This evening we packed up and went to Slaidburn village green and had a wonderful impromptu picnic. I baked flapjack and Luke made egg salad, and I had some sneaky pinot grigio and we shared a flask of coffee. We totally took over the green. No-one else was there and we played football, I threw a ball for Charlie though he got too hot and gave up. The kids explored the river and the bridge and Steven and I lay on a blanket and enjoyed the sunshine. I finished Nightwood and the kids scored penalties against Steven ‘the cat’ Houghton. Lil and Steven tried to convince Luke the government have announced a new day, in between Thursday and Friday which will commence tomorrow and will be named ‘Fried Egg Day’ in which everyone must eat a mandatory fried egg, as there are too many chickens and a surplus of eggs.
I managed to spend the morning writing – work on a collaboration for an intended art installation. I was ready for it the moment I opened my eyes and set to work before I got dressed or did anything at all. We only have one usable laptop so I often have to wait my turn in the holidays, but this would not wait.
After lunch in the yard with the rabbits and Charlie we walked from our house to Dean Clough reservoir via this forest. It’s an eerie place. One time years ago some kids went there at night, took acid and cut the heads off some grazing sheep with shards of glass. I am not kidding. There’s a memorial on one of the trees of a man who fell to his death. There’s burned out fires and cider cans, embers and bottles. All scars.
I went skinny dipping here when I was a teenager. I must have been mad. It’s not allowed, it’s incredibly dangerous and stupid. I ripped my trousers on a rock and had to walk home with a gaping hole showing my ass, wet through.
The sky was broodingly grey and then turned suddenly and the blue was so pronounced Luke exclaimed it looked like the sea. He raised his little hand to it and said something deeply poetic and Steven laughed, ‘alright, Ted Hughes.’
We drank a flask of hot chocolate on a bridge and thoroughly enjoyed it. Steven gave me his coat as it was a little breezy and I felt cold.
Tonight we all sat as a family and read novels. We drank tea and coffee and read our novels greedily to ourselves. I nearly finished Nightwood, a novel which has made me laugh, gasp with delight and also furrow my brow quite often.
This is me with my ponytail and an almost furrowed brow.
I felt far less sad and empty today as I did yesterday. I think a great deal depends upon my writing. If I write, and if I write something which I feel has really hit the mark, something which I can read back during editing and know I said it almost precisely, I feel better, I feel better than better, I feel ok. I desperately, desperately rely on writing. I cannot make any sense of my experience without writing, and I can’t feel as though I’ve achieved anything unless I have written and written hard.
The sun is setting over the Methodist church behind my house, the white cross illuminated by the changing light. It used to be neon red; sometimes I think I’d like to ask them to light it up, especially when there’s a thunderstorm, it’s quite a thing to see.
The night melts away into splendid dreaming now, with two sleeping pills and a good fragment of a book. I suffered nightmares all through each night, waking regularly in terror, for months, from March through to just very recently. I thought it would never end but now I dream sweetly sometimes, and if not sweetly then intensely. I wake confused but rouse myself easily and become consumed immediately by thoughts of what I want and need to do – I set myself a high target each day and since this is the holidays and the children need me I often miss the target by a fair way.
The other day I woke in the morning around 5am and wrote this down immediately – I just found it in my red notebook:
‘Let me pull a blade from a bullet
from the weeping tongue of your mouth.’
and next to it it says ‘words from a dream spoken by Macbeth’s weird sisters.’
It’s a weird, weird world.
This is one of my favourite places on earth. You can just see Pendle Hill in the distance. When we come here we are on top of the world.
This evening my son and I made tomato soup, home made sunflower and pumpkin seed rolls and apple pie made with orange, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and custard. We were too full to run around. We felt gloriously full and happy.
The light has changed and waned and dimmed all day. I felt sad today for no particular reason and I became troubled, slow and depressed through the morning. Colours shifted from ordinary to dark, shadowy and worrying – the sky became turbulent, I saw shadows and dirt and dust on everything. The house looked cluttered, untidy and dirty and dark. I couldn’t stand it so we went out to buy Luke a raincoat and I felt sad in Primark in a creased dress, sad in the mall and decided to take him to have a milkshake in the fake American diner. I had bottomless coffee while he drank his own weight in oreo milkshake and we smiled at one another.
We went to the market and bought bramley apples. Luke had a shopping list in his backpack and we bought walnuts from another stall. I felt frightened and jumped every time I heard a loud noise. If someone touched me or brushed past me I shuddered. I felt every movement and every jostle in my blood. I concentrated on the shopping list and we made it home and began to cook.
I have no reason to feel sad, despondent, lonely or melancholy. I can look forward to other times, moments and events but feel today my heart has been heavy and sodden. There is no real reason. Sometimes all the colour is sucked from my world. The camera helps, the camera shows true colours. It frames the world in manageable fragments. It is hard to plan ahead when I never know how my mood might be on a daily, sometimes hourly basis; I can’t pin myself down. Sometimes I am up against severe agitation for a whole day which doesn’t abate with very powerful medication. Sometimes I am too sad to speak. Sometimes I can’t stop talking and sometimes I am enraged for no reason whatsoever. I have these constants though – my son, my daughter, my husband and my pets. They soothe me and calm me, they give me a reason to stay motivated to try hard and dig deep when it’s unbearable and fight to stay on top of despair and preoccupation. If you have love, you don’t want for anything in this life.
The way I feel is sometimes so out of sync with my world that I don’t recognise myself in it. I feel I just don’t fit. I ask my husband all the time what is wrong with me. I say why am I like this. I implore him. He doesn’t know, or else he does and can’t say, or else he knows I know and don’t want to know and can’t stand it. Some days, everything hurts. Tomorrow may be completely different. I feel numb to the touch tonight and blurry round the edges. When I shut my eyes in bed I’ll feel relief at a day ending, a day that wasn’t all so bad at all, a day where I spent wonderful time with my family – but inside I felt rotten and bruised and the bruising has spread out to all the edges of me. Goodnight world, oh goodnight, goodnight.
This is my son’s Nirvana backpack which I made for when we go to a music festival this summer. He’s made up with it, and gave me some chocolate to say thank you. We cooked a meal together today – he made a tomato and lime salsa and I made veggie wraps. The day has been a total wash out and so we have been homely and I put in a few hours’ work on the backpack amongst general drudgery, housewifery and domesticity. And I don’t mind if there’s smiles. If there’s smiles, if there’s laughter, it doesn’t really matter what we do and I can motivate myself to do just about anything for a general sense of happiness.
I didn’t write yesterday. I didn’t write the blog, didn’t pick up my notebook. A rare day. We took my husband’s Nana out to a local mill-shop to buy sandals and greetings cards she wanted and have coffee. It threw it down and she was worried about getting wet. She was worried about not getting back in time for tea, and we both stayed dry and got back in time for tea so all was well in the world. We looked at fabric and she told me about the lace bedlinen she used to make and we had a lovely hug at the end. Her husband passed away over a decade ago and she has been through a war and lost two children. I don’t know if I could cope with that. In fact, I very much doubt I could. When we were leaving her home an old man asked us if any buses were coming as he’d like to go to Blackpool. He was all dressed up and confused. His shoes were polished to a high shine and he wanted to go.
I have a small pile of work mounting up and the holidays are unforgiving – there’s no time, space or peace. My head fizzes with pressure, always pressure. Even when things fall away, even when I have do have time.
I miss my friends, I feel isolated, but I like the isolation when I don’t scrutinize it.
It’s been dark here all day. Cold, dark and not at all summery. As though the universe shut its eyelids gently for a while. As though it needed to catch its breath. I have held my breath at times today, not panicked but somehow not sure. I have expected something to happen and nothing has. I have held my breath in me with my teeth on edge. My shoulders tight and my chest tight. All it would take is a good dose of sun; yellow light streaming in. White light. People. Stimulation. Noise. A sense of purpose. Some days I shut down at bedtime having held it all in so tight all day and I wake up tight in a ball.
This is my daughter Lil. We went to Edisford Bridge in Clitheroe and the kids paddled in the river and skimmed stones. Charlie barked at rocks for a couple of hours. We drank tea in polystyrene cups and talked about whatever came into our heads. My mother and father-in-law came too, and both having just recovered from major surgery they thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine.
This morning my friend Mark gave me a beautiful tattoo of a rose.
It’s a cover-up of a tattoo I had aged seventeen. I had the original done on a whim and hated it. I adore the new work. Mark is at Inkspirations…http://www.inkspirationstattoo.co.uk and is a brilliantly talented artist.
I realised today it has taken me twenty years to have the confidence to show my arms in public, as I have many self-harm scars. In fact, I had my back exposed for the tattoo and people saw my body and I didn’t mind, though years ago I couldn’t have done it. Until recently I didn’t want anyone to see me or touch me. I think I just realised that it doesn’t matter what people think about me or how I look. I’m pleased I don’t have to hide my tattoo anymore and feel proud of the work Mark has done. I don’t mind if people stare at my arms, it doesn’t bother me, and I’m more tactile than I used to be. I guess I’m just going soft.
Sometimes I feel sad it’s taken me so long to accept myself and begin to feel comfortable in my own skin and my own body, but I will embrace the confidence I’ve found. None of us have any reason to be ashamed of our bodies. Our bodies are beautiful, magical, special and finite. I want to live now, as long as I possibly can. I’m hoping by keeping this blog I might be able to trace my thoughts on the bad days back to these better moments.
This is my son cutting out a sewing pattern. He decided he wanted me to teach him how to sew, and wanted to make a bag with a Nirvana face on, with all his badges, for the Green Man music festival we’re going to over the summer. What is there not to be happy about looking at this picture? We were happy. We are happy. The sun came through the window and warmed his little back while we pinned and cut and organised our work.
Later we walked from Sunnyhurst woods to Darwen Tower. It felt wintery and blustery. We drank coca-cola at the summit and sat and looked out at the spectacular views – rainclouds swarming and bursting over different patches of our 360 degree vantage point.
Today I felt no fear, no trepidation, no anxiety, no agitation, no regret, no discontent, no despair, no sadness. A father carried his young son, who was wearing crocodile wellies, on his shoulders, steadily up the hill and we watched him. When he reached the top I congratulated him. His son smiled with glee and his father puffed out his cheeks and looked proud.
When our son was young he would say ‘I am happy and proud!’ very often, so it became a motto we all said very often which made us laugh and smile. Every day he tells us his ‘joke of the day.’ More often than not they make no sense, but here’s one he said today:
‘Why was Cleopatra so negative?’
– ‘Because she was queen of denial.’
Today most of the rain missed Great Harwood. The clouds have lingered and threatened but we ate sausage and chips happy indoors and watched Pointless and I won the jackpot with Joni Mitchell.
This mural is painted on the side of an old factory in Great Harwood. It stretches along a pathway along the edge of the town where ponies roam. We found an old dapple grey pony rubbing his backside against a tree. He went galloping off. There’s something deeply wild and untamed about this town and I’m not sure what it is or when it began but I have learned to like it.
We all need to feel connected in this world; to each other, to something external, or else we’re ‘the doomed captains of our internal organs’ (I think I just quoted myself, oh dear) – in March I was taken to a psychiatric ward and placed in a seclusion room and as soon as I found out a place I could get my internet to work on my phone I reached out on facebook, lonely, afraid and desperate and the world came back to me wholeheartedly – people prayed for me. I’m not especially religious but that was a big deal. I became braver. I was not completely alone.
Great Harwood isolates me from the wider world and wants to keep me here indefinitely. I love it here but I feel if I don’t get out soon I will wither. Today I sewed my friend Sarah a beautiful black floral sateen skirt with hot pink underskirt and took it to the post office to send. I had a panic attack before I went and on returning. I don’t know why. I am hardly ever anxious anymore but today my heart feels like a wheel with something caught in the spokes. It’s ticking and ticking and keeps getting stuck and no matter how many paces forward I feel I’ve made it not very far at all. I took this picture of the factory; Great Harwood was an old industrial town and on its outskirts are many old mills, factories, chimneys – I frightened the fat old horse, and I have barely spoken to anyone. I have Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood for company. I am intoxicated by my own private paradise of exquisite books, and dressmaking, and gooseberries with cinnamon, and taking photographs – I am here, you are there and a whole lifetime is between us. It is hard to reach across the miles, the minutes, the fog, the sunset, the despair, the sublime yet painful feeling of solitude.
This is my son hiding in a thicket and taking a picture of me taking a picture of him. We are both separate and together. We are held in one another’s gaze held by the camera’s lens. How I wish I could scoop him up out of this picture and hold him in my arms – distance is distance whether it be miles, years, or the impossibility of our separateness. I have learned to reach out. I have been to the bottom, and I know it with my great, tap root.
This river could be anywhere. Nowhere, anywhere. I’d never seen it until today. My dog has a chronic phobia of bridges so we couldn’t cross it.
The sky’s been heavy and complicated and burdened. I’ve felt as though there is a great weight above me today; not exactly an emotional weight or burden. Not exactly anything. Just uncrossable bridges, and a feeling I can’t shake like I could be anywhere or nowhere; an aching back, a head full of pressure.
The dog sat in the backseat of the car. He doesn’t know what a car is or does. He doesn’t understand why or how it moves or where we went, why we went or how. He lives in the moment and moves always forward, never backwards. This is why I love dogs. But I sometimes feel frustrated he doesn’t understand me so I can’t explain this crazy world to him.
I was in a multi-storey car park today; I like the smell of those places. I like the grime and the petroleum hum. The dank chemical emptiness. I saw this light and felt anxious and overwhelmed for no reason:
Every night when my sleeping tablets kick in and I start to unravel, having been tense all day, I try to fall asleep thinking of the things I love. It goes like this…gooseberrypiefloralcrepedechineshoegazejapanesegardensstevenhoughton
‘I want a dapple-grey pony and I’m gonna call her Depression.’
‘You could have Sorrow, Sadness and Misery, too.’
‘And Melancholy, of course.’
These are the things me and my husband say when we are out walking. I said I used to canter in the fields on the back of a shire horse named Esmeralda when I was a teenager at the child and family psychiatric unit, near to where we live now. We are not sad. Esmeralda was a black horse, a really beautiful animal trained for teaching children with disabilities to ride. I really loved Esmeralda. They said the only time I ever really looked happy was when I was riding her.
We are not sad.
This evening we walked and these boys walked by:
These boys smelled of their mother’s washing. Tough lads. This is the White Path. I have walked this mile long route all my life between towns and it can be a sinister place – always talk of people being stopped, strangers talking to children, would-be abductors and then we saw this:
Someone committed suicide here, on the White Path. In fact, many people have.
We walked by the pylon where a man was burned alive.
We are not sad.
We cannot be sad.
Every night I list all the ideas I have in my head but I don’t have the time to get them all done, and often I don’t have the resources, and sometimes the ideas are just too big for me, but I am going to set up a mental health support group in Great Harwood and I’m making enquiries into suitable venues. Some things are achievable. And we are not sad.
I’m going to start writing and posting every day for a while; I want to gather together ideas, memories and images from my every day life to make sense of it if I can. Tonight just before dusk I walked by the abattoir and talked to the ponies. There was this shy pony and the Whitney Houston of ponies with a shaggy, crimped, black mane. These poor ponies live with the smell of death under their noses all day. By the abattoir it stinks like rancid meat, decaying corpses and shit. I worked there when I was nineteen. It was like going to Hell every morning, 5am and I would vomit a lot. I really wasn’t tough enough to stick it out. The ponies see the animals ushered in out of lorries and ushered out as headless torsos, stripped of all life. There was an open lorry parked by the abattoir, just full of metal hooks to hang the animals. I would wash my boots in a trough of disinfectant and walk into purgatory; men with bloodstained aprons casually holding knives and talking about sex. Them eating bacon butties with tomato sauce in the canteen. Death on top of death on top of death. Screens of transparent PVC separating one room from the next; different stages of death in each room, different processes. I worked in the mincing room. I remember calling my mum one night and actually saying ‘I just keep thinking about what my insides look like.’
I live in a lovely, lonely Lancashire town where nothing happens and I love the familiarity, the safety, the isolation and these are my roots now. However, I am isolated here and need to feel connected to the world as I can drift off into my own universe for long periods of time and fall out of orbit completely if I’m not careful. Today we visited a beautiful friend and had coffee and talked about how we are all afraid to talk about the reality of family lives, that they’re not perfect, and on facebook we all give the impression it’s all just so spot on when in fact mostly life is mundane and banal, and when it’s not banal it’s difficult, and when it’s not difficult it’s too busy to stop and spare a thought for abattoir ponies or how far we’ve come. Sometimes if I’m honest I just feel all alone and can’t bear it but I have my art, my writing and my family and friends and although no-one knows what’s going on in my head or I theirs we can find ways of reaching one another, I know it and I’m sure of it.
Nothing I write here will be edited at all so this is going to be a bumpy ride. I just took two promethezine and will sleep heavily tonight, and thank god. Last night I prayed just to say thank you, and not even to a god, just because I feel so grateful for the life I’ve been blessed with and I like to say it out loud, and in poems and whenever I can. I have a beautiful life. I am still quite ill from an episode which began in September and which I’ve found has resisted treatment. The pills all calm me down but sometimes my thoughts race and race and the pressure to talk and act and think and move and do fifty things at once is just so intense and I lose it so easily. Fall out of orbit. The simplest tasks can be so immense in my head. The days are full and bright. My mind rages. Whilst nothing is happening I have had a whole day’s thoughts in just an hour. I feel tired and can’t sleep. I’m agitated and preoccupied. I lose my fizz at midnight when the pills kick in and I can close my eyes without the painful intensity of a dark and quiet room. Death always features in my dreams no matter what and always has, alongside piercing snapshots of all the people I love and their beautiful unknowing expressions, and I reach out to touch them but never can; I’m either too tiny or too quiet, invisible or a ghost they can’t see, but I want to reach out and I want to touch. I want to connect, be visible, be seen, be real and be on this earth. I want it bad. I think too often in life we are afraid to say ‘I want’ – well I do and I’m not ashamed of it. I want.