The last couple of weeks have been incredibly busy and stacked to the rafters with new stuff going on.One of the big things that happened, and one that I feel is a big milestone both professionally and personally, is that I landed my first big long form journalism piece of writing and have been commissioned to write about grave goods and the way we grieve for children when they die. This is obviously something close to my heart and will include some personal history around the discussions I had with our own local council over their decision (since changed) to remove the objects left on the graves of children by the parents of those children. But it will also look at historical and archeological records of bereavement activities and the psychology around grief. I have found the grief felt for my own lost baby to be so entirely different from grief felt for lost family or friends that it has actually become something of an interest for me, and something that I plan to explore further on an academic level. My experience is that we are afraid to talk about grief and bereavement, especially where baby loss and child loss are concerned. We forget that we have been leaving goods in and on our children’s graves for millennia and if it takes a village to raise a child, then that village should also help to grieve for that child, or at least allow for the parents to grieve in a way that feels natural to them. Something seems to have happened which has blocked this very natural pathway, and I hope to explore this further in the future. Any parent, anyone who has ever tried to conceive, anyone who has seen a child fall and automatically reached out a hand to protect them will know how much instinct is part of the drive that fashions parenting and child care and that instinct, as I have said before – sorry if I’m repeating myself-does not go into the ground with your dead child, it manifests in the small acts of love that we leave on children’s graves, in the way a parent might keep the room the same way it was when their child died, in the cupboard full of Christmas gifts, the birthday cake every year with a candle on, our desire to mark dates and memories with repeated rituals and promises. So that was a wonderful thing to be asked to do, I’m just at the planning stage right now and am bedding in for a couple of weeks of writing and research.
I’ve also been trying to clear my ‘office’, which is currently a ‘guest bedroom’, of enormous amounts of STUFF. As a side project I have a little Etsy shop where I sell hand made literary themed gifts, repurposed art and crafts and vintage stuff. I’m currently working my way through a lot of lovely vintage linens and tableware and posting them onto the site and making room in my office whilst I do so. The plan is, the aim is to at least have it rededicated to writing and work and to have my desk and computer in there by January, rather than keeping it for guests who never stay in there because it’s so full of STUFF.
And finally I have been, this last week, to the The Northern Soul Awards where I read the poem that I had been commissioned to write in celebration of being a northerner. Beforehand I made the decision to have all my hair cut off and have a long pixie cut and quite honestly I think it’s the best decision I’ve made for a while, I felt chic and confident and still do and I put it all down to my new hair cut.
It was a brilliant experience, I’d asked people on social media how they identified the North, what they felt like when they visited the North, what their childhood memories were and I got some cracking responses, a lot of which were about scents and smells and an undefinable feeling in the chest when one crosses the imaginary border into the North. The poem went through three different versions to get to its final version, the version I am most happy with. You can read it here: The Northern Soul Poem I also did the piece to camera, so I imagine there’ll be a video about at some point. The whole experience was great, the food was a vegetarian’s dream and it was a real celebration of Northernness and the culture of the North. The award recipients were so chuffed to receive their awards, it was great. A really well organised event in a beautiful venue, Manchester cathedral is well worth a look around if you get the chance.
The next day Chris and I went off to the The National Football Museum and it was excellent, I don’t even like football that much and I loved it. When I got back I slept pretty much for two days. I think I’d just worked and worked then been so anxious around getting it right and not letting anyone down that I wore myself out, and when I’m tired I tend to lose my confidence in myself and get a bit emotional, so I spent one whole day watching sad films and having a good cry for no apparent reason and today I’m bouncy and bright and back to my normal self.
I also managed to fit in an arts Council application asking for help to research and write the play I’m working on last week. The help would be wonderful but I have yet to be successful with grants and its a body blow each time I get rejected, however, I did this one very much on spec and don’t feel quite as invested in it, which is a kind of protective armour I’m building for myself so I won’t feel so gutted when my application is rejected. I’m also just in the middle of proofing and finalising issue 38 of Dream catcher with the editorial team and writing a review for Northern Soul too, there’s a lot going on. It would be nice to just down tools and have a proper break for no reason other than resting, but that’s not on the horizon. I keep looking at my diary and can’t see a break looming any time soon. Perhaps in the new year. We’ll see.