Oct 31 2013

Yesterday, I failed to climb Pendle Hill and didn’t see a ghost.

I love Halloween. I do. I love the smell of decay, the fact that parents are dressing up their children to look like they are dead and gravestones saying RIP adorn Specsavers windows.

I love reading the newspapers ‘Top Ten Haunted Places’ and goshing and gasping at haunted places I have been to and never witnessed a ghost.

I love that slight sense of anarchy, the shock and awe at seeing a broken egg on the pavement,  the sudden collective worship of death by large supermarket chain-stores and ITV breakfast television.


Most days are my Halloween, I tend to lurk in semi-darkness reading MR James but that is mostly because I have very inferior carpets so a low light is more flattering and hides the stains.

The Number One most haunted place now suddenly according to a possibly hastily produced unscientific article in The  Independent is Pendle Hill.


I have tried climbing its summit before two years ago but on a suddenly boiling day with a small fair child wrapped so badly in a sling, they risked a sudden immediate propulsion to another country, it was merited a bad idea by everyone but me.


I shall try again.


We drive through the Trough Of Bowland on the way to our epic climb. Halfway along, the toddler projectile vomits and by the time we have cheaply and badly dressed him from  charity shops in Clitheroe, the time left to climb Pendle Hill before the oncoming rain drenches us has evaporated.

Never mind! We shall go on the Pendle Sculpture trail instead!


I fail to see most of the sculptures due to oncoming rain drenching us.


But I have my lucky ticket! A ticket to a paranormal investigation in the Judges Lodgings in Lancaster, the place where the Witch Hunter Thomas Covell, lived, died and still, according to many, still resides.

I have never been on one of these tours before and I utterly expect something, just something, fake or not to occur. The tour through the Judges Lodgings and the hidden cellars with the narrative revolving around mania, misery, witches and death made me happy to be alive, guilty for revelling in past misfortunes and utterly fucked off that no ghostly entity was around to tell me that the main aim of the afterlife was probably not to leave marks in carefully placed trays of  flour.

The fact ‘nothing’ happened made me trust in the tour, believe in the narrative as they did not produce or fake a sighting,  just used the past, the actual real past to create a horror far more terrifying than any amount of cheap witches outfits made in China,purchased in Lancashire and worn by grinning children in Lancaster Caster gurning and giggling by the dungeons.


Now they are a tourist attraction, Mother Demdike (who died in a pitch black cell) is now a hook nosed jolly woman used by the council to entice children to pay an entrance fee to make fake spells with a friendly cackling witch underneath some  bats made out of bin bags.

Past agony is a fun for all affair and I am complicit in that. Because what I love the most about Halloween is that sudden  glimmer into the past, the shaky candles, the tiny procession and the small flicker of a fire somewhere.

Oct 29 2013

Dyspraxia part 2. Or I have not been anywhere on a train recently.

I have not been on a local train recently.

Normally this blog is about cheaply accessible yet ignored places in the North West, the unshining,  ancient,  unsung, or indeed just anywhere I have actually been in the last month.

A week ago,  I sat and thought of where to go with a zig-zagging Smartie stained toddler, no driving licence and so little money left in the bank, the thought of checking the balance left a sick hollow feeling  more akin to an immediate death in the family.


We went to the Lancaster Maritime Museum. Again. I have already written about the Maritime Museum. Lovely as it is, if I am slightly bored of hurtling around the  Maritime museum led by a hysterical toddler whose main aim in life is to ensure no-one else is sitting in ‘his’ MDF stagecoach.


However, this week  my confidence was shaken to the very core by a particularly  stupid mistake I had made at work and so I shook the demons out by writing about it.

Once I started, the words flowed to the point I had to halt myself as who wants to read about a clumsy stranger being clumsy? And when I say ‘flowed’. I mean clumsily stabbed finger by finger but it still managed to write itself.


My dyspraxia doesn’t define me but I worry about what is me and what is dyspraxia? I get upset about something I have buggered up, the Marble Run falls down, I go the shop to get milk but come back with a kite from the charity shop instead- what is me being me being a normal person making mistakes, forgetting and being rather random in thought and process versus actual dyspraxia?

I am scared I make excuses due to my dyspraxia and thus my innate nervousness  when it might be the actual Me to blame and also vice-versa.

So many times, people have dismissed my almost ‘confession’ of dyspraxia but hey, sometimes I don’t believe in it myself.  So many times at places of work, I have told people, they listen, smile and are quietly sympathetic, understanding until on their bequest I staple up displays of work at a unnatural angle. I try. I step back. I look. It looks just fine to me. It really does. No-one seems to get that though. I try to atone for my sin. I do it again. It looks just fine to me. It really does.


Dyspraxia is exhausting. With a toddler and a job, it is a small  obstacle which leaves you utterly drained.

A stranger will notice your child has the wrong wellies on each foot. The jellyish consistency of wellies leaves me flummoxed. They look the same to me.


I have strategies- I prepare everything the night before but somehow one shoe will always stray during the night. There will be no bras in the house.


And the toddler will want me to help with his marble run.

God help me.


Because EVERYTHING is fucking difficult. A rendition of ‘ 1, 2, 3 4, 5. Once I caught a fish alive’, with the finger movement. I can’t move my fingers to the song. I hear the song, it travels to my fingers and then thirty sad seconds later my fingers start to move.


I am out of sync with the world.


Due to Mumsnet promoting my blog, I have read some lovely understanding comments by people with dyspraxic children. I am so happy they recognise the condition.  Being recognised is the main thing, it has taken a long time for it to happen. No-one understood me when I was forced into Netball, my hands waving desperately before my face far too early or far far too late, my body with its own slow motion footage sadly slowly traversing down my veins,  whilst the event had already happened, I still optimistically held my hands open for the ball that was already in the goal.


It took me three hours to write this despite touch typing lessons from the internet . I still want to write though.


But out of all things I advise getting  a camera or a decent camera phone. It is a quick way of taking control of your surroundings, using your imagination, being the boss of yourself in a split second. I have never used a zoom or any posh camera, never had the confidence.  I got a decent camera phone and now I can go out and take shots and they are generally of utterly mundane things but the fact I , all by myself have worked out an angle to make them interesting pleases me. People rarely feature. Pigeons do.


I  like pigeons.


And I still will write about the unloved and the unrecognised from a position that recognises and appreciates the beauty in the mundane and  the ‘abnormal’


One confusion with the mechanism of a gate on a walk is something most people are used to.

Now make it constant.


Make the familiar the unfamiliar all the time.

I am a human being. I am a mother. I am other.


I shall continue to nervously get on a train, to go places, to seek out standing stones and good charity shops. I prefer to immerse myself in history rather than the present, knowing full well that to the average historical person, the occasional dropping of a cup of Mead was probably  not nearly as agonising a thought as being dead of Syphilis or starvation. The dead don’t judge me though.

My toddler didn’t until I bought him a Marble Run.

Oct 24 2013


I am on at the bottom of the escalator with my toddler. There are our four feet waiting to tread on the moving stairs. I can’t do it. I really can’t. I panic, pull my toddler towards them but then drag him back because I cannot possibly visualise getting four feet onto the constantly  moving stairs. I think people might be watching and am nervous.


I am not a normal human being.


To my two year old, the escalator is exciting. To me, it is an obstacle that must be challenged. It moves whilst my feet want to move and I can’t work out or comprehend how to combine the two. Add some tiny welly clad legs that also move of their own accord and I am flummoxed, scared, so many things going on at once that need to move in one fluid quick motion. I grab him again and he steps on confidently and easily whilst I pile on behind in an uneasy flurry of two many feet and nerves. We have done it. Now at what point do I consider stepping off when nearing the top? The more you think about it, the worse it becomes and the stairs are slowly  beginning to flatten.


I am dyspraxic.


Even in my head, despite the test that confirmed it, the small tap to the base of my spine which made me fall over, the word sounds like an excuse. Clumsy, stupid, thick. Words that I imagine the whole world has always said about me and which many people probably have.


It is a relatively new word to an old condition but people are suspicious of new words, think they are an excuse for bad behaviour or stupidity, maybe something invented by a Labour government as an exercise in political correctness to absolve bad parenting and dim children.


I have a degree but struggle with putting five fingers into a glove. When those fingers are not mine, it is impossible.


Recently, at work, I utterly buggered up an observed lesson involving lines of symmetry.  I was not the one being observed as I am a teaching assistant but without the mirrors used in the previous lesson, I was completely unable to visualise the opposite of a shape and thus when a child made a mistake, in my head it was correct as I could not see differently, could not visualise it. I can write a thousand words far more easily than  folding a  trapezium  in my head.


When realising my mistake, I corrected it and explained that I was wrong but saying it was due to dyspraxia was virtually impossible to the teacher let alone a child.

 But it took a lot of effort for me not to burst into tears of guilt and self-hate.

If a child has special needs, there is quite rightly support available for them but what happens when they leave school or college?

Special needs do not just dissipate once a child is out of school uniform and not every adult with special needs is easily identifiable. I have Fly London boots and a designer coat, I might look normal, confident, assured but a  fuzzy voice overhead telling passengers for  Bristol Temple Meads to now go immediately to Platform 1B for Wolverhampton instead of the platform I am already waiting on? I am terrified, confused.


I can’t distinguish in a panic my left from my right. North, South, East and West have always been utterly alien concepts to me. My visual memory of where I have been is poor and I can have a long conversation with someone one day and not recognise their face the next. I can look at a pigeon’s gnarled foot on a train platform, think about, write about, even photograph it but I always only seem to see the small scale detail in a panorama, not the whole of it, I drift through life in a nervous panic, too scared to try to achieve anything higher than just not looking like like an absolute fucking idiot in front of strangers.


I know deep down I could achieve more. But so many small constant fuck ups, so many lost things, so many forgotten things, so many lost memories  leaves you with an utter sense of hopelessness and doubt. I have fucked up today, I will probably fuck up tomorrow.

But I will I go out. I have my child and his constant confident forays into the world and so I will get on a train for him. I will have rechecked the timetable several times and my heart will be pounding.


But despite it all, despite the terror and panic, I love exploring and so does he.

And now I have a glove-less two year old to tell me where Platform 2b is.

Oct 5 2013

Blackpool is wonderful- sort of, a bit.

Elvis IS Blackpool and Blackpool is Elvis.


Glitz and glitter hiding the cracks and a three carb meal.


Everyone loves Elvis in Blackpool. My toddler is wearing a designer tank top bought from a carboot which says ‘Bring Back Elvis’ in letters big enough for the eldery and/or inebriated to read and eyes mist over and people smile and chat and I pretend my toddler and I like Elvis and I like my toddler.


I go to The  Worst Charity Shop In The World first. I have learnt that if I tell my toddler there might be a Marble Run inside, he toddles inside like a lamb to the slaughter whilst I cast a quick practiced eye down the aisles looking for something that is not bobbly George at Asda. I am an eternal optimist, frequently dissapointed.


This local charity shop makes me fear for the ‘Kids’ they are raising money for as if that is all the ‘Kids’ are relying on, they are pretty much fucked unless instead of cold hard cash they really like extremely wide polyester ties and faux velveteen chairs that someone has clearly died in.

We were planning on seeing some of Blackpool’s much feted ‘attractions’ but they proved to be staggeringly expensive so the toddler was purchased a lollipop in a minature plastic sandcastle for 29p from Cheaper 4 U instead of going to the aquarium which saved us approximately £37.88.

Blackpool to be fair is utterly beautiful today. The view stretches for miles and miles of grey sea, the harsh wind merely snaps occasionally like a disgrunted chihuahua and people are happy. This may be because of the unseasonal weather and because it is not stag night season or because of the toddlers top. Or maybe they are older and not pissed. Or older and pissed.


We go to an American Diner because I am incapable of walking past one. Blackpool must be the only place where a a two course dinner costs £5.95. The food is vaguely  fine, there are few places you can get veggie enchildas, fries and a toffee sundae for such a price) and  I order a glass of wine.


I have drunk many bad things in my time, scrumpy from a car boot in Cheddar, Vodkat, battery acid etc but this wine made me yearn for new words in the English language to describe it. The smell hits you first. I had paid £2.50  for this glass though so was going to drink it.  Each sip was new aromas. Rancid Vimto, dead rat, something vaguely Italian.


This post was meant to be about how wonderful Blackpool today was.

Reader, today was wonderful. But do not drink wine in American Diners.