Thursday, 22 May 2014

about a very tentative return to writing ...

Hello, stranger!  How have you been, then?  I fear that I have neglected you most dreadfully and that if anyone has visited you in the past 2 years & 3 months all they will have seen are blogs that I posted long ago.

Now, please don't start thinking that I've neglected you because of not liking you any more.  I like you hugely ... as far as blog spots ... you're ace.  And please don't think that I've neglected you because of being bone idle.  This wouldn't be accurate at all.  My idleness only goes skin deep and never gets as far as my bones.

So - why then have I seemingly ignored you?

Silly stuff really ... huge doubts about having anything interesting to say and even greater doubts about anyone actually wanting to read anything that isn't hyper interesting or, at very least, written with huge amounts of confidence.

I've left it far too long ... so, with several quite alarming trepidations, here I am writing to you again.  About what?

Well, nothing.  (That's not true).

Here's something.  Deep breath.  After the extraordinary comings and goings of MPs and, amongst them, the Culture Secretary, I came to the conclusion that sometimes the best woman for a government post might well be a man.  I could go further than that.  Many of the best jobs should be given to humans regardless of whether they're men or women or black or white or orange ... just humans. 

I wonder if less time was spent on being politically correct and ensuring that there are enough skirts on the front rows of all benches of the Commons if a government could actually get on with something that matters.

The News leaves me feeling absolutely helpless just now.  UK Rain, Ukraine, terrorism ... most of the time I feel like screaming. If only everyone would just leave everyone else alone.

And if only misogynists would try to bear in mind that none of them would actually exist if a woman hadn't schlepped them around in her stomach for 9 months prior to their birth, maybe they too could start to focus on something rather more worthwhile.

There ... 3 paragraphs about stuff other than my nervousness about returning to blogging.  Back in the day, I faithfully used to attempt one blog per week. Not sure I can do that any more - but I won't leave it AS long again.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Seven & a half weeks seems like a very long time ...

Today my husband is currently en route to hospital for his second session of radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer. He has to have a 10 minute blast each week day for the next 7½ weeks. He is behaving very calmly about the whole situation but I know him quite well. He’s frightened and that fear is, understandably, causing him to behave in more of an irritable fashion than usual. He looks and feels very tired but, at the moment, is insisting on carrying on “as usual” work-wise which, in one way, is laudable but I’m not hugely certain that wearing himself out is a brilliant idea when undergoing a treatment that can, amongst other side-effects, cumulatively make one feel exhausted.

We have been enormously lucky in receiving so many messages of good luck and kind wishes for his well-being from friends all over the world. I’ve been really rather overwhelmed by emails, messages on Twitter, calls from friends.

The sad fact is that I had to remind my husband’s own siblings that it would be good of them to contact him to find out how he’s doing. I received but one response to this reminder … my husband’s older brother emailed to request that I shouldn’t be so condescending. The dichotomy of having so many good wishes from friends makes his family’s behaviour seem all the more aggravating to me. I resolve not to give this too much priority but, that said, I’ve been up all night not only worrying about my husband but also prickling with indignation about his dysfunctional family.

This diary clearly isn’t only going to be about how my husband is coping with his treatment but also how I am feeling about it from day-to-day. I’m not going to spout rude words herein but suffice it to say that it would be a damned sight easier for me to deal with my husband’s fear than it is to navigate nervously around his denial. He and his family are so controlled (and, indeed, controlling) but I must remember that everyone deals with problems in their own way. Just now my husband’s way seems completely alien to me.

If anyone would care to scream on my behalf, I would be very grateful.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I'm having a bit of a worry ...

I’m having a bit of a worry …

On 1st January 2011, I wrote my last blog post … I didn’t exactly make any New Year’s Resolutions but I did say that I was going to write 200 words each day until those words became a book. I haven’t done that. Other things took over, the 200 words each day were abandoned and instead I became involved in learning about nearly every NHS geriatric ward in the environs of North East London and Essex which now all seems pretty pointless because my 90 year old father died anyway.

That sounds very churlish but, let’s face it, 90 year old gentlemen (and he was a GENTLE man) who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease and leukaemia tend not to get better and many of my daily visits were spent having one-sided conversations conducted in a jolly voice with someone who wasn’t ever going to respond. Sometimes I missed a day or two of visiting but then guilt got the better of me and once again I would sit at the bedside of a hallucinating nonagenarian and try for 30 minutes or an hour to make everything sound okay with his world. He died on 11th May and, sad as I am, it really and truly was for the best.

I should, at this point, also add … with just a tinge of spitefulness in my fingertips … that I believe if the NHS in this area had got its act together, his life may have been prolonged, with considerably more dignity than was the reality, for a while longer but, heck – what’s the point? He was shunted from pillar to post and back to pillar again. Each ward to which he was admitted had no idea of what his medications should have been, what his name was or indeed where he had come from. I made an official complaint to the NHS which was only answered after my MP prompted the Trust to respond – and I received that response a week or so after his demise. I write follow-up letters in my head night after night but none of them will get printed or sent because none of them will bring my Pa back.

In the middle of the marathon bout of hospital visiting, I had a bit more bad news … my husband has been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. He’s been having “wee problems” for about 3 years but is an extremely stubborn bugger and wouldn’t go to the Doctor – so, instead of having an enlarged prostate or even Stage 1 Prostate Cancer, he now has Stage 2 Prostate Cancer and is at home preparing for 7½ weeks of radiotherapy which we hope will see the cancer on its way. The good people of Twitter know my husband as OP which stands for Old Peculiar and, to the good people of Twitter, he IS old … he’s even older than I am and I am Methuselah and he IS peculiar – but so am I, so I guess we’re quite well-matched in an odd sort of a way. But he ISN’T that old and I have had enough of illness this year and I don’t want anything awful to happen to him. I just don’t. And stamping my feet and having a tantrum doesn’t solve anything at all but that’s exactly what I feel like doing – because it’s JUST NOT FAIR. He is a mild man, often an awkward sod and not as kind as people who meet him think he is, but he is mine and I want him to be well and happy and carry on being my husband and my son’s father.

And NOW look what I’ve done … I’ve made myself cry. And I am not supposed to do that.

To top it all, I have had to grow up … in the mother stakes. Josh, about whom I tweet frequently, is now 14 years old and he is on his first extended holiday away from home ever. He has spent an odd night away here and there but now he is away for a fortnight in the Middle East.

WHAT? Do I hear people cry “THE MIDDLE EAST”? Yes, dears … that most dangerous of countries in the Middle East … you know – the one that allows women to drive, doesn't make them walk 3 paces behind their husbands covered from head to toe in black burkhas, doesn't stone them if they happen to have sex before they're married or play away from home once they are, the one that doesn’t shoot its own citizens if they have a demonstration, the one that has proper democratic elections without the need of an Arab Spring to overthrow its despotic leaders … the one that is demonised by nearly every medium possible … Israel. I WILL say that most of its citizens are desperate for peace with its neighbours but make the dreadful mistake of voting in politicians whom, because they have a good command of English (albeit "American English"), they seem to think are "statesmen" when all that they really are, are warmongers with a good command of the English language.

And that's the little country that Josh is visiting. And I am missing my kid. I behaved disgracefully yesterday after I’d waved him off at 6.30am … I went out with a friend for a very non-kosher fried breakfast, came home, took 2 Temazepam and slept for nearly 24 hours … so I wouldn’t miss him at school out time or at breakfast time this morning. It worked for those 24 hours but I’d really only deferred the utter misery of not having him around and I feel positively ghastly tonight.

I miss him coming downstairs at 9.00pm to assure me that he’s going to have a shower “any minute”. I feel bereft at not having to remind him at 10.30pm that “any minute” does not, in fact, comprise 90 minutes and would he PERLEEEZ go and have a shower NOW.

I miss him interrupting my ‘phone calls. I could be on the ‘phone to the Queen herself but if Josh wants to talk to me … it would matter not. He talks. I scream at him and still he talks. I don’t listen to him and STILL HE TALKS. I miss him at 7.30am when he wakes up and demands “Mum, BE SARCASTIC … teach ME how to be sarcastic”. He doesn’t understand that I can’t help being sarcastic and I can’t switch it on or off like an electric light. And he doesn’t understand something much more important than that … sarcasm doesn’t win anyone any friends. I guess it takes an excess of 50 years on this planet to learn that for oneself.

I miss his jokes … even the ones that aren’t funny. I miss him changing his clothes 11 times after he comes home from school or 14 times on Saturdays and Sundays. I miss him saying “Yuch” to whatever I cook and then eating 2 helpings of everything. I miss him thinking he’s conning me when, in fact, I know EXACTLY how much chocolate he eats and how many cans of diet Coke he drinks. I miss him rapping tunelessly. I miss him following me around with his video camera. I miss him most dreadfully.

And I am very proud of myself because I now know what MY Ma went through when I went anywhere. I was an only child too and she was an uber-protective mother but she bit her tongue, gritted her teeth and didn’t wrap me in cotton wool and that is exactly how I try to be with Josh. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t. But sure as hell – in these two weeks, he will be having the time of his life and it actually doesn’t matter how much I miss him because HIS independence matters so much more than my misery.

My Ma used to say to me about kids … “When they’re babies they make your arms ache and when they grow up they make your heart ache”.

She was very wise, was my Ma … and while I’m at it – I miss her too.

So … I’m having a bit of a worry. Usually, I stay in my shell when I’m miserable. I don’t tweet much because I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, I can do it all by myself. But tonight? Well, tonight, I just have to tell you how utterly and completely wretched I feel.

I bloody hope my next blog post is happier!

Thank you for reading. Please pass the Kleenex.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

A Little Bit of Honesty to Start 2011

Okay, so 2011 is the year that I have decided to call myself a writer and am committing to write at least 200 words a day so that by 31-12-11, I will have 73,000 words and something that can be mangled into a book. At the moment, most of the words that are in my head are "and", "but", "the" and "ergo" but the longer ones will come and the story is there. I am not going to tell you the longer ones until they're finished but, Dear Blog Readers and Twitter friends, please nag me because I need every bit of encouragement I can get!

2010 was a hell of a year. It started, as most years do, on 1st January which was momentous as that was the day that I moved with my son to London in order for him to start at his new school. That move nearly split my marriage but the gods of dead controlling mothers-in-law must have been grimacing at me because husband and I still appear to be together! My instincts weren't awry. The school in Bournemouth that I took my son out of is now officially failing and the lovely journos at The Bournemouth Echo pointed out an article about it published on 14th December 2010. On the last day of 2010, they pointed me in the direction of a further article written about a local Bournemouth councilor's views on Bournemouth education. I despair. I offered to write an article for them 14 months ago which perhaps could have benefited Bournemouth kids in achieving the education that ALL kids deserve but The Echo's editor was "a bit nervous" about it. It's not my place to ask why but, heck, I'd like to edit that newspaper! The journos there deserve a bit of bravery! That article became my blog ... "The Lunatics are Running the Asylum". 14 months is a long time for any kid to have a rotten education and the journos at the Echo must have found their editor's decision NOT to go with my article rather frustrating. Never mind, my son is now happily installed in a most wonderful London school and is thriving. It doesn't stop me from feeling bad about the kids he left behind at the school from which I removed him.

My blogs in the past year have been spasmodic to put it mildly - not least because I've been busy getting son settled into his new environment, buying a house and generally getting used to living back in London. Well, I say London ... we're in Essex. At some stage I will get it out of my head that I'm no longer a NW8 girl or even a SW7 girl and at some point in the near future I will, in order to fit in, have to dye myself orange and start speaking broad Essex. This is never going to happen. I may live in Essex but the accent won't adhere and nor will the colour be tangoed!

Twitter has remained a lifeline for me and I still join in as much as I can ... but I've discovered a few realities about myself. 140 characters are not enough to be anything other than completely honest. The bullshit shows through so very clearly and I've hardened myself to the fact that I have a very long memory and am pathologically incapable of not checking facts. I don't think I am anything other than the person I am in real life when I tweet or blog. I don't pretend and I don't bullshit and in 2011, if my followers do, then they can expect me to pull them up on it. I'm all for "creative writing" but if someone blogs about something as FACT and it isn't, then it sort of makes my skin crawl. Write creatively, by all means, but head it up with "I made this up" so everyone knows where they stand.

Can I manage without Twitter? Of course I can, and in the next year, I will be so doing as writing a couple of hundred words a day is going to restrict my time there but, I'll be around because I would miss my friends too much not to be.

So 2011 is starting on a very honest note. If that honesty upsets anyone then I apologise but honest I am and honest I will be.

I wish you all the 2011 that you wish for yourselves. Mainly I wish for health, happiness and peace for us all. (Oh & I also wish for people whose careers are writing schtick to stick to that and give themselves a quick kick in the shins if they start writing about politics about which they know nothing ... but that's a story for another day!).

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Hot Flush Fairy

Long ago and far away I can remember my lovely Ma wandering around our home in the deepest, darkest and coldest of winters wearing summer clothes. Often she was quite red in the face and she seemed to be incredibly distracted most of the time. I have become my Ma … although possibly not quite so lovely but rather more distracted.

I am being visited with boring regularity by the Hot Flush Fairy. She’s not one of the nice fairies who live at the bottom of the garden. She’s vile. She inhabits whichever room, car, bed, shopping centre or street I happen to be in and so far she’s only really bothering me as neither my husband nor my son can see her or feel any of her delightful little tricks.

About two months ago, on the advice of my doctor, I stopped taking my HRT tablets and this seemed to herald the arrival of the Hot Flush Fairy. I have been back to the doctor to plead with him to let me resume taking HRT but he has refused and he wasn’t able to provide any magic spells to banish the Hot Flush Fairy from my kingdom either. He did offer me some teeny tiny blue tablets that he said were the same as HRT but “without the oestrogen”. I take them religiously but the damned fairy is still plaguing me. She’s resistant to Dixarit and positively thumbs her nose at Black Cohosh, Red Clover, soya and Selenium. She’s going to stick with me until SHE decides to go. And meanwhile, I am living in my own personal tropical paradise. If I walk the dog, I go out wearing suitable attire for windy, wet conditions & come back carrying almost everything except a tee-shirt which, if I weren’t so “modest”, I’d divest myself of too. I want my oestrogen back. Please somebody … anybody … give me back my oestrogen.

Well – of course, no-one IS going to give my oestrogen back to me so I had better get used to behaving in the bizarre fashion that has been MY norm for the past couple of months. And whilst I’m getting used to it, my husband had better get used to it, too. I have no idea why I go upstairs, then have to come back downstairs to remember why I’d gone upstairs in the first place. I really and truly don’t forget to switch on the oven on purpose (although possibly a room with an oven switched on in it is not exactly the right place for me just now) – and, anyway, salads are healthy so he should just shut up. I find bed the most unappealing place on earth and not only when he’s actually at home – but the idea of having a duvet over me when the Hot Flush Fairy visits is an entirely abhorrent thought altogether. I don’t know WHY I insisted on purchasing a Slanket whilst the Fairy is reigning supreme except there ARE moments when I suddenly feel freezing cold and wrapping myself in a Slanket seems like a very logical thing to do when these rare moments occur – but then, of course, I have to muster the energy to sling the Slanket off when the Fairy bids me so to do.

My lovely Ma did eventually stop wandering around the house in summer clothes in deep mid-winter … I can’t remember how many deep mid-winters it took her to stop doing it but I know that she did. I wonder for how long I will be in this phase? I wish someone could give me the answer because, in rare moments of lucidity, I do actually recognise that I am going as barmy as a cartload of monkeys and I would truly like it to stop.

Excuse me now, please. I have to go and wander around the garden in my nightdress. It is raining and blowing a gale out there but if I’m quick, I might be able to leave the Hot Flush Fairy out there and dash back in feeling ever so slightly cooler.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Longest Day

What a very long day this has been and, because sleep is completely eluding me tonight, light has rolled into darkness and is almost about to become light again, it seems that 21st June truly IS the longest day & it appears to have some sort of grudge against me!

Followers on Twitter will have seen me refer to “Fanny in the Corner” ... Fanny (clearly not her real name) is the spinster daughter of my favourite, now long dead, great aunt – she is 80 years old and, when we used to live in Catatonia by the Sea, she used to visit us about three or four times a year. The visits were meant to last about a week but one week usually became two and two often became four. She’s a sweet old dear and was really no trouble at all. She lives in London and, since moving here, I’m ashamed to say that we actually see considerably less of her now that we live in London too than ever we did when we were on the South coast. Just after we moved to London, Fanny had a fall and had a stroke. She’s been in and out of hospital ever since. Her patch is North West London and we now live in Essex. Getting to North West London on a frequent basis is something that just doesn’t happen. I heard yesterday that despite living in a really excellent care home she’s had yet another fall and is, once again, back in hospital.

Twitter friends will also have seen me refer to “Doddery Dave” who is my 89 year old father and whom, rather guiltily, I left in Catatonia when we moved to London. He knew the circumstances of our move ... and, being a very good Grandpa, fully understood and approved of a change of school for his grandson. Since we moved he, too, has been in and out of hospital. He suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and leukaemia and is a very, very frail old gentleman. Getting to see him is even more problematic than traversing London to get to see Fanny.

Doddery Dave actually spent all last week with us – I’ve managed to arrange that he will move into a super sheltered flat very nearby at the end of next month and he had to come to London to sign papers and set up the date of his move. He will be sad to leave Catatonia but is happy at the prospect of once again being closer to his family. I am an only child and son is his only grandchild. He misses my son a great deal.

I took him back to Catatonia on Saturday and called him on Sunday to check that he was okay. He wasn’t at home but, as he has a “lady friend” (who would see him more frequently than he prefers if she could) and usually goes out for Sunday lunch with her, I wasn’t unduly concerned. I should have been. He hadn’t been out to lunch, he’d fallen over and had been admitted to hospital. The hospital didn’t contact me and nor did his lady friend – until today. A good part of the day has been spent in receiving calls from aforementioned lady friend who has been intent on telling me what a bad daughter I am. I needed that ... like a hole in the head!

When not receiving accusatory calls, I've spent the day on the ‘phone to two different hospitals, trying to find out how my aged relatives are. It would be a very welcome simplicity to just hop in the car & go and see them but I have a son who attends school and a husband who flits off to Europe every three minutes. Getting to see aged relatives isn’t simple at all.

I feel absolutely miserable and I truly don’t know what to do – so, instead of sleeping, I thought I’d tell you about it all.

I will aim to write about something more cheerful in my next blog.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Grown-up Live Tweeting - The Value of Journalism Conference

Last Friday, with many collies wobbling in my tummy, I did something I hadn’t done for a very long time ... I went out to work.

I was on the tube by 8.00am, dressed like a grown-up, carrying lapdog in case and was even wearing make-up.

Where did I go to? The LSE ... where I had been told to say on arrival, “I’m with the BBC” which would lead to instant access to the lecture theatres in the bowels of the earth somewhere under Holborn. It had been such a long time since I’d said “I’m with the BBC”. The words still have a nice ring to them.

I was to “live blog” at the conference on “The Value of Journalism” run by the BBC College of Journalism in conjunction with POLIS (headed up by Charlie Beckett) at the LSE. I was positioned at the very front of the Sheik Zayed Theatre and then due to an unannounced gremlin, the live blogging programme wouldn’t load correctly. I was asked by Jon Jacobs (known to his many Twitter followers as @thoroughlygood) to live tweet the event.

My usual position for tweeting is on my sofa. If I look up I can either see a wall or the television. If I look to my left, if my husband’s around, I can see a snarling face and hear the words “Twitter is a thief of time” uttered as often as I care to listen to him. Live tweeting at the conference was very, very different. If I looked up I could see the panel of journalists about whom I was tweeting – and, terrifyingly, some of them actually smiled and nodded at me. If I glanced to my right, I could see what I was tweeting on a very large screen which – if I’d have had time to think – may have caused apoplexy but I was too busy listening, paraphrasing and trying to reduce some very erudite statements and arguments into snippets of 140 characters or less.

I wobbled beforehand but didn’t really have time to wobble during. I had wished beforehand that I hadn’t managed to dye my hair an Adams’ Family shade of jet black and that I hadn’t lost my right contact lens two days prior to the conference. Naturally, everyone would notice the middle aged biddy with jet black hair squinting lopsidedly into her reading glasses as opposed to paying any attention whatsoever to the journalists on the stage. The only thing that did make my stomach churn on the actual day was seeing live tweets from some very sensible names. My heart sank when I realised that I should really be known as @hardnosedjourno on Twitter rather than @RedMummy which didn’t really seem to sound grown-up enough for the task in hand. I didn’t have time to worry about it for too long.

Prior to the event, I asked one or two trusted friends if they thought I’d be “up to it” – one suggested that the people at the conference would be able to spot a fraud a mile off and the other thought it would be quite good fun if I didn’t enjoy what was being said as, apparently, my blogs/tweets are funnier when I’m grumpy. So helpful ... both pieces of advice instilled me with huge bursts of confidence!

How much trouble could I get into if I just stated what the people on the stage were saying? These people know what they're talking about ... Jon Snow, Janine Gibson, Danny Finkelstein, Steve Hewlett, Rory Cellan-Jones inter alia ... all well-respected journalists - how could I possibly go wrong? Well, as I was tweeting under my own name, I seemed to get into a fair bit of trouble with a few of my own followers who were somewhat bombarded by many tweets with the #voj10 hash tag. I did open tweet that I was live tweeting from a conference but had little option but to wave them cheerfully on their way when they unfollowed me. Oh dear ... how will I EVER survive without them?

It was a fascinating day and a very tiring one. I can’t remember concentrating quite as hard as that – well, since the last time I concentrated as hard as that. Would I do it again? Oh yes. I’m just waiting for someone to ask me!

Husband – of course – still considers that Twitter is “a thief of time” and says I should get a “proper” job. What he means is that I should get a job that someone pays me to do. Well ... I guess, on that level, he has a point – but oh heck – it felt good to be back amongst media people again. One freebie day can’t have done too much harm, can it? The very worst thing that could happen because of it would be for him to divorce me.

Now scanning job pages in local press for work as cashier in supermarket!