Walking along these paths makes me feel like a fairy walking through its little glen. What’s that noise? Are there people coming? Oh no, it’s just the kayakers chattering below. I don’t know why but I get jumpy about people following me on solitary walks like this. I guess that’s the curse of being alone. No, what I need to channel is my inner Cheryl Strayed. I can pretend I’m in Wild-although that’s a bit dramatic as I’m actually on the Welsh coast rather than some remote part of the PCT. And I’m only going to be walking for a few more hours and then I’ll be home. And there’s definitely no bears here-the scariest thing is the sheep.
I actually used to be scared of sheep when I was younger, but then I was scared of most things when I was younger. It was that statistic about pigs killing more people than sharks, and I somehow interpreted that fact as being about all farm animals. But no, sheep are fine. In fact, I think they get a bad press. They’re pretty stoic animals really, and I like their gentle silence these days. These ones have just had a shave which adds to their comic effect.
I can’t believe I’ve only walked along this trail a handful of times. There’s something so ancient and historic about paths like these-I feel like they’ve been here forever. I’d like to think that they’ve been totally untouched by technology, but I know in reality that people have uploaded photos to Instagram from here. Which reminds me-I must stop stalking people on Instagram and go on more walks instead. Because this feels much better! This wind is so fresh and it’s wrapping itself around my hair, which either looks brilliant or awful.
Shall I stop and look again? Yes. I know I’ve only just stopped but I need to stop and look again. Breathe. Stop. Look. Breathe. I’ve just touched my tummy because that view has made me feel deeply like I’m home. Why is the voice in my head saying all this in an Essex accent? I’m not from Essex but I have been watching too much Love Island.
Alternative paths. Do I take the safe one or the rugged, narrow one? Rugged narrow sounds exciting but I’m on my own and inner paths are safer. I’ll let my feet decide. Safe path. Not a surprise really, sums up rather a lot of my life. That’s a defeatist thought. Sums up some of my life-and there’s still a lot more to come remember. You’re only 24.
This is lovely. I’m glad I’m doing this. Being alone is always seen as such a sombre thing but I actually find it quite empowering. Why does the world insist on everything being in pairs? Sometimes there’s strength to be found in one person alone. I’m looking forward to eating that KitKat in my bag. I’m glad I’ve grown up here. It’s beautiful.
You tell me beauty is perfection.
It is the airbrushed, bright white,
no-cellulite bodies in the papers and magazines,
American dreams written in lipgloss and eyeliner
the thinner the better
the tighter the nicer
the young over old-
as it’s then that everything starts to unfold.
don’t smile too much or lines will form around your eyes.
Don’t eat that cake for it will go straight to your thighs
or you will slowly rot inside.
But beauty, for me,
is the warmth of your yellow-toothed smile,
as the wrinkles on your face tell a tale untold.
It is the scar on my elbow,
and the sporting injury in your knee
and the pock marks on our thighs.
In the round belly that is nice to hug
and the face that glows without make-up.
I find it in the eyes of those who love well-
and are not afraid to live.
Who age, and smile, and laugh and dance-
sharing their stories along the way.
I see it everyday-
when I stop looking for perfection.
Your thick, curving bones
fill a hall that befits your grandeur-
different to the water you called home for so long,
but still a space to swim in.
people notice you are beautiful-
your fragments a reminder of all that is good and natural,
a smile forming in the space between your jaws
that some would see as empty,
and others full.
You are a symbol now-
diving into eternity,
a reminder of what we need to look after
and the wonder that exists all around us-
if we only choose to look.
And they tell me that we share a name.
I splutter a little,
as I’ll never live up to your splendour and big boned grandeur.
But I can take on a little of your spirit,
and choose to swim in a cold, blue ocean.
‘But I don’t want to live quickly’,
‘Would rather wander and ponder and spend time considering the nature of it all.
But her life is a whirlwind right now.
A never-ending to-do list that her mind makes intense by shouting its demands,
tired out and tense at the end of the day.
She needs a holiday, just for a second.
So she breathes in, and out.
Takes some time in the sun-
looks around, and notices faces shining with fulfilment,
bags under eyes and feet dragging along
but essentially, they are strong-
not muddling through but standing proud-
filled with a sense of what they need to do.
Her heart asks.
‘Well, I am finding out through you.’
There are lessons I hold dear.
Clutched tightly in the palm of my heart-
written on a folded paper for my reference when I need them.
An identity card, to remind of who I am
and who I will be.
I clutch these lessons tightly-
tucked away beneath my skin.
Hidden and silent most of the time-
but bold, in neon when I need them most.
There are gentle lessons,
listen to your mother type of lessons,
share, give, don’t take it out on anyone lessons
eat cake but not all of it lessons.
Lessons which are hard,
weathered and learnt through mistakes made and hearts broken.
Lessons which have flown out of the pen,
written in loopy handwriting,
and others smudged in biro-
jaunty, with broken grammar.
Some in capital letters,
bold and alarming for my protection
and others written in pencil-
to be amended if better wording is found.
I could tell you what these lessons are-
dispense my advice,
share the gems I have uncovered in dense rock.
But there are lessons out there for you to discover, too.
To write on a piece of paper,
and tuck away for your reference whenever you need them.
To tightly clutch in the palm of your heart.
So when you find them, keep them safe-
and always remember their worth.
I’m rather tired, so won’t write a long paragraph here tonight-but I just wanted to acknowledge that I’m now halfway through this challenge! Yay! Thank you so much for all the support, comments and kind words I’ve received along the journey so far. It really does make a huge difference.
Your art speaks to me-
Travels inside my subconscious to create an unknowing smile.
From screen to retina,
From London to Wales
Through life and through death.
You are, still,
A 24 year old communicating to another,
Teaching me that despite the division of these fraught times
We must focus on the colour
And the wrinkles and the lines of the faces we meet,
As stories are made and told
Forgetting barriers and prejudice formed by accident-
A product of the media and the noise of the past.
You tell me to be angry for what we don’t see-
And to keep our eyes open to possibilities.
To recognise beauty, in all its forms
And to stand up for the cause to help others shine.
Your story is not over-
And neither is mine.
For our art still has hearts to reach
And our voices hold stories we still need to speak.
And I thank you for teaching me this-
From screen to retina,
From London to Wales,
Through life and through death.
I’ve written this poem in memory of Khadija Saye, a young artist who is presumed to have died in the Grenfell Tower fire on 14th June 2017, along with at least 78 others.
Over the past month, there has been a great deal of political and social turmoil in the UK. It’s difficult to know how to respond in these times, and I have certainly struggled to write about recent event without sounding cliched or defeatist. Consequently, I haven’t written about them until now, as the news and reality of this particular tragedy begins to sink in.
But I think we need art in times like these-people to speak up and express how they’re feeling in a manner that goes beyond media soundbites and Twitter rumours. For this reason, I’m glad that Khadija’s art is currently on display at Tate Britain, and is also being included in the prestigious Venice Biennale (which she had already been accepted to prior to her death). Her work is beautiful and powerful, and is an incredible legacy for a 24 year old.
I’m even more pleased that a memorial fund is being set up in Khadija’s name to support young artists whose background and circumstance may mean that do not otherwise receive support. If you’d like to give money towards this fund (even if you can only manage a couple of quid!), please donate here:
That’s it for today! I’ll be back soon.
It has taken a long time to get here-
to stare at each other for a glittering moment.
Has taken time zones and light years,
an amalgamation of cells,
skin forming over bones
and a lack of asteroids.
Tears falling on unsteady legs,
a perfect combination of gases
and a collaboration of elements.
Moments spent and decisions made,
a natural thermometer set at the right temperature
and a straight line from a to b.
Nights spent wondering,
some resilience and sacrifice
and a good pinch of luck.
It’s a moment written in you,
And present in me-
To stand on this spot,
And to see each other’s light-
Then turn away
and carry on into the night.
These roots run deep.
Traversing beneath familiar hills,
beaches so beautiful my eyes can’t believe them
and sheep that always look half asleep.
Beneath memories made on grassy patches
and concrete floors under old fashioned carpets-
Their ancient pattern outdating me.
The longer I stay,
The stronger they get-
Wrapping themselves around place names,
Clinging to customs and old ways,
Burying words and memories deep into my soil.
And I wonder how far these roots can stretch,
If they will cope with being taken to foreign lands,
Feeling city dust rest on my nose and hands,
Or if the pangs of hiraeth will be too much to bear-
For I like to be here, but I’d also like to be there.
So I hope to find that these boughs can expand,
And I can sit on a branch in a foreign land
And feel the support of the roots beneath me-
New experiences allowing me to bounce gently
But never to fall and break my bond
With this tree I call my home.
I look down at my bruised knees and count the damage-
14 on one leg, 11 on the other.
These marks are usually a sign of neglect,
or an accident,
or a moment of madness.
But these bruises are different.
They remind me of the rush of adrenaline as the audience comes in,
As they await unexpected delights,
of the lights on my face
and the words in mind-
of the bits that go wrong
and the new things we find.
Of crawling around backstage on the floor,
for props and puppets-
the cause of it all.
Of cries of delight, ‘wows’ and ‘woopees’-
I get all of this just from looking at those knees.
And whilst I look forward to the healing,
I am pleased that they exist-
Reminding me that you can’t create wonder without bruising a little.