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The moon is  bright. Nearly three quarters visible in the blue sky. The sun is climbing the wall of the house tinting the tips of the yellow winter jasmine with gold. The air is still and cold. An occasional bird peeps, but the overriding sound is rushing from the neighbours’ water feature below my garden.

I sit in our tiny succah: the fold up table covered with sailboated plastic where the pewter candlesticks rest, the fold up wooden chairs open at awkward angles, the netted fruit  and the flower fairy lights dangling in the space above. I haven’t yet bothered to roll up the windows. One faces the fence- there is not much space between, not even for the cat; one faces the conservatory and the winter jasmine; the third faces the garden- a fair sight even in these browning days. Only the s’chach falls over the roof that side and obscures whatever greenery there is. The door is open to the steps up into the house, the alleyway,  the rubbish bin and the three failed hanging baskets. There is no heat in my succah.

Even so, I sit in the succah, drinking my coffee, eating my muesli and relax. Cocooned. For this brief moment in the day there are no extraneous sounds to break my mood. No creaks in the ceiling to let me know others are up. No sense that other than being here, now, is where I need to be.

Breakfast in the succah is peaceful. Ushpisin, though welcome at any other time, needn’t put themselves out to visit me yet. No cars roar, no children cry out, no footsteps clatter. I am enclosed yet so opened to the world.

I don’t have long. Just enough to finish the bowl, drink my coffee.  Then I carry the dishes back up the step into the house. I return to zip up the netted inside to keep the flies out.

Today, because the sky is so bright, I will leave the door flaps rolled back. Whilst I zoom around the house, I will catch glimpses of my oasis and long to sit for a few seconds more in the succah.

Often we set people up to fail.

Often we believe what we’re told.

Often when we try to move up, we’re pushed back.

The door is closed before we even get there.

If we knock, they don’t answer, pretending to be out.

-Who is that person, standing in the rain?

We don’t know them. Let them be drenched for all we care.

We are happy here with our friends around us.

– We can be friends too. Good friends.

-But you are dripping on my step. I don’t like that.

No, I don’t need you. Go away.

So we leave and stand in the woods with the trees sheltering us and the rain dripping down our necks.

And then we see a stranger arrive.

Wait, we think. Let’s prepare a place for him, next to us, so he can have somewhere to go.

 

He walks up to the door as it opens wide.

He walks in. We see arms reaching out to bring him closer to the warmth.

The door shuts.

 

And we stand here in the woods. Dripping.

Everyone needs to read this sensitive piece

Dirty, Naked & Happy

I stand quietly while you do somersaults on the bed as you aren’t being naughty, you are just trying to get your out of sync body under control.

I stand quietly by the toilet door every time you need to go, and come with you around the house, and sometimes even just across the room, because I know you can feel truly frightened when you are not near me.

I stand quietly at the supermarket checkout while everyone stares at you barking like a dog and blowing raspberries on my arms to cope with the buzzing lights.

I stand quietly while you tell the baffled shop owner that you are looking for shoes that feel hard like splintered wood because your skin can’t bear soft things.

I stand quietly when the attendant gives us scornful looks when I ask for the key to the disabled toilet because the hand dryer…

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There comes a time when everyone has to stand up and be counted. Isn’t that what they say? Never mind the people who decry you and try to make you sit down, baying for your blood because you aren’t thinking along the same lines as them. In fact, that is the very time when you are supposed to say Damn them and all their connections, one has to say what is right, in my eyes.
It is a brave person who does that. They literally these days are putting themselves up to be shot down. So who but a brave fool would dare to do it.
This is what the bullies are counting on. The bullies are those who stand on the sidelines and shout. The ones who have an easy answer to everything except when they are asked to put themselves in that position. And then they come crying for support: we didn’t know how difficult it was. Are we expected to do all this by ourselves, just the few of us? What happened to all the money that was there to pay for it? Why we remember in times past, such fun, such glorious fun.

Those were in the easy times, the times when everyone stuck together, worked hard for the common weald. Now, everyone is out for themselves and call those who still hold those values as archaic flops. Hadn’t they seen that times have moved on? No one does that any more. No one except for the few. Everyone else has other ideas , balloons to launch, strings to pull, butterflies to chase. All of which are valid. Who dares to say they are not?

Supportive, of course we’re supportive- just not of you. You don’t count. You are better off not existing. We loved you in the beginning. We fawned over you, delighting in your very being. We were so proud to know you, to give you aid, to pat you on the head. But that was long ago. We have moved on to new treasures.

And just to prove how little we care and how much we love calling whatever your efforts are to support us, derisory, we are going to withdraw what little support we do give you. But make no mistake- we will do it so loud that no one else will want to support you either.

It used to be, when someone was sick or down on their luck , that people would rally round and offer what they could- a casserole, a loaf of bread, soap, washing the clothes of the kids. A few even offered money. Not everyone did. There were always those who stood on their doorsteps, arms akimbo, smoking, saying They’re no better than they should be, dirty lot, got it coming, I reckon. And they turned their backs.

Until it happened to them. Who was there to help them? Usually the very ones they despised. But in most case, it was too late. They had allowed something precious to slip away. And then they cried.
It wasn’t milk that could be mopped up, it wasn’t bones that could mend in time. It was trust that had been finally broken forever.

We often do more harm than good when we try to bolster someone’s ego.
People are generally sympathetic and caring. We recognise a fragile ego and try to support it by looking for compliments to give. So we say things to soothe rather than bruise.
How many times have we watched Simon Cowell dismiss someone who obviously to our ears cannot sing, only to have them scream back at him: ‘what do you know?’ and storm off? We have watched other people subjugate themselves to physical pain and suffering only to be told that they were rubbish at it and they shouldn’t have bothered. In astonishment, we heard them declare that the judges were wrong. In their heads, what they were doing was not only good but better than a lot of people around them.
They were supported by friends and family who were trying to be kind, not wanting them to confront the fact that they sucked at what they were doing.
It does not help.
These people continue in their deluded ideas of themselves and inflict upon the world the products of their delusions. And then expect us to be encouraging and supporting as usual. But the products are dire.
How can they not know?
They don’t know because they have been the recipients of others trying to find gentle ways of telling them they are rubbish without hurting their feelings.
So they go through life believing they are what they are not and the belief becomes ingrained. It becomes a central core of what they are.
This is all well and good. Many people go on through life with this mistaken idea of themselves and it does no harm. They don’t hear the sniggers and the snide comments and the complete bafflement of those not in the circle of supporters. They are bolstered from themselves by well meaning people who form barrier between the perceived reality and actuality. No one wants to be the person who tears down the barrier, because in other ways the deluded one is good, kind, thoughtful of others. It is just in this one area. And what gives us the right to deprive them of such joy they get from thinking they are good at what they are not?
The trouble comes when the deluded one is confronted with incontrovertible proof of the delusion. Imminent collapse of the ego! Years have been wasted. Why had no one said earlier? The embarrassment of having inflicted themselves on their friend, colleagues and strangers comes crashing through with the impact of a tsunami. The internal structures of the psyche has been shown to be built over quicksand.
There is no way out. The horror of the years when they thought what they were doing was good but actually was wet bladderwrack squelching and stinking in the sun, clouded by flies, cannot be contained.
The realisation that the critics were right, the friends wrong is immense. It rips through the curtain of self worth. It makes one doubt everything else. If they are genuinely good in another field, it doesn’t matter. In fact it colours that too. How can they believe anyone any more?
We do so much harm when trying to do good.
The idea that a person is better off believing they can do stuff when they patently can’t, is dangerous. We are putting lives at risk here.
More damage is done to a fragile ego by giving them a delusion that can be shattered many years down the line than by the sharp incision at the initial point of contact.
By all means be gentle and direct them into other areas, but please, no more telling them they are good at something when they aren’t. You are condemning them to years of striving in the wrong direction and ultimate embarrassment. It is your ego you are trying to salve with platitudes. You are the one who is trying to be the good person here. You are the superior one deciding the fate of the deluded person. What can it do?
Wars have been fought for less.

They lay before me like a string of pearls, penina, pearl in Hebrew. They are all pearls, women who have managed to keep their life going when the world tilts suddenly. It is funny how we rely on such women to be the ballast for our ship, the steadiness needed to enable others to carry on. Yet we spend so little time thinking about them. In most cases these women are unknown, their deeds are unreported, not because they don’t matter, but because we take it for granted that they will step up and be counted and then who could count the host of women? They are beyond number. So only a few are remembered, to stand for the many. We honour the many through them, we remember the nameless through the named. Thank you for your stories.

The mist curls up from the furze and hovers over the road, sheep munch placidly along the verge, undisturbed by the vehicles rolling past. A horse extends his nose, sniffing, seeking the choicest grass, damp from the earlier mizzle. A lone figure walks across the moor. It too, picks its way carefully avoiding the many tin traps, the holes where the slightest twist could see an end to an ankle.
As the mists swirls around and about the faint glimmer from a flashlight bouncing back off the diffused white wall shows that the figure has not come up here on the moor unprepared. It is no stranger to the surroundings. The intermittent traffic has no thrall for the walker. The yellowed light is kept on its straight line, veering only where the bumps and tumps of the old workings have thrown up obstacles in the way.
From her window, Freya watches. She has spent many lonely days and nights looking out over the moor. She believes she knows its secrets as well as any other. She has names for the horses, for a couple of the more adventurous sheep. She even names the regular cars and lorries that speed dangerously on the murky twisty road. She knows the ramblers and the dog walkers. She can set her watch by the routines some of them adhere to. It passes the time for her. It relieves her of the necessity to think. She sits in the gloom, a warm blanket across her lap and a pashmina around her shoulders. Her tea is in a thermos jug made fresh in the morning and holding enough to see her through to the time when pressure from her bladder causes her to move. These November days are a blur, seen hazily through a prism at the wrong angle- a brief rainbow of delight bent around the endless greyness of the sky and the moor.
Freya widens her bleary eyes at the sight of the figure. Somehow she has missed its appearance onto the moor. She was unaware of a car turning at the white stones and crunching over the misshapen gravel until it stopped, safe in one of the less muddy hollows. She blinks. The mist whirls, forming and reforming around the outline of the figure of the walker. She strains to catch the glow that marks its presence. It continues, oblivious to her scrutiny, focussed only on what it needs to do, where it needs to go. Freya catches her breath.
Her hand reaches for her cup on the side table. There is still some lukewarm orange liquid in the bottom. Freya gulps, needing the reassurance of the familiar as her gaze locks onto the figure. She steals a brief moment to search for the car but dares not linger too long in case she loses sight of her target. There is nothing to be seen. She can’t be sure in the eddies of the mist as it rises and thickens in places sheer before, that there is nothing there, yet in her heart she believes it so.
The walker moves ever onwards, unwavering in its determination. Freya knows in one blinding instant of certainty where it is headed. Like a lover who has encountered the one who makes her complete again for one single minute before moving on and out of her life, all the world is there in her eyes, all the yearning of life lived and unlived, all the hunger of passion unquenched, all the desire of things undone. Tears scald unchecked down her cheeks.
Memories return of their own volition. Farewells break her heart once more, the touch of a hand remembered, the sigh of a beloved voice. Freya shakes as she tries to stand. The wraps, so necessary for immobility, hamper her now. She struggles to release herself whilst keeping her watch on the walker. Cries of impatience surge to her lips as the material tangles around her body. Stumbling she knocks the side table and the jug of tea teeters before settling back. Freya realises she is grateful for its recovery. In one part of her mind she recognises there is an afterwards where she would not be happy to clear up detritus of her ungainly scramble to the window.
Urgent hands, beseeching the cold panes to allow her more access to the scene before her, shake and tap on the glass. She presses harder until her whole body is limned by the condensation. Her mouth stretches to sound a warning, shriek her newfound wisdom to the one who moves one step at a time across the moor. Her fingers flutter in white and purple, unheard, unseen by the one whom she wants to recall to her side.
The day darkens further. The mist disappears as quickly as it rose. Freya stands, cabined, cribbed and confined to the room, to the glass, to the scene. Her body slumps, her wires cut. The window now holds her up. She stares once more into the gloom. No light is visible, no walker discerned. It has vanished from view.
Freya turns and holds a shaking hand out, reaching for the comfort of her chair. Her mouth, in its silent oh, her eyes wide, she does not see the heap of cloth at her feet. She stumbles and falls to her knees. Her head bangs against the edge of her chair and she weeps. Not silent, her shoulders heave with gut wrenching sobs that come from deep within. She cries with the sorrow of the bereaved, the lost and forever lonely. She falls asleep, there on her knees, mourning what November has stolen from her.
Awaking, she pushes her hair back from her face and carefully regains her feet. Freya picks up the blanket and pashmina, tidying them on her chair. She takes the jug into the tiny kitchen and leaves it there whilst she goes to wash her face. The kettle clicks. She pours a shot of whisky into a mug, adds honey and lemon and then the hot water. She takes the hot toddy into her bedroom. She undresses unhurriedly, her fingers sure, unflappable. The radio is turned on to words, she doesn’t need to listen to music, too many memories and she is too tired for more. Freya climbs into bed and curls her cold hands around the still hot mug, she wishes November over.

It was always going to be a nerve wracking festival this year for me. To be chosen as one of the five members of the Club Mix was an honour, it really was. And I was already suffering. It was the weight of representing both my club, The Speakeasy in Liskeard and Strong Words in Bodmin, could I do them justice and make them proud of me? It was also the thought ‘Here I am, people used to know me telling in the clubs in the Midlands, they haven’t seen me for over eighteen months, what will they make of me? Have I developed or was I stuck in time?’
The choice of story was crucial. We had been given two themes: trees and a twist in the tale. Did I know any tree stories? Well if I didn’t the time between being chosen and the festival was extremely productive. I now have a vast array of tree stories to suit any age group, most of which I have performed in my fortnightly spot in Liskerrett Community Garden- come and have your lunch whilst I regale you with tales- appropriate- no?
I found, what I thought was the perfect tale, and then I told it. It didn’t stand up to the pressure. So I changed it- I modernised it. My references were too specific and couldn’t take the strain of the tree. I adapted again, bringing it back to the ‘original’ but keeping bits of the modern in. It worked- but was it suitable for a family audience? And the timing- was it under 10 minutes? I wasn’t sure.
In the Tales in the Garden, I told a tale I had been gifted by my tour guide in Lithuania. I loved this tale, it sang to me. Perfect! Except the tree motif didn’t come in until right at the end. Would it work? I drove my friends mad- which one should I go with? This one is more tree-y than the other, but I love the other. I practised them both. The answer came from all sides: Tell the one your heart feels more comfortable with. Right up until the last minute I still dithered and questioned and worried and dreyed. And then I chose. And then I worried that I hadn’t chosen the right one.
And then there was the problem of what I was going to wear? I’m not the brightest colour in the paintbox. I tend to think things match when they are just a slight shade off. Peculiar, eh? I had brought items that I had, in my naivety, thought went well together. They did in the dark of my bedroom. They didn’t in the bright sunlight of the fields. It took my mind off which story to tell for a good hour!
Should I change my mind at the last minute? I listened to the others and found that they had taken a broad view of the theme too. What did it matter? It wasn’t a competition; it was a sharing of tales. We had worried that our voices wouldn’t carry acoustically in the tent. Our MC, Shonaleigh, was supportive, caring and helpful. We played with the space the night before, trying out the boards, giving a couple of lines and seeing if we could be heard in the empty tent, knowing that the sound would be deadened more if… when the tent was full.
The time came. The Club Mixers told with grace and aplomb, their words drifting over my mind like leaves in autumn. I piled them up and every now and then an image pokes its foot out and reminds me of the tale, the teller. Each one different, each one had the spice of its teller, its taste familiar yet exciting. It was comforting. When my turn came I stood up and felt the warmth of the audience, the support of the Cornish massive ranged across the back of the tent and the willing push of my fellow Club Mixers. I told the tale I loved.
The following day was the Twist in the Tale, nothing mattered except the story now. My fellow Club Mixers were relaxed and open, the day was dry but not too hot, the audience, new. There was not the weight of expectation that the first day held and yet… and yet… the need to do justice to the tale, to give it its own place, the reason why it was chosen, to allow the audience to see what the teller saw in it, was ever present. Wonder of wonders, we were diverse: distinctive styles, different attitudes, variety of story and yet all with a twist. Everyone enjoyed the tellings; performers and audience alike, the smiling faces, the applause, the relief.
Would I do it again, if asked? I’d bite the hand off, I would be there so quick. So don’t hesitate to call me. And then I’ll be dreying and worrying and suffering, but I’d enjoy it.
Many thanks to all suffered with me, uncomplaining.

I have changed my room around. Having moved to a new house last year- well nearly last year, only another three months to go- I am still in the process of unpacking boxes. I thought I had sited my desk in the optimum position, under a window right next to the bookcase. All my papers were filed in a wire tray shelving unit beside it . All was fine, until I found the sun was coming in too strong and fading my desk. So I had to pull the curtain behind it and then turned to use the dining room table instead.
Now there was no sun, no window looking out over the garden and I was getting my double stacked books in a mess. My little corner had become a nightmare.
I decided to sort through the boxes that had been lined up against the wall ever since I had moved in. Full of stuff I was certain that I needed- when or for what I am not too sure, but I was certain I couldn’t do without them.
I have shredded and sacked. I can see the floor where boxes used to be.
Under the influence of this outpouring of feng shui I relocated the desk, to a side window that now had space beneath. I could open the side drawers! I can still use the dining table, but from the other end. I have a view of the garden even when it is sunny.
Today I had the door open and could actually watch the sparrows and robins perch on the jasmine instead of hearing them and spinning around that second too late.
What will it do for my writing? Well, I have to come to terms with a new perspective and that, for any writer, can only be a good thing. I don’t feel cornered, literally and figuratively. I can look at my bookcase full on and let my eye wander across the titles, pushing me to make this connection or that.

I wonder if I’ll change the room around next year?

This is just to throw the topic out there. I have no axe to grind, not that I have an axe, or a grindstone. And therein lies the problem. These days, unless you do your own splitting of logs for your wood burner, not many of us use the tools that were so ubiquitous in days gone by.
Our grandparents ( mine, not yours , I’m sure some of you have young grandparents), wouldn’t recognise the world we live in with all its different gadgets.
So here is the poser:
When we prepare a story for telling now and we make it ours is it okay to put modern gadgets in? Can we use an iPhone for example instead of scrying the water too find out a position or contact someone long distance?
Or if we can use technology that was inconceivable back in the day, should we add a touch of magic to it, make it do things even it can’t do?
Is there a right or a wrong here? Who draws the line and with what instrument?
Is it okay to bring a story into the twenty first century?
Comments please.

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