This is not your usual sort of blog post. This is part of a happening. Im feeling very with it and connected. There will be horticulture, but you’ll have to bear with me, as call-centre staff say.
Sarah Salway, an actual bona fide writer of novels, short stories and poems, has written a poem and dedicated it to me. It’s in her new book, which is out now. I’m ludicrously thrilled by this and am planning on dedicating myself full time to my new role of muse. I’ll probably wear something floaty, and drape myself over a chez longue while gazing out of the window, a faraway look in my eye. Over these few days I, along with a group of literary types (An intensity of? An earnestness of?), am hosting a ‘virtual poetry reading trail’. It’s happening all over. It’s totally like the future or something. So pull on your virtual black polo neck and don your virtual black-rimmed media specs while I pour the virtual red wine and pop on some virtual free jazz. Let’s have a little respectful hush in the room and begin. You may nod almost imperceptibly occasionally, and perhaps close your eyes for a short passage, because you are very sensitive and deep.
I wish I could remember precisely how ‘my’ poem came about, but the essentials are this: we were mucking about on twitter, talking about Sarah writing poetry, and for some reason now lost to the mists of time I suggested she write a poem about cheese and onion crisps. ‘I will’ she said. And behold, a few days later, this appeared in my inbox:
When I tell my daughter I’m working,
she nods, pulls her chair right up
to mine, elbows out, breath hot
with cheese and onion crisps.
She chooses a red pencil, starts
chewing, sighs over her blank paper,
tells me to shush. She draws us, stick
mother holding stick daughter’s hand.
Look, she says. I try to concentrate
on my work but she’s learnt
from me too well. Really look.
Clumsy fingers twist my hair
until we fight. I say she has to go now,
to let me get on with Mummy’s work.
Outside she sits so close to the door
I hear every rustle, every sigh so loud
that the note pushed under the door
comes like a white flag. Dear Mummy,
my daughter writes. This is me.
I don’t know how she did it. I realise that it’s also about her own daughter and her own struggles with working from home, but If she’d set up CCTV cameras in our house and monitored us 24 hours a day she couldn’t have captured my daughter more perfectly: crisp love, drawing obsession, clumsy, insistent fingers in hair and all. She takes my face between her two little palms and angles it towards her, so I can’t help but pay her attention. If Sarah and I had sat and drank tea and moaned for hours about the balancing of kids and work she couldn’t have captured that heart-wrenching pull between the two more beautifully. But at that point we’d never met. Anyway, she’s a working mother, who works from home, and so she knew. And she’s an artist. Still, a year or so after I first read it, that last line bring tears to my eyes every time.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful book, full of perfectly captured moments, and as part of this virtual reading trail Sarah will now read us all a specially selected HORTICULTURAL poem called ‘Seeds’. It was meant to embed here in the blog post but I don’t have the technology brain so click here then press on the arrow and she will begin reading. It’s gorgeous.
PS Please do follow the reading trail. It goes as follows:
Tania – Love and Stationery http://titaniawrites.blogspot.com/
Danuta – Different Lives http://www.danutakean.com/
Lia – Seeds http://lialeendertz.wordpress.com/
Nik – Dust http://nikperring.com/
Alice – Things To Do Today http://aliceelliottdark.blogspot.com/
Caroline – First http://www.carolinesmailes.co.uk/blog/
Susannah – The Interruption http://www.susannahconway.com/
Alex – Happy http://www.shedworking.co.uk/
Fiona – Through Carved Wooden Binoculars http://www.writingourwayhome.com/
BookeyWookeyBook – Dad Plays St George http://bookeywookey.blogspot.com/
Scott – Extinction http://meandmybigmouth.typepad.com/
Stephanella – Dental Examination – http://www.thecreativeidentity.com/
You take Ashton Court for granted. I went recently almost by accident, because it is the sort of place you can go by accident. Gifted to the people of Bristol in [long-ago year] by [posh but well-meaning folk] it has just always been there, on the edge of Bristol, special but not special.
It was always the bit of countryside that you could get to on the bus. You could get stoned and do things in the woods there and be very unlikely to get caught out by your mum’s friends (though ridiculously I once was, in all those many, many acres, fag in hand. I wont say who by because my mum reads this, and I believe to this day the friend kept it to herself, after giving me a stern talking to. Gawd bless her). I used to go to the deer park with my dad on Sunday visits. His friend briefly had an ice cream van there, one of those occurrences that is hugely impressive to a young brain, and so still always flits through my mind as I pass his spot. I’ve spent many a chilly birthday picnic there, convinced that it really SHOULD be warm enough for a picnic in early May (it never is). Anyway, it’s a place of many layers, and I view it through a haze of nostalgia. I don’t think a garden could make me more dewy-eyed if it had piped Van Morrison playing from every tree.
But I never really think of it as much of a garden. Council-maintained as it is, I guess any finesse of planting it may once have had has been lost over the years. But on this particular, almost accidental visit the winter light was low and clear, and it struck me what great bones the place has. In particular I have always loved the walls there, particularly the half-crumbled walls in the further flung corners of the estate. There’s no better wall than an Ashton Court wall.
I havent taken the kids for a long time though I can’t think why. Like I said, you take it for granted. But they wheeled about in all that space and gasped at the deer and didn’t complain that they hadn’t actually had any lunch other than a shared chocolate brownie, on account of us being uncharacteristically spontaneous. And of course, them being well-behaved and me being in that Van Morrison frame of mind already, I smiled at them indulgently, and wondered about the other layers that Ashton Court is going to accumulate.