Bright Phoebus


Waking to an impressively loud dawn chorus and sun cheerily announcing it’s presence through the partially curtained window this morning got me up early. Even though I had been unable to get to sleep until Bill got home at around 1.30 and a restless and fidgety night had followed… (I often explore the bed a lot in my sleep, I sometimes think it must be like sleeping with an inquisitive mongoose sharing a bed with me, but Bill doesn’t seem to mind…)

I stole upstairs in the quiet house, cats and dog at my heels… to sit in the peaceful filtered sunlight of the kitchen and drink my first and best coffee of the day. I love this time alone before anyone else is about and have been known to scowl and mutter grumpily at anyone else who suddenly decides to rise early. I think that along with my walks and my drawing it is a kind of golden territory when my mind and body are in harmony somehow… processing my perceptions of the world and allowing me to tune in to things that I can’t access when others are there.

there is however only so much golden time a collie will allow before groaningly resting her head on your lap and gazing appealingly into your eyes with that look that tells you walking must happen very soon, her tail thumps hopefully… as I bimble around in the bathroom splashing my face and hair and balancing contact lenses on wet fingers she stations herself at the bottom of the stairs, head on the lowest step, every muscle trembling with the waiting.

Outside the sun is warm and strong already and  fills my heart with hope for days of lightly scented breezes and blossom to come. Spring is my most loved season, bursting with promises, fresh and unsullied, holding out the prospect of being newborn even for those of us who have seen her come and go many times already.

years ago Bill played me a song called ‘Bright Phoebus’ by Mike and Lal Waterson, which has become my spring anthem. because it sums up that feeling of complete and utter joy I feel when after a long dark Winter. Look it up, and enjoy…. x


Time’s winged chariot


it’s a very long time since I’ve written here… Bill is wonderfully recovered after a long progression through from wheelchair  ‘don’t push me so fast’ and ‘look out for that tree’  ( it’s no wonder I never learned to drive…) to crutches and amazing inflatable boot and finally back to a walking stick which is now being ‘forgotten’ more and more frequently.

he is on the road gigging again and despite the magnified pre gig nerves that come from a long break is back enjoying the rollercoaster of anticipation and anxiety followed by relief and exhilaration that he has been experiencing ever since he went into the performance business all those years ago, he tells me it never gets any less scary or wonderful and I believe him.

the bundle of wordy energy that is my only flesh and blood contribution to the future world continues to dream of other worlds and wrangle them onto paper with an increasingly impressive vocabulary and wit. I was reading part of his latest text last night and became so caught up in the story I forgot it was just a draft and got all grumpy when it suddenly stopped.

so everything is mostly looking  fine with those I love… but time has this habit of speeding up as we get older…

I love my Dad more now than at any point in our adult relationship, as a child I loved but didn’t understand his unpredictable and often moody male presence in the house although I do remember the time he spent with me when I was very small as a magical interlude.
we have not always found each other easy, two strong and flamboyantly opinionated people it was inevitable we would lock horns as I grew into myself and out of him. but this process was almost completely forestalled for many years by his departure from the family home just after my 11th Christmas. for a long time all I felt was guilt. what had I done to drive him away? I was, after all, the eldest. so responsibility for things seemed to come with the territory.

Then came the weekends. the many, many weekends we spent Saturdays with Dad, the wistful days of wanting to do the right thing, of wanting to be noticed, all four of us vying for attention which was often not for any us but directed towards a far horizon as my father tried to make sense of who he was and find peace by searching through the flotsam and jetsam of his own past, like an explorer he hacked and slashed through the jungles of his psyche employing a bewildering variety of approaches to finding oneself without ever seeming to meet his very own Dr Livingstone of revelation.

This meant that I never said any of the things I would have done if I had grown up with him around all the time, for years I couldn’t face getting angry with him when it would be an entire week before I would see him again and then… I couldn’t face seeing him at all for a while, with so much unsaid and the whirlwinds of adolescent self loathing swirling around in my head it seemed easier somehow.

then I left home for college and we met up occasionally and were happy as I was full of art and ideas and always had things to tell that were new and I listened to his ideas without feeling I needed to be them… finally.

things rolled along… we talked many times without actually speaking to each other but it was comfortable, it was okay.

then I got a place to do a postgraduate diploma at Goldsmiths in London, living in the community where Dad was already settled seemed a great idea so I did my trial week, and was accepted ( the fig tree community is a special place and I will blog about it another time)
During the first year I lived there my relationship with him was turned upside down and completely redefined. knowing we lived under the same roof and would see each other every day seemed to finally free my 26 year old self to give voice to every hurt feeling I had stored up during those awkward, confused years of my childhood and adolescence. I raged, he baulked, I marched out into the street shouting over my shoulder. I took all that stifled sense of betrayal and threw it at him in one turbulent storm and he braced himself and weathered it. and finally after many painful silences and hard conversations. he said sorry. and weirdly, that was enough. we have had our disagreements since then but always from a position of real understanding of each other.

now my Dad is 78 and has Parkinsons disease and diabetes and along with the physical frailty that brings, is the sometimes gossamer like fragility of his memory and focus.  He often struggles to find the words he needs in conversation, at others he can talk anyone under the table (on the subjects of music, psychology and spiritual philosophies he is deft and deep) he can still chat in several languages but occasionally mistakes instant coffee for breakfast cereal. he tires very easily and has moments of confused absence and giddiness. Over the last couple of years I have started to treasure the times when we are together more and more and  have travelled twice to Barcelona with him as his ‘minder’ (his word!) which has been a challenging but ultimately very special experience.

I struggle sometimes to adapt to the changes time and this disease are making in him but also am trying hard to find peace with it, because he seems to be able to meet it all with acceptance and equanimity and despite the difficulties he faces is still fully and completely in the world and seeking new experiences. I hope that I can face whatever challenges are ahead of me as openly and bravely.

I am now off to think some thoughts about my feisty and seemingly indestructible mum… and probably give her a call.

We are all a heartbeat away from doing something good


Tuesday June 25th

We are all only a heartbeat away from doing something good…

woken up by pale fingers of early sunlight curling around the bedroom curtains… 5.45am hmmm…

lay quietly and watched it travelling lazily across the wardrobe mirror hoping that Pan would not perceive my wakefulness with that annoying talent for sending their minds through closed doors that cats have.

No luck… I was rumbled, maybe I breathe differently when I’m awake.

Plaintive yowling and wanton carpet destruction dragged me from my duvet and I stumbled upstairs to wrestle with cat food pouches whilst he casually pulled at my hair. Cally cat still fast asleep, being deaf she operates on her own timetable of eating, sleeping and tree gymnastics.

Made a coffee and went back to bed to check the duvet wasn’t getting lonely… at some point I turned on radio 4 which burbled on soothingly (yes, I do find the today programme soothing, I’m weird like that..) until I heard this line during thought for the day…

We are all only a heartbeat away from doing something good…

I have so often heard that anyone could be capable of evil given the right circumstances but it’s odd that this is the first time I have heard the same about goodness. And it’s true that we spend a great deal of time imagining the worst that can happen and framing our view of our fellow human beings in terms of suspicion that we can easily forget, that like you and me, most people are instinctively humane and helpful, even to those they don’t yet know…

I try to hold on to that thought, hold it as I listen to horrors on the news, hold it when something happens that shakes my confidence in the truth of it and hold it as I see pictures posted on facebook of animals having altruistic relationships with strangers of another species with comments suggesting we have much to learn from them and why aren’t people like this…

I have no doubt that we have an enormous amount to learn from every single being who lives on the earth with us but we already know how to be selflessly compassionate and caring. It is in every single one of us to walk around a snail in our path, to smile at people in the street, to offer help to someone struggling with a pushchair onto a bus and to rescue a child separated from his mother by a rogue tube train door as happened to me in London once… even to risk our lives for a total stranger.

We are all only a heartbeat away from doing something good...

it’s a good thought that one and I’m holding it. 🙂

The long long weekend


Friday 21st June

The worst part of today was being ever so gently ejected from the ward as they prepared to take Bill to theatre… It felt as though I was leaving my heart behind.

Can’t sleep alone in our bed, elsewhere beds yes, where my sleepy searching hands find other,smaller boundaries and return resigned to each other…but in the bed we have shared for so long they search hopefully throughout the night, unable to comprehend the space that has opened up were you should be.

Saturday 22nd June

Saturday morning after the frightening Friday… the rain arrives and I walk Salsa through the misty light along the edge of the woods, they smell very lovely this morning, like warm water dropped onto spices. Frothy cow parsley trembles delicately above the buttercups and speedwell and the last few forget me knots, lonely blue buttons at the end of curling bare stems. The post Solstice quietness of the birds only broken by the hoarse soft crooning of wood pigeons and the alarm calls of Blackbirds as Salsa bustles through the undergrowth.

Lost and late in June, Mayflies whirr erratically up from the river in the still damp air…

a solitary yellow leaf lies on the purple path, like a tiny golden heart.

I need this green haven more each year that passes, with my own seasons starting to be more keenly understood I feel more connected with it’s slow inhalation and exhalation as the year turns and the cycle completes as always, despite delays, despite vagaries of weather and light, the primroses and wood anemones will appear. The river will run brown and furious and then clear and damselfly calm.

The wild garlic will rise boldly in a festival of green and white and heady fragrance and disappear almost as quickly, lying prone and pale in swathes under the trees

As I waver between the frenzied activity and total inertia brought on by anxiety, the lodestone of my psyche spun this way and that by dreams and fears I hold the continuity and change of my environment behind my eyelids and picture the future knowing change is inevitable and eternal.

My Dad tells me that he found me sitting on the back doorstep very still once when I was about 6 years old ‘what are you doing Katherine? He asked. ‘Oh, just being’ I replied.

Pleasure in really small things… motes of dust in the sunlight on a quiet afternoon, stirring a large pan of soup, raindrops on alchemilla like tiny worlds of light.

Over to see Bill later,  he relieved that he still had his memory intact (I did point out that unless he was keeping it in his foot it was probably fairly safe…) me so happy the fearful anticipatory look had gone and the pain seemed to be minimal, for now at least.


Sunday 23rd June

any resemblance between me and a three toed sloth this morning was coincidental, no, really… stop giggling at the back there…

after the stretch, stretch stretch of the band of tension and fear comes the boing as it releases… in my case I boinged straight back into bed and fluffing the duvet furiously around me experimented with extremely slow coffee consumption.. (I had promised myself I would get up again when I had finished the cup)

Then the text from Tesco arrived cheerfully informing me that my groceries would arrive between 11 and 12.00 today and the string of swearwords that followed when I remembered I was supposed to be on the Ironbridge at 11.45 for the debut performance of my new Tribe, the Severn Sisters… the inevitable happened and he arrived dead on 12.00. as he unloaded the van he uttered a few choice words that led me to believe his morning had been more Mad Max than Postman Pat so teasing him about his last minuteness did not seem like a good plan. He did not seem at all surprised that someone would answer the door on a Sunday morning covered in makeup and Bhindi though…

Arriving in Ironbridge at 12.30pm we dashed across the Bridge to find my lovely Sisters had just finished their first dance! So proud of them getting on with it without me but wish I could have arrived when they were still dancing to cheer them on!

We danced two more times, in the rain and the not rain and it was utterly lovely to get up and just dance, with no wondering what was supposed to happen next but a sense that something would, even if it was a bit of ¾ shimmy thinking time 😉 I also had the chance to follow during performance at last which I really loved, it feels so connected and gives such a sense of shared consciousness…. yummy…. xx

you know that running on the spot with the jazz hands thingy that 5 year olds do? Every fibre of my being wanted to do that… still does now I’m thinking about it again.