No more staying quiet…

With the papers full of the allegations of sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein there has been lots of chatter on social media as to why some of the women, like Angelina Jolie and Gywneth Paltrow, did not come forward sooner and “speak up”. Comments have been shockingly vitriolic, from both men and other women, and quick to point the finger that both of them should be ashamed for not speaking out.

However, I think the question we should be asking, is not why didn’t they speak up but why did they feel compelled to stay quiet?

What is it in our culture that means women and sometimes other men are frightened of calling out a man for his unacceptable, disgusting behaviour?

When I was 15 my best friend pulled me aside on the flight back from our summer holiday and whispered in my ear that a family friend of ours, who had been at the same hotel with his own family in tow, had propositioned her the previous night. She shook as she told me that he had tried to touch her breast and that he had got angry when she rejected his advances. She called him a “dirty old man”. I brushed her off. She’d probably misread the situation. It couldn’t have been that bad. He’d probably had one too many drinks and said something slightly inappropriate, that was all. I had known him all my life, our families were interconnected in many ways, and I loved being in his company. He was funny and interesting and treated me as an adult when my parents still saw me as a child. I knew him better than she did. He wouldn’t do something like that. Why would he?

Flash forward a couple of years and I had forgotten all about it and was studying in London, living in a flat with friends and enjoying my new found independence. Out of the blue, my phone rang and it was the same family friend on the line. He had heard rumours, he said, that I was partying too hard and burning the candle at both ends, and he had promised my father that he would take me out for supper and sort me out. I denied everything and protested that there was nothing that needed sorting. He seemed mollified but suggested that he took me out to supper anyway — to catch up. Faint alarm bells rang in my head but I elbowed them aside. It was only supper, after all.

A few nights later, I met him at the restaurant; a small, dimly lit French bistro somewhere near Hammersmith. My hair was loose, falling well below my shoulders; my face was make-up free. In truth, I hadn’t made much effort although I was suddenly conscious, as he pulled a chair out for me to sit down on, of the shortness of my skirt. I crossed my legs and shuffled the chair closer to the table. Several of the other diners glanced across at us, their gaze lingered for a moment too long on his bald head then flicked to my face and away.

He filled my glass and I relaxed. We talked about family, life. I laughed at his jokes, although they no longer seemed as funny as when I was younger. As pudding arrived, he asked about my boyfriend, how old he was, our relationship. My skin prickled. “It’s none of your business.”

“Have you had sex with him?” he asked.

I stared at my chocolate mousse, my spoon suspended in the air.

“What sort of things does he like to do to you?”

My heart thumped and, even over the babble of the other diners , I could hear my ragged breaths.

“You should talk about these things,” he said, sipping his coffee. “It’s healthy.”

I stayed mute.

“Have you ever had sex with an older man?”

I glanced at him.


I worried an ulcer with my tongue and tried to work out how many steps it was to the doorway out onto the street. I clenched my left hand  and dug my nails deep into my palm. I needed to get a grip; He didn’t mean any harm. I was blowing his comments out of proportion. He was just interested in my life, that’s all.

I shook my head.

He smiled and his tongue flicked out to wet his lips and, like a splash of water in my face, it hit me that I was totally out of my depth. I wolfed the mousse. The quicker I finished it, the quicker I could escape.

He watched me eat and topped up my wine glass.

“You know my daughter?”

I thought back to the little girl running beside a hotel pool, her pigtails bouncing behind her. I swallowed and nodded.

“I’d like her first sexual experience to be with a much older man. A man who knows what he’s doing. A man who could teach her things.” His hand snaked out and wrapped around mine. I dropped the spoon and it thudded onto the tablecloth leaving a dark smear of chocolate on the pale linen. His thumb rubbed against the ball of my hand, round and round. He leant closer.

I pushed back my chair and yanked my hand from his grip.

“I’ve got to go,” I blustered. “I forgot, I promised my flatmate I’d be back early as she doesn’t have any keys.” I fumbled with my jacket.

He signalled for the waiter. “Hang on, I’ll run you back. My car is just outside.”

I shook my head. “No, it’s fine. I’ll jump on a bus.”

“I promised your father I’d look after you. I can’t let you catch a bus home.”

I hesitated. He was my dad’s mate, he wouldn’t do anything if I didn’t want him to. It would be OK.

He settled up and I squashed my fears and climbed into his Range Rover. The tinted windows darkened the street lamps. I stared out the window, huddled over by the door, and noted with relief that the streets were still busy. He kept the conversation light and the tension left my jaw. I had imagined it – made a mountain out of a molehill as my father would say.

I relaxed as he drove into my street. “You can drop me anywhere here,” I said.  He continued on for a short distance then turned down a quiet side street and pulled over. “It’s OK, you don’t have to stop. I’ll just jump out.” I reached for the door handle.

“Aren’t you going to say goodbye?”

I paused. He had paid for my supper. I turned back to give him a quick peck on the cheek.  His hand brushed the back of my neck and his fingers curled in my hair. I flinched and pulled away. He yanked me towards him and with his other hand undid his flies. I struggled but he pulled harder on my hair until my head was forced back against his shoulder. I flailed with my left hand, trying to find the door handle but the car was too wide. He forced my right hand down to his crotch. I pulled away and his grip tightened.

“You know you want to do this,” he murmured.

“No,” I whispered, as tears ran down my cheeks.

“Don’t deny it. You’ve been asking for it.”

I shook my head and the hairs tore from my scalp. I stopped fighting and went limp. All I could think was that the quicker I got it over with, the quicker he would let me go. The tears streaked my face but I did what he wanted — anything for it to be over. He groaned and jerked and wiped himself down with a handkerchief from his pocket. He unwound his hand from my hair.

“That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” he said.

I tugged myself free and wrenched the car door open and stumbled into the street.

“If you tell anyone, I’ll deny it,” he called from inside the car. “No one will ever believe you.”

I forced my legs to move away from my flat. Even in my befuddled state, I knew he mustn’t find out where I lived. The vomit rose in my throat and I retched behind a parked car. His headlights picked me out as he sped past but he didn’t stop. My legs collapsed and I sat in a heap on the pavement for a moment before forcing myself to my feet and staggering home.

My flatmates were out and I ran a scalding hot bath and climbed in with all my clothes on. I scrubbed at my skin until it was red and raw. My mind whirled and my thoughts bashed around like bewildered moths inside a lampshade. I hated myself. I hated myself for not fighting him harder. I could have scratched and bit him. I could have done more. What was wrong with me? Maybe it was my fault after all. Could I have been asking for it? I was still in the bath when one of my flatmates found me there an hour later, the water long cold, and put me to bed.

Just like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, I never reported what happened. Why? It’s difficult to say. I guess because I was ashamed that I hadn’t seen it coming; ashamed that I hadn’t really believed my friend; and ashamed that I hadn’t read the situation better. I shouldn’t have gone out for supper, I shouldn’t have got in the car and I shouldn’t have kissed him goodbye. Maybe I had said the wrong things earlier in the evening and somehow led him on; maybe I had worn the wrong clothes or crossed my legs in the wrong way. Most of all, I was ashamed that I had not managed somehow to fight him off: I had done self-defence at school but I had still frozen in fear when it mattered. But then nobody had ever told me that I would know my attacker and that I would remember sucking my thumb and bouncing on his knee. I was ashamed and I thought I would never be believed. Who would believe me without bruises and ripped clothes? It was his word against mine, and why would anyone believe me, a mere slip of a girl, against a powerful businessman. I stayed quiet.

I decided that maybe this was just the way things were and maybe this was just the price woman had to pay. For weeks, I lay in bed at night wondering what I should have done, how I should have played it. It led to panic attacks and years of learning to control my anxiety. Would I do the same if it happened now? Obviously not, because I am no longer a naïve, impressionable, powerless teenager: I am now a mother of four, a lioness, who has had to fight much worse battles. Now, nearly 30 years older and wiser, I can accept that none of it was my fault and that he was an accomplished sexual predator who had been grooming me for years. It still plays on my mind though, and always will, that I didn’t stand up and denounce him and that because of my fear and shame someone else might have found themselves in his firing line. Does it mean that I am a coward, though? Or that I did the wrong thing? Possibly, but until you too have found yourself in that position, don’t pass judgement on others. I am sure that I’m not the only one in my circle of friends who is sitting on an all too similar story. We each of us have our Weinsteins and not many of us have dared to put our heads above the parapet – until now.

I tried to tell my father some months later about what had happened, but he palmed me off and said that I had probably just misread the situation and it couldn’t have been that bad. I can’t blame him though, for choosing not to listen, as none of us want to believe there are monsters hiding amongst us…

…I was exactly the same once.





My burden to carry

It has been more than three and a half years since my eleven year old son died from a brain tumour. Years during which I have wanted to haul back the very fabric of time and reverse the spin of the planet. Time, however, has other ideas and appears instead to have sped up and accelerated me away on a new trajectory.

These last few short years have rushed me away from the smell and feel of my son; have dragged me kicking and screaming from his soft cheeks and eyes full of love and left me questioning my place in a world without him. All I have now are memories and we all know how fickle the mind is. Already the memories have started to blur and wobble as though I am looking at them through ancient, cloudy glass on a hot summer’s day when the heat haze rises like steam from the pavement. It is hard to hold them together.

Did I dream him?

Was he real or just a figment of my crazed imagination?

As I write this I trace the curve of his jaw with my finger on a photo that sits on my desk beside me. He had such a strong jaw; a decision-maker’s jaw, someone not to be trifled with; the chiselled jaw of a romantic lead and the spit of his father’s. What would he look like now? How tall would he be? Would he still be just as clumsy? I can’t answer these questions and I hate that. I watch my other boys grow tall and two of them now tower over me, I see their faces change and grow spotty, their jaws sprout hair and their voices reverberate through me. My husband, Ben, choses to imagine Silas as he would be now. I understand he doesn’t want to leave him frozen in a pre-pubescent half-light, but I struggle to recall the exact curve of his lobeless ears and the sparkle that lit his eyes, so how can I morph him into a strapping teenager that I will never meet?

Ben and I grieve differently. It has been this way from the beginning and nothing has changed in the intervening years. It’s just the way it is and although we still talk, both of us give each other space and don’t try and force the other onto their own creviced path. We know that we have to make our respective journeys largely alone. This is hard and at times I feel so terribly isolated, but then I remember that Ben walks beside me just on the other side of an invisible curtain, akin to the parallel worlds rife in Phillip Pullman’s imagination. Perhaps it is the same with Silas.

I have grown close to another bereaved mother. She gets it and neither of us have to keep the mask in place when we are together: the mask which has melded itself to my skin over the last few years and allows me to laugh at someone’s jokes and nod my head understandingly as another parent moans about their child’s poor exam grades. This mother has sought solace with psychics and is convinced that her daughter still walks beside her. The scientist in me wants to pick holes in her stories and find flaws in her arguments but there are things she has been told that are impossible to pass off as tricks of the trade; things that only she knows and in some cases things that she didn’t even know but has subsequently found out to be true. I see how much comfort she gets from these meetings and I am jealous. How could I not be? But how do I square this with my perception of the world and the after-life? Her stories make me want to jump on the phone and book my own appointment but still I hesitate: not because of Derren Brown’s charlatan-exposing videos  or the warnings of one of my brothers – I hesitate because of my own fears. How could I bear it if I wasn’t given any concrete evidence that Silas still existed in some ethereal form or other? What if the medium couldn’t feel his presence? Where would that leave me except with a bubble that was well and truly burst? I’d rather not know than have an answer that I don’t want. Perhaps I’m just a coward and I can’t face up to this truth any more than I could face telling Silas that he was going to die.

Three years has not allowed me to get over my grief as some might think. There is no “getting over” the death of anyone you love – there is just finding a way to live with it. When Silas died I felt as though I was drowning. I was far beneath the waves surrounded by darkness and unable to reach the surface. Now there are times when my head breaks through and I can take a deep breath and sometimes I feel the pebbles and sand beneath my toes and think I have found my way back to shore, but the beach is steep and the next wave envelopes me. I flail and my head slips back beneath the water and even on tiptoes I can’t touch the bottom any more but I sense that the wind has dropped and the waves are beginning to weaken.

The shockwaves of Silas’s death still ripple outwards in our lives. A few months ago, my eldest son suffered a panic attack whilst on a school trip. He called us in the middle of the night desperate for help, convinced he had an undiagnosed brain tumour. He’s smart, he knows how unlikely it is, but that doesn’t stop him worrying. My youngest has had constant trouble sleeping and is fearful of being awake in the darkness. His brother died during the night and he knows that bad things happen and that his parents can’t keep him safe. He tries to suppress these fears but they surface in violent nightmares and a few weeks ago he nearly slept-walked out of his first floor window and was only saved by his father’s lightning reactions.

As a family, we talk about Silas. We talk about him a lot. I want to keep him fresh in the boys’ minds. I don’t want him to fragment and spin away. I want him to be a part of everything we do. My eldest son’s girlfriend comments on how easily we drop him into conversations. She’s right, it’s as though he has just slipped away into the next room. I like it. It keeps him close.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of a long car journey my youngest son and I start playing a game the boys have always enjoyed. One person suggests two random choices and the other has to pick. It always starts innocuously enough.

“Cherries or apricots?” says Inigo.

“That’s easy,” I reply. “Cherries always.”

“Dime Bar or Snickers?”

“Dime Bar every time, you know me.”

He narrows his eyes. “Stuck on a lifeboat with a tiger or a wolf?”

“That’s not a nice one.”

He grins.

“Tiger because cat food always smells nicer than dog food.” I lift my arm and sniff my armpit. “And I really don’t smell that bad.”

He giggles. “OK stuck in a lift with a vampire or a werewolf.”

I suck air through my teeth. “Have to go with the vampire as I always weirdly fancied Gary Oldman in Dracula.”

“Death by guillotine or hara-kiri?”

“Guillotine. Definitely. Quicker.”

He chews at a nail. “A million pounds or five minutes with Silas.”

“No contest,” I say. “I’ll take the five minutes.”

“Me too.“ He looks at me strangely out of the corner of his eyes.

“What?” I ask.

“But then we’d have to say goodbye all over again.”

“Mmm, that wouldn’t be nice. But I’d still take the five minutes.”

“So would I,” says Inigo. “But I’d take my five minutes when I was about 30. That way I could tell him about everything he had missed.”

My eyes well up and I stare at the road ahead and try not to blink.

“Have Silas back or stop a bomb blowing up the Sydney Opera House with the President of the United States inside?” continues Inigo.

“Have him back for good?” I ask.

He nods.

“Have Silas back then.”

“Have Silas back or stop a bomb blowing up the Sydney Opera House with the President of the United States inside and a bus full of school children?” he fires back.

I sit in silence for a few moments then sigh. “Stop the bomb.” I pause,  “Sorry Silas,” I add in a whisper.

Inigo raises an eyebrow.

I shake my head. “Couldn’t do it to all those other mothers. How could I knowingly send someone else on this journey?”

He leans across and squeezes my knee. “I’d choose the same.” He cranes round to see my face and make sure I’m not crying. “We’re doing OK though. On this journey, I mean. Aren’t we?”

I take a deep breath. Here I am, sitting in my car, having a strange conversation with my twelve year old son about choosing not to resurrect my dead son. A surreal, but I suppose, important moment. I puff out my cheeks and let the air out slowly. “I guess we are.”

He nods reassured. It’s the truth, we are doing OK. I wouldn’t say we are happy, not in the way we were; our tempers are too short and it’s still difficult to be at social events, but we are finding a new way to live and laugh and life is carrying on. The boys are doing well at school, they still wind each other up, we play loud competitive games together, we joke and fool around and play music loudly and we all sing full volume when we are doing the washing up. We haven’t been able to face a Christmas at home since Silas died but we might finally be ready to brave it and this year could be the one. Most important of all, we don’t sweat the little things anymore. These last few weeks, two of my sons have been deep in A levels and GCSE’s but they know their results are not the be all and end all; that there are much more important things in life to be bothered about.

So we march on and, having navigated through the last few years, I know we will keep moving forwards. I linger on the edges of closed Facebook Groups for bereaved parents and it helps to feel less alone. There are so many of us who are walking this road, living day to day but screaming inside. I see that the agony never goes away but I don’t want it to let it define me or my family. Silas’s death is a burden I have to carry always but I find these days that I can flex the relevant muscles slightly more easily, as though I’ve been working out in the gym. I’m “ripped” now, as my boys would say.

In the dictionary a burden is defined as a load, something grievous and difficult to bear but, digging deeper, I discover it also has another meaning – a burden is also the part of a song repeated at the end of every stanza, a refrain or the main theme of anything. This delights me as Silas loved to sing; out of tune and more often than not out of time but he was always singing and I know the few years we had together were a gift and although fleeting, his presence will run like a refrain through the years I have left. I will never stop missing him and the hole will always remain and there will be times I am miserable and times when I can’t see any point in carrying on but there in the background he will always be, humming away and giving me the strength to get through the day.

Throwing like a Girl

I am a mother of boys. Better known to some as a DMOB (defensive mother of boys) as opposed to a SMOG (smug mother of girls). Yes, these terms really do exist. And yes, over the years, my boys have meant that I have learnt to have a multitude of apologies up my sleeve and leave the keys in the car for a speedy get away. They weren’t nicknamed “the locusts” for nothing…

I know, and any self-respecting parent knows, that the sexes are different. These differences are largely innate and not learnt. I have tried to do my bit over the years and provide my sons with a gender neutral upbringing. They have all worn pink and largely continue to do so; we had a token doll and pushchair for them to wheel around when they were toddlers – although admittedly the doll ended up buried in the garden somewhere, possibly without its head….; I had several battered books in the Rainbow Fairy series knocking about that they happily read; three of them did ballet and for a brief moment one of them might even have had some Nureyev talent even if football and rugby won in the end. The problem is that no matter what you do – men really are from Mars and women from Venus and you can only paper over this fact for a limited time before the cracks start to appear. Boys are just drawn to mess and noise and things with wheels; they are only interested in make up if they can use it to draw on the wall; clothes are just items to be thrown in a stinking heap on the floor and rarely, if ever, washed; and they have the uncanny ability to make a weapon out of just about anything…it’s mind-boggling.

My boys have taught me many things over the years that, being female, I had no idea about; not least that a two-finger bacon-slice or a head butt can actually be an expression of love and that there is no worse crime than an empty fridge.

I can accept this and more but, being in an all male household, it is up to me, and only me, to teach my boys that they are no smarter or better than the women they might meet on their journey through life. This is a tough one, especially in the light of recent “pussy-grabbing” comments from on high and David Davis’ inappropriate remarks about Diane Abbot. If the highest echelons of our society still hold misogynistic and inherently sexist views how are we to teach our kids’ generation to be different?

So I found myself recently trying to explain the idea of male privilege to my older boys.

Male privilege is the inherent advantage men have in our society simply by dint of being a man. This is more than boys just being stronger than girls, although I have made a point of telling my boys that male sperm and male foetuses are actually weaker than their female counterparts (hence more males are miscarried, stillborn etc) – got to get some balance in there somewhere… Don’t get me wrong, I am not a rabid feminist: being a mother of boys I see that the emasculation of boys has the potential to be a problem all of its own. But male privilege exists and is impossible to deny.

“When I leave my tennis club late at night on my own and walk to the car park,” I explained to the boys, leaning against the kitchen cabinets one night after supper. “I stick my car keys out through the fingers of my clenched fist and make sure I don’t walk too near to large trees or walls?”

The boys eyes widened. “Why?”

“Because I have to be prepared in case someone jumps me.”

My eldest frowned. “Why would anyone want to do that?”

“It happens.” I paused. “These are the things girls have to think about. All of the time,” I continued. “They have to be switched on enough to avoid the carriage with a bunch of rowdy men on the late train home on a Friday night. If they are walking home in the dark and see a man approaching on the same side of the road they most likely will cross to the other side.”

“It’s not that bad, surely,” one of the boys said.

“Worse,” I said. “I learnt pretty fast when I was commuting into the City to make sure my back was against the partition glass in a packed tube. Can’t tell you how often I had my arse felt up or pinched!” Their mouths fell open. I continued, the wind in my sails now. “My nickname at work in was the ‘corporate Rottweiler’.” I ignored their sniggers. “Just because I wasn’t scared of speaking my mind in a roomful of men. A bloke would have simply been called ‘assertive’. And I had to change my name when I got married. You won’t have to.”

One of them shrugged. “So?”

I changed tack. “How often have I heard one of you say something like ‘you throw like a girl’?”

“Well, you definitely catch like one,” laughed one, nudging his brother.

“See,” I said. “Right there, that is male privilege in action.”

“No, it’s not. Girls just can’t throw.”

“Not at all. Think of the England women’s cricket team. They can all throw in from the boundary. The difference is girls are generally not taught to throw like boys are from an early age, that’s all.”I stopped to let my words sink in. They both looked sheepish.

“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” one of them mumbled.

“Look at it this way,” I said. “Which one of us is allowed to show our nipples in public without any repercussions?”

“That’s different..”

“Is it?”

They shifted awkwardly on their feet and I could see that my words had finally hit the mark.

“So what are we expected to do about it?” My eldest asked.

“It’s not really about what you have to do,” I said. “Although, I expect you to always make sure you walk your female friends home or drop them off in a taxi first. It’s more about what you shouldn’t do.”

“How do you mean?”

“Don’t joke with your mates about how great so and so’s boobs are. Don’t laugh at a girl who gets cross with you and ask her if it’s the wrong time of the month. Little things like this, on their own, might seem pretty harmless, but they perpetuate the idea that women are inferior to men. Try and treat women with respect and ensure your friends do the same, even when there isn’t a women in the room. Make sure…”

“Is this the sort of respect you mean?” Growled my eldest son, interrupting me. He bent down and threw me over his shoulder in one swift movement.

“Put me down,” I shrieked.

He sniggered and spun me round and round, his collarbone hard across my hips.

“Stop,” I yelled. He ignored me and the floor rushed past. “Stop, or I’ll throw up.” I thumped his backside with a clenched fist. The hoots of his brothers washed over me. After a few more revolutions, he threw me onto the sofa and they all piled on top of me, pinning my arms and burying me in their musky scent. Their fingers probed for my ticklish spots, feeling round my knees and digging up under my ribcage, until I could no longer stifle my shrieks of laughter.

I confess. I begged for mercy, repeatedly. Not my finest moment, for sure.

Sorry girls…I tried…they are all yours now.




Have you ever watched your child climb a tree, heart in your mouth?
“That’s high enough,” you yell, trying to keep your voice steady.
“Just a bit higher.” The wind whips their voice away.
You dig your nails into your palm and take a deep breath and they edge higher. You want them to learn and test their own limits but your instinct to protect them overrides all logic until you order them down. You will take all the eye rolling and furious looks they throw your way simply because their feet are back on firm ground.
Kids take risks, they are hard-wired to egg each other on and do stupid things, boys especially. Boys take action first and think later.
As a mother of four boys, I have learnt this the hard way and have hovered anxiously beneath toddlers on the highest climbing frame; wiped away tears after tumbles from bikes; dragged a child out from a collapsed tunnel in the sand; been tossed off an out-of-control, jet ski with a pint-sized driver. I have even been persuaded to let a child jump off a riverbank into a river foaming in spate, attached to the shore by a rope around their waist.
I think I’ve done pretty well and have bitten my lip and tried to steady my thumping heart, while whispering under my breath, “they’ll be OK, they’ll be OK,” and, bar a few scratches and bruises, they invariably are. The worst injuries in our house are always caused by the most innocuous events: a push from a brother, a slammed door, a wayward ball.
But something has changed.
I can’t bear these moments now.
I used to be a risk-taker myself. I’d jump off bridges, white water raft, disappear with total strangers into the Australian Bush for days on end but, for me, that all stopped the moment I held my eldest son in my arms in the maternity wing of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. Somewhere, deep inside of me, a switch flipped and doing crazy things became part of my history and no longer part of my present. That little red-cheeked creature, squalling in my arms, needed me and in one fell swoop he took away all my desire to put myself in harm’s way ever again. In the following years, my husband would look at me in disbelief as I planted my feet and shook my head at his latest crazy suggestion. It didn’t matter if it was jumping off a cliff into sparkling waters or driving a camper van over a rickety old bridge.
“But you’d do it in the old days,” he’d argue.
I’d shrug and shake my head. “Not anymore.”
This change feels similar. It feels permanent, something to be accommodated going forwards. It’s not simply that the things my boys are getting up to now are more dangerous, as they branch off into their own lives, it’s more than that. It’s fallout from their brothers’ death.
When I see the youngest perched on the edge of a speeding boat, my hand snakes out to pull him back to safety. I can’t stop it no more than I can stop breathing.
“I’m not a baby,” he complains.
“But it’s dangerous,” I mutter.
He sneers at me and shakes me off and climbs back onto his perch.
I know he’s right but my hand hovers over the back of his t-shirt. Tendrils of fear coil round my body, making it hard to breath. I don’t understand why I can’t control it and then it dawns on me.
It’s simple.
I am terrified that the worst is going to happen, that he’ll slip and be chewed up by the engines. I can’t shake the image of his battered and bloodied body floating in the water, and the thought that I might have to watch another child of mine die paralyses me.
Here I am, suddenly unable to let my children take the smallest risks. I can’t seem to find the words to whisper to myself anymore: they have fled with my dead son and I have become the over-bearing, over-protective mother that I always swore I’d never be. All I can see is danger, everywhere, and I’ve lost the ability to see beyond.
I take a deep breath and force myself to pull my hand away. I feel sick. My son leans out further. I itch to grab him and shake some sense into him. I want to yell at him, to get him to understand that I couldn’t bear it if something were to happen to him, that I wouldn’t survive the agony a second time.
He glances over his shoulder and moves, against my earlier instructions, to dangle his leg over the side. His eyes challenge me. I stiffen, ready to leap. The boat rolls over the waves and he clings onto the rail and laughs with his older brothers as the spray hits him in the face. I am forgotten. I pull back my outstretched arm and shove my hand deep into the pocket of my shorts.
I am desperate to keep them safe, these remaining chicks of mine, I want to wrap them in cotton wool and fend off any harm that might come their way but as the boat bucks beneath me and their laughter rises above the roar of the engines, I realise that, though their brother is dead, they still need to test their wings and soar. I must not be the one that clips their feathers, even though I can feel the weight of the shears in my hand.
Somehow, I am going to have to learn, all over again, how to let them go.

Lost Boy

Summer is over and you are probably all wondering when you are going to get your hands on your copy of A Mighty Boy. The short answer is not for a while yet, I’m afraid. This publishing lark is a tricky business with long lead-in times. It looks as though the book will not come out until summer next year but I have no firm publication date yet. However, all those who have pledged will recieve their copies a month or two before it hits the shops.

In the meantime, I have been videoed for a multi-media article in our local paper and have recorded a short snippet for KMFM but more importantly, I have been making edits on the manuscript with the help of my editor, Phil. I have been sitting at my desk in the sunshine, surrounded by thoughts of Silas. During this time, I have also been listening to a beautiful song called Lost Boy by Ruth B (if you fancy it you can listen here)

In the book, I touch upon how, in those last few precious days with Silas, we read him Peter Pan. The opening lines “All children, except one, grow up.” nearly stopped us in our tracks but we perservered because we wanted him to find his way to his own Neverland. We recognised much of Silas in Peter Pan: his forgetfulness; his need for love; his eagerness to make others happy; his love of stories and his tongue in cheek sense of humour. So in my head Peter Pan and Silas will always be inextricably linked. This song has had me in tears as I think about my own lost boy. I hope that Silas is ‘hanging out’ with Peter Pan, somewhere….

Fully Funded!


I can’t believe we have done it – fully funded in just under two weeks – truly amazing! Thank you to everyone who has come along for the ride – thanks to you A Mighty Boy is going to be published and in the shops…..!

It is a strange feeling. My eldest son, Oscar, asked me why I wasn’t celebrating last night after we hit the 100% mark and the page lit up red. I tried to explain that although it is fantastic news, it is also bittersweet. It feels somehow wrong to celebrate something so tied up with Silas’s death although I know Silas himself would be whooping from the rooftops. Also, I know the hard work has to start now, the editing, the cutting and the general beating of the book into the best possible shape before publication and for me that means stepping back in time and revisiting emotions in their full, unadulterated intensity. So a deep breath is required…..

Meanwhile, I have spent this morning being interviewed and flimed by our local Kent Messenger reporter for the paper and their multi-media outlets. She asked me whether I hoped the book would offer “comfort” to others going through a similar experience. I blanched at the term “comfort” – the book is far from a comfortable read but what I hope is that it helps others feel less alone. Grief is incredibly isolating and there is no way of making things better and offering “comfort” in the conventional sense but you can help give people strength for the journey by simply walking beside them – letting them know that they are not the first to tread this path and won’t be the last. Grief makes madmen of us all and it is reassuring to know this is normal when you are lost in the thick of it. A friend, whose daughter died tragically a year after Silas, has said to me. “Sometimes knowing you are a few steps further down the line and still going gives me the strength to get out of bed on those days that I just want to stay curled up in a tight ball.” This is what I hope to offer.

So thank you to you all. Your support has been incredible and means so much, in so many ways. Thank you for walking beside me….



What can I say?
I have been blown away by the support for A Mighty Boy so far – 50% funded in just over two days. It has been a whirlwind! I only saw the video for the first time at the weekend and my feet have barely touched the ground since, although I notice the cat has still managed to cling on to a place on my lap!
If Silas was here, I know he would be craning his neck over my shoulder, his feet dancing with excitement as he watched the funding tick ever higher. His grin would stretch across his face and he would keep nudging me in disbelief.
So thank you to all of you who have joined me here in the Shed. You get a thumbs up from me and an even bigger thumbs up from Silas and a silly grin from both of us.