Monthly Archives: February 2015

Survivor

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Dear friend of many years, mother of gorgeous children, domestic violence and coercive control survivor

Listening to a song on my playlist earlier I stopped and stared out of the window and felt a shiver, then as the song ended and moved onto the next one and I breathed a sigh of relief. The shiver was nothing, nothing at all, compared to what you had gone through all those years ago.

You told me you had met someone who was charming and good looking and ideal and the one. I met him. He was charming, he was good looking, he was arrogant, he was rude, he wasn’t ideal and he certainly wasn’t the one. Well he was the one, the one who belittled you, made you feel worthless and tried to keep you away from your friends. My first thought was he loved you so much he wanted to keep you to himself in the early days, but the early days turned into weeks and you stopped returning my calls immediately like you previously had done and your texts weren’t as daft and batty as they used to be

Maybe our friendship had come to an end, maybe our lives were so different that we’d run our course. But I wasn’t going to give up. I couldn’t. I felt you needed me. My gut instinct about him was strong. I didn’t trust him and I didn’t like him.

I didn’t know what to do all those years ago, I didn’t know who to tell and besides who would take any notice of someone who said I think my friend is a victim of domestic violence because she’s stopped contacting me, never returns my calls and seems unhappy?

Well I didn’t give up caring or worrying and my perseverance paid off. I found an old email and sent you a quick message on the off chance. When I got a reply I was overjoyed. You’d moved. Twice. You were living in the middle of nowhere. We arranged to meet up when you knew he was out. I had never been so scared for myself, but also for you. It was a tense meeting. I wanted to scoop you and the children up and bring you back home. But I didn’t.

You moved again and we arranged to meet up. This time you were different. Stronger. In control. You’d admitted he was no good. He moved out. He was ugly, angry and his behaviour showed how vindictive he was. But you were back. Not the old you, but the signs of the old you were visible.

Now after years away from that evil controlling man you aren’t an absent friend anymore. You’re a survivor and when you sent me a message saying “thank you for standing by and persevering, never giving up on me I will never forget you and what you did” I cried tears of relief.

If you’ve got this far and you’re thinking oh my that sounds familiar, do something, say something. I didn’t know what to do or say but I had to keep lines of communication open. It was only after completing a course on coercive control that I fully understood the enormity of those negative comments, the lack of respect, the alienation, the constant putting down, the nastiness.

My friend wasn’t alone. There are so many relationships where one partner lives in fear, where children are helpless, where families are torn apart. But there is help.

Phone the Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency

http://www.refuge.org.uk

http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk

http://www.womensaid.org.uk

Nicknames

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Oh I do love a good nickname, some are names that stick after an incident, some are shortened versions of names, some are given to people based on their heritage, looks or personality and some are given in cruel jest. 

 When I say my name is Nellie I am often asked if it is short for anything. Well in many cases it is – Helen, Fenella, Ellen but I’m not shortened (well I am short), no I’m nicknamed as my real name is Rosemary and I dislike that name for me. I’ve only been called Rosemary a handful of times. Once at a swimming lesson and my brother told the teacher that I don’t answer to Rosemary (as I was drowning), at our wedding Douglas the vicar said he would only call me Rosemary in the parts that really mattered. I was asked what name I preferred when hauled up in front of a Sgt and I said Nellie, I only get called Rosemary when I’m being told off. He called me Rosemary. I’m not fond of my name. 

Big Welsh has friends with brilliant nicknames. I think the story I love best is about Janet so called as he used his sister’s satchel and she was called Janet!

At school one of our friends Lucy was nicknamed Lucy in the sky diamonds by another friend’s stepfather who was in the music industry. My friend Lucy has had a variety of nicknames like Bessie, Zee, Princess. I’ve actually really not done any research on what is the most nick named name!

I do laugh when people choose baby names so they can’t be shortened, but they’re very often lengthened!! My girls have a variety of nicknames but I tend to call them each other’s names!  

Surnames also attract nicknames, a friend is double barrelled and is known as Julian Double-Barrelled, somehow my surname Pritchard-Gordon was translated as Seahorse-Johnson. 

Friends are also affectionately known by their job like Harriet Hunter-Gatherer, Georgie Flower-Farmer, Jane Treasure-Pods, Sacha HeadSmart-Campaign

My granny once told me that her friend’s son was called Lloyd at the moment. I thought that was rather strange so questioned if he had a regular name change!  She looked at me like I was a fool (yes, I am) and said that what she actually said was he’s unemployed at the moment. He’s still referred to as Lloyd. Names stick! 

Sometimes though people grow out of their nicknames but they’re always there at the back of my mind Fiona (Nonie), Rich (Jit Jit), Jeremy (Jumper), Alex (Ally Pally), Alexandra (Tiggy), Nickle (Nick), Emmboo (Emma). 

Then there’s the names you only call people in the comfort of your own home, there’s someone from school who is known as she whose name should not be mentioned. Maybe 30 years later we could call her Sally but no she can stick with the name she was given because. Just because. 

What’s your experience of nicknames? 

A day filled with love and laughter

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I’ll remember Saturday 14 February 2015 with a smile. It was the first day of half term and I was making the children get up early so we could go for coffee with a friend. In Malvern. Two hours away. As we were also going to stay at Granny Valley’s we took overnight bags and wellies. Oh yes and the dog. In a Mini.

The seating arrangement got a bit complicated so everyone changed seats and I repacked the car around everyone. Cosy journey! Then we set off on our Feb half term, 4 of us and a dog in a mini #fivegomadinamini.

Going back to Malvern just makes me smile and it’s only now I realise how extraordinarily lucky we were to be educated in such a beautiful spot even though we didn’t think so at the time. I keep threatening to walk up to St Anne’s Well and one day I will. I might not be able to run up there like I did in the 80 but I’ll walk it!

I met up with Fiona who I saw last year after not seeing each other for – oh – 15 years or so. We just fell into comfortable chat and laughed about things as well as being sensible and serious. She asked where Big Welsh was during this weekend and I told her he was having a weekend some only dream of. A weekend of no children, no wife and no dog but with cycling, rugby and peace!

All too soon we had to leave to get to Lizzie’s. Of course I got lost, took lots of wrong turnings and hared up to her front door a little more five have gone mad in a mini as opposed to #fivegomadinamini but we had a delicious lunch, interrupted by daft dogs vying for attention from each other or avoiding it! Lovely and relaxed with lots of laughter.

We talked a lot about books as Laree is very much my mini me in the book department and also Lizzie has written 2 books, one of which I’ve not read but I have read Who are you? and I’d recommend it. It’s a hard read in places but very cleverly written and in my mind a book that stays with you is a good book.

Then it was time to head off to the valleys, to spend the evening with the inlaws. Not a romantic night in with Big Welsh but a lovely evening all the same and the nice thing for Granny was she had all her grandchildren under one roof and that really makes her happy.

Of course being away from home means things aren’t the same as at home so I spent the night with Mook, Laree and Arthur and the duvet was weighed down at the end of the bed, kicked off and yanked back so I woke up tired! But happily tired.

Oh yes it was Valentines Day, but I don’t need expensive gifts or cards and banners declaring undying love for me on the one day of the year that everyone says you must be romantic, I’d much rather have days like yesterday that are filled with love and laughter.

Parents’ Evening

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Two words. One dread. I’ve always been wary of teacher/parent consultation since my biology teacher told my mum I was a cretin. Oh and add in the verbal criticism that was echoed in the written report. I know I should have tried harder but I didn’t and there were only 2 teachers that actually inspired me and that was English and Cookery. Whilst I loved French and Art I wouldn’t say my teachers were inspiring but I persevered because I enjoyed those subjects.

Anyway enough of me!

Monday evening was the dreaded day and 730 the allocated time. Off we went with Loops to her first parents’ evening at college. The tutor called us in and asked her how she was getting on to which she replied ok. Loops is a girl of few words but ok means ok! The tutor went through the report and highlighted examples of good work, praised her for her attendance and handing in her work on time, then said what every parent wants to hear in that situation.

“Loops is a very polite girl, with impeccable manners, a pleasure to teach and a joy to have in the class”

My heart soared. You see my Loops had a significant hearing loss when she was little and her hearing was only in a normal range when she was 8. Not only has she had to learn to listen she’s also had to learn to concentrate and find the confidence to put her hand up when she doesn’t understand or has misheard something.

But she’s doing well and with some extra support and encouragement her confidence will soar. High. Way up high like my heart did.

Happy places

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There’s lots of places that put a smile on my face and one of them is most definitely Wales, that beautiful country of song, tradition, rugby and many other lovely lovely things like THE best brownies and crazy ice cream to name but a few!

I’d been to Wales on a school or Brownie visit, we parked outside a big building in Cardiff and then went to St Fagans.  For many years that was my experience of Cardiff. Lots of my school friends lived in Wales and I have happy memories of holidays in Dale, Newquay and Aberaeron.  My grandparents lived in Bath and junction 17 was the furthest I regularly went on the M4. All that changed on some enchanted evening when I met Big Welsh, the roughy toughy cricketer friend of my brother.

Shortly after meeting him we went to Cardiff Arms Park to see Simple Minds in concert, we stayed at his parents’ house in the valleys and met up with his friends – all of whom had nicknames relating to a funny incident or scrape. We had a great weekend and returned home with the car full of Brains and Welsh cakes.

As the years went on we returned to the valleys to see the inlaws and friends, visiting people along the way. Many friends from school had moved away and lots of Big W’s friends had moved to England, so our visits to Wales tapered off.  When the girls arrived a long car journey with little people wasn’t anyone’s idea of fun! We used to  spend time with my sister in law but when she died our visits were shorter and didn’t involve as much daftness!

All that changed when a school friend who had lived over the world came home following the heartbreaking news she had an incurable brain tumour. Friends rallied together and we began the familiar journey to Wales for weekends and high jinkery. Being in Cardiff meant I was nearer to my inlaws so would nip up the A470 and pop in for coffee, and when I wasn’t staying in Cardiff I would stay with them, sometimes leaving the girls to spend precious time with their grandparents. I caught up with lots of friends I’d not seen ages and the girls loved visiting the arcades in Cardiff, gobsmacked that their middle aged parted used to buy DMs from Buzz & Co.

As our visits increased so did my familiarisation. Cardiff is no longer somewhere I get lost, Brecon is my bolt hole and the drive through Pontsticill is something I yearn for. It’s so funny that we head down the M4 to my inlaws without my husband when so many of my friends don’t have great experiences with theirs. I’m blessed.

There’s still a lot more places I want to visit but for now we’re looking forward to weekends at Glanusk, visits to the valleys, bimbling in Brecon, Hay Festival, climbing Pen y Fan, lazy days in the Gower, cultural and shopping days in Cardiff as well as nipping in to places we’ve got to know along the way and seeing friends.

Wales is firmly in my heart and with a Welsh husband, 3 girls who are Welsh in all but country of birth and a dog from Brecon I couldn’t be happier!

Cancer is such a nasty word, an evil disease and I hate it

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I’ve got this friend, she’s called Clare, she’s an Aussie married to a Frenchman, I call her Madame Cholet. Our girls were at school together, we’ve spent summer holidays with them in Brittany and La Rochelle, we’ve done the Bordeaux city break and she stays here when she’s in the UK.  I also call her often as she’s moved to Bordeaux. She’s had breast cancer that spread to the hip and lung, she wore a wig and never lost her sense of humour.  One summer Laree woke up in the night and walked into the wardrobe, then screamed as she was lost.  Cholet ran in with her bed bonnet on – that stopped Laree crying!!  Sometimes we don’t speak for weeks but it doesn’t matter. For some reason it did matter to me last Sunday as I dreamt she had gone on the lash with a Twitter follower and they were sending selfies and cocktail texts.  Charming.

The next morning I had a message to call her after school run so I did.

The chat went like this:

N. Hey bonjour.

C. Hey there g’day

N. Phoning before 9, not had coffee

C. Oh darl

N. What’s the news?

C. Well I didn’t want you to hear in an email

N. Oh shit. What?

C. Well I wasn’t feeling too great during a class and …

N. Yes and what?

C. The cancer has spread to my brain

N. No. How bloody can it?

C. I know

N. So what now? Am I coming to Bordeaux soon?

C. That’d be lovely but I don’t know how I’ll be what with treatment and things

N. I can hold your hand

C. That’d be nice

N. With a glass in the other

C. That’d be nice

N. So what?

C. Well I don’t know when I’ll start radiotherapy and chemotherapy

N. Shall we do birthdays?

C. That’d be good.

N. What’s the oncologist say?

C.  Well the onco …

N.  Onco!!!

C.  Yeah well the onco says radiotherapy for 4 weeks

N.  Will you get a new wig?

C.  No I don’t think so, besides I have my one from last time and it suits me.

N.  Want me to shave my hair off?

C.  No blood way you’ll look bloody ridiculous

N.  Thanks!

C.  So what other news have you got?

N.  Oh nothing really, I’ll save it all for when I come and see you!

C.  I’ll look forward to that.

N.  Great well I will look at flights and when we know what’s what I will appear

C.  I really can’t wait.

N.  Neither can I.

C.  I’ve got to go now as the other phone is ringing

N.  OK phone me when you can.

C.  Will do, love you.

N.  Love you too.

Got off the phone, cried great big fat tears and then then phone rang again about 10 minutes later.

C.  Hello darl.

N.  Hey, what’s the news?

C.  Have you had coffee yet?

N.  No not yet what else are you going to tell me?

C.  Oh just that the car broke down.

N.  I’ll get a taxi!

Since then we have had lots of chats, I’m telling her stupid things about my day, she’s telling me snippets of her day.

I told the girls.  Loops nodded her head and said are you going to see her?  Mook burst out crying and said can we go and see her.  Laree asked if she was wearing a wig.

She’s begun radiotherapy this week.  I hate cancer so much.

Counting to teen

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Yes that’s right. You read it correctly teen. You see with teenagers in the house there’s no counting to ten or you’ll go on the naughty step/not watch Ben and Holly/not go to the library/not go to the park bribery because it doesn’t work. Teenagers need a different set of rules or words of encouragement each day. At times it feels like nothing works.

My girls (not kids they might be stubborn but they’re not goats, although I am fond of goats) are 16, 14 and 10 (that’s ten not tween which is one of those terms I can’t use because it’s too sugary and reminds me of Tweenies and then I think back to when my teenagers were smaller and weren’t teenagers). I’ve had the “oh my god 3 girls”, the “bet you want a boy next” and the “weddings will be expensive in your house” helpful remarks which are up there with the others like “only one more child to go through the teenage years” but the most unhelpful comment ever is the “remember what you were like as a teenager?”. That’s not helpful one bit, because when I was a teenager I wasn’t a parent and it’s very different.

My girls are all very different and our parenting style (or lack of) is as individual as the child we’re cuddling, cajoling or chastising. As we try different things with them as babies so we try things with them as teenagers. Trial and error. At least a non sleeping baby wouldn’t stamp its feet, or a hungry baby wouldn’t slam doors when there’s nothing to eat (because they’ve eaten everything).

Parenting teenagers is a completely different chapter and nothing prepares you for it. Subtle changes happen in body, mind and attitude. Children are inbetween phases (for girls the next big change to their body is motherhood and then menopause – no bloody wonder they’re angsty!) and it’s hard for them to appreciate, not only that but their bodies are going through the most mental changes. It’s not like being ill and you’ll get better if you follow the prescribed route as there isn’t a prescribed route, there’s not even a suggested map.

I’ve said before I’m no expert and parenting teens will never be my chosen specialised subject but there’s a few ways to make it more bearable and they include drinking wine, grandparents, giving in or going out! Only joking. Am I??

I use my police training and the PAT (problem analysis triangle) to explain how a problem could be sorted and that it is much like a triangle, there’s three sides to a triangle and if one side is removed there’s no triangle and therefore no problem. For example (Side No 1) Teenager {annoyed} (Side No 2) there’s no clean mugs (Side No 3) they’re all in the dishwasher. By emptying the dishwasher the triangle collapses, the mug cupboard is full and the teenager is happy. Until someone else uses the mug they wanted to use and then that’s a different set of negotiation tricks as the parents are caught in the crossfire and can only be settled by a Nobel Peace Prize, I’m surely due a few!!

But taking all frivolity and high jinkery aside I’ve found coping strategies when dealing with teenagers …..

Listen when they tell you something earth shattering however dull or repetitive. Keep the lines of communication open. It makes me smile to be asked “what have you done today” when the house is tidy, the cupboards are full and I’ve been cooking, but it’s conversation.

Be honest with them about addiction. Not only did I tell my girls about how addictions ruin lives I also took them to see the performance of Mum can you lend me twenty quid based on Elizabeth Burton-Phillip’s book.

Don’t take sides in their arguments with their friends, by all means listen to tales of friendship disagreements but don’t wade in as you’ll only make it worse.

By all means mother them but they’re not babies so don’t smother them. They’ve had their baby phase and the teenage years are a different bag of frogs.

Remind them how to use the washing machine, they’ll thank you for it. I’ve stopped using the washing machine after 6pm on a Sunday as a whole weekend has gone by and washing, tumbling and ironing isn’t my treat at 9pm.

Make sure the cupboards are full. Not just food but toiletries.

Don’t try and be their friend, you’re not. No honestly you’re not. You’re their parent and by putting yourself on a par with them the parent/child balance is skewed.

Surround yourself with good friends – you’ll know who they are when they know what to say with just a nod as they push the glass of wine and then the bottle your way.

But above all breathe, it’s testing but they’ll be parents one day and you’ll be grandparents! Karma.