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Friday, 25 October 2013

The Abandoned

I've always been monumentally disastrous at goodbyes and tonight, for the first time, I think I know why. I've just watched C4's documentary programme "Unreported World". This week it was about a group of mentally ill campaigners - the Colectivo Chuhcanin - in Mexico City who were returning to local psychiatric institutions to report on the appalling conditions there. It was truly shocking; an elderly woman tied to her wheelchair ALL day, vulnerable men raped by other patients and staff who confessed that the mentally ill are not worthy of human rights. In any case, who'd believe them? These people are abandoned in these hell holes for year upon year upon year and some, through tears, were desperately asking to be rescued. The impact this had on the group, who had first hand experience of these conditions, was deeply moving. They were the lucky ones because they were able to leave; their families supported them and they could scrape together enough money for medication. But how could they abandon the others? people just like them. Human beings, just like us.

This is my Mum, Andrea, when she was in her early twenties taken on the roof of the Maudsley, a psychiatric hospital in London. She was recovering from a breakdown, one of several she's had over the past fifty years. Several years after this photo was taken Andrea was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She has made many attempts on her life, and lost a leg in the 1980's following one very near miss. Now at the age of seventy, she manages her life in sheltered housing with some measure of independence, but it's still a daily struggle. The medication is constant and only last year she spent three months in hospital. Apart from when I was very little (and I have no memory of this) I've never lived with Andrea. I have always visited her wherever she is including many psychiatric wards. So between mum and daughter it's been a lifetime of "goodbyes".

How fortunate we are that conditions on our psychiatric wards are, in the main, good. There's no doubt that Mum, particularly in recent years, has had some really positive treatment. It wasn't always like this though and I've said goodbye to her in some pretty grim places. Places where I see she is not respected nor understood. Places where she isn't heard nor encouraged. Places where I know she would rather not be. Sometimes, even when it's not that bad, it kills you to walk away. So I empathise with Colectivo Chuhcan and commend their brilliant cause.

Please watch this film:-
The Abandoned - Unreported World

Please support this campaign:-
Disability Rights International

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Field is Wide Open

 I've been doing a lot of thinking this week...
 And driving in the countryside near Scunthorpe.
 I figured I've taken many twists and turns so far....

Where next?

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


I've been having big problems recently leaving my dog and going to work. Look at this photo for example of my little snuggly wuggly munchkin (she's on my lap not on my left shoulder - that's my pet ferret):-

I'm not the only one struggling with parting from the pooch of a morning...


...So, in the interests of mental wellbeing, I've decided to jack in the job and write my kids a permanent sick note off school.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Life On The Open Road

You know how much I love Scunthorpe? I spend every day of my working week here and we get on pretty nicely. But, I have to confess, life has got much more fun since I bought my exit plan:-

Isn't she, or he, lovely....does a Hymer have a gender? I haven't dared look up how old an "H" reg makes it. I just fell for its beige cushioned U-shaped lounge and it's cassette deck complete with an early Scott Walker album (before he went all avant garde). And the guy selling it was so friendly, he even offered to foster some kids, if we bought it. As it turned out he didn't, which was probably for the best, but he knocked off a few hundred quid. And so we drove it away - after a quick jump start - from its depot in Rotherham, ignoring the rattle and the cost at the garage for a dash of diesel. No, we were in love and that included my children who had already christened it with headstands on the bed. Even our dog, Margot, looked excited. You can always tell because she pisses herself; right on the aforementioned beige cushion as it happened on this occasion.

I felt like a queen sitting high high up above the M1 in my passenger seat complete with arm rests and swivel settings. It mattered not that the window whistled, the light bulb fell from its shade landing on my head, and Pete could see absolutely nothing whatsoever at roundabouts due to it being a left-hand drive. Like the inexplicable love I feel for a mini wire-haired dachshund with a weak bladder, I felt it too for this cranky old campervan. Our family was complete. And when I first saw a fellow van driver do the "motorhome salute" I was honestly beside myself. Did that really happen - was I in a new club now? Again and again as we cruised at 55 miles per hour on the slow lane of the motorway, we were greeted with our new salute. You can only imagine the ecstasy and the flail of the forearm when we passed a fellow Hymer. Life cannot get any better than this.

On the journey home, we drew up plans; one weekend North Yorkshire, next the Lincolnshire Wolds. Next spring Brighton, next summer Edinburgh and France. Hell, at this rate, I was heading for Berlin and on to Nizhny Novgorod.

We got as far as Wetwang. It was wet in Wetwang. It turned out that that rattle was the fan belt which slowly fell apart to the point where we completely lost all power. Pete rooted around in the engine and returned with a few bits and pieces, the likes of which we didn't recognise. Whatever their original purpose, they now appeared post-prime. Even the guy who showed up from the AA struggled to ascertain what they were. He was a great guy though. he fiddled about in the pouring rain, with both he and Pete rocking us in the campervan up and down so they could get a screw loose (I kid you not). As we waited, Frank and Connie got to draw in felt tip all over my face, then steal my money from my purse holding me to ransom because I had "ruined their adventure". Meanwhile Margot looked excited (you know how you can tell).

Here's Frank with MY ten pound note caressed in the arm of his blue dalek. In the end we compromised on a fiver each and a camp-out when we got home on the living room sofas pushed together. We know how to live reader! And we did get home....eventually. The AA guy worked his magic, fixed everything at no extra cost, parts and all, and waved us off. So we didn't make it to Flamingo Land, nor the campsite near Pickering that had come at great recommendation. But truth is, the weather was shite, we'd left the bacardi behind and Strictly Come Dancing was about to start. I guess in some of those posh super-whizzy motorhomes you get all the mod cons like tellies and drinks cabinets and cd players and operating fan belts and windows that shut and light fittings that stay fixed with children who sit quietly playing ludo and dogs that sleep in baskets and pee in pots. But where would be the fun in that??

I LOVE my Hymer with all it's quirks. Whatever that AA guy did the engine sounds so good I reckon we really could go all the way now. So if you ever happen to be driving through Scunthorpe on a Friday after work and you spot us - Scott Walker blaring out as we give you a club salute - then give us a toot, we may just be making the break for Nizhny.

Connie, Margot and Pete - October 2013

Saturday, 12 October 2013

School Hours Breakdown

I could really relate to Gary Numan's "confessions" about depression and parenting. It feels so wrong to bring the two together because, for me, becoming a mum was the best thing that could happen. But Christ, did it do my nut in.

What I find interesting about Numan's story is that depression was something both he and his wife endured. This made it ten times worse because, at a time when the pressure's on simply to meet the basic needs of young children, neither could be there for each other emotionally. 

Again, I can relate to this. Both Pete and I struggled with our moods, especially in the early years of parenting. This was not merely the effect of exhaustion, lack of "us time", career stagnation mixed with an extra glass of wine (or two) to cope; although this clearly didn't help. No reader, it was much deeper than that.

Pete and I at one point or another, along the incredible journey of becoming "Mum and Dad" to our gorgeous pair, hit complete and utter rock bottom. To even catch the eye of one another during this darkness was like a glimpse in the mirror; the naked truth of how one felt, reflected in the other. It makes you run a mile. Needless to say, we were hardly a support for each other and that made it so much worse. At times you even wonder if you'll make it through together; it certainly tested us.

And yet the irony; these lovely little things bringing so much pleasure and fun into our worlds. Our determination to capture it, to run with it and to do our damdest to keep things stable and secure for them; for us. Our recoveries were slow, they needed to be. Sometimes we still struggle but, equally, we've moved on, together. We've changed so much around us and yet, within our family bubble, so much remains. The bonds are strong and we keep playing.

Gary Numan's story

Back in the early days - leaving home!