house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Un-Daying

I throw days out of the calendar.
I disown them,
Dis-number and dis-month them,
I will not have them change year and come around again.

January 10, March 4, 6, 7.
April 27,
June 21, June 23,
February 23 and December 11.

And now
Alastair has gone and gathered his great verbs,
his skylarks and Scotlands,
his sun-sleeping Spain,
folded his lilting and returning dawns
to ride over the mist-imprisoned hill - away, beyond away.

That done,
I also have dismantled
September 21.



And if you really want to know
I’ll tell you what happens to some of the days
you think I’m losing
every year.

(some are poison itself and as such,
have dried themselves up long ago.)

Like leaves in October,
sated with summer
are all scent and honey,
memory distilled
and stronger every year.

An entire childhood to pick from, long summer days with cousins and a grandfather, and berries and song; with my lovely Maia who smelled of lavender and quince; who told me that thing about God and I believed her even when I didn’t believe Him. Who needs the measly muscle of March 4 and March 7, when they have Maia's hand - steel and paper, under a coating of primrose cream - to pull them from those howling, crumbling walls?

That Afrikaans rhyme Ingrid sang in the kitchen, my Inky in her ball-gown ready for a May ball, Inky in her good-girl shoes standing in a queue in London to vote for Mr. Mandela. With these moments – and I have so many more - I can build endless April 27s. April 27s with no cars and nowhere to go and Ingrid safe at home.

June 23s filled with one deafening heartbeat, Paulo's. Paulo  perched on the roof with a pouch full of tools and red plums. Paulo squinting the sun, eating a plum, plum juice on his chin and I know he is thinking Gaia, when I throw this stone in the grass below, make a tree grow.

December 11 and February 23. Together now, these days
Do. Not. Exist.
No room for them in my year. What room,
when Mum and Dad fill the Everywhere and the Always
and hide the hourglass away?

And now, September 21, away with you too! Shoo!
Leave me Alastair: sprightly, aglow
in the Dominican sun, showing me – in Spanish and in rhyme -
How to make bread,
ride bikes, read books, chop limes,
write poetry.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My Scot

'Don't you dare use ME in the campaign' he says.

What does he expect? I write stuff. I'm married to the story-of-the-day. And he's telling me to shut up?

I am using my Scot in the campaign for Scotland.

The debate over Scotland has gone on for long enough - everything that could be said, was said. The arguments grew and matured, unwound and rewound. We are getting latest updates, syntheses, analyses, mind-maps, deep last-minute remarks. The battlefield is ready. Less than 24 hours until Scotland decides.

And all I have is a blog, an undecided Scot and a scene from 24 years ago.

It was June 1990 and I knew shamefully little about Scotland. I was working at the British Library in Bucharest, stacking books on shelves. The Scot walked in, had a brief chat with my boss and I got the job of translating for him. For the rest of the day, trailing from one meeting to another, I made the same, unforgivable mistake: I introduced him as 'English'. People called him 'the Englishman' and asked about 'England' to make him feel good.

'How would I know? I'm a Scot', he would reply with a smile that could cleave a buffalo in two. His blood boiled. His eyes, if even possible, became more blue. 'English', people would call him in polite conversation, and 'Scottish' he hissed, 'Scottish' he said, 'Scottish' he  shouted. I had no idea what his name was, but grew amply aware THAT. HE. WAS. SCOTTISH. Somehow it mattered more.

'Do you realise Scotland is a different country?' he pinned me to a tree and whispered in my face. And me, thinking he was going to kiss me.

I got the message, went back to school, studied Scottish identity, wrote my thesis on it, then married my Scot and made Scotland home. I've always taken homework seriously.

...which is why I feel today like pinning him to the nearest tree to whisper back, in his own words:

'Do you realise Scotland is a different country?'