Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Domestic abuse and if onlys...

I was the recipient of domestic abuse.  So difficult to say - harder to accept.  Even now, almost ten years after I 'escaped' I still feel a little - silly, I suppose - saying it.  Thinking it.

I think my reluctance stems from a few reasons.  One (and this will sound terrible, even though it is true) I'm middle class.  It doesn't happen to 'us'.  It happens to others. On council estates (this from a woman who was born on one).  One has a mental image of a garden filled with rusty cars and other detritus and stray dogs (although that doesn't seem to happen a great deal any more), unkempt houses and people milling about at all times of the day and night, beer can in hand. Raised voices as well as fists.

Another reason is the fact that one equates domestic violence with physical violence which is even more ridiculous from my standpoint since most of the violence I was blessed with was, in some ways, far more damaging.  If I, a victim (how I loathe typing that word. Not because of any strong sentiment regarding my not being a victim but because it seems wrong, belittling all those women - and men - who arrive at casualty with broken bones and bruises) have difficulty accepting my former position then how on Earth do I expect others to?  Mind you, I can be delightfully contrary.

Despite how I try to dress it up, bundle it away in the furthest corners of my mind the fact remains that I was abused and the effects remain. It is very frustrating (actually that is a huge understatement; I'm furious with myself for allowing it to still hang over me but, although I believe I'm better than I was, it still hangs there, like dear old Damocles' sword) and I wish I had the ability, the strength to change and become a powerful Amazon.  Unfortunately I'm not of that mould   I am a wimp. A coward - even Flavia's guinea pig has me sussed and under his tiny paw.  Sometimes I catch myself thinking that next time I'll do things differently - only to remember that (as far as we know) there is no next time. Just this one and I can't help feeling I've blown it.

I don't want Flavia to make the same mistakes. I think she's stronger than I ever was (which is good); she doesn't appear to worry about being ridiculed because of her personal style and doesn't pull punches (whilst I'm always terrified of giving offence).

If there is a next time I hope I remember enough to know I need to kick butt.  My turn to be the kicker rather than kickee!

Monday, 3 December 2012

A Supermarket Rant(let)

What have they got against pedestrians?  I don't care what they say, how they prate about 'carbon emissions' and doing their bit - what about boring, basic stuff?  I have yet to come across a supermarket that has trolley bays right next to pedestrian exits; they're placed solely for the convenience of the driver and to hell for the rest of us.

Since we don't have our own transport I've pondered this problem for a while and have decided it's all down to money; there is a limit to how much a pedestrian can carry/pull even if they're going by bus.  In the store you're limited by the knowledge that if you impulse buy then you will most assuredly regret it - sometimes even before you've left the shop.  It's amazing how that extra bag of onions or those yoghurts found nestling at the back of the reduced to clear section can take up space (and multiply their weight an infinite number of times).  That being the case we aren't so desirable as customers.  So we are abandoned meters away from the way out.  I have no doubt whatsoever that the planners (all of whom are drivers) would argue that the trolley bays are close to the exit.  All I can say in answer to that is that they've never had to lug shopping.  Sometimes every centimetre counts!

Mind you, I also find it highly frustrating that, after hauling your shopping out of the trolley (the sides of which have, miraculously, grown in height) you then find the contraption on the handle does not fit that on the chain (or there was the wonderful time Tesco had two different types of theft deterrent and, of course, they were incompatible).  So you can either abandon your trolley (with token or £1.00) or put your shopping back into it and start pretty much all over again whilst using language that would make a Russian sailor deeply envious and probably propose marriage.  Then one can indulge in the, 'find the lock that fits,' game (all the while casting desperate looks towards the road because you know full well this will be the one and only time your bus is actually early, you also know the driver will not only not wait for the timetabled departure time but will take what appears to be highly perverse satisfaction from ignoring the desperate knocks, pleas and supplications you perform outside the door).

In an ideal world the trolley bays would be placed in areas most convenient for the shopper (mind you, in an ideal world the trolleys would have sides that folded down or, better still, converted into a ramp to try to protect your arm/shoulder muscles from developing like Arnie's) but then when do supermarkets ever consider the consumer?  They claim to, I know but we, the customer, know that it's a load of hooey.  Like changing the packaging or moving displays from one end of the shop to another they just like messing with us.  I am still trying to understand why cottage cheese in Asda is placed with the sandwich fillings, on the opposite side of the aisle to all the rest of the cheeses.  It's a mind game, some highly evolved form of intellectual warfare and they're winning.

When Flavia rules the world (I'm too old, tired and lazy to go in for the whole world domination thing...I'll let her do it and just reap the rewards for myself) I think I'll create the biggest supermarket of all time, make things as awkward as possible regarding displays, goods and (of course) access - and egress - and then put all the supermarket bigwigs in there.  Not only would it give them some hint of what it is like for mere mortals such as myself the satisfaction would be immense.  Hell, I might not even charge to watch!

Friday, 30 November 2012

The homing instinct

 As I get older my desire for a place of my own increases.  Simon never worried about it; his father would suggest on rare occasions that we take out a mortgage and become landlords but it never happened.  Simon was too busy buying Very Nice stuff for himself and was secure in the conviction that the Church would look after him come what may.  I, being downtrodden and terrified of my own shadow  let alone anyone else's dutifully kept quite and, to be honest, the housing market scared me.  How I managed in front of a class (or classes) every day continues to befuzzle me.

Now I'm 48 (I'm clinging to the 8 until I have to let it go at the very last second), sick, damnably poor and at the whim of landlords.  It is a frustrating experience.  Despite ourselves, Mark and I cannot help but play a game in which we state what we would do if this were our property.  Maybe we both have a masochistic streak, I don't know.

Magnolia sucks.  I like the flower but the colour - ugh.  I'd prefer stronger ones but, of course, changing the colour of the walls is pointless.  I had great fun in a former rectory and went wild with period colours, painting after I'd put Flavia to bed or before she woke in the morning but at least then there was some security of tenure.  I feel a tad embarrassed sometimes when Flavia's friends turn up and the window frames are quietly rotting, the paint chipping and slightly stained but cross my fingers and hope they know we are merely tenants.  We could, of course, ask the landlord to redecorate but what would be the point?  If they agreed then the colour choice would hardly be ours and it would, in all probability, result in the rent going up.  The advantage, of course, is that if we add an extra scuff or two it is unnoticeable.

The only change we've made is to have loft insulation installed.  There was none but being poor does have some advantages - under the Government scheme we got it done for free.  Unfortunately they don't have a similar scheme for double glazing or solar panels but there we go.

It's the lack of security that bothers me most.   At any time our landlord could decide he wants to sell the house or convert it into flats or a brothel or - well, just about anything.  We have a stack of boxes cluttering the former outhouse and neither of us want to let them go; last time we gave our boxes away our landlady decided she wanted to sell the house and gave us a couple of months' notice (ouch).  It took us longer to move than we had anticipated and drove home the knowledge that neither of us is as young (or as healthy) as we once were which really made us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

So we accept the tired paintwork, the little bits crumbling here and there and enjoy the house as much as we can.  There is, however, one advantage to being a tenant - double glazing salesmen can't get away fast enough!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Of Proms, Promises and Maternal regrets...

Flavia is having bouts of Prom fever.  Yes, I know it is far too early and I have (in my previous life) castigated girls who were more interested in transport and necklines than their upcoming GCSEs but I do understand and if she has to get slightly absorbed then it's better now than in May.

It is, however, somewhat amusing.  Initially she wouldn't be caught dead at the Prom; then came the (dismissed) news that one of her friends was planning a preparation party before they were driven with great pomp to the venue.  Nothing for a while but finally I was informed that Kourtney (another friend) was very keen to go and Flavia was considering going with her as a favour.  A week or so later, Kourtney was apparently claiming that the desire to attend was Flavia's.  Now there appears to be little doubt - they're going.

Flo's picked out a dress (over £100.00 but Simon, in a burst of generosity and, I suspect, conviction that tomorrow never comes has offered to pay for it).   It is incredibly pretty.  Neither is it tacky or of the, 'see my wares' variety.

I used to dismiss Proms; we didn't have them in my day (death knell phrase) and I couldn't really see the point but in my autumnal days I am feeling more generous.  My reasoning is simple (and it's why I haven't shot Flo's choice of dress down in flames even though she could quite easily get away with a £10.00 variety from Peacocks or wherever).

I've never been to a party.  Never dressed up and gone out and had all that anticipation and excitement that comes with it.  I've seen these things in films - watched School for Scoundrels with Ian Carmichael only the other day...people actually dressed like that to go to dinner???? - but the closest I've ever got was a staff party at Simon's erstwhile school where jeans and drunkenness seemed to be the order of the day (sigh).

It's probably my mother's fault; she reared me on musicals and films from the 1940s where women wore court shoes (that in itself explains something), always seemed to be chic regardless of their occupation and regularly went to sophisticated, magical places.  Whilst I never actually envisaged myself as Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly (ahhh, wouldn't that be exquisite?) the impression remains.  I'd love to go to a party; I'd love to wear a glamorous frock or gown, be coiffed and primped and feel confident in myself as I dance and scintillate throughout the evening.  It appeals to the very depths of my feminine core and I mourn that it can never be.  I'm forty-eight (nearly forty-nine) and whilst I appreciate that age has little to do with it, it does mean I've managed almost half a century without being within even a whiff of such an occasion.  My chances, therefore, are decreasing.  Hell, it's ten years since someone other than Mark cut my hair so there is no way I'd ever be in the position of going to a glamorous party.

So, with my opportunities of wearing a stunning dress and feeling more Cinderella-like than the female herself my sympathies are very much for Flavia and her friends.  So what if she spends a fortune on a dress she'll only wear once?  In forty, fifty, sixty years time she'll have the amazing memory of it and how she felt when she had it on and I'm damned if I'll take that away from her.  I just hope Simon doesn't renege on his promise as he usually does.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Guilt: Who would be a mother?

I hold my hands up in admission - I am a guilty person.  If the Police are behind me when I'm driving I automatically feel guilty even though I have insurance, road tax, a road-worthy vehicle and my driving is exemplary.  I'm a knee-jerk apologiser (as opposed to an apologist.  I wish) which is annoying because, since my mother also apologises for everything, even things far beyond her scope of influence, I know how frustrating it can be to the listener.  I try not to do it but - sorry!

Over the last few years I have, both silently and on occasion to her face, apologised to my daughter for landing her with such a sorry excuse for a father and I do feel terribly guilty about it.  The activities she loved to do are no longer within her reach because of funds (or lack thereof); her father is incredibly, awe-inspiringly self-absorbed.  He wants her to go to Oxbridge and become a barrister because he didn't have the nerve to take the entrance exam and it would sound so good, 'my daughter, the barrister.'  Right now she is certainly interested in the Law but at the fuzzier end of the lollypop so to speak.  He once pointed out to her that, under our influence she'd be lucky to be a waitress in a roadside diner (our response was to tell him she wanted to open a tattoo parlour - hey, got to get one's kicks somehow and since I'm not allowed to kick him, the least that can be allowed is a little tail pulling).  I've apologised for his violence (physical and verbal) and the fact that he does everything within his power not to pay child support (I worked out the other day that it comes to somewhere around £1.00/day) because of his loudly voiced poverty but which doesn't stop him going on a few holidays a year and buying Very Nice Clothes Indeed (do not get me started on the CSA!)

I have also experienced guilt at the knowledge that her weakness for asthma and migraine comes from my side (oh, joy) but now, I gather, I should kneel before her in abject abasement.  The Experts have decreed that migraines come specifically from the maternal side.  Not only that, but giving Calpol to a child can trigger asthma.  I should think the number of mothers who didn't give Calpol to their children (certainly those of Flavia's age) are infinitesimal - damn, it was actually strongly recommended after the first MMR jab (yes, she had them and I watched with dread for any negative signs).  So she is doomed three times over.  I say mothers gave Calpol because for the most part that's true; fathers are, generally speaking, more hands off and, I am convinced, less likely to have the Guilt Gene.

They (the ubiquitous, put them against a wall and shoot them 'They') also blame the mother for a child's autism.  Caught the 'flu whilst pregnant?  Your fault!  Have a drink whilst pregnant?  Condemning your child to a lifetime of idiocy and low-paid work (unless they manage to get into banking or politics).  Not enough sunshine?  Higher risk of Junior suffering from MS.  And that's before birth. After that the pressure is even greater: certain foods could give children cancer; making them eat fish could reduce the chances of asthma but if you shout at them (something I've tried hard not to do but I can't, hand on heart, say I've never snapped) you can increase the risk of not only asthma but also cancer and heart disease.  As if we haven't got enough to bear.  Whatever we do for our children, however pure our intentions we get blamed and have to suffer the mental flagellation for the rest of our lives.   It's amazing the human race has survived this far!

The thing is, most of us do our best.  No alcohol. No soft cheeses (admittedly that wasn't hard for me - I prefer hard British to soft Continental), no cheesecake (argh).  Months before becoming pregnant I checked with the doctor as to my meds, only to be told by a different doctor three months into the pregnancy that Migraleve causes miscarriages - something I really needed to hear since I didn't get morning sickness but daily, blinding migraines.  Yet still we're being told we are to blame for whatever may happen to our children - not only now but in decades to come.  In fact, we - the female of the species - are specifically to blame for problems our grandchildren will have.  If that isn't kicking us when we're down then what is?

The only bright spot is that I'm not OCD with regards to cleanliness.  We don't live in squalor, despite what my ex-husband might say and think (but this is a man who measures the distance from  the edge of his desk to his pens, pencils, ruler and pad of paper) but things have a tendency to be messy.  It doesn't matter how tidy I might be, Mark and Flavia have a far, far higher tolerance level  to clutter and junk generally.  Thus I have a choice; either work myself into a state of permanent exhaustion (easier done than said with my medical history) or try to take it philosophically rather than falling into a depression).  Now, They have decreed that an ultra-clean house can actually help to cause allergies.

Finally something that won't be keeping me awake at night.  Only another hundred or so Guilt Trips to go.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

School and the necessity for lying

I know, I know, a hideously long time since my last update but it was not intentional; more a tree falling in the forest moment (or moments) coupled with playing with my meds.  I keep hoping I can reduce doses and my body keeps telling me where the door is!  That, coupled with a torn muscle in my calf - frighteningly easy to do if one has Sarcoidosis - and a cold plus Flavia's GCSE mocks and I gave in.  Or gave up.  Depends upon one's point of view.  However, muscles, aches, pains and meds notwithstanding I am again...well, I was going to say thrusting myself into the fray but I think cautious toe-dipping is closer to the truth and, if I'm honest (and I do try to be - I'm a lousy liar) more in character.  I'd love to be the sort who strikes out boldly and takes risks and I'm always mentally cat-calling at those in films who just stand there waiting for the tidal wave/alien invasion/bomb blast/lava to overwhelm them but I'm also reasonably sure I would do just that.  I would like to imagine I'm the sort who would be cool, calm and heroic in a crisis but I know it just isn't the case.  Cowering in the corner is far more my style unfortunately.

As I say, Flo has had her mocks - sort of.  She managed just over a day but then fell (figuratively if not literally).   The dreaded migraine came visiting.  She did go in for the second day but the school 'phoned around 10.30 to say she had to go home.  Or come home.  Whichever it is (my spelling and grammar used to be reasonable but the Sarc has put paid to that.  Or at least, that's my excuse and I am sticking to it!!)  I felt a little annoyed, actually (rephrase that - considerably annoyed).  Because of the Sarc and FMS (etc) I am unable to work any more.  Three darling, sweet doctors have told me that and, although being categorised as 'retired due to ill health' is lowering - especially when one is still (just) in one's forties - I can't argue with them.  Or I suppose I could but it is too much effort and thus too much energy.  Thus we are poor.  Beyond church-mice poor.  Poor old Flo tried to tell the school she was willing - I can't say many of us would be happy having to stay in our place of employment when feeling lousy? - to stay in school until she could catch the school bus home but they were having none of it.  She 'had' to come home.  Which is all well and good but they wanted me to collect her.

This is part of what annoyed me.  Being formerly in the trade I understand that they are in loco parentis but they were rather assuming that 1.  I was not in work and 2.  I was mobile.  There are days when I'm not although pumping myself full of painkillers does help in that regard.  If I couldn't collect her they would put her in a taxi and I'd have to pay for it on her arrival.  This is where I boggled (I can be good at boggling.  I've practiced it for years).  Excuse me?  How many people in today's economy have £20.00 lying around let alone those whos children are eligible for free school meals and for whom I have to ask assistance for any trips?  The arrogance was breath-taking.  Whilst I know we are at the reasonably extreme end of the excess funds spectrum I know we are not alone - £20.00 is a lot of money - hell, it is the cost of their (extremely overpriced) sport sweatshirt.

However, I did what any mother would do and girded my loins to head north, taking money out of the rent to do so and giving thanks that at least it wasn't raining - in itself something of a novelty.  I kept Flavia abreast of my progress via text (about the only function on a mobile 'phone I can cope with) and, sure enough, as I approached the school she appeared.  Which rather begs the question of why did I have to collect her?  Okay, she didn't have the money for the train journey home but apart from that niggling little issue my question remains.  I didn't have to sign her out.  I didn't have to announce my presence in sonorous tones.  I didn't even get as far as the school door.  So why was it imperative that I spend over £5.00 we didn't have to make the hour's round trip?

I have the utmost respect for admin staff in schools but I can't help wondering if this was some sort of power-trip.  From now on, Flo takes £2.00 to school with her and if she gets ill again I shall tell her to lie and say I'm at the school gate.  I dislike lying and have always tried to teach her that the truth is best but in this instance I shall bow my head to necessity and accept that to survive in the world it is a requisite and often admired skill.  Unfortunately.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

High Days and Holidays

It's Flavia's birthday today.  She's 16 (and, as she solemnly told me, next year will be!) and yesterday was our (Mark and I) wedding anniversary.  We've been married for eight years, which isn't bad...longer than any of his other marriages.  By this point in my marriage to Simon (pause whilst I try to work out exactly where we were...he was such a difficult employee that we moved, on average, every 18 months so it's a case of working out where we were as to when something occurred, and if that isn't sad then what is?).  I know.  1994.  Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil.  By this stage he'd kicked me out a few times, I'd left a few times (and crawled back since I felt I had no-where to go) and within the year I'd felt so isolated and depressed I'd taken an overdose of sleeping tablets.  What a riot.

Anyway, back to the topic in hand.  Flavia's birthday.  We celebrated on Saturday, which I thought was pretty good going since initially (and until a week beforehand) we hadn't thought we could commemorate it in any way whatsoever - cash (or the lack thereof) being what it is.  However, we managed to wangle things so that she could at least invite a few friends over.  My family didn't do birthday parties - we (brother, sister, parents and self) would have tea and a cake but that was pretty much it so I'm a bit at a loss to know what to do.  When Flavia was younger I'd organise stuff and hand out party bags at the end and the last couple of years or so she's had sleepovers and dvds but most of the time I'm guessing.  And, I have to say, Flavia is very good.  She knows our financial situation and doesn't ask much - her friends go to restaurants or the cinema or bowling or whatever (or two out of the three usually) but Flavia knows that if we go to the cinema once a year then that's a big deal.  I hate life being so constrained and know her life isn't as rounded as it should be but can't think what else to do.

This year we worked out we could just about manage pizza, cake and ice-cream.  Because it was a last minute thing only five of Flavia's friends could turn up but, after meeting in Cardiff (at Waterstone's, their congregation point of choice) then came back for the aforementioned food and to watch dvds.  By seven o'clock every one had gone home.  Mark and I sat outside and listened to them chanting the words to The Big Bang Theory and I couldn't help but smile - and be very grateful.  The time may very well come when Flavia gives me the nightmares of other parents' but right now I am lucky.  Yes she can be a pain but (so far) I don't have to worry about drink, drugs or sex.  The hardest thing at the party was the own-brand coke from Asda and the nice thing was that no-one gave a damn.  The girls were quite happy, we were happy.  I don't know whether it has anything to do with how they've been raised (although other parents seem to do exactly the same thing and have the Offspring from Hell) and 'class' doesn't seem to mean anything either, inasmuchas brats can be from a sink estate or go to an independent school but they still manage to get their grubby little mitts on booze and drugs.  It could, of course, simply be because we're boring.  We don't drink (either in the home or out...not because we're teetotal but simply because it costs money and there are better things to spend one's filthy lucre on than alcohol), we don't go out a great deal (again, it costs money) and we live simple lives.  It could be because I had such a sheltered up-bringing (I was seventeen before I found out what a French kiss was - not through experience but by hearsay) but I don't see why.  Girls from families as sheltered as my own have led 'interesting' lives and been pregnant by the time they reach Flo's age.

So, now my daughter is sixteen.  Technically able to marry (with consent) and I feel ancient.  I remember what it was like to be that age and although I'm grateful Flavia is nowhere near as green as I was at that age, I worry for her.  She hopes to go to University (Simon has, after all, informed her not to worry about the financial aspect since he is going to win the lottery.  The annoying thing is he probably will) and, whilst I know she needs to grow (roots and wings and all that) it's scary. I don't like the knowledge that at some point she'll be hurt.  At some point her heart will be broken.  Bad things will happen to her and I won't be able to protect her.  She's stronger than I am - a bit stroppy, which is good.  Takes after her maternal great-grandmother in that regard (an Irish redhead!) so I hope she won't be taken advantage of quite so much (too much to hope she won't be taken advantage of at all.  She's human, after all) and I keep my fingers crossed that she is resilient.  She gives the impression of being so, but impressions are awfully deceptive.

After all, her father gave the impression of being a decent man (to some, at least) whilst in reality he was/is a sociopath.  Hopefully there's just enough of her father in her to enable her to survive - but not so much that she will be as selfish, ruthless and cruel.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Honesty is the best policy?

I have a problem with modern life - actually, that's not fair; I think I'd have problems in most eras. I'm always amazed the way people lie - in Court, to each other, to strangers.  I'm not talking white lies ('yes, you look amazing') but bigger ones.  The ones that can put one in a bad light.  I find it especially boggling when there is proof that the thing has been done by the person concerned.  How can someone, in all honesty, state they are innocent of a crime when there is proof?  I find it deeply unsettling and I'm very grateful I've never been called for jury duty (you just wait, tomorrow morning....).

I can only assume it is down to upbringing. I was taught, 'don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, don't swear (okay, I've fallen from that one), and be polite.'  The latter is why it gets my goat when people push ahead in a line or don't thank one when the door has been opened for them or I've stepped aside to let them pass...but that's a different story.  My parents may have been poor but they raised us right, as the saying goes.  Unfortunately.

The problem is that cheating, lying, stealing is the way of the world and the expression, 'nice guys finish last,' is so much on the nail that it's frightening.  Look at our MPs and their expenses - cheats are brought back into the Cabinet and failed MPs are rewarded for half doing a job with gongs.  The banks and bankers are another example - Gordon Gecko was right, greed is good.

The other day I took Flavia to the orthodontist (she has to have a couple of teeth out before the bottom brace is attached.  She's deeply upset about this; not at the removal of the teeth but at the prospect of an injection. Her reasoning is that having a needle in the mouth is unnatural.  She has a point).  Nothing untoward occurred except that she found a £10.00 note on the journey.  She pocketed it, reasoning no-one was actively searching for it at the time.  I had mixed emotions about the whole thing.  The Mother in me felt she should seek out the owner ('is anyone missing a ten pound note?  It's identifiable by the fact that it has a picture of the Queen on the front'), but a part of me not only understood why she had put it in her pocket, but also knew that the majority of people would think her certifiable if she had made steps to seek the originator.  Sadly I was grateful I hadn't been put in that position.  After doing my own investigative work I would probably have kept the money but been racked by guilt for the next few decades.  (Quite true.  I found some money in 2003 and still have pangs of guilt that I didn't hand it over to some invisible being).

It made me remember a time when Flavia was seven.  Simon was living in Eastbourne and I was in Cardiff and the only way I could transport Flavia from one place to another was via the train (the cost was still almost within the realms of mortal men at that point).  Flavia and I arrived back in Cardiff somewhere around ten o'clock on a Saturday night.  Not only that, but it was a match night so we had to walk about thirty minutes to the bus stop.  On the way, Flavia found a two pence piece.  She was distraught.  Someone had dropped this money and would be missing it.  I'd been travelling since seven that morning and desperately wanted to get on the outside of a pint of coffee or two but nothing would distract her.  She had to find the owner.  My pointing out that nearly everyone we saw was so out of it they wouldn't notice if they lost a £50.00 let alone tuppence was ignored.  She had to find the owner.  

Twenty minutes later (and still no result), Flavia decided to compromise and give it to a policeman. He was a young lad and made me feel indescribably old as he bent down to try to hear Flavia over the drunken shouts, whistles and general noises of affray.  Solemnly she explained the situation and carefully placed the coin into his hand.  I felt rather sorry for him, actually.  He tried to suggest no-one cared (nicely, of course), but she'd have none of it.  Then he suggested she keep it.  The horror on her face let him know how shocking such an idea was.  He was obviously desperate to get on with his duties (babysitting idiots) but couldn't bear to let this angelic, trusting little girl down.  Finally (and I had to congratulate him on his thinking) he offered to put it in a charity box if he couldn't find it's rightful owner.  This - thankfully - met with Flavia's approval and, after bestowing one of her special smiles on him she was quite happy to wave goodbye and let her mother head towards caffeine heaven.

I regaled Flavia with this story and she couldn't decide whether to be amused or disgusted at her former naivety.  Which I found rather sad.  Whilst I admit to having been in the situation of searching for pennies to try to help the family budget, the knowledge that Flavia's innate honesty and goodness is now at 'normal' standards is depressing but I know the world will deal more kindly with her because of it - it certainly won't hold her up to ridicule.

In the meantime her mother will continue to fret about injustice, apologise to spiders for accidentally trashing their webs and do her best not to step on ants.

I know which one of us will have a more successful life!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Aaaarrrgghhhh (or words to that effect)

I have Sarcoidosis (oh, lucky me).  I also, as a result of the Sarc, have Fibromyalgia and (because of the aforementioned Sarc or for some completely different reason, such as a trapped nerve or just because my body feels like being cussed) I also have bursitis.  In both shoulders.  Also severe upper back pain - and I mean severe.

I've just received yet another letter from the hospital asking me if I still want an appointment with the neurologist.  This is the appointment I was initially put down for NINE months ago.  I've asked my Sarc specialist, my orthopaedic chappy, my GP and the physiotherapist to nudge (ie give a kick up the posterior) to the Neurology department but still they send me these damn letters instead of an appointment.  I call them the, 'haven't you died yet,' letters.  I've had a few of them.  The fact that this one has just turned up means I shall shortly have it's brother - do I still want the rheumatology appointment (no, I just can't be bothered to tell them I've decided pain is a wonderful thing and I love it).

Now, don't get me wrong - I think the NHS is great.  Or at least I think the theory was great.  I love theories.  Unfortunately reality often bears no relation to them whatsoever.  Personally I think Bevan is turning in his grave at what has happened to his great idea.  Money wasted left, right and centre on administration and piddling little things (sorry, but gastric bands for prisoners isn't my idea of a good use of resources) whilst things that are actually needed - whistle for them.  We're still waiting for the wheelchair that was ordered for my mother weeks (and weeks) ago.  

I also don't understand the myopia of the NHS.  Well, I do (ie short-term cost saving) but it is crazy in reality.  I've had migraines now since I've been in single figures (oh, the joys of being female).  They are regular little bu****s (inasmuchas they happen every damn month, if not week) and tenacious.  Sometimes they're really, really bad - a humdinger.  The worst humdingers are when I am vomiting every 15-20 minutes which means keeping meds down is impossible.  It used to be that the doc would (eventually) come out, give one a jab for the nausea and then one could take copious medicines and retire, stage left.  Nowadays they don't do that.  They send you into hospital.  I kid you not.  The last time I was in hospital (for me, not Mark) was for a migraine.  What a waste of a bed!

The annoying thing is that there are possible alternatives out there.  I've been told a lot of my ailments probably have a stress element (migraine, asthma, eczema, IBS etc etc) and it has been suggested I try hypnosis.  Whilst I don't think it would work I'd be willing to give it a try.  But, of course, it's not available on the NHS and there is no way I could afford it myself.

There's also botox (for migraines, not my furrowed brow, although if there was a knock-on effect I wouldn't mind) but that's on trial and you can bet your bottom (or top) dollar that, even though I plan on asking the neurologist (if I get to see them before I die), I won't be put on that waiting list either.  And, of course, there's this new gadget that, to my innocent and highly untechnical brain sounds like a TENS machine for the head.  When I was working I lost quite a few days due to migraines and the medications I take - well I know the Maxalt Melt costs at the very least a forearm if not the whole limb.  I get through at least six a month (that's eking them out).  It adds up.  I have no doubt whatsoever that my migraine medication has, in this year alone, far exceeded the cost of any of the above alternatives.  But, of course, the NHS (or the bods that run it) can't see that.

The sad thing is that I'm not alone.  I may not know people in a similar situation but they're out there.  It's frustrating.  These options exist.  They aren't hideously expensive - not when one compares them to the cost of a year's medications - yet they languish, saved for those who have the spare cash to try them.  This isn't what Bevan wanted.  It isn't what the NHS was created for and it sure as hell isn't why I've paid into it all my working life.  

But what do I know?  I'm just the patient.  An impatient one, but who cares?

Saturday, 1 September 2012

It's Family, Jim...

Today is one of those days.  My mother is finally out of the hospital (carers four times a day) and we (Mum, my aunt Margaret, my brother and my sister and her family) as well as Mark and myself are meeting up for lunch.  Margaret likes these things and this will be her first real chance for ages - not that the gathering is as large as usual - generally it is in the teens but has been known to be in the upper twenties.  I don't know how the others feel about them but I'm not too keen.  Flavia, meanwhile, is off to see her father.  Meeting at the local railway station at ten o'clock.  Doubtless he will have yet some other reason as to why he doesn't pay a penny towards her upkeep. I've given up on him and, did he but know it, so has she.  Her primary reason for agreeing to these monthly meetings is money; she tries to get as much out of him as she can.  Today she has her sights set on some Doc Marten boots for her birthday.  Personally I don't hold out too much hope.  They cost over £100 and Simon doesn't really spend that much money - unless it is for himself.  Mind you, she's a sneaky thing. Last time she needed a bathing costume and was going to search in New Look before announcing her intention of going into Primark.  Simon, snob that he is, didn't want to go anywhere that house Morlocks (and thus took her to BHS.  She doesn't get it from me!)

I think being the youngest had a bad effect on me - and not necessarily that which you are assuming.  I wasn't the indulged baby but, rather, grew up convinced that I was humoured, albeit impatiently.  Everyone was older - aunts, uncles, cousins - and when I say older, I mean older.  By at least 15 years.  I suspect the problem was (and is) mine rather than theirs but I always felt (and feel) that anything I say or do is humoured but in actuality please let us get back to the adult conversation.  A bit of a bummer when one is 48!  Of course I shot myself in the foot somewhat when I married a man who regarded me as being an imbecile and had no hesitation of telling me.  Repeatedly.  Now I feel I am a permanent disappointment - which says something when one considers that I don't think anyone expected much from me anyway!  I wish I were sassy, like my grandmother - like Flavia, for that matter.  But I'm not.  I am (as the spellcheck wanted to change sassy) a sissy.  Scared of everything, convinced I am a failure.  I might laugh at the dog for being such a creature of habit but like recognises like!  The difference, of course, is that I don't like lying on my back having my head rubbed but otherwise we are frighteningly similar.  Oh, yes, he can lick his posterior, something I can neither do nor aspire towards.

We are an odd family.  Dysfunctional, I think, is the correct term but then point me in the direction of a functional one.  I was scared of my brother and sister when I was young, then developed a rapport with my brother before finding out he was so much under the cats' paw that he sided with Simon in the residency case (he is a cleric, after all).  I have, superficially, forgiven him but I distrust him to the nth degree.  Of course, it wasn't helped when I was told both Simon and I were invited to my niece's wedding on the understanding I didn't fight with him.   As Flavia says, she has yet to see me angry.  I strongly suspect I can't which I believe is a huge personality flaw.  Now my sister and I have a reasonable relationship but the whole family ties thing?  Who do you think you're kidding?  My brother actually holidayed 10 miles away from my sister (driving within 1/2 a mile of her) yet didn't even consider stopping off to say, 'hello.'

Of course, it's all Hollywood's fault.  They might have given us the Ewings and the Colbys but they've also given us the family in Meet Me in St Louis and the Waltons.  How can any family measure up to such ideals?  Can siblings be friends?  More than friends - close, loving and willing to sacrifice for the other.  I haven't seen any examples in real life, but then hey, what do I know?  My social group is neither large nor hectic - I managed to miss any indication that there's a Mardi Gras celebration in Cardiff today which I can't help but think is pretty good going.  Personally I think this whole, 'blood is thicker than water,' stuff is absolute hogwash.  I mean, come on!  Throughout history siblings have double-crossed, cheated and betrayed each other - at the very least they have indulged in some serious one-upmanship.  Life is far closer to Shakespeare's Richard III than the Waltons but we all love the myth.  We all love to believe that brother would sacrifice himself for sister and that the world is well lost for love.

They could, of course, be right.  But familial love?  If you believe in that I have a bridge I can sell you....

Monday, 27 August 2012

Being poor sucks!

I know, I know, nothing like stating the bleedingly obvious.  It's true though.  It does.  Not in obvious ways, either.  I mean, yes, being able to afford to go on holiday would be nice (duh) but it's the little things that are really the bummer.  Like whether we can afford kitchen towels or not (for a long time we couldn't - even now they are doled out like precious gems) or being able to afford fruit.  I love the stuff (avocados excepted..don't see the point) but if you were to give me a choice between, say, mango & pineapple or chocolate I'd chose the former which is pretty astounding since I adore chocolate.  Unfortunately chocolate is a damn sight cheaper than fruit (although not by much and we can't afford chocolate anyway, but you get the idea). A pound of grapes or a Snickers bar?  Grapes win every time.  Or would.

My mother is in hospital.  Nothing serious (as in nothing actually wrong regarding being ill) but she can't walk.  Can't stand, either.  Her hip bones have finally told the rest of her body that they're on their own.  The hip bones have had enough, which is understandable. They're getting on a bit.  She's been in for a while whilst they try to work out a schedule of carers (they will need to use a two-person hoist and she's incontinent...just the sort of bundle of laughs that makes you think you really don't want to be old) but tomorrow she is released.  Discharged.  Kicked out.  However you want to put it.  Up until now I've been able to see her on a regular basis but this will change since we live about eight miles away (maybe more, maybe less - there comes a time when it doesn't really matter) and - it's embarrassing to even think about it - I can't afford the bus fare.  Yup.  You heard it here, folks.  We can't afford the £3.40 return it would cost to go to see my mother.  Now isn't that a total bummer?  Forget these people who are bemoaning the fact that they can't afford the latest bag or can 'only' manage one foreign holiday a year but this takes not having money to a whole new dimension.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.  By this age - not, I have to admit, that I ever gave any consideration to being in my forties.  Or at least, I gave it as much consideration as I did being in my fifties.  Or sixties.  As in, none whatsoever - things are supposed to be reasonably settled.  You know, have a home that's more yours than the bank's; spouse and brat or two; secure.  Comfortable.  Having been able to tick some things off one's bucket list.  Instead I find myself here: renting a house, counting every penny half-a-dozen times and wearing cast off shoes and clothes.  I know I used to tell the kids that life wasn't fair but this is taking things a tad too far.

As I've said before, Mark believes in karma. I don't.  Sorry, but.  It seems to me that bad things happen to good people all the damn time whilst - even more unfairly - the reverse is also the case.  Even if we dispense with the idea that I'm a good person (I am.  Trust me.  Would I lie to you??) I've known some sorry SOBs in my time and where are they?  At the top of the pile.  So, no.  Karma is a nice idea, just like world peace.  But that's all it is.  An idea.  Rather like the Christian, 'the meek shall inherit the earth.'  It's a sop for those poor saps who do try to be decent human beings.  You may be trodden on in this life but, don't worry, you'll get the reward after you're dead.  Has it ever occurred to anyone that I wouldn't mind the rewards now?  In this life?  Just in case the afterlife isn't.  I've heard of deferred gratification but this is taking it far too far.  

Isn't it rather sad when even Fate says, 'the cheque is in the post'?

Friday, 24 August 2012

A Tale of Two Cop-Outs

In January 2010 we bought a television from Tesco.  It cost us £300 and, although it might not be a great deal of money for some, for us it was (is) huge.  I used the money given to me by my Mother and aunt for Christmas and we scraped together the rest, working on the principle that we don't get out much.  No, seriously.  We don't.   We pay our rent, pay our bills and with what is left over we buy food.  With a bit of fiddling I can occasionally stretch to buying Flavia school shoes (bottom end of market...apparently they aren't to be worn in the rain but that's another story) so we decided to treat ourselves since it is, apart from the computer, the only form of entertainment we have.

You can imagine our dismay when, 19 months after purchase, it died.  We contacted Tesco (who tried to wriggle but Yours Truly knows about the Sale of Goods Act - I'm awkward like that) and they sent us a form to fill in (second class, of course) and just over two weeks later we got a letter from them saying they'd refund us £180.  Which rather tells me that they didn't expect the television to last very long.  Now, I'm sorry to rain on their parade, but I do.  My Mother had to dispose of her television when digital came along but it was going fine and it had been doing so for forty years.  Forty years!  My God, it should be in a museum.  Or immortalised.  A monument to Ferguson.  I know they say manufacturers install a variant of the kill switch to ensure things don't last a long time but personally I think 19 months is too little.  I also think £180 is too little.  We certainly can't replace the television with that - or at least we can, but not the size screen and not a built in DVD player (although I don't mind too much about the latter...I wasn't sure at the time.  On the one hand it's a couple of wires less - thank heaven - on the other, well, if the DVD player part wants to play silly b's then we have a problem.  As it is both the television part AND the DVD part went into touch but there we go).

So it would appear I'll be going to the small claims court to try to sort this out.  Am I crazy?  Should one expect electrical items to give up the metaphorical ghost in just over 1 1/2 years?  Or am I too old fashioned?  Presumably a Judge will help me find out.

The other cop-out is the CSA.  The little darlings. Don't you just love them?  Personally I find they make me go all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

You see (and stop me if I've said this before...the Sarc does make me forget things - just not the things I want to forget), my ex-husband doesn't pay child support.  He has the CSA exactly where he wants them and they let him get away with it.   In the current instalment he's been working since 3 February but have we seen any child support?  It is, of course, everyone's fault except theirs.  His.  His employer.  The post.  I've - well, I won't say I nag them, that's wrong, but no-one could say I have been sitting back and letting them do whatever they want.  I have been on their case.  Oh boy, have I been on their case (they'd probably say, 'on and on and on,' but I won't).

After 26 weeks (yes, I said 26) I finally decided I'd had enough and filed a lawsuit against them.  It took the Court 3 weeks to process it (all money claims have to go to Stratford now so the back log is enormous...2,000 new cases a day apparently).  Then, miraculously, on Wednesday I had a telephone call from them.  Wow.  Shock.  Awe.  I don't hear from them for almost two months then suddenly, wallop, they call.  Not only that but they tell me they have FINALLY made the calculations.  Only took them seven months.  The elephant in the room, of course, was the litigation.  They didn't mention it.  I didn't mention it.  I found it amusing but I suspect Roger (the chap on the other end of the line) didn't.  No sense of humour some people.

Now, today, I receive a letter from the Court saying the CSA want to dismiss the case because I have no grounds.  Hmmmm.  Yeah.  Right. They dropped the ball, didn't fulfil their duty of care towards my daughter and let Daddy Darling get away with financial murder.  He goes on foreign holidays, the cinema every week, eats out...generally a rather nice life.  His daughter, meanwhile, gets her clothes from charity shops, doesn't see the inside of a cinema from one year to the next and is going without a sixteenth birthday party because we don't have any money.

I have no idea as to what is going to happen with either case.  Obviously (duh) I'd like us to win both but if I was in the business of getting what I wanted I'd be comfortably off, people would buy my books and I'd own a house that bore more than a passing resemblance to that occupied by the Addam's Family (but with an orchard rather than a cemetery in the back garden).  Instead I rent a house and hope like hell the landlord doesn't decide to change his mind/sell/demolish/whatever.  Oh, and no-one buys my books.  Which is very annoying because I've read far worse and they don't exactly cost an arm and a leg.  In fact, they don't even cost a fingernail.  Maybe, if I priced them for a vast sum people would buy them.  Rather like some art work that shall go un-named but which is tat yet sells for obscene amounts of 0s.  The world is a strange place.  And people are downright scary.

I had planned, if we'd won the £148,000,000 (I know I could have just written £48 million but then I wouldn't have had the satisfaction and awe of seeing all those 0s), to buy an island somewhere and hide from people.  Nothing too big or fancy.  Australia or somewhere like that.

Ah, well.  We didn't.  Didn't win a farthing (which would have been difficult anyway since they don't make them any more).  Back to Plan B.  Or are we on to Z yet?  I wouldn't be surprised.  Any suggestions on a postcard, please.  Or call the A Team.  Whichever is easier.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Well, that was fun!

I am officially cream-crackered.  Absolutely, totally, no-doubt-about it whacked.  What's more, it's all my husband's fault.  I put the blame firmly on Mark. No ifs, ands or buts.  Not only that, but if he has any sense he'll agree with me.  

You know the way you have an afternoon all planned?  That was me yesterday.   A little gentle pottering followed by a quiet family evening and an early night. Especially the early night since sleeping is not my forte. I used to be good at it; but then I used to be good at a lot of things.  Why it is a problem is a bit of a mystery since I take so many meds I should spend my whole life virtually catatonic but it would appear I'm made of sterner stuff.  Or something.

Anyway, back to my pottering. Nothing major league, just saying hello to a few old friends in the clothing stakes when Mark comes back from the doctor. He'd had some blood taken a couple of weeks earlier to check on how his diabetes, cholesterol & blood pressure were doing.  Routine. My main concern was that he'd be kept waiting (the previous week I'd had to hang around for 45 minutes which was rather boring, especially since surgeries no longer have stacks of those magazines no-one admits to buying but we all can't resist's the possibility of germs, apparently).  I digress.  In wanders the Man and tells me (nonchalantly, of course)  that the doc wants me to take him somewhere. Initially I didn't understand him - due partially to his Texas accent trying to wrap itself around the Ll in Llandock.  As in, 'Llandock Hospital.'  As in, 'the doctor wants you to take me to-'.  'When?'  'Now.'

You'll be glad to know I didn't panic.  Even when he said she'd done (or whatever it is) an ECG on him, gone white and pointed him in the general direction of the door with the aforementioned instruction.  My first job was to bum some money off Flavia (we don't have our own transport, instead we're dependent upon the bus.  Isn't it a good thing I've gone to Llandock so often myself I know not only where to catch the bus - the 95, in case you're wondering - but also the times to and from).  And, of course, they only accept the exact money.  Which we didn't have.  Bang went Flavia's £10.00 (with the promise she'd get it back today at the latest).

So, by five o'clock we're sitting in the waiting room at the Assessment Unit in Llandock Hospital.  Have you noticed how chairs in hospitals are always uncomfortable?  In the same way I have a theory that bus companies purposely ruin the shock absorbers on each bus before putting it into service, I am convinced hospitals are determined never to possess a comfortable chair.  Not for patients, anyway.  If you're going to litter the place then you're not going to enjoy the experience.  So we deposit ourselves on a couple of the sit-up-and-beg chairs and wait.  And wait.  Then (just for fun) we waited some more.  I was going to say that Mark is a bit antsy about hospitals but then, who isn't?  Or, if someone isn't then there's something mighty peculiar going on in their cranium.  I'm more resigned - I think it's a female thing - but Mark isn't of that ilk.

They took him off to take blood from him (5 vials!  Blood suckers) and another ECG but in the interim we waited.  Along with other patients and their acolytes.  There were periods of brief amusement, such as when a cleric informed someone on his mobile that he'd thought a patient in one of the treatment rooms was his friend but then found she was sitting just behind him (the humour being the person in the treatment room was an obese old man...if I'd been the friend I would have punched him) but otherwise it was unmitigated boredom.  Within two hours I could quote the Beeb's coverage of Tony Scott's suicide as well as the changing weather reports.  I even accepted a cup of tea. Now for me, that's a big deal. I don't do tea. I regard it as an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. However, there was method in my betrayal - if I was going to be faced with a hot, dark brown liquid then I preferred it to be something I knew I didn't like rather than a bastardized cousin of something I do like that was given to me merely as a form of highly exquisite torture.  That was my logic, anyway.  It didn't make the tea taste any nicer, though.

To cut a very long, dreary story short by ten o'clock we were given the delightful news that they wanted to keep Mark in overnight so that they could run some more tests this morning.  The only fly in the ointment was that there were no beds. Instead we were offered a couple of beaten up recliners in a room that for unrelenting brightness would make the Gestapo salivate.  Ve haf Vays of giving you a heart attack.  Presumably they reasoned that if dumping us there for 6-7 hours didn't bring something on then he must be okay.  There we were left with the units' stack of spare blankets for company.  I couldn't really get home even if I'd wanted to since the buses had stopped running just after eight and who can afford a taxi?

My darling daughter took the news with equanimity: I did know she didn't like being in the house all alone, didn't I? (guilt trip time.  Of course, as I'm sure you've guessed we live in a big, old mansion surrounded by creepy woods and miles from anywhere.  ie There's a Tesco Express just around the corner and so many takeaways I'd need to borrow someone else's fingers and toes just to try to keep a running tally).  Then I had the wondrous text: My computer isn't working. What's wrong with it?  Now, I know mothers are good (some of us are damn good) but even I, in all my amazing capabilities cannot deduce the cause of a computer crashing from four miles away.  Actually, I can't do it if it is sulking in front of me, but that's besides the point.  I suppose it was worth a try, though. 

Mark slept - if you can call it sleeping.  Probably had something to do with his not having eaten during the day or taken his evening medications - I mean, we'd be home in a couple of hours, wouldn't we?  Hah.  Of course, I didn't have my meds either (duh) but then I don't fall into a state of suspended animation if I neither eat nor keep dosed up.  I also stayed awake all night.  At five I wandered out into the dark and fresh air to check the bus times since they were planning on taking more blood at six and - well, I wouldn't say I was desperate to leave but I'd been fantasising about it for hours (Mark had been fantasising about Kentucky Fried Chicken up until midnight) whilst the desire for something luxurious like a bunch of grapes stopped me from going totally cuckoo.  Instead I stayed at vaguely cuckoo.

Having informed Mark that it may well be a form of angina and that further tests would be required (out, not in) we managed to escape by ten o'clock, with me texting Flavia to let her know we were  1.  Still alright  and 2.  She could now unlock and unbolt the front door (it was her first time left alone...although, as I pointed out, she had two manic dogs, a domineering guinea pig and a cat with delusions of world domination on her side...nobody would dare try to go past any of them).

So.  Mark may well have angina (to go with the rest) and he DID have a heart attack about 20-years ago.  I'm not quite sure whether he's pleased to find out he was right all those years ago or disappointed to find out he was right all those years ago.  If you see what I mean.

I now know I can go 40 hours with only one of them having any relation however tenuous to sleep.  I also now know that Mark's idea of a suitable location for a date night sucks.  Rather a shame, really, to think that the first time we've spent a night together away from the house and family and it's in an impersonal, faceless, utterly boring and airless room on two highly uncomfortable chairs with another patient as chaperone (he purred in his sleep.  Mark snored...I found myself automatically giving him my usual little nudges.  At least he didn't talk - and when Mark talks in his sleep, Mark talks in his sleep.  In English. In Sioux.  It's great fun).  I did have a surge of brilliance, however.  I remembered I had a pair of (clean) socks in my bag and used them as a makeshift eye mask.  I probably looked ridiculous, but then the whole situation was and by that stage I was so past caring I could have waved at it from a distant shore.

The journey home was as packed as the outward one but at least we were going home and we knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the hot liquids awaiting us would be drinkable.  Also that the pulled beef prepared for Monday night was well and truly cooked.

I really hope Mark chooses a better place for our next date - something with a bit more ambiance would be nice.  Actually, somewhere with any ambiance would be nice.  And no white walls or strip lights.

I have a very strong suspicion Prince Phillip got a bed when he was in hospital.  I could suggest favouritism but I won't.  I'll just think it.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Arghhh (or words to that effect)

Why are some people so blitheringly useless?  Or selfish.  Or both.  Maybe the very fact that one is selfish means that one is also useless since one only does things for oneself.  Either way, it sucks.

Let me explain the situation: I have a daughter.  Sixteen in less than four weeks.  Her father and I were married for almost 18 years. He was - unpleasant, shall we say - and we finally divorced when Flavia was seven.  Since then we've been to Court three times ostensibly for residency but in reality because he likes the power kick. The last time was instigated by Flavia herself because she was tired of being continually reprimanded, hearing him bad-mouth myself and my husband all the time and generally being treated as a whipping boy.  They had no contact for 2 years (primarily because he didn't see he had anything to apologise for...although he did kindly say he forgave her...I'm not sure what for).

Since Flavia was eleven Daddy hasn't done much.  He has been fired from two jobs (apparently I say horrible things about him to the Head - as if I could be bothered, even if I were so inclined) and went to stay with a friend for a few weeks in December 2009.  He's still there.  Poor Howard - he'll never get rid of him. No rent, no council tax, little in the way of me, he's there to stay.

Daddy is also ridiculously poor.  Yes, he has a car. Yes, he goes on foreign holidays and tootles about Southern Britain with gay abandon and yes, he goes to the cinema at least once a week and buys clothes from gentlemen's outfitters.  But he's poor.  I know that because he can't possibly afford to pay child support.  Right now his contribution to his daughter's upkeep is around £1.50/day and falling. The CSA are worse than useless and, although they don't know it yet, I'm suing them.  I'm just waiting for the Court system to catch up on the paperwork.

Simon is desperately keen for Flavia to go to Oxbridge. He wants her to be a barrister (she doesn't, but when has that got anything to do with it?)  Years ago I wanted her to take an entrance exam for a local independent school but he wouldn't pay half the fee (£25.00); so she's gone to the local comprehensive.  Since he's not paying child support I thought he may like to help pay for her to go to the best sixth form college in the country - which just happens to be half an hour from here - but no, he's sure she'll do just fine at her present school even though the results are less than half as good.  What about helping with extra-curricular activities? Universities are very keen on them. So was he - until he realized he'd have to put his hand in his pocket. Then he decided that she would get into University quite well without 'interests/hobbies'.

Now he tells her that it is possible he may be able to help her financially in three years.  It makes my insides go all warm and snuggly.  Wow.  Possible.  May.  Gosh, don't hold back, will you?

All this is because he wants to keep any money he gets for himself. He is, apparently, reading for an M.Phil or some such which is great - but we've had our opportunities and now it is her turn.  Although it isn't.  Because, as usual, he is putting himself first.  If I had oodles of cash, if I could afford to give her these things then I wouldn't give a damn ( in fact I'd probably cheer because he couldn't put conditions on his 'help') but I can't. I have Sarc. I have FMS. I spend most days feeling pretty lousy, actually but there we go. I deal with it. I juggle finances and borrow from Peter to pay Paul (then vice versa) in the hopes that I can provide enough food for us, that we have electricity and gas and that when Flavia needs a pair of shoes I can pull a rabbit out of a hat and provide them.  They may be cheap, they may not be made to be worn in the rain but at least they are something to put on her feet.

It comes as a sad fact when one wants to apologise to one's child for providing them with such a useless person as a parent. And it is even sadder to know he doesn't even realize he's doing anything wrong or that he's damaging his relationship with his daughter. And that's probably the most pathetic thing I could say.

Friday, 17 August 2012

A Fruitless Day (I think I'll go back to bed)...

It may not be Friday 13 (hasty check of diary...yep, I'm right) but it is beginning to feel like it.

Last night I had a bad migraine..not one from Hell (with those I end up in hospital) but definitely one of the ugh, who hit me and why sort.  I dosed up and went to bed early (ie even earlier than normal!!)

Unfortunately it decided to hang around for a while (anyone out there thinking I'm not a barrel of laughs well obviously you're wrong.  If I don't scintillate how come migraines don't scarper as soon as they arrive??)  Not helped, of course, by someone 'phoning at 8 o'clock.  Normally it isn't a problem but it would happen when I'm feeling not too flushed, the dogs are getting in the way and Millie has taken up temporary residence on the third step from the top; that cat can be cussed.  Naturally the nameless person hung up just as I got there and (equally naturally) the caller with-held their number.  I was a Happy Bunny.

With my feeling less than my normal chipper self and the rain giving a very good impression of getting ready for the next Flood I decided to cop out of going to see my mother in hospital.  Honestly? She won't remember whether I was there or not but considering how I was feeling I thought it would be better if I stayed holed up in the house all day, if not in bed.

That being the case, I decided (in my foolishness) to try to do something on my Amazon Author Central page.  It sounded so your blog & Twitter accounts to the author page.  Just the sort of thing to do when one's brain is suffering even more freeze than normal (I blame it on the Sarc).  Could I do it?  Could I hell!

What is a RSS?  And where do I find one?  Could I spot the 'universal RSS logo'?   Nup.  Looked high, low and sideways.  Got Mark and Flavia in the act too.  We tried every possible combination of letters, numbers and weird signs; Mark even looked at the coding (or something) but still nada.  Nothing.  No such luck.  I have wasted some four hours of my life on this and all that's happened is that my persecution complex has increased.  No, really.  Someone, somewhere doesn't like me.  I know.  

I try to be nice to computers.  I speak soft words of encouragement (intermingled with a few choice epithets but hopefully they don't notice), I try to be patient, I appreciate I have no interest in the internal workings of the d*** things.  In return I expect consideration. In other words, I don't need a hissy fit from an inanimate heap of wires, metal things, plastic bits and junk.  

If anyone has any ideas (apart from going back to slate and chalk) or can, in plain, simple English (ideally words of one syllable or less) explain how I find the RSS and how I link it up with Amazon I will be very grateful.  In the meantime I'm going to hit the painkillers again.  And pretend I haven't been bested by a heap of circuits and a keyboard.

Living, Writing, Dreaming and getting older (if not wiser): Respect my A***

Living, Writing, Dreaming and getting older (if not wiser)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bucket Lists

I've never really been the sort to write lists.  Actually, that's not true. I write shopping lists. Then forget to take them with me (now I cheat and use my mobile 'phone, although then I have the problem of actually trying to read what's on the little screen. But, hey, at least I have the list with me even though I can't actually refer to it).

When I was 18 I felt a strong urge to better myself and made a list of authors I needed to explore and things I'd like to learn. I actually did some of them, too.  I learn the flute - not to any great degree but I could puff out a tune - and I read some of my 'improving' books.  Unfortunately I didn't do too well.  Madame Bovary was, to my mind, a right little one and Anna Karenina, far from being caught up in some doomed love was a bit of a bitch.  My sympathy lay solely with Vronsky.  I did read a few Thackeray but have to admit I have never read the last hundred pages of War and Peace (although I've read the body of the book at least twice, so maybe I get a little kudos for that at any rate).  And I did discover Anthony Trollope who joined Jane Austen as a favoured writer.

I'm fairly certain there were languages on that list as well although it is an awfully long time ago so I can't be certain. I've certainly tried to learn languages: Welsh (obligatory) and French in School.  Greek, Hebrew and Medieval Latin in University. On my own I've tried German and Russian but I concluded (long before Lord Robert Winston) that if one can have an aptitude for languages one can have the reverse.  I am linguistically disabled.  It's very sad.

One of the reasons I left my first husband was because I realized I was almost 40 and hadn't achieved any of the things I wanted to. Which, I know, sounds terribly selfish but true. I could envisage me on my death bed mourning the wasted life.  Unfortunately one can't respawn and even if there is such a thing as reincarnation then since one doesn't have a memory of the previous life then any lessons go unlearnt and dreams unremembered.

In the last 9 years I can't say I've achieved any of them, although my soul is more at peace. I've gradually accepted that they will remain undone, unreachable, but I refuse to put them onto Flavia. She has, and will have, her own dreams; she certainly doesn't need to be encumbered with mine.  For posterity, however, I'm going to list them - or at least some of them. I'm not sure even I can remember them all.

1.   Security. A home of my own rather than living in temporary accommodation.

2.   To see the stars without light pollution. To be able to gaze up and marvel.

3.  To see lions, giraffe, tigers and the animals of Africa (large place, I know) in their natural habitat.

4.   To visit Machu Pichu

5.   To see beavers and otters.

6.   To see hummingbirds and kingfishers. To watch a lyre bird dance.

7.   To see the giant redwoods.

8.  To watch the Aurora Borealis above my head.

9.   To go to the Galapagos Islands

10.  To go out dancing.

11.  To wear a pretty, impractical dress.

12.  To hear and see wolves (from safety, of course).  Ditto bears.

13.  To visit Uluru

14.  To ride a horse.

15.  To be able to sit in a vast wood, watch the birds and listen to the wind rustle the leaves of the trees

16.  To try a real bobsled.

17.  To know what it's like to not worry about money every single day.

18.  To sit on a porch swing at twilight.

19.  To grow old disgracefully

20.  To feel attractive.

21.  To see dolphins, seahorses and puffins in their natural habitat.  Oh, and whales.

22.  To see living coral rather than the dead, dried stuff one can buy

Too much?  Too little?  Who cares?  It's mine.

I just hope Flavia gets to fulfil at least half of hers.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Ironing Board Monster

I don't know about anyone else, but we have one in our house.  Old, a bit battered and rather clattery (it's made of metal so makes very impressive sounds, especially since the joints have seen better days...actually it reminds me a bit of me!)  It is, however, serviceable.  I got it in Eastbourne just after Mark and I married.  There was a charity there who sold second-hand furniture at ridiculous prices to those of us who were impossibly poor and that's where I found our ironing board.  It cost us a pound and I'm not sure which seemed crazier to me - the price or the look of wistful desire I was aware crossed my face when I saw it.  I still feel embarrassed by it.  There are a lot of things a woman could or should look at with desire but I'm sure an ironing board is not amongst them.

 We have two dogs (actually, we have two dogs, a one-eyed cat and a very imperious guinea pig but there we go). Both are Border Collies.  Murphy (who is three) was bought when we hoped to be able to rent a smallholding in West Wales but we were conned and so returned to Cardiff poorer but with a huge amount of seeds and a dog.  Misty is one.  The idea was to give Murphy someone to be around since he loves playing with other dogs so much but he's ultra-submissive and she- well, she isn't.  I do feel sorry for him, and guilty at buying Misty even though our intentions were good.  Honest.

Misty is incorrigible. Reprimands bounce off her, as do scowls, growls and snarls. Her default is to put her ears back (they are ridiculously big), pick up a plastic ring and cock her head on one side. I can see her saying, 'look; I'm cute.'  Unfortunately (for me) it works all too often. She is confident in her belief that everyone loves her, she can do no wrong and the cat (Millie) is itching to play with her. She's wrong, but you have to admire her confidence.

In fact the ONLY thing that can disturb Misty's equilibrium is the aforementioned ironing board monster. There's something about it that really rattles her. One just has to touch it - and I mean touch. Not start to pick up, not rattle. Literally stretch out a finger.  Poof - she's gone. Out of the house, around the side and cowering by the side gate. Nothing you say or do will get her to move until she is positive the Thing is back in its lair.  

Mind you, Misty isn't the only one scared of the thing.  Since I brought forth the edict that everyone is responsible for their own ironing, Flavia has decided her clothes don't need to be touched whilst Mark...well put it this way. Have you ever bought bags in CostCo?  You know the sort to put shopping in.  Huge, unwieldy things?  Currently he has two of those filled with things waiting to be ironed - which is pretty good going considering he spent about three hours last week ironing.  That's what happens when you like your clothes (including jeans) ironed. I try to be sneaky and get away with wearing clothes that don't need ironing. It doesn't necessarily work very well but at least I try.

I'm waiting for Mark to suggest we try naturism - although considering our weather I don't think he'd last for long!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The gulls, the gulls!

If anyone ever has the temerity to tell me that gulls are not nocturnal animals I - well, I won't give them a kick where it hurts but I'll want to.  There's a huge - nest? settlement? colony? army? - of the darling little critters on the other side of the river and, damn, but they make a racket.  Scream and squawk and generally act as though the world is coming to an end.  Always in the early hours. By ten o'clock this morning they were as quiet as you could wish.  Obviously tired themselves out.  If we had to have a large mass of wildstock living opposite us couldn't it have been bats?  You know, something cute, cuddly and QUIET.

Mind you, they're intelligent birds.  My husband, Mark (aka Hubs), didn't believe me when I told him those responsible for ripping open rubbish bags were the seagulls.  He had his mind set on dogs, but nup.  I'm clever.  I know these things.  You just need to look at their beaks and you know they can gut a green bag in nanoseconds.  Not only that, but they know when it's rubbish day.  I kid you not.  They wait.  They line up on the roof of the cars on the other side of the road.  Waiting.  Watching.

We have a cat (Millie.  Black.  One eye. Thinks she's tough but is a great big softy really).  She has the dogs right where she wants them but the seagulls bully her.  I've caught them standing on the gateposts watching her.  Poor old Mills, it really messes with her image.  I haven't told the dogs, though.  It wouldn't be fair to tell her secret.  Anyway she'd punish me.

But, yes, the gulls were making their racket last night. Mark actually had his head rammed under his pillow but I could still hear his despairing muttering of, 'Oh gulls.'    I have to admit my feelings towards them have undergone a change.  I used to like the sound - you know how the cry of gulls makes you think of the seaside and watching the waves come in?  Positive feelings.  Now, having been deposited on (not to mention Flavia, my daughter, being pissed on...I kid you not) and having them screaming all night, well now I wouldn't really mind if I never heard one again.

I wonder what seagull tastes like........?????

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Respect my A***

Don't you just love people?  Their kindness, courtesy, consideration?  Mind you, there are some out there where I'd be tempted to give them a dictionary but I suspect they wouldn't know what to do with it.  Apart from use it as a doorstop.  Or a missile.

We live in Cardiff, Wales.  The city has things wrong with it (people, for a start), but generally speaking the city fathers done good.  Yes, the latest additions could be anywhere in the world, but we do have some very nice 19C and 20C architecture, the plumbing is generally okay and - best of all - we have parks.  Everywhere you go in the city (especially the older parts) there are little - or not so little - parks.  Well kept, too. There are also little trails you can follow off the beaten track. Not in the parks, just winding their way past the backs of houses, following little streams (cricks for the Americans out there).  My mother lives about 9-10 miles away - the other side of the city, anyway - and I'd say 2/3 of the walk would be not on the streets.  If that isn't good then what is??

We are blessed by living on the Taff Trail, an amazing route that follows the river Taff from the sea right up to Brecon - thirty-odd miles. We're at the southern end.  Grangetown, in Cardiff.  Has seen better days and, according to various neighbours there are drug users and prostitutes plying their business around us but, as Tevye says, 'we don't bother them and, so far, they don't bother us.'

I like it here. I like it on still nights when I can hear the clock at either the city hall or Cardiff castle strike.  I like hearing the wind in the trees and the birds chirruping.  Personally I'm not too keen on the seagulls (anyone who says they're asleep at night is lying.  They're nocturnal.  Trust me, I know) and it's a shame people can't pick up their rubbish (I've actually seen a dog walker collect her dog's faeces in a bag then throw it in the river.  Weird) but I try to be tolerant.  No, really.

Unfortunately, since the trail is also the fastest means to get into Cardiff for a large number of people we also get individuals who should really not be let out without a gag.  Last night was a case in point.  Two groups of people.  First one around 2-3 in the morning.  Female (young, going by the voice) walking along slowly (speed up dear.  Please), sounding off.  If only she'd walked as enthusiastically as she shouted.  I gather her parents made every attempt with her education.  She certainly used f*** in numerous and interesting ways.  Maybe I should have taken notes.

An hour or so later another, equally as considerate neighbour.  I rather got the impression he was seeking a gentleman by the name of Andrew.  Could be wrong, but the single bellow of, 'An-DREW,' repeated every three seconds rather makes me suspect I'm not.  After ten-twelve attempts  there came a, 'Yo,' from the distance but our hero wasn't the sort to take success for granted.  Nup.  He made sure he had the right Andrew (after all there are many of them out there, wandering the Trail at 4 in the morning) by continuing to demand assurances.

I know I could, maybe should, have got up and told him to go somewhere else - warm with a hint of sulphur but I'm afraid confrontation and I aren't good together.  He was probably bigger than me, definitely younger and whereas I have qualms about hurting peoples' feelings (let alone actually putting a finger on them) I rather got the impression that this wouldn't be something he'd worry too much about.  So I did what I always did and fumed from the comfort of my bed.  Doubtless if I had called either the young woman or man on their conduct I would have been in receipt of an earful where their demand for 'respect' would have been paramount. That and exactly what I could do with myself in physical impossibilities.

I'm tired of people demanding my respect. I think it's time they start giving it.


I always have.  Or at least for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it had something to do with being married to a sociopathic clergyman but Sundays are always a dire time.  If I'm going to crack on a diet, it'll be on a Sunday.  Weird.  It used to be the day I did the ironing; you know, ready for the week ahead.  Mind you, I'm cheating now and letting everyone do their own so that chore is out of the way.  Still don't like the day, though.  I suppose if we had spare cash and could do things I might like the day but we don't so...we don't.  

I think I've gone a bit doo-lally in the last twenty-four hours.  I have actually posted on cyberbegging sites.  I didn't even know they existed until I read something about them and just thought, why not?  Tried everything else, or so it seems.  So I've done it.  Hate asking, hate begging (ah, pride, it's a wonderful thing) but there we go. Nothing else is working.  Just for the hell of it I'll post a link, although since I can't see how anyone will find this blog then it follows that the cyberbegging page will be equally as lost in the vastness that is the Internet.

There we go.  

I know things aren't as bad as they could be - heavens we've been there already.  Counting each penny half a dozen times, only having a meal a day, not being able to buy even charity shop clothes let alone things that are actually new, but sometimes I get so tired of fighting.  

Mark, my husband, believes in karma.  I don't.  Sorry, but.  He's a decent, sweet man who's had some very hard knocks, I was married to my ex-husband (should be reason enough there to get some sort of gong, let alone a break). Always done my best, never tried to cheat, steal or lie (lousy at the latter anyway.  Not enough practice).  Damn, I'm even the sort of person who tries not to step on ants!  I mean, can I be any drippier?  So I haven't saved the world (cape in wash) and I know most definitely that peace will not be in our time but I don't try to screw people over either. Yet, here we are.  Worrying about money, not having a life - this is as close as we get - getting older and dreams fading.  Grrrr.

I mean, is there really something so terrible in wanting to find a corner of the US where we can live, grow a few things, cultivate mild eccentricities and try to make a living?  There must be because no matter what we do nothing works.  Such a bummer.  I'd sulk, but what would that achieve?

My ex, Simon, is up to something.  Don't know what but there is something.  Mind you, he's always up to something.  A regular schemer.  Saw Flavia (daughter.  Almost 16.  Not quite your typical teenager although she has her stroppy moments) yesterday and gave her toiletries that he's been holding onto since she last went to see him (2+ years ago).  Half used soaps, bin-able toothbrushes, things like that. Maybe Howard (his friend) has got tired of him leaching off him; I mean, he went to live at Howard's for a few weeks and stayed three years and counting.  Poor Howard.  So, either he's going back to East Sussex (he loves it there.  Natural home.  He loathes Wales, something I don't understand but there we go) or maybe he has actually got a job somewhere like Dubai.  You know, somewhere the CSA can't chase him (although why he should worry I don't know - his child support works out at about £1.50/day and decreasing since he doesn't pay it).  We'll see.  Just wish we could blow a raspberry at the lot of them and have our own little place somewhere.

It's not as though Mark and I don't try.  We do.  I can't work (ill health) but I try writing - even got books on Amazon but how on Earth do you let people know they're there?  They aren't badly written (I've read far, far worse) but they languish.  Unloved.  And Mark paints.  See?  He's always trying to work out money-making schemes but at the end of the day you need lucre to make it. And we don't have it. Not even the proverbial bean.  I'm definitely going to sulk.

Well, enough navel-gazing.  After all, I'm the only one who'll see this thing...could be fun.  All my darkest thoughts on here...just a shame I don't really have any.  Damn.