My flat is best described as having character, and bijou. I love it, because it has an upstairs, like a real grown-up house, a rarity in these parts. I love this photograph, taken in the smallest room in the house, which just happens to be my living room. It sums up beautifully the inordinate amount of space teenagers can occupy, and covers perfectly the two different definitions of room, both a specific area within a house, or space to move!!
My Littley is not a lover of insects. More of a loather in fact. Despite his ever-increasing height, he stubbornly refuses to accept that they are a damn sight more scared of him. I have lost count of the times I have had to remove a *killer* moth or spider from his room, so when he phoned me at work to tell me he had abandoned our flat, along with daft dog, because it had been invaded by a *giant* centipede, I must confess I laughed.
And continued to do so all the way home, teasing him mercilessly, despite his protestations that it was a creature of man-eating proportions! As we entered the house, he and daft dog took up positions behind me, and he pointed to a spot worryingly close to my bedroom door. My laughter died in my throat. I am normally unphased by insects of any sort, likewise snakes, bats or rats. With the sole exception of cockroaches, which reduce me to a quivering wreck!! But I was stunned into silence by the vision in front of me.
At least eight inches long, and a girth the size of a small cucumber, a virulent shade of orange striped with black, this really was the largest centipede I had ever encountered. A giant set of pincers adorned its rear end, and a fearsome set of mandibles its front!!
“Told you!!” said Littley, as he and obviously totally useless guard dog edged away from me! My normal tools of glass and card were obviously sadly lacking in the capture of this beast, and I had no intention of getting any closer to it than absolutely necessary. So I resorted to the time-honoured practise of insect ridding, the vacuum cleaner!! Attaching the longest hose I had, I aimed it at the beast, and sucked it up!! It hit the bag inside with a loud thud, and dog and boy both let out a sigh of relief!! My mind raced on, however, as I envisaged it crawling back up the pipe to wreak revenge. So I grabbed a refuse sack, and deposited the Hoover in its entirety inside. Tied the top of the bag tightly and put the whole thing outside!! As far away from the front door as possible! To be thrown away the next day!!
Suspect I may be exaggerating slightly? Then behold!! I searched it on the internet. Turns out it is poisonous. Deep joy!! I just wonder how long it had been lurking in my bedroom!! I have insect screens now!!
P.S. Gibraltar is also home to the largest bird eating spider in Europe! Don’t tell Littley!! He will never sleep again!!
This track reminds me of my school friend Diane. We didn’t know the lyrics properly (did anyone?) but used to sing along loudly and tonelessly on the school bus, much to the annoyance of the bus escort. It was the start of my foray into much louder and spikier music. Diane and I were forces brats who met in Gibraltar in our mid teens. For a glorious year we were joined at the hip, singing, dancing and spending endless days in the sun. We bought our first pair of platform shoes together, shoes that my father hated. He said they looked like surgical boots! They did, in truth, but we thought we looked fabulous, even though we couldn’t walk in them, and they made my feet bleed!! It was a wonderful time, of crushes, and make-up, all sweetly innocent. We lost contact after she left Gibraltar, but thanks to the power of Facebook, are back in contact again, and spend glorious hours laughing about our memories of this time!
I met my best friend when I was fifteen, and we are still ridiculously close now!! We don’t see each other every day, but we have always been there for each other through all the most traumatic moments of our lives, and always will be!! I can honestly say that I love her, without her my life would have been a pale shadow of itself. We have had the most fabulous, mad adventures together, and pulled each other up from the dark!!
She was Souixsie Sue when we were teenagers!! Getting ready for a saturday night was an epic event. We had our routine. Heinz tomato soup, followed by fillet steak in a roll, washed down with a glass of Lambrusco red!! Three hours spent on make-up and hair, and a different outfit every week! Her mother owned a bar in the small scottish town where we lived, where we both did a couple of evening shifts during the week, and were a source of amusement to the regulars, who had never encountered such outrageous butterflies. We were required to parade through the bar on a saturday night, prior to heading for Edinburgh, so that they could see “what the Lassies are wearing tonight!!” Her make-up was always painstakingly copied from her posters of Souixsie on her bedroom wall. I leaned more towards Bananarama and Adam Ant!!
There was one other extra special bezzie who joined us. His name was Iain Cuthbertson, he worked as a hairdresser with me, and he was beautiful, outrageous, and bravely gay!! I say bravely, because his family were one of the most feared in town, and his homosexuality did not sit easy with their reputation. But he was true to his heart, and eventually they took him back into the fold. Sadly, we lost him ten years ago, but I shall always remember him. One of the directors at our salon once asked him why he chose to socialise with me, and not with the, quite frankly, far more beautiful girls I worked with? His answer?
“Well, it’s quite simple! She’s so plain, everyone looks at me!!”
For your delectation, the three of us from 1980!!
It’s been a long day. One of those days that knocks the wind out of your sails. It started a few weeks ago, really. My Littley (my six foot two, fifteen year old littley) called me up to his bedroom, in a way he hadn’t done since he was a small boy. I ran, the panic in his voice making me think he had fallen, hurt himself. Turned out, he wanted to talk. So I sat on the end of the bed, expecting to hear another overlong description of his new favourite game, or a rant about one of the teachers at school. Instead, he told me he was scared. That he had been seeing things, people, people who weren’t really there, who disappeared as quickly as they had come. He was hearing people call his name, felt he was being watched. And there were voices. Telling him to do things. Silly things, like making people laugh, but if he didn’t do it, the voices became angry.
I listened. I asked him what he wanted to do. Told him that perhaps we needed to talk to someone else, a doctor, someone who might have a better idea of what was going on. He wasn’t sure. So we agreed that if he changed his mind, if he felt worse, then we would go together.
Last week, he asked me to make that appointment. We saw our GP, a lovely man, who also listened, didn’t mock, and said he felt he needed to refer us to someone more specialised. And so today, we saw a psychiatrist. Who has started him on medication, arranged for him to have a CT scan on thursday, and wants a further consultation the same day.
Littley feels better already, for having spoken about these concerns, and for the positive reaction he has received. I feel as if the ground has just been pulled from under me. Angry with myself for being complacent, for being so wrapped up with my own stupid brain blip that I hadn’t realised he was struggling. For thinking that I could sit back, take my eye off the ball for a while. My two older boys are both dyslexic, and I battled fiercely to stop them being written off as slow and lazy. My daughter developed a rare form of epilepsy at the age of eight, and underwent five years of invasive dental surgery to correct her misaligned jaw. We came through all this, and I allowed myself to breath out. Littley appeared to have developed unscathed, and is a high achiever at school, with the world at his fingertips. Now I am worried sick that it might all be snatched away. So once again I am donning my battle armour.
Torn-Apart lifted my soul a little. We are a strange pair, sharing a slightly different view of the world from most. He said that maybe Littley can just see the gap in between. Made me feel more hopeful, somehow. It reminded me of when Littley was much younger, probably not much older than two. He came into the kitchen as I was preparing dinner, and told me his date of birth. It struck me as a very odd thing for such a small child to know, and so I asked if he had been doing a timeline at nursery.
“No, Mummy,” came the reply, “my ghost just told me.”
I had been considering what to post for the Weekly Photo Challenge, the theme of which is Art, and our concept of it. This evening it struck me that my children are my work of art, and nothing else will ever surpass them.
Thirteen years ago, I answered a knock at my front door on a hot august evening, to find my cousin and her three children standing outside. Surprise enough, even more so since I hadn’t seen or heard from her for over twelve years.
“Hallo,” she chirped. “I’ve decided to move back to Gib, so I thought I’d stay with you for a while.”
What I should have done was shut that door, lock it, and hide behind the furniture. What I actually did was smile in a stunned manner, and allow them to file past me into my woefully small living room. Space being at a premium here, the apartments command London prices. Our joint income didn’t amount to much, so my husband, my four children and I were already shoehorned into a very compact and bijou flat. Now I had suddenly acquired an extra adult, two sulky teenagers, and Victoria. And thus the nightmare began.
My cousin and I are polar opposites. On every level! I am the tall, posh, skinny, redhead, she is the short, chubby, bleached blonde with a just south of London accent. She smokes, I don’t. I do housework, she doesn’t. Where we differ the most is in our attitude to parenting. None of these things concerned me when she lived a considerable distance away, but trapped in a confined space with her, it quickly reached the point that even the sound of her breathing incited me to murderous rage. On numerous occasions my family were left open mouthed by her family’s behaviour. Her three daughters fought continuously, until I actually banned them from speaking until I had left the house in the morning. The youngest one turned out to be riddled with head lice, which resulted in my spending hours in the bathroom with traumatised kids, while cousin lay on the sofa nursing her vodka and coke. The oldest girl took to stalking the unfortunate son of one of my neighbours. Just to add to the festivities, my husband lost his job, and I was suddenly the only wage earner for a family of ten!! I started to gallop rapidly towards a nervous breakdown.
I am very blessed to have fiercely bright children. I have always thought of very young children as being like sponges, soaking up information, and made it my focus to keep them supplied with a healthy flow of stimulation. This included talking to them constantly, from the moment they were born, much to the amusement of people around me. My cousin had adopted the opposite approach, avoiding conversation with her offspring as much as possible. As a result, the youngest in particular had a very limited vocabulary. I began with the best intentions, gently correcting her, encouraging her to use the correct word. By the end of a fortnight, I was grinding my teeth in frustration. Breaking point arrived as I was unpacking the groceries whilst the rest of the household concentrated on practicing their best reclining positions. My cousin’s youngest daughter bimbled in as I placed a bunch of grapes in the fruit bowl.
“Aunty Nikki, can I ‘ave one of them berries?”
After thirty seconds of bemused searching for berries, I realised she meant the grapes.
“They are grapes, Victoria, and yes, you may have one of those grapes.”
A few moments passed.
“Aunty Nikki, can I ‘ave another one of them berries?”
“They are grapes, and yes, you may have another one of those grapes.”
“Aunty Nikki, I really like them berries!”
Audible grinding of witch teeth.
“Grapes, Victoria. They are grapes.”
She wandered back into the living room and announced to the world in general,
“I’ve just bin eatin some berries in the kitchen.”
I tried. I even clamped my hand over my mouth, but the words had already taken flight.
“They are grapes!!! FUCKING grapes!!!!!”
They moved out shortly afterwards.
Apparently, it is not acceptable for a mother to ask her son if he has a hicky on his neck whilst standing in the queue at the bank! I live and learn!
Living in Gibraltar means that in order to see my family, I am quite frequently On The Move. The photo above is of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Southern Spain, taken on one of my many flights home. I love travelling, in particular flying, and would do far more of it if I could afford it!! Not so my Littley, it is his idea of hell, as can be seen from the photos below, when he reluctantly joined me on this trip!!
Rather than soaking up the atmosphere and view, he just slept at every available opportunity!!
In order to make the travelling more palatable, I booked first class seats on the train. Littley insisted on wearing the chair back cover over his head for the entire journey, much to the sniffy disdain of our fellow passengers!!
In the weeks before my first face to face reunion with Torn-Apart, I suffered a severe crisis of confidence. This was, after all, someone who hadn’t seen me for thirty years, at which time I had been a fresh faced young woman, barely out of her teens. Now I had hit the half century, had four children, and time and gravity had taken their toll.
The body part that took, as usual, the brunt of my self-loathing, was my stomach. No amount of careful eating, or vigorous exercise has ever persuaded it to revert to its pre-birth firmness. One particular evening, as I stood in profile in front of the mirror, poking it with a despairing finger, my Littley walked into the room.
“What on earth are you doing, Mother?” he asked.
“Hating my belly,” I replied. “Look at it, revolting. Why can’t I have a proper flat tummy?”
His reply was unforgettable.
“Why would you want to have a *V* stomach? (Referring to the shape formed by perfect abs). A bloke would need a crab claw hand to get hold of that! What you have is an *O* tum, far more friendly and comfy, like a little pillow. Think of it as your own little piece of Playdoh. If the guy gets bored, he can make little models of stuff with it!”
I can’t claim that it did anything for my confidence, but it did make me shout with laughter!!
This gallery contains 19 photos.
I have just had one of many somewhat dubious conversations with my fifteen year old. The sort where I wonder whether I should really have found some excuse to go into the kitchen and thus nip it in the bud. Except I got the giggles, and allowed it to descend into ultra outrageousness!! I am still not quite sure which topic for discussion on BBC’s political programme, Question Time, triggered his train of thought, but I suspect it may have been his brother’s remark that one of the guest politicians was a w!#ker!
“Did you know that the taste of your sperm depends on what you have eaten?” he blithely announced.
(You have probably already realised that this is the point at which I should have left the room).
Noncommittal grunt from mother, snort from older brother. Undaunted by lack of enthusiasm, he warmed to his subject.
“How did scientists discover that fact? Does that mean someone tasted it?”
Brother showing interest now, mother trying to keep features arranged into facsimile of responsible adult.
“I mean, how did they advertise that job? And who applied for it? Did they leave school with that as their career ambition? Or perhaps they were targeted as unsuspecting unemployed wine-tasters? Do you have a discerning palette? Are you looking for new challenges? Can you think outside the box?”
Features going into meltdown now, brother already cackling.
“”Hhhhmmmmm…….I’m getting hints of garlic, with high notes of chilli and cumin, and…….let me see……a backnote of german lager! Am I correct?” “Ok Barry, lets do the reveal….. ” (brother does suspenseful drum roll) “….and you’re correct!!!!!””
Both boys now doing fake audience rapturous applause, responsible adult crying with laughter!!