9th May, 2015
In the current scheme of things, this will seem like the worlds crappest whinge but it’s raining and I wanted to wear my slingbacks.
10th May, 2015
Amusing myself with the mystery pigeon that turned up last week and appears happy to stay and eat the horse food. He’s a nice enough fellow.
19th May, 2015
Life is very mixed up at the moment – tonight I actually went on a date. Strange but true. Even stranger to actually be on a date with someone you are married to, and yet haven’t been married to. Brain has much to tick over.
22nd May, 2015
A train pulled in. It’s carriages had letters on. But they were not in the right order. It had the alphabet written on it backwards.
4th June, 2015
Sitting waiting in the cafe after work, waiting to be rescued because my card got declined for the shopping I did after my shift. I can’t be bothered to be embarrassed. More, am dreading the evening of lectures. You can’t work your week away on minimum wage and not be in debt. It sums up my whole life. I could cry, but at the moment, my tears are saved for bigger things.
5th June, 2015
Again with the plastic bags at work! I ask some posh old bloke if he would like bags and I get a mouthful of sarcasm delivered in clipped, cut glass tones. He delivers a wonderfully eloquent lecture on how many other ways I expected to take his shopping home. In a bucket? On a donkey? he s asks me why I would actually ask such a question. I explain that we ask everyone as many people bring their own bags now. He tells me that I must be stupid, must actually BE stupid. Are you stupid? He asks. Then still expects me to pack his Red wine and bullshit shop. I cannot generalise here, but I so wanted to say f**k you. F** you all the way over your misogynistic, baldy, tory, patronising, entitled, ugly head. Shall I bow now, you unmentionable tossrag? But I didn’t. I bit back impotent tears and continue to dream of rescue by fairies.
7th June, 2015
My shrinking experiments did not go entirely to plan tonight.
8th June, 2015
I posted a submission off this morning after dropping Dom off at school. I felt the moment needed that laughing policeman soundtrack. Why do I put myself through the inevitable heartbreak? Because for a few weeks, I will live with the whisper of hope that something will change life for the better. All I seem to do is work and miss everything. Saturday, all I could think was you have to sell/re home the horses. I sat in the grass with them and cried. If some magical forever home turned up for them, I might let them go. And it takes something to get me thinking like that. I am sick of not having enough time for Dom. Such an irony that life has trapped me in this fat, jolly exterior. No one wants to rescue an overweight damsel.
9th June, 2015
I have been rolling an idea about in my head for a couple of months and last night it was a sort of epiphany – I really would like to set up a little magazine. I woke up in a cold sweat but also in a sort of relief – but how does one do such a thing? One doesn’t simply wake up and pop into the office and instantly do it.
17th June, 2015
Today I have had a couple of friends on my mind – both are dealing with stuff that I wish they were not. I have not slept much and was having a wobbly day and as I drove up the horses, I put on a CD that I bought for £2 yesterday. It is ’40 Uplifting Songs’. I have a horrific taste in music, but the older I get, the less I give that tiny rat’s arse. As I drove to Wylam down this funny little cut past Bradley Gardens I saw some yellow irisey/orchidey flowers literally burgeoning by the pond. There were swans. The wild garlic smell flooded through the windows. Aled Jones was singing ‘You Raise Me Up’ and I am not ashamed to say I wailed my head off and had what I like to think of as a good old Cheesy Boo.
25th June, 2015
That Nicole Sherzinger – you show her a yogurt and she makes sexytime noises then falls of a chair backwards, dragging all the cloths and crocks after her. You wouldn’t have her round the house, would you? Or am I missing some secret appeal of the stuff? Me, I have always thought it is something you eat when what you really want is a giant slice of gateaux. I eat it and make slightly disappointed noises. And I don’t fall off anything.
2nd July, 2015
Is it here? Is it the actual flood? ??? Hail the size of golf balls! Jurassic lightning! Staring out of the window with saucer eyes, cowering at the thunder. Am expecting to see Gandalf and a Balrog or something.
2nd July, 2015
Saved some of the mega-hail in the freezer to show Dom this morning – him, that won’t sleep through a cat’s fart slept through the whole thing!!!
4th July, 2015
That moment when a herd of escapee ninja sheep leap out from a hidden hedge at you when you are on your horse. Horse does a 360 degree turn underneath you and buggers off, pronto. You loose your stirrups and are glad of that neckstrap, yet are surprised not to be actually sitting on the horse backwards. Yes, that.
9th July, 2015
Is getting on in any part of the world really only based on who you know? What is the talent/who you know ratio? Or am I just bitter? What is the talent/who you know/bitter ratio? How long does a person plod on for?
10th July, 2015
Does it bother anyone else that tear (as in boo-hoo) is spelled the same as tear (I rip up things)? It bothers me and makes me read things wrong.
14th July, 2015
So today has been one where I accidentally fell into a saucepan of old memories. Cheering myself up by messing with Russian dolls.
17th July, 2015
I read a really, really long poem last night – one written in three parts, about Harpyiai, Aellai, Anemoi, Erinyes, Philomela, Icelandic horses, hedgehogs, fires, hordeolums, atoll birds and pegging the washing out. It went on a long time and I hardly knew what to make of it myself. I ummed and ahhed for weeks about whether or not I ought to do it. I remembered huge sections of it. I went home and sat in a bit of a trance, wondering what I had inflicted on folk.
20th July, 2015
Had a very busy day – sorry if I have missed anything important, or any lovely news etc. After I did the horses, we attacked the front porch – emptied it’s entire contents, pulled the flooring up, removed the old underlay, washed the whole thing and spent hours scrubbing years of xmas/halloween sellotape leftovers from the windows, Dom’s old felt-tip marks etc. Took the nets down and washed them. Went to B&Q, bought new underlay. Floor just back down. That’s it tonight, have work tomorrow. Anyhoo, point of ramble – going through a few years worth of crafty projects, I found this. Why you would make a magnetic board/frame thingy out of reclaimed steel sheet, hardboard and tissue paper, and cover it with bi-lingual random words/numbers I don’t know. But I did, once. I am sure I had high hopes that I had come up with the number one thing people had to have in their homes, and would flock to my door to buy. Who knows why I ended up being like I am? But God loves a try-er, so they say.
25th July, 2015
Can I express my dislike of the phrase ‘pan-fry’. What else are you going to fry it in? A shoe? A cushion cover? A test tube? JUST SAY ‘FRY’. I should not be letting Saturday Kitchen be on the telly while I am drawing. It is causing all sorts of rage.
27th July, 2015
This morning I opened the bathroom window. Later on I had shower and forgot to close the window. The water was quite cold. As I dried myself briskly, I was reminded of campsite showering. The only thing missing was flip flops to avoid the hair, grass and unmentionables on the floor. Right now I am sitting in an ikea room set watching a pretendy telly.
11th August, 2015
Early hours one-thirty a.m. – my text tone went on the phone. I crawled up to answer it. I cannot ignore things like that in case it was an emergency. I was groggy. There was no text in the phone. Then my finger poked itself up my nose and made it bleed. Both my finger and phone appear to be possessed by mischievous spirits.
13th August, 2015
I had a terrible attack of vertigo this morning. I crawled downstairs to ask my husband for my tablets. Then I crawled back into bed and actually cried, I felt so bad. I have suffered from this on and off for years. I had work and got myself in a right upset. I did not want to phone in sick as I am so worried about money, letting folk down etc. I am also one of those people who finds it hard to accept that she is not well and can’t just plough on. I got my husband to help me shower and dress, then got him to drive me to work. I got help to my till, lasted an hour and they had to call home to get me collected. I could not walk so I had to be taken to the car in the company wheelchair. I felt so embarrassed and mortified and upset. I have been resting all day and motion sickness and anti-nausea. I am gently sitting up. Going to bed shortly. I feel like a right eejit and I am dreading going back to work. I should not have been so daft as to go in, but I rarely accept defeat and need to learn to listen to myself more, maybe.
17th August, 2015
Scarborough In All Its Marvelousness
Friday. We Set Off.
It is the day after the vertigo attack. I am fragile but moving and have taken a lot of motion sickness tablets. Good old Dominic did the packing last night as I dictated what to put in. What a little star! Massive excitement – he cannot sleep! Alarm was set for 6.30am. It chimed and I got up very gingerly, went downstairs and let out the dogs. It was absolutely bucketing it down. Typical, but not off-putting. We are well used to such weathers.
Catherine texts me as we are in the car. The electric cables are down and she is stuck at Alnmouth. Our train to York was due to leave Newcastle Central Station at 9.30am. It is 8.50 am. Panic ensues – will we wait? Press on ourselves? Go back? All ticket restrictions are lifted, writes Catherine. Get on any train you can.
Newcastle station is in uproar – the big display board just says DELAYED, CANCELLED, DELAYED, DELAYED, CANCELLED. Dom and I go in and ask an official. All platforms closed except for 4. Head there. We feel nervous. On 4, a lady from Virgin looks at my tickets. GET ON THIS TRAIN NOW she bosses. We obey. You can sit anywhere – reservations are cancelled – anywhere, that is, except first class. No matter what the emergency, the well-to-do must be spared the unwashed masses. Nevermind! We are on. Travelling backwards, so far from ideal – we amuse ourselves by getting overexcited by the views from the window. Dom eats the family bag of Kettle Chips that he was meant to share with Catherine’s boys. I let him – he has been such a help and a comfort already.
Catherine texts. They are on the move, to Newcastle at least. We will try to meet up in York.
Dom and I get off at York. We marvel at the sheer number of bicycles left at the station and see a train painted up as a memento to the Tour de France. Our Scarborough connection is just leaving, the man says. I cannot run. It’s an hour and a bit until the next one. We wait – and meet up with Catherine and her boys Thomas and William. Boys shy at first, but soon out of their shells. Have a welcome coffee and a calm down. Then we are on our way. Get to Scarborough station for about one o’clock. Get a five-seater taxi to the hotel.
The Grand Hotel is flipping marvellous and we spent most of the visit trying to imagine what a wonder it must have been in its heyday. Too early for check-in, so we dump the bags and head straight out. Walk straight past a pair of tat/antique shops. Get very excited. Find an amazing café right next to the tramway. Eat a lot of very wonderful food. I shuffle off to get some money out and when I get back we check in and go to our rooms. Ours has a small, very thick-walled arched window and a sea view – it is so lovely! Room is a little rough, with stains here and there on the walls but clean. We have a Jacuzzi bath. Catherine is on the other side, a floor below. I scrounge extra pillows of a lovely hotel lady as she passes. I have five and a cushion, so hopefully will be upright enough to ward off another vertigo attack. We meet in the foyer and away we go! Straight into the tat/antique shop where I buy a small floral plate. It bodes well.
The weather is a tad inclement – I comment to Catherine that I feel like I packed a few jumpers shy. Kids want to head for the amusements. We catch the tram down – much hilarity and squealing! I do not look out of the windows. Kids and Catherine have an ice cream from the booth at the bottom. The lady serving us has extremely complicated and vivid green eyeshadow and long hair. She looks like a mermaid in a tabard. Lots of money wasted on the 2p sliders and various other bits. Discover two tat shops, go slightly wild. I buy some rock, but am not tempted by the Cornish Pastie flavour sticks. I fail to imagine it and I have a decent imagination. Dom gets a sugar dummy and a large bundle of fake Minecraft toys, plastic and plush. Man gives him one for free and we chat on for a bit.
Next tat shop offers up some Papillion goodies for Thomas and William and they are pleased as their dad has one. I buy a lady made from shells and a miniscule shell box. It perfectly matched the three I already have at home which I got in Blackpool. Same style, same red lining. These details are important. Me and Catherine buy a smooth, slate grey stone each with Scarborough written on them in gold letters and a cowrie shell which has been filled with resin and lots of smaller shells. We are very attracted by the selections of fridge magnets. Buy Dom a big wooden-shafted spade and a blue bucket in the shape of a turreted castle. I am so glad he is not too old for a bucket and spade yet. Catherine buys me a fridge magnet. We deem it the nicest one seen.
We visit another amusement arcade and win tickets – Catherine and William go to a machine that has one go left on it, play the go and win fifty! We never did get round to cashing them in. Then we walk a little further and end up in a lovely, but very crowded fish and chip restaurant. A loudly screaming child upsets our kids. The waitress gives us colouring pencils and paper, some Ben 10 gliders and Dom a free bowl of ice cream. Nice walk back. We detour up a wonderfully Alice-in-Wonderland-ish set of small, steep stairs, marvelling at the higgledy-piggledy nature of the houses that have sprung up just behind the sea-front. It’s a bit rough in places – some of the pubs have some right old types hanging about outside. I pass a row of brilliant, slightly more up-market tat emporiums I remember from previous visits.
One is open – the Thomas and Dominic buy these dreadful, squashy fake bananas. Dom buys a packet of fun snaps and we shout at him all the way home for throwing them at the ground too near to passer-bys. The other shop over the road is closed. I am wild with tat-urges as there are Russian doll trinket boxes in the window. We have to come back when the place is open.
When we get back, the bingo is in full swing and the place is heaving with merrymakers. The kids go mad in the hotel – it is so spacious with a million interesting balconies and stairways, not to mention a pool table. Off they go, to explore/play/run riot. Me and Catherine find this incredible lounge with the hugest windows and incredible views. We buy pints of lime and lemon and just sit. We watch the sky and sea change from misty grey, to vivid sunset blue, then slip into the black of night, with sparkling lights. We talk and talk for hours. Our kids have some minor altercation with a group of other kids. I pop to sort it out. Soon mended. Bedtime at nearly midnight. Dom sleeps like a log – I am wakeful as I am worried about feeling giddy. The sea is also so wonderful – I can hear it crashing about, so I lay, listen and doze.
I shower at 6.30 am and make a little pot of tea, switch the telly on and wait for Dominic to stir. He showers and we get ready. He is pestering to go to Catherine’s room and see the boys.
I discover a craft fair in the bingo room – I buy a knitted frilly tissue holder for us both as they remind me of sea cucumbers.
We meet downstairs for breakfast – it is a right shovel it in affair with huge queues. You make your own toast by taking bread from the stalagmites rising from the table, then feed it through this heated conveyor affair – one go is too little, two passes is too griddled. Then queue again for juices, teas, milk. Queue again for the buffet – hash browns, chips (this is Yorkshire after all), fried eggs, beans, tomatoes, bacon, sausage, fried bread, scrambled egg. Plentiful but not particularly tasty. We do not allow spirits to be dampened. Back to the rooms for quick toilet, grab the stuff, then off to the beach it is!
Weather is utterly scorching. We stock up on drinks and cross the beautiful, Verdigris green painted spa bridge. We swap stories of having been here in times past. Heading for the beach, we cut through a wonderful path down past miniature pavilions. It puts us where the amazing spa building itself is. Dominic stands in a huge dog-mess and I rage for a little bit about lazy bloody dog owners. The beach is acres of incredibleness and we set up blankets. The kids race off to play football and draw a mini-pitch on the sand. Catherine wishes to brave a swim. I make a towel tunnel and she wriggles into her costume. Brave woman! The sea is bitingly cold she is soon back, to re-wriggle into her clothes. I keep pointing out the church-on-the-hill-near-the-castle-where-I-got-married. I am worried I am becoming a crashing bore with it. I have a sunburned nose.
Five hours-ish later, we are hungry so we head down the beach to walk backwards to the spa complex where we know there is food. The old toilets at the bottom are still there. Dominic goes wild over two pug puppies. I am missing the dogs and hoping they are okay. The glass fronted spa is wonderful, all set up with deck chairs. The pub next door is gorgeous. The kids all have luxury hot chocolate with marshmallows and towers of cream. Catherine and me have hummus, carrot and beetroot sandwiches. After we leave, we discover another tat shop next door. I buy a family of glass penguins. Catherine debates over a lovely nautical snow globe. It is a bit steep at four pounds fifty. She decides to wait and see if we find one in another shop. We pop back to the hotel to dump off the beach gear.
We took a very long walk along the seafront, past the beautiful harbour, stopping at an old fashioned ice cream parlour. We have choc nut sundaes and they are very delicious. Then we went on to the Lunar Park, where the big wheel is. The kids are limited to two rides. They are told they are too big for the trampolines, which causes momentary upset. They go on the big wheel – I have to nominate Catherine to go on with the kids. Thomas has to get off at the last minute as it is a bit of a scary operation. Six turns later, they are back to ground and on the dodgems. Right grumpy bugger running those.
On the way home, we go into another shop – I buy a little galleon made from shells and a seahorse that looks like it is made from shells but is not. Also another shell box in the shape of a heart. Dominic buys a strange triangular cuddly toy character with Hershey Park written on its stomach for two ninety-nine. The shop next door is the fabulous Price Pounder – which proclaims, in loud letters on the front, SWEETS PETS WOOL LARGE FUDGE. I dearly want to know what ‘large fudge’ is.
There is not much in this shop that you might actually want, except for a wonderful round clock which has pictures of various birds instead of numbers and makes a different bird noise on the hour. We have to buy one a piece, and there is malarkey for a while as we take clocks out of boxes and try batteries in them to make sure they work. Thomas buys a selfie stick and Dominic a plastic gun that makes a loud popping noise. William and Dom takes turns being the zombie who gets got until Catherine’s head has had enough. We pass a lovely looking café and earmark it for dinner later.
We pass a bargain book store and I buy sweets for the kids, but they don’t really taste all that nice. Cherry lips and barley sugars. Then we take another set of interesting steps and climb them. There is more admiration of the houses and the numerous hanging baskets. We detour back to the shop with the Russian doll trinket boxes. To my utter dismay, it is still closed. In desperation, I ask at the shop opposite. The lady tells us to knock at the big green door next to the shop as they live above the shop. Won’t they mind? We query. No, they won’t – this is Yorkshire, she tells us. We cross over and gingerly knock. A lovely man answers and we grovel apologetically. He does not mind at all and lets us into the shop through his hall. Catherine buys a ship in a bottle. I buy two of the doll trinket boxes, a miniature Delft tea set, a fridge magnet for Catherine and a clock for Dominic with a picture of rugby players on. The shop owner is a rugby fan, so Dominic shows off the giant, livid bruise that he earned playing a game a few days previously. The shop with the incredible selection of novelty fudges is still closed. The kids are sad. The shop is called Fuj.
We take a taxi back to the café we had chosen earlier. It is so lovely – we have a mixture of chips, chicken, gravy, peas, egg, beans and fish. Then apple pie, flake cheesecake, sticky toffee pudding and chocolate brownie sundae. We watched the night creep in and the lights highlight the lovely little lighthouse. The walk back was soon over. We stopped at the Zoltar Speaks fortune telling machine and had some very apt fortunes told. My one was flipping amazing and I cannot wait to write a poem from it! Back at the hotel, the kids had a good old time playing with the friends they had made and me and Catherine sat in the same place we had sat in the night before and ordered pots of tea. Dominic came dashing up to tell us William was hurt. We sped to the pool table. I stopped off en route to grab another teacup. We found that a rogue ball had hopped off the table and hit him square on the forehead. We tried to get him to come to the other room and drink tea, but he wanted to carry on playing. At eleven o’clock, we headed to bed, as we had to pack and check out by eleven the next morning.
Me and Dominic got down to breakfast first, so I began the task of queuing and foraging. After the boys had finished, they scampered off to play pool. I made Catherine laugh doing impressions of how we will eat our breakfasts in hotels together when we are powdery ladies of a certain age. I am feeling sad as the holiday is coming to an end. We go up and down a few times with the luggage and put it in storage. I buy a pamphlet about the history of this interesting hotel. We head to the beach one last time, park in walking distance of a little café and settle down. Catherine heads off to buy teas and has the genius idea of bringing back deckchairs. She swims again and is even colder this time. I watch the kids while she goes back to the spa to buy her snow globe, as there was not another one to compare. My husband turns up in the car to collect me and Dom. We have a last café lunch together and we part company before she heads off to the train station. I miss them as soon as they are gone.
We have a few hours left so we walk up St Nicholas Cliff to visit St Mary’s Church, where we married thirteen years ago. We spend a long time inside, looking at the stained glass windows. The nice ladies in there made us coffee and we reminisced. I buy pamphlets about the windows and copies of Anne Bronte’s last poem for myself and Catherine. I dearly wanted to show her this place. A couple with a baby left a bottle behind. Dominic chased them all the way down the hill to give them it back, bless them. The dad was so glad he gave Dom two pounds. Dom said it dod not mtter, but the man insisted. After an hour in the church, we looked around the graveyard then went to visit Anne’s grave. I stood there a while and began to read her last poem to myself. My blooming mobile phone rang – it was a friend back home in Greenside wanting to know if she could borrow one of the dog crates. It sort of spoiled the moment slightly, but I got back to it. I wished Anne well and we walked back to the car. We passed Fuj and it was open so Dom spent his reward money on some. A lovely treat for him! Dominic had a little cry at the thought of leaving and I felt like joining in. The carking of the seagulls was touched with melancholy.
I have written all this down as I may not be able to tell you in person and I do not wish to forget.
19th August, 2015
You began a poem a while back. You Start well, try to stick to the forty line or less thing. Have a good edit. Realise with dismay it’s four A4 sides long. But you feel you can’t make it any shorter, you had so much to write about. You also realise you are going to add a part two. I have some kind of problem possibly.
22nd August, 2015
I could not sleep. Having a very strange and unlucky time with practical circumstances. Vertigo still niggling. I can function but am so tired I am like a weeping willow. I am worried sick about the little red car and money. The two lovely men who had me up to perform today will think me terrible. A poem is sitting on my shoulder like a goblin. I am going to have to start writing it though I don’t want to.
23rd August, 2015
Dropped car off at garage for fingers-crossed early MOT tomorrow. On to take Dom to rugby practise. Bonus – car boot on! Tattinous bargains today – mini clogs, three for £1. Pretendy ceramic Benidorm fan 20p. Trinkety box, 50p. Blue and white teapots £4 the pair. WHimsical figurine 20p. Blue pot thingy, 50p. Chinese vase with little chicks on it, 20p. Tureen whatsit, £2. Little plate with bluebell wood painted on it, 50p. Big jug from Portugal given to me for nothing as it was end of the sale. 50’s plastic dish, 20p. Porcelain shoes, 50p each. Very old and odd matador, 20p. He definitely has a story. You may notice I got a lot of stuff for 20p. This is because I got chatting to two lovely nanas who wanted to sell me the whole stall for 20p.
Tat collecting is more complicated than it looks – I like to categorise it – for example, the clogs are miniature tat but also souvenir from your hols tat – so they cross category. As do the shoes and fan – souvenir from your hols. miniature AND stuff that looks like something but is made of something that renders the item it is meant to be unusable. I am perfectly normal, honest guv’nor.
24th August, 2015
I made myself feel weird by ending up writing a very horrible poem. I don’t actually know if there is any merit to it, or if it is a giant bag of bitterness or if it goes too far.
25th August, 2015
It’s tat o’clock! After a jolly good ride and some housework, I went on an errand to collect an oil filter for the car. There were charity shops nearby. It would be rude, selfish, strange and just plain wrong if I did not call in just to see. There might have been some shift in the universe had I not. Got some lovely stuff – some blue and white Spode plates and bits, a tiny cup and saucer, a trinket box with rustic scene. A wonderful 1950’s vase with a little boy who’s name is Petit Renee. And a figurine. Then I looked at china cabinets on ebay and realised that I actually get a funny feeling inside when I look at them.
26th August, 2015
I have had a couple of days for the pomp and splendour of the TV premier of Les Mis to wash over me in a tidal wave of good ballads. I was floating on bubbles of emotion – and now, in the cold light of day, my brain is on its way to spoiling it for me for a number of reasons.
- Marius, our rich boy turned rebel has never noticed the incedible, beautiful survivor Eponine who has struggled side by side with him for many a moon. He is not allowed to fall in love until he seespretty, delicate, sap-in-a-fancy-bonnet Cosette, shining like a flawless lily among the grit of the poor.
- Cosette – grew up in fear and desperate poverty but now lives a life of ease and riches – yes, they have to do the occasional moonlight flit but they eat like kings and wear satin. Did she just totally blank out her past? She takes no part in the uprising despite knowing first hand what it is to live like that. Is it post-traumatic rich disorder? A wasted character, surely?
- Marius is the only one worth saving in the uprising. All his poor comrades lay there dead – Jean must save the posh totty for his wilting daughter lest she shed a tear. The rest of them can go up the wall. There are totes plents of poor folk biffing about after all.
- Javez has some kind of epiphany at the end. Instead of manning up and using his power and position to change not only himself, but the lot of the common folk, he jumps off a bridge.
- Marius and Cosette marry. There is a close up of her sleeve and I notice that the lace on her arm is so stunning that the cost of it would feed a village for a year. They have a huge, fancy wedding dressed to the nines – the guest list includes all he fancy bourgeoisie that Marius has been railing against for most of the story. Does this mean that he has done with his slumming and all is ok now as he is back home with grandpapa and his heiress? Will they now become revolutionaries and turn their fortune and privilege to the good of the masses? Have they both learned the lesson that it is much flipping better to be posh and rich?
Thank you brain. Am I completely wrong?
30th August, 2015
4 pages, 93 lines, 972 words written into 5 sections since Friday evening. Not a show off post. My eyes are bloodshot. It has shifted some feelings into a slightly better place. I just submitted it. I feel a bit guilty landing it upon the recipient, but you just have to say stuff sometimes. Or a lot of stuff, a lot of time if you are me.
2nd September, 2015
Cheese Mites. CHEESE MITES! Thank you BBC 4, I shall never eat cheese again. EVER. Cheese Mites!!!!
4th September, 2015
Found such a lovely proper Lloyd Loom box seat today – I just wish it had not been daubed with up-cycley, shabby-chic paint. I have managed to scrub a bit of it off so you can see the gold highlighting a bit. I understand changing up something a bit naff – but a lovely LL piece? It’s awful, it is. Thankfully the colour is liveable with but it’s a shame to loose its original splendour. This fear of the old. Pease excuse the washing on the airer behind. Also a tureen. I have been rolling the word around my mouth like soup. Tureen, tureen.
5th September, 2015
Been up so, so early. Got three people up, dressed and leaving the house for Dom’s footie match by 8am. Done the dogs, swept out three rooms downstairs. (I am doing sweeping twice daily and a hoover a couple of times a week to try and save energy and be greener). Have one wash out on the radiators, one wash on the line and one in for when I get back. I notice Dom and James’ trousers on the line are as long as mine now. Sigh! Been keeping in text-touch re Dom’s match – I get so stressed wittling on for him. Kids footie is a funny thing- there are lovely people, but there are also a lot of pushy, not very nice parents who are raising their kids to be not very nice too – and I always worry about that. Dom is a lovely gentle soul who has had a lot of bad stuff said to him by kids and parents. He cannot help being good at being a goalie. A bit of me wishes he did not play but a lot of me is glad he is achieving dreams.
Now I am reading poems as I am doing a bit at the Lindisfarne Festival this afternoon and am more than bricking it. I am keeping calm right now by talking to the lovely guest ed of the Damsel’s next issue about why we do what we do, and how humbling it is to be on the other side of subs and see the quality in other’s work.
Must practise, must practise.
6th September, 2015
Car booting again – had £7, came home with £3. Not bad!
Lovely wooden, painted photo frame – it had a pic of Lago di Garda in it – I did not like the pic nor have I been there so this time I was allowed to tat tamper and replace the pic with a Wedgewood pattern. One Wedgwood egg-cup and plate. One other plate.
My favourite find of the day – an old Scarborough teapot. I got so excited when I saw it! A small condiment pot. A posy pocket with a psalm on it in the shape of a pretendey open book.
An Arthur Wood jug. I have a few of these – I am trying not to collect any one thing, but as it was in the three-for-a-pound box, would have been rude not to.
A cross-stitch Pierrot picture. Best of all, a matching vase to my Petit Renee one – Little Pedro. I had even gone as far as looking them up on ebay but it was going against the tat experience just to buy one, instead of rootling one out. And they were a tenner. Keep the old eyes peeled and one will come your way, it seems. Now to try this approach with the many other things one wants in life.
8th September, 2015
I have not slept. I have cried buckets this morning. Dominic on his first day at the really big school. All you can do is hope for the best for your kind, sweet, soft hearted child.
9th September, 2015
I finished work at four. Dom walked down from school to meet me there. Home by 4.40pm. Frogmarched kid through homework. Out the door by 5 . 15. Took child to rugby. Straight on to football. I am sitting arse deep in damp grass, freezing my knockers off. Just ate a lindt bar I got for free at the petrol station with voucher. Reading good book. Does this picture represent that aspirational hipster life crap that seems so popular? Maybe I need an inspirational quote. ‘For every dampness in your ass, your ass is grass. ‘ will I ever get home today?
11th September, 2015
Managed to fit in a bit of tat detection today, in-between lovely fuss with Flynna and Charlie and ride on Orca, completion of my cover for the Heaney anthology and some work on another illustration job and an epic homework session with Dom. Something was calling to me – it was a pair of Royal Duc Courting figurines from 1930’s, two Keel Street Cottage Ware bits (I bought these because they reminded me of something, or somewhere, but I couldn’t think what), a sort of 3D picutre thingy and a figurine I had to buy for the glorious knickerbockers.
11th September, 2015
Is there something wrong with me? I don’t know – I feel very lonely and paranoid.
12th September, 2015
I just accidentally fell asleep to a programme – the narrator’s voice was so lulling! Thank you all for being so lovely to me – it is much appreciated and thanks for all the positive feedback for my Heaney cover. Also I had one lovely acceptance this morning for the next KOAHurricane Press anthology – and the most curt, one line rejection I have ever had from another mag. Life is funny – it tickles you under the chin and kicks you up the arse at the same time.
13th September, 2015
I saw an amazing tattorium on Gumtree. Only £25? Too good to be true, thinks I. Anyway, I could not help feeling a bit proud of myself as I drove me and Dom over there and found the place without getting lost at all. I had turned up early so I took Dom to a nearby park. There were a load of young blokes playing a game of football so we sat on the bank and watched them. Then they all took their tops off to air their tattoos and six-packs so I thought we had better leave.
Then went to see the cabinet. It was massive and fab! The man told me it would never, ever fit it in the back of my Corsa. I smiled to myself and thought how he had never met me and my absolute certainty that I will own this cabinet and fit it in. After instructing him in some clever angling and tilting, and shuffling forward of seats, it was in and he was gobsmacked. I may have been an inch away from the windscreen, but it is home. And it is looking a lot happier with a bit of tat in it. He watched me drive away with a stunned expression on his face. Lack of boot space will never prevent tattorium acquirement.
I also had a mooch about the car boot while Dom played rugby this morning and found a bit of stuff. Then had a meeting in the club after where there was some kind of argument with the coach and some parents. That was depressing – you can’t seem to escape from crap like this at kiddies sports and it is depressing.
17th September, 2015
I want to take a moment to salute the people out there who, like me and other friends that I know and love are stuck in jobs they either hate, or have to do in order to survive. If you think that we do it because we are strong people, or that we do it because it is easy for us and we have no problems, you are very, very wrong. I know I am not the only one who suffers from crippling depression, feelings of paranoia and hopelessness. I know I am not the only one who has to beat herself/himself up emotionally to get up and out of the door some days.
There are not words to describe the misery of being stuck there, hour after hour, week after week, month after month, year after year, watching your life slip away. Most opportunities you will miss and go on missing, because you cannot simply decide not to be at work. Nor do you have anyone to look after your children for you beyond the occasional night here and there – and it is very, very occasional in some cases. Some are not blessed with family who will pick up the slack. Some people’s partners are working equally as hard and cannot pick up the slack either. Some couples work one days, one nights to be there for the kids and earn enough money to survive.
There are not words to describe the misery of using up what is left of your youth and energy in a minimum wage, menial job when all you want to do is write and create. Not being there for your children, missing their moments is terrifically horrible. I know I will not be the only one who’s mental and physical health is suffering daily – tennis elbow, bad backs, bad knees, stiff necks – not to mention the daily fights with the feeling that you want to scream and run, as far as you can. Fitting in a bit of midnight writing is not enough. You cannot afford the time or money to go on retreats – if there is enough time or money for a holiday, the whole family shares in it. Your writing suffers daily. The things you could be doing!
Not that you mind – your kids are your world and you would do anything for them. Anything – including sacrificing your own happiness – that is just what you have to do, when you have to.
The car has broken down, the kids need clothes – the washing machine is on the blink. You pray for time to go backwards every day of your life but the hands go round at top speed no matter what you do.
You write rants on Facebook because you would snap if you didn’t.
18th September, 2015
Hive mind – does it work against you in poetry comps to have swears in your poems? Or does it not matter? If the former, then I am surely firkled.
18th September, 2015
I am currently drawing Margaret Thatcher with an arrow in her head. Fear not – it’s for a commission – I have not finally and properly lost it.
20th September, 2015
I am going to miss the car boot when it shuts soon – it will make watching Dom’s rugby practice seem….longer, and less full of tat. Today’s finds –
a trio of cats that the man said his dad had brought back from Hong Kong during the War – they had lost their chain so I gave them a new one – they appear to be covered in sugar – but it is actually granules of glass. I doubt this would pass Health & Safety today. 30p.
A little black chinoiserie box with little shelves inside – 50p.
Three old tourist souvenir dollies – I am developing a bit of a thing for these – they have to be old ones – they have the maddest faces! 20p each, so 60p.
A miniature tea set – £2.00
A teeny-weeny cup that just has ‘Jesus Christ’ on it – I don’t know why,but it made me chortle with laughter. I do not mean to be blasphemous or offend – it just seems to be the perfect thing to look at when you are having ‘one of those days’. 10p.
A tiny porcelain boot from Skye. 10p.
A trio of soldiers – the middle one is a rebel – he has his hand on his hip and his head cocked. £3.00.
An absolutely beautiful old plate – £1.00.
A tea-pot that appears to have sprung to life from my actual imagination – it’s like it has been invented specially for me. £3.00.
21st September, 2015
Big phew! Home to emails from both poet and publisher that they are happy with six illustrations I was commissioned to do. So that was a huge relief! Writer said ‘At first I’d thought something much more prosaic and representative would fit the bill, but your spooky, scary and inspired illustrations really do reach the parts others don’t’. Hats off to them for letting me have my head. Now I just have to wait and see when I might be allowed to show them to anyone who wants to see them. Or when the pamphlet is going to be launched!
Now I am going to relax, stretch some paper and make a little start on my cover for my Indigo collection – I have finally thought of a title for it, and the contents – mostly!
22nd September, 2015
I am glad – glad I took the piss out of Cameron yesterday – we all know here how shit Tory policies are, how much he is screwing the poor, how little he is doing for the everyone that needs help and assistance. When I went to work yesterday, the three people I spoke to in the morning had no clue what had just happened and said that they ‘wondered what the pig stuff was all about.’ Now they know – and they might, just might realise what kind of people we have in power. And look a little more into how our country is run. Taking the piss out of him does not mean you do not take the way he has screwed the country seriously. It does not mean you will not suffer under his policies and it does not mean you are frivolous. I felt elated – yes, elated walking from my car to my poorly paid job yesterday because I thought maybe – maybe this is the little start of things starting to topple for them. Maybe more people will see and question what they are. I do not pity him at all – we all know right from wrong – wrong is wrong is wrong. I do not pity him because he was raised to be a wealthy, heartless shit. This product of his environment stuff – we are all products of our environments – what matters is how we choose to spend out adult lives. I sign petitions – I write to my MP (for what good it does) and I try to help people look after themselves at work. I give as much as I can to charity. I see wrongness everywhere. I hope the pig stuff does something to raise more public awareness of what we have in power. Then more people might look deeper and find things much, much worse than a penis in a pig’s mouth.
24th September, 2015
Some thoughts about the poetry world. Where do I belong in it? Where do I want to be? Where the hey do I fit in? I am not a performance poet. I am not an academic poet. I don’t have the time or money to go the MA etc route. I am not a pleasant or gentle person. The one thing I learned last night is that I am a huge loud unsophisticated monster. I am not ashamed of myself. But where is for me? And could dealing with doms new school be any more stressful? I it’s only been a fortnight but it’s got me on my knees. I am getting older. Where and what is life going to be and who the hell am I?
25th September, 2015
Cat lovers – I know there are many of you here – I do not speak very fluent cat – I do my best to talk dog and horse, but I have never been a cat person, I don’t know why. Not that I would ever hurt or dislike one. Anyway – the last week, there has been this lovely looking black, fluffy cat hanging about the bottom of the drive. I say hello to it, it puts its tail up and meows. Yesterday I bobbed down and it came running up, seemingly joyfully and I gave it sone gentle strokes along its back. I was just thinking, ooh, this seems to be going well, when it span round and bit me really hard on the arm. I was like aaargh!!!! And the cat was like, rubby rub round the legs, carry on please. So I did, but more nervously. Today, after I had walked Dom to the bus stop, there it was again. It came bombing up and was doing leaps up my legs and very loud meows – jumping right up like a dog. I was a bit scared (pathetic I know!) as I thought eeek! Is it trying to bite me again? But I gave it a lot more strokes and it ran up to the house with me. I left the door open and popped in to get it something to eat. The dogs could see it through the baby gate I have on the end of the hall. They were going nuts. I gave the cat some ham and it was still there for a while, so I shut the door, Five mins later it was gone. Should I not have fed it?
27th September, 2015
A trip up Prudhoe high street on Friday brought up an almost matching pink Lloyd Loom chair to match the one I already have, and a lovely footstool. It has made Tete a tete corner even more lovely. Then, this morning, a wander round the car boot while Dom was at rugby – turned up some lovely stuff – everything wonderful and gold like these little tea items seems to have come from Czechoslovakia. I love them. £1.50 the lot. A wonderful Bambi, 50p. A lovely statue of a girl – she looked so forlorn on a junk dealers stall that I had to take her home – £1.50. A Pierrot trinket box that Dom said was the ‘scariest thing he has ever seen’, 50p. A mega-huge old jug, £3.00.
28th September, 2015
Today we have been married for 12 years. Here is a pic of me all that time ago – I hope I have the kind of friends now who would not make comments like – ‘that’s never you!?’ (believe me, that has been said). There have been a good few reasons that until a month ago, I had not had these pictures on display. It is interesting to see what raising kids, PND, OCD and a whole basket of other issues, lots of hours in demanding, poorly paid jobs and a lot of relationship difficulties can do to you. Heigh-ho! Still here, still plodding on. You can’t change the past – you can only hope for the future!
29th September, 2015
I can’t count – yesterday I had been married 13 years, not twelve. Oops. I think I will think of that as ‘the missing year’.
29th September, 2015
I have meant to have a quite drastic new haircut for a while – and chickened out four times. Then the hair got way too long and straggly. Today was the day I went and had that drastic new haircut – going to take some getting used to – happily, I can still wear hair slides with it! All purple gone now – going for a nice autumnal gingeryness this month.
29th September, 2015
Don’t bother buying Asda frozen banoffee pie. It tastes like someone wee’d on a load of bananas, mashed in some caremalised plastic and covered it in arse cream. It takes some doing, to actually make a cake that I do not like. They deserve a medal – a medal made of rotten sprout skins for spoiling my precious cakey -time. Bah. I still ate it. Otherwise there would have been no cakey -time AT ALL. And then where would I be? Living with grubby feelings of self -disgust, that’s where.
1st October, 2015
Would it make you look like a complete knackerpants to have a title on a collection’s cover with no capital letters in it?
3rd October, 2015
Busy day, but lovely day – not at work, time with horses and kids. Incredibly misty early on. I wonder about my horse Charlie who a long time ago I nicknamed Chuckles – I thought today might be the day I got a pic of him with his ears forward. Today was not that day. As soon as the camera goes down, up go the ears and I swear he smiles. Then a very misty ride on Orca – he saw ghosts everywhere. Then on to Segedunum with Dom for his school project – lovely time there! Quite a view from the tower of the river and Swan Hunters. Weird moment when I saw an actual real stuffed pony in the museum. I have never seen one look so real. I actually poked its bum. It made me feel so sad – this is like the sort of lovely pony that pony mad children dream about. It was like its life was missing. Strange. I really wanted to climb over and cuddle it. Happy and dead, like it did not know it was.
5th October, 2015
A very good morning to you all, poets, writers, readers! I am so pleased and stunned to see that the Damsel has now had 11,556 views! I feel so happy that so many people from so many countries have visited us now – I can’t help feeling that, even in a small way, poetry has the power to connect the world. I have friends now that I would never have met were it not for this online magazine. Because it is online, it is easier for so many people to access – accessibility is so important in poetry for so many reasons. I never thought for a moment that I would start a project such as this and I cannot thank the lovely women who help me keep it going enough. Our most popular day for viewing is a Wednesday, most popular time, nine p.m. Now that I have discovered this fact, I will be thinking of you all extra hard on a Wednesday!
We have had poems from people who feel they are newer writers, people who feel more established. People who have been published before, people who have not. People with Creative Writing qualifications, people (like me) who do not. I see no difference between the two – there is room in the world for everyone’s styles, tastes and opinions. I would never sit in judgement on any of them. None of the above make one person a better writer than another – none of them influence our decisions here on whether we would take a poem or not. There is merit in raw, merit in polished, merit in rough around the edges.
A friend asked me this morning, ‘when did you start writing?’. My answer was ‘three years old’. His reply? ‘Smart arse.’ But in a lot of ways – how true? It made me think – how do you define the point at which you might have started writing? If I took my start point to be three, then I have been writing for almost forty-one years. If I cast my mind back to the depths and recall when I wrote my first actual poem, I was twelve. Does that mean I have been writing for thirty-two years? Do I measure my ‘writing time’ from when I first had a poem published? If so, then I will have been writing for about four years. I do not think that we can measure our ‘writing time’ – after all, it can take people months, or years to have the courage to submit work to magazines. What about the years spent formulating thought, before you even had the courage to put pen to paper? Every time you picked up a pen or pencil, it was a stepping stone on a journey. No one way is more valid than another. A poet may say they have written for ten years – and in all that time, may have written four pieces. A poet may have written for four years, but have written every single day. Who is to say which way is better, or ought to be more respected?
Writing is writing, is writing – ’nuff respect to all of you out there who are doing it. Let us never dismiss a ‘new writer’ – there is no time you ought to stay under a stone, stewing until you are ready! If you want to write, write! If you want to submit, submit! If someone likes your work, they will publish it. If they are kind, they might help you with edits. If they do not take it, it does not mean you ought to give up. It is by doing that you learn – by practise you improve. Read – read as much as you can – read journals in print and online. Read books, pamphlets! Join writing groups online and in ‘real life’ – you will make friends, find encouragement, learn more, discover opportunities you did not know existed. The poetry world will slowly open up. Do not be intimidated. Some people welcome the new, some people fear or mistrust it, some people budge up on the bench after a little while.
It’s the same with editing – it’s not an easy business and the other Damsels and I have thrown ourselves off at the deep end. How else does a person learn? It’s like those job ads you see – how you would love the job – but experience? How do you earn that, unless someone lets you try? We are all learning on the hop – I believe we have all become a lot more humbled by what people have sent to us – what amazing parts of themselves they have shown to us. The picture is so much bigger than we are – and I cannot thank our wonderful poets enough for being part of our project. We never set out to be anything more than we are – we simply love poetry! Personally, I have often wondered where I ‘fit’ in the poetry world. I guess the answer is here, among the massive variety of voices, styles, ages, genders – page poets, performers, inbetweeners. If you are doing it, we are loving it!
So the next time someone asks you – how long have you been writing? Do the maths – subtract three from your age right now and give ‘em the answer with a wink. Then go on practising your craft, go on learning, go on discovering the joys and pain within. Never allow yourself to be discouraged – stay open to learning something new and look for improvement. There is room in the poetry world for all, if we remember to share. Good luck and best wishes to all, no matter what your opinion. Please keep sending us your work and we will do our best to do it justice. It seems that it has never been more important to be welcoming and inclusive. The Damsel sends you love, always xxx.
5th October, 2015
I am usually rota’ed in at work on a Monday – today, cos of shift cock up’s, I am not. I actually WANTED to be though – today is a momentous day in England, because finally, after this part of the UK dragging its feet, YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR CARRIER BAGS! I really, really wanted to sit there, watching folk stop greeding them for no real reason – the planet breathes slightly easier today. Do you need to double bag that shopping madam – in case between the trolley and your car, the bags decide to spontaneously dissolve into a thousand pieces? Do you need to now put every item in a separate bag in case your beans give your pasta tin-itus? Or your cake infects your bread with cakey-ness? Despite the fact that they have been merrily rolling around your trolley together all this time? No – today you do not, you environmental locusts – because YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR THEM. A good day, a good day indeed
7th October, 2015
Today, the Swan Of Earthly Delights says that it is 12 degrees C in the front porch. I have been sat there, trying out the new back massager thingy. I did not like it – it was like being touched by a creepy person. When it had finished its program, I did feel a little bit looser. Maybe I can get used to the feeling of being prodded by invisible goblins. Otherwise, had a bit of a scary moment in the shower yesterday. I have this ugly carbunkle thing on my left boob. It has got bigger over the years. I did go to the doc about four years ago about it, they said they would refer me to get it removed. That never happened, don’t know why. Anyway, me being me, I just do the ‘heigh-ho, carry on’ thing. Yesterday morning I was in the shower and happened to look down and see it was bleeding quite a lot. Sort of sluicing really. Then I got dried and went to work, with tissue stuffed in my bra. I tried to make an on the day appointment with the docs this morning, but by 8.15 am the appointments were already gone. Otherwise it is at least a two week wait, so I am going to try again tomorrow and get an appointment, fingers crossed. Anyway, while I was sat in the massage-on-the-chair thing, I had a lovely view of cabinets and tat.
9th October, 2015
Ravens and sunlight, stacked chairs leaning like high divers from their toppling piles. The plunge is grey lino, their silver legs make a steely birch bower . There is a brown leaf, small on the floor. This is not a real forest.
10th October, 2015
I have such a good friend where I keep my horses – I have been there I guess nearly three years now – this xmas will be my third there, anyway. I have written a poem about her before where I mention the notes that she leaves for me. I had one today. I can’t help loving that she thinks of me when I am not there, thinks of what I would like. Tomorrow, me and her have an afternoon of madness, when between us we need to catch in and clean up, hold, then turn back out sixteen ponies ‘cos Harry the blacksmith is coming.
11th October, 2015
Jeremy Corbyn refused to kneel before the Queen! The whole nation was gripped at the mystery disappearance of the man – the temerity of him! Out walking with a dark-haired woman? Who might be his wife? Fish and chips in a local pub? He drank pop???? I DEMAND he spend taxpayers money on a bath of Macallan and foie gras, while having an affair with someone posh and while his Bentley double parks, blocks in a pensioner’s wheelchair AND has its engine still running. Get thee back and prostrate thysen before the grin of a pointless figurehead. Because she has more money than you and was BORN into the position. AND I just learned from a friend’s timeline that a toddler has taken a bite from an out-of-date pasty! Will they ever trust a pasty again???? I need to know!A whole bite? I can’t sleep now. Will the kid ever be able to eat his own snot again? Will there be compensation? AND I spent National Poetry Day behind a supermarket checkout. AND I need to write a stiff letter somewhere ‘cos my watchment of a cookery show this morning was totally ruined by the careless usage of the phrase ‘knob of butter’. This made me snort my cuppa over the scatter cushions. I resent this constant reminder that I might be more immature that I thought I was. Can someone please re-align the universe??? At this rate I will shortly make a cup of tea when I wanted coffee and THOROUGHLY ruin my morning. JEREMY CORBYN made my biscuit fall in my tea! I can see the headline now. AND don’t tell me to meditate or I will probs rip my own arm off.
11th October, 2015
I have just caught up on the Ted Hughes:Stronger Than Death. I have been swinging all over the shop, feelings-wise.
17th October, 2015
This morning my poached eggs looked like an owl. This must be somehow portentous.
20th October, 2015
Sunday, some kind of weird deforming strain to the wrist – something popped out and went in a strange angle – Monday morning popped it back in with a series of clicks. Strapped it up with vetwrap. Still very sore today but okay – glad the shift is over. Yesterday, huge meeting at school with regard to Dom and problems over with and survived. Today, hope some things have got sorted with personnel at work. Letter has arrived to arrange to have my thing taken off.
Huge urge over the last two weeks with regards to poetry to look back, sort, consider, read. Things have switched off. Other things have switched on. I feel different. Whether this is for the better or worse, I don’t know. I feel numb, floaty and sharp at the same time.
21st October, 2015
My friend where I keep the horses is keeping an eye on the badger sets down her four acre field. There is this marvelous bank of them, like a whole Watership Down style number of them. My friends land is private and belongs to her – she does not give the hunt permission to cross it. She does not support it and neither do I. They are not allowed to block up badger sets (as foxes will hide in them to escape being ripped up) as remember, they are not meant to be hunting foxes AT ALL. So last week, it went through the neighboring fields. She took a walk down and found all the sets blocked. Coincidence? It has happened before as well. But that’s right – tell us again how none of us city folks know how the real countryside works.
22nd October, 2015
I was too swept up in feels to write much last nigh – but Rita Dove – wow is not enough. Not just her work, that had the poetry bell going ding ding ding in my head, but herself. How massively intelligent, how authentic – not a whiff of aren’t I clever? Not one mention of what she has won, what qualifications she has, what residencies she has been on, no name dropping. Just this giant poetry brain – you can feel and sense the years of work she has put in. She had some brilliant opinions on poetry. She was accessible, warm, approachable. She has this huge thing for research, for poems built on real heart and soul mixed with actual technical gifts and grafting, not just some soulless piece with the occasional twiddly image. Grounded, yet flying. She seemed like a complete and utter kindred. I am so glad I went.
23rd October, 2015
Eeee well – long and funny old day today. Up with the larks, knackered after very, very late night yesterday. Buzzing so much when I got home, stayed out yakking with my lovely friend in the tea shop way past both our bedtimes. Cuppa when I got home, then a good few Larkin poems down on my current mission to read all his poems. Dom off to school, then up the horses. Spent an hour barrowing loads of hay to the barn, then emptying food sacks into bins, scrubbing buckets, swapping rugs ect until the pain in my recently dislocated wrist made me stop.
Got a little nugget of pony nut in my eye in the melee. Would not shift. Home to a stack of laundry – current load count today, 4. Changed, then off to Hobbycraft to buy supplies to help with Dom’s latest crackpot homework project from the school of hell – to make a model of a sperm. A sperm, for flips sake. Knowing Dom and his inability to remember owt, it probably was meant to be a model of a plant cell – and he will rock up with a giant sperm on a stick. So be it. Part one is currently firming up on the radiator.
I digress – while I was upstairs in Hobbycraft, mooching about with me pull-along basket, this bloke in his sixties comes up. He tells me he is sick and tired of trying to find the sewing sets. He asked me ‘why on earth would you lot tell me the sewing stuff was upstairs? I have wasted half an hour up here trying to find it. Why would you lot tell me it was here? I just want to sew a button on. I say, it seems to be just over there in the section under the ‘sewing’ sign. He says, well where are the needles? You lot have got this store so badly laid out. I say here, here are a wonderful selection of needles. And how am I supposed to find thread? Here, I say – here is a multipack of threads. And here, even, are needle threaders. Very handy. And by the way, I don’t work here.
About time, says the man – you lot have left me up here to wander round all this time – why didn’t you just come up and help me in the first place? Away he stomped, without a thank you.
So what made him assume I worked there? Maybe it is the years that I have spent dealing with the every cockeyed caprice of the great General Public – maybe I just have this servile stoop and cowed angle of the head from all that time having to serve ungrateful tosswipes with a smile on my face. I am wondering at what point he might have noticed that I was wearing a knee length, woolly grey cardi, flourescent blue and pink scarf and cream joggerbums tucked into Golddigga boots, rather than the uniform of a burgundy apron with HOBBYCRAFT written upon it in giant letters. I bet he never did – I wonder also if he put in a complaint about my slow service.
The bonus was, on the way home, my eyes were so tired they were running – and the annoying bit of lodged pony nut was washed out.
Back home to big tidy up, dog poop scoop etc. Cake was eaten. Cup of tea is due. Kids fetched in off the green and showered. Time for an hour of poems before tomorrow begins again.
What is it like to have a broken mind?
I can only tell you what it’s like to have my broken one – I can’t tell you what it’s like in someone else’s. Our minds break in different ways – they crack in places so personal to ourselves that I would never presume to know what is happening inside other minds.
I think I can say, with certainty that we are all survivors. Every day is a day that we might, at some point have never believed we would make it to. We might have wished those days away, we might have wished ourselves erased from them, included in them. We may have tried to forget them, relive them, deny them; hate them, love them. Sometimes we have only just made it through them.
A small boy knocked two large bottles of cheese and tomato pasta sauce off a shelf at work today. He was so upset, bless him! I gave him lots of cuddles so he felt better and then cleared it up. It bloody stunk, especially that early in the morning. It took ages to clear up. Now I feel I have repaid karma for that time years ago when my son Dominic puked three times at the checkout at Asda one Christmas. I was never one for cheesey-pasta sauces though, at any time. They smell and look sort of heavy. I am not much of a one for cooked cheese. Cheese and pickle sandwich, oh yes! Melted things, not so much.
I won’t go into detail about some of the things I have been through. You can safely assume that I have Been Through Some Stuff. The first ‘relationship’ I even had. If I told you about what happened there, you would be left not knowing what the fuck to say and I don’t want that – I would rather we just talked about the weather, poems, anything. I do not want you to look at me with sympathetic eyes while secretly wondering how quickly you can get away. It has left me continuously seeking out dangerous and hurtful situations. You never ask – it is up to the individual how much they want to tell and when. Me, I worry that the more people know, the more they will change in the way they relate to you. I get a chance, when I first meet someone, to have a go at being normal. (Whatever that is – again, we all have our own views on that). I get to have a time of being undamaged. I don’t make mistakes. I nod politely and interestedly at conversations. Smile.
see me smiling I am smiling I am see me smiling I am
smiling see me smiling me I am see me see me smiling
I know that I am going to unable to put all this down in a logical order, though I will try. My life has been a mixture of extremes, of either utter horror or idyll. I have never experienced balance – I have no knowledge of what this might be, or how to live with it now. I am a woman of extremes.
It takes a while for the crazy to leak from the cracks. And leak it does. Some days, I am buttoned down like a Victorian collar – other times I am sitting there opening emotional veins all over social media where all the world (or at least the people on my friend list) can read it all for themselves.
The tannoy at work keeps calling for the in-store cleaner – fair enough most days, but today, the one on duty is a lovely man who happens to be deaf. So they call him over the tannoy. I have taken to going to where I know he is and fetching him. Then explaining to the people on the tannoy that they might have to remember that he cannot hear them. I get irritated, they stare at me blankly. A short time after, they tannoy him again. I find him in the canteen, having his break. I am about to go off it again, when another lovely member of staff picked up the in-store phone and told them that they could clean up their own bloody mess, as A – he is on his break and B – you are calling him on the tannoy again???? So I am very glad there is someone else there who wants to help him too. He is lovely and I am glad to have made another ace friend.
It is a little bit like drinking way too much the night before and regretting it, come the morning. You feel all sorts of embarrassed. Or you don’t care at all. Not a fig. You wonder how many people read it and rolled their eyes, thinking there she is, off on another one. They probably think you are an attention seeking whinger who is making it all up to get some sympathy. Admitting you have mental health issues it’s all the rage, nowadays, isn’t it? To have this, or that? Have we all thought that at one time or another? Maybe. Maybe not.
I have always been ‘different’. I spend a lot of time trawling back through my childhood, looking for the first time I became conscious of this. The answer to this is always. Always. Was it nature or nurture? Or a combination of both? The circumstances in which you grew up go a long way to shaping you. I wonder, though – if I had grown up with another family, would I still have been the same? Can you fight your genetic history? If I had been a queen or a leaf on a tree, would I have worked out the same? Are you destined to become your ancestors?
There is a current obsession round here with broth mix. The mention of broth gets people of a certain age very excited, I have noticed. This broth always involves bacon joints. I love it when people link arms with me on the way to the pulses and tell me their recipes. It makes me happy.
I have always had a very difficult relationship with my mother. I try really, really hard not be envious when I see mothers and daughters together, laughing, shopping, chatting, walking. Having an actual relationship. I used to think I was a changeling – if we did not look so damn similar, I could have kept believing this, so different are we in nature. My family, and her will tell you that I am a liar. That I make it all up. I tried – I really did, for so many years but one day, it just became too much. It was cruelty, argument and stress I could live without.
I was talking to Laura-with-the-blond-hair who comes in and does the education at work. The chat began about the evils of surviving January, money-wise, and ended up with us both admitting we have bought second hand Christmas presents for our children when we have had to – especially expensive electrical items. I feel no shame in that and nor should anyone. People cannot live on minimum wage, no matter how hard they try. We are all just trying to do our best. I still sew a soft toy for my son every year. There is this rumour I heard when I was in the warehouse today. That people are having to go in the bins behind the Iceland for food when it has closed. So much sadness in my heart, hearing this. What has happened to the world?
When I was eighteen my parents went to try and live abroad with my younger brother and sister. Me and my elder brother absolutely refused to go. This caused a lot of rows and upset, but it felt like blessed relief. Unfortunately it went badly wrong and my mum ended up getting a plane home with my sister. Things had happened between her and my father which seemed unrepairable. Of course this was awful – my mum took to her bed and would not get up, would not communicate, would not function. My brother and I had jobs after our college – me in a bar, him in a nightclub and we did our best to support things, taking my sister to and from school, doing our best to look after her, the house. I remember our first Christmas – I remember bringing a Christmas tree home on the bus from Barnsley. One time mum asked me outright from her bed – after all he had done, did I hate my father? I found that I did not. I did not like what he had done, or she had done or what had happened. But I did not hate him.
I do not hate him now she hates me hates him did not hate him hate me her hate I do not hate him now she
She looked at me with such an expression of dislike. There were times in my life when he had been a lifeline, a small, secret ray on sunshine – he had had an understanding of all the things that were wrong with my family. From that moment on, she hated me openly and the rest of the years since have felt like a very long, very cold served revenge.
I have this theory that there are these invisible balls of grief that we share among us. They are the size of boiled eggs and very similar to swallow. Just enough to uncomfortably stretch your throat but not block it – and leave that pain after, like you ate something that was that bit too big for your gullet. They don’t sink to your stomach – they lodge in your sternum as if they were stones under mattresses – you feel them when you bend, when you breathe, when you walk around. Eventually they dissolve, and are passed out as an uncomfortable dream on time when you fall asleep on the sofa. They reform and float off to find another victim. But they do come back, as homing pigeons do. Or salmon, swimming back to where they were born.
Yes it hurts every single day that they have no interest in my son, that they have not seen him for about six years, maybe even more. When I see grandparents with their grandchildren it is more pain than I think I can bear. But my child will only go where he is loved and treasured, not resented for who he is, because of who his parents are. He will never know this. I would bear anything to spare him any thought that where he ought to be wanted, he is not. The pain for me is as fresh as it was all those years ago. I have failed to make a normal family for him, though I tried so very hard.
hates me hate her mum hates me hate her mum hates me
hate me her hates mum me hates me hate me mum hates
Gracious to Betsy, but Holbein was some painter. It is so amazing to see what the people actually looked like! It was like a gift from the heavens – that ability to paint like that! Silks that are so real you hear the rustle, jewels like you could pluck them from the side of hoods and hems – cheeks so photo-really done, you could rest your own against them and feel their pallor. In the backgrounds and as part of the clothes – tapestries and fabrics – someone wove them with real fingers, then he painted what they made. I am painting damask because I can! That hidden elliptical skull! I would like the magical power of being able to climb into the paintings and be part of them for a while. Or travel through them like portals. A bit like a Tudor-artisan Harry Potter. The layers of meaning! The H H on each side of his head in his self-portrait! The lady with the bird at her shoulder! His portrait of his wife.
I do not deny that they helped me with money, but this help was a tie. The help left you open to all the criticism and comments – sometimes I used to feel my mother was buying permission to hurt me – if I wanted the money, then I was to sit there and take the outpourings of bile about my weight, my career choices, my boyfriends. I used to ring of from these three hour long conversations with my brain actually boiling with fury and hurt. I cannot go on and on about the content of these calls or the childhoods I shared with my siblings. This is a whole other novel in itself.
It’s a stage you are going to grow out of. It’s just moods. You drink, you smoke, your party your way through your twenties with this voice – this constant voice in your head. Square peg! Round hole! Square peg! Round hole! You don’t quite understand your friends and their relationship with their families. You feel somehow, less than them in everything. Your childhood stories are never the same. You feel constantly embarrassed by who you are and where you come from. I don’t mean where you come from as in working class, middle class. I mean where you come from. You have nothing in common with anyone, not really.
The last two nights I have had odd dreams. I am not one of life’s dreamers – I never usually remember them, nor talk about them or try to analyse them. I know we all have them – I just never usually recall any. Friday night it was a slim woman with a pre-raphelite tumble of red hair, telling me, ‘You would live a better life if you were vegetarian.’ That’s the only bit I remember. Then last night it was endless old man faces with white hair and staring eyes – a bit like zombie Einsteins coming at me left, right and centre.
weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo weirdo
Men. All those men and all the time you only ever wanted to be held. You are a rag doll, to be tossed about – you are a punch bag, you are tainted. You are not the sort of girl they take home to mum. You are common as muck. You are a guilty secret, you are not good enough. You are someone to fuck. But for a moment! Somebody’s arms. Somebody’s eyes, looking, even for a moment like they want you, somebody’s breath, somebody’s sighs. Time and time again I sold myself for this. Sometimes, I even wanted them to hurt me. Sometimes I hurt them. It is something you pass around, like a spliff or a beach ball, this hurt and hate.
As life opened out, with moving towns, going to university, living on my own in a shared house with strangers I began to feel as if I was an elephant in a room full of wisps. Everyone was beautiful, mysterious, fashionable, individual. Hair, eyeshadow, hippie skirts, bare middles, exquisite little breasts. And then, me – honestly, I had not even eaten a courgette until I was nineteen. I arrived with a suitcase full of a scrabble of bits, bad hair and a layer of puppy fat.
You fat pig you fat ugly pig you fat pig you fat ugly pig you fat pig you ugly pig fat pig fat fat ugly pig
I have this thing where I can’t seem to stop watching Rick Stein. At the moment he is cooking a curry with meat. Fair enough, one might say. Except he goes on to put cinnamon sticks in it. Thus our views diverge, and I consider my problem with mixing groups of foodstuffs. For example, meat and cinnamon. Apple pie and cinnamon yes. Meat, no. Ditto gammon and pineapple, sweet and sour with pineapple, curry and raisins, coronation sauce and raisins. Why? Why, why? When I put the balsamic vinegar on the shelves at work, it says, great with salad – or strawberries! And I feel an irrational crossness. This brings me on to alcohol and drinks – tea and coffee with whisky/brandy etc. Just stop it, will you! Vanilla, Hazlenut, chocamocha etc. No! Just give me the coffe, please. Chocolate liqueurs – no, no. Chocolate, oh yes. Liquers, oh yes. But this persistence with the mixing of everything together! Lemon in savoury foods – uuurgles. Mmmmmmm, stir fry…..ack! Who put the lemon meringue in? Too much ginger. Too much ground clove. I like to think I would be a natural fit in Tudor times, but my reluctance to involve a lot of cloves might be a bit of a deal breaker. Cardamom pods. Biting on one of these if the fastest way to ruin a nice experience. Having one of those go off in your mouth! Sherry trifle is excluded from the above, because it just is.
Starving myself was easy – it only took a handful of weeks to get used to the hunger pains. The weight fell off! It was such a joy – after a couple of months I had it to a fine art – water, water, coffee, coffee, cigarettes, cigarettes. At the end of the day, a calorie counted M&S sandwich (Coronation Chicken, two hundred and something calories, if I remember rightly). I was so thin! Everyting, everything fitted! At my worst, I would sit down and the bones of my arse would bruise the skin. You could see all my ribs. If I did crack, every now and then – vomit. Simple as that. No need for a bra. What a feeling, to punish myself like this! I danced, and danced at nightclubs, stayed out all night at parties.
I dance I dance see how I dance I am dancing see how I dance dancing I am dancing dance see how me I dance I
The dogs have chewed up an actual bucket on the back patio.
In the middle of this, a horrific break up with my first real, proper boyfriend. I met him in my second year at uni, and we were together for six and a half years. We broke up once, patched things up. The half year matters. Stupid things like that end up mattering. A whole other six months before it was over. He met someone else and I got my marching orders. All through your student life, you move from place to place, flat to flat. I have lost count of how many times I have put my meagre trappings into bin bags and moved on. I like to think there are little pieces of my life, slipped unknowing under carpet edges, down the back of kitchen cabinets – gig tickets, nightclub flyers, buttons, lipstick, hair. Maybe if enough of it was collected, it could make a me, all over again.
When you take the road through Crawcrook and past the turn off for Clara Vale, you cannot help looking at the splendid view opening out before you. On the toppermost crown of the hill is a large copse of trees, and poking out from them is some large white manor hours or somesuch. It has two huge chimneys standing large and proud. It looks for all the world like a cruise liner which has accidentally sailed there and is stuck like a Marie Celeste. If I ever get near enough to discover that it is actually a house I will be disappointed.
I have always had this urge, this utterly driving urge to make things, draw things, write things. I have to be putting something down all the time – there is always some idea, something I want to say, some question I want to answer. I am afraid of idleness. I cannot do it. I have this fear of what would actually fill my mind if I did stop – as if I can keep this particular monster at bay by simply refusing to make room for it, to deny it its right to speak. So I had this workshop, where I made jewellery. Not a big, booming business, but it was mine. Something I set up all by myself, with nothing much but my will to succeed and again, a story for another time. To cut it short, when my boyfriend wanted me out, I was broke in mind and in money. I had nowhere to go. I was homeless.
I notice as I drive that most of the potholes that have been filled in over the while have lost their repairs. It’s like the old tarmac does not like the new tarmac – like they changed the recipe, or something. Or the wound rejects the new flesh, or mouths that do not want to be filled, possibly.
What an upsetting and shameful experience I found that to be. At least I had my workshop – this one room upstairs, divided in two by a counter. I lived there, with this little roll-up camping mattress. I had a sinkwith cold running water, I had a kettle, I had a toilet and in that way I was lucky – some people do not have the luxury of that. I hand washed my clothes and waited days for them to drip dry. The months of being there were so hard – I was afraid the people I rented the place from would find out and make me leave. I kept myself going with a very tightly controlled routine – it got me through the days. Up at seven, boil the kettle for washing. Roll up mattress, tidy away. Spend the day running my little jewellery business. Close at 6pm, then walk to the Co-op next door and buy a sandwich and a packet of crisps. Go back, lock the doors – I had a little portable television and after closing the curtains on the windows, I would watch that, or read, or exercise. Or sit and ponder how I had come to this.
failure what a failure complete and utter failure complete utter failure what a failure complete utter
As I passed along the roads to Stamfordham I enjoyed looking at the moss covered dry stone walls – in the weak but welcome sunshine they were a burst of colour, all lime and sand. It reminded me of when I was a child – I would carefully peel off swathes of it, like miniature turf and use it to make tableaus with my Britain’s Farm horses and farm animals. Happy times. The grass still has that wishy-washy, not quite green appearance. It has that scudding of dead yellow on the top.
It was about this time that I developed my fear of windows. Working out ways of not being seen was very important for my survival. During the day, you could walk past them willy-nilly as you pleased – at night, you had to pretend you were not there, had to duck and crawl on your hands and knees beneath the low sills to avoided showing your silhouette to suspicious eyes. This has stayed with me ever since.
In my thirties, I became sick of who I was in my twenties. Everything that was important then, seemed stupid now. I did not want to be the me I was – but who then was I going to be? I have often compared myself to Worzel Gummidge – remember him? He used to swap his heads depending on who he wanted to be that day. Shaping who you are to fit your environments – think Mr Benn, going through his magic door and coming out as someone else entirely. Which personality are you trying on today, dear?
I decided that I had had enough of the circle of friends I was with. I could not forget that when I really needed them, absolutely needed them, not a single one of them would actually help me. It hurt so much, because I would have stepped in and helped every one of them, without question. I had some tough lessons to learn about what constitutes a ‘friend’. Fuck them. FUCK them. This is how angry about them I still am. I am the Great Unforgiven.
Listening to the holey, rusty upright on a metal five bar gate – the wind went right inside it, and made these musical, almost clarinet-ish, oboe-ish humming notes. It sounded like how pylons would talk, if they could. Maybe they do. There was quite a symphony going on – I listened until the cold gusts cut too deep into the top of my head. I was wearing one of those fleecy headband things that cover the ears but have no top. Someone bought it for the kids two years ago for Christmas but they won’t wear it. I feel quite the swank, with my stubby ponytail poking over the top like I’m on Ski Sunday.
I no longer had the physical or emotional strength to carry on with my business – trying to keep it going alone had used up every bit of strength that I had. I admitted defeat, hung up my pliers and got myself a job. Got somewhere to live. Reinvented myself again. This time I was woman living alone, out and about on the town. I was happy enough, though I was always struggling financially. I stumbled through other relationships and saw them all end in disaster. I discovered how lonely Sundays could be. I discovered what it was like to have a ‘bad neighbour’. There was this man on our little street who made everyone’s lives a misery, including mine. A nasty, violent man who had no problem terrorising women who lived alone.
I saw a baby gannet on the telly – it was black, with these silvery speckles and reminded me of this pair of rabbits I had when I was a kid. They were called Cinders and Velvet – I don’t know what the gannet was called.
Again, I do not need to go on and on about the problems therein. Just assume it was as shit as it was. My window fear rose to the fore again – him and his rotten family were forever peeping in. You could hear them, yakking on as they walked up and down outside. I took to staying away from glass. I did not want to be seen – if I had to go outside, I would stand behind my locked front door, holding my breath, straining my ears for sounds of movement outside, desperately trying to stump up the courage to leave the security of the house. My heart would hammer, my head would swim – my skin would sweat, my brain would leap into hyperdrive. The house became a trap as much as it was my only safe place.
Blacksmith today for the horses. He is quite a character. He squints in this way of squishing at you where it makes it seem all his features are concentrated in the centre four inches of his face. He always tells you he will be dead in fifteen years. Perhaps he has some sort of secret oracle stone at home or something. Mind, he has been saying the same thing the decade I have known him. I love the way he is such a straight talker – he calls a pitchfork a pitchfork. Makes me thing of the few people I have in my life that are pure straight talkers. You sort of need them. My friend Val up at the other stableyard is another. I saw her yesterday, and it is good to talk to people who don’t mince their words. I hate seeing her poor fingers though – every time I see them, it makes me want to cry. I worry about her and her husband, and who is going to take care of them when they are old. If she needs me, then of course, of course I will. I have a feeling she does intrinsically know. We are both women of few words, when it comes to stuff like this.
I would put my hand on the handle, turn the key so slowly…slowly (as if that dreadful man could hear it moving inside the lock), heart in my mouth, ears straining like a rabbit that knows there is a hawk somewhere nearby.
he is coming he is coming he is coming is he coming is coming he is coming is coming is he is he is he coming
I had this leaving the house down to a fine art. If I assumed the coast was clear, continue unlocking. Take the key out, open the door just enough to remove the key from the inside and slide it quietly into the outside keyhole. Breathe, breathe, listen. Okay. Out of the door like a greyhound out of the trap, in one swift movement, lock the door, take out the key and run! Run round the back of the houses, hit the road, cross it, hit the footpath. Walk quickly until you feel you have walked enough away. Slow down, realise your breath is whistling. Safe, safe for another few hours.
I have been painting a halo today. On top of the gold, I painted red patterns, then gold again on top of that.
Coming back home was more tricky, because I could not see round the corner, could not tell if I was going to bump straight into him or not. I had to dig my nails into my palms and screw up the sheer courage to go for it, unlock the door with as little shaky fumbling as possible, get myself in! Often I would come back to my fence having been vandalised or burned, or graffiti, or shit on my doorstep.
Today, my son wrote an acrostic poem at school. Do I really need anything else in my day? He also gave me a lollipop – admittedly, he licked it and decided he did not want it, but still…
Of course a body cannot keep up this extreme level of stress without some ill effect. I began experiencing blackouts. They would happen during the times between when I was gearing up to leave the house or return to it. I would come to, and be down on my knees. It was as scary as hell. I began to fantasise about how easy it would be to throw myself onto the Metro line, in front of a train. The inside of my head was a butchered carcass. I wanted to die, but I did not want to die enough. I am so stubborn. I seem to have this ability to just keep going. I had no-one I felt I could talk to about this. Life, at this particular point, was a crock of shit.
I was still working throughout all of this. I do not know how – I was rake thin – my hair, fine at the best of times had fallen out in handfuls. I was drinking way, way more than I should. My bosses were big drinkers too – the times we used to close up shop, crack open wine, stagger off to the pub were countless, and it kept me away from that house. I would go round to other people’s houses with bottles of gin. I got stoned. I smoked like a chimney. My physical health must have been at absolute rockbottom, but in a sad indictment on society, I could pull any man, any time. They thought I was beautiful. Me and my stiletto ankle boots. I have had a twenty-three inch waist. That is probably the circumference of one of my thighs now.
I left work in the dark – I leave my car in the top car park as it feels like I am getting away quicker. Anyway, it was snowing – the flakes were swirling like white flies in the lamppost beams. It was lovely. Everyone asks, ‘is it settling?’
I met my husband when I was twenty nine. We had a couple of dates. He was so different from any of the other ‘hipsters’ I had been out with in the past. I did not care about being fashionable any more. I did not care about fitting in. One time I told him that my fence had been burned and vandalised. When I came back from work later that day, there he was, fixing it for me. I was so grateful. It had been so long, so very long since anyone had done anything so selflessly nice for me. He felt like a hero, like he was the answer to all my prayers. Here was someone who was strong enough, or so I thought, to make it all go away. I decided there and then that when he asked me to marry him, I would be saying yes. Twelve years later he is calling me Vicious Cow and I fantasise about lottery wins and ways of escape. How did we Come To This?
I am saved I am saved I am saved saved am saved am I am saved I saved am saved I am saved am saved am saved
I am being permanently moved onto the checkouts at work. No-one bothered telling me – I just disappeared from one rota and appeared on another. I will be grateful for the relief for my poor knees, which seem to get worse by the day. Cold, tiled floors are doing them no good. Sometimes I feel both body and mind are slipping away, moving on somewhere else without me. I am happy, but also all at sixes and sevens. I have made some lovely friends on grocery and will miss them. Seems like I have just worn out some comfortable corners in one job, and now have to be the New Girl all over again. Though not quite so bad, I guess, having worked on checkouts a lot since I started. That, and having purple hair – people seem to know who I am. I wonder if it will be better – or will it be a case of being careful what you wish for?
We married when I was thirty and my son was born when I was thirty one. He was not planned – I had never thought that I would have children. I had decided that I would rather sacrifice the chance to have a family than take the risk of Becoming My Mother. I have always had this secret fear that She Is In There. Was I born to be the same? Was it in my make up? Or did I swallow so much of it growing up that I never really knew if it was my destiny or not?
For the first six months of my pregnancy, I felt ok and I looked fine – I did not bother buying maternity clothes, just a bigger size, a fourteen. A fourteen? A bigger size? How I make myself smile when I think of how I would give one of my lungs to be a size fourteen now!
You have a busy day – then come home from one job, start the backlog of others. Stop and settle. Switch the goggly-box on, some obscure satellite channel. Oh yes, Cold Comfort Farm is playing and I have only missed twelve minutes. Some days, there Is A God. Someone is brushing the forehead of a Hereford bull. Robert Poste’s child…
It was shortly after that, however, that I began to feel Not Quite So Well. My body began filling up with fluid. I was hot. My joints hurt. I did not want to move. Everything felt big and slow. Almost overnight, I was huge. None of my rings fitted. My stomach pulled with pain if I tried to lie on my side. My face became flat like someone had hit me in the face with a pan lid. Shoes no longer fitted and neither did the baggiest slippers. My feet were sore balloons. I was a monster. High temperatures and soreness led to a diagnosis of mastitis, even though I had not given birth. Just that word – mastitis- made me feel even more bovine, hoggish, animal than I already felt.
pig cow moo oink piggy pig fat bitch fat cow moo cow fat piggy bitch moo moo oink fat sow fat tits pig fat
In the winter, it seems to get dark very quickly. Not pitch-dark, but too dark to dig the garden. Not that I intended on digging the garden, but there is no harm in entertaining a little fantasy, here and there. I made the fool decision to plant apple mint last summer in my border thing – come October I was yanking it out by the armful. I wanted it to grow respectfully and calmly in one place and look decorative, not engulf all my decorative bits of rusty crap and shells. My borage vanished and died, and so did some hollyhocks. Mint is murder.
My blood pressure was sky high and a huge cause for concern. It was measured once a week and she would test my urine and wonder did I have pre-eclampsia? No, there is no protein in your wee. Therefore you cannot have it. I had those little glitter stars in front of my eyes all the time. I felt like any moment now, I was going to explode. Two weeks before my due date I was too ill to get up to see the midwife at the doctors. When she eventually came over to see me, she blanched, did another protein test, shat bricks and sent me to straight to hospital. Turns out I did have it. Pre-eclampsia, that is. If only I had pissed out protein at the right time to coincide with a test, I might have been treated sooner and ended up in less of a mess. That’s my body for you. The living personification of fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.
My son – when I am not with him, I miss him like it’s a pain. I crave him. It’s always there, in the same way that breathing, or blinking is; just sometimes, it comes on more strongly, in a rush. I have to stop, still – what is he doing? Thinking? Then the ache. I keep pondering how watching your child grow up is all sorts of happy and sad all at once. Happy that they are with you, that they are alright – happy that they are growing, sad that they are growing. Happy that they have survived all of life’s ages and experiences thus far, sad that they will never be that age again. People muse on which age is the most difficult and I say all of them! There is no time when it is easier – it is just…different. Celebration and grieving all at once. When we are not together, I feel as if someone has lopped off my best and favourite branch. Am I healthy in this? Something else to worry about. There is a long list – more of a scroll – sort of like a carpet in a warehouse. They are moving away from you, inch by inch. Some days you don’t notice at all – some days it feels they leapt a whole life sideways.
I was wired up to monitors in the morning and told to wait for the surgical team and expect a c-section. At around 5pm a woman doctor asked what was I doing here? I did not need a c-section. So she cancelled it. At two in the morning a consultant came to see me and confessed surprise that I was there. I explained that the other doctor had cancelled it. He got cross and said that the surgical team had been sent home as nothing was scheduled for them. He apologised and they made me as comfortable as they could. All this time I had been alone as my husband had had to go to work. It was the twenty third of December. Life was about to get a whole lot shitter. I sniffled into my RVI pillow, monitors blipping and felt utterly by myself.
At eight a.m., a nurse popped in to breezily inform me that someone was coming right now to break my waters. I had a bit of a wobble, which went along the lines of I am on my own! A male doctor appeared with what looked like a crochet hook. My second wobble went along the lines of but that is a man! For some reason, I had been under the wrong assumption that everyone who had anything to do with birthing these ‘ere babbies was a woman. With no-one to hold my hand, I laid back and let a strange man poke a stick right up there and burst my baby’s bubble.
Where the tins of sweetcorn are in the shop, I smell a wonderful, cardboard smell. Sweet, and very drying to the nostrils. Why this should be concentrated by the sweetcorn, I do not know, but it is very pleasant and makes me want to eat the stuff.
My family did come up – I had asked my mum to be there for the birth. I thought that this would be some miracle cure for us – that there would be this unspoken bonding, something that we had finally shared. I had such high hopes. No wonder I was so disappointed.
Let’s skip the birth – for those who have not given it yet, you will discover the wonders of it for yourself and I do not want to put you off – yours might be ok – one of those one hour labour, in and out and they slept through the night from the get-go ones. For those that already have, it is very messy, very difficult and very painful. It involved these sort of metal, leg-clampy things that looked like they had come from a Museum of Victorian Torture which enabled me to have a few horrible internals. The epidural had been incorrectly administered and was not working. They offered me a spinal tap but I did not like the sound of that. Which reminds me – I still have never seen that film. Our heat beats went up and down. Everyone did a fair amount of panicking. And yes, I did poo myself. From the minute that sperm enters the egg, you have lost all your dignity. You have had a men and women exploring every single orifice, and not in a nice way.
To cut a long story short, Dominic was born at ten past one in the morning, Christmas eve. I must just add how nice the nurses were on Christmas day. When I woke up they had put two presents on my pillow – just simple things, a bath bomb for me, a dummy for Dominic.
I have such a yenning for Seahouses. Walking to that funny little brick hut, on the rocks up the beach – fish and chips at Pinnacles, there the clipping of the Hairy Bikers is framed on the wall. Mushy peas, strong tea in pots, bread and butter when you are windburnt from the beach. Dry old fish heads that bait the lobster pots. You have these little ambitions – I so would love to go on one of those boat-trips to the Farnes, see the puffins. It’s the money – it is always the money! The second to last time I drove up there with my son, we found this little knick-knacky giftshop that was sadly closing down. We bought a purple Frisbee and a yellow one, a puffin ornament and six little resin footballer teddies in various poses, three in red shirts, three in green. There is an ice cream parlour where you sit at the bar and have knicker-bocker-glories. It lets you imagine yourself back in the 1950’s. Staithes will do that to you, as will Sandsend.
He stopped breathing. He was whisked away. He was brought back. He had jaundice and was put between biliblankets and babygrows. No wonder the poor mite has never been able to develop a decent sleeping pattern. After a week they had to ask for my permission to remove them as there was a newborn whose bilirubin level was now higher than Dominic’s and they only had the one set, which had been donated by a kindly businessman. So he came off those. I made no milk – I tried and tried, sat on their bloody breast-pump until I was black and blue. I went to sleep and woke up to find that they had inserted a feeding tube in my baby’s nose. I felt bad that they had not told me this. I felt confused and weak. Maybe they had told me, maybe they had not. What kind of mam was I already that I would have to ask?
I had butter beans for tea. Like edible bits of nothing that taste of something undecipherable, with the texture of slightly dry, pulped paper. But I like them.
I so wanted to touch him – I did, and I disturbed the tube, had to call them. I was like a shipwreck. I was disgusting – had a catheter with a bag hanging from a stick on wheels for my wee. I had another permanently taped to my hand for the endless bloods. At the end of the first week I developed an ear infection. In that ward, surrounded by people – they all went home, I stayed, more people came in – I started to cry and I could not stop. I cried and cried and cried. They pulled the screen around me. I cried and cried. I could not stop.
I cried I cried no stop I cry I cannot stop cried I cried stop cry no I cannot cried cried I cannot cry
So for my good and the good of the ward, I was moved to a private room. The catheters were removed, so I at least did not have the awfulness of pulling my own piddle about with me, or having the one in my hand fall out with blood spurting all over the sheets.
Whiskers. Today, the pluck count is eleven. I always do it in the same place, by the kitchen window – light seems strongest there. I get the feeling it is the same for many people, who also spend a lot of time in this particular spot. A round, silver shaving mirror on a single stilt leg – I got it from IKEA. After, of course, testing it there by gurning my chin in it, this way and that to see if it was a good one or not. The light was good mind you, there in the sundries section. Eleven, on the side of my brand-new-fake Belfast sink like escaped hyphens. The most cunning of them hide right under my chin, where it meets the neck and grow to near two centimetres in length. I wish my actual head-hair grew with the same thick, fierce tenacity. It does not.
A little bit of peace and privacy for me and my new little boy. I felt like I had not had a chance to get to know him. I changed his nappies, I fed him, I put on little outfits. Studied his face, spent hours wondering who I could see there. I couldn’t sit up without the aid of a nylon ladder attached to the foot of the bed – it was like someone had cut me in the middle.
Two weeks later, they finally let me go. As I stepped into the fresh air, I thought that I had stepped onto an alien planet. Home was a stranger – I had become institutionalised. I had not had to think for myself for a while. I had this new baby but in there it had been fine, because all I had to do was ring for a nurse. Now I was alone.
what do I do I can do that what can I do can I do what
what if I can what if I can’t what if what if I do
Ill health dogged me. I had an internal infection. I had polymorphic eruptions (best describes as volcanoes on your skin). I went up and down the stairs on my hands and knees. I was a hideous, rotting, bloated walking pustule. My baby cried and cried. I thought it best to join in with that. His reflux was akin to a fireman’s hose. He had colic. He never slept more than an hour at a time, including the nights. All the time I was alone. We did not have much money – my husband worked long, long hours. Life was a living hell.
I went to the local shopping precinct today and wandered aimlessly around, full of cold. There was nothing, nothing I wanted to buy, which is not like me and there are four charity shops. In the end, I had to content myself with a Lemony Snickett book for 10p, and an odd three-part dish thing that looks like it is from the ‘60’s. It has one handle, with the gold glaze worn off. It was £2.50. I’m lonely. I am lonely and this is why I buy shit I do not need. I need a cup of coffee.
Those women that come round your house and criticise everything you are doing – Health Visitors, I believe they are called – that have a lot to answer for. If you are lucky enough to have a nice one, brilliant. Mine used to ask me endless questions about how come I was doing this, how come I was doing that? Why was I sitting there, patting my baby like that? Why didn’t I put him down? Did I ever put my baby down? I ought to get some rest. I got anxious about her going in the kitchen where the dining table was. I had built these towers of clean towels, clean clothes, baby bath, nappies, you name it – it was stacked on this huge table top. This was my System – it meant that I did not have to go upstairs until the end of the day. I could already tell that the visitors were trying to mark me down as mad.
I made too much food. I always make too much food. I don’t know who this invisible army is that I am cooking for. I have all these plates – they were wedding gifts – oval ones, round ones, bread plates, saucers. Tureens, platters, cups, mugs, soup dishes, small dishes. Just exactly what did I think my life was going to be? Crystal – wine, champagne, whisky tumblers, hi-balls. I don’t even know what a hi-ball is. Two decanters. Two. I must drink alcohol twice a year if I am lucky. When I walked around the department store with my wedding-list beepey gun, I must have thought I was off to occupy a stately home. I challenge anyone not to go mad with one of those things. Beep. Hand soap dispenser with miniature floating penguins. Beep. Four kinds of bath towel. Beep. Fake Regency chiming clock. Beep. Wall hanging of a ceremonial elephant. Actually – seeing all that written down, it sounded like a pretty good list. What happened to all that stuff? Setting the table with it all took about an hour. And never anyone to eat it. No wonder the dogs are fat. My big corner kitchen cupboard is a museum – it is a cavern of un-christened porcelain.
I began to branch out a little, started going out with Dominic in his buggy. Little pootles here and there, up the High Street for bits and bobs. I built myself up and then foolishly bit off more than I could chew. I went to Town. Walked from Central Station to the Quayside. As we trundled along, I remembered all the times I had had in the various bars and restaurants – I remembered who I had been there with, even what I had worn. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks – I did not know who I was anymore. I knew who I had been then. I would never be her again, would never look like her again, would never do what she did again. I did not know the person staring back at me from window panes. I did not belong here. My life had gone, absolutely gone, eternally and utterly changed in every way. I had not realised this until this very moment. I was a hole – a blank page. I was terrified. I wanted to go home. I was grief-stricken, as if I had died, yet of course I had not.
who the fuck is this who even are you who fuck you even you stranger utter stranger fuck you who even
I have three Russian Dolls. They look so sweetly content with all their babies tucked neatly inside themselves. I can hear a fair amount of cackling from the birds outside the dining room window. It must be time for the first sparrow brood in the central heating pipe hole.
I struggled on. A chasm was opening up between my husband and myself. He carried on with his life as if it was unchanged – mine was over, upside down, knocked sideways. I had had my lecture at the hospital about Keeping Everything Hygienic – how easy it was to Make Your Baby Ill Or Worse. It had scared the heck out of me. The words entered through the weakened membranes of my mind and lodged there. I had my sterilising stuff. I had my Milton, my bleach. And on top of that I had my boiling pan. Even the knife that I used to scrape a level scoop of powder was cooked within an inch of its life.
I saw mess everywhere. I actually believed I have the power to smell dust. I still do. I would walk into a room, narrow my eyes and sniff. There! I ran my fingers over everything. Pet hair became the bane of my life. You couldn’t get rid of the stuff with normal vacuuming – you had to get down on your knees and scrub at the mats and the sofa cushions with the nozzle. I did this until I wore callouses on my knees. I did it until I sweated.
My kitchen sink is not strictly brand new. It’s been in there for about nine months now, but still new in the scheme of things. A spider’s web of greyish cracks has developed, radiating out from the plughole. It doesn’t bother me – in fact, it is lending authenticity to my antique farmhouse fantasy.
I did not get better – I got worse. I could not take my eyes off Dominic for a moment in case anything happened to him. I was so convinced he was simply going to die. When he did eventually sleep, I would hover over him, hold my palm above his nose, convince myself that I could not feel breath. Then I would gently disturb him, until he sighed and moved. Then I knew for sure that he had not died in his sleep. I still do it, to this day. Nothing has ever managed to break me of this need. Between this constant watching, the poor physical health, the increasingly nasty arguments with my husband, the growing estrangement from my family and the crawling about on the floor looking for footmarks and filth, I was absolutely worn out. My poor dog – who by this time I had shared my life with for a good few years – did not recognise or trust me anymore. She even snapped at me on a number of occasions. The way I was must have really frightened me, though thankfully we did rebuild our relationship (and loved each other until her death at the age of sixteen).
One of my horses, Flynn (the cream-coloured one) always seems to be trying to tell me something. Like he is trying to physically will out some words. Maybe it is the fact that he has blue eyes – maybe it makes him seem like he is destined to become a Great Thinker. Maybe I am over-complicating things and he just wants you to keep petting his nose. They’re not daft, these animals. Out of all my animals, though, it is him that seems to be a reincarnation of somebody. He nearly died, a few weeks before I got him – just laid down and sort of gave up. It often feels as if I have him on borrowed time. The other two, Charlie and Orca are straightforward. Where is the food? We want to come in, now. We are scared of that. We are doing this now. Flynn is a hedgerow fairy – you can feel the metaphysics going on in his brain.
There were Episodes. Too many for me to ramble on and an about here. If I talk about one of them, it ought to give the reader a good idea of what they might have been like. I was working on a little sculpture, quite happily, though it was quite heavy going on my hands. Something went wrong with it and I found myself completely overtaken by anger and desperation. I was boiling, I was possessed. I smashed the sculpture on the kitchen floor, then picked up those pieces and smashed them some more. I picked up a large kitchen knife and pressed it along my arm. I remember screaming things, but I do not remember what they were. My husband left the house. I ran after him, crying and crying. Every day seemed as if no-one would listen to me unless I was bawling. He would not let me catch him up. It must have been like living with Beelzebub. No wonder, no wonder he hates me now.
kill myself kill myself I will I will the knife feels so cold why can’t you just fucking do it do it kill
Jackson, the stable cat is quite the killer. This is my problem with cats. Yes, I know, I know – it’s nature. But it is not very nice. He seems to have this fancy for pretty creatures – we are forever finding wrens, stoats and voles. Today, on the path, a blue tit’s wing, iridescent. I had this pleasant interlude a few years ago where I got really into feeding the wild birds – even down to buying different nuts and seeds for various birds. I made my own feeders from plastic milk bottles. I got all the usual garden varieties, but was thrilled to end up with six greenfinches – they would all come at once. A neighbours cat killed them all in one day. I really hated that cat and have never put feed out like that again. I felt wholly responsible for their deaths.
I scratched away the skin around my nails – I rubbed them together in obsessive click-click patterns. I still do this – wear my nails into crazy shapes, pick at them, pull them off. I plucked loose hair from the poor dog as if she was a chicken. I became fixated with the oddest things – one of them was that I seemed to remember someone’s driveway, one hundred and fifty miles away, near where my parents lived. This driveway was an oddity – it was not block paved. It was a fake, it was as if someone had pressed the mark of brickwork into clay. I went on and on and on about the existence of this driveway. People looked at me funny. When I was seeing the psychologists, I went on and on about this driveway to them. My husband eventually drove there and I cannot enough express the relief I felt about my own sanity when I found out that yes! It was actually there. I had seen it. When I next conveyed this to the people at the clinic, they did not seem to find this as important as I did. I do not know why. I believe it is called Drivecrete. I fixated on other things too. I wanted to make a living doing market research surveys. I painted crackle glaze on every conceivable surface. It has been a bugger to get off.
You should never rush breakfast. Nor should you ever try to make an ambitious breakfast when you know you have very little time. And yet, I had spent the whole night thinking that I would have a tin of baked beans and sausages on a piece of toast. I think that this is called ‘beanie-weenies’ in the U.S. I could be wrong about that, though. I may have inadvertently made that up. Because you have been obsessing about eating such a thing, there would be no point in trying to pacify yourself with muesli, or bananas, or something. I knew I was in a hurry – we had a forty mile trip to get to a rugby match and I was flapping about making flasks and rooting about for gum-shields. I grabbed the tin opener and as I was yanking the lid open, I cut my finger right down to the bone. There was blood everywhere, but like a trooper, I wrapped a tea towel round it and carried on. Seven hours on, it is still bleeding and sore. There is no way I am going to A&E – I have to be at work early tomorrow and I just want to sit on my arse for a bit and do some writing.
So. When my son was about a year old, I went to the Doctor. I sat there trying to tell him that Something Was Not Right. He asked me a few questions. I answered some. He asked, I didn’t answer. We talked about my extreme cleaning. He said that he thought I had postnatal depression. He also said that I he thought I had Other Issues beyond that. One of them might be OCD. I already had depression before the PND, I had oanic attacks, anxiety. He immediately gave me a prescription for Fluoxetine and told me to wait for a letter. When I got home, I googled what Fluoxetine was and discovered that one of its other names is Prozac. I thought, that’s it – I am Officially Mad. With a feeling that I had somehow failed, I opened my mouth, and popped the first one in.
Been up since half six and from the get-go, the day augered ill. I got the distinct feeling crows have been peering through the bedroom window. Crows are portentous, right? I have to try to do my hair. The road I usually take out of the village was closed this morning. There had been a huge crash – it is quite a dangerous road and there have been a few nasty incidents there of late. I keep thinking, I ought not to use this road – heaven knows, I have survived enough in this life to not want to die at the hands of some boy-racer. Then I thought about all the things I would miss – I would miss driving past the fields where the horses are, the farmhouse that has a worn old sign outside, advertising XMAS WREATHS all year round. I would miss the traffic lights where you pause on red and look at the trees on one side, absolutely festooned with bits of ratty plastic. It makes me think of prayer flags and I entertain myself guessing what the people who put them there are praying for.
A few days later, a letter arrived asking me to go and see a psychiatric nurse. Was I coping? Was I a danger to myself? We Discussed Hospital. I admit for a moment I was tempted – would it be just me in a light room, just resting? Resting? I pictured myself lying in a cool bed, with birdsong coming in at the open window while I took a lot of naps. I asked who would be looking after my son? Of course I would not be Going Anywhere. I would not be going there. I could not even conceive being separated from him – it was hard enough craving to be with him for the duration of these meetings. I had three appointments with her and she felt that she would refer me again to the nearest psychology unit.
I spent almost three years going to weekly appointments at this place. I started off with this young woman and I failed to build any sort of relationship with her. I don’t know if it was just a matter of me not giving her a chance. I don’t know if it was a result of my illness – part of which were feelings of utter narcissism. No-one could possibly fathom the mystery that was me! I was much too powerful, my mind was too complex! Also, I had to ask her how old she was – she was young, fresh out of university. No, she was not married, nor was she a mother. She kept referring to textbooks. I was not impressed. Was I wrong? Was my behaviour towards her poor? I felt aggressive. I felt I had to be on the attack.
Newbiggin-by-the-Sea has these sculptures of people. There is this couple, mounted on some wooden frame, out in the sea. When I first saw them, I was not expecting to see them. For a moment, I thought they were real – then could not work out if they were massive, or far away. For a moment, they did not make visual sense. It gave me a bit of a turn – it looked like a suicide pact or some bizarre stranding of souls.
One of the things that has stayed with me all these years is not realising that I am standing up during appointments. I did it throughout these sessions – I still do it if I have to go to the doctor now. Going for anything – chest infection, gammy ear – has me anxious. They will look at my notes. They will look at me with sympathetic faces. They will say, in an itsy-bitsy voice so! How ARE you? Before I know it, I will be on my feet, ready to either run or fight. One of them asked me you seem angry? Agitated? Why? I said no wonder, when I come here for antibiotics and all you do is look at the screen an accuse me of being mad.
hey why the long face how are we today are we still mad still mad long face how are we today still mad
I tried working with another psychologist – this time, a grey-haired, much older man. We discussed many problems over this period of time. My ability to love someone with a passion, be it lover or friend – then in the blink of an eye, have no interest in them whatsoever. My unfounded fears – the old chestnuts – nobody likes you, everybody hates you. Thinking people are stealing your thoughts from you. Taking the words out of your mouth. Literally robbing bits from inside your brain. It makes me come out and make all kinds of accusations to friends who do not deserve it. Cut my in half like a piece of Blackpool rock and you would see the word PARANOID.
I pick up milk so I can finally have a coffee when I get home. Work uniform ironed. Not be long before I have to set off. All I want to do is stay at home and write poems. I have been trying to nail a piece off-page and I am so close – SO CLOSE! But my Lord, it is so fecking hard to learn something fully with an avalanche of lives pressing in on your brain! Mam! Mam! I hear the kids, the dogs, the horses call. BEEP BEEP BEEP call the tills at work. LEARN ME, WRITE ME! call the poems! PAINT ME, screech the blank pages! Yes, yes, I hear you tut. You are wasting time on here – and yes! I am. But this is my therapy. I am one step away from the Fluoxetine always, and I refuse to go back! No-one has to read this anyhow – I send it out with frustration and empty a small corner of my brain.
I had been going to all these CBT sessions, feeling as if I was never quite saying what I wanted to say. I wanted to talk about The Time I Saved My Sister From My Mum but I never quite managed to get it out. I waited right until the very last session, when it had become a now or never thing. I expected something to happen – maybe the sky would split in two and all the answers would fall upon my head. Maybe someone would listen – maybe now, after all this Therapy I could actually START. I had not been talking about what really mattered, I realised. Maybe this would be the beginning of it that I had been looking for. My last session was with the young woman who I mentioned earlier. She heard me tell this story at the end of it. I waited for some momentous epiphany. She just said, well, this is the last session. I hope it has helped. I am surprised she did not add And You Are Now Cured. She handed me an appointment for six months time, so that they could check my progress and see if I was still Mad Or Not. I did not keep the appointment. I am Still Here.
I even had ten sessions of hypnotherapy but I found it impossible to get into the state I was meant to get in to. I kept thinking of rubbish stage hypnotists making people eat onions and fall in love with chairs.
I am spending too much time at work in the crap job. I am getting indoctrinated. I know this because when I went in my own bathroom and turned on the taps, I pressed them as if they were those automatic push-down ones you get in public loos. I came home and thought I was on a break, using the toilet. I might as well sleep in the uniform.
My marriage fell apart three years ago. Nobody but us need the details on that. Why do we stay together? So many reasons. He did not want to go when I asked him to. We have a child together, we have my stepson that I adore. What would happen to them? My little boy came home from school last year telling me about one of his friends whose parents had split up. He was terribly upset and told me that this was his greatest fear. I would happily trade my life for his, any day of the week. Because I often think about the early days and how we were back then. Because it cannot have been easy living with me. Because I don’t think I have the strength to start again. Besides which, I couldn’t possibly inflict myself on anyone else. And I love him, beneath all that. I am not ready to let go.
My lower arms have surface scars on them like raspberry smears. They are a source of shame – not because I am ashamed I did them but because it proves what a chicken-shit I am. I am frustrated that I never managed to find the nerve to go deeper when I desperately wanted to. I made a friend over the last couple of years – this friend has them on his arms and I am so envious of them. Can envious be the right word? Of course it cannot. I look and look at them – I fantasise about them, being able to touch them, as if I could read something indecipherable in them. This makes me A Dreadful Person. When I am agitated, my lower arms itch and I could rag the skin off with my nails.
pathetic pathetic faker who you trying to kid faker pathetic faker who you faker pathetic kid trying you
I will never be completely well. I think now, that it is something that I have accepted will always be there and I do my best to live alongside of it. I have never had a point in my life when I was not without it. I am learning to handle myself – I have learned to spot the dark moments, mostly. It is not often that one crops up and claims me without warning. There are signals and I have learned to recognise them – the pulsing of stress in my head, the way the room can be full of people but you are on my own – they are all laughing, chatting, making plans, plotting to exclude you. The room is starting to feel airless, full of sonic boom. Get out, get out, get out. Sometimes I have just made it out of a building when the hole has opened up in front of me and I have fallen right into it. Sometimes it happens when I am at home and I have to miss a social occasion. So be it.
I stopped taking Fluoxetine, weaned myself off it, bit by bit. When I was on it, it was like being conscious and unconscious at the same time. I knew All Was Not Right but I found it hard to care. Then I knew I should be worrying about this but couldn’t access the tools to do this. I felt trapped inside of myself.
A blanket on top of a blanket, on top of a blanket,
same as when I was a child, with dining chairs
and long mop handles tenting myself a den.
The world outside muffled by woollen threads –
I can hear the opinions of the room, but under
this silencer I am careless in my acknowledgement
of them. The urge to hunker down, a busy scrubber
fades; new skin coats the callouses on my kneecaps.
Touching my face when I see magpies – one for sorrow,
two for joy. Arranging pillows, hovering a palm above
the nose of my sleeping son – little beats of fear
until he snouts a dreamy sigh; usually takes three
or four breaths. He is alive! I will check again, later.
You are a headache of longing, a bad pixie on my shoulder.
I do not like your fuzz – I hate my blinking upwards
from this underwater world. I want my madness – I am so
used to pain, so defined by the grating of its sharpness
against my hideous soft that I forever seek it out, beg
for it to hurt me. I hate to pretend that I do not.
My obsessive cleaning did get better – I can happily announce that my home is a regular tip. I often miss how spick and span it used to look but I do not miss the sad woman who was wasting her life with bleach. I have never shaken the obsessive behaviour, though I have managed to channel it into more productive directions – I now write and paint with unstoppable drive. And words and pictures fall out of me head onto paper as if they were waterfalls. I cannot stop them – I do not want to stop them. I have found that I have a lot to say – the backlog is massive.
Sometimes it hurts so bad that it feels as if lights and spume are bursting out from my ears, eyes, nose, mouth, chest and it hurts – it is an actual physical pain. Remember how I talked about fixations? Well, I have one of those for every situation. I sound like a business card – A Fixation For Every Occasion. When this happens to me I picture another particular friend – I picture his mouth on mine – not in a kissing way – but in a way as if he can plug me by putting his mouth on mine, stop all the spurting. When he greets me with the polite one on the cheek I want to yell keep going! I imagine the feelings I have taste of seawater. Of course this does not happen because we actually live in Reality. Imagine what these people would think if they actually knew what was going on in my mind? So I suffer and ache, stay home. I will show the monster – I will swallow it up and spit rainbows.
I am splitting a bale of hay – all the faded yellows and greens of last year’s autumn trapped in the layers. Parchment buttercups, even the occasional pressed mouse. A whole season, trapped in the clouds of dust that rise as I shake it – I have a desire to taste it. The rain is beating down on the corrugated roof but inside the barn, I have this block of preserved sun. The horses will eat it with dreamy relish. I wish I was young again. I am waiting for a break in the weather before I go outside.
24th October, 2015
I am always seeing sheep under trees. They seem to like it. Today, a small herd of little brown Soay, possibly sniffing for acorns. Beautiful with age and history. The lady who has the fields there looks to have acquired a new bay horse, with four smart white socks. I played football with the kids on the field behind the local shop today. The shop used, many years ago to be a Temperance bar. Interesting fact. In fact, this once was a thriving mining village, with a little coal train that crossed the road using a wooden bridge. I love seeing pictures of yellow buses from the seventies and smiling children and women in flared trousers. Before that, black and white pictures of horse and carts, farmers in caps. I played football with the kids for two hours, until it began to rain. Just before it did, a buzzard flew low over us. What a splendid sight. I am always seeing them. No wonder I have convinced myself that these things I see are signs, For what, I do not know. We were wet through. Now, bright sun again. The house is cold – how lucky are we, the ones who can just go and switch the heating on?
25th October, 2015
So nice to have a bit of a rest day after the frantic week! An unheard of lie-in until 7.30am – and an extra hour, due to the clocks going back. My son came in and told me that he had had a wonderful long sleep and that he had a feeling that he was going to do really well at the rugby. He did – he played so very well. I was so proud of him. I had a dash around the car boot sale today and managed to grab some good bits and bobs. Home to a lot of laundry and a bit of housework. Then some fun, setting up a webpage I have been meaning to set up fir a while. I have a mad hobby and felt the need to unleash it on the world. Apologies! Anyway, here it is –
It is pitch-dark at 5.18pm. It seems only yesterday it was sunny until 11pm. Here comes winter, good and proper. No real contact with friends today – not a bad thing, some days. Sometimes the brain just needs some peace and quiet. Or in my case, some messing about with other things.
26th October, 2015
I have discovered that you can perfectly time the Jolen on your top lip by reading the following John Donne poems – The Good-Morrow, Song, Womans Constancy and The Undertaking. There might possibly be something scary about me reciting Donne with ectoplasm on my soup-strainer but then, it is Halloween.
And woman with thine virtues rash,
Busie with bleechey on thy ‘tache.
I know – I know I waffle on a lot – but casting my mind back to my thoughts about a poet/writer summing everything up so much better that you thought you didn’t even know you could – I read four more Donne poems while on the power plate this morning and I think he right summed me up when I am waffling in a poem.
I am two fooles, I know,
For loving , and for saying so
In whining poetry;
For, he tames it, that fetters it in verse.
November 3rd, 2015
I just upset my eyes watching the Asda Christmas advert for the very first time – and yes, the ad is all about greed – eating too much, drinking too much and being surrounded by the perfect picture postcard family in a well-off home. The first of many, I’m sure. Why not an ad which is just a one minute blank screen that says Hey! This year Asda is giving it’s advertising budget to the homeless charity Shelter. Or something. Then it would still be an advert for them. If I was CEO, that is what I would do.
Anyway – even more horrifying is that at the end they display their ‘mission statement’. A supermarket has to have a mission statement? And it is –
SAVE MONEY LIVE BETTER.
Does this mean, for example, it is going to give employees a better life? Is it going to offer them reasonable working hours so that they can be home with their families by 6pm? Is it going to increase their wages to £10 per hour so they can manage to actually not be in debt? And give them the weekend off so that they can remember that they are human beings who can actually do something like go to the beach, the football, the garden, go walking, paint, read a book, see their children’s dance recital, take their old mam out for the day, relate to other human beings, have a hobby, sit in a chair? Or anything?
Maybe their mission statement should be
OUR EMPLOYEES WILL WORK 24/7 SO THAT YOU CAN BUY PATE AT FOUR AM THEY HAVE NOT PROPERLY SEEN THEIR LOVED ONES FOR MONTHS
Does this mean that they are going to slash profits so that the needy can afford to have this better life? Give away free stuff so that people in poverty can save their money and not end up in a life of debt and horror? Or even just switch their heating on? Maybe their mission statement should be
F**K ‘EM AND NECK SOME PROSECCO
And hey! Cover your house in five tonnes of lights so that you further drain the world’s resources – maybe their mission statement should be
F**K YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
I doubt this very much – it will continue to push the illusion of the perfect 2.4 family – the illusion that everyone is smiling and loved, has what they need. Go, on, spend your money here people. Maybe their mission statement should be
SHOP HERE SO WE MAKE A SH*TLOAD OF MONEY
November 4th, 2015
Well, the thing is getting taken off today. Nervous a little bit. But grateful for the healthcare that is going to do it. A world without healthcare, unimaginable. People out there with much worse problems than this. Sending them all my love and hope.
November 5th, 2015
I guess being plonked on the sofa today is going to lead to excess thinking. I walked Dom to the bus stop and saw him off. Walking back, I put the recycling wheelie bin out as it is our day. I was watching another neighbour doing the same. Suddenly I thought oh! You oblivious thing Jane! I noticed my other neighbour had not get theirs out yet. I have been worrying about them a lot of late – he has a long term illness and she has recently had a stroke. We have been and told them many times that we are here if they need help, with anything, anything at all. Anyway, I went over and put their bin out for them. A very small action indeed.
But it got me thinking – we can always do these small deeds – if everyone, everywhere did a small thing a day for someone, how would this old world be? I made a decision a while ago to do things such as this. They are small things, but human things. I woke up to my whiny ways a few weeks ago as I have this thought constantly in my head – you might not have everything you WANT, but you have everything you NEED. And I look at what I am and what I have – and I ask myself now, is this a problem? Or is this a ‘first-world problem’. Look to your left or your right, and there are people worse off, much worse off, properly worse off. I have access to food and medical care. I have a brain, and a body – we are capable of more than we think. I can and will work harder to achieve my goals. If you aren’t able to do big deeds, do small deeds, is my plan. Do something.
To this end, I have come up with ‘The Whinge Jar’. Whenever I think I am badly off, not famous, not supported, not wealthy, have no time to do exactly what I please, have to work – I am putting some change in a jar. Pretty much like a swear jar, only for moaning. At the end of it, I figure I will have a donation for someone who needs it.
Am not meaning to be contentious. This is what I feel, is all. Nobody has to feel the same. Nobody is happy all the time and we have our rights to feel what we feel. I just have a need to cure myself of moaning. The world is fast becoming a horrible place for so many. I am making a personal to stand to recognise my privilege. A small, unimportant stand, but a stand all the same.
Also I am Poem of the Month for November on the wonderful Diamond Twig