Monthly Archives: May 2012

Nostalgia Trip

I still get homesick. Even though my home is here in London and I love it, sometimes I just yearn for Lancashire, for its good ordinariness, its steadier pace, its not trying too hard, nor having to. I’d just like to hear northern voices with flat vowels at the supermarket checkout instead of the chewing gum voices of south London.

Odd though, the things I miss. Wigan had a beautiful Victorian market hall which was the bustling hub of the town and which was demolished in the 1980s to make way for a bleak, airless red brick, high walled shopping centre and although a market was incorporated into the scheme, the town seemed to lose its purpose. My grandmother would take me to the market. It was a place to socialise and gossip: the interminable shifting of weight from one leg to the right while she laughed and sympathised and whispered the latest scandal. She was a glamorous woman and never went out without heels and lipstick and a sharp skirt suit and hat and gloves.

Can’t think where I get it from……

Wigan Market

It’s a cathedral this market hall.

Same thin yellow light.

Same unreachable vaulted roof.

Same feather-quiet hush, at this hour,

disturbed only by bird wings high-flapping against glass.

Fingers of sunlight fan through the wide roof space

gilding dust,

illuminating facia boards and awnings.

Stallholders with faces lined with sleep and nicotine and age

push up shutters and slap back the

heavy rubber curtains hiding

the stuff of market stalls:

buttons, ribbons and elastic,

stockings, nylon lace cardigans stretched over half torsos,

floral house coats attempting prettiness,

plugs, screwdrivers,

liquorice, butterscotch, mint balls.

Noises:

the sweep of bristle on flagstone,

the clipped click of heels and

the start of conversation:

flat northern vowels and

cigarette smoke blue-curling into the space under glass.

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Homesick

I knew I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to make anything this week and you’d think that, given my not inconsiderable experience, I might have had the sense not to bother. The consequences are predictable: a frock disaster of about 6 on the Scale of Mishap: not insurmountable but enough to make me disheartened and not want to see it again for while. This has happened before and my reaction always takes me by surprise: I have a raging urge to achieve something good. To put things right in my head. Immediately. I don’t moon about staring into the middle distance.

So, here’s a poem about being homesick….The Small Boy is away with school and I hope he isn’t….homesick.

 

Homesick

 

I left them digging at Nanjizal,

hunkered heads bent together, hair straggling into sand.

The repeating sliced rasp of spade

and their earnest conversation still in my head.

I stepped into the cold water

and walked deeper in,

weaving through smooth turtled rocks, sand soft-hissing in the tide.

At waist depth I held my breath and dived and felt the green-ice shock

chill my skin,

felt the water slip away like skeins of silk thread.

I swam into the ocean,

past the sand banks, their caked peaks drying in the sun

and out into deep water.

I’m swimming home.

Past wide surfing beaches, specks of black gliding and falling.

Past talons of rock and

green felted cliff tops and

quiet, unpeopled coves.

I left Cornwall behind and swam hard against the swell,

lifting and falling.

Miles of sea and coastline and then

Anglesey and on again to the half-brine,

brown, wide open Mersey.

I slipped into the industrial water of the Ship Canal

and felt small against tankers.

To Salford docks where

I stopped in the quiet water of a lagoon

and saw journalists and broadcasters and theatre-goers and tram users and

cranes suspended in inaction

and cleaned up for the tourists:

awkward and uncomfortable

like being alone at a party and wearing the wrong dress.

 

I didn’t know which way to go until

I heard the children’s thin-reed voices calling me back….

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Blockage

I have writer’s/frockmaker’s/gardener’s block…..It’s coincided with the Hub’s trip to San Francisco and a consequential feeling of being rudderless.

He’s back today so perhaps my blockage will be unblocked…like a kitchen drain…

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Inspiration

It’s been an odd week. Sad really. I was inspired to write these poems by the the end of a marriage. Someone for whom I had made a wedding dress just a few years ago. She was an easy client. Delightful. It was a joyful time and it now seems pointless. A dress which took months to make and which was nurtured, now not wanted. I know that most people only wear their wedding dress once and then it’s put away in tissue but it’s still felt wherever it’s stored: on a shelf in a linen press, in a bottom drawer, in a mirrored dressing room. It has its place. But when things go awry, it’s a reminder of all that is wrong and the bond breaks.

 

Wedding Dress

 

There was another fitting after that first one.

Then another and another and then it was done.

Complete.

Hanging, waiting in its white cotton case

for her.

Seams steamed open and bound with satin.

Bones anchored with tiny stitches

by hand,

a silver thimble protecting punctured skin

pushing again and again

to make that curve,

that wasp waist.

 

Your dress is my dress too:

lived with me,

grown,

become beautiful.

 

And I send it away with you and feel it gone.

 

My wedding dress was black silk velvet and I wore it ’til it fell apart. I still have my coat (it was February and cold) which is wrapped in pink tissue and lives in a box in my wardrobe. It’s made from black and gold Chinese silk with a filigree gold button that belonged to my grandmother.

 

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Toile for a Wedding Dress

Agonised over. Pinned and fitted and made perfect and worn once. We know where they are, stored in tissue and kept safe but never looked at. There’s something comforting about their presence: a symbol of something good? Something durable? It’s a long process, making a wedding dress.

Toile

It started in calico,

in stiff unbending cloth

to get the shape right and the fit.

But you could see the beauty that it could be.

Let it fit, let it fit……

A mouth full of glass-headed pins

pink gold green,

new so as not to snag,

trying not to stab unexpecting skin.

Blue-mottled February skin.

Muttering, ‘turn this way a little,’

‘lift that arm.’

‘Can you sit?’

‘Can you breathe?’

Laugh with relief

at its cheap cotton perfection.

I tear its seams apart:

A rupturing rip of stitches.

Left alone with lace the colour of jersey milk

I unfold it from its tissue,

let it fall across my hands and

hold it up to my face.

Then throw it out

billowing

and wrap it round and round,

twirling

before I smooth it onto the cutting table and

slice into it.

Raw blades sounding like hammer blows across its deep ridges.

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Lust

Red

You bought it because you said it clashed with my copper hair,

made a crash of colour,

a fury,

a shriek.

Made me stand out from the safe and grey and timid.

I opened the box it came in expecting discrete, modest glint

and found these red beads

their weight pressing small silvered discs into blue velvet.

Extravagant in their number, they looked

assured,

confident of their beauty.

They weighed heavily on my neck,

a rash of polyps moulding to my collarbones,

a challenge.

 

 

I’ve been mesmerised by this Miriam Haskell necklace. I keep looking at it and then staring into the middle distance in some lustful reverie. I simply want to own it, keep it safe in a box, know that it’s mine.

It won’t happen. Someone else has it and as far as I know, there is only one.

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