Tag Archives: Mother

Crying because I’m chopping onions

22 Jun


I’m not weeping because

I miss you

I’m crying because I’m

chopping onions

I’m not lonely because

you’re not here

I’m cooking the dishes

you used to prepare

I’m not nostalgic with

memories of you

I’m trying to recall all

your recipes

I’m not wondering about what

you would say

I’m pondering on how it would taste


I’m not sorry

you left me

I rue the day

you went

I’m not looking for comfort in

your dishes

I’m trying to recapture

your essence

I’m not searching for

your happy look

I should place your recipes

in a book.


I wrote this poem whilst cooking a curry which was taught to me by my mother. She passed away three years ago. I find cooking or baking, therapeutic, a distraction. There IS comfort in food which is prepared and cooked with the extra ingredients of warmth, love, and happiness. I’m not saying it lessens the burden of bereavement, but it does help me to ease the pain.

The Learned Kat





The Best Gift is this White Chocolate & Lemon curd cake

11 Mar

The best gift is one that is made by hand, with love, affection and attention. It doesn’t have to be perfect or made by the professional hands of an expert. It just has to appeal to the five senses…and I know that the best gift for me was the handmade, home baked white chocolate and lemon curd cake which my partner baked for me on my recently celebrated 43rd birthday. It was simple, tasted delicious and ticked all the right boxes.

It was the best gift I could wish for…

The Learned Kat


I would normally spend the day with my mother, but since she is no longer with us, I decided to bake a Victoria sponge cake and share it with a close female friend, a mother of two grown-up children. We enjoyed it with a nice cup of tea, after her home cooked Sunday roast.

I also wrote this poem:

Mother’s Day is here
bringing good cheer
and the memories of Lost Ones live on…
Some mothers are near
and others are far
Devotion and care they are always there
so cherish them, my dears
and be thankful for having your mum
So, embrace mums, not just today, but everyday
Men – even the wife!
Be Thankful for the mum in your life.
Happy Mother’s Day xx
The Ultimate Best Gift? A Mother’s Love

The Learned Kat

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht

11 Mar

This book was recommended by my local book club, the Bearwood Bookworms. I wasn’t too sure about the choice made as we’d only finished reading The Leopard (Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa) and someone had mentioned The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga).

There seemed to have been a big cat/feline theme going on…

I requested a copy from my local library and when I got home, I started to read it:

A young female doctor goes in search of her late grandfathers’ last resting place and his personal belongings. She describes her relationship with her grandfather, who was also a doctor, and the associated memories of him. This is interspersed with him telling her stories of his youth and his subsequent meetings with “the deathless man”.

The tiger of the novel is a relatively tamed species, which is kept in a zoo that the young doctor frequently visited with her granddad. manages to escape from a bombed zoo and in its attempt for survival, prowls the land in search of food and shelter. It is in one village that the tiger is seen, and “hunters” are dispatched to kill it. Unbeknownst to the local villagers, a deaf-mute woman, who also happens to be an “Outsider” finds a way to feed and care for the tiger. This leads to speculation, alienation and fabrication.

The story is interwoven with characters from different eras, but at the same time, the themes of desperation, survival, dying/death, fear and quality of life remains. There is uncertainty, trying to draw out fact from fiction, the question of cultural identity and the role of compassion and humanity in times of destruction.

I wouldn’t say he was a central character, but because he appears several times as a “constant”  throughout the novel, the “deathless man” has to have a mention as a very clever literary device. To me, the deathless man is symbolic of what the old doctor had known for most of his life: death which is known and unknown. For most of his young life, the doctor had either seen, heard or witnessed death. It was his experiences that drew him to try and help people and keep them alive. But it was also his knowledge of observing the signs and symptoms of death,  dying and the search for salvation that seemed to allow him to have pleasant conversations with the deathless man. Having the figure of the deathless man in the stories seemed to make the doctor, although sceptical and angry at the initial meeting, begin to develop  a relationship of some sorts over the years. Sporadic meetings allowed the doctor to question why the deathless man would come to him and what he gained from his visits. I think the deathless man represented the doctors own conscience, as he would look around during the war years and would question the futility of it all. It was at these times that the deathless man would appear and they would either argue or wrestle with what may be the consciousness.

The deathless man offers hope and preparation, not fear and uncertainty. He is a quietly strong, confident and practical being. In his own way, like the doctor, he offers salvation, resolution and peace. Maybe because the doctor has seen so much death in his time, that is why he would not accept it in a “lifeform!” It makes it more tangible and “real”. It is there, waiting and ready for everyone no matter what the circumstances.

Relationships are explored, either superficial or deep, loss and love are prominent in the telling of the search for the grandfather. Friendship, support and understanding are also key issues which Tea Obrecht explores with passion and instinct.

Having won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011, I can now fully understand and appreciate why. The author draws you into a story within a story. Descriptive, seamless and enchanting, Obrecht relates the horrors of modern day wars with the wars of yesteryear. It was similar to The Book Thief ( Markus Zusak) and The Diary of Anne Frank but told through the style of The Arabian Nights. Full of sadness, melancholia, dark humour and shocking endings for some of the characters, it combined fables and folklore within communities bombarded by war, death, segregation, religion, superstition, fear and possibly ignorance.

My initial uncertainty was unfounded. It was an engrossing, page turner and at the end, I was overcome with the desire or wish to see this novel turned into a film. Every bookshelf ought to have a copy.

The Learned Kat


Mothering Sunday: Remembrance Day

5 Mar

With Mothers Day approaching on Sunday, I decided to visit my parents resting place this morning instead. From my local florist, I purchased several bunches of daffodils and remarked to the gentleman behind the counter how I admired his window display. I then waited longer than necessary for the usual Number 11 bus and was aware that time was ticking by. I was becoming impatient and irritated by the traffic congestion and all the buses which sped past except the one I needed. It was delayed and once it did arrive, the driver did not offer any explanation or apology. On boarding, I finally managed to find a seat upstairs. Having to alight and wait for another bus just added to my anxieties and dread.

At the approach of the cemetery, the sun was casting a warm light on me, I looked out of the window of my eyes and watched the world pass by. As I walked into the cemetery and walked up towards the plot of land in which my parents are buried, side by side, I looked at the surrounding headstones, marble gravestones and the amount of graves that covered the lush green area of peace and tranquillity. I walked and words wafted through my mind. I placed on the grave without a head stone, two cards which I thought were suitable for the occasion. One, a regular Mother’s Day card and the other, a printed “In Memoriam” verse written on a plastic card. I placed the daffodils in the urns which were now embedded in the earth. I stood still and the words grew stronger, repeating and repeating again. I shed a tear and the words would not leave me alone. I sat down on a wooden bench and started to write the words which haunted my thoughts. Bereft of pen and paper, as well as my very supportive parents, I entered words on my mobile as a text message in case I forgot and sent them to myself.  Here are those words:

So many lives loved

So many souls lost

And my heart leapt in expectation

my breath stopped in anticipation

and the daffodils wept for liberation

as the numbers marked on your grave lost momentum.

My mind went blank in desperation

Think I’m losing my faith or is it depression?

My life lingers on without your devotion

Children and parents

A bond never broken

Gravestones and Angels lie out in the open

Dreams and Wishes left unspoken…

Walking in the sunshine

words racing through my mind

A parents face keeps appearing all the time

A little boy lost in an adult vessel

A woman weeping at the graveside trestle

A Special Person knows no bounds

Whether love is lost or underground.

The Learned Kat

Mama: A Review

3 Mar

Two young sisters, a short sighted Victoria aged 3 and Lilly, aged 1 are taken from their home by their dad who is clearly distraught, upset and angry. He bundles them into a car and over the radio news, we learn that the dad, Jeffrey. has murdered his wife  and is trying to get away. We follow them as they drive through snow and icy roads. The car crashes in the woods and they find their way to what appears to be a a secluded cabin. However, there seems to be something evil lurking inside…

Five years later, the girls are discovered in a feral state, are medically assessed and with the aid of Dr Dreyfuss, who specialises in child psychology/psychiatry, are placed in the care of their painter/artist uncle Lucas and his rock chick girlfriend Annabel, much to the chagrin of the aunt, Jeanie, the sister of the childrens’ deceased mum. However, the prospect of looking after Lucas’ nieces proves to be challenging and brings its own sinister secrets and daunting experiences.

Victoria has progressed and can communicate quite well, whereas Lilly is still relatively insular, with an animalistic nature and is drawn to the as yet unseen character known as Mama. As time progresses, Victoria is quite happy to accept the blurred vision of Mama  but gradually begins to take comfort in the real love and affection which Annabel provides. One day,  Victoria decides to keep her spectacles on and face the being which has haunted their young lives. It is at that moment that we, as the audience also share the clarity of the vision and Mama is revealed in her true nature. It’s a screamer of a scene.

Haunted by nightmares, the two adult protagonists begin to unravel the story of Mama and it reveals a historical story of madness, mental asylums and death.

All the child actresses are absolutely adorable, endearing and carry the film effortlessly. As the story unfolds, one is drawn into their world as much as the adult one. Their dialogue is short, concise and conveys messages, feelings and emotions in a simplistic manner. An incredible achievement for such young talent. It remains to be seen if they transform into successful stars and establish themselves over the years, as we know from tabloid press and interviews, making that transition from child star to bona fide adult star is a struggle for many.

From the visionary director Guillermo del Toro who gave the world surreal fantasy/drama Pan’s Labryinth, comes another tale of love & death, courage, sacrifice, jealousy, motherhood,  the role of a mother, and touches of the age old nature/nurture debate.  ‘Mama’ is an engrossing piece of fiction that explores the duality of a parent’s role – to protect children from harm and the possible repercussions of what would be if a parent is to become so overtly protective that the parent becomes jealous, insecure and obsessive. Words that spring to mind are learning to let go; standing up for what you believe in, and what appears to be the ultimate sacrifice = to allow a loved one to go in order to survive.

Mama seems to  draw on the edge-of-the-seat psychology of ‘The Shining’, the fixation and obsession of ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’, the spine-chilling tingles of ‘The Exorcist’ and shades of ‘The Poltergeist’. Yes, we may have seen it all before – the doctor finding and going into cabin in the  woods and Jeanie investigating forms of abuse in the family home provide predictable endings for these two characters – but Mama has re-packaged the thrills and shock surprises for a modern generation of cinema-goers.

As clichés go, it’s a nail biting, edge of the seat horror/thriller with a fantastical ending which would have you crying and calling out for Mama!


The Learned Kat

February is the month that can be Friend or Foe

1 Mar

Phew! A big sigh of relief…

I’m glad to see that February is now officially over. Not only is it a depressing month weather-wise, but it’s mentally draining for me too. I mean, it didn’t use to bother me, weather, but over the last 5 years, February has become a time to dwell on death, dying and remembrance.

As I said in a previous post, my father passed away in February 2008. He was 79.

But what I didn’t mention that my beloved mum passed away two years later on Friday 5 February at the age of 71.  I know the medical reasons for her passing but I like to think that she died of a broken heart. I know it’s difficult to imagine or live your life without your loved one. My parents were together for 54 years. Like most relationships, theirs was an emotional rollercoaster, with all of life’s ups and downs, highs and lows.

When dad passed away, I know my mum would pine for him in her own way and say that, however he appeared to others, good or bad, he was her life, husband and soulmate. She didn’t know any other. She had no wish or desire to. Mum was very young when they married. Dad was 10 years older…She didn’t want a life on her own. She didn’t want to be left alone. My Mum used to say that she dreamed about him every night, could hear his voice calling or could feel his presence in her room. When she didn’t receive any of those signs or feelings, she used to get upset or disheartened and ask why or what have I done to deserve this? Why had he deserted her? But there were other times when she would say that she spoke to dad in her thoughts at night, or pray to him and hope he would answer her prayers. She would pray that he would come and take her away. She would say that she was waiting for him or she would soon join him and looked forward to that day when they would be together again…

The days when my parents were alive spin around in my head, and it’s hard to shake off…I have my memories and they can either put me at ease or trigger off tears…

I dread the month of February now. Maybe ‘dread’ is too strong a word but I don’t feel so much ‘alive’ or ‘passionate’ about it as much as I used to. Maybe I’m just full of anxiety. I used to look forward to it because it used to mean Valentine’s Day was here (I know it’s overtly commercial and a monetary issue) and it was a month away from my birthday.

So, one of the days at the beginning of February is an anniversary, mid-February is a “pretend all is good and well in my life’ day, with me sharing cards and a meal with my partner and trying to make it a good a day as possible, and then I have noticed or become more aware that I tend to drop into a slight depression or develop morbid thoughts when considering that another anniversary is due at the end of the month. Not only that, but with my birthday approaching, another celebration that I used to enjoy very much, which I know is a sign that I am getting older although I still feel young, it makes me very much aware that I am spending more years away from my parents when they were alive and losing sight of how things used to be.

Every year, since my parents passed away, I say I will try and fix it, try and change or reimagine my life or daily ritual in a different way. But every year, without fail, no matter what I say or do, February remains  the month of strong emotions, significant life events or the month I lost my parents. Nothing will ever change that. Nothing will bring them back. All I know is that my life HAS to go on and I shall cherish and remember my parents forever.

Death comes to everyone. We know that. But the life we lead, the moments we share with loved ones, store them and hold them, make the most of the days you have with your parents. As they grow older, they might become sick, frail, infirm, argumentative, or if they are of another age or generation, you might clash over issues like teenage rebellion, parenting, diets, job or college choices…I’ve heard some people say  I wish my parents were dead or out of my life or my mum/dad is a bitch/bastard/ evil etc. I look at them and think, you wish them gone, and if you knew what destruction it brings, the dischord within siblings or family life, the major feelings of loss and disorientation, the constant “what if’s and If only…”, the scenes played over and over again over the years, images and flashbacks, triggers and stimuli that wash over you for no apparent reason, the yearning and comfort required, the “I wished I paid more attention to mum’s recipe or wish I’d written that recipe down or I should’ve gone with dad to New York or India or to that party…”. The regrets, the pain and the heartache is unbearable and sometimes without justification.

Grief and bereavement knows no bounds.

I would do anything to have my parents back. I would want them back, tell them that I loved them everyday and pay more attention to what they said  to me.

I miss my parents and even now, as I type, dislike/despise/hate the month of February  for being the month which took my parents away.


The Learned Kat

Song for Marion: A Review

26 Feb

‘Song for Marion’ was a film that I was waiting to watch since I first saw it advertised. And, I must say, it was well worth it.
Devoted couple Arthur (Terence Stamp) and Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) live in a small bungalow, where Arthur cares for his ailing wife. Marion is a member of a choral group made up of elderly people and looks forward to her regular singing sessions at the local community social centre. Marion is optimistic, outgoing and well liked.
Arthur, however, is quite reticent or insular, grumpy, stubborn and refuses to be drawn into the same arena which Marion enjoys so much. They have one son, James (Christopher Ecclestone) who is close to his mother but there appears to be a void between father and son.

Like a number of films before it, and no doubt there will be many more to follow, the premise of this film is based upon the idea that Elizabeth, the choir leader, played amiably by the versatile Gemma Arterton, informs the group that she is going to enter ‘The OAPz’ (the ‘z’ is added to give it more street cred, and also a nod to a singing/dancing group of pensioners who entered Britain’s Got Talent a few years ago) into a choral singing competition. So the “oldies” throw themselves into rehearsing and performing for their one special night. It is only when Marion is informed she has a couple of months to live that we realise she is dying of cancer and things begin to change.

A scene where her fellow amateur singers gather together outside Marions’ bedroom window and sing in the rain leads to a minor disagreement between Arthur and Marion. Arthur shouts at the singing crowd and tells them to “bugger off!” and Marion asks him to apologise, which he refuses to do. So she refuses to speak to him until he does. The scene is both humourous and typically quirky of British eccentricities.
The two stars share scenes like a well worn old pair of shoes, and come across as a very familiar, doting and loving couple.

With Marion passing away, Elizabeth takes it upon herself to offer Arthur the opportunity to say what he feels and be true to himself. At first, he is reluctant to change but decides to open up and seeks solace or refuge at the social club, to continue the good work of Marion. At the same time, he tries to reach out to his son and make amends for being so distant. The son closes the door on him…

Vanessa Redgraves portrayal of a dedicated, loyal, dying wife anchoring the bonds between the strained relationship of father and son and singing Cyndi Laupers “True Colours” was sensitively handled. One of the grand dames of screen and theatre presented Marion without any schmaltz or the feeling that we’ve seen it all before. And Terence Stamp singing his ‘Song’ for Marion, hence the title of the film, at the end was a real heartbreaker. He sang it with aplomb and such powerful emotions came through. Not a dry eye in the house on screen as well as off, I would say.

“Song for Marion” is a well written, well directed tender, simple yet touching story which engages the audience and is likely to bring a tear to the eye for anyone who has loved and lost, experienced grief and bereavement or is a fan of sentiment and family humour. Some parts of the script were deliberately construed to set the viewers emotions in a certain direction, soft hearts with a slightly cynical edge. I certainly had my tissues handy and I’m sure others in the auditorium were feeling as if they’d gone through a bittersweet chapter too.

What sets this film apart from other films of similar ilk is the understated and sturdy performances of the stellar cast, although the supporting actors like Ann Reid and the extras were superficial to requirements. Setting it in a social club in one of the many towns in the UK community adds realism and attention to detail. I think the British audience would be able to relate to it more than our overseas friends but the core of the tale will strike a chord with many.

Yet another heart-warming, charming tale in how to deal with the elderly, dying and death. It’s about time we saw more films dealing with the elderly and real issues that we need to face up to and manage. Some people would say it was corny, but if this is corn, I like it sweet with a pinch of salt. More please!

The Learned Kat