January 2009, from my diary
“When I wake in the morning – or rather, just before I wake, in the moment when my consciousness begins to stir – I have a sense of foreboding, every day. A sadness that another day has dawned and yet again, I am not home. Where am I? Somewhere wrong, I know, but I can never quite remember where. The worry squeezes me, like a bully with his hands in a vice either side of my head, pushing in.
“My body is so much heavier than it used to be. I used to wake every day at about seven, shake the sleep off my ears like a dog coming out of water, sit up and relish my mug of tea and the sun on my bed. Now, the sleep drags me back down under, I can’t rouse myself, can’t push it off and open my eyes. My leaden body weighs down on the bed; I can’t lift a limb, an eyelid, my head.
“The entire household waits for me to wake them, take them tea, rouse everyone one by one – sometimes over and over again through the morning and sometimes well into the afternoon. I must get up, must wake up, I must. Pull myself out of this bed.
“Evan Davies is visiting a designer in California. The Bishop of Southwark is doing Thought for the Day. It must be ten to eight.
“If it were the Chief Rabbi speaking, surely I could wake...
“I am pulled back down into the darkness of wherever it is I have come from.
“It is half past eight and the Today Programme sports roundup. I am panting heavily, breathless, as if I have run too far and burnt my lungs. As if I am ill.
“Suddenly and with an abrupt movement I find enough will power to make myself sit up. I push myself onto shaky legs and stumble into the bathroom like an old person, shuffling, bent.
“I am like this every morning now, and have been for four years. Mornings used to be my best time: now they are filled with despair, every day, for the first ten or twenty minutes – or perhaps two hours – till my consciousness mind can take over, shake me out of it and make me face the day.”
I had never been so frightened in my life.
We had been homeless once before, for eight searing months in 2005-6, when Shaun was first employed by the Oxford church and they failed to provide anything after the rental accommodation ran out.
That time, we always knew it would end.
This time, if we lost the roof over our heads...
On the face of it, we just had to sit tight. Shaun was entitled to work. He had offered to return. Repeatedly. He simply had to turn down the offer and keep reiterating this.
You are in an aeroplane which is plummeting towards the ground. You know you have to keep calm, strap on your parachute, jump out, count to twenty, pull the cord. You tell yourself over and over that parachutes work, they are carefully checked, this is what they are for.
There is nothing to be frightened of.