5

First Eleanor woke up and then Rosamund.  We all spent the night in Eleanor’s room.  I think they slept alright after that but I lay awake for quite awhile listening to the wind.  It was the wind that woke them up.

It made me think of coming to this country in the 1850s from England on a boat.  The sound of the trees thrashing outside Eleanor’s window sounded very much like the sea, and the sash windows rattling, the chimney whistle, and the creak of walls and doors sounded very much like the timbers of a wooden ship under strain.

My great grandfather came to New Zealand in 1852 as a two year old.  Imagine travelling on those ships for three months.  Imagine the pitch and roll and the hundreds of other people and the storms and the calm.  No wonder very few ever went back to England.  You can’t go back, and you can only go forward for a time.

I’ve just reread Faces in the Water by Janet Frame.  I’m writing about my grandmother who spent a couple of decades in Seacliff and Frame, infamously, was incarcerated (let’s not say treated) there at the same time.  By the time Frame arrived there my grandmother would have been old and I wondered when I read her section about “the old ladies” if she made up the mise en scene.

I am going through the process of requesting access to her medical files.  It takes a bit of doing and I’m not sure that it will be enjoyable once it is done.

I read in Ali Smith’s Autumn this line: When the state is not kind the people are fodder.  It fits with a recurring thought that I use to keep myself in line, and remember how to behave.  It goes like this:

When we consider time, and all the people that have died in it – all the people everywhere on Earth since humans became recognisable to themselves – and then think of all the people who might exist in the future for as long as there are people in time ahead, then we realise how we – the ones riding this tiny moment of now – are truly a tiny band of brothers and sisters.  If we go on to consider that in the history of time this moving target of now, wherever we freeze it, would be regarded as utterly insignificant, but that we who are in it know just how complicated and diverse that moment was for each individual and for all the individuals as communities and societies, then we can see the problem of existence.  It is both too large to be comprehended, and too small to be bothered about.  We are both hugely significant as people in a shared moment together, and totally insignificant to each other in the span of things.  Across these facts people have laid belief to explain, to give significance, to stare down the vastness, and create purpose.  My explanation, your explanation, their explanation.  It matters very, very little, although the best belief would seem to be the one that allows the most happiness for the most number of people.  I tend to believe in the band of brothers and sisters, and systems that don’t lead us to fodder.

A shared bed in the storm.