Thursday, 4 December 2014

Tipping point

Fumbling fingers dial a number engrained since early childhood; and a voice I don't recognise as my own asks for an assistance seen in countless TV dramas; only this is our drama, unexpected, frightening.... A tipping point on an adjusted scale.

There is a fine balance we seek, as we juggle the complexity of our lives to avoid obvious stumbling points; yet all the while, unseen forces gather at the margins, silent; waiting for that perfect moment to send  the bar plummeting , the balls tumbling and rolling round the floor. As I dialled, I felt that balance tip; shifting a load so carefully spread, my shoulders hung heavy with the sudden weight of it. For an instant, I stumbled; allowing the balls to slowly roll to the furthest reaches; unable to gather the momentum to set them spinning through the air ; shifting the weight back to that elusive midpoint. 

Life rumbles on, as it must, and the scattered pieces have been retrieved to be set spinning once more. There is less weight pressing down upon my shoulders, yet that elusive midpoint evades us still...... the bar forever resting one degree above tipping point, as we inch our way back to normality once more. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The ties that bind

Like migrating birds we took flight, and journeyed South to our childhood home for an organic gathering; sparked by a landmark birthday, a torrent of to-ing and fro-ing of messages via the web, and a whistle stop visit from a sibling in the states. 
Like all good gatherings, it revolved around food; so we arrived laden with tasty morsels, ready to reminisce and weave our tales over the debris of a drawn out meal. 

There is a warm sense of comfort in stepping through a familiar threshold to be enfolded in the hustle and bustle of three generations reconnecting after time apart. The flurry of hugs, greetings and gentle ribbing, tightening the ties that bind us together once more.

Like every family, we soon fell into our pre-ordained groupings, honed over years of shared events. Our not so small sons, delighted to have cousins to play with, caused gentle mischief before settling down to bragging rights and an old box of Lego. Whilst the eldest, now tall men towering above us all, yet still retaining,with impish grins and tales of risky exploits, some small trace of the small boys they once were; conversed with an ease that comes with youth....  
...and we, the older generations, sat side by side; balancing plates and memories; weaving tales of photo line ups, childhood mishaps and mayhem; finding the natural rhythm of conversation and comfortable closeness which served to remind us why it is we should all meet more often.

These are days to cherish; touched as we have been by a slow fear of dark shadows on light boxes. Our ties that bind may fray a little and stretch with age and distance, but these twisted strands of shared experience and DNA will hold us together, always. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Ebb and flow

Rippled  mud, as the river ebbs and flows; creating its own patterns to soften a harsh industrial scene etched on the near horizon. 

Super cranes stand sentinel, a herd of clanking dinosaurs; alert, scenting the morning breeze for passing prey.

Along the narrow path lace is fading, til nothing but dry twigs remain; marking a season slowly slipping away

Snails creep through crack, crevice and lichen blooms; then up over the channeled wall; sheltered from the blustering breeze and beady eyed birds

Whilst gulls wheel and cry their mournful songs above slow decaying wood and weathered stone

.... And birds gather to sit like pegs on empty washing lines; gazing at a slow sinking sun

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Grey skies

I journey to work under ink blue skies that gently fade to pale grey ; washed out and heavy with the endless fall of rain. 
 Now is the season of dirty cloud banked like week old snow by the roadside; darkened mornings and leaf mulch underfoot. Of relentless, buffeting winds; and morning mists that soften harsh lines and erase the familiar; blurring the the horizon as if viewed behind saggy net curtains.
As the temperature drops, faces pale and pinch, and numbness seeps to our very souls.....
... and  we who dread the slow creeping damp, curl beneath heavy quilts, with soft breathing cats, to dream of warm sun on salt kissed skin. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Rain stops day

Today I fumble with buttons and slip on the sixth step.. Joints stick like rusty locks bonded tight shut by time and creeping damp. Rain has washed away colour, muting the day.

I drive under grey skies that sit heavy on the horizon; obscuring city monoliths and industrial heartlands. Along busy roads brightened by a single sodium lamp; sadly out of synch with the dead eyed poles that line the carriageway.

Ceaseless rain runs in rivulets down the misted window pane; turning an unending trail of rear lights into fragmented gems; whilst the engine idles, and the rhythmic swish of wipers beats out the minutes.

A glimpse of colour catches my eye. Along the footpath, a man appears, idly twirling an impossibly large rainbow striped umbrella as he saunters uncaring into the downpour. He is the only thing moving, and I can't help but wonder if he really is singing in the rain.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Stepping out



As darkness settled around the metropolis, we came; wearing hope and sorrow on our backs, as we stepped out into the city that never sleeps. 
The lights on the river reflected the lights on our wrists, as we wove our way through wakeful streets, past luxury goods illuminated in soft glowing spotlights; silent, shuttered shops....and the shrouded silhouettes of the dispossessed; curled under sleeping bags in shadowed doorways, seeking oblivion in the arms of restless sleep.
We passed pubs, bars and clubs spilling their music  through open doorways, and  revellers out onto the pavement; dressed up, made up, suits, heels and amorous glances... perfume and aftershave mingling with the scent of just extinguished cigarettes, and the fumes of bus exhausts.  
Step by step, mile by mile we trod the paths of a city pulsing with life; pushing fears of death into dark recesses, absorbing the warmth and comfort of strangers spurring us on.... and when our legs grew leaden, voices stilled, and the final miles seemed to stretch to infinity; we watched the sun rise reflecting in the river, reminding us of why we came.... and we shone.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Shadow play

I have never been afraid of the dark. Even as a child it enfolded me like a soft blanket; as cocooned in the comfort of my warm bed, I gazed at shadowy objects round the room - their lines blurred by the coming of night.

 On those damp Autumn evenings, when the dwindling sun cast thin lines of palest rose to bleed into deepening clouds;  and shadows lengthened as the sky turned to indigo; we could be found in the garden, torch in hand, playing  wild games of 1,2,3 home.... The excitement intensified by the threat of being caught in a sudden blinding beam of torchlight. With soft tread, and hearts in mouths, we would creep from deep shadow to deep shadow; smothering nervous giggles as we inched our way past the nominated torch bearer before committing to that final mad dash towards the tree designated 'home'.

Even now, if I wake tangled in sheets, befuddled by unremembered dreams, it is not a familiar circle of lamplight I seek; rather it is the stillness of the dark house and  gentle sound of crickets singing to the moon. Yet lately,  a whisper of dark shadow on light box screen has shaken my trust in the benevolence of darkness... leading me perhaps to seek out those small pools of soft light that comfort and protect; keeping small daemons at bay.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Spitting distance

Rippled waters lap sleeping boats in early evening lullaby; as the tide trickles through the creek, slowly raising hulls from muddied beds.

 Plovers come to peck at worms wetly burrowed in brackish mud; daintily balancing, backs to the breeze, intent upon their feast.
A curlew calls, hidden between raised banks of scrub; its voice carried on the wind so we who hear cannot tell wherein it truly lies.

We cross the wooden bridge, pausing to watch the water carried over stones; and a crab, lured to baited line, wrestling with a proffered snack.

Then up onto the spit, over pebbles smoothed by countless tides, to stare out towards the horizon.
We walk towards the castle; the buffeting wind and stones slipping beneath heavy feet, making headway slow....

until, of one accord we turn and slip slide our way down the shifting slope and back along the creek side path, towards the ice-cream van and the promise of sweet treats for weary walkers .

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Wild seas

As children we walked the dog on storm tossed beaches, feet crunching on slipping stones as the wind snatched at coats and hair; leaving us elated and breathless in equal measures.
Hands stuffed deep in pockets, and shoulders hunched, we stomped headlong into the gale; watching wild eyed as wind and waves hurled cloud and spume in their wake ... roaring as they raced towards the shore.
This was the sea at its best, wild and unstoppable; crashing and smashing against restless stones, smoothing rough edges of ever shifting shingle, creating banks and hollows in which to find shelter from wind blown spray.
Sometimes we would stumble upon strands of seaweed and mermaids purses, flung up from the depths and marooned on the shoreline. We would run in the wind, dragging them behind us like glorious tails; or fling them at one another; until the game was no longer a game, and we too had become as wild as the sea.

Thursday, 14 August 2014


Clouds pleat into themselves, like fresh folded towels; darkening and heavy with the promise of rain. Their shadows creep across cropped corn fields, causing crowds of crows, gleaning for grain in feathered formation, to take to the wing; heading towards the shelter of ancient oaks as they race the first fat drops that fall from dulled skies.
A gentle breeze turned savage buffets the hedgerows, sending ripening apples tumbling to the ground; the noise of their landing lost in the echoing thunder. As clouds crash and cluster, rain falls in torrents; bouncing off window panes, pooling on patios ; turning the world through glass to soft focus.
... and I, curled up with steaming cup and dog-eared book; stare out at the rivulets that run down blurred panes, listening to the music of the rain, and the contented breathing of slumbering cats.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The moon

 Through slatted blinds the benevolent moon softly beams; soothing tired minds and flooding the darkened room with its quiet light.
It moves through cloudless skies, washed clean of wind and rain; its silver glow reflected in the panes of silent houses where dreamers dream of better days to come.

 Under such a moon, in distant mountains; my father and I once lay on rooftop terrace, cushioned upon soft divans, gazing upward at a myriad of stars scattered amongst deep indigo skies.
As the heat of the day slowly ebbed from each stone, and the village settled into slumber; the moon  shone silently down upon us all.

Thursday, 7 August 2014


Relics of the day's cobbled clouds are still chalked upon the darkening sky. In the deepening indigo, I watch a golden moon rising through undressed windows, until its quiet light slowly appears in the uppermost  panes.

 Homecoming has sent those waves of exhaustion as limbs and minds relax, finally to break over me; my senses lulled by the song of crickets and purring of soft sleeping cats.

 The house enfolds me like a cashmere blanket, cradling me in its warmth and comfort. By the moon's glow, I trail my hand lightly upon the bannister  to reach the top room; and there, gaze out across rooftops and onwards to the lights of docks that never sleep; the familiar low hum of engines resonating clearly across the cool night breeze.... an industrial lullaby.

Tonight I shall sleep sound; with languid cats upon the bed to anchor feet; each vibrating breath pulling me from consciousness; until I too succumb to sleep's warm embrace.
When morning comes I shall awaken to pale sunlight filtered through slatted blinds, the soft call of doves on warmed rooftops and my rhythm of life restored.

It has been a long journey these last few months, and all of you who have cared to listen or read my words, you too have carried me home.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Homeward bound

Out of nowhere, a single call has ended the haunting wait of living, crumpled clothed, as temporary nomads. Minds fraught with the daily balancing of mundane tasks, made complex by circumstance, can at last find the still quiet calm that sustains the soul.
Tonight we can curl contented in our own beds; the heavy weight of supine cats soft breathing at our feet.
The last 5 months has been hard; especially so for small son. The constant to and fro has unsettled the most stoic of us; and daily routines established to get by, have left a lingering state of exhaustion.
Yet for all this, we have been embraced by the truest of friends, who have opened their homes to us, keeping us from crumbling.... Perhaps this is the way life's balance is restored.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Time travel

Unpacking my childhood books today brought with it that distinctive musty scent of age speckled pages;  evoking a memory of a place I had all but forgotten.

In my godmother's house was a room where time stood as still and silent as the stopped clock slowly tarnishing on the marble mantle piece.
Tall windows, half shuttered and draped with damask, lent a cool air to the hottest of days; creating dust motes to dance in the muted beams of filtered sunlight that fell upon a worn turkish carpet.
The air was heavy with the weight of passing years; causing us to slow and become as shadows, creeping quietly under the watchful gaze of ancestral portraits.
This was 'granny's' drawing room; where the echo of a genteel past could be glimpsed in the silver frames of smiles long since forgotten, that stood, fine filmed with dust, upon an untuned piano.
Under domed glass were the delicate mouldings of baby hands and feet; slightly macabre, yet fascinating in equal measure; as were the stuffed birds forever fixed with wings spread and beaks open wide, to ornamental branch and leaf.
With cautious hands we would run our fingers along the beaded fringing of glass table lamps, and peek inside photo albums with creaking covers and musty pages; sepia filled with images of the long departed.

Finally, curiosity sated, we would soft step back down the passage way and out into the garden; seeking daylight and the warmth of the living once more.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Tall trees

Under tall trees, there is stillness. The sounds of the forest fade, and  air falls heavy; enfolding all things in a blanket of quietness.

Motes dance in fragmented beams of sunlight fractured through a shady canopy; bathing the day in a soft stippling of green light, as if viewed from underwater.
Time is meaningless; slow unfurling leaves of delicate ferns and the subtle march of ants foraging through cracks and crevices of ancient tree trunks, mark the minutes in a rhythm all their own.

This is a place of quiet contemplation; where every breath seems to come from the trees themselves and each thought absorbs into the fabric of still silence.

 In these cool, calm spaces, peace is absolute; allowing the soul to rebalance once more.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Spinning spiders

There are silent watchers in the garden; spiders, canopied under leaf and stem who wait, ever patient, for what the day will bring.
 From the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of one dangling, soft swaying in the breeze like the pendulum of an ancient hallway clock. With a twitch of spindle leg it twists and climbs the delicate thread to anchor once more in its gossamer cradle.

Webs adorn each plant, their fine threads shimmering in the sunlight. Some are long vacated, drifting into dull dustiness and ragged edges with no spider to maintain their intricate spirals. They are not mourned, but simply abandoned as the spider moves on weaving its very existence anew each day; never faltering when its web is destroyed, creating and recreating its past and future.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Snail trail

On still summer nights, when the sun drenched day had left a haze of heat rising skyward, and windows were thrown wide to beckon in the briefest of breezes; my mother would lie awake listening to the slurping of hedgehogs in the vegetable garden. With snuffling delight, they feasted upon those slugs and snails that had silently crept from under hose-dampened leaves to dance beneath the moon.

As a small child, I would investigate the 'slug traps' put down to entice both slugs and snails away from the growing greenery. These consisted of old jars, half filled with beer into which they would slide, until sodden with alcohol and unable to crawl back out, they would drown.

Slugs never fascinated me, they were fat, rubbery and grotesque, with nothing endearing to redeem them; but snails! ...with tentacles that stretched and shrank as they slid along the patio, past abandoned pots, and on into flowerbed beyond; These were the creatures that caught my imagination.

Snails, their whorled and patterned shells shiny with rain, hiding under terracotta pots where, in the damp darkness, babies as thin as a fingernail slowly inched up through the cracks and crevasses and out into daylight; their pale shells almost translucent in the sunshine.

On rain swept days, they would creep from beneath the dampened lavender to slowly form a swirling rangoli of shimmering slime on the pathway; and I , fascinated, would watch their intricate manoeuvres as they weaved in and out and around each other, their tentacles quivering and stretching in time to their courtly dance. I could not bear to see one crushed underfoot, so would gently peel them from the path, and deposit them in the long grass beside the fence; safe from unknowing feet and hungry thrushes; awaiting their chance to dance in the velvety blackness of the coming night.

Indeed, when the rain had seeped into another day, and the morning sun warmed the garden once more; the still shimmering steps of waltzing snails could be seen, long after their midnight music had faded into silence.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


The warmth of the sun has soaked into the paving stones and I, unshod, absorb its radiance through my soles. As it rises to its zenith, colour is slowly leached from wild grasses, transforming wiry stalks to hay as it shines on down. A splash of crimson from a solitary poppy breaks up the sepia of parched verges, as the haze rises into still air.

On sun baked days such as these, I miss the salt tang of the sea as it rolls relentlessly onto pebbled shores; clattering stones with sonorous sound to lull and soothe the most jumbled of minds. I long for cool breezes to ruffle skin; raising  goosebumps as I settle back into warm pebbled hollows to gaze at the sharp white sails that drift across the horizon.

I am landlocked; anchored by a river, which, although beautiful in its own way, cannot compete with the great expanse of sea. It ebbs and flows with the tide, creeping to cover rivulets of exposed mud , genteel in its flowing, with none of the wild ferocity the sea brings; the rolling surf, white water waves and taste of salt on sun warmed skin...My feet follow tarmac paths, edged with graffiti and the washed up detritus from passing vessels. Once they balanced down tracks carved from crumbling cliffs, onto shingle that slipped and sighed past beach huts weathered by a thousand storms.

For now, the river will suffice, but soon I shall turn my face south and head for the beach once more.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Many a slip.....

I was a clumsy child, all bumps, bruises and grazed knees. Awkward in dresses; arms, legs and hair awry, I hurtled through my childhood in a series of scrapes and broken bones.
My mother took us to ballet lessons; but pigeon toed and lacking in grace I preferred to climb trees, skateboard down the hill behind the house or cycle to the beach to jump the waves. I broke branches, wrists and my teeth in the slips and tumbles I took; layering cuts upon bruises and gaining the occasional scar.

Now I find myself slipping on the sixth stair, layering bruises once more. My mornings bring stiff jointed Dutch doll legs, swollen knuckles and slow reflexes that cause me to stumble and slip as I grasp the bannister to steady my descent. My ankles, unyielding, sabotage what little grace I have, as I trip up steps ; stubbing toes, blunting  pride and leading to painful interludes.
My bone scan says arthritis... But I wonder if the CT scan will reveal 100% clumsy written large through to my very core

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Suspended animation

Slowly the silken skeins of spider webs spread from shuttered windows....and on to cling to the corners of picture frames. Delicate in the still air they festoon white walls with desiccated carcasses of long digested flies.
Since our hasty departure, the house has sunk into weary resignation; like Miss Havisham before a decaying wedding breakfast. Cats pad on soft paws, commandeering cushions, shedding fine fur across  bedspreads and carpet corners; to add to the thin layer of dust, stirred by feet to settle in whorls upon the carpet.
A listless ennui has crept up on us; the flurry of painting and cleaning a distant memory as another month ticks past, bringing no respite from this waiting game. Like Vladimir and Estragon we are paralysed; destined to forever wait for a redemption that never comes.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


In our garden we have planted flowers, sweet scented, radiant with colour, to tempt bees to come savour the nectar.......

As a child I would watch enthralled whilst small furry bodies balanced on spindle legs, clutched and clung to the most delicate of petals, as they flitted from bloom to bloom.

Bees; swift, soft, oblivious to  my presence, buzzing in and out of woodland flowers; disappearing into the speckled trumpets of foxgloves to emerge moments later, legs powdered with pollen. Sometimes I would stretch out small fingers, sliding them slowly into the silky blooms, trying to feel what it could be like to crawl inside each inviting flower.

In my Godmother's orchard there were bees a plenty, dancing amongst the daffodils on warm Spring days; landing briefly on ancient white wood hives, long since abandoned; before spiralling up through mossed apple trees and away into bright blue skies.

By Summer's end we would find them drunk on nectar, too sated to fly; clutching at grass stems in an effort to launch themselves into the air . Many a bee has been lovingly scooped up on a fresh picked leaf, and gently placed on a window ledge to sleep off their excess before taking to the skies once more.

So now, we plant sweet smelling flowers and wait for the bees to come......

Monday, 26 May 2014

Picking up pieces

In the aftermath of fire we are transformed, chameleon - like; subtly changing to fit into the spaces and routines of others. We softly tread, anxious not to disturb, mindful that for all we are amongst true friends, we are still transient, with all the etiquette this entails.
Unable to relax, I yearn for my own sense of space, for things that soothe and calm; for routines all my own. Waking in other beds, other rooms from fitful sleep has left me world weary; I long for an end to this peculiar exile.

This weekend I dispatched son and husband to family, and with determined air, a camping stove and a bucket, reclaimed my home from the creeping sadness of neglect that threatened to overwhelm it.
As I tidied, scrubbed and cleaned, the heaviness I have become accustomed to silently slipped away, restoring the connection with my own space once more.

Last night I slept curled around soft breathing cats, in my own bed, for the first time in 81 days. A hiatus of calm in these turbulent times, unsustainable whilst there is no water, power or sewerage to make return possible; yet for all that exactly what was needed in order for me to regain what has slowly been leeched away.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The early bird...

As sunlight breaks through skeins of stippled cloud; three young crows sit atop a lamppost, launching themselves in sequence to flap in long lazy circles before coming to rest where first they began.
On the lake below, a cormorant stands perfectly balanced upon a jutting post, its back towards the morning sun, spreading wings and feathers wide to warm each delicate strand.
Cautious cygnets take to the water, crowding round for comfort, paddling in concentric circles under the watchful eye of wary parents.
With legs splayed and wings awkwardly angled,a gaggle of geese come into land, skittering over the surface in a flurry of feathers and furious honking; kicking up the waves to set a flotilla of resting moorhens rocking.
A scattering of starlings appear, winging their way through the winding power lines above, heading for nearby grassland and the promise of plentiful breakfast.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

In the midst of life...

In the midst of life, we are in death.......... It is the spectre that creeps in the space between consciousness; unfelt by all but those whose life has been coloured by its still, soft touch. It is the darkening shadow in the weary eye of we who have danced briefly in its caress, returning home wiser, more cautious, to live another day.
It reveals itself in small moments, a stark reminder of our own fragile mortality.

A dead fox lies beside the carriageway; a splash of dried blood marking his demise. On the verge, a lone magpie waits to feast upon the carcass, hopping to and fro, wary of the rumbling trucks passing by.

 On the corner by a busy junction, a white bike hangs suspended high upon the railings; its frame interwoven with flowers wilting in the morning sun. A smile from a gently placed photo amplifies the sense of loss. It is but a fleeting glimpse; yet an image forever to remain.

Who will mourn the fox, whose body now cooled lies slowly decomposing, ripening ready to be carried off by carrion crows; or is the very fact its death does not go unnoticed, remembrance enough.

Friday, 9 May 2014

.... Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.....

Washing billows in ordered rows , throwing scattered shadows across the slow breathing bodies of sleeping cats lying torpid in the warmth of the sun. The sweet scent of jasmine perfumes a delicate breeze to freshen languid limbs as we sit in companionable silence, noses buried in books.
Lazy Sunday morning; brunch on the patio, time slowed ........only this is but a facade of normality; we are merely visitors in our own home, playing at everyday family life.
The sting of fresh paint and symmetry of newly hung pictures belies the turmoil of packing and unpacking, as we gather what we need in folded piles and disappear off into the night to while away the moonlit hours in other people's houses, other beds.
With increasing frustration we mark the tally of time, 63 days; yet still the clock ticks on in endlessly  mounting minutes weighing heavy from the effort of this daily grind.
Taps stand dry, switches powerless, and pipe work depleted. Only the silence of broken promises starting point, no end in sight.......

Monday, 5 May 2014


 My son lies sprawled in sleep; pink cheeked and arms akimbo.
No longer sullen teen,with glowering look and muttered moan;
 but a small boy once more.

 In sleep he transforms; tranquil and at peace;
 the sound and fury of the day forgotten.

As I gaze upon his sleeping form, the strain and toil of battled wills is all but erased;
 in its place the memory of sweet milky breath against my skin
and tight coiled fist curled round my thumb

Saturday, 3 May 2014

View from the bridge

The lake shivers as cool breezes send ripples skittering across muted waters; fracturing grey sky reflections and shadow trees. Coots ride the wrinkles, bobbing and swaying in natural rhythm with  clumps of soft swaying rushes, and the quiet fall of rain.

Up above, white smoke weaves its way through leaden clouds and the march of pylons striding past abandoned factories and rusting skeletons of an area as yet untouched by regeneration....
... and all the while tall turbines spin madly on.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Driving miss, daily....

Through thin mist, the turbine lazily spins in syncopation with the hum of early morning traffic ; whilst at its feet a willow brushes the lake with graceful,overhung branches, to create a curtain for coots to skim through on their way to dabble in the shallows for a tasty morsel or two.
The occasional duck, awkward in flight, alights feet first with a splash; sending ripples scurrying over the stillness of  water unruffled by Spring breezes......
... and I, in my car, gridlocked, mesmerised by the endless stretch of brake lights, amidst the solitary souls mouthing words to unheard melodies; find a moment of meditation before the rush of the day begins.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Back to the start

My surgeon recently asked me to write a piece about my diagnosis and treatment for his website. Of course I agreed; he is a lovely man, and the skilful way in which he put me back together again is something for which I will always be truly grateful.

I know that the piece I write will be straightforward, warm and full of praise for the team who worked so hard to rebuild me. It will, however be only a small part of my history; edited and homogenised to remove the turmoil of the true narrative; to soothe the reader, and in doing so reassure them that, in the end, everything will be okay.

The reality is more stark.......

I felt it in the shower, a lump, hard and unyielding beneath my fingers; in stark contrast to the soft surrounding flesh. I ignored it at first, knowing that I was soon to go for my annual scan; I put it to the back of my mind, and carried on regardless.... but the lump remained, a solid nugget under probing fingertips.

At the clinic I smiled through the scans, the biopsies; willing this to be a cyst, a mistake, a figment of a hypochondriac's imagination......and then the nurse walked into the room with the specialist, and at that instant I knew.

There is that sudden moment of clarity when you hear what is to be said before a single word is uttered. The look between specialist and nurse confirmed what in truth I had known all along.

I went into preservation mode, poker faced; discussing the practicalities of the surgery to follow.  Lumpectomy or mastectomy?One breast or two? 'Like ordering tea at a posh cafe,' I remember thinking in a wry moment of black humour.

 Words flew over and around me, I watched hands  sketching quick drawn diagrams, weighed up the pros and cons. The specialist was kind, attentive; giving me time to ask questions, double checking I had understood the mechanics of the procedure. I smiled, I nodded, whilst all the time my unspoken thoughts were spinning into free fall.

On the drive back from the hospital reality hit, as it surely must. I pulled my car over to the hard shoulder and howled, then, mindful I was heading to work, wiped my eyes, gave myself a stern talking to and found my poker face once more.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Along the riverbank


Mechanical giants stand motionless under soft skies, as the tide slowly sinks to mid stream. 
Seagulls gather to stare at the retreating water, looking for titbits in the river mud.

From the barrier wall, tormented souls glare at unassuming passers by;
silently screaming their pain to anyone who will pause and drink in their despair.

The devil is in the detail, overwritten with with the thoughtless scribbles
of those who leave their tags as a dog leaves scent trails..

Whilst round the the river's bend an iron fist reaches out 
to be noticed, remarked upon, remembered.

Sulphur smoke from twisted chimneys punctuates the darkening sky

as down stream, dock lights guide the weary towards safe harbour, 
and the setting sun finally sinks behind the industrial heartland.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Spring Cleaning

The Spring sunshine has arrived, banishing shivering still air, warming rooms and breathing a little tenderness back into our cold abandoned home. Motes of dust dancing in the sunbeams have spurred me on to remove ancient cobwebs laiden with the long dead corpses of a spider's supper,in an attempt to restore order where chaos still reigns.

Now is the time for painting; balancing precariously on stepladders as the slow, sucking pull of a roller on plaster transforms tired walls; and the scent of fresh paint belies the lack of proper cleaning as we wait for services to be restored.

In the dark depths of the burnt out garage below our feet, wires bereft of power have been stripped from charred walls; tangling like cold spaghetti abandoned on the driveway. A car, hardly recognisable as the BMW it once was, has been dragged from the pit; leaving a trail of oil, ash and burnt rubber in its wake, before being unceremoniously lifted on the back of a lorry and hauled away to the scrap heap.
Ceiling boards, melted piping and all manner of now unrecognisable objects have been added to the overflowing skip.
Slowly but surely the clean up has begun....

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Down by the riverside...

Wrapped up, zipped up, defying the damp air, we strolled along the windswept river; past  slowly decaying structures of wood and metal.
Rungless ladders emerged through rippled river mud; barely clinging to the rotted pillars that once held them aloft, sighing with defeat at the marches of tide and time.

A shopping trolley; abandoned, seaweed strewn, forlornly faced the ebbing tide;as from aloft seagulls wheeled in the wind, shrieking their mournful cries to anyone who would listen.
 Past walls tagged with the scribbles of angry youth;
 slow moving snails meandered through puddles 
left from the downpours of the night; oblivious to the footfall of the morning joggers, 
and our boot shod feet.

Through caged in pathways, litter strewn, smelling of dog dirt and defeat; we looked out through the bars at curved pipes snaking below creaking walkways, carrying who knows what to goodness knows where .... and on to the holds of quiet rusting ships anchored mid stream.
At last we turned for home, over metal ringed steps and on down the asphalt paths  leading back to where we began. Stopping just once to rescue a pair of snails perilously close to becoming a smeared mess beneath a jogger's shoe and carefully placing them on a wall, to live another day. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

.....and the world spins madly on

Since the fire, with the precision of a military campaign;life has become a series of  logistical challenges to be catagorised, organised and timetabled.
We move from flat,to work, to house, to flat; in the slow dance of necessity; collecting clothes, sorting laundry and searching for those things you never realise are vital, until of course you need them.
I have become the packing maven; shaking, folding and smoothing garments to swell the bags with weekday working wardrobes; co ordinating mix and match outfits that stay crease free, stress free, and take the effort out of 6am dressing.
Our garden is in Spring bloom, and our weekend washing billows upon the line; but with no water, power or sanitation, it is a mere veneer of the suburban living we once knew. To spend time at the house, cats on laps, quilts wrapped tight against the bitter cold; necessity forces preplanned 'comfort breaks' or the decision to slowly dehydrate.
The toads in their tank hum in the darkness, unperturbed by absence of warmth and light, whilst the cats soft footed, have claimed squatters rights on empty beds. There is an air of sudden abandonment which is sensed as soon as key turns in lock; bringing a sadness to a home that  has become a cold  harbour.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


 When those random acts of life cast you adrift; making you doubt all that was once so familiar ; causing grief and uncertainty; it is then you have the choice to do nothing, curling in corners like a wounded cur; howling to the moon at the injustices of that fickle friend Fate .... or to look past the anger and hurt  to truly see what has evolved from the darkest of times.  
It is the balancing that accompanies a stumble and fall which needs to be held onto; not the factors of the fall itself. 
As the Dalai Lama once said
"I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe."
It is hard. I admit to howling at the moon, often; in that futile way small children do in a fit of pique at not being given their own way.
 Yet following on from recent events, the value of true friendships and the kindness of all around us have served to show that the Universe still has balance; and we mere mortals simply need to adjust in order to rebalance ourselves within it.

Monday, 17 March 2014


The scream of a vixen woke me,disoriented, from exhausted sleep; moonshine through slatted blinds casting a cool glow upon familiar quilt on unfamiliar bed. A door left ajar carrying the sound of my son's soft breathing from the darkened room beyond.
Ten days and three bedrooms on from the fire that began this nomadic existence, still we live out of suitcases; the kindness and generosity of friends circling round us like a protective shield.
'That which does not kill you makes you stronger;' but for all that, I miss the simple things; clothes uncreased by suitcase folds, my own bed with warm cat curled into my side...
.....yet still we wait; longing to go home once more.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Things that go bump in the night

Waking up in early hours from deep dreams, I thought I heard the heavy fall of footsteps on the scaffolding.  Mouth dry and heart thudding, I realised this was no night terror, but something far worse. A bitter smell of burning rubber, and thick oily smoke forced its way through the cracks and crevices of the walls, causing chests to tighten and breathing to become shallow. Blue lights flashing  through windows and  the deep throbbing pulse of mighty engines, dragged us from our beds; scrabbling for thick jumpers and slippers before descending to the front door.
Out in the cold night air, billows of smoke and muffled explosions were coming from the parking garage beneath our feet; beneath the very foundations of our homes. Neighbours, pale-faced with exhaustion gathered round,waiting for the fire crews to emerge from the smoking depths to explain what had happened; what we should do.
Gas pipes copper melting with blue flame, metal twisted , molten plastic ;all moulding into warped and ashen skeletons impossible to recognise as their former selves. The acrid smell of charring clung to buildings and nostrils. Fire out, the damage was devastating. All essential services rendered useless. Cold homes, empty taps, gas capped , no water......
So now we the nomads seek shelter; our lives bundled into a series of bags; relying upon the gentle kindness of family and friends, until the cold empty houses become homes once more.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Snake song

We perform the slow ballet of hunter and prey, my python and I; she with head tucked into knotted coils, in tongue tasting,slow watching anticipation; and I with mouse on tweezers, defrosted, fluffed up and warm to touch.
It is a precarious pasodouble this dance of ours; the mouse my marionette and I the puppeteer as I coax her out of her tight coiled ball towards my proffered titbit.
I sway the mouse gently to and fro, intoxicating her with its scent, mesmerising her with the twitching tail. Silently she slips her coils, effortlessly smooth gliding over rock and branch to stretch towards my offering. Her head draws back, I hold my breath; but she feigns nonchalance and switches back on herself, retreating to the sanctuary of the log.
Now comes the end game. I still my puppet and wait. With lightning precision, she darts out, jaws unhinged, her powerful fangs enveloping her prey. I watch as she stops, allowing it to dangle whilst she rearranges coils, to manoeuvre it with optimum precision into swallowing position.
She is a dainty eater, slowly ingesting fur and tail, until all that remains is a small bulge in her mid drift, and a satisfied air of contentment.