Facebooking messages and images

It started with a brief comment about two ties I wore in the eighties: everything was either sharp stark and hard edged or floral lacy and wide skirted . I wore a lot of black and white in those days -a polka dotted deep frilled Edwardian style dress to the 6th form ball, black and white tartan straight skirted woollen affair for my hen night , silk black blouse with pleated lace skirt and lacy tights for the respectable hen night , a handmade red polka dot suit with red heels for Xmas.

Looking back at my much younger self it’s clear to me now how much I loved clothes. Richard Shops was my affordable slice of heaven. Slinky fabrics, scarves Benetton colours – deep pink and emerald my favourites . Now I’m a jeans and white shirt person .

The photo of the sixth form ball is evocative. I had left school a few days before ; was about to move home and had just started a job. The head of sixth form gave me the option to change my mind. But it’s so many moves I knew that I wouldn’t .

However when the photograph was taken I knew even then that I had made a mistake. Three days in on tea making duties , carrying leaky multipacks of cartons of milk -24- in the hot summer which marked my first year, I knew that from then on I would drink my coffee black.

I wish I could whizz back in time and reassure myself that I WOULD study literature , that being a writer was possible . I wish that I could reassure myself that although life would be filled with loss fright and grief that I could never have imagined , there would be the sweetest moments, that I would have the most loyal, the most kind and supportive friends .

Ii’s go back and tell myself now that books matter . That I should be reading Morrison, Jean Rhys, Pat Barker, Maya Angelou, Atwood. That the Virago stand in the bookshop in Castle Square was prescribed reading . When I got the job as PA to a writer on the South Wales Evening post I should have followed my dream. Yes I’d have been filing , picking up her kids, dishing them a late supper , but I’d have seen a printing press clattering into action. I should have held out for that but … turned it down.

My childhood dream was to have my own designated library and reading space . I have that now -albeit slightly abridged . I forgot that dream for a while until I was 29.

I look so young in the photographs. I know that I wasn’t as confident as I looked . I’m surprised that I kept so many photographs from 82-87. And all o response to Annwen who said “You? Heels and dresses? Send me a photo to prove it!

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Uncovering motivations for writing: Writers block Or, When You Can’t Even Write About Being Unable To Write.

In a conversations about the difficulties of writing my father’s story someone asked me recently, “Why do you think this is a story that needs to be told? Why are you writing this story?”

Following the death of my husband I began researching archives trying to trace my father’s wartime story. There’s a whole emotional connection there that I could explore but here and now are not the time and place.

My research of my father’s war time experiences involved locating Squadron Daily Diaries, reading and re-reading facsimiles of his log books, * looking at photographs. I traced squadron associations, books about squadrons, traced names noted in a log book. and read countless historic and fictional accounts including Len Deighton’s ‘Bomber’.

Dad’s story is one of survival in a spirit of generosity, without bitterness and rancour; and a willingness to share. The story is one of resilience and bravery — a quiet, heroic, kind. No ‘derring-do’. It should be straightforward to write but it is not. And it is ‘ratcheting up’ my sense of failure.

Given that my father died when I was ten years old – in a sense I am trying to uncover and explore the stories he could not have recounted to me; trying to uncover and explore the person he was. Of course I have memories but these lack the nuances of the memories my much older brother and sister had who were adults when he died. Consequently, they have a longer personal history with dad shaded by much longer interactions and experience of having a father.

Then there is the worry of getting it wrong – that what I write based on research does not accord with what others have been told. This has occurred a few times. So that there is a hole in the narrative between February and May 1945. There’s no real way of telling which column of marchers my father was with and yet, the historical accounts coincide with incidents recounted to me by my mother. So he must have been there – but always the doubt remains – at most it is probable.

Without doubt my father withheld the awfulness. If you want to know what the Coldest Winter in Europe 1945 looked like a good place is to watch Band of Brothers – The Siege of Bastogne. In this Winter, British POWs huddled together beneath great coats, woke covered in frost rubbed hands and feet, blew into cupped hands and eventually marched heads down into a prevailing wind, one step at a time. This was no ‘March’. What my father experienced was a trudge, in a zig zag movement as their captors sought to evade the allies, taking telephone orders with no real sense of where they were going. Were the POW collateral? Would they be shot anyway? There was no way of knowing and not once did my father ever speak of fear. Not speaking of it does not mean he did not feel it. Not speaking of it doesn’t mean that something didn’t happen.

We don’t know if Dad was injured when Lancaster JA848 exploded. Was he burned? Did he break a bone? How did he survive interrogation?

He did. “Name Rank Number Name Rank Number” – over and over to an interrogator who studied Engineering at Swansea University and knew all about the petro-chemical works at Llandarcy and the Mond in Clydach. Ah, but did he really? German reconnaissance used Baedeckers and other tourist guides. But there was no reason why the Luftwaffe Officer hadn’t studied in Swansea given the amount of engineering and manufacturing firms in in the town and surrounding areas.

Sometimes the bare bones of a timeline are not enough. Sometimes the bare bones of the censored accounts my father told are not enough. But the narrative gap is huge so that something dad did not narrate becomes something that didn’t happen because he hadn’t actually spoken of it.

He didn’t mention the dysentry either…..

So writing dad’s story has become for me, a way of getting to know the young adult, the person before the 43 year old businessman he ws when I was born. I get the sense from one or two fragments that he was a mischievous boy and his loyalty and love for his own family were his driving motivation. How lucky I was then to know him so briefly.

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When you and the dog are taking the same antibiotics….

You know it’s not been a good week. I wonder if ‘Lockdown fog‘ will be a recognised ‘thing’ in future years. A slightly fuzzy -blurry- state l-hypnotic almost intensified by intense showers of rain and the humidity. It was in this state I spilt tea and hurt myself and the dog , visited the vets and checked out the local Minor Injuries unit . And I wondered what it is about lockdown to cause this fog.

There is nothing to distinguish the days from each other. Even with things to do and projects to complete the days are the same . Bin day brings its own excitement and rituals but mostly the days are the same… or are they ?

Each day has its own rhythm: the rumble of Diesel engines, the whine of a coffee grinder, letting the dogs out. Pushing the ‘start’ button on the washing machine . Mondays and Fridays smell of lemon polish, and the study clutters itself on Tuesdays Wednesday Thursday and Friday.

The need to be ‘digitally available ‘ on communication apps is pressing. FaceTiming relatives, phoning others,family quiz nights, quiz nights with friends, chapel by Zoom.

My son now spends more time in his bedroom, working remotely, than he ever did as a teenager. The street has its own rhythm. Buses are now running. People leave for work, return from shopping , I’ve seen dogs walked in their hundreds. Birdsong! The street is filled with it .Urgent tweets from gutters and roofs, the hedge in the field is perfect cover for raids for insects and worms . The delight of watching sparrow parents fly and forage in the hedge and field and return to their home in our vent. I won’t be using the extractor fan for a while. The rooks caw and bicker in the trees down to the playground.

This morning the bird song is sluggish weighted down by humidity damp and heat. I can hear doves from afar . This afternoon the buzzard will circle the field behind. The marshes will drain again in the estuary and the water birds will settle on the edges drawing closer as the air intensifies.

Showers hammer the earth, intensify , become faster louder more pressing and the air pressure rises. Lightning has struck two houses in as many weeks and the storms have not broken that intensity . The air is a deceptively sleepy…. the birds are quiet now the air is close and the landscape leans in….

It’s not over yet

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Lleuad Llangennech Moon

It’s doubtful I would have moved jobs when I did if things in the previous job had been ok. So the break I made then became a stepping stone to the much bigger break of selling the house which had been my home since 1993 and relocating to the area where I spent the first 28 years of my life. Continue reading

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Lockdown picnics

Ten or eleven weeks or 65 days or so in go lockdown, what is it one can say?

Firstly the days are long; longer than even when I worked and had to deal with corporate rubbish. But the weeks are shorter than any weeks I’ve ever known. Each passing week seemingly structured as a reproach for the things I’ve not done or the writing I’ve not completed which I promised I would do as soon as I had the time to do it. Each week underlining my lack of productivity.

I wrote that at the beginning of lockdown I cried at the empty roads and streets : cried at feelings of desertion in the air. I’m beyond tears now -so many deaths, so many clapping hands. While I applaud the NHS and frontline workers I cannot applaud the circumstances in which some front line staff work and I cannot applaud a government which has not mislaid its moral compass , but deliberately thrown it out in the trash without it being recyclable .

I’m bored with the Cummings saga -leave him visible,in office, as a reminder of hypocrisy and lies to the electorate . But by the next GE perhaps memories will be short. I hope not and the opposition carries my hopes that there will be some redress. I wonder !

As for myself I’ve written a few poems but being creative is difficult . Someone said to me we have more need of poetry now more than ever before. But always on the horizons of the creative bubble are the fear and stress of the unknown. We create in a paradoxically infinite universe and finite locale. There has to be a flip side.

Nights with friends and family on Zoom are both a comfort and distraction : comfort because We are together and a distraction because we’re not ACTUALLY together but gathered virtually looking into a camera, checking out bookshelves and backgrounds instead of looking to each others’ eyes. No more nuance -it’s all about background -virtual or otherwise and worrying (if GlamMags would have us believe) if our faces hair clothes and bookshelves are ‘Zoom Ready’.

And in all this the predominant searches in my browser cache are for picnic baskets in the midst of lockdown

Picnic baskets are evocative. They bring to mind the 1920s, cucumber sandwiches, strawberries and cream, and a glass of something dry, white and cold to wash them down.

Picnic basket bring to mind friends and family gathering together sharing hard-boiled eggs sharing screws of Salt and pepper, Flasks of tea with dashes of milk, cans of Coca-Cola stashed in the bottom of the basket. Picnic baskets bring to mind tomato sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, roast chicken legs and white napkins designed to clean ones face and hands . Occasionally there would be wet wipes.So the question is for me why would one look or search for a picnic basket in the midst of lockdown?

In addition to the associations listed here I think picnic baskets represent the freedom to go for a walk without parameters. Picnic basket spring to mind the freedom of beaches tide, horse bushes scrubland and heaths along the Gower Coastline . picnic baskets represent the idea of that which has been forbidden for so long: The freedom to pack a bag with a tin of tomato soup some ham sandwiches on the freedom to walk as far as that one needs to.

So the next time I catch myself on an Internet search for a picnic basket or a picnic set or a picnic hamper I will remind myself what I’m missing is the freedom to walk in beloved places.

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Perspective: a post about trying and failing to get a sense of perspective

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How do you find a perspective?

One definition of perspective is suggests a meaningful relationship between the facts and ones ideas about facts.  Another definition is  the placing of a building in its environment and the gap which exists between the eye and the position of the building.

” I just can’t get it into perspective.’ is a phrase I’ve used a lot in the past -working out the connections between past issues; as if the ‘right’ perspective would somehow make ‘right’  the  relationship between the facts and my ideas about the facts. what I’m trying to say is that ‘perspective.’ is a way of seeing and understanding what I see.

But there will always be blind spots. Continue reading

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Reflections

seashore during nighttime

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This is my last post in the February blogging challenge which I undertook with Hannah Retallick. I tend not to share short stories here but this journey was one I undertook some while back. I was terribly homesick for South Wales and couldn’t see my way forward to moving back.I can’t remember when this happened. I simply remember walking the beach. I wrote it in the third person but have changed it to first person. I hope it pleases those who knew and know me well.

Some days, I just wanted to escape to the coast; not on the bad days -because those were manageable- but on the grey days: the days of nothing important Continue reading

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Apple Pie

photo of pie on plate

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This morning’s writing is thanks to Joseph Coelho. He tweeted a list of poetry prompts  which included one about ‘The History of an Apple Pie’ which uses the alphabet to structure a poem. I didn’t read the poem, because straight away an image presented of a plump, golden, apple pie glistening with caster sugar dusting; flaky and crimped around the edges.  I can make pies but for years I shied away from them – so often I had heard,  ‘Your mother makes the best apple pie.’ Indeed she did —  except even now, Continue reading

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One of those days:

photo of woman covering her face

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If you don’t know what to write…. start with where you are.

So I will.

It’s one of those days! The kind day  where the weather and external circumstances are making me scream for my duvet,  a good book and turmeric tea with honey: my go-to-comfort drink.

Indeed I’ve tried not to ‘rant’ on here  and I won’t. Suffice to say it is stormy inside and stormy outside.  The rain is lashing against the window – again –  like ‘the arrows of the foes striking against the battlements.’ which  is a favourite quotation about the weather from the film, The Railway Children. Why do I feel this way? because I have a self imposed deadline of 5 pm for blogging and a fear that I will not make it.  

Previously, external deadlines for reports at school, a review of spreadsheets and stats, an investigation into classroom practice would cause pressure and anxiety but they would be done. This deadline though, because it is self-imposed, has taken  on an air of flexibility, which then becomes a betrayal of my writing self  – a cause for self reproach if I don’t make it. It means I also  let down Hannah who has been an amazing  online mentor and writing companion in our February blogging challenge – two posts a week on Mondays and Thursdays by 5 PM.

What all this tells me though is that writing in splendid isolation, while good for deadlines, is unrealistic, and that I must learn to work with what I’ve got. Otherwise my writing will become stale. Three more poems placed this month means I’m doing something right; and if I’m  ‘doing’ that is to say following my dream, these small successes – beginners luck if you like-  are an extra blessing. I’ve been blogging for a while. yesterday was a lovely day: A poem placed, my first tweet, and my first post in LinkdIN as a freelance writer.

And now let the rest of the day… begin. My post is done.

sunflower selective focus photography

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Wishing everyone a lovely day, a happy week and some extra blessings.

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Dreams and Writing:

house in the middle of crop field

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on Pexels.com

I woke with a writing problem this morning  in that, the story I wanted to write about —  revisiting a house from my childhood —  had an opening line of,  ‘Last night I dreamt…’ However, throughout this dream, the opening line from  Rebecca repeated itself on a loop; reminding me that this has been done and that I needed to find a solution for the opening of what it is I want to write. Continue reading

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