It’s Not Easy Being Green.

 

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“It takes a very long time to become young.”

Pablo Picasso

 

It’s been a year and also a month of firsts. I’ve had my first birthday without James . I thought I had lost everything, not so, my youth has now decided to fuck off . This was a tricky day in which the Pod went all out making as special an event as could be. There were so many presents, a ridiculous amount and they really could not have done more. My Au Pair Paula lit the breakfast table with candles and presents much like it might have been done this time last year. She’d secretly taken photos of the kids and had these framed for me. Paula has had a birthday too (Nineteen). Her boyfriend Yan and I have been in cahoots for weeks planning his surprise visit.

 

She is currently downstairs cooking brunch for her friend Toni, another Au Pair. Toni is a singer and is downstairs signing a much improved a-cappella version of Jermyn Jackson’s “We don’t have to take our clothes off, to have a good time”. Their cooking smells slowly meanders up the stairs along with their happy voices and giggles. I love having Paula in my house for the same reason I loved teaching teenagers back in the day. Because the youth are like tonic. I’m trying to cloak myself in some on their good cheer and optimism at a time when my stash is running low, they have so much, surely they won’t miss the measly amount I need? Much like husbands, it seems Au Pairs, are also not created equal. And it’s so difficult when you have a prefect one, as without them you are a little bit screwed and only then do you realise that you wished you’d had someone mediocre.

 

For Paula.

Grief Is The Thing With Feathers: A Love Song.

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This time last year I was sitting with some friends around James’ hospital bed, waiting to see if he might live, but knowing he wouldn’t. Today I was sent an email by one of my companions around that bed. Flynn calls him- ‘The man that looks like Daddy’, which  I hope Ross would find flattering. Today he sent me the following email:

 

I was working on the soundtrack to a BBC drama-doc about the ballet dancer and cold war legend Rudolf Nureyev. Our original intention was to build the soundtrack from existing recordings of famous ballet works contemporary to the Nureyev story. Easy. But as the production developed we realised that this music wouldn’t tell the whole story – particularly the drama side (the emotional story and the espionage and intrigue of the defection).

We decided to commission a composer to write a score to help tell the story. The composer is Richard Canavan and he is brilliant. One piece of music he wrote was loaded with hope and warmth and promise and it made me think of You and Gumby. After we finished the film, I worked with the Richard to develop the idea into a 2 minute piece and then published it as “Gumby Loves Orna”.

The track now exists as a library recording that I will promote to other TV, film and advertising creatives. It might end up on an advert for a brand that Gumby worked on, which would be kind of nice. Though the chances are very slim! It might end up in an advert for garden furniture – which I hope we could all laugh about too. I hope it doesn’t end up on a promotional video for Donal Trump. But if it does, let’s all try and laugh!

Anyway… i will try and track where it goes and keep you posted. For now, it’s attached just to this email.

i hope you like it. lots of love

Ross ( who also loves Orna) xx

 

For Ross (and Richard Canavan of course).

 

 

I Knew You were Trouble When you Walked in.

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“Strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then.”
― Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly

 

‘You put together two people who have not been put together before. Sometimes it is like that first attempt to harness a hydrogen balloon to a fire balloon; do you prefer crash and burn or burn and crash? But sometimes it works,and something new is made, and the world is changed. Then, at some point, sooner or later, for this reason or that, one of them is taken away. And what is taken away is greater than the sum of what was there. This may not be mathematically possible; but it is emotionally possible.’

-Levels of Life. Julian Barnes.

 

We once had a car that got stolen from our house. The breaker-inners had loaded up all the loot from our house, the usual apple apparel. And used our car to carry it all off- they were efficient breaker-inners these ones. I loved that car and I never saw it again, so we had to go and buy a new one with the pittance the insurance gave us.

James had many pet names for me but my personal favourite was:  ‘Odharna- lead foot- Anderson’- due to my persuasion for dropping my foot on the accelerator. I was presented with my new name, officially,  when earning 6 points on my licence in one day. When it came to getting this car replaced, I was never allowed to attend the test drives;  James had decided to buy a car  behind my back with a smaller engine, in some, vaguely ironic effort to curb my enthusiasm and preserve my life.

In the early days of dating he would do his nut if I was late back and hadn’t called as in the absence he had convinced himself that something terrible had happened to me. It’s all a bit ironic really now. But I always knew this would somehow land on my doorstep. I knew, not long after getting together that trouble might be on his way. I knew that my time with James was limited, I’ve always known this but I don’t know how or if it ever really even materialised into a concrete thought up for inspection.

I spoke to a friend who lost her child and she had this same feeling also. In Withering Heights Nelly tells someone, maybe Lockwood:”She was a wild slip of a lass that burned too brightly for this world” and it’s a bit like that, the feeling you get. You try to ignore it but it’s there. I think I always knew the day was coming.

I’m buying a new car, and wonder if, given the choice or freedom to choose, if I will revert back to my old ways or what James would have wanted me to do/drive? What I must now do is realise that James was right, because of what our children have had happen to them, nothing can happen to me now. There is an immense pathological desire to stay safe, a pressure to be a healthy and alive part of a pair; because of our children and what would be left; less than zero. This may not be mathematically possible but it is emotionally possible.

 

For Tom Vaughan.

And Still I Rise.

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This week I have mostly been reading books by Matt Haig, author of The Humans. In Reasons to Stay Alive, he discusses his ongoing fight with depression, one which he is winning. One of his chapters is called- Things that make it better. Another is called- Things that make it worse. He is of course talking about things that make his depression worse/better rather than infinite sadness but if the shoe fits…….Here is my list.

Things that make it better:

Playing cards with Flynn.

Waking up next to my sleeping daughter and getting a good waft of her cotton breath.

Writing.

Listening to the kids at break time in the school opposite our back yard.

Talking to my friends. I have a special 5 who can talk me down from any cliff. Two of these are often known to say: “We need to come up with a plan.”

Plans.

A good mug of strong builders.

Becoming a godmother.

Reading.

Dogs.

Lego.

Showering.

Maya Angelou.

Silent Witness.

Fresh crisp sheets.

Post-its.

Looking at David Gandy’s face in M&S

Driving.

Any room with a fire.

The cinema.

Dancing.

The radio.

Cheese.

Candlelight.

Swinging in the hammock in my garden late at night with a good book.

Being on my own.

Being in the right company.

 

Things that make it worse:

Being in the wrong company.

Lack of sleep.

Double espresso.

Selfies

Loud noises.

Burning toast.

People putting pressure on me to either remember things, show up or to be on-time.

A messy house.

Greasy hair.

Winter.

Wine.

Valentine’s day.

Too many emails in my inbox.

Worrying that I have eaten too much cheese.

Facebook.

My to-do list.

Being told Maya Angelou is dead.

The post office.

Taking out the bins.

A low bank balance at the end of the month. (I’m only Human)

 

 

http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/love-liberates/#.VowyI9LGLk8.facebook

Love Liberates- Maya Angelou. (Dead American Poet)

 

For Kathy Collis. ( and Matt Haig of course)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misery Loves Company.

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I haven’t written in a while; it hasn’t gone unnoticed. I knew I’d taken too much of a break when I started getting emails from randoms to the tune of- Dude… the blog… what gives?

There were two reasons for this break. The first was that as I thrawlled through my cellar of unpublished posts, vintage titles such as –Is it just me or is everything just shit? And Misery Loves company and The Thrill is Gone did’t seem the best material to be offering in ’tis the season to be jolly’. I tasted, sipped and swished through these vintage posts and got aromas of woe with just a hint of sorrow berry and rich tannins of despair, full bodied. No this simply will not do, thought I. They all seem a bit corked.

The second reason was that I had lost my words. I felt like there was an invisible school teacher hitting me round the back of my head telling me to “use your words”. But they’d gone, they all left me like a squadron of deserters. Well, not all of them,  weirdly ‘c@nting fuckers’ was never far from my lips and readily at hand during this drought, ready to grab at when I drove around Pleasantville. But most words vanished and were replace by an untangable misty repertoire.

Misery really does love company, but this company is elusive and hard to come by but I’m not disheartened, I do love a challenge and I’m always on the look-out. I regularly drive around Pleasantville looking for others to join me. I wave hello to Mr –started my Hedge fund in the City and have made so much money I just pop into the office one day a week to make an appearance. He’s often having coffee with – gave up a modelling career to run my own business cutting cat claws, and of course she’s best mates with- runs 5k before breakfast while simultaneously juicing kale and spinach and pushing her triplets in a buggy while on a conference call to Japan on blue tooth. I regularly wave to her but she has no free hands to wave back, which makes me sad.

I once was having our house valued by some estate agents in Chiswick. As I showed them into the main bathroom I was asked- “Does it have underfloor heating?” To which I proudly replied “No”. This was not what they wanted to hear so I said -“what’s wrong with having cold feet?” To which he replied, with no irony – “People in Chiswick really don’t like to have cold feet.” Well, I thought, if they’re uncomfortable with cold feet, they’re really not going to be up for dead husbands. And so you see, with all the warm feet and high levels of happiness around me, where everything is just “swell” , it’s difficult to find a friend.

One sunny afternoon, a few days after James died, I was sitting in my living room watching Ross Kemp’s Extreme World. I was about half way in when my friend Mungo came round and when he found me on the sofa he said – “What the fuck are you watching?” I said ” I’m watching Ross Kemp’s extreme world because it’s the only thing I can find where people are in a much worse situation than me and it’s making me feel so much better.” “Well you should have said, just switch over to BBC news, there’s been a mild disaster and the death toll is only at 3, but I’m sure if you give it time, it’s surely going to rise?”

 

I don’t need any more natural disasters, nor do I drop my cold, heavy foot on the accelerator when I see happy couples walking through the park, in an effort to mow them down, because, well because, my favourite line from Pleasantville is; There are some places where the road just keeps on going.

For Mungo.

I’m mad about the Boy.

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And I know it’s Stupid to be Mad about the Boy……

The day after J died, I turned to my Mother -in- Law and said -“He’s dead, but I love him more than I did yesterday, what should I do?” She didn’t know,….. so that was disappointing. But the same thing happened the day after and then the day after that. I got very worried, this is total lunacy I thought, the man is dead. My worry really was that even in those initial days there was the strongest, almost primal desire to move on and heel as quickly as humanly possible, and I knew that this would halt this or delay it at the very least. I really tried to explain this to those close to me at the time but I’m not sure they fully understood. Today one of my closest friends sent me the below with the line- ‘his attitude reminds me of you.’ Now I know she does understand me.

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34862437

 

For Alex F.

And You Can Tell Everybody This is Your Song.

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When I’m writing this blog and Flynn asks what I’m doing, I tell him- “I’m writing my novel”- which I really ought to be doing. The other day he said : “Everyone in Heaven must be so jealous of Daddy because none of them have someone back on earth writing a book about them.”

I have dropped my messages all over the cosmos for you, like my very own treasure hunt. I hope you pick them up. This is for you.

For James.

The Word Thief.

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Throughout this blog I have stolen words from Albert Einstein, Alexander Pope, Jay Z, Cormac Mc Carthy, Dante Alighieri, Euripides, David Gutta, Mary Shelly and London Grammar. Today all the words come from the very talented Tom Connolly, author of – The Spider Truces- one of the last books James read.

He sent me a letter a few weeks after James died which was to be given to an older Flynn and Celeste. It reads:

Dear Flynn and Celeste.

You don’t know me, but in the portrait of your father that will have been drawn for you over the years by the adults in your life, I have a tiny piece to add. I knew your Dad less, probably, than anyone who has ever spoken to you about him. But I thought that perhaps one day it would make you smile to know that your Dad was one of the most instantly loveable people I have ever met. We talked for the first time one summer evening last year, over the fence at West Wittering. He was putting the bar-b-q in to the shed in your front garden and drinking a bottle of beer. We said hello, and an hour later, we were still chatting. Even in that short time, I knew your father to be an intelligent, interesting, curious, well-travelled, well-read, humorous man. It was clear that he adored his wife and son and daughter more than anything in the world.

It is now the third week of March, 2015. I am, like many people right now, finding every day weighed down by the sadness of the news that your father, James, has died.

When I was offered the chance to live in 3 Coastguards Cottages for a few years, I was very pleased indeed. It is a deeply enriching experience to live by this beautiful estuary and wide open beach for a period of my life. I have walked for hours in the woods and on the beaches and I have windsurfed for many hours (not terribly well, I have to admit) in the waves and on the flat waters off the beach. I love this place and getting to know your father just a little was one of those unforeseen rewards of being here.

Last Autumn, one Sunday evening, I was out walking on the edge of the estuary. It was a beautiful day’s end. The air was cool. The sky was a faint pale blue. The estuary was still. I encountered a very happy family coming along the footpath from Snowhill on to the seaweed strewn beach near Roman Landing. The two of you were sat in a wooden cart, being pulled by your Dad. Your parents and I fell into conversation on the beach, meanwhile, Flynn, you got out of the cart and tried to pull your sister. The cart fell on its side and the two of you ended in a heap on the beach. I waited for the tears, but all I heard was your laughter. You both played with the cart and then ran around on the beach. Your cheeks were red from the chilly air. At one point, you Celeste, came running past me and your Mum as she was talking to me. You stumbled and muttered, “oh fuck”. We roared with laughter. Later, you Flynn decided to clamber up the bank of rocks and get to the top. I thought it would be impossible for you to manage but you made it, and then you called to your Dad to follow. Your Dad and your sister clambered up to the top too and you all stood triumphantly at the summit together. Your Mum talked to me about her teaching and the writing she would like to do. Later, as we all walked back towards the cottages, your father and I had a good conversation about books and he talked about his own father, your Grand-Father David, who had died that year. It was the evening I got to know your parents a little more and the one time I had the absolute pleasure of meeting you both and seeing you have fun and making us all laugh. It was no more than an hour on the beach, but there was a magic to that evening, and the image of your Dad playing with you so happily makes me smile and reminds me that whether it was for just a very short while, as it was for me, or for many years, everyone who knew your Dad was very fortunate indeed.

It is inadequate to say it, but nevertheless is all I have to offer, that from the moment of writing this letter to the distant future when you are adults and might perhaps read it, I will keep the two of you in my thoughts and in my agnostic prayers, wishing you a happy and fulfilled life. I will always remember your dad too. I have no doubt at all that you will both be happy, neither do I imagine that you will have reached adulthood without moments of darkness for losing your father. Many adults in your life, most of all your amazing Mother, will have made it possible for you to have a vivid picture of him but I hope that you will also remember that your Father’s picture of life, and his experience of happiness, was made whole by the two of you, and the two of you made his happiness complete.

When my brother was dying, he wrote to his son and daughter and said to them; “I hope that you will continue doing all the things you love doing. That will make me happy forever.” If, in your adult life you ever falter and suffer doubt or loss of direction (both of which experiences are inevitable) and you should ever feel sad about your Dad, perhaps continuing to do the things in life that you love and care about will be the way for you to get through hard times, and maybe that is how to be close to your Dad- by doing the things you believe in and love doing, because I am sure that nothing would have made him happier.

Your dad, James, was one of life’s good blokes. He was the sort who made an immediate impression. He knew how to listen and was well worth listening to. He had a kindness and modesty that shone. He was handsome and impressive. He had soul. All this was apparent to me, and I barely knew him.

I hope you are proud of him as adults even though you have had him stolen from you as young children. I hope you are happy. I hope that and trust that life is good to you both.

With fond respects always for your father and sincere best wishes to you both.

Yours.

Tom Connolly.

For Tom

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If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things.

images-2 True Grit.

Today I went to an award ceremony run by The Order of St. John, to accept an award on James’ behalf: It was for organ donation.

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty masonic. I felt like I should possibly roll my trouser leg up. Some guy with lots of medals and a sword stood up and spoke, I zoned out a bit. It was a bit like the scene from ‘Never let me Go’ where all the clones, who don’t yet know they are clones are told that they have a really important job to do and they must sacrifice. The word ‘Gift’ was used more than a comfortable amount as was ‘sacrifice’ . I’m even sure the words- Exit via the gift shop- were used.

As I zoned out, I saw that to my right was an empty seat. I wondered what James would  think of all of this.- I conjured. There then came a loud noice from the back of the room and the door opened loudly, as James  rushed in late in an effort to, as always, not look as though he was late. He took the empty seat, said he was sorry he was late and leaned in and asked ‘What’d I miss?’ I told him they were giving out medals and so he asked what for. ‘For organ donation,…. baby you died’. He sat for a moment and hung his head, the spring had been taken from his step and when he looked up again he said’ I’m so, so sorry.’ As I walked out of that ceremony I saw that despite the fact that his surname is A, he was last on the list and I smiled, so typically late.

One of the things that has made this situation more bearable for me, is knowing that James was spared all these same things happening to him. Every time I hand in a death certificate to be treated with silence and not so much as a raised eyebrow or ‘I’m sorry’, (I now use the standard – “I’ll accept your condolences shall I?”) I think- thank God James is not having to do this for me, it would have finished him, of that I am sure. I remember so well when we were in hospital, having babies, he would pace back and forth across the room with his head in his hands when it all went belly up, literally grabbing and pulling at his hair. He couldn’t have done this.

I am now starting to try to find who carries his heart and all the other ‘Gifts’. I have often wondered if I have passed his heart beating in someone else’s chest? Have I sat beside it on the tube? Would I know? Would I turn to that person and say “Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name.” I hope to meet all those people whose lives he saved; that could be its own spin off blog. I have been informed that not all recipitiants like to meet the family of donors because they harbour some degree of guilt. What I now know about organ donation is there usually seems to have been some sort of tragedy involved in the attainment of organs. They don’t seek out the organs of sixty year olds for example nor would they accept any remotely affected by cancer so it has to be something quick, tragic and unexpected.

Ironically  I was about to publish this post three hours earlier when I heard the familiar daily drop of letters downstairs, I usually leave them there but for some reason rushed to get them. On top was a very important one with – Strictly Private and Confidential- written on it. I knew what would be inside. First the attachment letter, then a red card with a picture of a love heart made of rose petals. A mother of a fifteen year old boy wrote to tell me how my husband’s heart beats in her son’s chest. It beats daily somewhere miles away. He lives. He waited for that heart for twelve long weeks. He waited while that heart was lying on the beach in Spain, banging in a chest filled with love. He waited and grew weaker while that heart swam in an ocean and throbbed even louder when it caught its first GT and thumped the waves with exhausted joy. He waited while that heart quickened at the sight of his wife arriving unexpectedly at a Christmas party, when she told him she was staying at home. He waited and now it’s his.

She finishes with “I am so very sorry for your loss but hope that my son will do his doner proud throughout his second chance at life. Thank you will never be enough for what you have done for my son”.

In ‘Never Let me Go’ one of the main characters says  “Maybe none of us really understands what we’ve lived through or feel we’ve had enough time”. I didn’t get enough, I want more time, I can’t have it with James, I just can’t, but I’m glad that she can have it with her boy.

For Eunan.

A Pilgrim’s progress into Seasons of Love.

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Five hundred, twenty five thousand six hundred minutes….As the song goes. How do you measure a year? In daylights? In sunsets? In midnights? In cups of coffee? In inches? Although I think this song was about AIDS and they all died.

I have tunnelled through layer upon layer of thick murky grief and it’s followed me around like a stray dog. Yesterday the recycling bin revealed a very posh calendar bought by my friend Alex so that in those initial days I might know what each day was called and if I had somewhere to be or something important to do.

Someone once told me that once I got to a year things would be less painful. In the same way that the therapist said that they don’t like to see anyone before six months. When I pressed her she said’ – “After six months you should be getting better, not completely, but better.” But what I really think she meant is that- after six months you will no longer believe he is coming back.

I’m measuring mine in Prufrock esq coffee spoons of joy. I don’t need it anymore (the calendar); this must be what progress feels like. Those tiny split seconds of joy, which sneak in when you are not expecting them. I’ll take one of those. Minute tablets of joy and perfection. Like when you accidently fall asleep and wake up to find your daughter has framed your entire face in rose petals like that chick from American Beauty (sure your garden has been annihilated in the process but who cares? It was a shit garden to begin with) or Spencer from Wheelers hands you yet another bunch of beautiful flowers and says absolutely nothing, just smiles and walks away. Or maybe you just get sent a poem written to and about you from your friend Lex which is a bit shit, but kinda nice. Or you are sitting having a romantic meal with your friend Josie in your kitchen and Alexander O Neil comes on the radio with ‘Criticize’ and you do not speak, you simply put your knife and fork together simultaneously and meet each other on the dance floor, dancing and laughing until your sides hurt. (BTW. I defy anyone to hear this and not do the same). Or you are hammering an angry blog post on your keyboard and your daughter is on the floor beside you doing a puzzle and stops only momentarily to say “Mum, if I was a fish, I would be so beautiful.”

Some things will, despite everything, still put a smile on my face. A beard and a bun, for example never fails, which is why I have been  spending so much time in Hoxton of late.

These moments are wonderful, albeit infrequent, but I must grab them with both hands and somehow make them multiply like gremlins in water. I know it’s all about time but time takes too much time.

For Spencer

 

A shit poem by Alexa Charlotte Carey.

 

I’m sorry I ask you how you are.

I’m sorry I live so far.

I’m sorry that we missed our date

And that I’ve not been the best mate

I hate that I can’t do more to help.

But most of all I hope it’s clear

I wish to God that Gumby was here.