‘Bon Bon,’ says my 4-year-old nephew, holding a plastic retractable dagger with a pirate ship depicted on the handle in one hand, and a red empty plastic saucepan in the other. It’s Sunday evening at my parents’ house and he is full of boiled potatoes and ice cream. He is about to start school next week.
‘Do you remember that time we made soup and we looked under the table?’
I have no idea what he’s talking about, though it’s true he’s made me soup of various kinds over the last couple of years (carrot and lemon, strawberry and apple, potato and orange; educational fruit shapes I make him pretend to cook for me, though he is still hazy on the difference between a lemon and a lime). ‘What were we looking under the table for?’
‘I made soup and we were looking for Tushka.’ Continue reading
One of the things I’m most proud of (other than my new excitement about running, which is something I never thought I’d enjoy, much preferring always dance as exercise, but suddenly find exhilarating – I am obsessed already – and that my aching, transforming body is as sensual as the feeling of my hair growing so long now that it tickles the backs of my elbows as I walk) is my ability to operate on blind faith. I don’t even know if ‘blind’ is the right word; if it’s about seeing versus unseeing, or seeing versus non-seeing, then any blindness is contingent and deliberate. It’s more about knowing, anyway, perhaps. Knowing is stronger than belief. I spent a whole term writing essays in epistemological philosophy, once, but the previous sentence was the crux of it (I think). I know that working on knowing is one of the bravest and most essential thing one can do, when so much is in contrast with what appears around us, and patience goes hand in hand, and I think it takes a sort of training (but the sort of training that can become complete just as easily in the blink of a seeing eye as it can by mantra/affirmations/sitting/self-convincing/listing/ritualising).
One silly example: I booked a holiday to a Greek island the other day because I knew I needed to go, and I knew a recent foray into sadness needed some respite and a clash of something nonsensically right. I can’t (if you consider my bank balance as evidence) afford to go. I can (if you consider my absolute intention to make this work mixed with my denial of current facts) afford to go, however. Continue reading
There’s something deliciously arrogant about going up in a hot air balloon. I’ve thought about it quite a lot, recently. I think hot air balloons have slightly been haunting me recently (a little more whimsically than the haunted feeling I had yesterday, when a man was following me; I’ve never felt so eerily looked at and visually pierced, and been so unfeasibly well-followed through the streets, though my racing heartbeat, albeit in a crowded place, quickly turned to rage and the content of his garbled words remain a mystery); I have seen them a lot, and not just in the sky.
Imagine the boldness of simply deciding to go upwards and leave all your friends and foes miles below (miles? I really have no sense of how high they go; my understanding of distance is roughly as lacking as my understanding of volume, which during my time spent mixing skincare products in jugs and decanting into containers, has been revealed to be alarmingly off*). You’re not even pretending to fly, or to be in anything particularly technologically robust; you’re just in a thing which floats, bigly, and drifting. You both marvel up there, I imagine, and are marvelled at; it is impossible not to look up when you see a hot air balloon dreaming its way through the sky. I have to admit I had an overly romanticised view of it, though; I thought they would be Continue reading
There are at least 200 ways to dress a novel. I’m quite sure the one I’m currently writing already exists as a fully-formed, gorgeous thing glittering in the ether – yet not glittering, more shimmering, catching the light as it moves, that’s all – and my writing of it is one of many ever-changing, fallible potential attempts to grasp some grounding down of it. It’s a hot air balloon whipping around in the wind, deafening me with its mechanisms and about to leap away at any moment, but utterly mesmerising and I want to jump fully in and sail away with it, even risking a shudderous drop down into the canopy of a hardwood tree, if it comes to that. It is already a thing quite happily, thanks very much (my novel would say, if Platonic Forms could speak). As a papery manifestation it might not exist yet, but the novel in the purest sense is already exactly its own self, complete and self-satisfied (though I like to believe it needs me) and my bringing it down to earth through fingertips and the sensations (being drip-fed its relative epiphanies – but who is the character thinking of and what is the sound of their voice? But what exactly is at stake for the protagonist and what exactly do they fear?) is only the experience of leaning closer and closer in.
Percolation. The shimmering thing, which I picture hovering playfully about the air above me, now free of its weighty balloon paraphernalia but magic and light as air itself, glowing, sometimes close by, perhaps in a field I’m walking through, other times more majestically, a cosmically colourful thing in a dark universal, star-lit sky, allows itself to be revealed by a heady mix of me concentrating very hard on it and forgetting about it completely. Continue reading
If you’re bored of reading The Enormous Turnip to your nearest 2-year-old, you’re bored of life. The Read It Yourself with Ladybird, Level 1 series of books includes an absolutely stellar example of storyline: if the mouse pulls the cat, the cat pulls the dog, the dog pulls the girl, the girl pulls the boy, the boy pulls the old woman, the old woman pulls the old man and the old man pulls the enormous turnip, can it be wrenched from the ground? YOU LITERALLY ONLY FIND OUT ON THE LAST PAGE, which may or may not include gorgeous illustrations of turnip soup, pickles and jams and an absolute abundance of this exuberant but slightly wan-hued vegetable (which I personally can’t recall ever having tried, but have known since childhood that sometimes they grow enormously, and that mice think they go very well with holey cheese, if there’s a celebratory banquet going). On an early page, the old man is planting seeds, faithfully, and as such, his very old back is bent halfway so that he is completely inverted, his nose to the ground, as he delivers hope and potential to the just-raked earth (I may have invented the order of events slightly here as related to the rake, riffing off the images and, more crucially, pointing out the red-breasted robins, which I think I can take credit for my niece knowing the name of; she doesn’t need to know that I lack gardening chronology/confidence). So that sets the scene. Continue reading
I feel uniquely qualified to write about the lessons of fire: I come from a place of absolute zero, for one thing; before I moved into my new rural idyll of a cottage one week ago (complete with multiple varieties of deer who saunter past my window, foxes, rabbits… a woodland within its acres and… a woodburner), I had never lit a fire in my life.
When my move was confirmed, prior to the actual getting in (the hanging up of my Guatemalan wall hangings, the placement of my Balinese sunflower woodcarving, the consideration of the enormity of my wardrobe and the decision over exactly how ashamed I ought to be for possessing so many dresses), I mentioned this fact to everyone. Wild-eyed and frantic, I implored them – ‘not even barbecues. Not even a campfire!’ – I had lit only so much as a candle, before now, and nothing more. How could this be, for a real live human? How am I (here as in so many other instances) so ridiculous?
Anyway, I’m practically an expert now, and I can tell you: there are many lessons in fire. Some glorious, some bastardly.
It is massively fun to prod at embers with a poker, for one thing, seemingly conjuring up a dance of flames from nothing. It is frustrating when your fire stares back at you with pity, full of ennui, saying nope.
Some things I’ve learned: Continue reading