Gratitudes

It has been a good afternoon.  I’m sitting in my room looking out at the pine trees that surround our small house on three sides, like wall paper or green fencing.  The wind has been churning through the pines for days blowing the birds off the window ledge when they venture across – small green birds with a gold stripe on the wing, purple-topped blue tits and a territorial rouge gorge – robin.

It has been some time since I sat down to write but today I have been inspired by a number of things, threads that started with Maitreyabhandu’s new pamphlet that arrived in the post yesterday. ‘A Cezanne Haibun’ (Smith Doorstep Books). Its a beautiful object – square, pale green cover, lovely font and numbers.  It is a reflection on the work of Cezanne, undertaken on a month’s retreat in a  primitive, isolated hut with a walk to a ruined cottage.  A Haibun is a text of alternative prose and haiku or ‘haiku-like poems’.  Maitreyabhandu writes about Basho – whose Narrow Road  to the Deep North was a route that I started to follow in Japan.  I didn’t get very far but some of the poems I wrote I rediscovered as a result of reading this today. 

Looking on the net for more information about Basho I came across a beautiful blog –  ‘Waterblogged: Dry thoughts on Damp Books’.  As well as  different writing on Basho I found in the side bar an earlier blog about The Little Prince by Sainte Exupery which is a gentle reflection on the story while relating it to the terror attacks in Paris.  I have been reading Le Petit Prince in French and in an English translation on my Kindle.  My French is still not as good as it should be after seven years living here but my reading is better than speaking or listening.  I loved the story and the blog about it too.

I am still working on the long sequence of poems about Robert Knox  and have also re-read Katherine Frank’s book about Daniel Defoe and Knox.  I have a lot of time because I am not very mobile. and haven’t been for some time but I am not yet utilising this ‘leisure’ in a very productive way.

As a very boring aside, and for the information of people who know the situation,  I have finished investigations of my knees and trying to find a solution to the problems I have been having.  Basically they don’t work!  I have replacement knee joints in both knees but after three years I have a lot of pain and  increasingly very little mobility.  I was  sent  for investigation in Caen –  something called a scintigraphy  – I had an injection of nuclear something that shows up areas of problem.  It showed plenty of places where I had arthritis but nothing showed on the knees leaving us all with no idea really what should happen next.  The situation is that we will re-investigate in 6 months time but to my relief there is no immediate revision operation – this is long, painful and not guaranteed to be successful.  In view of my age and how many prosthetics I have acquired the surgeon is hesitant in view of the lack of definite evidence of failure of the joints.

I am left with the need to ‘manage’ my condition. Phil is starting a course of acupuncture which is helping to move the energy round my legs and tomorrow we are going to look at a second hand automatic chair which is a help to rising and standing.  I am trying to pace myself and to change from walking, sitting and standing activities regularly.  There are a range of ‘aids’ on line that also will help. I need to lose a substantial amount of weight and to eat sensibly! Ha!

Sorry for this very boring ‘let me tell you about my operation’ but now seems a good time to update people and also to celebrate in writing the fact that I am feeling optimistic and much less stressed than I have been for quite a long time.

I have been so happy to read the new ‘A Cezanne Haibun’.  In lots of ways it is very relevant.  Maitreyabhandu is one of my favourite poets and critics and I also have an on-going reading of his Bhuddist book ‘The Journey and the Guide’.  One of those books that is down-to -earth and yet uplifting – in  the sense of Kei Miller’s upfullness. It is a guide to Buddhism but it uses poems, anecdote and metaphor to lay out the journey.  I am very into journey at the moment –  as some lines from my recent pamphlet length poems indicate;

I need to find the heart of things; wood
through mud walls, structures holding up the house.
The road is short now, corners more extreme.

I would have liked this blog to have been more lyrical and poetic but that is not how it has come out!  It has been good though to share with everyone what is happening after the anxiety of the last three months since I had my knee collapse on Christmas Eve.  I feel I am in a good space now  and that I can concentrate on my writing, enjoy ‘managing’ my condition and express the gratitude I feel for the richness of my life in spite of its physical limitations. 

Our super new red car is an automatic and I can drive it for limited distances and hope to increase my range over time.  I have a wonderful kinetherapist who is also my friend and counsellor – she is a gifted physiotherapist and also a musician and a very creative person.  I am blessed in my friends – my French teacher Eliane is a painter and teaches me with enthusiasm and creative approaches and our little Quaker group is a source of energy and blessing.  As always close friends who write are my source of both inspiration and support.

Phil is endlessly patient and supportive – I couldn’t manage without him and we have lots of good times together. His vegetables, and this year fruit, and the beginning of an orchard are brilliant and we have nodding – at the moment thrashing- daffodils, tulips and wallflowers in lots of pots all up the garden path. 

How lovely it is to live in silence and space, to be able to look out at the night sky and enjoy the birds and trees.  I feel a very blessed person.  My next blog will be rigorously reasoned, intellectual and poetic but I have really enjoyed this opportunity to express my gratitudes – as Jo Bell would put it.  I hope you will enjoy reading them.

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Winter at Les Ecasseries

Winter has finally arrived. I guess everyone is sitting down to write about the snow. That strange blueish light and, living on the top of a hill, the blanket of white that surrounds us. The birds are so hungry they have come to the window ledge of my workroom to eat the seeds that are there – I never knew before that the top of the head of the blue tit is a beautiful purple colour. I have to stop typing and keep very still and then they come again and again. The cat is confused, going from door to door to see if it is better there but not venturing out at all.

The snow has made a lot of space. I cannot go out from the front door with my wobbly legs because there is ice under the inches of snow. So three days of being able to just sit and read and type, think about drawing and painting. My room is very neat but rather full with a big oak table taking up half of the floor space but allowing me to have paintbrushes and pencils, books, paper, cardboard out on display so that I can move to that activity without having to dig in cupboards and trying to remember where things are. My desk has only Knox work and the computer and printer. What I want to read and latest poetry magazines on the small coffee table by the side of the armchair.

I am still reading lovely Christmas presents – Sam Miller’s A Strange Kind of Paradise – which is a funny, erudite and compelling read about India, its history, idiosyncrasies and delights. It makes me want to go back to re-writing my novel about India which has been lying in a drawer for two years now and should be sufficiently matured to be able to re-write from a fresh perspective. Also halfway through Modern: Scottish Women Poets. Dark Horse and PN Review and Poetry Review are part read. And it is impossible to leave the house on account of ice and my legs.

Maybe a short update on legs – it looks as if my replacement joints in my knees are in trouble. Still at the stage of investigation but the prognosis not very happy – it looks as if the prosthetic joints have not, in the surgeon’s words, ‘integrated properly’. Its put paid to increased exercise and my main activity at the moment is trying to reduce my weight so that there is less for them to carry around. I am not to go up or down stairs or slopes so, at the moment I am confined to the one floor of our house – so good that my work room is on the same level as the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and living room. The house is very warm – our Bulgarian stove running seven radiators off its wood. For the first time I have no regrets about moving to this little bungalow.

It is peculiar living in France, being a European, and yet watching with despair the Brexit shenanigans. It is difficult to know how much it will affect us. We already are suffering considerably financially because of the exchange rate. We were already in the poverty category of the French government. Our account is not taxed here but still my English pension is taxed and has to be put into an English bank. We should be applying for the Carte de Sejour which defines us as a French resident – but there is a long waiting list, the paper work is considerable including things like five years of quarterly electricity bills (to prove that we have lived consistently in France over five years). I wish we had been more organised and taken more care of old paper work when moving. Now they say it may only last for one year when further restrictions may apply. It is a constant misery at the back of one’s head. At the same time there is so much thankfulness that we are not refugees who have lost our homes and everything else, that we are not shivering in fuel poverty in UK or having to access a foodbank, that none of our children or grandchildren are homeless in the snow.

It is a strange world that we live in. So much passes us by – we are almost the only people we know without a smart phone and increasingly one is needed for all sorts of connections. We have a new car which is an automatic that I should be able to drive – but see previous leg paragraph for uncertainties! We live a circumscribed but peaceful life and increasingly I am finding interest and solace in ‘arty’ activities although it is frustrating not being able to do things. I would love to be able to pull up weeds in the garden and shift things around.

So what do you do when there is little to do, very little engagement outside the house and very limited interactions with other people? It’s interesting how interesting and engaging such a life can be.

Our little Quaker group that meets every fortnight in different houses has grown a little and there are new places to visit and new people to get to know. My French teacher lives not far away and we have a weekly two hours of grammar, poetry and friendly enjoyment. At the moment we are reading The Little Prince in French and I am loving it. We read the Three Low Masses over Christmas and Dauderet’s wonderful joking humour and asides has kept re-occurring and making me smile.

I have a weekly kinestherapy session for my shoulder and its ruptured muscle and my kinestherapist is a lively, intelligent young woman who is about to study more to work with musicians with joint and muscle problems. She is creative and positive and her friendship has become increasingly important. She has helped me over post-hospital depression and I owe a lot to her. My doctor is a wonderful, clever and affectionate woman who is very supportive to both of us.

Our garden that Phil has worked on so hard over the last year still has calva nero, kale, leeks, parsnips and spinach to keep us green and healthy. He is planning for next summer when we hope to utilise the green space at the back of the house as a patio and flower garden. He just bought, second-hand, a seven foot high barrel once used for cider and then for storing grain. It is going to be cut up to make round, wooden flower beds. There is a lot of hard work in keeping the house warm with logs and he has more than his fair share of domestic chores as well – I am not allowed to go down stairs to where the laundry room, storage and freezers are!

So – this is the kind of blog that I’ve usually tried not to write – very much a round-up of life as it is at the moment but I want to keep people I care about in touch with what is going on. I am thinking a lot, writing a fair amount and reading a lot. Also probably watching too much telly.

I’ll end with some pictures just to give you a wintry feel and including Phil and our new great granddaughter Florence from the summer.  Jesse’ s English/Finnish baby Lily was born at almost the same time in June.   

May you be warm and happy in 2019.

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End Stops

 

End Stops

I had a short poetic excursion yesterday as a result of what seems an extraordinary co-incidence. I have just received my copy of Writing the Real: A bilingual Anthology of Contemporary French Poetry from Enitharmon Press. I was very excited by the book – living in a rural, fairly unknown cultural space with no easy access to bookshops or French literary journals, I have no knowledge of contemporary poetry in France comparable to pamphlets, small press books and readings in England.

I took the book to my French lesson and showed it to my French teacher who has been teaching me grammar through carefully chosen poems for a long time now. Her daughter happened to be at home with her and she read aloud the first poem to her and they both collapsed in giggles.

It wasn’t the poem or poet I would have chosen for them to assess the book! It is called ‘bref sur la method’ and is by Christian Prigent and translated by Jerome Game. ‘Christian Prigent has authored over forty works of poetry, fiction and criticism…he is a radical experimenter of form and his works attest to his battle with language’ say the end notes. Yes. Not the best of ones to start with! Not the easiest either – I didn’t understand the English translation let alone the French. Here is a taster:

Premièrement :                              and here is the English translation

D’entre tes dents                            From between your teeth

lâche du Petant,                             drop some fartsy,
du caréné carapate                       some skedaddled streamlined,
en maque mic-mac                        in carry-on pimped

cake chiose qui saque                  soyme fing that gives the slack
le mou,                                               the sack
la soumission a tout !                   the submission to all

It was the mic-mac which they repeated and laughed at the most.

I was reading Wallace Stevens ‘An Ordinary Evening in New Haven’ yesterday morning when I was startled to read this line:
‘Dangling and spangling, the mic-mac of mocking birds’.
I love inter-textuality and immediately thought of my French poem. It started me off on a morning of total joy as I started to fiddle with the meaning for myself. I ended up with this, after much dictionary searching.

Firstly

Between your teeth
release a breath of wind – a fart
a cheap gift of Carapote
a squeezed out call of the mocking bird
mic mac
the fruit cakes that obscure the truth
the submission to everything conventional.

My translation leaves a lot to be desired but does make the point that I think Prigent was trying to make – the weight of defined and conventional poetry can become a blockage, we need to break through with the strange and the truthful. I love ‘An Ordinary Evening in New Haven’ it is late Stevens and for me it is a wonderful rumination on the meaning of poetry:

‘The poem is the cry of its occasion,
part of the res itself and not about it.
The poet speaks the poem as it is.’
or
‘….we seek
The poem of pure reality, untouched
By trope of deviation, straight to the word,
straight to the transfixing object

At the exactest point at which it is itself,
Transfixing by being purely which it is,
A view of New Haven, say, through the certain eye.’

Poetry needs to speak its truth to us whether we are readers or writers. The end stop seems to me to be a time when reflection, observation, recall all together are laid out so that the truth can be seen, so that
‘its adventure to create
Forms of farewell, furtive among green ferns’.

Apart from obscure researches I have had lovely times with family last month.  This photo shows four generations of the women in my family – my daughter Morag, granddaughter Hannah, me – le femme sage of course- and my new great granddaughter  Florence.  Beside this august group is the whole wild lot of children.

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Reflections in a garden.

How do we find the rain? And what do we leave behind us so that we can come alive again. Certainly not the meals we have cooked, soup burned, successful dinners, chocolate cake – some maybe leave, have left, recipes from grandmas, mothers, friends that are made again, replicated out of love, greed, enjoyment. So – what do I leave? A series of written stuff that is not sorted, that is not edited or finalised and would be too difficult for anyone to sort out. Some people have my poems and may occasionally read them again.

I was sitting, among the head high flowers in the overgrown garden, and wondering about this. What is there tangible that might be thought of as a memorial, what do I want to celebrate as my leavings? Leavings in the fridge eventually get thrown out – too much effort, mould, faint distaste to make that strange effort of ‘using up’. I thought that I might not have changed many systems, that politics and disinterest would be likely to have wasted much of the work that I have done. But – and it is actually a big but – maybe the work I have done face to face with people may have made a small difference.

Did those men who said they had stopped beating their little pupils and learned to love them continue to spread the word; that love overcomes fear and that working together with children is real learning? Did they go on making small books from sheets of paper and hanging them on bushes and trees to make a library. Some teachers I worked with have influenced a lot of others. Iffat and her love of words and books and poems and songs and the way she inspires teachers and children – hers and mine lasting memories of good done maybe? The Institute of Learning continues in some form – Inyat Ali has his own school with many child focused creative activities. If only some people that I know have looked with more kindness and tenderness on the people they live and work with – well it will have been worthwhile.

I have so many good things in my head – and the mark of so many journeys in my body I suspect – dodgy hips and knees, bad feet, hurt shoulders may have their beginnings in some of those incredible journeys that I have been given the grace and happiness to make, the lungs still a bit heavy with pollution and desert dust. The roads winding by rivers through mountains the high peaks, snow in the crevasses, searching the broken clefts of high mountain as we flew in the helicopter to see if grazing animals, snow leopards, people, Osmana bin Laden were there. And not so wrong too about him – right next to where we stayed in the military camp with Iffat and Aamir and the children one time long ago. The way in which those high walls not only protect the women from the gaze of the passer-by but also the way they hide deeds and people who want to be hidden.

How strange that more familiar to me than my own home and country were the roads leading to places in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka. Anticipating meeting among so many others Mehr Dad, Iffat, long ago the poet faced educator , Buchi and Shanta, Doctor Rao. The prospect of meals too hot to eat but eaten with joy among friends. The new places that were so exciting to go to – my phrase that occurs so often in my writing – engaging with the eyes of women, strong women with work worn hands and wrinkled faces, breaking bread with them and trying to hear and understand their stories.

Maybe the problem is that my life has been so rich and different and articulated in so many different ways, that it isn’t possible to write it out simply and with grace and honesty. And how to honour and acknowledge the friends that I have collected and treasure, even now after many years, and the closest ones that I dread to lose and who I can share my heart with.

Here I am in this small bungalow on the top of the highest part of the ridge in rural Normandy– from a distance the wind turbines turn above the pines around the house. Frustrated by a failing body and occasionally failing mind – forgetting names and places mostly. I want to be able to walk without thinking about it under trees and through forests but I think that what I am left with is the memory of such things – forest, trees, rivers, hills, busy cities, slums, markets and walled houses and towns – so many places that resonate in my head and now is the time to try and put some of them down so that my family and others might be able to read at least about some of things and people I have seen and been part of.  Then, again, the thought that this is very self-indulgent  and what is it for? OK – think of it as Dumbledore’s cauldron of memories where you could draw out a thread and the film unspools of the event and happening in the past. It seems that this is what there is to do. I wish I could be more sure about how to do it!

‘Then I might know like water how to balance

the weight of hope against the light of patience

……which is the story of the falling rain

that raises to the light and falls again.’

Alice Oswald: Falling Awake 2016

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PORCELAIN, M.MONET and MELLOWNESS

‘Leaf-fall hides the summer’s rot
reducing from the whole to part.

Leaf-shed: taking us all apart.’
from NORMANDE JOURNAL 2015

Perhaps I am feeling as if I have been taken apart over the last few months, now, at last, I begin to feel more mellow, more as if I can remember, interrogate and even integrate the world.

So first to Porcelain. I have just finished reading ‘The White Road: A Journey into Obsession’ by Edmund de Waal. He is a potter whose love of white, of porcelain and of the means of displaying, opening up and inviting in the audience brings the reader deep into the heart of the history, the extraordinary obsession and the heart- breaking anomalies of white ceramic pottery. It is a wonderful book. It opens the eyes of the heart to the wonder of white. He quotes Wallace Stevens ‘Here being visible is being white/Is being of the solid of white, the accomplishment/ Of an extremist in an exercise…’ and I go back to The Auroras of Autumn and find such energy, such infolding into meaning under words. And here we are, Autumn Equinox and the colours fading, blending, the white of winter on the horizon. Reading a very, very good book changes me at some root level – as if I have been given a window into understanding.

Then Penelope Shuttle writes ‘and stamped on the sands/in white wheels and patches/salt unfurling/in shapes like ghost sails’ Bardsea Sands – more white and I am pulled along in another rhythm as I read ‘Four portions of everything on the menu for M’sieur Monet’, Penny’s new pamphlet (Indigo Dreams). The title poem inspires – celebrating an artistic life in which everything has meaning, everything is needed and contributes to the whole. Both obscuring and defining Monet ‘…unlike Turner /does not resort to the trick/ of making the world taller, buildings,/ mountains, waterfalls, / but like Turner and Whistler / he offers us / (and so will Dufy) / a world (a Thames) of radiant precision.’ The ‘radiant precision’ in this poem and others in this book of poems of place and ‘Heath’ the collaboration of Penelope Shuttle and John Greening across Hounslow Heath re-starts my own writing again. I am starting to write longer poems, series of poems about places, people, my life abroad (a word that has ambiguous meaning – both spreading out and being within the new) and starting to link my own internal experience with the places where I was changed, where life took turns. What is difficult is keeping both the exuberance and the confidence. I have four pamphlet length sets of poems at the moment. One I am still working on and it is what is filling my head with images and emotions. The other three I am going to send off on some literary journeys and hope that they might end up in some place where people will read and enjoy/re-act to them. At the same time I am working on sending out poems to magazines. It requires a different kind of discipline to revising, re-working, new writing and thinking. It is a discipline I need to revive from the time when deadlines, accuracy, presentation and timing were important. The problem with the reading and re-reading of poetry magazines is the over-load of new images, ideas and clever inclinations in words that rush, teeter and spill across the page. It seems important to keep reading the new but at another level it is a bit dis-spiriting to see how much there is in print, in performance and interaction and how removed I am from these ‘happenings’.

I have had to go back to raison d’etre – to ask myself why am I in the unpolluted light of rural Normandy, in my room filled with books and facing the orchard that changes through the day, through the month and the seasons? It is about finding ‘radiant precision’, opening up the eyes to both Nature and its roots and to seeing detail in flowers, birds and trees. Something about the particular defining the sweep of past experiences of countries and people, something about the spreading rhizome of words that connect and interact.

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Mirrors and Trepidations

I’m reading a lot because my legs don’t want to walk, because my easel stands with an empty canvas waiting for paint and colour, because Knox has been folded away and I find it hard to find where my poems are, where they should be going.

I just read a short story by Frances Bellerby which seems to encompass these feelings – meeting up with the blanks, the way in which something which is strange, curtain-like, empty and yet very full comes across consciousness and delivers a sense of both epiphany and impotence.

I feel as if I am standing on the edge. As if I am on one of those roads in the Kalash Valley where the rock bends down overhead, where the road is under the shoulder of the mountain and the view is momentarily obscured but I know that it is there ahead in all its enormity and significance, its open ended-ness.

All this is about the reluctance that I am feeling about going back into the hospital situation and then  the ‘troisieme etage’ for two weeks after. This is the  operation to replace my last hip joint that is grinding and grumbling and giving me a sense of helpless and elderly feebleness. It is an outward condition that is annoying, sometimes painful and that stops me walking and moving easily. It is not however, as I seem to have transposed it, a condition that stops my mind from moving, words from coming. If anything it should be a situation that allows me to open up my mind because it is giving me a lot of time when I can only sit, or rest or think about things.

One of the things I think about, when I put my mind to it, is the work I should be doing with writing. The filing cabinet drawers that contain prose, novels, poems that are the signposts of years gone by and experiences that I can now only recover in the imagining and dreams that I have. These dreams or memories come back to me with increasing intensity. I want to grasp the threads and follow them back.

When I find it difficult to move forward then maybe it is the time to gather in, like a harvest, the significant or important things that have been given by the life that I have led. I love to tell the stories of where I have been, of happenings and I think and dream often of the people I have known and of mountains, beaches, palm trees and the movement of elephant through the bush. Where are these things all going? Do they have meaning outside the drifted imaginings of an old woman sitting in an armchair at the top of a hill in rural Normandy?

We know ourselves maybe, partly by the work we are doing, by the places and people that these ‘happenings’ put us in touch with. When all of that active stuff stops what is there left to do?

I just read Philip Gross’s Spiegel im Spiegel sequence of poems in Scintilla 21 magazine they are about mirrors. What comes back to us, the double us, and how fallible is the mirror in its distortions and reflections? Well it got me out of the armchair and sat at the computer!

In my journal I write down the losses in my early life that are maybe at the root of this sense of unease and fear that I feel at leaving behind the familiarity of home, partner, garden and sky. I copy out quotations about moving forward, blame and a sense of loss. I am suddenly moving forward on the road – the road that is my life, as it is, its happening that is the path that is opening in front of me.

I am so lucky that I have in my head all the scenarios of mountain, rock and pathways that might be the way in which I can go forward towards some kind of marker, some movement in stillness, which is where I sit in my fear at the moment. Maybe this is the first of a new kind of blog, more honest and self-searching that will reach out into my community of friends and poets.

Fare forward traveller. Maybe this is the first step forward.

 

IMG_9653        Garden coming    IMG_9633     Willow weeping

IMG_9644   Cherry cheering!

 

Some pictures to lighten the mood!

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Looking for a lovely discipline

‘…..No more those lovely disciplines
we reassure ourselves it’s human to pursue
and no more those sweet acts of will
we briefly treasure or take for granted…..’
from The Lovely Disciplines by Martin Crucefix

Coming to the end of turmoil and desolation I received two lovely and unexpected gifts. They have both taken me back into writing again. The Lovely Disciplines, poems about the ordinary made extraordinary, is full of positive thoughts and words. The title poem takes us into the sad, lost world of those who ‘turn hardly more than a leaf turns/ in being blown to the gutter’. I love Martin Crucefix’s translations of Rilke and this gift of his latest poems was just perfect at a time when I felt rather like the ‘leaf turning’ myself. I had forgotten how one is surrounded by the ‘lovely disciplines’ and how precious they are when they seem as if they are going to be lost. One of the problems with moving house is that the chaos and disturbance can be overwhelming and all the daily miracles of life are forgotten.

So Penny’s gift came just at the right time along with another ‘house warming gift’ from Caroline. That is an old map of Taprobana. Although the actual place is debated to me it is certainly Sri Lanka/Ceylon. William Knox, on his return to England, included a map of Ceylon in his 1681 Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon and it is so similar to the Taprobana map that is now on my study wall I am certainly convinced they are one and the same place. Sometimes Ceylon is also called Serendib. Now Knox has been packed away for too long – I had to search for my notes, and the poems that I have to work on are neatly filed but it took me a long time to find them. The excitement of the map has focused me on what I now need and want to do.

We are well settled – almost three months into the move to Les Ecasseries. The huge cattle barn is now nearly empty of our furniture, black bags are unpacked. Our little bungalow has a small kitchen, a living room and two bedrooms. One of these is now my study and Phil has built in book shelves and a fitted wardrobe in the bedroom so that we can ‘fit in’ too.

The bungalow – called a pavilion in French – has a sous sol – a kind of basement. It is the exact copy of the rooms above and was once a double garage and storage space. It already had a sink in what is now a utility room and storage for dried food, freezers, overflow of books, years of poetry magazines and anything else there was no room for elsewhere. The garage now has patio doors leading to the outside and is a wood floored, spacious and bright office and treatment room for Phil. Behind it is a double guest room ready for occupation – everything carpeted and walled and ceilinged, the small window letting in light and it looks very good – actually substantially bigger then the bedroom above! There is a small box room with bunk beds and a linen cupboard and cupboard for the water heater. We have managed to get most of our furniture and ‘stuff’ in – and now we are waiting for guests to come too. It has been an amazing transformation. Outside a new fosse septique has been put down in the back meadow by the lovely and well named David Joyeux – who also removed a lot of hedging with his huge digger and the weeping willow tree now stands at the front of the house in a stretch of open grass.

There is still lots to do including setting up a garden and making workshops and clearing things in the barns but everything we need at the moment is done – it has all been painted and looks like a completely different house. Now I have to try and keep it all tidy – that is the lovely discipline of a small house. I hope that this gives a feel of the place to everyone so you can imagine us here and thriving.

I have had time to do quite a lot of reading but not the focus or energy to write much. I hope to now be more regular in writing proper blogs – but I felt this one needed to be more descriptive. Last week I entered three competitions – one a pamphlet one, one a taster for a pamphlet and one a single poem. I also sent off five poems – this week. I want to set up another lovely discipline and make sure that poems that have been sitting in files and drawers are sent out into the world – Ezra Pound described this as being like sending out babies into the cold. I understand the reluctance to expose them in their weakness to the harsh wind of other people’s reality.

Moving because it is the sensible thing to do as we get older has been hard. The old house was lovely and we were in the midst of such beautiful, remote countryside but it was becoming too hard and expensive to keep up the large house and the land. I am so glad that we had it for six years and the memories, and the writing that has come out of the place, will last for a long time to come. Here we are up on a hill, with a long, long view across a valleys to a far ridge. We are close to the motor way and only two kilometers from small shops. I can stand in the middle of the hallway and vacuum all the rooms without changing plug sockets. In the kitchen we can reach everything while sitting at the table!

There are new and lovely disciplines to learn and to be grateful for. We are thankful for the support and care of all our friends and families and look forward to sharing our new house with them.

Some rather dark photos!

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