Do aliens count?
The mercy of the clean slate

Sorrow and Joy

A solitary magpie has been hopping about my front lawn the past couple of days.

Of course, I am much too modern and rational to be superstitious about magpies.

I am a positivist: I believe our attitudes create our reality. Buzz off, Sorrow! I say. You are but a perspective, a frame of mind; I know you fly but a couple of wingspans away from Joy. Go find your wife and children, Mr. Magpie!




It's just that I had this dream about Death on Monday morning. Five or six of my old school friends all died within a short space of each other. Then I spoke to a friend who was suffering a very sudden bereavement. My husband and I decided finally to draft some wills before we go away on a 'couple's trip' this weekend without the children. And then, my husband phoned me in the middle of the day to say he'd been having severe chest pains at work and was on his way to see the doctor.

'You can buzz right off now, Sorrow.' I told the magpie. 'Don't come back til you bring Joy with you.'


Losing my mother very quickly and unexpectedly 8 years ago brought home the suddenness with which life can utterly change. Gone.

The bereavement counsellor told me that, when people lose loved ones suddenly like that, they can feel a strong need to hold their remaining people very close. They may have a form of separation anxiety.

It flashed before me: the unexpected future that could suddenly be mine - and the children's. The magpie's silent song.


The doctor diagnosed heartburn, and prescribed a series of tests for my husband to rule out anything more serious. Eat little and often, she said, and avoid smoking, excess coffee and alcohol, and spicy food.

We celebrated with a large Indian takeaway. I raised a toast with our glasses of water to 'the best little family in the world - in my opinion.' This is it, I thought: one of those rare moments when you remove the blinders to your own perfect happiness.

Within hours, I was back to hassling over reading homework, shouting at bedtime, rolling my eyes over trivial chores improperly done, and fantasising over different shades of blue with which to paint the kitchen walls.

Life is here, in the mess and the chaos, the love and irritation, the trying again.

I want to be more organized, tidier, more patient, less shouty, more successful, calmer, wiser. But, mostly, I want to be very close to them, for as long as I can.




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