Saturday, April 30, 2011

Starting out

For years I have been writing a book.  For years.  The only trouble is, that I have never actually worked out which book I am writing.  Thus, I never finish it, I just keep starting it over and over.  There's the children's story I have been writing since my own children were small.  I must have twenty or thirty versions of the beginnings of that.  I know how it starts, and I know how it ends, but the middle has evaded me and I have never managed to get past the feeling that I ought to know what's going to happen before I start to write it.  And I don't.

There's the book about my spiritual journey, from childhood to adulthood.  I have started this more times than I can count, and have drafts of the first few chapters in books, in word documents, on scraps of paper, in diaries.  I have never managed to make a coherent narrative from it, and have even made lists of revelations, things that have happened, the things I believe and how I came to believe them.  I find that once I start to work on it in a disciplined way, which I have frequently started to do, I get irritated by the idea that I might be espousing things I don't actually believe, in my heart, or espousing things I don't actually do when I have a choice, and that it is hypocritical to continue to write it.  That or I think I come across as a saintly person which is very far from the truth.  Writing the truth, so that it doesn't talk the talk without walking the walk is the most difficult thing.

There there's the book I have been writing about home education, and about my transformation from a wholly conventional mother, sending her children to school, to a rabid unschooler.  Again, the trouble is that I have a natural (inherited) tendency to lecture, and I hate it when that comes through in the writing.  I try try try not to lecture people if I can help it, but I know that I catch myself after the fact sometimes.  In writing, it is obvious, and so I end up with a John Cage situation.  I write and write and then erase more than I write and am left with nothing at all at the end of it.

Then there's the book about my family history, which remains unfinished despite thirty years of work.  My major problem with it is the John Dickins who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.  I know so much about this man, about he jobs he did, the places he lived, the people he married, his children and who they married.  What I don't know for certain is where he was born, and whether his father was indeed John Dickins of Church Preen, son of Richard Dickins of Church Preen.  The book, the History of Church Preen seems to indicate that he was, indeed that John Dickins... but then I have done enough family history over a long enough time to know that people ought not to accept at face value what a relative says.  My great aunt was convinced her aunt was a doctor, and she turned out to be a nurse.  Not that different, but different.

So I have failed to write down in a coherent way the things I have learned over the last thirty years and I think anyone in the family who comes after me will curse my lack of information - not the lack of notes and material, but the lack of a narrative which puts them in context or tells them where I obtained information.  I should have been doing this as I went along, and have advised many people not to make the same mistake, but the truth is, I would struggle to do this with the wealth of information I have collected, and I have so much information in my head and nowhere else, that it is difficult to know if I would ever finish, if I started now.

Then there's the more personal history I have not been writing for more or less all but the first 10 of my fifty two years.  I have written diaries and odd notes and for the past 13 years have written blogs and posts all over the net... but I have never yet succeeded in turning that into a narrative that other people might be interested to read.  Mostly I am like everyone else - say that I am interested in people and don't care if they are famous or not... but generally if I see an episode of "Who do you think you are?" for someone I don't recognize, it has to be said that I feel a lot less interested in it.  I fight against that feeling, but I do have it.

Then there is the book about being a Quaker, I have started to write but have stopped, for many of the reasons that I gave above for the spiritual diary.  Part of my belief as a Quaker is that everyone has their own path to God, and I don't like the feeling that I am telling people what it is right to believe or to think.  I'm not, but it can appear that way when trying to write down what drew me to Quakers, and why I feel I am one, and have always been one.

I've also often wanted to write down my feelings and thoughts and what I have learned about reincarnation, although a lot of what I thought I knew has been called into question recently.  I've started books about Second Life, how to use it and what it is.  I've started books about being a family historian, about the history of the Quakers in Uxbridge, about how to unschool, and about how to do various crafts I love, like beading and papier and fabric mache.  About the illness which struck my husband, and my experiences with my son when he was so ill in 2005.  All perfectly viable ideas which I haven't finished.

So... the trouble is you can't cobble one book out of the beginnings of all of them.  I need to have discipline, which I have never had, decide on a subject and stick with it, rather than changing my mind once I have written thee or four chapters.  So.  I have decided that as blogging is something I have successfully done in the past on a regular basis, I will try to make one blog post every morning, because I do other things and get caught up in the day.  And this is the beginning.

Friday, April 29, 2011


I cannot touch the you I see
I can't touch you
You can't touch me
And yet my heart leaps when I see
Your avatar in front of  me

I cannot feel your hand or kiss
I can't feel you
You can't feel me
And yet I feel it when you kiss
(Even if the avatars miss :-))

I cannot watch your hand or eye
I can't watch you
You can't watch me
And yet I watch with inner eye
And hear your quietest, slightest, sigh

I cannot touch
I cannot feel
I cannot watch
I cannot hear
And yet the you that you are here
Is the one I hold most dear


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I had no warning you were going,
I turned around and you were gone.
I looked for you in every person that I met.
Caught glimpses of you in strangers' faces,
Chased your shadow around corners.
I waited for you to come back.

The love I had for you is still here.
At first, it was a shard of ice in my heart,
It woke a little after me, reminding me,
Stabbing me with the loss I felt.
It filled me with yearning.
Longing for poppy-sleep and you.

Gradually the ice melted and I remembered.
I found the love for you warming my heart.
I realised that love doesn't die, it lives forever.
When strangers remind me of you now, I smile.
Remember how I love you and you love me.


I could have had one hundred thousand pounds by now
If I had stayed in the daily grind
Found someone else and given them my babies to mind
I could have bought them anything they wanted.

I could have had exotic holidays each year
If I had kept at the coal face
Trekked up and down the tube at a snail's pace
I could have gone anywhere I wanted.

I could have had clothes and shoes and jewels
If I had left my children at home
Left someone else holding the brush and comb
I could have worn anything I wanted.

What I wanted was to feel my heart squeeze
Every time I turned and caught sight of my children
What I wanted was the joy of squidging the face paint
Even if most of it was squidged into the carpet
What I wanted was the tears and tantrums, the fears and nightmares,
and the firsts that scatter the land of childhood

If I had a million pounds by now
I couldn't buy one day in the past
The work is always there, but childhood doesn't last
The time I have had is priceless.

Fee Berry 2005

Spirits Rising

They left expecting ordinary days
Instead found they were going on a different sort of journey
They left their cups of coffee and unpaid bills
Stepped out of their homes and away from their lives
And can't return

Instead their souls set free today,
In darkness and confusion,
In smoke and pain,
Soared away from their broken bodies
Into a life beyond

Light a candle for their friends
and their families.
Light a candle for their children...
Their wives and mothers...
Husbands and fathers...
Light a candle for the loss

But their souls were set free today
Into a life beyond

The people in real need of light,
Of prayers and illumination
Set those bombs

Mr Trebus

I didn't know, I told my friends
I only saw the odds and ends
Littered over his garden.
I didn't know, I couldn't see
The person that he used to be
Before his confusion.
We used to call the council too
They'd charge him for the work, it's true
...though he hated them.

The blow fly problem abated for a little while.
The rats had nowhere to hide until he provided more accommodation.

I couldn't see, I told my friends
A garden full of odds and ends
Obliterated the man.
I couldn't know, I didn't see
He once was just like you and me
Before his confusion.
The council took his stuff away
It took them more than half a day
To move it.

We asked what he could possible want with second-hand garlic presses
and a pair of boy's shorts.

I didn't care, I told my friends
How many men the council sends
It will not solve it.
They'd need to know, they'd need to see
The solution's clear enough to me
He needs to go into an institution.
The council tried to talk him round
They never gained an inch of ground
He was intractable.

The junk helped him live his life
Old air conditioners and wood for healing was an unusual approach....

I didn't see, I told my friends
I hated all the odds and ends
Gathered with love.
I wouldn't know, I wouldn't see
He needed care from you and me
To cure his confusion.
The council only saw the crap
Only television saw the chap
Under the junk.

Even then, the hurts in his life were only diagnosable
Using the encrustation outside.

Fee Berry 2005

Nearly Dead

Will they say I lived all my life
On suburban roads
Not of the city or of the country
But a place in between
Will they say I never took any risks,
Never had to hack my arm off in extremis
Never eating anybody's cousin in desperate straits?

Like millions I struggled from one pay day to another,
Trying to stop the haemmorhage of money through the bars and pubs of the town...
Trying to keep up, to keep the income over the outgoings.
I don't care what the Joneses do.

I long for the wild places without fences or walls,
Where the birds wheel and the wind blows lustily,
Where the sound of the sea is never far away
Where the shores rustle their greeting to the waves
And the driftwood tumbles up and down the beach.

I long to run without worrying I am going to break a knee or hip,
Long for those days when I didn't know what I had, who I was, what I was going to be.
"Youth is wasted on the young," said my grandmother, and I protested, but I didn't understand
Until now
How little I appreciated my youth while I had it.

Will they say I had talent but I
Frittered it away on unfinished projects
Neither brilliant nor awful, but somewhere
in between?
Will they say I never took any risks,
Never embroidered all my lovers or
Revealed my innermost self?

Like millions, I was always writing my book, a novel or
a handbook or an autobiography.
The truth is, I started too many times, and finished

I long for a place of my own, a library
A place to keep everything that means anything
A place to watch my family on the wall, laughing and smiling
While I write or sew or research or simply read
A place for being and a place for remembering and everything in its place.

I long to write without worrying about the consequences,
Long to say what I think
A place to scour the corners of my memory, to see the pattern of my life.

Will they say, they hadn't realised I was still alive? 
Will they say, I never kept in contact, which is true
I have tested my ability to live without them all
And I can.
What will they say about the person I have become? 
What can I say?  I tolerated difference and saw none.
I loved the people I loved
Did the things that I did
And I am not sure what sort of future I made for myself, or what past.