Easter Without Your Child: A Letter from Mr Pooh Pooh Head

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This year I set out to write about seeing the priceless joys in everything, and feeling like a millionaire, regardless of circumstances. Today I have a hurdle, and so the challenge is set: can I find humour and happy things amidst the fact that I’ve not seen or been able to speak to my little boy over Easter?

I’m opting for letter form I think. Ok, here we go:

Dear Son,

I am sorry I have been unable to get through to you on the phone – I just wanted to say I miss you.

I miss helping you to complete the wiping of your bottom after a pooh, especially when you admit “it’s a bit runny today” and I have to scrub away at the pooh stripes that are baked onto your back and bum cheeks, from your attempts at wiping your bottom.

I miss how you crawl into my bed every night and grip onto me like a koala bear, then making yourself so hot that you trigger your eczema then scratch vigorously for hours, bashing me with your elbows whilst doing it. I miss that you then escape from my body heat, and the duvet, and reposition yourself lying on my head. And then snore, sleep talk and drool onto my pillow. I miss that you then wake me up at 6am to ask me questions like ‘How did Jesus get into God’s tummy?’ And ‘What is at the end of space?’

I miss that you won’t put your coat on without having a huge meltdown and shouting about how much you hate coats – mainly because “they are too warm”. I miss resorting to the ‘time out’ spot on a daily basis, over Coat-gate arguments.

I miss your current obsession with your CD of dated party hits, and you vibrating the walls of the house by blasting ‘Bang Bang’ as soon as I go in the shower. I miss your dance moves to Little Mix and your tone deaf accompaniment to 5SOS when you think I can’t hear or see you.

I miss your obsession with using baby wipes instead of washing your hands with water – and your need to pull 12 out the packet at once, pass them from one hand the other and think that this constitutes the recommended 7 step hand washing routine.

I miss your sudden crying at the dinner table because you’ve decided, after 4 years of loving Broccoli, that it is “horrid”.

I miss your obsession with toilet humour and the need to call me “Mr Pooh Pooh Head”.

I miss your need to use my face cream liberally and to investigate the contents of my make-up bag – ensuring you ram the lid onto fully erected lipsticks. I miss hearing “whoops”.

I miss your honesty with your mishaps, such as “Mummy, I’ve spilt my drink again, and this time it’s gone on some electrics…”

I miss your selective hearing – I miss asking you 8 times to get your shoes on and getting nothing back, but then getting an immediate response when I use the same tone to say “just to let you know I’m off now – I’m going to ride on Thomas the Tank engine”. I also miss the times I forget to use humour and shout “why aren’t you listening to me?! It’s infuriating!!”

I miss the fact that when we ring Daddy each night, so that you can read to him over the phone, you insist on choosing the Usborne book of the human body. I miss awkwardly helping you read words like ‘anus’, ‘birthing canal’ and ‘pubic bone’.

Today I missed seeing that everything has a sunshine side, but this has now been restored by writing this letter to you.

Love Mr Pooh Pooh Head xx

 

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The Mother, the MP and the large cup of satire.

Imagine having brain surgery, knowing it is being done by someone fresh out of Sixth Form College, and performed using a blow torch and a spatula. It’s an obvious given that it’s not going to work, it will hurt and it will waste time.

In line with this, imagine your house is on fire and they send a milk float driven by a Learner, equipped with a couple of Super Soakers filled with almond milk. Again, pointless.

However, HMRC’s Tax Credit system – so complicated that I recently met an Accountant who couldn’t get their head round it, is set-up with the efficiency of a chocolate tampon; it’s non-mathematical workers having no access to the pseudo system in place. In a world where I seek the sunshine in every situation, I can only reach for an attempt at satire to reduce my boiling blood today. After weeks of calls, letters and crying to Houses of Parliament staff, I today, after 90 minutes of pleading, finally broke a member of HMRC staff who held his hands up and said that the entire system is an absolute pile of shit that none of the staff could use. This guy is a hero of listening and honesty, succeeding where others have turned an ignorant cheek and carried a level of empathy aligned with those in charge of NHS purse-strings. Without this man in my day, I may have drunk my body weight in Absinthe.

I now understand the non-system and I will share it to publicly shame how it is costing parents and also the public money, unnecessarily. I shall make this super fun by using a case study, as HMRC like to do. Here we go…

Beryl is an unassuming quiet lady in her 40’s, with thick-set glasses and surprisingly athletic thighs. She lives with her Partner, Wayne, a 39 year old mobile DJ specialising in European thrash metal, and is a stay-at-home mum to their 2 year old son, Len. Out of the blue, Wayne leaves Beryl, informing her of this via Snapchat, for a 19 year old Cage Dancer. A defiant Beryl pulls up her socks, refuses to claim benefits and takes a series of full time admin jobs, until finally securing a permanent post as a Medical Writer, based on her previous career achievements. The tax credits system is there to help her pay for her childcare and costs of living. Beryl is thankful. During this time, Beryl adheres to the ‘Please advise of your anticipated annual childcare costs, presented as a weekly average’ request from HMRC. She writes the following letter to HMRC (knowing that she must not trust giving this information solely over the phone):

Dear Sirs,

My annual childcare costs will be £5,200 which equates to £100 a week (£5200/52 = £100).

This reflects my son being in a full time nursery placement until September, and costs reducing to out-of-school care when he goes to school in September.

Love Beryl x

Despite being simple, these figures cause HMRC a level of indecision that is aligned to them having to choose between sparing the life of one of their parents and letting the other face a firing squad. They send Beryl 14 different statements of what financial help they will give her, settling on £100 a week as her figure to base this on. (You can see what they’ve done there…). Beryl saves as many pennies as she can, in case they leave her in the shit. Then Beryl throws a curve ball….

She changes her circumstances!!!  The poor cow has no idea of the wrath she is about to feel.

After repeatedly running into after-school club with 2 minutes to spare, delirious with hunger, and then trying to shoe-horn cooking a meal, Len’s homework and bath into 50 minutes, Beryl can take no more. Len is nearly 5 and she has given this set-up a real go – but admits defeat. Aside from this, Beryl’s boss is as pleasant as projectile vomit in the face, and treats her like dog pooh on her designer shoes. In February, nearing the end of the financial year, Beryl leaves her job and becomes a dinner lady for a local school, around Len’s school hours. She loves her new job. Everyone is happy. Accept HMRC. They are never happy. Unless people are crying.

Beryl phones HMRC to inform them of her new job. At which point they ask for her current childcare costs – which are nothing, aside from the odd ad hoc place at times of desperate need. They cut all Beryl’s money.  Beryl explains that her average childcare costs across the year remain almost the same, now around £96 a week. HMRC review Beryl’s file and delete the log of childcare from the start of school in September – labelling Beryl a benefit fraud for claiming average, and not actual costs of childcare. Beryl explains she was asked for average costs and waves her previews correspondence. “It’s not our problem, you were responsible to get it right” she is told, a different member of staff then confirming “Yes, we ask for average costs but the system can’t use them.” Beryl therefore asks if the system can reflect her actual costs, as they have fluctuated over the year. “No.”

Beryl is told to pay £1,300 back. She gets some extra hours work to pay for this and her friend looks after Len, but she is then penalised for earning over an imaginary threshold and has to pay more money back. She is also penalised for saving money – as this deems her to have been paid too much, despite having lived off about £45 a week in order to save.

Beryl writes a nice letter with all her evidence, she even includes a print-off of the Gingerbread single parents Tax Credit advice on submitting average childcare costs. Beryl sends this information many times, and eventually copies in her local MP – explaining that the system could also be costing the government thousands of pounds in circumstances where people’s childcare costs go up during the financial year – in view that they would be claiming an average, but then default onto an ‘actual’ cost. If Beryl had done it this way she would have made well over a £1,000. Silly Beryl.

Beryl’s MP can’t help but his Case Worker and PA are very polite. Beryl understands that the MPs are very busy demolishing the NHS.

Beryl dries her tears over the now £1700 she is out of pocket, remembers that she loves her job and that she has a beautiful little boy, and she writes a blog on her circumstances, hoping that it goes viral and sparks a little compassion in the people who took her money, thinking she was just a single mother as a result of a drunken shag in the toilets of the Pig and Whistle nightclub. She sends a virtual hug to her local MP with the message ‘Don’t worry my Love, I’ll take this from here.’

Beryl feels better now. And she hasn’t had to consume any Absinthe, which is a blessing.

(Thank you for reading – please share this post from the share buttons below, in the hope it will spare others the same pain…).

Taking off the Tape

Take off the Tape

I recently attempted to write about Anxiety and went off on a tangent about having sex with Daddy Pig… so, in line with the ‘Take Off The Tape’ campaign, I’m back on the subject. (The task here will be trying to incorporate humour – which felt easier in my last post; in honour of Jeremy Hunt).

‘Take off the Tape’ is a struggle for me, not least because it involves posting a selfie – I just can’t do it without looking like I’m a reflection of myself in the back of a spoon. It’s not a good look, especially when I was at the back of the queue when they were giving out noses – and then proceeded to break mine… I am, however, saved by the fact that it involves the selfie to feature a sticker over your mouth, stating the biggest cause your Anxiety – my photography skills and my face therefore being saved by my need for a piece of paper large enough to cover my whole head.

I am a happy Waitress and a happy mum, I love where I live and I have marvellous friends and family. I was lucky enough to have post-natal euphoria and I grab any life challenge by the balls – determined to succeed and get through. Life’s hurdles are a gift. However, I sometimes develop terror within my happy bubble, and become engulfed in fear that people hate me, are ashamed of me, embarrassed by me, or that I’m going to die. I know this is bonkers, but it’s ingrained, and has been for about 30 years. Big issues are normally fine, little issues are incorrectly filtered in my brain.

Habits are a bit crap. I remember working on a High Dependency Unit and seeing a patient lighting a fag – oxygen mask in hand. I ninja-rolled across the floor and intervened; it turned out she was oblivious to what she was doing, and that she nearly blew up the unit. The problem with habitual thinking is that others can’t see it to dive in and say “What are you doing?! Stop!!”.

Here’s an example of my mind and the world it scoops me up into (for this example, I firstly need to explain that, despite being able to parallel park and having been around Croft race track, my car-competence skills are diminished when it comes to recognising my own car…). Yes, I have on many occasions been guilty of ‘mistaken car identity’. ‘How is this relevant to Anxiety?’ I hear you ask.  Well, whilst most people might approach the wrong car and be immediately notified by the incorrect contents, I do not have the innate ability to recognise this as an obvious sign of error, and instead I freak out that someone has put random contents into my car and is watching me from afar. I have an instant fear that I am in trouble.

These are some of my actual previous thoughts: Why has someone put trays of eggs on my passenger seat? Who would do that?  How did they get into my car?  Do they have keys?  Where are they watching me from?  Are they filming me?  Where will this end up?  Are they laughing?  How many people are laughing?  Am I going to die?

This has happened on five occasions that I can recall: involving fear over afore mentioned eggs, along with a Ribena bottle and a baby car seat. The latest incidence saw the what-are-the-chances-of-that-happening situation where I got INTO the wrong car, after it had been coincidentally left unlocked.  I am then sitting in what I think is my car, scared to death over why someone has placed boiled sweets and a pink iPhone onto my passenger seat, and hung a coconut air freshener from my fear view mirror. As I look around to see who is filming this,  I notice my actual car in the car park and then have to deal with the anxiety of being seen getting in and out of two cars of the same model and also the fear of being caught by the owner, getting out of their car; with the lame excuse that I thought it was mine….

(At this point it’s worth laying all my crazy cards on the table and admitting that I have called out the emergency break down service at midnight on an Easter Sunday – to ‘fix the locks’ of a car that wasn’t mine.  It wasn’t even the same colour. Or make. The Mechanic was speechless).

So there it is. I can choose to be happy and positive, but my fear sensor has work to do before it can automatically distinguish between real fear and childhood-triggered terror which erupts at the site of a Ribena bottle in someone else’s car… The good thing this has highlighted is that I need to face my fears – so I took the ‘what will people think of me’ fear and Tweeted my previous blog at Jeremy Hunt; successfully managing to sleep reasonably through its very atypical hundreds of FB shares, amidst a tendency to think that maybe everyone hated it and that I was going to die as a result. I think it’s done me some good, so I’m toying with whether to tweet my ‘do tits beat wit?‘ themed Blog at Kim Kardashian.

In the meantime, I shall override the fear of posting this one online…

(If you would be happy to follow me on social media, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter here: Facebook / Twitter – I’m only a few weeks into my profiles and my pension and mortgage may well be riding on a book deal – so any support is much appreciated!).

Why I swapped the NHS for Waitressing

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On paper, this shouldn’t work; I have a BSc (hons) degree, 12 years of HCP experience and here I am: heading for 37, as a happy Waitress.

If I could have written a joke guide to ruining the NHS 15 years ago, it would have read something like this:

  1. Increase paperwork by 300%. Continue to do this every year.
  2. Privatise as many services as possible and pay for them upfront, for the whole financial year – regardless of whether they are used to full capacity.
  3. Change the name of every NHS Trust at least once a year, at a minimum cost of £1m in paperwork amends.
  4. Spend £6 billion on a computer system and then decide not to use it. It is important that any computer system installed is not compatible across hospital, GP and community settings.
  5. As people get more experienced, start to move them down a band, so that they earn less and feel less valued.
  6. As staff are moved down a band, increase their responsibility and workload.
  7. Cut all services to people with long-term neurological conditions down to 6 sessions of 30 minutes per life-span. Ensure at least 20 minutes of these sessions are spent doing paperwork.
  8. Replace as many qualified staff as you can with less-qualified equivalents.
  9. Instil heavy-handed micromanagement by people who are emotionally-void.
  10. Do not let Consultants speak to Cleaners; they shouldn’t even look them in the eye.
  11. Increase caseloads until staff members show visible signs of stress – sweating, shaking, crying and rocking in a ball behind a crash trolley are all very positive signs of succeeding here.
  12. Send out questionnaires to frontline staff about working conditions but do not under any circumstances read or implement any of the suggestions. Proceed to allow major decisions on treatment provision to be made by newly-qualified Accountants.

Sadly, the above is pretty close to my perception of what has actually happened to the NHS.

I’ve worked in pockets of gold-standard service, where there were regular treatment sessions, time, access to money for equipment, and wards that would go out and party together – in-house Cleaners on a level with the Orthopaedic Consultants – and everyone knowing each other by name, and dancing together on pub tables. There was privatisation going on but the NHS felt like a very different place.

The irony is that I feel I do more to brighten people’s day as a Waitress than I did at the end of my career as a Healthcare Professional. Instead of talking to the general public about their medical history, (when they’ve already given it to six other people) and dishing out exercises they often found boring (and, by their own admission, didn’t intend to do), I get to bring them great food and chat about anything from local sight-seeing to football. Aligned with this, people make better ‘patients’ in a relaxed setting – especially if alcohol is involved. I am plied with detailed accounts of bowels, sleep habits and operation scars – without even asking. I rarely got this information so readily when I wore a tunic and a name-tag.

Reasons I love my job:

  • Job descriptions: there are none. I praise this fact. Got an idea or skill you think will help the business? Great, let’s use your skills and try it. Likewise, if someone’s delivered a mis-aimed pooh onto the outside of the toilet, you clear it up. It’s an ego-less set-up.
  • The workforce are equal: if there is a gnawed piece of sausage on the floor then the boss isn’t too proud to pick it up. He helps to lay tables also.
  • The job is relatively easy: it’s physically hard work and the pace and logistics of a busy weekend is full on, but it’s not often overwhelming. And there’s vast opportunity to be mindful – notably mopping floors to music, eating lovely food and making Tiramisu look pretty with swirly chocolate sauce patterns.
  • The act of waiting is less of a problem: your table is delayed in the restaurant; you get to drink wine in the bar. Your appointment is delayed at the healthcare centre; you get to read magazines, (aimed at middle-aged women), in a waiting room crammed like a Next sale. One of these outcomes creates happy people and the other creates severely depressed people (especially with articles such as ‘Why I left my wife of 40 years to marry a horse’).
  • Questions are more fun: ‘On a scale of 1-10, how depressed are you?’ (Ironic, given the pre-appointment reading material on offer…) verses ‘Would you like to come to our Turkish music night – there’ll be belly dancers and a lock-in?’ Again, one triggers loss of will to live, the other brings joy.
  • Presents: a donation of a couple of pounds as a tip is taken gratefully, and you get to thank the customer nicely. NHS gifts were forbidden – which led to rejections of thoughtful tokens of appreciation, which made you feel a guilt parallel to dumping someone who loves you dearly… on their birthday… knowing they were going to propose to you… having sold a family heirloom to buy a ring for you. Perhaps you are leaving them for their own brother… and so on.

The idea that I get paid to sweep, mop and polish cutlery, to pumping garage, house, old school indie, number one hits of the sixties etc, feels like a gift. And best of all, I get to hang out with my little lad – working around his school hours and his time with his dad. This, to me, is priceless.

I may be on a minimum wage, but I enjoy my job and the wealth outside my pocket makes me feel like a millionaire.

Sleeping with the Enemy

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I initially set out to write this week’s post about living with my own Anxiety; an attempt at making light-heart of my occasional crippling fear over non-issues. In that respect, I do indeed sleep with the enemy.

However, in my search to see what is available on hiding your Anxiety from your kids, and how I might be able to add humour to my documentation of this plan, I read about something that is not only a more suitable fit for the blog title – if we take it to refer to sex – but also made me feel considerably more stable in my own thinking: the fact that apparently some women find Daddy Pig attractive.

For those who haven’t had to endure the pain of this character, he is a pig that looks like a cross between a hairdryer and a testicle, and somehow found a woman to make bacon with;  resulting in the conception of Peppa Pig. ‘Surely a one night stand, or at least a sympathy shag?’ I thought, but no – she went back for more and had piglet number two.

The thought of having sex with Daddy Pig makes me feel ill; in keeping with the fact that eating raw pork makes you very sick. He’s just not very sexy. I can’t imagine there’d be any ‘throw down’ – it would all be a bit Alan Partridge: “do you mind if I talk throughout?  It tends to keep the wolf from the door” and so on. I could be wrong; they say it’s always the quiet ones and maybe there’s a raging porn star under his unassuming personality…

No, it’s still making me feel ill.

Aside from the obvious, the man is married – he should be off everyone’s radar.

And what about the impact on existing husbands? This has surely got to be the ultimate dent to any man’s pride?

The knock on effect is that this brings me back to my own, sometimes wayward, thinking. Whilst I sometimes drive myself nuts with worry and fear, this now seems so relatively mild and insignificant when compared with this sausage-craze that some individuals have. I suddenly feel at the mild end of the unhelpful-thinking continuum. My biggest worry has always been ‘what do people think of me?’ – I suddenly feel very grateful that this isn’t ‘I fantasise about making love to a middle-aged farm animal’.

As I pondered over this during the week, a reality check about the actual impact of my Anxiety on my little boy was handed to me on a plate. He was crying hysterically, over an apparently unfair ratio of raisins-to-chocolate, and bawled “I just want to be happy all the time like you Mummy”. This came as a shock because I assumed he saw my slip-ups – when he’s dancing around trying to make me laugh by tying the legs of his sock monkey around his waist, as a comedy belt, whilst trying to imitate an American accent, and I’m staring into space – scared the world is going to end. I felt so relieved that he was apparently oblivious, and just saw the sunshine. The reality hit that the concept that I am the enemy has very little substance. However, sleeping with a real enemy, such a Daddy Pig, is a real life issue.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude; Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror: The National Anthem’ is, to me, one of the greatest scripts ever written, and that has a sex scene involving a pig. But under no circumstances should this make any viewer feel horny…

So I conclude I’m far from the mess I thought I was, and that I could be a lot worse.  And as a bonus, I feel quite relieved to be single in a world where the calibre of human partners is deemed such that a YouTube video of Miley Cyrus and Rhianna gyrating their crotches on an awkward cartoon pig would go viral and lead to share-price increases in DIY sex toys…

Oh well, I guess it gives weight to the term ‘getting porked’. Perhaps I should change the title of this to ‘Beauty and the Beast-iality’?

I think I’m going to become a vegetarian.

Thank you for reading – please follow me on social media: Facebook / Twitter  You can also see my other blog for Briscola Restaurant here