea
the dry rise of heat from the radiator
faint and constant outbreath
from a thin metallic hollow

Saturday, January 22, 2011

22nd January ~ a stone for the river

washing my hair with Johnson's baby shampoo
the smell of childhood fills the shower


Later, Jake watches kittens dancing on youtube 
They dance to children singing
I’ve got the joy joy joy joy joy down in my heart (miaow)

Down in my heart (miaow)
Down in my heart (miaow)
I’ve got the joy joy joy joy joy down in my heart (miaow)
Down in my heart to stay

It becomes our unintended anthem for the rest of the day
escaping our lips in whistles
sung quietly while washing up and
filtering into my mind during the relaxation
at the end of yoga

22nd January ~ 100 word diary

What I've eaten today: two slices of toast, one with marmite, one with marmalade. A granola bar. A mini-bap with Quorn ham and butter. Carrot sticks with hummus. Some clementine segments. For dinner I will be making butter bean puree with spring greens which will be eaten with fresh crusty bread. And tomorrow, taco shells filled with Mexican spiced veggie mince, chopped baby plum tomatoes, shredded iceberg lettuce and homemade guacamole. I focus on food as an anchor, like we focus on the breath in yoga, and in life, when I need to catch myself from falling through this moment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

21st January ~ shadows (a stone for the river)

shadows in the folds of the silver beanbag

Things I saw this week

21st January ~ 100 word diary

Today I’m aware of wanting to get things over with. Writing my list of seen things as if it was a chore rather than something I chose to do, something to keep my eyes and senses open. Instead, a longing to clear a space, sweep my way through the day like a floor full of mess so I can have somewhere to sit. Except it’s the book I want to clear a space to. My notebook for the Fiction Project. Now that it’s begun, properly begun, I don’t want to put it down. A longing as physical as needing sleep.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

20th January ~ 100 word diary

Yesterday I bought a jar of Rose’s lemon & lime marmalade. I loved the jar and the colour of the marmalade and I’d never seen it before. I happened to mention it to my friend M on our walk through the marshes and she said, “Rose’s lemon & lime marmalade! We used to eat it at the hotel for elevenses. If it was warm, all the staff would sit outside and eat the cold leftover toast from breakfast with Rose’s lemon & lime marmalade.” Who knew a whim for a jar of marmalade would lead to such a wonderful story.

January 20th ~ a stone

An observation from this morning.  A painful one.
what happens when you're an angry mother

Jake makes a missile of his plastic syringe, throwing it at me from the top of the stairs. I look up and see. His face full of hurt. Something inside me says, let him be, enough yelling. But an old voice, familiar and strong, shouts in two voices. “That’s it, no more syringes for you!” (out loud) and “you have to teach him a lesson” (inside my head). And though I stomp up the stairs and throw the syringe in the sink, I feel small for being the person I hate. Jake watches me and puts his fingers in his mouth. His face sets in determination. He does not want to do as I say. For a moment, I want to make him, knowing I can make him. Then I look at him with the tiny scratch on his forehead and see in his eyes how I tower over him with my angry face. I feel punched by shame and drop down to my knees. I want to climb into him, making his face my face, his determination my determination. Make my shame her shame. Wishing I’d had the power to turn off her angry face. I say sorry to my son and we hug. I kiss the scratch on his forehead. He says, “I sorry shouting too Mummy.” I hold him close. “You have nothing to be sorry for Jake. Nothing. This isn’t your fault.” But he says sorry again. And I cry, wondering what has been done.


Damn this hurts.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

26n ~ response to prompt 2 (on overused words)

This is a response to this prompt, posted by Na on 26n.

I went out last Friday night. Even though I no longer commute, when I get on the tube, I still pull on my Londoner-armour. I rarely go out on a Friday or Saturday night. Rarely did even before I became a stay-at-home mum. I have a fear that I will be accosted or worse by a loud drunk person or persons. So I was in full wariness. And I was very tired. When I’m tired, I can be a judgemental ogre, especially if I’m around a lot of strangers. I don’t know why, but I look at people and my meanie reflex kicks in.

A couple got on at Holborn and I was instantly annoyed by them. Mainly because they were talking so loudly about their holiday in Mauritius that it felt like they wanted to be heard by as many people as possible. Then I labelled the man posh (because of his shirt and his accent) and ugly (because of his large mouth and teeth). When the woman turned around, all I could see was her huge nose. I couldn’t stop this thought: Oh my god, between his teeth and her nose how do they ever manage a snog?

At King’s Cross, three people got on. A woman and her parents. They were well-dressed and this label came out - respectable middle class, maybe church goers, a bit stiff. The woman sat between her mother and her father and I thought, poor thing hasn’t inherited either of her parents’ attractiveness. Her chin stuck out and her face seemed over-padded, making her features seem indistinct. She also had a fleshy bump on her chin which reminded me of a cartoon witch’s boil. And pale eyelashes.

But I found myself being absorbed by them. I looked from the woman to her mother and noticed that her mother had the same fleshy bump but to the side of her nose. And that the woman had her mother’s eyes. I’d thought her mother was more attractive but maybe it was because she’d taken a lot of care in her appearance. She wore makeup and looked well-to-do. And then I looked at her father and saw that she also had her father’s eyes. He looked more mellow than I’d first thought and quietly jolly. His eyes seemed to smile for no particular reason. The more I looked, the more I could see features of both her parents (whose faces were more chiselled and distinct than hers) blended on her face. And the more I looked, the more vivid she seemed to become.

Then I noticed how she spoke with her mother. They had been speaking for some time and not only were they calm, they looked at each other while they spoke. They seemed to treat each other as equals, with no animosity, hostility or misunderstanding between them. They smiled often. It was obvious they had a lot of affection for each other. And while she spoke to her mother, her father took her arm and slipped it around his, and he started to stroke her hand as he studied the adverts above my head. Once, he looked down, caught my eye and smiled at me. I felt caught out so I looked away and didn’t smile back and then regretted it. He continued to stroke his daughter’s hand and when I looked at her again, I started to see things I hadn’t seen before. The glow to her cheeks. A quality behind her eyes, more than warmth, something like blossoming. And a sense of something to her, something strong. Confidence, self-assurance? I noticed that the buttons on her coat said Betty Jackson. I imagined a high-flying career for her.

Then I thought about my parents. How hard it would be for me to have a conversation like that with my mother. And how alien it would feel for my father to sit stroking my hand while sitting on a train. It was normal to her. She barely seemed to notice it. Just before I got off the tube, I looked at her again and saw it. How beautiful she was. Because she was so clearly loved. It made me feel ashamed, to have thought of her as unattractive. And sad because she had something I didn’t. When her father noticed my bag and turned to ask her, “Have you ever been to Cordoba?” and they looked at me with my bag from my last holiday as if I was a portal to the place itself, I felt too visible. I wanted to get up and walk away before they started smiling and being kind and asking me questions, when I had been mean and judgemental. I didn’t want them to look at me or see me. So I got up and walked to the door, my aloof and distant Londoner-armour in tact.


Thoughts about the prompt & the writing I posted

I think there are two parts to this. One concerns the overuse of certain words in society at any given time. For example, amazing is far too popular a word at the moment. Gorgeous is another. And thing. And then, individuals will have their own overused words and phrases. I think overuse of certain words is inevitable. Like trends, they come and go. Words will have their peak and then people will grow tired of them or discover a new word and start saying that instead.

It seems that to not overuse words, you would have to maintain a constant and focussed sense of awareness – not only about what you say, but also what the word you say is connected to and what it means to you. I suspect most of us couldn’t cope what that level of awareness. We have routines, chores to complete, work to do, commutes to get through, people and things to take care of, meaning we need to get across as quickly and efficiently as possible. We get tired, confused, angry, emotional, fed up. We forget. What comes out is habit. Every now and then, we get a moment that lifts us out of that cycle. And maybe that moment will bring us to awareness. But so many things could be occupying us, and many of them are perhaps wordless.

So it’s not so much the words we use but how we relate to them. Whether we really see or hear them anymore. And why.

When I read this prompt I knew what I wanted to write about. However, rather than not using the word and trying to find a replacement that was fresh, I wanted to write about a moment that made me look closely and which made the word (beautiful) suddenly meaningful to me. In this case, it was the act of really looking and seeing that led me to the word, so that by the time it came to me, it did not feel flat or trite, but simply truthful.

This is long!!  And I nearly didn't post it cos it exposes things about me I don't really like.  So if you've gotten this far, thank you.

19th January ~ a stone for the river

Jake’s small hands
release Penguin’s neck
hovering and conducting
the air
a song I almost hear

19th January ~ 150 word diary (a recollection)

Yesterday while going through photos from my phone, Jake saw some of himself in hospital. I explained to him what they were. Some of them still make me wince. Took me back to the moment as if it were still a solid place. I put my arms around him but he pushed them away. Photos of buildings, light and Stevenson House came up in between. And I remembered how open I felt, involuntarily so. So open I felt exposed, as if I was being watched. The physicality of the world loud and vivid even in the moments in between. I felt I slept even with eyes open and eyes open on me. Just remembering it made me want to crawl under a blanket and sleep through the rest of winter. But Jake kept asking to see them, over and over again. “V hurting there, but Jake fine now,” he said.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

18th January ~ a stone for the river


clouds the shape of great britain
float across a windshield

clouds reflected in puddles
the sky on the ground

18th January ~ 100 word diary

It seems like a long time since we’ve seen sunshine. The light today seems particularly luminescent, bright, warm. Jake and I went over to T’s for a play date. Then shopping for the ingredients for a tofu cheesecake. Yesterday my friend Iole came over and after ten minutes of shyness, Jake warmed up and dragged her off to “Ni room” to play, leaving me to finish cooking. Red lentil soup and a bulghur salad. It was a busy day but I went to bed feeling like I’d done nothing. Wasted a precious hour watching the Britney episode of Glee. Shudder.

Monday, January 17, 2011

17th January ~ a stone for the river

the head of a streetlamp
reflected in a puddle


With this thought in mind, I shift my attention. If it wanders into simile, I will try to bring it back to what I observe without embelllishment or interpretation.

17th January ~ 100 word diary

Reading this post on A River of Stones makes me pause. I fear I have mistaken the writing of small stones for the writing of poetry. I recognise myself as one of those people who "sees artistically, decorating my descriptions, turning everything into a simile". Beneath all that I glimpse the thought beneath it, the longing. Look at this pretty thing I did. Please admire me for it. Offering shiny trinkets to be liked and accepted. How hard it is to just see, to offer simply what is there. How hard it is not to change it into something “better”.


Here are some examples from today, where I have tried to stick to observation without decoration or interpretation:

my toddler follows me into the bathroom
I turn around
he throws up his arms
I pick him up
his arms circle my neck
his head rests on my shoulder
I kiss his smooth cheek
inhaling the unexpected scent of Vicks


the chemist with a fluffy head of hair
whistles “I believe in angels”
as he hands me Jake’s medicine

Sunday, January 16, 2011

16th January ~ 100 word diary

A stick found on the street, a boy’s best toy. I think children have a gene, a drag-a-stick-along-the-street-as-you-run, and drag-it-across-the-railings-of-a-fence gene. And stopping to try and fit it in a crack the shape of a tree root in the pavement. And tapping it ahead of you like a diviner. We brought the stick home, with a larger stick friend and right now, Jake is sitting on the sofa, his socks off, poking the stick between his toes. Lately his face takes on this look and I can see it happening before my eyes, how he’s becoming his own person.

16th January ~ a stone for the river

a break in the clouds
the sky earth’s camera
the sun released
in a long, slow exposure
printing warmth
on my skin

I close my eyes
and turn my face
to the light

my eyelids
a burnt orange screen
flickering to rows
of tall sunflowers
facing the same way

nostalgia stirs
from winter sleep
longing for summers
and those yet to come

the shutter falls
the screen goes dark
light retreats to its cloud-cushioned place

I open my eyes
It is today again

Saturday, January 15, 2011

15th January ~ 100 word diary

Been having flashbacks reading the ignorant and defensive comments my brother’s getting on Facebook after having posted that he’s going vegan. He’s been inspiring me though and as soon as the meat in our fridge is eaten (2 bacon slices and 1 smoked mackerel fillet), I’m going back to vegetarianism, for a while anyway. Just made a gorgeous smoked mackerel risotto with spinach and peas served with a squeeze of lime juice. In other news, I finally started on my Nighttime Stories Fiction Project notebook today. One page down, 99 to go! All those empty pages are giving me palpitations.

15th January ~ a stone for the river

the clock ticks
my heart beats
I am here

Friday, January 14, 2011

14th January ~ a stone for the river

rain falling on puddles

a dance of grey O’s
mouths open on the surface
then disappear

14th January ~ 100 word diary

It's fine now.  I drew yesterday and I went back to this morning, wrote 1200 words during Teletubbies and finished my 30-day writing streak, earning my albatross badge. I’m back in the word zone. Words are my friend again. Maybe it’s because one of my oldest friends is in town for a week and we’re going out tonight. I suggested an Indian Vegetarian place on Panton Street. She didn’t sound enthusiastic but she didn’t refuse. But I’m feeling inspired by my brother’s attempt to go vegan after a lifetime of guzzling meat. It’s a VERY big deal for him.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Memories have a life of their own

Doodling: what I do when words get too much.

13th January ~ the relentless 100 word diary (100ish)

I am sick of words and they are sick of me. I can't do this.  Too many words.  I need balance.  Need to go stand on one leg, smear scarlet across a turquoise sea, stare too long at the sharp glint of sun on a puddle, dive into warm sea.  Go into the kitchen and inhale the remains of the ginger cake baked last night.  The worst cake I've ever made.  Burnt on top, crisp on the sides, sunk in the middle and too sweet.  Almost a whole tin of Golden Syrup went into the worst cake I've ever baked.  There will be other cakes.  But not today.

13th January ~ a stone for the river (on word-exhaustion)

the words are tired

they protest that they
have been working too hard
looking too hard
peering and squinting too much

their vision is blurred

they run around in my head
have to be dragged to my fingertips

on the way
they kick out
scattering sparks behind my eyelids

they want a break
or they will go on strike for good

just you try and do this without us
they say

and yet

I cannot not do this
I cannot fail
I cannot fall silent

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

12th January ~ something I wrote yesterday

Here is something I wrote yesterday.  Just sat down and wrote when I was in the midst of feeling sad about everything (and feeling sorry for myself) which Jakey dying made even more melancholy.  It's not edited (much).


I dreamed that you made it up the stairs
and when I saw you climbing up, I felt stricken
that we’d agreed to have you put to sleep

When I woke up
the meows I thought I heard
were pushed away to dusty corners
in favour of reality

the here and now
grey sadness
for which words are dull and stupid

I want a big ball of clay
to mould and squidge into your shape
and cover with fur
and leave a hollow inside for a small motor
for your purr

because what good is it
to write or say
things that can never be
can’t make you come back
bringing warmth again
under our fingers
scratching between your ears
can't make anyone
or any time
come back

What good are words now


I want to go to the beach
and eat fat salty chips
that grow cold while the wind
whips my hair and face

I want to make a cake
moist and dark and rich
make it xmas again
poured with cream
twinkling with lights
before anyone left or had to go

Since I woke up to not find
our cat who is still our cat
coming up the stairs
I’ve fed salty yoghurt to Jake
watched trains on youtube
cleaned shit off the toilet bowl
knelt to pick up crisp shards
and fingernail crescents
and dirty tissues
from an overturned bin


swam on a blue fleece sea
dried off on a red duvet beach
treated zombie wounds
launched rockets made of plastic bottles
ate soup prepared by a king
with a grey felt beard

while on 6music
a DJ with only one name talked
about everything in a tone of constant
about The Cure and Primal Scream
playing Bestival

and I hated her
because she wasn't faking it
she really could be happy
about a festival in September
as if all the time between now
and then are bright pebbles
to skip upon
across a clear stream

I eff and blind
because I will not be the kind of person
who wants to look forward to something
that far into the future

while now

words are beached
and flapping for breath

and yet

I’ve abandoned the zombie hospital
and my son shouting for cuddles
to come down here
to push one letter next to another
like something important depends on it

Words are useless
Leave me alone

Words are useless
Hold on

12th January ~ a stone for the river

presence is
soft copper fur
warm engine purr
wet sandpaper kiss

absence is
transparent colourless gas
expanding into every space
squeezing organs
and tears out of ducts

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

11th January ~ Goodbye Jakey Cat

Jakey cat died last night.  We had to have him put down. He had a spinal injury and with his age and diabetes, his chances of recovery, after what would’ve been a difficult and long treatment, were slim. He was 10 years old. We miss him very much. Our affectionate ginger furball with his powerhouse purr and his penchant for licking. When Paul took him to the vet, we thought it might be the last time we saw him so we said goodbye. Jake and I kissed him on his sweet furry head. That’s all I want to say right now. For once, I find words no comfort at all. Goodbye Maximus Gingerpuss. You were a wonderful cat.

11th January ~ a stone for the river

our cat died last night

new sadness
sits heavy on my chest
and twists my stomach into queasiness

I don’t want to retreat into words
they are no comfort

silence is better
and cuddles offered by a child
who hasn’t learned to be afraid of emotion

Monday, January 10, 2011

10th January ~ a stone for the river

dressing my toddler
I realise
I must have taken deep sea diving lessons
in another life
and learned to wrestle an octopus

10th January ~ 100 word diary

Jakey is still in pain.  Last night, he crawled under the sofa and didn’t even come out for his dinner. Then after we went to bed, he dragged himself to the toilet to be near the litter tray. He’s been able to use that and have a bit of food, but otherwise, he’s not moving. We can’t take him to the vet till tonight though. Paul’s on his own at work and I don’t have anyone to look after Jake. Whenever we go near him, he lets out his mournful wail. Otherwise he’s bearing it with quiet dignity. Poor cat.

Denizen Photo Project

Denizen is an online magazine about and for Third Culture Kids.  They've just launched their 365 self-portrait photo project.  My contribution is here.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

26n ~ From tomorrow...

Treeshadowmoon and I will be kick-starting the writing prompts on 26n tomorrow.

Anyone can participate, whether you think of yourself as a writer or not.  If you want to write, then it's never too late to start.

New prompts will be posted every Monday.  We hope you'll join in, and spread the word.

See you there.

9th January ~ 100ish word diary (and that song again*)

I don't know if he doesn’t like the song (or if he's singing along) but Jakey’s resumed a mournful meow. It started earlier. He stood up, his back legs shaky. Then lay down suddenly with a plaintive meow that made us pause. Jake kneeled down and kissed him saying, “It’s okay Jakey.” He was quiet for a while, but he’s started up again. I need to stop playing it now. It’s reminding me too clearly that I’ve never bared my heart like that. And only so much wallowing in sadness will do. Time for a new song. Like Raspberry Beret.

(*that song being If You Go Away)

9th January ~ a song for the river

heartbreak quavering on her voice
sends goose pimples running up my skin
sadness stirs in my stomach
like a trembling stone

If You Go Away (this is a link to a song on Spotify)

8th January ~ If you go away

Today, after ten years of knowing her and believing that she only listens to classical music (and The Divine Comedy) I discovered that my friend M likes Dusty Springfield. We were discussing the (over)dramatisation of Nigel Slater’s memoir Toast. Ever since I heard Dusty’s heartbreaking version of Ne Me Quitte Pas in the film, I’ve wanted to hear it again. A young Nigel plays it before he packs one tiny suitcase and strides out of his unhappy childhood home. We remarked how people in films always manage to pack everything they need in one small suitcase before flowing seamlessly into a new life. “If it was Chekhov that would never happen,” M said. “But if it was Chekhov, there’d be no Dusty Springfield.” I replied. Overdramatisations were therefore forgiven. At least in this case.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

8th January ~ a stone for the river

The Silver Birch

branches hang bare
the last strands of
a witch’s hair

she stands graceful
her arms set in a frozen dance
waiting for the season

to bloom again

Friday, January 07, 2011

7th January ~ 100 word diary

I’ve got a cyst in my gum. Apparently quite common when there’s lack of bone. It’s muscling the surrounding tissue and tooth out of its way and it has to come out. As do my wisdom teeth, both impacted, in my lower jaw. I’m being referred to have all that done surgically. In the meantime, I’m on antibiotics for the abscess and Corsodyl for my gum problems. I guess I knew this day would come. Many moons ago, a dentist told adolescent-me that my wisdom teeth would have to come out some day. Whaddya know. Some days do come true.

7th January ~ a stone for the river

Today, Elena leaves.
Raindrops cling to silver birch branches
like weeping eyes.
When we say goodbye our faces will smile
though we hold empty rooms inside us.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

6th January ~ 100 word diary

Warning: This post is gross.  If you have dental-related phobias, look away now.

What happens when you avoid going to the dentist for two years? You wake up with a pinch in your gum, like someone’s holding it in pincers. As the day goes on, a raw grinding throb joins in. It worsens hourly. Paracetamol has no effect and you can’t close your mouth because of the swelling. Just when you think you can’t take anymore, you feel a trickle of liquid at the back of your mouth. It makes your breath rank but the pain has subsided. No matter what she puts me through tomorrow, the dentist is my new best friend.

6th January ~ a stone for the river

three streams cross my path
silver bright
crawling over fork and trunk

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

5th January ~ a (large) stone for the river

small hand in mine
we sit and breathe the quiet
between sleeping and waking

a warm squeeze
our fingers cluster together
and his voice
sweet and whole

Mummy are you small?

I nod. Yes darling, sometimes I am.
No other explanation is required
on his part or mine.

Shall we go downstairs?

warmth leaves my palm
as he gets up
the door opens
letting light in.

5th January ~ 250 word diary

I put a painting on the wall that I did last week. It was one I’d done alongside Jake during one of his sessions. But when he saw it on the wall today, he dragged a chair over and stood on it to get a better look. He looked at it for a long while. Finally I asked him if he liked it. “Yes! That bootful paintin that one.” I couldn’t have been happier if the snootiest art critic in the world said he liked it. Then he said he wanted to make one too so I showed him how.

He dripped and shook the paint over his paper with joyous gusto. Just as I was thinking to myself how beautifully the colours were falling, he grabbed a tissue and wiped all the colour together, his whole body moving with the rhythm of his arm. My instinct was an intake a breath and a desire to say, “No, stop, it was perfect just as it was.” And if that didn’t work then, “That’s not how Mummy did it.” Instead I gagged my Inner Control Freak and kept quiet. I looked at Jake. He’d forgotten everything but the moment he was in. It reminded me of something Keri Smith quoted on her blog, “Art is a quality, not a product.” Jake’s still at the age where he lives that quality without even knowing it. I just have to get out of his way and try not to spoil it for him.

My painting

Jake's painting

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

4th January ~ A Stone for The River

Slicing hearts of romaine
leaves a dome of pale green
For a moment
a minute universe
Then a droplet
that runs

4th January ~ 240 word diary

Some days I wake up feeling dry and swollen. The mirrors in our house are not kind. The one we pass all the time, the one in the hall, is literally distorted and subtly endows you with bulging squatness. The “good” mirror or rather, the one that doesn’t lie, the one I get dressed in front of, is tucked at the top of the stairs under a sloping roof. Standing in front of it is liable to get me a bump on the head but it’s less painful. I suspect the house was built by giants forced to collaborate with toddlers.

I am of average height yet have to stand on stools or strain and curse a blue streak on tiptoes to open or close most of the windows. In the kitchen there is the added joy of ensuring my stomach is over the counter in order to reach the window catch. The bathroom mirror, which is the front of an unusually small cabinet with shelves that we can only fill with miniature versions of real toiletries, only reflects the top half of my face. Because of this, I feel the illogical need to step closer to it as well as stand on my tiptoes to see my whole face. And nobody’s face looks great that close. Some days, when the sun is shining and I’m not tired, it doesn’t look so bad. Today it’s grey. And my eyes sting.

Monday, January 03, 2011

3rd January ~ 100 word diary

Because I don’t already have enough writing to do (I write private 750-word as well as 100-word entries) I joined A River of Stones and will soon be kick-starting a writing prompts blog with treeshadowmoon. What the hell. Overdoing it is my way. Last night at bed time, Jake placed his hand on my cheek and said, “Close eyes Mummy.” I didn’t want to. His forehead was pressed to mine, his face filling up my field of vision, magnified and blurry and cute. I just wanted to look into that blur of his face, catch his open eyes on mine.

3rd January ~ a stone for the river

Jake tastes Oolong tea and his face bunches up.  That’s not water that one, he says.  His weight is a padded boulder on my thigh.  He hops off, his hair bouncing grey light.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

1st January 2011 ~ 100 word diary

Had no internet access or TV for most of the day. No problemo. Finished colouring in C’s drawing, inhaling too many funky fumes as a result. Then went to bed, knackered. As soon as I got under the covers, I felt cold and achey and stayed that way for the rest of the day. Dragged myself out of bed around 5:30pm and was no good for anything except reading on the sofa. Barely even managed that. Had tomato soup for dinner and with feta chunks in it, it tasted even more of vomit than usual. Yurmmy. Bed time was heaven.

Mummy reading, Taken by Jake

2nd January 2011 ~ 100 word diary

Threw the remains of Jake’s breakfast away, telling Jake I was doing so because it was old. Jake replied, “That’s right. Jake can’t eat it because Jake not old.” That was a good moment. Before that we had a run of bad ones, starting with a major tantrum when Paul left the house to go shopping. Jake kept crying for him, asking for Daddy Cuggles. Mummy Cuggles just wouldn’t do. Crisps calmed him, but not for long. What with his Daddy-attachment and constant worrying “Mummy are you happy?” I can’t help but wonder if I’m screwing the poor kid up.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Poem

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- from Dream Work by Mary Oliver