The metal detector man shows me his haul: 10p, 50p, some batteries, a hard lump of rock. 'And my mate found the 50p when I gave him a go,' he says. I am looking for treasure myself - the memory from my childhood of a wreck at the Ferry Bend. Mostly we never made it to the point where the River Neath divides the land, mostly we were distracted by the sand dunes, the carpets of shells, or we decided it was too far to walk anyway and turned back. Maybe there was never a wreck. There isn't today. But there is still treasure here.
Some things don't change: the sound of the sea from a street away, a screech of seagull, the broken walls around some houses on the bend in the road. How I have started counting my steps to see how many it takes to get to school.
Some things change: the locked doors of the school, the posters in Welsh, the rise and fall of its syllables in the corridors, the mothers on the floor of the hall with their babies for free Language and Play.
Some things don't change: the little boy in Nursery who hugs the Headmistress's legs when she walks past.
Last night I played hide and seek with the cat. I know, it sounds like something you might hear in group therapy: My name is Lynne and I'm a cataholic. Play isn't a big enough part of our lives as we get older. Not playing games to win, but play that has no end result, no goal, beyond the enjoyment of the moment. Some people might call it silliness. Silly, from the Middle English 'sely' or 'seely' meaning 'happy'. Want to do something silly today?
You could begin with the sky
hazy with sunlight and a shimmer of cloud,
a slate roof skimmed with frost.
A red, or green or blue front door, perhaps
a carpet of fresh moss, a flower you wouldn't expect
in winter. And woodsmoke. Or the sea
peaked with foam. A good book. Conjure
the things that lead you home.
When the morning doesn't fit, when I seem to be missing the lid of the jigsaw box that holds the pieces of my day, I leave the house and walk through the orchard to the row of leylandii and look at the depressions in the dusty ground beneath them where I'm sure the wild pheasants nestle during the day, even though I only know them from claw marks left in the dusty earth, that my hand never finds a trace of warmth in the shallow bowls, not even a feather. Some days I catch a glimpse of them – the males barred bright gold and brown, their red wattles, the mottled females – skittering between the rows of apple trees, always keeping a distance. How could they trust us after all this time? I startled them once, in the farmyard when I opened the back door, a dozen or more of them taking flight at the sound then sight of me: the whirr of wings loud enough to make me step back suddenly, alarm mixed with delight, flashes of green and purple returning to me at moments for the res…
Do christmas cards count as cardboard or as paper recycling? Should they be in the green box, with the cans, or in the green bin with the cardboard packaging? It is sunrise. Through the winter trees the village looks like it could be on fire and the rest of us are watching in the dark. I decide on the green box. Part of me thinks, 'what does it matter?' while another part wants to get it right, this little thing that feeds into the bigger picture, the world beyond my life in this house where I feel safe.
37 years ago I cried when my sister got married and left home. For fifteen years she'd slept on the other side of the room from me. We'd hit each other with hangers and hairbrushes. I'd hidden behind the door of our bedroom to jump out and frighten her when she wandered back from the bathroom at night. She called me 'child' to annoy me. And now she was leaving and becoming a wife. In wedding speeches the fathers of the bride and groom talk about gaining a son, a daughter. But all I knew was that I was losing my sister.
I sing happy birthday to my sister
in the middle of a farmyard
Not a leaf remains on the apple trees in the orchard. We have used the last of the cherry wood on the fire. Last night we watched a movie about a man who could travel through time. Already the days are getting longer. The new year is pretty much like the old year when I remember to notice it. Today I feel lucky.
It's not going to work between me and Gerard Butler despite the way he hugs me, rocks me with his enthusiasm, his smile. Even though he turns away his ex-girlfriend who turns up in a gold lamé negligee. Even though he has a male assistant called Mitzi with a bald head.
He has four dogs. He feeds them on broken biscuits and crackers. His house is a warren of tunnels and secret doors. And the forest fire is getting closer, flames wrapping the hillside, running down towards the edge of the lake, which may save us, or may not. His father was Spanish, he says quietly as we leave the house with only a picnic basket.
The people we sold the house too have lifted off the plaster on the far wall of the first floor and uncovered a section of a painted medieval wall beneath. I always knew it was there and don’t know why we didn’t do the same. But I am pleased to see it exposed now, the past rising into the present, keeping us company.
The dream is easy to interpret: I have a book to write about my hometown in South Wales. The photographs I take are the top layers of stories: at home I lift off each skin and slip deeper into other people’s lives. But I am slipping deeper into myself too: things half remembered, roads not taken.
so many questions the wind whistles in the wooden eaves