David Bowie’s death and being a feminist killjoy 

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Today, I have learnt the real meaning of ‘feminist killjoy’. It’s something that I have joked about myself, the one in the room who’ll put a downer on a much loved film or celebrity. 
There’s no joking today, only conflict with the death of David Bowie swamping the news and social media. I grew up with his music, ok I was born in the late 70’s but he was ever present. My favourite childhood film was Labyrinth. I went to see it at the cinema with my mum and even had a few books of the film. Later to have it on video, I watched it over and over again and could recite the entire script. 
As a young girl, I had quite a crush on his character of Jareth. He was exotic and beautiful. I wanted to be Jennifer Connolly in the dream scene ballroom, to be whisked off my feet and lose myself in his eyes. Those eyes! So taken was I that I didn’t want her to win at the end. 
When I became an adult, there was an uncomfortable feeling with the focus of the film being about a grown man trying to seduce a young girl but I ignored it as I wanted to continue to enjoy the film, the music. 
Today I was stunned to hear that David Bowie had died, no one knew that he had been diagnosed with cancer 18 months before. This man who had been ever present in my life, a man that I wished I could have been like, was dead. I shared my shock and grief with thousands of others on FB and Twitter and turned the radio volume up to enjoy his songs. Then I read this:
http://elegantgatheringofwhitesnows.com/?p=3655
Being a victim of rape and one who has had to live with a not guilty verdict, I couldn’t let this new information just flow over me like someone shrugging off an insult. I’ve read some of the testimonies of the 13 yr old involved and there is no indication that she felt that she was raped. I don’t blame her for that and can completely understand how a young teenage girl can be groomed into ‘sex’ without ever thinking of it as rape or assault. What I don’t understand is how a grown man can find a 13 yr old sexually attractive, I will never understand that. 
And so I have this conflict…. I can never turn my back on someone who was sexually exploited by men who were famous and charismatic and yet I feel like I’m the ultimate feminist killjoy for sharing this on the day of David Bowie’s death. It feels so terribly wrong of me to do that. 
How do you balance your enjoyment of someone’s work with their deeply unpleasant past? All too often we brush these things under the carpet because these men are so adored and revered across the world. What does that say to victims of abuse though? Are we saying that if you are exploited by someone famous, forget ever being taken seriously or having justice as this person’s creative genius is FAR more important?! 

I’ll leave you to decide. 
Exxx 

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And so it is Christmas … (CW) 

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Christmas is an odd time of year. I was very lucky to have

l
  

lovely family Christmases when I was growing up. The excitement of the wait, the decorations, the tree, the ever increasing open doors on the advent calendar… Even when my mum had to work a couple of times, she still managed to make Christmas for us later in the day.
Fast forward quite a few years and then there was Christmas as a young, single parent. That was when the shine started to go out of the tinsel. I loved the couple of days I stayed with family but then it was back home to a house that was difficult to keep warm and that darkness you can only get from feeling like everyone is all jolly.
Don’t even go there with New Year’s Day! Many, many years of going to bed early only to be woken by WWIII in the form of fireworks. Then there was 2014…. 
Anyway, Christmas had become an odd mixture of joy and sadness. I think that is the way of things as you get older, more loved ones not being there anymore – some move away and some have died. Then I met my ex husband and everything seemed to sparkle again. 
After only two months of dating, he proposed on Christmas Day in front of my family. I was so happy, I was also so relieved to leave the stigma of single parenthood behind. With my sparkly diamond on my ring finger, I felt like I could take on the world.
This lovely cloud floated around for a while. I’m not sure when the rot set in but when we were married in the Spring, I wasn’t as happy as I should have been. Christmassy became a time of worry and stress. 
There was the worry over money for presents, the extreme worry over how much he would drink (and that was a lot), the stress of trying to keep up a happy front. This became increasingly hard as family fell out with him and didn’t want him there. I was emotionally torn apart. I now dreaded the start of Autumn when Christmas loomed large wherever I went.
Arguments over how much alcohol he had bought and how most of it had gone before Christmas Day still linger on in my mind. Needless to say, he had to buy more. The time he threw away youngest’s Christmas dinner that I had just put in the blender – she was 8 months old. I told him off and he reduced me to tears. I served our Boxing Day Christmas meal with teary eyes to a silent and miserable table. 
I’m doing my best to enjoy Christmas this year. There are triggers and memories with each tradition that I have to face but I am determined that my children will have a happy Christmas. 
It breaks my heart when I think of all the women out there right now who are dreading Christmas. To those women who might not be alive to see the new year in or who spend Christmas keeping the tears from flowing like a never ending river….I am with you and I believe you. I’m holding your hand and feeling your pain, your fear. He will use Christmas as an excuse to be extra vile and abusive. 
There are helplines out there, people out there who care and want you to be safe. I won’t think any less of you if you can’t make that break this Christmas or any Christmas. Please know that there can be joy and light again though. I hope you will find a way to leave one day and what ever day of the year that happens to be – may it feel like the best Christmas you’ve ever had. 
Much love 

Exxx 

 

Climbing, grief and tropical storms. 

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For those of you who have read all my blogs ( I applaud you, well done!) you may find this familiar and that’s because it’s a part of my life I still need to write about and to heal from. 

Scrolling through my TL on Twitter today, I read a post about a tropical storm baring down on the Bahamas that was named after someone I am more than familiar with. It stirred my brain to recollect the name of the previous storm …. And after a quick check, I was right, it was the name of my late ex boyfriend.

I don’t know if they repeat names but I remember seeing our names listed in 2003 (I think …..). That always stuck with me. I realise that it means nothing, that nothing spiritual is going on but it makes me shiver anyway.

I started writing this poem about it a few years ago: 

Hurricanes – 1st draft 
The two of us like hurricanes 

Our names called up for storms

That blew us together

And blew my soul away

Left me gaping open

Left you a mortal wound

And I never got the chance

To say goodbye

So should I wait for hurricanes 

To rip through me once more
And I was struck by the last line but one ‘should I wait for hurricanes…’ . This burden of grief that I have placed apon myself, has done very little in lifting. I’m wise enough to know that grief never truly goes but it lessens and it many ways it has. It’s not that raw, searing pain anymore. Like someone has torn out your chest and you can’t breathe. Now it’s more gentle but like the weather, there are times when it rips in to me. Today was one of those days. 

This year is slightly more poignant as the climbing wall where we met, where I was thunder struck by him, where he taught me to climb and where we had our fun times too ….. Is to be demolished and a trampoline park put in its place. It’s the whole chest tearing moment again. 

There are ghosts at that wall, not just of him but of other climbers who have died. The smell of the place, the office and the desk, the ropes, the holds, the overhang where he tried to push me up, the sandbag he jokingly pushed me off of, the platform where he taught me how to abseil….. All going and I have nothing physical left of him to hold on to now. 

I have no photo, no letters. Just a grave that isn’t my place to visit and my memories. My main memories  of him being when he apologised for breaking my heart. Then there was the time my ex husband banned me from being friends with him and the last memory I have is seeing him walking up the road with the pace of a man who was not long for this world (we somehow managed to end up living a few houses away from each other). 

I knew when he had died, I felt it. I had been walking past his house for months and literally smelling death pour under the door and out on to the street like black tendrils of tar. That day …. The day after my son’s birthday… I walked past the air was clear, there was a sympathy card at the toddler group we both attended and I cried. He died whilst I was celebrating my son turning 10. Out of fear of my ex husband finding out, I pushed my tears back in and spent many months feeling lost and hollow wirh no one to confide in. 
So …. Danny…. Where ever you are,I hope that you’re climbing. No need to think of me at all. We can let each other go, at least I can let you go. That’s a lie but I will do my best to rest you in peace knowing that no one can take memories away of the time we collided like stars or should that be storms? 

Exxx 

@womentogether: a co-op for women 

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Ok… I don’t know where to start! I have so much stuff whirling around my brain, I barely slept last night. Before I go any further, please know that I have ME/cfs and am a single parent with three children (one has Aspergers) so be patient with me 🙂 Things may take a while to get sorted but never doubt my passion for this idea. 

The summer budget hit a lot of women yesterday, it was a cruel blow to all the progress women have made since we ‘stepped out of the kitchen’. Something the Tories fail to see is that if we punish women, we punish everyone. We are mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunties, wives and friends. Such oppression of one gender can only lead to hurt us all. As Chief Seattle once said:

‘What we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect’ 

 (see: http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/331799  and yes, I know he may not have actually said it but the words have resonated with me for many years). 

The blog may be a rambling….. 

I’ve been thinking for while that the only way to survive the piles of shit (yes, I do swear from time to time ;).)that the government like to throw at us, is to rise up together and help our fellow woman. The Tories approach is that we help ourselves ‘I’m ok, sod the rest of you’ I don’t come from that school of thinking. Women are stronger together, I witnessed that for myself when I attended the Freedom Program. We had a shared hurt and comforted each other, offered a hand to hold and knowing nod. 

I want @womentogether to grow into a nationwide co-op for women affected by the cuts. The only thing that I really insist upon is that all help/advice/support is offered free of charge. 

By help etc I mean things like:

You could set up your own mini foodbank

Clothes swaps for women and children 

Legal, financial advice 

Going to an appointment 

Sending a woman a nice card in the post or tweeting her when she cries out for help on Twitter (I’m going to set up a Facebook page too) 

Practical help like gardening, food shopping, fixing a leaking tap. 

Skill sharing – whether that be teaching women to crochet/knit/sew, car maintenance, cooking on a limited budget, using a computer. 

This list is endless! You might be a nurse, doctor, plumber, mother, gardener, lawyer, journalist, artist, therapist…… Just being a woman is enough for this co-op so please don’t feel that you have nothing to give and if you can’t give but need support – this is also for you. 

What I need right now is help setting up a website/webpage. I have no tech skills so would really appreciate any advice on this. I also need a graphic designer to come up with a logo. In return, I could crochet you something! My aim is to have a network in place before 2017 when the biggest cuts hit. 

I don’t want this women’s co-op to get bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy    so I’m not registering it as a charity or ltd company (I’d certainly appreciate advice on it though).  Safety first at all times so I think women setting up local groups is better than one woman alone (in regards to practical help). 

On that note, I realise there are many groups out there who help women. I’m not stepping on your toes, please use this account to spread the word of the work that you do and the support you offer, that’s what a co-op is all about 🙂 Would be great to have guest tweeters,when established, so that you can promote your groups. 

So …. Whether you need help or can offer help or even both ….. Please spread the word about @womentogeher 

This is my battle cry. This is my call for women to come together so that we can ride out the storm through love and sisterhood. 

Love, tea, crochet, sisterhood, solidarity 

Exxx 

#BenefitsCap – a letter to my children once they are grown. 

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#BenefitsCap A letter to my children once they are grown.
Dear D, P and E, 
I hope this letter finds all in a better place than where we were when you were growing up. Please know that I did all I could to provide for you. 
Mummy has not been well for many years (I wonder if I’m better now!). This meant that I couldn’t work, not wouldn’t work. Having a job is a really important part of your adult life and will dictate what you can and cannot do. Sadly, we live in an unequal society where the rich are favoured and the poor are exploited and crushed. 
I’ve always done my best to educate you all on social injustice and how we should care for each other , help one another. It would be wonderful to think that you are all political activists. May your humble upbringings never shackle your future. 

Please know that I never meant for your childhood to be hard. I’m writing this at a time when I don’t know how hard it will actually be. 
You’ve all been through so much already. By the time you read this, I will have told you how we were homeless for three years. How I had to leave your father/step father to ensure that we are alive today. How I tried to protect you from him and the painful truth of his behaviour. How he lost our home from gambling the money away and how sorry I am that you had experience any of this. 
Even in my bleakest moments, I loved you all. All that I have done has been for the three of you. I only wish I could have provided a childhood full of holidays and new experiences. Money may not bring happiness and love but it would have brought us more security and an easier life. 
The news today is that we will lose a lot of money because we need to pay for the mistakes of city bankers (and yes, I will allow you to call them wankers!). How they think that taking away £300 a month from our benefits will help pay off the national debt, I don’t know. What I do know is that austerity has nothing to do with it, it’s all about the ideology of the Tories. That believe that it’s everyone for themselves regardless of whether they can help themselves or not. So get out there and help others.
Prove to the cold hearted that there is another way. Rise above it all.

May you know that I will do all that I can to fight back. 

And always remember that I love you, now and forever. No politician can destroy that. 

Love and precious hugs 

Mummy ️xxx 

  

 

Valentine’s Day

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Oh, it’s that day again. No, not Friday the 13th, much much worse …. Valentine’s Day arghhhhhh!!!!!!

I can’t actually think of a Valentine’s Day that I have ever enjoyed. Even when I’ve been in a relationship in its early days, it’s proved to be a damp squib. I’m afraid that I grew up with this romantic ideal in my head about this day and I’m finding it difficult to shift.

When I was a teenager, I longed for someone to woo me and sweep me off my feet with a dozen red roses. It’s all rather laughable now but my desire to be loved certainly had a bearing on me ending up in an endless cycle of miserable relationships (not to mention the abusive ones).

I find Valentine’s Day to be a painful reminder that I am still single and have utterly failed to keep a relationship going. As much as try to think of the day as an excuse for shops to sell you red
plastic shite, I know that I will wake up with a hint of sadness in my chest.

I’m no longer the wistful, naive teenager who believed in fairy tale endings.
I’m quite a bit older and more cynical and also more realistic of my chances i.e. zero.

What may escape you about Valentine’s Day is that it is also the day when women stand up for the One Billion Rising campaign …. 1 in 3 women across the globe experience rape or violence at the hands of a man. Visit their website – please – and see if there is a local event for you to take part in:
http://www.onebillionrising.org.uk

I think this is a much better way to spend the day and far more loving! Women standing together to show their love and solidarity with their sisters. Standing together to show the world that we care about all women and that the time has come to put an end to violence against women. Now that would be the best Valentine’s gift anyone could ever give me.

Wishing you a peaceful day this February 14th. Reach out to those women who need you and allow yourself to be cared for too.
Love and solidarity
Exxx

PS
Handy tip for those of you who say to your partner ‘I won’t be forced by this day to show my love to you or pamper you etc etc …… This is something I’ll do when I want to’
If you’re going to say that, make sure you actually do it #justsaying

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The Dating Game Pt 10

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Well, well, well…..

No real news to report. Getting comfortable on my dusty shelf despite my two youngest children’s desire to marry me off!

I just thought I’d confess to trying online dating again because I really enjoy making myself feel worse about being single. It’s my ‘cataclysmic brain’ apparently 😉 ……. Anyway, I’ve allowed myself one week of hell.

Here’s what I have to report ….

1. No women are romantically interested in me. I don’t know why, it’s a bit depressing.

2. Men think that I’m either a sex worker or an agony aunt. I’m neither.

3. I’m finding myself messaging men about how misogynistic they are (some of the profiles are good for a laugh, if you’re bored and I certainly am). I’m not sure that this is the point of online dating ….. It doesn’t go down too well with the menz. I’ve been blocked a few times.

4. I block a lot of people.

5. Women seem to like taking photos of their cleavage and men like taking photos of their cleavage *sigh*

6. I think that I may be too old and too cynical to ever date again.

7. An ex from over 10 years ago kept messaging me, I kept blocking, he kept making new accounts,
I filed a complaint … He’s stopped now.

8. I’m still very fragile and online dating is doing my ego no good at all because a) I’m not 20 anymore b) I don’t look like a porn star and c) I’m not 20 anymore …….

9. If do find someone worth messaging, they won’t reply. I’ve concluded that I’m just not cool enough.

10. There must be a better way but when you’re a single mum with no social life, how do meet anyone let alone someone to date?!

11. If someone does express more than just an interest, I tend to block them as I get freaked out at the prospect of actually meeting someone. This defeats the whole object of the exercise! I do apologise to those that I may have left bewildered and wondering what they did wrong
:/

So there we have it. I’m sure online dating works for some people, in fact I know several who it has worked very well for. Somewhere in that little, messed up brain of mine, I need to accept that being single is ok and stop trying to fill the hollow in my life with a partner.

You must all think I’m a complete lost case. Sort of an even more tragic Bridget Jones figure. I guess I shouldn’t care if you’re all thinking how pathetic and needy I’m sounding.

So…take your love and tea and cakes from me, I have plenty to spare
Exxx

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