30 November 2023

A Thank You To My Former Self

I talked recently about how many different versions of you there are and will be in your life.  A Thousand Different Women.

Of all the women I have been, there is one that I look back on with awe.  With gratitude.  She saved me.

When I am scared, when I think I don't have the guts, when I am sad, or lonely or lost; I think of her.  I am so far away from the girl I used to be, we are practically polar opposites, but our core remains the same.  I owe my life to her.  I have to honour the gift that she gave me.  That gift was my future.

I do not exaggerate when I say that my early twenties almost killed me.  I was falling down a deep hole of depression that I did not understand.  I wanted a reason for it, but in truth there was none.  At least not one that I could recognise back then.

I cried every day.  The pain I felt nearly consumed me and it felt like my soul was splitting in two.  I could see no way out and many times, I thought that it would be better if I were dead.  Nothing could be worse than this pain.

I would go out with friends at weekend and drink to escape it.  It worked, for a few hours at least, until I drank too much and the pain came back.

I never spoke to anyone about how I was feeling.  I was too lost.  Too afraid of telling my best friend, the only real friend I had back then.  What if she couldn't handle it?  What if my problems were too much?  Instead though, she got to see the times when the pain crept back in and I drank too much.  I should have told her.  I should have told someone.  But I didn't.  I suffered alone.

Sometimes I went out driving to try and clear my head.  It was on one of these drives that I passed a cliff road, not too far away from where I lived.  That night was the first night that I really thought about suicide.  Whether I should drive off that cliff.

I cannot remember how many times I went back to that place.  Three times, maybe four.  There was a sort of car park there.  I presume for people who went walking.  I would park up and sit in my car and sob.  I knew that this could not go on much longer.  I could not go on much longer.  The walls around me were crumbling.

My sadness had consumed me.  Nearly whole.  All that was left of me was a fragment, held together with pretense, sticky tape and a strong stubbornness to not to let anyone else see my pain.  

The last time that I drove to that car park, I had a plan.  I couldn't do this anymore.  I could not take the never ending pain.  I just wanted it gone.  Me, gone.  

I clearly remember driving faster as I got nearer to the cliff.   I had made my decision.  But then, as I neared the place, something deep inside me fought back.  A strength, a voice that seemed to surge from nowhere.    

No.  Don't you fucking do it.  I am not dying today.  No.  Pull the fuck over.

It was the strongest feeling that I had ever had, both then and since.  I knew that I had to live.  I did actually want to live.  I just didn't know how.

The black dog of depression had had me for so long, pinned down under its feet that I could not see a way out.  That day, I had felt that there was nothing left of me.  I was consumed.  Yet from nowhere, a tiny fragment of what was left of me, won the battle that day.  A new woman was arising out of my ashes.  She was strong.  She would fight for me.  And she did.  

I cannot say that my life became easier after that, or for many years after.  I still hid the worse parts of me in the shadows.  Still hid the pain.  But something had changed.  I knew that there was a strength in me.   A strength so powerful that it stopped me dead (pardon the pun) in my path of destruction.

Over the years I had fought many battles with the black dog, sometimes taking many steps forward, sometimes a stagger or two to the side.  But I had never stepped back again.

Perhaps this is why that I always refer to myself as being different versions, different women throughout my adult life.  Because there have been many versions of me, many that I could not identify with now, or even understand.  But each version of me has been important.  Another step to the person I am today.  Someone who is whole.  Someone who is happy.  I am no longer lost.  I am found.  Found by myself and found by the man in my life who loves me.  All of me.  It is the “all” part that was the final healing peace of my soul.

I have already fought the battle for my life.  I won.  The sadness and pain that consumed me back then will never do so again.  Because I have built the foundations of my soul back together.  I have healed.  I have grown.

It is stems back and is thanks to the part of me, that version of myself that stepped up and said no.  Not today.  Don't you dare.  She is still in me.  I will never forget her.  I am live today because of her.

29 October 2023

Navigating Grief

Grief is a strange bedfellow.

One minute you are overcome.  The loss of the person taken from you seems overwhelming and you don't know how you will get through it.  The next, you have to rally, organise, be strong and somehow; you manage it.

Grief ebbs and flows.  There is no constant.  It a wave that you have to ride until you can find a calm again, some peace.  Whenever that may be.  There is no timeframe.

Death, whether expected or not, is always a shock.   You can, as we all can, only hope for the kind of death that is the best that you can hope for.  No suffering.  Your family around you.  Given a chance to say goodbye.  A quick death, not long and drawn out.  While you still have dignity.

There is no one way to deal with grief.  But the most important thing to do is allow yourself to feel when you need to.  Do not bottle it up.  Do not busy yourself in an attempt to hide from it.  Because it will find you.

That is the thing about grief and loss.  It hurts.  A lot.  But running away from that hurt will only ensure that it finds you at the worst time, the worst moment.  Or will manifest in other destructive ways.

I lost a close family member to me this week.  Having lost my dad and my step already, he became like a father figure to me.  He was always there.  Ready to help.  Always showed love to my mum and I.  Someone that you could always turn to.  I loved him very much.

Having already lost two major people in my life, I know how this grief thing works now, sadly.  Which I why I share my thoughts and words with you today.

I find myself committing the sins of what you should not do and had to check myself.  Because self care when you are grieving is extremely important.  Especially when you have others who you need to be strong for.

I found myself asking for more time.  The thing is, you are always going to wish for that.  Because there is never enough time.  You can always think of things you wished that you had said or things that you had done.  

While at the hospital I chose to give my time to those that needed to see him more than I.  His sons, my mother.  By the time it was my turn to see him, things had turned for the worse and my time was missed.  So no, I did not get to say goodbye, but I did the right thing and importantly, he knew that I was there.  I wonder if he understood that. 

I also found myself wondering if he knew how much I cared, how much I loved him.  It only struck me after he died, I had never thought about it previously, that if I had ever got married to my partner, it would have been him that I would have asked to walk me down the aisle.  He was proud of me and I think that he would have loved to do it.    

All of these go round in my head and by doing so, they make the grief worse.  Questions that can never be answered.  Actions that can never be carried out.  They torment you.

As I said however, I have been down the winding path of grief before.  So when I start to question, when I start to worry about what ifs and what could have been, then I know I need to go back and remember the important things.  

I know that he loved me and he knew that I loved him.   He, my mum and I went through some tough times together and it created a bond with the three of us.  We were family.  We would always be there for each other.

I am currently writing something to say at his funeral.  I want to celebrate the man that he was.  A good man.  A kind man.  There will be many there to say goodbye to him and I confess that I am nervous to stand up and speak.  Public speaking is not my forte.  

But I will do this and hopefully do him proud and do him justice.  My wonderful Uncle Jack.



Year Round Ways to Save for Christmas


We have reached the middle of October now so it is perhaps safe to start to use the C word?
  Combing the C word and the P word often strikes fear and terror into the eyes of people you talk to at this time of year, but I am going to say the words.  Christmas presents.

Christmas is a time of year that I love.  Finding the right gift for people is something that I enjoy and I take as much pleasure in locating the perfect gift (hopefully) as when it is received.  But presents take planning, not just the planning of what to buy for your loved ones, but also making sure that you can afford them and not break your budget.

With food costs and energy prices soaring in the last year(s), it is more important that ever to plan ahead for Christmas.  There are various ways that I plan for Christmas presents and making sure that I can afford to buy what I want.  So here are my tips for things that I do throughout the year:

Getting Your Cash, Back

It is something that can be easy to forget, but one thing that I do year round is use a cashback site.  As this is not a sponsored post, I won’t give you a link, but the one that I use is Topcashback.

I use this site as much as possible for my spending as well as searching out the best deals for home insurance, car insurance, vehicle insurance, travel insurance etc etc.  You can easy use it for things like food delivery, Ebay, there is much more on there that you realise and even the smaller amounts add up.  By doing this I usually manage to get £200 in my account by the end of the year.

It should be noted that you need to do this intelligently.  If you are using a discount code on the website you are buying from, then you generally will not also be given cashback.   So clothes shopping etc will generally not track for me as I usually only buy when I have a discount code that I can use.  

Keep Your Receipts

I also use a receipt scanning app where you scan in your receipts for points.  It only takes a couple of minutes to scan your receipts in for the day and by the end of the year I usually have £40-45 which can be transferred to my bank account, used as an Amazon voucher to buy gifts with etc.

Save Your Points 

One thing that most people have is a Boots card.  But there are definitely ways that you can use your Boots card intelligently in order to stack up points.  I keep an eye on the offers and try to buy in bulk when there are offers on for a few hundred points when you spend X amount.  I also buy my lunch there and all my beauty and hair products.  By the end of the year I usually have around £50 - £60 worth of points, which comes in handy for gifts and stocking fillers.



Double up on Rewards

Although this one only applies for people who are with EE, not many people seem to know about this (or use it), but EE have a rewards programme.

I have linked my current account and my credit card to the Rewards programme which gives you a percentage of what you spend.  Greggs at the moment for example gives you 10% back on what you spend there, places like Boots generally gives you 5%.

So by using this programme, I not only gain Boots points and points back on uploading my receipt (as discussed), but I also get cashback which turns into money that I can knock off my phone bill.

I have been using the rewards programme since January and I have been knocking £10 from my bill every other money, which equates to £50 - £60 per year which I save towards my Christmas shopping.

 By using the above and integratiing them into my daily life, overall by the end of the year, I have managed to save around £350, simply by making some small changes to the way that I shop and scanning receipts.

What ways do you save for Christmas throughout the year?

13 October 2023

Creative Corner 4 - It Started with Humming

Another short story for you today!


It started with humming.  The beginning of what I thought was the end of my engagement.

The way I met the man I am going to marry was the kind of meeting that you see in the typical romantic comedy film.  A “meet cute” I believe they call it.

We were both in the food court of the shopping centre, me trying to balance my food tray, my handbag and my ringing mobile phone and him with his tray full of food and drink in one hand and a book in the other.  Both preoccupied with our distractions, we crashed into one another.  Our eyes met as drinks and food flew into the air and that, as they say, was that.  Fate.  Love over spilled food and flying coca cola.

After mopping up the spills, numbers were exchanged; something that I had never done before.  Giving my number to a stranger?  Never!  Yet I looked into this man’s eyes and somehow, I had never felt safer in my life.

From the start I felt like I was on a rollercoaster with this man.  Adam.  And my name?  Eve.  You can imagine the jokes that we get.  A rollercoaster where it started with food flying at our faces and ended, far, far faster than we anticipated, with him asking me to marry him a year later.

Adam and I are polar opposites in many ways.  They say that opposites attract.  Well that seems to be the case with us.  Where he yings, I yang and yet somehow, we always end up in the middle.  Together.  I am the romantic, he is the pragmatic one.  I live my life by whimsy, he leaves nothing to chance.  He is a gamer, I am a film addict.  He is serious, I am undoubtedly the silly one of the two of us.

Adam is not a romantic.  But he shows his love in other ways.  He wants to make me happy and he does.  The way he makes sure my car is running properly, the way he walks next to the road when we walk along the street.  The fact that although he hates the smell of coffee, he went out and bought an expensive coffee machine for his house because I love the stuff.  But you hate coffee?  I said to him.  But I love you, was his answer.


Unfortunately, as it happens in the films where you get a meet cute moment, there is inevitably the point where an unexpected twist occurs and the relationship that you were so sure about hangs in the balance.

As I told you at the start of tale, the beginning of what I thought was the end of our engagement, was humming.  Adam didn’t hum.  Didn’t sing.  Yet suddenly, out of the blue one day, he started humming.  In the kitchen, when working on his car.  What he was humming I could not tell, although it seemed to have a melody of some description.  He also seemed to have no idea that he was humming.  I mentioned it to him a couple of times when I walked in on him humming a nameless tune and he would immediately deny it.  Odd.

Then his gaming, which I enjoyed watching, suddenly increased from playing at home, to going to gaming nights with friends.  Sorry baby, boys only he said.  The host of the gaming nights he claimed was an old friend that I had never met and "I don't think he is your sort".  

I tried to be supportive but couldn't understand why suddenly one, which then turned into two nights a week, were unavailable now.  Tuesdays and Thursdays were now off limits.  No questions.  This had now been going on for two months.

Then one night when we were cuddled up on the sofa watching a film, he went to the kitchen to grab some snacks and his phone pinged.  Not intentionally (she says) but I looked over to his screen which had flashed up with a message.  

Sarah.  "Sorry, I can't do tomorrow now, my parents are coming to town, shall we raincheck till our Thursday session?"

Tomorrow was Tuesday.  His gaming night with his friends, he said.  Thursday was the other night.  So who was Sarah?  My heart sank and I feared the worst, yet when he returned to the room laden with Doritos and dip, I said nothing.  

Some time later he checked his phone and said "Oh gaming is off tomorrow, Dan has his parents visiting, do you fancy going for dinner?"  Lying, right to my face.  I lied right back to him about a meet up with a friend and said I couldn't change my plans.  

Unable to look at him and feeling completely overwhelmed I then faked a migraine and insisted that I wanted a night in my own bed when he offered to put me to bed and look after me.  I could not understand it.  This man, who looked after me, cared for me, loved me, or so I believed; was cheating on me?

When I got home I went over everything in my head.  Maybe I had read the message wrong, maybe the name was not Sarah.  And talking about a "session"??  Was that a gaming session?  God.  I hoped so.  A session with another woman meant only one thing that I could think of in that moment.

I couldn't quite believe that a man who had planned for me to move in with him next month, ready for our marriage two months later, would do this to me.  Redecorated his whole place in a way that suited both of us.  Put me on his car insurance.  This man who planned everything in his life wouldn't do all that, just to cheat.  Surely?

The next night I decided to make my lie into the truth and got my best friend to meet me at a bar.  After a bottle of wine and a chaser of sambuca (or five) had passed my lips, a plan was made.  I would follow him on Thursday.  See where he going.  If he was meeting with a woman, then at least I would know and could confront him.  It neither occurred to Jess and I to simply ask him.  The sambuca said "follow him".  So follow him I would.

In the cold light of day in the morning, a hangover brewing, I started to question my decision.  Why not just ask about the text?  But, I could not get past the fact that he had lied to me.  I wondered if I did ask him, if he would lie again?  I was certain now of what I saw.  I resolved to carry out with my plan.

After I finished work I parked up my car near to Adam's place, out of sight and positioned myself in the alley where I could clearly see him leave the house.  Hangover gone and adrenalin pumping, I was ready now.  For whatever I may see.  I just hoped that he had not already left.

At 6.30pm I saw Adam leaving the house but instead of getting into his car, he started to walk down the road, towards the high street.  I started to follow him.  I felt at this point that I was betraying his trust, but he had betrayed mine and I had to know.

After a few minutes walking down the high street, with me ducking and diving into shop doors to avoid being seen (I just pray no one was watching me), he disappeared down a side road.  When I reached the beginning of the street, he was nowhere in sight. I had lost him.

I scanned the buildings on each side of the street.  A combination of shops, a restaurant, some flats.  Dare I risk looking in the windows?  Had he gone to the restaurant?  This was getting ridiculous and I contemplated going home.

As I lingered at the corner of the street, about to leave, suddenly I heard music.  It was muffled like it was coming from a building, but I could hear it.  And it sounded a little like Adam's humming.  Listening further, the song sounded familiar.

Unable to stop myself I started walking down the street, trying to find the source of the music.  After passing a few shops, I came towards what looks like some sort of studio.  The sign above me read "Sarah McCarthy Dance".  

Sarah.  Sarah.  The name from the text message.  

The music from the studio was now clear as day and I did know the song.  Jackie DeShannon - What the World Needs Now.  

I noticed that there was a window to the side of the ground floor studio and moved around to see if I could look in. There, dancing a waltz with an instructor, Sarah, of course, was Adam.

I had talked with him many times about wanting to do a first dance together at our wedding.  He had always shied away from it because he said that he couldn't dance.  "I can only drunk dance darling and you don't want that".

This man, who cared for me and always wanted to ensure that I was the happiest I could be, was learning to dance.  For me.  For our wedding.  

I quickly moved away from the window.  I felt like the luckiest person in the world.  Because I get to spend the rest of my life with this man.  I will never tell him what I did.

I will forever be grateful that I did not spoil the surprise of this wonderful thing he was doing for me.  I vowed then and there to make sure that I made him as happy as he made me.

I walked back down the high street away from the studio.  Humming.

22 September 2023

Waiting for The One

 


I found the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with much later than normal.  Although, what is normal?  In my case, I was 39.  So yes, much later than the average let us say.

I spent years of my life having no confidence, no self worth.  Having a meaningful relationship with someone is not really possible or at least certainly not healthy when you feel this way about yourself.  I met men here and there of course and had a few short relationships, but nothing that I would have called one that would last.

I always knew the kind of man that I wanted to be with.  Although I did not visualise him in my head other than the usual kind of physical attributes that you find attractive, in my case a good smile and taller than me; I knew the type of man that I felt would be the one.  I somehow felt that there was just the one person for me, somewhere.

My lack of confidence aside, I also knew that this was something that I would not be willing to compromise on.  I was prepared to walk alone on the winding path of my life forever if I did not find him.  Nearing 39, I had reached a point where I knew that this was likely to be the case.

This is something that the people around me I think found hard to understand.  I wanted a relationship, wanted to be with someone.  I wanted desperately to fall in love, but I also knew in myself, somehow, that that one person would just come along and I would know.  A fool’s wish you may say.  Unrealistic expectations that would more than likely not be realised.

Looking back now, I realise that I would have been ready for a proper relationship much earlier than when I found him.  I worked on myself for years, finding my confidence, my self worth, my voice.  Being happy in who and what I was, was only a recent thing.

I do believe in fate, in the right timing and in trusting your gut.  So you can appreciate, or maybe you can’t, that it felt like the stars aligned when I found myself, and then found him.

I had been on a couple of dates in the months previous, each of them ending with me running for the hills.  One who admitted on the date that he was diagnosed with severe anger issues and was seeing a Psychiatrist about his violent behaviour and the other who was just, very very odd.  Absolutely not my type, or my kind of odd (aren’t we all looking for our particular brand of crazy?).

I then started talking to this man online and from the beginning I had butterflies.  He was handsome, but more than that he was interesting.  He had thoughts about a million different subjects.  He intrigued me in a way that I never have been before.  

We had our first date and no alarm bells rang.  He was as interesting in person as his messages and I found him extremely attractive.  The butterflies grew in size.  I was cautious about my heart and wary about getting too excited, but after a few dates with this man, I could not help myself.  

Still I exercised caution.  My problem has always been that I give my heart away when I should not.  The only man that I had really loved before was a massive mistake.  A friend.  Someone who I tried to morph myself into being the person that he would want.  He didn't.   In hindsight he was also not the right person for me.  At all.  In fact I don't think that he would like the person that I am now.  That thought amuses me.

When I give my heart, you get all of it.  I am like the Oodkind from Doctor Who.  I hold my heart in my hand and I offer it completely.   I knew that if I fell for this man I had just met as I knew I was doing, he would have my whole heart.  Not something that you should trifle with or give away lightly.

We really spent our time getting to know each other.  He said that he had not been looking for a relationship, having only got out of a long term relationship 6 months earlier.  But then, as he said, he found me.  We found each other.

Nearly 6 years on, I write this with a smile on my face.  I look at my phone which has his picture saved on my home screen and every time, my face lights up.  He is, without a shadow of a doubt, the man that I was waiting for.

I am the ying to his yang and together, we have both found a happiness that neither thought was possible.  He makes me smile, he makes me laugh, he encourages me and we talk about so much, all of the time.  I found my peace and my joy with him.  He tells me that no one has ever loved him like I do. I feel the same.  

He was worth the wait.  I also, as I said before, believe that I would not have been ready myself for this relationship until the time we met.  Every thing I went through in my life, every journey, every voyage of discovery I took within myself led me to him.

I look forward to spending my forever with this man and I forever grateful that I trusted my gut that told me that one day, he would arrive.

Here's to love.

16 September 2023

A Thousand Different Women

I read a poem recently which resonated with me so completely that I wanted to share it here today.  I believe that the author of the poem is Taryn Nergaad.

Make peace with the women that you once were
lay flowers at their feet.
Offer them incense, and honey and forgiveness.
Honour them and give them your silence.
Listen.
Bless them and let them be.

For they are the bones of the temple that you now sit in.
They are the rivers of wisdom that led you to the sea.
I have been a thousand different women.

In the world that we now live in, we are encouraged to move ahead, get ahead, improve, inspire, aspire, succeed and never look back.  Forwards, upwards and onwards is the trajectory that we are told is the path to take.  Don't look back.

But I believe that looking back is an important part of knowing who we are, what we are and how far we have come.



I have been many different women, each touched and changed by the experiences that I have had through my teenage years, my twenties and beyond.  Each of these women has left a mark on me in some way.  Has helped me.  Formed the person that I am today.

Some of these women have been stronger than me,  some weaker.  Some lost, some  found.  Some with unfound hope and some with a sense of purpose to improve.  There are parts of these women that I have been that I will never be again.  Other parts have stayed with me.  But all of these women I am thankful to in some way because without them; I would simply not be me.

I am so thankful for the women who lived in this body before me.  

I often wonder if I travelled back in time to earlier versions of myself, whether I would even recognise the person before me.  Because until now I have never really looked back and tried to remember those women.

I want to acknowledge some of them today.

Thank you to the girl who loved to write.  You stayed with me.

I'm sorry to the girl who had my worst years.  You were drowning and I did not listen.

Thank you to the girl who fought the black dog of depression and won.  The girl who was and is the strongest that I will ever be.  I am alive today because of you.

Thank you to the girl who knew what she wanted, beyond doubt and sometimes reason.  You stayed with me.

Thank you to the woman who decided that she was worth more than the value placed on her by others.  And by me.  She went looking for and found it.  She stayed with me too.

Thank you to the woman who broke through her shyness and found her confidence with each passing day.

Thank you to the woman who had hope that she would find her person and tried again.  She found her ever after.


Remember the women that you were before you became you.   You owe them everything.

12 May 2023

Creative Corner 3 - It's Just The Baby Blues

I wanted to really challenge myself with this next creative writing post, so purposely chose something I know nothing about and cannot relate to, being a mother!

Prompt – “It is just the baby blues they said - postpartum depression in the 1950s”  #triggerwarning suicidal thoughts

I cannot remember the day when we stopped being happy.  Together for two years, then married for two years.  Two years yesterday to be exact.

I remember that glow I used to feel when I was around him.  It felt like that the sun had come up when he walked into a room and everything was just that bit brighter.  He said that he felt the same. 

We were so in love.  We wanted the same things.  Marriage, a family, a wonderful life together.  We shared an interest in current affairs, books, films.  We both knew that the other was “the one”. 

I was 19 when got married, Michael was 22 and an insurance agent.  I had always been raised to be a stay at home wife.  This was expected not only by my family, and Michael; but also was and is still the done thing in the society we live in.  But Michael always knew that I wanted more than just that.  My interests took me to places far from the stove and the bathroom floor.  I wanted to know, learn, do, be.

We talked before we were married about my doing a correspondence course.  We planned on having a library of sorts that we could read from and discuss.  He was proud of me he said.  My clever girl he called me.   We were perfect for each other.

We decided that when we married, we would hold off a few years before we started a family.  To have a time that was just us.  We were still young after all.  Children were absolutely wanted, just not yet.

We both walked into this marriage so excited for our future together.  Now, today, I am walking out of it.  He doesn’t know.  No one will remember me fondly or kindly when they realise I’m gone.  Not only leaving my husband of two years, but also my child, Lucy.  The child that I thought that I wanted so much. That I had always planned to have.  Knew I would love.  Except, I didn’t. 

For the first six months of our marriage, everything was perfect.  Although I struggled at first with settling into the stay at home wife role, I soon found that I loved it.  My house was my show piece, the meals I cooked showed my love to Michael and how hard he worked for us.  He encouraged me to start the correspondence course we had talked about and I was already enjoying it.  We still went on dates and talked about everything, from politics to travel to what was on at the movies that week that we might like to see.  Life was good. 

Then, I missed my period.  I didn’t think too much about it as I had not always been perfectly regular, but when the second one was missed; I went to the doctors and took a pregnancy test.  We had been being careful as children was not on the cards just yet, so I was sure that it must be something else. 
It wasn’t.  I was pregnant. 

We were both shocked but after the initial shock had wore off, Michael was so excited.  We can still live as we have been darling, he told me.  But now there will be three of us.  I was not happy that I fallen
pregnant so soon, but fate had decided so I decided to go along with it.  What could I do after all?

I didn’t have an easy pregnancy but was determined to be the best mother that I could be.  I read everything I could about babies.  Decorated the nursery.  Made plans about how to schedule keeping up
my home, cooking and the baby.  My course would have to go on the back burner for a while of course, but the baby was more important.

We decided on names.  George, after Michael’s father if it were a boy and Lucy, after my favourite aunt if it was a girl.  I felt that I was as prepared as I could be and waved after offers from my family to come and help after the baby was born.  I could do it all.  My mother had.  With four of us.  Michael was not really involved in any of the planning or baby talk but why should he?  I would be looking after it.  Michael had his job.  I had mine.  The house and now the baby.

Lucy arrived at 6.15pm on a stormy night on the 15th October 1953.  I could hear the torrential rain and lightening bolts bang and crash outside as I delivered her.  It felt strange, wrong.  Surely the world should be calm and peaceful for the arrival of my baby?

I don’t know what I expected to feel when the doctor told me that we had had a girl and put the baby to my chest.  Love, elation.  But I felt, nothing.  She looked alien to me.  Like she was not even from me.  A part of me.  She was a screaming bright red creature, a demon that seemed to have come from hell itself.  I felt terrified.  I said nothing.  All others in the room were saying how beautiful she was.  They didn’t see what I did.

Soon I was moved back into my room and after being cleaned up, washed and dressed more appropriately, Michael was let in to see me and meet his daughter.  See me first though I thought, make sure I was alright, but yet he ran straight to her.  I didn’t get a second look.  It was excitement of course, joy at his newborn daughter, a completely normal reaction yet I had never felt more alone in my life than I did in that moment.

I hoped that these feelings would leave me.  No one actually noticed.  Why would they?  Everyone visited the hospital to see our new baby, she was the centre of attention.  As she should be.  Michael showed her off to visitors, the proudest father you have ever seen.  As he should have been.  But me, I was just not, there.  I felt cold, detached, like I was looking at everything from behind a mirror.  I looked at my baby and still felt nothing.

When it was time to leave the hospital I decided to pull myself together.  Lucy's birth had not been easy, and also earlier than expected.  I was not ready.  This was all new to me.  I simply had not found my feet yet I decided and love for Lucy come quickly now I was out of hospital.  I was sure of it.

The problem was, that love never came.

At first I put it down to struggling with keeping the house up to the same standard and making dinner.  Michael would arrive home to a house in disarray and food only half way prepared, or not at all.  Take it easy love he would tell me, this is all new.  You will find your way.  But my world was turning dark and I feared that the path was being hidden from me.

The world seemed to be turning against me.  As soon as I got into some sort of organised mode where the house no longer looked like a tornado had hit and meals were, mostly, on time again; Lucy got colic.  She screamed.   All of the time.  It never ended.  Except when Michael came home and was able to miraculously sooth her.  Something I seemed unable to do.

I thought perhaps that Lucy knew.  Knew that I didn’t love her.  Didn’t even like her.  I could not understand why, but I felt nothing.  Nothing however was turning into dislike.  Why would she settle for
Michael but not I?  

Thoughts that I knew to be irrational started to float around in my head.  Michael preferred Lucy to me.  She hates me.  I was never meant to be a mother.  This is wrong.  This is wrong.  This is wrong.  I want to die.

I told no one for a long time.  What could I say?  I didn’t like my child?  I regretted becoming a mother?  I wanted to run away?  I could not say any of that.  Everyone else managed, why couldn’t I?  Everyone else loved their children, why didn’t I?

But then Michael started to notice the difference in me.  The coldness.  The detached way I looked at Lucy.  That I cried at the drop of the hat.  I admitted to him that I was not coping well.  I told him that I didn’t think Lucy liked me.  He didn’t understand.  He tried.  But he didn’t get it.  He got to leave the house, go to work and the baby was much happier when she was with him.  He slept through her screams in the night.  He always slept through everything.  I remembered joking once that he could sleep through a hurricane.  I wasn’t joking any longer.

When Lucy was four months ago I tried to talk to my mother, telling her that I was not doing as well as I had thought.  That Lucy never settled for me.  How the screaming was starting to get to me.  In truth, the screaming was driving me slowly insane.  I had started to hate her.  She insisted that it was just a little of the "baby blues".  I would get over it in no time she said.  Just keep at it she said.  So I tried.

Although the colic thankfully dissipated after a few months, it seems that the damage was done.  This baby, whom I now realised was indeed beautiful and not a demon, was not meant for me.  I was not meant to be a mother.  I was a bad person.  A terrible person.  I didn't deserve her, or Michael.  I wasn't event the same person that he married.

They say that crazy people don't know that they are crazy, but I knew.  I knew that I wasn't normal.  This wasn't normal.  That I alone was the problem.  I tried to keep up a fa├žade to Michael and my family that everything was fine, but it was not fine.  I was drowning.  Michael had started to look at me differently.  Demanded to know why I cried, all the time.  Why couldn't I be happy he said?  We have a wonderful life, a perfect baby.  You want for nothing.  It was true, yet I was dying inside.

That brings us to today.  Michael and I's second wedding anniversary.  The plan was to leave Lucy with my mother, spend the afternoon getting ready and go out for a meal with Michael at night.  I had taken my bath and was supposed to be getting ready.  Yet I had been sat on the bed, with one thought running through my bed.  Run.  Get away.  They will do better without you.  Lucy will be better off without you.  She doesn't like you anyway.

Decided, I got up from the bed and headed towards the front door.  I was leaving.  I didn't realise that I had not packed a bag, or even put on a coat.  I was leaving.  That was all that matters.  All I hoped is that I could run far enough away that I even lost myself.

This was the end, wherever it led.

27 April 2023

Small Details to Improve Your Bathroom's Appearance


Image Credit - CCO License

Something that you may want to bear in mind is that the bathroom is a hugely important part of the home. When it comes to your interior design, the bathroom has a huge effect. The way it looks affects the way the entire home looks, in fact. For that reason, you’ll want to make sure it’s as good as possible. And to make sure of that, it’s wise to focus on a few small, key details. Let’s look at what those are, and how you can ensure you are paying thorough attention to them.

Thematic Touches

First of all, you’ll want to think about the theme of the bathroom in general, and whether or not it is as you would want it to be. This is something that is both a small detail and an overarching thing, but it really is often detailed in the way that it gets used. You’ll be able to do it subtly, for instance by having a few choice colors here and there, and often that is the best way to make it look how you want. So this is one of the first things you should make sure you are happy with if you want your bathroom to look its best.

Grouting

Most bathrooms are going to have tiles - whether on the walls, the floor, or both. Sometimes, you’ll even have tiles on the ceiling - and there will certainly be some around the bath and shower area too, not to mention the sink or basin. One of the details that makes the tiling look its best is if the grouting is as it should be. Using fosroc conbextra gp to keep it clean and looking new can really make a huge difference, as can cleaning the grouting whenever you feel you need to - especially if it is getting mold.

Faucet Options

You also of course have plenty of options when it comes to the faucets, and this is another small detail that can have a surprisingly large effect on how the overall room appears to be. So if you are keen on trying to keep your faucet looking great, make sure that you choose well. You need to think about color and material, of course - whether brass is appropriate or not makes a huge difference, for instance. And you’ll need to think about size and any ornate designs you may or may not want them to have as well.

Rugs

Finally, you may decide to have a rug or a runner on the floor of your bathroom. If you do, you need to think carefully about the effect it will have on the room as a whole, and on the effect of the home’s entire decor. Again, this can be surprisingly important, so it’s definitely the kind of thing you should make sure you are focused on. If you can be happy with this choice, it will make for a much more attractive bathroom on the whole, and that is a great thing to have.

23 March 2023

The Moment You Turn From Child To Prey

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus according to the book by John Gray.  We may not be Martians or Venusians, but while men and women are both human beings, we are wildly different. I do not know how a man thinks. What he feels, how he feels and how he expresses those feelings.  A man cannot know that about a woman either.

Our bodies, our hormones, our way of thinking, the experiences that we have growing up; these all form what it is to be a man or woman.  Society has always had expectations and presumptions of both sexes.  But for women, it is our bodies that puts us at an lifelong disadvantage.

In a normal childhood, a girl enjoys the first years of her life being safe. You are looked at and treated as the child you are.  We are innocent and are allowed to be in that cocoon of safety.  Most of the time.  Until that one day arrives.  That day comes at different times for all of us, but we all feel the same when it arrives.  We want to go back to the cocoon where it is safe.

I was an early developer.  At the age of ten I started my periods.  My breasts started to develop.  I didn't know then that the world would change.  But it did.  It felt like overnight.  I was a child, but the way I was treated immediately became different.

The way that some adult men interacted with me changed.  The way that they spoke to me.  There was a change in their voices, an intonation that I did not understand.  A unfamilar expression on their faces.  A smile, but with a strange leer.  I did not understand back then these men were flirting with me; a ten year old girl.

What I did understand was that feeling that I got when they did it.  That uneasy "danger, danger" feeling that comes upon you.  You know that something is not right, even if you do not understand why.   Those are the first lessons a girl learns, a child learns in my case, how to extract yourself from an uncomfortable situation without letting them know that you are scared.  How to remain polite when inside, you want to run.

There used to be a playground near my old house that I sometimes used to frequent.  The street where I lived was full of old people, with no other children to play with and as a result, I often used to make my own entertainment.

I remember being around 11 when I went up to the nearby playground to read my book on the swings and have a go at the merry go round.   It was only around the corner and I felt safe there.  My mum had no qualms in letting me go.  Whilst sat on the merry go round slowly spinning around, I remember a group of boys approaching me.  14, maybe 15 years old.  They surrounded me.  Talking about how I was young to get "titties" and asking if they could touch them.  

I didn't understand.  I was a child.  But I felt the danger.  I took advantage of one of the boys saying "leave her alone she's a kid" and ran.

When I got home I told my mum what had happened.  She told me that it probably wasn't a good idea to go to that playground alone again.  That we maybe should throw away that jumper.  That was the first time I truly understood that the world I lived in had changed.  

The change in your reality that you realise that you have suddenly become prey, in a world where half the population are men and as a result, the way that you look at, not just men, but the boys around you; changes too.  It is inevitable.

You shouldn't have to feel that way at 11.  But for me, that was the day that the world changed.  My growing female body was now restricting me from going to places because of what may happen to me.  Because I was female.  Even though I was still a child, that label no longer meant that I was safe.

I learned too that it was my job to protect myself.  Don't go places on your own.  Don't wear that jumper, it will attract the wrong attention.

I remember being so excited when I was a little girl about becoming "a lady".  I remember watching my mum getting ready on a Saturday night with her pretty dresses, makeup and lovely hair.  How her womanly shape looked so amazing and how much I wanted to look like her.  How my dad admired and complimented her.  It all looked so exciting.  What could be better?  

Except now my growing body was something I no longer wanted.  I wanted to still be a child.  I didn't want boys leering at me in a playground, intimating things that I did not understand.  I didn't want grown men speaking to me in a way that I knew wasn't right, but again I didn't understand quite why.  I didn't want the breasts that attracted more and more attention.

I remember being in my first year in high school and an older boy telling me that because I already had "tits", it meant I was going to be a slag.  I didn't know what that was.  But it didn't sound good.  Also, he was leering at me the way that adult men did.


The problems, as I called my breasts at that time had started growing early and as a result, I was a C cup by the the time I was 14.  Any woman reading that will probably have the same reaction.  Closing your eyes.  Oh god.  Because every woman knows that that is not a good thing.

By 14, the rest of my body was also catching up and I no longer looked like an early developing child.  I looked like a woman.   With a pretty dress, hair done and make up applied I could have looked similar to my own mum who I used to aspire to be when I saw her getting ready on a Saturday night.  But I did not want that anymore.

But I was stuck in this body and as every girl learns, you have to just, deal with it.  You learn how to build your defences.  You learn the right responses.  How to remove yourself from situations you don't want to be in.  

As time goes on, you realise that your womanly shape, your curves, your breasts hold a power.  A power that you understand that you have and try to weld; yet you do not fully understand how dangerous that power is.   And that is isn't really power at all. 

I'm reminded of the famous line from The Breakfast Club.  If you don't, you're a prude.  If you do, you're a whore.  My growing body earned me many forms of the latter insult, despite having not even yet kissed a boy.

I raged against the injustice of it all.  I had to be careful where I went, what I said, what I wore, how I acted.  Boys were not held to the same standard.  Although they were going through their own experiences of puberty and teenage years, which as I have said, I cannot understand as a woman as it is their experience alone, they were allowed to get away with so much under the clause that infuriated me beyond all else (and still does).  Boys will be boys.

Boys will be boys I was told when I told a teacher about the name calling.  Boys will be boys I was told by another teacher when two boys frequently tried to grab at my breasts.  It's their hormones!  I was told.  Wear a larger shirt, they said.  My shirt was not tight.  But no shirt could have made my breasts disappear. 

Looking back now, my mind boggles that these excuses were used to justify and allow this kind of behaviour.  If you were to report a sexual assault to the police, I don't think a "he just couldn't help himself" would wash in a Court of law.  

But would it? Because now I recall a case in Hull where the Defendant was found guilty of raping a sleeping woman and the Judge told him "She was a pretty girl and you fancied her.  You simply could not resist".

Most women have stories similar to mine.  The truth is that from the time a girl hits puberty to the day she dies, she is prey.  The lifelong game we play is how to avoid the carnivores that would hurt us.

It is a game of life that we never signed up for.  But has also prepared us, has strengthened us and has bonded us together.  It is why we fight for our rights.  For our single sex spaces.  Why we hold on so strongly to the word woman.  Because we know what it means.  And what it takes to be one.

13 March 2023

A Piece of Me


 

When I used to write my old blog, it was a place where I could say many things.  I wrote about fashion, my personal life, opinion pieces and then in time, wrote advertising pieces for businesses.  The blog was, and I still think of as, my baby.

Although many posts have been deleted from there now, much of the person that I am today is as a result of the things that I wrote there.  The gains in confidence I made, the clothes I wore to put in its pages; the realizations that I came to as my thoughts flowed through my fingers to the page.

I always found it easier to work through whatever was troubling me by writing and that has not changed.

What did change was that my beliefs and opinions grew, as I grew.  My gender critical beliefs no longer mixed with what companies wanted in a blog that they could use to advertise.  Many of my personal posts also had to be removed (because my sister decided to spy, steal, show and tell) which made me feel like I could not write about my life and my thoughts anymore.

Which finally brought me to this new place.

I have been writing various opinion pieces now and again here, with a short story or two; but have not yet made this place my home.  My writing home.  The place where I can write anything.  I want to write as I did before.  Without a care of what anyone may think or need to tailor my works to satisfy a client.

This blog is anonymous, my real name is not listed here and I have no clients to worry about.  My sister does not know that this place exists.  Which makes it special too.  I may speak about her in a future post.  I want to.  When I am ready.  I will.

I have no worries about what I can write here.  I do not have the "following" that I had from my previous blog, nor the Twitter followers that were attached to it.  I am free as a bird to write about what I wish, because I can choose to share, or not.  If I share, the small amount of people who will read it, don't know the real person behind my words.

So what I really wanted to come here today and say is, hello.  You are going to be getting a piece of me.  It is time that I talked again.  Wrote again.  Allowed my heart to flow through my words again.

Let it begin.


13 January 2023

Creative Corner - Writing Prompt 2


 

Today's writing prompt is:


A houseplant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.

 
Jenny looked at the dying Snake Plant in front of her.  “Please don’t die.  You are supposed to be  indestructible!  I’ve loved you, watered you, why are you dying on me?”  The plant of course, didn’t reply.

This was no ordinary plant to Jenny, this was the only thing left that she had some control over, the last thing before everything in her life collapsed, or so it seemed.  In the past two months she had lost her job, her boyfriend had left her and now her landlord was threatening eviction if she didn’t make up her payments.

Everything that Jenny touched lately seemed to crumble away.  Her world had shrunk down piece by piece until suddenly; the only thing that she felt that she still had control over was that goddamn Snake Plant that her mother had bought her.  Now even that was dying.

Jenny wheedled and cajoled the plant over the coming days to revive; convincing herself that if the plant made it, so could she.  The plant ignored her and got worse by the day, with its now brown and black leaves falling all over the old carpet.

By day five Jenny had given up.  The plant was showing no signs of recovery.  She started packing boxes up around it, readying herself for the move back to her parent’s place.  She didn’t know what road lay ahead of her but couldn’t see anything good.

On moving day, Jenny was carrying the last box out of her apartment when something small and green caught her eye.  Hidden near the centre of the plant was a small green shoot.  New life amidst all the decay. 

The plant went into the box and Jenny left the apartment with a small smile on her face.  Maybe things would work out after all.

11 January 2023

Creative Corner - Writing Prompt 1



Writing prompt for today - 


You are looking down through the skylight as chefs prepare dinner for your ex-fiance’s wedding.


I am sat here, on the roof of the hotel where my ex love is getting married, peering through the skylight.  There are a million questions running through my head right now.  How did I get here?  How did it come to this?  Why has the bastard got the same cake design that we chose for our wedding?

Mark always used to tell me that I was too organised.  So organised it seems that I have helped him plan his wedding, to someone else.  How can it be that only nine months ago we were planning our own wedding yet here I am today, staring down at everything we had planned, but I’m not invited.

The kitchen is busy with waiters running around, chefs shouting to get the first course out; I see Mark stayed with the prawn and mango salsa starter that we had decided on. 

I only meant to take a peek around the door of the venue, how did I end up on the roof?  Now I am here, I’m not sure if I'm insulted or if I just want to laugh.  The menu looks to be exactly the one that we chose, the bespoke wedding cake that I had designed is there; I have no doubt that if I could see into the reception room, the place settings and decorations would be the same too.

Where is the bride in all this?  Where is Sarah?  When Mark left me, he told me that he wanted someone who wasn’t so fiercely independent.  Someone who would stay at home, have the children, become the perfect wife that he always wanted.  That has never been me. 

I always used to notice the way my friend Sarah looked at Mark.  The look of longing that she thought I didn’t notice.  Well I did, but never thought anything of it, until a week after he broke our engagement and I saw the two of them strolling hand in hand down the street.

I wonder what life she has chosen for herself.  Her own wedding, chosen down to the napkin holders by someone else, by me, the friend that she betrayed.  Not the best start to married life.  I thought I was over all of that, yet here I am, sat on the roof like some deranged stalker.

Ashamed, I move back to the edge of the building, looking round to make sure I won’t be seen as I descend the fire escape.  I wonder, have I made a lucky escape or has he?  He is the one in the wedding suit and I am crawling around on a roof.

I made it back down to street level and start walking around the building, anxious to get away.  I spy the wedding car pulling up to the front entrance in the distance and my heart starts to beat faster.  Do I hide, do I walk past; do I turn back?  Instead I linger at the corner, unnoticed by the people now crowding at the entrance.

Sarah looks happy, but also a little nervous (perhaps she thinks I am going to jump out of the bushes?).  Mark looks smug.  His loud voice carries down the street.  I hear him telling people that they are going to be amazed by the reception.  All his own work and planning.  He's taking credit for everything, as he always used to.

I smile to myself.  My heart stops it's relentless pounding.  I'm done with this man.  I wait for them to enter the hotel and then walk away, entering my own new life.

9 January 2023

The Turnstile


 

Have you ever had one of the moments when you have a sudden realisation that you, or your life (or both) has suddenley changed?

I was reminded of one such moment today and honestly, it is moment that I will treasure forever.  I even know the date that it happened.  Thursday, 4th October 2013.  Nearly ten years ago.  Such a small moment, but huge at the same time.

Firstly, let me give you some back story.  As I have not written on this blog for over a year, I am writing as if I am starting afresh.  So let me tell you about me.

Before I started down the gender critical path and found my true voice, I used to have another blog.  This blog was started as a plus size fashion blog.  The aim was to bring my wardrobe out of the depths of black that it had sunk into and for me to find some confidence.

I started out slowly, posting photographs of outfits that I bought, terrified with every post as if someone was going to reach through the screen and tear my tiny, but growing confidence, to shreds.  I wanted so much to feel better about who I was as a person, feel more confident and dress better.  I saw other girls doing it and wanted to do the same.

I started to get to know other bloggers and a few brands sent me some clothes (which was the most unbelievable thing that had ever happened to me).  Imagine, a clothing brand emailing you and asking you to pick out some clothes to review, and keep!!

I started to get a good readership and my confidence, not only in the way that I dressed but also, and more importantly, in myself, started to change.  I grew, not in size, but as a person.  I could feel myself changing as I forced myself to do more things, go out to places I would not have, speak to more people and challenge myself.

So comes to the day in question.  I had been asked by a brand to travel down to London to a dinner and reveal of a clothing line.  The thought of travelling to London on my own and doing all of that was absolutely terrifying to me so of course, I said no.

But then, the brand came back to me and offered not only to pay my rail fare, but also book a hotel for me.  All I had to do was go.  I couldn't turn down such an opportunity which would be great for my blog and I knew would a turning point for myself.

I remember my best friend telling me that I would be a different person when I came back.  I didn't really understand what she meant at the time.  But she was right.

I never travelled alone, or did anything outside of the house on my own so believe me when I say that I was terrified on that train journey down to London from Preston Station.  I had planned out the tubes I would need to get to get to my hotel and figured that I would take each step at a time and try not to have a panic attack at Euston Station when I decided that I was lost.

I managed, after negotiating around an Ecaduarian embassy in the middle of the street I was staying, to find my hotel.  I got dressed and went to the launch which was amazing and quite unreal to me.  I was there as "blogger press" alongside actual fashion journalists, other bloggers and also prizewinners who had entered a competition to be there. 

We were given a three course meal with wine up to our eyeballs and then were shown the clothes.  We were encouraging to try on and take any photographs we wanted, as well as, again to my shock; allowed to keep anything that we wanted.

I honestly felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, except a shorter, dumpier, not so beautiful version.  I felt amazing none the less.

The moment I realised that I had changed was on my journey back to Preston.  I had navigated my way through the tubes and had arrived at Euston.  Travelling down to London I had worn all black, black boots, black coat.  Travelling back I had decided to wear some of my new gifts along with what I had brought with me.  A black dress yes, but with colourful flower detail.  A bright red coat.  Mary Jane heels.

I did not really think about the outfit when I put it on that morning.  In truth, I had never worn anything like it before.  Colours and prints, together.  Heels when travelling.  

So to the moment.  I was coming throught the turnstile at Euston and I caught sight of myself in a mirror.  I didn't recognise myself at first.  I saw the outfit, liked it, then realised that it was me.  But more than the outfit, it was the expression on my face.  No worry.  No self conciousness.  Happy.  I looked so happy.  I looked like a different person.

I was a different person.  I had grown so much in 24 hours.  Although I still had far on my confidence journey to go, this was the biggest leap I had ever taken.  I just wish that someone could have taken a photo of me right then, that outfit and that expression.  That feeling.

It was one I will always remember and I will always cherish.  Because it was the first time that I realised that the pieces of me that I kept inside, the person that I wanted to be, was showing on the outside.