Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I had an epiphany last year; I was watching someone interview Goldie Hawn and she was talking about her religion which is a mixture between jewish and budism - the programme had been talking about ghosts earlier (it was the heaven and earth show) asking people on the street whether they believed in them or not. Well, I was suddenly hit with this realisation: what if we are still evolving and some are more evolved than others! So that some of us can heal, see ghosts, get telepathic messages etc. It makes complete sense; when you count the years or eons that it took us to walk on two feet, to talk, to live past thirty, to grow taller, to create, to communicate, write etc; to make use of everything around us, to bake clay, weave baskets and finally to build machines that can fly through the air or send signals across the planet.

So maybe we are God; apparently we only use a small fraction of our brains. All this slagging-off mystics and healers is the same treatment people portraying the world as round got - maybe in a couple of hundred years healing and praying will be looked on as normal procedure....oh by the way, praying was the other thing; they were asking people if they believed in the power of prayer. I think that's when it happened; I think that's when it dawned on me that prayer and healing are the same thing - tapping into energy that comes through us when we ask for it. Again, it's only some of us who can tap into this; I think that that's pretty obvious when you realise that some prayers are not answered, apparently. When Amazon was having the operation on her brain to fix the aneurysm I was calling everyone I knew to pray for her, and she came through it fine. So did the prayers work for me because I am evolved more than others? This would include some of my friends; there would've been more than one advanced being! And would this mean that I could heal if I trained and practised?

I caught a programme tonight, just for ten minutes while the film broke for the news, one of those hypnotists, forget his name, but the thing was he got this man to think about a couple of numbers and to try to pass them on to a woman who had to write them down. I got the numbers immediately, so did she. It's been a strange day.


My god, Carrie is broken-hearted indeed; she called me last night in a real state. I keep telling her that it's okay to grieve, because it is like a death. Now all the unanswered questions are surfacing - bitterness and anger taking over in short bursts. I stand outside this evidence of love and thank my stars that I am completely closed for this kind of business. It's just excruciating to watch, knowing that there's nothing you can do except stand by as support and wait, till she moves on, till she gets over him - till hell's fires blink out.

I am lounging in Amazon's new flat, using her phone line; I have arranged for BT engineers to come put in a line at Musician's but it'll be two weeks. Soon, the smoky air will assault my lungs as we clear out more of our ruined possessions, then it's off back to prepare Musician's flat for decoration; I'll probably be there a few months.

The interviews went well and I should hear by tomorrow if I've got the job the agency has put me forward for; if so, I'll begin on Monday. If not, they'll set me on to something else. It's all call centre, customer services stuff; I'm trying to avoid the sales work first; I'll take them if I can't get in anywhere else - I haven't really got experience in this field so will have to take what I get in the long run.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I brought the rain to Aberdeen, again. As my train arrived in the station spits of rain were dotting the pavements. I am the harbinger of the deluge – but not flooding, I hope.

Well, the Cointreau slipped down our throats with the greatest of ease; I poured the first one, and we sat slugging, because, as I said, ‘This is going down a treat, just like lemonade.’ And, that’s because it was lemonade; I forgot to stir it, so the Cointreau was sitting on the bottom of the glass…and when I got there, boy it was strong!

We got through over half the bottle, but had bought two; it was reduced to £14.99 in Morrison’s and I made Carrie put them in our basket. I told her that we might need more than one over the three nights, and we wouldn’t want to run out of the lovely stuff.

She is doing okay; it really is like a wake – we laughed our heads off at old tales and jokes, she cried a couple of tears but waved them away. The whole thing is very civilized; he’s here now packing up more of his stuff and we’ve been laughing and reminiscing for an hour – he is a lovely person, but dripping with baggage, which he has to go sort out. It’s a sad situation, but I know that Carrie will be alright.

We’re going to the cinema this afternoon to see John Travolta in a dress; Hairspray! Meeting up with Carrie’s daughter first, then we’ll have something to eat after the movie. The last time the three of us saw a movie together was when I treated us to Ghost in Newcastle; I surprised Carrie by producing a bottle of Bailey’s and two plastic cups – her daughter was only a teenager then. We left the cinema giggling like girls.

I went to bed last night with my toy-boy, Harry Potter. I bought it in WH Smith in the train station for £9.99 but had to spend another £15 to get it at that price, so I treated myself to Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, and Carrie to a David Baldacci novel. I am enjoying HP even though I’ve forgotten a lot that happened in the last book, but it’s gradually becoming apparent. My sister-in-law, Sid, called me the other day to tell me that she’d been breaking her heart over it and had finished. 'Don’t tell me anything,’ I yelled. All the family have bought it from Asda for a fiver but I couldn’t be bothered going, and I’d have got a taxi home so would’ve paid about eight or nine quid for it in the long run…and I might have a new job next week anyway, so I’ll be alright for money – I hope.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I popped over to visit my sister-in-law Sid last week and to pick up holiday clothes for Amazon; Sid had just arrived back from a fortnight in Tenerife. So, I bought a nice packet of biscuits, chocolate caramel digestives, but she had loads of lovely stuff in her cupboard and I left mine in the bag - which was not good for me.

When I got back to Musician's I mixed a huge glass of chocolate Slimfast and settled down with it, in front of the telly, and washed down about eight of the lovely biscuits with the thick choclate-y shake. SOMEBODY SLAP ME!

All this week I've been in Amazon's new flat with no cooking facilities, just a kettle, so I haven't enjoyed the best diet. I had fish'n chips once; instant mash, corned beef with instant gravy; a range of general rubbish; and tonight returned home from my interview with a foot-long sub, full of salami, ham and sausage with jalopino peppers and chili sauce; and a bar of chocolate that another sister-in-law brought along with the new microwave - which is too late for me 'cause I'm off to Aberdeen tomorrow!

But, Carrie will feed me well; she is very healthy, though we are planning totilla chips and dips to go with all the alcohol.

Next week will be better.

Monday, July 23, 2007


The burnt-out flat is just horrendous; sewage pipes have melted and it's all been pushing up out of Amazon's toilet! So, beside the floors being squishy with water, there's also sewage soaked into the hall carpet; though the only smell is the smoke, but it is all disgusting. I spent an hour clearing one sofa on Friday afternoon; filled five huge, extra-strong, black bags with what can only be termed as rubbish now. MY BOOKS! I photographed a selection of burnt and soaked books for insurance; in one there's probably over £100 worth. I'll post some photos as soon as I can get them re-sized, maybe tomorrow after the interview.

I took a few CDs back with me and they've stunk out my bedroom in Musician's flat! I'll wipe them with strong-smelling lemon cleaner and hopefully the stink will fade.

I spoke to one old lady who lives above Amazon; what a crabbit old bitch! She moaned and complained about how the housing association has taken so long to do this and that, even though she had demanded that they complete the work and make her place the way it was before; I reminded her that my daughter had lost everything and she acted as if I was invisible and was just a wall for her words to bounce off! The burglars had stolen a few electrical goods from her but she still had her home - stupid old biddy. I was so mad I froze and refused to speak or look at her. I just waited for my taxi and leapt as it turned the corner. Some people are thick as yoghurt.

I was supposed to return today and clear out some more, but I just couldn't make myself do it - I'll go tomorrow morning then can have a lovely bath when I finish. I wanted to do a lot for Amazon because she has had the horror of the initial loss, but now she's had a riotus party holiday in Ibiza, she can do some of the work when she gets back.

I noticed that quite a lot of my stuff had been piled on Power Ranger's bed; I won't go through that till maybe next week - it's not in the way of the workmen at the moment, it can wait. I rescued quite a few packets of photos from the 'mire' of the living room, and know that there is more somewhere in there. I can't bear the thought of my beautiful scrapbooks in there; I don't know where they are!


Well, the culprit was number two son; Musician had disabled the modem to make the laptop go faster while he was playing with the lovely thing. I had to trudge back to his flat this afternoon to get him to fix it; couldn't phone him because his phone is still in the pawn! I was not best pleased when I discovered what he'd done.

I've got an interview tomorrow afternoon for a job in a call centre; got to dress formally and not got a lot to choose from, so it'll have to be the navy crepe dress. I did think of popping into town to buy a new white shirt because I've got a couple of pairs of new black trousers but when I knew that the laptop was alright I couldn't wait to get back to Amazon's flat and play online. Right now the lovely navy dress is swinging on a carrier-bag-rope I've strung across the veranda...and we have SUNSHINE in Glasgow today; it's very hot, quite tropical actually, for here.

I'm going to Aberdeen on Wednesday for a few days, so will not be writing writing writing as planned; I've only got about 500 words done of the sex scene I'm writing for the novel. I wanted to post it for my online writing group. So, the new plan is to get a least a thousand words tonight and see what they think of it. I want it done before I go.

As for the rejections; I can only find one, which was a short story for a lit. mag. called Planet, but they said that they liked it but couldn't offer publication, that they had so much stuff. So, I'm happy enough. I don't know if there are others that Amazon has misplaced; it took me ages to find my mail - and she couldn't find it after a good search.

I have to go now and use up the old milk on my Slimfast shakes.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


My god, this is taking ages; I'm on Amazon's poor old smoke-damaged laptop and it is slower than a tortoise on valium - it's going to the shop tomorrow. My modem has kind of disappeared; suddenly it's invisible...so it might be going to the shop too! But first I'll get Musician to take a look at it; something else uninstalled itself last week and he fixed it, so this might be related; maybe I've been swiped by an electrical storm, or just a virus - soon find out. Hope it's the cheaper option...meaning Musician.
The plans I had to decorate for Amazon while I was here in her new flat have flown; I'll be popping up to Aberdeen to join in the wake for Carrie's relationship, which is ending. So we'll spend a couple of days in comfortable clothes with a few bottles of Cointreau and a lot of ice.
Will be back very soon under the steam of my own modem.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I'm in a cyber cafe in Glasgow. It's real Glasgow weather outside; dull dull dull, but not cold - this is our kind of summer, so we're used to it.

Well, I've been to the doctor's at last about my itchy ears, and I've got eczema inside my ears! Never heard of that one. He said my blood pressure was borderline so I'll have to have it tested again in a few months. I bought myself two tins of Slimfast to try and curb/help my diet; when I'm not working with my oldies I eat any old stuff at any old times - which is not good. So, we'll see how I get on.

I haven't seen the burnt-out flat yet, hope to do that today. As I left Musician's this morning I checked the camera and it's not working! I charged the battery last night, so can't think what's wrong with it. So I won't be able to take photos for the insurance. I'll have to buy another little camera. I'll get one for Amazon and she can take it on holiday. It doesn't have to be great, I'm sure I'll get one for about 20 quid; they're quite cheap nowadays, as long as you keep it simple.

Her new flat is lovely; she's got trees outside her window! It's in a nice little square, and I love the veranda. I'll be spending a week there while she's on holiday, so am looking forward to that - all that time to write. But I'll probably do some decorating for her too. Might paint her son's bedroom - I now name him, POWER RANGER. He loves the new place and can't wait till his room is done.

Musician served me breakfast in bed yesterday; scrambled egg and sausage, and it was beautiful - actually it was my second breakfast because I was up earlier and had cheerios. So all is well at the moment. I'll buy a yellow AD paper today and look for a job.

Monday, July 16, 2007


This is Torquay, pretty at a distance.

Torquay Harbour, winter sunset.

My 'Pink Rock Bum' I found this on Babbacombe Beach a couple of years ago. Don't ya just luv it?

I took my last walk downtown today, didn't have long so I stayed in town, mostly in Waterstones with a latte; see, I live at the seaside, and what do I do? Spend my time off, even in July, sitting in a bookshop! I don't deserve lovely locations - I should live in a block of flats in a manky city, which is just where I will be for the next few months, living with Musician. I can't even talk to him on the phone 'cause he's pawned it! He's probably spent all his cash on getting whatever he's pawned of mine out before I get back!

I'm all packed, and poor old Clara Bow has been weeping half the day. But she was better than I expected, and though she is upset, she understands why I have to go. She really is a sweetie.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


This is a copy of the email I sent to Herman after a night on the lovely red stuff, last time I was in Glasgow. I'm just reminding myself not to do it again.

had a great night last week. i was pretty pissed; not sure if i remember
actually leaving! but i woke up in my own bed, with most things intact...except
for most of the wine i put away the night before!!! i was sick in a kind of
projectile-way over the side of the bed!! when i woke up i was totally
disgusted. don't think i should drink that much anymore, now that i hardly drink
at all. i thought i'd lost my white shirt, but i'd hung it up in the wardrobe!
God, what a state.

how were you? i'm piling through that airline 
novel; it's pretty much an info-dump but interesting. i remembered all that we
discussed on the writing front on formats, and have written it down. weather
here lovely. must remember to water the plants on the verranda.

Over the last five years I've spent so much time working away or driving, that I never get to have a drink; and I often forget, don't even think of having one; and now I can't drink properly - maybe I'll have to go into training.

Well, I'll have to find something else to drink; no more red wine for me; maybe I'll change to white.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I was speaking to TocToc last night; Clara Bow insisted on watching that 'One Show' so I spent the half hour in the kitchen on the phone. I just happened to mention the weather and he was off on one; everything you need to know about the melting polar ice caps, warm air, cold air and..... This son of mine should've been some kind of scientist - he reminds me of an old guy from the tv... a Magnuson, but not Magnus, I don't think - not the one who did Mastermind. TocToc spends all his time with his children so that his brain explodes when he catches the attention of another adult. Bingo just tells him to shut up; no wonder he is starved of good conversation, but you daren't open your mouth in case he starts, and you can't get him to stop. I remember, barely, when I was that passionate about the world; I was about his age, thirty, and would quite literally fly, when someone pressed my buttons. I wasn't a dancer at parties: I was a talker - always in the kitchen or wherever the debate was going on. Now I'm so laid-back I'm almost horizontal.


Some of the things waiting for me at home are rejections; I don't know how many and what they are - so I'm looking forward to finding that out! But rejection doesn't faze me; been there done that - it's all part and parcel of a creative life and if you can't deal with it you're in for a rough time. An old friend of mine from Northumberland used to growl at the postman...

'Oh I know what you've got in there mister,' she'd mutter, while watching him stroll around the cul de sac; and there were several post boxes she refused to use because she always got rejections from them!

I just need to catch up with my mail and get the work back out there again.

I'm counting the days now; three to go, then I'll be out of here in a taxi by eleven on Tuesday morning to catch my train to Bristol. I've got an afternoon flight this time; I can't usually catch this but I think they must've changed it. So, I'll be in Glasgow by about 5pm. Really looking forward to this move; it's cost me a fortune to post my stuff - three parcels so far is approx. £35 and that's not counting the twenty quid I paid to send Amazon's goodies special delivery! I could have bought a car down here and drove it all up; but that would've taken all day and a lot of the night...and in this heat, with the traffic. Glad I've done it this way.

Clara Bow asked me how long I would be in Glasgow and I almost freaked; I don't want to actually lie to her but I don't want to tell her yet - she'd drive me insane. When my back to back said she was taking seven weeks off in the summer, Clara begged me to cover it; she said she didn't want a stranger. When I balked at seven and said I could do five, she wept. I told her I'd think about it, and after a couple of hours I said I'd do it. I've done seven weeks before, but that was with lovely Joan and Pete. I fobbed Clara off by telling her I was staying with Musician for a while then popping over to Loch Lomond to spend time with TocToc and the kids, then I changed the subject. It's been a long shift.

I had to tell her that I was leaving for good; couldn't justify lying. She was actually fine about it, and understood that my daughter needed me after the fire - and she knew that I was anxious to find out what was lost of my stuff that had been stored in Amazon's flat. Poor old Clara Bow; she weeps a little every now and then about who she's going to get now and will they leave her alone - because I've spent my time off (when there's no visitors) sitting at the dining table with the laptop so she won't be alone: there's not many carers will do that! I do feel sorry that I'm leaving her to begin again with strangers but am also quietly excited about a new life unfolding - I've been running around the world for four years, and it's time to go home. I've given her seven months of good care; it's not been as wonderful as the time I spent with Joan and Pete - they spoiled me for other jobs. I know that I'm not going to continue doing care-work; time to move on.

Friday, July 13, 2007


His gum-coated tongue laps up flies
in a slow rolling motion. He goose-steps
with long black legs through trampled night sand
flicking up a fine dust.

She nestles into tall gutterings, curls
up to high-flown paper and leaves, and sleeps till
the sun sinks. Rain runs off her brown back,
only snow disturbs her.

At first light, sated, he walks the shoreline
ducking his head, sucking up water – a rasping
whistle through his teeth – the spray loosens rough
gum from his tongue.

They live separate lives. She attracts him
with a low murmering, excitement pitches
vibrations as far as half a mile, in waves
five minutes apart.

He picks up the signal, flies back and forth
across the river in a bid to escape but comes
closer to her position on every return journey
until he lands at her feet.

Mating over, he dances in rage – now leaving
now charging, though he is weak already.
He leaves her to bury the eggs, and screams
at the opposite bank.

She fucks him twice a year. The eggs hatch out
when the ground is soft, April, October….frost
would suffocate the young, they must fight
their way out with still-soft claws.

The moment their eyes open, necks stretch and
feet hook into a rival’s head, red is the first
colour they know. She clambers over his strong thighs
eyes on the road ahead.

Published in STAND Magazine 1993

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I will always consider this, My Beach...

All this moving in and out of flats – where do I really belong? Sometimes I think I’ll never be able to answer that. When I left Glasgow I let Musician live in my flat till he got his own place, but then I had to officially give it up and make serious decisions about my stuff; I had the great idea of using Amazon’s flat – she decided not to leave her relationship, to keep trying. So that’s how I ended up there, in a spare flat, on my visits, and how all my precious bits were squashed into that huge cupboard while I swanned around Spain and worked in Devon.

It was a lovely space, in and around local shops, near the subway. When she and Whatsiname actually made the split, he moved in and we shared for more than six months; I wasn’t there much, thank God – he was a serious pain in the arse. But he eventually turned and demanded his flat back, kicking Amazon and PowerRanger out to live in what was really her flat; when I visited Amazon gave up her bed for me. It wasn’t ideal so I spent odd weeks with Carrie in Aberdeen and Bree in Newcastle. 

My beach at sunset helped me to dream of new walls, and I will miss it.


This is the riotus but fabulous blanket I crocheted for Amazon's new flat; so she can snuggle down on her enormous sofa and watch Big Brother on the borrowed TV.

It's very important to me that my family have creations of mine in their cupboards; blankets for snoozes on sofas; bowls for soup; mugs for cocoa; beautiful photographs of their children...etc. I think I want to be imortal.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


The woman I'm looking after at the moment, let's call her Clara Bow, is 92 yrs old and mostly pleasant. She still puts on her powder and lipstick every morning, even though she's had a stroke and only has one good hand. My god, I can't be bothered and I'm only 53! Right now, she's watching Neighbours and I'm sitting at the dining table behind her. The worst thing about living with Clara is watching TV; she has sky but I'm sure she has shares in the BBC - she will not watch any channel that has adverts, except the sport channels. We are complete opposites but she loves me because I am a fantastic carer. The carer I work back2back with used to run a nursing home and is a bit headmistress-y, apparently. I am not looking forward to telling Clara that I'm leaving for good, and thought I'd wait till Monday, but it might happen earlier because I don't want to actually lie to her; if she asks me when I'm back or how long I'll be away I'll have to tell her if I can't divert her attention. And then I'll have to live with the result for longer than I planned.

Her memory is really taking a trip these days; she constantly asks me the same question or reminds me to do something that is part of regular routine. She will panic and worry about who she's going to have instead of me, and will focus on the bad carers she had in the past. I know that she won't for one minute think of me and my family; it will be all ME ME ME. Her son and daughter-in-law nearly flipped when i told them - this means a hard time for them because she'll be on the phone complaining or the carers will be complaining to the office. This job has suited me because I could do lots of writing and stuff, but most other carers want to go out on their time off.

But I'm not going to worry about all that; I'm going to concentrate on finishing the patchwork blankets and post them home before I leave. My god, the junk I've collected while I've been here has cost me a fortune to post. I always planned to get another car and drive back, but I'm flying because it's quicker and cheaper - though not if you add the postage!

Monday, July 09, 2007


What I’ve done in the last six months:

Resumed writing THE NOVEL
Joined an online writing group
Began actually writing every day!!!
Also dragged out all kinds of old pieces of writing and cannibalised them
Re-wrote old poetry, even published stuff
Almost finished several short stories that were years old
Wrote a lot of flash fiction
Won a small, group competition
Sent 11 poems to comps
And some to magazines
One poem accepted and published online Poetry Scotland
Sent out my first short story to Woman’s Weekly
The bullies in my writing group made me start a new novel
Two more short stories, to literary mags
Now got about 50,000 wds in old novel
And 20,000 wds in new novel

Next 6 months:

Finish one novel and start sending it out
Finish first draft of second novel and have a drink
Collect the lovely money from comps I’ve won
Completely clear out all old work by mashing it all together
Write lots of new stories
Write some new poems

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I've just written the account of Joy/Joan's death; had myself in tears remembering it all - can't believe that it'll be a year ago in a matter of weeks! I'm glad I got to share that time with the family, with the members of it I knew best. What a send-off they gave me when I came down for the funeral. I drove down because I had tons of stuff to collect; I'd been there for 18 months, working back to back with Fi for most of it, 3 weeks on and 3 weeks off. They helped me pack up the car, after trying to ply me with whisky, and the whole pile of them waved me off; about fifteen of them, they blew kisses and waved till I turned the corner of the lane.

The funeral was beautiful; the same vicar did the service, but the family had managed to make it very different from Pete's. It was videoed for those in Australia who hadn't been able to make both funerals. The oldest son, from Oz, stood and spoke about his mother and had us all tripping over with tears, himself too. But lots of laughter, and I know Joan would've loved it all. They were a very special couple, and I will never forget them.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


I was talking to Amazon on the phone this morning and noticed a little twang in her speech; she's got a boyfriend who comes from Motherwell or Hamilton; somewhere outside Glasgow anyway - well, and there she was, tacking 'ay' on the end of her sentence. I didn't say anything but it made me smile. She's had a bad year; her ex-partner (who shall not be given a name) stole her son away from her at Easter and now she has to go through the court system to get him back, completely. He got a temporary order by telling huge lies; I am amazed it was that easy for a man to take a child away from its mother. So, it's still going on and they have my grandson between them half the week each. In my opinion, he is just doing this to control her.

Almost two weeks ago the shop beneath Amazon went on fire. She only escaped with her life because a young man on his way home saw it and raised the alarm; he ran up the stairs knocking all the doors. He knew Amazon and called her name through the letter box. When she woke the flat was filled with smoke (broken smoke alarm!) and all she got out was her phone and her life; in the clothes she stood up in. Her flat got the worst of it; fire, smoke and water damage. All my stuff is stored in her big cupboard! I'm hoping that because they were mostly packed in tightly that they'll be okay. Mostly worried about albums and photos. Thank the stars that her son was with his father that night.

I had a great time the other day, shopping in Primark for Amazon; looking for basics-with-a-sale-tag. I got: a set of towels for £7; slipper socks at £1; jazzy belts £1; fitted pinstripe jacket £6; thick, ribbed, stripped jumpers with big polo-neck £1; pretty bra £1; flip-flops £3; T-shirts, tops and what-have-you.

Everyone has rallied round; aunties turning up with toasters and kettles, and bags of cupboard food, for the new flat. One of her friends had found a sofa for her and organised the removal so that Amazon only had to pay the driver diesel money; it all happened so fast that she was a bit overwhelmed but paid out £30, but then they discovered that the sofa wouldn't fit into the flat! So I get the manic phone call; she's still in shock, to some extent (I just can't wait till I finish this job and get up there). She was hanging about in this empty flat with nowhere to sit or sleep and the sofa she'd just forked out the last of her money on was standing up in the outside landing. In the end up, someone from the housing association turned up to sort the hot water and said he'd see if he could get some help with the sofa. He returned with his boss and they took the door and frames off to get it inside then put it all back together again! And now everything is rosy; she's got somewhere to sit and sleep; the bed comes next week.

This daughter of mine is a true Amazon; in the last five and a half years she's gone through so much, the main thing being a brain haemorhage when she was nineteen! I hope this is the last.

Friday, July 06, 2007


August Bank holiday weekend 2006

It’s very early in the morning, about 5.30. I’m sitting with Joy. We’ve come to the end almost, but she is strong-hearted; she’s hanging on like a real trouper. She hasn’t had any real food for 2 weeks now, since the stroke, and only a few sucks of water through a sponge on a stick in the last few days. She has been sleeping through most of the day but is pretty restless all night. Her daughter and I are spending the nights with her; we feel that she shouldn’t be left alone at this stage, and she really does need some reassurance during the night. It’s hard, watching her struggle…a bit like Lilly, my mother-in-law, and that was hard. So I’m sitting now, in the darkened room, just a tiny lamp going, with my coffee. The house is full of family.

The day I returned to work Joy had had a stroke; she’d slept all that day as I took over from Fi, but woke and spoke a couple of times, so we thought it was just minor and that she would recover. She did, to some extent, but gradually began to fade. The doctor was there every day – he was such a star; he lived nearby and used to pop in on his way home or back to the hospital. Those first few days I had Joy up and sitting in her chair, but it was a real effort; she’s little but dense in weight. It became apparent that the stroke was debilitating and more serious that we had thought, so she stayed in bed – Joy loved her bed and that was no hardship for her. The daughter of the house arrived and we shared the nursing. In the first week we tried to feed Joy up as much as we could, with fortified drinks and beef soup. But by the end of that week she was barely taking a few sips; the doctor told us just to give her little drinks of water and to clean her mouth with the sponge-on-a-stick.

‘Thank you darling,’ whispers from Joy; she was clinging on to life. Everyone had to return to work so there was only me, her daughter and Middle Son left. She slept most of the day but was awake quite a lot of the night, waving her hands in the air, trying to catch something but we couldn’t find out what. The doctor said that it was the effect of dehydration on her system; her body was shutting down. At night Daughter and I took turns to stay with Joy: during the day we cleaned out cupboards. When everyone was there at bank holiday weekend, we had such fun looking at photographic discoveries – they, trying to work out who was who. There were a lot of tears too; this was a very loving and caring family, much the best I’ve ever worked with.

On the first day of September Joy’s breathing began to alter its rhythm; she’d been lightly sedated the night before, and was breathing heavily. The three of us were working all over the house, looking in on her all the time. I called when I heard the change – I’d been through this before and knew what would happen. We sat on the bed, around her as everything slowed down. I remembered watching Lily taking fewer breaths and all of us counting, waiting for the next, and the one that would never come. Joy stopped breathing several times and we thought she had gone, then she’d heave another and we’d laugh.

‘You go girl,’ I said to her. Daughter could only nod; she felt disgusted with herself that she couldn’t speak, and Son was ever stoical and correct while we blew our noses with the tissues I'd snatched from the window sill. Then there were no more last breaths. She was gone and we were glad she’d made it.


The hiss and hum of the airbed
fills the room. Joan shifts around -
dying is a knackering business.

Breathing is difficult; just when you think it’s over
another phase moves in, for an hour
or two, then life returns.

I want to scream
Go Joan go…get the hell outta here…
fly on the last gasp of summer

Hours roll into days, and they pass.
The family gathers memories, giggling
at naked babies and ancient greats in old sepia.

We ply doctor and nurses with questions
they can’t answer; we want timetables -
definite possibilities.

Why am I still here?’ she whispers
as starvation settles into the bed.
Her heart carries on, regardless.

Check-in is now closed.
We count the spaces between breaths.
Time of departure N/A