Daily Life, Poem, Writer's Blog

The Man in Red

How dare you tell me he’s not real!

Why would you spread such lies?

We surely all have seen him,

Fly his sleigh across the skies.

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We’ve all heard of his reindeer,

Who pull him on his way,

We know he has an army,

Elves with no time for play!

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Tirelessly they spend their days,

Make toys and gifts for all,

From a quaint and pretty doll’s house,

To the simplest bouncy balls.

 

The workers under his command,

They have no time to snooze,

No need for rest ‘til work is done,

There’s just no time to lose.

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When all is good and ready,

The presents neatly stacked,

The magic portal opens wide,

The night will be jam-packed.

 

He starts in Australasia,

His journey takes him west,

Covering every inch of sky,

Head to toe in red he’s dressed.

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Calling out his ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’

Silhouetted by the moon,

His reindeer keeping perfect time,

Must not arrive too soon.

 

For if he comes when we’re awake,

His schedule must be changed,

He’ll have to make some detours,

His plans he must then rearrange.

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He’s magical, but real for sure,

Be sure to leave a snack,

The poor man works for many hours,

He has no time to slack.

 

He’s partial to a cold mince pie,

And a swig or two of brandy,

The deer he’ll give a snack or two,

To keep them fine and dandy.

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So many disbelievers,

Their Christmas spirit gone,

Those same are always quite content,

To open gifts he’s left, at dawn.

 

Although he doesn’t live nearby,

Resides far out of sight,

One thing is for certain,

Christmas Eve’s his busiest night!

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Daily Life, Poem, Writer's Blog

A Family Christmas

I turn to the sound of jingling bells,
Source, yet unknown, becomes near,
Eyes are alight with a million stars,
Abundantly draping, as every year.

Carols sung tunelessly, children are wrapped,
Snug from the chill ice and snow,
Vendors push wares, oft unwanted, stuffed bags,
Why do we fall for their patter? Don’t know.

Food hall is crowded, the cupboards to fill,
Snack foods and treats, endless meals,
Displayed festive boxes, the towers are high,
So much we’ll consume in short days, seems unreal.

Gift-wrap, a service to ease us of hours,
Spent on the floor by the fire,
Rather mulled wine, with feet up snug and warm,
Spend it with loved ones, there’s a tree to admire!

Gone are our days filling stockings, small hours,
Waiting for children to sleep,
Feasting on mince pies and carrots, hearth treats,
Leave only crumbs, with a secret to keep.

The seasonal magic we can only feel,
When loved ones are gathered close by,
Laughter and gaiety, food, drink and fun,
Changing roles over, as years pass us by.

No longer the hostess, much food to prepare,
Pans filled with food for the day,
Children are grown, now, with homes of their own,
We’re the guests this year, in their homes we’ll stay.

The years pass, same seasons are spent, many ways,
Loved ones, some lost and some new,
Days filled with family and friends, near and far,
The message is clear, merry Christmas, to you.

Center Parcs, Daily Life, Dancing, Writer's Blog

Help! Mid-life crisis alert!

Does anybody, like me, wake up some mornings wishing they could start all over again, having made such a pig’s ear of their life so far? I am having one of those days today and I don’t usually write on bad days so this is new territory for me.

I have just returned from a midweek break with my husband, three of our children and our son-in-law at Center Parcs. We have been there lots of times before and always enjoy it for different reasons. This time, we booked ourselves into a luxurious executive lodge with four bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom, and we also had a sauna and a games room boasting a pool table, a multitude of board games and an X-box.

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We often try something new and this time, along with spa sessions, badminton, table tennis, long walks and swimming, we booked ourselves onto a pottery painting session. We had so much fun all week but I have returned to normality feeling completely exhausted and extremely fed up.

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Before we left, I had been really good and managed to lose four pounds in weight as I was quickly becoming one of those frumpy, menopausal middle-aged ladies who I do not aspire to become. While we were away, I avoided the sweet shop, enjoyed just one dessert and made as many healthy choices as I could. I had half of a pizza one evening with some wedges but always had healthy breakfasts. I ensured I had plenty of exercise and my pedometer didn’t hit below 17,000 steps each day with one day reaching 28000 and another, 24,000. I kept track of everything using my weight loss app and assumed I would not lose anything while I was away and, at most, gain a pound or two. I was devastated to step onto the scales yesterday morning to find I had gained five pounds, in five days. It seems impossible to me that I could gain that much over such a short amount of time. So, on top of everything else, the diet/healthy eating has begun with a vengeance. It certainly has not helped my overall mood.

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The usual back-from-holiday washing was easy to plough through. Tracksuit bottoms, leggings, t-shirts and fleeces all being easy to dry and put away, no iron required. Job done.

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A small amount of cupboard re-stocking at Tesco, then we decided to use the free time to do some Christmas present shopping. We had been put in the mood for the forthcoming season as our break was Winter Wonderland themed, and numerous twinkling white lights,  Christmas trees, garlands and faux snow had set the scene, putting us in the mood for Christmas.  We even had a luxurious wreath on the front door of our accommodation.  The whole Parc was alight with Christmas, including an awesome midweek fireworks display culminating, for the benefit of the younger guests, with Santa arriving along one of the zip wires across the festively-lit water sports lake.

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Returning to the shopping, both of us were physically tired, but we ambled around the city centre shops and successfully purchased a number of gifts. Pleased with our achievements, we headed home to snuggle up with a healthy vegetable risotto and to watch Strictly and catch up on some previously recorded TV programmes.

I still couldn’t shake the feeling of doom and gloom which had settled over me. Nagging at the back of my mind was my mum, who has been ill for a few years but had plateaued lately. Before we left, we had batch-cooked a bunch of pies and delivered to her freezer and agreed we would pick her up and take her over to see my daughter and son-in-law’s beautiful new home, recently purchased and now ready for visitors. As suspected, when we called her to arrange times she told us she didn’t feel well enough to go over. It’s possible that she didn’t but there is always a reason not to do something and I knew she wouldn’t bother before I even called. Then I started to beat myself up for being so heartless.  I know she is poorly and it must be very hard but she is her own worst enemy. She doesn’t encourage visitors and refuses to go anywhere. This results in my brother and sister-in-law, and my husband and I being poked at if we don’t visit enough. Its harder than you would imagine, to visit a poorly mother who you have never felt close to. There has always been an acidic relationship between me and my mum and, even though she is ill and alone, I have to psych myself to even call her as she drives me mad. Call me heartless, call me a bitch but it is how I feel.

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The trouble is, and I don’t mean trouble in the usual sense because it isn’t, we have five children of our own, all grown up, and my husband also has a mother who is also on her own. We each have a brother and sister-in-law and don’t spend nearly enough time with them all. We also have a new granddaughter who lives a two hour drive away so we have to factor in visiting to see that part of our family, too. We both work full time and my husband is physically tired in the evenings while I can’t resist checking my emails out of hours and helping with problems where I am able. As Manager of the IT Services department of a busy private school, sometimes issues need to be dealt with there and then.

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We used to dance two or three times a week but, as life takes over and changes happen, we are lucky to dance once a week and maybe twice if we have the energy. We always dance on a Wednesday night as I have a regular commitment to demoing while my husband is a Taxi Dancer, helping beginner dancers, on alternate weeks. This cut down in dance nights surely isn’t helping my fight with weight either.

On a Sunday, we have started meeting friends and/or family and I go off on a three mile walk while my husband takes off on his mountain bike with a friend, or joins us walking on other occasions. We keep as active as our commitments allow.

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We have two more breaks planned for the near future. The first is a dance weekender at a luxurious local holiday centre and it encompasses my 50th birthday while we are there. I am not looking forward to being fifty one jot. I already feel tired and listless and the only burst of energy I get is when I step out onto the dance floor. Maybe I missed dancing while we were away last week. It’s only one week but I guess I didn’t get my fix. There are plans for a birthday celebration while we are at the weekender with dance friends so that will be nice.

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We have another long weekend booked with my brother- and sister-in-law at the start of May which we are looking forward to. We haven’t thought further ahead than that.

So, I have a few reasons for feeling so low right now. Post-holiday blues, weight gain, fast-approaching age of fifty and an aged, ailing mother.

However, I have so much to be thankful for. I have the most caring, supportive, fun-loving and amazing husband I could wish for. Between us we have our five grown-up children, one of them married to our lovely son-in-law, one settled with his fiancee and their baby daughter and three who have yet to settle down but have good jobs and plenty of years ahead of them. I worry endlessly about them all, but never quite feel I give them each enough of my time. While they are mostly more than capable, I have been around a lot more years and so I like to be able to offer guidance and support as needed.

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If anyone out there has the answer to what is clearly my very own mid-life crisis, I would be grateful for all suggestions. So far, I have spent the weekend exhausted and crying hard enough to give myself a headache.

Chiari Malformation, Writer's Blog

Dear Former Self

Dear Former Self

As you take a break from the pain that is your life right now in 1995, read this letter to you which is sent from your future heart. Your three young children are safe at nursery and school, enhancing the great start you have given them in life. Many children start school unable to read and write their name, recite the alphabet, count to ten. Be proud of yourself. Your children could all count to at least twenty, sort and count colours and were able to read and write their own names, their full names no less,  before they walked into the classroom for the first time. Be proud of your ongoing achievements with three little ones so close in age.

As you walk through the rooms of your beautiful, four bedroom detached house, set in half an acre of landscaped gardens, remember the good things you have, try not to dwell on the dreadful behaviour displayed by your husband, the father of your children. You are strong, you are a wonderful mother and a good friend. You may not believe it at this moment in time, but you are a good wife. He is aware of that for the most part. He is aware of you and your children. Unless he has been drinking. Then he is aware, as you so sorely know, of nothing but his own needs, his music, he is largely aware of nothing much at all.

It is time for you to admit to the world that you are the wife of a violent, nasty alcoholic. It is time for you to stop hiding it away, pretending that the reason you turn up on your mother’s doorstep is not a neurotic young mother worrying, but a wife and mother who is fearful. Scared of what he will do next. Stop hiding it, tell the world. Ask for help. Speak to his mother. She was, after all, an alcoholic in her time.  Of all people, surely she will understand. I know you, though, and words, which you believe to be words of failure, will not come.

Oh, yes, you have challenged him when you have found him urinating in your four-year-old daughter’s wardrobe. You have put yourself at great risk, dragging him, drunken and staggering, from her room as he swayed over her bed in a stupor. You have no idea just how brave you have been to stay with him for so long.

Do you remember the time you came downstairs at three in the morning for a drink, having left him in the lounge listening to music and making his way through can after can of extra strong lager? Do you remember how you walked barefoot into your beautiful kitchen and slipped, banging your head on the wall as you fell? Do you remember reaching down to find the reason? Finding yourself sitting in a puddle of disgusting, strong-smelling urine? Do you remember the anger seeping up inside of you as you scrambled to your feet and marched, dripping with urine, bravely into the living room to challenge the drunken man sprawled on one of your two beautiful Marks and Spencer sofas, before you?

Oh yes, you do remember. You remember him jumping up and grabbing you by the hair and dragging you to the hall cupboard, the one where the boiler was housed. You remember him pushing you inside as you begged him to let go of your hair. You remember him shoving something in front of the door to that cupboard don’t you? Of course you remember. You slid to the floor, tears flooding into your lap, rubbing your head, sore from his manhandling. No amount of banging and pushing could dislodge that door and you were afraid of waking your children. You resolved then that you would leave him.

You still didn’t leave him. You fell for his remorse when he eventually surfaced the next morning, woken by children who were sleepily wondering where mummy was. He found you in the cupboard. He didn’t remember leaving you there and seemed confused but that was partly the usual hangover. You begged him, again and again, to get help for his drinking problem. He denied, over and over, that he had a drinking problem. Still, you kept it to yourself, fearing the judgement of others. Fearing they would think you had driven him to drink. You always forgot where you had met him – you worked behind the bar in a hotel and he frequented that bar, often to the end of the evening, drunkenly leaving just before you locked up. It wasn’t your fault. You always thought it was your fault and you tried to make it right.

You always put your children first. When they were at nursery and, later, at school, you took in other people’s ironing, needing an income of your own. You tolerated his overspending and debts and worked hard to ensure your children were not missing out. Luckily, you had two sets of generous grandparents who helped out a lot, buying gifts of clothes for, and giving you money to spend on, the children. You had to hide the money until you could take the children shopping but you didn’t do a very good job of it. He always seemed to find where it was hidden, his need for cigarettes, beer and fine shirts, Jonathan Trumble bags being your worst nightmare. It meant often you would go to your money tin to give change for a larger note when a customer came to collect their ironing and the tin would be devoid of cash, where you knew you had previously left over fifty pounds.

When each of the children were first born, you had gone to a building society in town together and opened them a savings account, into which you paid their birthday and Christmas monetary gifts. When you were able, you started to pay in a little when you could and your mum gave the children pocket money which they enjoyed going into the bank to save for themselves. The savings accounts had accumulated to over five hundred pounds each, but one day you went to pay in some money and noticed the balances were all zero. The money had been withdrawn from the account and, you discovered, been spent on a set of beautiful (apparently) new speakers, set on stands with special pins to avoid vibration. They were being set up in the living room when you arrived home.

Many tears were shed over his constant spending, and the later discovered missed mortgage payments. Even more private tears were shed each time he shoved you around, with the occasional slap and a few punches when you dared to question him about spending when you had nothing. It was clearly never going to end. You remember back to the day he punched you so hard in the torso. Not only was it in full view of your eleven month old daughter, but it was aimed at your heavily pregnant-with-twins stomach. You had stumbled to the downstairs toilet at the time to catch your breath and examine your body but had not dared to stay in the room, fearing he would start on your little girl. To your knowledge, he never hit the children. To this day, you wonder in the back of your mind if it was that heavy punch which landed on the side which cradled your first born twin, which caused him to have suffer physical issues with his brain as a teenager and into his twenties. You know, but you will never know for sure and it will break your heart, forever.

I wish I could send this to you back in the early 1990’s, so you would have hope that your life would turn out better and leaving him would have been the best answer. Instead, I know you will stay with him and endure another few years, trying to salvage something of a family unit for your beautiful children. If only I could tell you that you wouldn’t have been able to fix him, that he would eventually drink himself into an early grave and die at the age of fifty. It sounds heartless, but if you had known that, you might have escaped sooner.  There was nothing you could have done to change things.

You did alright, you know? Yes, there have been ups and downs and you have made some hugely strange choices that you wouldn’t have expected of yourself back then, but you made it out and did mainly ok. Your children are mostly doing ok. You have some issues with one of them who seems to have adopted the angry and self-destructive trait of your ex- husband and you constantly strive to find a better way for him, knowing deep in your heart that you are probably not going to succeed. He just has to find his way.

Just be assured that you will do your best, it might not always be good enough, might not always be the ‘norm’, but you will do your very best to make it work for your children. You will definitely make it out alive, scarred and emotionally wounded, but you are going to be just fine. Try not to spend your whole life beating yourself up over the past.

With love from

Your Future Self

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