Thursday, 30 September 2004

sofa trouble

Uncle Horace phoned this morning. This is an event in itself, as Horace is a) paralytically shy and b) has had the conversational urge beaten out of him by fifty five years of having B's mum talk over him. However, he seems to have taken a shine to me, and now occasionally phones me while B is away to impart nuggets about his life.



It is sometimes quite difficult to work out what it is that he has phoned up to tell me, as he tends to camoflage the important items in a kind of chaff of miscellaneous facts.



This morning we ran though his optician's appointment last week (successful, new prescription, two pairs of glasses), his forthcoming bloods appointment (at the new surgery, ten to ten Thursday, should be no problem) and the fact that he found a large pile of horse droppings on his walk by the river this morning and if he'd had a bag he would have collected them up for me to use in the garden. Buried in there was the news that his new furniture had arrived.



A friend/business colleague of B's mum, Denise, is moving out of her house on the south coast and has donated a sofa and an armchair to Horace. They arrived today, along with a set of three nested tables. His cat-swinging activities have been severely curtailed. He was wanting us to go round with the estate car and remove some stuff so that he can actually move around his living room without risk of injury.



Why is it that some people cannot *bear* to throw stuff away themselves? They look for someone to pass it on to, with the proviso that "this belonged to Great Aunt Mabel and she really loved it". Or "there's lots of wear in this yet, it will be fine to start you off". When the items are really ratty, worn out and should be burnt. Both B's mum and Denise are terrible at this.



We have promised to go round and help Horace with his furniture winnowing before B's mum comes back from holiday and guilt-trips him in to keeping everything.





sofa trouble

Uncle Horace phoned this morning. This is an event in itself, as Horace is a) paralytically shy and b) has had the conversational urge beaten out of him by fifty five years of having B's mum talk over him. However, he seems to have taken a shine to me, and now occasionally phones me while B is away to impart nuggets about his life.



It is sometimes quite difficult to work out what it is that he has phoned up to tell me, as he tends to camoflage the important items in a kind of chaff of miscellaneous facts.



This morning we ran though his optician's appointment last week (successful, new prescription, two pairs of glasses), his forthcoming bloods appointment (at the new surgery, ten to ten Thursday, should be no problem) and the fact that he found a large pile of horse droppings on his walk by the river this morning and if he'd had a bag he would have collected them up for me to use in the garden. Buried in there was the news that his new furniture had arrived.



A friend/business colleague of B's mum, Denise, is moving out of her house on the south coast and has donated a sofa and an armchair to Horace. They arrived today, along with a set of three nested tables. His cat-swinging activities have been severely curtailed. He was wanting us to go round with the estate car and remove some stuff so that he can actually move around his living room without risk of injury.



Why is it that some people cannot *bear* to throw stuff away themselves? They look for someone to pass it on to, with the proviso that "this belonged to Great Aunt Mabel and she really loved it". Or "there's lots of wear in this yet, it will be fine to start you off". When the items are really ratty, worn out and should be burnt. Both B's mum and Denise are terrible at this.



We have promised to go round and help Horace with his furniture winnowing before B's mum comes back from holiday and guilt-trips him in to keeping everything.





extension work

Scary conversation I had yesterday with my mother:



Ma: Your father's home from hospital dear, he came home this afternoon. (He's been for about a week, for some angioplasty and to have a vein tied)



Me: Oh, great. How's he getting on?



Ma: Quite well. They asked him whether he wanted to keep the cathether in, but he said no.



Me: Ah.



Ma: (continuing, oblivious) ... so really, all he needs is an extension.



Me: Pardon?



Ma: Well dear, as he's got older, everything has *shrunk*, so he can't aim so well. He keeps missing the bottle.



Me: Ah. I think my 'call waiting' is going. Can I call you back some time when I've scrubbed my mind?



extension work

Scary conversation I had yesterday with my mother:



Ma: Your father's home from hospital dear, he came home this afternoon. (He's been for about a week, for some angioplasty and to have a vein tied)



Me: Oh, great. How's he getting on?



Ma: Quite well. They asked him whether he wanted to keep the cathether in, but he said no.



Me: Ah.



Ma: (continuing, oblivious) ... so really, all he needs is an extension.



Me: Pardon?



Ma: Well dear, as he's got older, everything has *shrunk*, so he can't aim so well. He keeps missing the bottle.



Me: Ah. I think my 'call waiting' is going. Can I call you back some time when I've scrubbed my mind?



Wednesday, 29 September 2004

hunting conspiracy theories

An employee/friend of my mother's is very pro-Countryside Alliance and has been attending most of the organised demos around the country. She took yesterday off to go and make her feelings felt at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton and, only half-joking, told Ma that she would be in to work today provided she hadn't been arrested.



Ma and I got in to a discussion about the pros and cons of banning hunting and the violence that had happened in London last week. Mum's friend was at the demo and she told her that the trouble had been started by some people dressed in 'country type' clothes that were obviously very new. Nobody else on the demo seemed to know who they were and the pro-hunting theory is that they were plants by some organisation that wants the Countryside Alliance to get a bad name. The mainstream Alliance is apparently very, very keen on peaceful protest and social responsibility, even making sure that they take all their litter home with them.



Conspiracy theory? Lies to get the Alliance out of trouble? The truth? Interesting urban myth?



It makes me very angry that for many people, the hunting debate is not really about hunting - it is a facet of a class war that we should have managed to resolve by now.



Many people perceive people who hunt as 'upper class' and 'rich'. This is certainly not the case in Somerset. The member of the Alliance I have been writing about in this post earns approximately £8,000 a year by working for a variety of different employers, doing jobs that many people wouldn't consider - for example, working in a duck unit, gutting ducks. She hunts because she enjoys riding to hounds, not because she enjoys watching animals get killed.



It is unfair and unjust that so much muddled thinking has informed the debate right from the beginning. There are so many other more important subjects to be debating rather than using hunting to revisit stereotypes that are outdated and incorrect.



hunting conspiracy theories

An employee/friend of my mother's is very pro-Countryside Alliance and has been attending most of the organised demos around the country. She took yesterday off to go and make her feelings felt at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton and, only half-joking, told Ma that she would be in to work today provided she hadn't been arrested.



Ma and I got in to a discussion about the pros and cons of banning hunting and the violence that had happened in London last week. Mum's friend was at the demo and she told her that the trouble had been started by some people dressed in 'country type' clothes that were obviously very new. Nobody else on the demo seemed to know who they were and the pro-hunting theory is that they were plants by some organisation that wants the Countryside Alliance to get a bad name. The mainstream Alliance is apparently very, very keen on peaceful protest and social responsibility, even making sure that they take all their litter home with them.



Conspiracy theory? Lies to get the Alliance out of trouble? The truth? Interesting urban myth?



It makes me very angry that for many people, the hunting debate is not really about hunting - it is a facet of a class war that we should have managed to resolve by now.



Many people perceive people who hunt as 'upper class' and 'rich'. This is certainly not the case in Somerset. The member of the Alliance I have been writing about in this post earns approximately £8,000 a year by working for a variety of different employers, doing jobs that many people wouldn't consider - for example, working in a duck unit, gutting ducks. She hunts because she enjoys riding to hounds, not because she enjoys watching animals get killed.



It is unfair and unjust that so much muddled thinking has informed the debate right from the beginning. There are so many other more important subjects to be debating rather than using hunting to revisit stereotypes that are outdated and incorrect.



the madness the madness the madness

I like September. September is a month of fruition, pleasing sunsets and being able to have a fire again without feeling guilty. However, it is also the month of THE MADNESS THE MADNESS THE MADNESS, workwise. The conference season has begun. All over the country HR departments are gathering their flocks in hotel conference suites and subjecting them to productivity graphs and motivational tirades, before announcing redundancies.



As a company, this is very good for us, as all of these events need lighting, sound and someone to operate the powerpoint presentations.



Personally it is less good, as sleep seems to get moved quite low down the list of priorities. The HR departments like to cut costs by requesting that technicians turn up on site at 6am, rather than doing the decent thing and paying extra for the conference room and some accommodation so that it can all be set up the day before. When the post-conference dinner finishes at midnight, with the newly motivated / redundant staff retiring for the night, very relaxed and often in couples, the techs still have a two or three hour get-out to do before they can drive home.



The EU Working Time Directive is inefficiently applied in the AV industry and it has a very high divorce rate.



the madness the madness the madness

I like September. September is a month of fruition, pleasing sunsets and being able to have a fire again without feeling guilty. However, it is also the month of THE MADNESS THE MADNESS THE MADNESS, workwise. The conference season has begun. All over the country HR departments are gathering their flocks in hotel conference suites and subjecting them to productivity graphs and motivational tirades, before announcing redundancies.



As a company, this is very good for us, as all of these events need lighting, sound and someone to operate the powerpoint presentations.



Personally it is less good, as sleep seems to get moved quite low down the list of priorities. The HR departments like to cut costs by requesting that technicians turn up on site at 6am, rather than doing the decent thing and paying extra for the conference room and some accommodation so that it can all be set up the day before. When the post-conference dinner finishes at midnight, with the newly motivated / redundant staff retiring for the night, very relaxed and often in couples, the techs still have a two or three hour get-out to do before they can drive home.



The EU Working Time Directive is inefficiently applied in the AV industry and it has a very high divorce rate.



Sunday, 19 September 2004

breastfeeding contract

Last night I dreamt that a production company we've just got involved with had lost a big contract with the "Daily Mail", as the paper had decided to breastfeed itself.



This is confusing. Surely the "Daily Mail", whilst advocating breastfeeding by people claiming benefits, illegal immigrants and single mothers, would employ a wetnurse?




breastfeeding contract

Last night I dreamt that a production company we've just got involved with had lost a big contract with the "Daily Mail", as the paper had decided to breastfeed itself.



This is confusing. Surely the "Daily Mail", whilst advocating breastfeeding by people claiming benefits, illegal immigrants and single mothers, would employ a wetnurse?




Friday, 17 September 2004

psychic-therapy

I had a particularly spectacular panic attack the other day, with lots of confusion associated with it. When I tried to meditate afterwards (always a good way of getting over them), I had the most extraordinary images and sensations of being beaten up and questioned, gestapo-stylie. B was with me, and he said afterwards that I was twitching and flinching in a way that was consistent with re-living some sort of experience like that.



(I should probably explain at this point that the panic attacks are sometimes tied in with situations where I am reminded of stuff that has happened to me in the past. So it is relatively common for me to have a bit of a flip out, then afterwards to be able to look back and relate what happened to a particular historical event. Generally, once I am aware of a potential reaction, I deal with it, re-process the original event that triggered it, and it doesn't happen again.)



I have no conscious memory of ever having been subject to the kind of experience I describe above.



B and I discussed it, and came up with two options:



  1. My brain is looking for structure to hang it's wierd feelings and sensations on and as I have a very active imagination it sometimes comes up with quite way-out scenarios.
  2. It was a past-life memory that was so strong that I have carried it with me.

I am open to the idea of past-lives. When I was a lot younger I did some 'dabbling' in that area, going in search of memories. My experiences then led me the conclusion that it's not a healthy thing to do just for kicks. If there is something that you need to deal with, it will come up and you can address it just as you would a present-life memory.

Working on that basis, situations 1 and 2 both can be dealt with in the same way, whether the memory is 'real' or not - re-process it, let it go and move on. Which is what I did.

Then, earlier this week I went for a final session with the cognitive behaviour therapist I have been seeing to help me manage the panic attacks. He is a NHS guy, *really* straight, very professional, very diffident. As we were getting towards the end of the session and drawing things to a close, he coughed, and said:



"Er, would you say that you had any religious beliefs of any kind?"
I was slightly taken aback and replied that I felt that religion per se wasn't really for me, although I liked to label myself as 'spiritual' and believed in a (pomposity alert) "moving moral force in the universe" . He went on:



"Would you say that you were open to the idea of reincarnation?"
I was even more taken aback. Not the kind of thing that your NHS CBT normally comes out with. I replied yes, and explained my 'don't look for stuff' attitude. He then went on:



"You may find that some of the things that you have been experiencing that you can't place - the confusion for instance - might be related to something that you have brought with you from before. So you will never know what caused that pattern to be triggered".
I was gobsmacked.



I told him about my own conclusions about the incident and I asked him whether this was the sort of thing that he normally said to clients. And he blushed. Apparently he has never, ever, suggested this to anyone before, or felt that he needed to. He has no strong feelings about it one way or another personally. He said that he just 'felt in to' the client, and suggested whatever he felt was appropriate.



So it looks like I have been having sessions with a psychic therapist :-).



I recounted this to my mother last night and she calmly trotted out two examples of past life memories that someone has told her about this week: A four year old girl who asked her mother for a go on her spinning wheel, span perfectly and told her astounded parent that she had always been able to spin, as she had remembered from 'before'. And a woman who has always been able to speak fluent arabic, despite never having learnt and never having spent any time anywhere she could have learnt or with anyone who could have taught her.



I am slightly wigged out - by the co-incidences, rather than the events themselves.


psychic-therapy

I had a particularly spectacular panic attack the other day, with lots of confusion associated with it. When I tried to meditate afterwards (always a good way of getting over them), I had the most extraordinary images and sensations of being beaten up and questioned, gestapo-stylie. B was with me, and he said afterwards that I was twitching and flinching in a way that was consistent with re-living some sort of experience like that.



(I should probably explain at this point that the panic attacks are sometimes tied in with situations where I am reminded of stuff that has happened to me in the past. So it is relatively common for me to have a bit of a flip out, then afterwards to be able to look back and relate what happened to a particular historical event. Generally, once I am aware of a potential reaction, I deal with it, re-process the original event that triggered it, and it doesn't happen again.)



I have no conscious memory of ever having been subject to the kind of experience I describe above.



B and I discussed it, and came up with two options:



  1. My brain is looking for structure to hang it's wierd feelings and sensations on and as I have a very active imagination it sometimes comes up with quite way-out scenarios.
  2. It was a past-life memory that was so strong that I have carried it with me.

I am open to the idea of past-lives. When I was a lot younger I did some 'dabbling' in that area, going in search of memories. My experiences then led me the conclusion that it's not a healthy thing to do just for kicks. If there is something that you need to deal with, it will come up and you can address it just as you would a present-life memory.

Working on that basis, situations 1 and 2 both can be dealt with in the same way, whether the memory is 'real' or not - re-process it, let it go and move on. Which is what I did.

Then, earlier this week I went for a final session with the cognitive behaviour therapist I have been seeing to help me manage the panic attacks. He is a NHS guy, *really* straight, very professional, very diffident. As we were getting towards the end of the session and drawing things to a close, he coughed, and said:



"Er, would you say that you had any religious beliefs of any kind?"
I was slightly taken aback and replied that I felt that religion per se wasn't really for me, although I liked to label myself as 'spiritual' and believed in a (pomposity alert) "moving moral force in the universe" . He went on:



"Would you say that you were open to the idea of reincarnation?"
I was even more taken aback. Not the kind of thing that your NHS CBT normally comes out with. I replied yes, and explained my 'don't look for stuff' attitude. He then went on:



"You may find that some of the things that you have been experiencing that you can't place - the confusion for instance - might be related to something that you have brought with you from before. So you will never know what caused that pattern to be triggered".
I was gobsmacked.



I told him about my own conclusions about the incident and I asked him whether this was the sort of thing that he normally said to clients. And he blushed. Apparently he has never, ever, suggested this to anyone before, or felt that he needed to. He has no strong feelings about it one way or another personally. He said that he just 'felt in to' the client, and suggested whatever he felt was appropriate.



So it looks like I have been having sessions with a psychic therapist :-).



I recounted this to my mother last night and she calmly trotted out two examples of past life memories that someone has told her about this week: A four year old girl who asked her mother for a go on her spinning wheel, span perfectly and told her astounded parent that she had always been able to spin, as she had remembered from 'before'. And a woman who has always been able to speak fluent arabic, despite never having learnt and never having spent any time anywhere she could have learnt or with anyone who could have taught her.



I am slightly wigged out - by the co-incidences, rather than the events themselves.


Thursday, 16 September 2004

duck love

When we were kids we had a duck-pond in the back garden, populated with mallard ducks. Every so often a few wild ducks would take up residence and some of the domestic population would either leave for pastures new or be culled by the local fox contigent, who saw the pond as the fox equivalent of the nearest chippy.



Eventually we were down to one elderly drake, christened 'Diddy' by my grandmother. Every day, Diddy, his fires undimmed by his years, would make the long trek down to the small marsh a couple of miles away, in search of Duck Love. Every evening as it was getting dark, my grandmother would become anxious about his safety and would mobilise a rescue party.



Come rain come shine, my mother, my sister and I would don our wellington boots, arm ourselves with torches and sticks and sally forth with the rallying cry of 'Diddy Diddy Duck!'. As we approached the marsh, all the resident duck population would scatter. Diddy would realise that he was in danger of losing his free bed and board and would fly the two miles home, leaving his lady-friend to fend for herself until tomorrow.



We would then walk the two miles back to the house, in the dark, to find both my grandmother and Diddy safely tucked up in bed by the time we arrived.



duck love

When we were kids we had a duck-pond in the back garden, populated with mallard ducks. Every so often a few wild ducks would take up residence and some of the domestic population would either leave for pastures new or be culled by the local fox contigent, who saw the pond as the fox equivalent of the nearest chippy.



Eventually we were down to one elderly drake, christened 'Diddy' by my grandmother. Every day, Diddy, his fires undimmed by his years, would make the long trek down to the small marsh a couple of miles away, in search of Duck Love. Every evening as it was getting dark, my grandmother would become anxious about his safety and would mobilise a rescue party.



Come rain come shine, my mother, my sister and I would don our wellington boots, arm ourselves with torches and sticks and sally forth with the rallying cry of 'Diddy Diddy Duck!'. As we approached the marsh, all the resident duck population would scatter. Diddy would realise that he was in danger of losing his free bed and board and would fly the two miles home, leaving his lady-friend to fend for herself until tomorrow.



We would then walk the two miles back to the house, in the dark, to find both my grandmother and Diddy safely tucked up in bed by the time we arrived.



Tuesday, 14 September 2004

don't eat pink food

A friend of B's family is known by them as "The Famous" Tammy Unwin, due to her useful hints and tips on how to get through life:

  • In an exam, if you don't know enough about the subject to write an essay, write ten things you do know, you'll be sure to get some marks.
  • Don't eat pink food, it's just wrong. (I am having trouble with this one at the moment because of all the beetroot).
  • Throw enough shit against the wall and some of it will stick.

We are going to adopt the last one as the marketing slogan of the company.

Monday, 13 September 2004

keith's proposition

When I told the neighbours that I was leaving Crazy Tom, they were devastated. They were a couple in their mid seventies, neither of whom were in the best of health and who had no children. I had got very friendly with them in the three years we'd been there. They knew the place I was moving to in the next village and some of Jan's relatives lived in the same street as my little house.



Keith used to get up quite early, long before Jan, and have a couple of cups of tea with a nip of rum in them. Sometimes more nip than tea.



One morning, as I was getting the car ready to go to work, I saw him coming down the path. At the time I had a very elderly metro that needed it's oil checking and topping up before nearly every journey.



Keith said hello and stood and watched me as I dipped the oil. Then, just as I was pouring the oil in to the engine, he struck up a conversation:



"Ally, Jan and I will miss you when you move up to your new house. I was wondering, if you like, I could give you a ring from the club one night when Jan has gone home early, and come up and see you, since you're not seeing anyone?"
Clearly "see you" was a euphemism.



I was so shocked that I spilled a pint of oil all over the engine block. I muttered something about not thinking it was a good idea, got in to the car and reversed out of the drive really fast - thankfully, and unusually, the car started first time.



Half way to work the engine got hot enough for the oil I'd spilt to start to burn off and I pulled in to a layby to have hysterics. The lorry driver who rescued me clearly thought I was mad as a fish, but neverless helped me sort it out.



Motto: Never assume that because your neighbour is seventy five and you are thirty one and just splitting up with your partner that he isn't considering whether you would "see" him.





keith's proposition

When I told the neighbours that I was leaving Crazy Tom, they were devastated. They were a couple in their mid seventies, neither of whom were in the best of health and who had no children. I had got very friendly with them in the three years we'd been there. They knew the place I was moving to in the next village and some of Jan's relatives lived in the same street as my little house.



Keith used to get up quite early, long before Jan, and have a couple of cups of tea with a nip of rum in them. Sometimes more nip than tea.



One morning, as I was getting the car ready to go to work, I saw him coming down the path. At the time I had a very elderly metro that needed it's oil checking and topping up before nearly every journey.



Keith said hello and stood and watched me as I dipped the oil. Then, just as I was pouring the oil in to the engine, he struck up a conversation:



"Ally, Jan and I will miss you when you move up to your new house. I was wondering, if you like, I could give you a ring from the club one night when Jan has gone home early, and come up and see you, since you're not seeing anyone?"
Clearly "see you" was a euphemism.



I was so shocked that I spilled a pint of oil all over the engine block. I muttered something about not thinking it was a good idea, got in to the car and reversed out of the drive really fast - thankfully, and unusually, the car started first time.



Half way to work the engine got hot enough for the oil I'd spilt to start to burn off and I pulled in to a layby to have hysterics. The lorry driver who rescued me clearly thought I was mad as a fish, but neverless helped me sort it out.



Motto: Never assume that because your neighbour is seventy five and you are thirty one and just splitting up with your partner that he isn't considering whether you would "see" him.





Friday, 10 September 2004

solo success

R's solo job went very well ... he seems happy, the client seems happy, B is happy. Muchos happiness all round.



They came back from day two of the same job yesterday in paroxyms over the guy setting up the satellite connection for today's presentation (of live eye surgery. Yeuch.). Not only is satellite time expensive, but slots have to be booked in advance even for an equipment test. Yesterday's conference session over-ran by twenty-five minutes and Satellite Guy was so wound up about making his test slot that he was shouting at the techs within five minutes of entering the room. Rather than this motivating them in any way to help him, they christened him "Stressed Ivor" and B had to go outside when one of the other guys started air-guitaring along to "Under Pressure".



Ironically, if he'd spoken to them in the afternoon break they would have had it all set up for him ready.



solo success

R's solo job went very well ... he seems happy, the client seems happy, B is happy. Muchos happiness all round.



They came back from day two of the same job yesterday in paroxyms over the guy setting up the satellite connection for today's presentation (of live eye surgery. Yeuch.). Not only is satellite time expensive, but slots have to be booked in advance even for an equipment test. Yesterday's conference session over-ran by twenty-five minutes and Satellite Guy was so wound up about making his test slot that he was shouting at the techs within five minutes of entering the room. Rather than this motivating them in any way to help him, they christened him "Stressed Ivor" and B had to go outside when one of the other guys started air-guitaring along to "Under Pressure".



Ironically, if he'd spoken to them in the afternoon break they would have had it all set up for him ready.



disembowelling elephants

Our vegetable box today contained more beetroot. I have decided that not only is my beetroot recipe collection pretty limited (not for much longer though, thanks to the BBC), but also, that beetroot scare me. I have made soup with them - and the kitchen looks like I have been disembowelling elephants.



We have decided to continue with the weekly box - it's changed our eating pattern for the better and rather than spending more money on food as we had feared, we actually seem to be spending less.



disembowelling elephants

Our vegetable box today contained more beetroot. I have decided that not only is my beetroot recipe collection pretty limited (not for much longer though, thanks to the BBC), but also, that beetroot scare me. I have made soup with them - and the kitchen looks like I have been disembowelling elephants.



We have decided to continue with the weekly box - it's changed our eating pattern for the better and rather than spending more money on food as we had feared, we actually seem to be spending less.



Thursday, 9 September 2004

leaving crazy tom

I finally left Crazy Tom in the summer of 2001, after nearly four years of increasingly cataclysmic rows, break-up-and-make-ups and eventually, physical violence. After deciding that I couldn't take any more in February 2001, it took me nearly six months to move out.



This was partly because of the difficulty of finding accommodation - I had, literally, nowhere to go, no friends locally to stay with and because I wasn't working full time, no money to afford to rent somewhere. It was also partly because by this stage in the relationship I was so disempowered that I had trouble making even very small decisions.



In early March, I found myself a very small, very dilapidated house that I could afford on my salary, in a village just north of Newport. In a gargantuan effort of will, I decorated it, furnished it and finally, with a wrench, moved in to it.



Then I packed a rucksack, caught a bus to Heathrow and went to Canada to visit some relatives and travel around for three weeks.



When I got back, the house was a haven. Until it was over, I had had no idea how much I dreaded coming home from work each day to Tom, gradually getting more and more tense on the journey, wondering what sort of mood he would be in when I walked through the door. The absolute relief of being able to go in to my own space, shut the door behind me, put the kettle on and sit in blessed peace is almost indescribable. There was no-one shouting. No-one punching walls or doors to demonstrate how angry they were, with the implicit threat that I was lucky it wasn't me being punched. There was no confrontation about what or when to eat, no issues about who to speak to or not to speak to. It was bliss.



Despite the fact that women living alone in the Welsh Valleys seem to be treated with slight suspicion, all my neighbours were lovely. It was odd to have normal conversations with them, about things like cutting the grass (the tiny house had a huge garden) or their geraniums, or how their kids were doing at school. These impersonal, brief interactions were all I had need of for quite a while.



A lot of our mutual friends had difficulty accepting that Tom had been abusive. On the surface, we had maintained a 'normality at all costs' facade. Even when we threw our regular sizeable parties, not one of our visitors had asked why there were fist-sized holes in every door in the house. I went through a period of intense anger at them, feeling let down and abandoned. As time went on it became obvious who was going to stay in touch and who wasn't and my feelings abated.



Gradually I started to interact with people on more than a superficial level again. I stopped treating everyone with suspicion. I stopped blaming myself for letting Tom treat me like that. And eventually, a relationship started to blossom with B, who was a friend I had known for years.



It was a year of change and a year of gained self-knowledge. I learnt that I had the strength to get myself out of a truly dreadful situation - barely, but I did it. And that I had the resources to start to build my life up again.



Blogging For Books #3: Adaptation



leaving crazy tom

I finally left Crazy Tom in the summer of 2001, after nearly four years of increasingly cataclysmic rows, break-up-and-make-ups and eventually, physical violence. After deciding that I couldn't take any more in February 2001, it took me nearly six months to move out.



This was partly because of the difficulty of finding accommodation - I had, literally, nowhere to go, no friends locally to stay with and because I wasn't working full time, no money to afford to rent somewhere. It was also partly because by this stage in the relationship I was so disempowered that I had trouble making even very small decisions.



In early March, I found myself a very small, very dilapidated house that I could afford on my salary, in a village just north of Newport. In a gargantuan effort of will, I decorated it, furnished it and finally, with a wrench, moved in to it.



Then I packed a rucksack, caught a bus to Heathrow and went to Canada to visit some relatives and travel around for three weeks.



When I got back, the house was a haven. Until it was over, I had had no idea how much I dreaded coming home from work each day to Tom, gradually getting more and more tense on the journey, wondering what sort of mood he would be in when I walked through the door. The absolute relief of being able to go in to my own space, shut the door behind me, put the kettle on and sit in blessed peace is almost indescribable. There was no-one shouting. No-one punching walls or doors to demonstrate how angry they were, with the implicit threat that I was lucky it wasn't me being punched. There was no confrontation about what or when to eat, no issues about who to speak to or not to speak to. It was bliss.



Despite the fact that women living alone in the Welsh Valleys seem to be treated with slight suspicion, all my neighbours were lovely. It was odd to have normal conversations with them, about things like cutting the grass (the tiny house had a huge garden) or their geraniums, or how their kids were doing at school. These impersonal, brief interactions were all I had need of for quite a while.



A lot of our mutual friends had difficulty accepting that Tom had been abusive. On the surface, we had maintained a 'normality at all costs' facade. Even when we threw our regular sizeable parties, not one of our visitors had asked why there were fist-sized holes in every door in the house. I went through a period of intense anger at them, feeling let down and abandoned. As time went on it became obvious who was going to stay in touch and who wasn't and my feelings abated.



Gradually I started to interact with people on more than a superficial level again. I stopped treating everyone with suspicion. I stopped blaming myself for letting Tom treat me like that. And eventually, a relationship started to blossom with B, who was a friend I had known for years.



It was a year of change and a year of gained self-knowledge. I learnt that I had the strength to get myself out of a truly dreadful situation - barely, but I did it. And that I had the resources to start to build my life up again.



Blogging For Books #3: Adaptation



all quiet on the western front

I have been reading All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, this week. I was particularly struck by one quote:





"The summer of 1918 is the most bloody and the most terrible. The days stand like angels in blue and gold, incomprehensible, above the ring of annihilation".
I have come away from it with a real sense of the futility of conflict. Whatever we do and however we act, the days pass and the seasons flow by, regardless. Apparently the Nazis saw the book as 'defeatist' and were burning it in Berlin by 1933. Remarque became an exile until his death in 1970.



The absolute horror of it all - the mud, the shelling, the exhaustion, the sheer pointlessness of it - is slowly being relegated to history. From a 'war to end all wars' that was part of the memory of people all over the world it has become something that lives only in literature and handed down stories.



For example, from B's Aunt Kate, who's siblings had a terrible time growing up in the twenties and thirties. Their father was a violent alcoholic. But she remembers being told by a neighbour that before he went to war, he was the most sought-after man in the area by all the girls. His experience in the trenches had damaged him irrevocably.



Or my grandfather, who drove one of the early tanks. I can just about remember him, including the fact that his ear was deformed. The tank had caught fire with him inside it and he had been terribly burned. And had then had experimental plastic surgery. When he was dying, he started hallucinating that he was back in the trenches and the rats were eating his boots.



If the experiences of the individual in war are so terrible - both for the soldier and for the civilian, why do we keep doing it? I don't have any answers or a clever political argument. But I tend to agree with the person who said that anyone who wants to rule should automatically be disqualified from doing so.



I am going to re-read
Goodbye to All That next.



all quiet on the western front

I have been reading All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, this week. I was particularly struck by one quote:





"The summer of 1918 is the most bloody and the most terrible. The days stand like angels in blue and gold, incomprehensible, above the ring of annihilation".
I have come away from it with a real sense of the futility of conflict. Whatever we do and however we act, the days pass and the seasons flow by, regardless. Apparently the Nazis saw the book as 'defeatist' and were burning it in Berlin by 1933. Remarque became an exile until his death in 1970.



The absolute horror of it all - the mud, the shelling, the exhaustion, the sheer pointlessness of it - is slowly being relegated to history. From a 'war to end all wars' that was part of the memory of people all over the world it has become something that lives only in literature and handed down stories.



For example, from B's Aunt Kate, who's siblings had a terrible time growing up in the twenties and thirties. Their father was a violent alcoholic. But she remembers being told by a neighbour that before he went to war, he was the most sought-after man in the area by all the girls. His experience in the trenches had damaged him irrevocably.



Or my grandfather, who drove one of the early tanks. I can just about remember him, including the fact that his ear was deformed. The tank had caught fire with him inside it and he had been terribly burned. And had then had experimental plastic surgery. When he was dying, he started hallucinating that he was back in the trenches and the rats were eating his boots.



If the experiences of the individual in war are so terrible - both for the soldier and for the civilian, why do we keep doing it? I don't have any answers or a clever political argument. But I tend to agree with the person who said that anyone who wants to rule should automatically be disqualified from doing so.



I am going to re-read
Goodbye to All That next.



Wednesday, 8 September 2004

flying solo

R has gone out on his first job solo today, as B is finishing off another job elsewhere. In the time-honoured tradition of the AV industry we could have booked them out another twice each this week.



I am sitting at home biting my nails and hoping it will all go well for him - he is technically competent, but flying solo for the first time is always unnerving. B is going to go in with him tomorrow morning to fine-tune things, so he really has nothing to worry about. He still is though :-).



flying solo

R has gone out on his first job solo today, as B is finishing off another job elsewhere. In the time-honoured tradition of the AV industry we could have booked them out another twice each this week.



I am sitting at home biting my nails and hoping it will all go well for him - he is technically competent, but flying solo for the first time is always unnerving. B is going to go in with him tomorrow morning to fine-tune things, so he really has nothing to worry about. He still is though :-).



poultry terrorism

A further update on the Chicken Situation. The veervolt cockerel has an attitude problem. Despite being on the far side of the farm from the salmon faverolle family, when he is let out of his house in the morning the first thing he does is run around to the other chicken pen and terrorise Mr Salmon Faverolle.



My mother has christened him Bin Laden - "Well dear, all he wants to do is terrorise people who aren't doing anything to hurt him".



poultry terrorism

A further update on the Chicken Situation. The veervolt cockerel has an attitude problem. Despite being on the far side of the farm from the salmon faverolle family, when he is let out of his house in the morning the first thing he does is run around to the other chicken pen and terrorise Mr Salmon Faverolle.



My mother has christened him Bin Laden - "Well dear, all he wants to do is terrorise people who aren't doing anything to hurt him".



Monday, 6 September 2004

changing seasons

I get melancholy at this time of year in the town - I heard wild geese flying overhead yesterday and it made me wistful for the country. I sometimes feel that I am trapped here, surrounded by concrete, and that I will never get out.



It's illogical - I have chosen to be here, with B, and I am happy here. I appreciate all the conveniences of urban living, for example, not having to drive six miles to buy a pint of milk. Having lots of friends living within walking distance is a definite positive point. And I dislike the parochiality of country living - the 'no man is an island'-ness of it. There is an anonymity to living the town that I enjoy.



But I miss the country. I miss watching the hills change with the seasons, from green to red to brown and then back to green again. I miss the silence. I miss the sense of being part of the land and the cycle of the seasons that I get when I am in that environment. I miss the trees.



I need to plough on with the project to turn the yard in to a micro-garden.





changing seasons

I get melancholy at this time of year in the town - I heard wild geese flying overhead yesterday and it made me wistful for the country. I sometimes feel that I am trapped here, surrounded by concrete, and that I will never get out.



It's illogical - I have chosen to be here, with B, and I am happy here. I appreciate all the conveniences of urban living, for example, not having to drive six miles to buy a pint of milk. Having lots of friends living within walking distance is a definite positive point. And I dislike the parochiality of country living - the 'no man is an island'-ness of it. There is an anonymity to living the town that I enjoy.



But I miss the country. I miss watching the hills change with the seasons, from green to red to brown and then back to green again. I miss the silence. I miss the sense of being part of the land and the cycle of the seasons that I get when I am in that environment. I miss the trees.



I need to plough on with the project to turn the yard in to a micro-garden.





Saturday, 4 September 2004

mind the otters

I woke up B up in the night yelling "Mind the otters!" in my sleep. I apparently explained to him that we'd been driving along a country road at night when suddenly a group of otters had rushed in to the headlights in front of us. They were all wearing raincoats and trilby hats and carrying small cardboard suitcases. It was important that they crossed the road quickly, as they were escaping from a detention centre not far away and the goons were after them.



I have no recollection of this at all.



mind the otters

I woke up B up in the night yelling "Mind the otters!" in my sleep. I apparently explained to him that we'd been driving along a country road at night when suddenly a group of otters had rushed in to the headlights in front of us. They were all wearing raincoats and trilby hats and carrying small cardboard suitcases. It was important that they crossed the road quickly, as they were escaping from a detention centre not far away and the goons were after them.



I have no recollection of this at all.



Friday, 3 September 2004

moving uncle horace

Along with B's father, yesterday we helped B's Uncle Horace move out of the house that he has lived in all his life and in to sheltered accommodation. This has all happened quite quickly, for reasons too complicated to explain in full, involving landlords, housing associations and the holiday commitments of B's parents.

I don't have any uncles or aunts of my own (unless you count my mother's cousin, Aunt E, who plays the accordian, has a beard and who radiates the good-natured enthusiasm common to all retired reception-class teachers I have ever met), so this part of the whole family dynamic is a bit foreign to me. Uncle Horace is a very nice, normal chap, who's only weak point is a tendency to find 'priceless antiques' in corners of his house on a regular basis. cf the 'original' Lowry paintings in his dining room and his priceless Van Gogh biscuit tin.

Despite this though, he is a very pragmatic type, who wasn't at all fazed about moving out of the family home. B's mum, however, suddenly had a wobble about it all last week and got very upset - she was born in the house too, although she's not lived there for thirty years. The whole thing was made more complicated by the fact that she was working away from home this week and has had to oversee the operation by remote control.

She hired in a men-and-van team, who were supposed to move all the stuff Horace needed and then tip all the stuff he didn't. They did the first part and not the second. They required paying in cash (no surprises there), but B's mum had told B's dad that they would invoice us. Hence the following conversation:

B's dad: You'll be billing us?

Van-man: No, we're removal men!

B's dad: No, you'll be billing us?

Van-man: (looks round at B and I helplessly) No, no, we're not builders, we're removal men!

By this stage he had already had the conversation with Horace about the priceless van Gogh biscuit tin and the 'original' Constable table mats, so the whites of his eyes were beginning to show. B had to leave the room so he didn't disgrace himself laughing.

Exit B's dad, grumpily, to the cash point.

moving uncle horace

Along with B's father, yesterday we helped B's Uncle Horace move out of the house that he has lived in all his life and in to sheltered accommodation. This has all happened quite quickly, for reasons too complicated to explain in full, involving landlords, housing associations and the holiday commitments of B's parents.

I don't have any uncles or aunts of my own (unless you count my mother's cousin, Aunt E, who plays the accordian, has a beard and who radiates the good-natured enthusiasm common to all retired reception-class teachers I have ever met), so this part of the whole family dynamic is a bit foreign to me. Uncle Horace is a very nice, normal chap, who's only weak point is a tendency to find 'priceless antiques' in corners of his house on a regular basis. cf the 'original' Lowry paintings in his dining room and his priceless Van Gogh biscuit tin.

Despite this though, he is a very pragmatic type, who wasn't at all fazed about moving out of the family home. B's mum, however, suddenly had a wobble about it all last week and got very upset - she was born in the house too, although she's not lived there for thirty years. The whole thing was made more complicated by the fact that she was working away from home this week and has had to oversee the operation by remote control.

She hired in a men-and-van team, who were supposed to move all the stuff Horace needed and then tip all the stuff he didn't. They did the first part and not the second. They required paying in cash (no surprises there), but B's mum had told B's dad that they would invoice us. Hence the following conversation:

B's dad: You'll be billing us?

Van-man: No, we're removal men!

B's dad: No, you'll be billing us?

Van-man: (looks round at B and I helplessly) No, no, we're not builders, we're removal men!

By this stage he had already had the conversation with Horace about the priceless van Gogh biscuit tin and the 'original' Constable table mats, so the whites of his eyes were beginning to show. B had to leave the room so he didn't disgrace himself laughing.

Exit B's dad, grumpily, to the cash point.

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

soap making for ex young offenders

Conversation with 'Learn Direct' helpline advisor, whilst trying to find course on soap making for client who had decided he wanted to be a self-employed soap maker.



Me: Hello, I wonder if you can help? I am calling on behalf of a client, who is looking for courses on soap making.



Helpline advisor: Pardon me for asking, but has your client seen the film 'Fight Club'?


Part of my role at The Company That Cannot Be Named was 'Jobsearch Tutor'. The clue is in the name - I was supposed to teach people how to search for appropriate jobs, help them write letters and CVs and brush up on interview techniques. It also incidentally involved hints and tips on personal hygiene, dress and timekeeping.



Other favoured career paths for clients also included:

  • Self employed mobile grocery sales person - client had unexpired driving ban and no experience as either grocer or, indeed, sales person of any kind
  • Boat builder - Again, no experience, when we organised a weeks work experience for client, he didn't turn up.
  • Chef - got client modern apprenticeship position, he failed to attend.

Disillusion reigned.



soap making for ex young offenders

Conversation with 'Learn Direct' helpline advisor, whilst trying to find course on soap making for client who had decided he wanted to be a self-employed soap maker.



Me: Hello, I wonder if you can help? I am calling on behalf of a client, who is looking for courses on soap making.



Helpline advisor: Pardon me for asking, but has your client seen the film 'Fight Club'?


Part of my role at The Company That Cannot Be Named was 'Jobsearch Tutor'. The clue is in the name - I was supposed to teach people how to search for appropriate jobs, help them write letters and CVs and brush up on interview techniques. It also incidentally involved hints and tips on personal hygiene, dress and timekeeping.



Other favoured career paths for clients also included:

  • Self employed mobile grocery sales person - client had unexpired driving ban and no experience as either grocer or, indeed, sales person of any kind
  • Boat builder - Again, no experience, when we organised a weeks work experience for client, he didn't turn up.
  • Chef - got client modern apprenticeship position, he failed to attend.

Disillusion reigned.