On Being Creative, A Mother & Bipolar



The Poverty Line

I haven’t been sure whether to write about this. It’s intensely personal, embarrassing, exhausting and is contstantly stigmatised. But I was explaining the situation for the first time to a friend and thought perhaps I should blog it.

To try and arrest the stigma, maybe. Anyway, here it is.

My family and I are living below the poverty line.

We receive £198.00 per week (thank you, tax payers) for our family of 4 out of which everything has to be paid. Food clothes, school meals, electricity, gas, BB, mobile bills, kids clothes. Everything.

The boiler broke in October last year and we can’t, obviously, have it fixed. So this winter has been interesting – we all stayed in bed as much as we could and took extra Vit C but it’s not been the most fun I’ve ever had. The children are majestic in their ability to surf everthing thrown at them.

Love does help enormously in these situations and though we’ve had some bitter, hateful rows practically hissing through our teeth at each other (I had no idea how colourful and creative my profanity could be) I can say I don’t think I’ve ever loved my husaband more.

I hear so much anger at the welfare state and I can only talk about how grateful we are for the help. Without it we would be absolutely up the creek.

How did we get here?

Well, the fall from grace is surprisingly easy as it happens.

We lost a lot of money over some bad choices and bad luck.

My husband had a breakdown and can’t return to his profession because teaching played a huge part in it. He is still too anxious to work.

He isn’t always well enough to look after the children (3 and10) which means I can’t take a full time position so instead I’ve have started an independent press that should pay dividends soon.

And we both have pretty hardcore mental health issues.

That’s how easy it is for a family to end up under the poverty line.

How is the poverty line calculated in the UK?

This calculation is used throughout Europe, and is taken to mean households where the income is 60 per cent or less of the country’s median household income, which in the UK is currently around £25,000. So, if your household is bringing in less than about £15,000 a year, you’re in poverty.

We are receive a little over 10k with the tax player’s generosity.

I had never given it proper thought – it’s been tough, of course, but seriously, living with Bi Polar and all it’s interesting variables has made me grateful for the good days, the stable days, the present days.

I am also grateful  for Stirling Publishing and all the help and support I’ve had from writing community. This is year should be amazing with our BAME anthology and Lesley Glaister’s, Aprha’s Child, being published.

I thank God! That I’ve enough ambition to have the energy to pull this off although there are days when I can’t raise my head to do more than a few lines of editing.

My publisher, Unbound, and my amazing editor, Scott Pack, are very understanding but I am continually frustrated with my own lack of consistency.

This post isn’t about pity or sympathy or ‘poor us’.

I’d like to think it’s more about finding yourself in a situation one day that has no resemblance to how you had envisaged your life.

It’s about saying ‘Sod it’, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given gifts – lets use them. Banishing those ‘I’m a middle-aged woman will anyone take me seriously’ thoughts and keep on creating opportunities until you pass out at night with your toddler snoring in your ear.

Most of all it’s about support. All the people that I’m involved with on social media, in real life, in publishing, in writing who have never seemed to doubt I could do these things.

I thank you for that.

We are underneath the poverty line but poverty is not defining us.




Sometimes, I come off my meds and it can be for varying reasons. But the one that never changes is my visceral need to ‘feel’.  My medication is wonderful stuff.  It keeps me from being actively suicidal or embarking on high-risk behaviour (you know, the fun stuff).  It keeps me fat.  It keeps me flat. It keeps me slow.

So sometimes, I stop taking them to feel again and this is what it’s like.  This jagged, blunted cycle that I am for the rest of my days and nights.  Dedicated to all of you who know what even some of this feels like. xuntitled-crazy





Five bloody, long days since last television broadcast. Two dry, uncomfortable days since the water stopped running from the taps. Five minutes since the last attack on the front door.

I am running out of time.

Fr. Lachlan Connor sat, backed up against the kitchen wall, studying a horde of flies that had descended on six-day-old chicken. Fr. Lachlan could see the intense wiggling of fat, white maggots as they squirmed with joy over the rotting meat. But he was past caring. Things that might have scared the Bejesus out of him before the ‘boom’ now hardly bothered him at all.

Yesterday, he had witnessed Jennie Grady’s dog get torn apart at the hind limbs. That had bothered him but he had seen so much worse that, with prayer, the images faded into a bookshelf memory. A Stephen King novel that had made bile surge into his throat and hair follicles bulge with fright now sat comfortably between The Rosary and Catholicism for Dummies.

‘Dear God! he was thirsty, tongue swollen, lips cracked and if overused, bleeding. He had already drunk the fontal water and then vomited it over the nave’s sandstone floor unable to take the professional guilt of what he saw as blasphemy. The hours that he had spent in prayer when the world had changed, East versus West in a cacophony of blood & hatred, seemed a total waste of time now. Fr Lachlan reasoned that he would have been better off looting Aubrey’s Stores for supplies, and water.

Don’t think about water. Don’t think about it lapping gently at the shores of a frosty lake or dream about waterfalls where even the humid air could quench the cracked & arid landscape of his mouth.

That way lies madness.

Fr. Lachlan had removed his dog collar two days ago and burnt it, without ceremony or ritual, over the gas ring before that had run out too.

God seemed distant, unavailable and even mocking of his children. Religions had always jockeyed for position with random bloody moments in a general acceptance of each other until The Black Hammer group in Germany had fire-bombed 17 refugee camps all over Germany in a co-ordinated attack.

Three thousand, five hundred and sixty-five souls burned their way to heaven that day. Two hundred and thirty-four of them were children under fourteen.

The outpouring of sympathy from the world had done nothing to stem the tide of ‘us against them’ fury from the Muslim community. All the prayer hashtags and cute avatars with flags were seen as a cheap and tawdry sentiment. Easy to do from behind a computer screen, not easy to feel in the heart.

From then it just got worse.

The ‘Jungle’ at Calais was surrounded and as a huge army under the banner of ‘Christ’s Soldiers’ hacked their way through the flesh and faith of every single migrant there. Initially, the far right were blamed but later it came to light that policemen, soldiers, politicians, doctors, mothers, fathers and even a three Bishops had been very active parts of that massacre.

Then came the bombings of Catholic Primary Schools in Southern Ireland and so much weeping and outrage that Fr. Lachlan thought he would drown during confession. And the ‘boom’ after North Korea had joined the party, in that sullen teenage attitude that it had perfected.

After that, it was hellfire and incident after brutal incident all over the world with cannibalism almost acceptable after the food ran out.

The attacks at the door were from an all female Jihadi Group that had once been called Muslim Mother’s For Peace until their Mosque was pipe-bombed and their Iman, crucified to hastily erected wooden stakes in the pale, lemon scented dawn.

Even the thick, wooden doors of St Mary’s of the Sea wouldn’t last the barrage of fists, steel bars and the solid iron Crescent Moon from the top of the Mosque tower. The priest knew that his death would come soon and he smiled, lips cracking painfully, at the irony, that the death of his faith may come sooner.

Fr Lachlan raised his eyes to the drab pebbled-dashed tenement block that rose blackened and windowless in front of the kitchen window. The only colour amongst the muted greys and browns, a slick of scarlet letters, either paint or blood’.


A surprisingly literary piece of graffiti, stark, against the working class smoothness of age-old poverty and despair. And Fr. Lachlan wondered which bit had taken the most effort? The hatred, the grief, the violence or the ignorance?

Or when the world had stopped believing it’s peaceful rhetoric and had gone to war instead.


The Savage (K2)

Rises monstrous out of the Baltoro Glacier

Playing poker with oxygen levels

Plays leap frog with embolisms.

Malice and vanity join forces so

murder guns the air even before

the Death Zone.  Down suits, bold and cocky

registers climber ambitions.


The Serac , a crisp, white wall of kill

Threatens to round and pound for

days before it does so.

A suicide bomber waiting for its moment.

And Art’s rescue was in full flow before

the avalanche took him and he faded into



All the boys gone doing what they loved

Big Ger and Rolf, who left his Cecilie

on the ropes. Wilco’s lust for his summit

saw the Koreans tangled and questions asked.

No answers, though, and ninety different stories

Crowded into a bottleneck of truth and

lies as the moans of Winter’s

ghosts howl louder.




Long Way Home

I’m finding it very hard to get ‘home’ today and feeling rootless and disengaged from the world.  My writing seems mediocre and half-baked so just a poem today.

About trying to get back to *that* place.


Long Way Home


It’s a long way home

To the cats, the barns, the belfry’s

Rape-seed gorges and ever-distant voices

To the dusty halls and houses

And you.

It’s a long way home

To the view of saffron from our tiny hill

A message in damson, the Fishers regal bill

And to the total, utter thrill

that’s you.

Bales and dragonflies plus twice-kissed wine

Seeds, pollen and nothing that was ever mine

Picture-books bulging in pockets

For nostalgia raids

And my particular addiction withering with

each day for you.

It’s a long way home

To a creamy moon & shell-pink yarrow

Names that entangle tongues, the roar of salt & shadow

To the love, the hate, the marrow

Of you.

I Will Not Be That Woman



Not today.

Even when the Isar

rolls so cool and deep

and I could wade and

wade ’til sleep.


Not today.

When I have the tablets

in a drawer

in a box

winking chalkily at me.


Not today.

When the church tower soars

and it’s bells toll out

a seductive beat

for me to fly to.


Not today.

for me the oven,

the blade and bath.

I shall not meet

Sylvia by God’s

own hearth,



I leave a legacy

of love, of life,

not regret and guilt

for my bairns to


It Hit Me Hard

Rushing to get baby milk, driving past the refugee tents in Berg, Bavaria I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.  Two families queued at the makeshift gates requesting entry.  They looked exhausted and grey.  I hope relieved and reassured.

One woman in a lilac headscarf and thick tights was holding a baby, my daughter’s age. My baby  is wrapped up snug and warm in her crib and this woman’s baby is out in the November night waiting with his/her family for admittance to the camp.

I then walked to the local Rewe City and was queueing behind two Syrian men.  One was older, I remember his piercing amber eyes and when he saw I had baby milk he insisted I go ahead of them.  I nodded my thanks and began to cry.

I was seeing humanity at its very best.  Here was a man, having experienced at the very least the terror of war on his doorstep, still able to show compassion and kindness.  I shook his hand and mumbled something stupid and inane.

I have been numb the last few days.  Talking the talk, writing, blogging and tweeting about the devastation in Paris, Lebanon and around the world but I wasn’t feeling it.  I could empathise and be angry but I was immune to actual sadness.

Tonight, it hit me like a freight train.  I don’t recognise my world anymore.  I’m living somebody else’s life and I don’t like it.  What the hell has happened?  I’m frightened, confused and dismayed.  I feel wasted, banal and emotionally underfunded.

And then a bloke lets me go first in the queue and I think, perhaps we are going to be okay.  Perhaps, we can do this together.

Proud Yesterday, Numb Today.

This is what writers do.  We write about everything that affects us.  I wasn’t sure whether I would write today.  I feel numb, actually.

The irony is that these horrific events bring us together.  Social media is awash with hashtagging and rumours.  Some take it as an opportunity for political agenda, others are shouting that they are Muslims, not Isis terrorists.  Only the very stupid or very damaged could believe that, but some do.

But most of us are trying to heal Paris and give comfort to its citizens and ourselves by writing or sharing.  It may seem silly, it probably is, but at least ‘Paris’ knows that most of the world are thinking of them.  I hope that gives some comfort.  I know it did when I lived in London in 2005 although social media wasn’t as prevalent then.

The world keeps turning, the love keeps coming and haters are always going to hate.

Bless you! Paris, Beirut and us all x

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