My Essex White Van Man

A text came through on my phone from an old, old friend saying “U OK?”   He was just concerned about me because of something I’d written on a social networking site.

We live in different parts of the country and so seeing each other is really hard, but we’d worked together for about four years and we’ve always had each others backs.  Working in a male dominated environment, he was like a big brother, annoying, always playing practical jokes, but no-one else was allowed to mess with me.  He’d make me laugh when people got to me, let me bunny hop his white van down the road (OK, I wasn’t supposed to be bunny hopping it…but we were laughing too hard) and has a heart the size of the England.

He still brings up the first time I went on a treadmill.  When I said I wanted to start going to the gym, he and his friend offered to take me and show me the ropes.  Like the old pro he is, he took me round the different gym equipment starting with the dreaded treadmill.  We decided to have a race, running side by side taking the mick out of each other as we went.  Slowly we got quieter as we focused, trying not to be out done by the other, concentrating harder on the running and the breathing. 

Finally realising I just had nothing left to give, and instead of slowing the thing down, I just stopped running.  I KNOW!  My graceful exit off the end, falling delicately in a heap (cough) nearly caused him to fall off as well.  As he was bent double, laughing, feet safely either side of the moving part, I knew I would never live it down, but you know what, I didn’t mind because it was really funny!  There are other stories, but to be honest, most of them I can’t repeat on here.   Life with the Essex white van man has always been interesting!

So instead of texting him back I gave him a quick ring.  After the usual banter he dropped the bombshell.  He has a growth in his brain.  It’s not a tumour, but they can’t remove it and its cutting off some of his glands.  If he has replacement hormones his liver will pack up and he’ll have to go onto dialysis.  If he doesn’t have replacement hormones…..

To my questions and worry, he laughed,   “Well, I’ve got a beautiful wife, fantastic kids, a home, a job and great friends.  What more could I ask for?” 

The conversation moved on and we went back to the usual teasing and laughing about the times I used to chase the shoplifters out the shop while the boys just waited for the police.  Knowing he’d appreciate sharing in some more of my humiliation, I told him my running style hasn’t improved much, I was cat-called and wolf-whistled by a bunch of teenagers when I was last out running, denting my ego.

When he finally got his breath back, “Dandy, you should have stopped running the day you fell off a treadmill!”  

Maybe I will, but I’m not quite ready to give up on life and laughing.  He’s taught me to embrace everything that happens to you, to have a go when really you’re scared and most importantly to see the funny side.  You might not have a second chance.

All Grown-Up

So when are you officially grow-up?

When you have a job?  A mortgage?  Kids?

Just when you think you’ve got this all sorted, a look, a word, a night out sends you spinning back through the decades and you’re trapped in the the younger you.

Sometimes this is fun, exhilarating even, like going to watch a friend play in a band is a simple example.  He was amazing, totally blowing me away with complex hand and feet moves,  mimicking the band they were covering (It was a cover band competition) to near perfection.  And they were totally robbed of a placing.

Everyone at the competition knew me as Dandy, I wasn’t a mother, a wife,  I was me.  I barely remember a time before all that and it was liberating and very heady stuff.  It also helped that the bands were playing music from my past, each song, had a memory attached to it, like when I first heard the Pixies ‘Hey’ in a friends room in Halls.  Before I knew it, I was admiring a strange man’s (and I mean strange as in I didn’t know him, I’m sure he’s perfectly normal!) tattoos on his chest, totally blown away by the simplicity and beauty of them, then realising that I was staring at a naked man’s chest, just about to trace the patterns of the lines to try and memorise them, because I could use them in the story I’m writing at the moment….and I was married. And have kids.  And should definitely not be doing things like that! (Maybe a picture…NOOOOOO!)  That’s the kind of thing I did when I was 19 and single!  Plus I think it would have totally freaked the poor boy out.  But for those hours, in that environment I was a younger me and it was great fun.  Although my social skills are a little rusty.  When asked about what music I was into, I didn’t think nursery rhymes and “The Autumn Song” from Cbeebies would really cut it.

Then there is the downside.  Having escaped the playground drama and bulling of school, I suddenly found myself dragged back there again.  It doesn’t matter that I’m the adult in the playground waiting to pick up, nothing has changed in some ways.  Everywhere you look there are cliques and the odd person who has to make sure you are put in your place (well below them).  You know the ones from school I’m talking about.  A certain person was going around slagging me off to friends, but was all sweetness and smiles to my face.  At first I was upset, going over in my mind what I could have done or said to warrant this attack, but without knowing exactly what they was saying, it was hard.  Every time they smiled at me and said hello, I’d smile back, kicking myself for being so weak and eager to please.  My resolve to confront them turning to mush whenever I was face to face with them.

So what has changed?  Well I’m lucky.  I have lots of amazing friends who like and accept me for who I am and a large extended family who love me no matter what.  However what really swung it for me, was the realisation that I live life how I want to.  I’m true to myself and what I believe in.  Yes I still do things that I’m not proud of (eating the kids chocolate then telling them that they must have eaten it), but I also do lots of things that I am very proud of.  As I look at my children and marvel at how they are turning out, and the incredibly, bright, witty, beautiful people I’m lucky to call my friends, I figure that what one person says about me doesn’t matter.  Anyone who knows me, will know it’s fabricated and if they don’t, then they aren’t really a friend anyway.  I only hope I can pass this on to my children as it’ll save them a lot of worry and heartache.  Sadly I think this is a lesson they’ll have to learn on their own, but I hope to be able to give them the tools.

So “I don’t mean to be bitchy, but….” I win.  You can’t get to me and I see it in your eyes.  So thank you for making me see what an amazing person I am!

Maybe I am all grown-up, because, if this feeling of self-worth is what it means to be grown-up, I like it!