Julia’s Diary



Julia died yesterday afternoon at about 4.30pm. As a final word from Julia we all felt that this poem from her book Sudden Collapses in Public Places summed up the scene. Although there hadn’t been rain just a bright blue sky and spring breeze tripping down the Vale.

Eventually, I was placed on a bed like a boat
in an empty room with sky filled windows,
with azure blue pillows, the leopard-like quilt.

It was English tea time, with the kind of light
that electrifies the ordinary. It had just stopped raining.
Beads of water on glass glittered like secrets.

In another room they were baking, mulling wine.
I was warm with cloves, melting butter, demerara,
and wearing your pyjamas.   My felt slippers

waited on the floor. Then the door opened
soundlessly, and I climbed out of bed.
It was like slipping onto the back of a horse,

and the room folded in, like a pop up story
then the house, and the Vale. Even the songs
and prayers tidied themselves into grooves

and the impossible hospital lay down its chimneys
its sluices, tired doctors, and waiting room chairs.
And I came here.       It was easy to leave.

Sleepy and tired


I am writing on behalf of Julia again, not being dictated to this time so you will have to bear with my lack of creative pizzaz that you are used to on Julia’s web log.

It’s really just to let people know that Julia won’t be able to attend the launch of the boxes on Thursday night as she had hoped. She said to say that she is very sleepy and tired now but hopes that you all go along and have a great time. We received the first box hot of the production line tonight, and it not only looks fantastic but is packed with little treasures and ideas, along with postcards of Julia’s poems and Emma’s paintings.

Thanks to everyone who’s being praying (including all the atheists) and for all your emails and cards.

cheers for now Bev

Friday Night 8.15 staying alive


My body is just incredibly shocking. I can’t believe it can look and feel so different so quickly and in such a short time. Both legs are very thin like twigs with podgy ankles and swollen toes. My tummy is like a children’s toy or a Dickensian gentleman’s pot belly. My upper body has thin chickeny arms and sticky out bones, and I am completely yellow, especially my eyes which are a livid ochre yellow. I could frighten children – and I like children. My little niece Ester and her sister Naomi came to see me today bringing drawings and books of activities to do when I was bored. I imagined what it must have been like to see this scene from a child’s view from the ages of 5 and 8. It could be quite traumatic and a strange thing that one finds oneself writing about in a writing class years ahead. Then the nurses arrived and gave them lots of attention which would add to the general strangeness of the incident.

So what’s the prognosis? I really really really want to get to the launch of the First aid kit for the mind at the Biscuit Factory next Thursday the 14th. I am using that as a focus to take me forward. Of course no one can tell me, or ever could how near my death is, but surely a body like this doesn’t belong on the earth. We’ve bought champagne for the box launch and goodies and Emma and Smart have done so much to make postcards and posters. So if you are praying for me pray for me to have next Thursday – rather shallow though that may sound.

So much can happen when you lie in bed doing nothing. Although we’ve cut down on visitors I still really want to see people, but like in glimpses just to tell them how much they meant to me, for them this is like a boring santa’s grotto with no presents (or they bring the presents). So don’t all rush round. I must say every card I have received has been different. There’s been no replicas, which I think is an amazing thing and I appreciate people searching through card racks, getting out the crayons, making home made books, and really eccentric funny presents that have made me laugh, and of course the music which I sometimes listen to all day and night as I drift through half dream conversations that I’m often not sure if I’ve had or not.

I hate cancer. It’s taken me away from such life. Tonight I’d like to strangle it the way that it is doing to me but I must look at the dark horizon of chimneys out of the window and imagine what is beyond. But count your blessings – a. No pain unless I try and dance the hokey cokey. b. fantastic cusine cooked by my mother. c. No family arguments. d. No fear. e. Cornflakes and milk. f. Trina’s ice cream. g. my new NHS bath seat and squashy mattress. h. You only have to do death once.

I know everyone worries and may have trouble finding out about what’s happening and there are times when it is just really hard to talk on the phone or be bothered to check email but I am still here.

Julia in Bed Dictating To Bev


It’s ten past 7 in the morning and I have just finished my cornflakes and milk which has turned out to be my favourite food after all these years. The Po sisters are playing. In the last week I have discovered so much new music through compilations people have sent over. Sharon Bailey brought me the 2004 world music concert which I was sorry I missed. A neighbour brought round Rufus Wainwright, and I have been listening to the golden oldies like John Martyn and Dark Side of the Moon. The walls are covered with drawings and portraits that people have done or I’ve painted. Sharon has also been sorting out the cover of the new book Eating the Elephant and other Plays which we both like very much. Claire Malcolm at New Writing North is sorting it all out it’s ever so complicated like all books especially books of plays, it’s all that proofing and stuff. It’s been like an office in here looking at fonts and post card designs for the ‘First aid kit for the mind’ with Emma Holliday and Smart. The first aid kit will be launched mid April (very soon), hopefully you will all find out where.

Last Thursday though I hoiked myself out of bed and went with Bev, Karin Young and Jackie Kay to see the dress rehearsal for the Manifesto for a New City at Hexham. Although I say it myself I really loved it. Jim Kitson’s acapella arrangements are blissful and I liked what it was saying as well. It went down very well with the audience on two subsequent nights. It’s sad that it’s not on in Newcastle, though it is showing at the Customs House and Alnwick and later at the Tron in Glasgow. Usually when my plays are on I lie on the floor and feel like icy daggers are plunging in my heart so I must have done something right. It owes a lot to Duska Heaney and Alan Lyddiard but especially Jim Kitson.

I don’t think I am going to be up out of my bed again, that’s a funny idea. The last two weeks I’ve been surrounded by love and I’ve had everything I could possibly need but it’s really nearly time to say goodbye and I’m not afraid of death just very sad about the people I leave behind. I’m not in pain which is as they say ‘ a blessing’. I get a bit sick of nurses peering at me. There are several things I would really like to have gone to but I don’t think it’s going to happen. So can I send my thanks and best thoughts to everyone out there because it’s really a very incredible world. You end up talking in cliches at this point so I’ll stop before I go really doo lally.

A List of Sustaining and Odd Occurances That Can Happen Whilst Bedridden!


I am still mostly in my bed at home, but things have quietened down as the family have gone back, and a kind of routine has fallen into place that involved baths and small lunches and active bits and slow bits. I stay up so late, mostly night dreaming, but not asleep, about things I want to tell others or writing stuff that needs to be put in order, and presents that I want to give people. But here’s some of the weird and peculiar and nice stuff that has happened.

Earlier in the week I was given the catalogue from the self portrait exhibition at the British Portrait Gallery. In this hub bub of ointments and pills, friends, tears and cranberry ice drinks, this book has given me immense pleasure. How we see ourselves is endlessly interesting and the text is fascinating, telling us about the artist’s lives. Just looking at the portraits, you catch this feeling about the intensity of life..and most of them are dead now, but there they are, caught in time, staring back at me. In the First Aid Kit for the Mind that I am making with Emma there is a small pad and pencil stub, and a poem about how to draw one’s portrait. Everyone should try and make one at some point I think.

The wooden lady, one of those bendy artist’s model, that stands at the bottom of my bed moves when I am asleep. Her pose in the morning gives me a clue about the nature of the day. This morning she looked as if she was setting out on an sea of ice. I haven’t moved her, but something has. There is, I think, a spirit in my room.

I don’t like soppy cat stories much, but my cat Tigzi has been an incredible companion, kissing me often, hurling my earrings around the room, sniffing and chewing the beautiful flowers that arrive, never wanting much but displaying a range of theatrical behaviour I have never seen before. What is he trying to tell me? He is certainly not sorry for me at all.

Ice, and its many mutations. Someone has lent me their silver ice crusher. It looks like a 1920’s cupboard and makes a sound like a concrete mixer. Drinks have become piles of glistening pink, yellow, and orange icy water.

God, the music! Why don’t we all just give up TV and sit listening to music all night. This week I have delighted in John Martin’s Solid Air (ice?). The voice solo from The Dark Side Of The Moon, Van Morrison’s Ladbroke Grove, Gillian Welch singing about Elvis Presley, The Crystal Ship by the Doors. So much stuff that can take me anywhere that I want to go. Why didn’t I go there before?

From Sean O Brien and Gerry Wardle, sachet’s of Mauritian Vanilla tea which allowed me to remember the long warm beach of Flic en Flac we sat on this year. That tea is for me the essence of Mauritius (we were all there together doing workshops). Then as I raise the cup to my lips, the organiser (Jaysing) of the trip, who I haven’t spoken to since the Summer, rings up.

Every flavour of ice cream.

Someone found a copy of The Taxi Driver’s Daughter in Dehli.

I am definitely more stable,(physically, maybe not mentally) but the question is, where will my stability land, and how well will I be? Well enough to see my new play? Well enough to fly to Italy? To finish my novel? To become a figure skater? Or just well enough to have a good death, like a good birth.

Back soon. I like writing this, it fills up the foggy eastery nights.