Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Feel Good Factor of Two Little Words- Happy Birthday

Last Friday was my birthday. Not a particularly special number but it was still my birthday. I’ve never been one to make a fuss about birthdays. I never felt the need to have fancy parties for 18th, 21st or 30th celebrations. I did concede when I turned 40 and had family and friends over for tea and cake……oh and some wine! 😉

I suspect this disinterest in celebrating harks back to my childhood. True, I had a few birthday parties as a child but, as my birthday falls around the date that the schools stop for the summer and people in this area traditionally head off on their summer holidays, my birthday had a tendency to get lost in transit. My 14th birthday was spent driving through England to catch an early morning ferry to St Malo, France. The highlight of that occasion was a plate of chips and beans in a trucker’s rest stop on the motorway about 11pm and catching the highlights from Wimbledon of a Jimmy Connor’s match on a tiny TV on the wall above the counter. A couple of years later, we had just arrived in the Algarve the day before, and it was lunchtime before my mum even remembered it was my birthday! I rest my case… or should that be suitcase!

However Facebook has added a new dimension to this annual event. By the time I woke on Friday morning (my usual 5:50am) and checked my newsfeed there were a dozen birthday wishes from all over the globe waiting there for me. A beautiful start to my day. As the day progressed I was welcomed into work with a card and a gift (yes, it was wine before any of you ask!) and a few hugs and kisses too. When I next checked Facebook around lunchtime, the number of birthday wishes had swelled to over fifty. Some of my Facebook friends know me so well and there were a couple of “hot” photos appearing along with the kind words.  😉

Birthday Tea was a low key affair. The Big Green Gummi Bear did forego his daily trip to the gym so we could eat as a family at a reasonable hour. The four of us sat down to a simple meal of lasagne and garlic flatbread (thank you Tesco Finest). I had bought a tiny birthday cake and Girl Child attempted a rendition of “Happy Birthday” with her usual tuneless aplomb. Thanks, honey. I was treated to lovely gifts- tickets to see Miss Saigon in London’s West End from the Big Green Gummi Bear, silver jewellery from Parents One and Two, silver rings from Boy Child and Girl Child. I received a beautiful journal from a friend who knows me so well. (Thank you again)

At the last minute I had arranged for another friend to pop over for a celebratory glass of vino or two. My fellow rock chick arrived armed with wine and a present wrapped in red tartan gift wrap. She too knows me so well –I’m now the proud owner of an autographed Slash print! (Thank you- I’m still negotiating about where to put it on display) Cue a wonderful evening of loud music, mainly on vinyl, wine and laughter. One of those evening’s that’s good for the soul.

By bedtime, when I checked Facebook one final time for the day, the birthday wishes had swelled to over a hundred and there was another topless male adorning my Facebook wall (Thank you Myles Kennedy and Charlie Hunnam for providing those bodies!!) It’s a good job that the Big Green Gummi Bear has long since unfriended me on Facebook!

I went to bed with a smile, feeling very humble that so many people from all around the world had taken a few seconds out of their day to type two small words that mean so much- Happy Birthday. Thank you one and all.

The Big Green Gummi Bear’s Longest Night Out – a tale of a family outing

Saturday was the longest day of the year and we marked the occasion by actually going out as a family….Please don’t all faint! (If memory serves me correctly the last time we ventured out as a family was to celebrate Boy Child’s birthday last December)

The special occasion that triggered this rare family outing was a summer BBQ at the local boat club where the Big Green Gummi Bear spends most of his time. A slight twist to the tale came earlier in the week when Girl Child asked if she could bring along a friend – her current “Special Friend”. Having caught us in a weak moment both the Big Green Gummi Bear and I said yes.

Cue several hours of preening behind closed bedroom doors before Girl Child emerged looking……well looking like a beautiful young lady instead of her usual rock chick self. When he saw her, a wave of panic washed across the Big Green Gummi Bear’s face.

“Special Friend” duly arrived and politely endured the torture and torment of being introduced to the Big Green Gummi Bear before we all set off to the BBQ. I’ve never seen two teenagers look so awkward, cramped into the back seat of the car, with Boy Child wedged in as chaperone.

A local band had been hired to provide the evening’s musical entertainment and, when we all trooped into the club’s lounge, they were just finishing up their sound check. With drinks in hand, we joined a long table with some friends and sat back to enjoy the evening’s entertainment.

No disrespect to the three musicians but they weren’t exactly aiming for the teenage audience and after a few minutes Girl Child asked if she could go for a walk. Her father said yes but then added, jokingly, that she had to go alone. Special Friend sat frozen in his seat as she trotted off out the door! After a gentle nudge of approval from me, he bolted out after her.

Now the main entertainment for the evening began- Big Green Gummi Bear baiting.

Within five minutes of the two teenagers escaping, he was fretting about where his baby Girl Child had gone. Within fifteen minutes he was twitching and glancing up at the door every few seconds. His friends jumped on the opportunity to make him squirm with suggestions as to what the two teenagers may or may not be up to. When someone dared to suggest that they may be down in the boat sheds enjoying an intimate moment, he almost had heart failure!

In the background the band played on.

We were being “treated” to a set of Rod Stewart and Eagles classic tracks that prompted an impromptu pop quiz among the adults and Boy Child as we tried to guess which song was being attempted. At one point the backing tape programme on the guitarist’s iPad got out of sync and we had a warped Eagles medley playing until he reset it. For me, the highlight of their first half was when they played The Kinks “Sunny Afternoon.” After an epic fail to hit the first high note in the song, the singer just left out all the lyrics that ended on any high notes beyond his range. All that was missing was a few substitute “la la la’s” instead. Priceless!

Food was duly declared ready; the band stopped for a welcome break and the “weans” wandered back in. The Big Green Gummi Bear let out a long sigh of relief.

The legendary Scottish midgies put paid to any ideas of socialising around the BBQ as the various guests grabbed plates of food and darted back indoors before being eaten alive by these pesky beasties.

Before the band had even played a note of the second half of their set Girl Child asked if they could go for another walk. I said yes and they promptly disappeared again. Their timing was impeccable – the Big Green Gummi Bear was at the bar and never saw them leave. Around the table we decided not to tell him until he noticed for himself. Beer in hand, he returned and joined in the mutual appreciation of Neil Diamond (I still have Sweet Caroline stuck in my head) and Monkees numbers. This whole affair was beginning to have the air of couple-less wedding reception.

After about half an hour he realised that Girl Child was AWOL again. Cue panic and a flurry of hand gestures down the length of the table towards me to text or phone or send Boy Child to search for her. His fatherly concern was hysterical, especially when unprompted one of his friends casually remarked that he’d seen them heading round to the secluded garden at the rear of the clubhouse. (They were in fact sitting chatting on a bench slightly further along the road in full view of the clubhouse)

The witching hour finally arrived and it was time for me to escort the teenage contingent home. Eleven o’clock at night and it was still light- love June evenings! Right on time Girl Child and Special Friend returned. The Big Green Gummi Bear sank back into the seat with exhausted relief.

For the Big Green Gummi Bear it had been the longest day, fretting about his daughter’s whereabouts; for Girl Child and Special Friend (and Boy Child who got trapped with the adults) it had been the longest dull day trapped at an “old person’s” party. For me….well I found the whole thing hilarious!

The Ultimate Playlist – what should or shouldn’t be on it?

I love it when, out of the blue, you end up involved in one of those conversations that leaves you with tears of laughter running down your cheeks. These usually happen at the most inopportune moments and that’s exactly what happened mid-week at work. Having giggled my way through it, I now can’t remember exactly what innocent comment started it but a colleague and I ended up discussing the music we would like played at our funerals.

Both of us were singing from the same hymn sheet, so to speak, and agreed that funerals shouldn’t be a mourning of the person’s passing but instead be a celebration of their life and reflective of their personality.

My mum secretly wants a New Orleans jazz style funeral. As this was mentioned in conversation, I got my first fit of the giggles as I was struck by an image of Boy Child playing his trumpet at the head of the school jazz band leading the funeral procession through the local streets towards the crematorium playing “When The Saints Come Marching In”. (I later shared this vision with my mum who fortunately saw the humour in it.)

Anyone who knows me will completely understand that the 23rd Psalm and Highland Cathedral aren’t going to feature when my time comes!

I asked my colleague, who is fifteen years my senior, what he wanted played. “Anything by Guns N Roses,” came his instant reply. He quickly added that he wants to be cremated but that his wife has already vetoed “Smoke on the Water” for that part of the service. I lost it! – cue laughter and tears. I promptly suggested “Burn” as an alternative- cue more giggling from both of us! (sorry, work colleagues) Apparently “Another One Bites the Dust” is also off the playlist. His Good Lady Wife is however a huge ACDC fan so he may have a glimmer of hope of playing “Highway To Hell” …. I doubt it though.

I came home from work still smiling at the conversation and asked The Big Green Gummi Bear what he wanted played. “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” came his reply. I should be grateful it wasn’t the Goombay Dance Band!

It got me thinking about my own choices and, I’ll be honest, I’m struggling. There’s so much good music to choose from. It would be easy to go down a rather reflective rock route and select “Wonderful Life” or “In Loving Memory” by Alter Bridge or “The Crow and the Butterfly” by Shinedown. While it could be fun to play “Stairway to Heaven” it would be giving the mourners false hope and sending them on a wild goose chase. Chris Rea’s “Road To Hell” takes them in a more likely direction!

Perhaps “One Last Thrill,” by Slash should be played? Or Avenged Sevenfold’s “Requiem”? As I wish to be buried rather than cremated when the time comes, Iron Maiden’s “Fear of the Dark” may also fit the bill. Regardless, the celebration should include Garth Brooks “Friends In Low Places” and culminate in “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.”

Now that I’ve got you thinking, hopefully with a smile on your face, what songs would you choose?

 

The Lasting Impact of One Word……one small word……Beast

I read an article the other day that was encouraging people to try creative writing to improve brain power. The exercise that the article suggested the reader complete was to list all the names you’ve ever been called- good or bad- then write about one.

This triggered a flood of memories.

There was Razzle Dazzle that my dad used to call me when I was wee.

There was 10cc that a neighbour called me the year I turned ten. My initials then were CC and he was a fan of that particular band.

With a name like Coral, there was the obvious Coral Reef and various other fishy, ocean themed attempts from time to time.

The name however that sent a torrent of painful memories through me; the name that chilled me to my very core even all these years down the line was Beast. The name the school bullies cursed me with.

My mind was suddenly overflowing with flashback memories from my school days. I could hear their feet thundering down the stairs in primary school as they chased me. I could see the faces of the people who taunted me. I could feel their breath on my neck as they yanked my hair from my head to see if I had 666 tattooed on my skull. I could hear their voices filling my head.

Over thirty years later these wounds still run deep and I doubt if some of them will ever be fully healed but one simple word, one name, opened a fair few of them back up.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones but names can never hurt you,” my mother used to council.

She was wrong.

For just shy of six years I endured the school bullies abuse, usually verbal but occasionally physical. I thought naively that when I moved up from primary school to secondary school that my daily torment would stop. I was sadly mistaken. In fact, for more than two years, it was worse as my primary school bullies now had a larger audience and swiftly recruited new blood.

I was almost fifteen before the last chants of “Beast” died away.

By then the damage had been done.

Years later I had the misfortune to encounter one of the boys I had been to school with. He came staggering out of a local pub with several drunken friends, recognised me as I walked down the street on my way home from work and, before I knew what was happening, they were all round me chanting “Beast. Beast. Beast” incessantly. Suddenly I was 12 years old again instead of the 22 that I was. Fortunately my bus came along, the driver recognised me and the ugliness of the situation and, despite it not being a “bus stop”, pulled over and shouted on me to “Get on!” I was never so relieved to see anyone in my life.

The year I turned 40 a school reunion was organised. The thought of attending terrified me but I knew it was my final chance to conquer my fears and lay the ghosts to rest once and for all. I was reasonably in control of my emotions during the run up to the event until I saw one name appear on the list of people who would be attending. The main instigator of my childhood torment was going to be there.

I very nearly changed my mind but the stronger voice within me lectured my quivering self and said I wasn’t going to let the bullies win again.

When the time came I went along to the event in the local rugby club, flanked by two friends, with my stomach heaving with fear and dread. I don’t regret going for one second however I will never attend another reunion. The bully in question arrived after my friends and I were seated with a drink. I watched them greet our former classmates in turn but, when their eyes met mine, the same look of hatred and loathing from more than a quarter of a century before was staring back at me. Some leopards never change their spots. I turned away.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to sail through life and never experienced bullying at first hand then I expect this is difficult to fully comprehend. If you have experienced bullying then I’m sure you understand only too well the emotions that can be stirred by a name. If you have been the bully then I hope that you never have to experience the pain that you put your victims of choice through.

To this day, I don’t know what started it all. I’ve no idea what minor or major thing triggered it all. I’ll never know ……   But it is all symbolised in a name.

A Mathematical Feline Conundrum

At six am on Friday morning the alarm went off. Still more asleep than awake I lay back, listening to that bloody cuckoo outside (it starts cuckooing about 4.30am) then heard a “MIAOW”. Not an unusual sound for a house that boasts four cats. I guessed that it belong to our ginger feline, Pythagoras.

He is somewhat of a climber and prefers to enter the house via the first floor windows. Nimbly he goes from the fence to the shed roof to the conservatory roof, tip toes across then jumps up onto the lower section of the house roof, wanders over the ridge of the garage and saunters round to the first floor windows, varying his point of entry between the bathroom and Boy Child’s room.

Another “MIAOW” dragged me out of bed and I wandered through to the bathroom, expecting to find Pythagoras patiently waiting to be let in.

No cat.

“Boy Child’s window,” I thought and crept into his room to check.

No cat.

“Hmmm. Perhaps he has gone back to the rear of the house.” I checked Girl Child’s window.

No cat.

Now slightly more awake, I listened carefully and, in between cuckoo calls (that bird is driving me insane, by the way!) I could hear claws moving about and the occasional soft “miaow”.

“He must have gone onto the higher part of the roof and got stuck,” I deduced, rubbing the last remnants of sleep from my eyes.

Barefoot and still in my pyjamas I rushed downstairs and outside to check. So, by ten past six, I’m standing in the middle of the street in my Alter Bridge t-shirt and animal print pyjama bottoms staring up at the roof.

Not a cat in sight. (Humble apologies to any of my neighbours who may have been mentally scarred by my early morning appearance)

Once back indoors, I listened again. I could still hear miaowing and puddy paws moving about.

Was he in the loft? Nah! He couldn’t possibly have got into the loft. No one had been up there for nearly a week and I distinctly remembered putting Pythagoras outside the night before.

Ridiculous as it sounded though, it was the only place he could be.

Trying and failing to be quiet, I got the ladders out of the cupboard, clambered up and very warily slid up the loft hatch, dreading to think what may come flying down on the top of me. Fortunately nothing leapt out at me. I reached up and pulled the light cord then turned to scan round the overly cluttered loft space.

Sitting trembling on a piece of wood was Pythagoras.

 

Out of all the humans in the house I am that cat’s least favourite. This rescue mission now required Boy Child, his human of choice. I went back down the ladder to waken the sleeping teenager – no mean feat in itself!

A rather sleepy Boy Child, wearing only his boxers, staggered out of the bedroom and up the ladder. The cat did respond to his calls but stubbornly refused to come within reach.

What followed was a five hour battle of wills. Having resorted to any form of cat bribery available, Boy Child (now better dressed) finally coaxed the terrified moggy over to the hatch and grabbed him.

Pythagoras’ claws flew out as he held on firmly to a length of pine shelving.

Boy Child prised him off.

Next he clung to the edge of the hatch.

Boy Child prised him off.

Finally he clung to Boy Child, claws still out, and was liberated from the loft.

Rescue complete.

A closer inspection of our roof has revealed a row of slipped tiles that have left a cat sized hole up in one corner beside one of the windows.

The next rescue mission here may well be “The Big Green Gummi Bear” as he goes out onto the roof via the bathroom window to attempt a repair.

Somehow if he gets stuck I don’t think catnip will work to coax him back in!