you're reading...

Dark Days Back Home


I am touched to know that it only takes a week or so of unexplained online silence to get people wondering what’s up with me and I am very thankful to have so many supportive friends.  I’ve spent most of the past ten days in my home town of Salisbury in Wiltshire following the horrible crisis we all knew would happen sooner or later with my mum.  I’m very lucky to have a lovely brother and sister, and it’s been a great comfort to us all not having to do this on our own, albeit a challenge that two of us are no longer locals. (If anyone has tips on how to be in two places at once, please get in touch…)

In my case, I’ve been gone a long time.  Salisbury is a beautiful and pleasant place (we grew up in a village eight miles away) but I couldn’t wait to leave for a big city.  My recent stay was the longest since I left at the age of eighteen – unbelievably this week Salisbury Cathedral was free of scaffolding for the first time since the year after I went to college!  I often feel that I’m not the same person as the girl who grew up here.  Now I’m not so sure.

I wandered around the city alone in freezing temperatures, assailed by thoughts and memories, some of them funny, most of them frankly pretty bleak.  I saw boys from the grammar school in uniform and remembered when the one I liked finally noticed me and turned out to be the most repulsive kisser. I thought of long walks across the fields with our family dog Benny, who was constantly going missing and turning up thirty miles away.  It is obviously terrible to watch someone close to you suffer and be powerless to stop it – the situation reminded me of my many trips home in 1991, the year my dad was dying of cancer. His exit was savage and far too early, but all I had to do was be sad and I realise now what a luxury that was.

Now the three of us are in the strange position of being children again at the precise moment we need to be at our most adult, responsible not only for those we have brought into the world but for the person who did us that immeasurable favour.  With the challenges of parenthood, you can usually tell yourself things will improve; with this the only consolation will be to know that when presented with hard decisions, we made the one we all thought was right.  We’ve done all we can to make mum safe and comfortable.

Strangely, a character in the novel I’ve just finished writing says (in a completely different context), ‘Stop worrying about yesterdays and tomorrows (…) there is only now.’  I’m going to try harder to remember that.

About Isabel Costello

Writer (novels: Paris Mon Amour 2017; Scent 2021).Host of the Literary Sofa blog. Co-founder of Resilience for Writers with Voula Tsoflias. Perfume lover and Francophile.


13 thoughts on “Dark Days Back Home

  1. Very poignant post Isabel, that sadly I’m sure many will relate to; not quite at that stage but it’s a blot on our horizon too. I do like your character’s quote… we always say ‘you only get today once’ Take care x

    Posted by poppypeacockpens | February 7, 2015, 16:43
  2. I’m really sorry to hear. My Dad’s 95 and I’ll have a similar journey home at some point and being an only child, that’ll be tough. Just do the best you can. x

    Posted by Peter Domican | February 7, 2015, 16:50
  3. Warmest wishes to you and your family. This is something we all go through; our family went through something similar with my wonderful mother-in-law last year — very hard, very important. Beautiful post.

    Posted by TU | February 7, 2015, 16:51
  4. Sorry to hear this Isabel . Thinking of you .

    Posted by hastanton | February 7, 2015, 16:55
  5. So sorry to hear about this Isabel. My father and step-mother are in Cornwall, 400 miles away, this is never easy

    Posted by Sue | February 7, 2015, 17:21
  6. Sad and yet beautiful piece, Isabel. I went through similar returns to old places with my brother and sister when both my mother and father died. I felt then what I notice in you here: an acute sensory memory that collapses time and concentrates one’s priorities. I’m sorry for you. You are fortunate to have built the community of friends and followers who will understand this and feel for you right now, as I do. Thank you for writing this and making me remember too. Peter

    Posted by Peter Nichols | February 7, 2015, 19:06
  7. Your mother is lucky to have such wonderful children. It’s very hard….good luck with everything.

    Posted by Adele Geras | February 7, 2015, 23:35
  8. I was very sad to read this — and it’s a situation many people will be able to identify and sympathise with.

    Posted by Mike Clarke | February 8, 2015, 07:52
  9. I never realised until I was middle aged that we become carers for those just starting their life and those towards its latter stages. Sympathies to you and your family Isabel. x

    Posted by Peter Raynard | February 8, 2015, 08:26
  10. Just wanted to thank you for sharing something so difficult and wish you very well for the future.

    Posted by lynseywhite | February 8, 2015, 08:38
  11. It’s a lot to deal with, not just the situation with your mother, but all the associations to your hometown. Just adding my sympathies to the list.

    Posted by Annecdotist | February 8, 2015, 12:12
  12. I¹m so sorry to hear you¹ve had a family crisis. I hope things are improving. Jo x

    Jo Bloom http://www.jobloom.com

    From: Isabel Costello Reply-To: Isabel Costello Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2015 16:21:39 +0000 To: Jo Bloom Subject: [New post] Dark Days Back Home

    Isabel Costello posted: ” I am touched to know that it only takes a week or so of unexplained online silence to get people wondering what¹s up with me and I am very thankful to have so many supportive friends.  I¹ve spent most of the past ten days in my home town of Salisbury “

    Posted by Jo Bloom | February 9, 2015, 08:08
  13. Such a touching post Isabel. Going back to anywhere that was once familiar is such a strange experience. It feels familiar and yet you also feel a stranger. So much more difficult to do it in the circumstances you described.

    Posted by BookerTalk | February 9, 2015, 22:27

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: