Thursday, 24 March 2016

There's a gas man in my cupboard and he looks like Heston Blumenthal

There's a gas man in my cupboard and he looks like Heston Blumenthal.  He's been in there some time now. I think I scared him. I really must remember to mention before I lead them to the bedroom, that the boiler is upstairs.

There was a time when men would have found my slow walk upstairs alluring. Now they're on the brink of suggesting stairlift companies and looking worried as I beckon them yonder to the second floor.

It's true I'm not as young as I used to be (a phrase that has always seemed bloody obvious to me) and it's also true that I don't always make the most of myself. It's hard to summon the enthusiasm before the school run to do much more than to pull on my jeans and a hoodie. I usually brush my hair but this morning I confess I forgot so maybe my Doc Brown hair scared the gas man.... I'll never know because he refused to look me in the eye or allow me to take his photo to prove to my friends on Facebook that I had Heston in my airing cupboard.

Zoƫ knows a trick or two about men. She shared her secrets yesterday evening on the way home from her swimming lesson.
 "I know a trick how to get boys to love you"
"What's that then?" I'd replied.
"You  need to wear lots of make up, do your hair and wear a nice dress. Then they'll want to marry you."
"By the way, I can help you do yours then daddy might ask you to marry him".

I relaid the conversation to the gas man.  Then I offered him some chocolate biscuits. As I climbed the stairs with the biscuit barrel I heard him talking quietly into his phone: "this old boiler has more problems than I initially thought."

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Postpartum Psychosis and Mum

My beautiful Mum suffered from postpartum psychosis following the birth of my brother John.  If it had been 2016 then maybe Mum would have received more support but it was 1972 and people were afraid of mental illness.  No one knew the term 'chemical imbalance' and there were no posters or helplines.

Mum told me of a neighbour and good friend who, on seeing Mum walk towards her on the pavement, looked the other way and crossed the road. There were friends who did help but a lot of people  'left' Mum and Dad to it.

Mum lost touch with her reality.  Following John's birth Mum rapidly spiralled into another world; a place where she was 9 years old, a place where she didn't recognise my Dad or remember that she had a daughter at home.  

Mum's fight to regain her health and return to her family was something we all lived. My Dad was completely devoted to Mum and would visit her daily at the hospital.  Mum says she remembered a man with kind eyes and a lovely smile visiting her and she thought that he was her favourite Uncle Dick (who had passed away by then), but in fact it was the man she'd been married to for 7 years.

I remember worrying as a child if Mum wasn't happy.  The separation anxiety that began when she went into hospital when I was 2 and didn't come home for 6 months didn't leave me until I was an adult.

Mum was taken to Stone Mental hospital in Dartford where she was given ECT treatment for 12 weeks and miraculously she began to regain her memory and make connections with her real life.  She had to re-learn to drive, cook, change nappies, garden (something she loved with a passion all her life) and in a sense re-learn who she was.

Mum was the strongest and most courageous woman I've ever known.  This courage helped her when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2012.  She faced everything with a smile and fiercely protected us all from the reality of the situation.  Mum died in September 2013 but not before we were able to share her story : I Know Who I Am by Margaret Rimmer

Mum's book is available for free until the 13th March.

Postpartum psychosis is a condition that the charity Mind have worked hard to draw attention to and educate with the help of an Eastenders storyline and lots of interesting case studies.  I hope that Mum's story will help other families who are going through or who have been through the same experience.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Hey Kim - the number 59 is more important than 69! #InternationalWomensDay

“So, Mama, what is interfashional women’s day?”

“It’s international women’s day” I say, “and it’s not supposed to have anything to do with fashion so someone had better tell Kim Ker-ching-ian that…”

My daughter nodded sagely as she continued to spoon Rice Krispies into her mouth. 

“….it’s a day when women are allowed to say a few things about what it’s like to be a girl," I add.

“I like being a girl” she says as she brushes the stray Krispies from her skirt. “I like it that I can wear a skirt if I like or I can wear trousers, boys only get to wear skirts on special days like when Mr S came to school as ‘The Boy In The Dress’ on World Book Day last week”.  

While I applaud Mr S’s bravery I try hard to think of a way to explain why International Women’s Day means more to us than just fashion freedom. That’s not to say that I’m taking fashion freedom for granted, no, I’m eternally indebted to the freedom fighters of the 1960s who burned their bras and invented miniskirts.  They’ve been my fashion inspiration for the last 40 years, but the essence of what they were fighting for - gender equality - still remains elusive in 2016. 

My thoughts turn to the 59-ers.  

The number 59 isn’t just a safe prime number, it adorned badges worn by feminists in the 1970s to illustrate the fact that a woman earned 59 cents to an equally qualified male’s dollar. Not much has changed since-time. Figures out last year suggest that men in the South East earn 25% more than their female counterpart. 

So I say to my daughter: “Imagine a world where you go to work to do the same job as a boy from your class and you are paid £4 an hour and he gets £5 to do the same thing.”
“Well, that would be mad Mama and not allowed.”
I’m about to try to explain the concept of the Gender Pay Gap but stop myself: “Yes you’re right, it is mad and it shouldn’t be allowed, but it is.”
“But why does he get more than me? Is he cleverer?”
“No, he’s not, the only difference between you is he’s male and you are female. It’s not fair and that’s why days like today are important because your Mummy, your Nanny, your Great Nanny all knew that they were equal, and important and worth much more and it’s important we shout that message ever louder every year.”
“Okay, shall I ask Mrs T or Mrs N if they’ll speak to He-Who-Cannot-be-Named about it?”
(Before you think I’m suggesting her teachers have a hot line to Voldemort I should probably point out here that ‘He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named’ is code for the Prime Minister.)

“You can do if you like - and while you’re at it, can you ask them to let Kim  know that the definition of #liberated isn’t an airbrushed black and white picture of her in the nudey!”