I have a few creative projects on the go – This is the first one that’s come to fruition – and it starts with a lockdown story that began roughly eleven years ago……
A pregnant infertility survivor and a pro natural birth obstetrics consultant at a high risk pregnancy unit meet to discuss a birth plan. The infertility survivor would like a c-section; she now has a lack of trust in herself and wants to hand over responsibility to the doctors. The consultant wants to convince her to believe in herself and her innate capabilities. The infertility survivor hands over a print out of poems, describing the pain of her infertile years and the agony of her recurrent miscarriages. They talk. The consultant even uses two of the poems in a book she’s publishing. The infertility survivor has a successful c-section…..and my son Charlie is born.
Over a decade later, in lockdown, the Consultant, Dr Susan Bewley, finds my poems again and gets in contact. The poems are pulled out of a drawer and we agree that they are still as relevant today as they were all those years ago. So, with the help from Dr Bewley, they’ve been edited into a book….I took the decision that as they were poetry, they’d never get published down normal routes. So today, Songs For My Unborn Children has been self-published via Amazon and now they’re available to buy!
Doing it this way also means I get a say in all the art work, from the cover to the supporting instagram account.
So they’re out in the big wide world: Part memoir, all poetry, they cover the complete arc of infertility, from the pain of waiting, the grief of miscarriage to hospital visits, treatments, IVF, and finally the joy of a successful birth.
In the foreword, Dr Bewley writes:
‘Years ago, I was privileged to be given an early version of Songs to my Unborn Child from Kate during the course of her pregnancy, and to be allowed to use some for a book on Reproductive Ageing. She opened my eyes to the long, complex shadow that infertility, miscarriage and medicalised conception cast way beyond the immediate experiences. Doctors don’t bring ‘meaning’ to our everyday routines that clash with each patient’s exquisite vulnerability; it’s not a strong part of our skill set. But Kate provides another route to compassionate understanding. Few artists can paint pain, but this poetess succinctly describes the emotional roller coaster of suffering, endurance and recovery that will resonate for women who’ve experienced it, and induce empathy from those who haven’t. She gives voice to Everywoman’s shame and taboos. Even though she was one of the lucky ones for whom IVF did work, for most it does not. Every million cute IVF babies celebrated in the news and advertisements are accompanied by another several millions of futile cycles, chemical pregnancies, miscarriages and wounded souls. And emptier pockets. Although a proud mother now, Kate wears her scars. She doesn’t gloat or forget her trauma, or the ‘sisters in suffering’ who follow her. They might, or might not, take a similar journey to eventual peace but will recognize themselves. Read, cry, learn, repeat.’
Yep. It made me weep.
Songs is divided into five sections: Infertility, Miscarriage and IVF failure, Treatment, Afterwards and Pregnancy. It is ultimately a success story, but I hope the journey and the emotions will be recognised by all who have or who are walking this terrible path.
Please share, pass on to someone they might help, if you can’t buy – follow, anything to help get the word out, and I will be eternally grateful.
A big day.
Laters, Kate x
My Black Lives Matter post last week was weak; an expansive gesture hiding behind art and it’s many interpretations. Part of the reason is because for me to talk about racism is to hold extra large cartons of organic ducks eggs, one in each hand, whilst attempting to ride a unicycle for the first time; it’s bound to end in a privileged mess. Instead I have watched and listened, and it seems to me, the strongest way forward is through education, re-education, thinking, reading and more listening. Below is a list of available resources, the first three being personal to me – articles and documentaries that first opened my eyes.
Jane Elliott is an American schoolteacher, anti-racism activist, and educator. She is known for her “Blue eyes–Brown eyes” exercise. She first conducted this famous exercise for her class on April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated; she wanted her pupils to feel the pain of racism. I don’t know when I first watched this documentary – maybe it was shown in a social science class at my secondary school – I do know I have carried it with me ever since. It wasn’t just the shock of segregation along seemingly inconsequential lines, it was the shock that people (in this case children) would not only go along with it, but it would influence their behaviour outside the classroom. It was a brilliant and brutal showcase of human failing, exposing our ever constant need to conform to a perceived power source and the contagion of group think.
White Privilege, ‘Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’ by Peggy McIntosh, first written in 1989, is an article I only read in the last couple of years. Again, it had a profound effect. Whilst’s Jane’s exercise was about conscious discrimination, this was about the unconscious discrimination we allow without thinking because we just don’t see it, because to notice has been conditioned out of us. She informed me, the word is not equal and there is no thing as meritocracy.
Notice anything about my education? White and female…
There’s not enough space to fill the books, words and videos of Maya Angelou. But with her brilliance, strength, wit and wonder, she remains a huge influence. My Grandmother gave me my first copy of a book by her – I know why the cages bird sings – and I can see it as I type this.
For the following list, I want to thank the High Low podcast, it is the result of their research combine with others such as the New York Times. Please refer back to this link if any of the links below don’t work:
Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
How To Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
The Good Immigrant compiled by Nikesh Shukla
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Women Race and Class by Angela Davis
White Rage by Carol Anderson
Brit-ish by Afua Hirsch
My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay
Slay In Your Lane by Elizabeth Uviebinené & Yomi Adegoke
A Burst of Light by Audre Lorde
Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri
Taking Up Space: The Black Girls Manifesto For Change by Chelsea Kwakye & Ore Ogunbiyi
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
Aint I a Woman: Black Women & Feminism by bell hooks
Why You Need To Stop Saying “All Lives Matter” by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle for Harper’s Bazaar https://bit.ly/3gG8rgq
Ibram X. Kendi’s reading list for The New York Times https://nyti.ms/3gKL8lH
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
On Beauty and White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Citizen: An American Life by Claudia Rankine
I know why the caged Bird sings by Maya Angelou
George Floyd’s Memorial Fund
Black Lives Matter
Black Protest Legal Support UK
Stop Hate UK
The Stephen Lawrence Trust
The Innocence Project
Show Racism The Red Card
Black Visions Collective
Girls Out Loud
Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Can Change The World series on Rosa Parks & Harriet Tubman
A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Petition to update GCSE reading list https://bit.ly/2U6foOl
1619 podcast by The NY Times
With thoughts and positivity, Kate x
Greta Gerwig is only the fifth woman ever to be nominated for best director at the Oscars.
Marie Curie – honoured twice with the Nobel Prize, in 1903 for physics and 1911 for chemistry. Between the years 1901 – 2017 only 48 women in total have been awarded the prize.
1984 was the first year women were allowed to run the marathon at the Olympic games. The gold medal was won by Joan Benoit Samuelson.
The Oxford and Cambridge boat race. First rowed by women in 1927 and then annually since 1964. The women’s race was only televised in 2015.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of women in the UK getting the vote – but don’t be fooled into thinking this was all women – we’re talking women over 30 with ‘property’..the real equality would take another eleven years.
100 years later discrimination is still rife. Except it’s not talked about, because it doesn’t happen. In fact there are so many people convinced of their good intentions towards women that they don’t even notice their glaring disrespect for them: Grid girls? Equal number of grid boys please, along with female racing drivers, women mechanics, female engineers, women running F1 teams – and lets add heading up the car companies as well because we still need an explosion of the myth that cars are just for boys. Time to grow up.
Laters, Kate x
So this post was originally written two years ago, to celebrate Bella’s eighth birthday. On the day of her tenth birthday, I don’t think I can improve on the sentiment contained, except to say the words grow more concentrated with each passing day x
We’ve been in the garden county of Kent for the first week of half-term (it’s a two week break for us) – and I thought I was prepared for the black hole of social media that this part of the UK has historically proved to be by taking a dongle with us, but even that was no match for the rich eiderdown of life that seems to squash the very lifeblood of the internet to nothing in these parts. On the plus side, life without the internet is a lot simpler..more old fashioned..and in the end, there was really nothing for it but to embrace the holiday spirit and go with the flow..it’s been a great break!
We also celebrated Bella’s eighth birthday..it’s hard to believe, it seems only yesterday I was holding that tiny baby, watching the face of Big Ben tick round that first night we spent together in St Thomas’ hospital. I look at her now and have the most enormous chest restricting rush – she is my open-heart production – vibrant, living, learning..I never used to worry so much about life, now there’s more grey..I’ve become an observer, teacher and pupil too. it’s weird – you think your helpless child will be totally reliant on you and you have your experience and the need to guide and help, but it’s just not true. Instead it’s a constant balancing act that I don’t think anyone can get totally right: You want to lead, but you don’t want to helicopter. You want to love and cuddle, but you don’t want to smother. There’s an undeniable pleasure in growing together in habits, tastes and socks…but the easiest thing as a parent is to see your child as a mini-you where you now have the ability to correct all the imperfections..or to see the person they are now as the character they will always be and deny them the space to grow..thoughts like that just end up passing the negativity down the food-chain, or so it seems to me..but then who am I to say?
I know I don’t want her to be the child that has everything – but even deciding that is choosing a course of action, adding an intrinsic quality, another detail. I don’t believe that love is materialistic, instead I believe adversity supports initiative – one of the greatest gifts a parent can bestow. To that I add manners, self-respect and confidence – far more important in real life than examination certificates. I want her to have the space to find out who she is away from any expectations of mine and to be able to express that in any situation. I want her to have the confidence to stand up and say her opinion whether it’s right or wrong. I want her to make mistakes, whether it’s in her maths homework or something bigger, to learn there are always solutions if you look hard enough and mistakes are part of the stepping stones of life and shouldn’t be avoided…sometimes they lead you forward.
Life is as delicate as a falling feather but should always be a glorious caper..I hope she has a wonderfully misspent youth with sunshine smiles and audacious bursts of laughter, she is my joy, my love, my heart…and I hope that when the time comes, I have the sense to set my treasure free..
Does mother know best? You dream about it..but ultimately kids appear from nowhere and have wills of their own and you’re just ordinary people trying to get through life the very best way you can, showing them life and hopefully a way of looking at things that opens the door to where the magic lies….
Laters, Kate x
I’ve been reading Bea Johnson’s book ‘Zero Waste Home’ with interest – it’s fair to say it’s an eye opener. Whilst there’s no doubt she’s taken her chosen style of living to an extreme (her 4 member family produce just one large jar of rubbish a year)..( I confess that’s less than we manage in a day) and despite the fact the book is written for the American market, there’s no denying the hidden gold between the pages…..she genuinely believes that in our fast-paced, modern world we’ve disconnected from the true reality of our commercialism and the consequences of our voracious, unstoppable actions. By shining a light on something as simple as rubbish she aims to change people’s attitudes in a broader, rippling sense..and make a real difference both to the individual and the planet. Impressive ambitions.
The book reminds me of an article I read in the Times by Caitlin Moran where she admitted that as a poor person she was far more creative: No money to buy it equalled make it or fix it. But now with success, she just throws money at the problem…we think because we can have it all, we should have it all. We even deserve to have it all.
Bea thinks differently: She likes to simplify life right down to needs not wants, equalling less hassle, less waste..less stuff.
And that’s where she and I differ. I understand the simplicity of a clutter free, simplified life…but clutter and old stuff are fundamental to my personal lifeblood. All these pics represent interiors I aspire to with their sense of timeless style and soft edges.
A house without books? Soulless.
No artworks and bedspreads?
(All pics Pinterest)
Or knick knacks and beautiful rugs? It would break my little heart.
But I think there are grey areas where we overlap. And I’d really like to explore her world in little steps..doing something different every month. Watch this space…
Laters, Kate x
Do you believe in serendipity? The digging out of our basement has been put on hold as we’ve taken the expensive decision to expand the works slightly. It was going to be L-shaped with this bit of the ‘L’ being the boiler room, but now the front wall’s been taken down to make way for the steels, it’s easy to see it would be possible to square the room off and gain an extra 2 metres in depth. Except this means more money..and going through Party Wall again as we’ve moved the goal posts. No pain, no gain. But..
Guess what the builders found?
A bag of Smallholder And Home Gardener newspapers, dated from WW2..which although interesting, wouldn’t be gold to the average person on the Clapham omnibus..
Except Mrs Smallholder, who wrote for the paper was a relative! Well, I say relative..Auntie Ethel (Mrs Samllholder) was the wife of Uncle George, who was the brother of one of the two midwives that adopted my Grandmother, Beryl Archer when she was born, and became her father-figure. The story of my Grandmother’s adoption has always been a family mystery. After her death, I found an article she’d written for a magazine about Norfolk, it read: ‘Beryl Maccafrey Archer was the fourth child of a hospital matron and an administrator. As a baby she was ‘adopted’ by two middle-aged nurses during the First World War, though to this day she has no idea why ‘I can only assume it was for safe-keeping during the east coast bombardment,’ she says now. Later she came to know her two older sisters and a brother, who all continued to live at home with their parents in Devon whilst she continued living with her ‘Aunts’ in Great Yarmouth. Effectively Mopsie (her family nickname) was brought up independently by 4 loving, caring adults who never had children of their own and adored her – she always said she had a far better life with them then her siblings ever did at ‘home’. I still have all the evocative, timeless stories Mopsie wrote about her childhood, written with love, clarity and humour about a time now long gone…before my children came along I started putting them together to turn them into a book..maybe it’s a project I’ll have to return to..serendipity…
Laters, Kate x
My parent’s house sits on a hill on the right hand curve of a bay that acts as a natural amphitheatre with an unnerving ability to amplify recognisable conversations all the way from the beach. A fact we used to appreciate in the old days when the only telephone belonged to the taverna down below, over the quiet hum of cicada’s we’d hear a frantic ‘Mackenzie!, Mac-ken-zie!’ – and we knew we had 10 minutes to drop whatever we were doing and run down as quickly as possible to be there for when the caller was told to call again.
It’s that knowledge of history and familiarity that adds to the magic of the place..the fact that really, very little has changed..there’s still the scent of pines, the noise of crickets, the enveloping heat, all heavily layering the air, gently luring you in to eternal enchantment.
Some of the older characters of my youth have moved or passed on now – I remember Christo Louris, locally known as the ‘ex-millionaire’ who’d allegedly been taken to the cleaners by his wife..who then spent the rest of his ‘fortune’ trying to keep his demanding mistress happy in an exclusive flat in Piraeus. He’d sit at the taverna and nurse a beer all day long…and leap on any leftover plates of food, claiming them as his own.
Another great favourite was Captain Alecko – a man almost as round as he was tall. He would happily tell us long, involved stories about his life at sea that generally ended in some disaster or other. I know my cousins were staying in the house by themselves one summer and, in the seclusion and shade of the verandah, they discussed which side they thought Captain Alecko batted for (he always had a rather young, attractive, male ‘helper’ with him) when over the wind came the sing-song words ‘Captain Alecko…he has very big ears!..” They ran inside and didn’t come out for two days. The natural amphitheatre has a lot to answer for..Captain Alecko’s two great concerns were that the authorities would discover he had Laskarina Bouboulina’s telescope, that had come into his possession via some dubious route, which never happened..and that his mother would die whilst he was on holiday, and no-one would tell him – which did!
Drawing everything together is the taverna on the beach which represents both the social centre and a touch of mafia.
At one point there were two tavernas..Thanasi was the first and main one, owning a lot of the land around, but he gave his friend Tasos the baker, a plot of land behind his taverna as a present to build a retirement villa on. Tasos promptly built his own taverna that proved to be a roaring success – all his food was slow-cooked with local herbs in a bakers oven…and the two never spoke again..instead, whenever the wind was blowing in the right direction Thanasi would throw out his fish guts in the style of a proper greek feud. Tasos taverna ran for many, many years before age did finally catch up with the wily old fox..it is still missed today.
Not that the feuds have stopped. The bus driver and the taverna had a falling out, so now every day, three times a day, the bus reverses all the way down the road to avoid turning in front of the taverna. I had to video it..only in Greece..a bus travelling backwards..
(My father introducing his Grandson to the delights of cipero at sunset..we now know where Charlie gets his sartorial gene from..)
And slowly the time came when we would leave the island and head to the next part of the holiday – for years we’d looked from the bay to these mountains on the Peloponnese and wondered what was there..and now we were going to find out. A mere 18 miles across the sea..a lot more by car, it was going to be an adventure…
But although it was good bye to Spetses…
It wasn’t to my parents – we were taking them with us!
Laters, Kate x
The profit and loss columns of my house-slash-life are not looking great…the last few days have been the tornado before the storm – clearing out the cellar, sitting room and kitchen in preparation for our building works. The affect has been dramatic: The holiday washing is now ingeniously mixed in with boxes of electrical cables, stuff for charity and remnants of bubble wrap. After working all day alongside the movers, I sat on the kitchen step with my head in my hands hardly able to look at the horror..everything we need to live with for the next few months has been
artfully arranged shoved into our back sitting room so that it now contains 3 sofas, 2 coffee tables, 10 chairs of various descriptions, 2 tables, 2 bookcases, a fridge and a freezer. Every spare surface has been filled with coats, school bags, shoes, boxes of papers, iceskating stuff, hoovers, brooms, footballs, picnic blankets and anything else I thought in my lunacy we might need this summer..and if it’s not there, it’s been thrown into another room of the house.
The garden’s not looking too hot either – I had grand plans of emptying the shed and turning it into a creative art room-hashtag-place of sanctuary for
me the kids..everything is now out of the shed, exposing a gaping hole in the roof..a trip to the DIY shop for some cut-to-size marine ply has been unhappily added to the weekends list, whilst the sheds rotting innards lie in attractive piles (about as attractive as piles) around the garden, all needing re-homing or throwing..this building lark’s turned into a gigantic game of musical stuff..and I’m losing.
It will get sorted – it’s that inevitable drive through a foggy night on an unknown road..and then the sun comes out again. But it does make you think about the amount of crud we accumulate and lug around. For this clear out, I’ve really tried hard to be ruthless, inspired by the epiphany I had on holiday; At one point, when we were on a remote part of the Peloponnese, we really thought Mr B, due to work pressures, would have to fly home early. We gave notice on our hotel, re-packed all the bags so that he had 90% of our luggage to drive back to Athens in the hire car, leaving us with only had the bare necessities that I knew could manage travelling by myself with two children. As it was, we drove half way back, to the bit of mainland opposite the island of Spetses, left the car there for a quick gettaway if it was needed, and returned to the sanctuary of my parent’s house/working internet with the husband still with us in body, if not in mind and an exit route ready if required…he stayed, but remained on the phone throughout the holiday, poor luv. But we totally managed with what we had and it focused the mind on how much easier it is to live with less..decisions are halved, space is freed up..life is simpler.
I now dream of a simpler life: Call it builders blues, mid-life crisis, a feeling of rebellion caused by the husband’s work-overload against both the expectations and pace of modern life, but I just have the niggling sense I want to get off the middle class merry-go-round…instead, I fear, I’ve just pressed the button to make it all go faster.
Laters, Kate x
Anyone else heading to Greece on holiday this summer? Worried about the economic crisis? Don’t be…if I hadn’t seen the media reports before we left, I wouldn’t know there was a problem. Whilst the political events may have been whipped up into a fury in the papers, day to day life, at least for tourists, remains unchanged – ATMs still work, there’s petrol in the pumps and food on the supermarket shelves.
We were wary before we left and quickly bought cash belts and locks for the suitcases, but, like the dew in the morn, those feelings have long since gone.
Fundamentally, this is a cash based society – which has been part of the problem – that and corrupt politicians. Ultimately, if you have cash or a foreign credit card, you are fine and rather than seeing poverty some Greeks are still very wealthy…which are the ones we’re more likely to see on holiday, particularly in a place like Spetses. I will confess to some Marie Antoinette twinges, an openning gulf between those with and those without – a low slung banana yellow Lamborghini roared past us on a mountain road, there was a wedding on Spetses reportedly costing millions for a single day of celebrations, the beach turned into a dance floor with enough lights to resemble an alien landing. Is it enough for potential civil unrest? Only time will tell. I asked a friend married to a Greek whether there was a growing awareness of this discrepancy, she said no, Greeks didn’t see it as a flaunting of wealth but rather admired it as a show of success, she said I was viewing the situation through envy driven British eyes that like to attack the successful.
Who knows..but it does feel like this country is in the grips of the sovereign equivalent to a Company takeover….where the majority of the employees have been forgotten.
Personally, I would have like the no vote to mean no, for Greece to take Europe by the cojones and leave the Euro and for Germany to be proudly presented with wheel barrowfuls of freshly printed drachma, which would’ve promptly devalued. Yes, it would cause huge problem….but it would leave Greece in control of Greece.
But then I’m seeing this through privileged English eyes….
Laters, Kate x