Turn right at the crossroad.

Infinite space and time separates what I was then to what I have become now.

I don’t even know if I became what I was supposed to be,

Or if I was always supposed to be what I became.

It is as if the space I occupy is still connected to the child that I was but my awareness of who I am has given me a different form. A different format.

I am learning that the only thing that is truly certain is that nothing will remain the same, it never does.

Our time on earth is so short, and how strange it is that a life can come and go and there be so very little left to demonstrate it’s existence. A tombstone, a photograph, a name in a narrative. Most of which will be erased with time and have no connection to the real essence of the person that lived and breathed and walked the earth.

When mum died she lived on in our memories, and possibly in some of our actions. Part of her continues to stretch into the future in what can be remembered by those she left behind, but what about when we are gone, and our memories are extinguished, eventually even the photographs will become meaningless, they will gather dust in some box and occasionally see the light of day as someone struggles to identify who these people were and what their link to the present and the future is.

Earlier this month her eldest sister Rita passed away and it was like losing another part of her, almost like whilst Rita was alive there was still some small connection back to that house in Waddington Street, still someone alive who remembered mum coming into the world and shared childhood pleasures and treasures, someone who shared part of the same story.

They lived in post-war poverty in the back streets of Salford. The kind of poverty they endured would be difficult to comprehend in our modern world. Perhaps it was this poverty that gave them the drive and resolution to step out and walk tall and try to make their own way in the world. Which all three of the sisters did, Rita Shirley and Anne. (my mum).

It was the same urban landscape in which Greenwood was to depict the impact of the Great depression in Love on the Dole. The same urban landscape that was demolished and swept aside in the slum clearances of the early 1960’s to make way for high rise suburbia and what became the equally tarnished Salford Precinct.

Eventually these stories will be cast aside, abandoned, no longer memories but trash that is no longer connected and meaningful to anyone left alive.

How sad. Done. Gone. Cleared. Deleted.

It feels like I am the memory keeper and that I have to keep some of the stories alive.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

For Sarah.

Steadfast we stand, we shine our lights in solidarity to the memory of your soul.

The tragedy that took away your cherished life is beyond unimaginable and I send my heartfelt love and sympathy to your family and loved ones.

It is so hard I have drilled it into my children and so many girls that I have taught about how to try to be safe on the streets. Not because I wanted them to be afraid, but because I didn’t want them to ever come to harm. As a mother for me, that has always been the one thing that was important, for them not to be harmed. What saddens me is that they have both already had to survive sexual harassment that is unwarranted and unwanted.

I have walked in the middle of the road on a dark night to avoid the parked cars, I have changed my route and taken a longer safer one, I have quickened my pace at the heavy sound of footsteps behind me, I have had my keys clenched firmly in my fist poised and my cellphone ready to dial.

I have avoided going out at night, been the sober driver so I didn’t leave myself or any of my friends vulnerable. I have gone to evening events and my mantra is always the same – I can have a glass of wine when I get home. I have worried as a mother, ensured that my girls could phone me at any time of day or night and in any state of drunkeness, My husband and I have rescued them in the middle of the night, provided a taxi service to ensure that no-one was left vulnerable or alone.

I have survived being followed, being stalked, being cat-called, seeing men expose themselves in public, (more than once- I was just 7 years old the first time it was in the Children’s play park.) I have been assaulted and stood my ground and had to protect myself and I am acutely aware that I am not alone and that most of what I have described is laughed off, unreported and unchallenged.

In my thirties I was assaulted and abused for going into my local bar without my husband and no-one in the bar stood up for me.

Yesterday at the age of 54 I went on a 5km walk alone, by myself, along the canal in the daytime, for me it was my attempt to reclaim the day in memory of Sarah Everard. I do go walking on my own but always in places where there are likely to be other people. There are hills I would still like to climb but I still lack the courage-it is a work in progress- I am working on it.

In Whangarei in May 2016 we did reclaim the Hatea Loop with what seemed like the whole town, following a shocking sexual assaultof a runner in the early hours of dawn. We turned out to walk at sunset, men women and children, and when this lockdown is finished maybe we can do this in memory of Sarah too.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Past One O’Clock…

SO I am doing my own version of poetry month and this is a poem that will always have meaning for me and when she was younger this was my Ellen’s favourite….don’t want to break any copyright so here is just a snapshot:

“Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.”

Taken from Vladimir Mayakovsky– Past One O’Clock.

We love the whole poem and everything it represents, it is a very tragic story and the poem was found amongst his papers following his suicide and also formed part of the epilogue of his suicide note.

Mayakovsky was a leading poet during the Russian revolution and was jailed several times and reputedly began to write poetry during a spell in solitary confinement.

Past One O’Clock

Whalebone and lace

I wanted you to know I had worth

Beyond the kitchen sink and the classroom

I was shaped in whalebone and lace

 

My dreams fashioned and woven

Delicate structures faded from regret and loss

Unheard songs and stories stitched in unseen seams.

 

Hidden from view by what you all chose to see in the lines on my face

A smile here, a kindess there, eau de cologne on a summer breeze

Handbag, lipstick, loose change. Sad eyes, tears shed, loves lost, hearts bled.

 

But I was shaped in whalebone and lace

Beyond the confines and drudgery of my miserable life

I wanted you to know I was beautiful and had worth.

 

Alison Jean Hankinson

This was for Toads, and it was about Bang-You’re dead… I kind of went off at a tangent at first and thought I was supposed to kill someone, so wrote a poem about killing someone with a cricket bat… it had a touch of dark humour about it, and then I thought maybe that wasn’t what it was supposed to be…this was actually attempt 3….

The image was portrait of Dona Isabel de Porcel by Goya. creative commons.

 

 

Salomé

His fatherly love was a foreign country

All cut and thrust and emotional obviate

No physical boundaries and no commitment

 

Her needs were greater

Than simplistic supine surrender

at the border of his lust.

 

She needed a soul

Preferably on a platter

Served with a side order of motherly love.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

At poetics for d’Verse we were given border as a prompt. My poem is based on the Richard Strauss version of Salomé which was the first opera I ever went to see in Manchester 1985.

The image is The Dancer’s Reward and is available in the public domain:

http://www.artinthepicture.com/paintings/Aubrey_Beardsley/The-Dancers-Reward/

 

 

 

 

The stench of trauma

Olfactory associations.
In 2001 we experienced a hugely traumatic event in Cumbria, our county was ravaged by foot and mouth disease, it began in early February and by late March virtually the whole of the County was restricted and lifestock was culled in the thousands. Some estimate that as many as 20,000,000 animals were slaughtered during the course of the year. Where they found an outbreak livestock within a three mile radius were culled-this was refered to as a pre- emptive cull.

I remember driving along the cavernous empty motorway, virtually nothing seemed to travel along the M6 other than the slaughter trucks with their “Livestock reduction programme” signage and the trucks eventually carrying the rotting carcasses to burial sites like the one at Great Orton. At the time I was working as an education advisor for Cumbria LEA and although my schools were all in the South Cumbria area much of the work we did was as part of a team and covered the whole of Cumbria, travelling to Penrith and Carlisle was part of my weekly routine. Part of our team’s remit was to support schools in supporting the mental health and well being of their student populations and so the we did play a very large part in the later responses to the crisis.

At first it was the smell of burning pyres that haunted me most, the smell of roasting flesh, the pyres were enormous beyond anything anyone could possibly imagine and often burned for weeks on end until the Department for public health declared the smoke as dangerous to health and forbid them to be used a as a disposal method anymore- that was when they moved on to creating huge burial pits for the never ending trucks full with the carcasses of dead farm animals. Then I remember the stench of rotting flesh as the carcasses were dumped at Great Orton. Too many were culled to be able to transport or buru them in a timely manner and the army was drafted in to help with the process. My husband was drafted in to work for atwo week shift, they weren’t allowed to come home during that time and it took him many months to recover from the tasks he was asked to do during that time. The dead animals lay bloated and rotting on smallholdings and farms and the build up of gas was so dangerous that their bellies had to be punctured before they could be dumped in teh over burdened pits. You could smell Great Orton from my parents house some 10 miles away in Port Carlisle if the wind was in the right direction. There are 26 trenches at Great Orton and in them just less than half a million carcasses. It has now been turned into a nature reserve as a memorial- Watchtree.

Dave bought me a lemon scented air freshener for my car so that my nose had some respite from the constant stench of trauma and it gave me a different aroma to focus on during those lengthier journeys. Trouble is the lemon scent became associated with the scent of the trauma it was tryi g to over come and I cannot bear to have lemon scented air freshener any more in my car, or for that matter in the house.

This pandemic will also have it’s own smell, for me, as I work from home in my extended isolation the aromas are pleasant, coffee roasting in the pot, good nutritious home cooking on the stove or in the oven, the clean crisp smell of a frosty winter morning as I go for a gentle jog.

The aromas for many others will be unforgettable, unimaginable and will become the unmistakeable stench of trauma to them for the rest of their living days. Our trauma from foot and mouth was quickly forgotten and the things we put in place to safeguard against the trauma for the children and their families have long since vanished but the smell will never go.

We must care for these people onec the pandemic is over, we must acknowledge the trauma that they have suffered, as it will always be a part of them and the memory will never fade when it has such a strong olfactory association.

Dedicated to all those who know and have known the stench of trauma.

If you wish to read a little mor about the FMD 2001

https://www.visitcumbria.com/foot-and-mouth-disease-in-cumbria/

Alison Jean Hankinson

Pakaru

For a tiny while I was extinct.

Kaput, derailed, unhinged and pakaru.

Afraid that the slightest breeze might sink me.

I lost all grace, all meaning, all love of life.

The empty skin where my laughter used to rise

Fluttered lifeless in the wind.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

this is for d’verse quadrille. the word this week was extinct.

The image is my own, it is a Westerley Pentland near Glasson Dock earlier this year, it seems abandoned. At the time I was struggling with my own dereliction. It broke my heart seeing it like this, as my Dad had one just the same and we spent many happy times aboard, Dad’s Pentland was called Tolivar.

Summer sunshine

I have had a break from writing. This is largely because I was exhausted and needed to use as much energy as possible focusing on recentring and bringing some sense and order into what had inadvertently become a very complex and draining period of my life.

From this I have learned that shutting down has some favourable benefits so long as you continue to give yourself time to reenergise and re-focus.

There is only so much that one brain and one body can handle without exhibiting signs of stress and wear. Things were going wrong at every turn. It seemed like there was no end in sight nor even a small glimmer of hope on the horizon. I had to cut back to the bare minium, doing the things that needed to be done and prioritising aspects of my life that would enhance my ability to survive and bring solutions to our immediate problems and needs.

After two months of gruelling toil we seem to have at least some solutions in hand. Yesterday I started a new job and hopefully this will provide the stability and purpose that has been needed to fulfil the desire to belong and be of value.

Returning after such an extended period of time away brought with it a huge reverse cultural shock and I discovered the qualities that were of value in NZ were not of the same value here and that times had changed and that my place in society was no longer that of respected citizen of value and worth and that to all intents and purposes I was replaceable, aged and worthless. My survival therefore depended on my ability to adapt and accept the changes and get on with it to the best of my ability- regardless of any hopes, dreams and aspirations that I had thought realistic before we returned home.

There were days that my awareness that this might be as good as it gets was the best I could muster. Days where potential tragedy loomed large around the every corner and the fine line between survival and anihilation was rendered invisible.

The sun shone, life moved on. I lived and breathed and took time to value the world before my eyes, trusting that one day there would be small opportunities for change that would help open new doors and windows to let the sun stream in and liberate the gloom.

Hopefully this is the first page in a new chapter that will bring peace, friendship, connection, love, purposefulness and place.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

 

A stitch in time…

They say a stitch in time saves nine

But who knows that we are broken

When our smiles catch the light and we mesmerise with our stories of hope

And our lives unfold like a picture book

Full of Princes, Princesses and perfection

No poverty here, no lack of good cheer- no sleep deprived hell

Or whispers of madness.

 

They say a stitch in time saves nine

But who knows we are broken

When we give with compassion

And our public persona is playfully convivial,

Full of charismatic colourful conversation disguising the trivial.

No hidden hopelessness here, no silent solitude, no depth of despair

Or signals of worthlessness wounding within.

 

We march on.

We playfully tease.

We make small talk

With skillful ease.

 

We wish you had seen our innermost thoughts.

We wish you had been a true friend of sorts.

We wish you had held out your hand to take ours.

We wish you had noticed that whilst we spoke through flowers

We were broken, bereft, beyond all life’s care.

All we wanted was you to be there, to lift up our spirits

Make the sun shine,

And be the stitch in time that saves nine.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

I wrote this for a prompt earlier in the week at d”verse but missed the widget, so here it is for open link night. Love to you all. XXXXX Love for the lost. XXXX