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Staged

When we were selling our house we used to vacate the premises for a viewing regularly.  Hubby had a particular routine of what had to be done and where things had to go on these occasions. We hid bits of clutter in cupboards and under beds, as you do,  but apart from this certain things had to be perfectly placed in certain ways to make them look just right. To be honest, I really didn’t see the point in most of the positioning, but this is his way and it made him happy so I did what I could to help and as you know, we eventually sold the house.

We only had the one viewing of our new house. We found it online and considering how good the estate agent pictures made our house look online I shouldn’t have been quite as surprised as I was at how much tlc it really needed, but the location was perfect and I have a pretty good imagination so I could see myself living there after a few improvements and a lot of tlc.

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I looked at these pictures so many times online that I could almost feel myself in the different rooms if I closed my eyes. I somehow managed not to see the things which are glaringly obvious to me in the pictures now.  Hubby of course was struck by so many bad bits when we visited that I was almost pleased we couldn’t  make a second visit so that he didn’t find any more.

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However, Hubby was particularly taken with the size of the kitchen and the huge wooden table which held centre stage. I saw the table, yes, but my eyes were drawn to the primary colour tiles above the worktop.

I know that when buying a house you’re not actually buying the contents, but since moving into our new home we’ve been busy furnishing it and after looking once again at the estate agent photos Ive noticed we’ve not only bought an almost identical kitchen table and chairs, but we’ve bought the same coffee table for the lounge too.

I had been looking at the type of furniture way before I looked at this house. We’ve gradually whittled down the furniture we had as the girls left home with their bits and belongings so we did need to buy more than a few pieces, not to mention of course the bits we did bring which didn’t make it through the front door, but I wonder if my choice of furniture being present in the pictures had any impact on my choosing the house.

In the same way, I also wonder if Hubby’s perfectly positioned props helped to sell ours.

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The boxing

          I knew Hubby really wanted to watch the boxing on TV but we were away for the weekend, the B&B we were staying at was run by two “little old ladies” although this had its benefits… extra biscuits with the tea and coffee facilities in our room, plenty of butter for the toast at breakfast…  Unfortunately,  Saturday night boxing on TV didn’t quite reach the menu.  With this in mind I suggested that Hubby found somewhere to watch the match.

          This is how I found myself in the middle of a noisy crowded pub on a Saturday night, I can’t even begin to describe how far out of my comfort zone I felt.

          I have this ability, be it a blessing or a curse, to detach myself from my surroundings and retreated inside my head. I guess that’s how I can fall asleep so quickly, obviously a blessing in that case.  Hubby’s world moves at a much faster pace than mine and if we’re in a hurry my mind can’t keep up with him but I’m confident enough in his ability to manoeuvre us both that I don’t even try to keep up with his world, I just reach out for the firm grip of his hand and away we go.

          This is basically how I planned to make my way through on Saturday night, we’d find a table where Hubby could watch the match and a protective seat where someone like me, who has no interest what so ever in watching two grown men beat each other to a pulp in the name of entertainment, could log onto the Wi-Fi and spend a few hours at a much quieter, slower pace online.

          There’s one of those four lettered words again… PLAN… I’m not usually one for a hard, fast plan, I usually go more for “progressive planning”, otherwise known as “make it up as you go along”, so really I should have expected the quiet table to be non-existent, I should have expected the sea-side, food-serving pub to have booked in a party or two on a bank holiday Saturday evening, an 80th birthday?  an 18th?  a hen night?… Or, as was the case here, all three.

          Hubby found us a space next to a post where he could see a TV through the archway and I could stand in close to the… banister rail would be the best way to describe it I think… Three gentlemen of short, stocky stature…  (although, to be fair, they might not have been that short, they were seated)… were seated in front of us, their chair backs up against our banister rail and in their musical Welsh accents they discussed the entertainment to come.  All was not well with the world, but in my little part of it, it was well enough for my bodily existence to feel secure enough for my mind to wander elsewhere.

          The hen party, whether by design or accident, left shortly before the boxing match started and somehow we secured two chairs at their vacated table.  The new position wasn’t quite as safe feeling as our little banister in the archway, but after our day’s wanderings between Weymouth and Portland, my feet very much welcomed the chair.  My chair, not a straight up and down backed dining chair, was more of a cupped shaped seat, with my own little bannister protecting my space so I stretched my feet out under the table and unlocked my phone.

          Hmmn…  No signal.

          Ok, no problem, the main part of the pub was at basement level, under the tall buildings above, not below sea-level,  but definitely below street-level so I accepted that my phone’s signal might not make it through. I’d use the pub’s WiFi.

           No WiFi…  Or at least, not enough strength in the WiFi signal to reach to this end of the building… No signal… No WiFi…  No escape…

          The crowd around me thickened and became louder as the fight started. Chants of “hit him” filled the air as waves of anticipation and disappointment took hold.

          I pulled my chair tighter into the table and huddled nearer to Hubby.  A bad move on my part as the crowd behind me moved forward for a better view. 

          I tapped into my phone and pulled up the one game I have stored on its limited memory.  Mahjong, a sort of pairs game played with tiles and strategy.  There was no strategy at all as my fingers poked at random tiles, searching for the calmness of the hidden world in my mind, the world I slip into all too often with no effort at all.

          With the cheers of the ever thickening crowds ringing in my ears I found the way in, I made a conscious effort to dull the sounds of reality and my mind took a sudden lurch towards the hidden world inside my head…

          … “Hit him!”…

          … The words drifted in with me…

          … “Fight… Fight”…

         My mind jolted, as if hit from the side and with another lurch landed in another, all too familiar place.

          …”Fight… Fight”…

          … The crowd closed into an inescapable circle and at the centre the school bully laid into an altogether weaker personality…

         … Cheers filtered through to my mind, the crowd started to disperse.  My hand hurt from the white-knuckled grip on my phone, but I had no cuts or grazes, no torn school uniform or broken glasses.

          I remembered to breathe, I put on my jacket and Hubby steered me through the much quieter pub and out into the night air.

          We emerged onto the promenade where the wind wrapped my hair about my face and the waves crashed into huge white horses on the tiny pebbles, for once it was more peaceful in reality than in the hidden world which is my mind.

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          I wonder if the school bully has any idea of what she did to me, after the scrapes and bruises faded, the only scars left were inside my mind.  The shame of not being able to protect myself, the fear of stepping outside of my comfort zone, of risking a situation I can’t control and of not having the strength to change it.

          These feelings and thoughts are part of my everyday life, mostly, they’ve become small, insignificant thoughts and feelings over time.

          I grew older and had children of my own, the mother in me now over-rules the small pathetic child.  The need in me to protect my girls has shown me that I am often much more than I used to be but I do worry from time to time, as I slip towards old age and a “second childhood” that the scars are still there. 

I wasn’t there… I missed it !

Silver lining, Oxford. Feb 2011.

         I’ve always loved having little ones around. I still say that if I could pick my babies up off the supermarket shelf then I would have at least six of them but pregnancy and me don’t do very well together so the doctor suggested that after three beautiful daughters I called it a day.

          Twenty-five years ago this year, I had one of the best excuses ever to explain away the extra weight I’d gained over Christmas.  My nice round belly had a life of it’s own, Youngest Daughter was resident inside, we’d already been formerly introduced and so she had her name and very active personality all in place to step into as she entered the big world.  We were all excited, Eldest and Middle Daughters included, and ready for the newest bundle to arrive.

         Blood pressure was an issue as in previous pregnancies but was closely monitored, as were water samples with the protein levels etc.  Everything was going as close to plan as I ever go until at a late pregnancy check-up it was decided the placenta was too low.  I won’t go into detail here, but the top and tail of it meant that the way out was blocked.

          I wasn’t too worried, Eldest Daughter had arrived via the trap door and Middle Daughter had made it out with “a little help from some friends”,  I wasn’t the worrying type so I just went with the flow as always.  On my final check-up I was prepped for the opp, wired for sound as it were and taken into theatre for an investigation.  Hubby sat outside with the tiniest disposable nappy you can imagine and waited for a decision.

          Nope…

          It was very much an anticlimax, no trap-door arrival, no tiny little feet, no expanding of tiny little lungs, we were sent home and Youngest was to make her own way into the world.  However, life is never that simple and this is where things began to get really complicated.

        I believe this final check-up had happened on a Friday, that would tie in with my memories of going to bed on Saturday night with a toothache – yes, even then I was having tooth problems – toothache,  headache,  armache,  legache,  backache…  You get the picture.  I didn’t have a very good night sleep,  I was up and down all night with just a couple of little round paracetamol to keep me company, and this is where my memory ends.

          Actually, this is literally where my memory ended, I didn’t see any more of Saturday night, or Sunday, or the next few days come to think of it, I, like you, have been told the next part of my story.

         I’ve always wanted to have a ride in an ambulance, a ride with a flashing light and the siren blaring.  On that Saturday night I did…

          And I missed it.

          Have you heard of pre-eclampsia?   Well never mind the “pre”, I always say if you’re going to make a mess, make a good one and I did, I went all the way into full blown eclampsia.

          Apparently Hubby had to choose with perfect timing when to leave Eldest and Middle Daughters in one bedroom and me (in between fits) in another bedroom and for him to run two streets away to the public phone box. Thank goodness it hadn’t be vandalised that week.

          SCARY TIMES…  But not for me – I wasn’t there, I missed it.

          Youngest Daughter was unceremoniously pulled out through the trap door and sent for tests and examinations galore as I’d cut off her oxygen supply.  There was a lot of rushing around – I caused more than a few problems for the medical staff that evening.  Lots of grey hairs and and the odd extra worry line for the people in my life can be attributed to the next few days, but not for me, I really wasn’t there.

          I don’t know where I was, I didn’t go anywhere, no out of body experience or bright light in the distance, just a feeling of peace, a sort of slow relaxed existence where nothing mattered… Of course I was drugged up to the eyeballs to allow my body to regain some control of itself so that probably had a lot to do with the relaxed feeling.

          Apparently I had visitors, my Mum said she had visited me, she had seen this gaunt, pale little creature in a bed who had tubes and pipes eating and breathing for her and was hardly recognisable as me.  I had a mass of auburn hair, very long, and very thick, which had been plaited into one large plait on the pillow.  She said she talked to the plait because it was the only part of me that she recognised.

          Hubby was there throughout, the hospital gave him a room on the maternity ward, a little side room next to the nurses station.  He stayed there with Youngest Daughter and shared his time between Youngest on the maternity ward and me on another ward in whichever part of the hospital they put you when you’ve just done what I did and don’t know who you are.

          I don’t know when exactly I realised Hubby was there, but I knew he was supposed to be there.  Its difficult to remember something which is normal. He kept bringing this baby to see me though which I did find strange, why would he be pushing the baby around in its little hospital trolley, as far as I was concerned we didn’t have a baby, Youngest was still tucked away inside me where she should be.

          I believe it was Wednesday evening that I can remember a visit from… a nice lady, she stayed and chatted for a while and brought me a little gift, a little pink ceramic boot with some little flowers and ribbons in it. A strange gift, but it was nice of her to visit and bring it all the same.  I mentioned the visit to Hubby later and it would appear my visitor had been Big Sister and I hadn’t recognised her.

          I think it was on Thursday that I finally realised who I was, and that the baby Hubby had been pushing around was infact Youngest Daughter.  The little pink boot present made more sense then too.  I was moved onto the maternity ward with Youngest which allowed Hubby, instead of living at the hospital and visiting Eldest and Middle Daughters at whichever family members house they were “holidaying” at, to go home and visit me and Youngest in hospital instead.

          My stay in hospital lasted about three weeks, by the end of this I must have been feeling better as I remember being bored, even if I’d felt the inclination to read, I couldn’t see the words and the doctors wouldn’t let me go home until the two TVs I was watching gradually melded back into one box.

          Finally, when I was able to go home, my house, although familiar, seemed sort of strange.  I didn’t recognise my pretty homemade blinds on the kitchen window, the ones which I had carefully put hours into making, and I was sure the dark wood kitchen table didn’t belong with the rest of the kitchen.

          I was soon to find out that not recognising my Kitchen was the least of my problems, I had a few forms to fill out, letters to sort which had arrived in my absence,  but as I put pen to paper… I couldn’t remember how to spell my name.

          Now it was my turn to be scared, the dream I had been living in for the past three weeks had suddenly become very real and this time I was there, I was living this reality too.

          Little by little I learned to be a new me, I learned to compensate for bits of my personality which had either changed, or disappeared completely,  I learned to control and use bits of my new personality to fill in the gaps. Sometimes I struggle to be the new person I am, but most of the time I don’t remember who I was before.

          I have less patience than I did, I’m more scatty, and miles more forgetful.  My confidence in what I am capable of holds me back in so many different ways, but I am a lot more stubborn than I was, and if I really want something, no matter what it is, if I really want something I absolutely will not give up until I’ve achieved it.