About Sid

Photographer, mental health advocate, occasional ranter, in love with Kent.

Ogden Nash, a great dog

Three years ago, give a take a week or so, I saw a photo of a dog on a Facebook rescue page. The photo was shared to me by a friend and it was of a very sad looking dog who’d been in a Spanish pound for three years. THREE YEARS. Five months is considered a long time in a British pound and dogs are reasonably well looked after but three years in a Spanish pound where the dogs are treated like shit? No wonder he looked sad.

The charity I got him from was basically shit and there was a lot of problems before he finally arrived home. This sounds crazy but I missed him before he got here and I was desperate to see him. His Spanish name was Relampago which means streak of lightening and he was well named but I called him Ogden.

He arrived six inches taller than I’d been told and 10 kilos heavier and he was 5 kilos overweight. He hadn’t had a walk all the time he’s been in the pound and he had a scar on his back that had been caused by either acid, hot fat or hot metal. He had scars in his ears and he was nervous.

As soon as he arrived, after having the longest pee ever and a quick snack (two days by road from Spain = little food in case of travel sickness and few stops) I took him out for his first walk.

It was evening so the streets were quite quiet and we could walk around without him being too scared of things. He didn’t know where to look first – everything and anything drew his eye. He kept bumping into things because he couldn’t concentrate. There was one or two poo related accidents at home but that was because he didn’t know where to go.

I’d got him a bed, a cushion and a fleece to encourage him to find his own sleeping space and he refused to use them. He didn’t know that he was allowed to sleep on something soft and it took several weeks for him to sleep in the bed. He had three in the end!

He didn’t wag his tail for ages. He seemed to be convinced that I wasn’t going to be around long and I think he was scared about getting attached to me.

Right from the start people told me how handsome he was and were suprised that I’d just got him because they thought we looked so right together and we did. We complemented each other perfectly and we’re both a bit on the batty side so it was a match made in heaven.

He wasn’t just a good dog he was one of the great dogs. He had healing properties. That sounds all new agey and religious but he had an amazing way with people that I’d never seen in other dogs.

Once when we were on the way to the train station for a day out a guy stopped us and asked if he could smooth Ogden because he felt depressed and needed a lift. By the time we walked away to catch our train the guy was visibly better.

In Bromley, London and Bristol disable people approached us and asked to fuss over him and he really brightened them up. Everyone felt better when they met Ogden, he was truly one of the great dogs.

Last Wednesday morning we went out for our walk first thing. He’d had a few problems for a few days but on that morning he was obviously not well at all and I knew that  there was only one thing to do. I rang my vet and we arranged to have him put to sleep at lunchtime the same day.

I rang Rob who had looked after him when I went away on every Wednesday afternoon for since he got to England and told him and asked him to come with me. I rang my sister and she listened while my heart broke.

I took Ogden round to Rob’s house to pick him up to go to the vet and so that his mum and dad could say goodbye to him too.

He had lots ot treats that morning, probably about a weeks worth but the smile on his face as he ate them was wonderful.

The vet was kind. She laid a blanket on the floor and we had 15 minutes with him in private to say our goodbye and  then came back with a sedative that sent him off into a deep sleep and left us with him again. After we’d had time talking to him and hugging him she came back, gave him his injections and we held him and each others hands as she monitored his life signs until  he stopped breathiing and she could confirm that Ogden, who had been alive that morning and had been the centre of my work for 2 years and 8 months was no longer alive.

I miss coming home and hearing him bark as I open the gate. I miss shouting, “Have you been a good boy?” as I come through the door. I miss taking his collar off every afternoon and grooming him. I miss singing You Are My Sunshine to him and having him snuggle tightly in as I sing. I miss him nudging at me every morning to get out of bed so  he can start his day. I miss his dog smell and the fur he shed everywhere. I miss him the dog I longed to arrive and thought would  live forever.

He safe now, his illness was swift and the solution was equally as swift.

I’m being taken for coffee by so many people that I’ve lost count and I’m rearranging my time so life can change back to being about me and not about him.

His first four years of life were fucking awful but the two years and eight months he had with me were the way his life should have been lived. He had lovely beds, he had good food, he had antlers to chew on, he had me and his extended family to lovely him and he was free.

I cannot begin to describe how much I miss him or how much I will miss him but I’m so glad I had him with me. I will never forget him and I will never stop loving him.

The text message and the phone call

Last year, during the second election (which I hoped Labour would win) one of my friends started sharing Britain First posts on her Facebook page and making comments on them. She did this more than once and they were obnoxious to say the least, racist to be more honest.

I couldn’t tolerate such racism on my timeline. When I was a young teenager I witnessed an act of racism aimed at a friend of mine and it both shocked me and scared me.

These posts and their comments came from a woman who goes to church every Sunday and is well known and liked in her community. It was disturbing to think that she would act the way she did. Even though I didn’t know her in real life we’d spoken on the phone more than once and we sent each other texts often.

Instead of challenging her I quietly blocked on her on all the social media platforms that we had interacted on and left it at that. We have one mutual friend and I mentioned it in passing to him.

Today I had an unexpected text message from her asking how I was. I thought about confronting her head on or fudging it then I thought that I’d have a chat to the person who was a mutual friend.

He told me I was overreactiing and that I was judging someone on a couple of posts. His take was that just because you make a few racist comments it does make you a racist.

He and I are on opposite sides of the political centre shall we say. I thought I was much further left that he was right but it turns out not. I always thought that he wasn’t as hard right as he admitted to being and that he was a good man at heart.

But a few racist comments on a Britain First page doesn’t make you a racist according to him and that wasn’t the end of it. He intimated that he thought that it was acceptable for her to voice her opinions but it wasn’t acceptable for me to challenge her and that I should just let it go.

I’ve ignored her text message and, stupidly, deleted it before I could block her number.

The harder decision was realising that I’ve got to let a friend go. I’ve loved this friend for many years, he has been there through some very rough times but I can’t have someone who excuses racism in my life.

It’s not because of politics, it’s not an overrreation or that a friend has made mistakes it’s because, by defending a racist and telling me I’m in the wrong he’s exposed himself both as a racist and a bully.

I’m not going to make a big deal of it, I’m not going to out him, I’m not going to confront him but I am in a position to let us drift apart until one day he’ll look up and find that I’ve disappeared from his life. His loss.

Fecking digitals

I haven’t made a secret that I’ve been at odds with social media, especially Twitter, for some time now. I’ve stopped tweeting, I’ve deleted my account and I’ve restored it.

Twitter is a valuable tool for me. People look for the blog posts from this website and from my food website. During the time I deleted my account I got a feeling of relief but there were people I missed, people I found it hard to get in touch with otherwise and I felt a yearning to go back though I had no intention of doing so.

Then I started getting messages about my websites. People couldn’t find them and missed them so, since this website isn’t purely a vanity project, I returned to Twitter.

I’m still at odds with it. I feel awkward about chatting to people on there even though I know several of them in real life. I feel detached from all of them. Perhaps there’s an element of dissociation in the last bit.

During the last week I’ve been keeping my laptop in the cupboard bor most of the day and when I do take it out to use it I put a timer on it so I don’t used it for more than an hour a day. When I’m not using my iPad it gets switched off, right off.

I no longer have social media sites as my home page and so I have to physically type the name of them in. It doesn’t sound much but it amounts to quite a bit. 

Like many people, I have more than one device and whilst once they enhanced my life it feels that now they’ve taken over and so it’s time I showed them who was boss.

I think if I could go and live off grid I would because I think my disenchantment with fecking digitals and social networks is part of a desire to escape from the city and live in the back of beyond.

If you fancy making a documentary about a *coughs* year old woman who gives up material possessions for.the good life then let me know because I really would like to be unsociable again.

Here we go yet again

I’ve been feeling quite good for me the past few weeks. I’ve been unstable and disorganised but I’ve been trying to manage my time well and I’ve almost managed to do it several times. At other times I’ve failed miserably and that’s been really frustrating.

One of the tell tale signs that I’ve not been coping or managing my illness is the lack of baking that’s been finding its way into my freezer. I’ve made sausage rolls but because I made them I couldn’t bake bread.

I did a lot of shopping before Christmas, particularly of animal food, and now I have no real idea of what I’ve got in and what I haven’t. People will advise me to go to the cupboards and write things down but my brain can’t work like that when I’m feeling pressured. I can assemble the ingredients for a simple dish that I’ve made countless times but I can’t work out how to get the raw ingredients into the finished product. So going through the cupboards to write a shopping list is a bit beyond me right now.

It’s a sign of stress and it’s a form of dissociation which is both uncomfortable and unnerving. A few days ago I was stable within my shaky instability (which means I’m not very stable at all) and now I’m unstable again and it hurts.

This is a cycle that I go through countless times a year. This cycle may go on for hours or days or months but one thing is for sure, it will stop when it wants to regardless of what I do.

I both the time and space to be ill and to recover to a certain point. I am never well, I am just less ill at times. I’ve seen this coming for a few days but, like all the other times, I didn’t see what it was. Such is the artfulness of bipolar disorder. It’s a dodgy bastard.

The Great Escape

It is almost 10 years since I managed to break away from a relationship that ate away at my soul.

I met a good looking biker at an AA meeting and eventually we started seeing each other. After about two months he broke up with me because he didn’t know if he was ready for a long term relationship or not.

He’d talked it over wiith his sister before he broke the news to me as he’d mistaken my enthusiasm in bed as undying love. As if.

A couple of months later he decided he was ready to enter into what may become a serious relationship but he asked me to call him on particular nights to say hello. I didn’t have a phone at the time so I had to go to the phone box in a not particularly safe place to ring him. Sometimes I could hear him in the background telling which ever parent had answered the phone that he didn’t want to speak to me.

At this point alarm bells should have been ringing so damned loudly that they blocked out all other sound.

Then he decided he needed a break again. I gave him the time and space he needed and when he decided we were on again I was really quite happy even though I shouldn’t have been.

He came over once a week from work to spend the night and eat with me. Most times he’d complement me on my cooking but there were times when he’d tell me he’d come to expect better from me. I just used to tell him to cook himself if I was that bad and he’d pull his pet lip, put the puppy dog eyes on and I’d shut up.

He was bizarre in bed. I don’t mean that he wanted me to swing from the lights screaming “whip me until bleed” bizarre but he was incapable of doing anything else but the missionary position and everything was at his speed. I can see now that his selfishness was in every part of our relationship but not then.

We were in our mid 30s and he told me he’d always lived at home, he’d never cooked a meal from start to finish, he didn’t know how to use an iron and paid no contribution to his family for expenses etc. He was basically a baby.

Talking of which, I don’t know how he did, it but he made me a baby too. When we split up there was no fewer and a dozen teddy bears in my bedroom that he’d bought me on different occasions. It was almost as if I was a child he had sex with.

After two years his parents told me he had to stop having sex with me so he did and two years later we had an almighty row which ended in him throwing a flat leather shoe at me so that it hit me in the stomach and I was left with a huge bruise. I accepted that it was my fault.

I told him I wanted to be just friends and that meant no kissing or holding hands but he ignored me and I let him do it.

He gave up work after I became ill and there were demands on my time that were pathetic. He’d ring and tell me there was an injured animal (usually a fox or a bird) in their garden and ask me to go and free it. There was never anything there when I arrived.

He had a lot of fun controlling me.

The worst was that when I met him I was a dress size 14. I had the figure I wanted and really nice working clothes. In episodes of mania I ate sugary food and he’d bring me chocolate and, of course, I ate it. He was a feeder. A photo taken in 2007 horrified me. It’s one thing seeing the clothes labels marked with the size 22 labels but quite another to see the photos of what you actually look like.

There was no celebrations of my birthday unless you count a pack of fries and a diet coke at McDonalds. At Christmas I got the kind of gifts that he would like not what I’d like and I thought I deserved that behaviour.

New Years Even 2007. He rang me to say he was taking me out for a meal and that he’d pick me up so I could say hello to his mum. I didn’t want to say hello to his mum but I had to or else there’d be accusations of not caring so off we went.

I thought we were going for an evening meal but at 4.30 pm (yes, you read that right) we were sat in a Beefeater ordering burgers. When they arrived he shovelled his down so fast I thought he was going to choke and I had to leave what was left of mine on the plate. Of course I got a lecture about wasting his money!

So that was it. I got home and I realised that if I didn’t get out of that relationship then I’d be stuck with it for the rest of my life. I’d spent 13 years in a relationship that should have been over in two at the most and would have been better if it had never started in the first place.

I was lucky because we didn’t live together so it was much easier for me to break things up than it is for some people. I rang him to tell him that I needed some time out and he went along with it but told me not to get involved with other men.

I won’t say I walked away and I never looked back because I have. In the early days it’s easy to think that things weren’t that bad, the pull is still there and it tested me to my limits.

The one thing that saved me from going back was the one thing he said I could never do. I’d always dreamed of taking photos and he constantly told me that I’d be dreadful at it. In January 2008 I bought a camera and in February 2008 I sold my first photo. There have been many since then but that was the “fuck you” photo.

It was hard, nearly as hard as giving up drinking or smoking, but I did it. This is my story of my wasted time but I don’t regret what I didn’t do. Everything we do, every step we take, even if it is in the wrong direction, moulds us into the person that we are. I take great pleasure in being the person that he’d hate me to be.