Over Toast




Dr Masters, nudged his thick brimmed glasses

up the ridge of his nose. They moved slowly

like a bulging blue caterpillar up a branch.


He said, “Memorise your revision guide

and get an A, or question everything inside

and blow waves into the concept of grades.”


The rest of the lesson scratched with questions:

“In a world of so many, can we afford

another guzzler of fuel and money?”


At home, I sat with Mum. Our conversation

sung over four courses of toast;

butter, tuna/cheddar, Spam, then jam.


“These are the staples of all good philosophers.”

I was too curious for toast, I had to ask, “Mum,

how did you decide to have me? Do you ever feel guilty?”




Before the Doctor told me, I saw your wobble. I knew we

were watching each other. Rotund and sausagey. I still cannot

conceive your excited body. Our legs were too soft to walk.

We were heavy with gravity. Loose of cartilage. But not alone.


Stuffed with pregnancy. Geriatric, floral patterned veterans

etched maps out from my belly-button. My house full of

photographs, un-planned visits, and creative

conversations with mothers and myself. Suffering.


I thought of your nostrils first. Then mine. Our unalienable

memories outstretched like gates. I assumed our rights:

learning to walk with each other. Tickling the risk of

falling – because for feet, that’s what walking is! Falling. Life


feels the same as birth: slimier and smellier than expected. We

discussed, the way mothers and daughters did. The word “Must”

swallowed like propaganda. When your body scraped out. Not

screeching, hands twitching like sycamore under rain. I saw a bright be-


ing: eyes like rubber dinghies. Grandma’s throat guilty,

as we swallowed grapes. Of

all the Ikea prints, what wallpaper was there for Autism? Wrongful

and rebellious replies meant doctors dictated deeds.


Your pelvis was the shape of a frown to them. The shape of liberty

to me. Locked out whilst blouses graded us behind glass. The

hospital smelt of orange squash. You smelt of pursuit, of

motorways, toast, waves, Sudocream and happiness.


But their freedom is inextricably bound to our palms now

closed in on each others like an oyster. I still think of freedom,


how it differs from the doctors and my mothers. Nineteen

years! We’ve read every book here, even the dictionary. In sixty-three,

years, what will you be? Because you didn’t like the dictionary. There was

too many barriers. But we kept reading! We tried not


to conclude until the last page. You were eight, you had an

innovative approach: defacing each book at the end,

noting location and emotion. But

in the dictionary, you simply suggested it needed a beginning.


In answer… Yes, I’m immoral. You guzzle more fuel than a Honda. We

consume more tins of tuna than Tesco. And sometimes I can

be the same mother who force fed “must” to me once. But Emma, never

feel guilty. Feel buttery: lethally curious. An A grade cannot be satisfied.

But a question can sink into a pacific of people, can inspire a ripple for change.



“Over Toast” was commission by Apples and Snakes for Architects of Our Republic, a festival honouring the 50 year anniversary of the Speech.

You can hear more about the film here.

And see the text and its development here.