Monday, August 28, 2006

My Nan

It’s funny how certain events or conversations can conjure up all sorts of memories about people we care about who have passed away. It all started just before I went to Africa, when my mother gave me my Nan’s ring to wear, because she said my Nan would watch over me and keep me safe. My mum’s not at all a spiritual person in the religious sense, and if you asked her I don’t think she could explain to you what her true beliefs are, but one thing she is sure of is that people who have passed over to the other side become some one’s guardian, and watch over and protect the living as best they can. For her it’s my granddad who does this, and for me it’s my Nan. I too am sure of this, and even before I started wearing the ring, I have always felt my Nan’s presence close to me ever since she died.

My Nan was born in 1920 to a very poor family from the potteries, the place where me myself was born. She married my granddad fairly young, he was seven years older than she, and if my maths is correct she had her first of ten children when she was 26. I’m not sure what she did as a job if she ever worked at all, my graddad did something in the army, but unfortunately they both died when I was too young to take an interest in family history. My mum was the youngest of all her children, and I suspect her favourite in her own way. My Nan wasn’t a very affectionate person with words, she was one of those people who expected you to automatically know she cared about you without her saying so, but it showed in the things she did. Both she and my granddad doted on me as a child, and were very protective because I was blind. I used to go to their house all the time after school until my mum finished work, and my Nan would always have a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and some peanuts ready because she knew they were my favourite snacks to eat. She spoiled me rotten! I used to drive her mad I’m sure, I was a very noisy child, always bouncing around and singing and generally being very loud. I used to stand with her in the kitchen when she was preparing the dinner, and when she’d peeled the potatoes I used to role them noisily along the draining board by the sink because it sounded to me like trains on a track. I would also rifle through her jewellery box, ask her if I could call my friends on her phone, and pretend her walking stick was a broom stick and that I could fly on it. One thing I miss about my Nan was her cooking. She made the best chips in the world, and I haven’t tasted ones like it ever since, and doubt I ever will. She always had the kitchen door open, and when you walked up the street towards the house, you could catch the smell on the wind, and it used to make my mouth water. I think the reason I like chips so much as an adult is because they hold so much nostalgia for me more than anything else. My mum and I would walk in the house and my mum would always say, “don’t give her any chips, she hasn’t had her tea yet,” and then when she went through to say hello to granddad, my Nan would always whip some from the frying pan, wrap them in a piece of kitchen role and sprinkle them with salt and vinegar. My mum would always scold us both on her return, but it was always worth it.

I was also very close to my Nan, I told her everything that was going on at school, and in my home life which was often rocky as my mum and step dad faught a lot of the time. When I was ill it was always my Nan who would look after me if my mum had to work, and we used to walk to the local shop, me holding on to the side of her shopping trolley, and she would stop and talk to everyone, always telling them that I was her grand daughter and how wonderful I was. Towards the end of my granddad’s life he was very ill, and although she often complained about having to take care of him there was never a couple who loved each other more, and even when my mum had grown up she said she would go visit and walk in on them cuddling or catch him stroking her arse or something like that. My granddad spent a lot of time in hospital, and towards the very end was moved back home to die in peace. I was six at the time of his death, it was a Saturday night around Easter time, and we were just on the way out when we got a call from my Nan saying that she couldn’t get any response from my granddad. Both my mum and I went round there, to the consternation of my step dad who thought I shouldn’t go, but I was adamant that I wanted to be there. When we arrived, we found that he was dead in his bed in the living room, and the only thing I remember about the following few hours was my Nan hugging me while we both cried.

So my Nan spent the next three years living with the one son who hadn’t married or left home, and I spent a lot of time there, talking to her, playing games with her and just spending quality time. I guess at that age, even with the passing of my graddad, I thought she’d live forever. She actually deteriorated very quickly, which in one way was a blessing, but ironically it was me who noticed that something wasn’t right. I came home from school one day to find that she wasn’t walking very well, that she was slurring her words, and that she couldn’t really form a proper conversation. She also smelled like she hadn’t made it to the toilet in time, but being a nine year old, I didn’t really know what to do. She was a diabetic, and somehow, I can’t remember if she told me or if I guessed, but I knew that her sugar level was low and this was one of the reasons for her state. I made her a cup of tea with lots of sugar, and when she drank it she still wasn’t any better. Now my Nan was one of those people who would not go to the doctor for anything, and I knew that if I’d suggested phoning the doctor she would have been adamant that I shouldn’t. So I went in to the kitchen on the preteens of getting a drink, and called the doctors surgery. They were closed, and I was given another number which I then called, I was put through to a doctor who seemed amazed that he was speaking to a nine year old, and was asked to explain my Nan’s symptoms. I don’t really remember what I said to him, I just remember that my Nan kept calling to see where I was, and that I told the doctor she wouldn’t want me to call. Within the hour the doctor had arrived, and my Nan was furious that he had come. He examined her, and called the rest of the family woo all arrived, and insisted that she go in to hospital. I don’t remember what exactly was wrong with her, I just know that she went in and never came out.

That was a Friday night, and on the Sunday she had a heart attack which she survived. She was then moved to the cardiology department where her heart was monitored, and about a week and a half later she had a stroke, which she again survived. By then her speech was slurred, she was paralysed down one side, and she couldn’t swallow and so had to be fed intravenously. Death was all around me at that point in my life, I remember on one visit to the hospital the woman in the next bed passed away, and I sat and listened while the doctors tried to resuscitate her to no avail. Soon after that my Nan slipped in to a coma and remained like this for I think another week or so.

We spent all our free time at the hospital then, I remember talking to her, and when her fingers swelled the nurse’s took off her wedding ring and the ring I now wear. She must have been aware to some extent and there was evidently still some brain activity going on, because when they took off the rings she twisted her face and made a groaning noise, like she really didn’t want that to happen. The family was told to expect her death at literally any minute, and I believe they took turns staying with her through the night. To my best recollection it was a Sunday that she died. I was at the hospital, down the corridor with my mum and step dad getting a drink, and my uncle came running and said that she was going. We all ran back to her bedside, and we all lined up to kiss her goodbye as she died. After I’d kissed her, she made this rasping noise, which sounded a bit like she was choking, and then she was gone. I just remember sitting on a chair by her bed, and leant against her still body, buried my face in the cover and cried. Looking back I guess that I was so young to experience something like that, and I mourned her for a long time afterwards. That was also the time I knew I really didn’t believe in God, because I had made a bargain with him a few weeks before, that I would be good forever if he kept her alive, and I just remember being so angry with God and preying to him prayers of anger, saying how much I hated him and that I would never be his friend ever again for taking my Nan away.

Like I said before, ever since she died I have always felt her with me, watching over me, although I never even owned anything that belonged to her. All her things went to her children, my mum, aunts and uncles, and I clung desperately on to my memories of her. I often think about her, and try to tell my younger cousins what she was like, and I often wonder what she would have thought of me if she’d still been around. Would she be proud of what I’ve accomplished? How would she react to my lesbianism? Would she have liked my partner and my home? All these questions I know will never be answered, but now that I have it I often touch the ring and try to reach her in my mind. I know she’s there watching over me, I can truly feel it, and I feel such a strong love for her, and if there is such a thing as a place where we all meet after we’ve left this world I will run to her with open arms, a child once again.

I wanted to share these memories with you because she’s been on my mind lately, and I’ve even dreamed about her which I’ve not done in years.
I love you Nan!

Friday, August 25, 2006


Last weekend DL and I sat down and had a heart to heart, the reason for this being the lack of communication between us lately. That's not to say we don't talk to each other or anything, but we seem to be less open about our feelings these days. This all stems from my trip to Africa and the effect it had on each of us in turn, and on the relationship as a whole.

Back in January my dream of going to Africa was just that, a dream, and in my heart I never actually thought it would really happen. When my plans started to come together however, and I spoke about it with DL, she was mortified that I would be going away, but at the same time she knew how important it was to me and so wanted me to do it. We talked lots about it, and I came to the conclusion that I would rather go and have her mad at me, than not go and for that to breed resentment on my part. And so I booked the trip. To be perfectly honest i never told anyone just how upset DL was about the whole thing, because I didn't want people to think she wasn't supportive of the things I did, when in actual fact the majority of the time it's exactly the opposite. When I told her I'd booked to go, she cried off and on for the first few days, and then gradually became more and more angry towards me for going. I thought that the trip would actually do us both the world of good, I think that DL is sometimes too dependent on our relationship, and she needs to feel like there is life outside it in order for it to be healthy. But as the months drew on and I started preparing to go, booking flights, buying things to take, she started to withdraw more and more into herself, and refused to talk about it and how she was feeling.

I think we argued quite a lot about it all, we'd booked a holiday to Tunisia two weeks before I was due to leave for Africa, and she kept saying that it was pointless us going on holiday because she wouldn't have a good time as it would be so close to me leaving. She felt like everything up until that point was marred by the fact that I would be gone for a month, and that made me so upset and angry with her for feeling that way. Consequently, as she withdrew into herself, so did I. I pulled away from her because I didn't feel I could talk to her about the trip, share my worries, nervousness and excitement with her, and so I stopped talking to her about it altogether. I only spoke to friends and family about it when she wasn't there, and i started doing my shopping with other people so that she wouldn't have to be involved.

The week before I went was a bit of a nightmare to be truthful. One minute we were cuddling and she was crying, the next we were fighting and she was so angry. On the day I left she punched the door, I didn't realise at the time, and her wrist still hasn't heeled propperly. At the airport she couldn't stop crying, and it made her more upset at the fact that I wasn't crying when I left. I guess the experience held completely different feelings for both of us. I was excited about going, and I was sad to leave her, but knew that I would only be gone for a month and that she would hopefully still be there when I returned. In her eyes, I was leaving her for no good reason, she would be on her own in our house for a month, we may not be able to speak to each other everyday, and she was hurting.

While I was there things weren't too bad. We did manage to speak everyday, and I even came home early. Three weeks of being back however, have shown us both the effect it's all had on our relationship. On my return we still didn't open up to each other. DL was still mad, and refused to hear anything about my trip, or look at my photos, and got very jealous when I received emails from the people on the project, accusing me of having feelings for them, which is absolute bullshit. She refered to the people and the country in dirogatory terms, and said that everything I owned had come back dirty and that I smelled of Africa. This of course had an effect on the way I felt, and again I got so mad with her and upset that she was being this way. this reinforced even more my emotional distance from her, not only concerning the trip, but also the way I felt in general. In the time I've been back we've hardly talked about the way we feel, just got on with day to day life, DL pretending the month apart never happened.

Over the weekend however we somehow came to realise what was happening to us, and we sat down and talked in length about the way we felt about my trip, and about each other. I think we both feel hurt by the other in some ways, but we realise now that we need to work on opening up to each other again before it's too late. I feel relief more than anything that we've noticed what's happening, because I think six months down the line we'd have been worlds apart, and that would have been it. As thingsstand now we are still very much together, it's just that the lines of communication between us have become a little blocked.

This past week has been much better. We've talked a lot more, and done things just the two of us, like walking in the park, or having a drink together, that have given us some time away from the everydayness, where we can propperly talk. She's now seen all my photos, and has even bought me a beautiful brown suede album to put them in, and has paid for them all to be developed. That meant so much to me, and she even commented when flicking through them, "did you ever stop smiling while you were there?" and when I replied "no" she seemed happy about that. So hopefully we're now on the road to recovery, I love her so much and I'm willing to put my all in to this relationship, including a bit of work to make things perfect again.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Shove a brush up my arse and I'll sweep the floor!

That’s totally how I feel at the moment. For the past week I’ve been up at 8 AM every morning, and for those of you who are thinking, “that’s nothing,” I really am not an early morning person. Consequently I am tired all of the damn time, and don’t wake up properly until around eleven, or after a decent cup of tea or three. I’ve also been out everyday with my lil pooch training, although last Thursday she was grounded by the trainer for not doing a poo in her pen like she should, and so we were confined to the house for a day. Other than that, and swiping a sandwich that I left on a plate on the table while going to answer the door, she’s been a little angel. I really can’t imagine life without her now, can’t believe she’s only been here for two weeks!

Other than being busy with the dog, we’ve had lots of visitors. Last weekend DL’s mum, cousin and grandma came to stay, which was lovely. We went out for lots of meals, did plenty of shopping, and ate far too much of DL’s home made chocolate cake, which by the way, is the momma of all chocolate cakes! DL’s grandma, being 86 and somewhat set in her ways, doesn’t know that we’re together, and so consequently we were just friends, and I was sleeping in DL’s room, apparently giving mine (the spare room), up for the family to sleep in. I’m kind of used to it now though to be honest, and I think it bothers DL more than it does me. The family is going to have to know soon however, as as far as I’m aware we’re spending xmas at DL’s parents’ house, and the rest of the family might think that a little odd if they don’t know we’re together, and especially if I’m wearing a ring on my left hand by then!

The only negative aspect of the weekend was that DL’s cousin antagonised the dog, and yes, she growled once again. Chesney though, being the shit that he is, wouldn’t go and sit down after she growled, and so she started barking at him. I was pisssed off that he wouldn’t do as he was told, and mad at her for growling, and the end result was that they both got a telling off, Una from me, and Chesney from DL’s mum, for messing with the dog in the first place. I can’t say I blame the dog to be honest, I’d growl at Chesney if I was a dog, in fact, I’d probably bight his leg! On Tuesday I had coffee with Sean over which we caught up on everything and put the world to rights, and then on Wednesday my mum came for the day. She’s fallen in love with the dog and wants to take her home, and was thrilled to watch us work together during training. Thursday saw the arrival of my dad, he actually made it here before midday which was something to note down, and Una was fine with him this time, so hopefully it was just a one off. On Thursday night DL and I went to the pub up the road, leaving the dog at home, and despite my new shoes absolutely killing my feet, we had a fantastic night, and it was lovely to just spend some quality time together. We both agree that we get caught up in the day to day, and don’t allow enough quality time for just us, to actually sit and talk and laugh the way we used to do. We’re either doing other stuff, on the computer, watching the L-word or generally too tired, and so we need to change that I think. It certainly rekindled some of the old spark for me on Thursday night, (not that it’s died or anything), and I was in fits of laughter for most of the night. We then came back and had incredible sex, something we’ve been doing a lot of lately! I did make sure the dog was occupied with a chew the whole time, she’s ever so slightly protective of me and I’m kinda scared she’ll think DL is hurting me or something as I’m quite vocal during sex, and start growling at her or something.

Today the dog has had her first free run, which means we can take her to the park now and let her off the lead, and the trainer seems to think I’ll be qualified by the end of next week to do my home routes, which is good. Tomorrow I’m meeting up with Kim for lunch and to go shopping, and I fully intend to have a lie in over the weekend and get some sleep. The bad thing is that the dog always seems to need a wee at about 8 in the morning, and prances around until I get up to take her. Maybe I’ll persuade DL to do that.
Sorry these entries are mainly about the dog, I’m not doing much else other than train with her at the moment, so there’s not a lot else to report. Life is good though, if ever so slightly hectic.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

a dog is a woman's best friend

Well, my little girl is settling in nicely, and she grows more accustomed to her new surroundings and owner with every passing day. I have to say I'm totally besotted with her, she is a joy to have around and lovely to cuddle. Just now she tried to get on the sofa while DL is hoovering, but I did have to draw the line at that I'm afraid.

The training is going really well. The first day felt really awkward for me, and it's quite something to have to put your trust in an animal. Ok correction to earlier statement, the dog is now on the sofa, and I haven't made her get down because she's scared of the hoover. Anyway, back to the training. It took me a while to get used to the dogs movements, because every time she turns left or right to avoid obstacles I have to move with her, and that's not as easy as it sounds as she tends to walk very fast. Once you get used to it though it really is liberating, and as time goes on I notice that she's testing my boundaries while we're walking, and also doing her best to ensure my safety. She's a little gem! We also took her to a restaurant and cinema the other night, and she was perfectly behaved. I feel like a proud parent.

So that aspect of my life is going great, which is more than can be said for DL and I at the moment. Not that we're bad or anything, but she seems to be quite jealous of the attention I'm giving to the dog and is feeling hard done by, which to be honest is beginning to wear thin with me. We're arguing quite a bit because she always seems to be in a foul mood over something, and I just feel like she never looks at the positives in anything. Today is an off day as we've just had yet another disagreement and she's in a strop yet again. Hopefully it's just a passing phase, i just hope it passes quickly because I'm becoming more and more intolerent to her somewhat stroppy teenager attitude.

I'm going to finish here, as the dog trainer will be here any minute and it'll be time to go for another walk. Woohoo! This weekend DL's mum, cousin and grandma are coming to stay.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Home sweet home!

So I'm finally updating after six days of being back in the Uk.

The flight home was perfect. I was given a seat in the first class lounge at Joberg, where I had a six hour wait, so that wasn't bad at all, and I passed the time by reading and listening to my good old Ipod. I got a window seat on the flight to Frankfurt, which meant that I could sleep relatively comfortably with my head against the window. I sat next to a lovely Italian guy, who was great conversation and who had me in fits of laughter for the time i was awake, it's always good to have some one like that on a long flight. He was also very helpful in terms of calling the air hostesses if I needed anything, and he gave me his email address before we landed, and said that if DL and I are ever in Venis, to give him a call which was very nice. I took a sleeping pill and so managed to get a few hours, missing breakfast completely, and then when we arrived in Frankfurt I slept there as well until the next flight. On the flight to Manchester I was sat next to a little boy who was the cutest ever, and was talking to him and his mum for most of the way home. At one point we went through some heavy turbulance, an he said, "I'm scared," and when I said, also a bit scared myself, "Don't worry, it's just a bit windy that's all," it seemed to appease him which was nice.

I was greeted at the airport by my extatic parents, who didn't let me out of a hug for about five minutes solid. They loved my hair and said how well I looked after traveling for so long. My dad took photos lol. They drove me to my mum's house and we had breakfast and I made a huge fuss of Albert. I then showed them the photos I have on my lap top, and my dad went in to town to get another film I had developed. I managed to see most of the family over that weekend, my uncle Keith popped round, my step sister Alex, my aunty Pauline with Laura and baby Calum, who is one soon, and I went to see Ian Bev and the girls for a while. I was asleep by nine thirty on the Saturday night, and on the Sunday we arrived back in Sheffield at around six.

It was soooooooo good to see DL again after so long, and at first it felt a bit strange. When mum and her friend/part time lover had departed, DL showed me the rearranging of the spare room/study she'd been doing, and yes, we ended up on the bed, and didn't move for some time. It was absolutely fantastic, it was like making love for the first time all over again. At first we were both aching so much it was urgent and passionate, but then after that it became slow and sensual, and we've been more than making up for lost time over the past week.

To be honest the first couple of days at home felt a bit weird, and I didn't really know what to do with myself. I guess it's something to do with adjusting to the culture and way of life again, but it didn't stop me reveling in being in my lovely home with my amazing woman in my arms again. Monday was a busy day all in all. In the morning I had a call from guide dogs, who wanted to bring Una round for a visit, so we more than happily said yes of course, and they stayed for about half an hour while we sorted out when she would be coming and when the pen would be fitted. She seemed to like the flat, having a good old sniff around, a drink of water, and then sprawling out on our rug, bless her. I didn't want them to take her away again, but when they left we excitedly went off to Pets At Home to buy her some toys. After that we did the food shopping, and then went to PC world. I'd decided while I was away that I would buy a new lap top, as mine is past it's best, and my mum is keen to buy it from me anyway. After lots of time spent browsing I finally decided on one I liked. It's a Tosheba, it's very light, with a few hours battery life, 60 GB hard drive and 1 GB ram, and I love it. I've more or less transfurred all my files over to the new one now, and it's so much faster than the old one it's untrue. So my mum's geting mine in a few weeks, and she insists she'll come on line more, yeah right, that'll be the day! I also had a delivery of flowers arrive on the Monday from my darling DL, with a welcome home card, which was very romantic and lovely.

Tuesdays morning was spent undoing my brades, as my head had started to itch, and it seriously took over four hours to do. My hair was disgusting when it was all out, and it was a joy to wash it clean in our gorgeous shower! In the afternoon we went out to a local calvery for lunch and ate far too much, then went to change travellers cheques and for a walk in the park until it started raining. I spent the rest of the day faffing around on my new toy, and DL made a delicious chocolate cake.

Wednesday we were domestic goddesses in the morning, and then in the afternoon went to Sarah and Mat's house to have coffee with Sarah. While we were there I went exploring, accompanied by Quanda the dog, and promptly fell in love with the attic bedroom. I have quite a thing for attic rooms, I love when you can hear the rain on the roof, and that you're so high up, it feels like you're almost on top of the world looking down over the city, or wherever you happen to be living. So our house, when we buy one, must have an attic that can be converted in to a master bedroom for DL and I. We spent a few hours with Sarah, and she gave me lots of advice about how Una might be when she first arrived, and said if I needed anything jus to ring her which was lovely. In the evening we went to Casanova for a meal which was fantastic, and then we went to the local pub for a drink. That was followed by a very kinky love making session, which involved hand cuffs, a blind fold, a gag and a whip, do I need to say anymore? On Thursday I went to have my hair cut and we both had our eyebrows waxed, and then returned home so that the guy could fit the dog pen out back. He came back yesterday morning to finish it off, and the rest of the day was spent in utter anticipation until Una arrived at about four thirty.

While the trainer was here he showed me the correct way to feed her, and how to take her out to spend. You're probably thinking, how hard can it be feeding a dog etc, and although I've had dogs before, with guide dogs there are special ways of doing things so that everything is about disciplin and obedience, even though the dog may not realise it, because if the dog stops listening to you, it poses dangers when you're working it on the streets. For example, when she is fed, she has to sit, I put the bowl of food down on the floor, and she can't eat until I give three short blasts on a whistle. I never make her wait more than a few seconds, but those seconds let her know that I'm the boss basically. She is as good as gold though bless her, and does as she's told the majority of the time. When the trainer left she didn't even bat an eyelid, and we played with her for ages after that. So far she's managed to destroy three different toys by wripping them up, so DL is going to go out today and buy some hopefully less destructable ones. While we watched Crash on DVD, she settled down with a chew which kept her busy for ages, and after that we went to bed.

We decided that we didn't really want her to sleep in our room, but that it would be unfair to put her in another separate room, in case she became ill or distressed in the night. So we put her bed in the hallway outside our door, and left our door open. Well she was up and down most of the night, in and out of our room and then back to her bed, which is perfectly understandable for her first night somewhere new, but it meant that we didn't get a lot of good sleep. DL is still in bed now, and Una is sprawled out on the rug in front of me, which she seems to like more than her own bed, bless her. This weekend we have to stay home with her, to get her used to us and her new environment, and then training starts on Monday. I'll keep you up to date though, but at the moment I'm not totally sure what to expect either. I just hope she takes well to working with me and we don't have any major problems. She's so cute though, her coat is glossey and smooth and she has the softest ears in the world, and she's so gentle and affectionate. I'm so pleased she's here, I've been waiting for two years for this to happen, and I keep having to check she's really here. I'll try and post a picture of her here for you to see. Life couldn't be better right now!