The Nothingness Beyond


Lily was scaling the metal cage while her siblings slept soundly.  A man with an East Asian accent smiled and said ‘Ah, she like spider man.’  I laughed and agreed.  She was eight weeks old.  Lily was petite and kitten like, even as a senior lady. She would have been fifteen years old in May.  Three weeks ago the vet said she had a large tumour under her tongue and that she may only have a few days to live.

At nine o’clock on her last living morning, she was lying over my shoulder and purring loudly as I lightly rested my ear on her side to listen to her heartbeat. I sighed as I felt the warmth of her strawberry fur on my cheek. At ten o’clock she was devouring blended prawns. At eleven o’clock she was sitting on the roof of the garden shed, watching a black and white cat skulk across a driveway. At twelve o’clock she was sleeping in her bed by the sofa. At one o’clock she was chattering gaily in the passenger seat next to me as I drove her to the vets.  At two o’clock, she was lying on her fluffy blanket, upon a steel table in a windowless room. She purred as the vet injected her front leg. Her body became limp in my hands within ten seconds. Her eyes were large black discs. She cooled quickly and I took my hand away, what I wanted to remember was her warmth. All that remained was her absence.

‘I’m just happy she is at peace.’ said the vet. ‘At peace’ I thought, she does not have the awareness to be at peace. She is dead. When living things die, they simply die and their consciousness goes with them. To be at peace, one must be sentient. There is nothing. And it is this nothingness that fills my mind with a gnawing black hole where Lily once was. When I think of her, there is a hollow, pulling sensation inside me and I long for her trilling mews. In private, I weep at the loss of her. I apologise for my tears, because I am embarrassed to be bereft at the loss of a cat.

She didn’t know she was going to die that day.  If Lily could talk, when asked the question, ‘Would you like to be killed today?’, what would she have said? Would she have said ‘Yes please; I am in too much pain and I do not want to live another day.’ Or would she have said: ‘Living hurts. My mouth won’t close. My tongue is agony. I drool because it hurts to swallow. I cannot eat without pain but I am so hungry. I cannot clean myself. I am tired and I do not think I will be here long. But I like to feel the air in my whiskers and the sun on my back. I like the smells of spring and the grass blades on my scent glands. I like the taste of mashed prawns. I like the sounds of the garden and I am excited by the sight of the Dunnocks alighting on the bird table. I like your fingers stroking my head and I still want to sit across the back of your neck, like I did when I was young and I am not ready to let go of life just yet. Let me live a little longer.’

No one knows.  No one knows what animals really want at this time.  Perhaps, the survival instinct is stronger than the agony.  The vets think they know but they can only know the human response to pain and apply that to other species. No one really knows if Lily wanted to live or die on that day.  I can only hope that I am wrong about the nothingness beyond.


Grumpaldine and the Sensational Salamandridaes



I am taking a risk and bearing my Grumpaldine to you because it is the truth, because I would be a liar if I pretended that every morning my heart sings at the sight of squirrels chasing each other around the trunk of a white, blossoming pear tree.  Some mornings I cannot see.  Today I am in a stinking, rotten, self-hating, self-pitying, loathsome little mood and it is probably unwise to make it known. It isn’t interesting, it is not positive, it is not inspiring, it is not well-written or eloquent.  It is what it is. And what it is, is a pile of self-indulgent, maudlin, shoulder-drooping, face-sagging, furrowed-browed shit.  Ah! Just uh! Ur! My skin is crawling with it and it’s all tangled in with the staphylococcus and it wants to be scraped away with papaya body scrub.  Skin wants to start at the beginning, before the toxins and the years, the very beginning.

Most days I wake up in the morning and run downstairs followed by an arthritic yowling cat. I sling him over my shoulder while the kettle boils and he purrs and rubs his whiskers on the metal frame of my spectacles. I deliver tea to him upstairs and I push back the bedroom curtains shedding sunlight on sleep-squinted eyes and I fling open the window and fresh, crisp spring air rushes in. Mr Blackbird chases his wife and bright, green parakeets squabble in the silver birch while wood pigeons plunder the hawthorn. I marvel at magnificent, cream-white chimneys and a giant Ferris wheel and square Victoria Tower jutting out of Parliament on the hazy, city skyline before I notice honeysuckle’s tender night growth winding around the trellis and reaching up to my chilly fingers from the balcony below.

Not this week though, not today. My inner bitch is having a field day today. I couldn’t get out of bed. He brought me tea. I scowled at azure skies and lurid, green leaves and I would not let life in. I need to get my kung fu pants on and fight her off with a jab to the eyes, back fist in the nose, right-side kick and a left-hook, fisted groin punch. She’s holding me down with an elbow in my windpipe and I cannot move and I gasp.


‘Grumpaldine, I…can’t…breathe.’

‘Oh how interesting, you crazy, deluded loser. No one, do you hear me, no-one gives a flying fig what you have to say, a big fat failure like you.  Who do you think are?  No one will read your pathetic, insignificant, tedious and turgid drivel.  No-one, not one.  You losing failure, failing loser face!!!’ she spits and a globule escapes her mouth and trembles on her lip that quivers with hatred.

‘Please Grumps…can’t…breathe.’


Eventually she gets bored and I pull myself up and plod to the shower.  Grum-pals follows me everywhere I go.  She nags at me all day long and she’s so terribly mean.  She says I’m a drain on the planets resources, a useless individual who never grew up, who never had the mettle to succeed or the physical ability to breed.  I am angry. She’s right.  The bitch is right.  I have not done enough. I have spent so long worrying and procrastinating that I simply haven’t done anything.  I am ashamed, shame on me.

I had a German teacher in school. Everyone called her Frau Cow. Hans und Lieselotte mit Lumpi are projected onto the classroom wall above shadowy, children’s heads of all manner, shape and size. The class chants like mesmerised zombies ‘Lumpi ist mein Hund.’ Frau Cow shouts across a dusty beam of light that ends on drawn, black-out curtains: ‘Liesl!’; it was my German name, ‘Du bist die faulste Mädchen in der klasse.’ I learned this sentence well. Lazy; I was the laziest girl in the class, a bone idle, good for nothing, space-wasting, slovenly little trollop and I never pulled my socks up, nor did I go outside and turn over the new leaves. No, I did not.




If I die tomorrow, what would they carve into the light grey granite headstone, not that I’ve thought about it, but would it say: Born 1973, Died Aged 40, Here lay the remains of a woman who paid the bills, for which she will probably not be remembered. This part is not self-pity.  It is a reality. It doesn’t matter I suppose because when I’m dead, I’m gone. But given that I’m likely, in purely statistical terms, to go on for at least another forty years which is basically living my life over again but with an older body and a more decrepit brain, I really don’t want the next forty to be pretty much the same as the last. I want to create meaning where my body refuses to create life.

Writing can’t tell me what all the blood was for but it is a soothing tonic and I can vent my spleen and drape it around my shoulders like faux ermine and I can make things. I can make stories. And that is all I want to do, to communicate. But I may be a tad unhinged, I may be living in cloud flipping cuckoo land and I am often certifiably…lost.

I might as well go on Britain’s Got Talent with my invisible, ribbon twirling blind newt family the Sensational Salamandridaes.  They really are very good you know. If only you could see them.





Image 1 – The cat

Image 2 – Lumpi und Hans,

Image 3 – Texas Blind Salamander, Tony Northrup,

Journey to the End of the Night

hydrogen atom

This body of ours, this disguise put on by common jumping molecules, is in constant revolt against the abominable farce of having to endure.

Our molecules, the dears, want to get lost in the universe as fast as they can!

It makes them miserable to be nothing but ‘us,’ the jerks of infinity.

We’d burst if we had the courage, day after day we come very close to it.

The atomic torture we love so is locked up inside us by our pride.


― Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Voyage au bout de la nuit, (Journey to the End of the Night) 1932


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