Monday, 26 November 2007


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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?


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.


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...