Thursday, 28 May 2015


     I feel I ought to confess something. Before The Boy (and subsequently, The Girl) came along, I was not someone who could ever be described as ‘maternal’. Babies and children were of absolutely no interest to me at all. I knew people had them, I knew there was stuff you had to do stop them crying, and help them grow, and it wasn’t a good idea to drop them, but the whole world of babies, toddlers, and children was pretty damned distant. I didn’t actively dislike them, or anything like that, I just really wasn’t interested.

     Then I found out I was pregnant with The Boy, Alistair and I kind of looked at one another and shrugged and said ‘Why not?’ And became parents.

     I’d read a lot of books and magazines, and online articles, and leaflets, and joined mumsnet and all that jazz. I knew all there was to know. By which I mean I was utterly clueless, had never changed a nappy, or knew anything about the situation I found myself in. Bit like a lot of parents. But we muddled through, and made it up as we went along, and via an awful lot of trial and error, we ended up at the six month stage where things kind of calm down a bit, and you allow yourself the tiniest hope that you’re somehow doing ok.

     And then. Weaning. Back to square one.

     The hours spent cooking, mashing, freezing various organic delicacies. The careful check of temperature. The selection of today’s attractively decorated plastic tableware. The preparation of the dining area, involving bibs, several metres of plastic sheeting, a welding helmet, and evacuation of all sentient creatures. Already exhausted, you gird your loins. And prepare for battle.

     The pursed lips. The refusal to make eye contact. The turn of the head at the last moment, so whatever bright orange food was being offered ends up smeared across the cheek of your Precious Firstborn. The hand that shoots out to bat away the spoon, so the high chair tray ends up streaked with something lumpy and bland, all the better to wash infant hands with. The utter hilarity this induces in one of those present, made all the funnier when carrot puree is applied to hair. The inexplicable blobs of food on the floor that you stand in with bare feet. The open-mouthed puzzlement of noticing that there are odd marks on the ceiling that turns out to be baby rice.

     It should be so simple. Get food. Feed food to baby. Baby fed. Job done. But no, you have to mash it up, and make it FUN and EASY and SIMPLE and do all sorts of undignified cavorting to persuade your child to just eat ‘ Dinner! You don't like that spoon? Try this one. No? Ok... you hold that spoon, and I'll use this one... The bowl is wrong? I'll change it. That bib's annoying you? You want the one with Slomo Turtle on? Ok. Now. Eat. Eat the food I am offering. Here. On this spoon. No, actually it’s an aeroplane/train/boat/rocket/what? Ok, yes it’s a bear going back into his cave…

     I did not enjoy very much of the spoonfeeding years. Once things had progressed to the point where The Blondies could eat finger foods, or even feed themselves, we were all much happier. I was content to sit and help as required, but the patience shredding hours of gamely offering something that was going to be rejected and messy were over.

     Or so I thought…

      Something I’m noticing a lot of lately is people wanting to know things. This is good. Curiosity is a wonderful thing. It might get you into a lot of trouble, but you’ll definitely have fun on the way. But this isn’t motivated curiosity. This isn’t people saying ‘ooh! I’ve just found out this thing! I want to know MORE. I’m going to go out and find out some more thing about this thing.’ No. This is curiosity of the absolute most lazyarsed kind. This is people wanting to be fed spoonfed information, when there is an absolute FEAST of detail already widely available to them. The conversations seem to go something like this:

Person A: X

Person B: What is X?

A: X is blah blah blah, X blah.

B: What does X mean?

A: X means Y.

B. Oh. What is Y? I don’t know anything about this, but it’s fascinating.

A: Y is Y.

B: What does Y mean?

A: Y means blah blah Y blah, blah. Y blah.

B: What do you think Y is?

A: Y. is. Y.

     Or, alternatively,

B: I think, based on no obvious evidence, that X & Y *actually* mean Z.

A: No, Z’s something quite different; see this link that covers A-Z.

B: Is it? What’s X? What’s Y? What’s Z?

A: …

     And then there is, of course,

B: Who knows anything about X?

A: I do. Here’s a link that will tell you more about it.

A: Right. Tell me everything you’ve spent time finding out, and then answer my 30 questions about X, all of which are covered in the FAQs of the link you just provided.

(And in every case, me in the background, just about managing to restrain myself from bellowing ‘LET ME GOOGLE THAT FOR YOU.’)

     I know I’m guilty of it at times, that I do sometimes take the piss with questions, and that I let my embarrassing amount of enthusiasm for certain things get the better of me and bombard people with ‘OH MY GOD THAT’S BRILLIANT AND BLOODY HELL I NEVER KNEW THAT WOAH.’ But… (she said weaselly, attempting to wriggle out a trap of her own making), I’d rather go off, read up on X, and then come back to Person A with ever so slightly more informed questions, if they don’t mind, can they point me to any further reading, please thank you please? Generally, information on most things is out there, fairly easy to find, quite accessible, even to thickos like me. It might take a bit more effort than sitting on your arse firing questions out to the world, but it doesn’t use up too much goodwill.

     And it doesn’t remind me of patiently sitting, plastic spoon in hand, offering up mush to someone who will only accept it if presented a certain way, in a certain style, that suits them. Much better to grab the finger food instead and see how you get on. Someone will be along to wipe your face for you later.*

   *My blog. I can labour an idea until it squeals. No, you piss off.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

That Shitty Thing

     Oh, my loves, I am angry. I am so bloody angry, and I can’t say why, so this is going to be one of those really annoying cryptic posts that are as annoying to read as they are for me to skirt around the issue whilst I try to hammer out some thoughts on this… Not sure that sentence even makes any sense outside of my lava filled brain, so that’s a promising start.

     Ok. Here’s the thing. Someone (let’s call them A) has done something shitty. Or at least I think they have. I’ve asked one other person (let’s call them B) if they think A is guilty of That Shitty Thing. B hasn’t said yes or no. And I don’t know if B is being kind to me whilst secretly thinking ‘You bloody paranoid fuckwit’, or if they just haven’t got round to looking into it further. Matters not helped by me kicking off last night...

     So, what happened was that there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth and me going a bit loopy with unresolved tension and anger. I was alone at home when I found out about That Shitty Thing, and for the first time in bloody years I had a panic attack. A full on, heart racing, sweaty, sickmaking panic attack of just the worst fucking grade I can remember (although it probably was little more than a ripple on the Richter Scale of Panic Attacks. The bastarding thing about them is that each one seems so much worse than the ones that went before). I tried to normal out with all the usual tools, breathing, walking, trying to talk myself down from the roof of Anxiety High, texting, turning off the internet so I wasn’t tempted to do anything stupidly public and cringemakingly melodramatic… and yes, eventually it passed, and then the adrenaline went into overdrive, and wine seemed like a good idea which caused more shit (actually, alcohol helps your body process adrenaline faster, so it does help… but only if you step away from interacting with anyone when you are in such a fucking messed up state). This morning, my brain was led away by it’s supervisors, has now been stood down from active duties, and put on gardening leave until a firing squad can be assembled.

     But I can't ignore The Shitty Thing. I just can't. It rankles and I feel clenched and want to shout 'RARRRGGHH' at the world. A lot.To me, it seems really fucking obvious. Could not be more obvious (although my brain is fairly on the huh at the moment, thanks to A CERTAIN BLOODY GP SURGERY AND THEIR PISSING IT SYSTEM UPGRADE). But then there’s that flicker of self-doubt that anyone about to accuse someone else of Committing A Thing Of Shit experiences. What if I’m wrong? What if it’s entirely coincidental? What if I’m guilty of seeing something that isn’t there, a negative hallucination? And then I go back and look at the evidence again and think ‘HOW CAN YOU DOUBT THIS, MY CHILD?’ (for some reason I sort of think that bit in the tones of an Old Testament Prophet from a Biblical Epic) ‘BEHOLD, FOR THE GLORY OF THE ACT OF SHITTINESS SHALL OFFENDETH THINE EYES WITH IT’S HOLY BASTARDNESS’.

     So… without any idea of how real or imagined The Thing That Is Shitty  actually is, I sat down and composed my most formal email for several years (if you’ve been misfortunate enough to receive an email from me lately, you’ll understand just what an undertaking this was). Not to Person A. Definitely not Person B. But to someone else, someone independent who should be in a position to judge whether Person A is indeed guilty of That Shitty Thing. It’s a fairly small thing. It wouldn’t mean much to anyone else. Person A may or may not be guilty of That Shitty thing. I am almost certainly guilty of building it up into a far bigger thing than it really is. But I don’t have much. And it was mine.


     Blame one, not all. Blame him, not me. I’m not a lech. I’m not a rapist. I don’t leer at women. I’m not the type of man who says and does things that make women uncomfortable. I’m a Nice Guy. Now congratulate me on pointing out how decent and nice I am. Aren’t you lucky to have men like me in your life?

     See, I could be an absolute bastard. I could do awful things to you. I could make your life a living hell. But I don’t. Isn’t that great of me? Hey, check me out, ladies! Here I am telling you what a Nice Guy I am! Do I get a badge? Aren’t you happy that I’m here? Some kind of recognition of my incredible self control would nice.

     Hey, look, I am a Nice Guy. I’m telling you I’m a Nice Guy. All the ways in which other men in your past have hurt you, all the hassle you get from male strangers, I would never do that. Not all men do that, you know. I mean, I know one man might have done it. Once. Maybe. But no woman I know has ever had anything like that happen to them, ever. Well, I mean, they’ve never told me that they’ve had anything happen to them, ever. So it can’t be that common. See? Not all men are like that.

     Jesus, what is it with you women? I’m letting you know I’m a Nice Guy, and you’re rolling your eyes at me, and telling me I don’t get it, and making sneery ‘Not all men’ jokes. But is true. Not all men are like that. What’s the problem with pointing that out? Perhaps you ought to be a bit more welcoming to Nice Guys like me. You’re kind of hurting my feelings now. I wasn’t expecting much, but I mean, seriously, blame one man, not all men. I’m on your side, remember? You need men like me to remind you that some men understand.

     I don’t believe this. Look. I. Am. A. Nice. Guy. Why can’t you just trust men? Because you don’t know who’s going to end up being a threat or a danger to you? Well, if you go through life with that attitude, I’m hardly surprised you completely misinterpret the mildest of behaviour from blokes. That guy who was chatting to you for twenty minutes was just being polite, why on earth would you feel uncomfortable about that? Huh? Wow, you are so oversensitive. Honestly, most men are Nice Guys. Women like you just don’t give us a chance to prove it.

     Actually, you know what? You might be a sourfaced feminazi, who thinks that all men are rapists, but I bet I can find one women who’ll appreciate the fact that I behave appropriately when she’s alone with me. I bet I can find one woman who’s overwhelmingly grateful to a Nice Guy like me for showing them basic courtesy and respect. I bet I can find one woman who appreciates me telling her that she has just as much right to be somewhere as a man does. Yeah. Huh.

     I’m not having this conversation with you any longer. All I’m trying to do is point out that I’m a Nice Guy, and you know I am, because I have gone out of my way to tell you that I am. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing for you to thank me for. Now where is my badge, my Nice Guy t-shirt, and my Certificate of Nice Guy Attainment? And my cookie. Bring me a cookie for explaining that not all men are completely evil. Jesus. You women really do need us Nice Guys around to get things straight for you. And I'm waiting for my apology. Blame him, not me.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


     We sit next to one another, side by side on a bench. Leaning against one another, shoulders and arms pressed together, thighs touching. Half turning our heads to face one another, we smile, and I, forever awkward, drop my gaze to where your right hand rests on your knee, clenched into a tight fist.

     I take your hand in mine. My short stubby fingers, the skin brown and calloused, hold the pale smooth fist, and I insinuate my right forefinger into where the tension is tightest, pushing outwards, forcing your fingers to uncurl, until your palm is exposed, fingers splayed outwards, facing upwards.

     Lightly, delicately, I trace around the lines, tickling slightly, the smoothness of your skin. I feel, rather than see, you smile and I smile too. I look like I’m focussing intently on your hand, as though I’m not aware of anything else. Untrue.

     I am aware of my heart pounding, my shallow breathing, my blood racing through my veins. I am aware that I quiver in your presence, still.

The girl who

     The thing about shit stuff happening to you when you’re a child is that it doesn’t just fuck up that one thing. It fucks up everything, in variously different ways. Your relationships, how you see yourself, your inability to trust, how you then behave when you become a parent, just... pfft. Everything.

     That’s what it does, see. It’s not so much about what actually happened to you, as what surrounds it. Firstly, the circumstances that allowed a young child to wander off from her siblings whilst on holiday. And then what comes after. In my case, I was never asked what had happened. My parents were annoyed with me. I told them ‘I went looking for you, I got lost, I met a man, but he wasn’t very nice.’ And that was it. I was missing for forty minutes. And they left it at that. As a sign of how seriously they took it, I got accidentally separated from them again a few days later. I got told off.

     Subsequently, years later, I found out that they guessed that something had happened to me. But they didn’t ask. To them, they didn’t ask because they worried about upsetting me. But at the time, I took it as a lesson. They didn’t ask, because they didn’t care. That’s quite a big thing to take in at such a young age. I know I never thought of it like that, children can’t articulate their feelings in that way. But moods, feelings, suggestions have a way of sinking their hooks into your mind, and distorting the way you view the world and your place in it.

     They didn’t ask, because they didn’t care. They didn’t care, so they didn’t notice how I changed. They didn’t make the connection when their loud, stroppy, confident youngest daughter, unfazed by anything, became a girl who cried and clung to her mother every school morning for the next four years. The girl who refused all invitations to play at friend’s houses. The girl who wouldn’t attend sleepovers.

     The girl who, when asked how her day had been, replied ‘don’t worry, I know you’re busy.’ Not accusingly. Just with a shrug and an understanding smile. I was six. Still makes me cry to think of it. I don’t even remember that conversation, that’s how unimportant a moment it was to me. A dagger through my mother’s heart though. The girl who used to get into her parent’s bed every night. The girl who asked her sister two questions. ‘How many months does it take to have a baby? And how many months is it since we were in Tunisia?’ The girl who escaped into reading instead of staying in the real world.

     The thing is, I can look back on all of this now. I can understand that my parents were trying to protect me, in their own way. But by trying to protect me, they reinforced the opposite. I thought they didn’t care. I thought that the people who should have loved me most, who should have protected me, who should have cared, didn’t. And I just accepted it. I wasn’t worth caring about. I’m not worth caring about. And I can be as logical as I like about things, I can tell myself that’s not true, I know it’s not true. I do know it. But it doesn’t change the fact that to the core of my being, I am not worth caring about. That's me, that's how I feel, that's how I've spent most of my life feeling, and that's why I'm not robust, that's why I'm oversensitive, that's why I get so hurt and disappointed when I cautiously trust people and then they let me down, or hurt me, or ignore me. Because it just reinforces that.

      And I’m not writing this for attention, or because I want people to swoop in and shower me with affirming things, because firstly, your words won’t change what’s in my head. And then I’ll have to pretend that you’ve made me feel better when you haven’t, and it’ll get all awkward and you’ll offer to listen if I want to have a chat, and I don’t because there really isn’t any point, but I’ll thank you again, and then we’ll feel a bit uncomfortable, and nothing will have changed. I’m writing this to get it out of my head, where it’s been sitting for a bit too long. I have other, happier, better things to write about. But until this fucker gets fired out there, all’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Morning has broken. Me.

     I wish I was The Boy. No, honestly, I do. Instead of being my cynical, sarcastic, unimpressed self, I wish I could wake up every weekday morning in the same mood that he does. Instead of rolling out of bed, grumpy, underslept, and already fed up, I wish I could greet the start of every day in his own unique fashion. Every day is a new, unexplored box of mystery, waiting to be unpacked. What will the day bring? What will happen today? Who knows where the path will lead? It is Monday morning! What new delights await me?

     Seriously, it’s amazing. He’s ten years old, he’s been going to school now for nearly a full six years. And yet… every school morning, it’s as though this is a brand new experience, unheard of, undreamt of, a constant reel of surprises. What’s even more impressive is that The Girl, only in Year 2, has lost this capacity, and yet her brother remains stunned by the daily routine.

     The Girl’s morning goes something like this: Get up at some ridiculous eyewateringly early hour. Shout at me for breakfast until I give up ignoring her. Whilst waiting for me to make toast, get dressed in the clothes I laid out the night before. Eats breakfast. Reads a book. Puts shoes on. Gathers school stuff. Leaves.

     The Boy, however, shuns such mundane and predictable routines. What is life for, if not for rollercoaster adventure? For white knuckle rides, and crashes of emotion? Live a little! By contrast, his mornings vary, but the overall narrative arc remains the same.

     Seven o’clock. Alistair and I are up, barely functioning, but out of bed, shuffling around the kitchen and making coffee. Alistair goes up to shower, and gently shakes The Boy’s shoulder ‘Darling? Time to wake up.’ The Boy responds with a sound that suggests we have constructed a Wicker Man and filled it with everything he has ever held dear. Alistair showers, gets dressed, leaves for work.

     Half past seven. I am showered and dressed. ‘The Boy? Darling? Darliiiiiing? It’s half past seven sweetheart. Time to get up.’ A noise, perhaps best described as ‘GNARRRRRRGHHHOHHH’ rumbles from under the duvet. I spend several minutes lacing up my boots before returning to the scene. ‘The Boy? Come on, you need to get up now.’ There is silence. A visual check confirms that the Boy has gone back to sleep. It is now quarter to eight. ‘The BOY! Come on! You need to get up! School today!’ He stirs. His first words, upon greeting the glorious new day that has broken ‘Alright! JESUS! I’m getting up!’ He remains in bed. I stand over him. ‘WHAT? I’m GETTING UP.’ ‘No you’re not.’ His response to this is to rub his cheek against the pillow, make a comforting ‘mmmm’ noise to himself, and then extend his arms ‘Mummy? Cuddle?’ I bestow a cuddle, and then stand back. ‘Are you getting up now?’ ‘Yes. Can I have a cup of tea?’

     It is now eight o’clock. A cup of tea has been made. ‘The Boy?’ Silence. ‘THE BOY?’ THE. BOYYYYYYYYYYY.’ There are noises, suggesting that The Boy has got up. Or perhaps a manatee is attempting to take a crash course in tap dancing on the landing. Around three minutes later, a sullen ten year old male child galumphs grumpily into the living room. The effort required to complete this task means a full physical collapse onto a sofa is deemed necessary. ‘The Boy! It’s nearly ten past eight! You need to get dressed!’ ‘A pale, wan voice, better suited to a querulous academic in his eighties, is heard ‘Where are my clooooooothes?’ ‘ON THE BLOODY CHAIR WHERE I PUT THEM LAST NIGHT’. For my efforts, I receive a pleading, hurt face, and mutter to myself in an undertone ‘oafuhfuxake…’ Go upstairs, retrieve clothes, bring them back down, place on sofa next to the Child of Woe, and resume getting lunchboxes prepared, swimming and PE kits together, checking that The Girl has everything she needs in her bag. As I walk past the living room door I call out cheerfully ‘Five minutes Blondi… WHY AREN’T YOU DRESSED YET?’

     The Boy is standing, completely starkers, scratching his stomach absentmindedly, a faraway look on his face. My howl of outrage pierces whatever distant galaxy he currently inhabits and he proffers me the socks I had thoughtfully provided him with ‘Mum? Mum? Mum? Do we have any other clean socks Mum? It’s just that these are like, really hard to put on, and they’re quite tight, and I’ve got swimming today, and it’s, like…’ To my eternal, maternal shame, I swipe the socks from his paw, run upstairs, return them to his sock drawer, select another pair of socks more suitable to beginner level, run back downstairs, and hand them over ‘…and it’d just take too much time, and I’d be feeling really stressed out about putting them back on…’

     He’s still standing completely naked in the living room, having made no effort to dress himself in any way. ‘WE NEED TO LEAVE IN TWO MINUTES. GET DRESSED. GET DRESSED. GET DRESSED. GETDRESSSSSSSSED.’ Infuriatingly, The Boy adopts a hurt look, and yelps ‘Sorry!’ as though he’s accidentally punched me in the face. I drop my shoulders, exhale heavily, and give him A Look. ‘Oh yeah, sorry, I’ll get dressed now.’

     In order to be at school on time, we need to leave the house at twenty past eight. It is 08:19. The Girl is waiting at the front door, immaculately attired, coat and shoes on, schoolbag on her back. The Boy… is slumped on the sofa. I bark ‘SHOES!’ at him. ‘Where are my shoes?’ Somehow, without swearing, I suggest his shoes are likely to be in the place WHERE YOU LAST LEFT THEM FOR CHRIST’S SAKE.  A full five minutes passes, during which time school shoes are located, and agonisingly, painstakingly donned. By this point I’m hopping from foot to foot by the front door, uttering a chant of ‘come on come on come on we’re going to be late come on come on WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?’

     ‘I need to fill in my reading record. Um. What have I read? Hmm… what. Have. I. Read… Ooh. I know! Oh. No, wait. That was the other week. Hmm…’


     ‘But I have to hand in my reading record. Can’t find my pen….’ He ferrets, unproductively in his bag, for what feels like several days. Wordlessly, I hand him the stub of a pencil. Tongue sticking out, he carefully, s-l-o-w-l-y, fills in five days’ worth of reading. Then ‘You need to sign it, Mum.’ I just about manage to resist the urge to draw a massive speedcock in the box allocated for parental signatures, and shove the reading record in his bag. ‘Alright! Jesus, Mum, someone got out of the wrong side of bed!’ An odd, not unfamiliar, sense of boiling frustration fills me. I avoid looking at my precious first born to prevent the simmering from erupting.

     ‘O-kay! Ska vi ga!’

     ‘Mum? Where’s my hoody?’

     ‘Which. Hoody. Do. You. Mean. You have at least five.’

     ‘The one that I normally wear. Y’know… the um. The one that… I think it might have been you and Dad got it for me? It’s…’


     As I speak, I unlock the front door, The Girl steps outside, and we stand as The Boy wrestles fruitlessly with the final article of clothing. ‘Tsk’ he smiles. ‘Tried to put it on over my bag.’ Unable to multitask, he has stopped attempting to put on his jacket or remove his bag to provide his crucial piece of commentary. Never having really been a footstamper before, I can now empathise really quite sincerely with Rumpelstiltskin. I am beyond words. Instead, I do the universal gesture of despair, mixed with frustration, annoyance, and JUST GET A FUCKING MOVE ON that is holding up both hands, palms facing me, fingers splayed, accompanied by a face that would curdle milk. ‘Oh, yeah.’

     And then, having pushed me beyond the bounds of decency, to the point that I’m seriously considering homeschooling because I can’t face yet another bloody morning like this… he’s ready, and bounces alongside me for the full twenty minute walk to school, chatting away happily as though none of this ever happened.

     And the final, killer, suckerpunch, as I drop him off... 'Love you, Mum. Sorry I was late getting up. Bye!'

Sunday, 3 May 2015


So. It’s over. Nine years of doing a job I was patently unsuited for, a job that stretched me beyond endurance, a job that I took great pride in, even as it broke me. A job that took me to the point where I chose death over living. Then five years of struggle, and fighting, and arguing. And now it’s gone. All I can see from those five years is wreckage.

What do I have, from all those years? I’m unemployed. Unemployable. I have no skills, no talents, no experience I can transfer. I briefly entertained thoughts of being a writer. I wrote. Then I realised it was just another way of wasting my life. Blogging? All well and good. Doesn’t mean anything though. It’s not going to change my life, or yours, or theirs. It’s not going to earn me any respect, in fact, rather the opposite. I’m not going to win prizes, have doors opened, have people who value my words, my opinions, my rambling on about a load of bollocks.

I’m 35. I have nothing to offer. I can’t ever see myself in a position where I have anything to offer. Constantly comparing myself to those who are valued isn’t helpful. But that’s what’s going on. I’m not depressed, I’m just realistic.  I can spend whole days trying to help other people, offering my ideas, but in the end… What I say and do counts for nothing. Poor, obscure, plain, and little.

I thought I was clinging to the wreckage. But the wreckage was splinters.