FF – Mementoes

I’ll save my introduction for after the story, lest it count as a spoiler. Here, I will just say thank you to Rochelle for hosting, Claire Fuller for the photograph, and all the Fictioneers for cutting me a bit of slack at the moment, when I am struggling to read more than one or two submissions each week. My story (and then the intro) follows, and your comments and feedback are always gratefully received.



Ella bought her first display cabinet when she was thirty-four. She’d never really been a collector; knickknacks always seemed like an expensive way to fill a house with nothing.

She chose a wooden, rugged-looking one, because Peter would have liked it. Pirate treasure wouldn’t have felt odd there. His treasures – hers now – fitted too: a piece of coral, seven rocks, a couple of dried leaves and a coin among the favourites. And then, in the final spot, the too-small urn where Peter himself could count them all forever. Her little Peter Pan, who would never grow out of boyish things.



I’ve touched on this subject before, but this week is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness week, and while Peter in the story is a little older than that technically includes, the grief his mother feels is certainly in the same camp.

I know all about boyish collections – our front window ledge and porch are cluttered with just the sorts of things Peter has left for his mother, and soon I will have a second little collector on my hands. What I can only imagine (and frankly, try not to), is the grief of a mother who has lost her child. The origins of Peter Pan, it has been suggested, are in just this sort of loss, and certainly when I read about a little boy who never grew up, the childish fantasy is edged with the adult fear. There is only one way to avoid aging, and very few of us would choose it for ourselves or our children.

I am thinking and feeling today for the Lost Boys (and Girls), and for the parents they left behind. I know this includes some of the Friday Fictioneers – my heart goes out to you all.




Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Remembering Catherine

Ten years ago, my best friend called me at work to share the news that our mutual friend, Catherine, had died. Catherine was suffering from depression and ultimately it killed her: she killed herself.

This month, in commemoration of her life and our loss, a group of Catherine’s University friends are making an effort of collectively walking 250 miles – roughly the distance from her home town of Bootle to our university town of Cambridge. You can track our progress and read more about the project here. I appreciate many of you sponsored me for a walk last month, but to contribute to the cause for which we are walking, you can sponsor us in aid of mental health charity the MindEd Trust if you wish

It’s a great cause, but my main reason for walking is more selfish. Walking is proven to be good for the mental and physical health, so walking is good for us as well as being good for the cause.

I’m a goal-oriented individual, so I’m naturally inclined to check off as many miles as I can, but with little feet and little brains walking alongside, that’s rarely the way it happens.

Two weekends ago, I went with the family for a long walk in the forest. We enjoyed the changing North American trees, and a low-pressure couple of hours together looking for pine cones and pretty leaf colours. Then I went back to move the car, and walked for a while alone. It was a very different experience; freer and faster, but less social.

Then last weekend, we went again. And this time, one of the youngest members of the sponsored group got his first taste of forest walking. Dominic, who only started walking at all 10 days ago, did 100 steps or so of the 2 miles total. Again, we’d have been quicker and gone further if he’d stayed on Daddy’s back, but while those few metres add nothing to the group’s total, they are some of the most special to me, along with the times we stopped to show Sebastian the difference between evergreen and deciduous trees, or took detours to hunt crickets off the main path.

For the group, this walk is about an old friend, but it is also about mental health – both that of strangers and our own. Sebastian’s been walking for almost 3 years, Dominic for less than three weeks – they are both the strongest and best reasons I can think of for walking a little less far, and getting a whole lot more out of it as a result.


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FF Rerun – Spirit Lamps

An unexpected gift from Rochelle this week, in the form of a rerun. This story includes one of my favourite characters, so I’m very happy to take a week off and bring her back to you.




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FF – Purple Heart

Thanks to Ceayr for this week’s photo, below. I’m rushing this online before running out the door, but your feedback is always welcome.


Purple Heart

Lea had never liked the mirrors in the bathroom before. Their angle made endless, shrinking reflections in her peripheral vision as she teased out what the whole family called her mane. Knots, tangles and flyaways repeating over and over into infinity.
Today she’d worn it down all day, much to Mum’s dismay. It looked dreadful, she knew that, but then she always thought it looked dreadful and now it hid something worse – the purple ring on her neck. Heart-shaped almost. Nobody better see that. And Greg Luto better never do it again. At least not somewhere so damn visible.


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FF -Tidy Mind

Today’s impressive photo from Amy Reese put me in mind of a few things – the line from My Own Private Idaho about “I’ve been tasting roads my whole life…”; that bit in Scandal with Huck; and lastly the massive amount of storage we now use in the West. I’ve read some incredible stats about just how much space and money we dedicate to things we no longer want in our homes but can’t bring ourselves to get rid of. I’m minimalising at home right now, and the purge feels good even though the decisions aren’t always easy.

Ultimately, my story isn’t exactly about any of these things. I hope it makes sense – it was one of those that would have appreciated 200 words, but hopefully still works as it is. Your thoughts are very welcome.


Tidy mind

Alice leaned on the box and taped it closed. Packing was always such a release. Tidy house, tidy mind, as Jack would say.
Steve arrived from Big Yellow and put it in his pick-up. “Alright, Mrs A?”
She smiled and waved. He was a nice boy was Steve; always polite. Make a nice husband for her daughter, she thought, if the girl would just smile.

“Where’s the cutlery gone, Mum?” Sarah asked that evening. “And my plates?”
“I’m decluttering,” said Alice, emerging from Sarah’s bedroom with a heavy bag. “You don’t want all this stuff kicking around when I’m gone.”


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

So proud…

I’m going to brag now. If you don’t like Mummy brags or you simply have no interest, please look away now. I’d feel bad about it, but I’m bursting with pride over my little hero and I want to shout it from the rooftops.
This morning, I woke him early, even before his gro-clock was awake, and drove him across town to the start line before he even had breakfast to join the 4th Annual

#WALKFORSICKKIDS. Breakfast was provided at Main Camp, then we set off walking.

Chance, and a very distracting train line, meant we were towards the back of the crowd from virtually the off. Participants of all ages joined the challenge – which was to walk anything up to 20km around the streets of Toronto, with activity ‘campsites’ and the chance to catch the bus back to home base every 2.5km – but Sebastian was by far the youngest I saw not to have a stroller or wagon to ride in.
We arrived at the 2.5km Camp with the trailing pack. It was there that we first met the “marshmallow men”, two guys on bicycles who were the caboose for the group, in charge of rounding up stragglers and making sure nobody fell by the wayside. They had sticks stuck to their helmets with marshmallows skewered and ready for toasting, and candy in their pockets to revive struggling participants. I wish I’d taken a picture; they were a real highlight for us both.
I had originally intended to do 5km. Even that felt like a big challenge for a little boy. He’s had a bad cold and a bout of croup in the last two weeks. Seven days ago, it was touch and go whether he’d be able to do this walk at all. A few blocks before the 5km Campsite, the Marshmallow men caught up with us and a couple of other families, and passed out lollipops to all the small people. Our support crew – Jon and Dominic – were at the campsite to greet us. The line for the bus was long and it was clear that anyone still at the campsite wasn’t going on, but when I asked Sebastian, he was cheerful and enthusiastic … and adamant he wanted to continue.
Jon and Dominic left us to get lunch. The 2.5km from Sick Kids Hospital to Riverdale Farm were long. We saw almost no other participants, the cheerleaders had all moved further up the route and the Marshmallow Men cheerfully waited for us at a few major intersections, but I encouraged them not to abandon the rest of the field on our account. But although they were slow, they were fun. Sebastian chased pigeons in a park, we sang songs and I danced (“Mummy, stop dancing!”), we talked about everything under the sun. We were in no rush, we were enjoying a walk through our city, and occasionally a stranger would come up to ask us what it was all about, having seen crowds passing through ahead of us.
At Parliament and Carlton, Jon and Dominic spotted us from their bus home and joined in the last few hundred metres. Sebastian is a happy boy, but it’s almost impossible to get him to smile for the camera… even looking at the camera is often a push. And yet every photo from today has him beaming. At 7.5km, I called time because he had already totally exceeded expectations and I had a feeling neither the activities nor the buses back to Main Camp would be running by the time we made it to Camp 10km. I’m pretty sure Sebastian would have signed up for more if he could!
We raised nearly $800 (you can still sponsor us here if you want to increase that!). We walked almost non-stop from 9am till 1.30pm and I’ll admit, my feet ache. A woman I met on the bus back said she’d done 17,500 steps. Sebastian’s stride length must be less than half hers, so he easily topped 30,000 steps today. Most of all, we had fun, took it at our own pace and for once didn’t have to rush or bustle or hurry anywhere.
I’m grateful to all our sponsors, to our support team, and to the patient, supportive Marshmallow Men. But most of all, I’m incredibly proud of my little hero.


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FF – Exceptionally Beautiful

This morning, I met my son’s toddler gymnastics teacher. She smiled and said, with honest enthusiasm, “You look exceptionally beautiful today.” I am desperately tired, wrestling a cold myself and two children who have also got it and have entirely forgotten how to sleep at night, at least in their own beds. It will pass, we will get through it, but hearing “You look ex…” my brain completed it with “…hausted.”

I could barely keep my eyes open. The short walk to class felt like a mountain climb. I looked exhausted. But apparently the top I had chosen at random from the drawer this morning – one which I love and which is in a colour that I’ve always thought suits me – meant I looked something else too.

I’m not writing this out of pride or self-pity. I’m grateful not just for the compliment, but for the reminder – we can be many things all at once. It’s better to focus on the good ones!


Exceptionally Beautiful

Pin-pricks of light scattered across the ceiling. Annalise thought about the star-cloth backdrop they’d had at their wedding. It was a silly thing to focus on, especially today. Light was just light, after all. Thomas was lying in a box in the next room, and people were filing past shaking her hand or putting arms around her and saying things in hushed tones that she couldn’t hear.

The stairs swept up around her and she briefly wondered where they led. What happens on the second floor of a crematorium?

But more, she focused on the light. It was exceptionally beautiful.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing