Work in Progress

Lost Children

Lost Children is a memoir about childlessness.

At 65, I’m sometimes still surprised that I never had children, especially as I wanted them from a very early age.  

There were practical problems – my endometriosis took forever to diagnose; I got divorced at thirty and was single when my fertility was at its last gasp; I absorbed the capitalist messages of the 80’s and put my career first. Those are the kinds of explanations I give when people ask.

Children's drawings on a wall

But there’s something inadequate about them. We like to think we have choice in our lives. But there are things we can’t control too. There are deeper, truer reasons why my life unfolded as it did – for example being born into a family haunted by early deaths and miscarriages – and it’s these reasons I explore in Lost Children.   

I’m delighted to say that the first chapters of the book were long listed for the Plaza Prizes in April 2023.

Here’s an extract:

We sit, the man and me, with his gold rimmed specs and his green leather-topped desk between us. The bar charts and graphs caged by his computer screen have done their work, acquainting me with the reality from which I’m still reeling. They’ve given him ammunition for his next move.

It’s the early nineties. The room, a sliver from a large garage, looks out through a grey Venetian blind onto a white gravel courtyard with a sculpture, a Henry Moore-esque jumble of stone curves that could be a pregnant woman. What might or might not be her baby bump is touched by the last rays of the August sun.

The man leans forward. His hair has receded but he’s hirsute elsewhere: his cropped white beard is extensive, disappearing into his shirt collar, joining his cropped white hair via cropped white sideburns. He has all the vigour of a man who doesn’t suffer from self doubt. Enviable. His backdrop is a flaky pastry of children’s drawings, of homes and circular yellow suns, of families with tiny bodies and huge heads, of happiness.

He looks me in the eye. ‘I can make you pregnant,’ he says.

‘What, now?’ I manage not to say. But his way of putting it makes my gaze flicker involuntarily all over him like a creature assessing its next meal. It has made me remember that I don’t go for curated types, men who plump their tie ever so slightly under their maroon V-necked jumpers; made me think not for the first time that my life would probably go better if I did.

All this, in a split second. I look away, ashamed of my thoughts, hoping he can’t read them.

I let out a long breath. This is all part of the theatre of Artificial Insemination by Donor, I suppose. But I’m glad he saved his change of manner till now. The internal examination was uncomfortable enough, for being conducted in a lonely home office rather than a proper doctor’s surgery with a receptionist and patients outside in the waiting room. Wincing while he delved, I imagined a scarlet Ferrari convertible with personalised plates on the other side of the plasterboard partition, a few yards from my scarlet face.

I swallow and find a smile. I am not the one calling the shots here. ‘That’s wonderful news.’

Insight Timer

I add to my offering of bedtime stories on Insight Timer every week, contributing narrations both for the free sections and for the Premium section (stories and courses that sit behind a pay wall). I narrate stand alone stories and also books, a couple of chapters at a time. The readings vary in length – anywhere from ten minutes to an hour.

Diary of a Nobody is one of my pet projects: listeners either love or hate it! I’m on safer ground with Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass. I recently recorded the first part of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which seemed risky as there’s a beheading in it. I worried that it might not be appropriate bedtime listening. But it has received good reviews so far! Phew.

You can find out more about the stories I’ve narrated on the Sleep stories page.