It’s St Patrick’s Day today – not something I celebrate having absolutely no Irish connection whatsoever, but it made me think about Ireland and the only time I’ve ever been there, which in turn made me dig out the notebook I made during that visit. I spent a windswept and hilarious ten days with my MA team wandering around Dublin and Galway and the largest of the Aran Islands off Galway Bay, eating cheese and biscuits, free-wheeling our bikes down empty Aran roads, making a campfire made from a pallet we had to stamp on and throw rocks at to get it into small enough pieces, and scribbling who-knows-what in our fieldbooks in the guise of practising writing nature and place. Here’s a little snippet from mine. It’s a bit random but that’s the whole point of a notebook…
My overwhelming first impression of Araínn, Inishmore, Inis Mór, this largest of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Galway is the colour grey. I used to associated grey with all the negative things in life: Bracknell Town Centre and School, our head-to-toe concrete colour uniforms, the 1970s concrete architecture of the town, dank concrete underpasses, tower blocks, roundabouts and kerbs… Cornwall taught me a different sort of grey: granite, slate and raincloud, the sea under a lowering sky. Inis Mór is grey in both the Cornish sense and totally differently grey. Continue reading
I had a dream. I was trying to catch up with two people who were walking ahead of me. No matter how fast I walked they continued to get further ahead, not noticing they had left me behind. Continue reading
I ate my first blackberries of the summer just a few days ago.
I’ve been eyeing them up in the hedgerow since the beginning of the month when they first started to ink up in small numbers, biding my time, waiting for the sweetness, the ripeness to set in.
Pausing on the path up Pennance hill to let someone pass, I saw them, seven, eight, maybe ten black blackberries on the edge of the field. Any thoughts of saving them for my picnic dessert evaporated as the first one hit my tongue, flooding my head with juices and flavours and purple stain, and re-drawing to the surface lines indelibly printed in the back of my mind:
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: the summer’s blood was in it
I was fourteen and I’d never heard of him. It was the end of the summer term, and having finished all our end of year exams we were in a sort of educational limbo between lower school and GCSEs. (But of course I didn’t know the word limbo yet, nor the ‘cold glitter’ and the spark of deep core grief-sadness I cannot dissociate from it.) So they gave us something to bridge the gap, a poem to look at such as we might get to study in the following school year. It was ‘Blackberry Picking’ by Seamus Heaney. Continue reading
I find flowers pretty hard to write about.
I’m also not sure whether there ought to be a comma in that sentence. (Or should it be a semi-colon?)
I find it pretty hard to write about flowers. I get stuck. I don’t know what I should say.
I love their shapes, their colours, their variations, the profusion of surprises they offer in their deceptive simplicity. There must be a way of working this into prose without it becoming too… prosaic? But I get entangled with botanical details and the tongue-twisting vocabulary required to accurately describe them. Panicles and pedicles. Ovate and pinnate. Spadix, spathe, siliqua, anthers, auricles, monocotyledons – even jizz, I’m completely serious – all feature in the glossary of terms I find myself compelled to consult in order to get to grips with the language of flowers. Even if I am being botanically correct, will anyone know what I am trying to say?
I’m stalling as usual. I find it pretty hard to write, full stop. Continue reading
Three rail journeys.
A thousand and one thoughts from here to there to here and back again.
Two thousand words, fourteen hours and twenty three minutes.
Sometimes I sit thinking on trains.
Tuesday. On the train again. I get out my notebook to write down what I see, and to reflect on what I’ve experienced during the train journeys of the past few days. It’s a long way from Reading to Par. That’s a lot of landscape and a whole lot of thoughts in four hours. Continue reading