Creative Writing for all!

Back in September, when I had money, I decided to sign up for a 6 week creative writing course in Cardiff.

The course is designed and delivered by a published children’s writer and I thought it would be a brilliant thing to do to get some formal writing tuition and try be a better writer.

My first class was this afternoon so off I popped to Cardiff on the train. A former colleague told me that on every course there’s someone he develops a deep an irrational hatred for. Someone who really irritates the shit out of him for the entire duration of the course. This person typically loves the sound of their own voice and dominates the class.

As it happens, I have one on my course. This person sat next to the tutor and tried to hold a conversation throughout the class with him as if it were only the two of them and they were on a date.

The tutor got us writing straight away. We had to choose a celebrity we hated and write a letter to them as if we were their Number One Fan, but we were also a person who liked to talk about all the banal facts and details of our lives, details noone else was interested in.

I wrote to Katie Hopkins. The girl sat next to me wrote to Piers Morgan. I can tell we’re going to be friends.

We had to read our letters out to the class. This was mine, please bear in mind this is written from the perspective of someone who idolises Ms Hopkins.

“Dear Katie,

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know about something that happened to me the other day that I just know you will find completely hilarious.

I took the baby to soft play on Monday, as I always do, because after I’ve dropped the other two off at school I don’t like to go straight home as the cleaner is there. I feel awkward just sitting there when she’s cleaning, not because I feel like I ought to be doing it myself, but because I think she’s judging me. She’s jealous of my life and I think she fancies my husband.

Anyway, I took the baby to soft play and there were a gaggle of young girls there. You know the type, just left school, probably no qualifications, nannying for the women who can’t be bothered to look after their own children.

I was there with baby Genevieve when one of these girls started speaking to me. To me! Like I was one of them. I think she thought I was a Nanny too! I mean I’ll take the compliment because I do make sure I take care of my skin and I’m always properly hydrated so I know I look younger, much younger than all of my friends, but honestly. This girl clearly didn’t recognise the couture outfit I was wearing, I mean why would she? The poor dear will never be able to afford to go to my shops so why would she be able to tell I wasn’t a hired help.

That evening when I told my husband, Roger, we laughed and laughed but I think he was also a bit annoyed as he pointed out that there must have been something out of place in my appearance that suggested I was staff and I know he doesn’t approve of those type of places.

Katie, darling, must dash.

Write soon,

Felicity”

And then we had to read them out. I wasn’t expecting to be as nervous as I was and it was clear when people started reading their out that I had gone way harsh with mine.

Annoying student wanted to explain the letter they had written in length, but was cut off by the tutor.

Our next task was, using the same character to explain to our chosen celebrity, something that had happened to us that had had a profound effect on our lives. Same characters, different situation.

Annoying student didn’t understand. Tutor explained in five different ways. At this point I would have given them their money back and asked them to leave but I’m horrible. I can explain it to you love, but I can’t understand it for you.

This is what I wrote for the second task;

“I know that like me, you will be absolutely mortified when I tell you this and I also know that I can confide in you as you have a reputation as a sympathetic and empathetic person.

I know you will provide me with non judgemental support.

Prior to the birth of Baby G, Roger and I had agreed that her birth would be completely natural with minimal medical and medicinal intervention. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t lighting candles and listening to the sounds of humpback whales fornicating but Roger decided that I ought to be totally present in the moment as it would be better if our baby was born drug free and not to a pethidine addled mother.

Anyhoo, I had been constipated for a few days and no amount of enemas were shifting a week’s worth of foie gras. When it came to push baby out, I asked Roger if I was defacating and he assured me I wasn’t. When I looked at his face he was silently mouthing to the midwife “she is” and pointing to the bed.

Suffice to say I was no longer constipated but Roger decided that because of my digestive faux pas, Baby G would be our last.

We couldn’t look one another in the eye for weeks afterwards. I will never forget the shame.”

I was quite relieved that at the end of the class I didn’t have time to read my second effort out. Annoying student was visibly upset about missing this opportunity and asked “will I be able to read mine out at the start of the next class?”and didn’t like the response. No.

Our homework is to stay in character and write another letter to the celebrity making an unreasonable demand.

Homework!!!???? There’s an unreasonable demand right there.

Going around in circles

Yesterday, after I wrote the blog about my Dad, I struggled. I really struggled. When you have been conditioned by an abuser to believe terrible things about yourself it’s not simply a case of stopping believing those things. You can no more just stop believing them than could just stop eating food to live or breathing oxygen.

You have to re condition yourself and that takes time, a lot of time, effort and support. It would be great if abuse was just like a jacket that you could take off and hang up somewhere but it’s not. It’s the skin you have to wear every day.

I’m lucky. I know I’m lucky. I have a great big brother who is there for me everyday. I have a wonderful step father who has been the father to me that I never thought I’d have. My kids are amazing and my friends are inspiring, thoughtful, loving and loyal.

My husband gets the worst deal of all. My husband is my best mate but he doesn’t just get the good days and the positive Clair. My husband lives with happy, positive Clair but he also lives with desperately sad, depressed Clair. My husband has to go over the same conversations and problems time and time again, but not because he’s doing anything wrong. My husband has, like the government, inherited the problems of the people who were previously in charge.

I go around in circles and tie myself in knots of uncertainty, fear and insecurity constantly, exhaustingly, digging for problems and seeking reassurance. Upsetting for me, frustrating for him. He keeps reminding me it’s not my fault.

Like most people I’m a mixed bag. Good and bad. Hopefully the good outweighs the bad and deep down I know my husband values me and appreciates me for everything that I am and everything that my past has made me. Hopefully. I just need to do it myself too.

Daddy’s girl

I’ve been thinking about my Dad a lot recently. I haven’t seen him for 17 years. I’ve not heard from him or tried to contact him in 17 years.

I cut all contact with him when my oldest son was 3 years. It took me 23 years to realise he was never going to be the Dad that I needed or wanted and that his affect on my life was a negative one. The tipping point was when I had to face up to the fact that I could never and would never leave my son alone with him or any other children I went on to have and especially not any daughters.

About two years ago I had a bit of a look on Facebook to see if he was there and I found out his wife had recently died. This led to a period of deep dread and panic. What if he tried to contact me now he was alone. What if he just turned up in my life again. I made myself sick over it but like all things it passed.

Just before Christmas I found myself thinking about him again. In periods of stress or anxiety my thoughts stray to him. All my self esteem and self worth is tied up with him, how he parented me and how he treated me.

Since September I have struggled with a low patch, questioning whether I’m a bad person, a bad mum, an awful wife and a terrible friend. This peaked when I started questioning whether I had done wrong by my father as well. Had I escalated the abuse in my mind. Have I made it out to be worse than it was. Have I made my father out to be a villain when he was just a bad Dad. I’ve been asking myself if I’m an awful person with a tendency to exaggerate.

Shame. Guilt. Denial. Feeling like I’ve blown things out of proportion, that I’m the problem and that it’s my perception that’s skewed. That’s the sneaky thing about abuse and abusers. The denial is theirs. Refusal to accept responsibility or acknowledge what they’re doing or have done.

I was sexualised and abused by my father when I was 13 when my mother was in hospital for a prolonged about of time. When I went to visit my mother in hospital she asked me to sleep in his bed with him “he’s lonely”. I complied like a lamb to the slaughter. “Sorry Clair, I just miss your mum” he said afterwards. The humiliation and sexualisation continued in front of my mother until I left home at 17.

I burnt my arm with boiling water at age 15 and had significant burns to most of my right arm. My wounds were treated and dressed in A&E and closely monitored while they healed. I couldn’t get the dressing wet. My father insisted on bathing me. My mother went along with it. It was embarrassing and humiliating and something I still feel deep shame about now.

My father would ask me for hugs and then when I hugged him he would tell me off in front of my mother and brothers for pushing my breasts into him. I was mortified.

I would wake up in the morning with him laying on me telling me how beautiful I was and repeatedly kissing me on the lips. I can’t bear facial hair to this day.

At age 19 my mother left my father. My father was devastated and I thought she might be persuaded to go back to him. I finally told her about the abuse that had taken place 6 years previously. My mother told my father that if he apologised to me she would take him back.

The abuse, the humiliation, the confusion, the emotional pain, the mind games and rejection at the hands of my father were trivialised in that moment. As far as my mother was concerned I was so unimportant in comparison to their relationship that all it would take was a simple apology to clear this up for her. A counsellor once suggested to me that my mother reacted like this because she had known about the abuse all along and had in fact offered me up to take the pressure off herself. I hope that’s not true.

The abuse was real not exaggerated. I was routinely sexualised and humiliated. I went to bed in fear every night that I would sleep too deeply and that he would come in and do things and I wouldn’t know. I barely slept and when I did I wore layers upon layers creating a barrier of clothes.

I need to remind myself daily that I have not blown what happened to me out of proportion and that it wasn’t normal to be made to feel like that in my own home with my parents whose job it was to protect me.

I know when the doubts and the niggles creep in that it’s bullshit. All the terrible things I tell myself aren’t true. Fuck, it’s hard.

Frankie say Relax

Relax? I don’t know how. When I’m sitting on my sofa, which would definitely be in the running for a top prize in the “Most Comfortable Sofa in the World” if such a competition existed, even then I catch myself tensing. Every single muscle in my body is tensed all the time. I wake up with aching arms or cramp in my legs from sleeping bolt straight.

I don’t know how to relax. I don’t know how to relax my body or my mind. I’m constantly doing or thinking. If I’m not doing or thinking then I’m eating. I don’t have time to do everything I want or need to do so I definitely don’t have time to relax. At least that’s what I tell myself.

I thought quitting my job and getting rid of all the external stress from that and from my commute would be the answer and Christmas certainly hasn’t helped in the relaxation department but it’s wasn’t just work. It’s me. I don’t take care of myself. I don’t do self care.

The thought of going up to my bedroom and just laying down is a just not doable. Sitting on the sofa reading a book? Are you kidding? I have an 18 month old baby and CBeebies is on 24/7 (that’s how it feels anyway). Any time I want to take for myself I feel I have to earn or mitigate by doing extra at other times.

Feeling guilty about doing nothing has meant that I’m doing something all of the time. This means I’m switched on all the time. I’m hyper, either excited and buzzing to go or intensely emotional if I’m having an off day. I don’t do calm and gentle. I do everything 100 miles an hour, every hour of every day. It’s not just exhausting for me it’s exhausting for the people around me.

My goal for 2019 is not to do more. I’m not signing up for a dozen races, or taking on loads of training or a super intense exercise plan. I intend to do less. I’m going to slow right down. I’m going to free up more time for doing nothing and in going to teach myself the art of relaxation. I’m going to try a learn meditation. I want to learn how to quiet my mind and make space in my day, my mind and my life for just being, breathing and enjoying.

I’m going to test the less is more theory.

No, that’s not ok.

It’s taken me two months to be able to write about this. I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally or mentally strong enough to come back to this or to deal with it properly.

My youngest son Arthur has been unwell on and off since the summer with one thing and another. In August he was hospitalised with bronchialitis which is fairly common in kids his age.

In September he was unwell again. I recognised the symptoms straight away as another bout of bronchialitis. I telephoned the Doctor’s surgery at 8am.

I got through to the receptionist on my 66th time of calling.

All the appointments had gone and I was told to ring back at 12.30. I told them it was for a 15 month old baby who had recently hospitalised, it didn’t matter they said, ring back at half 12.

I rang back at half twelve and was given an appointment for half four. I rang the surgery again at 1pm because I felt Arthur was getting worse and needed to see the Doctor.

I was put through to speak to the GP who told me I had an appointment in two hours time and if I couldn’t wait to ring an Ambulance.

Arthur wasn’t unwell enough to warrant ringing an ambulance in my opinion. I’ve been a mother for 18 years, I’m fairly responsible, I’d say I was qualified to make that judgement call. I felt at that point that it wasn’t a medical instruction but a challenge. I felt like that the Doctor thought I was being pushy and impatient.

My husband and I got to the GP for our appointment at half four and Arthur was walking around the waiting room chatting and jabbering. The doctor came out and called his name then disappeared. He hadn’t told us what room to go to so I had to ask a member of staff if they’d seen where he’d gone.

When I walked into the examination room I said to the Doctor “it might have been useful if you had told us what room to come to”. It went downhill from there. I had the audacity to challenge the Doctor and he didn’t like it. The Doctor replied “well what if I told you to call an ambulance because I was concerned about this child, what do you say to that”. I said “you had no idea what condition my son was in because you didn’t ask me any questions about his health and you refused to examine him when I asked you to and in my opinion he didn’t need an ambulance he needed to see you so why don’t you examine now instead of point scoring and that’s why we’ve brought him here”

The Doctor then refused to examine Arthur without a chaperone and called the Practice Manager into the consulting room.

My husband told the Doctor he also did not feel Arthur’s condition warranted calling am ambulance and the Doctor then asked him “are you a doctor?”. The GP then decided Arthur did need an ambulance and told my husband that if I had left or any longer Arthur’s condition would have been much more serious.

Lets examine that. I’m there with my husband who has equal parental responsibility but the Doctor tells my husband that I have jeaopardised my son’s health by delaying seeking medical treatment. Despite the fact that I was on the telephone three times that same day practically begging to get him seen.

The Doctor then requested to speak to me alone I refused and asked the Practice Manager to accompany me. The Doctor then informed me he was reporting me to Social Services for neglect, without my husband being present he then further breached confidentiality by telling the two paramedics that arrived that there was “a social services issue with the mother” an unproven allegation which he did not explain to them how or why could impact Arthur’s care.

In my opinion I was punished by a male doctor for daring to challenge him, his position and his judgment. The Doctor maliciously reported me to Social Services for endangering my son.

The impact this has had on my mental health and my family has been immeasurable. The Practice Manager at the time apologised for the Doctors behaviour and promised me he would “be dealt with”.

I wrote a letter of complaint to the Practice Manager and Health Trust and the response I received was that he did nothing wrong and followed protocol.

It’s been seven weeks since he made his referral to Social Services, in the meantime my Health Visitor has reassured me I have nothing to worry about and the hospital said they had no concerns. That hasn’t been enough. I’ve been a parent for 18 years, on my own for 15 of them taking responsibility for all the care and all the decisions. After trying my hardest to seek medical attention for my son I was then accused of child endangerment and neglect.

Seven weeks this has been hanging over me. Seven weeks I haven’t wanted to be left alone with Arthur in case he becomes unwell and I have to make another judgement call and maybe get it wrong. 7 weeks I’ve scrutinised my parenting and wondered if I’m doing a good enough job. This all because, I believe, a male Doctor took exception to being challenged by a woman. At no point did he address or berate my husband for his lack of care and nor was he named in the referral to Social Services despite having equal parental responsibility.

Seven weeks it took Child Services to write me a letter asking me to respond to the allegations. Imagine if Arthur had been in a dangerous home environment, what could have happened in the two months it took them to write to me from receiving the referral.

I finally spoke to Child Services on Friday and the lady I spoke to said that they would support me in taking my complaint further and that as far as they we’re concerned there was no further action needed.

I’m not going to leave it. It’s not okay that this man was able to abuse his professional position and power to put me in my place and try to silence me because I challenged him.

I have been made to feel like a bad mother and a bad person. Immediately, after this event suicidal and felt like my children would be better off without me. I’m lucky that I had the support of my husband and my friends and my health visitor.

I will be writing back to the health trust demanding answers to the questions they ignored and if needs be I will be also be writing to the ombudsman.

The health care in the deprived area in which I live is poor at best. As patients we should be empowered and encouraged to speak out against poor practice and make suggestions for improvements where we see the need, not punished and silenced and be in fear of having our names and families dragged through the mud because we dared to speak out.

We should expect the highest levels of care and professionalism from our Health Care professionals and not fear repurcussions for pointing out failings in the system.

I know I’m a good mum and a good person and I’m not pushing this just for me. I’m pushing it for the next person who maybe isn’t strong enough to stand up and say “No, that’s not ok”.

Here we go again,

Anxiety is proper shit. Right now it’s a tight ball sitting in my stomach and a fast heart rate. Anything can trigger it, sometimes I don’t even know what the trigger is. Tiredness, not feeling well, an argument, worrying that someone is pissed off with me.

I’ve talked about anxiety before because if there’s one thing it does it makes you repetitive. You revisit the same worries time and time again. You go over old ground. Issues that have been discussed to death rear their ugly heads again.

You need reassurance like an addict needs a hit. You hate the hold it has over your emotions and your behaviour because anxiety doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone around you too.

When I’m having a bout of anxiety I examine everything, all my relationships, all my friendships and start scrutinising them. I tell myself that people feel badly about me and I find the evidence to back up my theory which spirals my anxiety even further. I feel like a terrible person and a terrible friend and start worrying I’ll end up alone and with no-one because I’m an awful person who treats people badly and I don’t even realise.

I don’t know how or why they come on but I do know is that anxiety is like any other condition. I’m not always in control of it but I do need to find ways to manage it. This is one of the ways, getting it out of my head and into words. Going to bed early, reading novels and not eating shit also help.

For all my fellow anxiety sufferers, it doesn’t last forever. I go to bed knowing, hoping that I won’t feel like this when I get up tomorrow.

Most importantly though I try to remember that the view from the bottom isn’t the same as the view from the top.

I’m not the problem

I was listening to a discussion about bullying on Friday afternoon. The radio host was asking whether bullying has lasting affects on people from childhood. Different people rang in and discussed their experiences and how it had impacted their lives into adulthood.

It was heartbreaking listening to people talk about how their lives had been affected by the cruelty and violence of others and it was especially difficult to listen to one lady who had been bullied first by her parents, then her schoolmates and most recently her co-workers.

It was hard to listen to Jeremy Vine, the host explain why he had been bullied. Vine explained how he was tall, skinny and bit of a nerd, that he was clever and different. That was his explanation of why he was bullied.

I was bullied. I wasn’t bullied because I had moved here from England or because I had an English accent and the bullies decided I was a stuck up bitch. I wasn’t bullied because I was different. I was bullied because the girls and boys who bullied me thought it was okay. They came from families where aggression and violence were normal and accepted. The bullies had not been taught right from wrong. They had not been shown how to treat others with respect and kindness.

It was nothing about me and everything about them.

I remember quite recently my daughter being bullied because she has moles on her face and neck. Someone suggested that she could have them removed.

I had to explain to my daughter that the flaws were not her moles but they were flaws that can’t be seen, inside the people who were making the cruel comments. I explained that she could have painful cosmetic procedures but it wouldn’t change a thing. If people want to bully or be cruel they will just pick something else. The colour of your hair, the size of your body or the sound of your voice. The thing is not the problem. The problem is something inside them.

I’ve been bullied as an adult by other adults but the benefit of being older means that I now realise that there is nothing wrong with me. The person bullying me has a need to bring me down, a desire to make me feel unworthy and less than I am. Imagine being so unhappy that you need to make others feel as unhappy as you.

If you are being bullied please don’t change yourself to appease the bully. You are worthy.

And we’re off!

Writing is my therapy

I love writing I love it so much. I find it cathartic and useful. Writing stuff down that usually lives in my head helps me make sense of it.

Sometimes life is overwhelming, sometimes my brain is overwhelming. I’m a classic over thinker and I analyse every word spoken to me searching for subtle meaning or motive. It’s exhausting. All the scratchy spaghetti mixed up feelings come out in nice neat words that sit in organised sentences that can be arranged so they make sense.

Oversharing, me?

I’m also addicted to sharing. Some people might say I over share. There is a satisfaction and sense of well being I can only get from writing.

I’ve spent so much of my life not knowing what career I wanted and not sure what I was actually any good at but I always knew I had a way with words and I was always the one asked to write the reports, the applications, the newsletters or the social media posts in any job I had.

I finally know what I’m meant to be doing

Combining my love of sharing and writing has led me to copywriting. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t know) copywriting is writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. Copy, is written content to increase brand awareness and like all marketing, persuade a person or group to take a particular action.

Clair the Copywriter

I’ve listened to Chris Evans on Radio 2 most mornings for the last 6 years and he always says “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” and I always wanted that for myself. With this in mind I have decided to start my own business as a freelance copywriter.

I don’t give up

I don’t believe most new start ups are destined to fail, you only fail when you give up. I know who I want to write for, it’s people like me. People who are passionate about living the life they want, being brave and who are determined to give it everything they’ve got to make it work. That’s my ethos and with that in mind I’ve decided to call it Up Write. I want to raise people up with my writing, I want to help them increase their business using my words and their feelings.

It’s personal to me

I also don’t believe business isn’t personal. People buy from people. When it’s your own business it’s extremely personal. I don’t do impersonal or formal. I do engaging, emotive and personable.

Welcome to Up Write

https://www.facebook.com/upwriteonline/

You’re not the Boss of me

Being real is what I’m best at. I’m down to earth, genuine and sincere. Sometimes I over promise. Sometimes I get it wrong and a lot of times I try to please everyone and almost everytime end up upsetting someone.

I’m not a mean person or a malicious person. I try to be considerate and kind but sometimes I’m self absorbed and selfish.

I’m on a journey at the moment that is both terrifying and exciting all at the same time. I want to be self employed. Be my own boss. I want to do a job that absolutely thrills me and that job is writing. It means I’m having to take a really hard look at myself and see what I’m good at and what needs working on. It’s not an easy process but it’s a valuable one.

I’ve been in love with words since I was a child. At the age of 8 I read Roald Dahl’s Matilda in one sitting in a library in Bristol. I consumed books like Matilda did. Then I started writing stories and I loved that too. I like writing about real things and real people and feelings.

I’m currently working out my offer. What can I do and who can I do it for. I usually dive in to things feet first. I’m an action girl – do now, think later but this time I’m taking my time. I’m planning, I’m thinking. I want to make sure this works, so that when I sail away from the safety of the shore I’ve crewed my boat well enough to weather the storms.

I’m going to be an awesome boss. I’ve already decided I’m employee of the month.

It’s the small things, and the 3 piece

I get attached to things. Like really attached. Here’s an example. The sofa is going today. I’ve had this sofa over ten years.

This is the same sofa I’ve sat on day in and day out for a decade. I shared this sofa with my son when he was still small enough to want to sit right by me and have my arms around him. We watched films together, we talked about how he was feeling when he was being bullied in Primary school and agreed how to deal with it.

As a baby, my daughter slept next to me on the sofa while I watched TV. The kids fought on that sofa.

I was a single parent of a baby and an 8 year old. My relationship had just broken down and I was starting all over again. Thankfully I’d found somewhere for us to rent and it was part furnished. We didn’t have a lot but we had something to sit on.

That sofa wasn’t just a peice of furniture it was our new start. It was somewhere I shared precious time with my children, problems were shared and solved, secrets were revealed and I had one of my last cuddles with big dog on that couch. It’s a small thing and a big thing at the same time. I attach importance and feelings to inanimate objects. I believe that everything has an energy and a memory. That might sound airy fairy but I like to think that sofa knows what an important role it played in our family. When you have nothing, two small kids and no money things like having a sofa hold huge importance.

Today we’ve been gifted a new sofa. Not new from the shop but new for us. Our old sofa with its broken arms and cushions that have given way, will go to the tip. It’s at least twenty years old. Hopefully the new sofa will no longer mean drawing the short straw to see who has to put their hand down the hole to retrieve the remote control or fight over who has to sit on the collapsed end.

Yes. This is a blog post about a sofa but it’s also a blog post about being grateful for the small things and realising how much joy and love you have in your life. Saying goodbye (literally, I will cry too) to the sofa today has made me think about how far my family has come, together, how happy we are and how much love we have for each other.

Thank you sofa.