Chasing a sunrise

I didn’t have a great night’s sleep last night. I had a lot on my mind and kept turning memories over and over.

However – whilst I think it’s important to take time to feel and process what I was feeling I also think that there’s no mileage in disappearing into a sea of misery for the sake of it.

Dwelling endlessly on things you can’t change isn’t healthy and after a period of introspection you need to get up, dust yourself off and do something positive.

In my case it won’t come as much of a surprise that I chose walking.

I left the house this morning two hours before sunrise (5.45am) in the pitch darkness (there and no streetlights at that time and you have to pray no dogs have left unexpected surprises) and started making my way toward the horizon.

Unsurprisingly (thanks to science proving the world is NOT flat) I didn’t reach it and the beautiful sunrise I was hoping for (it was lovely yesterday but I didn’t get a photo) never materialised.

However – it wasn’t of any consequence. Being outdoors is enough today. Doing anything positive is the right thing when you feel low.

You can’t expect a good mood to come to you.

Just like the horizon and the sunset you have to go looking for it.

You never know what you’ll find if you go hunting and whether once you’ve finished you’ll either feel better or worse – but in my experience it’s rarely the latter.

There’s too much benefit to be had from exercise and getting your pulse up to not feel even just a tiny bit more alive.

I’m also reminded when I spontaneously go exploring that there’s a world out there that’s still turning no-matter how I feel.

It’s full of life that’s continually in a process of renewal. To go outside is to be reminded that nothing is final and everything can change. It’s a positive and healthy thing to do.

Whilst it’s been freezing and miserable for weeks and weeks today it’s warmer – both in a very real ‘the temperature has gone up’ sense and in an allegorical ‘I feel better inside’ sense.

It’s difficult to look at little green shoots of life peeping out from under brown leaves and not feel happy – and to see the return of spring is a blessed relief.

The parklands have been alive with little creatures this morning – and for them too life just goes on. They’re busy pulling worms out of the ground or munching on bits and bobs on the woodland floor.

So far this morning I’ve walked just under nine miles and my legs are flagging a little, but I’m not stopping until I get at least 15.

It’s only 10.30 and I’ve still got a metric ton of cheering up left to do.

I’ve stopped for coffee while my feet cool down – and I can feel the pleasant aching warmth of my thighs as they relax from the exercise.

A few years ago my reaction to moments such as the one I went through yesterday would have been very different – but today I see the wages of a better approach to dealing with problems.

I’m hangover free, there are no fast food wrappers littering the kitchen work surface and I’m still in control of my own destiny.

The past may inform who I am and it’s the foundation upon which I’m built – but it doesn’t define me.

I’m not trapped by it. I’m gifted with the perspective it affords me – and for every negative aspect of my childhood there’s also a corresponding sense of satisfaction that if I haven’t already overcome an issue related to it then I’m actively working towards it.

If you’re having a shitty day internet then put your coat and shoes on and get up. Open your front door, walk through it and just stroll.

There doesn’t have to be a purpose. Do it because it’s pleasurable. Do it because it will change your point of view. Do it because the world’s beautiful.

Do it because life’s a gift and it shouldn’t be wasted on regrets.


Not my usual kind of post…

I can easily be accused of over thinking things at the best of times. Whilst this manifests itself as a benefit when it comes to writing it sometimes comes at a cost to myself, because I often have to get quite low before I come back up again.

There are days like today where I awake with a mind that’s filled with a crippling lack of self worth.

It doesn’t matter that I know logically that this is just a passing moment in time because deep down today I feel overwhelmed by fears and insecurities that have followed me around for years.

As much as I always hope they’re gone – and that they’ve been replaced by positivity or wiped away with my new lease of life they’re not really.

I’m always crestfallen when I find them still hidden in the background and I’m reminded again that my mother really did a number on me.

She left me with so much numbness in the place in my heart where there should be familial love and warmth that sometimes (on days like today) it feels like there’s a physical lump in my mind.

I try whenever I consciously think about her to will love into my heart and re-format everything about her memory.

I don’t want to feel anger or bitterness towards her because it’s unresolvable and it just diminishes me. I can’t open a door and ask her why she treated me like a possession or made me feel so worthless.

I’ll never be able to make her understand how hard it’s been to clamber out from under the weight of guilt that I feel for not missing her and instead feeling relief that she’s no longer alive.

I can’t get her to put her arms around me and hug me like she meant it any more in death than I could in life – and today – at this moment I just feel sad and angry.

I don’t feel any sadness that she’s been dead for two years now – I just feel angry that I was cheated out of the nurturing support that I should have had in life. I feel resentment that I turned to all manner of bad habits to expunge the pain that she directly or indirectly caused and I feel cheated out of the life that I deserved.

I see other people grieving when they lose a parent and although I understand loss (I’ve experienced the pain of someone that’s close to me dying) I can’t relate to what it must feel like to lose someone that shaped your childhood and youth into a positive and productive life.

I can only understand the final, guilty relief associated with a burden that’s been too heavy for too long being lifted from my shoulders.

Maybe I’ll never get over feeling like I don’t measure up to my own expectations or that I’m not good enough.

I hope not.

I hope that one day the memory of her voice (that seems indelibly burned into my brain) as she called me ‘sick, wicked and evil’ and the familiar look of disgust in her eyes will finally be forgotten.

I hope that one day in darker moments I won’t look back and think that she was right and that there’s something wrong with me.

Again – logically I know this is nonsense. She said these things whilst simultaneously telling me that she was being bitten by fleas irradiated by the Chernobyl disaster – which is not the product of a mind on an even keel.

All of this makes rational sense to me – but on an emotional level there are days like today when all I feel is crippling pain inside and when I could (if I chose to) obliterate myself in any number of ways.

I could eat to excess. I have a fridge full of food.

I could drink myself to oblivion. There’s a shop full of cider just over the road.

I could pick up a pouch of tobacco and roll myself a cigarette and keep smoking until all of the wonderfully scented 25g of Golden Virgina was gone along with my health.

Today it’s hard not to do all three – but I refuse.

I refuse not because I don’t want to – but because I do.

I’m thankfully also very very stubborn and I will not under any circumstances be diminished any more by her either in life or death.

Her power to make me less of a man than I should be is something that she’s no longer able to wield and whilst her memory may make me occasionally weak I’ve come further than she ever expected or told me I could.

Furthermore I did it all despite her.

For the time being I’m going to allow myself the luxury of not trying to think fondly of her. I’m also going to try and focus on my continuing gradual weight loss and the newspaper cutting that a kind member of my slimming world group brought in today to show everyone.

There are things to be thankful for – and the kindness of others makes feeling like I do at this exact moment bearable.

I have good friends and that’s a comfort.

Today though I’m just going to open the floodgates and let it all go before getting on with life.

She may have been troubled, she may have been mentally ill. She may have had a hard life and had good reason to have problems. There may be mitigating circumstances that surrounded her childhood that can explain or give cause for her behaviour.

I don’t care though today.

Today I’m remembering her the way she was in life.

She was bitter, resentful, hateful, unforgiving, deceitful, abusive and I should have no reason to feel guilt for not missing her.



When my mother died there were many many things left behind. I hated pretty much all of the time that I spent with my brother sifting through what I viewed at the time as the rubbish and wreckage of a decaying life.

For those who didn’t arrive at the start of my blogging career (which started not coincidentally shortly after her death) there was little love between us towards the end – and even my sense of duty to someone supposedly so close had long since faded. 

My mother was like a magpie – constantly collecting shiny rubbish and nik-naks with little or no value and always seemed supremely adept at burying herself in meaningless trinkets from pound shops. 

From an inheritance perspective (which I didn’t want) she left behind little more than a small sum of money and continual headache that seemed to last for months. 

In some ways it never left me. 

There was no real closure between us except that which I endeavoured to construct in my own mind after the event. However for all the pain it caused the act of emptying her bungalow was in some respects a huge cathartic release. 

My brother and I threw much of its contents away – apart from the dolls, crockery and ornaments that seemed relatively new. They went to charity. 

Most of what I ended up taking home with me I kept because I was too tired to decide what to do with anything any more. It sat filling my spare room for a long time before I eventually gave almost all of it away – in the hope that one day someone else would get some positive use out of it. 

Some small things however I kept. 

Photos for instance are obvious – memories like this are rarely discarded. Those didn’t require much thought. I don’t really want to look at them yet but they’re still in a drawer for a day when I might change my mind. 

The things that meant the least to me at the time – but were silly to throw away were usable items like clothes pegs, washing powder, garden tools, and door hanging tidy pockets. 

It used to endlessly irritate me that she wasted her money on things like this (there were multiples of everything and she didn’t need them) but as I sit in the garden today my clothes are drying on a washing line secured by her pegs. 

On the back of my utility cupboard door there are boot laces, batteries, dusters and light bulbs all neatly arranged in her hanging pockets. 

On the inside handle of my back door is a foam knee pad for weeding. I’ve used that too. It’s useful. 

Below the pad is usually a heavy red pair of suede gardening gloves, which I’ve used over and over again lately to pull nettles and thorny brambles out of my garden. They’ve saved me many an injury. 

I’m struck by the fact (as I watch my washing dry with her pegs in the warm afternoon sunshine) that these items unexpectedly represent something that I loved about her and I feel a little sad. 

She was a practical woman from a working class background who valued tools and items that helped get a job done. When I put my hands into her old gloves I realise that quite unexpectedly they have begun to mean something to me

Her hands used to fit inside them too, and she also used them to weed her garden like I do. All of a sudden we’re connected by such a trivial item and I’m taken aback by the rush of poignancy this brings. 

It’s like I’m somehow holding her hand…

Oddly I’ve realised that this practical side of her – divorced from the emotional closeness that one expects from a mother (but that we never achieved between us in life) is what helps to make my thoughts of her fonder than they otherwise would have been. 

I still can’t understand the complex nature of this troubled lady but I can attempt (every time I fall into the trap of anger about past events) to forgive her and try to remember the good things instead. 

There’s no mileage in bitterness internet. 

All I have to do is put her gloves on to feel some warmth. 




For the last few days I’ve noticed that when I sit in my favourite coffee shop at roughly the same time (in training for redundancy by sitting with my laptop and looking like I am working on something important) I find myself often sitting with the same people.

Like me these fellow patrons appear to be creatures of habit and more often than not sit in the same places close by to me. If I am close enough then sometimes without really trying to I pick up echoes of their life and whats happening to them.

Some of it is comical, some of it is just interesting, and some of it is sad – but absolutely all of it fascinates me and I think sometimes that my new ideal job would involve sitting in a bush with a flask of coffee just watching the world go by.

Behind me the other day a regularly present Indian guy was confidently coaching his girlfriend on the phone about how best to tackle a job interview.

‘You’ll get asked a lot of personality questions yar.’ he said. ‘It’s the same with ALL interviews. They ALWAYS ask the same questions yar.’ He paused.

‘Take for instance the one about what your weaknesses are. They ALWAYS ask that.’

He listened for a while to the voice on the other end of the phone.

‘Acha – is easy to answer.’ He said, clearly replying to a question. ‘I give you some of my examples, you can use them if you want yar?’

He pondered his mental database of examples for a moment.

‘You could say you are late all the time for the appointments?’

He listened to the reply.

‘You have to turn that into a plus – you could be saying something like ‘I am buying a watch and will be trying to get better yar?…’

I started out into space and squinted.


‘Or you could say that you lack motivation and get bored easily…’ he continued. ‘I’ve said this myself yar.’

I shook my head.

He paused to listen to her reply again.

‘No – I didn’t have a plus side for that one…’ He tailed off – clearly all of a sudden thinking about where he may have gone wrong in his own interview and the conversation became less distinct.

Either he’d used these examples as an excuse to highlight his partner’s worst traits or he was quite possibly the worse interview coach (and maybe interviewee) I’d ever come across.

It didn’t matter much though as his relationship didn’t strike me as something that would suffer from longevity once her job interview was completed…

Others can be just plain odd. Lately I’ve become aware of ‘headset man’. I probably wouldn’t have given him a second glance if one afternoon I hadn’t heard him speak to himself nearby.

Dirty bastartds’ he said loudly as he surveyed the table at which he wanted to sit.

The coffee shop was pretty much empty and almost all tables were clean. He had decided however to sit at a table vacated recently by a family with a small child.

They had left plentiful crumbs behind, and a high chair.

He swept the crumbs onto the floor with a number of flamboyant brushing movements and began to move the chairs around, pushing the high chair as far away as he humanly could – to the other side of the coffee shop.

Once this was done he placed on the table a large packet of economy shortbread and a big bar of economy chocolate.

Dirty bastards’ he muttered loudly again to no-one in particular, and at the same time moved the chair out from the wall and placed it at an angle so that its back faced me then sat down.

He looked under the table at the crumbs that he’d pushed there moments before, clearly unable to ignore their proximity. ‘Diiiiirty Bastards….’ He said as he kicked the crumbs away with his sandled feet.

Reaching over to the stand with milk and sugar he then grabbed a paper towel and leaned under the desk, dusting all around the base of the table and the floor around his chair – finally clearing the immediate area of offensive bread.

Then, reaching into his bag he grabbed a small pair of walkman ear bud headphones.

This wasn’t odd in itself – apart from the fact that he was already wearing a large pair of black over the ear hi-fi headphones around his neck.

He took these off, and placed them over the back of the chair to the side of him where his rucksack sat.

He then put both of the earbuds in and once more reached into his bag and retrieved a third pair of silver headphones.

These were also large hi-fi style ones, and bigger than the ones hanging over the chair, but had no cable attached them. He placed these over his head, on top of the earbuds already in his ears, and  finally leant back with a sigh.

He grabbed the chocolate, broke off a chunk and sipped his coffee – finally at peace.

I’ve seen him do this several times now.

As I left yesterday I noticed him walking past me wearing a fourth sky blue pair of chunky hi-fi headphones.

Clearly no audio device seems to quite hit the spot in his case, and there was a headset to compliment every mood in his bag. I quite like him just for the interesting randomness of it all.

Why so many? Who knows…

Yesterday was my third day in a row nearby unhappy man.

He looks very crestfallen all the time. I have heard him have several phone conversations as he’s sat next to me and he seems to be at pains to be nice and polite on all of them.

The first day he was calling his daughter to make sure she hadn’t fallen out with her friend at school. She had gone to drama class instead of to a sleepover. He’d been speaking to the friend’s mother and it seemed like there may be an issue.

After a while it transpired his daughter’s mother was sorting the problem on another phone and the row between the two children was a storm in a teacup.

He lingered for a moment when he told his daughter he loved her and it sounded like maybe she would be in bed by the time he got home, or he wouldn’t be home that night.

The following day I found him having a job interview when I arrived. He was energetically selling himself and his capabilities on the phone. It appeared he was looking for office work – maybe technical. The phone call concluded shortly after I sat down and he sighed, looked at his laptop and then unravelled his charger to plug it into the wall.

It was a MacBook and it’s got good battery life, so he’d probably been there a while on the hunt for employment. Maybe things weren’t going well.

The day before last he came and sat down when I was already there. I was reading a manual regarding my own job hunting prospects and didn’t notice him at first. When I did he was already talking and I noted that he was wearing the same shirt.

Three days in a row now.

His call started almost immediately. He was speaking to someone about a property.

‘Yes it’s just for two people.’ He said. ‘Myself and my daughter 3 days a week.’

He was putting a lot of energy into the call – just like the job interview, but his body language was different. His shoulders were rounded and hunched. He was looking down at the floor.

‘Yes – I’m having a problem finding something in the right price range in my area – it needs to be near her school in ****** do you have anything else?’

His fingers moved to the bridge of his nose, lifting his glasses slightly and he rubbed his eyes.

‘OK – no problem. Well you have my number, so please make sure to give me a call if anything comes up.’

He finished the call, put the mobile down and sat back in his chair, sighing.

I realised then that he was probably loosing his home, his job and trying to hold onto his daughter as his relationship failed. He looked adrift.

He was still wearing his wedding ring.

Sometimes I want to turn to people and say something nice – but it will betray the fact I’m listening and paying attention to them, and will destroy their sense of privacy.

I didn’t say anything to him, and shortly afterwards he left – choosing not to call anyone else.

All three of these people left me with vivid thoughts about who they were outside of the coffee shop, and whether they were there to hide from the world or just to relax with all of their headphones.

They also made me think about why I was sitting there.

Why was I in the coffee shop every day? Was I hiding or relaxing?

This week I could have been doing either as I’ve been trying to avoid thoughts of work or food, depending on which has been bothering me the most.

Maybe I should be paying more attention to my own life. Maybe that’s the moral of the story. Or maybe I just like listening to people and wondering what makes them tick.

Who knows…

(sips coffee and listens)


My Guardian Angel


I left work a bit early today to visit the funeral director for the last time. I’d been putting off collecting my mom’s rings for long enough.

The traffic was absolutely awful, and as I sat at a complete standstill on road after road watching swarms of schoolchildren crossing behind me, in front of me, to the sides of me and (it seemed) underneath me I realised what an idiot I was to think I’d picked the right time of day to make the journey.

By the time I got to my destination I was about as annoyed as it’s possible to get when faced with largely stationary traffic and idiots in Range Rovers who try to drive round you as if you have eyes in the back of your head then cut in to traffic to save precious milliseconds whilst nearly causing a collision.

It isn’t enough that these impatient arseholes survived natural selection. They have to rub your nose in the reality of their continued existence by driving a car thats 10ft feet higher than yours with tyres that would suit a bus.

Such desperately retarded brain donors then suddenly loose all peripheral vision when stuck parallel to cars they’ve unsuccessfully attempted to cut in between of and pretend to be absolutely oblivious to your presence.

After my third lengthy effort to stare one of them to death resulted in abysmal failure I resolved to calm down, move the radio on to Classic FM and focus on the task at hand.

The point of my journey if I’m honest had definitely contributed to the tension. I didn’t really want the rings.

My mom’s ashes were already long gone. My brother and I directed them to be scattered at the crematorium, as there didn’t really seem any other appropriate place. Her physical remains therefore were no longer an issue. The only task left was to pick up the jewellery that we had been unable to get at the hospital when she died.

Mom never stopped wearing her wedding ring after my father and her divorced, so it wasn’t surprising to find that it still on her finger when she passed away. I’d always assumed that the other rings were related to Dad, as she had two gold bands and a third, smaller one.

I rarely paid attention to her jewellery, which was mostly eccentric, covered in butterflies and sourced in Poundland along with anything that had ‘silver’ written on it.

However tonight, when I got home and looked at one of them I noticed that it housed a tiny stone and had a delicate inscription engraved around the outside.

‘My guardian angel this day be at my side to light to guard to rule and to guide’

Not being of a religious persuasion I Googled this and the majority of the links appeared to point to this being a Catholic prayer. My father is most definitely not of that faith and I couldn’t imagine him giving her anything like this.

Curious, I contacted him and asked whether the ring had any special significance. It seemed however that this wasn’t from him, and neither was the smaller gold wedding band. He didn’t know where they were from.

Only the larger gold band appeared to jog any memory, and it was this one that symbolised their marriage.

The others it seemed were most likely the remains of my mother’s first marriage in 1962, which was to a Catholic.

She and he had (by all accounts) a violent and tumultuous relationship, which resulted in her absconding a year after they married and ultimately divorcing him in 1972 before hitching her wagon to my dad.

So why was she wearing the rings from her first marriage when she died?

She still bore her first husband’s surname when my dad and she met, apparently having no willingness to officially separate unless she was going to re-marry (according to my uncle).

I’ve never thought it odd that she kept wearing my father’s ring, as she was completely unable to let go of the fact their marriage had failed and despite her bitterness professed love for him (usually in a manner that suggested the absolute opposite) until the very end.

This marriage (just like her first) took close to a decade to legally draw to a close – and despite their estrangement she bitterly fought against a second divorce. To her such a thing was inconceivable.

In conversation my mother often retreated to the events of the past in order to provide justification for the arguments of the present, and seemed unable to move on from any event where she felt harsly treated. When I was at home her daily reality often hovered somewhere between 1968 and 1978 and she chewed over the fat of this part of the past whenever she could.

This period was in retrospect one of recovery from violence, and renewed love. It was also one which letters showed was not easy for her, and she did not end up with the life she expected.

One had to be careful therefore (both then and in later years) to avoid heading toward many subjects relating to this period. Whilst this pivotal decade provided her with many happy memories these could quickly link to ones of bitter unhappiness. Once you entered this territory there was rarely an exit sign that was easy to find.

I never heard in all the years I knew her a single reminiscence of her first husband that was positive or forgiving. Given the level of violence I have been told about independently of her version of events this is probably understandable.

I’m not sure then (with these contexts in mind) quite how to view the three of these. Part of me wants nothing to do with them, but like with her bear I know that if I give them away or sell them because I don’t like how they make me feel, in the long term I will do myself a disservice.

One of them symbolises her union with my father, which is a good thing (despite its many tempests) because my brother and I are alive and are inseparable friends. My Dad is also slowly beginning to find peace with the past as I am, so that too is positive.

The other two symbolise a violent, impulsive and often confused past. A part of her life I thankfully wasn’t alive to experience.

The three combined could be interpreted as an unwillingness to let go of the past and move on… but also maybe they show a need to remember past love, however wrong it may have ultimately turned out.

I don’t own any other item that is made of gold since I’m not much into bling or displays of wealth, and I’m not married. Because of this I’m surprised by how heavy these small items are when I hold them in my hand.

Their emotional weight is much the same.

I think I’m going to keep these rings, and get them out of storage again in a few years. It will be interesting to see what they mean then – and what I will feel when I look at and hold these strange little bands of metal.



Some people are complex and confusing. Just when you think you have a measure of who they are you’ll find something out about them that seems out of place or character.

Oddly the death of someone can answer almost as many questions as it poses, as you sift through their personal belongings.

My mother didn’t do regret in my experience, or from what I saw during her life, forgiveness. She harboured resentments like priceless property and took many of them – particularly with regard to my father – with her to the grave.

As I’ve said before I am beginning to come to terms with this, and try to remember my mother more compassionately – to let go of the negative emotions that I feel about her.

Its one of the reasons I’m writing so much. I need to examine it and talk it out with myself.

The last time I saw her in hospital she said she had no regrets to my brother. This wasn’t really a revelation, given that she also never said sorry (certainly not with any sincerity anyway).

She then thought for a moment after this and revised her statement. She actually did have regrets. She regretted that he hadn’t come to see her more. She then added ‘And I regret your brother didn’t come to see me more as well.’

My mother it seemed really didn’t get the idea of regret being something personal, where you feel you’ve made a mistake or failed somehow in your duty to others or yourself.

At the time I was greatly annoyed when I heard her say this. She had a habit of displacing all blame onto others, and this seemed no different.

Time changes perceptions though.

My mom’s vocabulary sometimes let her down, and her written English (although sometimes insightful) was always littered with grammatical errors.

My mother was an artist rather than a writer, and spoke through her drawings and paintings rather than words, which routinely failed her and caused conflict.

While going through her photos I came across several family trees this evening in various states of completion, which not so long ago she had (for reasons of her own) started to compile and send to myself and my brother.

The ‘master’ copy has black and white photos from 1940 or thereabouts with some serious looking people on my mother’s side of the family. Some of them are in military uniform, and they look like there is preparation for war.

There’s a sense in the descriptions that mom is trying to understand where she came from, and why she is who she is.

The passages of text describing her own parents are extensive. They contain no critical comments (of which she made many over the years) and instead she remarks her mother and father were ‘kind to the pet animals that the three children occasionally took home’.

Their treatment of their children however is described only in terms of them working hard and providing food, clothing, ‘necessary’ school uniforms and equipment.

Oddly parental love is never mentioned. Instead terms relating to honesty and reliability are used to describe her father and nothing at all to describe her mother.

Her sense of kin and wanting to belong to where she’s come from is self evident throughout the first third of the binder, but whats missing speaks louder to me than what’s included.

Later in the album photos of her own family begin to overwhelm the narrative, and there are lots of myself and my brother growing up, many of which I don’t ever remember seeing before.

Then, starting around my adolescence, there are massive gaps. My father no longer has dark hair, I become quickly old in the photos, my brother taller with facial hair, and the period in which we all don’t see each other holds little information.

There’s a sense however that she is desperately holding onto every scrap of information about our lives that she can find as I and then later my brother gradually cut off contact. She begins to write what she thinks we are like as if it is fact. She begins to imagine who we are and that becomes her truth.

Mom also begins to refer to me in the past tense underneath a photo from 2008 and says ‘David had various hobbies, which included computer games, driving his car, music, films, with a bit of gardening.’

It’s sad that she knew so little about me. I hate gardening usually and I drive only to get from A to B which is normally only where I listen to music. She’s right about the games and films though. That much is true.

It’s partially my fault she didn’t know me. It takes two to fight and I was to blame as well in some cases.

As I read the album before me I know that it probably wouldn’t be any different if we had the time again, but it still makes me feel bad, wishing things had taken another path.

Its not until I get to the back of it however that I find something that surprises me.

A poem, by Kathleen Gillum:


Maybe mom’s regrets were really just things she was sad about, things that she wished had been different, and didn’t have the power to change any more.

Maybe behind her stumbling vocabulary were feelings, trapped in a painting or drawing that she no longer had the power to bring to life. A piece of imagined art that said – ‘I’m sorry. I wish things had been different, and I loved you both.’



Citrus Sinensis

Well. That’s that.

Nothing ever goes how you expect it to. That’s nice though. It makes life interesting and worth living.

The white van cowboy arrived at the bungalow this time wearing a Russian army Ushanka hat, channeling chi from the other side of the Atlantic.

VanManski was also thankfully 2 hours late.

I say thankfully because by this time I wasn’t feeling sad, just bored and pissed off, which turned out to be a good thing.

Finally, though he was here and ready to clear the furniture. I just wanted it all gone as quick as possible so I could leave and get something to eat.

As requested for removal of the heavy oak dresser he’d brought help. In this case that came in the form of Mrs VanManski.

Missing her calling as an East German shot putter this hardy lady had instead found happiness carrying furniture with her husband, and after sizing her up I decided against suggesting an arm wrestling contest. Once she’d hauled the cooker out of the bungalow I was only left wondering who opened the jam jars in the VanManski household.

Maybe their daughter?

Soon the rooms were empty. I turned everything off, noted down the meter readings and locked up.

It was snowing, and getting worse.

The journey home was slow and almost blizzard strength at points, forcing the traffic down to 20mph, however the car was warm and I was too tired to care.

Nearly there…

I reached my brother’s house to drop off the keys and stayed for a welcome hot cup of Earl Grey. After a chat, and agreeing to go to the cinema later in the week I headed home. I needed food, pills, and bed. Nothing would get in my way.

Then, as I walked to my door I noticed a box, sodden and covered in snow by the bin.

A delivery?! WTF? Left outside?

I opened the door, put my bag down and then turned to the box. What could it be? I wasn’t expecting anything.

Then I unwrapped the perfect end to the day. My fantastic friend had been reading my blog and decided for my recent birthday that I didn’t need a game or a bottle of wine but a dwarf orange tree 🙂

Thanks universe (and fantastic friend) for giving me something to smile about and making the last day at my mom’s memorable for reasons I didn’t expect.

Peace out world!


Backwards or forwards?

I was asked something thought provoking a week ago.

‘If you could go backwards or forwards in time, which way would you go?’

My thoughts had initially been quite grandiose while I mulled over my reply. Epic and exciting periods in history immediately presented themselves.

I could see the pyramids being built in Egypt and look at their empire when it was at the peak of its power and opulence, stand on a grassy knoll and see who really killed JFK, watch Jimmy Hendrix play the last two hour set at Woodstock, or witness firsthand the tearing down of the Berlin wall….

But what about the future?

Dangerous. A lot could go wrong. Dystopian events would probably have occurred. Each possible outcome seemed worse than the last. We may have been blown up by terrorist dirty bombs, overwhelmed by the seas due to global warming, have been hit by an asteroid, washed away by tsunamis, or succumbed to the zombie apocalypse. Donald Trump may be president…

I was completely stumped – and at the time concluded simply that it was safer to travel in my own lifetime so that I would avoid changing history and screwing the present up.

The conversation concluded with my rather dull and ill thought out answer, but tonight I’m thinking about it again because it seems infinitely more relevant.

Tomorrow I go to my mom’s nearly empty bungalow again for the last time. When I’ve locked up it will be empty, and while I never liked the place to begin with the moment will represent a significant milestone in my life.

I’m annoyed with my continued preoccupation on the subject, and that I keep coming back to it over and over. I’m so confused about my feelings relating to my mother’s death that I struggle to put it into words.

While she was alive I was continually in conflict with her. Regardless of how I tried to make sense of her to myself and others I never did my feelings justice. Typically my spoken words were angry and monosyllabic when my thoughts finally took form, and I usually deadened the pain they caused in the pub with my friends, and later on my own.

Her lies, manipulation, emotional blackmail, verbal abuse and unwillingness to ever apologise or understand the impact of her actions and words in later life drove me crazy. I wanted nothing to do with her for years until about eight months before she died, and even then every moment spent with her was an immense struggle. I had to continually play mental hopscotch as I tried to head off potential arguments and censor my discussions. I didn’t want events in my life to be used as weapons in conversation later as they had been many times before, decade after decade.

I got back in contact when she was admitted to hospital. This was partially because I thought it was the end and I didn’t want to leave things between us as they were, but mostly because I didn’t want my dad to face it by her bedside alone.

As it happened she hung on longer than expected and left the chronic respiratory illness unit five weeks later. I honestly thought that through sheer bloody mindedness she would never die. She’d just argue death to a standstill upon arrival until it laid down its scythe and gave up.

The time I spent with her in those eight months, if I am completely truthful, was out of obligation, not love. Each and every minute spent with her felt like I was carving off a piece of me that I didn’t want to give and that she did not deserve.

But then she died. My parent actually died. It was both expected and unexpected, and now I don’t know how to feel about it.

Theres a part of me that has softened somehow since her death. It’s beginning to remember the good times, without the mist of anger and stubbornness caused by old conflicts.

The memories this part of me is reviving are somehow more vivid than before. When I concentrate I can feel the corduroy trousers I wore when I was little and see the coal fire in our living room, with a box of white firelighters to the left. I can feel the warmth of my mother’s arm through her nylon jumper as I rested my head on it while we sat on the sofa watching the black and white TV.

I didn’t always feel hostility toward her. I know that now.

I used to adore watching her paint and draw, and loved to see how her compositions took shape and form from nothing but a blank canvas and some mixed and coloured oil to what I viewed as a masterpiece when it was done. Before my brother arrived when I was ten, we used to do this together, me reading a comic on the floor, and her painting while she smoked and talked. It was for a time something we shared alone.

In another memory she unexpectedly bought me a Millennium Falcon for Christmas. It was a gift way beyond what she could afford, but she knew how much I wanted it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy getting a gift as I was with that one. I can remember it like it was yesterday. The smell of the new plastic and the colours of the stickers in the cockpit where I sat Luke and Chewie are with me right now, as I type.

I also remember her working with me to make a pirate outfit for school. She tied a spotted black neck scarf for my head and made a thick curved cardboard cutlass covered in tinfoil. I was so taken with it that the sword never made it to class. For hours I ran around the garden with a makeshift eyepatch and a plastic budgie on a spring mounted to my shoulder (a faux companion stolen from my pet’s cage) waving my sword left and right, shouting ‘Yaaaaarrrrr’ as I dived out of bushes to swashbuckle imaginary foes.

The sword couldn’t take the heroic adventures its owner was intent on having. It died shortly after from extensive tree related injuries and was laid to rest in the bin later that evening. I remember that there were daffodils in the garden and the grass had been recently cut, but thats really all I can recall about that day. Apart from the fact I was a really, really happy little pirate.

But thats all past now.

Tomorrow another memory will be made involving my mom. Its as significant as any of the ones above, but I don’t want to experience it. I want to swear and shout and make it go away, and above all else I don’t want to face it.

So today the question my friend posed means more than it did before.

If I could travel anywhere in time, forwards or backwards, I think I would travel to the day after tomorrow.

I’d go there so I didn’t have to lock the door to her bungalow for very the last time.

I’d go there because I don’t want this memory in my head.




‘It’s a Pegasus!’ said my friends’ eldest daughter this evening when I asked her why her little pink toy horse had wings.

‘It can fly!’ she said smiling – immediately demonstrating this irrefutable fact as she trailed it through the air, walking away from me with her younger sibling.

I was surprised.

Not because of her vocabulary. She’s clearly a bright little spark.

Her five times table, recited while we waited in the pub for our dinner to be delivered  was spot on (all the way up to 105!), as was her mental arithmetic. She wanted to be a vet, she told me while sitting on her mom’s lap, so she could help animals.

Presumably she didn’t plan to discriminate. The future career choice as I imagined she envisaged it would most likely include mythological creatures as well as more traditional ones.

As a child I had loved Greek mythology, particularly Jason and the Argonauts and the trials of Odysseus. This was a minor obsession for a short while while I was growing up, and it was also a subject I’d happily studied at university.

For some reason though when I looked at the horse I’d not associated the word to the miniature animal in my hand.

This has been happening a lot over the last few weeks – and this was another example where my thoughts were elsewhere without me realising it. Where I found myself not connecting the dots.

At that particular moment my mind had clearly been back in my mom’s bungalow, where I’d been with my brother for most of the day, clearing the last few smaller items.

‘Its nearly empty.’ My brother had said, standing in the living room as we prepared to leave for the penultimate time.

I noticed as he said this his voice wavered slightly. I didn’t ask if he was ok. I kind of knew how he felt. If I had replied I might have choked too.

Behind me was mom’s dark red patterned armchair, the one she’d been fighting for breath in, surrounded by fleece blankets, balancing a cup of tea on her lap and refusing to leave when we wanted her to go to hospital. The oxygen condenser had always been switched on whenever I visited and the constant hum of its operation had been connected in my mind to her seated in that position.

Now the armchair was silent and empty.

When I looked at it while I walked around the house I had wondered why there was no trace of her – no dent in the springs, or discolouration in the fabric. It was just an armchair now, with no hint of its recent occupant.

Now all that remained in the house were bare items of furniture, waiting to be picked up by the man with the cowboy hat in a week’s time.

Once he’d lassoed them into his van they would all be gone, and the chapter would be closed.

It was a strange, and sad feeling that had taken the word ‘Pegasus’ away from me momentarily, and continued to hold me in time at the bungalow even after I left there.

Back at the pub our meals arrived, and as we prepared to eat we began to catch up with each other’s recent events. Picking up their cutlery both of my friends silently engaged their parental sixth sense, tracking their daughters while they edged ever closer to the enticing pool table in the corner the pub.

The two girls mischievously began to circle their silent prey while behind them adult conversation turned to the evils of underfloor heating contractors.

Previously I had assumed that these fine people were pillars of society, but over many recent months several of them had secretly banded together with a solemn vow to individually provide the crappiest customer service possible to my friends. In doing so it seemed they had collectively exposed themselves as the very worst kind of scum and villainy and deserved deep disdain.

Their infallible ability to be completely fallible was the only trait they posessed that could be counted on it transpired. They had proven to be aloof, unhelpful, missed appointments, failed to provide quotes, and were generally a bad sort.

Such irredeemable actions had not enhanced the environment of their prospective clients, whose floor (for the time being) remained very chilly, in tandem with their mood on the subject.

However, despite my best efforts to think venomous thoughts in solidarity about underfloor heating contractors, the armchair remained in the back of my mind.

I realised then that Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross was playing in the background.

Ten days ago this was the opening song at my mother’s funeral, and was her favourite, as far as I knew.

I mentioned this to my friend and (having read my blog) she reminded me that I had written recently that the universe seemed to be talking to me, and suggested that this might be another example.

Lately its definitely got something to say.

Maybe its always talked to me and I just haven’t listened. Maybe I’ve heard but not realised. Maybe I’m looking for patterns where beforehand I wasn’t. Maybe I was too drunk to care.

It does seem odd though that these things keep happening, and I’m glad that in writing a blog I’m keeping a note of them, because in a year or so I’d like to look back at who I am now and compare me to who I will be then.

I hope I’m a bit more like my friends’ daughters who had concluded by the end of the evening that it was a really good idea to put all the cue tip chalk down the pockets of the pool table, thus making the game far more challenging than its future participants would be expecting.

They weren’t thinking about armchairs and depressed springs. They were living in the moment and just loving life in pigtails as they ran around the pub with a little pink Pegasus poking out of the top of a comfy, warm little blue jumper.