Thursday, 26 February 2015

Win or Lose

It's almost an everyday occurrence to fall out with my teenager since she morphed into this rebel that often leaves me wondering where I've gone wrong. I'm sure I'm not the only parent to say they have a rebellious teenager and that the company I keep online and in my personal life will relate totally with my frustration. But sometimes I feel like the worst parent in the world. I want Amy to grow up gracefully, to use her manners and have friends she can rely on because they are true friends. Then she tells me something that happened, usually about another kid at school falling out with her because of something she said (she is rather opinionated...not sure where she gets that from), and she wonders why that kid retaliated. I try to be as tactful as I can and explain the logic of 'treat your friends how you'd like to be treated yourself' but it doesn't seem to sink in. She is a drama queen, there's no doubt about that, and I'm still learning daily that I will never win. If I tell her what is right, she assumes I'm being patronising: if I tell her what is wrong, she accuses me of not being on her side. So you see, I can't win.

We have a very close relationship, always have. I will never forget what my dad said to me when Amy was just a year old: "One day, you two will be best friends." I'd like to think we're friends now, but Amy can't relate to family as being 'friends'. If I tell her I just want to be her friend, she makes that teenage face at me, grunts, drops her shoulders, then says, "You're my mum, not my friend." I hope one day she will think otherwise, but, as her mum, I simply have to accept her way of thinking. For now.

She's doing exceptionally well in her education and I'm so very proud of her. I praise her whenever it's due and remind her that she's on the right track to getting a good job, having a bright future and being independent when she's older. She will have a bright future; I'll make sure of that. As for being independent, I'm really not so sure. Right now, she's very teenage and prefers to slob around watching TV or playing with one of her gadgets. I've had to have words with her this week about helping more around the house, not leaving wet towels on the floor, remembering to bring down dirty pots from her bedroom and occasionally washing them up. And her answer to these requests was...

"I do help."

"In what way do you help?" I asked.

"I open my bedroom curtains," she replied.

I think I still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sunny Days

We walked briskly today for a good hour, along a pathway strewn with dead leaves and discarded drinks cans. The fresh air hit the right spots and left us feeling regenerated upon our return. My teenager did well: she moaned about her hair blowing in the breeze (forgot to put a bobble in) and was reluctant to use the tissue I'd got nestled in my coat pocket. But on the whole, she enjoyed spending some quality time out in the late winter sunshine walking side by side next to her mum. I'm usually the person who embarrasses her, the one who makes her look ridiculous with invisible cotton wool wrapped around her body. But today she was happy to stroll through the village with me, pointing out the nicer houses with street-cred that stood out in her world of 'this is what I want when I'm a grown up'. I smiled a lot at passer's by and we stroked a few dogs as their tails wagged in anticipation of our petting. Workmen stood back to allow us a clear path through their debris-cluttered jobs, and one even acknowledged us with a gentle nod and a friendly 'hello'.

"I really enjoyed that walk," I said to my teenager when we got back to the house. "We should do that more often."

"Yeah, whatever," she replied.

But her smile told me that the 'whatever' was teenage language and it was the 'yeah' I needed to take note of. I don't think we should let sunny days pass us by when we have the opportunity to walk around the block and get to know the area in which we now reside. It's a nice little place; lots of iggledy-piggledy houses, village halls and a small school. It was a mining village many years ago and contains a row of miner's cottages. I suspect some of them are still occupied by retired miners, or those who lost their jobs in the controversial years when the mines were being closed down. People around here have never forgotten those times and there is still an atmosphere of bitterness whenever you mention the 1980's miner's strikes. I was a teenager in the 1980s and I didn't take much notice of the way our country's coal industry was almost destroyed. I was like my teenager back then: wanting to spend quality time with my mum but afraid to do so in case it ruined my reputation. I remember looking at nice houses and thinking, "this is what I want when I'm a grown up." Then I look at my teenager and remember I am a grown up. She reminds me that what we once craved in our youth, may not be the same as we desire in our adult life.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Strength of Friends

I want to tell you about a friend I once had. She's someone I was close to. So close in fact, that I confided in her and told her everything about the mess my life had become. She sat with me and listened, day after day after day. She was my confidante. Then one day I told her I was leaving my husband and she looked at me with pity in her eyes. I pretended she'd looked at me with empathy at the time, and convinced myself that it was safe to tell her every last detail that had sunk to the recesses of my mind. What I didn't realise was that the pity wasn't meant for me, but for my husband. She couldn't understand why I would want to pack away my life and find a new one that would perhaps give me fulfilment and allow me to embrace a world beyond fields. I wasn't asking for sympathy, nor was I asking for understanding; but I was hoping for support. That seemed a step too far, and I soon came to realise that the pity in her eyes was only meant for the man I didn't want. Was it so bad of me to want more out of life? Of course it wasn't. I wondered if she were jealous of the fact I'd decided to move on; whether she was hoping to move on one day, too. But she wouldn't have done, even if she wanted to. Something else I realised eventually.

My friend knew everything about me: all the bad points and the good. But all she saw were the bad points, and that disappointed me. My bad points outweighed the good in her eyes. I imagine she only has good points and that is why she can't connect with someone who is bad. Am I bad for leaving someone I didn't love? Was it wrong of me to set us both free and allow us both to move on?

There was one thing I didn't tell her but she did find out by other means. This upset me greatly because I wanted to tell her, but I didn't think I should. I assume she then saw me as a person she no longer knew. Perhaps she thought I had betrayed her. I chose to tell her what I did and I chose to keep from her what I did. That was my prerogative. Not hers. Yet she no longer features in my life and it makes me sad to think we were once so close and are now so far apart. She stayed in contact with my ex-husband. I know she feels sorry for him; I think I can imagine the pity in her eyes whenever she sees him. He's moved on, too. He doesn't need anyone's pity, least of all hers. I never needed her pity. I made a decision and stuck by it. I can't help wondering who the stronger person is here.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Little Buds

I haven't seen any snowdrops this year, except on pictures that people have published on social media. With their little heads bowed and their elegant stems straining to remain upright, they allude respect. Have I achieved such high profile in my life that I deserve someone bowing their head to me? Am I royalty, have I died? They make me think about the things I have done over the years and I wonder if someone is reminding me that yes, I have achieved something in my life.

The garden at the farm was littered with aconites: chaotic and yellow with a mass of green foliage. They would open up during the day and close again at night, like curtains. Once those tiny flowers caressed the earth with their vibrant streaks of daylight and transparency, another door had opened, to a room no one dared enter for fear of straightening up the chaos and tidying up the mystery that lay behind the fabric.

These miniature flowers scattered the grass for decades. I'm not sure how many, it could have been centuries for all I know. But each year they would peep through the window glass and discreetly turn our heads until we noticed a new life rising from the ashes, nudging through the dust, reincarnating from a bud into a patchwork quilt of petals.

There was a hill on the farmland that each year would turn into a blanket of purple. Delicate bluebells gave way to many a photograph taken: a wilderness stretching across an ocean of pasture. I loved the bluebells, too. Each flower, wild and free, wiping the slate clean, starting again, pushing its way to a new existence as it bows and dances and respects in the breeze, waiting for the lens to capture its beauty as new life dawns once more.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Different Pace

The doorbell rings (ding-dong) and it still feels strange. I didn't have a doorbell at the farm. Just a huge knocker on the back door (knock-knock), and the dogs would break into a chorus of tremendous applause. The excitement those knocks generated for four collies was of pretty intense proportions, and if it was someone they didn't know, it would take them quite a while to settle down. I felt safe, they protected me from the strange people. Here, I see a lot of strange people. But I don't have any dogs to protect me anymore. I don't think I'll ever get used to the sound of a doorbell.

I'm not getting another dog, before you suggest it. It isn't on my agenda. Not for a long time, at least. I may get one in time, a little Yorkshire Terrier that will cuddle on my knee and lick my face whilst I scrunch up my nose and think 'revolting'. Life is very different here. Charity bags are pushed through my letter box; a wealth of charities vying me to empty my house. I fill the bags and they don't always get collected, and then I get cross because I've been kind to someone and it hasn't been acknowledged. Not very Christian, I know. We shouldn't need thanks or gratitude. But it's always nice to feel that someone appreciates what we do, even if it is putting a few items in a flimsy plastic bag and leaving it outside to be collected by a strange man in a white van whom my dogs would applaud ferociously.

And then there's the bin men; their heavy boots clod-hopping up and down the cul-de-sac (stomp-stomp-stomp), moving bins, loading them onto the big dirty wagon (clunk) before they push them haphazardly back onto the drive next to the charity bags. People walk past with dogs (I like to watch the dogs; I'm a dog-watcher), swinging their miniature tie-bags filled with shit. There are dog-shit bins everywhere. I didn't know what they were until I walked past one on a sunny day and saw a picture of a dog. Our dogs used to shit in the fields. And it would blend into the earth.

Cars whiz past on the main road (zoom-zoom), going much too fast, no consideration for the loner who sits behind wooden slat blinds all day, drinking coffee, thinking about silence and dogs and doorbells and charity bags.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Tapas and Suitcases

I booked a holiday last week to Alcudia in Majorca. I went to Majorca with my friend and her mum and dad when we were about 12 years old, so I imagine it's changed considerably since then, due to the fact it was an awfully long time ago. Then again, it could be like Northumberland and not have changed at all. I suspect like Northumberland, however, that commercialism will have grown and hotels, apartments and holiday accommodation will have shot up over the years. In the 13 years I've lived on the North East coast of England, I've seen a massive rise in tourism. A good thing for the economy of course, but it doesn't stop us locals (I consider myself to be one after 13 years) moaning about the volume of traffic during the school holidays. Then again, I've spent most of that time living on a farm and the amount of tourists I would listen to moaning about tractors on the road would drive me to distraction. We're all just trying to get from A to B. Usually with difficulty throughout the months of July and August. But still, c'est la vie, as they say in Peckham.

So there we go, I've got seven months to wait until I jet off to sunnier climes. I won't be going on my own of rebellious teen will accompany me. I was rather hoping a nice chap might join us but it'll just be the two of us, which I guess is what I'm used to. Being single isn't any different in that respect.

I've started writing again, too. Decided it's time to revisit my passion for fiction, and am currently in the middle of a new project. I'll tell you more in due course about that, but it's something I've always wanted to do. My day-job takes priority of course, because that's the one that pays the bills, but the writing is well on the way and I'm taking advantage of every bit of spare time I have. But right now, I have a teenager who needs feeding. I'm thinking of sending her on a cookery course. It would be so nice to have someone cook for me for a change.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Silence is Golden

I sit on the sofa and listen to the silence that encases me. It's usually a welcome sound. I wear headphones most of the day and listen to people's voices as their recordings ring in my ears. But when I remove the headphones it all goes quiet. 

Being a loner is something I'm used to. Being lonely is something I don't think I'll ever get used to. I feel lonely some days, and wonder where the noise has gone. 

Many years ago I thought I'd found the last piece of the jigsaw that would complete my life. But I hadn't. All I'd found was a new path that would lead me to the one I'm on now. Then I turn a corner and think that jigsaw piece is within reach. But it's been snatched away yet again. 

And I'm left in silence. 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014

When January 1st rolls around, we often reflect on the previous year and the things that happened in our lives. Some of us may have memories that will stay with us forever, be they good or bad; some of us may have had an average year where nothing of particular significance happened. I think many of us would like an insignificant year occasionally, whilst others thrive on a challenge or a spontaneous event that perhaps rocked their world.

I've spent a large chunk of 2014 living with uncertainty, wondering what will happen and how I could go about making the changes I desperately needed to make. I started the year off knowing I didn't want to be in the situation I was in, or living in the place I did, but I had no idea how I would go about changing it. I was frightened of the unknown, worried that I'd end up losing more than I bargained for. In fact, I was petrified. But then, something shifted in me and I realised that if I didn't face that fear, I could be living in an unhappy situation for another year. Some people told me I was brave to make the move, some turned their backs on me. Some admired me and some hated me.

I've had some great times during the latter part of the year and they are the times I choose to reflect on. I'm still living a life of uncertainty by the fact I haven't a clue what 2015 will bring. But I'm independent again, living with Amy and once more single. I know what I do want, and I know what I don't want. But I'm pretty sure that the new year will bring challenges and spontaneity, together with new friendships and maybe even intimacy. Who knows. Not me, that's for sure.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Lonely Christmas Songs

For a number of years I've published festive photographs of my impressive 7 foot tree decorated with a mixture of baubles and ornaments, many of which have a memory attached to them and a special place in my heart. I used to take great pride in putting up the Christmas decorations, it was something I looked forward to doing, and would shoo The Farmer and Amy out of the house for a few hours whilst my creative juices flowed. I'd transform the drawing room and drape a large and rather hefty length of garland over the Grandfather clock in the hallway, which always caught my eye when I'd be walking up and down stairs. Amy's room was also transformed with her own decorations, and even though the whole house was a complete mass of various colours and mismatched ornaments, it looked quite spectacular. But it still didn't make it feel like my home; that place that one sees in their mind's eye as the place they'd like to spend Christmas in.

I spent 13 Christmases at the farm house. Each one was the same, consisting of me doing just about everything from buying to wrapping presents, to making list upon list, to food and grocery shopping, to making sure we all got what we wanted, to transforming the house, to cooking the Christmas dinner, to ensuring my family had a bloody good time and would look back on the festive season as a pretty awesome few weeks. There were no miserable faces in our house at Christmas.

Except for last year. When my face was so long you could have stuck a mane in my hair and called me Dobbin. I think part of me knew that last Christmas would be my last at the farm. When I look back and remember how irritated I was throughout December, knowing it's my birthday month and the time of year my dad loved so much, I can't believe I didn't pack my suitcase and sod off to sod-offs-ville. I guess I did it for Amy. I was sick of having to cook a free range turkey, the 13th Christmas dinner at the farm house, and sick of the fact once that turkey had been finished, the remains would go into a very large pot and be mixed with rice to make The Farmer's soup. Fortunately, he did that himself. But I was always left to clean up the mess and wash the very large pot. I left it last year.

So what's happening this year? I have left all those decorations at the farm and I refuse to buy any new ones because as I've stayed in touch with The Farmer, I know I can go and collect them anytime I wish. But to be quite honest, I don't wish to. I simply can't be bothered. I haven't even put any cards up this year. Amy and me are going to my mum's for a few days over Christmas where we'll get our Christmas dinner cooked for us - first time in 13 years - and even though I'm looking forward to going because I love spending time with my family, I'd actually be quite happy if someone fast forwarded Christmas and we were now on the brink of January 3rd when I'll be safely back home and it'll be Amy's birthday.

I'm not as depressed as I was, fortunately, but I'm still on that bloody roller-coaster that I'm itching to get off, and I just feel as though I'm going to find myself a very lonely woman, especially this Christmas. I love being on my own, which makes my feelings of loneliness seem rather confusing, but it kind of made me think the other day, when The Farmer spoke to me on the phone and said he's been invited to three different houses for Christmas dinner and refused them all because he wants to stay in with the animals. But when he told me he'll be making his own Christmas dinner this year, and hasn't had one takeaway since I left because he's cooked for himself every night, I have to say my hackles rose slightly. Mug, springs to mind. That's obviously what I've been all these years. So at least in my lonely Christmas song this year I'll be reciting the words, "Right Decision."

Monday, 1 December 2014

Amazon Monopoly... not pass not collect your royalties...

Well, the free promo went well last week. The book (Discovery at Rosehill) reached Number 1 in two separate categories on Amazon US, so of course I was extremely pleased. It seems to have been really popular with my American readers, and that's brilliant.

Then the storm hit the day after the promotion ended when Amazon Kindle emailed me with a particularly strong-worded lecture about the fact they'd found Discovery at Rosehill on another eBook site you may know called Kobo. There were a few things that didn't add up with their right royal bollocking, which included the fact the book they were talking about was the old version with a different cover and isn't even listed anymore on Amazon. All rather confusing. The Giants used bullying antics to try and intimidate me by taking all my books out of their Select programme which enables an author to offer free promos. But of course we don't "need" to offer our books for free, so I decided to concentrate on the fact Amazon obviously hadn't done their homework and had taken the wrong book off Select. I sent two emails to them, both of which were completely ignored. I sent an email to Kobo to ask for the old version of Discovery at Rosehill to be removed from their listing, and that has also been ignored.

Am I missing something here, or are these companies just so full of themselves that they think it's perfectly okay to ignore someone, treat someone with utter contempt, and bully someone to the point that that person starts to feel like they've committed a crime? Amazon's email was out of order. I wonder if my name was JK Rowling would they have ignored me... As for Kobo, I tweeted them and even though I got a reply, nothing has yet been done. So I'm now left unable to enrol any of my books in the KDP Select programme because Amazon have cocked up. Fortunately, you can still buy them, so I only hope people will.