Thursday, September 26, 2013

Two wrongs. You're right.

When my kids get caught doing something wrong or have screwed up, I have this thing that I tell them to do - it's the same thing I was told to do when I was a kid: Admit your mistake and apologize.

Sorry. Begging your pardon. Let's sort it out and we can move on. Let's let bygones be bygones.
But that can only happen when you admit it's your mistake.
Otherwise the 'sorry' could really just mean  "Sorry, I got caught." "Sorry, you're such an arse." "Sorry, I have to spend my time talking to idiots"
My kids are 10 and 6. They understand this. Granted, they don't always live by it, but they understand it, perfectly.

If you follow me on Twitter, firstly thank you you gorgeously foolish thing,  and secondly, you may have noticed that the content of my tweets has included the odd barbed comment to @chasesupport about stuff going on with my bank account.
And I'd like to apologise.
Twitter isn't meant for stuff like that.  It's meant for cheekiness and important news reports.
Everybody's just trying to get through the day dealing with their own fair quota of assholes: bad drivers, wrong bills and annoying wee numpties whose sole purpose seems to be to annoy the Hell out of everybody.
Nobody needs to be brought in to some stinking wee gripe of mine.

BUT when I'm mad about something I talk about it. and I talk and talk until I'm not mad anymore. I think that may be why some of my closest friends are deaf. (True)
So, I figure I'd put it all down in a blog and that way, I'll get it off my chest, and if anyone wants to read it they can, and if they'd prefer to look away and smell some pretty flowers, or notice how blue the sky is today, or marvel at the sheer concept as to how many universes there are out there yet to be explored, then that's totally fine too.

OK, so here goes.

It starts in June 2012. I'm out shopping in LA for a dress.
I remember this for two reasons
1. Because I was shopping for an actual dress rather than jeans, pants or something made of flannelette,
2. Because the dress was for the premiere of Brave. I had sorted my kids with suits, my other half was wearing his kilt, so that just left me to be suited and booted. I was stressed.

I had tried on all sorts of stuff to no avail, (pressure) and was, not secretly, cursing the genes that had bestowed me the "child bearing hips" (they had proved useful twice in my life and otherwise were the proverbial pain in the ass.)
Having wandered around the stores most of the morning I found myself in need of a snack and passing a Panda Express (classy right?) decided that this would be the time to try there.
My brother-in-law Eddie, told me once, that whenever he visits the States he likes to go and have a chicken thing at Panda Express. I figure if it works for him it will work for me.  (We are a classy family)
So I ordered something chickeny, paid for it by card, sat down to eat, deciding that maybe I feel about Eddie's chicken stuff, the way that my kids feel about fresh green vegetables.
Anyway, the point is, whilst I was here in LA eating on something chickeny that I'd paid for with my Chasecard, someone had walked in to a branch in Texas, supposedly saying they were me, and had withdrawn thousands of dollars from the very same bank account.

I know. I can't believe there was actually thousands of dollars in our bank account either, it was a fluke, honest. But the point is, someone went into a bank in a completely different part of the country from where I live and withdrew it-  cash first and then a bankers draft.

I know what you're thinking. Chase are a big respectable banking institution, surely they noticed, or maybe called to double check I was me? No.  Not at all. Money gone.
We called the bank to point out there was money missing. They told us, that I had withdrawn it. I had gone all the way to Texas, gone into the branch with my driving license and credit card and cleared out all the money.
Mark and I went into Chase bank here in LA to prove who we were - me breathlessly clutching a Panda Express receipt for sweet and sour chicken balls.
Then I saw the withdrawal slip for the money taken.
Not only did the thief not bother copying my signature, it didn't even look like my name.  In fact, if you had a pet mouse and you dipped its feet in black paint and let it run across a piece of get the idea.

But the woman (if it was even a woman) supposedly had my driving license and credit card. Yes, but the driving license given was a completely different driving license number from mine and more importantly, a completely different  number from the number Chase have on file as mine.

In short, a person went into a bank of Chase bank in Texas with my bank account number, said they were me, doodled (badly) on a slip of paper, handed over the wrong proof of ID  and the teller cleared out the bank account without a blink of an eye.
The irony being if I went into my own branch - where they know me-  and asked them to give me more than $500 at a time, they'd react like a I wanted a kidney.

(If you're reading this and your name is Lynn Ferguson and you have an account with Chase bank, it's completely understandable to crapping it right now)

So, back to June 2012. the bank 'helped' us change all our bank accounts to different numbers and gave us back our money (which we, pretty much instantly, moved somewhere else for safe keeping).
Though the staff in our branch were embarrassed about how appallingly easy it had been for a complete stranger to clear out our bank account, they did their best not to show it. They told us that "Chase take their security very seriously"
Chase would look into what happened. there'd be an investigation. It wouldn't happen again.
Problem over right? Wrong.

New bank account number. Less than a year later. Repeated $250 charges at Macy's in Texas, (running theme here, right?) supposedly made by me whilst I was using the very same card to buy cupcakes for a school picnic here in LA.

Again WE are have to inform the bank. Chase hadn't noticed. but they do take their security very seriously.

Though they did notice when my husband used his card to buy a a new water heater from Home Depot and denied the payment. That's right, because on Chase banking system, the purchasing of a water heater, in a home improvement store less than 5 miles from your home, is A LOT more suspicious than having a sudden unexpected $750 shopping spree in Macy's in a completely different state, whilst simultaneously grocery shopping in LA.
Chase apologize. They assure me, they take their security very seriously.

So if all this happened then, why am I angry now? Surely, I moved banks or something? I must have done. I mean what idiot would still have an account with a bank after that. Hands up. Yes. That would be me.

So, two weeks ago I get a letter from Chase bank. It tells me they have been informed by the FBI that my bank account details AND my social security number have been discovered as part of a fraud ring that they've just busted. Chase have been advised by the FBI to inform me. And Chase take gottit.
Chase tell me that - despite the fact that it's nothing to do with them and completely and utterly not through any failing on their part, they are willing to put extra security measures in place.
"Extra security measures? Oh why thank you. Surely you put them in place after the Texan cleared out all the cash?..oh you didn't?"

I don't know whether to be flattered or astounded. I've been in the country less than 5 years, have had a social security number less than that and yet here I am, getting a message from the FBI that it's already compromised.
Look at me, Mrs Popular.

But it's nothing to do with Chase apparently. Nothing to do with them that the fraudsters have my social number and my Chase bank account details - but  not any other bank. Chase tell me how bank fraud happens all over the world and just because these criminals obtained all my Chase bank details - TWICE - how can it possible possibly be anything to do with them. They take security so incredibly seriously.

Now I have dealt with quite a few of their staff in customer services and actually they seem like pretty sweet people,  just trying to get on with their day, solve a few problems,  make a living and avoid taking on too big a quota of assholes.
I've also talked a very nice lady from their executive office who looked into the complaint and guess what she discovered?....that's right. Chase. Security. Very seriously.

Except. They don't. Because saying something over and over again doesn't make it true.
(Or else my name would be Mrs Lenny Kravitz  and Wolf Blitzer would really be a wolf.)

The fact is that Chase are so busy posturing about their supposed security, they have no room for accountability at all. When you make yourself blind to the fact that you might have faults, then you never have to look and see.

Just like I was so busy being outraged by Chase, that I started demonstrating on Twitter how it's possible to be passive aggressive in 140 characters - a quality I enjoy as much as ...well as my kids enjoy fresh green vegetables.

You know, it's been a tricky week all round. My 10 year old had to 'fess up that he'd 'omitted' to do a school project that should have been done and he was now in trouble with his teacher.
I told him I was disappointed. that I trusted him and he'd let me down, but I appreciated that he'd 'fessed up.

"I've been an idiot" he says.
"Me too" say I.

And as he sits at one side of the desk doing his school report, I sit at the other changing banks.

Monday, September 23, 2013

First blog of the season.

Felt like Autumn when I got up this morning and I felt guilty.
Because, despite claiming I'd be writing weekly or even regularly, I haven't written a blog all Summer.
In my defense, it has been quite a Summer.

Firstly I got ridiculously sick with sinusitis and the drugs they gave me to combat it, not only didn't cure my sinusitis,  but also gave me tendonitis and gum abscesses to boot.
All that wheeziness and shuffling made it impossible to write a blog. OK, so it didn't affect my hands but...
"Dear blog, I feel crap. That is all"
No, you are welcome. For the sake of everybody, I shut up.

Anyway, it has given me new respect for people suffering long term illnesses. Not just the illness itself, not just the relentlessness of it all, but for not being able to tell people EXACTLY how you really feel, whenever they ask. (because it's generally not 'fine').

I don't mean to be a conventional health batterer, but what six weeks of fearsome antibiotics couldn't cure,  was suddenly and most spectacularly cleared up by just two sessions of acupuncture. I've taken this as a sign that, in future,  maybe I'll head in an alternative direction first and the conventional second. And if neither of those work, I'm going to tell people how I really feel whenever they ask , and pretty soon one of them will be forced to put me out of my misery.

On the up side, because I was too sick to fly we went on family vacations where we could drive. Big Bear - adorable. (Lady Gaga has a house there, which makes me believe she's not really crazy after all)
Las Vegas - where my 10 year old, immediately alarmed, said we had to escape from, because "everyone around us was secretly really unhappy." and to Utah - a place both boys loved, though my youngest informed me was "full of Normans"

There were times of incredible ups, for example I became  involved with the Moth  - delectable people who tell stories. I saw my friend Kemp's first play being performed.  I loved it because it's a great piece, about an amazing moment in history, and because it was brilliant to watch a stage full of real-life black actors doing real, proper acting without any of them having to say  "Massa." We are, all of us, infinitely more interesting than our skin says we are.

I went to New York and had a home-cooked meal with my Auntie Susan and Uncle James, and it made me remember how much I miss my Mum and Dad and how grateful I am for what they left behind.

I watched my friends Colette and Diane deal with the loss of a, much loved, husband and son respectively with agonizing practicality and dignity.
And how friends Cherie and Todd proved, that for a baby to become part of a family, it really doesn't matter who gives birth.

This was the year too, when my eldest started 5th grade - the year before middle school - and my youngest Kindergarten. Watching them both go off to school on that first morning,  I had to remind myself that 'the end of Summer' was not a metaphor,

My youngest loves homework - it's early days obviously, but he relishes it, saying, "I have a lot to learn Mom. I know a lot already, but I have a lot to go." (sadly one of the things he'll learn, no doubt, is that nobody really loves homework)
My fifth grader has a ton of reports to do this year, one of which is to write four things that happen to him each month and how he felt. It made me think of the Summer when I was 10 and how, weirdly, that doesn't seem so long ago.

We discovered as a family, that: pancakes on a Sunday morning, work. Nobody likes getting up for school. Flies in America are a lot more persistent than those in the UK.  Grilled cheese is the same as 'toast and cheese' but 'toast and cheese' sounds better,  and the best way to have dinner is Chinese take out in the living room, whilst Doctor Who is on tv.

The Summer is over, but the sun's still high in the sky.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Raccoon Tennis

It rained in LA today. Just for a minute or two but it rained nevertheless and the feeling was brilliant.Don't get me wrong, I am Scottish and fully in the camp that when it rains all the time it's a nightmare. Even now, the smell of wet dog takes me right back to Cumbernauld in the 70s and the long walk to Muirfield primary school, wearing a dufflecoat.
But a little bit of rain is fantastically refreshing.

Similarly, I was refreshed by the BBC apology about commentator John Inverdale this week. 
Refreshed? Why? Wasn't it the same old, "We're terribly sorry blah blah blah, in no way reflects the opinions of blah blah blah". Well, yes it was. But this time the BBC was apologising for on-air comments made by an employee, rather than for him being a pedophile. 
(I've had sinusitis for ages now and I'm looking for positivity where I can find it - so I found that a refreshing change.)

Anyway, John Inverdale, who is he? He's a British sports commentator who was reporting on BBC radio, live from the Wimbledon Women's finals. 
Here's what he said before the match, about the winner, Marion Bartoli.

"You think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little '...You're never going to be a looker, you'll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight'?"

Maybe John. Maybe. 
In the same way your mother may have said, 

"Try your hardest to get a job on radio son. That way nobody will see what you look like, and it'll make it that much harder when you say something completely stupid and they want to seek you out to laugh in your face."

Here's a picture of John for reference....just in case.

Look at that. What a prime example of manhood. Why Bartoli's poor, little, French heart must be all broken up inside,  thinking that even though she's won her place in history, and a pretty solid income stream, she'll never win the attentions of such a manly prize.

Anyway, the BBC apologised and now Inverdale's apologized too apparently. Seems he thinks. "She is an incredible role model for people who aren't born with all the attributes of natural athletes."

Ah John. Some sentences you might find yourself thinking, but really shouldn't say. But, thank you for making me feel so much better about myself this week. And for not being a pedophile. (Like I say, sinusitis)

Bartoli is completely over it - and why wouldn't she be? She's young, talented and gorgeous. What does she care about the comments of a frustrated (just guessing) middle-aged, man?

But people are annoyed and I get that. 

It annoys me too when someone who's employed to do one thing, seem inclined to do something else. 
Like when the guy who comes to rid you of your  "Raccoon issue" wants to assure you that your accent sounds much more Irish than Scots.
 "I know where I come from Raccoon guy. Just set the traps and shut your face."  
is what I thought, but didn't actually say - On account of I wanted him to deal with my "Raccoon issue,"  and if you've ever had raccoons setting up home under your home, you'll know why.
(and I've had sinusitis)

Inverdale was at Wimbledon to report on the sport of tennis, not to open his great big mouth and make Homer Simpson sound like a genius.
Just as Bertoli was there to play tennis and not to warm the dark and dormant, front-regions of Inverdale's pants.

The BBC received a number of complaints about Inverdale being sexist. But I'm not sure I agree. Stupid, undoubtably. Ignorant, you've got it. But sexist? Hmmn.

I jreckon his comments come from the same school of "blatant rudeness" as those that seem to crop up about Andy Murray's, supposed, "personality issues." 
(You can bet if Murray hadn't won Wimbledon, his "personality issues" would have had something to do with it.)
I can't tell you how often I find myself yelling at computer screens and radios  - "Andy Murray is not your personal friend. He's a brilliant tennis player and it seems like he might be an all round pretty good bloke. I don't know if he has an odd personality because I don't know him personally and neither do you. Can he play tennis brilliantly? Yes he can. That's all I know."

Commentating on sport  - particularly on radio - can be an art form. Conveying the excitement of a live event, without the need for visual, is a proper talent. Summing up an atmosphere with nothing more that vocal tone and words, is an amazing skill.  
And then there are other forms of commentating ....

There have been calls for Inverdale to be fired, or for his resignation, but to be honest I think he resigned himself a long time ago. 
As much as he knows about sport, Inverdale will never know what it is to be a Bertoli or a Murray. He's as separate a species as Raccoon Guy is to Raccoon.

Raccoon Guy told me he knew about accents, because he'd originally come to LA to be an actor. 
I forced my eyebrows to raise, surprised.
Then Raccoon guy told me that he'd studied accents, and,  He said, I definitely sounded much more Irish than Scottish.
And I nodded and smiled and said it was probably my sinuses.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shocking Pink.

I have toothache. Actually I'm not sure if I have toothache. Yes I am. No I'm not. See?
There's something going on with a crown-bridge combo in my mouth and it could either be a passing issue or something more sinister.
Point is, toothache is toothache and I'm cranky.

Therefore, for my safety and the safety of those around me, I am wearing a lot of pink.
But, Lynn,  isn't pink a ridiculously girly color?
Yes it is and that is why I'm wearing it.
It's impossible to take anyone too seriously when they're wearing pink.
It makes your skin look all fresh and it has a look of all summer innocence, and pretty flowers's a color that if you're not careful, can make you look faintly ridiculous (that's why golfers wear it). Someone in pink swearing at you is like being cursed at by a giant hydrangea. Ridiculous  but not menacing.
So, if you were to meet some pink attired lady with a grumpy expression caused by something like...say...for example, toothache and she's a little short tempered with you, it's not that bad really.

You could say I'm being pink-ist or say that i'm not fooling anyone. You could.  But I've warned you, I have toothache.

And I'm blaming the toothache for me even reading about Ian Brady - working on the "Distract yourself from something horrible by looking at something more odious" theory.

Now if you don't know who Ian Brady, it's pretty simple. He's a child killer. Oh for sure he's been painted as a crazed troubled soul. An evil manipulator. As all manner of things that make him more exciting/interesting than he really is.
But he's a common killer, who brought immeasurable grief and suffering into a whole load of innocent people's lives when he, and his accomplice, kidnapped children, because they were smaller and weaker than him, then tortured and murdered them and buried them in Saddlemouth Moor, near Manchester, UK during the 1960s.

Brady and Hindley. Their crimes were so horrific, my parents didn't like their names mentioned in our house, like the very sounds polluted the air and left a stench you'd want to bleach out of the room.

So Brady is currently having this tribunal, because he'd like to be released from a psychiatric hospital because he doesn't like it there. He wants to go back to prison instead, and so he's trying to prove he's not insane.
And I know what you're thinking, because I am too.
Who gives a rat's ass what he wants?  He's not a freakin' rock star.

But in his tribunal -the first time he's spoken publicly since 1966 - Brady explained how he's spent his time: He's read Plato, and memorized pieces from Shakespeare, mentioning how he knows the works of Stanislavsky.
Wow. You think someone that smart, would know that being pretentious, doesn't negate murdering kids.

There's no photographs or live video coverage of the hearing but the court drawings are addictive. This guy has supposedly been on hunger strike for 14 years, yet he's surprisingly tubby (and when I say "tubby" I don't just mean tubby for a hunger striker, I mean tubby for a three meals a day, meat-potatoes-two-veg diet)
Then it transpires he enjoys toast in the morning.
Bloody hell, if that's hunger strike, I've been a hunger striker for years.

Honestly, if it weren't for the horrific deaths of those kids, and the unbearable torture he inflicted on Winnie Johnson, he would be nothing more than a ridiculous buffoon.  Without the 'evil' persona,  nothing but a pathetic,  inconsequential idiot.
Maybe he's not insane after all.

His defense argue that he has a narcissistic personality disorder, the hospital label him a dangerous, paranoid schizophrenic - one argues sane, the other insane.
I actually don't care.
Toothache is toothache.

I reckon he should stay where he is (because why should he get to choose?)
And learn how to stick to his diet (cheaters never win)
And before he shuffles off the last breath of his, pretty appalling, mortal coil, he should justify the mistake of his existence, by telling Keith Bennett's family where his body is.
In between times,  he would be allowed to further enjoy the works of Shakespeare, Plato and Stanislavsky  in the certain knowledge that all three of these great masters, would regard him as a complete prick.

Obviously though,  I'm not the judge. I'm just an angry woman wearing pink.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mirror Mirror on the uhm...whatever.

OK I apologise. (especially to you Iain Dunlop :) )
It's been ages since I last blogged but, it's been odd of late, and it's been tough to know what to blog about.

It's not that I have nothing to say.
If you know me, you know that I have never nothing to say. In fact, if I ever say to you,  "I have nothing to say," that means, pretty soon. I'm going to have a lot to to say, and it's not going to be pretty when i say it.
(Add "indignant sulk" to my list of natural talents.)

And it's not that nothing's happened of late.
(If anything it's the opposite)
It's been a month of extreme happiness and sadness. Four weeks with great intelligence and great foolishness.

For a start, my youngest turned 6.
That there's enough for a whole series of blogs.
About how 6 years seems to have flown by so fast,  and yet because he's so strangely worldly wise, it feels like he's been here a whole lot longer.
About how we stressed about having a pool party and the hiring of lifeguards and safety in general. And whilst we were stressing, how all he cared about was cake and water-pistols and what present he could open next.
Same event. Different perspectives.
Then how his six year old body suddenly broke into a dance routine, Gangnam style:  All on his own, without a care in the world,  eventually leading a little dance-a-thon.
And then all perspectives were the same.

But these past four weeks were not all stories of birthday parties. For Colette and Mark, and for Carl and Jo, I wish so much it could have been. And nothing can be said to make it better. No words will repair.

My dad, was a firm believer that if there's nothing to say then don't say it.  It used to drive my mother crazy.
My mother was like me. The only time she was saying nothing, was directly before she was properly going to be saying something - pretty loud!

They never experienced Facebook,  but I've often thought about what their pages would be like if they had.
My Mum's full of inspirational memes and random diets from Doctor Oz, and features as to why cream cakes might be good for you,  and pictures of grandchildren.
My Dad's pretty inactive: Perhaps the odd Youtube video of Shirley Bassey.  Something about bowling. Pictures of grandchildren.

I used to have great talks with my mother. In my head, I still do.
We'd talk about all manner of things from the right way to make a clootie dumpling,  to the effect of the Romans in Britain and on random stuff like, do you think trees get apprehensive about Winter or about how a person's skin could become mirrored.
(It's nothing to do with sci-fi. It's to do with words.)

For example. You announce you're pregnant, everyone you meet will talk about their pregnancy. You decide to get married, people talk about their marriage. You say you hate your boss, you'll hear about everyone else's boss. You get bullied -so many other people were bullied too. You deal with a bereavement... that there are some points in life that when a person speaks,  the person listening to them will only be able to see themselves

It used to drive me crazy. "Why can't people be allowed to have their stories? Why is it that when something happens to someone, everybody else has to chime in about when it happened to them"

My mother was much more charitable:  "Because people want to connect to one another. Especially in big life events.   That's why it's important to talk," she'd tell my dad, "Because when one person speaks, others respond and amazing things happen when a person is brave enough to open their mouth"
And my Dad would nod and smile and say, "Especially if that person  is an idiot"

This week my eldest came home from school after what has been a very tricky year, armed with a special commendation certificate for reading and a math one to match.
And I was so proud.
And then I discover he was awarded them at a ceremony I forgot to go to.
And then so ashamed.

(Amazing how rapidly his show of success could become about my failure)

I set his certificates down of the dining room table and picked up my mobile phone to take a photograph.

"What are you doing?" said my other half, irritatingly,  because he could see exactly what I was doing.

"Taking a picture of Ferg's awards."


"Because I thought I'd post them on Facebook."


I looked across at him. His face wore that expression of "Wtf" that had nearly been included in our wedding vows.
"I, Mark, promise you , Lynn, that I will try not to do that 'wtf' face that pisses you off so much"
 In the end, I'd only relented as he claimed it was down to allergies.
10 years on,  I know the truth. Anyway...

"Because I want to show him how proud I am of him."

"He doesn't have a Facebook account."

I found myself distracted by a potential scratch on the dining room table.

"Yes. I know but..."

"You could just tell him. He's in his bedroom."

I decided the scratch was possibly just a trick of the light and headed for my son's bedroom instead.
I opened the door to find him (as usual) engrossed in Minecraft on the computer.

"I took a picture of your certificates to post them up on Facebook."

"I don't have a Facebook account" he said.

"Yes. I know."

"I wanted one but you said I was too young and..."

"Yes. I know I know. And you are. I'm not posting the pictures up. But, I just wanted you to know how proud I am of you."

"Thanks. Can I have a Facebook account then?"

"No. And I just wanted to say I'm sorry for completely forgetting to come to the ceremony."

"No problem. When can I get an account?"

"When you're old enough."

"Ok. Well you should probably hold off on posting the pictures till I'm old enough."


"Though by then I could just post them up myself."

"Good idea."

I've kept the pictures on my phone. They remind me that my son has his own story. That the event is not about me forgetting, it's about him achieving.  His skin is not mirrored.

And that it would be pointless posting them anyway.  My parents can't use Facebook.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

No news is good news.

My husband is always amused by my attitude to news.  In that, I generally do my best to avoid it. When I turn my computer on in the morning, I prefer to know what happened, 'today in history' rather than what's actually happening today.
I've pretty much always been that way.
It's a guilty secret of mine.

In the days when there used to be newspapers, I would be reading a book.
When I was a kid and the TV news was on at 6, that would be the time I remembered my homework.
I'm sometimes so completely uninformed, that I have to nod knowingly in conversations. ( In fact, if we're ever in conversation and I nod knowingly at you, be re-assured I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.)

Nowadays though, it's almost impossible to avoid the news entirely, because it's everywhere and 24 hours. So instead, I try my best to be selective.
If there's news of a new invention, I like that. If there's news of a cure for some disease, ooh I like to be informed.
I'm on it for local news: burglaries in the area? lock those doors. Cafe opening down the street? - ooh must remember to try it.
But the lead story, the one everyone's talking about, my position on it is "head-in-the-sand."
I know.
And I apologize.

But in my defense, when May 2013 is history, I'll look back on those girls in Cleveland and how amazing they are. How they managed to endure unimaginable punishment, for an unbelievable amount of time and even raise a beautiful little kid. How it shows the strength of humankind. The force of human spirit.

But right now, it's news. So, instead of considering the magnificence and bravery and extraordinary resilience to be found in three young women,  I seethe every time I turn the tv on,  or when Google news appears on my computer.

I see the squat little face of that pathetic excuse for a nervous system, bowing his head. Ashamed. He really didn't mean it you know. He had a difficult childhood. Life was a struggle. He was poor. Ya-de-ya-de-ya.
Poor thing. he didn't manage to make bail so he'll be incarcerated till his trial. Don't know where to put him? Well, there's a basement in a place in Cleveland that's just become available.

Right now, where I am, the sun is out and my current concerns, re motherhood, are that I have to get cookies ready for the bake sale, and that my kids are due a dental check up. Both remind me of three human beings who didn't get to see the sun, and a six year old who has already seen the unimaginable.

And today, though I should be writing up little pieces about history, when I sit down to write, the same story goes through my mind.

There's a little yellow school bus with a squat, little driver and the only passengers on it are the two Boston bombers and they're driving to the desert. On the way they stop off to pick up Geoffrey Portway,  whose car broke down when he was out shopping for stuff for his torture chamber.
Anyway, as they get further and further into the desert, the road gets rougher and the little yellow bus bumps up and down, so detonating the pressure cooker bombs, those two douchebags were so smug at having made.
And suddenly there's this massive explosion and the four of them and the little school bus suddenly are wiped off the face of the earth.
And all that's left behind is an indistinguishable pile of dust, under a beautiful, clear, blue sky.

Then I realize that's a terrible story.
What an awful waste of a school bus.

I plan to work really hard at avoiding the news over the next couple of weeks, because I teach my kids that hatred is wrong.

And now I'm heading off to make cookies and book dental appointments. And for Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus and Michelle Knight, I wish for them, the normality of getting to do the same.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nothing to explain.

My 10 year old and I had a conversation at the weekend about naked dancing.

The comedy improv class he goes to is moving venue. I am relieved, because parking outside the current one is a complete bitch. He is relieved he says, because 'there are inappropriate billboards outside class, and hopefully there's won't be outside the new venue."

Whilst driving, I am racking my brains as to what these "inappropriate billboards' can be.
"What do you mean honey?" I ask.

"Like that one!" he points, "That one there. Full nude dancing. Why do people do that?"

He waits for an answer. My Saturday afternoon is taking a turn for the worse.

"Well, sometimes people like to feel powerful and seeing strangers dancing with no clothes on sometimes makes some people feel powerful."

"That's just dumb."


"And why would people do that? Why would someone dance naked?"

"Because they need the money. Because they might think that's the only option open to them....

I try to move this cunningly on to, 'that's why it's a good idea to work hard for your CST's conversation' but he's persistant.

"But do they enjoy it? The people dancing naked. "

Inside my head I've decided that until the class moves venue, his dad is going to be picking him up.

"I dunno honey. I've never danced naked. I'm guessing they don't really think about it that much. I'm guessing they do what they do because they think it's the right thing to do for them and... You know what pal, there are things in the world I can't really explain.  Sometimes it's good to consider why someone who isn't you, might do something you wouldn't do. Because, when you understand the "why" then a lot of the time, you can let it go."

"Well I think that's just wrong."


He is silent for a moment and I am hopeful the conversation is resolved.

"I am never dancing naked"

"Good. Good for you. I'm glad to hear it"

"And I'm never going to be a gentleman if you have to watch someone dancing naked to join a club"

"That's OK too."

Yesterday he came home from school.  He'd been watching about the events in Boston on his phone.

"This is one of those things you can't explain right?"


"Well, I want you to know, I'm not ever going to try to understand the "why". OK?"

"Totally son. Totally. Me neither"

Thursday, April 4, 2013

That time already?

I think I might have reached that age. The age when I'm completely an adult.

I don't feel like an adult. I still react to situations like I'm 16 - get ridiculously smug if I'm asked for my ID when buying alcohol, can't believe that if I don't clear up after me, nobody else will.
But I've noticed, of late, the ratio of blind enjoyment to harsh responsibility has changed and I can see - on some not too distant horizon - a day where I might boast about my age to a complete stranger in the post office (if I can still find a post office).

Today I phoned my sister - 8 years apart.
8 years that seemed a massive age gap when I was 5.
She aged 13, studious, tidy, with the miraculous ability to eat one single Mars bar over the space of three days if she chose.
Me wrestling to make my way to school, wearing with my brothers' oversize hand-me-down duffle-coat.

And then again at 13:
Me, all black eyeliner and jumbo cords (never stylish),  acned,  listening to my Blondie records - She at 21 - all Moody Blues and color co-ordinated and sophisticated.

Then I was 21  and still using black eyeliner. And my head was full of Brecht and cabaret and how to market a comedy double act, and she, at 29, happily married,  unassumingly caring for her young daughter whilst simultaneously striding forth in her career, like some feature on "power women" in Cosmopolitan magazine.

Decades later of similarities, differences, family parties, agreements, disagreements, births, bereavements,  successes, failures...time, I find myself in a place of new worries.  I call her today - tired of pressure, worn with sadness, old in spirit, but in my head, still way way too young.

"Some days I really wish Mum and Dad were here,"  I say.
"Me too," says she.

I am at that time where 8 years feels like nothing. Where differences become the same. Where I am grateful not just for what my parents were, but all they left behind.

I'm at that age.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sudden blog attack...

Hello there,

Sorry I haven't blogged for ages. Here was I promising a blog a week and low and behold it's been what...three? *gulp*

No excuses really apart from it's been kinda busy with stuff here at Tweddley mansions (even after four years in LA, we still find negotiating parts of everyday American life like complete foreigners)
and also - and this is a little embarrassing- (not as embarrassing as Alan Cumming waving to me across a bar, to tell me I had my skirt tucked in to my tights at the back *still blushing*) but I managed to restart my computer and couldn't remember how to get back in to my own blog.

I know. I'm ashamed. And, considering we've started our company offering branding and vids etc and help for people who "want to learn more about social media" this fact alone categorizes me as a complete tool.
But adult life brings with it a whole list of "to be done lists"  and the advance of social media at the moment, feels faster than a speeding three year old at a pick and mix counter.

Anyway, that sort of brings me to my point with the blog.
Two stories I read on twitter this morning in bed. (I used to read newspapers of a Sunday morning, but that ground to a halt, what with the arrival of children and the departure of newspapers)
So, one was about the anti gay Scottish Cardinal being gropey with male priests  - what a surprise - IMHO seems the people who shout the loudest about other peoples lack of morals, are generally trying to deflect attention from the lack of their own.
The other was the demonstration in Paris against gay marriage.
And you know what? I was annoyed.
(more annoyed, in fact, than I was when my "friend" didn't tell me I had my skirt tucked into my tights at the back, so Alan Cumming had to)

Can we all just get over this? If two people are in love and want to marry each other, it's nothing to do with you (unless you're paying for it or you have to wear a bridesmaid's dress - in which case, OK, fair enough).

Every day I go online, and there's some story about the new creation of some 'social media platform" that I'll have to get my head round, and get a password for, and work out how and when to use it, and whether the privacy is safe and I have a little panic.

Every day!
It's in there, nestling between the same old "day-in day-out"  trusty stories:
Somebody somewhere is really mad at gay people for having done something. Some fat, drug abusing, public media hypocrite is cranking on about homosexuals decaying the moral fibre of the world, whilst simultaneously displaying absolutely NO moral fibre of his own. Someplace somewhere said gay people could marry and so somebody else at that place is organizing some kind of campaign to repeal it.

Please, let's move on.
If you don't like homosexuals, I'm sorry.  I personally don't like pan pipe bands, so I just do my best to ignore them.
There are a wealth of problems in the world. If two consenting people want to get married and make something loving and positive, then stop thinking about what genitalia they have and mind your own business.

Besides, every single second technology is moving on and a new social networking site is being created. Technology is now moving on faster than people.
Whilst you've been concerning yourself about what those darned gays get to be allowed to do in front of your very eyes, you've no idea what those computers have been getting up to behind your back.  There's no stopping progress.

My friends Michael and Clark made this video. It's about love.

Friday, March 1, 2013


(This wee story was the basis for my first radio play. I hope you enjoy it x)                                         


People with a love of music should never teach recorder.

A vertical flute with a whistle mouthpiece, the recorder became popular during the 17th and 18th centuries for its sweet and gentle sound.  Neither of which is heard when played by a class of 12 year olds. 

“Gentle,” I say,  “Don’t be so hard on your instrument.”

A group of boys at the back snigger.
Music: the organized movement of sounds through a continuum of time.   

I always wanted to be part of an orchestra.

It was a perfectly ordinary Monday morning. 
It was raining, as normal. 
The Fiat coughed at start up, as normal. 
There were road-works along the Elmbank estate, as normal.
And I arrived at the school at seven minutes to nine. 
(Precisely eight minutes later than I planned to arrive, as normal.)

“Morning Elspeth,” said Betty Jackson from Physics.  “Morning,” I said. 

Betty Jackson was a round woman with skinny ankles.  She wore a red jacket and a tartan skirt and reminded me of the bagpipes

“I almost didn’t come in today, after my Friday meeting with you-know-who.”

She meant Mr. Swithins. 

“School Principal,” she piped,  “Principal idiot more like.” 

Mr. Swithins was new to the school. He wore casual suits in autumnal colors, and drove a bottom of the range BMW. His nostrils were full and round and made many people think him arrogant.  I, however, was convinced he should play the nose flute. 

“Arrogant oaf.” Betty puffed. 

A BMW drove into the car park and the “arrogant oaf” himself got out. 

“Scheduled for eleven this morning Elspeth?” 

“Yes Mr. Swithins,” I said. 

My first love was the piano. The sounds so clear.  So ordered.  The keys like a big white smile. 
Then double bass, cello, harpsichord, zither… so many different incredible instruments as my ears opened up to the world of sound. 

If you care to look -or rather listen- there’s music in everything:  The horn of a car.  The buzz of a florescent light.  In a shout. Or a cry. Or a thank you. Or a yes.  Music in the road works on the overpass. 
I became a music teacher.  It seemed to make sense. 

Eleven am,  and the bell for the interval rang in a flat G.
I headed to the Principal’s office for my meeting with Mr. Swithins. 

“Please sit down, Elspeth ” he said, "I'll come straight to the point, if I may."

And I really was trying to listen, but the sun had come out and its rays bounced through the windows of his office. 
And there was a bubble of water in the radiators.
And a fly buzzed behind me (key of F.) 
And Mr. Swithins’ secretary tap tap tapped on a computer keyboard, next door. 
On the floor above someone was being reprimanded, for running in the corridor. 
And a breeze blew through the trees outside, shaking the leaves like a slow tambourine
And the music of the world was so clear.  So loud.

Mr. Swithins was talking. And his nostrils were so round. And full. And crying out. 

 “Mr. Swithins,” I said, “With those nostrils you have to learn the nose flute.” 

And the music of the world stopped. 
There was just the lone tick-tock of his battery wall clock.

Mr Swithins muttered that I probably had a class to go to. And I said, yes I did.

Tuesday started ordinarily enough, though Betty was already in the car park with Rena Johnson from Homecraft, when I arrived. 
If Betty’s the bagpipes, Rena’s the piccolo

“His secretary said,” Rena giggled, “Play the Nose Flute. Hilarious!” 
“Arrogant oaf,” Betty puffed. 

First class on Tuesday, is “Music Appreciation”. 
Normally it’s almost empty, because 15-year-olds “required” to take “music appreciation”, seem to prefer “loitering outside McDonalds” instead.
That Tuesday morning, however, the classroom was almost full. 

“Did you tell Swithins he was a pig?” said a pupil I hadn’t seen for a while. 
“Uhm…” I said, trying to remember Audrey’s name (It really had been a while) “Let’s get on with Music Appreciation” 

“Alright Miss.  But let’s appreciate our kinda music, and not your classical crap.” 
In the interests of harmony, I conceded her point.

A lot of heavy thumping, too much bass and some American gentleman discussing his homeys and hoes... 
(Apparently he has several.)
“Well that's very....interesting... Audrey,” I said. 

“Heard you gave Swithins ‘what for’,” said Tony Holloway, the Assistant Principal, in the Staff Room at lunchtime. 

“Oh, you mean the nose flute?” I said. 

The room erupted with laughter. 

“His secretary said he was floored,” chirped someone from the English Department. 

“Arrogant oaf,” piped Betty Jackson.  

It rained Wednesday morning. And the Fiat didn’t start straight away. And there were still road works. And I arrived at school much earlier than usual, because I hadn’t slept at all well the night before. 

I’d never meant to give Mr. Swithins’ “what for”. 
I’d been listening to music, that’s all.

I often listen to music.  I've done it since I was a child. 
When Mum died I listened to music. 
When Dad would shout, I listened to music. 
When they said I didn’t have the dexterity to be a pianist, I listened to music. 

To the sounds inside my own body. Then the sounds in my bedroom.  Then in the house. And the street. And the sky above. And the sounds of the world open up, and I am part of music. Of the organized movement of sounds through a continuum of time.
And I am not alone. 

First class on Wednesday I teach, ‘Music History”. 

A tiny class - only three pupils - but entirely wonderful. 
We discuss Beethoven or Handel or Bartok or Stravinsky.  We play clarinet or piano or flute. And teaching is a joy and I am glad. 

Second class: more pupils “learning” recorder. 
“Alright everybody, get your instruments out.” 
A group of boys at the back giggle. 

Half way through the systematic slaughtering of a 17th century woodwind instrument, there’s a knock on the door. 
“Might I sit in?” 
“Certainly, Mr. Swithins,” I said. 
“The class are just about to treat me to another rendition of Blue Moon.” 

“Elspeth,” he said.  “I need to ask you a favor.”  

I set off an hour earlier on Thursday and though the Fiat coughed, and I was temporarily delayed by road works, I was bang on time for meeting Mr. Swithins. 

I was on automatic pilot during the morning classes before rushing back to the Principal’s office. 
After break, Music Appreciation. 
Audrey had appeared again. She wanted to 'appreciate' more of her music.  

Lunchtime I spent with Mr. Swithins, then in the afternoon, “Music History”. 
We talked about Edgar Watson Howe who said, “When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had and never will have.” 

Last class of the day -  Recorder. “Blue Moon”, they played. 

On Friday, my heart pounded as I got into the Fiat.  As I passed the road works and even still when I arrived at the school at seven minutes to nine.

“The man is mad,” piped Betty as I locked the Fiat.  “A whole school assembly and him and his nasal cavities a laughing stock.” 

The assembly room was packed.  Mr. Swithins sat on the stage at the top of the room alongside Tony Holloway the Assistant Principal. 
Pupils giggled and whispered. 
The occasional expletive broke out between two dueling 16 year olds. 
The sound of people gathered for an execution. 

Mr. Swithins stood up.  “Check that schnozz,” yelled a 15 year old to nobody in particular. 

People collapsed in laughter.  Teachers professionally outraged looked for the culprit.  Tony Holloway looked smug.  But Mr. Swithins said nothing.  Instead, he fumbled in his jacket, pulled out a nose flute and began to play. 

16-year-old boys cackled. 15-year-old girls tutted unimpressed. 14 year olds elbowed eachother. 13 year olds giggled and hid their faces behind their bags. 12 year olds sat bewildered.
But on Mr. Swithins played. . 

Blue Moon, you knewjust what I was there for.  You saw me saying a prayer for… 

“What’s he doing?” squeaked Rena the piccolo. 
“Lost it,” puffed Betty the bagpipe.
“Oh dear”, smirked Tony Holloway.
And still Mr. Swithins played. 

Then some of the 13 year olds pulled out their recorders and joined in.  Two rows back from them, the grade above began to stamp their feet. 
Then one by one, more recorders emerged from school bags. 
The higher grades - taking this as a sign to make as much noise as possible -stomped and sang along. 
Yet still Mr. Swithins played. 

Some teachers laughed.  Some clapped.  Some feigned disinterest and looked at their watches.  Tony Holloway gulped.
And recorders were screeching and feet were stamping and hands were clapping and the whole assembly room was alive with banging and whistling and singing and clapping and Mr. Swithins’ nose flute. 

It was the worst version of 'Blue Moon' I have ever heard, and the best at the same time. And I found myself laughing out loud. 

When it came to an end, the room fell silent.  
Mr. Swithins spoke.
“This week I learned I should play the nose flute.  I thought I’d give you my first tune.” 

There was a cheer. 

“Thank you. Until recently, I’d no idea I had such exceptional nostrils.” 

“You’re Dumbo ‘cept with a trunk,” shouted someone.

The room erupted. 

And Mr. Swithins laughed, then said: 
"My point is education is not always easy.  Some lessons are tough to learn. But often, those things that make you feel vulnerable, stupid and alone, are often really just talents in waiting.   Not knowing is not weakness.  Not not-knowing is weakness.”

Mary from the English Department clapped.  As did several other teachers.  I found that I did too. 

“Uh, what did he say?” said the girl sitting next to Audrey. 
“Dunno. That being crap at everything’s actually a talent…I think” said Audrey. 
“Oh?” said the girl, and joined in the clapping. 

“Let’s make this school a place for us all to learn.  No matter how difficult the lesson. All of us listening, talking, cooperating, myself included.  No excuses, no 'can’t dos".  Only can’t do yets.”

Then it happened.  
My stomach rumbled.
And my watch was ticking steadily on my wrist.  Above me a faulty bulb flickered and buzzed.  And 400 people breathing.
Outside, the traffic hummed on the ring road. Further off, a pneumatic drill. And somewhere high above, an airplane jetted off to distant climbs. 

“Miss Harvey!” 

And 400 faces turned to look at me. 400 faces - and not a sound in the world.

"Yes, Mr Swithins?"

“Thank you.” he said.

And right then - as the traffic hummed on the ring road, and the wind blew the leaves through the trees, and the water bubbled in the radiators, and a fly buzzed (key of F) and the sound of my breathing,  joined the same wondrous chorus of everyone's breathing in the rest of the room -  my whole heart sang.

I always wanted to be part of an orchestra.