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Friday, 29 October 2010

Friends online

When I was a child and actually well into my twenties, people had real-life friends. With the introduction and increase in the use of the internet, most of us now have friends in cyberspace too. Who are yours? What do you get out of contact with them?

Here's my experience for what it's worth

1. My first foray into the world of internet friendships was via the Netmums social networking site having found the website address in my Emma's Diary, given to mums-to-be in the first attempt to persuade them that there is a rulebook for pregnancy and parenthood. I would respond to people's views in the Coffee House forum and post hopeful (desperate!) pleas for friendship on the Meet a Mum boards.

Mums responded to my posts but I bottled actually meeting up with them. After all, I suppose it was technically possible that they could be axe murderers. Once I arranged a meeting, took one look at the Mum in question and scurried shyly away.

When my own mum died, I think I realised for the first time that the high possibility was that I too would die at some point. Maybe I should stop holding myself back and actually try and get a bit of a life.

As a result, I joined the Stanningley Wives Group (see previous posts for the joys and challenges of that particular period in my life).

I also met up individually with two mums. One I could not take to as she seemed obsessed with material things so not my type at all. It was odd as we had shared many emails and seemed to have lots in common but I felt we were not destined to be friends.

The other seemed a real kindred spirit and we met up a few times until I made a stupid mistake and did not attend her son's birthday party. I offended her and I was in the wrong but also going through one of my depression times when I retreat from the world. Although these may seem like tiny social steps, they were huge for me. Somehow, I had got lost in ten years of coupledom and parenthood.

I have moved to a new area of the country and am again seeking new friends via the internet and in other ways too. It is an ongoing journey but Netmums gave me a kickstart so thanks for that.

2. A few years ago, everyone seemed to be banging on about Facebook. I got the impression that if I did not have a Facebook account, I might be heading towards being a non-person. So I set up an account and Facebook immediately started irritating me. All those mindless games annoyed me. I participate in the occasional one now trying not to be up my arse too much but I don't really get it.

I left the account alone really until I got involved with the Stanningley wives and realised they kept in touch via that medium. I enjoyed the banter particularly around the time of the General Election. Mums commenting on politicial affairs - I know it shocks you but we do sit at home with active minds. We even have opinions when husbands and the outside world allow us to.

Now my Facebook friends list is a mixed bag.

The nicer Stanningly wives amuse me daily with their comings and goings. We can also support each other through the tough times of illness, stress or relationship troubles.

There are old school friends on there too that I have not seen for more than twenty years. Contact with them makes me feel odd - like time-travelling but now they look older and have these things called children. At core, they don't seem to have changed much though. Perhaps none of us do!

Facebook also was how I learned of the death of a peer from school. Visiting her memorial site led to contact with someone I had been seeking for years. A heartfelt friend and we are on the start of a revival of the two of us.

I have university friends too and I enjoy the challenges to my mind they provide. They say if you don't use it, you lose it so thanks to Richard, Luisa and others who ensure I use it all the time! They also use terms like "fierce" about me which when you are feeling like a fat and useless blob really help to give you a sassy sense of self. You make a difference.

If you look closely on my Facebook list, you will also spot my very ugly sisters. Actually they are lovely looking but I know at least one will read this and you have to pick on your little sisters, it's the law. The sisters are special as they are half-sisters born to my birth mum and only found in later life. We have not met but that seems possible now we have put in the trust-building work via the internet for a year or two.

So, although still cynical about Facebook, it has changed my life for the better

3. Twitter

I love Twitter! I like it so much more than Facebook. More focus on communication than silly games. There is scope to be so creative with it too which suits me as I am very much an ideas person.

I joined Twitter when Philip Schofield mentioned it on the telly.

I was in a very low place and fellow tweeters across the world helped me through it. One of them encouraged me to take my writing seriously having spotted my tweets. She helped me to stick with the blogging so huge thanks to her.

It is fun when you get a tweet from a famous novelist or another celebrity. So thanks to Richard Madeley, Kirstie Allsopp Philip Schofield, Sharon Marshall, Gok Wan, Jackie Collins and Katie Fforde for engaging with me via tweets. Especially Katie Fforde and Sharon Marshall who tell me it is true, I am actually a good writer! Twitter is a great leveller - we all have life struggles and joys no matter our social background or income level. We all need to decide what to have for tea or to watch on the telly. Did you know I even have a celebrity follower so I must be worth knowing right?

The strength of Twitter is everyday people sharing news, views, opinions and information. Having a laugh and a cry together.

If you feel isolated, Twitter is always there with someone to engage with. That's just a few of the reasons I like it so much.

4. I am making new friends via my blog. It is good to hear that people have gone through similar thoughts, feelings and experiences. It is particularly satisfying when people are struggling and I make them laugh and see the brighter side of things.
Sometimes I write quite selfish blogs. I do try not to do this but sometime I think it is better that people know the real me, warts and all.

I love watching my number of followers increase and to see such thought-provoking comments. My blog followers and readers are a very special community. And a very mixed bag - from potty-trainers to professors, from breast-feeders to therapists, from teachers to stay at home mums, from celebrities to people who should be.

So despite being a technophobe, I love having internet friendships. I find it quite liberating to be able to be so open and honest online. I would like to have the confidence to be so engaging in real-life rather than being the shy one, the quiet one, the blob in the corner. But hey, I might get there yet!

Here's to you all and do let me know about your online mates.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

My 6 year old has her say as a guest blogger

Dear Diary

Boys are rubbish
They get in the way
Mum doesn't like it
Neither do I
Mum has to tell them off
They spoil my games

P.S. They do it anywhere!

Here's to my daughter and also my spirited sons who wind her up so much.

Do boys change as they get older?


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Public Sector Cuts - how voluntary sector workers have lived for years

I keep hearing how public sector employees are up in arms at the cuts heading their way as the Government attempts to sort out the deficit.

On a human level, I feel sorry for anyone who loses their job and livelihood. I am also suspcicious that some cuts are more to do with Tory ideology and long-held wishes and that the financial crisis is providing a convenient bit of spin for them.

When I was a little girl, my Mum used to say, "Get a job in the council, you'll have security for life". She also used to delight in pointing out council workers on endless tea breaks. She clearly saw local authority work as a cushy number. I am not saying whether she was right or wrong but that was her view. If anything, I think the huge amount of public sector employees will mean that their is great diversity in terms of weak or strong work ethics.

When I left university, I had lots of lucrative options open to me. However, I knew that I wanted to change the world for the better. After a stint as a volunteer in an advice agency which combined helping members of the public with campaigning on social issues, I felt I had found my niche. Welcome to the Voluntary and Community Sector - you are in for a bumpy ride!

So from the early Nineties, I have done countless jobs. The number of jobs would go against me in public sector or private sector job interviews. However, with funding insecurity and cuts, I have often found myself "redundant" despite the service being valued, efficient and well-delivered.

I coped with this when I was single and did not have children. Sure, it meant moving all over the country seeking work but I had made my choice. Strangely enough, I did not see unions taking to the streets to protect the voluntary sector workers or questions being asked in Parliament. I was on my own - my fault for being idealistic apparently.

Things got a lot harder when I had a family. Three children - two born days or weeks after redundancy situations for my husband, another idealist.

So yes, I feel for public sector workers but where was the support for such as me when we were trying to do good works? You were our partners often and used our resources in a myriad of ways. I don't even remember a public sector worker ever saying, "Sorry to hear that" when unemployment was on the cards again.

So this bleeding heart through bitter experience has scabbed over a bit. They say voluntary sector workers end up "selling out" and becoming consultants or burn out. Perhaps like me they escape to the country and get out of the race altogether.

The irony is that because the voluntary and community sector was not supported in the past, it won't necessarily be there to pick up the pieces for the individuals and families affected by the cuts, from whatever sector.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The parenting police

When you become a mum, there appears to be an army of individuals, organisations and books ready to set you up for the guilt trip of a lifetime. So here's a few of my thoughts on what they tell you and how you might stay sane as this stuff gets thrown at you.

1. Don't drink during pregnancy.

I drank in all three of my pregnancies. I did not smoke though so do I get Brownie points? - probably not. Anyway, with hindsight, I would recommend listening to the medical view at the time you are pregnant, being aware that this might change even before you give birth and making your own mind up. However, I think it would be a great idea for mums-to-be to check out the potential consequences of excessive drinking on the foetus. It is not worth that lovely Baileys or a little glass of wine to land your child with difficulties for life.

2. Breast is best

I agree with this. However, I do not think that if you are satanic like me and go down the bottle-feeding route that your baby will turn into someone who can not pass exams, function in life or is likely to turn to crime. I also was not prepared for the midwife mafia making breast-feeding such a pressure at a time when you are reeling from a major life change anyway. I felt bullied into breast-feeding with my first child and tried hard to succeed. It hurt like hell and I am grateful for my husband who suggested that at such an early time with my child, loving times were more vital than breast-milk. Enlightened midwives came on the scene with my second and third children and they function perfectly well having never tasted breastmilk in their lives.

3. They should all walk by a certain age

My three children walked at widely varying times. My first child was early and seemed to be able to walk for miles from the moment he pulled himself up to his feet. My daughter was incredibly late just managing to squeeze the feat in before her second birthday. Beyond checking to ensure there are no physical difficulties, relax about the walking issue. They will do it in their own time and you will then spend your life following them around the house to see what creative carnage they are causing.

4. Potty-training

In my opinion, there is all sorts of nonsense spouted about potty-training. I don't think you can get inside a child's mind and persuade them to suddenly find peeing and pooing in a pot the most fascinating thing for them to learn. I tried potty-training my first two and largely failed miserably. Then one day, my eldest said that he wanted to go to the toilet and continued to do so bypassing the potty completely. My daughter became toilet-trained from the day I said she could have a lollipop from town if she managed it in time for going to school. Oh I know, horror of horrors - told you I was an inadequate mother. My youngest seemed to find it easy but again bypassed the potty in favour of the toilet. So my advice is that they do it in their own time and neither they nor you should be tormented by the experts. Remember the experts are all neatly making an income out of their spouting whilst you are going slightly insane and tearing your hair out.

Other falsehoods that come your way

1. If they drop their dinner down their school jumper, they will fail all their GCSES

2. If they "lose" their stuff at school, it is not the fault of the teachers for not tackling the bullies but is your child's fault

3. If they stay up late one night, they will become an axe murderer

4, If they don't eat 5 fruit and vegetables per day they won't make it to adulthood.

5. Crisps and sweets on any occasion are the work of the Devil

6. A child will stay happily on the naughty step. Not if it has owt about it, it won't. Give me a child with spirit even if it exhausts me.

7. If a child struggles with some aspect of schoolwork, it is the parents' fault and no investigation should be done as to whether the child has a learning difficutly or a condition that the education system could help with

8. If a parent can't get time off work to attend a school event, the child will be traumatised for life. I do think it is important to do all you can to be there but realistically, some parents cannot do so. They are doing evil things like bringing an income into the household.

9. If you object to some of the practices of sports day, your child will never be a team-player. I have to admit that part of my response to this is "So what?". Maybe they will be a great leader or an inspiring individual.

10. If any parent is to blame, it is the mother.

Overall, my message to parents-to-be would be

1. Do your absolute best
2. Seek support acknowledging that you cannot be an expert in every aspect of a new experience
3. Look after your own mental health and if the horrors of depression strike, take it as seriously as you would a broken limb or worse.
4. Network with other parents whether your own family, friends or via the internet parenting sites such as Netmums
5. However shy, do try to get to some classes for mums and children. Sometimes you can be stressing about something when a little word with another mum could put your mind at rest
6. Communicate with the other parent (if present) as it is far better to work together than end up bickering which is draining when you need all your energies for the important task of raising your child.
7. Listen to the experts but don't sign your life over to them
8. Make valiant attempts to ensure you have time alone to think, to feel, to relax
9. You can do better but you are learning as you go
10. Don't give in to the conspiracy out there that wants to write off all women and mums in particular. If you are questioning yourself, you are doing fine.

Here's to all "good enough" parents

Monday, 25 October 2010

Step-parenting - fun or frazzled?

I moved in with a single father twelve years ago. I had no children of my own then. He had two girls living with him. One was hurtling fast towards her teenage years and the other towards womanhood. A third daughter was already living away from home with her boyfriend.

At first, I saw the children as bonuses of my new relationship. They were friendly enough, ready to say goodbye to my boyfriend's ex-girlfriend and to welcome the new one. Looking back with one of them, this process was way too easy and should have highlighted a coldness that I would suffer from later on having allowed her into my heart.

I suppose I tried to treat them and too often went down the route of buying them new things. I wanted them to have the best in life and getting to know them made me understand my own mother's frustrations. Trying to put old heads on young shoulders, trying to protect them from heartache. There were also happy times watching Who Wants to be Millionnaire, going out for Sunday lunch and cooking together.

I bonded most with the older girl but she left to be with her Mum after a row. The relationship between my boyfriend and her mum was not good at all so there was erratic contact after she left. I felt her loss for many years and am grateful that she is back in my life. As a step-parent, you tread a path trying to be fair to different people and usually end up pleasing nobody in my experience.

The younger girl and I were very different types of people. She tried and I did. There were good times for a few years and then she too left after a row. Maybe I really am a wicked stepmother. Or more likely, just one who did not know what she was doing and walked into a situation where much damage had already happened.

There is now polite contact with my three adult step-children. They now have three half-siblings courtesy of me and I can understand that must be hard to deal with sometimes. I have no complaints about how they treat my children and know that they all make efforts in their own individual ways. I think they understand more now that they are older that sometimes when I appeared against them, things were not quite that straightforward.

I have to say that I would caution any friend about getting involved with a man or woman who already has children. Parenting is challenging but step-parenting more so because there is not that unconditional love to fall back on. Nor do you have any fixed right to discipline step-children and that can be a barrier to progress at times. You have to rely on the parent to do it effectively.

There are horror stories out there

Step-children who steal
Step-children who go missing
Step-children who verbally or physically abuse

Then there are lovely stories

Step-children who ask to call you Mum
Step-children who read at your wedding
Step-children who sort of get that you are doing your best, however inadequate

But it is still a tough call and not for the faint-hearted

What is your experience?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Piers Morgan interview with Cheryl Cole

I tuned in to watch Piers Morgan's interview with Cheryl Cole.

It was painful to watch a woman still clearly in distress after the experiences of infidelity and life-threatening illness. I also found it interesting how she talked of feeling "freer" earlier in her career. Fame demands a high price and moving from one sort of life to another fast must impact adversely on mental health in some way. I remember on a much smaller scale going to Cambridge and then neither fitting in properly there or back home in a northern mill town. Celebrities are human first and foremost.

On the relationship front, she seemed to stay loyal to her ex-husband. She certainly did not bad-mouth him and said positive things about him. It was not that far away from the domestic violence victim who might say that he always says sorry in the morning. That does not make things OK whether he has hurt you emotionally, sexually or physically. Whilst I might be able to forgive infidelity if the prize was important enough, I find it insulting that some of her ex's antics were just puerile. I can't see how she deserved that at all.

I have had the heartbreak of losing a long-term relationship that I was totally committed to. I remember being shocked at how it hurt physically as well as emotionally. I felt as if I had lost a limb. It is not at all easy when who you see as your best friend walks away and hurts you too. I questioned my own judgement on everything and still do to an extent. How could I have got it so wrong? It has left me not quite sure of myself in the way I used to be.

So with white wine in the building last night, throughout the course of the evening I sat ranting probably looking like a version of Lily Savage. I ranted at people in the house who would listen and then when they went to bed, I gave vent loud and clear on Facebook and Twitter. Healthy or not healthy? I am not sure.

Cheryl did not deserve treating like shit.

And you know what, nor did I?

And nor do you.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Things my mother told me

1. Frame yourself
2. There's no such word as can't
3. You're no singer
4. You're no dancer
5. Your bum does look big in that
6. What you want to do is ....
7. Just have sex with him - you'll probably be disappointed anyway
8. For goodness sake, you can give yourself a climax
9. She's no friend of yours
10. He's a loser

11. I wish I could organise things like you do
12. I would have been a skivvy to experience life in Cambridge
13. Like steel, you will either bend or break in a crisis. I suggest you bend.
14. You'll always be the first
15. You should love your curls and nice skin
16. You should write even if it is just a diary (hence, this blog)
17. Can I come for Christmas but only if you want me to?
18. You look beautiful (on my wedding day)
19. It's hard to know what to say when people tell me how talented you are
20. I will be with you always

Friday, 22 October 2010

I am an invisible woman

It is so devestating to the soul how when you become a wife and mother you seem to disappear completely on occasions.

At parents' evening the other night, we were told that my daughter would be studying World War One next term. As Him Indoors works for an Armed Forces charity, I suggested maybe he could arrange to help in some way. Him Indoors said to the teacher concerned that we actually live outside his geographic area of responsibility. I said that I was sure he could make a telephone call to someone to get an Education Pack sent out to the school.

Fast forward a few days and my daughter comes home from school skipping in with an envelope addressed to Him Indoors. It was a thank you card for arranging to have the wonderful pack sent to school.

Now my question is who actually helped here. I clearly don't merit a thank you but I can tell you that without my input, that school would not have its all-singing and all-dancing pack.

This is just one example of the magical nightmare way in which being a wife and mum seems to, too often, obliterate your identity. You become a machine fulfilling six zillion tasks every day, many of which are actually someone else's responsibility. You clear up other people's mess and on occasion, you even have to think for people. I don't mean that I don't understand that some element of these things is not part of parenthood and wifedom but sometimes, just sometimes, the thought enters my head that perhaps my lovely family are taking the piss.

Here's to invisible women everywhere. I can see you clearly and tweet with you often. And I can tell you categorically, you are what holds this bloody country together.

Am I really invisible? Can you see me?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Who am I talking about?

See if you can guess who I am talking about?

1. She is shy at first but affectionate once she trusts you
2. She likes to get out and about
3. She utters expletives if things don't go her way
4. She eats a lot and sometimes very strange choices
5. She gives a present to someone most days
6. She is curious and some might say nosey
7. She can be quite territorial
8. She likes an early night
9. She likes a routine
10. She finds herself alone quite a lot

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Parents' Evenings

We went to parents' evening at the Infants' School together.

First stop was my 4 year old son's class. We had to wait for ages as the Mummy in front of us discussed every aspect of her daughter from birth to the current day. I felt sorry for the teacher who was already overunning having started mid-afternoon. Heard Mummy say that her daughter was not a girly girl and then suddenly panic and backtrack. Tried to distract myself by looking at all the resources and wondered how much fun it might be to volunteer at school and get involved with all that colour and stuff.

Our turn came and we were invited to sit down. Traumatic moments for the overweight Mummy as she realises that perhaps a quarter of her fat bum will take up all the space on the kiddy chair. You know the type - my friend, Hayley, used to call them sticky bum chairs.

Mrs M gave us a really good report on the thug with small legs. Apparently he transforms into Mr Angelic the moment he goes to school. He is doing well with his phonics and numeracy. Importantly, he has settled in well despite major life changes recently. He has made friends. All is well apart from a slight issue with how he holds his pencil. Alarm bells ring for me as my older son has literacy issues and I remember similar conversations in nursery 5 years ago. Maybe I did not take them seriously enough then so he struggles still with writing and spelling. His intellect and reading are very strong though so it puzzles me.

Our daughter's teacher, Mrs C, is next on our list. She seems quite officious at first but then I realise she just has an unfortunate manner and is actually lovely. I may be biased though as her first words are, "Can I just say that your daughter is an absolute delight?!" My daughter is doing very well across all subject areas and is very gifted in the literacy department. She is also a keen and talented artist.
For the first time,I understand what my parents used to find difficult when they went to my parents' evenings. What do you say when the reports are so glowing?

I chicken out of attending the Junior School session and my husband attends alone. I always find discussions about my older son's issues with literacy frustrating. Nothing seems to be progressing to nail the issue once and for all. He tries hard most of the time even with his teenager in training attitude. This has been going on since he was 5 years old when a teacher picked up that his impressive vocabulary and knowledge were not reflected in his written work. He has a special needs assessment and they came up with no firm conclusion except that he may have some type of dyslexia. Since then, I have asked over and over again at different schools what we can do to help him. I get nowhere. I am happy to pay or go externally to find help but I don't know where to start. My husband says the school probably don't take it too seriously as my son is obviously bright and also does not have a condition that would attract funding to the school. I just want to help him.

It is strange him having learning difficulties. I never imagined having a child who would struggle at school. I know that does not paint me in a good light but feel I should be honest. I love him but I wish I could just flick a switch or turn a key so that he could cope with literacy better. I worry how this problem will affect his future life chances. It is like there is some electrical connection in his brain that doesn't work. I don't know what to do.

I wonder how other parents with children with a diverse range of individual needs cope emotionally and practically. I particularly worry for parents who find it hard to have their say. One of the reasons I did not go into school was that on a day when I am tired, I am quite likely to rant and rage which will not help at all. My husband is calmer and more logical. He returns saying the school are aware and will try to look into the possible dyslexia diagnosis.

I remain unconvinced that my son is getting the help he needs.

How was your parents' evening?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

How dollies and children differ

1. You can make dollies hair go flat
2. Dollies never have bags under their eyes or sleep in the corners
3. Nobody seems to think it is a good idea for a dolly to have a snotty nose
4. You don't find much ear wax on Barbie or Ken
5. Sindy never minded having her hair washed
6. Once you have bought an outfit for your doll, it fits for ever
7. You don't have to cut finger and toe nails when dealing with a doll
8. Doll's shoes do get lost like childrens but don't get wrecked within a week of purchase
9. You can get a doll out of bed whenever the mood takes you and they don't need to go to school
10. Dolls don't answer back, resent you saying no or always insist on the latest or most expensive toy
11. You get to have as many days off as you want with your dolls
12. Dolls don't look sweet when are asleep, don't give you the world's best cuddles, don't tell you they love you every day, don't surprise you with their wit and wisdom. don't carry on your legacy, don't pick up on when you are happy or sad. don't make you laugh out loud.

Here's my Sindy. I will keep my snotty-nosed, waxy-lugged, rebellious, chaotic children thank you.

Reconnecting with an old friend

A few months ago, a girl I was at school passed away after a battle with cancer. I blogged about my feelings about that at the time. It certainly brought back raw memories of losing my Mum to that awful disease and also memories of the girl herself particularly her vitality.

Via Facebook, people who had known her posted on a memorial site. All of a sudden, I got a private message from someone I had known well at primary school and less so at secondary school. The message was tentative, Lottie, clearly not sure if I would want to contact her at all.

The funny thing was that I was delighted to hear from her. In fact, I had tried to locate her via the Internet more than once. My Mum had told me that when they bumped into each other in my hometown, Lottie would always ask how I was going on. So there was a connection as Mum also passed on snippets of news from Lottie. I should have got in touch with her then but was off having my new grown-up life and perhaps neglecting the people back home who really mattered.

Lottie and I used to spend hours around the age of 8 and 9 in my cellar which my Mum and Dad let me have as a playroom of sorts. We used to look through old photographs and also fantasise about who my "real" mum might be - a famous actress, a princess, what?

I will not give details of Lottie's story but suffice to say that my Mum was inviting her to tea at the time knowing that she was having a tough time at home. That is what people did then. Invited the children to tea but also minded their own business about troubles in other people's houses, minding their own business and perhaps not doing enough to help in the process. Lottie has suggested that she found romanticising about my "real" parents was a useful distraction from problems with her own.

Until I met the Ratbag Boyfriend in my late twenties, I had it easy in many ways. I was well loved at home and sailed through my exams. I got to the college and university I wanted to and loved it so much. Mind you, life since has always had so much to live up to having met such fascinating people and lived in such beautiful surroundings.

Whilst I was living the dream, Lottie was living a series of nightmares. And whilst I perhaps squandered a lot of my life chances mainly due to wanting to help other people and make society a fairer place and also an inherent insecurity issue, Lottie worked hard and has a decent career. She also is a wonderful mother to her three children. She has made her own dream despite so many setbacks and I admire her loads.

I also appreciate the fact that she does not judge me harshly. I think she still sees the girl I was. Having lost sight of that girl myself a bit, I find this reassuring. People who remind me what I used to be and perhaps at core still am despite being overweight, run down and confused about what to do next.

It is odd having a female friend to confide in again. It has been a while really.
Lottie shares her feelings openly and that gives me the confidence to do the same.
We have only had two meetings so far but email constantly. We have 30 years to catch up on after all.

I think and hope we are at the start of a new journey, a renewed friendship that sounds so unlikely but is proving good for both of us.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

What will not happen today

There will be no special Mass at church
There will be no last-minute fretting about travel arrangements
There will be no sibling rivalry about who matters most
There will be no surprise arrivals
The house will not be filled with bouquets of flowers
The table will not be heavy with dressed salmon, vol-au-vents, sausage rolls and the like
My husband will not spend his day answering the door to friends
Drinks will not flow
Tonight, the men will not visit the Irish National and the women won't chat over a Chinese takeaway
There will be no laughter and ribald humour
There will be no handing over of gifts and cards
There will be no tears of joy

But an 83 year old widower will climb into his car and take flowers to the crematorium. Because, his wife would have wanted him to, he will call at a fish and chip restaurant for lunch.

A daughter will not know quite what to say but at least on here can say Happy Diamond Wedding Anniversary Mum and Dad.

I miss you Mum.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

What would I tell my 18 year old self

1. You will get into Cambridge so stop stressing about it
2. Don't be afraid at Cambridge - most people are a bit scared so don't be fooled that everyone is mega-confident
3. Don't forget your roots or where you came from
4. Mum is right when she says to leave drugs alone
5. Don't get into difficult situations with boys/men through loneliness
6. Work and party hard
7. Don't reject people just because they have a different background to you
8. Don't set fire to things or take a knife to anyone
9. Life is unpredictable and you are in for a few surprises and shocks
10. You are really slim and possibly even attractive too
11. Sleep with him when you have the opportunity or you will spend a long time wondering "what if?".
12. Ease up on both yourself and other people
13. Remember you may not have these fantastic people for ever so make the most of them now
14. Someone is probably in love with you right now or at the very least in lust
15. Manage your money sensibly and don't take easy credit
16. Don't avoid things that scare you - Squire Law Library, parties
17. Reflect on what you really want to do and develop a strategy to move towards that

For number 18, I will leave it for my friends, followers etc to tell me what else I should have told myself way back then. Please feel free to comment.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Loss of Libido - a problem?

I had my daily appointment with Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby today. For many of us chained to the house for whatever reason, ITV's This Morning is a bit of a lifeline and a glimpse of at least part of the outside world.

Today, they had the sex therapist in. She talked about viewer problems, demonstrated how to massage and introducted an innocent like me to various sex toys. Must remember to tell daughter that no she cannot have a rabbit for Christmas!

One woman was complaining that she had lost her libido since the birth of her baby 22 weeks ago. Any one with half a brain might think that a lack of interest in sex when confronted by the huge physical and emotional changes that come with a baby is perfectly understandable.

I have 3 children and the return to sexual interest after their births varied. With my first I was on such a high that I actually begged my other half to make the most of the hospital bed in the maternity ward. With my second child, I was hit early by post-natal depression and feeling bad about life generally was not all that interested in any sort of relating to another human being beyond caring for my daughter. With my third child, I was busy at a new job but energised so all was well.

It is all too easy to tell the negatives about one's other half and to fall into that. However, on this point, I have to say that my partner was totally understanding. Yes, he made it clear that he still desired me and wanted sex but in no way, was I guilt-tripped into it.

The truth is libido may well come and go affected by the ups and downs (excuse the pun!) of life. Redundancy, debt, babies, bills, physical and mental health issues can all play a part in this.

I want to know why loss of libido is always described as a problem. If the person concerned does not want to have sex, why should they feel they have to? There is no freedom in that and if there is no freedom in sex, we are heading for really dodgy ground.

I recognise that if you are in a relationship, there has to be compromise but I think if you are truly loved, no man or woman should force or guilt trip you into sex. There are other aspects to relationships that can keep people close and happy.

A final point - I don't know about you but if I massaged my man as shown on telly this morning, there is no way it would last for twenty minutes without moving on to bigger and better things lol

Monday, 11 October 2010

Should I stay or should I go?

I am an adopted person. There are many aspects of this facet of my life that I could blog about and probably will but for now, let me talk about a very special invitation from an equally special lady.

My birth mum had me in the late sixties. Apparently London was well and truly swinging with dance bands and the like at that time. So I guess I can reassure myself that I am the product of a damn good night out.

My birth mum was Irish and returned to Ireland at some point settling down with a husband and have 4 children in wedlock. I was one of several children that she adopted out.

I did find out about her and traced her and we have swapped a few letters. My social worker tells me I am very much like my birth mum in terms of the things that interest me even down to her being into women's groups and learning. Nature, nurture - interesting!

Several years ago, I used the power of the Internet to track down my siblings in Ireland. I managed to find two of the four. I contacted them thinking that they knew all about me. They didn't and it was tense for a while but we agreed to have some loose contact.

I am most frequently in touch with Lucy (not her real name). She is a midwife and married and as she lives away from her parental home perhaps has more leeway in being in touch with me.

A couple of weeks ago, she raised the possiblity of me going out to Ireland to meet her for the first time. I find myself very excited at this prospect. I have always wanted to meet one of my blood relatives and know my firstborn son was extra special as he fulfilled that want/need to some extent. I ask Lucy if we will have a Jeremy Kyle moment as we dissolve into tears and emotional outpourings. She tells me that is unlikely as she is a tough cookie but who knows? Neither of us can predict how it will go really. I admire us both for picking up the pieces of other people's mistakes in the past.

I could stay here and be a coward but that would not fit with the great fire-walking, comprehensive to Cambridge real me. The real me is masked well under a fat frump at the moment but somewhere inside the spark remains.

Then the question becomes whether I should go alone, with my husband and children or with a friend. I think a friend would be the best option (note to self - need to locate a friend!). Although, I also suspect Lucy would like to meet my husband and children too. One step at a time maybe.

It also amuses me that Lucy battles in genuine sibling rivalry with Hannah my other half-sister. Looking at Hannah's profile, I think I am probably more like her than Lucy. So Lucy may well hate me on sight but here's hoping not.

So should I stay or should I go? What do you think?

Sunday, 10 October 2010


Depression is yuck!

It sneaks up and catches you by surprise. It disconnects you from others and life so you can see clearly but not enjoy.

When I am depressed, I want to curl up, close my eyes and blot out everything. But family life and marriage does not allow that. There are things to do, people to relate to so you become even more false playing the game, doing the chores and heading even lower. Other people's needs having to take the priority.

Apparently over-achievers are known to be very prone to depression. This is interesting as I spend most of my depressed times reeling off like a litany of saints the ways in which I am a non-achiever, worthless, useless, a bore. Or maybe reading about this aspect of depression is useful giving a little spark that maybe I have achieved something at some point in life.

I know I am not the only person who gets depressed. The problem is I can feel for fellow sufferers, want to ease their pain and so on. For me, I find it hard to accept that my depression is a mental health issue and therefore just like a broken bone in that is should not be pilloried. But my depression is different, it is my fault, I am a bad person etc - there is an arrogance in this I know. Is that part of depression too?

Today is a sunny day outside and a foggy one inside my mind. But there is hope in that I am writing and that always helps. I am OK as I know this will shift - just have to wait for it i

Friday, 8 October 2010

Who would be a Mummy?

Today, apparently I am in a bad mood. This is what my family think. I know differently. I woke up in a brilliant mood but events sort of took control of pleasant emotions and soon my stress levels were sky high.

Number 1 son could only find one school shoe. Why? Because he did not put his shoes away in the plastic crate we use for storing shoes.

Number 2 son was not at all sure he wanted to get up never mind go to school. This was traumatic after yesterday's incident where he refused pointblank to get on the bus to school. I don't drive so was grateful we now live with Dad who does so he arrived on time but with a mad woman who appeared to be tearing her hair out to the sing-song voiced teacher.

Only daughter had also not put her shoes away properly resulting in our Labrador puppy walking round with them in his mouth. This does not do them the world of good really.

Him Indoors wanted to know where he had put the Sudafed cream. Why does everyone make use of my brain? Why can't they think for themselves? Is it any wonder I walk round in a permanent state of exhaustion.

I got angry and shouted. Him Indoors suggested I lower my voice - now there is red rag to a bull. We are now making up and he said he was trying to help as I often complain that any noise from our house reverberates into my Dad's annexe where he was sleeping this morning.

What is it? If I point out a plastic crate and say "This is where we are going to put our shoes" and I repeat this over and over, how come they can't take it in? It is such a little thing I know in the grand scheme of things but very frustrating especially when I am in PMT mode.

The good news is that these days with all the children in school I can tap into internet contact with friends and fellow sufferers, blog about my world and sneak off for a long bubble bath.

Aaaargh! Deep breath, nice bath and wait for the next crisis

And for those lovelies who do care about me and say such lovely things to my face or on here, I am fine and just sharing as if we share, we all end up less isolated when times are tough

Thursday, 7 October 2010

My brother's visit

He does not visit home often. So it is a big deal when he does. On Tuesday as I waited for him to arrive, I actually got butterflies at the thought of seeing him again. The last time he came was over a year ago for Mum's Ashes Ceremony.

There has been a week of fuss and phone calls about his travel arrangements. Here is a man who has travelled the globe on business and pleasure but cannot navigate a journey from London to the frozen North. We are asked to provide the times of trains, weather reports and advice on what to wear. It amuses myself and my husband and irritates my Dad.

Needless to say, we arrange for him to be collected from the station. He arrives at the new house and, despite himself, is impressed. It shows on his face. How have they managed this?

On arrival we chat pleasantly enough and then he goes into Dad's annexe for some one on one time with him. The children arrive home and are so excited that their absent Uncle is present for once. Just like an absent parent, he is idolized from afar and tends to turn up with pressies to impress. This time, they don't even notice that he has brought nothing for them. Such is the cult of the absent Uncle.

Teas and dinners are had. Stories are read and children are bathed and put to bed. Two of my three accept this willingly enough following their normal routine. My oldest is up and downstairs like a yo-you wanting to be a grown-up and sensing a party atmosphere in the making.

My husband is dispatched to the local off licence for supplies. Many bottles of good red and white wine. It feels odd to be drinking out of crystal glasses rather than our "from Asda cheap and cheerful so if they break it doesn't matter" equivalents.

It is a night to talk of memories as the wine flows freely. I know my brother's flaws but it is very hard not to enjoy his excellent company. He is a great raconteur and has stories to die for having mixed with Royalty and celebrities in his time. He has "insider knowledge" on many famous names through the work he did not to mention his spell in The Priory a few years ago.

We recall in vivid detail as if we are reliving the moments

1. My flamboyant Uncle Lawrence - a tap dancer, gay, an alcoholic, an accountant, a laugh, a buyer of magical gifts. So many stories of party nights with his friends at his Shepherd's Bush flat and of joint holidays.

2. The time I was cross with same said Uncle so waited until he was in bed in a gin-sozzled state and then dropped a Family Bible on his head.

3. The time my brother threatened to cut my throat when I would not wash up at a family party. So I went into the room where all my parents' guests were and told them what he had said. To this day, he feels I was in the wrong and not him.

4. The time my other brother was posing on a sun-lounger and I went up and poured a bucket of cold seawater over him.

There are many other stories, some that are reassuring in some way as have been told many times over the years and others that are new and give fresh insights.

The next day, I am told by my Dad that both myself and my husband fell asleep in our chairs between 4 and 5 in the morning. Both Dad and my brother laugh and say we lack stamina.

How we managed to dress, breakfast and dispatch three young children to school the next morning I will never know.

Friday, 1 October 2010

I am boring

Did you know just how boring I am?

I am really, really boring.

I don't have a valid opinion on anything.

I am a waste of space, a blot on the landscape, an intrusion into other people's good times.

I am hurt and lonely.

It is difficult when the people who know you best don't want to talk to you or spend time with you. You can talk and talk but it is clear there is no interest left. Anyone else but you is good, you are crap.

I want to be appreciated, loved, cherished, something.

My son won't say goodnight to me. My husband says he wants to go to sleep and yet when he was partying with my Dad just minutes ago, he was wide awake. It is me - I bore people.

At school I was the swot - hence boring
At secondary school, I was identified with Margaret Thatcher (wrongly as it happens but since when has that made a difference?) - hence, boring
At college, I was viewed as boring, undesirable, generally not right
At work, bosses hated me for working hard or having ideas with the exception of the enlightened woman-loving boss
I was dumped by the first partner - too boring presumably and traded in for a younger, better-looking model
Netmums contacts who called me crazy and other things
Chrissakes - even my parents dumped me

Why do I keep trusting people only to get kicked in the guts?

And yet, there are voices who tell me otherwise.

A friend who says I have a good heart
Mummy friends who share a laugh online from time to time
A friend who forgives me for an error of judgement
A friend from school who wants to give me a go
My children who always want a cuddle and tell me they love me
My pets
Twitter friends who say my writing serves some sort of purpose or is beautiful, sensitive or other lovely descriptions

Yes, I have had a drink. Yes my darling husband is asleep having told me I am talking bollocks - how very charming! Yes, I still love my new life in the country and will bounce back.

I think, like many women/people, I accept too little sometimes but am too old, knackered and past it to say, hang on a minute, I used to be a feisty, bolshy firebrand and I am worth listening to and if you can't see that, it says more about you than me.

One day this particular worm will turn - watch out

Domestic Violence - times I have come across it

I have just heard about the wonderful Dogs Trust Scheme where they are looking for foster carers for the pets of women escaping domestic violence. The idea is that someone looks after the puppies or dogs until the woman is in a position to get on her feet, housed and have her pet back. Excellent.

It got me thinking about domestic violence. I think about the issue a fair amount anyway, believing it to be such a loss to the country on all fronts that women (and to be fair some men) are having their spirits knocked out of them and that all too many go on to be badly injured or to die.

I suppose I first heard about domestic violence from my mum. She was a great story-teller and would tell me how her beloved father would hit her mother regularly. She would also sympathise with his plight - returning from fighting for the English in World War 1 and having his leg shot to bits only to find there was no proper Home Rule for Ireland as promised and a life of poverty and struggles to feed a family. So he drank and would return home and beat Sally Ann my grandmother. I never knew her but she sounds like a strong woman. She would put her children upstairs and tell them not to come down or intervene no matter what they heard. So the children remained safe physically but doubtless left home with emotional scars that I believe lasted a lifetime.

Domestic violence was not mentioned at either primary or secondary school in lessons as I remember. Nor do I remember despite my Criminal Law studies it coming up at university either in my studies or in conversations with peers. The great silence we maintain which aids the perpetrators so much. The greatest brains in the country were supposedly at my university - with all those brains on the issue, just think what progress we could make but we don't. More money to make, bigger fish to fry, turning a blind eye.

I do remember walking in the playground with a school-friend in primary school and her telling me of an incident of domestic violence. I seem to remember her being embarrassed and me from my stable background being shocked but not knowing what to do with the information presented. Through renewed contact recently, we both remembered that conversation well although even now, I did not say what I meant and alluded to it. A cop-out. We need to talk more openly about the topic as the first step to committing to tackling it.

When I became an advice worker, I saw a client who had been battered by her husband. I was so naive and could not understand why her fingers were bruised. Why would her husband hit her there? I asked my ex-police officer father who explained how she would hold her hands up to try to protect her head and the man would not stop thumping her so her fingers would be in the way and, hence, bruised. I remember that women clearly - skinny in a denim jacket, blonde, shaking, crushed. I hope she got out.

When I left my ex-boyfriend (my Dad made sure I did the leaving even though the bloke had taken on a younger model and planned on moving in with her with a day or two), I needed housing. Dad encouraged me to say my ex had hit me thinking it would put me up the housing list. I would not do it. Domestic violence is far too important an issue to play games with. Also, whilst my ex was bad in many ways, he did not hit me or if he did, I don't remember.

My husband's ex-wife suffered domestic violence at the hands of her second husband. My husband tried to help her on occasion but she stayed put. I don't think she is a very strong character really and perhaps accepts little or rubbish as her lot in life.

Once, when working on peer supported learning for senior managers, a highly-respected professional woman spoke out about suffering domestic violence for many years and still doing so. They say it crosses all classes, professions and backgrounds. Why is that?

I got a big shock when I got my official adoption file when I turned 40 years of age. As I looked at the scribbly handwriting, the word "violent" sprang from the page. So now I have to incorporate that my birth father may have being a bully, an aggressor, a bastard. I am his daughter, I share his genes, who am I?

I am working with my Dad on his family tree. He brought some old papers through yesterday telling me of how a couple of husbands of his aunties had "belted" them. I was surprised how he described how the wider family had disapproved and tried to help them. This would be in the thirties and forties and I was under the impression that domestic violence was accepted as normal back then.

I don't have any conclusions apart from the fact that we should all challenge domestic violence and be vigilant so that we help where we can. This can be professionally or with family and friends.

Grandma stayed with her husband till her dying day as did my Dad's relations
My school-friend's mum went on to remarry
My clients - who knows? Here's hoping.
My husband's ex-wife - not for me to say, not fair
My birth mum left my birth father - inevitably, I am tempted to romanticize and must face facts

What can we do? I don't have the answers but let's do something.

And don't forget to check out the Dogs Trust website and the Refuge website.