Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Power Game

People thought they were the perfect couple. He the big hitter in the financial world. She the little housewife and mother. He brought home the modestly big bucks. She tried not to spend them because it upset him so much. They had two golden children whom she ferried round to piano lessons, beavers, brownies, dancing, acting, tutoring, swimming. And then he came home when it was all over. And basked in their reflected glory.

He spent every evening locked away in his study, a room so sacrosanct it wasn't cleaned in 11 years, counting his money and dreaming of ways to make more. He would bring a bottle of wine or two up with him. Or he would be on the phone all night to colleagues. She would read to the children after their baths and put them to bed. Then she would watch TV. Alone. Till he got off the phone to come in and tell her all the wonderful things the colleagues had said about him. All conversation was about him.

She was lonely so she developed hobbies. Singing. Amateur dramatics. Sewing. Exercise. He did not ask about these nor share her interest in them. He counted his money and compliments instead.

He got a job offer in London. This would be a great way to build my career, he said. And she encouraged him. For she no longer had a career, having given it and her country up to be with him. Her home and children became her career. While he was in London she raised the children. He would come home at weekends, demand all homelife revolve around him for 48 hours, then return. She would breathe a sigh of relief when he left. But she was lonely. There was no conversation -- not with him nor anyone.

Then tragedy struck. He lost his job because his fund wasn't performing. He came home and immediately set about upsetting her domestic routine. Any routines she had with the children were overturned immediately by him without a second thought. He demeaned her and undermined her each and every day. She tried to smile through it but was so sad inside. He drank and drank and drank. The children would cry at night because they hated seeing their father like this. He kept getting turned down for jobs so they decided to buy a business. The first sale fell through when he inappropriately tried to contact employees. The second sale fell through as well. Secretly, she was relieved for she knew what life would be like running a business with him. It wouldn't be a partnership, but him making all the decisions and her making the tea.

Then someone old but new came into her life, and the Power Game began. She enjoyed the attention. She enjoyed finding someone she could converse with about anything. She allowed her imagination and fantasies to go wild. And unfortunately wrote a draft email about them. He found the draft email and behaved as though he'd found her in bed with someone else. He sent her sister an email exhorting her to make his wife behave. He behaved like a Victorian husband. And the stricter he was the more rebellious she became.

The Power Game soon took on a life of its own, neither he nor she thinking its conclusion through clearly. And her fascination with her newfound friend continued. She wanted to see him in the flesh, to talk about books and ideas. And her husband found out. He thought that spying on her would be the answer to their marital woes. Instead it flamed the fires of a foolish passion in her, a passion for privacy and freedom. The stricter he was, the more she struggled against the chains. He started to do strange things like send anonymous emails to her friends about her or steal her journal, read it and copy the pages. He put a keylogger on the computer to record each and every keystroke she made. He read her email and kept a diary of all her so-called bad behaviour. She found this diary and was outraged. He felt justified because of her long-distance friendship. He wrote her parents, her friends. He engaged their children in the battle against her. The more he fought to control her, the more she wanted out. Her friendship fell by the wayside, finally the victim of all the stress.

He started to used the money in the Power Game, warning her she would die in dire poverty if she left him. He wanted her back, he made that clear. But on his own controlling terms and without having to make any changes to his now very odd personality. He told her he had complete control over all the money, even that in her name, and there was nothing she could do. She went to the bank, who advised her otherwise. She took money out to pay her solicitor. He threatened her with an injunction.

He started to put around that she would get nothing, that he would get the house and the children because he had the moral upper hand. How could I have ever loved such a person, she thought. She despaired at losing her children and thought of drowning herself or slitting her wrists. But no, she thought, I can't do that. For then he wins the Power Game. And he cannot win.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Spy Who Thought He Loved Me

I keep thinking I must write more. And then something happens to zap my creativity. Suffice it to say that my life is pretty turbulent at the moment. And full of intrigue. Who knew I was married to a wannabe spy? Certainly not me. Or maybe it was all those detective stories he devoured as a boy. A sort of James Bond/Philip Marlowe wannabe.

And I'm Nancy Drew. Coming soon on www.powderroomgraffiti.com: an enlightening article on how to spy on your loved ones.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Know Your Friends

To blog or not to blog. To update my wall on Facebook or not to. One can't be too careful these days on the internet. You never know who is watching or reading or reporting back to spouses. Or mothers.

When I joined Facebook, in my sad quest for more friends, I asked my daughter to be my friend. She refused. After months of badgering, she finally relented. Then I made a comment on her wall and she immediately defriended me. Then she refriended me. Then one of her boyfriends sent me a friend request, which I accepted. Bad move.

My daughter accused me, jokingly I hope, of being a pedophile. I never visited her boyfriend's wall. Until one day when the head teacher at my son's school got suspended. I got the bright idea of visiting the friend's wall to see if there was any gossip about it. There wasn't, but there were pictures from my daughter's "Fab 15 Birthday Party," which had been held at me house while I was home.

I knew there was drinking, but couldn't find the bottles. I didn't know that one of the bedrooms was "the makeout room." I didn't plan to tell daughter I'd seen the photos because I knew she'd get angry. Also, I thought they were funny. And I laughed so loud my son came in to see what I was laughing at. He told daughter I'd seen the photos. Daughter got on the phone to boyfriend in tears telling him he had to choose between her or me.

And the next day I had one less friend. But I understand. For my mother is my friend on Facebook. And she queries everything I put on my wall.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

50 Dinner Parties, Part 1

Well, 50 might be a bit of an exaggeration. When I moved into this house 11 years ago, I decided to make use of the beautiful Victorian dining room as much as possible.

It was the first room I saw when we came to view the house, and the first room I fell in love with. I haven't changed much in it, other than install my own furniture. The walls were papered in a cranberry-coloured, star-patterned paper. The Victorian fireplace and mantle were intact. The floors had been shellaced to a high sheen. They still are though these days the lights are rarely on in that room.

One of my early dinner parties involved much red wine and then the inevitable flood. I'd invited my next door neighbour, newly separated, and the neighbours across the street. One other couple came as well. I served roast lamb, as I recall, but the rest of the menu is lost to me. Probably some vegetables, possibly my pear-apple pie. Or maybe something from my Delia cookbook. I used to follow her recipes avidly before I moved on.

As I said before, the red wine flowed freely that night, some onto the tablecloth. As I cleared up afterwards, I noticed a huge stain and took the cloth up to my bathroom to soak in the tub for a while. Then I came downstairs to help hubby do his compulsive cleaning. Seeing I was of no use, I went and sat on the couch for a while. And dozed. Then I roused myself and went up to bed. Hubby was already up there, up to his ankles in water. Oh yes, I said I left the tablecloth in the bathtub to soak. I didn't say I turned off the water.

Hubby ran downstairs to the room below to check the water hadn't seeped through. Too late. Part of the ceiling had collapsed. To say hubby was unhappy is just a bit of an understatement. He slept on the couch that night. The next day I gathered our still-young children and took them shopping so as to make myself as scarce as possible during the cleanup. I ran into my next-door neighbour and told her how the evening had ended. She laughed so hard she wet herself, particularly at the thought of hubby being so mad he slept on the couch.

The ceiling was repaired and replastered. I learned a valuable lesson about red wine stains and the bathtub. For the record, though, the stain came out.

Monday, 29 June 2009

He's Still Wacko Jacko to Me

I'm going to say this once and for all: Michael Jackson was not a god. He did nothing for world peace. He was a very weird, mixed-up grown-up, probably a pedophile, who happened to sell a lot of records. Though not to me.

When I opened my paper on Saturday and found an entire section dedicated to him, I knew the world had finally gone mad. Let's get this in perspective. He was a drug addict. He was addicted to other things as well, mostly spending money. Anyone who watched the Martin Bashir interview could never respect the boy/man again. What kind of a man in his 40s has young boys for sleepovers at his house and shares his bed with them? I'll tell you what kind of a man. A pedophile. At my primary school we had a choirmaster who used to have the members of the boys' choir stay the night at his house on Fridays. His wife, who performed in an orchestra, was usually out on Fridays. Yes, he was married. They had no children and she went to church every day and prayed fervently. Years later, it came out what really went on in his house on those Friday nights. And I have no doubt what went on in Jackson's house.

Contrast Jackson's career with Bruce Springsteen's. Here is a man who can write a song. Here is a performer who cares about his fans. And what a performer! I saw him in 1984 in Tallahassee, Fla. He performed nonstop energetically for two hours. I watched him at Glastonbury over the weekend (on TV, I'm not daft enough to actually go there). And he hasn't changed in all these years. And not one word has ever been written about Springsteen and 13-year-old boys.

What is wrong with the world that we elevate people like Michael Jackson to god-like status? OK, he could dance, but so can a lot of people. Could he write a song like "The River"? Nope, don't think so.

He died young-ish, which promotes him to a category peopled by Elvis, Marilyn, Princess Diana, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin. People who were flawed human beings in life, but icons in death. Could you imagine Jackson living to ripe old age? He wouldn't have a face left, for one thing, as all the plastic surgery would finally take its toll. No, he's better off dying when he did. All the O2 concerts would have killed him anyway.

I think we should let Jackson rest in peace. And let ourselves have a rest from him.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Bad, Bad Dreams

I awoke this morning from a dream about my ex-husband. I can't remember the details but I felt uneasy when I awoke so it couldn't have a good dream. Why do I dream about him now when we have been split up for nearly 20 years? Well, Facebook has brought him back into the periphery of my life. We share some friends. We would share even more friends if I could be bothered to invite more people to be my friends. But I hesitate because of him and the bitterness of our divorce.

I think I dreamt of him because of the contrast between him and my hubby. Today is my hubby's 50th birthday party, which I organized against his will. He needs a party. I have never known him to be so depressed. The Ex appears to have a good job and going great guns in his life. Hubby, as we know, lost his job last year and has been met with disappointment after disappointment in his quest for employment. I think the biggest loss in his life, though, has been the dog. This morning, a Saturday, he went downstairs at 6:45. Why are you up so early on a Saturday, I asked. I have to make the coffee, he replied. Not at 6:45! It is a habit he started when we got Jake, and one he seems unable to shake.

My heart bleeds for this man, an intelligent man with a degree in history from Cambridge. A hard-working man who has no time for hobbies. I haven't always treated him well. He hasn't always treated me well. But we're still together.

Unlike with the Ex. When I split with the Ex, many people were genuinely surprised. Others, who were a bit more canny, weren't. The Ex's nickname in the newsroom was the Curmudgeon. He presented a sour face to the world and to me. I am so glad he only exists in my dreams now.

I must finish preparations for tonight. So much to do, so little time. And hopefully hubby will have a great time.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Here Comes the Sun

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What a dreary week, weatherwise and otherwise. The sun has finally come out though. Hubby got a call today for an interview. And I have decided to take an introduction to massage course and start to follow a dream I've had for a long time.

You see, I'm pretty good at giving massages (not that kind; get your mind out of the gutter). I think it's because I've had so much physical therapy myself, I know where to go to find the source of pain and how to relieve it. I myself have been in pretty constant pain with my back since I don't know when. I'm on the waiting list for physio (four months and counting) and finally broke down last week and went to see a physio privately. She was OK, confirmed my self-diagnosis, and showed me some stretches that I had already found on the internet. She hasn't relieved my pain though.

I have piriformis syndrome. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it's a pain in the butt, literally. The piriformis is a muscle to the side of the sacroiliac joint. In either one-third (what the internet says) or two-thirds (what the physio said) of the population, the sciatic nerve travels through that muscle. When that muscle is overused and contracted too much, it irritates the sciatic nerve and produces a sciatica-type pain down the leg and pins and needles in the feet. But it's not true sciatica because it doesn't originate in the lumbar region of the back.

The other night I was out celebrating a friend's 50th (oh yes!) birthday. She complained of shoulder pain, so I rubbed her shoulders. She knows I've thought about this massage course idea before and she said I should go ahead with it. I woke up the next morning and thought "Why not? Let's go for it." I'll start with the introduction and move on. I could go the sports massage route or stick to the beauty therapy-type massage route. Either way, in about a year's time I should be able to set up my own business.

I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have a goal again. Hubby has been so depressed lately. We went out for son's 13th birthday last Tuesday, and hubby was very quiet. We went out for Father's Day yesterday, and he was so glum. He turns 50 on Wednesday, and I think I know what's going on with him. He's afraid he'll never be able to get himself out of this jobless situation. Since we called off trying to buy the last business, he's really been so down. It was the right thing to do, though.

The night we went out for my son's birthday, I learned more about my daughter's drunk and disorderly evening. She apparently got into trouble for "pulling" (snogging) all the boys at the disco. She turned herself in for the drinking, she says, because she doesn't get enough attention at home. I took great exception to this. Her brother is in the middle of exams. He has wasted the entire year, and hubby has been doing remedial study with him in all subjects for the past two-three weeks. We didn't bother with daughter because she's usually so good in all her subjects. We have promised big-time bribes -- I mean incentives -- if they do well this year. Daughter does get attention; it's just not what she wants when she wants it all the time.

I mentioned before how happy the cats are since Jake was put down. Well, so are the birds. They're cheeky buggers too. Yesterday, I looked outside and saw one of the cats lying on the lawn, surrounded by four Magpies. They circled her, taunting her by running towards her and then away again. She just lay there and stretched a paw out towards one of them every now and then. If it happens again, I'll video it. It is very funny to watch.

And now I must go and finish some articles I'm writing for Powder Room Graffiti (www.powderroomgraffiti.com).

Monday, 15 June 2009

Just When I Thought I Could Breathe

How was your weekend? Peaceful? Full of activity? Here's how mine went:

Daughter planned to go to a disco with some friends. I don't particularly like her hanging out with these girls because alcohol always seems to be involved somewhere. Daughter dyed her hair (why???) and put on fake tan (very badly) Friday night. We were out with friends, the parents of the one of the other girls in fact. Son decided that he'd like to have a party the next night for his birthday. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute. He managed to get four positive responses. The rest were going to the disco.

Saturday arrived calmly and serenely. Daughter spent most of the day at dancing, which suits me as she's been a complete bitch to me lately. When she got home, she hopped into the shower. But wait. I'm already taking a shower. No matter. I screamed out as the water went ice cold. Later I asked how she's getting home. She bit my head off and said she'll find out when the other girls get there. The other girls arrived, but took an hour to finish getting ready. Meanwhile, I took Son and his friend to pick out some DVDs for this great party he's having. Hubby went to the store for some food for these hungry guys. The girls finished getting ready and I drove them to the disco, stopping off at one girl's house to drop off their gear for they are all going there after the disco. The mother came out and asked if I mind them coming home in a taxi. I said I've been told the other girl's mother is driving them home. "Oh, OK," the mother says.

I drove back, settled down to watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall, became very engrossed in it when the phone rang. I didn't understand at first, then I thought it was a prank. Could I come pick my daughter up at the disco because she's been drinking? I had to go because hubby had polished off a bottle and half of wine by himself. I flew there practically. She was the only one still there. Immediately, she began to explain herself. The Serial Text Dumper had dumped her two nights before because he didn't like her anymore. She didn't want to tell me because she thought I'd say I told you so. She held it in till the disco. The alcohol was a bottle of whisky provided by one of the girls I took to the disco. She sobbed and apologised and threw herself into hubby's arms when she got home. I gave her two paracetamol and a glass of water. Son watched the whole drama with not-so-quiet amusement.

The next morning the story had changed. It wasn't whisky; it was vodka and they found it outside. What were they doing outside? One of the boys they knew was out taking a pee and they went out too. I wondered why I hadn't heard from any of the parents that day. Finally, I texted my friend to find out if her daughter had gotten home all right. "Oh, yes," she replied, "they took a taxi." I then told her what had happened. I didn't hear back from her for a while. Then she texted that her daughter had told her some boys were outside drinking. So she obviously thinks her daughter wasn't with them.

My daughter is grounded till the end of the school year in five weeks' time. She is not allowed to go out with those girls or anyone else unless I give my approval, which I won't. I'm really disappointed and disgusted.

And it looks like we won't be buying the second business we've looked at even though we're pretty far down the road.


Have I mentioned that I hate my life?

Friday, 12 June 2009

Looking Up the Past

The modern age of the internet means you never have to say goodbye. At least it does for me. Since I went on Facebook, I have rediscovered old friends and old enemies. I have become a cyber researcher (some might say stalker) of ex-colleagues, bosses, and boyfriends.

Here is what I found: Ex-husband has left journalism and has a 7-year-old daughter. He wrote what was hailed on one website as the perfect leaving note. I found it pretentious and self-absorbed, just like himself. And just like a lot of journalists. In what other profession do people make a big deal about writing a leaving note? My hubby didn't, and he worked in his profession for 20-plus years.

One ex-boss was sent to the journalistic equivalent of Siberia after his ego and ambition for a Pulitzer overtook his common sense. He oversaw the writing of a huge expose of a large fruit company. Unfortunately, a felony was committed by one of the reporters, a former colleague of mine, during the investigation, which negated the entire project, ruined ex-boss' career, and very nearly sent the reporter to jail. This all happened more than 10 years ago, but it's new to me. And thanks to the wonder of the internet, I can read all about it.

I found one ex-boyfriend through Facebook. I have not contacted him, but am able to admire his career from afar. He is married, has two kids, and looks VERY happy in his FB picture. His wife's name has the same first letter as my own. His two children's names start with the same letters as my two. Just mentioning.

One ex-boyfriend and ex-husband live in the same state, and actually not that far from each other. They share the same birthday. Just mentioning.

I have made contact with friends from high school and made friends with people I went to high school with but didn't know too well. My world has opened up, but also closed down. I am relighting old friendships, perhaps because some of the ones I have now are very unfulfilling. Or perhaps it's my age. As I get closer to 50, I look backward and homeward more. My children take up less of my time so I have more time. I choose to spend that time relinking with my past.

But there is also something new in my present. I have started to write for a website, www.powderroomgraffiti.com. Check it out if you have the time.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Young Love, First Love

My daughter has a boyfriend. She finally admitted it to me last week when I took her out for lunch after her ballet exam.

I am happy for her, though feel a little bit apprehensive too. I am ecstatic that she told me. He had been going out with a friend of hers, whom he dumped by text. The friend cried on daughter's shoulder. Daughter made her brownies, talked to her, dried her tears. So why is daughter going out with this guy? She likes him, he likes her. Did this guy break up with the friend to go out with her? Yes. Did she know he was going to do that? Yes. So what kind of a friend does that make her? Well, she feels bad about what happened to the friend, but.... I tried to explain that no guy is worth falling out with your friends over. But.... That's a lesson she will have to learn for herself, I guess. At least she feels guilty. The friend is talking to her again, just about.

I knew something was up when she asked me to get tickets for her and the boy (just her "friend" at that point) to see a rap musician in October. I told her the relationship could be over by October. How would I know that? Because I know about young love. How do I know about young love? Because when I was her age (14), I had a 17-year-old boyfriend who drove and had a car. We met in February and by the summer it was all over when he was caught taking another girl out while I was visiting my grandparents.

But, again, these are lessons she will have to learn for herself.

She seems so happy as she skips off to school each day. She studies hard for her exams. She practices her ballet every day. She manages to keep in touch with her many, many friends. She and hubby are getting along better than ever. She is sad about the dog's demise and feels particularly bad for hubby losing his best friend.

I am happy for her too. And a bit apprehensive. I just hope she doesn't become one of those women who steals other women's boyfriends and husbands.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Days After

It's been a difficult week. I thought I was handling the Jake thing so well till we picked his ashes up from the pet crematorium. Hubby and I (the kids didn't want to go) drove out to North Wales to this lovely pet cemetery and even had a laugh that they had a cafe on the premises. Then we went inside to collect the ashes...

They were in a very nice wooden box with a plaque engraved with his name, the date of his death, and his age -- 22 months. Well, he was just shy of 22 months. Then the man gave us a key chain with some of Jake's hair inside. I lost it then. I didn't think I would cry so I didn't bring any tissues or anything.

I had been on painkillers, including diazepam, for most of the week because of my back. While the rest of the family had trouble sleeping, I was snoring away. Then the pain eased and I stopped taking them. And wham! It's hit me that he's gone.

I've put our name down for a Golden Retriever puppy. I'm trying to look ahead, but my memories of Jake are still so strong -- the good and the bad.

Well, I've had a lot of pets in my life. Jake will stand out for all sorts of reasons.

Onto another subject: I have been trying to keep up with everyone's blogs. And I've tried to leave comments, but something is happening with my server or something because it either takes forever or I get a weird message. Just know that I'm with you in spirit.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

He's Gone

Yesterday was Jake's last day on this planet. It didn't start off too well. He attacked hubby when he tried to put his halter on. Hubby's jeans were ripped, his leg bitten in two places (though not as badly as mine). When I heard the yells, my heart sank. Since Jake bit me so badly a week ago (entailing a tetanus shot and antibiotics), I knew if he did it again that would be the end.

I phoned the animal behaviourist, who of course wasn't there. If I can blame anyone for this mess, I blame her. While her assessment of Jake was accurate, her solutions were next to impossible. She was always late returning phone calls. It was always £200 here, £90 there. And at the end of it, Jake was worse than when we first saw her. Hubby also phoned the vet and left a message.

And we waited for these people to call back. And waited. And waited. Jake dragged the lead and halter around all day because we were too frightened to take them off. Finally, the behaviourist phoned back and said that these situations take a long time and there's no guarantee of a solution. Wish she'd told me that about £500 ago. The message hadn't been passed to the vet so hubby rang again. We were told to pick up sedatives and bring him in when he'd passed out. So we fed him six pills. And waited. Nothing happened. So hubby went back to the vet's and got eight more pills. And we waited. He did calm down enough to allow me to stroke him. I felt his body relax for the first time ever, I think. He was how he used to be before all the operations, etc. I am so glad I got that time with him.

He still was awake but we loaded him into the car. He gave one last growl. Our vet, who is the best vet alive, took him in, gave him a shot, then brought him out to us. Jake fell asleep, then the vet administered the final shot. We all cried. We asked to get his ashes back, and the crematorium rang last night to say they'd be ready today. I tried to pay the vet last night, but he said to come back later in the week.

Goodbye, Jake. I hope you're in a better place now.

Being the superstitious person I am, I hope all our luck changes for the better now. Does this sound callous? I don't mean to sound like Jake was the source of all our woes, but he certainly was ONE of our woes. For a week I've known he would have to go. I hoped he could go to a rescue place, but his unpredictability and violence meant he couldn't. I thought how we'd feel once he'd gone. Relief is what I thought we'd feel. I knew I had to clear his stuff as soon as possible and did so as soon as we got back from the vet's despite being blinded by tears. I know we will get a new puppy one day, one from a proper breeder. A Golden Retriever perhaps.

I want to remember Jake as he was -- the happy-go-lucky puppy with the little tail that spun round in circles when he was excited. That was a lovely dog.

Monday, 18 May 2009

His Bite is Worse Than His Bark

What can I say? Jake earned a reprieve from Death Row, the trainer came to the house twice, suggesting all sorts of things, many of which I've been doing. We have spent in excess of £300 over the last two weeks what with the trainer and the pain specialist. And Jake seemed a lot better.

But yesterday he bit me. Badly. On the thigh, thank God, though he could have gotten me on the face if I hadn't moved. I ran out of the room screaming because he looked like he was going to go for me again despite my turning away from him. He followed me to the stairs, where I collapsed. My daughter came running down to see what had happened and hubby ran in from the kitchen where the attack had occurred. I sobbed and sobbed. He ripped a great big hole in my trousers. My thigh is black and blue all over. Daughter started to cry too and threw up because she was so distressed by it all. She came home early from school today because she's still upset.

I blame myself again. He'd exhibited all the signs of anxiety and yet I persisted in trying to remove his halter. The trouble is Jake always exhibits all the signs of anxiety. He always smacks his lips, yawns, has half-moon eyes, scratches when there's no itch, chews on his paws. He only ever stops doing that about 5 percent of the day. He's a challenging dog, at least for us.

I've emailed the animal behaviourist yet again. I can't relax around this dog because some small thing I do might start him up again. So I'm avoiding him at the moment. If he comes up to me, I'll give him a quick pat on the head, no touching below the ears. Hubby handles him most of the time. He gets the halter on and off. He takes him on his walks. And Jake seems OK with him for the most part. But this isn't why we got a dog. We got a dog for companionship and protection. Instead, I need protection from him. I'm going to wait a day or two before I try to work with him again with the clicker and treats. He and I both need a break.

I understand him though. He feels that we haven't done our job as pack leaders in protecting him and keeping him safe and pain-free so he's taken matters into his own jaws. With disastrous results. We're afraid to walk him off the lead now. And he actually seemed better for it. The pain specialist thinks there still is some residual pain. He's on yet another pain killer. I'm in need of a few myself. But even Daughter is beginning to think the unthinkable.

Can this doggy be saved?

Friday, 15 May 2009

Wishin' and Hopin'

I read the other day that there's a report out saying women are bullied more by other women at work than by men. Judging from my own experience, I'd say that's true. Sad, but true.

The truth is that sisterhood is pretty much a myth. Women are less tolerant of and helpful to other women than they are to men. Maybe it's because we all suffer from the same thing and have little time for those that moan. We're all from Venus, and we'd rip each other's ovaries out at times if we could.

Of course it's a generalisation. We can be and are helpful to some of our sisters, but if there's somebody we're going to stick a knife in the back of, it's more likely to be a woman than a man.

The worst bosses I ever had were female. There, I've said it. One was a Machiavellian fat freak. Another was a wannabe Machiavellian freak (she wasn't fat). They favoured the men and spat on and sat on the women. I had a couple of female bosses who were all right, but not much in the way of mentors. I used to think it was because their generation were among the first female managers in newspapers. They had no women to emulate so they emulated the men. Badly. They resented the next generation of women because we had it that much easier.

It's not just in the workplace that women stab each other. There's the ongoing -- and, frankly, boring -- war between working mothers and mothers who stay at home. Working mothers are superwomen. We all know that. It's exhausting looking after a home, small children, and holding down a job. I have the utmost respect for women who do it. I'd like to be able to say that working mothers have respect for those of us who stay at home with our kids. But I can't. In my experience, working mothers look down on those of us who stayed home with the kids. We're not as bright, not as hardworking, not as ambitious. Our children suffer as well.

I never planned to stay at home raising my kids. I planned to be a career woman, just like all the other women I knew. Then I moved to England. I wanted to start over in a new career, but didn't know what. Then I got pregnant. Then I got pregnant again. I had no family nearby to support me if I did go back to work. Hubby had a pretty high-octane career and was quite honestly selfish. I knew I wouldn't have his support either if I went back to work. So I stayed home. It was lonely. It was frustrating at times, boring at others. I developed hobbies and went to the gym and for coffee. I cleaned my own house, did my own gardening, looked after my own children. And endured comments from my working friends. "Wish I could go to the gym." "Wish I could go for coffee." The meaning behind these wishful comments was clear: I was and am a frivolous human being with no real skills and am therefore inferior to them.

Or am I? I have a bit of wishful thinking too. Wish I could have gone to the bathroom in peace just once when my kids were younger. Wish I could get out of the house and have people treat me like I have even one active brain cell. Wish my parents lived nearby so I could dump my kids on them whenever, leaving me free to pursue a meaningful and lucrative career.

Why do we do this to each other? Here's what I really wish: I wish that we women could all just have a bit of respect for the choices others have made in their lives.

Or is that a wish too far?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?

I have had a rather stressful week with Jake. Basically, he's turned into a psycho monster who lunges and bites and growls if we bend over him or look at him the wrong way. Why? I think it's because my daughter took him on a walk with her friend and her friend's dog. Her friend's dog has dominance aggression; Jake has fear aggression. The two don't match and they had a vicious fight. I think Jake was bitten on the front paws. Over the next few days he seemed subdued, as he was before his surgeries on his hips. Finally, hubby took him to the vet for antibiotics. To say Jake was unhappy at the vet's doesn't even start to describe the scene. The vet said his behaviour has deteriorated greatly since she last saw him and she left hubby with the impression that the only recourse will be euthanasia.

That was on Friday. On Saturday morning, hubby tried to put Jake's halter on him. Normally, Jake is very excited about having the halter put on him because it means he's going on a walk. This time he wouldn't let hubby or me get near enough to hook it on. Then he went after hubby and bit him on the calf. I took the halter off, and he didn't get to go for a walk that day. On Sunday he seemed more himself, but still growled several times in the day at us if we got too near him. I'd worked in the garden all day and Jake had been out enjoying the sunshine. Around 5 p.m. I was finishing up and he came up to me. I was stroking him and must have leaned forward. He went for me and bit me on the thigh. I burst into tears. Hubby thought it was because I was frightened. It wasn't. It was because I realised the vet might be right.

Yesterday he didn't bite anyone but did growl a few times if we approached him the wrong way. He tried to bite hubby after a walk when hubby leaned forward to get his keys out to open the door.

Today he's more his old self but we are being very cautious around him. Hubby and I are both scared of him now. Daughter is absolutely distraught over the whole scenario. So am I. But I can't have a dog who is unpredictable and bites. I understand that the dogfight spooked him and the trip to the vet spooked him even more. I don't know what to do. We see the animal behaviourist's trainer tomorrow. Maybe she will have some answers.

On to a less depressing subject: I've been tagged by Not Waving But Drowning. So here it is.
1. What are your current obsessions?
Puzzles. Namely, Sudoku and Scramble and Pathwords on Facebook. I can spend hours doing them. They take my mind off other stressful matters in my life.

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
Jeans (and bras and underpants of course)

3. Last dream you had?
Should I say? It was a rather naughty one about my neighbour, whom I don't fancy in the slightest.

4. Last thing you bought?
I bought a lot of food yesterday, which my children promptly consumed. Before that I bought some shoes and a handbag.

5. What are you listening to?
Birds in my garden. God know why they keep coming back, what with the cats and the dog.

6. If you were a god/goddess who would you be?
I always fancied being either Athena or Aphrodite. I love the sound of Aphrodite's name and the idea that she sailed in on a huge shell. But Athena's pretty smart and cool. Or maybe Artemis. Can't make up my mind.

7. Favourite holiday spots?
We always go to the same places in summer -- Wyoming and Florida -- the downside of being an ex-pat. However, there are some quite nice places in and near Wyoming and Florida.

8. Reading right now?
Barack Obama's books. He is so sensible and knowledgeable.

9. Four words to describe yourself.
At the moment? Depressed, downhearted, dispirited, despondent. What I hope to be? Happy, sparkly, confident, optimistic.

10. Guilty pleasure?
An entire day to myself to do with as I please with no regard for what anyone else wants or thinks.

11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak?
My son and my daughter at times. My son figured out long ago that if he could make me laugh he wouldn't get in as much trouble.

12. Favourite spring thing to do?

13. Planning to travel to next?
Wyoming and Florida.

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately?
Carrot cake I made on Sunday to distract me from the dog dilemma.

15. When did you last get tipsy?
Saturday when I was at the Frenemies. Have to drink to tolerate them.

16. Favourite ever film?
"It's a Wonderful Life." I know almost all the dialogue.

17. Care to share some wisdom?
The wheel turns. Life might suck at the moment, but it moves on so hang in there.

18. Song you can't get out of your head?
"And I'm Feeling Good" by Nina Simone.

19. Thing you are looking forward to?
Hopefully, one day, buying a business and working again and having an income again and having hubby get out of his depression so I can get out of mine.

20 If money were no object, where would you choose to live?
Somewhere where I don't have to wear a coat in May.

I need to tag eight more people. Sorry, guys.

crystal jigsaw
pantheist mom

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Green Shoots! In My Garden

I do love this time of year, with the blossoming trees, the lime green of newly sprouted leaves. It gives me hope for the rest of the year, which another disappointing summer is likely to ruin. But hey ho.

I'd like to share a tale of one of my first frenemies. She was, I thought, my best friend in high school. That illusion was shattered with one phone call. In the summer of 1975 my world as I knew flew apart quite violently and quickly when my dad informed my mother he had moved out and wanted a divorce. We had been in Wyoming most of the summer clearing out my grandparents' house and preparing my grandpa to move in with my aunt. My grandmother had died the previous May. As so often happens with deaths in the family, it brought out a lot of latent grievances between my mother and her sister and brother. Also, my dad kept not answering the phone (he'd stayed home that summer to "work") when my mother called. And my brother and I were snotty teen-agers.

We drove home as quickly as possible. My mother's ESP was in overdrive, and she wanted to get back to my dad as soon as she could. On our last day we drove about 15 hours in the car, arriving sometime after midnight. I still remember that quiet drive through downtown Tampa before hell let loose. When my mother took in what my dad had said, she ran to the bathroom cupboard, grabbed a bottle of Valium and took as many as she could. She spat most of them out, but swallowed enough to knock her out for quite a few hours. Over the next few days, she attempted suicide again in other ways and threatened my dad and me. I forgive her completely for her actions. I understand why she did it.

In the middle of this turmoil, my erstwhile best friend called and asked what was happening in my world. I told her about the divorce. She said, "I can't talk to you about this," and hung up. And never did talk to me about it. Soon afterward, I started on a downward spiral of drink, drugs and sex that I eventually extracted myself from a few years later.

This frenemy came to mind the other day as I sat in the kitchen of one of my current frenemies. She and I supposedly are training for the Race for Life, but one or the other of us keeps crapping out. I have hardened towards this particular frenemy over the last year as I felt she had been pushing me away exactly when I needed her support. The other day, it was her turn to need my support. She is worried sick about her elderly parents, in particular her mother. She is also very scared that one or both of them may need to go into a home. She burst into tears in her kitchen, and despite my best efforts, I could not help but go to comfort her. I hugged her and found some tissues and dried her tears. I couldn't say things would get better. They rarely do with people in their 80s. I sat and listened, which is all I could do. And I realised that being a frenemy isn't something I can do.

A footnote about the high school frenemy: she grew up to be a psychologist, has gained about 50 pounds, acts like she's on something, has had one divorce and no kids. I hope she's learned something about empathy since we were friends. I can't imagine her telling clients that she can't talk to them when they're going through a tough time.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

When the Dog Bites, When the Deal Dies

When I'm feeling sad... Forget Julie Andrews, I take a Valium.

Jake bit me for the first, and I hope the last time, about a month ago now. I was trying to dry him off after his walk. I stepped backwards, and I may have stepped on his tail or leg. He went for me quite viciously. Luckily, I had my coat on or he would have ripped flesh. Two weeks later he did the same thing to hubby as he was trying to load him into the car.

I've been on the phone to the animal behaviourist, of course. We've stopped taking him in the car temporarily so we can break the negative cycle (and save our clothes and ourselves). But he continues to growl at least twice a day. I'd rather have growling than biting, but I'd rather have none of this at all. We are persevering because we know it would be next to impossible to rehome Jake. And I don't want to put him down.

Our plan to buy a publishing business crashed and burned yesterday. The owner sprang a surprise demand of £70,000 more for the business on Wednesday. I feel he wasn't being forthcoming because he knew for a month that he wanted more for the business but at no point came right out and said so. We also discovered he'd fiddled his books. The last set of accounts we saw had the business in the red by £30,000. Then he sent us his final accounts. Lo and behold, that £30,000 in arrears was gone or rather, "redistributed." How creative! So we were very uncomfortable about all this. Hubby sent an email to one of the employees to finish up a conversation we'd had with her on Wednesday. She forwarded it to the owner, who sent us an email saying this was no way to do business and he never wanted to hear from us again.

So, that's that! You live and learn. And take a Valium (or a quarter of one, in my case) when it gets really bad. Shall I go on about the other bad things in my life?

Nah. I'll leave you with this: I met Fire Byrd for lunch on Thursday and left, as I told her, feeling wrapped up in a warm blanket of friendship. Spread the love, everybody. We all need some.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

It's All in the Accent

Yesterday we saw hubby's brother and wife and two daughters. As the girls walked in the house, they started talking and didn't stop till they left four hours later. In between I was fascinated by their accents -- Leicestershire. Very different to my children's -- almost-but-not-quite Scouse.

Since I moved to this country 17 years ago, I have been amazed by the number of different accents within such a small geographic area. To the untrained ear, an English accent is an English accent, and a Scottish accent is a Scottish accent. And South Africans, Australians, and New Zealanders sound like the English. But they don't. And sometimes even the English don't sound like the English. Try talking to a Scouser on the phone sometimes. To me, when I first moved here, they sounded German.

After my ear became more attuned, I was able to pick out Geordies from Glaswegians (though I still struggle to understand both). I could distinguish the differences between a Southern accent and a Northern accent. I could even place where the Northern accent originated (Manchester, Yorkshire, Liverpool, etc.)

All very My Fair Lady. Remember the scene where Rex Harrison moans about why can't the English speak properly? "Aw, gwon," said Eliza Doolittle. But even Londoners have variations in their accents.

But because of all these different accents and variations in how some words are pronounced, I don't always understand what's being said. Many people think I have a hearing problem, which I probably do. But a lot of it, I'm sure, is because I still have to concentrate on what's being said just as I did during my first encounter with a Glaswegian. I'd asked for directions on a visit there and understood only two words -- "Turrrrrnnn rrreet." I had to learn what my mother-in-law meant when she said bewk, lewk, and cewk.

I have trouble with Irish accents as well, but for different reasons. Northern Irish accents sound somewhat Welsh or Scottish to me sometimes. Southern Irish, depending on the origin, can sound American. Oh yes, I have embarrassed myself by asking an Irishman if he was American. And I have been asked if I'm Irish or Scottish. By the English.

Accents matter a lot in the UK. People make assumptions about you based on your accent -- whether you're intelligent or stupid or rich or poor or honest or dishonest. This happens in the U.S. and elsewhere too, I'm sure (I'm thinking about In the Heat of the Night).

Apparently, even dogs in the UK growl in regional accents. Now that's taking things a bit too far.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Tongue-tied by Macrame

It's happened again. Just when I think I have mastered all the quirks of the British English language and its various odd pronunciations, one reaches out to bite me on the ass.

The culprit this time is the innocuous word macrame. Remember macrame? It was all the rage in the 70s. For some reason the other night I felt the need to speak its name -- MAC-ra-may. My companions hooted with laughter. Apparently not MAC-ra-may, but ma-CRA-may. I don't know which pronunciation is actually correct. I don't care. In my country, the way I said it is right. Sorry, my home country, the land of my birth. In my adopted country, apparently the second way is correct, and humiliating those who say it wrong is socially acceptable.

This has happened to me before, many times. The first word was oregano. My future mother-in-law peered at me over her glasses when I said o-REG-a-no. Politely, she corrected me -- or-i-GAN-o. I already knew about the to-may-to/to-mah-to debate (we Americans preserved the Elizabethan pronunciation apparently). I knew about lu-ten-ant/lef-tenant. I discovered Van Go/Van Goff, ga-RAJH/gar-ridge, and jag-wahr/jag-u-arh.

The British have a way of taking foreign words and making them their own, with their own pronunciations. Take poor Jose Mourinho. In his home country, and probably the rest of the world, he is HO-say. Here in Britain, he is Josie (as in Josie and the Pussycats). When I order Mexican food with my friends, I have hal-i-pen-yo peppers while they have jal-i-pe-no peppers.

I don't know if the Brits should be criticised for pronouncing foreign words their own way. Every language contains bastardized forms of words from another language. Even French. But I do think that some Brits show their ignorance of other cultures by making fun of those who pronounce words differently. Not that ignorance is something only the Brits have. They just are more pronounced in how they show it.

Friday, 3 April 2009

And You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did I Get Here?

That's a question I've asked myself a lot since I was a teen-ager. Sometimes I ask myself, How the hell did I get here? Like when suddenly I find myself at home and having no memory of driving myself there. Other times it's a why question. Why am I here?

I've been taking a philosophy taster course these last six weeks at my daughter's school. I think the seven of us who attend have basic philosophical questions about the meaning of life (which Monty Python answers somewhat) and the origin of life. Of course, we're all in middle youth, so we've come to a few conclusions already. The neurologist thinks along the lines of Richard Dawkins, though he claims not to like him. The grandfather is more traditional in his views. I'm an "intelligent design" sort of person. I think atheists take the easy route and agnostics are just fence-sitters. It's easy to say there is no god. It's easy to say religion is the root of all evil. But contemplating the creation of the universe, what caused those factors to happen at that time, is more difficult.

I suppose going to parochial schools spurred on my curiosity about religion, or more specifically humankind's need for religion. The neurologist in our class suggests humans are hardwired to need religion or to believe in God. Then what happened to atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Madelyn Murray O'Hair? Are they anomalies? Are they faulty somehow? How did we come to be hardwired in such a way? And why would we become hardwired in such a way? Some scientists suggest that those who believe in God are not as intelligent as those who don't. Hmmmm. Who created intelligence tests in the first place? Scientists. Could it be they created them in their image, so therefore anyone who thinks differently won't score as well?

Then again, there are those who hide their ignorance behind their religion. Is ignorance bliss? Or is it stupidity? So many questions.

I've been taking another class as well: How to start your own business. This, too, has opened up my mind and provoked me to think in a different way and to ask myself the questions, Where will I be and How will I get there?

Our attempt to buy a publishing business is not going as well as planned. The owner is throwing a few spanners in the works, to use a British phrase, which we hope can be sorted out. But we've had to face the possibility that we may need to walk away. And then what? Hubby has been out of work for a year now. He has applied for several jobs. He has narrowly missed out on many of them. I can't begin to describe the roller coaster ride that has been the last year.

But the second course has given me food for thought. It's given me confidence that we could go out there and make our own way in the working world. The course was run by a marketing guy, so of course the emphasis was heavily on marketing. And you know what? I think I could do it. Market myself, that is. I do it every day in fact. We all do as we stand in front of the mirror getting dressed for the day. We are preparing ourselves to send out a message to the world: this is who I am.

The philosophy course has helped me answer the next question: this is how I think I got here.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

One of My Hang-ups

About 18 years ago, I was living on my own in my beautiful pink apartment in suburban New York. I'd split with the first husband and was enjoying, for the most part, my independence.

But there can be a price for independence, such as having only two cats to talk to all weekend. Or buying a six-pack and sharing it with -- myself. And, for women, there's a safety issue too. I lost my job, though not employment, the same week my marriage went belly-up and went from having my own office, editing a Sunday magazine, to a broken drawer in a metal desk working on the copy desk till about 2 a.m. Still, I had my pink apartment. And the cats.

I used to call my answering machine several times a night from work, convinced the ex was going to beg me to come back. One night the phone was busy. Hmmm, strange. Are the cats calling sex lines while I'm out. I called again an hour later. Still busy. And still busy a few hours after that. Maybe something was wrong with the line?

I got home about 2:30 a.m. I had to park a few blocks away and struggled back with my drycleaning, which I'd picked up before going into work. I put the key in the flimsy lock on my front door. One cat was there to greet me, but where was the other one? I walked into my beautiful blue bedroom... and there he was trussed up with telephone line. He'd been like that for ages and had wet himself. I extricated him from the line and thought about how this had happened. I had two playful cats who would chase each other all over the apartment. Could one have knocked the phone off and the other one in play have gotten himself tied up? I chose to believe this line of thinking.

Until.... the phone calls started. They were brief, a bit of heavy breathing, then hanging up. They were infrequent too for a time. Then they started coming more often and at all hours. Once, having been awakened about 3 a.m. (I had moved on from the copy desk by this point), I called the ex's number. No answer. He must have been at his girlfriend's. I started to rack my brain for who could be making these calls if not the ex. People at work? The cable guy? I didn't want to think of the most obvious suspect.

When I moved in, I met my neighbours -- a middle-aged couple and their two grown sons. The husband was a dentist, the wife was an alcoholic as near as I could tell. The sons did nothing but wander round all day plugged into their Walkmans and not making any eye contact with anyone. One of them got into the habit of stealing my New York Times till I cancelled my subscription.

A few months after I moved in, I happened to meet the previous tenants who were friends of people I worked with. They told me of the fights they would hear from next door, the sons calling their parents all sorts of names, the furniture being thrown around. I heard them too, sometimes turning the TV up to drown them out.

The phone calls persisted, even after I met hubby and he answered the phone a few times. Why didn't I have the phone company trace the calls? I think I was afraid of the truth. I was afraid of having my suspicions of my neighbours confirmed. The only time I heard the person's voice was once when I let my answering machine pick up. "If you're there, pick up the phone. If you're there, pick up the phone," he said over and over till I unplugged the phone and the answering machine.

I moved not long after that. No more phone calls. Except once in the middle of the night. I froze, wondering how the person had found me. But it wasn't a person. It was BT testing the line. Safe at last.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

We Were Gannettized

When I was growing up, we took two newspapers every day: The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times. The Tribune was -- and is -- a morning paper; the Times was the evening paper. Around the time I was 8 or 9, we stopped taking the Times. No time to read it, my parents said. And the absence wasn't felt in the slightest.

Still the Times continued to publish into the 80s, when it died the death of an afternoon newspaper.

It was a similar story in newsrooms across the nation. People had changed. TV was to blame mostly, I suppose. People got their news and entertainment from the little boxes in their living rooms.

Some PM newspapers formed an alliance with the AMs to create a 24-hour news cycle. But it was too little too late really.

In the 70s, I approximate, news corporations started to take over newspapers. What had been mom-and-pop operations became slick corporate products. One man, Al Neuharth, was a genius at this. Al Neuharth started as a reporter, I believe, on a paper in upstate New York. But he had a genius for business and created the corporate Goliath Gannett Inc. He started buying up small and medium-sized papers across the country in places such as Coffeyville, Kansas, Fort Myers, Florida, and El Paso, Texas. Not exactly full of bright lights and big streets. What these small markets had, though, was a captive audience.

Neuharth wasn't satisfied with his empire of tiny papers. He wanted to create a newspaper for the nation. Thus, USA Today was born. Neuharth cannibalized his newsrooms in the smaller markets for the staff of USA Today, and the newspapers had to carry the salaries of these people for some time. USA Today was mocked as McPaper by serious journalists. Yet, today it thrives.

Somewhere in the 90s, Neuharth remarried, started a new family and passed the reins onto other more ambitious corporate guys. They now wanted quality, not quantity, and decided to buy it. They bought the Detroit Free-Press and the San Jose Mercury News, among others. But quality requires money. The 90s were perhaps the start of the beginning of the end for newspapers. Budgets were squeezed to maintain the bottom line. Gannett was very, very good at maintaining the bottom line and rewarded their investors many times over. But I believe this squeezing mentality is where Gannett and other corporate news organisations got it wrong. News coverage shrank and editorial space was limited as ad revenues started to dry up. Quality was sacrificed. Readers noticed.

Now in the noughties newspapers are dying or moving online. There is a great hue and cry across the world, mostly, it seems, from journalists or ex-journalists. Where did this decline begin? I think it goes back to the 60s and 70s. Changes in lifestyle and changes in ownership. Corporate greed over corporate good. The internet has just hastened the decline and fall of the media empires.

Where will it all end? I don't know that answer. Do you?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Another day and another report of another newspaper biting the dust. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the latest fatality. In intensive care are several others, notably The San Francisco Chronicle. The New York Times has had to seek a bailout from a Mexican billionaire. The Miami Herald and many, many others are hemorrhaging staff in an effort to stay afloat. Here in the UK are similar stories. Will the layoffs work? Probably only for the short term.

I take a personal interest in the demise and ill health of newspapers since that used to be my chosen profession. I started my career during an economic downturn and felt fortunate to get any job at all. I ended my newspaper career during another economic downturn. Though I joined the newspaper world at the dawn of the computer age, I wouldn't say I ever worked during the heyday of newspapers. Always there seemed to be a struggle to balance the books, to sell enough ads to support the mighty costs of running a newspaper.

Advertising was, and is, the mainstay of a newspaper's economic health. Take it away and you see an awful lot of red. But advertising revenues during my time were shrinking, slowly at first, then in one great big rush. The big advertisers used to be banks (which may be dying daily now but have suffered ill health for some time), department stores (ditto), and car manufacturers and dealerships (same as the others). That was for the big ads. The little ads, the classifieds, could always be counted on to prop up the first group if need be. Not any more thanks to eBay, Craigslist and other internet sites.

People moan about the cost of a newspaper. Circulation revenues actually aren't that great. Think about all that you get for the cost of one newspaper -- an awful lot. People say they don't have time to read a newspaper anymore. Then turn off your TV. People say they don't agree with what is written in a newspaper. What? Not a single, solitary word?

My friends and former colleagues in the newspaper business naturally are anxious about their jobs, if they still have one. On the editorial side, one goes into newspapers almost because it's a calling. You don't get paid a lot. The percs are almost non-existent. On the advertising side, there's always (or used to be) a competition, a prize, a party for selling the most ads. Not for the editors and reporters. The prize is seeing your product in print.

Newspapers record the major events of a person's life -- birth, death, engagement, wedding. Think of the major events in the last century, and what picture comes to mind? The headlines in the newspaper. Pearl Harbor. VE Day, VJ Day. Harry Truman winning the election and holding up a newspaper that called it a day a bit too early. Kennedy being assassinated. 9/11/2001. Obama winning the election.

Now, take away newspapers. What records the importance of these days? What do you save to show your grandchildren?

Newspapers are partially to blame for their death. They haven't managed for change. But I don't put much blame on their shoulders. Despite or maybe because of all this change, it's a lazy world. And it's going to be a much less-informed world too without newspapers.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Where is HG Wells when you need him?

I've always been a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-fence person. I was always looking for the next job. When I was 9, I wanted to be 15; when 15, I wanted to be 18; when 18, 21; when 21, 25. Then I stopped wishing I were older.

I wish now I were any age or any place in life other than I am. I look in the mirror, and crepey eyes and jowly neck stare back at me. A lifelong sun worshipper, I now have the brown spots that go with it. The bulge is winning in my battle with it. My body aches and creaks every morning. When I try to increase my activity level, it moans and groans and sometimes screams out.

It's not just my body that I am dissatisfied with. I am sandwiched between elderly parents and curious teen-agers. I approach my weekly Sunday chat with my mother with trepidation. What illness has befallen her or her husband this week? Last week, she was in the hospital with chest pains again. While she was there, her husband slipped on ice while taking the garbage bin to the street and fell, laying there God knows how long till the mailman found him and lifted him up, then called the next-door neighbour, who is ill with cancer, who called his daughter.

My mother and stepfather are not the only ones I worry about. On Saturday, daughter had some friends round -- three girls and three boys. Only the boys were not the ones she had invited, or so she said. They were the ones who had left the urine-soaked toilet paper roll in the urinal at her birthday party. She knows what we think of them. Still, she risked sneaking them into our house, right under our noses. She also risked sneaking the bottle opener upstairs, and risked hiding four empty beer bottles and one WKD in a drawer in the playroom. She went to a friend's house for a sleepover after the party. Hubby and I were a bit suspicious, though we didn't quite know why. We knew the bad boys had been in our house and were very loud in our opinion of them so they left. After they had all gone, we went to check on the state of the playroom. Hubby, for some reason, pulled open a drawer, and there were the bottles. I called daughter and told her we had found the bottles and hubby was on his way to pick her up and bring her home. She's been very quiet since then, though one comment she made sounded like she's doing us a favour by being quiet. She blamed it all on one boy and said he'd been the only one drinking. Like I was born yesterday.

I suppose the worst bit of this is that we were home. This was done right under our smug noses. She has abused our trust, and I'm not sure if she even understands all the repercussions of this. No more parties, and certainly not with those characters. No laptop till the end of the month. And no more trust in her to do the right thing.

I hate this stage in my life. Transport me five years into the future, or five years into the past. Anywhere but here. I can't talk to my mother about this as she has her own worries. I have to be careful which of my friends I confide in or it could end up being broadcast across the Northwest of England. Hubby is disgusted and not much of one to talk to anyway. Just show me the time machine and get me out of here.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Put This in Your Pipe and Smoke It

There's been a lot in the news (the UK at least) lately about a woman who has written a thinly veiled novel about parents who kick their teen-age son out of the house for smoking cannabis. This woman, Julie Myerson, has made a career out of writing about her home life apparently. And she did indeed kick her teen-age son out of the house for smoking cannabis -- and apparently being violent toward her and supplying her two younger children with cannabis.

The backlash has been against Ms. Myerson though. And I must say I agree with a lot of it. She didn't consult her son about the publicity surrounding the book and her interviews about kicking her son out. So he went to the press himself and presented his side of the story.

Both sides feel they have been wronged by the other, but I see one side as being more wronged than the other. I think Myerson's son's privacy has been terribly invaded and compromised in his mother's quest for publicity. There used to be a saying, don't air your dirty laundry in public. Some things were family matters and meant to be kept within the confines of the home. That saying doesn't seem to have much relevance these days, what with blogs, facebook and its ilk, Twitter, etc. People -- I include myself -- feel free to write about whatever. Their relationships, their fantasies, their problems, their joys, their fears. It seems almost compulsory to bare yourself figuratively.

But is it fair to do this when the act of doing it bares someone else? The word loyalty comes to mind. I have written here of hubby, son and daughter. They are anonymous to you all and will remain so, I hope. Even still, I do not write everything about what goes on with them because of a sense of loyalty to them. How would they feel if they knew that anyone could read about them?

I think Myerson would argue that by writing about her own dysfunctional family life, she is reassuring others that it can happen to anyone. But here is where her conceit begins. Of course it can happen to anyone, and it does all the time. But not everyone feels compelled to tell the world about it. She and her partner are a certain type you find within the British middle class: educated, articulate, terribly earnest and principled. So principled they wouldn't allow their three children to eat meat. So earnest they wrote about it. They didn't believe any imperfection could happen in their family. When it did -- as in the son smoking cannabis -- they were angry at the son for showing the imperfections in their perfect world. He in turn was angry at them for using him as a topic for many an article and now a novel. I don't know that this fractured family can ever be repaired.

I think anyone who writes about their family in any forum must be mindful of the family's rights too. It isn't the same as having a moan about your spouse or your child to your best friend over a coffee. Setting it down in words creates a permanence. But all relationships, particularly the parent-teen-ager ones -- are fluid beings, full of ebb and flow. What is today will not be tomorrow.

Perhaps Myerson should have known that before all the hundreds of words were written by and about her and her family.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Swivel Hips, Softhands, and Fat Wanker

What you see isn't always what you get. People make assumptions all the time about others based on external factors. For example, at my salsa class I have come up with nicknames for many of the regulars: Softhands, a nice, soft-spoken young man with -- you got it -- soft hands; Swivel Hips, another nice young man who is a funky dancer; BT2, a woman blessed (?) with big tits and big teeth who can't seem to find T-shirts that fit her; Paul the Pillock, enough said; Big Mustache and Small Mustache, two jolly guys with, um, mustaches, though Big Mustache doesn't go anymore and Small Mustache seems to have ditched his wife; Smelly Man, who fortunately doesn't go anymore; Curvy Girl, who likes to shake that booty.

I don't know much about these people beyond twirling around, with, and among them for an hour once a week or so. Softhands could be a right bastard; Paul the Pillock could be a saint. I have made assumptions and judgments based on these assumptions.

I'm not alone. Others have done the same to me, particularly after I moved to the UK. I became The American, with all the connotations -- negative and positive -- that might have. I am also Blonde. I am also a Stay-At-Home Mother. Put all those together, and you might have a very negative view of me indeed.

Even people who have known me for quite a few years can't seem to get beyond these labels. Such as -- dare I mention their name -- the Frenemies. Yes, I should dump them, but it's difficult because our kids are friends and I actually like two out of the five couples. One couple I'm neutral about, and two I can't stand. Anyway, we were having dinner at the home of one of the couples I like on Saturday. Frenemy's husband and the fat, balding know-it-all wanker of a husband of another one were talking about George Chakiris, he of West Side Story fame. I piped up that he had been in White Christmas. Frenemy's husband and Fat Wanker scoffed at me. They fancy themselves Trivia Kings because they've actually been on TV quiz shows. But I know my White Christmas and I held my ground. Fat Wanker said he couldn't possibly have been because White Christmas came out in the 40s. No, I replied, it came out in 1954 or 1956 (you can tell from the clothes and hairstyles). Fat Wanker and I made a £10 wager. Fat Wanker's wife looked it up on her Blackberry on the internet. Guess who won? Guess who didn't get her £10?

They made assumptions and judgments about me and were wrong. In that case, at least.

It's occurred to me that this has happened to Barack Obama his whole life. Assumptions have been made about the color of his skin, his name, his parentage, where he's lived. And yet look at what a cool person he is. No chips on his shoulders.

We label people because that makes it easier to categorize them in our brains. And we humans generally like to categorize. It helps us cope with the unknown, probably a throwback to Neanderthal Man. But we must remember to look outside the assumptions and judgments. These can be wrong. Just ask Fat Wanker.

Friday, 27 February 2009

The Excuses Game

Hey, everybody, let's all play a new game. The Excuses Game. Soon to be a Parker Bros. game. Or Mattel. Maybe a video game. Or Wii.

Actually, it's a very old game, but has gained some new converts in the last few months, mostly in the banking sector. Politicians perfected this ages ago.

Here's how you play: Think of as many excuses in one minute as you can for totally fucking over the world.

After you've mastered this, you can move on to the Blame Game. Even the kids at home can play this one. That's where when you've exhausted all the excuses, you look to blame someone else -- your sibling, your spouse, the government, the economy.

And when you've mastered both of these games, you can run a country. Any country. And a bank. Any bank. Because no one likes to play the Responsibility Game, do they? That would be no fun at all.

Friday, 20 February 2009


Somebody call 911 or 999 quick. Some crimes of fashion are being committed as I write.
These are back in style. Yes, the harem pants, which make you look as though you've dropped a load in your trousers.

And these:

And these:

What will be next? This?

Or this?

Or even this?

Where are the Fashion Police when you need them?

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Going Back in Time

Jake has dug a very large hole in one of my flower beds. I have repeatedly told him not to do this, but he persists. I find he does this when he is bored outside. This morning, I had to drag him away from the hole. He didn't like this and responded by growling at me. Just a short, low growl while I was trying to clean his back paws. I backed off and left him. A few minutes later he thrust his nose into my lap, wanting forgiveness. Apparently, I should dig a hole specifically for Jake and toss in some biscuits or toys. I am searching my garden for such a place.

Being a dog owner, for me, is turning out to be far more difficult than being a parent. Or perhaps I would have been a better parent if I'd had a dog earlier.

Hubby recently had some old videos of the kids converted to DVDs. We watched them the other night, completely fascinated by the people we were 10 years ago. Three birthdays, one Christmas and one New Year's Eve party were on the DVDs. I made a few observations:

1. We gave, and give, our kids far too much at Christmas time.

2. I was actually a very good mother.

3. My ass was quite large in those days, not helped by my choice of jeans or underwear.

4. Our kids were incredibly cute and adorable.

5. I've aged a lot better than the Frenemies.

I am nostalgic for my children as they were, so innocent and loving. I suppose all parents of teen-agers go through this phase (and I don't believe a word from those smug people who say they "adore" their teen-agers).

I am not nostalgic for my body as it was. I was two and three years post-pregnancy and still had not given up the extra layers of fat. You know how some people can carry extra weight quite well? They look the same, only slightly larger? Not me. I have a surprisingly small frame -- tiny wrists and ankles. My body was meant to be small, yet there on the screen it was 30 pounds overweight. It wasn't long after that I started a longstanding acquaintance with Weight Watchers, reuniting every once in a while. I still wore big white underpants too, comfy but not sexy in the slightest.

I should be going to the gym today to try to keep the extra layers of fat at bay, but I am feeling the beginnings of a cold and just want to rest. The fat will still be there next week, as will the gym.

Jake is barking to be let out, no doubt wanting to return to his digging. I am resisting and will go play a game with him soon. He exhausts me sometimes. It's as though I have gone back in time to that DVD, constantly watching, entertaining, avoiding tricky situations by diverting his attention. I have a two-year-old again. A hyperactive two-year-old.

Should I resurrect the big white underpants too?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

A Tragedy Too Awful to Imagine

The concept of being in the right place at the right time or just the opposite has taken on a completely new meaning with the news of the death in a plane crash of a woman whose husband died on 9/11.

Beverley Eckert was on the Continental flight that crashed into a house in New York state. All aboard and one man in the house perished in a fiery inferno. She was on her way to inaugurate a scholarship in her husband's memory at the high school where the two met.

The newspaper article I read didn't say whether the couple had children. But don't you just wonder at the complete injustice and bad luck and unfairness of it all?

Also over my breakfast coffee I read about the 13-year-old boy in the UK who is now a dad. He impregnated his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was only 12. He is four feet tall and shows few signs of puberty. Experts say it's extremely rare for this to happen. I wonder if Chantelle, his girlfriend (and I didn't make her name up), perhaps had a bit on the side with maybe another 15-year-old? Again, the article didn't state if any tests had been done to confirm this boy is indeed the father.

This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "toy boy."

I haven't written much of late because my mind has been a whirlwind of conflict and questions. I want -- I ache -- for some sort of peace and calm in my life, for easy solutions and answers to be found, for resolution of long-term conflicts. I question my role in these conflicts, I wonder if I sound too whiny or appear too needy. While this interior monologue goes on, I can't write. I can't organise my thoughts. But while the inside may be a mess, the outside is looking up.

The plan to buy a business is starting to move ahead, with due diligence on the cards very soon. It's scary and exciting all in one. But at least it's some sort of movement beyond the slump that hubby and I have fallen into.

Finally, I would like to point out that within this post are several commas, apostrophes, and full stops (periods). I know where to place these because I was taught where to place them. In the UK there is a movement afoot to ban these from government signs. I think we need to rise up against the tyranny of mis-education (or missed education). SAVE THE APOSTROPHE! It's an endangered species.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Let It Snow

Ah, it's snowing again. We get big, fat flakes of it that don't tend to stick. Still, it's far better than rain.

Lots has been happening in my world. We're progressing in our plan to buy a business. It would take me back to my journalism roots in a way, though not completely. So much to learn and to do. It's scary and exciting at the same time. Hard to believe that a year ago was when all the turmoil in my life was starting. I just live in a constant state of it now. And I have the back pain to prove it.

I went away for a spa weekend (or night) the other weekend with the Frenemies. I had such a good time with them for a change. Till the bill came. The hotel mistakenly charged another table's restaurant bill to my room. Would you believe it took an hour to sort out? And the hotel staff were actually kind of snotty about it. Would you believe the Frenemies blamed ME for it because I said to the very flustered desk clerk that we weren't angry at her personally. Not that they said it, but there was a definite atmosphere when I finally got in the car after paying and one of them later told my daughter I had apologised to the clerk. I didn't apologise to anyone. I was so upset and disappointed that my fun weekend had been ruined that I wrote a very outraged letter to the hotel and received the promised of a cheque for the restaurant bill and a free night for two at the hotel. I told the Frenemies about the promised cheque but not the free night. Why should they benefit from my efforts?

Jake has improved so much since we started walking him on the beach. But he brings back half the beach in his fur. I'm constantly sweeping up sand. He no longer seems to have issues with other dogs, which is such a relief. He's growled at us a few times, but no biting. Previously, I would have sternly told him no growling, but since seeing the doggie therapist, I just walk away. I think he growls because he thinks we're going to hurt him, and it only happens in certain circumstances. What is very hard is not hugging and kissing him. He's such an affectionate dog, or is that neediness? The clicker also isn't working too well. It doesn't work at all on the beach because by the time we catch up to him to reward him for having positive encounters with other dogs, he's moved on. And he's not too bothered about getting treats either.

I have plans to write a collection of poems about the stage of life I'm about to enter. The first one will be titled "I Found My Ex-Husband on Facebook." If nothing else, it will be great therapy.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Blog Central

I have a new award on the left. It was given to me by a blogger I only became familiar with after she very kindly awarded it to me. MBNAD Woman wrote about life with her border collie. I use the past tense because by the time I visited her blog, she had decided to stop writing because her beloved border collie had died. MBNAD Woman, if you're out there, thank you so much. And please write again sometime. You are a fantastic writer. Maybe you'll get another border collie and write about that or maybe you'll write about something else.

While visiting MBNAD Woman's blog, I came across another new (to me) blog. Alright Tit writes about her experience of having breast cancer in such a funny way. I know cancer is a serious subject and we shouldn't laugh. But Alright Tit does. She's not even 30 yet and has had what must be one hell of a year. But you wouldn't know it from reading her blog. I highly recommend it. You can find it on my blogroll.

Once again, I am reminded of the diversity of the blog world and the beauty of it. It brings together so many different types of people, and so many who express themselves so well. Sometimes I think I might shut down this blog. I haven't given it and my blog buddies the care and attention they need and deserve. But I wouldn't want to miss out on the blog world. I am going to pass this award on to everyone who visits this blog. You all deserve it.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

It's Such a Pain

Have you had a Eureka! moment? The kind that comes when you're thinking about something else or looking for something else?

I had one yesterday. We took Jake to see the pain specialist, who agrees that he appears to be in some sort of chronic pain. She took the time to explain the difference between chronic and acute pain -- the different nerve fibres involved. Also, when the body is expecting pain, it usually will feel pain.

Again, it was a lot for hubby and I to take in. But my Eureka! moment wasn't about Jake. It was about me. I have found a canine equivalent of myself. I don't feel physical pain, at least not when my back is behaving. But I feel a deep, chronic emotional pain every day.

Like Jake, I didn't have the best of starts. I arrived as a surprise, and not a very welcome one. My dad accused my mother of tricking him into impregnating her, then he was disappointed I was born 8 days after the new year because he missed out on a tax deduction. My sister, 10 at the time, was not pleased to have a baby sister. Only my brother seemed at all to share my mother's joy.

Jake is an anxious guy, owing in part to his humble start in life (20th out of 21 pups born to his mother last year). His mother was a nervous wreck when I saw her. But Jake seemed happy with his barnmates. Then we took him to our home and he encountered all sorts of foreign experiences. Loud music, car rides, sleeping on his own. And of course then he started to feel exceptional pain in his hips.

I'm an anxious person. You may not know it when you look at me. Over 49 years, I've devised ways of hiding it. I used to bite my nails. I used to constantly bounce my leg up and down. I stopped those habits and tried to channel the anxiety in other ways. The only time I've not felt anxious was when I took certain illegal substances. I grew quickly, like Jake, and people often thought I was older than I was. I was put a grade ahead in school. I look back now and see that this could have been the start of my social anxiety -- the fear that my peers won't like or accept me.

Or it could have been because of my parents' tumultuous marriage. Sunday was fight day in our house. My mother was the main culprit, I decided early in life. Now, I'm not so sure. She's a high anxiety person, and her mother before her was. My dad did nothing to mollify her anxiety. If anything, he heightened it. She did crazy things like cut the crotch out of my dad's underwear in front of us or throw a can of hairspray at his car as he was backing out of the driveway. There are lots of such incidents in my memory bank. She also used to threaten to commit suicide and/or divorce my dad. And when he left, she made good on her threats, or tried to at least.

So I didn't grow up in a warm, loving atmosphere. It was war, and everyone for him/herself. When my dad married my stepmother, I thought that would be the end of the anxiety. It was only the beginning. I never thought my own dad would treat his children as if they were his stepchildren. But that's what my stepmother achieved.

I tried to make friends into quasi family. But if my family is dysfunctional, so are some of my friendships.

This is background for my Eureka! moment. The pain specialist said that chronic pain sufferers became sensitised to causes of pain, anticipating it even when it shouldn't be there.

And so I have become sensitised to causes of emotional pain. I anticipate that certain people will cause me pain; then when they comply, I reassure myself that I'm right to fear the pain they cause. But they have to cause an awful lot of pain before I walk away. I've never walked away from my family so my capacity for pain must be quite high.

Anyway, Jake's pain is being treated medically for now. I no longer take certain substances so I feel all the anxiety and pain. I just need to find a way to cope with it.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The Animal Behaviourist

And now a word or a thousand about Jake's appointment with the animal behaviourist.

We drove Jake to the vet school teaching hospital where the AB showed us into a room with three vet students and another woman, whose function I never determined.

I thought she'd start off asking us about our concerns and had written some notes to take with me. She didn't. She started by asking us all sorts of questions about Jake: why we wanted a dog, why we chose a Border Collie, where we got him, where he sleeps, eats, is allowed in the house, how much time he spends alone in the day, who feeds him and when he gets fed, what other animals are in the house and how old are they, how many children in the house and how old are they, how much contact he's had with other dogs and when, how he behaves toward visitors to the house. She asked if we ever used spray bottles on Jake. I said we had for a short time when he was a puppy, but abandoned the idea because it didn't seem to work. She asked if he messed in the house at all. I said he hadn't messed in the house since I got the puppy crate. She asked if he chewed furniture. I said he did for about two weeks, then stopped. All this time she took notes and observed Jake and us as well.

Jake, for his part, seemed completely at a loss as to why he was there and alternated between hubby and me, sticking his nose in our hands, jumping on hubby, barking at the door occasionally. He didn't venture far from us for a very long time. When he did, he sniffed around the AB's shoes, then peed on her. I shouted no, Jake ran back and hid behind our chairs, ears back. AB calmly got up, got some paper towels and spray and cleaned the mess. He was marking his territory, she said. She found his reaction most interesting.

She asked if loud noises bothered Jake (they do) and chastised us for having a fireworks party at our house. Her words were, "You have a dog and you had a fireworks party?" Then she got to the nitty gritty of the biting incidents, the pulling on the lead, and the aggression toward other dogs.

First of all, I hold my hand up and plead guilty to reading this dog completely wrong. He is not by nature a dominant dog and doesn't need to be treated as one who needs to know who's boss. He knows who is boss (me). He is a very anxious, insecure dog who also has had quite a bit of trauma in his short life due to the hip dysplasia and other factors. When his ears are back and he is acting attention-starved, this shows his anxiety and lack of confidence. My shouting at him when he barks at door, speaking sternly to him when he growls, very occasionally rolling up a magazine when nothing else will make him do what I want are exactly the wrong things to do. (I hasten to add I have never hit this dog with magazine or anything else.)

Two of the biting incidents -- the vet surgeon and once when he bit hubby because another dog had attacked when he was on the lead -- were due to fear. The others were anxiety-driven, she said. He is not a malicious dog. Well, I knew that. He's a sweetheart. She thinks he's still in pain, particularly on the left side. When I told her and the vet students that he had had no cartilage left on his left hip when they operated, we all nearly cried. This is a dog who has suffered and is still suffering.

Some of the aggression towards other dogs is normal dog behaviour. Most of it is because he doesn't trust other dogs. This probably started when I took him to obedience training classes before I knew about the hip dysplasia. A lab puppy did what boisterous lab puppies do and jumped on him while he was on the lead. No wonder he doesn't like lab puppies. Another border collie barked incessantly during the classes. He only liked the quiet chihuahua next to him. And he still prefers small dogs. Like other hip dysplastic dogs, he is sensitive and protective of his back area. And where do all dogs go to sniff other dogs? She said aggression toward other dogs was common in dogs with hip dysplasia.

She asked what I'd tried to stop the pulling on the lead. I reeled them off: harness, two Haltis (shredded in minutes), a whistle apparatus, turning the opposite way whenever he started pulling, and most recently treats. She said the pulling wasn't a training problem; it's a behaviour problem. I'd already suspected that.

So, the solutions. No more shouting, rolled-up newspapers, or other negative reinforcers. But also no more cuddling and kissing. Dogs don't lick to show affection. In his case, it's another manifestation of his anxiety and leads to overexcitedness, which could in extreme cases lead to more biting. She gave us a DAP diffuser, which contains pheromones that a female dog releases when she is nursing puppies. The pheromones calm the puppies so they nurse better. Jake, and we, have been calmer since we plugged it in. She gave us a clicker to use with treats as a positive reinforcer of secure, confident behaviour. Example: He keeps nudging us to pet him. We ignore him till he gives up, then we press the clicker and give him a treat. He loves this.

We are to walk him only in wide, open spaces like the beach so he doesn't feel trapped and confined if he comes across another dog. We use the clicker with treats every time he passes a dog with no incident. This way he will come to associate something good with other dogs and gain more confidence with them. We aren't to use the muzzle or keep him on the lead as these will reinforce the negative feelings. We are also to take him back for another session at the vet hospital with one of their dogs so he can gain more confidence with other dogs.

He is to be fitted with a Halti harness and we are to bring him back to the vet hospital for a session with the trainer there on how to use it.

He is to see a pain specialist at the vet hospital to assess his pain and put him on appropriate medication.

I'm also to stop watching "The Dog Whisperer."

We emerged three and a half hours later exhausted. The appointment was only supposed to last two and a half hours and any additional time was to be charged. I think she took pity on us when she found out we weren't insured when Jake had his surgeries and that the insurance probably wouldn't cover her either as I'd already consulted with the vet about the biting before we got it. I kept thinking "Kerching!" every time she mentioned another appointment.

I have some advice to anyone out there reading this who is thinking of getting a dog. Don't be cheap. And don't go to a farm in North Wales. This £30 bundle of love has turned into a very expensive dog.

But he's worth it.

I'm also thinking of getting a clicker and treats for my son. Every time he does well in school, he gets a treat. It might work.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Just One of Those People

First of all, thank you all for your support and helpful comments about Jake. We see the animal behaviourist today and I'll let you know how we got on.

But onto other matters on my mind. Last night was parents night at my son's school. It's a wonderful night when I go to my daughter's school, less so at my son's. He is not an academic high achiever or even middle achiever in some subjects. But most of his teachers seem to think he's capable of far more if he just puts in the work. I don't disagree with this.

Most of his teachers offered helpful comments on how he can improve his performance. Not so his physics teacher. Perhaps in her mind, she did. But she didn't. What she did first of all was chastise him for not turning in overdue homework. Fair enough. Then she accused him of not studying for his tests at home. When we backed him up and said he did indeed study at home, she asked how he prepared. He said he read the information, then had us quiz him on it. She said that method was useless. Then he said he copied out diagrams. She said that was worse than useless. I was beginning to think she was a bit useless so I asked her what study methods she recommended. She spouted a bunch of things, mind mapping and cartooning being the only two I remember and even recognised. I turned to my son and asked if he knew what they were. He said he did, but I don't think he does.

She said they were in the study guide book he got last year, and she should know because she wrote it. She then said a method that works for kinesthetic, auditory, and visual learners was to try to teach the information themselves. My son is 12. He doesn't know if he's a kinesthetic, auditory, or visual learner. I then said, "So if my son came to you before a test and asked which would be the best method for revising, you would be able to tell him?"

She didn't like that, and ended the appointment immediately. I was fuming. I woke up in the night still fuming. But, as we told our son, those people exist, and sometimes they become teachers. The only thing for him to do is to make sure he doesn't give her any ammunition against him, like forgetting to turn in his homework.

When we got home, my husband looked in my son's physics homework book. It was full of smiley faces and "Good work" remarks. So what happened? Son said she told him off one day for sneezing in class. Is this another unfulfilled or ill-suited person for teaching taking it out on the pupils? That's what it's looking like.

And you know what's the worst bit? She's his head of year. We have no one else to go to to complain, should we decide to do so.