Town Planning

Rewalking the streets of my childhood home
the map redrawn
New streets roam where there were none.
New hopes and homes in the shadow of towers long gone.
The room where you broke my heart,
carted away with the rubble.
Dust long settled, dug in to the foundations of new lives.

Clean lines on these show homes.
“Tasteful” art on the sill,
meaningless but matching.
The choice between memory and moment.

Why do I hold on to echoes?
Standing in the shade it is dark and cold.
I need to make new pathways of my own.
New neurons sparking, branching out.
Remember or forget – but don’t get lost.
Time to clear out
the accumulated mental tshotchkes of a thousand years.
Of lives not lived.
People I used to be.
Thoughts thought too often
they have become worn
and no longer fit me well.

While I was driving donuts around
this subconscious suburbia,
the sun was shining, rivers flowing
brick stacked upon brick and other people’s
children scuffed their knees,
making memories of their own.

Opening my eyes, I breathe in the
impermanent breeze.
We are as fleeting.
How sad to remain wet from
rain which fell from clouds
dissipated a millenium ago.
I let this passing sunlight dry me,
warm me, unseize my bones.

I take his ageing hand and walk forward.
I will pay attention to this film, for the rest of its run.

Henry Cole wrote a card

The Christmas list
gets shorter every year.
The names change.

Families grow,
then shrink,
then suddenly –
the solitary names

You write the card still.
By mistake.
Then remember,
and sit
staring at your error.
Maybe a tear
maybe just numb.

How does life go so fast?
How quickly does that light fade,
the sharpness blunt
before the blade breaks.

Even the wedding list.
So quick a time
between planning
and execution –
suddenly shorter.

The names dropped.
Cards unwritten.
Those you optimistically
for years
but never gave
or sent.
But now –

My world is smaller.
My grip was not
tight enough.
You all slipped through
like sand.

Waking, overwhelmed.

This mind of mine,
this heart,
an instrument, fine tuned
to resonate,
respond, to the most
exquisite sorrow,
the mournful keening
at the centre of all things.

It sings with joy,
radiates love.
To know, to see, to feel
all that is.
Your eyes, your hair, your skin.
The roll of the earth
in its greens and golds,
silvers and greys.
The baby’s smile,
the last breath.
The bright white heat
at the heart of

And in knowing love
it knows loss.
Feels the world wrenched away
and cannot bear it.

There is no escape.
Only now.
This moment – you are in my
my heart,
my arms.

You who breathe,
who sleep,
who held me as a child.
This good earth
that carries me home.

This air in my lungs,
the shining stars of the sky.

I must not let the beauty
of the music
make me cry.

Knowing that the song must end.

Perhaps in truth,
I know we are only notes,
in a never ending

to create new
harmonies –

through which
the infinite
makes itself known.

Little furry ball and chains

I just tried to go for a walk. My cats had other ideas. First Poppy followed me, miaowing in a most uncharacteristic manner and circling my feet. I figured she was just miffed that I had left without letting her back in the house – so obediently retraced my steps and let her in. At which her brother, Ixxy, came bounding out and proceded to do exactly the same when I set out again. This is not particularly like them. Do they know something I don’t I wonder?

Anyway. I decided to come in and have a cup of coffee instead. I’ll go out in a bit and catch the bus into town. Walking can resume another day.

And it will. The purpose of my walk, as well as just a walk on a nice-ish, warm-ish spring day, was to talk to myself.

Sounds odd perhaps, but I set myself a little mission a while back, to get better at talking. Outloud.  I’m fine with written communication – but sometimes I really struggle verbalising orally.  It’s like the wiring between brain and mouth is dial up compared to that between brain and hand which is high speed fiberoptic or whatever the latest whizbangery is.

So I try, occasionally to do one of these brain dump type things into the voice recorder on my phone.  It’s tremendously difficult. And listening back is excruciating. Why do I sound so posh? And knackered? The microphone picks up every pant and wheeze. I don’t sound healthy.

Of course I’m not really very healthy at all. And therein is another of my many motivations to walk.

Tomorrow is my last day at work.

I took voluntary exit. This is huge. Sixteen and a half years. All manner of stress and torment. Done.

I’m sad it’s ended the way it has. It’s going to be a damp squib – only one or two people left of those I have spent such a chunk of my life with. The service I have worked in and tried to build up and improve over the years as I got more responsibility – well. Good luck to those left behind and now arriving. I have hope but it shouldn’t have been let down so badly. Cuts upon cuts upon cuts – so much skill and knowledge lost.

But that ceases to be my problem tomorrow.

My problem then is me. Sorting out my head, my body, and building up a new life that will bring me more joy than I had before.

I don’t underestimate the task.

Walking threads through it. I’ve long wanted to build up a daily walking habit, but long commutes and working hours have combined with depression and exhaustion to just make it never stick. Well then now is the time to overcome that.

I have all the time in the world. For at least a few months. Which should be enough to build a habit.

Fitness, time to think, to brew ideas, to talk to myself. To feel the breeze on my face, to explore my beautiful home, to listen to the birdsong and the wind, the distant trains and cars. Smell the smells of the countryside, both fragrant and foul. Be inspired, take pictures, paint, write poetry. Remind myself that the world is there, living, breathing, being so much more that what we see in the tellybox. That there is peace and joy among the chaos and the noise.

And somewhere in there I will find the strength I need to make the next however many years better than the last. Not that the last have been bad – but we all deserve better if it is possible.

It’s not about money, or fame, or status. It’s feeling at peace, and that you are doing what you should be doing with your time, not just whatever you ended up doing when your little boat first hit the shore of adulthood.

Tick tick tick

Waiting, waiting. I am leaving work in two months. Was meant to be last tuesday but I agreed to stay on – to help, to do some things which I am best placed to do. Half thought there might be some financial benefit but I don’t think that is the case now. So now I am watching the clock tick down – knowing I won’t get done what I need to. Being delayed by the same infernal internal politics that had me running for the door in the first place.

And I am also waiting for a date for surgery. Which will probably come around the same time as I leave. So I know I will need some recouperation time. Which means I can’t really plan anything. Which is frustrating.

Meanwhile I try and think about what I want to do. With this time I have, with the few months I can give myself before I have to be earning more money. And what do I want to do to earn that money in the long run?

I had been working towards doing a PG Dip in Counselling next year. I’m on the PG Cert at the moment. But it will be an expensive and time consuming process if I do it. Maybe I need to think more thoroughly and be sure if that is the right avenue. I am interested in the theory. I am interested in people. I want to help, and I think I have an aptitude – but, but. How does it impact me? How will I respond to real life problems? When they transcend the difficulties that I have helped friends through in everyday life.

I’m thinking a little counselling of my own, and maybe some volunteering in some way might help me see whether I am as suited as I think I am. And if I can overcome other challenges which may be in my way.

Should I then focus on some of the things I haven’t had, and won’t have the chance to do othewise. For a little while. Writing, painting, making things.

Follow a path, see where it leads.

Don’t let the door 

What a shitty year. On so very many levels. Funnily enough,  despite the horrendous end to 2015, the floods which devastated our Valley – from which people are still recovering – the response actually meant I started the year hopeful. 

And I find myself at the end in a position which at any other year in the previous 15 would have been joyous. But by God has the stuffing been knocked out of me in between. Enough to squeeze out the confidence and replace it with anxiety. 

But I will find a way to get back my oomph. Deal with this new world. 


This has been a hard week in so many ways. We have come to the latest milestone in an excrutiating restructuring programme which is eviscerating my team. Already we know who is leaving. Today is the deadline for those applying to stay. A horrible process which – while it was never going to be easy – has certainly not been designed to minimise stress for the participants. It’s been hard work even to do my contributions, when I know I am leaving. The torment for those wanting to stay is just horrible.

I worry for the future. Theirs, mine, the service we have struggled so hard to keep going and do well. But at least we have one. The hardest thing this week has been losing one of our own. We heard on monday that a colleague had passed away the previous week. This was sudden, despite her having been ill for a week or two. We didn’t have any idea it was anything serious. Indeed neither did she. She thought it was stress related, as did the doctor she saw. Because the last few months have been awful, it’s not unlikely that many of us might have been fraying at the seams. But apparently there was something else underneath. We don’t know what yet.

I feel bereft. My team is my little family. I feel motherly towards them all. I do everything I can to try and help them. Worry desperately about trying to ensure everyone rubs along well together, try to help people understand eachother. I am hugely proud of what we acheive together despite little being in our favour most of the time. I try to encourage staff to make the best of themselves, believe in their capabilities and gently encourage them to reach for whatever goal will bring them happiness.  Sheila was relatively new to the team. She’d been with us a couple of years. She came to us having had a rough time in her previous job, and I wanted to make sure we made her feel welcome. It really wasn’t hard. She was so helpful and willing and eager to learn. She had to learn a whole new range of tasks and applications and processes – because information work is quite different from generic administration work, and more complex than people think it is. But she never moaned. She was keen and interested and gave great service to our customers.

Someone shared with us that she had told them she felt really valued and happy and at home in our team. That gives me comfort. We did our job well.

I am angry that there are managers out there who don’t think like that. Who see their staff as sponges who can absorb more and more and more work, or be wrung out until there is nothing left. Who are unsympathetic if people are sick, or need adjustments to help them be able to deliver the best work they can. We spend so much time together, why make it unpleasant? People who think only of themselves. How can I use this individual to in some way improve my own chances. What competition are they to me? What can I do to sabotage them. I hate that in people. People who see work as an excuse to behave in a manner they never would with friends or family.  Seeing “professionalism” as somehow hard and cold and ruthless. These are the kind of people that make work hell, make people ill, and paradoxically, often make their staff less productive, efficient, cost effective etc. And yet they are the ones who end up at the top of the tree because they don’t care who they step on to get there. Don’t mind making the “difficult decisions” that mean people lose their jobs or are pressured into illness. They don’t say no, or offer other ways of doing things, because they only care about pleasing the boss. Regardless if the boss is wrong. Which they sometimes are. And need telling, respectfully, why what they suggest is a really bad idea.

But that’s a tangent. I was talking about family. There are lots of different types of family. The actual relative ones. The blood ones you don’t get to choose. The adoptive ones you dont get to choose but who chose you. The friend ones you probably get on with most. And the work ones. Who if you are lucky are also friend ones. You might not know them as well as some of the others – but whose fault is that? Anyway. They are precious. Look after them. Mine is hurting and I wish I could make it stop.