A single ant marches purposefully
Along rivulets of moss
Like external arteries
Clinging to weathered bricks

She watches in stillness and silence
No longer a slave to time
Simply no other place to be
Nowhere to feel needed

Her place is here for eternity
An orchard of trees in September
Bearing their favourite fruit
A reminder of a shared lifetime

Leaves flutter against autumn’s breath
Wordless, papery voices that reassure
She is never to be alone
Despite not conversing for days

A withered frame to reach no more
She can only imagine the taste
The wind befriends her
And places offerings at her feet

She stoops to retrieve her prize
Her spit and apron as polish
She fetches a knife and two plates
A habit never to be broken

A few moments before bliss
She is unable to mask
Her sorrow at the apple’s sheen
Against gnarled arthritic hands

Laying the plates before her
She is still for a moment
Waiting; then a familiar presence
Her soul awakens and takes flight

She feels him steady her hand
As she cuts through the skin and flesh
She hears him whisper on the wind
And finds comfort in her tears

A Little Picture in Black and White

Slippers shuffling along the carpet creating little static charges like tiny fireflies, Agnes carried the tray containing a pot of Earl Grey tea, willow-patterned cups and saucers, a little jug of milk and two generous slices of their favourite, shop-bought, Victoria sponge towards the fireplace.

She set the tray down and then rubbed her hands together vigorously in front of the fire to coax them back to life.  They had long since stopped the central heating from warming the entire house for the duration of the winter; such was the astronomical expense these days.  It didn’t matter if they were cold for the majority of the time, as long as they remained active.  Visits to the kitchen were short and functional these days; her baking pursuits a thing of the past.  Bedtime was made more bearable by two extremely efficient hot-water-bottles in red and blue; a generous gift from her kindly neighbour.  And, of course, they had each other for warmth.  Though it seemed these days that Henry preferred a little more solitude than was usual.

He sat sprawled in the chair opposite her now, snoring gently, his glasses still perched on his nose and his newspaper fanned across his chest, the loose pages gently falling to the floor.  She smiled affectionately.  Typical, she thought!  She would make him another cup later on, of course.  Who knew what would become of his slice of the delicious sponge?

She ate her cake in silence, listening to the sound of the logs crackling and the wind in the poplar trees outside.  True, she felt a little low these days.  Empty, even.

Autumn, in times gone by, had been a beautiful season, a glorious, golden promise of the winter to come; bonfires, toffee apples, seasonal festivities with the children, snowfall, skating on the lake and the long-awaited visit from Santa.  Theirs had been a family home full of warmth and love.  Now they seemed to rattle around it, like two old coins in a shoe-box.

She shook herself from the little wave of depression that threatened to take hold of her and pull her under, got up from her chair and walked towards her tapestry table, turning on the little light as she sat down.

It was here that she found it easier to lose herself.  Her mind slowed down, as she concentrated on the simplicity of the work.  She sat quietly for maybe forty minutes, selecting an array of coloured threads, then passing the bobbin between the sheds of the warp and deftly using the bobbin-point to force down the weft as she worked.

She loved the feeling of “creativity” that the work gave her.  It had been a long time since she had felt that she had created anything worthwhile, at least not since the birth of her daughter, thirty five years ago.  These pieces that she produced, although hardly ever seen by anyone else, were proof enough to her that she was not altogether useless.  She was not yet “done”.

She thought of her daughter, Helen, and wondered what she might be doing at that moment.  A high-achiever, she flew in circles and motions that Agnes could never hope to understand.  A messy divorce had meant that she had not been able to give Agnes the gift of grandchildren that she had longed for.  She had held this hope like a torch for far too long now, a symbol of longed-for “renewal”.  Nothing would have delighted her more than rediscovering herself through blood connections.  But, unfortunately, it was not to be.

Getting up from the table to replenish the fire with another log or two, she trailed her finger along the front edge of the dresser as she shuffled along.  She tutted to herself, upon seeing the thick layer of dust that now coated her finger.  Then she relaxed a little.  Who is going to know?

After stoking the fire, she stood up and stretched a little, trying to eradicate the stiffness that had worked its way into her lumbar spine from sitting at her tapestry table for too long.

She surveyed the room.  There were abundant examples of her handiwork throughout their simply-furnished home.  The pieces tended to follow one of only a few themes; she was a creature of routine and she mainly favoured the style of William Morris, perhaps a little “Jacquard” tapestry, if she was feeling in need of a challenge.

The only piece that looked a little extraordinary; perhaps even a little “out of place” was a “kelim” that hung above the dresser; a gift from her daughter after a week-long business trip to Turkey in April of that year.  It had been the last correspondence she had received from her daughter.

It had arrived, neatly packaged in brown paper, no note attached.  This did nothing to deter her excitement.  She opened it excitedly, but found her heart sinking in dismay.

She had tried so hard to like it, but in reality she was more enamoured with its symbolism, rather than its aesthetic value.  Of course, she never dreamed of admitting this to her husband, however, in case he made her remove it from the wall completely.  Then there would be nothing left at all; no evidence to remind her that she was somebody’s Mother, other than two old photos in a broken picture frame, held together with tape, sitting precariously on the mantelpiece above the fireplace.

She would often forget herself that she was a Mother.  The visits were now non-existent and the phone calls had dwindled to the customary thrice-yearly birthday and Christmas “catch-ups”.   Her daughter had recently welcomed a new man in her life, co-Director of the company she had been with for the last five and a half years; another high achiever.  Together they explored the world’s club lounges, boardrooms and five star establishments, their feet hardly touching the ground longer than a night or two, it seemed.  A life she could not fathom.

Startled by a fluttering sound, she snapped out of her misery; once again surviving the little tsunami of negativity that threatened to engulf her once more.

Padding through to the hallway, she went to retrieve the mail from the doormat.  She sighed wearily, upon seeing a pile of brown envelopes of varying sizes; bills!  Too depressed to face the contents, she was about to place them on the hall table and return to her tapestry, when she noticed that the address on one of the smaller envelopes had been handwritten.

She permitted herself a little flourish of excitement.

She tore open the flimsy envelope and extracted a small, black and white, fuzzy picture with white digital lettering in the top right-hand corner.  She read the words to herself: “Helen T. Jacoby: 20 week scan: patient of Dr. Moss”.

Despite searching with trembling fingers, there was nothing else in the envelope.

It took several moments for the exact meaning of what she was looking at to dawn on her fully.  The picture was of something bean-shaped; only with arms and legs.  And fingers!  One of the hands was raised towards its mouth.

Time stood still.  She closed her eyes and lost herself there and then.  She felt her heart beat stronger than ever before.  It seemed to open up and fill with unstoppable warmth; like a rushing waterfall cascading into an ocean rock pool.  She felt reborn; as if willing to give and receive love once more.  A second chance!

She turned it over and read the words scrawled hurriedly on the back:

“Hi Mother! Better late than never, huh? I love you and miss you. xx”

Worth The Wait

Cold, empty, winter days
In a house bought for two
She silently, patiently waits
Marking time with her pain

Immaculate in his absence
She makes a home for one
Whilst a smiling bride and groom
Watch her pitifully from the wall

In pursuit of a life-long Antarctic dream;
Summers with scientists beside icebergs
He pleadingly requests her blessing
Whilst sliding her easily into the cold

A trick question, a trip-wire, a trap
She ponders a choice; without choice
With only one true sacrifice; hers
As he already turns his back to leave

Alone; her love as solid as concrete
A pillar of support in the face of onlookers
Her conversation only justification
On behalf of the man who abandoned her

She sits warming herself in cosy denial
Day-dreaming of their postponed future
Plans for two, masterminded by one
The balance of equality toppling slowly

Pushing her forgotten needs into wasteland
She is deliberate in not noticing
The sorrowful elephant in the corner
That is her now part-time marriage

Two years, two months and two days;
The time it takes for her to acknowledge
The ocean of misery in which she now swims
Finally welcoming the current that takes her under

Unknowingly entering last chance saloon
He returns to her, his only gifts;
Carefully-wrapped indifference
And a magnum of bitter tastes

Summer spent in a warmer climate
Sees only uncomfortable, record lows
Three months of desperate floundering
In a relationship now dead in icy waters

Beaten; she packs her smallest belongings
Taking lightweight treasures of a decade;
Symbols of a future once promised
Now reneged, swiftly and clinically

She drives a hired vehicle alone;
Her life neatly boxed inside
To a strange city and a fresh start
As a number; devoid of history

Leaving behind furniture lovingly restored
Whilst a nameless, faceless other, calmly places
Her toothbrush and perfume in a cupboard
Stained only days before by teak oil and a wife’s tears

Promises to collect the last of her things
Are deemed unnecessary by his generosity;
Giving away to others the last evidence of her
Erasing her in seconds, no trace to remain

She scours unknown streets in need of a home
In reality, wanting only a warm bed
In which she can sleep, hoping never to awake
Having given her last; no more to spend

Bags unpacked; she stands in tourist central
Excited sightseers of the world unite
To marvel at the history and vibrancy
Invisible amongst them; she quietly dies inside

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