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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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June – July 2024 : Reflections READ ONLINE


Reflecting on things

June 01 2024
An untitled work © Luis Saatchi An untitled work © Luis Saatchi

The smallest things can lead us to reflect on our past and remind us of difficult times. It’s important to remember who you are and how far you have come, while also enjoying the little things, writes Greta Gillett

Once you have been homeless and gone through what we have gone through, no matter the time that has passed – and whether you are 'stable' and back into society (what bullshit), so many things, so many tiny little things make you reflect with a multitude of emotions.

For example, every time I'm in a greasy spoon-type café I will remember the times I would make one coffee last hours, filling all my pockets with as much sugar and ketchup sachets and tissues as I possibly could.

So now those little brown packets of sugar and little red sachets of ketchup remind me of how I felt stuffing my pockets with things that were free for customers. I was a customer and yet I felt like a dirty thief.

I felt like I was taking up space and if someone sat at the table next to me, I would try my best to smile, as if to say, “don't fear me, I'm good.”

And if they were a mum with their baby on their lap, if they sat and breastfed, or read stories to toddlers or cut up food, I wanted to say loudly and clearly, “hello, I’m a mum too, I know you see me here by myself but actually I have children, three girls and a boy, and now I'm running around the world from city to city, hitchhiking and hiding, desperately trying to find the reason not to kill myself.”

I wanted to tell that mum, or that waitress, or the person in the street who looked away as I caught them staring at me, that I was beaten and they took my children and then my home and I was slowly dying on the inside.

Pale and thin, I looked like a junkie but I didn't even smoke, covered in tattoos telling stories of my children, remembering how sometimes for treats I would go with all four children and we would sit at a table and share chips and sausages and glasses of water.

I remember people would tell me how well behaved and polite my children were.

All of these memories that were running through my mind and overloading my brain simply came from packets of brown sugar.

I'm very particular. Brown sugar with coffee; white sugar with tea; brown sauce with sausages; ketchup with bacon. And yet I hate so much that society demands of us to be organised. To fit a narrative, to be good and grateful and quiet and fucking small.

I spoke up, I reported, I begged for help and they took my children. My four children who I raised, who I birthed, who I fed with my milk.

So my plan for survival, to be a winner in this sad story, was to have adventures, go places, fill my life with new stories and new people and art and music and to smell the grass. All so one day I can tell my children that while we were apart, I thought about them every day and I fought for them every day and they can tell people their mum is an artist and she writes stories and she has been all over the world.

And if they want when they’re older they can also say their mum was abused and their mum was homeless and their mum was lied to and they were taken from their mum when she asked for help.

But my story, my memory, the way I came back, the way I found myself through the nightmares, the hallucinations, the terrors, the panic, the threats, was that I took a lot of pleasure in the small details.

If someone shared a happy memory with me of their own story I listened intently, when I made tea in my hostel, I used my own mug from Poundland and the exact peppermint tea with just half a teaspoon of honey to sooth myself and with each sip I started to shake less and my breathing slowed down.

On my daily walks I would take out my phone and photograph the flowers growing out of cracks and one photo is still up in my bedroom today to remember that feeling I had that day as I walked the streets.

Let us not forget who we are, let life’s troubles not take over, let systems not break us down. We are like those photos I took of flowers sprouting from rubble and cracks. Something beautiful can bud from the strangest places.