Tigra Grrl

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This is an apocryphal tale. Women might identify with it more, but many men have experienced something similar.

Look over there. You’ll see a little orange blob bouncing about. If you look closer you’ll see it’s a woman, acting like Tigger. She bounces around the place with a big smile, is especially kind to children and old ladies and does strange things like pick up baby hedgehogs, or birds that have fallen out of nests and drives them to an animal sanctuary miles away. She has a soft heart.
A heart like a child.

Some people around here say she is crazy. As she bounces past, they sneer and say that anyone who tries to be that happy must be a bit touched. They say the world is a horrible place and anyone that does not see that must be mad. They are cynics and there are a lot of them.

Tigra Grrl thinks she has an unending supply of love and compassion, so she is happy to scatter it wherever she goes, like little golden sequins.

Sometimes, when she feels she has a big surplus, she’ll go down to the Lake of Lost Souls and using a strong red rope, she will haul one Lost Soul out of the lake, dry him off and then take him back to her cave.

She will spend all her love and compassion on him until he gets well. He feels better than he has in years and searches in his heart for a way to repay her.

Because he has spent so long in self pity and self loathing, which runs up enormous debt, he finds he only has two small rusty coins to give her. Tigra Grrl accepts them with delight. She knows it’s all he has and is grateful.

After a while, the former Lost Soul starts to question Tigra Grrl’s love. In his heart he thinks he is a bad person, he wonders why she chose to pull him out of the Lake of Lost Souls. He doesn’t know that she saw in him the person he could be, once love washed away his pain.

He starts to test her love, because he doesn’t believe it is real. If his Lost Soul is alcoholic, he’ll start to drink, if he was addicted to drugs, he’ll take them again, just once, for old time’s sake, if he is emotionally maimed, he might try to hurt her by telling her he wants to sleep with other women.

Tigra Grrl doesn’t react badly. She understands that humans with problems can often slide back. She just loves him more and forgives him. He increases his bad behaviour. He starts to push her away through a mixture of guilt and shame.

One day, he comes back to Tigra Grrl’s cave and finds her waiting there. But she looks different.

Her cartoon body now has real fur. She has big claws he has never noticed before. And her eyes, instead of being filled with love and kindness, they look cold, measuring. Then she roars.

With an athletic bound, she has picked him up in her claws and leaps out of the cave. She’s not bouncing now, she’s striding, lean and strong and wild. They get to the lake and she throws him in!

He looks at the other lost souls around him and they crane their necks as Tigra Grrl takes the lake in a single bound. She has gone. They have nothing but regret.

She marches on to find her own kind. She’s rescued four lost souls and that’s enough for one lifetime. If you listen carefully, you can hear her roar from very far away.

ATOS – a visit to the secret police

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Once I went to a museum of communism. After feeling a little perturbed at the mock up classroom showing fluffy bunnies denouncing the evils of capitalism and the government shop with its scarcely stocked shelves of unbranded packets of basic foodstuffs, I found myself in a completely tiled room, with the floor sloping down to a drain hole.

There were two desks, an old green filing cabinet and a telephone. It took me a minute before I realised that this was a secret police interrogation room. The tiles sloped down on the floor to rinse the blood away. The telephone rang and I jumped out of my skin. I felt immediately guilty, as if I had been summoned for crimes against the country.

Today’s “medical appointment” with ATOS brought back a similar feeling of foreboding. I am not guilty. I am not a scrounger. I have been paying tax at the highest level for 20 years, have never used a loophole or offshore bank account. I was a hard-working citizen who always played by the rules.

The ATOS office was at the back of a Job Centre, down a seedy little turning, where you would not walk alone at night. The medical centre signs looked cheaply produced and temporary. The receptionist was enclosed in a glass box and she checked my passport as if I was attempting to cross a border illegally. She then gruffly gave me a piece of paper to sign to confirm she had checked it. She glared at me in microscopic detail, all the while.

She told me I would have to wait half an hour. No apology. I took a seat at the back of a row of tired and uncomfortable chairs, there were three dejected looking people in front of me. We all stared at the floor in silence, awaiting our fate. Around us were a series of brown fire doors. Each one an interrogation room. The smell in the air was foetid with the breath of the ill, the disabled, the dying. I wondered if there were gas chambers out the back.

They ask you to come ten minutes early, just to observe you. Then they decide which of the doors you will go through. The air of stress and resignation from the victims, I mean service users, is palpable. I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing.

Earlier than expected a door opened behind me and my name was called. I entered with my companion and the ‘nurse’ who greeted us attempted a glimmer of a fake smile that just lifted the corner of her mouth in a sneer. She radiated coldness. Her body language was stiff with derision. She was there to catch people out. It was her mission.

She sat with her computer like a barrier between us, tapping away like a court reporter. She had a brown government file on the desk with my name on it. Exactly like the suspect files you see in detective movies. She behaved like I hadn’t spent what scant concentration I have on filling out the infamous pink form. I had to repeat everything again. Detailing my year of illness, the diagnosis, my time in hospital, the endless drug regimes that failed one after another.

Then she began to push me for more detail. Was I suicidal? Did I have specific plans for suicide? How would I commit suicide? What do I do if I feel suicidal? Have I self harmed? Have I attempted suicide in the past? No empathy, no sympathy, no reaction when I started to cry. She continued, what did my doctors say? how often did I see them? What medications was I taking?

Still in tears and very distressed, I took out a plastic bag and one by one placed all my medications on the desk. She picked up each packet, made a remark about one of them “That’s a new one on me” and entered the details into the computer.

She asked questions about my personal hygiene, what I wore each day, what time I got out of bed, who did I see,who did I speak to, how did I do the housework, did I open my mail, what did I eat, could I make a hot drink. Then she got harder and more aggressive – what would I have done if they had cancelled my appointment, what would I do if they had moved my appointment by a few hours? My answers seemed to satisfy her in some curious way. I don’t know how she could understand a word as I was sobbing by then.

I don’t want to claim ESA, I have to as a condition of my medical insurance. I can’t see why, given that I have a medical certificate, from the head of medical services of a leading hospital, detailing that I am unable to work, means that I can be interrogated in such a humiliating and inhuman way by a nurse, who chooses to work for a politically driven private organisation, whose sole aim is to throw people off benefits.

I left feeling emotionally battered and very angry. I am a loving, gentle person, but hate towards the governments that have plotted for years to create this inhuman and ridiculous rite of passage for the ill to be tortured with. If I had met any of the cabinet on the street, I would have savagely attacked them, for me and all the other victims. They were talking about “War pensions cases” as I left, surely they can’t be berating injured service people as well?

I am tired, my mood has slipped another few notches down. I have spent this afternoon huddled up in the corner of my sofa. I won’t know my fate for another few weeks. Like the sword of Damocles it seems they are unable to tell me when it will fall.

update: A few weeks later I was assigned to the support group. My medical insurance is now assuming my condition is chronic, so will withdraw funding in a month or so. I’m not sure what will happen next.

Hollow Heart

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I met someone with a hollow heart
The scar tissues striated and strangling
Slowing the blood into viscosity
The beats slowing, tired, afraid, apart

The hollow heart said it could not feel
There was nothing inside the chambers
A pitiful cavern with joy long gone
Still with fear on an uneven keel

I felt compassion for the hollow heart
Tried to warm it with my hands
Breathed upon it to bestow life
It shivered once like it might start

The hollow heart chose fear and pain
Not acceptance of my joyful gift
For the hollow heart was cowardly
And feared too much to love again

A shuddering beat echoes in the lonely dark
Wake up, wake up, you hollow, foolish, heart.

High flyer

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Once,I was wonder woman
Perhaps you saw me flash by?
Through the VIP lounges
Turning left in the cabin
Standing in a hundred boardrooms
Profit clocking up for others

Being bigger, brighter, stronger
Unfathomable, without a rudder
Or an inner pilot steering me
I rose, higher, higher, highest
Then the air grew thinner, thinnest
And I burned up on re-entry

Now I am a fledgling, featherless
Fallen from the nest, stump winged
Looking upwards at the branches
Quivering in the damp grass unhidden
Scent in the nostrils of predator
Small, soft, yellow quilled, fluffy

I open my mouth to roar, ‘ I am woman ‘
My voice trills and chatters musically
Seeking a kindred being, like a beacon
Alerting hunters too, who prowl disguised
As friends, protectors, while sizing me up
For a vicious kiss of death in snapping jaws

I no longer know where the bubble of
My aura starts and finishes, if protection
Can be entrusted to my growing beak
And claws, or how long I must wait
For the scales to elongate as feathers
Sending me off in flight beyond the horizon

Parrots amongst Pigeons

Watch the two lost children A grave little boy, a cowering girl Together they play tentatively *** He stands behind a chair The king of the castle She makes siege without an army *** See how they run around A … Continue reading

Gender benders

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I’ve always felt like a gay man in a woman’s body and occasionally a bi-sexual man in a woman’s body. Confusing? Should it be?

If every aspect of personality, mental quirks,physicality and sexuality is on a spectrum, why should we have to rigidly define ourselves? Why can’t you be a little bit gay or a girly man? Why do we have to plant down flags and gather a tribe around them?

I used to be (on paper, anyway) an Alpha woman. Ran a profitable multi million consultancy, had a telephone number salary, chunky bonuses, flashy sports cars, over specced London flat and the lifestyle that went with it.

My male equivalent would have been a similar type. Suited and booted with an unfeasibly large watch and a taste for exotic holidays and electronic gizmos. And a bigger car than mine.

But never the twain shall meet.

Mr.Alpha finds Ms.Alpha’s success threatening, he hates it when she takes command of the menu, the wine list, the bill. If her salary or career eclipses his he has big problems. By knocking her up and encouraging her to be a parasite wife, it’s just one more opponent out of his way.

Ms Alpha (well, my version) loathes Mr Alpha. She sees through the suits, the boots, the car, the gadgets and is not in the least bit impressed. He reminds her of the dorks she has to work with as her male peers are so often considerably less talented than she.

So Mr Alpha finds solace in a young Beta, who gives him the uncritical admiration he desires and Ms Alpha has the choice of all the Mr Betas, who, after a while, either despise her for her success or take full financial advantage of it. And they bore the pants off her.

These days, I’ve retired from Alpha land. I’m softer now, gone are the trappings, the designer clothes are in a suitcase in the loft, the London flat sold, the car is an old one and I live in a modest cottage in the country. I’ve dropped the business mask and now indulge in my hippy, earth mother, dreamy writing side. I am content.

Now I am less ‘threatening’ and potentially more of a gentle soul, who do I pick for a partner, next?
The cougar role, although very easy, is not for me. I know what kind of partner I need. Someone big enough to not only be my equal, but also my protector. Rare? Probably. But I can wait. There’s no point in deluding myself about second best. And baggage is best left away from my door. I’ve dealt with mine and I’m too busy living to deal with unpacking anyone else’s.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

13807Valentine’s Day always brings its own stresses. Commercialised to the extent that even the most ludicrous products have Valentine’s branding. Psychologies Magazine for the woman in your life, anyone? It is a day fraught with dangers for relationships, especially budding ones. Here’s a true salutary tale:

In my twenties, I had the bright idea of sending a Valentine’s message to my new boyfriend via the messages page of a national newspaper. These always make good reading, even for those not involved, with, what one assumes are middle-aged executives sending soppy messages to their loved ones, along the lines of “Snugglebums loves Kittykins” or the more risqué “Let’s play hide the sausage tonight”. So I made up some stupid sexual innuendo, that I thought my boyfriend would find amusing and put it in the paper.

The newspaper concerned sends out a little card to your victim, telling them to look out for a special message in the Valentine’s edition. I gave them my boyfriend’s office address so that I knew he’d get to see the paper during the day.

V day came and there was nothing for me in the post. Slightly miffed, I assumed something might arrive at work or in the second post (it was a long time ago); so I went to work expecting a card or some flowers from him at some point during the day.

At lunchtime, I rang my boyfriend, thinking that he might have seen the paper and that we could have a good laugh about the message. He didn’t mention it.

When I went home, there was no card, or delivery note for flowers, so I was a little disappointed as I got ready for dinner with my boyfriend that evening.

During dinner, at some over-priced restaurant crowded with uncomfortable couples going through the ritual of eating the Valentine’s set menu, featuring a variety of heart-shaped garnishes on mediocre food and quaffing cheap pink Champagne, I couldn’t help but do a little digging about the newspaper message, without admitting that I was responsible for it.

I started talking in general about Valentine’s messages. He seemed uninterested. I then gave some funny examples from another paper, hoping that this was enough of a hint to get him to talk. Still nothing.

I was puzzled now and even more so when I saw a postcard sticking out of the inside pocket of his jacket, which he left over the chair when he went to the loo. So he HAD got the card to tell him to look in the paper. Why hadn’t he said anything?

At the end of dinner, I asked him if he’d read any of the papers during the day. “Yes.” he said, I’ve read “X and Y”, “x” being the paper with the message. “Why?” “Oh nothing.”

We went Dutch on the horrible meal.

My brain was doing drunken somersaults. He had the card – check. He’d seen the paper – check. He hadn’t mentioned anything or even questioned me about it = HE THINKS IT’S FROM SOMEONE ELSE!!!!! This is a good example of how the drunken female brain works and, as I found out later, I WAS RIGHT.

They say “Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned” but I’d refine that for this situation to read:

“Hell hath no fury like a woman who has made an effort for Valentine’s day and it hath not been returneth” and when you add “It-eth suspicious-eth perhaps there is another woman lurking who says sexy things to him” – Hell’s fury is as a damp sparkler to worldwide nuclear meltdown.

So, I let him have it.

Two barrels of female fury, fuelled by cheap Champagne and indigestion. When I had finished with him, he had that dazed, shocked look that people have when they have witnessed a particularly grisly accident.

I then flounced off. Flouncing is a very satisfying activity that I rarely get to take part in these days. I’m too grown up and not as small and limber as I was. I was great at flouncing off in those days . I could walk really fast in very high heels, while maintaining a “Don’t even THINK of coming anywhere near me or you will DIE a horrible death” aura.

So I flounced home. No card. No flowers. More ire stoked the fire. This became an insult upon an insult. The boyfriend became “the bastard” in seconds. Girlfriends were called. His name was dragged through the mud. Everyone agreed that they’d “never liked him anyway” and “he’s not good enough for you” and after more wine, more tears and a few fags, I gave the idea of him up.

The neighbours delivered an enormous bouquet of flowers and a card that they had taken in for me the next morning.

Boyfriend rang up and admitted he thought the message was from his ex-girlfriend and, rather than seeing it as a joke, took the message seriously and was going to have it out with her for stalking him.

We made up. It lasted a little while longer, but not much. The ex girlfriend was an ongoing nuisance.

So be warned on Valentine’s Day – make sure you are not misunderstood. And if someone doesn’t thank you for the flowers you’ve sent, check that they’ve arrived. Better still, deliver your messages of love direct!

The Big Blonde Bombshell on the 19.15 from Waterloo

What comes to mind when you think of a Big Blonde Bombshell? Diana Dors? Russ Meyer?Jayne Mansfield? Mamie Van Doren? Marilyn Monroe? This creature is an archetype, slightly old-fashioned, a sex symbol of the cheesecake generation, big hair, big boobs … Continue reading

Screams behind the curtains

It’s a horrible thought, but many women, including me, have had experience of domestic abuse. It doesn’t have to follow the Angela’s Ashes style of drunken man returning home to beat his wife and children, it can be more subtle … Continue reading