Saturday, 22 March 2014

Life Stories

Here I am, blogging again.

Recently I've been thinking, why bother?

It's been a weird few weeks, I didn't know if I should mention it on my blog as it's not happened to me, it happened to my friend. It feels like taking something from someone, but grief is such an awful thing that I'm sure she would want me to take it. My friend lost her younger brother, suddenly and shockingly. That's all I will say because that's where my understanding ends- how she is coping, how her family is feeling... that is beyond my understanding.

A few days later my brother called me to say our aunty in Liverpool had died- she was the partner of my dad's brother. They weren't married, but they'd been together for 25 years.

My brother's accent is a lot thicker than mine and over the phone it sounded like he was saying the name of one our half-brothers, but I couldn't understand him, so I was yelling at him: "WHO's died?? WHO's died??"

Nobody told me that our aunty had cancer; she was hospitalised a few months ago, but nobody actually said the c-word. My nana just told me she'd fallen into a coma and had had 'bits taken out of her'. I didn't realise she had cancer until she told me last week that we weren't having any flowers at the funeral:

"Flowers are a waste of money, we want everyone to make a donation to Marie Curie because that's who looked after her in the end."

I was so sad already- about my friend's brother- that I don't think I felt more sad. It was just ongoing sadness. I was in the flat a lot on my own that week and I did spend a few nights working myself up into hysterics, calling my mum and calling Amy. On the Friday of that week I finished work at 10pm and sat outside in my coat, drinking a gin and tonic one of the customers had bought me. I called Amy and Kayt and they told me I probably looked like the local Funny Lady, shuffling along, drinking outside pubs on my own, talking too loudly and swearing.

The night before the funeral I spoke to my nana on the phone. She told me she'd organised for me to get picked up at the train station by my uncle's ex-wife and her son- my cousin. I panicked a bit, as my aunty who passed away didn't have any kids, but my cousin was her step-son. Why would he want me in the car on the way to the funeral, when I haven't seen him for years and years?

I realised for the first time that the whole day would be really sad and awkward. I don't know my dad's family very well. The last time I saw my aunty who died was years ago. I've spoken to her on the phone sometimes, if I've been at my nana's when she called. She was lovely. I know everyone says that about people who have died but she was unusually lovely and kind.

In the end it was fine. My cousin recognised me as I was coming off the train and called my name. He was about 15 years older than I was expecting, but I remembered him from when he was at uni in Manchester and he used to babysit us sometimes.

His mum picked us up. I've never met her before, but luckily she was very chatty. She told me how my aunty had gone to the doctors again and again and again, each time being told she probably had a bladder infection, until one day she collapsed and went into a coma.

I love the NHS, but this happens a lot. My mum's friend Jane did not get diagnosed until it was too late and my friend's sister went to the doctor's many times about a mole that turned out to be the skin cancer that killed her.

I don't mean for this post to be really depressing, but the past few years so many of my family and friends have been affected by cancer. I never go to the doctors and if I did go and they told me I didn't need a scan, I'd be relieved because I'm so lazy. But really, everyone should demand a scan.

When we got to my uncle's house before the funeral, I didn't know what to say to my uncle so I just said hi, which is really fucking shit. But I really didn't know what to do or say. The house was, as you'd expect, clouded with sadness. My dad seemed drunk and was talking really loudly. His ex-girlfriend/girlfriend/mother of his other three kids was there, which was seen as a controversial move by some.

One of my uncles drove us to the funeral. He is the husband of my dad's sister (yes, my aunty, but if I keep calling everyone aunty you will get confused). He's really, really nice, in the same ridiculously-nice way that my aunty who died was. He always gives everyone lifts and goes out of his way to help you. He even offered to drive me to Paris, when I first moved there. I was living with them for a few months at the time. It's funny because I never see them and would never organise to see them, but when I do see my dad's sister and her husband we get on really well.

Anyway. When we walked into the funeral they played 'Heart of Gold' by Neil Young. I guess it's now one of those songs that nobody who was at the funeral will be able to listen to without crying.

On the way from the crematorium to the pub, there was a bit of a mix up with cars and I was put in a funeral car with my uncle. I didn't say two words to him the whole way, I kept thinking of things I could say but didn't manage to say anything. I realised that the whole day might go by without me saying two words to my uncle who had just lost his partner of 25 years.

At the pub we sat around large, circular tables. My nana, my dad's sister and my dad say down at one table so I sat down next to them. I'd been talking to my dad's girlfriend/ex-girlfriend/who the fuck knows so she sat down on the other side of me. My dad turned to me and said:

"Can I sit next to her? I've not seen her for ages."

I told him we could swap seats- meaning me and him, so he'd be sat in the middle. He said ok and then didn't move, assuming I would just move somewhere else! As I got up he said:

"Thanks, I can talk to you later."

I said: "I won't be fucking talking to you ."

I know he wasn't being horrible or anything, but it just made me realise that my dad is...

a crank.

During the evening, we spoke about my aunty a lot, which completely changed the mood of the day. I understand the importance of funerals now- you need to say goodbye and then celebrate a person's life.  I got chatting to a couple who were friends with my aunty. They kept calling me Queen, which is my favourite Scouse Phrase EVER.

"How old are you, queen?"
"What are you drinking, queen?"

My dad's girlfriend had to leave so she could drive back to the North East and she'd left her car at my dad's house. My super-nice uncle said he'd drive her back and my dad wanted to go with her.

"She needs a rest, before the long drive."

My uncle came back on his own and everyone wanted to know where my dad was. I think it's so rude and weird to LEAVE a funeral like that, for no reason. Did he not think his brother would wonder where he was?

We stayed for hours and hours. I spent a lot of time with the nice couple. The man started asking me about my dad, because he said he didn't see his daughter a lot and he wondered how that had affected her. He was saying, "You're fine, you're fine aren't you?"

Yes I am fine, but my dad is still a CRANK.

I know, my dad's alright really. His dad wasn't all that, apparently. My nana was making me laugh in the pub, because the nice couple who were friends with my aunty were asking her about her husband, who died when I was about four and my nana was indignant:

"Aw, I bet you miss him, don't you?"
"I fucking don't!"
"No, but really... I bet you miss him really, don't you?"
"No! I don't! You wouldn't believe the horrible life I had!"

She actually said 'horrible life' but trust me, it was funny when she said it, not dark. She's told me enought stories about her life that I know it wasn't all horrible, anyway. I don't think anyone else does, but I believe her when she says that she doesn't miss him. After he died she bought herself 29,000 air miles through Teletext and went round the world.

I always mean to blog some of her stories, but I think I'm the only person that loves them. Sometimes she tells me really dark, horrible stories about people dying- the whole family that died on her street in the air raid shelter, or the day her brother and her daughter died on the same day- but mostly she tells me really funny stories. My favourite stories are the ones from went she went travelling, because they don't have any point to them, they are just nice little vignettes that some up the pointlessness and mystery of life.

I know I'm going off-topic here, but my favourite story is when she went to Hong Kong and she kept seeing business men walking down the street carrying little cages with birds inside. So one day she followed one of these business men, to see where he was going with his bird. He went to the park and sat on a bench under a tree. He hung the bird cage on a branch and ate his lunch, then he stood up, unhooked the bird cage and went back to work.


Or another story is she was in Fiji and saw a family in a hut eating teeny tiny bananas, so she asked them if she could try one through the art of mime and they beckoned her to come inside and eat the teeny tiny bananas with them, which someone has since told her are called 'Lady Fingers'.


At the end of the evening I did speak to my uncle a bit, but not about my aunty dying. I can't remember what we were talking about now, everyone was a quite tipsy. He didn't look good. Me and my brother got back to my dad's house quite late and he showed us some paintings he has done.

As my dad spends most of his time doing fuck all, I wish he would spend some time doing art work. I was really surprised he had done some paintings- they're really good. They are just swirly black and white boards which sounds a bit shit, but they're really intricate. He can't afford enamel at the moment, but they kind of look like they've done with enamel.

I told him he should find arty cafes where they display paintings and put prices underneath, so that they can decorate their cafe with nice art in exchange for giving artists a place to exhibit. He said "Yeah yeah I will."

But he won't.

Just like I won't do any of the things I keep saying I will do. I haven't even cancelled my French phone contract and I left France eight months ago. They keep taking it out of my French bank account every month, but when I left France I cleared my bank account so it must be going minus minus minus every month.

As you can imagine I feel all warm and happy inside whenever I think about it.


At the moment I really don't care. It sounds like something really old people say, but you shouldn't take your health for granted and I don't. At the moment I feel really, really lucky and I am just going to appreciate that.

With that in mind, I am leaving my flat soon. After my cousin left I debated leaving, but in the end found a new girl online who wanted to move in. The day before my aunty's funeral and incidentally the day before our rent went out, she told me she couldn't move in after all. I sent her a pretty curt message about how I didn't have time to discuss it and I think I guilt-tripped her into changing her mind.

She moved her stuff into day and she seems nice, but I want to move anyway. I've found a friend of a friend of a friend who wants a lodger, so I'm going to do that for a few weeks. My internship finishes in four weeks and I don't know what's going to happen afterwards. I'm not going to work in the pub full-time again. If I have to do bar work I may as well do it in Paris or Spain or somewhere else.

I am really trying to talk myself into being positive.

I know it seems a bit inappropriate after such a sad post, but I have just put some new music on to cheer me up and make me do some housework, so I'll share it:


  1. Just wanted to offer my support and good vibes. I've been following your blog for about a year now (hope that's not too creepy) but I like yr writing style and when I was in France last year it helped me quite a bit.
    My mum always offers some pretty good advice - be like water on stone. Its how you persevere. when you are shaping yr life. :)

    1. Thank you, good to know my blog helped you while you were in France! I like the thing about water on stone, very poetic. Thanks for commenting- LBM.

  2. Sorry you've had such a sad time [Queen]. Here's hoping you'll turn the corner soon - I'm sure you will. xxx

  3. Firstly, please don't stop blogging! Even if what you have to talk about might seem mundane compared to "Paris adventures" or sad, you always find a way to make it interesting and usually hilarious (when appropriate). (To clarify, not trying to say it *is* mundane for your readers but I know it's easy to feel that way when you come back after travelling.)

    Secondly, sorry you're going through a hard time. Lots of hugs x

    1. Thank you! Yeah I guess I do feel mundane after Paris, because it wasn't travelling it was my life and I just left it to come here for no reason. Maybe I'll feel differently in a few months.

  4. Yes, don't stop blogging. I started reading your blog before I became an au pair and now I'm almost done! Some of your stories have me laughing out loud (notably the one with the drunk man who told you that you weren't smiling enough and then started crying at the pub). You're hilarious LBM don't stop!

    1. Aw thank you for such a lovely comment, I hope your au pair experience has been fun. I haven't see that old man lately you know, I hope he's ok but kind of glad he hasn't been crying at me...

  5. Please don't stop blogging! I also read your blog before I became an au pair, and it helped me so much! I can really relate to most of your stories (as I'm sure many other au pairs and expats can as well).