New beginnings

“They sacrificed instinct to phoney ambition” Kate Tempest , Holy Elixir.

Our lives have become steadily intertwined so that even now, I await his determined footsteps thudding down the staircase at 6.00am. I have even moved the kettle to my bedroom to limit the sounds which might be attractive to a three year old at this time. As I write this, his feet circumnavigate mine and he mumbles, peeks and sighs at my pen to stop dancing; as if wishing to resume the dance of reciprocity we left off from last night. Instead , he stops and tells me, “I know you cannot play but can you get my ‘brooming’ car from the table. Of course I can.

Later, on a walk to the car from our home, I join his narration of our surroundings; the smelly lavender house, the house with the lady who takes photographs for important newspapers, the alternative family house, the house with the rainbows, the other house with the rainbows, the house with the lady I met at baby massage, the seashell house and the house with the fellow, ‘red arrow lookout’ man. This guy we met early in lockdown, when looking (funnily enough,) for the red arrows. I , on this occasion (as if there were many) saw them , he it transpired did not. Finally there is the house with, well another rainbow.

On this particular morning we languished along the uneven pavment lining the increasingly busy road which slopes down towards town. My little fella held my hand and in the other directed his bin lorry; across mountains and through ravines, over volcanoes and past monsters, with the ease of a three year old mind. He stopped as we near the corner of the road to which we are heading and looks down. Stooping to get a closer look at the pavement, in his default mode he shouts , “Ohhhhh look Mummy ooooo Snails”.

“Oh yes”, I marvelled and met his amazement, as indeed there were two snails which appear to be moving very slowly toward the very busy downward slope.

“Where are they going?”, he asks passing me his bin lorry. Grasping his hands together he crouches and says, “oh are they a Mummy and a baby snail?”

I squint and it appears indeed that this pair of travellers to the untrained snail eye, are an adult and a child so, “yes” I confirm, this is a Mum snail and her child.

They slide in linear formation , rather concerningly towards the very busy downward slope. True lemming style I silently muse. “Gosh”, I said, “they are going that way.”I point to the road. Picking up my concern – and the snails, he proceeds to place them on the wall of the man who didn’t see the red arrows, garden.

As if considering how they might feel about such upheaval, he places them together and says, “there- now you are next to each other. They will be safe now Mummy.” He promptly takes my free hand and we smile at each other. “Good job chap”, I say and we continue tot he car.

I am pleasantly glowing at the sense of empathy he is demonstrating through this one small act and it occurs to me that this is something which I have been exposed to increasingly throughout the pandemic, alongside the growing realisation within of certain moralistic values unrealised prior to lockdown. There appears to be a growing sense within people, of the importance of being with and helping others. On our street there has been a definite increase in sociability but more than this there is a jarring sense of empathy within me of not just wanting to help others, but needing to. A need which I am more and more certain particularly thoughout these weeks and months, has driven certain episodes throughout my life, although up until now I have directed it away from home. Now though and on this day in particular, there is a sense that this drive if you like, has been speaking to me for some years and has been in the ascendant since my youngest child’s birth, fighting for survival alongside its phoney enemy: the career.

Later, standing alongside the little chap in a field of wheat ( after many months of walking in said fields), I examine, with my new expertise, the grasses to determine which they are. “I think”, I say with some confidence to the little chap, “we have rye grass and sedge”. Yes Sedge Mummy. We smile at each other. He promptly shouts “chase me” and I do so tiredly but knowing its OK because lifes urgency is not really there right now.

Running after him, I become aware that my feelings of late are leading somewhere and whatever the enemy presents in servitude , the instinctual side of life is winning over, subtley but with a reverence only biology can muster.

The evening swings round and I listen back to a speech by Rabbi Sachs on Radio 4s Today programme. He conveys the need to be with someone and to live with others and draw upon them for support, beliefs which are blended with my own earlier realisations. I think starkly about how often we forgo our children as humans, our own children to achieve stability in our finances and careers for a future that is so far off and indeed, might not be. It reminds me of the words of my new Bumble friend (lockdown discovery) who says – “its never worth it.” Teaching our little ones that people are the most important thing, starts by letting them know that they are the most important thing so they can feel first hand the impact that this has on others. Teaching them that they are important- but as long as we can have a career and things as well is the current status quo and no doubt for many it is just about surviving. I get that. I too am David Cameron’s definition of a JAM citizen. But, for both parents to be absent for long periods is becoming more and more difficult to justify for me, particularly when I have spent the last three years exploring the importance of synchrony and regulation of our emotional state with primary relationships. I have struggled to let go – I cannot forgive myself or forget the pain of separation from him. The biological propensity to be with him is far stronger than my desire to be a successful member of SLT in a school.It has been made even stronger through this lockdown , which has demonstrated how very little we need on a daily basis to actually survive and to be content.

And so I resign. I resign so for the next year so I can be with him, I can nurture him watch him grow and ensure he is ready for school. I am a single parent to three children. I have very little income and I do not have any assets. I have built up a career and some might say that I should pursue this, that this decision is irresponsible but knowing what I know now and thinking about the future, my childrens future, I think to myself is it such a great sacrifice to live in relative poverty financially for a year in order to give emotional security for a life time to children? I think the answer is unequivocally no.

I feel to do otherwise is essentially being somewhat like the mother snail we witnessed this morning. Leading your child with the absolute best of intention into the business of the world with the goal that you should both get to the other side in one piece. Perhaps with a bit of space to think things through, that journey can be made with a little less risk to well being; by having a bit more time together and waiting for the choice to be taken away from me rather than making a choice which I will never be at one with.

So like those snails my boy and I sit on a wall and observe. As life begins to pick up after lockdown we, are staying at the same pace. We look forward, with the knowledge that we have what we need within us to make it through this year and after that he will have the resilience to cope with what ever he finds on the other side of that busy road.


When the past is still present, then the present passes us by.

If I could have felt my pregnancy how I feel it now. It was as if my mind could not meet with my body. The pregnancy accelerated as I struggled to be part of it. The eyes did not focus and what I saw was milky white as if I was frozen inside; my mind paralysed to the reality of my situation. I felt it odd , considering it was my third pregnancy, but it may as well have been my first. I treated it as if it were a given; I think I was treated as if my experience would be easy. I wasn’t just a Mum but a Mum of two older children and so I had accumulated experience mapping half my life time.Then came labour.

The tightening of the insides and the analgesia of the pause made the pregnancy hang on. Teetering on the precipice, as precious life made renewed efforts to grasp his mother.

The false self lost its hold and I cried; I mourned our failed relationship, howled at the rejection and humiliation experienced and was still receiving in the midst of the chaos.

So now single working and struggling with life I find comfort in hope and realise that it has been hope that has been the real sustenance of my life.

Only now can i relax and really think about what I am. I am a Mum I am a Mother.  


What the heck is an Alice Pineapple??

Last night middlest and I sat on our sofa, ready to absorb another episode of IT Crowd. I passed her the obligatory packet of something chocolate and she passed back the drink that she had just removed from me. This removal is ritualistic for middlest and eldest. It begins with them seeing my drink sitting on the side. They ask me if its my drink. I say yes. They pick it up and drink some of it then put it down. I pretend to look indifferent.
This scene has graced the last ten years. No doubt there would be some intricate psychoanlaytic interpretation of this; however even with my tendency to explore, I have avoided this and just enjoyed it for what it is. Regardless of time or day for that moment we are all standing on the same point in time and we laugh.
“Its nice”, she said. She passes it back.
“Yup”, I replied, “it is isn’t it?”
“What’s in it?”, she says.
I read, “Er 36 strawberries, 2 and a half bananas”.
“Ooooh”, she says “very precise”-
“5 grapes and…. what’s this?” I say.
I squint at the teeny tiny writing on the side of the colourful bottle. “1…… Alice Pineapple……what the heck is an alice pineapple?!” I say.
“You what??!” says middlest and she looks at me. “Alice pineapple”, I repeat.
She takes back the bottle from me and holds it up, mirroring my facial squint, “alice pineapple….what even is that?” ,her voice travels up in question.
It does not occur to answer our question with a google search, instead we just sit our faces scrunched up in disbelief at the alice pineapple and its place in our (my) smoothie.
They put so much stuff in here. Middlest carries on staring at the bottle. She stops and sighs and says, “its like my list of homework – why they cant just reference the chapter we need to read and ask us to make outline of it? Why give us a list of points we need to make about the chapter- it just overcomplicates things .I just want to read something without panicking I am focusing upon the wrong thing”.
“Are you saying the smoothie is overcomplicated” I reply.
“No, just that we don’t need a bloomin’ list of ingredients like that… that we can’t even read”, she exhales.
I am not sure of the comparison, I think she might just be venting but I concur – at least with the homework issue. Teaching became more of a faff as the years went by, the focus drifting from encouraging learning to ensuring that they students ticked criteria points in the syllabus. It makes sense to want to make sure that you are covering everything but in reality it took away from just enjoying the experience of learning and the sense of well being this can instil. Too much focus on the detail caused anxiety. When you are teaching students, especially with complex needs, just achieving the former is an outcome but there is no box for that on the syllabus. Learning moved from being an experience to a process.

“….And how did they do it?..”, Middlest holds the bottle up, “Put a whole pineapple in here??”, she is exasperated now .”Maybe its a miniature.”
“Yeh, maybe; I cant believe I’ve not heard of it though” I muse.
“Alice pineapple”. I shake my head and after this delay we press play.

Eldest comes in and seeing the bottle sitting next to me walks over .I look up and he nods his head toward the bottle, “Is that your drink?”.
“Yes”, I say.
“Right”, and he picks it up and sits down on the armchair opposite.

We are watching the episode of IT Crowd where Moss sets the office on fire. We settle into the episode and as we do eldest starts to read the ingredients, “36 strawberries, two and half bananas, 5 grapes oh and a… what is that?…. oh, he squints and stares, ” 1 ….. Alice? no…. 1 slice of pineapple.

Middlest snorts and I open my mouth and make what she describes as a Minecraft potion noise.

Filling the Hole

I moved to Colcheter in 2004 from North Wales. Then we were 2, myself and eldest , I was carrying middlest at the time. It was a reluctant move which I framed as a stop gap in which I would consider my choices. Colchester is my birthplace and is not far from where I grew up however, did not appear to offer anything outwardly. In contrast, I had moved to Wales to undertake my degree, and my childhood town well, it contained my friends and my family. There was vacancy in this transition though, one I was unsure how to eliminate.

Life filled up quickly though. First middlest was born and then came their schooling, employment as a local youth worker and involvement in a very supportive Sure Start led community. I grew a social life and from this friendships sprouted.

In my mind though, Colchester’s status remained the same. A stop gap.

One day, a couple of years after my move, I sat chatting with a good friend in my living room. They glanced at my wall and nodded in the direction of a map I had of Wales and another of my childhood home. “No Colchester? ” they asked. “No it’s temporary “ , I mused without explanation or offering a potential future narrative.

Back then I would look forward to the time I wasn’t here. I would frequently take us away on breaks and day trips and on our way back it was always “better get back to Colchester then”. Never home.

Two years later, I relocated to where I live now. Still loosely referring to it as a filler, to everyone else, the move suggested something different – now married , with a permanent job , schools selected and friendships underscored, my life exuded stability. My choices said- this is home.

Privately though my view was the same, it was a stop gap. My mind would often drift to Cornwall or Cromer or Brighton, someplace with just good memories, a bit more surf and a little less concrete. I would make plans and look at letting and opportunity in that direction. One day these dreams drifted into conversation with another friend. I revealed to them my disappointment that I was still here after 15 years, that this was ever only meant to be a stop gap. Their shock at my confession was palpable – “You don’t seem this as your home? Why?!” I couldn’t actually answer at first.

I stopped and wondered openly about this need to separate myself from the town. Why did I resist saying it was my home? I recalled out loud how on occasion I had been repulsed by it even hated it. I said that it felt as if it belonged to everyone else , not me , describing places, specific roads and instances that fuelled the feeling. It slowly dawned upon me that I was drawing specifically upon certain experiences of people (perhaps even the reason for my move here) and this had coloured my perception of the place. My ability to synchronise with my environment , appeared to rest upon bad experiences and in particular how I had received them.

Often when we have difficulties we project our feelings elsewhere, onto other people, situations or jobs or sometimes places. We may take out our bad mood on someone else at work. We might take a negative experience at work, home. Similarly places can become imbued with the characteristics or feelings generated there. So a town that is neutral might come to represent a series of difficult life events.

Similarly we may behave in ways which we struggle to reconcile with our present self and find it difficult to remain where we are reminded of our failings.

I naturally pick things apart and in this conversation I realised the power of my defences. It’s easy to avoid yourself through dissociation than to face squarely, difficult feelings that we find hard to process.It can make things easier in the short term. But there is a flip side – in doing this we can deny things about ourselves and for ourselves, and for me it appeared that had included, feeling where my home is.

A few weeks ago, I realised a huge shift had occurred. A picture had been posted on our neighbourhood , what’s app group. It depicted a sketch of the road drawn by a local artist.

A sketch of our road by Nicola Burrell

Curled up on my sofa I sat up instantly and turned into the light to look more closely. I liked it. I copied it to my photo album and then printed it off. The next day I put it in a frame on my wall.

Somewhere along the line , perhaps in the middle of all this craziness, Colchester had become my home.

What changed? Perhaps it was the many walks around Abbey Field or the long runs around the outskirts of town. Maybe it was the faces that became familiar , throughout the hours spent doing both. Or maybe it was the sense of community which emerged from lockdown on our little road. The sharing of food and plants, the socially distanced chats with people who I have lived alongside for years, yet never spoken too. Or maybe it was the sharing of many pictures of resident foxes throughout. Whatever the reason, I have realised that I am at a different point in my life now and I exist in a space which is familiar yet is speaking to me in a different way. In relaxing my vision I have freed us up as a family.

The next day we head out of town and as we reach the end of another beach day , I get in the car. We chat and as I strap in smallest I ask, “where are we off to now buddy?”, and we look at each smile – in unison we both say “let’s go home”.


I think that I feel

I think that i

I think that

I think


Is this the me of young

Or old, me?


The woman standing at

the crest of the street

Where l live divagating


Or is

Or is this

Or is this me

Or is this me now

Or is this me now and then


Letting the

Letting the words

Letting the words unfold

Letting the words unfold and

With relief , the comfort of knowing I have always been here.

Ring out the wild bells by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Private: Tennyson, Alfred Lord

An excerpt taken from In Memorium.

Happy New Year 🥳

It’s been a while since I have posted. It seemed over Christmas that I might contribute a post about the kind of traditions that we uphold here in our home. The winky snowman that we have as a table centre piece, annoying Santa, who hangs on the living room door, rattling every time the door gets knocked. He has lost limbs and his beard in his 10th year but has managed to retain his ability to irritate . The robins which we place on the tree, one for us all and my sister. Some may recall my sister has passed, so her robin, now 39 years old, has travelled from our childhood and keeps her as part of our celebrations. He has lost his beak. Then there’s Christmas Eve PJs. Cheese and crackers on Christmas Eve. Reading Christmas stories on Christmas Eve. And so many more little things we do as a family.

Last night we sat and we made our resolutions and we looked back at our best bits and my daughter offered me a reminder of how our minds are so different. Very often it seems that we are thinking along similar veins but it struck me throughout the evening how little the pandemic and the lockdown has followed her through to the present. I wondered if perhaps, it’s impact upon others is not quite held in young people’s minds. Perhaps it’s not only the lockdown but people’s inner lives which escape us when we are young. The egocentricity of youth though keeps the young buoyant across rough seas and for this year it has been with good reason.

So I held back in reminding her the full impact upon others and prompt myself, it’s unnecessary to burden the young with too much. Highlighting all the differences in between us does nothing for the present. Or our future. Ignorance is bliss. Just as Santa and Snowman and the Robins are enjoyed without seeing their differences; being in the present without too much analysis is the lesson which I have taken from 2020 , to accompany me throughout 2021 and beyond.

Here we go again

Looking back many of my posts have focused on Lockdown. I wondered if going into the New Year things might change enough for me to take my eye away from all things Covid related. Not to be folks. We remain in Tier 2- one of only three towns in Essex who are not in Tier 4 and with my Dad in the latter, we are back to dropping food at his door and retreating. It’s a bit worrying now. So we went to Walton and were greeted by this.

Walton on the Naze

Life became lighter for a couple of hours and then we returned home for Shepherds Pie. Not forgetting the sublime truffles created by middlest. Praying for a turning point.

The beautiful North Sea

The last blog – and twinkle ⭐️

The best known nursery rhyme in the world, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’, was written by Jane Taylor, aged 23, in 1806 in her attic, which still exists in Stockwell Street, Colchester.

It’s a sad day. Not just because this is the last day of the NaNoPoBlano challenge but because tonight…..I sang my last twinkle twinkle little star to my son. It’s a funny thing but after 20 odd years of parenting I didn’t think of this as being a milestone. Quite often though, these milestones are slotted in between minutes that are hurried and unexpected. And this was definitely the latter. Why the significance? Maybe it’s because he is my last, maybe it’s because he is my loudest or maybe because he chose this milestone himself. He lay in his racing car bed, looked at me and said, “I’m getting big now Mummy. No more songs – I can go to sleep all by myself”. While my throat tightened and I swallowed hard, i also felt the joy that you feel when your child makes a decision for themselves; based upon them realising something about themselves. This is definitely something I have been so much more aware of with smallest. It doesn’t matter how long they have a bottle or stay in nappies or in this case how long they like to be sung to sleep for, what matters is that they feel in themselves when the time is right for them to grow. Allowing them the space to feel for themselves when things are right, helps them to transfer this knowledge to all situations in life. Making sure they aren’t imposed upon helps them learn to feel based upon what they experience within, rather than due to someone else’s expectation.

So it’s a bittersweet moment. I am just blessed to have the opportunity to have sung this nursery rhyme in the town where its lyrics were composed, to three beautiful children who maybe one day will do the same.

And that’s it from me for this challenge. It’s been a blast and I have really enjoyed reading some amazing and inspiring posts. From the inspirational work of Anyes to the information loaded posts by Steven, the beautiful words of Ra and all in between, I have enjoyed it all. Much love and goodnight 👍

When the past is present, the present passes is by.

This was a header for a previous post though looking back I don’t feel it was necessarily entirely well placed.

Today though i feel I have found a better space to use it, here in my penultimate post for the month. A month when I picked up the challenge to write 10 posts, (I opted for 10/10/10) and when I found myself indoors mostly- again. I have only been blogging for a short while; it has given me immense pleasure and has allowed me to use some of that brain power which has been redundant since I stripped my life down a few months back. Most of my posts , if not all have featured one of my three children but I felt this time round I wanted to think without them.

So anyway I thought I would write something about what I have learned of life recently. Something that has been useful to me and which I might share, on the off chance it might offer something to others.

Life has offered me plenty of possibilities and chucked some difficulties along for good measure. Some I have walked into and at other times I have turned away. The choice I have made recently though has shown me that life is not as hard if you can let yourself be present. Don’t let past moments intrude on who you are or cast your mind too deeply into the future to check out the impact of the present. In the words of the Chemical Brothers just “let forever be”.


This morning i awoke thinking about this poem it, I wrote it down and then looked back at the original. I realised that my memory of it is skewed and what I thought I had written originally is actually what I think now. So I wrote them both to marvel at the fallibility of memory but also how this can occur in the service of who we have become.

Rules are there to be broken mistakes are there to be made;rules they all make and mistakes we all make and our memories of this they won’t fade. Ez June 1995

Rules are there to be broken,

mistakes, there to be made.

Rules we all break,

Mistakes we all make,

Memories with time will fade.

Esther December 2020