New strings

A tiny grey pack of potential
torn open with Christmas-like glee
The old ones retired,
with love, though, not fired
and the body rests over my knee

It’s my first time, and so I work slowly,
prickle my finger with pain
But I push and I turn,
I’m trying to learn
for when I next do this again.

I’m helped by the original owner
who gave me this beautiful thing
It has taken me years
but I’ve reshaped my fears
and now I have brand new strings.

In A Place Of Waiting

Something will come if you let it
The words will arrive if you wait…
I now sleep on the step of the doorway
with one eye keeping watch on the gate.
I get up and I go through the motions
One by one put the demons to bed
Even monsters, I found, have a place in the world
but don’t let them rest in your head
I’m happy to be back at boot camp
Where I’m leaning against my front door
From here I can see all the mountains to climb
and my feet are both flat on the floor
I will wait for the gate to open
I will wait for the clouds to clear
I know when they do
that the sky will be blue
and I’ll be a long way from here.

BEDTIME STORIES: Max & Sylvie and the big metal box

Last night my brain was just too busy to sleep. I was so tired but I couldn’t quite seem to slow myself down to the point of actually climbing into bed and sleeping. I wanted a distraction. Something to read. Something short, easy, that wasn’t about a creepy man or a scary noise or Sally the sleepy snake. I couldn’t find what I wanted to read, so instead I wrote my own story… or the first page of it anyway. It was enough to make me sleepy so perhaps, tonight, it will do the same for you.

Sweet dreams friends…

Max & Sylvie and the Big Metal Box

Sylvie squeaked a little as Max’s paws finally got a grip around the lid of the box. “You’re nearly in!” she squealed, excitedly, hopping from one foot to the other.
“Yeah, no thanks to you” muttered Max. The box gave a little creak as the corner that he had been working on snapped shut. “Ow!?” He dropped it on the floor. It made a terrible clanging sound.
“Careful!” shrieked Sylvie. “What did you do that for?”
“I didn’t do it on purpose” he huffed, pushing fur out of his eyes “my paws are all sweaty.”
“Let me have another go” said Sylvie, rolling up the sleeves of her dress.
“Oh please.” Max scoffed. “You can’t even lift it.”
“Can too.” Said Sylvie, frowning.
“Go on then.” Max lay back against the bean bag and put his paws behind his head, smiling. “She’s all yours.”
Sylvie sat down in front of the box and looked at it carefully. It was very old. She could tell because it was covered in rust and the paint was peeling off in places. She got up and walked all the way around it before sitting back down again, her head on one side.
“Are you going to open it with your mind?” asked Max.
Sylvie ignored him. “How old do you think it is?” she wondered aloud, flaking off a bit of paint from the lid of the box.
“Pretty old.”
“How can you tell? Maybe it just got wet. Left out in the rain or something.”
“No. It smells old.”
“What do you mean it smells old? I can’t smell anything. Oh…” Sylvie turned away feeling a little foolish.
“Exactly.” Said Max. “I, however, have an excellent sense of smell and I can tell you that whatever is inside that box has been in there a very long time.”
“Then we need to get it open!” said Sylvie, scrambling to her feet. “Come on, I’ll push, you pull.”
“Errrrgh.” Max rolled over onto his sizable tummy and pushed himself up onto his paws. Sylvie glared at him.
“On my count.” she said, throwing her plaits over her shoulders.
“Fine” said Max, walking over to the opposite side of the box. “But after this you owe me a sandwich.”
Again, Sylvie ignored him. “Ready? One… two… THREE!”

A Valentines Story

Both too tired to really relax
they slept until mid morning
There was talk of breakfast to honor the day
but alarms were just met with yawning
The sunlight eventually stirred them both
and they stumbled out of bed
Now too late for breakfast, not enough time for brunch
so tea was drunk instead
Half an hour was dreamed away
with talk of what they’d do that day,
if the Sunday were theirs for the taking
We could paint that wall
or unpack those boxes
or maybe do some baking!
Pour me some more, he said
and she smiled
but the pot was bitter and cold
‘Is this how every Sunday will be
now that we’re married and old?’
Together they laughed at the shape of their life
then it really was time to go
He went downtown, she stayed up
and the next few hours were slow
Finally at five o’clock
she decided the day wasn’t done
So she put on all of the clothes she could find
and headed out in the fading sun
She brought him gifts of decaf coffee
and gluten free red velvet cake
And there on the floor of New York’s Penn Station
the couple sat down for their date.
The coffee, of course,
by this time, was cold
but the cake was incredibly good
Then half an hour came and went
‘I should get back.’
‘I know, you should.’
They left, together, hand in hand
and she said, as they got to his door
‘There’s no one I’d rather spend half an hour with
having coffee and cake on the floor.’
Stolen moments are sometimes the best
when you thought that a day day was lost
For years she flew over oceans for him,
what’s a train ride and a bit of frost?

To the English house

A year seems like a life time when it feels like you’ve slept through most of it
Certainly long enough to beat a few good grooves of doubt into your own back
You trace them now with your fingers and suddenly they are ugly and real
but a wise man your Father introduced you to told you that everything is cracked
and that through those cracks the light you have been looking for
but hiding from is able to slip through
You could fill them in. Smooth them down and paint over them
and nobody but you would ever know they were there
Or you could leave the wounds open to dry out in the sun,
let the little one that lives under your bed help you lick them clean
and then see if you can’t make something of them one day.
Share this work with someone though… you waited long enough to be able to
Colour in the big gaps together
Then underneath that perfect surface is a secret belonging to both of you
and you’re not quite so blinded by the day light steaming through the holes in your armor.
But leave a few. English houses need to breathe a little.
So let in the light and the air from outside
and if it all gets too much
you can throw on a blanket
or find a friend to build you a fire.

Show Your Work/Maths Makes Me Cry

SHOW YOUR WORK. Oh?! Panic. Frustration. Lump in throat. Tears in eyes. Every. Time. I hate maths. And as a child, every time I got to a question where these words were written at the beginning of it, I would be struck by this irrational anger at the fact that some nasty, clever person wanted to sit there and laugh as I unfolded the uncoordinated twists and turns that my mind would take to reach what would, inevitably, still be the wrong answer. At the time, I was convinced that this was the only reason to ever ‘show your work.’ Purely an exercise in humiliation. It didn’t seem fair that after I dutifully wrote out all of my workings, they would be cruelly crossed out and scribbled all over, because I had done exactly what the question said – I showed my work! What I quickly came to learn is that there was a very specific way of doing things if you wanted to get a nice big tick from the illusive green pen or, better yet, a smiley face or even a shiny sticker!? My brain didn’t seem to want to follow the usual mathematical routes but I eventually got better at not getting lost down the path less travelled when it came to carving out my calculations… enough of the time to get my school certificate anyway. (In no small part because the teacher who ultimately got me through my GCSE in maths was nothing short of a hero. Slowly but surely she provided me with a ladder to climb out of the deep, dark number shaped hole that I had spent many years digging for myself. I still fall into it. Frequently. But now at least I know how to get out. And these days I’m big enough to buy my own stickers. The fancy ones. With extra sparkles.)

Anyway, the point of this little saunter down memory lane, is that I realized the other day, although I am happily not in any way on a mathematical career path, I have been struck recently by that very same fear of ‘showing my work.’ What if it isn’t very good? What if it’s… wrong, or nobody understands it or… it’s too small, or not as impressive as it should be? I’ve been swirling around in this ugly little eddy for many months now and today I decided that the water is getting cold and my fingers are wrinkly so perhaps it is time to get out. It may be that this isn’t the most graceful exit – I would have loved to arrive back on the blog with some incredible piece of writing that would have everyone glued to their monitors waiting for the next installment. Instead, I sort of feel like I’m clambering out onto the side with my clothes all awkwardly stuck to me, with only one shoe on and some pond weed in my hair. But damn it, I’m here! What I have realized is that, much like with algebra, in terms of living the life of an artist, I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. But what I do know is that my head and phone and diary and computer are all overflowing with thoughts and concepts I’ve been working on that I have been too afraid to share. So, as terrifying as it might feel to do it, I’m going to let some light in… change the bulb maybe. Get myself one of those fancy LED ones that last for ages!

So, dear readers, look forward to lots of potentially terrible poetry, some questionable photography and a few other mediocre bits and pieces. Somewhere in the middle of it all there might be some gold. You’ll see it here first but, for now, whatever it looks like, I am going to Show My Work.

See you very soon…

Anna x

Life cake

When moving to a new city, I have found there are certain ingredients, a recipe of sorts, that combined together create… well, a life I suppose. I like the idea of life being like one big delicious cake, the recipe for which you spend your years on this earth perfecting. I think each person’s recipe is a little different depending on what makes them smile, laugh, relax, sleep well etc but, so far, my recipe includes:

opening night dry landFriends – I left behind some wonderful friends in England and for a while I felt a little alone in this big beautiful city. Happily, I now have some wonderful people who make me laugh, who make me think, who make me want to share and create and who make me feel loved and appreciated. I need them in my life and am grateful they walked into it when they did.

DIYA home – Now this might sound like an obvious one but I don’t just mean a roof over your head. I mean somewhere you feel proud of, somewhere you feel happy and safe and inspired. Our lovely little apartment is now, for me, just that. It took a few new things, some old things and one or two living things but now it is no longer just a house, it is a home. Our home.

elderflower someting or otherBolt holes – For me, these are places to hide, write, feed, talk and occasionally cry. (Back in Bath my best friend and I seemed to get into the habit of crying in coffee shops. I know it sounds sad but it’s wonderfully cathartic to do over a cup of Earl Grey and a slice of something delicious, and the owner of this particular establishment never seemed to mind!)  Anyway, bolt holes; I loved looking for these in London and I am having the same wonderful experience here. New York is vast in its many side streets and walkways, each leading somewhere new and exciting. I’m sure this list will grow enormously over the next few years but, for now, I have: a late night cookie place, a (dairy and gluten free!?) mac and cheese place, a few cosy cafe places and a cute little cocktail bar that does the most wonderful ‘seasonal’ specials. (When it comes to colder weather I am a fan of anything alcoholic with ‘spiced’ in the title.)

Fall foodA good grocery store – (or supermarket for my dear British readers) This was a big one for me. As many of you know, food has been a big part of my life in recent years. After cutting out dairy and wheat back in 2010 I really got into ‘good’ food. I worked at a farmers market in London for a while and that really only fuelled the fire. This week, I got fed up with our poky little local place and went in search of Brooklyn Whole Foods. When I stepped in the door I would have made a big ‘ahhhh’ sound (as in heavenly choir, not screaming in horror) if there hadn’t been a security guard standing right in front of me. I absolutely love it there. You can see everything, there’s space to move, if you’re careful it doesn’t have to cost the earth and a lot of their products are local too which I love. Hooray for fresh vegetables, fancy tea and slightly over-priced home made granola!

So, with all of the above checked off my list, my ‘life cake’ was looking like it was going to be pretty tasty, which was a relief after spending the last two years building up to starting a life here! Then this month… I found my secret ingredient:

This little cuddle monster came into our lives a few weeks ago now and I am just beyond happy that she did. I could post a thousand cute kitten pictures but aside from the undeniable adorability factor (new word, appropriate I feel), the biggest discovery that I have made is that having a small furry someone lingering in your doorways and destroying your sofa and sneaking onto your bed at night, suddenly makes everything feel a lot more permanent, more rooted. Not long after she arrived I had a whole ‘life, career, the universe and everything’ conversation with a new friend of mine, and one of my main points of realisation was ‘I’ve got a cat now… it’s all starting to feel real.’

For those who helped see me through some of the more difficult months before moving to America, when I was fighting for my right to be here, trying to make a life for myself in a city I was about to leave, and was all the while still aching for the other half of me that I had been apart from for almost four years, you will understand the depth of this new found feeling of home. I got there, finally, and am now blissfully bathing in the light at the end of the tunnel. For those new to my story and my writing, I can only hope my words will do this new situation justice.

If not… there’s always more cat pictures.

A story of six months or so

It was almost six months ago now that I last wrote of snuggling up in my cosy corner of London, missing my boy and hiding a little from life, beneath my covers.

Many, many, many things have changed since that day. Wonderful things. Things that I had been imagining for so long and yet, even now that many of them have happened, still seem unimaginable.

Perhaps pictures will tell my story better. One day soon my words will return but in recent months I seem to have spent so much time gasping, grinning, laughing out loud, that my words aren’t always getting through. They’ll be back. But for now…

Naps with Mary

Weekends are long and busy at the moment so more often than not my Mondays turn into Sundays with late breakfasts, lots of tea and the occasional afternoon nap. Today, with my cat back home in Oxfordshire and my boy still away in Africa, it falls to Mary bear to keep me company on this sleepy Sunday/Monday afternoon.

I’m turning twenty five this week… and I still sleep better knowing there’s a bear in bed with me.

Naps with Mary

Harry

When I can’t sleep I write poems about polar bears…

Harry is a polar bear
that lives under my bed
He didn’t like the Arctic
so he’s moved in here instead
He keeps my toesies nice and warm
and doesn’t steal the sheets
He reads me poems and epic tales
from goldilocks to Keats
Sometimes we talk of the meaning of life
while I brush out his coat
and I ask what he’ll do
when the ice caps melt
and he says he’ll just hop on a boat
Harry chases the monsters from under my bed
and guards my door at night
I like sharing my room with a polar bear
Harry, could you please turn out the light?