Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Yesterday the W family went to visit my sister and her husband.

Jessica and her dad, my brother in law and his son, went to see the rugby at Twickenham. Jessica was part of a record breaking crowd, the highest ever attendance at an English regular season domestic league game, to see Harlequins play Saracens. I can't decide if she has, subsequently, talked more about the rugby or the bus journey there (her first, a red double decker). I think that public transport is edging out sporting spectacle in her three year old mind. 

My sister and I stayed behind with Reuben. We were playing Kirby's Epic Yarn (which I can highly recommend if you are the computer game playing type) and had an equally epic conversation about parenting styles, the influence and idiosyncrasies of our own parents, how these have formed various aspects of our personalities and our own, previously discussed, parenting or mis-parenting, how we might have influenced one another, how we have communicated and mis-communicated throughout the years. And so on. One of those looping, sustained conversations that occur between people who have known one another for their entire lives. Well, I have known her for her entire life. Prior to that I was mooching about on my own for nearly five years waiting for her to show up. 

And this was interspersed with occasional bouts of shouting and cries of "take me OFF your head you fool! No, no put me back ON!" related to Kirby.

The rugby fans returned. We packed the children up into the car. We said goodbye to my sister and her family and drove home.

I thought, as we drove home in the dark silence, I could have spoken for longer. I would have enjoyed talking for longer. I would have liked playing that computer game for longer. But only with her. Not on my own. Because it wouldn't have been so much fun on my own. 

Without the conversation. Without the faux mad and jostling. 
Because although we are 32 and 28, we aren't really. Not when we're together. We could be 8 and 4 sometimes. We are some weird essential flickering self, composed of many selves. So many that it is incoherent to anyone other than those who saw the infinitesimal progression from one step to the next.

Because there is a depth to a conversation with a sibling (or a sibling equivalent) that there simply isn't with anyone else? Perhaps? It is like reading a webpage absolutely jammed pack full of hyperlinks. Or a book crammed with footnotes. Somebody whose formative years and cultural touchstones are so similar to your own that you can both flick back and forth at speed through your own histories and current life and times. So I say, "you remember that time when I was so sad that I tried to melt myself with one of the small electric fan heaters that Dad gave us even though they were incredibly dangerous and I'm surprised we didn't burn the house down what the hell was he thinking and I think I was just hoping to evaporate myself at that particular time with said dangerous fan heater and I'm never giving either of my children access to a fan heater by the way" and she knows exactly the time that I am referring to. The sadness that I am referring to. Even the fan heater. In fact, that fan heater is probably the mental image that pops into both of our minds when we hear the word fan heater. Because we had the same fan heater. She just wasn't trying to melt herself with hers.

No matter how you try, I don't know if you can really create that kind of sibling bond. It all its deep weird rich annoying loveliness. Generally the longest relationship of your life. If you're lucky. Well, I suppose it would only be lucky if you liked one another and that is certainly not guaranteed. 

It's almost a strange kind of experiment, sibling-hood. One that would not be granted ethical approval. Here - we will take two young(ish) creatures of the same species with a similar genetic inheritance and force them to compete for parental attention and affection in a very limited space (I live in England without substantial financial backing thus forcing me to live in a glorified rabbit hutch and it is often dark and cold, forcing you inside) and see what transpires? Nah, never going to make it past the committee that one.

Like knocking two pebbles together inside a very tiny sea in a very small glass jar. With one or two prevailing tides. Or a couple of moons.

I suspect a twin sibling relationship would stand an even smaller chance of passing ethical scrutiny.

But I don't know. It hurts. And I worry. Jessica could have expected a life long companion in Georgina, someone who would have that fullness of shared knowledge and experience. I don't know what that relationship is like with a brother, if it is different in quality or just the same or purely dependent on the people involved. I've never had a brother. I hope that it is this fact, rather than some inherent sexism on my part, that makes me worry that you can't have that sort of closeness between a brother and a sister. 

I rather hope that Jessica won't mourn Georgina too much. If that doesn't sound odd. That Reuben won't seem less or worse for being younger, for not being her twin, for not being a female, for not being a sister. That he will just be himself and be accepted and loved as such.

Perhaps Jessica herself will never contemplate any of this at all. I kind of hope not. When you have one parent who very rarely seems to reflect on anything (or not that I have any inkling about) and one parent who ruminates from now until kingdom come on the same three small days? Who knows which way that wind will blow? I'm hoping in the opposite direction from me. 

Long may she be more interested in buses. 

I was going to write about parenting, inspired by Aoife's comment on my previous post, but now this is already far too long and it's getting far too late here. I will save my ramblings on that for a later date although, given how this post worked out, perhaps I should save them permanently.

Here's some sisters, I'm nursing a serious obsession with this particular song of theirs.

Can any of you who have brothers or sisters advise? Or no siblings at all? Just interested to hear how it all panned out for you.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Eve

Last night, Christmas Eve.

My boy, he cries. His stomach bloated.

I get out of bed and blearily pick him up. He slots in, between us. My husband's back, turned against us. My son and I turned into one another. He has a large birthmark on the back of his neck, forcing lopsidedness, it puffs up his skin. Ready for kissing. My lips find that mark. The ever-fixed mark. I imagine seeing that mark on his thirty two year old neck. Him as me. Imagining life times away. And still wanting to kiss it. Perhaps I will just run my fingers across it briefly. As I hug him in a polite, motherly way. Because I will have to let my ever-fixed mark go. That is the nature of motherhood.

And worlds and worlds of assumptions fall away. Assuming that I will be here. Thirty two years later. Me, doubled. Sixty four? When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now. Will you still be sending me a valentine? Birthday greetings? Bottle of wine? Will I? Will you? Will they? The walls wobble under the weight of my complacency.

My sister and I sung that song to our father yesterday. Jokily. But I wasn't joking. I don't think he knew that I wasn't joking.

Because I'm glad. I'm so glad I get to sing that silly song, so stupidly, to my father. So that he thinks that I'm joking. Because I can't sing. Because if it wasn't so light, it would be too heavy.

Will he? A full grown man? That, which seems greediness now, such a gift.
Reuben, thirty two. With children. Without children. With lines on his face? Oh I hope so.
Breathing? With that same birth mark on his neck? Me, with my same eyes, here to see it?

I rub his poorly tummy. We discuss it. I say, "Say goodbye poorly tummy. Bye bye. Once there was a boy. A boy with a poorly tummy. But they were parted. They never saw one another again. Say bye bye."

And they were parted. Bye bye poorly tummy ache. Don't come again. He falls asleep.

I wished. I wished stupidly and without the hope that should surely underpin a wish. I wished for that moment of reassurance. Mutual reassurance.

I wished I could just touch her skin. Touch her tummy. Rub a bad tummy away. Kiss her birthmark. My ever-fixed mark. My love. My girl. My first born. Who'll never be thirty two. Or sixty four. Or anything at all.

My love. My love. My dear girl. Bye bye.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


There are three Christmas trees arranged by the altar. The church is old and beautiful with a vaulted ceiling, crammed against a rather smart hotel and shopping district in London's Knightsbridge. The jolly red and green tags tied to the trees seem at odds with their purpose, part of me wants black paper tied to a blasted twig. But I'm obviously in the minority as the jolly trees stand up at the front. And I suppose my alternative isn't going to cheer or comfort anyone.

There are more people than I would have imagined. Although fewer than I know could have attended. There is some comfort in the democratic nature of bad luck, of tragedy. That which seemed so unfair, in this place, rights itself and shows the inherent fairness of its nature. Like blind justice. Unfeeling. The finger simply happened to point at me. At her. They'll do for our purposes. Those two. 

We are slightly early, I queue for the toilet. As ever, there is a line for the ladies. I suggest using the gents which is empty. Twas ever thus. An older lady kindly offers to keep watch on my behalf, to ensure that none of the intended users walk in on me. My friend tells me that she jovially chased a man away. So kind, so twinkly. But I know why we are here. Me. My friend. The lady who guards the toilet door for me. The man guarded against. 

We are here for the dead. To remember the dead. 

I can't help staring. I stare and stare. And sometimes the sheer volume of 'us' makes me panic. Sends my mind soaring to the roof. Because it seems impossible that one building could contain so much pain. Or so much love.

My eyes snag on certain people. A young couple. So young that I could be the mother of one of them. A young blonde girl in a bright red coat, leaning against her dark haired partner who, if I had met him on the street I'm certain I would have called a boy, but here . . here he has to be described as a man. They lean together, inward, like an upside down V. 

The lady in front of me. Her head is bowed. 

I want to ask. Who is it? Who is it that you miss? But I don't. Because, even here, where we are all the same, all missing. It seems too bold. Almost rude. 

We cry. We light candles. We emerge into the cold night air.

Suddenly everything seems full of meaning, full of significance. As though a thousand, thousand people were whispering to me, each imparting a secret, words of importance, lips pressed against my ears. But their voices are just slightly too quiet for me to hear. 

It is an overwhelming sensation. A sensation of almost being under attack. A feeling of urgency, that if only I can grasp this, all will be revealed. 

We descend to the underground. I notice the feet of the woman opposite. She has pretty feet, beautiful shoes. I look up and see her face has been scarred. She is carrying a bag with the slogan, "looking for a smile, well, look no further!"

A beautiful girl is flirting and fighting with an extremely tall, far older man. She is so light, she seems hardly to touch the ground. He is abashed and flattered. Eager. She holds all the cards.

Once, I might have wanted to be her. But now, I sit back in my seat. Content to be myself. My feet suddenly seem to be more firmly planted on the floor, denser, stronger, attached to the soil, to the worms and the dirt. Despite being in a train. I feel strangely giddy and golden, as I imagine I would on drinking a double brandy. Although I've never even had a sip. The light, beautiful girl and the burnt woman and the tree labels and the church all spin around and make a horrible, perfect sense. I feel that everything is as it should be. 

Which I might as well. I might as well feel that everything is as it should be. Perhaps this is what resignation feels like. 


A poem, written by H.D., loved by a long past sixteen year old me and forgotten about until I heard an extract from it on the radio last week. 

H.D. has been described as an Imagiste - writing about the image, a radiant node or cluster, from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing.

It is odd how this description, of a thing preternaturally dense, radiant, alive, rushing, reminds me so very much of my dead daughter. I think of her as a small set of images, superimposed upon one another, again and again, so that she becomes something so definitive, so very much herself. A super concentrated being, like a dying, collapsing star.

By comparison, my many incarnations, my comparatively long life, becomes something hopelessly fuzzy and chaotic. Because I've been so many different things. Sometimes I'm not sure that I was, or am, any of them at all.

Rose, harsh rose,
marred and with stint of petals,
meagre flower, thin,
sparse of leaf,

more precious
than a wet rose
single on a stem -
you are caught in the drift.

Marred, stint, meagre, thin, sparse. And yet precious. So precious. Dear child. 


And, as if this long ramble were insufficient, I'm also at Glow writing about good grief

Friday, 2 December 2011


Prompted by Cathy from Missouri noticing some connections between several of my more recent posts and the amazingly gracious (and tenacious) Aoife who has been delving through the archives here.


Denial, disbelief, waiting. Still.

Wombs, machines, whirring, gasping, aliens, isolation, unusual, outlier.

Maternity, motherhood, parenthood, failure, shame, embarrassment.

Fooled, foolish, fool, fool, fool.

Creepiness, self consciousness, self doubt. self loathing, rotten, rotting, rottenness. Rotten inside.

Smallness, discreteness, separateness.

Shot through with gold.

Time travel, space, temporospatial fluidity, movement, communication.

The after life, contact, wires, threads, strands. Loneliness. Cut off. No reply.

Chaos. Construction.




I hope?



Proprioception is an underrated sense. Not one of the big five. Smell. Touch. Taste. Sight. Hearing. Proprioception doesn't even feature on Nina and The Neurons.

The sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.

I don't know if it is possible to experience proprioception in relation to a body other than one's own. Probably not. I suppose my constant awareness of my living children's bodies in space, their rib cages, their brains, their moving hands, their turning eyes, would fall into the category of awareness of the outside world, exteroception. But I imagine that I feel it, it is as though I experience their proprioception. Using my long, maternal antennae which brush up against their little brains, intruding and sending shivery signals back to me.

I feel them, moving through space, their bodies displacing empty air. Emptiness replaced by solidity. Such an unlikely occurrence. How it ever happens I simply don't know. How it is so widely accepted that it will happen? And not end in death and despair and mourning? Regret?

A mystery.


I was out Christmas shopping this week and I was feeling happy and benevolent, kind of avuncular towards the world at large, gazing at the window displays and idly thinking about the presents that I would buy to put in Jessica's stocking. Amongst others (too many others) I've opted for a space hopper, which suits her personality I think. And a powder that will turn your bath water into pink jelly.

But suddenly, amidst bath jelly and feelings of good will, I had a flash of a First Christmas outfit. Almost reflected in the window that I was looking in to. Like an eerie flash of Christmas Never Was. Christmas Imagined by Catherine W in July 2008 perhaps?

It is an outfit that I own. It consists of red velour dungarees with an embroidered reindeer on the bib, a red and white striped vest. It is size 0-3 months. It still has the price tags on it. Actually I own two of these outfits. For the daughters I never had.

One is in the loft in a bin bag I think. The other is in Georgina's box. Too big for the girls. Too small for Reuben. And so achingly, achingly flat. Occupied by nobody, filled out by nobody, worn by nobody. Never or ever.

My mother bought them. For granddaughters that never existed. But were expected. Were wanted.

And I'm so sorry. For the whole thing.

Just so very, very sorry. So sorry I could curl up into a ball and just keep curling.

Regret. Again.


And why is this still being written?

Three years of emptying my chatter into a void the size of my daughter.

I'll leave it to someone else to explain.

There is no deadline.
There is no schedule.
There is no plan we can fall back on.
The road this far can't be retraced.
There is no punchline anyone can tack on.
There are loose ends by the score.
What did I come down here for?

Georgina. You. My love. You.
I hope you don't mind. 
I hope I am not keeping you from your rest.
Somehow tying you here, trapping you here.