Relating To Michael


SKU e-book Category

175 in stock


By Mary Maher

ISBN: 978-1-84991-471-0
Published: 2011
Pages: 192
Key Themes: fiction, mental health, autism, family, relationships


‘Relating To Michael’ is a work of fiction. Michael is Robin and Tamsin Cooper’s beautiful autistic son. Robin has left Brock Cottage, their home, and moved to a room over ‘Coopers and Son’, the family antique business in nearby Linbury. He and Tamsin strongly disagree about how they should treat Michael. The continuity of the family as embodied in the image ‘Coopers and Son’ is very important to Robin but Michael offers his father no real acknowledgement. This distresses Robin. Nursery rhymes are Michael’s main vocalisations. Playing one note, D flat on the piano, and running water are other obsessions.

Tamsin, who has problems with dependence, is pulled in all directions by her love for their son and her wish for acceptance and normality. She works from home as a potter. Harvest jugs are her speciality.

‘Relating To Michael’ is about a family’s struggles and frustrations as it journeys towards a different understanding.

About the Author

Mary Maher has had four collections of poetry published, and many short stories one of which won a SW Arts Award. Her poems have appeared in the first Forward Anthology, on TV and have been used by The Hospice Care Trust, the UCLA Writing Programme and Exeter Health Care Arts. When the scheme was running she was a W H Smith Poet in Schools. She enjoys editing as well and recently edited two art books.

Yorkshire born in 1937 to a family of miners, Mary has had manic depression several times and believes this is why she felt ‘at home’ working in Special Education where there was a lot of honesty, a lack of social inhibition and where life was vivid, never humdrum, on a daily basis.

Book Extract

Chapter One

Tamsin glanced back at her son’s bedroom window before slithering down the overgrown grassy slope to the kiln shed, thus avoiding the thirteen steps. Nine years ago when Robin had been building them she had asked him to make one more. At the time she had been standing on the top path patting and contemplating her pregnancy while Robin prepared the foundation for the thirteenth step.
“But we don’t need another one, Tams.”
“It’s not about need.”
Before Robin could retaliate with some quip of his own, as Tamsin knew he would, she’d swept down the twelve cobbled steps and planted a kiss on her husband’s lips while he hastily raised and held a cement-ladened trowel away from her face.

Today the sound of a tractor wafted from a far field across the valley. It was early. Their beautiful son was still asleep and with luck might not stir for another hour or so, giving Tamsin time to check the kiln’s contents and get back before he woke and panicked.

Tamsin needed time to herself before Michael’s day began. It was a breathing space in which she could root the day ahead.
After last night’s rain, wisps of steam rose from the wet grass. She lingered for a moment outside the door of the kiln shed, scanning the green, undulating countryside which sheltered her home.

At the top of the slope, to the right of the cottage, a recently converted granary, one up, one down, was also still asleep, blinds closed. Tamsin smiled as she thought of John, her tenant, getting ready for the day behind those closed blinds. Her tenant? Hers and Robin’s to be legally accurate, even though Robin now no longer shared the family home with her and nine year old Michael.

She entered the shed with apprehension. Inside she was enveloped by the kiln-toasted air. Eagerly, fearfully, she removed the bung from the kiln door. How had the jug fared this time?

Last month the first jug had been blown to smithereens by a random bubble of air left in its base. It was a special piece, a harvest slipware jug, a centre piece for her forthcoming exhibition. An exhibition to test the market, bring in commissions and set her on the road to independence. So for this second attempt she’d kneaded and slammed down the clay with even more determination than usual, to get rid of any wanton air bubbles.

She stooped to peer through the hole and there it was. Hot, pink, incandescent. Apparently complete. The proud specimen of a harvest jug. She placed the bung on the stone shelf where it glowed like a fat cigar. The temperature in the kiln would now begin to fall. With a mixture of relief and anxiety Tamsin stepped back outside and into grass that was still glistening with rain. Of course she would not know for sure if the jug was safe until later, when it would be cool enough to open the kiln door.

The stream, which wound its way around the bottom of Brock Cottage’s garden, Robin and Tamsin’s half-acre, was rushing after last night’s heavy showers. Deep in thoughts and hankerings, contrary and contradictory, Tamsin obsessively matched her path to the water’s river-bound meanderings. Out of habit she longed to tell Robin about the jug. After all, it had been one of his many ideas that she look for exhibition space. He was good at ideas, planning, delegating, and she still prized and needed the approval and understanding he gave her for her clay work, if not for her attitude towards and treatment of their son. She kicked out at the grass, soaking her clay-stained trainers.


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