Hey, It’s Me!

do-not-disturb-writer

 

Hey there!

I haven’t posted in a while, as you probably (well, hopefully) noticed. The reason being that things have been rather hectically emotional around these parts of late, plus, I’ve made some changes and decisions, both in my life and in my blog.

Since my last post in January, I have undergone a hysterectomy in order to cure crippling back and abdominal pain caused by rather large (actually, make that humongous) myomas, said a heartbreaking goodbye to three of my beloved cats, and almost been swallowed by a maelstrom of depression. I even felt like I would never write again. During that time, I felt the devil ask me how I knew my way around the halls of hell. I told him that I do not need a map, for the darkness I know all too well.

Yet it was knowing that darkness, and my demons, which allowed me to eventually navigate a path back out into the light. As I emerged, stumbling and blinking, I knew that I had a choice – I could allow the darkness to come after me, or I could live.

I chose the latter…and started kicking.

In April, I applied for a job as an interim teacher at a local high school. It would be my first experience of teaching at a school in Belgium. On Monday April 16, I went for an interview with the school director, at the end of which I was told that I had got the job and would be starting on…Wednesday. I blinked and said “You mean, this Wednesday? As in the day after tomorrow?” The director smiled and nodded.

Thus, two days after the interview, I found myself standing in front of a class of 18-year-old’s, discovering that I would have to write exam papers for 68 students, guide some towards their graduation, get a difficult student who had been held back for two years to make it into the final year, and wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. Still, there is no better way to learn to swim than to be thrown in at the deep end, right?

Now, the exams are over and the summer vacation is upon us. All the students who were coming up for graduation graduated, and the difficult students (who actually weren’t that difficult) got an A grade and made it into the final year. Result!

And so here I am, feeling alive once more and, more importantly, feeling as if I have finally achieved something. Onwards and upwards, right guys!

I mentioned at the beginning that I had made some decisions and changes in my blog, too. I will no longer be posting short stories here on Do Not Annoy The Writer. Don’t worry, I’ll still be writing them, but I have decided to concentrate on the darker side of my writing nature, and so my stories will now be posted on a dedicated blog,¬†The Curious Case of the Blog in the Nighttime. So, if you happened to like my stories, please head on over to my new site, give it a like and a follow, and I’ll try to keep you entertained and a bit freaked out! ūüėÄ

As for Do Not Annoy The Writer, don’t worry…I shall still be posting here, but this blog will be just that; a blog. A record of my weird and wonderful, but certainly never boring, life.

Oh, and as a final note, I would like to thank each and every one of you for remaining with me during my blogging hiatus. That means more to me than you could ever imagine.

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Rear View Mirror (Short Story)

I don’t like to drive alone at night. There’s something about being in a car alone, with nothing but darkness all around that gives me a sense of uneasiness. I get the same uneasiness when I switch off the light on my landing at night and then have to walk the few paces to my bedroom. I’m always convinced that I can sense someone behind me; that I will, at any second, feel a disembodied hand on my shoulder, or turn to see a face looming impossibly out at me from the gloom. Only when I have reached the sanctuary of my room and flicked on the small table lamp, do I feel safe. It’s OK by me if you laugh. I laugh at it too sometimes, chalking it up to either an overactive imagination or the fact that I read too many horror stories.

Still, in spite of the fact that I don’t like driving at night, it’s one of the things that, on occasion, I find myself having to do.

One such occasion was just before Christmas, 1991. It was a little before midnight and I was driving home from a friend’s party. The road was completely empty and the only sounds were the dulcet tones of Cyndi Lauper’s¬†I Drove All Night filtering out from the radio, and the rhythmic, hollow drone of the tyres on the road. Once or twice I glanced up into the rear view mirror. There was nothing behind me, save for the disappearing expanse of tarmac and darkness.

I should probably state at this point that in spite of the fact that I was travelling back from a Christmas party, I had not been drinking. A recent throat infection, followed by a course of strong antibiotics, had seen to that. I mention it purely to reinforce in your minds the fact that I was stone cold sober, and that what happened next could not have been the product of an alcohol-addled imagination.

About five miles or so from home, the road begins to wend and weave its way through a densely forested area known as Mantus Woods. Naturally, here at night there is no light whatsoever. Even on a clear night with a full moon, the woodland canopy is so dense that barely a trace of moonlight penetrates through. With the car headlights illuminating the road ahead, I turned up the volume on the radio just as Nancy Sinatra’s¬†Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)¬†filtered through the airwaves. Now apologies to fans of hers, but I absolutely loathe that song with a passion (nothing to do with good ole Nancy, but rather the memory of where I was when I first heard it) and so I turned the dial on the radio to find another station. Strangely, I couldn’t get one. No matter the frequency I chose, all I could hear was static.¬†Must be because of the coverage of trees¬†I thought to myself.

Rounding a bend in the road, suddenly, there was a loud thud! and the car jumped and skidded a little. Not badly, but enough to make my heart feel like it was going to pound right out of my chest, and for my hands to tremble on the wheel.

“What the hell was that?” I said out loud and to myself.

Thinking that I must surely have hit something – some poor deer or another animal of some kind – I looked up into the rear view mirror.

I could see nothing. And by nothing, I mean, nothing. Not even the road. There was nothing behind me except an all-pervading blackness. The sooner I was out of these woods, the better, for I was beginning to get more than a little creeped out.

Attempting to soothe my jangled nerves, I once again reached for the radio dial. Surely I must be able to get a station by now. Just as I looked to see which frequency I was on, a car overtook me. By the wide corridor of light that stretched out in front of it, I could tell that it had its headlights on high beam. Not only that, but the interior light was on too, and the driver was fumbling around, trying to hold a map on the steering wheel.

What on earth is going on? Not ten seconds ago, that car was not there. Of that I am as certain as I am of the fact that I am sitting here, writing this tale, so that all may know of it. It was not there when I heard the thud. Nor was it there when I looked in the mirror to see what I thought I may have hit. How the hell can a car appear out of nowhere?

The car stayed ahead of me until the road exited Mantus Woods and we came to a crossroads. Here it turned left, taking the road that leads into town. Hardly a ghost car then. Still puzzled, and, I don’t mind admitting, a little shaken up by the night’s events, I headed straight on and made it home without further incident. I parked my car in my garage, headed to my front door and then up to bed. I’m sure you will understand when I tell you that that night, I slept with the landing light on.

The next morning I headed down to get some things from my car. As I opened the garage door, I was immediately struck by what I saw. On both the left and right hand sides of the car at the rear were three short scratches that tapered off into three, quite deep, indents. The marks were curious – not only because I know for a fact that they were not there when I got into my car to go home after the party – but also because of how they looked. They did not look like the kind of marks which come from normal bumps and scrapes. In fact, they didn’t look like anything I had ever seen before. Then, the more I looked, the more I came to a terrifying conclusion. These weren’t just scratches. They were claw marks!

Just like pressing rewind on a movie, my mind began scrolling back through the previous night’s events. The static on the radio. The thud. The blackness behind me. The car appearing seemingly from nowhere. And then…there it was. The awful, sickening, horrifying realisation of what had happened.

I had rounded the bend first and so was oblivious to the fact that another car had pulled onto the the straight stretch road where I had just been. The car had then been behind me from the moment I heard the thud. So why hadn’t I seen it? Because something – something that could interfere with my radio signal, was as wide as my car and as black as the night – had been clinging to the back of my car, blocking the window. When I had looked up through the rear view mirror, what I thought was the darkness was actually….

…..I don’t know. I couldn’t be sure.

All I could be sure of was that I had inadvertently brought it home with me.

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Agendas and Cougars

The Harvey Weinstein case has once again thrust the thorny issue of female sexual harassment firmly into the spotlight. The hashtag #MeToo is currently trending worldwide, as women everywhere share their stories of harassment and unwanted sexual advances.

I used the hashtag last night on Twitter, as I recalled the moment a few years ago when, while walking through the city centre with some friends, a group of guys came walking in the opposite direction. As they passed us, one of the guys – a total stranger to me – slapped my arse. He did it so hard that it left a red mark on my skin through my clothes. What I didn’t say on Twitter last night was what my reaction was. I don’t know whether it was through shock or pure anger, but I spun around and stormed after him. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got to him – and neither did my friends, which is probably why they all grabbed my arm and pulled me back. To this day though, I can distinctly recall the look on his face as I turned and went after him. It was a look of shock, mixed with a tinge of fear. Looking back, I don’t suppose he knew what I planned to do either; but I also had the impression that he had never had such a reaction before. Maybe he’d never done it before. Maybe it was a dare, or he wanted to look cool to his friends. Whatever the reason why he did what he did, I hope I sowed some seed of reflection in his mind, that that is not the way respectful people behave and that women too have rushes of adrenaline when attacked.

Not long after I tweeted, I had a conversation with a guy who I know only through Twitter. We chatted about how everyone likes to think they look nice, that they are desirable even, and whether if, as a woman, you put on your make up and got dressed in a way that was flattering to your figure so that when you looked in the mirror you liked what you saw and felt quite sexy … what if when you went out, no man – or woman for that matter – payed a blind bit of notice to you? Not even an admiring look. As I said to my Twitter friend, I’m not saying I am some kind of hottie, but I think I would feel a little deflated. Purely because it’s a boost to the esteem, a kind of third-party validation that we are attractive. As I said, doesn’t everyone want to feel attractive?

Our conversation drew a hypothetical, but firm, line in the sand that it is not OK to put your hands on someone uninvited. He said that he had had his arse slapped and pinched on occasion, to which I responded with that I don’t think that is acceptable. I don’t think anyone has a right to touch someone else without permission, whether that person is a man or a woman. I’m not talking about brushing past someone or touching someone on the arm to get their attention that you want to get past them, but even the fact that I feel compelled to clarify such a statement, shows how muddied the waters have become.

We then talked about muddled and double standards. I know, you’ve heard of double standards, but what on earth are muddled standards, I hear you ask. Let me give you an example. I am not big breasted. However, if I were, and I enjoyed wearing low cut tops which showed off my ample bosom – my¬†d√©colletage¬†as the French say (why is it that everything sounds so much nicer in French?)¬† –¬†would I have a right to be annoyed if people, specifically men, looked at what I was choosing to show off? Again, I’m not talking about touching … but looking? We all know when someone is attractive. A woman knows if another woman is attractive in just the same way that a man knows if another man is attractive (I could go on to why society deems it acceptable for a woman to say¬†“She’s pretty”¬†but if a guy says¬†“He’s a good looking guy”¬†suddenly he’s labelled as gay, but that’s for another post). And surely, when we think someone, or a feature of someone, is attractive, we look, don’t we?

Moving on to double standards, I do feel that it is here that we women especially, aren’t being entirely honest, nor fair for that matter. For the purposes of demonstration, I will point this example squarely at the ladies reading this.

Let’s just suppose that your boyfriend or husband went on a stag night, and during the stag night, he and his friends ended up at a strip club. Your boyfriend/husband and his boozy mates chose to spend a good hour or two watching young, sexy women take all their clothes off for them. Would you be annoyed or offended? Now ladies, let’s suppose that you and¬†your¬†friends are on a hen night. Part of the night involves going to watch male strippers. You and¬†your¬†prosecco-soaked friends spend a good hour watching young, sexy men take all their clothes off for you. They even thrust you up on the stage to pour baby oil on one of them. Would you say your husband or boyfriend should be annoyed or offended? Or would you say it’s just a bit of harmless fun? Depending on your answers, therein lies the double standards.

The same double standards apply when we women get offended if a guy catcalls or wolf-whistles at us, but yet we think nothing of rating Tom Hardy’s arse out of 10. My point is that at some point, both sexes indulge in objectifying behaviour, but society has got to a point where somehow a woman objectifying a man is harmless fun, but turn the tables and suddenly it’s sexual harassment.

It’s a complex situation, and yes, I’ve seen women who are physically uncomfortable with a guy’s attention and they are either too scared or too polite to say anything, or the guy is either oblivious or simply chooses not to see it. I’ve seen men too, trying to extricate themselves from the attentions of a woman, without hurting her feelings and running the risk of having her take her revenge by saying he attacked her. There will always be grey areas and everyone will undoubtedly have their own perceptions of where the line in the sand of acceptability is.

In case this post is in some way misconstrued, let me be perfectly clear. When it comes to sexual harassment or any kind of sexual assault, I say this:

Whether you are male or female, straight, gay, bi, transgender or just damn well undecided, if someone sexually assaults you it is NEVER your fault. Report it. Every time. Push for heavier sentences. Make the predators the pariahs of of society.

And to the predators who think such casual degradation is all part of “having a laugh”, I say: Stop being a dick, and think about how you would feel if someone did that to your wife/mother/sister/daughter/son/brother.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a society where a man is scared to even speak to me for fear that something he says, or some innocent gesture he may make, may leave him vulnerable to a charge of sexual harassment. Then again, I don’t want to live in a society where a woman is scared to be approached by a man for fear that he may be one of the sleazy f***ers who won’t take no for an answer.

For sure, there are men who have an agenda and think¬†“I like that, and I’m gonna take it”,¬†but by the same token, there are cougars out there who just want what they want! Maybe if the agendas and the cougars could just get together, we’d all be happier.

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We’ve Got To Stop Raising Misogynists

A wonderful, strong piece of writing. The language may be a little choice for some, but the sentiment rings through loud and clear.

Opinions Are Like Orgasms

As my bleary eyes adjusted to the light emanating from my phone screen this morning, I peered through the steam rising from my coffee to read one of the most sickening, misogynistic stories that it has been my misfortune to read since that tiny-handed Neanderthal currently occupying the White House, announced to the world that he could ‚Äúgrab ‚Äôem by the pussy.‚ÄĚ

Sophie Stephenson, a 24-year-old bar supervisor from Stoke, UK, had a holiday romance with 21-year-old Jesse Mateman from Amsterdam. The two of them slept together while on holiday in Barcelona and kept in daily contact when they arrived home. However, when Sophie spent £350 flying to Amsterdam to see Jesse again and rekindle the romance they had shared in Spain, not only did he leave her stranded at the airport, he sent her a text saying “You were pigged *two pig emojis* It was all a joke…

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The Coincidence of Men

I don’t mind telling you that today hasn’t been a great day.

In spite of the fact that the morning weather was a damp and misty 12¬įC, I woke up in full hot flash mode (for those of you who may have missed it, here’s A Busy Old Time, which details Mother Nature’s attempt to drive me completely round the bend with the perimenopause). Throwing off the covers, I ran to the bathroom to swill my face with cold water. Catching sight of myself in the mirror, I gasped. It was not me who gazed back at me, but some sleep deprived 40-year-old whose face was a shade of red that a freshly boiled lobster would envy. I swilled my face, more in the hope that I might wash away Little Miss Lobster Face than to actually cool down, and then jumped in the shower. Just as I was basking in the feel of the cool water running down my body, my husband popped his head around the shower curtain and asked if he should make the coffee. This was really nice and thoughtful of him, and I was about to award him a whole host of Brownie points, when he followed up with, “What are you blushing for? It’s only me!” The look on my face must have made him realise what he’d said and he made a hasty exit to go and make the coffee.

Suitably refreshed, I managed to have breakfast without incident and then set off to run some errands and do a spot of shopping. And then the mood swings decided to make an appearance. They first made themselves known in the supermarket, and initially took the form of road rage. Road rage in a supermarket! I know, right! Yet how else would you describe it when, upon seeing a guy straddling the middle of the aisle with his shopping cart while with furrowed brow he eyes the row of tinned peas and beans as if they were some complex mathematical puzzle, you hear your voice say “Pick a lane, dickhead!” as you push his shopping cart out of the way with your own.

Road rage was quickly followed by an anxiety attack which saw me shaking and sweating as I put my items on checkout conveyor belt. As I headed for the door, I was convinced that security were going to come after me, if not for the incident with the bewildered man in the peas and beans aisle, then because I must surely have looked as if I was trying to hide something. Making it to the car, I threw my items into the boot and then sat in the car for what seemed like an age, just sobbing and feeling that if it was possible to merge a hot mess and a complete failure, you would come up with me at that exact moment.

A little while later, I had a stern word with myself and told myself to calm down and pull myself together. I fished around in the glove box and found a tissue, blew my nose and looked in the mirror. It was then that I realised that my husband had previously used the tissue to wipe his oily hands, and I now had a black oily smear across my nose. A wave of anger washed over me, followed almost immediately by an uncontrollable fit of giggles at the thought that it was fortunate I hadn’t wiped my eyes with the tissue, as I would have ended up looking like Chi Chi the Giant Panda!

Back at home, I found a note left by my husband, asking me to call a zinc plating firm and to find out some info on the procedure and how much it would cost for him to have some of his motorbike parts plated (he restores classic motorbikes and he had a load of nuts and bolts ready to be plated). I duly called the company and found myself speaking to the most unhelpful man I have ever had the misfortune to speak to. Not only did he give me three different prices in the space of two sentences, but he also told me that he – and I quote –¬†“couldn’t guarantee that the parts would come out right”¬†and that he¬†“couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t lose anything”.¬†When I responded with¬†“So you can’t guarantee that anyone at your company is professional and knows what they’re doing?”¬†he hung up on me.

I am now venting my spleen to you, my dear readers, whilst simultaneously drinking a calming cup of chamomile tea. As I do so, a thought has just occurred to me. Today has been full of run-ins with men – my husband this morning, the poor guy in the supermarket and the idiot on the phone. Combine this with menopause, mental stress and indeed, menstruation, and I can’t help but wonder whether it’s just a coincidence that a great many of women’s problems start with “men”?

I think I need more chamomile tea!

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I Am A Camera

“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.”

This opening line of Christopher Isherwood’s novel, “Goodbye To Berlin”, always makes me think of how we should view life from the analogy of a camera. We should focus on the things we love and allow other trivialities to fade into the background. Capture the good times, the fun times, and the great times, but don’t neglect the sad times; it all goes into the final montage. Let yourself develop from the negatives and use them to hone your life skills. And, just like a camera, if you get things wrong…just take another shot!

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The Greatest Dad On The Planet

I think I have a very good reason for saying that my Dad is the greatest dad on the planet. Actually, I have several very good reasons.

For one thing, he’s never failed to support me. No matter what I’ve ever said I wanted to do, he always told me I could do it. When, at age 7, I said that I wanted to be a mechanic or an engineer, he gave me an old radio to take apart and reassemble as practice. The fact that it didn’t go very well and after putting it back together I had four parts left over, is neither here nor there! And when I said that I wanted to be a nurse, he told me I could easily do that, but that I would have to make sure that I studied hard. Even when I said that I wanted to be an actor, he didn’t laugh or scoff. He just told me that if that’s what I wanted then I should go for it, but to make sure that I studied hard so that I had something to fall back on.

Another reason why he’s the greatest dad, is that he adores my Mum. He always gives her a hug and a kiss goodnight, even after almost 60 years of marriage, and has openly said that he would be totally lost without her. *cue a mass exclamation of “Aaawwww!”*

He’s also hilariously funny and never fails to make me laugh, often at the most unexpected times. One such occasion was a few months ago when he and I went into town together. We had done a lot of shopping and although the weather was fine, it was beginning to get cold, so we decided to head for home. Rather than getting the bus, we thought that we would walk the short distance to the local taxi office. Once there, we ordered a taxi and the lady on the switchboard told us it would just be a few minutes. We therefore took a seat and waited.

Not long after, a man who was quite obviously drunk, came in and sat down next to us. Despite my best efforts to ignore him, he promptly tried to engage me in conversation. I was as polite and civil as I could be, and successfully parried his pointless inquiries with monosyllabic replies. When he asked if he could tell me something and went on to say, “You are so beautiful. I really mean that. God, you’re beautiful.” I smiled politely and thanked him. He then followed up with, “What’s your name?”

“Eleanor” I replied.

“Well, Eleanor, you are so beautiful.” he said…again.

“Thank you,” I said…again, and then gesturing to my Dad, said “And this is my Dad, William.” I was rather hoping that introducing my dad would prompt him to shut up, but I was wrong.

He leaned across me and shook my Dad’s hand, before saying, “Are you a pit man?”

My Dad shook his head. “No,” he said, “I was a production engineer.”

“And this is your daughter?” asked the guy.

“Yes. My youngest daughter.” answered my Dad.

“How many daughters have you got?”

“Five”

At this point, I knew my Dad was building up to something, primarily because I know full well that I don’t have four sisters! I knew that I would have to try hard not to laugh.

“Five daughters?” said the guy.

“Yep,” my Dad nodded, “And four sons.”

I bit my lip. I have two sisters and one brother, so the fact that my Dad was spinning a drunken stranger a yarn that he had five daughters and four sons, was amusing to say the least. As for the guy, he was now wide-eyed. I, meanwhile, was eagerly awaiting the punchline.

“Five daughters and four sons?” said the guy.

“Yep,” my Dad nodded again, “I was a very productive production engineer.”

Bingo! How I managed not to laugh out loud, I have no idea, especially when I saw that they guy was none the wiser to my Dad’s tall tale and had bought the whole thing hook, line and sinker!

A moment later and the conversation threatened to take a surreal turn as the guy asked us both what we liked and didn’t like. Fortunately, the moment the question left his lips, the lady on the switchboard told him that his taxi was outside and he promptly got up and left. I say fortunately, because he didn’t hear my Dad’s reply to his question.

“Likes and dislikes. Well, I’m not keen on drunken men trying to chat up my daughter.”

My Dad really is the greatest dad on the planet…and I love him more than words could ever say!

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The Hills Have Eyes…But Kids Have Ears!

According to Tammy Wynette, “Kids say the darndest things”. However, more often than not, the things they say come straight from the mouths of us adults. No matter how irrelevant we think our words to be, they are picked up by the radar ears of our little rugrats and promptly stored away in their banks of their memory, ready to be brought forth at the most inopportune moments.

Take, for example, the case of my niece, Charlie, and her seven year old daughter, Laura. Recently divorced, Charlie is still nevertheless friends with her ex-husband. That’s not to say that he doesn’t still infuriate her now and again, especially when he tries to take over and insists that “this is a man’s job”. On one such occasion, Charlie was changing an electrical plug when her ex happened to pop by. It’s something she has done several times before and the fact that neither she nor the children have ever been blown up, is testament to the fact that she knows what she’s doing. Nevertheless, the sight of her with an electrical cable in one hand and a screwdriver in the other, was enough to send her ex into full caveman mode. He snatched the cable and screwdriver out of her hands and told her that she should have called him if she needed anything like that doing. He ended with “Changing plugs and anything electrical is a man’s job.”

Later that day, Charlie was bemoaning his albeit well-meaning attitude to one of her friends. Unaware that Laura was in earshot, she said “Honestly, I don’t know what it is. Half the time I feel like telling him that just because he’s got a penis doesn’t make him better than me!”

Fast forward a few days and Laura, who’s more than a bit of a tomboy, was playing outside when some boys started playing football. She politely asked if she could play with them, but they just laughed and said no. Undeterred, she asked again, this time following up with the fact that she’d played football with boys before and that she was good at football. Still they said no. Seeing and hearing this conversation taking place, Charlie wandered to the back door to make sure that everything was all right. No sooner had she reached the door, she saw Laura standing in full little madam pose – feet shoulder width apart, hands on hips. She was about to go out to her when, to her horror she heard her yell loud enough for the next town to hear, “Just because you have a penis doesn’t make you better than me!”

NB: As I write this, my husband has come into the room, seen two flies zooming around the room and has gone after them with a tea towel. This is despite me saying that I will swat them as soon as I’ve finished writing, because, well, I’m better at it than he is. Upon seeing one of the flies land on the edge of my desk, he stealthily crept up to it, wielded the tea towel and brought it down hard. Smack! Unfortunately, he missed both the fly and the desk and whipped himself in the balls with the towel. He is currently on the floor and I can barely see through tears of laughter.

Here’s to strong women! May we be them. May we know them. May we raise them.

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Virgin Mary In The Bathroom

OK, so yesterday, my husband and I had a friend staying with us. We’ve known him for a good few years now, and so know that not only does he wear glasses, but that without them, he is incredibly myopic. He himself has often said that without his glasses, he wouldn’t be able to see the nose on his face. However, a hilarious incident yesterday evening brought fully into focus (pardon the pun) just how bad his eyesight is. (Before I go any further, I feel I should point out that I am in no way making fun of him. I wear glasses and contact lenses myself and without them, I have trouble making out detail, which is one reason why I found the aforementioned incident quite so funny).

The incident in question took place yesterday evening as we all prepared to retire to bed. We only have one bathroom and so seeing as he was our guest, we said that he should use it first. I had just finished putting my nightie on and came out of my bedroom, putting my arms into the sleeves of my dressing gown as I did so, only to see our friend (sans glasses) coming out of the bathroom looking a little puzzled.

“Everything OK?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, “I just didn’t expect to see the Virgin Mary looking at me while I was having a pee.”

I laughed, thinking at this point that the flavourful wine he had kindly brought with him, must have gone to his head.

“I didn’t think you were religious” he went on.

“I’m not,” I replied.

“So why do you have a statue of the Virgin Mary in the bathroom?” he asked.

“I don’t”

“Yes, you do. I was taking a pee and I looked to my right and saw the Virgin Mary, all dressed in her blue and white, looking at me.”

At this point, I must have looked incredibly perplexed. In my head I couldn’t work out whether he was drunk, imagining things, or both! Seeing the look on my face, he said, “Come here, I’ll show you.”

Now I’m not in the habit of following men into bathrooms, whether they are friends of mine or not, but I was truly curious as to just what it was he was claiming to have seen.

Upon entering the bathroom, he walked towards the toilet and then turned to his right, pointed to a spot just underneath the bathroom cupboards and said, “There!”

I immediately burst out laughing!

“What’s so funny?” he asked. Now it was his turn to look perplexed.

I composed myself as much as I could and said, “That’s my iron!”

It’s true, dear friends. Without his glasses, my friend had looked at my slimline, blue and white iron which sits on its little stand just underneath my bathroom cupboards, and thought it was a statue of the Virgin Mary!

He clapped his hands to his face and his shoulders began to jig up and down, before he took a deep breath and literally roared with laughter. Meanwhile, my husband – who had just appeared at the doorway – saw us pointing at the iron, laughing hysterically and thought we had both taken leave of our senses.

Once serenity had finally been restored, we bade each other goodnight and went to our rooms. I was still giggling a little as I closed my eyes. Just as a drifted off to sleep, I remember thinking that it put a whole new spin on the song “Let It Be” by Paul McCartney.

“When I find myself in times of trouble

Mother Mary comes to me

Whispering through the laundry,

Iron me.”

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A Busy Old Time

It’s been a busy old time of late. In fact, I should probably have gone with “hectic” as opposed to “busy”; I’m sure that would have been far more accurate.

Having had some health issues of late, I had rather hoped that my medical travails were behind me. Mother Nature on the other hand, had other ideas. After a few weeks of irritability, mood swings, waking up in the middle of the night feeling so hot that even the devil would have asked if he could open a window, I went to see a female GP at my local surgery. Imagine my delight (you may need a towel to mop up the dripping sarcasm here) at being told that I was now perimenopausal! I’m 41, for god’s sake! How can I be perimenopausal? I’m too young…aren’t I? Apparently not. The doctor was extremely sympathetic as I sat, a sobbing, snotty, blotchy-faced wreck, in front of her. Through gulps and sobs I managed to ask “So what do I do?”

The doctor smiled and said, “Well, you can either knuckle down and tough it out for the next ten years or so, or you can take one of these little pills every day and you should start to feel better. Plus, you won’t feel as old. You’re too young to feel old.” As she handed me the prescription, I damned near ripped in two snatching it from her.

Then, tragedy. Two of my beloved cats died within a couple of weeks of each other. The first one, George, was around 18 years old and showing signs of dementia. He would wander from room to room, miaowing as if he didn’t recognise things. On the last day, he seemed as if he was struggling to recognise me. I did the last nice thing that I could do for him and asked the vet to let him sleep.

The second cat, Carino, had only been with me for a couple of years. I found him one January, totally wild and foaming so much at the mouth that I thought he may have rabies. After trapping him in my hallway, and struggling with him until we were both exhausted, I managed to get him into a box and took him to the vet. Under sedation, she found that he had a terrible problem with his mouth. What few teeth he had were rotten through to the roots and he had an open ulcer on his tongue. I couldn’t imagine the pain he must have been in. Without a doubt, he was unable to eat. A blood test showed that he had Feline AIDS. Still, he’d only be a danger to other cats if he bred with them or bit them. He was already castrated so there was no risk of him breeding. And when it came to his mouth, the vet performed a miracle. She operated, took out his rotten teeth and roots, gave him strong antibiotics for the ulcer, and within a week, I was looking at a different cat. For two years he was pain free and a happy cat. Sadly, though, the Feline AIDS began to take its toll and he began to develop open sores around his mouth that did not heal or respond to treatment. Eventually, the ulcer on his tongue returned. There was no way I was going to let him be in that kind of pain again, and the vet agreed it was kinder to let him sleep.

I’m now three weeks into my perimenopause medication and I am indeed beginning to feel a little better. I’m still in the grip of mood flashes and hot swings (or is it the other way around?), but I feel that there’s light at the end of the tunnel…I just hope it’s not a sodding train!

Then, in the midst of all the physical and emotional upheaval, I decided that my life needed a change of pace. A new challenge, perhaps. Cue applying for multiple teaching jobs in a variety of countries, being offered an extremely lucrative job in China (I politely declined) and being approached with a request to write someone’s biography. I know I said I’d like a change of pace, but could you at least form an orderly queue?

I have spent today writing to 43 schools to see if they would like to hire a perimenopausal English teacher (I didn’t put it quite like that on my resum√©) and am now sitting at my desk having a well earned cup of tea and a biscuit or six.

What will the future hold, I wonder?

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