Archives for motherhood

Flash Fiction: The Ten Questions

There are various tests to be passed in life. Some we pass, some we fail. Sylvestra hated tests. Practise or don’t practise, learn by rote or don’t, nothing made any difference. It coloured her life. Spelling tests at school: Rhubarb, Psychosis, Blancmange, Rhododendron. The egg-and-spoon race. The driving test, certification to drive a motor vehicle. The breathalyser test, when stopped for driving erratically in charge of said motor vehicle. Sylvestra tried, and failed them all. She was not a clever woman, but she would not call herself stupid. She knew right from wrong, right from left, she knew wars were started by men who thought they knew better than everyone else, she recognised when she was being over-charged and knew instantly whether or not someone could be trusted. Then came a new Government test. The ‘clever enough to vote’ test. Over 10 years ago, voter turnout fell. Subsequent governments elected were all further and further right-wing. This was the first test Sylvestra had ever passed, but she took no delight. Now Sylvestra awaited the most controversial element of the next Queen’s Speech. It was a white paper anticipated with relief by an ageing electorate tired of decades of family-dominated government
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Categories: My Flash Fiction and On Writing.

A Poem-a-Day in April: ‘My Mother the Cow’

A big thank you to poet Angelique Jamail who has chosen one of my poems for her Poem-a-Day series throughout April. Angelique is celebrating National Poetry Month so please check back again to see the other poems she has selected. My poem ‘My Mother the Cow’ was written quickly when I was musing on fertility, springtime and motherhood. I grew up on a dairy farm and, of course, milk depends on cows and the birth of calves. So, I was surrounded by fertility from an early age, even if I didn’t quite understand the significance. My mother, the farmer’s wife, was the centre of the farm and our family. To read my poem, click here to visit Angelique’s website ‘Sappho’s Torque’. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem for #NationalPoetryMonth: ‘My Mother the Cow’ by @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Ca
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Categories: Poetry.

My favourite bits: The Milk of Female Kindness, an Anthology of Honest Motherhood

The dust has settled now on the anthology of women’s writing about motherhood, The Milk of Female Kindness, which includes two of my stories. Now I’ve had the chance to sit down and read it from cover to cover. My favourite bits? ‘Fresh Eyes’ a poem by anthology editor Kasia James, on seeing life through her child’s eyes. ‘Mama Spider’s Sacrifice’ by Angélique Jamail says everything about the sacrifices a mother makes for her child. ‘Telling Tatiana’ by Tara Chevrestt [below] is a story about three generations of women, dealing with a bad mammogram. ‘An Open Letter to My Son’ by Gemma Wright must have been so difficult to write, a difficult letter about a difficult life. But there are some things a mother cannot fix. ‘My Real Mother’ by Judith Dickerman-Nelson [below] is about her own adoption and life with two mothers, the love involved in giving a baby up for adoption, and that love needed to seek a child to adopt for the rest of your life. To read more haikus by Kasia James, click here for her blog. For Angélique Jamail’s blog, click here. To read Tara Chevrestt’s blog, click here. For more of Gemma Wright’s work,
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Categories: Book Love and My Short Stories.

A review of The Milk of Female Kindness

A sensitive review of The Milk of Female Kindness by author Gwen Wilson who appreciates the difficult balance handled by editor Kasia James. This anthology is a collection of honest writing about motherhood: not the pink fluffy version. And Gwen is right, when I asked her to review the anthology I didn’t know the subject of her memoir I Belong to No One! Read my review of I Belong to No One by Gwen Wilson. ‘The Milk of Female Kindness] ed. Kasia James [UK: K James] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE MILK OF FEMALE KINDNESS #anthology #motherhood Edited by @KasiaJames via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1az
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Categories: Book Love.

Alternative ideas for your Mum

Motherhood means different things to different people. It’s just over a week until Mother’s Day in the UK. Still plenty of time to do one or more of the following things before next Sunday. –       Book a table in your mother’s favourite restaurant and order a bottle of sparkling something [champagne, prosecco, cava] to be waiting on your table; –       Write her a letter [yes, with pen and paper, putting it into an envelope, attaching a stamp, and posting it in a letterbox, the red things on street corners] telling her you love her and mean to tell her that every day and that just because you forget does not mean you don’t think about her; –       Buy her a greetings card, if you must, though she would prefer a letter I think; –       Cut some wildflowers from the hedgerow, or flowers from your garden [not someone else’s, not without permission anyway], and wrap them up in some brown paper or gift wrap paper. Much nicer than a supermarket bouquet in plastic film; –       Order her a book about what it is like to be a mother and a daughter, written by mothers and daughters [including me, the daughter bit not
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Categories: Book Love.

IGNORING GRAVITY: next Bestseller?

I am delighted to announce my novel Ignoring Gravity has been signed to take part in the launch of ‘Britain’s Next Bestseller’ on March 28, 2014.This is a new publishing imprint where you, the readers, can select which books go into print. If I achieve a minimum pre-order target of 250 sales of Ignoring Gravity, I will be awarded with a publishing contract for book and e-book formats. You will be able to place your pre-order for Ignoring Gravity on a special website to be launched on March 28. Watch out for more details here. Ignoring Gravity is the story of two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. Start reading the story of Rose Haldane and her sister Lily from episode one, now, by clicking here. Sadly for those who have been reading the instalments here, you will now to wait for the book to be published before you find out how it ends! To learn more about Britain’s Next Bestseller, and how you can place your pre-order, click here.
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Writing.

IGNORING GRAVITY #52

She walked the few hundred yards to Mrs Gladstone’s house, trying to forget Tommy, breathing  deeply of the scented plants which spilled out of garden after garden. Jasmine. Buddleia. Lilies. But no roses, Tommy was right.’  The sky was like a Rothko canvas she’d seen in the Tate, the colours layered above one another like Eton Mess topped with mandarin segments and custard. She always found Rothko’s paintings calming, the colours melting and merging together. She took a book from her handbag, the latest Frank Bale detective novel, ideal for the mode of stop-start reading demanded by commuting on public transport. She opened it at the current page and there was her bookmark: a postcard of Rothko’s ‘Light Red Over Black.’ She breathed in the sweetness of the flowers, the glowing sky and the layers of Rothko’s paint, and let them soothe her. Careful not to stand on the whitewashed doorstep that sparkled with daily scrubbing, Rose rung the doorbell of 17 Child Street. It was a tiny terraced house, immaculate, its postage stamp garden packed with candy-coloured bedding plants. Not a single rose. The door was opened by an elderly lady who was wiping her hands on the sort of
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #51

She pulled Nick’s list out of her pocket and checked the addresses. Mr & Mrs Thomas Tyler, 14 Child Street. They lived at the white house? It looked more like the home of a thirty-something childless couple than pensioners. She tapped the cool steel knocker, and a thirty-something peered around the part-opened door, her foot with its red-painted toes in a fierce platform sandal braced against the bottom of the door to prevent unwelcome intruders. She spoke through evenly-capped white teeth. “Mr & Mrs Tyler? They don’t live here any more. Mrs Tyler died two years ago and we bought this when her husband moved to a flat. Sheltered accommodation, the kind with a warden. I’ve got the address somewhere, hold on.” She disappeared, shutting the door behind her. She left behind her the floral scent of something Rose identified as expensive from the perfume advertisements in Vogue, the kind with the scented strip you rubbed against your skin. This was definitely not a plug-in air freshener sort of house. As Rose rubbed at a brown mark on her linen trousers, squashed chocolate biscuit from number 12, the neatly-ironed thirty-something re-appeared with a piece of paper. It wasn’t far. Cornwall
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #50

Child Street was in a grid of terraces built as accommodation for workers at the Islington works which supplied bricks for the rebuilding of the City of London after the Great Fire. Rose tried to imagine Kate walking along this road carrying newspapers on a Sunday morning, running to the tube station round the corner, staggering home from the pub after one too many lager and limes with the girls. She tried to see what Kate saw every day. The monotony of red brick was broken in a couple of places by pre-fab concrete cubes, legacy of the post-war rush for housing. Not far away on the other side of the road a house shone out, its bricks and balustrade painted bright white; so bright in fact that Rose expected to smell new paint. The silvery grey of the lime tree outside added to the overall bleached effect. It was a style Rose liked. She hoped this was number 12, it was the sort of house she’d like to live in if she could ever stretch to a bigger mortgage. She would decorate it throughout with mocha walls, clotted cream carpet, caramel leather sofas and dark wood furniture. But the number
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #49

Rose was first into the office the next morning. The movement of something pink registered in her peripheral vision: a Post-It note stuck to her phone fluttered in the breeze from the portable air conditioning unit. ‘Maggie rang,’ it read. Maggie had been in Italy on a travel assignment so she didn’t know about Nick, the kiss, about loads of things a girl’s best friend should know. They always shared. The first time Maggie had sex, the first time Rose had sex, and the time Hallam Tye knocked Rose off her bike and in recompense had invited her to the premiere of A Sunny Afternoon in the Snow which turned into an exclusive interview for Chill’s film column. What if Susan and Kate were best friends at school like Rose and Maggie ? She logged onto Friends Reunited and clicked on the drop-down index, selected the school then the year. Kate went to school with a lot of Susans. She sent 13 e-mails to the possibles. Each e-mail said the same:- “I am trying to trace a girl called Susan who was at St Augustine’s Primary and then Lady Grace’s School for Girls, Richmond, Surrey, with my mother Kate Ingram
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #48

By the time she knocked at Maureen’s door at 7pm, Rose felt calmer. There was a knot in her stomach which she wasn’t sure was anticipation at solving Susan’s identity, Maureen had promised to talk about Kate and Susan, or hunger. She’d wanted to ask about Susan as soon as her foot was in the door, but hearing Diana’s voice in her head – “be polite!” – Rose devoured the dish of pasta spirals in tomato and sardine sauce which Maureen set in front of her. “I didn’t realise how hungry I was.” Rose wiped her dish clean with a chunk of crusty bread. “I love tomatoes. Any sort of tomatoes, those little plum ones are great in a salad or the big fat ones you have with mozzarella, and tomato sandwiches in the summer with a sprinkle of salt. Mmm, lovely.” “Your… “ Maureen cleared her throat before continuing, “… your mum loved tomatoes too.” She stood to clear the saucepans from the hob. “No she didn’t, they upset her stomach. Too acid.” “Not Diana. Kate.” “Oh.” To hide her confusion, Rose laid her knife and fork neatly side-by-side on the plate, imagining Kate eating pasta spirals in tomato
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #47

Nick. Nick. Nick. For the first morning in a week, Rose’s first waking thought was not about Kate.  His name ticked and tocked in her brain. His warm words, his soft lips as they… didn’t kiss her. Nick, who pulled away, rejected her, left without saying when… if… he would call. Rose turned the water in the shower from hot to cold and yelled so loud that Michelle and Lewis downstairs must have heard. Nick. Nick. Nick. “Pull yourself together girl.” Rose told her reflection in the glass of the shower door. ”He doesn’t fancy you.” Rose had never known a man not kiss her back, harder and insistent. What had she done wrong? What had changed? He’d wanted to kiss her, hadn’t he? Could she have misread the signs? He’d certainly led her to think he’d like it, wanted it… perhaps she’d cried too much. She made a mental note to show Nick the Strong Rose in future, the Rose she used to be before the adoption thing. Running late, there was no time for breakfast. She opened her bag and swept into it the pile from the hall table which comprised today’s paper, yesterday’s unopened post and her
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #46

She was sitting at a bench on the wide pavement outside The Eagle, nursing a St Clements and watching the late commuters straggle out of the tube station when he arrived. A large folder was on the seat beside her. Something had shifted inside her last night and things had become clearer, one of the clearest was that she wanted to see Nick again. She’d called this morning and arranged to meet. “I haven’t been exactly…  truthful with you,” were the first words she spoke. “I know I’ve been strange, behaving oddly, but there is a reason why.” Her staccato words regulated into andantino then andante as she showed Nick her birth certificates, baby picture and Kate’s photo. Feeling calmer by the minute, helped by the pressure of his arm against hers, she told him things she didn’t even know she’d been thinking until the words were said. He let her finish speaking. “Hey.” His fingers caught a curl beside her ear and twisted it into a ringlet. “That’s the first time you’ve said all of that aloud, isn’t it?” She looked at Nick and wanted to fall into his eyes. “I think what you’re doing is very brave.” That
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #45

She stepped out of her steaming bath water later that night and picked up the bottle of Soothing Rose lotion she’d bought at Cool Beauty yesterday. Mmm roses, she thought, the heady scent of summer. But the top wouldn’t budge, not even when she tried to loosen it with her teeth. Shivering now, she wrapped herself in a towel. Somewhere there was a pair of pliers. Leaving a trail of water across the floor, she checked in the hall cupboard, then the drawer in the dresser. She finally found them in her toolbox at the bottom of her wardrobe squashed between her Dorothy stilettos and favourite tan cowboy boots. With one tug, the threads at the neck of the plastic bottle gave way and the top was released. Her stomach lurched at the overwhelming stink of artificial flowers, chemical copies, not real roses. Rose stoppered the bottle quickly. It had smelled alright in the shop, but perhaps everything had changed now she was Alanna Ingram. * Wrapped in her bathrobe, dozing uneasily in front of an ancient repeat of ER, dreaming of twin sisters who continually morphed in and out of each other’s bodies, Rose was stirred by a knocking.
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #44

An envelope was waiting for Rose on the hall table when she got home from work the next day. A letter bearing the red-inked stamp ‘General Register Office.’ So 24 hours after sitting on the bench beside the war memorial, Rose returned to the same place, seeking calm in her secret green corner behind the library after today’s madness of deadlines, proofreading and caffeine overload. Squabbling sparrows were her only company. She turned the envelope over in her hands, wanting to open it, not wanting to open it. The name of my father is inside. Her eyes drifted over the names on the obelisk… Worth… Thewlis… Clarkson… Smith … Brough… Out of a brown paper bag she emptied her hasty purchase from Maya’s limited alcohol shelf: two mini-bottles of gin and fruit-flavoured alco-pop. She drunk one bottle straight down in one go, pursed her lips at the alien taste of saccharine, artificial colourings and E numbers, then put the empty bottle back in its bag. She’d never been fond of gin, mother’s milk, her mother’s drink for special occasions to be mixed with bottled orange juice and sipped through pursed lips but she needed the alcohol hit and it had
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #43

Ibuprofen, birth certificate, and an apology were Rose’s three priorities when she woke too few hours later. The ibuprofen was easy, but the Direct Gov website was still ‘undergoing a few problems which we hope to resolve soon so please visit us later’ and every attempt to speak to Nick failed. Gatekeeper Amanda was polite when she took Rose’s first message of the morning, her voice growing curter with each successive call. By 11am she was nowhere near catching up the backlog which was why she was working at home in the first place: peace, quiet, no interruptions, complete concentration, etc. That was the theory. But the 500 words she managed to squeeze out about psoriasis were rubbish and would have to be rewritten from scratch which meant she would miss her deadline. She longed for espresso, the really strong espresso that was only available from the Coffee Crema van round the corner from Southfields tube station. As she stood in the queue, her mind wandered away from itchy skin to Nick. Nick, who preferred peppermint tea. Peppermint tea, the same taste as toothpaste, Polo mints, chewing gum, after-dinner mints. Forget Nick. Think about your father instead. She pictured two
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #42

Rose left the Pre-Tox Party Kit press reception two hours later with another PR goodie bag. At Waterloo she ran but reached the barrier less than 30 seconds before departure. She watched the rear of the train disappear. She rubbed her aching neck and looked up at the indicator board in Waterloo station: 20 minutes before the next Wimbledon train. Her muscles and emotions were bound as tightly as a new ball of wool. She’d need some serious help to relax tonight. If she was quick she could nip into her favourite shop on Waterloo Bridge Road. She seldom left Cool Beauty without a bottle. So she nipped. As she stepped through the door of the shop, the unravelling experience began. She sniffed and sampled her way along the shelves through ‘Refresh’ and ‘Revive’ to ‘Renew’ and with each step her shoulders eased as a frayed end of wool teased its way loose. But she knew that only when she lay up to her chin in fragranced bathwater tonight would the last strands of tight muscle unwind from her neck and down her spine, releasing each vertebra one at a time. Then she would rub Soothing Rose Lotion into every
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #41

Lily stormed along the street, not knowing if she’d turned left or right. How dare Rose imply that my life’s a mess. Of course I want to get pregnant, doesn’t everyone? Poor Dad, poor poor Dad. And poor Mum too, she wanted a baby so much, she must have been at the end of her tether, so lonely. No wonder she asked her sister for help. Well she was lucky she had Kate to turn to. I wish I had a sister like that. That was a cruel thought, and Lily wasn’t used to being cruel. But it was true. Instantly she felt alone on the crowded pavement. Rose wasn’t her sister any more. Being cousins wasn’t the same at all. Suddenly Lily sensed she was being stared at. She was muttering to herself. She shut her mouth, took her sunglasses out of her bag and put them on. She stopped to re-arrange the pile of diaries better in her arms but the blue one on top slithered to the pavement. A metal lock burst open and loose pages spilled onto the hot pavement. Lily bent to her knees to pick them up and the words flew off the open page
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #40

Five hours later, Rose stood on the steps of Way Forward PR in Chiswick where she’d just left a breakfast press briefing about the New You range of slimming products. New You: the all-natural, organic way to detox and not go hungry. In her hand was a carrier bag containing the press kit. Product samples [sachet of powdered milk shake, energy bar and vacuum pack of dried savoury rice], press pack, scented candle to help her feel positive about her body image, notepad and ballpoint pen stamped with the New You logo. Standard press reception fodder: Rose would take the bag back to work and it would go into the goody drawer. When the drawer was full, Sam’s secretary would fill up carrier bags and hand them out to the features team. This would be followed by a frantic trading session as the boys swapped the lipsticks in their bags for the disposable razors in the girls’ bags. It was one of the perks of working on the features desk. Rose hadn’t bought soap, or pens, since she’d worked at the Herald. Now, bag in hand, she stood on a street corner and looked around to get her bearings. Cars
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

IGNORING GRAVITY #39

The first thing Rose looked at when she awoke the early next morning was Kate’s photo. Hello Mum, she thought. Mother. Mummy. She strode lightly from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen, flicked the switch on the kettle then logged on and searched for Kate Ingram. Loads of entries, but different Kate Ingrams. A town councillor in Ayrshire banned for dangerous driving. A footballer who scored the winning goal in Dewsbury Ladies’ 3-2 win over the Doncaster Darlings. A four-year old victim of a hit-and-run driver at a zebra crossing. Kate died almost 30 years before the internet was in general use, she didn’t have a Facebook page or an entry in Equity’s online directory. The waking urge to talk to her, to know more, became a fully conscious need, like the need to eat or pee or sleep. With a wave of shame, Rose realised she didn’t know where Kate was buried. Bizzie would know. “St Agnes’ in Kingston.” Rose could hear the smile in her Gran’s voice. “Where your Mum and Granddad are. Comfortable benches. I go to see them all once a week. So so.” This made Rose, who hadn’t been to the graveyard since standing beside her
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.