23 August 2015

papersquare 011: connections


Making friends in later life is much more action oriented than when you are a child. As a child, there are a bunch of you all the same age, and you feel like you've won the lottery if the popular girl picks you above others to play with.  You eventually settle down with a smaller group of closer friends and, if you never move away, I guess barring betrayals, the shared experiences hold you together through life.

Moving away to college, you pretty much go through the same process, but it is spiced by the knowledge that it isn't the first time and it isn't fixed any more; you had to make a brand new set of friends, and could even have made a brand new you if that was what you wanted. There were more choices than you ever had before, you could get close to people with shared interests, and if you were still discovering interests, reinvention was the name of the game . You still had most of your life ahead of you to keep up with these more mobile friends; and reminisce on older wilder times.

As a middle age rolling stone come to rest, you have to take an active part, to reach out to find people with shared interests, and hope for a connection.  You can join groups, discuss things and still not find that spark of meaning that makes you look forward to talking to a person again.
And then sometimes someone just makes you want to open up and be yourself because they make you feel like a interesting person; they wave their hands and point out things you know and you think, yes, that is how I would say it if I had been able to put it into words.  Or their words drift onto things you don't know and yet you now yearn to find out more. When you are talking there is a flow, and you fill in sentences for each other.  When the word ekphrasis is used and mutually understood, when tea and cakes turns into hours, when there is a regret that it is time to part; then you smile as a connection draws gold lines towards a friendship.

19 August 2015

papersquare 010: Oh, Ashley!



"Life is short. Have an affair."
Oh, how seductive the siren call of the website!  A call to all those restless men who think, yes, they could lead a suave and sophisticated double life.  And how simple it seemed, to simply sign up, with the promise that their details would be kept secret.

How could I resist such a captive audience?  I don't remember who gave me the advice, but someone did; that in a relationship you should never be the one who has the most to lose if it ends. I did some checking out of the site, browsing there, and talking to my computer literate friends. Well, online acquaintances really, although I am sure I would be a friend to many of them if I ever met them in person.  It seems that over ninety percent of the subscribers are male, and with those odds, there's got to be a chance for me.  And something between ten and twenty percent of men leave their wives.

The website told me to "get started by telling us your relationship status."  Well I knew I shouldn't put single, everyone would assume I was a bunny boiler or something. Something, I'm, not sure what, I'd like to think I just have a few commitment issues, but if I was totally honest with myself, there was probably more to it than that.  My screen name, Scarlett, suited the photo I'd chosen for myself.

Within hours of creating the profile, I had messages in my inbox.  Men begging me for a chance to meet up and do something naughty. Men sharing, with very little provocation, pictures of their private parts. I was flushed with success and admiration. I specified restaurants, wine, and boutique hotels as a condition of meeting. I bought a gold band as camouflage, to ever so discreetly slip back on my finger when leaving the hotel bed. I refused all second dates, no matter how tempting, and oh, how tempting was Ashley, blond and verging on butch, but with the most infectious smile I had ever seen.

I was careless one day, a new profile looked exciting and enticing and somehow familiar; and so he was. My willpower was too weak to refuse him a third date, but I needed to keep my heart in one piece. It was the only thing I could do, to be safe, to leave the website, for if I set up another profile he would track me down.

I didn't know there was a cost to leave. It was more than I could afford, and the principle was rotten.  My internet friend arranged it all.  What I felt like though, on seeing Ashley's face in the paper, was not righteous revenge on unprincipled businesspeople. I should have recognised him first off, and known that he was no "typical" adulterer (if there is such a thing). Another chance gone begging.



#ashleymadison

16 August 2015

papersquare 009: maps



I like maps, especially of places I have been to.  The lines of streets labelled with names brings back just as much, even more sometimes than a photo does. For no-one would take a photo of three British tourists turning a map around and around, confused as only non-Americans can be by the block system.  Pointing in different directions, saying "It's that way," with some degree of confidence, followed by the quieter, "I think," disclaimer.
Something about the regularity of blocks confuses me, used to navigating by landmarks, bends. The compass points are meaningless to me, and the numbered streets just as opaque to one of my companions.  It is a hot afternoon and we are laden with books; and this memory of us stood on the corner of 13th and NW Couch is caught in the map.  We had only a brief dip into the city streets, no time for wandering and learning the landmarks that would help us navigate;  "If that is behind us, and that street is 13th, then we must be here?"
The map gives us the illusion that we know where we are in the world.

13 August 2015

I've found an idea...

...for the August challenge over at http://houseofwriters.ning.com/

now all I need to do is write it!

09 August 2015

papersquare 008: flower bee


we used to bring each other colours,
  you had the green of life connected,
  twined through you, rooted past
  and forward tendrils, touching.
I brought the buzzing of black wings,
  yellow striped for danger
  stealing your nectar and free to fly
  to some other flower.
my sting is drawn, withdrawn
  your bark thickened and blossom pale,
  air moves but nothing trembles
  and the bees are disappearing.

08 August 2015

papersquare 007: Sunlight and tribes



Living in a loft, sleeping above the windows, the morning sun pours in below as if downstairs is filled with gently effervescing pale cider.  A gentle way to wake up body and mind.  Things are going to get done today, ticked off mental lists, and perhaps there will be room left over for doing something good, feeling the further glow of achievement.

The city breathes in, under August sunshine, mostly reliable.  It fills its lungs with people from the towns and villages around, it breathes in and keeps sucking in.  They are mostly wearing red, stepping on to the train platform, the cars filling up the car parks early.  On the streets, the early birds of the green tribe, the ones who have battled past their Friday night hangover to see some of the sights before the white carapaced beetle, the stadium at the centre of the city pulls them in closer.

She is not of the red or green tribe, and the train carries her back out to the city's edge, by the water, beached as the tide ebbs.  Her tribe is white, albeit with a blood red flower, and she is not quite belonging here today.  She wonders if she will feel a part of it when the two tribes meet next month.

05 August 2015

papersquare 006: Death and flowers



Everyone who'd met Angela would have described her as a hard woman.  Whether they meant hard to like, or hard in attitude was a moot point, but hard was definitely the right adjective for her.  Occasionally, a kindly colleague said, "Oh, Angela, poor thing, she's had a hard life," without being clear of the details.  Angela didn't share details with the other librarians, she spent her breaks reading the newspaper while others gossiped.

Angela blamed her parents.  An only child to Lorna and David, it was their fault, she supposed.  Whether the issue was nature or nurture, it was still down to them.  Her dad's prominent jawline and her mothers receding forehead gave her face the impression of obstinacy, so much of an impression that Angela felt she had no choice but to become obstinate after growing up. 

They were a vague couple too, and Angela was a largely bewildered child, not knowing how to live up to expectations that weren't ever expressed. Dad saying that perhaps she should try to go and play outside, spend more time with the other kids, and Mum counteracting, telling her she must get her homework done before she could consider just playing.  But then Mum would smile dreamily when Angela came in from playing in the dens at the edge of the woods, and Dad would tell her to change into a nice dress when Grandpa came around, his little girl should be a princess and not a hoyden.

When Angela sulkily squeezed into her teenage years, she had the feeling she was better behaved and more adult than either of her parents.  Rows were common then, one or the other was away from home for several nights on end, flouncing or sneaking out depending on what statement each wanted to make at the time.  Banged doors and loudly hissing "I'm leaving" generally meant Mum drama-queening, wanting Dad to persuade her to stay.  Dad was more distant, gone, sometimes a phone call to explain, but sometimes not; and when he came home he smiled that smug smile where his top lip disappeared and wanted to be asked about where he had been.  Angela made her meals, and did her homework, and read books in her room.  She didn't have friends around too often, but then she didn't have too many friends.

The lowest point for Angela was when she left to go to university.  With a great deal of relief and almost glee, Mum and Dad sat her down and told her they would be divorcing, that at one point they had loved each other very much, but that was in the past.  But of course, that they had stayed together for her sake. Now that she was considered done, completed , they could finally skitter off in their separate ways. 

After shouting that they should have divorced years ago, that being a bloody parent to them had ruined her childhood, Angela hardly spoke to either of them.  Dad made an effort to phone her every month or so, and Mum would breeze down to university digs with a new beau in tow each term.  Things settled down from acrimony to civility over time, but Angela remained hard.

One break time in the library, reading the newspaper a couple of weeks after her Mum's funeral, Angela smiled, having discovered the perfect revenge.   Sorting out the paperwork didn't take too long, and when it arrived, she called Tony, her Mum's last boyfriend. And really, it was pathetic for a sixty five year old pensioner to call himself a BOYfriend.  He was suitably horrified when told him what she'd done.
"I've just been granted an exhumation licence, Tony," she said.  "Dad is going to be dug up from Bradlenown church, and reburied next to Lorna.  They'll have to spend all eternity together now."

03 August 2015

papersquare 005: Making soup



She was shelling broad beans, squeezing the pointy end until it pops and then sliding her thumb inside to pull the halves apart; cushiony foam and pale bean grubs inside. It must be thirty years ago since she'd done it last, maybe more?

Growing up, she'd later realised that it wasn't so much a wish to torture the kids with summertime chores that meant they had fruit trees, bushes and a vegetable garden. Hours of getting under the nets to pull the raspberries off their spiky white plugs, or topping and tailing the blackberries. It wasn't even a hippy ethos, her mother was about as far from being an earth mother as it was possible to be.  In the seventies, with their endless hot summers, inflation took bites out of anything you needed to buy from the shops; it was economic necessity that led to growing your own food.  Not that they were on the verge of starving, no, but if you wanted a plum crumble, or a gooseberry pie, well, you had to make it yourself because those things just weren't in the shops. With a family of gannets rather than children, a pie didn't see a second meal.

It was the third time she'd washed her big saucepan out today.  The first was after making stock; some instinct had her grab the reduced price chicken in the supermarket, only £2.58.  After roasting it and pulling the meat off for salads and curry, she'd boiled the bones up with garlic, onion, peppercorns and coriander.  Next, she'd boiled the assorted dried beans up, after soaking of course; and finally she'd made the soup, throwing in the newly-bared broad beans as an extra embellishment, baby plum tomatoes too.  She had learned that following the recipe exactly was not obligatory.  Thank goodness her mother's creativity had rubbed off on her. Toasted cubes of ciabatta bread for the topping.

The same recipe she was mostly following, they sold the soup in cartons in the supermarket.  That was on special offer, only one of your British pounds for a carton that gave you a generous bowlful. She'd made six bowlfuls, and it was touch and go if her ingredients cost more than six cartons.  So it wasn't about economic necessity, this urge to make and make over, she wasn't really sure what it was about.  It wasn't as though she had any other mouths to feed.  Making for the sake of making, creating a little bit of order maybe?  Home-making of the wishful kind - if you build it they will come?

Outside the sun had come out to mock her, it's not soup weather, stupid.  But today, there was something nice about making soup.

02 August 2015

papersquare 004: Stripes, vast, inky




We are sinking. Deliberately plummeting down the pressure gradient, Jules Verne eat your heart out because in this planet’s atmosphere twenty thousand leagues is nothing.

There are bands upon bands, and curdled curling stripes of ochres, creams and bitter reds.  The vast red spot that has stormed on for aeons is thousands of miles away now, we have a safe descent window.

We leave the inky coolness of space and drop in our bubbles, leaving our stomachs behind in search of Jupiter pearls. 
(word prompts from 19/07/2015 - HoW6)

01 August 2015

papersquare 003: Light on the water


An east coast girl is gold-limned in the morning; sunlight dancing on the water and playful.  Light and water have a natural affinity, turning drops into semi-precious glass beads. She is a gold limbed surfer and dances too.

The west coast girl has dark mornings, shadows from the cliffs by the sea make it darker still; swallowing navy waves with opal blue fringes.  She knows how to wait. Darkness and water have an affinity too. She is Sigyn and she knows how to sink.

The east coast girl is taken in thrall, by a dark lord, on a raid.  Transported away in the belly of his longship.  He is momentarily puzzled that she does not shine or dance on the boat like she did on the shore; more puzzled when back on dry land, his home shores, she fails to sparkle. She has grown sullen, and he uses her, hard and often to draw some reaction from her.

Sigyn watches.  Her mornings may be dark but her evenings end in a blaze, often gloriously red. Her lord is absurdly taken with the thrall, the dirty blonde woman from over the sea.  Her lord is foolhardy, always full of his own glory.  Glory in the raids, yes, in the year before last; but this year he did not venture abroad, choosing to relive past glories in sotted feasts and boastings.  The thrall is ever at his feet, and the less she likes his attention the more he lavishes upon her.

Sigyn whispers to Snorri.  One evening there is a fight at the feast, harsh words are spoken about those who are fit in body to go raiding, but do not, and her lord takes offence and is drawn into a brawl.  His wounds did not seem serious to the other shield men; but despite a wife's loving care, they fester, and within a fortnight Sigyn is lordless.

The east coast girl is chosen to follow him.  Sigyn tells her her fate. She will be plied with strong liquor, the shield men of her lord will take her, in honour of their former lord, so that she will tell him in the afterlife that they did this for love of him. All of them, one after the other, will use her to prove just how much they loved her lord. 

The east coast girl does not seem to be afraid.  There is an end in sight, and the west coast girl has the last hours, that is the way of things.  Gold burns on the water and she is taken down under the waves.





31 July 2015

papersquare 002: Marking time


A friend told me, you need to cut off all contact, for at least six months, in order to get someone out of your system.  It is six months and five days today.  I was waiting for the time to be up, counting the days.  I knew at all times exactly how long there was to go to the deadline.  I know I have waited those extra five days, and I am proud of that, exceeding the promise I made myself.

How many times have I written to you in my head though?  Wanting to say something that makes you wish for me.  No, not wish for me, but actually do something, take a step towards me.  That's all I ever wanted from you.  It didn't happen in these six months.

I can't say that you are out of my system yet.  I do think of you every day, but I won't take a step towards you today. I hope I won't tomorrow.

papersquare 001: Echoes of HoW6




A hummingbird by the buddleia, buzzing with the effort of hovering,
Behind it the green Tualatin river, hardly flowing, and semi opaque,
      I can't think of another way to describe it except jade
Here, the bush grows wild, roadside verges and wasteground in the docks,
Drooping lilac fronds turning to rust.
A dragonfly on my patio,
      sunshine, white walls and shadowed cornflower pots, the Mediterranean moved north
      except for the raucous seagulls.
Reflecting on happy crowds when alone.


23 October 2013

#41 - On the hour 21:00 until further notice

Food poisoning was the cause of my bloated full feeling. After deciding i wasn't   hungry I got some wine and water from the bar, and the wine was not sipped... 
So missing out on the planned trip to Finisterre today, will try to rejig trip so I can still go there...

22 October 2013

#40 - On the hour 20:00

See - I was working!

And here it is, up to date... time for me to go lay on the bed and read a bit more until I feel slightly hungry again...

#39 - On the hour 19:00

well, OK, I didn't go straight to update the photos... I put my feet up on the sofa with a bottle of water, and watched Homeland on the internet... then I got to work, promise!

#38 - On the hour 18:00

old faithful...

The poor thing has been blown inside out more times in the last couple of days than ever before in it's life! Back in the hotel bathroom to dry out a bit (the umbrella, I'm doing my drying out sitting at the computer & updating the blog!)

#37 - On the hour 17:00

aha...


So this is where all the water flows to... I wonder how full it was before Sunday?

#36 - On the hour 16:00

Side streets...


I love wandering down side streets and seeing the non-touristy side of a place. The elegant entrances to car parks (well, some of them); the cathedral spires rearing over a spiked metal railing, the wheelie bins lined up on a stone balustrade...
This house looked abandoned, in the way that houses in New Orleans do when they're not. The dog was wandering ahead of it's owners, so I managed to snap it a couple of moments before they came into shot.

#35 - On the hour 15:00

Pulpe...

Delicious delicious octopus! Not a phrase I use all that often to be honest, but this is a speciality of Galicia. It's very meaty, and what with the other tapas dish I had at lunchtime, I am still full five hours later... 

#34 - On the hour 14:00

What more could you want?

Honestly, between leaving the cathedral and getting here I wandered, and took loads of pictures. It's just that the Taperìa San Xoan was where I was at exactly 2pm... well, a girl has to eat tapas and drink vinos :)

#33 - On the hour 13:00

More than one!



After Mass was finished, all bets were off re taking pictures inside the cathedral. I loved its high high vaulted ceilings and the soft warm light on the beige/grey stone. And, I wasn't praying for sun, but hoping anyway; my favourite picture of that hour snapped as a shaft of sunlight picks out the non-ceremonial incense burner.

#32 - On the hour 12:00

Sneaky...

You are told at the entrance, no backpacks (which must be difficult for the pilgrims) and no taking pictures during the mass. Which around 50% of the people ignored as soon as the Botafumeiro came out and started it's insane swinging... 
This sneaky shot is at 12:00 pm, sitting in pews mostly (except me, as a non Christian I sat off to the side on the base of a pillar, tried to be respectful listening to the service). A nun had such a beautiful pure voice. There were 6 men in white robes, some of whom only had two short lines (basically to say welcome thanks for coming and being a pilgrim to Saint Iago/James in several languages); and further men in red robes to hold out the cap for money, and to prepare & swing the incense. It seemed an unfair balance somehow. The organ player sat metres and metres above us, with his back to us, I could see his shirt collar above a black jumper. 

#31 - On the hour 11:00

Labyrinthine...


The steps from the praza down to the church of St Martin, very near to my hotel. Somehow, they look straight forward here, but they seem more complicated in real life... there are anyway way more steps than you actually need to get down a level, and circuitous too. Santiago is not a city for wheelchairs.
The sun was lightening the grey at this stage, teasing it, and me, with the chance of coming out, maybe...

#30 - On the hour 10:00

And, breakfast...

Melon, dates, prunes; two types of chorizo and a slice of manchega cheese, fresh orange juice and a coffee. Delicious. Oh, and somehow, somehow, a slice of tarte santiago sneaked in there too...

#29 - On the hour 09:00

Shower time...


That's my orange shower bag through the frosted window into the bathroom... A lazy morning, woke around six and then again a bit after eight... that's a holiday :)
Just after the shower, I can see it is getting lighter...

21 October 2013

#28 - On the hour 22:00

Still hungry?

After Botafumeiro, I wandered again, in the close streets the rain did not seem so bad as in the more open prazas; and I found another taperìa, Piorno. Here I have anchovies and those lovely fired peppers, salted, and every now and then, a hot pepper in the mix of generally sweet ones. They look the same, I don't know how come some are hot... Another glass of chilled white wine and I go for a third plate of tapas - fried squid, which is tender and delicious, but the chips underneath beat me, I can't finish them all...
And so, back to the hotel for bed. No internet still when I get back, so I start the next book, Orhan Pamuk's The museum of innocence. It's a brick, which means I won't put it in my bag to read in cafes or restaurants tomorrow.

#27 - On the hour 21:00

what's on the menu?

The first stop after deciding not to go on wandering aimlessly was Botafumeiro (which is the name of the incense burner in the cathedral). I had a glass of wine with a slice of Spanish omelette, for the princely sum of €2.00; and a cosy time watching the young girl (daughter of the family) coach a German man to speak Spanish. When I commented that surely Spanish was easier to learn than German she replied that the sounds were very difficult for some people to get their mouths around. 
In the bars & restaurants, the stone walls are irregular and have pennies, cents balanced on them; I assume to give thanks for arriving at the end of a pilgrimage - since mine was only a short walk from the hotel I didn't leave one.


#26 - On the hour 20:00

Too wild?


A few hardy souls "shelter" in a vaulted corridor next to the cathedral. Even though the corridor is 20m or more long, the wind blows the rain through and there is only minimal shelter right at the sides. Squeals come from the open praza in front of the cathedral, no-ones umbrella is capable of coping with the wind tonight. Despite all this, I love the wildness... but I do go and find a taperia or two to get drier

#25 - On the hour 18:00 & 19:00

In the land of Nod... the internet connection started playing up, and the earliest one can go out to eat here is 8pm, so I laid down on the bed and read, and finished Reading Lolita in Tehran, a thoughtful book. Then dozing, dreaming, in that strange filmic way, not sure whether it was a dream you remember or something you watched on tv a while back...

#24 - On the hour 17:00

I was sorting out some work related topics in the room, and booking flights for next week to go back to the UK for a short time. Partially exciting, steps on the way to achieving a goal.

#23 - On the hour 16:00

Siesta time!


Heading back to the warm & dry hotel! My walking boots are a colour I've never seen before from the amount of water they've soaked up, and the legs of my trousers are wet to just below the knee. I may be going on about the rain a lot, but it's mild enough still - and actually quite exhilarating walking around in it. Of course, now that I gave up and came back to the hotel it's actually eased off into a mere drizzle, but tough! A siesta on the bed to finish off my book is just what I need ;)

#22 - On the hour 15:00

No point leaving yet...


Just outside the Mercado de Abastos - inside was mostly closing up for the day - I guess lunchtime is not the best time to visit, but earlier in the morning. Outside the restaurant was a row of granite blocks with water pooled on top of them, reflecting the sky when the rain slowed to drizzle, churning when the rain fell as it mostly did.
But, I was full and had a couple of glasses of wine, and so I decided to brace myself & visit the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea. Closed on Mondays ;)

#21 - On the hour 14:00

Lunch time..


Fell across this place, just at the north corner of the Mercado de Abastos on the Praza de S. Agostino. On the windows are a frosted glass panel, engraved with a shoal of fish, and a cat with two fish in it's belly. A glance through the windows convinced me it was where the top office guys went for dinner - a man in a blazer, a couple of men in smartish jumpers and shirts, but when I sat down and people watched it was obvious that only one man was even Spanish. The food was described as Galician - white beans and onions in a tomato sauce with chorizo to start; hake with (I think, curly kale) and potatoes for main, and babá something for pudding - a biscuity/bready thing with rum soaked raisins and blobs of chocolate goo ;)
Delicious...

#20 - On the hour - 13:00

Sit and catch up...


Uploading the photos from this morning to the computer while the rain gets heavier. I found the Old Fishmarket square, Mum will be pleased ;) My path wandered aimlessly, and I saw a couple of the places I walked past last night when trying to find the hotel, and pretty as Santiago looks in the rain, my trousers were pretty wet around the bottom, so I thought I would come back to the hotel. I feel slightly guilty about not being out and about while I am on holiday, but the whole point is that I am on holiday and I do have a nice room which I am perfectly comfortable to sit in and reflect in...


#19 - On the hour - 12:00

Rain...


OK - I have no idea how I got this effect... I was standing in the archway to a shop, chatting to some English tourists, and remembered that it was coming up to the hour. I snapped a picture of the quilts in the shop window, and more umbrellas being walked up the street, and then this, I must have been moving, and the flash went off due to the low light level, and I love the result...

#18 - On the hour - 11:00

Near the cathedral...


Stone flags everywhere, here, looking down over Rúa dos Hortos from the bottom left corner of the Praza do Obradoiro (if you are facing the cathedral, as virtually everyone does.)
I have no idea what the large pink teaspoon shaped thing in the bottom of the picture is - I was after the shapes of the umbrellas as they (or the people underneath them) climbed up the hill. I can only assume that it is a large pink teaspoon for reasons lost to me.
I did look at the outside of the cathedral, and in lots of ways this place is a strange place for me to come to since I am not at all religious. I will probably go inside this afternoon if the rain keeps up, or head over to the museum of modern art.

#17 - On the hour 10:00

Getting ready to go out...

The higgeldy piggeldy skyline from the hotel window, and the scudding rain clouds behind... Santiago is famously wet, and famous for looking nice in the rain. It's too mild this morning for a coat, so I put on quick drying clothes and pick up the umbrella...

#16 - On the hour 09:00

Finally, dawn...


Below my window, a perfect palm unfolds, next to a walkway to the terrace garden. Which is shut, it is out of season and it is showery at the moment.

#15 - On the hour 08:00

Waking up...


Time to plug in the computer and get those images uploaded here...
It was still dark outside - this far to the west the sun rises late.


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