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News Year's day - haven't made any resolutions, doesn't seem much point, I've seen plenty of them, and the one common point is that they herald nothing new. January 1st is always remarkably like Dec 31st. And when you think about it, each day is the start of a new year, if that's the way you choose to see it. So we didn't celebrate the new year - couldn't be bothered! The television was depressing - ancient rock stars playing thirty year old songs , being yapped at by Jools Holland. God knows how they would celebrate an Old Year - 90 year old songs?
Wrestled the turkey to bits this morning. A well-developed free range bird, big strong legs, full of muscles; man-sized wings, lots of meat on him ( could have been a her, of course - how do you sex turkeys?). What a fate - to be roasted, pulled off the bones, eaten in sandwiches, curried...I hope it's life was merry, even though it was short. It tasted like it had enjoyed itself, you don't get strong healthy muscular legs like that languishing in a factory farm. Did the sprouts, potatoes, leeks, carrots and stuff have happy lives too? I worry about these things.
When I woke up this morning, it was all white- the grass was gone, and each tree, each branch, each twig was rimmed in white. The air was white - a thick mist, but the water droplets were almost snow, not water, and white. The stream was black against the white banks, and the wire holding the fish above the blackness, outlined in white, the only time it can be seen. Even the noise was white - white noise, water rushing. My breath in the cold damp air was white too, as I breathed out. The first snow of the new year.
The Girl looks like the Niece - my brother sent a picture of the Niece, looking remarkably like the Girl - dyed red hair, big brown eyes, silly christmas antlers, big inebriated grin...and loud voices, lots of laughing, talking too much, full of enthusiasms......must be a family thing. Not enthusiastic about walks in the fresh air - but I don't remember the Niece moaning quite as loudly as the Girl does, in fact she used to love going out with her favourite auntie, getting muddy, singing "Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud" at the top of her voice. I usually blame the Parents.
They've gone! Driven away into the frosty sunshine, and everything has gone quiet again. I start tidying, clearing up the piles of papers, little heaps of nutshells and sweety papers. Under the sofa, I find a dirty plate, complete with crumbs and applecores. Damp towels and empty shampoo bottles litter the bathroom, and yes, they did forget the toothbrushes, and his razor. The kitchen bin is full of empty beer cans and wine bottles - must go to the bottle bank soon, but there's no hurry, they won't be back again for months. And the quiet and the silence returns, again.
Another bad night. Dreams that make no sense. Waves of sadness cascading through my head, linking to the past, but without my voluntary thoughts. I go to bed as normal, drift off to sleep, warm and comfortable, and wake at the darkest hour, and I can see no reason, no trigger, for doing this. The darkest time, the turn of the night, between three- and four- o-clock. And the images return. I re-live the sound of his harsh breathing, his struggles, his hand raising - is it to wave goodbye or to ward off what is coming? - I'll never know.
I do not understand computers. I want to write a letter - no problem. I go to print it - no problem, except it comes out green, as the colour cartridge is running out of ink. I replace it with a new black cartridge - and does it print? No! And I don't know why not and I am very cross! Stupid bloody machine!. I might as well write by hand. That's the trouble with machines, you get to rely on them, and then they let you down - just because they can't be bothered! My sympathy for inanimate objects is rapidly being eroded.
Everything cold and crisp and crackling - the air so cold it feels like iced water when you breathe in. Each brown leaf underfoot in the woods crisped and crunching, surfaces sparkling, each vein delicately outlined with frost. The rich brown mud beneath the leaves is as hard as chocolate, the ooze crystalline and frozen. Blackbirds scrabble and rattle through the leaves, searching for hidden grubs below. The waterfall is quiet, only a trickle between strings of icicles, looped like christmas decorations across the stream. Higher up a magnificent cathedral of ice round the culvert. And then the snow starts again.
Time to write my 100 words, but I haven't much to say today. Much as I enjoy writing, I can't see that I'm doing anything remotely useful, or even interesting to anyone else. It's not really like writing a normal diary or journal, in that it isn't tangible. In previous times, a journal was written partly to occupy yourself, partly as a record for future generations, but writing for the Internet isn't like that. Uploading it onto the Web isn't the same as keeping a "hard" copy for my great-grand-daughter to discover and read. And would she be interested anyway?
Continuing from yesterday, I think my great-grand -daughter might be interested. I would be interested in my great-grandmother's journal, if I found it. I know nothing whatever about my great-grandparents. I know my grandmother's name was Gladys Vera, and that she came from a respectable middle-class family, possibly from Devon, was Roman Catholic, produced seven children and spent most of her married life in Sheffield, retiring to Eastbourne during the 2nd world war, but that's all I know. That information came from my mother, renowned for her reticence. I think my grandmother's sister married my grandfather's brother as well. Different.
Birthday today - the future, not the past. Nearly half a century, and wearing well - beard a little grizzled, small bald patch on top, temples turning a very distinguished grey! Not at all bad, though - slightly more stomach than there used to be, but he was stick-thin, (disappearing down cracks in the pavement if he turned sidewards) shoulders have broadened, muscles developed in his arms. I showed the Girl a picture of him when he was 17, and she didn't recognise him at first. I did though - he's just grown-up, that's all. The dimples are still there hiding in his beard.
The squirrels are back! At first just a skittering, could be a mouse, but it's rather heavy-footed. Then louder, more obvious scratching. And then, this morning at about 3.00am, the gnawing starts! What it finds to eat in the eaves, I don't know. It sounds like it's sharpening it's teeth, just to annoy us. Then the joyful early morning race around the roof, tossing the insulation about, charging up and down the joists, rattling it's horrid little feet against the wall. So far I think there is only one, but it will invite it's friends around to party before long !
Spent a happy hour this morning, crawling about in the eaves, squirrel-hunting. I cannot find where it got in, there are no holes anywhere. Traces of scratching under the garage door, but how did it get in from the garage? The holes are still sealed, there isn't even access for a mouse. It's settled down in the hollow wall between the kitchen and the living room, just below the airing cupboard, probably where it's nice and warm. I suspect it's making a nest, ready for a brood of baby squirrels. Not cute at all, just rats with long furry tails!
No sound of the little buggers today. We lifted the floorboards in the living room last night, thinking perhaps they'd got in under the house somehow, and set a rat-trap - just in case! There has been no noise since, although last year, they ran off with the rat-trap and we never saw it again. What could a squirrel possibly want with a rat-trap? And how - having got it, could they use it? There are some very clever rodents in Shropshire! Apparently there are some dormice in the Nature Reserve down the valley. Almost extinct in other areas, but thriving here.
Job application forms - bane of my life! So tedious and repetitive! Qualifications - got them, otherwise I wouldn't be applying; experience - yes of course, I've been doing this for more than 10 years, personal skills - sense of humour? How can I explain my sense of humour on an application form, without thoroughly mystifying the recipient? Highly motivated and creative? Well...for interview purposes, I suppose, but how honest do you have to be? I would quite happily remain unemployed, and continue with voluntary work, if it wasn't for the lack of money. That's really my motivation - money! Here we go again...
She is tall and slim..has big brown eyes dyes her hair bright red...she wears bright clothes and silly hats...she is bright, confident, energetic and intelligent...she talks a lot, laughs a lot, drinks a lot...she is sensitive, loving, giving...she is noisy and naive, impatient and thoughtless...she is untidy, unhelpful and selfish at times... she is demanding and exhausting, greedy and charming... she is caring and idealistic, demands justice and fair play, cynical and intolerant of opposition...she gives her time and efforts freely...she is not a little girl anymore...and I love her.
Dark, bright, peat-brown eyes, flecked with green and gold. Ridiculously long feathery black lashes, brows dark and untidy, raised in a quizzical arch. Skin smooth and pale, faintly flushed with pink, the dimples deep and dark in his smile, cheekbones too prominent now, belying the soft, childish, happy- smiling mouth. He sits there, long legs curled up under him, white bony hands with restless, constantly tapping fingers, chewed nail-tips for once still in his lap, smiling at me. But he's not here now and never will be again. I only have the photo left - where did he go?
Memories are painful things. Spent a quiet day today, working on the house, painting doors and windows, things that require only a minimum amount of concentration, so the brain wanders off on its own tangent, back to the past, remembering him...missing him..wanting him....consciously, I remember the happy times, his laughter, silly things he used to do or say, the good memories, but even they leave me sad, because they are only memories now, I can't relive them again. And the house is too quiet, without the Girl and her noise...and I get so sad at times. Oh well.
Went to the seaside today - as one does in the middle of January! It wasn't raining this morning, we felt like a break, so we set off through darkest Wales to the coast..... it was lovely! The beach was empty of course, and we did the usual paddle in the pools of water, and scraping letters in the sand. The viaduct across the estuary is rusty ironwork and dark sodden wood. Metal plates with the word "loose" scrawled on them, and wooden sleepers holding the railway propped up on what looked like piles of plywood. It did not look safe!
My birthday today...poor old thing! But like the New Year it doesn't make any difference to anything....yesterday I was 48 , today I'm 49... and ? Arbitrary, and essentially meaningless. I disagree with the whole concept of linear time, with uniform units - hours, days, years, that's not how Time really works. Or at least that is only how Time works in a mechanical unreal way. Real Time, the time that matters, is not uniform or standardized. Each day is never really experienced as 24 hours, each made up of 60 minutes, each 60 seconds long. It just doesn't work like that.
Yesterday's work illustrates the limitations of the 100-words format. While the format curbs the tendency towards verbal diarrhoea, it also limits the development of any train of thought. I know exactly what I wanted to say about Time yesterday, and, given the space could develop the idea coherently, and possibly even concisely, but not in the space of 100 words. It encourages the tendency towards "soundbytes" - phrases that sound good, are concise, but allow no depth to an argument. So I write - what? Verbal diarrhoea, vague ramblings about nothing much, to fill the allotted space. It passes the time.
I had half a day's work yesterday - God! I was exhausted afterwards! Nice school, nice class - only 24 children, with a classroom assistant, a clear High/Scope structure already in place, so it was a very easy afternoon, and I enjoyed it. Which is a good thing, since the teacher is going on maternity leave soon, and I've applied for the post. Would be rather sad if I hadn't liked it. It's only 3 mornings and 1 full day, which would suit me fine, as I can't really leave the Old Woman for more than a few hours at a time.
Was watching Question Time this evening, with Robin Cook giving the government's viewpoint this time. Usual topics: student fees and grants (!), the build-up to war and the current debate about euthanasia. Having made all the obligatory noises in support of St. Tony's war efforts, Robin Cook made an interesting statement on euthanasia: (The government's position is) that taking life is illegal..... I wasn't quite sure how this squared with the idea of sending troops off to Iraq with the specific intention of taking life, which is what war is all about. Or maybe it isn't illegal to take non-british life?
The build-up to war goes on apace, despite the opposition to it. Anti-war demonstrations across the world - even in the US, etc, none of which merit a comment on the television news. I suppose because there is no violence or drama, just people saying "we don't want this, you are not doing this in our name". So far, internationally, France, Germany, Russia and China have come out and refused to back US aggression, and Tony Blair is finding it hard to convince even his own government, let alone the electorate he is supposed to be representing, that war is justified.
The Girl sent us a review of her production, which was, naturally, glowing. Made me think, what a clever girl she is. She is only 19 (20 next month), and she wrote the script, organised the finances, arranged the booking of the theatre, sorted out the advertising, cast, produced and directed the play, stage-managed, organised the lighting and sound, arranged the front of house proceedings, and still enjoyed it thoroughly. And the play was really good...the script was well written, the actors were well cast and excellent, and the lighting and set design was brilliant. I'm proud of her!
Spent today reading the Sunday papers, which was depressing. Most of the broadsheets are backing Tony Blair without question, only the IoS seems to be saying why is this happening? What will be the consequences? Is there any legal justification, let alone a moral one? The paper was full of readers letters, all anti-war, but Mr Blair was on television this morning, saying if the weapons inspectors don't find any hidden weapons of mass destruction, it's a cause for war, since Saddam Hussein couldn't be co-operating. So Iraq will be bombed if they do and bombed if they don't. Why?
The irony of it all is that the US sold Iraq the weapons in the first place, when Saddam was a Good Guy - ie not offering any threat to US oil supplies. Which is why the weapons inspectors are supposed to find all these hidden stocks of weapons - we know they are there, because we sold them to you, so where have you put them? It's not easy to dispose of nuclear warheads or stockpiles of chemical weapons without someone noticing, and no-one has, so they must be hidden . Now Saddam is the bad guy, he shouldn't be allowed them.
An autumn afternoon on the beach. Hazy sunlight, and the carpark is empty. The sand is too soft for the wheelchair, so we abandon it, and struggle down onto the beach with the crutches. It is hard-going over the soft sand, and he is exhausted by the time we reach the firm clean stuff. We sit, leaning against each other, watching the waves. No talk. Either too much or too little to say, time is slipping away and we can't stop it. I don't know what he's thinking, and can never ask now. Just a sunny afternoon on the beach.
Memories and regrets flood back. Why didn't we talk? What was he thinking then, on the beach? Was he afraid of what was coming? Did he have anything he wanted to tell me - about his past, or the future, his fears, regrets, ambitions? Why didn't we talk? But we sat together, leaning peacefully against each other, watching the waves. Then wrote his name in the sand with the crutches, and struggled back up the beach for an icecream. Just a sunny afternoon on the beach. But it was the last one, we never went again. I've never been there since.
Snow again today. Just the smallest powdering, but enough to outline the trees and make it all pretty. The Girl phoned this morning, to say it was snowing hard and she was on the way to Edinburgh. Why? But then why not? She'd had a bad day at college apparently, then nothing to do today, so she got on a train to Edinburgh, as she'd never been there. An adventure. Shame she had to go on her own though. Adventures are more fun with someone, but Carl's in Leeds, and her friends just think she's strange. She isn't, at all.
Not a good day today. An early morning call from the special school, but I couldn't do it, as I'd arranged to take the Old Woman to the opticians for her new glasses. We got the glasses, and the Old Woman was happy with them in the opticians, but complained about the price, and said she didn't think they were worth it. And then she tripped on the steps and gashed her leg again, so I had to take her to the Surgery again to be bandaged. The joys of being a Carer! I never wanted to be a nurse.
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