Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Painful Goodbyes: Columnists

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Painful Goodbyes: Columnists

Article excerpt

People are always leaving me. My mum, my dad, my best friend Sandra and my first boyfriend all went and died just when I needed them most. Even my husband followed suit, walking out when my eldest son left home. I ended up sleeping next to his T-shirt for comfort, snuffling hopefully into its armpits like Bambi nudging his dead mother.

In fact, my life has been so dogged by loss that when I was younger I wrote a poem about what it feels like to be left behind: "Things here stand still with me/in this still stranger ocean, where words/like nets or lovers/sift this too much saltness/through too slow a space/and meanings melt around me/like ice cream in the sun." I thought it successfully communicated, in a naive imagist style, the unreliability of words when it comes to expressing grief. Reading it now, it suggests that I needed to eat more bacon sandwiches and watch some prime-time television.

The poem was inspired by the death of my first boyfriend, Dave, who died of heart failure aged 17. Dave was a seminal figure in my life for two reasons: he was the first boy I ever kissed and, after four months of courtship, he was given unlimited access to the inside of my bra. The latter was a brave act on my part as it was then a truth universally acknowledged that a single boy in possession of a good Saturday job must be in want of a girl with symmetrical breasts. So snaring him with my uneven ones was a bit of a coup. After his tragic death, it took three years and a breast augmentation before I risked another embrace. …

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