The Palace Park

The Palace Park

Sunday, 29 August 2010

You hurt me bad. Real Bad. Love don't live here anymore.

So, I think Chris Rock is one of the sexiest creatures ever put on this earth. And he's funny. Damned funny. And seriously, who doesn't love BAD COMPANY?

On Sunday, I went to work. I needed to see for myself just how spectacularly people hadn't covered for me whilst I was away. 'Ceiling leaking? Don't tell me, that's HER job. Don't want to know about the cleaners, even though. . . ' On Monday, I went work. I toiled. Threw up blood in the sink, toiled some more. And all the while, got more disillusioned and frustrated with not having the tools or the knowledge I needed to get MY job done. My job, which was to facilitate a larger group's abilities to get their job done. On Tuesday, I come back from looking at flats to discover that not only had someone dropped a meeting in my calendar without sending me an invite, they also had decided - having hung up on me - that I wasn't worth talking to because they had people in their office.

And that's when the laundry list of frustations and bewilderment came to a head. And I realized the following:

a) I do not need to work in a place where it is ever considered appropriate for an individual to be sexually harassed.

b) Start-ups run by people who have more money than common sense and that are no longer start-ups but companies in their middle adolescence are not the right environment for me, especially when the only by-product is money.

c) I do not want going to jail for someon make else's refusal to abide by laws - regardless of how frustrating and piddly they may seem - to ever be a possible side-effect of my job.

d) Recruitment and Human Resources are not interchangeable and

and - finally -

e) When you spend every day before, after, and during work fighting back tears not because you've lost a child or because your stomach feels like it has scorching pinballs but because you've got a list of things that you've been trying to push through for 2 YEARS and no one listens, then you've gotta go.

I gave notice, we tentatively worked out a handover plan and then the US came online and the head of HR went through motions about 'taking things seriously,' and 'we'll get these addressed,' and the only thing I could think of to say in response was 'You knew all of this was going on, some it for years, and you did not address it one whit. You have not addressed it, and I know that once I'm gone, you're still not going to address these things, or what this place is on the verge of becoming. So. Please. Save us both the bullshit.'

And I left. And it felt good. And damn. . . it still does.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Marking time, skinning chickens

Back in the Country, I spend a great deal of time reading my way through the rather substantial collection of 20th Century literature your Auntie S had managed to collect. There is a lot of overlap with my own taste (though a lot of divergence as well; I'm not a huge Updike or Martin Amis fan, though I can recognize their remarkable talent). And it is strange to read heaps of first editions, some of which cost more than my prom dress. There is a lot of bleak, windswept fiction on the shelves: novels of social realism, stark warngings from the Gulag, from behind various curtains - Iron, Silk, Damask - tales of compromise and class war and life lived and abrupted. And there are cookbooks. Voluptous, weighty tomes filled with details on food that one reads for the sheer beauty and largess that they present. Cookbooks have become a favourite of mine, ever since I discovered that the oven isn't a battleground. I don't cook or bake as well as I one day will, but I am happy to learn.

I wonder if S. saw herself as ordinary. She so clearly wasn't ordinary or comfortably worn. She was herself and all that that entails. And I wonder about her sister, the enigma that was your Auntie L. I never met L., at least not in the flesh. I met her when she was already expired, a box of ashes tucked in the cupboard under the stairs.

I meet a lot of people after they are already dead. I meet them through their letters, and notes scribbled in margins. I meet them through the things they collected - the string, the buttons, the brass tacks. . . the forgotten magazine subscription renewal, the overdue notice from the Library.

Today, the Library phones, Like a credit card company, to tell you when your items are late. It is so uncivilized.

So, whilst I'm reading and contemplating, the laying hen is playing out her role as escape artist. She will meet her demise with a broken neck and a trail of feathers. And I'll wonder just what the hell to do next. And what I do is simple: I call my daddy. And together we decide skinning is the way to go, at least for this first time. So I do. I skin it, clean it out, contemplate making chicken pate, then realize that I am feel very, very squeamish and not a little queasy from the endeavour. So instead of pate, I have a very large drink. I cook the chicken, it is devoured, and I still sleep the sleep of the innocent in a bed that is like sleeping on a cloud. Or a giant marshmellow.

Your uncle returns home today and I'll have to tell him about the chicken. And really hope that wasn't more attached than he let on, as the only bits left now are a few feathers. . .

Thursday, 12 August 2010

July ended and August came

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Your sixth month approached and flew overhead like a peregrine circling before arching out over the water’s edge. It seems impossible that it was six months since you came and went. It seems impossible and yet is entirely true that it has been well nigh on a year since I first found out I was pregnant. I remember the day in August well. I remember where I was and what I was doing when the light bulb of awareness finally flickered on cartoon-like above my head. It involved a very smart pregnancy test and a very dim me.

Your father, Josephine and I went to the seaside on a Friday evening, driving out of London as though we were on shore leave. We spent two decadent days in Eastbourne, lounging at the Grand Hotel, a wedding cake of a building, and gazing out at the ever-changing ocean.

I love the ocean. I love, respect, envy and fear the ocean and its certainty, its sense of assured purpose. The tide comes in, the tide goes out and within the cool mysterious depths of the water, millions of other worlds are running parallel to this one. It is an awesome realization and I could stay for years at its edge, my feet just at the surface of this world, the tang of salt and sand on my skin.

The last month has been passed in a hurling whirlwind of activity. There is the overwhelming sense of being swept up into the winds tropical storm, only to be plunked down with an unceremonious ‘ooomph’ into yet another hospital bed. My grand statement of ‘No more hospitals here’ has gone the way of my resistance to doing genealogical work: resistance is futile.

I have felt increasingly ‘not right’ since I came home from Hospital. There has been the usual poking and prodding, always followed by a knowing and slightly condescending nod of ‘You’ve jus had a baby so that is why you feel rubbish.’ And yes, while there is truth there I think we can all agree that we now know that no, in fact, it wasn’t just because I’d given birth to a spectacular wonder of 5 pounds, 7 ounces of a little boy. In fact, it would appear that what ever caused amniotic fluid to rage through my body in unfriendly waves had made nest for itself in places it really shouldn’t be and bacteria had festered into a most unpleasant and agonizing infection. An infection so insidious that it was only when the low-grade fever I’ve been running off and on for the last 4 months began to rage and my stomach once again became agonizingly distended that I once again found myself at North Middlesex Accident and Emergency and then later in a hospital bed on yet another series of drips for 4 days. The diagnosis: Dearest Little One
ravaged stomach lining, an ulceratic state, and massively impacted colon as well as an unpleasantly enlarged spleen.

After 17 days of more antibiotics, nauseating dizzy spells, and a very kind doctor telling me ‘You have to rest. Really,’ I’m now faced with having to slow down, way and relearn how to simply stay put. Relearn to not drink 15cups of coffee and chain smoke Gaulouises and Lucky Strikes like I’m an extra in MADMEN.

Add to that what can only be described as consistently misplacing my basket and having what the French would call an existential crisis and what we Americans call a nervous breakdown, and that has led me to the quiet solitude of a country house in Suffolk.

Today I picked my breakfast: raspberries, gooseberries, and one just ripening plum.

My shrink – a lovely man of quiet reason – has been quick to point out that I’ve been fantastically unlucky. It is quite enough to lose a child. To then lose yet another spectacularly close and wise friend (your Great-Aunt) and to then try and resume the intense pace of a job I used to love and laugh about in the midst of the storm, well that’s enough to send anyone down the wayward path of madness.

I’ve spent the last two weeks wandering around the rather jumbled rooms of my mind resembling a jumble sale. I move from one activity to another in a haze, often collapsing on to the nearest sofa, chair, chaise, bench or bed in a heap of exhaustion and tilting dizziness. Sleep is not restful: my dreams are a chaotic – at times terrifying – tangle of chases, dark and forbidding shadow figures. I run and run or can’t run in equal measures and I awake often in a state of confusion often accompanied by a deep sense of fear. The fear gives way to anger and my attitude I am sad to say is that of a petulant teenager, hostile and overwrought with no notebook to hand to vent because I left it – carelessly abandoned – on the bus.

Professionally, these last months, I must have been a walking wraith, a nightmare to behold. When I returned to the still weekend quiet of my office to attempt to make sense of what I had left, I noted that the photo I had chosen to display my proud mark of motherhood was that of you in death – your tiny body clothed in a yellow sweater and matching trousers, your skin an eerily bruised blue. And do you know that I don’t even remember making what had to have been a conscious decision? I don’t even remember choosing to display that particular moment like a talisman of howling pain? My poor colleagues. . . the eggshells they must have tread on.

Which leads me to a crossroads and at a not to distant point in the future, I will have to make decisions. I will have to get back on the commuter train into to Town, walk back into the office I so carefully and lovingly put together and try to make my peace with the world that had started to become a trigger for my anger and frustration, and full of language I can’t quite remember I know how to speak.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

So, it rained most of yesterday. It was appropriate, I suppose, given that I spent much of the morning in a meeting with other mums of babies who've passed on. These women all have gone on to have children or want to have children (mostly the former) and whilst it was cathartic, it was also a bit. . . overwhelming. Of course, I hid the real crazy and didn't mention taxidermy. You're proud, I know.

But it would make a great TV show, if there were more a market for Twilight Zone/Surreal TV.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Damn you, Stephen Crane

We laid part of you to rest in Suffolk on a Saturday with you Auntie S, Tanzie and little Pedro.

The ashes of a 5lb, 7 ounce baby takes up the same space as Pedro, a much loved, fat cat.

I have had this poem running through my head off and on the last week, in between flushes of heat and spastic colons, and chaotic dreams. Last night, we were sailing and you were high up on the masts.

In the desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter-bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."