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JUNE 23RD 2013 A GRIEF OBSERVED 3 (courtesy CS Lewis). Whenever I feel afraid....
.....I hold my head up high, and whistle a happy tune....' was my mother's mantra. Well, it was, when I was scared. It goes round in my head now, bringing comfort and real sadness. The song is from the musical, 'The King and I', and the whistling bit is hard to do at the minute.
We (my sister, her eldest, and I) spoke at her funeral three days ago. When I began to describe mum's view of heaven; 'if there is one, it'll be full of women, ordinary people, in macs sweeping floors', my voice wobbled and I paused to cry. My sister's emotions spoke for her too. Tears are a language in themselves, so often outsripping words.
Small kindnesses got me through the day. It was a private event, as much as a public show of mourning and celebration of her life. Everyone there grieved and continues to grieve for her in their own way.
Sometimes it hurts so much I cannot stand. Tears come in airports, on buses and next to the washing powder she used to buy in the supermarket. The world hasn't stopped. But it feels as if it should. I cannot whistle any tune, and I am afraid of the Tsunami inside.
18th JUNE 2013 A GRIEF OBSERVED - 2 - Feeling Lost...
....as if she is just out of reach. The funeral is two days away. My sister has arrived - she lives overseas, together with my nephew who'll be reading a poem at the service. Woke up this morning, with a gap, a void in my gut. It's a place no-one wants to go. I KNOW all about 'keeping it in the day', but I keep imagining walking into my own home; into its silence and settled dust, once all this is over.
We've chosen the picture for the front of the order of service. My mother looks relaxed and happy. She looks like 'her'. I am going to see her tomorrow. Her body that is. The awfulness of choosing clothes, for this; I made myself think of something else while I was doing it, and putting them into a pink House of Frazer bag (there was no way it was going to be Tesco's) hit me hard.
I want to do this as I wasn't there when she died. I want to explain some things, tell her how much I love/loved her and say why, specifically. Then I'll just say a god thing. None of that will probably happen. Grief makes me drop to the floor, my nose run and my eyes puffy and red. I will be on my own, so I can grieve how I choose.
I miss her, I miss you. I don't WANT to be my own mother. Where are you? BBC1 D day programme is on TV in the background. Dad is falling asleep, and my nephew, mum's grandchild, is avidly watching.
I bought series 5 of the Big Bang Theory for him if he needs some space. Bizarrely, the programme was always on in mum's room when we visited her in her home. Connections that don't make sense. I know, intellectually why she died, but emotionally/spiritually it doesn't add up. The fish know they are in the wrong water. They can see each other, but, however hard they try, they just cannot touch.
16th JUNE 2013 - A GRIEF OBSERVED - 1
...not much time to write this, as am sitting next to my father watching the Antiques Road Show. My mother's funeral is just four days away.
My dad and I have organised, rowed, cried and watched crap TV. Images of my mother creep in and out of my head. Polka dots, 'a white wine, lovely', 'quelle age est votre chien'. (She used to say this on the canals in France to every dog that passed, no matter how ugly.
We'll be eating in a minute. I cry each morning before I eat breakfast, privately. If I don't I am angry for the rest of the day, and snap at my father. I need to do this to keep sane. I walk on the cliffs with the dog, and cry then. Sometimes I cry with my father, but he doesn't find that easy. He has his own grief.
Her Parkinson's made her a 'different kind of person', but she was still a person just the same.
The funeral is on Thursday. When I am in churches now my left leg trembles uncontrollably. It never used to do that. It's something to do with the past, and the god I believed in then. Today's god is more of a loving wolf. You don't get many of those near an altar.
I miss my mother in strange ways. I seem to select the memories carefully, as my family life was not always easy. Her early life was very hard, so that is probably why.
I have to go and eat now and then we'll watch the Sunday night bodice ripper on BBC 1. A rest for the heart and brain. I hope I can sleep. I hope she is resting somewhere, and is peaceful and at ease. I really hope that's the case. But, of course, I don't really know.
JUNE 10th, 2013. 2 days ago my dad calls. My mother has died. I'm on my own in a Spanish hotel room...
.....I make a raw rasping sound; I think it was crying. The short holiday snapped, and the mini break became a major obstacle to getting home.
I knocked on next door's balcony window. Two pissed up golfers wandered out. I asked if I could hold their hand. They were kind and looked awkward. 'We heard you but we didn't know what to do, we're a bit plastered'. So what. I didn't know anyone else. I really missed not having a partner. It was miserable. I had to breathe deep to remind myself that I still had ME with me.
Once they'd gone and it was dark, I waved at a tree. It was swaying (like the golfers), and I was hoping it was mum trying to say something. I called for her and called for her like a small child.
Phone conversations happened and friends were lovely. I spoke to dad again, and my sister, and couldn't say much.
On the plane home; loss and hope all in one flight.....a 3 year old sitting next to me, and a new born to the right
And my mother had died, only last night.
She'd had Parkinsons for well over ten years. My father was her main carer before she went into a really good home. She was still 'her', though a faded version. I sang to her. Badly. Que Sera Sera (Doris Day,) and sent her love from my cat. She never liked the breed. 'Eastern' she said she was, ' makes too much noise'. I always reminded her how she hated eastern cats. She sometimes smiled.
The funeral's next week. Her favourite flowers were freesias. The ones on the right are 'hedge veg', in Guernsey. She was born there. She liked the cliff paths and flowers that weren't all 'done up'.
She wasn't really religious, but once said to me; 'if there is a heaven, it'll be full of women in macs sweeping floors'. I've missed her for years, and I miss her now.
3RD JUNE 2013...THE MINI BREAK...am doing it...BUT....
...to be truthful, I don't feel like it. The idea is to get some rest. Just for a few days. If you're self employed ( I know, it's my choice), you'll know that when you're sick, you don't get paid, and when you take a break, there's no cash coming in either. That's why it's a mini.....break.
COLON BEAUTY CARE
Still, I'll get some sun. There's a spa with odd named treatments that seem more appropriate for the bowel, rather than the body beautiful. I'm taking easy to read crime novels. Plus 'Canada', (Richard Ford) just in case I need to look a bit more high brow. I don't have a Kindle, so will no doubt be charged for excess book baggage.
NEWSPAPER MADAM? THAT'LL BE 20 QUID DUE TO THE HEAVYWEIGHT JOURNALISM
The airline fleeces you for flying with anything that weighs more than a hairbrush and a lipstick combined. And you pay extra to take a pair of socks; so 3 paperbacks will set me back at least 50 quid. I bought them in Tesco's on the advice of a fellow shopper who also gave me her opinion on 50 shades at the same time.
HE DID WHAT!
Old hat (tat) now, of course. However, she said she was shocked, not by the sex, but because the book's main character (the woman) refused the offer of a free first class flight from her 'suitor'. 'What she was letting him do to her...I'd have grabbed it, and asked for a round the world trip whilst I was at it'.
CAPTAIN HERE: 'WE'VE LANDED. EXPENSIVE BAGS, CHEAP FLIGHT. COSTS ME A FIVER FOR ME HOLDALL'.
I'll be back in blighty before you can say 'coffee? tea?' And 'thank you for flying with us, we look forward to welcoming you on board sometime soon - particularly if you bring several suitcases, 3 oversized cabin bags (50 quid for each one if you get the weight wrong), and your great grandmother. Our ground staff will be happy to lighten your wallet further, at anytime.
MAY 29TH 2013 The WAR on TERROOOOORRRR....oh please....
.....I thought we'd rid ourselves of blood pressure raising rhetoric. Lee Rigby was brutally murdered. That we know. Images of the 'suspected' (I know I know) killer's hands, covered in blood, crashed onto my TV in the early evening, and then the politicians started their mantras.
RHETORIC RAMBLES ON..
The murder (as all murders do) broke through the ordinary and was all the more shocking as a result. 'Terrorists will never succeed' (an Exeter MP), 'an act of terror', said another..and so the rhetoric rambles on.
I studied Islam as part of a theology degree in 2002. The reason? I was fed up with my own profession's simplistic understanding of the religion. I remember the BBC releasing a 'language' guide because religious illiteracy was so widespread in newsrooms. Mention 'religion' even now, and you're too often faced with an immediate 'either' 'or' response.
RELIGION? IT'S EITHER 'THIS' OR 'THAT'....
From the liberals: 'faith means you're thick and if you're a muslim you must be oppressed'. From the traditionalists: 'What does the Church of England STAND for?' Gay marriage? Things have gone downhill '. And Islam? 'Well obviously muslims don't really fit IN, although I lived next door to one once, or was it a sikh?' And everyone else? 'I'm too busy to think about it to be honest'.
There are IsLAMS. Iranian Islam is different to Moroccan, is different to Egyptian. The faith itself, is, like Christianity, culturally shaped and manifests itself in many different ways.
IF THIS WAS CSI, WE'D KNOW IT ALL IN 50 MINUTES...
The suspected killers' backgrounds are now being forensically examined. Is it possible that mental illness was in the mix? And that is not to excuse violent behaviour, nor stigmatise the subject. The phrase 'war on terror', coined in the Bush era, has now been replaced with less emotive language in the US. Obama's style is far less adversarial, and he has been criticised for it.
Most of us fear that which we do not understand. It's hard enough making a relationship work, never mind getting consensus from people with different mind sets, world views and cultural loyalties. I just want the rhetoric to stop. It means nothing and it diminishes us all.
28th MAY 2013.....PARK LIFE SHOULD BE PERFECT......
...BUT...it isn't. I tried, I really did, during the just past, two day fleeting summer. Picnics in the park....HOORAY! Playing in the park....YES PLEASE! Lovin' in the park...BRING IT ON! Except all this is forest green fantasy.
I took the food and it started to smell - cheese sweats in the heat. So do I. I got out my book and spread myself out on my towel. Bugs. Hundreds of them, marched over my left ankle. They were so determined, there must have been a sale on in insect world; they heading out for some bug bargains.
BLACKBEREEEES AMONGST THE TREES....
The dogs were fun. I love dogs. It's just the owners that can be difficult. A lab was trying to mount a terrier, and this prompted a shouting match. Not a problem, as the howling was drowned out by mobile phones with 'funky ring tones'.
London's parks are wonderful. An essential part of the city's appeal.Tourist tip? Just don't try and lie in them for long.
Saturday 25th May 2013 - ....and the bride looked LUVVERLY....after...
..Laura Mercier's Welsh Chris had finished doing his magic on my friend, and bride-to-be, 'G'. I was the acting surrogate big sister......and truthfully? G looked fantastic. She looked great before, but all blue-eyed, dewy and bridal like afterwards. Mid to late 20's skin is SO, well, young. Mid life skin..hard work, but we brush up alright. Just takes half a day, that's all.
BEING THE BRIDE TO BE'S MAKE UP 'MINDER'....
When Chris (make up artist - flies all over the world), started on G, I gave them some space. You don't want someone faffing over you when you're mid-foundation.
Of course, this was a GREAT hardship. I nipped backwards and forwards - between nail varnish...... (we were in John Lewis - SO calming there, none of your shouty music thing going on - (that's an age giveaway) ......and G, then another make up counter (he filled out my eyebrows, said my skin was dry, and I bought a gloss that my hair will stick to - BUT it's a lovely colour) ....and G....and then Fit Flops....and G and THEN she was all 'done'.
She didn't look 'done', in that 'I've got loads of slap on, and too much lipstick as I'm tying - the - knot - and - dreading- it kind of way'. Tying the knot - such a negative expression. Despite being divorced, I'm a marriage fan. You don't 'settle down', you 'settle up', a whole new landscape emerges. Well, that's the theory. G looked like her, only better.
We also nipped up the seamless pants section in 'underwear', or should it be 'lingerie'? I spied Spanx, but don't want to be too restricted. I'll leave it there.
Welsh Chris did G proud - and I got tearful once it was all finished. And that's 2 months beFORE the big day.....
MONDAY 20TH MAY - SPACE GIRLS...I'M THE ONE ON THE RIGHT.....
....she's got that frosty,' I've just nipped up the universe for a hashtag row'. Her orange mate looks miserable. That polyester's giving her an itch she cannot scratch. She's gripping her sides in agony. Canesten Combi, love. It costs, but best to get it sorted. Who wants to suffer on their way to Saturn. You will notice I have avoided naming the obvious planet. If they wouldn't say it on Question Time, I won't say it here.
ISSUES IN SPACE?...NEGATIVE, CAPTAIN.
Stuck in a small dark shell for 6 months; that's not so heroic. I've been doing it for over 12 years. It's called living in a one bedroom flat. And you can't have 'ISSUES'. I'm sure they've chosen 'issue free' people to go on the trip.
Not for long though. Big Brother in Space. Someone's already written the format and they're pitching it now. Michael Gove goes to Mars. Go on, you know you want to.
MAY 18TH 2013 - RAINS, BLOCKED DRAINS AND THROAT PAINS....
....sadly the virus came back (see May 7th)....and now I've been given some overwhelmingly cheery good news. Oh heaven's above. You will be pouring water into my small corner of the world; and the future will be nothing but wet.
COULD FARAGE FIX THE FLOODS?
I was only reading the paper for Farage V 'I think they're fascists' Scottish nationalists. He said that, not me. Then, on page four, I saw it. The prediction that had me pouring over leasehold terms and insurance agreements. Water will be pouring over West London and I'll be underwater before you can say deluge.
NO POINT BEING DEFENSIVE
If the flood defences don't hold, and job cuts mean the environment depts down on essential workers, that'll be it for me and my basement flat. My dad predicted this, and would I listen? Would I billy oh.......
There's a drain outside my front door, with a weed infested grate on the top. This is not reassuring. It also looks a whole lot worse when you're on amoxycillen and there's what feels like a razor blade in your throat.
Can you get sandbags off the net?
May 14th 2013 - All you need is GOVE.......which would work if pronounced like love. ..(am back on me blog after viral nasty; pic below). And now it's back to school to meet......
....the man with the education plan. Gove (pron: mauve) has me screaming for mind numbing drugs. Failing that, it's the hoover. On max. Why do I recoil from this powerful politician? I'd rather listen to an insipid 'we must be nicer to people' Thought for the Day (exceptions: Giles Frazer, Jonathan Sacks, Rhidian Brook(s), the bloke in Iona) than a ten past 8 Today top story slot, Gove interview. 'This is how I am going to revamp education??????????????????????????????? That's clear then.
PIPE CLEANER POLITICS
He must have gone to school once, and he had to be the boy with the 'A' ***starstarstarstar, even for the 'make a hat out of a pipe- cleaner', lesson. He'd have been cutting them in half and trying to convince us that less is more.
I saw him on Andrew Marr on Sunday, although it isn't. Andrew Marr. Shame he's sick because he'd have given Gove a going over. Gove ....rhymes with Brighten and HOVE. 'This unusual surname is of early medieval Scottish origin, and is an occupational name for a worker in metal'. (Source: internet person)
MELTDOWN IN CLASS
So, he's melting down much of our education system; and moulding it into.....I'm not sure, to be honest. It's maths heavy, culture light and art's only allowed if it gets you a job in the South East's service sector. Rearranging pencils on a city trader's desk is acceptably creative, as long as the pencils don't come from ...horror of horrors....'the other side'.....
That's his next project. The EU. Cameron's 'kind of' in, Gove's pretty anti but practical. That 'mess' in Europe? Nothing a good iron furnace won't fix.
4th May 2013 - BUBBLE GUM BUY......think I've blown it....
...I was/am into cream/neutral clothes. I'm done with wearing things that shout; 'I used to be a friendly punk in the late 70's'. I want you to 'see the woman', rather than the purple sparkly horse splashed over my off the shoulder top.
NO, PLEASE, NOT 'DOWN WIV THE KIDS'....
It's not that I wouldn't wear that now; more that I couldn't without feeling daft. It smacks of trying too hard to be 'down with the kids' (not that they'd been seen wearing a horse on anything, particularly as it's in most shepherd's pies). I love fashion; always have. It can be creative, fun and cheap. Designer's fine (if you can afford it and the dry cleaning up keep), but so's 'customising', 'making do and mend', and bargains on the net. That's where I've fallen into a fashion vortex.
The pink jeans arrived today. They cost 30 quid. From the pic on the site, they should have been a dusky pink. When I opened the box, they were a bubble gum, in your face neon bright version. The colour of Mr. Farage's face after the UKIP successes, and David Cameron's, after advisors told him to nick the other party's policies.
I tried to fading them with colour remover sachets; a couple of times. This approach worked in the past, by mistake, with a decent sweatshirt. It went from a deep powder blue, to an off ill looking white. No joy though with this effort. The jeans have stayed resolutely over the top rosy. I've now got better things to do such as paint doors, remove stains and clean cupboards. (Dreading all that)
..AND WHEN THE EURO SCEPTIC BUBBLE BURSTS?
Perhaps I'll give 'em to UKIP: if we pull out of the EU, they'll need to make a strong fashion statment to flag up their new (rather lonely and isolated) status. Neon pink's as good as anything. No-one will notice the faces flushed with pink faced shame, when the bubble gum bursts.
29th April 2013 .....Tattoos and too much talk about death....
..It was my fault she burst into tears. I'd said that 'when I go; I want to be buried/burnt wearing jeans'. She's only five, and went straight to her mum to have a cry. She's not big on death. Most of us aren't, frankly. Kids though often feel first and think afterwards. Best way to be.
DON'T MENTION THE 'D' WORD....
Grown ups get defensive when 'mortality', makes it's determined way into a conversation. We change the subject, make a joke, have a ciggie and another drink.
Death is democratic. It happens to all of us. Anyway (changing the subject,) After little M got over the shock of coffins and cremations, she gave me a 'HELLO KITTY' (temporary) tattoo and I love it.
KITTY'S IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL.....(OR MAUL...)
Clearly, it loves me too. The cat's got its claws well in to a bit of skin below my collar bone. (I reckon my five year old friend was getting her own back). It won't come off. I have some important 'take me seriously, I know what I'm talking about', meeetings this week. I'm sure the tat won't take away my gravitas. Wherever I go, Hello Kitty comes too and I know that Kitty will live FOREVER. (What a terrifying thought).
April 28th 2013 - I'm growing it.......
...we're not talking 'sit on it' length - more shoulder level. Just so I can swish. Testosterone was rather overmentioned by a mate this week, so I figured I should balance things out and big up oestrogen.
TAZERING; WHIPS OUT THOSE STROPPY STRANDS IN A FLASH...
Doesn't oestrogen boost your hair growth and set it on the road to silkiness? Of course, it has to be the hair on your head. Mid life moustaches aren't a great look for a woman of a certain age. Plus there's all that waxing, tweaking, tweezing and if you've got the cash; tazering. sorry lazering. (That's why the police are so baby faced. Thought you should know)
My kind of Rapunzel ain't waiting for a fella to arrive between 8 and 5pm to let her out. He'll be caught in traffic, mislay the address, and move the delivery to another day. She's not mobile, and doesn't have one either. She has a cell, but she's in it, rather than on it.
SYNTHETIC'S THE SOLUTION
For her secret escape she has a feisty follicular plan. Her hair isn't hers. It's synthetic. Extensions stuck onto her short hair to make it extra long. The government are backing these anyway, providing they're home grown, so that's an added bonus.
No more hanging around for the pesky blighter. Her oestrogen's working overtime, and she's out of there.
23rd April 2013 : Professional Makeover.......
......because my 'new and improved' work website (www.clarecatford.co.uk) will be on line soon. You never quite know how the photos will look. Clearly, Putin's look is not really in keeping with his role. However, it IS modern, and he's clearly sending the message that ALL men can experiment with eyeshadow if they feel the need. Very progressive.
PERSPECTIVE FLYS IN THE FACE OF CROWS' FEET.
Like a toothbrush, a website is an essential. So it gives the impression that you know what you're doing with you're professional life. Of course, that applies to me 100 percent, and you too I am sure (?). This time around though, it's going to be more 'me', than the 'person I think you'd like me to be, but frankly it doesn't bother you who I am or what I look like'. With age comes perspective; SUCH a relief. Some of the photos will show my crows' feet. This despite Eva Fraser's 'FACIAL FITNESS MADE EASY'.
Upper Eye LIFT
You can do these exercises while you're watching the telly and home waxing the hairs on your leg you missed 2 days ago. I did them on the tube this week, (exercises not waxing) and someone offered me their seat. The young man was clearly alarmed. Must've been the nose lift where you have to snarl and look mean.
Vladimir's got moody and mean well sorted. Didn't he once fight a crocodile? The creature scarpered when it got a flash of his 'Rouge Naughty'. That lipstick's been dumped as it did not have enough 'plumping' qualities. Little things matter, even if you are a lion hunter/rodeo rider/Roman God type of leader.
Wednesday April 17th 2013 - FUNERAL MATTERS.....
..yup I went. That's me somewhere in the crowd on the right at London's Aldwych. I have my own pics, most show the back of people's heads, but I got some good ones of the horses. I went because my first job as a journalist was covering the miners' strike in Mansfield (I am repeating myself I know).
'SHE EVEN HAD AN 'ISM' (Bishop of London)
That, plus all the other jobs I did, had Thatcher - ism as a backdrop. She was always there in my earlier working years, looming over me and whatever tribe I belonged to, like a slightly malevolent shadow. I haven't got the energy or desire to 'hate', neither do I think she was a demi god.
SHOVING FOR SHOW....
In this maggie - ing crowd, faces, mouths and bodies expressed ambivalence, anger, tears of emotion, sadness, solemnity, irritation (a bloke kept shoving us from behind), 'will your life fall apart if you get there 2 minutes late? I can't bloody MOVE'. 'Yes', he said. 'It will. People like you taking photos are holding me up'. A policeman looked at me smiled and raised his eyebrows.
Princess Diana died the year I got divorced, and I cried about that at her funeral. This time, I felt sad, for the years of my life that had gone (not over gloomy, just a bit empty), and I wondered what myriad of other complex reasons had prompted the crowds to turn up.
After it was over, I sat opposite a woman eating a cream slice in a coffee shop. She had another. I suppose such excess was a fitting tribute.
Tuesday 16th April 2013 - THERE'S NO RUNNING FROM BOSTON'S GRIEF....
Bombs are designed to maim, wound and kill. 'Bean Town', home to the Freedom Trail, fashionable Newbury Street, with its tea party history, is wounded. My brother in law's multifloored work building is near the marathon finish line. He could feel it shake when the devices exploded.
A CALL AND THEN.....
He lives with my sister and their family loutside the city. He rang her just after it happened. She was in the grocery store. He was safe. But, like the woman on the right, our worlds and our lives can pivot on the click of a 'call' icon
Terror is extraordinary, because it forces itself upon the day to day. It cuts through the ordinary, shattering bodies, domestic routines and long held human connections. Our lives are precarious, and no matter how much insurance we buy, bunkers we build or prayers we pray, nothing is certain.
IS ANYTHING GUARANTEED....?
Certainty is an illusion. It always has been. Living with questions, pain and confusion seems to be a more accurate description of human experience. Of course, if all that chaos belongs to 'other people', we can rest easy. But when it's us, it's in your face anguish.
VIOLENCE IS NOT SACRED
Whoever is responsible, whatever point they were trying to make, via violence, will not lead to any kind of resolution. Violence is not sacred. It breeds more rage, more fear, spawns more enemies and separates us further from ourselves and the rest of humanity.
The bomber may have his/her justification for this act of cowardice. Self justifying rhetoric is the first resort for those who detonate a DIY device loaded with ball bearings and nails in the middle of such a huge crowd. The injured, the dead, and their families have no need of rhetoric today. They just want their lives to be the way they were. Ordinary, for them, would do.