My little sister Em, no slacker in the fight for social justice herself, wrote this about Mum.  I’d add bonkers, because she was, but I couldn’t put it better.Mum

Mum. Funny. Intelligent. Compassionate. Caring. Honest. Trusting. Inspirational. Missed. 

Funny because we once bought her a giant elastic band and successfully convinced her it was a hands free kit for her newly acquired mobile phone.

 Intelligent because she was the first person you’d call for help in a pub quiz. She knew everything about everything.  

 Compassionate because when she died, people I’d never met came to tell me of some wonderful, generous, selfless deed my Mum had done to help them at their time of need.

 Caring because she cared about everyone and everything that was wrong in the world.

 Honest because she’d never lie to you, even when the truth really stung.

 Trusting because on several occasions she took young homeless people into our house to stay. Some of these people stole from her; they stole our Simpsons videos, they stole our pound coins from the TV meter. But she never, ever trusted the next person less.

 Inspirational because at 4 ft 11, a single Mum from a council estate in Oldham, stood up at a Labour Party Conference and told them what social justice really meant.

 Missed because it has been five years and it still feels like a punch in the gut.


26/08/2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The night before

On this evening, four years ago, I was curled up in a ball on the sofa, dreading the next day. Physically frightened of it. The next day would be one year since Mum died. I was not ready for it to be a year. A year was a formal marker that horrified me (how can we have lived without her for a year), but it was also the beginning of something else. The start of the anniversaries. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, in a bad way.

We were watching Catherine Tate (how’s that for a baromoter of how long ago it was?). During a sketch about the foul mouthed old lady, Peter Kay appeared as an old man, reminiscing about his dead wife. He started to sing Bridge Over Troubled Water. When you’re weary, feeling small. This was one of three songs Mum had chosen to be played at her funeral. The first, Ripple by the Grateful Dead (bless her) had seen us in. The second, Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell was a strangely upbeat moment in an otherwise dreadful event. But Bridge Over Troubled Water? Well, I cried during that like I have never cried before. And wouldn’t cry like it again, until Peter Kay started to sing it the night before that anniversary.

I’m an atheist, and yet I imagine (because I have to) that Mum is somewhere, watching over us. Did she send Peter Kay that night to let us know she was there? No. Was she happy because I took comfort from it. Yes, why not?

25/08/2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.


In a somewhat morbid fit of curiosity, I just googled (for real) Joan Halsall, my mum and found this. I have not thought about this event for years, but reading this reminded me of how proud I was of her at the time, and how proud I am of her still. She was 4 foot 11, she must have been something standing up there.  She was a fierce believer in social justice, and her social conscience was a thing to behold. She was tremendous.

17/08/2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Not in a million years–women-on-tv

06/08/2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.