30 December 2004

Signs and Portents

The recent quakes have upset everybody and devastated so many, but they have also got me battling a desire to fumble through the bottom of bookcases and cupboard drawers looking for my bible, which as you can gather from that statement, doesnt get much of an airing.

I dont actually have it in mind to re-read the gospels and clean up my spiritual act, which I have to admit has become one of those 'must do's that gets an airing at around new year resolution time, along with losing weight, giving up smoking and paying more attention to the children.

No, my target is Revelation.

Given the dire warning about changing a single word of that book, it is quite surprising that modern versions exist at all. There is the suggestion that the original text is compatible with the bible code that reportedly finds extra instruction hidden in the old testament, but apart from that, who knows. It is so unlike the bible to have something akin to a pharaoh’s curse (well bigger actually, a God curse) plastered on the front of one of its books, that I do wonder how many crucial pieces of information were in the original, whether or not they were in plain sight.

Is the number of the beast something to do with the bible code again, or with Cabbalistic or other pre-Judaic numerology? If so, which number should one look for, as there already seems to be disagreement over whether 666 should really read as 616?

My point is this, the world these days seems to have a thin veil of homogenous religion, belief in God or at least an ultimate power or power source, the afterlife, angels, spiritual healing, humanitarian ideals, world-husbandry; all these are ‘new morals’ adopted in part or in their entirety by most people, even on the sly. I don’t know of any other belief system however that puts its cards on the table so firmly as Christianity as regards future prediction. According to the Bible, Christ is coming back and the end of the world is very possible, albeit that it’s all to happen at an unspecified time. What Revelation does is to paint signposts to that time by describing disasters. Has famine or disease (help me, God, I forget which one!) wiped out a third of the world’s population yet? Is it true that whatever else has been in short supply there has always, always been enough oil and grain produced on a yearly basis to comfortably feed the entire world population? Is the earth groaning like a woman in childbirth?

If the answer to that last one is yes then I’d have to say that two consecutive 8+ earthquakes, 2 weeks apart and at different points in the crust, with enough force in them to nearly tip the planet off its orbit and all the attendant devastation, count as a bit of a big bloody contraction.

Okay other faiths suggest a big change coming; I seem to recall that the calendar of forever (or whatever) in some Peruvian (?) faith simply stops, this century. Books have come out in recent years suggesting that the tunnels in one of the Great Pyramids were built, like the lifeline on a hand, to map out future possibilities, with a big chance for calamity in the next decade or so. Some spiritualists feel that the earth’s vibration is speeding up, which I can go with, I mean maybe it is measurably changing but by all accounts we adopted an extra 5 and a bit days into the year some time back, which would imply to my ignorant mind that once upon a time the orbit changed and frequency slowed. It doesn’t mean we’re all going to vibrate until we are balls of light, nor does it mean that we will gain some sort of understanding of the universe in the process or suddenly start floating around to the strains of incidental music off the original Star Trek. Come to that I wouldn’t want to spend eternity with anyone who could conceive of buzzing off up their own vibration like some sort of selfish party guest, leaving the rest of us to mop up. I’m alright Jack, or what?

I cant take these offerings with any more sincerity that the prophecy which gave my childhood a few sleepless nights, that the Witch of Wookey Hole had predicted the end of the world by 1984!

No, Revelation is different. It paints a picture of real disasters on a global scale, in a set order and with attendant statistics. There is nothing airy fairy about it, it can only either be right or wrong, and simply because it is sitting there waiting to be noticed or ignored, proved or discounted, I for one am off for a very studious read.

My last and most awful thought is that, if it turns out to be right, then there is only one way to survive because whatever we’ve faced over the last decade, more of the same or worse will be coming after. The only way round that is to release the grain mountains, completely reassess ourselves and our society and get some sort of global NI and health care service in place, where we in the West take a massive but voluntary reduction in standard of living expectations in order to insure ourselves as much as anybody else against the need for the next rescue.

Completely as an aside, I wonder how the heads of multinational conglomerates would like to hit the afterlife only to discover they were the cause of Armageddon and the end of the world. Looking at the shenanigans of the sugar barons, I wonder if they’d care. I wonder what numerology would make of the names Procter and Gamble, or Tate and Lyle……….

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Teeth Rattlers

I heard some time ago that Boots were going to start selling dildos, but if its happened yet, it hasnt reached our little suburban branch on the predominantly geriatric seaside belt; maybe they had a fit of conscience about the increased sale of smelling salts or blood pressure meds to be caused by the sight, but I doubt it. Thats typical of this town, you can't buy a shoe here bigger than a size six that doesnt resemble a man's footwear or something orthopoedic.

Anyhow, I took a trip to Brighton the other day and popped in to Ann Summers. The designs of lingerie they sell are truly stunning, but most of the fabrics are just too naff to my mind. One step round the nylon lace and polyester satin, however, and you are faced with two walls of 'equipment', with the deliniation made by a change from pink flimsies to the more strappy garments, although very few at a cursory glance looked like good leather and I suspect that the Barbarella style body suits complete with or without strapadictomy wouldnt really hold the weight they were designed to semi enclose. It all seemed a bit like sun suits as opposed to bathing suits, which look way better on the beach than their similarly priced cousins but are ruined if you get them wet........

Back to the point of this post which was the single wall, full, like a factory outlet, of two designs of dildo. Well not dildos specifically, things called rabbits. I dont know what it is about my ego, but even if I were going to start a huge collection of the things, I wouldnt buy from a wall full in a shop where it would seem that they were the fastest selling item. Where did I lose track with the world? I mean sanitary protection is necessary and a whole rack of tampons in Boots is quite a normal sight, even if its not much fun parading a bumper box of Super Plus to the till in a little shopping basket. Whole ranges of razors and waxes and tweezers for every part of the body are fine too because just about every female removes body hair, in varying amounts. I guess I cant wrap my head round the bold suggestion made in the Ann Summers shop that every woman needs, desires, or habitually buys a wanking machine that can fizz, buzz and contort beyond human capability. Do the seedier sex shops (oh gosh and by seedier I guess I mean male orientated, so theres sexism for you - sorry!) give pride of place to a huge wall full of blow up dolls, or to get the packaging size correct and therefore the numbers on display, mechanical vaginas? Maybe they do; my curiosity will never be piqued sufficiently to go and find out.

I quite fancied a bit of fun, but the idea of joining an army of electronically stimulated women all making Duracell very very rich in an attempt to constantly reach tongue-lolling idiocy was somehow a huge turn off and if there had been more of a selection and less of a display I might have hung around to learn something.

I hate walking out of a shop with a red face, but as I left Ann Summers all I could imagine was a long line of women all hanging on to their rabbits for dear life like they were upturned road drills, and wobbling off all over the place going 'moo'.

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26 December 2004

Total waste of time

After the sense of cameraderie engendered by the Grumpy Old Men Christmas Special, I felt a certain sense of anticipation regarding the feminine offering, from the Grumpy Old Women. I even considered that it might be acknowledged to be the better programme through the choice of times; the 'wimmins' one was, after all, scheduled for Christmas Day itself.
What a blatant dissappointment. I struggled through over half of it, desperately scrabbling for something to relate to, before I gave up and switched channels. Perhaps it was an effort to stress things in order to make them funny, but it seemed that every time I felt a twinge of recognition at some situation, most of the interviewees would take the story to the Nth degree, shooting sisterhood in the foot by trying to label us all as pathetic over-hassled creatures bewailing our lot as the voluntary and total slaves of the rest of the family.

Here then, is my own personal take on a stress free Christmas.

Preparation - gifts
  1. Children have no right to tell you what they want and then expect it. They have a right to tell you what they hope for. If you can only get one decent thing on their wish list, mark that one as from you, and mark the rest as coming from Father Christmas. This has a double purpose as it also makes the relatives who send money very valuable. If your ten year old didnt get this year's 'must have' then a card with a fiver inside instantly changes from a boring dissappointment to collectors heaven, as each takes him or her one step further toward buying the hoped for item in the January sales.
  2. Its all right for pets to be delivered late on Christmas Eve - its a secret but Santa has to do it that way to stop them peeing & pooping all over the sleigh and chewing up the other stuff when he does the proper run.
  3. In our house Santa delivers stockings to the bedrooms, in which everything, even a satsuma, is individually wrapped, with lots of sellotape. No chocolate, yet. If the contents of the bedroom stocking offer some food, something to fiddle with, are not going to make your kids more hyperactive than they already are and are designed to be as awkward as possible to open then you stand a chance of making it to the living room first, possibly even dressed and caffeined up.
  4. Have a lock on the living room door. Children are amazingly good about having a proper breakfast, or going to wash their faces whilst you down your first coffee, if they know that compliance speeds the moment when they find out what else Santa brought. Have a grand opening, when you are awake and ready.
  5. Dont expect anything you remotely want as a gift, unless you give up on dropping hints and give your partner your own wish list, in print. If it contains more items than you could expect to get then the element of surprise remains. Make it your responsibility to liaise with each other's relatives on this. You can be totally specific about everything but jewellery.
  6. Do the pre-shopping phone calls. Ask people, or their partners, what sort of thing they might be hoping for. Partners are always a little vague if there isnt a list in that household but at least the idea of 'something arty-crafty' steers you away from the scarves. It also trains the men into keeping mental lists because if you start in early November you will find that males are more likely to put their minds to it for a relative who wants to know, than they are on their own behalf or for the sake of their beloved. Its a matter of form.


  1. Where did you get your desire for 'home made' this or that? If you got it from a telly programme or a magazine, forget it; mentally tear it up and throw it away. We children of the sixties and seventies were brought up on artificially coloured and flavoured everything, so one day of convenience treats isn't going to kill the new generation, is probably going to cost less than buying all the ingredients separately and will look and probably taste a whole lot better. If you want to be really unhealthy just keep a duster of caster sugar to one side. Homemade sugary treats are distinguishable by the burnt bits and the fact that the sugar on top is also all over the serving plate.
  2. If you got it from memories of Christmas baking with your own mother, then remember its a childhood memory and this is what you should consider passing on with one or at most two items offered on the Christmas table. The most lopsided cake or mince pie is accepted with coos and oohs if little Georgina (or preferably George, lets break some stereotyping here for the next generation) helped, or better still 'iced it all by him/herself'. Who cares if they get smuggled into pockets and then into the bin? Your child will either retain memories like yours, or will grow up loving to cook, in which case that’s half the hell of Christmas converted to a joy, for them.
  3. Get as many of the nibbles as possible from a pound shop or scoop and weigh. Who cares if the box turns out to contain 80% packaging; wedge it on the window ledge or side table and display it as a box and not with the contents tipped out on a plate. After a good Christmas dinner and too many sherries you'll be after the carbs to soak acid, not sugary sweets anyhow and if you're not, then none of your unfortunately invited guests will give a hoot that they have never come across the brand name before.
  4. Use generic turkey gravy granules, but make it up using the water off the inevitable sprouts, which is enough to make it taste home-made-ish.
  5. Never ever have people round for dinner on Christmas day if you can possibly avoid it - be the Boxing Day host instead, and turn cold turkey, egg and chips into a family tradition. 'The oven just isn't big enough' is a perfectly valid excuse that will hit a chord with everyone. Of course it does, otherwise they wouldn’t be looking to get invited somewhere in the first place. An even better one is ‘Come on Boxing Day, when we can get the kids lunches out of the way first’. You will be a much better hostess when there’s minimal work and you can join in. Of course people who find themselves unavoidably alone are different, provided there’s not some glaring flaw in their character that instantly explains the solitude. If someone is hell to live with on a wet Wednesday in June they are going to be even more of a trial at Christmas, even if the person happens to be your sibling.
  6. Buy a turkey crown. Let the bits you wouldn’t touch on your Christmas turkey be ready removed for the burger industry or whatever secondary income stream they use it for and make do with roasting only the white and easily carved meat. It comes out of the oven looking distinctly turkey shaped, for the benefit of the purists.
  7. Never carve at table. Let the children see the roast looking huge and glamorous because they are the only ones that will be impressed by it, then carve and serve in the kitchen, before the veggies come out. The best compliment you can give your dinner companions is a hot meal. I positively hate going to houses where the man shows off, sharpening the carving knife and slowly slicing the meat at table. It just means it'll be another half an hour before everyone has passed the spuds, gravy etc round and you can actually start eating. Oh yummy, a stone cold meal fit for the cat, thank you so very much.
  8. People have very strong feelings about stuffing; they either love it or hate it. Even if you do a fancy chestnut one, do it as balls or slices, so that it doesn’t seep into the other items on the plate if one person happens to think it tastes absolutely foul.
  9. Mashed swede is heaven sent. Do it an hour in advance so its not taking up a ring on the hob when things go crazy, and shove it in a glass bowl covered in cling film with a few pinholes. Make it buttery and moist (even adding a bit of kettle water during the mashing can make it look creamier), then shove it in the microwave for 3 or 4 minutes until its steaming. People either love it or find it completely tasteless, and if its tasteless to you, well then you wont mind scraping it off your turkey, will you, because it wont have upset the flavour. A modest blob of piping hot swede holds the heat for ages and is brilliant for making sure the plate and the meat stay warm to the table.


  1. Designer decorations are for those with no families. For everyone else I recommend my favourite style – colour-blind, a.k.a. ‘done for the children’. If its sparkly, shove it up, complete with balloons; crash, bang, done.
  2. Trees should not be indoors dying. If you love the smell of pine that much, then doubtless you constantly use pine air freshener and pine disinfectant. Clear off to the kitchen and sniff it. Otherwise buy the pure oil, or incense sticks. Get a good quality plastic tree that actually fits the living room, has room at the top for a star or fairy and a good solid base. If your hankering for a real tree stems from some sort of middle class one-upmanship where it is your social circle that has deemed it a ‘must have’ item, then turn the tables and play the conservation card, guaranteed to impress all your friends who keep muttering that they really should use the bicycle more often, really wish the recycling centre had better parking, etc.

Last hint – stop playing the game. Stop thinking the day is about anything outside of religion besides having a good time. If you love a real tree but also love to whinge all year about hoovering up the needles, love to produce home cooking but love to moan about being an unappreciated galley slave all day, then either simplify or shut up, you’re spoiling the party!

25 December 2004

Well now a post made on Christmas morning might seem a little extreme, but hey ho, Santa brought me a new keyboard so I am having to test it out!

The old one, new just under two years ago is worn down so that the keys look like old stone steps, smooth and dipped and completely devoid of any indication of the letter they represent. I almost learned to touch type once but still 'i's and 'o's, 'r's and 't's interchange far too regularly when I pick up speed.

My daughter Imogen, aged seven, has made my day so far. I love her to bits, but have no idea where I got her from - she's either a genetic throw back or a leap forward. Her father took an interest in the present buying, but as he had to work right up to Christmas Eve but also spent half the year it seems, this year, away on courses, he shopped in another town and on his own. I watched her shoulders visibly sag for all of two seconds when she opened a present this morning to find a diary (the third she owns now, I believe) before she made the appropriate squeaky high pitched cooing noise and declared it was wonderful! How many seven year olds have manners like that, particularly ones that were not consciously taught at home? Her older brother by eighteen months, Lewis, has Aspergers and is rather more straightforward about things. If something is acceptable but not end-of-the-world amazing it is politely unwrapped, put down and kneeled on, to get to the next parcel. Something miraculous happened today however, as he has recently cottoned on that he is, finally, good at something other than computers; 'being sarcastic'. This has caused him to double his efforts and I marvel that the day is noticeably lacking in what he considers to be wit, so far. "Ooh, lovely, not", "Cor who got you that, the crap fairy?"

We bought him a computer game and he is happy; gone to his room and his computer. Silence.

I am off to play whatever my girl wants to play now, one of the craft kits she got, or dolls, or bedroom-rearranging to show off the new things (yes she's like that, incredibly girly, it must have been a dormant gene), then to start washing up from breakfast so theres room to start making lunch.

Merry Christmas!

24 December 2004

Chaotic Christmas

I have just had my Christmas spirit restored. Now there’s a word, restored; maybe I mean vindicated, but it seemed to blossom with the warmth of recognition like some pitiful and malnourished creature, as I sat and watched the Grumpy Old Men Christmas Special on BBC2. Best hour I’ve spent slouched in front of the goggle box in a long time and it did more for my personal validation than even Harry Enfield’s Kevin did, just after my eldest son hit thirteen.

Now I find myself feeling all kind of warm and fuzzy and hopeful and benign because I’m not mad, we don’t have the most dysfunctional family on the face of the planet and the odd reverberation of Bah Humbug that has rattled around in my head itching to tick, tut and set my eyes rolling over the past couple of weeks is no longer a shameful secret looked down upon by a disapproving society.

Perhaps I am living in the wrong town, or maybe I don’t get out enough, but surrounded, I felt, by people doing the rounds and visiting this or that aunty/ pantomime whilst claiming to be having a solvent, benign and perfectly tranquil and soul restoring Christmas (on a blatantly high budget) had made me a little bitter. I forgot that if people were truly having such a whirlwind of ecstasy they would hardly be desperate to rush over and tell me about it, they’d just be getting on with it. I’m not irritated at them, mind, don’t get me wrong, but at the whole palaver where options seem to become necessities, where one appears to be letting the side down if the relatives you had paid no attention to for the last twelve months didn’t suddenly become the centre of the universe and the best people to take to a party, where buying presents only for those people that mean something to you and within your budget to boot is seen as the height of party-pooping.

Yes on Christmas Eve in this house the un-ironed laundry will get wedged into a bin bag and hidden at the back of the airing cupboard so that both sofas are empty ‘at least at Christmas’ even though this means it will probably end up going back through the wash in January to shift some of the harder creases caused by storage. Yes I will then be up, alone, probably until 1am, wrapping the kids’ presents that quite honestly we’ve been too knackered to drag out of the hiding places. Yes there will be something that someone deems essential to Christmas that we will have forgotten to buy, like chocolate, or enough milk for a cup of tea. Yes the children will thrill and rip and discuss and spread paper and presents around until its time to start making the dinner. Set it up, tidy it up, cook the food, eat the food, slob to the sofa and watch some inane family programme and start to feel like a prisoner. It doesn’t matter. That one TV programme has jogged my memory and reminded me it always was and always will be like this, please God.

Until I laughed along with the observations of Arthur Smith, Will Self, John Peel, Rick Wakeman, Jeremy Clarkson and more, I had forgotten that this is actually what its all about. I was beginning to see the whole thing as over indulgence and an almost tawdry and masturbatory experience – one that seems thrilling or at least urgent at the time, until the second its over, when it suddenly feels empty and pointless and rather grubby. Err, what did I do that for? Right, mop up and put the kettle on then.

I want to take task with only one point in the whole programme; I don’t think all people camped out at the supermarket are shopping crazy; I think some are distraction crazy and quite honestly if I had the money I might have joined them. Being constantly ‘down the shops’ and bombarded with sparkly lights and jingly music and crowds pre-Christmas is a way to tell ourselves that we are having a ‘brilliant time’ because its busy, busy, busy. Being out to the sales at 10am on Boxing Day is simply ‘something real to do’ that doesn’t involve being wedged on a sofa next to Uncle Arthur while he tries to slurp Satsuma pith out of his dentures, or next to the kids while they argue over who broke the most expensive present one of them got and how. I suspect the end of any trip just after Christmas is incidental to the journey – somehow we feel we ought to be up and about, anywhere but staring at the residue of the day before, but to have a real place to go and a real reason to go there when in fact what we want is the air provided by the journey to and from.

Some marketing genius (and may God deal as He sees fit) saw this, saw the need to keep the momentum up, as if like runners we need to keep going when the race is run, not to come to a dead and terrifyingly jarring halt; to take our minds away from hangovers and the temptation to strike relative X from the Christmas list forever, if not from this life, for the outrageous things they said yesterday under the influence.

Hallelujah brothers, I have been saved. It all boils down to sex with yourself again – that awful situation where the spirit and the flesh are both jolly willing but the damned mind doesn’t want to play along, it happens you know, as soon as you start trying to schedule stuff like that. Going for a bit of FIY in the same way as you’d treat yourself to a bun from the bakers just doesn’t work, the mind isn’t focussed enough and things start to drag on as you become more and more bizarrely creative in an effort to (said it before) keep up the momentum. Boxing Day, when Christmas day was a damp squib, can be like that. Like a puppy chasing car tyres it feels, even as the imagined seventh heaven pulls further away, that if your subconscious can just keep your flagging body running, there’s still hope of Nirvana at the back of MFI. Sad.

Christmas for me, now, is going to be laid back. The children’s noise and disagreements, the husband’s inability to notice anything not square and electronic, all of it will go over my head, or otherwise I will smile benignly knowing this goes on all over the country, and more than that in the homes of some really rather wealthy and respectable old farts. And then I will do what their wives do – hide in the kitchen and politely refuse help with the cooking, possibly with the vodka and my jar of crystallised ginger for company. Why on earth not? They all get away with it at barbecues.

Honestly, Merry Christmas!

21 December 2004

erm, ooer

Ok my first blog knowingly written for an audience. Not because of the comments on here (what comments on where?) but because friends are mentioning things like the delay between blogs, of late, which presumably means that things are being read.
Well here it is, my version of being stage struck and tongue tied - which is to rattle off any old rubbish at an alarming rate of knots to fill the creeping internal sense of silence, and panic. Maybe I should have gone into radio. I do after all know very well how to twitter idiotically with the best masters of 'filling the gap between records' - although that shows my age. I doubt that even hospital radio has a seat-of-the-pants show anymore, I suspect everything is meticulously scripted from the playlist to the number of seconds in the gaps in between, with marginal room for ad-libbing. Isnt that why Chris Evans was so popular? Because he did his own thing? He was hysterically funny and succesful until eventually even he ran out of twitter and failed to notice his own dissatisfaction, or at least to correctly apportion blame for it, and started a downward spiral of pissing people off.
I could claim that as good enough reason never to 'go in to radio' but then again it may be that the man simply had an artistic depression of the kind that geniuses are allowed, albeit one that ought to have involved a lot of apologising later on. Spike Milligan suffered terribly with what-the-hell-am-i-doing-and-why-are-they-laughing-itis but as he could to a certain extent control whether and when he performed fo the public, it was conducted behind closed doors. I should imagine he effed and blustered and was just as caustic, if not moreso, but privately, with the comfort and balance provided by dissapproving friends rather than the giggles and titters of a bored public looking for someone else to be the bad boy in class.
Good grief. Two minutes bypassing the brain en route to the keys and I have just about mentally compared the Ginger One to George Best. In fact, probably all it would take to get Mr B Piper back on TV and therefore back in the good books of the media in general (and, baaah, who else I wonder?) would be a documentary-interview in which he admitted he had been an arsehole and pleaded that the fame and wealth and confusion at being so popular had thrown him off balance. He would come out as mature and fallible and therefore forgiveable. Kill the 'cocky' impression he once gave in one fell swoop. Heck he could even knock Beckham back off the top spot - being rude to people in public isnt bonking around in public, even though our ginger friend did more than enough of that, but he humiliated an unknown wife and a series of semi-vaguely-heard-of girlfriends and didnt shatter some plastic-perfect illusion that he had willingly conspired with the media to establish.
There then, all that because I didnt know what to say. Thank God I didnt rummage down the old document files for something I wrote last year. Or maybe not.

12 December 2004

menopausal butterfly?

I seem to be more aggressive, or less tolerant, recently and its a situation that has developed slowly and evenly, not one that can be brushed away as a bad mood or a bad month. Now I am far enough along the learning curve to look back and see, it seems to have crept up on me progressively.

Even with real stresses, fears, possibilities, I have handled worse news differently in the past, so whilst these things are showing up examples of my reduced submissiveness and new need for action, they are not the root cause of it.

Is it mortality? Doubtful, I have already looked that in the eye.
Is it the slow decrease of oestrogen - therefore the surfacing of the effects of my natural testosterone? This is the most likely cause and a great comfort, my reason being this:

With or without menstrual hormones, I will never produce as much testosterone as the weakest most feminine male. This new aggression, this new desire to go from A to B and be annoyed by obstacles in between, rather than attentive to them or interested in them, will only ever be a productive, female-controlled shadow of the attitude the men in my life have displayed ever since their balls dropped.

Regardless of what my fading milch-cow side says, regardless of what my partner would like me to believe, I am not turning into a short tempered harridan, I am simply, finally, being taken out of the 'nurturing cycle' and given just enough cards to join the game that men have played all their lives. Time my nearest and dearest got a small return on their own vision of the world, time at last for something akin to a partnership, I am waking up.

I think I am in the training ground for becoming a matriarch. Have you ever noticed how, as old men get milder, its the women that rule the roost, that get the respect, that the family turns to? There is a saying at Eton, I am told, school for the elite, that in order to lead you must first learn to serve; thats their reason for the fagging system. I suddenly get the feeling that being female, moreso in a bad situations at times, has been the best training ground for moving on to lead, one that precious few men will come near to experiencing .

I have often seen things wrong in my life and gone on through the pain to guilt, to a need to forgive and keep hoping, to make allowances, put up with it 'because'. I begin to see that not as 'me', but as a hormonal by-product similar to the one, after childbirth, where you can sleep through a bomb going off but wake instantly if the newborn's breathing changes. It wasnt my character, it was chemicals, given for a season and a reason. Time to get back to the real me.

I dont know if I'll lose that completely, because I dont know who I am, but I am remembering. It is strange that I cant feel so apologetic any more. I think I am going to have fun.

02 December 2004


A couple of friends recommended the following sites today, which cheered me up immensely:

1. www.lhj.com. You can sign up for free, upload a photo of yourself and try some different hair styles and colours. Most of them look ridiculous, of course.

2. http://www.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~morph/Transformer/

No sign-up necessary and you get to see how you look as an old person, a baby, a monkey, the opposite sex

Both brilliant fun, but as I have just learned, not to be discussed or played with in the company of an '8 Year Old Daughter':

8YOD (pausing to watch an advert): Ooh mummy do you want your hair to go straight? Theres this thing on telly

Me: No thanks love, see all the dry frizzy bits would stick out even more

8YOD: Oh no, I think you'd look pretty, and if you put on that wrinkle removing cream you'd look even prettier

Me: You are 8, arent you???

8YOD: Yes and Lewis is 10, what, you dont know the ages of your own children?

Me: No, look, I'm wrinkly, I forget things

8YOD: Oh yes and your brain gets smaller doesnt it.............when it gets the wrinkles..........

Special Needs Showdown

Well now I‘m angry. So bloody angry in fact that the adrenalin has jellied my arms and I cant mentally divide fury from panic from desperation. Its like I have slowly and methodically pushed a reluctant elephant uphill for the past three years and somebody’s just suddenly airlifted it back to the bottom. All the physical stress is beginning to register, the sheer bloody exhaustion, on top of the gobsmacking, mindboggling attempts to work out what the hell is going on, and why.

To explain, I produce unusually gifted sons. Actually I suspect my daughters of being slightly other than the benchmark ‘normal’ (I have two of each) and quite honestly, hallelujah for that. It didn’t give the older ones the ‘foot up’ that state school is designed, like the workhouse, to give only to the truly meek and grateful. Streamlining and subject choices and all the things that allow one to concentrate on subjects that excite came far too late for them, but I am not about to rail against our cash starved make-do-and-pray education system in general.

That my twenty-year-old son is ADHD with an initial assessment of Aspergers (probably he has both, the ADHD overrode the other diagnosis simply because the tablets worked) and also dyslexic tendencies is bad enough. That he has a lightning mind that could understand anybody’s office systems, computer network etc in record time, could sell sand to the Arabs and can mend just about anything in the world, yet works as a crab fisherman because that’s the only job where hyperactive tension and a flair for gynaecological language is appreciated if you don’t happen to have any qualifications, well that’s just making the best of a huge waste of potential.

God forbid, in this day and age that you should say that anyone has dyslexia. As soon as ‘being dyslexic’ became something the schools system had to provide for, the State element to age 16 changed their special needs rules and announced that no-one on this earth could be safely said to ‘have dyslexia’, only dyslexic tendencies. So what if your child has very high intelligence, a reading age ahead of his years, yet can spell helicopter by memory but not ‘the’ or ‘cat’, if his appallingly abysmal writing skills fall within the accepted range for his year (rather than for his potential) then you get sod all in the way of help. By the way it does seem that ‘the accepted range’ even through senior school includes completely illegible gobbledigook.

Andrew, my older boy, was expelled at the age of thirteen, in year nine, IN THE MIDDLE of the statementing procedure. As we then found out, early year nine is when most of the ‘troubled’ ones get booted and if your child is not excluded immediately as the year begins there is a snowballs hope in hell of finding a suitable placement in a suitable school.

Handy hint:
How to see if your school has a good caring attitude towards the children as humans rather than data absorption machines – check the number of spare places available in their year nine, coming up to Christmas. If they are packed to the hilt and oversubscribed yet the schools seems happy, you know you’ve found a good one. This is because they end up cheerfully taking on and helping the kids that the bored, self involved, ‘anything for a quiet life, shut up and listen’ type teachers in the other schools have given up on and kicked out. Sometimes all a kid needs is someone to listen, to feel that they are seen as a person and not a half-height annoyance that ought to fade back into the conglomerate creature called the pupils, or else clear off. There are teachers in this world who feel that their break times are for Internet shopping and discussing weekend plans and woe betide the child who interrupts that. I did a stint as a teaching assistant so I can swear to it.

Andrew ended up in a very expensive special needs boarding school. The alarm bells should have gone off when it became apparent they had plenty of spare spaces, although this wasn’t the impression they gave and once the LEA’s money is committed, you are stuck. It was 1997 for crying out loud, not 1897. He lasted less than a year at Philpotts Manor.

When they suspended him they sent him home in the clothes he stood up in. Everything (and I mean everything) else, bought new only a few months ago, ‘disappeared’ and they refused responsibility. Best weekend clothes, full school uniform, PE kit, sports kit, Wellington boots etc and when your child is already 6’ tall with UK size 12 feet we are talking mans clothes at mans prices. Plus, Andrew being Andrew, and impressions being everything to him, he had smuggled all his very best clothes and gadgets to school to try and fit in with the other boys, his home wardrobe was empty of all but tat.

They put him in the top bunk of a tin framed bed that was designed for kids under twelve, so that, as a hyperactive even in his sleep, he was constantly falling to the floor, most times even taking this flimsy contraption and the boy beneath with him. They refused to believe him or the other boys that it was the bed and not his wilful behaviour. Of course the tour we were given showed only the new solid pine beds, all as it turned out downstairs for the younger pupils. In the end they made him sleep on the floor!

They gave him a nasty weaselly housemaster fresh from running a drug rehab in Liverpool or somewhere, who absolutely insisted that everything was deliberate. ’You have forgotten your pencil case again deliberately, have this/that punishment.’ If Andrew protested that it wasn’t deliberate he was forcibly removed from class. He dislocated his shoulder a couple of times, falling out of bed, and this fact was ignored when the housemaster would put him in a half-nelson restraint – he always seemed to pick the bad arm, the slimy bastard.

Yeah right. I knew a man with fists once, used to say I was crying deliberately to wind him up more. That’s blatant criminal abuse, and so was that housemaster’s attitude. A person with ADHD can no more teach themselves to do what their serotonin levels will not allow, than I can stop crying if a man is screaming in my face and has just thumped me one. The abuse is identical in its power crazy evil, soul destroying effect and my Christian principles struggle with ever forgiving the housemaster, much harder to come to terms with than the actions of the comparison male, simply because he took his Hitler sized ego out on a child.

I digress. Andrew’s younger brother, Lewis, aged 10, has just (finally!) gone through the statementing process. He is diagnosed Aspergers and with very strong ‘dyslexic tendencies’.

The LEA is playing a numbers game and, I am told, on the sly, has come up with a note in lieu, probably reasoning that the excellent if incomplete help he gets from his junior school can keep coming from the school’s budget and is ‘good enough’. They agree he has the disabilities, they are just apparently arguing that the school is coping nicely at the top level of SEN care, so there’s no need to bolster that. The shits.

In just over a year my son hits senior school. Having been noticeable (and small and cute) from the off, he has slowly earned a personal understanding with the Headmaster, the Senco, the Caretaker/ maintenance man (a godsend, him) and many of the teachers and classroom assistants, at least the ones that have taught him before. They make room for him, give him leeway, he has his own headphones and his own desk in class, so he can block out noise and distractions in order to do some work. He has had the same classroom assistant for three years and she translates the world for him whilst also translating him for the world. After a long hard struggle for all involved, its lovely. Oh its not perfect, anyone new coming in causes tremendous upset – he cant tolerate change and is obsessive in his habits, is hyper sensitive to humiliation and will take a ‘correction’ from someone trying to be a new broom as an end-of-the-world scenario.

Put that child into a senior school environment, ten times larger and busier. He will need at least the first year to come to an understanding with the personal assistant they give him, if they give him one at all, and if (and only if) he or she is understanding and capable of seeing the world from two angles at once well enough to translate, only if that person intends and is allowed to stick by him through his entire schooling (locally that will be on two sites, with upper and lower school teachers) they still have no hope of saving him from all the mishaps and misunderstandings and attendant feelings of hopelessness and alterations to character and defence mechanisms that will happen in the meantime.

Even if that assistant has, by some miracle, the kind of respectful ear amongst the teachers that one can earn in a junior school, the place is just too big for everyone to be aware of every child with quirks. He already cannot remember the names of the children that like him, we rarely build relationships outside of school because he can never remember the ‘nice child’s name for me to seek them out. Ask him about people that do not like him, or said something mean to him once a year and a half ago and he can quote you chapter and verse; but its not too sensible to do that too often as the depression builds, he cannot see how people can change their minds once they have made a definitive statement. In his head, animosity once expressed, is permanent.

If I walk him to senior school, any senior school, without a statement as rudimentary protection, I am volunteering my own child up to be made into dog meat and a psychiatric client. I wont do it. I am putting this here, now, against the day that I have to take East Sussex County Council to Court, or that they take me to court, for refusing to screw his head up even further by sending him to senior school unprotected. So ESCC education department, on your way home from your nice offices and your nice meeting rooms in your nice cars with your nice paychecks, off to have your nice Christmas, realise that you are, however inadvertently, torturing me and threatening to torture my son in a way that will ruin his life and the family and make hell and Satan himself proud, for the sake of a miserable few hundred quid a term.

I will not have two Mensa candidate sons end up illiterate and on the scrap heap with no education, no self respect, no hopes and no social skills because someone, possibly just one person, wants to box clever with the cash books. You cocked up once; I think it fair to have expected the system to have developed since then.


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