Author Archives: Amybethcook

It’s love, actually…

Love Actually – the modern Christmas Classic that’s right up there with Elf, Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street at the top of my festive film repertoire. Shouting “I’m Colin Frissell and I’ve got a big KNOB” along with baby-faced Kris Marshall is as much a Yuletide tradition for me as Bucks Fizz for breakfast. (Yes, I do that. Happy hour’s all day on the 25th…)

Watching love blossom at Christmas time and rooting for the ‘guy to get the girl’ is what makes the film a firm, festive favourite, but it’s not Jamie and Aurelia, the Prime Minister and his Natalie, Rowan Atkinson and that damn sprig of lavender, little Sam and the American girl with a better voice than 2014 Mariah that makes me truly appreciate the magic of love and Christmas. It’s Sarah and Karl’s story that really resonates with me.

Apart from crying to the sound of Joni Mitchell narrating Emma Thompson’s marriage breakdown (that necklace was vile anyway!) it’s the all consuming commitment Sarah has to her brother in care that leaves me wracked with sobs and I’m drawn more and more to this heartbreaking yet inspiring story each year. The reality is, Sarah is a satellite Carer – she doesn’t live with her brother but that doesn’t stop her from feeling solely responsible for his general and emotional well-being, which is something I understand all too well.

Caring is something that has to be experienced to be understood. I can’t count how many time I screamed at my screen for Sarah to turn her phone onto silent (that ringtone though…). “Just ignore it! Have sex with Karl the Bronzed Adonis” I used to shout. But it really isn’t that easy, even when you have a half naked, perfectly toned Brazilian in your bed (not that I’ve ever had the pleasure…). You feel entirely responsible for this person that depends on you completely; they come first and, if you’re honest, you’re glad that you’re there to provide the loving care they so desperately need.

Although Christmas is generally a time to get wrapped up (badum-tish!) in magic and wonder, it’s also the perfect time to evaluate life and love, something that the Sarah and Karl story encapsulates perfectly. Life isn’t straightforward and love isn’t always found under the mistletoe at the office Christmas party; sometimes it’s right in front of you. Caring for a loved one is exhausting and exasperating, but is love at it’s purest. Most people say that the Sarah/Karl doomed love story is the saddest part of the film but, while I agree that she DEFINITELY deserved a slice of that walking caramel pie, it’s a story of realistic, true love; love between siblings that is as solid as Karl’s rockhard abs (I mean… COME ON!).

After all, there’s little ‘worse than the total agony of being in love’.

 

amy-signature

It Comes in 3’s…

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


I begin every single blog post with a lament to my lack of content so I’m not about to break tradition. With every post comes empty promises and an oft broken intention to fill the site with witty (sort of) and engaging (sometimes) insights but, in reality, I’m just a lackadaisical liar. I’ve never really had much willpower – last year I decided to commit to PETA’s 30 day Vegan challenge but day two had me crying into the fridge, clutching a block of cheese and by day three I had conceded and devoured a bacon sandwich as if I’d been starved for months. I felt guilty but, y’know. Bacon.

Anyway. Three years ago today I decided to start this blog in order to give people an insight into my crazy life and approximately 10 posts down the line, here we are! Seeing as it’s my blog’s 3rd birthday, I thought that actually blogging would be a GREAT way to celebrate…

Caring has taught me a lot so, in keeping with the ‘3 theme’, I thought I’d share three lessons I’ve learned, alongside three pictures of me aged three, because… why not?!

3rd bday

My 3rd Birthday. I’m the one singing Happy Birthday to myself into the orange mic…

#1 Education’s everywhere…

We’re instilled with the idea that institutionalised education is one of the most important things in this life and spend years of our childhood being prepared for further education before we’re even writing in full sentences. I’d read Moby Dick by 6 and my First School teachers had my mum convinced that I’d end up as some MENSA protégé (despite the fact that, to this day, I’ve never mastered the 8 times table) but, at 20 I was a University drop out. I cite my Caring responsibilities for interfering with my studies but in hindsight I realise that it was my faculty’s lack of understanding and sympathy that forced my hand. After weeks of asking for extensions / work to complete at home on days I couldn’t attend I was met with “attend or drop out, it’s not our problem”, so I dropped out. I was beyond embarrassed but one day I sat on the sofa after setting up Katie’s afternoon NG feed up when I thought to myself “Hey! Some people go to university to learn how to do THIS stuff!” I mean, I’m not about to declare myself a self-certified doctor and start some sort of black market medical unit, but I will be forever proud of the things I learned because I was a carer. *snaps latex glove*

THREE

Nailing my ‘go to’ pose, aged 3…

#2 What’s a martyr? Nothing, what’s-a-martyr with you?* 

I’ve often heard Carers being referred to as Martyrs and I didn’t know whether I was OK with that until I read a quote from Mark Twain: ‘martyrdom covers a multitude of sins‘.  It really resonated with me as I’ve always said that my journey as a Carer was peppered with cock-ups. I started this blog because I wanted to expose those ‘sins’ for what they are; basic human error and, often, reckless abandon as a result of physical and emotional exertion. In my opinion, putting others before yourself doesn’t make you a martyr, it just makes you a decent ‘Human Bean’ (to coin one of Katie’s brilliant phrases!).

threee

Yep. Nailed it…

#3 Boundaries are important…

I grew up in a very tactile, female-centric household, all ‘Girl Power’, weeing with the door open and synchronised periods, so when I became a Carer it was very easy for me to attend to personal hygiene requests and assist with mobility related issues. I have since learned, however, that although these aspects of caring were completely acceptable when I was a carer, they became totally weird when applied to everyday life; my boyfriend eventually got very annoyed with me constantly asking him if he would like to be washed and I found that it wasn’t one of my best ideas to force an old lady to ‘safely’ cross the road with me when, it transpires, she was happily waiting for the bus to the bingo hall but ended up disorientated and upset on the wrong side of the road… We live and learn, eh?

*I am not  sorry…

 

amy-signature

Arseholes & Anecdotes

Like most life trials, Caring is a responsibility that arrives without a manual, the gift of hindsight or any kind of hand to help you up from it’s shitty pitfalls. Although I’ve learned some of my most valuable lessons from my plethora of sensational fuck-ups, I often look back on my experience as a Carer and think about how my life could have been easier had I known the right questions to ask, who to talk to and how to find out what help was available to me.

I have a list longer than my gangly arm of things I wish I could teleport into my 16-22 year old mind, from the old adage of “It gets better” to “Because of everything you’re doing now, you’ll be invited to Downing Street. Despite stealing some soap, you get invited back a few years later. Take a bigger bag…”

This A-Z series is a culmination of my experiences, inappropriate anecdotes and retrospective hints and tips for dealing with common perils faced by Carers. So let’s learn our ABC’s!

A is for:

Alone
John Donne said that ‘No man is an island’ but an inherent part of Caring is the aching loneliness- a feeling that you’re completely isolated , ostracised and have broken away from society’s norms. Although I always preferred to handle practical responsibilities alone emotionally I felt like Wilson from Castaway; bobbing through the sea life without sense of purpose or direction whilst my mum manically, and often through thick tears, shouted my name from the top of the stairs: “Amy! Amyyy!” Usually followed by information of a Stroke related toileting accident: “There’s poo on the floor and I think it might be mine…”

Support for Carers can be found in so many places, whether it’s in online groups and forums or even on the shoulder of a friend. You’d be surprised at how responsive and understanding friends can be once you’re honest with them about how much you’re struggling. Just invite them onto your island…

Anger
Anger is a huge emotion to deal with for anybody, let alone being coupled with the stress of a Caring role. I found that any anger I experienced as a Carer was bred from resentment. I’ve never resented my mum or Katie, merely the situation I found myself in. Becoming a Carer isn’t a conscious decision; I fell into my role aged 16 with no warning. The anger I felt at this point was directed primarily towards my estranged family; they were fully aware of the situation I was in yet were never forthcoming with any assistance. I resented them for enjoying their lives and felt angry because I was alone, coping with issues that were seemingly beyond my tender years. These pangs never lasted long though. With a strong, single mother as my role model, I quickly learned to harness any acrimonious feelings and turn them into a raw determination to be the best damn Carer I could be.

I can’t give advice on how to handle your emotions because they’re exclusive to you, but I think the most important piece of information I can impart is that you must never feel like you have to justify your mindset. Never feel guilty for feeling angry; shit happens, swearing helps…

Assessment
A Carers Assessment is as important to a Carer as attention is to a Kardashian; it’s needed and sometimes we’ve had to force people to give it to us. My town’s council tends to lavish importance on providing us with an over-abundance of fountains so needless to say I was never offered one, but the 2014 Care Act states that, providing you meet the relevant criteria, it is now a legal requirement. If you haven’t yet been provided with one by Social Services, download Carers UK’s handy factsheet, call your local council and demand to be assessed. They should oblige but if not, make like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar: “Stop breaking the law, asshole!”*

liarliargif

*I wouldn’t actually recommend saying this, but if we’re taking the Lawyer movie angle, I’m all for sticking ‘em with the Bend and Snap from Legally Blonde. “Works every time…” ;)

bendandsnap

 

amy-signature

Big girls don’t cry…

Greetings from outer space! No, of course I’m not in space although considering my distinct lack of presence in the blogoshpere, you’d think I’d been rocketed to the moon. (Yeah, ‘blogosphere’ is a real word in Internet Land, keep up.)

I am really shit at the blog game, I know. I feel bad asking you to read my drivel because I’ve neglected you for six months but I’ve got a feeling that you’re going to scan this for a load of swear words, a joke about vaginas and when you find them we’ll be cool again…

So Happy New Year, eh? 2013 has advanced without any real incident. Wait, I tell a lie, I spilled piping hot gravy onto my lap in February… I’ve never had a burn quite like it. It gave a doubly literal meaning to the term ‘fire crotch’. (I’m a natural redhead, work it out…) Vagina joke = nailed:

I also moved in with my boyfriend, Adam! I am now a fully fledged adult because we have our own home!! The most exciting set of keys ever:

Because I’m an actual grown up, I now magically have the remarkable amount of willpower required to fill a wine glass that can hold a pint of generic liquid (alright, wine…) only a quarter of the way full! AND I can take small sips so that a bottle actually lasts me for… well, a while. A miracle:

Another plus side to being a grown up in your own home is that you can do pretty much whatever you want. Within the realms of the law, obviously. I’m talking; sit around in your pants, yell obscenities at the news, eat a whole packet of digestives (cos they’re grown up biscuits), be naked… I was going to label the latter; ‘as long as your neighbours can’t see you’, but I found out that the trees outside my living room window aren’t as dense as I thought and I still do it anyway. Mind you, from the waist up I may as well be a boy, so every cloud…

Being all mature does have rocky patches though. You don’t realise how much maths you have to do! I went through huge pressures at school thinking that the adult world revolved around graphs, algebra equations, I had issues with x’s before I’d even had a boyfriend…

Then when you’re in your late teens some messiah at college tells you; ‘ah you don’t really need to use any of it in the ‘real world’, just fuck maths off’. SO relieved! I threw all of my notes away but kept my scientific calculator cos it was a bit expensive, in protest I just wrote ‘fuck off’ on it. Anyway, adulthood rolls around and WHAT THE FUCK IS ALL OF THIS MATHS?! I’m budgeting for bills, calculating alcohol percentages etc. and I still haven’t a sodding clue. I use my fingers and toes to count, my iPhone calculator is a lifeline (even when I’m just turning it upside down so that 58008 reads ‘BOOBS’.) and all the only algebra I can use is ‘y’. Y the hell didn’t someone warn me that you need a MENSA brain to remember all the drivel you learned at GCSE in order to calculate how much you have left to spend on wine once you’ve paid your Council Tax. That joke was pants. Sorry, but I really fucking hate maths.

Another Adult Peeve is that I can no longer take a leisurely stroll around Asda, adding things to my trolley just because I fancy them. I have a list and when you’re a grown up, you stick to your shopping list; I’m in and out like a grocery ninja. I have no time for those insufferable people who stand in the middle of the tinned veg aisle debating whether Heinz is tastier than Smart Price. I’ve got serious shit to buy; like washing powder, bleach, Glade Touch and Fresh refills and olives. We both hate olives, but you have to have them in your grown up fridge so that when people come round for a social tipple, you can offer them. It’s a subtle way of telling people that you’re sophisticated and you’ve got your shit together. Unless you accidentally eat one and pull this face:

I feel so weird admitting to being overwhelmed by adulthood. I’ve been a carer since I was 16 and have barely flinched at some of the Herculean tasks I’ve had to take on (you’re familiar with my ‘picking up accidental shit’ work…) but suddenly I’m panicking about everything. When you’re a carer, you’re faced with responsibilities that test every fibre of your being and the only way through is by acting on Auto Pilot – everything is scheduled so you don’t have time to forget the important things. Now that I’m living somewhere I don’t have to adhere to a strict timetable, I procrastinate like a BITCH! I love running my own home so my thoughts are constrained to finding new ways to test my domestic goddessry: ‘Find out why your washing never smells the same as your mums, despite using exactly the same powder and fabric softener; Google an impressive meringue recipe; Clean the oven. Properly; Find a way to insert a Glade Touch and Fresh refill without using every swearword you’ve ever heard; Learn to spell meringue;’ etc.

I often call on my caring experiences to get through day to day tasks but I really need to learn that you can actually set up a direct debit without simultaneously aspirating an NG tube, etc. As a carer, I automatically assumed that everything about adulthood would be fucking hard. But, apart from your boyfriend in the morning, it’s not. It really is as difficult as you make it. The only issue is the responsibility of living up to expectations posed by becoming a grown up. People think that because I’ve been ‘older than my years’ for such a long time, I’m going to adapt quickly but the reality is that it all gets a bit too much sometimes. I often give into my inner child by feeding it kid’s honey cereal in a vain attempt to assuage the pressure. I suppose I’ll have to stand up and take it on the chin otherwise I’m going to live the rest of my life riding on the crest of a permanent sugar rush…

I love this cereal:

But adult rules dictate that you have to start taking care of your colon health and eat this cereal:

In my original blog biography I mentioned that I’d attempt to share some fucked up wisdom with you, so here it is; if , like me, you’re living in a beautiful home with someone you love – chill out, we’re lucky! It’s so easy to get bogged down with material compulsions that we often forget what it is we’re living for. In laymen’s, find some clarity. If you can’t find that then find the alcoholic beverage of your choice. Clarity will come. ;)

Cheers…

amy-signature

Let’s get serious…

Alright?

It’s been incredibly quiet from my end for quite a while, I apologise. I don’t know how I’ve managed it seeing as how I’m an incorrigible chatterbox.

A lot has happened during my hiatus. Hiatus. I sound like I’ve been in rehab. (I haven’t, by the way, so no snidey comments about how I couldn’t blog because I’ve not been on the sauce…) I’m going to hold back on a few details because they’re not really any of your business. They must be pretty heavy topics seeing as how I’ve shared incredibly intimate subjects with you during the life of this blog. I will share this with you though; I’m not a carer any more. Gasp. Certain events transpired that have rendered me almost obsolete and that’s as much as I’ll say for now.

Oh. I’ve got a boyfriend. He’s very handsome, look:

His name’s Adam, we’ve been together for 11 months and I love him :) I don’t know how I managed to keep that one quiet either. I’m a changed person! Again, no rehab quips…

Another exciting thing that has happened to me is that I have been honoured with the appointment of National Ambassador at Carers UK! Remember in my last post about 50 years ago, I said I’d had a surprise through the post? Well, that surprise was a lovely letter asking me if I’d consider the post of Ambassador as a thanks for all the work I’ve done for the charity. How exciting! So far I have attended a Parliamentary reception, given a speech at the Carers UK Founding Members’ lunch at Lambeth Palace, spoken on the panel at the Carers Summit and have lots of equally important events lined up that require my speaking talents. Good job really seeing as I’m rather loquacious… ;)

It does mean that I should now be doing less of this:

And more of this:

Paul Burstow MP (Minister for Care) and I in Parliament – June 2012
 Making my speech at the Mary Webster event at Lambeth Palace – October 2012
 Beautiful Lambeth Palace – yes, they did let me in!
 So. Back to my de-carer procedure. Sounds kinda painful and my goodness it has been! It’s been a complete roller-coaster. I’m now in limbo between the Carers World and the Real World. There are a few of you that would argue that caring really is part of the ‘real world'; seeing that it delivers constant, harsh doses of reality along with regular kicks to the crotch, but I’ve found it to be more of a microcosm, a bubble if you will. You’re so wrapped up in something that you tend to block out the outside world and ‘the future’ is something you dread thinking about. You’d think that your life would reach a plateau of calm outside this bubble but it really doesn’t. You’ve spent so long thinking about somebody else that you tend not to pay much attention to your own life; your life outside of caring and what you’d do with it once you’re back on the scene. I feel as though the Carers World has politely asked me to leave but the Real World is being that bitch who won’t invite me to the party.

“But I like to party!”

I now have absolutely no sense of identity. Most carers feel the same kind self loss during caring; the feeling of being just another slave to the government, but now I’m not a carer, I feel like I’ve been kicked out of the Carers Club. Even carers on the Carers forum I’m part of don’t want to know. I went on to introduce myself and nobody will speak to me; maybe because they can no longer empathise with me. I feel like a leper. Just to validate my existence I’m now referring to myself as ‘a former carer’ or ‘Amy, Formally Known As A Carer’, like Prince only with less plastic surgery and a deeper voice.
I’m also now known as a job hunter. I like to use the word ‘hunter’ because that’s exactly what you need to do. Hunt to survive. Weekly visits the Jobcentre have inevitably ensued (cringe) and now I’m no longer viewed as do-gooder statistic, but as a skid-mark in the underpants of society. I’m sorry Mr Government but you need to learn how to wipe your arse properly (Refer to my previous posts. I could help you out.) because no one will employ me. I have “too big a gap” in my employment history. Oh, I’m sorry…I didn’t realise that 24/7 caring isn’t a work substitute. Silly me, thinking that administrative skills, excellent telephone manner, advanced and specialised vocabulary gained through my carers role could possibly be applied in the workplace. Yes, you should definitely ignore the fact that I’ve met the Prime Minister, spoken confidently in Parliament and at Lambeth Palace and have an aura of general brilliance. I’ll just go and munch on some mothballs in The British Heart Foundation shop and let you call it work experience because I clearly haven’t got any…

Yes, I name drop Dave Cameron on my CV…

I’ve always had a reputation of being a little dippy (I once thought that Milan was in China because it sounds like Mulan and the other day I managed to sew my hair into my trousers. Don’t ask..) but I have absolutely no idea why I’m so unemployable? I’ve got good qualifications, even better life skills and I’m the bloody Ambassador of a UK charity for goodness sake! What more do they want? For me to pull a bunch of flowers out of my hoo-hah whilst singing the National Anthem? Because I could try…

Would you employ this face? I’m even wearing my Carers UK badge!

The badge!

This is why I have created a petition to ensure that skills gained through caring are recognised by employers as and when they apply to a role. It’s a serious, well worded petition with no swearing. You can have a look HERE. Read it, sign it, share it. Anybody could become a carer, at any point in their lives. You don’t have any warning and you certainly don’t ask for the sodding responsibility that comes with it. It’s a hard task but even harder is the struggle you face getting back on your feet after caring – for whatever reason you leave the ‘profession’. And it is a profession, we’re good at what we do. Did. Might do. If I can do just one small thing to help people post caring get back into work, then this is it. I don’t want you to have to go to the jobcentre all the bloody time because it’s a no good hole that smells like weed, desperation and Paris Hilton perfume.
To summarise, I have absolutely no idea in which direction my life is going but I’m 23, the world is my oyster and I’m the pearl. A grain of sand that’s been spat on so many times that you have no choice but to shine yourself up and screech to the world: “Crack open this shell; I may not be gold but damn, I’m valuable”.
 amy-signature

The Resurrection of a blog, like Jesus but less wholesome…

Bugger it, I’ve not blogged for two whole months! You must have missed me terribly darlings. (Please just humour me and nod…) February and March have passed me by in a haze of near death experiences, concussions and surprises through the post (more to come on that soon…ooh I’m a tease! :p), so I have lacked on the blog front. It does mean, however, that I have a tasty chunk of brain fodder for you to sink your teeth into.

Yum:

So, near death experiences. Momma has spent the last 10 weeks in absolute agony with her back. She has three bulging discs that are pressing on her spinal cord. The nerve that controls leg movement and bladder control has been severely compromised so she’s struggling to keep on her feet at all. Next time I find her on the floor in a puddle of her own piss at least there’s a medical term for it… Due the intense amount of pain she was in, mum babes was prescribed some weird and wonderful pills to take the edge off. Unfortunately the tablets not only reduced her pain, but also her responsiveness and reactions. She’d taken her second dose of the day, gone upstairs for a nap and when I went to check on her an hour later, she was unconscious.

She was probably dreaming about this:

 

Whilst I was feeling like this:

Now, I can’t speak for everyone who has found themselves in this situation but I’ll say that, for me, it was fucking terrifying. There’s a split second where everything is blank. You know in the movies when it all goes into slow motion? Your own voice sounds like Darth Vader’s, you’re as sober as a judge but you feel like you’ve swallowed a ton of something illegal? All I could think was “Shit, shit. What am I supposed to do? Who’s coming to tell me what to do?” And as soon as the feeling comes, it’s gone again; your sensible subconscious gives you a kick up the arse and cool, calm and collected ‘you’ reigns.

I called an ambulance, obviously, and she was rushed to hospital with blue lights flashing and sirens wailing. God that woman knows how to make an entrance. I sorted out care for Katie, jumped into a taxi and raced to the hospital. I actually said to the driver: “Step on it!” Told you it was like a movie…

When I arrived I was ushered into the ‘Relative’s Room’ by a nurse who told me that the doctor would need to speak to me. Now, I’ve been in that situation once before when momma didn’t come round from an anaesthetic. There are no words to describe that empty ache in your stomach, like your whole world is about to fall from under you and all you have to console you in that dark little room is a Chaplaincy leaflet and a battered bible that has been leafed through more times than Hugh Hefner’s copy of the Karma Sutra. I’m not at all religious but it is in these situations that I find myself beginning to bargain with ‘God’. “Please don’t take my mummy away from me, I’ll do anything. Anything!” I get a little delirious and begin to make bizarre offers of exchange: “Make all of my hair fall out!” “Turn me into a toad!” “Make me grow a beard!” I kid you not; sometimes you just can’t control the shit that gushes out of your mouth in times of duress.

The doctor finally came into me to say that momma had suffered a severe allergic reaction to her painkiller and had two incredibly close calls, nearly losing her life both in the ambulance and again in resus. She was barely stable and the next 12 hours were crucial. It was then that I thought the Relative’s Room could really benefit from a mini bar… I’d have raided the whole thing and still have needed more.

She made it through the night and I didn’t grow a beard, nor did any part of my body gain amphibian qualities. (Have I pulled the wool over God’s eyes?!) It was a tense week that followed but she was incredibly well looked after by the intensive care unit at George Eliot Hospital. She’s awaiting spinal surgery and we’ve made sure that those demon tablets don’t come anyway near her again so it’s just a matter of keeping her comfortable until she gets sorted out.

You’d think that was the end of the drama for two months but no. I swear we go through absolute shite just so I can write about it for your entertainment! You’d all better be bloody grateful. ;) I suffered two concussions. Yeah you heard, two! I am a ridiculous klutz. The first one was due to me tripping over my own feet and falling head first into a wall and the second was caused by a suitcase. I don’t even know how it happened and I’m not going to attempt to explain. So that was two A&E visits for lil old me!

Concussion #1 – Rocking the neck brace, no?!

Then just last week I was admitted into hospital as I had a pretty bad issue with my heart. I had surgery when I was 11 to correct an abnormality and I’ve suffered with it ever since.  C’mon, get your violins going…that’s it! I happened to pick up that nasty norovirus that’s doing the rounds too. (That’s the ‘winter virus’. The one where awful stuff comes out of your two main orifices…) I don’t know, you go into hospital with something relatively simple and come out dead! Ah, I know I’m overreacting ever so slightly but it’s hard to stay realistic when the whole world is falling out of your arse… Ugh!

Anyway, we all seem to be as well as can be at the moment but no doubt something’s going to go tits up soon and I’ll be blogging about a hilarious incident involving a blob of shit and some sort of vodka induced sickness…

Happy Easter by the way..!

amy-signature

Can’t cope, won’t cope…

Hey darlings! Can I call you darlings? I’d like to give an affectionate name for you; my collection of readers. Ricky Gervais has ‘Twonks’, Tulisa has ‘N-Dublets’ and ‘Muffins’… I’ll have a little think. Suggestions on a postcard?

It feels like an absolute age since I posted last. There are a few reasons as to why and I feel that, to reward your loyalty to my drivel, I’d better explain myself. I’ve spent the last week or so trying to get over a nasty virus (who knew one person could house SO much snot?!) and have been horrendously busy making important phone calls, writing letters, learning to dance this ‘hump’ that Rizzle Kicks keep singing about, researching world wines (read ‘researching’ as ‘drinking’) and digging my way out from under a mountain of paperwork. My mum had a form to fill in the other day so we decided to make a makeshift office in order to motivate us (we sat next to each other at the table and shuffled papers). It was a welcome dose of normality actually. Mum Babes (that’s what I call her…) used to work in an office at the MoD so she said it was quite nostalgic. I made the office environment more realistic by sending out an inter-office memo to my ‘colleague’. Well, I drew a penis on a bit of paper and threw it at her. I really am quite proficient at procrastination…

My side of the ‘office’. Note the Mickey Mouse straw in the bottle of wine. That’s incongruity if I ever saw it.

Wine tasting. It has to be done…

Another reason for my absence is that I’ve had the worst case of writer’s block EVER. If Jackie Collins had suffered the same then the literary world would be a better place. I think I’ve been trying too hard to force an idea but have recently realised that inspiration is like the female orgasm; sometimes you just have to accept that it’s not coming… On the subject of acquiescence, I’d like to talk about coping. I’ve been steadfast in my resolve for this blog to be a ‘No-Moan-Zone’ but I also want to be realistic. I audaciously likened myself to Wonder Woman (with smaller tits, don’t forget) but no-one’s superhuman, least of all me. But I do have a mechanism. In times of duress, I shut myself off from the outside world completely. I want to do everything alone because that’s how I’ve been raised; to be strong and independent. And I’ve had the best role model for it. Mum Babes has raised two children alone for 21 years. She’s contended with Katie’s disabilities, my ill health (chronic asthma, heart surgery aged 11, viral meningitis at 15) and her own illnesses. If I was ‘down with it’ I’d say she was a ‘real G’. She’s hot, too.

So. Coping. Everyone does it differently; some people don’t do it at all. A relative of mine had a nervous breakdown after her son cut his finger open… If I can give any advice (and you should all know by now that I’m not that good at giving it..!) it would be to find a coping mechanism that suits you. I use humour – you may have noticed! Last week my mum was rushed into hospital with chest pains. (She’s home now and being looked after by Nurse Amy). It was very stressful for both of us but we naturally resort to humour to get through. In this particular instance she made me sniff her armpits to make sure she didn’t stink. You never know who you’re going to meet in the middle of a chest X-ray…right?! We cracked some commode-related jokes, I did a little dance behind the curtains…you get the picture.  When I was 15 I was admitted to Birmingham Children’s with Viral Meningitis. To lighten the mood, mum put on one surgical glove, wore a sick bowl like a hat and Moonwalked around my hospital room. I was sitting on a bedpan at the time. It was so funny that, well, I’m sure you get the picture…

I also drink and dance to ‘cope’. For me, the hardest part of caring is wanting to sink a bottle of brandy but knowing it’s morally irresponsible to ‘drink on the job’. I will have a little tipple though. When it’s quite I’ll pour myself a drink and dance like a video ho until I can’t remember what I was stressed about to begin with. (I’m not admitting to alcoholism here, by the way! Although, you’ll often see me sneaking back from the corner shop with a carrier bag clanking suspiciously :p). Obviously not everyone will be placated by ‘my way’, but that’s my point. It’s MY mechanism. Do something that makes you feel like ‘you’. Just for a moment. Shut yourself off from the world/shout at everyone/scream into a pillow/ get drunk/do something crazy/ laugh at nothing/dance it out/cry… Do something that provides a release, however short lived that might be.

This is me mid ‘tipsy-dancing':

 

I don’t really know what else to say. I’d better go as there’s a quarter of a bottle of brandy going begging and a sexy bit of reggae has just come on the radio… amy-signature

We found lust in a hopeless place…

Happy New Year darlings! I hope you’ve all had a great Christmas and a good start to 2012. I’d planned on an early night in my snuggie with my Hello Ladies DVD for NYE but ended up dancing around the living room, completely pissed and doing gymnastics in my underwear… If that’s a sign of things to come then I can safely say that this year will be GREAT ;)

Here’s me in my snuggie:

Here I am smooching Steve:

The above quickly turned into this sort of debauchery:
Bottoms up!

Bottoms out!

Fancy a snog?

I’m not a fan of venturing out into Club Land for New Years. I did it once in 2008 and have decided that it’s definitely not for me. Paying a ridiculous amount of gold to get into a club where you’re all crammed in like sardines, awaiting sloppy midnight kisses from strangers? Thanks but no thanks.

NYE 2008 – This guy’s New Years resolution was probably to lure in innocent girls with his Scooby Doo facade, then turn into some kind of modern day Jack the Ripper (He tried to kidnap me shortly after this picture was taken…) We did go out in Coventry though so I suppose I was asking for it:

On the subject of smooches from strangers, this blog is going to be all about the early stages of relationships. I find it very easy to talk openly about love, lust, sex and rock ‘n’ roll but it’s not all been plain sailing. I know I’m only 22 but I’ve had my fair share of dating dilemmas and I want to share them with you. You lucky sods ;) It’s common knowledge that finding your soul mate is bloody hard but when you’re a carer it’s akin to finding Wally when he’s hiding inside a candy cane – nigh on impossible.

Being a carer has made me incredibly picky as I have to find someone who’s not only tall (no-brainer) handsome and a snazzy dresser but is also understanding, kind hearted, tolerant and as emotionally strong as I am. I am aware that this man probably doesn’t exist but I’ll keep searching, everyone needs a project, right? It’s also difficult because, as a carer, you’re constantly giving upwards of 80% of yourself to someone else as standard. You often don’t have the time or energy to give to someone new, which makes the initial dating such a pain in the arse. In an ideal world, I’d skip the ‘getting to know each other’ side-stepping and go straight into that ‘comfortable’ phase. You know – where you can walk around the house nude, burp like a man or admit that all the orgasms from day one have been faked. (I got a B in GCSE drama, FYI. I’ll leave you with that thought for a minute…) But seriously, it can be a damn ballache laying down foundations of a relationship when you have such time consuming responsibilities. I don’t expect guys to be empathetic (well you wouldn’t anyway would you?!) but it’s hard to establish a ‘date timetable’ when you’re constantly attending hospital appointments, changing NG tubes, being Superwoman etc. It can also be incredibly daunting sharing your life story with someone for the first time, especially when you reveal that you have a moral obligation to put your family (or whoever you care for) first. Just last week my mum had arranged to go for drinks with a friend of a friend of hers. She had fun but the guy admitted that their mutual friend had tried to warn him off her, citing Katie’s complex care needs and mum’s health issues  as a reason for him to back off a bit.  What a shallow bastard. It didn’t deter mama’s date but it made me so mad to think that people could be so heartless. You may think that this is a one off occurrence but you would be wrong. It’s happened to my mum a number of times and, often being consumed by paranoia, I’m convinced that it will happen to me too. How horrendously weak are some people? I am kind of grateful though, I’ve decided it’s my way of sorting the wheat from the chaff.  If you crumble under pressure and can’t cope with adversity then you’re probably shit in bed anyway…

My fellow independent women are probably shouting “why do you need a man?!’’ My answer is: I don’t, not really. Sometimes I use men’s shower gel liberally during my bedtime bath. Then when I’m sleeping I sniff my own armpit and it’s pretty much the same as being in bed with a man – sans the dodgy smells and grunting… Then there’s the other obvious male ‘replacement’. You know the one I mean; I broke mine last year. I will say this to the ladies though; make sure you buy one that will ‘suit’ you. I won’t elaborate further but just to warn you, it can be horrifically embarrassing turning up in A& E because you’re having a severe allergic reaction to a certain phallic ‘rabbit’…  My mum found this out the hard way.  J.H.Christ!! Latex allergies are highly inconvenient. Turns out it’s hereditary. I found out that I have one after a trip to the gynaecologist. I don’t feel we know each other well enough for me to divulge further so I’ll leave this little anecdote for another time ;)

Beware the Rabbit…

I did mention that I have become quite picky. You can blame Disney for adducing my old fashioned outlook on relationships. (In the sense that I expect guys to open doors for me and I don’t really mind baking them a cake whilst they call me ‘the missus’) Here’s a short list of my requirements:

Turn On’s
-Understanding, tolerant, kind, patient <insert other soppy qualities here> guys
-Funny guys
-Snazzy dressers
-Glasses
-Tall guys
-Funny guys
-Glasses
-Bit of a beard
-Tall guys
-Well, basically this:

Turn Off’s
-Assholes (No, not THOSE ones…)
-Manipulative, mean, cocky guys
-Small men
-This:

(I’m aware he’s wearing glasses, there are exceptions to every rule…)

When you’ve been 6ft and ginger for a long time you stop expecting propositions from guys but recently I’ve been inundated and I’m finding it incredibly strange! The 14 year old gangly geek inside of me keeps shouting “they’re obviously taking the piss” whilst the horny adult argues: “get ya leg over girl!” I’ll admit that it feels a bit weird to say out loud that I have ‘admirers’ but I kinda like it. (Don’t judge me; I’ve never really been able to say “oh, so-and-so fancies me!”) However, I do think that most guys are invariably attracted to this:

 

…and then back off quite a bit when they realise the realities of care and all that it requires. I am one of the most tactile people you will ever meet and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can also be incredibly guarded as I’m petrified of getting hurt after laying myself bare. (Emotionally, I’ll have you know! I use the ‘three date rule’ for physical bareness :p) When you’re a carer you really need all of your reserve energy for yourself and you can’t access it if you’re wasting it by snivelling over a break up.  I really am procrastinating here, I haven’t made a point but I think that might actually be my point..? As a carer, you can’t make solid plans. Every day is a surprise whether you like it or not. If you’re single then someone has to fit in with your way of life, like it or lump it.

So there you have it. I have no advice to give to single carers because if I did, I’d have applied it to my situation and you can obviously tell I haven’t… But I’m not really bothered. I’ve won a Carer’s Award, made it into a National Magazine (Reveal) and appeared on National TV (Text Santa & ITV Central News) all as a result of things I’ve done by myself. My mum has managed to raise us alone for 21 years and she’s by biggest role model. The Spice Girls can shove their Zig-A-Zig-Ah up their bleached arseholes because that’s more girl power than they could ever hope to have…

amy-signature

P.S Despite me not surreptitiously seeking a man, if Steve Merchant knocked on my door, well… ;)

Mistletoe and wine. Lots of wine…

It’s only bloody Christmas Eve!  Can you believe it? I’m not ashamed to say that in the Cook household, we have been feeling particularly festive for ages! Starting from mid-November (some years it’s been late October, I shit you not..!!) the tree goes up and the Phil Spector Christmas CD is put on loop. (I’ve literally just found out that he’s a murderer…we’ll have the Smurfs Christmas Party on next year!!)  We tend to use Katie as an excuse for our festive zeal but this is an honest blog so I’ll admit to turning into a giant child the moment Christmas cards appear in the shops. I love everything about the holidays. (apart from the kids being off school…no-one likes that) I love how everyone looks more attractive under the mistletoe, I love how it becomes more acceptable to drink wine at 1 O’Clock in the afternoon if you put it in a Christmas mug. People are cheerful (falsely, but hey, I don’t expect miracles) the winter air is always fresher and I can sniff tinsel in public without people thinking I’m a complete loon – I’m a sucker for the smell of tinsel, it’s like crack to me.

We even have Christmas toilet paper. It’s nutmeg scented so my lady bits are as festive as I am…
Here’s me with an afternoon Christmas mug of wine:
During the festive period, you can also make children behave with a simple “Santa’s listening!!” Oddly, I’m grateful for Katie’s learning disability in a way, only as she still believes in Father Christmas. It really is very sweet. But that’s not why I love it so much. If she’s misbehaving, from around early November onwards, mum and I need only crack out ‘’Santa can hear you!’’ and she instantly becomes cuter than Shirley Temple. A few weeks back she went through a phase of being a total shit. She shouted, moaned, cried, hit, huffed and grumped her way through an entire week and my mum completely lost her tether and shouted “You know what Katie? Santa doesn’t exist. It’s been mummy all along! You’ve been so naughty that you don’t deserve any presents!” Now, any other child would have cried at those words. Not Katie. This is a child that has survived 9 operations; she’s more resilient than Chuck Norris. For real. She STILL believes in Santa. At 21, her absolute faith in something that brings her joy is unwavering. That’s pretty special. My nan used to berate my mum for keeping up the illusion, but if a girl who has little quality of life can find solace in a fictitious yet ever present figure, why discourage it?  I remember the time I found out Santa didn’t exist. An 8 year old Katie had spent 3 months in hospital. She’d had her birthday in the October and Christmas rolled around and she was still no better. In fact, the January after would be when we’d be told to take her home to die. So we took Christmas-in-a-box to the hospital. She’d woken up to presents at the foot of her bed; pumped full of anti convulsants (that were slowly poisoning her to death – more on that later) hands and feet punctured and tissuing from countless IV’s and being fed through a tube she exclaimed with all the triumph of a well child: ‘He’s been!’ I was 9 and I saw Katie’s reply from Santa on her bedside table. It was in my mum’s handwriting. Now, I was a very logical child (I’d read Moby Dick at 6 and wrote letters to the Tooth Fairy asking her to explain the finer points of magical aeronautics…pretentious doesn’t cover it!) and I knew right away that the whole thing was a farce. I was crushed. Katie has had a life wracked with pain and disappointment, to destroy her tiny bit of pure happiness would be unthinkable. She can be such a ballache but she really is one hell of a special kid and I love her unconditionally for it.
Christmas time is very special. For me, it’s a time not just for receiving new gifts but a time for appreciating the ones you already have.  I’ve had some very close calls with the two most important people in my life. I can’t count the times I’ve been told that I was about to lose them both. Christmas is a celebration of life, the lives of our loved ones. We should appreciate that a year has passed and we’re all still together, for we know not what the New Year is going to dump on us . (In my case, probably a lot more shit scooping and rolling around the living room floor during a night of brandy and the Steve Merchant Hello Ladies DVD I’ve asked Santa for… ;) ) It’s bittersweet that the most wonderful, loving and jolly time of year falls during the coldest month in the calendar. I stole that from The One Show. It’s a metaphor. Lap it up…
Wow. That was pretty poignant! Here, watch a video of Karl Pilkington explaining Christmas to lighten the mood…you’re welcome ;)
Christmas for carers can be very difficult. You don’t really have time off, sometimes the person you care for falls ill / becomes difficult to handle etc. but we just smile and carry on. I sup up, pull a cracker and listen to dirty Christmas Carols to brighten the tone (and to lower it, naturally :p) If you can put all your struggles and grievances aside for one day out of the year and truly appreciate life, even if you have more difficulties than Bob Geldof has trying to get a snog under the mistletoe, then you really have embodied true Christmas spirit.
We used the ‘Elf Yourself’ app, as we do every year, and the results are hilarious. Obviously my mum and Katie have mobility issues so seeing them leaping and dancing around like crazies makes my day! Have a look:
I’m going to sign off for the year now as tonight mum and I will be playing Santa. I’m a little disappointed that Katie wants to leave St. Nick a glass of soya milk and not a glass of brandy / wine / cosmo / mojito (all in the Christmas booze cabinet) because “he needs to lose some weight.”  Bugger. Mum can drink that then..! So from my family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas, however you are spending it. I wish you all the best for 2012.
See you next year!!
amy-signature

Granny for sale…

 I’m back! Here I am, fresh from not one but TWO TV appearances! Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all ‘diva’ on y’all! I’d like to say thank you for all the wonderful support I’ve received re: Text Santa and Central News. You lovely lot! I’ve not blogged until now as I really have been incredibly busy over the last week; mainly writing ridiculously important albeit stroppy letters to the DWP and practising my autograph…
I had a lovely time at the Text Santa live show last week, here’s me inside the ITV Studios:
100_4387
And this is me being utterly debauched at our hotel after the show:
100_4393
My beautiful friend Sophie and I before the show started:
100_4359
We were sat right at the back and I needed to pee the entire time BUT I saw The Wanted in the flesh… Ooh, that Jay. (y’know, the one with the curly hair?) Phwoar! I wanted to roll him into a little ball and put him in my knickers for a bit…
Speaking of undergarments, I have had an utter bollock of a week. Until now I have been far too proud to talk about finances but it’s such a pressing matter in the carer’s community at the moment. (yes, we have a community. We’re not as annoying as Jehovah’s Witnesses but we’re equally as stubborn) Do you remember me likening the government’s treatment of state dependents to being rogered in my previous post? Well I’ve just had my tiny ass well and truly pillaged… A few days ago I received a letter kindly letting me know that my Carers Allowance will be stopping in January. Apparently, taking care of my mum and sister 24/7 isn’t enough to warrant the giant sum of £55 a week that is ICA. What a load of shite. I wouldn’t mind if I had the time to go out and get a job but, unfortunately, amongst all the arse wiping and general mollycoddling there are many days where I don’t even have time to think about knocking one out over a picture of Stephen Merchant, let alone trying to combine caring and working.
I saw on Twitter today that Nike have sent over free football boots to that pointless, ugly fucker Wayne Rooney. It makes my blood boil to think that huge corporations financially support thick plonkers like that, yet our own government shits all over people like me – despite us carers saving them £119billion a year. That is not a typo. I’ll spell it out to reiterate: one hundred and nineteen BILLION pounds a year. I’ve never been so insulted in my life (apart from this one time when a random man said I looked like Carol Decker…cheeky fuck) I don’t usually let things get on top of me but it’s hard not to when, in this world, money is essential for survival. Katie has severe cyanosis –when your extremities turn blue from even the smallest bit of cold – so in these arctic temperatures our heating is on full blast. We’re actually contemplating selling our telly to pay the gas bill. This is plan B, my first thoughts were to sell my Nan but I don’t know where she lives. Typical. It also has to be the TV because mum won’t let me go out and become a woman of the night. Frankly, I don’t think I’d get much interest anyway but it’s the thought that counts.
I’ve decided to just come out and be honest about struggling financially as very few people realise that carers are often living in poverty / considering selling relatives etc. Just because I dress like this:
165195_472104304929_611529929_5779613_1505620_n
and not like this:
chavbirdaz7
does not mean that I am living in the lap of luxury. Far from it. I’m simply trying to make the best of a bad situation. After all, life can be shit enough without walking around looking like you’ve stolen Britney’s wardrobe and have more STD’s than Frankie Cocozza…

Now, does anyone want to buy a telly?!

amy-signature