It’s hard to leave you.

So, since you last heard from me, I’ve moved. I’ve moved 5 and a bit (inevitably a lot, once you factor in the traffic situation that is the M25, which tends to resemble more a car park than a motorway – can you tell I’m enjoying not living within its confines any more?!) hours North, well actually NORTH, to Durham, where I am currently studying for a three-year undergraduate degree in Classics, nicely flavoured with hints of theology and archaeology. I’m not one for bland soup – and the same applies to my degree; I’ve taken every chance I can to broaden its standardised remit and push the boundaries of Classics into other spheres. It’s one of the reasons I chose this degree in the first place, but this is perhaps not the place for a rambling tangent on interdisciplinarianism, though anyone who knows me would probably not be so surprised had the same not followed hence. I spare you, for today.

Neither do I really want to talk about the whole process of getting here, results day and all that jazz. It has been an absolutely weird year for me, I lost a lot of confidence in myself, and my whole experience of exams and results was caught up in emotion directed towards other ends, so completely different than I had both expected, and experienced before (here, here and here). I will revisit the ‘getting here’ bit at some point, because I think I did learn some really important lessons from the process, and have completely undergone a change of mindset about the role of education in the formation of individuals, which I do think is important to share. But I’m not completely there yet. So, I spare you, for today.

Finally, neither (isn’t this a wonderful unintentionally devised example of praeteritio?!) am I going to share with you – just yet – my first experiences of Durham and university life. That said, reflections on my first month at Durham are very much in the works and ready to present themselves as soon as that month mark has been breached, in just over a week’s time… watch this space!

Therefore, the million dollar question just has to be: what on earth are you actually talking about? M would confirm, should you not be able to gather from the above, that I have a rather good line in talking and not really saying anything, using the English language in a way that makes sense, but has little direction. So for his sake, and for yours, I shall endeavour to get to the point!

I want to talk about something that has actually been on my mind for quite a while in various different guises: leaving. It is inherently tied to the beginning of a new chapter, and perhaps that’s why, in the liminal phase I’ve been in over the last few months as I have moved on from known things, and into a whole new way of life, and as I’ve lost people close to me, it’s been on my mind so much. And it’s not just been me. For, if it’s not a pain for ourselves, it’s the pain of watching someone else go. I’ve watched others move jobs, move houses, move on. For me, it can all be different: leaving a place, leaving a person, leaving a job, leaving a lifestyle, leaving an identity. Each is tied up in it’s own emotion. Each we may have control over, and we may not. Each comes and goes so frequently that, in a way, perhaps leaving should be seen as a fundamental aspect of life. We all do it. And each is also the same, in the sense that, in whichever scenario, there is always an underlying knot of pain, inextricably woven in with perhaps joy, anticipation, or peace. Sometimes it’s temporary. Sometimes it’s forever. There’s a wrenching pain as well as dawning hope. You’ve felt it too.

I have been trying to grasp a series of intangible emotions by defining them within areas of questions:

  1. How do we navigate knowing that we will face loss? Does knowing we will say goodbye make the process of loss easier, or harder?
  2. How do we cope when that control of knowing is taken out of our hands? Does sudden loss prevent a preceding period of pain? Or does the lack of control render us more broken?
  3. How can we process loss when it arrives, or during a period of farewell? To what extent do we choose to share our grieving process, in whatever degree it manifests itself, or do we protect our privacy?
  4. We inevitably move on from loss – but how, with who, and when?

I don’t have answers to any of these; all I’ve found myself debating over the last 6 to 8 months. In differing scenarios, I’ve approached the same questions with different responses. Truly, there are no answers. But perhaps that’s part of leaving, or loss: knowing that however we respond to these questions is right in its own way. Some days we feel black and blue, distant from acceptance. Some days we are just full of the joy that has been, so ready to accept one farewell and another hello. Some days we are a mix of the two and we ride our own wave storm of joy, fear, excitement, pain, confusion, anxiety. Nothing should be negated.

For me, one of my biggest processors is writing. You know this – you’re reading! Me sitting down and writing is usually an acknowledgement that there’s something going on I need to work through. I’m bad at bottling things up; frustrations, emotions and thoughts get mixed up in each other to the extent that I struggle to then unpick them. So I write. I also read what others write. So today I don’t have answers to the questions. But I have a few words. Each is accompanied by a short explanation, or associated thought. More than anything I hope it just opens up your thoughts on leaving and loss. Maybe these questions are ones that are on your mind too. Maybe the only the only step to an answer we can get is just acknowledging the questions, as and when they come. We have to ask the questions; who knows what, by asking, might be given in return.

It’s so hard to watch you go. It’s killing me to say goodbye. Though you may not return, there’s a candle that burns, right here inside all of our hearts. Fly away; I’ll see you again one day.

~ Ellie and Sophie Bokor Ingram Georgia’s Song

This is an extract from a song which was written by one of the girls in my school house, following the sudden death of their family friend, Georgia, from a brain aneurysm in December 2013. For me, it is a raw recognition of the pain of sudden loss. There’s a powerful sense that we hold on to memory after loss, but also that this will also fade one day: a candle burns out. When we face sudden loss, especially in terms of death, it is perhaps the knowledge of celestial encounter that brings a peace beyond understanding, whilst simultaneously not detracting from the pain and grief.

May the road you travel now be safe;

May the sun light every path.

May the moon so shine beneath your feet,

When dusty tracks grow dark.

May I forever feel your strength;

May I ease your deepest fears.

May my voice sing anew Love’s sure song,

When faith is drowned in tears.

May my life so grow and flourish;

May yours be bright and true.

May we part but never perish,

When waning days are through.

A prayer on the Wey (2018)

This is a short reflection I composed when sitting by the river one afternoon, principally a farewell to a someone moving on. But on thinking about it, there are wider themes of loss present: temporary blindness to faith, loss of light, ending of the day, and even loss of life. There is an ultimate vulnerability, and with the subjunctive rhythm, it emulates a prayer in its hope and nature of request. There is no promise, no certainty, no tangible comfort. But there is a comfort that opening our thoughts, sharing our hopes with something beyond the tangible, is in itself a means of travelling through loss.


I’ve waved goodbye so many times.

I ought to be swift to go.

Yet still I sit and mourn this day

That will not come again.


How hard it seems to leave this place

With its tender heart and soul.

For you, to me, are more my home

Than any house has been.


And though I know that through the night,

Languid days will hold me still,

I cannot help but feel so far

From each and every day.


Now moments fly, the months still pass,

Years befall like summer hours.

How little time we have on earth:

Let’s reap it, you and I.

Adieu (2018)

I do find it interesting reading my work back, many months from when it was first written. For me this poem has an inherent complexity, and raises the question of whether the voice is bidding goodbye to a place, or a people. In fact, the two almost seem to be one. Perhaps this is a nod to the nature of farewell to a place or institution. It is not always farewell to the building, the garden, the view, the place. It’s the people that are there, the feeling that it gives. The sense that when I am here, when I am with you, I am home. It’s easy to say “I’ll miss this place.” I don’t think it’s always what we mean. Whether temporary, or eternal, we often mean, “I’ll miss you, the people that show me home.” We reap the gifts a people give us, bring us, and draw out of us. This is what we leave.

The title Adieu builds on a further complex. It literally means ‘until God’ and is therefore usually a final farewell in French. Perhaps this is the sense that builds through the first three stanzas. But it’s certainly not the mood of the final lines triggering me to ask: do we actually leave a place? I doubt we do. We are woven in its story as it is woven in ours. We are one body of people – the final jussive perhaps indicates that even apart, or alone, we are very much still together.



Farewell. So long.

Whatever you say is hard;

Parting is no sweet sorrow.

It all means the same.

The end. The end.

Said a thousand times.

Goodbye. Goodbye.

Thank you. Thank you.

Keep in touch.

Oh, I know, I wish too

I didn’t have to go.

But that I do.

That I do.

I do.

I –



Goodbye to here,

Goodbye to now,

Goodbye to you.

A thousand times:


A thousand goodbyes (2018)

This is a much lighter reflection, written as I sat rather amusedly entertained by watching conversations unfold in July between someone leaving, and the people they would go on to leave. It is a sly social pleasure of more than a few people I know, including myself, to ‘people watch.’ And this was just one of those occasions, the voice of the poem almost commenting on the events from afar, until it strikes them that after all that extended period of farewells there is a true and final departure. You probably recognise the situation; this challenges Shakespeare’s famous thesis on lovers’ parting in a context that brings back a seriousness and a finality beneath perhaps disguised overtones of a temporary departure.

Every night we die a death.

But tonight, I can’t help dying a little more than most.

Now, the end.

Each second that passes, each moment that ends,

Is over. I cannot get back the time.

Each second stabs a new pain.

Each second, a last.

Before, I was terrified to be here.

Now, it terrifies me to leave.

Choice seems forever out of my hands.

The passing time is my knell.

Tick. Tock.

Ding. Dong.

I hear it. It calls me

To sleep. To close my eyes,

To turn away from this day,

From the dust of this earth,

From this transient place.

Away. Away.

I have no choice.

I must go.

This is death to you.

Every night we die a death.

The Last Night (2018)

As sort of touched on, my relationship with leaving school was different, by far, to what most people experience. I basically didn’t go back to school after Easter on a full time basis. I chose what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do. In a lot of ways, it made the end of term, and saying goodbye far easier. It had become a gradual process, and by the time I had to say goodbye goodbye, the sense of school I was saying goodbye to was not what I would have previously envisaged as ‘school.’ But in some senses it prolonged the process because it felt like every time I was in school, there was usually a reason, and usually that reason was because it was last time I could do something. It did begin to feel like every minute of every day I was in school, there was something else I was leaving. It was also a unique position where the choice to move school was not my own; I had simply reached the end. Up to that point, every school I left, I left of my own accord. I had no control over the circumstance or the timing. Leaving in these ways is a very different kind of pain.

I did have some brighter days as I was leaving. I had the urge to want to capture everything I knew I had taken for granted for each of the days of the almost 5 years of my life that I had spent in that place. One of those moments I captured in the following poem, which perhaps challenges how we view the memories we hold in the places and the people we leave. When it’s time to go, how do we look back on the time we’ve had? This poem makes a little more sense if you know the East window in the Chapel of St John the Evangelist at my old school:

John Eagle

The Window in the Chapel of St John the Evangelist, Artist: Jude Tarrant (March 2009)

This was an eagle who had watched over me, every day I walked into that Chapel. And I often, in my last days of the last weeks, when I was in school, found comfort in just sitting in the Chapel and just looking at this mind blowing window, with all its intricacies and colours. How was I negotiating knowing I had to leave, in the face of his majesty? It was that painful mix I spoke of earlier. There was pain at loss, regret at mistakes, and gratefulness for the gifts received. But there was also an overwhelming pride and privilege to stand there, and leave, head held just slightly higher than the 5 years previously, when I first walked through those doors. I walked out a completely different woman to the girl who walked in. More than anything, standing before the eagle reminded me of the strength of faith in the unknown. Over the course of the time I left school there were tears. But not at the end. By the end, I had a sort of peaceful strength and acceptance. I knew there was more to come. I was painfully grateful but vulnerably optimistic.

I stand before the eagle today;

I hold his surly gaze in mine.

Both of us seem to drift astray,

Feeling earth and heaven align.

Who gave him the strength to soar,

Bearing earth’s grief in blue,

Yet stretching, by name called for,

To bring heaven to earth anew?

Why cannot I soar like he, and

Surpass this place of tears?

Why do I collapse to bended knee,

Sunken by worldly fears?

I never noticed your strength before.

I never thanked you for your grace.

I only ever asked for more.

I only strove to win the race.

Now life here is through,

And I must say goodbye.

It is now I realise what I never knew:

Those who run cannot fly.

I ask for your forgiveness,

For the days I could not see,

For the days I was lost in self,

And understood not how to be.

I ask for reconciliation,

For the times I did you wrong.

This is my last oblation,

The imperfect cadence to my song.

For there is no way unblemished

To tell you of the pain.

Or to tell you how I perished,

When I treasured earthly gain.

And how regretfully I weep, and sigh

To know that, on this day I go,

Is the first day I saw you fly, and

Truly knew the gifts you bestow.

But I plead: give me strength to rise again,

O majestic eagle bright.

Help me to break this binding chain,

And not struggle through the night.

May I fear not the world unknown,

And might your strength beside me be,

As, with wind and torment blown,

I travel across a stormy sea.

He soars; he melts into flame.

I turn away; he burns.

But softly, slowly, I hear that my name

He calls, to earth I must return.

Although today my time is over,

I know our story is not done.

I came here, to seek for closure.

I go, in vain. I am not gone.

An Eagle’s Farewell (2018)


Tonight; tonight

The untraversed world is a boundless ocean,

On which my little boat rocks gently, softly;

Waves lap round in swathes; they offer comforting embraces.

The world is rocking me to sleep tonight.

The waters, calm, hold me, carrying me

Onwards to a brighter place; they

Speak in whispers of a promised land.

But I will wake, and not be here.

I will weep, and not be held.

I will turn but not see the way.

I will seek but not find again this temporal peace.

Tomorrow’s path is not as sure:

The storm will strike;

The wind will wound.

The still waters in the harbour of youth will

Vanish, and like tears, dissolve into the mourning dusk.

Life will toss me, tear me.

It will break me, bruise me.

“What was danger?” I used to ask, when

The world was painted with a silvery kind of

Love, which made even pain sparkle, shimmer, shine.

Is it only now that I hold it? Danger is all around.

Danger is the terror that slaughters innocence in fright.

I was sure that I would reach the gold-kissed sky.

Now I fear, recoil, retreat.

I’m afraid to feel alone.

I’m scared to travel on.

What happens when I fall?

Can my boat traverse this ocean safe?

Is there breeze enough to sail strong,

And yet winds too weak to smash the

Hull that speeds? It cleaves the foam-tipped depths.

Tomorrow you force me to journey on, your

Call burns me, consumes me; unrelenting, unceasing, unstayed.

But you have no words to smooth my way.

How well I know I have no choice. I have no choice.

Here I am, dying to rest; this is my boat.

And the unknown world is as a boundless ocean,

On which my fragile boat sways, in tumult, in pain;

I bleed strength from the drowning wave; there is no final consolation.

The world will shock me into sleep,

Tonight; tonight.

On the shore (2018)

This is another fairly complex set of emotions and a poem that charts a progressive individual thought process. From the beginning, the voice of the poem acknowledges a sense of fear towards the unknown world. But it is only as the poem progresses that this becomes an almost debilitating reality for them. The beginning of the poem is mirrored in its ending, except there are stark differences: the world will shock, and not rock. A promise of comfort is lost in no hope of consolation. The waves are drowning, and not still. This is someone caught up in that very depth of grief and pain. It is the part of loss which hits you like a stab wound, winds you, and is difficult to surmount. The ocean has connotations of stillness, but its depths and scope are simultaneously dark. There is no promise for this time of returning to a state of calm. Sometimes we have to acknowledge that this is how we feel.

There are stages of grief and loss. But it is not simple enough to say that we move from stage to stage; sometimes all the stages are mingled and mixed, and we feel differently at different times. Sometimes we can step back and look on almost amusedly, other times we are fragile, angry, pained, confused. But all of it is somehow OK. And perhaps we just start by saying yes to whatever it is we feel. Perhaps we go on by gently asking those questions, and considering our momentary responses to them. Perhaps we sleep by letting go of the individual internal whirlwind: by asking for help, by talking it through, by writing it down.

We leave, we are left. Then we breathe for as long as we need. We question. We grieve. We hope. We begin.




Seek the stars

“You disappeared!” I was told, a couple of weeks ago. Looking back now, I suppose I did, and if you’ve missed my ramblings and wayward words then I apologise. It has been a busy and exciting summer, full of things that one day, when I give myself a second, I will reflect on properly. Things like A levels (thank everyone and anyone that they’re over), resting, reflecting, travelling, studying, losing, gaining, saying hellos, saying goodbyes, giving of time, energy and love, receiving of the same. But summer’s over. And something’s changed. At least for me. I’m in a new phase of life – exciting, daunting, dawning, terrifying. We’ll come to that too.

But today, I don’t want to look back. And I’m not sure what the future has in store – I can look forward, but not clearly. So today, I want to look at just that, today.

We’re always told that tomorrow is a new day. And it is, a new day dawns, full of the beauty found in the hope of a new sun rising. A new tomorrow, a new world, a new chance. It’s really important to have that ability to look forward, and know that tomorrow is a new world of opportunity. Tomorrow can be the key. Or a new page. Or even a new book. Tomorrow is the light.

But where does that leave today? Surely, by logic, today is made the darkness? And how can we live for today, when it is only tomorrow that has light?

That’s where I was stuck on Monday.

Monday was the day where autumn really came knocking. The rain picked up, the skies were grey, J was back at school, there was a thin covering of brown leaves on the grass, the house was empty, there were (well, there still are) lists and lists of jobs and chores to be done. And piles of books to be read. I felt like I was washer woman, chef, student and taxi driver all in one. I’d just come back from a week of sun, sea and sand. And I was here in the rain, rattling around, running about, trying to get finish all of X, Y and Z, but not really feeling motivated at all, appreciating the quiet, but somehow feeling lonely too. I love autumn, it’s one of my favourite times of year. But I wasn’t feeling it on Monday. And in the blues, I wasn’t alone.

It was fine, I thought. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow will bring the light. I just need to sleep through the night, and everything will be fine.

Was it? Not really, no. My morning started off with bloods. Lots of bloods. It’s one of the hardest things for me to do in weekly schedule. It’s stressful – I’m not allowed to eat before they do it, and that’s not great for a Diabetic. I’m usually trying to work out just how long I’ve got before I have a hypo. I’m thinking about whether I’m at a safe level to drive. I’m thinking about when and where I can eat before I make the journey back. I’m thinking about how, when I do, I will subtly give an injection in public. That’s on top of the uncomfortableness and fear that any normal person might experience having bloods taken. Normally, it’s OK. At least, it gets done. Sometimes I take someone with me, sometimes I go alone. They insert the needle, fill the vials and it’s job done. Off to the lab, and the results wind their way in in a few days.

On Tuesday, it wasn’t OK. I am notoriously difficult to bleed where I should – and they couldn’t find a vein. They inserted 6 different cannulae, and it took 6 goes to even get a tiny bit of blood. It wasn’t enough. Even after the second failed insertion, I started to feel my heart pounding in my chest, I felt disorientated, and upset, and afraid. I get triggered like this about once a week now, though sometimes it’s more. When it happens, it’s like I am right back in hospital on Easter Sunday. I can hear the conversations between the Doctors : “We can’t find a vein.” “We need an ultrasound.” “We haven’t got time.” “We’ll take her in ICU – let’s prepare for a central line.” I see it all again. My body shutting down. Dying. I hear it. I can’t explain how terrifying it feels. It’s when hurts the most. When it feels real again. The psychologist calls it PTSD. I avoid more labels.

But that moment, that today, became a new darkness in the shadow of another tomorrow. For an hour or more I sat in the surgery and couldn’t see beyond that night, almost 6 months ago. I didn’t feel safe. I don’t think anyone there quite understood why I was so upset. It wasn’t the bloods. It wasn’t the pain. It was the memories. I was completely alone, and the trauma of what I went through was setting in again. It took an hour for them to be able to take the bloods, and I was so tense that I have a pretty nice set of bruises up and down my hand, wrist and arm.

By 8:30 in the morning, Dad had left work, walked to the station and drove me home. I was sat in the car just shaking. I was done for the day. Flashbacks completely tire me. I wasn’t out of my pyjamas – which 18 year old goes to a 6:30am blood test ready for the day?! – and I didn’t feel like getting out of them. I went back to bed, and decided to do the day’s jobs from there. This was the second day in a row I had felt like this.

Did I believe tomorrow would be better? I don’t think I did. I promised myself it would be, but Tuesday was no better than Monday. Who’s to say Wednesday wouldn’t just be another broken promise of light?

So, what happens when today is full of hurt? What happens when tomorrow is worse? I find it really easy to slip into a downwards spiral, especially when I’ve had a flashback of trauma. Today becomes the darkness, and the promise that tomorrow is light seems as childish as the belief that kissing a wound will make it better. Because the pain is still there. It still feels like somewhere, underneath it all, it will always be there. It can’t just vanish in the night, however pretty and hopeful the dawn may seem, a mix of bright colours streaked across the clouded sky, the sun peaking its head above the parapet of trees. Pain remains, bitter, black, blue, bleak.

Yet somehow, I go on. With the support of friends, family, my psychologist, my nurses, my Doctors, my faith, I go on. I go on. Every day, good or bad, I will go on.

I go on because I can’t live like in darkness, although it’s all too easy to do. And luckily, I’m fight at a point where I find light a choice – I choose to take today, run with its highs and lows, accept the inevitability of days of pain, and still manage to find the positives. But what happens when the pain isn’t your choice? Can you still find the strength to live in today? When you’re hurt, tomorrow’s light is false – you need light today. And today it takes a lot more strength to choose to see light: the light we have to find, or if we’re lucky, someone else will choose to give us.

I can’t promise answers. Yesterday, I saw no hope for answers at all. Sat in the surgery, there was no way out. But I think I was looking too far ahead; I couldn’t see today. Did I notice the child playing with the trains I used to race when I was her age? Yes, but I, angrily, didn’t see her joy. Did I find hope from the care that everyone paid to me, the offers of tissues, water, and space? No, I just wanted everyone to go away. Today had become dark, and that had become that. But I failed to see those moments of light, and after those moments, I struggled to live for that day. Yet somehow I take strength from the fact that I now see those moments as ones of hidden light. That shows me that somewhere, I saw them then. There is always hope, somewhere, however much you try and ignore it.

In days of extreme darkness, I choose to find small glimpses of light, either that I give  or see for myself, or others give me. It’s an easier choice. I don’t have the strength or energy to always find a moment of light equivalent to the pain. I do still have the strength to choose to find and hold the little moments. Who knows, they might accumulate, they might appreciate, to more than the hours of pure darkness.

Over the past year I’ve come to realise that there are so many little moments to live for in the today. I’ve called them extraordinarily divine moments in the ordinary. But they can also just be tiny seconds, little things that make you think: “you know what, I can still make today worth living, however many needles they stick in me.”

I try to make the little moments like stars in the sky.

After the succession of Monday and Tuesday, over the last few days I made a list of the small things that made me marvel at life, and living life. And when I did it, I proved there was so much. And every time I saw something that made me smile, or think, or reflect, or cheer, or laugh – I saw the value of today.

A feather gently floating down on the gentle breeze, and coming to rest just for a second on the windowsill before bringing a soft hope to some other place.

The silvery track of the smallest snail which had ever so slowly, but surely worked its way from one end of the patio to the other. Perseverance in action.

The scent of vanilla on the wind from a plant somewhere so far off I couldn’t hold onto it for more than a second. A passing sweetness.

The crunch of the leaves starting to fall under my feet; the promise of more to come.

The sense of freedom as I hurtled down the hill on my bike; the satisfying relief in my muscles as I reached the top of the same hill on the return.

The enjoyment I found in writing, and reading, words. Puzzling over how placing different letters in different orders can have the power to move. Writing the same words in different languages, to play with form, sound, and power.

The strange comfort in working through grammar and coming up with fluent and poetic translation.

Watching molten lava ooze and bubble and float and sink.

The amusement of writing notes in a language no one else understands, and watching them trying to figure it out, the while knowing they are hoping to decipher some old maxim, when actually it’s your to do list, starting with: ‘change the bed’ (την κοιτην μεταφερε)

Submerging myself in blankets and duvets, and heating up a hot water bottle for the first time in the year, while watching the spitting rain spatter itself on the window.

Tea. Lots of tea. More tea.

Thinking about music, and words, and how they fit together, shape each other, inspire each other and reflect each other.

A day where there is absolutely nothing written down to do in the diary, and you have the freedom to work through everything at your own pace.

The joy on my brother’s face when I turn up to collect him at school each day with millionaire’s shortbread, and our chats about everything and anything on the way home; getting stuck in traffic and both spontaneously singing along to the iPod at the same time.

The coincidence that a phone provider transfer is taking place, and so alternative (and probably more advanced!) technology is used instead, leading to a surprise face to face conversation, appeasing loneliness, reigniting confidence, firing friendship. Reflection, reaction, return, resolve.

The excitement of getting things finalised for my move ‘oop NORTH.’

Washing up. The bubbles, particularly. The same with the bath.

The catharsis of water in the shower hammering on my head, and washing away the dirt.

Sharing art and finding encouragement, criticism, support, ideas and direction.

Welcome in an old parish church, coming to an old home and feeling like a small part of you that has been lost has found itself again.

Waking up as the sun hit the rim of the mirror, casting a rainbow on the opposite wall.

The incredibly terrifying but somehow reassuring realisation that the shadows of two people have been crossing for years and years, without them ever knowing, until suddenly they burst together, and realise how much their lives fit together.

The somewhat sadistic pleasure in knowing that ‘Facebook’ thinks it’s being clever, and knows something you don’t – when in reality, it’s slightly off the mark.

Celebrating years of friendship, watching friendships bloom, grow and flourish.

Someone giving time for someone else, and seeing their eyes sparkle with an unspoken appreciation, shared mutually.

An old lady’s face light up as she treacherously crossed the road, realised she’d made it safely (it wasn’t guaranteed), and settled down at the bus stop, contently waiting.

Waking in the silence of the night and hearing the buzz of snoring from a room down the corridor; the assurance that others were safe in their dreams. A stolen moment of peace, tranquillity and safety before drifting back into my own suspended time.

Finding the strength to do something I never believed I could do; slowly breaking my chains from hospitals, GPs, and nurses and living for myself.

Smiles, where there once were only tears; the assurance that one day it will get better. The assurance I am not alone. Assurance.

Tomorrow may be the light. But it may be no more light than today. It’s hard. But if you can, even if briefly not in the moment itself, hold on to that knowledge that today, and every day, is worth living. If you can continually make tomorrow brighter, then go ahead. But I think humanity’s very nature is to have todays and tomorrows and days-after-tomorrow which are just as rough as each other. If we forever displace light into the future, we risk losing the stars in the day. Sometimes they might not be enough to always purge the darkness completely. But the stars make the night worth waking for. The starlit moments of today make your life worth living today, and not just tomorrow.

I hope, whatever afflicts you, and however great, you can take today for the joy that it will hold, somewhere, however concealed, turning from darkness that holds you, and seeking the stars which shine as a light in the world. If tomorrow is brighter, may you look on today as still so bright. May the darkness not apprehend. Find your stars. Seek the stars.

” Stars, though dying, grow brighter still. Their light belies their death. ”

~Written July 2018


This week saw World Suicide Prevention Day, on 10th September. It was one of the things that made me want to share what I write again. I am so grateful that I have never been in such great darkness as to ever contemplate taking my own life. But unfortunately, and sadly, for someone who is only 18 years old, I have several friends who have. And I know that it’s incredibly hard to reach out for help, and incredibly hard to talk.

So I will reach out to you, if you are at the bottom of the black pit of darkness, and the clouds are so thick that the starlight is hidden. I will tell you that there are people who understand. You are not alone. You can be safe again. You are most definitely loved for all you are, have been and will be. There is a future ahead.

If you want to talk, there is always someone who will listen. It may be someone you know, it may be someone you don’t. Choose whoever helps you, whoever makes you feel most safe, and most comfortable. If you don’t know where to turn, turn here:

Call them – any time of day. They will be there to listen. When you are ready to talk, they are ready to listen. You are not alone, and far stronger than you think – the clouds will pass, and the stars will be seen again.


Mail from Maryland: its more than Maltesers…

It’s coming to the end of Diabetes UK Awareness Week. And that’s something I never thought I’d have to talk about on here. But here I am. And this is now a part of who I am. And as much as I find it difficult talking about this at the moment, I refuse to lose my voice, or submit defeat, or try to hide. This post follows my internal thoughts as I reflect on questions or statements that I have received, many daily. All these are true. It’s hard to share, but it also feels good to share, not for pity or sympathy, but merely for awareness.

And if it helps you understand me a bit better, or perhaps give you an appreciation of anyone who is chronically ill, then I’m willing to take the chance, because I don’t want anyone else newly diagnosed to have to think these dilemmas over and feel like they are alone. And I would hope that society can change to be more sensitive, and more understanding. But equally, I realise they can’t do that without us being honest. And, fittingly, this year, Diabetes UK have called on people to share their stories, talk about Diabetes, its perception and its complications. So here we go.

Warning – this is quite long… but this is because this is also a record for me, to work through some of the emotions and difficulties. So feel free to skip and skim, I don’t mind at all 🙂  If you would like shorter, more literary or more abstract reflections on chronic illness, you’re probably better off here and here.

1. “I didn’t know you had Diabetes.”

Well, to be honest, neither did I until very recently. I am now at the 75 day, 2 and bit months mark. It’s still new. From my HbA1c results, blood tests which show Diabetes control over a 3 month period, it seems I could have been developing it for well over 3 months. A good HBA1C will range from 48-58 mmol. Mine is currently 99, though when I was first admitted, it was 123. So yeah, I have Diabetes. But we didn’t know. Before you say it – I didn’t experience any of the normal symptoms: increased fluid intake, increased urination, dramatic weight loss. I was just tired. But at that point, I was in the middle of studying for 4 A levels in amidst all the other chaos of life. I was allowed to be tired. We didn’t know.

It all changed on Easter Sunday. I was away, trying to escape A levels for just a quiet weekend in the country, walking with the family, eating roast dinners, ticking off another Cathedral on my list, and celebrating the resurrection in a tiny parish Church, fulled to the brim with the faithful, the strains of ‘Jesus Christ is risen again, aaaaaaaaalleluia’ accompanying the background moo of the cows in the next door field. That was how it was supposed to be. It didn’t quite go to plan.

I’m not professing to be the fittest girl on the block. Not by any stretch of the imagination! But standing up to sing hymn is well within my regular abilities. In fact, I do it pretty much 8 times a week. On Easter Sunday, in that idyllic little Church, where the Lady of the Manor stands with a basket of foil wrapped Easter eggs to follow Communion, I could not stand to sing a hymn. I couldn’t even stand, let alone stand and sing. My breathing got faster and faster, and then I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t do anything but collapse in a heap. I don’t remember much of what followed, until I woke up in intensive care in hospital on the Tuesday morning, in bed 1, labelled ‘Critical condition,’ with only a hazy recollection of being poked, revived and jabbed in a resuscitation room. Two Doctors, Dr James Orr (Dr Jim), and another affectionately labelled ‘Dr Chirpy Cheeks’ by my parents (heaven knows what his actual name was), sat me down, looked me straight in the eyes and said: ‘your life isn’t going to be the same again.’ Ward Round always carried a sense of fear from that day onwards. That’s when I found out.

More thoughts on this experience and diagnosis are found here.

2. “But you don’t look like you have Diabetes”

Really? Well I guess that’s a compliment? Or not. What should a diabetic look like? Are we supposed not to look normal? Or do you mean that I don’t look like how the media portrays diabetes? The media makes diabetics feel like a failure. They make it seem like all diabetes is caused from over-indulgence in sugar and a lack of exercise. Obesity is pinpointed. It’s just not true. And it’s not fair. 90% of Diabetics are type 2, sure. But type 2 equally has a range of causes, not just obesity. It’s not fair to judge someone like that just because of their diagnosis.

I’m one of the 300 000 people in the UK who make up the other 10%. The Type 1s. Type 1 has no one known cause. It’s triggered by an autoimmune disease that no one can quite pinpoint. It is more likely in people who suffer from a virus simultaneously to a period of stress. There is 0.8% chance there is a genetic predisposition. But it is not hereditary.

So yes, I don’t look diabetic, because I refuse to let ‘diabetic’ define me. But also, no, I would contradict you and say that I think I do look diabetic. Because diabetics look just like you.

3. “But it’s just an eating thing, no big deal”

Actually it kind of is a big deal. Especially at the moment when it’s all so new. I woke up on that Tuesday in the hospital and it felt as if life had come crashing down. Yes – I am so grateful now that I have a condition which is manageable. But it has no cure, and comes with many complications.

So it is a big deal. A lifelong deal. And a deal that there is no answer to. My blood glucose changes day by day, and not just on what I eat. I have had two pieces of buttered toast with marmite and a cup of tea, basically every single morning for breakfast since I have come out of hospital. I don’t think I have ever had two readings 2 hours post breakfast that have been the same. It varies on the weather. It varies on my activity level. It varies on my mental activity. It varies on my stress level. It varies on how I’m feeling. It varies on how much sleep I have. It varies on the time of the month, on the time of the day, on the time of year. It’s impossible to predict. You just can’t. I have to check it at least 8 times a day, and mostly more.

And it’s not just about eating. For sure, I count carbohydrates, calculate an insulin dose accordingly and give it. I test my blood sugars and ketones daily. There are safe ranges and unsafe ranges, and it feels a bit like walking on a tightrope to try and keep within range. Most days I start off low, and by the end of the night I’m soaring high. I have to treat lows and highs. That’s the bit that most people are aware of. And most people are aware that I can’t just eat whatever I want whenever I want it. I have to eat meals, and really nothing in between. I can’t let anything pass my lips without considering counting the cost. And last night, all that I could have for dessert were 5 Maltesers. They looked pretty meagre in that tiny bowl. And it was really hard to watch my brother measure it out on the scales. This isn’t just changing my life, it changes everyone’s. It hit me a bit, but maybe that was also because of the wine..! But this is also so so much more than Maltesers.

It’s about the time it takes. 10:30 every Saturday morning, you’ll find me in the surgery, having a weekly check up.  It takes about half an hour to walk there and half an hour back, and I usually spent at least half an hour there. My blood pressure is low. I’ve lost more weight. The checks go on. Over half term, I spent two days in hospital. I have meetings with DSNs (Diabetic Specialist Nurses), Diabetic Consultants, Dietitians, Ophthalmic Consultants, Podiatrists, and for the last few weeks I’ve spent time in Phlebotomy getting drained of more bloods, and I have had to have IV fluids of Potassium and Magnesium Sulphate.

It’s about the complications, though much of it is precautionary. I am at risk of developing a loss of sensation in my hands and feet. I am at risk of a form of blindness. My eyesight has deteriorated so I wear my glasses permanently.  I lose approximately 1kg of weight every week. I am a lot weaker, and get tired more easily (though the plus side is lots of naps!). I have low blood pressure, and my electrolytes are having a heyday, revelling in the chaos they are causing. I may be developing Coeliac disease, and I am anticipated to develop thyroid problems in the future.  I am losing my hair at a stupidly excessive rate. I bruise super easily, partly due to my pre-existing blood condition; you would have been forgiven for supposing I had had a tattoo when I came out of hospital, had you seen my left arm, dark purple with green tinges around the edges, from the elbow downwards, an effect of all the cannulae and injections.

My long acting insulin (I have two types) is currently not working as it should, and I am developing insulin resistance, but I can’t change until after my exams are over (2 more weeks…) which means I am gradually experiencing great pain when injecting, and a sharp stinging response to my insulin which lasts about 10 minutes after each injection. I have to up my insulin by two units every two nights to counter resistance; I started on 8 units, and I am now on 33 units. But every time I increase, there is a risk that I will hypo during the night. So most nights, I have to wake up at 3am to test my blood sugars. Once a week I should do it more often at night. It’s exhausting.

And for everyone who asks me ‘does it hurt?’ when I inject myself, I’m lying when I say ‘you get used to it.’ At the moment it still feels very unnatural to jab myself with a 6mm needle 6 times a day. And yes it hurts, whoever only felt ‘a sharp scratch?’ There are more bruises to prove it…

There’s a lot more to this than eating. And that’s just the practical side.

4. “You’re ill? But you look so well, better even!”

I guess so. Who tries to look actively ill? Some days are better than others, I grant you, but I don’t try and look ill. Truth is, I’ll be ‘ill’ for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be. But I don’t get a choice. So I choose to look well, even when I feel down.

There’s an outside, and there’s inside. There are a few people who see glimpses of the inside. The me when I’m so angry and frenetic that I don’t know where to turn and I sit and cry in the middle of a concert. The me that breaks down on the sofa, surrounded by my revision notes, frustrated that I’ve lost so much time. The me that is struggling to come to terms with the fact that this doesn’t go away after a bit of treatment, that this will affect every ounce of my life henceforward. The me that wakes up at 5:30 am on a Saturday with a hypo when I was angling for a lie in, is forced to down food when feeling incredibly nauseous, and then collapses on the chair in the living room, just staring out the window because she can’t get back to sleep for fear that next time she won’t wake up.

The me that doesn’t always know me anymore. Because the me I saw myself as in my final few weeks of school, enjoying A levels and summer concerts, and ending my school career on a high, is far from me. The me of today has to be in separate invigilation, take enforced rest breaks and spent the last few weeks of lessons desperately getting through as many lessons as possible before going home to sleep all afternoon because I was exhausted. The me who eventually admitted defeat on a 100% attendance record, and only did 3 days a week. The me whose university offer, once more than achievable, is now thrown into question, and for whom deferring by a year is increasingly recommended. I don’t want to, but I’ve lost control. Who sees that me, so frustrated, so angry, so confused, questioning why me, questioning why now, questioning what I did wrong? Nothing, I know, could have stopped this. But that doesn’t stop the confusion.

Maybe only myself knows me. Because I have a strong outer person that knows how to say ‘it’s fine’ or ‘I’m doing OK’ or ‘yes, I’m better now.’ A strong person who doesn’t want to burden other people with all the inside stuff. And I’m only beginning to get there, though I know one day I will. But as far as it goes, I will never be ‘better.’ Or at least, ‘better’ takes on a new definition. I may look well. Most days, now, I even feel vaguely well. But please don’t tell me that “I know you’ve been diagnosed with Diabetes, but you look well, better even!” Because you don’t always know what’s going on inside.

5.”Can’t you just forget about it”

Oh boy do I wish I could. And sometimes, just for an hour, or an afternoon, with particular people, or doing particular things, I do. I feel absolutely myself again. And that’s how I know I will get to a point eventually, where this isn’t such a big deal, and can just be another part of me. But it will take a while to get there.

Right now, it feels like there is a big before/after divide. And I hate describing it like that, because it really doesn’t help. But that’s sort of the only way I can think of to describe it, or via the jigsaw puzzle explanation. Places I go to regularly are now fringed with new dangers, and it’s difficult to go back to somewhere where you’ve always felt comfortable, and now don’t. My independence is challenged. I can’t just do things that, before, would not have been an issue. I have to re-learn how to drive. It stops me from going out to certain places alone, taking up opportunities my way, travelling in certain ways, and staying in certain places.

And, at the moment, the times when I think I can forget are the times when I am most vulnerable. If I don’t check my blood sugar, I don’t know how close I am to being hypo, or hyper. If I don’t give my insulin, I will go hyper and be so fatigued that I will just sleep all afternoon. If I give too much insulin, by even a unit or two, I risk my life. My insulin cannot get to over 25 degrees, or below 0, or else the hormone doesn’t work. So it’s quite important I don’t forget the practical stuff.

And it’s hard to speak about, but what I went through in hospital classifies as both medical and mental trauma. So there’s a lot of mental stuff that I also can’t forget.

It’s hard to forget lying on a bed, in intensive care, being told that you are in a critical condition. It’s hard to forget a Doctor covering your face with a sheet, closing you in and coming at you with savage looking equipment to cut open your neck and insert a line to give you fluid, because ‘if we use the wrist cannula, it will be too late.’ It’s hard to forget being moved from the ‘critical’ bed into the regular intensive care unit, but being told that ‘you’re by no means out of the woods yet.’ It’s hard to forget the first time someone tells you that you’ve got a condition that’s got no cure, and you will have to learn to deal with it because otherwise you will die. It’s hard to forget coping with that, and then someone telling you that there are no real answers. It’s hard to forget seeing your parents cry and that they butter and feed you your toast and send texts on your behalf because you don’t even have the strength to hold a piece of bread. It’s hard to forget lying there, quite conscious, whilst the man in the bed next to you passes away. It’s incredibly hard to forget that it could have been you.

So no, at the moment, I can’t ‘just forget.’ And actually, whilst I’d like to manage how I remember, I don’t think I want to ever forget completely, because knowing how frail life is has made me cherish it all the more these last weeks.

6. “I wish I could lose weight as fast as you have.”

Well I wouldn’t wish it on you for all the world. This is not how you want to lose weight. And I know maybe my weight loss is all you see. But it’s not glamorous. It’s having one pair of jeans that fit, and everything else vigorously pulled in with belts. It’s suddenly having your school suits not fit, and being safety pinned into your skirts and drowned in your jacket.  It’s losing muscle strength and it taking a lot more energy to open a door, or lift a heavy book. It’s not being allowed to do strenuous exercise or go on long walks. It’s being advised to use a wheelchair for the week after I came out of hospital – I didn’t, but I should have done. I am building up my strength, but this is never something you want to go through.

And who says I should ever have wanted to lose this much weight? This weight loss is not desired at all. It’s a result of medical trauma. So why are we, as a society, constantly pressuring people to lose weight, and congratulating them when they do, when it’s not always something to be proud of? (More on this here) Just think about it – could that person be struggling, or is there something else going on? Is this their choice? Is what you are about to say going to make them feel self-conscious, or uncomfortable in their body, either how it is now or was before? Just think it through.

7. “At least it’s happened to you. I mean it’s bad timing, but A levels were always going to be a breeze for you, so just chill”

Thanks. I guess that’s another compliment, that you think I’m smart? Once I might have agreed with you, that with all the two years worth of work beforehand, and at least a month of concentrated revision, A levels shouldn’t have presented an insurmountable challenge, though I don’t think you can ever class them as a ‘breeze’ for anyone, no matter how well they perform on a regular basis. But now, well now it’s different.

Now I have missed out on approximately the nine preceding weeks before my A levels. Much of what I am relying on to get me through each paper is the initial work I did in Lower Sixth, and a morning or afternoon of massively crammed revision prior to the exam. And don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I put in the work then, and that I have it to fall back on, but this is not the only thing that I should be relying on.  It’s not fun. And this would not be how I would choose to do it. It makes the whole experience so much more stressful. It’s frustrating to look at a question and think, ‘if I’d been in class in those last few weeks, I would have gone over this’ or ‘I’ve actually never done a history source question of this type before, because when they did practices, I was in hospital.’ It’s frustrating. It’s certainly not a ‘breeze.’

And I can no longer just go and sit an exam. I have to eat directly beforehand. I have to be in a separate room, with a separate invigilator who sits and watches me for any sign of descent into hypo. Within 10 minutes of my first exam I had to be stopped because my hand was shaking. Even if I exhibit no worrying signs, I have to stop at least every hour to check my blood sugar, if not every half hour. Stress and mental power uses up a lot of sugar. I have to take with me a whole box of different types of acting glucose, meters, insulin, needles, lancets, lancing devices, ibuprofen and drink lots of water. 3 hour exams tend to take at least 4 hours. My invigilators and I have a red phone which has the nurses and 999 on speed dial. I get home and collapse, without the energy to carry on for the next exam. The process is isolating, and it’s frustrating. But I need it. And I’m halfway there now.

But what’s also stressful is not knowing how it could turn out. We have absolutely no idea what my grades will be. My predicted grades were based on me working as I would have done, flat out, in the last weeks. That didn’t happen. Grades are up in the air. I can apply for special consideration, but it will only up me a maximum of 2%, and I can only apply for it to apply if I have a hypo or exhibit signs of deterioration during a specific paper. As a lifelong illness, Diabetes doesn’t qualify under recent illness or bereavement, since you should have been managing it forever. It doesn’t seem take into account what happens if it’s all new. We have no idea what is going to happen in August. And although I keep telling myself it will all be fine, it’s not exactly breezy.

8. “When does it stop?”

Easy answer: it doesn’t. Charities like JDRF are researching to try cures for Juvenile Diabetes Mellitus. But there is no cure yet. We wait.

We can manage it for the moment, with subcutaneous injections, IV fluids and blood glucose monitoring via finger pricks and monitoring strips. I carry these, and my hypo treatment with me everywhere. I have a medical ID wristband to identify me should I pass out alone, or be treated as drunk when I am having a hypo alone and in public. My insulin has its own passport, which I have with me all the time, and especially when I travel. It doesn’t go away.

My specialist team are hoping that I will qualify for some new whizzy devices that continually monitor glucose by having a sensor permanently on your arm, which you can swipe with a reader and it will not only give you a reading but show you a graph, and see whether you are trending up or down. I may yet transfer onto a pump system which can calculate your dose and administer insulin automatically. But that’s all the future. And it still won’t stop it; it’s only about management and control. I’m Diabetic 24/7. There’s no escaping it.

People usually remember that I’m diabetic only when I’m eating. And then they think that’s all it is – a food thing. But I still have diabetes when I leave the dinner table. I’m diabetic when I wake up and when I’m sleeping. I’m diabetic when I’m stressed and disappointed, excited or in love. Angry and ashamed or lonely and hurt. It doesn’t go away when I put the cap back on the syringe. It does not retreat once I fall to sleep.   ~An anonymous T1D

9. “Stop eating that, diabetics can’t have that”

Ah – this is a fun one. I can, technically, eat anything I want. So please don’t try and make decisions for me; I will tell you if I can’t eat anything. Some ‘diabetic’ food can also contain chemicals which act a bit like laxatives…so is best avoided, though Boots’ ‘no added sugar’ chocolate and shortbread have been life savers in the last few weeks, with half the carb value of normal brands. But I just have to be careful.

And sometimes it is harder for me if you try and avoid carbs, because at the moment I do need at least a small amount of carbohydrate with everything I eat to help me calculate a dose, as well as to keep at a stable weight. I have a book with lots of fun pictures of different size portions of food, which is helping me judge quantities without having to weigh all my food and on a day to day basis I work with a specialist dietitian and my school catering team to eat food that is both healthy and enjoyable! The only advice I’ve had and heeded (!), is that I should avoid chocolate, ice cream, and cake. But once in a week, and maybe twice, it’s ok – and whilst I can’t just snack freely or eat with no restrictions, if I want some chocolate, and believe me, there are times when all I want is a square of chocolate or 5 Maltesers, I will factor it in!

It often makes me feel more self-conscious of what I am eating, and makes meal times generally more stressful than they already are, if you stop me from eating what I feel comfortable eating. So trust me, although it is new, I do vaguely know what I’m doing, and fear not – I will speak up if something’s not right, or ask for a bit of bread with my salad 🙂

10. “You’re a bit of a mess, then, huh duck?”

Yep, someone said this to me. It was probably a side comment, and I’m not going to get mad with people because they don’t understand. But telling me I’m a mess goes to my head. It makes feel messed up. Different. Alone. A problem. It brings everything back. It makes me remember the things which are hard to process. It makes feel like I’m going to a mess for the rest of my life. For if I’m a mess now, so shall I be in 5 years. In 10 years. In 20. And who wants a mess in their life?

Maybe I am a bit of mess. I am still trying to learn, trying to process it all mentally, and trying to talk about it in a way that is helpful both to me and those around me. I don’t want to be a mess. I don’t want to cause mess. I don’t choose to create mess. But this me. And maybe it is messy right now. Maybe it still will be in a few weeks, and in a few months. Maybe even in a year. But it won’t always be messy, and I won’t always be coping like I have to now, with everything colliding at once. I’m stronger than mess.

11. “It’s a bit of a pain to be around you at the moment.”

Tell me about it. I feel guilty every day for feeling like a burden to those around me. It’s really hard to feel like you are responsible for someone else’s heightened fear. Or to feel like you are bombarding them with a load of information that they might not understand. It is hard to know that there is the chance that you might not wake up every night you go to bed, and there are people out there who are also trying to cope with knowing that. To feel awkward before going into the canteen every day, because I have to slip out to test and medicate, and count my carbohydrate intake before I eat. Their food gets cold, and so does mine.

Most of those around me day to day tell me that they don’t feel like it is a burden. And as the days go on, we settle into a new routine where there is a trust that I will say when and if things go wrong, but that I have enough independence to deal with day to day management. But it doesn’t stop me from being struck by guilt if I am out alone with my friends. The thoughts run through my mind: would they know what to do if I started acting like I was having a hypo? Would they recognise it? And the worst of all: with all this going on, I hope they can see that I am deep down still myself, even that I am trying to grow to be a better and bigger person because of this, trying to understand and develop the compassion to help and reach out to others in a similar position. I hope they don’t think, with all this going on, it would just be easier to continue gradually walking away. Because that would break my heart.

It’s hard. But it won’t be like this forever, and I would trust you with my life.

13. “But your Mum has Diabetes, so it’s not really an issue for you.”

This is something I get a lot. And it’s actually quite a rational argument. My Mum was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 15. It could be that I have a genetic pre-disposition to the condition. But as I said, there’s hardly any evidence to suggest it is directly hereditary. Anyway, it’s happened, we can’t change it.

In some ways it’s great. She knows what it can feel like to be in hospital and diagnosed. She knows what it can feel like to have hypo, and what the balance is between a hypo treatment that works fast, and a hypo treatment that doesn’t taste absolutely foul. At the moment I’m on a mix of Cadbury ‘fudge’ bars, and full sugar coke. It’s pretty disgusting, but has to be done about once or twice a week. She can also look at a plate if I’m struggling, like when we’ve gone out sometimes, and mouth across the table ‘approximately 50g,’ to help me calculate my dose.

But it can also be really hard. We are completely different people, and we lead different lives. We’ve been diagnosed in completely different ways: hers was what you might call a pretty regular diagnosis. She experienced all the regular symptoms and they caught it earlier on. I went from seemingly healthy and active, to bed-bound in ITU in the space of 24 hours. She can bend the rules, and feel when things go wrong. I still rely fully on my meter to know where I am. She has different insulins to me.  She has been dealing with it for 35+ years. I have had it for just over 70 days, and she can’t impose her Diabetes control, both practical and mental, on me. We work in different ways. She is a lot more matter of fact. I get a lot more emotional.

And knowing what is like probably makes it a lot harder on everyone in the house, because there’s now twice the worry, twice the fear. She knows what it’s like, so she can be more anxious about the things I do and can get up to. She has her own experiences which affect how my diagnosis is processed. As one of the first endocrinologists I saw explained, it’s like how often when you learn to drive, you use a driving instructor, and not your parents. The same is true with your DSN and your parents.

So as such, we made the decision early on that my Dad would be my chauffeur and waiting room accompanist at all my Doctor’s appointments. I’m actually old enough to do it all by myself. But I need someone to at least drive with me at the moment, and it’s him. In fact, it’s easier because Mum’s at work during the week anyway. But we tend to keep our Diabetes separate. Because it has the potential to actually be worse, rather than mutually beneficial.

14. *Orders ice cream* “Haha – Diabetes here we come!”

This is quickly becoming one of my pet peeves. So just a quick note. Please don’t joke about getting Diabetes. As I have explained, Type 1 has no known single ‘point-your-finger-at-it’ cause. There are a huge range of causes of Type 2. I don’t take offence too easily, but this is hard to hear on a daily basis. If you don’t know, just don’t even go there.

You won’t get Diabetes from eating ice cream, or chocolate, or sweets. And it’s not funny to joke about, so enjoy everything in moderation. I do too, and I’m diabetic.

15. “Seems like there’s nothing good about it.”

So here’s where I make the counter argument. Maybe a lot of this has been a rant. But I hope it’s also been educational, and made you a bit more aware of how much more to this there is than Maltesers.

I don’t want to end on a negative. So here I share the positive. I am gradually beginning to realise that Diabetes may be a sort of blessing in disguise. Let me explain. I don’t want anyone ever to have to have Diabetes. But if you have it, you can’t escape it, and it really is a life or death thing, so whilst it’s super hard, and there are rough days, and it takes so much time, you do begin to come terms with it, and even begin to find little glimpses of silver lining. I’m just at the beginning of that journey.

Diabetes sucks. But there’s a whole community out there. One of the first things my housemistress did when I was diagnosed was send an email round to all staff on site. Having been a boarder, is was important that everyone knew, so if I was found at any time of night or day, someone could help out. So many members of staff have come up to me and offered their support, understanding and stories about people they know with Diabetes who have gone on to do amazing things. “It might not feel like it now,” they say, “but you will go on to achieve just as much, or more, than you would have.” And week in, week out, I am overwhelmed by so many members of other communities I am part of  who come to, or reach out to me, and just say “hello” or “are you ok?” Sometimes I lie and say “I’m fine” when I don’t feel at all. Sometimes I absolutely mean it. But either way, I know they care, and that means so much.

And one of the best things I did for myself, was reach out to the community. There is an absolutely fantastic charity which is America-based, called “Beyond Type 1”. It is a community of people of all ages and genders across the world, who have type 1 diabetes. You send them your name, age, diagnosis date, and address, and preferences, and they match you with a similar Diabuddy, or someone else who has Diabetes, and for free, send you a starter pack of postcards, notelets and stickers to start a pen-friend relationship, called Snail Mail. That’s how I met JM. A training nurse who lives in Maryland, USA. Diagnosed at pretty much exactly my age, 2 years ago. It’s so good to have someone who understands, and whilst our medical systems are completely different, I don’t feel so alone. Thanks JM for everything, and for everything you will continue to be for me; I have a feeling our letter writing will last a long time. You make me feel a bit more normal.

It’s also been the most amazing concentrated time of prayer and support from my closest friends and extended family. I have felt alone, but never alone at the same time. I have received so many messages, so many letters and cards, the most beautiful flowers, pens to write my heart out with, books to write in, books to read whilst I’m stuck waiting for appointments, or hooked up to IVs, pictures of baby elephants from Sri Lanka to make me smile, and countless hugs, chats, phone calls, texts and many instances of “I don’t know what to say, except that I’m here for you, and I’m thinking of you.”Countless “my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time.” Immeasurable love.

And I have also felt like I’ve understood another part of the world. Much of this I can’t understand. I want to know why: why me, why now, why this, why not that. I can’t. But what I can now understand is a bit of everyone’s life who experiences pain. A bit of those lives where you wake up in the morning and think “I can’t do this today.” A bit of those lives where you wake up in the morning and think “Yes! I’m going to smash it today.” A bit of the lives of the chronically ill. A bit of lives of the dying. A bit of the lives of those who love unconditionally and freely. A bit of lives of those who are scared. A bit more of the lives of all of us. And I have felt moments of absolute extraordinariness in the ordinary.

So I guess, this isn’t all bad. And it will get better. Everything, as M would say, is going to be fine.

If you’ve got this far, you 100% deserve at least 5 Maltesers. Thank you for all your continued support. You can watch this slideshow for a more pictorial idea of life!

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Behind each face, a soldier

I received so many positive comments about my last poem, that last week I decided to pursue the imagery of soldiery, especially with the background of chronic illness, and in Mental Health Awareness Week. Having an invisible illness has shown or confirmed to me so much over the last few weeks, notably that you might not know what battles someone is facing from the outside, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting. It doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting with everything they’ve got left in them. It doesn’t mean some days they don’t wake up and think: I can’t do this today. There are victories, there are losses. There are good days and there are bad. Sometimes it feels like a battle, sometimes a war. But you are not alone.

But I don’t think these words need much explaining. Just let a music speak to you, lie still and the seconds wash over you. Sometimes more words are surplus. It might mean something unique to you – receive it, don’t push it. Just be, and rejoice at where you are, be proud of whatever you are fighting, take strength from what you’ve overcome.


For all who fight. For all who stand but want to fall. For all who need a comrade tonight. For all whose mental strain is too much. For all who cannot see the light. For all.


When each week is a war, each day is a battle.

Can you hear the drums, and the clashing of metal?

The day is beginning, and the standard flies high,

While the soldier, wounded, utters a deepening sigh.

O how he would give to stay, sleeping, in bed! So

Why does he fight with darker darkness ahead?

Because he is a warrior, called to the fight, and

Even in sheer darkness, he holds victory in sight.


To be that soldier, in greatest fear to stand,

It’s a choice we make when we hold life in our hands.

Do we fight for a chance that we might live and survive?

Or do we surrender to darkness, and thus, suffering, die?

Humanity’s truth is that we shall all fall. But

When, where, and why, are never the same for all.

When the pool of bitter blackness tugs at our feet,

It is life, and its fullness, we must turn and greet.


When plunged into warfare, trembling, and afraid,

Little to guide you, and no one to call “friend”

O you’ll fight and you’ll fight and you’ll fight to the end.

Within, there shall be light, and it your fear amend.

Where there are mountains, towering high, o’er the valley

And up into the sky – there light shall also, beside you, fly.

With light you’ll find mountains can melt into plains,

A power almighty which loosens shackle and chain.


In this day I call battle, in this week I call war,

The soldier will fight, and not win, but o’er death soar.

And tomorrow, when the dawn winds her way back again,

The standard shall fly, and the trumpets refrain. But

The soldier shall stand, wounds his deeper strength,

And say – “Life I choose you. I hold death at arm’s length.”

He shall fight to the end, with light by his side,

When dark comes around, to light he’ll confide.


And he is fighting his battle, but is not alone,

Comrades beside him echo the harrowing groan,

Of conflict on the inside, but radiance without, the

While knowing the enemy they can never truly rout.

They’ll be strong for each other, they’ll share the pain,

Rank upon rank, fighting snow, wind and rain.

For though the outcome of war might be changed by will of one,

When war builds on war, it is only together outrun.


When each week is a war, each day is a battle.

Do you now hear the drums, and the clashing of metal?

A new day is beginning, and the standards rise high,

While the soldiers, still wounded, utter sorrowful sighs.

O how they would give to stay, sleeping, in bed! But

Today they’ve chosen to fight with the darkness ahead.

For they are the warriors, called to the fight:

In prolonged darkness, they hold victory in sight.



Composing: Onwards, Soldier

Thank you – to everyone who has reached out to me and offered their support. To those I know, those I’ve lost contact with, those I am yet to meet. To my friends, my family and M. To the world that inspires me. To the music that lifts me up, tosses me around and makes me cry. To crying and being OK with it. To words, and their potential power. To escaping this world through composition. With you all, I am doing better every day. 

It won’t come as a surprise to you that reading and writing are my refuges when times get hard. There’s nothing I like to do more when in pain, physically or emotionally, than to curl up on a sofa with a blanket and a cup of tea and read or write. I can stay there for hours and hours and not know it until I happen to glance at a clock. It’s a realm of worlds to escape to, to find yourself in, and to learn from. There are days when I feel like I’m reading about myself. There are days when the text seems so foreign I find it hard to relate. I laugh. I cry. I’m inspired. I’m frightened. I escape.

But it’s often writing I turn to when things are hardest. I didn’t have much of a chance in hospital. In fact, I couldn’t even hold a pen to try to write. But that didn’t mean I didn’t write. There were lots of words going round in my head – too many, I was told. “Why do you look so pensive?” one of my Doctors asked. I didn’t have a reply, because I know when I’m writing, it sort of becomes a state of being. A sort of all encompassing energy that fills the soul and provokes, encourages, and makes you pensive. I’m probably an awful bore when I’m in a writing mood, sitting or lying somewhere, and messing about with words in my head until something seems right, like it perfectly captures a specific mix of emotions at a specific moment. Sometimes it doesn’t fit. Then I tweak, and try again, until it’s perfect. Then it’s transcendent. Then it hits the paper, and becomes real. It’s hard to describe if you’ve never experienced it.

I have always found music powerful. Anyone who has sat beside me regularly at concerts and services will account for my spontaneous tears during works that hit me somewhere I wasn’t expecting. There is always some melody, some harmony that binds me so intensely to the music. So I’ve always thought that words were inferior. They could never have power alone. But a conversation I had a couple of months ago made me realise that words can have power too. A different power, but one nonetheless. Words in a line can be like notes on a stave – each is placed specifically, with purpose, with precision, to give a special emphasis. Each line, each stave, contributes to a work that introduces itself, builds, reaches a climax, fades away, reflects upon its themes, and comes to a conclusion. Both have the art of composition.

It seems first wrote about this at the end of March, but it was only on clearing out the notes on my phone earlier today, having just spent a while writing, that I came upon it, a musing I had profoundly (!) entitled ‘Composition’ :

I’m watching you and the notes spinning around in your head

Until one stops you, and holds your attention. I see it in your eyes.

Like the key in the lock, it’s the one that fits.

I don’t think you can see me standing here. Or maybe you just don’t want

To talk today. That’s OK. I understand.

The strands of music floating in your mind almost seem to sing before you.

I can almost feel the joy of your music before you even reach me.

We don’t need to talk to feel it.

Now – your anger, the desperate beat of the drums, like thunder in the night.

Now – your pain, that distant violin. It’s far away, a secret voice.

You’re trying to hide it, but struggling to keep in tune. It’s OK. I understand.

Now – a hint of joy, a skipping flute, climbing higher and higher into a bubbling of laughter.

And now – the righteous organ, steady, steadfast. The assurance of your love. Powerful.

Each phrase is just one thought, in one second, in one day.

Will you sketch out your daily symphony today?

Not today, I feel. But maybe tomorrow, today’s loose thoughts will weave together,

Into a music that will stir up a whirlwind inside every longing heart.


And I? Well I think my composition is less measured than yours.

There’s nothing official about it. No rules. No bars to confine my notes.

Just the pen in my hand, growing sickly warm, and the paper,

Scrunched up to hide the truth. It’s my pain, raw and bitter.

It’s my hope, lasting but renewed. It’s my faith, constant yet terrifying.

Maybe somewhere you’ll find my love in my words.

I’ve just scribbled them down, words streaming out like screams or laughter or tears.

It’s done for today. Too painful to carry on. Maybe I’ll also try again tomorrow.

Do my words have melody and harmony?

Do I consider each one as you do your chord?

Is there contrapuntal movement or fugal themes? I don’t know.

Maybe you can see something I can’t. But for me, well I forget what I’m writing.

I toss words about, no structure, no plan.

They’re special because they’re the words written on my heart –

Streams of words, each one just one thought, in one second, in one day.


But maybe you feel like that too. Maybe you and I are more similar than we think.

For we’re both composing, you and I. We both sing.

We give it our joy, our pain, our stress, our anger. We give it our love.

It helps us to love in return. To serve. To appreciate. To grow. To learn.

Words and music, they can dance alone. They can dance together.

So I’m standing here, thinking about my words, and your music,

And knowing the gifts that they are, and the gifts that they’ll bring.

And I’m hoping they’ll change the world, recompose how things ought to be.

Clearly, written word as having the power, like music, to convey something that is beyond the spoken is a preoccupation that my mind has been dealing with for quite some time without me realising. And it’s a preoccupation that has not left me since leaving hospital.

One of the hardest parts of dealing with my diagnosis and life since, has been knowing how close I was to dying. They told me, when I left, that if I had left it another hour before being taken to A&E, my chances would have been far lower. When ketoacidosis takes hold at critical level, it takes hold fast. And indeed, I wrote about Graham, and his death in my last post. To see someone die is horrible. To be surrounded by death, and feel it close, is something I never want anyone to have to experience.

I had to find a way of writing about it, dealing with the ‘what ifs’ that have been bothering me. What if I had died? What if I had left the people I love behind, some without ever telling them I loved them? How could I bear the pain? So I wrote. And since, I have better escaped the thoughts. It will take a lot longer to put this behind me, if I ever can. But I’m hanging on, surviving through composing. I can only hope my words are some way to be as powerful as music. They made me cry, at least. But then again, I find tears are quick to my eyes today.

Onwards, soldier, to the end.

At last, Night is come. How softly, sweetly

Her footsteps tread upon the earth

Which was my transient home! And O, how

Tender her voice, singing Peace, and proclaiming that

I am come through the wilderness, the darkness

apprehended, though yesterday I knew not where to turn.

For here is the Way; I trace it, written on my heart.

And I am heading onwards to the heavens, to the height of

Those gold tipped mountains, sustaining the

Last remaining rays of light and calling me home.

My tears flowed fast when I slipped away, as

Dust through your fingers, too terrified

To stay to hear the anguished cry when you saw

Life’s heaving breaths shallow into stillness.

But here is the Truth; a sting oppressed by comfort:

There shall be neither death, nor sorrow, nor crying.

So, it is time now to go onwards, to the stars, to the radiant

Stars, to bathe in celestial light, relieving me of

My tired breast, heavy laden with day’s

Cruel toils. And so, I walk, placing step by step,

Gaining strength from some invisible spring of life. And

I perceive how great a war life is to be fought; how I was marked

To fall at the very height of battle. And oh – how I have fallen!

But somehow, I traverse the valley, by a gentle breeze

Lifted beyond the weeping grey clouds that at present beset

Your heart. Do you see, my love, that here I am

Free? There is no longer need to mourn; it is

Here, with Love, that I am called to be.

For here is Life; I know Him well.


Today has been hard. But I have found hope through words. The poems I have written reflecting on grief can be found at the end of this post.

As the school day drew to a close last night, the last rays of the sun burning a red hue onto a darkening sky, the school body was gathered together. We waited in silence, knowing that whatever was coming, it couldn’t be good. Unfortunately, the sickening foreboding was all too just. One of our young members of staff had suddenly died.

Grief takes many forms.

There’s the initial shock. That it can’t be true. There’s the pain. The tears. The realisation that you will never that face again. Or hear that laugh again. Or watch him gallop down the hallway with a hockey stick doing his best impression of a Jabberwocky. There’s the sharp stab of the understanding of mortality. There’s an appreciation for the frailty and fragility of life. There’s the mask you put on, saying I’m OK, when deep down there’s a storm of hurt brewing. There’s madness. Anger that the world is carrying on when life has been cut short. There’s irrational guilt. There’s silence. Nothingness. Emptiness.

Grief takes many forms.

Over the last 24 hours grief has swept a shroud over the school. It has felt subdued. Like the world is turning in grayscale. There has been a sense of unease to hear laughter, laughter that isn’t his. To see smiles in a sea of sorrow. But there has been a solidarity, compassion and selflessness that has helped to ease the news. I think grieving as community is easier than grieving alone. Everyone is sharing memories, smiling behind tears, and reaching out a hand. Everyone is understanding. Everyone stands together. And if we listen closely, we can just start to hear the soft tones of peace.

It is times like this where a community founded on faith finds its strength. Evensong last night was bittersweet. The music had been chosen a long time ago, but its words, known to all, were comforting, and the introit seemed a plea from the depths of our heart.

When I lie within my bed,

Sick in heart and sick in head…

When the house doth sigh and weep,

And the world is drowned in sleep,

Yet mine eyes the watch do keep.

Sweet spirit, comfort me. Comfort me.

Litany to the Holy Spirit, Herrick (1591-1674)

This morning, we gathered for a difficult service of reflection, exploring Christ’s sacrifice and pain in death. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me. We prayed. We sat in silence. We knew that we were not alone. And he was not alone. I have no doubt that, whilst elements of pain will last, over the rest of the week, the community will build itself back up, find peace, reconciliation with anger, stability, and renewed strength, in the knowledge of God’s presence amongst us, lifting the darkness of grief.

There was no better man than he. A friend, a tutor, a pastoral adviser, and an inspiring teacher. His wit, humour, confidence and energy were infectious. He never stopped giving of himself. And there is no greater testimony to that than the grief we are sharing today.

But one day grief will pass. We will find new life.

Yesterday afternoon, before I heard the news, my Director of Music came to me with a box, saying that he needed me, as Librarian to the Choirs, to help him and take care of a project. I was curious, the box stating on the side that it contained 36 x 50g worth of Digestive biscuits. I was all too keen to relieve him of it. Then he disappointed me by saying that it wasn’t biscuits. Perhaps, I thought, it was the Stanford in A I had been looking for earlier. No, it wasn’t that either. Sit down, he told me and open it carefully.

It was a blue tit, lethargically blinking at me, incredibly confused, cushioned in a whole load of clinical roll. What on earth was I meant to do with a half-dead blue tit? Well of course, he said, you have to nurse it back to life. His clearly competent veterinary experience had led him to the conclusion that it was concussed. Or maybe that was because it had just flown straight into his window. And somehow he thought I had the necessary credentials to make it fly.

So 15 minutes later, I was to feed milk to a blue tit with a pipette. I did not see this happening in my day. Nor, was it, to my belief, part of the job description. I spend most of the time photocopying or trolleying 60 choir folders around sight. But here I was, with a bird. And you bet I was going to see it fly again. And sure enough, with some TLC and warmth it flew away, after about half an hour tentatively pecking at the box.

I didn’t know it at that point, but I don’t think that little vulnerable bird came into my life incidentally. That bird was a little spirit that needed to be set free, a reflection of the soul of the departed. The moment he took flight kept coming back to me last night. I can’t help thinking that my little blue tit was God’s way of telling me that his spirit too had flown into a higher place.

We all cope with grief and sorrow in different ways, as an individual, or as a community. In community, I stand with my fellow pupils. As an individual, I channel my pained hope in composing words, like those below.

I am grateful to all who support and uplift me, and help me see the light in darkness. Today I take care to hold those I love a little deeper in my heart, to pray for God’s love to heal and comfort, and to give my prayers with all those who mourn. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace, and rise in glory.

If you grieve today, let me grieve with you. If you see hope today, may I see it too.


Soft as the wind that dries a dewy grass,

Gentle as the sun that thaws an icy snow,

So shall your soul, smiling, pass,

And our eternal love shall you know.

Grief shall be but a transient state,

For us who know that your spirit is sure,

Safe in a paradise, through a golden gate,

Where your soul eternally shall endure.

So, as the stars shine, you among them bright,

So, as the shadow of choking darkness melts away,

Supplanted by a blinding holy light,

May we feel your present soul each and every day.

You, who shared the burden of our every pain,

May you help us to see there shall be hope again.


He’s dead, they say.

It can’t be true.

But he passed away.

And in you flew.

A fragile thing,

Yellow, green and blue.

Oh little tit,

How feeble your coo.

But oh little tit,

I’m so glad I found you,

Cradling you in my tired palms,

As you survey an unfamiliar view.

Can you fly, little tit?

Can you struggle through?

Are you the spirit

Of the man I knew?

Fly little tit, fly so high,

Fly free, oh spirit, as you used to.

Ah! So you’ve found your wings,

Now settling beneath the crooked yew.

Oh little tit, oh spirit of man,

Adieu, Adieu.

Weaving together the threads of life

This may be just a little abstract! But stick with it… if you know, you know.

The way I see it, life is composed of different threads. The work thread. The school thread. The home thread. The family thread. The friends thread. The thread that no one else sees. The holy golden thread.

On our worst days, the threads fall apart. We might only be able handle one thread at a time. We hide the other threads, lose the other threads or forget they exist altogether. We can become so preoccupied with the thread in our hands at that moment that we cannot even contemplate dealing with the others.

On our best days, there does not seem to be different threads, but a kind of tapestry that is composed of all the threads in some glorious technicolor harmony, reflecting the composure of our being. We feel able to take a step back and wonder at how the individual threads complement each other, creating light and shade, height and depth, and a brightness that sings to create the depiction of the truth of the heart.

But most days, we see the threads of a tapestry that once was, or is to come. We are in a liminal phase of craftsmanship, where the edges are frayed, tired, or the individual threads are more visible in their uniqueness than in their complementation. We might want to tear the tapestry apart, destroy the picture and start again, or perhaps weave a new patch to replace an older, and we always await the coming of the golden thread that will tie the piece together and make the threads shine.

There is a risk, in seeing the world as composed of threads, that we will forever fail to see the picture that is being created before our eyes. There is a risk that we see all the threads coming together and are complacent, and do not add our own threads to the picture. But in a tapestry each individual thread is so important to the whole. We would be fools to jump in awe at the picture, without recognising the role of each thread. Each has its place. Each is important. We cannot regard the whole without acknowledging its constituent parts. And we must recognise that the tapestry will be forever incomplete, without the threads of our own life. So we must become our own weaver, preparing our thread for its place in the tapestry of life, restoring it, renewing it, finding new colours.

Each day, each week, each month, each year, we find our threads in new parts of the tapestry. Some days we might struggle to see where they surface, drowning in the pools of loose ends hidden behind the beautiful picture. But on one day, when we don’t expect it, the threads that define the constituent parts of our life will knit themselves together, and surface in the most beautiful stitch, forming a new part of a new picture. But we have to allow them the chance to do so. It is tempting to hold on to the end of a thread, too scared to let it go. It is tempting to say no, even when our heart compels us to say yes. But when we find the strength, the threads will find their place, find a rhythm and a voice.

I have felt my world changing during the past few months. The different threads have diverged so completely that I’ve not known where to turn to knit them back together. The threads have frayed, snapped or been soiled. The colours have faded. I was so scared to say yes to the faithful golden thread that heals, restores, and makes shine. The golden thread that knitted me together. So I hid the it in the corner of my picture, almost ashamed to let it shine for me. I didn’t know what to think of it, how to deal with it, how to weave it in. Because everyone notices the golden thread; it’s too transcendently beautiful, too indescribable, too unimaginably perfect to ignore. It was easier to pretend that the tapestry didn’t need it, because I couldn’t find the words to explain how that golden thread was inflaming me from the inside. I didn’t have the strength to weave it in. I didn’t know how to cope with saying yes.

But without it my colours felt grey. So I sat and closed my eyes and held all the threads that were drifting apart in the depths of my heart. And I took the golden thread in my hands and sat in the stillness for a while, waiting to hear what it felt like to say yes. And every night I would sit there with the golden thread, until it weaved its way into my heart. And slowly I found the strength to share the fire started by the golden thread. Now my picture will never seem complete without it.

Over the past few months, saying yes, I’ve see the different threads of my life coming together. I think I’ve reached the point I’ve been yearning for, for a long time. Parts of the future seems tangible. The threads are beginning converge and new colours emerge. It’s a turning point with my tapestry. Each day I find a new confidence, a new smile, a new friend, a new laughter, a new opportunity to let the light shine. Every night I sit with my threads and look back at the picture. I’m ready to let some threads go, to pick up some new ones, to let the tapestry flourish and grow. I know the picture is going to continue to change. In fact, there will never be a single completed picture. The weaver will need to carry on listening, carry on talking, carry on praying. But this little weaver is trusting in the golden thread, walking with the golden thread, and knows that the golden thread can never be hidden again. It has a place in her heart, in her soul. And she is ready to see how the golden thread will knit together all the other threads of her being, in the tapestry that she has come to accept and inhabit so fully, so readily, so passionately.



Don’t lose the words that make you sparkle

This post includes the writing I could decipher from pieces of screwed up paper which I chucked in the bin, and my Matron salvaged, and gave back to me with a post-it-note saying ‘you are gold dust, don’t lose the words that make you sparkle.’

I wouldn’t call them poems, because they are in a natural and unrefined form and don’t really even make sense. They were words that purely come into my head and get scribbled down incoherently (some at unseemly hours in the morning), but as such, on reading them back, they form an interesting picture of what I would call an iridescent November. But so that I might remember how I felt this November, and so that you might perhaps gain something from the plight of a Catherine this St Catherine’s Day, they are no longer pieces of paper, screwed up in the bin. 

1. The tree


I’m heading home. But I don’t know where home is.

All the footsteps blur in the mud.

O fire tree,

You stand on the hill, alone,

And the darkness is rolling in from the west,

Dashing pink and purple across the empyrean canvass.

The stars are veiled with the urban smut.

Your flames burst from your branches.

They burn with ignited passion.

They lick at your unyielding frame.

Will you be my guiding light?

Yesterday I trembled, seeking shelter

Under layers of thick protection.

But now you scorch my heart.

I take off my shoes and stand

And listen. Still. A small voice.

A voice of calm. Can I wait here

To hear what is you call me to do?

I don’t want to have to walk again

In the darkness.

2. The box

In a square box with four straight sides,

She is a circle that tries to break free.

She almost fills the space, pressing

On the midpoints of each line.

She is so close to being there;

She is so close to being them.

But there is still some space left in the

Corners. So she can breathe, some say.

But she cannot breathe. She has to

Fill those little spaces too. She has to

Let them know that she can do it.

She can be everything they want her to be.

And she hopes that they will believe

In her. But she knows they will not.

Because in a square box with four straight sides,

She is a circle that will never quite

Fit the mould.

3. The bird

Life gets better, he told her once.

She always has, she always will.

She turns her head. A shrill cry ex rostro.

The taste of freedom is so sweet that it

Clings to the air, leaving a tang of

Future pleasures under grey skies.

But there is still so much time before

It will be real. For now, she waits,

Has a taste, longs for more, doubles

Over with the pain of hunger.

When will the holy feast be spread

Again, regal, on that golden stuff?

She does not know. But she will

Keep her eye open. Searching.

Looking. Longing for freedom.

For she is a fledgling, and soon

She will fly.

4. The different girl

Do you know what it is like to be lonely?

To walk into a hall of people all alone,

To sit down all alone, to eat all alone.

Do you know what it is like to feel

Detatched from the world in which you live?


Laughter fills the air, and dances up to the rooftops,

But in her head all is silent,

Because she’s different.

The girl whose face is naked,

The girl who prays at night,

The girl who

They call the traitor, the betrayer.

She did something inconceivable to them,

Her own. Her own no longer.

For telling the truth, for being honest,

This is what she receives.

Perhaps all she wants is someone to laugh with,

Someone to share her stories with,

Someone to be with.

Perhaps she can find someone in her own

Imagination to talk to. Perhaps in her own stories

People would care.

5. The invitation to interview

I walked up the stairs that night

Not expecting to find anything at all

Out of the ordinary.

I’d left my room as I wanted to find it:

The files were all upright on the bookshelf

And the books were piled high, in

Alphabetical order within genre, naturally.

The bed was made, and my blanket,

The voice of home, was tucked under the

Statutory sanitary bed-sheets.

The sash window let in the wisps of the

Cold November air which the folded pieces

of paper were trying so desperately to keep out.

I pulled down the blind, to shut away outside,

But the moon reaching the window bars drew crosses

On the blind. I wasn’t ever alone here.

It lay buzzing, vibrating on the desk, as if someone

Was trying to call me. I picked it up.

The email. Invitation to interview.


It looks like I’ll see the Christmas market

In Oxford this year.


In the shadow of the Cathedra

As I’ve mentioned before, writing poetry is one way in which I cope with emotion and pain. I’ve found it especially helpful in the last year, during which time one important place in my life has undergone a significant amount of change.

I first wrote this poem around Easter, when I was struggling with faith and the future, and have since redrafted it several times, reflecting on how I’ve changed since that point. It focusses on the point after I stepped down from the lectern holding back tears. There are moments where I still feel like I am at the destructive part of the poem, seeing everything I knew tumble and burn, feeling lonely, far from God and incredibly vulnerable.

But more often than not, now I feel more able to take a step back and turn to God in my vulnerability and not simply close myself off, but work through that same pain and destruction in prayer. The feeling that everything is tumbling down doesn’t just go away, but I’ve learnt that it’s about how we react to it that is most important.

In faith, I think we must choose not what is often the easiest option, turning away, but instead choose to turn aside, to pray and seek with God how we can be beacons of light in surrounding darkness, and how we can rebuild in love.

On reading the poem, I feel like you can sense the original anger that flowed out onto the paper when I first wrote it. It feels disjointed and doesn’t quite fit. It is quite different to some of my more lyrical poetry. It is raw and brutal and full of hurt. At the same time, it is a poem in two halves: there is a point during the poem where I saw a different way of looking at change and pain, and I began to see a more hopeful way forward with God. Whenever I read it, I find myself thinking, how am I looking at things today? With anger or with faith? With pain, or with hope?

I struggled to name this poem, but settled on the place in the Cathedral where I felt most comforted as a little girl. I used to sit up between the Quire and Sanctuary at evensong, beside the Cathedra. There, with the sun casting rainbow reflections on the marble floor, I would feel most loved and as if I could do anything with God. It is still one of my favourite and most comforting places, though I little get the opportunity to sit there.

In the shadow of the Cathedra

The walls are weeping

With the sound of our tears.

The walls are shaking

With our bitterness.


Foundations tremble

With our stifled cries of anger.

Bricks like tears tumble,

Becoming rubble.


It is like watching a car

Crash in slow motion,

Each of us failing to

Push the brakes,

As we travel blind towards

Our time of death.


Is the moment of

Impact is passed?

Only our carcass remains.

We wait for the

Final bones to go up in



It is hard to see when

The asphyxiating

Asbestos of our minds

Will ever be chipped away.

It has already

Killed my trusting heart.


Love can rebuild. But

Where can love be found?

A world devoid of love

Leaves my childhood home

Flat on sandy ground.


My house has many

Rooms, says the Lord, my

God. But standing here,

I see no room for



Yet I cannot close

My Heart to you. You

Weave yourself back in.

You hold me.


I know there’ll be

A day, when my heart

once more will weep with

salted tears.


I’ll look to you again:

The Lord on high, my

God. And, alone, I

know I’ll find you then.


May I be penitent,

Seek forgiveness,

Be slow to judge,

Be open to forgive.


May I find strength in You.

May I speak the truth.

May I heal the wounds

We made for ourselves.


On your rock may I

Rebuild my house,

My heart, my hope.


Cleanse our hearts, wipe from

Our eyes the tears. Show

Us the place where pain

Is no more.

And make us once more

One in you, O Lord.

An empty hospital bed

I am writing this as I travel home on the M6, stuck in the traffic jam outside Lower Peover (yes that is a place). The fog and frost are just starting to descend down, and the headlights make the drizzle sparkle before it hits the bumper of the car in front. The light is fading, but the moon is not yet visible in the sky. Perhaps it is covered by a cloud.

Unfortunately, our New Year did not start so well as I had hoped. On New Year’s Day, 1 week ago, we received the call that my Grandad had been rushed to hospital and was undergoing surgery to stop serious bleeding in his abdomen, and would be subject to further testing to work out why this had happened and then relapsed. It’s painful when you live far away from your family, that you cannot just be there instantaneously when they’re ill. You want to be at the hospital to hold their hand. But that’s how the world works. So the following week has been filled with telephone calls between my Mum, Uncle and Grandma, trying to keep up with what is happening. Grandad was hospitalised and put on several drips, having his blood tested every 2 hours to try and work out why this bleeding kept happening.

This weekend, my Mum and I travelled North to be with him in hospital and hopefully to take him home. Having packed my rucksack with chocolate digestives, double deckers, chocolate coins, half a toblerone, a colouring book, Guys and Dolls CD, and Greek and Latin vocab lists (all the essentials for 10 hours in the car), we left London at 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, stopping at Stafford for a sausage sandwich (much needed!).

I was half anxious and half excited to go. Anxious because my Grandad is very sick, in my mind during the week I kept catastrophizing what could happen to him and I’d heard stories about people catching all kinds of harmful diseases in hospitals like MRSA. However I was also excited. This excitement not only stemmed from seeing Grandad but the fact that I had never actually been to visit anyone in hospital before. My nose operations had been in our local private hospital, I had visited A&E when I fractured my wrist, and I may have visited my brother in hospital when he was born, but this I don’t remember! So I was semi excited to go to a hospital properly for the first time (and procrastinate doing prep because I wasn’t at home), but of course I just wish the circumstances had been different.

We were taught from a young age not to trust the food we were served by my Grandparents. I remember the time for example, we were served pastries which were burnt on top, but frozen underneath. I guess that’s what happens if you grill frozen croissants. Similar to the time when the sausages were black on the outside, and raw inside. So fuelled on a safe Staffordshire sausage sandwich and a couple of chocolate coins, we arrived at my Grandparents’ house, exhausted from a 4 hour journey (pretty good as this journey goes, but still exhausting). We were unexpectedly greeted with semi cooked salmon and watercress (is it just me who finds this a bit of an odd combination?) pie and chocolate log. Thankfully anything that has come straight from M&S and is put straight in the oven is usually safe. But somehow, given the reason for our visit, I didn’t really feel like eating.

We made it to the hospital for visiting hours. I experienced for the first time the conflicting atmosphere that lingers in a hospital that I’ve heard others talk about. There are whispers of pain, suffering and loss. There are glimpses of hope, the smiles of the discharged, and the balloons celebrating the birth of a new baby. But the discarded trolleys in the corridor, the scars, a distant scream, and the smell of hand sanitiser were just a few of the things that made me feel slightly uncomfortable. A reminder of the pain of human suffering. A corridor that seemed to go on forever, devoid of life and the vacant eyes of the nurses who walked past made me want to turn around and leave. I didn’t think a long wide yellow corridor could make you feel like that. But I had to get to ward 3D. And when I opened the door of Grandad’s room, I immediately saw an empty bed. And the catastrophized situations that had been plaguing my thoughts for the week resurfaced.

And then I looked up and saw him, round the corner, sitting in an armchair reading his kindle. He looked awfully frail, pale and hurt. But it was him, and he was there.

The remainder of my time in the North has been spent sitting in various very uncomfortable chairs, talking, playing Trivial Pursuit (I forgot that I had the travel version buried – beneath the food – in my rucksack) on hospital bed tables which wheel themselves away every time you place a card down, watching BBC news on repeat, marvelling at the menu (which I am reliably informed does not give a true representation of the food received), eating chocolate digestives and toblerone to make up for the poor menu, travelling between the hospital and my Grandparents’ house (with squeaky nylon blow up mattresses and nylon sleeping bags so that every time you turn over it either rustles or sparks) and working out where a prescription could be,  lost in a ‘pod’ system, when the ward say they’ve sent it, and the Pharmacy say they haven’t got it.

And now I’m back in the car travelling home with Grandma’s packed tea of turkey sandwiches (it’s not unlikely that the Turkey’s left from Christmas) and more chocolate log (also probably left from Christmas). I’m hoping we’ll stop soon to pick up a packet of crisps and make the essential ‘facilities’ break. It’s been a whirlwind trip, but one that I felt I had to make. My first trip to a hospital, but more importantly a chance to be there for my family. Life is fleeting. Our candle can blow out at any moment. The atmosphere I felt and the tears, pain and anguish, that struck me in the hospital reminded me all too well of that fact. It reminded me that it is important to go whatever distance, despite their Russian-roulette dinners and sparking beds, to be with your family and to share in the good times and the bad. Because family is something that at times we wish we could choose not to have, but the love of our family is also that which we cannot live without.

I am so grateful that this afternoon Grandad has been able to go home, to be in his own environment and have some peace. We don’t know what the future holds, but right now the candlelight seems a little brighter than it did a week ago, and that’s all we can ask for.

This poem just sort of came into my head when I was reflecting on what might have been, and the feelings that I went through on seeing that empty bed. I felt like I was too late, like I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. These were my honest feelings. And I’m sure they are feelings that many people go through on a daily basis. So here it is, a simple and honest poem dedicated to all those who feel lost in grief at the beginning of this New Year:

Where you lie no more

There is an empty hospital bed,

The covers thrown aside,

Still warm from where

You lay.

With silvered cheeks I wrap

Your coat around me,

Eyes fixed on where

You lay.

Sirens scream all around;

Too late to find the

Frail body where

You lay.

Whispers linger of your pain; my broken

Heart is pierced again. I breathe

My last of the air where

You lay.

There was an empty hospital bed,

The covers thrown aside,

Still warm from where

You lay.

For anyone studying English literature, this poem was designed to be shaped like a heartbeat, symbolising the poet’s liveliness contrasted with the death of the one she loved.