Housekeeper’s Diary

By Alison September 27, 2023 11 Comments 6 Min Read

So far, dear Agnes has been a veritable storm in the kind of teacup one is served lukewarm tea in many a British town hall. The trees around these parts still intact and only the screech of a branch scraping across the conservatory roof, proof that a storm whose bark has turned out to be worse than her bite, might just be pulling on her surgical stockings and getting ready to whip herself into frenzy.

Inside I am snuggled up in an orange blanket, staring at a defiant moon hanging like a huge dinnerplate in the sky, neither moved nor threatened by winds only just tumbling out of bed. A cosy night then. Coronation Street, our Brocante bookclub choice on my Kindle, and a pot of spicy cinnamon tea on the coffee table after a wet afternoon running through town, late to meet Finn for a motherly head to foot check after a raucous Fresher’s night out.

I have been feeling… detached. From myself. From everything. And in many ways I have not minded for it has created the space I need to see what needs to be done. I have not minded because in my detachment I have found a sort of peace and a return to the simple ebb and flow of routine and domestic ritual, despite a sense that everything might just be about to crumble in to the stormy sea below me.

Tonight then. Some sort of allergic reaction to a new shampoo that has set my scalp crawling. The drip, drip, drip of rain on the windowsill. A real chill in my candlelit living room for the first time this Autumn and a cat demented by what I can only presume is a ghost as he bounces off the wall in giddy delirium. I talk about the cat a lot lately don’t I? It makes me feel silly. Trivial. Alone. Just an hour ago, I found myself arguing with a lady on the tele who announced she was one thing, when I know her to be quite another. Wandering in and out of the room as I chopped sweet potato into fat chunks while holding a debate with a cast of actors who cannot hear me. Arguing with the TV and talking about the cat as if he is my child? Hells bells this is a slippery slope if ever there was one!

It struck me this morning, as I lay curled up under my velvet quilt, that this is the first time in my life that I have ever been truly alone. That I went from my Mum and Dad, to Finn’s Dad, and then to years spent with my little shadow always at my side. That I have never known what it is to not have someone else to get up for. I lay listening to the rumble of the passing lorries shaking the lane, and I felt alone. A little scared of my own company. Claustrophobic in a house with too many memories crowding in on me like the yellow wallpaper of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s nightmares.

For I think this may be grief. Grief postponed. Last year I was so determined to survive, to prove that I could, to stay positive, to keep believing that I would move on and leave what had been lost behind, that I didn’t give myself a chance to acknowledge the trauma of being treated as if I had ceased to exist: as if the weight of all that we had created together was mine to carry alone. Forced to pretend that someone who mattered to me had died without the comfort of a funeral. I didn’t give myself opportunity to drown so totally in grief for the family I loved deeply. Someone I had sacrificed so much of myself for. I didn’t scream or rage or even really sob as I probably should have done because I was too busy exhausting myself with trying to understand. To empathise and excuse. So I didn’t beg. Or throw things. I just threw myself into my own Renaissance. and in the process created some of the best work of my life, but lost myself along the way.

I loved Stephen. I loved him fiercely. And love doesn’t just fizzle away. It lingers like so much black oil on the sands of time. Ugly and sticky and destructive. And I tried to run from it. To find in others what I was still grieving for. Dating and hurting people and never fully committing because my head wouldn’t let me. My head kept on saying, ah yes, but it isn’t him. As if a man who could hurt me so completely should in any way be my yardstick. For it is in his silence that I have treaded water. In the chaos he has created for me, that I am drowning. So this detachment: it is grief. And I have pretended it didn’t matter. But it does and I am finally allowing it to consume me. Just for a while. Just long enough to acknowledge that I didn’t deserve it. That I have lost everything I had, and I am set to lose more, because someone chose to take it from me and I can never have it back. Can never find solace in the kind of closure and support I should have been able to take for granted.

Tonight then. A brush ragged over and over again through my hair to soothe a scalp on fire, and another laundry room slug escorted off the premises. An argument (rapidly turning into a full scale war that may require intervention) with a door that will not stay shut and a potato cake slathered in salty butter for the sake of meeting my daily macros. What else? A tobacco candle burning on the windowsill and curtains still open on a night not yet raging against a much heralded storm. Dishes in the sink. A suppressed scream. A splash of elderflower cordial over icy soda water in a fancy glass. A man at the door telling me that he is not long out of prison and has a bag full of chamois leathers to sell me should I be so kind? But oh how to say, I’m so sorry I have given up kindness for now and I have quite forgotten how to trust. Away with you and your chamois leathers! Away with your rainbow feather dusters! Away with you, please.

And tomorrow? More of the same. Without Agnes or the chamois leathers. More silence between the noise of a head always so busy with ideas competing with emotion I am not ready for, plans I do not want to make. More sweet potatoes because I cannot get enough of them. More work, for nothing, oh but nothing else feeds me in quite the same way.

More of this self-imposed isolation as I mend and heal and set the embers of ambition, desire and determination burning all over again. So come, dear Agnes, and do your worst. For I cannot think of anything cosier, than a storm raging at the window as I sip tea and examine hope as if she were, for all the world, a long lost friend.


  1. Kelly says:

    Thank you for your writing and your heart Alison. 🍁🕯️🍂

    1. Alison says:

      Oh Kelly, as always you are welcome. Thank-you for still caring…x

  2. Laura says:

    Dear Alison, it’s always such a pleasure to read your blog…” claustrophobic in a house with too many memories”…”and examine hope as if she were a long lost friend”… you really moved me to tears: you have such a magic gift with words!!! Thank you

    1. Alison says:

      Thank you so much Laura… but I do apologise for bringing a tear to your eye.x

  3. Tiffani says:

    So beautifully honest and a grief that is palpable. Hugs and prayers❤️

    1. Alison says:

      Thank you sweetheart…keeping on keeping on.x

  4. Paula says:

    I think sometimes that distance is an under recognized and necessary ingredient in the alchemy of healing our hearts. You are experiencing the gift of distance; in this instance, the distance of Time. Distance, measured either in time or geography, gives you the ability to turn around, and to look at fully, that time or that person, or both, who is no more for you. Distance keeps you safe from being consumed by the fire of grief’s all consuming flames. You feel the intense heat; but at most, it will singe you around the edges rather than turn you into a pile of ash.

    Distance makes it possible to let in all that grief, and loss, and the enormity of all that is no more. It also makes it possible for two more quiet, supporting players in Life’s drama…reconciliation and forgiveness, to take the stage. Two players whose walk on roles are sometimes overlooked and undervalued.

    Reconciling with what was and is no more. Reconciling with what is. Reconciling with the longing. And forgiving yourself for wanting to hold onto it all, for wishing you had done more, known more, been different than you were. Forgiving yourself for censoring your emotions, for the judgments, for maybe not being very kind to yourself about whatever.

    My sweet friend, Life has given you the gift of this momentary solitary chapter. Its spaciousness is unfamiliar, yet it is well suited to what you realize has also come knocking at your door, besides the itinerant seller of chamois leathers. Invite Grief in. Make her a cuppa. Make up the spare room. She won’t mind if you sulk, or rant, or scream and curse, or cry in the bath. She won’t mind if you are unsolicitous and slighting. She is a most accommodating house guest. She only asks for the spare room, and to make your acquaintance, as and when you are ready..

    And remember, she’s not moving in permanently. The day will come when you’ll see her bags packed and standing at the front door. She’ll already have called for a cab, not wanting to trouble you. You’ll look her in the eye, with a steadiness you wouldn’t have imagined possible when she first arrived. “Thank you”, you’ll whisper. And then she’ll be gone.

    You’ll air out the spare room, realizing as you do, that you are humming a favorite tune and feeling a sense of contentment that’s been lurking elusively around the edges of your heart, but now has come forward, and fills it up..

    Let distance, and time, and reconciliation and forgiveness, and solitude, work their alchemy on Grief..

    Sending you much love…

    1. Niki says:

      You have said it beautifully. Grief deferred will find its way to you and keep sneaking round corners to surprise you until you can, as you say, look her in the eye.

  5. Keri Howard says:

    “I’m so sorry I have given up kindness for now and I have quite forgotten how to trust.” Ma’am. This line is STUNNING. You are an incredible writer. I think you should actually take a whole calendar year off from kindness and trust-direct all that back to yourself and Finn.

  6. Wanda says:

    A description so precise that I could feel your frustration within my being.🍁

  7. Laura says:

    Oh lovey… I am wrapping you up in a great big hug whilst you cry and cry all you need to, those racking great sobs that pierce your sorrow to make you wonder if it’s possible to break ribs by sobbing (it’s not…) – you just weep all you need to xxx

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