Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Day I met a pin up Queen

I'm currently writing a series of short stories about people over seventy, Here are the notes on Diana, an incredible woman I met in Eastbourne who has since passed.

I find it hard to look at the pictures of my breasts. Too large for a child, too large for anyone.

 They had cruel smiles those men.   I just looked up at the sun and tried to block them out, let it bleach me out until I could feel nothing. She’d worn lipstick and wanted to go with them, she didn’t mind their rough way of kissing and the dirt under their nails. I’d never had the chance to find out whether or not I even liked boys. On that that day there were six of them.

When they finished with me they left me sitting on a bench looking at the ducks on the pond. I’d taken off my tights and hidden them in one of those bins the children put their ice cream wrappers in. One of them had told me that with tits like mine I could be a pin up queen.

They took  photographs of me in the altogether, I cooked eggs and bacon in my knickers and bra for a man who owned a revue bar, he promised I could dance in the theatre. I walked out onto that stage feeling like the goddess of love, only to realise that they were only there to have a wank. Every man I ever met had a twisted smile.

During the Blitz I used to sit under the table in the children’s home as the bombs fell across London. Most of the other children were deaf. Yes, I can still remember how to sign, some things never leave you. What did I do when I left the home? I went to prison. It wasn’t uncommon for girls like me in those days.

Why did she have to die on me like that, my mother? Why even now do they seek me out?

No, no one noticed that I came home without my tights, there were the little ones to look after.

I’ve been thinking i'd like someone to help me write my story, he told me no one would be interested in a tart.

I find it hard to look at the pictures of my breasts. Too large for a child, too large for anyone. Pin up queen, google it and you will find me. They find new ways but i'm sure the dirty laugh sounds the same. Still laughing with their cruel mouths.
Can you make them interested in me? Me. I did not go under. Despite everything I outlived them all. What shall we call it? ‘Hurdles and Girdles’.

The sun is so bright today. I stare into it hoping it will bleach me out. Out in the park children are laughing as they feed the ducks.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

An Anxious Outing

The first thing we heard upon crossing the threshold of The University of Sussex was the sound of a  protest centred around Sussex House.  I smiled to myself  at the irony of it all as I held his hand tighter. We had come to take part in a study on childhood fear and anxiety and here I was confronted by something that would have brought me out in a cold sweat twenty years ago when I lived on this campus.

It has now been proven that Anxiety Disorders are genetic, inherited from those relatives that quite literally drove you round the bend. The awkward ones, those who lacked confidence or panicked at the slightest change in routine, the one you tried your damndest not to take after.  That grandmother that took a cocktail of pills to keep her together because she suffered with her ‘nerves’.  I swore I would never take after my grandmother and I fought the fight for 39 years, stomach churning, mind racing and blaming itself , the anxiety eating into my self confidence, a parasite that stopped me gaining weight and achieving my full potential. I never sought out a doctor because that would be to fail, to admit that I was like her. But then came my boy.

The thing about being a parent is that you are forced to face yourself head on.  I didn’t want him to be like me, but he was. If I couldn’t face up to and like the difficult parts of me how could I love him, help him through those daily struggles that had become part of my routine.  I sought help and vowed to help him too. Because like me he’s a strong little thing and despite the anxieties he gives life a good go.  And so together  we boarded a train, shared a packet of monster munch and strode forth onto campus to face our fears.

We spent the day answering questions on fear, I put my hand in a box that could potentially give me an electric shock and entered a room to meet a snake that turned out to be simply a shed skin. My boy had a ball but more importantly learned that it is ok to talk about the way he feels, to acknowledge anxiety.

It’s hard to write posts like this because despite modern advances in the understanding of mental health, the fear of being labelled a ‘nutter’ adds to the condition of anxiety. What people do not realise is that most sufferers of the condition do not huddle into a ball at the first sign of trouble but battle on day to day internalising their fears whilst maintaining a swanlike veneer. We are not unreliable, flaky or delicate, just hard on ourselves. Although a genetic condition, patterns can be broken and if my boy does develop an anxiety disorder I hope that he can challenge it in the way that I have.

Confidence may be genetic too apparently, which is why those with anxiety often box below their weight. Since confronting anxiety I have learned a new way to fight and my confidence has soared.  The best lesson I can teach my boy is that we are all in this mad soup together, that as complex emotional beings we all suffer in our own little way.  That worry and fear bear no fruit.

In my family we have acknowledged that we are like each other and we are standing together. Let’s hope that me and my boy's little adventure on campus add to the understanding of our particular malaise for generations to come.  Meanwhile he has already spent his Amazon voucher presented to him for his part in the study. Any clues on how to break the pattern on money burning a hole in your pocket gratefully received.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Little fishes are sweet- dish of the day no 1

Delia  lied to me and I am covering the abyss with sliced banana. It would have been far cheaper to buy a ready made cheesecake, but our hosts are new friends and I don't want to feed them ground hooves that have been squirrelled away into toffee sauce.

Time to nip downstairs and buy the wine, fold the emergency chairs and balance the grand Grand Canyon of culinary creations up the hill to Library Pigg's flat. Will he take his glass eye out this evening, will he show us the Olympic torch, will both of our children stay dry at this crucial stage of potty training.

There's something about sharing a Sunday dinner with friends that warms the cockles. Pretences dropped, wine quaffed and life filling you up despite the chasm that sits beneath the sliced banana.

Banofee Cheesecake: Page 184 'Delia's Winter Collection'