I have signed up for a residential writing week in May – taught by William Fiennes (The Snow Geese) and Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) in the gorgeous, extremely rural setting of Sheepwash in Devon under the auspices (love that word) of the Arvon Foundation. I have attended a couple of writing workshops before and I’m really looking forward to this one “Adventures in Imagination”. I am definitely not a poet and in writing memoir I tend to become somewhat mawkish (best avoided), whereas I admit to loving the feeling of telling a true story with plenty of lies/embroideries chucked in for fun.
Here are a couple of pieces I wrote a while ago
Urgashay – Memoir
The smell of apples, a little bruised, takes me back to Urgashay and memories of my family Somerset home in those peaceful post war years.
Arranging autumn’s crop in the barn loft, placing them in rows on makeshift tables bowing under their weight. “Give me the brown spotted ones for the kitchen” reminds Auntie Dot, making room for another crop, “not one must touch another or they’ll all rot” warns Ernie.
The weekly ritual of cleaning seven pairs of shoes, that was my job, to clean everybody’s shoes, brushes clearly marked Brown On, Black Off and their counterparts.
Learning to jump – leaping from outside steps, out and down to the bouncy safety of the old mattress lying in the yard. Timidly at first and then at last – with a push on the back from brother one – jumping from the top with fearless exhilaration.
The sticky smell of hot Stokholm tar applied with sticks to the bottoms of the hundred deep litter chickens, to stop them pecking at each ther, the clenching of their rectal muscles and their deafening, affronted squawking.
Secret asparagus – the thrill of finding hidden spears in the long grass, squeezed into a little patch of earth by the electric fence of the top field and the row of swishing pines.
Breakfasting on cold-milk cornflakes in the hot summer Sunday sun at the long split oak-log table made with my dad’s endeavours.
Daring to copy my brothers crawling climb along the concrete topped wall wide as a yard but feeling narrow as a knife, then the steep upward curving corner all in one go, “don’t stop” to the top, way above my tall mother’s head.
My brothers and I all in our measles uniform of old-stockinged arms, safety pinned to pyjama shoulders, an invention of my attentive mother to stop us scratching.
Dancing in the dark of the panelled dining room in my daddy’s arms to ballet music, always Delibes’ Coppélia.
The four adults and three of us, three generations in three pairs and then me the youngest child, we all had our jobs, all had our place.
Then brother one sent away to school and brother two, with polio, taken away too.
“Tell me when are they coming home?”
And below – a perfect example of mawkish, poor poetry – I am determined not to write like this anymore, mind you – I don’t feel like that anymore, thankfully.
My Well of Sadness
My well of sadness overwhelms me
fed from sources lying deep below the surface.
Like water, it seeps and flows and finds its own level.
It belongs not only to me, it is all the world’s supply
Everyone’s sadness is there for me to feel
I have no option than to haul it up bucket by bucket
Perhaps to nourish and give succour to living things
Or lie in pools to evaporate in the sun.
To empty it of sadness and fill it up with joy
Tiredness makes me want to quit, to hold it at bay with
A granite boulder that’s fits so snugly
That I can’t hear the damp dripping echoes
Or see the beauty of the moon flickering on the surface
And so the days go by, in hope that my well will run dry
but it is ever deeper and the sun seems weak and watery
I am awash in cold damp despair and long for a time
when my well was filled with hope.
And to end on a cheery note – for a recent birthday I made spongecake ducks on an alumnium foil pond with huge candles – the ducks cooked in a little vintage French chocolate mould I found in a shop in Paris.