Monday, April 30, 2018

Come What May

My dear, I don't know if you still read this; we have drifted so far apart...but yesterday I launched my first book. I selected a collection of my work - poems, prose pieces, formatted them into a proper book, designed a cover on Canva, found a printer...and printed 50 copies. They were beautiful.

Then, I organised a book launch. In a proper venue. OK, the venue was sort of informal but there was food and wine...both the best of the best...and I asked Mark to bring a speaker and a mike so I could give a reading.

I went up on stage, hammed it up, told a few lame jokes, then read three of the pieces. People clapped. I don't know if they were being polite or they actually enjoyed the selections. I realised that everything I write (even the stuff that is supposedly quirky and crazy) is sad. And that I am sad.

One of my guests (I invited quite a few and some didn't turn up which was good because there was not enough space for everybody) said the book was so sad. He had flipped through it.

(A horn is blasting away now, or maybe it's a car alarm)

I chose the 28th of April for a purpose. It was my mother's birthday. The book is dedicated to her and this was my way of honouring her.

I felt happy, sad and drunk, all at once.

Everyone wanted to buy a copy.

I handed them out for free and wrote things into the books...signed copies.

My dear, you're gone now. But I thought you would have liked to have seen me, liked to have seen me or been there.

Life goes on.

It does, you know. And things only happen when you make them happen.

Most times I feel like I'm being impelled by a force stronger and more resonant than me. I dig my feet into the ground and resist, but it lifts me up effortlessly and bears me along...and I'm too tired to fight it.

So I give in.

I give in, my dear.

I give in.

Come what may.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

That Awful Feeling

On Sunday I got the news that an uncle had died more than a year ago. On New Year's Day last year to be exact. My godmother had texted me the news.

I didn't really react - he was old, and it was so long since I had considered him family - he got together with some low class female almost as soon as my aunt died all those years ago and kicked his own children, my cousins, out of the house.

OK it's not as bad as it sounds because they didn't really live with him. Both were at boarding school and they simply went to stay with the aunts for the holiday. But being rejected by their only remaining parent in favour of some stray woman they had never met who was now employed in 'comforting' their father because they could not accept her? Well it was bad enough.

I had not thought about this uncle very much through the years. I heard about him from time to time - he was running a post office, he was jailed for suspected arson - but not much else. As far as I was concerned he was subhuman. What man does that to his kids?

I would have probably continued to feel the same way if my intensely nosey godmother hadn't done some detective work and stalked his new son's FB page. He had another child with this woman... And his son, more than two decades younger than his other children loved his dad. In fact, he considered him a great father, husband and a true inspiration.

His grief at his father's passing was apparent. As was his estrangement from his half brother and sister. He never contacted them to tell them that their father had died.

And as we went further back in his posts, we realised that my uncle had been sick a long time; that there had not been enough money for his treatment; that his youngest son had actually tried to do a crowdfunding campaign and only managed to collect some 30 pounds.

It was all so heartbreaking. That he died poor and sick. No matter what he had done. And that he never got to see his other children again. That he never got to meet his grandchildren.

And I thought about whether it was worth it, all these grudges we hold on to, way past their sell-by date.

And I thought about the grudges I hold and tried to imagine what it would feel like if they died while we were still estranged.

It's been a troubled few nights.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Little Birthday Interlude

It was close to 11 at night and I suddenly bethought myself of my father who was turning 80 in an hour. I assumed he was with one of my siblings because I didn't think they would let him see in his birthday alone. I called him. He didn't answer. Then he called back. I asked him where he was. At home. Who was with him? No one.

I said, OK, I'll come over.

I'll come over and see your birthday in with you.

I called Chubs. He was already in bed. And not willing to get up and drive all the way to see in the birthday. "I'll see him tomorrow," he said.

I rang off.

I called Sue-Ann. She was the one person who would know where I could get a cake, a birthday cake, at the last minute, this close to midnight. She did. She came through for me - first she tried to describe the place to me, then she sent me a location on Google.

I changed out of my nightclothes and sallied forth to look for this 24-hour cafe that sold birthday cakes. I found it. I parked. I bought the cake. I made it to my father's house at 11.23pm. There was loads of time to arrange the cake.

I stuck the eight candles in.

Then I decided that it should not only be the two of us celebrating the birthday.

I started calling and texting around.

Finally by 12, I had assembled my sister and her family on one phone and my two aunts and cousin (my father's sisters and niece) on another.

We sang his birthday in. He blew out his candles and cut his cake. It wasn't that great a cake, but it was miraculous, given the time of night. And here's the thing - it LOOKED the part. With strawberries and oreo cookies and chocolate cream.

We put away the cake, sipped the wine and then I was out of there and back home by 12.20am.

I felt sort of satisfied.

It was no great shakes, but at least, he didn't see in his 80th birthday alone.

That's something, isn't it?

And now I'm back home, resuming the transcribing that was interrupted when I suddenly had my brainwave.

Later for you.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Smile Of A Mona

I watched the video where you were led to your death. Death by hanging. Rumour had it that you went defiantly. Rumour had it that your last words were that you could not die. They said you smiled on the way to the gallows.

I watched the video and saw, it was not true. Your face was contorted in fear. You were an ordinary woman, being marched, handcuffed, to your death.

An ordinary woman with an ordinary woman's terror.

And you died, after all.

None of this, of course made the slightest difference to the stories, the legends that grew up around you.

Quite frankly, I believed them too.

How could you not be swept up in the hysteria? The murder was so cruel. Unnecessarily so.

And you smiled in court. Every picture they took of you, you were grinning like a chimpanzee. You relished the attention. It was what you had longed for all your life.

You didn't look evil. Just crazy.

You didn't have the strength to carry out the heinous murder. The strength to slice through the bone.

It was the man who did it. Even the courts accepted that. You were just the third most culpable. There was the one who committed the murder. There was the one who got rid of the body and the weapons.

I am not quite sure what you did. Maybe you sliced off the easier parts, the parts with tendons rather than bone.

But the legends about you continued to grow. Men were afraid to look at you, afraid you would curse them with impotence.

And that was the real trouble.

Your smile emasculated them.

It fed into their primal fear of the female, the weaker but deadlier sex.



The man who was killed was a loathsome creature. He was willing to traffic with the devil to gain more power and wealth. During the documentary, they kept repeating - this was all about greed. They meant your greed. And your husband's.

Because you did what you did for money. But he did what he did for money too.

So, whose greed?

Your face as you were marched to the gallows said it all. Gone was the false mask of bravado. Gone were the one-liners that sent shivers down the spines of a nation obsessed.

You died.

You just died.

But oh, how they want you to rise. And show your face again.

And smile, Mona, just smile.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Panic Attack

There was a time when I used to cry on Sunday nights because I was terrified of Monday. I was about 9 years old at the time and in the wrong class. My class was too smart for me and I was way behind on every subject so I had not passed up my work for weeks, if not months.

Every Sunday night, I would hang out near the bathroom for some privacy and feel the tears roll down my cheeks. I would weep as if in despair because I was. I felt dumb and graceless and in the wrong place. I felt like everything they said about me was true, only more so.

I hated my life. I wish I could have gone back to pre-school days when I didn't go to school, when I could run and play in the park behind the house, when there was nothing either ominous or foreboding in my life.

Today, all of a sudden I had a panic attack. My stomach squeezed tight and I thought of Monday, of being unprepared for Monday, of being useless and of everyone hating me at work, and I felt sick.

I have no idea why I was revisiting one of the worst years of my life (there have been a few of those but none, I come to see, as bad as this one).

I am now trying to breathe slowly and calm down.

All the intervening years have disappeared and I'm back to how I was...frightened and so very, very alone.