He just felt asleep, my not-so-little baby, not-quite-toddler. He wriggled, and tossed, and turned, and stretched, and sighed, and wriggled some more. Then after a while I noticed he was still. The room was dark and I couldn’t tell from his breathing if he was awake. I lay there, listening. After a few minutes he stretched, turned over and settled again. WITHOUT MY NIPPLE IN HIS MOUTH. Yes, I am shouting online, because I have to be quiet in my kitchen so I don’t wake him up, but HE FELL ASLEEP WITHOUT BREASTFEEDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (And yes, actually, before you ask, that many exclamation marks are necessary.)

He’s almost fifteen months, my little guy. And, as far as I can remember, there hasn’t been one single night in fifteen months that I have put him to sleep without sticking a boob in his mouth. (I don’t get enough sleep these days to try to be poetic or say any of this sensitively. Deal with it.) (I am also realizing, now that I’m a parent, that I have to learn to find my voice. I can’t expect to bring up my son believing in the awesomeness of empowered women if I’m all apologetic and polite. Fuck that.) (Sorry Mum) (Ha!). Read more



To my friends with children:

I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that labour was just the beginning That you run a marathon, and you’re ready for that, but then you run another and another, with no rest between, with no medal. That though you were prepared for the pain of birthing your baby, nobody had warned you that you’d be in agony – torn, bruised, bleeding – for weeks afterwards.

I didn’t know that just going to the toilet would be a major traumatic mission and you’d cry at the soreness, the indignity, the mess. That getting in and out of bed hurt, that sitting or standing hurt, that all of you ached.

I didn’t know that in those first few days you’d find yourself longing for sleep, but knowing that night time would bring no rest. That, in fact, the nights were hardest, longest, loneliest, and you’d sit up in bed, a baby trying to learn to feed at your breast, tears rolling down your cheeks, thinking you’d ruined your life, wondering when, if, you and your partner would ever get to enjoy touching each other again.

I didn’t know how you struggled to feed this new little person in your life, both of you full of frustration and weariness, head and hands battling. That your nipples would hurt, that milk would leak from them drenching your bed, that one minute there’d be too much milk and the next not enough, and unlike everything else you were used to, practise would not make perfect. Read more



Last photo before my water broke

I kept complaining about how the movies have it so wrong with their portrayal of labour –  your water doesn’t break normally until you’re already well along, sometimes not at all. It’s nowhere near as dramatic as they make out. And then my body, my baby, surprised me, with a sudden burst at 7.30am on the third of December, five days before my due date.

As with almost every night of my pregnancy, I’d been awake from 5am, snacking on cereal, looking out of the window, wondering about the little being growing inside me, wishing he’d let me sleep. I crept back into bed, lay down for a few seconds, and …. pop! There really was an actual pop, and the next thing I knew the sheets were soaked: “Oh my god, my water just broke!” Doug, the only person I know who can switch from sleeping to hyper-alert in less than a second (no doubt from all the time he’s spent on his boat needing to be up and ready instantly), jumped up, grabbed a towel, put it under me and calmly told me to go back to sleep. It’s a good job he did, as it was the most sleep I’d get for a couple of days.

It was exciting, the waiting and wondering almost over, yet strangely disappointing in an ‘ok, we have to get on with this now, I guess I won’t get to my yoga class tonight, nor the Christmas market tomorrow’ kind of way. Read more

Visiting the writer

“If it isn’t the germs,
it’ll be the warfarin!”
One or the other
will finish her off.

Yet queen-like
she receives compliments
and callers
in her ocean-filled room.

Here there is colour,
strength and
Chopin in the hurry
of water spilt tales.

Honeysuckle and books
stake their claims.
A runaway tomato
peeps free under the table.

Orange tea and statues
that come all the way
from India.

Imagine bath time
looking over the hill.
Head awash with dreams
of juniper

here in her palace
of words and waves.

– – – For Angela – – –

(September 2012)

Home, for now

From London, he stands here,
chickens squawking
round his Canadian garden,
talking to the postman from India.

It is just after lunch.
The boys on bikes
from down the street
race down the street.

The gate clicks.
Bea, from next door,
swears and curses
while her son,
home from rehab,
flicks snails from the bush.

The leaves opposite are playful
with light and butterflies.
A squirrel defies borders.

Later, the chickens will escape,
causing havoc in the street
as the man from two doors down
chases them up a path
to the dark house
where a girl unloads boxes from a van
and everyone laughs at the noise,
the flailing, flapping wings.

The boys will be called in for tea.
Other bikes will race past
on the daily ride from work.

Now though, the chickens are in their place,
the postman sings,
the man from London gets his mail,
and the snails creep back
to where they started.

(April 2011)

Light, listening, learning.

IMG_20130530_184410A couple of times in the last year I’ve been sitting at Quaker meeting and wanted to say something. (It’s often called ‘ministering’ – the idea being that everybody at the meeting has a direct relationship with ‘God’ or the light or the spirit or whatever description works for them, and therefore everybody can minister, not just one leader). I wouldn’t say I actually quaked with the idea of it(!), but I definitely felt strangely physically alert, like I should speak, like what I was thinking about might be useful for other people to hear. I couldn’t really tell the difference, though, between that sensation and the beginnings of a panic attack (which I’ve had to get used to in the last few years as I have them pretty much every time I want to say or ask something after a seminar presentation at university) so each time, after almost standing up, I kept quiet and just stayed in the silence.

On Sunday after meeting there was a discussion about how, why and when to minister, and how to listen to other people. One thing I really liked was when one of the discussion leaders said whenever somebody stands up to speak, he prays for them. I don’t really do prayer, as such, but I like that idea, of listening lovingly, wishing them well, hoping that they manage to express themselves, that their message can fall on open ears, minds, hearts.  Holding them in the light, to use the lovely Quaker phrase. It’s not something we are encouraged to do in academia, where it feels, as often as not, the aim is to listen in order to criticize or judge. It’s not something we do often in difficult relationships, either, where it feels, as often as not, the listening is tinged with existing ideas or preconceptions or blame, and the message distorted. Dialogue, learning together, discussing ideas or emotions – it could all benefit from a little less judgement and a little more listening. I’ve been trying to teach myself to read and listen critically, but something about the word itself puts me off. It sounds, somehow, ill and unhealthy. Even though the idea of ‘finding fault’ is only one meaning, it seems to infect the others. I probably need to think of it as listening questioningly. Or even better, listening openly.

So that’s a start. Before speaking, I should probably learn to take part by doing that, first.  I’ve thought quite a bit about the idea of taking part. Specifically in Quaker meetings, and more generally, in gatherings, families, communities. Participating. How to best do that, how to best let other people do that. How to create spaces in which people feel valued and seen, heard, accepted. Because I find speaking in public terrifying I rarely do it these days. I can teach a class of 40 without any stress, but sharing my own opinions or experiences or beliefs with other adults? Scary as fuck. I usually don’t even manage with a small group. It often feels easier to not even try. Taking part can be terrifying. You’re not really taking, you’re giving. A part of yourself and … what if you feel stupid? What if you mess it up? What if it doesn’t come out right? What if you can tell nobody understood what you said? What if nobody says anything afterwards? What if they do?

IMG_20130531_112929That’s the weird thing. That impossible to avoid idea that if you say something, the whole world will change. When actually, you’re just going through a gate into a field with another gate and another and another. It’s not enough to say one thing and feel proud of your great idea. It’s not enough to be compassionate to somebody once. Each idea is just a beginning, each hug is only a hug. Each individual standing up in meeting, saying something interesting (or controversial or weird or wonderful) is just making one little step in their attempt to live in love and light.

A number of people at the discussion on Sunday said something about having to leave your ego out of it when you speak in meeting. Don’t try to intellectualize it, don’t try to question too carefully the wording. Just feel it, physically, sit there with it, see if it seems like a message for everyone. And if it does, share it. Take part, give a part of you, share. And if it doesn’t, sit with it, think about it, continue to take part in the meeting as you were before, listening  with love, giving attention to the silence, sharing the space.

It sounds so simple.

Binds and bonds




Pathways 2: End of the path










Pathways 1: The path is not straight






American Dream

Every night
a ship
tips over.

Every day
is full
of shouting.

It is Christmas.

Texas and I
struggle to make friends,
while losing friends,
while loving friends
a world away.

Tell me:
if my husband’s favourite
moment is not me,
why am I
in Texas


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What's all this then?

Back in 2010 when I started this, I was writing a lot and wanted a space to share some of it, rather than hiding things away in tea-stained notebooks and the deepest, darkest recesses of my laptop's questionable filing system. Nothing I wrote ever seemed ready to share, but progress not perfection became my mantra. In fact, I slowly stopped believing in the power of perfection altogether - it's the messy stuff that makes things interesting. The last couple of years the creative part of me got a bit squashed - a PhD and leaving a place you love will do that to you, it seems. But I like my little creative space and don't want to abandon it altogether... and I like the idea of sharing it with you! Thanks for having a look!
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