A dog walk

Ah… Ginger pom-pom dog approaching, we’d better wait here where the pavement’s wide. Bella, it’s very rude to lick your lips like that, it’s not a snack. Leave… Leave … Good girl. A young couple up ahead, very young, pausing, looking at the view. Young love. Will they still be together in thirty years? Three weeks? The girl, woman, casts her eyes downwards as we pass. She doesn’t look unhappy, just not happy either, as if I’ve caught her midway through a small agony of indecision. Glasses. Pale skin. Long, mousey hair and long, mousey skirt. The boy, man, has dark straggly hair, his faded jeans sit low and loose. They draw closer together, almost imperceptibly, as we pass. Claiming the space between them. The breeze lifts my unbuttoned coat as we round the corner, cools my face, feels nice in my hair. Beyond the rooftops, in the slanting fields, a solitary cherry tree foams white against green. Such bravado. At once vulnerable and defiant. A Range Rover growls by, making me flinch. Smoked windows, bodywork glinting oil-black. The shadow [...]

By |2022-12-02T15:28:03+00:00April 26, 2022|Comfort Reads|8 Comments

Joris en de Draak

“Well, they’re going to have to inject me with enough sedative to knock out a rhino. There’s no way I’ll get in that scanner otherwise.” “It won’t be any different to the tunnel on that ride in Holland…” “What? You mean that godawful rollercoaster? There was no tunnel on that!” “Of course there was! We were in it when the photo was taken!” “Well, how would I know?! I had my eyes shut!” Actually, I had my eyes shut for the entire ride. It was, categorically, the most ghastly experience of my life. Apart from that time when, with two small children in my charge, I was suspended above the French Alps in a halted, solitary cable car, screeching ‘Aidez-nous!!’ at the tree canopy… Or that time in the tatty hotel in Ibiza when we got trapped in a tiny lift, with a sizeable German family and a finite oxygen supply… Or, indeed, that time I got vertigo after climbing to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral with my Dad and, having flattened myself like a starfish against the domed [...]

By |2022-12-02T15:28:45+00:00March 19, 2022|Comfort Reads|2 Comments

Sempervivum

It’s been nearly three weeks since I posted any writing to the blog. I have been working on a piece but, as if dragging a sack of gravel, I’m struggling to get it over the finish line. Ironic, as the subject is quite light! Like the writing, today each of my extremities feels at once heavy and light. My son is off school with a second dose of covid in three months. Since the first bout, in November, he has been easy prey for every passing pathogen. Understandably, he is feeling fed up, as he coughs, splutters, and sneezes, launching spike proteins at me and the dog, who is spending her days concertinaed on the sofa beside him. She must now be a four-legged, pot-bellied petri dish. Although my latest lateral flow test assures me otherwise, I am pretty certain I have caught covid too, as I have symptoms that mirror my son’s, and transferring the laundry from washing machine to tumble dryer just now has left me feeling like one of those wobble-necked felted dogs that used to nod [...]

By |2022-03-04T11:49:33+00:00March 1, 2022|Comfort Reads|4 Comments

A very peculiar politeness

One recent afternoon, in the pay & display car park next to my favourite book shop, I was merrily depositing surplus 5-pence pieces in the ticket machine, feeling more and more pleased with myself the closer I got to my fifty pence target. We can all relate to the disproportionate relief of purging a purse or wallet of those low-value coins that you never get around to spending in the corner shop because, being British, you have a horror of being tutted at or, more woundingly still, eyerolled by your fellow citizens in the queue. I was a tantalizing fivepence away from the prize of a parking ticket when the machine, like an unwilling toddler at dinnertime, simply refused to swallow a penny more. I kept offering it alternative, tastier 5p’s, but it was having none of it and, in the end, vomited the whole lot back out at me, triumphantly declaring the transaction cancelled (machine-speak for “now naff off”). Aware that somebody was waiting behind me, I stepped back and invited him to chance his luck with the mulish [...]

By |2022-12-02T15:29:43+00:00January 1, 2022|Comfort Reads|13 Comments

Merry Ex-mas

I spell Xmas with two exes. Friends invariably find my Christmas arrangements extraordinary. Both my son’s father (from whom I am long divorced) and my ex-partner (from whom I separated two years ago) spend the two days of 'Christmas proper' at my house. My ex-husband no longer lives locally. Our son was very young when we separated, and it became a verbal contract that, for as long as he wished, he would not be denied Christmas with both parents. The days of Sean rising before daylight to rip open and summarily discard Santa’s bounty may now be gone, but this family time still matters to him. And so, our atypical Christmases continue. We are able to do this because my ex-husband’s new partner is admirably accommodating of his desire to spend Christmas with Sean. My ex-partner, with whom I now enjoy a robust if frequently fractious friendship, remains single like me, so can choose to still spend December 25th with us. Crucially, he has always got on well with my ex-husband. In fact, his presence can help keep the atmosphere [...]

By |2022-12-02T15:30:33+00:00December 29, 2021|Comfort Reads|4 Comments

Vintage desk

New desk, you carry a weight of hope and expectation equal to the heaviness of your solid, aged oak body. You’re not supposed to be here, in this corner of my basement study-cum-recreation room. My mind’s eye pictured you up in the bright and airy attic, next to the big window that gazes Cyclops-like over the plains of Worcestershire and next door’s garden. In winter, that room puckers with cold; in summer, it pants with heat. Yet in its physical location atop my teetering 4-storey house, there lies an appealing, cerebral elevation which, I felt sure, would infuse me each time I sat down at you to write, on those many, many days when the words are a sticky jumble in my brain and, the more I try to unpick them, the more gluey my fingers become. No, you weren’t supposed to be here, in this dark, viewless corner by the downstairs bathroom-cum-laundry-room, in the basement that is cold all year round (in summer, deliciously so). As I type now, the washing machine chunters and whines behind the pulled-to door. [...]

By |2022-11-30T09:34:18+00:00November 28, 2021|Comfort Reads|0 Comments

My dog Bella

It occurs to me that the relationship I have with my dog, Bella, is akin to the faintly exasperated affection of a too-long-married couple. Frequently, she regards me with a disdain more appropriate to on-the-turn milk. For much of the day, she appears indifferent to my existence, her interest in me being chiefly a by-product of breakfast and dinnertime, or a need to empty her bladder. Our evenings are a mildly cantankerous contest for supremacy on the sofa, her arsenal of bony leg-pokes and pungent farts pitted against my increasingly irritable sighs, shuffles, and muttered curses. She snores like a donkey, switches allegiance in a blink to anyone who will feed her and/or rub her belly, and only ever has a wash under duress. I’m certainly not one of those owners who finds all their dog’s foibles charming. She can be downright maddening, can Bella. On walks, I am sometimes driven to distraction by her frenzied purloining of dog poop and other dubious products of nature’s pantry, and her insistence that she must walk on the inside of the pavement [...]

By |2022-12-12T13:10:02+00:00November 15, 2021|Comfort Reads|6 Comments

For Grandad

This blog is dedicated to my Grandad, so I’d like you to meet him. He was a proper, old-fashioned grandad: slightly egg-shaped, with braces and a flat cap, two smart beige coats (one for winter, one for summer), and shoes polished to a squeak. His diet consisted mainly of things fried in lard and dished up with Grandma’s chewy mashed potato, supplemented with lurid little cakes wrapped in marzipan, treacle spong with lumpen custard, Cadbury’s Bournville chocolate, and endless jam tarts, Bourbon biscuits, mint humbugs… Unsurprisingly, I never met my Grandad’s real teeth: both he and Grandma sported full sets of dentures whose constant grinding and clacking seemed to convey annoyance at their confinement within those particular oral cavities. Like every old person I knew, Grandad also drank cup after cup of tea, which he never could sup without slurping. That was the only trait of his that I found vexing. His pensioner’s life was tethered to routines as predictable as the tides, with Grandma as the sturdy little vessel that kept him afloat and a wing-backed fireside chair as [...]

By |2023-06-08T07:49:08+00:00October 4, 2021|Comfort Reads|4 Comments
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