Monday Blues

 

Earth's horizon and the International Space St...

Earth’s horizon and the International Space Station’s solar array panels are featured in this image photographed by the Expedition 17 crew in August 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t like Mondays,” sang Bob Geldof. Neither do I but not for the same reasons as Sir Bob. I don’t like Mondays as the it’s the day when I’m harassed and bothered and badgered. I don’t like Mondays as I’m constantly interrupted. I don’t like Mondays as it’s the day the Cold-Callers come out in force.

I’m not sure why they pick Mondays as the day to ring me three or four times an hour. Maybe Monday is a good selling day (although they assure me they’re not trying to sell me anything). Perhaps Mondays are when we’re at our most vulnerable. Maybe after the excesses of the weekend we feel we need to claim for the PPI we took out with a loan or that we need solar panels on our rooves or we need to switch our bank accounts.

What I do know is that they are very persistent and the fact that I registered with the Telephone Preference Service was as much use as a chocolate teapot. My tried and tested methods of dealing with Cold-Callers are to say, “Sorry, I’m not interested” and slam down the phone or to say, “Hello…Hello… Hello,” and pretend that it’s a bad line and then slam down the phone. But these are not very imaginative or much fun. So I’ve decided to come with a list of more exciting and creative ways of dealing with Cold-Callers.

1 – When they call asking to speak to my husband and ask what time he is due home I will say, “I’ve no idea. None at all. Infact, if you find him and speak to him can you tell him to call me. I haven’t seen him for weeks since he went off with that bitch from work – Bastards!”

2 – Whilst speaking to them and feigning interest, I will suddenly say, “Can you say that again?…It’s just…I…I’m not sure where I put…Do you know where I put it?…The thing…The thing I’ve lost…Surely you must know…I…I’m not having a good day…I know it’s here somewhere…You must have seen it…Have you taken it?… You have, haven’t you.” I figure by this point they will have hung-up on me. Unless, of course, they are really tenacious or desperate for a sale. Then it will become a game as to who can keep it up the longest. I will win.

3 – I will break off in the middle of conversation by saying, “There is someone at the door, I won’t be a minute.” I will then wait a few seconds, let out a blood curdling scream, make lots of banging and crashing noises before hanging up the phone. Actually, this might not be such a good idea as they could dispatch the police to my home. On second thoughts, this isn’t very likely. They’ll be too busy calling the next poor sod to achieve their targets.

4 – I will put on some music and turn it up really loud. I will then say, “I can’t hear you…No I can’t turn it down, I’m having a party…Where are you? …Do you want to ditch work and come over? It’s all going off in here…It’s really fucking mental.” Anyone who is having a party at 11am on a Monday morning is clearly not someone you should be doing business with. This will work best if you put on some dance music – Old Skool Acid House is my recommendation.

5 – Finally, I will say, “Of course I’d like to hear all about your PPI claims service/solar panel promotion/how I can save money with my bank account. But first I have a message for you. It’s from God.”

So there you have it. Five new ways for me to transform Mondays for the day I don’t like to the day I love. Roll on next Monday.

Apprehenison? 2

Fear & Anticipation

Fear & Anticipation (Photo credit: hartlandmartin)

So the apprehension and excitement came about two hours before the curtain went up. It was bound to, wasn’t it? The apprehension and the excitement increased as we found the venue, parked the car and went inside. The apprehension increased as I had to tell the man on the door that I didn’t have a ticket as I was a guest. There hasn’t been many times in my life that I’ve got in somewhere for free by being a guest. The few times I have I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable with the whole idea of not paying. It always sounds a bit pretentious to me.

My apprehension increased a little more when the man seemed unable to find my name. If he couldn’t find it then I’d have to say, “But, I’m one of the writers” which would sound more than a bit pretentious. However, after much searching, he did find it so I was saved this embarrassment.

My apprehension increased even further when I saw some of the ladies from my writing group there. They had come to support me, which was fantastic, but suddenly I wished that everyone in the room didn’t know me.I wished that they had never met me before or heard my name. I even wished my husband wasn’t there. This could all go terribly wrong and I might need to quietly sneak out the back with no-one noticing me. I couldn’t do that if people I knew kept smiling and wishing me luck.

My apprehension reached fever pitch when I saw my play was to be the last of the evening. I’ve always been the kind of girl to volunteer first in order to get whatever public display I’ve somehow got roped into out-of-the-way. I can then breathe a sigh of relief and relax a little. But not tonight it seemed. Tonight there were four other plays on before mine and a singer and an interval.

So I sat and watched the other plays, and chatted with my mind only half on the conversations during the interval and listened to the singer. Then it was the turn of my play. I had had no input in this at all. I’d just sent the theatre company my script and I’d written it a couple of months ago so the lines were not fresh in my mind. I didn’t know what to expect. A stunned silence (not in a good way)? A half-hearted round of applause? Oh God, where was the nearest exit?

The music started, the actors took their places and then it began. And it was odd to watch. The lines all came flooding back to me, the actors and director had interpreted it just the way I had envisaged it and the actors were fantastic. Especially the lady who played the main character. And then it was over. Just like that. And people clapped and people congratulated me and people said they liked it. And one lady asked for my contact details as she said she would possibly like to use the piece in another theatre night. It was then I realised that the apprehension had gone. 

Apprehension?

Map of Lincolnshire, UK with the following inf...

Map of Lincolnshire, UK with the following information shown: Administrative borders Coastline, lakes and rivers Roads and railways Urban areas Equirectangular map projection on WGS 84 datum, with N/S stretched 165% Geographic limits: West: 1.16W East: 0.39E North: 53.75N South: 52.62N (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel surprisingly OK this morning. I wasn’t expecting to. I expected to wake-up feeling excited yet nervous the same time. Sorry, apprehensive not nervous. You should never use the word nervous. It has too many negative connotations attached to it. At least, that’s what a therapist once told me (Yes, I have been in therapy but, then, who hasn’t? It’s the twenty-first century after all).

Anyway, I’m not feeling excited or apprehensive – yet. That will come later. And I know it will come because, tonight, my first play is going to be performed. Ok, it’s a short play (less than ten minutes) and it’s being performed in a social club in Lincolnshire but, none the less, I have a play that I have written being performed in front of a paying audience tonight. How cool is that?

And this might be the start of something and, then again, tonight could be the pinnacle of my writing career. But it doesn’t really matter how this all turns out because tonight I’m going to have a play performed and not many people can say that. It’s an exciting and apprehensive moment. At least, it will be later.

Neglectful

Wales

Wales (Photo credit: formalfallacy @ Dublin (Victor))

I’ve been very lax of late with writing my blog. The main reason for this can be summed up in three words – school summer holidays. It’s quite difficult to find the time to write when you have to entertain two five-year olds. Added to this is the days out, visits to friends and family and a week’s holiday in Wales and, as you can see, having the time to write has been seriously depleted.

Throw into the mix, the writing I have been doing for my playwrights’ group and the fact that I’ve started writing a book. I’ve also been reading a lot of books, which is something I haven’t done for a while I’m ashamed to say. All of this has eaten into my blog writing time.

However, the girls are back at school next week and I will no longer be attending my Monday English class or the Reception Years’ Friday assembly. So, hopefully, I can stop neglecting my poor old blog and celebrate its first birthday by giving it the attention it deserves. The fact that I have very itchy fingers at the moment should help too.

Writer’s revenge

 

Art

Art (Photo credit: A.Currell)

People often refer to something being a ‘cathartic experience’. I didn’t realise what that really meant until I joined my playwrights’ group. We’re given writing tasks in the group itself or at home, which means I’m writing lots and lots of different scenes and characters –  many of which I would never have dreamt of writing if it wasn’t for this group.

This has resulted in me looking inwardly, deep into the depths of my soul and past. It has meant that things that I haven’t thought about for years, and things that I thought I’d buried long ago have resurfaced. This can be painful and hard and emotional or just downright embarrassing. I’d rather not think of these things at all but it seems I have to. I seek solace in the fact that reliving these experiences will make me not just a better writer but a better person too. Writing has become a cathartic experience for me.

This cathartic experience has an upside too. It allows you to right old wrongs and change the past. The bully from school can get their comeuppance from a stronger, braver, more confident you. That friend who used and abused your good-nature for their own ends no longer gets to treat you like a door-mat. The lover who cheated on you no longer gets chance to do so as you dump his or her arse long before you get sucked into loving them.

And all of this can be done by the tapping of a few buttons on a keyboard. I call it ‘Writer’s Revenge’.

Literacy success

English: A Student of the University of Britis...

English: A Student of the University of British Columbia studying for final exams. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I received a phone call yesterday telling me that I had passed my Adult Literacy exam. To be honest, I’d forgotten all about it. I’d sat the exam in mid-June and then it clean went out of my mind. This is not at all like me. Normally, I’d have worked out exactly when I would receive test results and apprehensively await them. But not this time. This time, I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned or bothered.

My relationship with exams is fraught with self-doubt and insecurities. It has always been this way. I study and revise and sit my exams with little problems. I rationally consider how they went immediately afterwards. I’m upbeat and positive about my chances – for about a week. And then that nagging voice starts. The one that whispers in my ear that I’ve failed. The one that speaks of being too big for my boots. The one that reminds me that pride comes before a fall. By the time it’s finished with me, I’m convinced that I’m a total, utter failure.

This voice first appeared when I sat my ‘O’ levels (yes, I am that old). I studied and revised. I sat my exams without any thought of failing at all. And then, about a week or so after my last exam, the voice first appeared.* The voice sounded very important and authoritative to a young woman who had only just turned sixteen. The voice sounded like it knew what it was talking about and, to a young woman who had just turned sixteen and had some other crappy stuff going on in her life, it just had to be right. I don’t think some adults appreciate the stress that ‘O’ levels, or GCSEs as they are now, can be to some young people. To me, these exams were the pinnacle of my school life. The success or failure of my eleven years at school seemed to hang on the outcome of these tests. I remember thinking to myself, that if I failed I would never be able to go out in public again. The weight of self-expectation was enormous. There was no wonder I crumbled under it.

The voice very kindly brought a friend with him – the black dog. The black dog made me hate myself, hate everyone else, shout and scream, cry and sob, and think about taking my own life. Luckily for me, I refused to listen to the black dog when he suggested this. His idea frightened and terrified me and I would try to shut it out when he barked it in my ear. I dealt with all this alone. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my friends. I was ashamed and frightened by the depth of my feelings. I thought if I told someone, I’d end up being locked away and I’d never see the light of day again. My parents didn’t realise either. The problem with having depression at sixteen is that it’s rather like being a sixteen year old. My teen years had been quite difficult up to this point anyway. As far as my parents were concerned, I’d just ratched it up a few notches due to exam stress. And this was 1987. People knew very little about depression, teen or otherwise, then.

Of course, when my results came through, I’d passed my exams. Even the one I was sure before the ‘crazy episode’ I’d have to resit. The voice and the black dog faded away for a little while, at least. You probably think that this experience would put me off sitting exams for life. Writing this now, I can’t believe it didn’t. But it didn’t. The truth is I love to learn. I love to take new courses. I love to try something new. Over the years, I’ve taken countless exams and had countless pieces of work assessed. Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil when learning. In order to obtain funding to run courses, providers need to have demonstrable outcomes. These outcomes usually come in the form of some sort of test. And with each test, the voice would return. Only on one occasion was it right. On all the others, it was completely and utterly wrong.

When I reached thirty, I realised that I no longer wanted to work in the highly pressurised selling environment that is retail banking in this country. I decided to leave and go to university to study History. So that’s what I did. I loved being a student. I loved everything about it from the studying to the socialising (complete with a subsidised Student Union bar). At university though, testing was more rigorous and frequent. In the space of three years, I sat over a dozen exams. And, at each one, the voice returned. But this time he didn’t bring his friend, the black dog, instead he brought another – the little brown terrier.

The little brown terrier made me feel like I could cope with anything. The little brown terrier filled me with endlessly supplies of energy and drive. The little brown terrier made me feel invincible. But, of course, I wasn’t. The little brown terrier may have convinced my mind it was indomitable but it didn’t fool my body. After three years of undergraduate study, the  terrier tricked my mind into thinking that a further year of post-graduate study would be a good idea. My body protested but my mind refused to listen. By the end of the final year, I was a physical wreak which it took me many years to recover from. Clincial stress nearly destroyed me in a way depression only hinted at.

After this, I vowed never again to sit any exams. Any learning I wanted to do, would have to come from other sources. But then, in September, my daughters’ school offered parents the chance to attend a course that would enable them to support their children at home. The course would run for two hours, every week, over the academic term. The first hour would be spent working with your own child (or children in my case) and would show parents lots of different activities and games to supplement the learning in the classroom. The second hour would be an Adult Literacy course. If you wanted to do the first bit, you had to do the second due to funding requirements. I really wanted to do the first part of the course and so, reluctantly, found myself once again on the treadmill of exam results driven learning.

But this time, it was different. This time I didn’t care if I passed the exam or not. I wanted to. I’d have been disappointed if I hadn’t. But suddenly the ‘stigma of failure’ didn’t bother me anymore. It seems. at long last, I’ve managed to quiet the voice. It’s only taken me twenty-five years to do so.

* For the record, I have never heard voices. What I experienced was a thought, of my own making, that would keep occurring in my head. Nor, have I every ‘seen’ a black dog or a brown terrier. The ‘voice’, ‘black dog’, and ‘brown terrier’ are merely literary devices.

Dog’s dinner

Dog sunny Day Afternoon

Dog sunny Day Afternoon (Photo credit: allert)

The first week of the long summer holidays is over and we’ve all managed to survive intact – well, sort of. One of my daughters did nearly come a cropper, earlier in the week, on her scooter. She was zooming along quite nicely when, suddenly, something caught her eye. The something disturbed her concentration and she nearly scooted into a wall. The something also caught my eye and disturbed me greatly.

“Watch where you’re going!” I yelled. “Stop looking at the dog in the dress” I mumbled under my breath. Now, I see no problem with a dog in the autumn of its years wearing a natty tartan coat in the winter. But this wasn’t a dog in the autumn of its years nor was is a tartan coat. This poor dog was wearing a lemon dress in summer.

You maybe thinking, “How did she know it was a dress and not a coat?” To which I would answer, “Because it had a ruffle around the middle which made it look like one.” A ruffle on a lemon dress made for a tiny dog (of course it would have to be a tiny dog. Can you imagine trying to coerce a Great Dane into such a thing?), what was the owner thinking of? It’s a dog not a doll for dressing-up!

If this wasn’t bad enough, the lemon, ruffled dress also had a large diamante pattern on the back of it. Or was it the front? I wouldn’t like to say. Anyway, it was on the part of the dress that covered the dog’s back. The whole outfit was reminiscent of something out of an episode of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.” I briefly wondered if the dog was, perhaps, a gypsy dog descendent. That, maybe, it had a bit of Irish-Traveller doggy blood in it. Perhaps the dress had been all its idea after all. Maybe it had barked “Diamonds, diamonds, it must have diamonds,” at its poor owner.

But no, I was wrong, because there on the back (I was right the first time) of its dress was a little hood with ear holes in it. Its only purpose could be for the dog to cover its head in shame from the other dogs in the neighbourhood. After all, what other purpose could it have?