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Updated: Mar 18


Ophelia by John Everett Millais (1851–52)

Oil on canvas

I can’t remember what home looks like anymore. When I think of my pod, their faces are blurred. My memories are vacant or wandering away. I’m not quite sure anymore. I wonder if you have plucked them from my head. I wonder if you keep all precious memories in jars or if you just keep mine.

All I see are gaunt faces, pressing up at the glass, looking inside. You all gaze with such wonder when you behold me. Your eyes glimmer beneath the lamp light. Your jaws hang agape and blunt teeth catch the light. I wonder, if I am so beautiful, why will you not set me free?

Before the glass and the filter on the edge of the tank, I recall watching the world from behind a rock - waiting for the breakfast minnows to gather. My fingernails were toothpicks and I’d snatch them up as morning bites. I’d go for the bigger fishes later. The Rudds. The Rudds with large plump bellies and eyeballs like jellies. Though I’ve learned your sort of fishing is different to mine. Instead of fingernails, you use nets, lines, and hooks. There is still a hook left inside one of my fins, lodged firmly and unwilling to sever from my skin. Your metal is a part of me.

This tank, this tomb, is small. There is no room to swim. I lay on the tiles and try to pretend it is the soft mud and stone of the riverbed. I imagine shy weeds brushing my arms as currents rush by. I miss the river currents and the taste of fresh Rudd lining my teeth. I miss using their bones to pluck rogue scales from between my pointed teeth. I miss fishing myself, because now I simply catch the dead ones you throw to me. There is very little challenge in that. They descend, blood gushing from their mouths, limp and broken. When they land between my fingers, I watch them, counting the remaining bones inside. One bone. Two bone. Three bone. I’m scared if I accept the fish you feed me, you will think I am yours forever, but my face is becoming gaunt. I see it in the reflection. I look like one of you.

I’ve noticed, in these meetings of ours, one of the differences between you and I is our teeth. Yours are blunt and white, fit only for nibbling on weeds and shrubs, whereas mine are blades. Our skin holds no resemblance either. Mine is armour. Scales piled one on top the other.

Thick and sturdy. Yours would only take a slight cut in the right place to drain you of your blood. Stop that heart beating. Beating. Beating. But then I’d die here. I’d never see the river again. I’d rot in this tank, like the fishes you feed me. Someone else would count my bones. One bone. Two bone. Three bone.

Each morning, you take me to the table. The world beyond the water is a vacuum. My gills contract. I reach for them. Claw at them. Hold them. My insides pulse and I wonder if the pain will ever end. You look down at me, smiling with those teeth of yours – the blunt ones. I’ve realised the more you bring me from the water, the easier it is to breathe. You’ve realised this too. That is why your smile grows – teeth jumbled in your gums. You are animal, just like me. I wonder if I am turning human. I wonder if that is what you always wanted – for me to sprout legs and walk and breathe amongst you all. You stroke my head with your fingertips. They are dry and coarse with labyrinth lines weaving patterns. Your words are whispers, caressing my cheeks in breaths in and out. You tell me I am your greatest discovery, and I decide that you’ve not seen much of the world and all the beauty it harbours. You are a spec and our rivers and oceans are infinite. They will eat you alive.

The strap you use to hold me down - you call it leather. ​Sweet leather with the musky smell. I slide my tongue across it when I am hungry. It smells like meat but tastes rotten. I need Rudd. Or Human. Something with bones that crack and splinter. Something that struggles.

The first time you took me to the table, I fought back, flailing and slithering, but the leather held me down. I don’t know how long it’s been, but I’ve stopped fighting. I am still, like a dead thing, trying to breathe in your human air.

You told me I was ready for what you’d planned next – we’re going to change the world – that is what you keep saying. You put something inside of me and told me it might grow. You said I would be a mother, only I don’t know what mother means. I wonder if this is how you treat the women your kind. I wonder if you hunt them the way you hunt us. I wonder if you do with them what you like. Are they just bodies like we are?

When I return to the water, I think I will take you with me. I will bury you in the riverbed’s fauna and wait for you to ferment in nature’s embrace. I wonder if you will taste like splendour or like carcass. I hope, after all we’ve been through together, your aftertaste will complement the first bite of Rudd I take.

In my arms, I will make sure you die. Nature will endure without us and all of your clever ideas will die. The world will turn. Our bones will be counted. One bone. Two bone. Three bone. And one day, all traces of us will return to the water.

Not long now. This tank can’t keep me forever. It’s such a pity we’ve made such monsters of ourselves. We will make it to the river. Hooking a line through your big toe, I will carry you around with me. Drifting behind, you will meet my friends and I will whisper that you are my greatest discovery – as though this great bond we share is beautiful.

Words by Lucy Rose

Image: Tate Britain, London


Lucy Rose is a writer/Director of Gothic Horror Cinema & Literary Fiction


For more information:

https://linktr.ee/lucyrosecreative


Link here to Lucy's awarding winning short film, :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlAQGOcVa6Y&ab_channel=ALTER


If you enjoyed this story and would like to hear other stories about motherhood from our many wonderful contributors, just sign up to our mailing list below and follow us on social media platforms (links below). We'd really love to hear from you if you have a story, poem, event or artwork that you'd be happy to share with our community. We're always looking for new stories and would love to include yours. Love Cheryl and Lyndsey x

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Updated: Jun 28, 2021



“So, what do you do for a living?” Oh, how I dread that question. No string of words makes me more nervous, other than possibly “would you like to check your balance?”. It is the curse of almost a decade of being a stay-at-home mummy. It’s never enough

of an answer. It is literally what filled my days, every task, every thought, every timetable was built around it and yet when someone asked me what I did for a living I would find myself shifting and stumbling over the words “I em, well I have kids so like, you know um, but a bit of writing and uh yeah so”, very eloquent. I was so jealous of people who had a clear-cut answer. Either mums with the ability to announce proudly “I’m a mum” and leave it at that, or people who said I’m a nurse, I work at this place, I’m a librarian, whatever it was! That confidence in their identity. It has taken me literally years to have that confidence and the irony of it all, as soon as I master a good, clear “I’m a stay-at-home mum and pretty damn good at it!”, I decide to go back to work.

A house move and the luxury of a bit more space sparked the idea I could work for myself, the free time and change in the way everyone was working due to a global pandemic weirdly made it seem more possible than ever. That’s all it takes, a global pandemic apparently and I’m straight back to work! Cherry Tree Cottage is the name of my house, and my business. The business reflects the lifestyle change this house has brought to me. I have this amazing opportunity to grow my own herbs and flowers, to indulge the part of me that wants to stick wellies on and own chickens and fulfil some good life fantasy from my youth.


So, I’ve started. I’ve started small, just an Instagram page and word of mouth. It means I can make to order and concentrate on making beautiful items without a massive supply outlay. I make candles, wax melts, occasionally soaps, and small handmade gifts. All hand poured, naturally scented, made with soy wax and sustainably packaged.




So, I did it. I made the leap, I have an answer and conversation topics other than the age and eating habits of my tiny people. I no longer need to sit through being told “oh a mummy! Sure that’s the hardest job in the world!” While their eyes scan for someone else to talk to. And yet! Here we are again, the crisis of confidence, I got asked what I did for a living and I jumped. Yes! This is it! And what came out? “Well, it’s just this thing I’m doing, it’s kind of like candles and home-made stuff. It’s really not a big deal, I’m sure nothing will come of it but hey it’s fun!”. Endless ramblings peppered with downplaying what I do, and also never actually saying what it is. What exactly is wrong with me! Why do I keep excusing myself? I don’t think I’m alone in this, maybe it’s a Northern Irish trait, playing down success or ambition. I suspect it’s more than that, I know countless women who follow any praise or successful moment with ‘ach it was nothing’ or ‘yeah but I..’

The instinct to tear ourselves down before others do, to make sure we aren’t painted as being too full of ourselves, or bitches or self-involved. It’s hard to fight. It’s unlearning decades of making ourselves smaller, more approachable. Not yet getting used to having positive, unapologetically powerful female role models. But I have an opportunity in print here so, I’ve decided to try again. I run a business making my very own things, I am a mother to two gorgeous children, I put effort into these things and that’s it. That’s enough.

We used to be told as children to watch our words, I’m telling you the same as an adult. If someone compliments you, just say thank you, they aren’t asking for other things you’re not so great at. If you work hard at something, that’s your story, be proud of it. If something doesn’t work out, it’s not a failure, it’s a lesson for the next attempt, it’s ok to be happy for yourself! It’s also ok to wander, to not have a straight answer just yet, if ever. Don’t panic.


So, that’s me, what do you do for a living?




Amy is the founder and owner of Cherry Tree Cottage, you can contact Amy here for more information on her bespoke service or products.


All words and images by Amy McGreevy



If you enjoyed this story and would like to hear other stories about motherhood from our many wonderful contributors, just sign up to our mailing list below and follow us on social media platforms (links also below). We'd really love to hear from you if you have a story, poem, event or artwork that you would like to share with our community. We're always looking for new stories and would love to include yours.

Love Cheryl and Lyndsey

x

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Shiela The Elephant became a familiar sight on the Whitewell Road in North Belfast as Zookeeper Denise Austin brought her home to protect her during the Belfast Blitz in 1941. She's perhaps Northern Ireland's most infamous elephant. Copyright Belfast Zoo.



This pandemic has been like one very long pregnancy. Not convinced by my analogy? Let me compare my first pregnancy with the first wave of the pandemic.


September 1989

Newly graduated I’m working unpaid with a local community theatre group. I’m feeling slightly unwell. Nausea, tired, sore breasts, periods stopped. I explain these unheard-of random symptoms to my GP.

“Is it possible you’re pregnant?” he asks. I shake my head

“No, absolutely not. Impossible,” is my instant reply

I’ve moved to South Belfast with my partner.

“So, you haven’t had sex? You’re not in a relationship?”

Yes, I had and yes, I was, but the thought had never entered my head. Even with the suddenly embarrassingly obvious text book symptoms. It seemed my brain was in deep denial. He ordered a test. What if I am pregnant? How will it affect our life?


January 2020

Empty Nesters, we moved to South Belfast a year ago. News filters through from China about a new virus. Countries start to shut their borders. Our government does nothing. They seem to be in denial. Perhaps it will never happen here, I think, and if it does will it really affect our life?


1st Trimester 1989

I’m pregnant. I can’t believe this is happening; my partner is excited. I start reading every pregnancy and baby book in the Ormeau library. We need to prepare for this. I start making lists.


February 2020

The Coronavirus is here. I can’t believe this is happening; my partner is excited. We start watching every news bulletin, reading every report. We need to prepare for this. I start making lists.


2nd Trimester 1989/1990

Time to start shopping, spread the costs. Other parents advise us that the most essential item is a washing machine. Babies are messy. Moses basket? Changing table? Pram? They can sleep in a drawer; you can change nappies on the floor and carry them in a sling. But they will wear several changes of clothes a day. And nappies, apparently babies go through a lot of nappies.


March 2020

Talk of a Lockdown. Time to do a big Tesco shop and stock up on pasta and tins of tomatoes. There are no loo rolls in any shop. Apparently, people in pandemics go through a lot of loo rolls.


3rd Trimester 1990

“Morning” sickness has gone. This pregnancy lark is actually quite fun. The gift of time. I’ll start an exercise class. I get sciatica and can’t move. I’ll learn a language. Why? It’s not as if we will ever be able to afford to travel with a baby. I’ll read ‘War and Peace’. My pregnancy brain kicks in so I can’t concentrate on anything, except Neighbours, EastEnders and Dallas. I can’t even have a drink at the pub. I start eating strange combinations of food. Toast burnt black with garlic pickle and peanut butter. I drink Ribena, which I hate, by the gallon.

None of my clothes fit, even the maternity clothes. Elasticated waists are my friend.

I can’t sleep, and when I do I have the weirdest dreams. How can I feel so tired when all I’ve been doing is sitting on the couch? My emotions are all over the place. Crying at sentimental adverts or at nothing. The phone calls start from friends and family I haven’t heard from in years. “Yes, I’m fine. Not doing much. Good days and bad days.”


April 2020 to March 2021

This lockdown is actually quite fun at first. The gift of time. I’ll start an online exercise class. There isn’t room to stand in front of the telly in our living room, let alone do jumping jacks. I could learn a language. What’s the point? It’s not as if we are ever likely to travel again. Maybe I’ll finally read ‘War and Peace,’ but find I can’t concentrate on anything. However, we do watch all 110 episodes of the original ‘Charlie’s Angels’. We can’t even go out to the pub for a drink. To avoid going to the shops we start eating strange food combinations of unloved tins from the back of the cupboard and mystery meat from the bottom of the freezer.

Then one day my jeans won’t do up. A combination of lack of exercise and my partner’s new baking hobby has piled on the pounds. Nightwear becomes daywear. Elasticated waists are my friend.

I can’t sleep, and when I do I have the weirdest dreams. How can I feel so tired when all I’ve been doing is sitting on the couch? My emotions are all over the place. Crying at a child’s picture of a rainbow or at nothing. The phone calls start from friends and family I haven’t heard from in years. “Yes, I’m fine. Not doing much. Good days and bad days.”



And I wait and wait and wait. Counting the days, weeks, months. I am fed up, fat, bored, aching, sleep deprived and I just want this to be over!


Words by Louise Lynch

Images by unknown. Copyright Belfast Zoo.

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