Monday, 14 February 2011

Say it with....

Go outside now.

Find a big rock, preferably a cold, hard one with unappetising facets. A rock that is an uncomfortable and unprepossessing shape.

That rock is definitely going to be warmer and more cuddly than me. Significantly warmer and cuddlier.

Today is Valentine's Day and I have not got a single quantum quark of romance about me. I have never been arsed with the nonsense that is Valentine's Day and I'm not about to change now.

My boyfriend turned up with a thoughtful card and a special note inside.

My card to him said 'Happy non-specific day in the middle of February'.

Sometimes I'm a bit of a shitbag.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The psychological is the political

In my teaching job I've just started to teach A level Psychology which has required me to start studying Psychology for the first time. My first lesson was on evolutionary theories in Psychology and that all population-wide behaviours in humanity are adaptive; i.e. that they helped us survive in the Stone Age, get with more hot Stone age dudes and have more babies, passing our adaptive genes and behaviours on to them. Sorry for lifting that wording straight from 'On the Origin of Species'.

It's made me think hard about choices in this society and what we consider as normal and abnormal. Firstly, relationships. The received wisdom is that you get married for life and that separation or divorce is an aberration from the norm. However, historically people simply didn't live as long as us,life was brutal, work hard, disease rife, hunger ever-present, quite apart from the likelihood of dying in childbirth. We have an assumption that we are marrying for life, but that 'life' is far far far longer than any human population before us. So maybe a behaviour like Judaeo-Christian marriage that was born out of late Iron Age requirements to pair up for mutual survival is a ridiculous strategy in a world where you could be together for upwards of fifty years; a lifespan unimaginable at the time the behaviour developed (unless Methuselah was real).

This is one of the instinctive feelings I have about marriage. I know my boyfriend's avowed wish is to marry me and I'm totally resolute that I don't want to. Not that I don't love him but that I don't believe in the institution of marriage. I'm happy to commit for seven years or so, which, rather non-scientifically, appears to be the period for which most of my friends' marriages managed to last. But not with a wedding ring on my finger because extricating oneself from a legal marriage is far too long and expensive. If I'm asked, I'm honest. The friends who are getting married soon I wish a lifetime of bliss and marital felicitation to, but wishing that and believing it will happen are rather different things. I just think that what I think is 'I hope you're really happy for about a decade and then move on in a mature and non-acrimonious way if that's what happens'. And, remember, that decade was probably a 'lifetime' in aeons gone by.

Due to the improvements in medicine and diet we live longer and so, thankfully, do our children. They are fewer in number and we don't ever imagine the ever-present horror of times gone past that we could lose them. But, I'm assuming that throughout history people ended up bringing children up on their own as a lone parent when disease or famine or war or accident took the other partner away. I know that at the end of World War 1 and World War 2 there would have been thousands and thousands of mothers bringing children up on their own. Bet they weren't called single mothers and treated with contempt. Mr fury was raised by this article in the Guardian that said that the cuts will take an average of £1012 per annum away from a couple and £1880 from a lone parent. When I mentioned this on Facebook I got a familiar response about lazy bastards living in their council houses with tonnes of kids and living it up on benefit. I don't doubt they exist but I don't know any lone parents like that. The lone parents I know are like me, Jen, Emma, Zena, Caroline, Kathryn, Claire, Kelli, Teresa, Michelle, Spencer, Debbie, Sarah, Liz, Louisa, Anne, Nadine and Shirley who all work really hard. We hold down jobs and do practically all the childcare bringing up well-balanced and happy kids. At most we have maybe 3 kids. Only of us is on welfare and that person is a PhD who is overqualified for all the jobs she applies for. As lone parents we are due to be punished by an additional £800 being taken from our pockets than couples. We have to support TWO people on ONE salary and more money is being taken from us than couples. This is sold as a crackdown on welfare scroungers. Well, thanks. I work bloody hard. I don't scrounge and I'm being financially punished because my ex scarpered.

The answer I am given to understand is that they should 'get a job'. Well, I have one so it's not the greatest answer for me. Also, people fail to see the problems with being a lone parent. Somebody has to look after your child whilst you work. If you are on your own this pool of people is frighteningly limited. You can put them in nursery but you are looking at £800 per month upwards. From studying Psychology I took in Bowlby's theory that attachment between mother and child is very important up to the age of two when the child has an instinctive need to be with the mother for most of their time. Throughout history this was possible: the mother would work with the baby strapped to her. I'd like to see my school's reaction if someone brought their baby with them every day in a papoose. Instead the babies are dumped in daycare where, at best, they are cuddled a couple of times a day. It's brutal and if babies are not securely attached to a person in babyhood it affects their ability to form relationships throughout life. It could be argued that by forcing women out to work by labelling them scroungers you are psychologically damaging their babies for life. Great. If I regret one thing, it's that my son went to nursery as a baby instead of me staying home with him.

There's a famous 1970s feminist slogan: 'the personal is the political'. I take the ConDemNation choices as a political campaign that personally harms me. It also psychologically harms me as a lone parent. All of my sorority and brethren are tarred with the 'welfare scrounger' brush despite that practically none of us are. And we are financially punished for transgressing against Stone Age partnership expectations.

Monday, 9 August 2010

The happiest day of your life

I got married once, as this blog suggests. And I remember spending months and months obsessively planning for it. Bridal magazines were pored through, colour schemes chosen and important decisions taken on menus and discos and table decorations. At the time the endless chatter about napkins frustrated my (male) colleague so much that he unguardedly said 'fucking weddings!' in the week I wrote the invitations and promptly got himself left off the list.

The day dawned and it was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. And it wasn't. I was nervy and difficult with my bridesmaids. And I remember waiting for the meal thinking 'is this it?'. Something was missing in that day and, whilst it was fun, it wasn't the transcendental experience promised. It was just another wedding. Big dress. Bridemaids. Ceremony. Eat. Cut cake. Dance. Eat. Dance. All activities I enjoy but not the life changing experience ushering one into a whole new world that I was promised. The worst thing is, I felt like that at my own wedding.

Now, I'm a total snob and refuse to watch soaps or Big Brother and sometimes (shamingly) respond to other people's statuses on Facebook in Latin. So you wouldn't think I'd watch 'Four Weddings' on Living, but I do. I like the predictability of the show which usually has four very different weddings but which usually follow the same formula:

Wedding 1 will be phenomenally expensive. The bride will be gorgeous and bitchy in the extreme. Her dress will be practically transparent in the boob region and the size of Rutland in the skirt area. It will sparkle a lot.The wedding will include loads of guests in very bright dresses and a groom who is tanned to a deep mahogany table colour, and insists on taking his top off during the dancing to show his pecs. The other brides will look around in fear because they can't afford to compete. However, they are intrinsically nice girls and score fairly meaning this wedding will win. Despite costing £50,000. And then the horrendous bride and groom will get a free holiday that they blatantly could have afforded themselves.

Wedding 2 will be a Nice but Poor couple from The North. The dress will be cheap, their toddlers will be bridesmaids and the do will be in a pub. The other brides will try hard to say positive things without actually allowing the words 'she deserves a free holiday a lot more than any of the rest of us' out if their mouth. They will, instead, complain about lumpy gravy. As the wedding will be inexpensive it will score lowly for food and overall experience and thus the people who deserve a free holiday won't get one.

Wedding 3 will be the comedy Goth wedding. The voiceover will be extremely satirical and never in the least bit patronising i.e. 'hahaha, she got dressed in black and had pumpkins as table decorations. Loser.' This one is doomed. Particularly if the groom looks like a zombie. The other brides will complain that it wasn't 'weddingy' enough even though it was a wedding.

Wedding 4 gets squeezed in at the end and is usually the traditional British wedding. Small service in church. Middle class and faintly mousy bride. Meal somewhere nice. Dancing. This one often scores poorly for 'overall experience' as Bitch with Cash Bride thinks it's too predictable and Goth Bride bemoans the lack of inventiveness as there's no fake blood and the vicar wasn't dressed like a character from Rocky Horror.

In the end it's invariably the person I liked least who will win and the sweet, penniless couple never do. But in their final piece to camera every bride says that she believed her wedding was the best and that it was the happiest day of her life.

Well, my wedding wasn't. The best day of my life wasn't even the day my son was born because motherhood ain't all it's cracked up to be either. No, it was 5th December 2009 when I took my son to Lapland for the day to see Santa. It was perfect in every way.

Having been married once I know the excitement of planning a wedding and being a bride. Some of the people I love best on the planet are doing it next year and I'm really excited for them. I suppose for many people it is the happiest day of their life but I can't believe it would be for me. I've done it once and it wasnt so much that I married the wrong person, more that it was the wrong ceremony for me. This doesn't however stop me considering in idle moments what would happen if I were to go on 'Four Weddings'. My daydream would be to a contestant simply so I could sabotage the scoring and thereby ensure the lovely people who actually deserve a free holiday win it. And then say in my final piece to camera: 'yeah it was ok I suppose, but Lapland was better'.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 1 August 2010

I'm not your friend anymore

My main motivation in life is knowing that, at most, I only have to work eight weeks in a row before I can go on holiday. Most people I know look forward to spending huge chunks of their free time painting their homes a different colour and matching soft furnishings. I march to a different beat and believe it doesn't really matter that my house hasn't been repainted in a decade because I'm basically only ever in it to sleep or to pack for my next trip. This addiction to travel is well served by my parents who live in a stunningly beautiful part of the Algarve and whose views from their balcony are:


It makes a bit of a change from my house in Leeds, where my front room looks on to a wall of leilandi and from my attic eyrie I have an unparalleled view of a gas holder.

I also love coming here as it gives me a yardstick to measure my son's life by. Last summer he was just starting to swim and in deep dread of the deep end. This year he can snorkel and throws himself in the deep end with wild abandon. Last year he was too shy to play with other kids, now he has spent the afternoon splashing and screaming with other boys.

Well, until a new 'friend' turned around and informed him 'I don't want to be your friend anymore'. He was just devastated as I think this might be his first experience of those poisonous words. He was very tearful and wanted to leave the pool for the sanctuary of Nana's sofa and CBBC. He's very sad because he doesn't think he's done anything wrong. We've all told him that tomorrow it'll all be forgotten and they'll play together happily. But right now he's feeling rejected and dejected.

As the days tick forward to my decree absolute and my divorce becoming final I can understand his feelings only too well. I remember the astounding rejection of being dumped and then the tears. For a while I sat in resentful silence and then was vociferously angry on this blog. But the silence which fell over this blog for months was because I'd stopped feeling hurt and my ex and I are on really good terms. When he came over last week to get me to sign the consent order for the divorce he said "this doesn't mean anything to you, does it?" and I honestly answered that it doesn't. I feel nothing: no relief, no resentment, nothing. It carries no more emotional weight than changing my gas provider.

Over two years ago my ex said he didn't want to be my friend anymore. At the time it hurt like hell. But time passed and oddly now we are more friendly than we were for much of our marriage. My son will feel a bit sad tonight until he's eaten a big Sunday roast and had a sleep. And tomorrow he'll be friends again. And I might buy him a huge and fantastic inflatable toy to make him irresistible to other kids at the pool. I think the past few years have taught me you make your own luck.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 26 July 2010

That modern world

Hello. I'm blogging from bed on my iPhone which makes me all louche and modern, doesn't it?

This weekend marks a year or so since I met my boyfriend. We actually met on the 17th July 2009 but it was a much more important event - the end of term do for the 6 week holidays. And this weekend school broke up for an unacceptably shortened 5 and a half weeks. Having been together a year I felt it time to undertake the most perilous journey a couple can take: a mooch round Ikea on a Saturday. The objective was to get a new bed as we were sleeping in the world's tiniest 'double' with a mattress that was undulating and downright bumpy. We are both 6 foot tall and whenever one of us wriggled in slumber the other's quiet rest was severely compromised. So therefore we went off to Ikea to buy a bed.

3 hours and the best part of a grand later we'd chosen and ordered a huge superkingsize bed with memory foam mattress and bought new duvets, pillows, sheets. The whole caboodle. And it was all done without any stropping or sniping or downright arguing in the aisles. He even laughed when 10 minutes drive from the store I 'remembered' that I'd forgotten to buy fitted sheets and had to return (alone. He sensibly went to the pub instead).

On Sunday my boyfriend undertook the Herculean task of constructing said massive bed whilst I took my son to a pop festival. And then I came back home to a lovely new bed and a surprisingly unstressed boyfriend. As he said to his parents on Saturday night, we've never argued yet. This is because he's sensible and backs down and I've learnt from my past behaviours to avoid being provoking and not to sweat the small stuff.

Today I made another small but significant purchase - a DAB clock radio with two docking stations: one for my iPhone and the other for his iPod. That's very symbolic, isn't it?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Cupboards abound in old poems

Velcro Feedback
(to her son starting Reception)

Forensic examination:
What, where, why, when,
How, who?
Is he happy?
Never an answer.
Glimpses of a new life:
Shards of experience -
Assembly (quiet music).
I reconstruct from hints:
Stickers. And stains.
Velcro is a harvester of
All life's business.
Dry grass, carpet threads
2:43 story time on carpet.
New shoes, secretly scuffed.
Velcro feedback.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Other poems found in cupboards

Clutching on to metal
Fingertips gripping,
Clinging, the comforting
Coolness dissipating into
Familiar unwanted warmth.
Corners to trap fingers and
Resistance of valves.

The taste,
Testing batteries for charge
Hesitancy as you wait
For a faint shock but
Tasting like an old spoon from
Nan's pantry drawer.

On playing, the image
Of the person now unmelodied
Plays in the mind of
The listener. Almost beyond
Reach. Like a shadow
Flitting past a window.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone