The fatigue caused by my painful back rendered me asleep in a chair during the day. I woke up, shaking violently and the sudden shift from immobility to movement was painful. I became aware of the strong presence of my mother in the room. In the years since her death, I have never dreamt of my mother, and of my father, only once. I rarely dream of real people.

I do not mean that I saw, heard or had any concrete experience of my mother. The most likely explanation is that I had indeed been dreaming of her and this had caused me to waken and shake. But this had never happened before, and in my post sleep confusion I was not thinking clearly. My initial thought was that I had died and my mother had come to meet me. I was disinclined to go. Besides (logic, thank God, cutting in) I was living and breathing. I thought, I am not dead yet.

With the resumption of my normal logical and sensible inner dialogue, I felt comfortable with my mother’s ‘presence’ and decided she could rest with me for as long as was necessary, but when I looked for her to advise her of this, all trace of her had completely vanished. I felt a sense of loss.

There are many writers in my family – my grandfather, mother, brother and cousin are or were all accomplished exponents of the art, with different subjects and style. My mother’s letters were a great pleasure to me, and I still miss them. She was a far better critic of a book or article than I will ever be. She could always find erudite points that I had overlooked, or spot references to other works of literature. Her article would establish some clever theme to work around, and it would all be produced with a dainty elegance and lightness of touch that I, quite frankly, envied. I knew she lacked my power, but she had refinement.

It was a source of great irritation to me that despite my mother being a clever, well-read and well-educated woman with skill, talent and nicety of purpose , and her capacity for graceful and well observed analysis, she had an incurable tendency to sympathise with what I would dismiss as knaves of dismal motivation. She had few companions and she liked me to read and discuss books which had struck her for one reason or another. This was a pleasure, but difficulties began to creep in over her enthusiasm for what I privately termed New Age Drivel. This proved to be a source of considerable friction between my mother and me. She enthused about Erich von Danachan (spacemen visited the earth and the desert drawings in South America were the runways for their space vehicles. ), David Icke (the Royals are descended from alien lizards), and theories that there were persons alive today who were descendants of a liaison between Christ and Mary Magdalene. When in response to the latter I pointed out that it could not be proved that they had ever actually existed so one could not prove that there were offspring, and even if it had been true, so what? – she became annoyed. As she grew older and increasingly retreated into this twaddle, I found myself in difficulties. I had no wish to distress her, but if I expressed any reservations, however mildly, she became offended; if I just listened and said ah-hah, she accused me of with-holding my powers of analysis; and if I declined to read it she said I was intellectually lazy. I found it impossible to do what she wanted, which was read the material, enthuse about it in conversation, and believe. (On reflection, her obsession with this subject (she had dozens of books to read) may have been the start of the loss of her mental powers in the last few years of her life.)

My mother at her best was a lively and stimulating companion, with a capacity to be comforting, welcoming and sympathetic. You could always go to her with your trouble (she was particularly good in her role as grandmother and gave sensible and balanced advice) and come away feeling comforted and supported. She was a good advisor for me because she could always see both sides of an argument.

She believed in the magic powers of crystals worn on one’s person. I did not, but when she rummaged in her pockets one day and presented me with a white crystal, I recognised that it was not just the mineral qualities that were being offered. The stone was a symbol of her mother’s love; her tendering caring, and her good wishes for me. I accepted the token with gratitude.

I reflect that I am fortunate in the generous support of my husband, children, family and friends. And that even calling up the memory of my mother is still a comfort to me. A weakness for works of fiction, masquerading as facts, is hardly a mortal sin. My mother loved me. I look at my daughters and daughter in law, with their tender love for their infants, and how their babies rejoice and flourish in the protection of their love, and I think this love and care, carried down from one generation to another is the only repayment we can offer to our own mothers for their care and cherishing of us.

My back is very slowly improving.

Love conquers all.


I’ve fallen and injured my back. I’ve had an Xray and am told it should recover without intervention but it still remainds bloody sore with every breath I take, and I’m somebody who can’t really remember a time when my back didn’t ache to some degree.

At best at the moment I feel as if I have a hole where my back should be; at its worst it’s just one long streak of misery and anguish.

You realise the significance of certain sayings. Lacks backbone – means you haven’t the strength to stand your ground against opposition.    Put Your Back Into It, means, put your strength into supporting it.    Covering your back – protecting a weak area.

Also our back is involved in things you never knew it understood.   Putting up with irritating people – you need your back to be flexible and strong for that. Clearly it’s imvolved in writing and thinking, because that’s the extent of my ruminations about backbone, and you couldn’t describe them as insightful, comprehensive or succinct.  The fact remains that right now I haven’t got the backbone to resist anything;  or any wit and charm or  powers of persuasion to conceal its absence.

And now you’ll need to excuse me. I’m going to hobble off somewhere else. Did you ask where?   What does it matter and who cares?

Normal service  will be resumed as soon as possible.