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Monday, 17 December 2007

Two Friends Together

Manic Mother, I'm at your service. Details you require, details you shall have. If you are of a nervous, sensitive, or disinterested disposition, look away now.

Still here?

Right. Let's go.

Thursday evening. My old department Christmas meal. I'm there only by virtue of the fact that it was arranged before I moved departments, but these are old friends, friends I've had for many years. It had been booked for many weeks, since before there was awkwardness between us. I had dreaded this evening, not for the awkwardness, but for the memory of what was, and what could have been. And still I decided to go, when the sensible decision would have been not to. Over the last few weeks, we had started to rebuild the fragments of what we shared, tentative steps to redefine our friendship. A friendly smile, a quick chat, nothing more than that.

Still in the office, I got changed, called for some of my girls on the way down to the ground floor. They were nowhere in sight, but he was. We took the lift, my gaze fascinated beyond measure upon the door panel. Collected the girls downstairs, made our way to the bar. We stood side by side at the bar, as we'd done so many times before, chatting, muttering about our lack of bar presence.

We got to the restaurant, he sat opposite me. We chatted across the tapas, I switched to full on party mode, regaling the table with information they could do well without whilst eating, to much hilarity. I relaxed. It was going to be OK. I had my friend back, and it was just like before.

And that was all I'd ever wanted. Wasn't it?

The meal over, many people decided to leave. Not us. A group of us, just a handful, decided to move on to a bar; I was, after all, celebrating. It's not every day you get a degree, and by lord I was going to enjoy it. Numbers dwindled, three of us left. Me and my two favourite boys. Like evenings of old. It felt right. We moved on to another bar, sat laughing, drinking, exchanging gossip, and traditional office party banter.

Our friend left, it was late. Closing time. First decision. Time to go? Move on to another bar? Move to a different town? Did I want to go home, or stay over? Deep breath. Let's go on somewhere else, I'll stay over. I've done it lots of times before, my brain said. Before there was this between us. It has always been fine, and this will show me that we can be friends again. Did I believe that voice? I did. Don't believe me? It's true, and I'll tell you why.

Because I didn't dare believe that something would happen between us.

Just two friends together.

So we moved on to a venue more local to him. Sat on high stools next to the bar, facing each other, and talked like we had of old. Serious conversation, difficult topics, the occasional brush of a hand against an arm to show support, the occasional resting of fingertips against each other.

Just two friends together.

Back to his house, sitting next to each other, watching a DVD. Chatting, smiling, entirely comfortable with each other, just like we'd been in the past.

Just two friends together.

And then something more. Impossible to say who had started it, irrelevant really. I don't regret it, as I've said. It might not have been sensible, but there is little in my life that is governed by logic. If we need to redefine our friendship, or walk away from each other to protect ourselves, we'll reach the decision between us this time.

But as the dawn broke, I lay in his arms and wondered where we go now, the two friends together.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Decisions

There appears to have been a few discrepancies with the fat lady singing. I thought I heard her. Crystal heard her very loudly indeed. Belle & Swearing Mother don't think they heard her at all. I think I might have heard her if truth be told, but that might have been because I was listening out for her, and got confused. You see in my mind, for an occasion such as this, the fat lady should be a lot like this.


Instead, there appears to have been a crossed wire inside my head, and what I actually got was this.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Beth Ditto; she's a fine figure of a woman. But she's not final, if you see what I mean. She looks like she's, well, you know. Ready for something.

I'm sure you're all very disappointed in me. There appears to have been an error of judgement. I tried to walk away, and I thought I could do it. But I couldn't, it was too hard. I thought that I could just stuff all my feelings so deep that no one would ever get to see them and I'd barely know they were there. I thought we could go back to where we were, before anything happened between us.

I was wrong on all counts.

I could give you a handful of excuses, if that would help? I could tell you it was Christmas? I could tell you I was celebrating? I could tell you that I'd had a bit to drink? All true, but all unnecessary.

I'm a big girl, I made a decision. My motto in life has always been "Never regret the things you do; only regret the things you don't do". So a decision was made. A series of decisions. And every time there was a decision to be made, I made it. Not him, but me.

Where are we now? Haven't a clue. Do I regret it? No, I don't. Will I in the future? Maybe. Not regret so much perhaps, but realise that I could have made a different decision. I can tell you I didn't plan for it to happen. There was no waxing, shaving, or general preparation of any kind. Was I surprised? Maybe a little.

So there we are. Another woman who makes a grand statement, then doesn't stick to it.

It's a funny old business, don't you think?

Friday, 14 December 2007

Just Checking

I have been out of action for some time. My computer was struck down with shoddy service, but has now recovered, thanks to some (drunken) complaining, and mild threats made to people on far shores.

So, what have you all been up to?

This week, I got my results! I have my degree! Am not a Belle type brainbox, I stand in her intellectual shadow as well as her tall actual shadow, but nevertheless, I have a 2.1!

I have been on some marathon drinking frenzy ever since. Am frightened of stopping, because this is going to be some mammoth hangover. Am in danger of knocking Amy Winehouse off her pedestal. But ho hum. I have my degree! And it's Christmas.

But while I was here, I thought I'd just ask you to help me with something. You know I wrote here about endings? And I was in a really bad place? And we all understood that it was over, and we weren't friends any more? And we know it ain't over till the fat lady sings? And we all heard her singing, didn't we? We did, didn't we?

I thought we did.

I was just checking.

Hats Off To Me!!!


Yeah baby!


I have my degree!


Sunday, 9 December 2007

What would you like to know about meme?

I just can never resist a polite invitation. I'm always over at Manic Mother's place, (if you're not, you should be), and she's just done a little meme with an open invitation. I'm also a stickler for rules, so here goes.

Apparently the rules of the game are:
A). Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog...
B). Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself...
C). Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs...
D). Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Right, let's go. Seven random and weird things about me. Well, you've come to the right place.

1. I'm incredibly, embarrassingly clumsy. I can fall over nothing at all, or maybe the most minute piece of grit that is invisible to the naked eye. In recent years, I've chipped the bone in both elbows, sprained my wrist, my ankle, had a black eye, and more bruises than you could shake a tube of arnica cream at. The clumsiness is combined with damn foolishness. I once locked myself in my own porch. Pulled the door shut behind me, and it locked. Tried to open the door in front of me. Locked. My keys? In the hall. Length of time spent in there? About seven hours. Strangely, passers by ignored me, even when I shouted and waved items of my clothing through my letter box. Can't think why.

2. I have strange eyes. Well, not strange so much (I mean, they're not on the side of my head or anything) but a strange colour. They're not quite blue, not quite green, but instead a very odd sort of grey. You know like a really dingy puddle? You've got it. I also have a scar on my lip, caused when I fainted in the toilet as a young girl, and cracked my face against the toilet seat. Not so glamorous. I have quite a snub nose too (I bet you're just dying for a photo. No? OK then), but when I was a baby, my mum used to stroke my nose and gently rub the end, because she was worried that it would turn up at the end. Wow, thanks mum.

3. I have an unusual relationship with pastry affiliated items. Like sausage rolls, and pork pies. Also with custard tarts. And sometimes sandwiches (yes I know they've got no pastry, I only just thought of that.) I have to eat all the pastry first. Or the crusts off the bread. And only then will I eat the filling. Even if I'm in public. And I'm not very keen on putting more than one type of food in my mouth at once. It's OK if it's already like that; I don't scrape sauce off pasta (I'm not a freak, you know), but a roast dinner? I cannot and will not put vegetables and potatoes in my mouth at the same time. Or potatoes and meat. Or any combination. I know it all goes to the same place - it's just that I like it to go there separately.

4. I've been married twice. Both times to men with the same first name. Both with the same star sign. Both with the same star sign as my dad (God rest his soul), and one of them with the same birthday as my dad. Not the year. Amateur psychologists, make of that what you will. Still, am always on the lookout for Husband Number 3. Third time's a charm, I believe they say. But my friends inform me I'm not to be trusted to make this decision alone, having made such a bollocks of it in the past. So, any prospective husband must present:- his birth certificate (to prove that his name isn't the same as my previous husbands), his passport (I jokingly suggested I would marry next time for humanitarian reasons, so an illegal immigrant could get a passport), his educational qualifications (so we know he's not a thickie), and a selection of jokes (so we know he'll get on with my son). This isn't just before we get married, either. This is before he's allowed to take me on a date.

5. My favourite thing in the whole world was being pregnant. Even though I felt sick for 20 weeks. And none of this crappy 'just in the morning' stuff. But I loved it. And, if the opportunity arose, I would have another baby tomorrow. Well, I have to be at work, but I'm free in the evening. A couple of years ago, my son asked that if I had another baby, could he choose the name for it. I was (am?) so confident that this would never happen, I said yes. I have said the same to the naming of any new kitten we acquire. Whichever of them comes first, it will be called Frank.

6. I'm in the wrong job. I'm good at it (most days), but I'd rather be doing something else. I'd love to be a teacher (but finances won't allow), love to be a writer (but talent doesn't allow), or love to work with children in a counselling capacity (but I don't have the experience. Yet.)

7. I'm a really big gossip. I love to have a gossip about people, the juicier the better. But that's only a certain category of people I know. Friends? A different kettle of fish altogether. Once I am told a secret by a friend, it will stay with me to the grave. My friends know this, and consequently I'm often the receptacle of confidences. I tend not to do that so much. It's rare for me to share stuff about myself (I can here giggling at the back - yes, I know this blog's a bit different.) But even then, it's the stuff that I'm comfortable with you knowing. There are secrets close to me that I have only shared with one person. And I know he keeps them safe.

If you're willing to have a go, then go for it. All of you people who are reading this, just have a go.

You have to have a more interesting life than I do.

Pastry, indeed.

Is this what my life has become?

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Voices in my Head

I've been off work to day, to get started on this Christmas shopping lark. It was no use just putting it off, sooner or later it's going to come and I needed to be ready for it. It's quite a mindless task, shopping, don't you think? If you lived inside my head (and for all I know, you might), this is what you would have heard.

ooh i've got the day off i'm not going to work i'm going in the opposite direction la la la la la la i'm not going to work sod it i've forgotten the list i've got no idea what was on the damn list i'll just have to make it up as i go along christ how long does it take to get to the Merry Hill it would have been quicker to bloody walk i've got no idea where we are i could be on the wrong bloody bus for all i know ooh i think i know her oh this looks a bit familiar it must be the right way after all thank christ for that it's nearly time to go back home again i think i'll just have a look in here that's a nice top i might get that it's not really christmas shopping but sod it where shall i go now i think i might go in here they'll do they look all right my feet hurt i wished i'd bought a different bag with me i could have put stuff in the big one this handbag's pissing me off it keeps slipping off my shoulder now my shoulder hurts as well is it lunchtime yet i'm starving christ it's only half past 10 i could do with going to the toilet i'll just have a look in here my throat hurts now i think i must have the flu that's all i need just before bloody christmas ooh he's nice looking and he's singing to Valerie by the Zutons he probably thinks i don't know who the Zutons are

"I thought I'd come to you to be served as you were singing so nicely"

oh christ i'm flirting with a boy who's young enough to be my son he must think i'm his aged aunt shall i tell him i went to see Radiohead no i don't think that will help christ what am i wearing when i'm flirting with people a coat that's 2 sizes too big and my son's shoes fabulous i look like one of those women who mutters and has a tartan shopping trolley and smells of wee oh i think i might get that i wish someone would buy one of these for me i really like it my feet hurt i'm hungry shall i have a coffee i haven't been to the toilet yet i wished i'd put some make up on ooh i like her coat god she must be 80 i've turned into an old woman i hope i look like that when i'm 80 i wished i looked like that now i wonder if i should have botox do i need to get better moisturiser i should use the stuff i have it does no good just sitting there my back hurts i'm too hot

" I doe no why thems bothered. All that work and them kids am just keep guwin rait up the rowud end"

christ i live about 10 miles away and it's like a different bloody language i wonder if they do it at night school black country for beginners i'm starving it must be time to get something to eat i'll have to wait for the toilet i'm not carrying all these bloody bags any further i hope i don't have to wait a long time for the bus it's bloody freezing i wished i'd brought my gloves with me are they in my pocket i must have left them on the stairs christ are we going a different way i've still got no bloody idea where we are ooh a sheep i wonder why we don't call them sheeps are they called sheeps sheeps sheeps no it's sheep i wonder if there are more words like that horse cow elephant monkey no can't think of any ooh is that a goose oh it's a binbag oh i forgot to put the bin out today i think i need to wear my glasses more often looks nothing like a bloody goose is that shop called Farmhouse Christ oh no it's Cheese christ where are my glasses i'm only supposed to wear them for reading is that a llama in their garden it can't be a llama is it real christ i've ricked my neck now my back hurts i really need the toilet now

I left the house at 8 this morning and returned about 2. Imagine that inside my head for 6 hours. 6 HOURS. I've edited the dull bits out.

And I wonder why I'm single.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The Letter

Hello love,
I'm not really sure that I know where to start. We've always had such an honest friendship and we've never had any trouble finding something to talk about. It's not really like that though now, is it? It's probably because we don't see one another so much though now, which is hardly a surprise. I'd sort of planned on never seeing you again, although I think that was what I wanted for only a little while. It didn't really take very long before I missed having you around.
But it's still not easy. You broke my heart, you know. I'm not even sure if you know that. I know that I've always been fairly open about my feelings, so it probably won't come as anything of a surprise. But did you know about my heart? Or did you think that I'm such a strong woman, I'd kind of laugh it off, and just get on with things? No. You know me better than that.
I'm trying really hard to move on, you know. I've joined a dating agency, which is a bit scary if I'm honest. I haven't dared to upload a picture of myself yet, so heaven knows, everyone must think I'm a right munter. And you wouldn't believe the sorts of things that people put on there either. I've tried to be really honest on my profile, but goodness, there are some optimists out there. I've had a couple of e-mails so far, even without the photo. Or maybe because there isn't one on there, before you say it. I'm really not sure what sort of date I'm going to go on with someone from Illinois. I mean, jeez, think of the travel costs. Do we meet half way? In the sea? I'm not overly keen on the second one either. He seems a bit mean. Not with money, just a bit mean spirited in his profile. And I'm a little alarmed that his profile says that it doesn't matter where he would take someone on a date, as long as they had enough energy for when they got back home. It's a bit forward, don't you think? Crikey.
Like I said, scary old business, but time to move on. I feel like I need to get in there first before you do. It sounds ridiculous, I'm sure, but I know it would hit me really hard if you started dating someone. Logic tells me it shouldn't, but since when did logic feature in my life? I'd already thought of it when we met for coffee, although I didn't mention it to you. It was really awkward, wasn't it? I know that you wanted to check how I was, make sure that I was getting on OK, but I didn't want to talk about it. You see, some of the trust has gone. I don't think you were very honest with me. I think you already knew that there was no chance for us before we came home from our weekend, but you didn't want to say so. Do you remember on the last night, when we were standing outside the cinema, choosing what film to see? They both looked really good, so I said well, we could always see the other one when we get back. And do you remember what you said? Of course you don't, you've got a crap memory. You said that you were trying to decide if you went to see one of them at the cinema, which of them would you bother to watch on the TV. So you see, even then, you'd got no plans for us to see one another when we came back. And that hurts. You're going to say it was just an idle comment, and that I'm reading too much into it. I might be. But I might not.
I've been telling all of these people what a mess I've been, and how much I miss you, and it's true. I told them how I wouldn't be the person I was without you. They don't agree with me, you know. But then, you wouldn't either, would you? You've always said that I was a strong woman, that I could do anything, and that you were really proud of the woman I was. That it was down to me, not you. I don't know where we're going to go from here, either. We've got plans to go out for a drink before Christmas, because it's traditional, we do it every year. But I'm not sure, even though we've started talking a bit more, that it will be easy. That's sort of why I wrote this letter to you, so that I could have a think about things, and get them sorted out in my own mind.

It might help you too.

But you know that I'm never going to send it, don't you? Of course you do. You know me better than I know myself.

But I'm getting there.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Beginning

I've tried to explain to you how I've ended up where I am. I've tried to explain it to myself too. But I've started half way through the story and I need to go back. I need most of all to see the bond between us, and how strong it was, and how it meant something.

It really meant something.

When my second marriage was cracking under the strain, he was there to help me. We were good friends by that time, and his shoulders were strong, strong enough to bear the weight of weeping women. My second marriage was not a happy one, although it gave me the gift of my son, whom I love more than my life. Nothing so obvious as violence, nothing so sordid as infidelity, but unhappy even so. My friends would laugh so at the person I was then, unable to reconcile that image of me with the Tina they know now, the strong minded, the laughing, the confident. She didn't exist then, except in my dreams, and I didn't imagine I would ever find her. I was berated constantly, told I was stupid, told I was a bad mother, a phrase that haunts my nightmares to this day.

An image of my son and I at the dining table, working on his spellings over the weekend. Being told to get out of the way, into the other room, because I knew nothing, couldn't help, was doing it wrong.

I became convinced, utterly convinced, that he was right, that I wasn't fit to take care of my son. I tried to distance myself from my son, perhaps I was doing him more harm than good. He was better without me. Wasn't he? The arguments between me and his father grew worse, I started to find my voice. But I never found my confidence as a mother. I knew in my soul that I didn't want my son to grow up in a house where arguments were all he knew. I confided in him, my friend, the man who was always honest, even if it hurt.

I told him I planned to go, and leave no contact. To leave my son where he would grow up better without me, where he could grow to be a good boy, a good man, without his bad, bad, mother. And even when my heart broke, as it surely would, I would know that I had done my best for my son.

He looked at me, I wept while I spoke, laying bare my plans for leaving, and how I would do it. And he took my hand, and talked to me, soothed me, comforted me, and made me promise not to go. Made me promise to wait until I knew I was wrong, that I was a good mother.

And I waited, and he was right.

He has made me the woman that I am.

But no. That is not the beginning of the story. Back further, to my first marriage. Married at 21, the first proposal I received. I rushed headlong into that marriage, desperate to join the ranks of women who had someone that loved them.

No. Earlier than that.

My first serious boyfriend. I was a late developer, my first serious boyfriend did not arrive until I was 18. Is that where I need to begin?

No. Earlier still. A 6 year old in the primary school playground. A quiet, shy little girl with long, straight brown hair. Standing on the sidelines, watching the children play. Unused to the rough and tumble of others, an only child, a protective mother who wanted to keep her safe from harm. A mother a whole generation apart, old enough almost to be a grandmother, but given one final gift of a child, not through God's will but from another. A taunting voice from the playground, an older girl approaching.

'My mum knows your mum. She knows you're adopted. Your mum's got to give you back, and you'll end up in a home.'

And there it starts. A lifetime of never fitting in, of never being quite right. Of never being wanted, not even by my birth mother. Too young to understand why this might have been, but the salving years have never soothed the scars.

Bullied throughout senior school, again never fitting in. Always the child with the wrong clothes, the wrong hair, the wrong voice.

The wrong life.

He has made me the woman that I am.

The miserable years at school, finally unable to deal with that last year. The tragedy of leaving school early, unable to continue, exams failed. A future gone.

But a spark remained. The teenager now tried to pick up her life, enrolled at college, resat her exams. took 'A' levels. Met her first boyfriend. A popular boy, the girl not realising that this was all some joke, some desire to slum, to see what girls like her were like. The boy that told her finally that he had chosen her because she was plain, that plain girls were more grateful. Was this true? In a way, he was right. She had been so desperate to be liked that she'd ignored all the signs, just wanting someone to love her for the person she was.

My first marriage, some three years later. A mistake from the first day. I thought I knew what love was, thought I had found someone who loved me too. I was wrong on all counts, and made mistakes that pain me still. An affair, over almost as soon as it began. A girl looking for someone to love her? Perhaps, but no excuses. Not any more.

He has made me the woman that I am.

He helped me to see that I could become the person that I wanted to be. He let me lean on him when I was weak, and he stepped away when I was strong, letting me stand by myself, to prove that I could do it. He held me tight when I received the call telling me my father had died, listened when I talked.

I loved him because he helped me be the woman that I am today. But it felt like betrayal when he didn't want the woman he'd helped to create.

It felt like one more person rejecting me. It was the playground again.

But he did a better job than that. I've started to see past that, started to see what lies at the heart of our friendship. Started to see that it's not a reflection on the person that I am, but instead, well, just one of those things.

And I've started to think that I need my friend back.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Heartfelt

I managed to laugh through the tears that had appeared from nowhere and told him that I wasn't going anywhere in a hurry. The spoken words so different from the ones that my heart beat out in an insistent rhythm.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Time passed as it does and almost inevitably we saw less of each other, his brother living far away and him making an almost daily drive there and back to see him. We caught up with each other whenever we could, a pattern already set of a daily text message from me each evening, checking he was OK. Brief glimpses of the man I knew best, but his heart torn away with worry for his brother. So brave for the rest of his family, his niece and nephew, his sister in law, his parents. And of course his brother. His father complimented him on what a rock he was for his family, how he was holding them together at this time of fear.

He told his father that it was because of me, that I made him the man he was.

I promise that I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

A semblance of normality resumed. We made boxes together of useful things, took them to his brother and his family. CDs, talking books, DVDs, vitamins, energy drinks, pineapple for mouth ulcers, special towels to soothe and gently dry a head ravaged by radiotherapy. He gave me a notebook, so that I could write down any more useful ideas, help him to plan. He had one too.

I have mine still.

We spent the day with his family, talking, laughing, lunching, playing with the children. Making arrangements to see a gig on my birthday. Looking to the future. The night of the gig came swiftly, and passed with little incident, until we left. The venue was packed, a struggle to get out, a hurried arrangement to meet outside. I met up with him and his sister in law. No sign of his brother. We waited. And waited. I caught a glimpse of his face, watching him silently mouthing "Where are you? Where are you?' over and over again. He emerged, of course, smiling at our worry, having resumed his normal practice of searching the merchandising stand for a memento of the evening. I could see the relief on his face, and the fear for the future.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Spring appeared, a trip planned to a music festival for him and his brother. The chance for them to spend some valuable time together. Time spent day and night in each other's company, harking back to a younger time when there were just the two of them. Chance for them to relive their youth.

Time for him to notice new symptoms, problems not so apparent before. The weekend over quickly, a return to his brother's home, hurried appointments with the hospital.

Quicker than the seasons passing, it had returned.

Talks of further treatments, more surgery, extra medication. Lunches with him sitting outside in the late spring while he told me of the news. Lunches when he was calm, but his manner belied the fervent prayers to god or the devil to give his brother time, let him see his children grow up and settle. A lesser prayer, to let him see the children finish school.

A final prayer, as the summer sun shone high in the sky, to let him see the children's school holidays.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Symptoms worse and worse. More time spent in hospitals. Further treatment abandoned. Mobility restricted. A stay in hospital and then a release home in a wheelchair. Plans of changes to the house, to make things easier. During that weekend, his sister in law phoned me, to say thank you. I'd sent her a box to take to the hospital, when she and him would be able to think of little else, giving them toiletries, chewing gum, cigarettes. Things to keep them going. He was getting better, she said, had been able to stand. Was laughing and joking. I smiled with relief and prayed for a miracle.

Next day, an early finish for me at work. A shopping trip on the way home to treat myself. A normal evening, studying to do. Working on the computer in the boxroom I laughingly call my study, the phone ringing downstairs. Typically, it stopped by the time I got to it. No message. I heard my mobile ringing in the room I'd just left. Again, it had rung off by the time I'd got back up the stairs. I checked the number. His.

I called him back, and smiling as he answered, asked him if he was looking for me. Yes, he said.

His brother was gone.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Funeral arrangements in the summer heat. A plea not to wear black which few of us heeded, wanting an outward display of how much we mourned. I compromised. Black trousers and blouse, pink shoes and scarf. Crowds of people at the funeral. I watched as he and his brother's friends prepared to lift the coffin. Watched him as he squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. Watched as the six brave, strong men put on their sunglasses, Blues Brothers all.

A eulogy delivered by his father, bringing laughter and tears in equal measure. I learned later that he had written it, not his father, had practised reading it until he knew he could do it without breaking down, wanting to make his brother proud. And then, the morning of the funeral, had given it to his father to read instead, giving his father a gift, a last chance to say goodbye to his firstborn son. The recessional, as we filed out, made us smile. The Blues Brothers singing that everybody needs somebody.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Seven months. He had only seven months to lose his brother, to fit in a lifetime of love that he had for him. His heart broken, crushed, smashed. His life changed immeasurably, the future with his beloved brother ripped away from him. I knew then that part of him was gone forever. I tried to help, but fussed and fretted, doing more harm than good, anxious to please, to try to make things better, where no better was to be found or desired. Eventually, we found a new normal, and tried to rebuild the friendship we had.

And we tried to take it too far, to where it should never have gone. Two people who cared about each other, but both with baggage, both with hearts already bearing scars that would fade but never heal. And our actions tore us apart, have made it difficult for us to be as we were. I had to walk away from him, could see no other way to hide the pain in my heart.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Where is my promise now?

Monday, 19 November 2007

Aftermath

I had heard tell before of watching people change before your eyes, but never believed it. Surely this was an illusion of passing time, a shocking, stark realisation when you suddenly came upon an almost familiar face. But no. I watched him change in front of me. As I tried to hold him together, keep him safe from hurt, I felt a part of him trickling away like sand between my fingers. He still needed to tell his parents, they didn't know. I offered to go with him, to be of little help, but just to be there. He refused, rightly. This was a moment for family.

I thought about nothing else all evening.

The morning came round soon enough. How could this be? How could the world carry on as normal, when it should have stopped? I was desperate to do something, anything to help. I called in at a newsagents on the way to work, bought an armful of magazines for him to take to the hospital when he visited later that day. Film magazines, music magazines, anything that would appeal to him and his brother whilst they sat together in the hospital.

Time passed. A week. A sudden flurry of activity at the hospital. They could operate. Take it away. Make him better. The operation took place, taking away the unwanted thing from inside his brother. The evening of the operation, a beep from my phone. I had received 1 new message. I hesitated to open it, closing my eyes and offering a prayer to any god that would listen, hoping that it was from him and it was alright.

Instead it was from his brother, telling me he had kindly donated some of his brain to medical science, hoping to give them better taste in music. I wept with relief that here was the man I knew, the brother of the man I knew so well, the two men so alike.

Waiting. After the operation, a prognosis. We spent hours on the Internet, search engines speeding on slippery rails, not knowing their destination, but calling at every station to glean any information we could about this unwanted thing. We became experts in our field, knowing the grades of tumours, the symptoms, the treatment.

The outcome.

Finally, an end to the waiting. His brother seeing the consultant to talk to him after the operation. I knew that he was waiting for the call, could see him at his desk from mine. Waiting. My senses on alert, I heard his phone ring amongst the office noise and watched while he answered it. He talked for a while, then stood from his desk. I watched as he walked up the office towards the door. A gesture of his head towards the door had me on my feet in seconds and following.

Outside, he told me. Grade 4. As bad as it could be.

I watched his hands shake as he tried to light his cigarette, placed my hand on his arm to still it.

No words.

Christmas approached, sweeping all before it. I took him Christmas shopping, him desperate to seek some normality for himself and his niece and nephew, children both. Office chaos, as so many Christmases before, but this time watching from the outside. I attended each party I was committed to, guilt in every step, that I could be out, having fun, while his life fell apart.

Christmas came and went. Nothing remarkable in it. He spent time with his family, them holding each other close to prepare for the year ahead, to show the world that they could beat this, to show the world how strong they were.

The last day at work before New Year. A traditional early finish, just after lunch. A group of us walked to the pub together, a few doors down. We drank and we drank. At some point in the late afternoon, someone bought a round of whiskies and we drank a toast to the New Year. We sat and talked quietly whilst everyone got louder, two people cocooned from the rest. We talked of his brother, we talked of the future, what it held. I looked into his eyes and saw fear and hurt and the pain of the man I knew better than any other in the world.

He said it was time to go. Would I go with him? Of course. He was due to meet his friends later in the evening, perhaps I could go with them, he suggested. It was time they met me, he smiled. I smiled too. Time indeed.

We didn't meet his friends. We talked and talked, of everything and nothing. I wept for him and his brother, and he held me while my heart ached with guilt. It wasn't meant to be this way, I was the one who should be giving strength.

We spent the night together. A parody of an office party ending. Him, wanting something, anything to take the pain away and to feel normal, alive again for just a little while. Me, desperate to take his pain and make it mine. to bring him calm before the storm.

Afterwards, of course, it was a mistake. We both knew that. We talked about it. He told me how he felt how close we were, but he couldn't be there for me. Not now. I have a son, and if he was to have a relationship with me, then he wanted it to be with my son too. Not now, when he couldn't care for me as I needed, as I deserved. I understood, of course. He couldn't ask me to wait for him, he told me he knew that, it wasn't fair. I nodded in agreement.

He looked into my eyes and said,

'But please don't leave me.'

Sunday, 18 November 2007

The Call

December 1st, 2005.

An unremarkable day, a tick in the box of life, destined to be one more spent with little achieved, little lost, equilibrium maintained.

After 5pm, at work. The noise of a busy office only noticeable now in its absence, the hum of the heating gone, the gentle tap tap of a distant keyboard, the under the breath crooning of the cleaner.

I had a different job back then, before I became a manager. I was a techie, not a people person, back in the day. He was the person I referred to, the person in the office that always had time to help, the person who could answer any question.

My friend.

I had waited until the office was quiet; I had a difficult query, needed to ask his advice about how to deal with this particular piece of work. I went to his desk, explained. We sat engrossed in the file, while he wrote down notes, asked me questions, referred to the computer, asked more questions.

His mobile rang under his desk. I heard it as only background noise, a quiet little tune. We carried on. It beeped, the shrill insistence of voice-mail, demanding attention.

He noticed it then, played back the message, started to walk away from his desk while he listened to it. I had caught a few brief words as he listened, his sister in law, trying not to cry. He walked halfway down the office, leaning on the filing cabinets, looking out of the window, across the square to the cathedral. I watched his back and his shoulders, his head hanging down while he talked and listened, listened and talked, wrote on a small piece of paper. I debated leaving quietly, not wanting to intrude. But I stayed at his desk, waiting. Waiting for him to finish.

Waiting.

I saw him finish the call and walk back towards his desk. I looked at him, not asking, but waiting for him to see if he wanted or needed to talk to me.

It was his brother. He had smelt gas at work, he had said. He had wanted to know if anyone else could, it was strong. No one else could. It got worse, he had started to feel worse. And worse. An ambulance called. A seizure. Tests, scans, all done by the afternoon. A brain tumour, they thought.

I stood away from the desk and watched him while he told me. I opened my arms and stepped forward, pulling him tight against me. He leaned his head on to my shoulder, I heard a ragged, sobbing breath, and then he raised his head, face composed.

I carried on hugging, trying to give him my strength, trying to support him, trying to make it alright.

But I couldn't.

I couldn't.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

8 Things...

I've seen what fun everyone has been having with the new meme that's doing the rounds, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Heaven knows, there can't be much left that you don't know about me by now, but here goes anyway.

Eight things I am passionate about:

1 My son
2 My friends
3 Equality
4 Education
5 Music
6 Crisps
7 Books of all kinds
8 Perfume (strange one, huh?)

Eight things I want to do before I die:

1 See my son grow up
2 Visit Australia
3 Work with street children in the Phillipines
4 Graduate
5 Write a novel
6 Find love
7 Run a marathon
8 Learn to drive

Eight things I say often:

1 Fuck
2 You have got to be kidding me
3 Absolutely
4 Goodnight my angel
5 I thought I had made myself clear
6 Arsing buggery bollocks
7 Black coffee please
8 Of course you can come & see me

Eight books I have read recently:

1 Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Piccoult
2 Don't Tell Mummy by Toni Maguire
3 Mercy by Jodi Piccoult
4 Damaged by Cathy Glass
5 Before I Say Goodbye by Ruth Picardie
6 The Secret of The Indian by Lynne Reid Banks
7 The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
8 The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Eight songs I could listen to over and over

1 Will You by Hazel O'Connor
2 I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten by Dusty Springfield
3 Somewhere Only We Know by Keane
4 Going Underground by The Jam
5 On My Own from Les Miserables
6 This Years Love by David Gray
7 Pennyroyal Tea by Nirvana
8 Be My Love by Mario Lanza (really)

Eight things that attract me to friends

1 A sense of humour
2 A huge capacity for laughter
3 Honesty
4 A sense of adventure
5 Trustworthy
6 Intelligence - academic or emotional
7 Talkative
8 Loyal

Right, Rainbow, and Belle off you go.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Wistful

It has surely only been a day since I last sat down to write. But no, my blog tells me not. Clearly, I have been busy elsewhere,doing other things, living another life.

Clearly.

Last weekend, I was visited by pestilence. You may remember that the previous weekend, the house was also visited by pestilence. It seems to be a regular occurrence. You may want to have a look for your umbrellas, because we are evidently due a downpour of frogs. This time, the plague was upon me. The same plague that had visited my son the week before. It was not nice. Not nice at all. In between the clear inconvenience of vomiting, there was also much whining, and woe is me-ing. I'm not a model patient, by any stretch of the imagination.

It is probably fortunate that I live on my own.

I recovered bravely to return to work on Wednesday, more of the same blah blah blah there, so clearly that cannot be responsible for my lack of an appearance at my PC at home. I think it may have been a teeny weeny amount of reluctance on my part to come back.

Not that I don't still enjoy it, far from it.

But if you remember, I was meant to be meeting him on Monday night. For our first coffee since.... well, you know. And I couldn't go, because I was ill. I sent him a text message to apologise, saying I wasn't well, maybe we could try another time. I drifted back to sleep, worn out by the sickness and plague. And was awakened not too long after at 8 in the morning, by him leaving a message on the answerphone. Was I OK? Could I drop him a text to let him know? Of course we could arrange another time. I thought it a bit odd, after all, it was early for a Monday, you know? About lunchtime, I did as I was bid.

I lay in bed until the afternoon, then moved location to laying on the sofa. A change is as good as a rest, they say. And I no longer needed to be within sprinting distance of the bathroom. A fairly rapid jog would now cover it. I wondered if this was a warning that I was trying to meet him too soon. I would have accepted a brief note, a rap on the walls, or a ghostly voice. Plague seemed a bit extreme.

I phoned him in the evening to let him know I was feeling a little better, and to provoke the plague gods a little. How much worse could they make it? He told me he'd been worried when he got my text, I hadn't told him what was the matter. That's why he'd phoned. We chatted a while, idle chatter, nothing significant.

He told me he missed me. And I told him I missed him too. And I do.

Nothing significant.

Not any more.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

My Life in Their Hands

There are many terrifying things in this world. War, famine, poverty, right up there at the top. Violence, drugs, disease. Heights, spiders, the dark.

Clowns.

Do you know what doesn't appear in this list & yet is so obvious? So terrifying that I'm surprised they don't make films about it?

School Fayres.

Yes that's right. School fayres. And more specifically, children at school fayres.

I am a good mother. On a good day. Today, I think I was good. Although today was also the day when I wondered if I was stark, staring mad. I had volunteered, AGAIN, to run a stall at the school fayre. I have done this every year I think that my son has been in school. Bonfire Night, Christmas, Summer. This year, in a terrifying break from tradition, not a Christmas Fayre, but an Autumn one. Every year, I emerge beyond the school gates, blinking as if released from a maximum security prison & muttering that I will never do it again. Muttering to myself.

And twitching a bit.

My first experience of a school fayre was a Bonfire Night celebration. I was but a novice parent & the more experienced mothers could smell my naivety. I arrived early to help set out the stalls, to prepare, to assist. At the allotted time, they kindly pointed me in the direction of my stall.

The sweets stall.

There are 3 distinct bands of children who frequent the sweets stall.

Firstly, The Inquisitive. They start at one end of the table, where the sweets are displayed in sickeningly technicolour glory, the fluorescent lights glinting off the sugar. 'How much is this?' '10 pence'. 'How much is this?' '5 pence.' 'How much is this?' 'Ten pence.' 'How much is this?' '10 pence.' 'How much is this?' '5 pence.' And so on, until they have exhausted the tables with the forty different types of sweets, and exhausted my patience too. And before you tell me we should label the boxes with the price, THE PRICES ARE ON THE DAMN BOXES. RIGHT THERE. IN FRONT OF THEIR EYES.

Secondly, we have The Trusting. These tend to be the younger of the children, who approach the tables in a shuffling gait, usually assisted by a helpful push from an older sibling. There will be muttering and conferring, and eventually a louder, exasperated uttering. 'Go on! Ask her!' I always smile at them, encouragingly, although I suspect they can see the fear in my eyes. The fearful tend to recognise each other, I think. Finally, hesitantly, they reach out their arm, and splay their small clammy fingers, their palms filled with the treasures of their money box, one pence pieces dully glimmering. 'What can I have for this please?' They look up at me, faces shining with trust. And I work my way along the table with them, working out what they can have for their 97 pence.

Finally, we have The Unreasonably Optimistic. We have been known, in the past, to provide bags for the children to put their sweets in, imagining for a moment that we are a grand Pick & Mix outlet, instead of amateurs. Many children don't see the need for this, instead preferring to help themselves from the boxes & clutch the spoils in their hands. The girls usually have a small, glittery, beaded purse, the boys rummage in their pockets for change. After consideration and deliberation, they have chosen their favourites and present them for purchase. 'That's 72 pence.' They examine their purses, their pockets, their other pockets, their friends pockets. 'How much?' There is surely some sort of problem. This cannot be right. There must have been a misunderstanding. They will show me their money, all 46 pence of it. 'That's 46 pence' I will say, helpfully. They will look at me to see if there is room for negotiation. They are met with impassivity. So they reject the ones that they can most do without, and stuff them back into the boxes, now with the added benefit of dirt & pocket fluff.

I thought that the sweets stall was the most terrifying of all. Until today.

Childrens Tombola.

No, not win a child. Goodness, there are probably laws against that, I'm not even sure if you can offer goldfish as prizes any more. But 2 tables (Count them! 2 tables!) filled with toys and labelled with raffle tickets, ending in 0 or 5.And a tombola drum, for spinning. The school doors opened promptly at 12, I watched as the Book Stall, the Toy Stall, the Bric a Brac stall, were swamped by children and car boot sale dealers. This will be easy, I thought.

How very foolish of me.

I was approacched by a young girl, clutching her money. I bent down, to help her spin the drum, to help her reach the tickets. And for the next hour and a half I stayed there almost constantly, occasionally stretching my groaning knees if a taller child approached. I smiled, I laughed, I asked the children if they wanted a lucky spin of the drum. I handed them their prizes, telling them how much I had wanted to win that very one with the coloured pens, the glitter, the beads or the dominoes. I remained smiling, even when one very keen little boy spun the drum without shutting the little door first, leaving the tickets to fly into the air. necessitating some scrabbling around on the floor to rescue them. I oohed and aahed, crossed my fingers for them, cheered when they won & told them 'Never mind, that was bad luck, wasn't it?' when they lost. I sold out after 90 minutes, & felt like I had run a marathon.

Today, I have been a good mother.

But if you see someone in the street, looking dazed and confused, stop them & check to see if they are OK. If they answer '30 pence for a ticket, or 4 tickets for a pound', then that will be me.

I wonder if we will have an Easter Fayre this year?

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Hot Diggety!

Today loomed over me like a grey sky threatening rain. Or a drunk man threatening trouble. Or an earache threatening the flu. But it threatened. I was not in the best of moods today, following on from the debacle that was my working day yesterday.

It sort of perked up though, in those ways that make it a better day than it could ever have promised to be.

Start of day - unofficial meeting of other poor souls who had been in the same meeting yesterday. Sat round, moaning, swearing & trying to outdo one another in just how bad we felt. In swear box terms, I personally am talking about a month's salary. Not mine, maybe Richard Branson.

Mid-morning - finished all work from yesterday, sent e-mail letting everyone know it was done, also to people who'd made the long journey to our office yesterday. I'd wondered of they felt as bad as we did. Maybe we are over-sensitive little flowers, too delicate for the cut & thrust business world. Received e-mail back from one of them almost immediately.

It said, simply:- 'I've smoked 78 fags today'

Lunch to mid-afternoon - intermittent moaning, almost constant swearing, managed a whole sentence composed entirely of swear words that included verbs, nouns & adjectives. A linguistic feat, I'm sure you'll agree. Felt much better for it. Started doing proper work again. Like shouting at team to work harder. Felt even better.

An e-mail from him. We're meeting for a coffee on Monday evening. Baby steps. Just to see if I'm even ready to begin allowing him back into my life, chaotic hovel that it is. But baby steps, nevertheless. I know he wants us to be friends again. I've said that I lost him & maybe I was trying to be kind to myself. I sent him away; let him go. He didn't want to go, but there were consequences to what had happened between us. I was hurt, heart-raw & I needed him, wanted him to see that my heart was broken. To show him how much I'd cared, how much I'd always cared.

But life is short & time without the ones you care about is long. And it's time to take baby steps to see if we can start mending what we had. And being friends again. Maybe not in the same way, but a new way. A way that doesn't hurt, for either of us.

The journey home. The pick up of my son from his home after school. The night falling around us, the chill in the air, the distant gunshot crack of fireworks late to the party. The dry leaves on the pavement, blown, stacked high against the verges. The rustle under our feet as we shuffled through them at speed & they flew into the air & tumbled around us.

'Hot Diggety!' he shouted, into the air.

And I laughed with him, into the air & off into the future.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

When I Grow Up, I Would Like To Be...

I had a choice of posts today. I could tell you that I've spent another day with flip charts, coloured pens and post it notes. I could tell you that it was meant to help motivate us, but instead reduced one of my colleagues to tears, and left her thinking that she was in the wrong job. I could tell you that I've learned today that people sometimes know such a lot about a subject, that they forget the basics, like being courteous, like respect for people, like behaving like adults. I could tell you that this day, above all other days, has made me more intent on finding a new job than any day I've had at this company.

In 16 years of working for them.

Instead, I shall take one of the positives from yesterday, because, despite all that, I don't have to descend to their level.

Because I can be a better woman than that.

Instead, I'm going to talk to you about ambition. Do you remember when you were a child, and you had such bright, sparkly dreams for the future? Do you remember thinking that you could be anything you wanted to be, achieve anything you set out to do?

Some of us have never lost that.

We were asked yesterday to write down (on a post it note!) our ambition for the future. Didn't have to be work related. Then the other people had to try and match those ambitions to the people that were there. It was a really entertaining exercise. Two people wanted to climb Ben Nevis. (God bless the third person who said that he used to want to climb a mountain, but was now so unfit that his ambition was to walk up a gentle hill). One person wanted to do a parachute jump, one to get their golf handicap to under 8, one to travel to the Galapagos Islands.

Mine? I want to write a novel. Difficult enough, I know. Not sure how or where to start. But I know that it's what I want to do, what I've always wanted to do. But as some people achieve ambitions or discard them, instead, I collect them.

You see, I don't just have one. But they only gave me one post-it note. Do you think they would have guessed that these were my ambitions too?

1/ travel to Australia.
2/ wear Size 10 clothes. That cover all of my body. And fasten.
3/ run a half marathon.
4/ find a house that I don't want to move from every 3 years.
5/ learn to drive
6/ learn another language

And one final one.

Wake up every day, and know that I'm doing the best that I can.

That's me sorted then. What about you?

Monday, 5 November 2007

My Life In Flip Chart Form

I have been getting things all wrong. I have been trying to live my life as it suits me, & as it suits those nearest & dearest to me. I have not been planning properly, setting myself targets, looking at measures & agreeing on who is going to own certain actions. This is what I have been doing all day today. Not about my life, sillies, but about my work. But I reckon it could work with my life.

Let's be honest, it's all going to hell in a handcart at the moment, so we need to look at something new.

Shall we try?

Let's.

Actions (What)
1/ Find a new job to increase earning potential
2/ Take up a new hobby to fill empty space left by completion of study
3/ Take more active role in son's education. Alternatively, just take active role.
4/ Find man to love & cherish (me)
5/ Decorate dining room

Actions (How)
1/ Sign up with employment agency. Or 7, if you are quite desperate & on the breadline
2/ Review night school courses & look at voluntary work options
3/ Listen when son is talking. Also try to understand what SATS are. And who to pay to get good ones. Alternatively buy books on how to pass SATS. If they do them.
4/ Assume he will knock on the door looking for me. If this does not happen, consider dating agency. Or friends with single, nerdy brothers. Or Big Issue sellers. Or people who need Visa to stay in country.
5/ Go to Homebase to buy paint & get off ass & do painting.

When & Process Owner
1/ Before Christmas. Me
2/ By Q1 2008. (That is before end of March next year to the uninitiated). Me
3/ Immediate effect. Me
4/ By end 2008. There is no point rushing these things. Also I need to collect new friends who might have single, nerdy brothers. And buy Big Issue. And frequent immigration centres.
5/ By end Jan 2008. Me

What will success look like?
1/ Will have new job. And more money. And more shoes. And pink coat. And manicure.
2/ Will be expert in basket weaving. Or Italian. Or sign language. Or will have adopted granny, child or pet.
3/ Son will do well at school. Will get good SATS scores.Will get good place at senior school. Will grow up successful & when awarded a prestigious prize will begin speech with words 'I owe this all to my mother'.
4/ Will have new boyfriend, partner, lover or husband. Will stop booking singles holidays. Will stop inadvertently flirting with trolls without realising. Will smile more.
5/ Dining room will look like dining room, instead of soup kitchen. Will be able to invite friends round. Will stop grimacing at vile wallpaper.

Now you see, it's quite easy once you get it all sorted.

Can't think why I've never done it before.

Oh, I know.

IT'S BECAUSE I SPEND ALL DAMN DAY DOING IT AT WORK.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

If I Close My Eyes, It Will All Be A Horrible Dream

Challenging weekend at Tantrum Towers. Day of introspection yesterday, caught up on all of your new posts, decided to have an early night. I need an early night. Tomorrow, I am in a 2 day planning meeting. Yes, 2 day. Not 2 hours, but 2 days. It involves things like Powerpoint presentations, flipcharts, and my personal favourite, focus groups.

Good grief.

Anyway, son returned, flushed with success, from swimming gala, having successfully reached the final in the breaststroke. Hurrah! Am reliably informed he needs to practice diving off blocks, because at the moment it's all a bit belly flop. But hurrah him! So, an early night was in order. Collapsed into my bed, fell fast asleep, awakened some hours later by son pattering into my room.

'Can I come in with you? I have tummy ache'

'Yes of course'

There is shuffling, rearrangement of pillows, liberal application of stuffed toys (mine & his, sadly) and I close my eyes again. Then whip them open.

'Do you feel sick?'

'No. Just tummy ache'

Ah. That's all right then. eyes closed. Ten minutes later, he is in the bathroom, retching. He comes back to bed.

'Are you OK now?'

'Yes thanks, mummy. I feel better now.'

Fabulous. Then I shall go back to sleep.

Thirty minutes later, he has been sick in my bed, on my carpet, and in the toilet. Fortunately, he has not been sick on me. There is liberal cleaning, and no swearing. Not even in my head. I may have been cleaning in my sleep. The sickness continues at 30 minute intervals through the night, so I give up sleep, & come in here.

(Apologies to those people, if I left a sleepy comment on your blog)

Of course, in the wee small hours, there is always space for a bit more introspection, so I designed some questions to see if I can be his friend again.

Q1/ Can I be his friend again?
Yes, in a heartbeat.

Q2/ Would I be able to go out in the evening for a drink & not hope for something else?
Um, close. But maybe not quite yet.

Q3/ How would I feel if I learned tomorrow that he was dating?
Like ripping his head off. Then stamping on it. Then crying. Mixed in with wanting him to be happy.

Q4/ Could I go to his wedding?
Yes I could. I would wear a beautiful dress, a stylish hat, evocative perfume. When it got to the bit about people being able to object, I would throw myself into the aisle, and wail 'It was meant to be me! It was meant to be me! How can it not be me!'

Am thinking I'm not quite ready yet.

But getting there.

Now you must excuse me. I think I need to scrub the carpet again.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Better to Have Loved and Lost?

Today finds me in introspective mood. It may be due to the large quantity of wine I consumed with Belle last night. It may be due to me reading Swearing Mother or the devastating end of a relationship here. But as I stand at the end of a friendship like no other, I'm starting to wonder if trying to turn it into something else was worthwhile after all.

We had known of one another for a long time, worked at the same company for years. Then I moved departments, to the same one as him, and ended up sitting opposite him. And he could really make me laugh. God knows, ours isn't the most interesting of jobs, so you need a bit of humour to pass the time. We became office acquaintances, people who would stand & have a chat if they met in the street.

Then we had our team Christmas meal.

There was an awful lot of drinking. Some eating. Then a lot more drinking. At some late point in the evening I decided that if I didn't leave now, then I would be getting an ambulance instead of a taxi, so I swayed drunkenly upright to leave. At some point, a lot of people seemed to have disappeared. Possibly into rehab. And it was nearly closing time anyway, so we all decided to make a move. We walked in the same direction, towards the taxi rank, outside the Grand Hotel in Birmingham, that's sadly no longer there. The taxi rank, centre of Birmingham, 2 weeks before Christmas, had a queue like the opening day of Harrod's sale.

He grabbed my arm, telling me to come on, we were going on somewhere else, to a party. He pulled me towards the door of the hotel, where we could hear the disco belting out Slade to drunken office revellers. I looked at him, aghast.

'We can't go in there. It's a private party. Look, there's a sign' (actually there might have been 2 or 3, I could certainly see more than 1)

It was a private party. He smiled politely to the doorman, told him it was nice to see him, and led me in. We danced, drank, laughed, talked. We talked to the office party people who assumed that we were friends of someone else. We said it was nice to put faces to names. When we left, we told them we'd see them back at work.

I wonder if they looked for us?

And we have been friends ever since. He knows more about me than any other friend. He has seen me through bereavements, divorce, grief, fear & misery. He has helped me become the woman that I am.

So were we right to try? I told him that we were, I asked him to try, I told him that we got on so well, there had been something between us for a long time, and unless we tried we'd never know if we were meant to be together.

When he told me that it didn't feel right, he smiled at me and said that at least we had tried.

But now I've let him go, the man that has saved me over & over again, & I miss him in my life.

Is it better to have loved and lost?

I would always have said yes, but now?

Thursday, 1 November 2007

I Would Hate to Make Enemies of my Friends

I have a very honest relationship with all of my good friends. We are not the sort of people that are polite with each other for the sake of it. We are not even polite when we are out in company & I very much doubt that we would be polite if we were in the presence of the Queen. When it became very obvious that I needed to have my eyesight checked (the chafing of my nose on the PC screen gave it away), I took a friend with me to help me choose the required glasses.

I tried on lots of pairs. That doesn't necessarily mean that I put them on my face. Some of them I just lifted up & she shook her head and said 'No' in a very definite voice. Some of them I put on my face and she looked at me and said helpful things like 'Good God, no' or 'Take them off, they're vile'. It is at times like that, that you need your friends to be honest with you. It is no use spending the rest of your life in glasses that make you look like the Milky Bar Kid's grandmother. And I love my glasses. I would wear them even if I didn't need them.

In my recent trials and tribulations, my best friends have been very honest with me. And I love them for it. If they were not already married, and if they were men, I would marry them myself.

If they would have me.

They have been stern with me. 'Don't call him', they have said, helpfully, when I have whimpered at them. 'Give yourself time', they have advised, when I have pleaded. 'Stop the damn moaning', they have thought, but never let me hear or see them think it.

As I've said, I've tried to be fair, and told them that things like this take two, I'm not a child, we have equal responsibility. They have agreed, they have threatened to slap me, and then they have said that they couldn't care less, because they are my friends, and I am their friend, and it doesn't matter apart from the fact that they don't like me to be upset, they hate to see me sad, and they are not liking it very much at all.

It is making me think that even if I did something horrible that they would be behind me.

I am not going to try that though, just in case.

I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of them.

Bizarre sentences that I never thought I would utter: -

Location: our office, senior management member running a lunch discussion about motivation and achievement.

Me: Are you really going to put Trinny & Susannah on the same sheet of flip chart as you have written "Putting man on the moon?!!!!'

I think my job is hanging by a thread...

Sunday, 28 October 2007

You Can't Keep an Old Dog Down

Or is that you can't teach it new tricks? No matter, because b*gger me, I'm back!

All has not been well at Tantrum Towers. There has been some weeping and wailing. (quite a lot actually). Some women are pretty when they cry, little pools of water creeping over the edge of their eyelashes. Not me. I cry great big rasping sobs, my eyelids go puffy, my nose goes red and I dribble.

It is not a good look for me.

(Number of times I have wanted to text him:- A bazillion)

My friends have been marvellous. There is nothing like having your friends there when you need them. They are stunned at the outcome.

And, dear god, they are not happy about it.

I have been fair. I know him better than any of them. I know things about him that no one else does. And I can see why this happened. I'm not a child; I didn't go into this with my eyes closed. There was a risk, always a risk. What has happened is not his fault. It's one of those things. I have defended him, I have tried to explain why it happened, that he isn't to blame, that he did the right thing in stopping it now before I got even more hurt.

One of them is going away on business with him today, and says she will find it hard not to throw him out of the car.

(Number of times I've wanted to call him:- A bazillion)

It's not going to be easy because we work at the same company. (Was there a gasp from the back?) Yes, an office romance, no less. We don't work together any more, but we still see each other about, so that won't be easy. Not if my nose is red, it won't. We're both fortunate though, we both have a life outside work. We are not people who live to work; I am a person who can barely tolerate the fact that I have to work. I hadn't realised how much this blog has become part of my life - it sort of creeps up on you, don't you think?

And it is people who've been kind enough to leave comments that have brought me back.

And back to stay.

(Number of times I've tried to think of what I could have done to make him love me:- Countless)

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Best Foot Forward

First of all, I'd just like to say thank you for all of your comments - it's been lovely to know that you've all been out there, rooting for me. And now, as promised, you can have the update.

We went out this evening, I've been back a little while now. We had tickets to a gig in Birmingham that we booked a while ago. I was back in work, he's off for the rest of the week, so we decided to meet up before for a drink and something to eat.

I've felt out of sorts today. Maybe I am missing the cooked breakfast. I met him in the bar and smiled when I saw him, waiting for me. He got off his bar stool to give me a kiss.

'Hello handsome' I said. 'Hello gorgeous' he replied.

We talked about what he had done with himself today, we talked about what I had done at work, and then moved on to get something to eat. We arrived at a different bar. We ordered our food and made small talk.

He looked at me and said 'You want to talk about us, don't you?'

And I looked at him, and I knew. I said 'No. There's no point, is there?'

And there wasn't. We talked though, and he told me that he cares for me a lot, but it just wasn't right. It wasn't right in his heart. And that's where it needs to be right, most of all.

I cried into my dinner, while he asked me if we could still be friends. And I told him, no. There was no going back, not for me. Because it wouldn't be fair, unless we both wanted the same thing. And I would always want more than he could give.

We left the bar, and I cried again, because I knew that when I walked away from him, that would be the last time that we were friends. And he cried too. Because he knew it as well.

So I made a choice. Right or wrong, I have no idea, and less interest in if it even matters. I told him I was going to the gig, he asked if I wanted some company. It's pretty much where we started as friends, and it seemed right to finish there too. So we went to the gig and it was fabulous. One of the best ones I've seen.

He walked me to the train station, and we hugged while we said good bye. I put my hand on his cheek and told him to take care. He told me the same.

And then I walked away. And I didn't, couldn't look back. Best foot forward, but on my own.

I sit here now, wondering where to go from here. I'm not sure whether to carry on with this blog, start a new one, or delete it. The heart feels ripped out of this one.

Or that just might be me.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The Return

Evening everyone. How have you all been? Been doing anything nice? Good, glad to hear it.

Me? Lovely. Thanks for asking.

Do any of you have any idea how close I was to putting that on the site as my post for today? Really, really close.

But I do love to share.

So, here we go.

Do you know what I have loved about this weekend away?

  • He came to pick me up & carried my case to the car without me even having to mime the huffing and puffing.
  • We stopped at the Services on the way there for some lunch & he leaned forward & brushed a crumb off my lip.
  • We checked into the hotel & he had brought extra coat hangers, & gave them to me.
  • We got ready to go out, left the hotel room, him first, then he turned round, looked at me & told me I looked gorgeous.
  • As we were in Bath, we watched the rugby on Saturday night, he stood behind me, talking to someone else, but with his hand resting on my hip while he talked.
  • He makes me laugh until I cry.
  • We tried to see lots of things yesterday but were running out of time & he chose the place I wanted to go to, rather than his choice, which was nearer.
  • When I couldn't stop coughing in the night, he leaned over & asked me if I needed some water. I apologised for waking him & he said it wasn't that, he was worried about me.
  • He told me that they had taken the word 'gullible' out of the dictionary & then laughed at the look on my face when I asked how could they do that? Was it not still a word?
  • He wasn't cross when I beat him at crazy golf & he kissed me when I got a hole in 1. Although he spent a lot of time walking in front of me & I believe I may have heard the words "f**king staggering' on more than one occasion. His handicap is either 9 or 10; mine is that I have no co-ordination & my hair gets in my eyes.

There are lots of things I have loved about this weekend, but it is over now.

So where are we? Don't know, is the honest answer. I asked him. He doesn't know either. It's difficult for him. Complicated.

We have been so close this weekend, & I don't want that to be the end. But it still might be. I want us to move forward, but it's a big step for both of us. And there is no step back, at least not for me. The only other step for me is the step away.

I wanted him to see that I would be worth the risk, but I'm not sure that he does.

So maybe I'm not.

My head thinks it's time to move on; my heart begs to differ.

You see, he's the one.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Waxing Lyrical

Note 1 - Swearing Mother, I haven't gone yet, I go tomorrow. I apologise if I led you on with a soap opera type preview. I am also sorry that sometimes my life has come to resemble a soap opera. Neither of which are your fault, my love.

Note 2 - if there are gentlemen reading this blog, you may wish to avert your eyes now. It could get rough. If you believe your wife, girlfriend, lover etc to be a woman of fragrance and mystery, I am no one to disabuse you of the notion. Don't read this blog, try a Mills & Boon website instead.

I have worked for the same company now for 16 years. I have learned a lot whilst I have been in their employment. I have learned how to manipulate a spreadsheet, how to extract data from a report, how to create a graph or a bar chart on the PC. I have learned how to conduct performance appraisals, how to manage under performance and how to hold an effective interview. I have learned that my least productive time is a Friday afternoon, that my laugh can be heard at the opposite end of the office (and it's a BIG office), and just this week I have learned and seen with my own eyes that a member of my team has a pierced nipple. The greatest and most important gift that I have learned, however, is that it is important always to be prepared. Preparation, preparation, preparation. This of course is not something that applies just in the office. This is known as a transferable, or transportable, skill. This means that you can take it home with you and use it there. And I have.

I have been preparing for this weekend. I have been to the beauty salon. For a wax.

Down there.

It is the first time I have been for this sort of extravaganza. But I thought the time had come. I was a little nervous, not being experienced in the ways of beauty salons. The girl was lovely, took me into a little cubicle, and told me to undress, just leaving my top half on. This seems relatively normal, I thought. Considering why I am here. She had told me to lie on a little bed, covered in what resembled a long paper towel. It may indeed have been a long paper towel. I did what I was told. She came back in, asked me what I wanted. It is a little like going to the hairdressers.

Except I didn't take a picture with me.

We discussed and agreed. She appeared to mix potions. I closed my eyes. They shot open a moment later, at the same time as this thought ripped through my mind.

'It feels like she is pouring hot wax onto me!!!!!!!!'

Oh. She is.

The next thought followed a split second later.

'Holy Mary, mother of God, preserve me from this agony!!!!!' There is no response. I am not surprised. She is a mother, and of God. She has no time spare to be helping me out, the woman must be rushed off her feet. I try a different approach.

'Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I have never been to confession, on the grounds that I am not a Catholic. I can do you a recap of my sins, but I'll be honest, it could take some time, and I'm looking for quite a speedy response here.' Again, nothing.

In the meantime, the charming girl is ripping wax, skin, veins and arteries from me with abandon. I expect to look down and see bare skeleton. She asks if this is the first time I have been. I nod my head. She tells me I have done very well, there was a woman in that morning who screamed. I have not screamed. Mainly because my teeth are clenched so tightly, not even a crowbar could prise them open.

She finishes off after some hours, and a brief discussion about symmetry. It is, frankly, a discussion I never expected to have.

I crawl, weeping, to the train station and glance at the clock to see how many hours I have been in this torture chamber.

15 minutes.

Ye gods.

See you on Tuesday, pray for me. Any god you like. They all know who I am, but they've been avoiding my calls.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Can You Keep A Secret?

I know that blogging is like a big community; lots of friends who are always around to pick you up when you're down, to share their lives with you, to make you laugh. But can you keep a secret? Come a bit closer then - I'll whisper. A bit closer. Now wait there a minute, I'll be right back.

Are you there? I know that you've read the blog a couple of times, but I think it made you a little uncomfortable, like you were reading my diary. I don't think you've been back since though. Are you there now ? If you are, I think you'd better stop reading. I'm not going to say anything bad, but I don't think you'll want to read this. OK? Right then.

Sorry to keep you all waiting - I was just checking something. I was going to tell you a secret. I'm going away for the weekend, next Saturday. Until Tuesday. With a Someone.

You won't ever have hear me talk about dating. That's because I haven't done any. I haven't had a date in years. I haven't had a boyfriend since I separated from my now ex-husband. I wanted some time for myself, and my son. I wanted to know what I wanted from life.

I wanted not to make a mistake.

So, this going away business, it's a big deal, you know. For both of us I think. We've been friends for years. Really good friends. Always there for one another. Always making each other laugh. Always providing comfort when it's needed. Getting one another through bad times. We know one another really well. Better than if we had dated.

So we're going away for the weekend. To see how it goes. To see how we get on with each other in a different way. Just the two of us.

It might be the start of something. Or it might be the end.

Wish us luck?

Saturday, 6 October 2007

My Inner Goddess Is A Long Way From The Surface

I have been to the hairdressers today. I love going to the hairdressers. It is a good, positive, life-affirming experience. Mainly. Last time I went, I was very badly hungover. I slumped in the chair, and when my lovely hairdresser asked me what did I want today, I mumbled at him, made vague cutting gestures all over my head, and declared that the colour I was intent on trying out was 'Brown. No, darker. Darker. Darker. Less redder. Yeah, that one'.

Not today though. No hangover for me today. Not even from cough medicine. Take it from me, when you buy cheap cough medicine that doesn't come with a measuring spoon, JUST USE A DAMN TEASPOON. Don't, whatever you do, assume that 5ml is roughly equivalent to a large mouthful, straight from the bottle. Don't then look at the instructions, and realise that you have to take 2 of the 5ml spoonfuls, so that must be 2 large mouthfuls. Whatever you do, don't repeat that dose 4 times a day. If you do, you will end up with an empty bottle, and a raging headache. I'm just saying.

I arrive at the hairdressers bang on time, to find the lovely Sean waiting for me. A very sweet girl shampoos my hair very gently, then massages conditioner into my hair. Bliss! No colour for me today. I'm still brown, and unless you part my hair with your fingers in a nit-seeking expedition, you will barely get a glimmer of grey. Sean asks me what do I want today. I proudly produce my magazine and show him the picture. I then explain that I want it cut into the neck, with a little wispy fringe, quite long still at the sides. I realise this is not much like the picture that I have shown him, but he understands. The woman in the picture has the right shade of brown though. I need to remember that for next time. He starts trimming away, oh so gently, caressing my hair with his beautiful hands. I close my eyes, and leave him to his magic. I let my mind wander, thinking about what I still have to do today, thinking about the really funny blogs I read yesterday, thinking about the road trip with
Swearing Mother, thinking about how I must tell Belle that her mum's jam is delicious and the only jam my son will eat, thinking about going away for a break, thinking about ...

'Is that OK on the fringe for you Tina?'

Beg pardon? Did someone say something? Where am I? I open my eyes, just a little, and see Sean, waiting for the confirmation on my fringe. I have fallen asleep. I AM ASLEEP IN THE HAIRDRESSERS! Have I been talking? It is not unheard of. Sometimes I chew when I'm asleep. (Don't even ask). What if I drooled? I check my face for wet patches, but it looks OK.

'That's lovely Sean, thank you'.

When he finishes, I look like a goddess. Well at least my hair looks like that of a goddess. My face, maybe less so. Unless we are getting into the realms of Gorgons. But today, I'm not very goddess-like. You see, I fell over on the way to the hairdressers. It is not the first time I've fallen over. It's not even the first time in the last 2 months. I have a problem with gravity - it pulls me to the floor harder than other people. There were no excuses. Or at least none I could think of. I'm a little scraped on the palm of my hand. My wrist is a bit sore. I'll probably have a bruise on my knee. And my left ankle is 3 times the size of the other one, and hurts like a holy swear word.

It's a good job I had my high heeled boots on, that's all I can say. If I hadn't had them on, there would have been no support for my poor ankle after I'd fallen.

Don't even say they were to blame.

Don't even think it.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Coughs and Sneezes are Diseases

I am diseased. Don't worry, I don't think I have the sort of virus that you can get through your PC. Although, I'm not going to make any guarantees on that one. I tried to tell people at work this week that I had TB. They asked me how I knew, and I told them it was because of all the coughing. Of course it wasn't just a cough. I'm ill for goodness sake, can they not see that? I tried to tell Belle too, but she had me rumbled, and asked the important TB related questions. Had I written beautiful poetry? No. Had I written a novel? No again. Then it wasn't TB.

I started sneezing yesterday. People tried to tell me that this showed that what I had was a cough and a cold. A COUGH AND A COLD. Like it was nothing. It is something. It is something not very nice. You ask the woman who sat in front of me on the bus if she thinks it is nothing. She will say no. If she hears you over the noise of her hairdryer.

It was certainly something last night when I went to bed. I was tired and went straight to sleep. I then woke up, sat bolt upright in bed, coughed spasmodically, like a dog, then lay down and went straight back to sleep. At various points during the night, I woke up again, sat up in bed, and sneezed so violently that I nearly gave myself whiplash. (I don't know what the sitting up is for; it may be that my subconscious thinks I will drown if I keep lying down). I woke up again. There was a heatwave, and I was about to spontaneously combust. I took off my pyjamas, and settled down again to sleep. Only to wake up again, shivering, wondering why I had frostbite, and where the hell were my pyjamas? There was some squinting and rummaging, than I put on my pyjamas again. This was then repeated. Only once. I'm not a freak, you know.

I woke up this morning when my alarm went off. There was a strange feeling in the bed. I was almost frightened to look to see what might have happened. But at some point in the night, I think I had been visited by Paul Daniels. You see, the sheet was missing from my bed. The sheet from under me. UNDER ME. And it was on the floor. The strange feeling was because I was lying on the bare mattress. (YOU THOUGHT I'D DONE WHAT?!) I think that in the night, Paul Daniels had taken hold of one end of my sheet, and yanked it, without me moving at all. I never even heard him say "That's magic!"

The sneezing has been fairly constant all day. I came out of the railway station this morning, sneezing so profusely that I was momentarily blinded, and hurtled into a door.

It is no fun for me, you know.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Rediscovery

Today, I have rediscovered the life before my degree. I've been studying for 6 long years, and I've enjoyed them. Who wouldn't? Reading books, looking at pictures, watching plays, with the odd essay thrown in every now & then to make sure you've been paying attention. How can you possibly go wrong with that combination?

I could have done another degree I suppose, but nothing's ever grabbed me like reading, as a hobby. Well, I suppose vodka & tonic might run it a close second, but that's not so much of a hobby, more of a stress relief, if you will. And I could read every day, but I couldn't drink vodka & tonic every day, I get terrible hangovers. Except if I drank every day, I'd never sober up, now would I? I'm going to write a new hobby list I think. I'm going to put that one above 'looking at the garden, to see what other people could do with it'.

It is very strange though, not studying any more. I'm drawn a little to looking to see what courses I could take in the future. Physics perhaps? No, I had a bad experience in Physics at school & leant too far back on my lab stool & tipped off the back. That sort of thing can put you off a subject for life. Let alone that I never understood a word of it. Italian? I like a pizza as much as the next woman.Especially if the next woman is Mrs PizzaHut. But when would I use it? I've only been to Italy once, Rome in fact. Got engaged by the Trevi Fountain. As I'm now divorced for the second time, you don't need me to tell you that THAT can put you off a subject for life, either.

So instead, I shall return to my first love. David Cassidy. No, I beg your pardon, I MEANT to say reading. As the lovely Belle has tagged me I shall endeavour to oblige, and then I'll have a meander around your blogs, so you can be IT too.

First up, my Total Number of Books. Well, goodness. I'm right by the bookshelf, so hold on for a minute. OK, I lost count after 63, because some of the spines look the same. Very clearly over 100, because they're all scattered around the house too. Probably around 150.

The Last Book I Read - this was Mercy by Jodi Piccoult. I love her books, and I whip through them at an alarming rate of knots. She writes the sort of books that make you curl up on the sofa, and drink hot chocolate, and then sit up in shock, wondering where the comfort has gone. And usually, where the day has gone too. Thoroughly recommend her, loved her book called The Tenth Circle, which was a take on Dante.

The Last Book I Bought - I'm a bit of an old skinflint with book buying, of late. I do love books, but I don't have so much money to spend so they become a guilty pleasure. I haunt the library instead, & try to avoid the men who smell of toilets. They probably try to avoid me too. I'm the strange woman, always in a hurry, who always walks with her head at a 90 degree angle to read the spines of the books. Barely even straighten when I'm at the counter. Which is a worry. And not just to me. So I most definitely know the answer - it was Don't Tell Mummy, by Toni Maguire. True story. Rips your heart out, and chews it. And makes you wonder why you don't have to be licensed to have children. Don't read it if you're easily upset, because it's true.

Five Meaningful Books - well now. This is a difficult one. I'll start with The Ripening Seed (Or Le Ble en Herbe) by Colette, which I read for my French A-Level. Gave me a lifelong love of poetic novels, and Colette. Next up, I'll have Little Women by Louise May Alcott. One of the first books I remember reading as a child & wanting so desperately to be Jo. I have a copy now, and have probably read it upwards of 7 or 8 times. Next we have to have To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. There just aren't words to describe it, read it if you haven't and you'll love it for ever. Next, I'm going to have Catcher In The Rye, by J D Salinger. The book every teenager should read, and every grown up too. Vivid, and utterly believable. And finally, I'm going to have an obscure one, Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane. A great crime writer, fantastic stories, and meaningful for me for a whole host of personal reasons.

Phew, I need a lie down after that.

Time for a new book, I think.