Heartbreak Hotel

30 March, 2016

 

He left me in Heartbreak Hotel.  It was on a Thursday around 8.25am, there were words.  His were insolent, mine shouted, he threw something and left.  A thumbs-up, mocking me as he walked down the road.

After what felt like eternity (about 4 days), things did begin to change, as I reflected on the past, the good times and all that I missed about him.

I noticed a lightness in the air, I think it’s actually called “fresh air”.  It eased away the memorable odour of my teenage son, happily riding his bike-machine, hard, two hours of sweaty training in my house each afternoon.  Oh, happy days.  I fondly remember how we shared my kitchen, him speaking loudly, almost shouting above the noise-cancelling headphones he’d taken from my bag.  “Get me a drink bottle”, he used to say, as I tidied up, cooked dinner and got ready to go back to work.

“Not that one, I want the blue one” he’d shout urgently across the room.

“This one is blue”, I’d foolishly reply.

“The other blue one”, he’d say, understandably irritated with the delay.  He’d often do another 60km on his machiney-thing, before I’d found the right bottle, in his used sports bag, in the back my car, under his bike; then 15km while I washed the rancid liquid out and freshly filled it for him.

 

I remembered our happy evenings going to the Redbridge race track on a Tuesday night.  The anxious hour I’d spend waiting at the school gates, terrified he’d been abducted by a pedophile, when he didn’t appear with the other children.  As usual, his phone would have been unfairly confiscated during a lesson, rendering him unable to call, or text, to say he’d be out after detention.

And even though we set off a bit late each week, we’d chat for hours and hours in the car, as we queued round the M25 at rush hour.  His inspirational mind would find new routes to try and get us there on time.

“Turn right. Now.”  He’d say unexpectedly.

“Where?”  I’d reply

“Back there?”  Him, incredulous that I’d screwed-up again.  He was right, he could have probably driven so much better than me; 13, so young and so gifted.

 

I still find it difficult to walk past bike shops, without spending excessive amounts of money.   I remember the anxiety he’d be in when he found an expensive gadget he desperately needed.  He would worry (me) day and night for it and sometimes secretly buy it with my bank card.   The bike shop staff were always so friendly,  I’d often pop in early on a Saturday morning, before a race, to replace a part he’d lost.

“Replacement heart rate strap?  That’ll be £56”.  They said in January

“Replacement heart rate strap?  That’ll be £56”.  They said in February

“Replacement heart rate strap?  That’ll be £56”.  They said in March

“Replacement heart rate strap?  That’ll be £56”.   They won’t say in April.  I hope the shop stays open without me.

 

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed since he went is the TV changes channels.  I had no idea our TV did this; I just assumed it was stuck on one channel, broken, waiting to be replaced.  The kids tell me that there are hundreds of other things you can watch on a TV, apart from reruns of the Tour de France.  (Who knew?).  You’ll need a remote control device to change it over, you find it moulded to your teenage son’s hand.

I’ve been wandering through Heartbreak Hotel and I discovered it’s actually ok.  A three star, seaside type B&B (without the sea), happily providing an Easter holiday experience for my two remaining guests.  They check in and out with me, telling me they’re here or when they’re leaving; they recommend it to their friends and persuade me to fit a few more in, even though the rooms are all full.  My guests show up at the agreed times for meals and pick from a limited choice, of bored daily offerings, what they’ll have each mealtime.  (They say please and thank you when they do this).  If they need something, they come to reception and ask for it, there’s no facility to charge it to an unknown account.  We limited room service (for guests 6 months old or younger) and full laundry facilities are provided solely for the guests’ use (management takes no responsibility…..).

And if you don’t like it, or the facilities it offers aren’t good enough, you can just check out, with your bag, without a good-bye.  Like you did.

elvis on bike

I spent a lot of money on special cycling clothes.

 

Mid life crisis

16 March, 2016

I’m slightly annoyed with myself about this having-to-get-another-job business.  I’ve spent the past several years working part time, for myself, apparently as a therapist.  My clients seem happy and I have many certificates which prove how qualified I am – I file these important qualifications in the recycling bin, partly so I can’t recount exactly how many weekends I’ve spent listening to someone teach me their version of  “Shite Made-up Therapy”,  or add up exactly how much it’s cost me.

I partially wish I’d made a better go of being self-employed and didn’t have to resort to a second freakin’ job, but to be honest , there’s a part of me which just wants to go to work and come home and forget-about-it-all.  My “Ambition” is the one having the mid-life crisis here;  it has veered way off course, it’s supposed to be driving me forward, but it’s gone to lie on a beach, drink tequila and when I try to call it to action, it simply doesn’t answer the phone.  Or something like that.  So, I’ve got a mid-life crisis plan.  I’m going to sit on the sofa in the evenings and forget about everyone – ok, everyone apart from the three individuals squabbling over who’s turn it is to sit next to me, that is.  We’ll see how it goes.  The only problem I foresee right now is that I never sit on the sofa in the evenings, yes, life is going to be full of new challenges.  The reasons, for my disinterest in the sofa, I’m sure you dying to know,  are;

  1. I don’t watch TV, ever.
  2. If I sit on the sofa, my three kids immediately fight over who’s going to sit next to me because it’s such a novelty to have me there. Finding this really annoying,  I get up and go do something less boring instead.  They used to fight over who’d lie next to me in bed,  when I eventually noticed (I tend to block out a lot of what goes on when they’re right next to me), I was naturally, incredibly flattered by their love.   One of them went on to explain in no uncertain terms, that my fatness emitted the most body warmth, I was a veritable live hot water bottle that never went cold, hence they fought so vigorously to lie next me.  Cheers.

So, I looked up jobs and found two.  One I can work half a week and earn what I make by myself in three hours.  The other was as a prison officer.  I fancied being a prison officer (for three and a half minutes), I thought I could be firm but fair, understanding and empowering (obviously within clear boundaries – such as the iron bars of their incarceration between us).  Then I got to the bit where it said there was a gym onsite and I imagined it was one of those sweaty, small, blokey gyms full of weights and machines and one tiny window; not a gym with brightly coloured mats, a view of golf course and a Costa Coffee franchise outside.  So I gave up my passion for criminal reform and went for the other job.   I have an interview, a chance to check if they’ve got a cafetiere.

The thing about mid-life crises is they get an incredibly bad rap, likened to a form of embarrassing madness which takes over a person and explains away alien behaviour that people can’t understand.  It puts blame and belittlement on that person without making any attempt to understand what’s really going on, deep within them.  And what is going on tends to be that they’ve simply realised they are really going to die one day and done a gradual reassessment of their life, culminating in a sudden change in their external behaviour which matches their more progressive, internal change of heart.  It is generally connected to ageing, there is a turning point in our lives when we realise we don’t have time to waste, that we really don’t have time to waste and our values can shift considerably.  I can’t say which way they shift, it’s an individual thing, but the beliefs and values, which were once so solid and so dependable in the make-up of that person, become liquid, they flow to new places and consequently, they do “change” as people.  It’s a response to the way we routinely attach ourselves to value systems, inherent beliefs if you like, almost unquestioningly.  It’s how we reproduce society; with each generation there are changes, but the basic core structure remains fairly unchanging.   So we as youthful, rugged-individualists “decide” what the “right” thing to do is, and do it.  Except we choose from a very narrow set of options, like say, which job, who to marry/live with, when to have kids etc.  These could even be seen as blind-options, the sort of thing you use when dealing with small kids – “chips or beans?”  You limit the choice, it makes life simpler.  And we commit to those “choices”, fully supported by generations of societal evidence and organisation.  I’m not saying this is wrong or anything, I’m just saying that most us don‘t understand what it really means, when we aspire for the trappings of maturity, the rites of passage – marriage, kids, mortgages etc.;  Only when we actually do them for a while do we realise what they entail.  I often compare having children to getting married, in the way that you spend so much time preparing for the “birth” or the “big day” and give almost no thought to the reality-of-the-reality, which lies beyond that initial gateway experience; you know, the one which lasts a potential lifetime.

 

Anyway, my mid-life crisis is relatively mild.  I’ve always thought a lot about dying and consequently, I’ve always thought about how I’m going to maximise my living.  Things which have shifted for me?  I genuinely grade my crises by the fact that other people have kids dying of leukaemia.  I find that sorts out a lot of my so-called problems in one, perspective-changing thought and it’s a relief to not have to give a shite about crashing the car, the bank account, or whatever this month’s trial-by-fire is.  I have abandoned some of my core values;  I just don’t rate them anymore,  I’m not going to get into what they are, nor justify why I’ve dropped them, if you value them then I really don’t want to mess with that.  Right now, I’m all for independence of thought and mind.  Work it out for yourselves, because I’m off to Costa to top-up my compulsion.

ladybird_3469914b

Books are a valuable source of selfy-helpy information about a mid-life crisis, especially if none of your friends and family speak to you any more.

 

Hurley Comes Clean

6 February, 2014

Liz Hurley issued an unequivocal apology in a statement from her press office today.  It read:

“I want to apologise to Mrs Hilary Clinton and to the American people. The rumours circulating about myself and former President, Bill Clinton, are true.  He is one of the few men I have not slept with.  It was a reckless oversight on my part and one I regret deeply, now that I see how much publicity it would have generated for me.”

Miss Hurley later tweeted the names of other famous men she hadn’t slept with in a bid to prove unfounded the allegation that (former) President Clinton had been discriminated against.  She tweeted:

@mennotyetshagged; Fred Flintstone, President Clintstone. oh god I’m sure there are a few more, they’re just not in the papers enough for me to remember their names.  Oh, what about wasshisname, thingy, with the red shoes, er,  Ronald McDonald, that’s him!  Oh no, I did him, I forgot.  Sorreeeee.

There has been outrage across America.  Head Boy of the UK, Dave C., has held round-the-clock talks with the American Ambassador in London, in a desperate bid to repair the political damage this scandal has caused.  He was quoted as saying;

“We’re all shocked, especially those of us who know Liz.  I mean know her socially, only when our wives are in the same room and never leave us alone with her.  Ever.”

Image

Donald McDuck in his stockroom. “We shared so many happy meals together.” He says of Ms Hurley.
(Photo courtesy of Salmonella Awareness brochure).

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).

Image

“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”.

Image

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

The Matrix

30 January, 2014

I’ve been to hell and back, except I’m not sure I came back, rather I got a bit waylaid in purgatory. Neither happiness nor an abatement of suffering. I’m the middle (wo)man the mediator between two unforgiving parties, trying hopelessly to find a mutually agreeable way forward. It used to be the unions in the olden days (er, 1970s), who were known for their uncompromising stance on business disputes. But, they have been replaced with a whole new level of opponent, one who makes them look like a bunch of girls fighting over a skipping rope in the playground. Yep, business is going to look back on those good ole days of strikes and sit-ins and remember the personal interactions. The 40 hour face to face negotiations, the egg throwing, black listing workers by names not image, calling people who crossed the picket lines “scabs” and dawbing paint on their cars. The art and craft of beautiful banners, adorned with witty insults that today’s advertising execs would envy. Yes, a proper protest of yesteryear, it bears nothing on the uncompromising dogma I’ve been faced with this week, when out of the blue I got an anonymous message on my computer screen saying, “Incorrect password”.

This brave young couple led a million people through the streets of London, all shouting and waving banners, protesting against the use of fossil fuels.   (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace, 2011)

This brave young couple led a million people through the streets of London, all shouting and waving banners, protesting against the use of fossil fuels.
(Photo courtesy of Greenpeace, 2011)

Years ago, I had one password, it also contained my pin no and life was simple. Despite the fact that most people who visited my house could have easily accessed my finances, ebay, email etc. (because I kept my password/pin on a post-it note on the fridge), there were never any problems. (The only small difficulty I had, was that many of those so-called visitors decided to actually move in, preferring to live off me, instead of stealing from me. They found in this way, not only did I pay for the shopping, but I actually went and got it all as well). In time, my password was forced to morph into various incarnations of the original and these days, with every new item requiring an individual code all of it’s own, I spend my spare time guessing which of the 14,776,336 variables these might be anytime I try to do anything. If I spent this much time guessing lottery numbers, I’d be inconceivably rich by now. At one stage, my darling son Sami and a so-called friend, changed all my passwords to “Youforgotagain1”. Helpful? Yeah, really, thanks so much. In texting skill, this is the equivalent of me changing their passwords to; “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious1”.

Right now the computer, ipad & phone seem to stare back at me, fixed in their calm serenity. They, my modern gurus, equipoised in full knowledge, beam benevolently down at me from their stock images of serene Himalayan peaks and magical sunsets over tropical isles. I sit beneath them, the fledgling student attempting to enter their tranquil world, typing password attempts asking;
“This one oh Master Mac? Is this the keychain to the Universe?”
Uninterrupted in Samadhi, there is no response. Again and again I type, neophyte that I am. The more frantic my effort becomes, the further from utopia I move. Until finally, I bow my forehead in complete surrender, smacking it repeatedly on the keyboard. And in return for my unalloyed devotion, a message appears from above;
“Password accepted.” Flashes briefly on the screen.
“Oh, Master thank you for accepting me.” I am overwhelmed at this initiation into real knowledge.
“Oh Master, might you just send me a humble reminder of the exact keys I just head butted?” I enquire submissively, then hastily add, “Sorry, sorry, it really doesn’t matter at all. I’ll find a mirror and just check the imprints on my forehead later.”
In that euphoric moment I merge with the source of all knowledge and unconditional bliss before me; I’m on t’internet. I click on an app, it begins to open, “please enter password” flashes nightmarishly in front of my disbelieving eyes. Inescapable, my karma has tracked me too soon.

All knowing computer, who is the server and who might the user really be? Millions of combinations of letters and numbers stream through my mind. I have reverted to running DOS, not on a microchip, but deep inside my skull.

I shout, “What am I, some kind of machine ?” in frustration at the universe.
Silence, is my master’s reply.

"There were times when, I have to admit, I lost faith and I thought about giving up and just sending a quick text instead.  It took years of prayer and sacrifice to get back into my email, but it was all worth it in the end." - as this picture so clearly shows.

“There were times when, I have to admit, I lost faith and I thought about giving up and about just sending a quick text instead. It took years of prayer and sacrifice to get back into my email, but it was all worth it in the end.” – as this picture so clearly shows.  Dalai Llama, Darjeeling itunes store, India.  2011

Insomnia, part 2

17 July, 2013

This time it was a nightmare that did it.  One of epic proportions, that stayed with me in a waking or dreaming state.  Yeah, you’ve probably guessed by now, I’d had a letter from the Inland Revenue.  It said;

Hi,
Nothing to worry about or anything but we’re just conducting a teensy weensy investigation into your tax.  Anything you wanna tell us?
Bye for now,
HMRC

What to do?  What to say?

As I lay awake worrying, I had the most fantastic idea.  Ok, maybe I couldn’t make a Wonka Bar costume like last time I had insomnia.  But, just by chance, I happened to have all the ingredients for a life-size parrot costume for Sami.  Would that do the trick and help me put my worries aside?  I decided to give it a go.

Four happy early morning hours of sticking and sewing (and swearing) flew by and the costume took shape.  But, what also happened during my art and craft marathon, apart from make an unholy mess all over the kitchen, was my mind processed the whole tax thang.  By the time I’d sorted out the costume, I’d also found a fantastic solution to the bigger problem too.  I sat at my desk and wrote a calm, clear-headed reply to the Tax Man explaining the situation in full.

Then I went back to bed, for some calm, clear-headed rest.

Job done, problems resolved and sleep regained.
Doesn’t come any better than that, does it?

Bye x


Dear Her Majesties Revenue and Customs

Thank you for your letter regarding the tax investigation.

Please find enclosed some photos of the parrot costume I made in response to your letter.

The receipts I’m missing form part of the wings and some of the elaborate tail-feather detail.  Obviously, none have been included in the head or legs.

I hope that settles this matter to your full satisfaction.  Feel free not to contact me ever again.

Sincerely.

Image

He loved it; wore it everywhere.

 

I won, I won,” I shouted at Asha. “Did you see me?”
Asha looked a bit confused. “I didn’t see you.”
“I was too fast, too fast for you to see.” I shouted, ecstatic.
“I saw you.” “Me too.” Chirped some happy little faces around him Asha beamed with pride. I’d done it, perhaps against the odds and I’d done it for him. He’d won his race and I’d won mine. Winners, yeah, I liked the sound of that and so did he.

I didn’t follow a rigorous training scheme but I did up my ambles to Costa in the last few days up to the big race. I also started having my coffee as a takeaway, which cut out the lengthy pit stop reading the papers. My diet remained the same (a bit more than I need), but psychologically is where I put in the hours. Yep, in my mind, convincing myself. It’s common technique used in sports training, visualization and motivation. I simply saw myself running up to Asha telling him I’d won, over and over again in my mind. I felt how great it felt, I saw his face and his utter joy. I was determined to make this dream come true. And I did.

Sami high-fived me when Asha told him. He was surprised (that boy underestimates me). Asha described the race, how I’d beaten Frankie’s mum and led from the front all the way.
“That’s amazing Mummy.” Sami said, with genuine amazement. He’s totally athletic, something we don’t often have in common, so it was good for him to know I can do it – when I want.

Asha and I raced home across the meadow, me pulling him back with his t-shirt so that I won again. When Amba got home, Asha could barely contain his joy.
“She won the mum’s race, Amba.” He shouted as he ran into the garden to get his bike. (He’d progressed to triathlon).
“What?” You won?” She said with (I have to say) a slightly sneery intonation.
“Did you even enter the mum’s race?” She asked, looking down her nose at me. “I don’t believe you won it.” She continued with jaw-dropping disrespect. “Did you really enter the mum’s race?”
Silence. I’d had enough of this.
She continued her cross examination, studying me intently.
Mrs Vaudrey, I put it to you, that on the day in question, not only did you not win the mums’ race, but that you knowingly did not even enter said race. (Gasps from around the court room).

“You didn’t enter it did you?” She said firmly.
I tried my hardest not to crack under the pressure, but the thing is with these barrister types, they get you all confused and then you blurt out the wrong thing.
“No.” I muttered.
“So, you went up to him after the race and told him you’d won. And he believed you, right?”
Me; “Er, yes, s’pose it was a bit like that. But you make it sound like I did something wrong?“
“You’re not allowed to lie and cheat at races.”
Me: “Really?”
Amba: “No! You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Me: “Oh I am. And I’ll buy you an ice cream if you keep quiet?”
Amba: “Hmmm, double scoop with toppings and sauce.”

The price of silence

£2.60 The high price of silence