Category Archives: journal

Leaving home

leaving home

Whenwe  left the smog of the city to live in this backwater place, I lay curled in my mother’s womb. Although my family was looked upon as foreign by the rural folk, this is the only home I’ve ever known. As the popoulation grew, attracting those from distant towns and counties, I rose from my outsider status to become a local. My roots struggled to find a way through the stony soil, and tenaciously they clung. My four children came into being, and were raised here; seeds of the next generation which now thrives. All of my descendants save for one – my grandson, currently at University – are within this ancient burrough, within easy reach of me.

My daughter is at the graveside of her beloved, saying goodbye. Her bags are packed. I put them in the car, to save having to slog later. I come back to the flat and switch on my laptop. It’s slow to warm up, so I go to the bedroom to apply some hand lotion, and see the gap where her possessions had been.

With a jolt similar to a jagged bolt of electricity, it hits me. Aged thirty-one, my little girl  is leaving home.

Written for The Daily Post #Jolt

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Spark

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My cup runneth over… Come to think of it, that must have been the only negative thing that occurred in my life today – as I was pouring a cup of coffee, it inexplicably flew all over the room,splattering everything in its wake, dripping off the worksurface and pooling on the floor.

Maybe it was my conscence telling me to clean the kitchen, and bring it up to the shimmering standard of my living room. I ignored it. I think I’ve done quite enough since I woke up this morning.

I have:

Sorted through my clothes, pulled out what I no longer want, and taken unwanted clothes to the Oxfam shop,where I had a cup of tea and bragged for ten minutes about how lovely Laura’s skin looks.

Been to the pharmacy to pick up my so called “anxiety” medication, rather than leaving it until a few days after I run out.

Been to the medical centre to ask if the medication can be put onto automatic repeat (again, rather than leaving it until after I run out). I don’t know why this hasn’t been done, unless it’s because I tend to take a med. for three weeks or so, then ring my GP and say I don’t like it, and I’m not taking any more.

Been to our local fabric shop, to enquire about muslin, as I’ve just started making my own yogurt, and I want to make Greek style this weekend. Greek yogurt is yogurt that’s had the whey strained out of it.

I wasn’t happy about the price, so I went on to Cookshop, but I was even less happy about the price there. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both great shops – they’re not to blame for the price of muslin. Anyway, I remembered that I may have a whole lot of it stashed away, in the form of curtains, so I decided to have a hunt when I got home.

I proceeded to go into three separate supermarkets for about five items. OK; to be more accurate, when I went in the first one, I forgot what I wanted and bought fish instead. The second one was on my route home, and while I was there, I remembered to get eggs and veg., but forgot the milk, so I had to go to onother one for that.

Looked for the muslin, only to realise I must have taken it to Oxfam three years ago, but it gave me the opportunity to sort through a few bits and pieces which I plan to (maybe) turn into art.

After I got home (could I have a drum roll, please) I managed to UPLOAD MY PHOTOS from my phone to my laptop – after over two years of vague attempts and failures. It took me two hours, during which my laptop told me several times that it couldn’t connect to my phone, and my phne said it couldn’t connect to my laptop. After freezing twice, and in the middle of my laptop telling me it wasn’t friends with my phone, the phone somehow sneaked in through the back door, and dropped the photos into dropbox. Laptop still says it will have nothing to do with phone. I’m just waiting for it to find out about phone’s devious trick. You’ll probably hear the screams of “Rape!” from Aussieland.

I cooked a lovely meal of vegetables in killer cheese sauce. I ate it straight out of the baking dish – something which I’ve never, to my knowledge, done before.

I washed the dishes. ALL OF THEM! AS SOON AS I’D EATEN! And before you say, “Doesn’t everybody?” – no, they don’t.

But this is a prelude to what I did before all that.

I put two African wallhangings on the wall. That is to say, I drilled four holes in the wall, using my Bosch drill, pushed rawlplugs into them, and screwed in four hooks, then looped the hangings into two lengths of dowel which I’d cut, and put the hangings up.

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By normal standards, this is not a huge achievement, but lately, my standards haven’t been normal. I’ve lived here for over 21 months, and have put nothing on the walls. I’ve pinned and taped a few things to the sides of my bookshelves, but that’s all. Once upon a time I was a rabid DIYer. I knocked down walls, built new ones, designed and built storage units and shelves, altered cheap kitchen units to fit the kitchen space, added my own custom built units, built open fires in living rooms – well, one open fire in one living room. I stripped, sanded and waxed almost all the woodwork – doors, windows and skirting boards, in a four bedroom house. No job, as they say, was too big or too small. When I’d done everything there was to do in the house, I started on the garden. I didn’t rest except to go to sleep. I liked it that way.

Until today, I didn’t take the trouble to pinpoint when the collapse occurred, but I now know it was when I moved to Barnstaple – back to the town I’d left some thirteen or fourteen years earlier, to move home, to the countryside, where I belong. Town saps the life from me, but that wasn’t the major problem. It didn’t help that I no longer had a workshop, or sheds to store my timber, tools, and accoutrements in, but that wasn’t the major part of the problem either.

The real issue was that I was confronted, on a daily basis, by my children’s addictions.

I could tell you I’m back, but I’m not going to; I’ve said it before, and been mistaken. Instead, I’ll tell you I think I’m on my way back. The large empty space on the wall mirrored the large hole in my heart. I used to look at it and feel sad that I didn’t have the spark needed to put something beautiful in that space. Today I had the spark.

It’s a start.

Did I mention how lovely and healthy Laura’s skin has become?

What about the gym ball, and the jogging. I didn’t mention that…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Serenity is upset, because I haven’t mentioned her new dress. It’s not really hers, and it’s not really new. I designed and made it 40 years ago, for myself. It was my wedding dress. I got married in a registry office. If we were still together, we’d be celebrating our Ruby anniversary next month.

So here we have Serenity, showing off her favourite outfits.She’s very fond of scarves, but doesn’t wear them in the traditional way. In the top left picture, you see how cleverly she’s wrapped a gold and navy scarf, to make a rather attractive top. She’s done something similar with the beautiful piece woven, lightweight wool which I bought for her in Oxfam, last Autumn,and which she is wearing as a skirt in the first two images (she loves this garment, and refused to take it off for three months, until she saw my wedding dress). The panels at the front are finely embroidered in red, green and gold. I haven’t managed to date it, but if it was intended to be a shawl, I’d guess at the early 20th C, if it wasn’t in such good condition. Maybe it’s as recent as the 150s or 60s, but I don’t think so – its energy feels much older than that.

The top in the second image is silk, heavily beaded. I’d say it dates from the 1920s. Around the neck there is a an edging of slk velvet. Her necklace is silverand carnelian.

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Serenity is tapping her foot and looking impatient. I think she wants me to tell you about the wedding dress, in the main picture, below.

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This dress is made of a heavyweight cheesecloth, manufactured for clothing. The bodice and wrists are machine-tucked, and hand embroidered with a green, yellow and brown paisley pattern.

Here I am, rabbitting away about Serenity, and yet I haven’t formally introduced her to you:

Meet Serenity, my mannequin and housemate. I think she’s beautiful. We first met when she took up residence in my shop, and did me the service of luring customers in. That was when Laura taught her to make magic from scarves. Laura has a knack for unusual invention.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Going nowhere.

My morning began with a letter on the doormat.

For the last 16 months I’ve beem receiving ESA – Employment and Support Allowance, or sickness benefit – mainly because I suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Recently, due to family difficulties, my condition has reached epic proportions. I burst into tears in shops and in the street; I suffer seizures; I have days when I can’t leave my home. Sometimes I can’t cook meals and I survive on dried fruit, nuts, cereal, and yogurt. My condition is difficult and embarrassing, particularly as all the while I’m watching myself from the outside, and disapproving of my weakness.

This is the truth about the woman that is me; the woman people say is strong.

Going back to my story; anyone who’s on ESA gets sent assessment questionaires to fill in every so often, and is afterwards hauled up for a medical examination to find out whether they are still entitled to the benefit. I recently received one of these forms, to be returned by October 7th at the latest. I filled it in and posted it off at 9.30pm on the 20th of this month. The letter I received this morning was dated September 28th. It was from the Health Assessment Advisory Service; it said that they hadn’t received my questionaire, and requested that I fill it in and send it back as soon as possible.

I suspected it was some sort of a test – they get me to fill in a second form, and then compare the two; or maybe an attempt to drive me to suicide.

I got dressed and went straight to the local Jobcentre for advice. I had palpitations by the time I reached the entrance, and the moment I walked in I burst into tears and my legs began to cave in.

Well done Jane – a great entrance as usual.

The woman I saw was very kind. She said assessment forms go missing quite often, and she’d call the assessment centre to ask them to look for my form but that she couldn’t guarantee that they’d bother, gave me another form, and told me not to fill it in until I had spoken to someone from the Health Assessment place, who would phone me.

She then reassured me, mopped me up and sent me away after giving me her name, and saying I could ask to see her if I needed any more help.

I felt it would be best to immediately get a copy of the medical letter I had sent as evidence of my illnesss, in case I deteriorate to the extent that I’m unable to do it later, so I went to my GP’s surgery, where I initially managed not to cry. In my effort to be stoic, I came across as an angry person, and the receptionist thought I was in there to make some sort of trouble. I saw the sudden guarded, almost frightened, look on her face as she asked me if I was a patient at the surgery. Guess what I did in response.

You’ve got it. I burst into tears, and  blubbered repeated apologies while another receptionist guided me into a side room. She calmed me down, got the gist of what I wanted, spoke to my GP, came back and said he was bogged down with work, but he would call me later. As for the reason I was there, I had two options; she could ring the psychiatrist at the Riverside Centre and ask a letter to be posted to me, or I could go and pick it up. I realised that I should have gone to the psychiatrist instead of the surgery, and I told her I’d collect it. She advised me to ask Riverside to fill in the assessment questionaire for me.

She reassured me, mopped me up and sent me away.

I went to the Riverside Centre.

I burst into tears and buckled at the knees. A very nice woman took me into a side room. She printed off a copy of the letter. She gave it to me. With regret, she told me the centre was unable to fill in my questionaire as I was no longer registered with their services. She recommended that I ask the doctor to re-refer me there because I’m such a pathetic mess – though she put it far more kindly than that.

She reassured me, mopped me up and sent me away.

On the way home I got a call from a man with a lovely Welsh voice. He was from the Health Assessment Advisory Service. He explained that assessment questionaires are sent to a National office, and then have to be forwarded somewhere else – in this case Camarthen, in Wales. The letter I received was part of standard procedure. I could ignore it. I said there was no need to worry about me – I’d only briefly considered jumping off the bridge, or words to that effect. He responded in a gentle, reassuring way.

A while after I got home, my GP rang. I told him it had recommended that I ask to be referred back to Riverside. He asked me how I felt about that idea. I replied that I didn’t see the point, because the first time I’d been referred it was to a counsellor who said there was nothing she sould do for me, because I was one of the most self-aware people she’d ever seen, so counselling wouldn’t help me, and CBT wouldn’t help either, because I was already using all the tools that CBT teaches. The second time I was referred, it was to a psychiatrist who recommended a drug that did me more harm than good.

My GP agreed that it may be pointless to go back to Riverside, and suggested that every time I am in a stressful situation I take the beta-blockers he prescribed a few days ago, and see how it goes.

So -other than getting a letter, nothing much happened today.

The Daily Post #Test

©Jane Paterson Basil

It was just a…

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My sad tale opens with what is considered to be the worst closing sentence for fiction known to man:

It was just a dream.

I must have been less than eight years old when everybody around me started to assume I had a glittering literary career ahead of me. When I think back, I realise that I can’t be sure that it was my idea in to start with – I have a memory of longing from a very early age to weave the kind of magic that writers wove, but I may have put that memory in place afterwards. However it began, by the time I was nine, I took it for granted that a writing career would fall into my lap when I grew up. Nobody told me that I’d have to work for it, and it may have been that unpleasant realisation that put me off. I didn’t like school because the other kids thought I was weird, so I didn’t fancy college.

From the age of fifteen I enjoyed/detested a range of interesting/not so interesting jobs, and in between work and sleep I did all the things humans do, including writing for my own pleasure.

About six years ago I decided I would be a writer. I got a computer, and  obsessively wrote children’s picture books and adult stories. After about a year I sent a reader’s letter to a health magazine, just for the practice. It was published, and was the star letter – I won £100 worth of posh cosmetics, which, I may add, I never received. However, my little success made me brave. I researched publishers and agents, contacted an agent who sounded right for me, and got an automated reply: the publisher was not taking on new clients. Any normal, sensible person would have been disappointed, shrugged their shoulders and found someone different. Not me – reason flew out of the window. I took the response to mean that I would never have any success in my venture. I knew I was being irrational, and I kept writing, telling myself I’d look for an agent next week or next month.

Four years, and many, many pages later, I still haven’t made any effort to be published. Last week, my thoughtful friend Lynn at Word Shamble suggested I submit to an agent who’s currently promising to read and respond to any work submitted on a particular date. I decided to submit something. Since my chosen genre is picture books, which contain few words, the agent asks for three stories. I knew immediately which stories to choose. I wrote all these stories between three and five years ago, and haven’t looked at them for a while.

I got the first one up on my office programme, read it through and hated it. The wording was all wrong. I edited it until I was happier with it – although I still wasn’t sure – and then I went to the next story, which is about a baby bird that doesn’t want to leave its mother’s nest. It’s a lovely tale, but again, I didn’t like the way it was written, and I had to play with it until it felt better. There was another problem – I wasn’t submitting illustrations. In itself that’s not a problem. A book without illustrations is more likely to be accepted than one with them, because it allows the publisher free rein with the choice of artist and layout. but it stirred up added uncertainty. I have a clear vision of the layout and the illustrations. Without my layout, at least, the stories don’t ‘feel’ right to me.

Having edited two stories, I wanted a rest from it, so I researched advice on formatting, and went back to the first story to format it, so I could attach it to an email, and leave it in drafts while I did the next one.

That’s when the real problem came to light. I had not considered my silly little rebellion
against the capitalist machine; my stubborn refusal to buy Microsoft word.My Open Office software can’t fulfil the agent’s exacting requirements for manuscript submissions. This may be something to do with my computer. I don’t wish to go into the reason I think this, but I’ve tried to put another Open Office issue right, and found my nose scraping a brick wall. The issue I was faced with yesterday concerned headers, and there is no way around it.

Although the agent guarantees that they will give my submission attention, I don’t want to send an incorrectly formatted manuscript.

I was so frustrated by this time that I got up and kicked the sofa a few times, then I went into the bedroom and kicked the mattress of my futon – it would have been silly to kick the futon, because it has a metal frame which would have hurt my toes. Believe me, I know…

It didn’t help, so I returned to the living room and kicked the other sofa.

This was getting me nowhere. So I calmed down, and meditated on the problem. That’s when the answer came to me.

Because my head has been so firmly rammed up my own backside in the clouds, I haven’t faced up to the truth, which is: for whatever reason, something inside me is blocking me from making any real effort to succeed. It may be that the success I fantacise about is not right for me, or it may be that I have to smash down the wall. If that’s the case, I’m not ready, so for the time being I am saying I don’t want my work to be published, because however my conscious mind sees it, this is the truth. I write. That’s what I do, and that’s fine.

As for the rest –

(wait for it, here it comes… my astoundingly original closing phrase…)

It was just a dream.

The end

©Jane Paterson Basil

The right thing to do

I’m so tired. I want to go back to the days when I was young enough to know everything – when everything was right or wrong and there were no blurred lines. There was nothing that didn’t fit into one box or another. It was so easy knowing it all, or to put it more accurately, being in a state of blissful ignorance.

My son has been on the run for just under a week, sleeping rough and hiding from the police. On Monday he was jumped by C.I.D. In the High Street, but somehow managed to convince them that they’d made a mistake, and he was Mark, my grandson. That’s how persuasive he is.

Paul said he would give himself up on Monday, but but when Monday came there was something he had to do, so he decided to defer his arrest until yesterday, which was Tuesday. But yesterday the thing that had to be done didn’t happen, so he convinced himself he’d give himself up today. I knew he wouldn’t have the courage – he’s just keep putting it off until he was either arrested or accidentally killed himself.

A couple of days ago he jumped/fell in the river Taw and had a lot of trouble wading out of the notoriously sticky mud. It was the second time it had happened in a few days, and it frightened him.He turned up last night because he was hungry – he was in a bad way, covered in cuts and bruises from running and hiding. Every day of freedom was putting him in more danger, physically and mentally, so I let him stay the night. I wanted him to have a decent sleep before I sent for the police to pick him up.

Yes, that’s right – I shopped him to the police. They’ve been searching for him in every nook and cranny since last Friday, and yet it took them three hours to arrive at my home this morning. I rang them, and after waiting an interminable time for them I called them back and gave them a telling-off. I told them he may wake up and leave at any moment, but they took a further hour to arrive.

Have you ever waited in a one-bedroom flat for the police to come and take your son back to prison? Have you ever tried to shut yourself in your bedroom for that length of time; feeling guilty, your stomach churning; unable to even read a book, because the words don’t make sense; waiting for the moment when you have to go into the living room and wake your son to tell him the police are in your hall, and they’re going to take him away?

As of this morning, I have, and I hope I never need to do it again, but I’m pretty sure it was the right thing to do.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Can love conquer all?

It has rained all day and is raining still. Looking out of the window I see little sign of it letting up. This evening, as I was eating dinner, my buzzer rang. When I pressed the intercom to ask who was there, I heard the voice of my troubled daughter. She asked me if she could come in and maybe stay the night. I turned her away. She didn’t protest.

She is banned from entering this block of flats, just as she is banned from several other places, but she knows that if I wished to, I could let her in through the back door, and unless she had another drug-fuelled psychotic episode while she was here, nobody would be any the wiser.

She may have nowhere to stay tonight. There are few people left who feel able to tolerate her, and the two or three who do are in a similar condition to her, although I only know of one other who clearly drags the shadow of death wherever he goes.

I returned to the carefully prepared meal that I had been enjoying, and hastily shovelled forkfuls into my mouth, chewing a little and swallowing without pleasure. The food had lost its savour and I no longer wanted it, but I was taught to eat every scrap, so that is what I did.

Although I wanted to curl up in a corner and scream, I forced myself to carry on composing my day six assignment for WordPress Writing 101. I could sense Laura sitting outside on a bench below me, just out of eyesight, with the rain soaking into her woven summer jacket. I reminded myself, over and over, that I must not go to her. Her only chance – though it’s a slim one – lies in me refusing admittance, and discouraging contact. If I stay strong she may choose to go into recovery. I may be the one thing she is not prepared to lose to her multiple drug habit. Her organs are shutting down, and if she doesn’t stop using she is unlikely to live much longer. Having regular contact with me makes her habit worse. She has a need to prove to me what a mess she is, and the more she sees me, the more drugs she consumes.

I keep my curtains open all evening. I live on the top floor, so people have to look up to see in my window, and, should they do so, they will see little more than ceiling. After about forty minutes I sensed movement outside. I looked down, and saw my daughter walking away. My leg muscles twitched in an effort to rebel against my brain, which told me not to chase after her. My brain won. These days it usually does.

I watched the rain and I wondered – not for the first time – whether that brief glimpse of her, as she turned and glanced my way, was the last time I will ever see her alive. It was dark, and I couldn’t see the only beautiful feature that she has retained, her hazel eyes.

The last time I looked into those eyes I reminded her that it was her choice to live or to die, and told her that, should she die, I would like her to know that I love her very much. I would like that comforting thought to be with her when she takes her last breath and finally steps into eternal peace.

I think I have reached beyond fear, but I am very sad and lost tonight, and I wonder, can love conquer all?

©Jane Paterson Basil