Three sleeps to go ,and plane to Madrid .Am determined this time round to keep a coherent and meaningful account of the walk/experiences /thoughts along the way .At this stage will just put my photo up from a practice walk this morning ,complete with sticks and pretty ugly hat .In front of Rocky Bay ,North Fremantle ,a magic spot in itself as this is where the Rainbow Serpent rested on its way along the coast
Will I too lie in this Graveyard ? Un
Will I too lie in this graveyard
My ashes merged with loamy earth
Next to someone else’s headstone?
Sun shining on daisies and
Wind wheezing between graves
A walker passing by may pause
to read the inscription
chiselled in the stone
Then stumble on some tufts of grass
shorter than the rest
Surmise that ashes still lie
in that bare patch
The assorted photos are a mix of some of the grave sites and memorials I have walked past or visited .Some are from Spain ,sometimes huge headstones to individuals or memorials to heros in the Civil War alongside statues of saints and poets.The Chinese memorial is to the General who in 1659 lost the great city of Xian to the Qing army ,and burnt himself to death.Some are nearer home culturally –the barrows of 5,500 years ago ,in the Cotswold Hills .The photo with the bluebells is next to a family grave in a churchyard in Bath ,Somerset .
I searched my photos to find a photo of the graveyard which inspired this poem.But my memory was wrong , I didnt use my camera there .The image is clear in my head : a site I tripped over a few times while exploring the graveyard at St Marys ,Prestbury village .I visited my uncles grave with my aunt ,his wife .He has a name and a plaque.But near him was a bare patch ,where maybe once upon a time there had been a small stone .Now no name, no marker.
During my times in Cheltenham a favourite walk was from my aunts house ,across the Cheltenham Racecourse through the fields ,and then a cut through the graveyard to reach the village pub in Prestbury .There, opposite the little church .we drank our cider.
Do I go or Do I stay ????
“I like long walks ,especially when they are taken by people who annoy me “
“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect”Paul Theroux
“Travel is flight and pursuit in equal measure “ ?
“ I always found myself in the company of Australians who were like a reminder of why I left “?
My favourite :”All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware”Martin Buber
So what was/is my secret destination? I guess if its secret it is secret from me too .I can make assumptions about what sorts of intentions are linked with my urge to go walking in Spain (not the Bibbulman,not the Kimberlys,not Thailand or UK …) Not even,minus the walking , a beach sojourn in a cheap Asian resort just a few hours flight from Western Australia.But specifically Spain and the Mozarabe ending in Granada ,possibly in Cordoba.A 19 hour plane flight away .
Now its a moot point as have cancelled our flight.My new clever backpack sits on the chair in my room with its contents spread around like parts of a dismembered creature waiting to be repaired and put together again so it can move .A creature playing dead .If I waved my hand the parts float together and separately into their allotted spot in my pack?I have thought them together many times the last few days and I see them sitting snugly inside my pack as I walk along the path ,my pack comfortable on my back .I swing my arms slightly and enjoy the good spring weather in the south of Spain.I am walking steadily at an even pace and as Brierley ( one of the much used guide books to the caminos) always cautions ,I remain vigilant :Unexpected twists in the road ,a yellow arrow that disappears or points in the wrong direction,a stone ,a crevice ,pebbles and gravel ,a sudden drop .Today I am above such mishaps and the day is still beginning so hips are still unharmed,no blisters ,the country side as beautiful as expected -no Ave ( the long train line going from South to North the Spaniards love which has cut across huge tracks of land ) no 3 lane motor ways obliterating the Roman or Arab ancient road ,no long dusty flat pieces of land with not even an olive tree in sight ,and deficient in bars for cafe con leche stops .
But I am not there.I’m in my bedroom in Australia looking at that pack .The last few weeks have felt like a circuitous journey on a slowly revolving wheel;as it slows another trouble or job or obligation attaches itself to the rim ,and there I am in the middle not really able to reach the tyre part but every now and then a new black spot spins past .I feel smaller and smaller until all that is left is the rim and a little person curled up in the centre .
First the dog got bitten at the vet ,where I took her to have an arthritis injection so that she will be free of stiffness while I am gone .An old dog who usually bites other dogs ,this time she was bitten ,and badly so that the cut was deep enough to need stitches -at great cost.I settled that ,she is bandaged and is on antibiotics which seem to cost more than ones for humans .She needs to be taken to the vet every 3 days for a change in dressing.I organise someone to do that while I am gone
Ok she’s a dog .Then my old mother ,taken to the doctor the day before for usual check is fine ,but a routine blood test shows poor kidney and liver function .A whole weekend spent talking to her about going to hospital for treatment.No chance .She can’t hear much anyway,but she can hear enough to reject hospital.As she gets more yellow and looks more unwell I still cling to the hope that maybe the next test will show an improvement .I organise for carers to do extra visits to her at home ,members of family rostered to visit .No .mprovement in one area ,not in another ,so another blood test forthcoming .Flights cancelled the night before we leave.
I visit her the next morning -“Oh she says ,I thought you were going “. Ha
Now these are only 2 of the major things -in between there has been a fence erected at the back of the house ,site works for a building that is to go up,the installation of a shed in the back garden so that the back room which has been used as a shed can be cleaned up ,and my daughter move in .Extra power plugs and fans installed .Plus the house has been reorganised.Then usual things like a bad back as a consequence of taking up a power yoga to strengthen a weak back ,cleaning a rental unit and waging a war against cockroaches The list is goes on.
The question at the back of my mind is : is this all as I am not meant to go at this time to this place ? Would this all have happened anyway but because I am going it has all escalated and come together.I have to admit that I do not take kindly to the dog limping around in the garden ,or my mother sitting in the same chair in her house and asking me when I am leaving as she wants to put on the rice for tea.Perhaps I have to learn to take kindly to injured pets and old mothers
When do I go ? Hasta luego Espana.
Running again in Rottnest -“Where on Earth would you rather be ??”
“This vast real,interior one in which we remain linked to the dead (because the dream inside us ignores trivialities like breath or absence ) this vast life is not under our control .Everything we have seen and everyone we have known goes into us and constitutes us ,whether we like it or not .We are linked together in a pattern we cannot see and whose effects we cannot know. “(Anne Funder All that I Am ”(pg. 127)
Its a glorious winter day and I”m running along the coast from the main settlement,Thomson Bay,towards Geordie Bay.No-one else around .Through the small path past the old campsite under the trees. The grass is green this time of year ,the sun creating shadows between the trees which are moving in the early morning breeze .Theres the Basin looking icy cold with waves rushing in .
Remember the time mum swum here and got too far out .We pulled each other back to the beach laughing so much we scarcely made it ,flailing arms and legs as the strong current tugged us back towards the rocks .Meanwhile dad sat under the overhanging rocks smoking his pipe ,oblivious.
Mum and dad with me and a toddler In the sand at the Basin and they’re building sandcastles Their first time out here ,so happy to be with us and staying in the little huts over the rise .The huts are gone .
I climb the small hill after the Basin and I’m really powering along this morning
Down the hill into Fays,and there is a guy taking photos of the Bay .He smiles :“Where on earth would you rather be ?’ And I realise that this day ,this time,there is nowhere else.
I have run,walked,biked,staggered along this path many times over the last 40 or so years.Today I run happily.
Past the Geordie Bay store on my right and a loop back to the main path .I pause at the top looking down at Parakeet Bay and back at the curve of Geordie.I think I can pick out the unit we stayed in one summer holiday.Many hours spent on the beach below,escaping when we could to the balcony above.There we sat drinking and chatting while checking on the kids beneath :
“stop drowning him””don’t throw sand”,”pick him up’,’it’s his turn now ‘’and the final threat ‘you’ll have to come inside “
I look towards Parakeet ,and decide not to go down that hill we trudged up at the end of a day;The sun extra hot as it hit the bitumen and kids whining and crying as their feet burnt (told them to wear shoes !)and legs tired,Us grumpy adults pushing a younger child while balancing all the beach paraphernalia.
I turn to my left to the tarred road winding between the salt lakes back to Thomson .Down the slope I glide and the lake to my right,usually pink, is an indeterminate blue-grey with the while fairy floss foam moving softly on its surface,The water is low for this time of year ,but the ducks and other birds don’t seem to mind
Then I reach the bottom of the hill and turn left again to see the back of the Lodge and the lake in front of it.Theres the bush,strange non native palm trees,and fig trees that have assumed a variety of odd shapes through the years.If I squint I can just see the birds flying out from the wet surrounds over the other side .I close my eyes to see my father in his winter garb of brown jacket pulled up around his ears,corduroy cap on head .A younger me walks along beside him and we are with a group of birdwatchers so we are very quiet .Its very early ,just dawn and the lake is still obscured in a silvery mist .The ground is muddy and all the shrubs and plants are covered in a film of tiny stars .
Opposite the lake is the Island Cemetery -13 identified graves ,4 of them babies.When I’m not running I always come and read the gravestones that are still legible Wonder about the lives of these people.There are sad stories here .The cemetery is overgrown and the stones are in need of repair, but directly under the hill protected by the sturdy Rottnest pines they have become a part of the landscape
Now back at the settlement ,so I slow down and jog/shuffle past the lodge to the Aboriginal Burial ground .The ground is now marked out and the old houses that were built on top of the bones of the dead have been pulled down.Finally the men and their history is being recognised and honoured.
Double back to Vincent Way and past the large Thomson heritage house on the corner ,where a long time ago it seems ,the whole family celebrated Christmas. Lots of special food ,drink ,stories and talk .Inevitably there were also arguments .But this was Rottnest after all …
The little kids swung on the tree alongside the wall that now has a warning sign about the long drop .Teenagers disappeared all day to surf ,swim,or meet at the amusement park and bakery ,and at night to Pinkies beach
A little boy peddling on the other side of the island,on a bike too large for him ,surfboard held to his side ,up the hill towards Strickland bay .It’s stinking hot and he’s red in the face.the second time he’s cycled that way today.12 years old about .He’s so little and so full of intent ,so resolved to get a surf .He’s already been out early and come back for breakfast ,now he’s out again while surf is good .Will be back at dusk.
Dad in his bathers and sunburned ,mum in flowery bathers worrying about him wearing his hat and putting on suncream (“Be brown tomorrow “he says )Memories of dad everywhere .We stayed in a lot of houses over the years .He is off to the beach,shirt peeled off the old shorts mum hated pulled up to the waist ,cloth sun hat too small for his head ,beloved sandals on his feet.And there is mum pursuing him with the suncream
He spent whole mornings with the little ones making sandcastles and taking them into the water.He was often joined by mum who collected shells and helped decorate the sand mermaids .
Food was mums speciality and we had some good Christmas cake here ,and roast dinners with all the trimmings .Afternoon teas with jam donuts from the bakery ,white bread cheese and tomato sandwiches for lunch followed by the iced fruit loaf with loads of butter .Always a desert ,like apple pie with lashings of full fat cream .
My morning run ends back at Thomson.Today I turn 70 ,and I buy a cake from the bakery for tonight’s celebration No chunky homemade fruit cake now mum is not here to do the cooking.Much less alcohol and fewer stories and songs ,or arguments. But I had a run this morning on one of the loveliest places on earth,and the family gathers around to sing Happy Birthday .
This is Rottnest after all.
(Rottnest Island, off the coast of Western Australia ,20 minutes by boat from Perth .It was once place where Aboriginal Prisoners were sent.Many died in this harsh and foreign envirionment.Later it housed prisoners of war .It then became a holiday destination for Western Australians ,and now international tourists )
Requiem for a Dog
Yesterday I had my dog “put to sleep”or euthanised or “put down ” ,whatever phrase one likes to use.Saphy (called after thedaughter in Absolutely Fabulous).I altered her name from Saphire.She didn’t look like a sapphire ,although she had a shape of a diamond on her forehead .When I first saw her running around the yard of the person who had been landed with her she was tearing around quite aimlessly ,jumping up on whoever paid her attention,completely deaf to any commands.I should have known then, .she was a dog in search of a job ,a large dog ,a staffy /labrador cross, ideally suited to farm life .And there she was in a suburban backyard with no direction in life .Then she came to my home at the urging of my son ,who thought I needed adog to replace the last one ,
She got larger ,and more in need of a working life.Long runs and walks were not enough She still shied away from any traffic noise or loud voices ,some memory from her previous life I guess.She shed hair everywhere ,and slept on every single chair or rug we had ,leaving her particular Saphy odour and hair .Whenever back gate was open she was out ,and I was forced to walk around the neighbourhood looking for her (I recall at least 2 episodes when we had to pay for other dogs treatment ,both times she was the attacker )She did come when she was seen ,slowly ambling back towards me.She emptied bins whenever she could get to them and as she got older she made for dogs more often .’m trying to be honest here ,her life was pretty boring even when she was a young dog.Her greatest friend was Sally ,who came to take her out and play ball with her .She loved balls ,unfortunately one could only do that for a while as she also had a very annoying high pitched bark .Sally was deaf ,so it didn’t worry her .It did worry the neighbours though.
She grew more irascible and intractable as the years went by .The last few years she lay by the gate and barked at passers by .In between she yelped to be let into the house whenever shut out ,which was often as she smelt more strongly and shed more hair .She had several miraculous ,costly recoveries from injuries.All of the treatment post vet required me to administer a variety of antibiotics several times a day ,and /or dress a wound .This last one was actually acquired at the vet – she did her usual attacking growl at a dog being brought out of one of the rooms ,and the dog bit her.Both the owner and the dog then took off home.I tried for compensation or at least free treatment ,but the best I got was an agreement to try and heal the rather deep wound via antibiotics and bandaging rather than the very expensive anaesthetic and stitching, and the usual “exploratory examination” of suspect lumps and bad teeth “while under.” I changed vets .
By this time there were no more long morning runs as I worked on speed and distance.She finished that when she lunged at a dog walking peacefully with its owner towards us ,thereby tripping me up .Another shoulder injury which kept me from running ,cycling and swimming for about three months .Physio and Pilates costs soared as my love for Saphy diminished.
The last year all was forgiven and “Poor Saphy” was the constant refrain from family members who never walked her ,fed her ,took her to the vet or cleaned up the bins after she slunk through any slight chink in the door .We all had to contend with tripping over her at any time of day or night and remembering to close the back door immediately ,often trapping fingers or dropping things on the way .People whom I met on the slow ,short walks where she stopped at intervals to sniff and pee all commented “lovely old dog”,and were often stupid enough despite my warnings to let their dog move within biting range .Then poor Saphy moved in fast and stronglyfor the bite .I held on tight and yelled at the owner to take their dog away.It got so that each walk was a stressful ,blood pressure raising experience ,rage at my dog ,other dogs ,and the stupid owners .Her legs got stiffer ,her skin condition worse and she became incontinent .
Back to the vet for treatment and the decision was made .
A sense of relief after the last few years of feeling not doing enough for her ,worrying when we went away that some other member of family had to look after her.No more sweeping up the hair from floors and corners and every space No longer did I have to stay on high alert as workmen and family used the back gate .
Do I miss her ? Yes .Sometimes I walk outside and out of the corner of my eye I see this black and white shape,head lowered ,and eyes watching me.Early in the morning I go outside to look at the sky and there is an absence:no dog at my feet.She loved me.
I knew a not so old woman who lived
In a very ordinary 4×2
In an ordinary street
In an ordinary town
In a very very ordinary country.
As the years crawled by
She felt herself falling
Into the gaps
As parts of her house collapsed.
Loving others stopped her falling for a while
Later doing good deeds and thinking good thoughts
A constant smile
Kept her visible
In the crumbling walls.
She tried laughing as she stood boldly hand on hip
Hoping that courage would do the trick
Dressed herself in bright colours
Talked loudly ,made a nuisance of herself
Phoned family and friends at odd hours
Wrote letters of complaint
But no one could see her it seemed ,even those she’d loved the most
Walked by without a sound
Stepping over the rubble of her home.
Then she was reduced to clinging onto the jagged ends of bricks and glass
And screaming loudly for help
Nothing could keep her from disappearing.
Each day she grew dimmer and dimmer
Until she could just see by squinting and catching the light.
Next her hair started to go
Each morning she woke up
Stumbled to the remainng bathroom mirror and looked
(as well as she could by squinting )
Each day the colour faded until pale bits of fluff floated onto the dirty floor
Mingled with the soil and blood .
Then her hips collapsed
Her shoulders went one at a time
Next her knees.
Until she was just a grey ,skinny stick
whom no one heard
no one saw
no one remembered
She had disappeared completely .
I have put off ,and now can’t work out how to get the post into the blog
The last post I have put up is a cryptic link to “Cant put off “word doc
My blog should be titled “A writer in search of some technological skills ”
I obviously haven’t managed to get the thing onto the blog ,despite trying and following the instructions Well will just have to stay as is ,and I guess readers will have to download the link ,if interested in reading .
Thoughts for today ? Well ,perhaps its easier just to write directly into this ,rather than agonise how to copy into.Any of my minuscule amount of followers out there -what do you do ? Hopefully the next entry will be within the year ,and will be fully supported .
Bye for now from me