Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Our bedroom wall

For anyone unaware of my marital situation, I'm very happily married to Ian aka Ibbs. He's quadriplegic, which means he can't move anything below his neck, and has been since before I met him.

I moved in with him in 1999, and his gift to me was knocking a hole through between our bedrooms, and putting in a folding door for when either of us wanted privacy. Whenever we went on holiday, my favourite thing was sharing a bed, just for the closeness.

We finally decided to knock down the whole wall last year, and got our acts together to get a builder booked and a holiday booked so we didn't have to mess around with putting him into bed in a mess.

What's surprised me is the reaction to my joy. I've had people saying its 'too much information' and that they don't want to know about my sex life. You may note that not once in this post have I said anything about sex.

You see, people with double beds who've shared it for years take it for granted. Last night was the first time I've slept next to Ian in our own house, ever. We've shared a bed on holiday, but even me saying this is too much for some people.

Think about it. After 10 years of marriage, do you have sex every night? Or do you just enjoy having a cuddle and then going to sleep? For the last 13 years, I've kissed Ian goodnight, and gone to my own bed in the next room. Last night I fell asleep in his arms.

It got me thinking about how people generally see Ian and I. A friend told me the other week that her boyfriend isn't in the mood for sex, and I suggested it wasn't anything to do with her being unattractive, which I guarantee it isn't, and she told me that even though sex isn't important to me, it is to other couples.

So it seems like I can't win. If I don't talk about sex, people assume we don't have it. If I talk about sharing space with Ian it's too much information.

I guarantee we are exactly the same as every couple married for ten years. We have sex, not as often as we did when we first met. We bicker, we laugh, we get sick of each other, we kiss, we hold hands, we talk.

Sex isn't the most important thing in our lives. Just like I guarantee it isn't in any long term relationship. It always reminds me of a line in one of my favourite films 'Whats Up Doc?'

Eunice: I'm not looking for romance, Howard.
Howard: Oh?
Eunice: No, I'm looking for something more important than that, something stronger. As the years go by, romance fades and something else takes its place. Do you know what that is?
Howard: Senility?
Eunice: Trust!
Howard: That's what I meant.

So last night as Ian and I held each other, and giggled as we listened to a Ricky Gervais podcast, we both agreed that this was bliss.. Especially when the cat jumped up and settled down in between us.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

10 things which make me happy

I wrote this a few years ago, but it makes me happy re-reading it. At the time I was writing a lot for Ciao, and Mum had just died.

10. Finding a bargain

They do say the best things in life are free, but even better is something which is supposed to cost a lot more than you get it for.

For example, today I found a really nice dress in Mk One. It is miles too small yet, but it’ll be perfect for a spring wedding we’re going to next year. It was reduced from £30 to £10, which is tres bargalicious, but when I got it to the till, the assistant said it had been reduced further to £3. Who (apart from most men) could fail to be thrilled at this?

My favourite bargain ever – my orange Austin Allegro which cost £100 when I was 19, and lasted me for about 7 years

9. Cats curling up on my knee

There’s nothing like the feeling of a heavy, furry, warm object on your knee, making a sound like they’re drilling into your leg. It’s so therapeutic stroking them, and I can think of no better way of spending an afternoon than sitting on a big comfy chair, cat on knee, and a good book to read (more later).

My favourite cat ever – it seems unfair to choose between the two we have currently, but it has to be Holly I’m afraid, purely because she’s the fattest, stupidest, most adorable creature I’ve ever had as a pet.

8. Lying in a double bed with Ian

Because of Ian’s disability, at home we have to sleep in separate beds, which isn’t too bad as I snore and like to have the curtains open all night, but can feel a bit lonely. When we go away, we usually get a double room, and it makes going away an even bigger treat. I don’t mean anything rude, by the way, I just mean that feeling of falling asleep with your arm round someone, and waking up and watching SM:TV while you’re both still a bit sleepy. It’s something I bet everyone else takes for granted, but it’s really special to me.

My favourite double bed ever – the one in the Morrison in Dublin where we spent our honeymoon.

7. Being outside

Maybe it’s because I’m from the country, but I love to spend time outside. For the last year or two, I’ve not been so keen, but I’ve really got back into the swing of the great outdoors since I’ve been going for long walks everywhere.

When I was younger, I used to walk everywhere, often for hours at a time. The town where I grew up had no public transport, so it was mostly necessary, but a lot of the time, I walked to think. I spent a lot of time walking along the river, and sitting under bridges writing, and my absolute favourite thing was always walking in the rain. Spalding is very flat too, so I used to cycle a lot. Then I learnt to drive, and it all went a bit tits up – it made me lazy, and I stopped walking and cycling, and just used to drive for miles instead. I was still outside though.

My favourite outdoor place –a little bridge down the road from my childhood house. I used to go and sit with my legs dangling off it, and it was very overgrown so no one ever saw me. I’d listen to music, and read or write for hours, and as I got older I used to sometimes take a boy I knew down there in the hope he’d be overtaken with the romance of it all and ravish me (he never did, well, not there anyway, but that’s another story…)

6. Thinking about the future and remembering the past

As you might have already gathered, I’ve always been a dreamer. I’ve always imagined what the future might be like, drawing outfits I was going to wear when I was older, thinking about who I might marry, writing lists of children’s names. Now I’m in my late twenties, I can also reminisce about the past as well as think about the future, and I can sit and think about either for a long time (usually once I get to where I’m walking and need a sit down).

My favourite memory – I’d love to say it’s one about my Mum, but they don’t make me happy at the minute, so it can’t really go in this category. Instead, the memory which never fails to make me happy, was a night out I once had in Liverpool. A group of four friends and myself took it upon ourselves to dress up before we went out. There was no reason to or anything, we just thought it’d be a laugh (as you do when you’re students). We all had too much to drink, and I started trying to pimp the other four girls off to a bloke at a cash point. Later on, two of them crashed onto the stage of a student ‘Blind Date’ event, telling the girl not to pick number two cause he was ugly as f*ck. I can’t remember ever laughing so much in my life, and although it sounds sad now, it really was the best night out I ever had.

My favourite future dream – it’s a bit obvious, but if I start to think about overeating, I imagine myself wearing a vest top, with my tattoo showing, holding a baby, and it stops me every time.

5. People

I thought about putting my family, or friends, or Ian, into this list, but the reality is that despite sounding like a lonely Billy-no-mates, I actually love to be around people. I find it very hard to dislike people; like my Dad, you’d have to really do something awful for me to not bother with you.

People who always make me happy – obviously, Ian and my family make me happy, that goes without saying, so I’m going to choose Jessica and Grace, my Godchildren, Katie, my oldest friend, and Nicola, my closest friend. I don’t think any of those four have ever made me unhappy.

4. Photographs

This is a wide topic, on purpose, as I couldn’t narrow it into just taking photographs or just looking at them. I don’t mean arty photos either - I mean candid, people grinning, holding the camera at arms length, stiffly posed wedding shots, drunken holiday snaps… basically it follows on from my love of people. I’m actually someone who loves looking at other people’s photos when they bring round their wedding or holiday snaps.
Much to Ian’s chagrin, I have framed photos all over the house, and about 30 albums of actual photographs, as well as a huge box of un-framed and un-albumed photos. Now we have a digital camera, it’s scary how many photos we have on discs and the hard drive, and the fact they don’t cost anything any more means I take even more photos than I did before.

My favourite photograph – Ian's favourite one of me is a wedding one where I’m laughing with my gob very wide open while Ian is smiling at me. I don’t think I could ever choose a favourite ever photograph.

3. Music

There’s not much I can say about this choice, despite it being so enormous, except that if I ever feel unhappy, I can always count on music to cheer me up.

My favourite songs that make me happy –
“Honey Pie” – The Beatles
“Sabotage” – Beastie Boys
“Gin Soaked Boy” – Divine Comedy
“New Sensation” – INXS
“The Man on the Flying Trapeze” – Spike Jonze

hmmm, well, they're all pretty good, but i have to say I can't believe i missed off 'E=MC2' by Big Audio Dynamite, and why no Bowie?

2. Reading

Similarly to the last choice, I can’t say much about this. I just feel very safe whenever I start to read print, and will read almost anything.

My favourite books that make me happy –
The Georgia Nicholson diaries by Louise Rennison
Calvin and Hobbes books
“Gilbert’s Guide to Life” – TV tie in book by Gilbert the Alien
“Notes from a Big Country” – Bill Bryson
Anything involving music trivia

1. Writing

Writing has always been my lifesaver, since I was about 12 years old. It started when Allyson, my school friend, and I bought hard backed A5 notebooks, and started to use them as diaries. Mine sprawled into me writing everything I thought and felt, whilst hers was consigned to the dustbin.

I used to fill one of these books every year, usually with mindless rambling about what I was going to do when I was older, who I fancied, and how I was going to lose a stone and have a holiday romance. I started writing short stories when I was about 14, fuelled by a teacher at school who always gave me good marks, but used to ask me after class if my home-life was okay – my stories usually involved teenagers committing suicide or being raped, and parents fighting or killing each other.

Once I left home, I continued to write daily, and it really saved me when I was trying to decide how I felt about Ian, and how I felt about what I was doing to myself. I also started producing my own fanzines, which had my writing and poetry as well as reviews and interviews I’d done, and cartoons I’d drawn. There’s no wonder I didn’t do better in my degree when I remember how much time I spent writing and drawing unrelated stuff.

Then, when I moved in with Ian, I decided to leave my past behind, and burned all my hard backed notebooks in a ceremonial fire. I really regret this now, but there’s no point in crying over burnt pages. At least I kept all my fanzines, a lot of which have bits taken from my notebooks. After that my writing slowed down to the occasional stab at finishing my novel, but mainly writing lots of lists, which is a bit of an obsession of mine.

So, now I use writing online to help me deal with stuff that’s going on – some of it ends up on Ciao or Live Journal, and some doesn’t, but it all helps to keep me on an even keel – writing does more than makes me happy, it stops me from going barmy. 

The best thing I’ve ever written – I once actually published a novella, and even though it wasn’t very good, I’m pretty darn proud of that, especially as it got a few good reviews in other fanzines. It was called ‘Speeding Life’ and was a sort of sci-fi thing. Unfortunately, the story was slightly similar to The Lawnmower Man, even though I never read it or saw the film, and as such some people accused me of ripping it off. Oh well.

Most of this is still true. I can't believe I wasn't making stuff at this point, then again, writing was a creative outlet.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Adoption and babies

 A couple of pieces of writing I've done about children and adoption

August 2008 - the opening to a book I never wrote

"As soon as we walk through the door, I know something is wrong. Not wrong for them of course, but wrong for us. Two bottles, nine tall glasses, and expectant faces as we enter the room.

“Bloody hell, champagne? Are you pregnant again?”

A hesitation, too long, like the clocks have stopped. They’ve already got two children, there’s already a lump in my throat.

“Well, not us,” K breathes, looking meaningfully at T.

I turn my attention to M and T as well: our last childless, but also unmarried, friends. A final ray of hope, perhaps it’s engagement champagne. I look at T, and notice no ring on the finger of her left hand, as it rests protectively across her stomach in that familiar, gut-wrenching way.

She’s pregnant. I want to run out of the door, but we’re not at home, and I wouldn’t know where to go. I do the only other thing I can do. I fling myself at the couple, scrabbling to get past chairs and tables to bury my face into their shoulders, so my congratulations seem genuine.

The champagne is passed around: it’s easy to get plastered when someone has good news, a ready made excuse to celebrate, and the high strength alcohol at hand."

September 2008 - a reaction to a Sun article on adoption

"There's currently an adoption drive by Barnado's in the newspaper because they feel people are forgetting about adoption. Every time I read these articles it mades me sad, and angry, and I pine a little bit.

For anyone that doesn't know, I started trying to lose weight in 2004 because we decided we wanted a child. I was very overweight, because of my own fault, but exacerbated by Mum being ill and then dying in late 2003.

Looking into different options, we decided on adoption, mainly because having a child naturally would mean me being pregnant and not able to look after Ian (this was pre-funding days). I looked into it and knew my BMI needed to be 40. It was 60 at the time, but I was managing to lose weight easily.

Once my BMI got to 41, we decided to apply. We went to the meetings, we had the home visits, and we were told that because Ian is disabled, my BMI would need to be 38. I asked why this was, and it was because if anything happened to me, then only Ian would be bringing up the child. I didn't quite understand this, as single people are being allowed to adopt, and if a single parent died, they'd be in a worse position than we would if Ian died. However, I was willing to do whatever was needed.

Everything was set, I just had to wait until my BMI was 38 and then give them a call and let them know.

I don't work well under pressure. I like to do things at my own pace, and I always get it done in time, because I start early. It was taking me longer to lose those 3 BMI points than it did the 19 previously.

We received a telephone call telling us we had been taken off the list because it was taking too long for us to respond. We'd never been told there was a time limit. My BMI was at 40 at this point.

It broke my heart. We seemed so close, and now we were back at the start. I lost interest in losing weight, and in children altogether. When someone told me they were pregnant, anyone, I couldn't be happy for them. At this moment in time, I don't think we'll be having a child.

What upsets me so much is that no one who can just have a baby gets tested in this way. There are people having babies with a BMI above 40 all over the world. Luckily we don't smoke either, as this goes against you, but even so there are people smoking having babies all over the world.

Leaving aside high profile parents, we see patients in the surgery whose children's teeth are full of cavities because they allow them to drink sugary soft drinks straight from the bottle at the age of 3. I see people in the street chatting on their mobile phones and blowing smoke in their children's faces as they completely ignore them. I've volunteered in schools and sat reading with children whose parents don't bother reading to them at home.

What I'm trying to say is, parents make mistakes. Some parents are fat, some parents smoke, some parents become bankrupt. Even the best parent in the world can have a bad day amongst a thousand good ones.

The fact is, if you can become a parent without assistance, then it's fine. If you need help to become a parent, you're scrutinised in every area of your life, as they try and make you fit a mould at that particular point in your life. If I reached a BMI of 38 and adopted, then put the weight back on, would they take the child away? If I married someone I didn't love and adopted, and then remarried Ian and took the child with me, would that make a difference? Come to think of it, if we managed to adopt, and then I left Ian and married a smoker, would they take my child away?

When my BMI was 40, I was the fittest I've ever been, going to the gym 3 times a week, never drinking, never eating sugar, and feeling the best I've ever felt. If that isn't good enough, I don't think I'm ever going to be good enough by their standards. I think from now on I'll stop reading newspaper articles about how people aren't adopting any more, and carry on living my fat life in a good home with a secure income and loving parents who never were."