Saturday, 31 March 2012

Saturday Night Telly

Now there must have been a time in my life when I wasn’t remotely interested in what was on the TV on a Saturday night. I’d take a guess that those times were when I was a student and possibly the early days of me and Andrew.

In all my other years on the planet my quest for entertaining telly at the weekend has been imperative.

From Seaside Special to Dukes of Hazard, from Doctor Who to Blind Date – a few years gap in the middle - then back to Doctor Who, X Factor, Strictly, Merlin and now THE VOICE!

Yes it can’t just be me that’s sad and lonely and doesn’t get out much. The BBC and ITV spend a fortune making programmes that grab the highest viewing figures in this peak time slot.

Last week saw the start of the Beeb’s latest offering The Voice UK. A talent show with a difference as the judges can’t see the performer only judge them on their singing ability.

I love it; I was in tears watching last week’s show.

The contestant that really pulled my heartstrings was the woman with alopecia. She was a fabulous singer and absolutely beautiful lady - what had held her back for so long was her lack of confidence in the way she looked. Although the TV audience got to hear her tale the judges were in the dark but all turned round when she opened her mouth to sing wanting her on their team.

The Voice puts the contestants in the driving seat as they get to pick their mentor. They are encouraged and not ridiculed even if they are not chosen. This is not about having a laugh at someone else’s expense but about REAL TALENT.

Some contestants played instruments too. Their skills are incredible and yet have gone largely unnoticed perhaps because they didn’t fit the world’s stereotype of what a superstar looks like.

What a positive programme to watch as a family. Reinforcing the old adage "don't judge a book by its cover".

I wish I could sing like the contestants on The Voice. Alas I sound more like the mad ones on the other channel putting a smile on Simon Cowell’s face and more money in his pocket. Where do they get so much confidence and belief from when genuinely great singers are hiding?

I don't know what happens on The Voice after the audition stage.  Eventually the public get a vote and I’m sure by then I'll be hooked, caught up in the excitement, dialling the number for my favourite to win, cheering and shouting at the telly – well what else is there to do on a Saturday night?

Friday, 30 March 2012

…and then there were two

Things are a bit strange around here at the moment, there’s less arguing, no Sky Sports news left on in the lounge, there’s no aroma of Lynx lingering on the landing and no strapping teenager deposited on the sofa intent on a virtual football match on TV he’s playing with a friend who lives a couple of miles away.

Oldest son has gone away on a school trip to Switzerland, the itinerary looks fantastic - glaciers, mountains, chocolate factories – what an amazing adventure.

Oh he’s been away without me before, is a bit of a seasoned traveller by all accounts, Spain and now Switzerland are on the list of countries he has visited but I have NEVER been to.   

Today’s post is brought to you by guest blogger - the green eyed monster!

Packing was left to the last minute. On Wednesday evening we gathered all the clothes together; oldest son pulled T shirts off hangers in a heap and I folded them nicely. We worked through the kit list looking for hats – summer and winter, sun cream, waterproof jacket, toothbrush, enough boxer shorts for a week etc.

“Do you want me to help you pack?”

“No I’ll do it.” He said nonchalantly so I left him alone.

It was reminiscent of life with Andrew. I would wash and neatly fold work T shirts after one trip away and Andrew would take them from the “work” draw and pack his bag before he went off shore again. I couldn’t help in anyway apart from make sandwiches to take on the train.

I made sandwiches for oldest son too who went off carrying the same rig bag with Andrew’s name stitched on. He said goodbye with even less fuss and emotion than his dad ever did.

No kiss. 

No hug. 

Just “goodbye”.

After all he’ll be home in just over a week so what’s the problem?

Sometimes I hated saying goodbye to Andrew, then there were days when I was glad he had gone and things could settle down to “normal”.

But the homecomings must have been great? You’ve seen the military wives on the telly rejoicing at the safe return of their husbands. Hugs and kisses abound.

Well it’s not quite like that when the rota is two weeks on and three weeks off. Andrew would get home and want to check emails, post and have a cup of tea. In the summer he would sometimes get the lawnmower out and cut the grass, which I refused to learn how to do. 

It was once 24 hours before I even got a kiss - I’m so sad I counted! Hopefully I am unique in this but with these tough North Sea oil workers I’m not so sure.

And now oldest son is almost a carbon copy, packing his bags and leaving home. Then he will return and life will carry on as before.

Fortunately I am left with youngest son who would hug and kiss me ALL day if I gave him the chance. He is in his element as I am spoiling him rotten with extra treats lined up for every day.

Pizza for tea in front of the telly, a new book and pain au chocolat for breakfast! There’s a cinema trip planned and more surprises hidden in the cupboard – truth be told he is easy to buy for and I have bought him too many Easter pressies.

It probably won’t be long before this is it – just the two of us. I’m going to have to stop buying all the goodies.

In a little over 3 years oldest son will leave home for university to make his own way in the world.

It would be easy to get despondent and bemoan the lonely state I will one day find myself in. The empty nest syndrome will come around all too quickly even if most of the time now I complain I can’t do ANYTHING because of childcare issues!

Looking on the bright side I will be sending into the world a confident young man who can stand on his own two feet and pack his own bags.

We must have done something right!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Losing Perspective

I am very fortunate that I have reached the grand old age of 44 and still have a living grandparent. My Nana is 85 today, making her nearly a whole year younger than my mother-in-law (we squeezed an extra generation into our family tree).

My mum and I are often comparing notes over the phone on the “oldies” in our life. My mother-in-law has been practically rebuilt with 2 new knees and 2 new hips; she has hearing aids, false teeth and glasses.

My nana is a bit more nimble on her feet, depending on who’s watching her, but her biggest obstacle is her eyesight. She has dry macular degeneration in one eye and wet macular degeneration in the other! Today she is having some procedure performed which will hopefully ease some of the problems and improve her vision.

It must be terrible to live in a world where you can’t see things clearly. Sometimes I wonder which of the senses it would be more bearable to lose if I really had to pick and I always come to the conclusion that they are all vital!

There are times when we lose our way because we don’t see clearly, not necessarily in the visual sense but the sense of seeing what we’ve got, appreciating things or in the sense of understanding and having a clear path to follow.

It can’t have escaped your notice I’ve not written for a couple of days which is unusual. I’ve once again been pondering if my words make any sense, doubting if you want to hear about the silly little things going on in my world.

When I started all of this I shared what it was like to lose a husband, in a lot of ways far worse than losing any of the five senses. 

Now I am more often writing about daily living, bringing up the boys on my own, in other words more trivial stuff. Possibly things that more people can relate to but there are so many others out there writing much the same!

It was not only my writing that was suffering from lack of direction that was merely a symptom of my general mood.

We seem to have been catapulted into summer. It’s almost like we have a lost a couple of months along the way and I know several people who have been feeling out of sorts.

Suddenly it’s imperative to get the outside gardening jobs completed before the spring cleaning has even started. Not that I am great at either but I think it’s a good analogy.

I remember last year when I desperately wanted the months to fly by. To be able to somehow remove myself even further away from the point at which I had become a widow, for things to have already settled down into a new reality.

But the fact is we have to live through each season at the right time. We need time to process our emotions and deal with the pain. I can say with confidence now that it doesn’t get easier, you have to learn to cope but when people tell you that in the early days you don’t want to believe the unpalatable truths.

This unseasonal weather is a blip - I hate to bring doom and gloom but temperatures are set to drop again at the weekend. And personally I really need some time in the house to sort some things out. I need the grass to stop growing for a bit, I need a rainy day when all I can do is stay in and sort out my clutter.

I need the time and space to regain my lost perspective and see things clearly. A time to write, putting my thoughts into order.

A friend added this to her Facebook page and it fits my mood at the moment. 

Let's hope I can keep perspective, focus and aim and that something spectacular is just up ahead!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Four Books

I have four books on the go at the moment all very different. There is something to dip into whatever my mood or inclination.

Book Number 1 – it’s not what you think by Chris Evans

Chris’s autobiography was a Christmas present...sort of. Oldest son actually bought me the Mock the Week book for Christmas and as I had got a copy for him too I decided to trade mine in for something else.  Not that I wasn’t grateful, I thought it was funny that we both had the same taste.

I haven’t always been a fan of Chris Evans and his antics but I admire the way he seems to have grown up now (hark at me, he’s actually 2 years older than I am!) and I love listening to his breakfast show. His sense of humour is often similar to Andrew’s. In many ways he is the DJ Andrew always wanted to become. Maybe that’s why Andrew stuck to listening to Radio 4 in the mornings.

I want to know how he got where he is today but somehow I am struggling to read it and have become stuck in Chris’s teenage years. All I have learned so far is that his dad died when he was 13 which gives him something in common with oldest son.

Book number 2 – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

A very rare book in that I bought a brand new copy as I couldn’t find one anywhere second hand. (Actually just after I got it I sold one in our church charity shop for a fraction of the price – never mind I spent a voucher I’d had for my birthday.)

And why was I so desperate to obtain a copy? Well they’ve made a new film starring Ewan McGregor and it’s out next month. My friend and I saw it advertised when we went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and decided Salmon Fishing would be our next Orange Wednesday treat but we would both read the book first and compare notes.

She read her copy in two days – I envy people who can switch off and get so wrapped up in a good book that nothing else matters. I am always too distracted and consequently I am only just over half way through.

I know some of it is funny I was nervously laughing at the beginning but I’ve got a bit lost with some of the political references.

Book number 3 – Disappointment with God by Philip Yancy

This was a book I picked up by chance while visiting a friend for coffee. She had stayed in that day to wait for the washing machine repair man and while showing him the problem with the washer I picked up the book and read the first chapter!

“Can I borrow this?” I asked when she returned.

She nodded and I slipped it in my bag.

It sounds really heavy and it is certainly a book that makes me think. After all I have quite a right to be disappointed with God after he took away my husband or allowed it to happen. Maybe this book will give me the answers, not only for me but for the boys.

I’m mulling over what I’m reading carefully as I am going to guest post on Anita Matthias’s blog and write a review – an interesting challenge to write something specifically for someone else – only 50 pages left to read Anita and then I’ll get writing.

Book number 4 – A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott

Catherine Alliott is far and away my favourite chick lit author, this is her most recent offering and I managed to pick it up in a charity shop this week.

This novel is about Poppy, a young widow who is somewhat relieved when her husband dies. He wasn’t a bad man, he provided well for her and the children but there was no spark in their marriage. She had even fantasied about her husband dying.

“Quite normal.”  Says her friend.

Both Poppy and I were relieved at that one! Just like Poppy I have had times when I thought I somehow “made” this happen. Marriage is never easy and there are countless regrets to be dealt with in grief.

In many ways Poppy’s plight is similar to mine as she comes to terms with being on her own. So far the feelings associated with mourning have been accurately portrayed. Although I didn’t spend weeks wandering around in my dressing gown and I give myself a pat on the back because unlike Poppy I managed to sort my financial affairs more swiftly!

Of course this story is bound to end happily with a mysterious man arriving in the village that turns out to be Poppy’s soul mate after all. It could be the new choirmaster who arrived last night as I read. He’s very like Gareth Malone with his boyish good looks.

I wonder if I will get fed up of the tidied up loose ends? Or come to despise Poppy as her life falls into place while I still struggle? I adore most of Alliott’s heroines and as her books are written in the first person it’s easy to identify with their lot – will this book be one that in the end is just too true to my life?

If it all gets too much I’ll just go back to reading one of those other books on the go...or search for something else that takes my fancy on the bookshelf. There were many months when reading was a chore and I’m glad my love of books has resurfaced.

But what of that other elusive book I was struggling to find – my cheque book – oh yes found that, sort of where I thought it might be all along! I’ve even done a bit of filing, the bank statements at least are all in order.

I deserve a treat – now which book shall I take out into the garden* and read...

(*taking the advice of a friend to go outside and enjoy the sunshine but I will take a blanket and some hot chocolate – the sun is bright but it’s still a bit nippy on the North East coast!)