Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK, 11/2010

‘Blue Carpet,’ Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK

The image above is of a piece of Public Art called ‘Blue Carpet’ designed by Thomas Heatherwick. I’ve always noticed these unique benches outside The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne and then I found this fab image of it on the following website taken by SteveT:

Interestingly as I was hunting for an image to go with my next poem in the ‘Consultations with my mother series’ – Benchmark – I found the above photo through a Telegraph piece entitled ‘World’s best benches: in pictures.’ This bench in Newcastle (my home town) was number 6!! The UK has 4 benches in the top 10 in the world. Who knew!!?

This is worth clicking through – I particularly liked the Zombie bench in London designed by Neon…  it needs a home apparently!


VI – Benchmark


Cheers Mum



We clink wine glasses on the bench,

Outside Mum’s house on Castle Lane


This is nice


A peacock struts and calls on the wall above our head


Noisy things, always screaming


The Kaiser Chiefs are playing Warwick Castle tonight

It’s a balmy evening


She spied this sunny spot next to the castle entrance

As we meandered back from M&S, with our bottle of Sauvignon


We like to people watch


There is nothing like drinking a crisp white wine on a public bench

Outside your house, when there’s a half decent concert on.


What do you reckon, to the music?

It’s OK, better for being free

Ha. Cheers to that!


A man stops near us, with a Cocker Spaniel

Neither of us are dog lovers


We nod to the owner, raise a glass

Nice evening for it!


(I often marvel at my Mum’s ability to talk

To anyone, anywhere, any time.)


She soon has the man’s confidence,

Knows where he lives, his situation:


Divorced, recovering alcoholic,

Wife got the children,

Rebuilding his life –


As we chat and drink our wine

I marvel at how Mum puts this

Stranger at his ease.


I listen to them talking and stroke the dog,

His name (the dog’s) is Wilson.


The man and his spaniel eventually leave,

Mum has a new friend.


He was nice

(I say after the man has gone)


Yes, lovely dog too. I don’t normally like dogs.


You can chat for England you know

Well, what else are you going to do on a sunny evening?



We sit in companionable silence for a while, on the bench


It’s a gift Mum

What is?

Your ability to talk to anyone and everyone


She looks at me, then narrows her eyes


That dog is a child substitute


I smile and then laugh; it comes out like a bark

Yes. You’re probably right


I was thinking exactly the same thing


Fancy a top up?


(Sometimes, Mum and I are more similar than I like to admit)


Yes please


She hands me her glass and I trot inside

As Mum marks our bench,

Swinging her legs in time to the music.



Copyright Eliot North 2016




Mini Magnum


Image from the website ‘Dessert Comes First’ – loads of great mini Magnum pics to chose from

Amazing what you can find on the internet!! Loved the mini / normal Magnum comparison photo here!!

This 5th poem in the ‘Consultations with my mother’ series riffs off a running joke with Mum whenever we see her and ask her if she’s enjoyed a Magnum Mini recently….


V – Mini Magnum


They’re good for you


No, mini Magnums

Oh. I see, well yes they are smaller

Exactly. Except…

(Mum looks guilty)

Except what?

Well, perhaps they are not so healthy when

(she takes a deep breath)

You eat ALL of them.

Mum! The whole box?


Six mini Magnums, all in one go?

Uh huh

She smiles, like the cat that got all the Magnums –

(Mini Magnums mind you, so that’s ok.)


Copyright Eliot North 2016








Foot image

Today I’ve chosen a rather lovely red chalk drawing of a foot by Leonardo da Vinci that I like because of its simplicity and how disembodied it feels. It’s called ‘Measured Study of a Foot’ which I like as well. I found it on the following website:

The poem continues the ‘Consultations with my mother’ series with a slightly more serious tone than ‘Corpsing’ – which was almost slapstick comic – to explore that difficult line healthcare professionals tread with their family. Doctor v daughter, my medical knowledge (or lack of) and the inability to be objective with those that you love.

This poem also hints at the burden of professional caring roles. The subject of desensitisation to human suffering that can occur in health settings is something we don’t talk about enough. It’s something I try to address in  my medical education role with medical students through embracing the arts and humanities, and having the discussion.

I worry sometimes that my family and loved ones get a particularly raw deal here, especially my mother. Is there a finite amount of care and compassion a human can give? If you give it all to your job, really stay alive to and actively connect with people and listen to and bare witness to their suffering, then almost inevitably this will take its toll in some way – unless you are alive to this possibility, reflect on it, have an outlet for it.

This is certainly one of the many reasons I write…

IV – Numb


My feet keep going numb

(Mum is up to visit)

Uh huh

They’re going numb right now

(We’re walking up the incline from Priors Haven to Front Street)

Would you like to stop?

 No. I’m just letting you know

Are you sure?

Yes. I might start walking funny though.


Or fall over

(I stop)

OK. We should stop

No. I’m fine. This is what I was talking about

(She’s been talking about nothing else since she arrived… the day before…)

Going up hills or on the flat as well?

Both. It just comes and goes.


But I can play tennis…

Well when’s your appointment?

Oh in a month or two. Ages.

It’s not really Mum. What did your GP say?

Nothing. Just that they’d refer me.

Well shall we keep going, or do you want to go home?

No, I’m fine.

(we carry on)

It’s just annoying Eleanor. Why is it happening?

I don’t know Mum. I’m not an expert on numb feet.

You must have some idea…

Perhaps. But I’m your daughter not your doctor

Yes. But what could it be?

(I sigh)

Lots of things. Back related, trapped or damaged nerves. Something or nothing.

It’s not nothing.

I didn’t mean… Shall we change the subject?

Well you wouldn’t like having numb feet

No. No I wouldn’t

Well then

(we continue and find a seat at the Fish Shack on King Edward’s Bay)

It’s gone now, the numbness. They’re fine again

Well that’s a relief

There’s no need to be like that

Like what?

You’re so unsympathetic

What do you want me to say?

Well you could be nicer

I am being nice!

(we finish our coffees and head up and around to Longsands)

They’re going numb again…

Mum, really. The running commentary

I’m just letting you know


You’re horrible

I’m not. We can stop. I can get the car

I don’t want to stop

Fine, fine

(we walk… slowly, in silence)

Are you like this to your patients?

No, I’m lovely. 


I use up all my niceness and compassion on them

I don’t believe you

(I raise my empty hands towards her)

I’ve got none left!


Copyright Eliot North 2016








I’ve included images here of Tracey Emin’s exhibition ‘She Lay Down Deep Beneath The Sea’ at The Turner Contemporary in Margate in 2012 that I found at the following blog as well as an image from The Seinfeld twitter account “I’m trapped under a funky mattress’

The third poem in the ‘Consultations With My Mother’ series… This one has been in my head for a while. Mum told me this story months ago, but in my head it has stuck. She read it and said it could be a comic strip… I agree. I’ve written it from the images that pop into my head when I think of her wrestling with that enormous mattress. I’m trying to get her to draw it out…


III – Corpsing


I was trapped… for hours

Oh! Hello Mum


What are you talking about?

The mattress

What mattress?

(exasperated noise)

The huge mattress, my mattress, you know on my big bed.

You tried to move it?

Yes. I’ve decided to get two single ones instead. Easier to clean.

You tried to move it on your own?

Well no one else was going to help me.

(I guffaw)


(my mum is all of 5ft and ½ an inch tall)

Yes. I needed to get it downstairs.

Downstairs? Why?

To put it on the pavement. For the council to collect.

(silence from my end as I process this information)

Yes, well it wasn’t very easy. Once I got it off the bed, that took long enough, I had a right sweat on, pulling and heaving it. Then it was on its side and it kind of fell on top of me.

(I laugh, a kind of strangled noise)

I was trapped Eleanor! Pinned against the wall by a mattress.

(the strangled noise continues…)

I could have died and no one would have found me!

What did you do?

(I manage to squeak)

Well I lay there panicking and struggling for a bit…


Then I had a rest to conserve my energy. Maybe an hour, I’m not sure.


Well after I had thought about it for a bit I really concentrated and with one big push, managed to get out.

(the image of my diminutive mother trapped under the bigger than super king size, hand-made feather mattress in her bedroom, on the third floor of her crazy house, suddenly makes me laugh uncontrollably)

I don’t know why you’re laughing.

(she starts to giggle)

 That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard…

(I’m now wiping tears from my eyes on the other end of the phone)

Well that’s not the half of it. Then I had to get it down three flights of stairs.

Mum, stop, you’re killing me…

The bend was a struggle, and the little bannister bit.


Then it got wedged


(she’s on a roll now)

It took hours, all afternoon

Ah man (snort) you really are something else.

Well that’s not the best bit.

There’s more?

Yes well I got it outside after it was dark, of course. The neighbours.

What do you mean, ‘the neighbours?’

Well I didn’t want them to see.

A mattress?

Noooooo. The stains!

(she says this in a stage whisper)

Mum, seriously… you are pulling my leg, right?

No! I can’t have the neighbours knowing all my business.


(I’m off again)

But that wasn’t what I was going to say.


I had to check it in the night.


I just had this feeling, in my bones as I lay in the spare bed. It’s a good job I did.


The mattress had fallen over, across the pavement and into the middle of the road. The stain visible to everyone under the streetlight.

(That does it. I’m unable to breathe or speak)

I had to push it back up against the wall.

No…. stop…

In my nightie!

(with that perfect image in my head, I’m gone)


Words copyright Eliot North 2016