Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Santa, Don't Stop Here.

I know it's only October, but for some people that's panic-mode-buying-time for Christmas in their eyes, and there have been years in the past when I've been that very person. Doing my bit for mankind where I frantically scour the shelves in toy shops looking for that must-have item that Amy's had on her Christmas list since May. I've been caught out a few times; one year it was with a Nintendo Wii and everywhere had sold out. When our kids are young we think it's going to ruin their Christmas if they don't get that one item they've been so desperate to own, but when we look back in hindsight and remember the masses of wrapping paper and discarded toys, not to mention the diminishing bank balance after yet another dash for those last minute Christmas bits, we tend to see that really, the thing they remember most about Christmas is the excitement of it all, the anticipation and the thought of Father Christmas materialising down our chimneys (even in those houses that don't have one).

A lot's happened this year in my life and apart from needing to watch my pennies like a particularly hungry hawk, I've decided that going minimal is the order of the season. I hold my hands up to spending way too much over the years on presents, some of which were never touched, and on Christmas decorations in order to make the house resemble a rather outlandish grotto. The farmhouse looked great, I won't deny it, and I'd sit back and admire my handy work once I'd finished transforming our house. But it isn't going to happen this year. I've brought a few decorations with me to my new home and there won't be a peep of tinsel to be seen. I've already told my family that presents will be much cheaper this year and my budget has dropped dramatically. We all know it isn't about the presents and the glitz and who can cook the best turkey dinner, but it's so difficult to stop buying extravagant gifts when you've done that for so long, you can't ever remember not spending a fortune.

It's ridiculous though, really, isn't it? It's one day in 364. One day when we gather on the carpet to see how many bottles of bubble bath we've got for the charity shop to give away, and how many bin bags of fancy wrapping paper will need to be taken to the tip. I'm going to send cards, I'm not such a misery-guts just yet, but my list of presents this year will be rather short. I didn't think I'd ever not want to decorate the house or get excited about Christmas, but a part of me is actually dreading it. I don't know why at this moment in time, I can't quite put my finger on it. But it's two months away and that means there's no need to even contemplate cards and presents and fluffy white beards. In a nutshell, I can't be bothered with it all. And that's not like me one bit.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

My New Job

I started my new job this week: transcribing. Some may know it as audio typing (headphones and footpedals...). I did this type of work in the 90s when I worked for temping agencies and was posted to various solicitors' offices. One of the jobs back then was a train journey into the City of Manchester every day, where I worked for eight months for a solicitor who was, (thinking of the right word here so as not to cause offence) an arsehole. Yep, that just about sums him up. He would speak to me like I was something he'd trod in and would bark instructions at me from his office. If I ever made a typo or a mistake, or misunderstood a word he had said, he would bark at me again, throw the letter on the desk and instruct me to do it again. I have no idea how I stuck his attitude for eight months but I was married to my first husband at the time and we were saving up to buy a house, so I suppose it had something to do with needing the money. Anyway, after being crammed on a two-carriage train like cattle, unable to sit down half the time because men had already grabbed the seats so as to read their newspapers or have a snooze (this was the 90s - gentlemen were a dying breed even then), I got increasingly fed up with the rush to the station after work, desperately trying to catch the earlier train - most times it didn't turn up - I decided enough was enough and left. From there, I got more employment through the recruitment agencies in Bolton town centre and then in my home town of Atherton, again, working for solicitors.

This job still means I'm self-employed, I guess as a freelance transcriber, if there is such a position, and I get sent work from the lady who owns the transcribing company. It's very flexible so as long as I get the work done in a reasonable amount of time, I can do it at my leisure - more or less. I do prefer to work during the day, however, as by evening my body is winding down and I'm ready to relax with Amy and the television. Working from home is convenient for me right now as it means I'm always here for Amy. Now that she's older and more responsible, I can shut myself away in the office and get on with work whilst she's entertaining herself. Of course, I want to spend some time with her in the holidays but at least she's old enough to understand that I need to work. I'd like this job to continue for some time, if I'm honest. I'm trying my best to make it work and I really hope it does. I did think of applying elsewhere for part-time work also, but if the transcribing gives me a decent amount of hours (and salary, of course), then I'll just stick to this.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Alien World

I sat in the Citizen's Advice Bureau and all I could think about was getting back in my little car, driving home and shutting the door to the world. I've never been in a CAB before. I've never had the need. My life has consisted of good salaried jobs and luxurious surroundings. Now it consists of worry and paperwork and coming to terms with being unable to sleep at night for thinking about the fear of falling into the poverty trap.

It wasn't meant to be like this. It wasn't meant to see me stepping into an unknown world where I would feel anger and resentment towards a country that penalises a single parent for wanting to find a job and show her child the best example for the future generation.

I've changed my circumstances. It has a knock-on effect right through my life and no one cares, not really. I don't want to visit the CAB again. I didn't like it there. It was a grubby building with an interview room in desperate need of decoration. It was filled with an atmosphere of poverty and hardship and benefits being the only way forward. It was filled with someone else's life.

I was an alien today. An alien on the planet I was meant to feel at home. Other people will feel like this, too. But I'm not other people. I just wanted to find happiness, freedom and a new life. Should I have settled for discontentment, living in isolation and not being able to see any light at the end of the tunnel? Would it have been easier to just stay where I was and live the rest of my life knowing it wasn't where I wanted to be? People need to move on. I need to move on. I need strength to get through this and find a solution to the constant feeling of dread that overwhelms me when I wake in the morning; the fear that envelops me when I think about my future. I've worked hard all my life. I've had good jobs. I don't want to be reliant on hand outs that will be snatched away from me the minute my circumstances change. My heart breaks for what I once had. Yet I don't want what I once had, so why does my heart break?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Being a Teenager

We're much nearer to Amy's school now; it takes just 15-20 minutes to get there. The transport department kindly kept her in the same taxi with a driver and escort whom she's familiar with. I was particularly grateful for that. The upheaval of moving away from the farm, a home that has been Amy's for 13 years since she was just 18 months old, was quite considerable. She coped with it though, much better than I did. She had no friends where we used to live, no one she could call on to discuss the challenges of being a teenager, and boys of course. Her life consisted of coming home from school and either sitting in her bedroom watching television, or spending time on the computer. Admittedly, when she was younger, she would play outside, albeit on her own. Since becoming a teenager, the thought of fresh air and hanging out by yourself isn't all that tempting. Amy might have autism, but she's a typical teenager. She does typical teenage things, becomes melodramatic by just getting out of bed, raids the fridge and the 'goodie' cupboard when she gets in, loves listening to music and watching horror films. 

Since living here, a new housing estate with neighbours and traffic and street lamps, all the things Amy has never been used to, she's adapted remarkably well. She's made two very nice friends, both girls. One lives next door and the other a few doors away, and the three of them are the same age. Amy gets in from school now and tells me she's going to see if her friends are in. She spent a few hours with them last Friday night, playing board games. They're typical teenagers, too. They don't have a condition like Amy does, but it doesn't bother them. They're too nice to let Amy's autism bother them. 

Amy's sociable and she's missed out on having friends at home. I'm incredibly proud of the way she's quickly learnt a new way of life. She did lose a friend recently - a good friend. They were close and had feelings for each other. He broke Amy's heart and I've had to spend the last four weeks picking up the pieces. Of course, Amy is only 14. She has plenty time to find a boyfriend and I'd much rather she didn't go down that road for a good few years yet. But this was a special kind of friendship. Like a childhood sweetheart kind of friendship. And it was also the first time Amy has been devastated by the loss of a friend, mainly because this friend meant so much to her. Life is cruel at times. My girl will experience much worse, I imagine, reluctantly. And I'll always be there to pick up the pieces. Like I say, I'm proud of her. She's coped and got through the upheaval of moving and then the destruction of being heart broken. She's my girl. She's my Amy.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A Friend In Need

Someone asked me how I feel today and I wasn't sure what to answer. For the past eleven years I have been going to Dunkeld in Scotland with The Farmer and Amy to stay in a beautiful hotel on the banks of the River Tay. It was our only family holiday, or break, as I called it, due to the limited time we were able to stay. The Farmer wouldn't leave the farm for more than four or five days, and some years he was eager to get back on the Monday morning meaning the "break" was cut even shorter. There was never a leisurely drive back, stopping off for a pub lunch or stretching our legs to break up the journey. For him, it was a case of the sooner we're back, the sooner the farm will start functioning again. I got used to the relentless angst of being away from home that he would portray, but I always secretly wished we could have stayed longer. Today, however, we should have been making the journey to our favourite hotel where quality family time would have been spent, together with a drive into the mountains to take photographs of the magnificent scenery.

The Farmer has gone by himself. He'd booked two days fishing on the river, as he always does, and I pointed out that he needed a break and should therefore go and enjoy himself. I know it's going to be strange for him being there on his own, but I know it will do him good to get away from the farm for a few days, speak to different people and enjoy sailing up and down the river in the hope of catching a salmon or two.

A feeling of sadness overwhelmed me this morning, whilst on my way back from Berwick. I was driving along the A1, going south, when I suddenly started thinking about The Farmer arriving at the hotel with his holdall filled with creased shirts and a lone toothbrush. It made me grieve for something I have no right to grieve for, especially when it was my idea to leave. When we hurt someone in such a way, it makes everything seem so fragile. I don't miss my life at the farm but this feeling I'm harbouring of knowing that I've destroyed someone's life because I needed more in my own, is something I'm trying hard to come to terms with. Only one person whom The Farmer and I were friends with for all those years has bothered to contact me and ask how I am. One. I don't expect anything more, to be honest, but what I do expect is that those friends we made, particularly the ones that The Farmer has known most of his life, are there for him; that they are helping him to move on and are making the usual, "anything we can do" offers. Unfortunately, I don't think they are because he's rang me a few times asking about things that he could quite easily have got the answer from by asking his neighbours or friends.

I left my husband. I had my reasons. He needs a friend, just like I do. And right now, even though I get these bouts of sadness where I cry and reminisce about those good times we had, I can't be there for him on a daily basis, helping him to use the washing machine and write out a cheque. I know for a fact that The Farmer will always be there for his friends when they need him. And so do you.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Over The Rainbow

We walk up a mountain and stand at the top, looking down on what we've left behind. Some things look small and insignificant. Others seem to reach out and beckon us with outstretched arms and pleading eyes. We can turn away and walk down the other side, or we can go back to where we started from. Going back has never been my forte. But I do dwell on the past, and I know that this can sometimes hinder positive decisions I need to make in my future.

I did reach the top of the mountain. I did. But what faced me on the other side was too much of a temptation. It's foggy on the other side. It's challenging and unknowing. Yet here I am, continuing down in the hope the fog will clear as the sun breaks through. I'd like to think the world was my oyster. Right now, I'll settle for it being round.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Grass on the Other Side

I don't think I've ever mown a lawn in my life. Yesterday, I changed that. It isn't a large patch of grass, but I managed to shorten it and tidy it up enough to feel somewhat proud that another step towards my independence has been taken. The garden at the farm was vast; like a field. The Farmer insisted on cutting it himself on the sit-on mower. He just couldn't vision a woman (his wife) doing what he classed as a "man's job". I've never been into gardening admittedly, and so I let him get on with it. There are so many things I let him get on with that I knew I was capable of doing. I realise it's my own fault for being so weak, but closed doors made for a sheltered existence, and I spent many years living in someone's shadow.

I know that a lot of people we both know personally won't understand that. I appeared strong and focused, perhaps pushy and determined. But they didn't see the little wife who hid behind those closed doors whilst her husband did his own thing and expected his tea on the table every night.

I think the gossip has already started, though by now it could be old news wrapped around Saturday's fish and chips. People wanting to 'have a word' with me, which frankly I find both insulting and laughable at the same time. I've lost friends and the respect of many people. Maybe those people are reading this now to see what they can relay back to The Farmer, knowing he never reads my blog. I've known him for 21 years. We've been together for 13, married for 11. I'm a grown woman and quite capable of making my own decisions and mowing my own lawn. Before I moved up here I was more independent than most of the women I've met in these parts. You can take the girl out the town, but you can't take the town out the girl. That doesn't make me inferior to you. It makes us different, individual. It's how the world goes round.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

An Uncertain Future

Life has a habit of testing our strength. I wasn't sure I would ever be strong enough to write this post and I've tried so very hard to brush the negativity that has overwhelmed my life for the past twelve months, under the carpet, hopefully to be forgotten, or maybe ignored. But there came a time when I could no longer stand the heart break that had begun to envelop me - and I realised in order to face it, I would have to cause further heart break to someone who has been a very special part of my life for many years. As a sign of respect to The Farmer, I won't broadcast details of our private life, but I made a life-changing decision earlier this year that my life and my destiny no longer rested at the idyllic location I have called 'home' for the past thirteen years.

I lived a dream; it all became a little surreal, and if I'm honest, I knew in my heart I needed more. Sometimes, dreams do come true. It was a life I treasured. A life I longed for since being a little girl. I got married in a castle and went on a romantic honeymoon where a river glistened in the late spring sunshine. I worked with animals and tractors and roamed through barley-clad fields with excited sheep dogs and country clothes on my back. I've lived life on a farm. And I've loved it.

But I knew, earlier this year, that this idyllic lifestyle of everything I'd dreamed of, would one day come to an end. I didn't know how, nor did I know when. But I knew I couldn't go on pretending I was happy. I wanted so much to be content, to walk the halls in my beautiful farm house, treading the floorboards and running my hands along the Georgian banister. I wanted desperately to feel at home there, to feel as though I truly belonged there and fit into the farming community that I so loved.

Then my dream slowly turned into a nightmare and my idea of the next five years that lay ahead became a blur. Holding our heads above water, the threat of poor crop prices and lamb trading affecting farms all over the district, wasn't important. We could have got through the financial crisis. There would have been one eventually, I have no doubt. What I couldn't get through was the fact that I had nothing in common with The Farmer, and even though my heart longed for us to make this work, it simply wasn't making a difference. It's the saddest situation in my life. It's the second time I've walked away from a marriage. A good marriage. Probably one of the best. Yet I no longer felt 'at home' living in the farm house; the fields became fields, nothing special, nothing sentimental like they used to be. I've left so much behind, and now I have to look forward. I have no idea what my future holds. None whatsoever. The Farmer would love me to return. I thought about moving back to Manchester, where I'm from. But I have Amy to consider, and right now she's happy and doing well at her school which is a good enough excuse to stay in Northumberland. Perhaps I will live like a gypsy for a while. Whatever happens, Amy and I now live on our own in a nice house further down the coast, and even though this place will also never be our permanent home, I hope we will be stronger one day to move on from the past thirteen years - many of which I was truly happy and therefore will never regret.

Should anyone be reading this who knows me and The Farmer personally, we both need a friend. Please don't take sides.

CJ x

Friday, 12 September 2014

Open Spaces

Years ago, before the creation of social media, it was easy to keep things to yourself, harbour your feelings and bottle it all up. Now, we have the world at our fingertips, people to talk to everywhere we go, and we don't even need to leave the comfort of our own homes. Living a grown up life in a grown up world can seem quite daunting if you're young and impressionable, just venturing out into the big wide spaces of your life. But when you get older and you've lived through times without computers and mobile phones, Twitter and Facebook and all those amazing inventions in between, you have a wealth of experience to add to the mix and that means you have something to offer. Our young people of today might be being brought up in this age of technology, everything being about clicks and 140 characters and poking friends they'll never meet, whilst we know what it was like before all that. Is life better now, is it easier? Or has it made our existence more complicated, less about face to face contact and more about statistics and how many followers we have? We can all admire our social media stats, and I'm sure most of us do, from time to time. But then we get carried away on a tidal wave of putting the world to rights, airing our opinions and allowing ourselves to open up to people of whom we would never normally give the time of day.

I've built up a fairly substantial social media presence over the years - though I look at some Twitter account holders and wonder how they've managed to accumulate so many followers without a bit of back-handed fiddling, especially when they never speak to anyone but just promote themselves. My own following has grown and I'm proud of that. It's grown because I talk to people online. I've made contacts in different fields, not least 'social' media, but the 'media' in general. I dare say I won't ever be one of these technical experts who spends hours clicking and poking and fiddling with computer innards, but I do have a knowledge of the big picture, and experience alone has taught me that however old (or young) I am, I will never let something get the better of me. I used to be a brunette. Too many grey hairs prompted me to go blonde. Dumb? Think again.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My Apologies

I will get back to blogging and online communication eventually but I felt it only polite to update those who have been enquiring about my whereabouts that amazingly enough, I am still here. My life is currently in turmoil and I am experiencing an extremely difficult time which I am unable to discuss. Crystal Jigsaw has temporarily left the building; should the world have stopped turning she would have jumped off.

Please bear with me and accept my apologies for neglecting so many friendships, many of which have remained loyal for several years.

CJ x