47: Shoes – Flapping

I have travelled in a wide circuit, taking al­most the whole of my life to do it. For, in a manner of speaking, I am back in that awful school, alone, friendless, buffeted by forces I cannot see, cannot understand, cannot prevail against in even the smallest measure. Then, I was wrenched from my old, familiar life in which I knew a certain contentment, and now the same thing happens again, for my wife has died, and all conversation has end­ed, and all purpose is shattered. Forsaken then, by friends who did not mean to forsake me, but simp­ly got left behind, so I am forsaken now it seems by my wife who brings no word to me. (She would know what to do.) So it seems I am forsaken by friends I never had, for sickness and disability take up a lot of time, you know, and there was not enough left over for friends or gatherings, none beyond those occasional visits to my grand­parents as they grew closer and closer to extreme old age and the inevitable sundering from our so­cial practice. So we stayed at home, and had conversations about everything. She was very keen on the afterlife, and believed, as much as a rational person could, that on death we travel to a new world and a new life, for the evidence, of various sorts, was abundant. She read books and watched out for television documentaries. And if anyone was going to come back with words of comfort or reassurance, it would be her. I had assumed with­out question that something would happen, that I would hear her voice, or see her sitting in her chair, or perhaps something stranger yet would occur, as others have attested, that she would talk to me through the telephone, or manipulate the speakers of my computer and make a gift to me, a gift I need so much, of some simple communica­tion … everything is all rightI am all right … but no…

I dream of her every night. There she is (mud­dled up with my nightmares), just as she was in life, talking, and telling me how to fix things. Though, the other night, her disability had van­ished away, and in no time at all, she had cleared away the clutter I have made on the landing… So every morning, I awake to a fresh realisation of what has happened. And as I did then, all those years ago, tortured in that terrible school, I panic under the weight of what I shall call being forsak­en … for no one comes, no one aids me, and all hope is gone. My broken heart is pounding, pounding, pounding, and has stopped working properly, for my feet suddenly started to swell, and I cannot get my shoes on properly, and that does make it so very difficult getting up and down the stairs, with my shoes half-on, hanging off the front of my fat feet…

It seems that some edict has been spoken somewhere very distant, no more for him. And on my wide circuit, all I can do, as I did then, is carry on in despair, wishing to be rescued from my des­olate shore. She came, all those years ago, not to rescue me from that awful school, for merely the passing of time took me away from that place, but she did come, and she took me to a whole new world. Its miseries descended soon enough, and sickness came full steam, and all hopes of careers were swept aside by its inexorable progress. But we managed, and we did go into the garden on sunny days … not as often as I would have liked, for the sheer physical effort involved placed our garden at a distance from us, and I fear no expla­nation – not one that takes up less than two pages – will properly explain that.

As I did then, when suffering the torments of that awful school, I retreat to my books, and I enter the worlds that their authors lived in or in­vented, but this amounts to mere distraction and must not be regarded as a solution, you under­stand. It is a way of passing the time until my grandfather comes in his white and blue boat, or my wife comes with smiles, and I hope I will know relief of such intensity it will be as if I have never tasted relief before.

Either that, or my ending here will be a final ending, and all misery will also end, and I will not know the truth of it, that the afterlife has all along been a fantasy. There, that is an account of why I feel so terribly forlorn today.

46: Ophelia – Starving

I have travelled in a wide circuit, taking al­most the whole of my life to do it. For, in a manner of speaking, I am back in that awful school, alone, friendless, buffeted by forces I cannot see, cannot understand, cannot prevail against in even the smallest measure. Then, I was wrenched from my old, familiar life in which I knew a certain contentment, and now the same thing happens again, for my wife has died, and all conversation has end­ed, and all purpose is shattered. Forsaken then, by friends who did not mean to forsake me, but simply got left behind, so I am forsaken now it seems by my wife who brings no word to me. (She would know what to do.) So it seems I am forsaken by friends I never had, for sickness and disability take up a lot of time, you know, and there was not enough left over for friends or gatherings, none beyond those occasional visits to my grand­parents as they grew closer and closer to extreme old age and the inevitable sundering from our social practice. So we stayed at home, and had conversations about everything. She was very keen on the afterlife, and believed, as much as a rational person could, that on death we travel to a new world and a new life, for the evidence, of various sorts, was abundant. She read books and watched out for television documentaries. And if anyone was going to come back with words of comfort or reassurance, it would be her. I had assumed with­out question that something would happen, that I would hear her voice, or see her sitting in her chair, or perhaps something stranger yet would occur, as others have attested, that she would talk to me through the telephone, or manipulate the speakers of my computer and make a gift to me, a gift I need so much, of some simple communica­tion … everything is all rightI am all right … but no…

I dream of her every night. There she is (mud­dled up with my nightmares), just as she was in life, talking, and telling me how to fix things. Though, the other night, her disability had van­ished away, and in no time at all, she had cleared away the clutter I have made on the landing… So every morning, I awake to a fresh realisation of what has happened. And as I did then, all those years ago, tortured in that terrible school, I panic under the weight of what I shall call being forsak­en … for no one comes, no one aids me, and all hope is gone. My broken heart is pounding, pounding, pounding, and has stopped working properly, for my feet suddenly started to swell, and I cannot get my shoes on properly, and that does make it so very difficult getting up and down the stairs, with my shoes half-on, hanging off the front of my fat feet…

It seems that some edict has been spoken somewhere very distant, no more for him. And on my wide circuit, all I can do, as I did then, is carry on in despair, wishing to be rescued from my des­olate shore. She came, all those years ago, not to rescue me from that awful school, for merely the passing of time took me away from that place, but she did come, and she took me to a whole new world. Its miseries descended soon enough, and sickness came full steam, and all hopes of careers were swept aside by its inexorable progress. But we managed, and we did go into the garden on sunny days … not as often as I would have liked, for the sheer physical effort involved placed our garden at a distance from us, and I fear no explanation – not one that takes up less than two pages – will properly explain that.

As I did then, when suffering the torments of that awful school, I retreat to my books, and I enter the worlds that their authors lived in or in­vented, but this amounts to mere distraction and must not be regarded as a solution, you under­stand. It is a way of passing the time until my grandfather comes in his white and blue boat, or my wife comes with smiles, and I hope I will know relief of such intensity it will be as if I have never tasted relief before.

Either that, or my ending here will be a final ending, and all misery will also end, and I will not know the truth of it, that the afterlife has all along been a fantasy. There, that is an account of why I feel so terribly forlorn today.

45: Orchard – Drowning

A storm has come today, that throws itself up­on my dark and dismal shore, whilst I cower, huddled in my ramshackle hut at the back of the beach, whilst a wild wind rips through the heaving palms behind, whilst the sea rages and seethes and crashes upon the fluid shingle so that you cannot tell where sea ends and land begins. The whole sea is monstrous breakers breaking, breaking, furious­ly breaking, whilst the wild wind whips foam and spray right up into the atmosphere, so that you cannot tell where sea ends and sky begins.

I am cold and miserable, but I can still remem­ber the sun that I have not seen for such a long time, and I would like it to come back, to light this sorry place once more, as it did before, when there was not sea, but a garden, and I ran, and rode, up and down, up and down the path, from house up here to orchard down there. But that has all been washed away by this furious sea. The orchard lies somewhere under the waves, and I do not know why this has happened, and I do not know how to undo it. I would like to undo it, if only I could.

44: Bullies – Stamping

I am nine, and I am sitting in the back of the Ford Anglia. I have been sitting in the back of the Ford Anglia for years and years, for my whole life, dreading the terminus of this short journey, for my mother is taking me to that terrible, terrifying school where I must subject myself to endless, cruel humiliations and beatings. Much of the time I walk to school, but when my mother has time, or when she has a trip planned to travel on, to go to the shops, or visit her parents, she takes me to school, on her way. And now the car is just turning into the street where another quarter of a mile further on, that place of torture awaits, all white­washed and Victorian, with thick gloss paint on all the doors, and the smell of soap in the air as thick as soup. Because I am new, on my own, starting here mid-term alone and alien in this different culture, I am an easy and obvious target for boys who thrive on violence, who learnt it, I later wonder, from their fathers (and uncles and older brothers) at home.

Ford_Anglia_1958_Castle_Hedingham_2008 photo by Charles01 wiki

I will not want to vacate the car. I will say I feel unwell and want to be taken home again, but my mother will make me get out, and propel me, her hand in the small of my back, through the school gates into a world of abuse and violence.

If not on this day, then on one close by, the boys will notice my new shoes, and enviously wish to convert them into the worn and used up wrecks they wear themselves, as well as hurt me, so they gather round too closely and then start stamping, stamping on my new shoes, trying to scuff and split them, trying to break my toes. It is not the pain of this attack that particularly worries me. No, I am more concerned with how my mother will react later, at home, when she sees the appalling state of my new shoes, for she will blame me and say it is my fault, and doubt my account of the bullies.[1] When the attack is over, and my toes feel wet, I go inside to use a piece of paper towel to wipe away the mud and grime, and later, back home, in a moment of uncharacteristic slyness, I quickly apply boot polish to fill in the scratches, and my shoes do not look too bad, considering the ferocity of that attack, and my mother in days to come will raise no query.

Forever I sit in the back of the Ford Anglia, forever on my way to my horrid doom, and I so wish, so wish to be taken somewhere else, to a sunny garden, a bright, open park, or to go back home, not to our new house here, but back to my great grandmother’s house where I might ride my tricycle up and down the garden path, even though now my tricycle is, of course, much too small for me, and must have been donated to a jumble sale or given to another child who I hope so much treasured it as much as I did, and maybe they too will all their lives remember the circum­stances of its coming to them, perhaps brought by a grand­mother sitting constrained in the front of a little car.

[1] In later years, it was suggested to me that my mother’s habit of rejecting my account of things, of holding me a liar, can be explained by the likely possibility that she was the liar, glid­ing through life on the efforts of others, manipu­lating and cajoling with false flattery and lies, such second nature to her, that she assumed that every­one else too was a liar, that this was just how peo­ple are.

43: Milk – Swilling

The invisible arc traced by the sun in the southern sky on its daily circuit, day by day, is shifting more noticeably to the north and is lifting itself higher off the horizon as spring draws closer. Although the warmth of the promised season has yet to manifest, this moving sun throws down up­on the world a brighter light, as if it knows this feature of my childhood dreams in which each outdoor scene is brightly lit by wondrous light, as if it says to me alone, Here are your childhood dreams come back again. I cannot bring you peace, no more can I do that than can my sister, but I can bring you this light instead.

And so the bare garden, with its bare and spiky willow branches that finger the cerulean sky, grop­ing, grasping, fills with such a radiance. It is a gift, this light, which I cannot reject, for it would be pre­sent, here, today, and for all those few days past when it has been and gone already, whether I am present here or not. So I will not say, Thank you. I can manage without, even though I could manage without, and even though I do not really appreci­ate my childhood dreams being re-awakened. Such a present should not stimulate, provoke per­haps, such deep despair, yet it does, so I say to the sun, I am sorry for that. But the sun does not reply, unless this light that swills about me like so much in­candescent milk is the reply. Today, it is such a grim light that seems unaccountably out of place.

42: Hand – Burning

It is so terribly cold today, that as I press my hand against my naked thigh, as can happen during a trip to the lavatory, depending upon whether one stands or sits, it felt as though my skin was burning, that instead of pressing the side of my hand against a human thigh at normal temperature, I had in fact pressed it against some electrical device, some heater or some cooking gadget. If I had not known that this sensation had in fact been caused by nothing more threatening than my own flesh, I would have immediately drawn my hand away and concerned myself to investigate further. How odd. I have never experienced that before. And here I sit, later, in my unheated room, making this record of my observations in my green notebook, with a 9B pencil that keeps its point well, writing with hands so cold and unfeeling that my trembling traces are losing their meanings even before they finish being scraped off the little cone of graphite whose task today is to bear witness to such trivia.

I say this simply to record the fact that here are circumstances over which I have no lasting power to prevail. In these sorry times, when the rich keep paradise all for themselves, what should we ex­pect?

41: Facts – Forgetting

These past few days, I have been assailed, every few minutes, every hour, by an unending stream of panic-stricken thoughts, limited in num­ber to be sure, but they keep returning again and again, repeating themselves, first this one and then that one, and then the last few that came just a few hours ago come again. Oh dear! It is such a long time since we visited my grandparents! They will be wondering why we have not been to see them … not even at Christmas! Oh dear! We haven’t had a day trip to St Albans, to visit the cathedral and roam around the Roman museum, for such a long time … we really must get that booked! And we said that we would show my father around the Open Air Museum. And when my mother comes next, she will be so cross, and say such unkind things, when she sees the mess and disorder in the back room. And my dear, dear J … how long must it have been since I last washed your hair and bathed you? Oh my goodness … so much … so much left undone.

But there is no J. She died over a year ago. And there is no mother to come again, for she died, too, nearly three years ago. And we cannot now pay a new visit to my grandparents, for they both died, a year or two apart, nearly a decade ago.

Again and again, I remind myself of the facts, and each time my losses return, like torturers queuing up to have another go, and they strike me again as if for the first time.

My dear J would know what to do, as she al­ways did for all those years of married life, but I keep forgetting that she has gone, and I keep calling out to her in the other room, for the anxious thought will keep coming that it is hours since I last made her a cup of tea.