Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Let's hear it for the Mums.

I’m very distracted today, struggling to concentrate on anything that requires actual thought.

Good news : that means a load of cleaning got done. I find the smell of bleach very reassuring.

The distraction is pre-op stress. The operation won’t be mine. The stress is.
(At this point I did just get up, cross the room, then return with no idea why …)

Beloved Aspie (BA) is profoundly deaf. He wasn’t born that way. He developed a growth in his ear at the age of 14 that destroyed the insides. He never once complained of pain, which is why it did as much damage as it did. It is a strange Apsie thing, that he had no relationship with his inner body. He has a very high pain threshold, and at the time, no vocabulary for or sensitivity to pain. He had never said he was hungry, or thirsty, and I hadn’t noticed, because being Mum, I just tended to feed him at the right times.

The NHS surgeons saved his life. The growth had been heading for his brain.

He was left deaf on one side, with chronic ear disease, which at its worst amounted to two attacks a month and all the ensuing antibiotics. At least we were assured it wouldn’t happen again.

Really? Approaching his 21st birthday, I noticed a distinct deterioration in his overall hearing. A check- up revealed another growth in the other ear. Surgery ensued and most of the rest of his hearing was lost.

He has had the support of great doctors who recommended bone-anchored hearing aids. They operate by vibrating through the skull bone, bypassing the loss in the inner ear. Brilliant – so long as you don’t focus on the fact that this entails drilling into his skull, screwing in a titanium bolt, then waiting 3 months for bone and screw to meld so the hearing aid can be clipped on to the outside. The process is scary, but the results are amazing.

A bonus, when little kids stare at the small boxes at the sides of his head, I like to whisper, “he’s not a real boy/man.” BA has denied me the ultimate fun of following him with a remote control steering device...

The main problem tomorrow, as usual, is that on top of it all, BA is needle phobic. They have to sedate him to sedate him.  Every time, there is an argument with the anaesthetist because the drug they use would last longer in any of us. But BA’s massive adrenaline means he ‘digests’ it in a third of the time. They never believe me. This has led to some very unfunny moments of him waking up as they wheel him into theatre – and boy, is he loud when he’s scared.

So, maybe think of me tomorrow as I go into battle.

And think of all those other amazing mums who do so every day. (No disregard to the Dads, Mums just carry the pain differently).

Actually, I’m not so much stressed as sad – that BA has to keep going through this. He’ll be 25 next week – that’s over 10 years of chronic ear disease and regular surgery.  I know that people live with a lot worse – you have my deepest respect. I just wish our kids didn’t have to hurt.

Monday, 25 November 2013

TARDIS: Twixt Aspergers and Reverence (for) Doctor In Space

TARDIS : Twixt Aspergers And Reverence (for ) Doctor In Space.

It took a year. A whole year.
They said it was coming: this 50th anniversary. I thought it didn’t matter. Or that it might be a ‘special episode’, or something as small as that.

You see, when they resurrected Dr Who in 2005 with one of my favourite actors, Christopher Eccleston, I couldn’t quite convince Beloved Aspie (BA) to give it a go. I talked to him of Daleks and Cybermen and Sea Devils (who’d been a particular terror of mine along with those giant maggots). But he was unimpressed. Of course, by this time Spiderman could fly between buildings, and the Xmen exalted their mutantcy in glorious CGI.

The king rat, early Silurians and a few bug-eyed monsters carried no appeal.
But, he didn’t give up (sometimes he is his mother’s son) and he got hooked (sometimes he …) And it became an event. On Saturday, we would sit together and watch the new Dr Who. The we discovered that our downstairs neighbours, the talented poet, John Mc Cullough, and his partner Morgan, were also fans. They started lending BA dvds of the older shows.

Well that was it  -addiction!

For BA’s 18th birthday , it was a Dr Who theme. I spent months advising friends, in secret, what they should wear to look like this, that or the other alien, character, whatever. Their efforts were phenomenal and his joy supreme.

We did well –too well! His expectations of the 50th Celebration were high. He was vigilant. He was one of the first to get tickets online (thanks be).  He had a dear friend signed up to join us there, (thanks, B). Then we started planning the costume.

Now, here’s the truth. As the year moved on, a total Aspie obsession set in. First it was the sonic screwdrivers: all of them. I have painted them. Family and friends have been enlisted to modify them. I am torn between wanting to kill him for tormenting everyone, and admiring him for enlisting everyone! Then it was the impossible route to building his own Vortex Manipulator (yes, be glad if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

What I haven’t enjoyed is waking him in the morning and the first words being sonic screwdriver  or vortex whatever…Good morning, mum works for me. Or the last words being something about the next bit we have to find in a shop to make whatever…I quite like a goodnight hug.

By last week, he was beside himself: overwhelmed with expectation and overwrought with anxiety about what could go wrong. I was the latter times ten. With expectation so high, how the hell was I going to fix it if it didn’t work out?

I dressed up, as River Song; thank goodness she did double denim and a white shirt. Check. BA was a stunning version of the 10th Doctor (David Tennant). We got up at 5am. Left home by 5.50am to drive to London. A mad woman reversed into the car in the car park, helpful. Excel is huge and our friend couldn’t get past jobsworth because I had her ticket when no-one had wanted them minutes before.

And then everything melted: the stress, the panic, the mania. We were here. In the Weeping Angels’ group, going into the Celebration.

I won’t lie –there were things that could have been better. More space for the costumes and props area – fantastic stuff on show, and no room to swing a cat or take a photo.  Autographs and photos were overbooked so celeb moments limited. What saved the day was the behind the scenes teams who were showing us special effects, or make up, or model making (yes, those Daleks flying through the wall on the Anniversary special show, I did that) had the most amazing stories to share. And BA did get to see Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman being interviewed, and Tom Baker with Graham Norton, and the so friendly comedian, Jon Culshaw.

I died in the Dr Who Quiz without him. He was still shopping and I was answering S***e.
But we left the building with a final photo shoot as he put his Tardis Key in the door of the original Tardis prop, his shopping by his feet, to say farewell.

He was exhausted.

But he had the best day.

My work here is done.

For now...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Tale of Two Women: genre and purpose

You: So your book is about lesbians?

Me: No. There are two lesbians in it.

You: So it’s a lesbian book?

Me: What does that mean?

You: That it’s for lesbians.

Me: What about all the other characters in it?

You: Like who?

Me: Robin, Julian, Andreas, Jon, Hal.

You: Are they gay?

Me: No. They’re all straight guys.

You: So why is it about lesbians?

Me: There are lesbians in it. Along with all the other people. A bit like the real world?...

I think I shall be having this conversation for a long time.

There are two questions that I am asked time and again about my novel: what genre is it and why did you write it? Neither has a neat answer. I didn’t write it with one target audience in mind. And yes, the plot centres around two women who are going to fall in love. But chapter by chapter we meet the other people in their lives, friends, family, colleagues and get to look at a whole range of attitudes and responses to a same sex relationship. Which is my purpose.

My purpose is an exploration of sexual identity, prejudice and relationships in this diversely fabulous 21st century. My hope is that readers will see themselves in the characters, and maybe even challenge their own views a little. And yes, I was a little worried that lesbian readers would take me to task.

I am no longer worried.

I had some feedback from a lesbian reader who compared her experience of reading …but I love you to that of reading Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ many years ago, as it resonates with how she feels and thinks. Well, that’s a reward. My real purpose behind writing is to touch people, one way or another. I’m thrilled to have touched this woman.  

Monday, 4 November 2013

Virtual world…there are people out there!

Hubby gets a phone call from his mate across the road, “Did you know your wife is all over the internet?”
Hubs replies, “Where do think I got her?”

Which of those two lines is true? Behave! The first, obviously…

I have been hearing time and again of the importance of having a social media presence as a new author. Have to say, I wasn’t keen. There is stuff on Facebook and Twitter that is inane, embarrassing, or downright exposing as people forget to use their social filter and think about how public the information can become. (An aside: it’s like mobile phone conversations. People have got so used to talking aloud in the street, they no longer stop to think about what passers by might hear. I have been party to news on bank balances, abortions and domestic violence!)

Anyway, since the launch of my novel, I’ve had to seriously get to grips with a bigger virtual world than Facebook (which is genuinely people I actually know). Yes, it was time to Tweet.

Well, I’ll be honest. I felt like a right plonker talking random nonsense to nobody out there who wanted to hear. And although I want to stir up interest in my book, I don’t just want to be a repetitive advertisement. Then I had a helpful hint from Twitter suggesting I build a sort of profile that indicates my interests. That began to make sense as I have noticed increased traffic to my website followed with messages that indicate that it is often some aspect of yourself that people warm to, which in turn leads them to notice your work.

This does take us back to the question of exposure. You want to widen your appeal, but not sell your soul. It can be done (I hope). For example, on my website is a link to a filmed speech I made to the NHS at a conference a couple of years ago, talking about the role of carers when their cared for is in hospital. It’s a passionate plea. It’s already out there in the ether, so I might as well own it.

What’s that got to do with a sexy, lesbian led coming out story? Nothing. Except that straight away you can see that I’m not just a raunchy cougar delivering mummy erotica (imagine!!), but a complex woman with a busy life. That’s a lot easier to relate to. 

Well, it’s been a funny couple of weeks on Twitter, because guess what I discovered? That virtual world has people in it! And those people are talking and sharing, and spreading the word so much further than I could do alone. I am grateful. I am impressed.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Being Jo Caulfield's anchor woman...

Being Jo Caulfield’s anchor woman…better the devil you know!

Some of you will already know that I run the programme at Bridgwater Arts Centre in Somerset, as a volunteer. A perk of this insanity is that I get to meet lots of artists from musicians to actors to comedians.

Last night, I arrived with family and friends hoping to sit quietly in a corner to enjoy Jo Caulfield’s ‘Better the devil you know’ show. But I was met in reception with, “You’re introducing Jo Caulfield, ok?”


You see it’s one thing introducing a band, or gig because you just have to shout out their name in an excited voice and clap a lot. But a comedian? Well, I’ve only ever seen them introduced by other comedians – you know, the warm-up guy, who says something funny.

Problem is: I am the world’s worst teller of jokes. I either remember the story but forget the punchline, or I remember the punchline with no clue as to how to get to it. So, slightly panicked, that is what I said for my intro, adding, “Lucky for you to be in the hands of the sharp-witted, funny Jo Caulfield instead.” Phew.

We had a little chat in the interval as I cheekily pointed out that we were on the same page in the local paper last week, and gave her a copy of my novel. She graciously accepted and got me back by adding, “You’ll introduce the second half?”

“Yes, of course,” I squeaked.

Well I was determined to be funny this time, and I’m planning a pretend joke to poke fun at myself or some such genius. And I got my laugh: after taking the stage, reaching for the mic and promptly dropping it to the floor with a thud! Needless to say, the gifted comedienne and the audience got some mileage out of that. And I’m quite sure Jo felt the title of her tour validated once more.

I hope she likes the book...