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…

A Million Ways To Listen

We just made it!

It was a miracle.

We stepped inside into the gloom with only a few minutes to spare. A softly spoken lady in a black trouser suit and white shirt beckoned us in, as if expecting us. Five pounds each. Cash only.

“Come. Come!” We quickly fumbled for coins, fingers shaking.

She gestured to the stairs, her excited smile spreading to her eyes. “Hurry!”

Adjusting rucksacks, smoothing down crumpled shirts, finger-combing through hair, still damp and matted from the afternoon shower, we began the journey. We ventured up the stone steps. One flight. Two flights. Three. Higher and higher. With each step the rabble from the city became a distant memory. Hoardes of vested volunteers advising and directing locals and tourists alike, the staccato stopping and starting of engines as the capital’s road-network threatened to burst at the seams, the vibrant flash and boom of gigantic screens in the park…

…all consigned to memory for now, like “spirograph” behind eyelids as fireworks dissipate into the night at display-end.

It took half a minute to reach the top. We puffed as we got there, partly exhausted from the previous night’s partying, partly wishing the anticipation would last for one blissful moment longer. And there it was, finally.

An unassuming doorway, guarding the evening’s possibilities.

We pulled it open and walked slowly through into the hushed darkness. A large expanse of smooth polished floor greeted us. Our shoes squeaked against it as we walked.

At first, as it was as if we were alone, but as our eyes and ears adjusted, outlines began to form, the lower murmur of voices began to hum in our ears. People were in almost in silhouette. But features were lit up slightly from a dull glow that came from below. Some were seated on benches that lined the walls, others lay on the floor, propped up on rucksacks, picnic-blankets protecting them from the cold surface. The most prominently-defined leaned against an ornate metal barrier topped with a wooden rail, heads bowed as they gazed below, their backs to us.

There was a sense of being lured towards the precipice edge, a perimeter that separated us, here in the heavens, from the world below, whatever it that world was. We walked towards it, unconsciously holding our breath.

As we reached our destination, our hands clutched at the wooden rail as the eruption of colour, noise and the sheer cavernous magnitude of the space below threatened us with an overwhelming sense of vertigo. Our eyes and ears began their adjustment to sensory overload just as the entire auditorium of the Royal Albert Hall burst into a wave of applause, the members of the orchestra rose from their seats and the conductor made his entrance onto the stage.

The real highlight was about to begin.


Sometimes the most rewarding moments in life are the most unexpected. A train of thought can suddenly propel you on a journey to realisation that you were unaware you even needed to make. A moment such as this happened some way during Mahler’s Symphony no. 10…

… when I turned my back.

Suffering with a stiff neck from looking downwards to the orchestra, I turned to lean against the barrier behind me and face the darkness. I closed my eyes to begin with, to soothe them from the harsh stage lights and from the previous evening’s antics in a Camden bar that were beginning to take their toll.

Then, absentmindedly, I opened them again, not really expecting to see anything at all. Or at least, nothing of significance.

This is what I saw as I looked around:

A petite Asian girl a few feet away from me, crouching down to carefully extract Toblerone triangles from a scrunched up piece of foil protruding from her coat pocket that was slung on a heap on the floor.

Her friend beside her, leaning at a 45 degree angle against the gallery’s wooden rail with the grace of a ballerina, appearing to purposefully carry out hamstring stretches, her eyes closed the entire time.

A middle-aged man in a checked shirt, with a receding hairline and a neat beard, sitting very upright on a bench against the wall, seemingly staring into space, clutching a carrier bag primly to his knees. Lonely. Or simply alone.

A couple, lying beside eachother, arms, legs and torsos touching, eyes closed, their fingers intertwined. Lost in the acoustics. Loving eachother and the music washing over them.

A young girl in her early twenties, with a chaotic mop of curly hair, sitting cross-legged against the back wall, hunched over a notebook, furiously penning her thoughts, as if battling against the devil in some kind of exorcism. Pained.

An elderly man with scruffy white hair in need of a cut, sitting with his legs apart on a bench, his elbows against his thighs, his head in his hands. The day’s sweat patches now drying on his pale, blue shirt. He would have appeared asleep if it weren’t for one little finger, tapping his temple in perfect time with the orchestra. A picture of calm, blissful contentment.

A woman approaching middle-age in black jeans and a coloured cotton scarf. Her back to the auditorium, her hip brushing against a tall, stubbly man who was facing the orchestra. He held one of her hands as her other held a mobile phone switched to silent, her thumb tapping against the screen. A writer, perhaps…

… writing about a moment.


That was it.

That was the moment I saw.

Just a little thing… a realisation… a little snapshot… up there in the cool gloom.

A moment when I had the joy of witnessing, of really seeing, all the reactions that were going on around me. Reactions as ultimately unique as the very people who were having them.

(I may not understand them all, of course.)

I may not want to eat chocolate.

I may not want to tap my fingers.

I may not want to shut my eyes.

I may not want to share everything with someone else.

I may not want to be alone.

I may not want to rid myself of the devil… occasionally I am happy for him to be at my side.

But this moment taught me that the diversity of others’ reactions, their interpretations, had no real effect on me and could exist quite happily alongside mine.

I was merely an observer. In itself, fascinating, and a privilege.

In a world where we try to control our environment, to make others agree with our viewpoint, we judge what’s acceptable, what’s not, what’s right, what’s wrong… “Agree with me!” “Be in my gang!” “Do things my way!”…

… I realised I couldn’t control a thing. And why would I want to?

Up there in the heavens, as Mahler’s Symphony no. 10 continued to permeate the air…

…we all heard, processed, interpreted, reacted…even breathed differently….

…even though essentially we were all listening to the same thing.

This was the best, most beautiful, part of all.

And I felt free.

From The Men’s Room and Other Places

It’s been very stormy in our little corner of Lac Leman in the last few days. It’s a welcome change after weeks of stifling temperatures; after sun-baked days in over-crowded playgrounds with over-heated, over-tired children and over-stuffed bags bursting at the seams with water-bottles, sticky lolly wrappers, already-drying-out baby wipes and greasy bottles of melted sun lotion.

Suddenly, we’ve found ourselves rain-dancing! Hopping around, barefoot in the grass, giggling and rejoicing at feeling bursts of cool droplets on our frazzled skin. After last summer’s patch of storms, I am pleased to say that my little girl is no longer scared of them. Like me, she now matches her excitement to the increasing pressure around her, as the storm gains momentum and menacing grey and purple clouds form a canopy above her. I no longer have to close the doors, as instead she and her little brother insist on standing on our picnic table on the terrace to watch the storm’s progress in the valley, letting forth squeals and claps of delight as they do so.

I think it’s simply that now they are getting older, they can begin to sense and understand that blissful feeling of relief; when oppressive, stagnant air is cleansed and purged, making way for fresh air, fresh thinking, a fresh start. Change. It often isn’t something to be afraid of. With what can often be perceived as unsettling change, something to be feared, there comes a new-found space of comfort and possibility.

Fear and comfort are words that have come up in my life many times recently. This is mainly due to the conversation I recently had with Karl from The Dialogue Project. The interview was published online on 16 July. Many of you know about this interview, indeed many have helped me to publicise it far and wide. Many of you have listened. Indeed, I have had an overwhelming and often shocking response to it, but it has taken until now to let the dust settle a little, for me to gather my thoughts and to make some kind of sense of my feelings about the reactions I received.

The following are descriptions of some of the reactions I received. Only some, however. The actual volume of the response was overwhelming and I continue to express my gratitude to those who have taken the time to listen to the interview and who have contacted me to express how they felt…

The Victim
Unfortunately, there were some negative reactions, or at least ones that unsettled me a little…

The reaction that saddened me the most was from a lady who found herself to be incredibly emotional after hearing the conversation. She contacted me to say that I had given her a voice. Although as I reiterated to her, this was not something I was intending to do, as I believe with all the passion possible that a person’s own situation is entirely unique. It transpired that she was a victim herself and was obviously having a few issues surrounding her own situation.

What was odd, however, was that having contacted me for a couple of days after the interview was published, suddenly, and inexplicably, she was gone. She didn’t answer my messages, she unfollowed me on Twitter and simply disappeared into cyberspace.

I was shocked, saddened, but that wasn’t all. Her disappearance happened on the day I tweeted and indeed blogged about the fact I was struggling. I felt abandoned. My so-called strength was a double-edged sword. When bystanders, onlookers, friends see you as strong, as someone who bounces back constantly, it is easy to think that you don’t need any help. There was I, putting it in black and white that I was feeling vulnerable, frightened, emotional, and the very people who had previously confirmed that they had cause to understand were the very people to remain silent upon hearing my call for help.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone has choices and I utterly respect her decision to no longer correspond. However, bearing in mind that she had been the subject of some negative Twitter reaction to her tweets about being a victim, I cannot help but feel that this disappearing act was just a way of reverting back to what she might have felt was expected of her by her followers. To me it felt like something was being conveniently swept under the carpet. However, this is not my situation and I can only speak for myself. I sent her a brief, but heartfelt message finally, wishing her all the best for the future.

Those Questioning My Motive
To talk during the interview so honestly and openly of a situation where I had no power, no control and no choice, and essentially was in fear for my life and that of my Mother’s, was intensely difficult. Many have asked how I was able to do it. The answer is simple, to talk about it is easier than being attacked. I will try to explain this further. I lived through the attack, and indeed have lived through other extremely difficult life situations both prior to it and since (see below about subsequent chapters to my interview). My theory is this: live through this and it makes anything else seem like a day at the beach. There is simply nothing to fear from a conversation.

Equally, there were those that asked why? Indeed, one person asked what I was getting from doing the interview in the first place and also what were others getting from it by listening? For a brief explanation (a detailed one taking a day at least), I can only answer in numbers, essentially: 1500 blog hits in one day, over 500 responses to my interview, new friendships, new conversations, new opportunities, but perhaps most importantly, I feel that this is another piece of my life’s healing process.

I can, however, understand these kinds of questions. As I have grown up in recent years and have been on a journey of learning self-acceptance, I have had to learn to accept others. I have come to understand that just as I am intensely open and wear my heart on my sleeve, there are equally people who are intensely private and who do not. These are people who perhaps have felt uncomfortable listening to such a detailed and graphical account of what happened.

Indeed, in regard to the graphical nature of the conversation, I received one comment on how, when I recounted my ordeal, I was surprisingly unemotional.

I can say that, when you listen to the audio, you will hear me describe how my tummy is tight and there is an uncomfortable feeling in my chest. I was NOT unemotional.

But actually, as regards the mechanics of the attack, it is simply that I have largely dealt with it. Yes, I have had my nightmares. I still get them at times. But I find describing the in-depth details of the attack as easy as describing a recipe or discussing what happened on Eastenders last night. It has taken several years of counselling to get to that stage, but I’m there.

I would hope that this is something to be proud of, it is not something that belittles my ordeal or indeed that of any other person who has suffered at the hands of an attacker.

The Men’s Room
I suppose the most surprising wave of reaction I received came from men. I was in awe and delighted at how many men contacted me after the interview and were keen to give their viewpoint.

I don’t know why I was so surprised. Maybe I felt that my interview might be taken as me “jumping on an anti-male bandwagon”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have never had a problem specifically with men. I love men! When I feel confused as a woman, I envy their logic and their matter-of-factness. I often envy their detachment; and by that I do not mean a lack of passion – but their ability to compartmentalise aspects of their lives. It is a skill I often wish I had.

I sometimes wish I had the ability to see the world in black and white, as I feel that many men have the ability to do, instead of these confusing hues of charcoal and grey that I find my vision filtered with.  Again, this is simply my perception.

At the risk of sounding patronising, however, I often feel sorry for men. Particularly in situations when someone they know has been raped.

To some of the men I spoke to, I wanted to swap roles and be their protector. Indeed, with some I was; I was the comforter, the consoler, the one to tell them it was all OK.

But I am more than qualified to do that, because I am the character in the story and I am OK. I have survived.

The Protectors
One close male friend simply couldn’t listen to the interview for longer than 5 minutes because he felt so angry. He sent me a message apologising, but explained that he felt almost violent. He just could not face listening any longer. No apology was necessary.

An understanding of the wave of angry male reaction came from a really helpful conversation I had with Jason, my partner. He told me:

“As a man, it is entirely normal to feel angry. When I listened, I was clenching my teeth as I thought of what that man did to you. It was extremely harrowing and difficult to listen to. You have to understand that as a man, I felt ashamed. I find it hard to tolerate that “one of my kind” would do that to another human being. It offends and angers me. And, of course, I wanted nothing more than to be transported back over twenty years, just so that I would have a chance to protect you”

The Fearless
One of the sweetest, nicest reactions I had was from a man that I correspond with online quite frequently. He is a married man with a child, hopelessly in love with this wife, bearing the strain of being a new Dad; a thoughtful, funny, intelligent guy. I would say that he and I have become close, in that I have shared things with him that I do not with others, except Jason. I do not know what our connection means, as I don’t really analyse it. I simply think of him as a good friend.

He contacted me halfway through listening to the interview, explaining that he was upset and had to take a break before carrying on.

Later he contacted me and said, “I have an overwhelming urge to tell you that I love you.”

He continued, “I don’t know how I feel, it’s a confusing combination. I feel sick. I feel sad. I feel strangely elated too. I want to talk to you about it, but I don’t. I want to look into your eyes. I want to hold you.”

He clarified, “It feels different to the love I feel for my friends and family.”

He then went on almost apologising for this reaction, as if he shouldn’t have said it.

But I understood what he meant. And I told him I loved him back.

There have been times in my life when I have developed relationships with people of any age or gender and have felt an overwhelming rush of love for their spirit, for their outlook, for what they represent, for who they are.

I would hate to have to go through life being unable to express love for someone. I loved his honesty and the fact that he was not scared to tell me. It made my day.

After all, if we cannot express love, then why are we here?

Saving The Best Until Last
Finally, and perhaps most poignantly, Karl received some reactions from close friends and colleagues who voiced concerns about the true state of my emotional well-being.

They asked him, “How could you possibly know that she was ok with doing the interview? She might have said she was, but how do you really know?”

There is no easy answer to this, as to understand fully, you would perhaps have needed to be a fly-on-the-wall during our conversation.

How can I explain? We shared something that day, almost from the very moment he got off the train at Villeneuve station. It was an understanding. Only the two of us can ever know how special that conversation was. Of course, I dearly hope that the connection we shared and the naturalness of the situation translated onto the audio. Perhaps my apparent ease in describing how I was violated, perversely translates into me being “unemotional” as previously described?

There are many questions that will remain unanswered…

Perhaps the questions Karl received regarding this lead me to the most important point about doing the interview in the first place.

I chose to do the interview. 

This was a situation to which I had choices open to me and I made my decision with strength, forethought and in a time in my life when I am finally happy, on solid ground and, perhaps most importantly, surrounded by love.

I also made the decision with a very open mind as to the reaction I would receive and what might follow in terms of publicity after the interview was published online.

And, I made the decision knowing that it would be extremely hard for friends and family to listen to. But I felt that, so long as I spoke from my perspective only and in no way tried to convey that I was a voice for anyone else, no one close to me would feel the need to voice any serious objection to it.

I am sorry for those of you that felt uncomfortable. I am sorry that you had to experience those feelings. But I remain without regret at doing the interview. The rape happened, it wasn’t nice, but it happened.

To sum up everything, as to why this interview took place, I will say this:

To take back my power and control over twenty years after it was stripped away from me, is a very healing thing indeed. It is not something I have been able to do properly until now. I needed to be heard as Jane the adult, Jane the Mother, Jane the almost-healed.

And, to me, THAT is the entire point.

A Dialogue About Sex

My throat is dry, my voice is shaking. It feels alien to me, as if it isn’t my own. It doesn’t sound like me. It sounds childlike. Fearful. I am uncomfortable. My solar plexus feels as if it will implode and somehow take me with it. How can I still feel so afraid? I feel fourteen again. I want to cry.

No, this isn’t a flashback to when I was attacked. I guess you could call it a memory of a flashback. I was lost in this particular memory as recently as last Wednesday.

Last Wednesday marked 21 years, 7 months and 4 weeks since a masked intruder walked into my family home, held my mother and me captive for three hours and committed a multitude of crimes against us; rape, attempted rape, serious sexual assault and theft.

Last Wednesday also marked a point in time in excess of 15 years since I have spoken about it with anyone face to face, unless to a close friend or family member, although as some of you know, I have written about it on my blog. I have also tweeted about it.

Last Wednesday, I set off from my apartment and drove to the train station. I was to meet a man called Karl. Karl was travelling all the way from England just to talk to me. You can read about his journey too. In fact, his journey is a crucial part of this story. This wasn’t to be a “standard” interview. Karl isn’t a journalist or a reporter. He is interested only in dialogue. And what took place last Wednesday was unlike any other dialogue I have ever had.

Karl is the founder of an organisation called The Dialogue Project. His current project is based on conversations he is having with people about sex.  And that was precisely what Karl was coming to Switzerland to talk to me about.

I did not “prepare” for this conversation. Karl had been kind enough to send me several recordings of conversations he had already had with other people, so that I could get more understanding of what The Dialogue Project was about and what to expect. I didn’t listen to them. My gut feeling was that it would be less nerve-wracking if I knew as little as possible. I also wanted the conversation to be raw and unrehearsed. I wanted listeners to get the real me. But also, I wanted to get to know the real me too. That might not make sense to many. I am a great believer in reassessing and consolidating. This dialogue would be a chance for me to do just that with this particular aspect of my life. What would I say? How would I react?

All of these questions were answered for me, as they will be for you too if you decide to listen to the conversation when it is ready. (Karl is currently editing it. I think he might be having a spot of bother. I did warn him I like to talk. A lot. There may be a short AND long version.)

The conversation was powerful, graphic, emotional, funny, intense, upsetting, horrific and hysterical. It was real.

Of course it helped that, when I met Karl at the station, I instantly knew who he was, despite never having seen a photo. It helped that we hugged immediately and nattered all the way to the lakeside restaurant, where we sat together on the jetty when the Swiss were cosying up inside and got blown to bits because of our shared love of fresh air and being outside. It helped that we were both gasping for a beer. It helped that we were “carnivore kin” and quickly decided that we would both have the steak and chips with Café de Paris sauce and a mountain of chips on the side. It helped that I could look into his eyes and recognise a kindred spirit; a lover of people, a conversationalist, a creator, an artist, a Dad, a funny man, a man not afraid of his emotions. It helped that, almost instantly, I felt that I might just have found another friend for life.

It was to be a day of revelations and powerful emotions. Many revelations I will save for those who want to listen to the interview. Emotions? I can only say that I would put last Wednesday up there with several of my most memorable times in life. The births of my kids, the day the perpetrator of the attack went to prison, the day I met Jason, the day I walked out of a week-long life-coaching course and finally believed what other people were telling me; that I was OK (that was the same day I decided I had wasted enough of my life not liking myself).  Another one of those days when you feel as if you are seeing colour for the first time in a long time.

But it was an important day in more ways than one.

After the conversation, Switzerland went on to win their match in the World Cup. The street outside came alive with car horns, music, flag-waving, Vuvuzelas and people literally dancing in the street. It was magical.

I celebrated too. I danced in the garden with the kids, waving a Swiss flag and drinking wine. But I guess you could say that I was not only celebrating the Swiss win. I was celebrating I had survived. I was celebrating life.

This blog post is dedicated to Karl, founder of The Dialogue Project and a friend. Karl, you keep thanking me for “letting you in” to my life and for our conversation. But truthfully, you have done more for me than you will ever know. I didn’t have to “let you in”. The subject matter might have been traumatic, but talking to you about it was easy, because you allowed me to feel safe. You are one in a million. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Jane xx