Monday, 31 October 2011

Who am I?

I am:

Strong; persistent; funny; warm; caring; capable; intelligent; cuddly; maternal; musical; amazing; busy; supportive; kind; generous; witty; friendly; outgoing; helpful; honest; happy; content; crazy; interesting; liberated; liberal; broad-minded; loving;

Obstinate; easily thrown; indecisive; lazy; acquisitive; boring; egocentric; wasteful; boastful; smug; cantankerous; bitchy; hot-tempered; negative; shy; introverted; defensive; bewildered; crazy;

I am not: energetic; quickthinking; alert; mistrustful; distrustful; disrespectful; careful; perfect.

Friday, 7 October 2011


I feel as restless as the gale rocking the house (no mean feat - the house is terraced. The whole row must be shaking). So I've decided to record one of the saddest and yet most life-affirming days of my life.

This afternoon - yesterday afternoon I suppose - I attended the funeral of the mother of one of my best friends from school, one of my longest-standing and definitely my most steadfast friend, who has never, over the years, forgotten me; never given up on me; never let me go.

It was an afternoon of memories, tangible and ethereal, bittersweet but without recrimination. It was an afternoon I don't think I will ever forget. I don't want to ever forget again.

It was the Afternoon-of-the-Not-For-A-Long-Times. Not for a long time have I visited the particular church where the Requiem Mass was held; my last memory of being there, although I know I visited it many times after, was as a bridesmaid at the first wedding of my eldest sister. Not for a long, too long, time, have I seen the friend I want to hug tight from across the church. Not since I sang it as a solo for my own father's funeral nearly 19 years ago have I sung the hymn led by my friend and her family. Not for the longest time have I felt the comfort of ritual and of familiar words I thought I had lost forever.

Not for 38 years have I crossed the threshold of what used to be the infant block of my Primary School before it moved to new premises. Arriving some time before the majority of guests, I have time to wander with my phone and snap away the intervening years - this is the room where I dance to Music With Movement as a five-year-old in vest and knickers; these are the boys' toilets that I walk into by mistake on my very first day at school, not knowing any different - a toilet is surely a toilet? - and get my first educational telling off. Actually, musing on that, I've been straying into men's toilets ever since. That's what I call true equality. But no - today I refrain from entering what are now the men's toilets in what is now used as the church hall.

Some parts I no longer recognise. The main hall itself I am sure used to be partitioned into possibly 3 classrooms. Of course the cloakroom has gone, and I don't recognise Miss Pullen's class, the first classroom I know, that I can still picture to this day. There are new structures, new doorways, but still the same Victorian decoration. Long gone is the dinner hall, which used to be across the road. I stand and gaze at the relatively new (well probably 30+ years old) mechanicky garagey affair that has taken its place - but I can still see the original building, feel the hand of another child in mine as we crocodile across the road every day for lunch, and yes the smell of cabbagey custard is still there. I swear.

Outside - there are the bullseyes we use for ballgames. The bars (aka climbing frames) have gone. But there is the corner I stand in for a whole term because I am terrified of being knocked over by bigger kids. There's the spot where I first redecorate my face, when - what was her name? It's lurking behind the boxes in a dark corner - an older girl who has adopted me, spins me around so fast that I let go, nearly break my nose and black both eyes on the tarmac. There is the alleyway between church and junior block that I walk on the day I take my First Communion. Surely these playgrounds have shrunk? They should be huge. But strangely they're not.

My friend and I can't stop hugging. We live no more than 20 miles apart, but I have been just about as flakey as a friend gets over the years. None of that seems to matter now, we are back in touch, and I can't believe that after all these years she wants me there on such a special and sad day. It is a true celebration of life, and the people-memories are just waiting to tap me on the shoulder. Our families seem to have been intertwined for many years - her cousin was at school and close friends with my older brother, and I am hugged and hugged and hugged by other cousins we also shared our school days with. The reactions are actually quite funny. I smile at someone I once shared so many hours of so many days with; they smile politely back; double-take; shriek "I know that FACE". I decide I will never, ever commit a crime on cctv because even with a balaclava, half of Essex will scream at the tv set - "THAT'S JENNIFER WIGLEY!!!

Even funnier is that more recent friends of my friend have taught my son, and so I seem to know half the people, where I expected to remember two or three. It underlines to me how life twists and slips away from us - people I've known for 6 years or more meet my friend of 36 years once a month - and I don't realise.

But the best feeling in the world, the saddest, the most comforting, the most wonderful, is when another of our original group of friends comes over and we hug like we will never let go. And then all three of us sit and talk as though it were yesterday that we last met. I show photos of Rob. I feel as though I have rediscovered part of my own family.

Back at home, the October winds lash the house with a plaintive song that fills my head and wets my cheeks. So much love, so much acceptance, so many memories. I probably won't sleep tonight, I've already tossed and turned so much in tune with the storm, and I don't want to disturb the workers. I'll dry my tears, wipe the sniffly nose, and smile.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Stop thinking, start being.

Possibly the most profound thing anyone has ever said to me. So I'm off to Be.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Holding on

by the fingertips right now. Need to buy some new cutlery. The story of my life can be found at:

Check out the spoon theory.

What it doesn't tell you is that for all the spoons you don't have, there is a price to pay for every member of the family. Even the depression therapy at Beating the Blues ignores the fact that you need to continue to be part of a family. Depression lives with all of us, it's not just my problem. And it's heartbreaking to see your soulmate going through the same thing albeit for different reasons. I don't need spoons, I need bloody big sledgehammers.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Something old, something new...

I haven't been here for quite a while. I don't think I'll try to catch up, it's been a turbulent few months. Nothing major, just lots of wavy water.

So why tonight?

I find myself musing on plus ca change. Or at least I think I do. I only have a weensy glimmer of what that means. It might mean I've got a zit on the end of my nose. One thing's for sure, I have lots of clever friends who will know exactly what it means ;-)

Well anyway, once more to the point. New school, new teachers, new strategy, old problem. Today Young Master came home without his bookbag - doorkey, asthma pump, school books, pencil case - all gone. He ran away from a group of boys today and foolishly didn't think to take his three bags with him. When he returned, the important one was gone. Not in any of the bins, not handed in... "it'll turn up" is the concensus view. Well, enough is enough. The school is doing its best, we've no doubt, and the dry-cleaning bill for the blazer after the full-drink-can-thrown-at-his-head incident a few weeks ago has at last been paid - by the parents of the boy concerned. So why did one of his friends tell me tonight that there isn't a day that goes by without a group of boys descending on Young Man? Partly because Young Man himself is coping extremely well with it, and dealing with it in his own way; partly because I'm starting to think none of us know the full scale of the problem. Well, we do now. And it will stop.

And now for something completely different. No I don't have an original bone in my body, as my genetics course is busy pointing out to me. Nor do I, in any meaningful sense of the phrase, have good taste. I have just knitted the absolute shockers below, and am quite proud of the disgusting choice of colours - this is a bit of my stash that I didn't sell, but have quitely been pounding away at a row here and a row there. Not an original pattern, either - that comes from a rather brilliant book entitled "Thinking outside the sox" and no I can't be bothered to go downstairs and source the relevant info. I might tomorrow if I'm feeling energetic - and if I can remember...

With my knitty head on, I'm not that pleased with them. I experimented with a new (to me) technique for the heels and toes, I think it's called origami or somesuch, and I don't like either. The heel is too rounded and far too shallow for my taste, and the decrease ridge at the toes is far too pronounced. So I've tried the technique, and won't be repeating it. I've tried (and loved playing with) the openweave cable cuff too, and won't be repeating it because there's far too much sewing in of ends afterwards. But it was fun to do. I scanned rather than took a picture because scanning does bring the stitch definition out beautifully.

The sock blockers are the result of Youtube. Thank you Youtube. Unfortunately it's quite a lot harder to get certain crafting tools in the UK than it is across the water, so I made did and mended. Instead of the recommended craft foam, I bought a pack of two mice mats from The Works for 65p and took a pair of scissors to them. They're not quite long enough for the legs, but a snip of a bargain. Haha. I have no idea whether they would bear up to being used to dry damp socks in shape, as they're supposed to, but I just wanted to give the right shape to mine while I scanned them. Fine lace I will take the time to block; heirloom knits likewise - hell I might even start blocking out jumpers - but blocking socks is tantamount to ironing knickers in my book.

No, I don't iron knickers.

I have a kind of metallic ironic taste in my mouth while I type this. Does it show? Distraction can work where my own pain is concerned; when boredom threatens; when I look at my hands and see the knuckles doing things they ain't supposed to, and know deep down that my crafting days might be numbered; when my brain can't cope with "The Cat Sat on the Mat" and I kid myself that yes I am going to graduate, one long day. But it doesn't cut it when days that should - and generally are, to a large extent, if YM is to be believed - be really happy and carefree are marred the way this day was. And yesterday, and the day before...

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ah hah hah hah Stayin' aliiiiiiiiiiiiiive

Ok so I'm not male, don't have bouffant blonde hair, am several years too young and no my voice *doesn't* go that high!

But March has been all about being alive.

I've had me aps n dahns but it's been a good month overall. At first everything was feverpitch - an end of module assignment to do (which meant re-reading 3/4 of the course text in 2 days) and then the loveliness as Great Chief White Hair and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.

We had silver balloons and copious amounts of asti, and a 4-day break in a posh hotel - private 2-person jacuzzi, balcony, 3 piece suite, dining table, and a 4 poster bed so high I had to have a stool to step on to climb in. Lovely :-)

And no, the jacuzzi wasn't on the balcony. It was in the bathroom along with the second television. Obviously.

I can't begin to reminisce about 25 years of married life, some pretty major highs, some pretty somber lows, beyond saying that we seem to have got lucky when we met on the Number 2 bus that January morning of my mock o-level in home economics. Moving on swiftly, just to mention that I ended up with a grade 3 pass in a domestic science CSE. And we didn't start going out for nearly 3 years. Okay, lucky-ish :D

That was already 2 weeks ago. The year is zooming. My reason for writing today is really about how, once the excitement has passed, and we've just topped up our store of memories, life returns to everydayness.

Of course I came back with full expectation of resuming my diet and fitness schedule, and of course I developed a cold which, because of underlying conditions and medications, becomes a Problem. And so I rested until today, when with a surge of energy I actually managed to Do Something. Nothing exciting, and there's lots more to be done, but it's a nice feeling, and fingers crossed I get a bit more done before the men people get home.

The depression is still lurking, but amazingly, I've kept her in her place this week. I've shushed her voice, pushed her back into her box, and frowned at myself if, in poking fun at myself, I've used overly harsh language. None of that, lady! Routine isn't a thing I live with; I'll do what I want to do when I can, like gymming and swimming, and work around them when I can't.

Thanks to the EMA mentioned at the top, I now have a 10-year-plan, and an ability to mind-map. Every step I take today is one step closer to achieving my goal. It's a goal I've shared with Great Chief White Hair, and which has his seal of approval. Just as well coz by hook or by crook, he'll be doing it with me.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Weebles wobble...

...but they don't fall down. They have very, very heavy, round bottoms. And no matter which way you drop them, or from what height, they always work their way back upright.

We used to have a blue one. I wonder if Lil Bro remembers it?

Well anyway, that kinds of sums up how things have been lately. It's as though I'm pushing myself over as hard and as far as I can to see what will happen. What happened to our blue Weeble - eventually - was that its top half separated from its bottom half completely. Oh dear.

There are other, more obvious, similarities betwee that old blue Weeble and yours truly, but we'll gloss over those with some pineapple-flavoured paint. Or maybe not.

I don't remember if we ever tried the Weeble in the bath to see if it would float. The answer is probably not to both ideas. I'm not so much floating, as dragging huge lungfuls of air down to the bottom with me, and expelling them rocket-style to propel myself up to the top for another huge lungful. Swings and roundabouts it ain't. Sink or swim doesn't do it justice. The stupid thing is, the lifeline, the raft, the buoy - they're all at my fingertips. I don't even have to reach out to grab them, no effort is required, no tense dah-dah-duuuuuuuummm moment. Just if I want it, there it will be.

Sometimes the real effort is to just want it. To fight the urge to just roll back and let the tide do its worst. These are my demons, Lethargy, Apathy, and The Bitch and sometimes they talk so sweetly, offer so many enticements, they appeal to my very core.

Do I say something twee here, like "and then I look at the pictures on my desk of my two lovely men and..."? No. The truth is I can't - I won't - do it for them. I can only do it for me. Do it for someone else, and they become the weapon of my own destruction, the heavy, metal-studded club of a million guilts that will swing down and send me flying as I reach the liferaft .

The Bitch is back. She's been creeping in ever so, ever so quietly, silk-shod. Whispering about my failures, pointing at the work undone, telling me I'm not good enough for YM's new friends and their families. Laughing at me in my sleep, and dogging my days.

Well, I see you now, and the fight begins. Lethargy and Apathy can go hang.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Oops look what I've gone and done... :-O

Be warned, this is a political rant. I find politics very bad for my health - and oh dear, they just got worse.

I received a rather self-congratulatory email from my Tory MP this evening - about an hour after I was told the one agency in Southend that could probably help me back into work, the Shaw Trust, has had its funding pulled under the "austerity" measures. Of course, it makes perfect sense - take any number of people with disabilities, withdraw their benefits or living allowance, and tell them to go to work. Not forgetting to cut the funding to any agencies actually able to find them that work. Let the lazy buggers do their own job-hunting...

So I'm afraid I felt Moved to email my spleen. Here goes:

Hi Mr Duddridge
You may remember from previous contact that I am disabled. I have been unable to work for many years now; have restricted mobility, need to be cooked for and generally looked after, and am in receipt of highest rate mobility and care components of Disability Living Allowance.
In recent months I have been working extremely hard to come out of a severe depression made worse by the fight to receive DLA at the right level for my needs. I am working hard to try to keep what mobility I have, and have received the help and support of various different agencies in this endeavour. Unfortunately though I am not to receive the help I need to make that final step - to try to get back into work.
I know that the current government wishes it to be known that they fully support the rights of those with disabilities to lead as full and as independent lives as they possibly can. So can you please explain why I have been informed that the Shaw Trust cannot help me because they cannot take on any new cases? Apparently, funding is to be withdrawn from this rare source of help. So please can you advise me as to where I go to find someone who can help me get back into work after an 11 year absence, who has the experience and ability to give me the right advice and training? To help me find a job that fits my particular conditions, limited use of hands, I can't walk or carry, but my brain still works. One that will permit me to work for the 2 to 3 hours that I can function in a day, on those days when my conditions haven't flared, or I don't have a hospital appointment. Could you please show me what incentives employers are being given to take on hardworking, clear-thinking people with disabilities under these conditions?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Jennie Snow

I'm now going to chastise myself. Very quietly and very gently.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Joking aside...

Abba sang "What lies waiting down the line at the end of 89?" Well, for my family, it was utter heartbreak. We lost someone so precious, so beautiful, with a heart the size of an ocean and just as full of life. My 36-year-old brother Rob was killed in a near-head-on collision with a 38-ton lorry. He left behind my darling sister-in-law Margaret who truly is a sister, and two of the nicest people it's my privilege to know, Angela and Harry, then 7 and 4. And of course he left behind the rest of us, his parents, grandmother, sisters, brothers, nephews and assorted in-laws.

What can I say about him? When he laughed, as he did so much, the street laughed; he was such a good dad; he kept in touch with me and a door open when I eventually left home "under a cloud" which is rather a nonsensical way of describing the events back then; he loved and he cared. He stepped in to give me away at my wedding when it looked like my dad wasn't going to be there; and I walked up the aisle with both of them holding me up.

He could also produce the loudest and longest farts of anybody I've ever met, before or since. And you should have seen him dressed in one of mum's skirts and tops with her lipstick on and some strategically-placed balloons. I don't remember what he did to disguise his hair...

He was a proper big brother too. Pulled my hair and teased me, especially as I was 10 years his junior. One of those unreasonable regrets that was so way out of anyone's control, especially mine, was that just when I was grown up enough to fully appreciate him, he was gone. Hah I still remember - torture of tortures - when he would do his round intricate jigsaw of trains, and wouldn't let me even put one piece in. Such torture for a puzzle addict, even at 5 or 6!

He was a chess champion at work, in fact fell in love via letter with Mags as they played a long-distance chess game. She was in Malta, in fact in 1973 I was the first member of the family, apart from my grandmother, to have met her, another event etched in the glass of memory. No computers, and the cost of long-distance phone calls - ouch!

They got married in June 1976, and I was one of their bridesmaids. Only I chose that year to have a growth spurt, and between being measured for the dresses in March and the event my dress had to be virtually remade. Awkward moo to the last, eh.

I loved him very much, was appallingly bad at showing it, but I still do, and I ache with his loss. Today, 21 years on, I'll remember the phone call at work, the policeman and woman, the hugs and the silence of the shock. I'll weep as I am now. I'll look at photos. I'll hug my loved ones just that bit tighter.

And I'll laugh to his memory.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A positive start

Well it's two weeks into the year, halfway through the first month, in fact. I have sailed past a couple of shops in the sale, acquired a handbag that I've wanted for a very long time (and that's made me quite happy, materialistic moo that I am), but am keen to grab a hold on things again.

The start to 2011 has been a quiet one. What I refer to as my winter sinus has struck, but although I've been stuck in bed for a few days here and there, not as badly as in the past overall. The worst result has been that I lost my place in my diary, and with Galloping Christmas, another winter affliction, it's taken me a while to get a grip again. I don't mean the holiday itself, that's lovely; I mean the torturing myself for a fortnight that I haven't done any activities/baking/ enough tidying/dusting/entertaining - nor have I flown to the moon this week, but so what. Alas such logic is driven out by Galloping Christmas, aka Raving Madwoman Syndrome. It does pass.

So I've spent the last two weeks in a kind of hazy panic that I'm missing an important appointment or forgetting to do something vital that will stop the world's head falling off, which is alleviated by a frantic consultation of all the diaries / scraps of paper / phone date manager thing / dustbin. The realization that all these sources of reassurance are actually all complete AND in sync with each other lasts for all of 5 minutes before my short-term-memory-of-a-goldfish strikes and hey presto half an hour later I'm in the same hazy franticity. Again, I know that not only I but both males of the house know where all the diaries are and that they are to be updated all at the same time, so I have to learn to trust myself more.

But there have been two outstanding positives to report, if only outstanding from my particular viewpoint. I managed to go swimming all by myself, something that wouldn't have been possible without the support of HTS and my swim-buddy, and am actually now looking forward to more solo swims; something I've never ever wanted or felt confident enough to do in the past. Not even when I was a confident worker.

And after struggling to lose a pound a week at the start of my diet, when I was weighing and worrying over every mouthful, I've managed to lose a stone over about a 6 week period which included the holiday fortnight. So far that makes 22 lbs / 10 kilos. I don't look or feel it, particularly as it's been a while since the gym exercises wore off and everything started heading south again; but that will be rectified after tomorrow's induction at the gym, I sincerely hope.

And I've had my last counselling session. It was quite funny - having had the morning and early part of the afternoon chasing around a half-demolished and utterly unrecognizable hospital for a chronic eye problem, by the time I got to therapy I was a complete gibbering wreck, quite literally. I couldn't stop laughing because I couldn't actually see anything - the eye drops converted everything into the kind of soft focus you get when the cameraman has overdone the vaseline on the lens. And I made approximately no sense at all because fibro-mouth kicked in - that's where your mouth flaps open and utters vague, incongruous, and incomprehensible non-sequitors, while your brain, equally flappy, dances the congo in and out your ears. Hysterically funny when (a) you know what's happening and that you haven't actually got Alzheimers and (b) you're doing it at someone who's never experienced it before. I think I'm rather thankful that I couldn't see his face, poor lamb.

I can laugh about my fear of Alzheimers now. I don't need to write about what a dreadful awful thing it is, and how it felt to suspect that I had it. To say that I couldn't remember what a "cat" was when someone referred to one in a phone conversation. To think that I was slowly losing my mind because I couldn't remember so much, even forgetting what word is actually in my mouth when I'm trying to talk. Thankfully I have such a good and wonderful family and set of friends who take the pee out of me mercilessly, so I know I'm ok. Heaven help me when they start being nice to me :-DDD. The rheumatology consult asked me why I was crying when he finally gave me a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. "I tell people they are dying of cancer" he said "and they don't cry." My answer to him is, I hope it never happens to you because you have forgotten, if you ever knew, what it is like to be a human being.

Oooo that got all serious there. Where was I? Ah yes. Today Great White Chief, on spying me trying to trap myself in the washing machine with sundry undies, reports that my bottom appears considerably smaller than usual. Good-ho.

Monday, 3 January 2011

In with the old, in with the new.

Nothing profound to say about new year, new start... not sure I believe in all that. New year, new opportunities to build on mistakes made, lessons learned, fun fedoodled. Ok so the alliteration flunked! I feel more sanguine about the year just passed, and more resolute about the year just beginning, true; but that's largely down to acceptance that Life will be do its own thing regardless of what I plan or intend to do. 2010 wasn't a great year; I made some BIG mistakes and nearly lost my mum (thankfully not because of aforementioned mistakes); but I also sought - and got - some very much needed help; learned to open my eyes just a little bit wider, and think just a little bit longer; got back on course with my studies, saw Young Master settled into a new school, and reclaimed a little of the way I used to be. Not "the person" I used to be, as I once would have said, because that's not possible whether you're fit or not, life changes you regardless of how big or little the events that come your way; but I grew a bit more comfortable with the person I am, and started laughing again. Noticeably - I'm having to curb it in public or the neighbours will get restraining orders.

Anyway, my first project of the New Year is complete, started it just a couple of weeks ago and actually finished it without stopping to do Other Things in the meantime. The scans aren't quite right but it's too late and I cannot be arrissed to dig out my camera at this time of night; but it's a very pretty swirly sock pattern that I've knocked up in some Aricaunia (sp?) yarn I got very very cheap at the craft fair at Olympia 2 in March. That was one of 2 or 3 firsts for me in 2010 that I enjoyed very very much - the other noteable one being Supertramp at the O2 in October. The colours aren't particularly true, but maybe better photos will correct that.

I am rambling! Anyway, the yarn went so far that not only did I get both socks out of one skein, I have almost enough for a third sock left over! so am deliberating what I do with the second skein. Possibly a pair of legwarmers - very 70s I know, but the windchill on a scooter travelling at 4mph is NOT to be underestimated! They need to be quite fine to sit comfortably under jeans, but measuring width could be a challenge if I want them to stay up! Trial and error I suppose - and I will probably put my knitting-in elastic to good use :)

Oh well, off to scour the net for some decent patterns...