Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Goat in the Bakery

This is the "camp" of my new friend Colin. I try to visit him most days. I buy him soup as that's what he likes the most. He gets given so much food that he usually ends up dispersing it amongst the other homeless. Colin doesn't use illicit drugs or drink. I think he must smoke though I have never seen him smoke but his hands look like smoker's hands.

Colin lost his job as a haridresser a few years ago due to failing eyesight. He lived in rented accommodation that he kept his rent up on, and in August his place sold to a new owner who promptly ejected him and his friends, Colin had nowhere to go. He does manage to sofa surf most nights but not all.

Anyway I left my bags with him the other day as I popped into the bakery to get his soup. This well to do woman stopped me.

"You are brave" she said.
I looked at her with suspicion.
"You left your bags with that um er, you know um"
I smiled "that's my friend actually".
She frowned "he went through your bags as soon as your back was turned".
I rolled my eyes "I don't think so dear".
She reached for my arm "he did I swear"
"Oh he got up did he, he doesn't normally"
She started to flounder a little.
I snapped a little "he has bags of his own next to him, he was reaching into his for some bread as he has loads and wanted some to have with his soup. If he has taken anything out of mine it's either Christmas cards or tampons, so if you don't mind would you let me get on with it?"


It brought to mind my favourite Gospel passage

Matthew 25:31-40New International Version (NIV)

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Colin has retinopathy. He has fallen through the gaps and I'm trying to get him help.
My MP David Nuttall is on the case so hopefully he knows of a way to help him get secure housing. 
In the mean time I can't really afford to buy him soup every day. So I unearthed my soup flask and made him some. I will visit him every day until he finds a home.
I hope this is sooner rather than later, I can't bear to see him alone at Christmas.
EDIT: Update this morning an email received from David

Dear Kylie,

Thank you for your email. 

With regard to Mr Johnson we will of course be happy to help him. I have asked my Senior Caseworker Miss Nabila Afilal to contact you.

With regard to Mr Johnson’s eyesight problem I will see if the Bury Society for Blind and Partially Sighted people are able to provide help as well.

Yours sincerely,

David Nuttall MP

Bury North

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Clarence - Silver Street - PRofB

Our lovely afternoon at The Clarence, Silver Street People's Republic of Bury.

So yesterday Joseph and I decided to go and see if we could find Father Christmas. I will blog more about our day later. We decided to go and find cake. I suggested we try The Clarence . I had heard they do coffee and cake so I thought we should give it a go. I did intend The Clarence to be a much awaited date venue with the husband but Joseph pipped him at the post. Well Joseph was initially entranced by the busy Clarence and even at 3 in the afternoon there were only two tables left. We took a window seat.

"I will absolutely not have coffee and cake in a pub" said Joseph. We had already ordered. However coffee and cake for too is the princely sum of £7. No not each. £7 for two. £3.50. No one could accuse The Clarence of not being good value for money.

Things went wrong initially when the waitress said "we don't do chocolate cake, only chocolate and orange" They had Manchester Tart cake so I ordered that and chocolate and orange, hoping that one of those would suit sir. "I don't want American cake". Said my darling companion. I looked at him confused. "The Americans are always adding rubbish to chocolate cake". Okaaaaay. I replied quickly "you don't get more English than Manchester tart cake".

Joseph was fractious and all the patrons and staff jollied him along.

This look is "I really didn't want to like this place". Then the cakes arrived. To be honest mine was ordinary (the chocolate orange) but still fine. But the Manchester Tart Cake was heaven. Joseph shared! I was shocked as his first full funny sentence at not quite 3 was "sharing is for toys not food".

No trip for afternoon tea is complete without the obligatory trip to the toilets. "Mummy this sink looks Irish". How does he know this is called a Belfast sink. We have never spoken about Ireland.

Joseph adored the tiles, and said "these are amazing" I have a tile fetish and adored them too. He even liked the chair. Joseph's hot chocolate was too hot, and so they bought him a little bottle of milk which he loved.

I was happy as I got a lovely natter with my new friend Eiriann and her husband and son. This picture doesn't do this lovely family justice. She looked much more stylish than I did with an 8 month old. She reminded me very much of Leigh. 
On the way out, Joseph spotted "the moose". He looked intrigued and said "who shot the moose?" I replied that the moose died of old age, he was in fact the oldest deer in Scotland and God had called him to take care of all the baby deer taken too soon. Joseph accepted this without question.

The Clarence is a cosy traditional pub with a modern twist. The service was exemplary. The prices just so affordable, it had a beautiful atmosphere.

I will be going again for sure. Clearly this isn't sponsored content, we fell in the door and were met with kindness and good food.

What more could you ask for?

Bula Vinaka!

In !992 at the tender age of 20 I went on my first overseas trip to Fiji! This picture belongs to an important brother (spiritual) of mine, Brian.

You see, digital wasn't a thing back in 1992. I did take photos but they are in Tasmania in mum's shed! I loved my trip but it was so very hard in lots of ways.

In Fiji everyone says "Bula Vinaka". Simply Bula means hello. It also means welcome. "Ni sa Bula Vinaka" a very warm welcome to you, is the full sentence but it's simplified to Bula or Bula Vinaka. It's said as punctuation, as greeting, as a blessing. Bula Vinaka is ALWAYS said with a smile! A Fiji smile.

In Fiji time goes backwards. It's not a unique concept, Greece and Italy do the same. The past, heritage, your ancestors are more important than what is now or what is to come. It's really hard to get used to. I remember my dear friend Amos saying "I have applied for a job in Fiji! I found out whether I have it or not on Friday". I replied "which one". He sounded confused "well this coming one of course" I smiled wryly. He found out he didn't get it, on a Friday, some weeks afterwards.

I wouldn't have had the courage to go to Fiji without Amos' encouragement, prayers and let's face it, money. I cleaned his house, sold his junk in a garage sale, cleaned his car. He admonished me for the poor job I did with his tyres. Funny the things you remember.

In Fiji I went with a group of students to do missions work. I will share more of Fiji in later posts but here is the point of Bula Vinaka.

When I was in hospital recently in the psychiatric unit I longed for activities. Admitted on a Friday night I was dismayed to find out that there were no activities were scheduled til the Monday. The first activity was craft! Hooray. I went with my pens and the lovely OT assistant S said "no you have to do our activities!" I smiled and said "what is it today?" And the reply was glueing and sticking. I rolled my eyes and said "you mean decoupage?" S asked "what is decoupage?" The nurse in the room said "posh word for glueing and sticking". I growled "adult word".

Anyway I really enjoyed the activity and the banter. S explained she had been to Australia once as she had been home. "Where is home?" I asked. "Fiji" she replied. Her dad is Fijian.

"Ah Bula! Bula Vinaka!" I thought she was going to faint. "Tulo" I gasped quickly. It means "I'm sorry or excuse me. You must never touch a Fijian's hair. Fijian children you can if you have to but you must say "Tulo"

Then I said "senga na lenga" which means all sots. "No worries" "It will be alright" "chill out man" "it's ok".

S said no one ever speaks Fijian to her except her dad and uncle and certainly not a patient.

I felt so honoured to have this photographic memory. Although it's an aural one rather than visual sadly.

Joseph has it too.

What a gift.

So I say to you this Sunday "Bula Vinaka" "Senga na lenga"

Once you hear this as Fiji there is no going back. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Why I Support #JuniorDoctors Strike Action

I am not going to go through the technics of the Junior Doctors strike action or bombard you with links. I would urge you to follow Junior Doctors on Twitter. Many of my Twitter friends are doctors and I love them to bits. Junior Doctors are the absolute backbone of the NHS alongside all the other unsung heroes.

If you do want to know more read here

1. This post about a lovely junior doctor who assisted in my C section.

2. The junior doctor I hugged 

3. The doctor who told me I was dying

4. The doctor who told me I didn't have a heart problem I had a head problem and who I made refer me to the psychiatric team.

5. The junior doctor who apologised for being a junior doctor not a consultant and listened to my mental health history with kindness.

6. The junior doctor on the locked ward who asked me about my bipolar diagnosis. In horror I said "I didn't know I had bipolar, are you sure?" He smiled and said "oops I was reading someone else's notes I am "only" a junior.

7. The junior doctor on the ward, different from this one, who listened to me when I was in distress.

I have hundreds of stories about junior doctors.

Here is why junior doctors are fabulous

1. They are passionate. Haven't been in the system long enough to become jaded.

2. They have recent clinical skills and for the most part haven't learned bad practice.

3. They are kind. Maybe there are some not kind ones, but all the ones I have met have been awesome even the one who called me That Bloody Hodges Woman 

4. For the hours and responsibility they have they are paid peanuts but are certainly not monkeys.

5. They have more kindness and dedication than Jeremy Twunt Hunt. *refrains from using C word as this is a family blog*

6. Junior Doctors have

* saved my life
* saved my baby's life
* saved my sanity

Please don't allow them to be screwed they deserve so much more.

The fact patient safety could be jeopardised is a reason to listen.

Kylie Hodges - expert patient, blogger, mum, union representative, leftie, socialist scum

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Psychiatric Unit

Do not be alarmed. A week ago I was almost sectioned under section 2 of the Mental Health Act. 2 doctors recommended it on the basis I was presenting with bipolar like symptoms. I met people with bipolar on the ward and can totally see why they thought this. I will one day explain more but for now read this funny story.

"Hi just to explain I am a social worker. My role is to be the final say in the process of having you sectioned. If I disagree with the doctors then you won't be sectioned", said the kind faced man in front of me. My dear friend Becky who has been by my side since the beginning of the decline of my mental health 6 years ago must have been so frightened yet she didn't show it.

He went on "if you are admitted voluntarily to Rochdale what will you do?"

I kind of managed a smile "behave as though I am sectioned, I will comply. I won't like it but I would prefer to go voluntarily so it shows I am compliant and happy to go. Please give me that dignity"

He looked quite stern "You have to comply, you have no choice. If you abscond, although you have the right to leave at any time, you will be sectioned. I don't think you belong in hospital but I have no choice".

I smiled and said "I am a woman of principle and of my word. Just let me go of my own accord".

"It won't be nice, you will miss your family" he said.

"I am pretending it's an all inclusive holiday. I have been in units as a friend and advocate but never a patient. There'll be crafts, meals, friends, baths, sleep and peace. Ok Rochdale isn't in the top 1000 holiday destinations, but I am sure it will be ok".

He proceeded to tell me he dissented and I would be going of my own accord. Becky and I were to travel in his car.

He hadn't organised the car, we stood in the carpark in the rain as he sorted his car out. Then we got in and drove in tension, I hate tension.

"Excuse me" I timidly spoke. "May we have some music?"

"Of course!" replied the social worker. He put on radio 2.

"Um, not being funny but can we do better than radio 2? Radio 6?" I asked.

"I have a CD here not sure what it is though", the music filled the car. Nirvana, Come as You Are.

I felt panic "Do you really think this is suitable, let's go back to radio 2 shall we?"

"Why, don't you like Nirvana?" He asked.

"Of course they are ace, but Kurt Cobain committed suicide! It's hardly appropriate!"

"But you aren't suicidal are you?" said the social worker worriedly, no doubt thinking "oh crap I should have gone with the section".

Calmly I said "of course not but Rochdale is 30 minutes away, and after that length of time listening to Nirvana I could well be suicidal!"

Even in that situation my humour sustained me.

There were many lovely and funny moments whilst I was in hospital.

I would love to share them with you.

Next post is Bula Vanaka! 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Anchor Through the Seas of Life

Like a lot of women, my relationship with my mum is sometimes a little stormy. We love each other deeply but at times we clash a bit. And that's ok, it's not unique it is what it is. So mum if you are reading this I love you very much, storms and all.

My dad was an anchor for me all my life. Quiet and contemplative, funny and quick witted. Gentle and caring to a fault. My dad always had an answer especially with humans. He loved children, just adored them and they loved him too. My favourite pictures of dad are the ones of him with me when I was little, and the ones with Joseph. Even when he was frail he would play cars or watch In the Night Garden with Joseph. They are such precious memories.

When I announced my rather surprise pregnancy my mum was a bit shocked. However my dad took it all in his stride and with typical Bob-ness said "congratulations we are delighted! We don't care what it is, as long as it's healthy and as long as it's a boy" Dad longed for a grandson.

So when Joseph was born I breathed a sigh of relief. I had kept half of the bargain.

This photo was taken many years before the one above. I am struck by how similar they are. Joseph had a huge sense of wonder at his first "selfie" taken before the term was in the Oxford English Dictionary. Dad had the same when I took that in the last moments of our last visit.

These men make me feel the same. Dad always made me feel like a good daughter, dependable, loving and kind (even though at times I could be very difficult). Joseph makes me feel like a good mum. I loved being dad's daughter, and I love being Joseph's mum.

I think, rather than dad's "selfishness" at wanting a grandson to balance out his 2 beloved grand daughters that my sister made (she then stole my thunder and produced a boy soon after Joseph was born) dad knew I needed a son. Joseph has restored my faith in men (along with my husband) He is such a good man. During my recent period of sadness he said to me "it's one of those women things isn't it, I'll just hug you until it gets better". Then when I dropped him off at school he said "if you get sad make a cup of coffee". He then wandered off to his line and stood with his friends, turned around and shouted "TEA! Mummy it's tea in crisis not coffee. If you feel sad you need to make a cup of tea, not coffee, ok!"

That is so Bob like. My dad could have well said the same thing.

It's Dad's birthday today.

He would have been 90

Happy birthday dad and thank you for ensuring I had a son, my anchor. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

I Don't Do Remembrance Sunday

The Sunday in November that we stop and remember those who fought so that we may have freedom.

I don't wear a poppy. Before you unfriend me, slate me or defame me this is why. I am Australian. In Australia we don't do the poppy as much. For Australians it's rosemary.

Those paper poppies, I buy one every year. Well I pay for one every year but I don't wear one. Poppies fade, they fall off, they get lost. When I see people wear poppies I feel pride, when I wear one myself it feels wrong. A spring of rosemary on my collar, like the diggers in Australia, that to me is remembrance.

For rosemary in ancient literature signifies remembrance, fidelity. With rosemary you know where you are. It is evergreen, it is strong, it is powerful. It brings to mind lamb roasts, warm kitchens, solid tradition.

You see those brave men that landed at Gallipolli, who were gunned down so quickly by the enemy, who were lambs to the slaughter, fought not over desert or rocks, but the wild rosemary growing over the banks and hills around Gallipolli Bay. The braver still regiment of Lancashire Fusiliers who rescued the survivors did the same.

You see I do not wear a poppy, or stop the world for Remembrance Sunday for one key reason. My dad risked his life for mine before I was born, before he moved to Australia, before he met my mother. My dad enlisted in the army and then the Royal Navy. He bravely fought, though rarely spoke about it, and his knowledge of war history was second to none. He was a scholar.

I have a rosemary bush by my front door and every morning I say a silent prayer for the servicemen and women of yesterday and today.

On my Day of the Dead celebrations last week I had yellow roses, as they were the flowers that dad had at his last meal with me last year, before he died, with lots of rosemary from my garden to signify his own sacrifices in war.

I remember our war dead and our living dead every day.

I give thanks for the men and women at home and abroad, for those who serve, those who come back and those who have fractured minds and hearts as a result of combat.

Perhaps because I have "the digger's disease" PTSD it makes me more aware of what it must be like to live with the horrors of war inhabiting your head every minute of every day.

Maybe because I could have not been here had Hitler's men (or Hirohito's for that matter) killed my father.

Maybe because I lived with my dad's memory and legacy I feel that affinity every day.

For me Remembrance Sunday is important, but it is important to remember every day.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Miracle of Pre-Term Birth

It's World Prematurity Awareness Month culminating in World Prematurity Day on November 17th. I've been involved in the day since it's inauguration and it's a very special and emotional time for me still.

I've met so many amazing people due to Joseph's birth, and we all share something in common. A unique sadness, that our pregnancies were cut short, changed into a medical emergency. Our first memories of our babies weren't ones we had planned or expected. For many of us they felt unique to us until the realisation that actually many people all go through the same thing. But what I am realising is that we've also experienced a miracle and joy, but some have had that cut short. The uncertainty of it all is something very difficult to understand and to live with.

I know I have been diagnosed as having PTSD but I actually think it's something else. Post Traumatic Sadness Disorder. When  look at Joseph's pictures I feel a sadness as well as elation and joy. I feel sad when I look at pictures like this.

I can see his ribs, his tiny legs, his fingers. So frail and tiny. That's the smallest nappy made for babies, and it's almost down to his toes.

But then contrast it with this.

Our little man just 4 days old, breathing on his own for a little while, out for a cuddle. He made the cutest little squeaky noises. We couldn't stop smiling, and then I left the room once he was back in the incubator and cried. I cried and cried. I was happy, but I was also desperately sad. That 7 minute cuddle was all I had had in 4 days and all I would get for many more weeks to come. My dreams of endless skin to skin, of breastfeeding, of taking my baby home shortly after birth was totally in tatters, and I wasn't prepared for what was to come, but how can you prepare?

I still find it hard to let go, and that's ok. I do let go, I let Joseph go every day. I let him spread his wings, and I push him too, to discover himself and the world around him. I am proud of me for that because I could have just refused to let him go to nursery or school. I could have opted out of it all and kept him with me all the time. But I didn't.

And it's ok that I am still sad about his start, about my start to life as a mother. It doesn't actually dull my parenting experience if anything it makes the joyful times brighter.

I have a remarkable young man who is confident, smart, in tune with the emotions of others. A little boy with a quick wit and sensitive disposition. He is a gem and brightens up everyone's day.

Would I have been a better mother had I carried him to term? Probably not. Would I have been a better mother without having PTSD however you define it? Probably not.

On this World Prematurity Day my challenge to all of you, whether you have a baby on the neonatal unit, had a baby on the neonatal unit or supported or supporting someone who has had an involvement on a neonatal unit, find the joy in the journey. Let go a little of the sadness that binds you to it, and find something to celebrate.