Shoes and Nail Varnish

I miss my grandmother. Things so small can suddenly remind me of her. Elderly female patients with their painted fingernails or the way they bend and reach their fingers down to remove their shoe for an examination.

She was a force to be reckoned with on the outside, soft and insecure on the inside. Crabby sometimes, like the Cancerian she was. And vain. Oh so very vain. She needed prettiness in her life to brighten the dark evenings that being alone brought her. She once said to me when I complained about a boyfriend, ‘surely it is better to at least have a man in your life, rather than have nobody?’. She craved attention and whilst loved by many, in those last 20 years, it wasn’t the kind she sought.

Brought up with austere Victorian parents who apparently didn’t have much by way of loving parenting skills and by her own limited accounts, were shy of affection or warmth. Her own house apparently should have been a bungalow except her husband refused to sleep on the ground floor and so an upstairs was built – which was a shame – he ran off with another woman not long after.

My memories of the house are that it was cold and often felt ominous. Difficult to put a finger on why but it was the sort of place where you had to sing very loudly whenever you felt scared. Just in case. I couldn’t manage to enter or exit anywhere that was dark without loud singing, it was a Ghost Shield. Central heating didn’t exist in Woodpeckers and often it felt like there was literally no heating at all except for when you were practically sat on top of a two bar electric fire or sat directly in front of the open fire, competing for space with her oversized cats. And of course then you had the choice of having one side of your body absolutely freezing and the other burning to a cinder.. so you’d quickly turn round and repeat the process on the other side. I remember in the mornings before school, watching my breath above the counterpane.. knowing that I had to somehow race across the room, plug in the electric fire and then race back, grabbing my uniform on the way and hurtling under the covers again. I would dress inside the bed, getting tangled up in my knickers and tights. Only then could I brave the ‘outside’. The bathroom and toilet were the worst. You had to brace yourself before you sat on the toilet seat… the water from the bathroom basin burning your hands and face, it was so cold. The millions of spiders in the corners that kept watch, looking on, their eight knees a-knocking.

The kitchen, was a different story. I loved the kitchen. A coal boiler in the corner, the Heat Mecca; I would worship it first thing in the morning and straight after school. There was a wicker basket beside it, just big enough for a cat much wider to try and wedge it’s gargantuan body into. The walls were yellow and white painted French windows overlooked  the wild front garden, with a string of monkey nuts hung from one tree to another. The nuts were for the birds but the squirrels would often get there first; cue Phyllis racing outside shouting at them to go away. I would sit in the kitchen at the small dining table doing my homework after school, listening to her teaching the piano to another child. She painstakingly attempted patience but both I and the pupil could hear the rising irritation as she would try not to bark “back straight, shoulders back!”.

She had shoulder length brown hair that she would curl and pin every night. She practised her floor exercises every morning and I remember being tiny, laying beside her, desperately trying to do bicycles in the air. Her nails had to be painted, usually a coral sort of colour and she wouldn’t be seen without her lipstick. If you rang the doorbell before she was dressed she would shout ‘bugger, bugger, bugger!’, with each step as she came to the front door. Seething with anger that she had been interrupted. And sometimes if you rang her on the phone you could almost hear her angrily muttering “I can’t STAND IT” as she answered. She would tell you she had no time at all to talk to you but you couldn’t get a word in edgeways until she had finished regaling her current news.  Then in a fit of fresh annoyance she would protest that you had now made her late for something and  hang up. Left open-mouthed still trying to say hello, slowly you’d replace the handset.

She loved nature. Her garden was her world. She had somehow managed to create a fantasy world for me as a child. The French windows and doors opening up onto a patio that flowed onto a rockery – full of pink flowers and jumping spiders – which led to a a lawn split into two by a flowerbed. Then there was the woodland part, to the left a black metal swing with an uncomfortable rotting, wooden seat and upon which I spent many a day swinging on.. until I felt sick. To the right there was a little copse with painted white metal furniture and between two staunch trees, lay a hammock. She would lie in it whenever she felt she had time but most often I remember her retiring there in late summer evenings. Her safe place. Past the copse the path took you to the rose garden, the apple trees and the vegetable garden. Long, hot Summer days I spent there ‘helping’ her garden. As I grew up, the more I resisted, preferring to spend time with other teenage friends, getting wasted and preying on fresh blood who simply saw me as the London bike. She gardened up until 3 weeks before she died. Balancing awkwardly on a kitchen chair, bending down to slowly pick the weeds, she refused to be beaten. I remember climbing the apple tree with my (imaginary) friends, I would dress up and pretend to have adventures; she even had a rope ladder made for me. In this same tree, my mother once sat there in her early teenage years, angrily refusing to go back into the house after having locked Phyllis and her musician friends in the front room. She caused quite a stir.

We camped when I was young. She would put the tent up in the garden and I remember lying there, the sky still light. There were long walks with picnics. So many, many picnics. No season would, or could stop the picnics. Birthday ones were a favourite. The older she got the more scant they became. For her 80th I threw her a summer party at her house and I am glad I did, as she died less than two years later. She used to have one most summers; a midsummer party based on a theme.. She would always get cross with the guests not going into the right place at the right time. “But it’s warm and light outside, why aren’t they in the garden? They should be in the garden!”. She was a social butterfly but like a moth to a flame, she would return to the house, banging against its loneliness.

When the three of us were together, my Mum would inexplicably become naughty. She couldn’t help herself. Phyllis would start a conversation, Mum would snigger and make a joke and before we knew it, the three of us would be snorting, then howling with laughter. I miss that. I miss that so much.

The house was sold and within a few years it had been sold again and knocked down by developers. I have seen the new house, mostly in dreams. And I still see Woodpeckers. I am never afraid now and I know Phyllis is dead but she comes back to life in her bed upstairs and the doctors are baffled. And then I nurse her while she dies again. I put this down to guilt or grief, as the day I decided not to stay with her in hospital, happened to be the day she died.

Finally, my favourite memory is on Christmas Day and us squishing in her queen size bed, Mum at the end.. all of our legs managing to find space. And on the bed too, was a baby rabbit I had received just before Xmas, Cecily Parsley (later named Cecil.. for obvious reasons). S/he bounded about the bed, skipping and causing us to squeal with joy. Droppings pinging everywhere but we didn’t care. He slept in a box next to the cats, by the boiler until he was old enough to move into a hutch.

Whether our paths will ever cross again, who knows.. But each time I see a rose, or smell lavender, or I hear the word ‘Bugger!’ – I’ll always have her close to me.

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Fragility

Like an icicle melded to a branch, as the heat rises the tell-tale shadow of a hairline crack snakes its way through. It drips.

I drive to work, empty. Even the sound of the radio would be too coarse, too damaging to my heart. It contracts, not just as a means to an end but with pain. He can’t help himself. He is young. He ssss-stammers his anger out, he literally writhes with his emotional angst because no-one can understand his grief. He is incensed that he is questioned, that he has been denied. His small, lithe body squirming as he screams vitriol. My heart hammering, blood pounding in my ears as I try and control the torrent that courses through my veins. I cajole, I threaten, I comfort, I cry. Nothing changes the pattern. It is on repeat. It drips.

Letters and emails, phone-calls and a million conversations. Should have dones, would have dones, a zillion recriminations. Nothing changes.

I stroke his head as he sobs himself to sleep. I place my hands on his head and back, willing energy to pass through. I need to heal him. For him. For me. For everyone. It drips.

I arrive at work. I brace myself for the day ahead. It must have got colder because the icicle has stopped melting. The threatening minuscule divide has ceased to explore further. But I remember, nothing changes.

Brace Yourself..

After much to-ing and fro-ing I have come to a decision. I am going sober. No more postulating, no more indecision. There will be those that question my decision and I haven’t yet gone out out but here are the whys and wherefores that have contributed to this conclusion.

(Disclaimer: this has frank accounts of my past alcohol driven behaviour. I am ok with this).

To those that say “but you weren’t that bad”, “it’s not like you were an alcoholic or anything”, let’s pick that apart a little.

What constitutes as ‘that bad’?

Being raped at 21 by someone I knew because I was so drunk I had passed out and fallen asleep? And those close to me at the time, told me that it was not really likely to be rape, because let’s face it ‘that’s the sort of thing you do when you’re drunk’. A little bad?

I reckon the time I nearly lost my now husband due to being drunk, was pretty bad.

Or the time that I was 22, living in the Santa Cruz mountains and working for an American friend with the sole responsibility of looking after her 8 months old baby at a conference she was attending (she was pretty high up in the company). I had gone to the bar and had a few more than just a couple, ended up singing in a karoake with her work colleagues and then had to be led back to a hotel room by a security guard as he was worried I was about to disappear with some dodgy bloke who was giving me a light for a cigarette. I have no recollection apart from attempting to sing an Eurythmics song (ridiculous I know, who the hell can manage to sing like Annie Lennox?). The shame the next day was dire. That sparked off my first foray to AA. Again, quite bad.

Or the time in my mid 20’s when I passed out on the Bakerloo line and must have travelled the entire route from Wembley to Elephant Castle about 4 bloody times before I was kicked off the train. I couldn’t see or walk straight and had to sit in a shop doorway. A strange but kind man who lived up the shop came down with a duvet and radio and sat with me until I realised I really had to try and get home. I then managed to put 2 and 2 together and got to a phonebox, I rang my then (also verging alkie) much older boyfriend who told me to get a cab to his and he would pay. Something clicked and I realised there was a bank. And I had a bank card. And I had money in my account. This resulted in a lightbulb moment (took 2 hours to reach) and was able to pay for my own cab back. There were also quite a few ‘waking up on a cold bench in a closed railway station’ scenarios. I’d like to think that not only was that bad but also pretty fucking stupid.

And more recently, well yeah I would agree that more recently I didn’t binge drink that often, but the thoughts of wine were frequent. I would rather sit at home and drink than make the effort to go out and drink. I felt safer drinking indoors (due to aforementioned ‘bad’ behaviour). I would look forward to getting home and having some wine. If we were at a friends it would worry me if the wine was running out. I would check to see if I was drinking too fast. Thank god for the friends who would drink more and faster. I would struggle not to drink wine every night. And if I did manage a few days then my god did I go on about it.

The thing is, I want to move on. If I make a mistake or sound like a tit, then I am going to own it! A sober tit if you please.

To the “just cut down, don’t drink so much” crew?

Er.. no. Because that means I have to constantly self moderate. Is that enough? Do I want more? Can I have more? Am I being an arse? Would I have said that sober? When you have to put that many thought processes either before, during or after an event such as lifting a glass of alcohol to your lips, then I don’t think that event is worth it. I’m getting older, I need my brain cells to actually fire and connect. I want to feel mentally and physically fitter. When I drink alcohol, even for just one evening out of seven, I feel dumber. The next day I am tired, emotional, stressed and anxious. I have three children and I don’t want them thinking that my drinking patterns were normal. If we are in a society where the amount I drank and the thoughts surrounding my drinking, are considered ‘normal’, then we really need to get a grip. My MO’s friend asked.. “what happens if you go to a really big party, won’t you drink then?”. My MO replied, “she doesn’t need to get drunk to get crazy, she already is crazy”.  My eldest two have told me that they prefer me sober. That speaks (painful) volumes.

Some might say that I am very brave to put this to paper on a public forum. Yep, probably. They might add that I will regret doing so. No. I don’t think so. Our country has some of the worst statistics when it comes to the drinking culture,  However, this is apparently lessening according to the Office for National Statistics. There are certainly more alcohol free drinks in the supermarket aisles than I have ever seen in my lifetime. Public Health England have a campaign about reducing alcohol consumption, and most are aware, that should alcohol be introduced as a new drug, it would be banned.  So if my ‘sharing’ is uncomfortable for you, then ask yourself why? Coz I am ok with it. If reading my blog means that just one person is tempted to look at their own drinking behaviour, then it means some good has come of it. Will I now go around bleating rhetoric every time one of my friends drink? Don’t be daft! I might be a little envious that they are still able to enjoy it, I might leave a party a little earlier (“how is that even possible?” I hear my friends laugh… yeah okay, you can have that one) but at least I won’t be passed out. Getting The Horrors the next morning, wondering who I have offended or what twattish thing I have done now. So if I am there with you whilst you drink, don’t worry that I am judging you, but equally don’t judge me for being sober because I am happy with my decision. I feel relieved and ready for my new chapter.

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This has nothing to do with my post.. I just like the fact that Tarka plays the Xbox

A New Story

Today I am going to tell you about my old story and then provide you with a draft for my new one.

I have been a little damaged as a human being. Nothing major.. no lawsuits pending, (well none that would stick).. but a bit broken nonetheless. As a result of this, I have self medicated most of my life and this has mainly been in the form of booze. With a dry January under my belt, I have felt the benefits of a (slowly) diminishing waist line and I have almost become an athlete of olympic standards.

There is the propensity to resort to my behaviour of 2017; evenings on the sofa supported with a good ol’ glass of vin de rouge whilst I guffaw at the absurdity of Ian Beale and squeal with delight when Phil Mitchell punches someone on Eastenders and says something ridiculous like “you don’t mess with the Mitchells”. Or I just scream at the tele to “oh just PISS OFF” because the story line has really become so bad that I can no longer justify to Mr P why I actually still watch this shit. Red wine was my go-to as I got ready for a rare night out.. as we had a roast on a Sunday, as I read one of the kids a story (that may or may not have been a little slurred on delivery). I fantasised about sitting in front of our roaring fire with a glass of red in hand and I will admit to trying to muffle the sound of the wine pouring in, as I topped up my glass at the same time as being on the phone to my mum. She thinks I drink drank too much.

The amounts of times I would proudly declare to my friends and family that I hadn’t drunk for ‘at least two days this week!’ are unmeasurable and I have lost count of the amount of times I have alluded to the fact that I know I drink too much. Or that I have bored friends and family with the plans to cut down drinking. We all knew I had a problem but because I was so open about it, I felt like I had almost vindicated myself. And because I don’t crave booze in the morning or get the shakes when I have a few days off, I was content to justify that I wasn’t an actual alcoholic.. I just needed to reign it in a bit. But it’s a funny thing, quitting booze. It’s practically frowned upon. Now if I said I was going to stop smoking, everyone would have slapped me on the back and told me that it was about time. Not so with alcohol. Our society, so ensconced in the voluptuous arms of the delicious nectar which warms, enlivens and caresses our bodies and minds, doesn’t appear to relish the idea of someone cutting it out. It appears to almost instil a sense of fear.

So last night, I did an experiment. I didn’t actually particularly want to drink but I was curious as to how it would make me feel. So, I had two small glasses of red wine whilst I had a marvellous back massage from the EO and then read my book. First of all I noticed the smell and taste. It was very similar to the alcohol free (AF) wine from Rawsons Retreat, Tesco. Like with the AF wine, I didn’t seem to relish the wine and there was still no buzz. I finished my glass and fell into a deep sleep, waking at 3am and noting the slight dehydration. At 6.30am I felt the tightened skull as it threatened a headache and I felt a little depleted. A little bit robbed. I slightly wished I could unread all the books on alcohol and how utterly shit it is. How it really does play havoc with your neural plasticity, how it really does fuck up your REM sleep and leaves you feeling low as your brain battles to correct the stimulation the alcohol causes as it hits your brain, leaving you anxious and low in the morning. As I argued with my MO at his billionth tantrum this week, I cried.

However, mid journey to uni, I realised I didn’t have to continue on this same path. I could reinvent my story. I don’t have to replay the same guilt ridden arguments between Shit Me and Good Me, I can go back to being alcohol free. And I might even enjoy drinking occasionally and IF I drink, it will be because it is what I want to do. The moment I feel guilt, I stop. The moment I start berating myself, I stop. And if I can’t drink without doing that? Then I don’t drink anymore.

I have had a month of feeling bloody marvellous (albeit fucking bored in the evenings…. yeah that’s still a work in progress) and so here’s my draft… it’s quite simple.. in fact it’s practically a one-liner..

My New Story

From now on, what I do will be without guilt.

If I am sober, I will not feel guilty to those who would prefer I drank and if I drink, I will not feel guilty to my Self who would prefer me to be sober. 

The End. 

In other words.. I am now gonna shut the fuck up about my non-alcohol/little-bit-of-alcohol/oh-hell-I-am dying from alcohol levels of consumption!!

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Looking for my Self (idiot.. I was there all along)

No Title Today

Good arvo all…

I‘ve been reading back through my blog entries..  I am a bit of a twit aren’t I? Suppose I ought to apologise or something but to be honest, it is my propensity to twitness that keeps me going.

I am currently 27 days sober as part of my Dry January pledge and today, as I am making my thousandth attempt to reshape my body, I took MO with me to ParkRun in Worthing. We had a good old chat about the fact that he wouldn’t be stopping constantly as Mum really is training to be an athlete after all and needs to work on her.. erm.. form and stamina. He agreed he would either keep up or let me run ahead. Unfortunately his anxiety got the better of him which meant we stopped. Quite a bit. And then…  after I had faithfully stuck with him despite crying inside.. the little sod SPRINTED to the end. Leaving his poor bloody mother struggling with her calf muscles seizing up (because she had stopped and started so many times), coming in 19 secs behind him! The absolute audacity. So that’s it. He is banned from ever running with me ever again.

I have also decided that as I am nearing to the end of January, I am now going to be do 100 days dry. I haven’t felt this healthy since I was born and even then I was on the verge of malnourishment at one point apparently, so in fact one could say that I am literally the healthiest I have EVER been. I am still wobbly and rotund (the LO loves telling me that I still have a fat belly, each and every time he gets the opportunity. He now lives outside.). Even Mr P has been sober (although he admitted to two small (large) gins last night at a friend’s house. I gave him a particularly pitying look and nodded in a very understanding, albeit sanctimonious, way. He is now currently out on a bike that he has rescued from underneath a tarpaulin at the end of the garden. I have no idea how well it works. Guess time will tell. If he’s not back this evening I shall presume that either it collapsed mid-pedal or he just cycled to the pub and is refusing to leave.

I have found a great FB group that is really supportive and not at all preaching or judgey. Which is great because I already have children who are willing to fulfil that requirement. If anyone (like literally anyone) is actually reading this and needs/wants to address their relationship with alcohol.. I recommend reading a couple of books that I have read recently (This Naked Mind – by Annie Grace and Alcohol Explained – by William Porter). Also joining a FB group might be more your cup of tea than joining another well known anonymous group. Plus if you join the Dry January challenge, you can set it for a year and see the little tea cups mounting up as you tick off the days. Marvellous.

Not drinking has made me address a lot of things. My dependence on alcohol as a social crutch, a stress crutch, a relaxing crutch. I knew my consumption was mounting but I was also aware that so were my stress levels. My inability to just be content. The constant striving to do the next thing. In the past 3 weeks I have had time to contemplate about the changes that being sober bring upon you. Yes it can be hard and frustrating and with that brings the resounding resentment but this is usually in fits and starts and abates as the time goes on. I wake in the morning feeling glorious in the knowledge that I am not hungover. That if I feel shit it’s because I just happen to feel shit. That I haven’t brought it upon myself and with that I shoot yet another arrow at the Shitty Guilt Fairy who usually resides on my shoulder. In fact.. the SGF has been pretty scarce recently. She does rear her head as the drinking memories flood in whilst driving to uni or as I do some house work. “Remember the time you passed out at so and so’s birthday party”, “remember the time you promised the kids you’d go somewhere but couldn’t because you were hungover”. I have told her to do one.. and her voice gets a little bit more tinny and pathetic as the weeks go on. I reckon she is going to have sign-on soon.. see how she likes the queues at the local Job Centre, that’ll piss her off. With her becoming more absent, I have become more present. I am starting to like myself. Those of you who know me will know that I struggle with self-esteem, despite appearing so confident. I like to jump up and down on it with studded shoes. The first 30 or so years of my life, I made a lot of bad decisions to cope with feelings of failure and resembling a misfitting puzzle piece and a lot of those decisions were fuelled by drinking too hard or any other form of self-destruction I could lay my hands on. For the first time as I looked into a mirror whilst getting ready for an exam I had this week, I actually looked into my eyes and told myself that I was doing ok. That ‘Chloe’ was alright. That finally the child who felt worthless at times, or neglected, or just plain odd.. was ok. That she was winning. Tears streamed down my face. A sense of control has taken hold. A sense of who I am has taken hold. A sense of being ok has taken hold. For the first time ever, I feel capable of doing whatever I put my mind to, without the SGF whipping my back until I bleed tears.

For once. I am actually doing ok. 

 

 

Hah! In your face Year 1!

Today I submitted my last essay of my first year in nursing. This makes for a happy Chloe. A relieved Chloe. A ‘Hah in your FACE‘ Chloe. I finally feel that I can sit back and relax for a few weeks before we go straight back in full throttle to, apparently, the worst year during the degree. What is great about writing this blog is that one can experience amnesia about the academic hypothesising that one must partake in whilst examining psychosocial aspects of nursingOh to write a Mills and Boon… the fancy pants of that! All flowery and such like. Anyway, luckily I have had a Bramble to keep me company.. She is such a darling.

 

Still, before I can really chill, I still have just under a month of placement to go with a good 2 weeks of not having a fucking clue about where I am going to stick the kids because it will be the school holidays.

I must admit I feel a little bit over this whole fucking ‘being an adult’ shite. In the mornings as I am feeling practically homicidal because Mr P has to be woken up the same amount of times as our stroppy teenager, I battle with the demons… I could, I think, just walk out… (just keep walking.. just keep walking.. (think Dora)). As the Middle One, systematically runs through all of the shitty irritating things he can do his siblings and the Little One decides he is going to emulate his brother and also be a prat.. as I realise that the kitten shit in the litter tray is only ever going to be emptied by me and that despite it already getting on the late side of ok, I will still find time to put on another wash, hang the wet one out, tidy the sofa, draw the curtains, redo the sofa, make the bed, yell at a child, do the sofa again and finally load the dishwasher.

Amazing what you can do when you put your moany mind to it, isn’t it?

On to other news, after being ripped into by a good mate about me veganism failingism, she brought me around a potted rose. Very pretty and very sweet I thought. Well.. after Saturday evening drinks with a group of lovely girlfriends, I am now awaiting a delivery worth of a fecking truckload of potted plants.. the amount of laughter at my expense means I can probably now completely redesign my garden.. so watch this space. In the meantime, here is a picture of me chooks…

And here are some of the LOVELY dishes I have made and eaten and (listen up plant buyers) enjoyed… Roasted tomato soup… Mmmmm and falafel, spinach and mushroom wrap…

 

Now, where shall I put all these new plants????

A plant based foray

Today is my first day of going vegan. I’ll be aiming to cut out all refined sugar, yeast and the one I’m probably least happy about… booze. All for 26 days. This is because I have just planned a last minute birthday shindig on 22nd July and will be going yurting in Cornwall in August where I am hoping to don a bikini (if the weather manages to allow it) and don’t really fancy looking or feeling like this anymore.

As you can see I have an incredibly bloated abdomen which is accompanied by lots of lovely sounds and smells. Nice. I am not sticking it out, honestly.

I have a couple of fungal infections caused by too much candida that seems to having a right good ol’ time raging inside and outside my body. My hair is getting thinner, PMT worse and I am smellier than I used to be. Delightful eh?

I have battled with my ethical demons for many years and with a couple of extra stone for the past 8. So going plant based seems like a good option. Unfortunately I like the taste of meat – not something I am particularly proud of but there you have it. I don’t anticipate this to be the easiest three and half weeks but I am hoping that by the end of it, the benefits outweigh the cravings and that’ll lead to a healthier life with a clearer conscious.  However, I am going to the South of France with two uni friends in August as well.. not sure how easily the cheese will get past me unswallowed (word?) and I already know that red wine will most definitely be drunk!