What A Janitor Can Teach Us About Knowing Our Worth


During a visit to NASA space station in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He walked over to the man and said,

Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?

The janitors response?

I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President.

What a great story!

That man saw himself, not just as a janitor, but as a member of the NASA team and he was right, he was helping to put a man on the moon.

I have been a caretaker and I understood my worth too.

There are many jobs in this life that people consider themselves to be above doing so they belittle the people who do them without giving thought to the fact that they are backbone of society.

I once went for a cleaning job at a well known department store. I turned up early in the morning – dressed smartly – and was shown around by a supervisor. During my interview, one of the cleaners came out of the toilets and the supervisor belittled this lady despite me standing there listening to every word. When I was offered the job at the end of the interview, I declined it and the main reason was the lack of respect shown to the cleaner.

Working as a caretaker in a nursery school, I understood that I was helping to make a safe and comfortable environment for children to learn in. Children can’t concentrate if they are too hot or too cold can they? I made sure that doors opened properly and bike wheels ran smoothly. If it could be mended, I’d mend it. If it was broken beyond repair, I disposed of it.

I looked after the building when it was empty during the holidays and was there to oversee any work that was done. I never saw myself as a just a caretaker. It was never just a job. I saw myself as a guardian of a wonderful old building that had been around since before World War Two. It wasn’t the best paid job in the world but it paid the mortgage and put food on the table and it made me happy to be there. To the children, I was Mrs W (or Mrs Woman as one little boy called me) to the teaching staff, I was an equal.

After the school closed due to council cuts, I took another job this time as a cleaner in a local warehouse. When I gave my notice in a year later, my supervisor said I was one of the best cleaners she’d ever employed and was sorry to see me go. She tried to convince me to stay by offering me more hours but I needed to make more money than she could offer as my personal situation had changed so the decision was made for me.

There had never been one word of complaint about my work and the company for who I’d cleaned for offered me a full time job working for them based on my work ethic.

Some cleaners turn up to do the bare minimum, it has to be said. It’s simply a job – a means to an end – but that’s not how I work. I often went beyond what was expected of me, especially in the kitchen where it wasn’t part of my job to clean the microwave or fridge. If I had time, I did it. I polished the desks in the offices upstairs taking care not to break photo-frames of treasured family photographs. I emptied the bins, hoovered, cleaned the windows and washed up the odd dirty cup that I found. I didn’t have to wash pots but I don’t like starting a new day by washing yesterdays dishes and I liked to think that the office staff appreciated not having to.

It was rare for managers to be working when I was but some would make me a coffee if they were working late. I’d also get the odd cake as a treat and at Christmas I received a bottle of wine and some chocolates along with the entire warehouse staff. It made me feel like I was one of the team instead of what I was – which was technically a contract cleaner.

If I mopped a floor and somebody walked on it, they were apologetic. I once saw a comment left by the previous cleaner which said how annoyed she was that people were walking all over her clean floor! What did she expect, for them to levitate their way into the warehouse?

There were some interesting moments which prompted this post but in the main, I was treated respectfully and enjoyed working there despite the ‘icky’ nature of part of my job, as in, cleaning the men’s bogs which usually required numerous blasts from an air freshener for me to be able to get through the door without passing out!

As a cleaner I was helping to keep a warehouse and offices running smoothly by ensuring everything was clean and tidy. Despite having the social skills of a wheelie bin, I did it all with a smile and – more importantly – I enjoyed the job.

Having done work like this makes me appreciative of all people who do these kind of jobs, even the binmen who piss me off by missing out my bin! Where would we be if we didn’t have a bin collection? Filthy, rat infested streets, that’s where!

When you wake up tomorrow morning, spare a thought to all the people who’s day starts long before yours. Think about the street cleaners who’ve been clearing away last night’s rubbish and vomit strewn streets so that you don’t have to see it.

Think about the cleaners who work hard to make shopping center floors shine and windows gleam. You may see them pushing cleaning trolleys about throughout the day so how about giving them an appreciative smile instead of walking straight past them?

How about the people who keep the hospitals clean? I’d say that was one of the most important jobs in there! The prevention of infection starts with them. A clean hospital means fewer infections and,as we know, infections can kill. Such is the importance of their job and in my experience the bedside manner of your average cleaner wipes the floor with that of many doctors and nurses. See what I did there?

Things run smoothly because there are people behind the scenes who make it possible. They do the jobs that you could never imagine yourself doing but they are necessary jobs. People might not be on great pay or have their own parking space but their worth is invaluable. If nobody did these jobs, our society would be very different.

Somebody told me once that I was ‘just a cleaner’ and my worth was based on what I earned. I saw myself as keeping a roof over my family’s heads which I’d say is pretty important!

The NASA janitor saw himself as being part of something much bigger and that’s how it should be from the cleaner to the MD because we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves.

“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.” ~ Nic Sheff

A Bit Of Everything

Image Credit

Mind Your Manners!


‘What do you say?’

This was mum’s standard response whenever she gave me anything. Things were withheld from me until I said the ‘magic words’.

It was the early seventies and manners still mattered then.

Sadly, times have changed.

In the beginning they were just words, much like reciting the Lord’s Prayer at school. I said them without thinking but as I got older I began to understand the importance of the words that society required me to say.

Good manners are a code of conduct based on courtesy. When we are saying ‘Thank You’ we are showing our gratitude and respect.

People don’t have to do things for us. It is not our right to receive. However, today’s society seems think that it is their right to receive. As my wonderful MIL used to say,

Those buggers come from Havington, instead of Givington!

When I think of all the things that people have done for me over the years, ‘Thank you’ seems an inadequate response.

Note, I say what people have done for me as opposed to what people have bought me. Of course I am thankful when I am given a gift but it’s never the gift itself that I am thankful for, it’s the fact that the person has thought about me. Most precious of all is the time that people have given me because that is the best gift of all and it’s free, as are manners.

Saying thank you is a sign of respect. It shows the giver that what they have done is valued. If the receiver simply takes without acknowledging it, the giver feels that their gift (or deed) is meaningless and makes for unpleasantness.

I have watched a society change to one where manners don’t matter. I see rudeness and ignorance everyday. Examples such as when I stood aside to allow a young mother through with her pram and she walked past me without acknowledgement of any kind.

On one occasion, I said ‘You’re welcome!’ as one young mother walked past me.

This was her response..

Fuck off!

Charming, eh?

A wise young lady made the point that sometimes people might be rude because they are having a bad day and it is a good point and worth bearing in mind but usually it’s just a case of bad manners because that’s all the person knows. This is the sad reality.

I have given up my seat on buses for the elderly and pregnant. I open the door for people, regardless of gender or age. I am a courteous driver. I mute my phone in cafes. These are small actions but I have been the pregnant lady on the bus and I have been the driver stuck at a junction at the mercy of someone letting me out and I know the difference that these small courtesies can make to somebody’s day. Mobile phones? Don’t start me! That’s a whole blog post all to itself!

It seems to me that in today’s society there is a distinct manners, etiquette, politeness and courtesy malfunction!

Inconsiderate Drivers

Living opposite a school reveals ignorance and inconsideration on a daily basis by parents who drive their children to school. They selfishly (and illegally) park on the pavement so that pedestrians have to walk into the road to get past. Seemingly protecting a wing mirror takes precedence over a human’s life.

They park on the yellow zig-zag lines despite the big yellow sign that tells them not to and they have little consideration for the residents who live around the school. Unbelievably (or not) one parent actually parked in my neighbours driveway one morning but unfortunately for her – my neighbour came back. Oops!

The way I see it is that it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt either by being knocked over by a car or knocked out by an angry resident.



The younger generation seem to be too busy interacting with their mobile phones to be courteous but there is a minority movement known as Steampunk who’s core values thankfully include good manners.

At face-value, steampunk is about fashion but it’s it’s much deeper than that – it’s a way of life.

Coined by author Kevin Jeter as a way of distinguishing him and fellow sci-fi writers from the futuristic ‘cyberpunks’, steampunk mixes the technology of today with the aesthetics of the Victorian era. Undoubtedly there are many dark aspects of the Victorian era that need to remain there but good manners were an important part of that society and the steampunk movement, albeit in a small and eccentric way, is trying to bring it back. Thank God for eccentrics, I say!

My Theory

I have a theory that behind every rude child/teenager there is a parent who failed to teach them any manners.

I was taught to be courteous and in turn taught my children to be the same – even S who has social communication problems.

I’m tired of living in a society that doesn’t show respect for one another. How do we correct this though? Sarcasm either goes over people’s heads or incites an angry response like Lady Eff Off’s.

Why do we have this problem?

Studies show that the problem is mainly with 18 – 34 year old’s. Over 55’s generally exhibit better manners most likely because that they are of a generation where manners were important.

Today’s youths are generally narcissistic and self-centered. They are the me, me, me generation who couldn’t give a ferret’s fart about people who they don’t identify with. We have progressed so far with technology over the last few decades but the price is that our society has changed for the worse.

In our home, dinnertime is where we sit down as a family and ALL technology is banned and I hope that my children will carry on this tradition because one of the things that I loved about my childhood is that I had my parents full attention at the dinner table. We talked about our day and it mattered to me. The memory of their parents giving social media attention instead of them is not one I want for my future grandchildren.

I refuse to be ill mannered and though ignorance can make life unpleasant, I will continue to fly the flag for good manners and hope that it inspires others to be more polite and considerate.

Thank you for reading.

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners” ~ Laurence Stern


Image Credit by woodlywonderworks Via Creative Commons

Steampunk Image Credit Zyllan Fotografia Via Creative Commons




Finding The Magic


“Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.”~ Nora Roberts

How do you see the world?

Do your eyes simply see what’s there or can you see beyond it?

I see beyond what’s there, I always have.

What is magic?

To some people magic is merely the art of illusion.

It’s Dynamo walking on water outside the Houses of Parliament or David Blaine whacking somebody’s mobile phone into a bottle of beer. These magicians conjure up the impossible with the art of deception.

To others, magic is Harry Potter whipping out his ward to fend off the Dementors but the real magic is in J K Rowling’s writing which comes from her extraordinary imagination.

There is another kind of magic which it’s all around us if only we take the time to look.  It’s is the magic that makes you happy even when you’re doing the most mundane of tasks, like cleaning the loo.

For those who are still with me (the others having long since hit the X button thinking ‘Off you go, Nutjob’) allow me to explain…

The magic that I’m talking about is a feeling.

All you have to do to feel the magic is open your mind to the possibility of it.

It’s about taking the mundane and giving it some sparkle and who doesn’t like a bit of sparkle?

Household Tasks

Washing the dishes is a mundane task. It’s a job that OH hates so much that he actually bought a dishwasher so he wouldn’t have to, the lazy git!

I do use it to do the heavily soiled stuff but most days I fill the washing up bowl with bubbles and add a few drops of essential oil. I use grapefruit because it’s uplifting. A few sniffs and my mood lifts and I lose myself in the suds. It puts me in an almost meditative state and what was once a boring job has become a pleasurable experience.

Meditation isn’t all about sitting cross-legged and omming, y’know. ;)

The trick is to be in the present. I try not to think about anything except what I am doing. Though my mind naturally wants to wander ( I have major mind traffic) I consciously drag it back the now. When I’m done faffing, I leave the water in the bowl to allow the essential oils to keep doing their stuff.

Similarly I clean the bathroom with a few drops of oil. I use lemon myrtle spray around the toilet (and up the walls) as the males of the house seemingly have out of control hose-pipes for penises and are prone to missing the entire toilet! Inhaling man wee makes me feel grumpy (not to mention, squiffy) but after a few squirts of my myrtle, it’s like they’ve never been in.

OK, maybe loo cleaning is stretching the concept of magic a bit but it is definitely an improvement, no?


I read books that inspire me and if the cover is aesthetically pleasing, then all the better! All part of being a visual person..

I like books that have me thinking long after I’ve turned the last page. I imagine how the characters look and for that reason I tend not to watch the films because they so often disappoint me. The Harry Potter books are an exception as the films actually do justice to J K Rowling’s excellent writing.

I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book. ~ J K Rowling


I listen to music that speaks to my soul, whether it’s rock, pop or classical. I allow my imagination to run riot with music where there are no lyrics to influence my mind. As far back as I can remember this has been the case.. as a little girl I used to listen to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and images would flow uninterpreted into my mind, I could lose myself for hours this way..

Music is the strongest form of magic. ~ Marylin Manson

Mr Manson, you may scare small kids with your face but you are absolutely right!

Film and TV

I have a mild form of synaesthesia and this would explain why I am unable to watch horror. All violence affects me but I can’t cope with watching horror films. If I see an upsetting image, it affects me for weeks or months after and I never forget it. For this reason I stay away from the news as much as possible. Similarly, I am just as deeply affected by good news and feel good films and TV.

I like to watch films that remind me of how fortunate I am to be alive and which inspire me to be a better person.

One of my all time favourites is Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life  because it reminds me that as insignificant as we think we are, our lives have purpose. It’s a timeless classic that leaves it’s mark on each generation.

Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? ~ Clarence, the angel in It’s A Wonderful Life

See The Magic

We come into the world with our magic buttons switched on. We find joy in the simplest of things and everything is new and magical but somewhere along the way we lose it. We allow other people’s world views to influence our own, even if it’s not what we truly believe. We allow stress to take over and before we know it we are weighed down with worry and the magic is long forgotten.

I’m not saying that we should all abandon our common sense and call ourselves Moonbeam (although if calling yourself Moonbeam floats your boat, then you should go ahead and call yourself Moonbeam and bugger what people think) it’s just that a little sprinkling of magic makes life more bearable.

In it’s simplest terms, it’s about finding meaning to life.

Some people believe life has no meaning and if that’s you – fair enough – but there is just too much going on for me to ever agree with it.

For me, it’s about seeing and feeling beyond what can be physically seen and felt.

Sound wanky?

Maybe but it works for me.

That magic button? It’s still there. You just need to turn it back on.

To remind yourself of how it’s done – watch your children because they see the magic that is all around them.

Children see magic because they look for it. ~ Christopher Moore

Image Credit OUCHCharley Via Creative Commons

A Bit Of Everything


Bonfire Night, Autism and Me


For most people, November the 5th (or sometime in October until late November as it’s become) is a reason to celebrate with  bonfires and firework displays. As a person who has sensory issues I can honestly say that it is NOT my favourite time of year!

Before you mumble ‘miserable sod’ and hit the X on the top of your screen, allow me to explain..

As a child, I remember having a firework display in our garden at home. I say display but it was just my dad sticking some fireworks in an old biscuit tin filled with sand and setting them off one at a time.

Mum made soup and we stood about shivering waiting for the fireworks to splutter into life and you could bet that in any box of fireworks there would always be one that performed like a wet fart!

I wasn’t particularly safe with sparklers either but I did enjoy writing rude words in the air while Mum wasn’t looking.

I remember thinking that I should be having fun because I was a kid and that’s what kids do. But I wasn’t really having fun. I was cold. My ears hurt and my eyes smarted from the smoke that filled the air. I preferred to sit in my brother’s bedroom window and watch the displays light up the skyline. I’d sit there for ages until my eldest brother would tell me to shift so he could do his college work.

Mum started giving us the option of fireworks or money so I chose the money and sat and watched the fireworks from the window. For me, this was a most agreeable arrangement.

Ex hubs and I took the boys to a display once when they were little. We made sure our dogs were secured in the front room with the TV on loud but, still, we arrived home to a room full of poo, chewed up carpet and a video remote with teeth marks in it and it was decided that in future I would stay in with the dogs and he would take the boys to the local cricket club’s display.

I was relived not to have to cope with the noise and crowds but my relief was short-lived as my four-legged friends would totally lose control of their arses with each BANG.

Then there were the intermittent barfing sessions…

I would spend the entire night on my hands and knees, peg on nose and cloth in hand – disinfecting the crap (literally and metaphorically) out of the carpet while trying to stay conscious which was a BIG ask, trust me!


Most people who have autism have sensory processing issues to some degree. They are either under sensitive or over sensitive and bonfire night can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Firework displays, in their nature, are unexpected because you never know what is going to happen and when. This is very stressful to people with autism who need structure and routine and to a child who’s senses are exceptionally heightened, the noise and blinding lights can be painful, not to mention distressing.

However, children with autism can have a positive experience on bonfire night but it does require planning.

Counting down using a calendar and social stories will help the child to know exactly when bonfire night takes place. Obviously it doesn’t just happen on one night now so while you can be prepared for any display you will be attending you need to take into account those that are happening around you on other nights. So be prepared to turn up the TV, provide ear muffs and distractions.

Showing your child a video of fireworks will also give them an idea of what to expect. Some schools do this as part of education about safety on bonfire night.

Do some research on the events in your area. Some events are disability friendly and are less likely to be crowded.

Ear defenders are invaluable when it comes to noise – unless you have a child like S who needs them but doesn’t like how they feel. I understand this though as I struggle with headphones for the same reason. Ear muffs are gentler. They won’t block out the noise but they will take the edge of it and they keep the ears toasty warm.

You could also jump in the car, park up somewhere and watch the skies light up. This is my favourite way of watching fireworks – especially with soothing music and a flask of something hot with a little nip in it – unless I’m the one who is driving and then it’s minus the nip.

If your child can’t cope with any of it then stay at home where it’s warm. Put on their favourite TV show and cuddle up. Don’t feel you have to do the ‘normal thing’. Understand that if everyday life provides a challenge for your child, imagine how fires and explosions will make them react. Even the fun stuff is stressful for the highly-sensitive autistic child.

S is excited about the fireworks because all his classmates are and he copies what he sees but this is the boy who screams when the hand dryers go off in the toilets or I put the hoover on and who struggles to wear the ear defenders that will keep the noise to a minimum. Noise triggers meltdowns.

For this reason, a public display isn’t a good idea this time but I do happen to know of a place where we can park up and watch the Manchester skyline explode without the sensory onslaught. I’ve uploaded the more gentler tracks of the Harry Potter soundtrack onto the iPod and, hopefully, it should give S a pleasant experience of firework night.

The lurcher will be safe at home with Classic FM on full blast as she seems to be made of stronger stuff than my terriers were, thankfully.

Whatever you do and wherever you go this bonfire night, stay safe and spare a thought for the those who struggle at this time of year.

Because of the poor economy, we couldn’t afford fireworks at our house. The only snap crackle and pop at our house yesterday was when I poured the milk onto my Rice Crispies! ~ Anon

A Bit Of Everything


Blotted Copy Books, and Caterpillar Coats


The 70’s is currently enjoying a revival on TV thanks to memoir sitcoms Cradle to Grave and The Kennedys.

Cradle to Grave is part written by comedian Danny Baker and is based on his own adolescence in 1970’s London. With exploding toilets and loads of ‘farkin ‘ells’, it’s hilariously funny.

The Kennedys is written by actress, writer and TV presenter Emma Kennedy and is based on her memoirs The Tent, The Bucket and Me. Narrated from 10 year old Emma’s perspective, it resonates with me the most because I too was a child in the 70’s.

The show provides a nostalgic look back at the time when Darth Vader was a scary man (but nowhere near as scary as Jimmy Savile turned out to be) and schoolgirls lives were temporarily ruined by Donny Osmond’s forthcoming nuptials.

Both shows feature cars of the decade and it brought back memories of Dad’s Hillman Hunter.


Dad and Me in his Hillman Hunter


Dad putting the car away in the garage while I showed Mum what I’d been doing at school all day.

Another form of transport (for kids) was the Space Hopper. I had a go on my friend’s but wasn’t much for it as the bouncing made my head ache. I preferred to spin around until I fell over on the carpet and entertainment doesn’t come much better than that!

Not forgetting the hours of fun to be had from making go carts out of an old prams and bits of wood. We were recycling way before it was fashionable!

It’s Emma’s schooldays which have evoked memories long forgotten…

~ Inky Fingers ~

I remember inky fingers, blotting paper and my brother’s leaky fountain pens which resulted in Mum having to scrub his clothes. No magical Vanish in those days – just milk, vinegar and elbow grease!

Blotting paper reminds me of one of Mum’s favourite sayings..

You’ve really blotted your copy book this time, Madam!

I never actually understood the meaning of it but could tell I was in trouble from the way her eyes narrowed as she said it just before she ordered me up to my room to ‘think about what I’d done’.

~ Technology ~

Technology at school was watching a film via a projector which invariably involved disruptions while the teacher faffed about changing the reels. The films were usually about as entertaining as tonsillitis but they gave us the opportunity to eat sweets without risk of confiscation.

~ The School Toilets ~

The school toilets (more commonly known as bogs) were damp and drippy and there was always a cubicle with an out of order notice pinned to the door.

Hygiene was soap that smelled like antiseptic (because it was) and Izal toilet roll or ‘caretakers revenge’ as I like to call it. Wiping your arse with Izal was like trying to wipe yourself with a crisp packet, not that I’ve tried but it’s the best analogy I can come up with.

~ Thatcher, Thatcher Milk Snatcher ~

Dad considered Margaret Thatcher a cow of epic proportions..

~ Healthy Eating ~

On the way home from school, my brother would take me into the sweet shop where he’d give me a few pennies for some sweets and in those days you got a lot of sweets for your money. I remember the shop being crammed to the rafters with huge bottles containing Flying Saucers, Fizzy Cola Bottles, Sweet Tobacco, Black Jacks, Space Dust, Wham Bars, Drumsticks and Space Dust. I loved them all and it’s highly likely that the sugar in this lot contributed to me having ‘blotted my copy book’ on several occasions!

~ School Fashion ~



The 70’s was the decade that good taste missed!

The sight of Emma Kennedy and her friend with their school satchels jogged my memory of having one as a child. Things were made to last in those days and were generally worn out before being replaced. Very different from today’s throwaway society where things are changed on a whim. My satchel lasted me for years because the sodding thing was indestructible!

Mum bought my coats a size too big so that I could ‘grow into them’. She bought me one in the sales once and it’s fair to say that it was going cheap because nobody in their right mind would want to be seen dead in it. It was phlegm green, padded and made me look like a caterpillar. I put up with the piss-taking for a few weeks then it ‘mysteriously’ ripped beyond repair. *shifty face*

I also had a pair of these..


Mum liked to get her money’s worth when it came to shoes and demanded to see actual holes before she’d fork out for a new pair. Unlike clothes, she had to buy shoes that actually fitted so my growing spurts totally pissed her off. However, being a mother myself and having spent a small fortune on children’s shoes, I now feel her pain.

~ Miss D ~

My teacher in 1978. Goddess. Looked like Deirdre off Coronation Street.  A wonderful lady who actually liked kids which made a welcome change from my previous teacher who was straight out of a Stephen King novel.

The 70’s has been tainted with the recent revelations that some of it’s biggest icons were in fact depraved monsters but Cradle to Grave and The Kennedys have injected some warmth and humour back into the era to remind us that, disagreeable decor aside, it wasn’t too bad really.


Image Credit Star Wars J D Hancock

Image Credit Clarks Shoes Alansplodge

The Importance Of Respite For Autism Parents


Caring for a child with autism is a labour of love. As parents we are strong because we have to be. However, despite our best intentions, the situation often becomes overwhelming.

S has highly functioning autism with sensory processing disorder. His main problems are social interaction and challenging behaviour. He is also extremely affectionate (especially with me) and as wonderful as that is it can also be problematic.

It’s a myth that autistic children don’t show affection. Autism is a spectrum disorder so while some children will struggle to show affection others (like S) will be incredibly affectionate. ‘That’s good isn’t it’?, some might say. Well, yes, but not when he’s being affectionate towards strangers passing the garden gate or the man who’s turned up to put the bathroom floor down.

S is an extrovert and his behavioural problems are a result of him being overwhelmed. To people ignorant of the facts he can come across as a naughty child but to those who know better – he is autistic.

Autism puts a strain even on the strongest of relationships. Parents of autistic children live under constant stress with situations such as melt-downs which can be exhausting for all involved. S is sometimes over his while I am still trying to process witnessing him having totally lost his shit. Yet somehow I have to pull myself together and get on with it. However bad I feel and however hard this particular melt-down has affected me, I have to postpone falling apart until I can do so alone.

The level of stress that parents of autistic children endure can be severe and that can have a long term affect on health. A 2007 study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that mothers of teenagers and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers.

This is where respite comes in..

Having a support network when you have a child with autism is important.

Most people have family that they can turn to for support but we don’t have any who live close by so our only option was to get S referred for a place at a local children’s disability centre for weekend breaks.

OH and I were not having any quality time for ourselves. At the end of the day we are both too knackered to do anything but watch TV, with me intermittently having to go to settle S back down. We came to realise that in trying so hard to meet his needs we’d been neglecting our own.

The way I saw it was that S had support in place at school and he had us but we had virtually no support as a family. Understanding that we needed help – we took the decision to get him assessed by children’s services for respite. We were accepted and he started at a local centre for children with disabilities a month ago and so far it’s working really well.

Three hours a week doesn’t sound much but it allows me and OH to do our thing knowing that our son is in good hands with people who won’t be fazed if he kicks off or goes on a very LOUD ninja-kicking session, as he is convinced that he is a ninja!

It’s lovely just being with each other because before S, there was an us and we need this time to be those people again, if only for a few hours a week.

As a mother of an autistic child I am always on call, even when he’s at school. I have to be ready for the phone calls to go and comfort him or bring him home. Only yesterday, I had to go and comfort him at school after he’d fallen down. He was unable to continue with his day until I’d comforted him. I held him for as long as he needed me to and then I went home.

Research shows that just one hour of respite a week can make a big difference and in my opinion, parents of autistic children need all the help they can get because autism affects the family as a whole, not just the individual.

Autism is a journey with more ups and downs than a roller-coaster but just as Paul McCartney’s willow tree stood strong against the storms, so shall we.

The willow turns his back on inclement weather;
And if he can do it, we can do it, just me and you. 

~Paul McCartney – With a Little Luck

A Bit Of Everything

The Dragon’s Loyalty Award


I am honoured to have been nominated for this award, not least of all because I happen to know a lot about dragons. My mother did a great impression of one, only she breathed fag smoke from her nostrils instead of fire. Ha ha

Only joking Ma (don’t haunt me)

The blogger who nominated me is also a fan of dragons so it’s apt that she herself should have been nominated for this award. Her most excellent blog comes with the tagline ‘dragon lover and recovering nutter’.

She is the one and only Anxious Dragon!

So what is the award for?

It was created as recognition for commenters and supporters who loyally trawl through our insane ramblings.

The Rules

You accept the award with thanks and you can send cake if you want to. OK, that’s not in the rules..

Give your readers 5 juicy facts about yourself.

Nominate 5 victims people for the award.

So here are five facts about me.

Fact One

I have appeared in a top selling magazine (NOT top-shelf)

Fact Two

Katie Hopkins blocked me on Twitter. *double thumbs up*Hopkins the Cow

Fact Three

Kirk Brandon of alternative rock band Spear of Destiny autographed my fag packet in the 80’s and Mum threw it away thinking it was rubbish. *facepalm*

Fact Four

I got lost in Weston-Super-Mare (Granddad was supposed to be supervising me but nodded off) and accidentally locked myself in the public toilets and had to be rescued.

Fact Five

I once bought my Nan a box of Neopolitan chocolates for Christmas and I ate the lot BC (Before Christmas)

Now for the nominations *DRUM ROLL*

In no particular order – these are the people whose support means a lot to me. That and I’m a nosy cow who wants to know their five facts.

They are..

Starring Stella

Just Good Enough Mum

Sonny & Luca

Mum of Three World

These Are Grandma’s Thoughts

No pressure to join in, folks, but if you don’t I will have a major strop on.

Be kind to dragons. X

Autumn Serenade


A while ago, I posted about my time as a school caretaker.

One of the things I loved about the job was that I got to work outdoors. I was relatively young then instead of the arthritic hop-a-long I am now who seizes up at the slightest hint of damp or cold.

The early morning starts gave me the opportunity to see nature at it’s most serene, like on a snowy day when the snow was crisp and untouched except for the boots of the paper-boy (and the odd patch of dog piss). The yellow patches reminded me of Slush Puppies and that’s probably why I’ve never been a fan. *boaks*

The school had an enormous cherry blossom tree in it’s grounds. In bloom it was a sight to behold. The children used to stand under the falling blossom and pretend it was snow. Cute, eh?

The blossom would give way to summer leaves which would provide much needed shade for the children, not to mention menopausal teaching staff who were constantly hot-flushing.

Summer would give way to autumn and this magnificent old tree would put on it’s final show of the year by turning it’s leaves red, yellow, orange and ,occasionally, deep crimson – my favourite shade of red.

All too soon the leaves began to fall and they’d glide gracefully down to the floor. Sometimes I’d watch this performance while I had my tea before the staff started to arrive. It was like meditation, courtesy of nature.

Some of those leaves would be gathered by the children and would end up stapled to the walls inside the school. Some would be crammed into bags and pockets to take home (or be found months later) but mostly they covered the yard like a 1970’s carpet. An awesome sight.

The thing about leaves is that they become slippery when wet so I had to gather them up whenever possible for safety reasons. Break a limb? Not on my watch!

It was back-breaking work. There were no fancy smanchy blowing machines for me. Just an old yard brush and few refuse sacks!

Occasionally Mother Nature would do the job for me and a big gust of wind would blow the leaves under the privet, leaving me free to do other caretakery work, like fishing Stickle Bricks out of toilets.

Sometimes, if the forecast was good, the head teacher would ask me to postpone raking up the leaves so the children could enjoy a leaf-kicking session. Some days if the leaf fall was disappointing, I’d go round raking up as many leaves as I could from elsewhere to make it more fun. I was a nice caretaker, not at all miserable like Argus Filch, or the ones from my school days. I can’t ever imagine them going to such lengths to make children happy. Miserable gits.

It would take several weeks for the tree to shed all of its leaves but eventually it would be completely bare and there it would stand – naked yet still magnificent.

However, it’s work wasn’t quite done as the teachers would dangle old CD’s and other sensory paraphernalia from it’s boughs and it would come alive again, if only until home-time.

I loved that tree apart from the mornings when it was throwing it down with rain and then I’d whinge about having to clean those ‘sodding leaves up’.

These days I can find my autumn in the local woods where there are hundreds of magnificent old trees all competing for the best in show. I often stand there (waiting for the dog to have a crap) watching as millions of leaves dance around as they fall to the floor. I tried to take a picture of it once but couldn’t do it justice. Some things just have to be experienced, don’t they?

Autumn is my favourite season. It’s the final smile of the year before winter sets in with it’s slippery pavements and wintry winds. *groans*

Through the trees comes autumn with her serenade.
Melodies the sweetest music ever played.

~ John Coltrane – Autumn Serenade

Image Via Creative Commons



There’s a Ghost in my House



It was a night like any other. I’d been playing upstairs in my room, which I mostly did after tea. My brothers were out and my parents were in the living room. At some point I’d decided to go downstairs – our stairs being the kind that had a half landing then more steps. It was when I’d reached the half-landing and had a full view into the hallway that I saw her and by her I mean a young girl who shouldn’t have been there, yet was.

I stood there transfixed for seconds rather than minutes but it felt much longer.

While I couldn’t make out details, as such, it was a girl and all I could make out was that she had long hair.

I was nine years old. Had I hallucinated? Was my imagination working overtime?

At this point the sceptics will be rolling their eyeballs thinking ‘course you were, you psychotic mare!’

Or maybe it was sleep paralysis?

However, I know I wasn’t asleep. I could hear the TV in the background. Everything was as it should have been apart from this girl who I didn’t know and who didn’t belong in my home. I’ve experienced the sleep phenomenon a few times. It’s where you think you’re awake but you’re actually not and it accompanies the feeling of there being a presence (often sinister) in the room or hallucination and you feel paralyzed. It’s horrible!

This was very different..

A few months later, I was in my brother’s room – bothering him as sisters do. It was night-time. The landing light was on and the door was half open. We were sat on his bed which was opposite the door. A movement caused us both to look up. It was as if someone had walked across the landing and we naturally assumed it was our mum or dad.


I called out to them but got no answer. We searched the bedrooms and the bathroom but unless our parents had taken to hiding in the wardrobes, there was nobody there but us.

We went downstairs and interrogated them.

‘Has one of you just been upstairs, like in the last five minutes?’

‘No. Why? While you’re down here, you can put the kettle on though!’

Me and my brother were in agreement. We’d definitely seen someone (or something) cross the landing and we were like, ‘BLOODY HELL! – Not that we’d have said that within earshot of Mum!

Any subsequent discussions regarding ghosts were met with Dad’s uniform response, “There are NO such things as ghosts!”

Dad’s take on death was that it was final. End of. Finito! He was a self-confessed atheist and about as sceptical as a teabag when it came to the paranormal.

But I wasn’t convinced..

The following year we were given the news that we were going to be moving house. Dad wanted to live somewhere closer to where he worked. Ironically, he was made redundant a couple of years later..

I was desperately unhappy about the situation and stropped about the house in the hopes that they would see reason. They didn’t.

You see, I was born in that house and despite seeing random kids in the hallway, I was happy there. It was the only home I’d known but my feelings, though noted, were not enough for us to stay.

T woz ere 81

On the morning of the move, I scrawled my signature somewhere inconspicuous on the bedroom wall and slammed the bedroom door shut for the last time. I took one last look at my bedroom window as we drove away in the direction of the other side of the city.

One of the first things I noticed about my new bedroom was that I no longer needed the landing light on to be able to go to sleep. In fact it irritated me to have the door open. Only weeks before, I had needed both.

One day I was talking to Mum about my ‘experiences’. She went quiet and reached for her fags (a sure sign that she was about to impart some wisdom) and said this..

‘Well, there was something that happened..’

Possibly for one of the few times in my adolescent life, Mum had my full and undivided attention. What she said next totally put the shits up me…

‘There was a family who lived in the house a few years before we bought it and they had a little girl who fell down the stairs and hit her head on the floor. She became unconscious and never woke up. Of course, we never told you children.’

No shit, Ma!

Because, had I have known this, I would never have slept again!

According to Mum, they had no knowledge of it when they bought the house. Though a decent size, the house was affordable because it was in need of complete renovation. Mum later learned of it’s history via a neighbour.

I’ve given this lots of thought over the years and this is what I’ve concluded.

Maybe I was picking up on the residual energy from what would have been a very traumatic time. When I saw her, apparently I was about the same age as she was when she died. I don’t know if it’s relevant or just coincidence.

What I saw could have been my imagination, or a hallucination. It could also have been a ghost or an imprint.

An imprint is a traumatic moment in time that leaves an impression on the building. An imprint doesn’t interact, unlike an earthbound spirit. Though the apparition appeared to be looking at me, there was no other interaction.  We’re definitely not talking Carol (“They’re Heeeere”) Ann, here. I prefer to think of it like that because it’s sad enough that a girl died without having the thought that she was stuck in some kind of limbo on my conscience.

Every aspect of my experience could be explained by normal means but that doesn’t make it the truth. Personal experience doesn’t equal proof but I’m unable to rule out the paranormal possibility. It felt real and the information that came to light afterwards lead me to believe that it was a paranormal experience of some kind.

As a society we can’t agree whether ghosts exist or not. 34% of Brits think they do and I’m one of them.

How about you?

“Ghosts don’t haunt us. That’s not how it works. They’re present among us because we won’t let go of them.”

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” I said, faintly.

“Some people can’t see the color red. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” she replied.

Sue Grafton ~ Red is for Malice

Photo Credit

Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.


Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/g/ghosts_quotes.html#tUCsAlGIqY7VtQiO.99

Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.


Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/g/ghosts_quotes.html#tUCsAlGIqY7VtQiO.99

A Bit Of Everything

Once Upon A Time in a Potbank


From the 18th century to the 1960’s, Stoke-on-Trent’s landscape was dominated by thousands of bottle kilns. Today there remains 47, all of which are listed.

I was born in the heart of the Potteries so perhaps it’s no surprise that I’ve worked in two of it’s potbanks. The first of which was one which made hotel-ware.

I turned up to my interview slightly overdressed in a pencil skirt, blouse and high heels. I was 16 years old and probably looked more confident than I felt as I click-clacked alongside the supervisor who was showing me around the factory. I couldn’t help but gawp at the pint-sized women who were balancing large wooden planks filled with teapots on their shoulders as if they weighed nothing at all. There was apparently a ‘knack’ to it which I never did master.

The interview was a formality. I turned up, got taken on and was trained up. It was that simple.

My job was Fettler/Sponger

FETTLER – Potting department. Clay end. Male or female who uses a variety of little tools to remove the rough seams and edges on the clay piece after it has been made by casting.

SPONGER Occupation. Potting department. Clay end. The person, male or female, employed specifically to remove seams and wet clay which had been created during the potting process.

I remember the noise and layer of dust that covered everything. The air was dry and cigarette smoke mingled with perfume and sweat – the kind that makes your eyes water.

Two weeks into the job I had the audacity to get sick and the management sacked me as I’d taken time off when I was still in my probation period. I appealed and won my case for unfair dismissal but I never went back.

Three years later I took a job as a ‘labourer’ on a twilight shift in another potbank which made tableware.

My job involved loading clay onto machinery which sliced it into pieces which would then drop onto moulds to be pressed to form a plate, bowl or saucer. These were then baked and stacked into piles which I would load onto trolleys while trying to maintain a steady flow of clay on about two other machines at the same time. Every so often (when I got talking) one of my makers would bellow out “OI, STOP GABBIN’ AND GET YER BACKSIDE BACK OVER ERE!!’ and that was just the women!

The factory was full of characters the likes of which you could write a book on. No airs and graces – just proud, hard working folk who knew how to have a laugh.

I loved every minute of it.

Working in a potbank was hard work and the conditions weren’t ideal despite vast improvements in health and safety compared to years ago…

In living memory, a pottery worker’s living came at the sacrifice of their health with lung diseases such as Pneumoconiosis which came from breathing in dust. I can only imagine how bad things were before health and safety laws forced companies to make improvements to working conditions.

No post about the Potteries would be complete without mentioning the dialect that is almost exclusive to Stoke.

Examples of Potteries dialect or Ar ter toke crate!

AY ~ Something I say about a 100 times a day since I’ve gone deaf.

ADAMANT ~ 80’s pop singer and brand name of a particular type of pottery made by Twyfords.

BOG ~ Common UK slang word for toilet extensively used in Stoke-on-Trent (and me)

CLACK ~ Potteries for the epiglottis. (“foone an ambulance duck, eets stuck in me clack!”)

DUCK ~ Term of endearment

OATCAKE ~ Local delicacy (also be found in random supermarkets in Bury)

FRITTENED DEATH~ Extremely frightened  ‘E’s frittened death of having to get a round in!’

MARD ARSE ~ A spoilt person or man + flu = mard arse

NESH ~ Doesn’t withstand the cold too well. (like me)

PEE DEE ~ Pay Day

RITES SPIES ~ Wrights Pies (the ultimate in pie experience)

CHAYS ~ Nice on an oatcake with some bacon

SHAPE ~  Woolly things in fields that go well with mint sauce.

It was spoken broadly in my day (especially by the potters and miners) but seemingly people don’t use it as much in everyday conversation so it will inevitably die out, sadly.

When I started work at the potbank in 1989, it employed 500 people and was split into three divisions – hotel-ware, mugs and tableware. The hotel-ware was particularly profitable but table-ware (where I worked) was facing major problems.

Sir John Harvey-Jones was brought in and as part of BBC2’s Troubleshooter series, he sought to improve the factory’s fortunes. His findings showed that a substantial amount of money could be saved if they axed about 100 unskilled jobs and replaced them with a machine.

Mine was one of those jobs, as were the makers that I laboured for. Our roles were made redundant to make way for a dust pressing unit which would mechanically do our jobs more efficiently and without the need of a tea-break.

We had to work alongside it while the teething problems were sorted out and a huge cheer would go up whenever the sodding thing broke down. Regardless of our impending redundancies – morale remained high. That’s the spirit of the Potteries for you.

Clocking off for the last time was emotional. Some jobs I’ve been glad to leave but this wasn’t one of them.

Despite the introduction of more technology – the company now employs over 700 people and that’s not bad for an industry that is in decline – in the Potteries at any rate.

Despite swapping the kilns of the Potteries for Lancashire mills, I am, and always will be, a Potteries girl.

Potbank 2

Yep, it’s me.

This post is in response to a request by theatre directer, Sarah, as part of an event at The Victoria and Albert museum in London at the end of this month. Maybe you have worked in the potbanks yourself and would like to share your memories?

You can get in touch with Sarah at: memoriesofpotbankworkers@gmail.com by 16th October.

Bottle Kilns Image via Creative Commons by ‘Pessimist’