131. The Infinite Sadness of a Cabbage White Butterfly

Photo by Nigel Cohen on Unsplash

I keep an old wooden chair next to my bed. It’s got arms, like a throne and a sagging red velvet seat. When we were kids, my dad sat on it at the head of the dining table but we got the honour on our birthdays. Now it’s mainly used for clothes storage, but those upcycle/repair programmes on tv have become a bit of an addiction, and I’m seriously considering doing something with it. This chair has seen so much over the years. It’s not worth anything but it was the one thing I was certain I wanted to keep after we sold mum and dad’s house. 

I remember that summer I helped to varnish the dining room furniture because there was a big storm and my dad had to chop down the tree in the back garden. 

I can see myself now, at age 13, lying on my belly on the lawn. Well, I’m actually lying on a crocheted blanket that was more than likely made one winter by a distant great aunt that I never got to meet. I’m propping myself up by my elbows, but it wasn’t as comfortable as it looked like in films. I thought I was sophisticated in my floppy hat, halter-neck bikini top and cut-off denim shorts. My bare feet were suntanned with the pattern from my jelly shoes and I was reading a hard backed book without its dust cover. A book that was older than me. A book that was too old for me. One that I couldn’t borrow from the library for another two years. But then, it  was the summer holidays, where there was an unspoken, earned freedom. People were more relaxed about everything. I had two jobs to do from the housework list every day, then the rest of the time was my own, so I read, made mixtapes, wrote letters to penpals, went to the local Lido with my friends or we’d watch boys skateboarding. 

My babysitter had given me a pile of her sister’s Jackie magazines and I devoured them. One of the tips for meeting boys was to casually read a book in a place where you knew he’d be, and this would provide a conversation starting point. I’d seen a film where a woman asked a man to rub suntan lotion on her back. That seemed like a good plan, but my mum overheard me ask my brother’s friend and she said that she’d do it.  I had to stand up so she didn’t have to bend because of her sciatica. 

Later that day, Mum asked me if I would paint her toenails for her. She said she wanted me to know that I could always talk to her about anything and no matter what it was, she would never be mad and that there wasn’t anything in life that couldn’t be sorted out. Then she let me have two puffs on her Silk Cut and a splash of Cinzano Bianco in my lemonade. I could still taste that cigarette the next morning.

I enjoyed sanding down the chair in the garage, then varnishing it. I pretended to my friends that the smell of the varnish made me high, and that I could see my hand trailing when I moved it in front of my face, but it actually gave me a thumping headache and I puked up. 

A butterfly fluttered into the garage and got stuck on the arm of the chair and there was nothing I could do to free it. I watched as it hopelessly struggled for ages after it tore a wing, before it finally gave up. I felt guilty for not helping, but relieved that it was just a cabbage white with a tiny wing dot in the shape of a black heart, and not the rarer, more dazzling, common blue. 

That night, the big storm ripped off the roof from the shed and a tree branch smashed through the greenhouse window. My brother said that it was the butterfly struggling that had made bad things happen. The next day when I looked at the chair,  the butterfly was gone. It had been wiped away. Where its leg and wing had been trapped, I thought I could see two tiny marks in the dried varnish.

 When mum and dad were out, I’d sometimes sit in that chair in the cool, still dining room, watching the motes hang in the air or I’d gaze out of the window, thinking about what my future would be like. I’d run my finger over the chair arm trying to feel the indentations. They were the smallest reminder of a brief life lived.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I found the moon in a glass on my bedroom table, so drank it. I dreamt ’til I woke, I was Faraway Folk.

By me!
That was the line I wrote today in a lovely zoom session with the poet Emma Purshouse for #Librariesweek and #NationalPoetryDay, in conjunction with Wolverhampton Libraries.

I read out a couple of short stories at Hamilton Library in Leicester for #LibrariesWeek with some other writers who are also published by Dahlia Books. I wrote ‘The Infinite Sadness of a Cabbage White Butterfly’ especially for that reading. This is a pic of my little merch stand.

If you’re a long-time follower of this blog, then you’ll already be familiar with the stories in my little zine.

In Response To…

Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

I’m still working from home full-time and rarely going out. I’m not ready to start socialising in person or doing the tourist thing. So, when I recently took a week off work as holiday, I attended lots of on-line classes for creative writing and poetry. One of the common themes is to ask the delegates to respond to a piece of artwork in the form of a poem or short story. Here follows some of the prompts and my responses. All were written within the 5-6 minutes allocated in class. I think it’s a really fun exercise to do – to write without thinking about it too much, read it aloud and get immediate positive feedback.


The poem, ‘Richard’ by Carol Ann Duffy can be read in full by clicking here.

Grant me the carving of my name.

from ‘Richard’ by Carol Ann Duffy

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

This is my response to that poem.

Richard’s Third and Final Resting Place

Respect at last, gentle peace

you would not recognise this

City’s tribute. You’re home.


The Heart of trees

by Jaume Plensa

This is my response to the sculpture (if you look closely, you can almost see the word, ‘Nicola’ on his body.)

Swept up under the carpet

a quiet protest

the weight on me to remain true

as he scars my name into his flesh

I am just, trust, a mast, ballast

strong like glue.


Photo by Henry Lai on Unsplash

The brief was to write a short story in response to the prompt of an animal overcoming adversity.

I eventually found the hamster stuck in a pipe underneath the sink in the kitchen. How he managed to get out of his cage, I’ll never know. Well, I think I do know because the cat was crouching underneath a dining room chair, ready to pounce, and looked guilty as sin. I daren’t tell him off or I’ll get a scratch. Cats are the moodiest creatures I know – worse than any of my children – and I’ve got 3 teenagers.

You wouldn’t believe it, but there are actual YouTube videos on how to free trapped hamsters! I did it – eventually – by sawing the plastic pipe and pouring olive oil down the sides. It was the extra virgin stuff too. He plopped right out, bum first, into the breach.

Maybe I should have got one of the kids to film me doing it. I reckon it might have got a few hits.


The brief was to write a haibun about a journey or place.


Time is static, shocking, jerking me

I’m a tourist attraction in a glass cage.

Friendly, bored pods glide polite waltzes with lost teddy bears.

Waking up, smelling coffee just a sip or I won’t sleep.

overtired kids

it’s too late to go home now

air smells different.

It feels strange thinking about the time before, when we could travel freely. Maybe one day, I’ll be at the airport again. Is this living nostalgia? A yearning for a life we never appreciated at the time? Rites of passage missed? I feel like I’m thriving right now, so I hope that when we do start living normally again, some things will have changed for the better permanently.

My book of the week recommendation therefore combines the post-pandemic world and an airport. The brilliant ‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St John Mandel, which is soon to be released as a HBO tv series.

“The more you remember, the more you’ve lost.”

Be a lady

Be a gentleman

Be a human

Cease The Day

Photo by Michał Bielejewski on Unsplash

You know the failure to prepare is to prepare to fail saying? Well, I prepared my socks off to read my poem online at an event. I rehearsed it, recorded it and pinned up print-outs in large font, in case I forgot the words. Half-way through reading out my poem, the doorbell in my house rang. It’s an extra-loud doorbell so I can hear it when I’m in my office. I remembered what my old drama teachers said. I acknowledged the interruption, then simply carried on. Apparently it was someone asking if we wanted double glazing. We already have double glazing in this rented house. Ah well.

Today has been a good week for my writing, quite possibly the most productive week I’ve ever had. I could really do this writing gig full time (if I had a private income).

  • I agreed edits and signed a contract for one of my short stories to be published in a lit mag later on in the month.
  • I read the critical feedback, then amended and submitted a story for publication in an anthology in September.
  • I wrote the beginning of a short story for a class I’m taking online, and then read it out in class.
  • I read my poem out in a zoom. Hopefully, it’ll make it into their anthology.
  • I submitted a bio, photograph and recording of myself reading out a poem for an event and anthology in Glasgow in November. That’s a big one. Internationally big.
  • Oh, and this was released……

The People’s Poem. Written and performed by residents of Leicester, which incidentally, was the most locked-down city in Britain. Inspired by The Leicester News’, ‘We’ve Missed You’ campaign.

Yup. That’s me folks. The one at the beginning with the moonface. Honestly, this project was so much fun to do. I loved every minute!

So, I was thinking about taking a short break from this blog for a bit. I will still maintain the diary of what I’ve been up to aka Neverthless She Persisted. I’d like to see this hiatus as a natural summer holiday pause or end of season one.

You can find me on Twitter @nicolawitters (Sometimes I remember what a man once said to me. “Is Witters your maiden name?” He clearly didn’t know me or how long I can babble on for !)

Thank you for all of your support so far. xx

My new boots.

I’m delighted that HAIKU SALUT, one of my favourite electronic bands has a new album coming out.

The Hill, The Light, The Ghost is out at the end of August. Here’s their new video to tide you over while you’re waiting, during these lazy, languid, long summer days, or washout, humid, hayfever-ish, thundery ones.*

*delete as applicable