Category Archives: Reflective



Did a version of this with various odds and ends of veg. Still trying to work out if the caramelised shallots stir-fried with curry powder were a good addition to the mix, or not……

Grief works in funny ways. Had some additions to my library recently, as Mum’s books are gradually being sorted and cleared. I started Edith Wharton’s subtly-observed “The House of Mirth”, but couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t emotionally bear the ultimately self-inflicted tragedies of a complex, aristocratic, fin-de-si├Ęcle world utterly removed from my own life experience. However a character’s equally well-observed swift decline and death from terminal illness in Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North & South” was bearable, even though I’d seen the real-life version of the same thing only a couple of months ago.

A piece of silver confetti skipped out of my handbag the other day while I was pulling out my mobile phone. It fell straight onto the grimy floor of the bus. I thought it would look weird if I tried to pick it up, so distracted myself by looking at the extensive flooding on the Deerhide housing estate to the right of the road, the houses now with a second moat of hi-visibility jackets, porta-loos and water-tankers.

The confetti piece was of stiff foil, heart-shaped with a curved spiral embossed. I don’t use that handbag that often, and most memorably was at the wedding of a friend I lost to suicide soon after. I remember the style of confetti… I bought it. I still find the odd piece here and there.

If Grief had dandruff it would be wedding confetti. If it had a library it would be yellowed novels, spine-scratched and held together with sellotape.




I’ve been using one of the funeral wreaths as a Christmas decoration; an intricately-woven wicker circle with white roses, lilies and sprays of delicate powdery green fern.

But the flowers are now dying.

I’ve saved a couple of the best ones, layered them between two sheets of grease-proof paper and under a pile of books. When they’ve dried I’ll add them to the memory box. The rest go to my father’s compost heap, and then back onto the garden she loved. The wicker circle I keep. I’ll re-decorate it for next Christmas with artificial flowers and berries. Mum would have approved of that as well; she adored Christmas.

And so the circle of the year, and of life, rolls on. There’s some comfort in that.

Ticket to Ride


I’m not sure why I have a Beatles song stuck in my head, she was always more of a Rolling Stones fan.

She died in the hospice, whilst my father and I sat either side, small-talking about the sleep we’d not managed to get over the past two months. Her eyes opened, and then she just stopped breathing. It was a privilege, and horrible, and also somehow mundane. There were offers of tea, and a nurse with a stethoscope to check that she had gone. I tried to gently slide her eyelids back down.

It’s much more difficult to do than it looks in the films or TV.

I stayed with my sister that night. We both fell asleep in her bed, in the day clothes (her) and the work clothes (me) we’d been walking round in.

Yesterday we had the celebrant round (well-groomed, lovely, a firm believer that the Moon landings were fake). Then there was the funeral director, to discuss the other arrangements. Afterwards we ordered the flowers (immediate family only, donations to the hospice otherwise). Everyone was courteous and polite, but I exited feeling like I’d been beaten with a stick anyway.

I’ve cried precisely three times. The rest of the tears just lurk, and circle like sharks.



I sit in the belly of a whale.

The hospital room is silent apart from the distant roar of the air conditioning and her slow breathing, the lights dimmed with only a faint green glow from an air vent. At every noise – a nurse outside, a creak of my chair, she opens her eyes again, then the lids droop. Her stomach is swollen, skin dry and itchy. It swims freely in her bloodstream now, unhindered by the chemical nets that had once tried to catch it, struggling and gasping like any other creature dragged from a world it had so gracefully adapted to.

Chemotherapy would kill her. The little dreamer of morphine, and the small kindnesses of the nurses are all that’s left. Two days ago she could still speak clearly for herself, abrasively so, but now even that last hook seems to be slowly working itself free…..

Vignettes from my mother’s bedside


The elderly lady behind the screen, telling the young-voiced female doctor about her drinking, about her “lovely, caring” assistant Pearl who found her and called the ambulance. “How much whisky do you drink?”.

“Well I’ve only drunk three times today, once at breakfast, just a tot”,

“You know my mother came round my house, she came round my house when I was out and COMMITTED SUICIDE”.

When the screens were removed you could see the dark, dark bags under her eyes. Too old and unlovely to be softly described anymore as “circles”.

The next day, the elderly lady in the next bed along, with one of those lovely old precise, English, accents. BBC English and women in WAAF uniforms making wartime radio broadcasts. A stroke? Aphasia? She spoke so clearly, but of tumblers and weasels and other nonsensical things fitted neatly into what were clearly normal sentence lines, whilst the male doctor gently questioned her. Her daughter (?) tried to reassure, “you’ll be back to normal soon, they say”.

Leaving the Acute Assessment Unit at 8pm, 9pm (?) to look for a sandwich for my father in a darkened and mostly-asleep hospital. All the vending machines are full of processed sugar in colourful packets. He is tired and diabetic and missed his roast chicken dinner whilst a chirpy, long-haired paramedic lady tried to assess my mother. A genuine immediate trauma case (no)? Instead then someone who nevertheless needs to be admitted somehow whilst avoiding the long wait and germs of evening A&E (chemo suppresses the immune system, you know). She somehow sneaked her in to a bed via the AAU instead. Maybe she saved her life. Maybe she dragged out the inevitable. I don’t know. My sister plans to send her a thank-you card anyway.

Whatever happens now I will still happily sign that card.

further flowers more…..



Word on the Facebook Street this evening was about an old university friend who passed away this morning, in his sleep. Not a surprise in some ways – even 20 years ago he was a fragile 5 stone and wheelchair-bound. I hadn’t seen him in years so real grief is muted. But it sits uneasily that he should pass and I not say anything at all.

Sleep tonight
And may your dreams
Be realized
If the thundercloud
Passes rain
So let it rain
Rain down on here…….
So let it be

“MLK” – U2