Monthly Archives: October 2015

Something I needed you to know

So I don’t really know why I’m writing this, other than just to say it really, to have it written down on metaphorical paper. I’ve wanted to write you a letter pretty much ever since I could Braille. But you’d never listen, because I don’t understand, because it’s nothing to do with me, because it’s your marriage. And to anyone who actually reads this, don’t worry, I don’t expect you to be a hero and change everything; I don’t expect you to even take any notice. I just wanted to get it all out there, to write it all down. I wanted to feel like I’d actually told someone, that someone somewhere out there actually understands the full thing even if they don’t do anything and nothing ever changes. I can only pray it does one day, one day before it’s too late and a whole life is wasted.

You wanted to be a lifeguard, you’ve told me that. You were getting your qualifications, your badges. You were at college, a bar lady, a netball player. You were a black belt in judo. You had a father who adored you, a new stepmother who thought the world of you and a little brother who depended on you to get him out of whatever trouble he’d got himself into this time. You had friends, loads of them I bet, who loved to be around you. I’m sure you had your quiet times, your shy times. But I’m willing to bet you were the life and soul of the crowd sometimes. I reckon you were the loyal friend, the caring one. Were you captain of the netball team? I’m not sure, but I know you certainly had it in you to be. You liked My Little Pony as a child. You had stables, I remember you telling me. You liked boy bands, just like every other teenage girl does. Bross, I think you said. I’ll bet you had posters all over your room. You were a Liverpool fan, even before you met him. Your dad, he worked in the Press business, he could get you shirts and all sorts. I bet you were always grateful. But that’s all I really know. You don’t talk about your childhood much. I know all about your real mother, not that she can really call herself that, and everything she did. I know that you probably held the family together, stopped your little brother from losing the plot altogether. You worked hard at school, got good GCSE’s, and then went to college and got top grades in your A Levels. You liked Maths, I think. English wasn’t your strongest point, you’ve said. But then that’s just typical for me to know what you thought wasn’t your strongest point. You always seem to say the bad things so maybe that’s why I don’t know for sure many of the good, even if I can work out the present good by myself.

You met my dad in 1995. You were engaged to him by the end of the year, just after you’d left college. The following August, you’d had your first child, a son, my brother M. Sadly, it wasn’t a magical day. He was a still-born, definitely the most tragic thing a woman should have to go through. If I was to take an educated guess, I’d imagine he wasn’t very supportive, not the way you’d expect your fiance to be when you’ve just lost your first child at the tender age of nineteen, not long after your family life at home has been ripped apart and your world has changed so dramatically. A year previous, you were a carefree eighteen-year-old working hard towards her A Levels and now you were facing burying your first born. You’ve told me plenty of times about that time, about how it felt to say goodbye to your little boy, to have him dressed in a tracksuit for his funeral. You told me about the baby he was buried beside, another little boy named Thomas, and how you and Thomas’s mother would put flowers and toys on each other’s sons’ graves, saying that the boys were sharing. You told me that this year while we were watching East Enders and Shabnam and Kush were going through their onscreen loss. I think you opened up to me about M more in that half an hour watching them mourn their baby than you had all my life. I don’t blame you for that. After all, it must still be the most heartbreaking thing in the world, especially as I’m supposing you blame yourself. But I love hearing about him, even if you never really met him and I never really had another brother. He’ll always be my brother M, though, your son, so don’t ever think I don’t think about him, that he’s not always in my thoughts. I wrote another post, on his birthday, talking directly to him. Some people may think that’s weird or stupid, talking to the dead, but he’s my brother and I wanted to wish him a happy birthday, even though I never knew him and he’ll never read it. I hope that, wherever he is, he knows we’re always thinking about him, have never not loved him.

Less than a year later, you became a mother again. I was born two months earlier than I should have been, diagnosed partially sighted not long afterwards. You’ve never told me how old I was exactly, but I know it wasn’t long after I was born. So it wasn’t looking too good for you, I suppose. I guess after M all you wanted was a healthy baby you could take home, cuddle and care for. I wasn’t exactly that, was I? It took six weeks for you to even be able to take me home. Even then I wasn’t your perfect child, especially to Dad as I wasn’t a boy. All he wanted was sons, and I’m not that. I suppose my eye condition didn’t help, either. I bet it was terrifying as a twenty-year-old, working her backside off after she’d lost her first born and now had a second who had a disability. I wish I could have been normal for you, that I could have been that little boy Dad wanted, a little boy without any eye sight or disabilities. I don’t know if that would have changed things, if things would have been any better if I’d been that fully abled normal boy. I’ll never know, either, because this is the life I have, the life you have. I wish you weren’t stuck with it, though. I wish I could change everything for you. You could have been that lifeguard, stayed a bar manager forever. But instead you married someone who doesn’t deserve you and ended up working in a hair suppliers where they don’t even appreciate everything you do for them, and my goodness you go above and beyond anything that place could ask of you. It couldn’t run straight without you and if they ever lose you then they’ve lost the best employee they ever had. They’re the luckiest company in the : to have you, just like I’m the luckiest girl in the world that you’re my mum.

I don’t know why I’m writing this to you, because you’re not going to read it I know, but I wanted it to feel like I’d actually told you. I couldn’t tell you in person because I’ll just get all teary and make you feel guilty. That’s the last thing I ever want you to feel as none of this is your fault, none of my feelings are your fault. He makes you feel guilty about every other action you make, every word you dare to utter, so I couldn’t bear to think I do that too. But I don’t know. I probably contribute to your daily dosage of pain. Your parents told me that as a young girl you were confident, strong, motivated. You had everything going for you. Really, you still do. You’re beautiful, brave, intelligent, kind, caring, always put everyone else before yourself, hard working, understanding, thoughtful, funny, sensitive — the list is endless. You’re the perfect mother, the perfect wife. You’re everything a man could want in a woman, yet he’s still ground you down to barely resembling the person you once were. He’s manipulated you, physically and mentally abused you, criticised you, taunted you, ripped your confidence to shreds, argued with you, cheated on you, battered you, ignored you. He treats you worse than I’ve ever known one human being to treat another. I wanted to tell you how it makes me feel, not to make you feel guilty or sad or like you’ve let me down — because you haven’t, I can promise you that. All you’ve ever tried to do is protect us, to look after us. But he’s broken all of that away. You built us a home, somewhere we could feel safe and always come back to. I always knew I could rely on you, no matter how tired you were or how much he’d taken out of you that day. No matter what had happened, you always carried on being my mum, always the best mum in the world.

I spent my childhood racing up and down the stairs, around the house when I heard him shouting at you, hurting as, your screams or cries of pain. I would always be as quick as my legs would carry me to you, into the middle of whatever was going on to stop it, to take your pain away. It makes me feel sick to think of what he did to you, how he hurt you. Even though the physical pain would eventually fade away, the mental bruises and fear never leaves you. You’re the bravest person I know but still I feel you mentally flinching away, hiding further and further in your shell when he’s around. It’s like you become a completely different person, like the real you is hiding away deep inside you, terrified to come out for what he’ll do. Even when he speaks to you, it’s with venom and coldness. He speaks to you like your some kind of leach he can’t get rid of, like you’re the last person in the world he wants to talk to. And I know you feel it, too, because you apologise and do everything in your power to make it better, because you don’t want to let him down. I don’t think you even fear getting hurt anymore, not like I fear it for you. You just don’t want him to have any more contempt for you than he already does. You want him to love you unconditionally, like in the movies. You want romantic dates, long cuddles at night, him to treat you like a princess, just like you dreamed as a kid. Well, maybe you don’t dream of that anymore, probably because you don’t think that really exists, that it is all fairy tales really. Charming princes and knights in shining armour don’t exist in your world now, do they? That’s all his fault. You told me once that this is all you’ve ever known, that you don’t know any different. My heart broke that night, shattered into unfixable pieces. To think that you truly believe this is all you deserve, that there is nothing more than this, it shreds my heart. I just want to hug you, to tell you that there’s plenty better out there and that you deserve a billion times more than him. No woman deserves to be beaten black and blue by the man who claims to love her, to be cheated on so many times that she feels she has to ask him every time he receives a message who the sender is. You should never get to a point where, whenever his phone is in his hand or even if its not, you think he’s chatting up some other woman, that he’s going to be unfaithful again, that you’re going to feel that stabbing twisting pain ripping through your chest once more. You deserved a husband who works full-time, ears a really decent living so that your money isn’t relied upon for your family to survive; you deserve at least three kids who trail after you loyally, loving you unconditionally because you’re their mum; you deserve a beautiful house and a mortgage, something that’s yours to keep, with a big back garden and a picket fence around the front; you deserve that burnt orange car you’ve always loved, your own license and the freedom to drive whenever and wherever you please; but most of all, you deserve to be respected and loved for who you are, not criticised and spoken to like you’re a piece of dirt rather than a really lovely decent human being. More than anything else, though, you should have the freedom and right to speak without feeling like your opinion isn’t valued, that you’re going to be shot down the moment you open your mouth. Nobody should ever feel like they can’t speak in their own home. You can’t even just talk normally in general conversation because he tells you he doesn’t want to listen to you or just to plainly shut up. It makes my skin crawl when I hear him say that to you. Who the hell does he think he is, anyway? What gives him the right to tell you not to talk just because he doesn’t want to hear it? I want to hear it. I want to listen to you. I like hearing everything you’ve got to say, all the little details about your life. I don’t want him to cut you off mid-sentence just because he isn’t interested. If he isn’t interested, he should just leave and stop dragging you down with him, making you feel awful in the process. I’m interested. I love hearing all about your day at work; the customers who actually appreciate you; the friends you make from colleagues; when you’ve beaten your target this month even if it isn’t going to earn you any extra cash; the joke games you play with your colleagues; the colour you’ve decided to have painted on your nails this month; the new shoes you’ve bought on “everything a fiver.com”; the food you had for lunch; the bargain you found at Tesco this morning; the candles you like; the crossword you’re completing; the quiz game you’re playing on the Ipad; the new music you like; the actors you’re interested in; that dress, those jeans, that top, that coat you like the look of in that shop; the jewellery you saw; the things you found funny; the book you’re reading, the food you’d like to try, that juice you thought was nice; that program you watched on telly last night; the bus you caught home, whether you got a lift or not; the stories of your childhood, your teenage years, your family, your pets, your friends; whether your shoulder hurts or if you’ve taken some painkillers; what you’re having for dinner because sometimes you don’t eat. I don’t mind what you have to say because I’m always happy to hear it. Sometimes, I feel like I have to listen because nobody else does. Dad doesn’t care, you hardly speak to your family and T’s too oblivious or wrapped up in her own little world to pay you any attention. I want everyone around as to pay you attention, to listen to you, to take notice, to respect you. I wish people could see you for the amazing person you are rather than just his wife who never seems to do anything right in his eyes.

I wish you still had loads of friends around you to remind you that you’re great. I don’t feel like I’m able to do it often enough. I tell you that I love you extra just to make up for everyone else who doesn’t say it, for all the people who aren’t really around in your life anymore. Mostly, I tell you because I mean it, because I need you to know more than anything else that I’m here for you, that I love you, that I’ll stand by you through everything and that I appreciate the decisions you make for yourself. After all, it can’t be easy after years of being blackmailed and threatened. I don’t know what I’d do in your situation but after seeing what he’s done to you I know I could never stay with someone anything like him. He just makes everything bad even if he’s trying to do a good thing. His good things always end up hurting someone, even if that’s unintentional, and that person is usually you. Sometimes, I think he does it on purpose when he says things to you. It’s like he wants you to feel worthless, wants you hurting. I don’t know what he’s punishing you for but whatever it is he needs to stop because he’s taken it far too far. He took it too far the first time he told you you weren’t beautiful or the first time he harmfully laid a hand on you. It may not have always done physical damage, but the words and the beatings have left mental scarres on you, some I don’t think will ever be removed. Unless you find a man who treats you like a princess, sweeps you off your feet and makes you realise what a monster he is, I suppose you’ll be with him forever and he’ll continue to batter you. I spend every moment of every day that you’re in each other’s company terrified that he’s going to hurt you, whether that be physically or mentally. I don’t know what is worse out of the two because they’re both as bad as each other. The physical moments terrify me more because I don’t now how far he’s going to hurt you, how serious your injuries will become. With the mental abuse, it’s like it never stops. He’s always making some little dig, a sly little comment that sticks like a needle in you. He says it quietly sometimes, as if he knows how much it hurts you and that he’s happy about it. When you’re with him at home, I’m always on edge just in case he does something. I’m always terrified he’s going to hit you, push you, throw something at you and then storm out, leaving you hurting physically and mentally with yet another wound he’s inflicted upon you. I’m always hovering somewhere, whether that be in my bedroom doorway, on the landing just around the corner, in the living room doorway just out of sight, behind the toilet door listening intently. I’m always listening with my ear pressed up against my door or lurking silently. I can’t take the risk that something is going to happen to you. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you or you being in pain. I want my mum to have a fulfilling life, , successful life, a life where you’re loved completely. I want you to know and believe like you’ve never believed anything before in your life, that I will always and have always loved you completely. To me, you’re the most incredible person alive. I don’t know how you carry on every day, how you wake up in the morning and face the day with the strength and courage you do even though you’re going to be criticised by someone during the day. Whether it be unintentionally by T or intentionally by Dad, someone is guaranteed to insult you somehow before you fall asleep again that night. I don’t know how you built the bulletproof armour you seem to have, but I wish you hadn’t had to. You shouldn’t need to hide yourself from everything and everyone, from the looks and the comments and the fists. I wish you could go to bed without feeling down, without feeling like you’d done something wrong, without a hurtful comment settling into your heart, anther arrow piercing through. You’ve become a pin cushion, susceptible to pain and fright and anything that hurts. I wish you felt like you fitted in, like everything accepted you for who you are. You told me that Dad’s parents don’t like you, either, after Nan said something to T one day. There’s been various comments like that over the years to both of us and I’ve always shot back some remark about her son being a violent manipulative person. She defends him to within an inch of her life and I hate that. I hate that she seems to feel like it’s OK for him to treat you and everyone else in his life like he does. Because it’s not. It’s utterly and completely wrong and absolutely despicable. It makes my blood boil to watch him effortlessly doing it, too, especially when he’s doing it to you yet again when you’ve done nothing to deserve it, only done things to your best ability to prevent it. How he’s come to believe that it’s fine and right is beyond me. How any human can think that treating another the way he does doesn’t seem right at all.

If I could educate him and make him love you the way you want him to then please believe me when I say I would. If I could take away your pain from all the years you’ve injured it, trust me when I say I’d do it in a heartbeat. If I could stop the possibility of future pain, hurtful comments, fists and anything else then I’d do anything to do just that. But I can’t and that, more than anything else, tares me apart. I wish I could do something, anything, to make your life that little bit brighter. That’s why I come home every other month from Cameron’s, just so that I can make sure you’re OK and to maybe even make you smile a little bit more than you have been while I’ve been away. It puts my mind at rest a little bit more being around every other month to know that during that month he can’t hurt you. But being away is painful, too. I almost didn’t go to college originally because I was terrified he was going to hurt you and I wouldn’t be able to save you. Whenever you go out on a night out, I’m terrified that something bad’s going to happen, whether he has too much alcohol or whether he’s sober. It doesn’t make any difference, he can be just as violent either way. I want to protect you from everything, to treat you the way you deserve to be treated. You deserve the best life, Mum, and I wish I could give you that. I wish you understood this from my point of vie. and I wish that I knew honestly how you felt, why you stay with him. I have my own theories, of course, because I’ve had over ten years to work them out. I believe that you’re too terrified to leave him, that you don’t know what he’ll do if you even contemplated it, that you feel scared about being on your own, that you don’t think you could support us, that you think we’d side with him, that everyone would turn against you or tell you “I told you so`, that you’d be alone forever, that we’d resent you, that it would all be your fault. None of that is true. OK, so maybe you would be alone for a little while but you’re an attractive, easy to get on with, lovely, fun person to be with and any man is daft to not want to be with you. Of course, he’d have to be good enough to be with my mum after all the rubbish you’ve already had to put up with. But I’d support you with every decision you made and be by your side through everything, just like you’ve supported me and been with me through everything I’ve done in my life. I wouldn’t have the achievements or been the places I have without you and I’ll always be thankful to you for that, always blessed that you’re my mum. But if one day you decide you’ve had enough, that actually you’ve taken enough now, I’ll be waiting. I’ll help you with anything you need, from signing the papers to money issues to talking to him. He terrifies me, that is true, but I’d stand tall beside you through everything and I wouldn’t back down in fear in front of him for anything if it was for you. I’d do anything for you, Mum, and I wish you knew just how much I love you, just how amazing you are. Maybe if you hadn’t been ground down to nothing that resembles the girl you once were you’d understand this, even believe what I’m saying to you. But I understand that you can’t, why you won’t and that’s OK too. If ever there’s anything you want me to do then never hesitate to ask. I’d do it in a heartbeat to make your life a tiny bit better. Maybe you’re happy with what you’ve got and if you are then that makes me sad, too, so unbelievably sad because you got bottom of the pile and you deserved top, top of absolutely everything. People may say I’m bias because you’re my mother, but that’s not true; I know you deserve it just because of the person you are, everything you’ve been through in your life, your hard working spirit and the person you were before.

I hope that one day you’ll realise that you’re worth so much more, that there is so much better out there. Being alone is better than being tethered to someone who constantly drags you down and never has anything nice to say to you, surely? Anyway, you wouldn’t be alone because you’d have T and me, and the cat too. We’d always be with you. If I could conjure up a genie, I’d wish for a let of things. I’d wish that there didn’t have to be wars in this world where injured soldiers lose their lives, that cancer was exterminated so it didn’t kill any more people, that disability of any kind was widely accepted in society… But more than anything, I’d wish that you’d had a better life, that there was a kinder future ahead for you full of nice things: a good husband, good kids, a high-paying enjoyable job where you’re appreciated, all the luxuries a person can have, no money worries. I want it all for you and as of yet I haven’t accepted that it’s too late. It’s never too lat, Mum, so please don’t think this is it forever. You can have better, you just have to be brave. I know twenty years of being with someone is a long time and holds a lot to just throw away all of a sudden, but really what he’s given you is just years of every kind of abuse a person can experience. I’m sure you have had your good times but the bad out way them by miles. The pain, suffering and lack in confidence show that. And none of that is your fault. It’s not your fault you stay with him, not your fault he treats you like rubbish, not your fault you feel like you can’t leave, not your fault you don’t know a way out, not your fault you’re clinging on to your marriage hoping it’ll improve, not your fault you do everything in for power to make things better, not your fault he physically and mentally batters you. You look beautiful in everything you wear, from your fluffy pyjamas to your best dress; he’s just too stupid and self-centered to realise what he’s got. He got the best woman in the world when he got with you twenty years ago and I really wish he knew how lucky he is, really wish he hadn’t put you through everything he has. I’ve got a lot of wishes, I know that, and I also know none of them are likely to come true. I can’t change things for you, Mum, and I can’t force you to change them either. I know it’s your marriage and your life and your decision. I’m not making it for you or telling you what to do, I just want you to understand how I feel about everything. I want you to know that I fall asleep every night wondering if you’re still going to be here in the morning, if something terrible’s going to happen while I’m sleeping. It’s ridiculous, I know, because you’re probably peacefully sleeping yourself. But I can’t help it. I can’t help that every time he talks to you I hold my breath, praying he’s not going to say something hurtful. I can’t help that every time you’re in the same room as each other I’m on high alert, poised ready to run to you the moment he starts. I can’t help that I get a sick feeling in my stomach every time you ask him anything, whether that be what he wants for dinner or who’s messaged him today. It’s wired into my being now. I have to look after you, protect you, save you. I know you’re the mother and I’m the daughter but you seem so fragile to me even though you’re the strongest person I know and I don’t want him to push you too far. I have to remind you that actually you are beautiful, loved, wanted, treasured, that you do everything just right. OK, so maybe you don’t get everything done that’s asked of you every single day. But how can you? Everyone asks far too much of you anyway. We all have far too high expectations. That’s our fault, not yours. I can’t stress enough how none of this is your fault, how nobody’s blaming you. I know several people who would agree with me if I asked them to tell you, too, but I guess you wouldn’t believe us if our whole family and all our friends stood as an army and told you. You’re a strong independent woman and you don’t need anyone telling you what to do, you’re quite capable of making your own decisions and carrying out your own actions. I’m well aware of that. I just wish there was something I could do to make you see, to make you believe you are amazing and worthy of so much more than you’ve been given. You got dealt the worst hand of cards, Mum, when you could have had the best — you still could have the best. That isn’t your fault, either. Maybe one day you’ll look back and realise. When you do, we’ll do everything you’ve always wanted to. We’ll go swimming with dolphins, to watch Take That or anyone you like in concert, eat a massive Chinese meal, eat seafood till your heart’s content, have holidays wherever you want, go clothes shopping and buy what you actually like the look of rather than what you’ve been told to wear, have picnics in the park, go walking along the shore, have our nails painted whatever we fancy, watch whatever you like on telly. There will be no rules then. You won’t be told what to do by anyone or feel like you have to do anything under pressure. You can spend your life however you like, have whatever job you’ve been dreaming of, spend your money on things for yourself. You won’t have to worry about what you eat or drink because nobody will be criticising your weight or the way you look. You’re beautiful whatever size you are. Nobody will have the right to bash you down. You can be whoever you want whenever you want. Maybe you’ll even have more people who support you in everything you do, who are proud of you for everything you achieve just like I am. But if you don’t realise, which seems more possible, then I’ll stand by you anyway, continuing to support you in whatever you decide, making sure he can’t hurt you too bad. I can’t stop the comments or the arrows that pierce through your skin, but I can stop his fists slamming into you. I can make the pain a little less painful. Even if I’ve failed all these years, I’m never going to stop trying because you deserve more. You deserve the world but I can’t give you that. All I can do is keep telling you I love you and try my best to stop everyone from hurting you. I wish I had a bigger force to help me out but everyone’s busy with their own lives and I don’t expect them to get involved with ours. Anyway, I’ve been doing it by myself all these years and if I can’t make you believe the opposite to what he’s poisoned your mind with, then who can?

If you ever read this, I don’t expect you to change your life just because it makes me miserable that you stay with him, that he carries on hurting you the way he does. I wish he didn’t but I suppose I can’t change a habit of a lifetime, either, can’t make anyone understand. I don’t expect anyone to understand quite how I feel, either, or why I act the way I do about certain things. But I understand and maybe one day you can too. I hope that, if you stay with him, you have the best parts of the life you’ve got. I hope that you can go all the places you wanted to, do everything in your life you’ve dreamed of. I hope that you one day get to treat yourself for the hard work you do keeping a roof over our heads and everyone happy. I know it’s a struggle because I watch you battling every day. You might not see it, because he’s got you too busy trying your hardest to make his life perfect even when he doesn’t appreciate it, but I’m always watching, always listening and always doing my upmost to make your world that little bit sunnier. You’re amazing at what you do and I admire you for keeping strong through everything this world throws at you. Even when your company don’t promote you and give you stupid excuses, you still carry on working your backside off for them. Even when he tells you he doesn’t want to hear it, when you’re almost in tears because you know you did your best and nobody seems to care, I care, I notice, I cry silently in the back of the car for you, trying to hide my tears in case he gets angry and because I don’t want to make you feel worse than you already do. All I ever wanted was to make you feel better, better about everything. I wanted to run to your bosses and scream at them until I had no voice left. You deserved that job more than anyone I know. You keep that company afloat and you make sure our boat isn’t sinking too. He wanted the money, the perks of a higher pay package, but all you wanted was his praise and approval, his love and his sympathy. All you wanted was to feel like yes, actually this time you’d done something great, something to make everyone proud of you. Well I’m proud of you, Mum, prouder than I ever thought I could be of anyone. I’m proud that you’re still here, still fighting on, still trying your best. I know you did your best in that interview, and better than your best, and I know that he hurt you when he didn’t want to listen. I wanted to listen. I wanted to hold you tight in my arms, to tell you that I knew you’d tried harder than your hardest and that now you were hurting because you didn’t get the promotion. But that wasn’t your fault, like everything isn’t your fault, because the company were just being petty and unfair. You deserve better than them, too, and I wish I could have taken your pain away that day, like I wish I could take your pain away for every day of your life. I know you don’t really want to be there but know you have to stay. Maybe a part of you that does want to stay because you’ve always had that job and its security, something that’s not too familiar in your life. I’d understand either option. I hope that you get a better job someday, that someone does something to make you realise what you’re worth rather than grinding you into the ground. I try my best every single day, with the little comments I make about how you look or when you’re proud of something you’ve done and you want acknowledgement and praise from someone else. I know I’m not him and I know he’s who you want it from, but I can’t make that happen so all I can do is give it from me. I think you’re incredible, Mum, and that’s never going to change, no matter what decisions you make in your life. I’ll forever continue to try and protect you, to shield you from his never-ending painful blows. I can’t block them all, because I’m not bulletproof either, but I’ll do my absolute best whatever it costs me. I don’t want to see you hurting anymore, and I never have wanted to, but I can’t stop that completely. Only you can do that, the day you realise your worth. Maybe you’ll never realise because maybe he’s already made you suffer too much to redeem it. But I’m always going to hold out hope that things get better for you because if I don’t, what’s the point in anything? Life is better than this and some day somehow someone’s going to prove that to you. Maybe I’m not strong enough or loud enough or brave enough to do it, but I’m going to try my hardest, I promise you that. I’m never going to back down because I know what you deserve, I know the life you could have. I don’t think you need anyone else giving up on you. You deserve someone stood beside you supporting you through everything and I guess that’s just who I am. That’ll never change. I love you, Mum, everything about you. I wish you could believe that, too, and until you do I’ll continue to tell you. Even after, I’ll carry on telling you because you deserve no less. Keep hanging on in there, please, and never give up the fight. Never let him take you from us because I don’t know what I’d do if that happened. I hope that maybe one day you can read this and understand what I’m saying rather than being upset that I’m saying how you should live your life and that your marriage is falling apart. I know that all you ever wanted was it to last forever because he’s the man you fell in love with. But this isn’t how you should be treated. You should be able to sit out on your front porch when you’re ninety with the love of your life by your side, the man who’s always loved you. If I could make that happen by the click of my fingers, I’d have done it twenty years ago, even though I wasn’t born then. I hope not everything is bad, that there are a lot of sliver linings to the thunder clouds that always seem to be following you around. You’re not boring or ugly or useless or rubbish or worthless or lazy or annoying or horrible or a bad person or any of the other horrible things he continuously tells you you are. You’re the opposite. You’re the most fantastic mum a girl could have hoped to have and the best woman I know. You’ll always be my hero and I wish you knew that. I wish you knew how much I loved you. Even if you never do, I always will. I’ll never forget how I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have the mum that I do, that I was blessed to be born your daughter. Maybe you haven’t had the best life over the last thirty-eight years and the rainbows haven’t always been there, but I hope I add some happiness into your world. I do everything to make you proud, to show you that actually it’s possible to have more. Sometimes, I wonder if that’s the wrong thing to do because I worry that maybe I’m just rubbing it in your face that everything positive was drained from your teenage years. I just want you to know that you can do it, that anything is possible if you want it that bad and that he doesn’t have the right to stop you. Be brave, Mum, in whatever life you decide. If this is your final decision then OK, that’s fine, but never forget you’re loved, even if it never seems like it, because you undoubtedly are.

Whoever stumbles across this, I don’t want your sympathy or your pity. I chose to get involved in their feuds, to block his punches the best I could with my shouts or my body. I didn’t ask anyone to stop it because I didn’t want anyone’s help. I wanted to look after my mum and I’ll always want that. Sometimes, I wish someone would wave a magic wand my way and give her the best life she could have. But I know nobody’s capable of that and inevitably it’s her decision what life she chooses. I’m not asking her to change, just wanting her to know that she isn’t worthless how he’s made her feel. Nobody deserves the abuse she’s received or to feel so low like she does. She tells me she doesn’t care, that she’s fine and she doesn’t listen to him, but I know she does. I know every little comment is another knife stuck into her, another one she can’t shift. I wish I could take them all out of her, stop her from bleeding. I wish I could make the pain go away more than anything else. I don’t want her to suffer anymore. I don’t want her to spend the rest of her life feeling like she’s not good enough or that this is all she deserves. I can’t perform miracles, so I can’t make everything better. But I wanted to write this all down. There’s the possibility that someone I don’t want stumbling across it will and won’t listen to what I’ve said in the slightest. You’re making it worse if you don’t. Trust me when I say I know this situation. I know what he’s like and what danger she’s in. I don’t need anyone making that worse. I just felt like I had to tell someone, had to rant it all out while I still have a chance and am feeling so angry. The anger doesn’t overshadow any of this, though, because this is how I always feel, how I’ve always felt. What better place to rant than on my online blog that nobody ever reads. At least then if someone stumbles across it they might understand even in the tiniest bit what’s going on. Like I said, I don’t expect anyone to do anything because it’s not anyone else’s place, but I wish I could tell people, that people would believe me or just understand. I’m not capable of that, because this all has me too choked up and when I’ve told people in the past all they’ve said is that it’s her decisions, her choices to make and I can’t make them for her. Don’t you think I’m aware of that? I know all of that, I’ve known it for years. It’s nothing to do with me. Maybe that’s the way you see it but when it’s had such a massive impact on my life ever since I can remember, I think it has everything to do with me. When my mother’s in danger and I’m feeling terrified out of my skin, I think it has something to do with me. I can’t make any decisions for her, and I don’t want to because it’s her life after all, but I want her to understand how I feel, how everything makes me feel. If I’m having a down day or a quiet day, it could just be because it’s not a very good day. But it could be because I was awake the whole night before, worrying whether she was OK. Please don’t judge either of us or any of my thoughts or decisions. This is just a part of my life, a part that’s always been there and that might always be there. I’m prepared for that, ready to battle it like I always have. That’s fine by me, but I can always hope that things get better. Everyone has to have hope, don’t they? So thank you for reading, anyone that has, because I just wanted you to know the story. I’m not quite sure why, and I know it’s probably not the right thing to publish online, but I needed it out there, I needed someone to know just so that I don’t feel so alone when I’m sat up late at night thinking or worrying. All the support and offers I’ve had over the years from friends and family have been appreciated and I’ll always appreciate anyone just listening to me rant. Thanks to those who have wiped the tears away or just sat up late at night when I can’t sleep. To those who have been witnesses, thank you if you supported Mum, but why didn’t you do anything? You could have been the people who started the ball rolling, who started the beginning of her better life. But again, I guess I can understand why you didn’t. It wasn’t your place, it’s her life, her decisions. If you are a witness one day, please help her. She might not seem to appreciate it, but I will because I need my mum and she deserves the love. Even if nobody reads this, I’m glad I’ve written it because it’s taken me ten years to do so. This is probably the longest blog post I’ll ever write, because a lot of it is rambling and there’s a big story to tell. But I wanted to tell it, even if nobody ever reads it. I’ll be able to know I wrote it, be able to know that maybe someone out there has read it. I don’t want to talk about it and like I said, I certainly don’t want your sympathy. I just wanted you to know, to be aware that this kind of thing, it really does happen. It’s not just stories on the news. It’s real life. It’s my life. It wouldn’t be fair to say I chose it to be my life or Mum chose it to be hers because she didn’t know what she was getting into. By the time she probably had a clear understanding, which I think she’s still in denial of now, it was too late. Nobody can blame her for that. Some people have said to me that she should have put her children first, thought about their safety, but he’s never hurt us physically, only ever said that odd thing that sticks in my soul. She was puts us first every time she tries to hold our family together, makes sure we have a stable home. She puts us first when she puts herself right in the firing line. There’s not a single day goes by when we aren’t her top priority. Sometimes, it might seem like she’s putting him ahead of that but that’s probably only because she’s terrified of what he’ll do. And I understand that completely. If everyone else around us or anyone else who reads this can’t, well then that’s up to you. I know why she acts the way she does and selfishness doesn’t even come close. She’s the most selfless person I know and anyone who disagrees with me can come and argue it out with me. Trust me when I say I’ll win. She’s my mum and I’m not letting anyone say anything bad about her. Don’t you think she gets enough from everyone else? She doesn’t need it from you as well.

I love you, Mum, always.

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Open Uni: Week 3

So here I am on my second week of study with the OU. Just like last week, there was a list of activities to complete on the study planner, including starting the second chapter of our first textbook and reading the set book Doctor Faustus by Marlowe. There were other activities to compliment these two things, obviously to assist our learning of the play. My first and main priority with all of this is to get the assignments completed and submitted on time. My first one, which comprises of two totally separate essays is due in on the 6th of November. Each essay is 500 words, which seems incredibly short for me after 2000 words with A Level Literature. But this is the just getting started phase so I guess shorter essays are called for at the moment just in case we get overloaded by all of the material and activities we have to do. It looks like the word limit slowly increases as the course goes on, I guess because we’re supposed to get better at writing them and what we have to do for them as the course progresses.

Anyway, I seemed to veer off course from the study planner almost immediately this week. I’d had good intentions to stick to it because it seems that it will be a good tool to keep to to make sure I do everything I’m supposed to. But the set book, the play Doctor Faustus, is one of the DAISY books I haven’t yet been provided with in any other format. Listening to the audiobook on Sunday nearly sent me to sleep and that had nothing to do with the fact that I was sat on a comfy sofa and it was Sunday evening. The voice that reads the book is very droning and I could feel myself slowly slipping away from listening to it. Also, as it is a play, listening to an audiobook of it is very difficult. There is only one voice for every character and I found it hard to keep up with what was going on. The following morning, I inquired whether my tutor could contact student support on my behalf as I’ve had no response to my several requests for the books in an alternative format. To begin with, my tutor said it was highly unlikely that I’d be able to have the set books in PDF as they weren’t usually provided in that way. So I emphasised how hard I was finding it to even read Doctor Faustus and she said she’d spoken to them anyway. So I’ve still got my fingers crossed. But this was Monday and we’re now on Saturday so I’m not holding out much hope. It is the most frustrating part of this course now because I seem to be able to at least try to tackle everything else. I don’t know if my efforts are wasted yet because I haven’t had to hand in an assignment. I suppose that’ll tell all. If I get a rubbish grade then it’s one of two things: either the course is too difficult due to the fact that it’s so inaccessible or my essay skills have seriously decreased in goodness since A Level. That was actually one thing I was mostly good at so I hope that hasn’t faded too.

On the subject of essays, instead of struggling with the stupid audiobook I decided to start battling with the first part of my assignment, realising the sooner I started the quicker it’d be finished and the longer I’d have to work on it before it’s due for submission. So the first part was on Cleopatra and after watching the majority of the DVD last week and taking a lot of notes from the chapter in the textbook, I thought I might as well have a crack at it. My “crack at it” an hour ago turned into the finished essay. If I wanted to, I could probably do a detailed plan and several more drafts but the 544 words I have as a finished piece I’m happy with. We’re allowed a 10% allowance on the word limit before we’re penalised and mine is six words short of the 10% so I’m happy with that, especially as I could’ve gone on forever, did a good bit of trimming and editing and it is my first essay. For the first, I don’t think it can be that bad.

Since April when I first applied for this course, I knew I’d need a new desk and chair to work at. The desk came at the beginning of August but it took me ages to find a chair. Until yesterday, I’d thought the hunt would go on forever. But then I finally found one I was satisfied with in Staples for £50. Dad assembled it last night and I’m sat on it typing this now. It’s black leather with a medium to high back and it’s a hell of a lot comfier than the ten-year old one. That now sits in the corner of my room, a dumping ground for anything I haven’t bothered to put away or haven’t found a home for yet. Its served many good purposes over the last ten years so now in retirement it doesn’t have to be tidy and like new. Another plus to my new chair is its bigger and has arm rests. They’re so comfy! Especially when I’m reading a long book or a particularly boring bit in the textbook. I’m so glad at last I can be comfy to study as well as having a decently sized desk.

In the middle of the week, I returned to college for their “celebration of achievement” afternoon where I got to meet up with Josh and Kieran. Obviously, I’d only seen Josh a week prior to Thursday but as always I welcomed a chance to see him again. On the other hand, I hadn’t seen Kieran since leaving college back in June so seeing him again after such a long time was amazing! After everything that has gone on in the last few months for both of us, it was so nice to just be in his company again after such a long absence. Plus, the three of us get on so well. It was great to have a catch-up. I was also very lucky to see Kieran receive a rather incredible award and life opportunity for the course he partially completed last year and went back to continue this year. It doesn’t take much for me to well up, to be fair, but I definitely had a few tears streaming down my cheeks at that moment when they announced his name and then explained what else was also involved. I’m certainly the proudest best friend ever and that’s because he is amazing, even if he doesn’t truly know it, I always will. Going back to college was strange as a whole, though, because it felt like I didn’t belong there, like I was some kind of intruder. That’s a very strange feeling to have about a place you called home for two years and not that long ago either. Seeing some of the staff was great, too. People asking about OU was interesting because I had to make the decision whether to be honest with them or lie through my teeth and say everything was perfect. I’m no liar and I like to tell things as they are so I was honest with everyone, explaining the difficulties I’m having as well as trying not to sound my typical negative with nothing good to say. I think honest is a better way to describe what I said on Thursday about how things are going.

Visiting college also made me realise that sticking with this course just because I don’t like quitting and have no idea how to swap to a traditional uni without uprooting every part of my life probably isn’t the best idea. Of course, I still don’t want to just give up because I’m having a few hiccups. But there does seem to be a lot of them and if I’m going to change I need to get things together sooner rather than later. The less of my life I waste flailing about the better. Not that I want to rush into it either. While I’m trying to do this module this month I’ll make a decision while making inquiries about how to go about swapping and if I’d even get in at a uni. Who knows? I certainly don’t have any ideas yet. I’m just going on what I’ve got and trying not to be the ultimate pessimist everyone seems to think I am.

So, next week I’m cracking on with the second essay that makes up the rest of my assignment. I was quite chuffed that in the first I managed to actually do the referencing similar to the way we’re shown in the study companion. At least I think I have. I’m sure I’ll be told otherwise when the assignment is marked if I’ve done it wrong. They say that as long as we have a go at it then that’s what matters. So hopefully my having a go works out in my favour. As well as the essay, I’m going to look at the material for it, try and hit Doctor Faustus firmly over the head – metaphorically of course! – and maybe even briefly go back over the Cleopatra stuff so it’s firmly embedded in my brain. At least that will keep me busy and stop me worrying about anything else. That’s the whole point of hiding in a textbook, surely?

Open Uni: Week 2

Apparently, when I started writing this last week to document my studies with the Ou, I was wrong in saying that it was `Week 1` because according to my study planner last week was actually called the `Preparatory week`. So, technically, I have just finished Week 1. To me, though, it’s week 2 because the preparatory week was a week, meaning that this is the second week of study. This, of course, is most probably going to confuse me massively as I progress through the course, writing on here that it is a week later than what the study planner says. Oh well, I suppose a lot of my life doesn’t coordinate properly so why change a habit of a lifetime with this?

This week, just like every other week that has involved Open Uni stuff, has been a mixture of emotions. The first few days I felt lazy and the idea of studying seemed impossible. Obviously, that was just me being lazy and negative, two more things not to break a habit of a lifetime with. On Wednesday and Thursday, I managed to work quite hard, reading Chapter 1 of Book 1 and starting to watch the Cleopatra DVD. Unfortunately, due to my illiteracy with computers, I somehow managed to turn the volume down on the DVD but not on JAWS and now I don’t know how to sort it. This proves as a bit of a problem because I need the volume to listen to the DVD to take notes from. I’m quite proud of the notes I’ve already taken for the Cleopatra part of TMA (tutor marked assignment) 01, which has been submitted by the fifth of November. I’m quite terrified that I won’t have it finished in time but think that if I can watch the rest of the DVD this week, do the activities that are required on the study planner, finish my Cleopatra notes and make a strong start, if not first draft, of the first part of the assignment then I should just about be OK.

One terrifying thing that I discovered this week was that a lot of the art aspects of the course aren’t well adapted at all. The descriptions that are provided on the website are pretty lacking in detail. They are very vague and I was hugely disappointed because after completing an art GCSE and A Level, I really wanted to be able to do this part of the assignment successfully, just like everyone else. But that was not to be. I had an hour-long phone conversation with the student support team, which took a lot of guts on my part because I’m rubbish on phones, where they decided to contact my tutor and ask for the alternative options to the second part of TMA01 and also TMA05, which is also very visual. At this point, I was quite deflated because I’d gained some confidence during the week whilst completing the activities in the book and making a good start with my essay notes. But my tutor was quick with her response of alternative assessment titles and although I’m not happy with them, because they’re different, it’s obvious I have no choice but to accept the fact that I have to do something different. Both my tutor and the lady I spoke to on the phone from student support were utterly disappointed with the accessibility for this part of the module, as was I. It just seems like they made minimal effort to make the paintings accessible, which I know is possible from previous experience. Either way, at least I now have an alternative assignment question to work with.

Whilst working with the DVD, I also discovered that they are not provided with audio description, something that I really thought they’d have. Instead, there are transcriptions on the website which you can read alongside the DVD. They give a brief description of what happens in the DVD but don’t really add anything useful to the visual element of watching it, which, again, is quite disappointing on the uni’s part. Although I was prepared for the accessibility support not to be spot on from the OU, because after all they are a mainstream university who just claim to cater for those with a disability, I’m not sure I expected to have an issue with almost everything I come up against. I appreciate all of the support I’ve had from friends and family, and also from my tutor and the student support team for clarifying things. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t wish it was better, because I definitely still do. I don’t mind fighting for things, because every disabled person knows that’s a part of life, but it would be nice for just one thing concerning my studies to go right. Maybe that’ll be where my assignments come in; maybe I’ll ace them all and not even have to think about all of these issues in 6 years’ time. Maybe. Of course, it could be possible that I’m just not computer wise enough for this. Maybe it works better if you have an extensive knowledge of how to use DVD’s, transcripts and audio material on your computer. All of these things are new to me but I’m giving them a go because I have no other option and because, well, I can’t exactly avoid them forever. I tried to avoid computers until I was 14, and really it worked quite well, but now I’m suffering because of my childish fears of IT. That wasn’t helped by a school who said that visually impaired people didn’t need to use computers. What planet some of those people came from is beyond me because the majority of visually impaired people rely on assistive technology, computers and any form of electricals to keep their lives manageable. I’m still hopeful that I can get over all of those technical boundaries. I’m certainly the luckiest girl in the world to have a best friend who just so happens to be the cleverest IT genius I’ve ever met. I really wouldn’t be sitting here writing this if it wasn’t for him continuing to encourage me to carry on, phoning me up and sorting my computer out every time I have the tiniest issue. I will forever be grateful for everything he does for me and he’ll never know how much it really means to have him around. His ongoing support and praise with my crappy IT skills really boost my confidence. Five years ago, I’d have never thought I’d been on the Internet posting blogs. I mean, I was the girl who barely knew what the Start button was, let alone how to use the Internet and Word. Although my skills are forever slow, I’m thankful for the support I’ve had so far to gain them. It’s weird to say it — but it’s true — I wouldn’t be without my laptop now. Although the old one is very slow and seldom used, living in its protective sleeve underneath my new desk, my new shiny Toshiba has become one of my many trusted electrical companions. It still has me in regular flaps, almost daily, because it isn’t speaking or I can’t get something working on it. The irritating thing about that is that it’s still usually the basic stuff that I’ve forgotten. At some point over the last five years, someone has probably drummed it into my brain, too; but it’s gone. However, I’d be being unfair to myself if I said I hadn’t improved in the slightest. After all, I know where the Start button is and what it does, even after the Windows update, and I know that if all else fails ALT F4 is almost guaranteed to get me out of whatever bother I’ve put the computer in. ALT F4 is my saviour, almost as much as my IT genius buddy is.

Still on the phone to the student support team, I went on to my next issue, a recurring one that still hasn’t been answered or solved. Can I have the set books in any other format apart from DAISY? A lot of VI people would be very happy with DAISY, but not me. I’ve never used it in my life before now and have always hated talking books. I don’t mind them being read to me by JAWS, my Apex or one of the I’OS voices, but I can’t stand an actual person reading them to me. It just reminds me of all the lessons at school where work hadn’t been modified and so I’d have to listen to my LSA’s reading to me. No disrespect to them, of course, because for the most part they did a truly fantastic job making sure I got through every lesson as stress free as possible. I was incredibly lucky to have the support I did through school because without it I probably wouldn’t be sat here either. But it still gets annoying after a while when you can’t read something how you want to or in the way that you’re used to. When I read on my I’pad, Apex or laptop, I can pause at each word, see how it’s spelt, take notes… I don’t think I’d be able to do that as hassle free with DAISY. Most people have told me that its a great tool to use for reading but I really don’t agree. The voices reading to me irritate me, I lose concentration and I find it difficult to take notes. Reading for myself is much more practical. I know what I’m doing in the style that I’m used to, especially as I’ve been using it since I was little, and I’m not good with change. Maybe DAISY would be good to learn one day, but not right now while I’m struggling with every other part of my course that seems inaccessible. People who know me will know that I used to demand everything in hard copy in Braille. When that became impractical, I settled for Microsoft Word 97-2003 files. Now, the university aren’t even too keen on providing things in that format so I’ve had to adapt to PDF. A year ago, the idea of using PDF for the majority of my material would have been a complete straightforward refusal. But thanks to my IT genius best friend and a little bit of bravery to accept change, I’ve managed to learn how to use PDF as well. I’m happy with that, too, because it’s another thing on my little IT checklist that I can say actually, yeah, I can do that. There was no answer to whether I can have the set books in PDF, but the lady did say she’d seriously look into it. I stressed how many times I’d had this conversation with people and she said she’d do her best. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that this time I might actually have an answer from someone. I’m fed-up with waiting, to be honest.

Yesterday, I had my first OU day school. It was in Reading and as I’m not entitled to a practical assistant, I took my parents along for the day. Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid about it. To be fair, nobody really spoke to me at all, rather spoke to my mum if it was absolutely necessary to speak to one of us. Dad didn’t really get into the groove of Aa100 and left after forty-five minutes of the first lecture. To be fair to him, they weren’t exactly exciting. The morning lectures was spent learning essay writing tactics and note taking skills, both of which really weren’t very useful for me. I already know how to write a decent essay from A Level and the note taking options that were discussed were all very visual ideas like mind maps and spider diagrams, all of which I learnt about when I was 7 but couldn’t even use then. Then, we had a lecture on one of the artists we have to study for the second half of TMA01. Of course, I was feeling very negative about that as I wasn’t sure at the time whether I’d even be able to complete it. The lecture itself seemed to drag on forever and when we left, Mum and I both felt quite tired. However, I wouldn’t say it was a totally pointless waste of time because I did learn a couple of things about referencing that I hadn’t picked up on properly from the study companion. We had a nice Subway lunch, too, so all wasn’t lost.

My only other study issues are unrelated to the university. Due to the fact that I’m on dog-sitting duty every day of the week to Marley, the world’s most annoying and frustrating dog, it is sometimes impossible to work due to his constant howling no matter where he is. The only way I can resolve that is by doing my best to study through it and alternating between his crate and the garden, hoping that at some point he’ll get the fact that I’m not here to play with him, settle down and sleep for a number of hours. That’s not likely, of course, but one can hope it’ll happen. There’s no thought of getting rid of him, even though he’s not particularly wanting ! the house, so I might as well not have even bothered mentioning it. Also, the chair I currently have stationed in front of my desk is at least ten years old and needs updating. It was built for a child and is no longer comfortable or practical. However, a new Staples shop has opened up in the town centre and on Wednesday I’m taking a trip there to hopefully finally buy a new computer chair. Maybe then my study space will be a little more comfortable even if it’s still noisy.

Week 2 has now officially started so this week I will be finishing my notes, completing the activities set out in the study planner and hopefully starting a draft for part 1 of TMA 01. I’m hopeful that I might get some answers to my questions to the student support team and am thankful that my tutor dampened my worries about the art side of the module. I’m still terrified it’s all going to fall apart at some point and I’m going to fail dramatically, but I’m trying to be as positive as I can be about it all. The relentless accessibility issues aren’t helping my spirits but I’m doing my best to overcome them and am glad I’ve got the support of my army of friends and family. Again, I couldn’t do it without them, even if their sometimes thoughtful effort actually makes things worse. They mean well, I know that, and am grateful that at least they try.

One birthday, two sleepovers and three wild party animals

I have always been the luckiest girl in the world with friendship since I first started RNC. As I’ve said before, how the people who are now my family became to be my family is a mystery. I think, though, after a long debate last night we came to the conclusion that we were just destined to be family. We were never just going to be standard friends. That was far too weak and flimsy for us; we had to take it to the top level. And that’s exactly what we did, too, in pretty much the first two weeks of college. Those two weeks cemented our friendships, our relationships as a family, and I’m so glad, looking back now, that everything happened just the way it did in those early days because I sure wouldn’t change a thing about my non-biological family, not for the world or anyone on it.

Anyway, last night, in honour of Josh’s (or Sam’s or Stanislov’s) 19th birthday, his biological mum decided it would be fun to hold a party at her house for him to celebrate. Also, she had the rather genius idea of inviting all of Josh’s non-biological family from college as surprise guests. Mummy Godwin, Daddy Lillywhite (aka myself), stepdaddy Cameron and Uncle Kieran were all invited. In the end, it turned out that only Stanislov’s parents could attend his birthday party and, thinking about it, I’ve decided that actually that’s just fine because we had one mighty fine party.

After everything had been arranged, Godwin and I eventually managed to decide that we’d spend Friday evening and Saturday daytime at my grandparents’ house as they’d agreed to having us stay. Also, I personally just wanted to be a really big surprise for Josh for his party, especially as he’d convinced himself that his mother hadn’t invited any of his friends. So on Friday, Godwin’s dad drove her down to Southampton and I was very excited about the fact that she was coming back to Southampton and that we were all going to spend a weekend together, just like old times at college. Anyway, we were long overdue a get-together so I’m really grateful to Josh’s mum for organising the party for him and inviting us all. When Godwin arrived, it was kind-of surreal to actually be standing on my grandparents’ driveway hugging her in greeting. After everything that has happened in the last year, I’d never expected us to be stood hugging on my grandparents’ driveway. Immediately, Noodle made herself at home, running around exploring things. It was kinda like she recognised the place as somewhere she’d been before but couldn’t quite place when and why, which was really cute.

That evening, after finally getting rid of the whole family who all trotted off for a meal for Nan’s birthday, we set ourselves the task of ordering pizza in. To begin with, I thought I’d take the reins and try to be smart and find us dinner. But as time gradually crept on and our stomachs became ever more demanding, I think Godwin realised that however difficult the task may present itself to be, she really needed to take the reins if anyone was having dinner. Eventually, after a lot of giggles and confusion, pizza was ordered and I’d counted out the correct amount of cash. So then came the waiting game. As a joke, in the notes section of our online order form, Godwin had written that we were hungry blind people. Hilariously, when the food actually arrived, it really seemed as if they’d read our note and had been prepared for hungry blind people. The delivery driver didn’t even check the amount of money I’d handed over and seemed satisfied with my comment, as a totally blind person, that he/she (I can’t remember which they were) could keep the change. They must have thought I’d given them a nice tip when actually our food had cost £24.98 so I’d handed over £25. I really wanted to be clever and find the exact amount but decided I was just being an irritant. The pizza was lovely.

Afterwards, we resumed our previous positions in the bedroom we’d been given and Noodle happily made herself at home curled up. We chatted about all sorts of stuff; the incredible thing about conversations with your sister is that the subject matter can range so widely you don’t actually know how some of the topics came up anyway. Even so, we talked about them. After 5 months of waiting, we could finally have a catch-up that wasn’t on a timer. We had all the time in the world Friday night and I loved that.

During the day on Saturday, we mainly stayed curled up on our beds chatting, still catching up and debating various blindy charities and their purposes in this world. We also watched several controversial but utterly hilarious videos starring Katie Hopkins and her bizarre and sometimes pretty vile opinions on life. It passed the time and made great conversation material. I have to stress here, not that anyone ever reads this, that we watched some of the more politically correct videos out of all the horrendous ones she’s done. Mostly, they were from episodes of This Morning where people were absolutely, and quite rightly, outraged at her comments. We also had the rather odd experience in the afternoon of my grandparents making a rather large deal about the fact that Godwin had asked and was using the shower. Before she was even able to venture anywhere near the shower, they were both suddenly there, setting it up and giving her a full health and safety brief on their shower that, apparently, she had to step into backwards in case it “burnt her face off”. This said by my Grandad in a totally serious and no nonsense tone. Of course, by the end of her health and safety lecture, we were both absolutely hysterically giggling because the whole thing was just so ridiculous. As it turned out, the shower had barely average heat temperature and even if it had been hot the water pressure is so low that it practically trickles out of the shower head onto you. It is the most annoying shower to use without a shadow of a doubt.

Thankfully, 5.30 finally came and my parents arrived to ferry us to Josh’s. We were both really excited and when we got there it was just so lovely to see him. It had been her birthday when Godwin had last seen him and the day I’d left college for me, both of which being several months ago. We were expecting to join in with everyone else and sit in the living room so that Josh could see all of his visitors. However, we quickly became the most antisocial people at a party ever. We spent the entire evening in Josh’s bedroom catching up and chatting, apart from the brief moment of getting food. I felt absolutely awful for Josh’s mum because she had fireworks and a cake organised and we were just in the bedroom for the whole lot. To be fair, Godwin and I wanted to stay as far away from the fireworks as we could and the bedroom was a lot better than being stood in the garden whilst the display went on. Even though we were terribly antisocial, Josh’s mum and the other guests didn’t seem to mind in the slightest and it was great! Just the three of us sat upstairs with the music from downstairs in the background chatting and catching up on the months we’d been apart was amazing and despite the fact it didn’t really make it a party, I feel that we couldn’t have spent last night any better if we’d tried.

In true party style, we decided to play a game. It was new to Godwin but something that had been introduced to me by Kieran at college. In fact, on my last night at RNC we’d had so much fun playing it. So we decided to do it again. For about an hour and a half, I think, the three of us played “cruise? Marry? Shag?” thinking up three different people who we had to put those options too. It is quite disturbing when you’re set the task of deciding which of your best friends you’re going to go on a year-long cruise with, have a meaningless “shag” with or marry and have three kids and a dog with. Being presented with that while two of your options are the two other people in the room is one of the most hilarious and awkward situations I think we’d ever put ourselves in with each other. The funniest thing about the whole scenario was our answers! The fact that we actually managed to decide which person we were doing what with from our non-biological family was quite strange. It has to be said, though, that if anyone of a mature age needs a fun game to play with their mates of an evening then that’s definitely the one to play. Just like the times before, playing “Cruise? Marry? Shag?” made great entertainment for the whole evening for all three of us.

Later, when we’d gotten into our pyjamas and Godwin and Noodle had drifted off to sleep, Josh and I spent several hours talking about the most random and sensitive parts of my life. For example, the crush that lasted 5 years that I had on a boy at school was mentioned… It was really nice to just talk and talk and not even be bothered about what the time was. The funny thing was that to begin with we’d been talking in whispers in fear of waking Godwin but about 15 minutes into the conversation we were talking at our usual level because she was soundo. Taking full advantage of that fact, we also talked about how we felt we were the luckiest people alive to have each other, Godwin and Kieran as friends, and of course for me to have Cameron too. It was also really amazing for us both to note how incredible it was that the three of us were actually there – Josh led in his bed and Godwin, Noodle and I on our inflatable mattress – for his birthday. After the year that has just passed and everything that happened in it, I’d never even dared to believe that Josh, Godwin and I would be able to spend his 19th birthday together, having a sleepover at his house and playing outrageous games. The most amazing thing to realise was that our family isn’t going anywhere. Josh and I may be in Hampshire, Cameron in Dorset, Godwin in Yorkshire and Kieran in his hometown or at college, but our family is solid now and no distance or anything else is ever going to change tha.

Saying goodbye this morning was sad, as it always is. The phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” is certainly true where my non-biological family are concerned. Hours feel like minutes and it’s all over far too fast. However, we have already started talking about traveling to York during the Christmas holidays as a group to visit Godwin. We all really want to see her new place and also York is a great place to visit, especially as we might get to do the great conga of York again. Overall, though, I think we celebrated Josh’s birthday in style, even if we didn’t interact with the party organised for him or the other guests there. Hope you enjoyed your birthday, son, because I sure did. It was amazing to see them both again and I’m waiting for next time already. Of course, huge thanks goes to Josh’s biological mum for putting the whole thing together because, really, we just needed that little extra shove to see each other again. No fear, though, we’ll never need reminding again. Love you lots, guys, more than I can put into words.

Open Uni: Week 1

So, my degree has officially started… The online module site opened on Saturday and I have all of the details for my day schools and face-to-face tutorials. I’ve had a conversation with my tutor over the phone, email correspondence from the support team and my course materials which have been partially downloaded and sent through the post.

Today, following the online study planner, I led down on my bed after a morning of shopping and listened to the PDF version of the study companion. Although, to begin with, I wasn’t happy with having PDF’s, I’ve now realised that they’re quite useful because I can download them onto my I’pad and all of my other devices and have them read out to me by my speech software. I can also connect my Braille Display to my laptop or put them onto the Flash Drive of my BrailleNote Apex and read them with the refreshable braille cells. This means that I have at least two alternative options to how I study. Admittedly, I still would have preferred a hard copy of the books in Braille as that is my most common format but the university don’t supply that so I’m happy with the PDF and Word formats as at least I have some way to study. I’m still not completely happy with the fact that my set books are only in DAISY format. I feel that I’m going to struggle to make notes on them to help me with my assignments. However, it seems that the set books are only available in DAISY format and however many people I ask or complain to about this it doesn’t seem to be changing. I’m hopeful that with time I’ll get used to DAISY and be able to work effectively with it. If not, I could be in a bit of a sticky situation.

Tonight is also the date for my first face-to-face tutorial. Unfortunately, as my dad works his late shifts on a Thursday and is the insured driver for my mobility vehicle, I’m not going to be able to attend. Hopefully, this won’t be the case for all of the face-to-face tutorials as I’m quite aware that they are a very important part of my learning process. Also, I don’t really want to miss out on something that’s available and local to me which could help a lot with my studies.

I’ve decided that the best way to study will be to follow the online study planner as much as possible. It seems to be a good guide to what I should study each week and it wouldn’t be a suggestion if it didn’t work to help people pass the module. I’ve joined the Facebook groups that are available for my module and also the disabled students one and there seems to be a lot of friendly people in them. I’m also hopeful that if I’m ever stuck with anything people in those groups will be able to give advice and hints on what I’m supposed to do to solve my issue; and if they can’t, I think they’d be able to suggest someone else to contact who would know. In the study planner this week, I’m supposed to read the study companion, do some online activities and attend the tutorial. I’ve been able to do most of the online tutorials, submit my dummy TMA (tutor marked assessment) and read the study companion. I think I’m going to reread it if I can before starting on week 2 as soon as I can.

The study companion suggests that we keep record of what we’ve done in the week so we know how up-to-date we are and if we’ve missed anything out. That way, I guess we can revisit it and fit in in the following week. I don’t want to get behind or miss anything out; it would be a lot easier to keep on top of my studies so that I can be successful in passing. I’m going to use this blog to keep note of what I’ve done each week so that if it goes well I can look back at how I struggled and know that it was well worth it. Of course, if it doesn’t go well then I have record of how it went wrong so that when I’m making my decision on what I’m going to do next I’ll have proof and a way to make my next steps more successful.

My approach to study is positive and hopeful right now because I don’t want to get too disheartened yet in case it affects my studies and makes me slip behind schedule. I have a day school to attend in Reading on the 17th of this month which I’m going to try to take as much information as I can from. I’m a little reserved about the day school because I have no practical assistance and have just been advised to take my parents. I’m also a bit worried that they’ll hand out extra materials which won’t be in appropriate formats. This could be a problem because it means my parents will have to read it to me and I won’t be able to use it for future reference. However, I’m going to be positive and hopeful that it will all be OK. I’m certain though that I won’t be able to do this either way without the support of my friends and family. Their encouragement and help is so highly appreciated and I just felt I needed to say how vital they are in my confidence to keep going with this. I’m lucky to have them and whatever happens with this module, with whatever steps I take in my life, that’ll never change.