Cleft Beauty

It’s Cleft Awareness Week and in honour of all beautiful clefties out there I am re-posting a blog I wrote a while ago.

Born Whole

Cute-Golden-Retriever-Puppy-640x400Some people get a happiness boost from watching YouTube clips with cute puppies and kittens.

As for me, I’ve never quite felt much love for furry creatures, perhaps because I’m extremely allergic to them, cats in particular.

If ever you wanted to kill me off without getting caught, a mixture of cat, dog and hyacinth will do the trick.

My parents and siblings all have furry pets these days, making any visit to their homes a health hazard for me, but perhaps that’s the whole point.

When my daughters ask for a puppy or kitten of their own, I say they’ve got to choose:

“It’s either me or the pet.”

Accepting defeat, they both vow to get not just cats and dogs when they grow up and have flown the nest, but horses and rabbits as well. I get the message.

No, furry creatures don’t make my day, but cleft…

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There’s No Going Back

I’ve stopped watching the government’s daily Covid-19 press briefings because they make me feel like I’m stuck in a Groundhog Day film script, and I know that script by heart for it never changes. One government minister’s presentation blends into another’s, they’re like robots, emitting pre-recorded sentences that no one bothers to update.

What was I thinking, holding out hope that the government would grow a backbone in the face of a pandemic that is claiming hundreds of lives a day across Britain? How naive was I to think that the prime minister’s illness and treatment in an NHS hospital might change him for the better? Continue reading

Life and Death

Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.     

Lao Tzu

Seven years ago, almost to the day, I sat next to my 91-year old grandmother as she drew her last breath. Three days earlier, I had flown from London to Stockholm to visit her at her flat where she’d lived alone since her husband passed away in 1987.

My trip had been planned for a month, long before my grandmother’s health deteriorated, but a few days before my departure, I was admitted to hospital with a suspected mini stroke. Forty-eight hours before my scheduled flight, I was discharged with orders to rest, but I insisted on travelling as planned, despite feeling very weak.

“Postpone your trip for a couple of weeks,” friends and family advised, but something in me just knew I couldn’t delay; I had to go now. Before I left the hospital, I asked the consultant neurologist if it was safe for me to fly, and he looked at me as if I was mad but, after a moment’s hesitation, he said as long as I took my blood-thinning medications, I should be alright. Continue reading

Don’t Fall for the Great Equaliser Myth

The British prime minister is currently in intensive care, being treated for complications arising from the Coronavirus and his underlings in the cabinet don’t waste a moment to pronounce publicly that Johnson’s case is proof that the Coronavirus is indiscriminate and that we’re all in this together.

That isn’t quite true, though, is it, for as journalists and writers like Afua Hirsch and Kenan Malik have shown in recent articles, not only are working-class people, the unemployed and the homeless more vulnerable to the effects of the virus but so too are people from the Black and Asian communities.

The first four doctors to die from Covid-19 in Britain were Muslim men from Asian and African backgrounds and, of the dozens of transport workers who’ve died after catching the virus on the job, a disproportionate number were black or Asian. Continue reading

Darkness and Light


Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.

Madeline L’Engle

We’re two weeks into Britain’s lockdown and my children’s home schooling experiment. This week, the 9-year old’s maths work involved measuring just about every piece of furniture in her bedroom, a task that was probably intended as a fun activity, but which turned into an almost obsessive project of measuring, calculating and scaling. At least it offered a momentary respite from my other obsession: the news. Continue reading

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

We’re a week into self-isolation at home, and with four strong wills pulling in different directions it’s a small miracle no one has been hurt yet. Our house is big enough that under normal circumstances, it’s possible to go into hiding from the rest of the family when the need arises, but these are not normal circumstances.

My private study has been requisitioned by my younger daughter and is now being used as classroom, school library and recreation room. I’ve had to take refuge in the bedroom and on occasion I’ve resorted to drastic measures to find a moment’s peace by feigning constipation and locking myself in the bathroom. Continue reading

Eating Fruit in Precarious Times

It’s breakfast time at home, and I place a bowl of fresh fruit in front of my kids, who are busy tucking into their usual fare of peanut butter and jam toast.

“You need to have at least one fruit each before we leave for school,” I say.

The nine-year-old looks up from her half-eaten slice of bread, fixes her gaze on the fruit bowl and then on me. 

“What, you think eating a piece of fruit is going to stop us from catching the Coronavirus?” The look on her face oozes contempt. 

“Ugh, no,” I say, “but eating fruit is a good thing, no matter what.” 

The teenager appears oblivious to what’s going on, or she is faking obliviousness, aided by a pair of air pods stuck in her ears. I have to wave my hands in front of her face to get her attention.

“Fruit,” I say, pointing at the bowl. “Eat.” Continue reading

Man’s Best Friend?

Dogs are man’s best friend, they say, so can a dog be a middle-aged-mother-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown’s best friend too? Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Narendra Modi, Brexit, Coronavirus, climate change….the way the world is going, my faith in humanity is not what it once was, and though I haven’t yet reached the point where I watch cute puppy videos on YouTube, I do find myself contemplating getting a dog. That is until I am reminded of the inconvenient fact that I am allergic to the damn creatures. Continue reading