I remember a conversation with a colleague some years ago. “I don’t think we are really here,” he said. “WE are just part of a soap opera.” I laughed in reply but there are times when everything feels unreal as if I am not really here. I am sure that Shakespeare was right. Our lives are like a pageant in which we are all actors playing out various scenes. Our parts are unscripted and must be written by ourselves. Those around us frame our lives as well as accompanying us on our journey … Some of our contacts stay with us for a long time, others move on quickly to other places or other worlds. Some make an impression, which leaves a lasting mark. Others are soon forgotten. But few are on stage at the same time as we are. In the end we all melt away into thin air, spirits, forgotten forever. Do we make a good or bad impression? If we are the stuff that dreams are made of do we cause nightmares or sweet dreams?
Our spirits disappear. Only the memories are left unless someone decides to dig up our bones to do a DNA test to look at our heritage and investigate our ancestry. Sometimes past memories float in and out of our minds as if they have never gone away. Putting all our lives together is a complicated jigsaw.
Our lives are short interludes in the history of time.
In Colorado mountains
Bull elk gate crashes
Dancing in full swing
Enjoyment and fun
Sudden dash to the window
Bull elk wants to join us
Who can get the best picture?
We all knew there was danger
But he stayed where he was
He did not move
Posed for photos
Stayed for entertainment
The light has come back
Lambs are in the field where
Flowers paint the grass
It is that time of year. We are treated to more sunlight and the days are growing longer. Snowdrops in the garden remind us that things are changing. Leaves return to the hedgerows and to the trees. We rejoice at the colours of the flowers and go for walks in the sun by the Lake. Soon the bluebells will be with us. We rejoice with our friends the birds who sing in the trees.
We always took a short cut to school. We found that by climbing a wall, then scrambling across the corner of a garden to a second wall we could then climb onto that wall and then jump down into the school grounds. This cut quite a large corner off our walk. This adventure was usually punctuated by a little old lady, the owner of the wall and garden, who used to come out and shake her stick at us and shout loudly. Her dog always barked vigorously. But they never caught anyone. We were too quick for that.
Some years later when my mother came home one day she asked if I would be very kind and take a little dog Sammy for walks after school every day. His owner. Miss Pilgrim, was now too old to take the dog out I wasn’t sure. I didn’t really like taking our own dog, Mac, for walks. He was quite old now and although still very lovable he was very slow. But eventually I agreed. I was somewhat shocked when I discovered that Miss Pilgrim was the owner of the wall and garden we had climbed over and the dog was the one who had barked at us so much. I soon became very fond of Sammy and also of the old lady. Miss Pilgrim. I didn’t know whether she remembered our antics on the wall, but she was always extremely nice. Every day after school I took Sammy for his walk and then had a chat with Miss Pilgrim. She always seemed to appreciate my opinions and we got on very well. She treated me as an equal, as if I was an adult. She also gave me little presents like sweets or chocolates, which I wasn’t allowed at home because my mum said I was getting too fat. When Christmas came mum gave me a present to give her. I can’t really remember what I gave her but it was probably some soap and talcum powder, which was very popular in those days. I remember how pleased she was when I gave it to her. I expect she had other visitors but I never saw anyone else in the house. She gave me a book for Christmas. I still have it somewhere. I loved her and her dog. I suppose they were my first loves outside my own family. Taking Sammy for a walk was great fun. He could walk or run as fast as I could. He didn’t seem to get tired if we went a long way. At weekends I often took him across the fields. I enjoyed his company very much.
We went away for Christmas that year. When we arrived back I insisted on running round to Miss Pilgrim’s house. The plan was that I would take Sammy for his walk and thank her for her present. The house looked different when I got there. Something was wrong, Sammy was not barking. What had happened? A strange lady opened the door when I knocked. “Miss Pilgrim is dead”. She said. I was devastated. I ran home to tell my mother. She went round to the house to find out what had happened. Miss Pilgrim had died suddenly the day after I had seen her last She had a heart condition. I was heart broken and cried for ages. The lady was her niece who lived on a farm in Essex. Sammy was taken to Essex. Mum said we could visit him, when we went to see Uncle Maurice and Auntie Ethel who lived down there. We never did. The niece told Mum how grateful the family was that I took the dog out regularly and visited her aunt. I was thanked for being so loyal and going daily to take the dog out. I was upset about Miss Pilgrim’s death for a long time because it seemed like something very important and special had gone from my life.
Joy lives in small things, sunshine colours on a water droplet or reflections from a spider web. It is in primroses, daffodils and bluebells waking after winter’s sleep. Joy is caring, sharing and little acts of kindness. It is commitment, love and belonging.
Allsorts came out of an exercise in thinking about an ‘Invisible Woman’ …
So they say
Men survey. Women are surveyed. Or so they say. Not Wilma, the Unseen Woman though. She is outside now, listening to workmen rebuilding the storm damaged wall, discussing imaginary conquests and what could be paraphrased as their bra sizes, simultaneously rolling stones into groups defined by their largeness. She goes downriver, where fishermen are comparing their catches both pescatorial and pectorial. She reaches the harbour. Here the ships are in and the sailors strutting. The talk is of salt, seaweed, barnacles and spray. Brandy and wild wide waves. Depth, and swell.
Wilma steps out of invisibility and enters the ocean.
Road building in Poland, August 1961: Lost innocence
She melded in the Tatras.
The only girl, small, neat, bright and American, among a motley bunch of British students on UN vacation work experience.
Ostensibly road building, she lit up days off in the mountains and by the river.
We met, relaxed, in pre-Wall Berlin, about to ‘do good’, naive, self-important.
We returned, frightened, to find the Wall and armed guards.
Clinging to our passports, hers, being American, was most scrutinised.
She alone stayed calm.
We all had fallen for her.
Then she disappeared.
She was called Ruth.
Where is my son? Handcuffed and swept, Unwitnessed, from a street at dawn. A hood over his head, the pressing gun Butted against a mother left to mourn. Jammed behind a passenger seat Hearing only the engine’s growl, And a passing siren that’s not for him. An electric prod sparks, and naked Howls leave sores exposed and weeping, Whilst grief seeps through bones, Turning my chestnut smooth to grey. Everyday I visit this place For I trust in you my Lord. I listen to all the Government’s reasoning, The lies fantastical – no one can quibble Suffocate in fear and longing for truth.
The woman came to me for cutting.
My mother said NO.
I went back to school but nobody would speak to me.
Without cutting there will be no husband.
I didn’t understand.
We moved to a shack in the city.
My Mum cried. I cried.
At my new school the teacher took us to see a film.
A lady said that the cutting was bad for us.
Two of her children had died when they were cut.
The lady on the film was my Mum.
Her two children were my twin sisters Marti and Fatu.
Now I understand.
I dress ‘to kill’ in my feathers and skills.
Shimmering moonlight fills the bedroom. The stone walls glinting, reflecting movements of the river below.
I am cool and white like the moonlight, silky, smooth.
My naked body, cool in his hands.
Weightless, substance-less, I am about to float into space, a familiar journey. When he tries to stop me.
‘Open – your – eyes,’ he commands. He wants to see me.
My body is performing skilfully but I cannot open my eyes. I am only partly there. I have almost gone. Trapped in terror between the worlds of visible and invisible.
I always make my real self invisible …
The First Time
The first time Tom saw Dylan, in 1965, there was already a buzz surrounding this young American songwriter. Queueing, Tom chatted nervously to the girl in front of him. Her A- levels, like his, were near. Once inside the City Hall she disappeared to the balcony.
Eventually Dylan was on stage and for about fifteen songs epitomised presence and lyrical virtuosity in equal measure. At the end of the best two hours of Tom’s young life he filed out for the last bus home, but under a streetlight, smiling, stood the girl from earlier. ‘I can hitch home’ he thought.
Sunday teatime table set, linen tablecloth, lace doilies. Best china polished off and gleaming. Homemade cake, scones and strawberry jam. Hot toasted teacakes run with butter.
Around the table animated talk between mother, father and teenage children. Love, laughter and warmth radiate.
Sunday teatime table set, oilcloth. Crockery chipped and mismatched. Shop bought cake. Mother’s apron hangs forlornly on a hook. Father sits alone, children grown, seeds scattered on the wayward wind.
Sunday teatime table set, linen and lace. Best china adorned with homemade fare. Everyone engaged in animated conversations. Mother seated centre table, heart and soul of the family.
Colette knew they would be coming to claim another victim for Madame Guillotine.
Invisible in the background, never acknowledged, she was a shadow, a faithful, loyal wife. She prepared canvases, mixed paint, even painted whole areas of the portrait. He was the foremost painter of the day. The patronage of the nobility gone, he had fled to England.
The knocking on the door was insistent and she answered fearful for her life. Instantly she recognised the visitor. It was the leader of the mob who insisted she paint his portrait.
Colette became a fine miniaturist.
She divorced her husband.
On becoming invisible
Don’t look for me, I’m gone, but look in the morning shadow across the landing, the sag of the bed, the dregs in the cup, the living, breathing void, a space in the air where my heart still beats. So eat from the fridge, and drink from the tap, walk on the cinder path with bare feet, hold on to everything, and I’ll be holding too. And when your hand slips across the sheet one cold early morning, seeking warmth let me meet it, and let me carry you across the threshold.
The dog barked, and tried to nose them off their route.
He forced them down a narrow path. A woman lay unconscious and twisted. The dog ran round her several times. She had a broken leg and was bleeding heavily. Anna dressed her wounds to stem the bleeding. David climbed to get a mobile signal. He returned and they waited.
She stirred and started talking. The dog watched. The team arrived.
‘What dog?’ she asked.
‘I have no dog.’
They looked. Now they could only see sheep. The dog had gone.