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My friend and why I liked her

29 Mar

Yesterday I said goodbye to a very dear friend. I only found out recently that she was 84. Of course I knew she was in her later years, but her mid 80s? I’d never have guessed. She was such a youthful lady with a very young heart.  Her daughter told me recently that she still shaved her legs.  It didn’t surprise me.

The almost 50-year age gap just didn’t seem to matter. I hardly noticed it.  And meeting all her friends and family yesterday at the funeral, it was obvious that I wasn’t the only 30-something or even 10-something who’d laughed and loved and gossiped with her. How can someone cross generations so effortlessly?

To me, good friends are both interesting and interested.  The former seems obvious – we all like someone who is fun, can share a good story, and throw out a thought-provoking opinion, but to me it’s more than that. It’s someone that will give instinctively of themselves – who isn’t afraid to be open, to share not only the things that make them look good, but those that make them look weak, vulnerable, foolish even. I love people who are honest almost to a fault – not with malice or judgement towards other people – but about themselves.

Likewise, a person may be witty and intelligent and make you roar with laughter but if they’re not prepared to listen, a camaraderie will soon fall short of a friendship.  And finding someone who can really listen, who is genuinely interested in what you have to say because they value you, and like you, and are interested in the world, is something different.  Above everything else my friend was always willing to listen, always wanted to know what you were up to and what you thought and how you felt.  She was genuinely interested in other people and she made them feel important.

And if you have all those friendship ingredients? Age doesn’t matter – it simply gives you better stories to tell.

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Marjory was my dad’s partner for the last years of his life and I will always owe her a debt of gratitude for the selfless care she took of him when he needed her most, and when he was incapable of giving much back.   But after he died our friendship didn’t endure because of the connection to my dad, nor from any sense of debt I felt to her; we remained friends simply because I really really liked her.

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We miss you Marjory. Good friends don’t come along every day. xx

dad&marjie

The changing perception of loss

15 Mar

gravestone

I like to wander around old graveyards. Not in some macabre way (an unhealthy resurgence of my death-obsession),  I just find them fascinating, thought-provoking and strangely comforting.  To ponder how people lived, loved and died alongside their families, to witness how their remains have married with the earth, weeds growing round and into and under the headstones, destroying yet throwing forth life.

In the quiet and the stillness I always feel like an intruder, an interloper on past griefs.  Memories and emotions once so raw now mere whispers on the morning air,  dissipated and unnoticed but now momentarily disturbed by the inquisitive trespass of a stranger.

Thought-provoking and chastening that things once so important should have been brought to this.  And yet such a strangely reassuring display of the natural passing of time.

Do events and feelings and lives become irrelevant when there is noone left to remember them? Does it even matter?

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The other day as I ambled through the graveyard of my local church, my two dogs aroused by the smells of morning dew,  I came across the headstone of a Victorian lady that had lost her husband in his forties, only to lose her 1 yr old child less than 4 months later, and a few years later her 10 yr old daughter.  Unconvinced that I could find another loss to beat this one (a sick graveyard game I often feel compelled to play), I  stumbled upon another grave erected to mark the passing of a young couple’s 3 girls who had died just 3 months apart.  10 months, 4 years, 6 years in age.  Cause unknown.

Sometimes my loss feels so enormous, and yet so small when I read of other families devastated like this. To lose a mum at 71 would have seemed mere fantasy 100 years ago. To get through life without feeling the loss of a child? Blessed good fortune.

And as I turn on the television tonight to hear of the plight of those in Africa, thousands dying from Malaria and Aids, I realise this luck isn’t only divided by time, but by continent too.

And  I feel acutely my luck, rather than my loss.

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Don’t forget to donate to Comic Relief this Red Nose Day. 

Powdering my nose & sticking two fingers up to feminism

19 Jan

I’m In the Powder Room today talking about the differences between girls and boys. I’m still a bit uncomfortable about using the word “piss” and wish I’d gone for “urinate”; I was obviously a little urinated off about clearing up the typical boy mess again that day.

M2Mx

Why my mum didn’t tell me she loved me

16 Nov

As we sat in traffic lights on the way back from my mum’s final radiotherapy session she turned to me and said “I’m scared I’ll die before I’ve told you how much I love you”.

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Love isn’t telling somebody the fact. It isn’t giving a big present or making an inflated gesture.  It’s showing it.  Over and over, year upon year, bit by bit. It’s the small things, the things that go unnoticed at the time, but that make you know that someone is there.

It’s feeling it. Constantly and consistently. Despite the arguments and the harsh words and the differences in opinion. Like a warm blanket draped across your shoulders.

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So as the traffic lights turned to green I touched my mums hand and reassured her that her job had been done a long time ago.

And when she passed and there were no final words, no declarations of love, no grand words or gestures, no tears, it didn’t matter.

I carried all I needed to know around with me in my heart.

That is love.

 

Supernanny: Bite me!

10 Nov

My first column is live today at In The Powder Room.

I’d be absolutely chuffed if you could come and have a read and leave me a comment.

Sod’s law they’ve put me alongside the Eddy Izzard of blogging which means the usual readers might be too busy changing their wet pants to get round to reading mine.

Thanatophobia

5 Aug

A couple of years ago I went through a period of acting a bit strangely.

I’d been in the middle of a third life crisis for a while , and I think in hindsight I was also struggling after becoming a mum the second time round. Little Milk had been testing to say the least – “a big character” some might say. “A frickin lunatic” I’d proffer.  Off the career ladder and looking after pooing/screaming kids 24/7 and I found myself asking “is this it?”. Somewhere in the midst of all that soul searching and quizzing and introspection the subject of my own mortality came up, as if it was the only major milestone left I could think of. Not exactly rational. But I was hooked.

I just couldn’t stop thinking about what it was going to be like when the time came, how it might happen, and when.  I also became unhealthily fixated on obituary sites. Now if you’ve never visited a site like “Gone too soon” (my favourite) let me explain. They’re a chance for people to write memorials to the recently deceased, or to commemorate the anniversary of an old passing, or to mourn the loss of a baby born pre-term.  The title is a clue to the fact that most of the deaths are unexpected, sudden, shocking; due to illness (usually cancer), accidents (fires, car crashes) and a really surprising amount to murder. Many are described in horrific detail and many put to music, most commonly “Every breath I take” by The Police. Needless to say they are heart-wrenching, deeply upsetting and reflect a horrible part of life that you usually try to ignore.  That is, evidently, unless you are me.

For a while it was all I thought about, and it scared the shit out of me.

Thankfully there was some forced intervention this obsession slowed and I got on with living.

In any case, when my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer I was a bit worried to say the least. I expected my fear of death to my dragged up again and to find myself rocking back and forth in a darkened room, curtains billowing and Police on the stereo at full blast.  But I didn’t, and I haven’t.

Actually I’ve been pretty sane. In fact I was thinking today, it doesn’t scare me anymore, the death stuff. I think the thing is, the more you cope with, the less you fear. It’s somehow easier to put it in perspective and be stoical. Now I just find myself thinking – “Either there’ll be nothing and I won’t know any different (in which case, duh, get over it), or I’ll get to see my mum again”.  And that last bit just makes me smile. Wouldn’t that be something.

Thanatophobia “An intense fear of death”.

Next post: Not about death. I PROMISE!

Smokers. F*ck ’em?

24 Jul

Smokers deserve everything that’s coming to them.  If they choose to smoke, why should I pay out through the NHS to save them?

Is this what YOU think?

I hate smoking. I hate everything about it. I can’t help but look at people with pity and distaste when I see them chuffing away on a cigarette, lips like a cat’s arse. I know, I’m one of those awful ex-smokers. The thing is, in order to give up you have to learn to hate it. Despise it with a passion greater than the desire to do it. To finally see it for what it is – a drug addiction like any other, but rather than huddled away in a backstreet somewhere getting their fix, smokers are just doing it out in the open, and with the consent of the government. No less desparate. No less pitiful. Watch a smoker in a restaurant waiting for the opportunity to excuse themselves for a fag. All jittery and cross.  Then tell me smoking heightens social enjoyment.

But do I think smokers deserve everything they get? Absolutely not. Do I think they’re as worthy as breast cancer or brain cancer sufferers of publically funded and expensive courses of treatment? Of course.

The fact is, people do not “choose” to smoke. Okay let me clarify that. Smokers may choose to have their first puff in the school toilets, and maybe the 2nd or 3rd puffed out their bedroom window while mum unknowingly cooks a healthy meal downstairs, but smokers don’t choose to carry on smoking any more freely than a heroin addict makes the decision to buy more gear that day. Smokers may say they like it, that it keeps them company, is their reward after a bad day, but the reality is it’s only ever the cigarettes that are in control – a power-crazy, insiduous addiction playing devilishly with their thoughts, guaranteeing its next fix. Of course smoking is enjoyable, why else would people do it against all the advice and harsh medical truths? I’m pretty sure an opiate high is pretty awesome. Reward perpetuates the thing – basic Pavlos Theory.

Yet most people MUST think lung cancer sufferers deserve all they get. Although lung cancer accounts for the greatest number of cancers diagnosed every year and 22% of cancer deaths, it receives a meagre 7% of total cancer funding. All this despite the fact that lung cancer is a silent killer that kills the majority of its victims within 12 months of diagnosis. In my mum’s case it was 2. By the time hers was caught it was everywhere – liver, brain, ovaries. She didn’t stand a chance.

But the basic truth is, lung cancer just isn’t sexy. It’s all tarred lungs, hacking coughs and wrinkled skin, washed through with a big helping of “we told you so”.

In the 1950s my mum’s doctor used to farm out cigarettes to her when she went for an appointment. Apparently it was good for your health, helped you relax. Of course now we know better, but it doesn’t change the fact that if you make a drug freely available on the high street people will get hooked, and many won’t have the strength, the resources, the drive to give up. After all, would you sell a hit of crack at a Sainsbury’s quick checkout counter and blame a crackhead for buying it?

If society consents to sell cigarettes legally, then society must deal with the consequences, including supporting all of its victims. Either that, or do what I’d prefer, and ban the bastards altogether.

To make a donation to specifically fund research and treatment into lung cancer, or for more information on lung cancer pls visit the Roy Castle Lung Foundation.

Pot.Kettle.Black.

7 Jul

Image courtesy of http://3.bp.blogspot.com

As you know, I love to write. It’s my hobby, my passion, my solace. Problem is, I’m rubbish at reading. I haven’t read more than a handful of books since I left university over 10 years ago. I did an English Literature degree and all that forced reading, analysing, summarising – it just took all the enjoyment out of it. So since then reading has felt like a bit of a chore.  Shame really.

Embarrasingly, it’s the same with reading other people’s blogs. If you haven’t grabbed me in the first few sentences you’ve lost me. Even when I’m pretty interested in the subject matter, I’m always prone to a bit of skimming. My attention span is rubbish. In fact I can think of only a handful of posts I’ve actually read word for word. Taken in the detail of the language, the complexity of the argument.

The thought of someone skimming MY posts upsets me. Carefully crafted, meticulous in word and description – it’d be like someone smothering my home-cooked meal in ketchup. (Something Mr Milk IS prone to doing). But I’m not stupid; of course people skim my posts, many won’t even be arsed to open them.  I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, especially over the past few months. “I didn’t sign up for this depressing shit!” (an actual reason given by a work colleague for unfollowing me within 2 days of joining). And it’s painfully obvious when someone hasn’t read your posts properly. They’ve guessed the subject matter from the title, and totally missed the mark with their comment, sometimes with cringeworthy results. “Well done on the weight loss!” when the post was actually about the agony of putting it all back on 2 months later.

And I know I’ve done this a few times myself on other people’s blogs. I think it’s quite unforgiveable, and I hate it, and I do it all the time.

This kind of total hypocrisy follows me round quite a bit.  I frequently have greater expectations for other people than I ever manage to meet myself. Like being appalled at the childminder when you pick your kids up and they’re glued to the television AGAIN, like your own house isn’t a bona fide movie theatre. Or you go tutting at your husband for failing to wash the dishes before stacking them in the dishwasher, and then he points out that he was in fact out for dinner the night before and this was all your handiwork. Or wincing in disbelief at seeing another mother fly off the handle at her children with a bit too much menace, before your own raging banshee is unleashed later when you spy a chocolate fingermark on your cream blinds.

So come on, what expectations do you have of other people that you frequently and miserably fail to reach yourself?

Diet drinks make you fat!

4 Jul

According to a study published last week diet drinks make you fat. Apparently results showed fairly conclusively that those that drank diet drinks over a period of 10 years put on considerably more weight than those that preferred their full fat counterparts.

Apparently the scientists aren’t entirely sure why this happens, but it may be something to do with tricking your body into expecting a large sugar boost and then not delivering it. Sorry, but D-U-H! Do you ever listen to reports like this and think “ummm, save those pennies Mr Medical Minister I know the answer to this one”?

If you’ve ever read my post The difference between thinnies and fatties you’ll see I’ve already got this one sussed. Diet drinks don’t make you fat any more than people tub up from too many ryvitas, just that only fatties drink them. Thinnies drink full fat coke, fatties drink diet coke. Simple. Look at any supermarket trolley on a Saturday morning and my hypothesis will be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s only overweight people that have low fat yoghurts, ryvita minis, diet colas, sweetener etc riding their belt at the shops. Anyone remotely sane (i.e thinnies) wouldn’t go near this sorry stuff. They eat exactly what they want, when they want, but the difference is they will stop when they’re full.  So of course they choose the stuff that tastes the best.

Fatties on the other hand, will stockpile these cardboard delights in the vain hope yet again of regulating their eating that week, only to send hubby out at unsociable hours on a chocolate run after a few wines have robbed them of their self-control. (That or raid their children’s biscuit tin of course). And they’ll eat these chocolate delights way past fullness, and right on into sickiness. And the diet drinks? Easy – only fatties will walk into a Macdonalds, order a big mac extra meal with quadruple size chips, and request a diet coke on the side. Why? Because we don’t want to waste the calories on a drink. There’s simply not enough fun in a 200 calorie drink to make the subsequent guilt and self-loathing worthwhile.

So why do diet drinks make people fat? They don’t. We just get fat eating all the other rubbish we get to go with them. (My pleasure Mr Medical Minister, I’ll take doughnuts for payment.)

What kind of mother?

23 Jun

As I find myself running down the street, book bag in one hand, drink, drawings and dirty socks in the other, desparately trying to keep up with my two sons on scooters as they career down the road with brick wall on one side and bustling traffic on the other, all I can think over and over is “What am I doing? What kind of mother lets her sons do this?”

Am I in control? Only just.

When I catch sight of their mud splattered hands as they eat chips and beans with their fingers, delightedly licking the grimy ketchup from the tips. When I see my littlest disappearing into the shed in his bare feet, or the eldest poking at the toaster to free his “just can’t wait any longer” crumpet. What I’m thinking is “This is dangerous. Just what kind of mother allows this?”

Is there enough discipline in this house? Rarely.

But the truth is, I’m a normal mum; far too honest probably, clinging onto acceptable motherhood with my knickers on inside out, and frequently falling short of my own expectations. But totally unexceptional nonetheless.