On toys and insults . . .

Why am I confused about the fuss over gollies and their older name that is now Not On.
And after a lot of musing I realised something. I am very odd.
Now, I realise this is not news to those who know me well, or to the odd person who not only knows me well but seems to still get on with me, but this is a little bit different.

As a child I had dolls – a collection of rag dolls at one point. I used to use them as the mechanics for my toy cars and garage . . . this may give you a clue why I say odd of course!
One was a golli***, and I liked the name – it had a completeness about it, it kinda rolled. I was stunned, utterly stunned, when a school friend told me that it meant a black person. I argued that it did not, so she called on the teacher (we were at infant school, so about 6, by the way) and thus I learnt that some people used the ‘w’ word about people, she also referred to ‘picanninies’ (which sounded like a type of pickle to me, I had recently discovered the joys of piccalilli), and explained that these were terms used by ‘civilised’ people to describe ‘savages’.
I can remember this exchange so very clearly, I can still feel the carpet with my toes as I bent the sole of my sandals back and ran my toes along the floor whilst she was lecturing me. I can also remember asking my mother about this when I got home, and never getting an answer as my father collapsed and we had another blue light flashing ambulance (this was a common thing at that time, it was a few months before his death and there were a lot of emergency admissions).
But I recall lying in bed that night, feeling really unhappy that the nice name two of my dolls had was being used about people. Because my dolls were NOT people, they were pretend people to let me play at things that I could not do otherwise (like run a garage!) The Tiny Tears was not a baby either, it was a DOLL. A toy. How DARE anyone make my toys a nasty name for people.
I also felt very uncomfortable about the way the teacher had spoken of ‘negroes’ and ‘niggers’ . . . the next day I asked my Grandad who explained that people were often nasty about things that frightened them, and maybe that was why. He said he did not know if a ‘white’ person was ‘better’ than a ‘black’ person because he did not know any and how could he judge what he did not know?
That last thought has remained with me for the whole of my life since. How can I judge what I do not know?

So – having waffled I am left thinking that I cannot see the ‘w’ word as a standalone insult because to me it is part of a longer word that is a name for a toy. I have never seen a need to describe people by their skin colour, other than to identify someone at times (she’s the one with red hair and a pink top, or the one with dark skin and white trousers, that sort of thing) – I find that most people are quite able to open their mouths and either endear or condemn themselves on ideas and thoughts alone! I would never use said word, and I now avoid the doll’s name as well, as it hurts others, but to me the latter is nothing more than the term for two of the rag dolls who looked after the engines of my matchbox car collection. And I think I may be very odd in feeling like this.

Being a tourist!

Today I read some old posts on a blog by a guy who lives part of his time in Westray. He recounts his first visit to Orkney, and how he went off to find a pint of Red MacGregor on draught, and also how he tested two whiskies.
That bit is not the thing that made me think though.

What made me think was his decision to visit bars and seek out things. On his own. In a strange place.

I love Orkney. I cannot describe why or how I feel as I do, but I love the place. I cannot relate to David’s account of first hating the place and then falling in love, as I knew from the first whiff of Orkney air that I had come home. There is no ‘sentimental’ point to this, I am not ‘longing’ for some aspect of the life there or anything, I just knew, quietly and certainly, that I was supposed to be there.
And in general, I would rather be a lonely and crabbit old woman somewhere that I want to be than somewhere I tolerate!!

But if I went up on my own – and I might be doing that soonish – could I go into a bar on my own and even talk to people? No way. I’d even be wary of coffee shops on my own – I think twice in Glasgow about Costa, Starbucks and Caffy Nerd!!
So is he the odd one, or am I?
Is it a gender thing?
Is it a confidence thing?
And I really do not know. I am not especially shy, but I do automatically assume that I will be disliked and ignored. I find it hard to ‘tag onto’ people and to make ‘real contact’ with folks I don’t know, mostly as I simply have no idea what the correct ‘protocols’ are. I have no idea how to progress a friendship of any sort really, and thus wait for others to do it. I’d no more know if I was being chatted up than I’d know what colour kecks someone has on under their jeans!!

So thanks, David, of http://www.thehallofeinar.com for the inspiration to think and the reminder of important matters!!

Some things have changed, and things are mostly the same.

L P Hartley wrote that the past is a foreign country where things are done differently, but it seems more that each day is a new country that turns out to be the same as the one before.
Since I last updated we have had an election.
The result left me feeling battered and scared, and made me realise just how divorced from many of my friends I actually am.
I am struggling to comprehend the reasoning and the lack of analysis in so many people’s voting decisions.
I am struggling to accept that the plight of those less fortunate is of so little concern to so many.

Anyway, another same thing that isn’t and is. Last night I went to a gig. It was a guy who I first met in the early 1990s, and who I have talked to a good few times over the years. Last night he stood in front of me, looked me up and down in the way only a man looking at a woman can, sneered, and turned away.
I don’t think that I have ever been rude or unpleasant to or about him, so other than my usual ugly and fat person, I have no idea why he would be so ignorant and ill-mannered.
But the last laugh was with me really, as he then went on to sing a song about everyone being friends and getting on together, thus proving himself a grade one hypocrite.
And even an arsehole.

SAX FD. This last is my dog’s contribution to this post . . .

Know thyself!

We all think we do, don’t we?
But sadly, experience proves again and again that we know little of ourselves in reality.
Today I had my second day running at the dentist . . . I rang yesterday and got an emergency appointment as the tooth that had been worked on last week was painful, as was the one next to it (which has ended up being the one causing the trouble of course!)
So yesterday I had some investigations, and the supervising dentist (I see the student practice just now) was pretty sure it would be fine. He was wrong!
After a night of hardly any sleep I rang back this morning, and went down for another emergency appointment. This time the work was done by the supervising dentist, I think for speed as much as anything, plus he is far more immune to strangled cries of pain from the patient.
And pain was certainly on the menu! I was frozen, but that did not numb the interior of the tooth, and when he got to the nerve, boy oh boy, did I know it!!
And that is where the knowing myself comes in. I would say that my tolerance for lower level pain is reasonable – I live with some pain and discomfort on a perpetual basis. My tolerance for acute pain is another story – I am a grade one NO THANKS to it!!
But today, I tolerated an amazing amount of acute pain in the interest of getting this tooth in a better shape. I totally surprised myself.

Now there is another angle of knowing. I am fully defrosted by now, of course, and as the numbness wore off the pain came back. And I had to know if it was ‘normal for me after someone has been hauling my mouth about’ pain, or ‘despite our best efforts this tooth will have to be extracted’ pain. I have opted for the former, and I am pretty sure I am correct. I guess only time will tell . . . but in the past I have waited a month for a tooth to settle after a root treatment, so I have a fair chunk of time to wait to see what it tells me!!
But it is nice taking a bog standard painkiller and having the toothache pretty much vanish! It’s not doing much for my sore jaw (twice dislocated during the treatment), or the swelling etc that is slowly going down, but hey, I must not expect too much!! I am just glad that I only feel like someone got me with a swift right hook, and don’t look like it as well.


Apparently this month is some sort of campaigning month for some autism charities or something. I actually have no real idea what is meant to be going on, but I do know that whatever it is must somewhere somehow be connected with money. Because just about everything is these days.
Anyway, one of the things that has come out of this ‘month’ thing is various people posting about how this month, or those organising it, does ‘not speak for them’ – and refusing to ‘light it blue’. Given my response to blue lighting I reckon it is a foregone conclusion that I won’t be ‘lighting’ ANYTHING blue, thank you!!
But I have read articles and blog posts and discussions with interest. Some of what is said is good and makes sense to me. Other parts of what is said make sense to me but do not ‘apply’ to me, and other parts again are a foreign language to me.
But one thing that has come out of this is some musing on me. Me as a person, and me as a social (or not) person.
Hence the title of this post – bubbles.
In general I feel that I exist in a bubble. It is a fragile bubble, but it also self-heals, so that despite some people being able to ‘pop’ it from time to time, it always reforms. From my place in this bubble I can see and hear what others are doing and saying, and I can join in conversations. But I am rarely if ever ‘part’ of anything. I am always an observer.
And when I am somewhere where there are people – even at home when the road is busy and there’s a traffic jam – it is as though they are also in bubbles, and like dodgem cars their bubbles bash into mine and shake me about. Watching others, they seem unaffected by the collisions – it really does feel like ‘just me’. I try to pull my bubble closer, will it to be thicker, but it never works, and I live in fear that it will pop in the wrong place and I will have a ‘meltdown’ and not be able to cope, and people will laugh, and point at me, and condemn me.
The other side of this is that my bubble is a wall that makes contact and friendship much harder to deal with. The other night I was trying VERY hard not to be ‘bubble bound’ and I am indeed grateful to three lovely people who chatted to me . . . but I cannot escape the feeling that I ‘got it wrong’, and that they were just ‘being nice’ because it is what normal people do. And that having chatted to me they went away confused and puzzled by my lack of ‘the usual responses’. I don’t know, and if I were to ask I am pretty sure they would all 3 say I was fine – – – because they ARE genuinely really nice people and why would a genuinely nice person say anything different?
It is things like this that show just how odd I actually am!!!

(And whilst we’re on the subject of odd, so many folks are using these coloured backgrounds on FB and they are so utterly horrid! I actually feel as though I am suffering a continuous electric shock when I am looking at them. I hate them and wish they’d go away or that those so damned addicted to them would stop using them out of consideration for those of us who do not like them. At least on this one I know I am not alone. In a minority maybe, but not alone.)


We can choose to remember or choose to forget. Whatever we choose, though, in the dark hours of the darkest night, what we recall is not in our control.
The hasty word, the blow, the screams, the tears, the pain. None can be avoided, none can be denied.
The hours of being ignored, the times of being told you’ve failed, you’re useless, you’re ugly, no-one wants you, no-one loves you. All these replay again and again again.
And when daylight returns we turn our face to the rising sun, or perhaps to the lighter grey raincloud, and resolutely suppress the memories that haunt our night hours.
Until the next night.
The tap on the window, the soft words, the horror of news beyond imagination.
The sight of a crashed car, and fallen motorbike, bloodied face, sobbing person.
The night hours are the repository of horror, the days a constant fight to fasten the memories back into their box, and secure them with many locks and chains.
The long hours of night laugh at the locks and chains.
The casual word, the overheard song, the unexpected picture.
All master keys that make mockery of our inner security.

All this, and more. When we see those we care about suffering and struggling and cannot reach out. Pain we cannot pour balm onto. Want we cannot answer.

Hell is not just other people, hell is living.


A word with many nuances. Mother earth. Mother Mary. Motherfucker. Etc.

For me it is an odd one. My mother was, not to put too fine a point on it, insane. She was odd from early childhood, very selfish, uncaring about others, untidy, not always clean it seems, secretive and generally strange.
She grew up to be all of those things, and also manipulative and snobbish and arrogant. She was a teacher, and she wanted to be in charge at all times.
My father had an early escape, he died in 1972 (and no, I have not forgotten that one former friend actually called that into question and told me that my father had not died when I was that young . . . odd, and very unforgettable!), so for most of my childhood I was at the whim of this weird and illogical woman.
I learned early in life how to clean and cook, as in the absence of any other available servant, she used me.
I learned that appearances mattered and what went on under the surface was private and never to be mentioned.
I learned that expecting anything I was promised to be delivered was a waste of energy.
I learned that I was a failure.
I learned that I was not and would never be good enough. When I got my first degree result – first class honours – she condemned it as not good enough because I was not immediately going on to get a PhD.
I learned that I was a useless parent, who had no idea about raising children. Odd that one, she’d had me, so she had to accept some responsibility for my ability or lack of it – and I am an only child. I had 5 children, but she new far more about child-rearing than me. (Mind you, so did her unmarried and childless sister . . . )
I learned that I was a freak because I did not want to honour my mother, I did not want to spend time with her, I did not want her in my life.
I finally cut all but administrative contact 3 years before she died, after a series of letters telling me she should have had me aborted.
When she was in hospital for the last time, she was telling the nurses and the other staff that she only had one relative. Her grandson – my eldest son. She had no children or other relatives . . . this despite that the possession of a grandson kinda requires a child in the middle, and despite her sister going in every other day with her clean washing etc!!!!!
Utterly bonkers, and not in a nice way.

One of the less pleasant legacies of this is that I genuinely am at sea about how I am supposed to behave as a mother. And I have ‘lost’ two of my children, one to death, the other who thinks I was abusive apparently. I regret that she feels that way, but she is very like my mother in so many ways . . . I just hope things pan out better in her life.
Another legacy is a total lack of self-confidence and belief in myself – she told me I was fat, ugly and a failure that would never be loved, and I have proved her right.
So – I don’t begrudge those who choose to celebrate Mothering Sunday, but I do beg that everyone remembers that there are many who do not have a mother to honour, and perhaps many who do not even have good memories either.