from HALF


1.
Summer. This city. Here's my street.  Railway, church, chip shop. Intermittent traffic going west, east. The sky layered grey on blue. Cream brickwork; fancy nets masking tvs, pets. Net curtains; three generations of working-class privacy. Terraces on the river's wrong side; unfashionable, sturdy, real. netted visions of better plots, bigger vistas, more substantial lives. Replacement UPVC framing elaborate repetitions, veiled by white lace. Home improvement as religion; carriage lamps, mock Georgian. Out back, neat courtyards with water-features. Or broken furniture, beer bottles, weeds. Close up, this is extraordinary. Community still makes sense. I love it. This street. Now.


3.
Imagine! That waterfall! It recalls rain. The slam and drum. I'm ten; in Dad's shed. A back garden in Lee, London. A twilight workbench, beneath cracking dark skies. My place; nails of rain on flakey bitumen. I want to be swept away in a flood. The shed spinning and lurching toward a precipice of water - Nowadays, I make do with a lean-to conservatory. Eyes wide; rain smashes above on clear plastic. Eyes shut; white roar does the trick. It's just a game for loners. And it ain't exactly Niagara - To be swept away. I wanted that. Did I? Yes


5.
Air. And water. The city's earth. Fire, however, seems personal. Like love, obsession, drive, will. My dad was a Japanese POW. Four years of his life, captive, suspended. At twenty-two, swept from Singapore to Burma. Exactly where, I'm not sure; the nightmares are his. He handed them down inadvertently; mistrust, disappointment, fear, bad faith. A poetess urged write about what burns in you. Well, 'Nurses do not walk under the sea'. I wrote that, remembering a bedtime story. Female bodies afloat on indolent waves. He didn't mean to terrify. I chose to breathe. For my time. Not flames. Oxygen.


7.
Hello! A postcard. Flotsam and jetsam.

'Stonehenge is definitely shrinking.'

And Heathrow's airport has been stolen. (Ten thousand cranes live there now. Their single metal arms trace jerky ballet.) Westminster's hot with tourists, and placard-weary demonstrators. On the Embankment, an inflatable silver building sags imperceptibly. Travel becomes this; a handful of unlinked, unlikely, whittled scenes. Memory hiccups; whole sentences leap heroic to the rescue.

Right now it's
'a Norfolk beach; August heatwave. The North Sea looks greasy and dull.'
It's a gritty-warm; looks being unreliable. You can't trust your senses. What can you trust? Experience certainly helps. And language? Hmm.


9.
Archaeology. That's cool. Anthropology less so. Imagining even less so. Dreams are off the scale. How can we make this real? Intention and curiosity are empiricism's feverish cousins. Somehow the world is enlarged by factual evidence. Somehow the world is shrunk by needing things named. I advocate a knowable mystery whilst aware of the oxymoron. Folk like me are bound to an edgy faith. Science seduces until dreams unweave before myopic eyes. I once went on a prehistoric dig. They found only stones and stones. I dream of tree spirits. I live with debt. Bridges between identities. Unmeshable worlds. Jennifer?


11.
OK. Let's think. No new quandaries. The night hangs open. Questions leapfrog into starry spaces. They stretch, waver, never to return. Why this isn't answer enough, beats me. I am human and want to have more -
Did you know moral philosophers are returning to absolutes?
THE TRUTH defined; a wish borne on an ancient wind -
I wish - I could stand outside myself to see. I don't know anything much; realities remains multiple. Decisions, once made, can shame and worse. This argument's a kind of paralysis. Each choice is a death. Little lights going out. Something gets lost. Like truth? Perhaps.


17.
Blimey. Here goes. Take a seat. Politics bows to fashion. Fashion's a privilege of wealth. Wealth is power is fashionable choice. It's information, education, interpretation of available fact. It's not how we imagine the big picture. It's who chooses what's in/out on our behalf. The world is edited on a 'need to know' basis. You could dedicate a lifetime to getting past fashion. (Isn't your chosen news 'sexed up' like ours?) Rumsfeld; I dunno; individuals aren't much use. As means to blame, I mean. Or as meaningful bad examples. Empire as an education? Are you joking? Oh Superpower. America.


21.
Complexities. Oh yes. Difficulty causes stagnation. Also avoidance, transference, lies. I am aware of complexities. What to say is another matter. How to help is yet another matter. Hutton enquiry reports pending, I do stuff; live. Votes are crucial, agreed, but which liar to tick?
The mess goes from top down and the bottom's BROAD. We get to the bottom end; investigation oomph twisted tabloidwise. Exposees are always and obviously not actually naked. Secrecy encourages wild guesses, however well-meant. We get the press we deserve. I don't, can't believe that. It's a stand-off. Intelligence versus media. National security. Terror.


23.
Marriage. That's great. I wish happiness. Apologies for this silence. Our worlds were linked somehow. A curious bridge; words, names, goodwill. I think this is the end now. Of this bit; sharing belief/despair of politics. We are the same, but also very different. I fear age will stop me recognising my own country. This is a small island, a geographical pin-prick. In Exeter, there's relief seeing a black face. Division's a late arrival in this city. It will come, cruel as crack. It will creep along stupidly. There should be room. There won't be. Marry kindness. Love.


     Sandra Tappenden 2004