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January 17

A day with a girlfriend. Everything in these shops sparkles, entices, or scent-seduces, and I am taken with the want for things I don’t need, or ever considered a need for.  We eat Japanese food, sitting at long pine tables, watch a movie and afterwards chat nonstop at a bar, drinking pink cocktails from elegant glasses.



January 16

With his usual coiled impatience he leaps out over the threshold as I open the front door.  But this morning he’s surprised by the change.  He snorts and pushes his nose into it, coming up with a white beard.  I laugh as he finds an unspoilt space to roll in. Two other dogs join him and gambol in big circles as we humans stand to discuss the morning’s news, stomping our numb feet.




January 15

St Margaret’s, Ringwould, Kingswood: a drive over the downs, the road following the cliffs’ edge at a respectable distance. Acres of undulating green, three dark Scots Pines looking more Japanese than Scots, against a sky streaked with ice-blue and bruised clouds mimicking the shape of this landscape. I slow on the narrow road at works. A man with a perfect heart-shaped birthmark on his cheekbone straightens his back and waves me by.  Small pellets of ice begin to bounce on the windscreen.



January 14

The tradition of Monday washdays is something from long before my time, but the day always triggers me to the task.  I have an image of a woman, her sleeves rolled high, carbolic scented steam rising from a big galvanised tub, her arms reddened as they knead in the creamy suds. She pauses, and with the back of her arm, brushes away a wisp of hair at her brow. A box of soda, a block of flaky green soap, big wooden tongs, the mangle, and then the garden line, a row of pegged whites flapping in a chilly breeze.



January 13

Many think it’s unlucky.  In mathematics, thirteen is a ‘happy’ number.  I had no idea there were happy and sad numbers.  I spent maths lessons drawing horses in my notebook.  In Italy and China, thirteen is considered lucky, and in ancient cultures, the number represented femininity, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year.  Fear of the number is called Triskaidekaphobia.  I made it through today unaware of its number.



January 12

It’s cosy on the sofa. On the floor, the dog is gnawing the remains of a lamb shank.  I wonder whether to have another piece of cheesecake. The diet can start tomorrow, just like it was supposed to today and yesterday.  Outside the front, streetlights are reflecting an orange zigzag onto the the road.  A car swishes through the pattern, throwing up a spray. I close the curtains and plump up my cushion.


What goes around

January 11

It’s recycling day. The footpaths are clogged with bins and bags, full and overflowing with packaging – all waste and such a waste.



January 10

The ground around my feet litters with a snow of old paint, as with sandpaper and wire brush I set-to on a window-frame. Inside are the cheerful voices of other volunteers at work.  I stop to watch a wagtail, his long tail bobbing, puffed against the cold.  It was 1812 when tradesmen placed the bricks and beams to build this mill, while 3,000 miles away, a war of independence flared.  There’s something soothing in the thought that all this time the water flowed – the wheel creaked and turned.



January 9

Outside the village greengrocer is a big basket of Seville oranges glowing like a sunrise to warm this winter day. Later, the house fills with the aroma of hot, new marmalade. Muscavado sugar, a pinch of allspice, the clean jars sparkling in a row, waiting for their thick, dark amber fill. Some for gifts, the rest to store and spread on hot buttered toast to wake the senses.


Old and new

January 8

A haze of winter white sun, and out come the gardeners with pruning shears and rakes. Ted, at number 12, drawing on his briar pipe, surveys a forsythia. Roofers on the corner cottage place the final slate. In the new Methodist Hall, pensioners meet for their coffee morning, from the old Hall comes the sound of nursery children playing.



January 7

I sleep until after 11am. My dreams are confused, as if memories had been thrown into a tombola, mixed and drawn with no prizes. Ex-lovers, family members, old homes, tumble like an over-dramatised soap opera.  I wake and draw the curtains to the dullest day. Every detail is flattened and matte. It’s difficult to see beauty anywhere, but above the rooftops opposite is the fan-shaped top of a tree, its small branches seem neatly trimmed like a crest against the grey, and in them sit five jackdaws, waiting.



January 6

‘How vintage are these vintage items?’ asks a man in my shop this morning.  He turns over an old-style coffee grinder to inspect it.

The online ‘urban dictionary’ states, ‘Too old to be considered modern, but not old enough to be considered antique.’

My criteria is, reminiscent of a bygone decade, probably during my parents’ lifetime, or my youth.

‘It’s vintage,’ I reply, myself quintessentially so.




January 5

My baby granddaughter is perfection.  Bless her with love, health and laughter all her growing, her learning, her journey.



January 4

The river brushes through long grass on its bank, its water in unusual hurry, excited even. Its force has stripped its bed of mud and debris to reveal brightly polished stones of tweedy orange, cream and black. The path has become too waterlogged to use. Our feet squelch. Instead we pad the village pavements, my dog intent on reading, leaving clues, while I suppose I should take the Christmas decorations down.



January 3

At the pharmacy counter we queue with patients, patience, suppressed impatience, harbouring our ailments. We nod politely, then avert our eyes. A woman with reddened nose; an old man, bent with bones; a new mum, anxious in her milky, talcum love. There is a second counter to the side – another queue. They tread the spot, greet each other, joke until they reach the front – a plastic bottle which they drink, every drop, and wipe their mouths in gratitude or some other cocktail of emotion.  All medicine, and medicine for all.



January 2

From the nursing home comes the vented scent of tumbled laundry. It wraps a soft fleece around the yew and cedar. Dog walkers pass, kicking through blackened leaves and catch another aroma reminiscent of safe and warm – that of soup. It has sage, but might need just a bit more thyme.


Janus face

New Year’s Day we take our long shadows in Christmas mittens, scarves and hats, to walk in winter’s low light. Under the cliffs, sharp against the blue-hue, a twisted thicket of buckthorn is shaken by the chill. We hold hands and take the steep path through wild cabbage, too bitter for grazing sheep. It leads us to the sea, which greets and bids farewell, greets and bids farewell.