Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Gift of Forgiveness that is Ursula Ward

She will never get to dance at her son’s wedding. 

In the dignified, compassionate words that Ursula Ward spoke about her murdered only son, Odin, they were the ones that had me uncontrollably sobbing.
   
Compared to this family, I have nothing to cry about and I am not trying to jump on the pain bandwagon. They have endured, and will do for ever more, not only Odin’s death, but a lengthy trial, six days of what must have been unbelievable pain as they waited for justice. It has been served. The killer has been sentenced to life without parole.
   
I don’t believe I would ever be capable of the dignity that Ursula displayed in her words of forgiveness. I am not in favour of the death penalty (and I have really struggled with the issue since moving to the US, and I continue to find it an interesting ethical debate), but I have no idea how that would change if I lost someone close to me in heinous circumstances.
   
I consider myself a fair person and try to be fair to others. We are complex creatures; most things are rarely what they appear to be on the surface. When I am wronged, however . . . when people cause trouble with their lies in order to protect their own backs (and you know who you are . . . I’ll say just one thing: large vessels that sail on water), the hair on my arms really does stand up. Our instinct is to protect ourselves under attack, and it manifests itself physically very quickly.
   
Years ago, a journalist very nearly destroyed a close friendship when she told a completely false story about me to him. Thankfully, because I am someone who has to deal with every upsetting situation NOW, it was all sorted. Years later, that journalist came up to me all sweetie-pie and I tore her apart (not literally). I don’t forget.
   
More recently, another so-called friend (now ex) tried to back up her case against me with a “And so and so said this about you, too . . . ” I never even brought it up with the “accused” because, quite simply, I judge people on who I see them to be. Everyone talks, and, regularly, behind someone’s back. But most people do so very kindly, or out of concern. I happen to like this particular friend and can imagine the spirit in which the words were spoken. But it’s still a dash of poison that I could have done without, and I will never speak to the instigator – or, shall I say, the administrator of said poison – ever again. 

Not only do I not forget. I don’t forgive. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"? It was a part of my Baptist upbringing that was never going to resonate. 
   
Forgiveness is, to me, a state of being (like that of grace) to which I cannot even begin to aspire. An ex-boyfriend, with whom I broke up on December 8th 1999, ruining not only Christmas, but the Millennium celebrations, recently got in touch. He was going through all sorts of woes, including the break-up of his marriage to the woman I discovered 15 years ago he was sleeping with. I queried why he would contact me and he said that he thought I would “understand”.
   
I wondered which part of “understand” he thought I would get. His pushing me against a wall in Soho so aggressively, I had passers by coming to my aid? His laughing when I fell flat on my face on the French holiday (one of many) I paid for? The exorbitant sum of money I had to shame him into paying back (well, his mother) when I wrote about it? The hysterics as I argued with the Dyson on Boxing Day as I cleared up after the most miserable Christmas ever?
   
Where did he think I was in my life? Did he think that I had been pining alone in a room just waiting for this moment? There wasn’t an atom of “I’m sorry, I really hurt you” in any of it. Just ME, ME, ME. Well, guess what, buddy? Since I knew you, I have met some amazing people, including men. Men who are much brighter, funnier, kinder. And taller. Oh, yes. Much, much taller. And thinner. And richer. Dear god, yes: richer!

So, you see? Forgiveness does not come easily to me. I wonder whether it does to any of us. And when I watched Ursula Ward publicly declare forgiveness – and ask for it from others – the magnitude of her spirit moved me to tears.

   
My stories are not in the realm of the sorrow she is feeling. Her life has been destroyed. But still, she found it in her heart to say Forgive. 

Would that I could ever be such an extraordinary human being. 

Odin, I am sure, would have been so immensely proud. 

You may not ever dance at his wedding, Ursula, but today, I feel certain you have danced in ways few of us could ever have imagined.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Things We Do for Love

Finally, it’s over. 

My year of trying to look like Sandra Bullock has ended. My miserable, tortuous year of trying to be someone I was not, could never be, could never even remotely aspire to be, is no more. The relief is enormous.
   
Men, eh? Inevitably, it boils down to a flamin’ guy. And not even a guy I could have. Totally unavailable, and, even if he were, one who would not give me a second or even third glance (one: you just know these things; two: you especially know when he all but spells it out in a kind of “Even if I were available I wouldn’t touch you with a bargepole across two oceans” kind of way).
   
But then he had to say five words that have ruined my life for 12 sodding months: “Sandra Bullock. That’s my type.”
   
I could almost hear my brain clicking into place. That’s where I’ve been going wrong, I realised. Not only with this guy, but every single man on the planet since my disastrous love life began. If only I looked like Sandra Bullock, I’d find love. Happiness. My life would be just like her movie While You Were Sleeping (oh, yes: a guy lying unconscious while everyone in his life fell in love with me without him waking up to tell them I was a fraud – I’m telling, you, Sandra, we were separated at birth).
   
But I digress. I met Sandra shortly before the five-word epitaph that became my life. She is, undoubtedly, beautiful, if you like that large mouthed kind of look in a woman (I’ll come onto the lip implant Googling stuff shortly). She is a terrific actor (Ditto: I’ll come onto how much those acting classes were going to cost me, too), and she is much taller than I could ever hope to be (don’t even get me started on the Googling of leg extensions).

It was Sandra’s hair, though, that was my starting point.
   
I’ve never had great hair. It is very straight, grows at a rate of about a centimetre a decade, and sits on my head like a Chihuahua in the first throes of rigor mortis. A short haired Chihuahua, at that. It’s been permed, styled, endured extensions and been coloured. But I still end up looking like the Worst in Show category at Cruft’s dog show. I once thought that if I went blonde, I might be more attractive. Five hours later at the hairdresser’s, and crying with the pain of the bleach, I emerged looking like Myra Hindley’s less attractive sister. Just check out the serial killer’s infamous mugshot; you’ll know where I’m coming from.
   
It just suits me short. It suits the texture of my locks, the shape of my face, my personality. I wear my hair like I do an outfit that has sat in my wardrobe for decades and that I know still looks good and fits me better than any other. Or did. Until Sandra bloody Bullock.
   
So, my life-changing efforts were set in motion, and, given that I could no longer afford toilet tissue, let alone a trip to the hairdresser, it seemed like the perfect moment to transform. “I love your hair,” people started to tell me. “It’s so much softer.” “I’m going to look like Sandra Bullock in a year,” I told them.
   
It wasn’t the first time I had done something to try to endear myself more to the opposite sex. I’m a girl. We do these things. I once dated a bird watcher which, for someone with a phobia of feathers, was always going to be an uphill struggle. He was also a manic depressive, so during his coma phases I read up on endangered feathered species in the hope of having something to talk about that might cheer him up. Doomed.
   
Sex, or the hope of it, spurs women into doing insane things to try to ensnare men. I had one friend who took up fly-fishing; I have taken up squash, chess, criminal law, DNA profiling, Russian, Japanese, Argentine tango – I could go on and on – just to make myself more attractive to a penis.
   
But back to the hair. The months went on. The Chihuahua got flatter. The sides sat around my face like a pair of elephant’s ears taking a long nap. Then I started to obsess about everything else that was wrong around it. Maybe if my lips were plumped up a bit a la Sandra, the hair would look better; maybe if I went back to acting, I would be more appealing altogether (one drink with an actor friend put paid to that); and there were always leg implants if I wanted to be taller (I just bought higher heels, in the end. Much cheaper, even at Jimmy Choo prices).
   
I stuck it out and, as it did when I had hair extensions and the Myra look, my behaviour started to change. I really didn’t feel like me. I so desperately wanted to be the person I thought someone else would like that I started to disappear. And disappear under a really horrid hairdo, more to the point.
   
The months went on. The products I had to use to keep my head looking even remotely human got more expensive. Still, people kept saying that they liked my new “soft” look. I started to hate the word. At my newspaper’s Christmas party last year, somebody said I looked like Elizabeth Taylor (Hmmm. Dead?). In New York, I was twice mistaken for Liza Minnelli, as I had also been in LA (“The fat, bloated years?” I queried).
   
I talked on the phone to a friend I hadn’t seen in years. “Love is not about hair,” she said – another five words that struck as big a chord as the other five had done.
   
I found a hairdresser in New York and just said “Take it all off”. Not even Delilah shaving off Samson’s locks could have felt the relief I did as the Chihuahua fell to the floor around my feet.
   
Unexpectedly, I’ve had guys of all ages flocking around me ever since, but it’s not to do with hair; it’s because I’ve gone back to being me. Flawed and imperfect as I am, I’m actually really okay with being exactly that. It’s true that you can’t buy love; it’s also true that you can’t style it. You are who you are. It’s a clichĂ©, but no less true for being so.
   
I recently bumped into Sandra’s fan, incidentally, who said how much he liked my new hairdo and that it made me look younger.
   
NOW he tells me.

Sandra Bullock is 50, by the way. Just sayin'. 

   

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Celeb Assistant's Job from Hell

Dear "Award Winning Performer . . . "

Tempted as I was by the headline “ . . . Seeks Personal Assistant”, I have given the matter careful consideration and feel I have to tell you why I will not be submitting my application. I will go through each of your points, one by one, looking at what you have asked for and why I have decided to stick with my career as an award-winning journalist who asks for just two things every day: a cup of PG Tips and a computer.


ORGANIZED (I am sticking to US spellings throughout, although that, I am sure, will not deter from the forthcoming hilarity my UK friends are about to experience). Yes, I am organized. I e-mailed this to many thousands of people on social networking within seconds.

INTELLIGENT – BA (Hons.), Masters, Teaching Certificate, 30 years as a successful writer. Oh, yes.

EDUCATED – as above (and certainly way above anyone else who might be applying for this job).

MOTIVATED – I made it this far without any help from slaves, Sherpas, or people carrying boxes for me (see below). Heck, I'm still reading this ridiculous ad. How motivated does one person have to be?

HARD-WORKING – Ditto. The ad again. 

HIGH-ENERGY (You really don’t need that apostrophe there, by the way – whoever posted these requirements – but I guess that’s where my education comes in). But for someone who, at 56, was dancing on a bar miming as Meghan Trainor this week, I’d say yes, I am mega high energy (no apostrophe).

PHYSICALLY FIT – Duh! See above.

EXPERIENCED LIFESTYLYE COORDINATOR/PERSONAL ASSISTANT WITH GOOD HYGIENE – Geez, how long is this list of demands? (You needed a dash in co-ordinator, by the way. I am SO much better this than you!). I don’t smell. Anything else will be a bonus.

CORPORATE EXPERIENCE WELCOME – My own company do you?

JOB IS EXCITING AND VARIED. Really? I’ll give you the latter only, so let’s break it down according to your list to see just how high that level of excrement . . . sorry, I mean excitement (just a typo), is going to be.

MY RESPONSES ARE IN CAPITAL LETTERS. 

Assistant must:
-- speak and write grammatically correct English at a "first language" level.

I DO. YOU DON’T.

-- be highly computer literate in MS Office, iPod/iPad/iPhone, Cloud storage, and e-file organization, as well as be internet/social media fluent (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

I HAVE ALREADY POSTED THIS MANY THOUSANDS OF TIMES. TRUST ME, YOU ARE ALREADY VERY WELL KNOWN IN SOCIAL NETWORKING CIRCLES.

-- be able to take dictation and type at least 60 wpm accurately (without relying on “spell check”).

I HAVE A FEELING I WILL BE ABLE TO REMEMBER EVERYTHING YOU SAY WITHOUT EVER NEEDING TO PICK UP A PEN.

-- have a valid United States driver’s license and be ready to drive.

I CAN USE MY UK LICENSE. I WILL BE READY TO DRIVE AT VERY SHORT NOTICE. AWAY.

-- be comfortable driving and parking in Manhattan and environs.

DON’T BE SILLY. NO ONE IS. BUT ANYTHING THAT GETS YOU OUT OF THE CAR VERY QUICKLY WILL IMPROVE MY MOTORING SKILLS, I FEEL SURE.

-- be comfortable with (and have 20-40+ hrs./week availability for) a highly flexible schedule: the work hours may be in the morning, through the day, and late at night on both weekdays and weekends, in locations both inside and outside Manhattan. The work week will vary.

WILL THERE BE WINE?

-- be comfortable with party planning and executing small in-home gatherings and larger infrequent events with 100+ guests, such as opening nights, dinner parties, celebrations of life milestones.

OH, NOW YOU’RE TALKING. WILL THERE BE SEX? AND CAN I JOIN IN WHEN I HAVE DONE THE WASHING UP?

-- maintain a professional, upbeat, and positive demeanor and appearance (even in stressful situations).

YES, IF THERE IS WINE AND SEX.

-- independently complete work tasks calmly, quickly, with precision accuracy in a variety of high-pressured, time-sensitive situations; be detail-oriented.

YES, ABSOLUTELY (I FEEL IT’S GOING VERY WELL, BY THE WAY . . . ).

-- assist actress with staying on schedule and arriving on time to her appointments.

HANG ON – IT’S A WOMAN? DAMN. HOLD FIRE ON THE SEX BIT.

-- be impeccably trustworthy handling cash, credit cards, and valuables (background check will be performed on finalist candidates).

I LIKE THE SOUND OF BEING IN CHARGE OF THE CASH AND VALUABLES.

-- be able to lift and move boxes in excess of 30 pounds (including up and down stairs) without assistance.

OH, COME ON. IT WAS GOING SO WELL. WHAT’S IN THE BOXES? AM I JUST A PAID DRUG TRAFFICKER/BODY SNATCHER NOW? THAT’S A LITTLE UNDER A THIRD OF MY BODY WEIGHT.

During the run of any theatre/film/television/cabaret/concert/personal appearance project, Assistant will:
-- prepare actor for each engagement.

EASY – GET ON STAGE, LOVE. IT’S YOUR JOB.

-- settle her in her dressing room or apartment.

SHUT THE EFF UP AND HAVE A GLASS OF WATER; YOU’LL BE FINE.

-- accompany actor to the theatre/set.

IT’S OVER THERE.

-- pack up actor’s belongings at the end of the engagement.


SORRY, MY MUM’S BEEN TAKEN ILL. HAVE TO DASH.

Other duties:
-- booking travel arrangements

HERE’S THE NUMBER OF MY MATE IN VIRGIN ATLANTIC.

-- running lines with actor for upcoming Broadway, film, TV, and concert/personal appearance projects

“ROMEO, ROMEO . . . " YEAH, DON’T WORRY, YOU’RE GREAT.

-- running errands (shopping, drop-offs and pick-ups, pumping gas)

WOULD YOU MIND IF I PUT YOUR POINTS ON MY CARD?

-- cooking/meal preparation, table service, kitchen/apartment cleanup before and after parties, and food shopping

PARTIES? I’M THERE!

-- daily tidying, simple cleaning (bedrooms and bathrooms, windows), and small and large scale organizational projects

NO WET PATCHES, SORRY.

-- wardrobe prep and maintenance: dressing/undressing actor, light sewing, steaming and ironing, occasional laundry, packing for trips, maintaining organized closets

FLAMIN’ ‘ECK. I’M EXHAUSTED. WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE WITH THE UNDRESSING BIT IF YOU’D BEEN A MAN.

-- dealing with correspondence, mail, bills, email, phone messages

ONE WORD: TRASH. LEAVE US ALONE. DON’T YOU KNOW MY CLIENT IS A SUPERSTAR?

-- merchandise sales at theatrical venues (CDs, DVDs etc.)

DO I GET TO SELL THEM OR STEAL THEM?

-- gift wrapping and presentation (often for a large group)

I AM REALLY, REALLY BAD AT WRAPPING. THIS COULD BE THE POINT AT WHICH I FAIL THE INTERVIEW.


Immediate start.
$18 hr. starting pay. Some snacks and lunch are provided, if desired.

I WAS THINKING MORE $1,800 A MINUTE. TELL ME MORE ABOUT “IF DESIRED". IT WILL ALWAYS BE DESIRED, OK?

Job is 20-40+ hours/wk. Assistant is paid as an Independent Contractor at the hourly rate and will receive a Form 1099.

ONLY 20-40 HOURS? GREAT, I CAN KEEP WORKING FOR THE DAILY MAIL. THEY’LL UNDERSTAND.

Some travel required (to set and/or actor’s vacation home).

HEY! WHERE THE HECK IS IT? AND DO I GET TO STAY OR DO I HAVE TO SLEEP IN THE CAR (MY CAR) OUTSIDE?

Please note on your submission if you also have your own car (a plus).

THAT ANSWERS THAT ONE, THEN.

You will report to actor’s Executive Assistant and directly to Actor.

THERE’S A SUCKER ABOVE ME?

Must use your own laptop and cell phone.

THIS JUST GETS BETTER AND BETTER!

Two (2) references required; please include in submission.

EVERYONE I KNOW WHO WOULD AGREE TO THESE TERMS IS DEAD.

Confidentiality agreement signed from first day of work.

I WON’T MAKE THAT FIRST DAY.

Typing and grammar tests will be administered prior to personal interview.

I WILL BE TESTING YOURS FIRST. I AM BETTER.

AND IF I HAD TO APPLY IN ONE PARAGRAPH, THIS WOULD BE IT: DON’T EVER BE SO STUPID AS TO EMPLOY SOMEONE WHO WOULD POST THESE DEMANDS. WHATEVER YOUR AWARDS OR STATUS, YOU WILL FOREVER BE REMEMBERED AS THE VAIN, RUDE, DEMANDING PERSON WANTING A SLAVE, A SHERPA, A HEAD COOK AND BOTTLE WASHER. AND YOUR NAME WILL COME OUT – IT REALLY WILL. IN THE MEANTIME, I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING WHO THE SAP IS WHO ACTUALLY WANTS THIS JOB.

DON'T CALL ME . . . 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bunnies and Buns - Memories of Easters Past

I always feel incredibly sad at Easter. Not because of the religious aspect (although singing There is a Green Hill Far Away in my childhood chapel was depressing, to say the least), but because it brings back memories of a past long gone.
   
On the morning of Good Friday, my brother Nigel and I would go to “Jean the Shop” (everyone in the South Wales village of Coity was linked to their place of work) to collect hot cross buns. They would arrive in enormous trays, still warm, and we would carry them in bags back home to enjoy them toasted at the kitchen table.
   
On Easter Sunday (the day my parents were married - at that time, on April 18th), we would wake to a pile of chocolate eggs and rabbits before going to church (we were allowed to eat one half of an egg beforehand) and returning home to a roast dinner and an afternoon of stuffing our faces with more egg.
   
How I loved those eggs. The promise of what lurked beneath the gold and red foil. Separating the two halves and removing the brown cellophane bag of buttons or mini chocolate bars inside. The first crack of the thick part of the egg, breaking it piece by piece, like the unravelling of a jigsaw.
   
One year, the mother of Bev, who worked in my mother’s hairdressing salon in Newport, before we moved to Coity, gave Nigel, my brother, and me, two enormous animals: mine, a white rabbit, Nigel’s a blue dog. That was exciting enough, but when we unzipped their backs, we found they were crammed with all manner of sweets, chocolates and eggs. It was the most exciting Easter I ever recall. I wasn’t, and am not, a big chocolate fan (these days, a Kit Kat can last me a month), but the excitement of those wrappers, pristine and welcoming, is something I have never forgotten.
   
I was lucky enough to have a very happy childhood, with two loving, doting parents, for whom having children was never less than a total joy. When I think back, it is not the material goods we had that I most recall, but the things I regarded as treats, such as hot cross buns; the moments in which the world seemed perfect and I knew, although did not articulate, what happiness was.
   
On New Year’s Day, Nigel and I woke to a pile of goodies at the bottom of our beds – the party paraphernalia Mum and Dad always brought us back from the parties they had attended the night before. I remember the crepe of the whistles that unfurled at one blow; the crisp cardboard of the hats with their plumes of shredded foil .
   
Our parents never left us out of anything. On the rare occasions they enjoyed the luxury of a takeaway Chinese meal, they used to bring us a small saucer in bed. Chicken and pineapple, sweet and sour pork, rice – no food ever tasted as good as those nocturnal surprises eaten with a teaspoon.
   
We had a cooked meal and pudding every day, but sometimes, before our bedtime, Mum would bake an extra treat – Cornish pasties or toffee. I can still smell the hot pastry and sugar, hear the crack of the hardened caramel.
   
There were no computers in those days and, bizarrely, for someone who went on to be a TV critic, I wasn’t a huge TV watcher. But I recall two TV treats that remain for me, the height of decadence: the Miss World contest, and Muhammad Ali fights. Because both events were on TV way past our bedtime, we were allowed up to watch them only if we went to bed at 6pm and slept for two hours. Then, at 8pm, we were allowed downstairs in our dressing gowns to watch the grand spectacles. 

When we got our first colour TV and I saw the Miss World Evening Wear section for the first time in all its glory, the excitement was almost unbearable. Watching Ali instilled in me a love of boxing that continues to this day, and also taught me a lot about confidence and the need for self-assurance in one’s ability.
   
And so, this Good Friday, I want to say thank you to my mother and father (even though my father died in 1990, I think of him all the time) for their love and for our treats – the things that taught me that happiness is a state of being, not of having.
   
Happy Easter, everyone, whatever your religious persuasion. 

Peace, happiness and chocolate to you all. 

And don’t have rabbit for your Sunday roast. That’s just cruel.
   
  

   

Friday, March 27, 2015

LA Not So Confidential: Los Angeles Singles - A Singularly Bad Experience

LA Not So Confidential: Los Angeles Singles - A Singularly Bad Experience: Their website, Los Angeles Singles, claims they are “Los Angeles’s   #1 Dating Service for High-Calber, Sincere Singles”, claiming t...

The Innocents of Flight 9525

This is probably the 20th time I have tried to write anything, following the deliberate downing by the co-pilot of Flight 9525 that killed everyone on board.
   
In a week that saw acres of space given over to Jeremy Clarkson being given the boot by the BBC, and Zayn Malik quitting One Direction, the tragedy of the murder of the innocents put everything into perspective.
   
The knowledge that this was the end for the passengers who were screaming does not bear thinking about; the anger of their families, knowing that this was no accident . . . I just can’t comprehend, nor put into words, the despair and grief they will suffer for evermore.
   
The mental instability of Andreas Lubitz has since come to light and he was clearly in no condition to fly on that day – and probably had not been for some time.
   
I understand depression. I understand suicide. But I will never be able to get my head around anyone who decides to take innocent lives with them. Stories about parents who kill their children, along with themselves, just to avenge their estranged partners, fills me with horror; likewise, this week, the thought that anyone could be so deranged as to commit so heinous an act, is, to me, incomprehensible.
   
I wonder, though, if he and any number had survived, what the legal position would be? Murder? Grounds for an insanity plea? Who could defend the indefensible? Would anyone be able to sit on a jury and honestly say they were impartial? It’s all conjecture, I know, and there will doubtless be many mental health experts wheeled out over the forthcoming weeks debating the issue. But surely this was nothing other than pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder.
   
There are two victims in this story for whom we should also have sympathy, and yet they are probably the ones who will garner the least: the killer’s parents. They heard just ten minutes before the press call that their son had deliberately crashed the plane. The pain they must inevitably have felt initially, losing a child, in an instant must have multiplied a million-fold, in the knowledge of that child having been capable of this unspeakable act.
   
They will have known that their son had mental health issues, I am sure; to what extent, who knows. The mentally sick become adept at hiding what is really going on – after all, Lubitz was able to hide it from his employers. But they must be going through the 28 years of his life (and they will do for the rest of theirs, I am certain) raking over every What if? in their child’s history. 

They will be mystified when they think back to the birthdays and celebrations they had with a smiling infant; the joy he instilled in their hearts when he spoke his first words, took his first steps; and they will grieve for the son they had and was lost, who knows when, in the breakdown that became his life.
   
They will never lead normal lives again; neither will anyone else connected to this tragedy. But unlike the other victims, they will have scorn and anger poured upon them purely because people will see them as the origin of the instigator of the crime.
   
The world over, our hearts are filled to bursting point with the anger and pain for all on board, but particularly the young – kids returning from a school trip, their parents waiting at the airport to hear about the excitement of it all. Those same parents who will have given them warnings about how to stay safe, to look after themselves, never for a moment imagining they would never see them again, nor that their destiny lay not with themselves but a sick, sick man.
   
I think of the adults setting off excitedly, having a break from their working lives, people on business anticipating meetings the other end, crew members looking forward to time off from their duties . . . the horror of so many futures lost is unbearable.
   
I can have no sympathy for Andreas Lubitz, whom I see as nothing but a selfish, vile, inhumane assassin, but I will spare a thought for his parents, whose loss, confusion and grief will have ruined their lives also. 

For no matter how much people will tell them, and they will tell themselves, that they are not responsible for this devastating carnage, they will always feel that they are: that they are the creators of a mass murderer. 

And I have no idea how you even begin to get past that.

    

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Love on Mother's Day

It's the nature of my writing that I often reflect on what's gone, rather than what I have in the present.

That often causes confusion for people. 

They read a blog that was written in a moment of sadness about a world event and assume that I spend my every waking hour in tears. I don't. I am blessed in my life, my family, and my friends, and I appreciate every moment. 

But I also have empathy for those less fortunate, and those to whom life suddenly throws a pile of crap. I've had my share of the latter, but nowhere near as bad as other people. Then again, it's not a competition. Pain is pain, emotional and physical, and you have to be where people are. Judging them is irrelevant; offering unsolicited advice, ignorant; arrogant, actually.
  
I have written a great deal about my father on more than one occasion. He was/is in my memories, a wonderful man, and I miss him every day, even though it was 25 years in January since he died.
  
But tomorrow is Mothering Sunday and I want to talk about my mum, because I love her just as much as I did (and still do) my dad, and often we don't tell the living how much they mean to us while they are still around to hear it.
  
Where do I start? I could fill books with the happy memories I have of my mother. The trips to the beach, when she packed the car with enough stuff to have taken us on safari for six months; the late night whims cooking pasties or toffee, that, to a kid in a dressing gown, were the height of decadence; the play time with the LancĂ´me beauty case; the first time she plucked my eye brows (less happy - AGH!); the Kardomah cafe in Newport, where, after a rainy Saturday shopping expedition, she stood at the counter while they ground beans and put them in a bag for us to take home. 

It was all terribly glamorous to me.
  
I never had the right twigs and branches for nature classes in school, but when it came to fancy dress, Mum excelled herself. One Saturday morning in summer, she realised she had left it way too late to get me a fancy dress costume for the local summer fete, so, looking around the house, she grabbed the sheepskin rug in front of the fire, wrapped me in it with safety pins and put the sign The Abominable Snowman on me. I came first and won 50p (never mind that I nearly expired in the 85 degree heat). My brother was less successful with Charlie's Aunt, but then Coity, the village where we grew up just outside Bridgend, was to progress what beach towels were to Noah's Ark.
   
On my first day in the small village school (we had moved from Newport for my father’s job), Mum sent me off in a psychedelic crimplene mini dress and a cow bell round my neck. She was a Sixties mother. Alas, Coity had barely caught up with the end of the Second World War. Actually, make that the Wars of the Roses.
  
When I went to Brynteg Comprehensive, Mum had another idea to try to throw her very reluctant daughter into modern life and gave me a Michael Jackson frizzy perm. I spent the whole of my history lesson with my duffel coat hood up and went home in tears at lunchtime, when Mum removed the frizz with the lotion that had given me the damned busbee in the first place. It would not have been a shock if she had made me black up, just for authenticity's sake.
  
Which reminds me of another story. My Auntie Audrey, Mum’s sister, had been to India, and brought me back a gorgeous sari. At the end of term party in Durham Road junior school, I was therefore very well prepared for the fancy dress. Except that Mum decided to mix cocoa powder with water to my face and neck so I would look like a real Indian. I spent the party crying in the toilet and was taken home, sobbing, with my now zebra face.
  
My mother was a hairdresser for most of her young life and she was (and still is, actually) a damned good one. She went to college relatively late, trained first as a social worker and then went to university to further her education and train as a therapist. Her work with young people in particular and the disadvantaged and disenfranchised in society is something that makes me in awe of her every day. She cares. Really, really cares, and has changed lives: so much so, that some of the people she has helped in their young, difficult lives, are still in touch with her, many years on, and with families of their own.
  
I saw her help and support my father through the very tough time when he lost his business during the country's horrific Three Day Week. I saw her constantly visit and support her own mother following the death of Grandpa. I have seen her battle breast cancer without ever once complaining. I have also seen her battle through two Apple Macs and an iPad (about which, I confess, she has complained).
  
My mother always looks immaculate. She loves her clothes and make up and never looks anything less than perfectly turned out (unlike her daughter). She takes everything that life throws at her with extraordinary courage, good grace and equanimity. She has never moaned about or criticised my tendency to up sticks and go to live in foreign places. "I always wanted to give my children wings to fly," she has always said - only once adding, when I decided to live in Los Angeles: “I just never expected them to fly that far." That’s another thing, by the way: she is very, very funny.
   
I am never more at ease with anyone than I am with my mother. We have had arguments over the years (who doesn't), but I know that there is no one who knows me better. She may not know the most about me, but she knows when I hurt, and she feels my pain; she is the person who, when everything else seems to be crumbling around me, is the one who lifts me up, carries me through, and quotes the Bear Hunt Song: “Can't go under it. Can't go around it. Got to go through it.” 
   
I get through all of it because of her. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mum. 

I love you.