Thursday, 17 January 2019

Another poem

I Am Angry

I am angry.
Angry, angry.
Rage oozes through the cracks in my mind,
Dripping acid,
Splattering condemnation across the room.
Running across the floor in rivulets of vituperation,
Seeping into the walls,
Drenching my home with poison.
Reacting with the sweetness and love it meets
To explode into eye-watering fumes.
Anguish and worry on my baby's face,
Tears and self-recrimination on mine.

Can I stop the cracks with chocolate?
With cake? With wine?
The cracks are too broad,
The anger inchoate and unreasoning.
I snap, I shout, I seethe.
I am not me,
I cannot find me,
I can only find anger.
I am angry.
Angry, angry.


I suggested to LittleBear that as I was so bad-tempered and feeling so angry, maybe I should write a poem like he did, and maybe if I got all the anger out into words, I'd feel better. He looked at me solemnly, "I don't think it works like that Mummy." I think he may be right.

Monday, 14 January 2019

A poem.

I Am Angry

I am angry
Really angry.
Angry angry.
I'm so angry I'll jump up and down.
I roll on the ground.
I'll turn books into pulp.
I'll rip up kelp,
pull up trees,
Explode all the peas.
Crack stones.
Open up bones.
Tip up school lunch.
Throw you in one dump.
Cut classrooms in half
Put cats in the bath.
Repaint the classroom into a enormous green frog,
Turn you into a big round cog.
Chase bees.
Make you eat pooed on beans.
Boil books.
Squash cooks
Squirt paint.
Rip bait.
Crack cubes
Mush moons.


All spelling, punctuation etc reproduced accurately from the original. 

I think this was an exploration of expressing feelings through poetry. I don't think my boy was actually angry at school last term!


Saturday, 12 January 2019

Finding his feet

LittleBear's footballing adventures at the tail-end of 2018 were not one hundred percent filled with joy. In fact, I spent a large portion of the Christmas holidays wondering how I could return him to a state of loving playing again, or whether we were going to have to give up on being in a team if it caused him so much distress.

We talked about it a bit, about how amazing he is when he's confident, and how he mustn't let himself feel defeated. We read books about football and about footballers, and compared his emotional response to losing to that expressed by Raheem Sterling, Jordan Pickford and Harry Maguire. Not because those are particularly his favourite players, but because we happen to have acquired books about them*. It appears to have genuinely helped to discover that players he watched playing at the World Cup suffered disappointment, setback and loss in lower league teams, but they didn't give up.

Football training for his team started last weekend, and he was my determined demon again, playing with and against his friends, constantly on the go, constantly running, constantly battling for the ball. I began to feel a sprinkling of hope that a rest and a break from playing football had been what he needed to bring back a bit of his confidence.

Then we had training last night. And in the mini-match at the end, his side let a goal in (not through any particular fault of his) and there was my LittleBear, standing in the corner of the pitch, tears pouring down his cheeks, while his coach crouched beside him to give him a cuddle and convince him not to give up.

My heart sank. The hoped-for resilience was looking like an illusion already, having lasted less than a week. Even conceding a goal in training was too much for him. I went to bed dreading today's match. My only ray of hope this morning was that LittleBear was excited about playing and looking forward to the match.


It went better than I could have imagined. LittleBear scored the first goal, and in defence put in an utterly brilliant sliding dive across the goal mouth to push the ball wide of the post and deny the opposition a goal. And, despite going behind, my boy didn't droop, didn't cry, didn't give up, but ran and ran and ran, and tackled, and dribbled, and turned, and shot, and cleared. And I was so very, very proud of my Player of the Week. Not because of his goal, not because of the final score-line, but because he kept trying and enjoyed himself. I have spent the rest of the day on cloud nine, because I had my happy, confident, awesome little footballer back.

So just for now, for today, I don't have to wonder whether letting him play football is the right thing to do. The pure joy on his face, his pride in himself, his delight in skipping round defenders, spinning away from them and sprinting into the box, all of those things were enough to tell me I can't keep him away from his game.

It was almost enough to make up for the cat poo on the carpet this morning.

* LittleBear participates in a "Book Savings Club" at school. He saves 50p a week, and at the end of the term gets the chance to spend his savings on books that the club have managed to buy in bulk (and therefore at a discount. He came home with two footballer biographies and has utterly fallen in love with reading them.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Naming of Cats

I suspect many people are familiar with the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, Cats. I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with the source material - T.S. Eliot's book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. It was a feature of my childhood, and I can still recite chunks of some of my favourites (and am delighted with how much LittleBear loves McCavity: The Mystery Cat...)

That's not really the point, however.

The point is that it is time for a ceremonial re-naming of IdiotCat.

IdiotCat has continued to pee on the carpet with tedious, soul-destroying monotony. We have tried a wide variety of techniques, from escorting him into the garden to prove that there's nothing bad out there; rewarding him with treats when he uses his litter tray; valiantly attempting to eliminate the smell of cat wee from the carpet to convince him it is not equivalent to a litter tray; replacing the ammoniacal smell with washing detergent, with Vicks vapo-rub, with cat-reassuring spray, or with cat-repelling spray. None of these things have worked.

Now we have discovered IdiotCat has advanced renal failure.

IdiotCat is still an idiot (illness not having endowed him with more brains than he previously possessed). However, IdiotCat will henceforth be known as PoorPuss.

PoorPuss pees on the carpet just as much as IdiotCat did, but PoorPuss is not assumed to be able to do much about this unfortunate development. Attempts to prevent the floorboard being dissolved with noxious cat wee are continuing, but all hopes that we may train him out of his new habit have evaporated. One day we will have a new carpet, but that day will only come when we have been forced to say goodbye to PoorPuss, and I am not wishing the time away.

Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats are rather small;
Jellicle Cats are merry and bright,
And pleasant to hear when they caterwaul.
Jellicle Cats have cheerful faces,
Jellicle Cats have bright black eyes;
They like to practise their airs and graces
And wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise.
And, for now, here are some pictures of my beautiful Jellicle Cat.

Jellicle Cats are black and white 

Jellicle Cats are rather small (under all that fur)

Jellice Cats are merry and bright
(when not napping on a dinosaur den)

Sunday, 30 December 2018

And a less Merry Christmas to one in particular

Just at the moment, the milk of human kindness is not flowing through my veins. Or perhaps I mean the milk of feline kindness. IdiotCat is Not My Favourite Cat at the moment.

Over Christmas we went to visit GrannyBear, and LocalFriend kindly came in to feed and cuddle IdiotCat. He appears to have been mostly well-behaved and delighted to see LocalFriend when she came.

For the past two nights, we have visited GrandmaBear and GrandadBear in The North. Two nights is generally enough for IdiotCat to cope on his own, with full water and food bowls. Naturally, he's always delighted to see us come home, but doesn't otherwise appear to suffer any ill-effects from being temporarily abandoned. The trauma of the building work appears to have rendered this no longer true.

We arrived home today to find the house utterly reeking of cat wee.

IdiotCat had not only relieved himself in his favourite corner, behind the living room door, but all the way along the edge of the door. Some of it was still nauseatingly damp, and some of it was dry, stale and acrid. Hooray.

Which is how it came to pass that I dispatched BigBear and LittleBear upstairs to build a hydraulic robot arm, while I took the door off its hinges, lifted the carpet; prised carpet staples out of the floor and took a stanley knife to the underlay to remove a section of it. I then got down on hands and knees and scrubbed the (reeking) floorboards with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. And then I washed and rinsed, and washed and rinsed, and washed and rinsed the (reeking) underlay. And finally, despairingly, I washed, rinsed, scrubbed, vinegared, washed, rinsed, scrubbed and vinegared the (reeking) carpet.

To survive the night, without IdiotCat marauding into our bedrooms and keeping us awake, I have (temporarily) re-hung the door, replaced the underlay with old towels, and semi re-fitted the carpet. It certainly looks considerably fluffier and cleaner and fresher than it did before. However, I am now sitting, watching television and sniffing the suspicious waft of stale cat urine that I am convinced is still emanating from the carpet nearby.

Merry Bloody Christmas.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Merry Christmas one and all

I hope that everyone has had a lovely Christmas, whether spent with friends, with family or alone. I hope that you've all found peace and joy in whichever way works for you. I hope your Christmas has not been besmirched by arguments or tears, by disappointments or strife.

I did, as I generally do, send Christmas cards, and some of you who are both friends and readers will perhaps have received one (I'm a bit scattergun some years, and my ability to engage with posting schedules is poor). I considered not sending cards, not because of any particular Grinch-like tendency, but because I was specifically asked not to. Not, I hasten to add, because any of my nearest and dearest particularly dislike my hand-drawn cards, but because one of my friends made the request that instead of spending money on cards and stamps, we might make a donation to charity. and she had a very, very, very good reason for making that request. She has spent a large chunk of December in isolation in hospital, having her immune system entirely destroyed before having her own stem cells re-infused to try to give her a new immune system back again. You could read it in her own words rather better here:

My Positive Living blog.

Unsurprisingly, Lorna's raising money for the charity looking for a cure for, and providing support to sufferers of, the cancer that's attacking her body - Myeloma UK.

And that got me thinking about another friend, who spent last Christmas in hospital, being operated on for lung cancer. She's now part of the #facethefear campaign being run by the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, and is raising money and awareness for them.

Sarah's story is here.

I thought about my friend with myotonic dystrophy, who is never without a smile, and a helping hand for others, despite her own never-ending hospital appointments.

I thought about the son-in-law of another friend, who is unable to eat or speak as ALS takes hold of his body, and yet he gives his time and effort to raising money for the ALS Hope Foundation.

I thought about my friend who continues to live with the terrible after-effects of a car accident quarter of a century ago, but who is one of the most loving and giving women that I know.

And slowly, I went through in my own mind the friends and family I have who are facing battles. I thought about Alzheimers, about cancer, about depression, about injury, about bereavement.

And amongst all of that, I remembered, because I rarely forget, Alan Kurdi. Maybe his name, and his image, are already lost in the mists of time to you, but they aren't to me. His death on a beach in the Mediterranean still haunts me, and I still give money every month to Médecins Sans Frontières.

I thought about the dispossessed, the scared, the lonely. Those fleeing for their lives in desperate hope of a better life. Those living on the streets because they have nowhere else to go. 

I really know how to find the happy thoughts at Christmas.

But then I thought about what the point of Christmas really is, about giving, and sharing and loving.

I thought about people, like the Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue, who don't stop giving their time and effort no matter what day of the year it is. I thought about the huge outpouring of donations Lorna has received, in part because she has given so much of her time and love to others, and they're now giving back. I thought about Sarah's determination to complete walking marathons and ultra-marathons to raise money for cancer research. I thought about my aunt, who always gives us charity gifts for Christmas (pigs this year). I thought about my cousin, who's quit his well-paid executive job to work for a charity dear to his heart. I thought about my LittleBear, willingly embracing the idea of putting a tasty treat in a box every day through Advent to take to the food bank. I thought about all the people who give their time, and love, and effort to run a huge football club for children like LittleBear, for no reason other than because the children want to play football. I thought about all the ways in which the people I know do try to make the world a better place.

It's Boxing Day. You've sent cards, you've given presents, you've imbibed wine, you're wondering if there's room for just one more chocolate. Maybe you're eyeing up the sales and wondering about a bargain. Maybe you're tightening the purse strings and wishing you hadn't spent so much. I won't judge, either way. But don't forget Lorna, or Sarah, or the volunteers all around the world trying to give all year, and not just at Christmas. If you can, help someone else. Help myeloma or lung cancer or myotonic dystrophy or ALS research. Help the homeless. Help the victims of the tsunami. Help. It's Christmas.

Here endeth the lesson.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Lurching from triumph to disaster

I had thought that I would be posting some more splendid updates about the progress on our building site, and in theory I could be, as the ceiling and walls are now fully insulated; the first fit of wiring has gone in; the exterior cladding is almost complete along one wall; the roof is nearly complete (only awaiting lead flashing); the internal plasterboarding is all fitted and today the new floor is being poured.


When I got home on Friday I found another poo-present from the cat, there were no windows, and the diligent all-weather builders had got a bit carried away and almost completely boxed in the planned storage area designated to be the "loft" above the downstairs bathroom. I hadn't been expecting them to start work on that yet, and had not imagined that my half-conversation in broken English on Wednesday about what the plans were would result in them misinterpreting my flapping hands and building a hopelessly wrong construction.

Filled with exhaustion, sadness and anger I wrote a rather long, and somewhat ranting, email to MrsBuilder. To my enormous relief she replied almost immediately, essentially saying, "they shouldn't have done that, we'll put it right." For once I was not left fretting day-and-night over the weekend that I'd over-reacted; or that my builders would walk off in a huff; or that I'd be told it was all my fault and I'd have to live with the mistake; or any of the other permutations that my brain was warming up to panic about.

Unfortunately she also let me know that there'd been an "incident" with the lorry bring the windows, and they were delayed. That was it, no further information about the nature of the incident, or the length of delay. Phew, for a moment there it was looking as though I wouldn't have anything to spend the weekend worrying about, but at the last minute something was pulled out of the hat.

Which brings us neatly to the start of the week, at which point we discovered that the lorry had crashed. On the plus side, the driver wasn't injured. On the minus side, the windows were. They have to be made again from scratch. The factory closes for two weeks over Christmas. The windows and doors are now due on site at the start of February.


Only another six or seven weeks of living in a building site.

I know that it will be lovely when it's finished, and that many years of a solidly built, well-planned extension will make a month and a half delay pale into insignificance, but it's not exactly the Christmas present I was hoping for.