Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What's In a Name?

My mother told me a story, many times, when I was small. A story about the moment of my birth, and the year thereafter. This is her story, a story she can no longer tell herself, in all the words that I remember: 

"Three strong pains..." mum would always say. "Three strong pains, and you were born. They said you couldn't be coming that fast, but I told them - they were wrong! No time to go to the ward! Get me in that delivery suite, this baby isn't prepared to wait!" It was 1am, September 1984. Thursday's child has far to go...

"You were a month early" she'd say, "you were born tiny, but totally perfect. Six pounds, seven ounces, and nineteen inches long - skinny, like a little rabbit! And so much hair! You were totally clean when you were born; like you'd just had a bath. And you had this pet lip - like a spoiled little madam! We had a name picked out already - you were going to be 'Jessica' - 'God's Grace' or maybe, 'One who sees', dependant on which baby-name book you checked! 'Jessica Amy' - Amy had been my grandmother's name, but you weren't really named after her - we just liked it, your father and I. It's French, it means 'love' or 'beloved one'. Put the names together and they had a certain ring to them; and we had our little girl - 'One who sees love', or perhaps 'God's Graceful Love' I didn't mind which it meant. Both were beautiful and virtues I wanted you to carry. We didn't know what we were having, I didn't know you'd be a girl, but I wanted one! Secretly! I got what I wanted."

"I was an older mum, so I'd had this new test, to take fluid from around the baby and see that everything was alright. We could have lost you having the test, but I wanted to know you were healthy, since I was older. They could have told us what we were having from that. I was tempted to find out, but your dad said 'no'. He wanted a surprise, and I didn't really mind waiting."

"The first person to hold you when you were born was your father, and as he handed you to me, the midwife was filling out the little bracelet that they put around your baby's leg, and she said, across the room: 'What's your daughter's name?'"

"Well, I was just looking at you thinking you looked so much like your dad, and then I heard him say: 'Amy', and I looked up and asked: 'What happened to Jessica?' 'Amy Jessica', he said, 'I can't stand the thought of her being 'Jess' or 'Jessie'. 'Amy Jessica' it was - and so the Love came first and the Grace second, and it was fitting really, because you were not so graceful for a very long time, I can tell you!"

"I asked your dad then, just after you were born, if he was disappointed that you weren't a boy. I was 38 years old, I didn't want more children. You'd been your father's idea really, he said it wasn't fair to have an only child. Your sister should have a playmate. We had a daughter already, and I thought he might have wanted a son."

"He looked at me and said: 'How could I ever be disappointed? ...just look at her.' And that was that - family complete. We had two little girls."

"When we brought you home, a sister for Zoe Leanne, she ripped the blankets off your carrycot right away, and said: 'Come on then, let's have a proper look at you!' She adored you, of course, and you had visitors cooing over you constantly, and were peaceful, sleepy and gorgeous - you were just like any normal baby for six weeks..."

"Then all of a sudden, you started to cry...and, oh my goodness, you wouldn't stop crying. Suddenly, you didn't sleep anymore, you couldn't keep anything down. You were like one of those baby-dolls that wails every time you lay it flat and throws up every time you sit it up! I had to cover everything in plastic to feed you because you were certain to bring it all back. I'd sit you up, and you'd give me this beautiful smile, and then a projectile milk-stream would come firing out of you! It was like something out of The Exorcist! We were so worried about you! We'd never seen anything like it! We took you to doctors, and then hospitals, who all said the same thing: you had terrible colic. Appalling reflux and cramps. And there was nothing we or they could do - you'd just grow out of it in a few weeks. But you didn't...months passed, and it carried on. You seemed to be in so much pain, I asked the doctors, wouldn't you remember this? Wouldn't you be traumatised by hurting so much?"

"They said you'd never know, but still, we tried everything to soothe you - and nothing worked. I was at home with you all day; sometimes I just had to put you down in your cot and let you cry. I had to walk away before I got so frustrated that I couldn't keep control. I would go sit on the bottom step and cry with you, because I knew you were screaming in pain, screaming for me who was supposed to make it better, and there was nothing I could do to help you. The way that pulls at a mother's heart... How useless you feel. I'll never forget it."

"Your sister was only three, but she tried to help me. She would say: 'Prop her up on the floor cushion mummy, and I'll play with her', when she knew I needed a break. Your second little 'mum' from day one. When I cried she would wipe my tears and say: 'Mummy, please don't cry.' Your dad worked long shifts, but every night when he walked through the door, I would take you off my shoulder - the only place you were comfortable - and pass you on to his. You spent 12hrs a night on his shoulder for two years - he daren't sit down with you in case he fell asleep and hurt you, so he walked. Up and down the living room, all night long to let you rest. You'd sleep right through the night, like any other baby, as long as you could be upright. I look back now, and I don't know how he did it. Working like that on no sleep. He never complained - there's no love close to that in the world."

"I went back to work when you were nine months old. Honestly, I needed to get out of the house. I needed to get away for a few hours a day. Your sister had been an angelic baby - we didn't know what had hit us with you. By that time, you'd spent so long in a door bouncer, keeping upright, that your legs were the strongest part of you, and you were walking! At nine months! My clever girl! I remember, I was changing the bed one day and I'd left you in your bedroom with some toys, and you just walked in! It looked hilarious - you were so tiny to be walking, but there you were, rock steady! Curly blonde hair, pink dungarees, and your chubby little fingers stuffed in your mouth, making a cheeky face at me! I scooped you up and clapped and Zoe and I kissed you and tickled you all over saying: 'Who's a clever girl? Who's so clever?! And everything that was such hard work about you, melted away in moments like that. Melted when you laughed, melted when you smiled, and most of all...when you loved. You melted people with all that cheeky charm!"

"Your sister had been a baby who wanted cuddles when she was happy to receive them, she had to come to you for them, and she'd wriggle and squirm if she wasn't in the mood! Not you. You gave out cuddles whenever another asked for them, and when they didn't! It didn't matter what you were doing - 'Amy - come and kiss your nanna...' 'Amy, give mummy/daddy a cuddle...' 'Hold my hand...sit on my knee', you were so affectionate we had to watch you with strangers. You would sit on anyone's knee, talk to anyone. So many times I turned around in a supermarket and you were gone - heart in my mouth, I'd find you sat on a bench talking to some old man or something. Handing out some of that foresight and grace you were starting to grow into. So friendly, so sociable...and so full of mischief! You were wilful to the point of driving me to distraction! Frequently downright naughty! I had to tie the legs of the dining room chairs together so you couldn't pull them out, because you climbed everything! I knew we were biased, but we'd honestly never known anyone like you! Neither had most people who met you!"

"By the time you were a year old, you could hold a full scale conversation, and were more than capable of expressing an opinion! You told a man in a swimming pool once, that he looked just like a monkey. The poor man was covered in dark hair all over his chest, back and arms and you laughed at top volume, pointed, and just spoke your mind! I wanted the water to swallow you up! You looked over your daddy's shoulder one day, whilst he was scolding you for something or other, leaned your chin in your hand and said: 'It's a lovely day, isn't it?', just trying to change the subject! And you got away with it! You've got to appreciate how funny this stuff sounded, coming from a fourteen month old child! And how adorable it was."

"You made friends everywhere. On holiday when you were eighteen months old, you wandered off on an Italian beach, sat on the end of a man's sun lounger, and proceeded to lecture him about what a dirty habit it was to smoke his cigarettes and stub them out in the beach sand! He wasn't cross, he didn't think you were rude...he was enchanted. They pitched next to us for a week, just to see what else you'd say! You even started speaking Italian to the maids who cleaned the hotel room - language barrier? What language barrier?"

"Yes, I always thought we'd named our baby well. For love...and grace...and the blessing of being able to make people see only those things, even when you were being as 'honest' or as mischievous as only you could get away with! However much hard work you were, you were certainly worth it."

For the heroes that were my mum and dad in those first two years. It must have been Hell, guys. You were truly superhuman. There is no greater love than that which puts another first - and no more moving story, for me, than my own creation, in my mother's own words. To hear something so unconditional, over and over as a child, means it will live with me forever, and despite whatever the future may have held, it was never wholly lost - because I remembered. Thank you for knowing the meaning of love - I really hope I gave everything back. xxx 

Hours old, meeting my 'second mum', my big sister, Zoe.

19mths - in the park with daddy.

9mths - celebrating having just walked for the first time, with Zoe.

12mths - generously sharing my first ice-cream with my mum!

18mths - digging forbidden holes in an Italian beach with Zoe & dad.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Wishing Tree

Bring me a pathway
to  a wishing tree,
wind it and whisper it through
autumn leaves, walk it beneath me, a teasing
soul thief, to gather today’s acorns
of dreams.

Bring you a sandstone, from a
beechnut ground, chestnuts and tender looks
litter and crowd, remnants of a river-beach and
sand-built hearts, lie with pretty pennies
in a mud-stained palm;
all are the colours
of the garden’s
pumpkin yarn,
and all are mine,
all beautiful mine.

Bring us a moment in passing time
to plant our wishes
side by side, to push them deep
into bark that weeps, for joy of every sigh…

Give them roots, caressing vines take hold,
arms to entwine with soft tinges of gold, that fall like confetti
with each breeze that blows, and the rain murmurs all
that we know:

here, one autumn, on a wishing tree,
a summer’s future was told. 

Written at Bolton Abbey - 27.10.13 :) 

Sunday, 11 August 2013


Because I love the way you laugh,
and I love the way you cry,
because I love that my 
tender words
put tears in your beautiful eyes. I love
the way you drive
and all the ways you smile;
mouth and heart, and body,
and soul, and all the beauty you make
roll over, somewhere
inside of me. I love the stars
as close 
as they seem
with the safety of your hand
in mine.

I love the sparks, 
that bounce like wildfires,
the moments of truth
and our aches of desire, unthinking confidence,
and glorious touch,
unasking and needing and driven 
by a must that insists 
we entwine;

I love 
every new sin
sings choirs of the blessed divine.

I love how you listen and the ways 
that you feel, your words that caress and 
so effortlessly heal; 
I love all your whispers, your lips, 
your embrace,
gentle fingers 
that entice 
and gracefully trace along pathways that we walk
without reason 
or rhyme...

An unexplained meeting 
of two, jigsaw minds.

Let it be known, without hiding, or chains,
that I 
love all of these things...

but none so much, my darling,
as the inspiration that builds my wings. 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Catch a Monkey

Softly, softly, catch a monkey,
turn him inside out,
chase him up an apple tree whilst
the serpent
slithers about the feet 
of leverets,
as gentle as their twitching nose,
softly, softly,
catch a monkey, and hang
him by his toes above the bluebells
that litter his jungle floor,
starved of light,
and broken-stemmed
and destined evermore to follow
a breadcrumb trail,
to a house of gingerbread,
to hear the words of fairytale
the monkey softly said as he sat
upon his toadstools
and his piles of sparkling snow;
shining the horn
of a white unicorn
where little girls were sure to
go and sit
beside the Cheshire Cat all draped
in his gifts and
Fool's Gold.
Creepy, creepy,
a smiling monkey,
all high up in his nutmeg tree;
count to ten, he'll hide again
and in the night shall flee amongst
his Tom cats
and his pretty kittens
all in a row;
...but softly, softly
catch a monkey,
little does he know.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Sun and The Moon


The moon had been quite content; floating amongst all the stars. The stars were pretty, each one was different, and she never saw the same one twice. They never stayed long, the stars, they didn’t stop more than a brief moment on their journeys; and though they were shining and silver, the moon rarely followed them when they left. Sometimes, if they were particularly bright, she might stay up to watch them fading in the dawn light, gently sparkling on the edge of the blue.
One morning after she had stayed up late, quite by accident, the moon caught sight of the sun. She gasped, all in awe, when she witnessed his beauty. Tender and caressing, like her own light, at first, he shone over the edge of the horizon, but as he rose higher and higher in the morning sky, he became more fierce and intense, stronger and passionate. The moon almost cried. He lit up the darkness in a way no star had ever done. It took her by the heart and she floated; ghost-like in the morning’s haze, to get nearer to him.
The closer she got, the warmer she felt. It was funny; the moon had never realised she was cold before. She got so close she could feel him beating, not only upon her surface, but within her. She felt almost blinded by his brightness, and had to shield her eyes. Her body prickled in his heat. She felt she could go no closer, lest she be injured by the astounding light. And yet she could not go away. So the moon stood at a distance from the sun, and called across the darkness to him.
Now, the sun had been quite content, floating amongst all the pretty stars. He was often lonely in the day time; and lingered, long into the evenings, or rose early in the mornings, that he might catch a glimpse of the stars, shining around his bed. He liked the stars, but they faded too quickly, always leaving before he had chance to show them the day.
One morning the sun rose when it was still dark, in hope of spending longer with the stars. As he peered over the horizon, quite by accident, the sun caught sight of the moon. He was stilled and astonished by the way she shone. Not hot or fiery like his own light, but cool and patient, all tenderness and blue. She lit up the darkness like no star ever had, and all the smallest things, like the moths and the lace-wings, and all the largest, like the oceans and the whales, all wanted to be near her. She looked so delicate and precious…like a jewel in the early, azure sky.
The sun was certain that he loved the moon. He stayed late at night just to look at her. Rose even earlier just to see her light the dark. He watched her from far away, where he was sure his heat would not harm her.
Sometimes the sun was sure he had heard the moon calling to him, and that the sound of her patient words, her gentle breath, had cooled his burning for a moment. But he could not be sure. Perhaps it was wishful thinking? He dare not call back, for fear that he had been wrong.
“What would she, who is beloved by mighty oceans, followed by elegant lace-wings, and surrounded with cool serenity, want with a turbulent fire such as I?” It could not be true. The sun was sure and certain, he was not worthy of her beauty and the desire she commanded.
Sometimes the sun lost the moon for days, or months. Sometimes he could not see her for all the pretty stars, or worse still, for dark clouds in his eyes. He longed for her, but did not search. He felt she had gone away those days, just as he deserved; away from his tempestuous burning. But when his light softened, in the morning or the evening, she always returned, patient and present, constant, and it cooled him just to look at her.
Now, when she called across the darkness, the moon was certain the sun could hear her. Sometimes, she felt he even turned his head towards her. But he always ignored her; just as she deserved. The sun was all passion and excitement, and all things wanted to be with him, from the tiny flowers who tilted their petals towards him each morning, to the children who offered up their hands and their joy to his warmth. The flowers closed their petals when they saw the moon, and the children slept. She could never hope to be so captivating.
Said the moon: “Why would something so beautiful, to whom all the flowers and the children turn their faces and smile, answer to my chilled voice that dare not go closer for fear the heat shall harm me?”
So the moon watched the sun and gathered her courage, creeping closer each day, where she could feel his warmth grow raging. Sometimes, the moon lost the sun, for days, or months, behind thick clouds or a passing pretty star, but she always looked for him, and in the morning or the evening, she would find him again. Soon, the moon found she did not want the moths’ wings to kiss her anymore, nor the oceans’ waves to caress her. She recoiled from what had once been pleasure. There was no joy lest it come from him. She needed only to feel the heat of the sun. This was how the moon grew certain that she loved the sun.
One evening, the sun seemed restful, and so, the moon stood trembling before him. Right before him, as close as she could be. Suddenly, all his light was for her, and it did not burn; all his beauty was ceremoniously unveiled. The sun hid nothing, and the moon neither – both were naked and beautiful, and only for one another.
“I love you,” said the sun, “but I will destroy you. There are times you cannot be so close. I am too hot, too rough, too unpredictable. I will consume you. I love you. Don’t stay. Because I love you…don’t stay.”
Said the moon: “I move oceans; I am far stronger than I seem. Look carefully, you will see I too am rough and unpredictable. See the cold and the winds that blow on my surface? They grow quiet when I am with you. Your heat is not so blistering, it does not burn me.”
Said the sun: “It grows cooler when I am with you.”
“I love you…” said the moon. “And because I love you, I cannot…I will not go.”
There was no light on the Earth that day, as the sun and the moon stood gazing, face to face. But every heart saw, just the same, that love is strongest in the darkness, and in the ones who stay.  

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Tell Me a Secret

Tell me a secret 
part of you I can treasure,
and revere, as essence 
of a closeness 
of hearts, 
give me open, and
welcoming arms 
that call, 
only my name,
out of longing and grace; 
let me watch as your seeking 
fingers trace in solace, all the rose-tint
of my gentle curves, 
tell me all the ways I can brighten
your world and lend me quiet moments 
to whisper these 
words that struggle
to form 
and decant; 
better yet let them be said 
with a tender, warm
and kisses like silk
or lace; 
better still to be drawn 
with a slow, 
dancing taste, of a tongue 
on fresh-salted skin;
the sort that frees 
sleeping truths 
from within all our deepest,
and most cavernous 
if naked and bare
we talk of our souls,
then we entrust our desires 
...and hearts. 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

First Flight

My soul feels the gentle sway 
of you,
hard footprints across my heart, too long a 
winter-wind has blown, and held us
only too far 
apart, Too many days 
have passed
without comfort; 
without solace 
in your listening eyes, 
too many mornings have come 
and gone without you, 
at my side. Too many nights now we haven't 
raced a sunset, 
too often we've missed its rise, all for want 
of moments to spend;
for a freedom-game; 
for time. So long since we have walked, 
both barefoot,
in grass without an autumn rain, 
or felt a fresh spring bluster fill 
our hair 
in a sun-dappled lane.Yesterday and yesterday 
since we felt summer's tender flame 
come creeping
and entice our spirits, to beauty 
and wanton things;
but yet it comes, my dear one;
beneath your saddle,
I felt the buds of wings.


Sunday, 14 April 2013

An Awful Palaver


Mr Chichester-Fortiscue (exasperated): “Insert the pole here, Mrs Ramsey…do you see, into this hole. There should always be something in every hole. I can’t do it all myself and hold these ropes tight to boot!”

Mrs Ramsey: “Well…yes Mr Chichester-Fortiscue, I quite agree…it is most preferable to fill all the holes at once. I’m trying, but I seem to be having a little trouble with this one. You see the pole feels rather too large. It’s a terrible squeeze, and it’s very long. I don’t know quite how to handle it on my own and I’m not entirely sure the hole will accommodate it. I’m rather nervous to try whilst I’m entangled in these bonds. Do you think you could push a little harder from your end and we might manage it together? I simply don’t understand it…I’m really very experienced, I’ve never had such bother before. Do you think the pole could be bent Mr Chichester-Fortiscue? Perhaps it’s gone limp in the middle?”

Mr Chichester-Fortiscue: “Mrs Ramsey! I assure you, this pole is neither bent nor limp!!! There is nothing wrong with this pole at all! It’s a very fine pole indeed. It simply requires some careful manipulation to perform satisfactorily. I feel perhaps it is you who are being too heavy handed in your approach!”

Mr Gatesgill: “Heavy handed, Chichester-Fortiscue? Oh no. I’ve always had her down as very conscientious. Slow and steady, I grant you, but she gets the job done, and done very well in my experience. Do you require some assistance Mrs Ramsey?”

Mrs Ramsey: “Oh, thank you kindly Mr Gatesgill…that does make me feel so much better about the whole mess. We really are struggling… Mr Chichester-Fortiscue is trying to insert his pole into this rather tight hole and it’s become an awful palaver! We’ve been at it for at least twenty minutes and I can’t feel a thing at my end yet. Usually it’s been snugly in by now, with just a little wiggle either side, but this time…in and out, in and out…and not very far in at that! It keeps getting stuck. I’m afraid Mr Chichester-Fortiscue thinks it ‘s my fault, and he’s rather losing his temper.”

Mr Gatesgill: “Right-ho Mrs Ramsey… Ah  yes…it’s nothing to fret about. I’ve seen this happen many times. Quite normal. It’s easily sorted. Now then…you take hold of the hole here and hold it open like this…yes that’s it, that’s wonderful Mrs Ramsey…and we’ll feed the pole in gently, bit at a time. Are you quite ready? “

Mrs Ramsey: “As I’ll ever be gentlemen.”

Mr Gatesgill: “Very well…push Chichester-Fortiscue…ah yes, it is rather a snug fit, isn’t it? Harder man, harder…put some effort into it! That’s better!! I can really feel that now! Is it coming Mrs Ramsey?”

Mrs Ramsey: “Oh…oh…I say, do be careful! Not so roughly Mr Gatesgill…you’re going to tear something…ouch! Ow! Stop…stop, I say…don’t just ram it in! You’re being too forceful, that’s rather hurting me!!”

Mr Chichester-Fortiscue: “My sincere apologies dear…old Gatesgill here can be something of a beast and a brute…can you feel anything yet?”

Mrs Ramsey: “Yes, yes…I think so Mr Chichester-Fortiscue…I think I’m just beginning to feel the end of it. Push it faster now, that’s right, Just twist it a little to the left…oh  yes, YES! That’s it!!! …now back to the right…that’s it…here it comes…push! Push harder gentlemen! Oh, that’s just the ticket, it’s all the way in! …Now then…this part goes up the bottom. Come and pull these ropes tighter Mr Gatesgill! Oh that’s fantastic…there it is poking out the other side! What a joy to behold after all that effort!”

Mr Chichester-Fortiscue: “A joy to behold indeed, Mrs Ramsey…damn fine tent! The boy scouts will be thrilled!”

Mrs Ramsey: “I’m so glad I could be of assistance, Mr Chichester-Fortiscue, Mr Gatesgill. You just be sure to show the Scouts a good time this weekend.”

Mr Gatesgill: “Oh we certainly will, Mrs Ramsey…I’ve thought of nothing else all week.”

Friday, 12 April 2013

#Fridayflash - What The Darkness Is For


If you have ever lain alone at night, you will know what the darkness is for. If ever you have seen that deepest blackness, the sort that folds you in its soft embrace; I can say, beyond doubt, you will know. The darkness will have spoken to you some way. And the things that the darkness is for, will be different for everyone.
Your darkness may be for thinking, for fretting, perhaps, about the things you could not control… All the might-have-beens. Or it may be a velvet cloak of filthy self-analysis, criticisms of all the you that still feels uncontrolled. Your darkness may be for reliving old guilt, for chastising yourself in regret; or it may be for living in freedom and joy, with quiet conscience and the lessons of before… The purpose of the darkness, depends only upon the sway of your soul.
Perhaps your darkness is all for feeling - if you are not the analytical type. For the blind acceptance of the here. The now. And the you that is, and ever shall be. Perhaps, my friend, you are just like me, and that is what your darkness is for.
You see, I lie alone in the dark on purpose. I always have done. Ever since. It allows me moments of quiet, to remember, to taste my past and understand an inevitable future, that in a matter of time, I know, will come. It allows me to know myself, to admit my wants. The things I have desired and can take now, beyond the bounds of my egocentricity. I keep myself, a myriad of treasures in my chest; and it is the darkness that lets me open the lid.
In the embered blackness, I can take from the box, all of my selfish trinkets. Count, one by one, all the reasons that I lie alone. And I lay each one, before my minds eye, like the stones and seashells, that she placed, in rows on our garden wall.
First, I can lay down her loaded words, the ones she gave to me, in a note intended as parting. All the things she asked me to be and to do in fine handwriting that didn’t quite say ‘goodbye’. Then I can lay down the bright, round buttons, of her favourite blue coat, and recall, how they matched her eyes.
I can run my fingers, smoothly over a lock of her hair, the one I cut, in the last hour, and tied carefully with a ribbon. Then, I can take her scent, from the chest of my memory, and stroke it the way I did her skin, in the final days, before it was dry, or thin, or pale...like paper…and when it almost still smelled of her.   
And I can think of the apple tree I planted above her, uninterrupted thoughts; as I take the most precious item from my box. The shrivelled heart she told me didn’t love me anymore, lies still now, and she could nearly be right. But my own heart still throbs when I hold its coldness…its desiccation, up close to my skin. It will never be over for me.
What she could not give, I took. To have…and to hold. Lest I die of its absence.
Her or me. Acceptance.
That, is what the darkness is for.
I sign and date it, and add this ode to my box, when I re-pack my cherished charms. When they come, I don’t want them to judge me. I want them all to know that I knew them, and all their darkness too. That we are the same, but for the sway of our souls.
I slide the box, with care, back beneath my bed…and in the velvet blackness, again, I lie alone.  


I confess, I walked these streets
and something inside me called
your name, and I pushed all my gentle
memories away, like they did not stab
at me.
And I watched all the diamonds fold and seem
to sparkle
in their lights of tomorrow,
and I could not deny any rubies of
sorrows, they dragged up
from my reflecting soul.
All told, I wanted
to stop
and rewind,
to say all the things that once
upon a time, hours ate
whilst I let them go by.
May sun in a cold, clear sky, was enough,
just enough, to remind me to breathe,
but it was not nearly enough
to deceive,
or blind,
from my heart’s recall.
So I confess, I walked these streets today,
 - wholly unforgotten again -
and I gladly remembered it all. 

The Rock

Ode to the place my soul lives...

and then,
when I sit atop you,
I wonder on all
that we have known and
come through; a childhood, the sunsets,
on which ledges I have stood, picnics and
laughter and the trappings
of a dutiful love,
and my hands, by instinct, caress the one
to whom I would gather my prisons and silently run,
whenever there was nowhere else.
For you knew all the times
I put myself on a shelf, of tomorrow and tomorrow
above the clandestine truth,
you knew my desires, all in vain,
you watched all my days, forced to be the same
and you cut my shackles free again, whenever
I had moments
to watch the clouds of your blue.
None of it was ever you
not really
just a means of wanton escape.
But you’ve stopped me in my tracks, each and every way,
with your views, all the days of my life.
And lying beside you, awaiting a sunset tonight,
I feel a ghost
of future and summer heat, in the sun:
And I can say now,
‘stay mine forever,
someday...when they ask...
I will share you with someone’.

Little Girls...


Fourteen. Four-teen.
She used to be fourteen. September 1999. Her grandmother made her a birthday cake. Green, royal icing turf and little fondant, red shirts, all the way around the edges. Her parents bought her a team scarf. Pride of the Treble year. In the picture, she is sitting at the dining room table, proudly holding it up, and smiling. Candles blown out. Little blue t-shirt with a daisy on the front: appliqué - “He loves me…he loves me not.” Hair drawn back in a ponytail, glossy waves in her combed-out curls – curls, at fourteen, were not cool.
School. She went to school when she was fourteen. Bright, they said. One of the fortunate ones, who excelled with what always seemed little effort; who took the higher exams without ever really noticing. She tied her tie with the yellow stripes far too short, on purpose. She pinned a shiny pig, and a treasured, team crest, to the pointy end of it. HER tie. Tuck your shirt in. No thanks. Fitted shirts don’t need tucking in, rather hanging out, to conceal skirts that are rolled up at the waist. Put your blazer on. If I must…playful smile…sleeves rolled up, long-embedded creases from the bottom of her backpack. Fourteen.
Rebellious? Not really. She affirmed friendships at fourteen that she would have forever. If forever is now? Lively, but loyal, wild moments, yet safely dependable…just an average year in an adventure of growing up. Growing up, and growing together.
She dropped a few trainers out of the third floor window, but nine times out of ten, her homework was in on time. She knew about the six week old, open tin of tuna under the science bench, but she wasn’t for telling who did it, and her investigations were always thoroughly researched. Her artwork and handwriting were called ‘beautiful’, but she guessed all the answers to her mental arithmetic. She had manners, but gave as much good-natured cheek as her grades allowed her to get away with. Ever the Artful Dodger. Ever as amusing, as she was infuriating. Survivor, by any means. Especially, a cheeky smile.
She wrote pages and pages of lines in good weather…lovely neat lines… I must not be late back from lunch, I must not be late back from lunch …And pages and pages of well-formed and well-argued essays. She had forbidden stickers on all of her books, graffiti in her planner, a middle finger up to 'the rules' in a lot of ways, but she always finished her work. Tomorrow was coming. Driven, ambitious…gonna fly. Gonna get away. Fourteen.
Life moved too fast, and was far too interesting, to waste a slip of sunshine on lunch. There would always be an ice cream van in the schoolyard (Yes mum…I had a salad…), and rays to feel warming her hair. Mischief, & freedom…were entirely different to malice.
She gave the rest of her lunch money away on the days she didn’t need it. Someone else always did. Half decent kid; half-grown. Big attitude, big fun…big, growing heart. Fourteen. No angel, no real trouble. Not a care in the world…it seemed.
Fourteen days after she left fourteen behind, she took a fourteen day holiday to a little, sunny island. Her parents took a day trip. A week out of school before half term, she stayed at the hotel, to read the English text she’d be missing in the lessons back home: Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.
Beach bag, book…bright orange bikini. Towel, sun-lounger…swimming pool. Hot day, pool side smiles… …Lone boy. Pool fountain…giggles… Discarded exam practice, mislaid text book. Boy…pool table… Chatter, laughter. Sweet shop…pool bar… Hotel room. Number 14.
Lesson: He loves me…? He loves me not.
All little girls will be fourteen someday. The good, the bad…and the mischievous. No angels, & no real trouble.
Most important lesson on which there will be an exam: No difference: all little Rapunzels in their towers... He loves me, he loves me not. 
My response to the Leeds Savage Club Writers' Group Task - Fourteen.