Amelia Delaney’s Last Day in Captivity

Amelia’s gaze followed her husband’s retreating back as he walked to the 2nd Mercedes on the forecourt of their Hertfordshire home. She barely heard the clunk of the car door as he closed it and pulled away. Breathing in she relaxed slightly, finished her coffee and considered her options, pulled nevertheless in the direction of the breakfast bar, filling the dishwasher automatically, clearing herself a space to think.

She texted Clara to say she had something else on, and sorry but couldn’t meet her later after all. More space. She liked arranging space around herself.

Unless of course, the clutter was hers. She walked into the extension, a wing at the back of the house that arced their garden on one side and overlooked the paddock and village beyond. Her craft room had been Gordon’s gift to her for her fiftieth birthday, although it had been four years in the making. She still marvelled at her luck that it was hers and felt at her happiest in it’s faithful, cool light. Somehow the door acted as a pressure valve, and the expectations and presumptions she had so far tolerated in her life were at least temporarily left outside it. Now she used the space to reconsider. What have I tolerated? How much space have I relinquished subconsciously?

Beyond the large table that ran the length of the room on the left, her eyes and thoughts were drawn by the painting she had been trying to complete. Her eyes probing the trouble spots, she tried to see them as if for the first time, looking for the obvious tip off. However, she found her concentration was nowhere near what it needed to be, or rather her peace of mind. So, she turned to the pieces of chair cover rumpled up on the table before her. The heavy roll of embroidered brocade she’d been allowed to order burdened the far end. At least another week would be needed to complete replacement covers for their conservatory chairs, more likely a fortnight once she threw in the committee meeting, her voluntary afternoon at the riding stables with the disabled riders, and she really needed to spend some time tidying the garden before it was dark virtually after lunch, doing the bits she didn’t want to leave to Derek, their gardener.

Amelia was not one who liked to leave things unfinished.

What has changed? she asked herself. Two days ago, the trust had all been there, between herself and Gordon. They had laughed so hard. She smiled, despite her discontent, recalling Tuesday evening. He had said he loved her. Now she felt like a toy rag doll, thrown aside in the face of greater priorities. It undermined her self-esteem so utterly, and he never seemed to get it. Time and again, she tried to wise up and keep a bit of her heart in reserve, to protect it from being trashed, but somehow that way, life was mere existence. Buy some time, she self-prompted. Do something to restore your balance. You can carry on with the chair cover. You always knew Gordon would as happily sit on a dustsheet thrown over the sofa, unless his mother was coming to stay, of course. She grinned to herself. But was it sad and futile to carry on making something only she would appreciate?  Yes, there’d probably be a few kind remarks from Gemma and Lionel, and Mags. And some witty, rude ones from Geoffrey. The thought of Geoffrey with his arrogance and stupidity made her shudder. She put the two pieces she had been pinning together down and went back to the kitchen, to put on more coffee. As she waited for the spluttering to finish, she reconsidered.  Her whole life, she had fought the urge to commit suicide, and the ugly old suggestion posed itself to her again.  Incongruously, the mental fight continued in full fury; or make chair covers. Because she had been able to conceive of how they’d look, and could do it, she’d embarked on it with great enthusiasm. And gratitude. How in her element she’d felt then! How could one careless suggestion pull her apart again?  She knew what Gordon thought; his little china doll was always too fragile and always would be. That cage had sometimes been invisible, faded to white in the light of happier times, but in the darker moments it surrounded her and she felt it always would while she was part of his life and therefore had to tolerate his assumptions.

It wasn’t as if she hadn’t tried to talk about it, and he had listened. He had not understood, though. He overlaid his knowledge of her, his familiarity with certainties she could never undermine or wrest from his determined place of security.

Yes, she thought. It is worth it. I am in my element here, doing these things. He and Geoffrey can sit in the horrid, fuggy sitting room getting pissed, telling each other how hilarious they are. Suffocating in their fucking, opiate old dogmas.  I’ll stay here and do this, being me. But first, I’m going shopping with Clara. He owes me. She texted her friend, showered hastily and left, scattering gravel as she accelerated the 1st Mercedes off the forecourt.


No Small Wonder

I first met you in my daughter’s voice,

Tremulous, sweet.

I first greeted you apologetically for a heart’s leap

of celebration.

Minutes later, I knew

That fleeting moment

Was eternal

As the destiny of new star-light.

Though your light is warmer,

Being knit

In fellowship fused with love,

And a patent

For royalty; The King’s hand

Hardwires you

In filigree glory, His heart teaching

As you listen to Him sing in your mother’s voice;

As you learn

The tenor of Love in your daddy’s laughter

And it’s unfailing rhythm,

present as heart-beat, soft as breathing:

A cradle of Truth.

Sweet and Sour.


Under a sweeter sun these berries ripened

that now lie bruised, inert in the dish

to eat them is the process of forgetting;

into the avarice of disatisfaction

they bleed their red juice

onto the sour tongue.

Inured, love obscured.

When you pray, say

To be honest, I get anxious and I’m getting it sorted: I have a manual that tells me that I’m not responsible for anything I don’t have the right or ability to control.


I thought I’d just let that sink in.

Coming from where I have been, responsible for everything I care about…(wrong but honest), I have prayed for these things.

My children, and my parents, for a start. Reflecting, I could wax lyrical about my brother and husband and the prayers I’ve prayed for them. And on and on for all sorts of people I never thought of as off limits because I have no right or ability to control them either.

When we are thankful, we parents, surveying the landscape of our children’s lives and it is like a sunny picnic, our words flow like bubbling streams, sparkly and fresh and joyful. Our hearts feel soft and tender like a beautiful meadow where the sheep lie down and rest. Our thoughts populate our spiritual sentences like buttercups and celandines, violets and daisies, Hopes and dreams like distant spires rising from the deep green canopies of righteous oaks and fluffy clouds dot the horizons and we are so peaceful with the vista before us.

When we pray over an earthquake in their lives, our hearts bulge, bleeding through the concrete circumstances and pour out like molten lava with desperation and a search for direction and hope, flowing with the invested energy of past ages all spewed out and potentially for ever gone. Our words rip up uncaring order and fling aside mundane bill board issues and pierce unwitting unknowns searching for answers and promises we forgot to file carefully in earthquake proof cellars. The angry tears and broken dreams create a filthy mush of debris where the children were supposed to play.

No I must only be anxious for the things within my control and then I will be free from anxiety.

It will take a while to learn this. Maybe I’ll report back. But don’t wait for the conclusions; they’re outside your control!

Reject or Project?


This is another of my social experiments!

That’s how I used to see what happened if…. The ironing pile grew bigger or diminished    when labelled as a numbered ‘social experiment’,  Another example might be the bowl of uneaten breakfast cereal left on the kitchen work-top. Either you skivvy on and on, picking up all the things that nobody wants to deal with or you let everyone know that you’ve noticed and all you’re doing about it is seeing what they think their role might be when action is required… What were the results of these experiments? The ‘collective consciousness’ (to borrow a phrase from Nicholas Wolterstorff, I think,) of the family was “The experimenter’s tolerance level is less than ours. Do nothing (usually for months, if not years) and she will move the bowl of rotting ‘rice krispies’ herself.” The thing I learn’t from the general body of these experiments was not to do them. The tension and objectionableness of waiting for a positive result wasn’t worth the price it would have cost (me) to have dealt with the ‘test material’ e.g. unwanted cereal, unposted phone bill payment, pile of THEIR-clean-dry-folded-and-ironed- clothes-not-yet-put-conveniently-in-their-drawers-for-THEM etc! To accept that (I am) the skivvy; the person who wants to establish minimum standards and maintain them while nobody else is bothered either way would have been the less painful course of action.

What is this experiment about, then?

I want to explore, and to embrace rejection. ( Like I want to dive, ever again, into deep, clean, cold water, so pure and so uncompromising in its iciness that surviving and breathing through the shock of it consumes every neurone of consciousness) Could this be a project more worthy of pursuit?

What I’m recalling here is that rejection HURTS! Why do it?

Because love travels with the rejected through to wherever that journey leads. Not to is desertion. Ask any soldier or a hero or heroine of your choice. I recommend the story of Naomi and Ruth, off the top of my head. And we have all travelled that route whether we wanted to or not. As the object. The Reject.

Now how does that feel?

Go on recall it. Unrecognised? Misunderstood? Undignified? Have you since thought of what you wish you had said? Restored your pride with a flourish? Better that you didn’t.

This is just a random flow of exploration. I recall a letter I had from a conservation body. An organisation I had catalogued in my mind on the basis of a few random experiences, press releases and so on. They were demigods. I had an interview to work for them. A dream opportunity. You’ve probably guessed! No I didn’t get the job, but instead of thanking me for considering their post a worthwhile way to spend my time over and above raising my 18month old, they sent out letters saying that nobody had been selected for the post because all interviewees had been of such a low standard that they would have to readvertise. Well they failed to reach their objective as much as their interviewees did, then, no?

Ridicule. Age 8 or 9. I’ve seen it happen and experienced the withering scorn; public humiliation of a child because the teacher failed to see the vision as expressed in the work of the child who failed to see the unspecified expectations of the teacher. That is just abuse of power. Milstones round their necks! The millstone? Hewn from self-importance.

Sounding a bit familiar, now. Isaiah 53. I have drunk in some of the verses therein. Tears of relief and grief the chaser. Because whether we beleive in HIM or not, we believe in what he stands for here. The misunderstood, rejected (by fools), noble, worthy, loved and accepted (by Wisdom) one. Why so familiar and so loved until we are the ones who are blind and despise and mistrust? We repay rejection or misunderstanding with the same rejection. We are guilty. We are too small and feeble to accept, to embrace, to resore. By the same token that we did it to the least of one of these, when we fed or clothed or gave them a drink of water, did we not also when we rejected one of his little ones not also reject him? If he has given citizenship to any, who are we to turn them away at the city gates of our hearts, if our hearts are indeed his territory? That is why he had to do it himself, take the rejection so utterly upon himself. Ultimately, in his house, with many rooms, there is a place for all who accept him. We will not have any just objection to their presence!

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. Of this same, many roomed mansion?

Was it not so smooth and regular as the other stones? Did it go against the criteria of good stone selection according to the guild of master masons? In accepting how good are we at running with the unfamiliar, the irregular and the non-conforming?

To be rejected is to be at the frontier of redemption. It still HURTS.

This is an ongoing project.

I have listened hungrily to a song by the blessed ‘Rend Collective Experiment’ hoping to have a reality transfusion for some people I love from this truth into their lives, as yet an unanswered prayer;

‘ My Future hangs on this,

you make preciousness from dust,

please don’t stop creating me.’

Are we in our ‘seeing others as dust’ mode or have we seen their unique and stunning preciousness yet?

God has a plan!

Ok all of you. Listen please! 

Please line up here on my right for forgiveness if your failure or sin arises from any of the following;

You spilt your coffee, 

You were late picking up the children from school,

You set your alarm on weekdays but fail to set it at the same time so you can get up early to pray on the Sabbath ! (Oh MY!!!)

You have made sarcastic remarks about politicians while listening to or watching the news,

You broke your resolution not to have cake or biscuits with your midmorning drink and openly encouraged others to indulge in a brownie with you,

You pronounce ‘research’  reesearch,

You took a DVD back to the hire shop late,

You watch football while talking to your girlfriend when she would prefer to have your whole attention for the duration of the evening.

You offer to help dry up but only because you want to ask your mum to check over your job application while you’re in the kitchen together. 

You are kind to your pet but turn a blind eye to the way farm animals are treated and enjoy your Sunday roast with gratitude.

You are patronising but they can’t tell because they don’t know any better,

You look into the face of the person speaking to you and realise as they are talking that you have let your mind wander, but then, of course, you return to focus on the plot the moment you notice you’ve drifted off.


Don’t worry. God has a plan to forgive you. He has a form. Tick the box that vaguely describes your category of failure, omission or oversight. You have got to admit to the full weight of responsibility even though you didn’t mean to cause any offence or hurt, and you weren’t the one who orchestrated the circumstances anyway. He Understands. Hand the form in to the Heavenly Operative or their Representative in the event of short staffing. You will receive a dispensation in the next three months or in the event of an incorrectly completed form….

Excuse me. Sorry, I have just had an update. There seems to have been a change in policy.

I am reliably informed that The Lord God has sacrificed his only son, Jesus Christ. (Weirdo or what?)

He sent his perfect, innocent son to die, but not just die, he underwent a fake and unfair trial with liars for witnesses, endured torture, ridicule and rejection in public, naked and humiliated, declared guilty, nailed to a cross until he died, he prayed for his enemies…(Who were they that were so blind to his innocence and deity?)

Towards the end of a slow, suffocating death, he experienced an agony of separation from his loving Father, with whom he had until then known the most intimate and loving relationship that has ever been enjoyed in history..just in his moment of most extreme need. Then he died. Forgiving.

All for spilt coffee? Seems a bit extreme, really.

No wait, sorry I seem to have got a bit confused again. Most terribly sorry! I am sure he has a plan. 

He went through all that because that is the actual price, a straight exchange, a fair assessment of the, ( I must have got this wrong).. NO PLEASE; STOP!!!! (They’re all stampeding past, I have lost control of this huge crowd!)

There are all kinds of people, young, old, clever,  stupid,(frank ly), humble, arrogant, educated, ignorant, poor and wealthy, healthy and ill…all running, stumbling, even crawling past the gates! I’m just going to ask a few stragglers for their form. BBS!

Well, I did say listen but they obviously haven’t listened. I have completely unacceptable categories here. Look at this one! It beggars belief; 

Stole money from my Dad, and these..




Worked so full time I couldn’t love my family, go to Church, care for others who needed my love,

Felt fear / doubt / distrust  (eh?)

Let it decide my future ( under the guise of a better name..discretion / prudence)

Obeyed the law of the land and disowned the Truth


Looked with lust.

I don’t know what to do with these! These are not the categories I am familiar with. God, have you got a plan for these? These are not what the Gospel alone can handle is it?

It can!! Really? If I need it for THIS, is it still true?

Prove it!!

No, You have to prove it.