After the solstice

Saturday morning, coffee in hand. Woken from a restless sleep, drifting in and out of muddled dreams while soft June rain watered the summer-dry world. It took a boisterous dog, a wide-awake husband and the smell of coffee to finally drag me out of bed. Even then, my foggy head went straight for my favourite sofa cushion, all plush and smooshy comfort. The coffee machine spluttered. Griffin strutted to and fro, wagging his tail. This is what Saturday mornings are for.

This week was bright hot sun and ice-water relief, post-workout headaches and late evening meetups, friends and blankets on grass in the calming sunset weather. But today is gentle and cool, and we open the door to let fresh post-rain winds blow in. A hint of green fields, somehow dry and damp all at once, and memories of camping; tents on wet grass, rain drops on canvas, cosy curled-up fleece mornings in fold-up chairs, hot tea to guard against the fickle British summer, make-your-own sandwich scrambled-egg breakfast-in-the-wild glory, then off to the woods or the beach or jumping into cool lakes and float on water, close my eyes and try to become part of nature, be so quiet and still and malleable that She might take me in and keep me.

Quarantine has turned a mirror on us all, but now it seems we have dealt with whatever we saw and we’re crawling out of our hideaways with some new-found focus, strength built from the rubble of our insecurities. We have faced ourselves and we survived. We have decided what’s important to us. We have had some time to think. We have slashed our machetes through the jungle of our pain and somehow found a way forward.

This month I’m doing another writing challenge with my group of storytellers. We set a word target and write together-apart, connecting online and sharing our successes and failures. It’s good to be back on track.

Through the living room window I admire the neighbours’ giant silver birch, rising over thirty feet and swaying in the damp dawn winds. That is summer to me – the whoosh of the breeze combing through its leaves, bringing it to life, blushing as it invites it to a slow dance. Beneath this proud birch is our modest little garden, which we have finally turned into our own little summer paradise.

To my right Griffin is snoozing obediently, knowing that Saturdays are slower than other days and walkies will wait a bit. In front of me sits the most beautiful boy in the world, and he’s always there to make my heart flutter and have me laugh so much that I have to lean on the furniture to steady myself.

Summer is here, and I feel alive, present, grateful. Fleur feels close; I can feel her wriggling under my skin, ready to hatch. She comes and goes, but for now, I’m holding on.

Corona Days

Days of isolation. Tinned food and frozen vegetables. News anchors in medical masks talking about intensive care units at maximum capacity. Drones patrolling the streets of Madrid, ordering people to go home. Remain indoors. What is this?

I feel like I am living in one of those apocalyptic TV shows I used to watch all the time. Feels different when it’s, you know, actually happening.

Soon, bars and restaurants will close. Cinemas and theatres will go silent. People will go without wages, landlords without rents, banks without mortgages. The world will press Pause while we wrestle the pandemic.

I only hope it blows over soon.

We stay inside, writing, reading, drawing, watching movies. Checking in on friends and family. So far, so good, and for that, we are grateful.

These Nights

These nights, that happen on a whim.

These nights that take us stumbling down Orange Street in search for more. More what, we’re not sure, but we want more.

These nights of shots and secrets; these nights when, for a brief moment, nothing matters and we can just let go.

These nights when we get kicked out of bar after bar as the bells ring their sad song of endings.

These nights when we shed layers of ourselves and bonds are formed between the shapes that hide underneath. These nights when the stars pulsate through our blood and we can feel young despite the years forever chasing us.

These nights, when the world blurs and edges soften and we find we are still alive.


Be bad until you’re good

Putting myself out there, inviting the most supportive of my friends to like my Facebook page.  PR doesn’t come easy to a self-loathing sloth like myself.

But it’s gotta be done.  I have to claim my space and keep doing my thing, and find the courage to be bad until I’m good.  Just gotta keep going.

Love y’all.

be bad until you're good

And the seasons change

No longer living in London, I can feel the seasons more fully in my bones.  The minute we tipped into 2018, the past year was buried in the soggy ground.  December, with all her stresses and glories, suddenly felt utterly irrelevant.  My chai tea has been replaced with Three Tulsi; a different kind of spice for a different kind of year.  The breeze carries cool, fresh air and I can feel the process of renewal has already begun.  We breathe deeply to catch that subtle scent of coming spring, as our boots sink deep in the stubborn mud.  My socks are always wet these days.


I can barely remember a time when we weren’t living like this, always rolling in mud, catching every sunset over trampled fields or swirling streams, filling our house with ivy and pine and oak. A time when we were cooped up in our penthouse flat, finding some sort of vertical escape from the city.  Still, those poorly fitted windows did little to keep out the stink and noise from outside, the traffic fumes and rubbish skips and creatively challenged buskers.  It’s as though we were compressed like a piece of corn waiting to pop.   And pop we did, into a radically different and inspiring life.

Still, I can miss the city, my thrilling decade of running down those streets chasing happiness and adventure.  Broken-hearted on a double-decker with Bright Eyes in my ears, drinking wine from the bottle on top of the Honor Oak hills with the glittering skyline stretching out before us, dizzying highs in sweaty venues, bewildering moments with strangers, midnight rambles along the Thames or the North London canals; and so very many random meetings.  I remember them all.  It was a fabulous decade, my twenties.  But that girl is long gone.  She was messed-up and confused and broken.  I may feel nostalgic about those rollercoaster days, but I would never go back.  As ever, we must roll with the times.


Still looking for myself

A few years later, I return to my humble online sanctuary.  A little older, not much wiser, still holding my breath, afraid to disturb the spiders sitting in their corners.

This blog had been confined to the vast and dizzying graveyard of my many discarded projects.  The pattern is clear and inevitable: First, there is the initial surge of hubris and excitement – a new idea!  This could be the one; the idea I will stick with for years, the one that might lead somewhere noteworthy!  The first thing I do is, always: get the URL!  My poor husband patiently puts up with my antics and now has a list of at least ten inactive websites drifting in the foggy marshlands of the web.  I post a thing or two, my mind starts drifting, and I begin questioning my right to occupy this space, to clog up this site with more meaningless nonsense, doubt turns to fear turns to paralysed panic.  Finding Fleur was okay for a while, but that’s the thing with me – I’m ever-changing, ever-drifting, and things only seem relevant to me for a short time.  When their relevance is gone, so am I.  I’m not one to keep fighting.  I unplug the life-support and move on.

Nevertheless, here I am.  I rebooted the machine and it turns out this particular baby is still wheezing for breath, and I feel that familiar urge to have a blog even though I turn up my nose at moronic, meaningless drivel that are like the internet’s stubborn and pervasive fat cells.  Because writing, because outlet, because words, because connection.  Because why not?  Because I am still looking for Fleur.

I’ve taken a break from my new novel to work on a short story competition, 500 words with the theme ‘Good Night New York’.  It makes me tingle and wriggle with excitement because that theme is just made for me!   Then, of course, pressure immediately began to build up, and soon I was frozen with expectations far too high and unrealistic.  So, back to it, reminding myself that I’m not writing to win, just to participate if anything, but mainly because I just want to play with midnight Manhattan poetry.

It is still so hard to just have fun with it.

In the shower this morning, I remembered the horrors of my childhood mornings – alarms going off at 5:30, chaos noise stress, kids everywhere (seven siblings! I know, sigh), and the darkness that just never seemed to go away.  It was cold and miserable and just staying alive in that pack of humans was hard enough, never mind actually growing and achieving stuff.  Thus, I was overcome by a sincere wave of gratitude and relief that I am no longer there; my life is no longer that; and when I wake up in the morning there is no freezing pre-dawn darkness I must rush out into, no pressing obligations or awkward places I must go, no people I must face.  I am free.

Imagine that.

Now, if I can only release myself from my own shackles, my life will be complete.


June and new beginnings

May disappeared in a thick mist.  Sunny days came and went, and I preferred when it rained.  I love the sound of heavy droplets incessantly pattering on the tin roof of our building.  Lucky to be on the top floor.  I lit candles, different colours for different purposes, while I sat in my jammies and wrote profile after profile to bring in a little spending money for summer.

The city is still a mess.

bus stop

Now my work is finished, and yesterday I finally found my flow again when I spent the afternoon in Jackson, Mississippi; 4,000 words pouring out of me rekindling memories of guns and swamps and sleazy strip clubs.  Still, I feel weak and shy, a hermit recluse sensitive to the daylight.  But I must come out of my hiding place now.  A long holiday is coming up – a month with various family members – and it excites me as much as scares me.  Better start packing; we’re off tomorrow night.

Last weekend we went to visit our dear friends in Kidderminster.  We went on a steam train along the River Severn and life feels very different up there, among woods and wildflowers.  Perhaps we are beginning to plot our escape.


Read a blog post today.  It was nice, it had the usual message of ‘let things fall apart, that’s how they come together again’ sort of message.  But there was a particular passage that tickled me and I wanted to keep here for a later day.

“I know mountains grow because of their fault lines. I know lakes turn that gorgeous shade of turquoise because of their silt. I know jewels are formed under pressure. I know trees can grow through rocks, and rivers can break canyons …

I know the earth smells fabulous after a hard rain, and I know she breathes. I know out of the destruction of forest fires, new and stronger ecosystems can emerge. I know there is life in the deepest depths of the ocean and her tides can soften stone.” (Jacquelyn Taylor)

It will be good to get away for a while.  I’ll go breathe in the German mountains and swim in the Swedish lakes and completely refresh myself.  I will nurture my relationship with my book, offering it its due time and respect.  I will regain my strength and stop being such a sorry-ass wimp.  Once I accept that I’m a wimp and that’s okay, maybe then I will finally stop being one.  Ain’t that always the way?


Disconnected and alone

I’ve forgotten what this blog was all about.  Finding Fleur – finding that awesome girl who’s hiding on the other side of this neurotic pile of self-obsessions, misinterpretations, desperations, and the pain arising from the opposing forces of people-pleasing compulsions and self-realisation desires.

There’s me.  And there’s Fleur.

“Don’t look down; just cross the bridge
And when you get there, you’ll be glad did
There’s a better life on the other side”

Today is a sunny, beautiful, gorgeous, absolutely summery-flowery-wonderful day outside, yet I am sitting inside ticking off to-do lists (or at least, somehow, trying to), and riding out the inner battles of what must be done, what should be done, what others want to be done, and desperately trying to find that one stream of consciousness that tells me what I actually want, and then feeling guilty for focusing of self-interests. Whereas Fleur would just don a flowery dress and run out into the sunshine and play, embracing everything and everyone, and get her daily dose of healing sunshine, and not give a flying fuck what anyone thinks.

Melody Fletcher says, “Stop comparing yourself to your Higher Self.”  Well, it’s hard, but I’m very grateful for that advice.  Our human selves could never fully live up to the image of our divine selves.  I can seek and apply and integrate aspects of Fleur, but I will never be her.  And I mustn’t let that discourage me.

But for now, I’ll just have a good cry and watch Louise’s cat stomp all over me and not give a fuck (because the only emotion she understands is her own anxiety) and maybe have a soothing drink at antisocial hours.  After all, life is just an illusion, right?



Don’t want to sleep

It’s 2 a.m., and Mike is snoring lightly by my side, snug in our new bed. Our bedroom still smells of fresh paint (with an added hint of popcorn and Sainsbury’s prawn layered salad). Zoe got on the 380 bus about an hour ago, after a giggly day of inventions and good intentions, and I’ve spent hours browsing WordPress themes and used my best endeavours to turn her emotional journeys into comedic entertainment for our new project.

The third wine bottle has just been emptied, and with everyone gone I’m rounding off the evening with some comforting tunes from the best voice in Sweden. I still can’t decide if I prefer the magic of late night quietude or the vigour of early morning sunshine. I guess the answer is to just stay awake all the time.

greenwich night

The order of things

The other day I escaped the DIY clean-up operations at home and met up with sweet Zoe again at our favourite hang, the Dial Arch. Since we last saw each other, it had been made clear that I had read and been influenced by male journalist travel writers only, and was obviously not being as honest and authentic in my writing as I should, so Zoe had put me on Eat, Pray, Love duty.  It was a bit of an eye opener, and I realised that I’m not a dry, witty, researching journalist type writer, but more of an emotional observer and analytical explorer. While I’ve been reading Liz Gilbert (not without shame – always making sure to hide the book cover when reading in public, and feeling extremely silly for doing so), the USA book has faded away to be revisited at a later time, because I think the tale of my first backpacking trip is eager to be born first. She will be the elder sibling, the laying down of the foundation. That was when I was all alone for five months and truly had to face myself and all the ugly stuff inside, as well as the beautiful treasures and surprising resources I found within me. I feel like if I figure out the arc of that first journey, then I will be able to see the shape of the second one. This might be how it wants to happen.

zoe and bella

Zoe and Bella at Dial Arch


Anyhow, Zoe got stuck in traffic so I ordered a black coffee and sat down to write. I opened the USA book and nothing came. I couldn’t even look at it. So I opened a blank document and began writing about the first trip, and before long my heart was pounding hard in my chest as the words positively poured out of me. I must have looked like a lunatic, staring intently at the screen and mouthing words as I wrote dialogue, my face contorting along with the emotions that arose with the words. When the barman came to pick up my coffee mug I was so buzzy I couldn’t speak to him.

“You done with your coffee?” he asked and began to clean up.

I surprised myself by shouting “Yes please!” and went on to stammer something about how I would order another coffee but will wait for friend because sorry just really into this!

I wrote 2,000 words in the hour it took Zoe to get there, and by the time she arrived I was out of breath and trembling. I’ve been very pleased with certain parts of the USA book, but never has the process of writing felt like that – it has more been like carefully assembling an IKEA corner desk, whereas this was more like a child let loose with oil paints.

I pounded out 3,000 more words that afternoon, and I think it’s actually quite good – but the verdict will come at the Greenwich Writers’ meetup next week. My stomach turns thinking about it.