Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now..

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I was crap at PE. Not only was I crap at it but I hated it as well. I hated everything about it down to those horrible scratchy pants we had to wear. Having been blessed with the coordination of Frank Gallagher after a few hours in the Jockey, it’s safe to say that sports were NOT my forte!

This post sums up my sporting achievements and woes (mostly woes) throughout my school life.

~ Infants ~

Lets face it, It’s OK to be crap at PE when you’re five.

Gymnastics – Once a week we went down the local drill hall to do gymnastics. The smell of feet was overwhelming along with the whiff of sick where someone had vommed up their Spam fritter after doing a forward roll. Ma bought me a black leotard, which I spent a lot of time extracting from up my bum! My one and only BAGA award was for a near perfect bridge. Er, go me!

~ Juniors ~

The ante was upped in the juniors. Suddenly sport got serious and we were placed into houses, like in Harry Potter, only, shit. I was in yellow house, so in Potter world that would be Hufflepuff..

Rounders – The rounders kit came out and we were picked in teams. Fully expecting to be crap at it, I amazed myself by not being totally crap.

For every few miss-hits, the bat would connect with the ball and I would wallop it across the road. I even managed to win my team a game or two which ensured me being picked by choice the following week instead of being picked last, which was the norm for me.

Things were relatively bearable until we moved across the other side of the city. It was a new house, new school, new people and I was a walking mood, having just started my periods. The new school was big on sports. It had a massive brag cabinet chock-a-block with trophies and row upon row of team photographs (with some hilarious hairstyles) taken over the years.

Dance – All legwarmers and leotards with a really annoying teacher who fancied herself as Lydia (the dance teacher) from Fame. We didn’t pay ‘with sweat’, we paid with detention! She soon realised that I looked shite in a leotard and was about as coordinated as a fly after it’s been blasted with Raid.

Hockey – I knocked a girl’s tooth out the first time I played.

Javelin – I gave myself a nasty clout round the back of the head first throw and nearly impaled one of the teachers with the second.

High Jump – Spent more time face-planting the safety mat than I did in the air.

Long Jump –  First (and only) attempt required first aid.

Hurdles – After knocking them all down (and bleeding all over the PE instructor) it was decided that my talents did not lie in hurdling.

Shot-putt – Hand to eye coordination issues nearly rendered a fellow pupil unconscious.

100 Metre Sprint  –  Feeling thoroughly dejected by this point, I found myself back on the track (plasters on both knees) with the PE teacher (lets call him Teach for simplicity) shouting ‘For crying out loud, just run when you hear the bang, OK?!!’

Teach fired the starter gun and I ran like Ma had just caught me with one of her fags. Seconds later I was rolling around on the ground trying to get my breath back (I genuinely thought I was dying) when he sprinted over in his obscenely tight tracksuit bottoms and slapped me on the back saying. ‘1st place! You’re in the athletics team!’

I momentarily basked in the glory of actually winning something. But as Mozzer from The Smiths so eloquently puts it…

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour But heaven knows I’m miserable now

Because within a short time, I found myself racked with anxiety as I was loaded onto a bus on route to the local athletics stadium to run for my town and county.

I didn’t want to be in the athletics team, truth be told. I was agoraphobic even then and the thought of running in front of hundreds of people had me dry heaving for weeks before the events. In his infinite wisdom, Teach put me down for the 4 times 100 metre relay race as well as the 100 metre sprint because, well, he was a bit of a twat. I was still having baton issues in the practice runs before the race. Hadn’t I already proved that I was rubbish at relay?

In the event, it was a fumbled baton exchange. On seeing my team-mate sprinting towards me (all red faced and jowly) I assumed the position, stuck my arse out and prayed that I wouldn’t drop the sodding thing. Somehow I managed to keep hold of it and pass it on to my teammate. I think we came fourth and I can’t remember where I came in the 100 metre but it’s safe to say I didn’t win or even come a close second. Teach (NOT a happy bunny) was sulking away in his X rated track suit.

The euphoria of my sports day win had turned to a misery worthy of a Smiths song. Here was something that I was genuinely good at but my useless brain wouldn’t allow me to take it further without sending my anxiety levels through the roof. So I gave up.

It isn’t just about confidence. It’s about having a brain that doesn’t cope well under pressure. All my life, this is how it’s been. Maybe if I’d have persevered I would have found a way to cope? But the truth is that I didn’t even enjoy running because I was self-conscious of my Brad Pitts and the fact that I wasn’t allowed to run in my cardi.

High School

My sports life consisted of a series of excuse me notes (thanks to Ma), a near drowning incident, a nervous twitch every time I heard a starter pistol and a phobia of batons for life.

Nuff said?

Creative Commons Photo Credit ~ ‘Pete’

mumturnedmom

You Want To Put That Camera Up My What?

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I saw the gastroenterologist on Monday and gave him my list of symptoms that I’d typed up via a Word document. Mr Gastro was most impressed with my graphic descriptions. “Well described!”, he said. I preened a bit.

‘Are you thinking cancer?’, he asked. I answered truthfully, ‘Yes!’.

Mr Gastro then ordered a colonoscopy.

At the mere mention of the word, my bum cheeks involuntarily clenched and my bum-hole snapped shut faster than a Venus Flytrap. You see, I’d consulted Dr Google a few (hundred) times leading up to the appointment so I knew exactly what it entailed.

Mr Gastro told me that he doesn’t think it’s cancer. I told him that while I appreciated that he was trying to put my mind at ease..both my parents had cancer. Dad’s being the aggressive kind which saw him trundling along the conveyor belt in the crematorium within six months of being diagnosed.

He didn’t try and fob me off with IBS. In fact, he never mentioned it. He thinks my symptoms require a closer look and by closer look, it means shoving a camera up my bum.

He proceeded to tell me what he thinks it is. Which is that my bum and stomach are ‘not communicating with each other. Typical, even my insides have social interaction issues!

At this point he told the nurse to make it a combined colonoscopy and gastroscopy. Basically, a camera up the chuff and one down the throat in the same appointment, folks.

If the tests come back clear, he will refer me to a specialist to sort out the ‘communication’ problems.

So I’ve been issued with some preparation (stuff what gives you the shits) and I have to wait a decade for an appointment to come through, as there is apparently a huge waiting list. I’ll probably die of old age before I get one. Or the Tories will have killed off the NHS in which case, I’ll have to flog a kidney to sort my bowels out.

In the meantime, I am tormenting myself with the gloom and doom from off the net…

Colonoscopies aren’t the most pleasant (or dignified) of procedures. You have to eat a special diet two days before the test and then you drink the preparation and wait for the world to fall out of your backside. Not looking forward to that, truth be told, but at least I’ll briefly be able to get into those skinny jeans I bought in a moment of denial last year.

No doubt I’ll be made to wear one of those ridiculous gowns that make you look like a complete twonk. Incidentally, I put one on the wrong way for a gynae examination and ended up flashing my minnie to a corridor full of old people. The nurse frog marched me back into the cubicle before one of them had a coronary.

To say I’m anxious is an understatement of massive proportions. They’ll be no need for that preparation because I’ll have shit myself dry with worry by then.

I’ve had procedures done before. I’ve been under GA twice and had umpteen people poking around in my insides. I’ve had an emergency C section and given birth TWICE, all without fear but now I’m a wimp and I blame the menopause because when my oestrogen buggered off, so did my bottle!

A colonoscopy involves a thin flexible tube being coaxed around the bowel. It allows them to see what’s what and you can watch it on the monitor if you wish…

Er, no ta.

I’d rather watch the box set of Geordie Shore, without sedation.

It can find ulcers, polyps, inflammation and tumors. It is the most effective way to diagnose cancer of the bowel.

My Googling sessions have advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages are the numerous people who say ‘Colonoscopy? Walk in the park! Didn’t even know they’d been in!’ He he.

The disadvantages are the people who, for whatever reason, have had the experience from hell and feel the need to put the fear of God into everybody else.

There will always be these stories, not just to do with Colonoscopies, but with most things. There are risks with this procedure but there are risks with all procedures. My dad’s misdiagnosis’s shook my faith in doctors but maybe I should focus instead on the fact that they probably saved the life of my youngest son who had to be born via emergency C section because I was bleeding internally, my eldest who had a testicular torsion and my middle son who was hospitalised as a baby with gastroenteritis. Mum’s cancer was caught early. My dad was extremely unlucky but I do have more to be thankful for than not.

I rationalise that given my symptoms, it’s probably wise to go through with it. Chances are it’s not anything sinister but leaving it to chance isn’t a risk I should be taking given my family history.

So I have to find a way to keep myself relatively calm over the next few months until it’s all over. My coping mechanism is to find the humour in the situation. Tell a few crap jokes. (ha ha) Also, I make no apologies for talking about matters of the arse because I think that we don’t talk about it enough. We get embarrassed about bum stuff and that costs time and ultimately, lives.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m bricking it, and I’ll probably have talked myself out of doing it by the time the appointment comes. So I need people to tell me to stop being such a silly cow about it.

I’ll tell myself it will all be OK. I’ll wear the silly pants and try not to die of embarrassment when the air that’s been pumped into my bowels explodes in the consultant’s face. Another perk..

When I saw Sara’s (Mumturnedmom) prompt was calm, it reminded me that I must try to be as calm as possible or I’ll end up running out of the hospital still wearing my paper pants and flashers gown.

Going for an Eartha Kitt ~ Jim Royle

mumturnedmom

The Play, The Protest and The Song

When my eldest strutted around his primary school hall as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the early nineties, little did I know that one day his passion for acting would become a career.

So it was with immense pride that I took my seat in the Lowry theatre in Manchester on Saturday night while I waited for him to enter the stage as Edgar in the Northern Broadsides production of Shakespeare’s King Lear.FullSizeRender(1)

When he walks out onto the stage, the audience see ‘Jack’. I see a boy who’s arse I’ve wiped and who’s tears I’ve dried. I see my little boy all grown up. It’s quite a surreal experience…

Despite seeing him perform numerous times, the thrill never gets old. I again had to resist the urge to whistle and shout “Ey up Son!” as he walked on. I believe such behaviour is frowned upon. As is wearing a T shirt with ‘I’m Jack’s mum’. I’ve been threatened with disownment if do..

Directed by Jonathan Miller (I’m a bit of a philistine when it comes to theatre but seems the bloke’s got a decent enough CV) it’s Lear but with a northern twist. Northern Broadsides was founded in 1992 by Barry Rutter (who plays Lear). He’s an actor/director and famously cast Lenny Henry as Othello in 2009.

A great cast, complete with some heaving bosoms and obligatory semi-nakedness (courtesy of my son) Yep, kit off, once again! His complex character of Edgar showcased his range and ability to switch flawlessly between roles. Obvious parental bias aside, he aint ‘alf good at this acting lark!

My son, K, is a photographer and the lad’s got a talent for it. Photography is his chosen career having graduated from university last year with some impressive grades. I am immensely proud of him and so pleased that another one of my children is making dollar from doing what they love. I hope he makes enough to put me in a decent old people’s home. Hint. Hint.anti-tory-protest-70 (401x600)

Unless you were visiting another planet last week, you’ll be aware of the general election and the Anti-Tory protest that happened the day after David Cameron snatched back the keys to Downing Street. My son was there in his capacity as a photographer and took shots from the start of the protest to it’s end. Somewhere along the way he found himself ‘kettled’ by riot police. He told me he’d been kettled and I envisioned a copper giving him a clout with the station kettle. Apparently not.. Kettling is a tactic police use for controlling large crowds, such as protests, but it’s seen as controversial because innocent bystanders (like my son) get detained alongside protesters.

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He put all his shots into a blog post and gave his honest account of the day as seen as a photographer. The media didn’t show people singing and dancing. They didn’t show the peaceful side to the protest. They didn’t always show the unnecessary force used by the police.

K’s photographs show how things can turn from the good, to the bad, to the downright ugly. This was a peaceful protest, marred by a few individual morons, one who defaced a war memorial. An unforgivable and disrespectful act which the media chose to focus on, giving the impression that the person who did that represented everybody else. Not so. K was genuinely shocked at some of the things he saw. I’m proud of him for speaking out and showing what really happened instead of what the media brainwashes us with.

His blog post has been shared over 700 times on social media.

And last (but in no way least) is my youngest son’s achievement this week.

I opened S’ school home-book to read that he’d sang a song in the hall.FullSizeRender(2)

What’s the big deal? I hear you ask.

Well, S is autistic and he struggles with noise. He doesn’t go into assemblies and hasn’t been able to take part in any of the concerts so far. However, sometimes, when he gets obsessed by something, he is able to override his discomfort for a brief time. The topic this month has been about Kenya and for some reason, he’s really taken to it, so much so that he was able to go into the hall with all his friends and sing the ‘Jambo Bwana’ song on Wednesday.

This is a MASSIVE accomplishment for him.

It doesn’t matter that he couldn’t do PE that afternoon or that he had to comfort himself with his numbers in order to come down from the excitement. Those few minutes where he chose to engage with everyone else made it a fantastic day!

Yesterday was recorded as a “tricky day” which means he’s struggled but this is how it goes with his autism. One step forward and a few steps back but we focus on his accomplishments, no matter how small.

Way to go, my little dude!

As parents, we’re all proud of our children’s achievements.

My biggest achievement has been my three boys. Each one an individual and each one leaving their mark on the world in their own special way. I couldn’t be any prouder of my boys.

Thank you Mama Owl for this opportunity to ‘big up’ my kids! ;)

The most splendid achievement of all is the constant striving to surpass yourself and to be worthy of your own approval ~ Denis Waitly

Protest Images by my son used with kind permission, as in, I asked and he said “Yeah, Ma, don’t worry, I’m hardly going to sue my own mother ha ha”

Mama Owl

Life is a Highway

geograph-104893-by-Dave-Fergusson From the day we are born, we’re on a journey. All of us are headed to the same destination (aka Death De Mar) but we each take different routes along the way.

Throughout our travels, we encounter challenges. We all experience love, joy and happiness as well as sadness, tragedy and hopelessness. Life can be good and a total bitch in equal measure.

Sometimes the road is bumpy as hell (with annoying roadworks and potholes) and we feel frustrated like when we get stuck behind a tractor for an eternity (or Stop/Go man takes the piss) and sometimes it’s smooth and enjoyable. In my experience, the moment that I acknowledge happiness, life throws down a stinger.

The ‘Big C’ became part of my journey when Dad was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, on my birthday as it goes.. You could say that his life choices of slumming it at the ‘Greasy Spoon’ cafe (despite Ma’s nagging) and smoking were a contributing factor in his illness. His choice not to act on his early symptoms, combined with him being misdiagnosed twice, cost him his life and my insistence that Mum saw her GP on her mentioning a bloated tummy and brown discharge (at the age of 65) probably saved hers.

Cancer made short work of my dad but I liken my mum’s experience to swatting an irritating fly. In her case, one well aimed whack got the bastard and she lived for another six years to die of something completely unrelated. Ma 1 Cancer 0.

Our journeys aren’t just about us.

As with any journey, who you travel with can be more important than your destination.

Cancer has entered my life once again but this time it’s my friend who is suffering from this horrendous disease. I haven’t known her long but our boys play together so we’ve become friends. She has advanced cancer but If you saw her you wouldn’t imagine she’s ill. She looks well. She’s certainly fitter than me and by her own admission, she doesn’t even feel ill. However, the scans tell a different story…

I have been around cancer. I’ve experienced the effects of cancer but I don’t know how it feels to have it. Nobody can know unless it happens to them.

My friend is a wonderful lady. By her own admission, she chooses to be positive. Despite the indifferent attitude of the cancer specialists, she’s giving it a run for it’s money and good on her, I say.

She told me that some days she finds it hard to get out of bed to face the day, which is totally understandable. So I made her a card with a quote which reflects this along with her desire to be positive.

Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.

I am deeply sorry she’s going through this. I can’t stop this from happening to her but what I can do is be there for her for practical and emotional support. Nobody should ever have to go through this alone. Cancer is an incredibly difficult journey to to be witness to so one can only imagine how it feels to be living it.

Most of us have times in our life when we struggle to face the day, for whatever reason. I’ve got lost a few times and questioned what it’s all about but ultimately, all roads of thought lead back to the fruits of my womb. My body resembles a clapped old three wheeler (think Trotter van) but I look at my boys and know it’s all been worth it.

My latest run in with one of life’s proverbial potholes resulted in me having to assume the ‘On your side, bend your legs and face the wall, dear’ position while my GP swiped her index finger around my rear-end. No doubt I’ll end up having a camera up it (oh-the-joy) before the year’s out  but as long as it gives me peace of mind that my botty probs are simply an IBS flare up or yet another menopausal perk, I can cope with a bit of bum invasion. Dignity, me dears, went out the window the day I went into labour. These days, ‘dignity’ is a song by Deacon Blue!

Nobody’s journey will be free from heartache. Bad things happen but It’s what we learn from the experience that matters. Reading stories about the Holocaust has taught me that hope can exist even in the most horrific of circumstances. Our freedom to choose our own attitude throughout any given circumstance is something that nobody can take away from us. Nobody can make us feel bad about ourselves without our permission!

People enter our lives and the journey changes direction. It’s like a Sat-Nav that keeps re-calculating. However, in the journey of life, there isn’t a reverse gear. We don’t get to go back and do things differently. We can only learn from our mistakes and move forwards. Maybe if we knew how our lives will pan out, we’d be too scared to live them? All I know is that I’ve made it to almost 45 years of age so far and count myself lucky. The journey so far has been full of tears and laughter and with each sharp bend of the road, I’ve learned a little bit more about life.

There are a few more miles left in this ol’ jalopy yet (despite a biological age of 102) and I’d like to think I’ll manage a cheeky sideways skid when it’s ‘destination reached’ aka, the big scrap yard in the sky. Knowing my luck, I’ll be towed in on the back of a recovery truck but a girl can dream, eh?

Until then, it’s on with the ride..

I think it’s my adventure, my trip, my journey, and I guess my attitude is, let the chips fall where they may. ~ Leonard Nimoy

mumturnedmom

Not All School Bullies Are Children.

Jim Henson

Dear Miss,

No doubt you have taught so many children in your years as a teacher that you have forgotten us individually. I wish I could say that I have forgotten you but you are unforgettable in the worst possible way.

Allow me to refresh your memory..

‘STAND ON YOUR CHAIR!’, your voice boomed across the room.

The classroom fell silent (as was the case when some poor kid was in for a telling off) and on this occasion the kid was me.

You were my primary school teacher but I could never take to you. It was dislike at first sight.

I remember you as a tall, thin woman with slate grey hair which hung limply either side of your face. You never wore make-up and and your piercing eyes were magnified by those unflattering glasses you wore. I recall you wearing Jesus sandals which drew attention to your man-size feet and unsightly toe hair but most of all it was your unsmiling face which unnerved me.

Why, what’s the matter, that you have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness? ~ William Shakespeare

Some teachers are charismatic but you and your ‘February face’ had the charisma of a wheelie bin. Truth be told, I was scared of you.

I don’t remember any of what you taught me, I just remember you and an incident which stuck in my memory like a thorn sticks in the flesh.

I didn’t like school – it was too loud, smelled of feet and my being there meant that I missed Pipkins. School was all about surviving and my survival was avoidance. It was my safety valve in any situation that I wasn’t comfortable with. However, my strategy would prove to be my undoing on that particular day.

That Day

So, we did craft lessons, and this one was sewing. Our task was to stitch two sides of felt together using a blanket stitch in a shape of our choice. I chose a fish. We were supposed to take our work to you if we made any mistakes. I’d made a mistake fairly early on (I was crap at sewing) but the thought of walking up to your desk made my stomach want to part ways with my lunch. So I stayed put and prayed that the fire bell would go off.

It didn’t.

You decided to walk around the classroom to check on our progress. I knew you were behind me without having to look. It suddenly felt cold despite it being a warm day, though this was probably due to your six foot frame blocking out the sunlight. I froze up from the inside, except for my cheeks, which were crimson. After what seemed like ages, your large hand reached down and snatched my work away from me. Seconds passed, then your voice boomed out..

“STAND ON YOUR CHAIR!!”

The classroom fell deathly silent. You could have heard a mouse fart, it was that quiet!

Every child was looking at me. Me, the child who tried so hard to be invisible. Of course, the problem with trying to be invisible is that sometimes it backfires and you find yourself becoming totally the opposite.

You bellowed, “THIS IS WHAT WE DO TO RUBBISH!!” and in front of the class – you ripped my work to shreds. The wobbly stitching gave zero resistance and with one final act of malice, you threw it at me.

You made me stand on my chair, hands on head, for the rest of the lesson and into playtime.

I was eight years old.

I wanted the ground to open up beneath me. Tears stung my eyes but I refused them permission to fall. There was no way that I was going to give you the satisfaction of seeing me cry! So I just stood there looking at my shoes through blurry eyes wishing to be anywhere but there.

I certainly know of a few children who would have stood on that chair smirking at you and I have been that child when re-enacting it out in my mind. In reality, I was a sensitive girl whose behaviour at school was misinterpreted as shyness or disobedience. My sensitivity made me a target for bullies for my entire school life but that day, I learned that not all bullies are children.

You humiliated me in front of the entire class.

Your lasting impression on me, Miss, was one of fear.

Humiliation damages young children – it undermines their self-esteem.

A good teacher doesn’t intimidate their students. Humiliation isn’t character building – it’s abuse. Humiliation is rooted in power and some teachers need to humiliate children in order to control them. What you did was wrong. It was an abuse of power – I just didn’t know it then because grown ups had to be obeyed. We are hardwired to obey those in control, especially as children, so I didn’t question it. I just did as I was told and tried as best I could to deal with the hurt in order to be able to walk into the classroom the next day.

You were a bully. You probably had reasons why you acted the way you did but it doesn’t excuse you. There is no excuse for bullying. Ever.

As Jim Henson said,

Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them, they remember what you are.

I’ve remembered you for being a bully and the monster of my nightmares.

However, being older and somewhat wiser, I am able to see you for the imperfect human being that you were and the monster fades away into insignificance.

You most likely graduated up into the big school in the sky a long time ago and perhaps after being such a miserable cow to little children, you found a sense of peace?

Maybe one day I’ll find mine.

Regards,

T

Scan5a

The Boys Are Back In Town

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Tuesday 25th January 1994

I’d been waiting for this day with a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

I woke up with my stomach doing somersaults. Food? Not a chance. Somehow, I had to keep the anxiety under control otherwise I’d end up talking myself out of leaving the house and I’d regret it for ever. I had to do this. For once in my life, my debilitating anxiety wouldn’t be robbing me of another experience, so armed with a miniature bottle of whiskey, I headed off in the car with the former Mr Shambles towards Birmingham.

I clutched the tickets in my clammy hand, checking and re-checking the date. Did I have the right date? Oh my God, what if I’d got the date wrong! Had I remembered to put some emergency loo roll in my bag? What if I fainted? What if I threw up over myself. Or worse, someone else?

We got to the NEC early to avoid the crowds but my anxiety was rocketing. I headed to the toilets and did some breathing exercises on the loo. I could hear the noise building up outside and was in danger of legging it out through one of the fire-exits but managed to calm myself down. It was now or never so I propelled myself through the door, elbowing a couple of women out of way on route.

My heart was clattering like an old tin drum and my legs were buckling as I took my seat.

Three months of anticipation almost at an end…

This was it.

Music blasted throughout the arena and I screamed as I saw three familiar faces appear on the stage. I waved my arms in the air and danced away and when I say danced, I mean awkward upper body movements with the occasional rib-shot to the unfortunate sod seated next to me. I must have been at the back of the queue when coordination was being given out – as anyone who has ever seen me try to do step-aerobics will testify to. I was 24 years old, but that night I was 13 again. Much to the former Mr Shamble’s amusement. Or was it embarrassment?

It suddenly hit me..

I was in the same room (albeit a very large room) as Duran Duran – my teenage idols! Well, three of them, anyway, as this was the 1994 line-up of Simon, John, Nick and Warren Cuccurullo.

The memory is fallible but I seem to remember them starting with Too Much Information and Simon Le Bon was prancing about wearing a pink suit, though I could be wrong. I’ve gone through the menopause since then and my memory, along with the rest of me, is a bit shit. So maybe someone else who was there will read this and say “Actually, he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt – you deranged old cow.”

The details might have become hazy but I’ll never forget seeing the band which stole my heart. Dad was the first man I loved, then it was Nick Rhodes.

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Still have the ticket!

The early 80’s was an exciting time music-wise. In the wake of Punk came the New Romantics with their puff-sleeved blouses, frills and lip-gloss and that was the blokes! Dad’s reaction to seeing Duran Duran perform Planet Earth on TOTP in 1981 was to roll his eyeballs, tut, and say “Just look at the state of them. I give those poncy buggers 12 months”. And with that pearl of wisdom, he tucked the paper under his arm and headed off to the loo. 15 years later he had to concede that he’d been wrong. In fact, they’ve been together in various line-ups for the last 30 odd years and show no sign of retiring to Shady Pines anytime soon!

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Rollin rollin rollin keep those eyeballs rollin!

Duranie = A devoted fan of Duran Duran. Or someone who would happily gouge your eyes out for one of Nick Rhodes’ lipstick stained fag ends.

The Duranies of the 80’s are now forty and fifty-somethings, like me. Menopausal maniacs (and those hurtling towards it) who only have to hear the intro to Save A Prayer to be nostalgically catapulted back to 1982 when hair was 50% peroxide and it was fashionable for blokes to wear lip-gloss and eyeliner. Nick still does. And why not? He could share mine any day. Gorgeous boy.

I felt very grown up when I was wearing make-up, thank you very much. Nick Rhodes

Duran Duran were mostly about image. They were good looking, made great videos and their songs were catchy with lyrics that made you think. Simon was quite the poet in the early days. I played the Rio album that much that I actually wore it out and Ma bought it for me again one Christmas, along with the newly released Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

DD went up in Dad’s estimation when they released the uncensored video of Girls on Film which was a saucier version where attractive girls wearing rollers (and little else) straddled a shaving cream-covered post and flashed their nips. Seems the boys hadn’t been as squeaky clean as Jackie et al had portrayed them to be. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, like when Kylie went from being the curly-haired girl next door to the pert-bummed vamp we’ve come to know and envy.

Watching them play live was one of the biggest thrills of my life and the fact that I saw them in Birmingham (the place where it started all those years ago in the Rum Runner) just added to the occasion. The boys (minus Andy and Roger) were back in town and my beloved Nick was there in all his magnificent pouting glory.

Duran Duran provided the soundtrack to my youth. Their music helped to make life more bearable – giving me breathing space from my troubled school life. Escapism was only a click of the turntable away, therefore, they’ll always have a place in this old Duranie’s heart.

mumturnedmom

 

Reality Bites

Frankl

Reality = The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.

Conceived by choice or mistake, we are dispatched into the world whether we like it or not. The first few months are spent spontaneously pooing, weeing and draining every ounce of energy from our parents, not that we have any memories of this. We get to find out for ourselves when we have children of our own. This is the real reason why grandparents can’t stop smiling.

As a young child, I was spared the harsher realities of life. I existed on a need to know basis. I was happy. Then one morning, Ma took me to a place called school (later referred to as ‘that shithole’) and after numbing her backside on one of those miniscule chairs for a while, she quietly walked out without so much as a backward glance. I wanted to run after her but for some reason my legs wouldn’t move.

My tiny heart broke. I cried and my bottom lip quivered for the rest of the day, if not life. I wanted to be home watching Play School and eating beans on toast. What was happening? Was I being punished? Is it because I crayoned on my bedroom wall? After five years of relative bliss being at home with Ma, school life had started and my childhood idyll fell apart.

On the first day, I remember standing on the school yard staring at the bruise which was forming on my arm from where an older girl had pinched me, for no apparent reason. Cow. My reality took a direct poo-hit and would remain so for my entire school life.

Children, teachers, they all had it in for me. I attracted bullies like shit attracts flies. Or light-bulbs attract moths. Sounds nicer.

When I was little, I thought that monsters only existed in books and films but that’s not true. As well as certain little monsters, there were some bigger ones roaming around school calling themselves ‘Miss’ and ‘Sir’.

Me & Nev

My opinion of school aged about 6. Was too young to say “It’s shit”. FYI that’s not a rainbow, it’s just typical of 1970’s processing and that privet needed trimming.

I went through many phases where I wished I was someone else. Not a famous person or a character from a book, just someone else. I thought that maybe if I was someone else, I wouldn’t be bullied. When I was at home I read stories where bullied children triumphed and bullies got what they deserved – a damn good thrashing – if Enid Blyton had anything to do with it. Reading as escapism was healthy but wanting to be someone else wasn’t. However, it might give you, dear reader, some idea of the level of anxiety I was experiencing at school.

At some point we all have to face reality and mine is that I am overly sensitive to most things including people. I don’t fit as easily into the world as most do and that’s why I’ve been bullied. That’s my theory anyway. Escapism has been my saving grace. A book, a film, music and sleep.

In my dreams, I was popular, gorgeous (and spot free). In my dreams, I wasn’t the awkward girl with sweaty pits anymore. In my dreams, Nick Rhodes was waiting for me outside the school gate, leaning up against a massive limo with his lippy on and Le Bon as his chauffeur.

I daydreamed whenever possible. While the biology teacher was droning on about plant reproduction, I daydreamed. When the balled up pieces of paper hit the back of my head and brought me back to reality, I imagined stabbing the perpetrator’s zit ridden face with my compass. I doodled their initials on my notebook, then drew a fancy bracket with the word DIE at the point. {

I didn’t really want them to die – I’m not a psycho! It was just my teenage angst finding an outlet, innit.

Alright, maybe I did want them to die a bit but only because they were being really mean.

So that was school. Eleven years of misery and dreaming of the day I could legally leave it all behind. Then my life would surely change?

Nope. No matter where I went or what I did, I was still a misfit. Only difference was, I got slightly better at hiding it.

At almost 45 years of age, I’m still a misfit, only I quite like it now. And I don’t give a toss, which helps.

Normal? It’s overrated.

I’ve learned that, while reality is what is real, people’s attitudes are very different. My reality is that I am socially awkward. So what? I’m also a caring person and I can speed read. Go me! I have OCD, agoraphobia, anxiety, sensory issues and a list of flaws as long as an orangutan’s arm. Could be much worse, eh!

Oh, and I’m menopausal. Have I mentioned that I’m menopausal? I do like to get that in most of my posts, just incase I forget myself.

Sometimes I get tired of having to put so much effort into existing and find myself sinking into a supermassive black-hole (not a euphemism) but then I hear a voice or read a text saying ‘I love you, Mum’ and I re-boot, as it were. I might have given my children life but they’ve given mine it’s meaning and I would go through every shitty day again to have them in my life.

Life can be hard and some people’s realities are tougher than others but as Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, says…

The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.

I choose to accept who I am and acknowledge my experiences with an element of humour because it gives me some control back over my life and the only real control I have over reality is my attitude towards it.

mumturnedmom

 

The Impossible Dream

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From the day a child is born, it’s our job as parents to teach them the skills they need to survive in the world. Those first weeks of total reliance fly by and before long, they are taking their first shaky steps towards independence. This isn’t the case for all children because many are born with disabilities which make independence a more difficult, if not impossible, goal to achieve.

There are different disabilities. Some are evident and some are not. My youngest son has autism – the invisible disability.

I knew that S was very different to his brothers quite early on. He was late with his milestones, i.e still crawling when all of his peers at playgroup were walking. His challenging behaviour went way beyond the ‘terrible twos’. His ‘tantrums’ were unlike anything I’d experienced before. They were extreme and as bewildering for him as they were for me. Then there were his ‘quirks’ and obsessions..

My fear turned to relief when, at four years old, he was diagnosed with ASD and SPD (autistic spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder). It made perfect sense and I was relieved that there was a medical explanation for his behaviour. However, an element of fear crept back in as I realised what the implications of his diagnosis could be.

Two years on, S has received the best support we could ask for. He has a statement in place at school and a support teacher who works closely with him for the majority of the school day. He’s also been approved a place at the local autistic children’s group. This is so he can spend a few hours on a weekend with other autistic children. While it’s primarily for him to spend time in an environment where he can comfortably be himself, it’s also to give OH and myself some needed time to ourselves. Parenting any child is hard work but parenting a child with special needs is exhausting and can test even the strongest of relationships. This is why we’ve taken the necessary steps to get support for us as a family, not just for S.

Autistic people are capable of amazing things. Many if the world’s greats, past and present, are considered to be on the autistic spectrum. I don’t see autism as a curse, I see it as a blessing, albeit a mixed one. The autistic person can see beauty where others cannot. They can feel music deeply and when they read a book, they become part of the story. Their obsessive nature means that when they like doing something, like art or music, they excell at it. S loves numbers and by the age of four, knew, off by heart, the entire twelve times table. This is classic autism.

In my heart, I dream that S remains as happy as he is now but in my head, I know it’s an impossible dream because the statistics speak for themselves.

Children with autism are four times (or more) likely to be bullied (at school or via the internet) because of the way they communicate and interact with their peers. Autistic children are generally more trusting, have a poor sense of danger and can be manipulated very easily. The differences between them and their peers become more apparent with age.

I’ve already witnessed incidents in parks and on the playground with children laughing at S instead of laughing with him, as he thinks they are. To him there’s no difference between playing with someone much younger than himself, or older. He has no social boundaries. He thinks it’s perfectly OK to barge in to a group of tweens (or older) and expect them to play with him. I can’t control what other children do or think,  all I can do is help my son to develop the coping skills he needs in order to function. I want him to live, not just exist or be someone that he isn’t in order to fit in. The problem is with society, not him.

The challenging behaviour is a problem but it’s his reaction to an overwhelming world. It’s important to understand that. The behaviour has a function – there is always a reason. When my child displays challenging behaviour in front of other parents, it’s understanding that I need, not judgement.

In a perfect world, S wouldn’t have to learn how to ‘fit in’. He would be free to be himself and his quirks would be embraced instead of mocked. For instance, he came out of school last week and it was raining. He doesn’t like rain so he shouted at it. Parents stared. His peers stared. Wouldn’t they like to have the freedom of mind to be able to shout at the rain?

I wish the world was more empathetic to children like my son. But the truth is that people are selfish and cruel, choosing to boost their own self-esteem by demolishing someone else’s. They knowingly target the vulnerable with no regard of the long-term damage that they are inflicting on another human being. There is a lot of ignorance towards autism and I’m hoping, by spreading awareness, we can change this.

I can’t stop children being unkind to my son but I can intervene and give him strategies to cope. It’s because I was bullied by children and teachers, that I am extra vigilant. I am watching and ready to defend him. Education is the key to giving children an understanding of what it’s like to be different. How S’ autism is approached within the classroom, is something I will be addressing with the school, although I’ve had no real problems with them so far.

Like any mother, I just want my child to be happy.

My problem isn’t with my son, it’s with the people who don’t see him as I do – beautifully imperfect.

CC Image Credit Frankieleon via Flickr

mumturnedmom

 

And Winter Came…

Winter

Definition of nesh ~ Being either afraid of the cold or feeling the cold a lot. Used across the Midlands and the North.

You don’t need to wear a coat today, you nesh git!

Nesh: I am the definition of nesh. I was born in the middle of summer but swear I came into the world wrapped in a duvet, well, maybe not a duvet as Ma didn’t give up her sheets and blankets until the late 70’s but when she did, to quote the youth of today, ‘It was like totes amazeballs!’

In my day it was just ‘ace’. Gone were the itchy blankets and ten layers of clothing. It was like sleeping in a marshmallow. Once you’ve had duvet, you never want to go back to blankets. If heaven exists, I hope it’s got a 13.5 tog rating!

On top of my natural nesh-ness, I am menopausal and I suppose you could think of winter as the menopausal season because reproduction grinds to a halt, things turns white and bits snap off. The only difference is that the youthfulness of spring won’t be returning, unless you want to pay a few thousand to look like a crap waxwork.

Poo Bags: Autumn’s riot of colour gives way to winter. The berries and evergreens inject life into the landscape. The woodlands, alive with greenery in the summer, are stripped bare to reveal hundreds of black poo-bags. Seemingly, people gather up their pooch’s poo in a bag and then SLAT THEM UP INTO A TREE OR A HEDGE! No, I don’t understand it either.

Snow: Winter can be barren but when Mother Nature does her stuff and makes it snow, it can transform even the ugliest of places into something beautiful. That is, until a dog pees in it or someone sticks a Carling can in it.

I used to love snow. All children love snow, right? When I was a girl, winters were hard and the snow used to drift up the back door. Of course, not every winter was like that. In fact, for the first seven years of my life, there was no snow to speak of. The first year of any significant snowfall was 1977/78. I remember the unconfined joy of being snowed in. No school! Ma hated the snow. She saw only inconvenience. I saw Narnia.

My love affair with the white stuff ended abruptly in 1984 when I fell over on my way to school. I was 14 and very self-conscious. My hair (styled on Sara from Bananarama) was a work of art, taking an hour and a half to achieve. It was backcombed to within an inch of it’s life but looked fabulous, or so I thought. Being a teenager, vanity won over common sense so I attempted to walk to school in a pair of flimsy suede effect boots in about four inches of snow. I skidded (a lot) and finally went down with the finesse of an elephant in full view of the entire world, or so it felt like. My hair was a right off. My boots, once they’d dried out, had nasty white rings around them. Lesson learned.

31 years later, it’s a totally different story. I couldn’t care a less what I look like as long as I’m warm and vertical. I have become my mother and whinge like buggery everytime I see a flake of snow.

Cold: Despite being Nesh of the North, I embrace the cold for two reasons. One, I can cover up my bingo wings guilt-free and two, it helps with the hot flushes which are the bane of any menopausal lady’s life. A quick arctic blast in the face and sanity is restored, well, sort of.

Cold weather means having to put the heating on more. Unfortunately (for OH)  I was brought up with Ma’s philosophy of ‘If you’re cold, put another jumper on!’. She demanded to see breath on the inside of the house before she’d reluctantly override the boiler. This would be met with, ‘You’ll all be the bloody death of me!’ to which we’d reply, ‘Not if hypothermia gets us first!’

Winter Nights: Another negative is the longer nights which means more time in front of the TV. The problem in our house is that OH guards the remote like a dog with a bone. He keeps it within grabbing distance and, short of tranquilizing him, there’s not much I can do about it. This means that I have to watch boring woodwork and wildlife documentaries. Oh the joy of sitting down to enjoy a chicken madras just as some poor gazelle gets downed by a lion with the munchies. Occasionally I’ll put my foot down and demand to watch Eastenders and he’s exited the room by the second duff. Men, eh?

Beauty ‘n’ Stuff: Personal grooming takes a back seat in winter, well it does in this house. What’s the point in spending precious time shaving bits which won’t be seen? My Bic is redundant until at least April by which time my legs need strimming, rather than shaving. Bad hair day? I stick a hat on. One of the perks of the menopause is that you stop worrying about such things. Quite liberating, really.

Defrosting the Car: Is always easier when you use the correct implement, i.e, an actual ice-scraper – not an old beer mat. Trust me!

I’m bored of winter now. The novelty has worn off. I’m looking forward to spring when I can go for long walks without freezing to death. Not that we’re safe from snow in spring, or summer for that matter..

A bit of trivia to amaze you. Or not.

In June 1975, SNOW stopped play in Buxton.

It was a real experience,” explained Bird, 77. “I’ve never known anything like it during my 50-year involvement in cricket. I’ve seen plenty of games affected by rain and bad light in my time, but never snow. ~ Dickie Bird

Good old British weather, eh?

mumturnedmom

 

Family Is What You Make It

Fam 4

The era of the nuclear family is all but gone. It’s been replaced with single parents, non-married parents, foster families, couples without children and my family – the step-family, also known as the blended family.

According to an article in The Guardian, one in three people in the UK  are now a step-parent, step-child, adult step-child, step-sibling or step-grandparent. The statistics speak for themselves.

I was born into your bog standard ‘nuclear family’ – a mum, a dad and three children and in turn I helped create my own with my husband and two boys. Twenty years later the marriage sadly ended and a new chapter began..

After what I call my ‘wilderness year’ I bagged a blokey who was willing to put up with my shit. By shit, I mean my mind baggage and in my mind, I have more baggage than Manchester airport. Like me, he had children and we both understood that if we were to have a any kind of story, our children would be part of it.

The next few years were all about dipping toes in the water and trying to keep all ten. After being used to boys, I was faced with the daunting prospect of girls. Scared? Erm, YES! I’d been one myself and knew how challenging it could get. I decided the best approach was to be my strange, but amiable enough, self.  At first (and understandably) there was resentment. They named a toy dog after me and chucked it out their bedroom window. Well, at least it wasn’t actually me they were hurling onto the pavement. I counted my blessings!

My lads seemed to cope better with the situation (of which I am grateful) than the girls but studies suggest that this is generally the case with blended families. Us females are more complicated, don’t you know.

After living together for a year, OH and I decided to try for a baby. He knew all there was to know about me and hadn’t legged it so this was the next step. Also, there was the small matter of my biological clock reminding me that I was 38 and in danger of being ‘past it’. However, Mother Nature was on my side (for once) and a year later we had a baby boy. It proved to be a good decision as my ovaries surrendered soon after. We hoped that our little boy would help to bond our two families together.

I have read that it takes step-families (or blended families as is becoming the term) about seven years to function well together. It’s totally unrealistic to expect a step-family to work from the outset, it takes time, patience and effort. Some step-parents try to assert themselves as being equal to the child’s parents and it’s a mistake. I don’t try to be a mother to my stepdaughters. They have a mum. That job is taken. I know my place and my place is a supporting role. My sons get on well with OH and that is largely down to the fact that he’s never tried to be their dad.

I would advise any step-parent to understand that, while a certain amount of respect should be a given, respect works both ways. If you are a complete arse to them, they are likely to return the favour with bells on or ignore you completely. If you go all Eric Cartman and demand that they respect your ‘authoritah’. You’ll most likely be greeted with a two fingered gesture as the door is slammed off it’s hinges. Expecting your step-children to like you from the start is unrealistic. With time and effort, feelings do change. Go in with low expectations and you’ll save yourself thousands in therapy.

Parenting is hard but being a step-parent can be an absolute minefield. You just can’t bollock em like you can your own, can you?!  Neither should you lie on the floor and assume the doormat position. There is a line which you need to find. It can be difficult but there are moments when you feel you’ve turned a corner. Its the smile that isn’t forced, a kiss on the end of a text or them simply choosing to sit and talk to you.. small things which mean a lot because maybe your starting to become part of their story instead of being the outsider.

Step-monsters mothers get a bad rap. If the Disney films are to be believed, we all cackle in front of the mirror and think up evil ways to kill our step-kids. Well, I do cackle a bit, especially first thing, but I don’t plot my step-daughters demise. I quite like them.

Eight years down the line, we are beginning to blend together. We’re an eclectic mix of creative and logical (and in my case, slightly insane) minds. Each unique and caring in our own ways. We’re not perfect, but then, no family is.

mumturnedmom