It’s stopped raining. She can barely speak. There is a hole in her neck and attached to it a screw top like the top of a coca cola bottle. She’s fifteen. She’s from a part of the world where the citizens have the colour of skin that I can only describe as smoke-beige. When she coughs she unscrews and expresses from her throat into a tissue from the open hole in her neck. It is the most beautiful moment. She speaks in whispers. “sorry” she says “carry on”.
I am sat with her in the education room of the children’s ward of Royal London Hospital. I am a welcome distraction from the monotony of the ward. I am giving a writers workshop and the work will be painted upon the walls of the new hospital by an artist called Morag Myerscough. The hospital can’t guarantee who will be at my workshop nor what state they will be in. Today it is only one girl. I make her laugh. Her throat rattles. Her eyes twinkle. her smile arrives.
Over the next hour and an half she works on poems and her worries go away. Having a front seat to watch this outshines everything else in my life that I could tell you in this blog. In one “exercise” I ask her to write about someone she loves without mentioning to me or anyone else who the person is. I seek images that represent that love. it makes a workshop deeply personal and yet safe.With head close to the table and pencil scraping the paper she wrote the first line “You’re the shining light of a falling rainbow”. And through the window behind her there it was.