Eleanor OliphantI gobbled up the first ten chapters of my latest read, the bestselling sensation Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It truly is a marvellous book in many ways, exploring society on a level that fiction rarely does. Debut author Gail Honeyman should be incredibly proud of herself for this stunning piece of writing.

It’s no exaggeration to say I struggled through the next twenty chapters. Not because the story was rubbish all of a sudden, far from it. I just couldn’t (and still can’t!) get my head around how anyone would find it funny. The word is used in four of the six quotes on the covers, and most people I know who have personally recommended the book have also said how “hilarious” it is.

So I did the only sensible thing I could think of, and stayed up well past bedtime last night to polish off the last ten chapters. Here are my thoughts, I will do my best not to spoil it for those who’ve not read it.

Eleanor Oliphant is absolutely not fine!

Eleanor Oliphant is thirty years old and has had the same low paying job in an SME since graduating university. She is very socially awkward, and often misreads (or simply doesn’t understand) what is going on around her. She lives alone, and as a rule does not speak to another human between getting home from work on Friday to returning on Monday. She is incredibly intelligent and well read, and does not wallow in self-pity. She eats the same food every day, and drinks two bottles of vodka per week.

Fairly early on we start uncovering Eleanor’s horrendous childhood, and how she partially grew up in care. The full horrors are thankfully never graphically described, and credit to Gail Honeyman, because I for one can’t stomach graphic details. You have to read the entire book to discover Eleanor’s full back story, but the snippets we are given throughout give us enough information to go on. It’s clear that Eleanor is deeply troubled, not to mention phenomenally lonely, and drinks vodka to numb her pain.

Shortly after the story begins, Eleanor strikes up an unlikely friendship, her first proper friend. Someone who isn’t going to screw her over and has her back. Their relationship is genuine and heartwarming, and proves that kindness can be found everywhere when we open our eyes to it.

Is Eleanor Oliphant a female Adrian Mole? 

Eleanor OliphantIn many ways I liken Eleanor to a female Adrian Mole, who I hero worshipped when I was a kid. He provided the backdrop to my own less than perfect childhood, and I absolutely loved all of the late Sue Townsend’s books. Part of me wants to read them again, because I’m almost convinced I will feel the same way about Adrian as I now do about Eleanor.

I see a lot of my daughter Polly’s struggles in Eleanor and am convinced she is on the spectrum. You’ll only get as far as “Is Eleanor Ol….” before Google assumes you want to know if she is autistic. I fear that many of those who are finding Eleanor funny are actually laughing at her, not with her. Perhaps this is just me being overly sensitive due to my own circumstances?

Either way, it’s the reason I struggled through half the book. Eleanor’s awkwardness is cringe worthy at points. She misinterprets many situations, and takes things literally, just like Polly does. Unlike my girl, Eleanor has no-one to bounce her ideas off, and help decode this confusing world.

Eleanor drowns her sorrows in the classic way, and drinks down her tricky feelings. I’ve known so many people over the years who will discuss the minutiae of nothing, yet are completely incapable of processing even slightly uncomfortable emotions. This is a serious problem that rarely gets discussed.

Are mental health problems inescapable when you suffered a traumatic childhood?  

I’ve never encountered a single person who had a traumatic childhood and did not encounter ill mental health at some point as an adult. Anxiety and depression are rife among my own friends, even those who have had extensive therapy and great careers. I honestly don’t know what I’d have done throughout my lowest lows had it not been for my friends. I still have moments of feeling incredibly lonely, and I am blessed with hundreds of friends all over the world. I cannot imagine a life without friendships.

It’s a heartbreaking prospect to think children who go through such trauma, then slip through the cracks in a largely uncaring society. They get no support as adults, and with government cuts getting more brutal each year, things will only get worse as time goes on. The sheer volume of vulnerable young adults who end up being groomed, or enter into violent relationships is absolutely shocking.

Does Eleanor get a happy ending?  

You’ll have to read the book yourself to discover the answer. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if you do! Tweet me @mummytries 

 

Do you practise present parenting?

I am jinxed when it comes to phones. Seriously. I’ve lost more than I can even remember, and once dropped a brand new phone down the toilet two weeks into a two year contract. My latest tech failure comes in the form of a severely cracked screen on my iPhone, which is less than six months old.

It’s left me phone-less these last few days, and you know what? It’s been bloody liberating.

More than that though, my kids have articulated that they prefer their mummy phone-free. Ouch!

There I was thinking I had a grip on this. I know that I spend a LOT less time on my phone than I used to. I also know that I spend a crap tonne less time on it than almost every other blogger I know. Not that it’s a competition, but sometimes it’s good to compare and contrast.

present parentingThe truth is, not having a phone to divert my attention elsewhere is great for my present parenting abilities.

Because even with the best will in the world there will be texts to reply to. Quick chats to have with friends going through a hard time. A sneaky look at Instagram to see how well that latest post is doing. A brief look at gmail to make sure I’m not missing anything important. 

And all those five minutes, add up.

Being glued to a phone is not conducive at all to being a present parent. It’s just not. Especially with my spectrum children

I can convince myself all I like that my kids need to get better at letting me have a little bit of a life outside of them, but is that fair on them?

I used to think that their inability to see me on my phone and not try to grab my attention by kicking lumps out of each other was a fault on their behalf. I can see now though, that it’s completely unreasonable of me to expect this from them.

They didn’t ask for this life did they? They didn’t ask to be bullied and unsupported at school, and have to be home educated. As a family we go up and down and round in circles on this matter. Some days we win, and it’s amazing, but often we struggle.

Me being on my phone certainly doesn’t help. So once again I am going to own this as something I have control over, and react in a positive way.

I’m sure the world will still continue turning.

I absolutely refuse to look back on this time and feel guilty for anything. Present parenting is definitely top of my agenda this year. What’s on the top of yours?   

Well hello 2018!

I don’t usually do stream of consciousness writing, because I’m too obsessive about spellings and grammar and things sounding ridiculous. I’m too self-conscious to just bestow my random thoughts upon the world. Oh the irony. As we say goodbye 2017 and hello 2018, I thought why the devil not? So I’ve decided to do something a bit different for my year in review. 

2017 was the year that almost broke my family. It was also the year that we sorted a lot of our collective shit out. We properly stuck two fingers up at convention and took full ownership of our decisions. It was the year we jumped into home education with all our feet, rather than tentatively dipping our toes in. We were no longer just home edding our autistic child because we’d been let down by the system and had no other choice. We made the bold and brave move to pull our five-year-old daughter out of reception and home educate her along with our youngest. It’s certainly not been easy, but we wouldn’t have life any other way now. 

2017 was the year that sleep deprivation got taken to a whole new level, and then completely unexpectedly got a whole lot better again. The husband and I even managed to regain some semblance of a sex life (sorry, tmi). More than that though, we reconnected in a way that we’ve been crying out for for a very long time.

hello 2018

2017 saw big changes with Hubby’s job. Difficult changes that have impacted us all but are without a doubt for the greater good. They will lead to a brighter future, and opportunities like that cannot be passed up.

2017 was a great year for me as a blogger. My stats have never been better, and more people read this blog than I ever imagined would. I’ve never collaborated with more brands that have been on my wish list before. It’s made me see that my book writing aspirations need to be shelved for the time being. My efforts are definitely better spent being ploughed into this little space. The trouble with writing a book is that you just never know if it’ll get published, and even if does it’s no guarantee that it will sell. When spare time is in such short supply, you have to spend it wisely. 

2017 was the year I learnt the hardest way who my real friends are. I thought I had it all sussed out a long time ago, but I didn’t and it made me see who I can and can’t count on. I had some major surprises – a previously considered best friend who essentially treated me like I was nothing more than a crap Tinder shag. Other major letdowns I always knew existed but was reminded of. The constant back of the mind aching knowledge that there is no fairy godmother waiting in the wings. I’ve also been exceptionally fortunate that other people have surprised me in the opposite direction. People who came through for me for absolutely no reason whatsoever. They’ve proved themselves to be good, honest dependable friends even though I barely knew them three years ago.

It’s good to reflect and see the progress

When I look back at 2017, how it started and how it ended, I can see the massive progress that we made as a family. In spite of all the difficulties, and hard days. We took a gigantic leap of faith when we decided to home ed all three, and an even bigger one when we placed the most importance on their emotional well-being rather than pushing them super hard academically. It was (is) vital to help our kids get along better and fight less. Now don’t get me wrong, they are still challenging, and still fight on a daily basis, but it’s incomparable with how horrendous things were this time last year.

Ultimately, when I look past the really really crap bits, I can see so much positivity shining through. I see a marriage that has weathered many storms but is still rock solid. I see three children, who still have their challenges, but are becoming amazing human beings. I see strength in myself that an old lady would be proud of. I see a big bright future for us all, and that is priceless. 

So hello 2018, I’m ready for you. Bring it on!!

 

~ These three 😍🐵😍🐵 ~ ♥️ It’s safe to say that having flu whilst home educating your children and not having a fairy godmother beating your door down to help you is no fun! Just in case you were wondering 😆 ♥️ People say “oh I get it!” but honestly, most don’t get it, not even slightly. So many people told me I’d miss having my mum around once I had kids of my own, but it’s only at truly desperate times like this that I really feel it. Nobody understands motherhood without a mother, unless they’re living it. ♥️ But but but 🐵😍🐵😍 ♥️ These three are growing into wonderful human beings. They are kind and compassionate and thoughtful. They stick two fingers up at the more undesirable traits that go hand in hand with the A Word. They’ve been understanding and helpful while I recover. ♥️ It’s not been hugely enjoyable but honestly, I can’t even imagine how much worse it would have been six months ago while we were in the midst of the darkest time as a family yet. It’s good to reflect and be thankful for small mercies. And a huge thanks to everyone on here who took the time to write me a kind message, I really appreciate it 😘

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

When Canary Wharf was bombed in 1996, I was living in East London. I was so close that it sounded like fireworks going off in the sky. I remember rushing to the window of my aunt’s maisonette and looking up wondering where the noise came from. The next time I saw the TV, news of the bombing was all over the four channels.

Fear spread like wildfire, but at sixteen, I was too young to properly understand what it meant.

I was sat at my desk working when the twin towers were attacked. I watched with horror as the second plane flew into the building. The entire office was in a state of shock, we were sent home early. The rumours were beyond frightening. We heard that planes were on their way to all major cities, and London was going to be next.

I couldn’t get out of the square mile quickly enough, and rushed back home to be with the people I loved most. Once again fear was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Two wars followed, and troops are still being deployed over a decade and a half later.

I was in Australia when London’s infamous 7/7 bombings happened. I watched the news in floods of tears as my beloved home town mourned. I would later meet someone who lost their dad that day.

There were many more attacks in between, and there have been countless since. So very many lives lost.

Another horrendous atrocity was committed here in the UK last night. Close to home, in an area that was part of my commute for five years. One of my favourite spots in town.

fears are educated into us

I felt sick when I heard the news from my husband this morning, and made a decision not to seek out stories about the attack. No-one needs to see human beings stabbed via live streaming, but like those who slow down on the motorway to gawp at a car crash, people just can’t help themselves.

I’ve consciously switched off from those on social media who are reacting to hate with more hate.

These are dark days we are living through. They can leave you with the sense that the world is a dangerous, heartless place. That’s it’s best to stay indoors and keep ourselves safe, but that’s not the answer.

We shouldn’t forget the innocents who have lost their lives, or had their lives turned upside down, but we mustn’t hide ourselves away either.

We need to strive to love through the hatred. We need to be willing to look past the sensationalist headlines and read the full story. We need to teach our children that some times bad things happen that we have no control over. We should answer their questions and soothe their worries without creating more fear.

As far as I’m concerned, the best way to overcome this sense of fear is by tuning out to mainstream media. Consume your information wisely, and with caution. Don’t allow yourself to be brainwashed by the papers. Don’t get caught up in pointless squabbles with people who aren’t singing from your hymn sheet. Agree to disagree like adults. 

Most of all, don’t make assumptions about things you don’t fully understand: because that’s how the trouble starts.

Ultimately, we can’t live in fear that the boogeyman is coming to get us, because what kind of a life is that?

The Left and Right Need to Come Together #LoveTrumpsHateI’d like to start this blog by stating loud and clear that I am not a ‘loonie leftie’

I’ve written before about where my liberal values come from (clue: not through an early life of privilege, quite the opposite). I am not a communist, and don’t think socialism could even begin to work in the UK. I feel that the world is way too politically correct on many levels.

I read an article recently about not calling pregnant women ‘expectant mothers’ for fear of offending transgender people. I thought it was out and out bonkers. Is this honestly what transgender people want? Or are clueless people in the government making decisions about things they don’t know? 

I’m a mama. I grew three babies, pushed them out into the world and fed them with my breasts. I will not apologise for owning the title mama. Ever.

I grew up in a right wing household, but do not hold the same values as the people who raised me. I vehemently oppose any form of racism, and am appalled that open misogyny still takes place. For what it’s worth I think that Donald Trump is the devil incarnate.

Coming together on the things that divide the sides

A heated debate that is currently taking place on my personal Facebook page has prompted me to write this. And I am doing so with shaky hands and my heart beating in my mouth. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as strongly about getting words on the screen before. You can probably guess the topics of conversation.

Brexit.

Trump.

Hillary Clinton being the rightful president of the USA v’s Hillary Clinton being the She Devil.

Directly after the EU Referendum, there was lots of hatred. Then it died down a little. Then Trump got elected and it started up again. And now? Now people are sick and tired of being polite whilst being shat upon. People are protesting in their droves to get their voices heard.

I posted a link to a news site after the Brexit update on Thursday, and a few (non-British) friends commented with their thoughts. In a nutshell they are concerned that they’ll be kicked out of the country. This is a worrying time to live through. They’re scared for their kids, and don’t know what to do and where they’ll go next if it all goes tits up.

A British friend commented that he’s finding the Brexit fallout very interesting, as he was a leave voter. As a remainer, and someone who is always willing to listen to intelligent arguments, I find it genuinely enlightening to hear why people voted leave. In many ways I’m starting to see their logic. Which I’m surprised about, because I couldn’t for a long time. I was too emotionally caught up in the immediate consequences. 

The system as is needs fixing in a big way 

I don’t think many could argue that we have a broken political system, that properly needs to change. Unless you’re in the top 5%, and if you are I doubt highly that you’re reading my blog,

My friend said that if he was in the States, he’d have voted for Trump in a heartbeat. This initially got my back up (along with the backs of all the others who had commented on the thread). After a few days of reflection though, and many more comments along the way, I’m starting to see where he’s coming from.

Bear with me please. 

Let me state for the record that I feel it’s utter lunacy that Donald Trump is sitting in the White House. I don’t agree with a single thing he says or does, and his openly racist, misogynistic stance makes my blood run cold. His campaign was run on fear and hatred. Some of the laws that are now being passed are backward at best. For once a politician is keeping his campaign trail promises, but at what cost?

Like it or not though, he is the president. Even if he got impeached, the alternative is not going to be better. Look how swapping David Cameron for Theresa May is working out.

Let’s use our collective voice for real good

It feels like us in the UK are getting sidetracked by the states to be honest. Yes we should be shouting loudly about how much we hate Trump, but how about also using our voices to speak up about our own government? The Tories have been running the country into the ground from the day they took office, yet won last year’s election hands down.

WTAF?

Austerity is clearly failing the masses, and looks like it’s only going to get worse. Assets are being sold off to the highest bidder. Budgets for public services are being cut to the bone. The NHS is being run into the ground, people dying on trolleys in the corridors of our hospitals. I cannot for a second understand the logic behind charging nursing students to study. 

There are more homeless than ever before, yet hate-mongering media are showing headlines of record numbers in employment. You couldn’t make half of it up.

The women’s march two weeks ago was nothing short of amazing. People came together across the world to say they were not going to sit back and watch their rights being taken away. Women said, loud and clear, that they’ll do whatever it takes to protect the rights that have been worked so hard for over the years.

Unfortunately though, it was largely seen as a liberal thing to do. Right wing women have been condemning the marchers and making fun of them. How very sad.

Wouldn’t it be amazing for us to find our common ground and come together? For the sake of human decency?    

It’s time to wake the f*** up, open our eyes and get angry  

Now that the worst has happened, it’s put politics on everyone’s agenda. This is a wonderful thing, and should be celebrated. Which ever side of the political fence you sit on, we should all be using the current momentum, which is so strong, to be protesting about what the Tories are doing right here in the UK.  

When the junior doctors marched last year, over appalling pay and ridiculous hours, they ended up with a much better deal. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could save the NHS before it’s privatised? Sorry to state the obvious, but once it’s gone it’s gone!

Wouldn’t it be incredible to get something done about the housing crisis? About zero hour contracts, which are pushing people into poverty, even though they are technically employed? 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get some extra funding for our schools? As the mother of an autistic child, I find it abhorrent that SEN budgets have been slashed to next to nothing, and that a child has to be suicidal before they can get in front of a counsellor. Good teachers are quitting in their droves because they have had enough. Just think about that for a minute.  

Left or right, we all have to share the country. Let’s stop allowing ourselves to be divided and conquered. 

Collectively we very much do have a voice, we should start using it for some proper good. Let’s not become tired and boring shouting the same old things that fall on the same old deaf ears.

What we cannot do is apathetically resign ourselves to what’s going on right under our noses. We can’t allow it to be considered normal, because it very much isn’t.

#LoveTrumpsHate