One of the things I like the very best in life is casual bravery. Not the uniformed and heroic soldier, a gun in either hand, carrying between gleaming teeth a wounded comrade from the bloody, muddy battle-scene. Though I like that too - who doesn't like a saviour? But I have particular regard for the everyday, matter of fact bravery of the civilian caught in accidental cross-fire; the bereaved, the lonely, the mothers of the sick.
My cousin has a daughter, elfin faced with a silken ponytail which slides down her slim back. She is seven and has one missing tooth. I know it is missing because today I saw the gap and looked; the tooth was definitely not there. On a half-term too-quick visit, my cousin flicked open her laptop and clicked the mouse to show me pictures of her daughter at three and kidney-sick. "Look, no hair," she said, smiled and pointed to the Jpeg'd child. I remember. I took her daughter to the village shop. Instead of a ponytail and pink feathered clip, her head was tufted bald and round, the soft hair harvested not by fairies but chemicals. There is nothing like sporting a child with cancer in your trolley to bump you, spit-spot, to the top of the queue in a supermarket. Other shoppers smile at you and pass you tinned goods so that you do not have to lean too far and the woman in front says: "I'm not in a hurry. You go first" as if you might have particular need of that extra minute or two with your trolley child. Your shopping too is not mother-wise but an altogether mix of slurpy yoghurts, cheese strings and chocolate bars. The shop a child might do if you said "Buy what you like darling". I had no intention of making a child with cancer scream out loud in a supermarket aisle by saying "No" to Pringles. Now, my cousin's lovely daughter is out the other side of pain. For two days, she bounced around my house in screaming fun games with my sons and babe. I held her by the ponytail and thought "Little one, I like your hair this way. "