A Letter From The Front.

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December 27th 1914

Dear Mam,

Hope you are all well back home, I miss you all so much. Who’d have thought this time last year that I’d be spending this Christmas on the front line?

We all got a Christmas gift from Princess Mary – a tin containing a card, cigarettes, picture and a pencil. I got your card and package, those socks were just what I needed! Thanks, Mam.

The weather has been wet for most of December but the temperature dropped on Christmas Eve and there was a heavy frost, which at least made it feel a bit more like Christmas. I longed to be sitting in front of the fire, teasing our Gladys and the boys. How is Glad? I worry about her. Tell her she must be brave like her big brother.

Conditions are hard but our spirits are up. The trenches are waterlogged and one solider, Albert, keeps singing about being in the Navy. Funny lad, he should be on the stage! Humour is never far away and thank God for that!

I wanted to tell you of the strangest thing that happened on Christmas Eve…

We heard the Germans singing carols. Word came from their lines that, if we didn’t fire on Christmas Day, neither would they.

We were wary at first but then we saw them climbing out of their trench, hands in the air – obviously unarmed.

They shouted out to us, “Happy Christmas English soldiers!” A few of us ventured out of our trench and met them half way. A German shook my hand. He told me his name was Karl. He didn’t look much older than me. He showed me a picture of his wife and son. We exchanged gifts. I gave him some cigarettes, he gave me some cake and we both swapped buttons off our coats.

Everybody was so friendly, it was surreal.

During those two days, not a shot was fired. If I hadn’t have seen it happen with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it, Mam. I keep looking at the button to check that it really did happen.

It made me realise that they are just following orders the same as us and they have families too.

Hopefully this war will soon be over and, God willing, we will return home safe and sound.

I must close now but take heart that a miracle really did happen this Christmas.

All my love,

Jack

P.S Could you send some lice powder next time?

The letter is fictional but it’s inspired by a true event.

The Christmas Truce took place in the Christmas of 1914. Though there was no official truce, roughly 100,000 British and German troops took part in unofficial cessation of fighting. This would prove to be the last significant act of chivalry between the two sides. Future attempts at cease fires were met with threats of disciplinary action. At this point in the war, censorship was still in its infancy so many letters sent home reported this as having happened.

Letters played a huge part in the war. The most effective weapon wasn’t a rifle, it was morale. Receiving letters was one of the few comforts a soldier had and writing them helped relieve the boredom. The given reason for censorship was to prevent the enemy from finding out secret information but it was also to stop bad news from reaching home. Some letters slipped through censor net and for the sake of this post, this is the case for this letter.

Support was vital from the home front. The majority of soldiers kept their letters as upbeat as possible, shielding their loved ones from what life was really like.

Given the appalling conditions which these men were living in and the horrors that they faced each day, it’s not surprising that the Christmas Truce should have had such a profound effect on those who witnessed it.

Seemingly neither side wanted to be the first to break the goodwill so those men were replaced with others who hadn’t taken part and the war (which people initially thought to to be over by Christmas) carried on for four more years with the loss of about 10 million military personnel and a total of around 37 million casualties.

The legacy of the truce is the message of hope that in our darkest hour, humanity can still be found.

But, however, looking back on it all, I wouldn’t have
missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything~ Bruce
Brairnsfather, an English solider.

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Header Image by Kevin Walsh

Christmas Truce Image – Wikimedia Commons

mumturnedmom

Older

For the sake of this post, I am borrowing Doc Brown’s DeLorean. (It’s a time machine, kids)

*Blasts back to 1981 aged 11*

Puberty starts with a bang, literally. It’s bonfire night, I presume I’m dying, Ma thrusts a sanitary towel the size of Wales through the bathroom door saying “stick this in your knickers, dear!”

*Fast forward to 1983 aged 13*

I inform my dad,  “I’ll NEVER leave you! I’ll NEVER get married!! I HATE boys!!!” (except Duran Duran)

*fast forward four years to 1987 aged 17*

Gets married.

*fast forward to 1988*

Is handed a howling bundle of joy by an extremely cranky midwife with staffing issues. I am smitten, (with baby not midwife)

*fast forwards to August 1992 aged 21*

Cantankerous old biddy of a midwife (been delivering babies since the 1800′s) thrusts a sleepy bundle of joy in my arms. Smitten again.

*fast forwards to June 2009 aged 38*

Limps into labour ward looking like Alice Cooper. Within a couple of hours I am descended on by theatre staff who unceremoniously prepare me for an emergency C Section.

The 9lbs 7 oz bundle is extracted from my mangled womb and promptly pees on the nurse. For a third time, I am smitten.

*fast forwards to 2009 aged 39*

Gynecological consultant (male) cheerfully informs me that he is going into retirement, as are my ovaries. I am menopausal. I manage to refrain from lamping him one.  I’m only 39! In my prime, aren’t I?

*fast forwards a year 2010*

Tries to look on the bright side of being 40 and menopausal by thinking of all the money I’ll save on not having to buy sanitary towels.

*fast forwards to 2012*

Post menopausal -  ovaries have officially retired.

*fast forwards a year 2013*

Pelvic floor surrenders.

*rewinds back to August 1992 – maternity hospital*

Pleads to have a couple of stitches put in.

*fast forwards back to 2012*

Craves comfortable shoes, ruched tops  and Alan Titchmarsh.

Orders Tena Lady’s by the pallet load.

Displays erratic psychotic behaviour.

Forgets stuff.

Mourns youth.

*fast forwards to 2014*

Acceptance.

This has been my reproductive life and now it’s officially over. Kaput. Knackered. Finito.

Initially miffed that my eggs are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, I soon reminded myself that I have three wonderful children and am lucky to have had the privilege, many don’t.

My journey has brought me to a place where I finally like who I am.

I look at this photo of 16 year old me and realise that I didn’t like myself very much. I mean, just look at my body language. Am I handcuffed?

I was 16! Why wasn’t draped across the sand in my bikini?

I suppose it’s something that I wasn’t wearing my cardi…

The hair is hideous but I only have the one chin and, what’s that, a belly button?

I haven’t seen that SOB in five years!!

Scan0026

Note the white skirt. Must have been THE holiday where I wasn’t on my period!

So now I’m middle-aged.

I have a wibbly bum, rogue nose hair and boobs which look like a couple of deflated airbags (if airbags came in Borrower size)

Oh, and I dribble when I laugh.

‘OOPS’ moments? I’ve had a few…

But all this comes with the realisation that, despite disintegrating faster than a dunked Rich Tea biscuit (but with less finesse), I am more comfortable with my body than I’ve ever been.

Menopause isn’t the end of the world, it’s just part of life – a new chapter.

My body is curvy and that’s not another way of saying I’m fat. Well, OK, I am a bit fat but I like it.

The me in the photograph felt ugly. The years of having been bullied were ingrained in my psyche. Thanks, cows.

Not anymore.

I have reached that wonderful time in my life where ” I aint bovvered!”

That’s not to say that I’ve given up on my self and lounge about in leggings and tea-stained tops…uh huh, I’m my mother’s daughter and she’d haunt me if I did. I mean that I’m not bothered by what other people think of me.

Time changes you physically and mentally. You start to see your loved one’s get ill and die and you know that one day it will be you in that box.

It’s important to love your body and, for me, it’s easier now because when I see the stretch marks and c section scar which cover my tummy, I remind myself of why they are there.

 

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Lets get philosophical…

Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art which repairs chips and cracks in pottery with fine gold, silver or platinum. Rather than rejecting or hiding it’s flaws and imperfections – they are highlighted and the object is considered to be more even beautiful than before.

This is how I choose to see my scar and stretch marks. I embrace them for what they are – a beautiful reminder of three boys who gave my life meaning.

You reading this boys? Your mama loves you! I am a broken pot but I love you.

To the bullies, I raise two fingers.

No, make that one.

When we are young we try on different masks in an attempt to find our identities. Age brings acceptance of who we are and we’re less inclined to take people’s shit. Good, eh?

I’m finally OK with being me.

Don’t you think I’m looking older?
But something good has happened to me
Change is a stranger
You have yet to know

George Michael ~ Older

Image Credit

mumturnedmom

 

Imagine…

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Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.

Today is World Kindness Day.

According to the Gulf news “it is a day that encourages individuals to overlook boundaries, race and religion”.

A wonderful concept but one that we shouldn’t have to be prompted to do.

We’re all different but we’re all human and kindness is a human emotion which transcends culture, religion, gender and race.

So why do we treat each other so badly?

Social media is rife with hate, mainly by anonymous people who hide behind a computer screen. I found this example on Twitter.

Somebody needs to send your gelatinous useless mass to the incinerator already, you’re a waste of resources.

This was one of a few messages that were posted a disabled boy’s Twitter account. His mother deleted them before he got chance to see them. Her son died last week. As if life wasn’t hard enough, she had to put up with this.

Trolls unleash their vitriol on the world, hiding behind their computers, believing that their anonymity will protect them. I for one am glad to see that internet trolls will receive a longer jail sentence. There needs to be a deterrent that will make people think twice before spewing their hate.

Other people believe that they are entitled to offend others because it’s their ‘human right’. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Some opinions can be downright hurtful and insensitive.

I saw this comment on a post written by Hayley Goleniowska for the Huffington Post about women and the choice of whether or not to abort following an antenatal diagnosis of disability.

A commenter replied..

Further i believe (get ready for the hate mail) that if you deliberately bring a child into the world who cant cope you should pay dfor it. i see no reason why I should pay for your decision..

From a different person,

the problem is that said Kid is a burden and will always need more resources than a healthy kid. And since nowadays Downs syndrome patients live to be in their 50s that means they will eventually end up in the state’s care.

It saddens me that some people see disabled children in terms of money, not as the human beings that they are.

My child has autism. There are some who will see him as a drain on society.

These people don’t realise that Einstein, Mozart, Newton, Darwin, Michelangelo (the artist, not the turtle) and Lewis Carroll are all considered to have been on the autistic spectrum. Our world has been shaped by these amazing people!

Then there are acts of cruelty.

In 2011 a toddler known as Yue Yue was knocked down by two different vehicles on a busy street in southern China. The vehicles did not stop. Eighteen people walked by before a humble scrap-collector picked her up. She later died in hospital.

A five-year-old boy was run over by a bus in east-central China. Online footage show bystanders ignoring his mother’s pleas for help.

A heroic homeless man, stabbed after saving a woman from a knife-wielding attacker, lay dying in a pool of blood for more than an hour as nearly 25 people indifferently strolled past him.

EIGHTEEN people walked past a child who was dying!!!

How does that make you feel?

Some would argue that we live in a lawsuit society which makes people wary about being the good Samaritan. I would argue that they are losing their humanity if that’s their first thought. To walk past a child who is dying in the road is inhumane.

Thankfully, such reports are rare and the revulsion at these stories proves that most of us are still singing from the same moral hymn sheet.

Kindness should come from the heart but so often it’s not the case.

Jimmy Savile was one of Britain’s most charitable celebrities with the majority of people believing him to be a kind and caring man. We now know that his ‘kindness’ came with an agenda.

Kindness isn’t expecting something in return. It’s unconditional.

It isn’t announcing to the world that you’ve just given someone large donation of money. The most genuine altruistic acts are those which happen anonymously because it’s not motivated from self-interest. Sure, a lot of charitable people but not all are doing it for the right reasons.

The flipside is that for every act of unkindness, there are many more kind ones. Random acts of kindness which rarely make the news but they happen everyday. Ordinary people showing their fellow human beings kindness and respect. A kind word. A smile. An offer of help. Even the smallest act of kindness can make a big difference to someone’s day. A smile at the right moment is capable of saving a life. To those who think kindness and compassion are irrelevant, I beg to differ.

If we went by the media alone, we’d be forgiven for thinking that the world is an unkind place but that’s not true.  It’s some of the people that live in it that are unkind but kindness is infectious and maybe all some people need is to be shown a little kindness to be able to give it back.

Small acts like buying a warm drink for someone in need, giving your seat up on the bus to expectant mothers and the elderly, telling somebody they look nice or giving your time to someone who needs you.

One act of compassion will always stay with me…

During the shocking murder of Lee Rigby, a woman risked her own safety to comfort him as he lay dying.

It was an act of pure compassion – a selfless act.

A world without kindness and compassion doesn’t bear thinking about.

Today and all days, be kind.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

John Lennon

 

Photo Credit Heath Brandon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forever Autumn

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I love autumn. I love everything about the season.

Being born in the middle of July, you’d be forgiven for thinking that summer was my favourite season but for as long as I can remember, it’s been autumn. For me, it’s the most interesting time of the year. It’s also cooler which most menopausal ladies (like myself) will appreciate having spent the summer loitering in the chilled section of the supermarket.

This summer has been hot. Too hot for some and not hot enough for those with asbestos for skin.

But we’re Brits and we do love a good whinge about the weather. If whinging about the weather was an Olympic sport, we’d win gold every time.

But summer has taken her final bow. The flies have buzzed off and it’s time for autumn to take to the stage with her flamboyant style.

I could bang on about autumn until, well, winter but I’m on a word count so I’ll keep it brief (ish)

If life can be divided into seasons, I would say that the childhood years are spring – a time of birth and growth. Then with the child producing years comes summer, so the natural menopause must mean autumn. I am 44 and post-menopausal. I feel deciduous, as in, there is more hair on my brush than on my head.

The winter years are the home run. If you’re lucky, you will have remained compos mentis. I wouldn’t mind reaching a grand old age if I can hold onto my marbles but given that this week I tried to give the dog Cheerios instead of Bakers and used gravy granules instead of coffee – I’m not holding by breath. I will be the old dear who flashes her support tights on an hourly basis and thinks that Thatcher is still prime minister.

Menopausal women have a lot in common with autumn with their own hues mirroring the season.

Browns (the hair dye which covers the rapidly greying hair)

Reds (the face during a hot flush),

Yellows (a flogged out liver due to excessive gin consumption)

Orange (overdoing the fake tan – but this applies to summers as well, and maybe springs if their crazy mama’s enter them into a beauty pageant at the age of three).

I’m joking. Sort of.

Like the menopause, autumn is a time of great change.

Mother Nature invites you to pull on your walking boots with the promise of an awe inspiring display of colour.

The wisps of smoke coming from chimneys make me stop and sniff the breeze like demented Meerkat. It makes me think about ‘ye olde’ pubs with a roaring fire and a decent pint but I mostly have to make do with tea out of a flask.

Then there’s the rustling sound as my boots plough through the piles of newly fallen leaves.

Here I must add a cautionary note about kicking leaves…

I was having an autumnal kick about in the leaves the other week. The fun police (aka other half) said to me, “I’d be careful if I were you, you don’t know what’s under those leaves!”. I snorted and carried on kicking with abandon. Within seconds my boot came up and with it a huge mound of dog poo. My autumnal walk was marred by having to scrape my way along the grass for the next few hundred yards – much to OH’s amusement. Oh how he laughed. Git.

Let this be a lesson to you. Think before you kick!!!

Autumn is the most exciting season. Aside from ol’ Ma Nature doing her thing with the trees and stuff, there is Halloween – the most charming of celebrations where one’s sweetie stash is massively depleted by little monsters threatening vengeance if their buckets are not filled with cavity inducing confectionery. I’ve taken to answering the door with no make up on – that trumps any scary costume they can come up with. Muhaha

Then there is Bonfire night, though it should be called Bonfire Nights as it is spread across the entire month. Most children love it and most pet owners hate it because BANG BANG BANG SQUEAL WHOOSH BANG equals doggy bodily fluids all over the lino.

As a child, I associated the smell of smoke with Bonfire night. As an adult, it’s shit.

After Bonfire night, we’re on the annoying countdown to a visit from the fat man and his huge sack. *coughs*

But for now, it’s just lovely to admire the show.

To stand in the woods and watch thousands of leaves float down like snow is a wonderful experience. There is beauty everywhere, so get out there and enjoy it. Unplug the kids (and yourselves) from electronic paraphernalia and go out into the countryside and explore!

Metaphorically – my life is in this beautiful season, or at least that’s how I see it. Autumn is a time of reflection and reaping the fruits of your labours. I delight in the success my grown up sons are making of their lives and as for my little man? Well he’s my Indian summer. Time will tell where his talents lie but all I know is that he brings sunshine to my days. All of them do in their own special ways.

I’d love to see winter but only if I can still appreciate it’s beauty, if not, I’ll settle for autumn, forever.

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

Yoko Ono

Image by Antonia Foy

mumturnedmom

 

Something’s Gone Wrong Again!

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I’ve made mistakes in my time, who hasn’t?

Some of those mistakes have been arse clenchingly embarrassing, like when I wrote “pubic act” instead of public act in my history book at school. Not content with putting a big red line under “pubic” with the words “OOPS!!” written alongside it, the history teacher decided to have a laugh at my expense by revealing my little faux pas to the ENTIRE class.

Course, I can laugh about now, Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, couldn’t then – went home and died.

Then there was the time I underestimated how slippy grass can be in the rain..

A short sharp shower stopped play at a local cricket match and I decided to run and rescue my deck chair, as you do. Needless to say it didn’t end well, tripping and sliding across the outfield in full view of, well, everybody.

Aaaand there was the time when I went to school without my knickers.

Nope, I wasn’t the school tramp, let me explain..

We had swimming lessons first thing on Monday mornings and I used to put my uniform on over my costume to save having to strip at the baths. Only on this occasion I’d forgot to put my knickers in my bag so having confided my lil dilemma to the teacher, she issued me with a skanky pair of PE knickers from out of the lost property box which, by the musty smell of them, had been in there since 1962.

Then I had a near death experience at high school when I got mixed up in the ability groups in swimming and was pushed in at the deep end of the swimming pool by a sadistic SS trained PE teacher (and cow) I nearly drowned. My friend had to jump in and save me (cus the teacher couldn’t be arsed) and I eventually surfaced with more snot on my face than a two year old and, WORSE, my swimming costume around my midriff. Yes, I flashed my Brad Pitts to everybody. Oh, nearly forgot to mention that it was a MIXED session!

Or maybe the time I’d worked up the courage to go to college as a mature student. After many self-help psyching sessions, I marched in the PACKED room, flounced up to the important looking lady sat on the table at the front and announced in my most confident voice, “Hello, I’m T, pleased to meet you. Where do you want me to sit?” to which she replied, “Wherever you want love, the tutor isn’t here yet!” I smouldered my way over to a seat with a set of cheeks that would fry an egg in three seconds flat.

Have you ever wished for a big hole to open up and take you down?

Plenty more little anecdotes from where these came from only I like to limit my posts to under 1000 words!

Then there are the mistakes which eat you up from the inside.

The things I’ve done that I wish I hadn’t.

The things I said.

The things I didn’t say.

But I’m human and to err is human, as they say.

So now I look at my life, my gaffs, my faux pas – my mistakes and acknowledge that they have all been learning curves. Life is one big learning curve and it’s OK to make mistakes.

But what about the mistakes which cost lives? Doctors, police, firefighters, paramedics and military personnel all have the burden of other people’s lives in their hands on a daily basis and then there are other professions which are responsible for the safety of others. They are human beings so it is inevitable that mistakes will be made and while they will no doubt learn from each one, I don’t know how they are able to cope with the knowledge that their action or decision cost a life. It’s an immense responsibility and not one I envy. I accidentally knocked my mate’s tooth out the first time I played hockey and I felt bad enough about that! Yet another mistake!

Mistakes are essential for our personal growth and we’ll keep making mistakes until the day they put the toe tag on because we never stop learning. If you get to the point where you feel you have nothing more to learn, you might as well shuffle off your mortal coil and make some room for someone else.

My mistakes were embarrassing but nobody died. Well I nearly did but in the end I survived to the entertainment of my class. You’re welcome, folks!

Even though I’ve been shifting about uneasily in my chair as the memories have come flooding back, I’m able to see the funny side and laugh at myself even it’s a manically insane, hide the knife, laugh. At the time it would have been a full on crisis because I was a teenager and a teenager’s very existence is fraught with angst over the slightest thing. Such as:

  • Zit = angst
  • Broken pencil = angst
  • Period = psychotic angst
  • Flopping boobs out in front of the class in the swimming pool = kill me now my life is over – angst

I dealt with it by locking myself in my room and playing Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now on repeat.

I was (and still am) a complete disaster zone but, in my humble opinion, there are no mistakes that we can’t learn from – it’s just that some mistakes are harder to live with than others.

Some of the worst mistakes of my life have been haircuts. ~ Jim Morrison

Blyton Revisited

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Once upon a time, there was a lady who wrote enchanting fairy tales which fired the imagination of children all over the world. Her name was Enid Blyton.

My first taste of Blyton was The Faraway Tree and I became hooked. The anticipation of reading her stories made going to school more bearable as escapism was only ever a few hours away. Hurrah!

All too soon, puberty arrived and I considered myself too old for Blyton. I gave away my books. I deeply regret doing that now because they were originals not the bastardised ones that have been trawled out since the PC brigade got it’s claws in.

I feel that adapting her work in general to fit into 21st century is wrong. Enid’s writing is reflective of the time that she lived in. Isn’t it insulting to children to presume that they won’t be able to appreciate that fact?

Some aspects are undoubtedly racist and while I’m sympathetic to those changes I don’t think it’s fair to judge a woman who lived in a very different society by today’s standards.

Should we edit all the nasty stuff out of the history books? And what of the other authors of Enid’s time. Why does their work remain untouched while hers is changed so dramatically?

One such example being The Faraway Tree.

The characters Fanny and Dick have been changed to Frannie and Rick because of their “unfortunate connotations.” with genitalia.

I’d rename them Nokia and Chezney. Chav em up a bit. Make em more street.

Dame Slap was also given a makeover because, well, she liked thrashing kids. With thrashing rights revoked, Dame Snap now gives naughty kids a darn good telling off while they flick her the V’s, threaten her with Esther Rantzen and smoke her fags. Ha!

I don’t condone smacking children but when this book was written, corporal punishment was accepted. Her stories reflect that. It’s part of our history. It’s certainly part of mine.

Malory Tower’s act has also been cleaned up with no more spankings. Instead children are scolded. That’s a bollocking to you, kids.

Now then, Mr Pink-Whistle..

As a child, I had a soft spot for this half-man, half-brownie. To the 44 year old me, he looks decidedly iffy, appearing in children’s bedrooms, bribing them with cats and his never ending bag of peppermints. Oh dear, Mr Pink-Whistle!

Noddy didn’t escape either. The PC brigade considered his and Big Ear’s ‘improper relationship’ too much for children. No more “gay times in the woods” for those two and separate beds if you please!

*facepalm*

What about the woman behind the typewriter?

Enid wasn’t the warm loving, maternal person I’d expected her to be. She had a string of affairs including a lesbian encounter. I SAY, ENID!!

Her husband, Major Hugh Pollock, (I keep seeing Huge Pillock) wasn’t without his failings either. As a married man, he started a relationship with a young writer by the name of Ida Crowe. He found out about Enid’s affair with Darrell Waters and threatened to divorce her but according to Crowe’s memoir, Pollock agreed that Blyton would present the petition and in return he would be granted access to their daughters. Enid broke her promise and made it increasingly difficult for him to see his children.

Well that’s just not cricket, Enid old girl.

When her daughter, Imogen, wrote A Childhood at Green Hedges in 1989, she totally shattered the illusion that her mother’s idyllic stories in any way reflected their home life. She states, “The truth is, Enid Blyton was arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct”. Her sister, Gillian, painted a more favourable picture of their mother.

Enid herself had a difficult childhood. She and her mother didn’t get on. She adored her father and was heartbroken when he shacked up with another woman shortly after her 13th birthday. Enid’s relationship with him broke down and later she all but ceased contact with both parents. She didn’t go to their funerals. You know you’ve properly pissed your kids off when they don’t come to your funeral!

Enid initially had trouble getting pregnant and was told by a gynecologist that she had a uterus, “like that of 12-13 year old girl”. It’s as if her emotional development froze the day her father walked out. It excuses nothing but explains a lot.

It’s fair to say that Enid has her critics but love or loathe her, she was a genius and part of that was in the simplicity of her writing and the ability to think as a child. She wrote more than 600 books for children. At her peak, writing 10,000 words a day. She was the JK Rowling of her time. Similarly, JK hasn’t been without her critics having been accused of promoting witchcraft. I wish! I still can’t do the Expelliarmus spell on my other half to get him to let go of the TV remote!

I have re-bought nine Blyton books so far, all original text. I’m not interested in the edits. I want spankings, Fanny and Dick. Oh, and lashings of ginger beer – not that she never wrote that. Just testing.

Yes, the originals are flawed by today’s standards but they were books of their time. It’s important to remember that.

Enid might not have been a great mother or a particularly nice person but nobody is perfect and it doesn’t alter the fact that she wrote great stories.  I owe my love of reading to her and can’t imagine a childhood without some Blyton make-believe in it.

“I don’t believe in things like that – fairies or brownies or magic or anything. It’s old-fashioned.’
‘Well, we must be jolly old-fashioned then,’ said Bessie. ‘Because we not only believe in the Faraway Tree and love our funny friends there, but we go to see them too – and we visit the lands at the top of the Tree as well!” The Folk From The Faraway Tree ~ Enid Blyton

~The End~

mumturnedmom

Letting Go

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“Let go”

The words that I whispered into my dad’s ear as he struggled through his final moments.

‘Letting go’

The last stage of grief is acceptance.

Next week will be the third anniversary of Ma’s passing.

Dad’s death was hard enough but his illness was terminal and we had time to prepare. Mum’s came as a complete shock – dying without warning of natural causes.

I experienced pain like I’d never known. The woman who had carried me in her womb, arms and heart was gone.

No goodbye.

No last “I love you”.

I couldn’t comprehend that Ma, who would reduce workmen to quivering wrecks with her Hyacinth Bucket approach, had succumbed to death like this. I’d imagined that she’d be immortal, like my auntie B (90 odd now) and giving death the V’s until she was ready to go.

Not so. Death came quickly and broke our hearts.

As if losing her wasn’t devastating enough, we had to clear and sell her house – our family home. Anybody who has gone through this will know just how hard it is to put your loved one’s life into boxes and plastic bags.

My brothers and I started this task with heavy hearts but the process took us on a journey of remembrance. There were tears of sorrow and laughter in equal measure. There was no fighting over who should have what. We instinctively knew. Also.. Ma would have flounced down from heaven itself to clip us round the lugholes if we’d have argued.

I took a lot of Ma’s personal stuff such as her clothes. I was always nicking them when she was alive, she had great taste did Ma. I needed to have things that she’d touched or worn. (excluding undies – I’m not weird!) I needed to feel close to her, as close as it was possible to be..

How could something as mundane as a hairbrush become so important?

It was a plain hairbrush but a few silver strands of hair remained within the bristles.

Her hair.

Whenever I went home to see her, I’d always use her hairbrush and she’d do her nut. She hated anyone using her brush – she had a thing about nits. But I’d finally got my hands on the hallowed hair brush without the risk of being bollocked, although a part of me expected it to fly out of my hand.

The most precious items were the brush, her engagement ring and a scarf which was infused with Eau de Ma, the unmistakable aroma of perfume and fags.

Whenever the sadness got too much, I’d take out the scarf, bury my face into it and cry my heart out.

I was angry at her for dying. I was angry at myself for not being there.

I know now that this was a necessary part of the grieving process.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the stages of grief but everybody’s experience is unique to them.

I experienced all but the bargaining stage with my mother. There was nothing to bargain for as there was no forewarning.

Sadness took the place of anger and it all but consumed me. But, day by day, I got through it by talking and writing about her.

Gradually her clothes have gone into charity bags until only a few special items have remained.

Three years later, the smell of perfume and Silk Cut on the scarf is all but gone but it won’t gather fluff in the bottom of the drawers. I will wear it on a winters day and remember how beautiful she looked wearing it, walking towards me in our little cafe in town.

I am no longer broken. I am no longer lost. I am just on a different path.

I will never be the woman I was before she died. How can I be when she was part of me and I of her?

I was very close to my mother and the depth of my grief is because I loved her so much. Grief, after all, is the price that we pay for loving someone.

Death is a given, yet we’re not comfortable with it unlike a lot of cultures. We fight against it. It’s still taboo.

Ma had 70 years of good health, despite a liking for gin (and whiskey) and puffing on 10 fags a day (slightly more when the gas bill came in) She lived a full and happy life! But she’s back with my dad, most likely getting 15 years worth of nagging in.

Letting go isn’t easy but it is necessary in order to move on. You never get over the loss of someone you’ve loved with all your heart but most people learn to live with it. There are no rules with grief. Some people take months, others take years. Sadly for some, moving on is impossible.

It’s taken me three years to pick myself up but I’m there and on the 27th, I will raise a glass to my wonderful Ma in remembrance of a life lived with love, laughter and dignity. Despite a few moody adolescent moments of me calling her a cow, (then legging it as fast as) I am so proud to call this exceptional lady “Mum”. She couldn’t have loved me any better. I couldn’t have loved her more.

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”~ For One More Day  Mitch Albom

 

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‘Ma’ 4th August 1939 ~ 27th August 2011

 

Image Credit ‘Bench’

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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