Today is Good

Today is a good day, this weekend has been good and that is because I have had to face up to who I am and what is actually happening to me. I got myself bitten by a bug on Friday, it seemed to give me an allergic reaction of sorts, and I have had a cough and flu like symptoms and felt generally unwell since.

I went for a walk around town yesterday with my friend, I felt poorly. She wanted to check out the charity shops for her Pride costume.   I suggested we go into the Martlet’s Hospice, vintage shop, it’s where you might find their special bits and as my friend pointed out, often a little pricier. I walked over to the sales counter and there on the necklace rail was one of my mum’s necklaces. It stopped me in my tracks, like seeing mum there somehow. I looked closer and found there were four of her necklaces hanging there, there was no mistaking mum’s style. I burst into tears and left the shop wiping my eyes as I left, as if it would be all okay if I got away.

I thought back and remembered taking a big bag of her necklaces down to the charity warehouse nine months ago, just after she passed away. As I handed them over I didn’t imagine I would see them again and if I did, quite what the impact would be. They weren’t the best, I kept those and have them hanging around my bedroom. One pearl necklace is wrapped around her ashes on the shelf, mum always wore a necklace, why should that change. Some others went for next to nothing on EBay, I really didn’t know what I was doing in those early days after she left.

I came home yesterday and slept on the sofa for most of the afternoon until I went to bed, I thought if I slept everything would be better, my bug, my emotions, all of me. I cursed that I would get ill on a Saturday, how typical and the sun was shining, I should be out.

Today is Sunday and it is raining hard.   It’s certainly not a day to venture out far, although I went out for the ingredients to make a nut loaf for dinner. Mum used to love my nut roast and I don’t believe I have made one since she died nine months ago. I haven’t baked a cake either, I only started baking in the last couple of years of her life and I haven’t had reason since. I told mum I cooked for her with love and by eating my food she would fill up with all the love I had put inside, whatever it might be.  Anyway I made that nut loaf, it’s sitting on the side for later and it looks perfect.

I have cried a buckets today, I watched ‘Long Lost Families’ where adopted children finally find their families. I have cried an awful lot today, it’s okay I need to and I think I probably need to cry more. I believe I have been in denial in some way, I just rushed ahead thinking if I kept my head full I would be okay.  I wasn’t used to caring for or worrying about me, mum did that.

The weekend Mum died, my stepfather had a heart attack and they discovered cancer in his throat. I collected him from the hospital and brought him home to live with me.  We attended mum’s funeral together, that was before he declined too much and needed her wheelchair. Everything was so busy, clearing mums flat, arranging the funeral and looking after Bill that I really didn’t have time to grieve properly. Then on December 28th, Bill died with my sister and I sitting next to him, trying to help. He had been happy with me, he was looking forward to the summer, but we knew all along it wouldn’t be long. His purpose disappeared after mum died, I think that the cancer just masked his broken heart. Then it was Bill’s funeral to arrange and I had to find work again. I hadn’t worked in nearly two years, caring for mum and Bill so I was in trouble financially. I put my head down and carried on with my life.

I talk to mum and Bill all the time, their pictures and memories surround me in my home, I am cluttered with them and I have never been cluttered before. There isn’t a day I don’t think about them, but I manage these feelings. There ashes sit side by side on my bedroom shelf, him with a tartan ribbon and mum with her pearls. I don’t think it morbid, it is comfortable, I am not ready to let them go yet, I will one day, I’m just not sure when.  Most of the time I forget they are there, well their not really.

I have been filling my life with nothingness for the last nine months, I have been trying to carry on, while at the same time feeling ashamed of myself for doing so well.   I have been filling the empty gaps so everything will be okay. My food cupboards and fridge are ridiculous, I constantly buy food and then throw it away. If I didn’t buy food for six months, I don’t think I would go hungry. I forever need new clothes and shoes and weekends away. I don’t say no often either, I’m always free to lend a hand, listen to a problem, keep someone company, no problem, of course!

I complain about being too tired to think, too tired to care, I feel more to the point. I think I have lost my passion, dropped it somewhere maybe. I work but have no interest really in what I do anymore, it is just a means to an end. I think I have lost the essence of me, who I am, I think I’m wrapped up in grief and denial.

So today is a good day, because it rained, because it slowed me down and because I cried. I know everyone grieves differently, I have been trying to grieve without grieving. I thought somehow, that if I carried on, it would just get better. I’m going to give myself more time like today, I’m going to face my feelings and give myself time. Today is a good day because I realised that my feelings won’t go away if I ignore them, they will get easier but I am denying myself if I don’t acknowledge the hurt I feel now. If I were to carry on like that I think I would be doing myself an awful disservice.

Brown Bread and Opera

Brown bread and opera, how would I ever fit in with the kids round here when my mum was so different.  When I asked anyone home with me it highlighted my difference.  Mum wouldn’t buy white bread, everything was brown and this was in the 70’s where brown bread and flour was harder to find.  Not like today where you can pick up health foods in any supermarket or local convenience store.  Everything was home made too, how I longed for a Finda’s Crispy Pancake or a Vienetta to follow.  Then there was the spoonful of molasses or cod liver oil that we would have to take while holding our noses, I would never in a million years have told my friends about that.


I hadn’t noticed the difference so much when I was younger but it wasn’t helping now, as I was growing up a bit and wanted to be one of the crowd.  Tracy had been the first friend I had made on the estate, she can still remember me knocking on her door at about five years old asking her to my birthday party.  She recalls me saying ‘it won’t be a big party because I haven’t got a daddy’.  Of course I did have a daddy but he had gone off with another woman, leaving mum with two girls to bring up alone and that’s why we ended up back in London on the estate.  We played out on that estate from dawn till dusk, popping in throughout the day for food and home for the night when the streetlights came on.


I made lots of friends on the estate and in the local schools, I was always part of one crowd or another.  I started smoking at 11 with the rest of the kid’s; I can remember clubbing together for ten Players No 6.  We hid out in the playground of the school next door to the flats and all learnt to smoke, puffing and coughing and trying again.  One of the neighbors walked past and went and told on all of the kids but me, I was the only one that never caught so carried on.  I often wonder why she didn’t tell my mum.


Mum was always different, she was beautiful but one of a kind, she never dressed or looked like anyone else, I can see now she had great style.  Mum was always in front of the fashion, it was like someone was following her around writing down what she was wearing for next years catwalks.  Mum wore floaty Indian dresses and the next year they were in, she threw hers into storage in the spare room.  Head scarves tied round her head, the same thing happened and there were a few, Mum’s philosophy being if you found something you liked, get it in all colours and definitely more than one.  My friend’s mum’s wore nylon housecoats over their clothes so I couldn’t really say what they wore but I think they all went to the same shops for their sensible cardigans.  I wanted my mum to have a housecoat, maybe a fag hanging from her mouth and rollers in her hair as she did the ironing like Tracy’s mum but that was never going to happen.


Our house was different too, where my friend Tracy had a cocktail bar standing in the corner of the lounge, we didn’t have the space, not that mum would have wanted one.  All our corners were full of records and books; videos were added in later years, we had more books than the local library.  But my friends loved to come to my house, mum said the kids were round me like bees to a honey pot but I think now it was her they were drawn to.  Mum didn’t want me speaking with a common accent like the kids on the estate and constantly picked me up, like when I left the R off of the end of water or said I goes, she goes, he goes when relaying a conversation.  What was wrong with common, I wanted to be common if that’s what my friends were, who wanted to be posh and speak proper.  My mum dispared and asked the head teacher once where we might find elocution lessons, this to me, was an awful threat to my well earned status and horrifying.


I was the only sheep in the family, my sister being an individual like mum the extended family too, I don’t know why I was frightened of being different but I just wanted to blend in.  Although we came from a working class background the family had always set their sights high, they were educated and cultured, loved literature and music.  My Nan used to sit up in the God’s at the top of the theater to listen to opera, she had a photo of Placido Domingo in her lounge in pride of place.  Mum’s sisters and brothers had done well for themselves, they had their own homes and not in council areas but good areas.  Mum was the victim of a broken marriage; the council flat being our home but she had culture, she was beautiful and some rich men fell in love with her.  Mum wanted to leave the estate get an exchange maybe for somewhere out of London, but she listened to me when I pleaded with her not to take us away from my friends.


I did fit in with the crowd, I had lots of friends, mum tells it like I was the leader of the pack but I’m not so sure.  I just wanted to fit in I wasn’t brave enough to be different.