Confidence

During the week we had our Christmas get together for the writer’s group that I belong to. Whilst there, one of the other members was telling a new member that I am very self-effacing, unnecessarily so. I was quite surprised by this, but I shouldn’t have been. I do tend to keep quiet during our meetings, not offering many comments on the work of others. Timid about reading out my own work. Partly this is due to being eternally shy.

Today I was having a chat online with someone about life in an abusive relationship. She commented that these relationships knock your confidence and it can take years to get that back.

My first marriage was not violent in any way, shape or form. Yet the emotional abuse that I lived with for so many years took away all my confidence. Years of public put downs and insults take their toll. Being told frequently if not daily that I am.

“Fat, stupid, ugly with a brain like a sieve, nobody else would ever have you.”

Did nothing for my confidence other than to batter it down time and time again.

When I began divorce proceedings he began repeating the popular children’s nursery rhyme.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Well actually, when said often enough words may not just hurt but they can cause lasting damage.

After my marriage ended I went off the rails a bit, a friend of mine told me I was running around like a headless chicken. I began blogging and dating. I can see now that both were confidence tools. I needed to know that I was desirable, and worthy of friendship. I gained enormous validation through my blog and the friends I made there. Through my dating experiences I learnt that not only am I good enough for the men I was dating, but some of them were not good enough for me.

Gradually I learnt to like myself as a person. My confidence began to build. I started a new job, I have been there for seven and a half years now. They tell me that I have grown so much since I first started there. (I know they don’t mean in weight, although that increased over the years I have been there).

One thing I have tried to keep through out everything has been my sense of humour. For a long time after my divorce I would make jokes about myself. I would get told off for putting myself down, but that wasn’t what I was doing. I was showing that I don’t take myself seriously, that I can laugh at myself not just others. Maybe though there was a touch of laughing at myself before others get the chance.

All my life I have been shy, introverted. I do have my moments of bravery. On occasions when I feel confident that I know what I am talking about, then I can come out of my shell.

As for being self-effacing, I believe that is just a matter of confidence. I say very little at our writing group because I am so in awe of the talent I am surrounded by. Maybe in time some of the knowledge and skill will rub off on me too.

Life in a mirror

Recently I did something that I couldn’t believe I was doing. It was a Wednesday evening and I had just arrived at a meeting of the Writers Circle that I now belong to. The meeting hadn’t yet begun, the last few stragglers were taking their seats. It was announced that due to personal reasons our Treasurer was resigning after 15 years. A request was made for a volunteer to take up the mantle.

That was when I heard it. It was my voice, and the words, not unfamiliar, were not what I expected to hear coming from my own mouth.

‘If nobody else wants to do it I will.’

It didn’t make me feel good, I had misgivings about this. Although I had done it before, twenty years ago I was the treasurer of our local Playgroup. I was worried about having other people’s cash in the house whilst we were struggling financially ourselves. Over the last couple of weeks since we sold our car, our own situation has become more relaxed. I began to feel better about my new role.

This weekend I called round to visit my predecessor for the handover of all the Treasurer’s paraphernalia. We chatted for several hours. We didn’t spend much time discussing the Writing group. Instead we talked about our own lives.

I had never imagined that I would meet another person whose life was such a mirror of my own life. She has lived my past, she has lived my current life. She is living my future.

It is strange but the revelations that came about through our conversation are both scary and at the same time comforting.

Family history

‘I don’t want my Grannie to die, I would miss her too much.’

I was holding an ageing folder with the name ‘Mother’ emblazoned on the front in red felt tip capitals. Skater had asked me what I was carrying. I told him it was some of my Grannie’s writing. He gets a tad confused when I mention my older relatives. He asked was she Bill’s daughter. No she was Bill’s wife, my mother’s mother. My Grannie Pat, died aged 67 when I was just 21. This is what prompted my son to utter those words.

I am well aware that my mother is now 71, I assured Skater that his Grannie is going to live longer than his 21st year. Talking to my mother this morning I mentioned this conversation to her.

‘Tell Skater that I take better care of my health than my mother did,’ she told me.

Last night I was reading some of Pat’s work. There was a tale of a holiday taken with her husband and son on a narrow boat. She described the galley and how being of a round build she had to step out of the galley each time she needed to turn around, unlike the two males who were ‘beanpolish’.

This brought back memories of my favourite woman (after my mummy, that was). Throughout my life I have seen photos of my Grannie as a stunning young woman. A slender brunette, both as a bride and young mother.IMG_2045

However my memories are all of a short, cuddly, grey haired smiling woman whom I loved so much. I remember family walks with her and her much loved labrador cross (Candy), hours at her kitchen table making or drawing things. I remember the dresses she made for me. I remember the many friends she had in their small Essex village. The flowers that she arranged in the church when it was all quiet.

I  don’t have memories of her sitting writing, although I realise that this would have been something she did when we were not there. I don’t know when I first became aware that my Grannie was a prolific writer, both for the WI of which she was an active member, but also for magazines. I don’t think I ever read anything she had written. In my late teens I started writing too, nothing much, just for my own pleasure. When my Grannie died so did my desire to write. I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything, until about 2007 that is.

Today as I began to read some of my Grannie’s writing, I could picture myself in the places she described, whether it was a tale of a fox being hunted or the joy of her faithful dog when she knew they were going out walking. Those childhood walks on the common or along the tracks beside the farms close by, all came flooding back from that time more than 40 years ago when life was so much simpler for us children.

My Grannie loved life, it is just such a pity that her love of life didn’t include taking care of her own health. I remember that for some time she suffered from Angina which in those days was quite common amongst people who I realise were in the age group that I have now joined. She died in her sleep, after having a massive heart attack. I will never forget that morning when my grandfather phoned to speak to my mother at the crack of dawn on a Sunday.  Having answered the phone and called my mother, I sat on the stairs and just cried, I didn’t need to be told the news, I knew it in my heart that I had lost my adored Grannie.

I dressed and set out walking through the town inconsolable. Not only had I lost a beloved relative but I had also lost one of my greatest allies, my confidante.

Although my life has been without her in it, for far longer than she was in it, she has been one of my greatest influences and I shall never ever forget her.

Evelyn Patricia King always in my thoughts, I love you

Valerie has got a secret

Earlier this week I was at our local writing circle, it was ‘Manuscript night.’ I am not in the middle of writing a novel, I have not written any short stories lately. What should I take with me? I could cheat and take along the folder that my mother had recently lent me. It contains stories that her mother had written.

My Grannie was my idol when I was growing up. I hadn’t read much of her work before she died way back in 1983 at the young age of 67. Before she died I had dabbled in writing short stories for children. After her demise I found it very difficult to continue writing. That is until about 8 years ago.  A month or so ago my mother handed me his folder containing some of her writing, much of it had won writing competitions in the WI, some had been included in women’s magazines over the years. I had brought the folder home anxious to delve in and read the gems within. Somehow I just have not been able to find the quiet time to devote to this. I don’t want to be rushed or interrupted while I handle the delicate sheets of paper, mostly typed but some handwritten.

I could take the file with me but firstly it wouldn’t be my work, secondly until I have looked through the pieces properly how can I choose which to read. Instead I picked up my hard backed A4 notebook that I had used during my creative writing classes with June Hampson 7 years ago. I can’t believe it has been so long since those classes. Among the worksheets and advice sheets were a couple of my old stories. I selected  ‘The New Receptionist’s secret.’ I hadn’t looked at it for years, this would do.

So having listened with interest to some of the other short stories that were read out, taken on board some of the comments it was now my turn. I must admit that although nervous and I could feel the heat in my face and my eyes did begin to water from time to time, I did find it easier now than I had done previously at the classes.

The comments I received were positive, although it was suggested that I should perhaps try writing it in the first person and maybe set it as a retro piece.

Today I have edited my story slightly, I might develop Valerie’s story further just to see where she takes me.

I wanted you to be the first people to meet Valerie. Tell me what you think I should do with this, even if it is just put it back in a box and forget it.

 

 

It’s nearly 5.30pm and I know it won’t be long before I’m released for the evening. Bringing myself back to the here and now, Julie is explaining how to turn off the switchboard at the end of the day, yes this Company is still operating in the past. Tomorrow I will be on my own. I had started this new job as receptionist at the Surveyor’s office a day early so that Julie could show me the ropes. Julie was leaving to have a baby. As we were putting on our coats we wished each other ‘good luck’ I’m not sure which of us will need it most.

I had done this kind of work before, but not in an office this size. Usually I preferred to work in a busy office where I wouldn’t have time to think. It’s good to have enough work to keep my mind active and my hands busy. You learn more when you are in a busy environment and I liked to treat each day as an opportunity to learn. But this time I know that I am not likely be busy in this office. There would not be many visitors and phone calls through the switchboard would be minimal. I knew a little about the Company before I got here. There are two senior surveyors, Conrad Jasper and Marcus Bentley, between them they own the majority of shares in the Company. Then there are the other surveyors, Davies, Wheeler, Thompson, Taylor and Cartwright. There are others but as yet I haven’t worked out what they all do. Oh well I will soon learn who they all are. One person I had come across very early in the day was Cora Baker. Cora was PA to both Marcus and Conrad, she was very protective of her two bosses and you crossed her at your peril. Julie had told me Cora has been here all her working life.
I had taken this job partly because I need the money to bring up sons Jamie and Tom, but it would also give me time to keep up with my studying during the quiet periods throughout the day. I have recently begun a proof reading course in the hope of increasing my income. There is another reason for taking this job in this particular office, but this is my secret.
Earlier in the day I had been in the post room sorting through the day’s outgoing post ready for collection. I had heard two male voices the other side of the screen separating the post room from the open plan office behind it. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I heard these two, as yet unidentified voices in hushed whispers. The younger voice was telling the other that he thought  

‘The new receptionist is hot. Those legs! Surely, they must be in stockings, not tights under that tight pinstripe skirt and those heels made her legs appear to go on forever.’

The other man, he had a much older voice told his friend.

‘You’re wrong, women in their forties don’t wear stockings to work. Anyway’

He told his younger colleague.

‘You don’t know much about women, it isn’t the legs you look at, you need to check out her breasts and if I’m not mistaken the new receptionist is all woman. Curvy in all the right places and those boobies straining against the buttons of her white blouse have just got to be fabbie dabbie.’

I cringed inside, I can’t abide words/phrases like ‘boobies’ and ‘fabbie dabbie’, they make me think of adolescent public school boys. Which I am sure Marcus was, still is in a way.

I am brought back from my wondering thoughts when I hear the younger man ask.
‘Marcus, whatever is the matter with Cora today? Did you see the looks she gave the new receptionist, Val, Valerie or whatever her name is, when she came in with the coffee this morning? That’s not like her.’

‘Oh you know Cora, how she feels she has to protect me and Conrad. She’s worried I will run off with the new gal, thinks my eye was on her too much, not like Conrad he hardly noticed her at all. Funny that, she is about his age. I guess he is settled at home, although I was worried about him a few months ago.’

‘Why were you worried about Conrad?’
‘Oh, you know when he sent all the staff a text wishing everyone a happy new year? He had got himself in to a right muddle, sent some of us the wrong message, including Cora. Upset her I can tell you. It would appear that our Conrad is not exactly all he seems to be. He had been having a steamy affair an accidentally sent us a text that should have gone to his mystery woman. Cora vowed to get to the bottom of it.’

I can’t help smiling to myself as I slide the crisp white envelopes into the sack ready for the post man to collect.

That’s day one in the new job over, this could be interesting I tell myself as I climb behind the wheel of my aging black Ford Focus and start the engine. In ten minutes I will be through the door of our new flat. I should just about have time for a shower and put on my favourite new sexy, pale pink lingerie before he arrives.

Standing in front of the mirror I can’t help grinning to myself, I had known as soon as I heard the voice this morning that it had been Cora who had called anonymously last week with her veiled threats.

Well Cora will not get intimidate me. After all Conrad is not Cora’s husband but he is my lover.

On other news I have seen Robin a few times today but not close up, I have been busy pretending to be domestic.

We also have yet another person interested in our car, we now have to wait until after work tomorrow to see if he actually turns up to have a look at it.

Getting back on track

I have done two things this weekend that are getting me back on track.

Firstly, I have made a decision to do something that I first did 19 years ago.  When my then husband found out what I was doing he was furious. He thought I was trying to do something to him. He believed I was set on ruining his life.  He just couldn’t see that what I was doing was for me and the children. I was taking care of us. I was making it possible to stay in our marriage. So what was this thing that I had done? I went to Al Anon. For those fortunate enough not to know what that is. Al Anon is a worldwide group set up for the families of alcoholics. Just like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) it is anonymous but instead of helping alcoholics with their addiction, supporting them as they manage without alcohol.

Al Anon is a support group for the wives/husbands/parents/siblings and children of alcoholics.

Al-Anon Family Groups hold regular meetings where members share  their own experience of living with alcoholism. Al-Anon does not offer advice or counselling, but members give each other understanding, strength and hope.

When I took the decision to go to Al Anon, all those years ago, I was in a deep despair. I was pregnant with my fourth child, my husband was drinking heavily and our finances were in trouble. I wanted desperately to leave but I had no money and nowhere to go. If I couldn’t go, then I had to do something to make life easier.  First I sought help from an alcohol and drug abuse councellor. He told me that as I was not the one with the addiction he couldn’t help me but he advised that I had to make a choice. Either leave my husband or if I chose to stay then I must learn to take care of myself and my children and let my husband look after himself. This I actually found easier to do that I had expected. For years his drinking had been the centre of life for all of us not only him.

Anyway, I went along to weekly meetings for about six weeks before he cottoned on to where I had been going. During these weeks I learnt about The Serenity Prayer which has become my Creed. Everything that I learnt there stayed with me and helped me to get through the next ten years.

Recently it was suggested to me that maybe Al-Anon could help me in my current situation.  The person who suggested had no idea that I had been before (why should they). I did explain that I had found the meetings a great help in the past. Then I got to thinking about it. I have been coping with the situation with my current husband  but maybe now is a good time to go back to meetings. Maybe I will learn more, perhaps there have been changes in the help and advice that can be given since that time in 1995. I looked up when and where the local meetings are. Yesterday I was in town and walked to the side road where the meetings are held just to acquaint myself  with the venue.

This time I have been upfront about it and told Owl that I intend to go to meetings, I shall be going for my own benefit.

Secondly, a few months ago I took on a proofreading course, partly because I felt that it might help me with my writing. Also there is a chance of adding to my income.  I am midway through the course. I had not touched it for a few weeks for various reasons. This weekend I promised myself that I would get back to it and this afternoon that is what I have done.

Text talk

Yesterday evening Pug and Skater were discussing text messages from the other parent.

Apparently he never uses punctuation which makes his messages more difficult to understand. Pug tried reading out his father’s latest text message exactly as it was written. Not only was he out of breath at the end but it still didn’t make a lot of sense. However they had got the gist of what they needed to know. They might be playing golf (pitch and putt) with him one day next week depending on Tony. They don’t know who Tony is but never mind.

Anyway the upshot of this is that I commented that I always use punctuation in my text messages. This was greeted with the response that everybody does. I beg to differ on that one. Some people, and I don’t just mean youngsters, use text speak for any written format. However my sons assure me that all their friends use punctuation and none of them  use ‘text talk’ except for the occasional LOL or FFS or WTF.

I am proud that not only do my boys know how to use the English language as it should be used but they also mix with young men and women who also have a good grasp of our language and don’t abuse its use.

Guilt and other stuff

I am feeling guilty that although I have wanted to keep up with my writing both on here and elsewhere I have just been too weary. At first I didn’t think too much about it that I was coming home form work exhausted. It has been a very tiring time in the office recently. However as the days stretched into weeks and I was still exhausted I became concerned.

Since I have been on my weekly injections I have found that my appetite has been greatly reduced, which is a good thing. I began to wonder if this was impacting on my energy levels.  I noticed that I seemed to feel quite poorly on Sunday evenings, once or twice I was even sick. I figured that on Sundays I was having a lazy morning followed by a light lunch then a busy afternoon. By about 6 to 6.30 in the evening when I was thinking about preparing the evening meal,out of the blue, I became unwell. I am a great one for analysing everything and worked out I had probably been going too long with out eating. Now I am trying to eat little and often, instead of little not very often. In the last week I have felt much better and certainly less  exhausted.

Over the Christmas period I was reading Maddie Cochere‘s books. Which are all ebooks. As I didn’t have an ereader, my preference even in these electronic days for ‘real books’ I was reading them on my laptop. I was finding this cumbersome and limiting, so when I bought this new notebook I decided to take the plunge and buy a Kindle Paperwhite.  I read Maddie’s remaining books and then started to download a few more by other authors. I had intended to only use my kindle when away from home, so much easier when waiting for an appointment carry my kindle in my handbag than a proper book. I have always found carrying a book with me everywhere was not good for the book. Even though I had vowed to carry on reading ‘real books’ at home I have found myself increasingly opening my kindle. Where I had always had my nose in a book I now have my kindle open at every opportunity. I go to bed early and read for half an hour whereas for ages I have been reading one or two pages of a book before falling asleep.  I still have my stack of books waiting to be read, but for now it is to my kindle that I keep turning. Instead of writing I have been reading.

I am currently reading  ‘The Deadliest Game’ by H E Joyce. Which I am only 4 chapters in but it has me gripped already.

The previous two books I have just finished reading ‘Silence’ and ‘Broken Silence’ by Natasha Preston were both good reads. Although I do think that as much as I enjoyed reading these two books they did lack a good proof reading. They were littered with typing errors which I found very distracting. Probably because I always read every word aloud in my head, if a word is in the wrong place or missing altogether I have to keep going over the sentence until it makes sense to me.

At work I get very frustrated when I read an email that is grammatically wrong, I have even offered to proof read emails for various members of staff. I get alarmed at some of the things that are sent out that just shouldn’t be.

I am currently working on a course for proof reading. Maybe once I have completed the course I shall be in a better position to tell people where they are going wrong.

The main reason I have not read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is that I had heard it was not well written, I image that rather than enjoying the story I would have been correcting all the errors. For that reason I decided not to jump on the bandwagon at the time. Perhaps one day I will give in and read it. However I have been told that some of my own writing has been just as good if not better, among other things some of you are aware that I have dabbled in writing erotica in the past.

Oh and I wasn’t sure we would get here but yesterday was our first wedding anniversary. The last 9 months have been a bit of a roller coaster to say the least but we seem to be coming out the other end of it now and I am pleased to say we reached our anniversary without killing each other. Last night we celebrated with the two friends who came with us a year ago. Here’s to the next year.