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Showing posts from April, 2011


My first boyfriend emailed me last week. He’d read The Hungry Writer and told me I should write about where we both grew up. About Aberavon Beach and the day-trippers who came down from the valleys by the coach-load, he said. About the Welsh mams who sunbathed in their Playtex bras. Grandmas paddling with their skirts tucked into bloomers and eyes like sheep dogs on the flock of kids in the shallows. And Dads and Uncles swilling pints and playing housey in the Bay View until chucking out time at 2 o’clock.
When he reminds me of ‘Lost on the beach is a little boy’ booming out across a mile of prom I remember how far out the tide could be some days, the Trampolines and the Roller Skate Rink. I can almost feel the ridges of prickly heat that used to rise on my arms during the summer, the cool chalky scent of calamine lotion that my mother tried to soothe them with. And at the far end of the Prom, past the Jersey Beach Hotel, there was the Miami Beach Amusement Park that glittered with go…

On not remembering

Maybe just saying what it is you can’t remember gets the engine turning over. Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir
I cannot remember what I had for tea when I came home from school. Breakfast, yes, dinner between half past twelve and half past one, yes, but nothing slides onto the plate of my memory for tea.
I remember the walk home, turning left out of the gates of Tir Morfa Infants and Juniors, the short stretch of Marine Drive before turning left again into the top of Chrome Avenue and how a third of the way along, where the street curved like the heel of an L, I used to measure how long it would take before I could make out our house at the far end.
I remember, after that bend, running with one foot on the kerb, one foot in the gutter, picking up speed and the air rushing past me on the stretch towards home, and misjudging my step on the lip of the kerb and fracturing my ankle. How Ann Hartshorn, who lived next door to me, ran ahead to tell my mother while I sat crying, both feet in…

Saying Sorry & Black Olive Tapenade

an icicle melts
in my mitten
I say I’m sorry

I wrote the above haiku as part of a text for a picture book, tiny shivers. The image of cold and resistance and a gradual, but not necessarily comfortable, yielding captures the way I felt as a child when I knew I’d done something wrong, had behaved badly, and was expected to apologise. I think it still does.
Sometimes it’s even difficult for me to accept I was wrong in the first place. I have an automatic defensive reaction that propels me to point out, with sound reasons and logic of course, what the other person didn’t understand, how they might have misinterpreted my words, my actions.
But alongside my clear sense of righteousness there’s a physical tension in the place just below my collar-bone, and even more strongly in my solar-plexus, which I’m pretty sure represents my stubborn little ego not wanting to humble itself. Because saying sorry, really saying sorry properly and meaning it, takes a lot of humility.
Why is it so difficult…

Time: before and after.


It must have been wintertime because I am wearing the skirt: a pleated tartan with white vertical and horizontal stripes that buttons at the waist; no zip, just a placket of the same fabric that tucks flat behind the short gap in the side-seam. I also remember it being dark, but that attribute might have been added by my imagination in view of the subterfuge to come. I dislike this skirt so much I have hatched a plan: if I snip a small hole in it with my mother’s manicure scissors and she notices the damage, damage that might easily have been caused by catching it on a fence or a prickly bush, she will declare it un-wearable.
I am about four, have yet to start school, so have not thought this plan through very thoroughly. 1) My mother would be able to darn a small hole. And, more significantly, 2) I am totally unaware of how pleats work, and how bunching a few of them together and snipping horizontally results in large gaping hole when they fall loose and fan out, a hole that coul…