Friday, 28 August 2015

Emailing my brother

I was going to email you. I was going to email you. I knew the words I would use, the carefully selected phrases. I was going to email you, and tell you that Dad was ill.

I was going to email you. I was going to tell you that although you and I would never have a relationship again, that I no longer cared about you, and what you felt about me, that Dad was ill. I was going to tell you that dad is ill, it's scary, and I don't know how much longer he has left.

I was going to email you and ask you something. I was going to ask you to please, just see him again. In a neutral setting, perhaps with others around, perhaps just the two of you. I was going to email you and say please, it's breaking his heart. Dad, who has given us three so much over the years. It breaks his heart daily, knowing that his son won't see him, won't talk to him, seemingly has no interest in him. We know what Dad's like. Argumentative, competitive, but also the softest hearted fool going.

I was going to email you. I was going to say to you that, I'm not asking you to do this for me, Mum, our sister, our children, or anyone else, but for you an him I was going to say that I would do nothing to stop this meeting from taking place. That I don't hold any resentment towards family members who want to maintain a relationship with you, that my feelings towards you have nothing to do with anyone else. That it would no cause no nastiness, no recriminations, nothing, if you were to see our father again. I would be glad, for his sake. I was going to ask you how you would feel if you and your son became estranged, and he refused to contact you when you were ill.

I was going to email you to say all of that.

But then, instead, you met our sister. And you hurled bile, invective, hatred, her way. She didn't deserve that, any of it. She, of all three of us, is the best and brightest of us all. The kindest, gentlest, warmest one. The one who was brave and strong enough to extend a hand to you. And you slapped her down.

I was going to email this to you. But I know now how you would take it. You would say I'm playing the victim, that I play people off against one another, that you don't give a shit. You would repeat what you said to our sister. That you hate Dad. That Dad's cunt. Dad's a psychopath.

You'd say again that you hope Dad dies soon.

You hope that Dad dies soon.

So, instead of emailing and keeping this between us two siblings, I'm blogging it instead. You won't listen to me, our sister, or Dad. But I'm blogging this because I want people to know what an evil, malignant, self centred cunt you are. And one day, maybe, you'll look back on this and wonder how you ever thought it was ok to behave the way you do. I doubt it will ever happen, you're too twisted and fucked up. But I still hold out hope for you, despite every shred of evidence.

You wish Dad would die soon. I wish, considering all the harm and damage you cause, that you had never been born.

I was going to email you. But there really was never any point in hoping to appeal to your better side. You don't have one.

Thursday, 27 August 2015


He's so ill. He's so ill that he can't talk, can't walk, doesn't eat.

He can barely breathe. I watch him. I watch him, when he thinks no one's looking. I see how he pauses, as he turns the kettle on. How twisting a tap causes him to gasp, and then lean against the counter. It takes him over half an hour to shower.

And he grimaces, and makes a joke out of how useless he is.

And I remember my dad. The dad I grew up with. Who played squash twice a week, tennis for two hours on Sunday afternoons. The dad who took me swimming every Sunday morning, who encouraged me to swim 104 laps, to say I'd swum a mile when I was ten years old.

He told me to argue, to question, to be a pain in the arse.

And now he can't even breathe enough to tell me to stop being a twatty blogger.
And I can't stop crying.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Through the looking glass

     Let me get something out of the way. It'll sound like I'm bigging myself up, that I think I'm mighty fine. But it's a fact. I'm good at understanding people. It's just one of those innate things, skills, talents, whatever. I'm not athletic, I can't play a musical instrument. My attempts at anything arty or crafty are... insert the expletive of your choice. I'm inept, ungainly, have no talent for anything practical, and I'm never going to win any prizes. I wouldn't even get an honourable mention in The Annual Ceremony For Failure To Win Prizes. But I do 'get' people. Not always immediately. Some people it takes me a while to understand. But generally, I can see what lies beneath.

     Aaaand sometimes I wish I couldn't. Because it means that I'm fairly good at giving advice. I can see a difficult situation and know what's really going on. I can see what's happening on the surface, but it's as though I have the subtitles switched on. People fascinate me, but more for what they don't say or do, rather than what they think they reveal to the world. When I see someone lash out, I can understand why. I may not agree, or approve, or even like that person very much, but I can see why they're behaving in that way (and yes, there is a part of me that longs to tell them 'Stop being a twat. You're hurt. But you're making the situation worse').

     I've always understood people, although realising it has been a relatively new discovery. Understanding myself... hmm. Very different story. The best way I can describe it was that I was a pane of glass, subject to intense pressure over a long period of time. And when the pressure finally became too much, I shattered, in every possible direction. Tiny broken fragments of glass, splinters of me, scattered over a wide, wide area.

     When you've lost all that holds you together, when every component part of what makes you you, the debris covers such a wide area that you'll never recover all of it. The larger shards are the easiest to find. They don't fly off into the distance, but lie where they fell, and can be more straightforwardly put back together. Daughter, mother, significant other. But those are more labels, not who I am, or was. I picked up more fragments, more pieces, as time past and joined them back together to what I'd already reclaimed, what I knew. But so much was missing. And then I had six months of proper, serious, full on counselling with the incomparable warm, intelligent and encouraging nurse Therapist Zoe.

     And she found pieces I didn't know I'd lost. Pieces I didn't even know had even been part of the glass that had fractured so spectacularly. But she didn't force them back together in a frame. Instead, she handed over each piece to me, each infinitely tiny little glass piece and made me look at it, turning it over, examining it from every angle, observe the reflections. It hurt. Of course it fucking hurt. Drag broken glass over your skin and although it might not always cut you to the bone, it will leave a mark.

     But it gave me insight, granted me understanding. As distorted as the image had been, still was, always will be, I could join up the cracks and see why certain things hurt and upset me. Why I followed certain patterns of behaviour, even as I know it won't end well. Why I behave the way I do. I don't always follow my own advice, or welcome logical, rational thought. I am overemotional, demanding, spontaneous, selfish and a fucking nightmare. But these same qualities give me empathy, enlightenment, consideration, and mean that I laugh loudly, often, easily, and inappropriately. I'm passionate, gobby, and sweary, and simultaneously a quiet, shy, diffident introvert.

     I understand myself, only too well. I don't always like myself. But I will always admit my mistakes, I am honest, I expect honesty fro others, and when I fuck up, I say so. Mainly because I am a fuck up, just like pretty much everyone else. A beautiful, damaged, precious, and destructive fuck up. The liberation I feel from knowing this was worth the pain of going through that process. What I see now is not a broken pane of glass, but a restored mirror. I went through the looking glass, and now I can see myself, with clarity.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Dear delicate Benjamina

     Sometimes, I worry.

     The Blondies know I have this blog. They know I write. They know I write about them, and for the moment, they’re proud of that. I’ve told them that I will never name them, or use recognisable photos of them. I write this under a different name. They can google our names, mine and theirs, and know that nothing will connect them as they appear here to them as they are.

     And yet… One day they will find this. My thoughts, my words on whatever happens to occur to me, the way I use writing as a means of ridding myself of what's occupying my brain. That I confess things on here that I would never allow myself to say aloud. The things that trouble, entertain, fascinate and amuse me. From books to love to graffiti to holidays. It’s all here. But the things I probably write about most are The Blondies.

     My beautiful, wonderful, strange and individual children. I can’t lay claim to any credit for them being as they are. They both arrived, personalities full formed, as distinct and different as they are, as much as they share.  And of the two of them, the one I return to again and again as my muse is The Boy.

     He’s odd. He’s quiet, an introvert who won’t ever stop talking. A Star Wars obsessive whose greatest joy in life at present is My Little Pony. A lazy bugger who drives me insane at times. A night owl. Kind, thoughtful, sensitive. I worry about him. A lot.

     And those worries lead to a new worry. The Girl. How will she feel when she’s old enough to seek out these posts and read them? When she sees how much I write about her brother, but never so much about her? And so, I address these next words to you, my Benjamina. My beautiful, funny, intelligent and roaring girl.

     You are my delight. You are the distillation of spirit that lives in both your mother and grandmother. You face the world and are always undaunted. The light that shines from you brightens every day I spend with you. I am hard, too hard, on you, I know I am. I let your brother get away with murder in comparison. The difference, my tiny dancer, is that I have no fears for your future. You are sharp, clever, quick. You dance like an absolute dream. You bring joy into the lives of everyone who knows you. You are strong, brave, utterly unafraid of anything. No one and nothing will ever dent you, because you know that your presence is a gift.

     I joke sometimes that you were misnamed, the name we chose for you meaning ‘delicate’. But the more you grow, the more you become yourself, facing up to the world, chest raised out, chin up, that defiant look upon your face… I realise that, my wonderful, precious girl, it’s such a simple thing, your confidence, resilience and determination. But it runs through you like an inner core of steel. A thin lightning rod that will always deflect people who don’t understand you. You are you, and the first few moments of your life that nearly wasn’t are always with me. You taught me just how delicate a few moments can be, how delicate life is. And from those first few moments, to watch you shine, in every possible light is a privilege.

     Never, ever change. Keep that fiery temper, your angry batface, your full throttle passion. We, you and I, will fight, and clash, and wind one another up in the years to come, just as we do now. But know that I love you. I trust you and the choices you will make. And if ever you are hurt by little I write about you compared to your Blondie sibling, then know this. You are, and always have been your own person. You don’t need me, or anyone else to guide you. I will watch over you, protect you, love you. But you are the leader of your life. Always have been. Always will be. You dance to your own tune. I will always be with you, here if you need me. But mostly I shall just be watching on, proud, loving, and full of admiration. I have complete faith in you.

     *All the fucking time, about everything, ever.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

More than words

     This is something I’ve been thinking for a while, and started writing a few weeks ago, but the last 24 hours have brought it into sharper relief. Not sure it’ll make any sense to anyone else, but isn’t that always the case?

     I’m honest on here. Perhaps too honest. There was a blogpost not so long ago that prompted one person to ask me if maybe it’d be healthier for me to keep back a little, keep it to myself a bit more, in the interests of self-preservation. To stop laying myself so bare and open to hurt. Thing is, I never see it like that. When I blog, I don’t feel like I’m confiding in anyone, or handing over secrets to people. I never think of a post as being read; only written. Once it’s out there, it’s done, it’s gone. That’s all, folks. I know it means that there are an awful lot of strangers out there who know far too much about me, but I genuinely don’t care.

     Where things get tricky is when people comment on blogs, or reply to tweets, or email, or DM, and say nice things. It means a lot, it really does. That the words of some obscure little blogger may have touched someone, or made them laugh, or made them think, or that they just enjoyed what I had to say. Every time it happens, I’m genuinely, honestly, taken aback and feel a bit stunned that anyone would place any value on what I have to say, and that they've taken the time to tell me so. And I don’t put that in as a piece of self-deprecation to make people rush in and say nice things…

     Because I’ve had enough of people saying nice things. I’ve had enough of people saying I’m important, or I mean something, or I’m worth listening to, or that they love my writing, or that I’m great, or that I’ve helped them in some way.  Because it’s words. Just cobbled together letters and punctuation that in the final analysis means nothing. Anyone can put words together, there’s no great skill or talent in it. Look at me now, sitting at my desk in my bikini, drinking shit coffee from a Peppa Pig mug, hammering the keyboard like the fool that I am. Anyone can do that. I could type that I really fancy you, or that I love your book, or that’s a great photo, or thanks for all your help, or yes I promise I won’t let you down again, or I really care about you, or I love your dress, or I really enjoyed your blogpost. But it means nothing, zero, nil, nada, nothing. It’s just words, on screens, on phones, even words spoken face to face. Empty. Little. Words.

     Just empty little words. People using empty little words to convey something they don’t mean, fake emotions they don’t have, make promises that are as hollow as the words themselves. Words count for nothing, and I'm a gullible idiot for believing them, for clinging to praise and compliments that served no purpose other than to ensure I'd help other people out, at too much of a cost to myself. If you want to make your point, then prove it. Demonstrate it. Convince me. But words are no longer enough.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Dull, dull, dull...

    I am going to have a big old whinge selfish sulking moan And I know I will come across as a petulant little brat, but I’m annoying myself at the moment by not being honest. So I'm going to vomit out a rant, and then we can all pretend I haven’t just had a huge tantrum all over this blog, and carry on as we were.

     I am so fucking sick of reading shit writing. Bland, boring, inoffensive, vanilla, sugar free, low in salt, reduced calorie writing lite. Writing that has no soul, no heart, no real feelings or thought behind it. Just boring ‘My top 10 things to do in summer!’ lists, or ‘what we got up to at the park!’ or ‘here’s today’s outfit!’ boring, shit, crap blogposts and articles, and people doing immensely irritating and self-indulgent and utterly pointless mini tours, or people writing about history they don’t understand, or postulating an opinion based on no evidence whatsoever, I’m fucking bored with reading stupid shitty tourist related guides to Norwich that mention Elm Hill, or ‘what to do in your holidays in Norfolk’, or supposed lifestyle bloggers who write nothing but puff pieces on cafes where everything is lovely and nice. This kind of writing is just everything that pushes my buttons into FULL ON MAD RAGE MELTDOWN. This kind of writing is so boring and sanitised and wipe clean and just so very fucking dull.

     There’s nothing in this type of writing. Nothing. No real opinions, thoughts, feelings, the writing style is plodding, the words are beige, you don’t learn anything from it, or feel anything towards it. Why write such oatmeal bilge? When you have the whole of the English language to choose from, why choose fun! And nice! And lovely! And thoughtful touches! And never offending anyone or anything, or giving anything real and honest, or suggesting that there’s anything to you beyond the most basic and superficial and trivial ideas?

     It’s fucking BORING. Boring for me to read and it can’t be much fun to write either. Hammer it out if you must. Tell me about your trip to some wanky hipster bar in the Norwich Lanes. But fucking hell, can you stop being so bloody Pollyanna about it all? You can’t possibly mean to tell me that every encounter you ever have goes well. That every meal out you have is simply lovely and oh so very nice. If that’s all you’re churning out, really, how believable do you think it is? That nothing goes wrong, and everywhere is great?

     I’m not saying swear and rant if you’re not a sweary and ranty person (I think we both know someone who is though). But give something of a personality to what you’re writing for fuck’s sake. Instead of giving the impression of some dullard wandering through a pretty little field waving at the clouds and flowers, tell me about the time you trod in a cowpat. Life isn’t all sunshine and lollipops, and nothing turns me off more than people who try to pretend it is. And THERE ARE TOO FUCKING MANY OF YOU.

     A whole wave of fucking journalists, bloggers, and writers, churning out the same vapid, dreary, grey BORING AS FUCK writing that makes me feel like I’m swimming in hummus and fecking breadsticks. I know I’m not a your target audience, but there are so fucking many of you and you’re like some mass swathe of clones, all writing the same desperately ordinary prose about the same fucking stuff and not even writing it well, or in a way that’s going to entertain or tell me something I don’t know or make me laugh, or want to share it with anyone.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Holding my hand

     For some reason, this morning, as I said goodbye to The Boy at the school gates, I was reminded of this old blogpost. And hey, what do you know? I wrote it exactly two years ago today. I can remember writing it, oddly. The strange feeling I had that he was growing up, growing older, and growing away from me.

     Which has turned out to be utter rubbish. He’s not. If anything, we’re closer than ever, me and my boy. He’s taller, broader, he has more questions that I don’t have the answers for, but what seems to be unshakable is the bond between us. It’s not that I love him more than I do The Girl, or that he’s my favourite or anything like that. It’s that we seem to share a soul.

     I can look at him, and know exactly what he’s thinking. I can tell, from the subtlest gesture that there’s something troubling him. I can see, just from the way he stands, that something funny has just occurred to him, and he’s about to share it with me because he knows I’ll laugh too (and then we’ll have to explain it to Alistair and The Girl, who won’t find it as funny).

     Earlier this week, The Girl had an after school club, so The Boy and I decamped to what we both call The Grotty Pub to while away an hour or so. And we were chatting, talking about his day. The following exchange took place:

     The Boy: Imogen asked me if I wanted to go out with Claire this lunchtime

     Me [wildly excited, starts thinking of buying a Mother of The Groom hat] And what did you SAY????

     The Boy: No. Not because of Claire personally, but because I don’t ever want to go out with anyone, ever. I prefer solitude.

     Me: Hmm… but it might be nice when you’re older to have someone special to share things with?

     The Boy: No, not really. I just don’t like being around people. Apart from you. That’s different. And a few of my friends, because they’re like me. But mostly, I just want to be alone.

     I’m still not sure what to make of that. On the one hand, it troubles me that despite being reasonably popular at school, and part of various groups and good at Joining In With Things, he seems to reject the idea of being close to anyone. That spending so much time in his own head can’t be healthy, that he really should be more open to the idea of being around other people, and sharing things with them. And yet… and yet, and yet, and yet… I’m the same. I know I am. I don’t like being around other people too much. Given the choice, I would always choose to be alone, rather than feeling I had to share thoughts and emotions with other people. Too much social interaction and I’m a wreck, totally drained and prone to getting ratty with everyone. And so is he.

     The only exception to the rule is when we’re together. We can sit in companionable silence, or we can talk and talk and talk. And laugh, of course. Being around him is never a chore or a strain. We see the world with the same eyes, and it feels effortless, when you’re with someone who understands you so instinctively. We’re both moody, stroppy, and sarcastic at times, but it never grates on me when he’s in one of Those Moods because I know why, and I know the best way to get him out of it is to leave him alone. Something that not many other people understand. And I wonder how differently my life would have been if I'd been as aware of my introvert nature at the same age. The things I would have done differently, how perhaps things wouldn't have seemed so overwhelming if I knew how to handle them better.

     I do worry, though. I worry that because I see so much of myself in him that I let him get away with too much. That maybe I’m guilty of giving him what he wants and not what he needs. That perhaps I ought to be tougher on him, that in life he’s not going to always have people around who’ll understand him the way I do, and he needs to find ways of dealing with that. But then I look at him again, my beautiful boy with his blond hair, his silly expressions, his thoughtfulness and gentle nature… and I remind myself that he’s still only ten.

     I can’t protect him from life forever. Part of parenting is learning to let go. But while he’s still young, I can be here for him. I can do my best to smooth his path and help him to understand himself better. I worried he was slipping through my fingers. He’s not. He’s still holding my hand.