Eric.

I was almost nineteen when I met Eric he was forty seven.

I had a daughter who was sixteen months old and I was almost three months pregnant.

I had just come back to my hometown.

After running away from my abusive husband from the north of England Id gone to stay with friends in west Wales

I’d began to relax until he knocked on the door of the flat I was staying in.

I remember how loud my heart had sounded banging i my head as I heard him banging on the door.
He had found us.

It was no use fighting him

He dragged me down two flights of stairs by my hair.

My daughter in my arms

His eyes were wild

He spat at me beat me and made me feel worthless my life was a mess.

It was a five hour drive home. I nursed my baby girl stared out of the window

Soon the green mountains of wales became the red brick council houses of the estate where I grew up.

I was back as I got out of the car my father walked across from his house. Swaying smell of beer and cigarettes.The reason is left home was him but as my Nan said I’d jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

“You’ve made your bloody bed lie in it.” He hissed I was numb. No one could save us.

After a week back home and another argument with my husband I’d wrapped up my daughter in her pram and gone out to walk around the estate where we lived to get her to sleep.

It was an old burgandy corduroy tansad pram heavy and sturdy it was a windy afternoon so I put the hood up and walked past the woods wind blowing my long hair.

I walked down to the bottom shops then back.up past the church

The vicar was mowing the grass of his big house next to st David’s he stopped and smiled.

Feeling arkward I put my head down carried on walking Cheryl was asleep tiny rosebud lips and long eyelashes she was perfect I hated the way we lived but I didn’t have anywhere else to go I’d tried women’s hostels, Wales but he always found me.

Where would it end I thought as I pulled the pram up the steps to the house.I pushed the tansad into the living room.

It was quiet quicky opened the pram scooped Cheryl into my arms and stealthily tip toed upstairs placing her into her cot gently covering her up shushing her as I shut the bed room door behind me .

Rushing back down stairsThere is a huge bang.

I jump as he begins to shout.I pathetically beg him to stop.Please don’t .

You’ll wake the baby .

The smell of whisky hits me first

Then his fist.

My head hits the post at bottom of the stairs

I struggle to my feet.

Taste of iron in my mouth

I’m still begging him thinking of my baby in her cot.

I have to keep him down stairs .He has me by the hair .

Snarling at me spit showering my face as he opens the front door to throw me out.

Im thrown out of the door onto the concrete path hands scraping scrambling to get up

To get back inside to my baby .

His back is to me he is walking into the living room where I have left the pram.

I watch in horror as he picks it up and launches it through the large living room window.

In slow motion it lands on its hood 20 minutes before my baby was in it.

He hadn’t know that I’d taken her out.He could have killed her.

I’m trying to stop him going upstairs.

I’m hitting him he’s laughing

Then suddenly there at the open front door is the man who has recently moved in across the road.

He looks calm as he tells me to come away.

Stand here he says by me.

It’s sureal.

Jeff looks startled.Who the fuck are you ?

Get out of my house .

Still the man from across the road stands firm.

I move towards himIs this how you treat your women up here?

He’s saying.My husband swings for the man.

Eric he says to me.

I’m Eric.

He hits my husband and throws him into the living room that’s covered in splintered glass.

The pram in the garden where is your baby?

Upstairs I sob.

He hits Jeff again

He is curled up in a ball.

Our dog is barking

Come on then Eric is saying or don’t you hit men?

He picks Jeff up and throws hm down the path

A police car pulls up and a familiar lady police officer gets out .

She looks at me I look at the floor.

Jeff is shouting about Eric atacking him.”The police officer puts her hand on my arm did he do this ?”

We’ve been here before she asks I say no because if I say yes Jeff has told me he will kill me.

Yes I stutter.

Yes he did and he attacked Eric.

Jeff runs at me .

Police man grabs him throws him against the car.

Bloody maniac Eric’s saying.

Can we take you to hospital she asks?

I’ll take her says Eric.

Is that okay she asks

Yes I say I’m going to be okay.

Because I know I will now.

That was the very beginning.He was 28 years older than me.

Just come back to his home town after a broken marriage and a break down.

He knew how afraid and vunerable I was

He helped me pick up glass board up windows

Change locks.Then he slept on my sofa

Supported me to get back on my feet.

He would wake me singing cliff Richard living doll.

You can’t have another baby he said to me gently after a week

You can’t look after yourself.

Your only a few months if you tell the hospital about the beatings they will help.I was horrified.

I’m keeping my baby I sobbed.

Then I’ll help you he smiled.

He took me to anti natal

Drove me to appointments.

Stayed in my house.Is he your Dad?

The midwife asked.No he’s Eric was all I could say.

I was still terrified of anything happening to my daughter.

I refused to have my baby in hospital.

It’s dangerous my doctor warned it’s a big baby.

I’ll be there said Eric I’ll.look after you.I moved to the other side of town new start

Eric had bought a van and had started a furniture removal business.

I had a lovely little house Eric was still poping in and out he put up fences layed a lawn created a beautiful garden.

Cheryl started nursery life was better.

When I woke early hours of morning 7th August 1986 I phoned Eric first then the midwife.

I’m scared I told him as I opened the door.

He kissed my forehead you can do this and again I knew I was going to be okay.

The midwifes and my doctor came Eric held me as I pushed my beautiful baby boy into the world he was 12lb 9oz’

Put the chip pan on for this lad he’s got a tooth!’

Laughed my doctor.Well done

I looked at Eric tear running down his cheek

Come here to your Dad he said as he held my baby.

In that second an unbreakable bond was madeEric had saved me when he had come back from stoke on Trent

He was a good man

My daughter held her new brother and named him Matthew.

Followed a few years later by Michael.

Eric idolised each of my children and they him

Who was it who said blood is thicker than water never met Eric.

Our children grew up we went our separate ways but aways remained friends

Matthew met and married a Belfast girl.

Eric by this time was 76

Michael would go to stay with Eric take him fishing help him around the house.

Cheryl would stay in the school holidays with her daughter. He was her dad from the minute he walked into our door as she slept in her cot upstairs.

He couldn’t have loved her and the boys any more than he did.

He started to shows signs of dementia.

Which over five years got worse.

He still lived in the family home he had come back to all those years before .He needed help now

It was decided Matthew would take him to Ireland.

To a purpose built dementia unit atound corner from his house erics own flat.

It broke Cheryl and mike’s heart to see him go but I know it was the best decision.

I went over last week to see them.

My six foot son helping his Dad walk slowly with his walking frame.

I remembered Eric proudly pushing Matthew in his pram.

That big man who saved us.

There with the baby he had held minutes after he was born

That’s what makes a dad.

Not blood but love.

Thank you Eric we saved each other x

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In a flash – I’m back

Sometimes I’m still there.

Suddenly.

Unexpectedly

Without warning.

A smell, a taste, a song.

Catapulted at the speed of light.

Flick of a switch.

A blink of an eye

A tactile cine film begins.

It’s running inside my head in high definition

I’m suspended in time.

Back in time.

A prism of light of dark of terror.

A different dimension a parallel world.

It will always be there never very far away.

Operating on a different frequency

Like an old valve radio slightly out of tune.

Then that something, anything turns the knob,

Adjusts that channel pulls the two dimensions together

Past and present become one

Jolting me back into the nightmare

Silently I’m screaming but I know that no one can hear me.

Wake up call.

pexels-photo-673862.jpegI’m beyond fed up.

I’m married.

I’m just eighteen, I have a beautiful baby and a vicious bully of a husband.

So far I’ve had broken nose, collar bone, arm and so many bruises I’ve lost count.

I don’t argue anymore.

I keep quiet.

But he’s pissed.

I’ve walked around the block three times to get the baby to sleep.

She’s finally dropped off.

I open the front door gently lift her from her pram almost run as quickly as I can upstairs gently put her in her cot and pull door shut behind me..

Listen

Quiet.

Tip toe down…

Then breathe.

He shouts. I jump. Heart thumping scared look around he hits me hard. My ear rings head bangs on the door frame. I scramble to my feet.

‘Where the fuck have you been?’ he says through gritted teeth smell of whisky wafting in my face splatters me with drunken spit.

I try to turn away. But he’s holding my jaw.

I’m 5’2 his 6, 7 frame towers over me.

‘Shush I plead the baby I stammer. I’ve been walking she’s teething … Needed to get her to sleep.’

I’m almost pleading I’m tired of this.

‘Not now please. Let’s not fight.’

‘Please’ I say again ‘I’ll make you tea.’

He pushes me down I get up again and pull the tansad pram up the front steps and though the front door.

Shutting it to keep the neighbours from witnessing my shame.

I push pram into the lounge he roars everything goes into slow motion he picks it up and throws it. Through the living room window.

Has someone pressed a button?

Glass splinters.

Slowly, shattering.

Pram hood up lands on upside down it’s bends and lands on its side.

I’m holding my breath.

Empty pram.

But he hadn’t checked.

He could have killed my baby.

The horror of the situation hits me.

Was that the wake up button?

He hits me again. And again. I’m numb

And I fall in the glass.

Blood everywhere.

A voice in my head. ‘Get up, get out of here.’

I keep crawling.

‘You lying bitch’ he’s saying as he alks into the kitchen

There’s blood dripping from my nose.

There’s a bang it’s the front door hitting the stair post.

The man who lives in the house opposite

Is standing there. Like a big shadow.

It’s all surreal. I feel sick.

He hold out his hand to me and pulls me up.

Jeff is back with glass of whisky.

‘What the fuck do you want?’

He is furious.

‘You’d better go I stammer to the man.’

He ignores me I’m really scared now.

‘Is this how you keep your women in line in St Helens he says?’

‘Beat the fuck out of them.’

He looks at me. ‘Where is your baby?’

‘Upstairs sleeping’ I manage.

‘What the fuck has it got to do with you?’ Jeff shouts dropping the whiskey and striding towards him.

It all happened so fast.

‘Call an ambulance says the man.’

‘ No I’ll be fine’ I say.

‘Not for you for this dick head’ and he hits Jeff. Knocking him into the lounge onto the broken glass I stand there frozen.

Jeff gets up and he hits him again and again

‘Come on he’s saying or can you only hit girls?’

Then he picks him up and throws him down the path.

‘I’m phoning the police’ Jeff says looking like he’s done a ten round boxing match.

‘No need says the stranger I rang them before I came.’

‘Now take yourself anywhere else but here.’

Just as a police car pulls up outside.

My dress is covered in blood from my broken nose. My face hurts but my baby is okay.

The police are pushing Jeff into the car.

The man is saying Jeff attacked him outside the house.

Police woman asks ‘Is that right?’

‘Yes’ I nod. ‘Did he do this to you?’

‘Yes’ I say.

My dad arrives from up the street. Looks at me with distain.

‘You’ve made your bloody bed lady lie in it.’

The man shakes his head.

‘Bloody idiots lot of them.’ he says.

‘You need to get away from this place’ he says. I smile ‘thank you.’

‘Hospital’ asks the police woman

‘No I’ll be fine I can’t leave my baby. I’ll go later.’

‘Are you sure’. ‘Yes’ I say.

I won’t go too many questions.

I close the door and start to pick up glass.

Look out into the garden at the pram on its hood.

My baby cries from her room.

I have to leave.

Meditation or dream?

After my evening talk with my lady I fall into bed asking for the bliss of sleep which has eluded me this week.

I drift off but I’m woken by a tapping on the front door.

I go downstairs followed by Saffie cautiously open the door There before me is my lady Hekate she smiles and steps into my house.

As always I am struck by her beauty and although no words are spoken she tells me to collect what I need from around me.

She opens the door for us to leave. I look around its 3am where are we going?

I pick up my ritual bag and call Saffie we follow Hekate along the tow path catching in with her step her staff on the ground is the only sound of the night, her cloak seems to blow behind her although there is no breeze.

As we reach the top of my street she smiles we are standing on the cross road.

‘Your mountain’ I ask?

‘Yours’ she answers.

We walk the familiar path Saffie and Hekates hound like two shadows walking in step like two shadows before us.

As we reach the mountain she removes the hood of her cloak.

I feel that familiar knot in my belly.

She holds up her torch to the familiar wall of granite she moves the torch points back at the way we have walked together.

No words are spoken but no I don’t want to go back.

She smiles you have all the tools you need my child.

I open my bag take out my robe undress but the robe has gone.

I look at her she smiles ‘Open the gateway you are safe here’

I take out my blade. ‘It isn’t finished.’ I here myself say handing it to her feeling foolish as the words leave my mouth.

She takes it and as the polished copper glints despite the darkness of the new moon the yew handle seems to be transformed into part of her hand.

She holds it out to me and for a second our hand is one.

I feel a bolt of energy surge through me she nods

‘It is finished.’ she says.

‘Do not fear my daughter.’

I draw a line along the wall of granite the width of us both, as we stand before this mighty mountain.

A gateway opens and there is loud roar of water fierce and rapid through the archway a wooden bridge visible spanning over a fierce river below.

She holds up her torch taps her staff and both dogs lie either side of the gateway.

My bag beside her Saffie looks the other way.

I follow my lady across the bridge. she stops as I reach the middle the shadow stops and the bridge seems half light half dark.

We stand there betwixt and between watch the rush of water passing bellow us in the shadows.

The water splashes and rushes on logs and sticks are tossed this way and that.

I breath in and smell the wet earth and leaves but feel safe here on the bridge.

In the faint glow of Hekates torches

Hekate steps into the darkness her torch seems to dim but still she lights my way.

‘What can you hear she asks?’

As we walk deeper into the cave I stand still and listen the water runs down shiny red tinted walls reminding me of blood. With a metallic essence I can taste it in the spray.

‘I hear the rushing of the river mother.’

‘Then quieten it she tells me gently.’

I breath in close my eyes feeling the earth beneath my feet the sound seems to hush.

‘Now what do you hear?’

‘I hear magic the growth of the roots, Journeys of animals and insects of life I hear the earth all around us and I hear your heart beat mother.’

She wraps one side of her cloak around me. ‘Our heartbeat child.’

‘When you call me look within yourself and around yourself land sea and sky we are one I am always here.’

‘The paths you have walked I have always lit but you have always chosen.’

She holds up her torch to a familiar door scratched in the peeling paint is ‘keep out’ in ballpoint pen.

It’s my childhood bedroom door.

She nods the choice is mine I open the door step inside.

I’m not afraid.

Humpy Dumpty beer ad posters still on the wall purple curtains on a droopy wire green carpet I spin around on the tallboy cupboard is my old record player I hear myself laugh AC/DC’ Let there be Rock’ album is on the turntable next to it on the bedside table are a pile of sticks acorns and feathers are just where I had left them.

I walk over to the curtains and pull them open birdsong fills the room the old oak tree outside my bedroom window stands blowing in the breeze like an old friend. I can smell the cut grass and sunshine I see the old gate leading into the woods behind the house where I had climbed trees built dens, read my favourite books escaping to magic lands like disc world and Neverland.

I turn around and there on the bed is my Nan wearing her apron long silver hair tied back shopping bag by her feet my old dogs lady, Toby, and lucky wagging their tails pleased to see me. I catch my breath ‘Nanny!’ I hear myself say and a tear runs down my cheek.

‘I’m not bloody staying’ she says laughing,

I hug her ‘Nanny I’m sorry’ ‘What bloody for now?’ she says wiping my tears.

‘For not being there when you died for not being at your funeral dad wouldn’t let me come. I came to the cemetery stood on the hill I watched from behind the tree.’ I cried again on her apron as I have so many other times.

‘I know you did my girl I was there with you behind that tree.’

We hug for quite some time I’ve missed her everything about her I inhale the essence of her I feel safe.

‘Let me look at you.’ She says.

She holds me away from her and smiles. You can still smell the sunshine and the storms she laughs. I nod.

A hundred beautiful memories flash before me like old photographs ‘What was that?’ I ask.

‘Love’ she answers.

‘You did it my Lass what did I always tell you?’

‘Trust the universe that was love.’

She wiped my face as I hugged my dogs.

As I stand up I’m bigger than my little Nan now.

She picks up her old shopping bag pats my dogs blows me a kiss and they are gone.

Leaving nothing but the pile of sticks acorns and leaves.

I sit on my bed listening to the buzz of summer outside and the heartbeat of me and my lady I can feel everything I whisper.

The door swings open I walk over to my lady and

we leave.

The door seems to melt back into the granite wall leaving no trace that it was ever there.

We walk back to the gateway the path feels less rough and there where we left them across the bridge Saffie and her black companion lay together.

We stand together on the other side the bridge now bathed in mid-day sunlight

She bids me to take note of the river.

It’s meanders slowly and smoothly beneath us.

We cross the bridge side by side.

I pick up my bag and she bids my to close the gateway I trace the edge with my blade. The bridge between the worlds is sealed.

My clothes are gone.

She hands me a cloak I swing it around me she fastens it.

We walk back home she stays by my side until I reach my garden gate by the canal.

Everything looks the same but somehow I know it’s all completely different.

I kneel before her thanking her for this journey this lesson.

She kisses me lightly on my fore head and hands me a small saffron flower she smiles and I watch the billow of her cloak in the sunshine as she walks back to the cross roads.

Thank you my lady I whisper as she turns the corner.

Family?

Like a chess board..

Life…

Family.

May not be perfect

But

Everyone fits into a place.

You know who they are..

You know your relationship to them.

Their Expectations

Mam

Dad

Sister

Aunties

Uncles

Nieces

What if someone takes that board

Throws it high into the air.

You stand watching all of the pieces

Falling.

Landing this way and that.

Upside down.

Back to front.

You remain suspended.

Looking down at them.

Strangers.

Unrecognisable in their new roles.

Chess board no longer your life.

Family.

not yours

You no longer fit.

Totally confused. Head fucked.

another reality? parallel universe.

anxious, angry so very scared.

Floating fuzzy, stand outside your body.

stand and watch the chaos.

No one is who you thought they were.

Like a sick game of musical chairs.

Who are these strangers

Not family anymore

lies and deceit

A charade an elaborate false tapestry

Years to embroider

Minutes to unpick.

Davina McColl your a lier

Long lost families

Happy endings, smiling faces,

Loving mothers

Open doors big family reunions

Happy tears and welcoming arms.

Chess pieces that fall into place.

Not on this board.

Cosmic Connections.

Look around we are all connected.

Sparks of the same flame.
Fragments, shards of the source of all.
Stardust of stars.
Drops flowing to the same ocean.
All of us. Not some of us.
Colour, creed, beliefs,
Good, evil, indifferent.
You can’t pick and choose.
All at different parts of different journeys.
On our way back home.
Divine experience, expression.
A tiny spark, microcosmic
Mind blowing.
Amazing you.
And me.
Us.
Love

I need a plan.

pexels-photo-38136.jpegPregnant, Id took a sample of urine down to the chemist at the bottom shops. I waited as pensioners came in with prescriptions chatted with each other about the weather and the new pebble dashing the council were putting on the houses. What a bloody mess little pebbles everywhere.

I picked up some nail varnish, it was in the sale fifty pence jet black I put it on the counter and stood rattling the change in my hand.

The assistant came through from the back I reached out with the nail varnish and the change. ‘Positive’ she smiled taking the fifty pence. ‘Do you want it in a bag?’

‘No I stuttered it can go in my pocket’ the huge old cash register rang out. As she dropped the change into the drawer.   Signifying the massive change in my life.

I had to go home and pack. ‘Positive’ she said didn’t she?

I have to pack and find somewhere to live. I’m going to be a Mammy.

This time it will be different.

I walked slowly up the hill and through the woods home. It was March it wasn’t cold but I shivered. The woods were just coming alive again trees and bushes squirrels I sat on a log by the stream.

A million thoughts racing through my head.

I cant let Dad find out

Who should I tell?

Should I tell anyone?

I’d tell Mike we were best mates he’d know what to say.

I walked over towards his house he was half way down his street walking towards me I stood and waited for him to get to me.

“Where you going?” he smiled

“I’m just on my way over to yours to pick up my washing.”

Mikes Mam had died a few years ago and my mam had started doing his washing he was working in Fine fare supermarket instore carpet shop and she made sure his shirts were ironed he had to look the part.

We walked back towards the woods. ‘Come and sit by the big oak for a bit.’ I asked.

‘You okay?’ I didn’t answer and we walked along the path towards the big oak tree,

It was like my huge big forever friend, always there I’d climb up sit in the branches with a book hanging from the branch was the rope swing id fell of more times than I can remember.

Mike grabbed the rope and swung out over the bomb hole.

Jet black hair blowing in the breeze whoo whoo he shouted ‘come on jump on as he swung back towards me.

I grabbed the rope and straddled across his legs holding the rope and tilting my head back to feel the breeze. Closing my eyes. The rope creaked.

Birds song distant sound of a lawn mower I loved it here in the woods I lifted my head looked at Mikes smiling face he didn’t look old enough to have a job such a baby face we’d been friends for years we shared a paper round.

He bought me a gold fish for the pond in mams back garden Dad had joked and said we were now engaged as he’d given me a goldfish.

But Mike had more girl friends than any other lad I knew he was so handsome but he was my friend. Best friend.

‘I’m pregnant’ I heard myself say.

Shit it was out there I’d said it.

I jumped off the swing and he jumped off landing awkwardly beside me.

‘Fuck Boo” He yelled.

I looked at him as he sat on the old log at the top of the bank. I watched the rope swing still sway in the breeze.

‘My bloody ankle’

‘What did you just say, pregnant’?

‘SHHHHH!’

‘There’s only us bloody here fucking hell Boo Your Dad is going to kill you!’

I sat beside him, I felt numb. He was right he’d go spare.

Especially if he knew I’d told someone.

‘Can I feel he looked at me and I felt myself smile as he gently put his hand on my belly.

I laughed ‘nothing to feel yet I think I’m about four months’ ‘But it’s still in there he didn’t move his hand’

I stood up

‘Well what are you going to do?’

‘Have a baby Dad can fuck right off, I’m leaving home so don’t say anything yet.’

‘I’m saying nothing!’ he said with an exaggerated scared look on his face

‘Does anyone else know?

‘No and No I don’t have a plan!’

I need a plan’

“You need a fucking plane ticket he joked”

We walked back to the house and through the back gate Dad was in the back garden sawing wood with a band saw, ‘Alright Mr H?’ Dad grunted and carried on sawing Mike looked at me and did that face again running his finger across his neck. I kicked him as he opened the back door.

Mam was in the living room knitting I put the kettle on and Mam came in fussing around Mike and folding up his washing for him and asking him about his job, I sat by the coal fire waiting for the kettle to boil listening to Mike sweet talk my Mam.

Fuck I really do need a plan now!