Mr Aubergine

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Following on from the married man who wanted to have his wedding cake and eat it, I was recently faced with what could have been a tougher call for abstinence – a nudge out the blue from an old flame, who was at the front of the queue when they were giving out todgers. To label this guy ‘Mr Aubergine’ would be fair – his appendage was award winning in stature, a potential dangerous weapon and a definite rival for Ron Jeremy’s famous third leg.

My email alerts me to contact from this chap, whom I dated 11 years ago. I last saw him when he appeared unexpectedly in 2010. As it turns out, his recent nod to me was made in error – a quick U-turn in the face of an acknowledged potential ear-battering from his current partner. But whilst I awaited the reply to my question about whether the notification I received from him was intentional, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was still hot. In 2005, he was a dish – extremely funny and nice on the eye. If I’d had a bit more maturity and less of an ego then perhaps we’d have survived a few more years. That, and the interruption of a blonde from Leeds – with huge baps and the need to wear highlighter on her cheeks at all times (even Sunday afternoons).

A friend once said to me that she’d bumped into an ex boyfriend who had gone from being a stunningly beautiful and charming Ferrari driver, to a ‘fat, balding grumpy bastard, behind the wheel of a Citroën Picasso – which had the back seats removed so he could transport budget catalogues around’. Whilst I don’t care for car ownership or weight gain, it did make me think about how potentially different someone could be after 11 years. I don’t think the aubergine itself could have changed – not without extensive surgery.

I’m intrigued of course, and would have liked to have met up for even a friendly catch up – but in the circumstances, I had to sign out and halt contact. This was much tougher than with Mr married restaurant customer – where I had no previous experience to weight my vision of him as a master of sexual art, lyrical wit and care-in-the-community level patience and empathy. Or a penis like a megaphone. This well-hung ex is tattooed into my brain as all of those things – and so the ‘take care’ sign-off I put in my final email was a little harder to do.

I’ll never forget the public humiliation attempts during our relationship, they were so painfully embarrassing but at the same time very funny – buying a deafeningly loud Dukes of Hazard horn for his van and setting it off at every traffic light and pedestrian crossing – least forgettable being Glasgow city centre, where he drove at 5 mph with the windows down, whilst blasting out the Proclaimers and setting off his horn – totally deadpan – and with the sole attempt to cause ultimate embarrassment. And then the time he neglected all available parking spaces and mounted his van diagonally up a 1 in 2 grass bank that divided the local supermarket from the canal, setting off the horn as I tried to get out, so that everyone within a mile radius turned round. And not forgetting the time he turned up at a party dressed as Pamela Anderson in Baywatch – balls bulging out the crotch of a BHS red swimsuit. This guy was more than just a man with marrow between his thighs.

But the underlying decision to not liaise further is no different from with the restaurant guy – the unshiftable girl code. No matter who got there first, the history, whether another woman is bigger, taller, hairier, a boring-talker or a serial killer, it is my mission that I shall never dabble with the idea of coffee with her man, outside of normal alternative motives such as genuine business meetings. Although a business meeting with an ex is not ideal – I’m a firm believer in ‘never get laid where you get paid’.

So there’s the matter – closed. (Though if he’s ever single again, I may get to see if he has a big arse and a 1996 Nissan Micra).

Please take your willy out of your drink. 

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I thought I’d sailed passed the early years without much in the way of difficult bottom-related situations – a friend was dealing with such scenarios as her son putting plastic farmyard hay bales into his nappy, and another has a son who proudly announced at the top of his voice that ‘Daddy has a really fluffy willy’. But recently I had a hurdle that more than made up for my so-far-smooth parenting ride, when it comes to issues of the crotch.

On getting out the bath one night recently, my son asked me for a glass of water – which I delivered to his room, where he was getting ready for bed. I think it’s fair to say this was not a naive act on my part – it had not occurred to me, (based on my previous experience of people and drinks), that he was going to utilise it for anything other than quenching his thirst…

I returned five minutes later to find him naked, in the press-up position. It wasn’t so much the fact that he was planking at 5 years old, without breaking sweat, but the fact that he was dangling his willy into his glass of water.

Me: “Ok…. erm, that’s not exactly what I intended the water for….”

He grinned, super proud.

I don’t want him to think that willies are no-go areas, so I confirm that this kind of shenanigans is fine – just not in his drinks. Or in public.  And I confirm that he doesn’t do this with his drinks at school…

He changes the subject: “Mummy, do you think that Conor McGregor listens to Skepta?”

The inevitable birds and the bees question has already occurred and was easy – it came very early on, I explained that people in love are like jigsaw pieces – he understood and it was done and dusted very smoothly. The tampon question has been raised, and again was dealt with without a problem. I thought I had this nailed. But the naked-pilates-beverage-performance was up there with his previous question about how Jesus got into God’s tummy – these weren’t on my list of things I would be required to have really helpful, non-embarrassing cool responses to, as a parent.

On the positive, I realise that all the above are potentially great tools to keep in mind – for example, to use during dating. Either of those questions, along with the dangle-your-bits-in-a-drink act, would be a superb way to ensure that an awkward date, or unpleasant relationship, comes to a sharp end. Perhaps also good for interviews for jobs you don’t want: “do you have any questions?” Or “do you have any special skills?”

So I conclude a positive take on the genitals-in-drink occurrence – I shall repeat in times of need. In the meantime, the questions keep coming…

Son: “Mummy, when I was in your tummy did I have a head?”

Me: “yes.”

Son: “did I have a body?”

Me: “yes.”

Son: “arms?”

Me: “yes.”

Son: “legs?”

Me: “yes.”

Son: “a willy?”

Me: “yes.”

Son: “a minnie?”

Me: “no.”

Son: “oh.” (*Makes driving noises and waddles off with his lego motorbike…).

The sex insurance claim

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Before I hung up my waitresses’ apron, two aforementioned insurance brokers returned to dine. As I took their order, I informed them of their inspiration that led me to write the blog about the concept of sex insurance – and I’m resultantly thrust an email address. Later that week, I send the link, and, hey presto, I’m being sent messages that would make the late Joan Rivers blush. Not my plan, I have neither the time nor inclination to get jiggy, but it’s a huge compliment – this man is charismatic and oozes confidence and charm.

In the name of insurance innuendos and euphemisms, I explained that my policy does not pay out if he holds a policy elsewhere – and I note no confirmation of me being a potential sole-provider (this is far from a matter of commitment, this is a matter of not pouching business). I have a word with myself to stop being so suspicious, and acknowledge that there’s every chance that the coast is clear – but my gut instinct is stronger than Ron Jeremy’s todger, and I am at last gaining a little wisdom in learning to trust it. I cut to the chase and ask directly if he’s single – he’s not.

Sometimes we see things, and sometimes we just see what our minds want to see – he was only messaging in the mornings, and I couldn’t ignore that as a potential red flag.

In the words of Peter Jones, ‘I’m out.’

It served me to have no judgement, to be nice and to see the positive – he was honest, he understood my position on not dipping another woman’s chips in my ketchup, and he was a much-needed boost to my temporarily battered confidence, in the midst of the recent gaslighting experience (see previous post…). I couldn’t feel annoyed because I had no expectations, and because I felt strong for walking away. You can’t pay into a diet club and then eat pork scratchings, just because you feel like it – you have to stand strong and do the right thing. Pork scratchings taste nice but they might break your teeth – which would be fair karma for being short-sighted.

I wished him well – not without informing him that even virtual, web-based infidelity hurts like riding a saddle-less bike down a flight of stairs and using a brick wall as a brake. He was gracious in response. We checked out.

There’s a girl code – we should all stick to it.

Gratitude for Gaslighting

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Life teaches us lessons – which grow in magnitude if we don’t listen and learn from them. They are not comparable to school history lessons – where it’s not too much of an issue if you don’t listen, and instead focus on the aubergine-sized willy of the boy next to you – life lessons have bigger consequences. For those of us with virtual neon lights across our forehead, advertising our naivety and vulnerability, there will be an inevitable series of arseholes that cross our paths until we man-up and change something. We attract what we think we deserve: feel worthless, and ‘cha-ching!’, welcome to the land of abusive relationships and bullying. This is an all-inclusive deal of friendships, partners and employers. That’s not to say everyone in your path will be a Twat – you may well have a sea of caring, compassionate gems of human beings in your life, but quite probably one big Twat of a human floating around in there at any one time. I say floating, but they don’t float – they are predators.

When someone repeatedly tells you there’s a problem with your head, calls you derogatory names and claims that everything they ask you to do has been imagined by your insanity, it can be taken as the truth, or that the person is a total dick. I recently fell into a midway point, where I could see that the delivery was harsh, but believed the observation; I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. And then came the realisation, in a very undignified meltdown on my kitchen floor, where I snot-showered my visiting parents. My mother, the eternal devil’s advocate, informs me: ‘this is abuse – it’s happening on the Archers’. She understands, and her lack of ‘well maybe they just…’ is the reality check that things aren’t OK.

I search online that night and read multiple cases about gaslighting – I am not alone. But I have to own this – I can’t absorb the positives of the law of attraction and ignore the shit stuff – I’m doing something wrong, and I need to change. No one deserves to be treated like the shit, but perhaps we need to take responsibility for attracting it – for me it makes it easier to swallow if I know it’s something I can change and affect. It’s OK to have a big gooey heart, but there are consequences of wearing it on your sleeve.  Something has clicked. The lesson that I have been presented with time and time over has facilitated sudden unforeseen change. I brainstormed pages of notes on a potential plan of action to change my life, erected a vision board, goal list and wall of affirmations (God bless America), concluding that I’m going back to study, I’m regaining my professional title and I’m setting up my own business. I need to create a path that brings out a stronger side of my personality, and a confidence that lacks outside of my writing voice. But I am very grateful for the experience that has led to this – regardless of the painful hurdle it caused, I believe something great is being born from it. It’s easier to learn from having shit slung at you than to be angry about it. Shit washes off.

A new part-time job lined up to support my study, I remain the millionaire waitress: the girl who learnt that the best things in life are born from empty pockets – the existence of mindfulness, nature, love of friends and family, and forgiveness.  I care not about how cheesy that sounds. I will forever prioritise these things, but will eventually enjoy them with the security of more easily keeping a roof over our heads, and whilst achieving my potential in life. The book will be the ultimate goal, but I strive to carve out a decent career around it – both ventures aiming to serve to help others.

I now have two heads: the warm and fuzzy one, and the business one. Both, however, are now void of the virtual neon sign. My sleeves are bare – and rolled up ready to charge.

Here goes nothing…

 

 

Here Comes the Bride…

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Here comes the bride
Cake laced with cyanide
No surprise, the Twonk lied
But our son chose to confide.
I thought I would have cried,
Felt inadequate and terrified
But there’s a sense of peace – a changing tide.
She’s on a downward slide:
She’s prey (not least coz she’s literally wide-eyed).
In the face of the info I’m supplied
I strive to hang onto my pride,
The only path is one that’s dignified
A card with a ‘congratulations!’ inside
And to act my arms being open wide.
My time is something I’ll bide
I’ll take it in my stride
It’s life, and no one died
And in time, low and betide,
Her balls will be emotionally fried
As it all becomes magnified
She’ll see his personality is dip-dyed
NPD isn’t something you can hide
The man is the ultimate jekyll and hyde.
She’ll be slowly crucified
Because all odds will be defied
If he develops a faithful side.
It won’t be an easy ride;
When a younger model and he collide
And alcohol is plied
His todger will accidentally glide
Into her underside.
And there lies a new allied
At which point, I will decide:
A survival book I will provide,
Based on the coping strategies I tried,
To say, “you’ll be ok once your tears have dried,
So don’t be petrified
Or fill her house with nitrous oxide”
So why be kind to a girl who kept my ex satisfied?
My opinion of her I have to divide
Because for all her deceit there is an upside:
I thank her – she’s the muse that’s inspiring my guide
Thinking she deserves the pain is not justified,
And a book is more satisfying than carbon monoxide.

Closure.

Taking the tube with a child

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I try and learn from everything. My recent trip to London highlighted how the warning about the gap between the train and the platform should be extended to include ‘please also mind the gap between your previous experience of using the underground as a single person, and your present status of using the underground with a child in tow’. I thought I was well prepared – however, there were a few things I’d overlooked…

Remember your girth:
Thinking I’d avoided all hassle by travelling light enough to cram everything into a rucksack – dodging the physical and mental pain of dragging a wheeled suitcase up hot crowded staircases, whilst trying not to lose my child. I gave myself a nod of pride as we witnessed a lady run onto the tube with her wheeled suitcase – only to have the doors close on the extended handle of the case and trigger her to go into a state of shock. I strained and grunted, along with very determined man in a grey suit, as we prised the doors open before we hurtled towards the tunnel, avoiding the lady’s Louis Vuitton being sent flying, leaving her with nothing but a designer plastic handle, and memories of her luggage. What I didn’t remember is that I was a little bigger in girth with my rucksack on – which proved both uncomfortable and embarrassing when I ushered my little boy through the exit of the tube, and the exit gates trapped me by the back – attracting full attention by setting off a really loud security alarm. This was not cool.

Don’t get robbed:
I thought I had this one in the bag: only take a fiver in cash and sandwich your bank card between two other cards in your purse – so that it can’t get cloned. The plan isn’t quite that straight forward though, as the southern city pace sees you swiping your bank card at the tube entrance and being swept through the gates, chucking your card between your teeth, grabbing your child and diving on the escalator handrail. During one of these tube dashes, my card was cloned – brought to my attention via a call from the fraud squad. My mid-monthly pay date meant that they caned my bill money for September. It went on media, sports stuff and computer games – from Chadderton to Shangai. The conversation with the fraud squad was equally as funny as it was heartbreaking. They went from ‘we’ll refund everything’ to ‘we’ll refund some but can’t stop all of them’ to ‘this is a loan we’ll take back off you if we can’t prove it wasn’t you’ – an echo of every contradictory and inconsistent conversation I have to endure with my ex. But best of all was the bank’s suggestion: “maybe it was your son?” What? Stealing my bank card at five years old and purchasing a weights bench, adult TV subscriptions and a Playstation, through Chinese, Canadian and UK websites…?!

Explain the escalator rules:
Stand to right – I remembered this one, and we nailed it. What I didn’t think to say was to step off escalator at the bottom. I watched my son stare at the floor, put his feet together and deliberately let the end of the escalator bring him to a stop – almost domino-ing the tight queue of people behind us. ‘What are you doing?!’ I screamed. To which he replied: ‘Daddy taught me to do it’. Well that figures.

Explain that there will be lots of trains:
We transition from tube tunnel to the end of the line, where we hit the open air. Thirty seconds in and my son screams, alarming many fellow passengers: “a train! A train! Mummy look – there’s another train!” He’s shrieking and tapping me like I’m a games console joystick, as if it was a lifetime opportunity that I would miss if I didn’t witness it there and then.  And this occurred at one minute intervals for the next six stops – with the utter awe that trains in London appear significantly more frequently than they do in the Peak District. Whilst there was a clear communal surprise at the abundance of excitement in our otherwise silent tube carriage, I think our fellow passengers were eventually quite endeared by the degree of appreciation and joy of the London transport system.

Don’t openly fear terrorism (or accidentally voice your relief as you get off, to someone getting on the tube…):
At midnight, the night before we were due to travel, I developed a crippling fear of a re-occurrence of the underground bombings – given that we are due to go underground at the same time as they had occurred. I decided to get up at 5.30am and we completed the journey back to the mainland station with reasonably controlled anxiety on a very quiet tube. We then met a friend who commutes into London – I know he only ever gets a cab so I voiced my fear over the tube at rush hour, and my relief that we avoided it – to which I then develop the worst case of shoe-in-mouth, as he replies that a road is closed and he’s just about to get the tube instead – at the very time I had stated was the time I was relieved to have avoided due to FEAR OF DEATH. Oh no… I back pedal, and list all the things I love about the tube – the smell (this is true, it’s up there with petrol), the sounds, the adverts, the nostalgia – until I think I should just shut up.

All in all, we got away lightly – I think back to a tube ride years ago when I watched (through tears of laughter) as a kid of about two years old was kneeling up sideways on his seat and had grabbed the hemline of the suit jacket of the very posh man next to him and was tugging at it with all his might, levering it under the armrest of the chair. The kid’s dad and the suit man just sat pan-faced and the kid broke a sweat as he heaved with all his might – seeing how high he could pull the material. It remains one of the funniest things I’ll ever see – but largely because it wasn’t my child (and because no one else was laughing). And there were a few lessons learned: next time I’ll wear my rucksack on my front, leave my bank card at home and hide a tenner in each of my socks and bra cups. I shall ensure there are pre-warnings distributed about escalator etiquette and train frequency, and I shall remember to be tactful to other commuters, in the face of death-risk-related-anxiety.

And it was a vast improvement from the days I boarded with a bottle of White Lighting, played truth or dare and got the first tube back the next morning, doing the ride of shame whilst dribbling onto the suit of the person sitting next to me…

 

Where am I? What am I? What am I doing?

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Hindsight is a wonderful thing: if only I’d not worn that royal blue, khaki green and orange blend shell suit in public, if only I’d not risked that Leo Sayer imitation hairstyle, and if only I’d chosen the right career 20 years ago.

Despite the endless hours of my childhood spent making up radio shows and imitating Police Academy characters, I went down the academic route – it never occurred to me that there was anything else outside of ‘proper jobs’. A creative path just didn’t hit the radar as a potential option – it was a choice between Teacher, Healthcare Professional or Civil Servant. To add to this, I really didn’t enjoy English as a school subject – I was bored in English classes and I thought I was crap at it, perhaps because I was led to believe so. My English teacher was Dutch and had the most incompatible personality for teaching – there was no control over anyone, to the point that we spent the lessons cheering on a girl in our class who was built like a brick shit house and could break legs off the chairs with her bare hands; her record was five chairs in one lesson. Another game we enjoyed was to see if we could squeeze the coat of everyone in the class onto this girl – starting with the smallest, we worked as a team to help her into every coat, and then see if she could fit through the doorway once she was fully loaded. It was bloody hilarious at the time, but I feel a little sad that, had we had a passionate and assertive English teacher, then perhaps my love of writing would have been born at an earlier age. I didn’t read, bar temporarily being into Judy Blume books, on the back of a tip-off that one of the boys in one of the books had a willy called Ralph, yet I find myself now as a writing addict. And I don’t use ‘addict’ lightly – it’s a love, a drug and goes hand-in-hand with breathing, eating and sleeping. I just want to write for a living.

It can be healthy to change career, there isn’t mileage in continuing to begrudgingly truck along in something you don’t enjoy, if you can afford not to, and everything in the past can have some value or nugget of wisdom to bring into a new industry. The problem is when the world you long to be in is one that carries a one in a billion chance of succeeding, and teamed with that, you are the sole breadwinner of the family.

If I wanted to be a Teacher, I could train and get a job, if I wanted to be an Accountant, then the same would apply. I could even knuckle down on the yoga and put myself out there as a middle-aged stripper. But I want to write books. I can continue to set the alarm for 6am and chip away at the manuscript with the dedication of an athlete in training, but the result isn’t guaranteed to be parallel to the effort put in. The 10 year mark has passed, from putting all hopes into scripts that got the thumbs up by the right people but never progressed from verbal to written commissions, from performing on stage and succeeding in knocking the competition out of slams, but never seeing an income on the back of it.

When does it stop? Does a wannabe Writer truck until their deathbed with the hope that it will all one day materialise and all be worthwhile, but with the risk that they might hit 80 years of age and be faced with ‘Oh fuck, time’s up’? And, as sits as the biggest question facing me right now: what do I do to earn money in the meantime, if indeed it is only a ‘meantime’?

I like being a Waitress. I like it more than the other jobs I’ve ticked off over the last decade. If I could get a pre-dated cheque for a book deal in 2020, then I would continue to Waitress in the meantime, but what if I never make it? Where does the insecurity of a non-contracted part-time job leave a single woman as she drives through her 40’s, 50’s, 60’s…? It scares me as much of the thought of being artificially impregnated by a rhino embryo. But my nice little job gives me the time and head-space to spend time writing – which I love to do regardless of it bringing in any income. An office job or return to the public sector would indeed give me the financial peace of mind and be less damaging to the ego when I am faced with weddings and such, (“so, what do you do?”) but it doesn’t allow the same head-space to write. A day in the medical communications industry is all-absorbing, with hours being spent at your laptop spilling into the evening – this to a budding Writer is a total passion-killer – you still fancy having a session but you’re just too tired and can’t face any more of the screen. So maybe waitressing is potentially more valuable than the loss of actual pennies in my pocket, resulting from dropping to a minimum wage job.  Shoe-horning myself back into a public sector or corporate job, (at the expense of not seeing my son as much, and with the resultant shelving of the manuscript), is a huge ask just so that I don’t have to face a potential level of hindsight that would equate to the regret of sleeping with a horse. (Bestiality is a reoccurring theme in my writing, but in the face of the anxious humour-void state I’m sometimes caught up in, I feel that an interspersed dark humour is like a little sprinkling of glitter on the emotional turd of employment indecision that I sometimes feel like I am burdened with).

Then there’s the most important thing – time with my son. And for every ‘I’m wasting my potential by being a waitress’, I’m reminded that there are women who have the same guilt and anxiety about having successful office-hour jobs and missing time with their children. I think it’s a catch 22 for working mothers – it can be hard to get the balance right. Time with your kid(s) is invaluable, but if you’re dragging your arse over not having achieved anything career-wise then it’s got to potentially impact on your parenting – I think it probably does in my case, because I let it knock my confidence.

90% of the time, I channel the words of my Youtube inspiration, MMA fighter Conor McGregor – he is the ultimate see-it, believe-it, achieve-it guru – and I attempt to embrace the same thought process that brought him success in his field. But there are other days when I’m hit by ‘shit, what if I never make it?’ There would be less fear if I was hitched to a big guns Publisher, or I was a famous face that could pick up as many book deals as I fancied, alongside my personalised perfume range, cupcake range and merchandised stoma bag designs. But I’m not – I’m a single mother waiting tables in the middle of the countryside.  And sometimes I’m a lost fearful child trapped in the body of a grown woman.

Perhaps I’d feel differently if I was waitressing in my own café or restaurant? That vision definitely lightens the load of currently being a non-achiever in life, in terms of my career. Or perhaps I just need to have a word with my ego.

Being totally absorbed by the Olympics hits home as to who I am. I am a determined perfectionist who was never going to feel comfortable in a two-a-penny job, or in something that you couldn’t fight in to become top dog. As a previous swimmer I had my sights on gold (scuppered by my body being a biomechanical nightmare), in my exams I went for 100%, and as a Writer I want to be up there. I have a mind that shares the drive that performers have for number ones and world records – an ingrained hunger to far surpass being distinctly average. I have an itch that I can’t scratch from settling solely for a sensible non-creative job.

I try and reignite the law of attraction that I long to become true for my publishing dream. During a recent Hen Do, I was partaking in an imposed limbo competition (I’m talking very small scale here); this was an event that would have been safe for most people to bet their home equity on that I would come last in, given that I can fall over on flat ground, I frequently knock my head on things and I have a total lack of spacial awareness of my own body. Defeated from the start, I decide to test the concept of visualisation and belief; I see myself winning, I pretend in my mind that I am a gymnast and I adopt the belief that I am fierce, unbeatable and that I’m not wearing a baggy grey T-shirt and have hair like a Brillo pad – the latter two really knocking my confidence at the start of the sports day. The outcome: I won.

So waitressing it is – I’ll get my head down with my book, I’ll keep ploughing on until I’m done and then I’ll fight like a Pitbull to get it taken on, all whilst seeing it happen and not dropping the belief that I can get there.

It always helps me to try and conclude each post with a peaceful, upbeat view of the current dilemma. The grass is rarely greener when you look back to the previous bill-paying roles – I wouldn’t swap my position to be in the higher paid, higher pressured jobs I held in the past. And the biggest blessing that life has taught me has been on the back of earning minimum wage: that the best things in life are free. A budget as tight as cat’s arsehole forces you to occupy yourself with the things that don’t cost a penny – and in that, you start to appreciate what, and who, is around you.

To top it off, I was out walking with my son, in a bliss of mindfulness that finally appeared after a week of thinking-terror, when I was approached by a man. He said he’d spotted us and taken a picture of us walking up the hill, which he’d like to use for a magazine. He’d unknowingly captured a moment when I’d just flipped from crippling fear about my future into a sense of peace, gratitude for what was around me and a confidence that everything was going to be OK.

Keep on trucking.

Scumbag Single Mother

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The inevitable battle with energy suppliers, often accompanied by non-justified debt collector letters, comes to many of us at some point in life. It appears that an apparently large percentage of staff at these companies have a faltered mindset: 1) that what a computer churns out is right and never needs to be questioned, and 2) that people who pay electricity bills are not actually people, they are a form of irritation there for the purpose of treating in a careless ‘poke-them-until-they-cry’ manner. They are the ego-ridden cats, we are the damsel mice.

I can imagine the job application form for these companies might start with something like: ‘bullied at school?  Now’s your chance to get your own back – and get paid for it!’ It’s the same mindset as cyber bullying – with no face-to-face contact, people are brave enough to be heartless to customers. It’s a sweeping statement, but backed by the fact that I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been in that position of banging their head against the wall in utter despair at the lack of evident incentive to help or listen.

I have become aware of a possible secret career opportunity to those who are particularly ruthless, perhaps to those who reach targets of reducing 1000 customers to tears and send 50 debt collector threats a month: these people are offered a job at HMRC’s Tax Credit office. I know, how can it be possible for enough material to be writing a fourth blog on the UK’s tax credit system? But this week they have surpassed themselves.

In order to secure your new position at HMRC, you must answer one golden question: ‘what does the term single mother mean?’ If you use any of the words listed below then you are welcomed into the magical circle:
Tramp
Scumbag
Thick as dog shite
A poor man’s Kerry Katona
Those deserving to be shot
Grey tracksuit wearing filth
A group of people who are there for us to piss on.

I’ve dealt with numpty energy service correspondence, it’s most frustrating, but this is something else. It’s disrespect at its finest.

To summarise my path of Tax Credit hell: I am dicked about for months, my MP helps to get my appeal won – an unnecessary appeal that was triggered by an unwillingness or inability to add up, on the part of HMRC. It was as if they didn’t accept my figures because they don’t believe single mothers can do sums (presumably because we clearly don’t know that sex – condom = baby). They then enter the wrong figures from the courts into my records – there goes complaint number two – thank you again MP for resolving. Now we have progress, an apology from an HMRC top dog, along with 70 quid compensation to cover the embarrassing number of recorded delivery packages I have sent, along with printing costs. This comes with a letter stating the correct figures and that I owe nothing. Surely this is now as finalised as Kris and Bruce Jenner’s marriage? No. The annual statement is released with a total misinterpretation of the figures. Back to the MP, three times, several calls to ground-level people who do indeed believe I am calling from a fully-funded rental property, whilst eating Monster Munch and smoking a fag, tracksuit-clad and slumped on my Bright House sofa. I couldn’t possibly be correct in pointing out that their figures have been copied incorrectly. I am a single mother scumbag, and no end of pleading, reasoning or tears will change that view point – we are single mothers because we are stupid, irresponsible and a toxic addition to society.

It’s easy to take the treatment personally, assuming it’s a result of my social status, but the truth is that I’ve never experienced attitude like it, and it is a service that exists for the majority of single parents. It’s unarguably presumptuous, judgemental, narrow-minded and prejudiced. I back this up with the knowledge of how mothers who became single mothers after their husbands died have been treated without the natural empathy you would show – the single mother label is there, the judgement is made – end of.

I’ve done well in recent years to stop taking things personally – I strive to live in a bubble of zen at all times, but this has burst my bubble. The pressure equates to having a vice on my head, whilst being sat on by a rhino and having a duvet pressed into my face. I thought panic attacks were dead and buried but reincarnation is knocking at the door.

This isn’t helped by deciding that this week it is safe to decorate: relocating all furniture and going at the ceilings with a roller, like an enthusiastic fluffer getting through a gang bang line-up. I’m up to my eyeballs in paint, dust sheets and shower caps; letters claiming I owe money that I don’t owe, and have proved time and time over,  are triggering the worst drowning feeling to date.

It’s none of my business what anyone thinks of me, but when it unfairly takes away our money, in my already tight position, then it’s not something I can easily let go over my head – despite trying to do so.

Attempting to see the positive in everything, I believe that life keeps testing you to see if you’ve learnt – like when it keeps putting rogue men in front of you to see if you bite. In my case, I think it’s testing a mind I boast will remain tranquil. And perhaps to see if I give up – the one thing that keeps popping into my head with regard to my book. I don’t know. But I intend to regain a tranquil mindset over this.  And I will not give up.

Right, time for another bag of Monster Munch and a can of Special Brew…

 

A Step(mum) too far

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It’s 10am and I’ve so far avoided pouring myself a pint of wine – I’m in a place today where I hope writing will keep me away from undoing three years of good work, in the field of tongue-biting.

Rage is knocking on the door; it wants me to clobber a certain bendy lady with her trampoline springs. It wants me to set fire to her trampoline collection and her leotards. I am battling with a force that is willing me to rip out her voice box and stamp on it – so that she can no longer say stupid things to my little boy.

I hate being angry – it interests me about as much as necrophilia. Given that you can’t reason with unreasonable people, the only feasible conflict resolution is with myself – I need to find a place where the wound remains closed, and isn’t reopened repeatedly by the twist of the knife in the hands of the flexible twenty-something that thinks that taking someone’s man also means that any children come too – in a ‘these are mine now, your work is done, kindly fuck off and leave me to my fairytale life’ kind of way. I’m guilty of letting her assumed ownership of my child upset me time and time over. And I’m guilty of sometimes letting it show at home, in my knee-jerk reaction to the ongoing bombshells that are dropped by my son.

I write to find a solution, to save me from carrying out every fantasy of retaliation, to try and view every hurdle with love, to remember what I have and to show anyone who stumbles across this in the same position as me that they are not alone in battling a natural fury.

I am woken up this morning by the little man attaching himself to me like a koala bear. It’s my favourite thing in the world (even more than eating a whole block of brie as if it was a slice of cake). Out of the blue, he informs me that the bendy lady is “part of our family – because she is my stepmother” – a term which has apparently come straight from the careless mouth of the woman in question. I’d rather he said ‘ball sack’, ‘piss flapping hell’ or ‘nob jockey’ to me. In fact I’d rather hear the sex session that featured in my last blog post – I’d rather hear it, see it and be forced to join in with a pig strapped to my back, than to be met with what I just heard.

It hurts. He’s five, and at times he’s lost. And I take it personally that, to the thieving gymnast, I will forever be an invisible mother – which I know I just need to get over.

So, before I resort to listening to Nick Cave and crying into a bottle of Merlot, or driving my car at one of her trampolines, perhaps with her on it at the time, I need to find peace, and if possible, clutch onto some humour.

The signs have been there – only last week was there a smack of a clue that this girl believes she is a fully fledged parent. I never thought I’d hear the words ‘I’m sorry’ from her – but last week she bent down to my son, and gave a heartfelt “I’m really sorry…” (I’m waiting for something appropriate that redeems some of her actions), she continues: “… I won’t be able to attend your parents evening with Daddy”.

I’m speechless. What planet do you have to be on not to know that that’s not OK? Really really not OK. No one gatecrashes a parents evening as a date or as their ‘time to shine’.  Let me just hide behind this cushion and die cringing, whilst teachers rally round to get a third chair for you, because you’ve decided to rock up in your American-tan tights.
I do some really dumb things, I’ve given credit to dumb blonde jokes and I will no doubt continue to say and do some stupid things.  But not grasping the concept of an event called ‘parents evening’ is taking it to a new level – the clue is there in the title – with great big lights on it. Parents evening: an evening for parents. Not mistresses, not pets, not girlfriends, friends, neighbours, dead relatives you’ve dug up or local celebrities. She’s either off-the-scale stupid and doesn’t understand the concept, or she understands the term and believes she fits the criteria.

I stand by the fact that I doubt any of her stupidity is malicious, she’s rude at times but she’s young, and immaturity is a huge factor.  My boy is allowing her an exciting game of mums and dads – this is way more exciting than a doll. She’s got the best toy in the box and she’s having a great time – she’s not a bully, she is just so lost in her own ego that she doesn’t see that her ‘toy’ belongs to someone else, or is in fact a real live human being. And she speaks as if the impact was no greater than if speaking to a doll – totally unaware that there are any implications on the feelings of a child when you start telling them that you are their stepmum, or on the feelings of the invisible biological mother.

There’s one person is this equation that cannot fend for them self yet – I wish I could control the degree of consideration that goes his way, from all three of the adults in this.

Last week I had a conversation with my son that I need to listen to.  He was talking about the ‘posh’ things his dad and girlfriend have in their life. “Listen, at the moment we don’t have much money, and one of my favourite things to do is to stand at the mill pond at watch the heron and kingfisher. If we ever have a million pounds in the bank then this will still be one of my favourite things to do – it costs nothing and doesn’t change with how much money you have.” And today, I need to remind myself that no amount of hurtful actions or mindless comments can change what real wealth we have: the resident heron, hills and trees on the doorstep, my nice job around our time together as a family and the nicest friends and neighbours we could wish for. This is the reality behind the name under which I write – keeping the important things in life to mind, and not losing gratitude for them.

I’ve put my blow torch down and I will strive to keep being kind to the bendy lady. She can call herself step mum, mum, mother Teresa, the Queen Mother, motherfucker, I don’t care – I will respect this, I will go with her style (American tan tights and all) and I will not break from the higher stance that my son will remember. Aside from that, I’m currently writing a book on forgiveness – which I cannot fulfil if I murder someone.

Note to self: forgive, stop taking it as a personal attack and be nice.

Sex in a Tent

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With mud nearing knee-height, flooded camping fields and leaking tents, it was highly unlikely that anyone would pray for more rain this year at Glastonbury. But one person did; and that person was me – despite the fact that, thanks to the rain, my tent had already leaked, I had fallen over face-first in a huge mud swamp (whilst piggybacking my son) and we already had a long muddy trek from our tent to the pyramid stage and Kidz Field. But there was decent logic behind my will for more rain at 4am on Saturday morning, and that was to drown out the porn show from the neighbouring tent…

Now I’m far from a prude – I may have become asexual and have no current want for a relationship, I may even be so rusty that I’ve forgotten how to do the business, but I have had a good innings in my past and I have at times jumped two feet into the promiscuous camp. However, this performance of copulation made me somewhat uncomfortable, given that it was louder than the Muse gig we’d seen 5 hours earlier. And it was as descriptive as a David Attenborough documentary.

Had the couple been liaising in a beautiful French accent, or even with the silky tones of someone like Joanne Lumley, then perhaps it would have been a little more tolerable, but this was parallel to the script of Deep Throat and was delivered in a thick scouse accent (and I say this with Liverpudlian friends, and as a huge fan of Margi Clarke and the Good Sex Guide she fronted). But the shrill noises made it sound like a Brookside gang bang – with shrieks aligned with the discovery of Trevor Jordash’s body under the patio. You shouldn’t have sex like that in a semi-detached house, never mind a tent. In fact, I’m surprised he wasn’t semi -detached by the end of it.

So pray for more rain, I did. And thankfully, it hammered it down so that the percussion on our tent was sufficient to drown out most of the commentary; and thankfully my five-year-old didn’t wake up. My son knows about sex – he asked and I explained, but my talk hadn’t gone past the ‘two people who love each other, fitting together like a jigsaw’ and into this arena of sex talk (I’m saving that chat until he’s six). Had he woken up, my game plan was to sing the Postman Pat theme tune at the top of my voice – this would have confused him terribly, but less so than what the drunken lady was saying to her boyfriend and why she was making a noise like a wolf.

I had attempted to avoid this scenario a day earlier, through the subtle visit to local campers with the donation of a couple of my son’s glow sticks, which was a gesture of “ok, I know I’m gate-crashing a ravers’ camping field with a child, but please accept some of his glow sticks in exchange for not having sex like you’re auditioning for ‘Fucked by a Horse’, or falling through my tent wall onto my sleeping child when you come back wasted.”

One out of two wasn’t bad I guess.

It’s not even that the family field would have been any better in terms of avoiding the soundtrack to someone’s ‘how’s ya father’ session – last year there was an attempt at a discreet romp by the neighbouring camper and his wife (well I assume it was her…), right next to our tent, but with the oblivion to the fact that sleeping bags rustle very loudly. I just wanted to shout “Mate! You’ve got four kids in there – and if I can hear you then I bet you a pulled-pork bap that your kids can…”

Given that people in relationships are deemed amorous if they get jiggy twice a week,  even those people would surely want to pick two days when they weren’t in the grubbiest, muddiest, sweatiest state that Glastonbury dictates? Aside from that, the floor is bloody hard (maybe she was yelping in pain…? Or because his body fumes were stinging her eyes…). And dare I even ask what you do with the aftermath…? The showers were a good 40 minutes walk away.

If you have the energy to bonk then you have the energy to get out your tent and go and find a bush. Even up against the Glastonbury letters, or on the roof of the West Holts stage – the place is bloody massive – you don’t need to have sex right next to another family. Even knock on, unzip my tent and ask to borrow a poncho to lie on, take my roll mat if you like, hey, I’ll even pass you my son’s blow-up Minion bed if it spares his ears from hearing something that would even make Ron Jeremy cringe. But please not up against my tent. It’s just not nice.

Next year I may campaign for a new initiative: they currently have ‘piss patrol’ workers, who shout down megaphones and bang drums at anyone who ‘pees on the land’, well I think they should have sex patrollers too. If you are heard having sex by the naked ear then out comes the drum and tanhoy – “stop having sex near these innocent bystanders you filthy animals!” **bang of drum, blow of penny whistle, perhaps an old fashioned car horn in there somewhere.

So, whilst the answer to the question: ‘what was your festival highlight?’ would be “a toss-up between Skepta, Muse and Mr Fish”, my answer to: ‘what was your most memorable Glastonbury moment?’ would be: “two scousers having sex next to my tent”.

Re-enactment of Wicked Sensations aside, I will not be deterred from returning to the happiest, most magical place my little boy and I have yet to experience; roll on next year’s purchase of earplugs, and the sex patrol initiative…