A jug of wine

Sunday October 15, 2006

I skipped breakfast today, knowing that I’d be having a cooked lunch at the holiday camp when I went over to pick Graham up after his working weekend. Wish I hadn’t. My normal breakfast of egg, bacon, tomatoes and bread, all dry-fried with four squirts of olive oil to lubricate the pan is sustaining and I’d have done better to stick to my morning routine and skip lunch. It was a dreadful, stodgy meal—a hunk of chicken breast from a bird way, way past its roast-by date, a handful of low-grade mixed vegetables and six hard-boiled potatoes in their skins, the whole swimming in packet gravy is not what I was expecting. I shall know better next time.

Back in the caravan, waiting for Graham to finish, I curled up on the sofa, tossed, turned, and couldn’t settle. So, wisdom winning out for once, I picked up my coat, put my shoes back on, and went down to the beach to walk the stodge off and get some fresh air. Not really walking weather—heavy, sullen sky, too many damp, fallen leaves on the clif steps for comfort, and a heavy autumnal silence of the oppressive kind. Not to mention the sullen mass of food in my stomach, resisting healthy digestion.

Stepping out on to the beach my spirits lifted. The sea was flat and there was no breeze to speak off. Even so, it’s a stony heart that doesn’t respond to sea air and open skies. I didn’t walk far over the pebble beach. My legs weren’t up to navigating a way over such rough going. So I just stood for a good long while, letting the clean air have its way with my lungs and my soul.

Looking about me I picked and poked at the pebbles, seeking a nice specimen to take back as a long-promised gift for a collector friend. Do you know, choosing one pebble from the millions that constitute the foreshore at St Audries Bay is a puzzle that out-puzzles Sudoku? Leastways, it is for me.

The bay has no vehicular access, so the stones are there by process of Nature rather than dumping from council trucks. Most of them have fallen from the cliffs in autumn and winter storms, the soft stuff washed away to be dissolved and dissipated, and the stony part swept by the tide from side to side, forming smooth pebbles that just beg to be picked up and skimmed across the water. I finally opted for one that is streaked with the characteristic red substrata of which the cliffs are made. I’m sure the experts could identify it and give it some learned name. To me it’s just a nice pebble, reminiscent of the geology visible to the uninformed eye, and of the place. I shall keep it on my windowsill for a few days now, to enjoy the sight of it before wrapping it in bubble wrap and sending it off to a faraway place.


Just a nice pebble


Back home we all three of us had a nap and then spent a happy evening relaxing over a light dinner—all fresh and appetizing rather than something nasty plucked from the chilly depths of a commercial freezer and nuked to a soggy proto-mash. We finished my bottle of wine from yesterday, and another one, too.

It’s a strange thing. Drinking wine on your own does little more than make you feel heavy and get you through the evening. Drinking it in the company of a loved one and adding a sparkle to it with conversation lifts the spirits and the soul, making of it a gift from the grape, a sweet distillation of the joys of the moment. The old poet had the right of it:


A Book of Verse beneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
The Rubaiyat—Omar Khayyam


Somewhere along the line I sat down and finished my competition story, building up my character and then killing her off in good old-fashioned Halloween style. I have just to add a short scene-setting prolog and and an even shorter epilog and then it will be ready for proofing and sending off; I have a week before the deadline. I think the climax is effective. When you shudder as you write a horror climax, you’re generally assured that you’re on target. [I’ll post it here early in November when the results have been announced.]

Now I want to make a start on a short series of ghostly horror stories. I have some titles ready, and some ideas sketched out in readiness. After the mess I made of my yesterday I want to be ready to tackle my tomorrows in better style.



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