#atinylife good day

The sun came out and

we were allowed to have people over in the garden and

they could be from another local authority area and

I made gluten free vegan brownies and

the kids played with nerf guns and

I hate toy guns and

I didn’t care and

I made tea and

Mr HB made coffee and

we bitched about stuff and

we did the crossword together and

we laughed and

we looked at the tadpoles and

the tadpoles are getting bigger and

they are moving around more too and

kids all played really well together and

later on we went down to the river and

it is really beautiful here and

today it is cloudy again and

I feel tired but it’s the good sort of tired and

I am so lucky to have had such a lovely day.

#atinylife LastBorn

Given my poetry pamphlet is now sold out (thank you to everyone who bought a copy), I thought I would record the poems for my much-neglected YouTube channel. Here is a transcript of the first one,

Last Born

Quickened pain, surprising me

out of all birth plans

and breathing techniques

and the crickets of the TENS

machine crawling up my back.

I had woken early

completed the lists:

paired socks, as my pelvis

pentangled like pulled knitting.

And all too soon

the burn, the squeeze, the heft

was beyond unbearable

but then

you released –

a tide of meaning

from me

into the world.

My last born.

Completing this compost

of family

this outrage

of us.

Never forget how you came:

child of mine.

Never be afraid to labour, and

never push down pain to places you cannot feel it.

#atinylife New Spring

Moving from a small village surrounded by countryside to, er, a small village surrounded by countryside, I thought a lot of things would be the same. But the longer we live at the new place, the more differences I’m seeing. Now we’re into our first Spring here, there’s lots to see.

The deer don’t just hang around in the winter – we see them all the time. At the old place, I would see deer sometimes – it was exciting that day we saw one on the way to school – but there are definitely more where we live now.

And I used to love that day in Spring I would drive out of the village and see lambs in the fields. Now, they’re just a walk away. Down the hill, up again, and there they are: cute little wriggles of Spring joy.

#atinylife sugarbowl

My paternal grandmother will be 100 this year. My mother died 13 years ago. My father, in a blend of grieving his wife and tending to his mother, has taken to giving his children pieces of family significance with every visit. At some point, he gave me a sugar bowl my grandmother purchased when she visited my parents shortly after my birth.

It’s a piece of pink English pottery. It is painted with a pastoral scene. It was once broken and glued back together, although one small piece was never found, so there is a small chip in the unlikely place of the middle of the bowl. I use the sugar bowl daily, although it doesn’t technically contain sugar. I say technically because I use a sugar substitute. Not everything my father hands off to us is quite as appreciated.

#atinylife period

What is so holy about the blood from a womb?

And am I then, a non-woman, an un-woman? For tabletting these days away with modern medicine we are meant to feel guilty about, because Christianity, because feminized fish?

Because I wear my hair short, never wear a dress flowing red or black, because I do not limit women to cis white sock robots, because I include my trans sisters and my enby siblings, because the patriarchy is delighted when we police each other’s clotted tampons.

When we accidently leave out those who have had hysterectomies over hysteria of a battered woman who needs a shelter, who was never a man in the first place.

All humans bleed. Some more than your soaked gusset, your baby-home-nest clear out. Your curse does not give you the right to cast legislation over others.  

#atinylife adrenaline

I am not a fan of adrenaline. The idea of anything from a roller coaster to swings in the park makes me feel sick. (Always assuming I can fit my hips into a swing in the first place!) I think since having labyrinthitis (which wasn’t labyrinthitis), dizziness will forever be connected with illness, not joy.

I’ve taken on some paid work. Of course a huge yay for this. Being able to pay my mobile phone bill is a Very Good Thing. Maybe I’m out of practice, but the whole ‘talking/communicating with people’ has become another thrilling ride. Which is to say, an unpleasant adrenaline rush.

I can have all the conversations, and usually I’m fine. I will do my work, and I excel in what I do. But because mental health, sometimes I come away shivery, over-stimulated, sloshing with adrenaline.

#atinylife windy

The wind has been what I believe is known as ‘blowing a hooley’ these past two nights. March is coming in like the proverbial lion, roaring through the trees behind the house as we lie cosy in bed.

You say you wonder how much quieter it is on the other side of the street. That it’s like being in bed on a ferry, or with the dehumidifier on.

I say I wouldn’t swap our house with any of the others around here. I couldn’t believe we found a new build with a view of trees over a valley out the back. It was the main thing that made me sure this was the house for us.

The wind pushes itself through the branches. I cover myself up with the duvet and the blanket, and drift off into peaceful sweet sleep.

#atinylife backtoschool

It won’t be long now – I know, I’ve done nothing but whine about them being home. Now I’m sort of wondering if I’ll look back on home-learning with a tear in my eye. Like this lunchtime, I thought, ‘this is one of the last lunches you’ll have together in term time, isn’t that sad?’ My kids, however, are nothing if not reliable. Within five minutes they were screaming at each other about something screen-related, I assume. Which I won’t miss AT ALL. It’s been awful and exhausting – I never thought my children would cry daily after babyhood was over. At that same time, I’ve loved slowing down with them, focussing on them above everything else, getting right into what they are into (Star Dew Valley rules btw). I’ll wave them off joyfully but I wouldn’t give this time back, either.

#atinylife least

I’m writing this blog at 6:30am in a silent house, clouded over sky. The children are ‘on holiday’ but even when they are ‘at school,’ I still don’t get this kind of peace to write.

I believe this is exactly what I should be doing at this moment. It’s not just that other people ‘have it worse,’ it’s more like other people – nurses, cleaners, supermarket workers – are holding everything together, so I can sit here safe, and a virus can be minimised.

I don’t understand the folk that say we shouldn’t be in lockdown. Don’t they care about people who are at risk?

So I will stay home, and try to follow all the lockdown rules, and wash my hands, and wear a mask, for as long as I need to. It’s really the least I can do.

#atinylife blurb

This week’s blog is a sort of guest post – I’d like to share this blurb about my pamphlet.

Parent. Worshipper. Carrion. is a powerful collection of poems that touch on core but often under-represented aspects of what it is to be human. From parenting to gender, religion to mental health to the natural world, the themes of this pamphlet may be specific to Stella Hervey Birrell’s own life but they are also universally recognisable. Stella has a gift for finding the quiet truths in moments when the balance of life is shifting. These poems are skilfully crafted while still retaining that rawness that makes you sit up and say, “This is it – this is the real thing.”

Rae Plummer, author of Wain.

A link to Wain, which you should buy if you haven’t already.

A link to Parent. Worshipper. Carrion.