In the summer of 2001 I was at Dance Camp Wales as usual and it was announced at the morning meeting that Jack would be preparing a fire for a Fire Walk. If anyone wanted to do this could they go to a meeting in the afternoon to talk about it and learn how to get into the right ‘frame of mind’ to do the Fire Walk. I decided to go. I had been off work with serious depression earlier that year but had gone back to work in the April and had started counselling and was beginning to realise the extent of the damage my father had done to me through years of abuse. I was in a terrible place in my head, I was suicidal, frightened and often felt completely immobilised by the fear. When I look back, I don’t even know how I managed to get myself to Pembrokeshire on my own – I couldn’t do it now! But I had got there and now I was going to walk the fire. At the meeting in the afternoon we each said (if we were able) why we wanted to do this. We were talked quietly through the process and it was stressed that you only stepped onto the fire if you felt it was right. Later that night the fire was lit, allowed to burn and the embers were raked flat. We all gathered and stood round the circle of glowing red. Each of us had our own thoughts, each of us was preparing to walk. I watched as one person crossed, then another, then another but I waited. My father had ‘died peacefully’ (much to my dismay – I’d wanted him to die in great pain and to suffer) in April of that year and I was feeling a lot of very confused and mixed feelings. His death affected me in so many ways I hadn’t even begun to deal with – that was still to come. But now I was standing waiting for the moment my heart and head together told me to cross the fire. I thought of my father and what he had done to us, his cruelty and violence and I said quietly, ‘I’m going to burn you out of me. I’m going to walk this fire and when I reach the other side I will have walked the first part of my life without you in it’. I stood very still and let these thoughts settle and then I felt a sort of determination/makeup-my-mind compulsion and I felt ready to go and I did. I walked straight across and felt all the emotion build up and I cried. I cried for a long time and people comforted me thinking I had hurt myself but I couldn’t tell them at that moment why I was crying. The fire was powerful, cleansing and healing. When I look back on that night, I am still astonished that I did it but I did and it felt like such an important thing to do, almost like a rite of passage allowing me a new beginning. The first piece of writing I wrote immediately and haven’t changed it. The second is a poem I wrote about the secret life we had. The ‘perfect’ family living a terrible lie. It felt as though I had burned the lies out of me, so I was able to stand and say, ‘he did this but I am still here. I am still alive’.

August 2001 Thursday

Tonight I walked the fire and burned him out of me

I expected it to be painful but it wasn’t at the time

later that night I had some pain on one sole,

But I put lavender on it and looked after it, looked after myself

He had always given me pain and walking the fire and burning him out of me was no

the pain on the sole of my foot will heal and maybe this time I will too.

He is burnt from me

New through fire

I have been drowning in water for years

Now it will be different

….. and I wrote this much later

The Lie

And the lie was born
in seductive persuasion
and lived to destroy.

But what is a lie?

It is a reality
a possible truth.

Our life was like that lie

Smiling, happy, compliant.
Lies becoming truths.

And a long-life-fear
of twisted realities
has been hard to live.

So, now you are dead
and I have survived it all.

I am not that child
born into that lie
smiling, happy, well-behaved,
crying and fearful.

It all died with you.
It is buried, it is gone
I walked the fire
and burned you from my soul