a grief

I’m sorry I’ve been crappy about answering comments lately. By the time I’ve written the occasional meaningful (to me) blog post, I get a bit reticent and stuff. I’m still reading your blogs and I’m still really pleased when you comment on mine.

I feel rough (rough as a badger’s arse). Sleepless and hypervigilant, somewhere between 2 and 3am this morning, I suddenly had a flashback to my mother when I’d just told her that her cancers and organ failure were too far gone to treat. I guess her words will be burned into my brain forever. I guess I mostly block them out. The flashback punched out of my mind like some kind of horrible roaring, rushing thing. I felt as though my ribcage was too small, I felt hot. I got out of bed fast, on to the stoep. The sky was dark, clear, the stars seemed to hang low and peaceful. It sorted my mind out pretty quickly.

The dogs and I were on the beach just after 5am, in time to watch the sunrise. Pastel pink clouds, deep pink sun and then bright, blazing yellow. The beach is lovely when even the fishermen haven’t arrived. Big expanse of hard sand, a lively sea while the tide goes out, then birds start to make themselves heard. Plough snails creep along the tideline, looking for dead jellyfish to hoover up with their almost translucent probosces. The dogs chase birds, sniff ghost crab hideouts, pee on flotsam. The sea is good at rinsing a tired and fried mind.

Longevity is really good in my family; I’d thought about it many years before and figured cheerfully that my mother would make 80-90. She was tall, strong, determined. And full of unseen cancer. It’s time for me to let go of the cancer anger. Fuck off, both of you and the horses you rode in on.


She’s dead. As much as I mourn that fact, she is dead. My strange mind just started squawking the Monty Python dead parrot skit. It’s funny – if you haven’t heard it, you really should. My mind wanders off, musing upon the distance between digital everything and those old vinyl comedy records, that could be listened to over and over, and were because things like Netflix hadn’t been dreamed yet. We got a lot of mileage from cherished records. Ahem. Pleasant digression, I almost started in on casette tapes.

She’s dead. As angry and alone as it makes me feel, that is the reality. My reality.

Some local fools killed a night adder this morning. They can give a nastyish bite, but really not that bad. Could’ve left the poor bugger to snack on his frog in peace. Bah. Scale: the frog is roughly the size of an adult hand, small snake. Muscly, but short.


I’d have caught it and let it go, we have enough conservation land in the area. Eh, we probably have more than enough night adders to, but still … I googled (of course), Causus rhombeatus is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

My mother was very freaked out by snakes, I guess because she grew up in England. Brave enough though; she scooped me up and saved me from a black mamba when I was three (I have a little scar under my bottom lip from tripping), she said it struck and spat at the glass door when we were inside. That was in Zambia. One day while we walked down to the beach here, a puff adder was lazily crossing the dirt road and I pulled my mother back by her shirt collar to stop her unwittingly stepping on or over it. A puffie won’t kill you as long as you get the anti-venom fairly fast, but it is the fastest striking snake in Africa. I hadn’t thought of it till now – we saved each other from snakes, 40 years apart. That’s very cool. I have a lot of snake stories, I think we all do here.

And progress, I think, that I just wrote my way blindly to a happy memory. With the past four posts about grief, by this stage I’d have a tennis ball full of tears in my throat and a few leaking down my face.

Sidenote: apart from rescues, I am very, very, very opposed to snakes in captivity. If you don’t make friends with something in the wild, you shouldn’t have it as a pet.

I’m weary and sad and clenching my jaw hard. Fuckit but I miss her. Perhaps this is the start of acceptance though.



For years, I couldn’t listen to the Beatles ballad that’s indelibly linked to my mother’s death. Then my one-year-old daughter helped me start to make it better.
take a sad song and make it better

‘A speechless sadness’
– Osip Mandelstam*

A speechless sadness
opened two huge eyes.
A vase of flowers woke:
splashing crystal surprise.

The whole room filled,
with languor – sweet potion!
Such a tiny kingdom
to swallow sleep’s ocean.

Wine’s slight redness,
May’s slight sunlight –
fingers, slender, and white,
breaking wafer-fragments.

*Russian poet, dissident, died in a gulag.

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