Saturday, 24 March 2012


stasis (from Greek στάσις "a standing still") A state of stability in which all forces are equal and opposing, therefore they cancel out each other.

I have a tendency to gather moss. Unless forcefully pushed I like to stay where I am, static.

I live five minutes walk away from the hospital that I was born in, 1979.
My husband was born there too, same year.
The twins were born there.
Reuben was born there.

We live close to both my parents and my husband's parents, still married, residing in the homes that my husband and I grew up in. We went to those self same houses upon our returning from the hospital, 1979. On opposite sides of town.

An accumulation of memories, different heights and weights, doorways viewed from down low and suddenly, from high. As though on stilts. Or suddenly falling to the floor and straightening up, to find that you are not quite the height that you expected.

The years grow a thick, fuzzy patina over this small circular territory of ours. London overspill. Slops.

At times, this makes me feel like a failure. Adolescent-me slaps her open palm to her forehead and sighs. Really, you are still here. Oh. My. Days. Some kind of a loser you turned out to be.

And I wonder if it was her who, when the twins were born, hissed in my ear, "well, what did you expect?"

My mother says that sometimes, when she is out walking with Jessica, she looks down and is surprised to see that her hands are old. She feels displaced in time, my mother as me, me recast as Jessica.

She is not the only one travelling through time.

I take Jessica and Reuben to the park. This is a park I remember from my own childhood. We laze on the grass with cheese and bananas and fig rolls (they tasted better in my childhood memories although Reuben appeared to like them well enough.)

There is the pale brick wall that I used to walk along the top of when I was as old as Jessica is now.
There is the park where I used to slump on the swing at fourteen, listening to Metallica cassette tapes on my friend's stereo.

And I feel a strange sense of alignment. I look at my hands and feel mildly surprise to discover that I have hands at all.

I've been thinking about this post of Josh's a great deal this week.

When you have lived in the same town your entire life, it is rather hard not to think about time.
To envisage strange patterns and rhythms. Your child sits on that spot on the stairs opposite the hallway mirror where you used to sit. And the carpet wears.
Blink, you are a child.
Blink, you are your parents.
Blink, you are your grandparents (if you're lucky).
Blink again, you are gone.

I am all of a-withering, I have stood here too long. 1979 and cassette tapes seem an unimaginably long time ago. But yet, to me, they are still present.

Everything, everyone, they are all still with me. A vast plethora of items and memories and people strung to my ankles and wrists, trailing out on strings. My daughter, she is still with me. Slung around my neck on silver. Cold, dead weight on my heart. And in the beating of my blood pulsing around my body. She is as there as she ever was. Or perhaps she is as here as she ever was.

Life and death are an irrelevancy to my tiny, mighty daughter. I feel she is still here, right up against me, that I'm still holding her in my arms as I once did, our skins touching as they did touch. Once. Just minutes ago, just years ago.

Sitting there, in that same park, I feel as though I am simultaneous. I walk along the wall, my legs at once short and tall. I slump, I smoke, I cough, I'm drunk, I'm walking past this place to the shops, I'm walking past this place to catch the bus, I'm talking to my friend about the time she tried to kill herself, I'm running, I'm playing Manhunt around the Alleys, I'm pregnant and just starting to feel two sets of movements, I'm kissing that unsuitable boy over by the swings, I'm old, old and sitting here remembering. I don't think I will remember everything perhaps. But I will remember the wall walking, maybe I'll even try it again. If I'm still around and sure footed enough. And today it feels as though I already did. My old lady self has already walked that wall, her feet matching my four year old steps.

I'm here with Jessica and Reuben and I'm 32 years old and two of my children are solid, with muscles and bones. Displacing air and time in waves around them.

And Georgina seems to be there too. With the ghosts of myself as a child and my wall walking future old lady herself. With me, just separated by time. Or maybe not. Because we are all cut so very short, on a short fuse, time ticking, time a-wasting, we are going to the earth, we are going to the skies and into trees. Who knows where we will go?

Maybe everything that falls down, eventually rises.

We are so insignificant. Tiny specks of dust on a tiny speck in a tiny place. One brief blink and we are here and gone. But, in the park, I feel that this is what sets me free.

Because if you head out far enough, three days and thirty two years overlap perfectly. And I can stop searching and just be content in the knowledge that you aren't that far away. I can rest because you are here. One insignificance to another perhaps but my heart, my heart tells me otherwise.

Who wants to be burdened with significance when you could be light, your heels hardly making divots in the earth?

Who wants to drive their foot down and down into the soil. Attempting to stamp your significance upon things that are vastly indifferent.

You could try but you are here. Then gone. Before you've hardly woken up.

And to be all of those things, people, imaginings, ghosts, spirits, memories of size and movement, shallow dents in the earth. All of these things happening at once. Shadowy and solid.

And yet to mean nothing at all? Perhaps that is not so bad. It will do.

My dear girl, how I do miss you. Oh my heart. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Guess when I am writing this post? Reuben's nap-time.
It transpires that Reuben's nap-time is actually the only time there is for writing blog posts. So I'm going to have to do a bit of back pedalling.
But it doesn't matter.

I want to write this blog as a way of marking Georgina's position in my life and in my family. Jess described writing as a type of mothering once and that has stayed with me. These words are how I mother Georgina, and they are recorded in the only place that accepts her, this strange, half lit world of the internet.

And my mothering is far from perfect.

If it were a blog, it would not be a perfect blog, full of witty remarks, accurate spelling and deep thoughts.

If I were mothering Georgina, a hypothetical living and breathing Georgina, there would be days when we would fall out. When she would get cross and upset with me, when she would punch me in the throat and I would feel she was being unreasonable. We'd fall out. She'd sit on the floor sulking and refusing to speak to me and I'd go and cry guilty tears in the kitchen. Heaven knows that Jessica and I have had days like that, cross-throat-punching-guilty-tears days.

We also have twirling-bouncing-smiling days. But even then, even then, I notice that I am sometimes gripping her shoulders a little too tightly. As though she might slip away into the dark without me. Some days those scars on her hands seem to shine at me more brightly. As my husband says so perceptively, 'Catherine, you are just not the 'getting over it' type.' And I'm not. I hope that the children don't notice.

They tuck you up your mum and dad don't you know. Except with an f rather than a t.
I will do my own fair share of tucking up. It is inevitable. 

So Georgina, Jessica and Reuben. My dear, dear loves. Please know that I am trying my best. It's not perfect, it's far from perfect. Sometimes I feel I'm only running damage limitation. Occasionally I do something I'm proud of, more often I'm left wishing that I could start over. But I can't.

Whether I'm desperately trying to figure out why you are screaming in my face (Reuben) or to figure out why you are punching me in the throat (Jessica) or trying to write you a love letter that makes some sort of sense (Georgina), I'm trying. I want it to be right, to minimise the whole tucking you up thing. But, show me a human that's never tucked up a bit? Ok ok, except for you Georgina, you never got a chance to try.


In real life, that hazy place, I have very few friends who have lost a baby. But strangely, I do have a friend who lost a baby under very similar circumstances to those in which Georgina died. Very early birth, survived for a few days, became sicker and eventually had life support removed, dying in the arms of his mother.

We sometimes meet, in cafes, in pubs. We often talk about the experiences that we have in common, doesn't everyone? I suppose that is the basis of most friendships, that upwards glance that says 'I recognise you. We have been in the same place, you and I."

But the experiences we have in common are difficult ones. Sometimes I catch people listening to our conversations. Once, I looked up and caught an older woman listening in. She looked repulsed and disturbed. I wanted to go over to her table and say, "Well, that is what you get for eavesdropping. Anything you would care to contribute?" But I know that I am guilty of eavesdropping myself on occasion. Even to the sacred, to the last gasps. And so I remain in my seat.

And this is where I am currently struggling. Because I have forgotten or misplaced where the border lies. Between acceptable and unacceptable. Between talking and that dread word, particularly frightening to the English perhaps, over-sharing. Even typing 'over-sharing' sends a shiver down my spine.

As  I have said in the past, I babbled on about Georgina quite happily for almost a year after she had died. Because it never crossed my mind that this was odd or might make other people think that I was crazy with a capital C.

But, somewhere along the line, I became scared of the opinion of others. The line between appropriate and inappropriate had, apparently, completely disappeared and that I've been struggling to relocate it ever since.

Now I'm not at all certain where to draw the line, in some arbitrary place that might not match up with that which is marked out by the world at large. It's particularly difficult at work, where I am putting in quite a bit of effort to maintain a professionally bland exterior. Not hard. People forget easily the Catherine W. of 2008, with her little belly. The Catherine W. of 2010 with her red eyes and frequent dashes for the office door. With that tiny, dead, cold, unspeakable weight around her heart. Still there if you look closely enough. But I don't expect them to remember those people, I'd rather that they didn't to be honest.

But now, I worry that I have over stepped. I enquired after a colleague's father's joint replacement the other day. He'd told me the story of the operation after a meeting the week previously. And he seemed disconcerted that I had asked. He twice said, "it's very kind of you to remember."

And I wondered if I have become the hovering bird of ill omen, who only remembers hospitalisations and deaths.

My exterior goes quieter and quieter. Neutralising myself into a quiet shade of beige. My make up is applied more thickly, retouched at lunch time, my clothes more carefully ironed. I only join in conversations about comparative car ugliness, division of domestic chores. Small words. Not marriage. Not babies apart from the coo-ing and congratulations that pre-2008 me was genuinely good at.

But my interior starts to roar. Compensating for all the damping down on the outside. I sit and stare out of the window and miss my girl. And I wonder what this all means.

If we are all of us sitting here, in our office, with internal roars, screams, shouts, cries. Desperately trying to stop our heads twisting off with the sheer amazement of it all.

Because now, everything seems a wonder to me, my office job, my feet on the ground, my lungs, my thirty two years of life tucked up under my heart.

Am I alone? Or are we all editing ourselves down to small words? I wish I could ask but I don't know any of my colleagues that well. Despite having sat in their close proximity for the majority of my waking hours for close to a decade.

Part of me thinks, where's the point in that? All the editing and squishing and squashing. Biting our tongues. Minding our manners.

Part of me thinks, well, life would be intolerable if we all of us went about roaring at one another all the time. Conversations about comparative car ugliness are what makes life unbearable and bearable all at once.

Sometimes I think that this place isn't where I'm supposed to be.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Promises, Promises

I, Catherine W, do solemnly promise that I will cease and desist from attempting to write, proofread (ha!) and publish whole blog posts during Reuben's morning nap.

This results in blog posts that  . . .
(a) are full of half baked ideas such as comparing life to a penguin race. Sigh.
(b) contain misspelt and/or made-up words. Such as, for instance, your's. Sigh.
(c) do not contain various essential words and/or paragraphs. Thus rendering the whole post a nonsense. If the post in its entirety is not already rendered a nonsense from the get-go, please see (a) above. Sigh.

I will try to write more slowly and let things lurk in the 'draft' section for a while instead of rushing to hit publish as soon as I've typed out the last sentence. Badly.

I've noticed that my comments are moving down scarily similar lines. I'm sorry. It makes me wince sometimes when I happen upon my own misspelled and incoherent words visited upon other innocent blogs. But my heart is in the right place, please believe me. Even if my words are often  . .  not quite right.

My blogging and commenting is often done on the basis of 'it's now or never.'
And much as you may prefer never, I do still need to come and dump out the contents of my tiny brain here. Half baked ideas and spelling errors and all.

The Penguin Race

I recently bought this toy for Jessica and Reuben.

Well, Reuben is allowed to watch it. Only Jessica is allowed to touch the penguins and woe betide anyone else caught clutching one of them.

I don't know how long the penguin race has been around for. It must be decades. I remember desperately wanting one in the 1980s. Now, over twenty years later, my dream has been fulfilled. Dreams can come true people. At last, I share a house with racing penguins.

Sadly, my dream did not include the awful, awful squawking noise that the things makes. But still, dreams always come at a price. 'Be careful of the thing you want, you'll get it,' as my grandmother used to say darkly.

The penguins hop up the steps and then skedaddle, pell mell, down the slide. There are three penguins, red, blue and black.

Jessica has scratched away the eyes of our red penguin. Her initial chants of, "weeeeeeee" and "wait for me" have been replaced by a slightly more sinister version which consists of "no eyes, no eyes" when the red penguin mounts the stairs.

I don't know what poor old Mr. Red did to deserve this fate. Perhaps he looked at her funny? Got too cocky? We'll never know.

So he now hops and slides around in the dark.

And this tortuous metaphor is finally about to reach its conclusion. You may breathe a sigh of relief.

I don't think my life is that different from the penguin race. I wish it could be more accurately represented by something elegant or charming. But . . . it feels somehow right that my life boils down to a cheap, plastic toy. That makes hideous squawking noises.

We can't all have grand lives. Some of us are just stuck being penguins in a eternal race that is never won or lost. We can't even change our position in the running order. We race. Until our batteries give out. And if we're lucky we get to keep the stickers that represent our eyes.

I have a feeling that me and Old No Eyes Red aren't that different. When I see him hopping and sliding gaily away, blindly, I have a pang of fellow feeling. Because I'm doing the same, hopping and sliding. Sometimes it's scary, sometimes it's plain boring and sometimes, just sometimes, it's exhilarating. To slide down into the dark, plummeting, wondering if something will change this time.

If we'll be snatched up and have our eyes have scratched off for instance? Like Mr. Red.

We might go whizzing down breathlessly expecting things, two babies for example. And something terrible and strange will happen and our expectations will be stretched and twisted. We'll get to the end of the race and we'll have only one. Or none at all.

But regardless, we'll soon be hopping up those stairs once again. There is no help for it. Because the race doesn't end at that point. Your eyes might be scratched off. Your baby might have died. But that darn penguin race, well, it simply doesn't care. Up you hop, once again.

Or perhaps, perhaps, something good will happen on this particular slide down?
I'm not going to rule it out. Not yet.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Dance Me To The End

We are dancing in the kitchen on Friday evening. I've left it too late to start cooking dinner and the children are grumpy. So I am trying to distract them from their growling stomachs and my own time mismanagement.

The music is Rimsky Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bumblebee' and our dance features Reuben as the eponymous bumble bee, chubby in bright blue stripes. Hovering, held up by my arms. He flies at Jessica, diving. Bzzzzzzzzzz. No sting though. Just a smile.

"No, no, Bay Reub" she shrieks. Delightedly.

The music changes. Something calmer. We are exhausted with our buzzing and swooping. I pick them both up, a feat that I will not be able to manage for very much longer.

We rest for a minute, three. I feel muscular and towering, one arm wrapped around each. So full, it feels as though there could not possibly be room for a third. And, for a moment, she is forgotten. My dear ashen baby daughter. She pales away to nothing. Nothing at all. And I don't know if I should feel guilty or if, for once, I am doing the right thing.

Then Jessica leans in, up close to my face. "Wake up Mummy," she says.

I wonder if she knows more than she lets on. That girl of mine. I wonder if that is what she has been trying to tell me all along.

"Wake up."


Increasingly I feel as though I am developing a very thin, tough surface. It has a high gloss finish. It is painted with enquiring, concerned eyes and a cheery grin. Sometimes that smile is genuine, at others, a rictus. I feel as though I am some sort of bizarre human shaped pinata. A small person trapped inside a large construction of papier mache, which I am furiously plastering away at from the inside.

Whack! Cue furiously internal plastering.
Whack! More furious internal plastering.
Fix. Fix.
Because I will not allow myself to be shattered.
That glossy surface has been hard won.
That cheery grin and concerned expression didn't come for free.
I will go to great lengths to maintain them.

Sometimes I catch the eye of a stranger on the street and think I see their own internal maintenance person flurrying about. Perhaps we should just knock heads with one another and see what falls out?

I am awake my love. My dear bird girl. Can you not see how hard I am working?
Of course you can't. I do hope you can't.
That's why I'm trying so hard, faster and faster, so that cracks will not develop on my shiny, smiling surface.

I don't contain sweets and toys. Sadly. I only wish I did. Then people could whack me and cool, fun things would fall out. Then I wouldn't mind being hit. Slings and arrows, step on down. You will only result in sweet and toys around these parts.

But rather, I only contain strange things. Not necessarily sad things. Or not only sad things, not any more. Just things that don't seem to want to shift. The jumper that I wore on the day that the twins were born lies on my floor. I still own it. I still wear it. Currently it is discarded, waiting to be added to the laundry basket.
I can't wear the T shirt I wore when I held Georgina as she was dying, that is in her box.
But the jumper?
It's there, being bright blue and attention seeking, on the floor, being just ever so slightly disconcerting.
Tempting me back there. Come on, dwell a little, try to remember. You know you want to.

And curious things. Things with long, thin fingers and large knuckles. Things that peer and poke and wonder. That is what you would get tumbling out if you managed to split my surface.

Curiouser and curiouser.
Muddled up with ironed clean sheets and numbers and poems written by only one poet.
A vast collection of unread books, a bewildered glance and an exasperated sigh.
But mainly, for the most part, the curious.

So I stumble down passageways, chasing these curious things, where they lead I don't know.
To the afterlife?
To meaning?
To nothing?
I don't know.
It's a recurrent theme, ignorance.
I'm sure that would come tumbling out, en masse, out of the Catherine W shaped pinata.
Should you choose to whack it a bit?
Enquiry and a blank answer. A useless combination.

But I hear the soft footfalls of my lost daughter.
She is racing ahead of me. She treads quickly and surefooted-ly through this murky place.
She is not human. Never was. Not really. And certainly not now.
Full of light and knowledge. So quick. She is laughing. She is delighted.

Her mother stumbles behind. Heavy. I trip. I say, "Wait. Please wait."
But she's gone.

I hear an echo.
"I know mama. I know. Wake up."

I am trying. My dear girls, I am trying.