Sunday, 19 June 2016

I Say Thank You

I've been wondering  what to say to the house I'm leaving.  I tried this:

Thank you for having me.

It didn't seem enough.  So I tried this:

Thank you that it's me you have had, here, within these walls, these lovely rooms and garden.

Thank you for giving me shelter, for the leaking roof, for all the warmth and draughts.  Thank you for the silence, the birdsong, the Saturday night revellers.  Thank you for the wisteria, the damson tree, the ground elder, the bindweed. Thank you for facing to the north, and sheltering your garden to the south.  Thank you for being my children's first sanctuary, their first playground, their first sickbay, their first studio, their first theatre, their first accident site, their first library, their first battleground, their first concert hall, their first dance floor.

When they were young, I danced my sons around the living room to the theme from Zorba the Greek.  I danced with my eldest on my hip, whirling around until we fell onto the sofa in giggles.  When the time came, my second son took his place in one arm, whilst I held his brother's hand, and we circled around and around the carpet, dizzier and dizzier.

Today, I haven't known how to say goodbye to this house.  I tried saying more:

Thank you for being a place of laughter, of desperation, of joy, of sorrow, of contentment, of adventure, of emptiness, of hope.  Thank you for the company, the loneliness, the deep connections, the arguments.  Thank you for the sleep, the dreaming, the wakefulness, the growing, the rest and weariness  Thank you for yesterday, last year, the last twenty-two years.  Thank you for today - for the hugging, the roast chicken, Kate Bush and Bach.  Thank you for tomorrow.

But even this wasn't enough for all that is in my heart, so I asked for music.  To my surprise, within seconds I was tapping my feet.  And it was as if my body knew what I wanted to say at last, as I picked myself up, danced through the rooms once more.
Zorba The Greek Theme

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

I Still My Soul

Yesterday morning I woke and thought of Dave.  A few minutes later, his name lit up my phone.

Much as I like him, I hadn't thought of Dave for quite a while.  He fixes my trusty car, and it has been very trusty of late, but even so, it needs an MOT each year.  What I thought when I woke yesterday was, "It must be about now that V40's MOT is due, or (gulp) maybe it was even due last week, or (here's hoping)  maybe it's due next week ... ", and before I'd woken enough to check my V40 file, Dave texted me with a reminder. 

Lots of thing happen which are coincidences with rational explanations (Dave runs a business: he keeps a diary ...), but I still enjoy moments like this as surprises of connection.

I used to have lots of ideas about the mysteries of our connectedness to each other and the world, having grown up with parents who prayed about every detail of our lives.  At one time, I'd have thought Dave an answer to a prayer I may not even have prayed. 

I drove to work instead of going by train today because I had to go to the garage to pay my bill.  But if I'd gone by train I wouldn't have heard Finlandia on Classic FM on the A5 heading towards the Welsh border; I wouldn't have been reminded of the Finlandia Hymn - one of Sibelius' finest tunes.  It's a beautiful, calm melody coming towards the end of a piece representative of the struggles of Finnish nationalism. 

The words given to this tune - Be still my soul -  are familiar to me from childhood, and as I crossed into Wales, I felt a peace come to me and a sense that, whilst I no longer subscribe to the meaning of the words: to the fundamentalist and terrifying Christian doctrine of human sacrifice bringing atonement for my sins, I am nevertheless connected to this lovely music, to the memories of summer Sunday evenings spent in the sleepy light of that Highbury church, to my mother playing the organ, to the choir singing, to the wealth of music my childhood gave me, and which has the capacity to light up my life.

Friday, 10 June 2016

I Flaunt An Event

Self-promotion of any sort runs deeply against the conventions my mother instilled in me.  Back in the 1970s and 80s, amongst her favourite phrases was:

     Don't put all your goods in the shop window.

This saying had application to a number of circumstances which she felt endangered my virtue: too-short skirts, mentioning my achievements, talking about the £500 I was due to inherit on my 18th birthday, looking anyone directly in the eye.

She might have added:

    If you've got it, don't, whatever you do, please don't flaunt it.

But I know she would've been proud to know that in two weeks' time, I will be appearing with Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Jackie Kay, Imtiaz Dharker and John Sampson as part of their road trip of poetry events promoting independent bookshops.  I wish she could've lived long enough to see me realise my dream of becoming a poet - I'll be putting a few of my goods in the shop window in her memory:

SHORE TO SHORE: Bridgnorth - Friday 24th June 7.30pm

Picador and Wenlock Books present Shore to Shore: Celebrating Poetry and Community with the Laureate and Friends, featuring Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay, John Sampson plus local poet Liz Lefroy

Theatre On The Steps, Stoneway Steps, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, WV16 4BD