Lady in Waiting


My dog, waiting.

If only all men were as pleased to see me as my dog.

I came home earlier and there he was. In the window. With his waggly tail. And one of my daughter’s toys in his mouth, disembowelled and relieved of all its facial features.

Whenever I leave him, he takes his place on the back of the settee and stares out, waiting for the moment when I reappear. Sometimes I’ve only gone to the car and back, yet he greets me as if I’m Lord Lucan.

He spends his entire life waiting, actually. He’s sitting under my desk now as I type, waiting for a biscuit. He waits for walks, food, bed-time, up-time. In the year that I’ve had him, he has become utterly devoted to me and my every move.

In the first few months after M’s death, I spent much of my time waiting too. Like my dog in the window, I stared out, waiting for Him to return. Time marched on but still I waited. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was waiting for, as logic dictated that He wasn’t coming back. He hadn’t just nipped to the car. But still, I waited.

I realised today, when I returned home and saw the dog at the window, that I am no longer waiting.

I’m not sure when I stopped waiting. I still hold on to a brittle hope that somehow He’ll come walking round a corner – indeed, I fantasise about it: that He’ll materialise out of a crowd of shoppers, or step out of the woods while I’m on a walk.

But the waiting has ended. He’s not coming back.

Dirty Old Town

English: The exterior of the Tyneside Cinema i...

English: The exterior of the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne, looking towards Pilgrim Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why would anyone feel the need to throw a plastic cup full of their own piss across a crowd of concert-goers?

I found myself pondering this as I tottered on my heels in a field on the outskirts of Newcastle this weekend, watching a Madness gig.

My heart ached as Suggs sang It Must Be Love under a clear Northern sky, the lyric invested with new meaning since M died (As soon as I wake up / Every night every day / I know that it’s you I need / To take the blues away…). But after the umpteenth arc of piss straddled the crowd, I beat a disgusted retreat into the beer tent.

Was this phenomenon unique to Geordieland, I wondered, or does this happen at gigs across the world? (I don’t do gigs, generally. This one was an adjunct to the Races and included Suggs so I made an exception.)

Geordieland. My home. It’s in the marrow of my bones. It has soothed and nurtured me since M’s death to point where I am increasingly reticent to leave it.

It’s where we met, lived, loved and ultimately, where we parted.

We sang Unknown Legend to each other under the Tyne Bridge. We walked around the Laing Art Gallery on an early date, chortling at the exhibits. We drank coffee outside the Tyneside Cinema and warm beer in the Crown Posada.

Some people dream of living where the climate is warm, the landscape beautiful. But after years of living away, our only dream was to come back here – together.

So I’m back now, without Him. It’s a way of keeping Him close. He is in the pavements, the river, the grey rainclouds overhead.

And whatever the source of the precipitation, I’m staying.

Meep meep!


Look out! Acme anvil!
(picture credit:

I’ve started smoking again.

Strictly other people’s fags though – I wouldn’t dream of buying any of my own. (Have you SEEN the price of a pack of Marlboros?)

So essentially, I’m smoking on the odd occasion when I go out and find someone who is smoking, and who is prepared to give me a cigarette.

Hardly anyone smokes anymore though, with even fewer being prepared to share a commodity which costs more per ounce than solid gold, so I’m averaging about one cigarette a month.

If I’m honest, I don’t even like it. It tastes like shit and turns my brain into a waltzer. But! I can add it to the checklist of Reckless Things to do Since Sudden Death of Beloved Husband, and that is its one redeeming feature.

I find that I have stagnated at a confusing intersection on this journey. I am terrified of boarding a plane for fear of dying, yet I’m beating my liver into submission on a nightly basis with red wine. I catastrophise the potential for danger in EVERYTHING my daughter does (Look out! Falling Acme anvil!), yet feel like fucking the first man I meet.

In short, I am wilfully tap-dancing around the edge of oblivion and at the same time I’m scared shitless of my own shadow.

To an extent, I have always had this contradiction in my personality. But since M’s death, the two extremes have polarised further to a point where sometimes, I think I have regressed to my University days – the ones in which I would drunkenly ambush the lead singer of every band who played the Union and insist on taking over the mike. (Cringe!)

Anyway. Enough of this shit. My alter-ego wants to know if she can borrow one of your cigarettes?


Fringe on the Royal Mile 2011 061

Fringe on the Royal Mile 2011 061 (Photo credit: byronv2)

The problem with housework is that it is so unfathomably tedious, it gives the mind an opportunity to wander blithely into that hinterland known as ‘Bad Thoughts’.

And as if on cue, today, whilst scrubbing round the u-bend, my mind got snaggled on a particularly thorny subject.


Yes, I’ve lost M. But I’ve also lost the future we had planned together.

(Not that we had much planned actually, except to grow old together, laughing at that Channel 4 Arts Correspondent, whilst continuing to call each other Pet and Buble.)

One thing we had planned though, was to have another child – a sibling for our daughter.

Those who become embroiled in the complicated world of conception know that there is a ‘moment’ during the month in which all systems must absolutely go – you have a thirty second window before the egg explodes and the sperm shrivels or something. So that was our window, the night He died.

We’d lost a baby in the September. (Like grief, that’s another taboo subject, so DON’T tell anyone I’ve told you). I still think about that baby – it would be fifteen months old now, no doubt ginge like the first one, no doubt causing me endless worry about its blue shit. I mourn for it because of what it has come to represent – loss, on so many levels.

Yes, in theory I’m not too old to have another baby. But I don’t want any other baby  – I want HIS baby. And I am eternally grateful for the baby of His I already have.

But today, whilst on at the u-bend, I thought about my siblings – the one whose sole purpose it is to make me laugh and the one who is my best friend – and I felt like a right git for denying my daughter those relationships.

The lesson? As I always suspected –  DON’T do housework.

Pithy post with a reference to Psy


Gangnam_Style_PSY_19logo (Photo credit: KOREA.NET – Official page of the Republic of Korea)

5 Things He has missed so far:

  • Our daughter’s first day at school
  • Her successful employment of the word ‘actually’ in a sentence
  • The organisation He used to work for being at the centre of a global scandal (what would You have made of that, pet?)
  • Two Spring-times
  • That bloke singing Gangnam Style (arguably not a bad thing)

5 Things He will miss in the future:

  • Everything. Can’t think of anything else.


Sue Ellen Ewing

Sue Ellen Ewing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday…”

For me, it was 8.15pm on an idle Saturday, but Mary Schmich’s advice to the Class of ’97 has stayed with me since I first heard it read by Baz Luhrmann in his song ‘Sunscreen’.

And I continue to be blindsided on this road I’m on; ambushed by grief when I least expect it.

Last night in the pub, M’s mother showed me a photograph she had on her phone. It was of M when He was in hospital in 2008, 21 days after His emergency heart surgery. He was smiling (He was always smiling), yet He had the pallor of a man who was seriously ill. He too had been blindsided (6pm on an idle Sunday), when His aorta ruptured, spontaneously and inexplicably at the age of 33.

Seeing the picture, I fell apart. Right there in the pub, dirty great tears plopping into my Rioja! (To be fair, it wasn’t a particularly good vintage).

And I couldn’t stop. His mother desperately implemented her tried-and-tested ‘grief diversionary tactic’ – that is, to begin a conversation about their bathroom extension – but this time it didn’t work. The grief would not be vanquished! My lip wibbled like Sue-Ellen Ewing on speed, and we had to sup up before the barmaid threw us out for upsetting the emotion-free equilibrium of the pub. (Being full of North East workmen, it had flat-lined).

Even despite liberal applications of emotional sunscreen, sometimes the just grief gets through.


An old friend sent me a book of poetry after M died entitled ‘Staying Alive’ (ed: Neil Astley). I would recommend it for anyone who is on this, or any similar journey. Further to yesterday’s post about the search for M’s DNA, I found the short poem below which gave me some reassurance that I wasn’t going completely barking. Whilst the poet doesn’t mention looking for errant pubic hairs (clearly that’s just me), she describes the comfort to be found in the minutiae far better than I could.

            Four Years

The smell of him went soon

from all his shirts.

I sent them for jumble,

and the sweaters and suits.

The shoes

held more of him; he was printed

into his shoes. I did not burn

or throw or give them away.

Time has denatured them now.

Nothing left.

There will never be

a hair of his in a comb.

But I want to believe that in the shifting housedust

minute presences still drift:

an eyelash,

a hard crescent cut from a fingernail,

that sometimes

between the folds of a curtain

or the covers of a book

I touch

a flake of his skin.

Pamela Gillilan

Break me, you will not


Yoda (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

As another pot of industrial-strength eye cream bites the dust, I find myself reflecting on the way in which grief expedites the ageing process. I woke up on the morning of 11th February 2012 an average 36-year-old woman. Fourteen months later and I look like Yoda. Grief’s final insult, etched into my face.

From nausea and vomiting, through dizziness and the shits, not to mention alarming weight loss (hell, this beats The Atkins Diet hands down!), since M died I have experienced the physiological equivalent of Hurricane Ivan. I suppose it’s little wonder I found my keys in the microwave and a birthday card in the fridge the other day.

Grief has spread itself throughout every area of my life by stealth. It won’t allow me to watch certain TV programmes (be gone, Horatio Cane, for M and I used to laugh at your inanity together! Beat it, Paddy McGuinness, for I am ashamed to admit that we were about to watch your moronic show the evening M died!) It silences most of my CD collection, turns the spines of books the other way, leads to detours around whole towns. It dictates who I will and won’t see, declines invitations on my behalf.

And it ambushes me at the most unexpected moments. I’m in the middle of a dream and it wakes me; I’m driving the car and it forces me into the layby. It taunts and mocks, a remorseless aggressor. It will not be satisfied until it has broken me.

My heart is broken, that’s for sure. But in memory of M and for the sake of His daughter, I won’t allow my spirit to be.