Saturday, November 05, 2016

Politics of Nostalgia

I long for the days when Britain was Great.

It's true. 

I look around now, on social media, in the papers and I see little evidence of Britain's greatness. What I do see is fear, hatred, anger and unkindness on a level that is sobering.

The qualities that used to define greatness: kindness, generosity, respect and decency are fast disappearing. 

This summer 52% of the voted to leave the EU and what followed has been appalling. The racism and xenophobia spouted in mainstream politics and in the media is astonishing. Leavers and Remainers trading insults like whether Britain stays or leaves the EU is going to be decided by who gets the most burns on Facebook. 

My hand is up. I am not only a Remainer, but I'm a Remainer who indulged in a few slanging matches. I have good reason to be fond of the EU. My adopted mother is German. When I had a "proper" job, I was an Economic Projects officer delivering business development and support projects for local businesses, projects 75% funded by the EU. I was able to do this because the EU supported a telecottage in a seaside town, that hosted an Access to Higher Education certificate, which got me to university to do my degree that landed me my job.

After the results of the referendum were out a couple of Leavers messaged me privately and told me the reason their votes fell where they did. They were valid reasons. Reasons that have got lost in the midst of the Witch Hunt against immigrants. 

There's a movement that encourages solidarity with immigrants by the wearing of a safety pin. If an immigrant sees a safety pin worn by a stranger, they know they can sit next to them without fear. I thought about wearing that pin...and then I remembered...I'm an immigrant.

Not only am I an immigrant, I'm a woman of colour, a single parent. I'm working on the sexual diversity, but I'm too in love with Dave to be truly serious. I am everything that the rabid Leavers hate. This is the first time I've every felt uncomfortable going out and about in public. I live in rural Tory heartland. This is the first time Norfolk hasn't felt like home. And I miss it so much. 

The right-wing rags are only interested in their profiteering. Dear Gods can't anyone else see the irony of an old billionaire white man from Australia schooling the UK on what it is to be British? Kindness, decency, caring does not sell papers.

On Thursday, the High Courts ruled that Parliament, not the PM Theresa May can trigger the Article 50 to leave the EU. There are death threats against the judges who've upheld the law (and sanity). That's what democracy now means: the freedom to incite harm against the person who doesn't agree with you. 

I'm not saying the Remainers are any better.

How many times has calling someone stupid, illiterate, ignorant etc made the other person re-consider their beliefs? Seriously. I'd like to know. How often does disrespecting the other person bring them round to your way of thinking? 

Here's the thing, people don't listen when you shout at them.

I'd very much like to get back to the good old days. When you could disagree with someone's politics, shake hands and get on with sharing a pint in the pub. When people talked to each other with respect and listened to the responses. When Foodbanks were inconceivable. When people weren't expected to hold down 2 and 3 jobs to just get by.

The fact of the matter is people are afraid and rightly so. The British economy is truly up the spout. Tory economic policies have cracked the NHS and pushed the welfare system probably past fixing. The safety nets that used to exist aren't there any more and our local communities aren't like the Americas, where there's the expectation that a good neighbourhood looks out for their own. 

It's easy to blame the Other...but actually, it's all our faults. We've got us to this point. Silence is taken as consent. I'm not going to shut up. I love this country. It's my home. It's where I became an adult and grew my son. I am committed to being here. I will fight to make Britain kind again. I will fight to make Britain decent again, safe again. I will fight to make Britain respectful again. Damn straight.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Unexpected

The last two weeks have been difficult. I was hit by a vomiting bug that left me feeling queasy and being very careful about what I ate for a week. The day after my stomach finally settled down, the sore throat and head cold came around to party. The only reason I survived is down to gallons of tea and Beechams cold & flu remedy. Yesterday, I trudged along to my osteopath (not the one I went to in the beginning of September) and he gently coaxed my bones back into their proper alignment. 

From there Dave and I went to the oncologist. He asked after Dave's health, asked a few questions about his digestion and waste-moving works and then gave us the news we did not expect.

Dave is cancer free. He is officially in remission. 

This round of treatment has been successful. 

You will note the lack of the word "cure". It's not something that will ever be used in relation to this cancer. Dave will have follow-up tests every four months for the first two years and then if everything continues to go well, every six months, until the cancer returns. Or he gets run over by a bus. Or the Zombie Apocalypse. 

The fact of the matter is he's cancer free now.

We have more time. 

We went into town and celebrated in this fabulous new eaterie called Figbar that specialises in desserts. There are a couple of nods to savoury foods, but yeah it's all about the dessert there. We had huge mugs of hot chocolate made with whole milk, double cream and butter and three different types of chocolate. I had a maple and pecan swirl, Dave had a bakewell tart. We were like a couple of two year olds on a sugar rush and then had to go nap once the carb coma hit. I'm pretty sure my pancreas is on strike. 

Dave said he'd never spent so much time texting people. 

Today, he's back in the roastery and I'm home again. I'm not entirely sure how I feel apart from the obvious. My head is still a bit stuffed up with goo, but I feel fine otherwise. I'm going to take the weekend slowly and enjoy getting used to the fact he's going to be around to annoy me for a lot longer than we were expecting. It's a damned good feeling, I tell ya.

Dave being a teenager

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Me Again

It's definitely Autumn out there. I've put the heating back on, as well as my personal three layers of clothing. I put my tee-shirts away and promised them I won't strain the seams so much when I take them out  (they didn't believe me, but hey). The next big thing on my To Do List is the garden. It needs me. I need more time.

Since I last wrote I've been very much focused on me. My health and of course, my art. The result of the comfort eating, I indulged in over the last eleven months has ground me down no end. Everything is too tight, I feel horrible in my skin. Having said that, the last eleven months have been hard, hard work and I have been in desperate need of comforting. It is what it is. My back, shoulders and neck have been particularly troublesome and have added to the general "bleugh". 

Now you see why I haven't been blogging? It would have been sentence after sentence of whinging and moaning.

I have been doing yoga and foam rolling and that has helped so much with getting moving again. After a muscle in my back bitched at me for attempting one of my exercise DVDs, it was clear that my body needs me to be more gentle, more understanding and just keep moving. Since then, I've been doing the most gentle yoga routines I can manage. That's just been great and my back is gradually improving. Very gradually.

I've been focusing on my art more and more. Trying to see how I can push myself beyond my current technical limitations. With this in mind, I've signed up for a few improvers classes and a fortnightly fun drawing class and it's been really good. My technical skill will get there, but at present, it just can't keep up with my imagination. To be human is to learn to live with the frustration of my own limitations. That I know these limitations are temporary, does not help. I am an instant gratification kinda gal. I want it; and I want NOW. I have a learning curve to conquer and I am determined.

Having said all of that, I am treading water somewhat. Dave had his follow up scan and blood tests last week. We will see the oncologist for the results soon. We will see how well the tumour has responded to this round of treatment and where we go from here. We won't talk about remission, the chemotherapy didn't get all of the primary tumour, but hopefully, we will be able to talk about a dormant period. It preys on my mind. Dave continues to be well in himself, albeit a bit prone to enjoying the odd afternoon nap. Given the choice of being stretched out with him, I'm not one to judge.

He is making plans for what he calls his "Farewell Tour", to go and see his friends far and wide. He hopes he'll be doing it along Status Quo lines and will be touring for many years to come. I hope so too. I am making plans about my art, but that's a post for another day. Be well. Until next time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Growing Pains

I've been suffering them this summer. Much to Boy's annoyance. 

I've been calling him a teenager, getting his birth date wrong (I know, right. And I was there. All 27 hours of the whole process). 

My Boy is all growed up.

Last Monday, he graduated from the University of Lincoln having successfully secured his BA (hons) in Advertising and Marketing. He's now on the depressing hamster wheel that is the job hunt.

You have to understand, I'm not coping well. 

You'll remember I didn't cope well when he turned 13 and officially became a teenager. I'm not coping well now either.

The thing is, it's a bit of a given that a parent will love their children (or at least it should be), but I like him. I genuinely like him as a person in his own right. I respect his values and I love his sense of humour. He's kind and generous, he's supportive and ambitious. And yes, we drive each other nuts occasionally. 

He's gone from this:


to this:




Could I be any more proud of him? I don't think I could, I'm at bursting point as it is. As he's all growed up, I suppose I'd better refer to him by his grown up name: Rowan.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

An Open Letter to All those to Whom I Offered Unsolicited Advice:

I am truly sorry. It was done with the best of intentions, I saw your pain and wanted to make it better. I wanted you to stop being in pain. I thought the way to help was to give you the benefit of my experience and wisdom. I see now how mistaken I have been in taking that approach. Actually, what you needed was a hug, a cup of tea and a genuinely listening ear. I am sorry that I failed you and will try harder from now on.

Lots of love


Roses


This letter is overdue. It comes out of a cup of tea a couple of Thursdays ago with Stephen W, an NLP coach as we spent the afternoon putting the world to rights and talking about the changing world of Personal Development. One of the things we discussed was what people need when they sit down and go "OMG life sucks."

Do they need interventions? Better coping strategies? A blank cheque? No. Actually, what they need is a friend. Some one to sit with them and listen without judgement or advice. People by in large, don't need fixing, they aren't broken. Life happens and people make the best decisions they can given their experiences up to that point and in the circumstances. 

By in large, I'm not broken. I don't need fixing. Life happened and I made the best decisions I could given my experiences up to this point and in these circumstances. I only know how to be Roses in this world. I don't know how to be you. I'm sorry if I tried to impose my experience on you in your time of need. 

It happened to me a couple of days ago. 

It was delivered with the best of intentions. The unsolicited advice. 

I was told I would only really be happy once I accepted the situation with Dave. Once I came to terms with the cancer and the inevitable outcome. Death I was told, comes for us all. We are all going to die.

As I said, the best of intentions.

Here's the thing. Since December, I've been living with the fear, sorrow, disappointment and grief. I don't have the cancer, it's not me fighting for my life. It isn't about me, and yet, it is. It is about how well I keep it together. How well I sort through my To Do List to do the crucial things first, the essential things next and to be able to shelve the important things so I can rest, until they become crucial or essential. It is about how well I can hold my courage, and then to be kind to myself, when fear overcomes and makes me want to run away to the other side of the world or into a book or ranting on Facebook, so I don't have to deal with my feelings. 

He talked about "acceptance". I think I'm going to have to sit him down and investigate his definition of acceptance. I know what's coming. I've been there before. I have been with three of my parents as they faded and died. Here's the thing, I don't like it. And I don't have to like it. Perhaps it's just a misunderstanding of the concept of acceptance on my part. Over the next few days, I'm going to explore it further. Acceptance is bandied around a lot, a bit like "closure". 

The thing is: I'm doing the best I can. If I think something will help, I do it. The fact of the matter is: this is a truly shitty situation and the only thing that will get me through this is by living in the moment and being open to what comes. I can't do any more. I physically and emotionally cannot. 

All his well-meaning advice did was make me feel more inadequate than I did before he opened his mouth, and resentful of his observations of my fragility and vulnerability. 

It made me aware of the times I have done that to my friends. I don't want to make that mistake again. I'm sorry. I truly am.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Almost there....

This is the last week of Dave's treatment. On Friday he will have finished the complete course of radiotherapy. Phew. He did it! 

At the start of his radiotherapy, he moved back to his as it was easier for him to do the daily appointments from his home just outside of Norwich, than from here in the wilds. I confess I found that change a bit traumatic and the weeks after were a bit hard. In truth, Dave has coped with his diagnosis and treatment far better than I. My physical and mental health have pretty much been in free-fall as I've struggled to deal with things. As a friend said over coffee and cake this morning, there isn't a guide book for our experience over the last eight-nine months. We've been dealing with things the best we can.  Some days are better than others. 

As always, I take the moment to be grateful to the loving support around me. Boy and his lovely have been absolute towers of strength. Z and LT have provided gin and wide shoulders at moments notice. The Lovely and Great Ursus have been ever present, ready to provide tea and cinematic fun. Julia, the fabulous poet kept a weathered eye on me and whose cheery messages lifted my flagging spirits so many times. Not to mention the denizens of Facebook who kept me chuckling with cheeky memes and general shenanigans. Not to mention my other friends who come running at the first sight of a window to meet up, who've understood the weeks of silence. 

The Mindfulness Course is fun. Of course I'm the unruly pupil, with my mind like a barrel-full of monkeys. Much of it, I've come across in different forms before, but the condensed version has been incredibly useful. The different meditations and exercises have been very difficult as my monkeys refuse to stay quiet for too long. Had it been easy, there wouldn't have been much point in doing the training. I had to miss last Saturday's session due to the cold that Dave so generously gave to me. I spent last six days feeling like Monty Python's foot squashed me. Bleugh. 

I've been continuing to Art and am beginning to feel more confident. It's funny, but I pick up the brushes and the pencils without much thought. With the writing and poetry, it's always taken a bit of a push and procrastination before I've sat down. I'm not doing as much as I would like, but that's down to the other responsibilities I have right now. I nearly gassed myself by using turpentine in my studio, this lead to a thumping headache and the purchase of more-lung-friendly solvents and a brush-wash tin. 

I'm continuing my abstract work, but I've also been working on my drawing skills. I don't particularly like still life paintings, but I recognise that it's a useful learning opportunity. I set up some sunflowers and got lost in them. Much to our surprise I produced a drawing that I'm really quite pleased with, I gave it to Dave. 

We had a fabulous weekend in London. There was amazing vegan food, outrageous cocktails, The National Gallery and a boat trip down the Thames. Van Gogh's Sunflowers took my breath away. I could have stared at the painting for hours. Unfortunately, the tourists were an absolute nuisance. And I also include the domestic visitors under that label. There were crowds of people around Sunflowers, all taking pictures of themselves or their friends with the painting. They'd then move off without pausing. It made my blood boil. 

It's not a pretty painting by any means, but Van Gogh captured the sunflowerness of the flowers with each stroke of his brush. The yellow of the background is almost gold against the yellow of the petals. It's just gorgeous. Don't assume that the paintings you see  in books are like their physical selves. Paintings have a presence photography doesn't capture. There's a rawness to Van Gogh's work that I knew because of his history, but it was only standing before his paintings (there are four in the National) that I really felt it. 

Anyway, it's time for me to put it out there. This is what I've been working on....
Interconnectedness

Interconnectedness detail

Interconnectedness II

Sunflowers

So there you are. My arting. I need to do it and it pleases me. I suppose that's all that matters really. Hopefully, the words will come creeping back in the next few weeks. I miss them.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Missing the Words

I can't think of another period in my life since I began my creative writing journey in 2003 where I've lost the Words so thoroughly. It's not that I haven't been creative in this time, in fact, I can honestly say it's been one of the most wonderfully artistic times, but there just haven't been the Words.

Dave begins his radiation therapy on Monday. His fabulous oncologist wants him to do a five week course, five days in the week to knock the tumour back well and good. There is a great deal of concern about how well his bowels will cope with the radiation as there is the chance that they may become paralysed. This would mean a period of hospitalisation and the end of the treatment at this time. 

It's meant Dave's return to his abode outside of Norwich as it will be easier for him to get to his daily treatments from there. I've had a re-shuffle of my bedroom and have incorporated my studio space in it. I also went through my bookshelves and removed two-thirds of my books, keeping only those I am likely to read or are attached to. I now have a plastic crate full and about eight bags of books waiting to go to charity shops. Letting them go was quite hard. Most of my reading these days is genre-based and I tend to download the books onto my kindle out of preference. I find it easier to read on kindle when I can adjust the text size according to how tired my eyes get. And it's not like any of the books are valuable to anyone else. Hauling them around the countryside is an exercise in ego that I no longer have time for. I've known too many people with massive libraries full of worthy books, who were complete tits. I've got nothing left to prove to anyone.

The chickens are fine if a bit of a pain. Canasta decided to go broody again, but with the temperatures being what they were, I was disinclined to let her stay in the greenhouse. I hauled her squawking butt out of there every night and if it got too hot, put the laying bag outside under the damson tree. She got fed up and stopped, but unfortunately all of the hens then stopped laying in the bag. At first I thought they'd stopped laying because they were moulting, they're a scruffy looking bunch these days, but no; they're laying away. I kept them in for a few days and actually, they are laying. Today, I let them out and I'll see what they do. If they keep laying away, we shall have to think again about the arrangements. I can't be having chicks on top of everything else right now (or ever, given Jenga's genetic closeness to the girls). 

You may, or may not remember that this time last year I did a five day artist's skills and methods course and then started a year long drawing and painting course. The five day course led to me falling in irrevocably love with oil paints. I tolerated the drawing and painting course, but had to drop out in January with Dave's diagnosis. I think it must have been April when I thought "fuck it" and picked up my drawing pens and then oil paints. I had to learn as I went along and it was mostly an exercise in frustration. 

Dave lost patience with me and strong-armed me into signing up for a day's course in Oil Painting for Beginners. He also suggested that if I like the tutor, I should ask if they are available for private tuition. He then hit me with the line he used to use on the PhD students in his care: why spend an afternoon in the library, when you can spend six months in the lab? Umm...yeah...okay. 

I really liked the tutor and he seemed to get where I was coming from. We arranged for him to come over and have a look at everything I'd been working on. After he left, I felt quite nauseous. My little shapes, my little obsession spoke to him. He gave me lots of technical advice and his questions made me take myself, my creativity and my art seriously. I'm into the abstract. Shapes and colour in their purest form. Partly because I don't have the skill to do representational art, partly because I'm not terribly interested in representational art. Much of the art scene around here is still life and landscapes. I am booked to do another day's course, this time it's oil outside. I want to know how to draw and paint, if only for when I move on from these shapes. 

Yesterday, I started my four-week mindfulness course. I've never had formal meditation training and I figured this is the perfect time to address this. My mind is like a barrel full of monkeys which is mostly fine during the day, not so great when trying to get to sleep. The past few weeks sleep has been a precious experience. Given sleep deprivation makes me cranky and more vulnerable to daily stresses, anything I can do to help myself right now, has got to be a good thing. Also, because I'm doing this as a course and there are exercises and homework, I have to do it. There are no excuses. Last night, I drifted off to sleep without any difficulty. 

So that's pretty much it darlings. I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm pretty sure the Words will be back, so if you could be patient with me, I'd be grateful. I don't take your friendship and support for granted.