1st December. The wild wind has blown itself out and the day starts quiet and calm. Sunshine and blue sky, and big waves rolling in to the shore. Out of the sun a raven calls, a heavy, cronking call. Black wings fold back and he tumbles and rolls in the sky. In the valley that leads to Porth Melgan all is peaceful. Golden reeds glow in the early morning sun.
7th December. The wind has blown hard for a week, but tonight is the fiercest of all. Down at Whitesands Beach it was almost impossible to open the car door. Cars are being blown off the road. Standing up was difficult. The waves are rolling in, the tide low, but the beach still covered in water. Yesterday the wind was strong and the swell carried waves half way up the cliffs, throwing the spray into the air. Walked around St Davids Head and my face felt stretched and dry by the wind. Today the wind tangled and twisted my hair and threw things hard in my face, pieces of thrift ripped from the cliffs, splinters of stone. An angry animal.
13th December. On the beach all the colour is drained and wiped away by the veil of sea spray and relentless wind. Spindrift gathers at the water's edge. At Newgale this morning the fields were water-logged and dotted with curlew and oystercatchers. Tired. Time slipping through the fingers of my open hand.
14th December. I have been painting when I could snatch time from other things that eat away at my day. Shopping for Christmas, getting the brakes fixed, again, on the car, posting, packing, signing books. Tom has stolen the book that I was reading. It has taken me years to get him to look at Lian Hearn's "Across the Nightingale Floor" and her other books. Now he has read the three books in the time it has taken me to get through a third of " The Harsh Cry of the Heron" and we are having to share it.
The prevailing winds of the last few weeks have washed over the landscape like a constant wave and combed everything, even the grass, low to the ground. The brittle bones of the bracken are bent and broken, pushed low by the weight of the wind. Snipe fly up from under the noses of the dogs, low to the ground and swift. The grey sea heaves and sighs.
Hannah has decided that this is the best time to paint the kitchen pink. Floss has been helping and now has a pink tail. I have to start work on Singing to The Sun for Egmont, The Arabian Nights for Barefoot and Tell Me a Dragon for Frances Lincoln as well as do the finished artwork for the Robin Hobb covers and remember to pick up the goose for Christmas. So I am painting a red winged angel.
16th December. Finished painting angel late at night. Have put it on the ecards section of the site.
17th December. Despair in the morning with the house filthy, kitchen not even half decorated and feeling ill. Hannah not quite sure where to start, when we were rescued by the best of friends. Claire had come for coffee but took one look at me slumped on the sofa and rolled up her sleeves. Then thinking better of this she took off her clothes and found one of Tom's old t-shirts and some boxer shorts and the marigolds! She emptied the contents of the kitchen all over the house until not a space was left, and along the way we found rare treasures, like the tin of black cherries that went out of date in the last century. Then while she cleaned Hannah painted, Tom walked the dogs and I faffed around in an ineffectual fashion and took things to the city dump ( where I resisted the temptation to bring things back).
As I declined further through the day Daf turned up looking very handsome in his jodhpurs and gaiters, and put up shelves. So we had Action girl in boy's pants and the squire working hard on the kitchen. We took a few minutes out to capture Claire's style for posterity. When not acting as Super Hero she works at Preseli Venture. Click on the image below for Claire in action with something a little less difficult than the north face of my kitchen.
And by the end of the day a new kitchen was born, just in time for Christmas. Looking very "Country Living" with rough edges. Meanwhile the cats are letting stardom go to their heads as they are featured in Your Cat Magazine and flagged up as "the Amazing Welsh Walking Cats". Like "Hello" magazine for cats. So now they try and creep in to every photo they can and only go out wearing dark glasses incase someone recognizes them.
And I have been thinking about painting, and Christmas shopping and even remembered to order a goose and send the odd Christmas card.
20th December. An extra-ordinary day. Time to do the Christmas shopping so up early as the red sun rose and off to Narberth. First into the bookshop opposite the car park. Called "The Animal Kitchen", it was full of books, second hand and new, hardbacks and paperbacks. The man asked what books I liked and showed me round the shop and I told him during the conversation what I did, and he went off to search for the last copy of Classic Poems that he had in the shop, which I signed. We talked. He was a young man when H G Wells was publishing books for the first time, and he eagerly waited for the new books from T H White. His enthusiasm for books was joyous. I have been in many bookshops over the last few months, and this was one of the very best.
Went off to find a cash point and buy other things. Shopping at The Golden Sheaf was not pleasant. The staff were rude, dismissive.Not good customer relations to take a phone call when a customer is paying for something and I left feeling like I should bow and thank them for letting me into their wonderful emporium of delights in order to be allowed to purchase, should I be chosen!
Back in the bookshop later the signed copy of Classic poems had been sold, to my old art teacher. Turns out that though she taught me many years ago in Evesham she now lives in Narberth.
At home Al had come round when I was away and fixed the back door so that we can once again open it. Always handy with a door! Tired from too much shopping and wandering I took the dogs down the beach where I could see that the world is a tiny speck afloat in an ocean of stars. The Milky Way stretched across the sky and the Plough huge over Carn Llidi, the starlight all that lit the beach, tops of the waves ribbons of white in the dark night.
22nd December. I have an irresistible attraction to other people's unwanted gifts of love. Found in a second hand bookshop today, a copy of "Falling for a Dolphin" by Heathcote Williams. Inside, a handwritten dedication, " To my gorgeous lady. A Happy unbirthday just because I love you." Somewhere in the giving away of the book lingers a sad story of love and loss.
24th December. Walking through fields above the cathedral valley in the gloaming light of Christmas eve, with the Christmas lights strung across the distant city streets, rounding up heavy footed black and white horses in the cold, their breath making clouds in the failing light. Robin's father, Charles, died in the early hours of Christmas eve morning, worn out by a long life.
25th December. Smiling children in the morning- down to the beach with the dogs and surf boards. Quickly the waves filled up with bobbing black bodies on boards. Gray, and the beach bounding with dogs.
Day disappeared and the tiredest children fell into bed.
28th December. Long drive to Milton Keynes to be with Robin for his father's funeral.
29th December. At the crematorium I learnt much about Charles that I didn't know and met many of his and his wife, Lottie's, friends. In the time that he was young he had traveled the world, from South Africa to Scotland. Born in Germany, made a new home in England. Memories of friends and family filled the room and I tried to imagine what his life had been. What is it like to have to leave your home in a time of such great evil, to learn a new language, to loose so much. And what language did he dream in? Outside the rain fell on black streets, but the funeral was full of life and memory. A friend of Lottie's talked about when they had met in Germany and played in the sandpit when they were children.
30th December. Walking with dogs and Robin, along streets, past shops, to the bridge in the park, by the river, water meadows soft underfoot. Along the canal where harris hawks wait in a tree, crab apples cling to winter branches, golden balls against the water-heavy sky. Past fields of geese, then home through trees where leaf litter lies on black earth and back to the streets.
Later to the Shiva for Charles where the Rabbi spoke prayers for the dead and again people gathered to remember Charles. His children, Jeremy and Robin talked of their childhood gatherings when the people at the Shiva had been young. Clare, his grand daughter, tall and beautiful and Paddy, were both there, and we looked through photographs of the grand children growing up, and of Max, Jeremy's son with the wonderful smile, who looked so much like Charles.
31st December. Thinking about the past year and maybe just tired after driving all day to be home, but nothing stands out as a highlight. Remember the first emerald snake of summer and the feeling when I first saw swallows fly across the clear blue sky. Writing a novel and finding the space and the time to weave the words together. Waking early to see the moonshadows, moon shining from the west and watching as the day tipped the balance of night away. A moment watching a red kite circle in the sky over the hill above my house.
It was a busy year, but most of it now has slipped my mind.
Feel very privileged to have been part of Charles's funeral.