The Hope Opera

All first novels may not be disguised autobiographies, but sooner or later all weblogs are, whether you want them to be or not. Even a succession of one-line links to other people’s pages reveals its author over time. What goes unsaid becomes as significant as what’s said, even if you were just busy with something else.

This has certainly been the year of the unsaid here at Snail Manor. Just how different my blogging, or occasional essaying, or whatever the hell this is had become was brought home when a friend told me she’d read over my first year of entries, prompting me to do the same. So much experimentation that year, in writing and in life; so much hope. It wasn’t a good time to be reminded of it, back in April.

It hasn’t been the best twelve months, and delving into the reasons feels like more than I can face in public; it’s been hard enough having to face up to them in private. Some of them are external, but too much of it feels internal.

Which isn’t to say there haven’t been good things about this year. They’re all the things I’ve written about here: travel; doing stuff with family and friends; the Fringe. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of that.

I could have lived without the stress, though, of having that day looming ahead like an approaching storm, with no idea what lay beyond it. A few months ago the uncertainty was crushing. Other people around me were facing trials of their own, some with good outcomes, some still unknown. The thought that I was adding to their uncertainty fuelled feedback loops of guilt.

I was trying to find answers in the past, in the people I had been and potentially could be again. But I no longer knew what would be left if you took away this, having lost too many planks of myself before.

But the front passed, and the walls held. I’m waiting on a verdict which could deliver some stability, for a while at least. In the meantime, I’ve been finding hope I thought I’d lost, but it turns out had just misshelved. It may yet prove misplaced, but it’s here for now. The rain’s still lashing at the window, but at least I’m not standing outside in it.

How have you been, a friend asked a while ago. Like a tortoise on a trampoline, I said.


Whenever things are going well
I stick my head outside my shell
And chew upon the ragged leaf
Of life

I stare in disbelief
At how I used to hide away
Inside my armour
Day on day

My reptile spirits bounce so high
At times I feel like I could fly
To altitudes
I’ve never seen
A tortoise on a trampoline

But just as quickly as I rise
And idly start to fantasize
Of skies that never
Ever end
I plummet back to my old friend
The earth, with all its solid claims
On my attention

Soon it frames
My slow existence
Inch by inch
I fear I’ll never find a winch
To hoist me up above again
Beyond the clouds
Above the rain

These anxious thoughts repeat until
My wrinkled head is full

But still
There’s time enough to beat my fears
A tortoise lives
A hundred years