The Funeral: Part One

It was a day like no other.

Given her long-term health problems, I had often wondered what Aunt Maisie’s funeral would look like. For such an obstinate woman, she was remarkably popular – as, for reasons I don’t fully comprehend, the entire McFaul clan seem to similarly regarded. Perhaps it’s a rural thing; they seem to know everyone within at least a 10 mile radius, and know them well at that. Me, I’ve never even spoken to my next door neighbours.

Maisie’s funeral service was conducted at her home. Hotel California is situated along a dark and relatively quiet stretch of road a few miles outside a small town. As you approach, you crest a hill, which is about 1,000 feet from the house. As A and I rolled up said mount, with the unfamiliar-to-the-place Eimear following us, we were dumbstruck by the sight that greeted us.

Nearly an hour before the start of the service, a line of cars was parked from the entrance to the house right back to us. There were police cones on the other side of the road, in place to prevent mourners from parking there as well. I was stunned when I realised there was even a cop car, ensconced in which were two officers, waiting in preparation for the events about to transpire.

As I got out of my car, I shook my head in disbelief. Not that I care that much, since by that juncture I’ll be dead, but I wondered briefly if I could hope to have even a quarter of this turnout at my funeral. I concluded that this was, in technical terms, Not Bloody Likely.

We waited for Eimear, and as a trio duly proceeded towards the house. Strangely, the vast yard that surrounds it was mostly devoid of cars (save for those of the immediate family) – it turned out, of course, that this was to accommodate the hearse, and the mourners’ cars which would be arriving to cart Paedo, my mother and aunts, and Maisie’s vast entourage of descendants to the cemetery, its gaping six-foot hole for Maisie waiting patiently to be filled.

I made the initial mistake of trying to get in through the front door. There wasn’t even standing room in either of the two rooms onto which the small hall leads. Some random old git offered to try to shift people around in a bid to accommodate us, but I thanked him and demurred, deciding to go around the back. People were randomly standing about in the yard, most of whom could have been Lord fucking Lucan for all I knew them (or perhaps not, since Lord Lucan’s smug face is not exactly an image unfamiliar to the world). I ignored them, and shoved the back door open.

Fortunately for me, my mother was standing in the back hall. I was perturbed to observe Georgie, Aunt of Evil, standing in close proximity, but I ignored her and reached to embrace my mother. Praise merciful God/Allah/Dawkins/Flying Spaghetti Monster: my mother decided to come outside, and free me from the burden of having to stand in such a cramped and oppressive atmosphere.

Frankly, I remember few – if any – of the words spoken between us for some time. I think Eimear, who is what may be politely termed a ‘motormouth’, stepped in to speak of the various inanities of which she is usually full. I lit up a fag and stared at my (new) shoes (new shoes! NEW SHOOOOOES! Did anyone else like Twin Peaks?), desperately wishing the whole sorry thing would just be fucking over.

“Oh!” exclaimed my mother after 20,000 years. “It’s the ladies!”

I looked up, aghast. ‘The ladies’ is a euphemism for my mother’s golf club acquaintances. Aside from converse with Aunt of Evil, the last thing I wanted to deal with was these women. Some of them are nice, genuinely, but several conform perfectly to the traditional golfing stereotypes: gossipy, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, look-at-me-and-my-perfect-hair. There was one there in particular that, although admittedly she and my mother get on reasonably well, I felt was in attendance for the sole purpose of relaying events to her little cronies (Daniel: you know of whom I type).

Unusually, my mother was not horrified that these women had ‘caught’ me smoking (I’m nearly 30, for Christ’s sake!); not surprisingly, she had more important things on her mind. That said, we had been at a funeral of another member of the golf club – a good friend of my mother’s, actually – a few years ago when the subject of baptism curiously and inexplicably came up. As I went to proffer the view that this was a load of shit and that I was grateful that my parents had not presumptuously forced my infant self through the silly process, my mother kicked me under the table, and said, “oh yes, Pandora was christened in such-and-such a Church.” I remember shooting her a look of abject disgust and anger.

Anyway. As if this wasn’t going to be long enough without silly tangential musings. In the spirit of politeness and occasion, I made small-talk with a few of the assembled golfers (of whom, it turned out in the end, there were something like 10 or 12). When one, let’s call her Amy, pulled me aside and said, “Pandora. Congratulations!”, I felt the familiar tug of paranoid anxiety grip me.

“Congratulations?”

“Yes – you know, for your internet writing. You were nominated for an award for it, were you not?”

“Oh yes. That,” I said, feigning a casual shrug.

“Yes, that! Brilliant!”

“Thanks. I didn’t win it, mind you,” I lied. I looked into the woman’s fucking eyes and lied.

“But it doesn’t matter,” she returned, the cause for her emphasis of the word ‘matter’ being the source of some puzzlement to me. “Just being nominated…that’s amazing. Really well done,” she purred, continuing – as is her wont, to be fair – to overemphasise words of little import.

I smiled bashfully, and once again thanked the Flying Spaghetti Monster when someone else just then butted in. I know it’s my fault that Mum found out about the awards ceremony, but in the name of retaining my anonymity – or, more accurately, in the name of protecting everyone else in this so-called life of mine from the sordid truths of said existence – I wished with a fervent passion that she’d not gone around telling everyone she knows. Even the fucking McFauls know about it, and half of this fucking blog is about them!

My relief was short-lived, however, as Aunt of Evil exited the back door and proceeded in the direction of our little splinter group.

She came up to my mother, and prodded her about something. Facing her – literally facing her – became unavoidable. I took a deep breath and nodded at her. “Georgie,” I acknowledged.

“Pandora,” she returned nervously. “A.” At least she had the grace to be embarrassed. A muttered some sort of equally-anxious response.

And, for then at least, that was that. I waited a few minutes in order to feign a politic exit, then told my mother that I wished to observe Maisie’s body.

She led me in, fighting her way through about 4,028,374 (living) bodies, all gathered in one sodding room. She tactfully opened the door to where Maisie lay, and let A and I squeeze through it.

I mentioned in my last post in this series that when Mum and I had seen Maisie’s body at the cuntspital that she looked surprisingly alive, as though she were merely sleeping. I also said that I don’t normally think that about corpses. Here is where my more standard thinking in this arena came back to reality, slapping me like a wet fish around the jowls as it did: Maisie looked fucking horrendous.

The undertakers had tried to do her make-up to exacting standards, but the biology of death dictated that they would fail in their noble endeavour. Her lips, even through her lipstick, were black. Her chin, rigid as it was in its deceased state, seemed to sag beyond her head like some rancid piece of meat. She had one of those expressions that elderly people in care homes who are devoid of teeth are often seen to sport. I won’t say that I was horrified, because I’ve had enough exposure to dead bodies to know what to expect. But, despite having that awareness on a sort of intellectual level, I was…disappointed, I suppose. She looked so fundamentally unlike herself that I couldn’t help but feel sorry that this was going to be everyone’s last image of her.

Like I had in the hospital, I kissed her(/the corpse – it really wasn’t her) on the forehead, and mumbled something or other. I think it was something like, “sleep well,” which is a fucking stupid thing to say. I had, however, said it many times: Alter Ego was fawning around her Facebook account (in between a myriad of deactivations of same) uttering such things and generally behaving like a normal person who’d been genuinely bereaved. Am I bereaved? Was I? Yes, Maisie was a constant in my life, and yes, she was never personally unpleasant to me…but it was so bloody complicated. Do I, will I, miss her – miss her as a niece would normally miss her previously omnipresent aunt? I truly don’t know the answer to that even now, a month after her demise.

By the time we left the body, the service was almost upon us. My mother negotiated her way through the preposterous crowd towards the living room, from which the same old prick of a minister we’d met on the Wednesday was to conduct the service. I tried to get away, but my mother insisted that she wanted me with her, which was fair enough. Pursuant to that, of course, I wanted A with me, which wasn’t entirely fair on the poor sod: I’m not the only one in the relationship that has a distinct and, at times, overwhelming crowd phobia.

I sort of stood in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. One of Aunt of Boredom’s (AKA Maureen’s) two sons stood to my right, with some geezer I didn’t know in front of him. My mother was directly in front of me; Georgie was to her right. Beyond my mother, Suzanne and Student – Maisie’s granddaughters – sat on the edge of the sofa. I couldn’t see any of my (first) cousins, nor did I observe Paedo. But then, the place was that packed that spotting a cunting elephant wouldn’t have been easy.

Somebody thrust an order of service into my hands. Initially askance at this – we had to fucking sing?! – I melted a bit when I saw the picture they’d placed on the front of the document. It was a good photo of Maisie, insofar as such things exist. She was not, in her latter years, an attractive woman – but she looked so happy in this picture. More than that, she looked maternal, loving and – and it pains me to use this word – sweet.

It reminded me of the good things about her: her generosity, her understanding of the many difficulties I’ve faced (well. That she knows of..!), her willingness to put herself out for me (and my abject failure to ever return that favour), the silly yet weirdly (in retrospect) endearing way she’d always insist on you having “another wee cup of tea” before you left Hotel California. I looked at it, and tears pricked my eyes. As they do as I type this.

I tried to avoid looking at the image for the rest of the day, but I failed miserably. Every time I fought to avoid it, my gaze seemed to involuntarily fall upon it. And every time that it did, I felt that little more sad, that little more regretful. I could have done more. I could have been less negative. Yes, my aunt had bad streaks – but, like I am wont to do with many people, it struck me each and every time I saw her smiling face on that silly piece of paper that I failed (and fail) to see the good that was virtually punching me in the face. And I could have done more.

The service began with a desultory warbling of some hymn or other. For whatever reason, I can’t remember what that was; I do remember that proceedings ended with Amazing Grace, apparently a favourite of Maisie’s, but whatever this was I’ve no idea. In fact, aside from a few instances which I shall henceforth relate, I don’t remember a great deal of the service. Frankly, I don’t think I was missing much, but perhaps it is churlish to say that.

The minister prattled on about how we should be comforted by God’s amazing love and all the usual shite that the clergy bring out verbatim at funerals. He even sounded like he was on stage – on stage, and acting poorly. They (whoever ‘they’ are – not TheyThey‘, thank fuck) say that the sign of a bad actor is knowing that he or she is acting, and so it was with our dear friend here. I do remember that I actively didn’t listen to most of this, because (a) I don’t agree with a single fucking word and (b) I’ve heard it all, so many times, before.

As I felt his predictable little voice evanesce away from my ears, an odd thing happened. For want of fixating on something that wasn’t him, my mind punished me by looking at that bloody picture. And I cried. Not “wah wah wah! *sob sob sob*!”, thank…well, thank whatever you damn well like – but tears were there, in a relatively constant stream. The strangest thing about this was that, for possibly the first time in my life – my entire life, not just my adulthood – I did absolutely nothing to fight them.

I remember thinking at one point, “at least they’ll know I’m genuinely grieving,” though (a) I don’t know who ‘they’ were supposed to be (again, not They ‘They’, who would have found the whole thing terribly entertaining had they been in situ), and (b) as discussed above, I don’t know that I am genuinely grieving. Further, the thinking of such thoughts shows clear manipulation. If that was my view, then I wasn’t exactly crying for my own benefit, was I? I was crying for appearances. That is reprehensible beyond any measurable scale. In my defence, the tears were involuntary, but it strikes me that perhaps my failure to do anything about them was a cynical ploy. And that – using someone’s death to appear more human (despite my recent rant about that usage of that word – see me and my bloody self-contradictions/hypocrisy?!) – that sickens even me. Maybe (Old)VCB was right when she diagnosed me with BPD.

Ballrootvicar bollocksed on for three more centuries during which I continued to ignore him with stubborn defiance – but when I heard my mother’s name mentioned somewhere on the periphery of my hearing, I turned my attention back to the man. In whatever eulogy he was attempting to perform, he was mentioning the grief of those family members closest to Maisie. When he got round to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I saw the shoulders of both Student and Suzanne shake piteously. I shed a tear for them, briefly, then watched in some perplexity as Suzanne supportively rubbed Student’s back.

Deep breath. This is hard for me to admit, but I’m going to do it. I felt something that I’ve almost never felt in this sort of context; I felt envy. I envied their closeness, and lamented my distance from it. They are not just cousins; they’re properly family, which to them trumps all. However, more importantly to me, is that they’re not just cousins/family; they’re friends. For those fleeting seconds, I longed so deeply for the comfort and unabated joy of friendship, for ordinary platonic love. I have no ‘real life’ female friends, something that has never bothered me in my life to date. I’m not even sure that it was their shared gender and its more-customary-than-mine female expression (#feminismfail there, Pan) that bothered me; it was simply that I had no friends there with me. Oh, yes, Mum and A were there – but Mum had her own grieving to do, and much as I love A and feel that he is a friend as well as a lover, the relationship is by necessity different from pure, simple friendship.

Daniel lives in England, and even though he left Northern Ireland nearly a decade ago, I miss him every day. Brian and Aaron do live here, but – and mainly through faults of my own, I confess – I rarely see them. Neither of them would have come to Maisie’s funeral even if I saw them every day anyway, and neither would I have expected it of them. If anything, I found it a little odd that so many of Mum’s friends attended, yet here I am whining about having had none of my own.

Whatever the case, I envied my cousins(-once-removed) and their innate understanding of how each other felt, and though I could probably not be good friends with either of them – whilst I like them, and believe that’s mutual, we are too different to ever be close – I desperately wanted a piece of what they had that day, and was briefly overcome with the greatest void of loneliness I’ve ever known. It is often said that it’s eminently possible to feel despairing, gut-wrenching loneliness whilst in a room full of people. I have never seen a more quintessential instance of that dictum.

This is turning into an epic self-pity-party. To get back to the logistics of the event, at some point the random bloke standing to my right was invited to speak. It turned out that he was the “Pastor” from Suzanne’s Church.

Suzanne, rather unfortunately, is a Presbyterian. Any of you familiar with the denomination will probably have guessed where this is going.

He spoke with the casual but wholly palpable arrogance that I’ve always associated with plane hijackers about hell, fire, brimstone – and how an all-loving God will burn you in agony for an eternity if you don’t submit to his narcissism. Now, let me clear something up here: I know there are Christians that read this blog, and I apologise for any offence I’m causing in this rant. Despite not agreeing with you, I have nothing per se against religion, Christianity included: it is this warped, horrible version of it that grates on me so. I don’t believe in God, obviously, but if He does exist, I can’t believe that the fuckwittery of this brand of Presbyterianism can be true. A loving, benevolent force as exemplified through Christ is not the God of which these people speak. I wished, not for the first time, that I came from a Catholic background.

You know, that’s kind of amusing in a dark way. Factions of the McFaul dynasty are viciously (and contemptibly) sectarian – notably ScumFan, but not just him. I have attempted on innumerate occasions to convince the boy that this whole Catholic/Protestant divide in Northern Ireland is an absolute load of bollocks, and whilst he hears the words and occasionally makes vague gestures of agreement, he doesn’t listen. And that brings me to what I find funny about the whole thing: if, say, ScumFan happened upon this blog and read about what his grandfather had done to me as a kid, I don’t know what he’d do. However, if he happened upon it and saw the words, “I wish I’d been born a Catholic”, I can almost guarantee that he’d disown me. Pathetic, isn’t it? I love this little country, truly I do – but I detest that that will always be an entrenched part of its heritage.

Anyway, this knobhead Pastor wanked on and on with his bigoted bile, to the point where he annoyed me so much that I started making various small noises or fidgety gestures in a bid to get his attention fixated my expression of sheer disgust. He was so self-absorbed in his vile little world, however, that if I’d kicked him squarely in the nuts and screamed, “you’re a fucking wanker, you cunt!” into his face, I doubt he’d have even batted an eyelid in recognition.

During the so-called prayer that he conducted, I actually started muttering bitchy comments at him. You may recall that a million miles up the page I stated that one of Maureen’s sons, my cousin Marvin, was standing beside me, just behind this pastortwat. Although neither my mother nor the pastortwat seemed to hear any of my misgivings, evidently Marvin did; he looked up at me, caught my eye, and – gesturing to the pastortwat – rolled his eyes. I shot him a knowing grin, which he was quick to reciprocate. I knew that A, behind me, would be seething with boiling rage too, but I was so hemmed in by others’ bodies that trying to turn to him would have been like conducted an ugly 4×4’s three-point turn in a danky bedsit. In any case, due to his visual impairment, A can’t ‘do’ body language, so I had to settle on non-verbal vicar-bashing with Marvin.

After this particular twatbag had finally shut the fuck up, it was time for one more bloody prayer, this time with the bald-headed first bloke. I gazed wistfully into nothing in particular, making a pronounced point not to close my eyes nor bow my head. I never do, incidentally, but I made a concerted effort to make it obvious that day. To no avail, obviously, because the very actions in which I was not partaking were the very actions in which those whose attention I sought were.

Finally, the assembled congregation – all of whom I hope are non-choristers – ‘sang’ a tuneless rendition of Amazing Grace, and the service was over. 10,000 people milled their way out of Hotel California, and into the yard to await the next move.

Maisie’s children and grandchildren went to the coffin for one final look at their (grand)mother, and then her coffin was closed forever, and wheeled out the back door – the door she’d always used to access that house that she’d so loved so well.

This post has been exhausting to write, and – I’m sure – to read. Sorry for the heavy emphasis on introspection, but then, if I can’t navel-gazingly reflect on my own blog, where can I? To be continued as soon as I am able.

…And the NHS Cocks It Up Again

I had a psychiatric appointment on Wednesday morning. In terms of interaction with NewVCB regarding myself, it was fairly unremarkable. I apprised her of the various events that had occurred since I’d last seen her – Maisie’s deathseeing Paedo; the fact that the doctor’s bloody “surgery” screwed up my Lamictal script for several weeks; the kitten, Srto Gato, had temporarily (yet stressfully) disappeared (the latter two being stuff I’ve not ((yet)) discussed here); and that I saw Paul again.

Essentially, although she had intended to decrease my dosage of Seroquel at this appointment, she decided against it because of the fuckery of the last few weeks. She wants me to get back on some sort of even keel that involves a minimum of external stressors before pissing about with the stuff, an assessment with which I agreed wholeheartedly. I said, “in light of particularly stressful events that previously occurred with various personnel from [Hotel California], I was very, very glad to be taking anti-psychotics over the last few months.”

NewVCB understood. Although 400mg, the dose to which we are intending to reduce the Seroquel (at least in the short-term), had at one point prevented some of my psychotic symptoms, given that the last six weeks or so have been really shit, it would be ill advised to take any chances at the minute.

I did ask about increasing the Lamictal, however. I’m currently taking 100mg, and my internet readings have suggested the therapeutic dose is generally between 150 – 200mg. NewVCB disputed this, though; she said that 100mg is the usual standard in the (admittedly uncommon) circumstances in which she prescribes it.

“I’d prefer to keep it at 100mg for now,” she advised, “in part because you had a break in it enforced upon you, so it’ll take some time for you to entirely re-adjust to it. Thus it’ll take a few weeks to see its full effects again. Then, we can see.”

That seemed fair enough. In terms of the Seroquel, I said to her that I’d lost a lot of my appetite in the last, say, eight to 10 weeks, so at least in terms of weight gain, reducing the dose wasn’t as ‘urgent’ as it had once seemed. I told her that I’d read that Lamictal could sometimes cause weight loss, or at least a reduction in appetite, and she confirmed that this was indeed the case from time to time. She said she was pleased that this had been the case for me, not because she dared to opine that I had a plenitude of blubber surrounding all corners of my body (though clearly I do), but because she knew how annoying my weight gain had been for me especially when I’d been losing so much of my pre-existing fat until I started taking 600mg of this heinous drug.

And that was pretty much that.

Except that it wasn’t.

“Um…now, Pandora, there’s, er, something I need to discuss with you,” she said ominously.

Oh my fucking God. She’s leaving. Oh fuck! Fuck! Just when I thought things with the NHS were actually getting me somewhere! The incipient dread I felt as soon as each word of the sentence left her lips grew overwhelming very quickly.

“The NHS are changing things again,” NewVCB sighed.

Again?! [I can’t find any posts on this, aside from my review of my first appointment with NewVCB, but it was due to NHS changes that my consultant was changed from (Old)VCB to her in the first place, and that was only two years ago. What the fuck? More bureaucratic – and no doubt costly – bullshit from the fucking NHS. What a sack of shite!].

She saw my face, and shot me a sympathetic glance. “I’m moving to [Big Scary Hospital],” she said. “Until recently, it was just assumed that I’d take all my patients from your GP’s surgery with me – but…God, this drives me to distraction! They’re re-drawing geographical boundaries, so right now I don’t know what’s going to happen. I may or may not be taking all such patients. I really have no idea at the minute.”

She was clearly frustrated by this fuckwank herself.

I drew a breath, then ventured, “Obviously – and I know you can’t do anything about it – I’d prefer to ‘stay with you’ if I possibly can.”

“I know. I know. I wish I could give you something more concrete at this stage, but I can’t unfortunately.” She shook her head and twisted her mouth in obvious vexation.

She continued by asking me exactly where my address was in the area, but although I could see her trying to mentally calculate whether or not the house was affected by the boundary change, she came up with nothing but a blank.

“When is this taking place?” I asked. “I mean, if I don’t move with you, will I see you again?”

“Oh, yes, yes – I’ll see you again in six weeks or so. This shouldn’t be happening until two to six months hence.”

I nodded, but something else occurred to me then. “Assuming for a minute that I do move with you. What about Christine?”

“Well. In the long-term, they’re planning on moving the whole team – whatever ‘long-term’ means. But it certainly won’t be any time soon, so if you come with me, you’ll have to get another CPN.”

FUCK!

“And if I don’t go with you..?”

“Then you’ll still have Christine, here, but you’ll be moved to a new consultant.”

FUCK!

This is so fucking unfair. Just when things were going so well with my psychiatric team. Having both a CPN and a consultant that you really like, both seeming to genuinely want to help you – that’s not at all common, especially in this bloody Health Service. And now, regardless of what happens, I’m going to lose 50% of that to a quantity entirely unknown. For all I know, the replacement for either the psychiatrist or the nurse could be fucking amazing – but my longer-term experience of the Psychiatric Service does not lend me to having a great deal of hope about that. Furthermore, even if the person were brilliant, I’m happy with things as they are. I like them! I like NewVCB and Christine! I want to stay with them both!

Don’t cuntwits like Mr Director-Person – who, as the head of mental health at the Trust, is at least partially responsible for this idiocy – realise that this kind of upheaval is likely to only increase illness, and therefore increase costs? That, as a mental, it takes long enough to become settled with members of staff – and that breaking that confidence and trust is likely to lead to breakdowns, misery and crippling anxiety?

Well, of course Mr D-P doesn’t realise that. He doesn’t realise anything about mental health, because he’s nothing more than a general manager, and always has been – he comes from a business-y private sector perspective, that isn’t even remotely tangential to mentalism. So no, despite all the fucking risk assessments they’ve no doubt claimed to have undertaken, he and his cronies have no idea what it’s like on the fucking ground, in the fucking real world, of someone with (a) mental health condition(s). It’s alright for him to sit in his inviolable ivory tower of an office, and play about with geographical lines on a computer (or, more likely, ‘getting his secretary to play about with geographical lines on a computer’ whilst he plays that little mini-golf game you always see executives figuratively masturbating over). It’s not alright when the ramifications of that feed back down to patients who are, as a direct result, going to suffer like fuck.

And nobody can do a damn thing about it. Fuck the Trust. I can’t for the life of me work out what it is that they care about, but it certainly isn’t their patients ‘service users’. Bastards.

Resuming Psychotherapy – Paul: The Catch-Up Sessions

So. I mentioned at the end of my post the other week that I was going to see Paul that evening. I know I’d brought up that fact somewhere before then, but I’m not sure if it was on this blog or elsewhere. Either way, anybody who is a regular reader will probably be aware that Christine, my CPN, and NewVCB, my psychiatrist – not to mention A, and in something of a bizarre juxtaposition, my mother – had been nagging and nagging and nagging me to contact Nexus to follow-up my resumed contact with the organisation at the end of September.

To that end, I emailed Nice Lady That Works for Nexus shortly after Maisie’s funeral (the ‘summary’ ((scare quotes because I don’t do ‘summaries’)) of that is coming, fear not). I’ve always wondered why Nice Lady had a tendency to respond very promptly when I emailed her outside of normal business hours; OK, so I religiously checked and, if necessary, responded to my work emails at 3am, but I’m not exactly normal. Anyway, it seems that it’s because they’re open later on some days of the week to accommodate people that, you know…actually work.

Nice Lady responded to my email by stating that she had put me on the list for “ongoing therapy” with Paul, inferring that a regular slot for same had not yet come up. That seems a little odd to me given that nearly four months had elapsed between my having contacted the organisation about a re-commencement of contact and my later follow-up, since the maximum amount of time allowed for Nexus counselling is six months – but it’s theoretically possible, to be fair. Either way, I didn’t really mind, and in any case it doesn’t matter; she offered me a meeting with Paul to discuss my “present circumstances” for the Tuesday evening. I confirmed that I would attend. It turned out that I saw him twice in the end – the second meeting being exactly a week later – but for the sake of this post I’m going to mash them together. Mainly because I can’t remember what happened in each, rather than the sessions themselves being inherently faulty.

On the afternoon of the first session, I sat in the house in growing discomfiture. I really did not want to go to the appointment, in the everyday, sort of micro sense. Of course, in contrast, I did want to go in a wider, macro sense; therapy helped me before, and things have definitely gone downhill since I left it last summer. The latter compelled me not to call (or, more likely, email) Nice Lady to advise her that I would not be attending, and sheer bloody will-power stopped me ingesting the beautiful anodyne properties of a Diazpeam, my rationale being that if I did not get the dosage exactly right, that I would not be able to converse in any meaningful measure.

I left the house stupidly early, in light of the traditional difficulties of finding a parking space that attending Nexus creates. I suspected that, at this time (6pm or something), things would be a lot quieter – but were they fuck. For once, as I drove around and around for ages, I thanked the twisted cosmos for granting me my time-keeping neurosis. It’s funny; I used to be late for everything. Now it’s rare for me to be anything less than 20 minutes early. I’d say I look forward to seeing how this pans out at my own funeral, but since I’ll be dead I’ll not be seeing too much of it, will I?

Anyway, I found a space. Eventually. I still had a few minutes to kill so I dicked about on my phone, hoping for a meteorite storm or nuclear bomb or some such to suddenly descend on my little town. No such force majeurs came to pass, however, so five minutes prior to the allocated appointment time, I took a deep breath, and got out of the car.

As I waited at the door of the Institute for someone to buzz me in, I wondered what in the name of actual fuck I was going to say to Paul. How did I greet him – this man who knew all my deepest, darkest secrets? How did I justify my return to him (aside from allusions to the badgering persistently quipped out by my psychiatric team)? How could I be sure that I could re-develop our erstwhile rapport?

When I entered, both he and Nice Lady were standing at the reception desk. I was horrified to feel the need to introduce myself; my hair has changed since I last saw them, but beyond that, there was no reason for them not to recognise me. Unless they’d just forgotten.

I don’t know why that surprises me, as I sit here considering the incident retrospectively. I am eminently forgettable. I might well have a not-entirely-pleasant history, but everyone Paul (or any other Nexus therapist) sees is in that boat. It’s what keeps him (them) in work.

Whatever the case, introduce myself I did. When Nice Lady sort of nodded, I went to go to the (hidden) waiting room in anticipation of Paul’s readiness. There sat a young woman. She turned to look at the disturbance I’d created in her quiet world, and our eyes met for a split second. I was struck, again, by how such a simple, brief action can engender a whole barrage of thoughts and questions and assumptions in one’s mind. Yet despite our brief unity, I felt disgusted that by seeing her face, I’d somehow intruded upon her darkest moments and, by dent of that, her privacy.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Paul suddenly piped up that “we [could] go in now, Pandora,” so I withdrew from the room, mere seconds after entering it, tripping over something in my rush to free the girl of my rotund self, thus making an even bigger arsehole of myself.

Well. 1,200 words and the session hasn’t even began yet. Is that a record even for me?

It was a different room from the one we’d spent most of our time in during our last stint of meetings together. As if I weren’t unsettled enough, that unnerved me a fair bit. I have no idea why, as I had been in the room at least once in the past – and anyway, I hadn’t even been in the Nexus building in something like nine months, so surely it was all due to be new to me again?

I spent the next 50 minutes garrulously rambling at Paul about fuck knows what, but here’s my best attempt at making some vague coherence of that.

So, how had things been since our last meeting, the man himself queried?

“Things have been…eventful,” I began, trying to sate my agitation by assuming the sardonic tilt of my entire body to which I am used to showing the outside world. I failed.

“Eventful,” I repeated wistfully, before launching into a brief monologue on just how things had been ‘eventful’. “Oddly enough, just last week [Paedo]’s wife dropped dead. A while back, the cat was killed. I took up the [now co-]editorship of a popular mental health blog. I won a major award for my own blog then had a mini-breakdown. I’ve started writing more seriously – I’ve had professional pieces in One in Four and a major non-mentalist magazine. Though the latter is still about being mental, mind. The fucking house was burgled again. Oh, and I started taking a mood stabiliser on top of Quetiapine and Venlafaxine.” The one thing I completely forgot to mention was that my diagnosis – primarily borderline personality disorder when I last saw Paul – has changed. Not that it really matters, I suppose, since Paul is a fully paid-up member of the “EVERYTHING ABOUT PSYCHIATRY IS EVIL!!!!!1!!!eleven!!!11!15932!! GAAAAHHHHH!11!14!!seventeen!!!!” lobby. Indeed, when I mentioned the Lamotrigine, I noticed his characteristic eye-roll, however much he may (or indeed may not) have fought to suppress it.

When I’d finally shut my overactive gob, he sat silently for a minute, regarding me with a nebulous, enigmatic look that I eventually interpreted as curiosity.

I didn’t want to be the one to break the resultant silence, but neither could I meet such a piercing gaze. An old trait of mine when I’m nervous (or tired) is to play with a strand of my hair. I twirl it between my index and middle fingers, then release via a stroke of my thumb. Involuntarily – or at least unconsciously – said behaviour began again at this juncture, whilst my eyes darted from one form of nothing to another. The cheap non-descript carpet, the cracks in the walls, the blandness of the paint – any of it was better than returning his look.

“Why are you back?” he finally queried.

I took this as an accusation that I shouldn’t be back, even though it of course transpired in the course of the discussion that this was not the case. I didn’t admit this, however, and instead – after thinking for a bit – told him that I was sick of being stuck in this cyclical rut of madness. “I still can’t work. Being able to deal with people, losing my anxiety around them – that’s my goal. I believe that I was starting to get to that point when I left therapy with you before, but then it all went to shit.”

He said, “I remember telling you before that in an ideal world, we’d be working together for at least two years.”

I nodded in recollection. “Six months was a good start, but I need to build on that. Get things out of my system, work them out in my mind, delve deep for resolution. I can’t do it alone, and whilst a year isn’t ideal, it’s a damn sight better than nothing.”

In fact, in marked contrast to a lot of what I’ve written here before, I defended C. Not because C didn’t ultimately behave like a dickhead, but because whilst we were on good terms, I had at least done some groundwork with him. Would I have been able to walk straight into Nexus and own up to everything, had I not at least been able to raise it somewhere first? I doubt it.

“OK,” Paul said. “So you found that useful. Did you find our work together helpful, then?”

“Of course not,” I laughed with nervous sarcasm. “That’s why I’m back.”

He…I don’t know, he sort of guffawed at that. We then had a discussion surrounding the previous bout of therapy, concluding that part of its success had been that it gave me a ‘safe’ place in which to admit to my history of abuse, a circumstance in which that could be properly ‘contained’, which it hadn’t been when it was happening. A place where I was believed and not judged, with someone who was beginning to get past my endless intellectual prevaricating to the point where I might have felt a modicum of compassion for my former self. Remember the baby, for example?

Randomly, then, Paul said, “you told me earlier that things had been ‘eventful’.”

“Yes..?”

“The first three points. You noted that your aunt and cat died with a certain nonchalence, yet when you spoke of the award yon won, you almost spat the words out.”

“Did I?” I replied askance.

He raised his eyebrows in confirmation, forcing me to think back on what I’d said – or, more specifically, how I’d said it. I recalled that I had counted Maisie and Ms Cat’s demises off on my fingers, reducing them to mere footnotes of my life, though that is not how I saw either of the events in question. But of particular surprise was that I spoke of the award in tones of virtual disgust? How could that be?

“I was immensely grateful for and touched by that award,” I told him, puzzled.

He rescued me. “I didn’t think that you weren’t, but your tone suggested to me that…you know, death happens. It sucks, but it’s bad, and only bad things happen to you, right? The notion of something positive befalling you, particularly on a scale outside your immediate social circle, is alien territory.”

“I’ve won awards before,” I mused quietly, still avoiding his gaze (why does he stare so fucking intently? What is it with therapists and that…that device, that stupid, ugly, staring device, that they always employ?!). “This departed only in scale from them, I suppose, but what a scale it was. A ceremony, public recognition and a beautiful, shiny trophy.”

“You’re pleased with yourself,” he observed.

“Isn’t that oxymoronic? A minute ago you were suggesting that I was at best perplexed, at worst repelled, by it.”

“‘Perplexed’, yes, but not ‘repelled’. I think that you’re pleased you won it, but you still struggle with the ‘why’ behind that success.”

I certainly couldn’t argue with that analysis. How many times have I asked the following question of you, readers: “why do you like this blog?” On many occasions. And whilst I understand (and greatly appreciate) the responses you’ve given, I don’t – as Paul put it – understand the ‘whys’ of them.

He asked me a few more questions about it, and I answered honestly, as I had done with Christine (I can’t find any review of that appointment here. That was something of a fail. I can’t remember much about it now, but suffice to say she was thrilled to hear I’d won, and like Paul asked me lots of questions about it. That means that within about three seconds they can have gone from Mind’s website to here and read about themselves from my twisted perspective, which ((especially in light of l’affaire Little Feet)) is not entirely desirable. But anyway, if either of you are reading this, hello! I actually do like you both, if it’s any consolation in lieu of the general misery I spout here. I’m sorry if you dislike your sobriquets, but I had to anonymise you somehow).

Discussion moved on to Paedo – initially in the context of Maisie’s death, though we did discuss more specifics in the second appointment I’m coalescecently (spot the made-up adverb) detailing here. Since I have as yet failed to discuss the funeral on this blog, there’s going to be a spoiler here, and this is it. As we were leaving Hotel California that evening, I hugged Paedo – entirely of my own volition. So much of my own volition, in fact, that Paedo seemed surprised by the gesture.

Paul asked me why I had done this.

“Two reasons: one calculated, one…well, not calculated. In the first instance, I’d hugged most of my cousins and other assorted personnel, and it would have looked out of place had I not engaged in the same practice with him,” I blathered. “The second reason was that, whatever he’s done, the poor sod had just buried his wife of over 50 fucking years.”

“OK,” he replied in a very definite tone. “Fuck the first reason, that’s a load of bullshit [I don’t concur, but whatever]. The second – that’s a very human act. That’s normal in the aftermath of a death, to extend your humanity to grieving individuals, and you’re far more human than you give yourself credit for. But was what he did to you human?”

“Well, the biochemistry of our species dictates that…”

“You know what I mean,” he interrupted witheringly.

I shrugged. “No. I suppose that it wasn’t particularly human.”

***Pointless Tangent(s) Warning – Feel Free to Ignore the Next Paragraph***

[This is an issue I have. ‘Human’, to me, is a biological term, referring to the last surviving species of the homo genus. ‘Humanity’, even in what others regard the “emotional” sense, is, again to me, a reference back to the race of humankind. The traits to which Paul was referring derive from personhood, the qualities of a person (er…obviously, Pan). I think that it’s quite possible to be a human without being a person (and, arguably, vice versa: it’s very easy to anthropomorphise animals); any of you that have ever been on either side of the abortion debate will be familiar with this position, but it’s not confined solely to that arena. This isn’t the time to get into any of that, though, so I’ll say that no, what Paedo did (What Paedo Did. It sounds like a paedophilic version of What Katy Did – though, repugnant as Paedo’s behaviour may have been, the retelling of it is ((hopefully)) nowhere near as boring as the reading Katy’s “adventures” is) wasn’t particularly personable. Call me an abuser of the English language, or a pedant, or whatever if you will].

***End of Pointless Tangent(s)***

***Start of Possible Triggers!***

For some reason, he brought up (a) the gang rape, (b) the related incident wherein someone threatened to cut off my thumb, and (c) the occasion on which I thought I was choking to death.

***Probable End of Possible Triggers, and Hopeful End of Stupid Bolded and Asterisked  Warning Things!***

He was making the point that these three incidents, at least in part, were ones that I remembered clearly. He also alluded to the fact I’d remembered other ostensibly silly details well too.

“But you don’t recall all minutiae of the abuse even now?” he checked.

“No.”

And, lo! A rearrangement of that therapeutic manta and how does that make you feel? came to pass. He said, “how do you feel about the lack of those memories now?”

Once more, I fixated my eyes upon the carpet. “Don’t know,” I mumbled onto my chest, like some sort of surly teenager.

“No False Memory Syndrome, no Munchausen’s Disorder?”

“Well, yeah, obviously. That doesn’t even require a question mark.”

“It’s still better to believe that you’re a liar rather than someone who went through this sadistic abuse.”

“I suppose so. What of it?”

“I’m just trying to gauge where you’re at psychologically. But for what it’s worth, and you probably know this, the timeline of an abused kid isn’t linear. Everything becomes so defragmented that the child has to ‘put together’ bits and pieces of memories, so what happens is – at least in your case – you get a general sense of what happened without it all being eidetic or palpable. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to hideous circumstances, and it means you’re not a liar or a faker. I think that has to be one of our goals in this process – to get you to really believe that heinous things were done to you. Or, at least, to dramatically curtail the strength and frequency of your doubts about it all.”

That seemed reasonable. ‘Reasonable’ in the sense of ‘acceptable’, rather than “yes, I think that’s perfectly obtainable,” so obdurate can my beliefs in my supposed falsifications be at times. However, in a discussion around the abuse that followed the above, I actually used the word ‘rape’ several times. In fact, I think I might even have said ‘gang rape’ at one point. I really couldn’t do that when I first met Paul. I could barely even say it to A. Does this denote progress? That the work I’ve hitherto done with Paul has had some lasting psychological impact, despite the fact my life’s not exactly a barrel of laughs?

There was a discussion of self-harm, felicitously catalysed by Paul’s opinion that “every scar on [my] body is inflicted by [Paedo]” (which belies the fact that I used to fall in the playground every day at primary school, despite the fact that on such occasions Paedo was, usually, over 30 miles away – but I’ll let that slide). I admitted to having tried to slit my wrists since I’d last seen him; I didn’t raise it here because it was an irrelevance, an idiotic act done on the spur of the moment to see how far I could go (this was the week before Maisie’s death). The intent was not suicidal, but borne out of an existential boredom – and beyond it, I’ve engaged in very little self-injury since I last saw Paul, if any at all.

So, then, Maisie’s death. Would it have been better had it been Paedo that died? Or would that have been worse?

“Who knows?” I shrugged. “I’m ambivalent towards the man, so my perception is that I’d probably not give a shit – but the mind’s a curious phenomenon, isn’t it? It could so happen that when he croaks it – and we think he will soon, given his formerly symbiotic relationship with my aunt – I regret the ‘words left unsaid’ or something twattish like that, and it screws me up a little more. I think it unlikely, but it’s possible. It’s hard to predict.”

Paul nodded thoughtfully at my assessment, whilst I remembered something that had previously been said on this blog.

I wrote in a recent post about how Maisie had always, for reasons seeminlgy unknown, had a grudge against her daughter Sarah. In the comments section, the very lovely CimmerianInk postulated this hypothesis on that relationship:

I have seen in past stories that if a daughter is being abused by her father, if the mother is more concerned with appearances etc., she ends up hating the daughter or at least they end up having a strained relationship with a lot of complicated layers. So, I wonder if Paedo ever did anything to Sarah. (I’m assuming that I remember correctly and Sarah was at home all her life with him).

You did remember correctly, CI. I actually think this is a very possible scenario, and it would explain a lot.

A brief piece of context: years ago, A and I were at the McFaul’s for some reason, and had been drinking. I became ensconced in the dining area with my mother and Sarah, presumably as that was the only room in the house in which one was allowed to smoke. Anyhow, the alcohol must have in some way ignited a spark of bitterness in me, because – in talking about my mental illness – I said something like, “you know, many people go doolally because they were sexually abused.” If I recall correctly, I raised my eyebrows at the two of them in a gesture of smug fuck you.

Sarah, without missing a beat, and without any hint of horror or surprise in her voice, replied, “there’s something there, isn’t there?”, at which point I realised my mistake in even raising the issue and wisely changed the subject.

I have often wondered in passing about her blasé attitude to my loaded comment. A and I had already discussed the possibility that Paedo may have abused her too (she was the only daughter, if that’s even relevant in paedophilia), but always in the context of “what if?” rather than in terms of Maisie’s relentlessly negative attitude towards her. But CI’s comment seemed to really ‘fit’ the situation. I told Paul about it.

Essentially, he concurred that this was a distinct possibility. He said, “she didn’t spot what was under her nose when all of this was happening to you. How could she not have done so? You would have walked strangely, you would have been withdrawn, you may even have been dirty and bleeding. And your aunt just didn’t notice? Or, could it be, that she didn’t want to notice – possibly, as your friend says, because she’s seen it all before?”

I felt a chill run down my spine.

“I feel uncomfortable with the notion that my aunt was somehow complicit in her husband’s behaviour,” I said carefully.

“Don’t you think they all were? Everyone in that house?”

“Well…not consciously…”

“Maybe not. It could have been entirely unwitting [though I have to say, he sounded distinctly uncertain about this]. But a child doesn’t know that. All she knows is that nobody’s protecting her from these horrors.”

“Well, OK – but if my cousin was abused, would my aunt not have noticed all the factors to which you’ve alluded in her? I know she wasn’t a perfect woman, but even I can’t believe she’d willingly let her kid be raped by anyone, never mind its father.”

He was evidently going to say something like, “you’d be surprised” – and actually, I wouldn’t have been, because I’ve heard of many mothers deliberately, and thus unforgivably, overlooking these things – but he thought better of it. As he himself would agree, he didn’t know Maisie, so could not know what she was or wasn’t capable of.

“Well, they could have been ostensibly unaware. The evidence does seem to support that the mother had an inkling, if her daughter was being hurt, but it may not have been conscious. It’s clear from what you said though that she resented [Sarah] greatly, and what you sometimes see is a parent somehow ‘knowing’ what’s going on, and then transferring their disgust and rage onto the child, under the almost psychotic justification that that child has ‘seduced’ their spouse or something. It’s actually not uncommon.”

It’s a frightening idea, but I have to say – it would explain a lot of the problems that have been inherent in Hotel California throughout my living memory.

Further conversations arose, but were not particularly consequential. I felt that I’d rambled like a fucking eejit throughout both sessions, but Paul assured me that my discourse had enabled him to further ascertain the current nature of my psychology. He thinks that, although for the most part I’m able to suppress it in every day life (not that he thinks that that’s a good thing), there is still a lot of raw, visceral, deep hurt inside me.

Indeed, that was probably the image I projected: even just being in Nexus made me feel…I don’t know what the word is. Headfucked. Filled with ominous dread. Anxious. Not scared, but…well, more than apprehensive. All of those things, but much more besides. I did admit this to him when he asked about it.

He said that it actually must have taken “a hell of a lot” of courage to make myself go there that day, at which point I intimated to him that I had seriously considered calling the meeting off.

“But you didn’t,” he (rather pointlessly) noted. “Don’t you think that’s courageous? That you want to fight this shit?”

I mulled that over for a few minutes – and honestly, readers, I think that it was. I felt a small slither of pride in myself for a few teeny-weeny seconds.

Our agreed goal, apart from that of trying to believe myself about the abuse, is to overcome my constant need to intellectualise and rationalise, thus continuing to develop empathy and compassion for Aurora/child me. He thinks that, at an intellectual level, I sympathise with her – but that, apparently, is quite a different thing. He is of the view that should this be successful, Aurora “will stop ruining [my] life, to use what would no doubt be [my] parlance.”

His parting line, before goodbyes, was that he’s “really, really looking forward to working with [me] again.” Although I was a bit of a wreck following the first meeting, I was at least reassured by the enthusiastic tone and sentiment of this final statement.

We’ll see. My psychotherapy with Paul should recommence properly in three to four weeks, which will certainly make for some interesting times ahead – but I know I’m with the right person for the job.

PS. I deleted that stupid ‘Fail’ post. You know I’m alive now, right?

Fuck the Welfare Reform Bill!

I’ve deliberately stayed away from the politics of welfare “reform” on this blog for quite some time, because it’s such a nasty fucking business. But given the heinous, subterfugal, undemocratic fucking bullshit that has permeated all circumstances pertaining to the Welfare Reform Bill, recently and regrettably passed by the House of Cunts Commons, I can stay silent no longer.

A constitutionally and legally aware individual may well, at this point, cry, “but you’re in Northern Ireland! What the hell does this have to do with you?”

A reasonable query, since the WRB applies to Great Britain, not the UK in its entirety (does anyone know if it applies to Scotland? I really can’t find a definitive source telling me one way or another). However, I have a vested interest for a variety of reasons:

  1. Principle. This is fucked. The Coalition government are sending out a message of “we don’t give a flying rat’s arse what happens to the ill and/or disabled of this country”. More importantly, however, benefit claimants – who, according to the government’s own statistics, are 99 – 99.5% genuine in their claims – will be forced into poverty, homelessness and even death by the fuckwittery inherent in this steaming, fetid pile of bollocks. Who in their right mind can reasonably stand by, watch that happen and say nothing, regardless of how much it does or doesn’t affect them?
  2. I have dozens of friends – some online, some offline, some both – that will be directly affected by this. At least one of them has spoken tragically of how she would rather end her life peacefully than suffer the indignity of all that comes with being completely impoverished, as she would likely be if major amendments are made to UK social security. Obviously, I sincerely hope that she doesn’t kill herself, but I can certainly understand the rationale that has led to that line of thinking. In fact, the spectre of the WRB has already caused suicides. Or, should we say, murders?
  3. You’ll have heard the old adage that “when America sneezes, Europe catches a cold.” What you may not have heard is that whatever happens in Great Britain generally leads to the same happening in Northern Ireland. We’ll catch this pox: be in no doubt about that. My partner A works in drafting legislation (albeit in an entirely different arena than this), and some of his work involves adapting statutes from GB into workable legislation for NI. On most such occasions, this is simply revision, rather than significant modification. One might argue that as the Assembly starts to assert itself, this may start to change, but this is unlikely to be the case in terms of social security – and that’s even with the fucking Barnett formula! An independent Northern Ireland (whether officially or by extended devolution) could not afford to uphold its current finances, never mind better them. So, they will do what they’ve always done; they will copy Britain’s “welfare” laws, and the sick and/or disabled in Northern Ireland will be fucked, just like they will be on the mainland.

Why the Bill is a Steaming Pile of Horse Manure

Short answer: it will strip a very sizeable number of genuinely ill and disabled people of their only meaningful income – the money that keeps food in their stomachs, roofs above their heads and breath in their lungs.

Longer answer: there is so much. I would strongly recommend reading the blogs Diary of a Benefit Scrounger and Benefit Scrounging Scum for detailed, well-researched critiques and information. Sue and Kaliya (respective authors of the aforementioned journals) are two disability activist stalwarts who, despite their own profoundly disabling conditions, have fought steadfastly against this shit, even co-authoring the Spartacus Report which firmly shows the WRB up for the demeaning and threatening bollocks that it is.

In brief (ha!), and personally, though, here are a few issues.

  1. Benefits will be capped at £26,000. That seems like a lot – and to many, myself included (my benefit income is circa £10,500), it is. However, on a national scale, this could be An Issue. London has some of the most expensive housing in the UK, and arguably in Western Europe. If benefits are arbitrarily capped for claimants in that city, the place will be completely ghettoised, a la the 19th century and (backwardly-chronologically) beyond. This is because claimants will either have to leave London entirely, or move into geographically-determined social housing. Social housing becomes “council estate”-ish. People lack opportunities. The cycle of life on the line continues ad nauseum. Poverty, sickness, degradation and a slow, lonely wait for death abound. (Incidentally, this argument could have applied to Northern Ireland until relatively recently too; until the arse fell out of the housing market, we had ((after London)) some of the highest house prices in the UK. Things have come down a bit, and according to Ian Paisley Junior, only one person in Northern Ireland will now be affected by the benefits cap. But still; there are other people out there that this will affect, and affect horrendously. It demands our opposition for them alone).
  2. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will become “Personal Independence Payment” (PIP). On the face of it, that’s no big deal – a change of name, yes? No more and no less (despite the fact it’ll cost hundreds of thousands to re-brand the fucking thing, but let’s not split financial hairs, eh? It’s only people’s lives that could be saved, after all). Except that it’s not that simple. For one, there will be no ‘automatic’ entitlement for people with life-long conditions – say, folks who’ve had amputations, or people like A who have visual impairments. Clearly these are disabilities that one can overcome so easily, aren’t they?! They’ll all be fine in a year or two! On a related note, two: every claimant, existing or new, will have to undergo an examination by either the insidious, sinister ATOS (on the mainland) or the Social Security Agency (here). This will, despite an illness’s variation or otherwise, include re-assessments at regular junctures. I have already discussed why this is A Very Bad Idea Indeed, so see that post if you need further explanation (short answer: it will fuck people up). Three: DLA currently includes components pertaining to ‘supervision’. If, for example, you are too mental to take your medication as required, or to refrain from killing yourself during the night, you are considered to need supervision. This works in the realm of physical health too; let’s say you’re newly blind and need to climb the stairs to the bog or some such – you’ll understandably need guidance. Well, PIP will abolish any consideration of ‘supervision’, meaning that severely mentally ill people, or others with major disabilities, will strongly lose out.
  3. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will no longer be paid to young people with disabilities. Further, non-means-tested ESA will only be available for one year to any claimant (regardless of whether or not they’re still sick/disabled) – after which they can, presumably, go and top themselves to save the Cuntalition some money for fine dining in the Common’s restaurant(s). Of course, they claim that this is all fair and just, because people claiming this form of ESA are considered fit for work after a period of recuperation. Which leads me to my next point…
  4. Oh really? Assessments by ATOS and the SSA? Yeah. These fuckers really know how ill or incapacitated you are. After they (don’t) listen to you for 10 minutes, they throw some shite onto a keyboard, which, when processed by a computer that probably runs fucking Windows, then tells them that YOU’RE FINE. Seriously. This is the way these pricks operate. Again, I’ve ranted about this elsewhere – indeed, I’ve detailed my own personal experience of being shafted by a “medical assessment”, and how I had to fucking well fight, cunting my precarious sanity in the process, to be recognised as being ill – and to disprove the myriad of lies that the so-called doctor at the SSA had written about me, or told by omission. Furthermore, as noted in those posts, none of the medical “professionals” employed by the SSA/ATOS are specialists. So, effectively, they know shit all about psychiatry, gynaecology, gastroenterology, oncology, whatever. Yet they’re allowed to judge every aspect of your illness or disability to the point where it could affect the continuance of your very existence.
  5. This is perhaps tangential, but fuck it. Why is it that tax evasion is allegedly going on all over the show and glanced over, serving the usual gravy train of ludicrously well-off people, when all benefit claimants really want is a modicum of a life and a tiny dollop of dignity afforded in their general direction? And, at the risk of turning this entire post into a fucking cliché – what about the gargantuan minuscule salaries and bonuses of the wbankers that twatted the economies of an entire half-hemisphere? I don’t see the Cuntalition demanding capital returns from, nor demonising, anyone from these demographics for failing to do their jobs or do things by the fucking book…never mind for simply existing.

Aside From All That, The Government are Arseholes Because…

…the House of Lords hated the fucking Bill, and consistently modified many of its proposals. The reality of modern British politics is such that eventually, the House of Commons would probably have got the Bill through Parliament anyway – but why wait when you can be backhanded bellends about it?

The Lords is an institution with many, many faults. I could go into them here, but I can’t be arsed – and in this context, it’s not entirely relevant anyway. One positive thing about the chamber, however, is that unlike the Commons, it has a fuck of a lot more members that are (at least ostensibly) independent of any one party (people known as cross-benchers). The alleged reason for the chamber’s very existence is that, as appointees rather than elected officials, the members are often considered to be “experts” in their field: business, religion, law, and so on. Now, in practice, that may no longer be the case – but regardless, it remains true that the chamber is the upper house of the UK Parliament, and still has a significant role in the scrutiny of our laws. If its amendments/revisions/whatever to a proposed statute are completely ignored, it means that Commons’ members are effectively sticking two fingers up to a long established and constitutionally proper protocol.

And, vis a vis the WRB, stick two fingers up they did. In fact, as observed above, ignoring things at the Lords’ last possible reading wasn’t even good enough, oh no. They had to pass the WRB now. So, in an epic piece of subterfugal, self-serving, ethically diabolical cuntery, they used a little known and desperately archaic little device – “financial privilege” – to tell the House of Lords, effectively, to fuck off.

Ah, such efficiency. Such respect for the legislature. Such respect for fucking democracy, for the fucking country, for that country’s people. NOT.

I could go on and on.

But I won’t. The Welfare Reform Bill is unjust, degrading, completely unhelpful and downright dangerous, and if it goes ahead, lives of vulnerable, genuine people will at best be made desperately difficult, and at worst ended.

But advocates for the ill and disabled, such as Sue and Kaliya to whom I alluded above, said they would do anything and everything to fight this. The only possible way to stop this fuckwittery now is to stop its Royal Assent (ie. where the Queen signs the Bill off into law). You and I both know that’s never going to happen; even if the Queen thought seriously thought about it for more than three seconds, she would correctly anticipate the constitutional crisis it would create, and put her name to it anyway. Even so, call on her to withhold assent anyway by signing this petition. It won’t change a thing, but we must exhaust every single possibility – and one never knows. Her Majesty might impart some words of wisdom onto these bastards that are meant to be her “subjects” and our representatives – not modern fucking dictators.

I feel ashamed to be British. If the Irish Republic wasn’t such a financial fuckhole itself (lovely in every other way, of course), I’d be banging on Enda Kenny’s door right now, begging for citizenship.

In short: FUCK THE WELFARE REFORM BILL.

Death, Corpses, Wake-Like Things, Shite Hospitals, Fuckblah, Etc

This post is continued from Tuesday’s nonsense. Thanks to those of you that commented there – for once, I’ll actually try to respond some time in the next few days.

Wednesday: The Death (Continued)

So where was I? Driving to my mother’s house? Yes.

Well. I drove, and duly arrived without mowing down half of the Western hemisphere as my mother had apparently feared. As soon as I stepped into the house, I went straight into my now-renowned-by-A crisis mode. I’ve alluded to this somewhere before, haven’t I?…Ah yes, here it is. Don’t I have a good memory?

My mother was not alone. She has this friend from down the street who, whilst a pain in the arse in many ways (ways far too boring to go into), would drop anything and everything for the sake of my mother. After Mum had called me, Aunt of Boredom, and Aunt of Evil, she’d rung this woman (let’s call her Eimear), who stopped whatever she was doing and came to Mum’s straightaway.

My mother burst into tears whenever she saw me. She later revealed that she hadn’t cried at all when one of the McFaul dynasty had phoned her to advise her of Maisie’s demise, but she fucking wept when I came in. Cue long hugs, other forms of tactile comforting and several emergency cigarettes from me. I gave Eimear a tenner and asked her to get more fags for my mother, then asked Mum what I could do.

My mother expressed concern for Paedo and Maisie’s children, who were at that juncture presumed to still be in residence at the hospital. My Mum opined that Paedo would be distraught and ergo unable to drive home. So. I rang Hotel California. Yes. I was able to employ the usage of a phone. That alone shows my competence in a crisis.

I spoke to Rhona, Maisie’s daughter-in-law (wife of my eldest Maisie-born cousin, Chris. It gets confusing, I know). I offered to collect Paedo et al, but Rhona relayed the information that Kevin and ScumFan had made a dash to the hospital to collect everyone and their myriad of vehicular transportation. I had a brief conversation with Rhona about how stunned I was to hear of my aunt’s death, a view that she echoed. I let Mum talk to her for a minute, then sat down and considered my next move.

My mother wanted to go to the hospital, and then Hotel California; I stated that I would drive. My mother vehemently refused to allow this, instead stating that she wanted to drive herself. Eimear (now returned), A and I threw a fit about this – if she had expressed concern for my driving (see last post), then there was simply no way she could drive herself. She continued to protest – but she was out-numbered, and eventually gave in.

Just before we were about to leave, the phone rang. It was Merv, Uncle of Evil, calling from the States. Now, I am a bitch for saying this, I really am…BUT. Mum had phoned Aunt of Evil to advise her of Maisie’s death. There had been no response on the landline. My mother rang AoE’s mobile, which was successfully answered. My mother told AoE why she was calling; perhaps unsurprisingly, AoE broke down. Now here’s the bitchy bit: AoE was in the middle of a shopping centre when this call was received, and – being the twisted, bitter cow that I am – I actually found the image of her breaking down in the middle of a crowded place quite amusing. My strong dislike for AoE is well documented on this blog, but even so…what a fucking cow I am! What kind of disturbed, fuckwitted cunt finds something like that funny?

(Though in my defence, it wasn’t just me. When Daniel rang me to express his condolences, he agreed with me. So did A. They detest AoE too, and they are not ‘disturbed, fuckwitted cunts’).

Anyhow, Merv advised my ma that AoE was trying to get a flight as soon as possible, and that one of them would contact her with more details when they were known. This perturbed me somewhat; I always knew the day would come when Maisie would die and AoE would descend upon Northern Ireland for the funeral, and that I’d have no choice but to see her. Still and withall, I have had absolutely no interaction with the woman nor her arseholes since I severed contact with them in the Summer of 2009. She/they had been here three times since that, and I’d successfully avoided her/them on each of these occasions, yet here I was, reality slapping me round the face like a wet fucking fish, presented with the immediacy of interacting with her. Is Aunt of Evil my nemesis? Moriarty to my Holmes (notwithstanding Moriarty’s feeble presence in Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon)? It feels like that sometimes.

Wednesday: The Cesspit Cuntspital

Anyway, by the time we finally got to leave my mother’s house, nearly two hours had passed since Maisie’s last breaths. To that end, Mum was fairly sure that the family would have left the hospital and returned to Hotel California, but whilst on the road up to that formerly matriarchal domain, she told me to pull into the hospital anyway. I did.

A and I silently followed my shaking mother to the ward in which Maisie had been imprisoned. After brief consultation with a dismissive member of staff, it indeed transpired that the McFauls had returned home. However, a nice care assistant turned up and asked my mother if she wanted to see Maisie. My mother confirmed that she did. Nice Care Assistant asked us to wait in the corridor for a few minutes whilst they made the body look socially presentable “cleared things up a bit”.

I don’t know how long we waited, but the interminable nature of sitting there – looking at the depressing non-descriptness of the ward around us, the vapid expressions of the poor patients ensconced in the fucking bastardhole – meant that it felt like 20 billion eons. My mother sobbed on and off throughout. I did the whole supportive daughter thing as she did. Some cunts stared. I stared back with viciousness in my eyes and anger in my face. They looked away. Ha! Twatbags.

Oh God. This is over a thousand words long and I haven’t even got to the bit about the body. The delineation of the funeral might have to wait until a third fucking post. Maybe time to create another series? “Fuck – The Chronicles of Maisie’s Demise”?

Yeah. Anyhow. Eventually Nice Care Assistant (NCA) returned, and escorted my mother to Maisie’s sideroom. NCA was very kind; she put her arm around my mother and said words of quiet comfort to her. I take it she’s on the redundancy list then, on the grounds of incompetence at her job for not being utterly shit at it.

My mother and I went into the room whilst A waited outside, apparently being of the view that it was ‘inappropriate’ for him to be present. Maisie had been tastefully ‘tucked in’ under some well-tightened hospital issue blanket rubbish. She looked like she was sleeping, as my mother indeed commented. We both stared at her in some disbelief; dead bodies look dead. Fuck all that shite that people say about ‘being peaceful’ or yadda yadda; they don’t. That’s bollocks. People say that to delude themselves into some form of anti-grief condolence during times of mourning.

And yet, to contradict myself, Maisie didn’t look dead. Peaceful? Maybe. But more accurately simply sleeping.

My mother approached her and stroked her hair. She murmured some quiet words to the body – that Maisie had always been a good friend to her, and that she hoped she’d found “the peace [she] deserve[d]”. I watched as silent tears dripped off her chin.

This is Instance One of Pandora Being Crap.

Tears stung my eyes. MY fucking eyes. What in the blue fuck? I don’t do crying. Well, apart from when I see animals in pain or being mistreated. Not when people die, especially people who were far from faultless. It was partly out of sadness for my mother, who – despite ups and downs – had essentially been friends with this woman for her entire life. However, it was partly for my own reasons too, which shames me. I DON’T DO tears.

I could speculate at a couple of reasons. Yes, she was a manipulative old bag for a lot of the time, but (a) she was always very personally friendly and generous towards me, and (b) even if she hadn’t been thus welcoming, she had still been a major focal point of my life for over 28 years. There was never a time in my life when she wasn’t there. Well, not literally there, obviously. Despite her probable desires, she didn’t follow me about everywhere. But you know what I mean; for all my life, she was somewhere at least on the periphery of my existence. And now she never will be again; regardless of my reservations about some of her motivations and behaviour, that is still quite a dramatic loss. As I said just after her death, Maisie wasn’t just a person: she was an entire lifestyle.

My mother moved away, and asked me if I wished to interact with the corpse (to, y’know, paraphrase her slightly). I kissed it/her on the forehead, stroked its/her hair, and said something simple like, “rest in peace, Maisie”. I’m sure she was looking down feeling hugely touched by my poignant expressions of grief. Not.

As we left, I sort of padded her on the shoulder, then my mother ‘said goodbye’ (like Maisie was going to hear it), and we left the vile, disgusting, ineffectually-staffed fuckhole that attempts to pass for the major hospital in the region. Words to the wise, readers: if you ever happen to be in Northern Ireland, or more specifically in the region of this vacuous sewer, contact me beforehand so as I can remind you not to become sick or injured during your visit. We have some excellent hospitals, but this is not one of them. No wonder Maisie croaked it there; being admitted to that wankshaft dump is the Western equivalent of being caught peddling drugs and illicit snuff pornography in the far East. A death sentence. (Incidentally. Said hospital killed my grandfather, and A’s grandmother. Furthermore, Rhona, mentioned way above, is due to undergo a major operation. Her husband is not so much worried about the procedure per se, but about having said procedure there. I can entirely understand his position).

[Aside – I’m sitting typing this in my mother’s living room as she converses with a neighbour regarding Maisie’s death. By bizarre coincidence, just after I’d finished typing the above paragraph, my ma started telling her neighbour about the staff at the hospital. “They have a terrible reputation,” she muses, “but individually, they’re lovely.” Well, I never. Perhaps Mum was unwittingly on LSD that week; you never know what they put in the water here these days. Whatever the case, what is the use of ‘lovely’ in medicine/nursing? Only ‘good at his/her job’ is important in medicine/nursing, for Christ’s sake].

So, having left the hospital, on we proceeded to Hotel California. To my surprise, my mother kept her backseat driving to what is, for her, a minimum, though she made general discussion that avoided the surreal circumstances in which we found ourselves. Frankly, I had no idea why we were even going to Hotel California, but I wasn’t going to say that to my ma, and instead verbally batted back to her with responses to whatever conversation she was trying to make.

Wednesday: The Pseudo-Wake (The Wake-That-Was-Not-A-Wake-Because-Technically-You-Don’t-Have-Wakes-In-Protestantism-But-It-Was-Like-A-Bit-Wake-Though-Not-As-Much-Like-a-Wake-As-The-Wake-Like-Thingy-After-The-Funeral-But-I’m-Going-to-Call-This-A-Wake-Anyway-Even-If-It’s-Factually-Inaccurate-And-Even-If-I-Use-The-Word-Wake-To-Describe-The-Post-Funeral-Gathering-As-Well-Which-I-Will-And-If-You-Don’t-Like-It-Then-That’s-Too-Bad)

Just prior to entry into Hotel California, we got stuck behind some old git of a slow driver. I cursed and moaned and shouted at the windscreen in frustration – it doesn’t change the unfortunate circumstance, but it makes me feel better – but was further horrified when I saw him putting on his indicator to denote his intention to turn into HC. Hilariously, though, the entire front yard (which is not at all insubstantial) looked like the M25 at 5.15pm on a Friday evening. The old git had to go and turn his preposterously sized car and re-evaluate his parking intentions, whilst I winged my magical little beauty into a tight spot in the yard. HA HA fucking HA.

Hotel California was packed. Except for Maisie’s great-grandchildren, Marcus and Sean, their father, and two relatively insignificant step-grandchildren (don’t ask), everyone from the dynasty was there. Even a cousin or two (offspring of one of my late uncles or other) that I’d never met. The fucking undertaker was there, the people from across the road were there, some random cunts I didn’t even recognise were there, la la la. Typical Hotel California. The old git I’d been behind on the road turned out to be the minister of Maisie’s erstwhile church (‘erstwhile’ because, whilst she had purported to be a Christian, she hadn’t actively attended Church for years due to her ill health. Not that one needs to go to Church to be a Christian, to be fair to her. I never saw any major signs of it, but she could well have been personally spiritual rather than wishing she was still a member of organised religion).

Until the Saturday following this – the funeral itself, to be summarised (summarised? As if I’m capable of summarising anything) in the next post in this epic series of death – I have never, ever been so glad I smoked in all my life. After having quit for four years, I recommenced the habit some time around the end of 2010 – a foolish thing to do, one might have thought, and quite correctly so. However, I thanked (a) God(s) in whom I don’t believe that night that I’d started back on this filthy habit. A even lamented the fact that he didn’t (and doesn’t) smoke. Going out the back to indulge in cigarettes was the only escape from this crowded, oppressive atmosphere that Maisie, rather ironically, would have absolutely loved. Even though I didn’t imbibe a drop of the hard stuff at any point in which I was in Hotel California over the days following Maisie’s death, I think I got through more fags that Wednesday night and on the following Saturday than I did before the smoking ban on occasions when I’d had 28 pints and six shots down the pub. (That’s an exaggeration, by the way. I think I’ve only ever had as much as 27 pints and five shots on a single night out ;)).

The McFauls were talking to the undertaker about the funeral arrangements. The man was surprisingly jolly, which I found mildly amusing; I know this is their job, and that they deal with death every day, but surely the correct decorum is to at least affect sombreness? A and I stood beside the door like absolute pricks with no purpose. I fiddled with my nails; he stared at the floor. After 20 years, someone – Sarah, I think – noticed that we were there, and demanded that various McFauls vacated seats in deference to our presence. We kept trying to tell her that it didn’t matter, but in a stylistic homage to her late mother, she insisted that it did.

One newly-free seat was in the corner, beside the undertaker. The other was on the sofa beside a gaunt-looking Paedo. In an instant, I considered how I should play this dilemma; let A sit beside Paedo and keep myself away from him, or vice versa? I had already decided that A should take the corner seat rather than the one on the sofa, owing to his abhorrence of Paedo (as compared to my ambivalence) when Paedo himself caught my eye. He then gestured – by tapping the sofa in a sort of fond fashion – that I should occupy the seat beside him.

This circumstance did not worry me as such, but it did rather piss me off. Presumptuous cunt. Just because you decided to (literally) fuck me years ago doesn’t mean you should (figuratively) do so in the here and now, by trying to employ me as some sort of perverted support system. Rather than have the balls to ignore him though, I did my social duty and sat. I was careful about it though; I sat on the edge of the seat, and with my back to him. I pretended to take interest in the meandering words of the undertaker, even though the funeral arrangements were frankly none of my business. After a few minutes, I pretended I wanted to smoke, and left. (For the unimportant record, I did smoke, but the notion that I actually really wanted to was for show).

A and I stood outside in the dark with ScumFan. A discussion broke out as to the future of Hotel California, and I regaled ScumFan with what has seemingly become my mantra vis a vis this whole mess: ie. that Maisie was a way of life as well as a mere person (though I took care to proffer this view with language that I hoped ScumFan would understand). He agreed, and then voiced the opinion himself that Paedo was pretty fucked (irony?). His contention was that, certainly in the last decade plus of Maisie’s life, she and Paedo lived symbiotically off each other, and that the non-existence of one would surely lead to the non-existence of the other (to kinda paraphrase once again, claro que sí. Just a little. A teensy-weensy little bit. Not that much at all. Oh noooooo.).

I think this is a potentially valid hypothesis. Some of you may welcome it, some of you may not wish death on anyone. Me? I simply don’t give a fuck.

Cigarettes regrettably terminated, the three of us went inside. To avoid the hustle of the living room, A and I hovered around the kitchen. I was unsettled when Kevin came in and stood in general proximity to us: I had quite deliberately not spoken to him in over a year, owing to the fact that he had behaved like something of a dick. He had been being sick for about 10 minutes prior to this near-collision, owing to the shock of the situation.

My ma, having observed – well, not literally observed, for that would be grotesque – Kevin’s vomiting, placed herself in front of him and asked if he was OK. Kevin lied and said that he was. Everyone, A and I included, stared at the ground for a few expectant minutes, before Kevin burst into a Niagara Falls of tears (more specifically, a Canadian Falls of tears).

[Why am I writing this in such a facetious manner? Am I trying to over-compensate for something? Oh well].

Mum threw her arms around him and muttered what were actually not particularly comforting lines:

Kevin: I can’t believe I’ll never see her again!

Socially Acceptable but Utterly Meaningless Platitude of Response: There, there. She’ll always be in your heart! [*vomits*]

My Mother: No, nor will you ever again hear her voice.

Well, all credit to her for not spouting the same tired old bullshit. Kevin was particularly upset because, although he’d taken the Monday and Tuesday off work, on the understanding that his mother’s condition was improving, he had returned on the Wednesday. As such, he “didn’t even get to say goodbye.” I considered defending him on this point, on the usual grounds that he couldn’t possibly have known what was about to transpire, but that would have been utter hypocrisy given that I espoused the exact same sentiment on this blog the other day.

Instead, despite the disorderly relationship that Kevin and I had (not) shared in the preceding year, I kept my gob shut for once and sort of solidly gripped his shoulder as a means of expressing comfort and some level of empathy. He appeared to appreciate this.

I heard the undertaker leave with a cheery, “all the best, see you tomorrow!” as if he were meeting his mates at the airport the following day for an 18-30 holiday to Ibiza instead of bringing a dead body back to its former residence. At that point the crap-driver-bald-headed git of a minister remembered that he was religious and not just a drinker of other people’s tea, and decided to oh-so-poignantly “bring everyone together” in the supposed comfort of prayer.

I wanted to smite the old git. Which is not really fair, given that Maisie was sort-of Christian-y, and that many of her myriad descendants claim to be also – but meh. The self-righteousness of the suggestion that we could all find comfort in the fact that Maisie is “with God” both nauseated and irritated me.

He wanked on with his prayer for about 500 millennia before he realised it was a politic time to take leave of the little (huge) gathering. I tried to escape for a fag as he left, but someone saw me and made me return to the living room, so that I might say goodbye to him.

Why the hell would I want to say goodbye to him, and – more pertinently – vice versa? I was Maisie’s niece, not her Siamese fucking twin. As observed, I had absolutely no right to involve myself in the structure of her funeral service, which was the man’s primary reason for being there. Oh well. I suppose it wasn’t a massive chore to shake hands with him and wear a false smile. It was certainly a trick I had to pull off multiple times in the days that followed this one.

I finally got out for my smoke, made some smalltalk with ScumFan, a random cousin I didn’t know, A, my mother and Sarah, who occasionally decides to smoke one cigarette and who then doesn’t touch the vile things again for months. For some reason the smalltalk developed into a discussion of what, specifically, had caused Maisie’s death. None of us (namely, Mum, A and I) had been apprised of the details at that stage.

After coming back from a scan – which had apparently gone well, despite Maisie’s concern about such procedures (see somewhere in the last post) – she was brought back to the ward, and seemed fine. Paedo, Sarah, and two of Sarah’s three brothers, Chris and Robert, were there and engaged her in light conversation. Suddenly, however, Maisie went into a fit of breathlessness; Robert ran into the corridor and called a doctor, who – along with some nurses – came flying into the room, ordering the family out. By that juncture Maisie had started vomiting and, unable to sit up herself, choking on said vomit. The last thing Sarah saw as she was ushered out of the room was her mother’s eyes filling with blood and rolling back in her head.

When the quacks emerged from the room, Maisie was still breathing – but they basically advised the assembled gaggle of McFauls that she wouldn’t be doing so for long. As far as I can ascertain, she was, at this point, braindead. The McFs went back into the room and sat with her as she took her final breaths and quietly died.

It wasn’t a pleasant story to hear, and even typing it makes me slightly sad, despite the fairly bitchy tone of most of this post. Of course, in saying that, hearing it was nowhere near as bad as experiencing must have been for Sarah (and, of course, the others), and regaling it unsurprisingly upset her quite a bit.

Some time passed. Suzanne and Student tried to make conversation with us, but everyone seemed too shocked to partake in anything particularly meaningful. I managed to avoid Paedo, I managed to be shocked at Chris (who was clowning around as if at a child’s birthday party, rather than his mother’s wake-that-is-not-a-wake-but-which-I-am-calling-a-wake), I managed to employ the usefulness of smoking on a few more occasions.

When things mercifully started to die down, my mother – bless her saintly soul – asked to be taken home. For a few short minutes, I thought that perhaps there was a God.

The thing with leaving Hotel California is that when you check out (because, kids, you can never actually leave), you spend three geological eons attempting to make it even outside (and then you have to fight to get to the gate and out onto the road). This was historically because, as soon as she heard the slightest vague suggestion that one might be departing, Maisie would recoil in abject horror and demand that Sarah put the fucking kettle on and make some bloody sandwiches. Even if you got out of that – or, more typically, after you’d engaged in it – Maisie would rabbit on about something for ages to delay your sort-of-departure. I think the average time it took me to get away from HC when she was alive was probably about an hour. Possibly more.

I thought it was a phenomenon that would die with her, but then I didn’t consider the fact that the woman had only been dead for about five hours by this point, and they were all still operating on the deeply-entrenched Maisie-lifestyle. It didn’t take us as much as an hour to get out, but it was certainly a while. I played the part of Very Supportive Cousin and hugged a few people – Sarah and Rhona, I think; Kevin, I know (because it struck me how silly our little feud had been when put into this kind of perspective ((despite the fact he’d sort of threatened me)). Whatever the case, he seemed to genuinely be grateful that I’d come to HC, and he was perfectly pleasant to me on the occasion which I am so verbosely detailing, so I’ll forgive him. Grudges are stupid and destructive anyway).

I did not hug Paedo. However, I once again caught his eye as I was walking out the front door, and he regarded me with what was a forlorn, dejected sort of look. I felt guilty for a few seconds – the poor sod had just lost his wife of over 50 years, don’t forget – but then I waved at him and walked out anyway.

Wednesday: The Final Problem

We were about half way home when Mum’s mobile went off for the millionth time that night. It doesn’t ring much, either for text messages or calls, generally, so this serves as a small measure of what a big deal Maisie’s demise had turned out to be. It was Merv, Uncle of Evil. Over the engine of the car, Mum couldn’t hear a great deal, but the word ‘airport’ was bandied about a few times. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because I knew Georgie (Aunt of Evil) would be coming anyway. It was only a few minutes later that I wondered why Merv, rather than Georgie herself, had phoned.

When we arrived back at my ma’s gaff, she returned the call. She was heard to ask Merv, in some surprise, the fatal question of “she’s left already?” A and I breathed a collective sigh of annoyance.

Mum finished her conversation, and came back to us. “Bad news for you, Pan,” she said. “She’s got her connecting flight, so she’ll be getting the transatlantic flight to Aldergrove [Northern Ireland’s main international hub] in about an hour, and will be there at 9am tomorrow.”

“Oh,” I pointlessly returned.

“Which means that I’ll have to go up there and get her, and…well, bring her back here.” She downturned her lips at me apologetically.

“That’s OK. We’ll stay here tonight, I’ll take A into work in the morning, and then just go home,” I said. “As long as you aren’t alone, that’s the main thing.”

“Are you sure?” Mum pressed. “What about your Seroquel hangover?”

I waved my arm in false dismissal. “Oh, don’t worry about that. If I get up early, it goes away for an hour or two and comes back later. So it’ll be fine. Honestly.”

She nodded in acceptance, and was about to say something when the sodding phone piped up again. This time it was Eimear, introduced a million miles in the far North of this post, who’d seen my car returning.

My ma prattled on about Georgie for a bit, then started waxing lyrical about how wonderful A and I were for supporting her, driving her to Hotel California, etc. I don’t take compliments easily, readers, and I don’t often hear them from the mouth of my mother. Once again, I felt myself fidgeting nervously.

To her credit, as we went to bed, she reiterated these points to both of us, suggesting that her appreciation was truly genuine and, to use a word I absolutely detest, heartfelt. I told her that she was welcome and, traumatic and hateful as the entire evening had been, I meant it. In respect of how grief can lead to insomnia, I gave her four Zopiclones, and told her not to take them all at once like I commonly did. She threw her head up, aghast, in response to this statement.

“I was joking,” I lied. She affected a polite laugh, thanked me for the sleepers, and kissed me on the cheek before retiring.

A and I lay awake staring at the ceiling for a bit. How the conversation came about I don’t recall, but at one point A asked me if I was actually personally affected by the loss of Maisie. I considered the question for a few minutes, before responding that yes, I thought I was.

This is Instance Two of Pandora Being Crap. Sadly, it turned out to be far from the last.

“I mean, it’s still surreal,” I began, “and I can’t quite believe it – but then that’s the point. Regardless of my issues with her, she’s always just been there. I think I’ve taken that for granted all my life, despite her well documented health issues.”

He told me that it was OK for me to cry if I wanted to. I scoffed at the suggestion, downed a few Zopiclone and rolled over. Before I slept, though, a few silent tears did escape. What a fucking failure.

To be continued as soon as possible. If you’ve actually taken an interest in any of this, dearest reader, then I can only guess at the levels of your masochism.

Fuck – Rows, Illness and Death

I accidentally published this post last night, titularly known merely as ‘Fuck’ – but I mistakenly hit the ‘Publish’ button several narrative eons too early. Sorry to any of you that got confused by its disappearance or whatever – I know there were quite a number of hits to it, so I feel like a bit of a dick. Sorry. FAIL!

Jesus. I don’t know where to start with any of this. Everything in the run-up to, during, and in the aftermath of, Maisie’s funeral was shit. I was shit, a circumstance that I will explain why when I’ve reached the correct chronological juncture.

So then, in order…

The Lead-Up

I had previously written a full-length post about some of the stuff that happened in the days and weeks that preceded Maisie’s death, but actually publishing it would feel rather disrespectful. I mean, I know I’ve made a point since she died of not making her out to be something she wasn’t, and I’m not going to discontinue that philosophy, but the level of detail to which I’m characteristically drawn really isn’t required in this case. Suffice to say that Maisie and Kevin (my cousin, her live-in son) had a massive row with Sarah (another cousin, Maisie’s live-in daughter) and ScumFan (Sarah’s son and, you guessed it, Maisie’s live-in grandson). It was so vicious that Kevin and ScumFan came to blows, though curiously Kevin – who, despite his mild-mannered exterior, has a propensity for unacceptable behaviour – later apologised to his sister and nephew. They accepted this, and duly said sorry for their part in the row. Maisie, however, would not let it slide, and in true Hotel California style, the resultant atmosphere was as thick as a combination of treacle and vomit.

I went to my mother’s house on the Thursday before Maisie died to find Sarah and ScumFan sitting there, having apparently been in situ since the Tuesday evening, their escape intending until at least the Friday night. Unkind things were said. Some were true and just, some were less forgiveable. It was more or less universally agreed that Maisie was manipulative (yes), that she always seemed to have a particular problem with Sarah – as opposed to her three sons and two-daughters-in-law – (yes in duplicate), that life in the house – at her behest – was frankly bizarre (yes in triplicate). But we also cracked a few rather unpleasant jokes at her expense, about which I now feel slightly bad. Not OMG I’m such an evil human being, burn me at the stake RIGHT NOW bad, because there were occasions in which she deserved a good parodying, and it’s human nature to pick up on a person’s faults and criticise them, even if you can also see the good.

But what I feel worse about is some of the bile I spewed here about the woman. In my defence, a lot of that arose in the summer of 2010 when she was incredibly nasty to my mother. I reacted with anger to this – rightly, I feel – but perhaps I went too far. Not that she’d ever have read it, but the fact that I thought (and wrote) such aggressive, bitter enmities – without at least later qualifying them – leaves me with a gruesome metallic taste in my mouth (or is that the Lamotrigine? ;)).

Anyhow, due to an engagement on the Saturday, ScumFan had to leave (along with his mother) on the Friday. Sarah especially was dreading her return to Hotel California owing to her mother’s behaviour during the week, and I honestly don’t know what happened when they arrived home. All I know is that on Saturday, my mother rang me to advise that Maisie had been taken into hospital.

One thing that’s important to understand here is that Maisie’s life completely revolved around being in Hotel California, or at least with 4,083,832 family and friends around her in some other ostensibly normal setting. She abhorred the notion of hospital admissions in the past so much that she’d have preferred to fuck up her health to avoid them. She was admitted several times over the last decade, but never once had she not steadfastly fought against the idea. On that Saturday morning, though, someone had called a GP to attend to her. When said GP opined that she should be hospitalised, Maisie did not resist in the slightest. This, my dears, is the micro-social equivalent of the Earth circling the Sun backwards.

Despite whatever had gone on between them, Sarah went with her ailing mother in an ambulance, whilst Paedo (and Kevin? ScumFan? Not sure) followed in the car behind it.

Her initial prognosis was a bit meh, but not – as far as could be ascertained at the time – by any means critical. In fact, at one point the quacks thought it was something as apparently simple as a bug (complicated a little by Maisie’s weight, respiratory problems and diabetes). Over the next few days, they did all the usual faff of blood tests, chest x-rays and so on. At one point, they wanted to do an MRI scan, but Maisie refused; her grounds for this were that if she had to lie flat on her back, that she’d not be able to (a) breathe and (b) get up again. If that sounds bizarre, be advised that for the past several years she had slept upright in a chair in her living room, because lying in bed would have had these results.

Anyhow, as the days went on, she had seemed to have been feeling better. ScumFan, apparently (alongside his mother) reconciled with Maisie, proffered the view that his grandmother would most likely be discharged by the weekend.

Alas, his optimism was to be short-lived.

Wednesday: The Death

A and I were intending to take another trip round the Emerald Isle from the Friday of that week until the weekend just passed. As such, I was intending to leave our cats with my mother on the Wednesday, stay over with her that night, and visit Maisie in hospital on the Thursday afternoon. At one point on Wednesday when I spoke to Mum on the phone, she initially suggested we go to see her sister that day; I demurred, however, on the grounds that “I [could] just go tomorrow.” My mother was seemingly quite content with that, not envisaging any great deterioration in Maisie’s condition. In any case, I found myself massively delayed by the sheer idiocy of Mr Cat, who didn’t bother to come home that afternoon (and, in fact, he only turned up 24 hours subsequent to it). Beyond being irritated, however, I was relatively relaxed. Herein comes the “…if only I had…” bullshit. If only I had put our cat-accommodation concerns to one side for one measly, poxy afternoon, then I could have seen Maisie one final time. Whilst that may not have benefited me greatly (although by the same token, neither would have been greatly offensive, Paedo’s probable presence aside), it would have made her day.

What ifs are fucking pointless, stupid and usually wholly irrational. I consider myself a thinking person, as opposed to a feeling one. So why am even I afflicted by this phenomenon? I’m not a normal human being; I’m a self-styled dickhead providing no service with plenty of sneer. So what the fuck? I mean, let’s get some perspective on this: the what ifs are not totally overwhelming my psyche or anything. I’m not so consumed by guilt and self-loathing that I bawl my eyes out every time I inhale, or that I intend to throw myself off the Si Du River Bridge (though that said, should I ever wish to leap to my death, the backdrop to that piece of civil engineering genius would encompass a pretty spectacular and dramatic scenery on which to fix my final gazes). But it is there, and it is there enough to upset me. ‘Disappointed’ is not a term I frequently use in a self-referential context, but it it is apt here. I’m not disappointed because I’m apparently not a robotic droid; I’m disappointed in myself for letting down this complex person that was, until less than a fortnight ago, my aunt.

Bah. This introspection requires a post of its own. This one was meant to be about the chronology and specific events of the last fortnight, so let me return to that.

I contacted my mother about 5pm to apologise for my lateness and to verbally pour scorn on Mr Cat’s inconvenient – and, I am convinced, deliberate and pre-planned – decision to jaunt off on an extended mission to find himself a bird (post-feminist double entendres, anyone?). She told me not to worry about it and to come whenever I could.

Less than twenty minutes later, she rang me again. For once, I am glad I answered the hateful, repugnant device that is the fucking telephone. Having not been able to support her in those brief, shocked, horrified seconds she experienced would have been tantamount to abuse.

“Pandora,” she gasped. “Maisie’s dead!”

“Oh my God,” said some robot somewhere, speaking in what appeared to be my voice. Maisie being ill was not uncommon; as observed above, being forced into hospital wasn’t unheard of either. And ScumFan – and Mum in some ways too – had either inferred or even explicitly stated that the woman was getting better. And now she was dead? What the actual fuck?

My reaction was odd. I wasn’t struck by anything like one would normally expect – no horror, grief, overwhelming sadness. Arguably, given my quietly fractious relations with the McFauls, one might argue that I could have felt relief, or at least a release. But I didn’t experience any of those things; instead, I experienced a strange, unpleasant rush of adrenaline that stung every nerve in my body. I suppose, retrospectively, it was a quite normal experience: that of human shock. At the time, however, it seemed weirdly inappropriate.

I don’t remember if I quizzed my mother on what had specifically happened. I don’t remember saying much, in fact, but then the phone call wasn’t long. I do recall that I told Mum I’d come over to her gaff straight away, but she urged me not to drive until I had A with me. Yeah, because someone who’s partially sighted and at least partially emotionally detached from the whole sorry saga is going to magically turn me into a slow but still competent Lewis fucking Hamilton (I’m sure A won’t mind me saying that; he says as much to me himself). What I did instead was drive to his workplace, pick him up, and then we set to going to my ma’s.

We hit traffic. I chewed my lip nervously. A fiddled with his phone as he apprehensively scratched at his face. Even the car engine seemed to empathise, emitting as he did a (quite probably imaginary) sound of churning, vague discomfort. I looked out the window at all the world-weary faces of the home-commuting rat-race. They returned my stares of empty sympathy with their own piteous gazes. The sky was dark grey, brooding ominously like an amorphous Edgar Allen Poe.

The setting was well and truly set for the following few days.

I’ll continue this tomorrow. I have to go and see Paul. Did you see that one coming, readers?! I shall attempt to explain and detail that over the next few days too.

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