Stolen Memories

My heart knew as soon as I saw his face – your father’s,
Drawn and ashen; tears clawing troughs through his skin.
He held out your lost shoe in his trembling hand, as if by way of explanation.
His only offer of apology for letting you out.
For letting you go.

They’d come as they always did.
Predators, praying on the strong and the young, taking their fill.
And those young lives, full of such innocence and promise
Herded and chained like animals
And treated worse.

I wonder to what distant shores those phantom whites took you
Upon the waves and storms of sickness and death
I thought I saw you once in the market-place, and ran to nothing
But eyes dry with grief
See ghosts everywhere.

Every passing day of every year since, I look to the sky
Seeking comfort in the hope that you, too, still live to see
And I sleep with your shoe wrapped in my redundant arms
And pray that your house
Is more home than this.

The On-looker

I spoke to him one night; the man in the moon
Of life on the patchwork that spun at his feet.
He listened intently; and shook his gently
At the circles and cycles of life, on repeat.

A wiry white finger, then hovered and lingered
On the fifth of the earth made of sand and of green.
‘Tell me,’ he asked, ‘of this land that’s so vast –
Of its deserts and jungles, and all in between.’

Once happy he knew of what prowled and what growled
Of the waters, and creatures, the trees and the rain,
He turned to me slowly, and leaned in more closely
His eyes fixed and ready to quiz me again.

‘And what about man, and his great, perfect plan?
Has he learned from the seasons, from life’s ebb and flow?
In a land with such colour, where life gives to each other
Does man see through the eyes of a friend or a foe?’

His silence was thunder, my sorrow, torrential
And a cloud, like a shroud, hid the man from my view
When he bathed me once more, and the dark side had turned
I felt sure I’d confirmed what he already knew.

‘In a land of diversity, why not love, why adversity,
In a country of rainbows, why’s it all black and white?
Such joy in full colour, yet you judge one another
On the skin, not within, or the source of your light!

How can lands of such majesty, be home to brutality
How can one man lord over another with threat?
All those years all those tears, and the cries and the lies…
Still you re-live the horror and you chose to forget.

Where the sun shines more brightly, so the skin is more nightly
The spectrum is radiant, east through to west
Yet you see definition in a colour addition
Making foolish assumptions, ignoring the rest!

All life is a blessing, all men stand as equal
For all love their families, their homes and their friends
Yet still you insist, with the traits that persist.
If your sight was diminished would hatred all end?’

‘We’re not all bad,’ I whispered, ‘or narrow of mind
There’s a new wind that’s blowing, from north through to south
An age of acceptance; a united resistance
Options self-formed, not from cruel word of mouth.

We’re kneeling, and standing and changing together
A pallet of humans who judge on the heart.
A joining of nations, of all generations
We’re coming together, not pulling apart.

Keep watching, my moon-friend, this new generation
We’ll counter the madness and level the field
There’s no discrimination by God, in creation
And we won’t stop uniting ‘til division is healed.’

The man looked me sideways, and squinted a little
He tip-tapped his foot, whilst a hand stroked his chin.
Though his anger had faded; and seemed almost persuaded
Still a sadness exuded from the cold warmth within.

‘Can I ask you a question? he finally whispered.
‘You’re all human, so can you then tell me please, why?
A difference in colour so you’re cruel to your brother?

…Try as I might, I couldn’t reply.

Why-Ogenics

One evening last week, I settled down with a cuppa to watch a programme on the after-life. I was on my own; trying to watch anything of that ilk with Mr M Is futile – I can’t hear a thing for his raucous laughter.

There were parts of the programme that were intriguing, and others that were open to interpretation. Near-death experiences have been documented so frequently that there must be something in them, but ghostly audio recordings made in a vast, Victorian hotel? I suspect they’re more likely to be from channel 666 than anything more sinister! Towards the end of the documentary, however, the presenter moved on to the subject of cryogenics.

I watched in horror as the Cryo man took the programme’s presenter on a tour of his macabre facility. Large tanks divided into four vertical outer chambers hold as many complete bodies. Further, its central cylinder, separated horizontally into another five, smaller, chambers, is designed specifically to house an equal number of heads. Apparently, some people can’t afford the full 99…

The process of preparing the body for freezing offers a grieving family very little time to say farewell. There’s substantial speed involved in getting the departed to the facility, followed by a fair amount of draining, bagging and chilling, before the final deep freeze. It struck me as an awful lot of fuss for a body that’s done its time, and I couldn’t help but to think of that commercial for frozen peas (although, for the deceased, the ‘pop’ moment is possibly less sweet).

The presenter quizzed the Cryo-man on the reasons why people should choose to be frozen. There were several: Individuals not being ready to ‘die,’ others who wanted to be re-awakened in a future where science had developed to such a degree that it could promise a successful thaw, and others whose egos weren’t yet ready to be forgotten. None of these were compelling enough for me. I wouldn’t say I was anticipating my death with Christmas-Eve like enthusiasm, but I am happy that its inevitability is guaranteed, and that death is an experience I will share with everyone else. More than that, however, none of the cryo-science babble gave me any concrete evidence or confidence that its claims, or the hopes of its willing vegetables, could be fulfilled.

I am very lucky. I share my life with a varied host of wonderful individuals who all have their own take on what happens when we die. There are those, like me, who like to hold on to the hope of a heavenly connectedness. There are those who believe in total nothingness. And there are those who simply don’t care. However, amongst most of us – from the spiritual to scientific – there is something of an unspoken agreement that our energy or our soul (or whatever you want to call it), leaves our body at the point of our death. Studies have been done which involved weighing a body before and after death. The results were staggering. Whatever leaves the body weighs approximately the same, irrespective of who once housed it.

We’re a funny bunch. We love Disney films and Father Christmas, vampires and werewolves, because a part of our child-like psyche still wants to believe in mystery. And yet, another part of us is busy exploring space and conducting experiments on out of body experiences and Astral Travelling to eradicate it. We desperately want to know everything, and yet we concoct fantasies because we still need some magic. In the end, perhaps it all comes down to control. All the time our fantasies and nightmares are of our own making, we’re quite happy. But death? Well, we have no control over that. And perhaps there-in lies the real reason why some would choose to be frozen. Naked. In a tank with complete strangers…

I’m certain that, at the point a body is frozen, the part of it that might care about its condition or its immediate neighbours, won’t care. It will be floating around the ether, kicking itself that it didn’t invest in cryogenics when it was alive rather than increasing its profits post-mortem. Even if it’s possible to revive a frozen body, what do the Cryo People hope to animate it with? Our consciousness, soul, spirit, energy – whatever you want to call it – is not of the body. How many times have we heard heart-breaking stories of a body still breathing when its brain is clinically dead? I simply don’t see how, even if a body is successfully brought back to life, it could ever ‘be’ the person it once was.

So where does that leave the remains? On display in a museum? Used in crude Frankenstein experiments, to be aired on future reality TV? Will Worzle Gummage make an unexpected come back to children’s television with so many different heads to choose from? I suspect nothing so glamorous. I suspect that, on the quiet, the bodies will finally be disposed of; buried, or even burnt (novel idea) with no-one who cares around to say good-bye.

The metaphysical school of thought believes that our energy is housed in different bodies and in different lifetimes in order to learn lessons and to evolve. Look back five hundred years, and in some, (although, unfortunately, not all), respects, our evolution has been consistent. Therefore, even if the Cryo-Millionaires find a way to resuscitate both the bodies and their respective spirits currently in their care, would there really be a place for them in modern society? I’m pretty sure that if we were suddenly presented with a pod of Neanderthal men, we might struggle to find them suitable work.

Yet perhaps, given who currently resides at Number 10 and The White House, I’m completely wrong.

Angels with Tails

As some of you already know, last week, our beloved black Labrador, Archie, had major surgery for liver cancer. On the day his tumour was identified on scan, I sobbed. When his diagnosis came through, I sobbed. On the day his tumour was removed, I sobbed. And I continued to sob on the days in between. Dog owners and dog lovers would simply get it. And though there are many ‘nons’ who wouldn’t and who might suggest euthanasia as an appropriate solution, I feel no anger towards them. Instead, I’m simply sad that they haven’t experienced the strength of love that a dog inspires, or the utter loss their death provokes when their bowls and beds are tearfully packed away, and their lead is taken down from its hook because its sheer presence is too painful to bear. I love Archie, I mean I REALLY love him. And during the last few weeks I’ve started to wonder what it is about our furry family members that induces such passion in us, and if, in fact, they are part of the bigger plan.

I’ve heard it said many times, and my case was no exception. Archie chose me. From a litter of seven bitches and one dog, I was adopted by him the moment I entered his world. Archie or ‘Shuttlegate Sebastian’ as he is identified by the Kennel Club, came from pedigree stock. Subsequently the list of interested potential owners was long. Yet he came to me – the only one on the list who wasn’t going to show him or to breed him. I knew nothing of owning a puppy, so I read how-to books and spoke to lots of people. I took three days off work when he first came home, and crept around the house as he slept, fearful of waking him. On his first few nights, I laid down next to him and held his paw as he cried. ‘Bang the edge of his crate with a rolled-up newspaper when he starts whining.’ I was told. ‘He won’t do it again.’ Needless to say, that advice, along with several other gems, was dismissed with the same degree of disgust as a BNP leaflet. In the end, I just went with my gut and that’s always been ruled by my heart.

As a pup, Arch was hilarious. He would fetch me the blankets from his crate when he felt they were dirty. He would ‘help’ me take the washing off the line by hurling himself at the garments on the whirly. And he would sit on my lap as I worked at home, licking my nose as I tried to type. Arch was smart and loved by everyone who met him. But he was also easily bored and knew how to communicate it. His crowning moment at puppy-classes was meandering into the middle of the ‘sit, down, stay’ obedience circle when he’d had enough, rolling on to his back, and sticking his winky in the air! I couldn’t stop laughing. The officious trainer, however, didn’t start… Arch & I left.

Archie is now eleven and a half, which in human years is 80, and I’ve sadly watched him age before my eyes; the greying chin, the slower pace… He comes to work most days, has his own email address, his own Swiped-On in our entry software, and can normally be found sitting regally on the welcome mat in front of our reception desk. My employees love him and affectionately call him our Morale Officer! He’s still funny and still smart. But as the years have passed, he’s become something else, too. On the evening my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he paced between ours and the guest bedroom where my brother slept, all night, just keeping watch. On the days that I walked with him weeping about my dad’s death, or my infertility, or any of the other stuff that has been part of my growth, he hasn’t left me to sniff, or to play, or to run. He has stayed by my side, glancing upwards every now and then. And those times when a family member has been poorly, he has laid down beside them and checked them frequently with a wet nose on theirs. I’ve often read that the people with whom we spend our earthly lives are pre-selected before we are even born and I’m beginning to wonder if this process also includes our beloved pets. However, though the metaphysical school of thought suggests that this pre-selection process, grouping us with personalities that we adore and despise, furthers our growth, I can’t help but to think that perhaps the role of our furry friends is something more beautiful altogether. I fell in love with my bundle of fluff the moment he reached up for me on our first meeting, and I have continued to fall. And for someone with whom I have never had what might be termed a ‘normal conversation’, Archie’s company is one I actively seek, and really miss when we’re not together.

Having watched two separate friends lose their beloved dogs in as many weeks, I thank the grace of God that there don’t go I. Yet I know Archie’s time will come. However, even if he makes 15, surely a life of 15 years is still too short? I look at my constant companion, my furry ‘son’ who arrived just before life really got interesting, and I wonder. I wonder about the times just being in his presence made me feel better. I wonder about the healing properties of those daily early morning and late evening walks by his side, and I wonder about those cuddles, and the times just his warmth and his companionship stopped my tears. And I wonder, with dread and guilt, what effect this all had on him. The beautiful empath with the listening ears, the wagging tail and those endless brown eyes who never left my side: has he knowingly and willingly absorbed my shit, my negative energy, to help further my journey? Was that why he chose me? Was I always his destiny?

If I were to describe my relationship with Arch, I would probably say it’s the most enlightened relationship I have ever known. Not once has Archie made me feel jealous, bitter, angry, insignificant, worthless, or unauthentic. In addition, Archie allows me to nurture and care for him in a way that never prompts criticism or rebuff from him. On the odd day that other worldly frustrations lead me to be short with him, Archie doesn’t retaliate. And that unspoken forgiveness immediately leads to an instant, regretful apology on my part, and inspires my determination to do better.

During the last few weeks, having come close to the possibility of losing our beloved Archie-Onion-Belly-Rub, I’ve formed something of an opinion. It is my suspicion that, to the detriment of their own life-span, our dogs willingly share and take on our burdens. They are part of our bigger picture, arriving just when they are needed. By the very nature of their utter trust in and love of us, they show us the simplicity of peaceful, fulfilling relationships – a greeting at the front door, a kiss whenever possible: gratitude for the smallest of things. Our dogs teach us the benefits of fun, exercise and fresh air. They show us that being with those we love should always be a source of joy. They illustrate perfectly the advantages of mindfulness; that living in the here and now, chasing that ball, snoozing in the sunshine is really all that matters. And they show us that even when we might feel like failures in other aspects of our lives, when it comes to our interactions with them, we are doing just fine.

Spiritual books often say the following; that in giving we receive, that to love is to be loved in return, and that the here and now is really all that matters. We invest so much time, angst, money and heartache in seeking contentment, and yet perhaps many of us are already living alongside the greatest spiritual teachers we will ever know – the ones who were assigned to us; the ones who recognised us as soon as we met.

Our dogs demand very little, and yet most responsible dog owners don’t bat an eyelid about fulfilling those demands and would willingly fulfil a thousand more. With our dogs we effortlessly succeed where we mostly fail in our human interactions, and perhaps that all comes down to this. By the very nature of the purity of their hearts, the simplicity of their demands, and the unconditional authenticity of their love, our dogs in turn bring out the very best in us – they show us how absolutely wonderful we can be. Perhaps they are trying to urge us that if we would only mirror this behaviour – both theirs and ours – with our fellow human beings, our continued evolution would be assured.

I’m pretty sure there’s more to our dogs than we’ll ever know, and if their example, their teaching and their ultimate sacrifice isn’t the action of a heavenly being then I really don’t know what is… Angels really do exist. And they’re rather partial to the odd sausage!

Can’t Do Nothin’

A thousand polar memories hide behind those weather eyes
Clear blue bright-light, grey storm take-flight; ever-changing skies
Pure heart choked by distant apron strings that always stayed undone
Did I tell you when we first met, I just knew you were my son?

You can rant, and you can rave, throw, and I will move aside
Push and pull, be kid-cruel, I’ll keep swallowing my pride
The self-fulfilling depth of you that fears what it creates
Pushes love lines to its boundaries, tests to see if it will break

And the hurt goes round and round, like an endless spinning top
And though I try to break the cycle, only you can make it stop
Take my hand, walk this land, knowing I am here to stay
Do your worst, cruel outburst, this mum still won’t go away.

So much love, Lord above, so much beauty in your soul
Empathy, shared with me, wish that I could make you whole
Can’t stand back, as you loose track, of the man you’re meant to be
Get it wrong, and you’re gone, back to turning back on me.

And the pain goes round and round, like a helter-skelter ride
And though I try to break the cycle, only you can heal inside
Take my hand, walk this land, knowing my love is forever
Do your worst, cruel outburst, this mum is leaving never

When you laugh its crystal sleigh-bells ringing softly in my heart
But when your thunder crashes wildly, I watch you rip yourself apart
Passing pain, falling rain, cascading slowly down your face
Your rage is not your making, it’s just love that’s been misplaced.

And the trust goes round and round, like a donkey on a beach
And though I try to help you hold it, it keeps slipping out of reach
Take my hand, walk this land, know I love without condition
Do your worst, cruel outburst, you have my full permission

I signed a private contract, another place, a different time
Swore that I would always love you, and that you’d always be mine
In my heart, from the start – you and I are just like one.
Did I tell you when I met you, I just knew you were my son?

And the hope goes round and round, like a record on a table
And though I try to re-enforce it, only you are truly able
Take my hand, walk this land, knowing I will always be
Do your worst, cruel outburst, you still mean the world to me

Hurt and fear, when they appear, seem united in attack
Minus minus = positive, nothing’s ever white and black
Plug the holes, heal your soul, promise endlessly repeated
Can’t do nothin, must do something, double negative defeated

And the love goes round and round, like a milk-shake in a mixer
And if you’re feeling left in pieces, let me help you be your fixer
Take my hand, walk this land, laughing, crying on the way
Do your worst, cruel outburst,
I’ll love you past my dying day.

Women of Contribution

I am so excited to share with you that I am a co-author in the upcoming, “The Pay it Forward Series: Notes to My Younger Self Vol 2” book which will be launched on International Women’s Day, March 8th 2019, in Windsor, UK.

To celebrate the official launch we are having a VIP evening of glamour, elegance and Prosecco at the beautiful chapel in the Beaumont Estate, Windsor and I would love you to join me and my 17 co-authors as we celebrate our phenomenal achievement of sharing our stories of hope, wisdom and inspiration and signing the first copies of our transformational book.

During the day we will be joining the first 18 authors of Vol 1 of the book at the first ever Women of Contribution “Destined for Bigger Things” conference so I would love you to join me for both.

Click on the link below:-
https://womenofcontribution.lpages.co/destined-for-bigger-things

Cigarette Papers

As soon as I saw it, I instinctively knew it had once been yours.  That small, green box: its once crisp, white papers, soiled now by the falling Autumn rain.
I wondered for how long it had lain there; how many other dog walkers had taken the path beside it, and of those, how many had seen it and had still passed it by. And then I pondered the manner in which it had been discarded. Had it accidently been left behind, or had it been deliberately abandoned? A new start, perhaps? Or another loss; another victim of distraction?
In my heart’s eye I saw you, slumped upon the bench above the box’s muddy resting place; watery eyes fixed on the fading future once so clearly before you. And then my vision changed, and instead I saw your heavy eyes lowered to the grass at your feet – the grass you’d once trodden together – and onto the wild flowers you’d once gifted, and to the glossy beds of clover you’d once shared.
How long had you sat upon that bench? How long…
I finally turned reluctantly away, leaving the box where it had fallen, all the while wondering if instead I should pick it up and take it home.
And as I left, it struck me that you and that inanimate object sadly seemed to have so much in common.

All Of Me (from The Huntsmen of Nethermoor)

This was not meant to be.
I had resigned myself to my fate and grown happy in its empty company, secure that its cruel hand would never break the ice of my heart.
Empty promises and ill-chosen words that rambled with such bad intention, had long since fallen on deaf ears – too punctured to listen – too bruised to care.
Kisses and caresses were as easily acted as hollow smiles, that protected insecurity, and feigned arrogance in fear.

My life became a journey of solitude down an unlit pathway with no horizon.
Never needed to look beside me for companionship.
Never wanted to look back.
And doors remained safely locked.
Nothing asked to come in,
Nothing left to come out.
An empty room suffocating on the stale air of abandoned dreams.

How was it, then, that springtime filtered into my heart and chased away the shadows of my haunted past?
When did light pour through the broken windows of my soul and find me cowering under its gentle gaze?
Who gave you permission, key holder, to stand before me demanding nothing, but promising everything in return?
What sent you to fill my mind with hopeful possibilities, when I have fought and defeated them for so long…

Do I dare to love again?
Will your light take the very all of me and lead me from these troubled seas to calm waters,
Or will you abandon me on the rocks of repeating history, and leave as I am ruined once more?

Want to run from you,
hide my eyes from your beauty,
Lock my heart away where you can’t touch it –

– But it is too late.

 

I cannot sleep for dreaming of you.”

Dressing Gown

Close the door against the fading distant engine
Glance around the empty space where you just stood
Your aftershave still lingers on the edges of my lips
Try to fight against my tears, but it’s no good.
I’d never ask you to re-think what makes you happy
I’d never beg you live your life another way
But the happiness I feel with you, depends on you and me
And it fades to black each time you go away.

Look at me, sitting here on the floor
Eyes fixed on nothing, like they have been before
Twist the ring you gave me,
Recall last night
Hope you’re safe, you’re OK
Hope when you return, we’ll be alright.

And I’ll wrap my body up inside your dressing gown.
Your initials resting somewhere near my heart
Pull your belt as tightly as I can, around my failing strength
Tie it in a knot, so I can’t fall part

Watch the clock hand as it slows and then reverses
Existing day to day with spare time on my side
When you ask me if I’m OK, I just laugh and say I’m fine
Then you’re quiet, and we both know that I lied.
Carry on with all the things we do together
Work life balance an equation always wrong
Wander room to room, still looking, hoping you just might be there
Full of memory, full of us, yet it feels wrong.

Look at me, sitting here on our bed
Ears fixed on nothing, but the voice in my head
Twist the ring you gave me,
Regret that fight.
Hope you’re safe, you’re OK
Hope when you return, we’ll be alright.

And I’ll wrap my body up inside your dressing gown.
Your initials resting somewhere near my heart
Pull your belt as tightly as I can, around my failing strength
Tie it in a knot, so I can’t fall part.

Hear you laughing at the things you did with others.
Hear you whisper that you’re finding it quite tough
Hope you know how I hard it is for me to hear you carry on
Hope you’ll always think that I will be enough.
Paint my face, dress up well, keep my nails long
Live each day as if I lived all on my own
Feigning strength just a diversion from the gaping hole inside
Counting down the days until you’re coming home.

Look at me sitting here at your desk
Heart fixed on nothing, but the void that you’ve left
Twist the ring you gave me
Fight or Flight.
Hope you’re safe, you’re OK
Hope when you return, we’ll be alright.

And I’ll wrap my body up inside your dressing gown.
Your initials resting somewhere near my heart
Pull your belt as tightly as I can, around my failing strength
Tie it in a knot, so I can’t fall part.

Stand and watch you as you make your way towards me
Teenage butterflies still prove that you’re the one
See you smile that smile, and crumble as your eyes begin to shine
Seems you missed me just as much when you were gone
Touch my cheek with gentle fingers, eyes are brimming
Shake your head, drop your bag upon the floor
Wrap your arms around the body that’s been lonely for so long
Tell me there’s no need for sadness any more.

Look at us, sitting here, side by side
Hands locked together, with nothing to hide.
You twist the ring you gave me
Recall that day
Glad you’re back, you’re unchanged.
Glad you’re saying we’ll always be OK.

And I’ll wrap my body up inside your waiting arms
Place my grateful face somewhere beside your heart
And your dressing gown will hang back on the peg that you put up
And gather hints of you ’till next we’re pulled apart.

Love, By Any Other Name

Five years.

Five years have passed since that morning; the morning the phone rang too early; the morning we raced in convoy across the South Downs praying we weren’t too late; the morning the rising sun was too beautiful – too gentle. The morning everything changed…

It still hurts like it did that morning, yet I’m able to cry more freely now than ever I was then. Whosoever said it gets better chose their words badly. There’s nothing better about it – just different.

I remember that you used to talk about your parents – my grandparents – for years after they’d died; those special moments; those wonderful family times. Their names prompted a toast nearly as often as the ones of those celebrating. And I loved you for it; for your undying love for them. But I never quite understood.

Yet now I do.

And now I do the same.

And not out of respect for you. But out of an undying love that places you still at the heart of things, where you and mum always were.

I miss you, dad.

I miss you every day.

Sometimes I miss you so much that my heart breaks all over again.

But that’s love for you.

And someone once said that grief is just love with nowhere to go. And in a funny kind of way, that sentiment makes the pain a little easier.

For perhaps if I’m still grieving, I’m also still loving.

And love was never anything to be sad about.