A basket of stories.

I’m sitting on my bed, surrounded with paper, pieces of a new book.

Contemplating a re write more detail. Shall I start over again? Colours, smells descriptions painting the picture to make things visible for the reader.

The autumn sun is shining the sky is blue and the trees on the bank seem to dance around the silver bark beckoning me to go outside

I’m distracted by silly things the glass is blown we need a new tilt and turn window.

It opens onto the grey flat roof of the kitchen extension. Next doors fat black tail less cat Charlie sits looking thoughtful on the edge of the roof.

I have locked the door. Turned off my phone.

Today is mine I needed to just be. To be gentle with myself its been a hard week.

To be here in our cottage by this window finishing the book that was supposed to be finished in June.

I love this place this house I muse about my journey what brought me here.

To this canal this cottage.

The small circle of friends I hold dear.

The girl that I was, has stopped running and is now settled happy I am content with my lot.

Itchy feet the gypsy wonderer has pushed down roots deep into this magical place.

I’ve never been materialistic food in the cupboards diesel in my little car and mine and my family’s health that is enough. Anything else is a bonus.

A good friend of mine and I were talking on what’s app and referred to a job we both did previously which involved caring for vulnerable adults. She used the term carrying their stories.Boomthat really struck a chord.

Story carrier….

It was true. Very.

I have always been drawn to work that involved caring, nursing supporting vulnerable people it’s what I do best.

Disadvantaged children, Learning disabilities, Homeless, Addicts Mental health.

Now I’m a Soulmidwife Holistic Therapist .

The common thread in all of this is the stories.

I believe that that is the key to genuinely helping someone who is in a vulnerable position is listening.

Getting to know their story. Not just their diagnosis or their addiction or situation. How did they arrive at this point?

Each person I have worked with has their own complex story listening is the best gift I have given.

I have heard some horrendous stories, some sad some disturbing. But they are all pieces of a puzzle that makes a whole.

Now as a soul midwife I listen to wishes regrets and plans of patients who are end of life.

I have heard of baby boy given up for adoption in the war and a life then spent teaching and caring for other people’s children and a choice to never marry or have another child after a strict father forbid her to ever speak of her baby again. Sadly, she never got to find him. But the day after she told his story I sat held her hand as she passed peacefully knowing she had spoken his name and someone had listened.

I have contacted estranged siblings and listened to stories of lives that have been so similar apart regrets that family feuds hadn’t been resolved earlier.

I have listened to stories of abuse, rape self-loathing and harm. Reassured not judged held shaking hands

A hug a hand to hold sometimes reassurance that ‘you can get through this ‘the simplest things are the greatest gift.

So next time you walk by that homeless person or sit next to that old lady/man on a bench remember that every one of us has a story. Many stories that entwine into one life we collect along this path our journey.

Listening hearing and genuine acceptance are greatest gifts you can give.

Life is beautiful but sometimes unbareably hard.

I watch her smile at our grand daughter.
Struggling to hold her beside her as she lies in bed.
Her daughter Sarah and my son Michaels baby.
She and I have been best friends since they were children.
My random friend
Questions like could we keep a penguin in the bath?
The kind of friends that know each other well.
Our likes and dislikes
We laugh at the same things
Don’t get me wrong we have had our disagreements.
Passionate arguments.
But when push came to shove we both knew we could always depend on the other.
Forever friends.
We would joke about riding on old people scooters
I always hoped that Sarah and Mike would get together.
I loved Donna’s kids like my own.
And last year my meddling worked.
Not how I would have planned it but here we are.
And it is what it is.
You see we hadn’t seen each other for awhile we had texted but not seen each other for a year.
I work as a soulmidwife.
Companion to terminally ill.
On my way out of the hospital ward I was visiting I saw her there Donna.
Admitted with pain she had suffered with for awhile.
She had text and bllamed it on work, pushing wheel chairs lifting patients
But after two weeks she was diagnosed.
Cancer.
We fell back into step. Like we had never been apart.
We met the week after in the park engineered to have mike and Sarah with us.
Eighteen months later they are together.
We have Emilia our beautiful granddaughter.
She is the positive light that has kept Donna fighting.
Two rounds of chemotherapy she has been amazing.
I’m in awe of how brave she is.
Two months ago we flew to Corfu.
I stood on the deck of a boat watched as she swam in the bluest of seas warm sun.
White sands her long black hair shining
She was so happy
We visited old Corfu town, sat in small seafood restaurants by the sea.
Drank cocktails. Laughed danced and sang.
We didn’t speak of cancer.
What a difference two months can make.
This is my job I deal with it all the time.
There isn’t anything I can’t deal with
But
I don’t want to deal with this
For a month she has been complaining of pain in her liver. Twice admitted
Jaundice, codine, oramorph.
More pain
I stayed over with her last night
Eyes yellow tired and scared.
Reassured her that no matter what I’m there
I promise I’m by her side.
I promise her that her sister and I will look after the kids.
I will love Emilia enough for both of us.
I will help her make memory boxes
Write birthday cards, graduation wedding, and letters.
Of course I will. I love her.
I hold her hand in mine.
She falls asleep against me.
As she sleeps I feel her breathing rise and fall
Her hair is damp from my tears.
I pull the covers around her kiss her gently
Visualise myself watching her swim and smile in the blue sea
On our next holiday in the sun

Invisible

Lunch time you don’t really see me.

Sitting by the huge school bins.

Hiding with my dog.

Hating being in school.

Listening to the dinner ladies

Spouting the same old monologue.

Angry on the inside

Quiet and shy on the out.

Screaming inside my head.

But unable to let it out.

Scared by all the feelings.

Going on inside my head.

Wanting someone to make it better.

Or wishing I was dead.

My escape is drawing, painting and writing.

Imagining a better life

A world were things are wonderful.

With no one to hurt you

Or school bullies and family strife.

A world where lumps in your throat

Don’t block the words you need to say.

Where families love each other.

In a loving normal way.

But drawing painting dreaming.

Are not going to change this world.

So I will keep this label of a rebel trouble making girl.

Wake up call.

pexels-photo-673862.jpegI’m beyond fed up.

I’m married.

I’m just eighteen, I have a beautiful baby and a vicious bully of a husband.

So far I’ve had broken nose, collar bone, arm and so many bruises I’ve lost count.

I don’t argue anymore.

I keep quiet.

But he’s pissed.

I’ve walked around the block three times to get the baby to sleep.

She’s finally dropped off.

I open the front door gently lift her from her pram almost run as quickly as I can upstairs gently put her in her cot and pull door shut behind me..

Listen

Quiet.

Tip toe down…

Then breathe.

He shouts. I jump. Heart thumping scared look around he hits me hard. My ear rings head bangs on the door frame. I scramble to my feet.

‘Where the fuck have you been?’ he says through gritted teeth smell of whisky wafting in my face splatters me with drunken spit.

I try to turn away. But he’s holding my jaw.

I’m 5’2 his 6, 7 frame towers over me.

‘Shush I plead the baby I stammer. I’ve been walking she’s teething … Needed to get her to sleep.’

I’m almost pleading I’m tired of this.

‘Not now please. Let’s not fight.’

‘Please’ I say again ‘I’ll make you tea.’

He pushes me down I get up again and pull the tansad pram up the front steps and though the front door.

Shutting it to keep the neighbours from witnessing my shame.

I push pram into the lounge he roars everything goes into slow motion he picks it up and throws it. Through the living room window.

Has someone pressed a button?

Glass splinters.

Slowly, shattering.

Pram hood up lands on upside down it’s bends and lands on its side.

I’m holding my breath.

Empty pram.

But he hadn’t checked.

He could have killed my baby.

The horror of the situation hits me.

Was that the wake up button?

He hits me again. And again. I’m numb

And I fall in the glass.

Blood everywhere.

A voice in my head. ‘Get up, get out of here.’

I keep crawling.

‘You lying bitch’ he’s saying as he alks into the kitchen

There’s blood dripping from my nose.

There’s a bang it’s the front door hitting the stair post.

The man who lives in the house opposite

Is standing there. Like a big shadow.

It’s all surreal. I feel sick.

He hold out his hand to me and pulls me up.

Jeff is back with glass of whisky.

‘What the fuck do you want?’

He is furious.

‘You’d better go I stammer to the man.’

He ignores me I’m really scared now.

‘Is this how you keep your women in line in St Helens he says?’

‘Beat the fuck out of them.’

He looks at me. ‘Where is your baby?’

‘Upstairs sleeping’ I manage.

‘What the fuck has it got to do with you?’ Jeff shouts dropping the whiskey and striding towards him.

It all happened so fast.

‘Call an ambulance says the man.’

‘ No I’ll be fine’ I say.

‘Not for you for this dick head’ and he hits Jeff. Knocking him into the lounge onto the broken glass I stand there frozen.

Jeff gets up and he hits him again and again

‘Come on he’s saying or can you only hit girls?’

Then he picks him up and throws him down the path.

‘I’m phoning the police’ Jeff says looking like he’s done a ten round boxing match.

‘No need says the stranger I rang them before I came.’

‘Now take yourself anywhere else but here.’

Just as a police car pulls up outside.

My dress is covered in blood from my broken nose. My face hurts but my baby is okay.

The police are pushing Jeff into the car.

The man is saying Jeff attacked him outside the house.

Police woman asks ‘Is that right?’

‘Yes’ I nod. ‘Did he do this to you?’

‘Yes’ I say.

My dad arrives from up the street. Looks at me with distain.

‘You’ve made your bloody bed lady lie in it.’

The man shakes his head.

‘Bloody idiots lot of them.’ he says.

‘You need to get away from this place’ he says. I smile ‘thank you.’

‘Hospital’ asks the police woman

‘No I’ll be fine I can’t leave my baby. I’ll go later.’

‘Are you sure’. ‘Yes’ I say.

I won’t go too many questions.

I close the door and start to pick up glass.

Look out into the garden at the pram on its hood.

My baby cries from her room.

I have to leave.

Is this rain ever going to stop?

Is this rain ever going to stop?

Its 7,45am the bus is packed making a groaning noise as it climbs up the steep hill into town like a giant dragon spitting out passengers when it stops and taking on more before moving on jerking as I stand holding onto a overhead strap I’m focusing on a pair of pointy black heels wrinkled feet squashed into them. The bus stops by the church the pointy heels are also getting off here I shuffle myself carefully past people staring into space, reading news papers and telling off small children the doors of the bus swing open and the cold December air hits me stinging my face. I’m so glad I had bus fare today it would have been awful walking in this weather. I thank the driver and a small pang of pain niggles at my back as I step onto the wet pavement.

I stand still for a minute close my eyes leaning on the wall of St James Church. Women rush past with small children on their way to school. Snippets of conversations I push my long hair out of my eyes the milk man is pulling crates of school milk of the back of the co op float and pushing open the playground gate leaving the milk by the infants door.

I look at my watch 8.30am don’t want to be late make my way to the playground gate.

‘Alright?’ says the milk man ‘good weather for ducks.’ He laughs rain dripping from his glasses I smile and rush past him pick up the first crate, little bottles blue foil caps and packet of straws clicking of heels behind me and Mrs Smeltser the reception teacher pulls the door open and hold it whilst I carry the crates in.

‘Awful accident on the east lancs road lorry and a motor bike oh I do hope no one was killed, so close to Christmas. ‘She says.

‘Put the kettle on I’m parched and she rushes into the staff room to hang her coat fix her hair and apply her pink lipstick as she does every morning.

I put the kettle on in the small kitchen take out four cups and a jar of Nescafe. There is a hole in one of my shoes my left foot is soaking. I look into the mirror above the sink.

A shy sixteen year old girl damp mousy lank hair scraped back into a pony tail red cheeks, split shoe head full of dreams looks back at me.

Voice behind me makes me jump.

‘Oh you look really flushed are you feeling okay? Half my class were off last week with a bug I hope you haven’t got it?’ Its Mrs Jackson she’s always got a kind word for me dresses in marks and spencer skirts and jumpers large glasses hid her tiny round face I hand her a cup of coffee.

Half my class were off last week with a bug I hope you haven’t got it?’ Its Mrs Jackson she’s always got a kind word for me dresses in marks and spencer skirts and jumpers large glasses hid her tiny round face I hand her a cup of coffee.

‘I okay’ I reassure her. ‘Just cold’ I follow her into the staff room she chats about her weekend and asks about mine. I like her I’m working with her today. She tells me again how she thinks I’m going to make a wonderful nursery nurse and how the two years at college will fly by.

She tells me again how she thinks I’m going to make a wonderful nursery nurse and how the two years at college will fly by.

She loves my art work I smile I wish she could be right but I know she’s not.

I find it so very hard to fit in the weeks that I’m in college but the six weeks blocks that I’m here at St James church school are so different.

It’s a different world but one I know I can only dream of being a part of.

Women who work have a career a car nice clothes more than one pair of shoes. Friends they meet up with out side of work. Its like a parallels universe `completely different world

Its like a parallels universe `completely different world to mine.

I’ve not been here long I’m shy awkward and quiet but they always include me. I wish I knew what to say how to be more like them confidant and funny.

Iris year three teacher asked me to her party last week. Pre Christmas party she laughed it was at her home on a canal bank in Warrington huge house three floors brightly coloured tiles in the kitchen hot mulled wine and nibbles music and a huge garden.

I wish I knew what to say how to be more like them confidant and funny.

Iris year three teacher asked me to her party last week. Pre Christmas party she laughed it was at her home on a canal bank in Warrington huge house three floors brightly coloured tiles in the kitchen hot mulled wine and nibbles music and a huge garden.

Id wished I knew how to ‘be’ but I’m a fish out of water so different from the sprawling council estate drunken violent father and his home brew bottles that lived in every room of our house. But dispite feeling like this I was glad to be there. In their world away from the chaos of mine for just a little while.

But dispite feeling like this I was glad to be there. In their world away from the chaos of mine for just a little while.

I was trying hard day by day to be more like the joolz I imagined could fit could be a nursery nurse have a life like Iris and her hippy dresses with friends and hot mulled wine people laughing no one fighting or arguing I wished really hard, maybe one day.

Dad had took some persuading to let me start college. Id begged he was furious. ‘Bloody college who do you think you bloody are? Walter bloody mitty gunner do this want to do that.’ He had ranted pouring another bottle of home brew into a cracked pint glass. Id wished it had cut of his tongue.

‘Get a job and pay your bloody way.’

Careers office had told me I could go to college to do my NNEB, as part of a government scheme twenty three pounds and fifty pence a week. To cover bus fares and the rest I would have to give to Dad for my ‘keep’.

I promised Dad I would take a bar job too to bring in more money and eventually he had agreed but only until a better job came up.’ No one in this bloody family goes to bloody college.’ he had said.

So I had took a bar job at weekends in the cross hotel so that I would have bus fare and money for dinner but some weeks Dad took that too. So I would set my alarm for six and I walk for two hours in all weathers I was determined to keep this job I loved it. The kids the way I was treated but most of all I loved the escape.

It gave me hope.

I was like a sponge in work I would do anything they asked. I loved art work I helped the children to paint we made a huge tree from printed painted tiny hands, decorated Easter eggs, painted with potato’s, made pape Mache pigs, cut out Christmas decorations with plastic scissors, made coffee for staff who were now friends read stories to wide eyed children supervised playtimes, put plasters on knees I was blossoming relaxing I was genuinely happy and I was begging to ‘fit’.

That old stone wall around the school and church yard was my fortress I felt safe and different there.

Today was going to be busy the children were attending the church service, the church and the playground were separated by a small iron gate. I was going to stay behind to finish putting up the nativity scene we had been working on.

Mary Joseph and the three kings. Five six year olds had been drawn around carefully cut out then with the help of lots of PVA glue cut up material and tissue paper we had the main characters ready to staple on the main wall of the assembly hall along with a manger made from the used milk straws and some borrowed straw from the guinea pigs cage! I stood holding the big foil star that would lead the wise men to Jesus as the children lined up in pairs holding hands ready to leave for the church.

The radio played Christmas songs and I hummed along balancing on a small ladder positioning each character carefully before stapling onto the wall. Star up there Mary and Joseph two shepherds and a wise man.

Ouch the pain came again it had been niggling me all morning but it was worse now both my sides hurt I felt hot and dizzy.

I went over to the kitchen got a glass of water another pain.

It’s raining again I can hear the cars splashing through the puddles outside the kitchen window it’s starting to go dark.

Water runs down my leg like the rain down the windows but it’s warm.

I grip my belly and water runs down my cheeks. ‘No I beg please no not here.’

A hundred thoughts run through my head what ifs? I’m so scared the pain is so much worse I can’t stop it my body feels out of control I push open the stock room door there is a pile of cut up clothes and shelves of paper pens PVA glue boxes of staples.

I take off my wet knickers and crouch it was all over so quickly much quicker than last time.

Tiny not much bigger than my hand eyes fused shut, skin almost translucent. Smaller than the rabbits dad makes me skin when he’s been shooting. Hand the size of the tip of my little finger. Lifeless and still. Perfect baby boy I kiss his tiny head.’ I am sorry I whisper’’

I sit on the tiled floor take off my cardigan and wrap him in it, Noah I whisper because of the rain. I place him gently in a box placenta still attached. My legs are shaking smeared with blood. I take some of the cut up fabric and wipe up the floor. Push the box gently under the bottom shelf in the stock room.

No crib for a bed.

I place him gently in a box placenta still attached. My legs are shaking smeared with blood. I take some of the cut up fabric and wipe up the floor. Push the box gently under the bottom shelf in the stock room.

No crib for a bed.

I pick up my wet knickers look for a tea towel in the kitchen to use as a sanitary towel.

I wash my face brush my hair, children will be back soon. Im convinced there is some kind of sign above my head and everyone will know.

Dad will kill me if they find out. I’m beyond scared things like this don’t happen in their world.

The door swings open gust of cold air and the chatter of exited children.

‘You did it, it looks lovely miss you’re so clever’ a little boy with huge blue eyes bright blonde hair chatters. I smile and wonder what colour Noahs would have been if he had lived.

‘You look terrible I’m betting you’re getting that bug’ Mrs Jackson fusses into the staff room now she says no arguing sit down have nice hot cup of tea.

I’ve got the last two kings to go onto the wall. I protest.

Well the kings can wait she smiles clicking the kettle on and squeezing my hand. A tear runs down my cheek I catch it as she chatters on making tea.

You’ll feel much better after tea and a rest she says handing me a mug.

Somehow I don’t think I will.

Where do you live Mrs Smeltzer is asking? I wince not wanting to tell her.

Im sure I go past your estate on my way home she continues I’ll give you a lift the weather is awful and Mrs Smeltzer is insistent you’re not going home on two buses so you can tell me on the way home.

Before I know it every one is ready to leave, Mrs Jackson hand me my coat and we walk to the door I pick up my bag panicking. ‘My cardigan.’ I say as she turns off the light to close the door.

‘I’ve left it in the stock room’. I take my bag with me pull-out the box and gently pick up my tiny baby and place him in my bag. ‘I’m sorry’ I say again ‘but we have to go home to Dad’

I sit in the car next to mrs smeltzer clutching my bag. She’s chatting about visiting her father in Dorset and her husband’s new car, she asks where to turn as we approach the traffic lights near the estate.

I direct her past the shops my old primary school and the pub here my Dad drinks it’s still raining we get to the church at the top of our avenue and I ask her to stop.

‘Which one is it?’ she asks I point at the nice house with the roses painted on a name plate which reads mardale house in the garden with a black painted gate.

‘See you tomorrow’ she says ‘early night hope you feel better if not ring tomorrow day off won’t hurt.’

‘We don’t have a phone’ I want to say but I thank her and nod.

Her little red car drives away and I walk away from the nice house with the door plaque.

Slowly walk further down to our house the lights are out I walk around the back and into the kitchen Dad is sat by the fire I start to cry hand him my bag.

He looks at me and I see the temper flash why didn’t you come home he barks at me. I don’t get a chance to answer. The slap hits hard.

Get to bed.

Is this rain ever going to stop?

Please make it stop..

Raven Wordsmith 🖤

You taught me well

You taught me well.
By example.
Of exactly what not to be
A racist, violent alcoholic
Oh Dad you taught me well you see
You taught me to have work ethic.
By staying in the pub.
You made our lives so miserable
Just because you could.
Oh yes you taught me well.

I watched you get arrested for fighting in the street.
You’d throw your dinner up the wall.
Too pissed to even eat.
I watched you steal from mammy’s purse.
She’d cleaned houses so we could live
But you’d go off drinking down the pub.
And somehow she would forgive.
Not me.
You taught me well.

Going to school step over you asleep on the floor.
Choking coughing on vomit.
I’d prop your head in a washing up bowl
Go to school wondering if you’d die.
Not knowing if you’d be there when I got home I’d stand and wave you goodbye.
Oh yes dad you taught me well.

You cared about things not people.
Beer, homebrew, pubs, the bookies and guns
Your word was law or I’d regret it.
I’d tell you I hate you then run.
Oh yes you taught me well.

There were two sides to you.
The monster who could reduce me to a frightened mess.
I could count on my fingers the good times.
When you’d swear you’d give up the ale.
And although I wanted to believe I never quite did, I have to confess
You see you taught me well.

I wasn’t like the other kids.
I never really fit.
Hair you’d cut all shapes with pinking shears.
Coat that didn’t fit.
Your dad’s just a piss head.
Yes I knew they were right.
Normal I thought so I’d seen this time and time

Sit alone on the bus and in the playground
Avoid another fight.
Yes you taught me well.

My mammy should have left you.
But instead she stayed.
Maybe too tired, sick or worn out.
Our had she grown used to your alcoholic ways?
I’d go sitting in a friend’s house,
But you’d come and look for me.
Shouting swearing until I came home.
No chance of escape for me.
Yes you taught me well.

So I’d sit and hide in libraries.
Found a way to escape.
Terry Pratchett and Lewis Carroll
Helped me to my thoughts reshape.
Took me to other worlds
Far far away from home.
Where you couldn’t reach me.
And in these stories I would roam.
The stories they taught me well.

You tortured my poor mammy.
Until her dying day.
Massive heart attack took her from me.
As you’d argued pissed as every other day.
I walked away from you that day.
With anger in my heart.
I couldn’t help but wish you’d had the courage to live apart.
The damage that you caused
like Holocaustic ripples on the water.
But I’m stronger – a good mammy, friend and wife,
I’m not just an alcoholic’s daughter.

Dad you taught me well

Belonging.

Why is it I choose to write?
Paper and pen my life long love.

My friends
Writing is magic that has given me many lives
Helped me to make sense of this world.
Ink runs through my veins.
Words hold me gently like a solitary single leaf floating on rippled water.
So many memories spill onto paper..
Ebb and flow pushing me to shore
Words wrap me up in hope and stop me going insane.
Flashbacks of you like blurry cine film.
If I didn’t write.
I’d wonder
Were you ever really here at all?
Were you just a fragment of my splintered broken imagination?
Would that be kinder than the truth?
Without you I would not be.
I stare into the mirror look for shadows of you
Needing to belong.
So I write it is as if you never chose to leave me.

Raven Wordsmith 🖤