Sunday, 30 December 2007

Travel to London

I kissed Jon goodbye as he boarded the train for London. Sixteen years ago I’d kissed him goodbye on the same platform. He was taking the train to London then, and from London catching a plane to Phoenix.
“All my worldly goods are in that case,” he had said. Words that brought a lump to my throat.
"I might not see you again for another sixteen years," I said, smiling, concentrating hard on the moment. Trying to dispel flashes of events from those years filling my mind. He was a penniless graduate when he had left for the USA in 1991. Financially he’s in the same situation today. But the roller coaster ride of the last sixteen years meant that a very different Jon looked back as he waved through the window.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood


“It’s like science fiction the way technology has advanced,” Jon said examining a friend’s iPod. “There were Walkman’s with cassettes before, and that’s all we were allowed in prison. But now there’s phones with cameras, and email and music.”
“Was the last phone you had one of those big ones?” Dan asked.
“You’ll need a phone,” I said.
“I really don’t want one,” Jon said. I’m trying to avoid attachment to all this stuff.”
“You’ll have to borrow mine while you’re in London,” I insisted. “You might miss your train or anything could happen. And you’ll need to ring Kathryn to let her know when you arrive.”
Jon acquiesced and I gave him instructions on how to make and take calls and how to text, which he quickly picked up.

He was so into possessions and having all the latest gadgets and technology before his arrest. I wondered if all that would eventually resurface.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Boxing Day

Kathryn and Aaron headed south after breakfast to visit Aaron’s parents and enjoy more Christmas fare. Before they left Kathryn expressed her concerns about Jon. She had noticed his difficulty in make decisions, and a tendency to do whatever he is told to do.
“To a certain extent he’s become institutionalised,” I said, with a pang of sadness. “But that effect is lessening every day. You can’t get over six years incarceration in a week; being told what to do all the time and not having to make decisions must take away your confidence."
"It'll take time, but he'll get there. He's a strong character."
"How do inmates who are released, or thrown out on to the streets, survive if they have no family support?"
"They'd be prey to anyone who comes along."
"No wonder a lot of them end up back inside," I said. "Jon travelling down to London for the New Year is worrying me, especially as he has to change trains twice and get a bus from one station as the line’s closed.”
“It might be just the thing he needs to do to get his confidence back. You are probably smothering him here, without realising it. It will be an adventure for him.”
“You’re probably right. I’ll lend him my mobile, so he can ring you if he gets stuck anywhere. He just seems so vulnerable right now.”

We were invited to a party at Dan’s sister’s house this evening. Walking in the cool crisp night air, Dan, Jon and I arrived at her door, dressed in our best Christmas clothes, bearing gifts. We rang the bell. The hall was dark with no signs of guests. Sarah greeted us in jeans and sweater telling us that she’d text Dan to say her husband was ill and the party was off.”
“You should have text me,” I said. Dan doesn’t look at his texts.”
"Come in for a drink," she said laughing, hugging Jon.
Risking the germs we toasted Jon’s release with pink champagne.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Christmas Day

Today Jon posted a blog he wrote last Christmas, a stark reminder of prison life. Far from his jailers, in the warmth of his family home he remembered the friends he’d left behind. When I read how listening to the carollers made him feel: Briefly we weren’t prisoners any more. We were someone’s son, brother, father – we were human again. I cried. I cried for Jon and all he’d been through, I cried for myself and Dan and Kathryn, but I cried mostly for the men, some who I’d caught glimpses of walking across the rec field, others I’d waved to through the wire fence or had snatched conversations with in the visitation room, when we were visiting Jon. Whatever past deeds had brought them to that place, they are human beings.

Shutting out the cold,
inside, the scented warmth,
gifts with shiny wrappings,
smells of veg and roast,
family arriving,
eating smiling laughing,
wearing silly hats,
pulling Christmas crackers,
drinking to the future,
acknowledging the past.

Dan made a short speech before we ate our Christmas dinner. Close to tears he welcomed Jon back.

The first Christmas the four of us, Dan, Jon, Kathryn and myself had been together in sixteen years was a success. Dinner was shared with my sister Lizzy and Dan’s brother-in-law, Michael, who had both lost their other halves in 2006. Michael’s daughter, Jenny and her three year old daughter Corynne, and our son-in-law, Aaron made up to nine around the table. Jon ate his nut cutlet, veggies and roast, joining in the joviality. There were moments when the old Jon re-appeared, chatting confidently as though unmarked by the experience of six years incarceration.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 24 December 2007

Happy Christmas

Thank you for the kind words and support for Jon and our family.

Every day he gets stronger, and attended a get together last night with family and friends, downing three pints of Guinness.

I've only hit him with the frying pan once, and that was just a demonstration.

Tomorrow is going to be a very special day for us.

I hope it is special for you all.

Have a wonderful Christmas holiday


Sunday, 23 December 2007

Night out with the lads

Hammy planned a reunion for Jon with some of his old friends and schoolmates last Friday night at a local pub. I was pleased that he was going to get out of the house and away from the computer. I trusted Hammy, a loyal friend, to take care of him. But I was apprehensive about him drinking while he was on meds and making himself ill. I was also worried about the reception he would get, and whether he’d be treated like a circus act. He has a vulnerability that wasn’t present six years ago. I told him to ring me and I’d pick him up at any time if he wanted to come home. As he left I joked about him ending up drunk in a gutter. Hammy assured me he wouldn’t.

I wrapped Christmas presents and watched TV with Dan, but my thoughts kept straying to Jon. It was like the pull on the umbilical cord you get when your teenage son goes out alone for the very first time.

I’d imagined that he would want picking up, but as it got nearer to twelve o’clock I panicked. I didn’t mind him staying out late. I just wanted to know that he was OK. I rang Hammy's mobile. He was at his flat. I asked how Jon was and he told me he was fine, that loads of people had turned up to see him and that he’d had a great time.

“People were offering me drinks all night,” Jon said. “but I only had two pints of Guinness. I feel buzzed off that. Hammy keeps saying he’ll ring me a taxi, but it’s not happening. It’s only round the corner; I’m going to jog home. You go to bed.”

Hearing his key in the door, knowing he was safe, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 20 December 2007

A Good Night's Sleep

“That’s all that was wrong with me,” Jon said. “I needed a good night’s sleep.”
Two years on remand in Joe Arpaio’s cockroach infested jails, three and a half years in State prison, never knowing if his half time release would be confirmed, three weeks held at immigration not knowing when he’d be deported, three days in transit without sleep and two days without food are not going to be dispelled with a good nights sleep.

But that’s Jon. He is always positive. Visiting him in prison you felt that he was cheering you up, not the other way round.

The cold spell has meant that he’s not ventured into the garage extension, and is sleeping in the cosy warmth of the upstairs bedroom. He’s still jetlagged and once awake the lure of the computer, which is in the bedroom, becomes irresistible and he’s writing all night. But since taking the meds the doctor gave him he’s not been waking up as much, which means he’s staying awake all day. Wrenching him from the computer at any time is difficult.

Yesterday, we insisted that he come for a walk. He tried to resist, but we nagged him into joining us. It was a bright, crisp day. We walked an elderly neighbour’s dog for an hour around the countryside near our house. Jon admitted he enjoyed the exercise, but complained later that his face had been freezing and half an hour would have been enough.

A visit to the optician, confirmed that he is slightly short sighted, and needs glasses for distance vision, which is still blurred. It’s probably due to the ten-twelve hours per day he spent reading and writing in his cell.

Each day his mental and physical health are improving. His energy is returning but I’m still concerned that he’s trying to do too much too soon. But I’m fighting a losing battle.

Your interest and support is wonderful, but please be patient. It will take him a while to catch up on the hundreds of emails in his inbox.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 17 December 2007


This morning Jon had palpitations caused by anxiety and lack of sleep. His distance vision is still blurred. He sounded distressed as he related his symptoms. I got an emergency doctor's appointment for him at 10.30am. I went with him.

It wasn’t my usual doctor who knows the whole story, so Jon had to briefly relate his recent history. The doctor seemed apprehensive about Jon. He told him to start re-taking the anti-anxiety medication he’d been given in Florence and prescribed more meds for Bipolar, made him an appointment for a psychiatric assessment, and a full medical check up. For the blurred vision he said to make an appointment with the optician.
“I think he may have thought I was a racist,” Jon said, “with my head shaved and just coming from a US prison. Perhaps he thought I was of the Aryan Brotherhood. He seemed scared of me.”
“With him being Asian?” I asked. “Yes, maybe he was. You spoke very politely. I wasn’t very happy with his reaction, and he should have examined your eyes. But this is what you have to be prepared for when you tell people you’ve been in prison for six years on drugs related charges. Not everyone’s a jonsjailjournal fan.”
“He was only young. I’m not surprised. He did what was needed. I’m prepared for that reaction. I can’t let it bother me. I know who I am.”
“So you’ve got to start taking the meds again. You shouldn’t have stopped so soon after your release. You’re not superman. It’s going to take time.”
“The funny thing is I’m trying to stop taking drugs (medication) and they keep giving me more.”
“Yes, but you can’t get arrested for taking these.”
“Very true. Yesterday, I was running round ASDA Wal-Mart like a kid in a candy store piling up the trolley with goodies I couldn't get in prison. Now I’m a wreck.”
“You were still on a high yesterday. When we get home you can have lunch, take your meds and sleep. You’re banned from the computer. Forget about blogging or emailing. You have to heal yourself. Your blog readers will understand. He grudgingly agreed and went to bed.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 15 December 2007

The Prodigal Returns

We have all been deeply touched by your emails, comments and support for Jon. Thanks. He is starting to recover from the trauma of the journey home. We've told him to eat, sleep and recover for a few days before he gets seriously into blogging, but, in spite of tiredness, blurred vision, an allergy attack and shivering with the cold, he insisted on putting on a blog himself.

I'll fill in the posts tracking our journey when I've recovered from the tiredness created by the excitement of having Jon home.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood


Thursday, 13 December 2007

Indian Meal

We are a family again, Jon, Kathryn Dan and me. After eating cheese on toast, shaving off half of his beard, showering and sleeping, we are going out for an Indian meal


Journey to London

13 Dec 07

Journey to London

Jon rang this morning tired and disorientated with lack of sleep, wanting to know if the Consulate had been able to find out what time his flight was scheduled. Four o’clock had been mentioned to him but he wasn’t sure, and wanted more confirmation. Hanging up to save phone money running out, he said he’d ring back later. He sounded disappointed, and I was saddened that I couldn’t give him any more positive news.

We made the decision to travel to London regardless of not knowing the flight he would be on. We wanted to be there for his arrival. I’d had a case packed for days. This included fresh clothes for Jon.

Before leaving Dan checked the email. There was a message from the Consulate saying that he would be arriving at Heathrow, Terminal 3 at 11.30 tomorrow. This news came like a pathway through a heavy fog.

It was dark when we left at 8.00pm. The journey would take around five hours. But this was the journey we’d been waiting to make for the last six years. The journey to pick up our son and bring him home. All tiredness was gone. I felt like an actor in my own play. As we were moving through the night, I thought of Jon travelling from another world, chained, cuffed and then freed. At what point would our journeys collide?

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Jon in LA

Jon arrived in LA this morning. He is expecting to get a flight home later today (USA time) and should arrive in UK on Thursday.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Rolled up


Wonderful, marvellous news! Jon's just phoned. He's been told to 'roll up'. He's on the move. He doesn't know when or where he's going, but he's leaving Arizona, after sixteen years. How must he be feeling? Sadness? Regret? Excitement? Joy? Freedom!

The clothes we mailed to him from UK arrived miraculously one hour before his roll up summons. The guard told him to collect his sexy underwear, referring to the Calvin Kline boxer shorts we'd sent.

I'm so indescribably excited. I want to run out into the street and shout, "He's coming home!".

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Still no Jon

The house is cleaned,
tree lit up,
decorations hung,
presents wrapped,
freezer full,
hamper delivered,
but still no Jon.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Waiting Room

We are waiting for a phone call. This call will tell us that Jon is on a flight or about to be put on a flight to the UK. The information is withheld for security reasons.

Last night we spoke to Jon. He is deliriously happy about his imminent release, but taking medication for anxiety, and cannot sleep.

In distant rooms, we are waiting.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Blog Slog

5 Nov 07

Dear Jon,

It’s wonderful to hear your voice so full of excitement about your imminent release. I can only imagine how you must be feeling, after nearly six years of being told when to eat, sleep, go to bed, wake up, get a shower. It will be like getting your life back, and it’s going to be great experiencing it with you. …

… I want you to understand our feelings about handing over the blog to you, and our love, hate relationship with it. It was D’s idea and would never have existed without him, after reading the Baghdad Blogger, suggesting it to you.

We have tried to maintain it to the very best of our ability, which in the beginning was very limited. For the last five years we have spent hours each day sorting out your blogs and letters; filing them appropriately; choosing which blogs to put on; typing them up, editing (some of the original Xena & Co manuscripts would make even a seasoned sailor blush); re-reading, checking for errors and putting in the hyperlinks to previous blogs; reading the emails sent to writeinside, replying to the emails, dealing with the media and dealing with demands for links and blog improvements from yourself.

Initially I was the most active in maintaining it, but when I got too stressed, especially when I worked full time D got more involved. D even attended a website class at night school so he could learn how to improve the blog and deal with any problems himself rather than asking other people.

Although it is a bind for us and sometimes drives us mad, it has been a link to you that we may not have had if it had never existed. In the early days when you were in Maricopa County jails under the care of the 'good' sheriff, it was heartbreaking to read what you and other inmates were suffering. Your conversations with other prisoners and descriptions of life inside have made us laugh and cry. We have shared your imprisonment in a way that few relatives of inmates ever could.

Before you come home and take over I want you to realise what a big part of our lives it has become. It’s really been a part-time job for D & I. It is your blog and we are just conduits through which your words have been transmitted. But you must understand our mixed emotions. Although we will be happy to hand it over to you, I want you to be aware of our concerns for something which in a way has been our baby, which we gave birth to, have nurtured and seen mature. A metaphor for your development, perhaps?

All your readers are going to want to know how you fare on the outside, so I’m sure it’ll go from strength to strength. Whatever happens it will be completely yours.

And if I'm not harassed enough with your blog, I go and start one myself! ...

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 2 December 2007


“Someone commented on Jon’s blog that I sounded as though I was preparing a nursery,” I told Susan. “The nesting instinct definitely took over as I was unpacking his clothes and preparing his room.”
“That’s a touching image,” Susan said. “Like bringing home a new baby.”
“Some baby.”
“No, he’s not a baby. He’s a man. But in a way it’s like a re-birth. As we said in the last session, you experienced a bereavement when he went into prison. That person no longer exists. A different person is going to come home to you.”
“Well, I’ve suffered the labour pains.”
“Are you still feeling concerned about how you’ll cope.”
“No. I feel more together this week. For the past month, I’ve been overwhelmed with thoughts of his imminent release, how he’ll adjust, how we’ll all get along, and worst of all whether he’ll… I find it hard to even say it… re-offend, take drugs again, let everyone down.”
“Do you still feel like that?”
“No. Perhaps I’m starting to use the strategies I’ve learned in therapy. It is no use worrying about something that may never happen. I’m concentrating every day on being positive, well, realistically positive. I know there’ll be adjustments for us all. It’s not all going to be wonderful, but it’s nothing so bad as having him in prison. He'll be here with us. I can give him a hug, make him a meal, talk to him.”
“You’ve probably mentally prepared yourself. A new phase in your lives is about to begin.”
“And I’m ready for it to happen.”

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Phone call from Jon

The line was good. It was as though he was in the next room. He sounded cheerful and excited. His veggie diet had been OK'd so he'd eaten. Best news was he's been assured he won't be in ICE longer than two weeks.

Visitation is on Saturday and Sunday every week. Royo girl and her friend are going to visit him on Sunday. He was very pleased about the prospect of seeing her again before he leaves.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Cardboard Boxes

At the weekend Dan brought down from the attic ten cardboard boxes full of Jon’s clothes that we had boxed up and shipped home after our first visit. Claudia, his then fiancée, was still in the apartment in Scottsdale they had shared, and she helped us move out his personal belongings.

That 'what might have been' feeling hit the pit of my stomach once again, as I hung up two Italian designer suits, remnants from Jon’s stock broking days. Stylish but now out of date. Examining the cut of the jackets, I saw him showing Dan and me and Kathryn the notice board in his office. The feeling of pride that my son was the top earner.

I opened four boxes full of tee shirts, mostly black, but some brightly coloured with crazy motifs. Putting them carefully on hangers, I examined the symbols and signs wondering if they were his rave gear. I found cotton bandanas, purple, blue and red. And a long jellybean hat, fur trimmed with yellow and purple stripes and a fur bob at the end. The ache and the visions returned, this time of flashing coloured lights creating patterns around a room, vibrating music and dancers. Dancing, abandoned, waving their arms in the air, and taking drugs.

A pair of smart shiny shoes and three pairs of trainers were in the next box. He’ll need the trainers, if they’re not too out of date.

Boxer shorts by every designer, in every colour and material filled the remaining three boxes. So many that Dan and I had to go out and buy a chest of drawers to accommodate them.

As I released the clothes from their boxes, they expanded, breathed out their stale odour, and took in the fresh air. The room belonged to Jon.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 26 November 2007

More counselling

“It’s like a bereavement,” Susan said “when someone goes into prison for a long time. It’s as though the person he was before has died. And a different person will emerge from prison.”
“Yes. It was like the death of all my hopes and dreams for him. It was all taken away with a phone call.”
“Now you have to get to know the new Jon.”
“But people think, and have said to me that I should feel better now that its nearly over.”
“What you are feeling is perfectly natural. Don’t feel guilty. Other people, even friends, don’t always understand. One part of your life is over, but another is beginning. It’s going to be a period of big adjustment for you all. But you sound like the kind of family that will cope.”
“After we heard that Jon had been moved, I was initially happy, but then I felt flat, somehow numb. It’s scary. This strange mixture of emotions.”
“How does your husband feel?”
“He copes better than me. On the surface anyway. I’m sure he feels it just as much. Last night he looked so down and said, ‘Our son’s coming home, but not from a job abroad or a holiday adventure, or as a hero from war. He’s coming home from prison. Our son’s coming home after six years inside. It took me right back to his arrest, when I realised he’d been moved. Right back to the beginning.’ "
“Again it’s that feeling of loss he was experiencing.”
“For the past six years we’ve been supporting Jon in any way we could, and working for his release. It’s been the goal of our lives for six years. But now that it’s within sight we’re in turmoil. All the threads that have held us together are coming untied.”
“As horrid as it was having him in prison, you knew where he was and you’ve worked around that. A new dynamic is about to begin. And you feel uncertainty."
I told her about all that Jon had achieved in prison. How he’d studied and written stories, and how proud we are of how he has coped.

But it’s prison he’s returning from, like Dan said.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Romantic names

"Jon's been transferred to Florence," I told some friends. "But sadly not Florence, Italy."
"Don't the prisons in the US have romantic names?"
"Yes, the last one was Santa Rita," I said.
"Even the name of that cockroach infested hell hole, Madison Street, conjures up romantic images of New York," Dan said.
"I wonder who thinks them up?"
"Must have a sense of humour."
"Beats Wormwood Scrubs," Val said.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Jon rang last night

7.00pm UK time Jon rang. It was such a relief to hear him sounding normal again.

After being processed through the system, he was moved to a cell on his own where he'd been able to sleep soundly. His voice was cheerful and full of expectation for his release. Laughing about all the roast potatoes and chocolate orange he was going to eat at Christmas.

He'd filled in a form for a veggie diet, and received magazines from detainees on his block.
He'd had conversations in Spanish with Mexicans, whose offence had been getting caught crossing the border.

He asked us to send him some clothes for his release. It could take three to four weeks, but the embassy are going to try to expedite his deportation. He can ring us more often and there is a message service.

As a stock broker Jon's English accent was a huge asset. During the sixteen years he's lived in Arizona he's developed only a slight American accent, which he cultivated to make himself understood. Last night he sounded very English.

If readers want to write to him, which he said he would like, the address is below. Even though it hasn't got his barracks or cell number, it will get to him. Any mail arriving after his release will be forwarded to UK.

Shaun Attwood # A75693747
SPC Florence
3250 N. Pinal Parkway Ave
AZ 85232.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The Phone Call

Shaun's imminent homecoming has stirred memories of the day he was arrested on 16th May 2002:

Hearing, “Shaun’s been arrested,” I felt a sharp stab, followed by a sinking feeling as my stomach reacted to the shock my brain had just received. My body went numb.
Every secret suspicion, stifled emotional response, and unuttered word was confirmed in that second. This was it. What I’d feared for years was now a reality. But I was dead. I had no feeling. I continued the conversation, asking my sister-in-law how her children were, until I put down the phone.

I couldn’t cry, so I laughed. Kathryn and I laughed about pleading with the judge.

Until I heard Dan’s car pull up outside. I had to share the pain with him. He came in smiling, shouting hello Telling him made it real. His face took on a look. It became a mirror of all the hurt and anger, fear and concern, I felt. It reflected the misery of disappointed hopes, and a truth we could no longer deny. Our son was a drug dealer.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Waiting for news

The embassy sent an email last night to say that Jon had been moved to Florence. They spoke to him. He sounded tired but well. Our initial euphoria gave way to concerns about why he hadn’t rang us. Was he able to ring? Do they allow phone calls? It’s the uncertainty that makes creates stress.

7.00pm Jon rang. He sounded disorientated. Exhausted and elated. The night before they came to pick him up he didn’t sleep. At 6.00am he was told to get ready to leave. The yard was on lock down so he couldn’t say goodbye to his friends. He sounded sad about this.

Last night he slept on hard plastic sheets, in a big room with fellow detainees, mostly Mexican and South American, waiting to be processed. The room was so crowed he couldn’t stretch out. He had another sleepless night. There’s no vegetarian food. All he’d eaten was a bag of fries. He said he felt lonely.

He’d changed from orange into regulation prison blues. Pulling on the blue jeans, gave him flashbacks.

Once he is processed, he should be allocated a room or cell, he wasn’t sure.

He asked us to post his address as he’d like people to write to him. We will post the correct address as soon as we have it. He will probably be there for another three to four weeks. Mail arriving after he leaves will be forwarded home.

He said to thank all the bloggers for their comments and interest in him.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Picked up by ICE?

Yes, Jon was picked up by ICE today. That's all we know.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Hit him with the frying pan

In order to see how well I fared on the Beat the Blues program, and whether I needed further therapy, I was interviewed by a counsellor.

After the assessment she advised me to have further counselling. She felt I had unexpressed anger towards Jon and this was contributing to my depression. I told her that Kathryn had had counselling not long after Jon’s arrest, and the counsellor told her to express her anger by writing down all her thoughts. This was an exercise to help her, but if she wanted to send what she had written to Jon, she should. The counsellor advised her to ask Jon first, if he wanted to know. He did, and Kathryn sent the pages of sorrow to him. Later she showed me what she had written. Her anger towards Jon was mostly because of what his recklessness had done to us. She was angry that we should suffer so much for his misdeeds at a time of our life when we should be starting to take things easy. She said she felt better when she had written it, and better still when she sent it to her brother.

I have never expressed my anger to him directly. After his arrest Jon’s situation was dire. How could I increase the pain of someone who was suffering in Arpaio’s cockroach infested jails? My instinct was to support and protect him.

The counsellor warned that if I didn’t express my anger, it would be bubbling under the surface and could erupt when he is released, causing problems in our relationship. When I got home I tried to write something down, but it wouldn’t come. What is the point now? He knows what he has put us through and he is sorry. What else is there to say?

Perhaps I’ll sneak up on him one day while he's blogging, and hit him over the head with the frying pan.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Phone Calls Reinstated

Hearing Jon's voice speaking so postively about his release and future plans gave me a huge lift. We chatted about his visit with Royo Girl and how she'd like to come and visit us in the UK. And how kind it was of Barry to come to say goodbye.

I couldn't sleep last night. Excitement firing every nerve cell in my brain. I lay awake unable to dampen it down.

It's so close now. I can almost touch it.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 16 November 2007

Mexican Food

Met up with some friends at a new Mexican restaurant. The first in our town. It was fun to relax after such a stressful week, and stop regretting that Jon wasn't going to be picked up and transferred to ICE today as we'd expected.

The food was deliciously hot and spicy. Not in the same class as the food served in the Mexican restaurants in Arizona which borders with Mexico. But Jon should find an improvement from the microwaved cheese and bean burritos visitors purchase from the vending machines on visitation days. His special treat.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Friday's Off

Another message on the hotline from Barry. Jon won’t be picked up on Friday. ICE need seven days' notice. This means he should be picked up next Tuesday.

I went to lunch with a friend, Lucy, who has recently trained in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). She offered me some free therapy. I’m therapied to death I told her.
“Yes, but this is an entirely new approach,” Lucy said. “It’s not a counselling session where you sit talking about your problems, and it’s not Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, but we do use some of those techniques. NLP can work on your unconscious thoughts without you realising it. I use hypnosis as well. Being a psychologist, you’ll love it.”

I don’t know if Lucy was working her magic on me while we ate, but I felt lighter (in spite of the coffee and cake) and more positive about Jon, his release and rehabilitation.

She reminded me that we have done everything we possibly could for Jon since he’s been in prison. We are still doing everything we can to secure his release date. His life choices after his release will be his. Stressing won’t alter anything.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Pickup List

We spoke to Jon last night in a phone call via the embassy. He told us he is on the system for deportation, but the officer who said he wasn’t on the pickup list was correct. After various calls and emails to a very helpful lady at Timecom, he’s been put on the list for pick up on Friday.

Dan opened a bottle of wine, but instead of rejoicing, we argued. I screamed at him for nothing.

The closer it gets to Jon’s release the more my feelings are in turmoil.
All the strategies I’ve been taught to deal negative thoughts and stress seem useless just now. I’m battling to keep myself mentally strong. Tears well in my eyes at the slightest provocation.

If it's bad for us, how must Jon feel? I mean really feel, beneath the show he puts on for us. He sounded relieved, but positive. He always sounds positive. I can hear his voice berating me for my lapse into insanity. Then I start to feel guilty. If he can stay strong, so should I.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Breaking Point

Jon is set to be picked up by ICE on Friday and transferred to an immigration holding centre. Which one we don’t know. But we have been told by various ADC staff that everything is in place for his deportation.

We have received a message from Jon via a friend, as he can’t call us direct because of the phone mix-up. He said that a member of staff told him that his name wasn't on the pickup list on the computer.

Has the person been wrongly informed or are they just winding Jon up? Are all these last minute hitches mere coincidence, bureaucracy gone mad, or a plot to keep the thumbscrews turning until the very last minute?

I’m unable to concentrate on anything.

I’m at breaking point.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Phone Calls stopped

Just when we need to speak to Jon most about his release, his phone calls to us have been stopped. Barry, in Tonopah rang us after speaking to Jon. Confusion has arisen because we have two numbers registered in our name, one for our house in the UK, and the other through Inmate Phonecalls, a company who give us a cheaper deal on Jon's calls.

Inmate Phoncalls has given us a number in Tucson that Jon rings. This call is then diverted to our phone. Having a number in our name both in Tucson and the UK is more than the sytem can deal with.

Jon has had to re-do the paperwork to get our calls re-instated. How long that will take we don't know.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Faces of the Dead

This was inspired when our friend Peter kindly offered to burn DVDs from numerous old family videos. Many of the people on them are now dead.

Ageing aunts and uncles, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons drinking, dancing, laughing, frowning.
At weddings, christenings, parties, birthdays, anniversaries.
But not funerals. Never funerals. No one videos funerals.

Old videos, burned to DVDs. What for? Posterity? Immortality? Children, grandchildren to see and remember.
Or disregard and throw away.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Angry Young Man

“I bought Jon a dressing gown today,” I said to Dan. “It’s grey and fleecy. If it gets too cold in the garage extension he can sleep in it.”
“You should have got him a Noel Coward style gown,” Dan said.
“He wants to be a writer, doesn’t he? He could look the part.”
“Oh yes, I’ll get him a bow tie and a cigarette holder, should I?
“Forget the ciggs,” Dan said.
“Or perhaps a paisley cravat and a smoking jacket?”
“That’s silly,” Dan said. “I see him more as an angry young man, writing away, starving in a cold lonely garret.”
“The garage will be his garret. We could switch the heating off, and ration his food.”
“That would make him angry.”

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

The Gym

I’ve been put on a 10-week exercise program. Exercise releases endorphins which make you feel good. I had a choice of swimming, aerobics or the gym. I can’t swim. Aerobics involves too much jumping up and down. I chose the gym. I’ve never been to a gym. I didn’t know what to expect. Visions of toned muscular bodies clad in Lycra. Designer sweat trickling down shiny bronzed limbs.

In between 1-400pm the Healthy Life clients attend. Most wear baggy tee shirts and trackie bottoms, hiding a lifetime of abuse, or illness. We are all there to be beaten into shape, physically, mentally, or both.

It is friendly and I feel comfortable there. Matt, my fitness instructor, worked out a program with a warm up on the exercise bike, weights to strengthen my upper body, ten minutes on the country tracker and ten minutes cool down on the treadmill.

It is hard. I’m 4 weeks into the program now. I feel stronger. But I’m not sure if pumping iron is for me. As soon as I can do the exercises comfortably and I start to enjoy them, Matt ups the weights, highers the resistance and increases the speed.
“You’ve got to get a sweat on,” he tells me at every session.
He seems to know when I’m pretending. Ignoring my declarations of pain, he insists, “You’re doing fine on this program. We’ll up it next time."

At yesterday’s session an overweight woman was pounding the treadmill next to mine. In between breathless pants she introduced herself as Sall. Her face was red and shiny. Sweat ran down her cheeks. Her hair was soaked. But she determinedly continued. I admired her dedication.
“I’m trying to lose weight,” she said.
“Have you lost any?” I asked as politely as I could.
“You will do, if you stick at it,” I said, trying to offer encouragement. Without provocation she told me what she eats.
“I had two bacon butties for my breakfast, washed down with three cups of sugary tea. At lunch time I had sausage, chips and gravy in ASDA canteen. Tonight I’m cooking a spaghetti bolognaise. I nearly bought a cheesecake for dessert, but I returned it to the freezer,” she said smiling.
“Well done!” I said, smiling back.
“What have you eaten today?” she asked eyeing me up and down.
In an almost apologetic voice, I said, “A bowl of porridge for breakfast, a humus salad for lunch, and tonight we’re having vegetarian cottage pie.”
“Hmmm,” she said quickening her pace.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 2 November 2007

Final Computer Therapy

The Beat the Blues computer therapy program came to an end last week.

Intially, I thought the whole idea a bit of a joke – having a computer-generated voice sympathise when I’d had a bad week – but as the weeks progressed I found I’ve benefited from this kind of structured approach. You can’t digress with a computer in the way you can with a real live counsellor or therapist.

Afraid that the computer-generated graph of my depression and anxiety would plummet too low, I’ve completed the projects each week monitoring my thoughts, battling to change the negative to positive. Winning more often now. Some days easier than others.

As the time for Jon’s release gets closer, I feel as though my sentence is coming to an end too, and I’m scared of how I’ll cope with rehabilitation. Jon has been in prison for nearly six years, but he’s not lived with us at home in England for sixteen years. There will be the initial euphoria, but what will follow?

I have to think positively.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Jon's birthday

“'It was the happiest day of my life', Dan said after Kathryn’s wedding."
“Oh!,” laughed my friend Bobby, as we sat having lunch. “Shouldn’t he have said marrying you was the best day of his life.”
“No. I don’t think so,” I said smiling back. “It certainly wasn’t mine. We were too young. You know I was pregnant with Jon, and it was all a bit of a rushed job. I didn’t want any fuss, but my mother insisted on us having a proper wedding, and I was too confused to argue.”
“Didn’t you walk home in your wedding dress?”
“Yes. Most of the day is just a blur to me. But there are three incidents I can remember. The first one was driving to the church with my dad telling me that it wasn’t too late for me to change my mind. The second was in the church, just before we made our vows. I was nervous and wondering what I was doing there. Dan took hold of my hand and squeezed it gently, and looking directly at me, he smiled. It was a smile that said, 'It’s going to be alright'.”
“Ah! Bobby said, “And it's still alright nearly forty years on.”
“And the third was the two of us leaving the reception without telling anyone, and walking through the town, me still in my wedding dress. We didn’t care.”
"It was a beautiful June evening, so you wouldn't have felt the cold."

“No, the happiest day of my life, was the day I gave birth to Jon, 39 years ago today.”

Massive mop head chrysanthemums Dan’s mum sent from the family - enormous heads, bright yellow, cheerful against the grey walls of the maternity home - blood red long stemmed roses from Dan - the baby - perfectly formed – screaming – clinging – hungry – needing me like no one had ever needed me before.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Blogger's Block

I haven’t felt inspired to write anything since the wedding. I’ve been too anxious about Jon’s release to concentrate.

A friend said, “Surely, you mustn’t feel as distressed now that his homecoming is so close.”
“I feel worse,” I said. “The closer it gets, the more anxious I’ve become about it all going wrong.”

He looked surprised as I reminded him that we’ve been trying to secure a date for Jon’s release for at least six months, and prior to that over the five and a half years he’s been inside we’ve never felt secure that it would all go ahead. It’s the uncertainty that cracks you up.

We’ve had more positive news this week, which has prompted me to get blogging again.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Trouble with TalkTalk

For a week now, we've had no connection to the server. Repeated calls by Dan, who has been kept holding on for as long as forty-five minutes before someone answered, to call centres everywhere from Hartlepool to India to South Africa, have failed to get us back online.

Dan runs his insurance business via the Internet so he's losing money. There's Jon's blogs to be posted, not to mention mine. After hours of following instruction from techies around the world, TalkTalk have agreed that it's not Dan's fault and are sending out an engineer. This could take three days.

Our kind nextdoor neighbour has lent us his laptop, so we are connected wirelessly. This will only pick up the signall in a certain corner of our dining room where Dan's set up a desk. I hate laptops. They make my back ache, but beggars can't be choosers. So here I am typing up this blog hunched over a laptop in the corner of the room.

Let's have some action TalkTalk.

Copyright © 2007 BarbaraAttwood

The Aftermath

The Morning After

29 Sept 2007

The 8.30am, alarm call woke us after barely four hours of sleep. We lay in the four-poster, surveying through the drapes, the Victorian opulence of our suite.
“I could make a habit of this,” I said to Dan.
“Getting married?” he replied.
“No! Living in luxury,” I said. “If this was the nineteenth century, I could pull the bell cord and a maid would appear to help me get out of bed, wash me and dress me.”
“Well it’s the twenty-first century and the tea making things are over there.”

Sipping our tea, still lying in bed, we went over all the old clichés about how wonderful the wedding had been, laughing and recalling, the jokes, the speeches, Black Elvis, the dancing, and singing in the bar until 4.00.

Dressed and showered, without the assistance of servants, we went down to the breakfast room for a full English. The air was cool and the autumn sun shone weakly through the heavily curtained bays, on the faces of guests as they filtered in. Barely recognisable as the people who’d partied all night, they made their way to the tables. With white faces, dark circled eyes, and dishevelled hair, they ordered breakfast in horse croaky voices.

The best men, the bridesmaids and the bride and groom, appeared, to the accompaniment of rousing cheers, just before 10.00 at the final breakfast call, looking pale but happy, basking in the success of their wedding.
“One of the main attractions of this place,” Kathryn said laughing, “was the bedrooms. That’s what finally decided us, the Presidential suite with that massive four poster.”
“Yes,” said Aaron, “But we only spent two hours in it.”
“You can’t drive back to London today,” I said. “You’ll fall asleep at the wheel.”
“We’ll come back to yours and sleep for four and five hours and then travel down.”

Many of the guests, who had travelled from the south, were spending the day and night in the old Roman town of Chester before their return. With kisses, hugs, and we’ll see you at the christening (said out of earshot of the newly weds, and with blatant optimism on my part) we waved them goodbye.

Sat in the bay of her bedroom window, Kathryn waved like the lady of the manor, to her departing guests. Then, hanging out of the window, she whistled and shouted like a fish wife a final goodbye.

Kathryn and Aaron drove down to London that night and left for their honeymoon in Africa the following day, ten days on Safari (photographic) in Kenya, and ten days on the Spice Island, Zanzibar.

Copyright © 2007 BarbaraAttwood

Friday, 12 October 2007

Laughter, tears and crazy dancing

28 Sept 07

Reception continued...

Dan stood, as the Master of Ceremonies made the announcement, and, in accordance with traditional, the father of the bride gave his speech first.

Dan talked of his pride in Kathryn and our pleasure in her choice of partner.
The usual thank yous were followed by words of admiration of the bride, bridesmaids and all assembled “…the two first ladies, Barbara and Sarah have also scrubbed up well,” he said, “but they have had a year to get ready.” The guests responded with laughter and applause and Dan relaxed into his speech, delivering his jokes with perfect timing, often adlibbing.

As he spoke of Jon, “…who is with us in spirit…” I had to bite my lip, force back the tears and concentrate on being happy. Glancing around the room, sympathetic looks turned to applause for Jon.

For the inevitable anecdote from her childhood, Dan told how Kathryn aged seven produced her own newspaper, Kag's Rags drawing in pictures for photos, ending his speech with, “Well, she has her very own photographer now. Let’s toast the happy couple.

Refusing to have a drink before the speech in case he made a mess of it, Dan now relaxed and downed the waiting dinner wine and champagne while he listened to Aaron relate how he and Kathryn met on an assignment in Faliraki, Greece, while covering the ‘lager lout’ story. Aaron had been sent by default because another photographer, Pete couldn’t go, or they may never have met and none of us would be here.

His professions of love for Kathryn brought tears to Lizzy and her girls who sat directly in front of the top table dabbing their eyes. He thanked Lizzy for her favours (she made the ladies’ favours herself). She replied, "I'll do you a favour anytime, Aaron."

The two best men did a double act using the data projector to show images of Aaron in various embarrassing pics and poses from his childhood, ending in full combat gear in Afghanistan. Their witty commentary and banter with Aaron was such that only long time best friends could pull off.

The best, best man read out messages from people who couldn’t make it. One was from Jon:

Congratulations on getting married. It is with deep regret that I can’t be there. It is my hope that your marriage proves to be as fulfilling and rewarding as the union of our parents.
All the best and the best of luck,

Handkerchiefs were out again, mine included, dabbing away the pain.

Their grand coup was a videoed message to Aaron from a high-ranking politician who he regularly photographs, joking about their escapades in locations around the world, finally berating him for getting married at a time when his skills were most needed by the party, but congratulating the pair.

The emotion generated by tears, laughter, sorrow and joy were still circulating around the room bringing a feeling of warmth and togetherness, I’ve never experienced before.

Kathryn stood, “I’m not going to make a speech,” she announced. “I just want to thank everyone.” As we all applauded she told Dan and I that we were the best parents in the world, and told everyone of her love for Aaron (hankies out again) and how they were made for each other. “The evening’s just beginning,” she said grinning widely. “Let’s party all night.”

That’s exactly what we did.

With arms full of gifts, flowers and cards the evening guests arrived, filling the room. The usual lull while people sought Dutch courage from drink, didn’t happen. The dance floor was full from the start.
“Don’t let mum disappear,” Kathryn told Dan. “We’ve got a surprise.”

The surprise was Black Elvis, the impersonator we’d danced to in Fulham on the night, after we’d ordered the men’s morning suits. “You kept that quite,” I said to Kathryn, who like me, can’t keep a secret.
“Yes, we didn’t think he’d travel up North, but we paid his fare and he did.”

Black Elvis sang Can’t help falling in Love softly while Kathryn and Aaron danced their first dance. Everyone followed jiving, rock 'n rolling or generally moving their bodies around as Elvis gyrated, belting out a repertoire of the King’s music.

The DJ announced twice during the evening that Maple Court hadn’t seen such a party. After six encores, with the crowd stamping, shouting and whistling for his return, the lights dimmed and Elvis left the building. The DJ continued through the night. Kathryn, still wearing her wedding dress, standing tall on a chair in the middle of the room, swaying, waving her out stretched arms wildly above her head in time to the music, was the iconic sight of the evening. Eventually, maybe from fear of her falling on top of him, Aaron joined her, holding her hand, swaying, laughing, together.

In the lounge bar where the party continued till after 4.00 Dan said, “This has been the happiest day of my life.”

Copyright © 2007 BarbaraAttwood

Sunday, 30 September 2007

The Reception

28 Sept 2007

The Reception

The claret, classic wedding car travelled, full out, at a maximum speed of 35 mph. Even though the couple left the church first, their guests arrived at Maple Court, a twenty-mile drive away, well before they did. While standing in the queue waiting to check in our room, I felt that I could at last, relax. The church ceremony had gone like a dream. The atmosphere was sheer happiness. I knew the rest of the day would be a pleasure.

We dumped our overnight case in the room, clocking the splendour of the four-poster bed.

Waitresses with trays of champagne greeted us in the gardens outside of the nineteenth century country house. We posed again for photographs in the seven acres of gardens. Kathryn and Aaron were snapped and videoed from every angle against a backdrop of ancient trees, extensive lawns and lush greenery. Although late September the trees held their colour, some faintly tinged with golds and reds. The guests, by now tiddly on champagne, were glad to co-operate when their turn came, forming giggly lines, raising their glasses, adjusting their hats and cravats, repeating the word: cheeeese.

Lizzy and I made our way to the room where the reception was to be held, in order to check it out before the guests came through. What a vision!

The reception hall, a conservatory overlooking a lake with a Victorian fountain, reflected the theme of the wedding: red roses. In the centre of the eight, white clothed circular tables stood a single red rose, in a tall slender glass, surrounded by rose petals scattered indiscriminately around the white crockery. Red glass tee-lights and little bags of ladies' favours: small bundles of almonds tied up in red and white net with satin ribbons and rose buds, were placed appropriately.

In the centre of the top table stood a towering arrangement of red roses with ivy trailing along the whiteness of the cloth.

Suspended from the ceiling was a white muslin canopy caught at the centre of the room with a red muslin circle. White fairy lights interlaced the canopy casting a soft glow on the room below.

“Wow!” Lizzy said. I made a similar exclamation.
“Your favours look so professional,” I said.
“Yes they do. There’s just enough with the touches of red against the white. Any more red would have been too much.”
I agreed.

Dan ate his soup, but left half of his chicken. I could tell he was nervous about his speech. Glancing along the top table I noticed that both best men had left half of their food. More nervous stomachs.

Set up at the end of the room was a screen with a data projector.

To be continued…

Copyright © 2007 BarbaraAttwood

Saturday, 29 September 2007

The Wedding

28 Sept 2007

“I’m not going to drink anything before the wedding,” Kathryn said.
“Me neither,” I agreed. “I want to have a clear head.”
But our good intentions didn’t last long.

With our hair coiffured to perfection, Emma the beautician proceeded with Kathryn’s makeup in our bedroom. The photographer hovered around assessing the best pre-wedding photo opportunities. The bridesmaids sat on the living room floor, resting their feet on The Independent newspaper, painting their toe nails claret with one hand, and eating sandwiches from the buffet I’d made with the other.
“It’s nearly eleven o’clock. Those minutes keep ticking away,” Dan said asking me to help him fix the wedding ribbons to the Mercedes we’d hired.

My turn for a makeover, but I couldn’t sit still. “The flowers have arrived,” someone shouted from downstairs. “What are they like?” I shouted back, as Emma patiently continued to apply the slap. “They’re beautiful,” Kathryn shouted excitedly. “Mine’s a tear-drop with deep claret red roses mingled with ivy, and the brides maids are cream and claret rose buds, hand tied. Amazing! There’s diamante’s attached to each rose.”

Another knock on the door and I heard the voices of the ushers who’d come to pick up the order of service and their button holes. Deep, male voices making jokes, laughing nervously. “Want a drink,” I heard Dan ask. “No, but we’ll have a sandwich.”

We’ll run out of time. Oh! When will my makeup be done?

“Crack open the champagne please, Dan,” I shouted, when the butterflies got too fluttery.“We all need a calmer, especially me.” Glasses of Bucks Fizz and champagne circulated around the house, upstairs and down. I gulped down a glass and immediately started to smile. “That’s better,” I said feeling the alcohol calming my stress while the bubbles lifted my mood.

The bridesmaids once dressed in their claret satin gowns performed their duties tenderly, helping Kathryn with dress, veil and tiara. The classic car, a matching claret colour, pulled up outside “Don’t panic,” said the driver, “I’m fifteen minutes too early.”

Thank God for that I thought, gulping down another glass of bubbly. It’s all going to be fine. It’s all going to be fine. The weather's cool, autumny but dry; hair’s done, makeup’s done, everyone’s dressed, fed and watered. It’s going to be wonderful.

At twelve o’clock I left in the Merc, following the bridesmaids in the classic car, heading towards the church. Aaron was standing by the church door, looking handsome in his morning suit, laughing with the ushers and best men. The bridesmaids, both five foot two, petite and pretty. The air was fresh, guests were arriving, kissing, hugging, complimenting each other on their outfits, chatting until the ushers ushered them in as the claret classic car appeared again in the church driveway. “She’s here. The Bride’s arrived.”

Standing in the front pew, listening to the Bridal March, looking down the isle, watching Dan approach with our lovely daughter on his arm, I got that unreal feeling again. As though I was an on looker. That this was just a wonderful, wonderful dream. Tears welled as they got closer and I realised this was real, as Dan stumbled slightly, perhaps with nerves, but looking prouder than I’ve ever seen him. Kathryn, tall and slender, was a glowing vision of pale gold crushed silk, her veil gently framing her face, the crystals on her tiara, veil, earrings, necklace and dress twinkled as they caught the light shining from the stain glass windows.

Kathryn and Andrew sat at the side of the altar holding hands, while
those gathered, watched, listened, sang and prayed.

A reading, by Jenny, Kathryn’s cousin.
…Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful… St Paul’s to the Corinthians 12:31-13:8
The bidding prayer, a poem by Maya Angelou Touched by an Angel read by Kathryn’s friend from uni, Sam.

Handkerchiefs dabbed away escaping tears, as Dan took Kathryn’s hand and placed it into Aaron’s officially giving her away. At the front of the altar, they exchanged their vows, Aaron laughing, stumbling over his second name.

Following them up the isle, with the wedding march filling the air, I felt so glad for Kathryn, for Aaron, for Dan and for myself and all our family. They seemed so right for each other. Let life be kind to them.

Outside their happiness was contagious, spreading like a virus, infecting the guests with their joy. The ushers, keen to fulfil their duties, all shouting at once, organised us into groups. The photographs were fun; the smiles so natural; amateurs and professionals clicking from every angle, until the pair left smiling and waving through the car windows.

Copyright © 2007 BarbaraAttwood

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Crazy Day

Everyone is arriving; nails have to be done, shirts ironed, sandwiches made, rehearsal at the church, meeting guests at the hotel.

Some guests have cancelled, evening guests up graded, table settings changed, name cards re-written, notice board rearranged and delivered to Maple Court.

Time is running out – it’s getting closer and closer. Kathryn is refusing to get stressed. “If anything goes wrong, as something usually does from anecdotes of friends’ weddings, I’m refusing to get stressed. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it, and you should, mum, so chill out.”

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Message from Jon

Kathryn and Andrew are on their way travelling up the motorway right now. I’ve been cleaning all day, trying to get everything shiny and bright.

Wedding cards have been arriving all week, and today we got a message from Jon. I’m going to get the best man to read it out at the wedding. It's sad he won't be here, but I'm not going to start thinking like that. He'll be with us soon.

Jon’s ringing tonight. I’m hoping Kathryn and Andrew will be here in time to speak to him.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

The dress is in the building

Dan and I picked up Kathryn’s wedding dress from Beaux and Belles this morning. It’s a slim fitting dress with a long train, which was folded up inside the bag. Because it’s not a flouncy, sticky out dress the bag wasn’t as big as I’d imagined, and I could carry it myself while Dan waited in the car.

Dan was curious when we got home, but he wasn’t allowed to see it. I tried on the veil edged in crystal teardrops and imagined Kathryn, smiling, radiant on her father’s arm walking down the isle.

Thank goodness I made him try on those trousers.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 24 September 2007

Half Mast Trousers

“Couples don’t bother getting married much these days,” Dan said. “I’m lucky. Not that many fathers get to walk their daughters down the isle any more.”
“You’ll be in tears when you see Kathryn in her dress,” I said.
“I’m feeling choked up at the thoughts of it. I’ll be so proud.”

We were having lunch in M&S Liverpool after picking up Dan’s morning suit from Moss Bros. When we walked in the shop the assistant handed us the clothes bag ready to take away.
“Oh no,” I said. “You're trying it on first.”

Dan emerged from the changing room looking pleased with himself. "It looks good, doesn't it? Perfect fit," he said. I thought how handsome he looked. My eyes swept over his tall, slim physique, but stopped dead at his feet. The trousers barely covered his ankles and as he walked up and down you could see his socks. “They’re alright aren’t they?” he asked looking worried.
“No, they’re not. They need to be at lease three inches longer.”
“Have you got a longer pair in stock?” I asked the assistant.
Fortunately, they had.
“It’s a good job you came with me,” Dan said.
“Yes, they looked like the half mast trousers you wore for our wedding," I said thinking of the pictures in our wedding album.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Dan's Speech

In between washing the net curtains and cleaning the windows, in a pre-wedding clean up frenzy, Dan keeps asking me to listen to his speech.

It’s a good speech with an amusing anecdote from Kathryn’s childhood, a few north south divide jokes (most of the guests are travelling up from the south of England) and an appropriate amount of praising and thanking.

Kathryn taught English in Japan for four years after she left university and two of her Japanese friends are guests. Dan has been practising saying “Welcome to England” in Japanese. It sounds fine to me, but I’m not sure whether they’ll understand what he’s saying.
“You’ve got to bow after you’ve said it.”
Dan took a deep bow, Prince Charming style.
“Not that low. Just a nod of the head will do."

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Printing Paranoia

I am writing this blog while the printer churns out copies of the inside pages of the Order of Service for Kathryn’s wedding. I've been sat here for three hours, convinced the printer is possessed by malevolent forces determined to make my task as difficult as possible. I can’t leave the copies to print while I do something else because I have to remove each one as it prints, otherwise it smudges, even though Dan had assured me that the ink is smudge proof. It’s obviously not. I’ve a heap of smudged, upside down, and cockeyed rejects by the side of my chair. And because I'm a perfectionist I feel compelled to bin copies with even the smallest crease or mark. But I’ve got it sussed at last and am printing on the reverse side successfully – right way up - fingers crossed. The font, French Script MT, looks like old fashioned cursive handwriting. Very effective on the cream paper. Twenty more to do. I’ve printed loads more than we need in case of mishaps at the folding, guillotining the edges, or stapling stages. Dan's going to help me with that.

Folding the embossed card and sticking on the red rose and silver Order of Service sticker will have to wait. I’ve had enough.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Hen Night

The sound of a loud wolf whistle and the neighing of a stallion followed by the honking of a horn sent a startled look across Kathryn’s face, and she dashed to the window of her apartment.

There parked outside, fifteens minutes early, was a Karma Kar. A cream-coloured Ambassador, modelled on the old British Morris Oxford, a symbol of India, decorated with flowers on the bumpers and sequins, tassels and joss sticks inside. The Indonesian driver grinning from ear to ear shouted apologies for his early arrival. Downing the dregs of our champagne glasses and grabbing our bags, we went out to investigate.

Like all the events of the evening, it was a complete surprise to Kathryn. Her bridesmaids, Louise and Carla, had organised everything. As we settled in, Sar, the driver played calming Indian music. The journey was far from calm. He drove around the posh part of London for an hour honking, whistling and neighing at passers by. Some looked incredulous, others waved and smiled turning their heads in disbelief. A lone man walking down a quiet road hearing the loud neighing of a horse behind him turned round with a look of terror on his face, which turned to laughter when he realised there wasn’t a stampeding stallion behind him.

Waving the pink feather boa, a hen present from me, out of the window, Kathryn couldn’t stop giggling. A sudden wind blew it out of her hands, and we watched as it rose floating above the vehicles to our rear. In the middle of London’s traffic Sar stopped the car and ran down the road chasing the feathers, which kept blowing further and further out of his reach. Impatient drivers honked at us as Sar ran back grinning with the rescued pink feathers wrapped around his neck.

Our stomachs ached with laughter as we pulled up at the London Hilton where we had photographs taken with the men in top hats, who were as amused as we were with the Karma Kar.

On the 29th floor, with panoramic views of London, we were joined by the other hens who had travelled from locations all over the city: Kathryn’s friends, some who I’d never met before smiling and chatting and sipping champagne.

Secretly departing hens left to decorate our next venue, a privately hired karaoke room in the West End. On the lift down a man gave Kathryn a bunch of flowers, and Joyce and I a single flower. I’m not sure if he was part of the show or just a kind stranger.

Showers of confetti, streamers and balloons greeted Kathryn on her arrival at the karaoke. Her friends had bought her tokens and gave short speeches about what Kathryn meant to them. Listening to her sing a song in Japanese, I felt so proud, and so happy that she'd invited me. How lovely her friends were. But when her song ended the scrum for the microphone from these polite professional young women left me speechless. I’ve never seen such karaoke enthusiasts, belting out everything from Madonna's Like a Virgin to The Spice Girls Wannabe, shaking maracas and tambourines or wearing crazy hats supplied by the club. I sang Norwegian Wood with Carla’s mum. Jayne, after much persuasion, sang La Bamba with Alex. After that we didn’t get a look in.

The club where we finished the night, Funk, was packed with young trendies, dancing to house music. The pink feather boa, matching silk devil horns headband and ‘bride’ wand were passed around necks and shoulders from dancer to dancer. Bodies gyrating to the beat of the DJ’s sound. Spookily the hens surprised Kathryn by holding blown up photos of Aaron in front of their faces as they danced. A singleton hen disappeared with a tall, handsome, dread locked black guy. Jayne and I, a little drunk, sat on large sofas people watching, wishing we were twenty again. A gay man, who introduced himself as ‘the only gay in the village’ admired Jayne’s waist length blond hair asking if it was extensions. She assured him it was the real thing and she’d worn it like that since the sixties.

Reminiscing about our own hen nights, mine at the Blue Lagoon, a club by the docks, full of drunken Dutch sailors, and Jayne’s at the Regency, the first club in our town to have a gambling licence, I thought what a different world Kathryn lives in.

Funk was the sort of place Jon would like, but perhaps a lot tamer than the places he knew - in his other life. A life he never shared with us. He’s always there. No matter what I do. A presence so strong, sometimes, I can feel him in the room.

Outside at 3.30am new additions to London’s transport system, rickshaws and tup-tups bustled around touting for business from clubbers spilling out onto the kerb, laughing, falling over, clinging on to each other, kissing, singing, drunk or sober.

With goodbyes, thankyous, hugs and see you at the wedding, the hen party split. Kathryn lolled in the back of the taxi, the now tatty looking feather boa around her neck. The horns and wand long disappeared with the dancers.

“I can remember everything,” she said proudly. “It’s my hen and I can remember it all.”

"See you at the wedding!" we shouted out of the window, as the taxi negotiated its way through the crowd.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Prisoners Abroad

I met Pauline Crowe and her dedicated team at the Prisoners Abroad offices in Finsbury Park, London last Friday.

Jayne, Alex and I travelling down for Kathryn’s hen party, arrived at Euston Station at 2.50pm. The offices were only three tube stops away. Fortunately, Alex who lived in London while she was at university was able to negotiate the tube. Jayne and I trailed behind Alex, a tall slim girl with a similar build to Kathryn, carrying our weekend bags and cases.
“Do you think we’d have got on the right tube?” I asked Jayne.
“Of course we would,” Jayne said. “But we would probably be going in the wrong direction.”

After asking about Jon, Pauline explained the problems prisoners have in some of the developing countries, where they are unable to speak the language. They have no one to talk to, nothing to read and live in isolation. The jobs in the prisons are usually given to local prisoners, so they can’t earn money. If their families have disowned them, or haven’t got the financial resources to help them, they have nothing or no one.
“They are the forgotten people,” I said thinking of a comment Dan made.
“That’s where we come in,” Pauline said. “We can get them a small grant to help with necessities such as toilet rolls and soap. In some countries they have to buy their own food. We can give advice on how to get legal assistance.”

She showed us shelves full of donated books. Piles of magazines and newspapers sat waiting, ready to be posted to some individual who has no knowledge of what’s happening on the outside. I shuddered thinking of the misery.

“It’s something that happens to someone else, someone else’s brother, son, partner, no yours,” I said. “It’s only when it lands on your doorstep that you give prisons or prisoners a thought. That’s how I felt. It doesn’t happen to people like me. How wrong can you be?”
“It happens to people right across the board,” Pauline said. “There’s no class distinction.”

I talked to Gareth, who is going to help Jon with his rehabilitation.
“What’s interesting about Jon’s situation,” Gareth said, “is that you expect awful conditions in developing countries, but not in prisons in the USA. His blog has highlighted that.”
“Yes, if you read the first six months of Jon’s blog describing the conditions in Joe Arpaio’s jails: cells crawling with cockroaches; lying in your own sweat in a cell with no air-conditioning in 120 degree temperatures; your body iching with sweat rashes; being fed on food past its sell by date, throw outs from the supermarkets, rotten fruit and suspect meat, you can hardly believe its happening in the richest country in the world. It’s shameful.”

“How is Jon?” Gareth asked.
“He talks about nothing but his release. He has so many plans, but I think he’ll have to take things slowly. Perhaps you could help him with that.”
“Yes, you get excited prisoners thinking they’ll do this and that, but sometimes it’s more difficult. Adjusting to being on the outside can take some time.”
“It’ll be a period of adjustment for us all. But I want him home so much. I can hardly believe I’m even talking about his homecoming after all we’ve been through. That what we’ve been praying for is almost a reality.”

“The thing with Jon,” Pauline said, “is that he wants to come home. He wants to be deported. Many of the prisoners fight it, especially if they’re being deported from the USA to here. Usually their families moved to America when they were young and that’s where they were brought up. They commit a crime over there and get deported back to the UK, where they have no relatives or support. They do everything they can to stop their deportation, even refusing to sign their passports.”

In her office there were four and five cases and bags. I looked at them, thinking of the prisoners who had gone off to find lodgings, relatives or some kind of support.

“Sometimes the relatives in the USA come to the airport and cause a fuss trying to prevent the deportation. That’s why you might not be told which plane Jon is coming home on. You may just get a phone call from an airport to say he’s here.”
“Even though they know he just wants to get home.”
“It depends what the communication is like at the immigration holding centre.”
“What about getting clothes to him?”
“Again you’d have to contact immigration."
“As long as he’s out, I don’t know if he’d care what he wears,” I said, thinking of Jon sat on the plane grinning from ear to ear.

Jayne and Alex listened fascinated by a world far removed.
“Do you get money from the government?” Jayne asked.
“Yes, some, but we have to rely mostly on private donations.”
On the tube to Kathryn’s apartment Jayne said how impressed she was with the quiet dedication of the people we’d met at Prisoners Abroad.
"I'd like to do some fund raising," she said.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Security Blanket

Already it’s starting to feel autumny. The mornings are misty and the evenings cool. After sixteen years in Arizona Jon’s going to feel the chill.

Today I went shopping. I bought a fleece mattress cover, a 15 tog duvet and a super king-sized quilted bedspread for Jon’s room.

The bedspreads I have are cream and feminine. I asked if they had something for a man’s room. The quilt is black with gold and cream stripes. “He’s behind bars now, and he’ll be under bars with that on,” Dan said.
“That didn’t occur to me when I bought it,” I said annoyed. “You do like it, don’t you?”
“Yes. It’s just the thing. It’s enormous. He can wrap himself up in that. He’ll be as snug as a bug in the long room.”

The long room is the garage conversion that Jon will be sleeping in when he comes home. It’s all ready for him. But I fear he may want to sleep in the box room upstairs, closed in, secure. So many fears, waking in the night thinking he’s still in his cell, nightmares, calling out.

It’s like the feeling you get when you bring home a new baby. Although I know he won’t like me making that comparison. You want everything to be warm and secure and safe. You want to wrap them in your love so nothing can touch them. But he’s a man, thirty-nine years old. How can we protect him from the world, from himself?

Catch the thought. I don’t know what the future holds, so it’s no use worrying about something that hasn’t happened. Let’s get him home first. Live in the NOW!

I’m going to London tomorrow on the train, with my friend Jayne, and Alex who danced with Austin Powers at my sixtieth party. It’s Kathryn’s hen party on Saturday. I’ve packed my silver case with a little black dress, and shoes with diamante straps. It's so exciting. There’s about twenty hens meeting up at the first venue at 5.30pm. I can’t write about where we’re going because it’s a surprise and Kathryn might read it.

Hen Night alert, London!

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Come Dancing 2

“Are you going dancing tonight?” Michael asked on the phone.
“Certainly,” Dan said. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world. Have you been practicing?”
“No. Forget the dancing. I just want to be held,” Michael said.

It was cooler this week, so there was less sweat and nervous tension from the absolute beginners. Clifford, came over to chat and reiterated to Michael that men who can dance are “like gold.” But Clifford seemed to have bagged Michael’s partner from last week. Perhaps he was trying to console him. This week Michael had a different young lady to ‘hold’, for the waltz, quickstep, samba and cha-cha.

There were a few young women there. The thought crossed my mind to bring Jon on his release. It quickly passed. He wouldn't come. A far cry from rave clubs with pounding music and designer drugs. But the drug which causes most problems in society was freely available at the bar, alcohol, of which we all partook.

I’ve always wanted to do the cha-cha, but it was difficult to learn even the basic step. Peter and Bonnie showed up this week and got into the cha-cha a lot quicker than Dan and I. We had to have special instruction.

We’ve been practicing at home today.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 29 August 2007


I cried last night after watching a BBC news clip showing the covert filming of a farm in France which produces foie gras. Natasha Kaplinski, the news reader, warned that the film contained disturbing images. I’d always know that in order to produce foie gras the birds had to be overfed with rich food so that their livers swelled, but I wasn’t prepared for the horror that followed.

Rows of geese and ducks enclosed in individual cages so restrictive they couldn’t flap their wings, were being force fed. The film clip showed, a farmer roughly handling a goose while forcing a metal tube the width of the bird’s neck down its throat and pumping excessive amounts of food into the bird’s stomach, while it vainly struggled against the abuse. Sticky yellow food reguratated in the violent process stuck to the bird’s neck and feathers. When the force feeding stopped the bird didn’t have the energy to lift its neck, which hung loosely to the side. The exhausted creature, was barely able to breath.

I had just finished my dinner and was feeling very full. I imagined someone forcing a tube down my throat and pumping me full of obscene amounts of food in order to swell my liver up to ten times its normal weight so that ‘high class’ restaurants could serve it as a delicacy.

The clip went on to show farm workers, obviously brutalised by their occupation, kicking and throwing around the sick ducks and geese as though they were garbage.
When interviewed later the farmer said he would stop his workers from kicking and throwing the birds, but he couldn’t stop the force feeding as that is how foie gras is produced.

Although this practice is banned in the UK, we import over 4,000 tonnes of these diseased livers every year. If people knew how foie gras was produced I feel sure the unnecessary torture of these creatures, in order to provide a few moments of gastronomic pleasure to members of our superior species, could be stopped.

If you are interested in stopping this torture please click below.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Mirror, Mirror

Peter and Bonnie and some of our closest friends gave me cash for my sixtieth birthday. I wanted to buy a mirror, something unusual. While on holiday we found a shop in Wales that sells hand made mirrors to your own specification. We picked it up yesterday. Peter and Bonnie came along for the ride, a good lunch and afternoon tea and scones. Bonnie got Peter to buy her an Amber necklace in the shop.

The shop is a cave of delights. The windows are full of mirrors and stained glass. Outside boxes over spill with embroidered cloths and cushion covers. Inside is lined with shelves of healing crystals and stones, jingling wind chimes, amber jewellery, Buddhist statues, scented candles, and tie-dyed dresses and t-shirts. Mrs. Gruffydd, the mirror maker’s wife, is a crystal healer and Reiki master. She told us that Rhys would be back shortly. “He’s gone wandering somewhere,” she said. He arrived looking like a Welsh Priteni with his bald head, round face and straggly, grey goat-like beard that moves up and down as he talks, but he doesn't have a Welsh accent. Whether the name is false we didn’t like to ask, but he is definitely a scouser, from Liverpool, with a chequered history, only lately becoming an artisan.

It stood upstairs ready, waiting, in his workshop, my 3 foot x 2 foot mirror mounted on a black board to fit flush with the wall. Two vertical rows of 2 inch x 2 inch randomly coloured glass squares inserted four inches from the edge on either side, the only decoration.

As Rhys is a Buddhist, I felt it would bring good karma, but the difficulty Dan had putting it up (he’s not into DIY) started me doubting. Not his fault, Rhys had given him the wrong size brackets.

But once fitted, and the focal point of the room, the coloured glass squares of burgundy, pink, blue, yellow, orange and green cheered up the mellow shades of our living room.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Come Dancing

To help take our minds of the possibility of anything going wrong with Jon’s release, Dan and I have taken up a new hobby, ballroom dancing.

Last night was our first class. Being old enough to remember Come Dancing, and as a fan of the more recent Strictly Come Dancing, with yards of satin and sequins, I was unsure of what to wear.
“It’s only a class. It’s not a competition,” Dan said.
“You’re right,” I agreed, choosing a summer skirt and top.
But I did find some silver, strappy, high-heeled sandals I’d not worn for years. Two other couples were supposed to join us, but chickened out. Michael, Dan’s brother-in-law, was sat outside in his car when we arrived.

Dobson’s Dance happens every Tuesday and Wednesday in Birchwood sports pavilion. Beginners 8.00-9.00pm, Intermediates 9.00-10.00pm. Last night was a warm pleasant evening. A game of cricket was nearing its last run on the playing fields. We paid our fees, got a drink from the bar, found a table and chatted with the dance teacher, Ana.
“Danced before, have you?” she asked.
We answered simultaneously “no”, “not really”, “a long time ago”.
“Good,” she said, “It’s better to start from scratch.

Sitting nearby was Clifford, at least seventy, short and stocky, and wearing a toupee. He told us how learning to dance had changed his life. A retired widower, he spends three months of the year dancing in Benidorm, where men who can dance are “like gold”, he said, giving Michael a knowing wink. Michael smiled.

When Ana shouted “everyone to your feet” we nervously hung around the dance floor, until she lined us up to demonstrate the basic steps of the waltz. Luckily for Michael, who’s a widower, there was an attractive unattached woman, the only one, who needed a partner.

One-two, together we repeated over and over glancing down at our feet. Dan kept treading on my toes. He blamed me for not moving my feet far enough back, and I blamed him for taking big steps with his size eleven feet.
“Next week I’m wearing steel toe caps,” I said.

Before the arguing got heated, Ana’s two acolytes, Clifford and Ann, came to the rescue and split us up. Vertically challenged as Clifford may be, holding me firmly in his arms, my feet seemed to glide automatically in the right direction following the firm but gentle lead that’s made him the Don Juan of the Benidorm tea dances.

It was warm in the wooden Pavilion (there’s no air-conditioning in UK – it’s rarely needed). Together with the stress of remembering the steps, sweat became visibly noticeable on the faces, and in some cases underarms and backs, of the would-be dancers. Michael was struggling with the heat. I saw him sit one out fanning himself with a beer mat.

Reunited with Dan, Ana moved us on to the basic quickstep, and we did better with this, getting the hang of the way your feet sort of cross over on every other quick-quick. Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow; slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. In our enthusiasm we swept around the room too quickly bumping into slower, shorter legged, quicksteppers. Ana had to reign us in.

The last dance was the Samba, but three dances were too much for us to take in, so Dan got another drink from the bar and we watched.

The novice dancers ranged from a twenty year old lesbian couple, who only had eyes for each other, to a mix of forty to sixty year old couples. The lesbians wore jeans. A coiffured blonde woman wore a backless chiffon evening dress and satin shoes, but most people wore smart but casual summer wear with various attempts at dance footwear.

Ana, the teacher, was loud and friendly, and constantly made risqué remarks. Worn-out jokes she’d probably used repeatedly with beginners since she started the dancing school twenty years ago. Slightly overweight, but firm from the dancing, she was about sixty, with brown shoulder length hair tied back severely in a bun. She wore no makeup. Her top was a plain black sleeveless vest, but her skirt was made of a soft deep burgundy material that swayed around her legs as she danced. I was most envious of her shoes. Styled like classic ballroom shoes, but the leather was dyed different shades of purple; dark at the heel fading into a lilac towards the toes, infused throughout with a milky way of sparkly gold and silver. I’d never seen shoes like them.

At 9.00pm the intermediates took the floor. They started with a formation dance and moved on to a tango. “Will we be that good in ten weeks?” I thought out loud.
“I doubt if I will.” Michael said. “Do you want a lift home?”
“No, we’ll walk,” I said feeling under the table. “I’ve got flat shoes in a bag somewhere.
“Do you think you’ll be back next week?” Dan asked Michael.
“Oh! Definitely. I’m not sure if I’ve learned anything. But I’m no quitter,” he said mopping his brow.

“I want some shoes like Ana,” I told Dan as we strolled home.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Groom's Safe Return

After a month in Afghanistan, embedded with the soldiers, as a war photographer, Aaron returned home safely last night. Kathryn sounded happy on the phone.
“He’s grown a beard,” she said.
“Is he keeping it for the wedding,” I asked.
“I quite like it, but no, he’s shaving it off before the wedding.”
"How is he?"
"He's well, but it was traumatic. He thought he was doing to die in the ambush. People don't realise how bad the fighting over there is. There's minimal media coverage."
Lots of his pictures have appeared in the newspapers.
None of the soldiers injured in the ambush died.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Computer Therapy (3)

From waking, my mood had been low. I was exhausted after the weekend. And there is the constant worry about Jon’s release. I try to think positively about it, pushing negative thoughts out of my mind. But I know they’re there lurking in my unconscious, waiting for their chance. They come out in nightmares, and leave me with this feeling of tiredness.

Sitting at computer number 3, the program had barely started, when I felt a wave of emotion, and tears running down my cheeks. I tried to stop it before she noticed, but the every vigilant Patricia picked up on it straight away. Pulling up a chair next to me, and handing me a tissue she said, “Do you want to share it with me?”
“Well, you know some of it from what I've typed in, don’t you?”
“No. It’s confidential. Only your GP gets a copy of each week’s report.”
I didn’t have the time or the inclination to give her the whole sorry saga. I simply said my son is in prison in Arizona on drugs offences. She didn’t bat a eyelid. She’s probably heard worse.
“I am sorry,” she said. “It must be really hard for you having him so far away. Do you get to visit?”
“Yes, we’ve been every year, usually at Christmas. Sometimes we’ve been twice."
"That gives a whole new meaning to holidays, eh?"
"Yes," I said, not really appreciating her humour, "but he’s due to come out in November.”
“Well that’s great. You’ll have him home for this Christmas.”
“Yes,” I said, not having the energy to tell her all the problems we’ve had securing his release. Her friendly chatter deflected my mood. She had lived in the US herself as a child and still had relatives there.
I was able to continue with session 3, which focused on common thinking errors, catching thinking errors, distraction techniques and activity scheduling. It was very helpful. Doing some mental activity is going to be my distraction technique. Instead of watching TV, I’m going to do puzzles. For my physical activity this week, I’m going to do ballroom dancing, with Dan, starting tomorrow night.

Patricia hugged me as I left, indicating a new dimension in our relationship.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 20 August 2007

Full English, Betrayal and Tears

Over a full English veggie breakfast of fried eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, veggie sausages, tea and toast we discussed the weekend’s events. Dan has bacon sometimes, but not today.
“It’s been hectic, but fun,” Kathryn said.
“We’ve more or less got everything sorted now, haven’t we?” I asked.
Kathryn’s phone bleeped.
“Oh no!” she said. “I’ve just got a text from Jenny. Elvis Bandini is married.”
“The rat,” I said. “How did she find out?”
“She Googled him, and his profile said he lived at home with his wife Sam.”
“Perhaps Sam’s a man,” Dan said.
“That’s even worse,” I said laughing. “You could tell he was a ladies’ man. He couldn’t keep his hands off any woman who came within groping distance.”
Jenny’s love rat news seemed to be the start of a downward spiral in everyone’s mood.

“I’ve got to sort out the Order of Service today, before I leave,” Kathryn sighed, looking tired. “For the hymns, Andrew wants Jerusalem and I want I Watch the Sunrise. We need the words for those as the congregation is supposed to sing them. The soloist will sing Ava Maria and Panis Angelicus.”

From looking through the numerous Order of Service leaflets, Kathryn chose one of the most popular wedding Readings, St Paul to the Corinthians 12:31-31:8 which Jenny, prey of the adulterous Elvis, is going to read. Kathryn’s friend Sue chose a poem by Maya Angelou, Touched by an Angel for the second reading. I’d started work on a draft Order of Service a while ago, but after looking at the examples from Mrs. Parks, Kathryn wanted something entirely different.

We had an appointment with Father Michael at 12.00pm, and we went over the Order of Service with his help and advice about Readings and hymns, and what came before what. He confirmed the rehearsal would take place at 6.30pm on the evening before the wedding.

When we got back Kathryn seated herself at the computer determined to get the Order of Service done and out of the way. This wasn’t as easy as she’d imagined. Laying it out so that page one corresponded with page five on the printout was difficult. I offered help, but couldn’t answer the questions she was asking, quick enough. Feeling her stress levels rising I kept out of the way. Three hours later, the centre pages were done.
“For the cover, I want cream embossed card, and you can stick on a tiny red rose. Very simple and classic.” This was for me and Dan to organise.

“I don’t know how I’m going to carry this dress back without it creasing it to hell,” Kathryn said, packing up her belongings.
I’d just got out of the shower. Scrunching up a small section of the hemline in my hand to check, I said. “I don't think that material will crease.”
“Yes it does. You’ve just creased up my hen party dress,” Kathryn shouted. “Look! Your hands are wet. You’ve ruined my dress!”
“I haven’t, it’s only a small section,” I said, ducking back into the bathroom for cover. Taking a deep breath, I emerged a few minutes later to find her over by the window, holding up the dress, examining it with a pained expression and deep frown lines on her brow. “Just look at what you’ve done,” she said accusingly.
There was too much tension in the air. I burst into tears.“I don’t know why you’re treating me like this, Kathryn,” I said in between sobs. All I’ve done all weekend is try to help you.” Realising how upset I was she immediately apologised. We hugged and made up. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s not just the wedding planning, which is exciting, but stressful. It’s Aaron being away in a dangerous situation in Afghanistan just before the wedding, and the uncertainty with Jon's release. It’s all too much. You have helped me, and I’m grateful. I’ve had a great weekend. We’ve packed in so much. That's the problem when I'm only home every month or so."

“We’ve been on a high all weekend, but it’s down hill today," I said. A nightmare over the Order of Service, a creased hen dress, and Elvis turns out to be a love rat.”Our laughter broke the tension and we hugged again.
"My friend Bobby and her mum didn't speak for two months before her wedding."
"That's drastic. Why?"
"Because her mum had invited all her friends to the wedding without even telling Bobby."
"We haven't done too bad then, with only five and a half weeks to go."

Dan and I drove her to the station to catch the 9.45pm train back to London. She won’t be home again until the Wednesday before the wedding. But I’ll see her next week for the hen party.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood
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