Sometimes accidents happen.

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I know from the arguments and reprimands that I’ve had on social media today that this isn’t going to be a popular view, but whoa, I’m an honest person and so I’m going to just say it anyway; that kid who fell into the gorilla pit? It could just as easily have been mine. 

So go on start throwing your insults, but first let me explain: 

I am human. I am a mum of 3 and I am human.  This means that I only have two eyes, and I only have two hands. I’m already handicapped when it comes to having 3 children; there’s just not enough of me to go around. I can only physically be holding 2 of them at the same time. I can only see them all if (and this never happens) they are standing nicely together. Normally, I’ve deliberately got the youngest two as far away from where they can annoy each other as possible. This means I get to see those two one at a time. i.e. I have to take my eyes off one to look at the other. And let’s face it, even if I didn’t, I’m a self confessed haphazard parent. I get through my parenting life by the skin of my teeth and occasionally by the seat of my pants; I actually once nearly ended up in my Nana’s grave on top of her coffin due to a particularly difficult moment when my 18 month old decided to do that throwing himself backwards with the force of a baby elephant  thing just as I threw in my handful of mud and rose as we were burying her. It was only the quick thinking of my ex that stopped us both falling 8 ft into the ground and giving my Nana one last shock. These things happen, right? Accidents I think we call them…

All day I have seen on Facebook and Twitter that the mother should have been looking after him properly. That it was her fault. Was it though? Really? 

I wasn’t there, but I find it difficult to believe that this woman stood by and idly watched her 4 year old son climb a small fence with a 15 ft drop the other side. Surely it is more likely that one of her other children demanded her attention in some way, perhaps she was trying to stop that child from climbing the fence, or running away? Perhaps another one of her children needed a drink, or a tissue, or lifting so they could see the animals, and in those moments, when her back was turned, the 4 year old got away from her? 

And by the time she turned back it was too late; he was gone, or maybe he was about to go, and she couldn’t quite get her fingers to him in time to stop him. After all, I’m led to believe there were plenty of other zoo visitors also in the area at the time. Now call me nosey, but if I’d been at the zoo and seen a child, any child mine or a strangers, about to climb into a gorilla pit, I’d like to think I’d stop them. The fact that no one seemed to notice kind of makes me think that perhaps this was something that only took a split second. That, like my son nearly flipping us both into my Nana’s grave, wasn’t really foreseeable and unluckily for her, she had no quick thinking sidekick to stop the nightmare. 

Which leads me neatly on to an imbecilic statement that I saw posted to Facebook earlier; she should have taken additional help with her to supervise all 4 children all the time! Oh yeah, because all those of us who have more than one child shouldn’t go anywhere unless the child to adult ratio is 1:1. Hands up who else would never be able to leave the house?

There’s something fundamentally wrong with that, because even if the ratio is 1:1, guess what, at some point that adult will need to look away from the child!! It’s impossible (not to mention probably mentally unhealthy) to watch a child every second of every minute of the day. I mean what if you need to look at your watch, or scope out where the next animal enclosure is? Have you never needed to sneeze? There’s forced eyes off time right there! And do you know how long it takes a child to slip out of your grasp? Out of your sight? I’ll tell you: 0.00004 of a second, well that’s how it feels anyway!! I don’t know how they do it but mine can literally vanish near enough in front of my eyes!! 

Find me any parent who hasn’t had that moment of absolute panic, when they’ve glanced at their watch, or spoken to another child and turned back to find that the errant child is not where they had last seen them and reasonably expected them to be. I know I’ve done it a few times, per child!! It is terrifying and it is horrible, but I have been lucky enough that the said child was just hidden under a clothes rail (or decided to ditch me and walk back to the car (aged 3 and in a shopping centre!!)). 

What are we going to do? Chain our children to us? Take out two adults for every child so they never have a moment without adult supervision (Bill, I need to scratch my nose, eyes on Charlie for me) , or do we put in adequate safeguards and precautions and allow our kids to be kids? 

I would not expect that a 4 year old could easily climb into a gorilla enclosure, if I had been that parent I would likely have taken my eyes off the 4 year old for a moment. That seems a reasonable thing to do; perhaps the younger one cried, perhaps mum needed a tissue out of her bag, whatever, I’m pretty sure it never occurred to her or the other visitors that day that it would/could happen.

 Parents should look after their children, but there is only so much supervision it is reasonable to give. As sad as it is Harambe was killed it doesn’t make it anyone’s fault. Sometimes accidents just happen.


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The right pair of shoes. 

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The papers have been full of it lately; headlines screaming out in favour or against taking children out of school for holidays or funerals. The rhetoric (as well as the hefty fines) are intentionally designed to scare parents into compliance; just one week off school can apparently mean that the child can drop a whole exam grade. 

In a recent article I read,  a minister stated that grieving children should only be allowed one day off school; to attend the funeral of the loved one. Never mind that they may be paralysed with grief. Never mind that they may need to process the loss, no it’s back to school they are to go, to study for some useless test, that in 10 years time, in the world of work, will mean nothing; hell, I have a degree but no potential employer has ever asked me what classification, let alone cared that I failed my A levels miserably!  

Holidays, it is professed, when taken during school time, severely interrupt a child’s education. It seems odd then that my eldest, about to embark in his final year of GCSE’s, came home a few weeks ago with a letter for a school trip which will be two days off school. Yes, he will be learning Geography during this time, but he will also be missing 2 days of his other classes as well. He is also going on a 3 day History trip to Germany in September (at the extortionate price of £450, to stay in a youth hostel for 2 nights, but that’s another story). That is a total of 5 days (or a week) out of school. In this time he will have missed lessons in all the other subjects that he is undertaking GCSEs in, however, apparently, this is acceptable? So by their own reckoning he will be dropping a grade in all those other subjects? 

And don’t get me started on all those cases where children as young as 5 are sent home from or excluded from school due to some trivial reason such as having the wrong shoes, or hair cut, or some other minor uniform discrepancy. School attendance is so important that you can be fined for taking your child on holiday for a week where they might actually experience some form of culture, however they can refuse to let them attend for a week whilst their hair grows to a length deemed by some headteacher as being appropriate? Or until a parent can afford to buy appropriate shoes? Because obviously having the right hair style/colour/length really helps to improve their education doesn’t it?!? 

Surely if a child turns up willing and ready to learn it is our duty to teach? To provide them with an education, not deem them inappropriately dressed to learn. 

I’m not implying it’s right to take a child out of school for a holiday, but if it’s not ok for me to do something, surely that has to also apply to the school? Forgive me for appearing confrontational, but it really does seem to be one rule for us, and one rule for them? 

Divorce; doing it right 

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I’ve not got many things right in my life; fewer as a parent, however one thing I have got right, weirdly, is divorce. 

Readers of my blog will know that last year Paul and I decided to go our separate ways, after 10 years and get divorced. We didn’t hate each other, we’d just moved on, grown out of each other and realised that we could probably be a lot happier living separate lives. 

It was difficult at first, we had to find a new kind of normal. Develop a new relationship, set new rules, agree new boundaries. Especially when (pretty damn quickly) we both started dating again. We had to argue, but not as a couple, as two people who’s children were depending on them to do the right thing. 

We had to agree on childcare, money, and a whole lot of logistics such as who was getting what from the house. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. On occasions I wanted to kill him! Did he not realise how difficult this was? But in reality we were both struggling to come to terms with our new lives. 

I think a pivotal time for me was when we first disagreed over money and my Chris said to me “no amount of money is worth your children’s mental health.” And that really hit home. It was true. We could do a lot of damage arguing over stupid things, but at the end of the day what we would achieve apart from upset kids? We had to work out things and we had to do it in a way that was amicable. More important than anything else was that we had to remain friends, which when you think about it isn’t that difficult; I liked him enough to marry him, have two children, he’s actually a good guy. We used to be best friends. 

And so we have spent the last year doing just that; being friends. We have spent Christmas together with our respective new partners, clubbed together to buy the boys presents or school uniform. He has keys to our house, I have keys to his. If I needed someone in the middle of the night and I couldn’t get hold of Chris, I know I could call Paul and (after much bitching and moaning) he would be there for me. 

Last week was our middle sons birthday, and so my Mum and Stepdad along with Chris’s parents, Paul, Chris and I all went out for dinner with the boys to celebrate. It means so much to me that our boys don’t have to choose between us, or feel guilty about being with one or the other of us. 

Paul has come round for dinner because he can’t be arsed to cook and I am cooking, so he’s come to get the boys and had dinner with us before taking them back to his. 

Today I’m at work and Chris has the boys. He will be dropping them off with Paul this afternoon. They have spoken to each other to arrange it. You know, like adults do. Not arguing and hating each other, just getting on. 

Because we get on it makes all those family occasions that bit easier; he still gets an invite, he still bitches about having to go, he sometimes shows up (probably more often than he did when we were together) and all my family still talk to him. His sister, who I love has come to visit me, I’ve visited her. 

And the weird thing is that people seem to find us doing this odd!! I don’t really understand why, after all, we are still a family, linked together through our children, we can’t change that; in truth, I wouldn’t want to. 

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Sticking plasters

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I love the NHS. I pretty much live and breathe it. I work full time for the NHS and at weekends I work as a contractor for NHS Trusts on front line ambulances.  When I have a day off I am often to be found at the doctors or the dentists with one of the kids.  The NHS is awesome, always there when you need it.  Anyone who has been ill abroad will tell you that the NHS is something to be proud of.  If I am ill , I don’t have to think about whether I can afford to go to the hospital or the GP,  I can just go.  I might have to wait, the hospital or GP surgery may be a bit tired looking, but I know that I will be looked after. 
However good the NHS is though, it is not a lot of things; it isn’t social care, it isn’t a hotel and it most certainly isn’t a miracle worker.  Much as those who work in it would like to work miracles and cure each and every person who walks through the door. 

The NHS is stretched to breaking point everyday. There are a lot of reasons for this but some of them are easy to see. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been called to patients who aren’t really patients at all. They are desperately in need of help,  but not medical help. They need social care. Or social housing. They need their basic needs to be met,  but they do not really need an ambulance,  it’s just that there is no one else that they can call on a Sunday afternoon when they are at the end of their tether. When the loneliness hits hard and the prospect of not seeing a friendly face for another week is more than they can bear.  Or when caring for their loved one just becomes too heavy a burden to carry for another day, another night.  When they are desperate for a little bit of respite from the ceaseless pressure of responsibility for an old or dying loved one.

In the past this would have been dealt with, perhaps, by ringing another family member, or by a carer or a respite centre to give the family a break.  These days though, families are spread far apart and so with cuts to Local Authority budgets meaning that social care has been decimated,  there is no one to call. There is no relief, no respite in sight for a lot of these people; and so, in desperation, they call an ambulance.  And, in turn, because the ambulance crew can see that the family cannot cope, that it’s just too much,  we have no choice. We take them to hospital in the hope that given a few hours of space the family feel better, more able to continue in the thankless task of caring. We put a sticking plaster over society’s failure. 

And so there goes a hospital bed. A nurse,  a doctor, all of who’s time is taken up, instead of looking after the sick. And there goes that ‘protected’ NHS budget. The one that the government has pledged to increase. Only it’s not really an increase or protected at all, because now, instead of the money being spent on social care, and coming out of local authority budgets, it is coming out of the NHS one. The one that we hold so dear. And all the while the NHS covers up this deficit elsewhere, the worse it will get.

Then there are the lost souls. Those who drift, who sofa surf or sleep on park benches. Many of them mentally unwell but not acutely so; they don’t need a hospital, they just need somewhere to be warm; to be safe. Again there is no reason for them to be taken to hospital, but where else is there for them to go?  It takes a cold hearted person to leave a person on a park bench when you know they have nowhere else to go and it is minus 3 centigrade outside. And so yet again we, the ambulance crew, paid for by the NHS spend our time and your money phoning around charities, forgotten contacts in our patients phone, in the hope that we can find them a warm bed for the night. And if not, due to cuts in social housing, there being by no easy access hostels, we take them to the warm waiting room of the hospital.  And as we sit there sticking plasters on the plight of the homeless, another cardiac arrest call goes unanswered. Another person dies. 

Other patients are just too old; their bodies far too weak.  Sometimes it happens slowly, other times it is quick.  I recently went to a patient who was nearly 100 years old and barely lucid.  Struggling to even open his eyes; despite that, there was nothing significantly wrong with him; if I had to hazard a guess (and as I am helping to treat we have to do an educated one), I’d probably say it was just his time to go.  His body was just worn out.  He was nearly 100! But his daughter insisted he had been fine until he got pneumonia previously and was taken in hospital for a month.  Obviously the hospital had made him ill; before that he had been fine. Before that he had lived alone; was fine. There was no point telling her that maybe it was just his time to go.  That he had lived longer than most people, that the hospital that she was blaming by for the state of her father, probably was to blame, only not in the way that she thought; because years ago, her dad wouldn’t have been taken to hospital to be treated for the pneumonia, that nearly killed him. He would likely have just died. At home. Peacefully in his bed. Instead we dragged him off to A & E,  for more interventions. To prolong his life further such that it is.  And when he isn’t restored back to full health, no doubt his daughter will claim that the hospital killed him.  Because blame, it would seem is easier than the truth; that sometimes we just need to allow people to die.  Not play God and attempt miracles. We all have to die sometime. We all, as individuals and the NHS just need to learn to let them. 

The NHS cannot put a sticking plaster on the whole of society. As an ambulance crew friend once told me: if you just need a plaster, you don’t need us. 

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33 Reasons. 

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We have fundamentally been doing it all wrong. Our approach has been flawed. We need a change in our justice system and it needs to happen soon. We are putting often the most vulnerable people in our society into places where they can never be expected to change, to thrive. We need to rehabilitate these children, these adults, not induct them into a life of unending criminality. We need to ensure that they are given opportunities for education, for employment, for change. To rehabilitate. 

Obviously for a few this may not be possible but for most it is. 

Our justice system should be less about just banging people up, and more about rehabilitation, re-education. It makes sense, and it’s about time that we stop keep saying it, and actually started to do something that will begin to achieve it. A shake up of prisons and children’s custody, away from just punishment, moving toward change. Hope, education; rehabilitation.  

I know this absolutely. I know this because I have experienced it. From both sides of the fence; as a criminal, a habitual offender who found herself locked up in one of these establishments; and also, perhaps uniquely as one of those who has the keys, literally, to assisting in that rehabilitation. 

If we were to meet today, I would introduce myself as Kate, a successful career woman. A mother of 3 with ambitions and goals and a plan as to how to achieve them. You would see a smartly dressed, probably crazy haired, confident woman, literally holding the keys to a prison in my hands. 

Had I met you 11 years ago it would have been a very different story. I would have likely been introduced to you as a prisoner within that very same prison. A heroin addict, with 33 criminal convictions; shoplifting, theft, possession of class A drugs. 26 years old, weighing 5.5 stone, I would have looked a very different person to the one I am today. 
In my early teens I began to take drugs and swiftly found myself  with a heroin addiction. Crime was my way of life and I was a repeat offender, with no hope of anything really, certainly not of ever living. 
At the age of 25, after 33 convictions I finally wound up in prison, just for a few weeks, but I was lucky. In those few weeks I was nurtured and helped and I found an idiom of peace. A snippet of chance that things could be different. I was offered respite from the continual drudgery of crime, and drug taking and I glimpsed a different life. 

I volunteered to help people. I optimised Big Society. I helped set up a charity and I found work. I got a degree and my life continued in an upward trajectory. Today I find myself responsible for the substance misuse needs of large groups of vulnerable people; adults and children. I run a budget of many millions a year. I hold keys to the prison I was once locked up in. I am rehabilitation personified. 

So it absolutely pains me to tell you that whilst rehabilitation is the key to changing lives for the better, there is a fundamental flaw. People in the UK today cannot be rehabilitated and move forward, away from their pasts. They can absolutely be rehabilitated, but there is no point in rehabilitating them because, as it stands they can never be seen to have changed. Their past haunts them like a shadow in the night; threatening at any point to pull it all away. I know this because I have experienced it myself. 

Part of my recovery and rehabilitation has been to help others. I went to university, I got a degree and a post graduate certificate, I gained a teaching qualification, sharing what I have learnt with others. I spend my days demanding the best services for the patients within prisons that I am responsible for. I trained as a first aider and gave up my weekends setting up and then volunteering on an SOS bus,  helping those who were drunk or ill, making sure they were safe. I followed on from this by training as an Emergency Care Assistant and working one day a week on frontline ambulances. I love it, I’m good at it. So you can imagine my devastation when I suddenly found out that I wasn’t able to do a job that I love, might not be able to again.  The reason? A renewed DBS check which this time (not sure how they missed it last time) they had seen my 11-20 year old criminal convictions. Never mind that I have a demonstrable track record, much more recent, of being a stand up citizen. Never mind that in my full time job I hold a position of significant responsibility. Never mind that I regularly walk in and out of the prisons that I am responsible for using the keys I am trusted to hold. No; convictions, from what feels to me like another life, indeed are from over a decade ago appeared to supersede it all. I can no longer work in a job that I am good at, that I love, because I made bad decisions at 13 years of age. 

And so whilst I wholeheartedly agree that rehabilitation needs to happen, that can work, the sad truth is that society is not currently set up to see it that way. We rehabilitate people and then cut them off at the knees when they try to apply for any decent job, because employers don’t see the rehabilitation. They don’t see that someone has desisted from reoffending because they have changed; what they see is a six page long DBS check giving them 33 reasons not to employ that rehabilitated ex offender. 

And so whilst I believe wholeheartedly in rehabilitation, I think that we are in danger of setting people up to fail if we don’t address the issue of how we recognise that rehabilitation as a society. People can change, but only if we let them. 

So many choices. 

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One extra hot, one shot, small, skinny, latte please; there are five decisions to make just to order my favourite coffee. That’s how I like it, add a sachet of sugar and it’s just about perfect. I do have to wonder however if it is a good thing to be able to have so many choices to make over something as simple as a coffee. Especially when I’m in the queue at Costa behind a queue of equally demanding coffee drinkers, whilst the barista is run ragged making up ever more complicated orders. I notice in Starbucks you can now pick which continent you would like your coffee beans to come from. Even I’m not that fussy!! 

Growing up there was a choice of black or white coffee. Occasionally, if you were lucky you might be offered a filter or instant but normally it was the latter. I remember it being the height of sophistication to go to Wimpy with my Mum to have a “frothy coffee”. 

It seems standard nowadays to be able to personalise pretty much anything…put an address in your sat nav and you might have to choose between the shortest route, the longest, the fastest; do you want to avoid tolls, or maybe you would prefer to totally avoid main roads? 

Even posting a letter is complicated; working out the sizes and the difference between signed for, tracked and special delivery requires a diploma at least, maybe even a degree; with honours! 

Picking a school for your children had become a trauma beyond most people’s comprehension. It begins with picking childcare, do you get a childminder, send the kids to a playgroup, a Montessori nursery, or a standard nursery. Then you have to pick a school. Do you want a church school, an academy, a voluntary controlled school, a state school, a primary school or an infants school? Perhaps a church school would fit your child (and you) better? It moves on to secondary; sports academy, or science? Grammar or high school?The lists go on and on. Gone are the days when you went to the local school. Nowadays there are so many elements to consider that it makes my head hurt. My poor befuddled brain struggles to make sense of it all and the differences between them. 

The same happens when you try to buy a phone, do you want an iPhone, a Samsung, Nokia or a Motorola? Android, IOS 9 or Windows? Which provider? There are so many to choose from.

There used to be 4 TV channels, now we can pick from hundreds. Sometimes the stress of it all means I just switch it off. 

Some of the reasons we have so many choices are good; I currently have choice of 5 different bins for my waste: food waste bin, paper recycling, plastics and glass recycle bin, general waste, and garden waste. Whilst being complicated it makes sense that we can’t keep chucking everything into landfill, we need to recycle wherever we can, however it doesn’t help to keep things simple! 

Even mundane things have so many choices. I’m pretty sure my washing machine has at least 50 different cycles I can choose from. The result? I use one; the same one each time. I know where I am with that wash! 

Do we really need all these choices? Was the world that bad when we went to the local school along with 95% of the kids we grew up with?  Or when there was only a choice between watching The Waltons on a Sunday morning or going outside to play?

Is it any wonder then that so many of us are stressed and anxious all of the time? Under pressure to constantly make a choice, the right choice, often without fully understanding all of the options we are choosing between (especially in the case of phones, or is that just me)? 

Is the world that much better because I can choose between 120 different ways to make my coffee? We live in a world full of people living constantly in the angst of maybe making a bad choice, the wrong decision, getting it wrong. Whilst it might seem a small thing to pick out a coffee, when you add up all those small decisions that we make everyday it starts to get mind blowing. It’s hard enough to make big decisions let along to constantly have to make choices about what, in the grand scheme of things are relatively trivial. 

Just because we can have so many options available to us doesn’t mean we should always consider offering them. 

Still it’s nice to know that those other 49 wash cycles are there if I need them…

In 5 years. 

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It’s one of those questions that parents ask their children whether they are 3 years old or 25 years old; “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Actually it may start off as as that but gradually, over the years, it might change to be said in a more accusing tone, with the implication that person being asked is somehow whittling away their life. That they should know by now, should be working towards it. 

It’s asked in a different form at job interviews “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” And the expectation is that you will have a plan, a route forward, marked out with incremental markers along the way; earn more; work less hours; get a promotion; run the company. 

I’ve always thought that it was an extremely difficult question to answer. It’s also one full of pit falls. What if I say I want to be running my own business, earning lots of money and yet in reality in 5 years I’m still in the same job that I’ve been in since I left school, because I actually quite like it and it suits my lifestyle. Have I somehow failed at life? 

What if I say I want to get a degree in maths, and I enrol and then halfway through I realise that it’s just not adding up for me? That I’m bored, that I’ve changed my mind, actually I rather fancy doing anything, as long as it doesn’t involve me having to do sums? Am I a drop out? A failure? Or have I just decided that for me failing would be sticking at doing something that I hate, in order to fulfil everyone’s expectations of my answer to a question I answered 2 years ago, in a different time, a different place? 

 The past few months I’ve had more than one reason to look at what I want to do in relation to work, I love my job but sometimes I despair of it. I wonder if I could do something else, but one thing is for sure; if anyone had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer wouldn’t have been the job I do now. Not because I couldn’t imagine doing the job I do now, but because I didn’t even know it existed. Or the job I had before that. Or the one before that. 

Why can we not just see where life takes us? What’s wrong with trying a few career pathways/lifestyles before we find the one that suits us? And why does it have to be one thing? I currently have two jobs, both very different from each other but both I love. They fulfill me in different ways. Neither would I ever have put myself in as a child, nor 5 years ago. We are under pressure from such a young age to plan and know what we are going to be/do when we grow up, but surely that’s just limiting ourselves? Sometimes there’s nothing like waiting to see where life takes us, because inevitably life takes us on the path it chooses, not the route we planned aged 3. 

Under a microscope. 

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I’ve got a bikini bridge, a thigh gap, what looks like a fairly flat tummy with no stretch marks and a BMI of 18.6. That’s just in the healthy section for those who don’t know (I had to Google it myself); if I lost just over 1lb I’d be considered underweight. I wear a UK size 8. I’m fairly tall. So according to the popular websites and magazines I have all of the ingredients of “the perfect body.” 

This is me fully clothed the way others see me:   
  
I get told I’m lovely and slim by people I hardly know, as if it’s something I should be proud of, but I’m not. If asked to describe my body I would, like nearly every woman I know immediately reel off a list of things and it would go something like this: 

  • No boobs (despite them being covered in thin white stretch marks!?!)
  • I have bingo wings 
  • My teeth are too long
  • I have big feet and very skinny calves
  • I have saddle bag thighs
  • My nose is crooked 
  • One eye is higher than the other
  • I currently have a huge spot brewing on the side of my face
  • I have ugly hands
  • Did I already mention my saggy boobs…?

In fact if asked to draw a picture of my body (I daren’t attempt a face) it would look something like (excuse my appalling drawing skills) this:  

Hardly the image that the magazines would have you believe you will look and feel if you had all of the attributes that they infer that perfect women should aspire to be.  

I think there are a number of reasons for this, not least being the overly photoshopped perfection that we are constantly bombarded with. But also because when we look at ourselves we don’t see what others see; we concentrate on specific areas, like me with my saddle bag thighs; in my head they are huge, but unless I point them out people don’t really notice them. 

And my knees, well, where do I start, I had never really looked at them until fairly recently when I suddenly noticed that they seemed a bit saggy. I’m perfectly sure I’d never looked at them before and thought how unsaggy they were, but all of a sudden I am mildly obsessed with the fact that they might be making their way down my ultra skinny calves to get into a loving relationship with my ankles. 

No one has ever told me that I have ugly hands, I have just seen lots of nicer hands in my time, I’ve also seen lots of worse hands but I don’t compare myself to the ones who’s hands are worse than mine, I compare to those who s hands are beautiful. No one has ever recoiled from the sight of them, except me. 

In all reality who on earth else is looking at me in that kind of detail? Maybe a few, but I seriously doubt that even my husband, who has seen me naked more times than he can probably care to remember, would have written a list of my body faults anywhere near as l did above. My other faults maybe, but not all those specific areas of my body! 

The problem with the way we look at ourselves is that we almost never see the whole picture. We focus in in tiny detail on specific areas that we don’t like, thereby ignoring all of the other stuff that counters it. Like the fact that my  eyes are a nice colour and shape (or so I’m told) which is probably counterbalancing the fact that they are slightly crooked. 

Personally it is very rare that I would look at someone in that sort of detail. Generally I see them as a whole, and that doesn’t just mean their body part shapes or individual facial features, but to the whole including their personality and also their mood and emotions. I’m much more likely to refer to someone as “brown hair, always smiling” than I am to say “tall, with crooked teeth and saggy elbows, you know the one”. And in my experience that is how others see things too. My eye is drawn to the good parts and my feelings a about someone, and not one small imperfect part of them that I’ve examined in detail. In all honesty, who has the time to examine others as much as we do to ourselves? 

So in future, I’m planning on stopping examining myself under a microscope and instead I will try to view myself as I would anyone else, as a whole. 

      A tiny fraction. 

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      I went to see Justin yesterday. I actually didn’t want to. I was terrified. Silly really, given that I’ve been around dead people before, I know that they can’t harm us. But I have never seen a person 3 weeks after they have died, and certainly not after the circumstances in which Justin died. 

      You see he died of what they assume was a heroin overdose in someone’s flat. That somebody, didn’t call the emergency services, instead they panicked. They set about pretending like it didn’t happen, they cleaned and tidied and they left it 2 days. 48 hours. They did nothing for 2 days. And then they called the police and ambulance. By then it was obviously far too late. In all honesty it probably was by the time they realised that he was dead. 
      Anyway, in my head I couldn’t really get it sorted out. Despite being close to Justin I’d not seen him for months. He lived hundreds of miles away. We’d spoken via text and Facebook and had phone calls but I didn’t see him regularly so I was used to him not actually being there. That made it hard to register that I’d never see him again. That he was gone. Forever. And then the circumstances of his death haunted me. 48 hours. That’s a long time in death. And three weeks had passed since then. I didn’t really build a picture in my head of how he would look, but I imagined that in death he would not be my Justin. The man I have known for nearly 2 decades the man I cared for, who looked after me, who saved me despite not being able to save himself. My mind played nasty tricks on me and it made me scared of someone that I loved. 

      Anyway Justin’s eldest son was the one who made me go. He was insistent that he had to go and see him and he couldn’t be persuaded otherwise. And so after a few phone calls the mortuary said they would let us visit before he got taken to the funeral home (who coincidentally charge an awful lot to go visit your loved ones). We booked a slot and I picked up the boy and his mum and we went together to the hospital and I was nervous and terrified and didn’t really know what to expect. 

      The lady at the hospital was amazing. Caring and loving and sympathetic. She took his son through and his mum and I sat sobbing and holding each other admitting that we didn’t want to do this. And then his son came out and instead of crying he was smiling. He called us in and told us it was ok. And so we all went in together and the minute I saw him I knew i had done the right thing. 

      He looked like he was sleeping. So much so that I almost imagined I could see him breathe. He looked peaceful and calm. Most of all he looked like Justin. And we all laughed at the fact they had clearly taken his dentures out which we’d discussed on the journey there that he looked like an old man without them. And we talked to him and admired the lack of grey in his hair, pondering whether he’d dyed it. We joked about the fact he’d accidentally shaven half an eyebrow off before he’d died and it hasn’t grown back. He told him he should have shaved for our visit and we told him off for leaving us. 

      And it was a whole bunch of things; funny, sad, heartbreaking, comforting, reassuring and cathartic.  None of which is how I expected to feel; but the one thing it wasn’t was scary or distressing. And it helped me to heal. Not a lot, but a tiny fraction. Enough to let me know that in time I will not only feel the acuteness of grief, but the warmth of the light and love he gave to me. That the things we did together and laughed at have not changed in value just because he has gone. And I am glad that I went. 

      Crushed. 

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      Crushed. I am crushed. 

      The grief comes in waves, great big tsunamis that don’t just knock me over, they throw me off my feet with a staggering ferociousness, ripping chunks out of me. 

      To the outsider perhaps, I have too much grief. Too many tears. But they just cannot understand the connection that we had. The shit that we went through.they don’t know the times that I just had a feeling that he needed me, and I tracked him down, sometimes just to check that he was actually alive. 

      Then today, out of the blue, the ending I half knew was coming but fought at every opportunity materialised . And the finality is almost too much to bear. It’s not fair. How come so many get to live, hateful and cruel and yet you, you who loved so much despite all the reasons not to, weren’t given that chance. 

      And I’m raging at the insanity of a world where evil lives and kindness dies. Where you don’t reap what you sow. The randomness of it all is baffling.

      And it terrifies me, because there was never anything I could do.  And I tried. I honestly did. Me; who’s job it is to help save addicts, albeit not personally, but through my work; I couldn’t even save you. And if I can’t do that knowing how much I cared, I don’t know how I can help others. 

      But I know I need to try. I know that you would want to give anyone the chance to be free of addiction. And if I can’t save you maybe I can help someone else. Maybe it will be their turn even though it was never yours. 

      You told me so many times how proud you were of me, but I want you to know that I am proud of you too; for being you despite of all the pain. For living in the face of despair and continuing to love. 

      Most of all I want you to know that no matter what happened I love you, in our own fucked up way we loved each other despite not being a couple. Despite everything I hope you know I still cared.