true tales from the gates of the underworld

July 28, 2011, 8:03 pm
Filed under: Life | Tags: , , , ,

We go through our days, sharing moments with people; they can be complete strangers or good friends. Or both. I believe we rarely get to see the whole picture of anybody’s life. We catch glimpses, seconds, minutes, hours at best, and paint our own pictures, draw our own conclusions. The mother with the toddler having a tantrum in the supermarket. The pregnant girl behind the counter of the corner shop. Your healthcare practitioner, always calm and smiling. Your friend, nicknamed the Ice Queen.
Do you know their stories? Or do you only have fragments, little pieces making up an incomplete mosaic?
We paint our own pictures, we draw conclusions and pass judgment. When we see something that doesn’t quite seem to fit into the picture, we are astonished, and sometimes shaken up. How could your friend be carrying so much resentment because everyone assumes things about her? How could your healthcare practitioner possibly cry? What secret does the shop girl hide behind those green eyes?
You don’t see me, staring at my own pale reflection in the mirror, or when I recoil a fraction from a touch, haunted by unwanted memories. You don’t know if I like to sit on my kitchen surface and eat peanut butter straight from the jar. Your image of me stems from the seconds, minutes or hours we shared. You can take a second look, dig a little deeper, ask a question;
Or you can reserve judgment, smile and think “I am so glad that’s not me.”


Without words.
July 26, 2011, 7:19 pm
Filed under: Life | Tags: , , ,


life goes on
July 26, 2011, 11:27 am
Filed under: Life | Tags: , , ,

And so I carry on, day by day. There have been some worse and some better days lately.
I am learning to find the fine balance between looking after myself and sabotaging my efforts, and walking that line. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I carry my guilt around with me. Squidge is growing and thriving, but I am ashamed to admit that, while I love him fiercely, I am lacking the connection with him that I have with Raptor. As long as he is given all his medication regularly, he is a happy and healthy baby, smiling, cooing and gaining weight. But I have found myself holding him, not wanting to let him go, because I am desperate to feel something for him while he is in my arms. The only thing I feel is guilt, because I don’t feel connected to him. I search and I search, but I can’t find anything. It hurts. Yet, when he looks at me with his big eyes, or smiles, I know he is mine, and I love him.

In other things, our house is finally starting to take on shape. It looks more like a home, and less like a temporary squat now. The walls are painted, things are tidy, and the carpet and furniture is on order. Life goes on.

July 18, 2011, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Life | Tags: , ,

During these days when I am feeling sad it always helps that there are others who believe I am on the right path, and who can see the silver lining in my place. I can’t help but feel guilty about so many things. I feel guilty for not eating much. I just don’t enjoy it at the moment, even though I usually love food. I don’t have the energy to make something nice, I am too tired. I am worried that it has started to impact on my milk supply. I have plenty, certainly more than enough to satisfy Squidge and his hunger, but I have noticed a change. And now Squidge is on medication to stop the constant vomiting, he is not feeding as often, further reducing my supply. He was weighed today, and despite not vomiting as often anymore, he has dropped another centile line on the chart. He is still just above average, but for him, the drop is fairly dramatic. I can’t help but wonder if it is my fault.
There is the guilt that I can tell a straight-faced lie to someone who is only trying to help me. Maybe the silver lining is based on this lie. Writing it down means admitting it to myself, I guess. I’ve always been good at the whole self-sabotage thing. It’s even worse because I am aware of it, yet feel unable to change things at present.
I don’t like my post-baby body, I don’t feel particularly comfortable with it. It’s not the weight, or even my shape. I just preferred being pregnant, despite the pain I was in.
I feel guilty because I can’t face doing anything today. I want to go upstairs, pull the duvet over my head and not hear or see anything for a few hours. But of course I can’t. I have two children to look after, and things to do today. I am so tired.

New things and old friends
July 17, 2011, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Life | Tags: , , ,

Our car has been slowly but surely losing the will to carry on. In the past two months it has cost us more than 900 pounds in repairs and new parts. When it failed the MOT on friday it was the final straw, the car had to go.
Now we were faced with the decisions – what car do we buy now, how are we going to pay for it? A deal offered itself quickly, and we have found the ideal replacement. And the best thing? It is free for 18 months and leaves us with two and a half thousand pounds in cash.
Test driving it was terrifying and exhilarating. I tend to take a while to get used to new cars, and having been used to our old, rather sluggish, heavy car, having control over an almost brand new car was a completely new experience. I am looking forward to driving it again.
The test drive happened in the middle of the preparations for Sophie’s birthday barbeque – I had just got one of the cookie trays out of the oven when we got the call and my husband spontaneously decided he wanted to go and test drive NOW.
Upon our return, cakes, brownies and millionaires shortbread were hastily finished, cut and packaged. I am amazed how much I managed to do in little over 90 minutes.
I had been dreading the evening. My husband is quite notorious for telling people what he thinks of them when he has been drinking, and Leah was going to be there. The last time I saw her she barely acknowledged my presence. The last time she spoke to me she had nothing nice to say to me. The plan was to have the kids picked up towards 7pm so we could relax. For the very first time ever I was unable to express more than an ounce of milk for Squidge, and with a feeling of guilt I drove to the supermarket and picked up a box of formula. I was just glad it wouldn’t have to be me who fed it to him.
The party started a little slowly, the adults sitting in various corners of the garden, keeping in pairs, while the kids ran around, laughing riotously. But soon the food began to cook, alcohol was consumed and the conversation began to flow. Our host revealed a few personal bits of information she had been holding in for a few years.
The evening continued, my husband quietly in the corner nursing is first half-pint of cider, not getting involved until Squidge became restless and the kids were picked up by his mother. He soon relaxed and let the ice melt by playing punchbag for a group of ten 2-5 year-olds.
Old, seemingly breaking friendships were reforged. Hugs were exchanged. The drinks were in full flow.
The rest of the party flew buy in a swirl of conversation, gentle teasing jokes, laughter and more alcohol. It felt good to be with my friends again, and it felt even better to just BE.
Arriving home in the early hours of the morning, the children long safely and happily tucked up in bed, my mother-in-law informed me that squidge had shown absolutely no interest in the formula I had been feeling so guilty about.
Let’s do it again, and soon.

July 15, 2011, 12:18 pm
Filed under: Poetry

There is this one moment: After you have jumped and you can still feel the pressure of the ground,
like a memory, beneath your feet, when you are still floating, but the sweet pull of gravity is already there,
unstoppably drawing you down into its embrace.
That is the moment.

I know this now. And maybe it is the only thing worth knowing: that, whenever you jump, there is one moment
it was worth jumping for. Even if it is uncertain where you’ are going to land.

Myself, I have only jumped a few times. But considering the short span of my life so far, it was plenty. You
always have to jump too many times – and never often enough.

They say that some people have jumped across their own shadows.

Had the air not been so sticky, that afternoon, and so sweet, I might have never gone to the garden that lay
hidden within the banks that plunged down as cliffs into the sea a little further away. The banks above the village where I spent the summer. It was part of the ruined remains of an old manor, protected from the North Wind and
the salty gales only by an old wall of roughly worked white stone.

The people of the town said the house was uninhabitable and dangerous because of the North Wind rushing through
the walls.
The people of the surrounding villages said it was uninhabitable and dangerous because ghost were creeping around.

They say the North Wind is the ruler of the sky. The fishermen prayed to him for fish. Sometimes he was merciful.

But the air was sticky, that afternoon, and sweet, and I sought refuge in the garden. The Olive trees were
silvery-green and the shadows of the wild flowers colourful.

How I got up on top of the banks, I can’t remember. I think it was something to do with an argument with an,
in my memory already fading, lover, that drove me up there.
Standing up there, gazing out, into the world and the sea, I wanted to feel like I understood something.
I wanted to know where the place was I would land. Sometime.

Because it was so sticky, that afternoon, and the and the air ferociously sweet, I sought refuge in the overgrown
garden, where the North Wind strayed around like a ghost, beneath a pomegranate tree. There was something
else in this garden, which was fraught with the bitter-sweet scent of the many wild plants, and the salty breath
of the sea – unsatisfactory deliverance. There, beneath a fig tree, sat a man.

I had at first not noticed him, the strange body, who sat under the branches which heavily carried unripe figs,
but after a while, when my ears adapted to the voice of the wind, and the too loud screaming of the salt,
I finally heard him through everything else. In his firm voice, he was reciting poems. He was speaking for
the wind.

Had it not been so sticky, that afternoon, and the air not so sweet, I might have never gone to this garden,
where a man, his head crowned by leaves and unripe figs, was reading poems to the wind.

But it was sticky, and the air sweet, when I got up and walked on a dilapidated stone path, covered in
leaves – they could have lain there for centuries – I walked across to the man, who was reciting the last line
of a poem about a girl, who transformed into a tree.
His skin was tanned, his black hair dishevelled by the wind. Dark eyes glowed in a face that was still that of a boy.
His arms were strong as a fisherman’s who has to wrestle with the sea and the North Wind to retrieve
his nets, and he looked like one, whom the North Wind has gnawed at. He didn’t seem surprised to see me.
His eyes seemed to know everything. And still, he said, shyly:
‘I am reading to the Wind.’
‘I know.’ I said.

And then I sat down next to him and listened, as he began anew to recite a poem. It was about a girl, who
transformed into a flower, and the salty air blended in with his voice. He asked me if I had poems I wanted
to recite to the Wind.
I said: ‘I tell stories.’
And I told him and the Wind the story of a girl who turned into a daemon.

Had it not been so sticky, that afternoon, which was slowly turning to evening, and the air so sweet,
we might have asked each other about the things you collect in life: The names, the vocations, the
relations, the wonders. But his eyes seemed to know everything, and it was enough for me that he
seemed to know everything.
I said: ‘They say there’s ghosts here.’
He replied: ‘That is the North Wind.’
I said: ‘The wind is whistling in the trees.’
He replied: ‘Those are the ghosts.’

The next day was cooler, and the sweetness that had been in the air had thinned so far that all that remained
was a light breath, hanging over the little world on the seaside.
Light as organza.
The pale lover had run away shouting, but I didn’t understand what he said.
I only knew it had not been poems.
He left me standing there, alone, in the small room his pale image had lured me into. Alone. I had to jump to
get away. And I jumped into the garden.

The man was sitting on a semi-derelict wall and was reciting poems to the Wind. It was about a girl who
turned into the flame of a candle. His eyes seemed to know everything, so I asked him:
‘Where will I land, when I jump?’
‘In life.’ He said.
And because it was enough for me that he seemed to know what that meant, I sat down next to him and
listened until it was my turn to tell.

It was cold. The scent had escaped the mists, that had condensed to clouds, as if they were trying to preserve
the last of their presence, which were turning angrier and darker the less they could preserve.
The man was sitting on the steps in front of the old house, where people say there where ghosts, and it was
uninhabitable and dangerous because the Wind blew through the walls.

The North Wind in his face and disheveling his hair, he was reciting a poem about a girl that had turned
into a raincloud.
When he finished, he arose and took my hand.
‘Come.’ He said, and because his eyes seemed to know everything, I let him lead me.

He took me to the cliffs, and from there down a steep path to a cove. We sat down on the sand, with our
backs to the surging sea.
On top of the cliffs I could see ghost-like shadows. I saw how they jumped, far above me, off the cliffs,
down into the water, into the sea; saw how the might of their fall submerged them more and more in colour,
the closer they got to us, until the water swallowed them.
They disappeared silently.
They did not come back.

‘The Cliff-Jumpers.’ Said the man.
‘They disappeared.’ I said.
‘They are ghosts, they do not come back.’ He said.

When you jumped, would you not come back?

The man laughed and began to tell.
About everything.
About himself.
And because he was laughing and he seemed to know everything, I told him what I had to tell.

In the evening the sky turned black, and no-one saw the night arriving.

It was cold and rain was falling on the little world at the seaside, where ghosts jump off the cliffs
to finally land somewhere.

The man was sitting on a rock on the beach, there, from where we had watched the Cliff-Jumpers,
and spoke poems into the face of the Wind. It was about a girl that had lost something.
I stood behind him and put my hand on his shoulder.
The Wind swept around us, and I told the two of them the story of a girl that had lost something and thus
turned into a daemon.

Rain was falling on our bodies.
In the afternoon you could see the ghost-like shadows jumping off the cliffs.

In my room I found the faded image of a lover.
He said it rained.
Outside the window it thundered.

The sky was clear. Warmth crept into the room, where I had committed a murder. The pale corpse left
before the rain had stopped.

The Wind was listening to the man, who, leaning against a wall, was reciting a poem about a girl who had
turned into a dove.
He asked me why my eyes were red, why veins stood up in front of the white of my eyes, like red coral-twigs.
I told him it had rained.

I told the story of a girl that had turned into a daemon and killed a heart. The blood stuck to her, coral-red.

‘They say, the Cliff-Jumpers are the ghosts of lovers, who could not be together.’ He said. ‘When they jump
together, they are united for one moment. The moment when they are still floating, but have already lost the ground
beneath their feet. That moment is a place. A place in another world. There, they can be together.’
‘They arrive. They don’t land.’ I said. ‘They jump into another world.’
‘They say the Cliff-Jumper are the ghosts of lovers. The daughter of a man, who wanted to marry her off to an
old geezer. The two men where the most cruel and therefore the richest estate owners in the area. The girl lived
in the house on top of the banks, and she was in love with a young fisherman. Her father and the old geezer
locked her in the house.
The young fisherman prayed to the North Wind for help. One day they ran away together and jumped off the
Then they were united for one moment.
And the North Wind made the fields of the old geezer and the father desolate, he made their stables collapse,
and the houses of both men were so cold, they needed two hundred buckets of coal every day for heating.
All that made them become impoverished, and the people of the area chased them away.
The North Wind, they say, is the spirit of the girl.
Since then, it has never stopped blowing across the banks.’
‘This story is old.’ He said.
‘Old stories often become true with time.’
‘Truth is a story told by the North Wind.’

The eyes of the man became darker. They were glowing like dark embers.
In his eyebrows, anger could break like a thunderstorm. His skin was golden and his face still reminded of that
of a boy.
The North Wind dishevelled his black hair like a lover, and he played with a few pebbles which he threw in the air
and caught.
Thereby, the tendons on his lower arm stood out.

‘One day I want to jump from there.’ He said.
‘And land. I want to land.’
‘We all do.’

When you jump, you can get lost in the fall.

When evening came, we sat on the beach, our backs to the surging and screaming of the sea.
Black seagulls were floating above the water, as if the ocean had spat them into the sky, so it would become
darker and the night would come to it faster.

In the afternoon we had, blinded by the sun, watched shadows jump off the cliffs.

The man told me he was a fisherman.
Thoughts. Philosophy.
His eyes were dark and seemed to know everything.
I sat next to him, who quietly held out against the North Wind like a rock.
I could feel the warmth of his body.

The tide was creeping up on us from behind, closer and closer. The North Wind swept around us coldly.
They say the North Wind is the ruler of the sky, and the fishermen prayed to him to keep their boats away
from the cliffs. Sometimes he was merciful.

‘You are beautiful.’ He said.

‘I am only here for the summer.’ I said. ‘I am only here for the summer.’
‘You are here because you are looking for something.’
‘I am looking for something, but I don’t know what it is.’ I said. ‘I have lost something, but I don’t know
what it is.’
‘You are scared of finding it.’
‘I don’t know what it is.’
‘Would you dare to jump?’
The water and the North Wind crept beneath my dress.

Some have shattered on the ground without landing.

‘You are beautiful.’ He said.

The sky was clear on this day, and the sun was glaring.
The seagulls were still black, and I did not go to the man, who was certainly sitting in the garden on top of
the banks.
I was scared of being able to find something, I had lost some time ago. His eyes seemed to know everything.
His skin was golden brown.

The wind was coming from the north and whirled around the streets and alleys in the town and the surrounding
villages. I saw a child jumping from the roof of a house and break a leg.

On the marketplace, memories of a pale lover scurried past me. The market-women were loudly advertising
their wares.

A few times I thought I heard the Wind carrying shreds of a poem with it. It was about a girl that had turned
into something. I couldn’t understand what it was.
The coffee was getting cold.

One the fifth day after the storm, a sweet scent returned to the hot air. The people were celebrating a big
festival in the small world at the seaside.
The houses were decorated with flowers and flags; the men of the town were dressed in old-fashioned costumes,
re-enacting how their ancestors had chased away the most cruel estate-owners. The men of the villages were
dressed in old-fashioned costumes, re-enacting how their ancestors had chased away the old geezer and the father
of the girl, that had jumped off the cliffs, because of their mercilessness.

Music was playing everywhere. Children where running around, their faces smeared with sugar and dust.
An old man was telling everyone who would listen the legend of the Cliff-Jumpers.
It smelled of barbequed meat. Women were exchanging stories and dancing with strange men.
Above the marketplace, red and orange lanterns were swinging in the warm air.
Leaning against a wall, stood the man.
The people were drinking homemade Schnapps.

I danced with a pretty young man who declared his love for me, although he didn’t know my name.
Alcohol pulsed through my veins.
Next to my ear, something exploded and the sky filled with colourful lights.
The people clapped.
I could feel the man’s gaze lingering on me.
For a moment, the face of the faded lover appeared in front of me, but a new explosion dissolved his appearance
into the colours of the surroundings.
The boy vomited.
The band played louder.
Dark blue.
I could hear my heart beating. I could feel his heart beating as he was looking at me.
Emerald-green rained down the sky.
Heat rose up from the many human bodies.
An enormous explosion tore the sky to canyons.
A golden river poured between them.
I walked towards the man. His eyes glowed like embers. I wanted that fire. I wanted to silence it. I wanted to put
out the glowing of his eyes, that always seemed to know everything, wanted to mute his voice, which always
recited poems for the North Wind, knowing it was impossible, I would see the flames spring back to life over and over
again, I would hear his voice swelling again and again. I wanted his skin that was glowing like caramel in the light of
the lanterns.

I wanted to jump and I wanted to land, in his arms, wanted him to be mine, wanted to break through his skin, through
it, inside of him, I wanted his heart, my heart in his – they are beating together – wanted to feel his blood pulsating in me,
his hands on my body, his lips on my skin, his gaze silent.

Screaming colours danced across his body.
His gaze was burning on me.
From the sky, a giant dragon breathed coral-red fire down on us, when I jumped and put my hands on his chest, one
delicious, one painful, one unsure moment, until he pulled me towards him and put his arms around me.
He held me so tightly, it almost hurt. I bit his caramel coloured skin, wanted to break through it, into him.
The world was blood-red.

It was cold when I woke, and the light grey.
The North Wind blew through the overgrown garden, up on the banks, where we had made love under a fig tree, while
the wind was chasing ghosts through the old house.

I awoke alone. Only the salty breath of the sea was there. And the wind. The wind that never stopped blowing.
The wind that never stopped blowing.

I thought I had found something I had lost some time.
I thought I lost it again.

In the grey morning light I saw two shadows making love. The roof of the house fell in.
Beneath it, it buried an overgrown garden and a very old story.

I knew that the pale lover would leave today.
I walked down to the cliffs. Slowly.

The man was sitting close to the edge, his dark back was in stark contrast to the gray morning light.

Silently I walked past him, to the end of the cliffs, there, to where many edges were, and dark holes, and fears,
and where you could also look down, to the dark water far below.

His gaze was silent.
Deep in his dark eyes I could see something glowing, like you could see a star, up in the dark night-sky, far away,
a faint glow, that could still burn you with its heat if you got too close to it.
Like seeing something shining on the dark bottom of the sea, something precious, fate had thrown there. Maybe.

‘Would you dare?’
There was almost something desperate in his voice when he said it.
‘Would you dare to?’
Almost something desperate.

I freed myself from the stiff grip of his hands.
I stepped even closer to the edge.
So close, the world began to turn…
I would jump.

Below my feet I would still feel the impression of the ground. The North Wind would hold me for one more moment
in its embrace. I would float.
I would float for a whole lifetime.
And next to me: Him.
Then, I would fall, I would fall, faster and faster, for an eternity, until I would hit the water, go under, the sea would
enter me and take my consciousness.
It would be warm, when I woke, the air a sweet and salty scent, the sun would dry our, my wet clothes.
The man would gently whisper a poem in my ear, about a girl, that had turned into the North Wind.
A mild wind would be blowing.

Next to him: Me.
And then he jumped.
Next to me: Him.
And then I jumped.

Happiness Part One – GREAT DREAM
July 15, 2011, 11:07 am
Filed under: Life | Tags: , , ,

Giving – Do things for others
I try to be helpful, do what I can. Whether it is helping out with practical things such as looking after a friend’s children, giving someone the clothes my boys no longer wear and lending a hand with cleaning or setting up things, or just being there to support someone through a difficult break-up, illness or a bad day; I always treat others the way I would like to be treated myself.

Relating – Connect with people
The people who matter the most to me are my family – my husband and children, my parents, siblings, nephew and niece… – and my friends.

Exercising – Take care of your body
I like to walk with the children and by myself, the ache at the end of a long walk gives me a sense of achievement and that I have done something good for myself. I like to swim, especially under water. It gives me time to think, and the water washes away all the negativity, leaving me refreshed.

Appreciating – Notice the world around
I often stop, mentally, and take notice of the beautiful things around me; when I crest a hill in my car and the view opens up before me, when I look out of the window and see that the sky is a brilliant blue, the clouds move and create shapes, or the sun shines. When my son smiles because he sees me, or has just discovered something new. The feel of clean bedding after a long day. My husband putting his arms around me, or gives me a call during the day, just to hear my voice.

Trying out – Keep learning new things
I’ve learned to reverse my car into tight parking spaces! It might seem like nothing, but having been driving for years, I always tried to avoid parking in streets with little space because I didn’t feel confident that I wouldn’t hit another car. I can park in any space that is big enough for our car now.

Direction – Have goals to look forward to
I want to be a midwife one day. In a couple of months I am going to train as a doula and start supporting women and their families through pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. Ultimately I want to gain enough experience to be accepted onto a Midwifery course at university.

Resilience – Find ways to bounce back
I often try to tell myself that “shit happens” and that things will get better again, you just need a plan of action. Be proactive.

Emotion – Take a positive approach
Focus on the good things, not the bad. Beautiful, healthy children, a lovely (if work-in-progress) house, a husband who loves and respects me. Plans for the future.

Acceptance – Be comfortable with who you are
The real “me” is honest and determined. I try to not dwell on things too much, but can’t help it sometimes. I treat others with the same respect that I would like to be treated with. I am intelligent and really quite nerdy, full of random information and knowledge. I stand up for myself and my beliefs, and those who mean the most to me. I am far from perfect, and I get caught up in myself sometimes, and then need someone to give me a little push in the right direction. I do try to keep going, through everything.

Meaning – Be part of something bigger
The things that give my life meaning are my family and my friends. The plan to become a midwife and be as good a mother to my children as I can be.