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I am falling horizontally towards the wooden floor. In the moment that this takes, I have enough time to know that this fall isn’t going to end well. My arms, which were yanking at something, are now strangely absent. I see the floor, then mortality punches me in the face. The sound of the crash wakes Dexter. I am confused. There is blood, and a gap in my jaw. I wonder if I have broken my nose, and reach my hand across the floor-boards in search of my tooth. “Help. Help. Help,” I cry out. The impact lands slowly, with shaking, and a new awareness of terrible vulnerability. Dexter, unexpectedly awake, rests on the stairs with me, and holds my hand. He is well versed in emergency protocol, speaks in a gentle tone. Carer/cared for roles reversed, “Don’t worry,” he soothes, “it’ll be okay.” His voice comforts me, like a turmeric latte. Cocooned in the immediate aftermath, my other helpers navigate what to do next. My inner monologue trickles back. “I disregarded that ‘stupid’ warning. Why was I rushing? What a ridiculous pratfall. You should be more present. What have I done? What does it mean?” I float into the dental chair, the patient who makes everyone else wait. The dentist peers through his visor at my crooked tombstone teeth. Behind the protective layers all I can see are two kind brown eyes. “I’m feeling wobbly, and might cry,” I confess. “It’s okay if you cry,” he says. This permission allows me to sink back in the chair, and I listen to ‘Staying Alive’ pulse through his speakers as my tears fall. I am very glad to be alive, grateful for this kindness, even as he wields the pliers to retract my tooth. My head swimming with anaesthetic, I hear a distant little voice say, “Thank you.” “You’re very lucky,” he replies. “It could have been a lot worse.”

We watch through June, and into July for the perfect moment. The cherries will be at their sweetest, most abundant and usually have dropped in price. Originally a friend with Polish heritage demonstrated how to make cherry vodka. It has become an annual tradition now in our house. We save jars with large openings, from passata or cloudy apple juice. It gives me satisfaction to peel, or scrub off the labels. I wash the cherries. Then, with each one, I make an incision from top to bottom. I winkle out each stone – not exactly keyhole surgery. Although you can just prick them. The pile in the colander diminishes, as the mound of wounded cherries increases. My thumb nail wears down until it feels bitten. My hands are drenched with red juice – like blood, sticky under my nails, staining my cuticles. Tony fills the bottles almost to the top with cherries, then pours vodka on top – making sure that every cherry is covered. Once the tops are screwed on tight, we put them away. They will reappear as Christmas gifts or treats. The alcoholic cherries will be eaten with ice-cream. I don’t drink alcohol, but cherries are one of my favourite fruits. I enjoy the seasonal ritual, gorge myself with cherries in the process. In the winter months I will remember the plump crimson tang of summer fruits.

“Everyone is broadcasting. I’m seeing what comes when I listen,” Julie says, in one of our characteristically candid conversations. I like to think of my time, energy and expression in terms of ‘input’ and ‘output’. I try to find a balance. There are times to speak out, to be heard, and there are times to receive. However, what I heard in Julie’s words is a more provocative enquiry. What happens when I listen more deeply? How can I sit with what’s uncomfortable in me enough to hear the other fully? How can I tune in to the voice of the unheard? What happens when I make space to listen to the unknown? At home I listen to a muffled city scape of footsteps, distant shouts, rumbles of passing cars, and fragments of electronic beats. Out on the marshes, I listen to birdsong, weather and the rustle of leaves. I open my ears to inspiration that blows in on the wind, and the energies of the land.

Throughout the spring, I have had the honour of assisting Sophy Banks (one of my teachers). As a digital agnostic, I had no idea how it would be to hold grief tending sessions on line. I still prefer pen and paper, and a real hand to hold. But I have learned there is value in the virtual space too. There is the safety of opening up while sitting in my home. I have travelled through the miraculous internet to meet with those in other parts of the UK, or in other continents, and other time zones. It can provide an opportunity for experiencing something that might otherwise be unaffordable or impractical. On-line spaces also allow the introvert to be equally welcomed. During the last fortnight, I have been participating in ‘Coming Down to Earth: a Conflict Transformation Summit’. I am still fumbling to find my way through the technological hoops, but there are talks, live sessions and extraordinary people from around the world to meet there. This year, I have had the good fortune of spending much time hearing Sophy Banks share her insights on the consequences of unattended grief, which may cause conflict in families, communities and societies. Sophy also brings an understanding of practical “social technologies” to build “healthy human culture at all levels of scale”. She is one of the speakers whose unassuming manner, but inspiring words can be accessed free as part of the summit. She really nails the interface between relational trauma and dysfunctional systems for me, and provides the perspectives “I longed to hear, but didn’t know until I tasted them”.
You can find more about Sophy Banks here, and the ‘Coming Down to Earth Summit’ here.

‘Norton Grim and Me 2019’ is a short, animated film about Tony Gammidge’s experience of being sent to boarding school. The film portrays strong emotional content with visceral images. It is also beautiful. Stark shadow puppets, plasticine figures, haunting photographs and quirky drawings weave together to illuminate his dark tale. He is one of the people who adds their perspective in ‘Sabre Tooth Tigers & Teddy Bears’ by Suzanne Zeedyk. Tony Gammidge invites us to find our own stories, to use creative expression as a way into healing. He brings his own grief, and trauma as raw materials to be transmuted. Inspired by Thomas Ogden’s work, Tony says, “To make art works from these events is not just about making sense of something, though this is important but also compensating for the loss, making something worthwhile and beautiful that in part makes up for it.” By watching the film, we bear witness to both his grief and its processing. “The film that charts his journey is not, then, just a re-telling of his childhood. It is a re-making of that childhood.”  With Tony’s encouragement I am fashioning my own characters to animate, out of wire armature and plasticine.
‘Norton Grim and Me’ by Tony Gammidge.

‘Sabre Tooth Tigers & Teddy Bears’, the Connected Baby guide to attachment by Suzanne Zeedyk, is a straight forward introduction to Attachment Theory for a wide audience. It includes plenty of colour photos, and is illustrated by the experiences of a parent, a ‘boarding school survivor’, a self-identified adult who used to be ‘one of the difficult kids’, three primary head teachers and two members of the police. ‘Sabre Tooth Tigers & Teddy Bears’ takes us from the basics of Bowlby’s Attachment Theory in which “babies are skilled at keeping their parents close” by developing core behavioural strategies to manage their anxieties. Zeedyk also explains: “it is also about the repeated moments by which we learn the core elements of human relationships: how to trust and how to forgive.” These patterns go on to effect us as adults, and impact how we connect with the wider world. In recognising the importance of how we are imprinted by life, (she is keen to encourage rather than blame care-givers), she highlights the possibilities for transformation for the next generation, as well as attending to our own healing as adults. Neuroscience is helping us to understand how these patterns are set up, but can also be changed, through the neuro-plasticity of our brains. Dealing with uncomfortable feelings is something that we learn. “When an adult responds affirmatively to a baby’s emotions, whatever the emotion is, then the baby discovers that this is a feeling that can indeed be shared with another person. The neural connections in his brain are built on that expectation of sharing.” If we take heed of this growing body of science, and apply it in our lives at the micro and macro level in practical actions, it would change our relationships, and build resilience in our societies. Each of the people who tell their stories in the book, are examples of pioneering front-line attachment activists. “We need to foster self-reflection for individuals, families, organisations and communities. We need to see what we are cheating ourselves of when we can’t listen to our children’s emotional needs.”
‘Sabre Tooth Tigers & Teddy Bears’ Dr Suzanne Zeedyk connected baby.net

Every year at mid-summer a small purposeful crew mark out a labyrinth at the centre of the Middlesex filter beds Nature Reserve in chalk spray. It follows the pattern of the one in Chartres cathedral, which dates back to around 1205. There is a tradition of walking a labyrinth at the summer solstice. They are sometimes cut in grass, or edged with stones. Unlike a maze that offers alternative routes, there is only one route both in and out. However, this invites the possibility of unwinding something on the way in – unravelling, or letting go. On the way out there is the possibility of calling or winding something in. Stepping in at the point marked ‘Enter’, I walk it as a meditation. The convolutions brought intestines to mind, so I use the journey in as an exploration of my digestion. I meet my companions at the centre. We pause then begin the reverse journey of return. I focus on steps forward, notice ideas, call in gut health. Our measured pacing takes six minutes to spiral in each direction. Some passers-by courteously circumnavigate the circumference, while others wander through our midst, oblivious. Two youngsters run around it, creating an energetic vortex. ‘The Great Turning’ comes to mind. We totter off, a little dizzy – and inspired.
See more about Joanna Macy and ‘The Great Turning’

Shelly scoops up the young robin, who concussed has dropped to the ground in a state of freeze. No avian parents to oversee the youngster’s wellbeing are around to sound the alarm. She uses gloves to avoid scenting the fledgling with human. The cat expresses interest. Shelly protects the robin from predators and the chilly breeze. Her care over several hours is rewarded with a happy ending. Movement returned, the robin takes off, visiting later to drink from the bird bath. Squiffy the squirrel is also a beneficiary of Shelly’s nurturing. Wildlife comes close in the garden. Pigeons, foxes, squirrels amongst other wildlife regularly entertain us. I watch blackfly on a Cardoon – the plant has grown as tall as me – being harvested by ants. Kohlrabi and chard seedlings struggle with my inconsistent parenting. I tell Sophy I am growing vegetables. “Use it as a practice in non-attachment,” she advises.

I travelled outside my territory for work. I had time to spare, and drifting, found myself in the neighbourhood which was home thirty-five years ago. Street names began to shake loose from my memory – Pagnell Street, Trundleys Road, Cold Blow Lane. The open square of sky that I loved in the park is still visible. But the map logged in my mind is now tessellated with modern brick-built blocks. Play areas and landscaped amenities now spread where unmanicured industrial spaces used to be. The young adult me encountered sub-cultures of all kinds in Sanford Walk. It was my first experience of living in community. The end wall of the housing co-operative was slowly marked out and painted by mural artist Brian Barnes. ‘Riders of the Apocalypse’ – with its images of Thatcher and Reagan riding war-heads, is faded but still here. Today I met two friendly people from a new generation of community-builders, who welcomed me – a time capsule from 1983. I search my memory for lost fragments of my history. In those days I tinted my hair pink, wore a ‘bib’n’brace’ with DM Boots, painted cartoon images, made vegetarian lasagna and bought 12” singles. Trains rumbled past my mint green bedroom window. Commuters looked in to see strawberry-icecream pink walls. My house mates were worldy-wise lesbians. I was naïve and optimistic, but emotional jelly inside. The losses and joys since then have shaped me, and standing here again I can feel the distance I have come. My sexuality is no longer a mystery. I am still living in queer community with people who share a sense of indignation at the injustices in the world.

‘White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism’ by Robin Diangelo, is a short book that effectively addressed my assumptions among other things, that being ‘colour blind’ or ‘celebrating blackness’ were useful; that waving my white middle class liberal flag was enough. These are toothless strategies in the face of the scale of the problem. Robin Diangelo makes explicit that “my silence is not benign because it protects and maintains the racial hierarchy and my place within it.” She unpacks the unhelpful diversionary tactics of white defensiveness. The nub of ‘white fragility’ as a concept is that the system of white supremacy is perpetuated by white people’s reluctance to talk about race, let alone take action to change the status quo. Once white bodied folk get to grips with the inevitability of our complicity with a system that essentially gives us a massive advantage, in ways we are not even aware of, then we can stop trying to defend our ‘good’ non-racist self-image, and begin the work needed to actively interrupt racism. She describes a workshop in which she asks the people of colour who were present, “What would it be like if you could simply give us feedback, have us graciously receive it, reflect, and work to change the behavior?” Recently a man of color sighed and said, “It would be revolutionary.”