It’s a sin

So nearly a year after It’s a Sin was released in the UK, I have finally watched it. For those of you who haven’t watched it, it’s a drama set in the 80’s in London about the lives of a group of gay men and their friends during the HIV/AIDS crisis.

To be honest I must have missed all the hype when it was released as I only recently heard about it but then again, this time last year, I had a lot of stressful things going on. I also wasn’t sure if it would be my cup of tea as I knew it was going to be sad and I often watch light-hearted programmes or comedies as a way of switching off. However, after being told how good it was, I braced myself for tears and gave it a go. Within minutes I was hooked and ended up binge watching the entire series!

I loved the characters and thought the actors were incredible, I loved the music and thought it was very well written. You had a sense of how much fun they had and the true friendships that were made during this time and I envied them. Don’t get me wrong I obvious don’t envy the darker side of the story, in fact I found it heart-breaking to watch.

This killer disease that seemed to appear out of nowhere that was only affecting gay men was bound to cause huge controversy for everybody. Like the character Ritchie (played by Olly Alexander) I can see how you wouldn’t believe it and would think it has been made up as a gay disease. However, very quickly it seemed to be affecting more and more people as friends and colleagues went home never to be seen again.

When one character, Colin (played by Callum Scott Howells), became ill it was devastating as he was such a shy and reserved man who had lived a more reserved life in comparison to his friends. I loved his Mum though who despite living in remote Wales and no doubt being even less aware of gay life she stood by him throughout his illness with absolutely no judgement, it was clear that she loved her son unconditionally.

Of course, I believe all parents should love their children unconditionally, but this isn’t the case and nor was it with Ritchie’s Mum who prevented him from being with his friends and boyfriend whilst he was dying despite him asking for him and even worse, he died on his own. Quite rightly Jill who was his best friend told Ritchie’s Mum that it was her fault that he was on his own when it died, and I can’t imagine the pain she must have felt knowing she was staying nearby at the time.

I thought Jill (played by Lydia West) was an amazing woman! She stood by all her friends, was an HIV/AIDS activist and spent a lot of time visiting gay men who were dying in hospital alone. I take my hat off to her. Jills character was based on the life of Jill Nalder who played Jills Mum Christine, in the series. I wonder how she felt filming the series, I imagine she may have found it rather emotional, but she made a massive difference to the lives of gay men and their families.

Unsurprisingly the first episode was watched by over 1.6 million viewers which shortly went up to more than 18.9 million. Which made it more surprising when I discovered that originally Channel 4 refused to produce it. To me, there’s nothing in the series that shouldn’t be watched by anyone…we’re in 2022 for goodness sake! Surely by now, everyone is aware of HIV/AIDS and different sexualities??

For anyone who still struggles to get their head around sexuality other than heterosexuality, it isn’t a choice, no matter what you believe. Just like our eye colour, ethnicity and skin colour, sexuality is not a choice, it’s who we are. The only reason people may question or fight it is due to fear. Fear of judgement, fear of losing ‘friends’ or ‘family’, fear of never having children.

The best thing we can do for future generations is to normalise different sexualities from birth so that they are aware of it and know it’s accepted. Surely the most important thing is for our children to feel loved and supported no matter who they are.

‘It’s the season of love and understanding…’

It’s one of my favourite times of the year and so much more magical having 2 little girls who believe in the magic of Santa!

We’ve been singing and dancing to Christmas songs for the past few weeks and our favourites include Last Christmas, All I want for Christmas is you and Merry Christmas Everyone!!

However, I have often felt that the build up to Christmas starts earlier every year and by November everywhere you turn you will see or hear something to do with Christmas. Most adverts on television are to do with Christmas, there are Christmas songs playing wherever you go, and people are posting about all their festive plans on social media.

Now whilst I do love Christmas, I can’t help but feel that with all this comes a certain amount of pressure or expectations about what you should be doing at Christmas, how much you should spend on food and presents and this idea that everyone is surrounded by large family and continual social gatherings. Whilst this may be true for some, it certainly isn’t true for everyone.

This time of year may be hard for some people due to varying circumstances…. not everyone can afford a luxury Christmas and there will be parents who hope that their children aren’t hoping for an expensive present from Santa. There will be those who don’t have family or friends, those who may have lost loved ones or who can’t go and be with their loved ones.

Yet for those people they can’t avoid Christmas (well not easily) even if they wanted to. It is all to easy to get wrapped up in our own busyness after all most of us have lots of things to do at this time of year on top of all the usual jobs.

However, it’s worth taking a minute to think about those who may not be looking forward to Christmas and take the time to reach out to them. You’d be surprised at what could make a difference to someone and how a small act of kindness can mean a lot to someone. It could be something as small as smiling at someone, wishing them a Merry Christmas, sending someone a message to let them know that you are thinking of them, asking if there’s anything you can do, posting someone a card or giving someone a gift.

I also feel that it is important to never assume that people are busy or that you would be disturbing them or that you are too busy to find time to check in on someone. I would imagine that something as simple as sending someone a message will always be appreciated, even if you don’t get a reply and we all know how easy and quick it is to send messages these days. In less than the time it takes to make a drink you can send someone a message.

I am surprised and somewhat saddened that Covid appears to have divided people more than brought people together and that there seems to be less of a community spirit. We never know what is going on for someone and now more than ever I believe it is important to look out for one another. I don’t like to think of anyone feeling sad or finding life hard and although I know that I can’t change peoples lives, I like to try and do what I can to at least put a smile on someone’s face.

What means the most to me at this time of year is spending time with loved ones…there were so many Christmases where I didn’t get that opportunity so now, I make the most of it.

So, whilst you’re putting your feet up with a glass of something or in the middle of baking yet another batch of mince pies, it would be nice to consider those around you or to check in on that friend or family member who may not be finding the festive period as fun and exciting.

In the words of Shakin’ Stevens, ‘it’s the season of love and understanding, Merry Christmas everyone!’

Birthday…

So last week was my birthday and I wasn’t particularly excited about it as I didn’t have anything exciting planned (and I wasn’t keen on hitting 35!).

However, I woke up to discover it was snowing and it looked beautiful as the snowflakes were falling and I couldn’t help thinking that it was my Grandads way of saying Happy Birthday as he knew how much I love snow. It’s been years since its snowed on my birthday, so it felt rather special. Before it was time to do the school run there was just about enough snow to have a snowball fight with my girls which was a giggle although despite it being Mummy’s birthday, they both still got me!!!

Then I had 2 clients to see but I knew that we can’t always have our birthday off, I guess I have been spoilt in recent years having not worked since I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. I couldn’t help recalling 2 years ago when I woke up in a lovely hotel in Prague where I was served prosecco with my breakfast and last year despite being in ‘tiers’ we still made the most of it by going to the beach and paddling!

However, as I drove back from seeing my clients, I couldn’t help but feel honoured to be training to be a counsellor. One of my clients had shared something with me that they had never felt able to share with anyone before and I was incredibly touched and honoured. Some of my peers from my course said that they would have been honest with their clients and told them it was their birthday but I’m not one for drawing attention to myself and I wouldn’t have wanted it to affect their session e.g., if they then felt unable to share anything less than pleasant.

My day was broken up by having a birthday lunch with my Mum which was lovely as I don’t often get chance to spent quality time with her without my girls.

I then had to go to college which I wasn’t thrilled by purely as this meant that I wouldn’t see my girls as they would be asleep by the time, I got home but being the big kid that I am I decided to have a birthday tea the following day…mainly so that my girls could blow out candles! A few of us managed to sneak away early from college and went into a tipi bar for a couple of drinks which was a lovely way to end the day.

My eldest daughter kept asking how old I was, and she rolled her eyes every time I tried to convince her I was 8 or 21 as she didn’t believe me!! So, once she knew I was 35 she was determined to put 35 candles in the cake!! Fortunately, my Mum convinced her not to put that many candles in the cake but there must have been more than 20!!

If it wasn’t enough that my daughter kept asking how old I was my wonderful best friend (are you sensing the sarcasm?!) kept rubbing it in that I was now a year older than her (for the next 6 months) and that I was now in my MID thirties meanwhile she is still in her early thirties!!! Fortunately, we have known each other that long that we can take the mickey out of each other and know that we love each other really.

So, all in all it was a lovely birthday and I felt very lucky to have some special people in my life!

Making memories…

I am currently on holiday with my little girls and with it being the last holiday before my eldest daughter starts school, I am focused even more than ever on cherishing every minute and making memories as a family. Of course, there will be plenty more opportunities to do this throughout their childhood, this feels like a momentous moment before one of my eldest’s first big milestones in life.

For my girls, this week marks more cherished moments together as well as a family. I love nothing more than seeing the smiles on their faces, hearing them giggling and seeing how carefree and happy they are. They are both still so innocent and that is priceless.

Sometimes I wish I could record every moment of their lives so that I could remember every moment because it goes so fast. They are both growing up so quickly and becoming unique individuals.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just press pause sometimes to hold on to the here and now?!

Being away gives us the chance to fully embrace time together without all the distractions of everyday life from the phone calls to the washing up, washing, shopping, cooking, cleaning…the list goes on.

I know I say ‘in a minute’ or ‘Mummy’s busy’ far too often to my girls when I am trying to prepare tea and put the washing out and wash up all at the same time or similar daily chores.

However, I can’t beat myself up about it because I also know how much quality time my girls do get with me. Not a night goes by without me reading them a bedtime story, singing to them, and giving them oodles of cuddles and love.

You can’t put a price on the love you feel as a mother and being able to have time away with them is incredibly special.

Despite taking some photo’s, I’ve not taken 1000’s because it’s also been nice to not have to carry my phone with me all the time and instead of taking photos to capture our holiday and memories, having the memories just for myself.

Making memories with those that you love and treasure …is incredibly precious. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg or involve anything extravagant, just spending time doing something fun together is all that matters.

Some of the best memories so far this week have included going on adventures without clock watching and being able to fully embrace those moments, whilst having both girls holding my hands, knowing that it won’t be that long in the scheme of things before they won’t want to hold my hand anymore.

Having people in your life that you can laugh with, be silly with, have fun with and share a hug with are those that matter most!

I can’t remember the last time I was able to take the girls away on my own for a week, it was definitely pre-Covid!

So far, it has been amazing, we have made lots of memories and I am looking forward to more holidays with the most precious little people in my world!

The best man in the world…

This week marks 6 years since I lost the most precious and amazing man in my life….my Grandad. We were incredibly close, and he was the only man in my life, in many respects he was a father figure as well as a Grandfather.

I have so many happy memories of him…

He always always shared everything he ate with me; I think it was one of his ways of showing his love and affection. Like a mother bird feeding a baby bird! And of course, his food always tasted better than mine even if it was the same! From giving me a quarter of his toasted tea cake to tearing a packet fully open so we could share his Walkers prawn cocktail crisps!

As a little girl he took me everywhere with him on the back of his bicycle and I often joined him in the village when he went for his morning coffee.

He introduced me to a British comedy classic – Fawlty Towers and did a very good impression of Basil Fawlty! We must have watched every episode of Dad’s Army and we often used one of its famous sayings…’Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring!’

Every time I saw him, we had to do the crossword together out the newspaper or the word wheel and of course play at least one game of scrabble with a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit or two!

My Grandad had a great sense of humour and in his later years used to great me by honking a bicycle horn he kept on his table.

His house was always immaculate (as was he) and he could spot a crumb, dirt, or speck of dust a mile off! I take my hat off to him for his dedication to keeping his house so spotless especially cleaning the washing machine after every use (I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned the washing machine!).

He was a keen gardener and took pride in his garden which included keeping his hedges trimmed and if one little shoot appeared out of place it would get snipped! He even trimmed a bush into the shape of a rabbit which remained by his front door all those years.

I love the fact that he would never leave the house without his favourite aftershave on, his hair sprayed and without smart trousers, a shirt, tie, and traditional jacket.

He cycled everywhere until he could no longer, and you knew when he had arrived at the house from the sound of his bell!

My fasciation of World War II and the Titanic come from my Grandad as does my love of Malta as he often went there, and I was lucky enough to go with him. This is one of the reasons that me and my Mum want to go back.

My Grandad was incredibly loving, kind, generous and had a heart of gold. In all honesty I do not think he had a bad bone in his body and never recall him ever getting angry. His love was without a doubt completely unconditional.

I am so lucky to have had him in my life and only wish that he could have met my girls as I know he would have adored them as would they. He was an amazing Grandad and would have been an equally amazing Great-Grandad.

Over the past few years, I have reminisced and carried guilt about things I could have done differently or wishing I had spent more time with him or told him I loved him more, but I know that I cannot undo the past.

If I had had a boy, I always wanted to name them after him but as I had two girls, I decided to pay tribute to him and so my youngest daughters middle name is Josephine (as my Grandad was Joseph).

Every time I see a robin, I think it’s my Grandad who has come to say hello (I know no everyone will believe in this but each to their own) and so I will say hello!

I still miss him very much, but I have lots of happy memories to share with my girls and they will grow up knowing all about him and of course they will learn how to play Scrabble!  

Scrabble!

Pride month

When I think of pride, I think of Pride festivals…. I remember going to the very first Pride in Hull which was held 20 years ago. I cannot believe I was only 14! We marched through the streets of Hull, and I remember feeling liberated and happy to be part of this occasion. However, it was tainted for me by a member of the public who decided to hurl abuse at us. Maybe this is why I didn’t return to Hull Pride again until 2 years ago when I went with my best friend and our girls. I love the fact that she was happy to come with me and did not care what people thought. Due to Covid restrictions it wasn’t held last year and has sadly been cancelled again this year, but fingers crossed it will return next year.

I clearly wasn’t put off Pride festivals as I decided to be a rebel and went to London Pride aged 16 on my own!!! I didn’t know anyone who was going or in fact anyone who lived in London but that didn’t put me off. I think I would be more anxious now but then I just went to enjoy the atmosphere, be surrounded by like-minded people and to have a good time.

I know that times have changed (well…mostly) and that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is more widely accepted but I still find it hard. Being a lesbian is a part of me, but it does not define who I am.

I first knew I was a lesbian when I was 14 years old but going back 20 years the internet wasn’t how it is today so I couldn’t google, ‘am I a lesbian?’ or find support easily. Being home educated and not seeing many people my own age didn’t help either. I remember being told as a teenager that being a lesbian was no doubt a phase. I struggled not having people to mix with or talk to about it and ended up turning to the internet to try and find people.

It is funny what seems important to us as teenagers/young adults and for as long as I can remember I knew that I wanted children. At that time, I also dreamed of a white wedding and being the blushing bride. At a time where it was difficult to meet people and knowing that I wanted to ‘fit’ in caused me internal conflict which led to some dark times. I spent a few years trying to convince myself that I was straight, telling myself it would be ok as I would ‘fit’ in and could be the blushing bride and have children.

And I ended up meeting someone who I was in a relationship with for quite awhile during that time and he was lovely, the perfect gentleman. I knew I loved him but more like a brother or a best friend than anything else. This made it easier in a way as I genuinely enjoyed his company and my family adored him, but it was also hard, as despite my best efforts I could not live a lie and so I had to end the relationship. By the age of 21 I could not hide the fact I was a lesbian any longer despite knowing at the time that this meant forgoing the possibility of being the blushing bride and not knowing if I would be able to have children.

I am pleased that I had the strength to follow my heart despite it not being the easiest decision.

For some reason I still find it hard to be open about my sexuality which in a way frustrates me as I know in the past it has become more of an issue because I have tried to hide it. I know this is because I am afraid of judgement. Although I know that I would not want to be friends with people who are homophobic I also like to be liked.

When I was married, I used to struggle when people asked me what my husband was called or what he did and so I used to talk about them as ‘they’ to try and avoid the fact that I actually had a wife. Starting a new life, after leaving my abusive relationship, has given me opportunities to change how I present myself and so I am trying to be more open and honest with people. So when people assume that because I have children I must have been with a man or that I only came out after having children, I correct them.

I sometimes wonder if people would make the same assumptions if I looked like a lesbian – not that I am saying there is a look, but I know some people assume that all lesbians are butch and so because I am feminine people may assume that I am not a lesbian.

Now that life is returning to some sort of normality I would like to try and meet new people but when it comes to joining events, I get nervous and despite wanting to go I struggle to put myself out there, after all, who knows what opportunities there may be or who I may meet. I know this is something that I need to get over and I would like to learn to be proud of who I am.

I truly hope that people are becoming more accepting, open minded and less judgemental. I remember someone saying that the worst thing that could happen to their child is if they were gay, I wholeheartedly disagree. As a parent, I hope that my daughters will be happy in their own skin, and I will love them regardless of their sexuality.

After all,….