Milk Sky

Bubbling kettle, watch –
your clean steam stirs no colour
into flat milk skies.


My parents have a very large house, but when you’re only home for 3 and a half days, there’s always something to distract you. Having lived in cities for 4 and a half years, I’d forgotten how hard it is to find peace and quiet in this house. There’s always something to do, or something I’m supposed to have done. Writing this, for example, is a nice way to put off going through my room and sorting out all the bags and boxes and drawers of things I hoarded over the years.

I know haikus are supposed to carry some hint of a season, but the weather today is so seasonless, I instead chose to write a haiku that seemed to have a lack of season. I’ve read a few haikus that gave personalities to inanimate objects (which I guess is the animism part of Shinto that I’ve always liked), so I thought I’d risk talking to a kettle. And finally, I decided that I would avoid the word “tea”.

Way back here, I argued that the haiku is an unnecessarily complex form to write in, in English… which I decided after I realised how easy they are to write in Japanese. I still haven’t decided on whether an English haiku should be 4,6,4, or 6,8,6… probably the former for mine, as I have a tendency to lay the adjectives on a bit thick anyway. I still respect the Japanese haiku as a work of creative ingenuity, and it gets my mind working, but I find it frustrating when I’m trying to ADD words to make the poem work. Poetry should be about conciseness, surely? About finding the one right word to make it work. In this case, this could be a two word poem, and I’d still be happy:

a

milk sky

a

Remind me one day to tell you my new theory about the pleasures of poetry taken from a neurolinguistic perspective. I can’t tell you now, I’ve left my notes in Barcelona. This Masters malarkey has just been endlessly busy for the last 3 months. I deliberately chose to do this Masters in a year and a half, to give myself more time and less stress. The

My university

reality, however, has been that up until about the first week of March, I’ve had just as much work to do as everyone doing the Masters in a year… except those people are JUST doing the Masters, and I’m teaching 14 hours a week (not including planning / travelling time), and performing stand up comedy, and running Improvised Comedy workshops, and performing improvised comedy once a month…

… but you’ll be pleased to know that from now on, I will only have about two lectures a week to attend. And I only have about 3 projects left to hand in. We’ve finally reached the time of year when all the 1-year Masters students are working on their theses, and I’m sitting back and trying to decide what to write mine about. As a result, I will finally have more time to read books for fun! And write…. as long as there aren’t more distractions!

I hope to see you on here again very soon.

Advertisements

Tomatoes

Arghblarg.

Blog. I owe you more things. It’s not that I’ve not been writing…. it’s more that I’ve not been posting. More things will appear. Presumably this weekend, we’ll have 3 (that’s right 3) little bits.

This is a flash fiction. A friend of mine wrote a flash fiction the other day about a woman making a cup of tea, and if he posts it to his blog, then I shall post a link to it and stuff. In the mean time, here’s a flash fiction I wrote the other day about a woman making a cup of tea. To clarify, this is a different story, not his story stolen and plagarised.

Tomatoes

mrs duckIt was a grey day out, and windy, but her daughter was insisting. Allison had always been demanding as a little girl, and though she was now a mother of two, she still had a way of carrying herself that made Margaret give up and go along with it. They would go down to the duck pond with the little ones and feed the ducks. Margaret was making tea, taking out three mugs, putting the kettle on the Aga, then turning back and putting one of the mugs back in the cupboard.

Allison was off somewhere with the baby, who was crying about something. Margaret supposed that meant she was in charge of little Steve, but then Steve seemed to consider himself quite capable these days.

He had, after all, spent half of his childhood running about the old farmhouse. He knew all the little corners, knew what he could touch and what he shouldn’t. Margaret found herself comparing his eager survey to hers on that day, when she’d first moved in. Back then, her father-in-law had put in that creaking black stove, especially for her. Coal burning, it had been, and a darn sight better than whatever had come before it. An accomplished cook, she had upgraded to the Aga when they could afford it, which now stood dusty. But both, she reflected, had kept them warm through the winters.

A young bride, she’d walked round the house with a mix of excited pride and despair at how much work there was to be done. She’d had to convert an upstairs room for the summer help, and she’d kept his bed and board. It was a big place, and it took a good long time to clean, especially without washing machines or dryers or dish washers. Lunch for her husband and all the workers at midday, when this kitchen, now so quiet, had buzzed with talk and heat. And Allison and her older brother and sister, eventually.

All of the things little Steve couldn’t touch were things that she’d bought, or at the very least approved, over the years. All of his hiding places, his mother had found in her turn. In that strange way that children and grandchildren mimic one another, both Allison then and Steve now held a certain reverenced awe for Margaret’s bedroom, with its neatly tucked sheet corners, not to be disturbed. She’d not told Allison, but for the last two days Margaret had taken to sleeping in the guest room. It was the other side of the house, and the air felt different in there.

Of course, there were things that needed talking about. Allison’s brother would be coming home from agricultural college, and so Margaret needed to spruce up the old bedrooms for him and his family. But mercifully, today was not that day.green toms

Today was a day with little wellingtons and anoraks by the door, and egg and cress sandwiches, and the leftover loaf for the ducks. She poured the now boiling water in the teapot, and turned to the window again, wondering if it would rain, like she felt. Sometimes a miserable day was just what you needed.

She realised she’d forgotten to put the tea bags in the pot, so put them in and stirred them with a spoon. The bang of a door told her that Steve had been in the little white conservatory by what was officially the front door, although of course everyone used the back door these days, which led out onto the farm.

The baby upstairs had stopped crying. That was one of the joys of being a grandmother, she reflected. You had the kids when they were good, and the parents dealt with them in their moods. The positives without the negatives. Whenever her grandchildren visited, Margaret was filled with a kind of warm glow, and although today was no exception, it somehow felt simultaneously weaker and stronger, as though the fire had grown stronger, but she was colder, distanced from it.

“Granny,” Steve had trotted solemnly into the room.

“Yes, dear?”

“I’ve watered Poppa’s tomato plants.”

“Thank you.”

“The tomatoes are still green, but he said they’d turn red soon.” This wasn’t a question; he was informing her. She nodded.There was a pause, and she turned back to the tea, but she knew by the way he was standing, he wasn’t done.

“Granny?” he said, fidgeting. “Is there a greenhouse in heaven?”

She looked down at him, and her eyes welled up again, only this time, she was smiling brightly, as brightly as she could muster.

“Yes, Steve. Yes, there is.”

“Oh, good,” he said, and she could hear the relief in his voice. Satisfied, he ran off, and Margaret looked out the window again, crying quietly and thinking of tomatoes.