27 August 2020

North-South divide

I was recently reminded that there's always been a bit of North-South divide in this country. That's probably an understatement. There's been a massive North-South divide. Probably more so in the past, but old habits die hard and get passed from generation to generation. Those in the North think we have it easy in the South and in London, in particular. They think we are privileged, are rolling in banknotes and Rolls Royces.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Southerners have a traditional  stereo-typed image of Northerners living in back to back housing, working down a mine, wearing cloth caps and keeping homing pigeons. My experience of holidays or business trips around the country are nothing like that. These prejudices are so last century.

If anything, I've long thought that the lucky ones are the ones who live far away from London. The further the better. If both Northerner and Southerner have similar professions, say civil servant or teacher, then the Northerner comes off far better. The salary difference nationally is barely noticeable (the addition of London Weighting is a joke as it by no means accounts for the difference in exorbitant housing or travel costs). Therefore a Southerner's wages will be eaten up by astronomical mortgages, high travel costs to work, leaving little for anything else. Food and heating will obviously consume what's left. So the Southerner will have to save or dig deep for "luxuries" like furnishing the home, holidays, the occasional celebration or a car. A one-bedroom flat can currently set you back a minimum of £350,000 in London, much more if in a swanky area. That money would buy you a lovely house with a garden in the North, probably several houses in some areas, even a small castle in Scotland. If you are rich, property in London is affordable, but for the majority of the population such as hardworking office or shopworkers it is out of reach.  I have observed many a time how relatives or friends living up north have a far better standard of living than down here in London. We scrimp and save to have far less. Kay's friends in the North are buying purpose-built houses with gardens. She can barely afford a one-bedroom flat in a run-down area - on a junior doctor's salary. 

So much is the North-South divide ingrained in some that it spills into hatred. Kay had a terrible time at uni, when she was bullied (and I use that word advisedly) by a flatshare girl from Liverpool who saw it as her life's mission to make Kay's life hell and not only that persuaded others by intimidating them to do the same. Why? Because Kay came from the South and was therefore fair game. There was no let-up in sympathy even when Kay's father died, in fact the bullying seemed to get worse. It nearly broke Kay, but I am pleased to say she eventually rose above it and became the better person, but it took years to get over it.  I've seen this North-South resentment time and time again and it sickens me that in this day and age people are so prejudiced. We are all human beings and can't help where we are born and tend to live. I wonder whether other countries have the same sort of prejudices towards their more affluent capitals or regions or is it just a British thing?

16 August 2020

A satisfying weekend

I've just had one of those weekends where at the end of it I feel I have achieved a lot. I've been attacking my garage and sorting through a lot of things. Now Kay has moved all the furniture we had stored in the garage for her recent house move, I may have lost a daughter but I have gained a garage again. And, in gaining a garage, I have found all sorts of things that I no longer need, including a load of camping equipment. Kay and her boyfriend are taking a well-earned week to go camping in Yorkshire, her old stomping ground. Foreign holidays seem off the list at the moment and she loves camping, so it made sense. Of course, she came to me for a few bits and pieces they still needed, although they had already treated themselves to a new tent. In looking out things for her, it occurred to me that I shall probably never go camping again, although we used to go every year when Greg was compus mentis, we had a dog in tow and Kay was still a teenager. We have three tents in all  - different sizes and different purposes -and they were all cluttering up my garage. I sorted through them, disentangled all the poles and put them into their three piles. This morning I advertised them on a local freecycle group and literally within seconds I had people fighting over them. One is an absolute bargain - it is the size of a small chalet and sleeps 6 or 7. All free. Two of the tents were collected today, the third tomorrow. Meanwhile, I  then dusted shelves and rearranged what was left, sorting through old paint tins and other rubbish, which I then took to the local dump. I finished up by hoovering the garage throughout including catching a hundredweight of sticky gooey cobwebs. By the end of it I looked like a coal miner at the end of his shift, so had a luxuriating shower and the evening is still young! I love satisfying days like that. It also helped to distract me, as today would have been my mother's 97th birthday. I hope she was proud of me.

One little anecdote I must share. Since Kay moved out two weeks ago, I have found myself chatting to the wall, the fridge, the table, any inanimate object that is forced to listen. In the recent tropical heatwave, I was often in the garden for a coffee break and made friends with a pigeon, so naturally found myself talking to him too. He seemed to visit twice a day and seemed very grateful for the bread I threw for him. My mate, Pidge. Last Thursday, Kay visited to collect the aforementioned bits of camping accessories. We sat chatting in the kitchen with the patio door wide open, as it was so unbearably hot and humid. Suddenly Kay exclaimed, "Oh my God, there's a pigeon in the kitchen". You've guessed it, Pidge had decided to join the conversation. However, our startled surprise unnerved him and he began flapping at the windowpane in a vain attempt to get out as fast as he could. He didn't have the brain to go out the way he had come in and any attempt by us to direct him made him flap at the glass even more, so we had to wait until he had calmed down and then gradually found the opening of the patio door. He didn't wait for his bread, but just left his calling card on the floor. I didn't see him for a few days after that. I think he was thoroughly traumatised but he was back again yesterday, on the outside, I hasten to add.

01 August 2020

Flap, flap, flap

Wood Duck Jump Taken Minnesota Under Stock Photo (Edit Now) 1056811352

Forgive me if my post is a little sad today, but today marks the end of an era. The picture above may give you a clue. My one and only chick, Kay,  has left the nest for good. 

It is true I have been used to living on my own for the last 10 years ever since Greg died. Kay was away in her first year of university then, but I always knew she'd be home in the vacations. Then when she qualified as a doctor she was away for two years gaining experience in hospitals far from home, but again, I always knew she'd pop home in her spare time.  For the last two years, I was truly blessed to have her living back home with me again, as she commuted to a hospital an hour's drive from here. It suited her too, as she was saving up money to buy a property of her own some day. Meanwhile I liked having her young company around and someone to fuss over and cook for.

Today she has moved out for good. I am excited for her as she moves in with her boyfriend of over four years. They are happy together and well-suited. I like him very much. She deserves so much happiness after the hand fate dealt her with her father. The last ten years have been an emotional struggle for her, having lost her father to alcoholism, but to her credit, she rode the peaks and troughs of the emotional rollercoaster and came out an exceedingly competent doctor. She could have so easily gone off the rails and I take my hat off to her for doing so well. How then could I deny her the chance to be happy with a dashing young man who adores her? I know I have been so lucky to have had her living on and off with me for 29 years. 

We have known this day would come. Back in March, she and I planned to have the last few months of her being at home to do all sorts of quality mother-and daughter things. We planned outings to special places;  I  would teach her to sew on the sewing machine;  we would clear out long-neglected cupboards together; she would teach me the basics of spotify and satnav. Covid saw fit to ruin that. She temporarily moved out of the house to protect me from catching Covid, as she was working on the front line in Intensive Care. Thirteen weeks later, as the pandemic seemed to subside, she moved back to me again considerably shell-shocked from the things she had witnessed, with only a few weeks left before she finally moved out. We both feel very sad that we shall never get that time back. I know other people have gone through far worse with cancelled weddings or the death of loved ones and we do try to put that into perspective. 

Today, however, is a milestone. End of an era. As she embarks on the next phase of her life, I embark on mine. Alone, in the knowledge she will only now be back as a visiting guest. Normally to get myself out of the doldrums,  I would have immersed myself in visits to friends or any of my hobbies, but with Covid all those outlets are denied me, as either I am on the vulnerable list or things such as choir practice are not open again yet. So life will be a lot quieter for me. I am sure I shall survive. I usually do, but forgive me a tiny bit of wistfulness today of all days.