I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Saturday, 7 June 2008

In The Midst Of Life

Days

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in.
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

PHILIP LARKIN

I don't know if this happens to other bloggers, but I sometimes wake in the middle of the night with whole syntactical chunks of blog ready-formed in my head. And unless I get up at once and write them down, they've vanished into the ether by morning. Occasionally the same thing happens with poems. The bare bones of this one had already coalesced in my mind on waking abruptly at 4am in a tent in Borrowdale a few years ago. I've blogged before about the relationship between sleep and creativity here. This blessed visitation has just occured again tonight.

May and September are my favourite months of the year. Though I've learnt not to have favourite months. Now I like them all. After a certain age you're more conscious of the finite number of Mays and Septembers left. But, if all months become your favourites, then you suddenly have 6 times as many more months to enjoy. I've been reflecting on all this as I'm in a somewhat sombre mood - despite the most beautiful warm weather this week, which coincided with the return of the swifts, screaming and skydancing in the blue bowl of sky overarching the garden. ( ...The swifts/Materialize at the tip of a long scream/Of needle. 'Look! They're back! Look! And they're gone/On a steep/Controlled scream of skid/Round the house-end and away under the cherries... From Swifts by Ted Hughes.) Yes, I've been in an unseasonably reflective mood - more September-ish than May-esque you might say - because I had to attend a funeral yesterday.

I wasn't the only mourner (or thanksgiver as the lady vicar later reminded us) to be completely caught off my emotional guard by the Scottish pipe music being played as we followed the coffin into Lincoln Crematorium. At once my eyes filled and my lips began to tremble. I could barely sing the 1st hymn. In an attempt to control myself, I stared fixedly out of the window at an unfocused spot in the middle distance somewhere between a foreground bush and some trees further out.

Rita. Feisty, generous, cantankerous, chaotic, warm-hearted, strong-willed (no - downright bloody-minded), intelligent, outgoing, outrageous. Courageous too - she'd suffered from ill health all her life: bronchial chest, swollen legs, knackered kidneys, diabetes. She finally gave up smoking, but not the cream cakes, when she retired. Her car had more dents than a tin can used for shotgun practice. She'd nearly died several times. Now she had really gone.

Rita. A one woman band against authority. A tireless fighter against social injustice. Schoolteacher, Area Director of Social Services, local councillor, volunteer worker for STRUT, the Lincoln-based charity providing respite care for children with disabilities and learning difficulties.

Rita. Once her bungalow was burgled. A police officer came round. He surveyed the anarchic destruction in every room. "I'm afraid they've made a bit of a mess, Miss Hodgson," he commiserated. "Nonsense," countered Rita breezily. "They've tidied the place up!"

As the blue curtain closed on the coffin I looked away through the window once more. In the distant trees some magpies, feathered in funereal black and white, lurched from one branch to another. And 2 chaffinches bounced up from the bush in front of the window and fluttered frenziedly up and down the pane, tapping their heads repeatedly, insistently against the glass. Just as if they were trying to gain entrance for some obscure, avian reason. Then, after what seemed an eternity of knocking, and some harsh looks from the lady vicar, they suddenly flew off, disappearing over the Garden of Rest.

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