Hey Now, Haenow, Don’t Dream it’s Over

You all know the song that goes “Last night a DJ saved my life”?

Well, it may be a little extreme but on 14th December 2014, an X Factor winner saved my life. OK, maybe he just cheered me up a bit in reality, but the events leading up to that night meant that winner:- Ben Haenow, will always, ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart.

img_20171207_103140.jpg

*Ben on X Factor, photograph not my own.

Firstly though, let me address the fact that I do, indeed, watch The X Factor. I’m not ashamed. People criticise it, yeah there are novelty acts that slip through every now and then but we’ve got to remember, this is a ” light entertainment ” show aired at a peak time on a Saturday night. The more people talking about it, good or bad, the better. The reason I like it, essentially, boils down to the fact that I love live music. So many times in my life, I’ve been to local pubs and festivals and thought “how have they not hit the big time yet”, or ” its such a shame more people can’t benefit from hearing their voice”. X Factor has become a platform for those very people. I agree, once they hit the live shows, they get a commercial make over and are almost squeezed into a box to conform to what the show thinks they should be. There’s always the ballad diva, the novelty act, the good looking boy with the weakest voice but the voting public of teenage girls will love him. I get it, its pants. However… Remember this, these acts HAVE to sing live EVERY WEEK. They can’t hide behind auto tune. No, not all of them are good. Some look the part, put on the show, but vocally can’t keep it up. On the very, very rarest of occasions, a real talent will slip through. Although I’ve watched every series, I have only ever voted for three acts in the whole time the show has been running. Matt Cardle, Ben Haenow and Louisa Johnson. They all won. Louisa has recently really taken off, with upbeat dance anthems and a duet with Olly Murs. You’d be forgiven for thinking the other two had disappeared off the face of the earth, but you’d be wrong.

I’ve seen Matt Cardle live and his voice is perfection. This is what ex X Factor contestants are used to. Standing on a stage, giving their all to a crowd of people, live. On X Factor, they had a week to learn new songs, they understand delivering a performance. They haven’t been polished and guided through their career with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths. Since winning, Matt has struggled with drink and drug problems, something I don’t condone but can fully understand. You go from Joe Bloggs, painter and decorator, scraping pennies together to get by, to having a record contract, a tour and money overnight. The support isn’t there for them. They choose to go on X Factor to get a break. And that break is instant. Matt checked into rehab, sorted himself and came back with an understated, intimate tour and was moved to tears on stage from the support he still had. Still has. Matt’s albums are mainly self-penned. His voice lends itself to soulful, heart breaking ballads but he’s definitely capable of upbeat too. His X Factor performance of “First time ever I saw your face” was spine tingling.

Matt Cardle, X Factor 2010 winner on tour in Birmingham in 2012. Photograph © me

I was fortunate enough to see Louisa Johnson when she toured with Olly Murs this summer. This is a girl who was just 16 when she auditioned for X Factor. She was studying, rehearsing and performing live every week. That is talent.  Pure and undeniable. Her winners single was a flop and she dropped off the radar after that. That didn’t mean she gave up. Just when people had written her off, she came back with the single “Tears”, a collaboration with Clean Bandit, and firmly established herself as an artist away from the show. She’s taken a more edgy, dancey route and it suits her. This girl too, deserves more recognition than she gets. Her voice is beyond her years.

Olly Murs and Louisa Johnson in 2017. Photograph © me

These three favourite acts of mine to come from the show haven’t even had the biggest success since winning. When you look at the likes of One Direction (who were only ever runners up to Matt Cardle), Little Mix and Leona Lewis, who all have international fame now, you could easily say I’m backing the weakest links. But nope, I have my reasons. And Mr Haenow has earnt my loyalty in a way he’ll never know (unless he reads this blog of course).

So onto 2014, Bens year. From his first audition right through to the final, he was my firm favourite. He had a natural gritty, rocky voice which instantly meant any song he covered sounded different enough from the original and distinctively “Ben”. On screen he came across as a cheeky chappy, white van man, down to earth. Each week he got through he looked genuinely shocked and grateful for the support he was getting. In the final he was up against a sassy, ready made artist in Fleur East. She performed as if she was born to entertain. Firm bookies favourite. But Ben, with renditions of Highway to Hell and Cry me a River both perfectly executed, always had my vote. I always remember the judges telling him how brave he was to sing the first part of “Man in the Mirror” completely acapella, just his voice, raw and exposed.

Now, let me explain my opening comment.

My then husband used to watch X Factor with me. When I say “watch”, he did at least used to be in the same room as me. Albeit on his phone, or his laptop. By 2014, he was aware that Ben was my favourite act that series, but more often than not, he’d be down in the cellar “working” when I was having my Saturday night chill out. Our son was no longer interested in watching TV with Mum and Dad. It became my thing. Watching X Factor on my own. 

The final that year fell on the weekend of 13th/14th December. 

In the early hours of Friday 12th December, I kicked my husband out of our bed where he’d fallen asleep after telling me he no longer loved me, and left me crying downstairs. Yes, while I sat crying, wondering what the hell was going on, what this meant, what happened now… he stayed up in bed, where he’d made the statement after I had said I needed a hug as we approached our first Christmas without my sister, and fallen back asleep so deeply he was snoring. If my memory serves me correctly, at about 2.45am, when I could cry and wonder no more, I went upstairs, woke him up and told him to get out. No man could say he couldn’t hug me because he didn’t love me and hadn’t for two years then stay in our bed and fall back asleep. I didn’t care where he went. 

Since then, a lot of people have said that maybe he couldn’t cope with how he thought I was going to be over Christmas. I’ll let you into a secret. The first Christmas and every one since losing my sister, is crap. No two ways about it. The only person that saw me cry was my husband. The one person that I thought it was safe to cry in front of. The person who had taken vows to protect me. Everyone else saw the brave face. I “got on with it”. I didn’t break down often. When I did it was with him. Turns out, he thought he was being strong for me. He wasn’t. I was strong for myself and my family. He was thinking of himself. Trust me, I’m not being nasty saying that. Comments that have been made since have proved this to me. I’m not cold enough to think my sisters death didn’t effect him too. We’d been in each others families for almost 18 years. I’m not saying he’s heartless, completely. But the thing that has stuck with him the most about my sisters death is the fact they were the same age. To this day he still speaks of her death as a life changing moment for him. How he needed to change his life because life’s too short. Cards on the table, the only change he made was leaving me. And even then he said he hadn’t loved me for two years. Since before my sister passed away. 

I had to phone in sick to work on that Friday, and our son had to take a day off school. Not ideal. I hate calling in sick. I hate letting people down. When I’m genuinely ill I go into work to be sent kicking and screaming home again. Lack of sleep, infact no sleep at all meant I had to take the day off, and our son had woken up and heard it all. There was no blazing row. Just that statement and my following order to get out. On Friday I needed to see my husband and have the inevitable “what now” talk. Long story short. It was over, he moved out. Saturday 13th I was back at work. Admittedly, I found paperwork jobs to keep me busy out back for most of the day. But I was there, doing the job I’m paid to do. That night was the first half of Ben’s X Factor final. The press had pretty much declared Fleur the winner, and although I tuned in, I barely watched as Andrea Faustini was voted off, leaving Fleur and Ben going through to Sundays head to head. I was numb. X Factor no longer seemed important. My life had changed overnight and would never be the same again. Nothing else mattered.

However….

So much did change between 2.45am on Friday morning and that Sunday evening. Although I spent a lot of the time wondering what the hell I was meant to do now, and questioning how it had come to this, seemingly out of the blue, I also took the time to think stuff through, find things out, connect the dots and discover untold truths amongst the outward lies. It really is amazing how hindsight and discovering the truth will turn a situation around. When I should’ve still been mourning my marriage, I was actually starting to feel grateful I was out of it. Truth smacking me round the face, waking me up and forcing me to smell the coffee. Struggling only with how it had taken me so long to see what was going on the whole time. They say love is blind. Love had me blinkered and resigned. The blinkers were now off.

I watched the Sunday night final in bed. Still hurt. Still licking my wounds. Still angry as hell. But already starting to see light at the end of a very instant, very dark tunnel. A tunnel which I zoomed through at break-neck speed thanks to the dangling carrot of truth at the end of it. 

Ben Haenow won the X Factor. My phone was ringing and my best friend S was screaming with joy down it. S had been there first thing the morning after it all happened. She was the Watson to my Sherlock. The left to my right. And she was there for me when I needed her. So was Ben. 

We both loved Ben and when he won, I smiled with genuine happiness for the first time in 3 days. The X Factor winner is so trivial. So unimportant when you look at the bigger picture, but Bens win came at a time when I needed a switch to flip. So soon after my marriage breaking up and despite knowing stuff I hadn’t known three days earlier, I was still having conflicting feelings. I’m not cold hearted. I didn’t instantly stop caring about what I’d lost, what I had, what I was to do now. I got stronger as the minutes passed but I wasn’t about to go out celebrating anytime soon. Bens win made me smile. And the smile didn’t feel out of place on my face at a time where most people would probably still be wallowing under the covers in bed and crying themselves to sleep.  New Years eve, which I spent at another friends house, was the real “fuck this shit I’m not crying anymore” moment for me, but Bens win showed me that I would be fine. I knew, deep down that I would be, but after being with the same guy from when I just turned 20, was I sure?

I distinctly remember my ex calling our son the next day and one of his comments was “I bet your Mum was pleased that her favourite won X Factor”.  My son sheepishly answered yeah, still feeling awkward, confused and not understanding what was going on. That moment was the start of a pattern. No matter how little or how much time passes, what I do, where I go, who I see and how I feel will always be asked of our son. Just because I’m no longer loved, the control is still needed, craved, as if some kind of invisible puppet strings are still attached to me. As the time does go on, however, it’s become easier to ignore. Genuinely, his loss. His problem if he can’t let go. All I did was love him, and want him to love me back. Lesson learnt, I’m not sure he ever truly did. 

Anyway, I digress. Ending on a happy note, its only fitting that December, the worst month of the year for me, has this year, become the month I met Ben Haenow. After buying tickets as a birthday present for S, we attended the gig, the first of his tour, looking forward to fun times with our bestie and a sing a long. We didn’t have VIP meet & greet tickets so when we got in and had a browse at the merchandise, imagine our joy to see Ben just stood there,taking time to personally greet everyone. Even when he was notified he had to go ready for the support act, he still had time to pose for a couple of cheeky selfies and indulge us with a hug and kiss. The gig was amazing. Ben sang songs from his album, new releases and very new material. He was entertaining, enigmatic on stage and his voice was as wonderful as I’d remembered. It was a small venue, and it felt like he was aware of every one in the crowd. Putting on a winners performance.

Ben was buzzing, S and I were happy.

If you read this Ben:- Thank You! I kinda love you. 

Photograph courtesy of S

Photograph © me

Advertisements

Its the most wonderful* time of the year..(*Difficult)

6th November 1974- 28th December 2013

Every year this is it. Since 2013, I have dreaded the run up to Christmas. A time of cheer for most people. 

6th November is when the build up starts. Almost two months of not knowing how I’m going to feel one day to the next. 

6th November 2017 was my sisters 43rd birthday. 

Except she wasn’t here to celebrate it with us. Instead, she’s permanently stuck at 39 years and a little under two months old. The age she was when she passed away on December 28th 2013. Those of you following my blog know the story. After seeing her happy and well on Christmas Day, three days later she was gone. Suddenly and without warning. This is the fourth birthday she’s not been here with us. Each year I feel the need to write something. They say that time is a healer. Time hasn’t changed the way this day makes me feel. It has however, changed the way I deal with it. 

The night before, I signed off social media for 24 hours. Not only as a mark of respect, but because I couldn’t handle seeing people post birthday wishes on my sisters timeline. I didn’t want them not to post. I’m not offended by them. Its quite the opposite. I’m proud that my sister was such a loved person, that people still want to pay their respects in such a universally accepted way. So many people, all over the country, have held my beautiful sister, and myself and our family too, in their thoughts. I did read the messages, but the following day. Not on the day. Its also not because I didn’t want to cry. I cry too easily at the best of times. I didn’t want to see them because I didn’t want to see it in black and white that so many people are hurting that she’s not here. I still question how and why she had to go. My sister was a kinder, more gentle and loving soul than me. I’m no saint, my sister was. Hated conflict, not a bad bone in her body and loved hard. Probably too much. She was selfless and never put herself first even when we told her she should. 

I took the day off work, as I have done every year since she went. This year however, was the first time the day hadn’t been planned out. I knew only one thing when I woke, and that was that at some point today I’d be seeing my parents. 

My son going off to school woke me, and after a garbled, half asleep goodbye, I lay awake in bed for at least another hour. Eyes open, staring at the ceiling. Not happy. Not sad. Nothing. Just numb. I thought about my three gorgeous nephews. I wondered if they’d be reminded of the date. Unfortunately, family politics means I don’t see those amazing boys anywhere near as much as I want to (not a situation I’ll ever cover in a blog). I do know that they are thriving, and when I do get time with them, I cherish it.  They are a credit to my sister. Grounded boys who appreciate what they have and never take anything for granted. I love them with all my heart and I wish things could be different, but I am immensely proud of them. 

I got through the day, so did my parents, like we have done every year since we lost her. We have to. We have responsibilities. I have my son. I don’t have the luxury of being able to lie in bed wallowing all day. And nor do I want to. My motto now is life is too short. It really fucking is. By taking the day off work I worry I give people the impression that that’s exactly what I do wanna do, waste the day being sad and upset. The day before I had lots of messages of well wishes on Facebook, but only a couple of people contacted me on the day. Yes, I may cry when I talk about my sister on her birthday, but its OK. Its natural. Its healthy. You don’t have to feel guilty for mentioning her. I haven’t and don’t want to forget about her. I take the day off to respect her memory in my own way. I want to laugh and I want to cry. When I laugh I don’t want to feel bad about being alive and enjoying life. When I cry I don’t want people to feel its got me down. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate someone’s life.  Just be. Whatever I did or felt on her birthday was right for me. 

I got taken out for lunch by my other half. 

My son and I visited my parents after school. 

Life carries on for those of us carrying the memories of her. 

Nothing spectacular happened. Nor was the day wasted. It was just normal. Our normal. As normal as it can be when you can’t see your sister on her birthday. 

However, as I said at the start of this post, this marks the start of the Christmas countdown. Christmas Day 2013 being the last time I saw her. And then the anniversary of her passing on 28th. These days are the hardest. These days are the ones I dread. Please also remember, just a little under a year later, my marriage broke down. My already small family was decreasing by the year. Still an act I’ll never quite forgive. Hindsight means I know the marriage was stale and no longer making me happy. However, to end it under the circumstances he did, in the run up to the year anniversary, was cowardly and nasty in equal measure. Despite that raw emotion, I know that facing and getting through that first anniversary without him showed me that the strength I had to get through losing her in the first place was all mine. He was never really there for me. I thought I needed him. I saw what I thought was support, when in reality he was already writing a story to use against me. And an accusation that I was using her death as an excuse for too long. An excuse for what, I never did find out.

Christmas day is awash with well wishers. My real emotion gets hidden by a pretty dress and perfectly applied make up. Make up that gets reapplied several times as the tears wash it off as soon as its applied. By the time I’m ready to face the world on Christmas Day, it will be blissfully unaware of the routine I’ve just put myself through. I worry that pictures I post of a happy, smiling family will be seen by the wrong people, who will snidely comment that we “look fine” and if we say otherwise, we are playing the victim again. I’m not a victim. I’m strong. And I will fight for my honour no matter how many times I’m knocked down. 

I don’t claim that my life and what I’ve been through is worse than anyone else’s. I know there are people who have, and still are, dealing with worse than me. My life is OK in comparison. I just have an overactive brain that struggles to deal with so much in a short space of time. I kinda wanna talk about it over and over yet not speak any words at the same time. Verbally I can’t find the words. I guess that’s why I write. 

Today I told a colleague that I wish I could remove my brain and rewire it to neutral before putting it back in. I sometimes wish I didn’t feel. I always wish I didn’t over think. I’ve been broken. I have my weak points. 

I guess the point of this blog is just to explain a few things. At this time of year, I may look like I’m coping. Essentially I am. I get up, go to work, cook, eat, clean (I’ve missed out sleep on purpose. Sleep is a luxury my brain never allows me to have much of). But I’m struggling too. Silently. There’s always something going on in my head. And shall I be really, really honest with you all? Sometimes, it really cripples me. I mean physically, too. My paranoia heightens when I feel like this. I want to be out enjoying myself, making the most of every single day I’m alive. For about 90% of the time I do, but it takes effort. The other 10% of the time it completey consumes me. I lack motivation from the second I wake. I’ve wasted days doing nothing. Staring at my phone.  Binge watching series on Netflix then realising I haven’t a clue what’s going on as I haven’t taken in the dialogue. I don’t want to see or speak to anyone. Yet I crave attention, a text, a message, something to remind me that I’m not burying myself in a hole to the point where noone else can see me, and they eventually forget about me and move on without me, and stop asking if I’m OK…

I get invited out to things, and I want to go, I really, really do, but sometimes the effort involved to slap on that brave face is harder than just being honest and saying “I’m not up to it”. I don’t need to lie, I’m hoping those asking understand all this anyway. When I’m feeling like this, it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to go out drinking all night. I want to feel. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to think. I just hope my actions don’t kill any friendships I have. Offer me coffee and cake and mindless chatter.  A movie night in. Come with me to watch a live band where conversation about how I’ve been is impossible. I don’t need you to ask how I’m doing. I just need you to be there. I can’t talk about it. All this that I’m writing doesn’t come out when I speak. You’ll only get ” yeah, you know, I’m OK”.

I don’t want drunken nights out where you can’t even remember how you wasted £30. I want to make sober, new memories doing things I love with people I love. And absolutely not talk about me.

A phrase I hear a lot these days is “It’s OK to not be OK”. Mental health issues are understood a lot more these days than ever before. Again, as previously mentioned, I don’t claim to have depression or a mental health concern, but I can relate to the quote above in regards to it. We all deal with things in our own way. There is no right or wrong. After the initial numbness of the morning of 6th November, I remember laughing to the point of tears at lunchtime. That doesn’t mean I was “over” it by lunchtime. It wasn’t disrespectful to my sisters memory to laugh on that day. Anyone who saw me laughing could be mistaken for not believing that I carry such weight on my mind 24/7. My pain isn’t physical. Search and you’ll find no scar. Ask me any day of the year if I have any siblings and I will always tell you I had an older sister. “Had”. The hardest word to speak. It will never sit right with me that now, at the age of 40, and every birthday I celebrate from now on, I will be older than my older sister. That’s not something you can explain to a stranger, anyone you meet for the first time when they innocently ask. Human nature means most people feel guilt when asking a question about a partner/relative/friend to find out they are no longer with us. The automatic response is ” I’m sorry”. Don’t be sorry. I’m not sorry I had a sister. You weren’t to know when you asked. I don’t mind talking about her. I just can’t talk about how I still feel years after losing her. 

So, again, my yearly reminder. You can talk to me about anything you want. I can hear you, I just may not feel very chatty with my response. Be patient with me. I’ll come for that drink when I’m up to it. There’s no need to ask me if I’m OK, I’ll only tell you that I am whether I am or not. I deal with things in my head. I just need to know you’ll still be there when my brain takes a break. I don’t need you to try and fix me. I just need you. Be there on the rare occasion I do talk, but more importantly, be there when I say nothing at all. 

Finally… To all the people I’ll encounter in my job over what’s meant to be the happy, festive season:- you don’t know me. I don’t know you. I am just doing my job. Shout at me and I’ll be civil and polite and professional back to you. Just rest assured, if you push my buttons on a day where necessity means I have to slap on that brave face when I really want to be in bed staring at a screen, on one of those “10%” days, I’ll be crying in the office after. 

You’ll never see it. You’ll never know. 

Be kind.

Always.

Pass the script, I’ve lost the plot.

Its time to set the record straight.

Dear strangers,

Whatever you’ve heard about me is not true.

From me.

Unfortunately, the straightening of said record will never reach its target audience. And I’ll have to live with that. My blogs have been nothing but honest. Nothing but my feelings and experiences. There are two sides to every story, and I believe its about time a bit more of mine was told.

Trust me. I don’t ask for drama. I just want to get on with a quiet, happy life! 

I had four odd holiday days to use up and wanted to take two of them this side of Christmas, and the other two after. I randomly chose 15th and 16th September, and took Sunday 17th as a day off, giving myself a rare weekend off. This was a week where noone else had any holiday booked. As good a week as any.

I don’t think my choice was as random as I first thought it was. I think it was my subconscious telling me to take stock of what’s going on and to take back some control. 

Saturday 16th September 2017 would’ve been my 17th wedding anniversary. Would’ve been, if the man I married in 2000 hadn’t told me in December 2014 that he no longer loved me, and hadn’t for two years. 

Of course, I hadn’t forgotten this date. It was weird in 2015, it barely registered in 2016, so 2017 should’ve been almost insignificant, right?

Wrong.

I woke up Saturday morning thinking maybe I shouldn’t have booked off this weekend. Its fair to say a lot of emotions rushed through me. I felt a bit of a failure, what had I done wrong, why did he stop loving me? Of course I’ve since realised that the “love” stopped when my tolerance and naivety about his behaviour did. I then felt anger. Angry that I’d “wasted” the best part of 1997 through to 2014 with the wrong person. The anger soon dispersed when I heard my 14 year old son clattering around in his room. He is the reason it was all worth it. However, I did too feel stupid. Stupid for sticking with it for so long and not ending it myself. I wasn’t happy. I spent the last few years feeling unloved, lonely, unattractive and I’d started to become suspicious and lies were unfolding. That quickly turned to pride. I made marriage vows that I intended to keep. Good times and bad. I was also proud of how I had handled myself since the split. I didn’t talk about any of this for over a year after he left, despite a very active smear campaign against my character on his part. I only talk about it now because there are only so many straws a camels back can take. I didn’t need to resort to lies. I knew the truth, and at the time I had to trust that everyone else would see it soon enough too. The things I heard about myself were dramatic enough to make an EastEnders script. I stayed silent. 

Perhaps the only emotion I didn’t feel on Saturday morning was sorrow. I wasn’t sad. I didn’t miss it. I didn’t want it back. The time off gave me time to think, and reflect upon exactly what I’ve put up with and how far I’ve come. To finally prove to myself that it really shouldn’t matter what strangers thought of me..

However, I’ve mentioned before how hard it is to not care what people, mostly those strangers, believe about you. They’ve been painted a picture of you from one persons twisted mind and that’s the only picture they’ll ever get to see. To try and get you to see how it feels, I have a task for you. 

Go grab a gossip magazine. You know the type I mean. 

Chat. Take a Break. Woman’s Own. 

Now I want you to read all the “real life” stories. Also the readers letters. Perhaps even the Dear Deirdre page. Next, substitute the name of the main negative character/the villian-if you like, in these articles with your own name. Imagine that there are enough similarities and factual occourances in these articles that even you start to wonder if the stories are, in actual fact, about you.

Then, you realise that hundreds, thousands of people that you don’t know,  are reading these articles that refer to you, and they are believing them. Even though they don’t know you, this will now be what they think of you, and you’ll never, ever have the opportunity to correct them, or change their mind. 

Welcome to my life.

Its being written for me.

Believe it all and you’ll think I live my life like a soap opera. The only place where the ridiculous stories I hear about myself actually take place on a regular basis. I wonder if Adam Woodyatt forgets how to be Adam when someone else is writing a life for him as Ian Beale.

You know the saying “you couldn’t make it up”? Well, my  script writer has been there, done that and proudly wears the T-shirt.

I’ve read so many stories centred round my life, that my reality seems mundane and boring! 

The soap opera scripts don’t stop there. I also suffer hang ups over things people have said about me to me. When my relationship ended with alley cat, we tried to remain friends. In a previous blog I’ve mentioned how one sided it was and I made the choice to let it go. Along with finding out some truths about him stringing several women along and attempting to get money out of them, I sent him a message saying “I’ve been told what’s going on, that’s it, I want no part of it” and he promptly accused me as “being the same as all the others”. In fact I was branded a back stabber. It hurt. I hadn’t got involved with what was being said about him. I gave him chance after chance despite him taking me for granted and walking all over me. He had wronged me , yet I was being made out to be the bad one. 

Why does it keep happening to me?

Am I guliable? Easy to manipulate? Still so unwilling to see anything but good in people? Stay quiet for too long when not happy that I end up just putting up with things so as not to rock the boat?

My friends tell me that those that matter know the truth. That karma will come around! Well, maybe I’m done waiting because, even though I know they’re right, I still worry about what complete strangers think is true about me. Its fucking hard.

So, back to that anniversary weekend.

Fresh from hearing a little story that told how I apparently have ” no ambition”, I was faced with a weekend off with nothing to do. My son had plans. My partner was working. 

The same weekend, my home town was hosting a music festival. Live music at various venues across the city centre. My friend L was photographing the event, but she was having to cover as many bands as possible so if I bumped into her it would be more down to chance than planning. So, I decided to go on my own on the Saturday and Sunday.

Armed with just my compact digital camera and my best “I don’t give a shit” attitude, I decided where I was going to go and for the first time ever, I walked into a pub on my own where I had no intention of meeting someone for a drink, and stood and watched the whole set performed by one of the artists at the festival. 

On my own. 

Little, unambitious, lazy, unstable, thieving, selfish, bitch faced me*

 *(if you believe the stories!) 

Setting the record straight, I am none of those things. 

I took a few photos, I went to a few more venues, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Noone around me knew me, noone had read or heard anything about me. And it felt good. I was just me. And that was OK.

I was back writing my own story.

But as always, it was short lived. 

I started this blog wondering, what do they gain from spreading lies about me? They don’t even get to witness the impact of what they say as I very rarely retaliate unless my sons involved.

Nothing. They just can’t help it. Its a game to them. For them to feel good, feel big, they must bring down those around them.

My own life has enough natural ups and downs that I really don’t feel the need to embellish it to make it, or me, seem more exciting. I also don’t feel the need to lie about someone else to try and make their life harder for my own pleasure . I don’t imagine I have a lifestyle anyone would be envious of. I don’t need people to look up to me. The fact that someone, anyone, would need to make up lies about others and themselves screams to me that THEY are not happy. Someone has suggested that maybe they are jealous of my new life, because theirs is still based on lies. That someone also thought that maybe they’d never really gotten over me, and hated the fact I seemingly moved on so quickly. I’m not sure and I don’t want to know.

Trouble is, I’m not dealing with just a bitter, envious person. 

I’m dealing with a narcissist.

Narcissists have a need to be centre of attention, and they need people to like them, to feed them and supply them. They’ll tailor their lies to specific audiences, partners, business associates, whatever, in order to get them on side so that ultimately they can control them. Some never see through the lies, and will happily go along with the narcissist and do their bidding. I’ve learnt because trust me, I’ve done the research, these are referred to as “flying monkies”.  There are some, like me for several years,  that start to get suspicious but put up with it because they don’t want to believe none of it was ever real. These are the ones that supply the narcissist with drama. By this stage, the narc will know exactly what buttons to press to get a reaction, and can cleverly manipulate the “victim” into thinking THEY are the ones in the wrong. They have spent years learning about you, promising you the best, subconsciously moulding you in order to eventually use all they know about you, against you. They’ll convince you that its all in your head and that you are going mad if you say anything. They’ll successfully reign in their true nature for long enough to make you think it was just a blip and it’ll all be fine. Anything you do is never good enough.

 Then there are those who see the lies, can no longer take it and confront the narcissist about them. As soon as the narc thinks you’re onto them, they will drop you and start telling the world what they’d tried to convince you, that it is in fact YOU that’s the bad guy. You are mentally unstable. Even after the relationship ends with a narc, the abuse won’t. They’ll move on to their next “supply” but while things are rosy for a while with them as they build up their story, they’ll still be fishing for the drama from you. There’s no real reason for it. Dragging you down to make themselves look better is just a game. An ego boost. A power trip. They start the smear campaign to belittle you. Trying to show the flying monkies how it was you that made their life hell. They thrive on “oh how awful, poor you, you’re the better person because of it”.

 The battle to keep my dignity and pride intact is ongoing. Strange really, as I have an awesome group of friends here that can see right through it all, so that should be all that matters. But there’s still a growing number of people in a different city, and honesty, probably across the country now,that think the worst of me. It doesn’t matter to them. They’ll never meet me. 

It matters to me. I never know from one week to the next what I’ve apparently done now. Or what fictitious misdemeanor of mine has prompted a particular outburst. I guess yes, it plays a part in my paranoia, how could it not? I am so the opposite of what some strangers think I am. I’m not nasty or malicious, I don’t want to be centre of attention and I certainly don’t want everyone to know my personal business. Unfortunately, I can’t just throw away the script and start again. The script isn’t even in my own hands. What I do need to do, is being braver and writing my own spin off series. One which has a twist in the tale and exposes the truth in a clever way that leaves the viewers gasping and saying “oh I didn’t see that coming, now it all makes sense”.  Because, you see, the trouble with lies is remembering what you’ve told to who and keeping up the continuity of the story. Things will start to not add up. Doubt about the story will start to creep in, to the point where the person being told the lies starts to take whatever the storyteller says, with a pinch of salt.

It may be a long, drawn out storyline, but I’m in for the long haul now, I have no choice. I don’t want revenge, as such, I just want to clear my name. Pick it up out of the mud its been dragged through and restore it to its former glory (albeit a little rusty, hey, I’m not saying I’m perfect here!)

I’m only 40, I’m hoping I have a good few years for the story to unfold. Hey, I’m even holding out for a documentary here.. You know those “truth exposed” ones you get on random Sky channels. You never know, anything can happen in my story. And it usually bloody does!

It’s not you, it’s not even me. Its, erm, Complicated…?

I can see the headline now…“Instant Messaging Apps Fed My Paranoia”



I feel the need to apologise to everyone who currently knows me.

I’ve touched on my paranoid,over thinking mind before,and I even went as far as saying I no longer stress and worry about what people think. However that isn’t entirely true. 

When something “changes”, I assume the worst. My track record proves I’m usually right. That’s a hard feeling to shake.

I still worry. 

I’m still paranoid. 

I’ll still doubt you.  

I’ll still over analyise things. 

Its not your fault. Trust me though, its not really mine either. I wasn’t always this way. I’ve been broken, and although I’m essentially fully healed, there’s still a weak point. Certain situations balance precariously on that weak spot and, yes, it means I “have my moments”. Please, understand them and bear with me.  I am a better, stronger, more confident version of myself than I ever have been before. And, as much as I’m less tolerant of bullshit and being treated like crap, my good nature, and need to try and find the good in people and situations that really do have no good in them, still lingers. Its who I am. I care too much. Because of this, I struggle to remember not everyone is like me.

And here’s a confession for you. A blog exclusive, if you like.

I struggle to let go of things that were once so good but no longer are. My mind doesn’t accept that its often better to draw a line completely than try and salvage some of what once was, in order to cling onto a good memory. Now, this isn’t because I want things to be the same, or want someone back. Far from it. It isn’t every situation either. My marriage was so stale, and the good times were so long ago and so overshadowed by the bad times and revelations, that I successfully let go quicker than even I thought possible. And I have no problem moving on. No, the reason is because I don’t want something that was so meaningful to me to appear to mean nothing to them.

If you’ve read previous blogs of mine, you will be forgiven for jumping to conclusions and expecting me to go ” I’ve been cheated on, I don’t trust anyone “. I’m not going to. Yes. It played a part but it goes deeper than that. It goes deep into the depths of my self doubt and my own head. So, why am I saying its not me? Well, if it was me, paranoia would’ve played a part in my whole life and it hasn’t. If I was to try and pin point when it started, I’d say 2 years and 6 months ago. AFTER my marriage ended. 

When I started dating the person I ended up marrying, neither of us had mobile phones. Contact was made using an old fashioned land line, a couple of evenings a week. We both worked in town so it was easy to pop along and see each other at lunch time if we wanted to.  We got our first mobile phones together, but by that point we were living together. There was no chance to build up a routine of ” contact”.  I had no chance to start wondering “why haven’t I heard from him!”.

18 years later when I become single again, times have changed. I initially started talking to the guy I ended up dating just after my marriage broke up, G, on Facebook. Messenger has this handy little way of bobbing a persons picture down next to a message you’ve sent to show they have indeed read the message. Then it would conveniently show a wobbling “…” to indicate they were replying. Our messenger conversations had a very definate  start and finish. I wasn’t left hanging. We’d say goodnight and that would be it till one of us said “Morning”. We soon awkwardly exchanged numbers in my shop, remember G worked in the shopping centre where my workplace was located, and constant messaging commenced. I’m sure you’re all thinking my god she’s obsessive, but it genuinely was him more than me. He’d walk past my shop and wave, and by the next time I had chance to check my phone, he’d sent about five messages. I loved it. I thrived on it. In the later years of my marriage I wasn’t made to feel attractive. I actually told my then husband that I felt he would rather be anywhere but home with me and although he denied it, I knew how it was wrong that he’d come home later and later and then go straight to his ” office” in the cellar (how right was I in the end!?). I had sensed I was losing him, and despite his insistance it was all in my head, I was right. And he told me he hadn’t loved me for two years. So, he lied too. Now, I had a man texting me with things like “although my eyes are watching my boys play football, my mind is on you”. How is a girl not meant to love that!?!  After a few days of not seeing me, he’d tell me how much he missed me. Heading home after evenings at his, he’d message saying he wished I hadn’t had to go.  His favourite phrase in broken English was ” why you so lovely?”.  I got used to it. I got attached to the contact. No end or beginning to conversations, just a never ending stream of messages that only paused when we were together. I hadn’t had that kind of attention, hadn’t felt so wanted, in a very, very long time. Due to working in maintenance, he had early and late shifts to do work out of hours, but he gave me his time and made effort.

After a while together, his messaging habits changed. I’d not get a morning text if he was on an early shift. He stopped saying he missed me. Messages were ended with a “x” rather than “xxxx”. My work mates said it was normal. It couldn’t possibly keep up the way it was. My rational mind agreed, but my paranoid mind thought, and knew,better. It had changed without warning. I’m very, very intuitive. What was right..? Rational mind or paranoid mind? Two weeks after I felt things had changed, he ended things. The whole its not you, its me, routine. My paranoid mind was right. It had been fuelled with being right, so my inclination to trust my gut feeling rather than be rational dug its heels in and stands firmly by my side to this day. G adamantly promised he wanted to keep a friendship, so I tried and quickly realised it was only me making the effort. For months after, I kept a few special text messages from him locked on my phone. It was clear he didn’t treasure our time together as much as I did. That hurt. That made my paranoia look at it all differently and doubt what we had. When your paranoia is right about a feeling, its hard to ignore when it crops up again. It took me ages to delete those texts, even after I started online dating.

The good thing about texting though, was that you were never really sure if a message had been read. You know, I’ve since realised this ignorance is bliss. 

My next relationship was the alley cat musician. Meeting online meant I had no way of knowing he’d read messages until he replied. Sure, you could pay for membership to allow you to see when messages had been read, but I wasn’t quite at that stage yet! We exchanged numbers on my birthday, a week after we’d started chatting. Texts were consistent till our first date, then completely ramped up after meeting, again, on his part more than mine. When he went to Italy for three weeks he said it’d be hard to keep in touch daily, but I heard from him way more than I expected to. One particular text exchange went as follows:-

D:- I’m so excited xx

Me:- About what? Xx

D:- Us xx

How is a girl meant to respond to that? I was giddy with excitement. Remember my blog about the power of words? They need to be used wisely. You don’t use simple words like that if you have no intention of following through. Maybe I’m gullible….? I know I cling to such words. Words are my thing, remember. Use them on me and be warned, I’ll fall for it every time.

 After Italy, I got a new phone which enabled me to install WhatsApp, something he’d been asking me to do since we got numbers. Word of warning, WhatsApp is not good for a paranoid person. It was the beginning of the end for mine and Ds relationship. 

WhatsApp has 3 indicators for the status of a message.

1 grey tick- message has been received by WhatsApp server. (The recipients phone is likely off, out of signal or service is down if it remains on this for a while)

2 grey ticks- message has been sent to recipients phone but has not yet been read.

2 blue ticks- message has been read by recipient.

Added to this, you can see if someone is online. If they haven’t changed their settings, you can potentially see WHEN they were last on. You can even check what time a message was read. WhatsApp is creating stalkers! 

This is what a paranoid mind sees.

1 grey tick- the person has blocked you.

2 grey ticks- they’ve got it, why haven’t they read it? Are they ignoring me, they’ve been online since I sent it!!

2 blue ticks- they’ve seen it. They’re not typing. They are ignoring me. Its been an hour since they read it.  Oh, they are online now…. Nope, still not replying. I’ll send them another just in case… 

D would often go AWOL for whole evenings , with messages not even reaching his phone. I’d wake the next morning to find he’d read them at some ungodly hour of the morning but still not replied. Even after nights we were due to see each other. I’d send a rant. Which would get ignored.  I’d get paranoid that if I didn’t message him, he’d think I’d stopped caring and then he’d never message and I’d lose him anyway. I’d send another to be told “I’m not getting into an argument, you’re pushing me away”. The original messages long since losing their meaning. It infuriated me. When I tried the same tactics with him, he turned nasty on me! We never really broke up. I just gave up. He never explained nor apologised just kept telling me I was wrong. Maybe I was too much, but come on…. He’s meant to be coming to see me but his phone remains off all night…..?? I think I had every right to rant! I’d go on and on at him, like poking a bear hoping for a reaction. The more he didn’t reply, the more I went on. He told me on numerous occassions that I was pushing him away. Truth be told, I’d long given up on him but he kept telling me to ” give him time” and I so desperately wanted the “I’m so excited” text exchange to be real. 

Also, because I care too much, I worry unreasonably. On one particular night I was meant to be visited by D and he went AWOL, I woke up to the news that a man in his 40s had fled the scene of a car accident in the early hours of the morning, leaving his passenger who was in his 20s stuck in the wreckage. I knew that an ex band mate of Ds  was returning to his native country that day, so my worried paranoid mind convinced me that D had offered to give his mate a lift to the airport and the crash was them. Trust me, a mind like mine can go there. I felt sick as the day went on. Much later in the afternoon, he sees the messages, even ones telling him about the crash and my assumption. I guessed he was at least alive. Or dying in a ditch! He doesn’t reply. I rant. That night he messages to say he got drunk at a mates and stayed there. No acknowledgement of what he’d put me through. 

We remained friends for a while after, with him insisting I was one of his best friends and he trusted me, but when the ignoring continued and it was only ever me putting the effort in, I realised I had to let go. I tried telling him it was a pointless, one sided friendship and I got told I didn’t understand. That he was “sorting his life out”. Because I cared, I felt I couldn’t let him down. So he got chance after chance but nothing changed. How could a man once so ” excited about us” care so little now? I clung onto the hope he’d get sorted and a friendship would remain. It was pointless. I forced myself to let go. He begged to talk to me to explain himself, but I was done. He accused me of being “like all the others”. That hurt, because I care what people think of me. Even though I was cutting him loose, I didn’t want his parting impression of me to be negative. I battled with myself over the need to rant and justify myself to him. Truth is, he didn’t care, so I shouldn’t. Ignoring his plea to explain himself was probably the first time I ever went against my nature. I sometimes wonder what he’s doing now, but I know he’s probably putting some poor person through the same again. 

This paranoia doesn’t just haunt me in relationships, it extends to friendships and other situations too. I’m currently organising a charity fundraising gig so have been messaging venues and bands. I’m shy on the phone, I can get my point across using the written word so much better. Again, social media apps and instant messaging let’s me know if an enquiry has been read. Sure, I don’t expect immediate replies, but to not answer, EVER? Rude! My feeling is this, if you can take 5 seconds to open an app and read a message, you can surely take two more to type ” yes” “no” or “message u later”. As a result of my own paranoia, I try really really hard to not open a message and let it be seen as read until I can grant a reply. Although I realise not everyone is as obsessive about it as me! 

I’ve said before though, I’m paranoid because I care. Because the person or situation is important to me. I’m sorry. I can’t help it! Its not because I dont trust you, its because I’m scared I’ve done something wrong. I know, I know, the more I bother you, the more likely it is that I’ll end up doing exactly what I’ve been worried about doing!

So, If I’ve asked you a question and I know you’ve seen that question but haven’t answered for a few hours… My mind will go through one, some or all of the following:-

They’re ignoring me

I’ve pissed them off

Oh God they’re dead

I shouldn’t of asked that

I’ve upset them

They’re somewhere they shouldn’t be

They don’t know how to answer, it must be bad.

Paranoia is very, very real. It verges on anxiety. There are many levels. I’m not at the delusional stage. I’m not claiming I have a mental illness either, because, believe me, I know people that have and its way more than what I feel and experience. And I’m not paranoid in a negative way, not really. I’m only paranoid in those situations that are important to me. With the people I am, or have been, close to. Perhaps I have pushed people away in the past. Although my gut feeling tells me if my genuine concern and worry could push them away, maybe they don’t deserve my friendship after all and they were infact wanting to walk away from me for other reasons, just used my guilable nature and turned it against me. If I think you’ve stopped talking to me, I’m not angry at you, I’m worried I’ve done something to cause it! 

I jokingly tell the people who come into my life that I get paranoid. Truth is, its no joke.

My current partner and I don’t live together. I’m grateful he’s not a techy geek. Simple texts is all we have. No read receipts. A vague enough routine for me not to endlessly stress that I’ve said the wrong thing. 

Remember how much words mean to me.

Don’t promise me the world, and leave me waiting for the journey of a lifetime.

Don’t say you’ll get back to me, then leave me hanging.

Don’t tell me you’re excited, then show no evidence of it.
I wasn’t always like this. Maybe one day I won’t be again. If I haven’t driven you all crazy by then!

F.R.I.E.N.D.S  Who’ll be there for u? 

Let me ask you a question.

How many friends do you have? 

Now, I don’t mean how many people would join you on a drunken night out full of fun and laughter, or shopping sprees and lunches out. I could fill a room with acquaintances  with a bit of planning. I mean those that, even though you rarely speak, let alone see each other, would drop everything if you needed them at short notice. Friends that understand all the factors in your life that make you seem like an unsociable waste of time. I work full time. My son lives with me full time. I don’t have an awful lot of spare cash. I only get to see my partner once, occasionally twice a week, so no, I’m not free on the one night everyone else seems to be. I can be a boring bugger for whom the literal meaning of Netflix and chill is often what I want to do. On my own. If I was my friend, I wouldn’t put up with me.

So, real friends. What are they? What do they do to earn the title? 

I can honestly say, I can count on one hand the people that I class as those that put up with being my friend, a true friend, despite all the above. Five people, spanning my 40 years on this planet. The longest I’ve known for 23 years, the shortest I met this year. 

During school, I was quite shy. I had a very small group of friends, most are still in touch now, two of them are Godparents to my son. It was a small group, and that’s what I was comfortable with. I had classmates. People you’d walk from one lesson to the next with. I was neither bullied nor popular. I just, was. My childhood was wonderful. Easy even. Parents still married, both working, we had regular holidays. Nothing happened that needed me to think about who was there for me in a crisis. I got along with people, but noone new was added to my circle of friends. Then, as I still am today, I was happy with my lot. Never felt I needed more. 

At college, I had to become a little braver! Only one person from my school was going to Art College that I had classed as a friend, and even she was doing a completely different course to my Fine Art & Design. Lunchtimes we would seek each other out, but we had to make new friends. She was more sociable than me. If someone didn’t make an effort with me, I wouldn’t start a conversation. 

One of the first friendships I made at college was with an outgoing, chatty girl from Bangladesh. We had nothing much in common apart from drawing but she was the loud to my quiet. She helped my confidence but she soon switched courses and went to do Textiles leaving me back to square one. We’d catch up lunchtimes, but my days were looking lonely. I was left sat on a table with two guys who had become friends with each other. One of them was a deep thinking, sarcastic guy with a rather bleak outlook on life,  the other a bit more outgoing. I kind of ended up becoming the third wheel in their friendship, but grew particularly close to the deep thinker. After a while, we became inseparable. At lunchtimes we’d escape to the local park for him to have a smoke, and we’d talk and talk. People assumed we were an item. We weren’t and I didn’t see it going that way at all. I was so blooming grateful to find someone who accepted me for the way I was and was happy to just keep me company. I did a two year course at Art college, and the majority of that was spent with this guy. Until, everything changed. Valentines Day came around, and he asked my advice about telling a girl he liked her. I did the whole “you’ll never know if you don’t tell her” and “the worst she can say is no”. Supportive friend and all that. Now reading this you can probably see where this is going. I didn’t, at the time. Maybe because this guy was the first close male friend I’d ever had. I saw no attraction from him, nor did I feel any towards him, so when he replied ” in that case”, while producing a card and a rose from his backpack, I really quite honestly didn’t know what to say or do. Actually I can’t remember what I did do. Perhaps I’ve blocked it out of my mind. All I know is, even though I was keen to keep the friendship, it didn’t last. Well, not in the same way. A trip to Belgium was imminent, and I wanted to be in a room with my friend from Bangladesh. However, her new textiles friends didn’t want me in the room because, and I quote “she’s too quiet, I’d feel awkward trying to talk to her”. Even if we’d still been close, sharing with the deep thinker wouldn’t of been allowed, and I was put in with a girl I barely knew, who got drunk every night and had a fling with the barman. I vividly remember sat in a corridor while her friends comforted her one night after the barman had told he had no intention of keeping in touch after she’d returned home. Sat in the same corridor was the deep thinker. He was there regretting drunkenly sleeping with a girl in our party. We sat in silence and I hoped our friendship could be rekindled when he started telling me what had happened. We did speak a bit more again after that trip, but I’d definitely lost my best friend. I got through the rest of college with no one to really call a best friend. I was too quiet, too boring and didnt smoke nor did I drink excessively. I suppose I never really fit in. I enjoyed my college days, but I came away with very few life experiences. Today, I’m still in touch occasionally with the girl who moved to Textiles. A few others have popped up on Facebook. None of them could be counted on in a crisis.

Now I’m not saying that all of my friends wouldn’t jump in a car to be at my side in an emergency if I needed them. They would, I’m sure of it. As I would for them (if I could drive!). The majority however don’t put up with me on a regular basis. Don’t suffer my insufferable paranoia 

So, on to those that do. Those people that put up with me, put themselves out for me, still love me despite seeing me go through the highs and lows of life, let me rant on and on about the same thing so that I can get it straight in my own head, listen to me justify myself over situations that to them, I don’t need to justify myself over. Like I said, I can count them on one hand.

The one where we wrote to each other.

During our teenage years, my sister and I had several penpals each. Most of them had similar interests in music and football. I found writing to people so much easier than talking to them, a trait that stayed with me. I am so much better at writing than talking! Anyway, some of our penpals we were able to meet up with on big get togethers in Birmingham or London. Others were too far away. Many good friends were made in the process. Again through the wonders of Facebook I’m still in touch with many of them and its great to see marriages, kids and good times for them all. One particular penpal that I started writing to in 1994 though, we’ll call her LC, has become one of the five people that I count as a real true, message whatever time of night, friend, and the one I’ve known the longest. After a penpal advert was published in a football magazine, we started writing to each other. She lived the opposite side of the country but our letters were nothing short of epic. Most of my penpals at the time had really pretty stationery and would write a couple of sheets worth each time. LC and I would use standard A4 ruled paper and our letters would on average be about ten sheets each time, front and back!! We talked about football, boybands, crushes. Everything and anything. As with everything, life got in the way and the letters weren’t as often and eventually stopped but Facebook allowed us to keep in touch. Neither of us could drive and the journey across the country was long and expensive. We talked about meeting up, but logistically it was difficult. However, an opportunity arose in 2010 when I had to attend a course at my work place Head Office near Norwich, which was as near to LC in Ipswich that I was ever likely to get. The hotel they put me in was literally in the middle of nowhere and it was still a bit of a trek for LC, but we did it and finally met for the first time 16 years after becoming friends! Since then I was lucky enough to be able to go to her wedding and we’ve even been to a Reunion concert in Birmingham together. Distance means nothing. She picks up on my vague Facebook statuses and messages me right away, almost knowing what is going on. We don’t talk every day. We don’t need to. I know if I needed an honest unbiased opinion, LC would give it to me. I suppose that’s a good point about a long distance friendship with no real friends in common, you’ll always get an opinion that has your best interests at heart because they aren’t influenced by loyalties to the other people involved in your situation. Its good to have a friend who isn’t in your usual circle. We are determined to meet up again soon, but whether we do or not, the friendship is unbreakable. The distance makes it impossible to fall out over trivial things. I do believe very few people have a friendship like this, but, despite the miles, it works for us.

The one where we’re like sisters.

Next up is a girl I met in my very first job. In 1997, S was literally just 16 and I was 20.  Most people make friends in the workplace, and through staff nights out etc, some become closer than others. S and I were friends at work and after we went onto different jobs we kept in touch, went on memorable nights out, she came to my wedding and we grew to be good friends. She won’t mind me saying that we didn’t talk for a few years, a combination of me feeling she had let me down by not coming to something I felt was important, and work taking her away from our hometown. However, I soon reached out to her again and, after hearing her side of the story, its fair to say, since getting back in touch, we are stronger than ever. I literally love this girl to pieces. The day after my marriage broke up, she was sat in my front room, at short notice, helping me and doing all she could to uncover the truth about things I’d heard regarding the split. She is my rock. She is my concert buddy. She has got my back. She is my bodyguard. She’s first in line to sort anyone out who crosses me. She is my very very best friend. She’s as protective over my son as I am. She’s the bad influence who keeps me out all night despite my insistence it won’t be a late one. Again, work commitments and life mean we don’t talk every day, but when we do get together, its like we’ve never been apart. It doesn’t matter if we’re out on the town or sat watching a movie with take out, we have just as much fun. She’s my go to girl. My partner in crime. The person I’d talk to if I needed to know if camels sweat, or equally if my life depended on it, she’d be there. Good times and bad. This girl whisked me away for a day of pampering for my 40th birthday because she knew I needed it. 

The one where we work together.

My next job at Tiny Computers saw me working with a guy, let’s call him B. I worked here while pregnant with my son in 2003, and through B, I met his girlfriend LJ and their year old daughter. LJ would come in to see B at work, and due to the nature of the job, ie  not constantly run off your feet serving people, I got talking to LJ too. Fast forward a few years and LJ and I were enjoying the same kind of epic nights out that S and I enjoyed, long after I no longer worked with B and she no longer dated him. We’ve been in constant contact and although not out with each other all of the time, we’d still see each other around due to the close proximity of our jobs. Again, a few quieter years where work and being Mum took over for the pair of us, but fond memories of pushing each others children around in their pushchairs were shared. Then a job became available at my current workplace, and LJ was miserable to the point of illness at her job. She applied, was interviewed fairly (and she interviewed fantastically) and she got the job fair and square. Since then, she has worked her way up to become my assistant manager. We’ve both had equally bad times and we are both always rooting for each other for things to turn out for the best. Its probably LJ I feel the most sorry for as out of the 5 friends I’m talking about, she really does have to “put up” with me the most. She’s seen the tears, witnessed the paranoia face to face. The others tend to get the toned down, calmed down messaged version.. While poor LJ gets it in blasts as soon as she gets into work. But then I’ll get the same from her, and that’s why we’re so close. Rough with the smooth. Days at work can be long and slow.. working with LJ, you can add random to the list. With just one look, we know what the other is thinking, and its usually something we shouldn’t be!  On that note though.. it’d be kind of unfair not to mention my other two work girls. We may not have the same number of years friendship under our belts but my gosh have they been there for me. They have literally worked with me through my best and worst days. The lot of them have seen tears, put up with giddy squeals of happiness. Laughed with me, made coffee for me. As a small team of 4, we almost HAVE to get on, but collectively, this lot would be friends through choice now. That goes for ex employees too. Amazing ladies that I miss so much that were and still are there for me. One thing my current workplace attracts is awesome people. Team 133- you know who you are! 

The one where we can cry on each others shoulders.

Fourth on the list of friends I can turn to sort of sneeked up on me. At primary school, our sons became good buddies, and L and I would chat in the playground while waiting for them to finish on the odd occasion I was able to be there due to work commitments. We became friends on social media, which mainly involved sorting out our sons social lives. The more we talked, the more we found we had in common, and more so, how similar we were in character. Both paranoid. Both doubt ourselves. We became each others “pep talk”. Whenever one of us was feeling down, the other would build back up again. That is exactly how this friendship has continued. L is an amazingly talented woman, who shouldn’t need telling that she’s awesome. Understanding where she’s coming from though helps. L really truly came through for me when my marriage broke up. I experienced some very low lows that I hid from the world and couldn’t let my family see after all the suffering they’d already been through. L wouldn’t sugar coat things, she’d relate stories and experiences of her own that proved to me she got me. She understood me. Most importantly, she made me realise it was OK to feel everything I was feeling. I wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t over reacting. Since then, if I need a kick up the backside, I talk to L. And her, to I. We often say to each other its both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very very deeply. L is the one that understands how I can relate songs to my life, because she does too. L is my voice of experience. She is my oracle of advice. She’s the one most likely to tell me “F#&k the lot of them”.

The one where we’ve only just met. 

The final person on my list proves that it doesn’t matter how long someone has been in your life, its how they’ve proved they are there for you in that time. I met them by chance just this year and general chit chat led to more in depth conversation, which led to feeling like I’d known them forever. There is no history to go into on this one as its so new, suffice to say, I feel they are there for me, and I, them. 

Some people come into your life and you get to know them, and you get on well, but you don’t think to tell them if something important happens until you see them again. Occasionally, very very rarely, you’ll meet someone who, with good news or bad, you’ll think to contact straight away, because their opinion on it will matter to you. 

I don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future, but going purely with my gut instinct, I reckon if I was to write this blog again in five years time, the same 5 people will be on it. 

Perhaps there’ll be more added.  I certainly won’t let it lessen without a fight. 

They will always be my friends, they know too much! 

An Evening with U2Baby

Plans had been made for Saturday 25th March. A long overdue catch up with my best friend S. Couple of bottles of wine, prosecco possibly, take out Chinese and a movie on Sky.

A couple of nights before, another friend, L,  asked me if I was still up for a night of live music. I had completely forgotten she’d mentioned it. A tribute band called U2Baby were performing at a local live music venue. My friend L was photographing the gig. U2 had never really made it onto my playlist. Sure, the singles they released were good, great even, but they had never really grabbed me by the eardrums and compelled me to buy every album in the same way my old favourites Shed Seven and The Bluetones did. I owned a Greatest Hits album. That was all.

So, going to see a tribute act was purely dependent on my best friend. If she didn’t want to go, we wouldn’t. Its fair to say she didn’t take much persuading. Drinks and take out at mine.  Then lift into town with my photographer friends husband. Evening sorted.

With stomachs full of food and heads full of wine, a good night was on the cards regardless. When we got to the venue, my photographer friend L was already buzzing. She’d been at the sound check and assured us we were in for a great night. She was/is a fan of U2, and I knew songs had special meanings for her, good times and bad. I’ve mentioned before about an exes love of Muse, its impossible to hear someone you know talk so passionately about a band and not get sucked into the story yourself. 

Before the gig, L introduced S and I to the lead singer. The “Bono”. Introduction was brief and a little awkward. The poor guy was presented with two slightly tipsy girls when all he wanted to do was prepare to go on stage. I have so much respect for musicians. Putting themselves out there to be looked at, judged, talked about. In my early twenties I got roped into doing three pantomimes. Leading lady. Completely out of my comfort zone. I did it. I had fun, but to say I enjoyed it is a stretch. This guy and his band mates were about to put themselves on stage, through choice, and with the raw emotion attached to music they were obviously passionate about. That’s brave.

When I go to a live gig, I like to sing along, tap my foot, know the lyrics. My biggest concern about this gig was not knowing enough songs to fully enjoy the evening. Worried that not having an emotional connection to any of the songs would somehow take away from my experience. I needn’t of worried. The opening song, ” The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” was not one I was familiar with. However, the opening seconds of the song were almost like an anthem, a chant you’d hear at festivals across the fields. It gripped me and it made me listen. Added to that, the band. They looked like U2. The singer came alive, almost unrecognisable from the guy I’d met not ten minutes before. One song in and I was no longer at a gig. I was at concert. I was at a show. The second song was “Vertigo”. A track I knew. One that I liked and could sing along to. Notes and chords alike were spot on, and I forgot I was sat in a small, local venue, instead being transported to a stadium. The sound at the venue was amazing, top quality and every word rang powerful and clear.   

https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=XthAdHa1MA4

As the set went on, I knew the occasional song, but even those I didn’t know scratched through my surface and reached my emotions. I find meaning in songs, relevance to me and situations I’ve been put in, and the ballads especially spoke of my life. L had made me aware of the song ” Invisible “, she told me that to her, it was a song written for me. Prior to that night I’d googled the song and its lyrics and could see exactly what she meant. 

It’s like the room just cleared of smoke
I didn’t even want the heart you broke
It’s yours to keep
You just might need one

Very few people know the extent of what I’ve had to endure over the last two years. L does. S does. And hearing U2Baby perform this song, it felt as if they did too. My story, sung to a roomful of people. The vocals of lead singer Ric Peace sent shivers down my spine when he hit notes that seemed impossible while belting out poetic lyrics that had somehow passed me by the first time around. I hung on his every word.

The accompanying music was polished and professional, you could tell these guys put a lot of effort into sound quality. Every guitar strum and drumbeat resonated with me on a level I didn’t know I had. 

By the time “Where The Streets Have No Name” was played, I could no longer sit still. I dragged S onto the dancefloor, singing away. I couldn’t help but notice a couple of obvious dedicated U2 fans , centre stage on the dancefloor. Guys that knew every word to every song. And they were loving it. Testament indeed to the quality of the performance we were all being treated to. 

It wasn’t until after the show that I discovered the venue was nowhere near full capacity. My memory of the night was very different. Every single person in that room, for me at least, created the atmosphere of a huge crowd. The kind of crowd U2Baby deserve. 

L and I made it our mission to get the guys back to our hometown. As a result I’ve had the pleasure of talking to frontman Ric, and discovering that his passion to not only recreate the sound of U2, but also the look and experience, runs deep. From props, lighting and sound effects, these guys might as well be the real deal. They have their own sound engineer, Matt Rogers, who plays a critical part in getting the U2 sound down to a tee. Matt, I salute you. Job well done. 

My CD collection has grown, purely down to how they have sold songs to me. I’m converted. And our mission succeeded.

Saturday 5th May 2018.

U2Baby will return.

Stay informed and join the group.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/185569531952244/  
I should thank U2 for a new life soundtrack. I should, but I can’t. U2 weren’t there for me in the early days as I chose to lean on lyrics from my old favourites. Instead, I must thank U2Baby for introducing me to  the music of U2.  Some songs I have only heard performed by Ric, Simon, Jon and Ash.

Guys, thank you.

I fell in love that night.

http://www.theu2tributeuk.com

Photos courtesy of Lissywitch Photos

https://m.facebook.com/LissywitchPhoto/

Behind the Rose Tinted Closed Doors

I used to, albeit briefly, suffer from “relationship envy”.

Used to. Past tense.

I don’t anymore.

I met my ex husband when I was just turned 20, and married at 23. From that moment on, I mainly, though not exclusively, hung out with other “couples”. I’ve explained before that I’m a “happy with my lot” kinda girl, so I never used to look too deeply at other peoples relationships, and “being single” became a distant memory. I couldn’t “relate” to my single friends. Dating someone else was an alien concept. I was married. I was sorted for life. Or so I thought.

Sure, our friends in couples went on fancy holidays together, while I had to accept that three nights in a tent in a wet and windy Wales with my husband, son and two insane dogs was all I’d get. That was jealousy of their situation though, not of the relationship itself. At the time, I saw my relationship as no better but no worse than anyone else’s that I knew. No envy. I was content.

When I became single though, after being told I hadn’t been loved for two years prior to him leaving, everything changed. My rose tinted glasses lifted and I started seeing my own relationship for the sham it had been, and as a “side effect”, I began scrutinising everyone else’s. Wondering what really went on behind closed doors. When everything you thought was rosy in your own bubble, turns out to be grey, you question everything.

I always remember an acquaintance of mine contacting me a fair while after the split. She’d only just found out and was asking me, and my ex some rather nosey questions, especially when she’d been my friend not his, and neither of us had seen her for ages. When I pulled her up about it, she apologised and said it was because she was “shocked, we’d always seemed like the stable power couple. If we had problems what hope was there for anyone?”. A bit extreme but it got me thinking. People, from the outside looking in, thought we were a strong, stable couple. Yet as soon as we split I looked back and saw more cracks in our relationship than Humpty friggin Dumpty after a fall. There was no chance of putting that back together. I’d either been a really good actress, or I was stupid and naive. I’m still undecided after two years! What I do know is that I became synical about long term relationships, and jealous of brand new shiny relationships that “seemed” better than my own. 

If you’ve read my blogs, I did go straight into dating, despite my underlying trust, confidence, insecurity and paranoia issues. (Oh hindsight, screaming at me right there. It WAS too soon. But hey, no regrets). For three months I was in a whirlwind. Spending nights at his was perfect bliss. Just me and him. 

A friend of mine also started dating someone new. After a very short while, she was telling me how he’d met the family, they’d done this that and the other, been out with her friends and they were planning a holiday. Suddenly nights in just the two of us seemed a bit odd. Mine hadn’t met my son, my parents or my friends. We rarely went out. I wanted what she had. It wasn’t healthy. I was jealous.

 My jealousy and envy wasn’t fair on my partner and it wasn’t justified. I was deliriously happy for the first time in a long while. Why was I ruining that for myself by comparing my relationship to others? Every relationship is different and they move along at different speeds. When mine broke up after three months, I was actually glad he’d never met my son. It saved any unnecessary attachment being made. For that, I was grateful.  Nothing had gone wrong in this relationship. Now though I wonder if it was my fault we split. Had I, subconsciously and unwillingly, put so much pressure on him to conform to my idea of a “normal” relationship based purely on the relationships of those around me, that I scared him off? If I’m honest, probably. I’m too stubborn to say yes.

 While I was seeing the musical, wandering alley cat, my ex announced that he and the new girlfriend were moving in together.  By this point they’d already been abroad a few times. My friends relationship still seemed to be going from strength to strength. They all had “normal” relationships. I was struggling to find a man willing to meet my friends, let alone settle down. I felt like a secret girlfriend. What was I doing wrong? What was wrong with me? Why did no one want to commit to me, show me off to their friends? My loved up friend was asking me when I’d see mine again, had we said “I love you” yet? Had we talked about moving in together? Of course, they had. I was answering with “I don’t know” or “no”. My relationships looked odd. They felt inferior to everyone else’s. Soppy Facebook updates seemed to be the only thing on my news feed. Although I was thoroughly enjoying my relationships, I was desperate to join in with the ” meeting the parents tonight. #excited” vibe of my friends. The little things. The normal things.

When the alley cat had wandered away for longer than before and it came to a natural end, I went on to meet my Mr Amazing. At first the relationship envy was still there. Much like first guy I dated, we didn’t do much, and I still had people questioning me. I felt they were dismissing the validity of my relationship. Some even seemed to doubt his existence. I wasn’t plastering photos of the two of us all over Facebook. We were happy just taking it slow. However, this one had me hooked at “Hello”, when you know, you know. I knew. I was instantly happier and more relaxed than I’d ever felt with anyone. No pretense, no airs or graces. Just him. As he was. 

After 4 months he met my son and I met his Mum. Another four months passed and he met my parents. Hes been to see me at work several times so has met all my work colleagues. In 18 months, thats all hes met. It doesn’t conform to “normal”.  And I don’t give a monkeys arse anymore. Who wants to be normal anyway?

So I decided to not only full on “bin” my own rose tinted glasses that had been sat gathering dust since my husband left me, but I chose to remove the second pair I must’ve been wearing whilst looking at other relationships. A friends relationship wasnt looking too good deep down, turns out there were trust issues on both sides, and he had a fairly manipulative and nasty streak. It ended badly and he’s been causing grief ever since. I’m not a bitch, I wasn’t happy to see a friend go through this, and of course I was there for her, but I was so blinded by envy I didn’t realise what went on away from Facebook status updates.

Fakebook

Another friend of mine starting unnecessarily slating her husband, who I knew was devoted to her, and I wondered if the text that made her giggle so much earlier had really been from him. A couple of friends revealed how their relationship was being tested due to financial strain. My ex and his girlfriend split, and I speculated that the same problems that I eventually uncovered in my marriage to him had maybe reared their ugly head on another unsuspecting victim.

Behind the “look how happy we are” statuses that made me envious, were cracks they didn’t want anyone to see. 

So, when people told me they saw their boyfriends four or five times a week, but they’d argued over something he had said to a friend about her, I’d be grateful for my once or, if we’re lucky, twice a week, catch ups knowing that every second was spent cuddled up, just the two of us, laughing and talking the whole time.

When someone mentions their finances are strained but their husband still goes out every weekend ignoring the problem, I’m pleased for separate bank accounts.

If disagreements take place over where to go on holiday, I feel lucky for my choice of “your place or mine?”.

Married couples, often both working parents, sometimes only cross paths in the evening, amidst the routine of cooking, cleaning, catching time with the kids, washing, making calls, paying bills. My once or twice a week with my Mr Amazing, every single second is spent focused on each other. No outside forces. No chores. Quality time. Every walk, lunch, movie- just us.

Now I’m not saying all those other relationships can’t or don’t work. Deep down I’ll always crave a settled family life. I’m just saying no relationship is the same. Who gets to decide what makes a relationship”normal”? There is no normal. Only different. Every variety of different can be right for those involved. 

Don’t compare. 

Don’t be jealous. 

Look at what you’ve got and appreciate it for all its differences.

You may not meet my Mr Amazing out on the town, partying the night away with me. We might not be discussing holidays or talking about moving in together anytime soon. But if you’re my friend and you love me, just know that he makes me happy when he takes me for fish and chips in a field, or kisses me in the pouring rain down by a muddy river bank. It works for us.

We’re not normal, but then, who is?

A rainy day with Mr Amazing. Just the two of us.


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qgy7vEje5-w