Dear CC

broken-heartI am so sorry I didn’t say goodbye properly. I found out you were really sick on Friday and by Saturday night you were gone. I wrote a short message that didn’t even begin to explain how much I wanted the news about your failing health to be an ugly rumour. I needed to tell you how much you meant to me and how much you will be missed. You were my first real friend. Two doors down the street and born three weeks apart, it was almost inevitable that we would be buddies, especially given how close our parents were. Inseparable during their pregnancies, our mothers were delighted to give birth to two daughters in the same month that would grow up together.

We weren’t just friends, we were family. We called each other’s mothers “Mum” and became the sisters we both craved so much (I was big sister, you were little sis). We spent weekdays together at nursery, then school and at weekends had sleepovers at each other’s homes. You had a Christmas stocking and an Easter egg to look forward to every year at my house. I put more time and effort into our friendship than I have with any subsequent romantic relationship. Although we looked so different we always dressed alike and I laugh now looking back at pictures of your long slim body in the same outfits as my short round frame.

I still remember the day 26 years ago when I broke your heart (your words, you always had a flair for the dramatic). I told you I was moving house. Not very far away but enough of a distance to move school and for everything to change. We both wept and vowed to be friends forever, in a way that only nine year olds can. I promised to phone every day and write letters every week to tell you what I was up to. You told me that no one would ever replace me. We continued to have sleepovers, although they went from weekly to monthly and eventually stopped altogether.

Neither of us wanted to admit we’d outgrown each other. When we met up things seemed strained and we couldn’t just pick up a conversation where we’d left off, there was so much explanation of “who’s who” in stories that it was too much effort. Also, the differences in our personalities became more apparent as we got older; you loved a party and I loved staying in with a book, you looked like a model and loved fashion, I looked like a hobbit and was sporting hand me downs (from my brother).

We went years without speaking and I regret not making more of an effort. There were times I would see you on a bus or on the street and I would hide behind a book or scarf to avoid your gaze. Your life always seemed so fabulous and glamourous. You travelled for a living and I was stuck in the same city in a dead end job. I thought being around you would make me feel like a lesser human.

I thought of you often and when I joined Facebook in 2009 you were one of my first friends, just like when we were born. You ended up amassing 10 times as many friends as me and I do admit to the odd pang of jealousy. We exchanged the occasional message, particularly in times of crisis. When your dad passed away I had to let you know I was there if you needed to chat and you were one of the first people I heard from when my mum was diagnosed with cancer. I will never forget the kindness of you coming to mum’s funeral when you didn’t even live in the same country as us anymore.

I was speaking to dad about you just over a week ago. We were both wondering aloud how you were, you had been uncharacteristically quiet on social media and I hoped it was because you were loved up and enjoying life offline. I didn’t know you were fighting for your life. When I found out on Friday night what was happening I wanted to give you the biggest hug. I wanted to kiss your forehead the way our mums did when we were sleeping over at each other’s houses. Or I wanted to make you laugh, you had a bloody ridiculous snorting laugh and I can’t believe I’ll never hear it again. I also can’t believe I am referring to you in the past tense. I am so sorry.

Love always, BS (Big Sister)

Just a bit of banter…

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I’ll always remember the first time I encountered sexual harassment in the workplace. I was 17, new to a small company where I was the only female employee. I was encouraged by my boss to be “one of the boys” and join in with the office banter which seemed to revolve around critiquing the tits of the models in lads magazines. I shared an office with Peter, who was in his late 30’s and proudly displayed pictures of his wife and children next to his desk. Peter became really interested in finding out about my life and would quiz me on my breaks. Did I have a boyfriend? Had I had a lot of previous boyfriends? Where did I like to go out? Had I ever had plastic surgery? I felt uncomfortable with his questions, especially when I found out he was relaying my answers to the rest of the team when I wasn’t around.

Peter kept finding ways to come over to my desk, usually under the pretence of borrowing some stationery. He liked to put his hands on my shoulders and slyly look down my top or he’d reach past me and brush his hand against my chest. I started wearing high necks and baggy clothes to deter him. I told him I didn’t like having my personal space invaded but he didn’t listen. I was friendly, smiley and chatty with anyone who came into the office but when we had client meetings I’d often hear one of the guys say, “Watch out for her, she’s a maneater.” I’d blush with embarrassment and tell them to shut up but it just seemed to encourage them.Read More »

Love You Too…

It’s amazing how three little words can change your life. I spent my whole life taking love for granted. It was something I didn’t have to go looking for, it was always just there. I had an enthusiastically loving mother, she would say the words every day. She would text, email, write notes and make up songs. Love oozed from her pores. As a child it mortified me. I would wipe away her cheek kisses and mumble “love you too” in a mocking tone.  When I reached my twenties and thirties I would often cringe at her public displays of affection. Luckily my nephew and niece were born and mum had new children to worship and smother with kisses.Read More »

I run like a girl…try to keep up

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In June 2011 I took part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life 5km event with my mum. As we wandered round the beautiful course we talked about entering the event in 2012 and perhaps upping the distance to 10km. I had a more ambitious target, I wanted to run a half marathon. Not just any half marathon, I wanted to take part in the Great North Run. For years I had watched the event on TV and been inspired by the runners and their stories. I turned 30 at the beginning of 2012 and it seemed like an excellent goal to kick off a new decade. Despite not being a runner my mum was sure I would be able to complete the course and told me she would be there cheering me on.

I entered the GNR ballot in 2012 and was unsuccessful. I wasn’t too disappointed, I had entered the Race for Life again and with a group of work colleagues trained to run the whole 5km course. Mum had decided that running might be a bit too ambitious for her so was going to be there as a cheerleader.

On 5th June 2012 life changed forever. A simple diagnostic test revealed my mum had an oesophageal tumour. On 15th June we were told the diagnosis was terminal and any treatment would be palliative. Despite the dire prognosis my mum came to cheer me on at the Race for Life just 48 hours later. On an exceptionally emotional and rainy day my team of six completed the race in good time and raised over £1000 for Cancer Research.Read More »

A Letter to My Dad, the Accidental Feminist

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Dear Dad,

You might not know what the word means (it’s not about women refusing to shave under their arms) and this morning you may have joked that “every day is International Women’s Day” but whether you like it or not you are a feminist.

The foundation of feminism is equality of the sexes. You raised my brother and I as equals. You brought me up to believe I was capable of anything I put my mind to. You were more disappointed than Mum when I left school at 16 because you felt I was throwing my life away. Now you brag to your friends about how hard I work when you think I can’t hear you.

You taught me how to cook and secretly enjoyed putting on an apron to make rice crispy cakes after a hard day at work. Despite getting up at 4am every day you always sat with me after school, helped with my homework and answered endless questions with minimal teeth gritting. Although I am still waiting on a satisfactory answer to “why is the sky blue?”

When I studied the Second World War at school you watched the entire series of The World at War with me (all 22 and a half hours). You cried watching the tapes; it was the first time I had ever really seen you upset. Now I see you cry all the time – at the end of Erin Brockovich, watching Call the Midwife, Toy Story 3, The Green Mile… Of course you swore me to secrecy on the tears because it’s not the manly thing to do (sorry).

When I left home at 17 you didn’t attempt to stop me. You made it clear that I had to make my own mistakes and learn from them. At the age of 20 I stood on your doorstep with a couple of bin bags of my belongings, fleeing an abusive partner. At the time you had no idea that opening the door to me and allowing me to stay actually saved my life.

You are by no means perfect but you gave me the tools to survive in a world where women are still seen as the weaker sex. When I suffered from depression you did your very best to understand what I was going through. Since Mum died 18 months ago you have had to fill both parental roles. I don’t ever say this but you’re doing a good job.

Thanks for the stubborn streak and encouraging me not to back down in a fight.

Love from your “pudding”

xxx

Nobody told me

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Image source: http://www.bloggersforhope.com/2012/06/grief-mathematically-speaking.html

I lost my Mum to cancer in September 2013. I wish someone had warned me about the range of emotions and reactions I would go through in the subsequent days, months and years so I knew that what I was experiencing was perfectly normal. Information on grieving can be conflicting and confusing so I decided to detail my own experience.Read More »