Category Archives: journaling

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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Empty threats

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In the UK anyone who owns a TV, or watches TV programmes on a computer, must, by law, have a TV licence, which costs £147 a year. I just looked it up on Google – as I have no TV, I don’t need to know how much it costs. The licencing fee pays for our non commercial channel, the BBC.As there are so many TV channels these days, some people probably never watch the BBC, but they still have to have a licence.

I haved lived at my current address since May 11th, 20th 2015. I received my first threatening letter from the TV licencing company a few weeks after I moved in. It began by warning me that I could be fined some ridiculous amount of money if I didn’t get a TV licence. It told me how much a TV licence cost. Somewhere at the bottom it said that if I didn’t need a licence should go to their website and tell them – but then it said that they may come and check p on me anyway.

I didn’t feel like telling them I didn’t need a licence if they weren’t neccesarily going to believe me, so I ignored the letter.

A few weeks later I got another, slightly more threatening one, which also had the smallprint telling me to let them know if I didn’t need a licence, and that they may check up to see that I wasn’t lying.

I ignored it.

They sent another, and another. Each one was more threatening than the last. They were going to bring round the heavies and look for a TV, they were going to take me to court for non-payment… non payment of what? Why should they assume I have a TV? The vehicle licencing people never accuse me of having a car. What gives the TV licencing people the right?

I don’t like uncalled-for threats, and I don’t like the suggestion that I may be a liar, before I’ve even opened my mouth.

I ignored all the idle threats.

They didn’t visit me. I have a feeling that they wouldn’t be allowed to enter the building if they tried. Neither did they take me to court. It would have been difficult for them to do so, as they don’t even know who I am. The letters are always addressed to  “The addressee”, or some such nonsense.

Having used up all of their tactics to no avail, they then started right back at the beginning, with a repeat of their very first threatening letter to me, and now they’re systematically the whole rigmarole all over again.

The whole thing has made me quite cranky – in the American way (bad-tempered or irritable), but it’s given me a great idea.

A lot of the art in the famous Tate Modern art gallery is considered by many to be pretty cranky – in the British way (eccentric or strange), and some of the work submitted for the Annual Turner Prize is no exception – Tracey Emin’s ‘unmade bed’ being a famous, and controversial example.

I’d like to submit an arwork to the Turner Prize contest. I need an old TV which has had its guts ripped out. I couldn’t use a functional one, as I’d need a TV licence for that. I’ll tear up all of the many letters I’ve received from the TV licencing company, and artistically paste them on the TV sceen, making sure that the visitors and judges get the gist of what is written on them. My entry will be titled “Slapstick TV.”

I think it could be a winner.

The Daily Post #Cranky

©Jane Paterson Basil

Her Tenacious Spirit

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My daughter’s first breath wheezed with a puny meow, but the sounds increased in depth and volume, until much of our oxygen was gone.

As Laura grew, the list of  her sufferings expanded. Flakes fell from her raw skin, exposing oozing flesh. Eggs brought out blisters, but nuts could kill. Her lungs stuttered, her stomach hurt, yet sometimes when she cried, I could find no reason.

Like a child flung from paradise and plunged into hell, pain battled with bafflement and anger.

She was a cracked cog in the wrong machine, juddering through school and fumbling youth, misunderstood and not understanding the rules, a magnet for juvenile cruelty, adolescent jibe, unkind adult attack.

She was so timid, so unprepared for society, yet she became determined to partake. Bravely she tried to play the game, and for a while she held her own.

At seventeen my daughter had grown into physical magnificence and apparent independence. She moved into her own home, and even took care of a hapless, helpless young friend.

Away from me, dark creatures circled around her. Grateful for the attention, and unable to tell the difference between angels and devils, she thought they were good people, but they stole secret pieces of her.

Each time she tripped, she fell out of my reach, and every fall cut deep. Her frail self-esteem shrank to invisibility, and she began self-medicating todull the pain.

In the wake of addiction, her hard-won dignity was stolen by dirty brown liquid on a stained spoon.

In my mind, a zigzag line on a graph indicate the moments of hope and the months of despair. The months became years, constantly stretching all of my fears. Laura lost weight to the point of danger, her face took on a course texture, her limbs developed a dance of their own. Psychosis set in. In the mud of her mind, monstrous men marched through locked doors, raped her, tore out her hair and bruised names onto her legs as she slept. She stritched sticky tape across all entrances, to know they’d been there.

Inanimate objects leapt across tables. Worms wriggled in her epidermis. Receipts she found on the ground revealed secret messages. Light fittings concealed hidden cameras. Poisonous gas seeped through walls. The Ministry of Defence needed to be informed.

The police and others in authority warned me she was likely to die, adding that they didn’t now how she had clung on so long. Some hoped that a mishap would land her in hospital for a decent time. So did I, if it may save her life.

Her life took her to nightmare places, and her mind carried her far beyond. If there is anywhere blacker than a starless night, she has been there.

My friends and many strangers promised to pray for her recovery. They sent caring messages and prayers. I shared them with her, and gradually saw a change. At the same time I kept my distance, explaining that the drugs made her abusive, and I would not tolerate abuse.

I would never have guessed that her spirit could be so tenacious. A year later, kind messages still arrive, and I still convey each one to her. She feels nurtured, which in turn makes her feel worthy. My struggling child is a fine woman now. She knows she can have a better future. She’s clean, and temporarily living with me. The sparkle in her eye reflects back onto me, making me shine. I glow with pride when I think af all she has already achieved. she’s fought her way through countless ills, and come out of them strong and positive.

Next week she’ll move in with someone wonderful, who has seen her potential. He hates drug addiction, and will support her in every way, with no hidden agenda. He’s comfortably rough around the edges, which suits Laura well, but more than that, he’s a wise, thoughtful, family man. Laura has a new family to love, and to be loved by.

And what of his interest in us? Fraternity, and a wish to see Laura well and moving forward in life.

It will happen.

Written for The Daily Post #Tenacious

©Jane Paterson Basil

Every evening with Laura

Last night, Laura and I made savoury tarts – a heavenly melee of aubergine, tomatoes, peppers and onion on flaky pastry, topped with delicious mascarpone. For accompaniment, we prepared creamy coleslaw and potato salad in vinaigrette. A salad of baby leaves, rocket, sundried tomatoes and olives finished off the meal.

It was quick, easy and delicious. We followed it up with a high quality shop-bought Cicilian lemon cheesecake which left our mouths feeling as if they had been spring-cleaned, then brewed coffee and settled down to watch a movie while the milk for this week’s yogurt slowly heated to 200 degrees in the slow cooker.

This may all sound like pretty routine stuff, but in the company of Laura it becomes supreme fun. Every evening spent with Laura is a treat.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Long weekend

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It’s been a long weekend, starting on Friday afternoon. Laura was with me in my flat when I received a call from the inneffectual stand-in Supervisor of this sheltered housing complex (our lovely permanent Supervisor, Sandra, has been ill). He told me that it had been reported that Laura was in the building, and her ban was still standing, so she must leave immediately and not re-enter.

Laura was banned from the complex about fifteen months ago, as a result of a noise complaint. She was in psychosis at the time. She endangered nobody in the building, nor would she have at any point, but I was very shaky and her confused, aggressive presence increased my anxiety.

I have twice since been refused an assured tenancy due to this disturbance. It’s up for review next month and I was told I could expect it to be granted if there is no further trouble – but they said that six months ago, and changed their minds without any good reason.

Even a ‘lifetime’ ban from a shop tends to expire after a year or so, if there’s no cause to extend it, but I wanted to talk to Sandra as I felt that she’d support me in getting the ban squashed. However, she’s had a lot of illness lately, and I never managed to catch her when she was in the office. The few things I’d noticed about the stand-in hadn’t been promising.

So the ban was still in place when Laura got beaten up by that monster, and ran to me for support. Naturally I took her in – it’s in a mother’s contract, written in capitals. It overrides landlords rulings, and I didn’t think there would be a huge problem anyway; her behaviour is now beyond reproach. She hasn’t stayed with me every night, and we’ve arranged for her to move to safe place far from here, soon.

Laura was about to go out when I got the phone call. I told her what had happened. She raised no objections, even going so far as to comfort me, assuring me everything would be OK. She left to meet a friend, and I went down to the office to speak to the drippy stand-in nitwit, who at least made sympathetic noises and gave me a number to call.

I spoke to a secretary who said I’d get a callback from the appropriate officer. I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t. This was Friday; the weekend was looming. I prepared the food we’d planned to cook together, then we met and ate together, outdoors. She said she had somewhere safe to stay. I knew that her ‘safe’ place would put her at risk of weakening and using drugs, but I had to let her go.

On Saturday we met in the morning and again in the evening, dining on a park bench as we watched the sun go down. She said she had somewhere better to stay than the place where she’d been the previous night. We parted.

Yesterday was Mothers Day. It began with a lunchdate with my two elder daughters and their families. After lunch we all went to the park, where the little ones romped and played. I left them at about 4pm to meet Laura. We enjoyed a pub meal with coffee and followed it up with a long walk, sitting down every so often, as I tire easily these days. She said she was going back to the place she stayed on Saturday. I reminded her that we were having lunch with my sister today, and she was excited about it. She and my sister have a special bond. Sadly, Christine’s house is too crowded for a short-term guest.

She left me at about 7pm, walking in the opposite direction to the cosy sofa that was to be her bed for the night. She told me she had to see a friend first, but I knew she was going to a dealer’s house. I can spot the signs, however subtle.

This morning I couldn’t contact her. I went looking for her at the address where she should have been – she doesn’t know that I know it – but nobody was in, and I felt her absence stretch backward – I could sense that she hadn’t been there last night.

I came home, and – wonder of wonders – Sandra was back. I saw her through the office window, so I went in to ask if she’d seen Laura press the buzzer. She hadn’t and she made me sit down and tell her the whole story, then dialled 101 for the police, and handed me the phone. The police treated her disappearance as an emergency. As there were serious concerns for her safety she was put on the missing person’s list. A police officer quickly arrived to take down more details.

Meanwhile, Sandra got hold of the housing officer, and told him he must speak to me urgently. She was asked what she’d have done if she’d been in charge on Friday. She said she would have said Laura should stay with me.

As the policeman was about to leave, I got a phone call – from Laura. I was right – she never reached that safe sofa. She’d spent the night at a dealer’s house. It wouldn’t have happened if Laura had been with me.

The police officer arranged to meet her somewhere outdoors as she didn’t want to lead him to the dealer’s house. On the way to meet him, she bumped into her brother, Paul, who was out looking for her (he had a pretty good idea where she would be, and he was right). She’s had an aversion to her father’s home for some time, but between us, Paul and I persuaded her to stay there tonight, safely away from this town.

Thanks to Sandra’s intervention, the housing officer phoned me, but he said he had to speak to another officer before allowing  Laura back into the building. He asked if I knew of any official who could vouch for her, and I gave the drugs services – it was my only choice. He promised to try to get back to me tomorrow.

This evening I rang Laura. She was happily surrounded by Paul, his girlfriend, her dad, and the cat who disgraced herself on Saturday. She says she may stay there again tomorrow night. There was laughter in her voice.

And me? Maybe I’ll be able to eat some cereal, fruit and yogurt. A meal would be too much to cope with. I’m walked off my feet, my brain’s been fried by constant radioactive calls, and I need some sleep, but for the moment all’s almost well with my corner of the world.

Later, I’ll deal subtly with NNND (nasty neighbour next door), who made the complaint. She hates being caught telling tales, and she’s so bitter and twisted that she can’t stand to see people happy. I’ll give her my most sarcastic smile, and sweetly thank her for giving Laura the opportunity to meet a couple of helpful housing officers AND to prove herself worthy of entering the building. Maybe I’ll get Laura to help me with the garden. The added advantage there would be that NNND would see the other residents stopping to talk to Laura. She’s an attractive, personable woman, and quite a few of them like her.

Sweet revenge…

©Jane Paterson Basil