On Tuesday I was made redundant. This really sucks. The panic and the crying have mostly stopped. I’ve handed my notice in to my landlord and will be moving back in with my Wee Mammy until I get a new job and get back on my feet. My entire life has shifted and it’s very unpleasant.
It took ten minutes for me to become a shirker. A skiver. A scourge on this country and every decent, law-abiding taxpayer who is now forced to give me hundreds of pounds a week so I can sit on my fat arse and watch Jeremy Kyle. These are unkind times..
What happened to me was not my fault. This was not a “lifestyle choice”. I did not wake up one morning and think, “Oh, I know, I could do with an extended holiday courtesy of the British taxpayer”. But I am now a statistic, someone else for the government to point the finger at, blame for the deficit, blame for the national debt, the rain and whatever else David Cameron can think of.
Last night I tweeted about an incident that occurred during my marriage – the Incident of The Pishy Passport In The Nighttime. I am glad that the feedback I received was so positive; I seem to have struck a chord with a few people. One person asked me if perhaps I now regret being so frank about sharing the other parts (the abuse) but I have to say no. I wasn’t being maudlin or attention-seeking or anything like that. In fact I had a wry smile on my face while I posted them.
The passport story was funny though, even then. I was terrified I was going to get put straight back on the plane to Manchester because of my whiffy, pish-stained passport. The look on the Customs guy’s face was one I will never forget in a hurry (nor will he, I presume!) It’s up there with the time my Darling Beloved phoned Fife’s Finest on me at 2a.m. one Sunday morning because he thought I’d locked him out of the house (when in fact he was just too wellied to get the key in the lock).
But being married to an alcoholic isn’t really funny. They’re not all wild-eyed tramps living in skips, so if they’re clever about it they can hide their drinking very well – they’re called functioning alcoholics. That’s what my ex was at first. He had a really decent job (corporal in the RAF – but no more details as the Forces are a small world and I don’t want him to be identifiable). He was smart, funny and kind. He liked a drink, but as I was working in a pub at the time he didn’t stand out, drinking-wise. As I said, he was covering his tracks.
After we married the mask started to slip and his drinking became worse. I couldn’t work him out at all. He didn’t seem to have a “stop” button” and would drink and drink and drink….. and his behaviour got worse and worse. I would lie awake at night waiting for him to come home, my stomach knotting and churning. I wanted him home, because that would mean he wasn’t in A&E or in a police cell; I didn’t want him home because of his foul temper and the abuse, both physical and psychological. He got worse and worse, culminating in his being arrested on a serious assault charge (not on me). The Fife police were brilliant with me and one of the officers had a fair idea of what was happening (his mother-in-law lived in the same area as us). He told me to get out, pack my bags and leave before things got even worse (I would love to find this guy and buy him a pint!). I thought about it and thought about it, I was scared and had few places to go. But one night I just snapped and told my ex to get out.
That was the best and most frightening thing I ever did. I discovered I did have the courage to stand up to him and throw him out. I was terrified too, and ashamed of what he had turned me into – a cowering, terrified, underweight, stressed out shadow of a human being. When you’re trapped in an abusive relationship any confidence you had vanishes. Your entire existence revolves around your partner. You try to anticipate their mood swings and steel yourself for their kicks and punches. You hunker down, stay quiet, hide away from your family and friends, anything to stop that fuse from being lit. You hide his drink, you stash your money, you hide your self.
It’s called survival. It’s not your fault, none of it is. To those who say “Just leave” it really isn’t that simple. If only it was. It broke my heart to hear from a few tweeters who said they were glad to know it wasn’t just *them*. It’s happening to women – and men – all over the world. This post is dedicated to them.
PS – not all alcoholics are violent. But their addiction and their behaviour still mess with your head. If somebody’s drinking is affecting your life, why not look up alanon.org ? They saved my sanity. Give them a try.
My great-aunty Lizzie is one of my greatest heroes. She was born in Govan in 1893 and died in 1987 at the age of 93. My sister and I always called her “gran”, because this is the woman who brought my dad, uncle and aunts up from an early age.
When my (real) grandmother died just after WW2, my dad was just 7 years old. My aunt Betty was a toddler. Jackie and Rosemary were a little bit older so could understand what had happened a bit better. Their father couldn’t cope and asked my grandmother’s sister (great-aunty Lizzie) to help look after them. He then disappeared to Australia and nobody had much contact since. Lizzie was a widow with a young son of her own to bring up, but she took those poor kids in anyway, as the alternative (beatings and abuse at Nazareth House) was just not an option for her.
So my great-aunt (I’ll just call her gran now, because I feel weird calling her great-aunt), a young widow living in an attic in Plantation with her two year old son decided not to abandon her sister’s family. She had a part-time job as a cleaner in the local school – a hard, physical job in the days before hoovers and floor cleaners, she was on her hands and knees scrubbing floors with carbolic soap. There was no Widows Pension or Child Benefit. She didn’t get compensation of any kind after her husband died working in the shipyards. The father’s family had nothing to do with them either, just forgot all their promises of help and turned their backs.
My gran would get up at 5am six days a week. She would go to her job, work her socks off, come home, light the fires, make porridge, get 5 kids up for school, washed, dressed and out the door. Then she would go to the Steamie to wash their clothes, mangle them, carry the heavy wet washing home, clean and scrub the two rooms, take her turn “on the stair”, make the tea, help with homework, clear up again and go to bed. Money was always tight, rent to be paid, the coalman, food, the electricity meter – all on a few pounds a week. Clothes were hand-me-downs from neighbours or from the St Vincent de Paul. Lizzie couldn’t be off sick or take time off for emergencies (she’d either lose her pay, get the sack, or both), and holidays were for the “posh yins up in Pollokshields”. And always, always, at the back of Lizzie’s mind was the thought that if she was too sick to work, if she lost her job, if she fell on the ice and broke her leg – well those children who depended on her would end up ina home, and she’d be on the street. She would lose her family and her home.
Life eased up once the welfare state was created. The slum clearances meant that the family got out of Plantation and away to Pollok. The sheer relief of novelties such as hot and cold running water, three bedrooms, a living room and their own toilet!! No more sharing a filthy communal toilet with 20 others (I honestly can’t even begin to imagine). There was fresh air, grass, space for the kids to run around and explore….. bliss. The NHS meant no more worrying about the doctor’s fees and the price of medicine. (Lizzie’s brother Daniel died when he was 8 after developing diabetes and their parents couldn’t afford a doctor – this stayed with her all of her life). Lizzie kept working, but she knew that there was a safety net there if something bad happened, and she knew she could retire with some dignity instead of relying on the chapel and the charities.
Lizzie’s wee family prospered and got older. Her son Jim made it to University, graduated with a degree in engineering and had a really good job with British Rail (he helped design the predecessor to the Pendelino). My dad ended up a sergeant in the British Transport Police. My aunt Rosemary was a clerical officer with the council for about a hundred years and my aunt Betty worked as a secretary for Strathclyde Police. My uncle Jackie did his electrician’s apprenticeship in a shipyard and emigrated to Australia as a “Five Pound Pom”. They all did really well, worked hard, raised their families, looked after Lizzie until the day she died.
But the Tories and the Lib Dems want to destroy all the good that the welfare state has done.
Don’t let them.
On Thursday night I was abused by a CyberNat. Actually, I’ll call him a Cyber Twat, because he went over and above the usual abusive CyberNat stuff. Before I continue, let me draw the distinctions. There are what I call Net Nats – those I’ve met online who are really sound – we respect the fact that we’ll never agree -but are good to have a chat with anyway (waves at Natalie, Doug, Exiled Fifer, Andy & Nicola). Then there’s Cyber Nats, who twist things around and are mildly nasty. In another league, there’s Cyber Twats.
Cyber Twats are vile, insulting and anti-democratic. They won’t allow a dissenting voice. If you speak up about independence, or have the cheek to question aspects of it then you’re automatically anti-Scottish (even if you’re Scottish) or, memorably, a quisling. I dared to crack a joke about the name of the new Scottish currency and received abuse from hyper-sensitive gNats. I was accused of being a Tory – a massive insult when the first song I ever learned was The Red Flag, my great granny was instrumental in the occupation of George Square and my great aunty was pals with james Connolly. Then, when the numpty worked out that I’m a Weejie, I got anti-Glasgow abuse instead “Central Belt subsidy junkie” were the words used. Strangely enough, when I challened his views he never replied (I was dying to know if he regarded his fellow SNP supporters from the Central Belt as subsidy junkies, but no reply (shockerooni). I was also informed that it’s “Aberdeen’s oil” which may come as a bit of a surprise to the Geological Survey…
This kind of abuse used to be rare. Now, sadly, it’s all too commonplace. In today’s Scotland you’re not allowed to crack a joke (or the John Knox Wing of the SNP will come after you). If you come from an Irish background (like Michael Kelly) a Cyber Twat willl tell you to get back to Ireland. If you dare to question the SNP you’re instantly labelled anti-Scottish (even if you are, in fact, Scottish). If you doubt me, check out the crap @TomHarrisMP has to put up with. These people don’t realise that some of the people they abuse and insult (like my friend Mark, who voted SNP in the last election) are completely turned off by their bullying tactics. As for myself, I’m just sad. Sad that the Cyber Twats think they can abuse and bully me into their way of thinking. And sad that a post-independent Scotland will be full of the Though Police. Post-independence, what will happen to us dissenters?
I was appalled today when I read John McTernan’s article advocating the closure of public libraries. His main argument is that libraries are underused and out of date now that everybody can access information off the internet or learn from Sky Arts. He supposes that anyone opposed to library closures is (a) middle class (I’m not) and (b) not a library user (I am).
Where McTernan’s argument fails (straight off) is that he doesn’t seem to realise that not everybody has internet access or a Sky subscription. Perhaps in his social circle these things are a given, but in real life they’re an expense that not everybody can afford. (I’m lucky enough to have an ancient, steam powered laptop – but if it breaks down I won’t be able to afford a new one. Then I’ll be scuppered.) There’s something of the out of touch Peter Mandelson leaping off his article.
I depend on my local library. This year alone I’ve probably read over £200 worth of books. Some books are for leisure, some to make a long, boring commute to work more bearable, and others as background reading for my Open University degree. Through the library I have learned about the causes of the banking collapse, the Wall Street Crash and about the American political system. I have indulged my love of Stuart and Tudor history. I have read books by authors as diverse as Alistair Campbell and Ian Rankin, Emily Bronte and Alexander McCall Smith. I have learned more about the world than I ever could if I was staring at a computer screen.
If it wasn’t for my local library I could never have afforded this – not on minimum wage. And there are many others exactly like me up and down the country. I suggest that Mr McTernan climbs down from his middle class ivory tower and speaks to the ordinary people who rely on – and love – their local library.
(The article was published today in The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8838633/Liberal-whingers-are-wrong-we-should-shut-our-libraries.html )