Category Archives: writing

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

How high is the fridge

 

I was with my friend, Elaine, this afternoon, when my son rang me to tell me about an achievement. He had some free time on his hands, as his girlfriend, who likes to be called Krusti, (though she’s not crusty) wasn’t around. Mid-sentence, he suddely started making “Ugh! Errr! Yuck! What the…” noises. I asked him what was wrong, and he shouted:

“The cat’s done a crap on the fridge. What’s going on? Why would she do a thing like that? It’s horrible. It’s a classic cat-shit – you know, the kind that can’t be anything but cat shit. I’ve got to go now. I have question her about it. She’s got some explaining to do.” (He has a close relationship with his cat, and thinks he may have been a cat in a previous life, so he was probably serious.)

He came out with a few shock-horror expletives, then tried to excuse her by saying that maybe she’d been unable to get outside in time. He repeated that he was going to find Rusty and interrogate her about it, and put the phone down.

Roaring with laughter, and with tears in my eyes, I told Elaine what had happened. My explanation went something like this:

“(Ho ho hee hee), Rusty (gaffaw), Rusty’s done a (hahahahaha) crap on the fridge, and Paul has gone off to (roar, choke, cough) question her. I expect he’ll try to make her clear it up.”

Elaine looked at me stonily. “I don’t think that’s funny,” she said.

I carried on laughing, at the same time trying to remember Paul’s exact words, so that she’d share the joke. I mentioned that he thought Rusty may not have been able to get outside.

Now she looked puzzled.“Jane. It’s not funny… how high is the fridge?”

I’d never seen Elaine so po-faced. She usually laughs at the things I find funny. Being too slow to come up with “Dunno, but it smells pretty high right now,” I stood up, and held the side of my forefinger against my forehead.

“How did she get up there?” she asked.

I explained. “There’s a window beside the fridge. She’d have jumped onto the sill, and then onto the fridge. She often gets up there.”

“What?” She shook her head as if to loosen the dust of disbelief. “Has she ever done anything like that before?”

I couldn’t understand why she was so upset by my hilarity.

“No, she’s usually very clean, apart from all the hairs on the carpet. She’s long-haired, so it’s a bit of a nightmare hoovering up after her.”

“What?” she said again, but she must have decided to gloss over the hair issue, since she added “Why would Krusti crap on the fridge? Is she mad?”

That finished me. It took a while to splutter out the words “not… Krusti… Rusty…. the cat.”

Finally she saw the funny side, but by then, I almost needed medical attention, and by the time she’d stopped laughing at the misunderstanding, so did she.

You may call me squeamish, but in the interests of good taste, I chose to forego an image for this post. 😉 🙂 😀

©Jane Paterson Basil

Out there (Stream of Conciousness)

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In the enclosure below, white buses wait for children playing soldiers, intending to defend a country that doesn’t know where it’s going. Behind red brick and jagged wire, Army green shreds of a greedy empire cling, ragged, to their skin. Sergeants scream at lagging lads, as the keen stand to attention, toy guns polished and ready for the killing game, never questioning that they are on the right side. Whatever the cause, they will blunt their bloodied swords and raise the tainted flag of false victory, as the foe breathes his final breath, to find the only peace he will ever know, in death. Yes, they will say they have killed the beast, yet our fear will continue to fester, until we learn to live together.

Along the road, cars drive by, intent on many urgent or indifferent missions, while buses carry harried housewives home with their cache of nutritious food; but I am forgetting – those days have receded into history. The women are working, or fearfully trailing, to the Jobcentre to be sanctioned for something they didn’t understand, wondering how they will buy bread next week, knowing they may have to join what they see as the queue of shame for a free food handout. These days, the buses drag students to and from uncertain lessons in subjects they don’t want to learn, and can’t, because the courses are substandard, except for the fortunate few, who have up-to-date tutors and superior curricula.

Meanwhile, in a city we used to call The Smoke, due to the smog that hung over it, parliament buildings rumble with government people who shoulder the true blame, yet walk without shame. They jumble justice and shuffle the cards; each card bearing the name of an unwilling servant whose choice has been stolen by corrupt officers with too many ticks in too many boxes, pencilled in by people who thought only to make their own lives richer, but didn’t think to look for the truth behind the lies. Too late to take back the mistake they made, their spirits turn to sludge as they trudge though Satan’s paperwork, getting tripped at every step.

Outside, rain dulls the senses, though the day is brightened by a fading line of bright sky on the horizon. Through dripping windows I watch the traffic lights go by, to sweep around the roundabout nearby.

Suddenly I catch sight of the golden glow on the central island, and I wonder how, or why, it passed me by. My eyes are awash with yellow narcissi, trumpeting silently, promising that Spring will come, as it always does.

I feel shame; it is the daffodils, and not me, which have become the change I want to see.

I let the feeling trickle through me, feed me, maybe improve me.

The rain ceases, the sun shows its face, painting the sky blue again, making the trees glisten with drops of nature’s liquid saviour.

The world turns at its usual speed, and even with our destructive nature, we are tiny, and we cannot slow it. We can kill the deer, and ourselves, but the planet will endure until infinite space holds up its hand.

But that is not enough for the deer,  or for you and me.

Image: The least attractive  portion of the view from my window, showing the army cadet building on the right, with the white buses below, and the daffodils on the traffic island behind.In summer the trees cover a lot af the scene, leading the eye toward green hills on the horizon.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Odd thoughts

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Sometimes, even twenty years on, I feel like crying when I think of the father of my eldest Grandson, lying dead in his bed.

Maybe I have PTSD – very dis-ease must have a name tagged to it, validifying it, making it a bona fide mental disease, which – since they came into fashion – deletes the shame.

I have a list of such fun conditions, but they didn’t think to offer me PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Maybe I’ll apply to my psychiatrist to have those initials added. The great thing about having all those letters assigned to your case, is that you don’t have to pay to put them after your name.

You can’t say I’m a pathetic worry-guts – I have GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder).

You can’t say I’m crazy – I have ISIP (Intermittent Stress-Induced Psychosis).

You can’t say I’m cold towards my son – I have BO (Bullying Overload). OK, so I made that one up…

This post gives the impression that I’m feeling low – I’m not. I’m having a great day, while I wait for the phone to ring, and this time, it won’t be bad news.

Time to sign off…

Jane Basil G.A.D. I.S.I.P. B.O.

PS I left out the RDD (Recurrent Depressive Disorder), as there’s nothing humorous about those initials. I wish it was ODD (Ordinary Depressive Disorder), so I could have put “Gad, I sip odd BO” after my name, but it’s not a recognised condition…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Laura’s birthday

rose-670447__480I’ve had a fortnight of reading, copying, pasting, editing, and formating the best 150 poems I have written over the past two years; a manic race to complete an album of my verse, to give as a gift on my daughter, Laura’s birthday, two days ago.

I succeeded, in spite of constant interruptions from friends and family, and a particularly nasty and unexpected brain-rape, on the 22nd, by a strange sexual predator who made me so angry that I thought I was having a heart-attack. It was hard to work the following day, since I was physically shaking. I’m a bit confused by the unwanted attention I’ve been getting lately.

It happened that I’d been invited to a family dinner with my brother’s ex and my nephew. When Linda discovered that it was Laura’s birthday, she invited both her and her boyfriend, Joe. Laura, Joe and I walked to Linda’s together. Laura looked beautiful; nicely dressed and well groomed. Every time I see her I notice a new improvement. She was well and happy. This was to be the first family event she was to attend for over three years, and I was very excited.

My sister had had a tough week, and felt too tired to attend the dinner, but she met up with us beforehand, as she wanted to see Laura on her birthday. By the time we parted company from her aunt, Laura was positively glowing from the compiments laurahair12she’d received.

It wasn’t a big party – only seven of us, so I wasn’t too worried that she may feel overwhelmed, but I didn’t expect it to go as well as it did. She had a lovely time. She ate a proper meal, and a desert, and talked confidently. Everyone was impressed with her, and they liked Joe. It was lovely. I felt so pleased and proud. They left before the rest of us, as Joe’s nephew was staying over for the night, and he wanted to spend a bit of time with him. Although Laura clearly enjoyed herself, I expect she was emotionally exhausted after a couple of hours, so it was good that they had an excuse to leave, but the ice has been broken. From now on I expect she’ll be included in all the invites I get from that part of the family.

She’s managed to build up some savings. Before, every penny she received funded her drug habit.

One day at a time…

©Jane Paterson Basil