Bye Bye Mister Fat Feet

Almost 11 years ago I answered a knock on my front door to find a shabby young couple holding a kitten standing on my doorstep.  A neighbour had told this couple that I’d take the kitten off their hands. They told me it was 16 weeks old and had had flea and worm treatments. They then asked for £15 so that they could have an afternoon in the pub.

it was obvious that, if they were selling a kitten for beer, he wouldn’t have been treated for fleas or worms and it was obvious that he was nearer six weeks than 16.

I handed over the money and took him into the bathroom to check him out.  His skin was quite literally crawling with fleas and worms were dropping out of his bottom. He was in a sorry state but there was such a magic about him that made me fall in love with him in an instant.

I took him for a kitten check and to get the treatment he needed to rid him of the worms and fleas. The vet that did the check told me that he had a grade III heart murmur which is linked to circulatory disorders. The fleas would clear quickly but the worms, I was told, would take longer.

I got him castrated when he was around six months old and the worms were still very much present. It eventually got to a point when, at 10 months old, the vet and I were discussing whether or not it would be a good idea to remove a section of Mister’s gut to rid him of the infestation. It seems the worms heard us because shortly after that they disappeared completely.

Mister was left with IBS, he refused to use litter trays and regularly left deposits from either end of his body on the kitchen floor. On the other hand he was a loving, boisterous and confident cat. Workmen visiting the flat for any reason would, more often than not, turn around to find him sat in their toolboxes.

He was loving; generous with paddling his big feet that were little clouds of softness with claws like needles, purrs that were loud enough to record and use as a ringtone, big eyes that hypnotised anyone who happened to glance at them and an amazing talent for falling off windowsills when he drifted off to sleep on them.

I will miss my gorgeous boy with his fat feet and his, at times, overwhelming love. I won’t miss the deposits on the kitchen floor or the frequent hairballs that I invariably stood on when they were just warm and I had sockless feet.

In a few days time I’ll be writing a shopping list and on it will be cat food. I’ll need a third less than I’ve been used to getting and I’ll probably make sure his favourite treats are on the list before I remember that I don’t need to buy them anymore.

Bye bye Mister Fat Feet, I love you.

Few words, lots of feelings

Fifty five years ago today my brother was born. He was the third (and final) child in the family. He was the only boy and being the only boy and the youngest of us he had us all under his spell.

There are photos of him as a cheeky five year old, a serious eight year old pretending to read a book for a staged photo, a teenager with his tiny granny against the wall of the house, a handsome man of twenty leaning on a stage lamp in the local polytechnic before a gig.

No more photos of him after he was twenty one. Life stopped then for him and we were left to move forwards without him.

Today it hurts and I think it’s the realisation that it’s just too long since I saw him and that dreadful feeling of never seeing him again. That’s the thing that I got and accepted quite early on but it still comes back and hits me in the back of the head from time to time.

I’ve had a very silent day today. I’ve only spoken to family, I’ve avoided people and Patrick has been in and out of my thoughts all day. I realise as I write this I have thought only of his life and nothing of his death which is how I wanted to be because after all, if we spend our lives wringing our hands and wailing at the injustice of the early death of a beloved person, we are not living at all.

Perfect memory, imperfect time…

Before you read any further it’s important that I tell you a little of the Village that I mention in the post. The idea for this post came from was novel The Villages written by my dear friend, the wonderful Dave Hutchinson (@HutchinsonDave). This is the story of my Village.

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I have what can only be described as a tumultuous relationship with my family. I’m a recovering alcoholic/addict (25 years and counting) and at times, bloody difficult to live with. There have been frequent times that I’ve fallen out with my family, particularly my mother.

On this particular occasion there had been an argument and I’d stormed out and went to live in a grotty bedsit without telling the family where I was. It was both childish and thoughtless to do that but one night they rang me at the pub where I worked and I moved back home.

I usually worked on Saturday nights but on 13 August 1983 I was feeling under the weather and stayed at home to nap on the sofa while my mum, dad, brother and sister went out to our local for a drink.

As they were getting ready to go out we all found ourselves sat on the bed in my parent’s bedroom talking. Patrick had just started seeing a girl and we were worried that she was just using him to get back an ex and we told him that we were concerned because we loved him. He told us he understood and, in one of  those rare and perfect moments, we were completely united as a family.

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They came back at closing time and they’d obviously enjoyed themselves. My brother and his friends decided to go out for a drive in his car. Patrick assured us he wouldn’t be driving and that it was a friend of his who’d just passed his driving test that would be behind the wheel. The three of them went out and my mum, dad, sister and me went to bed.

In the early hours of Sunday August 14th there was a loud banging on the door and I went to answer it. The police were on the doorstep, ascertained that I had a brother called Patrick and as the hallway filled up with the family and a house guest we were advised to get dressed and go to the hospital with them.

I went in the police car with my mum and dad while my sister followed behind in a taxi.

The police drove far too slowly and I urged them to go faster. “There’s no need to go fast, the road is clear and the hospital isn’t that far away.” Then the driver and his colleague exchanged a glance and I knew that the fervent mantra that was running through my head willing my brother to be okay was pointless. Bloody pointless.

We got to the hospital and a police inspector informed my mum, dad and me that my brother was dead. I cried as I’m crying now with a mixture disbelief, pain, a life gone and a desperate need for him to be wrong.

My sister arrived shortly after and I told her our brother had died. The response from my mother was a hot denial, she couldn’t accept it even after my dad had been to identify his body. At 11.00 pm on the 13th of August my brother was a person, on the 14th of August he was a body.

It’s a long time ago now. The grief has dulled its edges like a worn out and unsharpened knife that’s been abandoned in a drawer. From time to time it cuts open my soul with its still sharp tip and rips it a little more but mostly there are memories of smiles and fun.

My Village of course, you need to know about my Village. That was when we were in the bedroom together when love was present, nothing was left unsaid and we had that perfect moment.

If I could I’d be tempted to return but what if it wasn’t quite that perfect moment and instead there was an undercurrent of unease. As L P Hartley wrote in The Go-Between, the past is a foreign country and would I really want to visit a country where I no longer spoke the language or understood the rules? Who could really say yes or no with any certainty?

Would you revisit your Village? Would you?

Being overwhelmed, Twitter bullies and the death of a superstar

I get overwhelmed by huge amounts of information and it really hurts my head. My last consultant said he thought it was because I had become a person with bipolar disorder who was more manic than depressed when for years it had been the other way around.

I began taking photos after my dad died and there was money from the sale of our childhood home and the aforementioned consultant and I both agreed that it was a wonderful way to block out the information that constantly threatened to overwhelm me and it gave me a focus that I hadn’t had before.

I still get overwhelmed by things outside my head. Noise on television or sounds that seep in through the windows. The chorus of non-stop chatter on the street that I can’t block out with a bubble made with my mind. My dog barking, my cats purring and even my rats shifting things about in my cage all overwhelm me.

At time I go into periods of dissociation during which I don’t recognise my surroundings and I get lost even though I’m possibly close to home. Sometimes I can find my way back home because I know where it is even though I don’t feel it’s there. It’s an incredibly frightening experience.

One of the ways I try to minimise being overwhelmed is by following small amounts of people on Twitter and have less than 60 friends on Facebook. I can cope with that amount and it means that it’s a good way of getting to reality on the days that reality avoids me.

Recently David Bowie died and I was one of the first people in my timeline to tweet the breaking news report. I didn’t add a comment or say how much I would miss him because I won’t. I wasn’t a fan of his music, I knew (and still know) little about him.

Very quickly my timeline was full of tweets about David Bowie, how wonderful he was, how people were shocked, how they were in tears and how devastated they were. I’m sure that some of these people were sincere and I’m quite sure that a lot of the retweets I was seeing was about jumping on a bandwagon and not sincerity.

I tweeted that it all felt like overkill and ended the tweet with a set of abbreviations that indicated I was swearing. I did that because in a matter of minutes I was totally overwhelmed by it all. Twitter had gone from being a link to reality to a place of the kind I used it to get away from.

Immediately I was unfollowed by some people, soft blocked and blocked by others and berated for not allowing people to grieve; the word “belittling” was used. It was clear that whilst people could shout with grief I wasn’t allowed to be overwhelmed or speak of it and it felt that my words were deliberately misinterpreted. I felt bullied and by people who had always spoken of equality and how important it was. I’m quite sure that more people will unfollow me when they read this but that’s there choice and I won’t argue with them about it.

Later in the day I deleted that tweet and published a series of tweets that explained how and why I felt. I was rounded upon and told I was rude and vicious by people who admitted that they hadn’t read the tweets but they thought their actions were justified because I wasn’t grieving over David Bowie.

The times the crowd rounds on you so viciously is far more often than it should be. It’s a form of mob rule. I have had messages in the past from people who have said that the bullying of me that they witnessed was horrible but they felt that they couldn’t intervene because they were afraid that they would be bullied too.

This shouldn’t happen. If free speech is fine for one person then it’s fine for all people. I shouldn’t have been verbally abused for being different and not being able to cope even if I was in a minority. If social media is my lifeline then I have a right to use it in the way that works best for me. I bite my tongue several times a day when I disagree with somebody I’ve grown to care for (both on and off line) though sometimes I do let people know what I feel.

So, I’m overwhelmed, feeling bullied and still not grieving for David Bowie but I’m okay and when I return to Twitter in a few days I’ll still be me. A slightly more apprehensive me but still me.