Monday, 17 March 2014

The Written Word

My latest manuscript is now with my Beta Reader before it goes to the editor. I'm really looking forward to revealing another paranormal romance to the world, and one that follows on the story between Camilla and Marcus who were the main characters in my debut novel, Discovery at Rosehill. As yet, I'm not sure of a publication date but I think I shall aim for June, though I tend not to work to strict deadlines due to my other commitments on the farm. I've no idea what the Beta Reader or the editor will think of this book and that makes me anxious; it also makes me feel excited to find out whether I've written a book that other people think is worthy of being released into the limelight.

Recently, I've been feeling very in between. Can't make up my mind whether I'm happy with my life, think changes might be necessary, or even if I need therapy. Sounds a bit drastic to use the word "therapy" I know, but to be perfectly frank, I haven't been coping that well with the mundane stuff that life tends to throw at us. My presence on social media has waned due to me having nothing positive to talk about, and I've felt unqualified to leave comments on people's updates and posts due to the unpredictability of my moods. It's very easy to misinterpret the written word and when you're in a grouchy frame of mind like I've been of late, it leaves you in danger of saying the wrong thing, when really, all you're trying to say is, "Hey, look, I'm here."

I don't know whether a trip to the doctor's might be in order just to discuss these fluctuating mood swings, or if I should just sit them out, stay away from social media for a while thus watching what I write in response to someone's innocent updates and opinions. I think we all go through a time in our lives where we can't see the wood for the trees, and we have to take a different path that will hopefully lead us to a place where claustrophobia and anxiety doesn't cloud our day to day existence. After a while, people get fed up of asking how you are, offering a shoulder and a listening ear; and I really don't blame them. I've got many friends online, people that know more about me than my own family. Maybe the days before social media aren't quite so convenient in the year 2014, but they were much more simple.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Space at a Price

Recently, I decided to travel back to London, courtesy of Google Earth. I've been scouring the Internet for properties for sale in the expensive areas like Mayfair, Chelsea, Kensington and Belgravia. Of course, most of London is expensive to live in but I have a particular interest in the streets where properties have rather more zeros than the average house elsewhere in the country. Delving into the deep waters of the rich, I've been fascinated to see how the other half live. This world of city living in exclusive terraced houses with six and seven floors, including swimming pools built into the lower basement, cinemas, catering kitchens and more bedrooms than anyone really needs, is a world away from the little corner of Northumberland in which I live; rolling hills, patchwork countryside, sheep, cattle and a coastline, not to mention the wild open spaces in which a person can breathe. Some of these extravagant London properties fetch millions and millions of pounds and it makes you wonder how we are now a country endowed with foodbanks, benefits and poverty.

Courtesy of Google Earth (Mayfair)
Take one terraced house in particular in one of London's most exclusive addresses: it has a ridiculous amount of bedrooms and bathrooms to match, and a garage to house four limos; it has drawing rooms and dining rooms and a kitchen Gordon Ramsey would probably kill his grandmother for, and it's for sale at a cost of £90 million. That is one hell of a lot of money. So much in fact, that can any sane person really justify spending that amount on a house? It's obviously big enough to be a hotel and could be for all I know, though the pictures and descriptions don't depict as such. So what's so special about this London street with no grass and no coastline? Where do people go to breathe?


Where I Live - and breathe

Rush Hour


Monday, 10 March 2014

One Does One's Best

When I was 14, I was a bit of a rebel. I know you'll find that hard to believe and it isn't something I would normally admit to, but really, I was. My mum caught me hanging out of the bathroom window once, smoking one of my dad's Benson & Hedges, and she was on first name terms with the number 66 bus driver due to the amount of visits she had to make into school. Sitting outside the Headmaster's office was becoming a regular occurrence and one day she even brought a packed lunch. Of course, I can look back on this period of my life now, thirty years on, and laugh about it because I did walk away with seven CSEs and go onto do a very worthwhile administrative course at a local business college. But, as a mother myself now, I do realise it could have gone completely the opposite way. I was one of life's jokers; I messed about too much at the back of class and spent too long turning my skirt up at the waist in order to make it shorter. I'd walk to the chippy in town with a group of girls at lunch time, rather than sit in the canteen and eat what was on offer. I won't deny that I hated school but there were times when I enjoyed it and I sometimes look back on those times with a roll of the eyes and a vow that I will never let my daughter get away with messing about in class and kissing a boy behind the bike sheds.

Amy is so very different to how I was back then. Of course times were much different and there wasn't all these health and safety rules and the red tape that now exists. I remember a girl in my class going out with a chap who came to do some work on the roof - he must have been at least 18. She was 15. No one bat an eyelid, yet it was common knowledge around the school which meant teachers would have been aware also. I also remember an ice cream man who parked his van in the school playground and made a fortune out of vulnerable teens - his language was atrocious and his sexual innuendo was something out of a Jimmy Saville biography. He was a dirty old man; a pervert. Yet again, no one bat an eyelid. How did he get through the gates? We used to laugh it off of course, and walk away knowing we were being oggled, but that dirty old ice cream man has stayed in my memory for thirty years.

I know how vulnerable my 14 year old is and it's a lot more vulnerable than I was at that age. She hates the fact that I was "streetwise" because she knows she never will be. I like the fact she is protected at school and supervised, and they don't allow strange men into the playground to sell ice creams. She's doing well at school; is working towards GCSEs next year and a few other qualifications, too. I'm sure she does mess about in class and I'm sure she gets on the wrong side of the odd teacher - heck, I get the phone calls. But my mum was an amazing mum; she supported me every step of the way and never failed to be there when I needed her. Is it the people we mix with that are the influence in our lives, is it the way we are educated? Or is it how we're brought up? Who knows. But what I do know is I'm doing my best as a mother and even though I'm often made to feel like a complete failure by other people as well as my hormonal, stroppy teenager, I can't do more than that.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Spinning in My Head

My hands shake as I type and I feel like a weight is bearing down on my shoulders; there's a little goblin sitting on my back, pulling strings. He's controlling, manipulating, bullying. I'm strong and determined and try to shake him off, but he leers over me with an evil grin and a sinister cackle emitting from his dripping mouth. And then I remember I'm sensitive and the strength I felt dissipates leaving me bowing under the pressure of the strings.

I don't ask for a simple life anymore, or a life of true contentment; I've learnt it doesn't exist. I'm the mother of a teenager with issues and the daughter of a woman who can't cope with any issues. I'm sad and fearful and down on my luck. I'm the wife of a man who puts principles first and can't say no to anyone except me; I'm the sister of a beautiful woman who needs me but doesn't know how much I need her also.

It's warm in my cave, and comforting. I can huddle into the corner and sit in the darkness and talk to my dad. He listens to me, always. He visited me last night; he stood near the curtains and tapped to tell me he was there. The night before he switched the telephone back on after I'd turned it off at the wall socket. He watches me cry and reaches out and lights up my cave with hope.

I know I'm a loner, always have been, probably always will be. If the little goblin left me, I'd be completely alone. Maybe his company is better than none.

Monday, 24 February 2014

I'm Going Deaf

I'm sure I'm getting old but what is it with shops and restaurants these days, where you can't hear yourself think above the music that consistently blares out? I took Amy shopping last Thursday and by the time we got back to the car, my ears were ringing with loud music and people shouting at each other because it was the only way they'd be heard. We went in Frankie & Benny's (very nice, very expensive) and I had to ask the waitress numerous times to repeat what she was saying. I'm sure she thought I was deaf. But seriously, I couldn't hear a word she said. It was like she was miming at me. Then we went into a clothes shop, you know, one of those trendy ones where they don't stock anything above a size 12, and all the assistants are young enough to be your daughter and you feel completely out of place. Once again, music blaring out and I was unable to hear the girl behind the till as she mimed how much I owed. I had to look at the till to see what I needed to pay in the end because I'd have been there all day otherwise. It doesn't seem to phase them. Either they have bionic hearing or they just prefer not to talk to customers. Assistants were even walking around one store, dancing and singing, and completely ignoring the customers, many of whom looked totally perplexed and pissed off at having the challenge of finding what they wanted without being directed to it.

I can't stand shopping. I'll go if I need to, or if Amy wants to buy something - she has lots of vouchers to spend, left over from Christmas and her birthday - but really, I can't wait to get home after a trip to the shops. I spent most of Friday saying "pardon" after temporarily losing my hearing somewhere between New Look and Frankie & Benny's. I remember going in HMV at the Metrocentre once where I actually gave up after asking the assistant five times, yes, 5 times, to tell me where I could find a CD containing a compilation of House music for Amy. I swear, I couldn't hear a word she was saying. I was embarrassed. I was also bloody annoyed. And in the end I shouted very loudly, "Maybe if you turned the music down I wouldn't keep asking you to repeat yourself." Then I walked off and shopped elsewhere! How do these shop assistants and restaurant staff stand it all day, almost every day? Maybe they have a stash of earplugs behind the counter, or maybe I'm just getting old.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Not Everything Is Rosy

School holidays with a teenager can be hard work. School holidays with a teenager when you live miles away from anyone can be even harder. The word "bored" is one of those words I have come to dread, and it gets used quite often these days. Most of Amy's friends live a good 50 minute drive away and even though I don't mind taking her to see a friend, I can't really leave her because she isn't like your average teenager. She doesn't do streetwise or sociable or fits in with anything. She finds it difficult to mix with typical teenagers and they, in return, find it difficult to mix with her. It's not easy being a teenager and having autism because friends are few and far between; a teen with no road sense and a vulnerability that requires more supervision than other kids her age, makes most other teens shy away, mainly because I guess they feel like a babysitter. And let's face it, what 14 year old girl wants a babysitter the same age?

So I usually get left to entertain my teenager during school holidays and even though I don't begrudge this in the slightest, I do feel a pang of sympathy (and guilt) knowing that my big girl would much rather be walking around town with her mates or having girly chats about boys and things in her room, with the door tightly shut and her music on full blast. It's what I did when I was 14.

Sometimes, autism really sucks.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Rude, Patronising, Downright Unbelievable!

People's rudeness just gets worse! Grab yourself a coffee...

I changed my car last Monday. It's unfortunate that I could only find one set of keys to hand over but I promised Toyota, the new-car dealer, that I would forward on the other set if I found them. No worries. So, yesterday, Toyota got rid of my old car. Once that car was signed over to Toyota, it would no longer be my responsibility. Fact. Today, I received a phone call from the dealer who bought my old car. He was VERY patronising. Had one of those "oh, it's a woman..." appearances in his tone. He asked me if I had another set of keys and wanted to make sure Toyota had told him the truth when they said there was only one set. Gobsmacked at this point, and extremely pissed off that he knew my phone number, I lamely assured him Toyota were telling the truth and he responded with, "Well, if you just happen to find them, doooo forward them on won't you, dear?"

I hung up and saw red. Flashing red in front of my eyes. So many things were wrong with that phone call I didn't know where to begin. So I composed myself and rang my contact at Toyota. I reiterated the conversation and expressed how angry I was that this man had my phone number, even though I was sure Toyota wouldn't have given it out. After speaking to my contact, a lovely guy, quite fanciable (wish I were young, free and single, ahem), he transferred me to his manager who was equally as apologetic. I knew Toyota wouldn't have given out the number, it is so unethical to do something like that and this is a major dealer we're talking about. Reassured, it transpired that this used car dealer had taken it upon himself to look up my phone number and enquire directly about the missing set of keys.

Let's put this into perspective.

1. Once the exchange had taken place, I am no longer liable for the old car. It is in Toyota's hands and if the buyer needs to know anything, he asks them, who will then ask me if needed.

2. The way that man spoke to me made my blood boil. The fact he looked up my phone number, knowing full well it was something he should NOT have done, had no right to do, has also made my blood boil.

3. He didn't believe Toyota when they told him they don't have 2 sets of keys. What would Toyota want with a spare set of Land Rover keys, for fuck's sake?

I feel better that I reported the phone call to my Toyota dealer but it worries me that this guy has my phone number and obviously thinks it's perfectly okay to ring me to ask questions about the vehicle I sold to Toyota, assuming I would just give him the answers he needed and play along with his little game. Does the fact he found out I am a woman matter? Perhaps in his warped little mind women aren't allowed to own big farm vehicles and should stick to smaller cars, runabouts that will get them from A to B.

To have Toyota apologising profusely made me feel awful for having rung them in the first place, but I needed to make sure they hadn't given out my phone number. Toyota were just as angry about it all as I was. Of course they hadn't given out my number, but they have given the buyer of my old car a right royal bollocking from the sounds of it. How dare someone take it upon themselves to cut out the middle man in this way. Apart from which, I might have needed to sell that car for a specific reason, like a bereavement perhaps, or money worries. The rudeness of some people beggars belief, it really does.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Blogging Has Changed For Me

I've been pretty quiet where blogging is concerned recently; maybe I've told you everything and there's nothing much to add, or maybe my life has just been sailing along on calm waters. I'd like to get back into blogging but I'm not sure how. Once upon a time I was quite obsessed with this world of blogging and now, I look back on those years I spent tirelessly scouring blog hops and lists and community websites where I would introduce myself on a daily basis, to at least ten new blogs. I was discovering, on average, around fifty blogs every week. And I loved it. The feeling of seeing a new comment from one of those newly discovered blogs was such a buzz; it made my blog stand out and it gave Crystal Jigsaw a name on the Internet.

There was a time this blog would achieve 40-50 genuine comments on each post, and I would update it on a daily basis. I wanted to be a part of all the groups, websites, communities. I was a member of American blogging forums and British blogging groups, I was in lists and ranked high and loved every minute of it. But I could never be really at the center of it all because I never had the means to fully join in; journeys to London events were never going to happen because of my personal circumstances, and so I got to the point where I realised I was missing out. It was very kind of those people to tell me I shouldn't worry about it but I did. I would read about the good times had, the new friendships formed, the awards won and the celebrity events. And I would sit at my computer and think, "It's not for me." It never will be. And I think the circles of blogging in which I was mixing just didn't suit my life. I still see all over Twitter and Facebook the marvelling at these get togethers but it doesn't bother me anymore. I've moved away from those circles and even though I made some friends along the way, I think I've learnt that sometimes we just have to accept that we can't do everything, we can't follow where we don't belong. I have a few loyal followers and readers of this blog and I know exactly who they are, and that's good. It means I can still write on here and know someone out there will read it.







Friday, 31 January 2014

Determined

Had Amy's annual review yesterday. It was another pupil-based meeting in which Amy, her class tutor, classroom assistant, and myself attend. Another lady also joined us and she's known as a careers advisor. I thought it rather premature considering Amy's only just turned 14 but her presence at the meeting was obviously for a reason. Not quite sure what it was, however. Amy is quite sure what she wants to do when she's older and it's a case of ascertaining some decent GCSE and BTEC grades, mainly in Maths, English and Science. She's also going to be doing a DT exam (Design Technology) and next year will do a media arts award that consists of music, art and drama, something I think she'll do well in.

I'm always a bit wary of these reviews because they often turn into two or more members of staff telling me all about my daughter, and even though there were a few instances when I found myself a little dumbstruck, I had to admit they gave me plenty chances to have my say. They drew up a detailed plan that will take Amy through the next 12 months and get her well on her way to starting revision for the exams she'll be taking. It won't be easy for her, or me, but I'll be there every step of the way to guide and encourage her as much as I can. It's fortunate that the staff at school are on my side and want to see Amy doing just as well as I do. They care about her and are genuinely impressed with her positive attitude towards the ambitious future she desires. I reckon the obstacles will pop up and we'll get over them, and then one day we'll look back on these reviews with gratitude. Having special needs doesn't always have to scupper your future, not if you're as determined as my teenager.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Facebook

After lots of contemplation and a big dollop of inspiration from several people, including one of my oldest blogging friends, Elaine, I decided to create a Facebook Group. You may wonder why as I've spent the last two years walking away from them. But then I thought, what the hell, let's do this. And so "What's for Tea?" was created last Friday night and currently has 80 members. I suspect some won't stay, but I've been thrilled at the amount of people who have requested to join - friends of friends too, so not people I have on my own Facebook friends list. It's a very simple, informal and friendly place for people to dip in and out of whenever the mood takes them; there are no obligations, no rules and no pressure. So many Facebook groups now are littered with rules, and some make them up as they go along, which makes for a very confused group of people. So I intend to keep this one lighthearted and fun. It is a group where we share what we've had for tea, or breakfast, brunch, lunch and the snacks in between, and somewhere to share ideas for recipes, suggestions and tips, and give advice on different cooking methods. For example, we have members with diabetes and some who eat Gluten Free foods, so it's really useful to get tips and ideas from these members who might use different ingredients or cooking methods.

Some people post photos of their culinary skills which are incredibly mouth-watering. I hope to keep it going for as long as possible and with the help of other members I reckon there's lots of banter to be had. New friendships have already been formed which is always a good thing.

So if you'd like to join in the fun, meet some new faces or recognise some familiar ones, come along and request to join. You can find us here: What's for Tea?