Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Happy Christmas everyone..........

............except the deranged Politically Correct movement who would rather burn a couple of thousand Christians at the stake instead.......

I'm still seething, even after reading it over two weeks ago; can't quite believe it really, can't quite get my head around it all; I'd happily borrow my neighbours rifle and go out and hunt down a few politically correct eejits and bag a few heads for my collection - not that I have one but I am seriously thinking of starting one - you know, a rogues gallery of heads of the seriously dim-witted, the seriously misguided, the perennially arrogant, ignorant pompous idiots that promote bigotry and censorship under the name of 'political correctness'.

I live in a beautiful Northamptonshire village in a picturesque part of what is quintessentially English - surrounded by sprawling green farmland that is sometimes laid to waves of intensely beautiful yellow rape flowers as far as the eye can see; long scenic walks shared by people, horses, dogs and wildlife alike and tranquil woodland with a carpet of crisp fallen leaves and twigs underfoot that crackle as you tread carefully through it. The village is populated with the usual mixture of thatched and Victorian cottages, a large manse now privately owned, a general hotchpotch of individually designed 70's 80's and 90's housing and a smattering of social housing - mostly all very tastefully, sympathetically and architecturally accurate for the soul of the village. We are blessed with our beautiful parish church, of which the chancel is built in the decorated style, and parts of it dating back to the 12th century. The church sits resplendent atop a hill at the west end of my village whilst overlooking our sister village; both flanking its beautiful grounds and well tended grave yard. It is a building of immense history, meaning and tranquilly. Just inside the south door stands the Norman font of which the base and cover is Victorian. The tower houses 6 bells and a Sanctus bell, which can be heard pealing when the dedicated campanologists gather for their weekly practice in readiness to call those worshippers to come forth for those early Sunday services before repairing to our 17th century inn for a well deserved snort or two after practice completes. In addition to the five 17th century peal bells, a treble was added in 1946 as a memorial to those brave men and women who died in our name in the second world war; it was also dedicated as a thanksgiving for those who returned home safely.

The central tenets of the church and Christianity have informed the way of life around here for centuries. It has presided over the union of lovers making a commitment in God's eyes. welcomed the newborns to be christened into a way of life that will inform their every moral decision, allows the faithful to give thanks for life and its blessings and to pray for the sick and disadvantaged, it gives the grieving a place to hand over their loved ones to God for safekeeping until they see them again; the church service being a deeply meaningful and healing requirement for helping a family, a community come to terms with a loss whilst finding the strength to support each other, move on with their lives and bring up the next generation. The grave yard houses ancient and imposing family vaults through to simple plaques attached to a discrete wall in memory of a loved one lost. Generations of the same family names can be seen etched on faded and newer gravestones clustered together around family plots. People walk their dogs through here and often there is a lone figure tending to a grave of a loved one as they are lost in their reflections, oblivious to our intrusion in their grief. The rustic pathway through the church grounds and onto the warren links the two villages that are intrinsically related through poverty, hardship, economic growth, a sense of history and a church and society that preached a sharing of beliefs, goals, values and culture; simpler times where the statement 'it takes a village to raise a child' was at the very core of its commitment to the family. To all intents and purposes that maxim still has some value here today.

The church is much too big now, for the village attendance numbers, once substantial, have dwindled greatly over the years. As a result, services are shared alternately between a few other village parishes served by one vicar where before each village luxuriated in the services of a dedicated one. Although this is the case, also at the centre of our village is the beautiful C of E junior school which still teaches and operates to the tenets of Christianity. People may not attend church as they used to but they fight tooth and nail to have their children taught at one of the best schools in England; a school so quintessentially English that you would believe that time had stood still and that it was preserved in the aspic of the genteel beliefs and practices of the 1950's generation; by this I mean it is bang up to date in its teaching of the national curriculum but class sizes are small, results are very good, the children are well mannered, parents who live in the village walk their children to school and collect them at the end of the school day; the children participate in the village fete, dance around the maypole, raise funds for the school with cake baking days, open evenings and it is a safe environment for them to play out after school until being hailed indoors exhausted and starving to gobble down tea at a rate of knots. The children learn a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a true sense of Christian values and what it means to be a good member of society. The people who buy into our village and indeed the surrounding villages, our churches and schools are buying into a lifestyle that has worked for thousands of years. We live by a belief system that isn't perfect because human beings are imperfect and some will interpret laws to benefit themselves, but it is a system and culture that is largely kind, caring, inclusive and a jolly wonderful thing quite a lot of the time.

The demographics of this village and surrounding villages are predominantly white with Christian values. There is not a huge influx of diverse ethnic minorities, (I hate that term - it is exclusive by its very name and creates cultural divisions so much loved by the politically correct - it gives them a demographic of people to patronise where they were never asked to interfere on their behalf in the first place). There are two market towns that flank our villages where locals shop to support our local economies where possible - a variety of people own and manage the shops. The minority of people who chose to move here, or are born here to second and third generation immigrants embrace the lifestyle, values and culture and believe themselves to be British. They do not wish to be singled out for preferential treatment or to be patronised because they are 'different'.

But here's the rub, our village newsletter contained the following message:

'Those of you who wish to buy postage stamps from the town post office, please note; If you wish to buy stamps with a Christian theme, you must ask for these as they are not allowed to advertise them' .

Dear God almighty. I find this politically correct abuse quite awful. These people are tyrants who are bigoted against their own kind, see inequality where it just doesn't exist and create inequality by making Christians feel dirty somehow for following a belief system that this country's culture was founded upon and is still practiced today. I am deeply offended by the PC's reckless belief that by allowing us to celebrate Christmas is somehow offensive to others who practice a different religion and as such we are driven underground to ask for some effing stamps under the counter. Before you know it we'll be holding secret meetings and practicing Christianity in hovels while the PC brigade torch our homes and meeting places as they attempt to destroy the very fabric of our society.

I am more than happy to not just recognise but to join in the celebrations of Dewali - the festival of lights where Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism, adherents of these faiths, celebrate freely and in joy. I am certainly not offended by other faiths or the people having the freedom to worship in whatever way they wish. I truly embrace the differences that cultural and religious beliefs bring but underpinning that tapestry of differences is human nature; a need to be loved, wanted, embraced, included and accepted no matter what you believe or practice. All religious beliefs should be tolerated and incorporated into British life. But I am deeply bloody offended however that I am being censored by idiots who have deemed Christianity offensive. These are scary fucking people who are oppressive and dictatorial in their approach. To subvert the Christian religion on my behalf when I wasn't even consulted is not their right. Neither do they have the right to insist their bigoted small minded viewpoint is superior to mine and as such impose it upon those of us with a more tolerant, educated and open minded approach to life. Christianity is about tolerance of all creeds and colours and cultures, not the subversion of any. I believe the subversion of a culture and belief system of a large demographic of several million people was responsible for major atrocities that started the second world war - recognise the signs anyone?

Our freedoms of speech are being eroded daily. The PC create divisive communities and intolerance where alternatively, good sense, human nature, tolerance of others absorbs all into one community - one that can have diverse beliefs but one that allows all and sundry to practice their beliefs without destabilising the community as one religion is promoted at the expense of another.

I am sickened that to voice my disgust against such subversion is called racist. These PC eejits are being racist against me by subverting my belief system, by taking away my freedom of speech to rail against that and as such my my right to accuse them of being the real racists by their verbal acts of vandalism. They are intellectually incapable of a proper debate on how we create an inclusive culture - they somehow believe that to subvert Christianity and the celebration of our holy days is to create equality. How the hell do you work that one out eh, when every other religion can celebrate theirs but we Christians cannot? By all means take religion out of politics and create a secular society if you must but don't tell me that I cannot openly buy a religious themed stamp from my local post office unless I wear a disguise, whisper my intentions, go around the side entrance and recant my religious beliefs as I hand over the dosh in exchange for such illegal booty. Should I now worry that perhaps some guy working at the sorting office is of a different religion and as such he will be deeply offended by handling my letter with the stamp of the baby Jesus on it? Should I feel deeply apologetic that the same stamp might make the non-Christian postman or indeed the agnostic postman fly into a rage and claim compensation at having to deal with the scarring after effects of having to see a religious symbol on an envelope and been totally traumatised at having to handle it?

Perhaps I should lead a campaign to have the war memorial outside our church bulldozed because our war dead hero's were remembered and celebrated under the auspices of Christianity? Perhaps we should sell the church and convert it into exclusive flats for the PC to live in so they can remind themselves how they destroyed a civilisation of loving tolerant people by their own hateful, intolerant doctrines. Thank God for the sensible, calming, educated voice of Trevor Phillips at the Commission for Racial Equality. He is almost a lone voice and champion of the sensible amongst a sea of nutters.

Two fingers to the lot of you PC numpty's and shame on you.

Happy Christmas and good cheer to all denominations and a very unchristian plague of boils on the arses of the politically correct movement and may your next shit be a hedgehog. May your Trotskyite tendencies be eradicated as quickly as your hot air nonsense dissipates.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

A Blast From the Past.....

I opened my desktop email as I do every morning and on seeing the ‘Receiving Mail’ message kick in on the task bar at the bottom of my screen, I waited for the usual mix of round-robin jokey mails that mostly I can live without because they are about as funny as lacerating your piles on a broken glass; couple those with the odd spam about enlarging my penis, (nope I don't have one in case you are wondering), to the length and girth of a Jedi Knight’s lightsaber, (imagine that girls – massively erect, lit up in the dark and being waved at you from five feet away; you could probably have the orgasm of your life followed by a quick hysterectomy and superb cauterisation to minimize the bleeding, come to think of it you could probably have a fairly successful tonsillectomy into the bargain and not even be in the same room as your well endowed lover); add to that a selection of pointless marketing shite about everything you will never need in this life like a fake Rolex watch with an X Factor winner’s face on it and of course besides some wee thieving arsehole trying to con you out of your Abbey savings account balance there is always the ultimate in emails – the fecking death threat chain emails promising you great suffering from the relatively simple boils on your arse infliction to a total wipe-out of your family, business and life as you know it threat if you don’t forward it to 3.2 million people in the next 5 nanoseconds. Like I give a rats ass about them but it does cheese me off that people perpetuate the fear factor and forward them to people they profess to love and care for – oh yeah? So how come you’ve just sent me an email promising torture of unimaginable proportions if I don’t send it on and then you finish off with a salutation of:

‘Hope all is well with you,
Talk soon,
The mental case that just sent this’.

So erm, how does that work then eh?
But hey, all that crap aside, you might just get lucky and eventually get a golden nugget of an email from family, good friends and old acquaintances that are a joy to read. Lets face it, for all its misuse, email when used for its intended purpose can be magical. It is quite simply the naughties version of the love letter and has encouraged millions driven apart by circumstances to put pen to paper or at least key to document and articulate things they might not have thought of saying in our time poor society.

Well anyway enough pontificating, bugger me, there I was last week firing up the desktop to welcome this array of communication excellence into my home whilst I sauntered off to brush the old gnashers in readiness of having a smile here and there or at the very least a grimace at some old crap that I had to delete - actually if I could get my hands on the wee sods that think I am stupid enough to send them all my bank and family details ranging back to the early 19th century so they can perform an online mugging of my bank accounts I would gladly pull their teeth out one by one in the style of the dentist in the Marathon Man movie where poor old Dustin Hoffman doesn’t look much like he’s enjoying it. For feck sake, that movie set back dentistry about thirty years, as if it needed it. Personally I like to cling to my dentist’s nuts with a tightened bulldog clip whilst he insists on drilling into some deeply soft tissue and jaw bone with a piece of hardened steel that was last used on a construction site. We usually come to an understanding that if he hurts me then he doesn’t get off too lightly himself. Actually this is a piece of artistic license here because my dentist reads my blog and I want him to see it in black and white that I'll come after him and there is no hiding place in this world if he hurts me bad - ever again. It took him ages to find the blog - he kept looking for Genocaushaloldgag - well Christ he'd ask me what it was called when he had a whole fecking denitistry tool kit lodged in my open and by now three foot wide stretched gob - what the hell did he expect? Perfect enunciation whilst I was choking on my own spit?

Anyway, as usual I digress. Incoming email trickled in one by one and settled into a list of twenty or so. One caught my eye simply because it was so unique. ‘ Calling all LDCers’ was the title. My heart skipped a beat and I re-read the title before double clicking on it. “This is going to be interesting”, I thought and I was right. LDC was Sperry Univac’s London Development Centre from the early seventies through to the mid 80’s before it was then dismantled and moved to Milton Keynes. During that time, over 200 of us worked as computer software programmers, hardware engineers, analysts, designers, operators and a big support staff for one of the most exciting and innovative American I.T. manufacturers of its time. It was a place that housed such immense talent and skills and incredible personalities that it would be hard to replicate it today.


It was unique in its time in that the centre was at the forefront of technology, science and physics in inventing and developing the early I.T. systems that are the great great grandparents of the totally sophisticated desktops and laptops of today. Crikey, when we started programming we used Assembler, ASM, then Meta Assembler MASM, Plus, PL1 and eventually FORTRAN and COBOL, 1st, 2nd and third generation languages but then to talk about this technical stuff really is to bore for Britain and America about programming languages. But those with an interest will fondly recall having a punch room full of girls who translated coding sheets onto 80 and 132 column punch cards which were the programmes of the day. These soon gave way to the terminal – a green Cathode Ray Tube with a keyboard which allowed us to type our code into files and run them as a batch run. We were known as the ‘Green Tuber’ generation of I.T. and those green tubes, thanks to the likes of Bill Gates, evolved into the PC’s that we use today.


Sperry Univac being the multinational corporation that it was employed a plethora of cultures, nationalities and people from the very wealthy to the very poor but all had a lust for computers and a talent to match - I couldn't believe my luck being employed alongside these great people. London Development Centre, (LDC), had a reputation for excellence, working hard and playing hard and copious amounts of alcohol were consumed over at Charlie’s Prince of Wales, (POW), pub just a skip away over the road from the office. Just for a change now and again, we’d all head off to the Queens Railway Tavern, (QRT), to snort a few gallons of booze there. We firmly believed in keeping the local economy on an even keel and spread our embarrassingly large earnings between the pubs that let us partake of lengthy lock-ins to the extent you practically just rolled back to work the next day rather than go home first. Such was our reputation, people clamoured to get assignments to this place which was a grand melting pot and only language we needed in common was the programming languages we used and a common bond to create the best products in the world - or so we thought anyway!

Humour played a huge part in keeping us going on the long days we worked. Friendships were forged that last to this day. Relationships were made and broken and made again in the biggest dating agency going at that time. I married my first husband, divorced him, met and lived with my second long term partner then broke up and fell in love with another who was never going to be mine because neither of us was free at the same time - and all of them from the same work environment. This was typical of the environment as we all worked long hours and travelled a lot and we saw more of anyone from work than we ever did of friends and family. It was simply an extended university environment and we had some of the best years of our personal and career lives whilst working there.

I saw the world from that office in London Paddington. Both in terms of the differing cultures working there and on the assignments we were sent on overseas. No matter where you went on assignment there was usually someone based there that you knew and nights on the town were the order of the day. There are a thousand adventures I could write about but I won’t bore you with these right now.

And so, yes this email is a golden nugget, a real gem and one that makes having all the other old tat come in worth it in the long run. This email has generated a thousand memories, smiles, reflections on a time gone by and it’s raked up some deeply buried moments that are a joy to rediscover. The point of the email?.........There is to be a reunion next year. As I read through the list of email names it has been sent to, I felt the most immense joy at the thought of seeing so many of these people again. In particular, one name stands out - the second person that I fell in love with. He’s on the list, flew in from overseas for the last reunion which I couldn’t attend so will more than likely be at the next given the amount of notice we have been given this time round.

Will I attend? You bet I will but I think Himself will probably attend with me! He trusts me and is comfortable with me going along on my own but you know, I'd like him to meet some of the finest people that I have known that influenced me greatly in my most formative years; people that I have so much in common with, a shared history and a chance to renew those friendships that got shelved as our profession and industry took a battering and we moved onto pastures new.

And what of those death threat chain emails that I get sent? I usually email the sender and ask them not to send me these emails but if they ignore my requests, then I just send it back to the person that sent it to me.....Keeps them paranoid wondering what the hell to do with it now and I get a laugh out of it!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Love is............

Love is....

How you blend in some misapplied make-up on the side of my nose and then just keep caressing it because you love my nose, then you bend to kiss it no matter who is around to see.

The way you take care of me and protect me when I’m vulnerable and need your arms as a shield.

When I mention a song that I like and you come home with the CD for me a day or two later.

That you laugh at my humour then make me laugh more at yours until my sides ache and tears run down my face.

The way your love acts like a balm that washes over my bruised and battered heart and strengthens it.

Staying around for the long haul through the menopausal struggle and supporting me because you knew and loved the real me first and knew I’d come back.

How when I was in the midst of the menopause and in the bad old days before the HRT started to work we went to Costco and I realised I was out in my slippers like a bewildered old fart who had escaped from a care home you just smiled, told me I looked great and said at least I'd be comfortable strolling about the big store then hugged me.

The way you wrap me in gossamer and make me feel secure when things feel wobbly from time to time.

The way you anchor me to life; the way I’m grounded by just being with you; the way your strength is contagious.

Your forgiving heart that loves me almost unconditionally no matter how horrible I was in the last three years.

The way you teased me because I said I was going to cry when we made our vows and on the day you were the one who choked and couldn't talk because you got all emotional. You almost ripped my heart out because I was so touched that you could show such emotion in front of so many people.

Watching you sleep and hearing you breathe next to me and making me grateful for the extra heartbeat that you bring.

Snuggling up to you in bed because you radiate heat like a furnace and let me warm up my frostbitten tootsies on you.

Trying not to moan that I have to wear breathing apparatus and get like a firefighter because you are forever cremating food when I let you loose in the kitchen.

Getting excited that I can hear your key in the front door when you come home safely because I know when I'm not in the car with you, you drive like you are in the Monte Carlo rally.

Trying not to wrap my hands around your throat because for the umpteenth time you took your used cup to the kitchen, left it on the newly cleaned worktop over the dishwasher. Love is trying to understand how you got all the way in there and fell at the last hurdle by not actually getting your cup into the dishwasher. What's that all about then eh?

Always lowering the toilet seat and realising you must get just as frustrated that the seat is always down and having to raise it.

Having separate bathrooms, separate toothpaste tubes and no moaning about who squeezes the tube from the middle.

Love is knowing that if you are taken before me that every habit I find annoying will become a reminder of the person who is no longer here, a reminder of the loss I have to bear, a sign that each habit was a bit of you that populated my world and that instead of grumbling about it, I should have embraced it and celebrated it. So my dear husband, for one day and one day only you get to do every annoying thing you ever wanted to do and have complete amnesty thereafter but for 24 hours only......... Oh sod it, do your worst for as long as you want. One day the clear worktop with the missing cup, the lack of black acrid smoke and the burnt food odours, the toilet seat always being down and the ensuing interminable silence will taunt me that I wasted time moaning at you needlessly when all I should have done was love you.

Love is.........Living with my best friend, lover, husband..........

So my darling for the 16th of October happy 4th wedding anniversary my hunkymanthing. Love is? Simply loving you warts and all as you do me.

Here’s our song.....Click on here and play it and if you don’t get all dewy eyed and sentimental within minutes, yer in for it okay?!

Monday, 29 September 2008

The seven stages of grief....

Shock and Denial

Oh yes, the first stage; Shock at so many deaths together and one more at least to come as my adored step-father was dying of cancer. Shock that was so great I was completely overwhelmed; Shock and devastation and disbelief and emotional overload; One shock after another with no time to absorb the details of the one before. And denial? Oh just about as much denial as I could muster if it meant not having to absorb the awfulness of my situation and not having to feel the immense pain that was threatening to kill me from the sheer weight of it. But denial only lasts for as long as it takes you to finally turn and face it all. Life doesn’t let you deny things for too long, it prefers that you deal with the harsh realities head on otherwise how else would we grow, cope, move on?

Pain and Guilt

It’s simply too much to stay in denial. Nature abhors a vacuum. Now that my shock absorbers start to wear out and no longer deflect the reality of this desolate hinterland of death, my battered and bruised brain acknowledges each death, each loss, each severe kick in the guts raining ever more emotional blow upon blow on my heart, and I begin the process of experiencing pain of quite exquisite depth. How I will stand this is anyone’s guess. I cannot see how I have the emotional maturity or tools to cope with what God has given me now. There is an old maxim that God gives you only what you can handle. Oh really?; If that’s so then he’s screwed up big time here; he’s chosen the wrong person to test that theory out on for I am scared, so terrified that I will not cope, that pain and grief will engulf me and I’ll capitulate and throw in the towel just as my uncle did when he hanged himself.

Each second is an hour, each hour a day, each day a month, each month an eternity. I am bent double from the pain and I need to protect myself from any more agony. I am tormented beyond belief and almost forget to breath. I have reverted to being a helpless frightened child and I am lost in a hell that I can’t see a way out of or an end to. I need to run away from this excruciating unbelievable pain, just run as far away as I can, but it’s useless for what ails me will come with me no matter where I am and this realisation leaves me desperate, boxed in, a prisoner to grief.

And what of guilt?; Oh yes, plenty of that of course; remorse for being much too absorbed in my own life; remorse for being far too enamoured of my career and how it always took priority; remorse for throwing away the most precious gift I had been given – time with my family and it was much too late to claw even a second of it back; remorse at never having said I love you quite enough times. I know that I should fully embrace the pain, take it on and deal with it, not run from it but I think God will forgive me this time if I say to hell with it, curl up in a ball and wait for death. I don’t want to die but neither do I want to be alive. I wish I could die in my sleep, a nice peaceful passing and I can be with them all again. I can’t be the architect of my own demise because for now I lack what it takes to take my own life but I consistently ask God to take me. Dear God, if only I could fast forward past this appalling part of my life to somewhere painless and carefree; somewhere that promised peace of mind and where my heart had repaired.

Anger and Bargaining

Can you really be angry at someone’s death? I didn’t think so until I railed at my uncle for taking his life. I felt anger at how he could be so flippant about the precious gift he had been given and just thrown it away when my other uncle and mentor pleaded with God to save his. I felt anger that my mother should die so young; that I’d been robbed of so much time with her. I raged that God should take my parents together, that for someone so great and good and benevolent that he should do this to me. “What kind of God does that?”, I remonstrated over and over. My anger gave way to bargaining, frightened that I had been disloyal to a higher power, scared that I would have more emotional trauma visited upon me. Catholics, we graduate with a double first in guilt and fear. But I did bargain. I cried deep heaving sobs, pleading with God to let me see them again and if he did so, I’d be a better Catholic, a better person, a better whatever he wanted me to be if he’d just bring them back, just let me hug my mother one more time, let me hug her and never let her go. It was all in vain, he wasn’t listening. He was off buggering up someone else’s life and had left me to it, left me in despair.

Depression, Reflection, Loneliness

Christ, I have never experienced depression before; A black, black depression of such enormity that it weighs about 80 tons on my head and chest. I am buckling under the sheer burden of it all. I still cannot believe the course of events that my life has taken of late. The frequency and suddenness of death in my life leaves me a shadow of the person I was. I am diminished as a person, daughter, sister and niece. I am having difficulty grieving because I am confused. If I cry for my mother I feel guilt that I am not grieving for my father or my two uncles and I am also grieving for the loss that is yet to come. I stop in my tracks. I have no guide book, no instruction manual on how to grieve for so many at the same time. Nature demands a cycle of birth, life, death and a grieving process for the person who has gone; I can’t find anything designed to help me grieve in multiples of four. I don’t know how to do this, don’t know who to ask, don’t think anyone else could possibly have gone through such heartache and as such cannot be of any use; don’t have the energy to look for help as I spend my days curled up in the foetal position on the couch that I rarely move away from. I am at a standstill, can't move forward, backward, up or down, can't move an inch. Inertia keeps me stuck, unable to move. My world has shrunk to this couch, this room and someone has sucked the oxygen out of it. I keep trying to drag myself out of this state but I am simply too exhausted and heavy grief physically drags me back down. I’m not ready, not done reflecting on each person and their part in my life, the memories good and bad that they leave me with. Not done asking them to come back, not ready to let them go and to acknowledge they are gone from me forever. If I can keep them here, I’ll never experience the appalling loneliness that sweeps over me. But I can see people looking, read their minds as they think I should be getting over all of this and I want to scream at them to go to hell, that they will never understand my unique pain and that if they just walked ten steps in my shoes, they’d never think let alone utter such a thoughtless, stupid, puerile statement again.

The Upward Turn

Somehow bit by bit there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel – it’s been so dark here for so long that I can hardly believe I can see it. My life has started to calm. My body is incapable of any more deep grief. It simply won’t survive any more heaving racking sobs. I can’t replay it all anymore. My heart and my head are toughened, stronger, covered in steel where they were once tender and vulnerable before. I find I can breathe with less effort as my depression eases and my chest begins to relax a little. My head is still weighed down but I find that I am able to bear it better than of late. Perhaps my self-inflicted isolation and purdah is coming to a close

Reconstruction and Working Through

Life must go on. I know this and given that I didn’t deny myself that even in the worst of my grief – I managed to stay the course, not down a thousand tablets in a quest to end it all - then it must be true, life must surely go on. I must reconstruct a way forward without these wonderful people in my life. I have to chart a course for the rest of my life that remembers what they gave to me and to use the best of what I inherited or was gifted through knowing them. My life is now different to what is was or was planned to be. I have to deal in facts, what is and not the fantasy of what it should have been. I can feel them willing me out of my purdah, telling me gently that it’s time to let go, that they’ve done what they can for me and they and I need to move on. I hear them giving me permission to start living again. Baby steps, one at a time, but faltering steps forward nevertheless; Progress of a kind. Immense sadness still pervades my every waking moment but despair is releasing its tentacles on me.

Acceptance and Hope

Reality stares me in the face. I must accept what has happened or stay trapped in a world of grief. To expect to be happy at this stage is a high expectation but it is enough to know that I will again laugh without guilt, be me again but with a few knocks and bruises that will heal. I am still me but a slightly tougher me because I survived the worst and came out the other end. But I’m a more vulnerable me too. I am wise to the fact that life can be cruel and deliver the most extraordinary blows and part of me will always fear an all too intense pain and a grief that I might not recover from. For the time being though it is enough to know that I had the strength to come through a terrible situation and the signs are good that I would survive it again. But mostly I have learned that life is to be lived and that I can’t live in fear of the worst. Life is risky and that’s what makes it so interesting and fun. Acceptance means moving forward and planning for the future again; it means experiencing happiness and joy and love. My life is wonderfully full and happy and I can talk about, laugh about the people that I loved so deeply and lost. The best parts of them are their legacy to me.

My heart was dealt a final blow when five weeks after my mother’s death, my step-father passed away. I managed a journey home to finalise a few details that he needed completion on and just four hours after saying my last tearful goodbye to him, he let go. As his family said at the time, he somehow found the strength to wait for me that one last time, to make sure his affairs in this life were complete before moving on to take care of my mother in the next. Only then could he let go. I cried at his bravery and dedication to the last. A gentleman to the end, making sure he was there for my mother once more.

I remember talking with a good friend and telling her my disbelief that so many blows could be delivered one after another. "It's called the catastrophic effect", she said looking at me. "Just when you think life can't give you any more to handle, off it goes, again and again and again, until you can't stand up from the weight of it all".

In conclusion, the model above is a general guideline to the grief process. Each step will be visited at different stages, revisited again and again as stages cross pollinate each other, and each individual grieves at their own pace and in their own timeframe. I moved between them several times during my journey and I wish I had known at the time what I was experiencing and why.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Stop the world, I want to get off......

There is a dreadful loneliness in grieving. Even though my whole family were grieving for the loss of a brother, sister, mother, father, uncle, aunt, brother-in-law, sister-in-law it became a strange solitary process where we were united in our tragedy but it all seemed so abstract, so detached and we were unable to console each other, such was the magnitude of our loss. My head kept replaying the awful truth - two deaths in one night, three deaths in a week and four deaths in a month. It was as though my brain needed to constantly replay the whole catastrophe in order for it to make some kind of sense before I could start to come to terms with my loss. I clearly was still suffering immense shock and I reeled from the intensity of it.

On the day that my mother died, the journey home to Scotland was arduous and protracted. I wept over and over as my partner patiently drove the four hundred miles or so in one long journey so that we could get there as soon as possible. I felt bad that my step-brother and his wife had to deal with undertakers and such like on my behalf and I needed to get there to relieve them of such a dreadful burden. It was particularly hard for them as my step-father lay dying whilst his wife had passed away in the next room. I couldn’t imagine the torture this must have created for them all.

It was with a very heavy heart that I knocked on the door of my mother’s home. Knowing that it wouldn’t be her opening the door to me as she had done a hundred times before made me weep at the finality of it all and I leaned heavily against the door frame to steady myself. My partner seeing my distress came swiftly and engulfed me as he held me tightly because he knew I was dreading so much and this was a first of many things to dread. The door opened and the ashen faces of my step-brother and his wife said it all – they’d no doubt had better days in their lives and what we were now experiencing was staring them in the face too. They ushered us in and I quickly went to see my step-father for I was concerned as to how he was coping.

Oh this gentle man who had loved my mother so late in her life was but a shadow of himself and in little more than a week since I had last seen him. The events of the day had taken their toll and the sparkling light in his eyes that was his love for my mother had faded with her passing. I saw my own deep grief in his eyes and it was the most painful reflection that I have ever seen. It was like shards of glass lacerating my heart, death by a thousand cuts, all over again. I hugged his frail, cancer ridden and emaciated body, careful not to break him, and we were silent in our grief but tears rolled down my face as the damn burst yet again.

Where my father had been a violent controlling man, H was as gentle and fun loving a creature you could ever meet. My mother blossomed in his love and care and he in hers. He was a true gentleman to whom people turned for advice and help and he never failed in his duty to be a good husband, brother, parent, friend and neighbour. He was a dapper old soul with exceptional manners and I was so grateful that he was in my mother’s life. He gave my mother a future full of love, hope and laughter where all she had known with my father was fear, pain, physical and mental torture. Her premature death at the age of 64 meant a cruel twist of fate that robbed her of perhaps the best years of her life. But in time I came to be grateful that if she was to die at that time then it was better she went first rather than her witnessing the painful and deeply sad passing of her husband.

It was a long night fielding calls from brothers, sisters, relatives and friends. My head felt like it would burst having to repeat the details of her death, plans for funeral arrangements over and over again. It was like planning a military operation simply because my mother had 9 surviving children, two sisters and one brother and a smattering of other relatives and they all needed to be at her funeral. Finally the phone went silent for the night and myself, my partner, H’s son and daughter in law got down to the business of drinking ourselves to a standstill as all good Glaswegians do in times of sadness, happiness or indeed just because the sun rose again that day. We don’t need much excuse to get ‘tired and emotional’ as it is called back home - the opening of a crisp packet would probably make it onto the list of things to pop a can or two about. I badly needed a drink as all day emotions were running high and simply because I was the one there, answering the phone to my grieving family, I became by default the counsellor, mentor, parental figure for my siblings who were so deeply lost in their grief too and looking for any kind of reassurance that the world wasn’t imploding in on itself. When I replay this day in my mind, I am incredulous that I survived it, as to take on the grief of your siblings as well as your own seems almost too bizarre to comprehend. I clearly remember almost standing outside of myself as autopilot kicked in and I took call after call after call. I can only think that my years of being a senior manager in a professional environment and with all the training that went with that privilege had kicked in and I treated the whole scenario as a project, problem solving exercise that needed to be addressed. It was clearly a coping mechanism that got me through those few distressing hours.

The funeral took place some seven days later; an inordinately long time for my mother’s body to remain unburied but as she had died on a bank Holiday weekend, as coincidentally had my father the previous month, then everything ground to a halt as arrangements could not begin to be made until the following Tuesday. I felt such immense frustration and there were times I got cabin fever from being holed up whilst giving my step family some respite by helping to take care of my step-father as he fought his battle. The funeral arrangements were not without problems and as with all families there were misunderstandings, petty grievances from years before aired once more, alliances rebuilt only to be broken down the next day because grief is a hard task master that demands maturity at a time when all that surfaces is a lost, bewildered and angry child needing the safe haven of a parent to run to. It is almost ridiculous to feel like an orphan when you are in your mid 30’s but simply put that is how every one of us felt at the loss of both parents in such close proximity.

Shortly before the funeral my step-father’s family took him back to his old family home where they provided round the clock care and to allow us to grieve with some privacy. It is with great respect and with some discomfort that you dispose of your parent’s worldly goods. Rooting through drawers and cupboards throws up a mixture of old bric-a-brac, old photographs of happier times you forgot or sad fearful times you can’t forget. It took a few days of constant graft, giving possessions to charities, throwing out things that you hope they would approve of as rubbish and not something that harboured a dear memory for them, allowing family to choose a treasured piece of jewellery to remember her by. But none of it really matters in the scheme of things for possessions are meaningless clutter and it is your memories that keeps them alive; their names uttered on your lips as you talk about them with others who share your loss and share your history and share your deep personal grief.

Finally I left her house and turned to close the door behind me. The home that was once full of love and warmth now echoed a barren and empty sound as the door closed heavily. She was gone from this place and the realisation filled me with dread for the future because I knew that she was no longer going to be part of it. I had closed that door knowing it would be the last time I would hear the peculiar noise it made as the dodgy latch kicked into place; I had closed it knowing that I would never see that door again; knowing that I couldn’t ever come home again for a wee cup of tea with my wee Glasgow mammy; knowing that I would have to find my own sense of ‘well done’ because she was no longer there to tell me that; this was going to be a mammoth task because no one told me ‘well done’ quite as good as my wee mammy ever did - I wasn't up to the task.

Several hours later, several drinks later and sobbing uncontrollably in my home in England, I picked up my phone and dialled her home phone over and over but no one answered. I knew her home was dark, empty and completely abandoned but grief made me hope against hope and with complete irrationality I wished to God that she would pick up the phone and tell me that she lived to fight another day. I understood just how helpless my brothers and sisters had felt when I’d fielded their calls but this time there was no one to answer the phone to me. Oblivion called.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Life's a bitch and then you die

Back in April I started to write a story called the Catastrophic Effect. I got as far as detailing my father’s death from lung cancer. I also wrote about how forty five minutes after hearing of his death my cousin called to tell me our uncle had committed suicide. Not only was it unusual to hear of such news so closely together, the second death was completely unrelated to the first for the uncle that took his life, was my mother’s brother and was incarcerated in a mental hospital in Glasgow so knew nothing of my father’s death. It was shocking news on top of my father’s death but only because it came so close on the heals of it.

My uncle had been desperate to kill himself for some months as he had great difficulty in coping with the loss of his brother and wife within weeks of each other. As a well healed and seemingly strong individual who held down a professional career for many years it was an immense shock for us to see his degradation into a babbling and angry wreck with suicidal intent at every turn. Nothing we did for him helped ease his anguish and he was like a wounded animal cornered in life with nowhere to go. He could not be reasoned with and was finally sectioned against his will in an attempt to save his life and see him through the worst of his fear and grief to a point where reason could once more be used to encourage him to want to live again. No one bargained for his utter determination to succeed and so on that evening he obtained a wire coat hanger, attached it to a light fitting and hanged himself. He didn’t actually die that night but was effectively brain dead from there on in until he finally got his wish and took his last breath two days later; Suicide – the long term solution to a short term problem.

In a complete contrast to this deeply distressing situation, another uncle was fighting the final stages of secondary bone cancer and desperately clinging to life for he wanted to live so very much, to carry on being here for him and us. The immense effort and pain he endured was deeply etched on his wonderfully kind and intelligent face making it enormously difficult to look at him and not want to sob your heart out just watching him lose the battle bit by painful and heartbreaking bit. But there were to be no tears, no remorse, no outward displays of emotion or recognition that he was dying for this would have distressed him and had us banished from the room until we could pull ourselves together. No matter how much pain he endured he fought the battle of his life with grace, bravery, courage and strength, with fortitude and a determination that had gotten him through life.

Here was a man who was born into poverty and hardship in the east end of Glasgow in the depression of the 30’s to a father who had been embittered and disabled fighting in the bloody battle fields of the first world war. He was a man of immense intellect and the first in his family to obtain a university degree. His heart was the biggest I have ever known and his compassion was endless for the poor and disadvantaged that he represented as a councillor for the poorest ward in Glasgow. He never forgot that education and a magnificent work ethic was his passport out of poverty and he worked tirelessly as a teacher and a councillor to help as many willing participants as possible achieve that same goal through the same opportunities that he had been given. He was my mentor, friend, inspiration, uncle and father substitute and shining light in a young life that had endured much violence and hardship at times. His and my aunt’s home was my refuge in times of fear. I studied science as my major because he was a scientist and I so wanted to be like him. He instilled in me a love of all things scientific and physics fascinated me. But mostly he infused in me an understanding that real strength in a man is the gentleness of spirit, the kindness and the ability to forgive that love brings and that bigotry, violence and hatred are enemies to be thwarted at all times. It was his utter belief that life was for living and living well that gave him his strength and deep need to survive.

So, here was a juxtaposition of incredible extremes; two men fighting their own personal battles; one to die and another to live.

I have no anger for the uncle who killed himself. I don’t know whether it is a brave or a cowardly decision to take your own life. I cannot enter his state of mind and find out what drove him; I can only try to understand that it was his wish, his right to do what he did with his life. Even with my psychological knowledge and understanding I cannot offer a plausible insight but I do hope fervently that he is at peace.

The week following my father’s death and uncle’s suicide was a flurry of detail, arrangements and communication with all who needed to know and be there to say goodbye. On the Wednesday we waved off my father, on the Thursday it was time to see off my uncle but on that morning, my other uncle died.

It was a bizarre netherworld kind of existence and everything seemed to enter a slow motion kind of reality. For a time I was angry that my other uncle lost his battle. Grief brought out the child in me and every fear I once buried, every injustice I felt bubbled to the surface. I raged at the world for taking my protector, mentor and friend but in time I came to realise life and death are bedfellows that must be lived and endured and that the natural cycle was indeed working as designed.

His funeral was a grand affair for my uncle was halfway through a four year tenure as Glasgow’s Lord Provost and Lord lieutenant to the queen. In the years before Scottish devolution, he was Glasgow’s leading politician and the Queen’s representative for all things royal in Glasgow. His death in office meant a funeral of almost state proportions was to be held. Police lined the streets, people turned out in their thousands to say goodbye to one of the most popular Lord Provosts ever to hold office and the press were there in their droves. It is my only experience of being photographed and filmed at every turn as we travelled with my aunt in the official car that lead the procession – a deeply intrusive moment in my life. My uncle was a practicing Catholic who was devout in his faith and the head of the Catholic church in Scotland, Cardinal Winning insisted on leading the service with a multitude of bishops in attendance. The Queen was represented by a minor royal and the service was magnificent in its dedication to my uncle and really quite beautiful. He would have been fair chuffed but equally humbled at the turnout and the depth of feeling that was emitted that day. It was a surreal experience seeing so many well known faces all in the same place.

I remained in Glasgow for a few more days for my mother was not entirely robust in her health and when you lose one parent, the surviving one becomes even more precious. The truly depressing news that her husband, my stepfather was in the terminal stages of cancer had been told to me by his son. My mother was unaware that he was dying and no one knew how to tell her for she had a weak heart - a legacy from a massive heart atack that she had suffered four years before. A few days later I returned home to England and immersed myself in work. I was full of confused emotions at the death of my father, the callous suicide of my uncle and the shocking loss of my dearly loved mentor. I had no idea how to work through such an extreme set of emotions and as usual, work was my salve. I carried on almost zombie like just going through the motions for it was all that I could do to get myself out of bed and showered in the morning. I carried on for a week and almost collapsed from exhaustion and grief on the Friday night, but glad that I had made it through the week with no major catastrophes happen in front of colleagues.

At 7.45am the next morning the phone rang, dragging me from an exhausted slumber. It was my step-father’s son. I felt my blood run cold as I waited for him to tell me he had died. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, I kept asking him to repeat what he had just said for what he did say just did not compute. My brain refused to take it in such was the god awful shock at what I was hearing. I could hear him speak and it sounded like he was a million miles away in a parallel universe with his voice just seeping through.

I collapsed onto the floor, dropping the phone as I did so. My life felt like it was ending before me and I didn’t care, welcomed it, prayed for it, was ready to make sure it happened. I ran to the toilet and threw up over and over again as I sobbed and wailed and cursed God for taking her. My mother had died exactly one month after my father.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Mr and Mrs Chancer

I’ve been reading the hilarious and equally frustrating account by Debs Lehner about the trials and tribulations of selling her house in France. It’s no wonder that selling a home is up there as one of the highest stress generators along with bereavement, divorce and changing jobs. Heaven knows how we survive it and go on to do it again and again. The brain is surely the most amazing organ ever – just look at how it wipes out the real pain of events so that we go and repeat the process all over again – how else would women go through the rip-you-apart-don’t-you-fecking-come-near-me-again pain that they do to have more than one child? Now I’m not comparing childbirth and house moving, really I’m not, but dear God there are times when having a 40 hour labour would seem so much better an option. Well that or having electrodes attached to your nuts.

As my mother used to say, ‘the people you meet when you don’t have a gun’. Just stick your house on the market and you’ll get an idea of what she meant but I suspect you probably do already. Where do these people really live? I mean I know they live in society somewhere and that they move about us freely and that some unfortunate bugger has them as a neighbour but how do they actually get by in life without someone ramming a fistful of knuckles down their throat? Let me be clear here, I have never ever in my life been violent or hit anyone, (well except for when I was 11 and the 13 year old boy from around the corner took to bullying me and terrorising my life for a while. I soon sorted that with a swiftly placed and unexpected kick in the nuts whereby he dropped to the ground with his hands cupped around his throbbing tackle and finding it difficult to breathe from shock, finally rolled into the foetal position with his mouth wide open, eyes bulging and groaned out what sounded like a death rattle. I was pretty impressed with how one rapid kick could have such a marvellous outcome and of course he never bullied me again. Thanks for the tip dad).

However, I digress so let me get back to the point. Given that I am not prone to launching physical attacks on people or plotting their death it is with some amazement at the range and depth of emotions that house viewers can elicit from me. Take for example the creature that is more commonly known as the ‘House Tourist’. You know the scenario; the agent calls at 8am on a Sunday morning to ask if it’s okay for :
Mr and Mrs Noseyfeckingtimewasterandnointentionofbuying to come along now to have a look. Of course you don’t know they are called that because they fool you by using a nom de plume like Mr and Mrs Smith to throw you off the scent and let you think they are serious punters. Anyway, they just happen to be in the area so could they just sneak a little peak?; won’t take long, the agent assures you with his chirpy happy godimightfinallygetasaleoutofthiskip tone which is exacerbating your terminal hangover from drinking formaldehyde or something equally organ rotting the night before. You stand there in your grubby dressing gown that you knew you should have tossed on a bonfire let alone washed, take a look around at last night’s dinner party chaos that you were too tired/comatosed to clean up at the time and you know that if you possessed a pistol you would just take the easy way out. You want to tell the agent to go take a bungee jump without the bungee but instead you put on your smiley nice voice, negotiate 30 minutes ‘to let the children finish breakfast’ and dash around like a loony kicking things under beds and couches, ramming stuff into already overstuffed cupboards, break several prized bits of crockery as you attempt to empty and reload the dishwasher at record speed just to get a semblance of a clear worktop here and there. Then if you’re lucky you get to scrape your hair back tightly into some sort of tight sink-estate-face-lift type look which coupled with red-eye and a face gray from blood loss because your body needs it for the major organs to fight off the alcohol onslaught, you look the sight you feel. It is a truism that you get the face you deserve in life.

With only seconds to spare you pull on trackie bottoms and a top and they arrive sans estate agent who incidentally is being paid shed-loads to show these bloody people around, but no, he’s busy destroying someone else’s Sunday arranging for more tourists to tramp about someone else’s house like it was ‘open to the public stately home season’. They ooh and aah all the way around, get disappointed that there isn’t a little old lady sitting by a roped off area in each room to chat to and wonder where the bloody cafe is. In time they take their leave but only after delivering the parting shot that they ‘loved your house, it was just as they always thought it might look and that even though they aren’t in the market to move, (probably because a fecking care home is more in their line), they thought that as the house was up for sale, you wouldn’t mind them having a look because as you’re showing people around anyway, another pair wouldn’t be any more trouble. It’s at that point if you did have a pistol, you would be committing homicide instead of suicide.

Then there is the:
I’lljustknockonthedoorandseeificanwhizroundwithoutanappointmentatsomeungoldlyeffinghourinthemorning waller who’s true agenda is to hopefully negotiate a huge discount because ‘let’s face it, if the agent doesn’t know and we don’t tell him we can pretend that this is a private sale and I’ll get to keep the agents fee and you get a sale – deal?’ Err, no, you cheating git, no sale because you woke me up at 8am on a Saturday morning by kicking on my front door like a police bust was in operation, and because you are too arrogant to make an appointment like most well mannered people, and because my house looks like if a grenade went off it would tidy it up and because you are happy to suggest we cheat the agent out of the fee, you will probably cheat me too.

Well dear people, both these types of people, (and more), came into my life when I was selling a home many years ago. It was a lovely little mews cottage in a row of lovely little mews cottages and a joy to live in. The chancer/opportunist viewer happened upon my place on a Saturday morning at 8am or so. Only the day before my then partner and myself had experienced a protracted journey home from Hong Kong. At this time on the Saturday morning, myself and he were exhausted and in a deep slumber when all hell broke loose. Dear God, we thought a herd of wildebeest were trampling their way through our front door. We ignored it and rolled over but the noise was relentless. Clearly it was an emergency we thought and pulling on dressing gowns, dashed downstairs wondering what the hell was wrong, Cue door opening partially and my partner and me squinting in the bright sunlight at three strangers.

“We hope you don’t mind, but we saw your for sale sign”, the lead chancer barked out rather army like in tone.

“Yes, and.....?”, my ex asked in return with a thunderous look. He was still foggy headed with sleep and jet lag and so being woken up so bloody rudely to be told they had seen our for sale sign wasn’t going down a storm here.

“Well....., we rather thought that as we are in the area you wouldn’t mind showing us around?”.

“What ? Now?”, we both asked incredulously standing there with mangled hair, sleep encrusted eyes and wearing nightwear a tramp would have thrown out. We weren’t exactly prepared for it.

“Well yes, isn’t inconvenient is it?”, chancer number 2 asked quite pompously as she popped her head around from behind chancer number 1. Chancer number 3 just looked on gormlessly.

“Sorry, no, as you can see we aren’t really prepared for an impromptu visit”, my partner said politely as I mentally ransacked our house and saw wanting in every room. No, definitely too messy to let anyone in just yet. Crikey, they were quick, the house had only gone on the market the day before and we’d calculated we’d have a day or so to tidy up before anyone came.

“You see”, I offered in support, “we’ve only just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and not only are we exhausted, but the house could do with a bit of a tidy before anyone has a look. We’d really be much happier and in a much better position to let you have a look round later”.

“Perhaps you can give the agent a call, get a time convenient to both parties and we’ll see you then. Okay?”, my partner insisted, expecting they would see our predicament and like most normal people get their arses out of our faces and let us get some sleep.

“So, can we come in or not?”, a booming voice from chancer number 2 shot back as though the last few sentences from us had never been uttered.

My partner’s mouth dropped open as he realised he must be talking to the human equivalent of a radio – all output, no input and tuned to the one station. “I beg your pardon dear?”, he asked adopting the rather pompous tone that she had just used with him. “Did I not make myself clear that now is simply not convenient so will you please.....”

.......“Oh come on, just a quick once around the block, we’ll not be long, promise, and if we take our time down here, you two can go and get dressed up there before you let us have a scan around that”, said chancer number 1 in a stroppy overbearing tone whilst pointing to the upstairs of the cottage. “C’mon, what’s your problem?”, he continued. “Surely you can manage that? Then we’d be out of your hair in no time and you can pop that little filly of yours right back in the sack”, he snorted a leery little laugh and winked at him as he said it.

Oh mother of God, the cheeky bastards. There was no way I was putting up with this or going to get changed in my home whilst leaving a bunch of strangers to rummage their way through my house unsupervised. I moved my ex rather snappishly out of the way and pulled the door open further so I could get my face into the trio of chancers that were in danger of getting a knuckle sandwich from the exhausted and by now furious man of the house. If anyone was going to hit them, then it was going to be me I decided – less damage that way.

“Look, what part of ‘it’s not convenient’ don’t you understand? You weren’t owed an explanation as you have barged you way in here ,but we were polite and gave you one so now if you would please go and by all means take the agents number, we can arrange something for later. But not until late afternoon please? Okay?” I said firmly, hoping I had made myself clear. Good God almighty, what the hell was I doing discussing this stuff with these people on our doorstep. Clearly they were used to coercing their way around life but I was buggered if they were going to get away with it now.

The thunderous look on the faces of chancers 1 and 2 as we closed the door on them was a sight to behold. Clearly they weren’t used to being refused much in life but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, good things come to those who wait and all that. Chancer 3 had continued to look gormless and reminded me of a still life on a day out. He certainly had a future as a mannequin should whatever he did now not work out.

And so they came, later that day; chancer 1 and 2 with 3 following gormlessly along behind. Chancer 2 was particularly vocal and derogatory about what she found wanting in and out of the house. It was all I could do to stop myself rugby tackling her out the door and fecking her onto the street with her handbag to follow when I saw her kick at the French doors frame to test it for some imagined rot. Meanwhile, Chancer 1 drew filthy looks and shook his head as he tut tutted in ham acting mock disgust at decor and paintwork not being up to his lofty standards. Chancer 3 never said a word, just persisted with the gormless look and a shake of the head here and there. Eventually after much whispering, head locking and furtive looks, they took their leave oblivious to the fact that we were more than aware that clearly their tactics were to undermine the vendors, (us), then negotiate a knock down price for the purchasers, (them, or so they thought). Christ, eejit amateurs!

“Well that‘s the last of them”, we chimed quietly together, as the door closed behind them. But it wasn’t......

“Hello”, I answered, as I picked up the phone some 30 minutes later.

“Hello, Mrs Mob. John from Rip-off & Do’nowt estate agents here.

“Yes John, how are you?”, I asked.

“Good news, we’ve had an offer. Mr and Mrs Chancer would like to offer you xxxxxxx. How do you feel about that then?”

Oh how lovely, 15 k less than the asking price. Bearing in mind this was over 25 years ago, that was quite a drop. They were a pair made in heaven these two.

“No that’s not a problem John”, I responded lightly.

“Really, are you sure?”, he asked, obviously astonished and delighted that he didn’t have a battle on his hands and could avoid the usual rigmarole of rejection, back to the buyer to arrange a new offer and so on until a deal was clinched.

“Really, yes I’m sure”, I responded. “No it’s not a problem at all, because we won’t be selling to Mr and Mrs Chancer; not now, in fact not ever, no matter what the price”.

You could hear a pin drop as John absorbed the news. I almost felt sorry for him as I pictured him, for now, watch his commission disappear

“What?, YOU’ll NEVER SELL TO THEM? NEVER?” Are you absolutely certain about that? Why?”. I could hear the frustration rise in his voice. ”Are you taking the house off the market then?”

“No, it’s still up for sale and I’m happy for you to continue to market the property for us. It just isn’t available to the Chancers”. This wasn’t something he had come across before and I could hear him huffing and puffing away as he wrestled with a situation that he wasn’t sure how to manage.

“Well, what on earth am I supposed to tell them?”, he demanded as an explanation.

“Oh that’s easy”, I replied. “I’m more than happy for you to be very candid on our behalf. Just tell them that we love this house, we love the neighbourhood and more importantly we respect and like our neighbours to the point we wouldn’t inflict what may very well be tantamount to the neighbours from hell moving in”.

I quickly gave him an account about the coercive and very poor behaviour of our would-be purchasers and how under no circumstances would we be responsible for the erosion of such a nice neighbourhood. I tried to make him understand that sometimes in life there were consequences for poor behaviour and this was clearly the time for the Chancers to perhaps reflect on theirs. Being an estate agent and where the sale is king, he thought me mad and that I would change my mind. He was clearly under pressure from the Chancers and called several more times with increased offers. Each time, much to his consternation, he was sent on his way. He even called my partner to offer over the asking price but we were united and John was given short shrift by him for disregarding my instructions and trying to manipulate the situation. The Chancers never got that house and it was sold shortly afterwards to a lovely young couple just starting out in life who needed the carpets and curtains and a hotchpotch of furniture we threw in as part of the deal – it was a second home for us so we could afford to be generous with what we could leave and in truth they were doing us a favour taking it off our hands. Some two children and over two decades later they are still there and have no plans to move.

God knows where the Chancers ended up – six foot under at some point would be my guess. Wonder what happened to the gormless one and if the poor soul ever got a word in.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Thanks buddy!

I’ve never been the ‘other party’ – the one who ‘stole’ a partner from their wife. I’d rather eat my own foot than break up a marriage. My mother had a great saying - ‘never take something that doesn’t belong to you as it will never bring you happiness’. I always apply that to other people’s men and let’s face it, as a rule if a guy or girl strays to be with you, you can be fairly sure that they will probably eventually stray to be with someone else. There are of course exceptions to the rule and if you are in a loveless marriage, you made a mistake, married too young, just fell out of love then why stay? Crikey, on the wedding day of my first marriage I knew I’d made a huge mistake. I sat in the back of the wedding car wondering what the hell I had just done. It was like a bolt through my heart but I stayed with that relationship until he found someone else and we broke up. It was an amicable break up, we remain friends of a sort but the woman that he left me for is one of my best friends almost 30 years later.

You might wonder why I became friends with her when she ‘stole’ my husband. The truth of the matter is that she only took what I didn’t want and what I was prepared to give away. It may have been a very different story had I been in love with him and felt that my life was over had he left me. As I constantly remind her, I got the better end of the deal. I got a tremendously loyal, kind and caring friend out of it and she got my wayward disloyal husband who was quite a pill from time to time. She also got my love, devotion and loyalty for the rest of our lives.

They met when he was on a business trip to the USA. He wasn’t wearing his wedding ring and then when the truth could not be hidden any longer he eventually told her he was married but that his wife didn’t understand him blah blah blah. The trouble was that I understood him only too well and knew that he often played away from home. You see, we worked for the same large blue chip corporation and the world is a small place at times. There were people very loyal to me that let it be known what he was up to but he was a consummate liar and often thought he had convinced me otherwise. I am sure he knew deep down that wasn’t the case for I refused to have intimate relations with him without protection as I was never sure what he might bring home with him. It was certainly a coming home gift I was prepared to forego.

I knew when he returned from this one particular business trip that something was wrong, that he was different. He was subdued, evasive and really rather cruel. He couldn’t meet my gaze and was altogether shifty – not that this was new behaviour – but I just knew some kind of seismic shift had taken place but couldn’t put my finger on what it was. It was a difficult period for although I didn’t love him nor really want him, I was rocked that my world as I knew it was crumbling. I had known deep down that it would have been he who left me for I had been brought up to get on with it and make the best of it. His ego and needs were such that he couldn’t remain in a marriage where intimate relations were a distant memory. No matter that he had brought that part of it on himself, he wouldn’t and couldn’t see that his infidelity had contributed to that. To be fair, he probably knew that I didn’t love him and he went off looking for love elsewhere.

We went through the usual cat and mouse games whilst he refused to admit he had strayed again. I caught him having furtive phone calls to the States late at night where he’d look guilty and say that it was a client. I found myself checking his receipts, the phone bill, our bank account for traces of betrayal to home in on. It wasn’t the fact that he had strayed that was a problem – I found I cared less and less about that as time went on – it was his duplicity that drove me nuts and his belief that I was stupid enough to believe his lies. He found it so easy to convince me that the silent phone calls when I answered the phone were all in my imagination. He had a plausible excuse for every receipt he carelessly left around for me to devour in my quest to be proved right that he was having an affair. I knew this was different, it wasn’t a meaningless indiscretion on a business trip, this was a threat to my world as I knew it. I felt rather sordid sneaking a look through his brief case and wallet and jacket pockets when he was asleep, or mindlessly hitting the redial key on the phone to see if I could catch him out. God, the amount of useless conversations I had with plumbers, takeaway places and such like was becoming embarrassing after a while. When I look back at that young woman of 23 I see an inexperienced and quite quite scared little girl who was terrified of losing him. He was the only family I had in London when I moved south from Glasgow and as a quite domineering character, my only real friend, or so I thought. He had quite cleverly isolated me from my friends and family to the point I was alone. I understand the behaviour well enough now and recognise it for what it is and would never get myself involved with someone so controlling again but at the time, I was confused and alone.

In time, his feelings for his new paramour spilled over into our lives. We sat and had a bottle of wine together and he felt brave enough to show me photo’s of her. She was a stunning red head with flowing long hair which I immediately envied. She was a truly sexy girl and I envied him his new relationship and happiness for it was something we had never had together. But more importantly, I felt relief. Relief that I finally knew the truth and that I wasn’t going mad and that I could stop the furtive amateur detective work that had so engaged my every waking moment. It took us much too long to break up – about eighteen months as far as I remember – but eventually he moved out into rented accommodation and finally she came.

My God, my curiosity was high. My soon to be ex in-laws lived over the road from me and on her first visit to them I got a perfectly good front seat to watch and evaluate this nemesis from. I did a quick overall look, a quick mental check of her bits in comparison to mine and then when I could not find her wanting, sat back deflated. I had so hoped that she would have had warts, an arse the size of Red Rum and a stoop for good measure. There she was, just a perfectly normal and very pretty girl who had made the biggest move of her life to come to live in London to be with her paramour.

It was new territory for me. I wasn’t sure how I’d behave when or if we met. I didn’t know if I’d suddenly want to scratch her eyes out if I came across her unprepared. But I knew we would eventually meet. My ex and I remained on good terms, so good in fact that people at work often remarked about our having lunch together and often in high spirits. It was true that we made better friends than we did husband and wife. I felt happy for him and his eyes would light up whenever we talked about her and I knew that I would like her.

And so it came to pass, the day arrived that we had talked about on the phone and promised to arrange. I dressed to kill for I didn’t want her to think I was a frump and that she had somehow taken my man – I wanted her to know in no uncertain terms that she’d picked up my castoff. No matter how it had ended, for some strange reason I needed to boost my self esteem, to be important and not a diminished washout of an ex for her to pity. And of course, I’d recently been through the divorce diet and lost whatever excess weight that had languished before so now I could wear clothes in a size that I had previously only dreamt about. We met on neutral territory and I was as nervous as hell. I almost didn’t go in and stopped in my tracks just outside to gather myself and wondered if I stayed there too long would I just bolt. I forced the door open with more push than was necessary and walked on in, shoulders back, head held high. I saw her immediately. She was even more beautiful close up. We greeted each other somewhat curiously – her more than me for she hadn’t seen me or indeed a photo – and within minutes we were gassing away like old pals.

I’d spend my days off with her, she’d cut my hair for she was a terrifically talented hairdresser but I insisted that she cut it before we devoured two bottles of wine. By this time I too had met and fallen madly in love with another colleague and as we all got on well, we socialised often together. It was a particularly happy time in my life and I often wished that if I had known how it would all work out then I would have spent so much less time trying to cling to a dead marriage that was no more stable than a ship wreck. I had an illusion of stability that never existed. In time, he relocated to the States and I cried my eyes out for the friend he took away from me. I had grown to love her better than a sister and it damn near broke my heart when she went. As I rose up the corporate ladder I spent more and more time in the States on business so we managed to get time together. I would often drop in to stay with them at the end of a business trip and everything was just so bloody great. Until he went and ruined it again.

My friend confided in me that she thought he was having an affair; that she knew who it was as she’d seen her around the office. I felt so useless as she was heavily pregnant and needed her man but he was busy making plans to move on. There were no ‘I told you so’s’ when he left her for another. I had always told her that she’d freed me from a life of commitment to a man that I didn’t love but didn’t know how to leave. I was grateful to her and thought her a much better match for him so I had high hopes that this would last for them. Towards the end I spent some time staying with them and he was cruel and indifferent to her just as he had been with me at the end of our marriage. On some level he felt guilt and this was his way of dealing with it.

My friend’s predicament broke my heart for she was vulnerable and lost. He went, she carried on with life as a single parent and brought up a son to be proud of. She is a fantastic mother and has devoted her life to her son, never marrying again – yet. She remains my closest friend to this day as I can tell her everything and anything and she treats my confidences with respect and keeps them close to her as I do for her. I love this woman with all my heart and know that she loves me too. The love of a close friend is an incredibly pure one that shifts mountains and stays with you for life if you are incredibly lucky. It sees you through the bad times and is your safety harness when all else seems lost. We pick up conversations where we left off months before and our dialogue is seamless and we never have to say sorry. My only regret is that she lives in the USA and I am here. I continue to hope that she’ll meet another Englishman and come here to live. We don’t get together like we used to and have become lazy at arranging that but one day, it may just be too late. She constantly asks us to come for a break and I constantly say of course then worry about leaving the dogs behind. I constantly suggest she comes here for a break, she says yes then worries about leaving her son and the dog too. But thank God for phones and email. We have the closeness of a dear friendship even if we don’t have the physicality of it. I am enriched by her presence in my life.

And so dear Crisco Kid – happy birthday my darling pal and darned good bezzie mate. Long may you live a happy and prosperous life full of the love you deserve and thank you for being such a great role model for a daft wee lassie from Glasgow.

I love you babes and if you need me just call.

Sorry guys if you want to leave a comment you will need to go through the crud of entering a code. I've had to turn on the moderating feature for I had a particularly vicious and very abusive comment left on my last post which I have deleted altogether for it was horribly sullied by the troll. I did however keep a copy of the post and her comments in Word so no problem producing the evidence when needed for the cops. Oh and the sheer beauty of it all is that I tracked a copy of the unique IP address and I know exactly where it is - so local you wouldn't believe it!

Oh and as a final note dear D - you are very much on track for being the same kind of friend as the Crisco Kid. You are talented, adorable, kind, intelligent and so very nice to know. Great old chat today and thanks you are a great support after the horrid after effects of the troll. She knows that I know who she is and I hope she is deeply ashamed for the very personal vitriolic diatribe that she left on my post. It was truly shocking and deeply disturbing and she needs help. Alcohol eh?

Friday, 11 July 2008

There is a God after all...

In my previous life as an IT person and eventually a Functional Director for a very large ‘Blue Chip’ global American I.T. manufacturer, part of my role required I undertake international travel. There were many reasons for this type of activity over a twenty something years career such as technical support, client meetings, attending and giving training courses for new software product releases, project management meetings, meetings about meetings, meetings to discuss what we knew and more meetings to discuss what we didn’t know and anything else that fell in-between; consequently my arse was often wedged into an aeroplane seat built to accommodate a size zero model who would find getting her arse and thighs in there pretty much tough going.

I can’t begin to tell you how I delighted in the vagaries of air travel; for example negotiating that plastic table with drinks and food precariously perched on it just as the numpty in the window seat needed to go for a waz whilst the aisle was completely blocked by a trolley and two flight attendants. Or even better, given that the table was a feature of the back of the chair in front of me and as such not under my control, it has not been unknown for the incumbent of that seat to recline at speed and with such force that the contents of my flimsy table would be jettisoned fairly and squarely over me. Over time I got smart and stopped dressing up for air travel and just wore anything that a quick hose down wouldn’t sort. It got so I would take at least one change of clothes in my hand luggage as there were a few occasions when I was in one country whilst my luggage was a tourist in another; on one occasion I arrived home before my wayward luggage turned up two days later. Had I known that the last I was to have seen of it was at the check-in desk on the outward bound leg of my journey, I would have simply saved myself endless time and trouble by not bothering my arse to pack it and lug it there in the first place.

I could have merely headed off on my travels with one clean pair of knickers, a tooth brush and one non crease business suit and blouse with suitable shoes in my hand luggage. The downside of this of course is that I'd end up performing a juggling act eking out a meagre ‘capsule’ wardrobe over a three day period whilst trying not to resemble a disheveled old bag lady with hygiene problems. But at least you weren’t office bound first thing Monday morning at your excruciatingly early breakfast meeting still in the stained and crumpled outfit of the unfortunate slightly insane looking international traveller. Of course an occasional solution was that the company would reimburse me for the purchase of a blouse here, some underwear there, to tide me over when I could prove my case had gone awol but it got to be so regular they assumed I was a lazy bint and just fibbed about the loss of my case so that I could expand my wardrobe at their expense from each country that I visited. If they’d seen the shite that I’d bought out of desperation and haste because my tight schedules didn’t allow for shopping trips then they may have revised that assumption. Looking like Bozo the clown was not a great ambassadorial look for the global corporation I was supposed to represent. Anyway, had that bloody suitcase of mine accrued air miles I’d have been laughing.

However, good background info as this might be, if you are still awake this far in, I have a tale to tell. As I progressed up the company ladder, greasy pole, whatever you may call it - I promise that I did that without any arselicking whatsoever, without the learning of funny handshakes, by being devoid of the backstabbing activities of some of my colleagues and by simply relying upon and being grateful for the bad judgement of those clearly bewildered people who for some reason thought I had talent and promoted me – as such with each step my perks improved. More often than not, I was booked to travel ‘club’ class; an oasis of comfort and joy away from screaming babies, queues for the loo’s, drunks sleeping with their head on your shoulder whilst they snored and dribbled over you and the low class punter that polluted the air for fifty seats around him because he didn’t have the good grace to stop dropping his guts whilst in such close company and in a pressurised area. Those were also the days when you could smoke aboard an airliner and kill your fellow passengers with extra concentrated and recycled passive smoke throughout the cabins. Bad as it was, at least that went some way to masking the fug from Mr Fartyarse’s backside.

And so in time, with club class being the order of the day, I became much more enamoured of the idea, the practicality and ease of international travel at spoilt brat level. No more slumming it in cattle class or being on a plane that sported an outside toilet. “No, I’d arrived”, I told myself smugly as I peered back at cattle class. My how I loved travelling and my smugness grew with each trip I took; that is until one day, recessions being what they are, the IT marketplace being what it was – a rapidly dwindling one with diminishing returns, subsequent layoffs and company closures - a dreaded circular on head office notepaper was placed onto my and every other managers desk. “Oh dear god”, we all shrieked as though we’d witnessed a disaster. “Oh for fuck sake”, cried another, as he grasped his desk to steady himself whilst his secretary rushed for the smelling salts lest he fall to the floor in a faint. And so the memo went:

Given the recent downturn in company profits, poor performance in the marketplace as a whole coupled with poor financial projections for the 3rd and 4th quarter results, it has been decided that from now, all international travel will revert to economy class. Club class will be for exceptional circumstances only”.

Well you could have heard a pin drop and shipped in a team of Paramedics on standby such was the shock as it settled in. We moaned, complained, threatened to refuse business trips and manipulated anyone and everyone into reinstating our spoilt brat status but it fell on deaf ears but we knew the score. The top of the tree would be the ‘exceptions’ that got to travel club class; the exalted few that wouldn’t know a day’s work if it bit them on the arse; the people least likely to benefit from a stress free journey with some truly hard graft at the end of it.

And so it came to be. In time we learned to accept it, to realise that controlling costs saved more jobs and in return the company had a fighting chance of survival.

So, there I was one day, arranging with our newly appointed in house travel company, a trip to our manufacturing plant in Minnesota, USA. I wasn’t looking forward to the cramped conditions for an eight hour flight but this was a trip I couldn’t get out of. There was a three line whip on it.

“Okay Ms Mob”, said the travel agent as she went on to confirm the details of my flights, hotel and car details back to me. As I thanked her and went to replace the receiver, she said “you do know that as an introductory offer we are upgrading you to club class, don’t you”. I could have kissed her such was my joy at this news. I perked up immediately, checked she wasn’t on day release from the local loony bin, and promised to bring her back a gift for such generosity.

It was a laborious trip to the airport, hampered by bad weather and the usual traffic chaos on the M25 motorway which has earned the moniker of being the largest car park in Britain. I rushed to check-in and prepared to wave goodbye to my luggage and wish it a nice holiday wherever in ended up. But imagine my joy at being told I had been upgraded yet again to First Class? I was almost delirious at the prospect of travelling in true noboff style. Dear God, in the space of no time at all I had gone from being a rear gunner at the back of the plane to hobnobbing with the captain, the rich and famous and of course the elite members of the cabin crew. I could have danced a jig right there in the airport.

Due to the lateness of my arrival, I was fast tracked through. I felt like royalty what with someone carrying my hand luggage, whizzing me through security checks, and seeing to my every need. My head was spinning at the speed of it all but at the same time, I was aware of a woman, desperately trying to not only keep up with me but to surpass me if she so could. I knew the ‘type’; clearly a spoiled little madam with a huge sense of entitlement and little manners with it. She seemed clearly miffed that I was receiving such elite assistance but that didn’t dissuade her from barging into me at every turn in an attempt to somehow achieve one better than me by getting on that plane before me. I couldn’t believe the dirty looks she kept throwing my way and it became a battle of wits to keep one step ahead of her for it became my goal to thwart this new nemesis who was such a dreadful little bully. Finally, when we reached the departure lounge we parted ways. Me, unnoticed by her into the first class lounge, her, for a quick dash through duty free for her cheapo cigarettes and booze.

What a different world the other half live in compared to us mere mortals. This was better than anything I’d experienced before or was likely to again. But it was all too short lived for I was being gently led by the elbow, towards the plane because first class passengers board first, in a gentle an orderly manner and without someone behind me dead legging me with their swinging hand luggage as they push forward like eejits trying to get inside the shops for the January sales.

“Hello madam, may I take your coat?”, asked the rather posh flight attendant smiling widely like I was ‘someone’ as she took my jacket and hung it on a hanger in the wardrobe.

“Champagne madam?”, she enquired as I settled into the extra wide beige leather seat that could easily accommodate four size 12 models and leave room to spare.

I settled back into a chair that was sheer bliss and picked up the film guide that listed the twelve or so films that I could choose from to watch on my individual DVD screen. This was in the day when this technology was prohibitively expensive for your average punter so I was mightily impressed.

“Bellini’s madam?, how many would you like?”, she asked, before returning with a beautifully laid out platter of Bellini’s, wild smoked salmon, Beluga caviar and soured cream. It was a Kodak moment if ever there was one. God I could have cried at the sheer luxury of it all.

I was in seventh heaven and thought life couldn’t get any better when what do you know, hiking her own hand luggage and dripping with sweat and hair stuck to her forehead, along comes little miss spoilt madam who on seeing me tooled up to the hilt with superior alcohol and food, stopped dead in her tracks. “Oh my God”, I thought, hiding my absolute delight, as I registered the look of shock and horror on her face that perhaps in her eyes I was a ‘someone’ to be reckoned with after all and that she’d blown her chance by being insufferably rude to me. It was a moment that I shall never forget to my dying day. She quickly gathered herself and moved on and I turned my head and watched her struggle through first class, right through club class and into ‘economy’ class and then lost sight of her in the throng of people vying for the best overhead locker to store their duty free.

I tried, really tried, not to let those feelings if smugness overwhelm me for it isn’t a nice thing to do but I asked God for forgiveness this one time and completely indulged myself in a little smug delight at what happened. Half an hour into the flight I rose to stretch my legs and strode to the back of the first class area.

Whilst I was stretching, someone in club class caught my eye. I couldn’t be sure, so I looked again, and looked some more. Just as I was scanning his face in my quest to see if it really was him, he looked straight at me and our eyes locked. “Dear God”, I muttered when I realised it was the head of my division, a man so very full of himself, a deeply unpopular man because of his lack of fair play with several acts of cronyism under his belt, travelling to the same conference that I was. His face was a picture when he recognised who I was and that whilst he was in club class, here was one of his management team larging it up big time in first class.

“Oh hi John", I said, as I smiled, hugging this golden moment to myself.

“Oh erm, hello Mob”, he stuttered, as his face reddened with obvious anger at my one-upmanship and clearly racking his brain as to how I’d flouted the company travel policy to get myself out of cattle class and into first class.

“Catch you later John”, I said as the flight attendant asked me if I wanted to have my in flight meal now or wait until later.

On that I turned my back, headed back to my seat and wondered at how life can sometimes come up trumps when you least expected it.

I’m no longer smug about such things, I’ve matured and realise that material things are worthless in the scheme of things. But that day, for once in my life, I realised that there was a God after all.....

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

And the award goes to............

........A truly loyal and witty bunch of readers who leave superb comments and are a great bunch to know. I said I’d do it and although it’s a long time coming, here it finally is! I want to say thanks to you guys that voted for me on the Best Of Blog Awards, (The BOB’s) – you are the true stars wading your way through the tripe that I write here, for that you deserve a big old pat on the back... I know there are quite a few awards listed here but you are all in good company because every one of you has made me laugh, cry, angry on your behalf or just plain frustrated so you deserve this. These awards are in no particular order!

Debs Lehner – you were the best campaign manager ever. I know I’ve already given you an award but you deserve as much as you can get because you are so good. Now that you’ve been nominated for the Blogger’s Choice Awards most humorous blog I shall bask in your glory when you run away with the title.

AIMS – Best Inspirational Blog 2007 at the BOB’s; a truly inspirational writer. A heartbreaking story that is uplifting because over and over she rises above adversity when most of us would have given up.

Softinthehead – for having a nice word to say about everyone – a very creative and kind lady indeed who writes a lovely blog.

Lane at Lane’s Write – Lane gave me the very best advice when I was struggling to get my novel written. She said something along the lines of ‘if you don’t write you have nothing to edit’. I stopped prevaricating and just started writing and it has been the best piece of writing advice ever. Oh and she also writes a brilliant blog.

Valley’s Mam – writes a fabulous political blog. She has been nominated for the Best Political Blog 2008 on the Blogger’s Choice Awards 2008. She is keeps me going when I want to give up blogging.

Stinking Billy – he was the very first commenter on my very first post. I was amazed anyone found the blog and thought it worthy of comment. Thank you Billy – you made a menopausaloldbag very happy indeed.

Crystal Jigsaw – this woman has a wonderful view on life, her writing is thoughtful and lovely and her energy and kindness shines through her posts.

Carolyn over at Laughingalone in the dark – who was nominated for best Mommy blog in the BOB’s but so generously threw in the towel and put her support behind Punk Rock Mummy who was
competing in the same category. Carolyn asked everyone to send her votes to Punk Rock Mommy who was writing a blog about living and dying with breast cancer. Such a kind and thoughtful thing for Carolyn to do and it sums up this talented young writer so well. Punk Rock Mommy lost her fight for life on the 5th of July. RIP dear brave lady.

Little Brown Blog – a superb writer with great wit. She tells it as it really is and paints the picture of highs and lows in her life with great honesty and humour.

Merry Daze – here’s a sweet and lovely woman who is chronicling the time of her life when she has made a big career change after returning to work from a career break. Gardening is the new rock and roll and Merry is coping with sore knees, sore everything as she learns the inns and outs of landscape gardening and just how backbreaking but rewarding her new career is to her. If you need a push to change your career then visit MD as she will inspire you.

Eileen A Life of Triggers – here is a woman who is bravely writing about mental illness in her family. It is a searing and honest account of her daughter’s struggles to get back to good mental health and how this has been overwhelming to her family; always an educational and moving read.

Casdoc at Motherofshrek – here is another truly inspirational woman who is a champion for Autism and a better understanding of how her son and others live with the syndrome/condition. She never indulges is self pity and with a heart the size of a planet she loves, cares and worries for her son as he takes on his next stage of his life away from home.

Retired and Crazy – one witty broad with heaps of attitude to life, a real disdain for the silly Political Correctness gone crazy mob and any other subject that happens gets her goat. It is this strength of character and unique look at life that has seen her through her husband’s recent health battles with stoicism, great empathy and wit.

Auntiegwen – a fellow Glaswegian who writes with cheeky humour and is never boring. I hope she starts to blog about her dating escapades as well as her beautiful weans.

Ciara – who lives with thyroid disease and whilst this does not define her, she manages to research it and write about it on her blog for others to follow. Always empathetic.

Mopsa at Mopsa Ramblings – so creative and yet immensely practical. The tales of her barn renovation, lambing and the challenges of daily life on a farm is very entertaining and she paints a picture that just makes you want to be there.
Karen - who writes a terrific blog that is also for me educational as she has so much knowkledge.

Belle Diary of a Housewife – a wonderful witty writer who has immense reserves of patience and love for her individual but challenging children. Her sense of humour never fails no matter what happens in her life.

Kitt – and Sophie her dog at The Kittalog. Kitt has a fairly eclectic style in blogging and her photographs are wonderful. Sophie is a character full of fun and the prettiest dog I’ve seen in a while. I suspect she just loves posing for the camera.

Breezy from Breezybreakblogs – a fantastic account of an English couple living in France. Her stories of her Dinner ladies – a collection of belligerent chickens that keep re-enacting the Great Escape into her French neighbour’s garden and how she rounds them up is hysterical. A must read.

Debra from Us In France – more stories from France and how she and her husband are making it abroad. Debra has cats and chickens and even ducks now and is the biggest softest animal lover I know online.

Dumdad at The Other Side of Paris – this is definitely worth a visit. A Journalist with a heart and a conscience as well as real talent and he’s perfectly witty with it. Read about all sorts as well as his and the family’s life in Paris.

Tina at Too young for a mid-life, Too old for a tantrum – a great continuing story about her up and down love life. She’s been a bit quiet lately so I want to encourage her back with an award so she can carry on with the tale.

Mean Moodie Middleaged Mom – writes with brilliant humour and great depth. Writes so candidly about empty nest syndrome and just the ups and downs of home life in general as a mother to sons.

A Mothers Place is in the Wrong - entertaining, delightful and funny. Go enjoy yourselves.

Wakeupandsmellthecoffee – a terrific blog of family life. Great writing and honest. She draws you in.

The Mother of This Lot at Mother’s Pride - Superbly well written and funny too. Recounts the tales of her family, (five daughters and a husband!) in a way that keeps you laughing and reading.

She’s Like the Wind – great family life and business blog. She’s had it tough at times but she tells the story so very well.

Suzy Identity Crisis – Suzy writes the most heartbreaking account of her life as a child. It is a quite astonishing story of abuse, survival, forgiveness and the journey of her life. Quite quite amazing.

Milla at Country Lite – another brilliantly funny take on family life – she’s great and a very good writer.
Manic Mother Of Five - another great blog where the writing is good and you feel at home in her posts.

Maggie May at Nuts in May – just love her blog of family life and things in general and how kind and funny this woman can be. Take a look.

Blogthatmama – a great blog with a woman who writes about family life with great wit and tells all about the Husband she call Lurch!

Willowtree at A Dingo Stole my Barbie – writes great stuff about everything and anything. He’s a straight no nonsense writer with a laconic wit but with a heart of gold if you follow his tales of Belle the dog and her car accident injuries.

Tattie Weasel – a mother, half welsh with a menagerie of animals. Terrific dry humour and well worth a visit.

Insane Mama – what a name eh?! At Help I have a Teenager – this girl is writing a terrific story right now. She’s good and worth a visit.

Jules at Just Because – great sense of humour and does great photo’s too.
The Brit at Spinning the Wheel – what a poet and a romantic. This blog is thoughtful, thought provoking and gentle.

Swearing Mother – a woman after my own heart when it comes to the use of profanity. She’s always topical, witty and passionate about what she writes . Come back soon from your break.

Gonebacksouth – she left home then went back home to her childhood village. This is a terrific account of a woman revisiting her old life but at the age of forty with kids and a husband in tow. Great read and very down to earth.

Dusty Spider – dear Flick who keeps me entertained talking about buying road-kill hats for her daughter’s wedding and travels on her boat.

Donetta Lee who writes the most incredible Friday Flash 55 stories. You have to read them to see what I mean. Such a clever writer.

Very Lost in France – tales of an English family in France. The husband’s away a lot with work and this girl copes magnificently with the nuances of part time single motherhood in France. She also tells it warts and all and if you hanker after a halcyon life over there read this blog first.

Mikiye Creations – a superbly gifted and creative jewellery designer. Her stuff is well worth a look at.

Sy – last but not least the winner of the BOB’s who has a very witty blog and was kind and generous in getting six of his voters to give me their votes one night so that I was bumped back into second place.

Now I know I am bound to have left someone off this roll-call. I am truly sorry for that as it is not intentional. I know that a lot of new readers have been leaving comments and for that I am eternally grateful that you take the time to read and comment. It means a lot to see and keeps me writing when I am tired and want to jack it all in.

I want to also say a great big thanks to the following people who are not bloggers but read my blog and give me loads of encouragement either through voting or just feedback or indeed recommending me to others.

My family – you know who you are and I won’t mention your names to protect you anonymity.
My friends, Betty, Maria, Pat, Susan H, Annie P, Kate, Laura, Sandy and her girls.
My other ‘couple’ friends Tom and Vicky, Robin and Hilary, Pat and Paul, Andy and Claire.
My wee friend Sean L who is always so positive and laughed his head off at the Simondo and Hortense stories. He was a late comer to the blog but I’m glad he and his dad enjoy the stories and have been very kind in their feedback – mostly up the pub after a few Sherry's as it were.

Don B – what a funny man this guy is. He was busy telling all and sundry at the Home Office about how good my blog was – what a star – you can’t buy marketing like that! Good luck in that new assignment in Trinidad and Tobago.

A big thanks to my wonderful two step-sons and their terrific support – when they remembered!

And finally, a great big thank you to the man called ‘himself’ in my stories and in my life. There is no finer husband.

I have included several awards for you each to chose one or as many as you like. This is because I know that a lot of you may have these awards already so I hope you will take another that you may not already have.

This is longer than Gwynneth Paltrow’s effort at the Oscars!
I don’t usually hand out awards so take as many as you want!