This moment. Jake is putting the kids to bed – reading a story, I can hear the up and down of his voice; I imagine them all, snuggled up, heads full of whatever they’re imagining. Oh, here comes one now, needs a wee – they seem to need about a hundred wees before finally settling down. I can hear the whirring of the sitting room clock, and it’s peaceful in here now that Jake is putting them all to bed. My wrist aches. Out of practice. This strange calligraphy pen is kind of beautiful, and although I’m missing the lines a bit generally it’s making my writing look quite lovely.
“Ok Lauren?” I call, she’s still in the bathroom and I know in the other room the story is waiting on her. Day dreaming on the loo. “Come on Lauren!” daddy calls- and off she runs- back to bed. It’s unlikely to be the last I’ll hear of her tonight. Often bedtime is not really bedtime. Only occasionally will they settle. Although having said that, I also wanted to say: Lauren and Joel have started reading at bedtime- proper reading of their own books. I got them each a clip-on reading light, for reading after lights out- and Lauren is on her third novel – the third in a series called “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” which sounds quite funny.
How wonderful it is that they have discovered the escape and the fun of reading! I really couldnt wish for more than that. Its through reading that we travel through life-not just our own but hundreds of other lives. It’s through reading that we learn what we think, explore what we want to explore; If you look through my Kindle reading list its like a chronicle of my interests, passions, and problems!
I can hear the mice squeaking under the kitchen cupboard.
• • •
Sitting down again to write, and not knowing what to write, and wondering if I can hold my pen a little looser.
And I know that sounds like a metaphor but I do actually mean to hold my pen, physically, a bit more lightly, and I have also made the lines a bit wider so I can write a bit more freely and I suppose thats what this ‘practicing’ is all about.
The question is, how do you ever know if what you’ve written is worth reading?
• • •
It was a little bit too warm in the room, so that she felt as if she might burst through her skin a little bit, a little bit suffocated in her own skin. The whirring of the clock was a constant noise is the background – not a ticking but a whirring because it was a particular type of clock. And outside the noise of a few voices chatting in the street and the waves of a few passing cars but not really much noise, not much happening.
Inside, in the slightly too-warm room, the thick grey rug was for once lying quite straight against the line of the low cabinet under the TV, and the new Ikea lamp made from a kind of upturned wicker basket was making a nice warm yellow glow which was quite cosy and satisfying. On the coffee table, an empty tea mug – one of the nice ones from some museum or gallery collection, made of fine thin china that was a pleasure to sip from.
Two of the alcoves in this room have been painted green – a deep forest green that contrasts with the subtle french grey of all the other walls. And against that forest green, the wood of the shelves, wooden picture frames, books and bric-a-brac all present a homely clutter, with warm reds and pinks in some of the bits and bobs. Butterfly masks, coloured and decorated brightly by the children, stand out gaily against the forest green wall, bejewelled with little plastic gems, fantastical. She’d stuck them there in a jaunty display and now they’ve become art as well as clutter.
The sofa, grey and drooping, grubby after seven years of family life. The cushions sag and slide out. There’s nothing beautiful about this sofa (anymore). It’s functional, an L-shape that divides the room functionally. Always kind of junky looking with miscellaneous stuff on it. Today a small doll lies facedown; leggings still entwined with pink knickers; a TV remote; more saggy mis-matched scatter cushions.
A lonely yellow balloon has come to rest under the computer desk, shrunk a bit since it was first blown up. And theres a guitar on a stand, hardly played but sometimes catches someone’s interest for a moment. Its red wood is another cosy homely thing in this quite untidy room. A virtual reality headset sits upside down on the cabinet next to a plasticky sylvanian family campervan and some random bits of paper.
Ah yes, the grimy arm of the sofa catches her eye. It’s shiny in the lamplight, grim, and she feels the twinge in her back as she sits, kind of curled up in a not-very-sensible position. The room doesn’t seem so over warm now, the flush of heat has receded and now feels pleasantly breathable. She knows she should shift into a better position for the sake of her back. She does so, rearranging the stripy blue and white blanket around her crossed legs.
Her fingers are stained purple and blue from the tie-dyeing the family tried earlier in the afternoon – a tie dye kit given as a present to one of the kids. She bought three white T-shirts on Amazon, delivered the next day; and true to her word set up the dyes and the plastic mat and looked up the instructions on YouTube. The whole family joined in, in the end, even Jake drawn towards the astonishing bleed of colour on fabric, the satisfying staining of vibrant dyes. And now the sodden dyed pieces sit wrapped in clingfilm in a pink plastic tub, waiting for the dyes to ‘set’ overnight, so we can rinse them out and look at what we’ve done.
• • •
Mothers day, 14th March 2021. She was going to call her mother but settled in the end for a brief Whatsapp message- five colourful flower emojis and ‘Happy Mothers Day mummy!’ And a brief reply, ‘Thank you- and same to you!’
It could be more, but its enough. She loves her mother complexly, and its difficult to find a way to be with her. But anyway, its not so long since they’ve spoken- a video call last weekend on Kier’s 9th birthday.
Oh the room feels too warm again, like her skin doesnt quite fit. But perhaps it’s her blood rising from coming upstairs (she went to change her pen nib). Or perhaps it’s something inside trying to get out that makes it feel like the room is too hot. Throwing off the blue and white stripey blanket helps, of course!
Well, Mothers day. There is something to say about her mother but it’s not close to the surface and not quite in reach.
Another distraction is this pen. The calligraphy nib which looked so elegant before now looks kind of scratchy and uneven. It could be the words- the thoughts- that are scratchy and uneven, of course. Ha! Metaphorical!
Is she avoiding writing about her mother? Or just trying to keep her pen moving while some thoughts about it all rise up to the surface. She’s a complicated woman. Who, now? Her mother? Herself? Yes, that’s true.
• • •
That’s pretty much 50 straight minutes of writing practice, how did she do? That’s not the point, though. It’s practice, not outcomes, and it’s not ‘how did she do’, but ‘she did’ which matters. She wonders if she would be able to write every day for a month, and if she did that, would she be able to write every day for a year? And if she did that – would it lead anywhere? Would it simply be an end in itself, like a kind of meditation? Would it loosen her tongue to write other things – things intended to be read by other people? The whir of the clock, the occasional rush of a passing car – the ache in her hand and in her neck, the inky stained fingers- not from pen ink (its a tablet!) but from tie-dying t-shirts with the kids.
Noticing details, writing them down as if they are somehow significant when really its just that she is noticing them. And this strange calligraphy pen, sometimes beautiful, and sometimes scratchy and uneven. Interesting, she thinks, in the third person.