How to say goodbye….?

10.09am -12.00pm (sitting at my desk in the studio, Hebden Bridge)

surprising item in the bagging area

-Female voice, self service check out till

I’ve just dropped Naoise off at school,  I am in the supermarket feeling pleased with myself for being super organised and doing the shopping for tonights dinner . This way I should hopefully accomplish more in the studio, though the weight of having to complete my tax return lies heavy on my shoulders. I am sick of receiving the daily text reminders. I have been deliberately avoiding doing the tax, its mind blowingly boring when all I want to do is draw, draw, draw, make, paint and find new exciting opportunities for my artwork.

I am trying to seize the moment, redress the balance, make things better, be proactive, plan.

I have been mulling over how to conclude this project. Its been a few weeks since I stopped writing. Writing everyday for a year. I feel so relieved. I have more energy. I have been thinking how important it is to have space and time just to dream, to reflect. But that is not always possible when working as a Mother/Artist because you have to grab the time you have and go with it. Everything becomes a bit sketchy, improvised. You have to make do because you are working on mother time. Time to create be-tween the interruptions.

I have struggled with this endurance project. I have struggled with putting intimate thoughts and ideas out there in the public. I got paranoid, I imagined social services might come knocking at my door, I imagined that I would be judged. I imagined that this might affect my chances of gaining employment. It has added to my anxiety rather than taking it away.

I got frustrated with the words and the photographs becoming the dominant aspect of my practice. The physical drawing and the making became neglected.

I felt consumed by this.

I felt concerned about the personal boundaries that I had crossed, the ethics. Is this too personal? Is it too like a confessional? Does it lack critical thought?

Back to the surprising item in the bagging area. The severed voice of the self service check out till woman seemed. Mundane. No, Profound. It made me think about being a parent.

It made me think about the surprising things my children do each day. The surprising things that I think each day. Sometimes dark thoughts….sometimes moments of joy, observations, little things. Like Naoise helping himself to breakfast when I was in the shower. How he got himself up and dressed, how he made himself breakfast. He cut open two bagels with a bread knife. He toasted them and ate them and then felt too full. WOW I thought. WOW how independent, how brilliant that you were able to do all this. How great that you did’nt cut yourself on the jagged edge of the bread knife or burn your little fingers on the toaster or fall off the high stool.

I feel relieved that he is growing in confidence and independence. I see myself emerging from the fog. I see myself becoming whole again. I am mending myself. Super glueing  a broken plate together. I think that’s what I am doing then I feel lost again, lost within their lives and needs and wants. Lost within care work.

Then Syd. Syd is such a bundle of energy. He shouts. He shouts rather than sings. He is shouting because he is into punk.  Next week it will be indie folk. Oh how I wish for indie folk again, only because its easier to bare listening too in a tiny terrace house that becomes amplifier as he practices. But I do love punk. I love the angry, energy of punk.

disgardedyellowhighchairfootrprintsonplaygourndinsnow


I wonder who is reading this? Who cares? Who really cares about the tiny winy details of my life?

SPEAK BACK, LEAVE A COMMENT. HAVE I SAID SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN IDENTIFY WITH. I KNOW I AM NOT ALONE.


I worried when Naoise wrote on my belly in black biro I am an artist and I hate myself. I know he was probably just being silly but his words upset me, and I worried about him picking up on my negativity, my struggles. I don’t want to struggle, I am sick of it. I am sick of this voice.

I had some scary, sad thoughts after Christmas. It was the new year, my period had started. I had had my monthly bust up with P. My new year argument. We always argue about the same things. I am sure that couples must fight a lot this time of year. I had managed to keep it together at a New Years party. I remember hating him. There were no kisses that night. New years day, I went for a walk alone. I felt terribly alone. Syd was at his dads, my mum was in Scotland and I had fallen out with P. I felt very sad, and it rained and it rained and it rained. I cried and cried and cried. Then I became bored of being sad and the week passed and Syd came home. I hate it when he is away and it seems especially cruel over the Christmas period to not have my son with me.

I think that much of this project is full of this childish, uninformed, introspective, self analytical stuff. And I thought I don’t  want to scratch and pick at the surface of my life anymore. I want to laugh and have fun and live in the now and forget the bad and remember the good, I want to break rules and start sentences with AND. I want to get my work out of the valley. The claustrophobic calder valley, I don’t make landscape paintings. I make challenging, questioning, critical work about being a woman, being a mother, the body, vulnerability, isolation.

I am reaching out….moving beyond the cradle of the hills. I am breaking free.


I met my dear friend at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and we talked about our children and our art work and our plans for the future. We supped free green tea in Bill Viola’s project space. Whilst we talked her daughter sat on her lap breast feeding. She was always hungry for breast milk….which was amusing and endearing. We poked sticks in mud, walked. Drank coffee whilst her daughter sat in the window will of the cafe with her small plastic toys.

She asked me about this project and what I was going to do next. I told her that I hated it. I  had fallen out of love with it, I wanted nothing more to do with it. I discussed how at times it had been difficult to continue, that it had caused conflict between me and P and the children. How even Naoise grew to hate it. He did’nt want me to take photographs of him so I took photographs of the empty playground floor instead. He got bored and annoyed of mummy behind a smart phone camera. He got bored of being the focus of my art. My family grew resentful of me writing and making this project. They became annoyed and demanded my attention.

I cannot say I blame them. They had no control over what I wrote.  When ever they got upset, I tried to explain that this was my journey. This was me making art because of them, but that it wasn’t necessarily art about them. It was about me negotiating my role as a mother and my work as an artist. It often wandered off track, I became lost. It was boring. Going around and around in ever decreasing circles. Repetitive.  The writing no longer surprised me. Had I become dishonest? Had it just slipped into verbal diarrhoea? What was the value of this?

I had set out in my mind to make a collaborative act. To work with my children together ,with my family. What are the parameters of a collaboration? I failed to adequately take on board the advice I was given at the Mother and Creative Practices conference. I needed to find fun ways to include Naoise in the project. I tried to get him to turn the smart phone camera on me. Maybe I could try again. To be a true collaboration it needs to be a project that he willing wants to be a part of.

I went blind into this project. I went in blind and felt my way around. I need to listen more closely to the advice of others…if I am ever to master this family collaboration.

Or maybe I will just draw and trace around the marks my children make. Imprint their marks into my own.

pinkdummydroppedonpavementbucketandscooter

I need to take a look at what I have written, what I have made. I need to let the dust settle.  I don’t regret recording my life, my families life. I hope to look back on this project, learn, move forward. Turn the words and images into something else. Transform them.

My life does not stop. But I can stop the life of this project. I can say goodnight. I can wish a destructive, unhealthy relationship goodbye. I made this. I made this monster of a project. I can murder this monster.

I CAN KILL YOU. I CAN STAB YOU TO DEATH. I CAN SMOTHER YOU WITH A PILLOW. I CAN DROWN YOU IN THE BATH WATER. I CAN PUT YOU IN A ROOM AND TURN OUT THE LIGHT. I CAN LEAD YOU INTO THE WOODS AND LEAVE YOU THERE. I CAN BURY YOU. I CAN BURN YOU. I CAN SHAKE YOU. I CAN CUT THE CORD. I CAN TURN OFF THE ELECTRICITY. I CAN TAKE DOWN THIS SITE. I CAN END THIS.

I CAN DEAD IT. 

But I cannot stop being a mother…..I am bound to my children. Bound by invisible threads.


I read this out to P, he  thinks I sound like a psychopath…..I am playing with words, its art,  I am talking about the project Patrick. The Project! Not the children.


How big is it? How many words have you written ? my friend enquires. I have no idea. I know its a lot of words. A lot of words taking up some digital space. I have achieved writing a lot of words. How helpful is it to write a lot? Does it not need editing, sifting through and sorting out ? Probably. This is information overload. A manic mumbling of ideas and thoughts and stuff about the maternal and other mundane bits and bobs that have crept in.

How do I present this project? Its too big to be one book. It could be four. Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn. There could be a book for each post? It could be a series of objects, framed posts on the wall. How do I make it physical?

STAB EACH WRITTEN PAGE WITH A KITCHEN KNIFE SO THE PAPER STICKS TO THE GALLERY WALL.

Project images onto washing lines, domestic furniture, back project out of the house window. Fill a pram with words. Push the pram up a hill and give out posts to random strangers. Push a pram around Tate Modern, navigate all those escalators and give out stories to random strangers.

Does this become a participatory project? If so how do I get funding? Where do I turn? What is helpful? Crowdfunding, Arts Council, Other? It lies somewhere between art, health, psychology and sociology. What to do ?

It would be great to record mothers stories from a diverse range of women all around the world. Is it fair that its called mother stories. Should it be parents stories?. Feminism. Equality. Still the voices of women need to be heard. Women are still the main care givers. Women’s stories need recording, there are so many stories that remain untold that want to be spoken. That bubble to the surface. That would be helpful to others. OTHER M(OTHER) STORIES.

STORIES THAT BALANCE ON THE EDGE OF THE KITCHEN KNIFE, THAT QUESTION AND CHALLENGE, ARE OPEN AND HONEST ABOUT WHAT IT IS TO BE A MOTHER. STORIES THAT STAB AT THE NORMAL AND THE MAINSTREAM. STORIES THAT WANT TO GET OUT AND CAUSE HAVOC…..THAT WANT TO MAKE A BIG MESS THAT CANNOT BE TIDIED UP…STORIES THAT ARE SCREAMING AND SHOUTING AND HAVING TANTRUMS AND STORIES THAT ARE CLEVER AND INTROSPECTIVE AND ARE QUIET AND GENTLE AND TENDER AND SWEET AND SENTIMENTAL AND  CALM. STORIES BY WOMEN THAT ARE MAN SIZED.


Last night P worked overtime. Last night I looked after the children, I collected them from school, I sorted out any emotional issues that they had at school during the day, I organised them to do their homework. I cooked their tea. I cleared up the dishes. I put Naoise in the bath. I ensured my teenager had a shower as well. I loved them, cherished them and guided them through the evening routine.

P had to work overtime last night and the night before that and the night before that.

His and my work are relentless.

Between the responsibilities of being mother I carve out some time for me and creativity and for research and asking questions and for being kind to others…………..I see that there is little time for me and P in all of this. I guess thats what it is like for many families raising children. The adult relationships become neglected.

I see that I live a singular life alongside my partner.

I see that however challenging I find life, however challenging I find being a mother, being an artist, being a woman. I need to always be grateful. Grateful for their love. Grateful for their health. Grateful for their ideas and creativity. Grateful for the tears and the conflict and the highs and the lows.

My family are never boring. Life is never boring. There isn’t a full stop. There isn’t a way to get off this roller coaster ride. We are in this crazy loving hating fearing ride together. None of us can get off, so we might as well make the best of it we can.

I haven’t eaten one slice of the christmas cake my mum made for me. Its more of an art object than a cake to me. If I can’t have my mum at christmas then a heavy white iced fruit cake will do instead, but its not very cuddly  or comforting.

BUT

She visits me this weekend. I will at last see my mother and have some quality time with her. I just enjoy being in her company and the children love her being around too. I need the help as well, I need a little rest.

Time passing.

My great auntie celebrated her one hundredth birthday. How amazing is that, to live from the outbreak of the first world war to now. The changes she must have seen.

David Bowie died.

Alan Rickman died.

The world of Facebook and the media mourned them both. I shed a tear for Rickman not Bowie.

I had always imagined Rickman as my boyfriend; Truly, Madly, Deeply….

The ice and the snow eventually returned. I was upset that there was no cold. I am an ice queen. I cannot stand the rain and the damp. The rain and the damp that penetrates my bones and muscles and makes my back ache and my hands ache and my knees ache.

The snow fell for one evening and stayed for one day. We did the full snow mounty; snow man, snow angel, snow ball fight and sledging………….it was fun.

meltingsnowmenfamilypinkdollshouseroof

New babies were born. I see them each morning at the school gates, tucked up under cotton blankets, snug in snow suits.

Some mothers look completely energised by their new babies, others look tired, warn down, mascara smudged down cheeks. How do they have time to apply make up? I don’t think I ever achieved that. Maybe thats where I go wrong. I need a mask a mothering mask. I need to pretend that everything is ok, and everything will be ok.

I see the woman with the red pram. The woman with the black pram. The woman with the brown pram. I always smile and say hello to the woman with the red pram and she says hello back. We are strangers, but we share a knowing smile.

You cannot catch time…it moves and it all becomes a muddle, a mush and then its gone. I cannot record it. I cannot hold it. I try to record it. I cannot hold it. I fail.

Your hand is slipping, it is slipping. I listen to us all breathing together. Sleeping in this bed together. Two boys, one woman. Breathing together. I look at you, I watch you. We watch each other.

You are both horrified and beguiled by me. You love my body and caress my skin and my hair with your little hands. Our eyes meet. Love. Love. Love.

Cut the bread, cut the bread. Cut the body. Cut us from each other.

Endless enduring mother love and maintenance. Maintenance of the self and others. Me and you. Umbilical. The cord must be cut. I never want to let go, I never want to say goodbye.

I cannot see you, who is cutting the umbilical cord? Who has my baby now? Can I hold him? I am here ? I am your mother. I made you in my belly. I birthed you. I pushed you out into this world.

Lisa Baraitser writes some awesome stuff about time……about temporality about maintenance about waiting about care about boredom about repetitive labour and productivity about others about monotony about lack of perfect, the time we are constantly loosing, sustaining ourselves, sustaining love, carrying on and endurance……listen to this

The Temporal Modes of Maintenance Work by Lisa Baraitser

LOVE. LOSS. LONGING. TIME GONE. AGEING. SELF. OTHER. REACH OUT. CONNECT. SURVIVE.

The pram pushing time is gone. The changing nappies time is gone. The clock ticks. The biological clock ticks. Hairs grow on my chin, my periods come and go. My hair grows dull. My skin and breasts sag.


I sit on the hill with my friend drinking strong coffee from a flask and eating pan au chocoalte. We stare into the fog. There is no view. There is only the fog in front of us. The telegraph wires disappear into nothing. Some rocks have become dislodged by the excessive rain. We talk about babies. We talk about our decision to only have two children. We talk about birth. We talk about death and writing wills. Its her birthday. I realise how intense I am, but I love these conversations. I love to sit on the rock in her company. We talk about ageing. Our bodies ageing. I talk about having thought about having a third child. That third child still haunts me.

I won’t have a third child.

I had this instead of a third child.

Its a disappointing third child.

Its not as satisfying as nursing a baby…

SO MAKE BABIES NOT ART….AND YOU WILL FIND A WAY TO MAKE ART…IT IS POSSIBLE TO DO BOTH.


I think the third child has been haunting me as I have been making drawings of my memory of my birth experiences. Trying to represent birth literally from the perspective of the woman. The woman giving birth.

I’m not interested in the spectacle of birth. I am interested in trying to communicate the physical and mental journey that the woman takes. I have my experiences as a point of reference. I have these memories. I try to re-enact. To re-create the moment. I crawl around the studio floor on hands and knees in the various different birthing positions. I try to go back. I rack my brains to remember. There was never the moment to record my experiences then. There was only looking after a baby. Looking after a baby 24 hours a day.

I have time now, but the drawings are dull, clumsy, I am out of practice. I need to find the feeling sensitive line. The line that seeks out and explores.

This year I plan to draw and make and write less. Do more. Think less. Be brave. Be physical. Get my work seen. Get it out there.


DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS? WHY IS THIS PROJECT IMPORTANT? TELL ME. I NEED TO KNOW WHY YOU THINK THAT IT IS IMPORTANT?


I watch Atomised Mothers: A film about isolation, ‘Austerity’ and the Politics of Parenthood by Dr. Michal Nahman.

I think about how isolated mothers can become. How isolated carers can become. I think about all the support that I have received over the years from the local Sure Start centre. I think about how much better my the quality of support has been with my second child. My second child was born in 2009, my first child was born in 2001. Now we are so much more aware of the importance of maintaining good maternal mental health and wellbeing. But I worry about these cuts and the affect that they are having on new mothers and young families. I worry that there is not as much support out there as there once was.

Two steps forward two steps back.

Try not to crawl. Try not to crawl.


This is  important. Its perfectly valid to make art about our lives.  To look at life in meticulous detail. To unravel. To be vulnerable. It is undoubtedly challenging to raise children and make art work at the same time but it is possible. Its great when I am able to find creative solutions and new strategies of making. I want to share, I enjoy sharing. Artists need audiences.

Its helpful to explore the the emotional and physical work that is involved in caring for children as this is still largely unseen and undervalued.

This is about empathy. Empathetic connection.

Even P found this project helpful, because I find it hard to talk. I find it hard to articulate my true feelings to him. He could read my thoughts here. Here in this space.. He could try to understand me by reading this.


But I want to be BAD and NAUGHTY and have more FUN I am done with being too good. I am not a good enough mother. I am not a perfect parent. I don’t want to sound like a victim. I don’t want to fall into stereotypical roles. I want equality. I want shared care. I want to be able to earn money, to be independent. I don’t want to feel that I am stuck in a mothering trap.


I am ambivalent.


A child in the playground asked me What Are You Doing ? The bell had gone, he needed to go into school, but instead he stood and stared at me and asked the same question again.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

I was crouching down taking photographs of footprints in the snow. I was interested in how the prints revealed the colour and patterns of the tarmac underneath. I was interested in how the prints danced and traced the movements and paths of play across the ground.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

I am taking photographs of the playground.

First there is what we see,  later there is what we think we have seen. There is an image. The image says something about what we were seeing and thinking at the time it was taken. The image has its own life. The photograph and the word are an expression of ourselves but they are not us. I am me and this is art.

The boundaries blur. The skin is porous, it breathes. There is a screen and light and a barrier. There is the body of the woman and the body of this project. The project contains the thoughts. Holds them.

revealingnumbereighsnowplaygroundstartfinish


I see a pink dummy dropped on the floor. I see a high chair thrown out on the street. I see things that have been lost, disregarded, that have no use anymore. I see snow men melting in the sun. I see a pram facing a wall waiting to be pushed by a parent. I see that the lollypop man has disappeared on long term sick and has been replaced by a lollypop woman. I miss the lollypop man. I see a school ball in the gutter beside the pavement that has been thrown out beyond the parameter fence. I see traces of footprints dancing in the snow.


I try not to become frustrated when all that Naoise wants to do is crack the surface of the ice on the way to school. He loves to hear the sound of the ice cracking. But we are late.

I wait for him.

This morning the whole of the canal was frozen over. I thought we would never see that again.

Naoise remembered when we threw stones on the surface of the canal last year. The lovely bounce and sound that the stones made.


Global warming. I thought that there would be no snow this year just perpetual rain.

There was a flood. The flood was destructive.

After the flood.

The community helped each other out. P worked to clean out a factory. He worked to clean all the mud from the floor, he said it felt like he was in a Russian gulag.

I stayed at home and looked after Naoise.


Naoise had a flood of tears streaming down his face when he came out of school. He had fallen out with a friend, he was distraught. I hugged him close. He was so pale and sad. Desperately upset.  I was glad that I could be there for him. I was glad that I could be his comfort.

I am present. I am present. I am here.


I sometimes get it wrong, there is a cut on my chin from where Naoise caught me with his nail as I wrestled him into the car to take him with me to Syds guitar lesson. As ever we were late. I was stressed out, impatient, wound up. I shouted at both the children. I lost control.

But Naoise has no idea about time. Naoise was tired. I was rough. I said sorry. I said I am really truly sorry. Naoise forgave me and we had a hug.

We make mistakes. Society says mothers are not allowed to make mistakes when it comes to the care of children. Society has high expectations of mothers to be good, to sacrifice themselves and their lives for their children.

I am not always gentle and kind and patient.


I am roaring inside. ROARING with anger because I feel trapped. ROARING again as I need to protect and keep my children safe. ROARING again because I cannot break free from where I am at, from this localised existence.

I am stuck. Stuck between school runs and homework and baths and night time stories.

Sometimes, I think, are they safe with me? I doubt myself. I doubt my own abilities. Am I unsafe. What is a safe mother? What is an unsafe mother? Who made me think I was unsafe? I scare myself. Did you make me feel like this? Are you going to come knocking on my door and asking me questions. Question my mothering, my capabilities. What is a good mother? What is a bad mother? Who is allowed to take care?


I care and I love my children so much. I never tire of watching them. I sometimes tire of  being with them, of the relentless jobs of care and domesticity. But when I am not with them I miss them. I need space and time away to be me not mother but I need to be in their company too.


I went to see Faith Wildings’s Womb Room at the Whitworth art gallery. The crocheted Womb Room has nothing to do with incy wincy spider. The children’s education room had devised an activity about the exhibition, where you were meant to find a childrens rhyme to go with each artwork. I dismissed this ridiculous activity.

The Womb Room does not make me think of incy wincy spider. The womb room makes me think about connections and women and being comforted and held.

Faith, I feel no shame. I feel no shame. Faith I wait and wait and still wait. I wait in the playground, I wait in the carpark, I wait for my mum to visit, I wait for the world to become a kinder, more understanding  place. I wait and I listen.  I wait and between waiting…..I make, I think, I draw, I paint, I mother, I am….

Faith I think of your poetic words and your performance Waiting

Naoise sat with red pencil crayons and paper on the gallery floor and drew a large round red picture of the vulva shaped central textile  Above the vulva shape he wrote ARTISTS.

So are we ARTISTS, WOMEN ARTISTS or MOTHER ARTISTS. Is the term MOTHER/ARTIST helpful? What questions does it raise? Does it close down ideas. Does it open up space? What does it mean?


Naoise came home from school with a beautiful stone in the pocket of his coat, he showed me his stone. The stone was a piece of tarmac that he had found that had become dislodged from the playground with all the excessive rainfall. He held it up in his hand for me to admire. He clenched the hard black oily tarmac piece in the palm of his hand.

The tarmac against his soft skin

I will place it on a plinth.


Naoise held my hand and stopped me from crossing the road. He had seen the car coming, I hadn’t. I thanked him. He guides me.

He shows me a way. A path. We guide each other. I hold his hand tight as I know that one day he will let go, one day he won’t want to skip with me to school. I will be embarrassing, he will push me away, he won’t want or need my help or assistance.

One day he will let go………

I will let go….

WAIT. MAKE. SHARE. SLEEP. LOVE. MAINTAIN. SUPPORT. LISTEN. TALK. SHARE. BREATH SLOW. HUG. SIP TEA. SIP WINE. CLEAN. LOVE. SORT. WIPE. WAIT. SWIM. LOAD THE WASHING MACHINE. MAKE A WISH.  HOLD HANDS. SKIP. READ. KISS BRUISES BETTER. LAUGH. HELP EACH OTHER. BRUSH TEETH. RUN THE BATH WATER. CARRY. SLEEP. PUT LUNCHES IN BOXES. RUN. COLLECT FROM SCHOOL.CUDDLE. ENQUIRE. WALK. HOLD HANDS. COOK. HANG UP WASHING. FOLD. PLACE IN DRAWERS. WIPE RUNNY NOSES. PICK UP PANTS. TALK. CALM.

MEDITATE. RELAX AND LET GO………..WAKE UP….

I am at the end of this year long writing, photography, performance. I have written 332 posts out of a possible 365. I’m not sure how many words, maybe I will add them up, maybe it is of no consequence.

THIS IS THE END. 


THANKS

Thanks to my beautiful family for bearing with me, for being a part of this, for inspiring my words and images. Thanks to my friends, you know who you are I see you each day at the school gates and at my studio, for all their kindness and support and to all those that have read my posts.

Special thanks to

Patrick Ward for helping me set up this website, maintaining the family together with me  being patient and forgiving.

My mum for her emotional maintenance and enduring love.

Grace Whowell, Jenny Mc Kay, Mo Brown, Ellie Oliver.

My artist friends and contemporaries for their support and inspiration: Lena Simic, Eti Wade, Paula McCloskey, Tracy Kershaw, Jodie Hawkes, Mary Trunk, Rachel Fallon, Samantha Lippet, Paula Chambers, Sally Barker

For their words, wisdom, art and inspiration: Lisa Baraitser, Faith Wilding, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Griselda Pollock, Bracha Ettinger, Mary Kelly

The Social Media groups: Mother/Artist, Society, The Mothernists, Mothers Who Make

Dr Elena Marchevska and Professor Valerie Walkerdine for organising the Motherhood and Creative Practices conference at The London South Bank University, where this project was first presented.

And finally two incredibly informative and brilliant projects:

The M/other Voices  foundation

Cultural Re-producers

myfamilybynaoisesnowwall


Since stopping writing this, I have been able to concentrate better on being with my family rather than outside over there. I have been feeling more relaxed and positive.

In the studio, I have been making more drawings and making plans for the next year in the studio. I have been thinking about photographs as drawing practice. I have been thinking about words as art. I have been gathering all my research on the maternal together in one place. Trying to hold it, grasp it, hold it close, give it a cuddle, have a conversation, see it all…its impossible to see it all. ..I have been thinking again that I really need to get on and stop procrastinating and apply to do a practice based PhD, something about the body, isolation and the maternal…….I am looking forward to delivering a talk and a workshop about visualising birth for Claire Harbottles brilliant Nativity Hub project at the end of February, I am planning some sort of creative event to celebrate the completion of this project and  I have been invited to take part in a group show with other Mother/Artists in April.

At home I have been improving the night time routine with Naoise. Tea. Bath. Supper. Read. Meditate. Sleep. I have also been working on stopping myself from falling asleep at the same time as him so that I can spend some time with my elder son Syd and with Patrick.

Naoise has gone up two reading levels since Christmas and won the school shield for writing his very own version of Little Red Riding Hood,  set in a city rather than the woods.

Syd has helped raise £10,000 by performing with his band at Sowerby Bridge Working Mans Club and has organised another benefits gig this weekend at the local pub.

P is enjoying work and is getting even better and faster at his web development.

The house is still a mess, I am yet to read the parenting advice books about teenagers, I have put on most of the weight that I lost last year and the christmas tree is still sits undressed, drying out, pines dropping on the stone floor in the front room.


Non-Resolutions

Inspired by the brilliant Story of Mum and a bog post that she shared by :

When I walk. Walk in the wind, the rain, the sun, the ice, the snow, the fog, the nothing  and just enjoy. Make sure I don’t take a smart phone with me and just enjoy the moment.

Make time to be with my children and facilitate them with their creative projects.

Be grateful for what I have.

Perform random acts of kindness.

Try to be positive.

Forgive.

Be proactive, help your family, friends and community.

Listen.

Make homemade gifts and cards.

Take time out for yourself.

Learn new things.

Teach the children to help out more with domestic tasks.

Go on adventures, find new places and museums and art galleries.

Support the creative work of your friends.

Draw, paint, make, write, think, read, walk, play.

Make healthy dinners.

 

Daisies in December

11.50am ( sat on the sofa)

Naoise and his friend bend over to pick daisies from a small clutch on top of the hill. He runs to me with his tiny bouquet of daisies. He hands them to me. I love being given flowers picked by my son.

The weather is completely confused, El Nino they call it. I have never seen daisies growing in December. This is my first bunch of christmas daises.

I talk to my brother via Skype I see sunlight streaming in through his kitchen window. He lives in the North of Spain. He tells me that there is no winter. He tells me how strange it is. He tells me stories of forest fires raging on the hills.

The flood came. It was like armageddon. The river rose and rose and raged and raged. The train track became a river. The power went out. The cars on the road stopped moving. The roads impassable. We stayed inside all day, it wasn’t safe to go out.

We watched pictures of flood devastation via social media.

P and Syd went into town to see if they could help alleviate the flood but it was futile. One boy, one man and one orange bucket cannot stop the floods.

Yesterday P helped clean out a factory that had been affected. We washed some friends towels. I probably should be doing something to help instead of sitting here on my arse, but I need a rest. I need a rest. I facilitated P helping out by looking after N. My conscience says I could do more. Guilt.

Don’t feel very well. Sluggish. Missing Syd, he is at his dads.

Syd has organised to play a benefits gig with his band.

Last night I helped N to make a clay bowl and cup. He loves pottery. He was inspired by a television programme. He is trying to put into practice all that he learnt from observing others making. He presses his thumb into the top of the handle.

This project is fizzling out. Running dry. Lost my love of it. Almost new year now. Mum up north, seen little of my family over this festive period. It always feels sad. Our family. Our family. Christmas suggests that is what you should be doing. But I never see my parents for more than a day over the holidays. I seem to see them less and less. The children miss them. Its to be expected. Not seeing them. The North of Scotland is a long long way from where we live.

I worry about the valley and all these floods. The community is brilliant and resilient and caring, but the floods will come back. The world is ill. This is global warming. The government do nothing. Nothing. People look and stare and are horrified. Nature is strong. Nature is violent. Humans care, but we need to care as much about nature as we care for each other. This is a partnership.

I have never seen daisies growing in December before.

On Christmas eve there were hail stones. I danced in the street. I wondered if I would ever see ice or snow or hail ever again.

Head numb. One hangover rolls into the next…..I miss Syd. I miss Syd. I hate it when he is away. I stop in shock. I miss my son. I miss my son.

Dream. rest. drem. rest.

Days to get lighter

8.39pm ( sat on the sofa)

Today will be lighter. Yesterday was the winter solstice. Today will be lighter because Syd has done his gig so won’t be hyper or stressed or excited anymore. Him and his band were really amazing. It was exciting to see them play and be in the crowd with all the community. Andy Kershaw and his dog came out to support Syd, how brilliant is that. It was a proud mum moment.

Me and Naoise hid behind the chairs, put ourselves in the background. Naoise was delighted when his friends came in the pub. They played with his new thunder birds toys and drew and had fun.

Mum won’t be coming up to visit us again over the christmas period, she has hurt her leg, pulled ligaments falling over in a gorse bush. Very bad timing.

My brain is already dead from childcare. We got in late late late last night after a drink at my friends house after the gig….I drank tea.

What is there to say?

We head towards the 25th. Naoise is so excited. He jumps on my back eats his advent calendar chocolate, tells me how many days are left.

I bought one free range chicken and some cranberry sauce……I will do the rest of our grocery shop this evening. The local super market stays open till midnight. I try to make christmas a modest affair. I went shopping once. I hated it. Shopping feels evil and wasteful and wrong and leaves me feeling stressed.

The glut of christmas is unappealing. I like the story telling, the magic making, the cracker pulling, but I am not at all religious. Peace and joy and goodwill to all mankind would be great though.

The news is full of stories of refugees fleeing from war and violence, the biggest movement of displaced people since the end of the second world war.

The snow hasn’t come. The cold hasn’t come. The ice hasn’t come.

I did see three deer on a walk last week, that felt seasonal. Christmas becomes more and more of a fiction. Is the snow man extinct?

Its a clear day. Naoise friend is coming to play today, least he won’t be lonely. We tried to find a friend for him yesterday, he made me ring all my friends mobile and landlines before giving in.

No rain today. Blue clear sky. Cars frantic movements on the road outside. The chug of the radiator.

P finishes work today. I will be glad of some help with the house the children and general family maintenance.

 

Dead of night

3.22 am ( sitting on the sofa)

Coat on its cold down here. Sleep broken by Syd sounding distressed in his sleep. He went to the toilet. My head hurts, too many different kinds of drink at the solstice party. Note to sleep must drink more adams ale than alcohol.

DSC_7828

Silent road. Silent washing machine. Silent night. All is calm all is bright, around yon Virgin mother and child. Tis the season to be jolly, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,

We drew pictures of ourselves and we all wrote letters to santa asking for our hearts desire.

Syd was suspicious of my family portrait drawing exercise…..we are only doing this so you can use it in your art project. 

……….my friend’s fridge magnet spoke truisms if we desire nothing then we free our minds……………

Me and P went for a walk in the woods with the truculent elderly dog. The sky was aqua marine. The red of the sun reflected in the windows of Ted Hughes home. Naoise played with my friends children .

When we got back to her house, the children made lots of noise on guitars and drums and electric piano.

The drop in party between a fixed time frame is a great model for socialising. I want to do this too. A really cool party was on my santa list.

We watched a cute animation about a business man teaching a blue baby bird to fly and then an episode of The Mighty Boosh. Naoise liked it.

P does not finish work until Wednesday, so I have the children on my own for a few days.

The house is looking cleaner for my efforts. Writing this had become a dissertation. Too much analyses. Too much word typing and not enough looking up from the screen. N hasn’t been asking for the iPad as much since I made an effort to do more with him. Engage him.

 

This art project has not always been a friend. At times it has become monster. A nasty mirror of my mind. A place to spill. Its sometimes best not to cross boundaries between public and private. Perhaps boundaries are very important. What happens when we try to dissolve them ? Do you feel uncomfortable?

I am glad that I don’t have to wake the children to rush them to school in the morning. I am glad that the school gates remain locked. It is the boundaries time.

Its too warm. Its too warm. Winter is snow. Winter is snow. Winter is cold. Winter is ice. Winter is putting on coats and hats and glove and scarves. Winter is bleak not warm.

All the lines of stuffed santa and snowmen and excess. Consumerism is not christmas. Peace and love and kindness to all mankind is Christmas.

I miss mum and dad, and my sisters and brother. I miss being together. I don’t like this fragmentation. This un-togetherness. What is Christmas? All the ghosts of the past Chrismas. I remember the sad year my Grannie died. My heart broken mother weeping. My mother lying in bed inconsolably sad. I always remember this. We need to cherish each day, each time spent with each other. Christmas expects idealism, the virgin, the child.

The mother wrapping parcels, keeping house, negotiating conflict, keeping togetherness.

I love my family, my two boys and my man. We are family. We are family. Its not perfect, its far from it. There is bickering and raised voices and the attempt at calm. There is competition between children and children winding each other up and competing for our attentions.

It is blissful when it works. When we sit on the sofa watching TV together, walk together, laugh together, draw together……..but tother does not always work. The house holds us close. We live in a sliver of a home. One room and kitchen downstairs. There is not much space to escape.

S spent the day asking with a friend. When I get back from the party, I see a pale teenager. I see a teenager that looks stressed with bags under his eyes. He push, push pushes me. I don’t give up. I don’t give up.

The children do help with the house work. N hoovers the rug. S reluctantly dries up dishes, ever so slowly, ever so slowly.

Remain calm. Diffuse conflict. Be consistent. Listen. Empathy. Structure. Boundaries. Love. Cuddles. Love. Play. Listen. Laugh. Encourage. Give voice to others. Provide a place.

Its later. Its later this morning. I need to go back to bed. Back to bed.

Try to engage the children in the last days of this project……what do they want this space to be?  How do we represent us? How to make this less threatening? Collaboration. Collaboration. How to collaborate with my family? Not me and them. US. How to make US work together? How to encourage us to work together? Do they want to play? Would they rather I just downed the writing and the art and just was with them in the now? Is the art worth it? Is it better just to be. To be.

(inage: all the family portraits). …….

No snow

12.32 am (midnight not today or tomorrow)

Spray on snow decorating window panes. Reindeers pulling santa sleighs. Snowmen. Snowballs. No snow. No snow.

Removing nits one by one from the nape of Naoise’s neck. They are foul, it is war. War on nits. The horrid things have irritated his skin and his head is full of scabs. Poor little child. War begins with tea tree conditioner and a new super duper comb tomorrow, or Monday when the chemist is open.

The unseasonal weather means that I feel not at all festive.

Today was good, saw my family. Ate mince pies and brandy butter. Decorated the house with plastic. Bad music played by small people strumming guitars and banging and blowing recorders.

Exchanged presents.

Wrapped presents for P’s family.

Made CD’s of Naoise singing carols.

Cleaned bathroom. Cleaned front room. Cleaned kitchen floor. Noticed the build up of black mold. All is damp and too warm and grey and dark.

The darkest day tomorrow. The winter solstice, then the light will slowly return little by little day by day.

Read an article about the El Nino effect. Swallowed worry and thought about our beautiful world and all the beautiful people and our constant denial.

I miss the ice and wind and cold and sledging. The unseasonal weather is unsettling.

 

 

Cut finger clean shelves and china

20.05pm ( at the table)

Phewwww I am tired. Cut my finger cleaning bits of broken china. I think I remember cutting my finger on the same pieces of broken china last time I did a spring clean. Open shelves in the kitchen are pretty to look at but the grease and the grime and the spiders and the webs build up quickly.

Naoise is eating basmati rice in a bowl on the sofa, he has dropped a tiny bit and is picking rice grains off the blue fleecy blanket.

Syd is back from band practice with his friends. P is being difficult and moody with me. Ahhhhh I hate living in a family sometimes. Sometimes I would love to be responsibility free. Twenty ish again. Oh the parties I would have. How busy we think we are before we have children. How beautifully naive.

Dreamt I lived in a house on a cliff over looking Sennon beach. The garden was too dangerous for the children to play in. I dreamt of rescuing puppies and kittens from rocks and waves.

I looked after my friends puppy. I took it for a walk. The ground of wet and muddy. The puppy did’nt want to walk in the rivers. The rivers must have been icy cold. Saw three Ro deers running on the hill.

P is about to go out to get a friend to mend Syd’s electric guitar, I am guessing its a night in on my own again. The days are long. The days are long caring for children. He takes beer, I doubt he will be back soon. I will be on the night time routine, as per usual.

Daddy, daddy……………….

Syd in and out the shower….no just getting in…ahhhhhh the music sounds the beginning of the shower.

P leaves, I don’t feel like kissing him goodbye. I will go out Friday. I will go out. I will relinquish responsibility. Childcare is endless, endeless.

N: Its a tripod camera, its a tripod camera. 

N: Can I put a bandage on mum.

Me: No

N: Please.

N:Can I have a hot chocolate.

Me: Yes. 

No time to write this…..catering for children needed….always needed. Its better to be needed than not.

Seeing through the fog.

20.13pm ( sat on the sofa)

Syd getting out of the shower. P playing chess with N, wish it was read a book, but I am not complaining, I actually have a free moment. I am writing this in secret. The washing machine chugs around.

What to say? The walk in the fog was slow but good. I saw shifting clouds fuzzy like pastel smudged on paper. I saw two magpies, a crow, a wren…I saw a grey squirrel..some workmen fixing up a big house on top of the hill. I saw dew dangling like jewels on wool and empty branches.

Walking makes it all seem ok. Its all ok.

schoolinpuddle

Admired a friends creative project and drank hot chocolate with brandy to celebrate. Fog. Fog. Cold, dark, damp. Collected Syd. Collected note from GP. Dealt with a tantrum over crackers in the budget supermarket, nearly had a nervous breakdown in the carpark struggling with child, tantrum and shopping. Did’nt cope well got stressed about cars and Naoise misbehaving and it was horrid.

Later N was vert very good and helpful and I forgot the incident before.

pram

Syd normal cheeky self. Soon the school will break up, I need it to end, he is restless and tired and behaving erratically.

Friend came around with keys so I can look after her dog tomorrow. Looking forward to some company on my walk. May go over the tops in Walsden….not sure yet.

Washing machine comes to the end of its cycle. No more energy to write.

Beep beep beep. ….beep beep beep….

Blocked off canal path and plastic bag

14.07pm (sat on the sofa)

Just spoke to mum and before that P. Mum sounded tired, she is having her home re-roofed and it does sound stressful, though I do struggle to identify with her sometimes. Everything always sounds like a chore. I kept saying but it will be much better when it is done. I guess she is fed up with the whole process, its slow and messy and stressful.

Walking back from the meeting with the friendship group I rebelled and took the path that has been blocked off by the environment agency. This act of rebellion involved a precarious route holding on to the metal fencing that was blocking the main path, I had about 10 cm of grass to negotiate. I kept thinking I might slip into the poo brown canal water, but I didn’t. I was triumphant. I couldn’t see why the path even needed to be blocked off, there was no building work actually taking place on it.

I am determined when someone says you cannot do something to find a way around it. I like being adventurous and rebellious even if that defiance is only to walk a public path that has been blocked off.  I did it, I did it.

I haven’t anything new to say. I have been thinking about ending this writing. I have become to reliant on the screen to sooth me. The screen draws you in. Connections, real connections are made in the real world. Its good to start a conversation here, a thought, but its what happens in the 3D world of now that gets noticed.  I am wondering what I will do next. I look at the house, its neglected and I think I have neglected myself and the family by focusing on this project. You don’t have to record and document everything. To really enjoy something you have to let it float by on the river or be carried off by a cloud.

I take all that I have for granted. I need to be more grateful. I need to concentrate my efforts on my friends and family and near ones. I need to move forward. I need to be more physical and more visual. I need to stop worrying about what I haven’t done and look at what I do do. I need to accept the passage of time. I need to try and enjoy this day, this moment. The tree in the corner of the room, decorated by my son. The busy messiness of family life. The messiness of a full life lived. A tidy home isn’t necessarily a happy home, but a caotic home isn’t either. Need to try and find some balance. Need to run again, I liked the running, it sorted out my head, it stopped me from thinking. Need to buy new trainers to run the hills. You can always start again, thats what is good about a new year, it invites reflection it provides a beginning.

Pick up Syd soon and need to drop off the bill. Then I will collect Naoise, take him to a party. Then I will take Syd to guitar lesson. Back home, cook dinner, get kids ready for bed, collapse on sofa.

Each day is pretty much the same…….today I have enjoyed taking the path that said it was blocked and finding that I could get through……..thats what I need to do with my stubborn head. I need to keep pushing through, finding a new path. Excepting that this is today….but there is a different route that I could take tomorrow if I try. Small steps. Small steps.

Pointless

9.15 am ( sat on the sofa in the front room)

It all feels pointless. This seems pointless. I have toiled and laboured and maintained this project and now it is almost done, it feels disappointing and pointless. Yet if I have a day when I don’t manage to write I feel that I am floating. Floating in meaningless.

I have been eating and drinking too much. I don’t feel at all well. The perpetual rain. The nothingness. Trying to find meaning in my pointlessness.

The tree that P has bought in from the allotment stands tall in the corner of the front room, decorated with owls and robins and penguins and paper stars and angels that the children have made.

Yesterday I bought a few small gifts for my nieces and nephews. I only buy gifts for the children. Christmas is for them not us. All the flood sirens went off, Walsden, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge. We got back by driving over the top road. The road down was a river, dangerous and slippy and steep.

I have become slow, slow, slow. The year is almost up. We made a recording of Naoise singing Silent Night and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer for the grandparents. I like to make things. I like to beat the capitalist christmas. Peace and love and goodwill to all mankind.

The garage did’nt charge me for sorting out the car doors that were jammed with seat belts. It was such a relief, I had wondered where I would find the money to pay for car maintenance a couple of weeks before christmas. I am not prepared for this seasonal time of year. I am behind. Behind.

Naoise is snoozing in bed. P is snoozing in bed. Must get on and prepare something, must not give in to my depression. Weak, no energy, pointless. Pointless.