Monday, 23 May 2011


Tomorrow I go to the hospital.  I am due to have facet joint and SI joint blocks and ligamentous/tendon blocks injected into my spine in order to ease my back pain.
When the Consultant at the Pain Clinic suggested this was a way forward it seemed like a jolly good idea at the time.    If it works I will be able to dance the Fandango, cut the grass, do cartwheels, jump on the trampoline with my daughter, hoover the living room and do the hokey-cokey barefoot whilst balancing a pint of beer on my head.  I will also be able to put a pair of socks on without cussing.  I will stand for the 2.5 minutes the electric toothbrush takes to clean my teeth.  I will run a country mile in less than 3 minutes.  I will cycle around the village shouting at the top of my voice "look at me everybody - Superwoman returns!"  I will burn that bloody walking stick (or jump on it at the very least).

Only now I am filling out the consent form for the procedure:
Hmm... Religion, ok, merely a formality;
Next-of-kin?.....right now you are starting to scare me a little;
Increased pain expected for 2 or 3 days (occasionally longer)....not so good;
Headaches and a temporary increase in weight....oh, just great;
Not a long-term relief/long-term effects not known....30% chance it may not procedure is risk free....what the blue blazes have I signed up to?

Now why does my stupid brain constantly latch onto these negative things?  Why can't I focus on the fact that I will be able to dance the Fandango rather than worry about being fat and paralysed from the waist down with a blinding headache.....and that's only if I don't die in the process.  Supposing it hurts?  Worse still, supposing it doesn't work at all?  Supposing nothing happens and everything remains the same.... well, then what?

Of course, there is always the illogical and bizarre thinking that my brain connects to the "supposing it does work" scenario.  This is where I am a little afraid that the procedure will actually be successful.  Where I wonder if maybe I am mentally comfortable with this pain - after all it's what I've become used to after 12 months and it has, in some perverse way, become my "comfort zone".  If these injections work I will have to change how I have been behaving for the last year - I will have to do things for myself again....scary eh?

No, stop thinking about it. Just do it. I know I don't want to live exist like this.  I want my life back.  It may not have been the most exciting roller-coaster rides in the history of the universe, but I want to regain my crown for having the highest score on the Wii "Just Dance 2" for dancing to "Proud Mary" by Ike & Tina Turner.  I want to dance with my 9 year old daughter again.

Ok I'm ready. Let's do this.

Friday, 13 May 2011

WEDDING PLANNERS 2 (The Bride Strikes Back)

I have been married twice. Unfortunately, marriage #1 went south after about 10 years and I quickly learned that working full-time when you are a single mother of 2 isn't exactly a bowl of cherries. In fact, for a while there it certainly felt as though the whole of my life was heading south too. But then I met someone...someone who held my hand, dusted me off and even pushed my dishevelled hair back from my face so that I could see the world again.
Well, Mother was just as gobsmacked as the next man that someone was willing to take me on again and it proved the dozens of candles she had lit down at the church had not been in vain after all: ”oh, please, please, let this one work out.... she's driving us potty... she's 35 years old and needs to move out …now.... we want to paint the spare room in 'Hint of Hawaiian Dawn Blue' and turn it into an office..."  Anyway, Mother's prayers were answered, the spare room was repainted and Wedding Party #2 (WP2) was duly announced.

Having had almost no control over WP1, fiancé #2 and I decided that this wedding was going to be just about us. We were financing it ourselves so no-one, and I mean no-one else, was going to interfere..... We excitedly began to flick through those countless Brides magazines that you instantly buy the moment you get engaged and Mother gave helpful suggestions on what I should wear, including a "lovely" 2-piece silk suit she had seen in the Berketex catalogue:

“This one looks nice – green flowers – it's spring-like...and look, you can use the jacket again afterwards – so that's handy isn't it?”

I diplomatically tried to steer her away from the “Princess Anne/Linens Direct mash-up” look, but I admit I was beginning to feel a bit down. I mean, the 2nd marriage suggestions in the magazines were nice enough, but they were all so...well.... boring and just not us. Then  fiancé #2 said: “well, it's our day; what do we want? The safe option?....Or the fairytale?” and we looked at each other, closed up the stupid magazines, chucked the Berketex catalogue in the recycling and.....

I got married in a beautiful full-length, ivory wedding dress with a short veil and tiara. Just like I wanted, and.....

all the men wore morning suits, just like fiancé #2 wanted. Father caused a terrible stink over this because he didn't “want to look like a bloody toff”, but then was actually quite smug when Mother said she had never seen him look so handsome, and.....

we were married in a beautiful country hotel with chandeliers and chintz and goats in the car park. The ceremony was followed by a carvery meal- meat/fish + vegetarian options (no sausage rolls or ham sandwiches here would you mind). We had balloons, bubbles and confetti for the kids (OK...well, actually they were mostly for me because fiancé #2 had drawn the line at my suggestion of a mass custard pie fight) and.....

we wrote our own vows and chose our own readings and.....

we decided on our own music: Pachelbel's Canon in D Major for my arrival; Louis Armstrong's “All the time in the world” for the register-signing and no-one said a word when we walked out to a recording of Morecambe & Wise singing “Bring Me Sunshine”. Well, Mother-in-law #2's face was a picture but everyone else smiled.. (I don't know what she would have done if we had used our back-up songs - Billy Idol's “White Wedding” and  Mitch Murray's “Down Came the Rain” if it rained – luckily it didn't)

Bring me Sunshine” was important to us, not only because of the “feel-good factor it brought from our childhood, but because of the lyrics. We all laugh at M & W doing their final number of the show, but few of us really listen the words:

WP2 took 2 years of planning and was probably the singularly most “selfish” thing we have ever done. Having said that, we didn't do anything intentionally to cause hurt or spite. We didn't say: “well, we don't care what you think – things are going to be done this way, so you can like it or lump it”. We did however, hold our ground when other people tried to force through their own opinions about how they thought things should be done.

Many years ago, a therapist once told me the word “should” was one of the most difficult words she ever had to deal with. We are all governed and chained in by those 6 little letters...... “should”.  If I learned one thing from that therapist it was this: as long as we are happy with the consequences of our actions, then perhaps the word “should” should be shoved out of the dictionary and no longer allowed to exist.

Because in the grand scheme of the world it really doesn't matter if I get married in full wedding garb instead of a suit or a day dress, or if we have Eric and Ernie instead of Ave Maria. WP2 may not be everyone's idea of a perfect wedding – but it was our fairytale and because we had chosen and arranged everything, we were relaxed and happy on the big day. In fact, we both enjoyed every single minute of it, so much so that 11 years later, we can still say we wouldn't have changed a thing – not even the goats in the car park....

Bring me Sunshine, in your smile,
Bring me Laughter, all the while,
In this world where we live, there should be more happiness,
So much joy you can give, to each brand new bright tomorrow,

Make me happy, through the years,
Never bring me, any tears,
Let your arms be as warm as the sun from up above,
Bring me fun, bring me sunshine, bring me love.

Yes, it's me!! I'm with a tiny guest - not a tiny groom - just to clarify
(and no, I wasn't constipated, he was giving me a kiss)

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


The recent royal nuptials has brought forth a flurry of wedding-based blogs, so here I am, grabbing the bandwagon's tailgate with a small offering about my own first wedding (Part 1 - the New Dawn).

Wedding Part 1 (or WP1 as I shall now call it, though not to be confused with VPL) was a loooong time ago and both fiancée #1 and I were, in that appallingly familiar and well-worn phrase, very young: too young as it turned out... but that's a whole other story. So there we were, 2 kids getting married, but with very little control over what was meant to be one of the biggest days of our lives.  For, perhaps like Kate and William, our self-appointed wedding planner was the grandmother - but we are not talking about any old grandmother here ..... oh no, this was my grandmother....

Now, my grandmother may not have been the Queen, but she could certainly act like one.  Best described as “a very strong character” –   you can keep your Boudicca,  your Virgin Queen or even your Iron Lady... my grandmother could arm-wrestle them all... at the same time....blindfolded....whilst annihilating a pint of whelks with only her bare teeth.  This was a novel little trick grandmother used to perform most Sunday teatimes: not the arm-wrestling you understand – the whelk eating - I don't think the Queen participates in either activity, but who can really know for sure. No, the matriarch of an East End family is never to be trifled with.....and especially if she's wielding a plateful of whelks.

Anyway, my bare-knuckled, whelk-munching grandmother paid for the WP1 (I'm sensing a royal pattern forming here), because she was the only one with any money and the rest of us, to use another of her many phrases, didn't have a pot to p**s in. Naturally, grandmother took this financial responsibility as an entitlement to run the show entirely to her own taste.  As a result, I didn't have the dress I really wanted, or the veil, or the tiara, or the music, or the flowers or the food or...well, anything really. And fiancée #1was no help, he just hovered in and out of the scene, wheeling and dealing and making “arrangements” - such as the one with the photographer who threw in a white Mercedes + driver as part of some dodgy deal.... cash only - to be paid on the day.  One can only hope Kate fared better....

But why, I hear you cry, did you even think of getting married at such an early age and without the means to purchase whelks or indeed, a pot to p**s in for that matter? Ah, my answer lies in our ingrained East End mentality. It was simply expected that the females in our family would grow up, learn to read and write (basics only), work in some menial job for a few years before getting married and having children.  (This is beginning to sound more and more like the Royals as I go on, but without the washing/cleaning/ cooking bit).  It was an eternal circle - back to the beginning and start again. The family female didn't have an education or a career, there was no need for any of that....they had a home and a husband and children to care for. The family female washed and cleaned and cooked. That's what they did and that's what I was expected to do. And so I toed the that point....

Anyway, enough of the Royals -back to WPI. Grandmother's idea of a good wedding was to follow the time-honoured pattern of all the previous weddings in our family: namely a huge affair on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm, with relatives (who mostly hated the sight of one another) being bussed in from around the Mile End, Stratford and Upton Park areas – all to have a bloody good knees-up with a table-breaking spread, plenty of booze and the compulsory dancing of the conga. There were to be bridesmaids....loads of them and all in height boys...a huge bouquet...a bloke in a kilt with bagpipes... a Chimney sweep..... the works. OK, maybe back to the Royals it is....

“I don't want all that” I pouted, but I had no support or back-up - fiancée #1 just shrugged... anything for a quiet life. So things resulted in a one almighty “pout-off” with grandmother . She sulked, she skulked, she moaned and groaned, she whined and whinged and tutted and wondered what the world was coming to because she'd never heard anything like it, but in the end, she relented. Two bridesmaids. No pageboys. Small reception with sandwiches, plates of ham and sausage rolls. No bus-loads of warring relatives. No conga. No bloke in a kilt with or without bagpipes. And definitely no Chimney Sweep.

And so it came to pass that an albeit toned-down East End WP1 went off without a hitch, apart from it being a bit of a windy day and my veil got caught in a rose bush outside the church oh, and the driver of the Merc acted like he was in The Italian Job... and yes he was paid in cash...on the day.  Still, though I may have regrets about the arrangements, WP1 also taught me a very valuable lesson about other people controlling my life. For since then I have done my own thing and trod my own path, even though it may have been rocky and included some whopping great pot-holes.  Oh, I am still immensely proud of my roots, but WP1 began the process of shedding some of that constricting East End skin and breaking loose.   I do hope the Royals find a little of the same freedom...

Which leads me on to Wedding Part 2 (the sequel).....or WP2 as I shall now call it....