Posts Tagged ‘death’


February 23, 2013

Mostly you don’t even notice that it’s there – life is led normally.  Ish.

Feeling weak at the knees and wobbly

 Just the thought of her passes across my mind now and then –

 I find myself planning what would be in her Heaven – choirs, gardens, good food and drink; (it feels a bit Persian – like Omar Khayyam);  all her family and friends at all their different ages, simultaneously; a rack of Oska trousers at half price.  In fact it would be much like her existence on earth.

 Absent mindedness: last night I broke a large fruit cake; today I am burning the bacon for lunch while I write this.  Yesterday on the phone I forgot what day it was. 

 Still shaky

 Pondering the nature of death – what is this vanishing? This non-being? 

 Suddenly remembering that she isn’t there any more.

 Feeling aware of her

 Choking up when talking about her – and on the phone, and then laughing and joking in the same conversation.

 Waking up in the night and lying awake for hours.

 Seeing things that could memorialise her – ‘I’ll plant a hellebore in her memory’; ‘I’ll go to the gym’; ‘I’ll eat more sensibly’; ‘I’ll be more positive about things’ – all for her, because she was like that.  And because those are things she taught me.  To wear one’s feminism lightly.  (I don’t know that I’ll ever get that one.)


Time passes.  The busy world crowds in.

All that was in the first week or so.  Now already everything is more distant, and more analytic.

Thinking of her key words: generous; lucky; wonderful.


out walking with the dog

June 9, 2011

She was sitting on the concrete wall outside the parcels bay at the Post Office, smoking a tiny roll-up.  My dog brushed past her, rushing up to the door of the collection office, where we’ve been before.  She reached a vague hand towards him, as people sometimes do.  So I called him back, and got him to stand nearer to her.  It took a little doing, but eventually he was there and quiet.
‘Beautiful dog,’ she said, patting and stroking.  ‘Lovely coat,’ she said, ‘really soft.’
‘He had a bath the other day.’  I felt a need to explain.
‘He’s a . . . .?’
‘Border Collie.  . . .  You’ve got a dog?’
‘I’ve got a Springer.’  Pause.  She was a little, slightly hump-backed woman in a navy body-warmer.  Looked like a hard worker, and her accent was pure Midlands – somehow a very familiar voice, sharp-edged but comforting.
‘But it’s hair isn’t it, not fur?’  I wasn’t too sure what she was saying.  ‘Well – they don’t moult, do they?’
‘Oh yes he does – there’s hair everywhere.  You only have to turn around and there’s huge skeins of it.  Have to hoover all the time.’  (Exaggerating – those dusty skeins don’t get hoovered enough – they roll about the corners of the kitchen like tumbleweeds.)
‘Do Springers moult?’  (My turn to take an interest.)
‘Not much.  Hardly at all.’

 And then her punch line:  ‘We had an old dog used to moult everywhere, trails of it all up the stairs, wherever he went.  And then he died.  But then one time I was decorating and I started to find little bits of his hair.  So I just tucked it under the skirting board.’  (a little sliding, scooping gesture of tucking)  ‘There you are: you can stay there.’

She was showing me a private moment, masquerading as tidiness, when she gently made a memorial to the dog, to the nuisance of keeping a dog, to not minding about the nuisance. There was something slightly wicked in her voice: narrating a secret.


as far as I know, Gerhard Richter is still alive and working

November 8, 2010

In Edge of the Orison, Iain Sinclair tells us that “Gerhard Richter kept photographs, potential art works for years . . . under the heading of ‘unfinished business’.”  p.166

 I feel apologetic about mentioning (death) – but I know now that it is my subject.  [Significantly, though, when I was drafting this piece I forgot to write the very word that I am always writing, always thinking.  There was an insertion, which typing doesn’t quite show.]

The students saw through me – they smelt me out, all right.  She’s always talking about death, Alice complained.  (Am I?  I hadn’t noticed.  No more than anyone, surely.  No more than normal.)  But that defence won’t wash.  They saw that this was all there is for me: all that’s real.  How did they sense that this is the one topic that holds firm, that holds in three dimensions, while all the others fade and dissolve away?  The only topic with lively intensity.  They felt it perhaps through that dynamic – a magnetism that draws, and draws on, over and over, powerfully returning always.  

How could Richter have the gall to keep things?  To mature ideas?  What confidence, what effrontery in the face of death and its sudden, arbitrary strike.

How dare we believe that we will live to be old?  How behave as if we are not about to leave?  How can we ever not be dying?

%d bloggers like this: