‘of course mammas going to help build a wall’ 

Roger Waters – Mother – The Wall.

I’m not sure what it is that awakens me at 3am but I will not be able to fall back asleep for some time.

For some reason my thoughts goes back to early memories, and one in particular.

I am 5 years old, in the kitchen (most families in Yorkshire council houses on mining estates lived in the kitchen, the ‘front room’ or parlour being for special occasions the only source of heating being the coal fire in each room)

‘Mam’ see’s the man walking down the side of the house,

 “quick she says tell him i’m out” she whispers as she darts behind the sofa.

The door is open and the man is in the house looking at me

“Mam’s out” I repeat the words I just heard. 

“then who is that hiding behind the…’ he starts to say, 

then he probably notices the ‘caught in the car headlights’ look on my face,

“never mind” he says “tell her I will be back next week”

The man was from The Provident, legalised loan sharks who stalk people in deprived, struggling areas. Incidentally they now do it online.

I did’t understand any of what had just happened, I was in total shock not able to make sense of it all. 

I did know that I had just been asked to lie to a grown-up. A bare faced lie that made me feel so very ashamed. 

The overriding feeling and lesson learnt was that those who should be nurturing, inspiring and loving you are capable of putting you in the worst positions you could imagine, I guess I felt confused and betrayed, I simply could not make sense of it. 

Looking at this years later I could see Mum chose to take the easy route, a cowardly route, and put her son in this position to protect her own embarrassment. Not considering the effect this would have. I would in the following few years become knowledgeable about manic depression and schizophrenia observing this at first hand. 

There is no manual for bringing up children and many of us could do it so much better (as a foster carer I see this daily) especially people already struggling with other issues such as poverty (austerity) and health issues. That is why the amazing ’Sure Start’ scheme initiated by the last labour government could have been the greatest social leap forward for our country since the NHS, sadly its worth wasn’t seen by the succeeding government. But let’s not get political, maybe I will reserve that for my next blog. 

This is not about me, I spent a lot of time particularly in my 30’s considering these childhood events and putting coping strategi in place so that they didn’t define me, I did not blame my mum at all, I came to realise it was her illness that took it’s toll on all of us.  

This is more about my mother, who as a child would have had dreams and aspirations and slowly one thing after another would lead to a downward spiral.

In her later years on medication she was a much more content person it would appear and she was a much loved grandmother.

I hadn’t lived with my mum since my parents divorce at the age of 14 but did visit regularly at first, the visits decreased as I moved away for work and my visits to Yorkshire became infrequent.  

I do clearly remember a visit in my late teens when she greeted me with the phrase “you know our Peter, every timer I go out a I have an overwhelming sense of impending doom” she definitely had a way with words.

Mum passed away in 2002 aged 65, living with breast cancer but defeated by bronchial pneumonia, I often think she was possibly reaching for another cigarette.  

I was in New York and didn’t hear the news for four days. I returned for her funeral. Landing back at Heathrow I called into Warwick on the way up to Yorkshire to install a set for a clients rehearsal period.

The last time I hugged my mum I was five years old.

Day 13 of treatment and with my face and neck covered in spots and my right shoulder aches like crazy, my hips however are feeling much better and generally I feel pretty good. I’ve not forgotten to take any tablets yet, a minor miracle, and the spreadsheet I have made to keep track is looking like a work of art.

First set off bloods following the start of treatment today and I feel sure there will be much less alcohol in these samples. 

See you soon, take care, be kind…

I am not defined by my scars but by the incredible ability to healLemn Sissay