Sleeping Dream

I woke around 2am, an early ‘witching hour’ for me, and played the aptly named and much tapped Solitaire on my iPhone. Sometime after an hour I think, sleep crept over me again.

I turned onto my side facing into the bed to Trace asleep beside me and I felt an arm wrap around my shoulder and neck. The warmth of someone climbing into bed next to me, helping me, willing me to sleep.

I reached up and held Beth’s hand, soft and white, laid gently between my neck and chin. I recognised her hand and her sleepy self.

2015-12-08 15.59.28

I wasn’t asleep yet was I? I was in the big bed under the soft white duvet of a friend’s chalet in the Alps. I was awake and Beth had climbed into our bed to help me sleep or perhaps to help herself to sleep.

I rolled over. We looked at each other. Nothing had changed. We didn’t speak, we didn’t need to. I brushed away a few stray hairs from her face as we looked at each other. She still had her make-up on.

Then I thought I had to ask her ‘How are you? You ok?’.

She looked at me but didn’t say anything.

‘I miss you. Lots of people miss you.’

She looked at me then turned her eyes away from me as if she was looking out for someone behind her who’ll called out to her.

I woke.

The precious seconds when I think this wasn’t a dream. The precious seconds I try to make the feeling linger.

Holiday Prep II

The warm of her next to me in bed, as we’d done when she was a child and from time to time as an adult, when she’d climb into our drowsy bed. Trying to turn seconds into minutes, replaying the dream in my mind over and over. The exact words, the touch of her hand.

Kitchen Kazoo Dream

4.20am or thereabouts and I curl up, wrapping the duvet round my neck and shoulder. I get a feeling I’ll be able to go back to sleep.

I’m in the kitchen, trying to fix two small pieces of plastic together to make a kazoo, like some cheap Christmas cracker toy.

And you walk in, and head straight to the bread-bin, like nothing is unusual.

And mum and Molly and Beth do the same, but I know they’re pretending and they know they’re pretending too.  So I pretend too, but while I try to fix the kazoo, I cry, because I know it’s not you.

But I take advantage of the pretence and I kiss your head and smell your hair, like it’s real and like you’re here.


Then I’m woken by my 7am alarm. And I remember, I’m here.

But I don’t cry. Instead I try to hold onto the feeling inside me I had in the dream. The feeling of being there with you. Before, when everything was normal and I was playing with a kazoo.

Then Minnie – the puppy I let you have and that you choose and collected Before you went –  jumps on the bed and I stroke her as she stretches and scratches as the morning begins.

And it starts to summer rain. Big droplets of summer rain. And cars begin their commute, like everyday.

And with the house still and quiet and Trace still asleep, I lie in bed and write this on my phone.

And then, as I get up and make coffee, a pesky Coldplay song starts to play in my head:

Come on in
I’ve gotta tell you what a state I’m in
I’ve gotta tell you in my loudest tones
That I started looking for a warning sign.

When the truth is
I miss you
Yeah the truth is
That I miss you so.
– Warning Sign, Coldplay (2002)


Because I miss you Izzy.

Everglow – hold on or let go?

I guess loss is a double edged sword – to hold on or to let go.

Holding on sometimes feels like clinging to the past, the fading past, the Before. The once was, that’s stopped. Yet sometimes holding on feels like fanning the flames of memory, keeping them nurtured, cherished and alive (like when I dream of them alive and well); a gut-wrenching recall that actually triggers and affirms life, oddly enough.

Where as letting go sometimes feels like abandoning them, moving on without them and forgetting them. I know I don’t, I know I won’t, and I know I never will, but it feels like, if I let them go, they will fade away, as time ticks on from when they were 19 and 24. It feels like if I focus too hard on the After, I’ll neglect the Before.

Mark Latimer, the father in Broadchurch is the best dramatisation/personification of grieving for your child that I’ve seen, thus far, a year and half after losing them (how many weeks is that? I’ve lost count). He’s holding onto Danny. He wants to know why. He wishes he could have helped. He wishes he could stop and rewind time and retract all and everyone and everything that led to his son’s death.

And then, out of the blue, in July 2017, in a rainy Cardiff stadium, along come Coldplay, with a song called ‘Everglow’.

Please forgive me, all those readers who think Chris Martin is a smug git, who pens crass, crowd pleasing songs and milks ballads like a parody of a musical milkmaid and dances like a buffoon to self-indulgent soft rock. For those people, best look away til the next post.

Sure, Google it, find out what its about. But I didn’t when I heard it first. I think I’d heard it before, but most pertinently, I saw them perform it live, in Cardiff, of all places.


July 2017, Cardiff (After)

And here again is music and lyrics, turning, in my mind, to my situation, my kids, my loss, my pain, my grief (yip, still grieving, sorry ‘time heals’ fans).

And here’s the lyrics to ‘Everglow‘. Read them, skip them, whatever, I just hope you get my point – the double edged sword of holding on, or letting go.

Oh they say people come
They say people go
This particular diamond was extra special
And though you might be gone
And the world may not know
Still I see you celestial

Like a lion you ran
A goddess you rolled
Like an eagle you circled
In perfect purple
So how come things move on
How come cars don’t slow
When it feels like the end of my world?
When I should but I can’t let you go?

But when I’m cold, cold
When I’m cold, cold
There’s a light that you give me
When I’m in shadow
There’s a feeling within me, an everglow

Like brothers in blood
Sisters who ride
Yeah, we swore on that night
We’d be friends ’til we died
But the changing of winds
And the way waters flow
Life as short as the falling of snow
And now I’m gonna miss you, I know

But when I’m cold, cold
In water rolled, salt
And I know that you’re with me
And the way you will show
And you’re with me wherever I go
‘Cause you give me this feeling, this everglow

What I wouldn’t give for just a moment to hold
Yeah, I live for this feeling, this everglow

So if you love someone, you should let them know
Oh, the light that you left me will everglow

Sparkle girls

December, 2015, John Lewis, Sheffield (Before)

PS Izzy had ‘Adventure Of A Lifetime’ on her Spotify travel playlist – I like to think I introduced her to it after I banged on about it on TFI Friday.

And finally, to Trace, my wife, my best friend and the profound mother of our three girls, please forgive me for being self-absorbed in Cardiff, that Coldplay night. I got a lost in loss, and neglected you and us and the moment.

Everglow, Izzy and Beth.

Zest, Longing.

Zest for Life. Lust for life. Vitality, vibrancy. Lifeblood. Essence, sense of self, self of self, My destiny. The future.

Longing, yearning, not belonging. Past-Present-Future, but the future only imagined. Sinking, but clinging on.

And elephants. For Rhiannon Burkinshaw.  She’s with you. x

Forgetting is easier than reflecting

Hands down, without a shadow of a doubt, it’s easier to coast on, to re-join the merry-go-round. Easier by far, to look the other way, to try to forget, to try to ignore the core of me that’s screaming away in its tightening vacuum. Easier, much easier to distract myself, to ‘get on with it’, to ‘solider on’, to ‘cheer up’, to ‘chin up’.

“Lets ave the beer another beer it’s a fine idea my man.”

Busy, do, do busy. Do, busy, do.

Silence, stillness and being alone in empty houses don’t help.

But moments of reflection come, whether sourced or forced, sought out or stumbled into haplessly. Whether it’s for a split second – a sudden jolt, whilst running in the morning rain to catch a London Euston train – or for 10 minutes or more – listening to someone talk about ‘purpose’ in life and work in a wind soaked marque in wet Windermere.

Refections render me useless – as a person, a shell of a man, a car crash of who I used to be Before. It’s because I’ve paused.  I’ve stopped for a moment or for a handful of minutes.

Because I have no idea how I’m going to get over this. It feels like, in those moments, I never, ever will.

And later, I watch this video that Iz filmed on the 18th January 2016. They were in Chiang Mat, Northern Thailand, their first stop after a week in Bangkok (I checked the details in Iz’s diligently recorded travel notes, with her accompanying drawings to illustrate events).

It’s the one video on her camera phone that doesn’t seem like her. Izzy was boundless, relentless, ceaseless. She had a restless energy to explore and live life. She never sat still, she always turned the music up. She never shut up. For 19 precious years.

So, in this moment (44 seconds) in Northern Thailand, did she actually stop for a second?

Why did she film this? Was she looking for something? Was she struck by the silence and the ceremony of the ritual she and Beth were watching? Did she actually, for once in her precious, short life, take a moment to reflect?

Just to throw it in there, and for the record, thanks to Spotify, ‘Love Yourself’ by Justin Bieber was the last piece of music Izzy listened to.

Mr Hudson and Miss Anderson

So the story of how Mr H and Miss A began when I watched/repeat watched ‘Later with Jools’ with Mr Hudson and the Library in 2006.

I loved them from the off. Dunno why. The lyrics? The swagger? The tie and jeans combo? I said to Beth ‘watch this, whatcha think?’ I thought about, but declined his ‘Library’ tour.  A regret, but there it is. Life, living, has its regrets.

Then Beth started to like Mr H as well. Lyrical stuff, I suspect it was (I’ll never know for sure). Maybe a shared bromance? Whatever it was, we connected over Mr H. Perhaps it was simply me, Father, desperately seeking a connection with teenage Daughter?

So a night in Leeds arches, 2007. Reserved, muted moments, but connected, special moments, minutes, a handful of hours of togetherness. Me longing, deep inside, for more, time, but the ticking clock, the parental responsibilities, the familial restrained conventions stopping me from me from truly, deeply being myself and saying ‘fuck it, lets stay…’ for the crowd invited after party.

But still, I relished that evening, Before, and now, After.

That few moments of connectedness. We stood on a wooden platform above the intimate, early career crowd, and we sang and mimed the lyrics to each other. The touch of her arm, looking into her etyes. Being there,  thinking ‘This is it. This is now’. Trying to force back the thoughts about the car trip home and the sensible next day parental conventions. Trying so hard to live in the moment. (Like she tortured me with years later, with her reading and her understanding and her knowing – god, she spotted a few things, didn’t she?)

And then later (2009),  a very, very drunken night in Sheffield Plug and later in Bungalow and Bears at the crowd invited after party, with a single photo to prove it, with her friend Emma H. (I feel like I know Emma H now, After.)


More gigs followed. Manchester, London. Then the 100 Club in London, 2014, the last.

We talked and shared as we waited for the gig to start. (The contents of which are not for public consumption). Now, looking back, that evening was one of my special, special times with my adult Bethy.

We sang and mimed the words again, and I posted an Insta video that Mr H, unknowingly of the ‘After’ significance, of course, liked. Maybe it wasn’t as important to her as it was, is, to me. I’ll never know. I’ll never know.

So then to Bethy’s and Izzy’s funeral, and our first choice – ‘Forever Young’.

Forever 24. Forever 19.

And now, today, in May 2017, how many hours and days and weeks and months after I lost them, and from when life began to be measured by After, I listen to Mr H in the car, in the humdrum Sheffield traffic and suddenly, with the smack of a crashing wave ‘Learning to Live’ takes on a deep resonance that the song and the lyrics never had before.

I’m learning to live without your love
Each day by day, each day by day
I’m learning to live without your love
Each day by day, each day by day.

Where in the world will I go, I don’t know
Anywhere but here
Where in the world will I go, I don’t know
Anywhere but here.


Me and Bethy, Mr H gig, 2009.

And so this is why I still cry to Mr Hudson.



The tangible and the intangible

(If you like, while you read this, listen to ‘Touch’ by Daft Punk from 4.20 in)

My birthday. My 51st year. How lucky I am to have lasted this long. To still be here, to still be breathing, to be ‘tangible’.

Trace and I are alone in the house, (later, we’re going to London to be with Molly, to join up our little family of 3) so we open my cards and presents, the two of us, as we would have done, with a coffee, if Izzy and Beth were here. But they’re not here. And we both know it and we feel it, so we both cry. And I look out the living room window with the fresh green of trees and the early morning May sunshine.

In the midst of ‘having a moment’ – our collective term for when a grief wave hits – I loath the intangibleness of them.

It’s when ‘reality’ (this reality) hits, like an ice cold wave, and my mind claws away, literally claws away, in my skull, as it tries and fails to comprehend, to fathom, to rationalise, to realise the truth of the permanence of them now being ‘intangible’.

No more touches of their skin, holding hands, hugs, no more body warmth or body odour.

And with it comes the fear that my memory of them, my memory of all the tiny, tiny, little things that made them whole and made their presence in this world real and everyday and matter-of-fact, will be lost or fade and become faint, so that all I end up with is a collection of Facebook reminders and Instagram clips to remind me of the moments deemed worthy of recording for posterity or for fun.

I don’t want to have to ‘think’ about them. I don’t want them to be non-present, to be abstract, to be in my head. I don’t want to have to claw away at the unfathomable shift, the insurmountable drift, I don’t want to have to try to conjure up a sense of them, in an abstract, conceptual way.

I hate this. I hate all of this. All of it.

I yearn, I pine, I hanker, I reach out for their smiles, their eyes, their hair, their stupid jokes, their banter, their breath, their touch, their stinky feet, their farts, their BO, their washing, their dirty dishes, their complaints, their unmade beds.

I want Izzy and Beth to be here. I want Izzy and Beth to be alive. I want Izzy and Beth to be real and tangible. I want Izzy and Beth to not have died.


Look out the window.
Breathe Deep.
Hold on.