Tuesday, 23 April 2013

How my son saved a song

Northern Sky, by Nick Drake

     Damn it, I love that song. And now I love it even more, because I can.

     I have an older brother, J. He is seven and a half years older than me. We haven't spoken for three years, for reasons too tedious and dispiriting for me to list here, although if you look at a previous post, you may spot a correlation between the length of time he & I haven't spoken, and a period of transition in my life. Hmm, yes. Yes, you are right. I know. He did. 

     Now, I shall gladly go to my grave without speaking to him again. But. But. There is one thing I have to thank him for, and that is getting me into Bob Dylan.  For my 13th birthday, he gave me a vinyl copy of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Volume 1. I'd vaguely heard of Dylan, knew one or two songs but nothing more (our mum hated Dylan with a passion, still does, refuses to listen to it, and she was in sole control of the stereo in the dining room and in the car). My parents had bought me a stereo system (two tape decks, radio and turntable for the young people who may be reading) from Secondhand Land as my main birthday present, and so it came to pass that the first the very first piece of music I heard issuing from the dodgily wired speakers of my JVC stereo system was Bob Dylan.

     It was like nothing I'd heard before. Nothing, even though I'd grown up in a house where The Beatles were semi-deities, Bowie was minor royalty and Carole King our glorious leader. I listened to that same album for hours on end, lying on my stomach on my bed, trying to scribble down the lyrics as he sang so I could learn them, decipher them, pore over them and generally become obsessed. I was 13, remember?

     J was building up his CD collection (this was 1993), and one of the first artists he bought on CD was Dylan. Whenever J went out, I would sneak into his room and stealthily play whatever Bob Dylan CD I could lay my hands on, keeping the volume as low as possible so that I could listen out for warning sounds of fraternal return, one ear pressed against the speaker, one ear primed as watchdog. When I heard the front door slam, I'd wrench the CD out of the player, back into the case and then dart back into my room where I would already have music playing. That way, he didn't suspect I'd been listening to his music, see?

     1994. J was working for the family business in Cambridgeshire, and had taken his beloved and bloated CD collection with him. I had begged, cajoled and pleaded with him to be allowed to tape his Dylan albums, and finally, grudgingly, J had agreed, as long as I provided the tapes. And paid him £3 per album. He always was a malevolent little shit.

     For more reasons too tedious and dispiriting to list here, I'd been having a fair bit of time off school, and spent a lot of time in the car with my Dad that summer, where I would insist on playing Dylan on a continuous loop. Happily, Dad was also a Dylan fan, and away from my mothers musical control, gleefully indulged me in my obsession as we drove along the A47, taking the turning at Swaffham and onto the Fens. I was especially in love with The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and liked to close my eyes and imagine someone singing 'Girl from the North Country' whilst thinking about me. I was 14. Don't pretend you haven't done something similar. The other side of the tape had something called 'Five Leaves Left' on it. I hadn't bothered listening to it, because it wasn't Dylan. Instead, when the album on Side A finished I would automatically spring forward, lunge at the rewind button and listen to the scratchy tape deck spool through. Then listen to the album all over again.

     So there we were, at the Downham Market bypass, one Tuesday afternoon in May. We'd been chatting about something or other, and so my normal lightning reflexes hadn't kicked in. The tape machine clunked into gear and suddenly, the most beautiful, soothing and gentle song filled the car. It was Time has told me, by Nick Drake Bye Bob! I have a new musical love now.

     Now hasten along with me as I draw you to the last week of November 1994. I am in love. Frighteningly, worryingly, intensely in love. And also heartbroken. My first boyfriend has left the country and I will never see him again (or so I thought). Even better, my brother, J, has gone with him, just to rub salt in the wound, squeeze lemon juice in it, and then viciously stab me in the heart a further 57 times whilst screeching 'DIE! DIE! PAIN DEATH AND DESTRUCTION!' in my face. The only consolation is that J has returned his earthly belongings to the family home, including his CD collection.

     I while away the hours of heartbreak, listening to Dylan and Nick Drake, wondering if anyone has ever been as unhappy as me, and decide that on balance, probably not. No one has ever suffered the pangs of heartbreak quite as much as me. See? Look in the mirror at my melancholy face, tears silently brimming in my eyes. How uniquely tragic I am, thought all teenagers, everywhere. Rifling through the CDs, I find one I haven't seen before. Ooh, it's that Nick Drake fella, the Five Leaves Left guy. Bryter Layter? Let's give it a whirl.

     Oh. My. God. Northern Sky.

     Yes. That is it. That is love. 'Brighten my Northern Sky'. Perfect. I scribbled down the lyrics to my boyfriend and posted it with a very long letter detailing exactly how much I loved him. He replied by return of post, echoing my sentiments.

     And then stuff happened.

     I won't go into it just at the moment. But suffice it to say, it was heartbreaking. And in the one single act of self-preservation I have ever successfully pulled off (I have no willpower, like, literally, NONE, as anyone who's ever seen me with a wine glass will attest), I split up with him. And for the next ten years I could not listen to Northern Sky. All other Nick Drake songs? Not a problem. Northern Sky? Instant tears, lump in throat, reverting to teenaged self, yearning looks out of windows, mournful face. You get the idea. Embarrassing for me and anyone who happens to witness it.

     Until 07:00 16th January 2005. When W was born. After I'd had a good laugh with the gas and air, been subjected to various indignities (didn't give a toss, I was flying, man, FLYING) and A had departed to put out the good news to all interested parties, I picked W up (panicking quite a lot, I'd never held a newborn before and I was worried I might drop him, or break him, or make him explode) and stood at the window of our room. The sun was just coming up and out of nowhere, Northern Sky popped into my head. And I stood there*, holding my son, looking out at brightening fields and I sang to him. And now, when I hear the song, I don't think of pain and heartache and lost love. I think of W instead and how lucky I am.

     *For reasons of accuracy,  W's first few seconds were as follows: Put straight onto my stomach by midwife. Lifts head up. Looks at me. Looks at A. Looks back at me. Starts crying. Craps all over me. It's almost as though he was thinking 'Six billion people in the world, and I got you two?'. I was still wrapped in the sheet from the bed which was covered in blood and meconium, as was I. Bathing seemed trivial at this point.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Ed Balls


This is part of a thread I started over on Mumsnet. You know, the one with biscuits. And the swearing. Have you been there? You should. It's brilliant. I have laughed more on there than at anything else in my life, ever. Yoni, cutted up pear, the poo troll, fucking class bear, husbands plastic vagina, the cake lady... just some of the threads that have made me ROAR laughing over the last few years. And not just the giggles. The woolly hugs, the support for the bereaved, those suffering from domestic violence, legal advice. All human life is there. Easting biscuits.I digress.I started this thread partly to seek reassurance that maybe other MNers had odd crushes. By the end, I was planning a new career as a writer of erotic political fan fiction.

Don't read on if you're eating. And even if you think you'll cope, I want to apologise in advance for making you read this.

This afternoon, out of nowhere, it occurred to me that, yes, I would do Ed Balls.

I would totally do Ed Balls.

I would totally do Ed Balls, and I bet it would be great.

I'm off now, to pour bleach into my ears and shake my head vigorously. Sorry.

At this point, a lot of other MNers were fairly horrified by my honesty. I felt the need to respond.
I wouldn't necessarily want to live with him. But I would totally do him. He has twinkly eyes. Can't beat a twinkle. It makes me think he would be filth. He would wear dark jersey boxer shorts. And probably be a bit grunty/sweaty in a manly type way.

A few people grudgingly admitted they would do Ed Balls too. And one or two other politicians. I mused on their choices.

See I think Boris would be quite amusing, but I bet he'd be very thrusty and come in about thirty seconds. I wouldn't do him.

And then this got posted:
Hassled Sun 14-Apr-13 20:23:54
brace yourself, because this might be more than you can cope with. He's better looking in RL. He is not a photogenic man. Whatever you're thinking, the reality is x10.

Hassled....Nooooooo!!!! You can't tell me that! I would really do him even more now. So Hassled... do you know him? Does he have any interest in say... twinkling at random women? It's not just me who would do him! Twinkliness and filth. Devastating combination. And he's a Norwich fan. I wonder if he'd like to 'represent my constituency'?

I had clearly struck a chord. Many posters appeared, confessing their parliamentary passions. And what had been a fairly lighthearted discussion took on quite a different shade.

Not David Miliband. I imagine he's quite needy.

Ed Balls wouldn't be. I would totally do him.
Ed Balls runs marathons! He would be more vigorous than I first thought
before googling him quite intensively tonight 

A few people gave their impression of Balls, and what he would be like in bed. I felt the need to defend him.
He would not be a feathery stroker or a BDSMer. He would be a beery, cheery, laughing type who would make you feel amazingly unselfconscious and giggly during sex, which is great. Uncomplicated. And twinkly.
He'd be lovely. A big manly thick arm wrapped around your boobs when you spoon after you've shagged. And when you turn to look at him, he'd be all smiley and twinkly eyes, pulling you closer, so you'd feel even more wriggly with lust.

At this point, more politicians began to be mentioned. And I discovered a hitherto unknown talent for knowing what they would be like as sexual partners. Slightly alarming, but also fun.

Ed Miliband would completely come in his pants. And gasp. And let you know that he had.

David M...I don't see as a feathery stroker. Just quite needy and not really sure what to do. Quite eager, but misinformed.

Gordon Brown... No, can't do it. Brain fails.

Tony Blair... I would like to think my brain fails, but it doesn't. He would be too eager to please, would use your name too much, and would talk ALL THE TIME. 'Do you like that? Oh, you do! You do like that! How about this? Do you like this? No? Not so much? Shall I do what I was doing before?' Not in a feathery stroker way, but in a 'Cosmo once said that men should talk to their partners, so here I am, putting that into action. I LISTEN to women, even when I'm talking so much they can't answer me.'

Ed B would get a bit merry, make you laugh, then have fun giggly sex. With lots of cuddles after. I so would.
 He's a proper bloke. You could talk to him about football, laugh, get a bit pissed, have fun sex, then tell him off when he squeezes your tits in a lovely way.

And then SinisterBuggyMonth got it so spot on I could have kissed her.

SinisterBuggyMonth Mon 15-Apr-13 22:15:19
He'd shag you, go out and change the oil and water into your car and the come back in and shag you again.

Now that is a woman who understands Balls.

Fuck Ed Balls! Sinister, that is exactly what he'd do! Then he'd drink a bit too much beer over dinner, read the kids their bedtime story with much giggling, doze off during Antiques Roadshow, then snuggle up to
your bum with a semiyou just as you're feeling sleepy and mumbly
so you can have lovely snuggly shag after rampantness of earlier that day

Oh god. Just read that he insisted his children take Cooper as their surname to avoid being bullied like he was. I would do him just for that. As it is, I would totally do him anyway, so he gets a bonus one thrown in.

Gordon Brown popped up in some of the posts again.

No. My brain just fails at the thought of Gordon. He is essentially asexual to me. I cannot picture him in any kind of sexy fun EVER. I know he must have done. But it's just not real to me. Even seeing him looking like Nick Drake doesn't work.

There's just something about the Ed. He's like a Real Man in a shiny world of spin. Doing Tony Blair makes me feel twitchy. He'd be too into whether or not you're enjoying it. Which would make you feel too self-conscious to enjoy it.

Someone who clearly wished to cause me mental anguish asked me what Danny Alexander would be like.

Oh Christ, Danny Alexander. That is brain bleach material. Deffo another one who would come in his pants and do a confused face at the point of orgasm. He would also place a pale sweaty hand on one breast (over clothes, obviously) and just leave it there like a slab of albino spam. Would also try to make a joke out of his prem jac by saying 'Ooh, Mummy!'. You'd laugh weakly, and think 'What the actual fuck?'

Another poster chipped in with an anecdote about Michael Portillo being a very intense presence in real life.

Oh yes, I can imagine Portillo donning a smoking jacket and making slightly unnerving comments to you as you sit in his panelled drawing room. You are at his house because your car broke down on a wooded country lane and you needed to use his phone. But the storm has knocked out his telephone line...

And then drjohnsonscat nearly broke my Balls filled brain with this:

drjohnsonscat Thu 18-Apr-13 21:08
Used to work for EB and never thought of him that way but will now give it a go, just so's I know what you're all on about. Nothing if not willing, me.

Yes. She was that causal about it.
DRJOHNSON You WHAT? I am frothing at the thought of working for Balls! Frothing!

A thought occurred to me. Balls is running the London Marathon this coming Sunday.

Is it wrong that I'm seriously considering getting up early on Sunday to see if he's featured on the coverage?
drjohnsonscat What was he liiike? Is he niiiice? Is he as beery and cheery as he appears?
Her reply didn't gladden my heart, sadly.
Not sure I could say he was lovely and twinkly. More driven and focused and very ambitious - but I think that's just going to fan your flames isn't it?
I was a little deflated. But wait! 'driven and focussed', eh? That could work... (Shut up. I was in the grip of a Balls compulsion and I wasn't going to free myself).
Now I see him as the type who would be quite harsh and aggressive when at work, but would remove this persona when off duty to be boozy and cheery.Look, here he is in the back of a taxi (no seatbelt, the rebel), taking you out for a surprise boozy lunch. He's going to shag the arse off you when he gets you home.

Ed Balls

So if you're out there, and you have a burning and urgent need to know what a politician would be like in bed, please do feel free to ask. I feel it would be wrong to deprive the world of my new and scarily accurate talent.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

     Wow. That last post was three and a half years ago. Would you like to hear what happened next?

     Tough. I'm about to tell you.

     As images go, it's certainly an uncomfortable one. Retching, shaking uncontrollably, a deep doom-laden fear pulsing through every pore of my body, my vision restricted to a grey, lumpy cardboard bowl that sat frustratingly out of reach. Sliding unctuously round the bowl was a purple/red mass with small pimples of yellow. Conscious enough to take this in, a new wave of nausea roared its way up towards the grey lumpy cardboard bowl and I realised that what I seeing what my own blood, crescendoing out of my mouth and splattering itself onto my bedsheets. My eyelids - too heavy, surely, to belong to me? - flickered and closed.

     I limped on for a few more months. I told A how I felt. I didn't tell my parents, although if you read the email I sent them in January 2010, it was pretty damned clear what was going through my mind.

     And then, alone in my parents house on Sunday 7th February 2010, I took a shitload of prescription drugs, washed down with two bottles of wine, half a bottle of gin. And trust me, it was a shitload of tablets. I can remember shovelling them into my mouth, thinking 'Yes. This is what needs to be done.' Because in my mind, I was so damaged that I could see no way out. I believed that I was doing A Good Thing. That ultimately, my death would release A, W & D from living with the monster I thought I was. Yes, they would sad that I was dead, they would grieve, but in the end their lives would be immeasurably improved by the absence of me. This feeling was crystallised by my brother telling me that I needed 'to sort myself out' and 'think what you're doing to your kids.'

     Up until a certain point, my memories are quite clear. The two bottles of wine, purchased for £4.19 each. The enormous cache of of painkillers, anti-inflammatories and prescription drugs I'd stashed away the night before, in a Mothercare weaning pot. The beginnings of a beautifully poignant suicide note that eventually rambled into an incoherent, illegible scrawl, with every other word being 'sorry' or 'love'. The constant reverberation of the thought 'Today is the day I'm going to die.' Kissing A and the children goodbye at the train station, knowing we would never see each other again. Concentrating very hard during my 3 hour meeting with my accountant.

      I phoned A, told him I had just finished the meeting I'd had with my accountant, and would be on my way home, in between mouthfuls of various tablets and wine.

     I know I started drinking at about quarter to six, and took the first few tablets after that. Then more wine, tablets, wine, tablets, fistfuls of tablets, especially the tiny white ones. Now and again I'd gag on the combination of cheap warm wine, not having had enough time to chill it, and the dry bitter taste of some of the co-codamol. Then after about half seven, my memory starts playing tricks.

     I know I phoned someone - sorry, whoever you were - thinking they were A, then abruptly hung up. I ignored call after call from A, before finally answering. I don't think I spoke to him, but it was around that point that the back cover of my phone fell off and the battery skittered away. After that it's just a tumble of impressions.

      I remember lying on the floor, feeling the scratchiness of the rug under my cheek and wondering why my parents had paid so much money for something that was so uncomfortable. I remember 'Open the door, it's the Police.' and being in the hallway. I don't think I let them on (I'd be amazed if I had been capable of doing so, to be frank), but they were suddenly there.

     I remember not being able to see anything, but suddenly realising my sister was there, and a flashbulb memory of her running up the path, golden hair swinging from side to side, shock, fear and horror on her beautiful face. Then it's a blank, a total blank. One brief memory of vomiting blood in hospital.

     Then waking up, in a hospital bed. Fuck. I'm still alive. Fuck. I could hear A arguing with my brother on the phone, before hanging up and seeing I was awake. And before he could say anything, this sweet, loving, kind man, who had driven 60 miles in 35 minutes with our two confused kids in the back of the car, this man who knew me so well  he knew to call for help after a one minute phone call, this man who had sat up with me in the high dependency unit, who had sat all night, not knowing if I was going to live or die, that man, the man who had saved my life. I looked him straight in the eye and said 'I meant to do it. I wanted to die.'

     God, I can be a bitch at times.

     Anyway, another suicide attempt, two near sectionings, a lot of visits from the mental health crisis team, months and months of counselling with the truly brilliant Zoe at Hellesdon, a battle with the DWP to qualify for ESA (I won. Fuck you DWP. Fuck you up the bum with a corkscrew), two house moves, a shitload more of prescription drugs (taken rather more individually this time), another house move, a new career for A, a hell of a lot of walking, and three years, two months and 11 days later... Here I am. Still on anti-depressants. I have accepted I will most likely be on them for the rest of my life. S'ok. Because I never want to feel like suicide is the only option ever again. I could bang on about that for a while, about how my brain views the world now. But that's probably terminally boring for other people to read about.

     So that's us up to date. And don't worry, no, not all the posts are going to be quite as self-obsessed as this. I'm sitting at the dining room table, looking out at the sunshine in the garden, watching my two blondies slurp soup like they've never met cutlery, A feeling sorry for himself because he's got a cold, the ferret in his cage, being smelly, the house a bloody tip. And yeah. It's turned out ok. It nearly didn't. But it has.