I’m not sure how I feel about being back home. I’ve seen nobody today and spoken to virtually nobody as well.

I was supposed to be going to Wales with a friend, but it would’ve been too much of a distraction. I need to keep momentum up on this flat reboot that has been so actively catalysed by Brian and co. There is still much to do, and much attic space in which to put stuff I can’t deal with.

I’ve been making sense of it though. And rationalising my monthly spend. Stopping myself from blowing too much on mobile phones and broadband through habit, getting refunded for a Netflix I don’t use, thinking about what I need vs what I want. Also making sure I don’t have loads of random crap cluttering my gohonzon, and buying a little shelf to raise the thing a few inches so I’m not looking down at it when I chant.

The pieces are in place for me to turn my flat into a palace. Then I can go to crap like silent speed dating and actually stand opposite people I like the look of, rather than studiously avoiding them. I enjoy my own company but I think I can countenance sharing concerns again in the right context, and negotiating the intimacy and compromise that goes with that. It’s weird being alone in this head all day. There’s way too much noise.

Brian put up a portrait of mum as a young woman that I’ve had for years and never hung. It dominates the living room. It’s looking at me. It was painted by a Jersey artist who apparently loved her, and who became a fellow of the Royal Academy, so it’s probably worth a bob or two. There it is, staring down at me as I write.


It’s strange. She’s full of youth and possibility there. She did a lot in a short time, including making Max and me. She was a brilliant friend and a kind mother. But she left us at 55. The picture wakes a lot up in me. It reminds me how fleeting everything is, and how arbitrary our hopes are. It reminds me how hard her death hit me and the things that I broke through my grief that are still a bit broken. And it also reminds me that she was great.

I’ve been planning a pilgrimage for some time now, to clear these ghosts. The most logical month is mid September to mid October, so I’ve been trying to clear the diary. She collected a vial of holy water at Lourdes around the time that picture was painted. I also found her brother’s rosary in Jersey recently. It’ll be an expensive thing to do but I want to walk from Lourdes to Santiago di Compostela. It takes about a month. It’s hard to book that sort of time off work and I might regret it fiscally. But if I get my flat clear then I can probably Airbnb my room to help with budget. I think it’s the right gesture, to blow out the cobwebs, honour their memory, mark the passage of time, speed them through purgatory, get a bit fitter, and put some miles between me and this old sadness. There’s too much to do. I need to put the past in the past, gently and with honour, so I can look at that picture and think of my own future, not her truncated past, and get on with it.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

2 thoughts on “Portrait”

  1. The walk is pretty dull to see a couple of chickens at the end of it. No one really believes the chickens either. We did it first in an AC Cobra, them Mrs B did it on foot. Ha!


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