Monday, 16 September 2019

Gym Palace

As part of my recovery package courtesy of the NHS (thanks everyone, including me). If only there was champagne in that package, and Botox inducing face masks or the like, but no, I am being given cut-rate gym sessions at the local gym (not gin, sadly) palace. I see someone called Dion who takes me through the equipment at the gym while we discuss Oasis and other bands from the 90s. He's a spring chicken but his taste in music is sprung. We discuss the lack of guitar music these days, along with my lack of muscles, these days. I reliably inform him that this time last summer I was 2 stone lighter and fit - running up that hill fit - the one most people can't get up without taking a rest. He looked sceptical. Dion then gives me a list of classes to attend. The first one is called Circuits. Sounds hectic. Just the ticket to knock off a few, pounds that is, but when the other gym gear clad grannies and granddads arrive, they look like they are about to be knocked off the planet. Clearly Dion did not believe a word that I said. I cheer up when I see a basketball net. I smugly toss the ball through the hoop, over and over again, from further and further away, just to make a point. The instructor and the coffin dodgers ignore me.

The B52s start playing and the gym instructor gets on the headphones, whilst showing everyone how to have a knees up, but not the kind I prefer, he points his knees up to the ceiling and taps them to the floor getting a bit of a wiggle-vibe on as he does so. The old folk join in but only lackadaisically, given its a bit of a social club and chat-wise, they are warming up. There are ten circuit stations, ranging from standing up and sitting down on a chair, using a rubber band to discourage bingo wings, using a gym ball to polish the wall, using some tiny weights that Jerry would laugh at, and, piece de la resistance (but not with a resistance band) walking up and down. I decide to really give it some welly in order to feel the burn so do everything at triple, nay, quadruple speed, which ain't hard to maintain given the competition. At the 'throw a ball to one another' station, I fling the ball through the hoop like a crazy person. Instead of walking up and down, I tear from one end of the gym to the other like I'm sprinting to my car in Llandudno after leaving it for 92 and not 90 minutes. 90 was also the average age of the folks in my class, but they were good for a chin wag at the water station, where they gave me plenty of tips, such as how I ought to take it easy. When I splashed my face in the ladies afterwards, it was the colour of allotment beet.

I decided to supplement my exercise programme by ducking and dodging the tourists and old folk down Conwy High Street like a pro skier on speed, coming at them at an alarming rate and keeping it up in the Spar for good measure, almost unsettling the stacked baked beans in the process, which, if I'd taken Dion's advice, ought to have been used as weights during my supermarket sweep. I haven't been back to circuits yet. I may try speed cycling next, but I had trouble getting into the stirrups at the gym, and wouldn't want to make a spectacle of myself.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Why I brought a #1975InheritanceAct Case 2

Blog before last I wrote of my recent win in a #1975Inheritance Act case. Following the blog, The Family as the judge referred to them, left a series of public comments on these pages, basically telling me I deserved cancer. (I have recently recovered from chemotherapy treatment for an ovarian tumour; I also detailed what the last 3.7 years have taken on my mental health). The comments were anonymous, but linguistically, they remain true to form - the incident that led us all to the courtroom this year, began in 2015, with a public Facebook attack that The Family left via my author profile (it caused the rift that caused the split - family and financial). The public chastisement of women is a thing for The Family and one it seems, they are not going to let up from. For the past 3 and a half years and counting, my sister’s husband has used every opportunity to vilify and attack, in writing, my husband and myself. I have a file of this written abuse from 2015 to several weeks ago. Despite being trounced in court (he was the second defendant) he has stalked my every social media page and this blog since his vendetta began. "How can you take your own family to court?" The Family also queried. I think the former explains the latter and besides, I would never take my own family to court. I have been unable to write freely here until the case went to trial, given my sister's husband would police everything I wrote for his 'witness' statements, but also the case had not gone to trial, so the principal of open justice had not been triggered. Speaking of triggers, 2 things spring to mind: I now know mine comprehensively and avoid them at all costs. 2 of the men in my family who have been shooting at me have actually been shot at and are best avoided.

The facts of the case are these: My great-grandmother left her estate to her son, my maternal uncle. A year before my mother died in 2016, my maternal uncle left his/his mother's estate to my mother and her sister, stating that in the event of their deaths, the estate should go to her survivors. It also stipulated that it not be sold for 6 years. My mother assured me verbally on numerous occasions, and in writing, that the house would be left to her 4 children of which I am one. Shortly before my mother died she made a will specifically cutting me out and leaving the entire estate to her husband. Not a penny or a brick in the estate was marital money as I have always protested, (all of it was my maternal uncle's, and, as the judge pointed out, it would not be seen by the courts as such). I had no issue with my mother's husband having my uncle’s money, despite my uncle being very clear in his will that my mother’s husband should have his MG and 5K only. I also had no issue with my mother’s husband remaining in our family property until he died. Further, I would never have cut my 3 siblings out, reprehensible as I consider them to be. But The Family, 3 of them in particular, had plans to benefit themselves only. The others may just be daft. Or, given the prevailing cult-like atmosphere in The Family: brainwashed. Yes. There were cults too. 

Following my last blog The Family also complained thus: "And now you're blogging about it?" Yes, I've been blogging about my life since 2011, apart from the enforced many months gaps I mentioned. Amongst various vocations I have had in my 36 years of work (I began work at 14), I am an award winning writer, though The Family don't know much about me. We were informed, via their witness statements that I am a drug smuggler who smuggled drugs into the country on the backs of dog collars (imagine my dogs and those of the police meeting!). I am also told that I am (presumably), a violent schizophrenic I am afraid of her becoming unwell, because she knows where I live. I kid you not kids. My sister unreliably told the court (no evidence, because it never happened) that I have threatened her at the 2 private schools that she has been head at. The only true stuff that I could pick out, was the stuff about the witches. Yes, you really can make it up as you go along, as long as you get all your witnesses to sing from the same, orchestrated hymn sheet. But The Family are right. Form-wise, the blog doesn't cut it.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Antisemitic Spite

Two of my sons are named after Old Testament prophets. The other is named after the Italian boy of a countess that I once worked for as a teenage AuPair. This OT naming is not particularly unusual nor usually fraught with political barbs, there are mini 'prophets' a plenty, but it became so for me at a children's play centre a few years ago, when on hearing my son's name, one of the mothers said, "You're not a Zionist are you?" I replied that I didn't know, that I'd need to look into it, "Are you?" I asked. She gave me a funny look and took herself off. Given I felt I was being judged (and not by a Deborah) I took the word home, looked it up and then put it on the table to examine it. This is what I figured out: I believe in Israel's right, its necessity, to exist on their historic land. As far as I know, through the bible and other historical texts I have read, the Jews lived in Jerusalem before the Muslims, yet Jerusalem has, for the past 70 years been divided between Israel and Palestine - the call to prayer is part of the atmosphere there. Jewish and Arab Israeli's mostly live happily alongside each other according to a new poll

When Israel was established in 1948, there was nowhere else for the Jewish people to go. No one wanted them despite what they had endured in the Second World War. I am deeply sympathetic to their historical sufferings; I am also sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians in the settlements (Palestinians currently make up 20% of the general voting population according to this BBC article Israel is far from perfect, and should be held to account for specific actions or policies, it clearly has complex issues that are yet to be resolved, and to criticise Israel is not to be anti-Semitic but across social media and social situations, it seems that socially acceptable criticism of Israel provides a pretext for anti-Semitic attitudes. 

Recently, over a crowded table at a friend's 50th, someone in fashion howled with laughter on hearing my son's name, this despite her naming her children along the lines of Frank Zappa's. The assumption was that the assembled would join in but her husband just looked embarrassed. I have also noticed a disturbing rise in antisemitism on Twitter. Many of my left-leaning friends are anti-Israel despite it being the only democratic country in the Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East who has a Pride celebration for instance, where those of Jewish and Arabic descent party happily together. I think there is an assumption that Arabic groups are shunted out of Israeli society and discriminated against in general, but Arabic is one of the official languages of Israel, and I am told (by people who have visited) that Arabs and Jews, live peacefully together there and minority rights are protected. Arab Israelis are active in all areas of life including in the Supreme Court and in parliament. I will not lecture on what Israeli ingenuity has given us or how many Nobel prizewinners are Jewish, but I do wonder about cultural jealousy as a possible cause for this antisemitic spite.

I have some Jewish blood through my great, great grandmother, or so I am told through my cousin David Leitch, who traced our ancestry on my grandfather's maternal side from Odessa to Denmark to Liverpool and wrote about it in his book, #FamilySecrets. As we know, this historical peripatetic movement of the Jewish people has been essential for their survival. Why so much hatred for the Jewish people still exists in our society given the Holocaust is still recent history is beyond me, but it is an insidious social disease that needs to continue to be recognised, spoken about and decried when it is seen. Anti-Semitic hate incidents reached a record high in 2018 and Corbyn's leadership has been dogged by anti-Semitism. I am concerned that hatred of the Jewish people is becoming an acceptable leftist view and one that is assumed and presumed by the inhabitants of the moral high ground.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

The Family

Part 2. 'The Family' as they are appropriately termed by the judge - though I do not mean to make out that the judge was of a Mafiosi mind - but it fits - did not reckon on the tenacity and sheer bloody mindedness of child 2, who ABHORS injustice and saw this final act of her mother as, well, the final nail. She did not act alone, in fact the fingerprints of the dastardly ones that married into The Family are all over the death documents x2. 

Finale: Child 2 'wins' and gets full costs. But there are no winners here. Only losers. Though the morally bankrupt ones had to be taken on. Especially the orchestrator (rhymes with woman hater) who has likely done what he has to other crossers and who will likely continue to do, unless apprehended. By the law.

I will dissect this foul smelling cadaver with a pen (mightier than the sword) in the weeks and months to come. I'm still coming to terms with the ugliness of all I have been through. What happened in court, where I discovered monsters behind the scenes, is hard to digest. I don't have a grid for what I have seen. It would be hard to put into believable words. 

Behind my own scenes and indeed through them, I battled breakdown followed by 2 bouts of major surgery, hot-heeled by an ear shrivelling diagnosis and high blasts of chemo that have left a legacy of instant menopause and scarred, burnt and bruised insides that, given so much of me has been pulled out, now find themselves displaced all over the place. The scars unseen, physical and more, are stubbornly ropey. 

But outside where the light causes the dark to fade, there is pure, unadulterated joy. Not least in the faces of my girl, my boys. I am not a victim. I am an overcomer. Come on life. Keep on coming. I'm here.

Friday, 26 July 2019

The #1975InheritanceAct

This epoch (three and a half horrible gobbled years) began in the weeks before Christmas 2015 and ended last Monday with a victory of sorts, in court. Though I'd call it rough justice. Very exposing, court, and open to all sorts of untruths peddled by unscrupulous people. You have to take a long hard look at yourself, while you are forced to look at them, those you hoped not to see again.

The #1975InheritanceAct, I am reliably told, was drawn to help the illegitimate children of men who died and so could no longer support them (if they ever had), so that ALL the children of the deceased benefitted and not just the 'legitimate ones.' The act was amended in 1975, interestingly, the year my stepfather entered my life. Here is the premise of my 1975 Act: 1966 - Beautiful woman (my mother) marries beautiful man (my father). Marriage is disastrous. Woman leaves with 3 children and snip! Cuts ties. Woman marries second, younger man. Middle child does not accept status quo. She is still tied. Upshot: She and her views have to go - this is executed (sometimes violently) by degrees, until, child 2 gets the message, which she eventually does when she is close to 50. 

Though her IQ is high (or was - all that recklessly high living!) she is slow to realise what the family have been and are up to. It takes a cop with a lot to gain (an acre, plus a lot of house) to launch a public Facebook attack with his wife and daughter braying from the sidelines, and the silent complicity of The Family to make her go. Why? A bolt from the blue prize has arrived by death courier, courtesy of the woman's uncle and grandmother. A mere year later, death comes calling again and the prize passes on to one not intended by the uncle to inherit: The Stepfather pockets the cash and sells the property to the Machiavellian one. Did Machiavelli wear pink and lilac suits? Do lies smell of roses? Was his testimony like pink icing on a gently rotting cake? Did he eat all of it?

Part 2 Tomorrow

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Pond-err-ing the #Waitrose #Ducks

I’m still pondering – pond – erring? The Waitrose racist duck incident. My first reaction was how absurd, it’s a bird – a duck even. The other ducks are plain brown (named Crispy, presumably for its crispy centre?). The white one, is Fluffy for reasons, I imagine, that have gone before. The ‘racist’ duck is dark chocolate with pink splashes. This is the dodgy duck, according to members of the public that took to Twitter, tried Waitrose, found them quacking, I mean lacking, and had them punished: Waitrose had to take down the labelling and apologise – cue the stocks and the rotten tomatoes and the thought police. But is Waitrose racist? What were there intentions? Do they have an agenda to infect the minds of the public or were their intentions innocent – in which case, should they be tried by a sector of the public, found to be guilty and punished? This ‘reds under the beds’ mentality worries me. The road watched over by big brother is littered with innocents.

Given I could only find one response on Twitter from a person of colour, I contacted two of my African friends – a business woman from Sierra Leone and a friend from Zimbabwe. My SL friend said she saw both sides of the argument and my Zim friend pointed out that if you have walked around in skin that is not white, you will be alert to these issues: generations of non-whites have been made to feel ugly due to their difference. She and another friend on Facebook pointed out that there is no context to suggest homage to Hans Christian Andersen and that we should be alert to what is sewn into the fabric of society. Yes, but should we be policing the innocent for the sake of the sensitive? I am a victim of abuse by men, many times over. Sometimes, when I walk alone at night, and a man walks behind me, I feel the fear that I try to rationalise and overcome. Should men be banned from advertising (labelled 'dangerous') due to my fear? Though I met plenty growing up in Zimbabwe and when I spent 5 years in South-Africa (where, to be fair, plenty weren't as well) I honestly do not know any racists in London or in Wales, which isn't to say racism does not abound 'out there,' it resides in darkness. My view is it should be educated (rather than sought out with a microscope and 'punished' 'there or not?' - this never drives a thing away, it just gets peoples backs up if they don't see it, so that they might not see or hear it when it actually presents itself) out of people and all hued human beings need to be honest with themselves about the many-headed monster of hatred in all its ghastly guises.

I must, we must, take these points made by my friend who has suffered from racism seriously, but where do we draw the line in policing culture to make sure diverse groups are not offended? Those of us that do not see that the ugly duck incident was racist, should not be made to feel that we are racist given we don’t, though I think we should all have a heart check up when these kinds of things are flagged up. How on earth is that going to help mend bridges if any need to be mended if we unthinkingly shout each other down from our various high places? - though I understand emotion where there has been pain. My friend also made the salient point that it says more to her about the lack of diversity in key decision making departments, as this would not have passed a multiracial marketing board. Equal opportunity for all needs to continue to be addressed honestly in society – why? Why not? What can we do about it?

We all pick up subjective signifiers according to background and individual experience. My context was immediately Hans Christian Andersen in terms of the duck. I read ‘ugly’ in an ironic way, as, to me, the dark duck with pink splashes (don’t forget the splashes: as an artist, I read: ‘arty’, ‘creative’ = attractive as well as yummy; I prefer dark chocolate). The white fluffy one was dull - I can’t stand white chocolate. As for the crispy one, it didn’t register. Another friend of colour brought up subtext, but we cannot assume subtext, sometimes we get that wrong too. My main concern with the policing of public signifiers is that we are all coming at this from our varied directions and backgrounds. I don’t think this was a racist incident, though I wasn’t present at the marketing meeting when the decision was made. We need to hear from all sides though, no? If we police culture, we will drive extremists, on both sides underground where darkness proliferates. I prefer to be able to see people’s views and to test and sharpen my own views – and be open to changing them – alongside diverse opinions. I’ve noticed that invariably people like to react and attack – on both sides of the debate. Few respond reasonably and thoughtfully. I think, when we act from emotion, rather than reason we tread a dangerous path. It’s good to talk, not shout.

Should we be able to laugh at the duck debacle? Should we give 2 ****s about the Waitrose ducks? Some comments on my page made me squirm, some of the jokes were funny, meant to be ironic, though possibly not seen that way by all. I don’t police my author Facebook pages, so I have left them there as a comment on where people (on Facebook are coming from). This is not to say I agree with all of it but I do think humour should be allowed to walk the line and hover over the hairy edge as it were; but of course we do not want to deliberately hurt people and sensitivity to people and context are important. It’s a tricky business, but let’s keep the business open for all sorts of reasons.