Sunday, 30 September 2007

The sad woman all alone in row F

Ah the joy of mother and son bonding. Going off to town for the day, tickets in hand for a performance of Potted Potter. A spot of lunch; idle chat about school and friends and football and rugby. Maybe a little shopping. Laughing on the way home, remembering the best bits of the show. Playing the new CD the Fairy Godmother had sent (Anthems – despite being a high-powered barrister she’s very fond of her rock bands) very loud and singing along to the words: ‘Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruuuuby..da da da da-da daaah…’ tunelessly but with great vim.

Except…… Hmm. Rewind to a few days ago when Adrian suddenly said, ‘Oh heck, it’s the football trip on Saturday.’
‘The football trip?’
‘Yup. Coach to Plymouth to watch Argyll versus Wolves. Training session at the club for the boys. Lunch. Watch the match. Gone all day.’
‘But, I’m taking him to Potted Potter. It’s on the calendar.’
We both looked at the calendar and there it was clear as day.
Double-booked. Poor James. He looked anxiously from one to other of us.
‘Mum, you’d like me to come to the theatre, wouldn’t you?’ Anguish etched all over his face.
Yes, of course I would but I know my son and I knew which would really hold the greatest allure so, with that doomed sense of sacrifice that runs through every mother’s veins, I gave him a hug.
‘I suspect you’d really like the football, wouldn’t you?’
Eyes brightened.
‘But you’d be on your own, Mum.’
James’ idea of hell.
‘Don’t remotely worry. Maybe I could take the Mistress of All Evil instead.’
James looked doubtful. Adrian looked askance. I shrugged. ‘Well, I only said ‘maybe’….’

But I didn’t of course. I wasn’t sure I could cope with a nine-year old goth with serious attitude and an overwhelming urge to rule the world, however much I like her parents and knew that a good person would have given them an afternoon’s break (I also have a sneaking admiration for the MoaE but in that sort of ‘wow, you’re something else girl, but thank Puck you’re not my child! way). Instead I found myself at the box office in Taunton asking if they had any tickets left for the show. The woman brightened visibly: ‘Oh yes, how many would you like…’
Er, wrong answer. I had hoped to sell them off.
‘No, sorry.’ Eyes glazed over.
So what do you do? I’m a Capricorn and we are known to be….shall we say ‘careful’ with our money. Two unused tickets hurt. No matter that it was fundamentally a children’s show. So I sidled in, the only person On Her Own in the whole theatre. The rational part of me said, ‘So what?’ The irrational totally barking mad part said, ‘Oh heck. They’ll think I’m a child-snatcher or a paedophile or, even worse (with Hermione Granger studied pause) a total saddo Harry Potter freak.

I put my bag on the other seat and looked around brightly, as if I were watching for my child who was coming along in a bit. The mechanics of how said mythical child would appear all on his own were, of course, pushed firmly aside. Maybe he had been dropped off by his mythical father (a divorced husband maybe that I can’t even face seeing momentarily in the lobby) or maybe he was a mythical teenager who had shuffled off huddle-shouldered while I was looking at shoes but would return any moment. Maybe mythical child was small and had been So Bad that I had put him on the naughty step and was waiting for him to ‘think about your behaviour’ before returning contrite to his seat (this one slightly worried me as what mother would leave her child alone in a theatre foyer, however heinous his crime?) Oh whatever.
I vaguely registered a bloke with a boy squeezing past to sit on my right. Hmm. Maybe I could attach myself to them. I smiled brightly in a sort of ‘ah, there you are’ way and then realised, to my horror, that he was possibly the ugliest man in the world. Nothing wrong with being ugly of course (she says quickly) and in fact there is something heroic and quite sexy about truly awfully ugly. But ugly with no style is grim. So, my ‘hello dear husband’ smile turned midstream into a ‘well, gosh here we are at an afternoon theatre show; ah well, never mind’ nod.

Never have ten minutes passed so slowly. Never have I been so relieved to see lights go down and a show begin. And actually it was very good. Very funny. I laughed out loud a few times and then had to curtail myself as a woman sitting on her own laughing is a bit tragic. Needless to say I didn’t jump up to try to hit the ball in audience participation Quidditch. And I didn’t volunteer my services as Seeker for Gryfyndor or Slitherin. I just sat very quietly and, at the end, gave a theatrical sigh as if to say to the world (as if the world cared) ‘Ah well, typical of the horrible divorced husband/morose teenager/naughty child – get OFF that step, you little creep). Seriously though, if you have children who are potty about Potter I’d heartily recommend it.

We met up early evening at The Bridge (the fourth of Dulverton’s pubs) for supper and rolled back up the hill. It dawned on me that this was probably going to happen more and more. Either I was going to have to develop a taste for sport (having spent my entire life studiously trying to avoid it) or I was going to have quite a few solo shopping and theatre trips ahead of me. I suppose I could always adopt the Mistress of All Evil.
Hmm, going solo sounds just fine to me.

PS - picture is of the Light of Flickering Despond in the kitchen. And you thought this house was lovely?!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Feeding Size Zero Mother (with no help whatsoever from Nigella Lawson)

I have been a bit down lately. Nothing warranting hugs or pictures (honestly, truly, please don't), just a low-level not-as-good-as-I-should-be. Partly it’s because I’ve had a recurrence of the reactive arthritis I developed after catching a virus in Italy three years ago. But mainly it’s because Size Zero mother is doing her level best to drive me demented. Her weird eating habits have been getting so extreme of late that Something Had To Be Done. I tried to get her meals on wheels but, faced with her incredibly long (and in many parts totally inexplicable) list of culinary pass-nots, they shrugged their shoulders and ran for the door. Supermarket read-meals are a no-go area for much the same reason. So now I am cooking for her, running up batches of food, freezing them and racing them over every so often.
This is, shall we say, challenging as the list of ingredients she is ‘allergic’ to or ‘intolerant’ of runs to, at the last count: red meat; wheat and all wheat products; dairy produce (cow); potatoes; onions; tomatoes; celery; nuts; seeds; corn; mushrooms; kidney beans; cauliflower; peas; fruit; dried fruit (apart from bananas and occasionally plums). And that’s just this week. Also, everything has to be cooked until it more or less falls apart in the pan so her teeth can cope. When I try to tell her that this severely limits what I can cook, she more or less tells me I lack imagination.
‘Have you watched Nigella?’ she asks imperiously.
Er, no Mum, I’m too busy catching up on work or cooking to watch TV. Obviously I don’t say that – I just shake my head mutely.
‘Well, she uses leeks instead of onions. She says they’re much easier.’
‘Don’t really see that, Mum. After all, what could be easier than onions? Leeks need all that cleaning to get out the gritty bits.’
‘Oh no. Absolutely not. Nigella says you can get them ready cleaned.’
‘From where? Waitrose?’
‘Oh no. Everywhere does them. Nigella says so.’
Does she really?
‘Anyway. There are positively tons of things I can eat. I love vegetables.’
‘Yes but Mum, it’s pretty hard when you don’t eat tomatoes, onions, potatoes or mushrooms – most recipes seem to use those.’
‘Well, I gave you a book with recipes I could eat.’
Er, yes. Like ratatouille for example, with spidery writing dictating: ‘No onions, use peppers not tomatoes’. Hmm, so not really ratatouille then.
‘Well, you should watch the programme, Jane. Nigella knocks up these wonderful meals in next to no time. It’s really easy. She does it with all her friends round too.’
I’m not sure who I want to murder most – mother or Nigella. Truly, it’s a nightmare.

Yesterday I had to take her to the doctor’s as she has come off all her medication and is ‘feeling weird.’ Small wonder really as most normal people a) talk to their doctor before merrily stopping taking Betablockers, Digoxin, Co-amilofruse and Prozac and b) when they do come off them, they do it slowly. Not my mother.
So did it matter that she wasn’t on the meds?
The doctor shrugged. ‘When she had her last cardiology assessment she scored 150 beats per minute for 30 seconds. Most 83-year-olds would be dead after that. So I reckon her heart is pretty strong.’
‘So you’re happy that she’s not taking anything now?’
He shrugged again and gave me a look that said, clear as day, that my mother was a total nutcase in his eyes and that he heartily wished she were not on his list, and what was he supposed to do, go round and shove the tablets down her throat personally?
‘If she can’t take the betablockers, shouldn’t she be on something else? Like calcium channel blockers, for example?’
‘Would you take them?’ He looked at Mum and she had the grace to look sheepish.

Did he agree that we needed to do something about her anxiety?
‘I’m taking chamomile tea,’ says mother brightly. The doctor gives me ‘the look’ again.
Could she have CBT or CAT? No, but she could see ‘Geoff’, the counsellor. OK, now this is cruel and I don’t know Geoff from Adam but immediately I had a vision of round-toed sandals and socks, baggy cords and a stripy tank-top. Still, it’s a start. If he can stop her worrying about what to do if the phone rings while she’s answering the door, or can make her realise that it’s not the end of the world if someone sees her without full make-up, then it will be a Good Thing. If he can maybe persuade her that avoiding wheat while eating cake (er, yes, the normal wheat flour type of cake thing) then I will probably marry him and have water-birth babies with him.

Anyhow, enough of all that. All part of life’s rich tapestry. But it did make me think about the long-lost homework on ‘what I do when I’m feeling down…’ otherwise known as the Mood-boosters. So here, for what they’re worth, are the things that make me feel better, no matter what.

1. Crying. Sometimes there’s nothing for it, a good bit of full-on totally feeling sorry for myself catharsis is just fabulous. It doesn’t take much to make me sob: certain pieces of music; certain memories; reading about women having a tough time in childbirth…..I’m off, wailing and heaving the shoulders and lunging at Asbo who usually wriggles away (unless it is a Really Important Cry in which case he will earn his Chappie by snuggling up and being sympathetic).
2. Alcohol. I know that it’s a depressant and not really ideal. But. But. But. When life is really crap, the sound of a glass being filled can be nectar to the soul. Gin & tonic; brandy mac; Fleurie; Crozes; Pinot grigio; something fizzy (couldn’t really give a toss if it’s posh poo or cheap cava) – all raise the spirits (and even more so if glasses are clinked with good friends – real friends).
3. A tough hard workout. It’s usually the last thing I feel like doing but I know that, if I can make myself go to the gym or do an aerobics class, after a while the combination of pounding music and sweat pushes the doldrums aside. Something to do with all those endorphins I suppose.
4. Get a massage. I love nearly every kind of bodywork going – the tougher the better. By tuning into my body, I find that my mind often lets go and stops being quite so pathetic. I have trained both Adrian and James in the fine art of the neck rub, the foot rub and a truncated form of Indian Head Massage so, if I can’t get or afford a pukka massage therapist, I’ll nag them until they have a go.
5. Read. But only if it’s a really good page-turner. The one thing I couldn’t live without would be books and if life gets really shitty, I just run away to a distant corner, curl up in a blanket and read.
6. Watch a really good film. When I lived in cities and got really low, I would take myself off to a matinee. Sitting in the dark, with a big bag of popcorn and a coffee, being transported to another world was sheer heaven. Now I have to resort to old favourites on DVD – Into the West is my all-time feelgood movie – even with Ellen Barkin’s cod Irish accent.
7. Do a bit of divination. I got my first pack of tarot cards when I was about twelve and have been doing the tarot, the runes and the I Ching ever since. I don’t do them as a fortune reading exercise really; more a way of asking advice. Is it a supernatural power or simply our higher consciousness? Don’t know and don’t really care. It works.
8. Bake. I don’t do much cooking (apart from Zero Mum’s) but there is something magical and alchemical about baking. I love the way that you plonk a sloshy pile of goo in the oven and it comes out as a cake or brownies or whatever. You get to lick the bowl (back to childhood in a second!) and eat the results. Definitely heart-warming, if not remotely healthy.
9. Make my gratitude list. This sounds a bit worthy but it really works like nothing else for me. I think of ten things that have happened that very day for which I’m grateful. Could be teeny tiny – like James slipping his hand into mine or the sharp grapefruit tang of my aromatherapy candle. I try to keep it specific as otherwise it can become a bit rote…. But somehow it puts it all in perspective. Life ain’t that bad.