Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bye Bye Baby

Why does no-one tell you?. I was totally unprepared.

We've just taken our eldest boy to his very prestigious university. We couldn’t be more proud. For the last 2 years all our energy has gone into supporting his efforts, helping with preparations for exams, interviews, making sure he hit all the deadlines, helping with his personal statements. He worked so hard. No-one deserved success more than him. Then, offer secured and exams passed. So exciting. Champagne and celebrations. A lovely summer holiday. Lots of high jinx with his friends. Lots of smug boasting to colleagues at work. At last time to go. Deciding what to take; laughing, teasing about cooking and laundry, the price of food. Piling it all into the back of the car and off we go. Picked up his room key, marvelled at his beautiful college grounds. Chatted with the other mums and dads. So proud. So pleased. He was in his element. Glowing with excitement. Wanting us to go so he could dive right in, soak it all up.

Back in the car. Then it hit us. Out of the blue, a stomach churning jolt of dread. What was going on? I hadn't felt this bad since my first proper boyfriend dumped me when I was sixteen. That was it. We'd just said goodbye to our baby. We've done our bit, it's all in his hands now.  Half of me was saying 'For Gods sake, get a grip. He'll be back for Christmas in a few weeks. He's only 2 hours away, we can pop down and see him any time we like. We've still got the other boy at home.'  But it didn't make any difference. What I was experiencing, what we both were feeling was real grief. I was quite literally bereft. Welcome to Empty Nest Syndrome.

Quite frankly and to my shame, I think part of the problem is pure green-eyed envy. My university years were some of the best years of my life. I enjoyed every minute of them and he's got it all ahead of him. I'm so jealous!

But mostly, I'm in mourning because that time, the years watching him grow, being the most important person in his life is over and however our relationship develops in the future, it will never be the same again and I miss it.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Not a diet blog

I was watching a dieting programme on the TV the other night. Because there's nothing I like more than slumping in front of the TV at the end of a long day watching absolute drivel. This one was the one where they match a thin person and a fat person and make them swap lifestyles. There's a handsome male doctor and an attractive lady doctor to help them on their quest. Every programme is exactly the same and has a psycho-babble bit in the middle where handsome male doctor has a serious chat to the fat one or the thin one who is struggling with their commitment to the quest and uncovers secrets from their past which have contributed to their current state of fatness or thinness. Once this titbit has been revealed and explained to the grateful victim, they inevitably go forward armed with this knowledge and beat their eating / non eating demons. The fat one always loses 3 stone and the thin one always puts on about 7 pounds. I'm totally addicted to it and feel as proud of their achievements as if I hadn't spent the entire programme nipping into the kitchen for another biscuit.

Well, I've had a bit of a life long battle with my own weight, tending as I do towards the strapping end of the spectrum. From time to time, I reach a point where I decide Something Must Be Done and religiously stick to the current fashionable diet for three or four months and lose 2 or 3 stone. Then over the next year or so put it all back on again.

So, I thought, having just reached the SMBD stage once again, I'll give myself a handsome doctor talking to to see what dark secret in my background has given me an addiction to stuffing my face.

Why do you eat ? (me, talking to myself)

I like food

Why do you like food?

I'm always hungry

Any other reason?

I want to treat myself


Because it's fun and because I'm bored

OK, well let's look back at your childhood. What was that like?

Hmm, well, we were quite poor. We had very boring plain food. There was no money for treats. When we did have treats, it was always food related. Christmas dinner, Pancake Tuesday, Easter eggs, ice cream sundaes on birthdays, bonfire toffee on bonfire night. And those occasions were always fun. So in my mind, eating is associated with fun.

Hey, it's clever this isn't it? I'm fat because I like having fun. Oh.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

In the back of my mind

I was thinking of going to see my doctor and, like you do, I was having entire conversations with him in my head. Because when I go to see him, he'll ask me about my weight (up) after he spent 6 months helping me to lose 3 stone.

Well, you see, I was doing fine and then my life went a bit pear shaped. Last May my 46 year old, disruptive, schizophrenic, paranoid, psychotic, chain smoking, alcoholic brother ran out of medication on the Friday of a bank holiday. On phoning the GP surgery, the practice manager told him his prescription would not be ready til the following Tuesday. Because even if you have been a patient at this practice for 40 years and clearly have significant mental health needs, a bank holiday is a bank holiday. If we started making exceptions for sick people, who could say where it would all end?

While my 83 year old mother battled with the kafka-esque monolith that passes for a mental health serice in our town in an effort to track down some-one with sufficient authority to tell the power crazed bitch at the surgery to pull the stick out of uptight arse and sort out the prescription, my brother worked his way down a bottle of brandy. Running out of cigarettes, he called a cab and went downtown to get more from his usual illegal, but cheap, tobacco supplier. When he got there he realised he had forgotten his wallet, could not pay the cab driver and to top it all, the shop was closed. It being a bank holiday. And 11.30pm at night. On the wrong side of a bottle of brandy and without his normal dose of pharmaceutical cosh, he decided enough was enough and threw himself off the towns picturesque victorian railway bridge.

He was in intensive care for 6 weeks. He bashed his head, broke both ankles, both legs in several places, his pelvis and several ribs. He finally got out of hospital last month and is back home with Mum.

Til next time.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Life in the Public Sector

Somewhere in England in 2010
I'm feeling hounded. I'm a middle aged, hard working, tax paying, full time worker in the public sector. The newspapers are full of the financial crisis caused by the ginormous national debt which our (unelected) government says we must reduce by slashing our public services and reducing the benefits of the poorest in our society. To this end, the government has softened up the general public to the idea of huge redundancies in the public sector by systematically portraying public sector workers as faceless work-shy pen pushing jobsworths. This is making me very, very cross indeed.

I work in the public sector, the NHS to be precise. I'm a manager; I manage a team of people that provide a service to the organisation. We help other people in the organisation to work out the best, fairest, most efficient and effective ways of providing health services to the 300,000 people that live in this city.  We have to ensure that every single man, woman and child can get their health care free at the point of delivery. Because that's what they expect and it's what they pay their taxes for. So if they need a doctor - they can see a doctor. If they need a prescription, they get a prescription. If they need an expensive test or drug, they get an expensive test or drug. If they need a dentist, there is a dentist. An eye test? - there you go. An operation? - of course. All this stuff doesn't happen by magic you know - someone has to work it all out - how many doctors, nurses, dentists, opticians, drugs, hospitals, wards, theatres will it take? How much will it cost, where should we add, take away. But no, according to the newspapers, if you're not actually mopping the brow of a dying child, we public sector workers are parasites on the face of society. Blood sucking bureaucrats sitting with out feet up on the desk, whiling away the hours and years til we can pick up our fat pensions and retire to our stately homes in the country.

Does the nation at large really think that the only conceivable reason anyone would choose to work in the public sector is because their burning ambition is to have an averagely paid job with an average pension at the end of it - as long as they stick it out for 40 years? To read the papers, anyone would think we public sector workers walked into our jobs through some privileged grace and favour scheme granted to us at birth. Rather than applying for them in open competition and getting through a fair interview process.

I saw my job advertised in the paper, many years ago now, and I thought 'That looks interesting'. And it has been interesting which is why I'm still doing it. I could have applied for a job in the private sector doing much the same thing (I analyse data) and probably have been paid a lot more. But its always been much more interesting analyzing health and the need for health care than analyzing the market for widgets and calculating how many people would need to buy my widgets for the company to make a nice fat profit ripping people off.

Now the powers that be have told us we're rubbish and the organisation we work for will be abolished because the private sector can do it so much better than we can.

That would be the private sector that ran the banks and brought us to the brink of ruin. The private sector that lent billions of pounds to people without two half-pence to rub together and went bleating to the government to bail them out when they couldn't pay it back? The private sector that took over provision of school meals and fed our children 'turkey twizzlers' - a combination of mechanically recovered chicken and fat so disgusting you wouldn't feed it to a dog? The private sector that took over hospital cleaning, sacked all the staff and re-employed them on minimum wage?

It makes my blood boil.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Letter to holiday letter

Dear Madame,
Thank you for your e-mail outlining your intention to relieve me of my €600 deposit.

You seem somewhat disgruntled that the house was not restored to perfection before we left. But that was because we had already paid you an extortionate cleaning supplement as we knew we would be leaving pre-dawn to catch the ferry. If your cleaner had an attack of the vapours because she had a bit more to do than wipe round with a damp cloth, that is really not our problem.

And if you will kit your undeniably stylish house out in the cheap and cheerful offerings from a popular Swedish emporium then it's not surprising that a couple of plates got chipped and couple of glasses got broken. I'm more than happy to pay for their replacement but I'm struggling to see how anyone could spend €600 on crockery in aforesaid emporium. It's not as if it was your best Sevres porcelain last used by Marie Antoinette for her last cup of tea before heading for the guillotine.

One minor point that may have been lost in translation. The english for WiFi is WiFi, not HiFi. How we laughed at the mix-up! Undoubtedly the enforced 3 weeks abstinence from the world wide web did us all the world of good. Equally, it was remiss of us to assume that there would be access to a CD player. Who needs a CD player when you have the Nana Mouskouri's greatest hits cassette? Apologies for the stained cushion cover caused by the hysterical cries of our children as they begged us to turn it off.

Our apologies for misunderstanding the terms of the holiday let. We foolishly assumed we had use of the house and it's contents for relaxing, cooking and enjoying pleasant meals with our friends and using it as a base for trips to the beach and surrounding attractions. Obviously, for the peppercorn rent of over €1000 week, we should have camped in the garden, made use of the public showers on the beach and simply peeped through the windows in awe and wonder at the splendours within.

We are, forever in your debt,

M et Mme Amer et Tordu

Sunday, 4 July 2010

How to clean a bathroom

You will need:-
  • Mould remover
  • Limescale remover
  • Glass cleaner
  • Any other caustic chemicals you can lay your hands on
  • A scrubber
  • An old toothbrush (or the toothbrush of your beloved if there are outstanding grudges to be paid off)
  • Marigolds - the gloves, not the flower
The best time to do this is in the morning before you take a bath or shower.
Remove all clothing except gloves. Because you WILL spray them with bleach and get blotches on them.

Throw away all empty shampoo bottles, shower gel bottles, toothpaste tubes and scummy fragments of soap that are invisible to everyone in the house except you.

Spray mould with mould cleaner.

Open window and leave bathroom til choking stops and respiration is normal.
Spray tiles, sink and bath with limescale remover
Spray windows / mirrrors and and shower glass with glass cleaner.

Gives all easy to reach bits a good scrub.

The only way to get the bath clean is to get in and scrub on hands and knees to the rhythm of 'Why haven't we got a cleaner, why haven't we got a cleaner, why haven't we got a cleaner ....'

Then start on all those bloody chrome bits that looked so nice in the showroom.

Every inch will need to be sprayed with limescale remover and polished. Then there are the tiles. Every inch of grout will have to be scrubbed with a toothbrush. Then there's the mouldy sealant. Scrub viciously with toothbrush, swearing relentlessly under your breath. Or out loud. Neither works, there is no way to get mould out of sealant. Or to remove sealant.

For light relief, polish all the glass.

Have a bath in sparkling bathroom before anyone else gets a chance.
It's a great opportunity to deal with the hard skin on your feet as it will peel off easily after standing in caustic chemicals for half an hour.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Bike Rage

I cycle to work in a cloud of rage.

I rage at drivers; car drivers, bus drivers, 2 fingers in the air drivers.
Lorry drivers, van drivers, scooters and bikers.
The school run drivers; minds on kids, schoolbags, lunchbags, homework.
Late for work.

I rage at inappropriately placed street furniture; litter-bins, lamp-posts, signs and signals.
Bus stops, pillarboxes, kerbs and cobbles.
Junctions, traffic lights, potholes, broken bottles and broken bricks.
Tin cans, dog mess, take-away and vomit.

I rage at pedestrians; walking, talking, meandering and stopping.
Never looking.
Oblivious in headphones, mobile phones, texting and tweeting.
Never listening.

I worry that it can't be doing my blood pressure any good.