No Brainer

22 April, 2016

 

I sit bolt upright in bed at 2am.  My subconscious has processed what the Dr was saying, 5 hours ago in A&E.  Sami’s concussion from his bike accident is passing, he can leave in an hour or two, but there’s something else;

“The CT scan has shown cell growth in the left ventricle of his brain.” The Junior Dr. tells me earnestly.  Initially, I am relieved; I have been pushing my GP for over a year to get a neurological exam for Sami.  I recently got a referral appointment, but my GP has made it clear I don’t have enough evidence to get very far in the NHS.

“It’s great, we have something concrete to go on, physical evidence.” I reply

“Yes, yes, it’s definitely a good thing,” Dr. Young replies a bit too eagerly, a bit too reassuringly.

With hindsight, I realise we were having the classic it’s-nothing-to-worry-about conversation.  The slow moving cogs of my own brain have clicked through the night and finally worked it out for me, “cell growth in the left ventricle of the brain”, can also be called a brain tumour.  I had a bit of medical training, years ago and I remember random bits and pieces of it.  Cell growth can also be described in terms of degradation of DNA.  So, if you imagine a cell has a tiny spiral of DNA which is repeated in a continuous chain, billions of times.  Each time that cell reproduces (dies and replaces itself), it replicates the entire chain, except it loses one DNA spiral each time.  As the DNA chain shortens in length so we experience aging, our skin slackens, our bones dry out etc.    This is what aging actually is (and why skin creams called “Age Renewal” don’t work at all).  There are only two places you find perfectly replicating DNA chains in the body; the first is in the testes – because to produce a child, it has to be born with a perfectly long DNA chain, otherwise it would be born aged.  The second place is in cancer cells.  They perfectly replicate, they’re sometimes known as “eternal cells”, while all the so-called normal cells around them deteriorate.  They have other functions too, but this is how I understand “cell growth in the left ventricle”.  Cells are definitely not supposed to be spontaneously growing in there.  I sit up the rest of the night, classically terrorizing myself on google.  There is between 5%-15% survival rate at 5 years post treatment – a combination of surgery, chemo and radiation therapy (which leaves lasting detrimental effects on surrounding brain tissue).  Not good.  High fat, vegan diet (surely, a contradiction in terms?) has been shown to be helpful.  He is veggie, so I plan to move us into ultimate vegan health over the next few weeks.

I drive us 5 hours back home the next day, in pieces, hiding my bursts of grief from him behind my sunglasses.  He drivels on about the Tour-de-France for five hours, next to me, oblivious.  I email his teacher, she writes back “That’s not good, let me know if I can do anything to support you.”  I fall a 1000 feet through the floor reading her reply, couldn’t she have written, “We get his all the time at school, it’s perfectly normal in teenagers”.  I leave a message for our GP who’s not in the surgery for another 4 days.  She calls me within two hours and my heart drops another 1000 feet, she’s on it, chasing scans, being incredibly competent.  This is not routine.

I watch my son struggle with basic tasks like walking through doors and answering my questions.   I’d been so frustrated with him before, but now I see his neurological impairment, it explains a lot; his outbursts, his inability to be on time, to function at school or communicate.  When I drop him at school the next day, he says, “I hate being late for school”.  I stifle a laugh; he is late for school pretty much every day.  It’s the school’s and my biggest irritation with him, clearly, something is pressing on his brain, because this statement alone is utter madness.

By 9.30am, I am still in the car but I haven’t even finished school run.  I cancel my clients for the next two weeks and park at the side of road, in teary devastation.  There’s nothing else for it, I have to call Kiki.  I have tried not to call her, because over the years we have shared way more trauma than anyone should.  We are not friends who do coffee, or go shopping, or remember each other’s birthdays anymore.  We might send a text – which invariably sits without a reply. Or, “like” each other’s stuff on Facebook and keep up in vague way, meaning to see each other more than we ever manage.  But if one of us phones, like makes a proper old fashioned voice call, we know it’s serious and we pick up.  Two hours later she is sitting in my garden, fag in manicured fingers, tapping on her phone as I explain.

“So, what are you going to do?”  She asks, pressing “dial” on her phone, as I reply.

“Dunno.  Er, wait till Friday then call the GP back?” I say, making it up on the spot.

“Hi, Can I see a paediatric neurologist this week?” She asks whoever she’s talking to, “Ok, if you don‘t have one, where can I get one?”  She speaks to them as if she’s booking her Waitrose delivery slot.  Within fifteen minutes we have a next day appointment at The Portland Hospital.  I’d say we were booked into see a top Neurologist, but there was a bit of confusion with the phone signal and she accidently booked him in with an Urologist, first time round.  (The amount of laughter we got imagining a Doctor sticking his finger up Sami’s arse, looking for his brain, made it well worth the mistake though).  We agree to meet at the Co-op in Woodstock at 5pm.  She is taking over, she is scooping me up, driving to her boat in London, making appointments, buying food.  She is my knight in shining armour because she knows how to be good in crisis.  She’s had more than a few.

Sami disappears after school for an hour instead of coming home.  “Neurological impairment”, I think as I wait, unable to contact him.  When he finally appears, he explains he’s been at his weekly, Tuesday after-school club.  School call it “Detention”.   I understand better what’s going on with him, all this time he’s not being an annoying little git, he can’t help it, he has “Neurological Impairment”.

At 6.15pm I text Kiki to say we’re in the Co-op, he’s hungry.

“What just standing still, staring into space?”  She texts back immediately; neurological impairment is clearly on her mind too.

“No, not staring.  We’re in the Coop, he’s STARVING.” I reply, checking the autocorrect this time.  I look at the basket he’s been filling; four cheese sandwiches, a stuff crust pizza, a loaf of bread, a jar of Nutella, two bags of Wotsits & a Mars Milkshake, veganism will be more challenging than I thought.  I grab a bottle of red and a big bag of chocolate buttons, (I don’t feel like cooking) and jump in her massive BMW.

Kiki is a godsend.  Years ago we were a vacuous pair, who sat in bikinis by an expensive pool in Thailand, complaining about our fat (they were actually flat) stomachs, wishing our idiot boyfriends would marry us.  We imagined our futures with happy little children, who would do well in school and oh, drive us mad!  Our Bridget Jones years.  Then we grew up.  We lost the boyfriends, traumatically.  We survived emergency births, ectopic pregnancies, seizures, operations, traumatised toddlers and a few bouts of Post-Traumatic Stress each.  Incredibly, we’ve both ended up as single parents with three young children.  Mine, a grief inducing, mid-pregnancy divorce – well, that’s what we thought until her husband dropped dead during her third pregnancy.  Yes, she’s trumped me at every turn over the years.  I am in safe hands because she gets it, she knows exactly what I’m going through and what to do.

We sit in detached luxury, neither of us give a shit about our surroundings.  I have a bottle of red, she has a new packet of Marlborough Lights.  I feel helpless, like both my arms have been amputated.  Sami is behind us, headphones on, watching the Tour-de-France on the iPad.   I take a sleeping pill that someone left behind in my house, a long time ago;   I give her one too.  For the first time I sleep through the night.

I decide to wake her around 11.30am.  I notice my bag of chocolate buttons are lying open, next to her bed, thieving cow.  Sometime after, she stumbles upstairs to the living room, blonde hair looking like a straw mat, and joins Sami and me.  She is covered in brown stains, so I don’t say anything.

“Sleeping pills”, she says, casually lighting up.  “Effing strong aren’t they?  I woke up in the night with my hand stuck in a bag of melted chocolate buttons, but I couldn’t quite get up and wash.  Looks like I’ve shat myself in there and smeared it around the master bedroom.  I’d better text the cleaner and forewarn her, eh?”

“Yeah, better had.” we reply casually, as if this is an everyday problem.  Then she urges Sami to photograph it for Instagram.

Couple of hours later we arrive at Great Portland St and she dumps her beast of a car in a private car park, somone will park it for her.  At The Portland I offer my credit card to the receptionist and Kiki pushes my hand away, blinding the receptionist with the glint of her triple platinum Amex.

“Hey, you’d do it exactly the same for me,” she says.  This is not entirely true, I imagine what me doing it for her would look like.  They’d be a lot more buses & trains, and a Travelodge (in Hackney).  She’d probably have a panic attack discovering there were thousands of people travelling on the Underground, right under her Gucci pumps in Sloane Square.

We sit with the Consultant Neurologist and both stifle school-girl giggles when he says he wants to examine Sami. (At this point Kiki makes a swift exit under the pretext of Sami’s privacy, but I know she’s going for a fag and a Costa).   It’s ok, the physical is all above board, he is a Neurologist, not a Urologist – I checked his badge when we arrived.  Later, I send Sami out, so I can discuss the CT scan, without him knowing about the tumour.

“Have you seen the Radiologist’s report, on the CT scan?” Dr Neuro asks me.

“No, I haven’t been shown a thing.” I reply.

He turns the screen towards me; there is a message from the Radiologist, it lacks any tone of urgency.  It mentions a “density” in the left ventricle, it suggests it’s a shadow of the Medulla Cortex accidently picked up in the scan.  There is no mention of “cell growth” or “possible tumours”, only a recommendation, again without any urgency, that it’s checked with an MRI.

Between us, Dr Neuro and I deduce that Dr Junior, in A&E, saw the scan and interpreted it himself without reading the radiologist’s report.  I no longer feel my son is at risk of cancer, or is dying of a brain tumour.  I am angry at what this has cost us, not even financially, but in human emotion.  How I would have remained in that traumatised state for three, maybe four weeks, if I hadn’t gone privately.  But overall, I am entirely relieved Sami is ok.  The sun is shining, my son is not dying and my life is fine again.  The lift is full, so we watch fondly, as he almost falls down the stairs on our way out.   “Neurological impairment” is no longer an option.

His CT scan (above) clearly shows no internal cell growth.

Sami’s CT scan (above).  The Consultant Neurologist was able to confirm, there is absolutely no internal cell growth.

 

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Look!  I’m on an advert for something awesome.  I didn’t even photoshop it and make it up at all.  I know, I know hard to believe.  Find out all about this incredible type trauma therapy at Havening.org (or just read the bit I’ve written below the picture).

I'm the one in the green cardi on the right.

(Top row; I’m in the green cardi on the right.)

The first thing you should probably know is that I had to give up my job as a playground supervisor for this.  I didn’t want to leave because I loved being a playground assistant.  The problem was just that the deputy head didn’t understand that I subsidised my two hours working in school with a second income (known as my real job) as a hypnotherapist.  So, when she refused to give me those 2 hours off to go to New York for a week and get certified in Dr. Ruden’s ground breaking Havening technique, I faced a difficult decision.  Should I stick with my job working for £14 a week in a rainy playground?  Or should I fly to New York in a heat wave, spend a few days at an inspiring conference on trauma, certify in the latest techniques, meet the inventors, their families, have a few days off browsing and boozing in the big apple with old friends?  It was a tough choice, worsened by the fact that the deputy head had just offered me a third lunchtime hour each week, yes, she explained if I played my cards right, £21 a week was waiting right there for me.

Let’s talk about Havening.  Ok, it’s really simple (no surprises there if I’m teaching it right?).  So what you do is basically rub someone’s arms and their trauma goes away and doesn’t come back.  I know, sounds dumb doesn’t it?  There is actually a bit of science behind it, wanna know?

So, if you think of trauma being a red line memory at the back of the brain.  It sits there sometimes quietly dormant, but doesn’t go away.  Sometimes, it sits there noisily interrupting everything in your life, popping up in your thoughts all day despite your best efforts to subdue it.  The idea is that this trauma is rooted in the amygdala area of the brain.  To undo it, you flood the amygdala with your body’s own natural serotonin – by rubbing your face, arms or hands.  It’s very simple.  Sometimes,  people also need to do other things such as hum tunes and count.  This is done to distract the more conscious, working memory and to prevent people from getting too overwhelmed if their remembering the bad ole times.

Some of the problems I have  treated with a couple of sessions of Havening in my clinic include; rape, assault, shock of discovering a dead body, bullying, a variety of phobias – (dental, height, spiders, jealousy).  Blushing, IBS, child abuse – sexual and emotional, drinking, sex addiction, coping with suicide, bereavement, trauma from giving birth, facial tics, physical pain, upsetting childhood memories, abandonment.  The list could actually go on and on, I’ve worked with so many different problems with this on adults and children.

The idea is that if someone comes with a range of behaviour that they’re unhappy with – be it feeling low, eating too much, remembering very sad times etc, Instead of treating those things as the presenting problem, you see those things are symptoms of a more fundamental problem (underlying trauma).  The skill is in finding the root cause of the problem, which can sometimes be something quite innocuous to us as adults, but may have felt traumatic in our childhoods.  If that root cause is treated, with Havening, then the symptoms cease and the person returns to a “normal” sense of well being.

You can do it on yourself too.  I don’t recommend you do big traumas without a trained person to help guide and protect you.  Sometimes the memories can feel incredibly powerful and overwhelming.  But if you feel a bit stressed, then try this.  Just rub your arms from your shoulders to your elbows  saying “calm, calm, calm” in a gentle voice, but out loud, as you do it.

Ok, gotta go, my kids, I mean My Public, await.

H x

The Doyenne of Divorce

6 February, 2014

Michelle Young, (let’s call her ‘Shelle) wasn’t expecting a divorce, nor was she expecting her husband to claim bankruptcy.  An unfortunate coincidence? That’s not how she saw it.  He ran, she chased, cleaver in hand.  And that’s basically how things progressed, as the Youngs battled in the British courts’ most expensive divorce case.  Seven years of wrangling, raising a legal bill in excess of £6.5m.  They settled (her unhappily) this week at £20m, + £5m in costs.

Both sides have made mistakes.  Mr Young did accidently, tell a few completely prefabricated lies to the Judge – and got caught.  (Oops).  He was given two custodial prison sentences for failing to comply with the Judge’s orders to fully disclose his finances (Oops), he served one and never fully disclosed his finances.  He “forgot” what happened in a few of those years (Oops).  He got mentally unwell and had to go to the Priory, at £10,000 a week.  (Ouch).    And, probably most regrettably of all, he gave an old computer to his daughters.  on which, his wife’s forensic experts found a deleted file where he listed his assets at a value of £319 million. (Oops).

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“Distraught & ashamed”, Scot Young is comforted by his friend. “I can’t eat, I just drink a few flutes of vintage champagne each day & force down a few mouthful of Beluga caviar. All I do is sit in my counting house, counting out my money.  My ex wife is like a blackbird, constantly trying to peck off my nose.”

Mrs Young made mistakes too.  The judge described her as verging on paranoid, making wildly unsupported accusations about loads of famous rich people. (Shame).  She was quoted slandering Simon Cowell saying;

 

“Always round my house for dinner he was, that Simon Cowell.  Y’know, he never brought nothing with him.  Phillip Green, what a gent.  He always brought me a vintage bottle of  Lambrusco and sometimes he’d even bring them Ferrero Rocher chocolates too.  That’s class, that is.  Stingy Simon, that’s what we called him, not even a bunch of daffs from the cemetery round the corner.”

At this point Cowell’s lawyers threatened her with legal action and she deleted her tweets.  (Shame).  She was given a paultry one million pounds support for the first year (Shame).  She sold some baubles worth £180,000 (Shame) and put £3m towards the court costs herself (Shame).  Then she moved into a slummy little house, only able to afford a £100,000 a year in rent, (Shame).  Given these dire circumstances, she was understandably unable to ring-fence any money to help her daughters complete their A-levels in their private schools (Shame).  Later, forced to move to even worse accommodation (Shame), she and her daughters ended up renting barely more than a stable with a manger, for £42,000 per annum. (Shame).  Then she claimed, wait-for-it, benefits (wtf? Shame).  She managed to scrounge back £1,300 a month in Housing Benefit (you are kidding me?  Shame).  The rest of the rent being paid for by an anonymous “friend”.

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Ms Young; “We can’t afford chairs anymore. Often I sit on the carpet and stare out the window at the neighbour’s chairs. They’re pretty and remind me of happier times. Yes, I do get white carpet fluff stuck on my noir Versace jeans, everything is so hard right now.”

So, who is that anonymous friend?  I hear you cry.  She knows a lot of important people in the public eye, and yes, my exhausted research has uncovered the three most likely candidates.  They are;

  1. Her butler, Paul “my rock” Burrell.
  2. The notorious gangster, Bugsy Malone.
  3. A grant from Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Calcutta.

Now ‘Shelle, I don’t know how bad things have been fighting your ex, but let me assure you, that that experience is going to feel like unwrapping presents on xmas morning if Housing Benefit find out about this.  Any single mum caught topping up her rent by £26,400 could spark off an investigation, anytime.  My advice is don’t publicise what you’re doing, keep it really quiet, cos ‘Shelle, you could get done.

Everytime I see another woman go through the same kind of thing it makes me think it’s worth it”

“Shelle Young, the Doyenne of Divorce

I question that ‘Shelle.  Some of us choose do it other ways, many of us have no choice.   Many of us go back to work, with the burden of children in tow and we build new careers, out of nothing.  You had funds behind you, you have contacts and connections, how many doors could have opened for you, if you’d told him to shove it and had the guts to go for it?  How much respect would you have garnered from us if you’d put your daughters education and esteem ahead of bickering over your bank accounts?  Oh Young Ones, in your myopic race to be the wealthiest one over the finishing line, you flung your daughters aside to jump for the maritial jugular.  Do you really think it’s worth it?

We, the rest of the world get similar treatment. We are their extras in life, the supporting cast to their leading roles.  In summarising the divorce proceedings, the Judge made the following comment.

“The court has to allot to each case an appropriate share of the court’s resources.  It is difficult to see how 65 preliminary hearings followed by a final hearing lasting 20 days, can possibly be a fair allocation of this court’s limited resources on one case.”

It’s the sort of narcarcissicm you see in teenagers and toddlers; when the believe that they are the only ones who really exist and behave accordingly.  The Youngs have been openly contemptuous of our judicial system, our laws and of our benefits system.  All just accessories to their latest single-minded want.

Young Ones, you have waged your war.  Was it worth it?  Are you happy now?

sad-queen

Stranger Danger

28 June, 2013

The kids got “Stranger Danger” education at school this week.  Making sure no one gets into a car with a stranger, or worse still, accepts any sweets.   We discuss this type of thing quite frequently at home.  This is in part, probably due to my job.  I encounter, on a far too frequent basis, the results of childhood sexual abuse.  And also the fact that they spend a lot of time away from me at weekends, often in situations which I’m not terribly happy about – at pubs and parties with people I don’t even know.

There are only estimates for the number of children sexually abused in the UK.  It’s largely unreported, in fact, I can’t even remember ever having a client who has reported it to any authorities – other than maybe telling a parent, who ignored them.   Estimates put the figure for girls at 1 in 4, and for boys 1 in 6.  Sad-to-say, but it sounds about right to me.  The incidence of abuse rise with added risks of alcohol, drugs and multiple partners.

I have a friend who worked with a group of pedophiles.  (I should probably point out she was a social worker).  They told her an  interesting thing.  That when they’re hanging-out around the schools, it’s not the kids they’re looking at.  They’re looking for the vulnerable parent who is going to give them access to a child.  Feel vulnerable?  To be honest I used to, especially as a single parent, but this made me feel a whole lot better about it.  Not being the vulnerable parent, with the vulnerable kids – yeah, that one I could manage.  So my children’s education began at a fairly early age.  We have frank discussions about all sorts of things.  We talk about situations, strangers, so-called “friends”; we discuss tactics and have a good laugh about it too.  But, I always teach them how to deal with each situation.  So they’ve been armed with responses, rather than trapped in the headlights of blind panic.

But, I also put perspective in there.  I don’t let them listen to the news, with it’s terrifying stories about children being abducted or killed.  I’ve always thought it’s scaremongering.  There were 72 child abductions by strangers, in the UK last year (er, that’s about 64 more than I thought, actually).  But, more frighteningly, there were 375 attempted abductions by strangers.  A lot more than I thought.     However, let’s compare this total number, 447, to the overall rate of abuse of our young people.  Let’s say, (purely) for numerical sake, abuse happens between the ages of 6 and 15.  That would be an estimated 750,000 girls and 500,000 boys being sexually abused right now, in the UK.  The  447 child abductions are clearly the extreme, visible end of the problem; but not the predominating perpetrators.

A client once said, “When are we going to face up to the fact that our children are at most risk from someone we know and trust, not strangers.”  Her words stayed with me, because she was right.  Collectively, we’re still in denial about who abuses our children.  And in that respect, we continue to fail them.  When are we going to really educate our children how to speak up if a grandfather, step dad or brother enter their room at night, when mum is asleep?  Are we going to teach them how to cope with threats of everyone knowing “the dirty things you’ve done”?  Will our children get an assembly on that?  There is very little on the internet when it comes to talking about family abuse, but massive resources to protect from them from strangers.  Are we teaching practical measures for children with this problem, other than, “tell someone”.   Surely,  we can find more ways to help rid these children of their nightmares?

Back to “Stranger Danger”;
Me:  “So what did they say?  Don’t take sweets from strangers?”
Sami: “Yeah.  Showed us a video.  But, of course we’d all take the sweets, we just wouldn’t get in the car.”
Amba: “Yeah, grab ’em and run, really fast.”
Me: “Er, I think when you put your arm out for the sweets, that’s when they grab you.”
Sami: “Really!  They didn’t tell us that.  Everyone in my class is gonna take the sweets.”
Amba; “Yep, my class too.”

 

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The elderly man in red was suspected of giving children expensive gifts  to gain access to their bedrooms.
(This blog does not support vigilantism)

Take a Break

20 June, 2013

I was reading about the top selling magazines in the UK.  I mean,I don’t actually read any of them, unless I’m at the Doctors or somewhere like that.  I tried to read one in Specsavers at the weekend, it was on technological advances and they did a list of their top 40 fav products on the market.  So there’d be a  picture of say, some speakers.  You know the type of thing, doesn’t look like a speaker, that’s half the joy of being technologically advanced isn’t it?  Having things other people don’t know about.  Anyway, next to the speakers they wrote; Capabilities:  does an x4r with a JBNK and has 2rpb which makes it unique.  Honestly, I just couldn’t understand a thing.  I felt old.  Then, I went in for the eye test and it was confirmed.

So, I was reading about magazine sales,  c’mon, see if you can guess the top five selling magazines in the UK?  I’ll give you some ideas shall I?  You’ve got Cosmo, Vogue, House and Gardens (pretty, pretty),  Brides, Nuts, TV Times, Health and Fitness.  Any ideas yet?  Ok, here’s a little clue – it’s none of them.  Think of the magazines you read, maybe?  Ok, I’ll put you out of your misery:

Top 5 selling paid for magazines in the UK

1.  TV Choice
2.  What’s on TV
3.  Radio Times
4.  Take a Break
5.  Saga (retirement)

Now, I personally don’t watch TV and part of the way I’ve brought that into the children’s lives is to ensure we never have a TV guide.  Yep, they have unlimited access to the telly, but they never have a clue what’s on.  Of course, they could go use the TV itself – it has an electronic programme guide on it.  But, they seldom do.  I think actually they’ve just forgotten we’ve got one.

The other surprise in there is Saga Magazine, which, I think is subscription only.  My mum used to get it and I always read it because it was well written and they didn’t make all the articles up, unlike some other magazines.  But the biggest shocker on the list, for me anyway, is Take a Break Magazine.  Have you ever read it?  Own up now, it’s got a  circulation of 740,00 copies a week?  Someone is buying it.

For now, I’m going to assume you don’t read Take A Break very often and give you a little look at the uplifting stories they publish.  This week they are offering insightful commentary on a range of real human issues (with photos):

The headlines on last week’s front page were:

*Finace nicked my cash to wed secret lover
*Was he lying or dying?
*Caught on camera: Rape at eight months pregnant
*Big day shock: I had my wedding without my groom
*Our beautiful prom queen:  Why I couldn’t tell her the truth.

a web_tab_cover_25_4

Nice isn’t it? The fourth best selling magazine in the UK.  So, with this in mind,  I’m going to start re-working this blog to include a bit more sensationalism, drama and violence, in an attempt to move it into a more commercial market.  The story (below), is about a stabbing in our kitchen (please don’t read on if you’re squeamish).

“We were a happy family, just myself and my three children after my husband had left.  Yes, things didn’t always go our way, but we kept a cockney cheer about us.  Often, you’d find us out in the streets where we lived, spontaneously performing complex choreographed song and dance routines with the bin men and passing strangers.  Hard times, but my, they were happy times too.

Things were tough, but we always made time for a song and a dance (routine).

I had no idea at beneath that cheery grin, how troubled my beautiful little girl was.  I never sensed what must have been building like a volcano inside her.  Perhaps things weren’t going well at school?  Although I’ve searched for an answer, I’ve never got to the bottom of it.  But, I’ll never forget the day it all happened.

I’d just cooked tea, no matter how tight money was, I always made sure the kids ate well.  They were halfway through their tottiglioni arabica served with organic rocket salad and a hazelnut and fresh pomegranate molasses vinaigrette, when it all began.  Without any warning at all, Amba picked up her fork and started stabbing her food. “Stop it, stop it!”, I pleaded with her, but there was no stopping her.  She just kept on stabbing it, like she was possessed or something.

fork

An artist’s impression of the fork.

I’d never seen her like that before, the boys and I were shocked and appalled.  I felt sick watching her, could this really be my beautiful angel?  I don’t know how long it lasted, it’s hard to tell, it was like time stood still.   Eventually, something inside me just snapped and I shouted, “For god’s sake Amba, just put the fork down!”

Somehow, I’d finally gotten through to her.  Her frenzied attack slowed, soon she’d put the fork down. Later, we worked out, she’d stabbed her tottiglioni over 20 times.  Even more shocking though, she acted as if nothing had happened.  She looked up at me and just said;
“I’ve finished.  Can I go out and play?  Amy is waiting for me.”

I was choked up and appalled. I couldn’t reply, it broke my heart to think of her with such awful table manners.  How could I let ever allow her to go for tea at someone else’s house again; when I knew what might happen?

Since then, fortunately, we’ve moved on as a family.  We don’t discuss that day, we’ve put it behind us.   And I never make Tottiglioni Arabica with pomegranate molasses vinaigrette anymore, too many painful memories. Even now, sometimes when she picks up her fork, a sense of utter panic comes over me.  I’ve often asked myself, where did I go wrong?  Yes, of course, I blame myself for what happened.  What mother wouldn’t?”

I'm too frightened to cook proper meals

We eat more simply now, cooking brings back painful memories.

 

 

Bye x

Planet Organic

19 June, 2013

Last weekend saw the Festival of the Chariots go through London, from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.  It’s a traditional hindu festival imported to London from Puri, a city in the State of Orissa, on the North East Coast of India.  The festival revolves around three huge brightly decorated chariots being pulled by ropes along the streets.  A deity sits on each one.  The meaning of Ratha-yatra, is fairly literal.  The Journey (yatra) of the Chariots (ratha).  Ok, maybe it should be called Yatra-ratha, but it’s not, ok?

Rathayatra London. If you think this is busy, you should see it in Orissa

Stupidly, one time I must have mentioned to the kids that there is an Indian myth that if you die beneath the wheels of one of the chariots, you will attain liberation.  I can’t remember telling them this, but god do I wish I hadn’t.  All day long, I got this sort of thing;

Amba:  “Oh, I can’t look, has someone died yet?”
Me: “No, no one is going to die.”
Sami: “If someone fell and died under the wheels, would everyone be happy for them cos they’re liberated or sad that they’re dead?”
Me: “No one is going to die under the wheels, it doesn’t happen, ok?”
Sami: “But if they accidently fell near the wheels and didn’t get up in time, and the wheels crushed them flat like a pancake. Would their family be happy or sad?”
Me: “Neither.  No one is going to fall under the wheels, it’s doesn’t happen, do you understand?  It’s just a nice family day out, at which no one ever dies.”
Asha: “When are they kill someone under the wheels, do we all get pancakes?”
Me:  “There’s no dying and no pancakes.  Do you understand me?”
Asha: “That is so rubbish.  Sami, when’s the killing bit on?”

Rathayatra in Orissa. Did anyone die? Who knows.

The festival came to a close and we went back to the car in Queensway.  Sami waited with our friend, Sri, while I took Amba off for a desperate wee.  She was running out of time, I dodged round a couple of skinny chicks in designer jeans, strolling in front of us, and ran across the road into Planet Organic (PO) with Asha following behind me.  I found the loo for Amba, then browsed the Organic Pizza Tofu Fillets (£2.99) with Asha, while we waited for her.  At this point, the two chicks in skinny jeans passed us.  Unexpectedly, one of them launched into a tirade about what a shite parent I was.  Apparently, I’d crossed the road and accidently left Asha on the busy street outside, when I rushed Amba in.  She made it clear that people like me shouldn’t be raising kids, because we’re too stupid (and I suspect a bit too “high street”).  It was a full-on sneery bitchfest, with a  “I’m so much better than you” undercurrent.  Initially, I was just shocked, not at what she said, just at the nastiness that it came with.  I brooded over it, as I considered the Green Spelt and Hazelnut Cutlets (£3.39).  It required a response, I considered chucking a Dr Hauschka Deoderant (£11.99), at her.  But it was too risky, they might make me pay for it.  I considered coming back  with a devastating put down, but the real problem was  she was right, I wasn’t watching him properly.  Ok, it maybe a reoccurring theme in his life, but hell, she didn’t know that and she’d been a total bitch about it.  Then, I remembered the festival.  I remembered that in conflict the spiritual position is to use humility to disarm the ego.  I was still wearing a sari after-all.  So I went over to them, I drained all irritation from my face and anger from my body; and with all the sincerity I could muster, I said “Thank you”.  She was more than shocked and tried again to tell me what a crap parent I was.  So again, I listened and just said “Thank you.”  Nothing more.  Then the other one had a go too, but she was a bit nicer, so I gently put my hand on her arm and said, “Thank you so much.”  I left them wide eyed and totally speechless, as I walked off to find Amba in the loos.  Oh yeah, top-that bitches, I thought.

Amba had made it to the loo, just in time. If the last person in there had only left the seat cover up, not down, then there it would have worked out so differently for her.  It was flooded, there were no staff around and no mops.  So, I held my head high, passed the bitches again and swooned out of there, sari swishing, Amba’s shoes sloshing.  Self esteem in pieces.

We got back to the car, found Sami and Sri, and said our goodbyes.  Amba made me promise not to tell Sri what had happened.
“Is she coming back to our house?” Asha asked as we drove off.
“No, she’s getting the train to the airport, she’s going home now. “ I replied.
“No. “ said Sami, “She’s going to use the loo in Planet Organic first.”

Planet Donut

Bye   x

Goodbye my lover

24 February, 2013

My tears and anxiety over leaving the old house didn’t last as long as I’d expected.  Surprisingly, I was over the horrendous loss of home and hearth a mere 24 hours later.  The first house I viewed was great so within ten days we’d moved on, moved in and pretty much unpacked (except for all the stuff we pretended didn’t exist).

The new house happened to be almost exactly the same as the old one, except for a few small differences.  Fantastic I thought, we’ll learn to adapt to the changes, but this could be brilliant.  And adapt we have.  Central heating, an upstairs bathroom – which is heated, a brand new kitchen, tidy low-maintenance garden, double glazing, wooden kitchen floor and beautifully painted, yes I’m coping with the changes.  Also, we’re in Witney now instead of being an inconvenient £15 taxi ride home after a night out.  Ok, we’ll miss getting cut off by snow and flood water through the year.  We’ll miss those AA call-outs when I’d forgot to put petrol in the car before driving home.  When I’d have to pretend there was some “unknown” problem with my car.  Ok, maybe the breakdown guys pretty much always found me out, but they were very nice about it.  The thing with the AA is, if you just act really dumb they totally believe you have an IQ of about 20 and work around you.  One time I was taking care of my friend’s car and all I had to do was move it from one driveway to another before she came back from holiday.  So the fated evening came when I went to move the car and predictably, it wouldn’t start.  She was in the AA so I had to pretend I was her when I called them out.  So the breakdown guy arrives, checks the engine and announces to my utter amazement that my car has an immobilizer – situated on the dashboard.  What could I say but, “Really, has it?”  So the guy just stares at me and says, “What’s the code for it? You need to punch the code in and then your car will start”.  So, obviously, like any normal car owner with an immobilizer I replied, “Really, will it?”   Now at this point, I think that a normal person might have a teensy weensy intuitive suspicion that I had possibly not driven my car much/ever.  But no, the AA man didn’t bat an eyelid when I explained that my er, husband, always er, starts the car for me if I’m going anywhere and that I’d have to, er, call him and ask him for the immobilizer code in order to drive my er, own car off my er, own driveway.  Nope, Mr AA though it was completely normal thing to happen – I suspect to a woman.  The RAC, on the other hand, are not quite so un-judgemental, understanding or helpful.  They chucked me out of the RAC for what?  Locking my keys in the car five times in the first month.  Unreasonable or what?

The day before I’d left the old house I’d got an unexpected call from “Fearsome Reenie”, my landlord’s right-hand woman.  Now, Reenie has evicted tenants at Xmas with newborn babies, so I was rightfully a bit scared to find her on my phone. What’s coming now, I thought.  Reenie said “Joe wants to come and see you, to say goodbye, is that ok?”  I could hear Joe barking in the background – he doesn’t do phones (and no, he’s not a dog, ok?).  “I’d love Joe to come and see me” I said with heartfelt enthusiasm, Reenie laughed.  Y’see, Joe was my secret love, you didn’t know about him, in fact, I don’t think anyone knows about me and Joe (ok possibly Reenie).  He arrived in my life when I moved into the house and despite grumbling and moaning every time I broke the shower, taps, stair rail, light fittings, cupboard doors, kitchen drawers etc, I was his love and he was mine.  He’d sit in my kitchen drinking coffee and shooting the breeze with me about the state of the world (according to the Sun) for an hour or two, before looking at any task he was going to undertake.  Then he’d go off to get parts and come back the next day and have another hour or two of coffee with me before he got started.  And many a day he’d have a coffee with me before he finished at 3pm.  And, in the course of ten years of damage that we inflicted on that house, Joe and I built ourselves quite a friendship.  Sure, there was a lot of scorn and deprecating humour on his part (nice), but beyond that Joe and I came to a fine understanding of the world – one we shared.  Now on paper there wasn’t much about us that was a match.  Bad matches between me and Joe include:

  1. He was married – to Fearsome Reenie (and still is).
  2. He had four children all of which are my generation.
  3. He is interested in the news – whereas, I visit the Daily Mail online (but only to look at the plastic surgery gone-wrong photos).
  4. I break stuff; he fixes stuff.
priscilla presley after plastic surgery OMG WTF Did You Do to Your Face?!: Celebrity Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong

Btw, my fav bad plastic surgery remains Priscilla Presley (this photo is of her, not Joe).

And here’s some things you should know about Joe.

  1. Joe is very honest and has no time for BS.  We shared this quality (I like to think).  We pretty much agreed on the general state of play of the world (er, it’s full of BS).
  2. He had a great sense of humour (well, I assumed he was joking when he said those things about me).
  3. Every year he gave Reenie the same birthday card, when it came down off the mantle piece he’d put it away for the next year.  After 40 years he noticed it was getting a bit worn, so he got her a new one as a surprise (a couple of years ago).
  4. Joe went abroad once and didn’t like it, so he didn’t bother with “abroad” ever again.
  5. I didn’t think Joe could read (the Sun doesn’t count), but I found out he reads historical novels for pleasure, which I have to say was quite a shock.
  6. His youngest son died in a car crash at 17.  He said they just cried for months; but eventually he found himself laughing about all the wild things his wild child had gotten up to while he’d lived life to the full.
  7. Joe fixed things, not people, but he always gave great parenting advice.
  8. If you crossed Joe, he’d never forgive you.  He’d speak to you, but he wouldn’t forget it.

So, Joe came over for a last chat round my kitchen table, I interrupted my rubbish attempt at packing-up my rubbish and had coffee with him instead.  I have to say, I’ve learned a lot from him over these years, he’s given me a lot of advice – while coarsely laughing in my face.  Joe and I both know I’ve left that house a different person from the girl who moved in, and we both know there are a lot of memories I’ll happily leave behind.  But you know what?  All my memories of Joe are good.  As we parted he told me to call him if there is anything I need, anytime.  He always had this catchphrase he used  to say as a goodbye to me, in his broad Oxfordshire accent.  But weirdly, he didn’t say it this time, dunno why not.  So when he reached the door I said to him,

“Goodbye my luvvur, I’d best get on.”

 

++ Another Joe says goodbye ++