Channelling my Inner German

The day my tyre exploded is the day I turned up to visit Mum

My magical Mum called me by telepathy

Caught her at her best hour, wide awake and lucid, before meds slow her down

She who has not travelled independently for years knew immediately which bike shop I must use

She looked distinguished in spectacles

Gave me a suede jacket to keep me from the cold

(“Better than rotting in my wardrobe”)

Mum came back from beyond!

Framed at Open Ealing by Lily who did many lovely drawings at Spirited Bodies in Ladbroke Grove at the end of July;,

After spending time with Ursula, the driver changed, I got a bus.

We talked about disconnecting from family to live one’s own life. Letting go to be free

At Open Ealing I feel Ursula coming on – a German accent rises out of me

and I am instantly very happy and excitable

When I was small my Mother tried to teach me German

Ursula let go of all the damage and the broken, what an example!

When a woman is like a bear – Ursula!

Like I have seen better days

The Death of Sam

I am with my Mum this evening and we are talking about her step-Father Sam, who died 26 years ago today. Nonny (my Grand-Mother) couldn’t have moved from East Germany to London without the help of a man – not for his money, but his emotional support which she needed after living away for 14 years.

Sam was married but his marriage was definitely on the rocks. In those days both parties had to agree to divorce, or you had to have strong evidence of adultery, desertion (for 7 years), physical or mental cruelty. Nonny and Sam lived in sin for 3 years before his wife cooperated.

As a teenager Mum & her sister Karen said to Sam, “You’re not our Father and you can’t tell us what to do!” He said, “I know.”

Nonny & Sam married on Euston Road at the registry office in 1967.

Mum said he was a good man, especially for Nonny; he looked after her. She was a bit vulnerable and he had the quality of friendship, as well as being her husband and love. He was kind and generous and easily approachable.

Mum says, “As I grew older, I regarded him more as my Father. My real Father only asked me once to come to East Berlin, but it was on my son’s birthday so I couldn’t. I went there on my Dad’s birthday instead. Usually if I wanted to see him I had to invite myself, which I did.

In England, before they were married I was ashamed of Nonny & Sam not being so, and I didn’t know how to introduce Sam – the situation was unusual.”

Sam knew Nonny & Gramp from way back in the late 40s through the Communist party.

Mum says, “After living in East Berlin I vowed never to join the Communist Party, or any party. You might accuse me of sitting on the fence but I speak from experience.”

Nonny & Sam’s marriage was always positive, favourable and stable. He nor she ever did the dirty. She was 45 when they got together; she had been through a lot, lived in several countries and wasn’t having more children. She was ready for a calm life and he was the right man.

When Sam was younger he was devoted to the Communist Party. He founded and ran a non-profit organisation which sold stationery. He did not particularly share artistic interests with Nonny (she was an artist) nor did he have much taste. Nonny made sure he wore nice clothes and he didn’t mind. She wore the trousers in a nice way.

Sam’s influence helped in Mum’s choice of husband. His caring nature proved enduring and Mum was affected by this. His easy going affability won over the volatility represented by her Father.

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Therapy Breakthrough

Typical. Just as I was about to discontinue seeing my psychotherapist, we get to the good stuff. Sex and my early sexual experiences; my relationship with my Mother.

The truth is I had put off discussing sex as my therapist is Muslim. Stupid I know, prejudiced too, but I felt weird bringing it up and opted to talk about everything else instead… until she brought it up.

I had been unhappy with my boyfriend’s living arrangement and my anger levels were disturbing. After a few weeks of probing this situation, she said, “But doesn’t it affect your sex life?”

I already liked her, little though she says – it makes what she does say all the more poignant – and from then I found a whole new level of appreciation for her. No one else had said that. If she had been Western I have no doubt that I would have been talking about sex with her from the off. But then, how to spot the breakthrough?

She was so right. Sex is very important to me, perhaps my strongest currency. It wasn’t that we weren’t having sex; I will always find a way! But that our truest intimacy was compromised. Our ability to get to know each other in every way that we would, without interference – that felt in question. No amount of communal aspirations could make up for that. It is a base that we needed and are establishing now for ourselves, and for which I am most grateful.

The pressing difficulties of the present out of the way, we were free (my therapist and I) to delve naturally into the past. That my Mother had resented my burgeoning sexuality when puberty struck, had given me many issues. It felt good to cry, and I knew we are only just beginning.


Pictures of me by Sue from The Pastel Society, 18/2/12


Mother lay on the couch motionless; her brain removed so work could be done.

I thought I better take off her clothes to let the body breathe.

This proved hard work – a pair of tights, skirt, buttons and impossible sleeves… all that tugging, manoeuvring, even yanking down below and I’d lost track of her head. It was hanging off the side, how undignified. I slowed down to rearrange her, gently lift her head where it belonged.

As a natural position realigned I noticed a twinge of life, some left over electricity perhaps. A wave of subtle motion from her eyes to her shoulder and down the right arm. Just a moment of life, so strange, almost shocking it moved me too.

I stayed, wondering if her brain really would come back.