So I brought out my second book out last week. No this is not a smug column. It’s the opposite, especially after my interview in the paper received the comment ‘99p to download on Kindle? Daylight robbery’.
A year of work, the dragging up of a past I don’t like to think about, all for 99p. Yes, I probably should just get a ‘proper job’, but no one will have me. I got fired from my one waitressing job for refusing to let go of the plate till the customer said thank you. The saying manners cost nothing is a lie. They cost me my wages.
Anyway, I know mean comments are just part and parcel of social media. People go on facebook to laugh at other people on facebook. I know this because I do it. It makes us feel better about our boring lives that are nothing like the lives we post photos of on Facebook. We all know we do this, but we keep doing it anyway. Facebook ‘likes’ are the ultimate backhanded compliment.
I know when I post stuff about my book, my facebook friends will think ‘Gah, Ericka is banging on about her novel again. No one cares’, or ‘She thinks she’s something special she does’ or ‘I don’t know why she bothered. The last one was crap’.
I know this and yet I do it anyway because if I don’t promote the poxy thing, no one will buy it and then it really will all have been a colossal waste of time. I really don’t think I’m special though, not at all. As Emily Dickenson said ‘I am nobody, who are you? Are you – nobody too?’
Writing a book is like taking off all your clothes and walking round naked saying ‘Look at me, find my flaws. That cellulite on my bum, can you see it? That wrinkly skin on my tummy, my mis-matching breasts, that mole the size of a two-piece coin? yes it has got hairs on.’
It’s like peeling off a layer of skin and rubbing vinegar on yourself. Everything hurts. The sales figures, the reviews. When I re-read the final version, I was so awash with shame I had to put it under my bed, (along with the last one).
My middle daughter is struggling with anxiety. I hate everything about that sentence. Being neither the oldest or the youngest and only a baby herself when her younger sister arrived, she’s already fighting for her place in life, and now she’s fighting her mind. She’s listening to the voice in her head that tells her ‘you feel sick’ ‘you can’t go to school’ ‘you can’t make it through assembly’, ‘you can’t sleep alone’.
Watching her battle anxiety is hideous. Not only did I suffer the same as a child, chances are she inherited it from me. It took me thirty years, the sudden death of a friend and my marriage crumbling to finally silence the voices in my head. The ones that told me I’d pass out if I drove on a motorway or went on the Underground. I couldn’t even get bread from ASDA because that aisle was right at the back of the shop. I could only cope in the first two aisles near the door. The cupboards were bare, but we had lots of wrapping paper.
My anxiety started when I was Daisy’s age. I chocked on a chicken nugget. How ridiculous is that? Worse than ‘I carried a watermelon’ even.
I was at school having lunch, a normal kid, laughing with her friends, looking forward to arctic roll for desert, and then suddenly I was chocking. It wasn’t even a big deal. I didn’t need any help, it lasted but a second, but it changed my life. In that moment I thought I was going to be sick, in front of everyone and that was the end of my childhood.
I stopped eating lunch, I stopped eating in front of anyone. I stopped and froze in time. Before long I was skipping school, avoiding assembly and struggling to make it through class without finding an excuse to go to the clock room, where I would sit and cry and hate myself for being weak and curse myself for not being 'normal'.
Anxiety had a hold on me for years, making sure I didn’t do anything outside the safe circle I made for myself, which only ever got smaller. I didn’t drink, didn’t take drugs. I couldn’t handle busy clubs or sixth form. I dropped out of education, I dropped out of life. At my worst I couldn’t leave the house.
I know a lot of people who do not follow the news. I know an awful number of people who do not vote. These two things go hand-in-hand. I do not judge these people too harshly (women died for the vote btw), because it’s hard to understand all the wars and incompetence happening. If you don’t watch the news, do your research or ask questions, how can the war in the Middle East make any sense? Even having read all I can about it, it’s all gobble-de-goop to me.
The thing is, feeling uncomfortable due to a lack of knowledge is not a good enough excuse. Turning off the news because it’s boring and then getting cross because you have to wait two weeks for a doctor’s appointment is pretty hypocritical. Children should watch the news at school. They should be taught what is going on in the world and what part our country is playing. If you’ve never watched the news or read the paper, understanding what is currently going on in government is going to be tricky. I’m going to break some of it down for you below.
You teach your kids not to follow other idiots? Well Teresa May just bombed Syria because Trump told her too. If he jumped off a cliff would she (please) follow him? I still don’t understand why we can afford to launch missiles costing £6.32million, but we can’t afford to put money into our NHS.
May’s missiles cost £790,000 each. In 2015 it was reported that it costs £23,420 to resettle a Syrian refugee for a year – £6.32m could therefore have settled 269 refugees, instead we bombed a country bombing itself to teach them not to bomb themselves, leaving it, and our own angry and hurting.
Teresa May and her husband have not been left hurting. They made money out of it. Phillip May works for a Capital Group, which has the largest sharehold in BAE. BAE built the eight ‘storm shadow’ missiles that were fired at an alleged chemical weapons manufacturer. Capital Group’s share price has soared since the air-strikes. Looks like the Milky bars are on Philip May. Teresa certainly seems to prefer white chocolate.
Look at how the Windrush generation are all being sent to a ‘home’ they’ve never step foot in (ironically leaving space for Syrian refugees, since we just bombed the bananas out of them).
Did anyone read the leaflet the government put together for them on ‘how to blend in’? It includes ‘Try to be ‘Jamaican’ – use local accents and dialects. Overseas accents can attract unwanted attention.
My children have become obsessed with making slime and it’s gotten utterly out of hand. Is started, as it always does, with someone at school having some, so they had to have some too.
The problem was, this trendsetter had not bought slime, they’d made it. Obviously my kids wanted to make it too.
I don’t like things that make mess. I don’t like sticky, slimy things, but I think I probably did when I was a kid, so initially I indulged the ‘How to make slime’ videos on YouTube and I bought some cornflour in the weekly shopping.
That was my mistake, I’d given the kids a green light to make slime, and how they embraced it.
They’ve tried to make slime out of flour, fairy liquid, lip gloss and eggs. I go to make breakfast and there is nothing in the cupboards as it’s all been used to make slime. It’s on the chairs when I sit down, it’s on the floor, it’s in the shower, it’s on top of the loo, it’s clogged up the washing machine. It’s inside my slippers. It’s coming out the dogs, who eat the children’s failed experiments. It’s in the girl’s hair, under their pillows, being used as bookmarks and constantly on the table at dinner time.
I know you are thinking I need to toughen up and ban slime. Well, I ask you this; have you ever had to try and rehabilitate an addict? Unless you sit with them every second of the day, they will go off to get their fix.
Realising I needed to get a handle on the problem, I booked them into Artpod in Rottingdean for a ‘Slime making session’ in the half term. I thought they’d make slime there, and then I could put it on the bin while they are asleep. I thought the I had it all worked out.
I was, as I always am, wrong.
My middle daughter, Daisy, was so excited about the slime workshop, and so keen to learn all there is to know about slime, that she won the highly desired role of ‘Slime Ambassador’. (Yes, it’s thing).
She came home with a load of different slimes and a big smile on her face. The other two sulked and cried because that’s what siblings do. They always feel anything a sibling achieved was undeserved and unfair. NB: Mum, why did you invite John to go to Morocco with you but not me? It’s not fair and I’m much more fun.
So I was determined the children were not going waste half-term watching You Tube tutorials on how to make slime and eating the contents of the ‘packed-lunch-cupboard’. I took them back to Manchester. Me and my cousin planned a wonderful day visiting museums and galleries. They saw poisonous frogs, thousand-year-old mummies and every stuffed animal you can think of. They stroked foxes and badgers (stuffed but still real) and they made things out of clay. They did an Easter egg hunt and made beaded necklaces. They fed swans and threw pebbles in the Mersey, ate ice creams with sherbert on and piping hot sausage rolls out the bag. I pushed them on a giant swing and bought them things from gift shops (that soon broke).
Their favourite bit of the trip? Standing at the front of the double-decker bus so each time it stopped they smacked their heads against the window. I’d love to say it knocked some sense into them, but it didn’t. I should have just bought a £9 family saver ticket and spent the whole day on a bus round Manchester. My life is like constantly hitting my head against a window, then having to clean it after.
Isn’t it always the way with kids? You try and show them something really interesting, like a crab in a rock pool, but they are fascinated by a boy eating a hot dog. I showed them a wonderful sculpture and they were more interested in a kid who was wearing a similar coloured coat to theirs. The husband is no better. I’ll be telling him about an article I read, and he’ll respond with ‘Why don’t you ever see white dog poo anymore?’
To be fair, I switch off whenever he starts talking to me, mostly because it’s about sports or what colour my pants are. I’ve been wearing beige pants for months now (Marks and Spencer tummy control) and he still thinks it’s hilarious to pretend I’ve got no underwear on and call me ‘kinky’.
He never wears underwear and I wish he would. I do wear it and he wishes I wouldn’t. Maybe this is the fundamental difference between men and women?
All I have to do to make him smile is flash him some flesh. To get me grinning he has to sort the recycling, walk the dogs and replace broken lightbulbs. “But you don’t like doing it with the lights on” he says, trying to weasel his way out of it. I don’t know what his problem is with replacing bulbs. He only put a new one in the bathroom after my dad came to stay and trod in the cat litter on his way to the shower, then cleaned himself with CIF.
I know I could change them myself. I am a strong, independent woman and can do anything, but that doesn’t mean I want to. When my husband reads this, he will remind me I ran out of diesel on International Women’s Day this year and phoned him up crying for help.