Morning all

It’s 5am on June 19th 2021… there’s nothing more beautiful than a still garden after dawn. The roses are resting like stone angels on a gravestone – not a petal or a wing stirring. It’s as if the world has stopped turning.

The sweetest thing has happened. Our neighbours, Sue and Dave, have planted a bed in front of their bungalow with wild flowers – and called it ‘Leigh’s garden’. The bees love it. So do I.

Tomorrow we shall plant a hawthorn tree for Ria near Indian’s Head in Dovestone , close to Dom’s rowan tree. Her friends will come…Maria, who still sees her sitting on the stairs; Kaz, the wise one who loves to walk and who had a midwife for a mum; Janet the carer, who can clean a house like a dose of salts – pretty in pink; Mel the music-maker, with a smile to die for; Deli of Mel, lover, mother and health worker and Claire, colleague and loving playmate for Ria, who has cared for Cal and Mudge the cat, til both moved on.

And from the family she loved. Marcus and Catherine, beloved son and daughter-in-law who thanked us for planting the tree; treasured son Calum, self-isolating as housemate has covid, will be thinking of us; Chris brother and Susan, sister-in-law will come from Hebden – the second planting for them; Kev, sweet cousin, will come from Sheffield no matter what restrictions try to stop him; Nell, sister will be with us, timid and watchful; Hinnie, sister, with thoughts too deep for words and Raja, neighbour in Mossley and constant friend to us all. David, Ria’s hairdresser, can’t be there for work commitments – but has sent rose quartz crystals for her and will marry Shaun on June 28th. Another postponed wedding, which was to be celebrated in Dovestone last year, but now a quiet homely, family do. What a special place Dovestone is…
John will be with me to help me up the hill, as he has done for nearly forty years.

Then, on Sunday 21st june, it will be Father’s Day.

Sweet Pea

On May 10th, 2021, I was sitting in the waiting room at  the Christie, waiting for my scan at 7.30 am. The lemon drink rested on the table in front of me amidst the socially-distanced seating arrangements. Nobody speaking, only the early morning breakfast show on tv at the far end of the room.
A few other people waiting.

Behind me, I heard a nurse speak to someone…”Just follow me, Sweet Pea…” as she led the patient across the room. My senses jerked alert. I have never heard anyone use that name, other than me. And there you were Ria, not socially-distanced, sitting beside me, smiling.

Proverbs of Hell

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plow.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measured by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can measure.
All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.
Bring out number, weight and measure in a year of dearth.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
A dead body revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.,
If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.
Folly is the cloke of knavery.
Shame is Pride’s cloke. (!!)
Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion.

William Blake

Dear Ria,

Well, it’s early spring – signs of life all around. I haven’t heard the blackbird yet, but when I sleep I’m deaf as a post, as you know, without my hearing aids in – so I’m unlikely to hear that song early in the morning. But evening is another matter and I went outdoors at dusk last evening just in case the blackbird was singing. We have a pair in the garden. they visit for mealworms every day and I watch them on the crocus pots on the front wall, because my desk is in front of the window now. It’s a lovely spot – I wouldn’t swap it, even for a meadow view.

Yesterday I bought some Morning Glory seeds, amongst others, and I’ll sow them for you today. I have your little seed tool and plenty of small pots. I can use the windowsill in the back bedroom because it gets lots of sun. I miss you so much. I love you so much.

Ali sent me a page of Dom’s writing yesterday… his copying out of writing he loved. This was William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell. Very timely under the present world circumstances. I’ll copy it out for you. Kiss Dom’s cheek for me and tell him I’m waiting to see Shivvy in a series being filmed in Liverpool now called ‘Time’. She’s with Stephen Graham and Sean Bean, so someone’s got it right. Willie Russell I think.

Bye for now Sweet Pea. xx

Estelle Aline Stawman

My Dearest Myles,
Something I want you to know is how precious to me your friendship with Dom has been. In my mind, it made him safe and not alone. That proved to be so true in time, as I learned how he trusted you implicitly.

It was through that loving friendship that I met Estelle Aline and I think she felt the same about Dom’s friendship with you. Although we only met fleetingly several times, I knew and heard how much Dom loved and respected Estelle and how he enjoyed her company. It was a deep comfort to me that Estelle so loved Dom.

As mothers, we have watched each other recognise the beautiful qualities we love so much in our respective sons.

As women, I don’t think motherhood has been the central role in our lives, but we have been players – and Estelle Aline was an original woman of great curiosity and integrity. I know very little of her younger days, but I feel we have shared similar experiences and beliefs. Something to do with our post-war, northern generation and education? I have thought of Estelle Aline so much over the past weeks – and I will always hold her close.

I don’t know Felix, but how she must have loved him! What a photograph!

I love you dearly,
Leigh x

Eric and Ella

Eric and Ella will come today,
Bringing backpacks and smiles
winging into this room
and filling each corner
with love and play.

The boy and the girl will
lift spirits and see all
the small things that matter
in waiting and longing
and dreaming and tea.

The doorbell will ring
so they’ll jump to their feet
and race to see who’s
knocking lockdown
and come here to meet.

Baby birds in my head
huddled close in their nest –
sensing feathers arriving
beaks stir from their rest
and open in trust, to greet and to eat.

Leigh Cook

Blessings of Lockdown

One good thing to come out of Lockdown experiences is the way it focuses the mind on small things…usually moments of experience which alight on me like a snowflake or a blessing.

When my daughter quietly sits a cup of tea next to me as I’m knitting…

When my daughter, who I haven’t hugged for ages, stands back to let me hug her children…

When my son-in-law sends me a picture of my daughter and the bairns out walking in the fresh air…

When I can listen to Holst’s ‘Venus’ and hear the last two notes…

When the bin men wave to me in the morning…

When someone trusts me enough to share their sadness with me…

When I have a text from my nephews and nieces saying they love me…

When my sons, who know how to make me smile, make me smile…

When, in the dark morning, where I can hear nothing without my hearing aids, I lie in bed and watch my husband give me his good morning wave…

When I open a card and see love from someone who has bothered to write…

When I hear starlings whistle in the supermarket trolley park…

When my daughter’s shamrock plant begins to throw up new shoots…

When I see the blackbird on the lawn…

When the bulbs I planted start to shoot upwards in the garden…

When the camellia buds tell me winter doesn’t worry them…

When neighbours wave as they pass…

When my fingers ache as if I’ve been building a snowman…

When I can go to a website and feel closer to my family…

When I see Fr. Phil minister Mass on his own…

December 9th 2020


I remember in the kitchen
How you wouldn’t let me help
But I set the table with its little cloth
And made my porridge in the evening.
I learned of kitchen roll in cupboards
And leaving it around the kitchen
To wipe up spills and tears.

I remember footfall to London
On those bitter mornings
Holding each other up on ice
Then quiet sighs when the train was in.
Sitting together and whispering
Til Blackfriars and the river’s
Cold wind made the eyes weep.

I remember your Sheffield smile
Shining across the room at me
And the hugs we shared, eager
To sit and chew the news while
The men brought drinks and journey talk.
Walking together into the city
Umbrellas hiding the crying sky.

I remember how it was…
Your smile opened the door
Your smile made the coffee
Your smile snuggled into your chair
And your smile said good morning.
Your smile gave me flowers
And frowned ‘Take care of yourself.’

I remember the hospital
How much at home you were
Drinking our cappuccinos or
Watching at the bedside and
How hard it was to leave and
Find our way back through Chelsea
Freezing in St. Albans for the bus.

Watching our children grow
Watching fields fill with snow
Watching Coronation Street
And watching you fall ill.
Ella shouting at my laptop
Cos you were far away
But near enough to answer her.

The sacred moment when I kissed her
Whispering my thanks…
My sister.

Eileen Walke
27. 10. 2020