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.

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.

In a flash – back

It’s a beautiful day rainy but mild I have slept well push the kettle switch as I pass on my way to the bathroom. Nothing unusual about today.

I stand at the bathroom sink water running brushing my teeth. Outside the window the birch trees blow in the wind . It reminds me of the woodland outside my bedroom window as a child.
My heart beats a little faster and I close my eyes to stop it.

Flash and I’m back there, different bathroom black skirting boards bubbled glass window old black cistern on the wall above my head. Faded blue wallpaper flying birds peeling at the edges Old wooden bathroom cabinet cracked mirror on its door.
I stare into the mirror the crack distorts my face as it always does dark brown frightened eyes look back at me. Footsteps and creaking floorboards on the landing. I catch my breath. The black bakealite door knob twists back and forth from the other side of the door. I open my eyes look at the bright yellow toothbrush. Heart bangs even faster.
STOP! A voice says loudly. My voice.
I’m back here.
The wind is still blowing the birch trees.
The tap is still running.
My cat Luna rubs against the bottom of my legs.
I look into the mirror there is no crack.
I’m safe.
I’m home.
In a flash.
I’m back.

Just an hour late

Twenty two years since my mam died. I was 31 I had three young children youngest one Mike was five

I had arranged to go down to see Mam after school to see if she felt up to going to spiritualist church there was a medium she had hoped to see but I’d been busy digging up hedges in our front garden all day. So I thought I’d go back finish cleaning the mess I’d made up then go down to Mam with the kids washed clean ready for church.

The last bush was really stubborn, so I tied a rope onto the back of my car and tried to yank it out but as I’m doing it I can hear my mam tutting at me.

‘You should have been a bloody lad’ she says.

I laugh stop the car dragging the hedge behind.

Odd? She’s not there.

I get out to untie the rope I’m covered in soil and leaves as I get up Mams best friend Francis is pulling up in her car.

I know instantly. ‘Mam she’s gone’. Francis is sitting in the passenger seat her husband is driving tears roll down her cheeks she doesn’t answer she doesn’t have to.

‘Without me there’ I shout voice shaking.

I tell the kids to go inside no one speaks.

I ask a neighbour to babysit. It’s a weird feeling, Shock, sort of like being underwater and everything seems to slow down.

Suddenly it’s like your whole world is in a bubble,surreal.

I get into Francis car she holds my hand.

‘It was your dad’ she’s saying. I flush hot, my head feels like its going to explode.

I don’t cry.

Francis talks on the drive over to Mams, only the other side of the village but I’m impatient to get there.

‘Get your mams trolley’ Francis insists she keeps saying it.

‘She told me to tell you if anything happens get the trolley’.

I still don’t speak.

I walk through the corridors in the sheltered housing into the flat.

There is blood on her carpet. ‘Bicarb’ I hear mam say tutting again. ‘Bicarb will get it out’.

Dad is sitting smoking a roll up in the kitchen.

I stand and look at him.

I don’t know for how long.

Francis pulls at my arm. ‘Get the trolley.’

‘For fucks sake’ I hear myself say. ‘Okay. Okay I’ll get it.’

I look around pictures of my children hang on the walls, Mams cardigan where she had left it on her favourite chair.

Without looking I know there will be a blue inhaler in the pocket and a packet of tissues and a lipstick of bloody awful tangerine she insisted ordering monthly from Avon.

I pick it up and hold it to my face and breath in I can smell her perfume.

I put it over the bloody trolley.

‘Where is she?’ I ask. My voice sounds different. Like its external.

‘I told her she’d go out of here in a bloody box’ Dad says. I want to kill him.

I close my eyes. Slowly breathe in.

‘At the hospital’ says Francis.

‘Come on Joolz you need to identify her.’

We leave the flat and head for the hospital. I’m numb.

How do my legs still know how to walk?

Why are clocks still ticking?

Why is the world still turning? MY MAM IS DEAD.

We get to Whiston Hospital sit in waiting room Francis is smoothing creases that aren’t there from her skirt. I read the information on the wall bereavement support. Victim support. We wait for the police.

A tall young police officer and a smaller female officer walk in I can hear Mam again. telling me ‘Police men are getting bloody younger and look at the state of you she saying you need a good bloody wash. Full of soil!’

‘Are you ready’ the lady police officer asksshe’s got a stain on her jacket and I wonder what it is?

I nod. My mouth has gone dry. I can’t speak.

I’m not ready I will never be ready that big black lump is in my throat. I’m so afraid. It can’t be her not my little Mam and I’m praying this is all a bad dream.

They take me in.

She’s on a metal trolley

She will be cold on there I think.

Her hair is stuck with blood. Drying blood.

I want to fix it.

Her hands are covered she’s not wearing her glasses I put my hands on her face. ‘Oh Mam’ I say

The policewoman puts his hand on my shoulder.

I shrug her off.

I pull the sheet back lift up her left hand. Middle nail cracked it always grown like that.

I hear mam beside me telling me the story of how her sister Eliza trapped it in the front door in Brown street. Where she lived as a childI’ve heard this story a million times but I smile and listen again

‘I know mam’ I hear myself say.

She looks so small. ‘I’m so sorry I was late Mam I was pulling up the hedge in the front you hated those hedges didn’t you. Couldn’t get the last one up. I was coming to fetch you with the kids I’ve made your favourite for tea and Michaels got a new reading book.’

‘That medium is on later at church the one you wanted to see.’ Im almost begging.

My little mam. Doesn’t answer. It really is her. How can I possibly leave her here on her own?

I cover her up. The police woman holds me up. ‘Come on’ she says ‘they will look after her.’

I don’t remember walking back to the car or the drive home.

We sit outside Francis tells me there was a massive row dad was drunk again. She sighs ‘He was always drunk’ I sob.

Mam had said he couldn’t make any more home brew in the flat he was repeating everything she said. Mimicking her

Shooting at her with a toy gun that made a noise.

She was on her nebuliser.

Struggling to breathe

She stood up told him to get out was going to ring me. She didn’t get to the phone.

She has massive heart attack hit her head on coffee table

He might as well have had a real gun.

‘Take me to the flat’ I finally said.

‘You’ve got the trolley Francis said don’t go back ‘she sounded scared.

I ring our Michaels dad Mike.

‘Come and get me I’m at the hospital’

Ten mins later Mams trolley in the boot of Mikes car andI’m going back to the sheltered housing.

‘What the fuck happened?’ Mike asks. I tell him. He doesn’t speak.

‘What are you going to do?’

‘I don’t know.’ I answer. ‘But I’m not scared of him anymore I’m furious.’

We walk down the corridor I count our footsteps. I hear my mam.

‘Go home Julie to the kids’ she says.

‘I will in a minute I say out loud,’ Fab I think I’m talking to my bloody self.

I walk into the flat we’ve been gone two hours tops.

Dad is in the bedroom Mams single bed tipped up on its end drawers tipped everywhere clothes strewn everywhere. I stand looking at him.

There’s a banging noise in my head. It’s my heart.

He’s opening boxes looking in pockets of coats.

There is a new toaster and a kettle still in boxes she was planning to leave him.

It’s as though I’m not here I think.‘Can he see me’?

Mikes got hold of my arm.

Dad looks up.

‘Where is it?’ he shouts at me.

I don’t answer or move I stand in the bedroom doorway.

‘Sovereign rings, money, rings jewellery bank books.?’

‘I don’t know I say?’ And I really don’t.

‘She’s dead Mams dead.’ I shout.

He walks over to me.

‘WHERE IS IT ALL?’ he booms.

I feel the spit and beer breath hit my face.

I don’t move or step back he’s furious.

‘TELL ME NOW.’

He lifts his hand as he’s done so many times.

I still don’t move.

Everything slows down.

Mike jumps between us.

Grabs dads big arm and says

‘You’re never going to put your hand on her again.’

I’m stunned!

I look at dad he suddenly doesn’t look as big or scary.

‘Don’t ever, come near me again’ I hear myself say.

I’m picking up mams best jumper.

I pick up a bag put her clothes and shoes in.

Dad looks confused.

I start to take my children’s photos off the wall.

‘What are you doing?’ he shouts.

‘I’m taking back what’s mine.’

‘You don’t get to look at my kids again.’

‘Do not come to the funeral she didn’t want you there.’

Are you happy now you killed her?

I wish she’d have just left you years ago we’d have all been better off you murdering drunken bastard.’

I hear mam laugh.

He sits down hard on the floor.

‘I’m going to a solicitor ‘he shouts ‘I want what’s mine.’

I look at him lean forward and say quietly almost a whisper.

‘I want my mam my kids want their Nan.’

Mike puts his hand on my arm ‘Come on Joolz he’s not worth it.’

He takes mams clothes I carry the photos and we leave.

Francis is getting out of the car it’s a warm evening and Mam should be getting in my car with me now.

She hugs me.

Don’t forget her trolley.

I won’t.

Raven.

Rhyme or reason

I loved you when you were sober.

Which wasn’t much at all.

You’d lock me in the garden

Throw your Sunday dinner up the wall.

There were photos you kept in an old wooden box

Of you looking handsome and smart.

Maybe you were different then

Where did the all madness start?

When did you stop caring?

About anything else but beer.

We’re you hurting inside you too.

And wishing that you weren’t here?

I saw parts of you that are parts of me.

That terrified me to my core.

I was afraid I would become the person you did.

The monster that I abhor.

But I imagine somewhere deep inside yourself was a spark of goodness too.

Because I remember in flashes the dad who taught me to love the seasons and poetry too.

You brought me a bike that had been left by the fairies.

Held my hand when I was scared to go to school.

You gave me my streak of rebel

And my love of breaking all the rules.

Am I to believe that you were all bad?

Selfish and a drunk to the core.

Because that would mean no rhyme or reason.

And then what would be the score?

You had a reason for being and acting the way you did.

I will never know those reasons and why your love you couldn’t give.

Divine experience and lessons I have learned

And now Dad at last I can live.

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.

Family?

Like a chess board..

Life…

Family.

May not be perfect

But

Everyone fits into a place.

You know who they are..

You know your relationship to them.

Their Expectations

Mam

Dad

Sister

Aunties

Uncles

Nieces

What if someone takes that board

Throws it high into the air.

You stand watching all of the pieces

Falling.

Landing this way and that.

Upside down.

Back to front.

You remain suspended.

Looking down at them.

Strangers.

Unrecognisable in their new roles.

Chess board no longer your life.

Family.

not yours

You no longer fit.

Totally confused. Head fucked.

another reality? parallel universe.

anxious, angry so very scared.

Floating fuzzy, stand outside your body.

stand and watch the chaos.

No one is who you thought they were.

Like a sick game of musical chairs.

Who are these strangers

Not family anymore

lies and deceit

A charade an elaborate false tapestry

Years to embroider

Minutes to unpick.

Davina McColl your a lier

Long lost families

Happy endings, smiling faces,

Loving mothers

Open doors big family reunions

Happy tears and welcoming arms.

Chess pieces that fall into place.

Not on this board.