22 Jun 2013


We have finally bought a house and decided to stay there- yeah! This involved carting all our belongings across town yet again with the help of some amazing mates who were fed and watered for less than the cost of hiring a removal company, and who also offered childminding and decorating services before, during and afterwards which conventional removal companies don't. Thank you! (You know who you are) Xxx 

In the first few days after the move Madi desperately wanted to assist with the painting operation and asked on several occasions to help. Keen to exploit encourage this interest and reduce the amount of time spent in front of the TV develop life skills for the future, I employed the technique that was used on me as a child when I asked to decorate- I gave her a cupboard. With a laminate floor. 

I supplied the paint (Cloud Whisper), a 2" brush, a dust sheet for the floor inside the cupboard, another different coloured dust sheet for the carpet immediately outside the cupboard (the decontamination area), and got her to put on her scruffy clothes (a long sleeve t shirt and torn jeans, both hand-me-downs from Jackson).

We went over the instructions again:
• Dip brush up to HERE
 Transfer to wall
 Don't worry about the edges (I'll fill those in)
 Reach up as HIGH as you can (I'll do the super high bits)
 When you get fed up and want to leave, put your brush HERE
 Stand at edge of dust sheet
 Remove scruffy clothes and socks
 Progress to decontamination area and wipe hands on THIS cloth
• Check soles of feet for traces of Cloud Whisper, and if negative-
 You may go

Operation Paint Child could begin.

Madi loved it. I loved it too. Painting is fun and painting with someone else, even a 7 year old child with no previous experience, is even better. As we progressed around the cupboard, I painted the high bits she had no way of reachingI mopped up splodges of Cloud Whisper which had begun running down the wall in little rivulets. In other places the yellow wall beneath was still showing through, so I filled in the gaps with my bigger brush. 

When she finally decided to stop, the cupboard was pretty much finished. I assisted with the decontamination (as above) and off she skipped to get dressed and watch telly with her brothers.

I surveyed the completed project and painted over the last few imperfections that were left. Then I cleaned up and decontaminated myself (which involved only naked feet, not my whole person). 

I could have painted the cupboard without Madi's help. It would have taken roughly the same effort to paint alone than it did to paint with her, then smooth over the flaws afterwards. The effort I either saved or spent isn't the issue.

It was the process itself that was significant. We spoke about all sorts of stuff while we worked together. And Madi definitely benefitted from contributing to a project that was bigger than herself. 

I think there's a massive correlation between spiritual stuff and the scenario described above. The more I think about it the more I feel like a kid with a paintbrush, clumsily but happily slopping paint on the wall and enjoying being with a parent who could do whatever needs to be done without help but chooses to involve me anyway. 

My prayers are not perfect. I concentrate far too much on some issues and the paint starts to run. Then I skim over other more important things that need more input and the colour beneath isn't obliterated yet but I've already moved on to another bit of wall.

But it doesn't matter. I'm sharing the same paint pot with someone who loves me and who can reach the high bits.

4 Jun 2013


I seem to be in an incredibly long tunnel. I have no idea when I got here or how. It's probably a dream then- either that or I'm an architect in Inception?

The ground is covered in a soft moss-like surface. I'm walking far quicker than I know I'm capable of and I cover loads of ground fairly quickly with hardly any effort at all - like I'm on a travelator at an airport. I can't see a source of light but the walls themselves have a dull glow about them so I can see my surroundings easily. The environment is completely alien to me but I'm not anxious. I'm not excited either. I just am.

I gradually become aware of a light up ahead. The tunnel is coming to an end. As I get closer still I see there is a mesh like material all around the exit. I brace myself for getting caught up in it, or maybe waking up. The mesh looks quite flimsy so maybe I'll be able to rip it and get through. Instead when I reach the material, I put my hands out and there's nothing there. 

I stumble out into a bright and noisy courtyard. I'm completely overwhelmed. My senses have gone from minimal stimuli to maximum in a second. There's colour, sky, sunshine, birds, music, trees and people- lots of people. Pretty much shoulder to shoulder. Jostling. Chatting. Laughing. Singing. Crying. Hugging. There's even a conga line of them snaking past. All nationalities are here. And all ages- little kids walking hand in hand with old people. Maybe even different eras are represented too- judging by what people are wearing. There are business like people, kids in school uniform, other kids in jeans and t shirts, soldiers in military gear, goths, tramps, hippies, surfers, elegant looking people in designer labels and everything in between. Some of them look like they've just stepped out of an old photograph- except they're not black and white but dressed in muted browns and greys. It's such an eclectic mix of people it's like a costume party.

The courtyard appears to be part of a city built on a hill. The walls are painted white, dazzling in the sun. There are passageways leading off it in every direction, intersecting with adjacent buildings. 
As I'm processing all this and trying to orientate myself, a stranger makes his way towards me, jostling a few people out the way and breaking through the conga line (shouting 'Oh- sorry, excuse me..') then when he reaches me his smile grows even wider than before and he embraces me in the biggest bear hug ever. 'You're here at last!' he exclaims, 'I can't believe it!'

I squint stupidly at him because I'm certain we don't know each other. He's wearing a stripey cotton shirt (the non iron crinkly kind), ripped jeans and a navy bandana. I study his face and will my brain to access some clue as to his identity. He's in his 30's maybe with a goatee beard. His kind dark eyes bore into mine, crinkling at the edges with his smile. He is genuinely made up to see me (or whoever he has mistaken me for). He squeezes my shoulders and chuckles to himself 'I've been waiting ages you know- AGES...'

I open my mouth to tell him he must be thinking of someone else when he suddenly grabs my hand and starts pushing past the crowds, towing me along 'Come with me- there's so many people you need to meet!' Before I can argue we're off- pushing our way through the laughing, hugging, singing, conga-ing crowds. In and out of buildings, passageways, cobbled streets and more courtyards.

I am introduced to loads of people, some of whom I know and some I don't. Each one of them seems to know the friendly stranger in the bandana though, and our progress is hampered by exchanges between him and various people who approach us. I am still totally disorientated but don't have time to ask questions- even of the people I know, as I am constantly being whisked away to meet someone else or see a fountain or statue or something else of interest.

One of the people he takes me to is John, an elderly bloke I knew as a child. When I knew him before he was blind, but now his eyes are bright, sparkly and 100% functional. He touches my face with his hand and says I look just like my voice. I want to ask him how long he's been here and who exactly is this stranger in the bandana who has mistaken me for his long lost friend, when I am tugged off once more with 'Ah there she is- come on. See you later John!' And off we go again. John waves to the back of bandana man's head and as I look back at him, he's laughing and dancing with the people on either side of him.

My tour goes on for ages. There are endless introductions and reintroductions. I loose track of who's who and how they are related to each other. I'm exhausted by the newness of it all and yet not breathless at all, even though the city streets are steep and hilly and we have been rushing around between all these different buildings.

Eventually we come to the biggest room yet. It is HUGE with a long wide table down the middle of the room, laden with food. There are big bowls of fruit of genetically modified proportions (grapes the size of satsumas, melon-sized oranges), silver covered serving dishes with delicious smelling contents and pitchers of water with yet more sliced fruit floating on the surface. No one seems to have time to stop and enjoy it though. There's too much chatting and excitement. 

We pass by the top of the table and I'm being led out to an annexe of the hall when I spot the throne. It's the most impressive looking thing ever. Elevated 2 steps above the rest of the room and about eight feet high. It's made of gold with dozens of glistening stones embellishing the sides and back. I know at once the jewels are authentic and it belongs to someone of massive importance.

'Where's the king?' I ask, trying to slow down and look at it properly.

'Huh?' Asks the bandana guy, barely slowing down and excusing us past yet another group who are in the way.

I stop dead. He's still holding my hand so rebounds back towards me. 'Where's the king?' I shout this time and point to the throne. He waves a hand at it dismissively. 'I'll sit down for a while later- I can't sit still for two minutes now you've got here!' He takes my hand and turns to go off again, but I tug his hand hard and force him to stop and look at me.

I uncurl his fingers from mine and turn his hand over. My heart lurches up to my throat, suddenly pounding wildly like I've been running up and down cobbled city streets for the past few hours and it's only just realised. 
I grab his other hand and examine it too. Like the first, this palm is also badly scarred. A loud sob comes from somewhere near my stomach and I crumple. 

The crying is uncontrollable. I sob against his chest in a mixture of awe and love and appreciation and snot. I'm so overwhelmed I think I might explode. Like a little child who can't command their emotions, I struggle to express them AND breathe. I cling to the bandana man digging my fingers into his arms and choking on my words 'I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I'm sorry...' 

He's silent for a while, like he knows I need to say it, then eventually disentangles himself from my grasp and holds me at arms length, staring at me with his head slightly cocked to one side. He looks happier yet (if that's possible) and maybe even slightly bemused. 'I know you're sorry. You told me before. A long time ago- remember?'  

'Yes but this time I reeeaaallly truly am!' 

I have never meant those words properly before. NEVER.

'I know. You said before. I forgave then. We moved on- yeah?' He embraces me again as my breathing slowly returns to normal. Then he pats my back furiously and yells in excitement, 'Oh there's Karen, from your student halls- 4th floor- remember her? Come on!' And he grabs my hand and we dart off together through the crowds.

Holding his hand, I laugh and run and know I am awake.