annanotbob2's Diaryland Diary


Day 85

In a minute I'm going to go upstairs and get the writing I did in today's irritating Thursday writing workshop, but first, two other things that happened today, one good, one bad, both unexpected.

First was Art Therapy, only three more to go, sob, very sad. I don't know how we got there but it came up that I'd watched Streetcar Named Desire and had been jolted back into a visceral memory of my major breakdown around the turn of the century, when I really lost the plot, lost control of my thoughts, actions words, beliefs, was totally delusional and did terrible things that created a rift in my family for several years. I'd remembered that it had happened, but not what it had felt like, and I had a glimpse. But (this is what we were talking about), I have managed since then to learn to recognise the early signs of my mental health unravelling and I've also learned what steps I should take, what strategies I must use, to keep myself steady. I use the metaphor of a pit - I don't want to fall back into the pit because it's hard to get out, impossible without help, and help is not always there. I now know when I'm being drawn towards it and know how to dig my heels in to stop being pulled closer, and how to drag myself back away from the edge. She likes a metaphor, does A, the therapist, and she liked this one. We talked around how it has been for me - sometimes, like now, it's been a full-time project just to keep on solid ground - using art, yoga, meditation, writing, walking etc - then she said - oh I can't remember what she said, but we ended up talking about diminishing the power of the pit so I don't have to work so hard to stay out of it and I had a sudden flash of seeing me throwing all my art that I've made into it, all my writing, into this pit, not in a negative way at all, because for both the art and the writing the process is the thing that has value, more than the end product, and here it was having more value, by filling up the pit, all the paintings and all the words, thrown in and gradually building up into a big, brightly coloured pile, towering into the air, full of loveliness, wiping that dark, scary pit right out of existence. And then, just as quick, I had a vision of setting it all on fire, making a giant bonfire, rising up into the sky, and dancing round it, joyfully. Well. It felt significant and liberating and wonderful. And maybe it's what I have done, closed the pit with creativity, though I feel as if I have to keep on doing it - it's not job done, time for a cuppa and a ciggie. Not yet and maybe not ever.

So that was the good thing. The not so good thing was that one of the workers at the care home, one I like, who I've spent a whole day with once, taking Sam to a hospital appointment in another city, an appointment with different doctors, in different clinics, lots of waiting, driving, sitting around, chatting. I like her. She came to Sam's funeral and to the wake afterwards. Then today she shared a post on facebook about the British soldier who was murdered by two black men on the streets of London, asking why there were no protests then, hashtag all lives matter. She'd posted it before and I'd left a comment, then it had been taken down, now it's back. I left a comment today asking why she kept posting it, that there was no similarity, the killers here were caught at once, arrested, sentenced to life, white soldiers do not go in fear of being killed by passing terrorists, this was a one off event, not the latest in an endless bloody sequence where no one ever faces any consequences. She replied that it was her facebook page and she could post what she liked. I replied that indeed she could but I was asking why, trying to understand. She said I didn't need to understand, it was just what was in her head. Man, I was so fucking upset by this. She took it down before I'd composed a reply, after someone posted a letter from the soldier's mother asking people to stop using his name and photo against the protests, that he would have supported them, but she's off again saying other horrid stuff. I'm upset because I liked her - it's like the difference between J Savile (I can't even write his name) - we all knew he was a wrong 'un, no surprises there, but Rolf H (I find I can't write his name either), was shocking, terrible, we'd all loved him, he was a cornerstone of our childhood. It was that kind of feeling - NO! Not you! She was lovely with Sam. I do feel that my path must be to try and change the minds of racists I encounter, so I won't unfriend her, not just yet anyway. I'll leave it till the dust settles then see where we are and have another go. She hasn't unfriended me. She's the only blatant racist I know so I want to keep her, to try to understand why she feels that way.

So, writing group. We did a warm up, then she gave us four topics and said to write about the first one till she said 'change' then to move on to the next, not to try to incorporate it, or join them together, just change and all would become clear. They were

  • a memory of breakfast

  • a quarrel with someone you care about

  • an item of clothing you loved

  • a major community event you did not attend

So this is what I wrote:

Living in that flat, damp, cramped, me and the three kids, no money, not enough heating. Breakfast, nappies, rush, rush, stress, trying not to be snappy, failing. One afternoon, a deputation. Sam in the lead, flanked by the little'uns. "Mum, we have an idea." The littl'uns nod. "I'm going to make the coffee in the morning and bring it to you in bed. So you have a good start!" Oh my god, she'd been listening - my friend Joan and I talking on the phone about being good to ourselves, buying our own flowers - she'd given me a gorgeous cup and saucer, for a touch of beauty...


I forgot. I didn't mean to, I don't know how I did. I had Maria round for dinner when Joan phoned. "Hiya!" I said gaily, half pissed.

"Where are you?" Cross voice.

"I'm at home. Maria's here. We're having a meal."

"WHAT? You were meant to be coming here, I've got dinner all ready, fucking hell, Anna! FUCKING HELL!"

Oh man, how did I forget? "I am so sorry-"

"Well, it's too late for that." Down went the phone and there I was, with bloody Maria, not half the person Joan was. I loved Joan, we fitted each other perfectly. I was 16 years younger, like the daughter she'd been forced to give away; she was the mother figure I'd never had, who gave me that unconditional positive regard


Is there an item of clothing I loved? You'd think so. A pair of Black Watch tartan trousers, in a fine wool, that my friend Kukas passed to me. "Take them - I wear them when I am sad, I am sick of the sight of them, you have them!" Oh they were so comfy, fitted just right, not tight or baggy, with lovely pockets, just right for my baccy tin. I wore them all the time, which made Kukas laugh, seeing me always wearing them, not sad, not depressed with the darkness of the tartan, but enjoying the comfort, the gift from a friend.

Community event

I had tickets for Blackbushe Festival. A one day outdoor gig, Bob Dylan, Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker. I'd been a Dylan fan forever, since hearing "I don't know why I love you like I do, nobody in the world could get along with you" when my brother brought that first LP home.

It was going to be four weeks after my first child was due - I'd be fine, it was Bob Dylan, 1978, just after Blood on the Tracks and Desire, I was fucking going. I was up for some discomfort and the baby would be fine too, tucked under my arm or whatever - I'd never had a baby before but they couldn't be that hard.

But she was late. Very late. The day approached and still no baby. I was going to the loo on an hourly basis. I wanted to go, to give it a shot but I was outvoted - NO! What if I went into labour in a field? Cool - we might get to meet him

The end. Pens down. Before we share we have 7 minutes (always with the 7 minutes) to read each section through and make notes on how it felt to write that piece. To do them one at a time and make the notes at the end.

  1. Breakfast. Feeling the pressure of those mornings, sadness for Sam, shame at not being a better mother - wanting to tell it all, details, no time - some pride at what I modelled for the kids - can't think of the word, but not being a martyr - having that moment every day with my coffee from the stovetop espresso pot, love for my kids, for the good times

  2. Quarrel Shame, regret - knowing I couldn't take it back, undo the wrong and be in the right place. Love for Joan, sorrow. Understanding it differently from here

  3. Clothes - don't often feel that love for clothes, making it up really though I quite liked those trousers. Kukas - how funny she was - wanting to catch that - her way of speaking - her English was perfect - she's a simultaneous translator [always makes me think of The Bell Jar] - but she put emphases in different places

  4. Event -too much to tell, wanting to get it all down, handwriting getting bigger and bigger - hung up on detail - who else was on that bill? It doesn't matter

She asked us to read it all out one after another, all at once, in the order I've written it here, then asked us what the links were, what were the common features. I didn't know then, but now I see friendship, kindness, being cared for.

12:38 a.m. - 05.06.20


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