Tag Archives: off topic

How not to do things number 53: Parenting #badparent

It’s my mum’s birthday and today, so I’m not really here. To that end, here is a pre-prepared blog post; another gem from the school of things I’ve fucked up so you don’t have. Enjoy.

McMini has a two day gap in his school meals schedule where he dislikes the lunches offered and I have to send him in with a packed lunch. This is a bit of a pain but at the same time, he is a creature of few needs and so we have a boilerplate packed lunch which he his happy to eat repeatedly. This includes sandwiches made with a particular type of reconstituted chicken slice that he loves. A kind of chicken spam. Oh well. Each to their own.

So there we I am preparing his lunch for these two days in advance – oooh get me all organised. I lay out the bread and then I get the chicken slices from the fridge. At the sound of the fridge door opening, Harrison, the cat, miraculously appears and brrps a couple of times hoping I am going to be opening the cheese drawer. I tell him no. The chicken spam also elicits some interest from him and I tell him it is not for him. He is remarkably acquiescent – indeed, if I’d thought about it I’d have clocked that he was suspiciously acquiescent – disappearing off in the direction of the utility room.

As I lay out the chicken slices on the bread, McMini appears wanting batteries for the TV remote or some such and I foolishly turn away from the breadboard, with the sandwiches and chicken slices, to open the drawer where the batteries live. At which point McMini gasps and points.

I turn to see what he is pointing at and there is Harrison, on the counter top, fur fluffed with excitement, just starting to lick the nearest slice of chicken-luncheon-meat-spam-stuff. The shops are closed, this is all McMini will eat and there’s only one more slice in the fridge so it’s imperative I stop Harrison before he slubbers on the other slice.

‘Fuck off Harrison! You fucking bastard!’ I shout as I head aggressively towards the counter top to push him off.

He leaps off and piles out through the cat flap at speed. Good. Except. Shit. I’ve just sworn in front of my impressionable child. Jeez how will he be grow up to be anything less than a total potty mouth when he has me as a Mum.

McMini gasps, wide-eyed with shock and yet, wearing a huge smile – because there’s no better thing, for a kid, than seeing the adults fuck up. He says,

‘Mummy! You just sweared.’

Bloody bollocks! Didn’t I just? I think, as he stands there laughing at me. Hmm … what to say now? Oh I know.

‘Yes. I’m afraid I did. But, OK, listen, here’s the thing kiddo. Mummy is a fishwife but it doesn’t mean you should be. You never, EVER, heard that,’ I tell him as he begins to really guffaw. ‘Strike it all from your mental record. Those were terrible words and you should never use them.’ I add as I throw away the dodgy cat-spittle-laden chicken slice and replace it with a new one.

But McMini does not forget things like this. Especially as we both find it hilariously funny that I am such a ‘Bad Mother’ as James Brown put it, although I have an inkling he might not have been using that phrase in quite the same sense as McMini and I. These are the secrets we can’t tell McOther because he would be shocked, but McMini has has been taking the piss out of me about it all week. I suspect the main reason for this is that he gets to shout, ‘Fuck off Harrison! You fucking bastard!’ at the top of his lungs, and few things are more likely to get a laugh from McMini than doing stuff that is a bit cheeky, cheeky, especially if it’s likely to prick the bubble of the pompous and it’s stuff he’s not really meant to do. Pretty much the reason I swear.

A chip off the old block then.

Thanks son.

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Just the basic facts? I wish.

When is news … Well … not news but … say … propaganda.

Yes, it’s a little bit of politics this week. Yikes.

News is, and always has been, complicated. However, recently, it seems two things have happened.

  1. We’ve realised this.
  2. We are too busy to read and understand all the reasons underneath everything. We are looking for short cuts. An outlet for news which we know and trust which will tell us everything we need to know.

In short, we seem to be looking less for newspapers these days and more for a reliable friend who will research the facts so we don’t have to and give us a potted summary. I used to enjoy the news on the BBC text service because it would just report what happened. No comment or slant or suggestions as to why. Just the facts.

That’s gone now though.

Maybe there is a parallel with buying products. Take cars. Gone are the days when you could fix something that went wrong easily. These days, most cars, most things to be honest, are so complicated that a normal intelligent person cannot fix them without serious training or expertise – usually in electronics. So these days we have to trust the manufacturer to deliver something that will do what we want it to do without breaking down, blowing up or generally endangering us. As a result, brand has become a lot more important and with so much trust invested in our purchase, maybe that’s why we feel a lot more let down if the product doesn’t live up to our expectations.

News, we have something similar. I’m noticing a trend for people to pick a news service of choice and stick with that. Nothing new there. In earlier days, we all knew and accepted that these outlets had an editorial bias and you took that into account when you read or watched. There seems to have been a shift. News outlets have a much stronger bias and instead of reading them with that bias in mind, people seem to be reading them as truth and then feeling hurt and aggrieved and lied to if the ‘truths’ of their organ of choice are proved wrong.

Perhaps life, political life at any rate, has become too complicated. Perhaps our problem is that while products can be summed up in a nutshell and pitched to us in a catchy soundbite, serious and more complicated issues like news can’t.

The fact is, ‘it feels like the right thing to do’ is fine for deciding what brand or colour of washing machine you have but maybe it’s not going to cut the mustard when you are choosing a political candidate. Surely, when it comes to political or ethical issues our decisions need to be based on more facts. Except that when our news is packaged up in easily digestible soundbites and slickly marketed to us like products the facts are so difficult to ascertain.

We need the facts – without the spin and the NLP trigger words designed to titillate or shock us. The BBC used to be excellent for this and judging by the way the far right and left BOTH decry it for its ‘petty rules’ and bias it is clearly still doing reasonably well at maintaining the middle ground.

But now we have a whole new take on this. First, smaller interests in politics had to be represented – for balance. So it was that the BBC was slammed for only inviting the main contenders to political debates. So individuals like Gordon Fosdyke from the Wombling Alliance who had three followers, one of whom was a dog called Benjy suddenly got prime TV time. So did the far right. And for people with far right leanings, that was an endorsement. They began to feel it was OK to believe the things they secretly believed about people who were a different colour, sexual orientation, gender or heaven forefend, disabled. They began to forget that the reason people have frowned upon views like theirs for so long is because that kind of thinking caused one world leader to start a war a few years back in which sixty million people died. I do hope you are reading, Mr Trump, Leaders of The Caliphate etc.

People who were not aligned with the far left, the far right or those areas of religion more concerned with controlling and judging others than the love your neighbour aspect of their founders began to notice this, and at the same time, people also spotted that there were folks here in the UK preaching hatred on religious grounds. Remember the Muslim cleric preaching hate in North London? Abu Hamza. And so the new crime of inciting hatred was born.

Expressions of hatred toward someone on account of that person’s colour, race, disability, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation is forbidden.” To quote Wikipedia.

Now, I have a varied group of friends and a couple are very right wing, one tells me his news organ of choice is Breitbart, a platform for the smiling face of the alt right, as I believe National Socialism is called these days. These are all guys – and it’s normally guys because it’s a hard job hating women enough to be alt right if you’re a woman – who would be first to extend a helping hand to anyone in need. The Breitbart reading lad is about as morally and spiritually unaligned with the far right as I can imagine. I confess, I have tried to read Breitbart a couple of times, more to try and understand my friend than anything. There are a lot of sweeping judgements being made, a lot of mocking others who are more accepting of the things they decry and a little bit of sick-up into my mouth at the sentiments expressed a lot of the time. Interestingly, there’s a fair bit of anti feeling against people like Mr Abu Hamza in the far right on the grounds they are preaching hate in our country – which they are. But at the same time, many of those folks speaking out against Muslims (they think all Muslims are like him) have attitudes that carbon copy his. Yet they can’t see that. Like Abu Hamza and his ilk, they target groups who are different; disabled people, LGBT people and women of course,  oh yeh, I know the score, no matter what brand of extremism you’re peddling, you all hate me because I’m a lady and I do ladies’ things.

So, obviously, as a female with a love your neighbour, rather than judgemental, religious faith, reading Brietbart is going to be a very uncomfortable experience for me. The comments are the worst bit. So much hatred. So much bile. Jeez.

However, it got me wondering how and why intelligent thinking people abandon mainstream news which is, at least, delivered by journalists who are paid and trained to do research and attempt to be factual, in favour of a site run by people who are not always journalists, nor trained in journalism and who are unapologetically pushing their own political agenda. In this case hatred of everyone who isn’t a fully able white man, as far as I can see. Maybe I’m naive.

Interestingly, a big bug bear for the far right, the religious exrtremes and the far left –  and I’m sorry anyone from either reading this BUT YOU ARE ALL THE FUCKING SAME how are you unable to see that, with the exception of a few key words swapped YOU ARE ALL PEDDLING THE SAME MESSAGE – are protestations that the BBC and other organisations like it are biased and muzzling free speech.

Thinking about it, I’m guessing the BBC has to act within the law. Since preaching hate and hate speak are a crime in the UK where it is based, then technically, I suspect that giving someone a platform Encourage people to hate one another on grounds of sexuality, religion, skin colour, ability or gender group of people is … an ethically grey area. Or to put it another way, vile AND illegal to boot. Especially if those sentiments cross the line from a political argument into the realms of hate speak which they have to, if expressed, because there is no reasoned or scientific reason to think someone’s colour, sexuality or gender makes them inferior. Our forefathers spent seven years discovering where that kind of crap gets us in the 1930s and 40s so that we don’t have to.

Guess which group of people in these pictures killed someone.

Those who had previously been given a platform, albeit briefly, to spread their poison on the BBC are now no longer able to, because preaching hate does not comply with the law of the land – even though Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and The Sun newspaper seem to get away with it on a regular basis. Generally, though, it’s frowned upon. I doubt having someone banging on about people being inferior because they’re female, or coloured or gay ties in with the BBC’s diversity guidelines either.

So, our extremist friends, unwilling to retreat back to obscurity, now pitch themselves as radical new thinkers being silenced. They cry that their ‘right’ to free speech has been curtailed. But frankly, if you preach hate, you forfeit your right to free speech. Furthermore, I can’t help wondering if going after the BBC is these peoples’ way of trying to knock out a main source of reasonably accurate news and one of the few larger ones with a more left wing bias. Clearly it’s a big threat to the extreemists on all sides if they are so keen to take it down.

It’s also important to remember that most of the human race decided, after the holocaust, and the death of sixty million people during world war two, that it was a bad thing to base political rhetoric, let alone government policy around a view that is, basically, the grown up equivalent of a toddler saying, ‘I’m not going to play with you coz you smell.’

It may well be that we need to look at immigration and how people settle here. In my view, if you walk through the streets of Luton chanting ‘death to Britain’ you really do need to have a think about what the fuck you’re doing here. And if you can’t, the government should, perhaps, help you to focus by revoking your citizenship and expelling you to whatever country your grandparents, parents or you originated from … or just expelling you; escorting you to the border and saying, ‘bye-bye mate.’

But of course, treating people who behave in an inhuman manner as anything less than human merely reduces us to being like them. That is what they do to us after all. And if we behave like them our arguments that we are better or more advanced than them become moot. That is what extremes are about, uniting us in our distrust  and suspicion of others. Tribalism, basically, a once useful instinct, but one that counts for little when used in excess or without logic, even if it is very powerful.

It seems to me that extremism, in any form, never got anyone anywhere long term, it brought us the Pogroms and Stalin, the concentration camps, North Korea and Cambodia under Pol Pot, The Daesh and medieval Bedouin law in a twenty first century state. It never turns out well. It is proven flawed. There are bigots in every religion and every flavour of politics but fighting their bigotry with a different type of our own bigotry doesn’t help. It just makes two groups of bigots where there was one.

So reading the news? Well, I tend to try and do what people used to do. I watch mainstream news aware that agendas are being pushed. I try to look at the facts behind what is happening. If I read the Telegraph, I accept it has a tory agenda, likewise, I accept that the Guardian is more left wing. But I do at least know that the people working there are, mostly, journalists, and that they believe it’s their job to produce well researched, well balanced arguments. If they fail to include hate speak, or refute the rhetoric of hate speak, that’s a bonus to me. It’s definitely not a problem and not a denial of anyone’s ‘rights’. We should have grown beyond the use of hate speak as a political tool.

I leave you with this lovely flyer that a beer company in the States produced in response to a visit from a white supremacist speaker to their town.

NB: Gordon Fosdyke from the Wombling Alliance is not real.

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Smashingly non-expensive books alert!

As I write this, which, by the wonders of modern science happens to be last week, the weather here is very mixed. That’s right, like a cat confronted with a freshly opened door the sun round here doesn’t know whether it wants to be in or out. As a result it will raining and a bit chilly one minute be hot and steamy the next. Four seasons in one day. Although no snow, not yet anyway. But if you are missing winter you can always pretend you are in the southern hemisphere where they are enjoying it right now. Oh yes, it’s always winter somewhere. There’s a thought to contend with.

We are well are into the school holidays and I will be in Scotland when you read this, enjoying our first mini break of the holiday period with the McParents. McMini has finally had his birthday party and I even managed to produce one of my famous cake wrecks! In this case a football cake – he supports Man United – I suppose someone has to.

Now, all that remains is a quick session forcing him to write his thank you letters at gunpoint and we’re done.

Clearly, doing the Mum thing and holidays, the writing has slowed up – although there still seem to be a lot of ideas bubbling up for Space Dustmen, and obviously, The World’s Best Editor is doing her thang with the other stuff. The coming month also includes a holiday, which will be epic and involve lots of time to read. Hopefully I’ll have some recommendations for you towards the end of the month.

On other matters …

Authors cutting their own throats with 99c books!

Remember, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that Bookbub featured one of my books?

Well, as I was sorting that out, I noticed that there was another excellent promo from Patty Jansen, sci-fi author and general all round good egg, a few days afterwards. As a result, Escape From B-Movie Hell is also in that with over 100 other books.

If you’re thinking of nabbing a copy of Escape and haven’t done so, it’s still 99p and it will be in Patty’s promo with a lot of very good other books, but only until 6th August. Then it will go back to its original price.

So there we are, for some really good stuff to read, make a note to put 5th and 6th August in your diary for the Winter giveaway. Yes. Winter because Patty’s in the Southern Hemisphere where everything’s backwards – or forwards, if I’m backwards up here in Blighty.

To grab yourself some 99c or p books click on the picture below …

Lastly, more McMini.

He may be nine but he already has way more natural authority than I do. The other day he was trying to explain the rules of some complicated game he wanted me to play with him, probably to do with something I find a bit turgid like Transformers or Power Rangers because I’d zoned out a bit. And as my mind wandered I suddenly realised he’d stopped talking. I looked at him and he was eyeing me with a very stern expression.

‘Mummy,’ he said.
‘Mmm?’
‘I’m waiting for you to listen. Are you going to do this properly or are you just going to mess around?’
‘Sorry.’
‘That’s better. If you’re not going to take this seriously we won’t play.’

He also does a short version where he looks at me and says,

‘I’m waiting …’

when he thinks I’m not paying attention. I asked him if this is what his teacher said to him.

‘Yes, it is actually.’
‘Hmm d’you look out of the window regularly by any chance?’
‘Well, yes,’ he admitted, and he did have the good grace to look sheepish at this point. ‘I do. Quite a lot.’

Clearly a chip off the old block then. I have told him I’ll try to be more attentive for the rest of the holidays and he says that next term, he’ll make a special effort to be more attentive in class – although I think he may be a lot better than that sounds.

 

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Mind Expansion Anyone? #McMini #kids #parenting #children

McMini ‘wearing’ a head warmer.

Over the holidays I thought it would be fun to tell some of the funny stories about my family. There is ‘Catching Socks’, ‘Night of the Homeless Man’, ‘Tale of the Drowning Toddler’ and a famous one about my Mum for which I have no title, as yet.

However, I thought I would leave that for later because obviously, it being the holidays, I have been spending a lot of time with McMini and at the moment, he is in absolutely tip top form.

Indeed, he is greater evidence than anything else I’ve encountered that anyone who wants their mind expanding should skip the drugs and just talk to a kid.

McOther has his usual pre-holiday work panic on so after managing to clear the decks for sports day he had to miss the pic-nic lunch.

So there we were, McMini and I, eating our sandwiches and chatting.

‘Have you licked that spoon?’ asks McMini.
‘Yes, sorry,’ I say. ‘It’s covered in my yucky saliva.’
‘I don’t mind Mummy. My saliva is 50% yours. Your saliva is called Lady Penelope, Dad’s Saliva is called Geoffrey. My saliva is called Geoffrey Penelope.’

McOther’s reaction to this was to ask me if there was a source of mind expanding drugs McMini has access to about which we are unaware. But I think this is probably just how he is. I’ve never needed them, myself after all and McOther’s imagination is just as fertile so I guess it’s a given that McMini will come up with the kind of double dose that surprises even us.

Sometimes, McOther and I worry about what we have spawned …

Then this one…

Yesterday, I was happily minding my own business, reading the Searcher magazine on the loo when McMini appeared. It’s not so much you’ll never walk alone in our house so much as you’ll never cr- you get the picture, I’m sure. Anyway

‘I had a dream about you last night Mummy.’
‘Did you?’ I say. Uh-oh, I think. Dreams about me tend to involve my turning into some grisly monster and ripping his head off, dreams about his father, ditto.
‘Yes. It was quite scary, or at least it wasn’t exactly scary because it was funny but it was scary too. I dreamed I was in a kind of fairy tale. Cinderella was there but she had a black horrible face with red glowing eyes and she was dancing around and I accidentally went into her territory so she decided to kill me,’ – yep, her territory. I think we may have been letting him watch too many animal programmes – ‘But luckily you turned up, Mummy, and saved my life.’
Well that’s a surprise. I thought. ‘Oh dear,’ I said. ‘Still I’m glad I saved your life. Usually I kill you don’t I? so it makes for a nice change.’
‘Yes. But you nearly died. Cinderella had some zombie assistants, her ugly sisters were with her and they had crosses for eyes like when I draw dead people* and the Cinderella had a terrible secret weapon, she farted and that’s when you nearly died, the fumes nearly killed you but luckily I was there to save you by dragging you away.’

Have a kid and you, too, can have a loo like this!

When McMini plays video games, he doesn’t usually play the game that much, he spends hours dressing the characters in different clothes etc. He is clearly perfectly normal in this respect as the more recent the game the more secondary the actual game seems to be to all the extras, places you can go off menu, costumes you can unlock etc. But I found him playing Fifa 13 the other day.

‘Watch this Mummy!’ he said. Then as the goalie about to take a goal kick, he turned and put the ball in the back of the net. The game is not designed for people to do this so the Goalie then proceeded to put his head in his hands and look really upset. Which was kind of funny, in a surreal way.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked.
‘I’m being Chelsea. I don’t really like Chelsea so I have set myself up as Cheese McPiggyface, their player manager and I am making them lose so they are easier to beat next time.’
‘I’m not sure games work like that.’
‘Only one way to find out, Mummy.’

Hmm… well, I guess it’s cunning.

He also has a Ferrari driving game. To start racing you have to do some practise laps with Tiff Needell. McMini has never graduated to the actual racing bit. He drives the wrong way, backwards, into the wall and basically trashes the car.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked him.
‘I’m smashing the car. It’s hilarious! Look! I’ve cracked the windscreen.’
‘Why would you break a lovely Ferrari.’
‘Oh it’s much more fun than doing it properly, Mummy. Tiff Needell gets really cross.’

Ho hum … and don’t get me started on the weird stuff he puts in the freezer.

A lego figure in suspended animation. Our freezer is full of this stuff!

I dunno what’s going on here, more lego being iced along with a Kinder egg toy.

 

* And how The Beano draws dead things, too. Which is where he got it from I suspect.

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The Daesh: it’s not because they’re Muslims, it’s because they’re tossers. #WeStandTogether #LondonBridge #wearenotafraid #thingsthatgetbritainreeling

Cynicism/Satire Warning.

This is a very cynical article which generalises a tad, here and there, and I swear and get political in places. And I call ISIS the Daesh all the way through because I gather they don’t like that.

I am also rude about President Trump and anyone else who is stupid enough to think that just because this was done in the name of Islam, all Muslims are bad. Because that’s bollocks. Most of them are pissed off and/or embarrassed.


After last night’s attack I looked at the internet: lots of tweets from very right wing people against Muslims which, barring different words to describe the targets, read like the kinds of tweets the Daesh put out, because whatever they think they believe, extremists tend to be carbon copies of one another, and too fucking stupid, to a man, to realise that, of course.

Go Beer Man!

To that end, I had had an attack of What Would Jesus Do? And I sat down today at my computer thinking that it was important that someone normal spoke out and said something to stop all the over-reactive wanky shit being spewed about Muslims. But there wasn’t anyone normal available so I realised I’d have do it instead.

Luckily, after an American newspaper described us as reeling and panicking because that’s what they would have done, other faster, quicker-witted British people woke up, while I was still phaffing around, and did this: #thingsthatgetbritainreeling

Ah yes, nobody does gallows humour like us Brits.

Seriously though, why does anyone bother to do terrorism here? Barring a brief hiatus where the IRA/UDA and the Daesh did a high five and swapped, we’ve pretty much all grown up with it. And the few of us who haven’t grew up with the war. Keep calm and carry on, etc. It’s just same old same old to us.

More tea vicar?

In the 1970, 80s and early 90s there was a lot of sectarian violence. Basically what happened with that was that two groups of Christians spent a lot of time and effort kicking the living shit out of one another in Northern Ireland and also in a lot of the main ship building cities in mainland Britain when many Northern Irish who’d come from the mainland a generation before, transferred their skills back again. And when nobody took enough notice, they started kicking the living shit out of everyone else. I come from a little village just outside Brighton. One of the groups of Christians blew up the Grand Hotel, one of the biggest in the Borough, along with half the cabinet at the time.

Trust me on this, I saw the hole that left. No photograph does it justice. If you go there today, you can still see how massive it was because the balconies they replaced are slightly different. You could put several houses and a Zeppelin into that hole. It was fucking enormous. But did anyone say, ‘These Christians are all bastards! They should be sent away.’

Nope. Don’t recall it. But then, I suppose they were white and Christians (about as un Christian in attitude as they could get but hey) and a lot of Americans were funding them anyway. Maybe there’s a crossover there.

Later, I lived in London during the bombing campaign in the 1990s. Apparently they sent coded messages beforehand sometimes. But I don’t recall that ever stopping the carnage. I heard two bombs go off, but didn’t see them. Conversely, two of my flat mates were standing outside the Sussex pub in Covent Garden when it blew up. That was pretty grim.

But you know what the people of London did when these charmers bombed the shit out of us? That’s right, we extended the middle finger, just the way Manchester has done recently and London is doing again now, and we carried on. And yes, I’d say we may even have kept calm. Like this guy.

How many pints this morning Mrs Spigot?

It’s weird, but bombing Britain is pointless, because you should know by now, all we’re going to do is make tasteless jokes about it and ignore you. And what have the recent attacks done? Really? They’ve had Mancuinans and Londoners helping one another, offering strangers, food, tea, blankets and beds for the night. People of different cultures, backgrounds and ethnicity reaching out the hand of friendship to one another. Paying for taxis home for people, putting them up in hotels. For all the sadness and anger, what these acts of hate have also done is cause an outpouring of kindness, love and understanding.

Likewise, I may be a bit out of step with the zeitgeist here, but from what I recall, as I was growing up, most people realised that the people who committed these acts of terrorism back then were not doing it because they were Protestant, or because they were Catholic, not even because they were Irish. Indeed, maybe, by that time, they weren’t even that bothered about acting in the name of their cause. No. The reason they bombed people was actually because they were wankers.

Likewise, the Daesh are not committing atrocities because they are Muslims. They’re doing it because they’re cunts.

What a total bell end.

I think it’s important that people hoist that in – I’m looking at you Trump with your stupid tweet about how much safer it would have been if it had happened in Amurka where everyone is armed. Because yes, three blokes intending to kill can do so much more damage with a knife each and a van (yes it’s a van not a truck you orange, nylon-haired retard) than with the uzis or sub machine guns or whatever they’d have bought over the counter for the purpose in the States. So much safer over there Mr Trump, especially with you in charge.

OK, but on a more serious note now. If you were in last night’s attack, or if you know anyone who was, or even if you end up seeing something similar in future, I think it’s important that I point this out.

One of my flat mates got PTSD. So if you were there, even if you were Beer Man strolling away from the carnage with your pint, you might find it affects you. If you get flashbacks, have trouble sleeping, if you’re afraid of every little noise outside, if you’re afraid you’re being followed when you walk down the street at night … well, you know there might be a reason.

Back in the 1990s my flatmates and I, we didn’t know about PTSD. Looking back on it now, I realise that is what my flatmate suffered. She’s fine now but for a while she had a really hard time. She saw some pretty horrible shizz. People covered in blood, screaming, someone lying on the pavement covered in blood who wasn’t moving. Stuff that haunted her. She also had a disability, so she knew that when it struck, she would lose consciousness and be dependent on others to help her and I think seeing that from the other side, albeit in a totally different way, made it worse.

So, if you or someone you love was there in London, or in Manchester, and survived, it’s absolutely OK to seek help. In fact it’s probably sensible, because even if you don’t realise it, you may need it.

We are going to London in a couple of weeks for a birthday treat. I admit I am nervous but we are still going to go. Indeed, I almost feel it’s my moral duty to do so now – a bit like my parents going on an art tour of Iran three months after 9.11 (‘It was wonderful darling, there was hardly anyone there!’ but that’s another story). And especially after the Manchester kids who were affected exorcising their fears – and demons – by going to the benefit concert, a couple are singing in the choir. That said, I freely admit that I will be having The Conversation about what we would do if horror struck, because I can’t run. Whether, with the adrenaline pumping, it would be possible I don’t know, but I can’t normally because of the pain. So I have to sit McOther down and explain that if the shit hits the fan, he must take McMini to safety and leave me to hide. I will have a phone, after all, and as soon as it is safe, I will call him.

Lastly, if you are worried about relatives or friends who may have been in the London attacks, here are two numbers you can call:  0800 0961233 or 0207 1580197

And Manchester too.

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This week, I am mostly ranting about … everything

STOP! There is swearing.

Aroogah! Aroogah!

Let’s kick off with a profanity warning: there will be some.

There.

So if you don’t like the F word, do not read this. Especially do NOT read this all the way though and then complain it’s full of swearing or I will flipping well lamp you. And if you’re a bit iffy about swearing, but can cope, you’re probably alright for most of this post but you will want to avoid the song at the end.

_________________________________

OK, if we’re all sitting comfortably, I’ll begin.

Right now, I feel a bit like this. Not crap exactly, just a bit … blergh … or possibly meh.

The fact is, while I think I might be quite loving, I doubt I’m a very nurturing person. I seem to be bad at caring for people. I need too much space and time alone to get my head together and that is not conducive to surrendering any sizeable amounts of your life to the needs of others, however many times the head says go, the heart sometimes says … well, not no exactly because it’s willing … more like, can’t.

But obviously, I have to. Can’t isn’t one of the options. I have a commitment and it’s nothing close to what most people have to put up with, but the mental and emotional energy it takes to do the negligible amount I do for my parents seems to be disproportionately huge when I add it to the other commitment of being a mum.

This week there was a small blip. Mum and Dad have some living aids in their house that they pay for on lease. It started last week, when they had a call asking if they still wanted all of it, and thinking it was cold callers Mum told the company to take everything way.

Yesterday, I get a panicked call saying, ‘They’re taking the red alarm button, and the alarm that goes off when your Dad gets out of his seat, stop them!’

Except I was at kid’s church, with McMini, so my brother got the call, and mistaking the carer’s phone number for a friend’s, and being in the middle of ‘Comedy Club’ – he’s a teacher and yes, it’s an extra curricular activity at his school – he proceeded to show the boys and girls a thing or two about the art of mimicry. In this case, by answering the call in his impression of David Bellamy (it’s absolutely tip top, I have to hand it to him; imagine a version of Lenny Henry in white, that’s my brother). He then suddenly had to transform to serious, which probably taught the kids far more about comic timing than anything he could have actually planned. I’m still getting giggleback about it though. Mwah hahahargh! I swear I couldn’t make this shit up! And if I did, I’d be panned for making it unrealistic.

So, as McMini and I left the service and I turned my phone on I got a call from my brother. Cue frantic ringing round and I got a company name and a number to ring. After a night stewing, I spent the next day ringing round to get to the bottom of it. Turns out that what we’re paying only covers a fraction of what is in the house. None of us know how we’ve had all this stuff for a year for free but they seem OK with that so long as we pay the full whack from now on or just keep the things we’re actually paying for. Mum remembers their call but didn’t understand what they were talking about.

As the cost of leasing the other stuff is a fair bit, 6 month’s rental is about the same cost of new equipment, I bought replacements for the bits that we hadn’t been paying for which arrived the following day, during my visit, so I was able to install those. The engineer came out to put the other stuff back the following day, too, so all is now peachy. In addition, I explained to them that Mum has dementia too and they will now ring me with any enquiries. I found out some useful stuff, too, like where the heck we got the seat and bed alarm from and whether we are leasing it or own it outright! I had no clue and if Mum ever had, she doesn’t now. So that was a bit of a bonus, even if the method of delivery was less than fun.

Anyway, on the Tuesday, after I’d organised this, I turned to the clock and, joy unbounded, I had a hour left before school run time in which to write. I’d had to send a form declaring my parents have dementia to get the VAT back on the stuff I’d ordered so I’d  photographed it and emailed it off. Needless to say, the moment I sat down at my computer, the company contacted me to say I’d done it wrong so I had to quickly do another one. Then at last, with 20 minutes in hand, which is 400-800 words if I concentrate, I sat down to write.

And I couldn’t.

I was just mentally dead. My mojo had flown and, indeed, it’s been AWOL all week. I like to think it’s pissed off on a drunken bender and will crawl back to me in the equivalent of the wee hours (next week sometime, probably) slurring,

‘I’m sho sorry. I really am. Are you angry with me? Schay you’re not angry with me. I love you Mary, I really really love you, hurrgh bleargh [splat]. etc.’

My mojo is the one on the right. Don’t look at the stain on the carpet or you’ll know I’m a slattern – as well as foul mouthed.

However, I also fear it may be sobbing in a corner somewhere so I have made the odd effort to find it. I managed about 400 words where I knew what was going to happen and just needed to describe it, in my time after sorting the crisis, no creativity required. You know, when you have to get a character from one part of the house to another kind of thing and they walk through a hall which you need to describe, briefly, for later. That kind of thing but there was still no sign of the mojo. Whatever it’s doing, I hope it comes back refreshed.

After that I threw in the towel and heated up some filter coffee, wrote a shopping list of the things I needed to get for supper on the way home with McMini and set off to pick him up from school. We walked home, past the supermarket.

Did I remember to go in and get the shopping?

Did I bollocks?

Did I remember before we’d walked all the way home? Of course not.

The distance I am away from the thing I’ve forgotten is directly proportional to the amount of knee pain I am experiencing at the time. Needless to say, I remembered as we walked into the house, so we had to turn around and go back up the hill. The only positive I can take away from this is that despite my temptation to turn the air blue with invective, the worst word that escaped me was, ‘sperm.’

Snortle.

Yes I said, ‘Oh … sperm!’

Mwahahahaharaargh!

But hey, at least I didn’t say, ‘shit! or fu-beep! or cu-aroooogah.’

Back we trudged, got the stuff, came home. I had to make biscuits with McMini, because I’d promised, even though we didn’t really have time and I was shattered and just wanted to sit down. Then I prepared the veg and the bits of supper I was cooking. According to my fitbit I did two miles back and forth around the house. I just finished in time to squeeze in a quick shower before we ate.

The following day, I did the Sussex run. It wasn’t quite such a good visit, they were both tired, indeed Mum fell asleep over her dinner prompting Dad to shout for me because he was afraid she’d died (bless), and they were less on form, but I did, at least, cheer them up and the carer was around when Dad filled his Tena boots this week, not me. Result!

And this is why I find the care thing difficult. Not because I don’t want to do it. It’s not like it would cross my mind to do anything else. Lord knows they’ve looked after me and now it’s my turn to look after them. I love going to see them because they are hilarious and they are still great fun. Even with the short term memories of a pair of goldfish they are like pied pipers of people – and it’s not as if the memory loss is very noticeable because neither of them has ever been able to find their keys, well … OK the lack of memory is showing with Dad now but he’s got away with it for 12 years.

They are wonderfully, gloriously eccentric and everyone who crosses their path is drawn in, grows to love them, grows to care for them. It is really extraordinary to watch, and kind of cool. Everyone always has, but then, they have always been dynamos in the community, caring for people, visiting them, looking after the elderly the sick and the lonely – even people who are alone for a jolly good reason – and generally just being epic. They’ve had a tramp to stay for the night and Mum has saved two people’s lives that I know of, while Dad, as a teacher, has shaped countless others. They are still working their magic and I want to make the most of it. Likewise, McMini is a gem so I’m not giving up on any of my mum time either.

In short, I wouldn’t do this any differently, I just get frustrated, sometimes, that I seem unable to do anything else as well.

FFS …

The events of those 36 hours sorting the alarms etc pretty much lobotomised the rest of my brain until I sorted it out, and then left it shagged well beyond functionality for some days afterwards. Perhaps that what pre menopausal dementedness comes to when added to the dementedness of the pre menopausal dementia sufferer’s actually, properly, demented parents, and everyone has a little bit of a go, and nobody remembers what in the name of Pete they did.

See how smart he looks? Yeh, that’s a lot smarter than I feel.

Who knows. But I have more and more admiration for people who have no cash to pay for care, who have to look after sick family members 24 hours a day, with no breaks, no let ups. How do they cope? How do they catch a bus or pay a bill or organise a fart in bed with that going on full time? Blimey, I have trouble stringing two sentences together and I don’t have it like them. They must be fucking saints. I have been trying to channel my inner saint. However, he is clearly not like theirs. It is quite clear to me that my saint is like those early hermits; you know, the kind of guy who sat on top of a pillar for 40 years in the desert without speaking – except to shout angry obscenities at anyone who came near so they’d fuck off again – probably while throwing handfuls of his own faeces at them.

And I also have a huge admiration for people who earn a living as carers. They don’t earn that much, and they take a serious amount of flack. My dad gets properly shouty sometimes, usually when he’s feeling undignified. He was heaping invective on the carer on Wednesday, as she changed his tena pants and she was just calm and kind and sweet with him. We all knew he was only shouting because he felt humiliated and wanted it to be over, but there’s a difference between knowing that and not letting it get to you. In her place, I’d have told him to get knotted.

Sometimes, I get how Dad might feel though, why he might be shouty! Jeez I feel like that a lot of the time. There is so much administriviatative shite to do and there are days I want to tell life to just piss off and leave me alone! It wasn’t helped by the fact I had multiple trouser failure this weekend and with one pair left – in the wash – I had to go buy more. All my trousers are through at the arse because I’ve been waiting until the effing shops came up with a choice that was wider than black, black, denim, denim or denim, dark blue or white. Although I do usually like to have one pair of dark blue canvas jeans, but I don’t wear them as much as the others. Indeed they’re not through at the arse, but the zip’s bust. Even so, finding anything else … it’s like the Monty Python Spam sketch.

‘Don’t complain darling, I love black, I’m buying black, black, black, black and black.’

‘Well bully for you but you can sod off! I’m not. I don’t wear black if I can avoid it and certainly not every day.’

I did find a pair of red trousers in H&M but they were three quarter length with faux rips in. I’m too old for faux rips and I’ll knacker them myself soon enough. Then I found some lovely pink ones but only in three quarter length. That said, I have hopes that the pink three quarter lengths may turn up in longs before the year is out. The gentleman in the shop thought they would. Even so, let’s chalk that up as another thing that can piss off! Fashion. I put ‘coloured jeans’ into google and I got a whole load of black, dark blue, denim and white trousers.

‘WHITE AND BLACK ARE NOT FUCKING COLOURS YOU BLIND BASTARDS!’ I shouted, making the cat jump.

Do you mind keeping it down? I’m trying to relax here.

On the upside, despite spending a whole morning looking for trousers, I did manage to replace the three pairs of threadbare-arsed winter trousers I own which haven’t quite gone through. Rock on Mistral’s basement outlet section. And there was me thinking it was a trendy shop for young thin people with no tits! Mwah hahahargh! But I was wrong. I got three pairs of moleskin trousers in light green, wedgewood blue and maroon for £7 a pop. A saving of £105 I think it was. They’re a bit flarey so I’ll have to take them in a little but never mind. Every cloud has a silver lining. I shall return there. Oh yes I will.

Swings and roundabouts, but the mental theme of the entire week in MTM land has definitely been, Fuck Off World!

And when I get like that, I often turn the work of Ian Dury because he was really very good at FOW but in the kind of amusing way that makes it faceable again.

For this particular malaise, a dose of one particular song, ‘Fucking Ada’, does wonders. I suspect it’s not really about a never ending quest for time to think, or the ensuing burn out, or at least not, per se. I should imagine it’s either about the failure of a relationship, or the humiliation of being unable to perform at a one night stand after a culmination of too many one night stands, too many drugs, too much alcohol and altogether too much rock and roll. It could be about depression, too. It could be about all of those things.

Bollocks to that though, because there are sections that perfectly sum up that FOW feeling. And when I’m sad, and angry with myself for not being able to bounce back, and I want the world to just bugger off and leave me alone – not indefinitely, but just for just ten sodding minutes so I can complete a thought – this song is a peach.

There are few things as cathartic as shouting along with Ian for a few minutes. Just make sure the kids are out and you don’t have the windows open. Here it is for your delectation. Words first, vid second.

Fucking Ada, by Ian Dury and the Blockheads

Moments of sadness, moments of guilt
Stains on the memory, stains on the quilt
Chapter of incident, chapter and verse
Sub-heading chronic, paragraph worse

Lost in the limelight, backed in the blaze
Did it for nine pence, those were the days
Give me my acre and give me my plough
Tell me tomorrow, don’t bother me now

Fucking Ada, fucking Ada
Fucking Ada, fucking Ada

Time’s at a distance, time’s without touch
Greed forms the habit of asking to much
Followed at bedtime by builders and bells
Wait til the doldrums which nothing dispels

Idly, mentally, doubtful and dread
Who runs with the beans shall not stale with the bread
Let me lie fallow in dormant dismay
Tell me tomorrow, don’t bother today

Fucking ada, fucking ada
Fucking ada, fucking ada

Tried like a good un, did it all wrong
Thought that the hard way was taking to long
Too late for regret or chemical change
Yesterday’s targets have gone out of range

Failure enfolds me with clammy green arms
Damn the excursions and blast the alarms
For the rest of what’s natural Ill lay on the ground
Tell me tomorrow if I’m still around

Fucking Ada, fucking Ada (ad nauseam)

S0ngwriters: Ian Robins Dury, John George Turnbull

Well, back to running with the beans … It’s Friday and it’s about blummin’ time I wrote something. Well, something other than this gargantuan rant, I mean book something, and hey, I’ve twenty minutes left this week.

In the meantime, here’s the video.

Don’t forget to sing along now.

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Learning the hard way, or at least, the cold squelchy way…

Not that I’m melodramatic or anything … mwahahahahargh!

This holidays, McOther, McMini and I joined another family of friends skiing. I have never been skiing before, for the simple reason that from the age of about twelve I’ve been under doctor’s orders not to.

Some of you will know this, some won’t, but basically,  my knees have taken a bit of a pasting over the years; bone disease as a kid, torn ACL after jumping over a wall aged 25, and then twenty years later, a ‘possible’ tear in the other ACL (MRI ‘inconclusive’) after I rode my bicycle blithely across what I thought was an empty street and was surprised to catch a slow moving Ford Fiesta in the back. Not their fault I genuinely hadn’t seen them. I’m just lucky they saw me.

The net result of all this – apart from the fact the knees now match – is arthritis. First knee was knackered pre ligament reconstruction and arthritis is the natural result of soggy knee ligaments. The second knee is so arthritic after 25 years of taking the extra weight that even with an unequivocal MRI result, it’s probably reached a stage when reconstruction would make the arthritis worse. Which is why they can’t do the original, of course. The ACL damage doesn’t hurt but the arthritis in the knees does. Eight years ago they told me that were I sixty, they’d fast track me for a left knee replacement because it was so bad. Alas bionic knees only last 10 years, and you can only have two so no can do until I’m sixty. Oh well. Only another 12 years to wait.

So here I am. Aged 48, with knees that are, frankly, a bit fucked. A lot more fucked than they were when the first doctor ordered me to stay off the ski slopes. But, for the first time, I was in a position to try skiing somewhere that it wouldn’t matter were I unable to go piling up and down the slopes all day, because there’d be other stuff to do. And McOther is an excellent skier and McMini wanted to try it.

So, ever the adventurous one, I bought some huge knee braces like scaffolding, packed a HUGE box of aspirin and off I went. Here are some of the things I learned:

Spring in the mountains is hot.

No shit, Sherlock? I hear you say. But yes. I was thinking snow=cold, mountains=cold.

Schoolboy error.

It is is not true.

Here in Blighty we bought ourselves lovely thick warm coats to keep out all that cold mountain air. It does get cold but only at night. Also, as a novice to skiing I was tense, partly because it all happens a bit fast and partly because the feedback through my knees is less than sharp and I had an uncomfortable feeling, after waiting for 30 years and through a great deal of deterioration to flaunt doctor’s orders, that I was about to die at every turn. Rank fear aside, this is the kind of exercise that pushes your beats per minute up to one seventy something until you learn to do it properly, stop fighting and relax. Now even if it’s minus forty out there, beats per minute of one seventy plus is only going to mean one thing: a flop sweat.

But it wasn’t minus forty. Spring in the mountains is gorgeous; clear blue skies, lovely sunny days and temperatures of eighty degrees Fahrenheit (twenty something centigrade). Now if you’re going to do high intensity aerobic exercise in those kind of temperatures, take it from me, you’re going to get hot in a t-shirt and running tights. Thick gloves, huge woolly socks and clothing that is, essentially, a duvet, waterproofed and crafted into Michelin Man style duds is … less than comfortable in beachwear temperatures. To be frank after about ten minutes, it was not so much a coat I was wearing as a portable, always-on sauna. I didn’t know it was possible for a human being to sweat that much or for a t-shirt to become sweat sodden enough to wring out in ten minutes. So here’s an interesting discovery. It is and it can.

Nice.

You will discover new things.

Let’s talk about gloves. At these temperatures, your ski gloves will become very hot inside. So hot that you will discover the new and unnerving phenomenon of hand odour. Yes, put your hands in warm gloves and let them sweat profusely for three days straight and your gloves will come off soaking wet at the end of each day – sod days, in my case it was an hour and a half, tops. Even so, after 3 days they will smell like the rankest socks imaginable … until you smell your ski socks after a day in those hired boots and realise your imagination hadn’t even scratched the surface of the concept that is, ‘rank’.

These boots are made for walking.

I have many pairs of in line and roller skates and the boots are similar to ski boots. The rationale is that if you fall awkwardly you will break your legs, mid shin, rather than doing potentially crippling Potts fracture style damage to your ankles. The same rationale is behind ski boots. Only not. Ski boots were invented by the Spanish Inquisition in the eleventh century but shelved after they were deemed too inhuman a torture to inflict on mere heretics. A few hundred years later and here we are resurrecting them to protect ourselves from breaking our ankles. They are very good for this. And for skiing. But when the snow is melting, you also have to do a lot of actual walking in them. They are less good for that.

Walking in ski boots is clearly an acquired art. As far as my efforts went … hmm … well … let’s be generous and call them, ‘a work in progress’. People who have mastered the art have a kind of slowed down gait that’s a cross between a 1970’s disco swagger and someone walking on the moon. It involves putting all the weight on the most painfully arthritic bits of my knees and every walk was unspeakable.

There are many different types of snow.

Yes. This is so. And ALL are scary. I confess on the first day we thought we’d ski down the small looking hill to where our lessons were. So off we went. I snow ploughed as I’d been taught to do, a sure way to slow me to a stop and … ah … hang on … not stopping … at all. So I bailed and yes then I walked down the slope in those infernal boots. I was sweat soaked and knackered before I even got to the ski school. Because it was ice. And very slippery.

Skiing is fun … sort of.

Like that Scandinavian thing, is it Stockhausen syndrome? No, I don’t think so? Stockholm Syndrome? Possibly, that thing where you grow to love your kidnapper/abuser. Yeh, well, it was a bit like that. I didn’t like it to start with because, to use a technical term, I was shitting bricks. I was in a complete funk, most of the time, and when I say funk, I mean in the fear sense of the word as well as the smell. Then on the third day, suddenly, I relaxed. Not much, but enough to realise how people did it all day. They were not super-fit, just super-relaxed. My fear levels reduced a tiny bit as I began to feel more in control, beats per minute dropped to about one fifty and recovery time shortened to the point where I could do a run without stopping. Suddenly I got what the fuss was about and why people do it, which, I confess, I expected to do much earlier.

The great thing about it was that the actual skiing bit doesn’t hurt. Not at all. The time it hurts is when you stop. So that Wednesday, I even tried to go skiing with the others but realised, as soon as I got to the top of the mountain and put my skis on again, that the dicky knees were not up to more than an hour yet. So we had lunch up there and I crept home to the chalet and made full use of the spa, oh yes I did.

Will I be going again?

Amazingly, yes. Although I will try to manage my knees better this time.

What did I learn?

I learned that I am disabled. Genuinely, physically handicapped in a way I hadn’t actually grasped until I tried to do this. I have not been able to run for some years. There’s a reason for that. Days one and two I cried a lot. I cried because I was stiff and I cried because I knew, from the pain in my knees, that they were far, far more comprehensively fucked than I have ever given them credit for. The pain levels were about commensurate with the second week after I cracked my collar bone. So I had to take a long hard look at myself and accept some very unpleasant truths, one being that I may well end up in a wheelchair for a year or two before I reach the magic age of sixty and access to a NHS knee replacement comes. Because they seem intent on my having quality of life while I’m old, rather than now, while my boy is small. Me, I’d rather do the wheelchair later on but the NHS demurs. Another thing I learned then. If I carry on the way I am, I will be even more disabled. Soon. I will never play football with my boy, or any of the other things I still hope to do.

That was sobering and pretty grim.

IF I carry on the way I am. But there might be a get out.

So, before I ski a second time, several things have to give. I read somewhere about a thing called spoons. Run with me, I’m not talking sub duvet snuggling. It’s a way of explaining a disability. So the idea is that you have say, ten spoons each day and they represent your physical capabilities. Every time you do something that takes you over a certain level of pain/exertion/your disability you count it as using up a spoon. So you can do, pretty well what you like, but you have to ration your spoons so you can get through the day. If I have ten spoons in a day, an hour’s skiing is about seven. So I need to do two things. I need to balance it against the other things I do in a day and I need to find a way to extend the range of each spoon.

Next time I go I will be a better more confident skiier so a skiing lesson will use up less of my energy. That will help. However, because of the pain that comes after I’ve been skiing, I will have less spoons free each day, as the consequences of skiing build. I will also have to keep my eye on what happens afterwards, which I didn’t this time, which is how I ended up with a fair amount of pain and walking difficulties, which aren’t going to go away anytime soon – about three weeks, I reckon. In short, I need to make everything last longer, so I can ski more with less pain.

Back to the get out.

Over the past three years, I have been doing physio and going to the gym to try and keep myself physically fit and able and to prop up my knees. That’s good and it’s worked but, of course, I am also menopausal, which makes for a hard time losing weight. I’m also busy, which makes for a hard time losing weight – nothing causes a person to eat crap more effectively than their not planning their meals. And I have IBS, and nothing causes an IBS attack more effectively than changing your diet … except the 5:2 which is OK but gives me a mega headache.

Never mind. I’ve put on a stone of muscle under the same amount of flab as I had before. It should raise my metabolic rate but pre-menopause that’s less likely and I have to accept that it isn’t happening to the extent I’d like, or possibly at all.

So what I realised, through the medium of skiing, was that this extra stone could well be what has tipped my knees over the edge this last year.

Menopause, schmenopause, IBS, IB bollocks, this is not a drill. My back is against the wall. I have to lose weight or lose my ability to walk. I know this sounds melodramatic but that, in a nutshell, is it.

Not just a bit of weight either, a lot.

A whole effing stone. And to be honest, a second wouldn’t go amiss.

That’s going to be hard but the alternative: registering disabled, enduring a genuine physical disability, some impressive levels of physical pain and gradually losing my ability to walk without a rollator or sticks and while there is hope that I can avoid that before I hit 70, by any means possible, I’ll do whatever it takes.

So hurling myself down a mountain was a bit freaky but it wasn’t the daunting bit, not really. The daunting bit was the cold hard truths I have learned about myself.

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