RSS

What Happens When…

… you’ve drifted too far from the shore and you can’t get back?

What happens when…

…you’ve swallowed and held down so much bitter brine that you have no voice left to call for help.

And …

…you have no desire to wave.

After being a good girl and doing the right things – taking the pills, talking to the doctor/nurse/counsellor/psychologist, what happens when you’re left in no-man’s-land ‘on a waiting list?’ Nobody calls. Nobody checks that you’re still alive and still in need of an appointment.

People who know, forget. People who don’t know say, ‘oh, but you always seem so cheerful.’ People who are close to you say, ‘well no one’s going to help you, you have to help yourself. You have responsibilities.’

They still bring their problems, their miseries, to your attention though. Funny that, how can such a no-mark be worthy of asking for advice?

You can ask, ‘hey come to my house for a cup of tea or dinner or just to say hi. Let’s hang out and have a laugh,’ but no one comes. You stop asking. You know that no one wants to spend time with you and, if they should remark that they really must come and see you, you feel the light go out in your eyes. You struggle to smile and say, ‘yes, that would be nice.’ but it is hard. It is so fucking hard.

Maybe there’s a party that you really don’t want to go to because you are so far from the human race now, that you can’t relate to anyone there. But you have to go. Maybe someone breaks a bottle of drink and you find a piece of glass, by chance, and you take it into the toilet and lock the door and hack your arm because you can’t scream. And the hilarious thing is, an hour earlier you did the same thing with a drawing pin that had been left on a shelf but that wasn’t a sharp enough scream.

What happens when you decide to stop taking the anxiety medicine because a. you can’t force yourself out the door to see the doctor for more and b. it does little more than take the topmost edge off of the pain so what’s the point? You can see the deterioration in your face. You can feel the utter hollowness inside where every last drop of hope, every last ounce of pulling yourself up by the bootstrap-ness has been scraped dry?

What happens when you turn away from the shore and stop treading water?

I’ll tell you.

You will be condemned as selfish.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Musing

 

Tags: ,

I’m Not OK

My niece, Medusa, turned fifteen at the beginning of this month. She is a big fan of the, now defunct, band My Chemical Romance – or My Chem to those of us in the know – and one of her presents was a t-shirt bearing the above legend. It seems apposite to borrow it for the title of this post.

It’s been very quiet on Shedward lately, hasn’t it? In fact there’s only really been a drip feed of posts from me for the longest time.

For the past 18 months I have been unable to work. I tell people it’s because I fell and tore a tendon in my arm in February last year. This is true, I did fall, I did tear a tendon and despite various treatments, it’s getting more painful and debilitating but … The real reason I’m not sailing the ocean blue or trying to operate a cashdesk in the supermarket is because I am suffering from…

wait for it …

Post

Traumatic

Stress

Disorder.

(There, you said it. It wasn’t that difficult was it Lorraine?)

To me, PTSD is what the troops returning from war zones have to deal with, not middle-aged women buried in the English countryside but there you go. You live and learn. I won’t bore you with the causes or symptoms, I mention it by way of explanation for my dilatory blogging. I have got terrible writer’s block and I am now too poor to top up the data allowance on my internet dongle – hence the silence. Sorry about that. St F and I are struggling. Even food shopping is a stretch so internet time is a long way down the list. I’m only online now because I rebelled and decided I really did need to check my emails and internet banking etc. And to come here to make my excuses.

So there you have it. Writer’s are famously supposed to be tortured souls. I can vouch for the tortured bit but as to whether I’m still a writer, my jury’s out.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Struggling Writers

 

Tags: , ,

Writer’s Block and Canine Puberty

2013 wasn’t my favourite year but compared with 2014 (so far) it was a piece of cake.

The first half of this year has been truly awful but I will not dwell on it. At least I have my pal Roger. OK, he takes up too much of the bed. He also insists on trying to get on to my little two-seater sofa with me (and he’s a lotta dog who takes up a lotta room) but he’s gentle and friendly and, sometimes, he’s even obedient. He waits patiently while I spend hours in the attic staring at my computer screen trying to find words to build into stories. Sometimes he lies at the foot of the ladder, sometimes he rouses himself from his bed to come up and see where I am. I have to come down every so often and make a fuss of him so he’s reassured that I haven’t abandoned him. Maybe I’m too soft but what’s the point of sharing my life with him if I don’t spend time just enjoying his company?

I haven’t got very far with the stories – I’m better at loving my dog – but I live in hope.

Although I only have the one hound, I do take a full and active role in the lives of St F’s animals. Followers of this blog may remember that my first doggy pal was Floyd the Jack Chi. He who needed rescuing from Moriarty the wicked black cat. He who spent every night on my bed when I lived at St F’s before the arrival of Eric. Floyd and I are still mates, though it is harder to spend time with him now that there are four dogs bounding around. Poor Floyd, being only slightly larger than Moriarty but smaller than all the other dogs and even smaller than the ginger cat, Rufus the Eternal, gets trodden on and bowled over regularly. Especially by Roger who has no spatial awareness and no concept of how big he is. Poor old Floyd. His problems are compounded by the fact that Molotov, the fiery cocktail foster dog is now a full for-ever member of the family and is in season. We would have had her spayed by now but she had a kind of pre-season and the vet advised us to wait … Floyd is the only entire male among our menagerie and boy is he randy. We cannot take our eyes off him or Molotov for a moment. So what do you do in this situation? Well you send one of them to Roger’s house, don’t you? Mainly it’s Molotov who comes home with me and Rog. She’s at that age when she will chew anything that’s left unattended. She has consumed several loaves of bread that my nephew, Semtex has forgotten to put away and, she’s had at least three tubs of margarine. St F is at her wit’s end so Molotov is with me until her season ends. So far she has only chewed a roll of Sellotape at my house so I consider that progress. Is Roger pleased to have a house guest? No, not really. Is my niece, Medusa happy to have her puppy tucked up in my bed? No, not really. Am I getting enough sleep with two big dogs curled up in my small double bed? Definitely not, But hey, I love Molotov. She is sooooo naughty. She has a face built for sulking and although Roger growls when she clambers over him to get to me, he not only tolerates her, he snuggles up on the sofa with her when I’m not looking. They have a huge memory-foam mattress to share so why they insist on stealing my tiny sofa is anyone’s guess.

You Wanted to Sit Here?

You Wanted to Sit Here?

There is a huge advantage to having Molotov to stay … Walkies. I don’t need a ball or a frisbee. I have a Molotov. Take her and Roger up the hill to an empty field and they will chase each other around and around until the thick, pink meat of their tongues is hanging out and their breath is coming in short, sharp gasps.

Here I Come Ready or Not

Here I Come Ready or Not

There You Are!

There You Are!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all that running around they both sleep well. Result!

Last night, it was Floyd’s turn to come and stay. Medusa needed to reconnect with her Molotov and so I spent the night with the largest and the smallest of our canine family. While Roger was prancing around the bedroom waiting to be invited into bed, Floyd jumped up and made himself comfortable among the pillows. I lifted the duvet to allow Roger to burrow underneath but, unfortunately, Floyd chose the same moment to slide under cover. The two dogs met beneath the duvet, Floyd snarled, jumped forward and bit Roger on the nose. Roger whimpered and shot across the room. Cheeky bloody Floyd! After all, this is Roger’s home. I banished Floyd to the floor while I reassured the big guy that, yes, this is his bed and, no, Floyd wasn’t going to push him out. The rest of the night passed peacefully because I had to sleep between the two of them. Roger wasn’t going to risk being next to Floyd and slept on my side of the bed with his head on my pillow.

Tonight Molotov is back and she has pulled off a coup. Usually she sleeps across the bottom of the bed (and takes up a disproportionate amount of room) while Roger crams himself next to me but not this time. Earlier, I took them both down for a last wee in the garden and Molotov beat Roger back to the bedroom. Now she’s lying next to me, snoring like a chainsaw. Roger has been shoved to the bottom of the bed. He doesn’t seem unduly bothered though.

All Change in the Pecking Order

All Change in the Pecking Order

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 1, 2014 in Family Life

 

Tags: , , , ,

Hedley, What’s a Tumescence?

A quiet day after a busy night getting our ship into port meant that the captain and the 1st mate had gone off to their cabins to stock up on sleep. It was a dead cert we would either have to shift ship half a dozen times during the coming night, or we would have to load cargo at stupid o’ clock.

Daz and I, the deck hands, have been given a ‘job and  knock.’ In other words, do this and then you’re finished for the day. I can’t remember what Daz’s job was but mine was to paint the base of the shower in the officer’s bathroom.

To give you an idea of this little coaster, the Breydon Trader, let me describe her. Small – even by coaster standards – she was a low air-draft vessel designed to fit under the bridges on the Rhine. When I signed on, she mostly sailed between the east coast of England and Holland, an area of the North Sea known as Sully’s Ditch. Her masts could be lowered and, if push came to shove, so could her wheelhouse and funnel. No bridge was too low for the BT. She also was shallow drafted and could get into places where there was very little water under her.

The BT

The BT

Inside, the captain’s cabin and day room, the mate’s cabin, the officer’s bathroom and officer’s toilet occupied the forward end of the accommodation. The deck hand’s cabins were aft. Between the officers and the hoi-polloi was the galley-come-messroom which was the size of a large cupboard. The rest of the BT was her hold. The important bit. We certainly lived in close quarters. Luckily, it was mostly a very happy ship.

Usually, there were four on the crew but, at the time, I’m writing of, we had the luxury of a trainee deck hand – my sister, St F.

So, there was me, on my knees with paint and brush in the officer’s bathroom, when St F came to read me a story. Unlike most ships, the BT could run on batteries when alongside. Engine shut down and silent, generators shut down and silent, you really could hear a pin drop, so St F had to read very quietly from her book, Voyager in Bondage. – an interesting choice for a sixteen-year-old girl to read to her big sister… Sailors eh? There are only two things that either of us can remember from that literary masterpiece – one being that the male object-of-desire had ‘buttocks like bowls of soft white dough.’

After half an hour, just before our Voyager in Bondage got to a big orgy scene, I’d finished painting and St F closed her book. Amid much girly giggling we were packing up to vacate the area when a voice from the mate’s cabin said, ‘Awwww, I was listening to that.’

Some weeks, or maybe months, later, a new mate came to the BT. Smart, well read and prone to taking his clothes off when he’d had a few too many, Hedley fitted right in. And here’s where the other thing St F and I remember from that book came in …

Me aged about 22, taken by Hedley on BT

Me aged about 22, taken by Hedley on BT

The girlfriend of a mutual friend of St F and I was, shall we say, a little annoying. Watching a film with her could be trying because she couldn’t or wouldn’t keep up with the plot so every few minutes she’d ask her fella, ‘Dave, why are they doing that?’ or ‘Dave, what does that mean?’ St F and I, rather cruelly, would imitate her (not when she or Dave were around!) and Hedley became our favourite target.

In the mess-room over dinner, in the pub over a pint, in fact, anywhere we could get away with it, one of us would ask, ‘Hedley, what’s a tumescence?’ Thank you, Voyager in Bondage for the endless hours of fun that we had with that. I can’t remember if he ever gave us the proper, dictionary definition but, if he did, I can guarantee that St F and I will have jammed our fingers in our ears and said, ‘lalalalalalalala.’ Sometimes we’d wonder aloud if he had buttocks like bowls of soft white dough – but not too often, in case he decided to show us.

Well done Hedders for not pushing us over the side!

By the way, Hedley, should you ever read this, do you remember the night in Mistley-in-the-mud when you went ashore for a pint? You asked if anyone wanted anything bringing back… There was a Danish ship just along the quay from us and I said that I’d rather like a tall, blonde Dane.

At closing time you sloshed aboard after a good night in the pub. I was sitting in the mess when you came in.

‘Aha,’ you said. ‘ I couldn’t find a tall blonde Dane exactly. Will this do?’ From a bag you produced four large cans of Carlsberg lager.

Well Hedders, old mate, I thought you’d had the last laugh – and it’s taken me nearly thirty years but, guess what? I’ve finally got myself a tall blonde Dane. XXX

Me n Roger

Me n Roger

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Shedward Seawards

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Yes It Was Real Russian Vodka With Real Russians

Well some of it was. Some of it was vodka from the 24 hour supermarket close to the quay.

Alongside Ocean Terminal in Greenock, my little green ship with the rainbows on her hull is doing a crew change. Off go the campaigners from our last stint (sorry can’t remember what that was now – Atlantic Oil I think) and on come an influx of Scandinavians for a trip into Norwegian waters. Then, oh oh, engine problems. Engine problems of a serious nature. The ship is forty years old and our problem requires that a retired engineer from the company that built her engine is flown to Scotland to help.

I have long had a penchant for tall, fair Nordic types and you can imagine my dismay when, en-masse, the Scandinavian contingent decamped to their home countries and the future of the campaign was cast into doubt. Boo hoo. Don’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t simply hoping to spend the next however-long ogling my shipmates but, hey, it’d been a long trip and a girl can look can’t she? Remember I said that.

During the two weeks of our lay-up a lot happened. We made friends with people at the Faslane Peace Camp and I spent a good deal of time ferrying peace-campers across the loch to the ship so that they could use our showers and washing machines. We filmed Marines filming us filming them. Children from the local area came along the quay every evening to spit at us. Some tried to stick knives into the rigid-inflatable boats that we carried on deck. Mounted police officers came along to chase the kids away – and they would stay away – until the next evening. And I got bumped up from 2nd Mate to 1st Mate. In my past seafaring life, I’d gone from deckhand to 1st Mate fairly quickly but when I went to work for Greenpeace, I’d been ashore for a while so going in as 2nd Mate made sense. When the moment came to step up a rank, I took it very seriously. I didn’t want to let anyone down, least of all an organisation that I really believed in.

Fast forward. Our engine problems fixed, the new crew settled in, the Norwegian campaign still on and our Scandinavians have returned. I’ve been a good girl, working hard and staying aboard night after night. I didn’t drink in those days as a result of seeing too many lives flushed down the toilet through alcohol but, it’s our last night in port and I thought I’d relax and have a beer with my dinner. Oh silly me to think that one beer was enough of a celebration.

Crew meetings and crew briefings are an important part of a Greenpeace ship’s routine and on that night a briefing took place to explain what we would be hoping to achieve and how we’d do it. Drilling rigs and climbers and rigid-inflatables all got a mention. Questions were asked and answered and then – it was party time! And believe me, Greenpeace knows how to party. Firstly, the main campaigner, a gregarious and charming Russian called Dima revealed his duty-free vodka. Numerous Norwegian and Swedish activists followed suit. Then, our British crew, not to be outdone, did a quick tour of Tesco and came back with a trolley-full of vodka (country of origin unknown).

Remember I said ‘remember I said that’? Well, at this point a rather nice Norwegian chappie called Michael had noticed that there was a spare bunk in my cabin. Neither daft, nor backwards in coming forwards, Michael had weighed up the pros and cons of living in a multi-berth cabin on the lower deck (known as The Bronx) or sharing a large, airy berth on the fo’c’sle deck with the mate. The Bronx, Mate’s cabin … Trust me it’s the cabin that won. When he said, ‘Do you mind if I move in with you,’ I didn’t know where to look. Ahem, tough lady sailor went red and said, ‘Er, no, that’s fine.’  Suffice to say, I was a bit shy about going to bed that night – or maybe it was the beer.

Vodka had been flowing around the messroom for a while when I noticed that Sacha, our Russian Chief Engineer and Dima were hosting a Russian drinking game.

‘Ha ha!’ I thought. ‘I’ll have some of that, enough with the goody two shoes image!’ I approached the two of them and said ‘Can I play?’

‘Yes of course,’ said Sacha and handed me a water tumbler which was about the only unused glass left aboard the ship. I held it out towards his vodka bottle. Sacha, who had sailed with me for over a year at this point, knew that I didn’t drink so – he filled the glass almost to the top. Then he handed me a potato and a slice of bread.

‘Drink vodka in one, bite potato, eat bread,’ he said.

I did that twice. Obviously, combined with my earlier beer, this had an effect on me because whilst sitting on a sofa chatting with my pal Mucky Dave, another engineer, I noticed that Sacha and Dima were corralling a bunch of drunken, growling fools under the large, round mess-room table. Apparently they were all being ‘tigers under the table.’ Now this intrigued me. What did this involve? And how could I become a growling ‘tiger under the table?’ I asked Sacha.

‘First you must drink more vodka,’ said the wicked man, knowing that I had no tolerance for booze. Stupidly, I downed another tumbler-full. Instant realisation hit me. I knew that very shortly I was so going to regret that last slug. Instead of getting under the table, I returned to the sofa with Mucky Dave. 20 minutes later the first waves of a vodka-too-far hit me. ‘Time for bed,’ I thought.

I remember my new cabin mate bending over my bunk later that night saying, ‘drink lots of water.’

‘I have,’ I groaned from under my duvet. My devil-may-care, I’m gonna be a party girl persona had come to a grinding halt. By half-past-ten I was in bed. Some party animal.

At 0700 when my alarm went off, Michael poked his head from under his duvet.

‘You’re not really going to get up?’ he asked.

‘I have to,’ I wailed wishing that I didn’t have to. Wishing that I was at home. Wishing that I was dead. But, I had a new Bosun to settle in and there was an emergency muster scheduled for later that morning. New crew members had to know where their muster points were, what their duties were in an emergency and how to get into lifejackets or survival suits. It was my job to ensure this all went to plan. I crawled from my bunk, I staggered down the stairs, I lay down on a couch in the messroom. Every few minutes the new Bosun came to give me an update on what he had the deck crew doing.

‘Well done,’ I told him. ‘You’re doing great,’ I said. ‘Please go away, you’re making my head hurt,’ I never revealed. And he kept coming back. Eventually I dragged my sorry carcass up to the wheelhouse to find the Captain and discuss the forth-coming drill. Tip-toeing in so that my footfalls didn’t make my head pound, I balanced gingerly on a seat. The Captain, Jon, took one look at me and burst out laughing.

‘The problem with you, Lol, is that you don’t do this often enough,’ he said when he’d regained control of himself. I rested my head on my arms and moaned.

‘What you need is a coke,’ Jon said and disappeared all the way down to the mess to get one. ‘Here you are,’ he handed me an ice-cold can straight from the fridge. ‘Drink this,’ he offered the can. ‘And then go back to bed. I’ll handle the drill.’

Gratitude poured from me as I negotiated the stairs. Bursting into my cabin, I remembered my new roomie. I looked across at his bunk to see him peering at me through bloodshot eyes. ‘You’re back then?’ he asked before covering his head and going back to sleep.

It has been sixteen years since that night. I never did find out how to become a tiger under the table. And I’ve never been able to look at a glass of vodka without a rolling, greasy, sick-feeling in my stomach since then.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 4, 2014 in Shedward Seawards

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Empty House, Full Heart

He’s crying upstairs. I can hear the quiet snuffles between the echoing thuds of his footsteps on the bare boards – newly stripped of their carpet.

I could go to him, try to comfort him, but there’s been a lot of tears and a lot of hugs this weekend and, I guess, now that we are at the end of things he might need this moment alone. Besides, down in the hallway I’m furiously blinking back my own tears as I look into the stripped kitchen.

‘Must not cry, must stay strong. For him.’

It’s a daft idea, not only because I’m utterly failing to stay dry-eyed but also, because he knows I’m sad, that this is hard for me too.

Clump, clump, clump on the naked stairs, he’s coming down. The only items left to remove are Rufus and Moriarty. They have been his constant companions these past few days – more than St F and I – but now they too must leave.

‘Shall I take the cats outside and give you a minute?’ I ask. He raises his gaze to mine, his brown eyes soft with unembarrassed grief.

‘No, I’m good,’ he whispers. ‘Let’s go.’

Stooping, we grab a cat each and step outside. Rufus under one arm, he fumbles the keys from his pocket to lock the door behind us. Uncertain of how to be at this momentously awful moment I say, ‘I bet that’s the wrong key.’ I’m right, it is.

‘That’s the backdoor key he,’ smiles, holding it up for me to inspect. Unfortunately it’s near-enough identical to the other key on the ring and I know, from experience it’s always that one that comes to hand first. shifting Rufus’ weight slightly, he turns back, inserts the second key in the lock. And turns it. He is now locked out of his childhood home, the place where his mother raised him and his sister.

‘You’ll be here when I get back?’ he asks, placing Rufus on the ground before turning for the gate. I nod. He strides to his car, head up, shoulders squared and gets in and drives away. Rufus immediately takes up station on the doorstep. He wants to go back into the house but he can’t. The keys are on their way back to the council offices. Rufus, Moriarty and I are technically trespassers now.

I try to persuade the old cat to come home to St F’s, next door, but he won’t, he won’t leave the doorstep of the house that he’s visited almost every day for the last fourteen years. Moriarty won’t leave Rufus so I am forced to leave alone.

Keys returned, he comes back and I make coffee. Strong, black, with an entire plantation’s worth of sugar in it. We swap stories – he talks about the RAF and I tell salty sea stories. We laugh and joke until St F comes home from work. There’s a pause after we hear her car pull up, turns out she’s spotted Rufus on next-door’s step and gone to get him. Rufus isn’t happy about this but he deigns to be enfolded into the arms of our guest and spreads ginger fur across the man’s trousers, shirt, chin … Moriarty sits on the windowsill outside, occasionally glancing in at us but, mostly, he’s casing the garden for mischief, for some furry or feathered creature to come within range. Thankfully the local wildlife has got wise to him and he remains on the windowsill.

Back in next-door’s garden – Betty’s garden – humans and cats take a last tour, a last look at view across the valley.

‘Goodbye, old friend,’ he murmurs into Rufus’ ear after hugging St F and I and thanking us for our help and then he’s gone. His family’s last link with this village, broken. His car stuffed to the roof with salvaged belongings. He’s gone. His sister has gone. Their childhood is cast adrift from its moorings and now exists only in their memories. ST F and I stay in the garden a little longer and face up to the fact that Betty too has finally left us. Completely and irrevocably. Only Rufus is not convinced. He sits on the steps and miaows.

Rufus and Moriarty at Betty's

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Family Life

 

Tags: , , ,

Invisible Angst

The charcoal grey haze of defeat, studded with black chips of despair hangs, like an iron cape, from the shoulders. Pressing, squashing, tiring.

Can it be seen? Touched? Tasted? Does it leave the smell of decayed bitterness on the skin?

Decayed bitterness – bitterness that once was – but the wearer of the cape has stumbled beyond bitterness. All that remains are flaky, powdered traces buried in the deeper layers of self-loathing. Even bitterness can be crushed, can become irrelevant. Bitterness indicates a belief in the unfairness of it all. Only the true connoisseur, the long-term wearer of the iron cape, knows that fairness and justice are illusions. There is only the glacially slow oppression from the cape. It is what it is, what is always was, what it always will be.

Some stars can’t be changed

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Musing

 

Tags: , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 121 other followers

%d bloggers like this: