D is for Disco. An evening in Brighton

The following piece was written in 2008 and is based on a disco evening in Brighton with friends. I wrote it up when I got home! D is for Disco!

When you write a book a lot of chapters are discarded or rewritten. Most writing is re-writing. This chapter was chucked out of The D Word and The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish because it didn’t fit into the story.

Before you read on here is a quick link to my books.


“It was a blustery March evening. I agreed to drive the four of us to Brighton.

My three friends stumbled into my Zafira, belching and giggling. They were already well oiled with cheap booze. They complained about the lack of space; their Asda bottles of vodka and lemon fizz swaying as they adjusted their bottoms on the velour seats. Dreary Debbie, a mum from the school tucked herself next to the empty baby seat complaining that her bottom was too big. We didn’t hear much more from her for the rest of the evening. She was in a moany mood and didn’t have a great deal to say so we gave up including her in the conversation.

‘Er Faye…. I wouldn’t wanna a shag in here…. ain’t exactly roomie, is it?’  Sex mad friend Sarah giggled as she adjusted her long corn beef legs. I had only met her a few times. Didn’t really know much about her but I  got the impression that she was a vulnerable lass. Plenty of knocks in her life. Abused as a child and by men;  laughing and partying came easy.

‘ I wouldn’t recommend it!’, I laughed back. ‘ Have tried it though, as it happens with some bloke. We were parked up next to a remote sewerage works. Smell was horrific. Bit off putting. His bottom was on the dashboard; my legs were caught around the steering wheel. Feet plastered against the window and our glasses of whiskey balanced on the back seat. Car all steamed up… like a scene from Titanic. You know the one in the vintage car, below the decks? My bloke was hardly Leonardo though. My hips… blimey… I felt like a doddery old lady for several days after. They were killing me. Never again! Well.. I say that, but I did actually attempt it again in this car. We were in a secluded slip road next to a castle. The setting was magnificent and there was a full moon. He was rat-arsed though. Not a great performance. I kept my legs propped up over the dash board while he fumbled around in the glove compartment for some tissues to ‘mop up’. You never see that bit in the movies, do you? Imagine Kate Winslet saying ‘pass me some bog roll – it’s leaking out everywhere’. That was a while back now.  The closest I come to sex these days is being frisked at the airport or pick-pocketed in the shopping mall’, I laughed.

‘Oh yeah’, Rachel raised her eye brows taking a swig of bubbly drink. ‘Hey Faye… just think what you could do with that gear stick’, she chuckled, with a mischievous glance as I slipped it into neutral and slowed for the red traffic lights. There was a roar of laughter from the back of the car.

‘Could try a cucumber but don’t bother with a banana… one split inside me once. Call it a banana split!’ Sarah laughed. ‘It disappeared up there. I had stuffed it up that far. It was comfortable enough. I knew it’d come down in its own time; know what I mean? I went to work. I was a clerical assistant at the Inland Revenue. Right bunch o’ boring woofters there. Didn’t find it at all funny when that banana split decided to pop out!. Oh ok, ok, I’m exaggerating a little. Me red knickers caught it in time before anyone skidded into the chief executive’s office along the highly polished flooring.’

‘So Sarah, you alright these days?’ I asked as I worked my way into the correct lane and headed past the Brighton Pavilion – all lit up and awesome looking. ‘Yeah, suppose so. Me mam’s bin a right old cow lately. Mind you what changes? Due to ‘er I’ve spent me life in and out of mental wards; on and off medication. Abusive cow she is. And she’s not at all interested in her grand kids. Never visits. I don’t bovver na more, no what I mean?’ Sarah asked, to nobody in particular.

‘So what’s she done now then?’ Rachel asked. ‘Well I’m convinced me dad’s not me dad. Always ‘ave been. I mean wouldn’t you think it strange if your   whole bleedin family was white and you was Chinese looking? People are always asking me if I’m Chinese. I just wanna know the truth. Know what I mean?’ she asked. ‘I asked her, outright the other day. I need to know. I asked if me dad is really me dad. She walloped me right across the flaming room. Me head smashed against the hard table. She was furious. Really furious. It’s got me wondering now’ Sarah told us showing us a large bruise on her forehead.

We clambered out of my car making our way, arm in arm, in fits of giggles through the drizzly rain. A light wind caught our hair as we turned the corner in full view of the sea ahead. The queue for the club was incredibly long. It was deceptive for it wound its way along some roping; rather like a queue for a mega popular ride at a theme park on an August bank holiday. ‘Oww, Faye, ya dun ‘alf scrub up well gal! Nice tight arse in that lacey skirt. And love the lippy. Suits ya’, Sarah commented as we tripped along in our high heels, avoiding the cracks in the pavement. ‘Yeah but my boobs are only a B cup… B is for barely there,’ I giggled.

‘Your’s must be at least a C cup Sarah? C for can’t complain. And if I they are a D cup well that’s pretty damn good, ah girl?’ I enquired.

“So will you be getting bladdered Sarah, this evening? I’m driving; you can have as much as you like of course”, I reminded her – half wishing somebody else would drive one evening so that I could have a few whiskeys. “Me bladdered? Joking aren’t ya? Last time I went on a bender I threw up in me ‘andbag. The only liquor I shall ‘ave is what’s in this bag a liquorice allsorts ‘ere” Sarah roared with laughter, giving the air a little kick with her dainty foot and pulling a bag of sweets from her pocket. “Well if you believe that”, she added, you’ill believe anything”.

“Oh…. you mean you staying off the wagon or liquorice all – sorts containing alcohol?” I asked.

‘Oww, the arses on these guys…. wooo we’re gunna ‘ave a great night here’, Sarah shreaked as we weaved our way to the bar, squeezing a few buttocks en route and eyeing up the colourful, imaginative assortment of costumes . Superman flexed his muscles as Rachel pushed her way through, grabbing her huge arms to compare his muscles with hers. There were groups of women, dressed in school uniforms; black tights, extremely short skirts ; so short they revealed white panties underneath and  police officers wielding plastic truncheons.”

“Like ya truncheon”, Sarah fluttered at one them. A group of pirates were making their way through the crowd; they wore striped leggings and had toy parrots attached to their frilly blouses.

‘Hey there cowboy’, flirted Rachel  as she passed a cowboy from Toy Story.

‘Whatcha drinking? Texas mule piss?’ ‘Nice peg legs lady’, he swooned in return. ‘How comes you got an eye patch lassie?’ he asked.

‘ I was in a sea battle when an albatross flew over and pooped right into my eye.’ She quickly retorted.

A group of busty blondes were prancing around on the dance floor; size H cups – ‘H’ no doubt standing for huge … constricted in tight pink corsets with pink fluffy tails and floppy ears on their heads. Badges declared them to be ‘horny hens’ and a handsome DJ speaking over a mic said that he hoped ‘Chelsie and friends would have a superb hen night’.

‘It’s not fair is it’, Sarah suddenly said. ‘Why is it that blondes always seem to ‘ave more fun? Wonder if they know it’, she surmised.

‘Yeah but Sarah’, I looked around me, ‘there’s far too much competition here. I don’t stand a flipping chance. All I can say is I’m glad I’m not bi-sexual,’ I commented. Sarah frowned.

‘Ay, whatcha mean?’. ‘Well I couldn’t stand being rejected by women as well as men!’ I laughed.

‘Come on’, Rachel shouted, above the loud thud of music pulling our arms and guiding us towards the stairs which led along a red carpeted narrow corridor. ‘Let’s have a look for another disco in this place. There are several bars here and several discos each with a different theme. You’ill love the place!’ she said excitedly. We made our way along a mass of corridors, pushing through several heavy wooden fire safety doors on the way. We passed a bright pink poster warning ‘don’t be a prick, wear a condom’ and then turning a corner Sarah gave a shreak like a child seeing a sweet machine at an amusement arcade. ‘Owww, a toy machine. Ann Summers toys. That’s what I come ‘ere for. Toys. I love ‘em’. Without bothering to make a selection she loaded the machine with lose change, in a desperate hurry; as if she were purchasing a coffee before the train left the station platform. Nothing happened. We thumped and kicked the machine with Sarah squawking.

“I just want that willy whistle; why wont it come out”.

Two guys passed by and offered to help. “I think you needed 69p love. I could give you that – you only have to ask nicely”.

“Ow, you dirty man; bugger off”, Sarah said, swinging her bag at their legs.

The heavy thud of music filled the room. Strobe lighting circled around fixing on faces, making patterns across footwear, turning whites to persil adverts, sweeping and turning at different angles. A crowd had gathered at the edge of the floor. I wondered why they were not dancing . And then I saw why as I moved along, passing the pillars and tippy toeing above the crowd.It was ‘Disco Dave’. He had total command of the floor space. It was his territory. He owned it and controlled it– only until others felt confident to move in and invade his space. And because he had life membership they had nicknamed the club ‘Cremation’ from its name ‘Creation’. An old man.

“He’s the dog’s bollocks, Faye”, Sarah leaned towards my ear, as I continued to watch.

I was mesmerised and captivated by this retired dustman flinging his arms around; flexing his legs; bending and twisting to the beat. In heart shaped shades he flashed a toothless grin across at us; stretching his arms and pretending to climb the air on a ladder, clawing up, up in white silk gloves. And as the beat changed he swept his hands, as if he were painting the air this time. His feet tapped up and down, onto the heels and forward onto tiptoes; between the coloured neon floor lighting squares. People had gathered to watch, jeer and be entertained. “I thought that was Freddie Kruger”, said one. “Bless him; I wonder what his secret is”, said another. “The crowds are restrained tonight”, Rachel explained. “You wouldn’t believe what he’s been through though in his years of clubbing. He’s been vomited on, spat at and he once broke his ribs when a big black guy tried to trip him up. People are horrible. He doesn’t deserve it”, Rachel told us as she sipped her coke.

“He just doesn’t stop”, I said in amazement. “We’ve been standing here…what half hour now and he’s not had a second’s break”, I added, watching him spinning and twirling like a child in need to Ritalin.

“We’re meant to be having fun”, I nudged her out of her fixed gaze of melancholy. “Hey”, I said cheerfully, “Does he ever get lucky with the birds?”. “Nah”, Rachel said, turning her nose up, “getting lucky for him means being able to find his car in the multi storey, or staggering to the car,   successfully avoiding the pavement pizzas”, she chuckled. “Has he managed to programme his pacemaker to open the garage doors?”, I jested, giving her another light nudge.

The style of music changed. Drums banged; cymbals crashed. The retired dustman, carrying his emaciated body moved to the side and took a large gulp of coke as he leant on the nearest pillar. A couple of guys whispered something to each other and stepped forward, tapping him on the shoulder and startling him. “Erh, old man, what do you get off on then?” they asked.

“Pardon”, he replied looking confused. “What drug are you on? I want the same. Or are you on Viagra for the shrivelled up old penis”, one of them sneered. “Chemotherapy”, he retorted; an answer which made them look ashamed and they retreated, quickly.

“Old man”, shouted another guy, brushing past us and standing menacingly over Dustman Dave. Quite obviously sozzled and clinically insane as Rachel later remarked he began an intimidating tirade.

“My bird and her mates would like to have a bit of the dance floor now; do you mind eh; stepping aside and letting them flaunt their bodies. You’re well past it. You should be in Eastbourne – at a tea dance not in Brighton nightclubbing. It’s outrageous. You’re a disgrace.” He laughed; with a look of triumph and satisfaction; like an SS officer looking down into the pit of freshly mowed down bodies.

“Er R”, Sarah nudged Rachel. “Did ya hear what that deranged geezer.”, she said in alarm, relaying the details across. Soon Rachel was marching over, seething, her fist clenched on the ready. Dreary Debbie, dull as dishwater unfolded her legs and rose for the first time that evening, to take a look at the action. We all moved in ; outraged, yet hesistant and unsure what was about to kick off. Rachel had courage. She was used to this. She could fight other peoples’ battles. He had as much right here as any one of any age she confidently told them. “Clear off before I get the security guy over”, she told him.

“That old bag o’ bones should get home for his horlicks”, the tirade continued. “He wont be sowing his wild oats here….prunes and all bran are all he’s got to look forward to”.I’m not quite sure what happened next. Rachel was provoked. Disco Dave stood there, still leaning, at ease against the pillar. He was used to it. He didn’t appear upset. Life was too short to bear grudges. Life, he knew too well, could be cut short. He was determined to enjoy it to the last. He watched, as a merry-go-round of action ensued. Plastic glasses were splintered; beer sloshed and splattered; menacing looks; ranting, screaming and then silence as the group parted, dumbfounded as dustman Dave moved to the centre of the floor – and began to dance; up and down, round and round he spun, reaching up, bending low. And clapping and cheering – from the other side of the floor broke out.

“Keep it up, well done, good on you”, they shouted, raising their glasses as if in congratulation.

“There’s plenty more years left in you” one of them shouted.

Age is just a number.Watching  dustman disco Dave twirling to the beat and glancing around soaking in the colourful atmosphere I knew that at 43 I was far from past it. It was so exhilarating to come to that realisation. And I wasn’t asleep and my watch said 2am. That was a major achievement. I hadn’t even yawned all evening. And my legs had not given way under the strain of dancing ; my feet could dance some more and I wasn’t out of breath after 10 minutes. Dave could do it. I could do it.

I closed my front door, kicked off the stilettos, rubbed the aching feet and headed upstairs. My head was sore; my energy drained. A teddy bear and an empty babies’ milk bottle as I turned the corner to the landing were reminders of reality and motherhood and Cinderella returning to rags. I wondered which child would disturb my precious sleep with growing pains or a wet bed and a prod at the crack of dawn for a story or cuddle after a dream about monsters. Quite possibly I was past it, after all.

The day my sister & I discovered sex

D is for discovery: the day my sister and I discovered sex.

I can remember the day very clearly; the day my sister and I discovered sex. I guess we must have been about 9 and 11. This was the 1970s. These were innocent times, remember. Parents didn’t talk about sex. We lived in a Georgian style town house with three floors. My mum and dad slept on the top floor.

We were in the house on our own and decided to have a snoop round our parent’s bedroom. I don’t know what we thought we’d find but we were always up to mischief when they were out: drinking their alcohol and cutting up each other’s knickers. (That’s another story).

Their bedroom was untidy. Perfume bottles, clothes draped over a chair waiting to be hung or dumped in the laundry bin. An unmade bed, crumpled sheets. A sweet smell of odour and foul after shave hung in the air, waiting to escape. The windows were closed. The curtains half drawn. The room needed ventilation. Steam still clung to the mirror in the adjoining bathroom. And then we saw them….they were littered across the floor, hidden behind the bed, on the side my father slept. No attempt had been made to hide them away. Magazines. Magazines which were to become, for us an iconic symbol of adulthood; their discovery a defining moment. The ‘Fiesta’ magazine.  I remember the name to this day.

There were adverts for strange contraptions splashed across glossy pages. And naked men and women; plenty of them – butch black men, slender blonde women. Puny men with scrawny torsos and men with athletic features. Some with piercings – in very intimate places; others with tattoos on legs, arms and buttocks;   anywhere a tattooist would agree to practice his artwork.

And curiously bodily hair seemed to be shaved and we couldn’t work out why. Bodies contorted and twisted, writhing like snakes in a pit. This was a den of sin. And worst of all tongues – flicking and reaching and devouring. And bodily fluids like rivulets cascading across slender necks and breasts. And mouths open – awaiting jets of fluid.

It was a horrible site and I for weeks and months I held the vision of those pictures in my head and wondered what it would be like to do those things. It looked truly disgusting. There were so many questions turning in our innocent heads. Who shot these photos and for what purpose? Who were these people? Were they celebrities?

That day was a turning point in our lives. We began to talk about the naughty things we’d seen and what it might be like to do those things.

Those Fiesta magazines became a gateway to our own fantasies replacing the tooth fairy, the seven dwarfs and the magical reindeer at Christmas flying high above snow clad roofs. In our world we kissed behind bicycle sheds and snogged at the back of school buses.

That visit to the bedroom propelled us to a new dimension. The Fiesta ‘feast of fantasy’ we called it.




D is for Death. A true Cinderella story last chapter

This is chapter 5 (last chapter) of a true Cinderella story; the story of my first baby’s life and death. D is for Death a subject for some reason I like to blog about!

In my book ‘Every Family Has One’ the difficulties Kathleen faces in childbirth mirror some of my own experiences. But my baby didn’t die in childbirth. But as you will find out later in this serial of her life it might have been better if she had died at birth. It’s something I have often pondered.

Here’s the link to ‘Every Family Has One’:


Chapter 5 (last chapter)

How can a new mother ever know what a normal feeding pattern is? Having now had three healthy children since Cindy I have my own strong opinions about feeding. Babies want to be feeding most of the time. They want to be latched onto a nipple. So let them I always want to say to new mothers! You have to go with the flow, excuse the pun!


But feeding remains a contentious issue and the subject of much conversation. At around 10 weeks gestation we went home. I met up with a few mothers and watched their babies wolf down big bottles of milk. But poor little Cindy was still struggling to feed. She fed through a special bottle with a long teat designed for clefts/hair lips. But I was constantly feeding. The dietician set a target of 60 mls every 3 hours. The nurses were intimidating and didn’t believe me when I told them how long she was taking to feed. ‘She drank 60 mls in 10 minutes for us’ they would snootily say. I started to keep a diary and noticed a pattern was developing. Each day she was drinking less milk yet it was taking longer and longer to feed. I sat there all day feeding unable to do anything else. The nurses tried to help me by suggesting ways of tickling her cheeks and positioning the teat at different angles. I felt that it was my fault – I couldn’t feed her properly! But for me the answer was to return to a gastro nasal tube to give her heart a rest from the stress of feeding but they said that was going backwards. She would lose the ability to suck.


Over the course of late February and March her feeding was constantly being assessed and we return to stay in hospital several times. By then she should have been taking 400 mls a day but by early March was only drinking 370 then 355, then 300 and then 285 and finally at 235 I rushed her back to hospital. They weren’t that concerned. They said she wasn’t losing weight. I said but she’s not gaining weight either! They kept reminding me that overall she had doubled her birth weight. She was now, at 3 and a half months old nearly 6lbs. She was 2lbs 14 at birth.


She was readmitted and they decided to refer her back up to Great Ormond Street to have her cleft palette assessed because the quick they sorted that out, they reasoned the feeding problems could be solved. But it didn’t take an expert to see that there was more to the feeding problem than simply sorting the cleft out. She was struggling I believed because of her heart.


The morning she was due to go to Great Ormond Street I knew that something was very wrong. We entered the ward and looked at her. Her breathing was irregular. She was panting and wheezing and so I alerted the nurse but she said she was fine.


A Ford Fiesta arrived to take us to Great Ormond Street. I think the driver was a volunteer. His grandson sat next to me and Cindy in the back and kept sneezing the whole journey and asking his granddad for more sweets. I was surprised he was allowed to bring his grandson. The boy got very bored and as we sat in heavy traffic in south London he started to poke Cindy. And then I noticed something was very wrong.

She began to foam a rusty red froth at her mouth. I dabbed her mouth. But more red foam came. The boy next to me was bouncing in his seat. His granddad asked him ‘you enjoying your ride out lad?’ The red foam kept coming. I asked the driver to hurry.

As we approached the hospital entrance alarm bells were ringing. We ran into the consultants room where nine consultants were waiting. Cindy was growing pale then a shade of blue. One of the men asked ‘is she normally that colour?’ ‘No something’s wrong.’ They whisked us up to intensive care.

After delivering her to intensive care I went back down to find the driver to tell him not to wait. He was in the cafe. To this day I can’t believe what he said to me.

‘Blimey, it’s all go in my job. Well I’ll certainly have something to tell the Mrs when I get home.’

That evening the doctor told us she was ‘very poorly.’ They always use that word. When someone is at death’s door you never hear them say very ill. It’s always very poorly. The doctor thought she probably had pneumonia.

When we arrived on the ward we were astonished to see how bad things were. She had lots of different drugs going into her veins and looked so unwell. She had also nearly lost her leg. While they were inserting syringes her leg had gone into spasm and was nearly paralysed. They were keeping a close eye on it and pumping her with drugs to stop the blood clotting. She had also been seen by a physio who had been trying to dislodge phlegm from her lungs. This treatment wasn’t enough so the next day she went on a high pressure ventilator – an oscillator. We were told she would only be on the machine for 24 hours because it might damage her lungs any longer. Hopefully by then the anti biotics would work.

I asked one of the nurses if she was going to die and she gasped ‘oh lovey of course she isn’t. You mustn’t think like that.’

But 24 hours later she was still on the oscillator and x rays twice a day over the next few days showed no improvement to the lungs. They then decided to try her on nitric oxide in addition to the oscillator. Still the x rays showed no improvement. Then they tried to drain the lungs via a tubebut they filled with air and this became an added problem. She also had several blood transfusions because her oxygen saturation level had dipped.

One evening a nurse called Anne asked us how we would felt about all the intervention. She hinted that the end was coming. Neil hated the counseling approach and left the room. Later on he was angry and said ‘she doesn’t want Cindy to live. She’s a bitch. She couldn’t care less. The other nurses are always checking her drug levels and monitoring things but she just sits there reading a book doing fuck all.’

Seven days on from when we had arrived one of the doctors showed us the state of the lungs on the x ray. He state they needed to bring the pressures down within 48 hours otherwise her lungs would be permanently damaged. Even with lower pressures her chances of survival were very slim. All the organs were now damaged by the oscillator and the drugs.

The following day her condition worsened. My sister recently back from South Africa came up and the three of us sat in the pub, a gloomy threesome. ‘I wanted to come chick’ she said ‘at least then another woman will have gone through it with you.’

Returning to the room from the pub her condition had worsened. She was yellow and puffed out. The tubes in her side were oozing blood. Her leg was spotted with clots.

I asked the nurse ‘how long can we go on like this?’

‘Ive called for the consultant.’ She said.

When the consultant came again we examined the x rays. They were aiming to reduce the pressures from 29 to 20 but there was no chance now. It had been a particularly nasty bout of pneumonia – a rare type of e coli. He said that nitric oxide had been purely experimental, a method not used before.

The nurse asked if we wanted her christened. We said yes but in hindsight I wish we hadn’t. A creepy Christopher Lee figure entered the room offering no comfort only a string of rituals. The nurse started to remove the tubes draining her lungs. It was a horrible sight and unbelievably I took photos! I asked if they could keep her alive until midnight because at midnight it would be Mother’s Day and I wanted to remember always on mothers day. At midnight Neil gave me a box of chocolates and a cute mothers day card with a bunny on it. The nurse left us while we cried then returned and asked if we were ready and then she removed the mouthpiece.

The nurse picked her up and carried her out. Today that wouldn’t happen. I’m sure they would have been more sensitive and asked if I wanted to hold her.

The next day my parents in law came to collect us. The four of us sat in a room in silence while staff prepared a ‘nursery’ with a cot for us to ‘view’ her. We didn’t know what to say to each other. Everyone was lost for words. My father in law broke the silence.

‘I’ve never organized a funeral. What do we have to do?’

It was the last thing on my mind.

My mother in law went n to see her. I didn’t want to. But when she came out she said ‘Oh Jo you must go in. She looks so beautiful.’

I went in and wish I hadn’t. It was a room with soft lighting and baby decorations and she was lying in a gorgeous crib in white bedding and a pretty dress. Her cheeks had been rouged and her lips made pinker with lipstick. But this wasn’t like another other baby’s nursery. It was lovely but it was quiet and eerie.



The editors of ‘Clinical Dysmorphology’ set up a discussion board on the internet. Cinderella was their first case. The purpose was to display undiagnosed cases and invite diagnostic suggestions from clinicians around the world. We were given a password but when I divorced Cinderella’s father the password was forgotten and I now want to contact Great Ormond Street to find out if any clinicians have made comments.


The post mortem revealed:


  1. Severe growth retardation
  2. Hypocalcaemia
  3. Raised LH and FSH
  4. Cleft lip and palate.
  5. Large secundum ASD
  6. Absent left kidney
  7. Absent ovaries
  8. Absent right thyroid lobe. Enlarged parathyroids on the left.
  9. Normal thymus.
  10. Annular pancreas.
  11. Absent olfactory nerves
  12. Abnormally open opercula.
  13. Frontal gyri and superior temporal gyrus.
  14. Inferior olivary nuclei.


Despite googling I’m really non the wiser.

I only have one question…… WHY?

The sad thing is I cannot really share all this with a new partner. I did send my current boyfriend the link but I know he hasn’t read this blog. That hurts to be honest because who we are today is because of our past. Our past lives on within each of us. The people we loved are still in our hearts and should be shared with new comers into our lives. Only my husband went through this with me. Our children are our past but the only link we have.

And now? I’m going to contact Great Ormond Street and find out if the passing of time has brought any new information. This will bring closure. Without closure it will never really be The End.




D is for Death a true Cinderella Story chapter 4

This is chapter 4 of a true Cinderella story; the story of my first baby’s life and death. D is for Death a subject for some reason I like to blog about!

In my book ‘Every Family Has One’ the difficulties Kathleen faces in childbirth mirror some of my own experiences. But my baby didn’t die in childbirth. But as you will find out later in this serial of her life it might have been better if she had died at birth. It’s something I have often pondered.

Here’s the link to ‘Every Family Has One’:



I was induced but after a number of hours my cervix wasn’t dilating but the pain was growing.

A doctor came in to the room and asked ‘how much do you want us to help this baby through labour?’

Her heart was now in distress and the doctor added ‘given there is a high chance this baby could be mentally handicapped do you want us to resuscitate her?’

But how could they ask such a question? I didn’t know. I was in pain, I wanted it to all be over. I couldn’t think of all the options and I wasn’t a doctor!

‘Do what you can’ we said. Whatever that meant. Years later as I remember back a better answer may have been ‘you’re the doctor. You decide!’

I was then told I would have to undergo a caesarian section. They told me I would have a general anesthetic. ‘Was I aware of the risks?’ But I was in pain. How could I think what they were asking? Was there a choice? I wasn’t in a state of mind to answer their questions and then the most agonizingly painful thing happened. The most painful thing that I’ve ever had in my life! A catheter was fitted. I screamed the place down. I was burning in a pit of fire. Then they put a mask over my face to anaesthetize me. Why couldn’t they have done this after fitting the catheter?!!


After the birth I went to another floor and slept for 16 hours. Cinderella had survived birth and was in the special baby unit. My husband was there when I woke and kept saying ‘you’ve got to come down and see her. She’s adorable. She’s in an incubator and doing well.’


But I wasn’t overjoyed, or relieved. I didn’t feel anything. All I felt was the agonizing pain of thrush and the effects of the catheter. All I could think of was the pain the catheter had caused.


A nurse came with a wheelchair and insisted I get up but I didn’t want to. And I didn’t want to see the baby. I wanted the nurses to look after her. I didn’t want anything to do with her. She was going to die…. wasn’t she? How had she survived? Something wasn’t right. The sooner I accepted her inevitable death the better. ‘I’ll go and see her tomorrow’ I kept saying. Several days passed.


Eventually I was wheeled down to Arthur Farre baby unit. The air was warm and close and there were decorations hanging everywhere and pictures of babies on the walls – the success stories. Instantly I felt uplifted. There was clicking, ticking and bleeping and it was all a bit confusing.


Cinderella, or Cindy as we called her was like a tiny doll. She weighed 2lbs 14 oz. I gasped in shock. She was wearing a tiny pink bonnet that looked like a tea cosy and was wrapped in bubble wrap. She didn’t look like the polaroid photo Neil had shown me a few days back. Her head fitted into the palm of my hand – and my hands are small! Her legs were like sticks and her arms were the size of a man’s index finger. It was incredible. I was encouraged to start changing her nappy through a hole in the incubator. Changing her was like stuffing a small chicken! I had been expressing milk for her from the third day when the milk came through which was fed through a tube – 10 mls every hour. I continued expressing milk for several weeks and felt very guilty when I found I had to stop.


After two months we were transferred by ambulance down to Chichester hospital. I talked to the nurse, Liz during the 3 hour journey and Liz was someone I will never forget. She was undoubtedly the nicest person I have ever met and sadly I never saw her again.


At Chichester Cindy developed hypocalcaemia – raised calcium in the blood. She was prescribed a low calcium milk mixed with breast milk. We then spent a week at Great Ormond Street trying to find out why she had raised calcium but there were no answers. She was also examined by the geneticists who wanted to give her collection of symptoms a name but they had no answers.


All along the way Neil my husband kept googling for answers and had become quite knowledgeable. The doctors were always impressed by his knowledge and kept asking ‘are you a doctor?’ But then when they found out he had looked up the conditions on the internet they said ‘gosh you have the internet.’


At Great Ormond Street Cindy had an echo which revealed that her heart valve running from the collecting chamber was too narrow. She would need open heart surgery in a few months but they seemed hopeful because at that stage she was putting on lots of weight and filling out.

But things were about to take a turn for the worst…

Find out more tomorrow!




D is for Death a true Cinderella Story

This is chapter 3 of a true Cinderella story; the story of my first baby’s life and death. D is for Death a subject for some reason I like to blog about!

In my book ‘Every Family Has One’ the difficulties Kathleen faces in childbirth mirror some of my own experiences. But my baby didn’t die in childbirth. But as you will find out later in this serial of her life it might have been better if she had died at birth. It’s something I have often pondered.

Here’s the link to ‘Every Family Has One’:


Chapter 3.

The professor gathered the white coated trainee doctors around him and listed the medical conditions in Latin. This only added to our anxiety. We were desperate to know what was going on. Then he spoke to us and listed the baby’s abnormalities as if they were a standard shopping list of eggs, butter and milk. Cleft palette, hair lip, overlapping fingers, hole in the heart and gross retardation. But little did I know at that stage that this was just the tip of the iceberg. Until the baby was born they didn’t know the full extent of what was wrong.


‘What this amounts to I am more or less certain is Down’s Syndrome.’ He told us.


We had a week to wait for the results. Over that week it felt as if I was carrying a monster. My husband broke down many times screaming ‘the baby is no longer mine.’ And I guess I felt the same. We were carrying a monster. I know it was wrong to feel that way but that’s how it felt. Babies were supposed to be perfect.


We went to the GP the next day to discuss the situation. He sat back, shook his head and said ‘life’s a shit.’ And you know what? These were the best words anyone said to me through the whole thing! He was right and taking a philosophical approach was the best way to cope!


The results of the chromosome test came early catching us off guard one evening. Neil took the call then came into the lounge and through tears broke the news.

‘We’re going to have a healthy girl.’

Something didn’t feel right. The conditions the professor had listed hadn’t just disappeared. And why were they announcing the sex. We hadn’t asked to know. But that was trivia in the scheme of things.

I couldn’t focus on the overall situation. Days later I realized that Neil had used the wrong words. ‘Healthy’ simply meant that she didn’t have Downs but she was still a very unhealthy baby.

We returned to London the next day for a further meeting and the doctor’s first question was ‘how would you feel if your child is mentally handicapped?’ I don’t need to explain to you, the reader how I felt about such a crass approach to the situation.

From Kings College we went to Guy’s for a full cardiac assessment of the baby. After the scan the cardiologist drew a picture of a normal heart and explained that the baby had several holes and her heart valves were the wrong way round. They would induce labour the next day. All I could focus on was the agonizing thrush I was experiencing and the pain of the thrush – in a way-  helped me to push the results of the scan to the back of my mind.

I had been told to expect that the Cinderella might die in childbirth. Despite her heart condition they were still going to induce rather than confront the huge risks and perform a caesarian instead. But this was my first childbirth. I wasn’t an expert in motherhood. 20 years on though, three more births later I find it shocking they could have even considered a natural birth.

Read more tomorrow!





D is for Death My First Baby’s Death

This is chapter 2 of D is for Death My First Baby’s Death: the real life story that inspired ‘Every Family Has One’. Heres the link:



I continued working until close to my due date. Sometimes the children were really sweet and brought in knitted booties for the baby and other gifts and they were constantly asking what I was going to call the baby. But there were some nasty kids as there are in every school and a few of them laughed behind my back whispering that my bump looked more like a spare tyre than a baby. As the pregnancy progressed people kept saying ‘you really don’t look pregnant. Where are you hiding it? It’s a tiny bump.’ But this was my first baby. How was I supposed to know how big I should look?! I didn’t know what normal was.


I had been going for regular scans. At the 20 week scan the sonographer told me to come back for a further check in a month’s time. She said she needed to double check the dates. I wasn’t worried. At 24 weeks I went back and they said the same thing. ‘We just need to double check the dates are correct. Come back again in another 4 weeks.’ So I went again to be told the same thing again! I kept asking me ‘when did you say your last period was?’ ‘Are you absolutely certain?’ Then they would frown and study their paperwork and do some measurements. I was never worried. They just seemed a bit incompetent.


I was asked to go for another scan at 37 weeks. The sonographer spent more time looking at the screen this time and then went out of the room to talk with a doctor. They came back in, studied the screen again and he turned to me and said ‘If your dates are correct and let’s assume they are your baby is only going to weigh the size of a bag of sugar at full term.’


The size of a bag of sugar. I tried to visualize a bag of sugar but I don’t take sugar in tea and coffee and it had been a long time since I’d seen a bag of sugar! It meant nothing to me. I looked at them both blankly.


‘Don’t worry’ they said. ‘About 5% of babies are exceptionally small there’s probably nothing wrong but we’ll refer you to King’s College in London for a more detailed scan. You’ll be seeing the top consultant in the country – Professor Nicolaides.’


My first thought was what have I done wrong? I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I took folic acid tablets. I ate healthily throughout the pregnancy. I was admitted over night for observation and the next day my husband Neil drove us up to Kings. The queue outside Nicolaides room filled the whole corridor and reminded me of the queues in third world countries waiting to board a Mercy ship to see the visiting surgeon. A notice flashed above ‘We apologise for the delay. Waiting time is currently running two hours behind time.’


When it was my time to go into the consulting room I lay down on the couch and was amazed to see a much clearer picture of my baby. There were six doctors in white coats around the couch. They were training doctors.


Nicolaides studied the screen for some time then turned to me. ‘How old are you?’

‘29’ I replied

‘And when was your last period?’

We were back in a merry go round of the same questions but he wasn’t telling me anything new.

Then the professor turned to his team of trainee doctors.

‘It is wrong to keep altering a woman’s due dates. Once is acceptable. Twice maybe. But beyond that raises a concern. This mother shouldn’t have had her due dates altered so many times.’

Then he turned to me and broke the news of what was happening. The room started to spin. I asked for cup of tea….

Find out tomorrow what the professor told me..


D is for Death. The death of my first baby

The death of my first baby (she had multiple defects) inspired the story of Kathleen’s baby in ‘Every Family Has One’.

Here’s the book link:


It’s the 20th anniversary of her death and I will be publishing, in a series of articles the story of her short life and what I went through to mark this anniversary and to try to bring some comfort to other women who have gone through a similar experience.

Cinderella, or Cindy as we called her was just four months old when she died and after her death I sat down and poured it all out on paper. This was my therapy and I would recommend this to anyone who has gone through a traumatic experience because it helped hugely. I wrote 70,000 words – enough to write a book. It’s sitting in the loft and one day I might get it down and read it again.

Cindy is buried in a cemetery in Bognor Regis, a run down town on the south coast of England -home to one of the last remaining Butlins – and where I met and married my husband, but we’re now divorced. Yesterday I was in the area and went in search of the grave. I haven’t been there for several years and couldn’t remember where the cemetery was. The town had changed considerably. There’s a huge out of town Mc Donalds, a massive Sainsburys and warehouses and roundabouts I didn’t recognise. I’m told that there are now lots of migrants from Eastern Europe living there; many I expect working at Butlins. As I drove round trying to get my bearings I felt a mounting anxiety. My baby was abandoned in a town that wasn’t familiar. This wasn’t home and she was all alone and I couldn’t find her.

Eventually I located the cemetery. The big gold lettering of her name on the headstone is still to this day an act of defiance. You can’t fail to notice it as you sweep into the cemetery. We’d chosen an unusual name from a Disney character – Cinderella and we proudly displayed it for all to smile. It’s the Autumn and crisp fallen leaves covered the plot. A dirty plant pot sat on the stone and a faded Christmas wreath probably placed there by her Nan a very long time ago. The plot is forgotten but she wasn’t.

To the right of her plot are twins. They don’t have a headstone. Twenty years later they still have wooden crosses. I met the mother when we were in hospital together. To the left is the baby boy of another mother I met in hospital. I stood there thinking about those mothers and wondered how they were twenty years on and whether they’d had more children. I could take comfort in a belief that all the children along that row are up in heaven playing together and having a nice time but I don’t believe that. I don’t believe in a God anymore. After death I believe that we simply return to the earth, from where all life comes and all life ultimately shall return.


It was 1994 when I got pregnant. The economy was doing well. This was the year that Fred and Rosemary West were convicted of murder. Neil and I hadn’t been married long and after months of applying for teaching posts having recently qualified as a teacher I landed a job in a nearby town, delighted to be working at last. I would be teaching Humanities to 11 to 16 years olds and Sociology and Politics to A level. I spent the Summer preparing and reading and felt very excited. But a few weeks into the job I found out that I was pregnant. It wasn’t planned. I was just scatty about taking the pill. One evening we were out with friends having a Chinese and I had the most horrendous stomach cramps. I got up and went outside and collapsed in agony on the pavement. Neil took me to hospital and they asked ‘could you be pregnant?’ ‘No way’ I said. ‘Not possible.’ But they did a test anyway and we were both very shocked.


I told the school several weeks later that I was pregnant and would need maternity leave but because it was a new job I didn’t want to be off for very long and I told them that. But I hadn’t anticipated the reaction of the headteacher. I was standing in the middle of his office and he got up to shut the door. He sat down and stared at me.

‘And how do you think you’re going to manage? Working and looking after a baby?’

‘I’ll find a childminder of course.’

‘What time will you leave work each day?’

‘The same time that I leave now.’

‘And what if there are meetings?’

‘That’s ok. I’ll make arrangements for the childminder or a relative to have the baby longer.’

‘You won’t be able to cope. My wife didn’t cope. The only way to bring up a baby is to give up work and look after it.’

‘I like my work. I don’t want to give it up.’

‘What does your husband think? You’ll have domestic chores to do as well. It will be very hard.’

‘I’ll get a cleaner if I have to.’

I had to remind myself that this was 1994. It wasn’t the 1950s. How could this be happening still?



Several days later my job was posted on the notice board. They were getting rid of me and I knew nothing about it until I saw the advert – a permanent position – not maternity cover.

I called the NUT and put my complaint into writing and a meeting between the headteacher, the head of department and the NUT rep’ took place. The NUT guy was old and crusty and didn’t put up much of a case. He said ‘well it’s a difficult one. I’ll try and get a concession from them.’ That concession meant applying for another position (it was only for 1 day a week whereas my job was full time) in an entirely different academic subject! It was complete madness and didn’t make any sense. They weren’t offering like for like. Everyone in the meeting, it seemed to me knew that we would be going through the motions and that I wouldn’t get the job anyway because I wasn’t qualified to teach the subject. They thought they could fob me off with an unsuitable alternative. But I was flailing in a bureaucracy that clearly had the upper hand and there was little I could do.


More tomorrow folk!

D is for Death. The death of my first baby


D is for Determination. Authors Don’t be Downcast

I had a drink last week with another self published author. She said ‘Jo I’m giving up writing. I’ve written 12 books. I can’t keep writing. They’re just not selling and there are too many books now on Amazon. I’ll take up knitting instead.’

Of course she won’t take up knitting. Writing is in her blood and if there is a story to be told she’ll keep writing. The problem is we as authors all want to be successful. We want to be like JK Rowling and Peter James. We want to make our fortune. We want fame. Don’t deny it. I know you do. You all do!

But is that really likely? Did you begin writing your book with the aim of making millions? No you didn’t. You write because you have passion. You love words. You love the sense of personal achievement. You like getting lost in your story. Your story takes you to another time and place in which you can immerse yourself. It’s a wonderful feeling isn’t it?

But that niggling voice at the back of your head isn’t satisfied. That voice tells you to check your sales report. You’ve only made 1 sale this week. Oh dear it’s all been a waste of time and money. But has it been a waste? How do you personally define success? What are your goals? Set some realistic goals. Don’t aim so high. Take each step as it comes and listen to the advice of other authors. Go on workshops to learn how to be a better writer and make sure your work is well edited.

Success is so arbitrary. But success comes in stages little by little. I hate to admit this but I failed my O Level English 4 times before passing! But I’ve now written three books and I obsess about grammar and spelling and sentence construction and getting it right. But the problem is in life we always want more. We’re never satisfied. If you get 20 sales a day you want to achieve 100 a day. You want to be the best. But make yourself the best you can be not by the same standards as  the top authors. They are in a minority. 99.9% of us will never make much money. That’s a fact so stop being so competitive and praise yourself for what you are achieving.

Another self published author friend has the right approach. He says ‘treat your writing like a hobby. A very reasonably priced hobby (compared to membership of a golf club or camera equipment if you like photography or gym membership.) that you can offset against your tax bill.’ He has the right approach; a positive one.

Your first review should make you feel a success. You’ve inspired a reader. You’ve made them laugh, you’ve made them think, you’ve changed their opinion, you’ve made them cry, you’ve made them angry. They have emoted. You’ve made them feel human! That’s success.

I asked the first friend how many sales she’s actually making. Two or three a day she said. I was amazed. ‘That’s brilliant’ I told her but she can’t see it because she’s aiming to high and that’s making her unhappy. Don’t set your goals so high. Be pleased if you only get one sale today or one this week. Hopefully that one reader will love your book and feel inspired. It’s a wonderful thing when somebody reads and enjoys your book. They’ve given you time. They’ve taken you seriously. They’ve seen inside your soul. They’ve connected with you on a deep level. So have some determination to carry on. Don’t be downcast.

And here’s the links to my books if you want to feel emotion!



D is for damage and distress: child abuse media coverage

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 16.26.53Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 16.27.27 The Metropolitan Police have today issued a very strongly worded complaint against the BBC’s investigative programme Panorama which was broadcast last night.

The argument within the programme was that the pendulum has now swung too far since the Jimmy Saville scandal and that the Police and other agencies have become far too credulous of witnesses of child abuse accepting witness statements too readily.

The Met’ are saying that the programme could do a lot of harm. The effect of the programme and its’ arguments might deter witnesses from coming forward.

It’s a fine balance. Child abuse is an extremely sensitive area. Victims have learned to live with what happened to them in the past or they have suffered for years due to the impact of abuse. The damage and the distress are never far from the surface. In my novels ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish’ and ‘Every Family Has One’ the characters Kathleen and Darius are deeply affected by their childhood.

Coming forward to make an allegation takes courage and confidence and nothing must stand in the way of them being able to stand up and admit what happened and seek redress for the wrongs of the past. We mustn’t damage their right to come forward and we must, above all, be alert to the fact that child abuse is happening right now. Nothing has changed. This is not something that happened only long ago. There could well be an abuser in every family and a victim in every family. Does every family have one? It’s the title of my novel which looks at the impact on a victim and how it impacted upon her adult life. Here is the link:


And if every family doesn’t have one then every community certainly does. We need to be aware, alert and listen to our children. We need to pick up changing moods and behaviour and seek professional advice if we suspect abuse. Children are vulnerable and defenceless today just as they were in Jimmy Saville’s day but we must encourage witnesses to come forward but at the same time we need to move on from the past and learn the lessons of our past mistakes in order to change society. Standing up in court can add to their damage and distress.

D is for damage and distress: child abuse media coverage



D is for Diesel. Defending Diesel Cars

Drivers in the UK, quite understandably are confused. VW have been caught rigging tests to make diesel vehicles appear to emit less pollution.

Never mind the scandal of these lies we as customers are now questioning whether we should be driving diesel cars with regard to the environment. For  years we have been told that diesel cars are better for the environment and now we are not so sure.

The last Labour Government promoted diesel cars. In 2001 Chancellor Gordon Brown introduced lower vehicle tax for diesel cars on the grounds they were less polluting. This tax break still remains today. But some people are pressing to put an end to this. Lord Drayson, former Science Minister in the Labour Government is now saying diesels are quite literally ‘killing people.’ He wants a greater push for hybrid cars.

However the fact remains that diesels are a better choice than unleaded. Diesels emit 15-20% less carbon dioxide than the petrol equivalent  making a contribution to climate change targets.