The Flip-Flop Saga

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The car was jam packed with the usual 1970’s beach paraphernalia – picnic hamper, deck chairs, blanket and windbreaker. We, that is, Mum, Dad my brother and me were on our way to the beach. We were almost at our destination when I happened to glance down at Ma’s feet and saw black fur.

There were a couple of possibilities..

a) She’d bought along a cat though this was unlikely as she’d gone off cats since one had the audacity to use the dining room table leg as a scratching post.

b) Her toe hair was seriously out of control.

Also unlikely as Ma was too posh for toe hair. In the end I went with the most obvious conclusion that she had committed a heinous fashion faux pas – albeit unknowingly.

“Mum, why are you wearing your slippers?” I piped up from the back seat.

Ma looked down, said a naughty word, then had a go at us for doing her head in, thus making her forget to change into her sandals.

When I say slippers, I mean 1970’s slippers.

Like these only in black. I look at these slippers and I’m instantly transported back to the 70’s with Barry White making love to Ma via Dad’s HiFi speakers.

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After giving us a bollocking, she told Dad to do an about turn but he wasn’t having any as we were almost there. He told her she would have to buy a pair of flip-flops when they got there.

Now for us kids, flip-flops were part of the holiday experience. We had a bucket, spade, a pair of flip-flops and the promise of an ice-cream if we behaved. Tall order but it gave us the incentive to try.

I used to love the flick-flacking sound they made as I flipped across the sand.  I did Ma’s head in with my incessant flick-flacking. Once they were on, they stayed on for the rest of the holiday.

Ma wasn’t a flip-flop kinda woman. She worshipped Dr Scholl, only they were back in the caravan..

Despite the risk of amputation via the toe-post, I’d always preferred flip-flops. A lot of the girls at school had a pair of Scholl’s. I’d tried Ma’s once when she was distracted by Corrie but they felt heavy and didn’t have the same satisfying tone of flick-flack.

So Dad was dispatched into a shop and he came out with a pair of bright yellow flip-flops. By the look on Ma’s face, you’d think she’d been asked to clean out the gent’s bogs without Marigolds.

After we’d set up camp on the beach, she had a cuppa and chained her way through a few Silk Cut’s then finally stopped glaring at the flip-flops. And us.

In those days deck chairs were for the oldies. No fancy kiddie chairs like we have today. I should coco! If we were lucky, we had a blanket to sit on or an old towel but no trip to the seaside was complete without taking half the beach back in the gusset of our swimwear. Add to that a cup of lukewarm tea, a cheese sandwich (literally) and some soggy crisps because some div (probably me) had knocked the squash over.

At some point, Dad gave into our relentless mithering to be taken for a walk along the beach. Ma and her flip-flops came along too.

It was all going well, proper picture postcard moment until we came across some quick sand. To cut a long story short, Ma got stuck and Dad had to haul her out in a most undignified fashion. After a couple of tugs, Ma’s feet were freed but they came out minus a flip-flop.

The beach had claimed it in an act of retribution.

Obviously, saying  “As soon as we get back, these sodding things are goin in the bin!” invokes the god of flip-flop’s wrath. So let my mother’s lesson be a warning to you. Never diss the flops!

We probably shouldn’t have laughed as hard as we did but kids tend to laugh at stuff like that. She wasn’t in any real danger and in any case, Dad was on it faster than Usain Bolt off the starting blocks. The only real danger was that I might actually have wet myself laughing. Maybe I did?

Of all the holidays we’ve had, that day has always stayed with me. My childhood, as far as my family was concerned, was a happy time. As the years went by and after a few glasses of wine, I’d remind Ma of the day she went to the beach wearing her slippers and she’d laugh after giving me the obligatory playful slap on the wrist for being a cheeky cow.

Now she’s gone and the memory is bittersweet. It never fails to make me smile. I’ve tried to it justice in this post but you really had to be there.

I feel sad because she can no longer share it with me.

Ultimately I feel blessed to have memories like this and there are plenty more where this came from. Ma may be gone but her legacy is one of love and laughter. I can’t look at a yellow flip-flop or mule slipper without smiling.

My mother was a comedy writers wet dream.  I often wonder if Roy Clarke, the writer of Keeping Up Appearances, came across my mother somewhere along the way because she was a real life Hyacinth Bucket. Sorry, Bouquet!

The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose. Garrison Keillor

Image Credit Flip Flop

Photo of 1970’s mule slippers used with the kind permission off a bloke from Ebay.

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The Challenge

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If your child has autism you may be familiar with the term ‘challenging behaviour’.

My son has autism and presents us with challenging behaviour on a daily basis.

It used to be termed as ‘problem behaviour’ or ‘socially unacceptable behaviour’ but that implied that the child was at fault – a problem to be fixed.

Challenging behaviour such as kicking, pinching, hitting etc could be due to communication difficulties, changes in routine, too much stimulus, too little stimulus, difficulties with waiting and taking turns and feeling unwell.

The challenge is in how we as parents, carers and teachers deal with it.

S was very young when I realised something was different. This post was written just before his fourth birthday and explains how we came to the conclusion that he might be autistic.

He was subsequently diagnosed with autism and sensory processing disorder shortly before his 5th birthday.

He has daily ‘melt downs’ and could give any teen a run for their money with his door slamming skills.

You can’t cure autism. It is a lifelong condition but it can be positively managed and that’s where the challenge is.

Parenting a child with autism can be physically and mentally exhausting.

I have had a few Grandmaster Flash, “Don’t push me cause I’m close to the eeeeedge I’m try-ing not to lose my head uh huh huh” moments but usually a few deep breaths and a slow headbanging session sorts me out.

It can also be incredibly rewarding.

It’s my job to recognise his triggers as best I can.

It’s my job to see when he is becoming overstimulated and adapt things in order to calm him down.

It’s my job to learn as much as I can about autism and him.

It’s my job to take the judgmental stares, the complaints and the assumptions and deal with it.

It’s my job to make sure that he (and we) get all the support we need.

It’s my job to see that he develops the necessary skills not only to cope, but to thrive in an overwhelming world.

It’s my job to make sure that he reaches his potential.

It’s my duty to make sure that he is the best he can be.

It’s a privilege to be his mother.

The negative side to his autism are the behavioural issues.

The positive side is that he never fails to amaze me. His photographic memory is nothing short of awesome.

When he laughs, he really laughs. My child doesn’t ‘suffer’ from autism, he is a very happy little boy!

He carries his numbers about in his pink handbag and he’s oblivious to the stares. One blessing is that he can’t comprehend that some ignorant twats are laughing at him. He thinks they are laughing with him. I know who I would rather fill the world with..

Five year olds are expected to be able to count up to 100 and know their 2, 5 and 10 times table. He’s been able to count to 100 for the last two years and knows the entire 12 times table off by heart. He can’t put his shoes on without help or hold a pencil properly but he’s a number machine!

Part of the challenge is to find ways to calm him down, especially in social situations. It’s trial and error.

His teachers recently realised that he was interested in the chicks and when he became overwhelmed in class, his support teacher would take him to sit by the tank. She kindly took these pictures to show us.

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The last four weeks have been incredibly challenging due it being the school holidays.

I have a few more grey hairs than I started the holidays with.

And the twitch is back!

Earlier in the week he ran out in front of a car that was driving onto the garage forecourt because he’d had ten minutes of stimulation. Children with autism can be ‘runners’ where they can slip away from sight in a few seconds. He got upset, not because of the car, but because I screamed out as I grabbed him. One moment of distraction is all it takes..

A bus ride last week was another occasion where we over estimated his level of tolerance. He loved the ride but when we got off, he couldn’t stand any noise at all and we had to go straight back home.

That’s the hard part for me, knowing that the enjoyable things in life do his head in and end in melt-down.

On reflection, a shorter journey with an instant turnaround would have been better. It’s important that he experiences ‘normal’ things but small steps are essential.

It’s a continual learning curve for us as a family.

Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. But in making mistakes, we are learning. That’s not unique to autism – that’s life.

With the challenges come the rewards of seeing our little dude make progress and thrive – especially socially.

I have sensory issues so part of the challenge is pushing myself beyond my limits but I am a mother first. I overcome because I need to – for him.

The positive to this is that I understand my son in a way that most people can’t and in turn it’s helped me to understand myself. I don’t just sympathise, I empathise.

Some days it feels like an impossible task but I remind myself that the goal is my son’s future and that gives me the strength to keep going.

Thank you for reading.

This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless,
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause.

The Impossible Dream ~  Elvis Presley – written by Mitch Leigh, Joe Darion

Image Credit Mountain

This post is part of Sara at mumturnedmom’s linky.

 

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You’re So Vain (you probably think this post is about you)

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but my idea of beauty differs greatly from that of the media.

Facelifts, Botox injections, teeth whitening and veneers are becoming common place for women these days and for television presenters of a ‘certain age’ it’s expected if they want to keep their jobs. Seemingly women have a shelf life, as opposed to their male counterparts, who’s only other requirement is a pulse. Men can go on presenting into their 80’s but women are put out to pasture on Radio 4 where they can still be heard but not seen.

The message from the media is that old is not beautiful.

As Catherine Tate’s ‘Nan Taylor‘ would say, “WHAT A LOAD OF OLD SHIT!!”

Women are becoming completely obsessed with their looks, desperately trying to eradicate the effects of time for fear of being replaced by a younger woman.

But what is beautiful?

The media portrays surgically altered and photo manipulated women as beautiful and as a result women are aspiring to be something that’s unrealistic.

Bigger boobs, smaller waist, thinner nose, bigger lips, smaller piss flaps, thicker hair, whiter teeth and muff styling – anything to change their appearance.

The result of continually going under the surgeons knife is something that wouldn’t look out of place in Madame Tussaud’s – only the really shit looking waxworks which look nothing like the celebrities they’re meant to be.

Then there’s these two…

I was stunned to read about the ‘Human Barbie‘, Valeria Lukyanova.

Er, what’s going on here then?

There is also Justin Jedlica ,dubbed ‘The Ken Doll” by the media, who has had 140 plastic surgery procedures in the last 15 years including 12 implants in his torso that mimic shapely arm and chest muscles.

According to him his body modification comes from a place of artistic creativity, not a mental illness.

Not deluded in the slightest!

If I was to come face to face with one of these creepy creatures, I’d presume that I’d been mixing my household chemicals again, or that I was actually dead and this was karma paying me for snapping the leg off a Barbie in 1978.

Recently Valeria claimed she wants to live only on light and air.

As you do..

In recent weeks I have not been hungry at all; I’m hoping it’s the final stage before I can subsist on air and light alone.

No, that’ll be the final stage before you die, but I’m sure you’ll look just fabulous in your coffin!

Normally, I’m a ‘whatever floats your boat’ person. If celebs want to take the risks with their looks, it’s tough false tits when it goes wrong but these ‘dolls’, especially the food dodger with her “food nihilism” and her message that surgery is the essence of beauty is alarming. They have a fan base, no doubt made up of perverts and impressionable girls.

For the good of humanity – load her and all the other ‘dolls’, including Ken with his fake pecs, into a rocket, light the boosters and fire em off into space before they have chance to reproduce.

Why in the name of Cher would anybody want to look like a doll? I had a Holly Hobbie once but I don’t want to have freckles tattooed on my face and wear a bonnet!

I’m not sure what alarms me more – the fact that people choose to do this to themselves or that unscrupulous surgeons are willing to exploit what amounts to mental illness. I am all for corrective or reconstructive surgery when it’s about quality of life, but this is insanity.

Celebs will go to extraordinary lengths to hold onto their youthful looks.

Mrs Beckham for instance, is rumored to be using a facial which involves bird poo.

Go sit on Blackpool prom with a tray of chips, Posh – you’ll be graced with more bird shit than you’ll know what to do with!

What’s so wrong with wrinkles anyway? They certainly haven’t done Dame Judi Dench any harm. She is proof that older women can be naturally beautiful and desirable.

I’m hardly Waynetta Slob when it comes to my beauty regime. I do try to look keep myself presentable but a twice weekly exfoliation and tash control is about as radical as it gets.

I’m growing fond of my lines. They show I’ve lived.  Many people don’t live to see their first wrinkle and at 44 I count myself lucky.

And I’m not totally against a little maintenance work here and there. Helen Mirren has had a subtle face and neck lift. The look is natural and in keeping with her age. She’s not trying to look 18 again.

I’ve grown up watching my mother trying to fend off time. She spent that much money on creams and potions, I expected a sympathy card from  L’Oreal when she died.

Her self esteem plummeted as she aged. She didn’t do age. She wasn’t comfortable with it. She’d get stroppy when we playfully ribbed her about it then she’d flounce off upstairs saying, “Sod the lotta yer!”

She had these amazing brown eyes and never looked more beautiful than first thing in the morning before the make up went on. She despised her wrinkles but I loved them, partly because I’d helped to put them there – especially the furrows in her brow.

I prefer natural beauty – amazing eyes and a great smile do it for me.

Maybe if society appreciated older women more, Ma would have been more confident with her looks.

My mother was a beautiful woman, she just couldn’t see it.

Lets take a look at these crows feet, just look
Sitting on the prettiest eyes
Sixty 25th of Decembers
Fifty-nine 4th of July’s
You can’t have too many good times, children
You can’t have too many lines
Take a good look at these crows feet
Sitting on the prettiest eyes

~ Prettiest Eyes – The Beautiful South

Image Credit

This post is part of  Mumturnedmom‘s linky.

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It’s a Mans World

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Women earn less than men in 32 of the 35 major occupations classified by the Office for National Statistics. The three major occupations where women earn more than men – transport drivers, electricians and agricultural workers – are all male dominated. Fewer than 50,000 women are employed in these sectors, compared to 1.5 million men. ~ Source

Sara over at mumturnedmom asks if it’s a mans world?

During the first world war, over 600,000 women took on previously male dominated roles – although women in paid work was by no means new.

During the second world war women, again, showed their worth by taking over the roles previously dominated by men.

In both cases women found that, after the war, the advances that they had made were greatly reduced.

But the woman’s position in society would never be the same.

Before the war a woman’s place was in the home. Her role was to be a good housewife and mother.

Then the wars came the women got stuck in, not just because they had to but also because they wanted to play a useful part in the war effort.

When the war ended in 1945 there were 460,000 women in the military and over 6.5 million in civilian war work.

Without women, our war effort would have been significantly weakened and the outcome may have been different.  Hitler refused to let German women work in the munition factories – going against the advice of his senior industry adviser, Albert Speer.

Many women enjoyed the independence which came from having a job of their own so it must have been a kick in the flaps when the soldiers came home and wanted their jobs back. Women had had a taste of freedom and the thought of being relegated to the kitchen once more didn’t sit well.

Yet, almost 70 years on, we still have a big divide between the sexes when it comes to employment.

It should be simple. If women do the same job as men, they should be paid the same wage.

A woman passed her forklift test at work and started to work alongside men. She formally complained when one of the men refused to change the battery on her truck. She was told it was part of the job description for her to do it. Fair do’s, or should he have done it for her?

Men are discriminated against in quite a few situations..

Screening is available to women for breast and cervical cancers but not for male cancers, prostate or testicular.

While the rate of domestic violence against women is still higher than men, men made up just over a quarter of the victims in 2010 according to the British Crime Survey. That figure doesn’t include the incidents that go unreported like slaps across the face and having to dodge flying plates. Men are not taken as seriously as women and there are fewer refuges.

The law almost always favours the wife/mother over the husband/father.

Fathers have a lot more to do with raising their children than those of a few decades ago, but while the numbers of stay at home dads are on the increase it can be far more socially isolating for them.

If a father looking after his children is the right situation for all involved then what’s the big deal? It’s what’s best for the children that matters and regardless of who is doing what – care giving and bringing home the moolar are equally important roles.

When it comes to equality, there are problems from men and women.

I have worked in factories/ warehouses and almost all of the harassment seen is by middle aged women against young lads.

I know a man who’s wife beat the shit out of him and humiliated him on an a daily basis…in fact, I know quite a few abusive women.

Men suffer at the hands of women too.

I don’t think true equality can ever be achieved because equal means the same and that’s biologically impossible.

Generally, men dominate high powered jobs because they are naturally wired to do it. In the same way that women generally excel at nurturing roles. But it is the case that certain men make great nurturers and certain women make great leaders and providers.

At the end of the day, does it really matter who does what as long as the job gets done?

In some countries women are treated as second class citizens but in certain societies, it’s the women who hold the powerful roles and respect.

I see a lot of hate towards men and I think it’s unfair to tar all men with the same brush because of the rotten apples. There are some evil men out there but evil is by no means unique to them.

A newspaper article in 2010 revealed that annual criminal justice statistics showed that 88,139 women were arrested for violent offences in a single year.

That’s a shit load of angry women!!

The gentler sex?

In general women are the more gentle sex but oestrogen can be as powerful as testosterone when coupled with jealousy or insanity.

Some men need to play the alpha male and leave knuckle trails on the floor but what about the men who beg to spanked on the arse with a rolled up Woman’s Weekly? And if the missus won’t oblige, there are plenty who will!

I’ve no desire to be equal to my OH.

I am not the same as him. I don’t have a penis..well not one that didn’t come with a price tag.

And he can’t ever give birth to anything other than a massive poo!

I’m happy to be different but different doesn’t mean less.

My strength lies elsewhere than physical.

It shouldn’t be a battle of the sexes.

We’re all human beings.

Men are not better than women – they are just different.

Women are not better than men – they are just different.

It’s a (Hu)mans world.

“Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.” George Carlin

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 Image Credit

Don’t Look Back in Anger

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Four years of being bullied at high school came to an abrupt end one day in 1986.

My first day there was the most memorable because an older girl (a younger version of Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull) introduced herself by smacking me hard across the face.

“What was that for?” I asked.

“I don’t like your face!”, she replied.

I told a teacher..

BIG mistake!

The girl was made to apologise to me – publically.

Her eyes narrowed to a couple of slits as she spat out, “I’M SORRY!”.

I knew then that I’d made things worse for myself.

But it wasn’t just her..

I was bullied in the classroom too.

When you try to make yourself invisible – the opposite happens.

Name calling, kicking the back of my chair (and legs) having things thrown at my head happened on a daily basis.

Some teachers were aware of it but when faced with the dilemma of doing their duty as a teacher or having a quiet life – they opted for the latter and turned a blind eye.

Despite the unpleasantness, I had mates and we were close until we fell out over a lad.

Being bullied is one thing but being bullied by your friends cuts deep.

This is where I developed Bulimia.

I had no control over my life.

Every day was a kind of hell.

I woke with a sick feeling in my stomach and I went to bed with the same sense of dread.

English lit was fun (not) because it provided the school knob-heads with entertainment as I blushed and sweated my way through the ordeal of class reading.

At home time, I either had to get out before everyone else or hang back until they’d all gone.

I’d get back home and for a few short hours I was safe.

In those days, we had no internet or mobile phones so at least home was a safe haven.

But the anxiety was always there.

I’d comfort eat, then stick my fingers down my throat or take laxatives to purge the hatred that I felt.

Hatred of myself for being weak.

Hatred of them for being the reason.

I’d cry myself to sleep and dream of them all drowning in a freak accident in the school pool or choking to fucking death on their school dinners.

We all have our limits and that day, I reached mine.

We were coming in from afternoon break and as usual it was a seething mass of acne ridden teenagers all trying to squeeze through the doors at the same time.

Suddenly, I felt myself being shoved forward into the person in front who was not best pleased and shoved me back.

I turned around and there was one of my so called ‘mates’ with a smirk on her face.

My stack – I well and truly blew!

Fight obliterated flight.

All I could think of was battering her face into the floor.

The next few minutes were a blur of scratching, punching and hair pulling –  a proper bitch fight the likes of which I deplored.

I could hear the morons egging her on to ‘smash my face in’ but I was too busy trying to get a punch in to care.

We both gave as good as we got.

One of my least dignified moments…

Before long, we were unceremoniously dragged apart.

The crowd dispersed – the show was over.

We ultimately found ourselves in the deputy head mistress’s office looking like something out of St Trinian’s.

My nails were scattered all over the corridor and I’d still got clumps of her hair in my fist.

My mullet was totally wrecked and I looked like I’d been savaged by a cat!

I struggled to look the deputy head in the eyes.

She looked at the girl and said “I’m not surprised to see you here!”

My former friend was a bit of a gobshite and made regular appearances in the deputy head’s office.

Then the deputy head looked at me.

” I am surprised to see you here!”

When asked how we came to be brawling in the corridor, the girl answered, “We don’t get on anymore, Miss”.

I looked at her.

We’d stayed at each others houses.

We’d shared fags watching Brat Pack movies at the cinema.

We’d both stood and shrieked our heads off at Spandau Ballet in Birmingham.

We were supposed to be friends

But that day we were far from it.

Anger is a part of being human.

It is a natural emotion and anger itself isn’t the problem – it’s how it’s expressed.

I TOTALLY lost the plot and as a consequence, my school record was blemished within a few months of me leaving the shithole.

Worse than that- I had lowered myself to their level.

I should have bit my lip and walked on as I had a hundred times before.

Had I have done so – my dignity (and mullet) would have remained intact.

I will never forget the look of disappointment on the deputy head’s face.

I will never forget the look of bewilderment on my parent’s faces as they read the letter that informed them of their daughter’s unacceptable conduct.

They didn’t know about the bullying and were saddened that I hadn’t confided in them.

But Ma would have gone barreling in there – unleashing a can of whoop-ass the likes of which the school would never recover.

It was my battle.

As it was, the fight marked the end of the bullying.

It seems that violence brings respect but I respect myself more for all the times I walked away.

It took more strength to do that.

Given the circumstances, I would most likely react the same way if I had that time again because it’s about primeval instinct.

Fight or flight.

Thanks for reading.

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
~ Michael J Fox

mumturnedmom

Photograph by K J W Photography

This post is linked up to Sara over at mumturnedmom