Wednesday, 12 September 2012

High Days and Holidays

It's Flavia's birthday today.  She's 16 (and, as she solemnly told me, next year will be!) and yesterday was our (Mark and I) wedding anniversary.  We've been married for eight years, which isn't bad...longer than any of his other marriages.  By this point in my marriage to Simon (pause whilst I try to work out exactly where we were...he was such a difficult employee that we moved, on average, every 18 months so it's a case of working out where we were as to when something occurred, and if that isn't sad then what is?).  I know.  1994.  Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil.  By this stage he'd kicked me out a few times, I'd left a few times (and crawled back since I felt I had no-where to go) and within the year I'd felt so isolated and depressed I'd taken an overdose of sleeping tablets.  What a riot.

Anyway, back to the topic in hand.  Flavia's birthday.  We celebrated on Saturday, which I thought was pretty good going since initially (and until a week beforehand) we hadn't thought we could commemorate it in any way whatsoever - cash (or the lack thereof) being what it is.  However, we managed to wangle things so that she could at least invite a few friends over.  My family didn't do birthday parties - we (brother, sister, parents and self) would have tea and a cake but that was pretty much it so I'm a bit at a loss to know what to do.  When Flavia was younger I'd organise stuff and hand out party bags at the end and the last couple of years or so she's had sleepovers and dvds but most of the time I'm guessing.  And, I have to say, Flavia is very good.  She knows our financial situation and doesn't ask much - her friends go to restaurants or the cinema or bowling or whatever (or two out of the three usually) but Flavia knows that if we go to the cinema once a year then that's a big deal.  I hate life being so constrained and know her life isn't as rounded as it should be but can't think what else to do.

This year we worked out we could just about manage pizza, cake and ice-cream.  Because it was a last minute thing only five of Flavia's friends could turn up but, after meeting in Cardiff (at Waterstone's, their congregation point of choice) then came back for the aforementioned food and to watch dvds.  By seven o'clock every one had gone home.  Mark and I sat outside and listened to them chanting the words to The Big Bang Theory and I couldn't help but smile - and be very grateful.  The time may very well come when Flavia gives me the nightmares of other parents' but right now I am lucky.  Yes she can be a pain but (so far) I don't have to worry about drink, drugs or sex.  The hardest thing at the party was the own-brand coke from Asda and the nice thing was that no-one gave a damn.  The girls were quite happy, we were happy.  I don't know whether it has anything to do with how they've been raised (although other parents seem to do exactly the same thing and have the Offspring from Hell) and 'class' doesn't seem to mean anything either, inasmuchas brats can be from a sink estate or go to an independent school but they still manage to get their grubby little mitts on booze and drugs.  It could, of course, simply be because we're boring.  We don't drink (either in the home or out...not because we're teetotal but simply because it costs money and there are better things to spend one's filthy lucre on than alcohol), we don't go out a great deal (again, it costs money) and we live simple lives.  It could be because I had such a sheltered up-bringing (I was seventeen before I found out what a French kiss was - not through experience but by hearsay) but I don't see why.  Girls from families as sheltered as my own have led 'interesting' lives and been pregnant by the time they reach Flo's age.

So, now my daughter is sixteen.  Technically able to marry (with consent) and I feel ancient.  I remember what it was like to be that age and although I'm grateful Flavia is nowhere near as green as I was at that age, I worry for her.  She hopes to go to University (Simon has, after all, informed her not to worry about the financial aspect since he is going to win the lottery.  The annoying thing is he probably will) and, whilst I know she needs to grow (roots and wings and all that) it's scary. I don't like the knowledge that at some point she'll be hurt.  At some point her heart will be broken.  Bad things will happen to her and I won't be able to protect her.  She's stronger than I am - a bit stroppy, which is good.  Takes after her maternal great-grandmother in that regard (an Irish redhead!) so I hope she won't be taken advantage of quite so much (too much to hope she won't be taken advantage of at all.  She's human, after all) and I keep my fingers crossed that she is resilient.  She gives the impression of being so, but impressions are awfully deceptive.

After all, her father gave the impression of being a decent man (to some, at least) whilst in reality he was/is a sociopath.  Hopefully there's just enough of her father in her to enable her to survive - but not so much that she will be as selfish, ruthless and cruel.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Honesty is the best policy?

I have a problem with modern life - actually, that's not fair; I think I'd have problems in most eras. I'm always amazed the way people lie - in Court, to each other, to strangers.  I'm not talking white lies ('yes, you look amazing') but bigger ones.  The ones that can put one in a bad light.  I find it especially boggling when there is proof that the thing has been done by the person concerned.  How can someone, in all honesty, state they are innocent of a crime when there is proof?  I find it deeply unsettling and I'm very grateful I've never been called for jury duty (you just wait, tomorrow morning....).

I can only assume it is down to upbringing. I was taught, 'don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, don't swear (okay, I've fallen from that one), and be polite.'  The latter is why it gets my goat when people push ahead in a line or don't thank one when the door has been opened for them or I've stepped aside to let them pass...but that's a different story.  My parents may have been poor but they raised us right, as the saying goes.  Unfortunately.

The problem is that cheating, lying, stealing is the way of the world and the expression, 'nice guys finish last,' is so much on the nail that it's frightening.  Look at our MPs and their expenses - cheats are brought back into the Cabinet and failed MPs are rewarded for half doing a job with gongs.  The banks and bankers are another example - Gordon Gecko was right, greed is good.

The other day I took Flavia to the orthodontist (she has to have a couple of teeth out before the bottom brace is attached.  She's deeply upset about this; not at the removal of the teeth but at the prospect of an injection. Her reasoning is that having a needle in the mouth is unnatural.  She has a point).  Nothing untoward occurred except that she found a £10.00 note on the journey.  She pocketed it, reasoning no-one was actively searching for it at the time.  I had mixed emotions about the whole thing.  The Mother in me felt she should seek out the owner ('is anyone missing a ten pound note?  It's identifiable by the fact that it has a picture of the Queen on the front'), but a part of me not only understood why she had put it in her pocket, but also knew that the majority of people would think her certifiable if she had made steps to seek the originator.  Sadly I was grateful I hadn't been put in that position.  After doing my own investigative work I would probably have kept the money but been racked by guilt for the next few decades.  (Quite true.  I found some money in 2003 and still have pangs of guilt that I didn't hand it over to some invisible being).

It made me remember a time when Flavia was seven.  Simon was living in Eastbourne and I was in Cardiff and the only way I could transport Flavia from one place to another was via the train (the cost was still almost within the realms of mortal men at that point).  Flavia and I arrived back in Cardiff somewhere around ten o'clock on a Saturday night.  Not only that, but it was a match night so we had to walk about thirty minutes to the bus stop.  On the way, Flavia found a two pence piece.  She was distraught.  Someone had dropped this money and would be missing it.  I'd been travelling since seven that morning and desperately wanted to get on the outside of a pint of coffee or two but nothing would distract her.  She had to find the owner.  My pointing out that nearly everyone we saw was so out of it they wouldn't notice if they lost a £50.00 let alone tuppence was ignored.  She had to find the owner.  

Twenty minutes later (and still no result), Flavia decided to compromise and give it to a policeman. He was a young lad and made me feel indescribably old as he bent down to try to hear Flavia over the drunken shouts, whistles and general noises of affray.  Solemnly she explained the situation and carefully placed the coin into his hand.  I felt rather sorry for him, actually.  He tried to suggest no-one cared (nicely, of course), but she'd have none of it.  Then he suggested she keep it.  The horror on her face let him know how shocking such an idea was.  He was obviously desperate to get on with his duties (babysitting idiots) but couldn't bear to let this angelic, trusting little girl down.  Finally (and I had to congratulate him on his thinking) he offered to put it in a charity box if he couldn't find it's rightful owner.  This - thankfully - met with Flavia's approval and, after bestowing one of her special smiles on him she was quite happy to wave goodbye and let her mother head towards caffeine heaven.

I regaled Flavia with this story and she couldn't decide whether to be amused or disgusted at her former naivety.  Which I found rather sad.  Whilst I admit to having been in the situation of searching for pennies to try to help the family budget, the knowledge that Flavia's innate honesty and goodness is now at 'normal' standards is depressing but I know the world will deal more kindly with her because of it - it certainly won't hold her up to ridicule.

In the meantime her mother will continue to fret about injustice, apologise to spiders for accidentally trashing their webs and do her best not to step on ants.

I know which one of us will have a more successful life!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Aaaarrrgghhhh (or words to that effect)

I have Sarcoidosis (oh, lucky me).  I also, as a result of the Sarc, have Fibromyalgia and (because of the aforementioned Sarc or for some completely different reason, such as a trapped nerve or just because my body feels like being cussed) I also have bursitis.  In both shoulders.  Also severe upper back pain - and I mean severe.

I've just received yet another letter from the hospital asking me if I still want an appointment with the neurologist.  This is the appointment I was initially put down for NINE months ago.  I've asked my Sarc specialist, my orthopaedic chappy, my GP and the physiotherapist to nudge (ie give a kick up the posterior) to the Neurology department but still they send me these damn letters instead of an appointment.  I call them the, 'haven't you died yet,' letters.  I've had a few of them.  The fact that this one has just turned up means I shall shortly have it's brother - do I still want the rheumatology appointment (no, I just can't be bothered to tell them I've decided pain is a wonderful thing and I love it).

Now, don't get me wrong - I think the NHS is great.  Or at least I think the theory was great.  I love theories.  Unfortunately reality often bears no relation to them whatsoever.  Personally I think Bevan is turning in his grave at what has happened to his great idea.  Money wasted left, right and centre on administration and piddling little things (sorry, but gastric bands for prisoners isn't my idea of a good use of resources) whilst things that are actually needed - whistle for them.  We're still waiting for the wheelchair that was ordered for my mother weeks (and weeks) ago.  

I also don't understand the myopia of the NHS.  Well, I do (ie short-term cost saving) but it is crazy in reality.  I've had migraines now since I've been in single figures (oh, the joys of being female).  They are regular little bu****s (inasmuchas they happen every damn month, if not week) and tenacious.  Sometimes they're really, really bad - a humdinger.  The worst humdingers are when I am vomiting every 15-20 minutes which means keeping meds down is impossible.  It used to be that the doc would (eventually) come out, give one a jab for the nausea and then one could take copious medicines and retire, stage left.  Nowadays they don't do that.  They send you into hospital.  I kid you not.  The last time I was in hospital (for me, not Mark) was for a migraine.  What a waste of a bed!

The annoying thing is that there are possible alternatives out there.  I've been told a lot of my ailments probably have a stress element (migraine, asthma, eczema, IBS etc etc) and it has been suggested I try hypnosis.  Whilst I don't think it would work I'd be willing to give it a try.  But, of course, it's not available on the NHS and there is no way I could afford it myself.

There's also botox (for migraines, not my furrowed brow, although if there was a knock-on effect I wouldn't mind) but that's on trial and you can bet your bottom (or top) dollar that, even though I plan on asking the neurologist (if I get to see them before I die), I won't be put on that waiting list either.  And, of course, there's this new gadget that, to my innocent and highly untechnical brain sounds like a TENS machine for the head.  When I was working I lost quite a few days due to migraines and the medications I take - well I know the Maxalt Melt costs at the very least a forearm if not the whole limb.  I get through at least six a month (that's eking them out).  It adds up.  I have no doubt whatsoever that my migraine medication has, in this year alone, far exceeded the cost of any of the above alternatives.  But, of course, the NHS (or the bods that run it) can't see that.

The sad thing is that I'm not alone.  I may not know people in a similar situation but they're out there.  It's frustrating.  These options exist.  They aren't hideously expensive - not when one compares them to the cost of a year's medications - yet they languish, saved for those who have the spare cash to try them.  This isn't what Bevan wanted.  It isn't what the NHS was created for and it sure as hell isn't why I've paid into it all my working life.  

But what do I know?  I'm just the patient.  An impatient one, but who cares?

Saturday, 1 September 2012

It's Family, Jim...

Today is one of those days.  My mother is finally out of the hospital (carers four times a day) and we (Mum, my aunt Margaret, my brother and my sister and her family) as well as Mark and myself are meeting up for lunch.  Margaret likes these things and this will be her first real chance for ages - not that the gathering is as large as usual - generally it is in the teens but has been known to be in the upper twenties.  I don't know how the others feel about them but I'm not too keen.  Flavia, meanwhile, is off to see her father.  Meeting at the local railway station at ten o'clock.  Doubtless he will have yet some other reason as to why he doesn't pay a penny towards her upkeep. I've given up on him and, did he but know it, so has she.  Her primary reason for agreeing to these monthly meetings is money; she tries to get as much out of him as she can.  Today she has her sights set on some Doc Marten boots for her birthday.  Personally I don't hold out too much hope.  They cost over £100 and Simon doesn't really spend that much money - unless it is for himself.  Mind you, she's a sneaky thing. Last time she needed a bathing costume and was going to search in New Look before announcing her intention of going into Primark.  Simon, snob that he is, didn't want to go anywhere that house Morlocks (and thus took her to BHS.  She doesn't get it from me!)

I think being the youngest had a bad effect on me - and not necessarily that which you are assuming.  I wasn't the indulged baby but, rather, grew up convinced that I was humoured, albeit impatiently.  Everyone was older - aunts, uncles, cousins - and when I say older, I mean older.  By at least 15 years.  I suspect the problem was (and is) mine rather than theirs but I always felt (and feel) that anything I say or do is humoured but in actuality please let us get back to the adult conversation.  A bit of a bummer when one is 48!  Of course I shot myself in the foot somewhat when I married a man who regarded me as being an imbecile and had no hesitation of telling me.  Repeatedly.  Now I feel I am a permanent disappointment - which says something when one considers that I don't think anyone expected much from me anyway!  I wish I were sassy, like my grandmother - like Flavia, for that matter.  But I'm not.  I am (as the spellcheck wanted to change sassy) a sissy.  Scared of everything, convinced I am a failure.  I might laugh at the dog for being such a creature of habit but like recognises like!  The difference, of course, is that I don't like lying on my back having my head rubbed but otherwise we are frighteningly similar.  Oh, yes, he can lick his posterior, something I can neither do nor aspire towards.

We are an odd family.  Dysfunctional, I think, is the correct term but then point me in the direction of a functional one.  I was scared of my brother and sister when I was young, then developed a rapport with my brother before finding out he was so much under the cats' paw that he sided with Simon in the residency case (he is a cleric, after all).  I have, superficially, forgiven him but I distrust him to the nth degree.  Of course, it wasn't helped when I was told both Simon and I were invited to my niece's wedding on the understanding I didn't fight with him.   As Flavia says, she has yet to see me angry.  I strongly suspect I can't which I believe is a huge personality flaw.  Now my sister and I have a reasonable relationship but the whole family ties thing?  Who do you think you're kidding?  My brother actually holidayed 10 miles away from my sister (driving within 1/2 a mile of her) yet didn't even consider stopping off to say, 'hello.'

Of course, it's all Hollywood's fault.  They might have given us the Ewings and the Colbys but they've also given us the family in Meet Me in St Louis and the Waltons.  How can any family measure up to such ideals?  Can siblings be friends?  More than friends - close, loving and willing to sacrifice for the other.  I haven't seen any examples in real life, but then hey, what do I know?  My social group is neither large nor hectic - I managed to miss any indication that there's a Mardi Gras celebration in Cardiff today which I can't help but think is pretty good going.  Personally I think this whole, 'blood is thicker than water,' stuff is absolute hogwash.  I mean, come on!  Throughout history siblings have double-crossed, cheated and betrayed each other - at the very least they have indulged in some serious one-upmanship.  Life is far closer to Shakespeare's Richard III than the Waltons but we all love the myth.  We all love to believe that brother would sacrifice himself for sister and that the world is well lost for love.

They could, of course, be right.  But familial love?  If you believe in that I have a bridge I can sell you....