Monday, 17 June 2013

My brother and St Christopher's Fellowship

If you were to ask me who my hero is, one of the first people I would think of is my brother Rob. At school he was as good as written off by his teachers, he's dyslexic but back then too many teachers equated that with laziness and I suspect there were several who failed to spot his potential. Comparing our school reports is telling, I am frequently described as "hardworking"or "conscientious" and only criticised for being too quiet and failing to "add to class discussions." Rob's reports tell of "silliness", "untidiness" and "being easily distracted."
Despite not getting the support he should have been given at school Rob was always single-minded in his wish to work with young people. Over time he had many jobs, sometimes with youngsters, often not. For a while he worked with homeless adults, supporting the people that society most abhors but that drive to help vulnerable teenagers never left him and through hard  work and determination he eventually achieved his goal and found a job with St Christopher's Fellowship in London. He is now their New Business Development Manager so clearly his dedication is finally being recognised.
The sort of young person St Christopher's helps is often not the type certain sections of the media look kindly upon. They've been involved with drugs, been part of gangs, are often seen as little more than "hoodies with asbos." People who work for St Christopher's though see something different; the child who has been abused at home, the teen who can see no future beyond gang life because nobody has ever told them otherwise, the youngster who has fled to this country in fear of their life. These are children who have never climbed a tree, who are scared to try something new because they've never had anybody invest belief in them, who use bravado to disguise the fact they don't think they're worth bothering with.
St Christopher's tells them they do matter, they can be more and if they're willing to apply themselves and to work hard then they will receive the advice and support they need. They are given hope and learn to believe in themselves. If you can spare a few minutes please watch this video  in which young people helped by St Christopher's talk of their journey towards independence. You might also like (please) to check out their website to find out more about their work and their aims. And if you should ever find yourself in a position where you would like to fundraise or donate money to a good cause please consider helping out St Christopher's. The kids helped might often appear difficult to love and may not have the aww factor of  retired donkeys but many of them have so much potential and at St Christopher's there are people like my brother who can help them achieve it.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Weird fears

We had a bit of a spider incident this morning. As I stumbled out of bed I was met by the demand, "there's a  humungous spider in the bath, can you get it out please." Now I'm not scared of spiders, in fact I like them and so it's not a big deal for me to remove them. It was a pretty big specimen, the sort that you can really feel in the palm of your hand. I picked it up and carried it gently to the garden, as always feeling slightly smug and hopeful my calm demeanor will eventually rub off on my arachnophobe daughters.
Today though was probably not the day for that. As I went to throw it on the grass it shot up my arm, over my shoulder and disappeared. I asked Connie if she could see it but she refused to come anywhere near me so I had to come back into the house to check in the mirror. Meanwhile Lorna and Connie were looking on horrified and calling out useful tips such as "get away from me" and " you're not going anywhere near my room!" Eventually I located it on my back - only for it to run up into my hair. At this point the girls demanded I go back outside, "and don't come back in till it's gone." I made like I was in a mosh pit and shook my head wildly. There was no sign of the spider. I'm hoping it came out when I was head banging, otherwise I have a new pet - living in my hair!
Anyway after the drama and with the children at school I started thinking about phobias. It always surprises me that they are scared of spiders given neither me nor their dad is remotely bothered by our arachnid friends. In fact as a child I would collect any I found around the house, stand on my cabin bed and put them on my ceiling. I do realise this isn't usual behaviour but nevertheless with such a relaxed attitude I do have to confess to finding it frustrating that all three have developed this fear. There is a small part of me itching to tell them to get over it and that spiders won't hurt them, but then I remember I'm not averse to one or two irrational fears/phobias myself. So in ascending order of my wussiness, here are my main fears

4. Small spaces. I know claustrophobia is common but my version is quite particular. I'm fine with lifts and aeroplanes for instance but don't like situations where I have to crawl into a small space and exit backwards. As I'm not a potholer this means what I'm actually afraid of is cleaning under the bunk beds. Every so often I have to sort out the mess that seems to accrue under there - soft toys, odd socks, puzzle pieces, Lego bricks - you know the drill. When this job needs doing I have to psyche myself up to crawl underneath the bed, then I grab as many items as I can in about two minutes before backing out quickly to steady my nerves before taking a deep breath ready to go back under for another go.

3. Dropping things from a height. I don't mind being high, as a child I loved climbing and abseiling on school trips. However, I really don't enjoy looking over say bridges or boats because I'm afraid I might drop something. My family never fail to laugh at me as I go through the routine of checking my rings, watch, camera, bag etc any time I've not been able to avoid a situation where something could conceivably fall away from me. In all honesty I'd probably be happier naked! Similarly I also have to check my rings every time I post a letter.

2. Helicopters. I blame this fear on ER and the fate of Dr Romano. I really dislike looking at helicopters flying and imagine them bursting into flames before my eyes. The thought of ever having to go on a helicopter is more than I care to comprehend. The only time would be if I needed an air ambulance and then I hope I'm unconscious.

1. Maggots. My loathing for these vile little entities can't really be put into words suffice to say their wriggly squirminess is enough to drive me to tears. I used to be a veterinary nurse and in the summer we'd often have rabbits brought in suffering from fly strike where flies would lay eggs in the faeces around the anus of the rabbit which would then hatch into maggots. I confess I used to hide and leave the de-maggoting to others. If I found a maggot in the house I'd have to be outside until it was removed. The thought of anybody in the house taking up fishing is enough to make me leave home!

So perhaps a fear of spiders isn't so bad! What are your odd fears? I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Something about Mary

It was an inset day for the younger two yesterday so first day back after half term today.  We never seem to do very much during the half term holidays, I'll sometimes speak to other mums afterwards and they seem to have crammed in so many activities, I wonder when they found time to sleep. We do a lot of sleeping in the holidays. Then when we do finally surface there is no guarantee that any of us will bother getting dressed until after lunch. We mostly seem to mooch about, chat a bit, read, listen to music - not my choice of music but at least constant Starz TV keeps me down with the kids (although I do have to confess it was some time before I realised it was Hey Porsche and nothing to do with the Merchant of Venice!)
I do sometimes cook with them, although these days I'm often relegated to washer upper and Lorna is head chef. The drawback of this being I don't get to lick out the bowl. Mostly though I let them do their own thing rather than structure activities for them. I think children need to sometimes be bored so they can figure out ways to entertain themselves rather than relying on somebody else to always provide the entertainment. Plus there is something a bit soul destroying about taking half an hour to set up a craft activity only for Maggie to finish it in ten minutes leaving me with half an hour's worth of tidying up.
Worse than the messy short-lived craft activities though is the "playing with small toy figures" game. It is the game I most try to avoid but sometimes there is no escape. So it was one day last week, shortly after we'd set up the spring table I blogged about recently actually. I should have been more aware that having the box of various small figures out was asking for trouble but perhaps still recovering from a virus had dulled my wits. I agreed to play a short game, pleading a need to cook the dinner soon as a means to facilitating an escape when it all became too much. "Right then, the game is called 'Mary Mary Can't You See?'" I asked who Mary was but was met with a withering look, "there is no Mary. It's just the name of the game." I had to choose my toys, most of which were then confiscated as being "wrong". Eventually I was allowed a car, crab, cat, alien from Toy Story and Dora the Explorer's mum.  I then had to think up acceptable things for each toy to say to her choices (lemur, cat, dinosaur, duck and another Dora's mum if you're wondering.) Several minutes of nonsensical conversation followed in which I had to admire a cat's medals, make the alien exercise and pretend Dora's mum was learning to fly, whilst trying to sneak on to Twitter to allow me to keep at least a tenuous grasp on reality. Eventually her cat appeared to turn to the dark side, stabbed my crab through the eye and needed to be jailed in the toy box. I took the opportunity to return the rest of the toys to the box and retire to the kitchen to cook dinner (read my book).
The toys are now packed safely in their box, high on a shelf until the next time I can't avoid the siren call of "please play with my aminals (sic) with me Mummy."
I never did find out who Mary was.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Losing a pet

Bit of a sad post today as on Friday I found out my lovely old cat, Eliot had been put to sleep. I knew the end was coming, he was 18 and had hyperthyroidism but unfortunately his passing wasn't what I'd wished for.
He went out on Sunday afternoon and when he hadn't returned after a few hours I wasn't too concerned as he regularly visited a house over the road. However, when Connie went over there to collect him they said they hadn't seen him all day. We put a poster up, put notes through doors and phoned the vets but other than a call from a lady who'd seen him walking down the road on Sunday we heard nothing.
Then yesterday I had a call from a lady saying she'd found him at her work and then taken him to a shelter. She'd clearly fallen for him and remarked on what a lovely friendly cat he was. She told me she was intending to rescue him had his owners not turned up.
So I waited excitedly for the rescue shelter to ring me but my hopes were shattered when they said he'd become very ill and deteriorated so badly that on Tuesday the decision was taken to put him to sleep.
I rescued him when he was a tiny kitten.  I used to be a veterinary nurse and he was brought into the practice one weekend as a stray and had a dreadful case of cat flu. We weren't sure if he'd survive, his mouth was ulcerated, he was a snotty mess and one eye had a painful corneal ulcer. He was also the friendliest little scrap and I fell for him immediately. Eventually the practice needed his cage and as he was infectious none of the shelters would take him. I agreed to take him home on trial as we had a Doberman who wasn't good with cats. Luckily he must have taken one look at him and decided he was too pathetic to bother with, so he ended up staying. I named him Eliot after T.S. Eliot.
I slowly nursed him back to health and other than a scar on his eye and being unable to miow properly, he enjoyed many years of good health. It was only in his last year that he began to show signs of suffering from hyperthyroidism.
He was the most gentle cat you could ever wish for with children. When I was pregnant he would curl up under my top and fall asleep on my bump. He never bit or scratched them, even when they were clumsy toddlers. I was always his favourite person though, he spent most evenings of his life curled up either on me or near me.
I was concerned as to how the girls would react to his death. Not Lorna so much, she's 14 and very pragmatic. Connie though is a sensitive soul at 11 and at 5 Maggie only has vague memories of the guinea pigs dying.
So far they seem to be fine although I wonder how they'll be when his body is returned to us next week. In that wonderfully accepting way that small people have  Maggie declared "I am sad that Eliot's dead but happy we've got something to bury. We've not buried anything for ages! Always an up side eh?!
I'll miss him desperately, he came to live with me before I was married and just 22. Now I'm 40, have been married for almost 18 years and have three children. He's been a constant part of most of my adult life. I am grateful though to have been so lucky to have had him for so long and I think he enjoyed his 18 years with us.