Getting COVID off my chest—a testimonial

I’ve been holding back from sharing this because I don’t want to frighten people who are already scared. When you’re infected with a dangerous illness, your best defence in terms of attitude is calm courage. That’s how I’ve dealt with the last eight weeks of my life. However, it’s got to a point where I think I need to say this because I’m despairing of the mentality I’m seeing from a lot of people around me. I have a degree in science and what time I have spent on social media since the lockdown has largely been spent explaining science to people, in some cases because they don’t trust ‘the experts’ but they might trust a scientist they know, especially one who is currently ill with covid. Being a scientist, I’m not given to hysterical headlines but it’s got to a point where I have to speak out, not about the science this time, but about my personal experience in the hope it might contribute to saving some lives. I usually tend not to share everything when I’m dealing with illness, as personally what works for me is creating that calm space within, rather than giving a voice to my fears. This is written, not for those who are already worried, but for those who think covid is not really that bad, it’s less widespread than we’re told, or even that it’s a hoax. Also for those who are more concerned about personal freedom than survival, and those who think they aren’t vulnerable. There seems to be mainly two groups of people protesting the lockdown measures: some of the privileged who have never known any real infringement on their freedom before, and some of the people who have already suffered much at the hands of government policy who see this as the final nail in the coffin of their freedom.

What I want to do here is describe my experience over the last eight weeks, to those who are struggling to come to terms with lockdown, who think that it’s worth risking their lives, or those of other people, because they haven’t personally experienced or witnessed the reality of covid. My experience has not been an extreme one, relatively speaking. I’ve had what would probably be classed as a ‘moderate’ case. Whilst the severe cases are distressing enough to motivate many people, there may be those who think that won’t happen to them, that they’ll have what the official advice calls a ‘mild’ or ‘moderate’ illness. Bear in mind that the ‘severe’ end of this spectrum is in the ICU with pneumonia and lung damage, on oxygen or a ventilator. The mild cases can range from barely aware you are ill to a brief but unpleasant illness similar to seasonal flu. Now we all know that flu is not something you’d usually call a ‘mild’ experience. These descriptions can lull people into a false sense of security. It’s all relative.

WEEK 1 March 9th

I started with a sore throat eight weeks ago, not severe, but relentless, and occasional it would be irritating enough to give me a sharp cough. My throat was visibly red but not noticeably swollen at the time. I’m no stranger to sore throats, having multiple disabilities and having experienced long term chronic illness. I have had thyroid surgery twice. It might sound odd, but a sore throat for me doesn’t necessarily always mean infection. However, as the week went on, I started feeling unusually tired. I found myself going to bed during the day. Still no real fever, or feeling of being really ill. I started getting palpitations. I have a tendency for (harmless) ectopic heartbeats, and one of the reliable triggers for them is when I have any sort of infection, even a cold. These started happening quite frequently but I also noticed I was having SVTs (supraventricular tachycardia). This means, to put it simply, a rapid heartbeat at rest. It was happening in short bursts, maybe just a few times in that week. I had had these previously many years ago, after a severe tooth infection, and they were picked up on an ECG. I was now concerned, as I hadn’t had them at all since then. I began to feel a bit hot, like I had a slight temperature, but not very feverish. It’s a bit hard to tell as I’m perimenopausal, and get night sweats anyway, but the sweats were quite bad that week. Around midweek I had a migraine. Again, this is something I’ve been prone to with the perimenopause anyway. I just get the flashing light patterns in my vision (migraine aura) without the severe headache. The aura was quite vivid. As I felt tired and a bit unwell, and with all the news about covid, I decided to stay at home that week as a precaution, although I had a few visitors, who I warned, and who kept their distance (they are all ok and didn’t get ill from me, thankfully). Bear in mind that my symptoms didn’t fit the descriptions on the NHS website. I was thinking I maybe had a case of pharyngitis, or tonsillitis coming on. After almost a week, I woke up one morning and my sore throat and tiredness was completely gone. I felt my usual self, my usual level of energy etc. I was a bit surprised by the suddenness of the recovery. Infections usually gradually improve, don’t they? This lasted until the following day, when my sore throat came back and I started feeling a bit hot again. In the evening I was standing in the kitchen when abruptly I felt my lungs deflate. I don’t know quite how to describe it. I have mild asthma, and it was like that, but worse and far more sudden. It was like a pressure squeezing my upper lungs, a tight chest, and wheeze, but the feeling of compression was the strangest, and like nothing else I’ve experienced. It was a very strong pressure, like someone sitting on my chest, but not painful. I knew in that moment it was covid, but still I tried to reason my way out of it. I took my inhalers, which helped a little but didn’t completely relieve it, which is unheard of for me. I rang 111 and, to cut a long story short, eventually it was arranged for me to get a callback from a doctor. The callback came at 11pm, by which time I was in bed, with my throat so swollen, and my upper chest so tight I was afraid I might to choke to death if it kept progressing at that pace. I had to really focus on staying calm, and relaxing my throat and breathing. Over the phone the doctor assessed the sound of my breathing and listened to my description, and told me he believed I very probably had covid. I was somewhat stunned, as at that point, it was still mostly in my throat. He said that is how it has been manifesting. He was lovely and reassuring and said, your breathing is ok, you don’t need an ambulance, you’re going to be ok, but of course if it gets worse, call 999. I took an ibuprofen. There hadn’t yet been any warning about doing that and I took it to reduce the swelling in my throat, because if I hadn’t I would have had to call an ambulance. It was that bad. My throat felt very narrow. I didn’t sleep much that night, unsurprisingly.

WEEK 2 March 16th

Over the next week, the feeling of constriction travelled from my throat, down to my upper lungs, then my lower lungs, then gradually back up, but it was not continuous. Attacks would come in sudden waves, then ease off. I developed a more regular hacking cough. I wouldn’t describe it as continuous but I did have it every day. It was a throat cough, harsh and barking, where my throat would briefly close right up and I went dizzy and felty like my eyes were popping and my head expoding. It seemed similar to whooping cough, as far as I can remember. It was all very, very dry and inflamed, nothing to cough up. I had SVTs, and tried to take my pulse but never quite caught them as they were so brief.

WEEK 3 March 23rd

I was having times where I would lie down for hours and concentrate on my breathing and on staying relaxed. I was out of breath lying down, but not so much that I couldn’t speak, more like when you’ve walked up a short hill briskly. Having had asthma for years, I know how to stay calm during breathing difficulties, and as the attacks didn’t get more severe, and I was able to speak and walk around slowly, and wasn’t turning blue, I didn’t phone for an ambulance. It all still felt mostly very dry. I had my inhalers to keep it manageable. I can’t remember at what stage I had a few days of slightly griping guts, but it might have been during this week. Early in week 3 I took my pulse just after a burst of SVTs and it was 106. I knew it had been much faster during the SVT, but even 106 is pretty fast for a resting pulse, and certainly not normal for me. I kept taking my pulse regularly over the next few days and it fluctuated between 73 and 100, the fast pulse coinciding with the episodes of breathing difficulties. Later in the week I had a sudden recurrence of the sore throat, which had previously gone easier, along with an episode where I had a slight drowning feeling in my lungs, and light-headedness, which was pretty scary. I was having coughing fits, still with the throat cough, but although my lungs felt like I needed to cough something up, like there was a cloud in there, it was impossible to cough from the bottom of my lungs. It felt like they were a bit paralysed. At this point I was really having to manage my fear, as I know panic is not conducive to easy breathing. I started hearing slight crackling in my lungs, although there was still no congestion that I could cough up. I was short of breath quite a lot. I phoned 111, knowing that they might say go to hospital. Whilst waiting for the callback, I started packing a bag just in case. It was a strange experience because I could walk and talk, yet it was hard to get myself together and get stuff done. When the doctor heard my breathing on the phone he immediately said, call 999 and go to hospital for a chest X ray and to get tested for covid.

This was 29th March. I phoned 999. I can’t remember how long it took for the ambulance to come, but it wasn’t unduly long. Two paramedics came in the house, and one of them took my blood pressure and pulse, checked my oxygen with an oximeter, and listened to my lungs. My breathing was in an easier phase by that point. He thought my lungs sounded ok and my oxygen was fine, but my blood pressure was 180/106, which is severely high (I don’t normally have high blood pressure) and my pulse was 150. I did point out that my pulse shot up when the ambulance parked up, and we laughed about that, but later in the ambulance, and at hospital, my pulse remained at 100, and my blood pressure didn’t come down. The paramedic gave me a face mask to wear and I kept this on until I came home later that night. I went to the covid A&E department, where again they checked my blood pressure, pulse and oxygen and listened to my lungs. The doctor listened to my detailed description of my symptom progression. I went for an X ray, and they couldn’t see any signs of pneumonia or lung damage. The doctor decided I didn’t need to be admitted. They couldn’t offer me a covid test as they didn’t have enough available, and were only giving them to those ill enough to be admitted to the covid ward. He was confident however that I did have covid, based on my very distinctive symptom pattern. A few days later I checked my medical records and he had diagnosed me with covid. I have it in writing. He said my blood pressure and pulse were the normal response to the virus. I was given a packet of antibiotics, just in case of secondary bacterial infection, and told I could go home, but that I shouldn’t hesitate to come back if necessary because it was still possible it could get worse. They arranged a hospital taxi for me, as I couldn’t risk any family members driving me home with infection risk. Unfortunately there was a mix up over names in ordering the taxi, and ended up sat waiting in A&E for another four hours. This was pretty unpleasant because by then it was the middle of the night, and I was exhausted, but it was also highly distressing because I had plenty of time to unavoidably overhear the experiences of the other covid patients around me in the other bays. At the time I was upset that this wait could have been avoided, but it has certainly given me an insight, which I think is important, and is something I want to share.

In the bay to my left I could hear someone, I think a woman, whose breathing was extremely rapid and very shallow. She was there for almost the whole time I was, and in that time, her breathing didn’t improve. I could actually hear her breathing in the next bay. Not good. She was put on a nebuliser several times, but it seemed to make no difference. There were long periods of time when I could neither hear nor see any staff nearby. This was after I had been seen and discharged, all within an hour of arrival, but unable to leave without transport as I was infectious. This woman was laid there alone, struggling to breathe, for hours, intermittently checked and helped by staff. I could hear staff on the other side of the wall, in another section of the covid A&E, and it was clear they were extremely busy, and I don’t doubt they were doing their best to attend to everyone. When they did appear, they were so compassionate and caring to all patients, and full of apologies for the delay. At one point I overheard a doctor or nurse ask this woman if she had COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder: in other words, a pre-existing long-term lung condition) and I was shocked to hear that she hadn’t. Later in the night her gasps were amplified by her sobs on every laboured breath. It was horrible to listen to her so helpless. I felt helpless, isolated in my bay, and she was sobbing, alone. I wondered if she might die.

In the bay to my right, there were three successive patients in the time I was waiting. In between each patient, two cleaners, wearing masks, apron and gloves, came and cleaned the bay. I was impressed with what I could see of what they did. They removed the curtain and packed it in a plastic bag, then changed apron and gloves to continue cleaning. The entire walls were mopped with bleach using a disposable mop, and the mop head was then unscrewed from the handle and bagged up, without touching it at all. I couldn’t see the rest of their work but it went on for some time. A clean curtain was put up at the end. There was a system of laminate signs pegged to each bay with a red stop sign saying contaminated or a green go sign saying clean and ready to use. The medical staff had similar PPE to the cleaners, most of them wearing masks, aprons and gloves. The doctor I saw had no mask on and one of the nurses had no gloves but washed her hands in front of me. Overall I felt they were protecting patients from cross contamination, but they were not well protected themselves, with bare arms and most had no eye protection. In this bay to the right, the first woman I heard in there was brought in on a trolley, and was being admitted to the ward with pneumonia. The next woman was middle aged and I heard her make a phone call on speaker, to a man, and as she told him her lower lungs were ‘consolidated’ (full of mucous and not able to function) because she had pneumonia and was being admitted, I heard him say, you’re going to be alright aren’t you? To which she replied, I don’t know, and then he started sobbing out loud. She was able to walk around as I saw her walk to the toilet. I also had to use the toilet while I was there, which meant passing quite a lot of staff in close proximity, many of them without masks on. I felt like a leper or a walking bomb. The third woman in that bay was young and I heard her describe her throat closing up, and struggling to breathe and that she’d been like that for a few days. Her pulse was also 100. I think they were going to send her home too. There were other patients coming and going in other bays, but I couldn’t hear what was happening with them. After waiting hours for my taxi I was getting uncomfortable as I was in a plastic chair (they hadn’t expected me to be there long) and overtired and distressed. I daren’t take my mask off for a second, so I hadn’t drunk anything, my throat was dry and sore, and I couldn’t blow my nose. I had coughed violently into my mask, and sprayed the inside of it quite nicely. When I was finally escorted out, by admin staff wearing no PPE at all, I again I had to pass all the unmasked medical staff in the corridor and reception desk area. The ward was locked and the woman had to press a button to let me out into a foyer where the taxi driver waited, wearing a mask. When I got home I took off all my clothes and mask in the front porch, bagged up everything that had been to hospital with me, and got straight in the bath. It was after 3am. I may have already been infected but I didn’t want to increase my viral load, or bring more infection into the house.

WEEK 4 March 30th

By Friday of the fourth week I was feeling like I was starting to recover. I still had a slight wheeze, and a pulse of 95. I told people I was nearly better. By Sunday my pulse was back to normal.

WEEK 5 April 6th

I haven’t noted anything in my diary for the first half of that week, expect for a normal pulse, varying between 66 and 76. On 9th March my sore throat came back, along with slight breathing difficulties. It’s like your lungs are a dishcloth being squeezed. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it comes on very suddenly. I now understand why people were dropping dead in the street in Wuhan. You think you’re fine, then suddenly you’re really not. I was occasionally coughing again and having a few SVTs. My resting pulse was 84.

WEEK 6 April 13th

My pulse came back down to normal again for a couple of days and I was relatively ok. Then on the 17th I had an occasional sore throat again and felt a little tight-chested. I had very occasional SVTs. By this time, I was getting a bit fed up with being ill. I still had a tight chest the next day.

WEEK 7 April 20th

On 20th April I had a sudden attack of wheezing and being tight-chested, a little worse than the last attack. I had a sore throat again and felt like I had a slight fever. I was having SVTs again and my pulse was 80. The following day I felt like I had a blazing head cold, sneezing etc. This was the second time since getting covid that I’d had a day of feeling like this. I didn’t note down what date I previously felt I had a blazing cold, but it was a similar pattern, happening after a phase of breathing problems, possibly around week 3. I’d been isolating from people this whole time, so not sure if this was an actual cold, or part of, or a reaction to, the covid. I felt very tired. The day after that I was feeling a bit breathless. By 25th April I had acquired a blood pressure monitor. That day it was 128/77 which is fine. I then felt relatively ok for a few days.

WEEK 8 April 27th

On the Tuesday I had an attack of SVTs and ectopic heartbeats and felt breathless in my lower lungs. I was very tired that day. I wrote in my diary that the crackling in my lungs had been ongoing for days and was most noticeable when lying down. On 29th April I took my blood pressure in the morning and it was fairly ok at 136/81 (top reading slightly high but not concerning). In the evening my lower lungs felt tight and I had a sore throat again. I was having SVTs so took a few BP readings which were 160/89, 164/88 and 160/84. All mild to moderate high blood pressure. My pulse readings went no higher than 84. The next day I was still having breathing difficulties and my BP was 149/85 pulse 94 and irregular. I took my blood pressure and pulse quite frequently over the next few days and it fluctuated up and down, with the rises either a few hours before, or at the same time as the attacks of breathlessness. On 1st May my throat felt sore and inflamed, and I felt the inflammation was also in my lungs. I was wheezing but strangely my breathing felt a bit easier. This felt more familiar, like a regular throat and chest infection, instead of the squeezing breathlessness and weak lungs of before. On 3rd May I was feeling tight-chested, having difficulty breathing, and the throat cough was back after weeks without it. My lungs were still crackling. BP 153/90 mildly high.

WEEK 9 May 4th

Today is 4th May and I’m feeling relatively ok, sat here with my lungs crackling gently. I acquired a cheap oximeter a few days ago and my oxygen appears to be fine. I still feel my lungs are not at full capacity. Getting up and moving around can trigger sudden wheezing. Sometimes I can go for a walk or do housework without much difficulty. Other days I have to keep stopping to breathe. I feel I’ve lost strength and fitness. My heart and cardiovascular system is under strain. I’m 48, and not officially in a highly vulnerable group. Through the whole of this, it’s been difficult to be focused, or work. My brain has been foggy and my usual high creativity has gone out the window. This is the first day I’ve been able to sit for this long and write. I’ve been writing for five hours solid. 4,320 words. If you’ve read this far, thank you for persevering. I hope it helps someone somewhere not to make a dangerous choice. I had to get this all off my chest, both metaphorically, and literally. I am feeling fearful this is going to cause permanent damage, or that I will have a chronic infection. I’m trying to keep those thoughts out of my head. I’ve no idea if I’m infectious. I know the official advice is that I’m unlikely to be, but given that I keep having random returns of the fever, who really knows for sure? I’ve lost count of the nights I’ve lain awake because I was struggling to breathe. I keep saying I’ll ring 111 tomorrow if I’m not better, but overall, I am progressively getting very slowly better, with good days and bad days. I don’t know what they could do for me, other than another chest X ray, and given that my lungs don’t feel any worse than the day I did have an X ray, I doubt they would find anything. Still, I may ring them just to check, and so it’s on my medical records that I’m still not better. Because the symptoms can come and go so dramatically and abruptly, I don’t feel entirely confident I can say I’m ‘getting better’ until I’ve actually been fully better for several weeks. Nine weeks ill and counting. Don’t be complacent. I sympathise that lockdown is frustrating, or even desperately despair inducing, but I don’t want you to be the one lying in A&E alone, gasping, or sobbing on the phone as your relative says they have double pneumonia, or to end up like me, incapacitated for nine weeks and not knowing if and when I’ll be better. Every time I see a social media post suggesting this is all over-the-top, or a hoax, I feel sick to my stomach. Be careful. This is real. It makes me want to cry for fear of you struggling to breathe, alone, with no one to hold your hand. That’s the reality. This lockdown is hard, but for many of us, getting covid is far, far worse. Trust me on this. Stay safe. Please.

Love to you all.

Parental Authority

Parental authority is not about having power over your child. It is not about establishing dominance, expecting them to forever look up to you, to never challenge you. Real parental authority is being an unshakeable rock. When they rage against you, hurt you, ignore you, when they release all their growing pains all over you, you don’t crumble, because your sense of self is not rooted in their approval. But theirs is rooted in you, for now. So you are their rock. You don’t need to take your sledgehammer to every little nut they throw at you. When they see all your faults and inconsistencies you don’t need to build a wall of denial, because you are a rock, and we all have some cracks. Denial is to gaslight your own kids. They can see you, sometimes more than you can see yourself. That is their gift to you. Don’t throw it away. Whatever unhealed wounds they open, remember they didn’t make those wounds in you. They just brought them to your attention. It’s up to you to mend yourself.

Rise! Spoken Word at The Bureau, Blackburn

I’m very excited to be curating Rise! a series of spoken word events and workshops over the next few months at The Bureau Centre for the Arts in Blackburn, including opportunities to hear amazing and inspiring spoken word artists, take part in workshops, and even have a go at performing your own poetry! We’re kicking off the events on National Poetry Day with a spoken word night hosted by myself and featuring no less than three very talented poets—our headliner, the award-winning Rose Condo, and featured poets Roz Weaver and Gerry Clarkson aka Guerilla Lips.

Plus we have open micers reading their own poetry. You can book to take part (places are filling up fast!) and this includes free entry to the event (see details below) or book a ticket to come and support Blackburn’s brave creatives, as well as hear some incredible talent!

Click on this link to buy tickets via ticketsource

Rose Condo

Rose Condo is an award-winning Canadian Spoken Word Artist living in the UK. A multiple slam champion, she has performed at spoken word nights and festivals throughout the UK and internationally since 2013. Her latest show, ‘The Empathy Experiment’ won Best Spoken Word Show at the 2019 Greater Manchester Fringe and is on tour in 2020. For more info visit http://www.rosecondo.net

Roz Weaver

Roz Weaver is a spoken word performer and internationally published poet living in West Yorkshire, England. She has been published in a number of journals, zines and anthologies, including most recently with One Hundred Memories, Poetica Review and Token Magazine. Her work has been on exhibit at London Design Festival and performed at Leeds International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She is a recurring guest editor for Printed Words Journal.

Gerry Clarkson (Guerrilla Lips)

A graduate in International Journalism, Gerry describes himself as a grass roots poet with an introspective global perspective, who delivers “searing” bullets of truth with an often brutal, but always beautiful honesty. Of mixed African/Caribbean heritage, Gerry grew up on a suburban council estate in Liverpool, which has influenced his writing. His work covers topics such as race and ethnicity, gender and perceptions of masculinity as well as exploring issues influencing our current social and political climate from a very personal perspective.

Wigan poet George Melling described Gerry as, “An exciting new breed of poet who will raise you to the rafters then slowly bring you back down to earth before delivering his coup-de-grace.” And claimed he was left “shaking” after attending one of his performances.

Janey Colbourne

Janey Colbourne is a spoken word performer who grew up in Blackburn, and has been a regular at the Bureau’s Artspace open mic. She was recently a featured performer at Wigan Diggers’ Festival, Truth to Power Cafe, We Shall Overcome, That’s What She Said, and King St Festival, Manchester. Janey is a regular contributor writer for Earth Pathways Diary, and has a poem published in the anthology Peterloo Poems by Manchester People. Janey sees spoken word as a means to connect and empower communities, whilst also having fun.

Plus poetry open mic slots of five minutes each (Advance booking recommended as places are limited. When slots are full a place on the reserve list will be offered. Please email janeycolbournepoet@gmail.com to book)

Please note this is specifically a spoken word poetry night, intended for people to share their own original work. All styles of poetry welcome, but we can’t cater for musicians at this event, sorry.

The spoken word nights will be generally suitable for age 16+ but beyond that, all ages and cultures are welcome, and the venue is accessible for the disabled. We’d love to see a diversity of folk, sharing a diversity of work, keeping in mind to be respectful of others (hate speech is not acceptable).

Tickets £5 and £3 concessions Click here to buy via ticketsource

Rose Condo’s photo by Charles Leek

Who has power over you?

 

In the summer I had the opportunity to be a participant in the Truth to Power Cafe at Hebden Bridge Trades Club. The original event was not filmed, so here is a video I recorded of my poem Testimony, which I wrote and performed in response to this question posed by London Artists Project, the creators of Truth to Power Cafe, ‘Who has power over you, and what do you want to say to them?’ It’s a very cathartic and personally empowering experience to answer this question. The participants all answered the question from their own perspective and experience, which made for a very interesting, varied and heartwarming event. Whether or not you are a writer or performer, if you are feeling frustrated and disempowered, you may find it therapeutic to have a go at answering this question for yourself. It can be a way of releasing anger and despair, reflecting on your situation, and finding a way to move forward with hope. If nothing else, venting in a nonviolent and creative way enables us to let go of some negative emotions, which helps to free up our energy. London Artists Project are very clear that hate speech is not acceptable. Even when we are writing in rage, it’s important to keep our humanity and intent to create a better world for all. We can raise up ourselves and each other, without putting others down in a destructive way.  In her book ‘Dreaming the Dark’, Starhawk describes the difference between what she calls ‘power-from-within’ and ‘power-over’. The first is a healthy form of power, building our inner strength by working on ourselves, and the second is destructive and unhealthy. Power-from-within takes work but is nourishing to self and others. Power-over is a form of violence sadly too common in this world, which requires constant battling to be maintained, and which does not ultimately satisfy those who practise it, so that, like any addiction, their desire for it becomes insatiable as they keep on trying to fill a need by the wrong means. It is possible to be strong and powerful without needing to dominate and control others. Part of finding our power-from-within is increasing awareness of power dynamics. How can we feel more in charge of our own lives? As well as realising where we are failing to act consciously, we may discover we are feeling controlled by others. It is a lifetime’s work to free ourselves, and in some situations we may always have limited freedom, but within that we can still find a freedom to act with integrity in accordance with our values. Even if our words do not bring instant external change, we feel an inner shift of energy and perspective, and a strengthening of purpose. We also find solidarity with other who feel the same. I surprised myself as I wrote my poem, in finding a sense of sorrow towards those who hold power over my life—not sorrow for myself, but for them, in their ever unsatisfied need to be so grasping. In this process we are transforming ourselves, finding our voices of power-from-within by speaking our truth to those who hold power-over us. This is what it means to speak truth to power.

©️Janey Colbourne 2019

Earth Pathways Diary 2020 and poetry booklets for sale

For the last few years I have been honoured to be a contributing writer to Earth Pathways Diary. The 2020 edition includes one of my poems, overlaid against Lucy Pearce’s beautiful ammonite spiral art. This diary is, every year, such a gorgeous piece of work I have kept every single copy I have owned, and I guarantee you will want to do the same. As well as being a very useful, practical diary, with a weekly view per page, plus a calendar at the back, and including detailed phases of the moon and other astrological information, it is brimming with wise, positive and inspiring words, beautiful artwork and photography, and helpful articles on the seasons and celebrations. It is printed on recycled paper and spiral bound so it is easy to open out flat. As a contributor, I have copies of next year’s diary for sale. The diaries are £14 each plus £3 postage & packing. For two diaries to the same address the postage is £4. If you would like more than two copies to the same address, contact me for a price. They make lovely gifts, and always sell out before the end of the year, so I recommend getting your order in as soon as possible. You can order diaries by using the link below to pay by PayPal. Please confirm your delivery address in the PayPal message box, as I have had issues before with customers who hadn’t realised their addresses were not updated on PayPal. If you have any questions you can contact me via email plantseer@icloud.com

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Earth Pathways are a nonprofit cooperative organisation and they have a Seed Fund, which they use to support ethical small business start ups, so when you buy a diary, you are supporting the contributing artists, writers, ethical small businesses, and environmentally conscious initiatives, such as tree planting, as well the continuation of the diary itself.

I also have a few copies of my own poetry booklet ‘Outspoken Words’ for sale, at £2.50 each plus £1.30 postage & packing. As the title suggests, this is quite a fiery, sometimes fierce, outspoken selection of the poems I perform at spoken word events. If you want to purchase a poetry booklet along with your diary order, I can include them in the same parcel at just the diary postage rate. Please state in the PayPal message which items you are ordering.

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Chimera. A poem about forest fires.

There are a number of mythological beasts in this poem. A chimera is a fire breathing monster, with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent. The word can also be used to refer to something that is imagined, illusory or delusional. Dragons, in their negative aspect, are known for their love of gold, for demanding it relentlessly under threat of murder, for their penchant for breathing fire over the land and people until their will is carried out, and for their intelligence and ability to manipulate people’s minds. The Phoenix is the mythical bird that rises from the ashes.

CHIMERA

rain does not fall in the forest
the clouds are of ash
cities shrouded in toxic fumes
as money and sanity clash

slash and burn turns day into night
for the fires in the amazon rage
the world watches in helpless horror
as we enter a new age

the corruption of corporate rule
no more can we turn a blind eye
to profit bereft of values
as the lungs of the planet die

theft of resources is murder
fat dragons sat hoarding their gold
nature and people divided
as the landlords take lives to be sold

they told us that we were not worthy
hierarchical lies for our chains
living beings must comply for one purpose
as their chattels for private gain

but all lives are interrelated
fates inextricably bound
there is hope for restoring the wasteland
as resistance has grown underground

despair is the breath of chimera
whispering this is the end
yet our power is in persistence
as resolutely we stand to defend

all wars seem devouring and futile
yet the sun always rises at dawn
life shall take root in the bare dust
as the phoenix from ashes is born

©️Janey Colbourne 2019

For those of us who haven’t experienced war, try to imagine the sense of hopelessness and despair in the midst of it. It must be so tempting to give up, and yet life’s will to survive and thrive gives people the greatest courage, determination and endurance. What if those who fought in the Second World War had believed that it was the end of the world, and there was no hope? It must have seemed like it at the time, not knowing the outcome. I imagine the tide of terror was overwhelming. Preceding the war, there were those in allied countries who flirted with fascism, yet in the end, clarity prevailed, people pulled together, they made sacrifices, took care of each other, and believed in freedom and democracy. That is what we need now. The forests are burning, neofascism is being given a platform, and democracy is at stake. We must never give up, for that is when we are lost. Look around at the solidarity, the protests, the actions of the many who want to make a better, fairer world. Stand with those people. Even the smallest actions contribute to a sea change. We must not allow fear and despair to paralyze us. There is hope and power in our actions. There is always hope. In the battle of the mythical beasts, the Phoenix will always win. Nature arises from the wasteland.

©️Janey Colbourne 2019

Working Till You’re Dead

Working Till You’re Dead
(A Pantoum)

Working till you’re dead.
The government said raising the state pension age
up to seventy five years old
will reduce involuntary worklessness.

The government said raising the state pension age,
a boost for the GDP,
will reduce involuntary worklessness,
helping older people. In their eyes,

a boost for the GDP
is an economic policy more important than
helping older people, in their eyes,
the so-called economically inactive.

Is an economic policy more important than
social justice, when
the so-called economically inactive
must be deemed unworthy?

Social justice, when
measured only in money
must be deemed unworthy.
Life is too short to be

measured only in money
up to seventy five years old.
Life is too short to be
working till you’re dead.

©️Janey Colbourne 2019

Click on the link below for The Huffington Post’s article on the recently proposed raise of the state pension age.

Pension Age Should Rise To 75 Says Iain Duncan-Smith’s Think-Tank