Tag Archives: sisterhood

It’s all Swings and Roundabouts.

perfecting her regal wave...

It is seductively easy to only blog about the happier bits of the day.

As I’ve seen discussed, many times, on billions of better sites than mine – to edit your life so it’s shinier, smoother…happier.

I’m conscious that this sometimes applies to me. Especially as I doggedly attempt to record my Beautiful Things every time. 

I’d like to reassure everyone that the mould continues in its inexorable creep across my daily landscape. That this morning my daughter stepped out of the front door and shouted Piss Off Rain into the sky, startling a passing schoolward bound family (not my school, thank Ganesha, but I suspect they may already have my measure there..) That mid cooking today, while I was putting a baking tray in the oven, Ida attempted to egg wash the living room.

When I went to retrieve her from the time-out-step-of-doom she admitted she knew I’d be cross when she finished the rolling-pin. When I asked why she didn’t stop there instead of carrying on to the table and piano stool, she shrugged insouciantly and said, “you were already cross…”

It doesn’t bode well for the future.

I have made no progress on the pressing DIY tasks surrounding us. Defunct fridges, collapsing cupboards, the mould on the bathroom ceiling, the chainless bathplug that breaks a nail every time I need to pry it out, the kitchen light that constantly requires a sharp blow with a wooden spoon to knock wires back into connection. The woodchip in the hallway.

Believe me when I say I could go on.

I suppose I want to notice the wonderful without concealing the awful. It’s pretty easy for me to celebrate the stuff I think is amazing and wonderful and ignore what I’ve judged unimportant.  Like hygienic standards and bacteria free floors.  Though I want to stress I’m not laying down rules. Just because it’s not crucial to me doesn’t mean it’s not important to others.

Recently as I’ve floundered through my days I’ve heard a lot of how could they?s and my own internal examinations remind me how much I value tolerance. Whether its toddler ear-piercing, spitting in the street, fruit shoots, sleep training, sheet washing, organic carrots there’s a lot of my-way-is-the-best-way-ism.

Not that I’m advocating no opinions on these subjects. Just that I think they should come with a I think.. or a for us the best thing is.. prefix. Is that wishy-washy woolly liberal of me?

There were many beautiful things today. Despite eggwashgate, cooking with Ida was absorbing and gratifying. Watching her knock knock knock with an egg and then crack it expertly into a bowl is truly a thing of beauty. Tea with friends was soul nourishing while the kids whooped, screamed and enacted lord of the flies scenarios up and down the stairs and on the landings.

Sat here now, in the quiet dim of my home, I notice how very homely it feels. Not very stylish, not as clean or as organised as I hope for but very cosy. It feels safe to me. I’ve just been upstairs to fetch something and looked in on the kids who are both angelicly sleeping. All rosy cheeks and stray curls. Ida clutching one of her Wellington boots and Zeph’s finger keeping the place in his current bedtime book.

Very beautiful. You barely notice Zeph’s floor seems to be carpeted with ALL his clothes and Ida has written her name on the bedroom wall over her cot in red marker pen.

Ennui and rage

Ida and I went on to the park after we had dropped Zeph at school today. We had nothing on our to do list except make tea so thought we’d take advantage of the early sun.

We had the entire park to ourselves except for a very serious muscle man doing pull ups on the climbing frame and grunting a lot. He didn’t stay that long as Ida decided to stand at his knees and grunt back at him.

Clearly not accustomed to children he fled.

I’m quite fond of the playground at the park. Possibly because I’m comparing it with the playground we sometimes cross on the way home. The one Z calls the broken glass playground. I’m sure you can form your own inner city mental picture.

At least there’s grass and trees here although also the usual quota of disaffected yoof. Breaking all the baby swings – damn them.

Ida is really independent at the playground – way more than Z was. Although she’s quite happy for you to come along on the car trip she’d rather play on stuff by herself – woe betide the adult who tries to lend a hand so the playground experience is pretty relaxing. You can even read a paper..

I love this picture – it really captures that crazy sunny light just before the storm. For once I actually managed to time it so we were stepping back through our front door as the heavens open.

Also I’m enjoying Ida’s glee at unimpeded access to the highly coveted teenager roost area.

 Okay – I actually wrote this post a couple of days ago, and halfway through writing it was submerged under a tidal wave of ennui and had to save and GET OUT! Now the obvious thing would be to delete and start again with something a bit more gripping but where’s the authentic self in that?  Often my life seems nails-in-the-eyes tedious. I’m sure we’re all in the same boat.

Of course I’m blogging about mine. *cough*

Today was more eventful – my lovely friend Erika dropped by in the morning to find the keys in the door and the house empty. I arrived back with Ida and a load of shopping to find a gentle note in the door. We waited, abashed, in the garden for her to call back after her work appointment.

I am very white queenishly chaotic at the moment. When I’m particularly clumsy I always suspect my subconscious of trying to sabotage me.  A bit of introspection doesn’t reveal much out of the ordinary – all the usual angst present and correct. Possibly that’s the problem as I’m sick to the back teeth of them all. Gah, double gah.

Anyway my lovely angel of mercy arrived on her bike with the most amazing dress she’s crocheted for Ida – she took some beautiful photo’s in the garden for Ravelry. I’ve taken some after dinner. So you’ve got extra yoghurt, felt tipped cats whiskers and Idas careful choice of red welly boot which gives her the air of a deranged gogo dancer.


How great are those sleeves? I love it. She originally suggested I might be up to it but I’m sooooooo glad she couldn’t resist making it herself as I’m pretty sure mine wouldn’t have looked like this.

Almost as lovely as the dress are my marigolds. They are gloriously ruffled which is odd as I’m pretty sure last years weren’t.. The cornflowers coming up in the path are staunchly blue;

After that soothing flower interlude I’m ending on something else griping my soul. Does the fact a woman lives amongst extreme poverty and crime (and is this surprising as chambermaiding is some of the most poorly paid and demeaning work around?) mean she is unlikely to be raped or sexually assaulted?

I am especially charmed by the comment made by a previous colleague comparing the foolishness of this situation to ludicrous cases where sex worker women claim they have been ‘raped’ or ‘assaulted’. Impossible no?

It was rhetorical. I’m off the garden to find some BT’s as I feel deeply in need.

Hairy issues

What I think is that the Goddess inside me is as hairy as she bloody pleases.

A woman at the swimming pool congratulated me yesterday on being brave enough not to shave. I didn’t know what to say to her. For a start I was taken aback, I don’t know if I’m extraordinarily uptight but I wouldn’t dream of commenting, except in an extremely positive  way on someone elses appearance. We, (my sister and I,) were always brought up to believe beauty is all about the inside and that good manners are about making other people feel welcomed and comfortable and not about redrawing obscure rules in the sand to prove you are in the right. Unlike Julie Birchall et al I don’t believe in assigning uniforms to feminism. Surely high heels have piss all to do with anything? but a sliver of me understands that we de fur ourselves for the male gaze, although it’s usually other women who raise the hue and cry. Who can forget the witch hunt that pursued Julia Roberts at the merest glimpse of armpit fluff?

It does seem that not employing the razor, wax or fish odoured cream is infinitely more shocking than any piercing, tattoo combo. If you really feel you have to then fair enough – I have no wish to judge you but must you judge me? Maybe you could decide why you really have to succumb to the pressures of advertising, the rapacious greed of proctor and gamble , the unthinking impulse that it’s hygienic, compulsory and a badge of womanhood.

Say’s who? and why?

Maybe the sheer bulk of my “fine figure” really releases me from all the other magazine imperatives. Not completely as I still take the time to tweezer out the strange whiskers that appear with increasing regularity on my chin and face these days. Why is this? and how do they escape my notice until they’re inches long and resemble a cats whisker?

This Venus is furry, what of it?

Counting up my beautiful things today.  ≈ It’s lovely to see Ida on tip-top demonic form after a very sick weekend. Was heart wrenching seeing her all pale and subdued so watching her haring around at the park in the sunshine was deeply gratifying. ≈ Good to sit in the sun with friends watching the kids all shed shoes and socks and get very red in the face climbing, spinning and swinging. ≈ Zeph executing the perfect cart-wheel on our way across the grass to the gate on the way home. ≈ The mars bar ice creams N bought to the picnic. ≈ Nearly finishing the first knitted baby hat. ≈Ida, asleep in her cot with no attempt at nest-building.

We are family

Frankly the less said about that sleepover the better.

That’s not completely true but I am still smarting so will allow a decent interval to lick my metaphorical wounds.

What’s in my mind right now is how much I like my sister. I mean I really love her – but I like her a lot as well. I’m pretty sure we’d hang out without the blood connection, I think she’s a sistah in all senses of the word.

I’m not an anonymous blogger, it was a conscious choice on my part to be as open as possible, so much else of me is out there, floating around in the public domain. I’ve probably blogged about stuff I wouldn’t necessarily sit down to talk to my family about, I’m not afraid they’ll read it but I also don’t go out of my way to tell them this stuff is here. 

I love that I’ve seen her grow into herself. I don’t think I know a more resourceful woman. We are an unstoppable, flexible, lateral thinking, roll with the punches, improvising, making the best of it, having a great time superteam.

She’s an amazing aunt – bringing the full focus of her attention on to my kids, making them feel special. I already doubt I’m going to be able to live up to this one in return.

No one makes me giggle like her in the night when we’re sharing a bed and supposed to be going to sleep – when we were kids and just the same only yesterday.

That we’re fine to disagree – essentially we’re different – we have quite a different take on faith, organisational skills – different strengths and weaknesses. We can respect those though, and appreciate them. It’s fine to vent, snap and be cross because basically we love each other and it can stand a little anger.

We have a fine family tradition of strong matriarchal leaders. Spiders in the centre of their homely webs tugging on lines and spinning stratagems. We’re pretty immune to any well-meaning or accidental meddling. My first instant thought is that the whisper has been chinese. She didn’t say that, I’ll check with her. We’ve got each others back.

My sister makes the choices she thinks are right. Even when they’re hard or wearisome. She always tries to see the best side. She thinks before she speaks. Most people who know us both think she’s the older sister and always have. She never rubs my face in it.

I think I give her things too. I hope I show her she can let go a bit. I hope I show her how capable she is, what potential she has. When things are sad there’s no one we want more than each other.  I hope I’m an example that most things heal.

When it looked like Z would be an only child my biggest ache was not being able to give him this kind of support network. Someone who remembers your childhood, each scrape and bruise. The triumphs, the misery and boredom – the crazy parents. The bad clothes, the bargains and battles – all the tricks and lies and borrowing. The chair in the garden whose arms were your pretend ponies and the terrible hippie lunch boxes no-one else at school wanted to share. Mung bean sprouts anyone? Not a fair swap for monster munch.

Sticks and stones

So have you read or heard some of the extensive media coverage of the Slutwalk? There’s one due over here in London talked about here on the BBC.

I’ve read some great posts and discussions about it and generally all positive. The most dissention seems to be about the language of it – I’ve read some really articulate posts and heard many discussions about  the rejection of this sexual hate crime language.

It’s one of those things where I find myself astride a fence unable to decide what I think. Sometimes I loathe the way I feel so uncomfortable having an opinion. It’s one thing being open to other people’s position, it’s another being to damn wishy-washy to lay my cards on the ground and stand on them.

So I’ve spent the last few days turning it over internally. Listening out for the bubbles of coherent thought popping on the surface of my muddy primeval swamp of a subconscious.

While I understand the power, both open and insidious, of language I can’t work myself up over slut and cunt. Let me be very clear – I am absolutely in opposition to the statement that provoked the whole slutwalk protest. It is rapists who are responsible for sex attacks not short skirts.

Slut and cunt though…I use these words a lot, slut – as in my sluttish behavior, as in I’m a dreadful sluttish slattern who wouldn’t hesitate to wipe a dirty teaspoon on her skirt and offer it to her friend to use. I use it light-heartedly between friends – I can’t think I’ve ever used it as a greeting or an insult. Cunt is a word is I regularly use as an anatomical description and an insult. I spent too much time in my youth hanging out with a very leery south london geezer. It has entered my (immense) swearing lexicon. I just can’t seem to find any guilt about this. (Anyone who knows me will see how extraordinary this is from a woman who apologises to passing strangers when it starts to rain…)

Are words just a conduit to the intent behind them? I’m not trying to reclaim those two – I just use them when they seem appropriate to me. Does me make me an unwitting puppet to  The patriarchal Man?

When a bullet if fired through a gun is it the hardware’s fault or the finger on the trigger? Are words the bullet or the gun? I think language is the gun that delivers the bullets of hate. That it is the intent behind the word that delivers the hate or otherwise. (no, you’re quite right – I wandered off track there.)

Overwhelmingly I think – aren’t there more important things to be enraged, politicised by,to be motivated to change, to talk talk talk about – like the shocking inequality of women’s pay, the glass ceiling, the lack of female MP’s representing us in parliament, the rise of domestic violence amongst our teenage young women, the commercial sexualisation of our children, the astounding low conviction rate in this country’s rape cases, the number of women still killed every year in their own homes by spouses, the marginalizing of lone parents – the majority of whom are women…. pause for breath…. These are just the ones that spring instantly to mind.

 I know there are a million billion trillion more important things to disagree about than whether I’m a slut, cunt, lady or woman. We’re all sisters and this bickering over labels feels like divide and rule to me.

It’s a beautiful thing, my card is on the floor and – whoop – I’m standing on it.

Though obviously open to anyone else’s opinion…. 

Calm down dear…

Well, it’s very satisfying all round to see the smiling, caring new man, new Tory party mask slip a little. Oh look – it’s a pompous, public school, Eton tailed, over privileged chauvinist, gosh – I was fooled by that bicycle.

Oops now I mention it perhaps the heartless slashing of essential benefits for vulnerable people, the smashing of the Surestart system – the first real chance of eradicating child poverty or the hypocritical removal of frontline NHS services and the dismantling of the free health service was,  perhaps, a little clue.

 Medea bless Angela Eagle for her brilliant response – I lifted this below from this article;

But Eagle said she had been “patronised by better people than the prime minister”, adding that Cameron should instead be apologising for the economy, which had “effectively flatlined for six months”.

She told BBC News: “I don’t think any modern man would have expressed himself in that way.

“The prime minister is responsible for what he says in the Commons. I think if there is an apology to make it should be for the dreadful growth figures we have seen today, which demonstrated that the economy has effectively flatlined for six months.”

She said it was up to Cameron “as to whether he wants to annoy 51% of the population”.

Although I was jaw clenchingly furious for a moment I agree it’s not exactly the end of the world. It was a pleasure to see Cameron slightly rattled but this ridiculous toddleresque form of debate usually turns my stomach. More Punch and Judy than democracy in action it seems the biggest blusterers and the loudest voices win the points. I wonder if all this unleashed testosterone and ball swinging is why those benches seem  filled with public school clones?

Parliament is hardly representative is it? and before we even tackle class or ethnicity I’m talking gender.

Why are there so few women MP’s? Well this campaign has some interesting points to make Women in parliament.

 Lilith love the Fawcett society.

Right, I’m off to bed with a trashy crime novel. I’ll be tackling the Monarchy tomorrow – yes it was a nice dress – yes they seem perfectly pleasant but  it’s all about meritocracy in this house don’cha know – don’t get me started on the hideous “princess” phenomena. I read Ida the Paperbag Princess at bedtime tonight and will keep it up until she leaves this house.


We had the most idyllic day yesterday at Slimbridge – it’s somewhere I’ve yearned to take them but without a car it is nigh on impossible to get to. I think the number 12 bus diverts that way every second Sunday but you’d only get about twenty minutes there before having to catch the last bus home. Since it’s quite costly to get in you see my hesitation I’m sure.

It was ludicrously summery, apply sun-cream every half hour, I’m not prepared or dressed properly for this gorgeousness. I haven’t been here since I was in junior school and a member of the YOC (Young Ornithologist Club) and Ms Bryan used to bring us here to sit in a cold wet shed and look at ducks. It was just lakes and a couple of shacks then so I was really impressed with their lovely visitor centre and the imaginative  children’s play areas including a great water splash place.

To be honest – we didn’t look at that many birds. (when we got home Steve was disapproving)  It was so hot and it had been ages since we’d seen each other and it was luxuriously lovely to stretch out like lizards and talk while the kids climbed trees, played in the sand, attempted to herd ducks and scrambled around on a variety of brilliant play structures.

Once we’d finished the coffee and picnic we did manage to stumble past some exotic looking birds to the water play place where we spent the rest of the day doing the same while the kids got wet in the sunshine.

Is there anything better?

This is Ida perturbed by the goose who took a fancy to her tuna roll. “Go ‘way! Go ‘way!”


Was blissful to just let the children roam about a bit. Zeph in particular blossoms with a free rein. On the whole I’d probably always choose urban living but seeing his joy at heading off into a green unknown makes me yearn a little for a back garden with a gate out to fields and woods and brooks. Actually we have a brook opposite our front door but I suppose I’m thinking of one full of frogs and sticklebacks as opposed to shopping trolleys, condoms and used needles… I know, just call me picky.

I’ve got some other unbearably cute photo’s of the kids playing together and my friends unbelievably cutchy baby girl but am resisting as I know others may not have my laissez faire approach to public display. Suffice to say they played together like angels, Sophie is a month older than Ida and at two yrs they do a lot of tandem play but after a day together they were hand in hand and thick as thieves at the end. Maddy is maybe one or two years younger than Zeph but they match each other brilliantly in playing together – she can out gross him any day – today he’s been listing her friends brilliant gross out abilities – apparently she know’s someone who can make their eyes pop out…

 and she likes Bieber.

Ah the old Time To Go Home face….

It was the kind of day that abounds with BT’s and falling in to bed last night I realised how genuinely light and happy I felt. A day with old friends that gave my heart a real workout.

More ranting

As usual I’m not completely sure what I think. Well that’s not really true as the man knocking on the door half an hour ago with a clipboard crystallised a few key things.

I do not agree with a legalisative ban on wearing the burka.

I’m also really shocked he was going door to door in a mainly muslim residential area. He seemed confident once seeing me I’d be falling into line with his rhetoric. I gave him a quick rundown on why I wouldn’t be and why his thinking was flawed. I’m pretty sure he regretted knocking. I don’t think my counter arguments found a resting place in his grey matter though…pity.

I’ve meant to write a post about this as it’s been in the forefront of many news items and high on my list of internal musings.

I  think the french ban is wrong, ignorant and short-sighted and completely the wrong way to effect lasting change. I feel it’s a group of bureaucratic men trying to strong-arm cultural change. From a government who consistently deal with the Roma by chasing them out-of-town with pitchforks and burning torches.

Does this mean I like the burka? No – absolutely not. I find it divisive, offensive to my feminist sensibilities and insulting to women. Do I dispute the right of an individual to wear one? – no.

As I’ve mentioned before we live in a culturally diverse area which is predominantly Asian muslims. Our first parents evening at the school made it very clear that Steve and I were an ethnic minority. I’d say that maybe half of the women were wearing a burka and a few were in a niquab.  I felt pretty isolated. Which is statistically how most women wearing the veil feel. Despite media protestations and a recent (post 9/11) rise of popularity it really is a very small minority of women who wear it. The three mosques in my immediate area are all pretty conservative – ie no women are allowed to worship there. There are three islamic faith schools in walking distance. My good friend Halah who is an Egyptian muslim says moving here could be compared to being a fairly relaxed Church of England, high days attendee turning up in a town were the only other christians are Amish and everyone else expects you to fall in with their customs and styles of worship. So I pass many veiled women day-to-day, at my local shops, at the school gate, at our local playground.

So you’d think I’d probably agree with the many spirited arguments I’ve heard about how the veil prevents communication and integration. My friend asks if I’d be happy with the kids primary teacher wearing a veil – surely it would be a bar to them forming a productive trusting relationship? Hmmm – I don’t know the breakdown but I’m pretty sure I remember non verbal cues outbalance verbal cues in face to face discourse.

I wash up, listen to the radio, read the papers. There is lots of coverage of this issue. In amongst speculation on Kate’s (sorry- Catherine’s) dress.

See the thing is, after a bit of time to get accustomed to it I don’t find the veil a problem. The intake has shifted, a lot of the more hardline parents have opted to use one of the faith schools. It’s actually quite easy to chat and share homework and uniform woes with a woman in a veil. I smile and nod to the women I queue behind in the shop, who step aside for my pushchair on the street. I don’t always recognise them but they’re not aliens – communication is not prevented by cloth.

Steve asks if I’m not bothered about not being able to see facial expressions when we’re gossiping about the shocking state of the local “glass” playground. I’m not a chimp, I like to feel I’ve evolved. I “speak” every day to people I can’t see. On the phone. On email, Facebook – here. It’s not impossible.

Fundamentally I disagree with the idea that the female form should be kept hidden. I also think trousers should be belted around the waist and not actually under an adolescents boys arse. That the wafer is just bread, not flesh. That fishing for fun is barbaric, that jokes should be kind and not at someone elses expense. That platform shoes should have stayed buried in their 7o’s fashion grave.

I don’t try to force these people to fall into line with me.

I’m sure of and saddened by the fact that there are women out there being forced by their family or community to wear a veil. I don’t think the answer is to forbid anyone to. It may as well be everyone has to… it’s like showing a toddler biting is wrong by biting them. Something I’ve always found incomprehensible.

It’s the tip of an iceberg I know but has prohibition ever successfully solved a problem?

Today has been beautiful (aside from Mr Clipboard) The sun shone on our egg hunt and ritual food blackening. I found some Pimms left over from last summer and we lounged around, idly chatting and soaking up Vitamin D. My garden is full of the productive hum of insects and greenery. I don’t even care about the bindweed. It feels abundant. The fat buds of my peony are covered in ants eating the green-fly. I find more plump buds on my irises, they were a gift from someone’s garden and I can’t wait to find out what colour they’ll be.

Top BT’s – the lamb, red onion and mushroom kebabs. The lamb was from the farmers market and is unbelievably delicious marinated in yoghurt, cumin lemon and mint.

M&D give the kids Easter presents instead of eggs, Ida has a new swimsuit and a beautiful rainbow striped sunhat. Zeph has a mini planes construction kit with a catapult to launch them with – instantly absorbed we have to call him three times for cake.

Steve is sick and Ida carefully kisses him better from the top of his head to his toes, at the end she says, “Better?” hopefully with her head on one side – “of course!”

Mental first aid

Today I have worked very hard at the knot in my psyche. Mainly by wrestling physically with things.

I spent an hour this morning ruthlessly digging out a triffid like pink japanese anemone that is taking up a HUGE proportion of my tiny garden. It was the only flowering thing here when we moved in and I’ve dilly dallied about digging it up. All the gardeny people in my life (mothers, aunts, g’mas) have sucked their teeth when they’ve seen it, ” it’s really very invasive…” but I’ve always reprieved it, tender heartedly. Well I need more room for my beans and stuff, and it’s a nice sunny spot.

Cor blimy it’s roots are impressive…I’ve bent my spade. The majority of it’s gone and I’ll finish it tomorrow. I judged it best to retire gracefully as I was turning the air blue and the nice Ukrainian congregation from the church next door were trying to do something spiritual and mysterious with boughs in their green space.

I made bread instead and, for once, kneaded the dough for the proper length of time, usually I’m too lazy. I also cleared out another mouldy cupboard, ripped up a lot of corrugated cardboard for the compost bin and mended the pushchair. Woo – dervish.

In the afternoon Zeph and I painted our outside table with the lilies we’d done for wrapping paper a few weeks ago. I think it looks great – we add some ladybirds for Ida;


The clematis in the tree is smothered in flowers, all tilted up to the sun;

In the afternoon I sit in the sun, puzzling over a sewing pattern I’ve acquired. The kids are very busy playing a mysterious game in the garden. Zeph appears to be striding around attacking things with a sword (bamboo stick) and then casting lots of spells…Ida follows him everywhere with his Bey-Blades on a cushion. On questioning Z reveals he is a demi god who has escaped from a video game and is moving around the world fixing stuff to his liking. “Whats Ida doing?” “Oh – she’s my acolyte”

What the hell has he been reading? This also lends weight to my theory about D&D being a genetic aberration/ phenomenom (depending on which side of the dice you stand.) Smugly I bet he doesn’t even know what an acolyte is.. “it’s an apprentice.”  Oh.

The game goes on for a good hour. I wonder how long Ida will be prepared to be an adoring imaginary game puppet. It’s about now that Alice uttered her first, firm and definitive, “no.”

 I lug my heavy (not stone) heart about and focus hard on abundent BT’s. I’m tired from a late night curled up in bed talking softly to and fro with Steve. His kind rational words, and those of others, are like arnica on my bruises. I breathe, then breathe again.


I’ve just put down the phone clumsily and my eyes are stinging. The children are playing in the garden. My chest is tight and I feel desperately panicked, I want to run out of the door, keep going and never come back. I feel the need to spill some of the words that have been humming in my heart like a swarm of angry wasps for the last few weeks but can’t think of a soul on earth I would burden with them.

This is one of the times my children are no comfort, in fact I push them away. I feel as though I can’t meet their clear grey eyes. I am prickly, repelled, overwhelmed. Rationally I know these feeling will pass. That they are temporary blips on my preciously carved, rigorously guarded happy life but right now…well – it seems impossible to even breathe though this.

A few weeks ago a nice woman rang me to pass on some sad news about a death and to invite me to a funeral, she begged me to come and asked me to maybe say something or do a reading.

I wasn’t kind to her. I should have been and I wasn’t. I was polite but cold. I asked how she had got my number. I told her I was very sorry for her loss but I definitely wouldn’t be coming. I put the phone down very carefully.

Steve asked who it was as he passed through the room. I told him it was British Gas. I let ice form around my heart, over my eyes, felt the frosting on the small mammalian part of my primal brain where I shoved a million newly birthed, mewling squirming thoughts and slammed the door shut.

A week later walking in the park with some friends, in the sun, I surprise myself by mentioning it. The words come quickly, unplanned, unbidden. They say kind things, thoughtful stuff. They reassure me I made the right choice. I smile and turn the subject. The truth is I showed them only a bit 0f the truth. A glimpse of the peak of an iceberg. Under the water, unseen and unimagined, century old ice waits. The debris of decades swirled in its acquired strata.

I don’t show anyone that.

Like Pandora’s box my primitive grey cell won’t stay closed  and slowly, insidiously, those thoughts have wriggled to the front until now, as I sit here in front of the blank screen peering past the swinging door, there’s nothing there, not even a fragile hope with crumpled wings and a torn petal skirt.

Her name was Fiona. Her pet name at home was Tally. That’s what most people who knew her called her. I liked her a lot. We had a lot of things in common. We met at a support group. The group quickly hit the dust as they did back then. Unprepared as I was to deal with myself, with my past, I felt like I made a real friend in Tal though.

She had a lot of admirable qualities. She was really clever and very determined. Funny too in a sly sarcastic way I really got. She stuck out university and got a first. For a while she held down difficult demanding jobs. We stayed in each others lives. Through teenage stupidity, broken hearts, keep fit kicks, a spell of early morning running. She came to all the gigs of my awful grlzz band phase, read the books I recommended. I read the New Scientist to keep up with what she was talking about. We tried an ill-fated jazz jive class, kept junkie secrets and shared single girl cocktail fueled nights out. We tried countless new starts, each time ending holding each others hand as we jumped off the wagon together.

In the end I felt tired of treading the same circle around again and again. I wanted to spiral my way out of my personal misery and choose a different kind of life for myself. I found myself at the bottom of a stinking barrel and rightly concluded it was now or never.

Either you recognise this evangelical rhetoric or you don’t. If you’ve moved through it you’ll have your own story and if you haven’t – hurrah for you, or guess you’re just not ready to hear it yet. 

I pruned Taly out of my life as ruthlessly as I uproot the bindweed in my garden. I hardened my heart, moved and changed my telephone number, I threw away my mobile, so easy for late night texting wavering. I still don’t have one now. I burnt out neural friendship networks and worked hard to form new ones.

It wasn’t that she wouldn’t be supportive, we were always supportive of each other, it’s just one of us would always fail and pull the other one down. Not always her, often me. It’s just this time I could only push my own stone up the hill – I couldn’t carry any of her weight. I couldn’t risk it and so I abandoned her.

And now I sit here in my beautiful life, in my beautiful (mouldy) house, with my beautiful children and I feel like a monster.

That was Marion on the phone. She was distraught, tearful, angry. She is a nice woman. They live in a nice house in Bristol. I know because a resentful adolescent Tally and I robbed it once when we needed money.  She says I abandoned Tally, dropped her when she really needed me. That I couldn’t even be bothered to go to her funeral. That maybe if I hadn’t of hurt her so much she would have sorted her life out. That I had been a bad influence. That she had a box of unsent letters to me under her bed. That she had so much promise. That it was a dreadful unbearable waste. That I was a shameful excuse for a human being.

She doesn’t tell me a thing I don’t know. These things are all the truth. And I know that if anyone I know reads this and even kind people I don’t know they can soothe me with rational truths. It’s just that these are not the only truths.

Under the water lurks more unpalatable truths about survival and selfishness and thank-god-it-wasn’t-me. Also a terrible fear that it may be me if I can’t hold on, if the path slips from under me. That Tal’s abyss is waiting under my feet. That my refusal to even think about going to the funeral is as much to do with a superstitious fear of infection of the unbearable itch as a desire to avoid hypocrisy. I have many grey early morning thoughts about why it was her and not me, what is the difference? I just don’t know and not knowing means I can’t guard against it.

I think there are no satisfactory answers to these questions. It is all down to the vagaries of fate and we are responsible only to ourselves to snatch whatever happiness we can. I try to apply my philosophy of people doing the best they can to myself. It is slippery and will not fit. I have a stone instead of a heart.