“‘Ave you seen ‘er?” On Victoria Wood

An Audience with Victoria Wood, Dec 1988

Growing up, I always knew about Victoria Wood. My mum had her videos and we had a couple of signed books, too. I remember feeling dead grown up, aged about 10, when I was allowed to watch some of her stand-up. Here was a lady, who wasn’t thin or glamorous- but she was funny. Even as a kid, I knew she was unusual.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that she’s had a huge effect on me. As a northern, working-class kid, she talked about things I understood. I even own an orange raincoat (although not a fetching yellow hat to go with it.) My sister and I have been known to say “I’m looking for my friend, Kimberly. ‘Ave you seen ‘er?” to each other. We don’t know any Kimberlys.

In restaurants with slow service, it won’t take long for Benn or I to whisper to the other “Two soups?”

I’ve always felt a bit suspicious about prawns too, thanks to this sketch:

And I remember seeing her programme about tea. Of course.

The thing is, Victoria Wood’s humour was funny and warm; it was grounded in real life and it was never cruel, either. I’ll miss her.

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The terror of toddler night terrors

As it’s a week from Halloween, it seems appropriate that I take to the blog to discuss one of the scariest, most challenging things we’ve been dealing with since becoming parents. Are you ready?

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D has recently been experiencing night terrors. And there is virtually nothing we can do except hope that he grows out of them- a phrase that brings dread to all parents of toddlers.

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They really are vile; D, halfway between sleep and wakefulness is clearly terrified. I can see him fighting something off and his body tenses. I can totally understand why people in the middle ages thought those experiencing night terrors were possessed. D arches his back and sort of lifts his legs too. He screams and shouts. He will try and fight us if we are in his way at all. It’s pretty scary.

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Websites are not much cop, either. “It’s really rare- only 1-6% of children get them!” they trill. Which is fine, unless you’ve got a kid in that 1-6% band, which we do. “Don’t try and wake them!” Which is sensible, but is totally alien; after all, as a parent, your first instinct is to comfort, right? But we learnt quickly that it makes it worse. D is clearly fighting something¬†and if we try and intervene, it makes him more scared. So all we can do is sit with him and… wait.

This is hard, and Benn generally has to do¬†it. I find it too distressing and I’ve cried more than once. Also, if D senses me in the room, it upsets him, sometimes to the point of trying to go for me. Benn seems to be the best, most calming presence and so we’re sticking with the plan that he will be the one to go in. I just lie there and will for it to be over (in about 25-30 minutes.) The other night, he had three bouts. I suspect it might have been because I’d been at work all day and he hadn’t seen me. Apparently night terrors can be linked to seperation anxiety (which he has a bit of, since starting nursery) and a break in routine (me not being home when he gets back.)

The worst thing is that there’s nothing we can do- there’s no point taking him to the doctor, as they can’t do anything. Thankfully, D doesn’t remember anything in the morning, except maybe a fleeting sense of a bad dream and a sore throat. I’d say that Benn and I are more exhausted the next day than he is.

So what are we doing? We’re making sure that bedtime is calm- we talk about all the people D likes and loves, we read stories, we keep the house quiet. I’ve been to explain to the next door neighbours that we’re not murdering him and we’re sorry if they can hear it (they’ve been wonderfully British about it and claimed not to hear a thing, which I know is a complete lie, but sweet of them all the same. I’ll definitely drop a Christmas card round this year.)

And now, we just wait for him to grow out of it. There’s nothing else we can do.

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The importance of being alone

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I like being on my own, something which is a rare luxury in a 24/7 society and with a two-year-old in tow. I like having my own space and doing whatever I want without worrying about someone else. My current favourite daydream is to have a plush hotel suite in a big city, a huge stack of books, enough money to do whatever I want and at least three museums within walking distance. I’d do all this by myself for a couple of days before returning home. It’s selfish, yes, but that’s the point of a daydream, isn’t it?

The thing is, with the rise of lifestyle blogs (of which this is probably one, albeit a grannyfied one that only interests you if you like not leaving the house very often) and the thing that glossy magazines insist on labelling as ‘fear of missing out’ or ‘FOMO’, we’re all in a constant state of being busy or wanting to be seen to be busy, documenting everything for our followers. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. But I love, relish and appreciate being utterly alone.

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When I first left uni, I lived on my own for six months and never really appreciated the space it gave me. I do, however, have fond memories of lying in bed on Sundays, reading magazines and not caring if I got crumbs everywhere. The quiet of my own place- essentially a tiny room in a huge converted Gothic mansion in Leeds- when contrasted with the hellish noise of shared student accommodation was wonderful.

Now I’m more likely to relish having D in bed, Benn out somewhere and a House marathon on Netflix, but the effect is the same. It’s even better if it’s a weekend or the holidays. The not having to be somewhere, or having to force myself to interact with people is blissful.

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Of course, there’s a world of difference between being alone and being lonely. I’m very rarely alone and can choose not to be if I want. An important part of keeping my depression at bay is to make sure I see people on a regular basis and I’m lucky enough to have friends nearby (also: Twitter.) I know that some people don’t have that luxury and, at certain times in my life, it’s felt like I didn’t have that either. Hopefully this means that I appreciate my friends all the more.

Being alone is good for the soul, I think. It gives us time to think, to be selfish in a self-contained way and to process things without interruption (even if that is episode 4, season 3 of House.) If we don’t allow ourselves to have proper, unstructured time alone, we’re going to go mad.