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Monday, 10 August 2020

You're going to die.

Some older zombies 

I know this.  You know this.  We all suspect it, but we don't let it in if we can help it, and quite right.  Once we experience a death we see that life is finite.  How can we stop living, we ask? How on earth can we accept such a thing?  And yet, no matter what we think, say or do, at some point, we will, as my mother used to say, push off.  

Life takes on more meaning once we accept it will end.  It is a strange old journey, life.  Every time we think we have it sussed, something happens and we realise there is more to learn, more to experience, more to do.  Life keeps throwing us curved balls, but we have to keep going.  In amongst the curved balls are times of real happiness too, like when we love someone who loves us back, or when our children are born, or when things go well for us and we can pay our bills or perhaps when our achievements are all that we hoped for.  We plod on, but whatever life we have, and choose, death is the final state.  Death puts life into perspective.  Once we get over the shock that it is real, we can get a grip on our lives and make those decisions, do those things, be that person that we have been putting off.  Our lives are in our hands.  How will we live?  Who will we be?  

No one ever said life was easy. But it is amazing.  It is up to us to make it work, and take risks.  We may not end up with the thing we wished for, but the journey we took to get there will have been a whole lesson in itself.  Realising that we have only so much time can focus us brilliantly on how we are actually living.  It has a way of forcing the issue. I argued with and had a huge dislike of my husband Alan's political views.  It seems that I was locked into being right at all costs and unable to concede an inch.  I understood, after he died and it was too late to tell him, that I did not have to agree with him.  It was not so much that I disliked his politics, it was that I could not be wrong.  As part of my missing him after his death I made myself look at his views, remember what he said, and recall how he behaved in his life.  I also remember his saying that he was once as rigid and uncompromising as me, and that he understood what I felt.  I hated that at the time, but it makes sense now.  He was a lot older than me, and had the gift of being able to change his mind if the arguments were good enough.  The risk for me here was humility.  My husband would never have laughed at me if I had listened to him and changed my mind a bit.  He would have admired me.


Probably don't take this risk

We can't avoid risk, things could always go pear shaped, that nice safe job that we took because it didn't ask much of us and stretched out over the years in secure and peaceful anonymity may suddenly tell us we need training in bomb disposal and single armed combat.  That wasn't what we signed up for!  We all know about the risks of being rejected, disliked, got rid of, abandoned, shown up, humiliated, shamed and so on. To some degree, these are present both in the tiniest of things, like making a phone call, to large things, like being shown up in public.  But there is also the risk of things going well.  We may take a risk and succeed with happiness, success, belonging, achievement.  We may fear going to the doctor when we know something is wrong.  When we do take the risk of being told we are in a bad way and we have only months left to live, quite the opposite happens and we not only have a clean bill of health but we marry the doctor.  

I think, as with all things, it all comes back to how well we know ourselves, how much we like ourselves, and how much of our power we have given away.  If I am afraid, my fear is likely to dictate how I act and react.  That may feel like survival.  Everything feels risky and a challenge.  If I decide to take a risk first, and then I feel fear, like working for an exam, an audition, an interview, my fear is part of the process but not the instigator of it.  If I know myself well, if I am self aware, I may make informed choices and understand risks to myself, my work, my surroundings a bit more - I may be able to pick myself up if it does not work out, and not give up completely.  At the moment, I am seeing such huge aversion to risk, real or perceived, that I wonder if we have all lost the plot. 

What are you afraid of?

My friend is a long term cancer survivor, a palliative care nurse, and over sixty.  Over the past few months she has faced hostility for going to work, and returning home.  She is
  •  vulnerable because of her cancer long ago, and the complications that are part of her life now    
  • working with people who are going to die in the hospice, some of whom are old 
  • old herself.
The hostility she has been dealing with is so strangely illogical and so unreasonable that it has left her sad.  The main concern is that by going to work she meets people who are not only elderly, but moribund.  By being outside in the air too, which is so buzzing with a single virus, she is perceived to be carrying with her this single virus that will kill not only her (which she asked for, she shouldn't have gone out), but all the neighbours and those in her village.  She should know better than to put them all at risk by leaving her house to carry on supporting the dying, and herself an elderly cancer survivor too.  The people who are angry with her are safe, well, solvent, and locked into a paranoid self concern.  My friend knows herself well, is unlikely to put herself or anyone else in danger, and does not make unwise decisions where health is concerned.  Over forty years a nurse, she has worked out what is practical and what is not.  She has carried on working and has probably helped some of their relatives and friends die with a friendly hand holding theirs, because not only are they not allowed in to visit, but they darn well wouldn't have gone anyway.  Too dangerous.  Every person for themselves. 

She had dealt with this with grace and courage.  She has begun to ask people what they are afraid of.  It is her belief that they are all afraid of death.

At the moment, I wonder if death is our number one fear.  Our fear of being ill right now is not just about having to rest for a day or two, it is about death.  It is the certainty of death.  We have linked the virus to our own death, and it is coming to get us.  We do not know much about it but we know an awful lot about the risk it poses to us, to our families, and to the whole world.  We know that the risk is too big to manage, and that we are encouraged to be terrified of each other, ourselves, and all known surfaces. 

Our deepest fears of survival are triggered.  I wonder if we are acting from our lizard brain, the oldest part of our brains that governs such things as survival, being territorial, hunger, thirst and habits.  I think our need to survive this one virus has frightened us into a complicit isolation where our safety is so threatened, we have forgotten who we are. I do not blame anyone, the narrative we have is very frightening, and would challenge the most easy going person.  But somehow, underneath it all, is, I think, a fear of death.  As someone I know says, we have lost perspective, we are all OK and we will survive.  And as someone else I know noticed, most people are more afraid of what others think of them if they do not join in the public dance around not getting the virus, than actually getting ill.  I met with a friend a while ago who was delighted to meet me but not where anyone else could see.  No, she said, she wasn't in the least concerned about getting ill, she just did not want anyone to see her and judge her.  So perhaps it is not all about the fear of death, it is about the fear of social disapproval too.  Heavy stuff. 

We are all going to die.
That was quick

When my friend has enough answers to her question, "What are you so afraid of, " I will publish them.  It will be good to see what people say, it will help me understand why we are so lost in our fear. 

Until we do die, we are very much alive.  I looked online to find an alternative view to the narrative on the pandemic, and could not find anything beyond the fact that all those who question it are Brexiteers and climate change deniers.  That made me feel a bit misunderstood.  And so I am back to my main thought.  We are all going to die.  If that is so, and I believe that it is, I am going to take a risk and get on with my life.   I do not see you as a threat.  I do not believe that if you pass me by on the street, in a shop, on a bus, that either of us will fall to our knees and pass away (unless we get shot, or have a heart attack). I am not going to wash my shopping bag if it touches yours, or put my shopping on a sterile mat for a few days before unpacking it.  I will shake your hand if you offer it.  I will hug you if you want it.  When you are fearful and alone, I will come and visit if you ask me.  What are we afraid of?  I am certainly not afraid of you unless you want to hit me over the head.  In our day to day lives, I am not afraid of you, and I am not afraid of this virus.  I am taking the risk and celebrating life. 

I am celebrating my birthday this year with a reggae disco in my garden. I will be dancing to 
the Jolly Boys here, the oldest reggae band in the world. 

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Tuesday, 28 July 2020

On not conforming, being creative and needing a platform.

Being creative and needing a platform. And not conforming because I booked this theatre slot before I had written the show.  Doing it all backwards.  

A few years ago I narrowed down my whole personality to three points.  They are

  • I do not conform
  • I am creative
  • I need a platform.
Everything about myself is covered by these three explanations.  I was delighted at the time to have discovered my own formula.  What is more, I liked the formula.  I still do like it, and am going to add another that has come to my attention in the last year or so.  A number four.  Here is it is -
  • I am a teeny bit rebellious.

I do not conform.

From an early age, having been born a fairy, I was at loggerheads with convention.  It was as if I had an inbuilt alternative agenda which made me look at the world with surprise.  There were rules, and there was a right way of doing things but, they were so obviously not applicable to me that I was
Me as a fairy.  
constantly astonished when I was told off.  Growing up, I was attracted only to the wild, naughty children.  I myself wasn't really one of them, I just thought they had a better way of looking at things and so I tagged along.  I liked how they challenged the rules and seemed to do what they wanted.  Many of them had very difficult home lives, and I did not. I had a lovely family in a nice big house where our dad used to read Dickens to us and Mum made lamb stew with pearl barley from scratch, and we had it in special blue plates inherited from lovely Irish aunts.  I knew many of the naughty children were responding to family difficulties, and sometimes I wished I had a nice alcoholic mum, or a dad in prison or something that would give me a reason to be naughty.  As it was, I simply drifted to the bad kids like a puppy, and thought they were all wonderful.  They all thought I was a hippy.

I always knew I was an artist.  In order to live as an artist, I had to stick to my guns and simply ignore the opposition.  There was plenty of opposition.  Getting a proper job and earning a living was the goal and I was encouraged to think of ways my art could be channelled into something practical and conventional.  I had a go at that from time to time, but it took the light out of me and never worked.  I am an artist and I have to follow a different path, one that allows me to step off it and experience life from outside.  Of course this freedom also enabled me to make appalling decisions and make a complete pig's ear of my life but, I survived.  And now, it is all worth while.  I am an artist, I am an artist extraordinaire, and I still have no intention of conforming.  (But I am very nice and well behaved, you don't always know I am not conforming until later when you think about it.)

I am creative

Being creative is not enough.  We need to express it.  People who either say they are not creative or who are ignoring their creativity fear that it is a messy business.  They fear it means getting covered in mess, in paints, in feathers, staying up all night chasing the muse, and dressing badly.  It is a challenge, a problem, and causes upheaval. It is about going outside our comfort zone. Once we understand that creativity is just about expressing ourselves, the pressure is off.  It does not have to be anything we don't want it to be, but it does need us to stop judging it, and just play.  And actually, it is quite safe to play and get a bit messy.

I am creative.  It isn't just about painting, or writing, though those are excellent ways of expressing myself.  It is about enjoying colour, putting lights and little statues in my garden, it is about wearing pink and matching it with pink earrings and lipstick.  It is about sitting and making sure everything in my line of sight is beautiful, it is about cooking all the things left over in the fridge, and tying my recently late father's shoe to his grandfather clock in my house, as a memorial to him.   

My creativity does not always wait for inspiration.  Sometimes, I let ideas work themselves out for a while but as it is me who will use them, I am proactive and at some point start work and enter into the unknown, the creative process, whether ready or not.  My creativity does not sit outside me, and I wait for it to show up so I can try and use it.  It lives inside me, it is me, and so I have access to it day and night.  It does not have to be perfect, it rarely is anything like perfect, but it will do.  I know I can use it and it's very nice to be such friends with it.  I will just add here that it gets better with practice.  I have to work for the finished product, it doesn't just happen as if I have no part in it.  I work very hard for my results, and that is part of the process.  If it goes well, then creativity and I have done well.  If it doesn't go well, it does not matter.  I will try something else, and have a cup of tea.

I need a platform

I do need a platform.  Oh I absolutely do.  What is the point, I say, of me painting and writing and thinking the way I do without you all knowing about it.  I am not a shy and retiring artist, I like to launch my stuff into the world and wait for you all to tell me how wonderful it all is.  Of course, that is not a given, you may hate what I do and wish me to get a proper job and a sense of propriety.  It does not stop me writing, painting and making videos though.  Here I go, lobbing You Tube videos at you, inviting you to exhibitions, writing books and blogs and, of course, creating daily Instagram and Facebook stories of my life.  

Speaking at an end of life conference.
Sounds like none of us left the
building after the conference, doesn't it?  
The platform I seek though is not simply about my work being seen and read.  That would be nice but, I am motivated by a great deal more than that.  How do we look at, articulate and explore difficult things?  There are times when we need to be challenged, inspired, comforted, entertained, reminded, or encouraged. I use my creativity to explore how we deal with death and dying and recently, how we cope with addiction; those are my difficult things.  I explore and share my experiences and I need, use and have platforms to reach as many people as I can.  I am compelled to do this, and to keep the things I talk about and paint authentic and truthful.  Using platforms to put my work out into the world is a good way of keeping myself in check.  There is nothing more sobering than the opinions of all the people out there who have access to what I do.  The platform I seek is a relationship with everyone who comes across my work and who may resonate with the experiences and stories I use.  It is not a "me and you" thing, it is a "we and us" thing.

A teeny bit of rebellion

This has evolved as I get older.  I have noticed other older people simply not doing things they don't believe in.  My Irish grandmother, a small lady, would wear my very tall grandfather's huge overcoat when coming back from a visit from Ireland to the UK.  She would stuff the pockets with ham, whiskey, sausages and beer and clink her way through customs with some of her seven children.  Just before customs she would clip one of the children around the ear and the resulting chaos would mean she would get past customs without being checked.  Another time, when my boys were about six and nine, my mother smuggled them into France on a pilgrimage bus bound for Lourdes.  She hadn't time to get them passports.  Leave it to me, she said.  The arch bishop was on that bus, and mother shoved my boys behind him as he walked past customs, saying that they were with the bishop.  They got in.  The bishop had no idea he led two little boys into France illegally on his way to a holy pilgrimage to Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette saw and spoke to the Virgin Mary.  

And now I am on my way to the same kind of behaviour.  I can't give you examples because I will possibly get into trouble, but in each case I believe common sense and humanity has triumphed over silly rules and face saving protocol.  There.  That's a bit of rebellion for the common good, but I have yet to smuggle legs of lamb and children across borders.  

Not my actual grandmother but same approach to life.

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Monday, 20 July 2020

As Mother Lay Dying, the book.

My book will be available on YouTube chapter by chapter.  More below.

RIP Vanessa's Dad.

Vanessa, my PA who helps me with my newsletter and so much more besides, lost her father two
Vanessa's mum and dad on
their wedding day in 1967
days ago.  For this reason, there is no newsletter on Tuesday.  

Vanessa moved into her parents' house at the beginning of lock down to work, help look after her father and to support her mother.  I do not know the family, but I do know that her parents were married for a very long time and that the whole family is close and loving.  Vanessa's father died peacefully the day before yesterday as I write this, and, I think, quite quickly, with Vanessa and her mother, and maybe other family members present.  It was good, she said, it was even wonderful.  And so, the blog this week begins with a small memorial to him, in solidarity with Vanessa over a father's death.  My own father died, as many of you know, five weeks ago.  We both had wonderful fathers and my heart goes out to her, she really loved him and, I believe, he really loved her.   

RIP Errol John Stagg.  My you rest truly, and joyfully, in peace.

As Mother Lay Dying.

In 2015, my mother was given six weeks to live, with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.  I shut down my life in an afternoon and moved in to be with her, to walk as far as we could together for this final journey, both knowing she would have to do the last bit on her own.  Time changed for all of us then.  The family and friends coming in to say goodbye to her, the days and nights of her gentle breathing declining and the memories of all those gone before her, all this kept us in a space where there was no future, just the past and the present.  

I had been helping to support people facing the end of life for a good few years then, but now with this sudden realisation that my mother was dying, I did not know what to do.  My mother knew me better than anyone else in the world.  I could not sit beside her, listen to her speak, and then go home.  I could not hold her hand for a while, and then hand over to her family, I was her family.  We lived in the same house now, for the duration.  And I looked like her.  I sounded like her.  Our relationship had never been easy and now, watching her die, I imagined that we would talk about our painful differences and resolve them through words.  Instead, nothing was said.  The peace that had eluded her all of her life settled on us both, and in the end, love was all there was.  Just love.  

The book of this time, of waiting of watching and of witnessing, is now finished.  I have called it "As Mother Lay Dying".

Part one “The Dying”, accompanies my mother as she faces, day by day, the end of her life.  The house is full of people and flowers, and at night, when everyone has gone home, the silences seem too long and too dark.  Part two, “The Bereavement”, talks of the strange emptiness after the wake and the funeral are done, and my mother's house is silent.  I do not know what I feel, and I can’t find her anywhere. I go back to my world and find that I miss her.  In part three, “The Recovery”, I talk about grief, and the many ways it manifests.  For this part I draw on my own observations, stories and experiences of working with people at the end of life. It is hard to articulate grief and our actions can speak for us.  This section explores some of the different, and surprising, ways I have seen grief manifest while working in the community with end of life.

Below is the first page.  There is a reason for sharing this, and I hope the extract touches you. I aim to read the whole book on my YouTube channel, one chapter at a time, and upload it over a week or so.  It will then be available for anyone, at any time, to hear it read and to listen to as much or as little as they want. 

As Mother Lay Dying

Last week there was no diagnosis. This week there is terminal pancreatic cancer, and I have been uncharacteristically swift and efficient.  I have sorted out my own house and moved into my mother’s house with just a small suitcase, until I am no longer needed here.

I am waiting in a chair at the end of my mother’s bed, so that we can see each other when she wakes. The big comfortable chair that I put next to her bed can’t be seen if she is sitting up.  She would be looking ahead in that case, and talking to a disembodied voice behind her.  I will leave that first chair, the big comfortable one, till later, when she is near to death, and won’t know where I am sitting, only that I am somewhere near her.  At least, that is what I intend.

There were times when her face fell into itself today.  Her mouth drooped and her chin dropped.  When she is feeling able, she is in control and very present.  When she drifts off to sleep, which she does all the time, her energy is gone and the power is diminished.  Her small frame is vacated.  Her face is pale, her mouth is dry and uncomfortable, and her stomach hurts.   Mum’s face is soft to kiss, and hot and smooth.  I smell bad, she says, but I tell her she doesn’t smell bad.  Not at all.  It is just that she needs to use the loo so much and can’t keep any food down.  I think she feels smelly, but she really isn’t.  Mother is fragrant.  Since word of her illness has spread, she has been inundated with beautiful scented soaps and creams; she washes in the most wonderful rose scented, honey extract, vanilla infused bath oils, and she is truly fragrant.

I am sitting in one of her lovely little Regency chairs, at the end of her bed, downstairs in her dining room. Mother’s home sits high up above the Sussex Downs with a conservatory overlooking the Shimmings below, the green and gentle countryside of the Shimmings stretching out for miles just beyond her front door.  Mum likes to sit at her breakfast table in the conservatory watching the tiny horses in the fields and copses miles away, and the clouds and sky moving and changing over the landscape.  She likes to spend time at her little table by the window there, looking out over it all and feeling peaceful.  I am here in her house to look after her while she dies, I have moved in for as long as it takes.  I am learning how this experience of dying is different from others I have witnessed.  I am still not the one doing the dying, I'm not medically trained and I don’t know about the drugs that can help her symptoms, I am not a stranger coming in to offer my little piece of time and love.  I am my mother’s daughter; I am my brothers’ sister and my children’s mother.   I belong to the people directly concerned with this dying person, I am in the middle of it and even if I walked away wanting to have nothing more to do with it, all this dying that Mum is doing is known and felt throughout my entire extended family.  The whisper of it is in everyone’s bones.  She is the next one, it is her turn now.  Each of the old aunts and uncles, each of the grandparents, each of my mother’s siblings that has died, have managed it.  They faced it and got on with it. We all watched and visited those we could visit, and regretted and wondered about those we didn’t visit because they died quietly without anyone there, and we cried when they had gone.  We wondered how they were doing it, those that we did see, and we all hoped that we didn’t have to do it ourselves for a long, long time.  If ever.  We loved the aunts and uncles that have gone now, remembering how they had made our childhood magical.  They were young and strong then, when we were children, my brothers and my cousins and me. 

 Please have a listen.  It may be something you are going through right now, it may be something for the future.  It may be something you are very interested in, and want to know more about. You can hear the first chapter here, chapter one As Mother Lay Dying

Another Addiction painting finished

I haven't been painting much recently.  There is much still to do, but I have not felt very focused.  Last
Marie as the crazy party lady
week, I decided that if I made a YouTube video about finishing the current picture, that had been patiently sitting in the studio for the past month or so twiddling its fingers and not complaining, then I would have no excuses.  It was a grand way of actually doing some work, in that it was much more complicated having it be the subject of a video, but it worked.  The painting is done, and I have a video about it too.  You can see the video here .

These paintings of Marie show her as she was, when she was taking drugs, and now, when she is not.  She has come a long way, and I wanted to show the difference between then and now.  The crazy party lady, with wild jaundiced eyes looks amazing, but a bit mad.  The painting of her now is filled with dignity, peace and calm. I know Marie as she is now, and understand how much she has achieved.  She is, it is worth saying, a magnificent artist herself.

Calm and serene Marie now
I will begin the next painting for the Addicts And Those Who Love Them exhibition this coming week.  It is of my friend Michael, and his once long suffering partner Martin.  For many many years, Michael was an alcoholic, completely out of control, and without boundaries.  Martin stayed with him, somehow, throughout, and now with Michael clean and well, they are inseparable. This painting will be joyful.  It will be the two of them together in each others arms, it will make us all smile.  

And one day, perhaps, when the madness ends, we can have this exhibition, and show all the paintings, all the words and all the stories together on one place.  Hang in in there, friends.  Even if I have to show it all in my house, we will have this exhibition. 

And so 

Keep an eye open for the next chapters of the book As Mother Lay Dying.  I will try and upload a chapter a day for the next couple of weeks.  There are twenty chapters.  I am so enjoying doing this, and I hope you will enjoy and be moved by the book.  Please let me know what you think, and either leave comments here on this blog or directly on the YouTube comments section below the videos. 

As My Most Beautiful Mother Lay Dying.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Death. There's a lot of it about.

A lot of it about
There's a lot of it about.


A young plumber came to mend a leak in the kitchen after my husband Alan died in 2016.  "Death," he said with a shake of his head, as if this was unreasonable, "there's a lot of it about."

I don't think he had experienced many losses, I don't think that dying had happened in his world, and so when he heard of other peoples' experiences, it seemed that death was just getting a bit above itself.  Slow down, he seemed to imply, just one at a time and in an orderly fashion. 

We all know that death is a part of life, that death doesn't follow a protocol, that death will do what it wants when it wants.  We all know that it happens, and though we know theoretically we will have to die one day too, we don't really believe it.  Not really. And yet, people we know die. Even people we love go, and sometimes, family members pass on and so, yes, there is a lot of it about.  I remember when my partner Steve was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, saying we will beat this, and somehow, because I loved him I thought we would.  It was inconceivable that such a thing as love could be bested by such a thing as death.  Light and dark, I thought then.  Light always wins.  But Steve did die, and watching him fade away despite my love and despite it being unfair, changed my world for ever.  In a way, I had to grow up.  I had to experience something beyond my comprehension in order to show me a deeper more profound version of this life.  Steve's death was the single most traumatic event of my life, and probably still is.  I was thrown into a grief and confusion that marked the beginning of the rest of my life, and my decision to work with endings and dyings in the way that I do.  That grief was so mind altering, so hard to bear, that all my understandings of this world had to change.  But it also unlocked my gift, and though I did not want that gift and would have thrown it back if I could have in the beginning, I am grateful for it now.  I often say that Steve came, gave my my job to do, and left.  

So now, deaths.  What good are they?  I absolutely do not know, but the thing is, they happen twenty four hours a day seven days a week.  Making or finding meaning in them, is an ongoing process for most of us.  I have seen many deaths through illness, I have experience of suicide deaths, and I have personally experienced miscarriage.  However, there are many, many ways for us to die. Here is a list to be going on with. 

Illness, suicide, murder, accident, miscarriage, abortion, war, execution, euthanasia, act of God                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
Most of these I have no experience of, and though I accept that death is a given, such things as
Help. Don't make me do it.
execution, war and murder really scare me.  Perhaps it isn't the fact of death so much as the manner of dying.  Murder, war and execution seem to involve cruelty and suffering from the hands of other people that is entirely avoidable, man made and inhumane.  And yet, what I have been trying to do is, where I come across it, to make the manner of dying more calm, more loving and more acceptable.  I have a terrible fear of visiting a death row, an execution, and hope to goodness I never have to do that - it is indescribably unlikely in my little life here in Bognor Regis, but I have learned that the world is utterly unpredictable and just because you fear something does not mean you are safe from it.  Though I imagine I am safe from this.  But you never know. Help. 


Over the years, I have learned to occupy very little space in the room of a dying person.  I remember when I began learning about how people go and what they do, and what I should do, feeling that I should be doing something, I should somehow be indispensable.  It was up to me whether they died well or not. I worried that I could fail at this, and that everyone would see that I was a fraud and did not know what I was doing.  (I did not know what I was doing in those days, absolute fact.) I knew there was a place for people like me, who were drawn to make a small difference to the dying process, but I had no idea how.  For some reason, I felt I ought to know instinctively and that it was all about me making them feel better.  It was about me doing a good job.  It was about me.

Fast forward and this is how I see it now.  Unlearning the above was a valuable part of the process.  It is not about me, and I do not have to get anything right.  I just have to do my best and if it is not what is needed, I can leave.  Mainly, the dying are doing their own thing.  Our job, if we can, is to create a harmonious and loving place for them to do that.  And often we don't have a choice about where that is.  It could be anywhere.  (When I am asked where I would like to die, which I sometimes am, I say I have no intention of dying at all.  But if I have to do it, and as a well person I chose a nice meadow in the sunshine, I may at the time prefer a hospital with all the right equipment.  I may not want to die in a tea shop having afternoon tea because it will be messy, though right now I think it would be a lovely way to go.  My point is we don't know, we can only guess.  And fate may mean we have little choice anyway).  If it isn't about me at all, then I am relieved of the burden of success and failure, and I am relieved of my ego.  It is not all about the dying person either.  It is about all of the people in the room.  If others are there, they bring their energies and beliefs into the mix.  If someone is struggling, they need support.  If the dying person is struggling, they need support. If no one is struggling, then the family or friends there will manage.  They dying person will manage.  Where someone like me comes in, is to support whoever needs it.  When someone is dying whether over a long time or a short, difficult questions will come up.  Unwelcome emotions will arise.  We may have profound conversations and we may have some wonderful, enlightening moments.  We may be unable to resolve old hurts, and we may argue and fight.  We may do a mixture and all other things in between.  And if for example, the illness changes the dying person's personality, then the whole dying process may be unpredictable and difficult.  A man I knew of with a brain tumour became very aggressive and took over the ward.  The police had to be called.  I don't recognise this person, his wife said, this is not him.  A few days later, he died.  And the moment of death, that moment many of us feel we have to witness for our loved ones, may just happen when we are not looking.  The moment of death, that last breath, may well be so silent that no one notices it.  

I held my mother, and my father, and my husband as they died. Steve died just before I got there, and my brother Dominic died when I left the room.  It was really lovely to be there for Mum, Dad and Alan's last breath and a bit sad I wasn't there to witness Steve and Dominic, but because it is not, actually, about me, I can let that go.  People die when they die.  I thought Dominic was actually dying a few days before he did, and I told him to let go and go when he was ready.  I was convinced he was on his way, and after a while, when he didn't go, I felt a bit foolish and went and had a cup of tea.  Sorry, Dom, I said.  When he did go, a few days later, it was on his own terms and in his own time, and it was when he was alone.  

Here is an account of how dying involves loved ones too.  

As a volunteer on the local hospice wards, one of my roles was as a patient companion when there were no family or friends for a dying person.  One afternoon I overheard an exasperated lady talking about how her neighbour's husband was deeply reluctant to come and see his wife, ever, and now she was actually dying.  I jolly well made him get into the car, she said, and forced him.  He's outside her room now, she said angrily, not going in.  I give up. 

 I remember thinking that he must be very frightened and being angry with him won't help.  I was worried and went looking for him.  I found him sitting on his own looking terrified, lost and small on a chair near his wife's room.  I began talking with him, and he talked about everything and anything that he could, but not ever about his wife, dying in the room next to him.  After a while, I said to him that I knew his wife, and that I had had many good conversations with her.  Would you mind, I asked him, if I went and said goodbye to her?  After a pause, he said that he would take me to her.  And he got up and  walked into her room.  Surprised but delighted, I followed. "Hello dear," he said and bent over her. "It's your favourite husband.  I have Antonia here who wants to say goodbye to you."  With that, he walked around her to the chair beside her bed on the other side, and sat down.  I said goodbye to her gently and thanked her, noticing that the husband who had been so afraid, was now sitting and holding his wife's hand.  I left the room, and she died a little while later, her husband with her.  All he had needed was someone to be kind to him. 

Was the angry neighbour right to force the husband into the hospice?  Was the ending a good one?  In the end, she was instrumental in helping the husband to overcome some very deep fears, but what if he had remained panicking, alone, outside her room and missed her death?  We just cannot know.  What I understood from this experience is that the dying wife was fine, all that could be done for her was being done.  It was the husband that needed the helping hand.  It was, for a while, only about him.  It was a happy ending in that all things came together, the wife died with the husband holding her hand, and he no longer isolated and afraid.  


Dad died three weeks ago today.  It feels as if eighty eight years have gone in the blink of an eye, and here we are already three weeks into his eternity.  Every time someone I love dies, I get lost in the not knowing.  Same now with Dad.  Where did he go?  I don't know.  Why didn't he wait to die here like I had planned?  I don't know.  Why did he have to suffer cruel and avoidable isolation and loss from us, and then die on a stretcher?  I don't know.  What does it all mean?  I don't know.

It is up to me to make my own sense of this.  I am not grief stricken.  Dad was dying for a long time with Alzheimer's and Dementia.  I had years to say goodbye, and now that I have said it, I feel alongside the sadness of losing him, a feeling of freedom and expansion.  I miss him, but I feel lighter.  He has done it.  He has gone, shooting off on the tails of a radiant, blazing star, up to Heaven where everyone is cracking open the red wine, waiting for him to join the party.  There is nothing more for him to do here, no dying no death no waiting.  No living.  He has gone to join his friends and family and I have waved him goodbye.   I will plod on down here, living and doing my best but I still have it all to come.  I have no idea when it will be, how it will be or where it will be.   One thing I do know, other people have not paused in their dying because Dad has gone.  Hey ho.  There's a lot of it about.

Still happening. 

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Saturday, 20 June 2020

A world wide panic and a father's death. How has it come to this.

Dressed as a smurf, for my father's dying.
Before I begin, I want to state that the home looking after our father was one of the very best.  It was never their choice to isolate and keep people apart.  They did not want to do that but they had to follow the rules.  Their care and kindness makes our father's death easier to accept because we trusted each one of the carers, staff and nurses.  This is not about them.  They remain the shining lights in dark situation, and I imagine there are many like them all over the country, doing the best they can in impossible situations.

Dad died last week.  I should have known it, I should have seen it coming but I refused to do so.  I thought I could keep him here with me at my house until I was ready for him to go.  Things did not go as I had planned, and I rushed at the last minute to his nursing home to sit with him as he was dying and told him to wait, he was supposed to come to my house where everything was set up for him, to die with us, with family.  Dad did not do that, he could not, and I saw how we can never anticipate our reactions to a death, nor how it will go.  Dad showed me that the dying he was doing was something I had no part of, despite my wish to be involved.  It had nothing to do with love, loyalty, relationships or me.  It was part of the grander scheme of things, far beyond my understanding, and rightly so.  It was simply Dad's time to go, he had done all the work for it, he had arrived at his exit point, and who knows what forces were there to bring him light, and peace and courage.  Who knows?  I felt my brother Dominic with me all that day, perhaps Dominic came and helped Dad leave.  He would have gone like a shot if that were true.  My and my brothers' task was to witness, accept, love and release.  As if it were up to us to release!  We needed to let him go for our own sake, because he was going whatever anyone said.  Our part was to love him, thank him and stand back from the process. 

Last week, the care home that had looked after Dad so well called me.  He is now palliative, they said, and you can come in for one hour.  I went, and I saw our father looking as people do when they are on the last leg of their journey.  He was unconscious, mostly.  His face had fallen into itself but his hands remained the same.  I held his hand, a warm, comforting hand, and felt it close round mine so tightly that I had to prise his fingers loose for comfort.  He did not wake, he did not say anything, but his hand on mine was strong and told me he knew I was with him.  The tight hand hold lasted a minute, before his hand fell away.  He had no more energy. 

In order to see him, I wore a gown, an apron, a mask and gloves. 

Psalm 15, his favourite, the
gentelman's psalm, he called it.
No one had been allowed to see him for three months and now, I had my hour, in a disguise that if he could have seen it, would have upset his Alzheimer's mind.  He had been a magical, imperfect, kind and private father.  He was creative, intellectual, eccentric and witty.  He was educated, curious and loved poetry.  At his school, he said, instead of writing lines in detention when the boys were being punished, they had to learn a poem and recite it.   This spoke to his creative, artistic soul, and he
began a love affair with poetry then.  I never asked him if he was often in detention in order to be given this access to poetry, and I do not know.  One of the wonderful things we all did as his illness progressed over the years, was to read him poetry which would spark his memory, and he would mouth the lines as we read them.

Here I was, then, having my hour with our father.  My brothers were not allowed to come, just one person. They had to be satisfied with my account of the visit.  My hour.

There is something deeply wrong with a system that finds it acceptable to keep the elderly, the vulnerable, secluded in fear behind a wall of protocol.  There is a deep injustice in this draconian effort to prevent death at all costs, from people who have no rights to disagree.  The wall of  isolation that kept my brothers and me from any contact with our father creates in our hearts anxiety, guilt, fear and anger.  How can we tell an old man with Alzheimer's that we have not forgotten him?  When our actions tell him that we have. How can we make peace with our old father who cannot understand why he is alone and where all the poetry has gone?  He would not complain, and never did.  He gave us the benefit of the doubt when our pre-Covid visits were sometimes far and few between.  But there was always the choice to make it up to him, we knew we could come to him and spend more time with him when we could.  And we did.  And suddenly, we were gone.  That was it.  The message was, you're on your own Dad.  Everyone around him disappeared behind blue gowns, blue hats, face masks and plastic gloves.  It was dangerous to go into the rooms in the home without proper reason, and there was supposed to be no touching, no contact and no connection.  Everyone was a risk, everyone was at risk, and in order to protect the home, the staff, the visitors, fortresses of fear were set up.  The bleakness is worth it, we were told, in order to protect us.  The unspoken side of this was, all these people locked behind this fortress of fear are a different kind of collateral damage.  They won't die of Covid 19, not if we can help it, but they will die of other things anyway and unfortunately, they will have to do it alone and be part of the fall out of this madness.  Can't be helped.  Rules is rules.

One of the seemingly hopeless
Face Time calls. 
The result of this cruelty, this hysteria, this dysfunction is that we who lost our loved ones carry a complicated grief and a terrible burden of guilt.  There are millions of us, families who had let their loved ones go as if into a war zone and were powerless to tell them it was not our choice.  Absolutely powerless to be anywhere near, and some of our people were left for months without the light of comfort and relationship from those who knew them best.  Like our father, he is just one, left to be a statistic in the worldwide fear of a pandemic.  He is just one person claimed by this massive tsunami of reactive panic and fear and not actually killed by the virus we are so sure is swirling around longing for us to touch each other and leap with lethal vengeance into our bodies.  He is just one person who was left without understanding it, in a room that no one could come into without a jolly good reason, and silence from the people to whom he belonged. His sisters.  His friends.  His family.  His remaining children, my brothers and me.  His beloved youngest son, our most wonderful brother Dominic, died in 2016.

On leaving the home after that first visit, with such anger and resentment for whoever makes these decisions to isolate and terrify people into mass overreaction, I decided to take our father out to die at home with me. My brothers and I put things into place and a date was arranged for a private ambulance to transport Dad to my house.  The room Dad was to come to was downstairs with doors opening into the garden with all the flowers and colours that heal our failing souls.  Everyone, the home, the district nurses, the carers, the GPs were on board.  They understood and helped make this happen within days.  All was ready, our father would not be isolated in a room without us any more.  And then the home called.  He may not make it, they said, and you can come now.  So I, unwilling to concede defeat at this late stage, called everyone involved and arranged, by a miracle, on a Sunday, a private ambulance to come that afternoon and bring him here.  He will be here, I said to myself.  I will make it happen. The carers, a palliative care nurse friend and her husband, a priest, were on hand to be here and make him comfortable so he could do his dying here with me.  With us.  My brothers were coming, my daughter was coming, his sisters and his friends would know he was here, all would be well.

A lovely man, our Dad
I made it to the home.  My oldest brother Ralph waited outside, my younger brother John was on his way, two hours away.  I had to wear an extra piece of equipment now, on top of my gown, my gloves and my mask.  I had a blue hat.  He is not breathing well, the nurses said, and I went in to see him.  I took the mask and gloves off.  His breathing was rasping, his face was sunk and his eyes were in another realm.  Hold on, I told him, hold on.  You are coming home with me. I called my daughter on Face Time, and she spoke to him.  The ambulance arrived, his breathing slowed to a gasp, and I said to the staff, get my brothers.  In no time, my brothers came with their gowns half on and no time to put on hats or gloves.  Dad was on the stretcher beside his bed, ready for transport, and it was obvious he was not going to stay.  None of us wore a mask, they got in the way of us from telling him we loved him. The ambulance crew, the staff, all melted away, closed the door, and left us to hold our father strapped on the stretcher, beside his bed, as he took a few halting breaths, let out a long sigh, and died.  Bless the staff and ambulance crew for that.  It just shows, they do not like this situation any more than I do, and they gave us those final important moments alone.

Later, when we left him, back in his bed, I put a sprig of foliage from the plant in his room, onto his pillow.  I always put a flower, or a symbol of love, on the pillow of someone who dies when I am there. With my husband Alan, there were no plants in his room so I put his model aeroplanes onto the pillow.  For a treasured old lady I was looking after, I covered her pillow with fresh lavender that she loved.  For Dad, I broke a piece of greenery from a pot plant in his room, and put it on his pillow.  Bye, Dad, we said, and no one cried as we left him alone again, and went outside into the sun. Later, alone in our own homes, we cried.

Here is my conclusion. 

We forget that life is unpredictable, and so is death.  Especially death. It is in our nature to want to understand things, to be in charge of things, and we do whatever we can to make a dying make sense to us.  Our father's death was caught up in a worldwide panic.  I do not say pandemic, I say panic.  It is beyond our control.  His dying was in the end, as beautiful as it could be.  It was not what we had wanted and it was not what I had organised and there, in that sentence, is the truth about death.  It is not what we wanted, not what I had organised.  Bringing Dad home would have been perfect.  It would have helped all of us no end, giving him a suitable send off.  It was not though, in the end, about us.  Our father left when he did because that was his story and he had to leave when he was ready, on his terms, not ours.  And if he was to have died in a soft hospital bed in my dining room, with the doors opening onto the garden and the breeze blowing and the birds singing, I would have loved that.  But it is not relevant, in the end, to what was happening to him.  In the end, we were with him.  His three remaining children were holding him, looking like giant smurfs in our blue costumes, as he took his last breath.  We made it.  That, in the end was what we all wanted.  He did not die alone, though it was on a stretcher beside his bed.  The final moments were with us, together, and that is all of our gifts to each other.  His to us, and ours to him.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

The templates of our lives

The revelation

I had an insight the other evening, as I drove home down the country roads here in West Sussex.  I was leaving an late volunteering shift at our local hospice, and thought - so many of us feel we don't fit in.  So many of us suspect that other people have the answers to life, and that we do not.  It makes us feel vulnerable, it makes us doubt ourselves.  Most of the time we say to ourselves that yes - it is those other people who have it right and yes, we are wrong.  We have it wrong.  It takes courage and life experience to realise that we are barking up the wrong tree.  What suits others does not have to suit us.  And perhaps, there isn't just one right way, but many, and we have not found ours yet.

But if we don't feel we belong, it makes sense for us to think that other people, all of whom may look as if they are having a great time and belonging all over the place, they must have the answer.  It takes time, experience and self knowledge to realise that those others may feel as out of it as we do.  And we don't know if they feel they aren't getting it right, they don't let on.  In which case, maybe other people imagine we have the answers, and have our lives sorted.  Oh it gets complicated.  We just do not know.  But we feel, and feel very strongly.  And often, we feel very badly about ourselves. 

The insight that I received on the way home from the hospice that evening was that we think that there is a template.  A template of a correct way of being, and that we have to fit into it.  The template holds it all together, we feel, and if we fit ourselves into it we will be safe.  We will be one of those belonging, comfortable, enviable people that surround us.  We will feel good about ourselves, because somehow, we will be right.  We will be safe, and all will be well.

I imagined this template as a flat, person shape, made of light with a grid pattern inside. Each of us wants to lay down the image of ourselves onto it but only very few of us fit.  Our arms are too long, our legs too short, our shape all wrong.  Instead of the fit being perfect like those children's toy shapes that slot perfectly into the correct hole, we lay our image down and we are all over the place.  We do not fit.  What is wrong?  The template, or us?  So we look at this mismatch and blame ourselves for being wrong, and keep it to ourselves that we don't fit.  No one must know, we would be so ashamed.  We keep trying.  One day, we say, we will manage to fit our own image onto this perfect template of life, and then all will have been worth while.  And then I wondered about the template at all.  We all have one, a template to show us what we think we should be, how things should work, and what is right.  There is probably a general template in our culture about what is right and wrong, about how to proceed in our society, general rules of behaviour and expectations, and what not to do.  That template is big enough for us to fit ourselves into it, and flexible enough for it to mould itself around us, so that on the whole, we know what is expected.

The difficulty is the other template that we aspire to, that we believe is the right one to be in, the one
that try as we might, we cannot ever quite fit.  The one that we use to make ourselves feel bad about ourselves.  The one that we feel would make everything better if only we could lay our image down onto it and find a perfect match.  Oh dear.  And if we can't do this, we blame ourselves and feel we are the odd ones, and that something is secretly wrong with us.  We keep quiet about it because we feel ashamed.  And we just keep plodding on, trying to fit ourselves into the template we have for ourselves, the one that never quite works.

Everyone else has it right

The revolution.  

What if we realised our template was unrealistic, and threw it out?  What if we got fed up of not ever fitting into it, got rid of it, and created one that was tailor made for us?  Can we do that?  Yes.  There comes a time in life when we think, oh to hell with things.  What is all this struggle for anyway?  We lose patience with the lifestyle we aren't quite having, with the narrative in our heads that tells us we are not good enough, with the longing for things that are just too much trouble to get, and we rebel.  Damn it, we say, where am I in all this?  What do I really like doing?  And we are shocked to realise that we do not like pleasing people all the time in case they a) notice we feel inferior b) might give us something we think we need c) we might miss out d) we really don't know how not to.  We are stunned and relieved to admit we like lying around in shell suits on our days off eating cheesy chips and drinking orange squash.  We don't want to improve our minds with Tolstoy, we want to read Agatha Raisin.  We do not like doing good and neighbourly things for everyone all the time, even though everyone else thinks we are fabulous.  In fact we hate it and we would rather watch Great British Bake Off on telly every time.  Oh lord.  Perhaps our template needs to be more personal, more creative, less driven by other people.  What if everyone laughs at me, we may think at first.  What if I put on weight, and what if I don't get promotion, and what if all those other people (who we believe do fit the template we are struggling with) do really well and everyone loves them, and what if I just stop caring?  Well, what if?  If these things bind you (mustn't put on weight, mustn't miss the promotion, fear everyone else will do better than you etc), and make you unhappy, and never change, then they aren't for you.  One door closes, they say, and another opens.  Time to make your own personal template for your life, and have it fit you so well, and be so flexible and forgiving, you do not know why you didn't do this before.

I visited a dying lady recently, and noticed pencils and a pad on a table near her chair.  I asked if she liked to draw, and she was silent for a long time.  Maybe the question upset her, I thought, and prepared to leave her in peace.  But she spoke and replied that she had not used her art stuff since the 12 September.  That was the day she received her diagnosis, and was given a short time to live.  She stopped wanting to draw on that day.  But she said that for the first time she can remember, she is content.  She is happy.  No one in her family understands it, she said, but all of the pain and difficulties in her quite traumatic life, have gone.  Who would have known, she said, when my life was so hard as a child, and I was looking for any kind of happiness, that I would get it when I have a terminal diagnosis, and I cannot move.  She said that she had been trying in all the wrong places, with all the wrong people, all of her life.  She had been homeless, in prison, and had felt driven to find answers and to fight.  And now, like a paradox, with everything taken from her, she has found peace and a sense of who she is, and every day she is grateful.  She doesn't know how it happened, but it has.  And now, she says, she knows who she is.  She's sorted her funeral, her will, found a God that speaks to her, and she has found peace.  It was after this conversation, driving home, that I had my insight.  She has found, created, got, the right template for who she is.  She no longer needs the old one. 

Ditch the template! 

The realisation

I had an unrealistic template for most of my life.  As a child I felt I didn't belong, and that there was a proper way to do things that bypassed me completely.  I didn't understand why I had to try to be someone else. Who I was, I felt, was not quite acceptable.  I hated this, I felt trapped and restricted and wrong but I had to find a way to adapt.  Of course, I rebelled, and was torn between trying not very well to please everyone and trying to assert my real self.  I realise now that my real self was perfectly fine. I was a fairy, a free thinking, alternative, creative non conformist little dumpling but my mother wanted a well behaved, tennis playing, clean and tidy obedient little girl.  My poor dear mother.  She had struggled all of her life with rejection and invisibility and in a sad twist of fate, in trying to prevent me from ever having to suffer as she had, created for me exactly the same experiences. 

On the journey back home from the hospice the other night, when I had the idea about templates in our lives, I saw clearly the template my mother had created for me, and how it had never, ever been right.  I saw her own template for herself and how damaged that had been; how little kindness and expectations she had for herself.  Though I had given up the imposed template successfully over the years, some of the fear of rejection and being unseen and unheard remains. 

I don't want to wait until I am dying to find peace.  I had the image of this person shaped hole, with a grid inside, that I had taken from my mother, and how I had never wanted to lie myself down on it, had always fought against it.  I had never thought of it all like this before.  Now, I imagined myself lifting off of this wrong template and creating a new one, where I could lie myself down in it and feel at home, have it fit me, and feel safe and contained by something supportive and affirmative and light.  I can give up all this stuff that doesn't work, I don't have to deal with it a moment longer.  I am creating a new template where I do belong, and where being a dumpy fairy is a good thing. 

Peace at last.

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Monday, 25 May 2020

New Artist Extraordinaire YouTube Channel.

Everygrandma.  New YouTube channel, move over Russell Brand.
I know.  I asked one of my son's friends if old ladies can have YouTube channels, and instead of being shocked that I called myself an old lady, he replied that anyone could have one. 

I do already have a channel, with very little on it.  There is a smattering of stuff from a long time ago, and a five minute video I made of my mother as she was dying and of her actual death back in 2015.  Mother's video has gone mental and has had 427,521 views and 556 comments so far, and is growing daily.  I have 671 subscribers because of this one video and I am paralysed with fear because there is nothing else for anyone to watch, at all, and yet these kind people have subscribed to a one hit wonder channel.  They thought they were going to see great things, and they have not.  I want to apologise to them all for being a YouTube fake, and for not making anything else.  I look at my channel from time to time to feel awful about all the lovely new comments and views, with no idea how to follow up.  What on earth do I do after a video of mum dying?  I am, after all, just a grandma from Bognor Regis who does painting and stuff. 

And then, I thought, that is the follow up!  

There is Everyman, and Everywoman and now there is Everygrandma.   

The real thing.  So excited, branded to
match my website.  Matchy matchy. 
I will take a deep breath, own my YouTube channel, and start a new online weekly posting from the studio.   That is, after all, where the A Graceful Death exhibition was created, is stored now and where I am currently working on the Addicts and Those Who Love Them paintings.  There is so much creativity, thinking, doing, listening to reggae, and letting the muse flow in the studio.  People come to talk about life, death, love in there.  And of course, I am in the middle of painting things that are interesting to watch as they take shape.  I always show paintings when they are done, and never when they are at the painting by numbers or the kindergarten let me do a masterpiece stage.  My pride has up until now been too tender for anyone to see quite how awful the first few attempts at doing a new painting are.  I have not wanted you to know I work very hard at getting it right, getting it wrong so often that I sometimes wonder if I should get a real job.  Sometimes, I have finally painted a likeness that is terribly good, and I am pleased.  When I come back to it, expecting to twiddle a few flicks of paint and finish it with a fanfare, I notice that the eyes are too far apart and that the whole structure of the face has been thrown out of kilter.  I have that little discussion with myself that says, well, no one will notice, I can get away with it - but I know that I will re do the whole face, from scratch.  I will just have to do it.  It is always much better when it is done, but oh, for that short while, I think, no one will notice.  Don't make me do it all again when it is so nearly finished.  

This is the kind of stuff that I will show you.  I will let you all see the wonky drawings, the out of place ears,  the arms that are far to big for the body, the way the painting looks great except that it doesn't look like the person I am painting. I will have to admit that it needs re doing, I won't be able to get away with leaving it. It will be such a new venture, this YouTube channel.  I have already done the first video and will get it ready for Tuesday for when the newsletter goes out too.  In this first video, I had no idea what I would say, and surprised myself by talking about how my USP (unique selling point) is that I have no training whatsoever for any of the work that I do.  I work best on the job, and I say that I do not like to be restricted by rules.  Lord!  This first video seems to be a confessional.  It is true though, I do not even have any art qualifications.  (And I do not like rules very much).  I did not go to art school, I went to University instead and did a degree in Art History.  I felt that what creativity I had would be lost if I went to an art school, it was best to let it be and not dissipate it.  I felt it was both very fragile and as old as time itself.  I wanted to let it grow with me, and now, look.  I am a grandma in a studio in Bognor Regis with my very own YouTube channel.  Move over Russell Brand.  

Because my life is so much more than painting, I aim to include the under the radar work I do too.  I will talk about encounters with people who face the ending their lives, people who are living with illness and how it fits into the world in which we live.  There are many stories about these meetings, these times spent passing through someone's life, and of the things we all give and receive in each encounter.  It is linked to the artwork that I do, and so there will be a place for it in the studio.  Even if it wasn't, I would still speak about it, it is so interesting.  And I would like to show the people who visit the studio, and hear them speak.  People from Arun Exact, perhaps, the peer led relapse prevention project run by Ian J Doctor, coming to talk about being in the Addicts And Those Who Love Them Exhibition.  Chats with friends Gill and Marie with whom I run sessions for anyone dealing with loss, loss of any kind, including grief, and perhaps because creativity happens all the time everywhere, I will show the beautiful garden and the work Chris, who looks after the it, does in there, the furniture painting and creating that my lodger Mark is doing in his workshop in his space in the garden, and the piano music that my son likes to play when the mood takes him.  

And now, I am going to post the video of my mother's dying.  It is very beautiful, loving and tasteful.  It shows her after she dies, so you can chose if you want to watch. It is kind, and mum has a peaceful and holy death.  It is this channel that will post updates from my studio and creative world.  The first one is up now, so please do watch it.  And subscribe.  The video is here

My newsletter comes out every two weeks, with updates on my creative work and listening and support encounters.  To subscribe, please go to

Please be aware that this loving video shows my mother after she is dead.  Click on the link not the photo.