Wednesday, 20 March 2019

'I am here for you'

I cleared out rooms of Dig's things.

Hoarding temperament? Yes. Much.

I wonder if we'd sold this house (been here 30 years). I wonder a) How he would have moved all that shit and b) Who would have said, 'No problem! Stack your boxes in the bathroom!'

Of course, when you love someone, you turn a blind eye to 18 boxes of cables going back 30 years stacked in a bathroom. (Incidentally, the bathroom was made unusable mostly thanks to 18 boxes of cables stacked next to tool shelves propped against a wall.)

And then I stayed through a belly full of more than everything else.

Once, Dig said to me, 'Only you could love me'. I replied, 'No, you are a lovely person'. But I think, in truth, only I could have loved him with the huge scope that I did. I gave thirty years of range and depth, possibilities and impossibilities, grudges and resentments, forgivenesses and tolerances. Hatred and love, hope and despair. There were times when I laughed so much in his company the world turned round us. There were times when we both would have done away with that spinning wheel in the snap of a finger. We didn't. Brief Encounter? Dig did not risk his daughters and family.

Then I sat 24 hours, every day, 10 days at the hospice, by Dig's side, breathing the last seconds of life before us.

Later, when it is all done, all gone, I catch up with messages on his phone. Some are from family, some are from groupies; there were star-struck types that Dig collected. One message read, 'I'm here for you'. I reward our family with a hollow laugh. Yes, you are. In your What's App land, you do indeed slip away in the shallow depths of a plastic screen.

Thirty years got me nights, weeks, months of constant watchfulness, sleeping on floors besides beds, driving at midnight and at 3am backwards and forwards to hospitals. Thirty years brought me the care of vomit, urine and faeces. Thirty years threw me the harrowing knowledge that Dig's judgement was fragmenting under addictive painkillers, where he would never know the problem of withdrawal. Thirty years got me head, heart, family. Thirty years got me the past and the future; being here fully, totally, physically, immersively, viscerally, holding the last hand to life and the true, incontrovertible right to claim, 'I am here for you'. I am here.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Tick, tick, tick, punch, cry

Yes, for in the wake of Dig's death, I have done form-fillings: legal/medical/registration/cremation/certification. I have called insurance and DWP. I have braved VAT and corporate liabilities. Paid HMRC. Taken thirty-plus bags of recycling to the tip. (This expedites Plan A: rent part of the house to someone who can afford it.) Visited accountant, four times, once with minor breakdown (me, not them). Scoured bank accounts for direct debits, standing orders, subscriptions, annual charges. Dumped phone contracts, decommitted from expenses, rang up people to ask, 'Why am I paying you?'

Yet to do: press destruct on the economic relationship with Arse Hong Kong.

I boasted about my progress on this March of the Dead to the woman at the bank. She looked at me warily and said, 'You have to have time to grieve'. I answered, 'My outgoings are steaming off the racetrack like a Tesla Roadster. My forecasted income is a toddler push-bike with a flat back tyre. Grieving this week equals 1.5K, so let's keep going through the bank account, please.'

It might sound harsh to the sensitive ear, but it is the cold hard edge of a morning in my land, true whether it dents the sensibilities of an Account Advisor or not. Dig lived his life with a casual approach to small items, like a few hundred for hotel, first-class lounge access and airfares - and I question his judgement in later years (I hope no handbags were actually purchased) - but as in so many areas of life, I pick up the result. Just as well I am never going to be defeated and will always stand up fighting.

Which reminds me. I am not sleeping. For two weeks. Three hours worst, six hours best. I am powered by adrenalin, waking at 3am swinging punches like a drunk from a bar, conjuring in the darkness the face of someone I'd like to see bloodied and toothless, before I twist their neck to a satisfying snap. Then I push them down in a sea of mud and set a never-sleeping monster on them to make sure they never emerge to further touch my life. (This could be a metaphor or not and I could be hallucinating again. Not sure.)

But then the day. And I am reminded of the crystal clear sparkling wonderful brightness of people I know; people who leave flowers. People who quietly bring a hamper of loveliness and goodness. People who write a line or a word, people who send blessings in an envelope, who listen to me rave and finger jab, who are there and who care, ready with their loves and loyalties and gentleness, that I cry, touched more by their generosities than for any death or loss, but for kindness. Kindness given to me so readily and freely and with such open-heartedness honesty that I feel strengthened to face the world where I know there is everything I value, ahead.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

What I learned

The last few weeks have been gruelling. Each hour came upon me with its own special form of gruel. Spiced, on occasion, by an extra serve of pain delivered straight to the gut in a skewer-grinding way. None of that for public consumption.

But I have learned this! That my children fill me with admiration. I have deep respect for them. They are remarkable people, made deeply resonant by experience. The world is a better place because they are in it. And I am indebted to them for their love, and their loyalty.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Friday, 4 January 2019

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Monday, 31 December 2018

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Monday, 24 December 2018

And for that, I am truly grateful

So many gratitudes. First, to the people who, through the year - inbetween, at the start and to the end - have sent good wishes, magic wands and generally happy news to make us smile. Thank you. I'm sorry that I don't always manage a prompt reply. Your words are lovely, beloved, cherished.

And we are all here, still: Dig is not receiving chemo at the moment. 2019 will bring, waving a magic wand with extra sparkles, a different round of treatment.

Then the gritlets. What reasons for gratitude they each are!

Squirrel, for the largest part of the year, has been the only family member with an actual paid employment from an actual real employer. Her job is crackingly good. I would half-inch it myself if I wasn't already performing my own daily dramatic performance. Working at a local theatre in ushering, support, selling, dogsbody, is giving her experience from the ground up. Hopefully she can wangle free tickets soon extend her abilities and interests in theatre to help it form part of her future career options.

Shark, meanwhile, is putting her gap year to excellent use. She's notching up volunteer work with the local hospice (all-round good egg), studying for further maths and, her icing on the cake, starting a job with a robot company, so she can put you all out of work. She also managed to lure Squirrel away from school in September (not hard) to go travelling in France, Germany and the Netherlands. (Not too difficult to get leave of absence, by the way. I wrote, ahem, a persuasive letter to the Camp Commandant, composing the national press invisibly between the lines, and they looked the other way for two weeks.)

Tiger is settling nicely into a sort of illustrative brilliance and natural gifted talent. If you don't see her drawings in some form in the future, then something has gone wrong with the world. Donald Trump has blown it up, or Tiger has nobbled her own abilities by going bonkers in a seriously profound way. Pity me then, daily trying to prise her out her room, coaxing her from the ceiling with pasta, and telling her that she is loved, no matter what, even when she has to do worse than worst.

There remain two other points of gratitude yet. One is the fact that HSBC haven't given our last meagre quid to the Chinese government - yes, I went to Hong Kong and swore my oath and made my prayer to the courts - and the other is the best, the very best, the reason we can be grateful now and forever, alpha to omega.

This reason was given, unprompted, like a gift into our family. It is now my new hymn, sang at the day's end with my other treasures, alongside, From little acorns grow big trees, and Things will take a turn for the better by Friday:

Yesterday I went to meet a horse! Wow, what a bad idea that is. It has gone on my reasons to be cheerful. I don’t have a horse.

Monday, 5 November 2018

I believe there is a vulgar phrase for this

The first time I heard it, was from the mouth of a Californian. Shit happens! I wondered what he was talking about. For a split second I thought he needed the bathroom.

But it is a useful phrase, is it not? Albeit from my perspective, not quite vulgar enough.

I am out to Hong Kong for two days. Sleeping on the plane (saves money); hotel in Wan Chai (run down); definitely not eating out (7/11 will do me a loaf of bread).

This is all thanks to the bank in Hong Kong, closing our humble company, freezing our account (yes we were in the process of closing the residue down) and giving the remaining money to the government. Unless we lodge a legal appeal at the courts. Which means me turning up, in person (wild-eyed, scary hair), to sign on the dotted line.

Cue: Shit happens!

Well, we have done the maths. It's worth one shot trying to wrestle our savings back from them, but not any longer case nor cause. The solicitor reassures us that the procedure is normal for 3-5 months. Well, yes, I can sort of believe this: what administrative 'crime' would you like to commit?* There is a scale of charges for that. When we overstayed our visas, a cash register sang a merry tune at the end of the paper trail.

And then. The hospital changed Dig's SuperJuice. The first line stopped working. His new chemotherapy recipe will no doubt bring new challenges to us all.

But his spirit of fortitude/endurance/obstinacy/constancy should be bottled too, then we could carry a token of Dig Resolve and nothing will ever ruffle us, ever again.

Even under extreme circumstance, Dig shows the same sort of constancy and supreme command of events which reassures me, regardless of wherever and whatever I am doing.

The same sturdy resolve, in fact, when I telephoned him in 2002 seeking his calm and firm reassurance. When throwing myself off a tall building seemed like a good idea because the children wouldn't go to sleep. I was in England. He was in Japan. I was off my head, sobbing. He was at a fancy celebration involving a diplomat and a tray of sushi. He removed himself immediately and talked me down from the rooftop. It was the best £200 I ever spent on a phone call.

Yes, he is still showing that sort of resolve and I need it. It will get me through the week, when there will be nothing suspicious about me as I hit airport security, unstable and unblinking, clutching a bag full of legal papers, an old DVD player, and three pairs of knickers. Without it, I fear for the hours. Even grit can be ground down.

But! There are bright, bright sparkles of everyday! Just like normal. When Shit happens!

I just created a lovely range of note books for a bunch of storytellers. You are fundamental to me, you lovely people, and I don't much care what form you take - in writing, vision, talking, telling. You take me into other worlds where all is not a simple daily desperation.

* By the way, we haven't done anything to merit closure, apart perhaps from not doing anything.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

The Blasted Hour of Marketing Hangs Heavy on Me Again

Just come to Stall 13, Handmade and Vintage Doodah, CMK this weekend. Okay? It's a lot easier on all of us. To sell my beautiful Knicker Drawer Note Books I won't be wearing Shark's apocalyptic facemask, although I might dress up A Bit Steam. Not enough to frighten you with the goggles and plumbing and copper piping, just enough to enjoy myself.

I have a lot of lovely books for you there. Ridiculously under-priced. And, if you are the right person, I might even hand one over to you completely free. Yes, that might be a bit off-trolley, but I'm not out to make any more than simply feed my own addiction.

The Knicker Drawer Note Books are passion. Vulnerability and endurance; loss and remembrance; blasted hearts and broken souls and resilience and bloodyminded determination to hold the little things that matter. Like postage stamps and handwritten notes, which are timeless and endure well beyond any day's trials, like body blows and mortal wounds. Intimacy. Yes, that as well, in the materials I use and the crumpled cotton bedsheets from which I stitch. Am I rambling? Who gives a toss. I'll put those thoughts in a notebook.

My next step is to sit in front of the computer, DOING MY MARKETING. Pity me there. I will be cursing and threatening Facebook (which I hate, much like a 17thC Puritan facing down Satan), and Twitter, which is maybe not so bad, because at least Donald Trump gives me a laugh.

Ramblings. Better committed to a lovely tactile sensory notebook, tied with ribbon, scented with perfume, and stashed away in a Knicker Drawer for my great grandchildren to wonder at and assume that I just drank a lot of gin.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Steampunk Asylum X at the Lovely Lincoln

My mood will be down, at least for a few days, while I sink to reality, the splendid upliftingness of the Steampunk Asylum X gone! Where a buoyant time was had by all in our tribe, including our Travelling Aunty, in her sea captain's hat and her golden octopus, coiled in a net, called Octavia, and hauled from the waves. Oh that time would come again!

Who could not love to be here, surrounded by all the gentle madnesses, the dedication to craft and to story and to living life a little splendidly? And, if next year, you cannot strap on your corset and don your hat, you must be too deep mired in some bad real world to be able to come with us and escape into fantasy.

(Just to reassure the concerned: Professor Pragma was not plugged in to the wall socket.)

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Off to the Asylum

Ah! A perfect time of year! I strap unlikely items to my hat then off I wobble, down the road, all the way to Lincoln! Suitcase of magical books in hand, inspired by bits that fell off the car and old plumbing, wending my happy way to Bailgate Market Methodist Hall.

Professor Pragma is still standing (well, mostly lying down), having completed 12 rounds of chemo and now on a fortnightly drip of reduced juice to keep him going for the August bank holiday. If you see him, doff your cap. He deserves it.

And oh! What wondrous books! Saturday and Monday! (Remember, not Sunday. The very friendly Methodists will be enjoying a sing song.)

And, for the first time, the start of a new line in what will become the book bags...

The Mars Explorer! As The War of the Worlds ends, you're the first group of scientists assigned on an ambassador mission to build peace! Right? Anyway, you need the bag. Ta-da!

In all other news, there has been a lot of it. My tribe are all busy about their doings in adventuring ways creating more news than the Grit Station can handle.

Just come over to Asylum X and say hello. Remember, Methodist Hall, just down from the Assembly Rooms, Saturday and Monday.*

* But if I have to cart Prof Pragma off to hospital, sorry to miss you.