The search for clarity in the depths of a memoir

Progression — October 1, 2015


It’s been months since I wrote anything for my blog. Part of me is disappointed because I have run out of ideas and part of me is pleased because it signifies that I am coming to the end of my self motivated therapy. My journey has taken me to unexpected depths as I took the plunge to write about things that have been very painful for me, but the results have been amazing. Having read back over what I have written and realised that acceptance is the only way to move on I have allowed friends and family to see who I truly am. Few have read my memoirs but I have found it easier to talk to people about my experiences and opinions and used my new found confidence to support me as I have awaited responses from my confidants. In a way I am testing those around me, because their reactions are how I will decide whether they get to remain in my life and if so to what extent. Basically I am re evaluating and selecting my social network according to those who can accept me for who I am. I refuse to have multiple personalities to suit everyone else’s needs and expectations of me. My message is ‘this is me, take it or leave it.’

  To stand by my new found philosophy I decided to get my nose pierced. I feel proud when I look in the mirror and see the silver ring. It represents a lot for me. The courage to be myself and stand out more but also the courage I had to muster to get it done in the first place. I’m not going to lie, it hurt like hell and I couldn’t hide my pain. I screamed the place down whilst everyone laughed at me. I had not expected it to be so bad. I thought the skin would be numbed and that it would be a very quick procedure, it is not and I made it worse by grabbing the guys hands to make him stop half way through my nose. Had I known what it would be like I would not have gone through with it and so I am glad that I was ignorant to it because I totally love my piercing. It is in itself a challenge to others, can you see passed the jewellery to see me or do you simply form an opinion based on it and refuse to look any further.
   My interests don’t always coincide with my friends and family and I have found myself traipsing off on my own to experience new things these days. My walks have taken me to nearby modern art sculptures and I attended a local author meet which was brilliant. I even drove 30 miles to an art exhibition all on my own. Appreciating my interests is far easier on my own when others do not share the same enthusiasm and that is fine with me. Once upon a time I simply wouldn’t have gone, I would have rather stayed at home  than stepped out of my comfort zone. It does however make me wonder, how much of life I have missed out on as a result of my lack of gumption.

  Following on from my surgery which can now officially be deemed as a success I have gradually built up my exercise programme from simple walking and swimming to attending 3 low impact exercise classes a week. Not only did I have to be brave enough to attempt new physical challenges that over the last year I would undoubtably have run a mile from, I also had to step into different social environments and talk to new people. I still see my shy side rear its ugly head from time to time but I don’t give in to it. I know that I will never manage to move on if I don’t push myself. I do yoga, Pi yo and Tai Chi now and have friends in each class whom I can blether to comfortably. I have found that once I am used to a physical environment the social aspect comes a lot easier to me. To help me with that I took a friend to the first few Pi Yo classes until I got my bearings , then one night she couldn’t make it and I amazingly found myself talking to other people with ease. Pat on the back for me that day!
  After months of planning and waiting I am officially a college student now. My course in Swedish massage began a few weeks ago and it feels good, I have done the right thing. Big sigh of relief there. Everybody in the class is there for a different reason but what we all have in common is ambition and the determination to get what we want. I was shocked and relieved to find I am one of the youngest in the class and that many of the people are also just finding their niche in life after being on the wrong path for too long. It is strange to be back studying again and I have to admit focus is not my strong point but I am tackling it differently from last time. No stupid delusions or errors like those from university. I will be practical and realistic and get my qualification. It has been difficult to juggle my time since I opened my text books and my wood work and writing have definitely been put to the side. Once I have found my balance I will share my work load more adequately, what is important to me is to not lose the person I have become to the pressures of time management and stress.
  Which brings me to my most recent hurdle….. employment. I am officially fit enough to work but the idea of a job scares the crap out of me. The person I was before was a go getter, a professional woman who worked hard and fought for respect for what she did. That person was however miserable and weighed down by the constraints of a large company who did not want to recognise its employees as human beings. I never want to return to that environment or to being that person, who despite thinking she was strong and confident was in actual fact weak and consumed. The idea of rejoining the employment market for this reason terrifies me. The inner me is in turmoil over this, fight or flight? Which is the right thing for me? Maybe I need to get a job in order to dispel my fears. To find a workplace conducive to my needs would be enough to get me over it but does such a place exist? The attraction of self employment is magnetic because I can avoid the ever looming prospect of finding out. For the sake of my sanity and physical health I cannot afford to get caught up in a bad job again but what if it is possible to remain who you are whilst working for someone else? Should I risk it to find out? A bad outcome would be catastrophic for me. And then of course there is the worry of how I can add another ball into my juggling act without increasing the pressure or compromising elsewhere. I enjoy being at home for the kids and taking the day at my own pace. I get everything done for the family and can’t understand how we managed before with both of us working full time. But I know the answer ….. compromise which in turn negatively impacts quality of life and before you know it you are back in the viscous circle of living to work instead of working to live. Money is not everything, I don’t consider myself to be a materialistic person and I resent social pressure for the feelings of inadequacy a lack of possessions instills in people.
  The understanding that I have of myself now is the best I have ever had. I can accept my eccentricities and only wish to be around those who can do the same. I have aspects of my life that I am interested in challenging and I have aspects that I am content with. It is up to me if and when I rise to these intrigues and I will not allow anyone to attempt to change who I am. I have not made a decision about my personality I have simply embraced the person I am. Those who cannot do the same are not welcome in my life. I have made the mistake of including everyone before for what seemed at the time to be an easier life but in reality it is quite the opposite. And so at the risk of repeating myself I will end with my earlier statement ‘this is me,  take it or leave it
The Road To Independence — July 10, 2015

The Road To Independence

I had always assumed that I would learn to drive, despite my dads incredibly sexist view that women should not be allowed behind the wheel. The freedom appealed to me the most, being able to go wherever I wanted when I wanted and not relying other people or being restricted to public transport timetables, it all provides independence. My mum did not drive although she did hold a license, there was no incentive for her especially when my dad was the most up tight driver I have ever known. He would only drive on quiet back roads which meant it took twice as long to get anywhere than it should have. I can even remember being ill one day and him refusing to take to the doctors because it was in the middle of the town and he would not drive there. I was determined not to be like that, I would drive anywhere I wanted.
  When I first started dating my husband -to -be he had just passed his test, he turned up in his own car which was newer and better quality than my dads rust bucket, I was impressed. We drove for hours each night, had picnics in country parks miles away from home and regularly visited the local pizza shop late at night. As I approached my 17 th birthday he offered to teach me to drive. Driving had come very easily to him and so he presumed it would for me too. Oh how wrong he was. We went to a retail car park in the dark, it had all the typical road markings that I needed, give way lines, stop lines etc, it was ideal. We swapped seats and I strapped myself in, starting the car I then looked at him for guidance. His explanation of bringing the clutch up to the bite seemed simple enough,but of course theory and practical are two entirely different concepts. I found it very difficult to time the feet movements correctly and quickly stalled the car. I tried again and then again, I was promptly told on my third  attempt to get out of the drivers seat and that was the end of the ‘husband instructor’. To be honest I wasn’t very bothered, I found his response quite humorous and decided it was best if I waited for a professional instructor who had more patience than a gnat.
  My first official driving lesson was terrifying. This time I would be on the road starting from directly outside my house, not a quiet, deserted car park. Luckily he drove me round the corner before it was my turn. I got into the car with all the confidence in the world but that was soonto be squashed. He talked me through the clutch control very calmly and I managed to move the car, it was incredibly bumpy and a bit embarrassing but I managed to drive for about 20 meters before panic set in. I was feeling good about myself, I could definitely do this, but then it happened. Another car turned into the street, this was not meant to happen, the driver seemed to think it was ok to drive down their side of the road towards me, it most certainly was not ok! I let out a muffled squeal and stopped the car as my heart hammered in my chest. Why on earth did the car drive down my road? I was a learner, I get the road to myself regardless of the inconvenience to others! Of course the instructor wanted to know why I had stopped, I couldn’t believe he needed to ask. Hello, There was another car! Did you not see it? His explanation was entirely patronising and unhelpful to say the least. Apparently I was on a public road and therefore had to share it with others – ridiculous!
  As you can imagine from then on my progress was slow. My dad said he would take me out, to save money on lessons of course. Our car was a heap anyway and so when he took me to a car park and I drove it into a bush it really didn’t matter. What was significant however was when we went out on the road and I didn’t judge the speed of the oncoming car very well. I pulled out from a give way junction and the other car had to slow down for me, there was no collision or even squealing brakes but my dad was angry , I tried to defend myself, after all I was just a learner but he demanded that he drove us home and pulled the L plates off the car, telling my mum he was never taking me out again and not uttering another word to me. It was probably safer anyway given his own poor skills behind a wheel but I was still annoyed.
 I only had 3 months until I was due to move out to start at uni and  I was nowhere near ready to sit my test by then. My instructor and I parted company after a few near misses and a terrifying trip down a country road. He wanted to teach me about speed and so took me up to a 60 mph road which was extremely bendy and told me to put my foot down. So I did, I got to 30 mph and felt overwhelmed but that was not to be the end of it. He kept saying “faster, faster” . I kept thinking “slower, slower” , it seemed like an eternity before I got to the end of the 60 zone and could breath properly again. When I got home that day I went into the house shaking and climbed straight into bed.  And so off I went to university feeling both disappointment and relief.
 Having opted to take a year out after my first 2 semesters I returned home to take up my lessons again. By this time my father in law was training to be a driving instructor so I switched to the company he was learning with. The man I got was again patient but uninterested in my apprehension but I stuck with it. I was desperate to seize the opportunity to drive my own car, to ferry myself from A to B. To my surprise my confidence grew but my ability unfortunately did not. I studied the theory book whenever I could but it did not assist my coordination or response time whilst behind the wheel. Hill starts were a nightmare, why in all honesty would someone stop their car so close to a learner on a hill. I mean surely that is just asking for trouble. What a saving grace dual controls are, that’s for sure. Emergency stops weren’t so bad though, probably because you could only practice them when the road was clear mind you. 3 point turns on the other hand were a disaster, but if 10 point turns were a requirement I would have excelled in that. Then there was the dreaded parallel park. I was so frustrated, I spent a full day in the back garden with my father in law and a remote controlled car watching the wheels turn and the timing as it perfectly completed each manoeuvre. It looked so simple on the patio. As soon as he was qualified I moved to my father in law as my instructor. Finally feeling comfortable and understood I continued my progress with more confidence although it was still slow. He eventually felt it was time for me to sit my test and I was ecstatic. I had already bought a car, more as an incentive than as an assumption and I couldn’t wait to drive it. It was an old red Vauxhall Nova, my pride and joy. When the day of my test came I had an hour lesson before it which went well, I drove to the test centre and was greeted by a stare, no words just a nod towards the car. I was getting nervous quickly now. He gave me direct instructions and nothing more. I moved the car off to begin the exam, taking my time as I could feel the nerves consuming me, I watched him marking my test paper and tried to concentrate on the road ahead. Nothing went to plan, I bumped the kerb during the parallel park, just got through an orange light as it was turning to red and stalled the car. But the most humiliating bit was when I drove along a residential road with loads of parked cars on it, I made a bad judgement call on the space I had to manoeuvre through as another car came towards me and the examiner caught the brake pedal before I did, cringe. A fail was a foregone conclusion, somehow I got us back safely to the test centre and then proceeded to fail the theory questions as well. Disappointed and properly humiliated I exited the car having been told the obvious result of my disastrous episode. I also felt that I had let my father in law down, had it not been for my panic I could have passed but at the same time the bottom line was if I couldn’t remain calm enough to get through a test I wasn’t ready to be out on my own. He dropped me off at home and my dad came out to meet me, he knew by the look on my face but I told him anyway. His shoulders dropped and he looked to the ground. His actions spoke volumes and I reacted angrily. All he cared about was the money it had cost him so far and how much more he would need to fork out until I eventually passed. The words spat out of my mouth in disgust, he didn’t even attempt to deny it. I shut myself in my room and cried, it was quite some time till I spoke to him again, never once did he try to resolve it or empathise with me. It was a lost cause.
   Surprisingly I passed my test second time around. I had discovered Bachs Rescue Remedy and had been taking it for a week before the big day. It worked, my nerves did not interfere. This examiner was far friendlier and we actually chatted as I drove, I knew it was going far better but was still slightly surprised to be told “congratulations you have passed”. I had achieved what I had desperately wanted, I was able to thank my father in law for his patience with me, I had had around 80 lessons in totally and it had been hard work but I had got there thanks to him. I mentioned my pass to my dad but didn’t stop to discuss it with him I knew he would only feel financial relief and then I would be subjected to his panic over yet another female driver on the roads.
  I taxed and insured my car and was a bundle of nerves taking it out for the first time. My mum came with me to the petrol station, the car was so old it had a manual choke and I screwed it up and flooded the car when I tried to leave the garage. How embarrassing that was. Another customer had to help me, once we got it started I drove away hoping never to see him again. I took my car to work and parked it in a public car park. I worried about it all day for weeks, what if someone stole it or damaged it. Each lunchtime I would wander down to check on it and sit in it to eat my food.
  After a few hiccups, namely snow balls thrown at my windscreen and a routine Christmas police stop which scared the crap out of me, I settled into driving very comfortably. It has now been 20 years since I started driving and I have never looked back. I love driving, I play my music way too loud and have gone through more cars than I care to remember. Of course the joys of motoring can be expensive and at times frustrating when you are stuck in a traffic jam for hours on end but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I have my independence now, who wouldn’t want that?


Holiday Time — June 22, 2015

Holiday Time

As the school term ends we all start to think of summer holidays, those we have experienced already and the ones yet to come. We have,  like every family, had our fair share of good and bad holidays, the disaster of bad ones leaves us upset and yet we never lose our confidence that the next one will be fantastic. At the end of the day what I think everyone will agree with is that we all deserve a break from the norm at least once a year. It doesn’t have to be anywhere extravagant just a change of scenery where our routine lives can be forgotten and relaxation is all that matters. Get up when you want, do what you want, in fact take off your watch, leave it at home and just go with the flow.

  When I was young I visited a couple of B&Bs not far from where we actually lived. I was too young to remember these trips but I have seen photographic evidence of rainy days on fairground rides whilst dressed in the worst all in one waterproof outfits known to man. For kids the purpose of holidays is simply a bit more fun than usual but I presume for my parents ,as I now find as an adult myself, the time away was a must. We visited my dads friend near London for a week or so when I was around 10. It was nice to get away but it lacked the cultural input I enjoy from a holiday, I’m not looking for a history lesson, what I really want is to experience things that I am not likely to discover at home like different foods and sights even basic alternative styles of living. Unfortunately all that has stuck in my mind from that trip to London was the Underground and its spaghetti bowl of train tracks.The holiday that I remember the most was when I was 13 and we took a coach tour from Scotland to Belgium, there were day trips to Paris and Amsterdam. I was excited at the prospect of a holiday abroad, there was no beach time or swimming pool of course and so it wasn’t quite the holiday my friends were all having but at the time I had no idea. We were based in a small hotel I shared a room with my parents and spent a lot of time in there reading my book. I do recall the huge hypermarket and the fact that the police carried guns which scared me a lot. Dotted about the streets were venders selling chips and mayonnaise which is apparently a favourite in Belgium. In keeping with my belief of travelling as a method of experiencing different cultures I tried the mayonnaise with my chips. It was disgusting! It wasn’t like a bit of tomato sauce thinly spread over the chips, it was half a jar of the stuff dumped on the top, smothering the life out of my chips. I did my best to eat around it but inevitably most of it went in the bin, but I have tried it and for me that’s all that matters. Our day trip to Paris found me posing for multiple photos in front of the Eiffel Tower and being expected to speak French in an ice cream parlour – that didn’t happen. There was no way I had the confidence to speak another language to a stranger, I barely spoke to my neighbours, my parents were on cloud cuckoo land assuming I would do such a thing. Amsterdam was where I discovered the coolest thing ever though. We were walking down a high street area that was littered with people sitting on the ground or at stalls offering everything from portraits to ear piercing. I stopped to watch a man braiding brightly coloured threads through customers hair. I stood for ages looking at the different designs and colours he was mixing together. The man looked up and gestured for me to have mine done but my parents refused. Disappointed just didn’t cover how I felt, the man wasn’t bothered he simply moved on to the next person. I remained watching for as long as I could before they pulled me away but I had learnt enough, enough to do my own hair and my friends when I got back home.
 There were no more family holidays after that, family dynamics just wouldn’t allow it. My next holiday would be with my husband to be, many years later. One regret that I have is that I did not go on a girls holiday after school finished. The opportunity never arose and I would probably have panicked at the thought of it and not gone. So now I try to make up for it I suppose, not the drinking and clubbing bit but just the general fun of holidays.  My husband and I have had a multitude of holidays over the years, family breaks away, spa retreats, even a short cruise to Amsterdam and an amazing tour of some landmark British sights. Only a few disastrous times have been had.
 We made our first journey abroad in a plane about 5 years ago and I quickly realised that flying is not my favourite method of transport. It wasn’t until we were boarding the plane that I got nervous about it. Our eldest son was given the job of looking after me as my husband held onto our youngest. In order to paint the picture here I must say that I do not do roller coasters, any other moving rides like log flumes or waltzers and you will never see me on a big wheel and so flying was never going to be high on my favourite past times list. Ironically it never occurred to me that I might be a tad unsettled at the prospect of leaving land in a giant metal tube with wings, I think the excitement of the holiday masked that little hurdle. So I got a bit jittery  waiting in the airport and was rather wound up by the time I stepped foot on the plane. I squeezed my sons hand, crushing it into oblivion as the engine started up, vaguely aware of his desperate pleads to get me to let go, I chose to ignore him, it just didn’t seem that important at the time. Taking off was the scariest thing ever, but once the plane levelled out my breathing eased off and I was calm for maybe an hour until the descent began and then it was back to square one again. Who was more traumatised by the time we landed me, my son or the boy on the other side of me who had listened to my panic and bad language for the full flight? Who knows, but I got through it anyway.
   It was a whole other story when I got off the plane. As soon as I stepped out onto the stairway the heat hit me and my ordeal was forgotten. Never had I experienced weather like this, my home land of Scotland is not somewhere you visit to get a tan. However Majorca is, as long as you wear sun cream that is. I thrived on everything. We were on a bus for about 45 minutes to get to the complex, I stared out the window all the way. Everywhere was so sandy, red sand at that and plants grew in it. There were loads of allotments and small cottages that looked self sufficient, I loved it. As we got closer to our destination the houses got bigger, much bigger with swimming pools and decorated with the typical lizard designs of Spain. There was no rush to get anywhere, people were already talking about spending the evening at the bar in their shorts listening to whatever the nights entertainment would be after a slap up buffet meal. The plan was simple, get there, relax, do what you want when you want with no hassles. Nothing from back home mattered, this was another world and this is why holidays are so important. People save all year and put themselves through hell in traffic jams and on terrifying flights to get to their tranquil place and who can blame them. The freedom and lack of pressure that encompasses a holiday cannot be replicated anywhere else.
  This year we are returning to Majorca in a weeks time. I am as prepared as I can be for the flight, ‘Kalms tablets’ at the ready. It’s not been a good year for our family and this holiday means a lot. Time away, just the 4 of us, together enjoying the sun, food and more than likely alcohol for the parents. I want to visit some new areas of the island and see some shows as well. I can’t wait. I have 4 books downloaded, plenty of bikinis and strong sun tan lotion for my incredibly pale Scottish skin. Limited access to the Internet will mean a break from Twitter and my blog but it won’t stop me writing if I have the inclination. A new perspective may emerge from our holiday , maybe inspiration who knows, I’ll just wait and see. As long as we have a great time and make the most of our holiday I will be content and simply start to plan for our next trip.
It’s A Dogs Life — May 30, 2015

It’s A Dogs Life

My gran and papa always had dogs, there was at least 2 in the house at a time until they were in their eighties. I loved the dogs as if they were my own and my papa referred to them as mine. My parents would not allow me to have a dog, the only pets I had were fish and a blue budgie which was the most annoying bird ever, it would not shut up. I grew very attached to my grandparents dogs and found it hard as they each passed away. Of course so did they and they would quickly travel to find the next one. It was sheep dogs they had and for years the dogs were trained in agility, a mass of rosettes and ribbons were collected and trophies were lined along the mantel. All the dogs were bought from quality breeders and cost a lot of money, it was their hobby. They had a caravan for holidays so that the dogs could go with them, they were treated as part of the family. I got to feed them treats and play with them whenever I visited which was quite regularly when I was young. The last dog they got was not trained as a working dog, my papa was getting too old to compete and was simply looking for a companion.
I was ill at school the day I met him, my parents worked, so if I couldn’t go to school I went to my grandparents. The flu was making my joints ache and my head hurt but when I walked into the living room and saw the tiny puppy face peeking out at me I was overjoyed. He chose to hide under the couch, that was his place even when he grew and raised it off the ground just simply to fit, we would sit on it while he held it up. He was a beautiful long haired sheep dog, his main was thick and soft, due to his lack of work he was quite a hyper dog, he barked and jumped more than the others had but he also cared for me. He lay beside me when I visited and followed me everywhere. It was a sad day when we lost him especially for my papa, there would be no more dogs he could no longer care for them, he never spoke of it but I knew he missed having his best friend around.
My husbands family had 2 dogs when I met him, they were the total opposite of each other one boisterous and fidgety the other cuddly and incredibly lazy. Again they were a part of the family, I envied that, it seemed so natural to have a dog. I always loved having a dog lie at my feet or sit beside me, they are the best company, so loyal and loving. Obviously my intention was to have a dog of my own when I no longer lived with my parents and luckily my husband felt the same.Although it would be quiet a while before we could even think about a pet, we were aware of this and rarely talked about it.
When we finally bought our own house a dog came up in conversation very quickly. There was a dog shelter nearby and we stopped in to have a look one day, just a spur of the moment thing. It was a lovely place, new looking and well kept. Most of the dogs didn’t interest me, I like big fluffy affectionate dogs. We both stopped at a beautiful pale auburn puppy of about 7 months old. We asked to meet him and played with him for a while before we took him home, it was as easy as that, no questions no guidance, nothing.The shelter was just happy to have homed him, another statistic dealt with. We were so proud of our new friend. We weren’t expecting him though so we had nothing for him, we were the unorganized parents. A trip to the pet shop was required, it was great fun. Beaming we strolled around the store picking up toys and food for him, regularly stopping as people approached to fuss over our stunning and friendly new dog.
At home we allowed him to sniff his new surroundings and waited until he was ready to settle. He seemed perfectly content, scoffed his dinner and happily trotted round the garden last thing before bed. We had to keep him on a lead as our garden was not secure, it was a worry that he could not roam freely outside, dogs need that. Night time presented the biggest problem however. We made sure he was comfortable and recognised what his bed was for before we left him, turning out the light and closing the door behind us. He was only quiet for a few minutes before the barking started, we knew we couldn’t give in to him, he must accept the routine and not reinforce his need for attention. It continued and continued, our new resident was stubborn and determined to win and I began to worry about the neighbours, it was late and no matter how deaf they proclaimed to be there was no way they could sleep through the noise. We gave in for precisely that reason and we spent the night with the dog on the floor at the side of the bed. We had failed, we both knew it and I became plagued by the problem. The next day I again enjoyed the company, it felt right but I couldn’t get out the house without him, he clung to my leg wherever I went, I was unable to hang the washing out or pop down to the shops. Another problem we encountered that I had no idea how to deal with. General reassurance from others came in the shape of comments like ‘ it’ll get easier’ and ‘he’ll get better’. I of course was looking for a more practical response, one that would help me gain control and not simply hope it all worked out in the end. Apprehension grew as bedtime neared, I felt unsettled and could not relax. It was beginning to dawn on me that we were not ready for this, as much as we wanted it, it was not yet time for us to take on a responsibility, especially one that we knew nothing about. We gave in that night again and allowed him to sleep upstairs with us. I woke my husband in the middle of the night because I had to talk about my feelings. My stomach was in knots, I could not relax let alone sleep. My guilt was enormous just as I spoke about it, I felt the best thing to do was to take him back. To me it was more for selfish reasons than what was best for our precious dog. He didn’t have a home, we gave him one and took it away again almost instantly. Would he be ok? We could not give him what he needed, it was stupid to think we could and incredibly unfair on him. Just how bad a person was I? The journey back to the shelter was made in guilt ridden silence, our friend was oblivious thankfully and was happy to follow us wherever we went. It was a frosty reception to say the least that I encountered when we arrived. My husband stayed in the car, he could not hand him back and I believed it was my job, I felt responsible. There was no point in lying so I told the woman honestly that we were unable to care for him. I deserved the condescending look she threw me, truthfully I deserved much worse but she could not make me feel more guilty than I was making myself feel anyway. I contained the tears until I had left the building, got in the car and drove away, never to look back. My response was very typical of me, guilt over comes me easily and I struggle to get by it. It would be a long time until we would try again and it wouldn’t be the last mistake we made either.
It must have been about 10 years later before we decided to try again. This time I was looking for a guard dog due to the problems we were experiencing with our neighbours. I had seen pictures of Mastiffs, they are beautiful. I mentioned to my husband that I had been thinking about another dog, to my surprise, so had he. I had to find a picture in a pet shop to show him what I liked because I had no idea what breed they were. We agreed to visit the dog shelter but not to set our hearts on anything. The previous shelter had been shut down years ago and there was a larger one situated a bit further away. Things had changed since the last time, obviously to reduce the number of clients returning dogs as we had the first time. There were a lot more dogs and the policy was you had to visit 3 times before you could take a dog home, also when they arrived at the shelter each dog would be kept for 1 week in case their original owner came back. We took a walk around the cages and found a Mastiff. He was beautiful, shiny black and huge. It was fate, that was what I told myself, fate is now what I consider to be a method of talking ourselves into something that we require justification for. But at the time it seemed he was waiting for us. We took him for a walk, well actually he dragged me across the field, I couldn’t believe his strength. He wasn’t even trying to pull me, he would see something and wander over, I hadn’t learnt anything from the last time. He was a gentle giant and would give a paw on command but that was it. We met him on his first day in the shelter so we had to wait a full week to see if he would be claimed. He needed walked everyday so we visited on lunch breaks each day and took him out, he soon got to know us and would get excited to see us. He continued to drag us, we laughed it off, amazed at his strength. We waited the week, on the last day before we brought him home we showered him, he wasn’t very sure of it and so I ended up actually in the shower fully clothed with him. He ran about to dry off for a while and we took pictures of him playing with us, there are some really good ones of him standing on his back legs with his paws on my husbands shoulders. In hindsight, I should have seen the warning signs, his behaviour was dominant not fun loving and this was a powerful dog. The kids had been up to meet him and they were counting the days till he could come home to stay. We were all really excited, he took up most of the car on the way home, (I didn’t buy it thinking we would be putting a Mastiff in it ) filling the boot and hanging over into the back seats. Settling him in was not a problem, nobody knew how long he had been a stray for but he certainly wasn’t shy about the house. Very quickly he started barking at anyone who walked passed the house, it was a territorial bark, a warning to everyone. He was loud and intimidating, I certainly had my guard dog, but I was unable to control him. The following day, my husband saw a different side to him, he growled at him for no reason and stared holes in him. Without witnessing it I didn’t take it too seriously, but it wasn’t long before I received the same treatment from him. I was lying on the couch watching TV when I heard the growl, I turned to see him standing in the kitchen doorway looking right at me. It was incredibly unnerving, my husband gave him a row but he was undeterred, put simply he had decided that the house was his and that he was the boss. We ended up leaving him to roam the downstairs and we went upstairs where he couldn’t see us. Essentially we were hiding from a dog in our own home. He was dangerous and we knew we couldn’t keep him, this was a very large and powerful dog that was trying to dominate us. It was not safe to have him as a pet especially with two kids, we would take him back the following morning. A difficult discussion was had with the boys, we were honest and explained that we felt the dog was dangerous and that we couldn’t take the risk of anyone being bitten. Our eldest was hurt deeply, he didn’t speak to us for days, this was out of character for him and we were concerned for him but we couldn’t change our minds, he had to go.
We loaded him into my little car the next morning and drove back to the pound. We were not greeted favorably, the dog was going nuts in the car, claiming it for himself as well. The manager told us it was our fault that we had done something to him to make him change. I was devastated and crying, I had really wanted to make it work but let’s face it who would put their family in that position? My husband let him out the car and the barking stopped, she tried to take him to the cages but he took her. We apologised and left, never to return again. After that I vowed no more dogs, it was unfair on the kids and on the dogs. We were just not meant to have a dog, I was gutted but it was the sensible thing to do.
I know now, what a dog really requires and the dedication the owner must have. Although it always seems the right thing to do to help a rescue dog, very rarely do you know what your getting. A dog cannot tell you what they have experienced and why they are scared of certain things and it takes a very knowledgeable person to care in the right way for a neglected or mistreated animal.There is skill and patience needed that not everybody has, and there has to be someone at home for them to begin with while they are settling in and that’s not necessarily just a few days or weeks. I have watched probably very episode of Cesar Millan ever made and learnt a lot but in reality it is definitely not as easy as he finds it. If you can make it work though I believe a dog can bring a lot to a family and is well worth the effort. We have since had success and managed to integrate two dogs into our less than average family, along with a couple of cats, but that is another story yet to be told.

Home Sweet Home — May 22, 2015

Home Sweet Home

When my husband and I first moved in together we left our parents and traveled 75 miles to our first home together. We were not running away we were getting closer to my university. We rented a beautiful old flat, it was the servants quarters of a mansion built in 1908. As a result it was poorly heated, the ceilings were incredibly high and the windows single glazed and rotting. It didn't matter, we had a large garden a spare room and it was fully furnished. We stayed there for 2 years, collected furniture and saved our money. When we were ready we went to the bank and once approved for a mortgage we started house hunting. It was a fun and exciting time, viewing houses, imagining living in each of the houses we visited. Then we viewed 'the one' . As soon as we walked in we knew it was the right house for us. It was empty as the owner had already moved out, normally I would have found that off putting but this one was different. It had been on the market for quite a while, the story behind it was tragic, we never let that bother us, it was meant to be our home. We put in an offer the next day and it was accepted almost straight away. I like to be organised and so started packing pretty quickly. I was still studying at university and so tried to get as much done as I could in between deadlines. As we weren't waiting for anyone to move out we didn't have to wait long for our entry date. Unfortunately it fell on the day of one of my exams and so I had to try and ignore what was going on around me and remain focused on my work. It really felt like 2 separate days, my morning was a usual day at uni and when I left at lunchtime I started my next day relocating my life to our new home. We hired a van and shifted what we had managed to collect in one day. Suddenly we were home owners. It was a strange feeling of excitement, pride and a bit of nerves given the huge financial commitment we had just made. Of course it was no mansion, simply a two bedroom semi detached house but we loved it. Over the years we made improvements to it. My husband and father in law built a raised patio in the back garden where we could sit in the summer and enjoy BBQ's. We landscaped both front and back gardens ourselves, I had great fun regularly adding new plants and weeding the beds. Our most lavish expenditure was the double glazed windows which I have to say were well worth the money, the house and been very cold before and they also made the house look far more modern. After our first son was born we realised he didn't have any space to play safely and so before he was walking we mono blocked the driveway and put up a new fence. We continued to work on the house over the years, originally starting with some very choice colour schemes and slowly toning them down as we matured.
Our memories in the house also mounted up, I graduated, we changed jobs, had kids even buying new cars all seemed to be attached to the house. As we look at old photos from our 15 years in that house we always reminisce with smiles on our faces. But we did also have bad memories from there, memories and experiences that would eventually push us to sell the house and move on. The house we were attached to was rented by an elderly couple, they were deaf and smoked like chimneys and must be the nosiest people I have ever met but they were harmless. They moved into sheltered housing and when they both passed we attended the funerals. After they moved we found ourselves with new neighbours every other year and they got progressively more disruptive. The final neighbours that moved in beside us put us through hell almost from day one. They were a very young family, two teenagers, maybe 17 years old and a baby. Their house was a war ground and we were attached to them. They were the epitome of domestic violence, we could hear word for word every argument, I think we knew before she did which ones would end in bruises. I would phone the police at least 3 times a week, they knew him by name and she was put on the at risk register. He drank, did drugs and he beat her regularly and yet she had a second baby with him. I tried to help, I reassured her that she mustn't worry about the noise, that I would rather she locked him out and I called the police for anti social behaviour than she let him in the house and I had to call because he had thrown her down the stairs. At one point the back door was caved in with a battering ram because he was unconscious on the couch with his baby son in his arms, she couldn't get in or wake him. We made official complaints, spoke to social services and even had to attend court as witnesses to some of the abuse along with other neighbours. My husband worked nightshift so we got a big dog to guard us while he worked and when we were financially better off we put the house on the market. I was excited for a new home, I had stipulations - it must be a detached house and it must be in a good area where the kids could play in the street and not hear the neighbours arguing. It took a year and a half to sell the house, I hadn't realised how stressful it would be minimalising each room, painting marked walls and ensuring it was always at show house standard for potential viewers. We soon discovered the term time wasters and restricted viewing to those who had already had mortgages approved and had sold their own properties. It was very demoralising to hear what people had to say about our home. It was too small, the colour scheme was bad, it needed a new roof ( no it didn't) and of course the only reasonable and justified comment - it's not in a good area. One woman saw a Rottweiler in a window and never got passed the front door of our home. We spent hours cleaning and clearing for each viewing, it was not a good experience. Eventually the house sold, we were over the moon. I had seen a house that I really liked and we had popped in when they had an open viewing one Sunday, I loved it and had tried not to set my heart on it. It was a 4 bedroom detached in a new area, no evidence of drug abuse or the poverty it causes, it was perfect. I could not believe my luck when it was still on the market when we were ready to buy. We viewed another couple of houses just to make sure but we already knew we had found our new home. Our second offer on the house was accepted and I immediately started buying for it, mostly decor for the walls and curtains. We had cleared the loft when we originally put the house up for sale so we were well organised again. I started to box up everything else, it is amazing how much stuff you accumulate that you just don't need or even notice if it's not there. Again we moved ourselves with a hired van and the help of some friends. The kids left from the old house that morning to go to school and at home time walked to their new residence, each had already picked their room and we had got everything beds, wardrobes and boxes galore in for them, it was their job to unpack it all.
 Times have been hard since we've moved in but I have never regretted our move. I can relax in my home, which had become impossible in the previous house. We all have more space even the dogs have more freedom because I can leave the back door open for them to move in and out when they want to. The neighbours are lovely, we've been to 3 parties in the street and I can stop and blether to them at any time. Yes we are totally skint, now that I'm not working and bills are mounting up but I don't care, we'll be ok. We wouldn't have been ok in the old house with or without money, we did the right thing. I love my home and have no intention of moving again, this is it for us, home sweet home.
How We Ground Ourselves — May 20, 2015

How We Ground Ourselves

My mum is religious, I remember her attending church every Sunday. My dad never went, I didn’t gave it any thought, he didn’t usually do much so it wasn’t out of the ordinary . When I was old enough I started going to Sunday school. I thought it was a child care service, not realising that the teachers were trying to educate me ( as ironic as that sounds – I know) I sang the songs and coloured in the pictures but never took any of it seriously, it was just stories. It never occurred to me that the purpose was to encourage my belief and the belief of the other kids sitting around me. Some of it was fun, other bits boring. I went on trips with the Sunday school, I remember one in partcular at Drumlanrig Country Park. It had the biggest flying fox I had ever seen, I didn’t go on it of course but I watched as others had great fun.From what I remember there was no mention of religion on these trips. I also visited a residential home for people with Downs Syndrome, that unnerved me. Looking back on it, it was a great thing to do, we were learning about special needs and their contribution to society. These days integration to main stream life is expected but back then there was still a massive divide and the church were essentially challenging that. That is something to be respected, there is a lot of good that can be done by a group of well meaning and selfless people, and there are a lot of people out there that could benefit from such support. The other side of the church was boring, I sat through services both with the Sunday school and with my mum, it never interested me. The odd story I enjoyed , like the bread and fish one but that was all they were to me, just stories. I could not see any reality, such things were not possible. Miracles and faith were lost on me, I require solid and justified scientific proof. I did not comment to anyone about my thoughts, I didn’t see a need and no one ever asked my opinion. I had no inclination to shout out about it, I was simply happy not to incorporate religion into my life.
I was 14 when my geography teacher commented to me that he assumed I was an atheist. I had never given it any thought but I went home that day and told my mum. Her response was ” well aren’t you?” So I looked into it and very quickly agreed that yes that is exactly what I am. In some respects I was very lucky because my mum did not seem disappointed or let down. Possibly this was because she had also chosen to marry a man without a religious faith. I have no issues with other people’s religious beliefs, I just can’t accept it as my own belief. The only thing I don’t appreciate is people trying to coerce my opinions. I make my own choices and my beliefs are what is right for me. I do not hurt or force my thoughts on others, so please don’t do it to me. I did not marry in a church but I did have a minister conduct the ceremony, it seemed important to my mum but I agreed to it more because I liked the man, he was a very kind and considerate person and I felt he would be the right person for the job. When I had my first son my mum approached him again to do a christening. He said no, as we were not members of the church. This was the one and only time I felt my mum overstepped the mark with regards to her religion. My husband and I did not want our children christened. We had discussed it and decided we would not make their decisions for them. When they were old enough to chose their own path we would support whatever they decided. But my mum took it upon herself to try and organise a ceremony. It angered me, I kept my calm and informed her we had no intention of christening our children, without awaiting her response I left the room and it has never been spoken of again. Neither of our kids have shown an interest in following a religion, so far anyway, the only thing we have expressed to them is that it must be their choice and that they must ensure that it is what is best for them.
Life is hard, people encounter problems everyday. The media is full of it : war, debt, failure, death, fear to name but a few. Nobody can turn a blind eye to it, we are all inflicted by negative emotions and they must be acknowledged in order for us to function. There are many ways to address them, cope with them or keep them in check, religion is just one of many. Sport, music, fashion, theatre essentially any activity that can be used to ground you. Unfortunately there are those that turn to self destructive methods such as alcohol or drugs which only bring more problems to a persons doorstep. I view religion to be one of the healthier past times and so I am not opposed to it. It does not harm or control a person and many find the strength to deal with traumatic personal issues as a result of their faith. I do not believe those who choose sport are any less grounded or stable than those who choose religion. People’s choices should be respected.I will not respond to people that knock on my door to spread the word of Christ. My home is where I relax and do not appreciate being disturbed by anyone trying to sell me anything and that goes for double glazing sales men, political parties and even charities. If I want to do something or find out about something I will seek it out myself.I choose writing and it works well for me. I will talk to anyone who expresses an interest in what I do but I will not insist that anyone else try’s it. I do not proclaim that it will save others lives or even ease their tension. What I would say to others is that there is no magic wand to fix our life problems we must work to get the best we can for ourselves. It is important to distinguish between what we can and cannot fix and live our lives accordingly. We cannot deny the terrible things that occur in our world but we must not forget the joys of life either. Very often I feel that people are predisposed to the negative emotions we experience and maybe even look for them because it is easier to dwell on the bad than it is to actually make an effort to enjoy the positives. We should all take a leaf out of Patch Adams book and make someone smile each day and maybe then we won’t require that crutch to get us through the day, week or month. Maybe then we could all just enjoy life as the people we are.

Divorce should not be about the kids — May 16, 2015

Divorce should not be about the kids

My parents had been together for about 10 years before they had me. The picture that my mum paints is that of a normal couple and family, but I have little recollection of this. What I remember is living in a house with parents that didn’t even know each other. They could never be found in the same room, very little conversation could be heard. Generally they communicated through notes such as’Don’t switch the heating off I’m having a bath tonight’ or ‘Margaret phoned for you, phone back after 6pm when it’s cheaper!’The atmosphere wasn’t the best and I chose to hide in my room. I had nothing to say to them and neither of them said anything I ever wanted to hear.I think that’s how my parents felt about each other as well.
I was in my thirties when my mum eventually decided to make the break. I supported her, not because I was taking her side but because I felt it was the natural and obvious thing to do, the marriage was finished, it had run its course. I found it insulting when she told me she had stuck around for me, it was a cop out. I had never experienced what it was like to have a married couple care for me, it would not have made a bit of difference to me had they spilt when I was 12 or 40. On top of that was the fact that I had left home at the age of 19 and she stayed with him for more than a further decade. She let herself down by not being able to stand up for herself, not voicing her feelings and not grabbing life by the balls and living it her own way. I was not a factor in the slightest and unfortunately I lost respect for her because she stayed with my dad for too long.
My dad was oblivious to life and although there is always blame on both sides I believe in this instance the weight of it belongs to him. I remember trying to get him to buy birthday cards for my mum year after year and him laughing at me as if it was the stupidest thing he had ever heard. He locked the house up and made it uninviting to everyone. So my mum went out to socialise because her friends knew they weren’t welcome. My dad also refused to wash. His clothes stank worse than any smell I had ever encountered. He sat in the chair in the living room, never beside my mum on the couch. His chair smelled as bad as him. I could not stand to be near him, I struggled not to gag. Surely my mum felt the same. Then there was the issue of his clothes. He wore shirts and trousers that were older than me and refused to buy anything new. My mum darned and re darned his socks and shirts lost their colour not to mention in the ingrained smell. His actions screamed a lack of self respect, I have noticed that those without love for themselves have an inability to love others properly. There certainly wasn’t any love expressed in my presence, that’s for sure. I would not consider what little he seemed to be providing to be a commitment to my mum. There was no recognition of his responsibility as a husband. My mum got on with it, she did her best to get from day to day, having given up on being a wife.
Once they eventually split up my mum felt free, but my dad crumbled. I still can’t understand it all these years later. Her existence in the house meant nothing to him. He showed no interest in talking to her let alone being married to her. So why was he so gutted? It seemed ridiculous and the small amount of respect I had for him diminished even further. This shell of a man spent all his time crying now, never had I seen an emotion other than anger in him. It didn’t seem real. He was also making it hard for my mum. She had a beautiful flat that she made her own, my dad found the flat and stood outside it for hours staring, presumably trying to catch a glimpse of her. He put unnecessary pressure on her and spent years thinking he could get her back. I tried to tell him but he is a very stubborn man and cannot see that he has done anything wrong. So I have given up now. I will not listen to the self pitying pathetic cries of a grown man who cannot accept responsibility for his own actions. Very often my mum would ask me to speak to him for her and it would infuriate me. I was not interested in getting in between them. I could not understand why she didn’t just ignore him. She had made the decision to leave him so that should be that, no communication, no attention, nothing. By making contact in any way was giving him hope. I insisted that Christmas be split between them, half a day each. I did not want to be in the same room as them together. It felt like a bigger lie than their marriage had been because now the cards were on the table and they were pretending to be united. At least before there was no effort made. But now they wanted to do it for their child ( despite my departure from childhood 2 decades previously). Christmas became a huge chore, moving between the two houses and having to eat far too much. The year we went to my dads for lunch we ended up doing all the cooking and even brought half the food with us.
I was angry. I had seen the reason for them separating and was fine with it. The complications that were arising from the split however were making it a difficult situation.They insisted on conferring about everything to do with me, how much money will we each give her for her birthday, who will visit and when, even who should talk to her about ‘delicate matters’. It all infuriates me! Frank conversations were had with both of them and slowly they backed off. But what I didn’t realise was that all they had backed off of was me. Their behaviour did not change. My dad begged my mum to spend every Saturday with him and she agreed despite hating every second of it. And then, like a couple of teenagers they snuck about behind my back. One day I phoned my mum and she was on a bus with him, when I realised I hung up. She called me later telling me how awful it had been. I had no sympathy for her. Spending 1 day a week with him was more time than she had given him when they were married. This is not what she had planned for herself and definitely not how I had expected her to react to her new found freedom. I suppose I thought it would be better for me because I didn’t like my parents when they were together. I thought maybe they were suppressing each other and that normal people would emerge but it didn’t happen. I guess I hoped for too much. What I need to do is accept that this is who my parents are. I am annoyed with my mum because she didn’t support my dad and get him the help he needed for his many mental health problems. Because she didn’t do that it has landed on my plate and I dread the day I have to step in and have him committed even though I know it would be the best thing for him. My mum has tried to involve herself in my life a lot more but it’s not working for me. There have been improvements, but not enough for me to be comfortable. I have experienced my last let down as far as my relationship with my parents is concerned. It will never get any better so I need to get passed it.
My view of their separation and divorce is just the same as my view of everything else my parents have done, weak and ignorant. I am surprised at my feelings, I always believed I had shut myself off from the idea of normality, that I had given up on my parents a long time ago. The reality was that I remained hopeful of a proper relationship with them, as shocking as that is to me. I regret the lack of connection between myself and them and I’ve tried, but everytime I have felt empty and misunderstood. There is a good chance that I make them feel the same way. What a sad situation. Should there be blame? Is it just the way my family is? Maybe we’re not supposed to find out the reason because all three of us have caused it and all three of us are suffering. I want to walk away and not be tied up in this mess for the rest of my life.
The purpose of the divorce has been to give my mum a better life. She makes her own choices now and is free to do as she pleases, which really backs up the saying “better late than never”. My dad functions less and less but I don’t think that is a result of the separation, this is where my dads life was heading regardless of what occurred. What remains for me to do is accept that I am not a reflection of them or their choices, just because they fucked up does not mean to say that I will. Their lives are not my responsibility and not really any of my business. Bad relationships bring you down, this is not what I need so I choose to stay away.