Ghosts Of Christmas Past Part Two

Another year has flown by and Christmas is around the corner yet again, another excuse for some of us to go down memory lane and remember some of the more memorable Christmas times, but not all of them for the right reasons. Christmas isn’t just one day though and over the years  things have happened in the run up to Christmas, in the few days between Christmas and New year, and New Year’s Eve itself.

Like the time I had to have a neighbour arrested  as she’d been to a house party and couldn’t remember who was looking after her kids. She decided they must be at my house even though her kids and mine weren’t even friends, and not believing me when I said they weren’t with me (at 3 o’clock in the morning) she tried to break in. She was so adamant that I had them that the police searched my house from top to bottom before taking her to the police station. It turned out that they were at the party with her and she’d forgotten to tell them she was leaving.

The time a few of us mums got alcohol poisoning at the school fayre after drinking two plastic cups of warm wine.

The time I’d gone Christmas shopping with a friend who spent every penny of the money she had for Christmas presents in the first shop we went into, on herself. She treated herself to a lovely dress and shoes from Wallis and that was it, game over, we had to come back home before I’d even bought anything. It’s a good job she looked fab in that outfit.

The time we lived in Australia and spent Christmas day on the beach, twice.

The time I went out to bring a bike in from the garden shed on Christmas Eve and slipped on the step that had iced over convinced I’d broken a leg.

The time I went Christmas shopping with my young daughter knowing that when we got back my friend had called round with a hamster that I’d agreed to have as my friend had just got a kitten, the kids loved it.

The time years and years ago when an idiot I was seeing drove all the way from Manchester to Bath (where I was living at the time) in a snowstorm on New Year’s Eve to pick me up to drive all the way back to Manchester as he said he had two tickets for Peter Stringfellow’s club The Millionaire.  He dropped me off at a friend’s house and said he’d come back once he dropped his car off.  He didn’t come back and I didn’t see him again until 6 months later, just his way of making sure I wasn’t going anywhere that night.

The one time I bought a Christmas hamper and because I wasn’t in when the Rotary club came round with their float, someone gave them two tins of salmon.

I’m sure that there’s lots of other instances but one Christmas I remember was when I was a child and both my sister and I got a doll for Christmas. In those days parents didn’t buy every single thing that was on a child’s Christmas list, you got one main present as well as an annual, chocolate coins, an apple and orange and a couple of other bits, all in a pillow case. Anyway I got a Sindy doll but my sister got a Tressy.  A Tressy doll had hair that grew when you pressed her belly button and there was a wind up thing on her back that pulled the hair back in, next to her my Sindy looked drab and boring. Sindy had short dark hair but Tressy was far more glamorous and to top it all, after a couple of days Sindy’s head fell off. She didn’t go back to wherever she’d come from and get replaced as there were probably no consumer rights back then, so I lost interest and probably drew all over Tressy’s face with a ballpoint pen in temper.

Every parent wants to give their children the best Christmas, to buy every toy that’s on that Christmas list (even though not many kids will be able to tell you what they got last year) as proof of how much you love them. As you get older you realise that corny as it sounds it’s not what’s under the tree, it’s who’s around it that matters.

True story.

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As The Mother Of A Gay Son.

While the pieces are being put together as to why Omar Mateen decided to go to Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida and open fire on innocent people, let’s just take a minute and remind ourselves that although we live in the 21st century, being LBGT is not as tolerated as we all like to think it is. While it might not be against the law anymore to be gay, it doesn’t mean that society likes it, while a lot of people tolerate and even embrace a good night out spinning around to Kylie, the same amount (if not more) will actively voice their concern about “deviant behaviour”. As if.

When my son was born 30 years ago, it didn’t cross my mind for one second that he might be gay, I was just concerned that everything was working ok, all the usual stuff that new mums worry about, but it never ever crosses your mind that your child might be “different”. If they’re going to be different, it will be because they are smarter than all the rest of the class, become a brain surgeon, top class athlete, hell, even Prime Minister, but gay? That was never in the game plan. But mothers always know. Mothers notice little things that make you start to wonder, and then the worry starts, not that you weren’t always worrying about your child getting run over, falling off a cliff, being abducted by aliens, but this is a different worry. Because you know that your child will have a harder journey than most now, and whenever they step out of the door once they’re older, are they going to come home being beaten up after falling foul of a group of ignorant, homophobic bigots who’ve probably grown up in a household of hatred towards anyone different. It sickens me to know that there are people out there willing to give my beautiful boy a “good kicking” or even worse, when they don’t even know him. Not that anyone is flaunting it. Gay men are usually reluctant to be seen showing public displays of affection because of not being sure of people’s reaction, they know that for some people it is seen as a step too far to witness two men holding hands in public, never mind kissing, how sad is that? We haven’t come as far as people like to think we have, any LGBT person will tell you that.

As an older woman who is doing online dating, I’ve found that the main reason I’m single, (apart from the fact I’m too picky) is that a lot of men my age are homophobic. While some might pay lip service and say they don’t actually mind gay men, it’s usually because they don’t know any. That view sometimes changes when I say I live with a gay man, and have lots of gay friends, all of a sudden they decide they’re not really comfortable with that. And that’s fine. I need to know pretty early on what their views are as there is no way I can tolerate anyone who uses the words “queer”, “faggot”, “scum” and any number of derogatory words  to describe not only my friends but my flesh and blood. Absolute deal breaker.

So here we are. Fifty men shot dead for being gay and over fifty more injured, every mother’s nightmare as this is what every mother fears for her gay son, some idiot seeking retribution against something they don’t understand, or even want to. My heart goes out to all those mothers who have lost their beautiful boy for being “different”.

Some things won’t change.

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Always Listen to Your Instinct.

After reading a story that someone tweeted on twitter about how one time a guy made her feel uncomfortable when travelling on a train by herself by making it look like he knew her (only later did she find out he’s a rapist/con artist/on the sex offenders list) reminded me of a time when a similar thing happened to me on holiday.

Years ago I went to Southern Spain on holiday on my own after a friend of mine let me down at the very last minute, and on the transfer from the airport to the hotel some anorak kept interrupting the rep in his speech about the history of the place. As he was doing so he was looking around at all the people on the coach and I made the fatal mistake of giving him eye contact. When the coach arrived at our hotel a few of us threw our cases into our rooms and made our way to the hotel bar but before long we had  ventured out, as Andy the anorak said he knew where the best bars were nearby. So far so good. After a couple of drinks I said I was making my way back so Andy said he was also ready to call it a night and that’s when I found out a bit more about him. At 40 years old he was working as a carpet fitter and living in a caravan on the drive of his parent’s bungalow which was actually in the next town from where I lived, which explained the same accent we both had. He’d never been married and only ever had one long term girlfriend so as you can imagine, most people would probably find him a bit harmless but I wasn’t convinced.

The next morning he was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs (but where he could also see the lift) and said maybe we should go and have breakfast together. He’d caught me unawares, what could I say? I was obviously going into the restaurant and it would seem childish to refuse because after all he seemed ok. After breakfast I made my excuses and went to get changed to spend the day by the pool and Andy said he was probably going to go and do a bit of sightseeing. I breathed a sigh of relief. Luckily for me  there seemed to be quite a few single people who were also in this hotel and I was looking forward to making a few new friends.

Finding my way to where the pool was I stopped to see if there were any spare sunbeds,when I heard someone call my name.”Jacqui!! Over here, I’ve got us our sunbeds!” You’ve got to be joking. But there he was, in his speedos  standing and waving at me to go over. This was August, the pool was packed, no way was there a spare sunbed anywhere so what did I do? I went over. And I really wish I hadn’t because I had willingly put myself in to what became an awkward situation. He threw his Walkman cassette player over onto my sunbed.”Help yourself. Boney M’s greatest hits.” So there we were, and I suddenly realised  that to anyone watching we seemed to be a couple, we both had the same accent, both had arrived the night before, so I just lay back and completely ignored him until he went to the bar. ” Going to the bar, having a ciggie so back in 5 ok?” I looked at him. No offer from him to get me a drink so I just nodded. As soon as he’d gone to the bar I sat up and spoke to the young couple next to us.”Help me.We’re not together, I don’t know him.” They looked shocked.”But we thought you were together.We saw you at breakfast do you really not know him?” He made sure he was back in two minutes rather than five but by now I was talking with the lovely couple so I got up and moved around to sit on the ground  next to Bev’s sunbed away from Andy.

Long story short this guy could have ruined my holiday. He followed me everywhere but because of him I also made a lot of friends as everyone was sympathetic to my situation. I tried to make a complaint about him to the rep but as he hadn’t tried to touch me no-one could actually do anything. Guys (and me) told him to F**k Off but he didn’t listen and this was the worrying thing. I finally got rid of him when a few of us went to a Spanish nightclub and they wouldn’t let him in. There was a very heated exchange  outside and he was, shall we say, persuaded not to come in. The next day he’d found a new object of affection and this person (a guy) went to great lengths to avoid him such as jumping out of windows.

But I’m annoyed at myself for letting all that happen. Because we’re basically nice polite people we accept behaviour that we shouldn’t in order not to make a scene, especially if a person seems nice and polite themselves. You don’t want to be seen as the bad guy by questioning someone’s motives when to all intents and purposes the world sees them as one of the good guys. But I will say this, your instinct will tell you every time. If something doesn’t feel right, your gut instinct will tell you and no matter how much pressure you feel under, always always listen to it. It’s there for a reason.  Does anyone else wonder if Andy is still living in that caravan??

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