Keeping Mum

Five Years ago from behind my double buggy, I rushed out a programme entry for an event for Dunbar’s Civic Week. ‘Keeping Mum’ a Writing Mums’ Workshop. I arranged a creche. Roped in my good friend, the poet Alice Mitchell, to help me run the workshop and a few weeks later in a room in Dunbar Library we waited, with pens and paper, writing exercises and cake, lots of cake.

Nine women came along. We laughed, we wrote, we shared and we ate cake, talked kids, life, exhaustion, expectations, secrets, the little things, the big things, the things they never tell us, the things we never say. It was the start of something really special.

The desire to write, for time out, to escape for a moment from nappies and all that of being a mum compelled me to this madness- start a group, find funding for a group, find a venue for a group, find tutors, facilitate my own workshops- when I had not enough time to drink a cup of tea ( still hot) or brush my hair or... But looking back it was by far the sanest thing I have ever done.

The last five years has seen the group grow to a great big room filling fourteen women. Our voices, our words, our stories and our friendships first shaky and fragile are now strong and sure. This group has been a gift. Life changing and life enhancing. Helped me in its bonds and opportunities to be more than I ever thought I was, pushed me beyond comfort zones and self- imposed limitations, pushed me out from behind my double buggy and the endless to do, to do and yet more to do. The group has given me strength and I turn again and again to our monthly meetings to inspire me and keep me brave. It is my refuge and my jumping off point and I am so grateful to these women for their wisdom and their trust in me and the crazy plans I have had and still have for us. Let’s do a Fringe show! Let’s collaborate with the choir! Let’s do Spoken Word! Let’s bring our ironing on stage! Their answer always, nearly always, yes! Let’s do it! And they have plans of their own, let’s go on a retreat, make a book- we are ambitious for each other and for ourselves.

This year has been a very important one to us. We were lucky enough to get funding from Creative Scotland to fund a three-month residency with Janice Galloway to help us edit and refine our work for our first proper anthology. We also went on a weekend retreat with the amazing Catherine Simpson, made a film of our work with Roxana Vilk and at CoastWord 2017, we launched our anthology accompanied by Dunbar Sings and Karen Dietz. It was a great moment. A top of the mountain moment. We stood there full of pride in each other and ourselves and shed tears at the path we have taken together.  

To sum up the last five years of laughter, tears and friendship is not easy and I wish I could take you all to each of those moments, to all those moments, of finding our voices, speaking out our stories, hearing each other, all those sharings, to all those breakthroughs and triumphs. All those moments of silence, of free flowing brave tears, and the nod from across the table that says, “You are not alone” and “me too”.

What I can do is offer you our anthology, Nourish me, Sister, and our accompanying film and ask you to coorie in and hear us tell you our stories. It is important this. This sharing. These stories. This keeping mum.


Mid-life Crisis - Melissa Goodbourn  


Sheets smell of grass, salty

like seaweed but no comfort eases

my busy mind. I tip-toe

down plush-carpet steps,

like a child sneaking a view

of presents beneath the tree.


A child inside, now with children

of my own; wondering

are there no good surprises left in life?


Kettle boils and steady drops

slide down window panes like slugs, arresting

the night silence while I consider


our plan B. I do not worry

about Christmas: if we make it that far

it will seem like Christmas already. 


Sky streaks shades

of neon-tangerine until weary bodies

take their cue: just stand up


get on the train, busy to work

do another day. At least

it has stopped raining. 


Best case scenario?

Time-limited mid-life crisis.

Worst? Unemployment,


the feeling of nothing. 

Add pennies and pounds

to our Crown Royal bag


while we can, I say

though savings won't wait

for a rainy day. We’re two months


behind on the mortgage

and I'm all out of bright ideas.

Tell me in twenty years’ time,


 can we sit down?

Shade our eyes

from yellow-filtered sun


long enough to enjoy

greenery and bloom, perch a cuppa

on that teak-table we always wanted to buy


 and say Do you remember when…?


Hannah LaveryComment