Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Doubting Thomas.


Last Sunday I went to church. How come? I hear you ask. I was invited by a seventy-five-year-old Jamaican gentleman. He's become a friend since I started hanging out at the Make a Difference Afro-Caribbean Senior Citizens Group in Streatham. Some of my mates went to France over the Easter holidays, or to Italy, or Spain, I went to the Make a Difference Afro-Caribbean Senior Citizens Group in Streatham, and also to church, when I went anywhere. Mostly I stayed at home and cooked and put a wash on. I'm hoping to get my reward in heaven.

So anyway, in church - the United Reform Church in Herne Hill - I was open to being convinced. Come on, I thought, sitting on the back row with Margaret, a 78-year-old-lady who took pity on me and came by for a chat before my friend turned up, sock it to me. I'd quite like to be religious. Everything about it looks great. You get to dress up, go out, hang about in historic old buildings, be with people, sing. And it must be a comfort, especially when someone you love dies. It was a good topic, too, the resurrection, which lots of people struggle with, me included.

There must be some theological arguments to support the idea of the resurrection, I thought, so let's have it. The minster read from the bible (John 20:24-29). "'But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.' And it must have been hard for Thomas to believe that Christ had come back from the dead," said the minister, "but he did believe, and so must we." Then he announced the next hymn and that was it, he moved on. Nope, I thought, that's not gonna cut it.

At the end of the service my NBF, the Jamaican gentleman, gave me a copy of The Pilgrims Progress as a present, which was really lovely of him but to be honest I'm struggling with that too, although I do like the allegorical thing and I reckon I was stuck in the Slough of Despond for years, I just never had a name for it before.


If I can't believe in God what can I believe? In people, I guess. I believe that people are basically good and we need to hold on to that, as well as to them, to stop ourselves falling into a Slough of Despair.

So, speaking of holding on to people I'm meeting up with an old friend on Friday who I haven't seen in years, Susie, she of the bassoon mentioned last week. Susie was my best friend at secondary school and in the last few years we've lost touch, which is ridiculous when you consider she lives in Surrey and it's only an hour away. We were very close way back when, literally as well as figuratively. She lived next-door-but-one. We met when we were eleven. We'd both moved into new homes in a new area and were about to go to secondary school. We were put in the same class. I vividly remember sitting in her bedroom, which was the same as mine, the day before school began, telling her the date of my birthday. We were doing that thing girls do when they swap information really fast like they're playing ping pong. 

"That's mine, too," she said.

"But it can't be," I replied. 

"But it is," she said.

I just refused to believe the coincidence and yet it was true. She thought that was funny. Many years later her three beautiful girls were my bridesmaids. I have some pictures of them somewhere...

I made a BBC children's programme with them - Words and Pictures - using her house as the location and one of the girls as the star - Mary, the youngest. Now Susie's an art teacher and also a grandmother. It's terrible how you can lose touch with people because your life takes a different turn. Still, I'm seeing her again soon, I believe.

Love E x


P.S. Sometimes there isn't a P.S.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Dreaming is free.


Dreams are a universal language. We all dream whether we remember it or not.

We got talking about dreams at the dinner table the other night and Middle One said he writes his down on his phone every morning when he wakes up. He has 130 so far. He's looking for recurring themes but can't find any. His stress dream is running through a labyrinth pursued by a minotaur-type monster and when he looks back he's actually being pursued by himself. I guess you could call that a classic. Youngest said he doesn't have dreams, but he only means he doesn't remember them. My most recurring dream is not having revised for my 'O' Level geography exam and it's tomorrow. I have no idea why it's geography when in life I got a B and my real problem was maths. My regular dreams are not having any clothes on when I'm delivering a speech, not being able to get through on the telephone when it's an emergency, and flying. When flying I take off from the roof of the house and have to concentrate really hard to stay up. Despite sometimes dipping and skimming the surrounding roof tops I can usually fly quite far. The other day for no apparent reason I dreamt I was getting it on with Tom Hiddleston, and I don't even like Tom Hiddleston. I guess we can't be held accountable for our subconscious.

Sorry if I'm boring you. They do say listening to someone describe a dream is the most boring thing ever but then I guess you're not actually listening, you're reading, and you don't have to read this if you don't want to. In fact, if I'm boring you you know what you can do... you can take a running jump.

Middle One's friend, who was with us at the dinner table and who is a brilliant trumpet player ,
said his recurring stress dream is having his trumpet with him and having to get it to the other side of a busy motorway. I thought that was pretty funny.

Bassoon missing

It reminded me of my friend Susie at school and her huge bassoon. It was taller than she was. She had to carry it to school for orchestra practice once a week when she was in Year 7 (except we called it the first year in those days). It was so heavy she could only take a few steps before stopping to rest. One day she called in at the Co-op to buy crisps to supplement her otherwise horribly healthy packed lunch and when she arrived at school realised she'd left it in the shop.

Fair Game

Speaking of motorways, the car in which Eldest was coming home from university for Easter hit a pheasant in the fast lane outside Exeter. He said there were feathers everywhere. They had to stop on hard shoulder and call the AA. The AA man turned up and pulled it out of the radiator. It was still warm, its guts hanging out like creamy threads of macaroni. Eldest refused to eat poultry all over Easter as a result. I had to make him his favourite instead: moules mariniรจ.

Love E x


P.S. In case you were wondering the bassoon was still in the Co-op.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Easters past.

For a writer a good memory is key. Sadly, I don't have one, or much of one. I attribute this to a chronic lack of sleep over the years, which I attribute to three male babies with big personalities and endless appetites who long ago shot my neural synapses to hell. That's my excuse anyway. Sleep was so strung out when the first boy was born, punctuated like tiny pearl drops of somnambulism on a choker chain, that often I opened my eyes to morning with the accompanying feeling of not having slept at all. The first one was fed on demand, in my bed, but even by the time I knocked out the third and had by then inhaled Gina Ford's baby routine advice book, implementing her recommended minute by minute schedule with the zeal of the desperate convert, I was still woken most nights by one or the other. I do remember, and will always remember, the night after number three was born at home when number two was awake vomiting and I was with him, holding the bucket, while still bleeding, and breastfeeding the newborn.

I write this by way of explanation because when I sat down to conjure up memories of Easters past I was hard-pushed to remember any. Only three stand out, one in York, one in Norfolk and one in Sweden. The first is a memory germinated from the seed of a photograph, as is so often the way. Sometimes I wonder if it weren't for photographs would I remember anything at all. Perhaps it's a defence mechanism. At my time of life motherhood feels like one long succession of losses: first losing his babyhood, then his boyhood, then him. Nature cuts you a break, it lets you forget most of it because if you lived with the sharply focused comparison of the puppy-fatted faces of your angelic toddlers looking up at you adoringly at bedtime with the long-limbed men now roaming the London streets at night haunting fried chicken outlets, you'd probably cry yourself to sleep, a fitful one.


A photograph of a puppy-fatted toddler, which one hardly matters. He's blonde with brown eyes, but then they all were. He's holding a small wicker basket by its long arched handle, but then they all did. The garden behind is denuded by winter but with newly budded twigs about to spring into life. A clutch of gaudy foil-wrapped chocolate eggs sit nestled in the bottom of his basket. He beams with delight. He's definitely my child but he could be yours, or you. It's a twentieth century child's Easter tableau.


Here's another: sitting at a breakfast table in a cottage in Norfolk, bright sunshine outside, hot almost, as some Easters can be. Fresh farm eggs bubble in a pan on the stove along with onion skins in the water to colour them yellow. Felt tip pens sit ready on the table, also the egg box and scissors, fake yellow feathers, bits of cloth and glue. Three children sit in front of a nearby television, transfixed by cartoons, waiting for the signal. In a minute they will be told to move to the kitchen table to sit and decorate boiled eggs that they will then refuse to eat.


A wood-clad cabin by a lake near Gothenburg reached that day from south London before it was lunchtime, incredibly. I make lunch for five people with things I brought in my suitcase: pasta with dried salami and herbs. After lunch we sit side by side on sun-loungers outside facing the lake, wrapped in blankets. The boys shriek and play. I take the youngest one with me into surrounding woods to search for catkins and pussy willow. We snap branches ruthlessly from trees, carry the stash back to the cabin, place them in a vase and tie yellow feathers and ribbons on them.  I stand back for a moment, looking out of one of the windows covering the whole of one side of the cabin and stare at the sun-dappled lake and think there is nowhere in the world more beautiful or that I would rather be.

Love E x

P.S. Here's to memories, and editing out the bad bits.