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If you are at all following the US election (and if you’re not, you should be dammit!)…here’s a blog that yes Nancy directed me to. I love it. I have no idea if it’s real. They say it’s real. But they would. I don’t care. I like it when someone, anyone, can speak his/her mind with feeling. It helps that it’s a mind I agree with. And that it’s from TEXAS. (And yes, Nancy, sometimes Maine!) Go check it out. There are like 400 comments a day on this thing:

Margaret and Helen

Long ago I promised to keep writing about our Italy adventures. Well, time has marched and I start teaching tomorrow, and I’m up to my proverbial in (lovely! hello John!) Canterbury Festival things, and and….

However. I’m finding that certain things float back nonetheless, even so far away. And they soothe me.

One is the series of Great Rescues carried out every morning, fishing whatever creatures had stumbled into the pool overnight or at dawn. M, as you can imagine, was the dogged proponent of this, and over the days watched butterflies, moths, wasps, bees — and one lizard — grow warm in the sun and return to the wild. 

Here are her hands, and one of the many wet swallowtail butterflies. And the rescued very baby lizard hiding in E’s pool shoe. Ah, the important things in life….



All of this has reminded me of a poem I wrote for How to Be a Dragonfly (see sidebar!), about a spider falling into a swimming pool. The idea came from another family holiday, long before M was old enough to rescue anything. Now I reckon there are times when she saves us all.


Pool Spider


One step too far and you’re head over heels.  At first it’s refreshing, this surprise encounter.  You’ve never liked nights alone and lately the heat makes something unsettled in you rise.  All you did was get up and walk out into the cooler air, stretch, and close your eyes for a moment.

It’s a funny kind of death.  You feel your own insignificance.  Everywhere you look is blue, blue water.  You climb back up a step before you can move no further, then roll onto your back and curl your legs up over your body, await rescue.




Getting ready to leave the gym (yes the GYM) yesterday morning, I receive a phone call. I look at my mobile; E’s school shows as the caller. 

It’s still early, not even 10 am. I think: Has he fallen over? Missed the bus?

Hello, a voice says, this is Mrs F  on Reception calling from school.

Yes? I say. Hello?

Good morning! She’s sounding incredibly cheerful. I visualise her face: rather wise looking, endlessly good-natured, nobody’s fool — and hugely efficient. I have a phone here, she starts, and I’m tracking down who it belongs to.

Yes? I still don’t get it.

You’re listed on it as ‘Mum’.

Mum. I feel like I’ve won a prize. I’m his mother. I really am.

Yes, that’s right, I say, that’s me. Bless him.

She laughs. 


For the curious among you, he’d left it in the library. Where he goes to read the paper every morning before registration. The Independent being his current favourite…. 

Kitchen-dancing. E-chosen accompaniment while loading the dishwasher Saturday (wacky vid my choice!):

Yet again it’s been a grueling few days. If it weren’t for the fact that all of life is precious, I think I might be under a rock by now. But all of life is. And with the terrible news of a student dying, and the mother of one of M’s friends also dying, both last week, came R’s and my 20th wedding anniversary. We went away for a night, just us, eating good food and ordering a different wine with every course. The weather was blazing, and we slept on the beach. 

He also sent me flowers.


I’ve been looking for a poem to gather everything into one place. The fact that so much can co-exist, that indeed it must. Love and grief in the same room. Dread and longing, to paraphrase Adrienne Rich. So. An approximation via one of my all-time favourites, by Mary Oliver. Won’t have you rolling in the aisles. But goes partway toward something.

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — 
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.








From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.