I always seem to inherit odd things from people – I’ve never been one for taking jewellery, which seems to be the ‘normal’ thing for girls.
I loved my uncle so much, but he was a bit of an odd one occasionally, and only got worse as he got older (which is understandable). We found all sorts of meticulous notes in the battery compartment in remotes (to say when they were last changed) or in the clocks (to say when they were last serviced) etc etc.
Anyway, along with Gemma, a battered old leather-effect pouffe, a crystal sweet bowl, a chest of drawers and a mantel clock I seemed to ‘inherit’ about 10 bars of Simple soap, 5 jars of Cadbury’s drinking chocolate and a vacuum cleaner.
Today, I opened up one of the packs of replacement bags for the vacuum cleaner…and found codes written on each one meticulously by my uncle in his neat script.
But what does it mean?!?!?
While clearing my nan’s house today, I came across some old pics.
It’s amazing how similar me, my mum and The Girl looked at the same age. This is the three of us at 5
Tonight, the sweetest old lady in the entire world passed away, thankfully peacefully after a fitful day.
I will stand by the statement no matter what.
At the start of this week, she said that she didn’t want to die. Yesterday, she said she was ready. Today she said that a doctor had come and visited her and said that she’d better hurry up as she was meant to have gone on Thursday (this was actually a hallucination or dream).
This afternoon, she not only said goodbye to everyone, she then started singing “Sweet Goodbye”.
And THAT is why she was the sweetest, kindest, loveliest, funniest, most switched-on old lady in the entire world. And why I am so sad that she has gone, but so happy that it was when she wanted to.
To some, it may seem strange for me to post this – for me it is a way to say it, and release.
My beloved uncle died on 9th February.
It has taken me this long to be able to type that. My uncle died.
Even now, I can barely read what I have just typed as the tears have welled up to blur my vision. My uncle died.
My Uncle Dave was my favourite member of my family. My mum’s older brother, he was the middle of my nan and grandad’s kids (my aunt died 20 years ago aged just 46, when my cousins were 19 and 25).
We don’t have a big family. There’s me, my mum & dad, my nan, my two cousins (and our kids) and that’s it. That’s my family (apart from extended family who we don’t really see). And my uncle lived with my nan all his life. He was an eclectic old soul, never married, never even really had a job in the last 30 years. He kind of lived ‘off the system’ – he didn’t trust ‘the machine’. He looked after my nan & grandad in their golden years, especially afetr my grandad had a stroke 15 years ago, and then died from a second one 4 months later.
He has spent the majority of his time looking after my nan (who is now 93) and so many times she has said “I don’t know how I’d live without him!”. He was 65.
In the past few years, my parents have spent a lot of time round my nan and uncle’s, my dad taking him out to go shopping etc. A few days before he died, my mum said he wasn’t looking very well. On my birthday when I spoke to him, he said his back was playing him up a bit. A few days later I spoke to him again and he said he was still having trouble with his back and that he was getting old. i told him ‘tosh’ – he had never been old…a grumpy old man perhaps, but never old in mind. He asked me if I could get him a Yello CD (he wouldn’t do internet shopping as he wouldn’t have a credit/debit card!).
A couple of days later, my mum parents went round and my nan said to them “Dave’s still upstairs, he’s not feelign too good”. My mum went upstairs and said he was sitting on the end of his bed, with a fan heater on him full blast but was cold and shivering. She told him he HAD to get the emergency doctor in.
He said “I know…but I’ve played this one all wrong. I thought I knew what was up with me, but I think it’s actually something far more serious…and Jan, I think I’ve left it too late.” They called an ambulance a couple of hours later. He lost consciousness on the way to the hospital. They tried to resuscitate him for over an hour. He died from multiple organ failure and double pneumonia. They think he’d had a heart attack a couple of weeks before.
He never said anything to anyone.
My little family is still reeling. Obviously we have had to come to terms with the shock, but also my poor nan has been scared about what’s to happen to her. she’s 93, with diabetes, a gammy leg, can only see out of one eye, has lost her sole carer and has outlived the second out of her three children. We’ve all been taking it in turns to be there for her which has been rather draining for all involved, and has also put a major guilt trip on me as I am the only one who works full time (one cousin runs his own business part time, mum & dad retired, other cousin doesn’t work), so always feel that I’m doing the least for her!
I arranged a lot of the funeral though, which I thought would help me as I knew what was coming up next…and then my mum stood up and spoke, and the tears flowed, unstoppable. My uncle was a creative – he was a photographer, he was a watchmaker, a geologist, an atheist, an intellectual, an astronomer, a jeweller, he played the piano, the guitar, the harmonica and the accordian – I didn’t realise he could also play the ukulele (unlike my recent crap attempts to learn this year!). i liked the fact that the priest had to say the words “extraterrestrial geology” during the service – and that I chose ‘I vow to thee my country’ adapted from Jupiter, Holst’s Planets as one of the music pieces.
I didn’t know he used to be in a band in the 60s called The Vampires, and that they used to go on stage wearing long black silk cloaks with red linings, and that they were pretty successful so much that he always had loads of money from their gigs.
I DID know that he was a fantastic older brother to my mum and that she is absolutely devastated, and also more of a brother to my dad than his actual brother…so much so that my dad’s dicky heart kicked in and put him out of action for a couple of weeks out of the sheer weight of grief and I ended up having to look out for him while my mum was looking after my nan.
I also know that this was meant to be a short entry for me to get my feelings out and feel like I am facing what happened…but instead it has turned into a long ramble – which is probably fitting as he always told the best stories EVER!
My uncle died. My life was so much better for him having been such a big part of it, the world is slightly less wonderful now that he’s not here, and I never had a chance to give him his bloody Yello CD!
I have a dream. Well, I had a dream. It wasn’t an outrageous dream. my dreams are never really unachievable, otherwise I’d always feel like the world was dangling something just beyond my reach, and get the feeling that life is unfair (much as the Girl’s dad does – he always feels like life owes him something, and that it should all be handed to him on a plate.)
Anyway – this wasn’t about him, this was about me. and my silly little dream.
Well, since The Man has been out of work (almost 3 years), I’ve not really had any time at home on my own. Either he, The Girl or both of them have always been there. So I feel like I don’t have any space. We live in a little flat in London, so you can imagine that space isn’t exactly abundant…we’re all hoarders too, which I know we could do something about, but is a personality trait I guess, and almost impossible to shake.
The Girl has her own room that she spends a lot of time in doing her own thing (which lately seems to consist of counting her money in her money box 4 times a day – maybe she thinks we’re stealing from her!), and obviously The Man is here by himself from 9-3 every weekday. For me, nothing. And I think that this could be one of the reasons that I’ve stopped reading as much over the past couple of years too. I can’t read when there’s stuff going on around me. I’m OK with the radio on, or music, but not the TV or ‘sounds’. And The Man has the TV on a lot – because, if I turn it off, or if I’m not watching it, even if I have the radio on, he’ll play the XBox. which annoys the hell out of ma. i can’t read a story about Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband (Wedlock, that I’m reading now) if there are the sounds of air raids, bombs, and general shouting, shooting and fighting in the form of MW2 full blast to my left!!
So. I had a dream. It was a chair. A winged, chintzy, Queen Anne style chair. Squeezed into my tiny bedroom, in the bay window which has the best natural light in the whole flat. So I could shut myself away for a few hours a week, have some me time, read undisturbed with the radio on. Maybe even start writing again, who knows. If course, a chintzy winged chair in a bay window also threw up dreams of tea and biscuits and a cat curled up.
So…I have now made this entry from my bay window, in natural light, in a wing-backed chair, whilst listening to 6Music (Cerys is back, and there was just a wonderful live session with a harp that I need to look up), sipping tea, eating the biscuits that I made on Friday, and have been reading my book in peace. Even the cat is curled up on the bed in front of me! The only difference to my dream is that my chair isn’t chintzy…it’s just moss green. but it’s oh so comfy, and was just £35 from the sally army charity shop at the bottom of my road – and is pristene. no wear, no tear, no scratches, no stains!
I am so happy. So, so happy. Because of a chair.
This morning, me, my lovely bundle of surrealness and my heathen boyfriend had a rather bizarre conversation…and once again I sat amazed at how the most humdrum of subjects tends to blow up into full scale bizarrity.
Yes…I like making my own words up that I feel should already exist. So shoot me.
Anyway – the Man & The Girl had a mock-fight just before she was off to school and she’d got all ruffled up. her previously slick glossy hair was sticking out all over the place where The Man had chucked her around a bit!
Me: That’s better, you’re hair looks all shiny and gorgeous again now.
TG: Would you like to have straight hair again like me?
Me: I’d do anything to have straight hair again!
TG: Would you rather have me or straight hair?
Me: Sweetheart, I love you more than anything, but I would sell your soul to the devil to have straight hair again
At this point, The Man wanders back into the room, and The Girl decides to blab about everything
TG: Mum said she would sell my soul to the devil if she could have straight hair!
TM: Would you notice?
TG: It’s my SOUL!
TM: There’s no such thing. Shoes have soles, not people
TG: Not s…o…l..e… silly, s…o…u…l…
TM: And where is that? Are you using it? What does it look like?
TG: You can’t SEE it – it’s on the inside, under your skin.
TM: So is your heart, but you know what that looks like
TG: It’s invisible and it covers your whole being (I was actually very impressed with this answer from her)
TM: It’s a made-up thing, and if your mum wants to sell yours, it’s not going to make any difference to your life…your death maybe, if you really believe in that sort of rubbish, but not your life!
TG: you only don’t believe in them cos you haven’t got one! (I was also impressed with this)
There was then a flurry of activity as they put on coats and got bags etc, kissed me goodbye happily, and left me sipping my tea dumbfounded.
The Girl can be very soppy, and she often comes up to one of us randomly and says the like of the first sentence below…although we don’t generally respond toher crawly-bumlick-ness!
TG: Who’s the best mum in the whole wide world?
TG: Ok, who’s MY best mum in the whole wide world
Me: Well, I assume it would be me
TG: I DO have a stepmum, but she’s not my real mum, so she doesn’t really count. dad can marry a whole string of women, and they will never be my real mum, cos that’s you.
Me: Erm, yes.
TG: and you will be there no matter what, whenever I need you, whatever I need you for
Me: Yes, of course – but you’re never going to NEED me darling, you’re going to do just fine.
TG: I might need you one day
Me: What do you think you might need me for
TG: Well, maybe one day I’ll need to go somewhere and wont have any money for a bus or a cab
Me: You want me for Oyster top-ups?!?
TG: No, don’t be silly, I wouldn’t want money – I’d want you to give me a lift!
Me: Well, i can tell you now, that isn’t goign to be happening! I’d rather give you the bus fare! Cheeky bint!
At least I know what I have in store for me I guess!
The Girl is ten and a half, and I think she has been having mood swings since November…the day we had our Christmas meal with my family, she wound me up SO much that when we got to my mum’s, I confessed that I had almost completely lost it with her because she managed to wind me up so much.
My mum gave me a hug, said “It’s hard being a mum, isn’t it?” and then scared The Girl a bit later with a “You do NOT speak to your mother like THAT!!” when she was a bit sarcy to me – which managed to scare me as well – I’ve never grown out of being scared of my mum.
A couple of hours after we’d left to come home, my mum called me, and said those words that I really hadn’t imagined hearing for at least a few years…“You don’t think she might be hormonal, do you?”. I slumped. I replied “Bloody hell, I need a vodka!”
And since then, I’ve known that I have to have ‘The Talk’ with her. But ‘The Talk’ is a scary thing. ‘The Talk’ means that she’s growing up, and that I’m going to be the mother of a girl old enough to have periods, boobs, hormones, boyfriends, sex, girlfriends, pregnancy, STDs, pubes….argh!!! I am NOT that old. And neither is she, to be honest, but obviously it’s the next stage of it all, and there’s a need to prepare for us both. The Man is terrified!
And how do you tackle it? I remember when (I thought I was 12, but my mum assures me that I was 10) I went on holiday one half term with my parents, and on the first night, my mum gave me this book called Peter & Pamela Grow up, and she said “Read this over the next couple of days, and when you’ve finished we can have a talk about it…and just ask me any questions as you like!” I remember wondering what she was going on about – and then the shock and embarrassment as I was reading it. I remember sitting on my bed in the room, thinking “Oh my GOD!! I don’t want to go out there! I don’t want to talk to her abut THIS!! Oh my GOD!!”.
So, when I’ve been thinking about talking to The Girl (obviously I’ve already put it off for a month since she got back from Mauritius), I’ve thought that it probably was the easiest way to approach it. I’d been looking at Amazon, reading the sample pages of loads of the books, and asking some friends about ones that they’ve had.
I realised just how immature I really am – I was looking at one of them, and the fifth page had very detailed line drawings of the male and female sex organs…and it was SO dated that it took me back to Peter & Pamela and my immediate reaction was “Oh my GOD!!! It’s a willy!! Ewww!!! That’s GROSS!!!! I can’t look at that!!” and I closed the page down.
Yeah, great. The Girl has no chance. How the hell am *I* going to have a serious discussion with her, without scaring her, and without getting giggly.
Just to add to my feeling of unease, I decided it would be best to go into a bookshop and actually check out the whole books, so I felt easier about the content. So I went into Waterstone’s at lunchtime and went and looked in the kids reference stuff and couldn’t see anything, which meant I had to go and ask one of the girls. Me (bright red) “Hi – do you have any books for kids, well, yes, for kids about puberty, for girls really” and the girl smiled at me sweetly, almost putting me at ease until she shouted across the shop “DIANE! CAN YOU SHOW THIS LADY WHERE THE PUBERTY BOOKS ARE!!!”
I guess I shouldn’t have been embarrassed, but the first thing I thought of saying was “It’s not for me!! It’s for my daughter!”
Yeah – cos I look like I’m prepubescent!
Before she went off to school, The Girl made another one of those comments that makes me laugh hysterically but unable to show it, and just love her even more.
They have a non-uniform day today, and are paying 50p for the privilege, which will go to DEC for Haiti.
So, she got dressed this morning, and then came into me and said “OK, so, do you think I look OK? I think I was right to put this outfit together – I used my girlie intuition and sense of style.”
Oh how I laughed (on the inside).
And then she definitely proved that she’s my daughter, she said “I had a look in my moneybox, and I don’t have 50p, so I thought I’d give £1 instead, as it IS for the poor earthquake victims isn’t it – and that’s charity.”
I gave her a big kiss on the head and said she looked great, and that she IS great and I love her.
I love my family, I really do – I love the way that even when we’re watching a serious documentary, it all turns into serious discussion about absolute shite.
For example, the occurence of the following conversation just now:
Me: They called the smog in London ‘a right pea-souper’ because it was yellow and like breathing liquid
The Girl: Ewww, that’s gross. I wouldn’t have wanted to do that, it would kill you.
Me: The average life expectancy for men was 29 years old (I’m not always that accurate, the programme had just said!)
G: That’s REALLY young.
The Man: You’d only have 19 years left though – and without us to feed you. You’d have to go and sweep chimneys.
G: At least I’m skinny enough to get up there.
TV: “in the 1800s, 57% of children born in London died before the age of 5″
G: Oh my gosh!!! (yes, she really does say that) that means over HALF my class would have died! But then most of them weren’t born in London so does that count? I don’t want to die!
Me: You’re not living in the 1800s, you’re not going to die.
G: I’m never going to die?
Man: Everyone dies. except me, I’m immortal. (His usual argument)
G: When are you going to give that up? You’re NOT immortal. You’re going to die the same as everyone else!
Man: How do you know? Have I died yet?
G: No, not yet, but you’re still young.
Man: Thank you
G: Well, ish.
And now we’re introducing her to Little Shop Of Horrors