Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Pulled muscle

Yippee! Off to Tenerife tomorrow. I've been off work this week. I pulled a muscle in bed. Not doing acrobatics (unfortunately) just in my sleep. The warm sun will ease the pain. My packing is nearly done. I've had my hair straightened. I'm waxed and spray tanned - ready to go.

We got a reply from Jon's attorney, who has been in negotiations with the Arizona Department of Corrections. A release date of the 6th November was mentioned, but has to be confirmed. It's looking more as though its going to happen. I'll write Jon a long letter from Tenerife.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 25 March 2007


I first encountered yoga when I was 17. I'd read 'Forever Young Forever Healthy' by Indra Devi and wanted to join a class. Yoga wasn't main stream in 1964, and everyone thought I'd gone mad, but my determination was such that I went to the library to enquire about classes. Even the librarians looked at me strangely. The nearest class was at a Yoga and Meditation centre in Manchester. Much to my parents' horror, who thought yoga was for freaks and vegetarians who tied themselves in knots, and that I'd get kidnapped or murdered, I went off alone on the train to an unknown destination. It was an adventure. My stomach churned with excitement.

I have never had a good sense of direction and how I found the way to the house I can't remember, but on arrival an Indian gentleman invited me into a large Victorian terrace. To my surprise it was full of middle-aged people, who to my young eyes were unattractive and overweight. Not at all like the photographs in the book. I glanced at a woman's legs bulging with purple veins, remembering the promises in the book that practising yoga would prevent such abominations happening. Perhaps she started too late I thought to myself.

As I sat cross-legged (I could sit in the lotus position the first time I tried) chanting voices filled the room with an unfamiliar humming sound. Although I'd been attracted by more than just the promises of eternal youth, the real reason for my interest remained esoteric. I knew I wouldn't go back there but as I left, the Indian gentleman clasped my hands, looked me straight in the eye and told me softly that in my next life I would find the Right Path. I knew nothing then of Buddhist philosophy but understood the sincerity of the message.

I've had an on-off relationship with yoga ever since, and I became a vegetarian ten years ago.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 22 March 2007

First CBT Session

Driving to Chester I wondered if the therapy would do any good. I've tried yoga, meditation and Tai Chi, but I have had to resort to the chemical cosh. The swallowing of a tiny pill takes one second. It's much easier than meditating for hours, but I'm always left with feelings of guilt and failure. I should be able to control my mind. I want to be able to control my mind, but the leg work is sometimes too difficult. When I most need to meditate, I find I can't. I'm not strong enough.

I found the place easily. It was on a large modern business park. Doreen, the therapist is a plump, friendly, blond lady about my age, give or take a year. She told me a bit about how CBT works, and asked me why I'd come.
"I'm a psychology teacher and I've read about CBT, and some of my students have had the therapy very successfully. It sounds like a good alternative to medication."
"Yes, it is."
"I'm on Soroxat. I hate taking pills. I'd really like to give CBT a go. My son, Jon, he's in prison," I said pausing to judge her reaction. There was none."That's part of my problem, him being in prison. He had a brilliant psychiatrist who was into yoga, meditation and CBT. He's been diagnosed bipolar."
"Is he on lithium?"
"No. They did put him on it, but with the help of his psychiatrist he's manging his illness without drugs."
"That's excellent. So, Barbara, where do you think your problems started?"
"I realise now that my depression started long before Jon's incarceration, but the trauma of having a son in prison 5000 miles away triggered a major episode."
It goes much further back. I was adopted. I'll try to get through it as quickly as I can," I said remembering we only had one hour. "My adoptive parents were kind people and I loved them both. The problem was my mother never wanted me to find out. She never told me, and I found out by accident when I was twelve. I was devastated and couldn't forgive my mother for lying to me all those years. She was upset and handled it badly, telling me that my birth mother had had me out of wedlock and didn't want me. She'd put me in a home and I would still be there if she hadn't taken me."
"Oh, she shouldn't have said that."
"She didn't want me to go running off trying to find them. I understand that now, but then I was in a total state of shock. I hated my adoptive parents for their pretense, but couldn't even bring myself to imagine what my birth parents were like. This was the late 1950s and girls who got pregnant before marriage were bad girls, or so I'd heard. So it all went into a black hole. I never asked about it again and I never discussed it with anyone, except my best friend Ruth, and our conversations relating to it were brief. She always wanted to know more but it upset me to talk about it. Just thinking about it brought tears to my eyes, so I shut it out. I didn't even tell my future husband, Dan, until just before we got married. So it lay festering away until I was forty when I decided to try and find my mother."
"Did you find her."
"No, but I found my father. I met him and he told me all about the affair. How they met, fell in love, and how he called the wedding off three days before. He will talk to me for hours if I ring him, but he really doesn't want me in his life. He's too busy, even now at eighty. I have two half sisters I've never met. He said he brought them up strictly and couldn't admit to them that he had an illegitimate child."
"Families eh? Well keeping your feelings about your adoption hidden for all those years would have caused all kinds of problems."
"I'm very lucky though. I have a wonderful husband and daughter, and son, but I've had a lot of difficulty coping with the Jon situation."
"That's understandable."
"I like the idea of CBT because it's pro-active. You're not just sitting talking about your problems. I tried counselling. It helped to a certain extent, but I got sick of talking about myself. I always try to put on a brave face. Everyone has problems and people don't want to be around miserable people. So I always smile and pretend I'm OK."
"You are allowed to show your feelings. You are allowed to be sad. Allow yourself that luxury sometimes. It's a great strain on you trying always to be upbeat."

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Mother's Day

In America Mother's Day is in May, so I always get my card from Jon at that time. I keep it and display it the following year. My favourite card from him shows a Kangaroo with a baby in its pouch. The verse reads, front: MOM, even though I'm not so little anymore.... inside reads: I'm glad you're still there.

Karen has paid for me and her to go to the Spa at Bath for a weekend, for my 60th birthday. Sheer luxury! You can pay extra for treats such as facials, or massages, and for Mother's Day she bought me an extra treat.

From Dan I got a pink and grey striped hooded top to slip over my bikini in Tenerife.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Hat Shop

Dan on his travels had spotted a hat shop in Newton. We stopped by there yesterday. "You don't want me to go in with you, do you?" Dan said.
"Of course," I said impatiently. "I need some feedback on how the hats look."
"Unlike me, you look good in any hat, even a woolly hat. You're a hat person."
"Oh, no. You're not getting away with that. You're coming in with me," I insisted.
The shop door was boarded up and we thought it might be closed, but the boarding was the result of drunken vandalism. "They didn't take anything or harm the hats," the proprietor said.
"Thank God," I said looking around at the array of hats displayed in all the colours of the rainbow. I had a vision of drunken hooligans running around the streets of St Helens in fabulous feather hats.
"Have you got an appointment" she asked. An appointment to try on hats?
"Our customers usually bring in their outfit so I make time for them," she said. "But I'm not busy if you want to have a look. They're designer hats. You can buy them but they're mostly for hire."
I'd never thought of hiring a hat, but at prices of £250-350 it certainly made sense. I'd only wear it the once and then it would be cluttering up the bedroom.

My outfit, which I'd brought with me, is cream and black. I tried every similarly coloured hat in the shop. Dan turned out to be a great help. We narrowed it down to two. One was called a kissing hat. The brim although huge was turned up away from the face, so that the Mother of the Bride could kiss the wedding guests without doing them an in jury. Dan liked this one. The other was a classic style with a wide brim and feathers. It looked fabulous from every angle. I knew that was the one. I felt right in it. Dan liked it so the deal was done. I have to pick it up on the Thursday before the wedding and I can keep it for the weekend. If it's not damaged when I return it I get back my deposit, which is the hire charge twice over.

"Does the Mother of the Bride leave the hat on during the meal?" I asked the proprietor.
"The Mother of the Bride is the most important person, after the bride, of course. If you leave your hat on during the meal, everyone else should, but if you take it off so should the other guests. It depends on what you feel comfortable with."
"Such power," I said. "I'll confuse everyone by pretending to take it off, but merely adjust it."
"It'll be like in Japan, when everybody waits for the highest ranking person to start eating before they can join in," Dan Added.
"Well it wasn't so bad helping me to choose a hat, was it?" I asked Dan after we'd said our goodbyes to the girl.
"No, it was OK. I thought the shop would be full of women trying on hats."

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 17 March 2007

18th Party

It was my sister, Lizzy's granddaughter's 18th birthday party last night. It was held at the club where I'm having my 60th. I'm having the same DJ, Eddie, so I had a chat with him about my party. I told him it was 60's dress. "So you want all 60's music?" he asked.
"Yes, please."
"No problem, I've got stacks of 60's stuff."
"And I want you to dress up." Pause while I weigh up his reaction. "You can be a mod, a rocker or a hippie." He looked a bit unsure.
"I'll see what I've got," he said. Eddie always has a fag in his mouth and a pint in his hand, but he's a good DJ.
I'm also having the same caterers and took the opportunity to discuss the menu. It's going to be June, so we don't want hotpot, but they do a mean curry and chili which I know would go down well. I took the menu home to ponder over it.
I want balloons and streamers and photos of me in the 60's. I want it as tacky and over the top as possible.
I'll be really brown after two weeks in Tenerife. The problem is, the pale and interesting look was in in the 60s. We wore layers of Max Factor pan stick on our faces and lips, caterpillar false eyelashes, and loads of black liquid eyeliner. Perhaps I'll wear factor 30 and keep my face out of the sun. I usually do anyway, to avoid the wrinkles.

I'm so excited. It's only two and a half months away.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 15 March 2007


Two weeks today I'll be winging my way to Tenerife. Dan and I are going with our friends Peter and Beth to stay at their apartment in Los Americanos. This is part of my sixtieth birthday treat.

It all seems a bit unreal. Planning parties, weddings, holidays, outings, while Jon is still inside. For the last five years we've spent all our spare cash on paying off the attorney's bills or visiting Jon. I don't begrudge a penny, but this year we need to let go and celebrate.

I wish we could get a reply from the attorney about Jon's release date.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 11 March 2007

No Confirmation

For the past two months we have been asking Jon's attorney in the US if he has started the paperwork for Jon's release in November, but we still haven't got a date.

So many good things are happening this year, but until I get a confirmation of his date of release, the negative thoughts lurking, come to the surface, telling me it'll all go wrong.

Perhaps the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy will help with this.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 9 March 2007

Occupational Therapist

As everyone in our department at college is stressed (half the staff are off work with stress related illnesses) we were given interviews with the occupational therapist. Because of my 'extra' problems she recommended that I have Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I teach psychology and have read about this therapy. Three of my students have had CBT and all agreed it was the most successful treatment they'd tried. One was agoraphobic, one was compulsive obsessive and the other was depressed.

Jon has had CBT with the psychotherapist in prison. He has suggested that I try the therapy. He also suggested that I get another cat as stroking a pet reduces anxiety.

I'm seeing the therapist next Wednesday. Nothing could replace Tiggs.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Sunday Lunch

Only slightly hung over we set out for lunch at the wedding venue, Maple Lodge. Dan hadn't seen it before today. He was impressed. The food was indescribably good. We had a peep at the bedrooms. We knew the bride and groom would get a four poster in the Presidential Suite, (apparently Bill Clinton stayed there, but not with Monica) but so do Dan and I in the Blue Room . Perhaps it'll be a second honeymoon.

Kathryn had a list of items to ask the wedding coordinator, about seating arrangements, how many on the top table, flowers, candles and table cloths.

Even in the rain the view from the conservatory, where the reception will be held, was stunning. A real estate company had hired the room and were selling property in Cyprus. They only had one client. We were approached by an eager young salesman. "Sorry, we have a wedding to pay for, you've no chance," I said. He nodded in agreement, and left us to enjoy the view over the lake.

"Well, it's been a very productive weekend," said Kathryn who still had her hair piled up in her wedding curls. Although it had flopped a little overnight, it still looked good. I agreed, kissing her goodbye at the Station. Sorry to see her go, but happy with the results of the weekend. Dan and I drove back home.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Good Hair Day

Catastrophy! The hairdresser never turned up.

I phoned the hairdresser, Jenny, last night to remind her about the practice wedding hairdo, and she sounded flustered. Obviously she’d forgot. “Sorry about this but can we do it a bit earlier?” she said. “I’m going to a hair competition at Blackpool in the afternoon.
“How much earlier?” I asked alarmed.
“O.K. but I’ll have to ask Kathryn.” I shouted Kathryn who immediately wanted to cancel the whole thing. I persuaded her that we’d have to start from scratch looking for another hairdresser and it was best to give Jenny a chance. We agreed to 10.30am. It should have been 3.00pm.

On waking this morning, I found a note had been shoved through the letterbox from Jenny saying that she’d been called into work and couldn’t come. My heart sank as I shouted the news to Kathryn. “I knew we should have cancelled last night,” she said impatiently.
“It’s done now, so no use getting upset,” I said trying to calm her down. “Why don’t you try the hairdresser round the corner and see if they can fit you in?” It was a long shot but I thought it worth trying when she'd come all the way from London for this.

She rang but no one was in. We ate our breakfast porridge glumly while discussing the unreliability of mobile hairdressers, and hairdressers generally, as just as you get used to them they leave. At 10.00 Kathryn got through to the salon and, thank God, they fixed her up with an appointment for 1.00 pm with Michel, who was alleged to have won competitions in his ‘hair ups’.

Michel lived up to his reputation and created a stunning hairdo, very Audrey Hepburn, with the hair swept right off Kathryn’s face and curled up on top. Kathryn was delighted. She has naturally curly hair. I like it curly and wanted her to have a curly style for her wedding as I think it looks romantic, but when I saw her with this sleek and sophisticated style, I wanted to cry she looked so lovely.

I had my hair blow dried straight while I was waiting for her, as we were going to my friend’s sixtieth party later that night. We booked Michel for the wedding.

Eva, the beautician arrived on time to do Kathryn’s trial makeup, and did a wonderful job. She works with me at the college, but also does mobile. You could tell Kathryn had makeup on but it was very natural.

Kathryn left her hair up for the sixtieth party. To complement the hair style, she wore a plain black silk shift dress with crystal earrings (a leaving present from her last job) and a crystal necklace left to her by her Nan. Numerous times during the party I’d look up and wondered who the sophisticated young women was. She stood out amongst the crowd. “She looks like visiting royalty.” I said to Dan.

The DJ at the party knew Jon. He was at school with him. He remembered Dan taking him and Jon blackberrying in the country lanes near our house. I couldn’t remember him and neither could Dan, but Jon had a lot of friends. He said he would DJ at Jon’s fortieth party next year, eleven months after his release.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 2 March 2007

Kiss my Hand

We set off early, our first stop the wedding cake shop. On Kathryn’s last visit we found a little café in Frodsham, the windows of which were full of cakes, decorated with Morph like figures, in poses to suit every occasion. The wedding cakes featured drunken bridesmaids and best men tumbling down tiers – all edible.

We sat scoffing toasted teacakes and coffee, flipping through the books, and discussing the colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses with Kim the proprietor. “The icing can be any colour you like, and I can add any novelty ideas.” Kathryn had an idea for the groom figure, but I can’t write it in here in case he reads this blog, as it’s a surprise.

Kathryn ordered a three-tier cake incorporating the two bridesmaids and two best men, but Kim said she could do mothers of the bride and groom on the middle tier, with crooked hats, equally drunk. "I'd like to be on the cake,"I said.
"If you're on it Aaron's mother will have to be on it. She's paying for the cake."

I ordered a Beatles cake for my sixtieth. Kim said, “You’re never sixty.” I like Kim. The cake has a set a drums and the heads of the four Beatles with black edible hair.

Next were the printers in Stockton Heath where we met up with Jayne. They had endless catalogues of invitations, replies and place settings, most of which Kathryn thought over the top, or too expensive. She chose a simple art décor rose. We’ll have to get Aaron’s approval for the design before we order.

Over lunch we chatted about wedding plans, my sixties party and errant sons: Jayne also has one. Not in prison, but the cause of some grief.

Heading back to the car park, we passed a hat shop and just had to call in. I tried on some wonderfully extravagant hats, but I need to have the jacket of my suit with me before I can make a final choice. That didn’t stop me trying them on. “My wedding etiquette book advises that the Mother of the Bride shouldn’t wear too big a hat, as she has to kiss the guests and it might get in the way,” Kathryn said.
“That one would take their eye out,” Jayne said as I admired myself in the mirror.
“I don’t care. I’m having a big hat,” I insisted.“Oh! Just offer them your hand,” Kathryn said.

In the morning Kathryn is having a practice hair and makeup.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 1 March 2007

No more calls

During our weekly 5 minute phone call to Jon, via the Embassy in LA, we were cut off twice on Monday. Even when you get the full time, you can’t imagine how quickly that 5 minutes goes. Trying to tell him the most urgent news, sometimes I feel flummoxed and don’t know where to start. Constantly aware of the ticking clock, the pressure clouds my mind. Just as the conversation is starting to flow, the time is up.

This Monday we were told, we couldn’t have any more calls. We're going to look into these companies that provide a phone service for prisoners using a line in the US that the prisoner calls. The call is then transferred to our UK number. It's expensive, but not as much as having him call collect. It will be worth it to hear his voice and know he's OK.

I’m excited because Kathryn is travelling up from London today by train. We will be picking her up at around 10.00pm. We are going to do weddingy things all weekend.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood
Site Meter