Friday, 29 August 2008
But not for long. France, here we come. I'll see you in a week. Be good.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Clad in winter dressing gown, my skin still pierced from a low temperature. I stroked Jess who purred softly at my touch, her fur cosy, like silk beneath my hands. The air was still outside. I could sense a familiar feeling as it entered the room, encouraging Jess to suddenly look up. Although no visible being stood at the door, it had become obvious that we were no longer alone. To assure me of my thoughts, the television program paused. Followed by a sound in another room which sounded like crockery being used; the sound a knife and fork makes when one is lapping up their last mouthful of food. And to make me even more aware, not that I needed it at that stage, the wonderful aroma of beef stew drifted into the lounge. An aroma often experienced at the foot of our stairs.
Jess had stayed perfectly still. Her fur beginning to stand on end, she slowly rose from my knee yet did not make an attempt to jump to the floor. I spoke to my guest, enquiring if they had enjoyed supper. My smile may have seemed a little relaxed but it was how my guest felt, perhaps after his stew, perhaps in our company. I could not be sure if I had also sensed pipe smoke but it was brief. I do not know who the guest was but I suspect it was a man of the house from years gone by. His wife would have remained in the kitchen, where she would no doubt have stayed to continue her chores. And as the television returned to normal, the temperature in the room changed to a more comfortable warmth, I thought, "things haven't really changed much have they."
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
So when I see bad customer service happening to someone else I wonder whether it is the customer's fault for being difficult in some way or simply the assistant, who is rude and may benefit from a course in customer relations. Take today for example: I was in a queue at the checkout in a well known pharmacists. One I use regularly. Two tills were being operated; one by a lovely, friendly face, smiles and thank you's all round and the other, by a sour faced makeup-caked miserable twenty year old who was obviously totally pissed off to be helping behind the till. Perhaps it was beneath her qualities. Perhaps she felt she had been torn away from the glamour of perfume and cosmetics.
She was serving an elderly gentleman who was wearing an hearing-aid. He was doing his best to understand the strop behind the counter as she asked him why he had not chosen a drink instead of two deserts which would have made his food bill slightly cheaper. To be fair, she was doing her job in helping the gentleman save money. However, her attitude was beyond, in my view, disgraceful. She spoke to him as though he was utterly stupid. It was clear she had no time for the elderly or those who might be slightly impaired in any way. The man, bless him, did not understand what she meant and I watched as she shrugged her shoulders and said, "well, I can't help you then." She rang in the amount, told him how much and he asked her to repeat it. She said, "I did say you should have got a drink instead of two deserts." She literally snapped at him but the man had not heard first time round. In the end, he smiled very sweetly, took one of the deserts back to the fridge and picked out a drink, taking it back to the counter. Sour face rang that in, held out her hand and took his money. Then she looked at me. My eyes bore into hers. She never smiled once. Nor did she say please or thank you. At any time. The man smiled all the way through the transaction. She made a few excuses and left the till and it made me wonder whether she had just been filling in during a particularly busy spell.
The gentleman left the shop, probably a little confused at what had just taken place. I moved forward to the nice lady, we exchanged smiles and hello's. I placed my basket on the counter and as she started to unload my shopping I just could not resist it. Expressing my disgust at the girl's attitude I went into full flow. Should Amy have been older she would probably have walked away with embarrassment. The nice lady went slightly red and commented that she had not seen or noticed the girl's attitude but I made sure I got my message across. I think I might be turning in to Victor Meldrew. But I just cannot stand bad manners, bad customer service and miserable shop assistants who think they are better than you. It does not matter, in my view, how tired the assistant is, how pissed off they are at having to "muck in" or how frustrated they become at a customer, they should always smile and use manners. It doesn't take much. There's plenty venting time at the end of a shift. Don't these people realise that we, the customers, are paying their wages?
Monday, 25 August 2008
Amy sleeps with her lamp on and I imagine would have been terribly shocked to see the huge black, eight-legged creature with eyes as big as saucers and shoes from Clarks traipsing down her wall. It is my own phobia that has heightened Amy's fear of them, something I really am not particularly proud of. I went into her bedroom. Apart from pictures, stickers and various drawings which litter the walls, no spider was in sight. Now, it would have been much easier to tuck Amy into the spare bed but as we have been entertaining friends all weekend they were already in there. No room in our bed; I knew I had to play Tarzan.
"It could be in the bed," said a frightened little voice. Curling my toes and face up at the same time, I pulled back the duvet. Lifted the pillows, threw teddies and toys from the bed on to the small amount of floor that was visible. Nothing. I knew that I myself would never be able to sleep in that bed knowing that a spider was in my vicinity so there was no way I was going to expect Amy to. "Try behind the picture," said the voice. "Which picture?" I asked. "The Hannah Montana poster," the voice replied. This was it. I carefully peeled back the blutack. Revealing one corner, then the next and then..
The picture fell to the bed. And the spider ran. "Oh bugger," I said, rather clumsily in front of my eight year old extremely vulnerable and very easily influenced daughter. "You swore!" she told me. "Get some toilet paper," I said, my voice raising a little. Amy ran off to the bathroom returning with a small piece of tissue. "Not enough, I need lots more," I insisted, my voice raising even more. By this time, Jack the Lad had moved onto the next wall and seemed to be standing still, probably wondering why he had been disturbed mid-sleep. I heard Amy in the bathroom, the toilet roll being turned and turned, no doubt leaving no paper for whoever was first to rise.
She came back with ample sheets. I took them from her and put them over Jack. This was where the spider came to its unfortunate end. Down the toilet. I flushed it. Please swim off, I thought as I made my way back to Amy who was now quite happy to settle down and go back to sleep. Unable to cope with the farmer's grunting any longer I decided to stay and keep Amy company in her bed.
But first I needed the Loo.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
I cannot be sure but I think he joined me on a recent walk I took. For many years I have been superstitious, worried when seeing only one magpie, unable to walk under a ladder, looking amongst millions of clover for one which might have four leaves. Amy wanted a race, just to the end of the driveway where we tend to walk on the farm. She is sensible enough to know that should she go any further it could be dangerous due to a car turning into the farm. She therefore stops and has, over time, called it "the finish line". On this particular walk, I found a little energy from somewhere and began jogging, rather pathetically, towards the finish line knowing full well that Amy on her scooter would easily win. I reached the line, leaning against the gate which leads into our first barley field. We only stayed at this point for a few minutes when I decided to start heading back to the house.
It was at this point when I looked down towards the grass verge. Clover covering most of the area my eyes could see, I stood and stared, not quite believing what I had found. By accident. I know I am a nutcase, a barnpot, a complete head-in-the-clouds-last-cake-in-the-shop kind a'gal but really, a four leaf clover, when I was thinking about the fact that I could really do with a miracle. (I'll tell you about that another day.)
So tell me, are you superstitious? And if so, in what way?
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
She asks for the drink which sits next to my bed. Her tears cease. The words begin again. The fury has been forgotten. The note discarded. I let her have five minutes, just to ensure normality has been resumed. Then I take her back to bed. The place she had been ordered to after such hurtful vocabulary escaped her childish lips. I tuck her in, kiss her, hold her tightly and kiss her again. We assure each other of love stronger than the Universe. I move away, towards her bedroom door. Granddad awaits, his hand poised, ready to blow the final kiss of the day. She cannot go to sleep until this gesture of love has been achieved.
It gets to me sometimes.
Sunday, 17 August 2008
I wonder about her future. Everyday. Some say I shouldn't. Should just get on with living day by day and not worry about the future. How many times I have heard people say "it's what's here and now that's important, the future is ages off," is too many to mention and I can tell you, it does not make me feel any better. But how can I? How can a mother not think about their child's future years, about whether their child will be happy as they grow? I know Amy is happy now and I have no doubt she will be happy in the future because I will do my best to ensure she is. But it is those years ahead in an educational environment that I dwell on most. Her ability to cope in a building that is guaranteed to overwhelm any pupil, let alone one with autism who cannot cope at a children's party where only 15 boisterous heads play musical chairs.
Her current school has few pupils. The main reason I chose it as a foundation to Amy's academic future. The next school which has been looked into, has triple the current amount. High school has around 900 pupils. I, myself, would never cope in such a crowd. Is it fair to expect anyone else to? Especially when one knows it will be nigh on impossible for them to cope. One reason why I worry. So many other reasons spring to mind; reasons that I hope I will deal with when and if they arise.
Spending quality time with Amy during these summer holidays has been and is still, completely wonderful. Each year I see a change in her behaviour, a part of her that has grown and made new discoveries about herself. She has started to ask questions that I find almost impossible to answer. "How do you make babies?" I cannot remember does not quite cut the cloth. "I wish someone would tell me." One day, I will. "I really want a brother or a sister." Have an apple instead. I do not feel ready for such adult conversation with my eight year old daughter. This time, I need support.
But I am not one of those people who can go along to parent classes, talk about my daughter's problems to a bunch of folk sat in a circle and then share a laugh over coffee and a custard cream. I have tried. When Amy was first diagnosed I went to several classes all of which I found no help at all. Every parent was just interested in talking about their own child's difficulties, they could not have cared less about the person with the autistic kid sat to their right. It was a kind of competition as to who could talk the most. You got a few people who did not speak at all and one or two who never kept quiet. And then there was me. An in-between. I wanted to share my story, I longed to tell the strangers who had breezed into my life all about my little girl who doctors said would never have an imagination and would never make decisions. But I couldn't. I did not feel comfortable because I knew it would all be forgotten by the time the kettle had cooled.
I tried talking to the local Health Visitor who was more interested in the view out of our kitchen window. I tried discussing things with the doctor but they kept looking at their watch. My mum does not understand because she does not want to; not her fault, she just won't accept that Amy is autistic. My sister has problems of her own and my brother, well, he thinks Amy will be fine playing football with her cousins on the road when she has no road sense whatsoever. And so I shall go down the route to finding a professional, again. Someone who will understand Amy and appreciate my questions, not just answer them. My big girl deserves the best start in life. And I have every intention of giving her that. But somehow, I cannot see her trying to find her way around a building with a timetable and a bag of books. That is why I worry. Her future is bright; I will give her that too, if it is the last thing I do.
Friday, 15 August 2008
In the meantime, I think I am going positively odd. No comments on that remark, thank you. I now have a TARDIS in my office. Standing at around 6ft 2" high it is big enough to fit the Doctor quite comfortably. Perhaps his head may protrude a little. I cannot help but let my imagination run away with me. Of course it was bought for Amy. But it is a great place to hide. And I quite enjoy looking at it, with just a tiny glint in my eye.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Our friends once more introduced us to a beautiful place, on the west coast; Oban. A wonderful fishing town with a harbour worthy of a ream of film. Large ferries docked to take those who wished to sail to the nearby Island of Mull. We walked around the pleasant town, dining in an upstairs cafe on toasties and hot chocolate with marshmallows. Then we moved on to the nearby Sealife Sanctuary to find fish of all shapes and sizes, young and old. The main attraction were the seals; two born at the Sanctuary and one rescued from the terrors of the ocean. All three creatures adored being the centre of attention, having hoards of visitors watch as they cleverly caught fish from a guiding hand. It was a wonderful place, full of nooks and crannies; woodland walks and a play area from where we had difficulty prising Amy away. And of course a gift shop; our hunger for knick-knacks drove us to the counter with an armful of goodies. In her element, Amy talked of the fresh faces and wide eyes which had pierced my camera lens, a love of exhibition to those who wished to see.
We had taken the usual toys with us and of course Doctor Who dvd's. Neither of us got by without being able to watch David Tennant at least once a day. But there it did not matter if we missed the long coat and scruffy suit. Too much beauty surrounded our vision and apart from the Wednesday when it rained all day, I could not have cared less about my obsession with the Doctor! Nor could I have cared less about television. To go on holiday and spend it doing something you can do at home kind of defeats the object for me.
Good food was on the menu every day. A cosy pub overlooking the beautiful Falls of Dochart in the heart of Killin served a wonderful meal and there, I tasted my first haggis. Perhaps not something I will make a habit of eating but I left a clean plate and enjoyed every bit. The pub was soaked in atmosphere; a huge inglenook fireplace where an elderly dressed mannequin sat rocking in her chair was the focal point as one entered the room, a real fire bursting with flames to add warmth to a dimly lit corner. Good company was part of the deal as conversation continued in its quest to cement a friendship.
I could not believe it when I awoke on Saturday morning. A week had passed so quickly, as it always does when one is getting older. We had done so much, seen so many incredible sights, spent quality time in good company, played with two adorable dogs, eaten good food, walked for miles and spent a fortune. I was relaxed. I felt content, yet sad to be leaving that wonderful place. But I looked forward to the serenity of home. I had missed the farmer. I had missed the dogs and the cat, the pony and the hens, and of course the sheep. I had even missed the aroma of my cherished farm. We look forward to returning to the cottage again next year, a little part of home etched upon my heart.
Sunday, 10 August 2008
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
I would love to share this vast piece of paradise with you. But please do not tell others; it should be kept a secret. It needs to be hidden away from destruction, fenced off, made a national treasure to only the eyes that will appreciate its magnificence. When I am here, home still surrounds my heart. I cannot miss my own Heaven, for I am encased in someone else's. We have already done so much; yet we have only seen a small part of this staggering part of Scotland. I look forward to the rest of this holiday as I continue to soak in splendour.