Your Zoo Entry Ticket

It’s been a while.

I used to write – it was my therapy, my method of connecting with UK folk whilst living in Switzerland and my way of finding fulfilment away from being a mum to two young kids.

Much has happened since then. A new relationship and even a new kid. I’ve still written, but mainly on my personal Facebook page and I’ve struggled to put myself ‘out there’.

But things have changed, rather dramatically. Covid has seen to that, plus a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis.

I won’t elaborate for now. I wanted to introduce my new online space that I’ve painstakingly put together and ensure the mechanics are working – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.

Welcome to Raging Zoo.

Now just watch this space. Literally.

The Absence of Good

A brief respite from burning August heat
The freezer-section of the supermarket
I consult my list as my children weave
In and out, in and out, around my feet

Out of control, they giggle and squeal
High on life, energised by E-numbers
I focus on the four things I must find
Apples, yoghurt, bread and wine

Then I see you shuffling towards me
I suppose I had been expecting you
Misery, hopelessness, emptiness, death
But not today, amongst such normality

So real, I can reach out and touch you
Even though I suspect the flesh of my hand
Might pass through your entire body
So frighteningly devoid of life you seem

In week-old make-up sliding across
An oily, sweating, waxy face
Traces of crimson lipstick smudged
Across a whisky-scented, food-stained mouth

Dressed for winter in a heatwave
In a once-vibrant electric blue tailored coat
The sleeve now barely hanging
Onto the threadbare shoulder seam

We lock eyes for a few seconds
I hold onto my trolley for support
As an overwhelming, choking feeling
Washes over me; I struggle to stand

I search the bloodshot windows to your soul
And find nothing. Beaten
Your sole purpose; waiting to die
In a cold, lonely, wind-blown place

I close my eyes quickly before you can take me
And as I “come to”, I sense once more
My kids weaving around my legs
Giggling, so full of life, as once you were

I clutch them, unable to stop hot tears
I hold my daughter as once you were held
And as I breathe her in, I ask myself
When, where, how, did they all stop caring?

The absence of good in you, in this world
Leaves me shaken; I straighten my back
And I focus on the list of four things
Apples, yoghurt, bread and wine

Crocodiles & Monsters

Originally written 27 January 2010)

The little beach at Villeneuve is a shallow-sloping, pebbly crescent, fringed with weeping willows and embracing the now-glittering warm waters of Lac Leman. Away from the lapping shoreline, a low wall separates the public path from the beach, as if gently segregating those who are in mellow-mode, happy to wallow in the water or read in the dappled shade, from those who thrive on “feeling the burn” in any number of ways; running, cycling, roller-blading or power-walking. A little play area with picnic tables is tucked neatly and conveniently behind the path. The beach overlooks the “Golden Rose” of Lac Leman; Montreux, a place that is bathed daily in the powerful afternoon sunlight that summer in this micro-climate brings, turning the windows of the town into mirrors of bronze-coloured fire. This height-defying mountainside haven was, and still is, home to princes, millionaires, crooks, rock stars, statesmen, composers, sportsmen, entrepreneurs, artists and paupers.

It is on this little beach of ours that I feel I have found paradise. I am not alone in my thinking. Skye has discovered true joy in floating for hours in the cool shallows, with her other “water-baby” friends, in giant, luminous, inflatable, rubber rings. They chat, shout, scream, play, invent, tussle and splash for what seems like an eternity. I usually have to coax her out of the water as the sun begins to set, as her teeth start to chatter and as her fingers and toes are a mass of watery wrinkles. Only promises of a cool drink, a hot shower and a slice of toast will do the trick.

On Tuesday morning, we meet with two of my best friends and their children and set up a patchwork of blankets and towels on the grass. Flasks of coffee poured, crisps and cookies distributed, sunscreen administered, our respective needs are met. The heat of the morning is already a sizzling promise of the oppressive afternoon heat that lies ahead, so a relatively early rendezvous feels like a good decision.

The fusion of life’s soundwaves carry gently on the warm breeze; delighted children playing watery games, mothers gossiping and complaining of sleep-deprivation, teenage boys making mischief on the diving boards, snippets of conversation caught from lycra-clad, paired cyclists as they power on by, infants watching their elder siblings with envy from their pushchairs, gurgling and chattering, trying out new-found voices.

It is time for a swim. Upon first tentative “toe-dipping” exploration, entry into the lake can prove breath-taking! But after what is now feeling like the longest heatwave I have ever known, it is the most welcome aspect of being in this location. And it makes what is turning into the most exciting period of child-rearing so far, a time when I can really and truly begin to get a taste of forgotten freedom. In the last few weeks my 15 month old son has learned to walk, learned to deliver a slobbery kiss, and is starting to form words. My 2 year old daughter is becoming so much more socially and physically able, that I can now sit on a beach and just watch her having a blast with her friends from a short distance away, with rapt fascination. It is beginning to feel that the back-breaking, emotionally traumatic era that saw me live through two virtually concurrent difficult pregnancies and two subsequent births, is drawing to a close, ready for a new, exciting and healthy chapter in my life to begin.

So in to the water I venture… breath quickening the further in I go, the water rising up past my ankles and to my knees. To take my mind off the change in temperature as quickly as possible, I plunge in, and pull myself forward on my arms. Time for some fun! I sneak up on my daughter in the water, who is happily kicking her legs out behind her and waving at the boats on the lake. She is slippery and giggling when I reach out for an embrace and shrieks “Mummy!” in excited hiccups. Her skin is cool to the touch and her breath, in contrast, is hot on my face as I snuggle in for a watery kiss. I hold her up by her waist and she continues to scream with excitement, looking down at me, her eyelashes clogged together with drops of water like diamonds, glistening in the morning sunlight.

She chatters to me excitedly about swimming, the boats, the birds, her friends and….crocodiles. Crocodiles, I ask?!

“I see a crocodile!” she assures me. “I’m scared”.

I feign amazement and tell her not to be frightened and assure her that this particular crocodile is, no doubt, a friendly one.

“Why don’t we find him and see if we can give him a big kiss?” I suggest.

She looks at me with curiosity and then simply says, “I can’t kiss crocodile, Mummy?! His teeth are too big!”

Of course, silly Mummy! I am laughing so hard by now, that her expression of confusion is eventually forced into a smile, and then she too collapses into high-pitched giggles.

We laugh some more, and then wallow for a while in the shallows together. It is only after a few short minutes that the mood changes. She becomes uneasy, looking around her, trying to peer in the water below. She talks of monsters and becomes more and more agitated at any passing shadow in the water beneath us. I reassure her, but at the same time, begin to feel the onset of a sick kind of fear. I tell myself not to be so stupid; dark, moving shapes in the water mean nothing at all. They are merely tricks of light in the water, passing clouds reflected on the surface, vegetation floating innocently by.

As we cling to each other and also to the giant rubber ring, I am struck by a wave of love and emotion, and by our similarities. I was a water baby at her age too, but often let the fear of whatever was below my feet get the better of me. A happy relaxed swim in our childhood swimming pool would often quickly turn into a sudden need to scramble out and sit panting on the side, searching the water for something dark and menacing that I felt sure I had sensed only seconds before.

Fear of the unknown, it is something we all feel.

A suppressed shard of memory suddenly pierces my consciousness. There was a time when I was afraid of a monster; the time, nearly 21 years ago, that the monster came to get me.

I’m on the floor, at least I think I am, my face tucked into the bottom of the sofa. My mum is next to me, whimpering. The knife at my back, he is fiddling with something in his left hand. I take my chance and turn my head. He immediately positions the knife to my left cheek and threatens, “Look at me again and you’re dead.” Don’t try anything else, for god’s sake, don’t try anything else! “Do as he says!” I instruct my Mum, trying to get the words out as quickly as possible. My face is forced back to the sofa.

I hear the unravelling of what is probably masking tape, and he spends time binding my Mum. I lie there terrified, expectantly waiting for the same treatment. All I seem to hear is my heartbeat. Everything else seems strangely muffled.

It’s my turn now.

Hauled up from being face down on the floor, he wraps the tape around my head. He starts at the crown, taking no chances. I am sitting facing him, my eyes screwed shut, as he threatens to kill me if I open them. All it would take is one glimpse to see who this monster is who has come to change our lives. Maybe, just maybe… I try to relax my eyes, ready to open them slightly. But, of course, he probably still has the balaclava on. I screw them tightly shut again. In any case, the opportunity has gone, as the tape is wound around my head and down over my eyes. I think that is it, but, to my horror, he stuffs a woollen gag into my mouth and then secures this with the tape. It takes all my efforts just to exist at this point, just to breathe.

My hands are bound too, and then I am left to sit, alone with my terror and my desperate thoughts. Is this a joke? Who is he? Why us? What is he here for?

I sit for what feels like an eternity, left to suffer in hell. I have no real idea of time frame, I can only guess, at least giving my mind a form of healthy occupation, away from the panicking thoughts that threaten to drive me insane. I am concentrating so hard on trying to breathe. The only sound I can vaguely hear is some shuffling on the carpet in front of me. But then…no…something different. A drawer opens. I identify this as a drawer in an old oak dresser at the end of our living room. I am flooded with a weird kind of relief. Burglary?

The last contact with the monster is probably over half an hour ago now, although I cannot be sure of this. Suddenly, and bizarrely, he turns on the radio. Our local radio station pipes forth, a happy-sounding voice offers a weather forecast for the following morning. Will we be alive by then? How will this end? How can I be sitting on my sofa, bound and gagged, whilst ordinary life carries on so innocently for everyone else around us? Our street is only 10 metres away, but I know that fear has paralysed me from shouting loud enough, even if I were not gagged.

I hear nothing at all for a few minutes. My chaotic thoughts are like an out of control hurricane in my head, leaving nothing but devastation. Where is he? I feel isolated, surrounded, paralysed from fear, but fear of what, or whom? Am I going to die? Will it hurt? Please don’t let it hurt. If I have to go now, if this IS my time, then I am willing, but please, no pain. Just no pain, that’s all I ask of you. Who am I asking? God? How could a God allow this to happen?

My brain continues to search its limits for an understanding of how we are in this situation. Did we deserve this, somehow?

I still don’t know where he is. Where is my Mum? Is she alive? It is too quiet. Only the radio can be heard. The woollen gag is threatening to choke me. The tape at the nape of my neck is starting to throb, as hairs are pulled and the skin is stretched. I cannot stop moving to prevent this, because I cannot stop shaking uncontrollably.

Suddenly, I have an answer to at least one question, one that perhaps I had not dared to utter even to myself, even in my head. I am no longer alone. The monster is with me, his breath on my neck. And as his leather-clad fingers start to undo the buttons on my shirt, unhurriedly and deliberately working his way down, he lets out a soft, menacing chuckle.

And it is with this sick realisation that my whole world changes again…

Rose-tinted Dreams

Last night, amid the evil
You unexpectedly held my face
And said those things
You used to say
And I remembered
That cherished feeling

And I woke up choking
With grief
As if it was yesterday

You were larger than life
Suffocating me with joy
Dwelling on the bright side
Never truly understanding
The darkness I was in

You held out your arms
And tried with all your might
To pull me from my depths
But the black grip held fast

And even your strength
So used to fixing others
Could not fix me

So you gave up
And I left
Your indifference being
Slightly less bearable
Than your disappointment

You deserved your freedom
With honours

Remember those babies I wanted?
The ones you were never ready for?

I have them now
They are so beautiful

Turns out they could save me
No strength required
Just laughter, cuddles
Stick men and whoopee cushions

And I acknowledge daily
The price I paid for them
Losing you

It’s just not been the same
I barely remember happiness
At least within me

Or those shared sunsets we saw
In far flung corners
Backpacks rubbing on sunburnt shoulders

I hope you’re happy now
I hear the stories, you know
You found babies of your own
Or maybe they found you?

I always knew
You couldn’t run forever
Just as I knew
How amazing you’d be as a dad

And I’m glad

Like that old song
I used to play to you
The one you got sick of hearing
On the way to your mother’s house

“And in July, a lemonade
To cool you in some leafy glade…”

I wish, just sometimes
In the midst of the evil…

“But most of all, when snowflakes fall…
… I wish you love.”

…your hands clutching my face
Saying those things
Protecting me

I wish your love was still here

Flash Fiction: Completion

She sat beneath angered clouds, bleached by the tropical storm’s pulsing heartbeat.

Bubbling saltwater, thickening with sand, drenched her burnt skin; white light finally overpowering midnight.

“If it rises again,” she affirmed, her heart whole, “I’m ready to be swallowed.”

“I’ve lived.”

Flash Fiction: 30 Seconds

The first blue skies in weeks. I grip the wheel, finger-tap to The Horrors, check the mirror, smile occasionally into my boyfriend’s eyes.

Then… I see you in the distance.

At first, I can’t work it out. The movements are all wrong.

You’ve come to a standstill, sideways across the carriageway. The concave remains of your car door glinting in the sunshine.

Thankfully, my reactions are quicker than my conclusions.

I stamp on the brakes, slowing right down as I grasp at the wheel, white-knuckled, nearly skimming the central barrier in a bid to avoid you. The car judders as we ride over debris, a hubcab and a smouldering scrap of car tyre.

30 seconds, that’s all. 30 seconds earlier and it could have been so different.

Suddenly, we’re in slow motion. Together, if only for a moment. I see your terrified face as you fumble to get out.

Our eyes meet and I recognise it… fear. Yes, this IS happening.

My momentum is such I simply cannot help you. I am almost too soon.

Our lives goes on.

I pick up speed again, and I catch the last of you in the rear-view mirror.

The silver cage in which you are encased shines defiantly in the glorious sunshine.


Later, I unpack the bags, stashing presents on top of the wardrobe.

Preparation for my son’s birthday on Saturday. He’ll be four years old.

I wonder what you were like at four.

You see, I can’t stop thinking about you.


Eventually, I sit with my coffee at the table.

I hear your story on the news.

And I find out your name was Lisa. You were only 32.

Only half a minute between us.

And I am just so sorry.

Seeing It From Above

On a plane again; alone.
Through torn openings in
Sunlit, cotton-wool clouds
I spy populated clusters;
Pockets of life, teeming
With questions, arguments,
Heartaches, that match
Even overpower, mine.
The universe presents
The bigger picture
It’s so easy to remain
Within my own parameters.
But I won’t, I will choose to see
That there will be joy again.
Some time away
It waits, for me alone.
Yes, I will love again.

Beautiful Life

I’ve been stripped once more
Back to basics
But beauty in life
It overwhelms me

I watch as men climb
On steel structures
Cutting themselves
Dirt under fingernails

They are creating
They have vision
I photograph it
As I travel through life

Strangers look at me
Questioningly, as I click away
Click, click, click…
But I’m not the mad one

I have learned again
That to create, to build
To dream, to love
To dance with joy

You have to get dirty
Your heart needs to break
Your fingers need to bleed
You must cry lakes of tears

Only then can you recognise
Beauty in a moment
Only then can you capture it
In your mind’s eye

And use these moments to breathe
To put one foot in front of the other
When you otherwise feel
You cannot go on

A Wishful Ending

Unseasonal cold air is blowing in

I welcome it gladly

I beckon it to caress my skin

Just so I can feel… anything. 

If I had the energy

I’d walk from my front door

Across the green, through the estate

And leave the rabble behind 

I’d walk and walk until my ears

Could only distinguish the screaming

And traffic as a distant hum

Only then would I be prepared 

To lay down in the dewy grass

To anoint my body with a substance

So pure, I’d perhaps bless

All the evil that is in me 

It could penetrate my veins

And purify the poison

I’ve allowed to flow for so long

That is my dream 

I could die in peace

With distant sounds of human life

Representing the very thing

I couldn’t manage to be part of 

A Time of Darkness

Head balanced on hands
Staring mutely at wood grain
Counting lines, comparing knots
My head motionless, eyes darting

Lines and knots develop
Into expressive imaginary faces
Welcome company at our oak table
After three months and six days of solitude

A rare phone call passes in a blur
An awkward friend stammers her apology
A million reasons for her absence
Her neatly-transferred guilt engulfs me

Unused vocal chords intensively labour
Faking upbeat sounds of reassurance
Outwardly calm, but screaming inside
My unseen eyes pleading for help

The call ends at her hurried insistence
The allotted time up; duty becomes a distraction
Her sentence hanging as the receiver clicks
Hours, once more, now merge into days

Distant happy shouts of passers-by
Shoppers returning home to get ready
For evenings of fun and company
With family, friends, lovers; people

The late afternoon sun descends
Leaving me once again with darkness
And my company of imaginary friends
Their knotted faces fading finally to black