Thursday, 5 February 2015

I always wished I had a magic wand... - A piece of creative writing for Salt and Caramel Writer's workshop

I went to sit at my desk and examined my finding. Under the mud the wood was smooth, even polished, but otherwise ordinary.

As I was holding it in my right hand, feeling the weight of it - surprisingly heavy- Blinis came limping towards me, whining softly.

‘What’s up, baby?’

I crouched next to him and looked at his legs and paws . Under one of his feet was a cut that seemed shallow but obviously sore. I was still holding the stick in my hand and as I probed gently at the injured foot the wood started to glow. It grew warm too and, in front of my eyes, Blinis’ wound disappeared!

I had found a magic wand…

The next day, I went to work with the wand in my bag. I did not intend to use it, I just wanted to have it with me.
I crossed the oncology department and entered my office. As usual I went through the files of the patients I was to see that day. The first one was a lady who had no diagnosis yet. I was surprised as I usually saw people who were already undergoing treatment. However this patient had rescheduled her consultant appointment no less than six times and her GP had written a letter to say how concerned he was about her. He thought she was showing signs of acute depression and detailed said signs.

She did turn up for her counselling session with me. She was indeed very distressed and I struggled to get through to her. I was distracted too. I kept glancing at my bag where the wand lay.

It would be easy, so easy, to just make sure that her diagnosis was an all clear. How many times had I wished I could wave a magic wand and solve all my patients' problems?
Suddenly I found myself walking to seize my bag. I took a tissue out of it, handed it to my patient and sat next to her. I rested my left hand on her shoulder while my right hand held the wand inside my bag.

As it had done for Blinis the wood grew warm and I tried to angle my body to hide the opening of the bag so the glow would not show. It stopped. It was done.

I felt so elated! And powerful. 

By then I had completely lost track of what the lady was telling me. I was also getting quite... annoyed with her. Couldn't she feel the magic? As she grew silent I said the words I generally use to close an interview. I realised with a bit of a jolt that we had only been speaking for 10 minutes (as opposed to my usual minimum of 30). Oh well, she would quickly realise that the lump wasn't even there anymore.

I didn't use the wand again.

The next day came. When I went into work there was a cluster of people, a doctor, some nurses, other staff, gathered by the reception desk.

I enquired : 'What's happening?'

'One of our recent patients', answered Claire the receptionist, 'I think you might have seen her yesterday.'

Saying this she showed me the file of the lady I had cured with the wand. She was going to tell me that her lump had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared!

'She killed herself last night...'

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Friday, 30 January 2015


Shall I ask James to write tonight about this play I saw at the new theatre ?

[James : There is no shall about it. I AM writing !
Catherine : Hush !]

It's all fresh in my memory still so it would be better to put my thoughts to paper right away... But the feelings are vivid too and I fear I will in turn cry my heart out or laugh out loud as I did during the play, just writing about it, and wake my little ones, asleep in their cot. Mathilde was true to her word and saw that they went to sleep.

[Mathilde : Of course I was !]

I don't usually go to the theatre to the evening performance but my friend Isabel had already bought the ticket and was taken with a headache earlier today so... There I was, in a proper theatre, surrounded by ladies and gents in their best fineries, feeling a bit out of place really. Then the play started and I forgot everything else...

That first scene with the ghost ! There, I get the chills just thinking about it. I even have to look over my shoulder ! I had never seen a play with a beginning as dramatic as that and I have seen my fair share.

[James: You can say that again...]

I saw The Spanish Tragedy of course. It was good : the unfortunate lovers, the grieving father and mother, the revenge.

But Hamlet, Hamlet... For one thing that Richard Burbage was enthralling. I think half, nay all of the women in the audience fell in love with him, here and there.

[James : Mother !]

It is our caring instinct that drives us towards those who suffer and Hamlet is by all means one tortured soul.

If I could read I would not mind having these words nicely written on a soft piece of velum, being able to bring them back to life whenever I would want to...

[James : I told you I could teach you.
Catherine, sighing : Yes you did, my love.]

Oh, how Ophelia describes Hamlet after she told him to visit her no more! And the scene when they meet again...

"I did love you once.
- Indeed my lord you made me believe so.
- You should not have believed me ; something : I loved you not."

[James : Mother, stop crying, I can't understand what you're saying.
Mathilde : Hush,  you oaf ! Why does he say that, Mother ?
Catherine : Because she rejected him, but it was because of her father. ]

And then...

[Catherine : Write again, James.]

Then Ophelia drowns herself, and everybody in the audience gasped when they heard the news!

"Her clothes spread wide ; And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up: Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes."

I am crying so again!

[James : Let's start again tomorrow, Mother.
Catherine : Yes, let's...]

Thursday, 18 December 2014

New blog

I have a new blog where I talk about language and translation.

You can find it here.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The tiniest of the bigger ones

Once upon a morning in the kingdom of Fiddlediddy everyone was going about their business.

The little ones were going to the-place-where-you-learn-things. It was in the centre of the town, in a place with a garden, a slide and a swing, and on the doors there was a big sign reading :
The Little Ones

The bigger ones were going to the-place-where-you-learn-even-more-things. It was on the outskirts of town and they had to go on a bus to go there. There was no garden but they had a big sports hall and a racing track. On the doors the sign read :
The Big Ones

Then the ones who think they know everything but don't know very much at all were going to the-place-where-you-start-learning-a-tiny-little-bit-of-what's-really-important (only a tiny little bit mind). It was in another town of the kingdom and they had to go on the train to go there. There was no garden nor racing track but there were buidlings with small bedrooms in them as they had to sleep there (the train journey was too long and costed too much to do it every day, two times a day). On the doors it didn't read 'the ones who think they know everything but don't know very much at all' but :
THE Ones
They liked that.

Then there was the place where people really start to learn a bit of the universe and everything. There were lots of buildings all over town, in every town in the knigdom. There was no garden, no racing track, no bedrooms, but there often were coffee machines. On the doors of all the places it read :

Then there was the place where people learnt even more of the universe and everything. It was everywhere. Sometimes there was a garden, sometime not, sometimes there were lots of bedrooms, sometimes not enough, sometimes none at all. There were rarely racing tracks, but there were often stuff, more often too much stuff, and lovers, partners, friends, children, aged relatives, lost loved ones and sometimes no one at all. There were no particular doors to go there, you were in it or you were notl but if there had been doors it would have read :

When someone moved from one place to the other it was almost always a big thing in Fiddlediddy. Everyone, except the interested party, wore a funny hat, danced and sang. Some people said they could have done without all this but it was Fiddlediddy after all.

On that particular morning a boy called Anatole was going for the first time to The Big Ones. He was feeling proud and excited but quite nervous too. As it was his first day a lot of his friends and family were going with him on the big bus driving to the-place-where-you-learn-evern-more-things, all wearing their funny hats, dancing - some holding a large white handkerchief or a stick - and singing. Everyone passed the doors of The Little Ones on their way to the bus station. In front of these doors children were either being very quiet or very loud, crying or laughing, hugging or swatting away their parents. They all looked very small and Anatole felt very big indeed.

At last everyone got on the first bus they could catch. That first morning there were lots of buses going out of town at regular intervals as there were so many people going with the new Big Ones.
When they had finally arrived and everyone had danced and sung and hugged and kissed, Anatole was waved off and found himself on the other side of the doors. He was quite small for his age and when he looked around he thought that all the other children seemed to be much, much bigger than him. Anatole felt very small indeed...

A familiar face suddenly appeared before him. Mr Bladibuss was a teacher at The Big Ones and an old friend of Anatole's family. Mr Bladibuss came from the knigdom of Tiniweeny where everyone was rather small. Babies were the size of your thumb and little children no larger than your hand. Mr Bladibuss was very tall compared to most grown-ups from Tiniweeny and he was about Anatole's height. For Anatole, who had known him since he was very litlle, Mr Bladibuss was a giant radiating authority and knowledge.

'Anatole, my boy !' said the teacher. 'You look a bit lost ?'

'Everyone is so big !' answered Anatole. 'I must be the smallest here !'

There was silence.

Then Mr Bladibuss said, 'I am smaller than you...'

Anatole looked at him with big, round eyes. His brain registered what his friend had just said but he still quite could not believe it. He felt so, so much smaller than Mr Bladibuss, who was now frowning at him and not looking too amicable. People from Tiniweeny are not too sensitive about their size but still...

At last Anatole said, 'I mean, I have so much to learn...'

Mr Bladibuss put an arm around the boy's shoulder, leading him through the crowd of children.
'And that's only the beginning, Anatole. that's only the beginning...'

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Everyday superheroes : Super 'Pappy'

Welcome to the March 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Everyday Superheroes
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the remarkable people and characteristics that have touched their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
For my 4 year old a superhero is very much someone who saves others. So when he told me that 'Pappy' (his grand dad, my dad) had saved him I could just picture my 83 years old dad posing as Super Pappy, in cape and... well, tights. I'm sure DH won't thank me for putting that image in his head but never mind! The point is that it was really sweet.

The story was that we were on holidays in France while DH was still in the UK, working. We'd been to the beach in our London taxi.

Kids, granny, body boards, buckets, spades, all jumbled up at the back of the car, the children requiring of their grand mother to play games with them while she was trying her hardest to do so without being sick (she's a bit sensitive to travel sickness). Then I heard the tale telling flap flap flap flap of a flat tyre and stopped on the kerb of the road (thank goodness there was a kerb to stop on!).
Now, our taxi is a heavy car (more than 1 and a half tonne) with big, heavy wheels. I have had my share of shabby cars and I know how to change a tyre or check the oil. But on the Fairway Driver, with 4 children and a granny, on the side of a very busy, quite fast going road? I was pretty sure I wouldn't manage to do it. And I didn't have much faith either in my dad being able to do it to be honest.

I know you must be thinking, but if the grand dad was the hero of the story surely he did change the flat tyre in the end... Well, no. We called a recovery van (DH did, from England!) and started to wait after having spent already a little time faffing about, finding a recovery company, etc. The children were getting hungry and tired, worried too, so my dad offered to come in his car and take most of the children (except for my then 22 month old who would not have been happy to leave me) and my mum, back home.

So he came, the knight in slippers and Volkswagen Polo. The children, still in their swimming costumes, piled up happily in the smaller car with the promise of dinner when they arrived at my parents' house. And that's what prompted DS, later that night when I was putting him to bed and telling a story of his day, to add to the story 'And Pappy saved me!'.

That elevation of my dad to hero status took afterwards a different significance for me as he suffered a stroke in November. He lost the ability to use language (in speech or writing) and the mobility in his right hand. Knowing that his two passions in life are drawing (he's an artist by profession) and talking, it's been quite hard on him. He is very strong willed though and determined to recover what he's lost. He has become independent again in everyday life as soon as could be expected and he's now working hard at learning again how to communicate and use the fine motor skills of a right handed person (he has regained some movement in his right hand but he can't always feel if what he wants to grab and hold is actually in his hand).

That's hero's stuff, isn't it ?!

To finish the story of the flat tyre... DS had been saved by Super Pappy but the taxi was still in the ditch with its, as DS called it, 'black tyre'. The recovery van arrived and it appeared that I had been right : neither me nor my dad could have changed the tyre. As it is even the recovery guy couldn't do it at first! He'd been coming straight from wherever he was, with his standard tyre changing kit, but for the taxi he needed to go back to his workshop and get the lorry kit... Yes. So a bit of going to and fro followed. He dropped me (and DB) at my parents'. I put everyone to bed and was even lucky that DB went to sleep on the breast and allowed me to deposit her on the bed, just before the mechanic came back. We went back to where the taxi was (by then it was dark), he changed the tyre and I could finally drive back to my parents' (it turned out we had stopped only a few hundred yards from the town, where we could have parked the car on a proper parking space and walked home...) at the rather ungainly hour of 11.20 pm.

But... it was almost worth it for the story of Pappy the superhero in the end :)

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon March 11 with all the carnival links.)
  • I Am A Super Hero — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she learned the hard way exactly what it means to be a real super hero and not a burned out shell of a human simply pretending to be one.
  • Quiet Heroics — Heroism doesn't have to be big and bold. Read how Jorje of Momma Jorje is a quiet hero…and how you probably are, too.
  • Not a Bang, but a Whisper {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs at A New Day talks about the different types of "superheroes," ones that come in with a bang and ones that come in with a whisper.
  • Silent courage of motherhood in rural Cambodia — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings marvels at how rural Khmer women defy the odds in childbirth.
  • Super PappyMother Goutte's little boy met a superhero in checked slippers and Volkswagen Polo, his grand dad: Super Pappy!
  • An Open Letter to Batman — Kati at The Best Things challenges Batman to hold up his end of the deal, in the name of social justice, civic duty, and a little boy named Babe-O!
  • My Village — Kellie at Our Mindful Life reflects on the people who helped her to become her best self.
  • 5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me — Children are amazing teachers, when we only stop to listen. They remind us to choose happiness, to delight in the small things, to let go and forgive. There is so much we can learn from our children. Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a few of the lessons she's learned.
  • Could you use some superpowers? — Tat at Mum in search shares a fun activity to help you connect with your own superpowers.
  • Like Fire Engines — Tam at tinsenpup tells the story of the day she saw a surprising superhero lurking in the guise of her not entirely mild-mannered four-year-old daughter.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her list of Walker Warburg Syndrome Superheroes that have touched her life forever.
  • My Superhero of the Week: Nancy GallagherTribal Mama muses about the transcendent things her superhero mom has done.
  • My choice in natural birth does not make me a super hero — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, discusses her thoughts on her experience with the perception of natural birth and putting those mamas on a different level. Does giving birth naturally give cause for an extra pat on the back? No! All mamas, no matter how they birth, are superheroes.
  • Someone's Hero — Sometimes being a parent means pretending to be a grown-up, but it always means you are someone's hero. Read Mandy's lament at Living Peacefully with Children.
  • Growing into a Super Hero — Casey at Joyful Courage shares how owning our behavior and choosing to be a better parent, a better person, is an act of courage.
  • A Math Superhero — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling writes that her 7-year-old daughter's superhero is an MIT-trained mathematician.
  • It Starts With Truffula Trees And Tulips — Luschka of Diary of a First Child takes a hard look at the realities of her relationship with her mother, and through this post goes on a journey of discovery that ends in a surprise realisation for her.
  • We Don't Need an Excuse — Maria Kang (aka "Hot Mom") asks women #WhatsYourExcuse for not being in shape? Dionna at Code Name: Mama asks Hot Mom what her excuse is for not devoting her life to charity work, or fostering dozens of stray dogs each year, or advocating for the needs of others. Better yet, Code Name: Mama says, how about we realize that every woman has her own priorities. Focus on your own, and stop judging others for theirs.
  • It's not heroic when you're living it — Lauren at Hobo Mama knows from the inside that homeschooling does not take a hero, and that much of what we choose as parents is simply what works best for us.
  • Superheroes, princesses and preschoolers — Garry at Postilius discusses why his preschool-age son is not ready for comic book superheroes.
  • The Loving Parents of Children with Special Needs – Everyday Superheroes — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares posts with resources for parents of children with special needs along with posts to help others know how to support parents of children with special needs.
  • Everyday Empathy — Mommy Giraffe of Little Green Giraffe shares why her secret superpower is everyday empathy.
  • The Simplicity of Being a Superhero — Ana at Panda & Ananaso explains what superheroes mean to her wise three-year-old.
  • My Father, The Hero — Fathers are pretty amazing; find out why Christine at The Erudite Mom thinks hers is the bees knees.