Are you there?

All the things that matter to me, mattered to us,

Matter so little to anyone else

If they even matter at all. It’s all so intimate. Small.

No-one but you could ever remember how we sat in that bar.

I can try and explain, paint a picture, tell the tale of our joy and the blight on our stars,

But really, why should anyone care?

No-one but you can know or remember that one special night

When we met in a world that was flooded with lights.

We were there. We were present. We were so very there.  

No-one but you can remind me of words even I have forgotten past reasonable trace.

I have to scrape every shadowy cave of my brain just to recall the shape of your face.

A face I so loved. A beautiful face.

No-one but you could make me keep looking, hoping to see you around every corner, through a window, in a crowd, alone on a bench, out with your kids (assuming you had some), walking through galleries, buying fruit at the market.  Do you still play guitar and sing in the street? Do you visit our favourite tree in the park? You’re far older for sure. So am I. Have we passed in the street? Maybe you can’t even walk anymore. I don’t care as long as you’re there. Somewhere, still there.

I’m so frustrated looking for you,

when I know in my heart that you’re already gone.

How can I ever know if that’s true?    


Mistrust of certainty

I need proof of everything. You say that tastes good but how do I know if I don’t try it too? It’s the same with everything else. You told me don’t do this and don’t do that, it will turn out badly, and what you say might sound like sense, but I don’t know for sure without doing it all myself. What if it’s terrible for you but good for me? If it’s good for me but hurts you I had better not do it. We all need to look and listen. Harmony makes a good measure of what’s right and wrong, just as it does in music.

And then there are all those bigger things we are just supposed to believe in. I don’t. I might like to believe them but that won’t make them true. I must see them or if they can’t be seen I have to feel them or sense them and understand their value. I must know for myself and test it from every angle. Even then I might doubt it. I don’t think doubt is such a bad thing. Doubt makes you an explorer. It’s people who are far too sure about things that get us all into trouble. They are often not guided by kindness. That’s the ultimate question in every situation. Ask yourself this. Is it kind?

I have no idea why I wrote this. But I did.


It took her a while to know again who she was. That was because she was sleeping and names aren’t needed in dreams.

Her name is Loveday. She was named after the street where she was born. She shortened it to Daisy, but she had never felt it belonged to her. Luke shortened it to Lovely. She liked that. Who wouldn’t? It sounded so nice and warm when he said it.

His name doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just something to write on a headstone. If he even has one.

She has been searching for him in her sleep every night. He is Luke, the sweet boy she had loved long ago. Her whole life she has never forgotten him. And now he looks just the same as he did back then. He knew when she started to look for him, but it had taken him a long time to reach her. They are both still a little confused about how they did it or where they are now but it’s all oddly familiar. She has decided to question nothing. In her dream they reminisce, observe, regret, celebrate, miss things, have opinions, wander, laugh, share their love and shed tears and they haven’t discovered everything yet.

‘I suppose we’ll have to move on eventually, but I can’t see where we should go,’ she said, taking his hand.

She was surprised his hand still felt alive to her touch. He felt the same as he always had as he leaned against her. She rubbed his palm, running her finger across the generous Mount of Venus at the base of his thumb. She looked at the lifeline that crossed his palm and recalled that it wasn’t the first time she had noticed it was shorter than hers.

He gripped her hand firmly. ‘I’m happy to be stuck here. If we move on, we might lose each other. We might cease to exist as ourselves. We might not exist at all. Have you thought of that? It’s not like getting up and catching a train and knowing your destination.’

‘No.’ She held his hand in both of hers now, for safety. ‘That’s a scary thought. I don’t like thinking about it.’ She paused. ‘Do you think everyone who dies is still around somewhere?’

Luke shrugged. ‘I don’t know. And I don’t really care. Maybe they didn’t wait around. I’ve waited around for you, I think. It’s made me feel alive. But perhaps the dead can dream in their coffins, and this is all only a dream we’re sharing.’

‘I don’t want to wake up. But I’m sure I’m not in a coffin. I remember going to bed.’ She was sure she was only asleep.

Luke smiled. ‘I’m dead. That’s certain. Though I can’t see my coffin walls anymore. I’m sure I’m usually up in the open air somewhere now. I think I’m still real. I feel as if I’m alive. But I might not be here at all if you didn’t dream of me. I wonder if I will ever understand what death is.’

‘Maybe we could catch a train if I believe we can, and if this is all only a dream?’

‘If that’s what you really want to do you have to promise never to let go of me if we enter the tunnel. And don’t wake up, Lovely. Please don’t wake up. If you wake you’ll be gone again.’

‘I promise. I won’t wake up.’

A chill breeze made the autumn leaves swirl around their feet.

‘We could stay here longer couldn’t we?’ he said, putting an arm around her. ‘I should never have mentioned the trains. It was always better arriving than it was departing.’

‘Yes, and it’s such a lovely, brisk, sunny day. Let’s just stay here a while. I don’t mind the cold. Let’s watch the people passing by like we used to, and we can visit some of our favourite places before we go.’

He nodded. ‘Whatever you like. You decide. I’ve lost all sense of time.’


When I’m bound to the clock

I can’t stretch my limbs or my mind.

I’d rather know months by the change in the leaves

and the hours by the sun and the inaccessible hidden stars.

They’re masked by the streetlamps here.

Once in ten years, I have seen constellations shine clear.

They signify the loss of old loves

who pointed above and told me their names.

By this I can tell I am old

and the world is not what it was.

Everything’s changed.


My Great-Grandmother was a Victorian. When I was five in the 1950s, I went to see her with my Mum and my Nan.  We went to her house in Grove Green Road, London, E11. She had white hair pulled back in a tight bun, a long black skirt and button boots, a crisp white blouse with lace at the collar and a black shawl. Five of my great-aunts and two great-uncles still lived in the house, under her rule.

     My Nan, Emily, was born there in 1903, the second eldest of eleven children. She had already told me some stories. But she never said anything to me about her mother except ‘she was a hard woman.’ I thought so too because she had a hard face, thin lips, a determined chin, and she stood with a very stiff, straight back. My aunts all seemed nervous of her. I was a bit scared of her too, but she fascinated me, and she gave me a gift. It was a small bright red suitcase. It seems ironic now because she never wanted to go anywhere, and she tried to keep her whole family at home. Such a bright colour, that red. Nothing at all like her or her house.

     I remember her house. The front door led into a dark passageway. Our house had a big entrance hall. I felt the difference. A small table stood against one wall. There was a big black telephone on a stand and a scratched mirror on the wall. I thought about a story my Nan had told me about this passageway. One day she and her brothers and sisters had stood in a line against this wall, dressed in their coats, each with a small bag of possessions, like refugees. They had all been afraid because they knew where they were going, and the brothers and sisters would be separated.

     The workhouse was the dreaded destination of the poor in those days. They owed rent and had no money for food. They were, as my Nan put it, ‘saved by the bell,’ when an ancient aunt showed up on the doorstep. She was a portly lady in a coat with a fur collar, a big, feathered hat and a basket containing groceries. She had come to pay the rent and all the other debts. She saved them from the workhouse with thirty minutes to spare.   

     My Nan, Aunt Maud, Mum, and I went on a trolleybus to Oxford Street. I got sick on the bus and my Nan hastily passed me a paper bag to be sick in. She was wondering what to do with the results and Auntie Maud said, ‘Chuck it out the window at a cyclist.’ We all laughed, and she gave me a barley sugar to suck.  On the way back I saw the workhouse. It was still there, a hospital by then but no less dreaded. All her joking ceased. She shuddered and muttered, ‘Horrible place.’

     No wonder my Great-Grandmother was hard. Imagine bringing up eleven children in poverty in a house with two bedrooms, giving birth to them all and keeping them all fed. She must have been constantly pregnant.  My Nan told me about her father, who she clearly adored. He was out of a job sometimes and used to braid the girls’ hair in the morning, painfully tight.  He was a groom, more accustomed to braiding the horses’ manes and tails. She also told me how much she dreaded the doctor visiting the house with his black bag. She hated the sight of his bag because she thought it was how new babies entered the house. New babies meant more work and less food. My Nan was always hungry.

     When we got back from the trolleybus trip, I had a headache and was sent to rest in the parlour. This room was ‘kept for best.’ There was a cuckoo clock, thick curtains, a dark green chenille tablecloth and lace doilies on a gate-legged table with candy twist legs that stood in the window bay. The family always sat in the kitchen at the back.  I stared at the cuckoo clock waiting for the cuckoo to pop out until the aunts had done their allotted chores and dinner was served. At dinner, no one spoke. Except ‘please pass the salt.’

     Great-Granny had rules that went far beyond who did each job in the house. In thunderstorms they all had to hide under the kitchen table or under the stairs. She was a teetotaller and a Methodist, and her daughters were not allowed to leave her domain. They were allowed out on their own street only during daylight hours. Talking to boys was forbidden.

     They had fun in the street. All the kids played out there. Their favourite game was to run after the dray wagons and jump on the back out of the driver’s sight. They soon had to jump off. Someone in the street would yell, ‘Whip round be’ind gove’nor,’ and they all ran away before they felt the flick of his whip. The risk was part of the fun. They followed coal or vegetables carts collecting anything that fell off. It was competitive. They played ‘grandmothers’ footsteps’ and skipped with a piece of washing line. Nan taught me one of the rhymes; ‘my mother said, I never should, play with the gypsies, in the wood.’

     Great-Grandma never talked to any of her children about how babies really arrived. At seventeen my Nan still thought babies came from the doctor’s bag. She was still very naïve when she got a job working as a dressmaker’s assistant somewhere around the district of Soho. I don’t know how she had managed to work at a forbidden distance from her street. It must have been a rebellion; one that extended to sneaking out at night.

      Nan showed me her dance card and a little painted tin of palma-violet sweets the ladies sucked to make their breath sweet-scented. They were still in her dressing table drawer with her hankies. Years later I saw my Mum’s birth certificate. It didn’t make any sense with my grandparents’ wedding anniversary date. I asked my Mum about it. She told me the whole story. At a guess I think my Mum found out the full version from her Dad. He was never a prude.

     Pop was a messenger boy, born within the sound of Bow Bells. He had a delivery of pins for the dressmaker. He spotted the skinny girl with long blonde braids and blue eyes and asked her name. His was Arthur. He made sure he had other deliveries and one night she escaped with him. They laid down in the bushes on Hackney Marshes. She didn’t understand what they had done until her tummy started swelling. Arthur wasn’t perturbed as he planned to marry her anyway. Luckily, she had found the right man. He had to explain everything to her. He thought it was funny when he realised that she thought the doctor would just unzip her tummy to get the baby out.

     My Grandad said that when they met, he could join his hands around her waist. She wasn’t tall either. They had a standard repartee about that. My Nan used to say, ‘Good things come in small parcels’ and my Pop would reply, ‘Yes, and many a little apple is rotten in the middle.’ He didn’t mean it. He loved her.

     Before the Second World War my grandparents moved to a village ninety miles from London and in the 1960s the house in Grove Green Road was pulled down to make space for a dual carriageway. It still had an outside toilet, and they still used a tin bath in front of the fire so, when my aunts and uncles were rehoused on the eighteenth floor of a tower block in Leytonstone they were proud of their bathroom but nervous of the shower. They said they felt ‘like toffs and very modern.’ I liked the distant view of the Thames and the city lights at night that you could see from the balcony. They still had the cuckoo clock. They still hid during thunderstorms. One by one they died, unmarried and childless.

     Nan was widowed at fifty-six. When she was ninety, she went into a nursing home. She never mentioned her mother except on her ninety-first birthday when she leaned over and patted my hand and said, ‘I beat my mother’s record. She died when she was ninety.’ Triumph.

     Some of her stories weren’t real but she thought they were. She said she had been a gypsy, sitting on a doorstep and my grandad brought her blue ribbons home from the fair. I knew that was from an old folk song but perhaps there was a small symbolic seed of truth at the heart of it.

     Six months before she died, she told me she was bored. She couldn’t stand to read or watch films anymore. I suggested she should run her life over in her head like her own personal video tape. She said, ‘I have. Three times already, ducks. I watched all my favourite bits again too. Enough is enough. It’s time to go see Arthur.’ In that belief she died in peace. We find comfort in the stories we choose to tell ourselves.

My excuses and some good news.

I am aware that I am neglecting this site. I have had quite an intensive time on my Creative Writing degree course and the moment the summer break began I rushed to start a novel (I was bursting to get started). I hope to have the first draft finished before my friends come on a visit from Australia in September. Then I go back to my studies in October. Time will fly, but so is my novel right now – I hit 20000 words yesterday. I am loving it but I know I will enjoy all the editing and improvements later on too.

Meanwhile, I came across this and would like to share it with you. The Dandelion and the Meaning of Life ~


‘Why do you always get blackcurrant jam?’

‘Because it’s sweet but also sharp. I like a little bit of sour.’

‘Well, try this jam.’

‘OK. Ahhhh, strawberry. Tastes like a childhood love affair when there were fairies at the bottom of our garden. We grew them there. I forgot how much I like strawberry jam.’

‘Yes, I realised that. You are stupid. Forgetful. Neglectful. I suppose we forgive you though, frail human.’

Is that the wind?

Is that a train or the wind?

It’s a wind full of crows

flapping their wings over iron gates

as black as their feathers.

One swoops and I duck. 

It just missed my head.

Imagine a train full of crows,

Suffocating with all those feathers.

Something is coming in that wind. Something bigger than crows.

A big flapping giant striding the land.

Those crows are alarmed.

I hear a huge wave.


There’s more to be feared than giants or crows.


In Venice

Under the beautiful mask

Is there a wonderful face?

The skin of their necks looks delicious

Youthful and covered in kisses

Her fingers bejewelled with stars

His thumb on her wrist is possessive.

His cravat is ironed and starched.

I can only see his dark eyes.

The crowds, the music, the singing,

The laughter that echoes on walls,

Amplified by the water, where the gondola rocks on ropes.

This postcard fell from my sketchpad.

It fell on the floor as I drew.

I have never been to Venice and probably never will.

In the old people’s home, my daughter makes sweet conversation

While I draw the old people’s hands.

Hands tightly clasped.

Fingers plucking at cloth.

Hands hanging limp from the wrists.

A hand leaned against a forehead partially covering eyes.

Rings hang loose on old bones

In a room with a faded carpet and a circle of straight-backed chairs.

The faces are lined and creased.

Sunken lips. Fleshless cheeks.

Sans taste, sans sight, sans sound.

Everything slips.

Masking the beauty of youth.



‘Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything’ Shakespeare, ‘As You Like It’