Saturday, June 18, 2011


A creaking tree never falls down...
My mother-in-law, who is justabout still my mother-in-law, said this to me last night. We had a conversation on the telephone, her in Ireland, me here.  After years of minor struggle, we have reached a place of mutual respect and understanding, and one of the things that we understand is that both of us have lost her son.

I love her, strange to say.  I never expected to, but it's true.  She once bought a mug out of which to drink when she came to visit and for a long time I hid it at the back of the cupboard when she wasn't here, and looked at it askance, should it ever have the audacity to creep to the fore.

This evening I sought it out.  Its silly, flowery pattern comforts me and I sipped my tea hoping that some of her countrywoman wisdom might somehow slip into me.

She told me the story:  for years a tree outside her mother and father's cottage would worry and wake them with its noise.  Today, the house is long gone, and the tree still stands.

A creaking tree never falls down, she recalls her father saying.  Because it bends, I suppose.

I need to bend.  I need to stay standing.

Sometimes I count it up, just for fun, the astonishing number and variety of life events of the past decade.  Bowed down by my mistakes, I have been close to feeling like one who has failed, recently, and it helps me not to feel like that, reminding myself what this creaking tree has withstood.  Some of the events have been chronicled here: it wasn't long after I started the blog that my subject matter went from the mundane to pithy.

Not all the events were bad, of course (and among the horrors there came a strawberry-blonde girl whose presence nothing can gainsay)  but it looks like I'll be adding divorce, near bankruptcy and moving house to the list before the decade's up.

I write on a Saturday night.  Almost always I am alone on a Saturday night.  It's not alright, alright.  It's the loneliest night of the week, it has been for some time.  I'm too tired to work.  I'm too worried, too sad, too alone.  I have no money, none, and the Bim has finally gone.  The Bim is not alone this Saturday night, he is with Anna-mouse and another.

But tomorrow or the next day, when Anna-mouse returns, I will have the driving force of my life by me again, and remarkably I am not ill.  I creak, and I am always tired, but I am not ill.  And I have a talent to put words together which has led me to a new career - I have started something which I hope, if life's burdens don't become too great, to finish.

Of the decade's ten years, there are only ten months left.  Head down against the mutterings on the wind, I'm going to creak and bend, and try really, really hard to stay standing.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Something, remembered

I guess posting again after a very, very long time away is a little like riding a bicycle, or dancing salsa, or learning to sing again after losing your voice. 

Not that I lost my voice; I just needed it for other things.

So let's give the old muscles a whirl.

Well, having recently been put right by some well-meaning teacher at school, Anna-mouse announced proudly the other day that she has learnt that 'masagine' isn't 'masagine' at all, and that she can at last pronounce the word correctly.

Go on then, I say, steeling myself for the moment I have deliberately delayed all her speaking life (it being the only word she consistently mis-pronounces which I, with equal consistency and an irrational longing for it to belong curiously and forever to childhood, like Peter Pan, don't correct).

Masagine!  she says proudly, and instantly looks confused.

I smile, relieved, not at all guilty that the old, precious version is so deeply ingrained.  She has another go and gets it right this time.  Encouraged, she goes on to practise another long-time stumbler, 'submarine'.

Sumbarine! she cries.

Good, I think.  Excellent.

And thus I set these markers, these tiny gems of childhood - my child's childhood - rustily down.  They disappear, these gems.  We think we will remember, these things which touch us, these unique and secret things, but more often than not we do not.  

So in finding myself before a keyboard again, with so much to do and not a thought in my head about what to write but simply that I must, it is no surprise to find that it is one of these gems which I attempt to record. 

After all, what else are we?  What else remains of ourselves but our memories - and then, finally, those of others about us.