Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Kiss For A Rose

I don't know why it's taken me nearly 4 months to post these photos and text.  I wonder if it's because they capture a simple morning tinged with hope, love and sadness so perfectly, or because I've wanted to keep them close to my heart, like a secret.

But like many memories they need to be shared, not only to keep the light flickering, but the love alive.


In September Leo and I were in the UK staying with my family in Suffolk.  Chris was in Uganda, but between us on September 4th we remembered Ella and everything she was and everything she would have been.

Just after dawn broke I got Leo dressed and bundled him into his buggy.  We scooted out the front door with camera and snacks and as I grabbed my coat my lovely mum handed me a soft pink rose from the garden.  I slipped it into the basket and kissed her on the cheek.

It was 7am and a gentle mist rose from the fields surrounding the river, the tide was on its way out and the air was still.  I parked the buggy and Leo followed me carefully across the stones and down the muddy path towards the edge of the river.  We looked out towards the boats as the golden sun struck the river.

I held my son tightly and spoke to him about his beautiful sister, Ella.  On that very day she would have been 4 years old.  I cried, he threw the rose into the water, he splashed, he giggled and the love I have for my two children soared.

I couldn't have painted a more perfect morning had I tried.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mr Chomp

For the last 4 days it has been skin scorching, blistering hot.  As the saying goes, 'only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun'. 

Leo has started going to nursery 2 or 3 mornings a week.  I drop him off at 9 and collect him at 11 using that precious time for me and for work.  For 2 hours he shouts, plays, paints, runs and stimulates his body and brain with 25 other children.  At the beginning he showed his complete dislike at being left by throwing a massive wobbly, arching his back and flinging his fists.

However progress has begun to show itself in bright colours and this week (week number 5) he climbed out of his buggy and toddled in, all carefree and bouncy.  He hardly had time to stop for me to kiss him such was his joy, such was his focus on his little friends racing around the garden like wound up toys.  Oh happy, happy days.

Two hours later when I returned to collect him I was greeted with a different scene.  A crying toddler whining 'mummy, mummy' came lurching towards me.  One of the teacher's was hot on his tail looking flustered and worried.  I asked what was the matter, why was he upset........'iowouf02yv90wee0u0wvhwhvwa,' was her reply catching like static between my ears. 

I asked her to repeat herself.

'Sorry but we've just had to tell him off because he's bitten a child.  A third child actually.'

'Err, pardon, how many children?'


Holy fuc*ing crap.

To make matters worse the 3 children were rounded up and brought over to me for bite inspection.  Leo had spectacularly chomped one little girl on her fleshy upper arm, another girl on her tummy and a little boy on his shoulder blade.  Big teeth imprints, like badges, throbbed on their tender skin.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat.  Bloody grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat. 

He bit me last night as I wrestled his tooth brush from his chunky grasp (I swear it was like wrestling with a gorilla) so I chomped him back, hard.  He cried like a wolf until he heard the owl in the tree outside his window.  He started twit twooing and the bite episode was forgotten in seconds.

I'm blaming a lot of stuff on the weather at the moment, this sun is doing crazy things to us all.  However should Leo continue to bite I'm going to leave him in his cardboard box.  A stint in there for a week should sort him out. 

Mad dog indeed!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Introducing Zahara.  It means, flowering : shining.

There were other names, but Helen had trouble pronouncing them....!

Beautiful Zahara, no longer the baby without a name.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Baby with no name

I've known Helen for the last 12 months.  She often stops to talk to with us when I'm pushing Leo in his buggy along the roads that crisscross the neighbourhood. She's charming, intelligent, strong of character and inspiring - although she would disagree and say that's the work of god.

She has 3 sons, no husband and toils hard in her garden to grow the food for their plates. We tend to talk about normal things - she tells me of her hopes, her sons, her struggles and the volunteer work that brings her much joy.  She sings to Leo, reaching forward to pinch his cheeks so that he laughs.  He loves it.  She loves him.  I feel like a spare part at a wedding.

Today was no different, until she told me about the baby with no name. 

"I took the bus north to Gulu and then to another town and found the police station. This baby, she was there. The mother had told the police she was going to kill her so they must take the baby away. They said no, but the mother refused to listen and screamed at them. When the police said they would put her in prison for abandoning her daughter she said prison was better than the child. This mother she is the daughter of my eldest sister, my niece, but my sister passed away some few years back and this girl, instead of studying, has been running with boys. She became pregnant at 17 but didn't want the child. It was when my mother called to say the baby had been beaten and that the mother wanted to kill her that I had to go. My mother she's now 86 years and cannot look after one so young.  I reached the police, signed the papers to say she would be in my care and they gave me her hospital records. Three months ago, when she was 7 months, they operated on her to stop a fever. This didn't happen in the hospital, this happened in the village before they took her to hospital.  Eeeeh, many of these people are uneducated and have little money so things are done in a bad way. They took a knife and cut her gums here and here to remove her teeth, and you know that bit that hangs in the back of your mouth? They put a razor blade between a piece of string and tied the string to two sticks and put another stick here to stop her biting.  They held her arms and when she is no longer struggling they put the blade at the back of the mouth and pull the sticks.  Cut, Cut, Cut. I've seen it done to a woman many years ago and that bit, when it falls from the mouth, it jumps. No, we don't know who the father is, it could be any boy, but we are blessed to have her, this baby they wanted to kill. I don't know about girls, I only have sons, but they are helping and we are all praying that she will be fine. She only had some little milk from the mother and she has been sick many times because it wasn't enough.  She finds it hard to eat, maybe because of her mouth, but she is strong and she is a miracle of god.  Her name?  The police said the mother had told them her name but it was bad and after everything that's happened they didn't want me to curse her with it.  So this baby, no, she still doesn't have a name."


Later on that morning I had a choice - either continue in the direction of home, or with Helen's story banging like rocks around my head, fork right and go and find her. 

I forked right.

I found her at the house where she does her volunteer work.  We chatted briefly, she thanked god and I raced home.  Hot, sweaty and full of adrenalin I put Leo in his cot for a nap and packed a carrier bag with a large tub of unused formula (Leo's never cared for the stuff) unused bottles, a beaker, little books and a few soft toys.  I knew I wouldn't be gone for more than half an hour so Huzo (he was raking the lawn of rain soaked grass) babysat as I drove to collect Helen before we hurtled up the road to her place.

In a colourful printed dress (handmade by Helen who said it wasn't a very good job) a baby girl of 10 months old suddenly picked up and crawled across the sparse floor towards us.  Helen's house is no bigger than my bedroom.  It's a single room, 5mtrs by 8mtrs with a thin curtain dividing the front half from the back half.  Helen, her 3 teenage sons, a niece (not the baby's mother) and the baby fill this barely furnished living space as one - jumbled across mats on the floor.

She held the baby out towards me and I took her.  Sat on my lap she shrieked at the toys, the brightly coloured elephant with the crinkly ear, the rattle and the small books with chewed up edges.  She wanted them all and she could have them all.  Her tight black hair had been pulled rakishly into twisted braids, sticking from the top of her head like mini quills.  Her large dark eyes surveyed my face, she was curious and took hold of my arm slapping the white contrasting skin against the brown of her own.

Oh my heart.  She was strong and she was alert, but her breathe was catching in her throat.  She squealed, pushed, pulled and crawled.  We prepared the bottle of formula and she took it, kind of, maybe, perhaps not.  I stroked her bumpy plaited head and tried not to imagine the absolute trauma, pain and cruelty inflicted on one so tiny.  A part of me said you must take her, you must give her everything you have and so much more, but the other part recognised with respect everything Helen has done in order to save and protect her.

As I was leaving she asked me what name I thought the baby should have?  I said she needed a beautiful name, a name that would tell people she was strong, a survivor, a woman to be loved and respected.  So she asked me to think of one, a great honour which I feel is way beyond me, because I know that once you pull back the veil that separates you from the world that lies behind it you should not turn your back and walk away, even though we sometimes do.  Instead today my heart made the decision for me when I reached that messy fork in the road.....

Baby with no name, I'm thinking.