Friday, 28 February 2014

Ready to exhale

A small white envelope propped up against the fruit bowl greeted me today. Plain, rectangular and entirely mundane; it stood proud amoungst the ephemera of daily clutter that had yet to reach its rightful resting place.

The blue stamp in the top corner gave it an air of importance; the all too familiar hospital trust logo daring me to ignore it at my peril..... My scan results which, in the split second of opening, caused a reaction that betrayed how deeply I had been affected.

There is a moment, always, in reading letters such as these, when you suddenly become entirely aware of the smallest of things; those things that ordinarily are so unremarkable they merit no conscious recognition. My shoulders slowly dropped and relaxed, imperceptibly to anyone watching; but In a way that made me realise that I had been holding every muscle taut since that day last week when the scanning took place.
As the words 'no sign to suggest a return of your cancer' and 'arthritis' blurred on the page; finally I allowed myself to breathe again.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Small spaces

As a child, I sought  out small spaces in which to disappear; sliding on my stomach under beds, head side twisted, then nose to the floor, breathing in the scent of the carpet. I would clamber onto a chair then creep into the corner of the airing cupboard, burrowing under clean linen in the half light of a door left slightly ajar. I was the hide and seek queen, tucked away, still and silent in the shadows.....
but then I got stuck in the toy box. The lid slammed, and my sisters, tiring of the game,wandered away to do something more exciting. I was left in the dark space, knees against chest in a foetal curve, unable to raise the lid or to extract myself. I remember the feel of pine under my hands as I pushed upwards in vain and the surge of panic which engulfed me as my cries for help went unanswered for what seemed like an eternity.

Now I avoid small spaces; large crowds; tight packed lifts and low tunnels where the weight of earth pressing down from above stops my heart and causes me to catch my breath.

Today I went for a bone scan; and for an instant wanted to turn and walk away; dreading the coffin like tube of the MRI .... not for its juddering whine and hum, but for the enclosed tight space pressing against limbs...unable to move; pinioned like moth in a jar. Imagine my relief when I entered the Nuclear Medicine Suite to find there was no MRI, no tube of terror; but a comfortable contoured bench, warm blanket and soft music. An image of apple blossom against blue skies  drew my eyes to the ceiling, whist the soft vibrations of the imager moved all around me. Totally relaxed, I dozed through my allotted time..... thankful that, for now, there are no small spaces awaiting me.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

...and so to bed

The wind has blown and billowed the bedding; driving away damp and infusing linen with a freshness only pegging out provides.
Now comes the ritual remaking. Clean sheets, crisp pressed by jetted steam and smoothed taut; plumped up pillows against newly shaken,soft feathered quilt.
 The siren's song of sleep winds its way through my consciousness as, with skin still soft steaming from aromatic bath, I wearily clear away the detritus of the day.
My bed ,with all its cosy familiarity,  entices me to slip between cool covers and slowly unfurl; allowing limbs to languidly stretch and relax; whilst eyes, heavy lidded gently close.....finally ready to slide into sleep.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The scent of home

Smoking, a habit now reviled by the masses; but for me walking past a still burning cigarette, fleetingly catching the slow spiralling smoke as I breathe in, brings thoughts of home.

 My grandfather was a pipe smoker; the aroma of tobacco swirling round him like  mist. Pipe stem clenched between teeth, he would settle back in his chair and I would watch with wide eyes, fascinated by his groove worn teeth and  blue blistered bottom lip that this habit had wrought over the years.
My father too brought the scent of tobacco with him. Bitter gauloises , or dutch apple,smoked from a briar; and occasionally the  pungent smell of cigars that lingered in the curtain linings and clung to the empty wooden boxes we vied to claim as our own and fill with small treasures.
 Coming through the front door after school to be greeted with that oh so familiar smell always brought the warm comfort of knowing that for now he was home and we were a family once more.

Sunday, 9 February 2014


The wind has blustered around the walls all night, weaving through the scaffolding,lifting the boards and causing them to creak and groan like the timbers of a storm tossed sailing ship. Lying in bed listening, with the outside light of a neighbouring house flickering on, then off; it is as if we are adrift upon a wild ocean, the light beckoning us away from unseen dangers.
The cats seem unperturbed by this disturbance, yet for all that, choose to pile onto the bed, pinning me under an unwanted blanket of warm fur and gently vibrating bodies. If I move, a languid claw is extended, its purpose not to wound, but to remind me of my place.

Quietly, I slide from this soft pile and by the light of a weak sun, barely risen; creep downstairs to see the damage wrought upon the garden. It is not as bad as I feared. The remaining tiles on the roof seem to have stayed pegged to their places, but the small fruit trees have tumbled in their pots, leaning into each other like weary revellers after an eventful night out.
 The wind has lulled somewhat, so still pyjama clad with hastily pulled on jumper and feet slipper shod, I dash out to right the trees; ducking to avoid madly swaying Chinese lanterns on their still strung lines. That's when the wind bites, snatching at my hair, stealing quickly through layers to numb still stiff joints; sending me scuttling back into the calm warmth, for the first coffee of the day.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Telling tales

I come from a family of storytellers, weaving their tales as we all settle back round the  mahogany table, the meal long since cleared away and coffee drunk; whilst the afternoon glides slowly into twilight.
It is here as a child I learnt about Punkle,the cat who would only eat fresh sardines; of my grandmother's ire at catching my father reading by candlelight beneath the bedcovers; of my mother, her twin sister and the 'bomb' in the waste paper basket.
These are our tales, our family history; the words that give us a true sense of who we are and where we come from; the stories that we in turn tell our children, to keep the memories alive.

Now I am grown there are other tables and other tales that spin their way into our shared history. Those of my husband's family; a people dispossessed and removed from their country of birth; the other side of the coin in a Europe torn apart by war. These too are tales that shape my son's understanding, not only of his roots, but of the harsh realities of conflict.

When I started writing, it was to put down somewhere all those random thoughts that flutter through my mind like moths in the moonlight; but it has slowly become my weaving of tales.....memories for my son to share at his table, after the meal has been cleared, and the settling time begins.