Tag Archives: journaling

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

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

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

It’s been a while…

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It’s been a while since the last time, which could be why I didn’t notice until it was too late…

This morning my brother Angus turned up unexpectedly and gave me a tub of redcurrants he’d collected from his allotment.

When he left I looked through a few recipes and decided to make a redcurrant cake.

It’s been a while since the last time…

so my baking powder was eight months past it’s sell-by date. I’d run out of eggs and I didn’t have a lemon or icing sugar, so I had to go out and buy several ingredients.

When I returned home I remembered that my daughter has most of my cake tins, but I have a big square one, and I thought it would be fine, though the mix may be spread a lttle thin.

It’s been a while since the last time…

so I hadn’t used my Kenwood Chef for several years. When I switched it on it sounded grumpy, and after a minute of disgruntled mixing, something inside it exploded.

It came as no surprise. I was given it over half my lifetime ago, in exchange for a dress that I made for a customer with little money, who had inherited the mixer, but she didn’t need it because she already had one.

It was old even then.

I switched the mixer off and left to to smoke, surprised by my feelings of relief. It was over – the death I had dreaded for so many years had finally arrived – and now my loyal Kenwood could Rest in Peace rather than in the Back of the Cupboard.

I disinterred my hand whisk from the murky depths of a drawer, gave it a wash and began beating the eggs into the buttery mix. When the handle detached itself from the whisk – as it does whenever it’s used – I remembered that I’d been meaning to replace it for some time. I pulled out a sturdy table fork and used that instead.

It’s been a while since the last time…

which was why I didn’t notice – until I’d mixed in the flour – that there was an awful lot of cake batter. That quarter of a kilo of Greek yogurt bulked it up a lot. Too late I remembered how generous German cake recipes are. Back when there were six of us in the house it was an advantage, but these days I live alone, and am trying to limit my sugar and fat consumption. It hadn’t occurred to me that after I’d made the cake there’d be nobody but me to eat it, and it would call to me from the kitchen, no matter what I was doing, and no matter how I tried to drown out its plaintive voice.

I placed half of the batter in the baking tin, added a layer of plump, jewel-like redcurrants, and topped the lot with the other half of the batter.

It pretty much filled up the tin. I put it in the oven.

While I cleared up the impressive amount of mess I had made, the flat filled up with the delicious smell of baking, and half-an-hour later I pulled the cake out of the oven.

It wasn’t thin. It was what some supermarkets refer to as party-size.

When it was cold I dusted it with icing sugar and cinnamon (the recipe suggested cardamom but my cardomom seems to have been absorbed into the atmosphere).

I cut myself a slice. It was delicious.

I took another slice. After all, it’s been a while…

It’s easy to resist bought cakes as I know they will always be disappointing, but home baked cakes are entirely different.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to have to take most of it over to my daughter Claire, and ask her to cut it in half and give half of it to her sister Sarah. Otherwise I’ll eat the lot in in no time at all.

It’s been a while since the last time I baked a cake, and now I remember why. It’s a shame, because I had a really good afternoon. I don’t care that my Kenwood Chef exploded and my whisk fell apart. I love baking.

©Jane Paterson Basil