Silence is a country where she would like to holiday. Not take up permanent residence, but definitely spend some quality time there. Lying in silence, shuttered against the world.

Silence is a place that could breathe new life into her.

She cracks the key in the door, pushes it back on its squeaky hinge, steps into the hall. She is flat. Her eyes, her voice, her hair, her spirit. Too many hours, built up in increments, spent driving to and fro, on the same stretch of motorway, the same dual carriageway, to and fro, to and fro, to and fucking fro. The to-ing and the fro-ing punctuated by hours, built up in further increments, spent seated in front of another person, a stranger, a different stranger every day, talking. She was already punctured when the talking started. The words, no matter how soft, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how solicitous of her feelings, only serve to keep the puncture fresh.

She steps into the front room. The light on the answering machine blinks red. Another conversation postponed. Another conversation she has to have. More soap to show the air escaping.

She is flat. Silence, she thinks, could reshape her.


Good Grief

Because I am a conditioned creature, subconsciously and occasionally consciously paying attention to what is said in media soundbites and HR management techniques, I have this notion of grief. I know that it’s bullshit, because every grief is different.

Here’s what the received wisdom says I should be feeling:

denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance

Nope, nope, nope, nope, yes.

I longed for my mum’s death, because of the nature of her illness. Dementia robbed us of her person, leaving behind the physical shell. I’ve had six years of dealing with the loss of her. Maybe I’ve been through what the received wisdom says I should go through already.

This is what I feel, cycling through from moment to moment:

relief, sorrow, guilt, pride, joy

Relief that it’s over.

Sorrow that she’s gone.

Guilt that I couldn’t do more to help her.

Pride that she was such a remarkable woman.

Joy that she was in the world and made a difference in her own small way.

It’s not a cycle, really. It’s a scribble. A tangle of string that doesn’t want to be linear, or cyclical, or focused on progress.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this. It doesn’t matter.



My mum died yesterday. This is a way of remembering how glorious she was.

Most of the people who will read this in an idle moment didn’t know her. She was an ordinary woman from an ordinary family. And yet, she was a superstar.

My mum had a great life. She was an inspiration to many people, from those who borrowed books from the library where she worked, to the school kids she helped with their reading at the local primary school, to those she led on fundraising adventures for Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, to the writers in her writing group, to her friends and her family.

She made everybody welcome. She was the giddy extrovert in a family of introverts. We hung on the coat tails of her love for life.

My mum wasn’t very well for the last 6 years. She had dementia. She struggled with her loss of independence. We struggled with the loss of her.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a relief. To see a person change from the joy of the world to a shell imitating the person we once knew has been the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with.

R.I.P. Mum.

Waiting for a pearl


There are wires and tubes. There are machines that beep and machines that hiss. There is a mask over her mouth and nose, translucent green like glass.

I sit there looking at the nothing of her face. I am miles away in my head, on a virtual shore by a virtual sea. I am translucent green like glass, a shard shattered from regular existence, waiting to be smooth. I want the waves to wash over me, to carry me out to sea. I want to be anywhere but here.

When I believed in what the good book said, I would have taken this for refinement. But I don’t believe in the good book any more. I won’t emerge from thisĀ a piece of grit turned into a pearl.

If I could smother the life out of this, as I am being smothered by it, I would. A hundred times, a thousand. The grief that exists in the slow ebb of life astounds me. The grief that exists in every moment. The grief that crashes over me in waves.

Today I learned what GCS means. Today I learned that it is possible to drive 25 miles while crying. Today I learned nothing.