Saturday, 29 September 2012

Plucked from the brain of the sleep deprived

"Hey love," he shouts.

I look around the empty car park, attempting to ascertain if I'm the addressee of his 'Hey . .'

I don't see anyone else in this godforsaken supermarket car park.

I raise my eyebrows at him. He looks cheerful.

"Hey love. Are you as tired as you look?" he enquires.

"Yes. Yes I am," I smile. "I've got two little ones."

He nods. "Yes, I know how that goes. If I wasn't finishing work now, I'd drive you home. You look so tired."

"Oh thank you," I say. "That is such a kind thing to say."

He's a cabbie. I suppose when it comes to consolation and solace, we all turn to what we do best. He drives. He sees a tired looking woman and thinks about driving her home. I wonder, briefly, what I could do to return the favour. Any data you need analysing mate?

And I am tired. I am as tired as I look. With my two little ones. With my three little ones.

But I don't mention her anymore. It's too complicated and awkward. Today I've told three strangers that I have two children.

I am tired. So tired that my bones ache.

Crumbly, chalky little frame trying to hold up the weight of baggy flesh that is me.
And the weight of a child that never was.

He is only trying to be kind, sympathetic.

Two children provokes a wry smile and a wink.

Three children?

Oh that would be one too many.
She's always one too many.

I get into my car. I smile. I drive off.

With my tiredness on my back.


Reuben starts nursery. He sets off with no backward glance. I push home an empty buggy. Ready to collect him in an hours time.

I sit in the silent house. Alone. It's odd. I'm hardly ever alone. I make a cup of tea. It goes cold. I sit.

I go to collect him. He squints at me from across the room. Registers. Then looks away.

I speak to the lady at the nursery. She says that it is as though he has been there for months. He has been trying to hug the girls. Snarfing breadsticks. Refusing cheese. Throwing grapes.

And my heart swells. I float up to the ceiling. At the vision of this boy. So unlike his mother. His independence and his charm.

His solid flesh. His life. His life that unfurls in front of my disbelieving face. All of this? For him? For me?

Yes. Yes. The sun winks. That kindly God. That smiles. Then looks serious.

But not because of anything you did. Don't flatter yourself love.


I am in the wardrobe. Putting something away, a cushion, a blanket. Folded up.

I glance up. There she is. Her ashes anyway. Not her.

In a plastic bag, in a box, under a giant badminton racket that I bought my husband for a present before she was even thought of, next to her twin sister's china mug put up in the wardrobe for safe keeping.

The ashes of the child that was Georgina.

I keep thinking about an urn. But, somehow, I never buy one.


I wonder what to do about this writing.

I seem to need to do it. Sometimes I wish that I didn't.

I'm writing here. Tap, peck, search, tap. 'X Factor' and 'Red and Black' blare in the background. Because nearly every house on this estate will be watching them and it would be strange not to.

My husband is in the kitchen fixing his Play Station.

And I know which endeavour I consider more admirable. I wish that I were fixing something.

Perhaps some things . . . just can't be fixed?


When I started this blog, I believed it would end at Reuben's birth?

Although I didn't know he was Reuben back then.

But it doesn't seem to be ending?

Is that a bad thing?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Towards Silence

I was driving the children to the farm park. I flicked on the radio and heard a snatch of the documentary 'Hearing Ragas' which featured a piece of music, written by the composer John Tavener, about near death experiences called 'Towards Silence.' This documentary was so compelling that I may have, accidentally, taken a wrong turning so that I could finish listening. Ahem. I'm not a good mother at times.

Strangely, shortly after discussing his new composition with the violinist, Professor Paul Robertson, who he hoped would perform his new piece, the composer suffered a serious heart attack and was hospitalised. Shortly afterwards, Paul Robertson's aorta burst and he spent six weeks in a coma.

These two, composer and performer, who planned to write and play the near death experience out on stage, found themselves, noses pressed unwillingly, right up against their subject matter. Death.

Paul Robertson spoke about the visions that haunted him during his coma, about his fears of resurfacing to meet the consequences of his catastrophic health problems and the music that comforted him as he as hung, suspended, in that strange limbo. A place that I have never been but that I have a vested interest in. As both my daughters were there. Georgina for a few days, Jessica for a couple of months.

Two older men. Two tiny babies. Cast adrift. Cut loose from their mooring, joined to their physical bodies by mere skeins. Three come back as the ropes tighten, one snaps free.

But these men are speaking, they can articulate the experience. They are speaking from a place that I am desperate to know more about.

Paul Robertson said that he heard a comforting voice, singing to him. He heard Indian ragas. Which were, unbeknowst to him, the very basis of John Tavener's piece. About this very experience that he was himself going through. Close to death. Towards silence. How marvellous and strange.

He also experienced terrifying visions, in which he described hellish scenes, like something from Hieronymous Bosch.

And I wonder.

I hope she wasn't frightened. I hope that an adult brain, crammed with experiences, is the only type that can conjure up complex scenes that disturb and upset.

Did she hear my voice? Did her sister hear my voice?
Did it cut through all the drugs? All the invasive treatment of her tiny body? The alarms? The hiss and pump of the ventilator that took her breaths for her? What did it mean to those tiny brains who had not yet experienced anything except a warm and tilting sea. Inside me.


Years and year ago. I read a poem about awaking in heaven. Sadly, I can't remember who wrote it but it has stayed with me.

That you awaken. That you hear your parents talking downstairs. The clink of the dishes as they prepare the breakfast. The soft murmur and then, the voice calling up. To you. To come downstairs.

I hope it was a little like that. That she heard our voices, the only voices she might possibly, possibly have recognised. If I'm generous to the development of her auditory system.  I hope we called to her. That it was time to leave. To get up. To walk away from this. That she didn't have to come back.

Paul Robertson described slipping to a velvet darkness. I hope it was like that for her. That she wasn't afraid. But that she was surrounded by softness and comfort.

I hope she heard me. I hope she heard me tell her how very much I love her. Some things don't change. Some questions always keep me up at night. No matter how the years pass. I still miss her so very much. I ache with it.

Sometimes, I do wonder that other people cannot see it. That I don't have a growth over my heart or another arm sprouting out of my back. Some visible mark. Sometimes I feel that, surely, I must be deformed with it.

This tiny frail baby who I clutch at so fiercely. And I have been holding onto her so tightly, that she has grown weighty and dense, like a stone. I feel as though I have grown back around her, to restore her to where she once was. As though I could gift her with life for a second time. But I can't. I'm only holding a stone in my belly.


John Tavener and Paul Robertson both recovered. Slowly and painfully. Their piece was performed.

John Tavener's wife said that she was reluctant to let 'Towards Silence' be performed whilst her husband was in a coma. Traditionally, he would draw a double line. To signify in musical notation 'here is the end of the piece.'

He had not yet made this mark on 'Towards Silence' when he collapsed with a heart attack.

Subsequently she discovered that he did this because there is no end. Not to that silence to which the composition is addressed. That we all creep closer toward.

My sweet girl. My dear daughter who lives in that silence. That strange, echoing place without an end. I may well never know where you are, if you are anywhere at all, or what you might have experienced during that brief time that you were my daughter.

But I know a little of what it is like to live somewhere with no conclusion, incomplete and unfinished, with no double bar line to signify the end. And that, I hope, may bring us closer together somehow?

Sometimes I feel that not even my own death will stop a strange little echo of me persisting? Of a mother who is reaching out for a child that will never be returned. A piece of me, a piece of her, things that one were and cannot quite reach an ending. And so we linger.

I miss you terribly, my girl. I hope that whatever may be left of us at the end, whatever thin and fragile impressions remain of me, remain of you. That they will, inevitably, be drawn back together. And be left at peace. Silent.

Friday, 14 September 2012

How to disappear completely

I'm writing about my daughter and how I disappeared her from my life over at Still Standing Magazine today.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

I Always Stay Too Long

It's been unseasonably warm here. I take the children out to the front of our house, to the pavilion where I once imagined twin girls running, where I once watched my little ghost jump up and down.

Jessica find the remnants of a puddle and splashes in it. Reuben tries to join her but is gently rebuked and directed to a 'baby' puddle. Not even a puddle. Just a darker, damp patch on the tarmac. An echo of moisture. He stamps hopefully but no spray comes up.

I sit in the shelter of the pavilion. It's been ruined now. As most things left outside and unattended in suburban England inevitably are. The glass smashed, the wood splintered. I won't draw the parallels because you don't need me to do so. But it was, once, quite nice. Green and glossy. Back in 2007.

I find a snail. I like snails. With their one large foot and their cautious peering eyes. I pick him up. Thinking to move him away as it is getting hot and he would probably be better off away from the path and under a bush. As I lift him, I notice he is dead. That his soft, slow body has slowed off to a permanent halt.

As I lift him higher, I notice that somebody has put a cigarette out in him. I suspect that this is probably why he is dead.

I pick him up and put him under the bushes anyway. Poor little soul, I think to myself. There is fellow feeling here. I see you. Mr. Snail. There you were, swooshing along, minding your own business. When somebody picked you up and decided to put out a cigarette on you. I'm so sorry. I don't know why that would happen. Life is so very odd and cruel. And I sigh and I find that I'm crying.

'It's ok,' he replies. From beyond this vale of tears. 'Sometimes life just works out this way. I had fun swooshing along in my snail-y way. It was a good life here. There were green plants and rain and other snails. But now I'm dead. And it's ok. Don't cry.'

I wonder how it came to this. That I am having internal conversations with a dead snail. And that I have a strange sense of camaraderie with my new, presumably murdered, friend. That I feel closer to a snail, with a cigarette end embedded in his body, than to my neighbours walking over just there. Who wave and say hello.

"Hello, lovely day isn't it?" I reply.

I wonder how they can possibly fail to notice that I am speaking to them from the bottom of a well. Inhabited only by me and a dead snail, curled around an extinguished cigarette butt.


I take Reuben for a walk in his buggy this morning. The sun is so warm. Every cell, every atom, every space between the atoms that compose the blob that is me seem to lean towards it. To the extent that I'm vaguely astonished to find that I'm still walking along upright. Not leaning at some unlikely angle to the pavement.

What a strange, strange chance. To be alive. To have a skin to feel the sun upon.

What a mystery. The mystery. Why me? Why not her?
Behold, I tell you a mystery.
Or maybe I won't. Who knows. It's all smoke and mirrors from here on in.

'It's ok child,' the sun winks at me. 'It's ok little ant-child. You aren't built to understand all this with your small pathetic brain. Don't worry. Just feel the warmth on your skin. It's only going to last so long anyway.'


So I'm here. Years on. Feeling that I have stayed too long. Even here. In this place where everyone is sad and battling to understand.

Years on, where I am talking to snails and to the sun. Feeling out of kilter with it all. Perhaps that is just where I am meant to remain. Out of season. With no response.

That I will endure until I no longer have to. But I'm tired. Tired of missing her and tired of trying to make some sort of sense of afterwards.

Sometimes I miss the sort of life this song is about. Although it's not of my generation. I've certainly never danced to it anyway. Too old. But nights out, perhaps especially English nights out, don't change that much over the decades. Although it's been a long time since I was in attendance. In those strange little social clubs and odd places you end up in. If you're in the habit of staying too long. As I certainly was.

But I'd just like to care less, to drink myself into oblivion, to just stop feeling and analysing and trying to make everything make some kind of sense. And this song reminds me of when I lived in London and was eighteen and wasn't friends with a dead snail.

Please take me back there. Just for a night. Please.

Warning - Like an English night out this song contains a lot of alcohol and offensive language. And it has one of those annoying advert things at the beginning. 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Between a rock and a hard place

So . . . . . in order to get Jessica's school entry delayed (so for her to rejoin the academic year that she should have been born into had she not been born so ridiculously early) I have to prove that she has severe special educational needs and get a statement for her.

In order for Jessica to start school as the system says she should (tomorrow) I have to prove that she has NO need for any additional assistance.

I can't prove either of those things.

I'm not an education specialist, I don't even know many three or four year olds. How I'm supposed to assess these things I haven't a clue. So now I'm just utterly at a loss.

Everywhere I go I keep getting referred back to the head teacher. Speak to the head teacher, speak to the head teacher, they all chant! The very same head teacher who has NEVER deigned to meet with me in person or even speak to me over the telephone.

Despite my first contact with this school being back in September LAST year.

So Jessica may or may not be starting school tomorrow / next week / ever? Who knows? Quite frankly who cares?

Perhaps we can just go entirely off radar and never send her at all? Which is looking like the best option by far at this point.

Or I could go and camp out in the reception of the school UNTIL the head teacher speaks to me.

I've ended up in the situation that I expressly stated that I DID NOT WANT. For Jessica to be treated differently to any other child and not allowed to start with the rest of her class, be in that in September 2012 or September 2013.

 Geesh, what an utter, utter mess.

Jessica - I'm so sorry my love. I did try my best for you and I tried to get what I thought was right for you. But transpires I can't get either my original plan, my fall back plan, or, it would appear, any formal education for you at all at this point.