I think my mum must have been talking to children at Acocks Green Junior School about her life in Yardley as a child, this seems to be a response to a letter from one of the pupils….. Acocks Green Birmingham, 1st November 1985 Dear Ranjit, Thank you for your letter […]
I have always loved to grow things and have sometimes been told I have green fingers when it comes to plants. Years ago when I lived in Darwin Australia, I tried several times to grow a mango without success. The advice then was to cut a slit in the hard outer casing of the mango nut and then put it in the freezer for 24 hours which should have encouraged germination but in my case never did. Here is how I have successfully grown a mango here in the UK.
First thing – eat your mango! Leave the shell on a windowsill to dry out thoroughly for about three days. It will be considerably brittle and should then easily crack apart down the side seam, to expose the mango nut inside. It`s an extraordinary looking thing, it looked to me like an alien in its fetal state.
Get some kitchen roll and wet it, squeeze out the excess water and wrap your mango nut up in it. Put this in a polythene bag to keep everything moist and leave it on a windowsill. I grew mine from September time onwards but I guess it will be harder to germinate the little nut in the depths of winter. Take it out every week and wet it again, don`t let it dry out, and check it is ok and not rotting. After about NINE WEEKS (yes, it takes that long) you should see a couple of tiny white shoots. These are the main roots and as they grow in a twisty turny kind of a way, they will change colour to a dull yellow. Keep the mango nut on its side and please treat it with great delicacy, they will die if you start picking them up or shifting their position, so be kind. About two weeks later, all being well, you should see the first green shoots of leaves, they should be glossy and a dark green or even reddish colour. When these appear, it is time to pot your mango up. Here is an important bit…..
You must keep the mango nut on its side, if you place it any other way it will rot. Cover it carefully in a generic compost with the little green leaves sticking out at the top. Mangos grow extremely slowly so do not expect anything spectacular to occur for several months or years! After about six months I had four leaves and now she is nearly two years old and I am very proud of her and attached! I water her about every two weeks at the moment, she seems fine with that and maybe that will change in very hot weather. I am told she will never bear fruit in our climate however, with the globe warming up, you never know!
It isn`t easy living with someone who is depressed, it tests you on every level and it is extremely draining. Here are some thoughts and recollections from personal experience and I hope, some ideas and coping mechanisms relating to how to look after yourself when you are caring for or living with someone who is depressed. I understand depression is a serious business, it can be completely paralysing and debilitates an individual so absolutely, they can become immobilised by it, physically, sexually and emotionally so I do not underestimate how powerful an impact depression can have upon a person and their relationships and serious depression can of course lead to long term medication, hospitalisation and sometimes, suicide.
I have occasional periods of feeling low – my mother used to refer to it as waking up with the devil on her back
, however, I live with the luxury of knowing this will pass so I surrender to it safe in the knowledge that within two or three weeks I will get up one morning and think – hey – I feel better and all is well with the world once more. For some people though, this experience of feeling better simply does not exist and the depressive state can hang around twenty four seven. I have had a lot of years to consider why or how this occurs and I think it is a mixture of familial inheritance (or a predisposition to depression,) coupled with environment and events that may lower our self-esteem and confidence as well as other factors for example, not believing anything can help and so not trying out different therapies/supplements/diets and so on that might make a massive difference. I have been known to call this lack of action a lazy reluctance and that is when I have exhausted all avenues to find help and none have been explored. So how can we combat the effects upon ourselves, when living with a depressed person because it can be really depressing, no pun intended?
Initially as a young woman I used to research avenues of help for my depressed friend and enthusiastically explore these over a few beers in the evening, excited at the prospect of change. This approach however, failed since how do you help someone who does not want to be helped? It is so frustrating especially as one of my traits is a desire to sort out other peoples problems. In the early days I listened attentively to them and would write lots of notes suggesting where to go to find something that might shift them out of their downward state of mind. Therapy – a new diet – exercise – let us go for a drive in the country – a walk in the park – visit the cinema? All of these suggestions some of them tried, did not even dent a hole in their overall frame of mind and so it became quite emotionally exhausting just trying to help. It felt for me like I had a troublesome otherness attached to me, depleting my energy. It felt a bit like the passing away of a person who when I first met them in their teens was a happy person, a clown and as with a passing, I went through all the emotions of bereavement because I had lost the person I knew and they had been replaced with a doppelganger. It has taken a long time to process these stages of loss and I think now I am nearly seventy, I am at a place of peace and here are some ways in which I achieved that.
I stopped taking responsibility for the other person`s happiness.
I forged a career and a life, especially a social life, of my own. I refuse to be defined by any individual, I am not a nurse to someone, I am not their carer.
I remain as far as possible, empathetic to my friends plight however, I cannot do anything to make it better, that is up to them so I try as far as possible, to listen and respond in a kind way. This doesn`t always work and I can be sharp or sarcastic or unkind but I do try.
I will not engage in repetitive conversations or going round in circles and generally say so. I will say, we have talked about this several times so I am not prepared to talk about it any more.
I take myself out of the situation – literally!
I try to focus on looking after myself. I meditate, go for walks somewhere pretty, ground myself when I awake, my next plan is to start open water swimming as this is incredibly beneficial to our mental well being as is pursuing any hobby which you enjoy.
Once I realised (and it took a long time) that I am not here solely to make someone else happy, I also realised I could forgive myself, stop feeling guilty, stop responding to their triggers or repeated themes and relax in the knowledge I have done my part. You can of course cease the relationship (whether it is a friend or a partner) and I have done that too – no-one likes banging their head against a brick wall. My point is that if you love someone, it is possible to overcome the negative impact of their stuff on your own mental health.
If you relate to this blog. then I hope it has been helpful, even if it is just to know that you are not alone. Please feel free to respond on WordPress, I will always get back to you.
I sometimes bump into an older lady when I am walking my dog in a local park. She`s about seventy and has long dyed blonde hair and wears below the knee pleated skirts and open toe sandals with socks. She always has a gaggle of miniature dogs with her on leads, the sort where the main lead has lots of attached smaller leads so the dogs spill around her ankles like a hairy tiara. If I spot her a mile away, I turn around and do a detour as I dislike her views and the way she expresses herself. Sometimes though, she will appear from behind a bush or a tree and I can`t avoid her. She always begins her sentences with, `I`m not prejudiced but,` or `I`m not racist but,` thus throwing out a huge clue that she is all of those things.
I was half way round the lake at Elmdon Park a few days ago and there she was, right in front of me. I had dense woodland to my right and water to my left – there was no escape!
`Hello,` I said, trying to scoot round her but too late, she launched herself into,
`I`m not being funny but have you heard about the new housing being built at` (she mentioned a part of Solihull near where I live.)
`No, no I haven`t I lied,` not wishing to engage with her.
`Well,` she said, `They`re being built by a Housing Association and we all know who they`re being built for! All those illegal immigrants coming over here.`
It put me in mind of a brilliant comedy sketch by one of my favourite comedians, Stewart Lee who delivers about ten very clever and hilarious minutes of a piece called `They Come Over Here.`
I thought about how I should respond so as to get away as quickly as possible, so I said,
`I don`t think there is such a thing as an illegal immigrant since many people are compelled to enter the UK without permission, which human rights law entitles them to do and for this reason, the term illegal is incorrect and pejorative.`
She looked at me blankly.
I continued, `Secondly, Housing Associations generally operate on a needs basis and those in highest need will obviously be supported first. Someone seeking refuge here in the UK will certainly not be able to immediately access social housing unless they have permission to stay or are at least on the path to obtain leave to stay and thirdly…..`
She was looking distinctly uncomfortable by now,
`Thirdly, you and I have had similar discussions in the past, you already know I don`t agree with you so next time we meet, shall we just stick to hello and isn`t it a lovely day?`
She hurrumphed at me and quickly walked away. Thank the Lord.
Sarah Everard was abducted and murdered as she walked home one evening last week. Her kidnapper and killer as charged, Wayne Couzens, was a serving police officer in the Metropolitan Police Force, a father of two with not an inkling of the chaos within showing upon his handsome, smiling face. He awaits his trial in a cell. During custody he has sustained two head injuries, it is easy to imagine the first injury may have been inflicted by his custodians, the second I am surmising was a self-inflicted injury. He will I am sure appreciate, there will be lots of prisoners and others already wishing him ill.
In response to this terrible crime, women around the UK organised Reclaim These Streets vigils in honour of Sarah`s memory and to demand women`s safety on our streets and one such vigil was to be arranged at Clapham Common, close to where Sarah was abducted. The Metropolitan police denied this gathering and instead told the organisers to “stay home.” Did they honestly believe women would take notice of this?
Mourners became angry after police tried to forcibly remove speakers from the bandstand at the south London park. So as thousands of women gathered at Clapham Common yesterday daytime including our future queen, Kate Duchess of Cambridge, and continued to gather into the night, they were eventually surrounded by aggressive police officers who pushed them about and manhandled them. One woman was pinned down and knelt on by four police officers. To say the women were manhandled is a misnomer since it seems there were a number of equally aggressive female officers present. Four women mourners were arrested and charged with breaches of the peace, officers clearly not recognising the strength of feeling women have about violence perpetrated by men towards women.
Home Secretary Priti Patel described footage circulating of the police’s actions as “upsetting” and confirmed she has demanded a full report on what happened. This is a huge hypocrisy on the part of the Home Secretary since separate leaked reports have already confirmed she and the government are holding secret talks in order to push through legislation making it illegal for us, the people to peacefully gather and demonstrate.
Dame Cressida Dick who is one of the UK`s most senior police officers and Commissioner for The Metropolitan Police Force described the shock and dismay felt by the Met`, when they discovered it was one of them who had been arrested. Why? The guy is a male, does the Met` think that male police officers don`t abuse women? There are calls for her resignation following the media reports from Clapham Common last night.
Men call too, for us women to understand that they aren`t safe on the streets either. It is true a man is far more likely than a woman to be assaulted with a weapon on the streets but that isn`t what this is about so please don`t make this about you. Fact is, most women are injured, raped, killed and abused at home by someone close to them. Their husband, boyfriend, a male member of the family or a close neighbour.
During lockdown one hundred and eighteen women have been killed by men. I was extremely moved to hear their names being read out in parliament last week by my MP Jess Phillips,
“Men should have a 6pm curfew imposed on them!” I hear some men and women cry. What difference might this make? Do people believe rape and abuse and violence towards women only happens during the night?
When I worked at Rape Crisis in the nineteen eighties, I quickly learned women and girls, old age pensioners and babies, are ALL in a world where violence towards females is common place and is not taken seriously. Punishments for violence towards women requires an urgent review. Only recently a man who killed his wife by battering her head in with a claw hammer, received just six years for his crime, he was convicted of manslaughter and not murder. Less than two percent of men accused of rape are ever prosecuted. Fewer even than this small amount received custodial sentences and these statistics have not changed in many, many decades. Lots of women do not report their perpetrator`s crime so we also know that the figures are hugely underestimated.
I don`t profess to know what the answer is but I do think that educating our youngsters about respect for one another is of vital importance. When my daughter was five, she was asked where her mummy worked and she said, “A rape crisis centre.” The head teacher took me to one side and expressed her concern that my daughter used the word `rape`. In response I said that my daughter understood children were vulnerable to being hurt by adults and understood who to tell if an adult was doing something to her that made her feel uncomfortable. That`s a start but we have a long, long way to go in order to teach our males that it is they who attack women and it is their responsibility on every level, to speak up and say why this is so wrong.
My mother was just four years` old when she was sexually assaulted by one of the farm hands on the farm she grew up on. Perhaps because the sexual abuse of children was not widely talked about, if at all in those days (around 1915) she felt able to tell my grandmother what had happened and the man was subsequently arrested by the local police. I do not know if he received a sentence. By the time I grew up my mother was already giving me instructions like, “Let me know where you are going/ three rings when you get back/ do not get into an unmarked taxi/ do not go home with a man unless you want to have sex with him since that will be his assumption,” etc. etc. I still do not know how I feel about these messages I was given. Should I be grateful for her advice? Should I stand up with my sisters and protest male violence towards women? Should I have told my daughter when she was growing up that it is ok to get drunk with your mates, leave the pub alone, jump in to any car that calls itself a taxi? Because it clearly is not a good idea. and I remain unconvinced of any talked about changes to the law that will alter my viewpoint. Male violence towards women is as old as time and in order to restore balance and sanity, men must be willing to give up their power and I do not see that happening any time soon.
Sarah`s appalling death has my three teenage granddaughters talking about prison sentencing, chemical castration and the death penalty and honestly, it takes me back to the nineteen eighties when I first joined rape crisis, still severely underfunded even in these times.
I would like to be able to say that now I am heading towards seventy, it is no longer my problem but that is not the case and violence towards women is all of us – our mutual problem.
For some time now, I have been a member of a writing group. The pub where we meet is some way from where I live so I don`t always attend our weekly get togethers and obviously over lockdown it hasn`t been possible. To keep us all in the creative mode and still in touch, one of us has organised for anyone interested to submit a few hundred words each week or so for others to read, one person chooses the subject. A few weeks ago the subject was Penance. We were instructed to write three episodes in any style we wished. I was really taken with this idea so here are my three episodes……
In the style of Mills & Boon.
Karl padded across the hotel bedroom his white towelling robe parting slightly as he trod the marble floor towards the bed, his magnificent manhood outlined in shadow against the ruby coloured flock wallpaper. Hermione gazed at him adoringly from the gold silk sheets, her voice throaty with desire.
“Come to bed darling,” her chest heaving slightly, her pulse quickening in anticipation of the delights to come. She was recently widowed and now fantastically wealthy.
Karl turned his gaze to hers as she pulled back the sheets inviting him to join her.
“God almighty,” he thought, “this woman will not leave me alone!” He couldn`t wait to get her off his back, literally and return to the casino and the real source of his desire, Diamonique. What a woman, alas, Diamonique would have to wait!
Hermione was in her late fifties and following her husband`s untimely death was now a multi millionairess. Karl knew she had no idea he was cheating on her; she was completely swept away by his charm and the sycophantic attention he paid her. “Silly old fool,” he thought, smiling to himself.
Karl was a rough diamond, made good over the years through careful restyling of his physique which was magnificent. His hair, now perfectly coiffed, a convincing shade of sun kissed blonde and his accent altogether changed over the years. Gone were the cockney tones of his tough youth, replaced through careful study of James Bond films and a lot of voice coaching. Now he spoke with a deep velvety purr. He had a pleasing way of tossing his head back to run his fingers through his silken curls, which Hermione found completely irresistible and this he did now. A smile upon his face. Sighing, Karl climbed into the sumptuous double bed.
It was never an issue for Karl to satisfy the lusts of these rich old ladies, he merely looked upon it as a job for which he would be richly rewarded later. Over the years he had acquired fast cars, beautiful apartments and on one occasion even a boat so he had no qualms whatsoever about servicing Hermione. Clasping Hermione to his manly chest he kissed her hard, beads of perspiration glistening on her brow as she arrived at a shuddering climax. Climbing swiftly off her mature body, Karl said, “Darling I must shower, I have that meeting at eleven, remember?”
Hermione gazed at him, her desire satiated, for now.
“What a fool he must take me for,” she smiled at the thought.
“A business meeting at 11pm, he must think me an idiot.”
Stretching lazily she said, “Off you run my pet, see you tomorrow.”
One final glance over his shoulder as he left her apartment, he said,
“Ok darling, see you then.”
Hermione picked up her phone and pressed a button.
“Yes madam,” a male voice answered.
“Have him followed the moment he leaves his room oh and Charles – bring me a bottle of Bolly will you. I feel like celebrating.”
In the style of a V1 form textbook.
Hermione was awoken by the sound of the maid moving about in her room. She opened her oculus dexter, her gaze falling upon the breakfast tray left by her bed. Hermione had always experienced experection at the start of day and today was no different. A groan escaped her pharynx, oesophagus, larynx and trachea, she couldn`t face breakfast yet. The dilemma she had was, to tell or not to tell……
Karl came into the element or complex of elements in Hermione`s head that felt, perceived, thought or willed. She sighed heavily as she knew what kind of day lay ahead.
Picking up the phone by her bed, she rang Karl`s. After some time, he finally answered.
“Yes?” came his gruff responsum.
“Darling,” she purred via her faculty of utterance, “Shall we meet up for lunch? Oh! Talking of meetings, how did yours go?” Her mandibular prominence curled into a mordicus arripere as she recalled what her man had reported to her the previous night.
“Oh, you know,” said Karl, totally assured of himself, “I had my fovea on the ball all the time, it went very well, I`ll tell you all about it later.”
“See you soon darling,” purred Hermione as she replaced the receiver.
Little did Karl know that she knew what he had been up to in the casino, with that femina!
They met at lunchtime in the hotel restaurant. Hermione`s venter was rumbling, she hadn`t had any breakfast and she verbally acknowledged to Karl, “sentio esurientum.”
“What?” said Karl, he was getting just a little fed up of Hermione`s hyperliteracy, it was becoming tiresome.
As the waiter set down a large plate of fresh oysters, lifting a juicy shell to her pharynx with one set of eight carpal bones Hermione said, “Let me get straight to the point Karl. I know what you were up to at the casino last night and I know who you were up to it with!!”
Karl raised his hair follicles which share the same basic structure as hair follicles elsewhere on the body but are distinguished by their shorter anagen (growing) phase.
“How did you find out?” he questioned her.
“Oh it wasn`t difficult,” Hermione responded, the odd clue here and there, a scent of perfume on your clothes, an earring in your Mercedes which, if I may remind you, I purchased for you.”
Karl knew his cover was blown. Placing his knife and fork back on the table he quietly enquired,
“What do you intend to do with me?”
“Oh I have plenty of time to work that out,” Hermione spoke in barely a susurrare.
“Believe me Karl, it isn`t going to be pretty.”
Throwing one last oyster down the part of her body joining her head to her shoulders, flinging her napkin down, Hermione stood and walked haughtily on her heels to the restaurant entrance. Her fundus rumbled.
She whipped around to find Karl`s steady gaze upon her still form.
“Be at the beach tomorrow night – midnight. Prompt!”
Episode 3. In the style of Marvel Comics.
“YOU THINK MY NAME IS HERMIONE? YOU ARE WRONG!”
“MY NAME IS BIG HEL. DON`T EVER MESS WITH ME KARL!” DO YOU TAKE ME FOR AN OLD FOOL?!”
“SO NOW YOU MUST PAY PENANCE!!
WHAT MUST I DO HERMIO – I MEAN BIG HEL?”
“YOU MUST TELL THAT DIABOLICAL DIAMONIQUE YOU HAVE BEEN LEADING HER ON. TELL HER IN REALITY YOUR NAME IS NOT KARL, YOU ARE ACTUALLY TRANSGENDERING INTO THE WOMAN YOU REALLY ARE AND FROM NOW ON, YOUR PREFERRED NAME IS GERTRUDE!!”
“NOW TAKE THIS DRESS AND THESE HIGH HEELS,” (THRUSTING CLOTHING INTO GERTRUDE`S ARMS) “AND PUT THEM ON!”
“YES BIG HEL, I WILL DO ANYTHING YOU SAY.”
“GIVE ME BACK THE KEYS TO THE MERC, THEN COME AND CLEAN MY BATHROOM – NAKED!”
“YES BIG HEL, I WILL DO THAT IMMEDIATELY.”
“THEN, AND ONLY THEN, I MIGHT THINK ABOUT ALLOWING YOU BACK INTO MY BED”
(BIG HEL GIVES GERTRUDE A GENTLE NUDGE WITH THE HEEL OF HER BOOT.)
“NOW RUN ALONG.”
About two years ago, my partner Tony (who you may have become acquainted with in previous blogs,) decided to buy a piece of exercise equipment to which you affix your road bike to so that you can exercise indoors. It was quite expensive and weighed a ton. He announced he was going to erect the bike stand in the garden so that he could exercise to the sound of the birds.
“Lovely darling,” I said. “What a splendid idea.”
He spent a while securing it and fixing his bike to it and then at last, after an hour or so, he was able to mount up and start pedalling. I would say he was out there for at least, ooooh, ten minutes before he dismounted, came into the kitchen beads of sweat upon his brow and flinging himself onto a chair said, “Well that was a complete waste of time!” before disappearing upstairs to his bedroom for a rest. I did not enquire why it was a waste of time, it did not seem a terribly good idea.
The bike stand remained in the garden for a few weeks, the grass growing around it until I finally took pity upon it and heaving it up from the lawn, hauled it into the shed where it has remained until today.
This morning Mr. Inman announced he was going to erect the bike stand up in his bedroom and have his sport bike up there for indoor exercise and his road bike downstairs. (Tony has many bikes, bike parts, spare bikes, spare wheels etc. etc.) I commented that perhaps the bedroom was not the best place to put your exercise equipment, after all it was not a massive space and a bike stand and bicycle might not be especially conducive to a good night`s sleep. “Well that depends on who you are,” he said and duly heaved the bike stand up our very steep staircase. I should perhaps mention, we have our own, separate bedrooms.
There followed much banging, thumping, shuffling and dragging noises from upstairs, then an almighty crash accompanied by a long tirade of various expletives.
“Are you alright darling?” I helpfully called. Answer came there none.
After a few minutes Mr. Inman appeared, slightly red faced, somewhat out of breath and asked, “Do you know where the hammer is?” I walked to our kitchen tool drawer and handed a hammer to him.
“Why do you need a hammer?” I enquired.
“To put right the damage I`ve done to the spokes with that (expletive expletive) machine! It is going back in the shed.”
And that dear readers is the extent of Tony`s exercise for today………..
Stay safe my friends and where a mask.
Carol, my friend across the water, you are so gifted a writer and post some absolutely beautiful photographs of the area where you live and of your family, I thought I would reciprocate with a few pictures from Birmingham, where I live in the UK. Oh and one or two of my family.
The picture above is of my little Yorkie, Alfie, my constant companion and Elmdon Park nearby, there are seven cygnets on the lake.
When people read history books, Birmingham is often portrayed as very industrial, a smog of dirty air sitting above it and old, tumble down factories and chimneys dotting the landscape. In reality, Birmingham is an architecturally beautiful and culturally diverse city of almost one and half million people speaking over 200 different languages. We have lots of green spaces and some of the most beautiful parks in the UK are situated in Birmingham. And lakes, we have several lakes here too, where if you fancy it you can go wild water swimming.
In 1984 we bought our house in The Avenue, it was £22,000. Now it is valued at £245,00 pounds and we are currently updating the kitchen and dining room. It`s a lovely old Edwardian villa and we have some of the best neighbours imaginable.
This is my front garden.
Every day I walk my rescue dog Alf, he is joined to me at the hip and has been my companion for almost ten years. Alfie is my social life, there is a large community of dog walkers out there and I have come to know some of them well.
The black cat Mixie, belongs to my daughter Rebecca. Mixie came to visit one summer while Becky was on holiday and just decided to stay. I love his snaggy tooth.
I hope you like the pictures, my daughter Becky has five children and they are all gorgeous. They take after their grandmother ha ha.
My next novella is up on Amazon today.
Leaving Lewis is what my children refer to as a faction, a little bit true and a large amount of made up. The story is a savage, sometimes racy tale with a bit of comedy thrown in and it won`t be everyone`s cuppa but if you like Lemony Snicket, then you`ll probably like Leaving Lewis.