Amid the furrow and the thorn

Listen to the wraiths of morning in Flanders fields of grey,

Can you hear The Royal Sussex who came and went away

And linger still in graves unknown amidst the furrow and the thorn.

But never flinched, duty done, these sons of Sussex bred and born.

Alfred Sonny Mercer, Looking eastwards towards Berlin Wood with the sun rising over Tyne Cot CWGC Cemetery.

Looking eastwards towards Berlin Wood with the sun rising over Tyne Cot CWGC Cemetery. http://www.westernfrontphotography.com

100 years ago today, my great-great uncle Alfred Sidney Mercer – known as Sonny – died on the battlefront in Belgium.

Despite being underage (just 15) Sonny, from Farnham in Surrey, enlisted at either Aldershot or Guildford in early September 1915, and was assigned to the Royal Sussex Regiment. How did his parents feel? Did they give him their blessing, or did they only find out when it was too late to do much about it? And what of his siblings reactions? My grandfather Rev, named after a once-revered soldier-general, was next in age to Sonny; did he yearn to join up, too?

Alfred Sidney Sonny Mercer - Teenage soldiers in World War 1

Teenage recruits, British Army, WW1

Sonny was placed in the 11th Service Battalion of the 1st South Downs (the Battalion having moved from Sussex to Aldershot in September 1915 and in October 1915 to Witley, south east of Aldershot and Farnham, whereby it came under command of the 116th Brigade in 39th Division).

In February 1916 the 39th mobilised for war and landed at Havre in March. After further training the Division were soon involved in a diverse and what appear to be continuous (and remorseless) series of action on the Western Front. These included: 1916 – an attack near Richebourg l’Avoue, The fighting on the Ancre, The Battle of Thiepval Ridge, The Battle of the Ancre Heights, The Battle of the Ancre. 1917 – The Battle of Pilkem Ridge, The Battle of Langemarck, The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, The Battle of Polygon Wood, The Second Battle of Passchendaele. 1918 – The Battle of St Quentin, The Battle of Bapaume, The Battle of Rosieres, The fighting on Wytschaete Ridge, The First Battle of Kemmel, The Second Battle of Kemmel, and for Sonny finally, The Battle of the Scherpenberg. Such a blunt, factual list of battles, which can in no way could begin to describe  the mayhem, violence and terror endured by the men and women, animals and landscape of the Western Front.

Alfred Sidney Mercer, Scherpenberg Hill, the scene of the Battle of Scherpenberg in April 1918.

Scherpenberg Hill, the scene of the Battle of Scherpenberg in April 1918

The days (weeks, in reality) leading up to the 29th April 1918 were marked by constant, at times heavy – or as the 116th’s War Diary stated, “violent” – shelling. During the course of this day Sonny went missing, and was ultimately presumed dead. The one detail his official Army death record omitted was his age. Sonny was just 19 years old.

He is remembered at Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing in Zonnebeke, Belgium  as one of these missing. A modest memorial also stands in Gostrey Meadow in Farnham which commemorates the fallen of Farnham during the Great War, with “A.S.Mercer” inscribed among the many other names.

Alfred Sidney (Sonny) Mercer, Gostrey meadow war memorial spring 2015 copyright FTC.

Memorial to the Fallen of WW1, Gostrey Meadow, Farnham, Surrey, England

As children I remember how we would stand on its plinth and trace with our fingers the engraved letters of his name. I did not know how I should feel. Pride? Grief? Some kind of innate understanding of what his loss meant to his parents and siblings, and to his wider family? I was a child, but I think I knew even then that I should, and wanted to, feel more than just a thrill of excitement that a family member’s name was on public display in the park where we so often played.

Alfred Mercer The Next of Kin Memorial Scroll WW1

The Next of Kin Memorial Scroll WW1

Sonny was, and is, one unique piece in a myriad of puzzle pieces which make up a family, a country, and a collective humanity. While there never was, and never will be anything humane about war, about injury, about loss and grief, yet these experiences are each part of the tapestry which binds us together.

And I reflect upon a forever 19-year-old young man, missing, never found, sunk into the landscape of a green field, come battlefield, now pasture again, and I wonder which part of the ground is nourished by his body? Macabre? No more so than when I visit my mother’s grave, and appreciate the flowers blooming and thriving where her body lies.

We rise, we live, for either a moment or a seeming eternity, and we fall. Even we, even so.

Alfred Sidney Mercer - Passchendaele Mud. Taken near Tyne Cot Cemetery, which commemorates almost 35,000 men whose remains is still in these fields.

Passchendaele Mud. Taken near Tyne Cot Cemetery, which commemorates almost 35,000 men whose remains are still in these fields. http://www.westernfrontphotography.com

Mercy for Sonny

Barbed wire buried

deep in the fields I am grown in,

enmeshed roots, sods, earth,

bound tight,

scented loam

holding light and rain and warmth,

rusting the wire,

burnishing…

Sap rising

sap quenched…

 

April 28, 2018

440px-Poppies_Field_in_Flanders

The poppies of Flanders fields

A bridge into the unknown

When I was young, I was sacred, beloved and infinite, I was the beginnings of a mighty dream, I was truth, and I was all. Now I map my way to destiny, unafraid and ever-longing for completion of the pattern that spins around my head. And as yet there are no answers, and paths change with every step, and I slow to choose direction and forget to raise my face. Yet beloved, I will continue, I will echo out, forever, I will trace patterns with my fingers, I am the dreamer of the dream…

In the Christian tradition, the belief is that God reveals himself in dreams, although conversely, the dream is also the place of diabolical revelations. So, in this place and in this state, is revealed to me the pattern and the fabric and the influences on my heart, which I may often miss in my more awakened state.

Jung espoused the dream as a mirror for the ego, for dreams can reveal those things which, when conscious, I keep hidden. Dreams can both teach me and guide me to confront these things; they can encourage and assist me to actively play a part in the growth and development of my personality, an ongoing and fluid creation of consciousness. Each day, I become more fully myself.

The room, wherein lies the bed, is the central, pivotal stage for the development of ego and of self. The unconscious seeks to make itself known. Inscribed over the doorway of Jung’s home and on his tomb are the words: ‘Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus adevit’ –‘Called, or uncalled, God is present.

The bed is a tangible, physical representation of the dream, a place where I, the ego, I, the body and I, the conscious mind go forward to meet the unconscious, wherein lies the mystery and the wisdom of myself. The bed, and the dream, are bridges over which I cross into the unknown. I cross my bridge; I pass, trembling, over fast-moving waters.

When I close my eyes to the light and enter sleep, immersing myself like a swimmer entering warm waters, I let go of my ego, putting my faith in the God within.

Now I lay me down to sleep/I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

And if I die before I wake/I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Bed space, my heart and my life, distilled down to this moment, this landscape and this me. Centre of my universe, my universe in microcosm, witness to my words and deeds, reflecting my intent, and energy.

When I enter my bed, I am naked in soul and self, stripped away of all pretence, all costume, all position and title. The bed space requires that I am unclothed, and devoid of pride and arrogance. Here, I am myself, I am accepted, and am humbled.

When I go to bed with my love, I embrace the comfort and closeness, or I can vibrate with the absence of it; I tangibly feel the distance and the coolness of the sheets I lie upon.

My children join me here, having once laid here within me. We breathe in unison, as if they had returned to me, under my ribs, safe and conjoined. We are one, living being, dancing to the shared music in our veins.

Now we two, we three, lay within the bed’s embrace, encouraged by its acceptance. We sleep, we nestle, we move to and from each other, we form again and break, we speak of hidden worlds and dreams. I nurse them here, in shadowy silence, the only movement our breathing and our rhythm. I fall asleep over them, lulled by the wash of breath, and life, and peace.

Kitty angel, MacArthur house 1998

‘A story from your time, Mummy’ a daughter asks, nestling against my curves, creating a groove in the covers and cushions surrounding us, and I begin: ‘Once there was a girl…’, and she and I glance at each other, full of expectation, uncertain of the outcome, though certain of the journey.

I have shared this place with friends and lovers and enemies, I have talked myself inside and out, I have emerged fighting and screaming and have retreated back once more, like an insane wave, falling on a constant shore.

‘It is time for bed’. Who leads who? Who draws the curtains and lights the flame, who sings out the music? The bed receives, the bed responds, the bed becomes the stage for the performance, and the encore.

I lay awake here, hours and days and years, aching with the pain of the loss of self, and love, and direction, my grief absorbed into the depths of my mattress, and my pillow unable to cushion the defeat I feel, but valiantly trying, always trying.

‘Let us say goodbye’ I say, as I lay beside him, once my friend and lover, the father of my daughters, now the stranger he has become to me and to our union.

‘I did not mean for it to be like this’ he says as we both weep, exhausted and desperate.

‘But it is’ I reply, with far more kindness than I will later feel, taking his head and cradling it to my chest, so that we breathe in unison, one last time.

Before I move away forever, I turn to him in a final expression of consolation, and at this moment of separation, when I acknowledge the end, I have perhaps never felt as close to him. I hold him, full of grief and relief, dying another little death, which will be forever etched like acid into my psyche. The bed respects, the bed bows in defeat but still supports me. Goodbye at last to this pretence, this empty, hollowed-out gourd, oh, lay me down to sleep…

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A talisman, and a crystal, too…

And then the bed is reborn, with a new coverlet like the coming of spring. It has a crystal talisman to hang on the bedpost and a new mattress, too, like a galleon fitted out for a new journey into the unknown, into life and sleep, into sickness and health and discovery. I recall the words of John Donne (1630), spoken from the pulpit at St Paul’s over 370 years ago, and heard clearly by my heart today: ‘Our critical day is not the very day of our death, but the whole course of our life’, and I feel myself rise to the challenge of living, once more.

From my bed in my old faraway home, over seven years of summers, autumns, winters and springs I watched the plum tree in my neighbour’s garden rise and fall, discard all semblance of its summer self and strip itself back to its main components – its skeleton of belief and existence, revealing its structure and beauty. So I, in my bed, become myself.

The place where I rest becomes a bridge between my daily life and the unknown, the conscious and the unconscious mind and soul, each evening supporting me on my journey by both giving and receiving me. This place is where I begin my journey each morning and where I return to, faithfully, each night.  Where I lie, where I spend my night has become an expression of who I am, and how I am living my life.

My home is a place away from work and from the outside, public world and within it, my bedroom epitomises this private sphere, and is a place where I spend a considerable amount of my life. And I need this space; my bedroom is a significant way in which I construct my identity, in a way that is separate to how others may define me; it acts as a barrier, a demarcation line between myself and others. Here is where I truly begin, where I leave my public self behind to enter my intimate space, filled as it is with my valued and everyday objects.

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Here is where I truly begin…

At times I feel marooned here, adrift and absent from safety and security, and at other times I am wholly who and what I believe I am, and my room and my bed then becomes a haven and a place of belonging, and I am secure.

For all the times I’ve moved between and within countries, counties, states and houses, whether caused by my mother’s marriages or her death, or my migration, and my own marriage and divorce, my reuniting with extended family, and with my love, when all around is chaos, I have come to understand that my bed, and my bed space is where I have anchored my girls and myself.  It is the centre of our home, and centre to the mysteries of our lives.

This place, this bed is where it all stops: the pretence, the roles I have, the face and image I may present. Here, in my bed, alone, is where I dwell.

This mysterious, island home… John Donne also wrote that ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’. Yet, living on my island – my home, my room and my bed – I am part of the main, but also distant, and distinct from it.

This is the way it is. This is what it means to be sublimely human.

My unique bedhead, made with love

My unique bedhead, made with love

Reference List

Leunig, M (2008), ‘Pillow talk from the dreamtime’, The Age (A2), 5 July, 16.

Scott, R (1997) ed., No Man is an Island: a selection from the prose of John Donne, The Folio Society, London, UK.

The C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco (2009), website, The C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco viewed 23 August 2008 <http://www.sfjung.org/Fall2006.pdf> and <http://www.sfjung.org/index.html>

The past is another country…

The past is another country

The past is another country

We crawl through the skylight window into the pantry and hang there by our armpits, until we drop, one after the other, like little pebbles onto the concrete floor below.

Deb browses the shelves and takes down a packet of cereal, dipping her hand inside.

I stand my ground and sniff the air, trying to sense the mood of this space.

I push open the door leading into the kitchen and we stand there, side by side, feeling for the first time, a sense of alienation from the once achingly-familiar.

There stands the formica table with its six chairs – one for Mum, Dad, Nick, Jules and Deb, and one for luck.

Empty of us now, forever empty of the family we have been.

Deb takes a small, uncertain step towards the corridor.

“Stop!” I hiss, holding her by the elbow.

“There’s something wrong. There’s someone else here. It’s not…”

We smell the alien perfume hanging on the air.

Not Mum’s soft scent, but somebody else’s altogether.

“No, Deb. we can’t” I say, and she begins to weep.

I do too, but in a big-sister kind of way, so that she cannot see.

We leave by the back door.

It clicks behind us, shutting us out, with a finality I only recognise today.

Where is home now? Where do I belong?

A review of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, published 1947

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day, so instead, I sat down with Jane Eyre, uncompromisingly plain Jane with her formidable heart and soul, and a story with all the wonderful potential which a gothic setting promises. I was in for an absorbing day.

Charlotte Brontë’s extraordinary book was first published in October 1847 by Smith, Elder and Company as Jane Eyre: an Autobiography, under the pseudonym Currer Bell. As a (female) child of the 20th century, I was intrigued and a more than little frustrated that a writer’s identity should have to be constrained by her gender.

As I discovered more about the early Victorian era, and began reading the novels that came out of this time, I came to appreciate this particular writer’s skill, boldness and honesty, as well as the practical, pragmatic necessity for all three Brontë sisters to seek a wider audience for their writing. While they undoubtedly had something unique to say, they also wrote from a position of economic and well as intellectual need. The destinies of these women, as the unmarried daughters of a clergyman of modest income, were similar to Jane Eyre’s – that of governess, teacher, ladies companion, or wife.

Jane Eyre is the story of a child growing towards adulthood, unprotected and unloved and yet full of intelligence, passion and dignity, who will not allow those people who may have shaped her circumstances to be the masters of her ultimate destiny. While constrained by the strict conventions of her times: by her gender, her lack of family protection, and without independent income, she is still, extraordinarily, a unique individual. Jane’s personal integrity, developed despite – or because – of her lack of status, strongly appealed to me both as a child and as a woman as it has to countless other readers, male and female, over the past 160 years.

Set partly within the gothic tradition of romance and horror, Jane Eyre manages to avoid many of the melodramatic conventions of its genre, creating instead its own style. Like Wuthering Heights, her sister Emily’s only novel, Charlotte Brontë’s first published work is a natural progression from the sagas and characters of Gondal and Angria, worlds created by the Brontës in their childhood, and where each of them, with, and also separately from each other, would return to throughout their adult lives.

Our curiosity is aroused when we understand that the early part of Jane Eyre is semi-autobiographical; the harsh and austere environment of Lowood School, its draconian school superintendant Mr. Brocklehurst, and the death of Helen Burns all offend our sensibilities.  In addition, Brontë’s two central characters are powerfully magnetic; a small, fiercely passionate and intelligent child-woman, and a Byronic, ugly-handsome and ardent man, worlds apart in life experience, but with the same, basic needs that we all have – to love and be loved, and to belong.

So, what is this book’s powerful appeal? In our present era, when Charlotte Brontë’s Victorian language and the period’s social conventions could – and at times, do – appear archaic, her storyline and characters still manage to engage and captivate modern audiences as much as they did her contemporary one. Despite our present literary plotlines and the overwhelming popularity of film and television, where everything and anything appears possible, and with which our mesmerised senses have become jaded and dulled, we still find ourselves holding our breath, on the other side of the shrubbery from Jane and Mr. Rochester, listening intently as she cries out to him:

Do you think I am an automaton? — A machine without feelings? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  It is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!  

The appeal of Jane Eyre endures, because its themes of integrity, authenticity and love are at the very heart of our own experiences and desires.

A conversation between Emma Bovary and Dr Freud (a Freudian psychoanalysis of the personality and motivations of Madame Emma Bovary)

Doctor Sigmund Freud invites Madame Emma Bovary into his study. He gestures to the red velvet chaise longue, standing near the window, its curtains half-drawn, and invites her to make herself comfortable.

She assumes what she believes to be an elegant position and smoothes her expensively embroidered skirt with her exquisite calf- leather gloves which fit her like a second skin.

He takes up his leather bound notebook and his freshly-sharpened pencil, and seats himself in an upright chair a short distance from Emma.

There is a pause; a sigh from Emma, a slight, unnecessary cough from Freud, before he begins his analysis of this intriguing and desperate young woman.

Tell me about your father Emma – how did you feel about him not informing you that your mother had died until after her funeral? How do you feel about not going to her funeral?

It broke my heart that he did not come to the convent straight away, and sometimes I find it hard to forgive him for his thoughtlessness. I could have been comforted by the nuns, and received solace from them and my fellow students. I could have returned home with him, the dutiful and grieving daughter; I could have dressed in a fine, new black dress and mantle and walk behind mama’s coffin. I would have represented her with elegance and grace, and wept for her. And the villagers would have wept to see me, so broken-hearted. Instead, dear Mama was attended only by Papa. She deserved so much more. I deserved so much more, too.

Papa is a good man, a kind man I think, but he does not understand me, as he did not understand mama. He is dull; he does not read nor can he converse with me about anything I’m interested in.

I do not think he wants a companion at all. He wants a housekeeper, an obedient and dutiful servant. He does not know what I see in my books, or why I love to walk in the gardens and fields outside the farm, and daydream of how life will be for me. Whenever I come home, he asks why I have nothing to show for my outing such as a basket of fruit or vegetables, instead of the pretty flowers and the branches of willow and birch that I collect. Oh, how mama must have suffered!

But at least he sent me to the convent, so that I could escape the confines of the farm, and he did rescue me from it when it too suffocated me with its unutterable tedium! Yes, and he did secure me a husband I suppose.

I know he loves me, even though he is so clumsy with his words and his displays of affection. And he’s my father, so I love him too, although, if I think about it, I can’t recall ever telling him so…

Tell me about your mother? Who was she?

My mother… She was a saint, a beautiful angel, so selfless, so gentle… She loved to read; as we sat together she shared with me the stories she had read, and read out passages that thrilled us both!  We shared our dreams, she and I…

But she was trapped, just as I am. She was destined for so much more than the life which she endured. Like me, I know she had high expectations for her life.  Father was kind, but he is so dull and boring, and so uncultured. Oh, I am living her life – when like her, all I wanted to do was to escape!

When she died, it was as if I had lost a part of myself! I now had to carry on in life, alone. I miss her, my guiding star. I often wonder what my life would have been, if she had lived. Would she have let me marry Charles? I don’t believe so!

My mother’s death opened a window in my soul, and I vowed to live with passion and joy, and to escape from the ordinary and the banal. I cannot bear that I have had a daughter and not a son. What escape is there for either of us?

Why did you marry Charles if he was not your equal?

Oh, how we are deceived! When Charles first came to us to assist poor Papa with his broken leg, he seemed so efficient, so kind and gentle and quiet. He is a doctor, a man of some standing. He had been to university and mixed in society. I thought he had experienced so much of life already which he would share with me; he had been married once before, after all. I expected so much more from the physical side of our union – I expected passion and joy. I found them not…

I imagined myself at his side, learning all he had to share, a part of good society, the esteemed doctor’s wife, well regarded, well respected, positioned up there alongside the well-connected women.

I paid no attention to mama and papa’s marriage – why should I? I did not know what to expect? Have I not married the same, dull kind of man as my father? All I read before my marriage talked of courtly love and chivalry. I did not expect what I got.

I did not then know how dull, how boring, how wholly provincial he truly is! I should have known, should I not, from his name? Bovary! The root source of the name is bovine – how very apt! Oh, I could weep at the very thought of him! I will…

When you went back to church after the end of your affair with Rudolphe, what were you looking for? Why did you stop going?

Where else was there for me to go, to unburden myself of my loss and my grief? Where else could I talk freely and without recourse about what I suffered? Where else could I formulate my penance, and resolve to bear my suffering in silence, for ever more? I needed to languish in my suffering. The nuns once told me to surrender all passion. At this time, this is what I intended to do.

Ah, the mysticism of the church! This truly is a place which transcends the ordinary! The candles, the intoxicating scent of incense, the luxury and richness of the alter cloth and the stain glass windows, the warm glow of the golden challis, the bowls and candlesticks! As I sit before the crucifix, I see myself up there too, in all my suffering.  Christ’s journey is my own.

I needed to understand, I needed meaning to my existence. For a time it gave me so much, filling the hollow in my heart. But in the end its teachings failed to satisfy me and became yet another tedium I endured…

Who do you talk to about your feelings?

Well… I used to have a lovely little greyhound. I do believe she was my truest confidante – but of course, she ran away, abandoned me when we moved to Yonville. Why wouldn’t she? She would have been terrified of being buried alive there, as I was…

I did not associate with the other girls at the convent. They were never as pious, or as passionate as I about their faith, or their vocation. I hate to say it, but they were so… ordinary! They did not appreciate the ceremony or the ritual – the mystery – of the church. They certainly didn’t take the same kind of care as I with their toilette – so slapdash, so casual! They shrugged at the rituals – they made fun of them! Why would I want to be friends with them? Papa eventually rescued me from convent life. And he did secure me a husband I suppose, much good it ever did me. But I never talk to papa – what could I say to him that he could understand? I hate to say this to you – but he’s so very… common.

Who would you have liked to talk to, Emma?

Why, I suppose I did talk to Rudolphe, and to Leon, if you think about it. They were the ones who saw me in all my frail and tragic beauty; they saw my unguarded and passionate self and saw my insecure and fragile moments also. To them alone was I fully revealed.

But then again, no-one has really known me. I talk to myself all the time, in my mirror. I study my frail beauty, sometimes for hours, in wonderment. Yes, I find I am my own best audience in the end.

Why didn’t you realise you were getting into financial trouble, when you are so clever at managing money and understood the notion of ‘contract’?

Why do you believe I didn’t realise we were in deep trouble? And why would you assume I would care?

Nothing matters in the end – and what would my debtors do to me anyway, me, a beautiful and passionate and clever woman, with so much to offer?

I chose to ignore our debts; there is nothing more bourgeois than being cautious with money, and nothing more important than love and passion – and tragedy.

Do you not think our situation lends a thrilling frisson, an edge to what is otherwise a crushingly boring life, eh? Is this not yet another role I can play – the beautiful heroine, fallen on hard times and upon the mercy of society? And who will use her cunning and beauty to rise above what may be seen as insurmountable odds? I rise to the occasion! I am a wife, mother, mistress, and now, such a tragic heroine!

Madame Bovary – thank you for talking to me today. I have so much to reflect upon, as you should, also. And yet you will not, of course. You will return home, no more enlightened than when you walked into my office an hour ago.

We have much work ahead of us, Madame Bovary, much work. I will need to see you at least twice a week for the foreseeable future. You may think me indelicate to ask this – but do you have the means?

My kingdom comes…

A new beginning

A new beginning

I lie quietly, hardly daring to make any noise or movement under my starched sheets, given the hour, and given that I lie in a room with three other women, one of whom is in the process of dying.

I have already undergone many deaths of my own: the death of all that I know of my past life, and with it, a significant part of my former spirit. My pancreas has been failing, and my whole system has been the process of shutting down quite dramatically until three days ago, when doctors were able to allay the destruction with insulin.

My marriage is all but over too, and the doors are about to close on us, separating us irrevocably.

“Yet another thing to set us back,” had been my husband’s response as I lay in the A&E department, surrounded by medical equipment. No compassion, except for himself.

Sleepless and exhausted, I attempt to focus my eyes on the clock out in the corridor. It is only metres away, but I squint as if it is hung on a far and distant horizon. Is it 4am or 20 past midnight? The film still blurring my vision is not caused by a lack of sleep, but by months of wickedly elevated blood glucose levels.

Marooned here on a rigid and chilly hospital bed, my body (at least, I believe it to be mine) swims in a white cotton gown, shrunken and altered from its former robustness. One of my arms is being fed with saline, the other with insulin; the cannulas bite and bore into my veins and swell my flesh as only foreign objects can.

The old woman to my left murmurs and her grandson responds, soothing and reassuring her. In another moment I hear her voice more clearly, reassuring him.

“I want to go now, Luke, it’s alright, oh, really it is…,” she whispers.

I hear him sob, in answer.

By the early morning, she will be gone, and yet the curtain will remain drawn around her lifeless body until past midday. She will lie next to me, no more than an outstretched arms-length away, for eight hours, and it will be almost more than I can bear, her family’s grief, and my own…

In three days time, as I lay on my sofa back home, exhausted and frightened after making the journey here under great duress, bombs of another kind explode, this time in Bali.

I watch, helpless and appalled, as other lives are destroyed, and my heart aches.

I too have experienced my own attack. These explosions are atrocities of the most unthinking and unfeeling kind, the kinds which incite one-way journeys into the heart and soul. And with the disruption of my very basic rhythm comes the end of a significant part of my life to now.

It will be too much for some to tolerate, and I will be left alone to bear it. I have to endure it, and it can be done.

I will lie quietly, and wait for daylight.