Author Archives: A night in with Nelly

About A night in with Nelly

I`m a welfare benfits adviser, mother to Jesse who currently lives in Vienna and Rebecca who lives here in the UK I have a number of books published on Amazon and Amazon Kindle. I like breathing, laughing, eating, cooking and swimming in the ocean.

New book out now – Leaving Lewis.

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Leaving Lewis

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.

 

The Feeder.

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Katia lived with a hoarder; her house was stuffed to the brim.  Over the years and to hide her embarrassment she had made something of a joke about it with her friends. They were happy to support her valiant attempts to stay on top of it and from time to time would call round and help her organise the chaos of furniture, especially chairs, cupboards and tables lifted from skips.  They laughed with her as she described her husband as `potty` or `barmy` or any other amusing adjective to distract them from her increasing dismay.

One time she decided to go away and stayed away for some years as she had had enough and needed a change of scenery.  When she returned, she found six bicycle skeletons in the back garden, propping up half a ton of old wood resting against the tumbledown fence. In the outhouses were more bicycles, more wood and lots of odd pieces of marble he had painstakingly carried to the house from a nearby stone masons.  It took two skips to sort out the garden and the house, which looked like a bomb site.  After negotiations he agreed to part with some of the wood, but the bikes and the marble remained.

Every conversation became a battle ground. In the side entrance to the house Katia found a load of floorboards he`d had secretly delivered. She enquired why and he told her they may `come in useful`.  She pleaded with him to at least meet her halfway and allow her to take some of the stuff down to the local tip. He retaliated by bringing more things home and hiding them in the attic, in cupboards, in the recently acquired garden shed.

One time, Katia had a clear up and discovered six hefty, extending lamps which he told her were for when he sorted out a studio for his painting. In his bedroom and even though he did not play, there were no less than five guitars.  In the attic, bags of clothes from thirty years ago which he said he would one day slim into. An entire wardrobe was host to hundreds of tubes of artists` oil paints and dozens of unused canvases leaned up against the wall of the spare bedroom.  He hadn`t painted for years, which was a shame because he was a very talented painter.

Katia became quite depressed and sad and when he noticed he asked, `What is wrong?` She told him she found his collections difficult to live with.

To satisfy his deep need to surround himself with `stuff` but also worried that Katia might leave again, he changed tactics. He started to bring home food. He would go out to the supermarket just before closing time, when he knew prices would dramatically drop. Standing up and pulling on his braces he would announce in a loud voice, `I`m not going to bring any food back.`

Katia would sigh and the following day inside the fridge she would find six iceberg lettuces, three large punnets of mushrooms, half a dozen blocks of blue cheese, several heads of broccoli and enough meat to feed a small army.  She became used to throwing away food that was well past its sell by date, packets of salad leaves that were beginning to rot, potatoes going green and sprouting, bendy carrots and squishy oranges and lemons with beautifully coloured, pale green powdery mould appearing on the skin.  One time he came home with a huge plastic bag containing fifty hard boiled eggs. Katia pickled them and gave them away as Christmas presents.

Katia hated throwing food away.  She became adept at creating a meal from diverse and unusual groceries, for he never cooked.  One day they might have Duchy of Cornwall organic asparagus spears with Thai fish cakes and spinach. Another it might be a salad with spicy venison burgers and sweet potato fries. The freezer was full of dead animals and fish with their heads still on.  This distressed Katia as she preferred not to eat meat and kept to a mostly vegetarian diet with a lot of pulses thrown in.

When she explained to him that she felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of fresh food he was purchasing, after all there was just the two of them, he met her consternation by bringing home two dozen tins of spiced cauliflower soup and six large cans of mackerel in tomato sauce.

So Katia worked out how to live with this strange man who, in spite of it all,  she loved.  Before he arose, she would cook or bake or shred or pickle or mix. Her sottaceti pickled vegetables became legendary, her cakes sought after by family and friends, her banana bread recipe asked for on social media.  She wrote a book, she called it, `Living with a Feeder.` She was invited to guest on local radio and television stations and to her great delight, was offered payment for her appearances.

Although she had retired, Katia eventually opened a consultancy to inform and assist people and professionals who lived or worked with hoarders. She called it `Get Down and Get Dirty plc`.   It became a massive commercial success.

With the proceeds Katia bought herself a small villa in Tenerife where from time to time she would escape to sit in the sun, her kindle in one hand, a gin and tonic in the other and a kitchen full of nothing other than several small bottles of Budweiser on ice and the occasional packet of Twiglets.

 

The End.

George Floyd, the man who changed the world.

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Following the horrific and very public murder of black African American George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, there has been a global display of grief and outrage. Even though George had been apprehended and was lying face down on his stomach surrounded by three other police officers and even though George was handcuffed, nevertheless, Derek Chauvin found it necessary to kneel on George Floyd`s neck for a period of nine minutes, ignoring George`s pleas for his mother and his crying out “I can`t breathe.”

George died of a cardiac arrest resulting from asphyxiation.

Derek Chauvin has been charged with third degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and is being kept, awaiting trial in Oak Park Heights state prison in Minnesota. I imagine Chauvin is probably shitting himself, I would be and when he meets his end, most likely in prison, I can also imagine someone kneeling on his neck to see him off. I do not condone this, I hope it doesn`t happen as there has to be a better way to combat blind hatred.

racism
NOUN
prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
• the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.

I am sixty six, a little bit older than George Floyd was when he was murdered. Can you imagine me, a white OAP being murdered in that way by a black police officer?  No?  Precisely.

My family and extended family include white Jewish people, Black African Caribbean people, my five grandchildren are all of mixed black and white heritage including white Irish and one of my nephews is of white/Pakistani heritage so we are a proper mixing pot and I feel very much part of a big love in my family, it`s good, it`s enriching and I am really lucky because it has educated me a great deal about other people`s lives, cultures and experiences and that is a two way process.

I grew up in the nineteen fifties, my mum and dad were both white and middle class and had scarcely seen anyone who wasn’t white other than in the context of war, my dad served in the Scottish Regiment in WW2 and was posted to Egypt, Syria, Israel and Greece. The first time I brought home a load of black kids I`d met at Rebecca`s night club when I was about 18, my parents didn`t know what to say to them, there was a lot of respectful hand shaking and `how do you do`s` it was uncomfortable.

Understanding their learned racism, by the time my parents got to know these young men, when they left the house mum would ask to search their pockets and out would tumble a variety of small objects the boys had `stolen` from the house. It had become a joke which we all found funny for these reasons. My parents were trying to `un-prejudice` themselves and rid themselves of negative stereotypes. I admired them for that, it was bold and they were old.   I admire the boys I brought home who were fabulous and forgiving and wise.

On my husband`s side of the family his aunties and uncles were white, working class Brummies through and through. Even in their seventies they were still calling anyone whose skin was anything other than white, `Paki` or `coloured,` Tony and I had so many heated arguments with them challenging their language until in the end, if they began going down the familiar route, we would just go home and leave them to it.  One of my dearest friends, an old lady in her nineties, used to describe her neighbour Charlie who was Indian as;

`a lovely man, coloured like but lovely – and friendly`.

I did not fervently try to re-educate her, I think it is sometimes more difficult for someone who is very old, to grasp the issues and it would have upset her a great deal, so I left it.  Was that right of me?  She has died now, bless her. She would have done anything for anyone regardless of their colour.

I have been watching videos of Jane Elliott, the creator of the `Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes` experiment with schoolchildren in America. She is now in her eighties and still lecturing and saying the same things she has been saying for fifty years.

She is videod speaking to an adult audience, `If you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment as this society, in general treats our black citizens, stand up.` No one stands. She says, `You know what`s happened – you know it`s wrong and you don`t want it to happen to you, so how come you are accepting for it to happen to others?`

Jane Elliott makes a vital point which is the only point that makes any sense to me, and it is that there is just one race and that is the HUMAN race. No one race is better than, superior to, or intellectually greater than another and until I, as a white woman and you and everyone else gets that, then atrocities such as George Floyd`s death, will continue to happen. Racism can be UNLEARNED, it is not innate, it is not inherent.

John Rawls states this philosophy in his work, `A Theory of Justice,`

1. “Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all”. 2. “Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.”

The first principle is often called the greatest equal liberty principle. Part (a) of the second principle is referred to as the difference principle while part (b) is referred to as the equal opportunity principle.

Rawls orders the principles of justice lexically, as follows: 1, 2(b), 2(a). The greatest equal liberty principle takes priority, followed by the equal opportunity principle and finally the difference principle. The first principle must be satisfied before 2(b), and 2(b) must be satisfied before 2(a). As Rawls states: “A principle does not come into play until those previous to it are either fully met or do not apply.” Therefore, the equal basic liberties protected in the first principle cannot be traded or sacrificed for greater social advantages (granted by 2(b)) or greater economic advantages (granted by 2(a)).

It`s a wordy piece but in the end, I can see he is simply putting into writing what Jane Elliott has been repeating all her life.

I think George Floyd`s death is the saddest, most horrific murder I have ever witnessed and we are not just hearing about racism nowadays, we are videoing it.
When my beautiful black grandchildren go out clubbing with their mates my heart is in my mouth, and when my beautiful white grandson goes into town clubbing with his mates my heart is in my mouth and we should all `take a knee` as the saying now goes and remember George Floyd with huge amounts of love, respect and hope amongst the deep well of grief because I believe his death will literally, change the world and I think he will be recalled for centuries to come, and missed and celebrated as the man who changed the world.
RIP George Floyd.
1st December 1960 – 25th May 2020

#BlackLivesMatter

 

The Autumn of 1976.

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I had been away for all of the very hot summer of 1976, it was my first time abroad and I was staying with friends who lived in Athens. I spent a wonderful six weeks partly in that beautiful city and partly island hopping, which was terrific. I met a gorgeous Egyptian boy there, called Mido and he added an exciting and romantic element to the whole holiday, Mido and I remained pen friends for several years when eventually, he finally confessed to me that he was gay, which I had already figured out, silly boy.

 
After the Athens experience, I reluctantly returned to my parents home, my mother was cross with me for having stayed away for so long, so she hardly spoke to me for several days. I was growing up and we were growing apart a little bit and I can only suppose she resented me for leaving her on her own with my dad who was rather deaf which frustrated her and her sister, my aunt Muriel, who was significantly disabled. We overcame those few cold days together and life went on.

 

It was approaching autumn when I ventured to my local pub, The Bulls Head and this is where I met Tony, an old boyfriend who I hadn`t seen for several years. Tony was about to become the father of my first child only we didn`t know that yet….. when we finally reconciled as a couple again, within two weeks I became pregnant.

 

My parents had me in their mid-forties so they were very unhappy about my expecting a baby. My father shouted at me, (the only time he ever shouted at me in his life) “Did you expect us to be happy?!” and I said, “Well yes dad, I did actually.” My mother trailed after me into the kitchen and said, her face a mask of tragedy, “Well you can`t stay here Helen.” It was the shame you see, of having a child out of wedlock, it was a lot for them to deal with. So I left, taking all my belongings with me and found a room in a shared house in Church Road in Moseley. I think the rent was £12 a week and the Landlord was called Kovaks.

 

The room was a bedsit and I shared the toilet and bathroom which I later discovered were so filthy, I couldn`t bring myself to use the bath and used to visit friends to use theirs until I could summon up the necessary courage to thoroughly scrub the place down. When I needed the loo, I crouched standing up or lined the seat with a gazillion pieces of loo roll. I cleaned the little kitchenette and lifting the rug to vacuum, discovered maggots underneath it munching on some rotten food, it really was revolting. But I continued to scrub and clean and made it mine in a sense.  Kovaks would call round with two henchmen every Friday night to collect the rent. He didn’t scare me but I was told by other tenants (mostly young girls) that if they didn`t pay up on time, or if they weren`t in when he collected rent he would have them harassed and intimidated, ringing their doorbell or banging on their doors at three in the morning or opening their post and taking their benefit cheques.

 

When I was 12 weeks pregnant, Tony and I were offered a short life housing association flat which we readily accepted. It was in a beautiful old house in Poplar Avenue in Kings Heath, so I left that little room without giving in my notice to Kovaks and did a runner in the middle of the night so as not to bump into him and his bodyguards.

 

Some time later I read in the papers that Kovaks had been arrested and charged with a number of offences, similar to the nefarious Peter Rachman of the nineteen fifties and sixties. Rachman was mentioned in court during the Profumo affair as someone who had kept both Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies as mistresses and it was the unfurling of the Profumo scandal that gave the public a clear understanding of the term racketeering.

 

Kovaks was charged with procuring young women for sex, in other words he was a pimp. He also regularly gave his tenants notice to quit and then put the rent up by astronomical amounts and re-let the houses to more vulnerable young women.  He was further charged with racketeering. He received a nine-year prison sentence and I realised what a lucky escape I had had. I sometimes wonder what became of him, I imagine he has long since left this earth, I wonder if he redeemed himself in any sense before he died.

 

His own beautiful house, his family home remains of course as a legacy to his criminal past and I hope it has been passed on to be nurtured by other, much more caring human beings.

 

Oh and when our son Jesse was born, all was forgotten and forgiven and family rifts were healed. Babies have a habit of doing that!

Helen P. March 31st.

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The Corona Diaries

Lord I am bored…..  even the wow factor of the 3D Google animals app is wearing off and why can`t I get an elephant in the room?  My main excitement during the day is going out with my dog and even Alfie wants to know why he is on the lead most of the time and where all his mates are at the empty park?

I have accepted some new friends on Facebook and I am now inundated with appalling jokes from people I did not previously know, some of the ` jokes` are clearly racist so I immediately unfriend them. God – people! They makes yer sick, as my old mum used to say.

Personally I am sick of the BBC News.

I recently commented on Facebook that if one more person tells me to stay safe, I shall punch them on the nose.  This resulted in friends and…

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Helen P. March 29th.

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The Corona Diaries

Yesterday I was overcome with boredom.  We have been on lockdown for one week now, I usually go out with my dog when I`m bored but of course I can only do that once a day in these corona virus times.

So I cooked. I cooked a saag aloo of potato with spinach and spices.  I cooked an orzo and cream cheese risotto with spring onions and I baked several large vegetable pasties.

I took everything out of the freezer where my ex husband with whom I live, hoards his stash of reduced items from Morrisons.  We have an awful lot of  fish, I think he does this hoarding deliberately because he knows I cannot bear to waste food and that means the onus on cooking will rest with me.  I put everything back in the freezer in order of category, fish, meat, bread, frozen vegetables and so on.

Drumming…

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Charity grumbles…..

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Following the recent bush fires the Australian Red Cross have been accused of hanging on to publicly donated money of almost 115 million Australian dollars, that`s about 59 million British pounds. They have refuted this and say that there will be staged phases when money is needed as the people rebuild their lost communities, so they are helping in a planned and proper way.

 
Years ago, a high-profile charity I worked for, which was a drop in facility for people with HIV and AIDS, experienced what the Health and Local Authorities referred to as “a crisis in management”. Funding was withdrawn from all the charities in Birmingham supporting HIV positive clients. We were ordered to immediately shut up shop and go home. A large grant of £85,000 which I had obtained from the National Lottery, was rescinded and it was chaos for a time.

 
This morning I read that a charity I was also employed by is now under fire with accusations of inhouse bullying. Naturally their PR people state that the charity has a rigorous anti-bullying policy.  I did not witness bullying myself however there were whispered conversations regarding senior managers. Gossip was not encouraged but people will gossip! My main beef with the charity was that the most senior managers were being paid high levels of salary compared to those at the coal face, the correlation I suppose would be nurses` pay as opposed to hospital managers` pay.

 
Charities need to be very careful with how they spend donated public money. As they become larger and corporate, then it must be made transparent to the public, just where their donations are going.

 
An article published in The Sun in 2015 stated the (then) Cancer Research chief executive was receiving a salary of £240,000 a year. That year the CEO at the NSPCC earned £162,000. Amnesty International`s Secretary General received £200,000 and Marie Curie Cancer Care’s top earner received £170,000. In the same article it was alleged that the charity I worked for was paying 50p in every £1 donated, to staff salaries. If it`s true then that`s an awful lot of money.

 
Charities carry out some sterling work and feedback from the public is generally positive so I know they are doing a grand job but in order for charities to survive in this increasingly competitive and austere world, it is essential they maintain and keep the goodwill and trust of the public or they will go under. Remember Kid`s Company?  The public will stop donating and actually, the numbers of people making charitable donations is falling in the UK but fewer people are giving more, so we still manage to raise around ten billion pounds a year in donations.

 

Let`s just be clear about where that money is being spent.

 

The sadness of suicide.

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Most of us have read about the recent suicide of the TV presenter, Caroline Flack.  Her death made me sad, she was only forty and until recently seemed to have the world at her feet having won a series of Strictly Come Dancing and been a major success in Love Island. The outpouring of sorrow from those who knew her has been huge and in some ways has reminded me of when Princess Diana was killed, the genuine grief being fuelled by the media so that in the end, this ordinary human takes on an almost saintly persona.

Since 2014, suicide rates in the UK had been on the decline but they have begun to surge again, especially amongst young men.

Lots of us will have lost family or friends to suicide and understand all too well, how painful this can be. When my friend Simon took his life in 1991 the HIV community where I worked, were all devastated. Simon was a beautiful person, a tall, gangly, young gay man who was HIV positive. His father was a preacher and when Simon came out he was banished from the church, his dad telling him he would taint the holy atmosphere with his unholy behaviour. In-spite of this, Simon was gregarious, warm and very funny, a delight to be around and extremely well loved by almost everyone he met. No matter how much he was loved by us, nevertheless his father`s words must have had a major impact on Simon`s self-esteem. When he split up with his older boyfriend, he engaged in a relationship with an older, married woman, (not me) so he was certainly unsure of himself and his sexuality. At the time I thought this relationship was unhelpful to Simon and maybe I was right. I shall never know.

The day that Simon died he rang me to chat and I realise in retrospective moments, to say goodbye. He gave me no clues; he quietly took himself off into the countryside, attached a hose pipe to his exhaust and passed away in the sunshine. He just couldn`t do life anymore. When I was told of his death, I felt like someone had punched me in the chest. I was tasked with ringing up his ex- boyfriend to tell him the news, it was awful.

Simon`s father must have relented in some way as he chose to conduct his own son`s funeral. Finally admitting Simon`s body to taint the air of his church, it was a sombre affair and bore no resemblance to the bright, vivacious friend we had all lost. The church was packed out, standing room only and we wore all the colours of the rainbow. We were not welcome to join his family at the wake, so we all piled back to Body Positive and had a wake of our own and celebrated the wonderful young man we had lost.

If Caroline Flack`s death has done anything at all, it has highlighted that the media must take responsibility for some of how she was feeling and must learn lessons from that. In the last few months of her life tabloids, trolls and social media have harassed and harangued her following an alleged assault to her partner. It must have helped to push her to the very edge in it seems, an already complicated life.

The biggest question I asked myself after Simon died was, “why couldn`t he come to me for help? I could have helped.” But this is the thing with suicide, when people have really made up their minds, they make a plan and the plan does not include asking for help. The Samaritans organisation exists partly to effectively help those who are considering suicide and that is a good thing yet some people cannot manage life, it is far too painful in which case death must come as a welcome release.

RIP Simon, Caroline and all those who have decided their time has come. You are and will always be missed.