Notes From a Fragile Island. 14

February 3rd 2001 (Carshalton)

Now that the electricity has been cut off we have taken to living by candlelight and eating oily special fried rice takeaways. I have broken up and burnt the shelves in the garage and have been slipping out under cover of the night to saw limbs from the pines, but the wood is green and damp and once ignited, with petrol siphoned from the unused lawnmower, it fills the living room with sweet smelling yellow smoke.

The mystery of the ghostly voices that have haunted C lately, following her around the house (though I have never heard them and put it down to her diminishing mental state) has finally been solved. Running out of clean clothes, she has taken to raiding her departed family’s wardrobes. Of late she wears a pair of her brother’s forsaken boxer shorts (an old Christmas joke item printed with comedy red-nosed reindeer, a sleigh upon which, among a mountain of presents, rides a jolly Santa) beneath her mum’s rabbit fur coat, my V. Westwood mohair and a bobble hat. Sat on the carpet in front of the fire last night she suddenly pales further, puts down the tin foil and smokily exclaims, “Oh my god!” She leans back and whips off the boxer shorts, holding them to her ear. Really quite surprisingly it transpires that there is, hidden within a tiny pouch in the gusset, a tiny speaker that plays, when agitated, the opening bars to Jingle Bells! The small battery that powers the pants is clearly at death’s door and the tune – a dreadful, plastic, atonal noise – sludges and slurs in slow motion!

February 3rd 2015 (South Shields)

03:00. Late night cigarette and cup of tea at the kitchen window. The JFK2, a fishing boat that I have noticed before – 30ft, motored, bow cabin – putters up the moonlit Tyne on the slack tide and slides up against the jetty outside the quiet Custom House. A man in yellow oils steps ashore and ties off. As he does, another man, in dark oils, appears on the deck from the cabin and places a box and some fishing gear on the metal jetty and returns to the cabin. The yellow man collects the pieces and opens the boot of a car that is parked at the water’s edge. While he’s doing this the dark man appears again on deck followed by another figure; a tall, unsteady, blonde woman. He steps onto the jetty and, throwing out a hand, helps the woman ashore. She is wearing an unzipped knee length silver coat over a mini skirt, a cropped top and thigh-length boots. Her legs, moon-white: unusual night fishing attire! The three of them stand around smoking and chatting. I cannot hear them but they appear quite relaxed. Suddenly, a taxi appears on the Quadrant. Its rear lights redden the Custom House windows. They kiss goodbye and she totters off over the cobbles to the waiting car.

February 3rd 2021 (Penn Beacon)

Although life is considerably smaller it is quite difficult to recall just exactly what makes up my day. I have managed to eke my sleep pattern back to something that begins to resemble normality – or am I merely skating around the clock?

I get up at the crack of ten. I drink a glass of water and make some porridge. I make coffee. I open the skylight and smoke a cigarette, resting my cup on the sill. The sea at the end of the street is raging; I can hear the breakers smashing against the promenade. Great white sheets rear up over the railings. The gulls kite and the unseen little birds in the hedge out the front chat away and seem quite happy. I crumble some bread and leave it on the roof. The street is empty but for the bloke who looks like Frankenstein’s monster. He lives! I am reassured that he is dressed in his black tee shirt and his black shorts, his black trainers. He must (surely) have several outfits all the same? It has rained every day this year and I have begun to find this reassuring, too. Frankenstein’s monster leans into the horizontal rain and walks his stiff-legged walk, his fists balled at his side. The rain bounces off his bald head and I am this close to calling down to him. But what would I say? “Lovely weather for ducks”? I watch him walk toward the north sea. By angling the skylight just so I put my bowl of porridge on the sill to cool. There isn’t much need to do this, but I like to. It reminds me of being six. I find it reassuring.

I write my to-do list in the notebook that CS gave me for Christmas.

03/02/21 A list.

Begin a poem about Saint Scholastica.


Make a vegetable smoothie.

Groceries – cake for MW, incense, milk, turmeric, sparkling water, mackerel, beetroot, daffodils.


Finish JC’s present.

Make birthday cards for MW, JC.

I shower, dress in my favourite cowboy shirt, Rupert The Bear scarf and jeans and take to the sofa. Watch a lecture on YT about C. McCarthy’s ‘Blood Meridian’, drink green tea, smoke tabs, nap, annotate my copy of BM (and try to figure out what the old annotations mean?!), listen to Guided By Voices, BC Camplight, Bill Ryder-Jones, Smog, listen to the rain, exchange emails with I, skim the news, push some words around and repeat.

3pm. Make cards. Laundry. Finish J frame. Exchange WA with CS.

5pm. Venture out into the rain and walk up to Morrisons. JC’s brother is working there and we pass the time of day. See three gloves on two streets. When I get home I find that someone has left me some fruit scones in the porch. They are warm. There is a smiley face drawn on the brown paper bag.

8pm. MW pops up from downstairs. I wish him happy birthday and put the kettle on. He doesn’t want cake so we have cheese and crackers. Fergus pokes around the room and is fascinated by the tea lights. He has grown.

9pm. HJ leaves a recorded message on WA. It is, she informs me, Read Aloud Day and proceeds with several stanzas of E. Lear. I send a return recital of J. Taylor’s ‘Star’.

Bed at 11pm. Watch the first two episodes of Barbarians on Netflix (my brother has signed me into his as I ditched it some point last year because it was pointless beyond Toast of London and Archer). I saw a clip of it (Barbarians) on YT and it looked kind of cool because the Romans were speaking in Latin. However, by the second episode they seem to have given up on this and reverted to American! And, somehow, for some reason, I find this reassuring. My list is ticked. I find this reassuring. The rain falls on the window and yes, this, too.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star/How I wonder what you are…

31 thoughts on “Notes From a Fragile Island. 14

    1. 🙂
      They passed me by to some extent at the time. But BRJ’s Yawn, Yawny Yawn & WKCPS are firm favourites in this house. He does a class job. I shall make a return pass at The Coral.
      Thanks! Safe travels!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d start at the beginning. They were just kids when they made that self titled debut album. I still love ‘Shadows Fall’ for the harmonies and ‘Simon Diamond’ is a ridiculous romp that might appeal to your sense of humour. I collected their first four albums (they’ve released ten) and just forgot about them at some point. Other favourite tracks are ‘Bill McCai’, ‘Sorrow or the Song’ and ‘Arabian Sand’. I think they managed to have quite a unique take on alt-pop/rock while sounding unashamedly Liverpudlian throughout.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The ‘Jingle Bells’ playing boxer shorts with an almost dead battery! Like a modern-day ‘Christmas Carol’ – wow!

    How do I get people to leave warm scones on my doorstep? Probably I’d have to be nice, so I’ve no chance…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Funny, what I find reassuring is all the British shows I can stream on Netflix. A cup of tea and The Repair Shop…that’s the ticket. Excellent post, as always a pleasure to read.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Nick, thank you so much. I just checked out the page. The write up is wonderful. Sincerely, I really appreciate it. I’m more on the quiet side, so I did spend a lot of time alone listening to Pavement & Guided by Voices. I guess it shows.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. February 3- A most interesting description of an uneventful morning. You turn your keen observations of the seemingly mundane into reading that entertains.

    “Lovely weather for ducks”

    Love the grocery list.

    Liked by 1 person

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