Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Alien World

I sat in the Citizen's Advice Bureau and all I could think about was getting back in my little car, driving home and shutting the door to the world. I've never been in a CAB before. I've never had the need. My life has consisted of good salaried jobs and luxurious surroundings. Now it consists of worry and paperwork and coming to terms with being unable to sleep at night for thinking about the fear of falling into the poverty trap.

It wasn't meant to be like this. It wasn't meant to see me stepping into an unknown world where I would feel anger and resentment towards a country that penalises a single parent for wanting to find a job and show her child the best example for the future generation.

I've changed my circumstances. It has a knock-on effect right through my life and no one cares, not really. I don't want to visit the CAB again. I didn't like it there. It was a grubby building with an interview room in desperate need of decoration. It was filled with an atmosphere of poverty and hardship and benefits being the only way forward. It was filled with someone else's life.

I was an alien today. An alien on the planet I was meant to feel at home. Other people will feel like this, too. But I'm not other people. I just wanted to find happiness, freedom and a new life. Should I have settled for discontentment, living in isolation and not being able to see any light at the end of the tunnel? Would it have been easier to just stay where I was and live the rest of my life knowing it wasn't where I wanted to be? People need to move on. I need to move on. I need strength to get through this and find a solution to the constant feeling of dread that overwhelms me when I wake in the morning; the fear that envelops me when I think about my future. I've worked hard all my life. I've had good jobs. I don't want to be reliant on hand outs that will be snatched away from me the minute my circumstances change. My heart breaks for what I once had. Yet I don't want what I once had, so why does my heart break?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Being a Teenager

We're much nearer to Amy's school now; it takes just 15-20 minutes to get there. The transport department kindly kept her in the same taxi with a driver and escort whom she's familiar with. I was particularly grateful for that. The upheaval of moving away from the farm, a home that has been Amy's for 13 years since she was just 18 months old, was quite considerable. She coped with it though, much better than I did. She had no friends where we used to live, no one she could call on to discuss the challenges of being a teenager, and boys of course. Her life consisted of coming home from school and either sitting in her bedroom watching television, or spending time on the computer. Admittedly, when she was younger, she would play outside, albeit on her own. Since becoming a teenager, the thought of fresh air and hanging out by yourself isn't all that tempting. Amy might have autism, but she's a typical teenager. She does typical teenage things, becomes melodramatic by just getting out of bed, raids the fridge and the 'goodie' cupboard when she gets in, loves listening to music and watching horror films. 

Since living here, a new housing estate with neighbours and traffic and street lamps, all the things Amy has never been used to, she's adapted remarkably well. She's made two very nice friends, both girls. One lives next door and the other a few doors away, and the three of them are the same age. Amy gets in from school now and tells me she's going to see if her friends are in. She spent a few hours with them last Friday night, playing board games. They're typical teenagers, too. They don't have a condition like Amy does, but it doesn't bother them. They're too nice to let Amy's autism bother them. 

Amy's sociable and she's missed out on having friends at home. I'm incredibly proud of the way she's quickly learnt a new way of life. She did lose a friend recently - a good friend. They were close and had feelings for each other. He broke Amy's heart and I've had to spend the last four weeks picking up the pieces. Of course, Amy is only 14. She has plenty time to find a boyfriend and I'd much rather she didn't go down that road for a good few years yet. But this was a special kind of friendship. Like a childhood sweetheart kind of friendship. And it was also the first time Amy has been devastated by the loss of a friend, mainly because this friend meant so much to her. Life is cruel at times. My girl will experience much worse, I imagine, reluctantly. And I'll always be there to pick up the pieces. Like I say, I'm proud of her. She's coped and got through the upheaval of moving and then the destruction of being heart broken. She's my girl. She's my Amy.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A Friend In Need

Someone asked me how I feel today and I wasn't sure what to answer. For the past eleven years I have been going to Dunkeld in Scotland with The Farmer and Amy to stay in a beautiful hotel on the banks of the River Tay. It was our only family holiday, or break, as I called it, due to the limited time we were able to stay. The Farmer wouldn't leave the farm for more than four or five days, and some years he was eager to get back on the Monday morning meaning the "break" was cut even shorter. There was never a leisurely drive back, stopping off for a pub lunch or stretching our legs to break up the journey. For him, it was a case of the sooner we're back, the sooner the farm will start functioning again. I got used to the relentless angst of being away from home that he would portray, but I always secretly wished we could have stayed longer. Today, however, we should have been making the journey to our favourite hotel where quality family time would have been spent, together with a drive into the mountains to take photographs of the magnificent scenery.

The Farmer has gone by himself. He'd booked two days fishing on the river, as he always does, and I pointed out that he needed a break and should therefore go and enjoy himself. I know it's going to be strange for him being there on his own, but I know it will do him good to get away from the farm for a few days, speak to different people and enjoy sailing up and down the river in the hope of catching a salmon or two.

A feeling of sadness overwhelmed me this morning, whilst on my way back from Berwick. I was driving along the A1, going south, when I suddenly started thinking about The Farmer arriving at the hotel with his holdall filled with creased shirts and a lone toothbrush. It made me grieve for something I have no right to grieve for, especially when it was my idea to leave. When we hurt someone in such a way, it makes everything seem so fragile. I don't miss my life at the farm but this feeling I'm harbouring of knowing that I've destroyed someone's life because I needed more in my own, is something I'm trying hard to come to terms with. Only one person whom The Farmer and I were friends with for all those years has bothered to contact me and ask how I am. One. I don't expect anything more, to be honest, but what I do expect is that those friends we made, particularly the ones that The Farmer has known most of his life, are there for him; that they are helping him to move on and are making the usual, "anything we can do" offers. Unfortunately, I don't think they are because he's rang me a few times asking about things that he could quite easily have got the answer from by asking his neighbours or friends.

I left my husband. I had my reasons. He needs a friend, just like I do. And right now, even though I get these bouts of sadness where I cry and reminisce about those good times we had, I can't be there for him on a daily basis, helping him to use the washing machine and write out a cheque. I know for a fact that The Farmer will always be there for his friends when they need him. And so do you.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Over The Rainbow

We walk up a mountain and stand at the top, looking down on what we've left behind. Some things look small and insignificant. Others seem to reach out and beckon us with outstretched arms and pleading eyes. We can turn away and walk down the other side, or we can go back to where we started from. Going back has never been my forte. But I do dwell on the past, and I know that this can sometimes hinder positive decisions I need to make in my future.

I did reach the top of the mountain. I did. But what faced me on the other side was too much of a temptation. It's foggy on the other side. It's challenging and unknowing. Yet here I am, continuing down in the hope the fog will clear as the sun breaks through. I'd like to think the world was my oyster. Right now, I'll settle for it being round.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Grass on the Other Side

I don't think I've ever mown a lawn in my life. Yesterday, I changed that. It isn't a large patch of grass, but I managed to shorten it and tidy it up enough to feel somewhat proud that another step towards my independence has been taken. The garden at the farm was vast; like a field. The Farmer insisted on cutting it himself on the sit-on mower. He just couldn't vision a woman (his wife) doing what he classed as a "man's job". I've never been into gardening admittedly, and so I let him get on with it. There are so many things I let him get on with that I knew I was capable of doing. I realise it's my own fault for being so weak, but closed doors made for a sheltered existence, and I spent many years living in someone's shadow.

I know that a lot of people we both know personally won't understand that. I appeared strong and focused, perhaps pushy and determined. But they didn't see the little wife who hid behind those closed doors whilst her husband did his own thing and expected his tea on the table every night.

I think the gossip has already started, though by now it could be old news wrapped around Saturday's fish and chips. People wanting to 'have a word' with me, which frankly I find both insulting and laughable at the same time. I've lost friends and the respect of many people. Maybe those people are reading this now to see what they can relay back to The Farmer, knowing he never reads my blog. I've known him for 21 years. We've been together for 13, married for 11. I'm a grown woman and quite capable of making my own decisions and mowing my own lawn. Before I moved up here I was more independent than most of the women I've met in these parts. You can take the girl out the town, but you can't take the town out the girl. That doesn't make me inferior to you. It makes us different, individual. It's how the world goes round.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

An Uncertain Future

Life has a habit of testing our strength. I wasn't sure I would ever be strong enough to write this post and I've tried so very hard to brush the negativity that has overwhelmed my life for the past twelve months, under the carpet, hopefully to be forgotten, or maybe ignored. But there came a time when I could no longer stand the heart break that had begun to envelop me - and I realised in order to face it, I would have to cause further heart break to someone who has been a very special part of my life for many years. As a sign of respect to The Farmer, I won't broadcast details of our private life, but I made a life-changing decision earlier this year that my life and my destiny no longer rested at the idyllic location I have called 'home' for the past thirteen years.

I lived a dream; it all became a little surreal, and if I'm honest, I knew in my heart I needed more. Sometimes, dreams do come true. It was a life I treasured. A life I longed for since being a little girl. I got married in a castle and went on a romantic honeymoon where a river glistened in the late spring sunshine. I worked with animals and tractors and roamed through barley-clad fields with excited sheep dogs and country clothes on my back. I've lived life on a farm. And I've loved it.

But I knew, earlier this year, that this idyllic lifestyle of everything I'd dreamed of, would one day come to an end. I didn't know how, nor did I know when. But I knew I couldn't go on pretending I was happy. I wanted so much to be content, to walk the halls in my beautiful farm house, treading the floorboards and running my hands along the Georgian banister. I wanted desperately to feel at home there, to feel as though I truly belonged there and fit into the farming community that I so loved.

Then my dream slowly turned into a nightmare and my idea of the next five years that lay ahead became a blur. Holding our heads above water, the threat of poor crop prices and lamb trading affecting farms all over the district, wasn't important. We could have got through the financial crisis. There would have been one eventually, I have no doubt. What I couldn't get through was the fact that I had nothing in common with The Farmer, and even though my heart longed for us to make this work, it simply wasn't making a difference. It's the saddest situation in my life. It's the second time I've walked away from a marriage. A good marriage. Probably one of the best. Yet I no longer felt 'at home' living in the farm house; the fields became fields, nothing special, nothing sentimental like they used to be. I've left so much behind, and now I have to look forward. I have no idea what my future holds. None whatsoever. The Farmer would love me to return. I thought about moving back to Manchester, where I'm from. But I have Amy to consider, and right now she's happy and doing well at her school which is a good enough excuse to stay in Northumberland. Perhaps I will live like a gypsy for a while. Whatever happens, Amy and I now live on our own in a nice house further down the coast, and even though this place will also never be our permanent home, I hope we will be stronger one day to move on from the past thirteen years - many of which I was truly happy and therefore will never regret.

Should anyone be reading this who knows me and The Farmer personally, we both need a friend. Please don't take sides.

CJ x

Friday, 12 September 2014

Open Spaces

Years ago, before the creation of social media, it was easy to keep things to yourself, harbour your feelings and bottle it all up. Now, we have the world at our fingertips, people to talk to everywhere we go, and we don't even need to leave the comfort of our own homes. Living a grown up life in a grown up world can seem quite daunting if you're young and impressionable, just venturing out into the big wide spaces of your life. But when you get older and you've lived through times without computers and mobile phones, Twitter and Facebook and all those amazing inventions in between, you have a wealth of experience to add to the mix and that means you have something to offer. Our young people of today might be being brought up in this age of technology, everything being about clicks and 140 characters and poking friends they'll never meet, whilst we know what it was like before all that. Is life better now, is it easier? Or has it made our existence more complicated, less about face to face contact and more about statistics and how many followers we have? We can all admire our social media stats, and I'm sure most of us do, from time to time. But then we get carried away on a tidal wave of putting the world to rights, airing our opinions and allowing ourselves to open up to people of whom we would never normally give the time of day.

I've built up a fairly substantial social media presence over the years - though I look at some Twitter account holders and wonder how they've managed to accumulate so many followers without a bit of back-handed fiddling, especially when they never speak to anyone but just promote themselves. My own following has grown and I'm proud of that. It's grown because I talk to people online. I've made contacts in different fields, not least 'social' media, but the 'media' in general. I dare say I won't ever be one of these technical experts who spends hours clicking and poking and fiddling with computer innards, but I do have a knowledge of the big picture, and experience alone has taught me that however old (or young) I am, I will never let something get the better of me. I used to be a brunette. Too many grey hairs prompted me to go blonde. Dumb? Think again.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My Apologies

I will get back to blogging and online communication eventually but I felt it only polite to update those who have been enquiring about my whereabouts that amazingly enough, I am still here. My life is currently in turmoil and I am experiencing an extremely difficult time which I am unable to discuss. Crystal Jigsaw has temporarily left the building; should the world have stopped turning she would have jumped off.

Please bear with me and accept my apologies for neglecting so many friendships, many of which have remained loyal for several years.

CJ x

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


When I first started to write this blog it was hugely based around the paranormal experiences I encountered in the house. Some of the posts were particularly deep but all were true. I knew people would read those posts with a sceptical mind and I also knew the comments would come in along the lines of "Really?" I never expected everyone who read them to believe them even though I would have liked them to. It's usually the case that unless something has happened to you, you've seen, heard or sensed something out of this world, it's going to be hard to appreciate the experiences that some of us do have. Those times have never ceased in the house but things did go quiet for a while, as though it perhaps wasn't necessary for me to be alerted to the presence of an astral being.

But recently, things have started happening again, and I'm now at the point of inviting a medium into the house to confirm who is trying to make contact. I don't believe in coincidences. Things happen for a reason and even though it can take a considerable length of time to work out that reason, we usually get there in the end. I'm pretty sure my dad is the one trying to make that all-important contact. A few weeks ago, my friend Michelle and I were sat chatting in the drawing room when we both very distinctly heard a man shout,  "Hello." We both turned to the door and I went into the hallway as I assumed someone had walked into the house - friends often do. There was no one there.

Last week, Amy and I were in the kitchen making toast and she was giving me her usual teenage cheek when we both heard a man whisper loudly, "Amy." It was quite funny because it seemed as though he was telling her off for being rude to me!

Yesterday, Amy followed one of our cats' eyes around the office as it chased a pin-prick of light. My dad's favourite song not long before he passed away was Cher's "Believe" and she was listening to the song on You Tube at the time. I am sure you will understand why I think this is my dad. I will of course keep you posted, and will update you once my medium has visited...

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

How Not To Win An Election

So there's been a lot of chat in the news recently about female cabinet ministers and our current Government wishing to employ women in politics. I don't think that's a bad idea at all. Women aren't second-class citizens or inferior to men, and they are more than capable of leading this country. We have a very professional and dedicated local councillor here in Northumberland who's doing a fine job for us; her campaigning alone is a credit to her committed approach for our region.

But let's get this into perspective: I don't normally blog about politics because a) I find it too boring, and b) it's such a controversial topic to discuss that most people just click off. Who can blame them?  Not me, that's for sure. However, apart from the article in (I believe) the worst newspaper since the hacking scandal, though it could be the worst newspaper ever created, there is yet another ridiculous write-up about women politicians, what they wear and how they look. WHO CARES?

We are living in the 21st century. 2014. Women are just as entitled to work as men are and if they are the better person for the job in a line up of cabinet ministers then so be it. I couldn't care less if our female politicians turned up in a black bin liner with straw in their hair. So long as they can sort this country out what on earth does it matter? It's not just the talked-about article that has irritated me though, it's the whole fact that this is even being discussed in the first place. There are some absolute dicks in Parliament, never mind the Cabinet, yet they are never judged on what they wear. Women, it seems, are judged on just about everything, yet least of all what policies they have and how good at their job they are. The majority of our politicians are very middle to upper class and have little knowledge about us plebs at the bottom of the pile. We can assume that is because they either aren't interested or they just don't want to be associated with the working class - or should I say "hardworking people"?

So let's stop worrying about what our female politicians are wearing, how they style their hair, whether they're in heels or flats and whether or not they've put lipstick on; let's ask how competent they are at lifting the country from its knees. Sexism is everywhere and perhaps our Prime Minister is trying to eradicate it in his Cabinet reshuffle, though the cynical side of me thinks this could have something to do with the forthcoming General Election and the possibility that a more feminine approach to politics might just tempt our younger generation of women to vote for the Premier and his team. Who knows? And like I said, who cares? Do the job properly and you'll get my vote whatever colour bin bag you choose to wear.