Imagination Makes A Cloudy Day Sunny

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It is a happy talent to know how to play. Ralph Waldo Emerson

The 70’s was the decade of all things naff. Naff clothes. Naff decor. Naff gadgets with the height of luxury being a teasmade. Yet as hideous as it was with it’s tartan clad teens with wing spans for collars, children still enjoyed the best toy ever designed..

Imagination.

The 70’s was arguably a difficult era with strikes, three day weeks and the rise of Maggie and the Morons. Times were grim, even more so when Thatcher finally moved into number 10 in 1979.

Though times were difficult, we didn’t go without. We always had a toy on our birthdays and Santa didn’t disappoint at Christmas, despite our mother’s threats of having us put on the naughty list. We had pocket money every week which we had to earn by doing chores – mostly crap ones. Mum was SS trained and woe betide us if we moaned about doing them!

My mother was ALL about routine and her routine was cocked up something rotten during school holidays. She looked forward to the long summer one with the enthusiasm of an inmate on death row. Bless ‘er.

To be fair, we were annoying gits.

We lived in an old house with what seemed to me to be a massive garden. In retrospect it wasn’t that big it’s just that most things seem bigger from a child’s perspective, like Cadbury’s Creme Eggs.

There was a garage (separate from the house) which I wasn’t allowed to play in, not that it stopped me. To Dad, it was a place of sanctuary – somewhere to indulge his carpentry skills while Mum scoffed her way through a family sized bag of Revels during her monthly psycho do’s. To my mother, it was a place to banish him to when she wanted to watch The Gentle Touch. To me it was escapism.

One venture into the garage almost proved fatal because while I was having a root around one day, an old back door fell on top of me. By some miracle I was pulled out with just a scratch on my nose. My traumatised mother gave Dad a verbal lashing for leaving the garage door unlocked. I have no recollection of the door falling on me but Mum assured me that it did. Incidentally, a bang to the head would certainly explain a few things. Ha ha

From then on the garage was strictly out of bounds. Or so they thought because I knew where the key was kept. 😉

To this day the smell of engine oil and wood shavings are evocative of the hours I spent in there. When I wasn’t trying to kill myself under back-doors, I was reenacting my favourite TV shows, like Dallas. I could do a mean impression of Sue ‘AM GON KEEL YEEEW JR!’ in those days!

When I walked in it ceased to be a garage. It was like entering a musty old wardrobe full of moth-balled coats and walking out into Narnia. If only in my head..

I didn’t need other children to be able to play. In fact, I much preferred to play by myself. Other kids seriously cramped my style.

Toys of the 70’s were simple. Star Wars was one of the biggest films of the decade so there were the gratuitous naff toys to accompany it.  We didn’t have Kindles. We had comics and books. The highlight of my week was buying a new Enid Blyton and Christmas was never complete without an annual of some description. I do have a Kindle but I still get the biggest thrill from the old fashioned way of choosing actual books from a shop or using the library.

Technology?

Pong was as techno as it got. And it was shit.

Children watched Why Don’t You And Blue Peter for rainy day inspiration and they’d get all creative with a bog roll holder and some Plasticine. For me, rainy days were the perfect excuse to curl up for hours on end with my books because reading was where I found my bliss – escapism at it’s best.

While a part of me says you can stick your technology, another part of me is thankful for it because my son has autism and it’s proved invaluable to us.

It’s a myth that people with autism don’t have imagination. Some of the most creative and imaginative people have Aspergers Syndrome. Hans Christian Anderson, for example, is thought to have had it.

The Boy has an elaborate inner world. It may be very different from the way his peers see the world it but in my opinion the autistic mind is a beautiful mind. He has obsessions, the latest being Lego, or Legouch as I call it because I keep standing on the sodding stuff. Every day is about Lego, specifically Ninjago (Masters of Spinjitzu) have to give it the full title or he tells me off. He watches the cartoons then reenacts what he’s seen. He lives and breathes the stuff in the obsessive way that is a common of autistic children. I may be crippled from constantly standing on the stuff but at least he’s over his obsession with serial arsonist, Norman Price of Pontypandy. Small mercies, folks.

My son is happy in his world. Technology helps him to cope with the real one a little bit more by providing a distraction from the overwhelming stimulus. However, there was a simplicity in the era of my childhood that no longer exists. We are living in a digital age where children choose to stay indoors over playing outside. I already find technology to be totally overwhelming and I fear that with each technological advance humanity will take one step closer to becoming disposable. A sobering thought, no?

Yes, the 70’s was a naff-fest in fashion, decor and, well, everything but children climbed trees and tired themselves out playing. In those days, most children knew how to play.

Image Credit by JD Hancock via Creative Commons

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Confessions of a School Caretaker

All I ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother. Call me old fashioned but I totally bought into the whole ‘homemaker’ vibe. However, fate had other ideas and when my then husband became ill. I had no choice but to work part-time to makes ends meet. One of my jobs was a school caretaker. Yes, school caretaker! Not all school caretakers look like Argus Filch!

Some are 5ft 1″, brunette and wear Reeboks innit?

The school was purpose built in 1939, just before the second world war broke out. The Anderson shelter wasn’t dismantled and filled in until the 1980’s. That’s one of the things I loved about the place, it’s history.

When I started working there in 1995, it had hardly changed at all since it was built. Part of my job was to maintain an ambient room temperature which is sort of impossible when you have menopausal staff who are shivering one minute and flinging off their cardies the next. Nightmare!

Although most of my work was mostly done around school hours, sometimes I’d nip down to do some gardening and it was a joy to listen to the children singing nursery rhymes. It was hard to believe that one day those little angels would become moody, acne-ridden, angst filled arse-holes, like I was.

The downside to the job was having to deal with vandalism..

Each Monday morning I’d apprehensively open the gate and hope that the local louts hadn’t been up to their usual tricks of kicking in fence panels, or worse, smashing in windows. Once, I found an old mattress and some used condoms behind the shed.

The. Dirty. Bastards.

Shagging someone on a stained mattress in the grounds of a nursery school?

Classy, no?

The empty cans of Tesco Value lager gave some clue as to the level of ‘chav’ I was dealing with. That said, at least they were using condoms so I suppose there was some degree of intelligence in there.. After a minute of intense effing, I snapped on several pairs of Marigolds, scooped up the offending ‘joy bags’ with a shovel and marched across the playground in the direction of the bins. As soon as I got home, I plunged my hands in disinfectant. The council came and carted away the mattress of shame and we planted the area with prickly shrubs as a shag deterrent. Only a complete idiot would risk puncturing his clackers on that lot!

My strangest find were some photographs of a lady that I found scattered over the grass one morning. I couldn’t go around the neighbouring houses knocking on doors asking who they belonged to cus, well, they were a bit saucy, innit! I decided to take advice from the head teacher, who almost choked on her Polo mint when she saw the lady resplendent in her suspenders and DD peep-hole bra. She concluded that it was best to deny all knowledge of them and fed them through the shredder.

Sorted.

One of the cutest moments was when I was changing the paper towels in the toilets and one cute little boy held out his painting to me and said. ‘Hold this, Mrs lady, I’m going for a poo!’

Just wonderful.

Originally, the school had three intakes of forty children a year but nursery classes being opened within nearby primary schools meant that numbers started to dwindle. The council took the decision to close the school when the intake dropped to 25 saying that it was no longer financially viable. Despite a petition put forward from thousands of people, many of whom had attended the school themselves, the council pressed ahead with it’s plans to close and on a summer’s day in July 2005, after 66 happy years, the nursery closed.

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Happy memories of the nursery at Christmas circa 1940’s

During the big ‘clear out’ the head called me into her office and showed me some of the log books she’d found from during the war. Everything was written down. The nit nurse was mentioned a LOT. But one entry stood out to me the most. It simply said, ‘The children had their tea in the air raid shelter’. Imagine that?

I felt emotional as I stood looking round the empty building on that last day. A building which for so many years had been full of life and laughter. The walls, once adorned with paint (and dried pasta), were now stripped bare and there was an echo to the room that only comes with emptiness.

As I walked through each room, I could hear children’s voices (not literally, I’m not that bonkers, yet) I could hear their squeals of joy as they sped around on the trikes and the ear-piercing shrieks as they shoved each other over on the playground. I heard the rumble of the prams and the shrill sound of the teacher’s whistle. I saw my eldest running with his egg and spoon on sports day looking as camp as a row of tents with his floppy wrist. I saw my middle son sat there with a tea-towel on his head – picking his nose through the ENTIRE nativity play!

Good memories..

I was a good caretaker. I was proud of what I’d achieved and having a touch of OCD came in especially handy when it came to locking up. There were no unlocked doors or windows on MY watch, ever! However, it did take me about an hour to do my checks and re-checks…

With a heavy heart, I closed the gate for the last time and I allowed myself one last look before another chapter in my life closed.

I doubt that I will ever find a job like that. I loved every second of it. Going to work in the morning was never a chore. I loved the building. I loved the people I worked with. I loved how I ended up on the annual school tea-towel, standing there with my tiny broom and enormous arms poking out of my head..

The building sat empty for quite a while. The privets became overgrown and the cherry blossom leaves blew around because I wasn’t there to pick them up. It was sad to see. Then one day I noticed that the privets had been cut and a shiny new sign was in place of our old one. It had been bought as a private day nursery! I TOTALLY love that the building still knows the sound of children’s laughter. A new chapter in it’s life and long may it continue…I am proud to be part of it’s history.

A pity they let the old punishments die. Was a time detention would find you hanging by your thumbs in the dungeons. God, I miss the screaming ~ Argus Filch ~ Miserable git caretaker in Harry Potter

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The Great Escape

Garden Spid (531x800)blogIt’s commonly known that the only fears we are born with are the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Any other phobia is learned..

My phobia of spiders can’t have been learned from my parents as neither were afraid of them. However, I do remember my brother screaming like a girl at a One Direction concert at the sight of the teeniest one on his bedroom wall..

So I’ll blame him.

My earliest memory is when I felt one crawling around in my nightie. Long story short, I screamed the place down, My mother ran in and mashed it into the carpet. Hello, phobia!

Every time I screamed at the sight of a spider, Mum would storm in, grab it with a piece of bog roll and fling it down the toilet. With each flush, I felt a pang of guilt that a life had been ended because of my irrational fear. At least Dad used to liberate them back into the garden.

Spray it. Swot it. Annihilate it. That was Mum’s motto.

Rumour had it that my mother had had a bit of an unfavourable experience with an Alsatian once and it made her intolerant to anything with more than two legs. Also, she couldn’t be arsed coaxing insects into glasses when Corrie was about to come on. No live pause in those days!

But karma is a bitch because one summers day, Mum had been gardening and she’d kicked her slippers off in the garage. Task completed, she went to put a slipper back on and was stung on the toe by a startled bee who’d crawled inside. We heard her shout ‘YOU LITTLE SOD!!’ (which instantly put us kids on the defensive) and then she went Chuck Norris on it with the other slipper. My mother would have had a shit load of apologising to do before she got to go through those heavenly gates, eh?

But THE incident which still leaves me cold is this..

Tarantulas first came into my life in 1987 when ex-hubs bought one after his father had died. Despite being phobic, I didn’t have the heart to argue. Sadly, after a few years of trying to cope (and the knowledge that females can live for 25 years) my anxiety got the better of me and hub’s brother adopted her.

THANK FUCK FOR THAT!

Fast forward to 2007 where in a cruel twist of fate I discovered that the new man in my life had FOUR of the bastards In his BEDROOM!

I had a choice. I could either put as much distance between him and his crawlies as possible or I could try to conquer this phobia once and for all. Again, I tried but despite my best efforts, the anxieties crept in and the paranoia of one of them escaping and suffocating me in my sleep terrified me. Obviously I wasn’t the spider’s biggest fan but it was a sad day when I saw that one had joined the choir invisible. There was no chance of me putting my hand in and fishing it out but I did feel a twang of sadness that this little creature’s demise.

We lost another after we moved house. The shock of being carted about may have proved too much for it or maybe it was a male who had simply come to the end of his life as they have a significantly shorter life span compared to females. My bet was the years of trauma on having to see OH’s arse peeking out from under the duvet had finally seen it off?

By the time we had The Boy we were down to two spiders (in tanks) still in the bedroom. I piled books onto the lids to thwart any attempts at escape and slept with one eye open. All was well. As well as it can be in a room with fucking arachnids, that is. Except that OH didn’t quite close the lid properly one night and I woke up to the sight of a couple of tarantula legs doing the can-can through the smallest of gaps. I was rendered motionless with fear. My WORST nightmare was coming true…

It was ESCAPING!!!

Before long, there were SIX legs poking out and I broke all kinds of world records getting out of bed. I grabbed The Boy out of his cot and on last glance before slamming the door shut – the cheeky sod was legging it along the bookcase. The spider, not my son.

Hysteria kicked in and I kept slapping my face to make sure I hadn’t actually died? I was on my own, with a baby, and OH was stuck in a meeting miles away so I phoned the only other spider appreciator that I knew.. ex hubs!

The spider was now at large in the bedroom but EH strode in there like Bear Grylls. Granted, he almost trod on him as the spider was the same shade as the carpet, but he captured him and bunged him back in his tank. For this, I am eternally grateful for him and his lovely partner for coming to my rescue.

OH got the bollocking of his life when he got back home..

I named the spider, ‘Cooler King’ after Steve McQueen’s character in the Great Escape because, as escapes go, it’s up there with the very best.

I don’t know if it was the excitement of the escape or the shock of coming into direct contact with OH’s dirty undies but Cooler King didn’t live much longer before scuttling off into that big old web in the sky. The ultimate escape, bless ‘im.

Having faced my worst nightmare (sort of) I’m not as scared of them as I was but I’d probably still die if one dropped onto my face.

Not to mention the dreams I occasionally have of spiders escaping from tanks…

Hopefully, this post wont give YOU nightmares?

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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.

GymnasticsOnce 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 barfed up their Spam fritter after doing a forward roll. Mum 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. 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 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.

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

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

High JumpSpent more time face-planting the safety mat than I did in the air.

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

HurdlesAfter 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 my mother 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 Mum), 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’

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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

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Life is a Highway

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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 my mother’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. Mother 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 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,

Me.

 

What Not To Buy The Menopausal Woman This Christmas

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In the spirit of the season, I am imparting my menopausal wisdom onto the male of the species so that they may not only survive Christmas, but gain valuable brownie points by not buying something totally crap for their hormonally challenged other half.

If your significant other is going through the *whispers* change of life, then read on, this post is for you.

If she isn’t at this stage of life yet, read for future reference. You’ll thank me!

Jewellery

Steer clear of chokers if, like me, your beloved has acquired an extra chin. Or two.

Lingerie

Us women know how you men love to wander through the lingerie department on Christmas Eve. It adds a little frisson of excitement with the added bonus that you just might get your leg over this festive season if we neck down enough mulled wine. It is Christmas, after all!

Reality check..

The skimpy bits of string modelled by anorexic looking dummies will most likely not translate as well onto your other half’s posterior. Thongs (bum floss) should only be worn by those with a functioning bladder.

Perfume

You’ll still be in an hypnotic trance brought on by the sight of all those bras and knickers as you stray into the land of the orange people (the beauty section) whilst looking for the exit. The combined scents of the perfume section are just about to put you in a coma when you have a brainwave…

“I know, I’ll buy the light of my life her favorite perfume – the delicate floral one she’s worn for the last thirty years”

Alas, due to hormonal changes, that perfume now smells like fox piss and will continue to do so until her hormones settle down again.

Cautionary note…

My dad bought my mother some Tweed when she was going through the menopause in the 1980’s. I now associate that smell with flying plates and slamming doors. I get flashbacks whenever I smell it.

Anti-Ageing Products

In the name of all that is Holy, DO NOT buy the menopausal lady anti-ageing make up or skincare products. You might as well write “Merry Christmas, you old crone!” on the gift tag.

We all buy it but you’re not supposed to know that. It’s our little secret.

Body Hair Removal Appliances

My OH asked me if I would like an “all singing, all dancing” body hair removal thingy for Christmas. I replied, “Yes dear, if you don’t mind spending the day at A&E having it surgically removed FROM YOUR ARSE!!!”

We might be turning into Sasquatch at an alarming rate but we deal with this in the beauty salon (if posh) or the bathroom with a Bic (if not). It’s our secret.

However, it is perfectly acceptable for women to buy their middle-aged OH’s nose and ear hair trimmers…

Stuff what requires AA batteries (or a small generator)

As you wander up the high street clutching a carrier bag containing naff slippers and a bath bomb, you spot a well known British multinational retailer company specialising in sex toys and lingerie, and think, “Ah ha!, I will buy my sweetie pie a little something to ‘blow out the cobwebs’ as it were.

Problem is that, being a bloke, you’re bound to buy something totally inappropriately sized for a woman who’s squeezed out babies the size of, er, Wales. So your ‘purse’ sized one will pail into insignificance compared to the seven inch bad boy she’s got stuffed in an old boot at the back of the wardrobe.

Get out of there, now!

No, don’t stop to look at the French maids outfit! (or the pretty girl serving behind the till) Your good lady is hormonal (bordering on psychotic) and more likely to strangle you with it than flick a feather duster around in it.

Kitchen Knives

Not a good idea for a woman who’s bang out of oestrogen.

Anything from Poundland

No.

Books

Steer clear of murder mysteries – don’t want to be giving her any tips.

Petrol Station Goods

Rest assured, if Schnookums rips open the wrapping paper on Christmas morning to find an ice scraper and a Magic Tree (or cheap equivalent) you’ll die.

A Onesie

In my opinion, the onesie is the worst fashion crime since the shell suit.

Hot sweats, malfunctioning bladders and general insanity make the onesie a no go area for menopausal ladies. “Eh-Oh!!” for sure or “soggy bottom” as they say in the Great British Bake Off!

Ped-Egg

You would only buy this as a gift for somebody you truly despise.

This year, I asked OH to have Alan Titchmarsh gift wrapped for me, complete with wellies and trowel. In return he can have Wendy James (Transvision Vamp).

Windy doesn’t have quite the same allure as she did in the 80’s (when OH was spotty) whereas Titchmarsh has aged like a fine wine and can still lay a decent patio.

I hope my little what not to buy guide helps to keep the yuletide A & E free.

Just to add that this isn’t representative of all menopausal ladies, so don’t panic! Some are total Goddesses. Sadly, I am not.

The one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning is their husband.~ Joan Rivers

Image Credit Via Flickr

The Ghost Of Christmas Past

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Christmas is supposed to be a time of great joy but my father died on a Christmas Day. Of all the days, it had to be that one.

Losing somebody you love on any day of the year is hard enough but to lose someone on Christmas Day just intensifies the pain. My world was in the bin and it was as if life was taking the piss. I listened to Noddy Holder scream out “IT’S CHRISTMAAAAAASSSS!” and pondered how cruel life can be..

Mum and Dad always made a big deal about Christmas. Having three children and not much money, my mother started buying our presents in September. They both worked hard to make Christmases magical. I love them so much for that.

Mum usually put the decorations up (with me hindering her all the way) but one year she allowed Dad to put them up. The result was that our living room looked like Santa’s grotto. He really went for it. We loved it, Mum absolutely hated it. It turned her orderly world upside down. She tolerated it but could have out-smoked Dot Cotton through the stress of not being in control.

My mum loved to remind me of the time I sang Jingle Bells on the bus in the middle of summer and how amused the other passengers were. Apparently I was ‘jingling all the way’ from the bus station to our bus stop. I loved Christmas, you see, and when you love Christmas it’s in your heart.

Once Christmas With Bert Kaempfert and his Orchestra hit the turntable, we knew that the boxes of decorations would soon be brought down from the loft. Once opened, they would unleash an aroma acquired by decades of dust and nicotine. I especially loved the fairy lights… I still do. In my opinion, fairy lights should be for life, not just for Christmas.

I was 6 years old when, a week before Christmas, my paternal grandma died. I was too young to understand but now I know how hard it must have been for my father.

On Christmas Eve in 1978, I risked the wrath of Ma to go downstairs and get a drink of water. Unfortunately I saw Dad putting the presents under the tree. In a moment of defiance, the magic was lost.

I remember my maternal grandparents coming for Christmas…Nan enjoying her brandy (bottle of) and Grandad with his whistling deaf aid and wheezy chest. In 1983, aged 81, the wheezing stopped as his heart gave up. Nan was lost without the man she’d loved for over fifty years. She only lived for three more years before she became unwell. Mum went to look after her and one morning Nan told her she’d had a strange dream that Grandad had ‘come for her’. In the time it took for my mother to go downstairs and make a cup of tea, Nan had a massive stroke and died. I like to think that Grandad was there and it wasn’t just a dying brain playing tricks.

I was fifteen and old enough to understand about death but not the depth of grief my mum was going through. Her heart broke again when Dad died but this time, mine broke too. Now I understood the pain of losing a parent.

Mum never stopped missing her mother and often told me to make the most of her because, one day, she too wouldn’t be here. I always told her that she’d have nagged me to death first…

The surreality of Dad’s death in a hospital ward which was in party mode is something I’ll never forget but reality hit when we returned to the family home to see his presents unopened under the tree and his empty chair. The house felt cold, despite the heating being on. It was as if the house itself was grieving.

Over the next 15 years, Mum came to us (or my brothers) for Christmas. It was never the same, how could it ever be the same without Dad? But we made the effort for her and the children’s sake. It’s what you do.

In 2010, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to have my mother at ours that Christmas. I can’t explain it, I just knew that I had to. She loved being with her grandson for his second Christmas. I held her tighter than I usually did. When she went home I was overcome with emotion. I lay down on the bed she’d been sleeping in and cried until the tears ran dry. I’d put a letter in her suitcase telling her that she was the best mother in the world and I loved her so much. She phoned me later to tell me she’d found it. She got emotional (it took a lot for her to cry) but I put it down to the pain of her arthritis getting her down.

That was the last Christmas I’d ever spend with her because eight months later my beautiful mother was dead.

There’s not much I wouldn’t give to see my parents here this Christmas but I know they’ll be here in spirit. In the spirits knowing those two! And who knows, maybe Mr Kaempfert himself will be serenading them as they dance around the stars.

Life has taught me not to take time for granted. We all think we have lots of time but life just isn’t like that. It sometimes gives a warning before it takes a loved one or it blindsides you on a summer’s morning. What I am trying to say is we should live in the present and make each moment count.

My parents live on in me, my family and the music of Bert Kaempfert.

Instead of feeling sad for what I’ve lost, I am happy for what I had and what I had were the best parents and grandparents a girl could ask for.

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things- not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness. ~ Bob Hope

 

mumturnedmom

Older

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

*Blasts back to 1981 aged 11*

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

*Fast forward to 1983 aged 13*

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

*fast forward four years to 1987 aged 17*

Gets married.

*fast forward to 1988*

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

*fast forwards to August 1992 aged 21*

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

*fast forwards to June 2009 aged 38*

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

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

*fast forwards to 2009 aged 39*

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

*fast forwards a year 2010*

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

*fast forwards to 2012*

Post menopausal –  ovaries have officially retired.

*fast forwards a year 2013*

Pelvic floor surrenders.

*rewinds back to August 1992 – maternity hospital*

Pleads to have a couple of stitches put in.

*fast forwards back to 2012*

Craves comfortable shoes, ruched tops  and Alan Titchmarsh.

Orders Tena Lady’s by the pallet load.

Displays erratic psychotic behaviour.

Forgets stuff.

Mourns youth.

*fast forwards to 2014*

Acceptance.

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

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

My journey has brought me to a place where I finally like my body.

 

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

Oh, and I dribble when I laugh.

‘OOPS’ moments? I’ve had a few.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tea_bowl_fixed_in_the_Kintsugi_method

Lets get philosophical…

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

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

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

To the bullies, I raise two fingers.

No, make that one.

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

I’m finally OK with being me.

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

George Michael ~ Older

Image Credit

mumturnedmom