Thursday, 31 May 2007

Kathryn 'Katie' Barnes

I used the name Barbara Barnes because that’s what I was christened a few days after my birth on the 2nd June, 1947.

I was adopted in 1948 at the age of one year, by Mr and Mrs Tiernan. To avoid confusion I’ll call my natural mother ‘Katie’ and my adopted mother ‘mother’. After signing the adoption papers Katie somehow found out where I was living, and was visiting me up until I was five years old. I vaguely remember my mother telling me to say goodbye to Aunty Kathryn when she was leaving. My mother, being a kind woman, allowed her to stay for weekends, until grandmother said I’d be confused and not know who my mother was. So the visits were stopped.

My mother never told me that I was adopted. She never wanted me to know. I found out by accident at the age of twelve, from a psychiatrist of all people. “Did you know you were adopted?” he asked outright. Although I’d always felt different, I was devastated by this news, and temporarily turned against my adoptive parents for lying to me. It became a dark secret that I couldn’t speak about to anyone.

At the age of forty, happily married with two children, I felt confident enough to start a search, strong enough to face rejection. I was counselled by Social Services to see if I could cope with whatever I may find, and given a copy of a report containing my parents’ last known addresses. I have followed every lead on the report and have come to a blank on everything, as far as Katie is concerned. I was also given a bundle of letters (which I still have). Reading them broke my heart, as they document the torment she suffered giving me up. At one point she changed her mind and wrote saying that she wanted me back, and even though she was on her own, she would find a way to keep me. But in a later letter she describes how Father Donnelly had insisted that Barbara goes to a good home, and that she would not be able to provide that kind of security. I could imagine the strict Catholic priest standing over this young girl telling her she must do the right thing.

When I started the search, my mother, then in her eighties, told me that after Katie stopped visiting, she wrote letters to her, which she destroyed after an argument with me, saying that she was living in Tunbridge Wells working on the fruit farms of Kent. My mother said Katie had met a man and they were going to Australia on the £10 ticket.
With the letters Katie had enclosed some photographs of herself which thankfully my mother kept and I now have.

The last known address for Katie on the social workers report had been in Colne in the Manchester area, and so I assumed she was a Northern girl. I found my father who still lived just around the corner from his last known address. He told me that she came from Essex but had moved North with the Land Army and was working on his father’s farm in Wilmslow when they met, fell in love and conceived me. There was a wedding planned which he called off three days before, and I was consequently born in Jericho Public Assistance Infirmary, formerly a work house in Bury.

My father told me Katie had no family and was brought up by her grandmother in the Fens, and spent some time in children’s homes. This lack of a stable family background has contributed to the difficulty I’ve had in finding her. I’ve got four files full of letters and correspondence. I’ve been on the radio and put advertisements in papers but all to no avail. To search in Australia I would need to know the name of the ship and the port she landed in.

I’d given up my search and reconciled myself to never finding her. But when I was off work last year I saw a Trisha programme, which reunited, lost relatives. It stirred up the old feelings of time running out and never finding her. I wrote to them but nothing came of it. I remember trying Cilla Black’s Surprise Surprise a long time ago, but they wrote and said they didn’t get involved with adoption cases.

I would love to know what happened to her. I realise that she may not be alive now, as she’d be in her eighties. Did she go to Australia? I think if she had remained in this country she wouldn’t have been able to keep away. Did she re-marry? Did she have more children? What happened to the young girl who was forced to give me up because she had no family support? If she is alive, does she still think of me? Does she remember the baby girl who’ll be 60 on 2nd June?

I haven’t got the energy right now to start a new search. The Jon situation, and so much to plan for this year. Should I still be raking up the past?
Starting this blog, using her name (although if she married she’s probably changed it) I’ve thought that someone out there may know of a Kathryn ‘Katie’ Barnes, who was in the Land Army in the Wilmslow, Cheshire area the late 1940s, a tall, lively blond girl according to my father, who liked people and life, and may have emigrated to Australia. Who knows?

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Last Minute Panic

"The vintage dress is too plain," I said to Dan. "It's my party, I should wear something more outrageous."
"The dress looks good," Dan said, "and it's a bit late in the day to go looking for something else."
"I know, but I'm going to call at the fancy dress shops, just to have a look at what they've got."
I asked Lizzy to come with me for a second opinion.
"Something more outrageous?" Lizzy said, "Isn't wearing at micro mini at aged 60 outrageous enough for you."

There are two fancy dress shops in our town. The oldest has been there for about thirty years and used to supply outfits to the dancing school Kathryn attended when she was five. Run down and seedy, it is still owned by the same person. I asked the girl for 60s outfits and she handed Lizzy and me two tatty looking books.
"That's Trisha Smith," I said pointing to one of the teenage girls modelling the outfits. She used to dance with Kathryn. She has kids of her own now." As I turned the pages more and more of the old dancing girls appeared.
"I dread to think what the outfits must be like after all this time," Lizzy said.
"They didn't look that good when they were new. Lets go."
"My mother's selling up," the girl said.
"Not before time," Lizzy whispered as we left.

The ultra modern interior of the second shop was in complete contrast. The walls were decorated with brightly coloured banners and streamers screaming Happy 18th, 21st, 30th, 40th 50th 60th. Perhaps there's not much call for the 70th plus. There were none. Gayly coloured outfits were displayed on dummies and rails. But the 60s gear was just as dire as the first place.
I noticed the plump balloons floating around the shop, and asked if they stay up.
"They're treated with a special agent so they don't shrink," said the shop assistant, who was dressed in a Sandy from Grease outfit. "They're guaranteed to stay up for a week."
"You've paid the deposit in the other shop," Lizzy reminded me. "They won't shrink - stop worrying."

When I got back home I tried my vintage 60s dress on again with the black and white shoes, black tights and head band. It looked better than anything I'd seen in the shops.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Diamond Necklace

It's half term, thank God. The thoughts of college stresses me out. I'm trying to stay positive and think of my party. The observation debacle has soured everything. I must remember what my therapists and Jon keep telling me, "It's not what happens to you, it's how you react that matters." Stop reacting. If he can cope with prison, I can cope with this.

Dan took me shopping. We need some new light shades for the bedrooms that have been redecorated, but in the shop Dan just stared around seemingly preoccupied and was no help at all, even though I asked for his opinion on colours and styles.
"I don't know why we bring them with us," the shop assistant said. "We do our own thing anyway." I groaned at Dan and we left the shop with nothing.

"We need to pick up Kathryn's bracelet from the jewellers," Dan reminded me. "They rang last week to say it had been repaired."
"I'd forgotten about it," I said. "Unless I write things down, I forget about them. I'm getting too many senior moments lately."
The jeweller had done a great job. You couldn't see where the break had been soldered. Paying for it, I put it in my bag and turned to leave.
"There's something else, I want you to see," Dan said smiling.
Not like Dan I thought suspiciously.
The jeweller produced a white gold necklace with a single diamond pendant.
"It's your birthday present, if you like it," Dan said. "If not, you can choose something else."
"It's perfect," I said trying it on. The diamond glistened. "Just perfect," I said kissing Dan, and thinking how lucky I am.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 28 May 2007

Bank Holiday surpise

A rainy Bank Holiday Monday. Dan painted the bathroom and cleaned the patio. I sorted the spare bedroom in preparation for party guests who may stay over. In between showers I tided the potted plants. We've been painting and decorating and working on the house for months now, getting it ready for September's wedding, and Jon's return. A bonus is, it looks good for my party.

Another early gift arrived from Jenny and Bruce, who came round for drinks. Jenny has an apartment in Nerja, Spain, where she bought my gift. Knowing I have difficulty keeping presents for the day, she let me open it. Handing me an expensive looking small square box with a rose on it, she said,"It's antique and Spanish."
"Good things come in small packages," I said opening it carefully. "Oh! That's beautiful," I said taking out a gold ring mounted with three square amethysts. Purple is my favourite colour.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

The partying starts here

We went hiking in Wales on Saturday. The weather's turned cold.
"Hope it warms up for your party," Dan said.
"It doesn't matter." I said, "It's inside a warm hall."
"I'll get my wig wet."
"The damp might calm it, and you down."
"Or make it grow."

Peter and Beth arrived that evening with a bottle of Champagne, a card, hand made by Beth, and a cheque for £60. Beth's daughter came with them. She lives in Geneva and is going back the day after my do. She wasn't going to attend, because of hangover fears, but was persuaded by hot buffet, and the vision of Peter dressed as Austin Powers doing a dance with three Go Go girls to 'I want Candy.' Peter is an extrovert and once dressed up takes on the persona of the character. He's got the outfit, but is waiting for Austin Powers teeth and hairy chest to arrive via the Internet.
"Hope they arrive on time," said Beth sarcastically.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Well Developed

Every Wednesday afternoon, we have a team meeting at college. At last week's meeting the outcome of the yearly observations was on the agenda. I was told that because the observer didn't turn up I would be allowed the grade 1 I got last year. I smiled to myself, thinking thank God for that. "However," Carly, my manager added, without looking me in the eye, "An ALP (Advanced Learning Practitioner) will come in to one of your lessons, to help with your development."
"I don't need developing. I'm well developed," I said looking down at my double D cups, and forcing a smile.
"It's merely in a supportive role," Carly cajoled.
"No. It's not," I insisted. "I'm not being observed again. No matter what you call it, this is observation by the backdoor and I'm not having it." I was starting to feel very angry, but I managed to control my emotions and keep my cool. I continued, "I completed my part of the deal. I spent days preparing. I had everything ready. Every lesson was stressful waiting for him to arrive, and he didn't show. I'm not going through that again. If anyone comes into my class I will walk out."
The faces of my colleagues sat around the table, expressed surprise at my out of character outburst.
"We'll talk about it after the meeting," Carly said.

After the meeting, various colleagues told me that I was right to stand up for myself. Carly was surrounded by tutors and I could see I wasn't going to get to talk to her before home time. So I wrote the following email:

Dear Carly, I was hoping to talk to you after the meeting but there was’nt time.

As you know, I’m having CBT therapy, referred by the occupational health from college, and I take prescribed medication for anxiety and depression. You are also aware that I have personal problems with my son being in prison 5000 miles away, as well as work stress, and the combination of the two makes it difficult for me to cope with any extra demands. My therapist has told me that I must say no to extra demands.

This year I’ve coped well (in previous years, since Jon's arrest, I've had months off with stress)and want to complete the year and not let my students down. Sometimes I feel as though I’m just barely hanging on. I cannot take on anything extra.

I put a great deal of effort into preparing for the observation. I put too much pressure on myself as I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I really went over the top preparing. I cannot go through with another observation or an observation in disguise. I could have got out of the whole observation process if I'd played on my mental state, but I preferred to get on with it and be observed, and this is the way I'm treated.

At the moment I cannot take anymore stress than I already have.

Barbara Barnes

Carly read the email before she left. She came into the room where I was setting up computers for my evening class and gave me a hug, saying she would sort it out. This helped, but the situation knocked my confidence and I didn't feel up to doing my class. I'd been doing so well with the CBT thought diary, I really believed I was getting better, but this has made me realise how fragile I've become and my head felt as though it was bursting with stress. With encouragement from my colleagues, I managed to get myself together enough to take the class, but I've still not recovered.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 25 May 2007

Hungry Buddha

The Hungry Buddha is a greasy spoon that sells veggie breakfasts. Kathryn loves it. When she's home we fill up on fried eggs, veggie sausages, hash browns, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms and toast before setting off on our shopping expeditions.

My sister, Lizzy, playfully calls it the 'hungry buggar'. I met Lizzy with her two daughters, Lesley and Sarah for brunch there today. While tucking into our full English, I asked Lizzy about the shrinkage problem. "Apparently, if blown up too early and it turns cold, they can shrink."
"Graham has the same problem," Lesley sniggered.
"Should I swap balloon shops?" I asked. "I saw one advert saying their balloons are treated with something that makes them stay up."
"Could do with some of that," Lesley said.
"Me too," Sarah said "Does it work on everything?"
Lizzy assured me that the shrinkage was just a warning that they have to give everyone. "We've had balloons from there before and they didn't shrink," she told me "Stop worrying."
"There's the streamers and photographs. Peter has enlarged some 60s pics and superimposed them onto a psychedelic background. They look brilliant."
"You're supposed to have photos of you as a child, not in the 60s," Lizzy said.
"Am I? It's a 60s party so I chose 60s pics. But I'll get Dan to do some of me as a kid," I said guessing that Lizzy wanted to be in the hall of fame with me, in photos from our childhood. " When can we put them up?" I asked.
We'll do all that," Lizzy said. "You just turn up."

"Have you and Kathryn thought any more about the flowers for the wedding?" Lizzy asked.
"I can't think about the wedding now." I groaned. "My mind's full of party and 60s outfits and shrinking balloons, and caterers, and DJs and whether they'll all turn up."
"They'll all turn up," said Lizzy "and probably more besides."

We talked about what we are wearing for the party. Lizzy is a bit overweight and has made herself a kaftan, Demis Roussos style. She's going as a hippy. Lesley and Sarah are wearing the swirly pattered sixties-ish mini frocks that are in the shops at the moment, but with black tights mod hairstyles and makeup.

After we'd paid the bill we walked up to the market to buy false eyelashes, green eyeshadow, hippy beads, bandannas and flower tattoos.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 24 May 2007

CBT fourth session

Doreen was pleased with my developing understanding of how to deal with negative thoughts: examine the thought; how it makes you feel; look at the evidence that supports the thought and create a new thought based on the evidence; this should bring about a more positive mood or feeling.
"You've recognised your anxiety, which stems from your childhood and issues relating to your adoption. You've been thinking this way for most of your life, and what we have to do is re-train the way you think about yourself. You are starting to do this with the thought diary."
"The anxiety about Jon is always there," I said. "In some form or other, it never leaves, but I'm working on being more positive about it."
"He's your son, of course you feel for him, any mother would. It's natural. But the worst is over and you've coped. Congratulate yourself for that. This isn't going to happen over night you know. You need to constantly work on dismissing those negative thoughts."
"Organising my party has featured largely in this week's negativity. I'm having mixed feelings about it. One minute I'm really excited and positive, and then I feel I'd like to call the whole thing off."
"Oh dear," she smiled.
"I feel really guilty admitting this, but I've found myself wishing I'd have an accident so I could call it off."
"You're afraid of being overwhelmed by it all."
"Why? What's the evidence?"
"There is none. I'm popular, so I think people will turn up. I've got my outfit, the DJ, the band and the buffet organised.
"Exactly. It's all taken care of so relax and enjoy your day and your party."
"If there are any hiccups, they will make good anecdotes, won't they?" I said. "It'll be fun."
"That's the spirit," she said. "You're doing so well with the thought diary, you can continue with that, and we'll leave it for a few weeks, let's say the 4th June?"
"The week after my sixtieth."
"You'll have a lot to tell me about. Enjoy being sixty.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Balloon let down

The woman who was going to do the balloons for my party has let me down. She's going on holiday. I have had to scout round for someone else. Cheery Cards was recommended. A greasy overweight woman was sat at the till unwrapping a hamburger. As I approached her she gave me a look that said: Oh no, not another customer - I'm hungry - can't you let me eat my dinner. She made me feel so bad I apologised for interrupting her meal. "Oh. Don't worry," I said smiling. "I'll browse round while your eating."
"It's OK. What can I do for you," she replied in a deadpan voice.
"I'm having a 60s party and I want some balloons."
"What's the date," she asked bringing out a dogeared note book from beneath the till.
"The 2nd June."
"What colour and now many?" she asked inbetween bites.
"Black, white and see through, with Happy 60th written on the see through one. I'd like twelve sets of three, please"
"That'll be £48."
"Fine," I said. "Can we pick them up on the morning."
"Well, I must warn you, if you pick them up too early and the weathers cold, they could shrink a bit."
"Is that normal?" I said wondering if she was telling me the truth or if she just had indigestion.
"We have to warn people. If you pick them up at 1.00 they should be OK."
"One it is then," I said visualising a room full of shrunken 60s balloons.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 21 May 2007

60s Dress Dilemma

Everyone at work is in a frenzy over what to wear. Most of them are too young to remember the 60's, and have mothers younger than me. I've been making suggestions. Rockers - skinny jeans, high stilettos or biker boots, tight tee-shirts, leather jackets, back-combed hair, thick black eyeliner and pale lips. Hippies - long hair with little plaits woven in, head bands, flower tattoos on arms or cheeks, long coloured beads, floaty tops, bell-bottom jeans and sandals. Mods - the Mary Quant look, black and white shifts, sleek bobbed hair, false eyelashes - the twiggy look with lower eyelashes painted on. I've tried to get across that if they get the hair and makeup right the outfit doesn't matter so much.

Less than two weeks to the party - needs to ring caterers - write invites for Tai Chi gang, the stress, the excitement - I can't wait.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 13 May 2007


I finished my play list of 60s songs and the itinerary for my party, and took them to the club to discuss with the DJ, Eddie. As usual he was sat smoking a fag with a pint in his hand when I asked if I could join him and his friend.

He looked surprised when I handed him the itinerary, but he humoured me by going through it step by step. The party is going to start at 7.30, the buffet at 9.30 following by my speech and dance with Dan to the Beatles 'In My Life'. I'll give the prize for the best 60s fancy dress, male and female, and then Austin Powers (our friend Peter)is going to dance a 'groovy' routine with Kathryn and two of her friends from dancing school, if they have the courage. We have a bar extension to 12.00. The band will play at 10.00 for about an hour and Eddie will come back on, he said, until 1.00am.

"I want you to do one thing for me", Eddie said."Enjoy it. Don't be worrying. Don't panic. I've been at parities and it's 8.o'clock and there's only about 30 people arrived and the party person starts to panic thinking that no one will turn up. Then by 9.00-9.30 the place is heaving."
"I'll try not to. I'm so excited.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 11 May 2007

Lunch with Ex students

The only students I've ever kept in touch with are from the very first community psychology class I did, five years ago. I met up with them today and gave them invites to my 60th. They're not bringing their husbands - having a girls' night out instead. We got into a bit of a frenzy discussing 60's attire and hairdos. Julia, Joanne and Pauline can come, but Terri is on holiday.

Pauline is starting a degree course in September. "I tell everyone, I would never have done anything like this without Barbara Barnes and the community course," she said.
"That's very kind," I said.
"It's true," she said, and they all starting talking at once about the course - how noisy they all were and how I used to have to shout 'order' to get them to shut up.
"You lot are still the same," I said.
Terri reads Jon's blog and is a regular commenter. I gave her a letter from him.

"What made you decide to have a party?" Joanne asked.
"After nearly five years of not really wanting to celebrate anything, I decided that I couldn't let my 60th go by. Dan and I went to a 60's and 70's party a few years ago and it was great fun. So I'm going for it. Balloons, streamers, fancy dress - the full works - as tacky as possible. Then there's Kathryn's wedding in September."

Terri's daughter is also getting married in September so we compared notes, on Mother of the Bride outfits, hats, guest lists, arguments over who to invite and who not to invite - the stress and the excitement. Terri reads Jon's blog and is a regular commenter. I gave her a letter from him.
"And hopefully, fingers crossed," I added my heart sinking, "Jon will be released in November."
"What a year," Julia said.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Thursday, 10 May 2007

CBT third session

I cheated a bit on my thought diary. I only started filling it in last week, and I backtracked because I didn't want Doreen to think I wasn't trying.

As usual she asked me how I'd been and I told her truthfully that writing down my negative thoughts and looking at the evidence that supported those thoughts has made me realise how anxious I am about everything, even when there's no evidence that what I fear will happen.
"None of us know the future," she said. "Live in the now. Let's have a look at your thought diary."
"Worry over the observation was mega," I told her, "But the guy, the observer, never showed up. All that work and stress, and waiting for him to arrive, for nothing."
"That's very unprofessional," Doreen said. "What happened?"
I related the sorry saga of the non-observation.
"The good news is, if the observer doesn't turn up, you get your grade from last year, and I got a grade 1. This guy says he never gives grade 1s, but by default he's given me a grade 1.
"Well done!" she said. "But you will have to learn to relax and not put so much pressure on yourself. You don't have to be perfect all the time. You are too hard on yourself.
We went over various other negative thoughts I'd experienced, but the main one was Jon's release.
"I try to be positive and think it will all go according to plan, but the bad thoughts creep in."
"What's the evidence that things will go wrong?"
"Nothing concrete, but I don't trust the system, and I couldn't cope with the disappointment of him not coming home. It's all he talks about in his letters and phone calls."
"What's the worst that could happen?"
I couldn't tell her my worst fears, I just said, "That it will all be delayed."
"Well, if it's delayed you will cope with it. You've handled him being in prison for 5 years and you'll deal with a few more months if you have to. The worst is over for you."
She made it sound so easy. I know I should think positively. I'm creating my own hell. We have survived this far. There's no reason why it should go wrong.
"You're right," I agreed. "But I won't feel at peace until he's back on English soil."
"You're doing well recognising the negative thoughts and trying to address them. We'll extend the diary further to take in new thoughts and emotions or feelings.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Monday, 7 May 2007

Jon's release

At last we seem to be getting somewhere. After months of frustration, the process for his release is being put into action, but its going to be 30 days before Jon goes on to the next stage.

The nagging fears that something will go wrong are still there. I won't relax until he's on UK soil and we can bring him home.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Sunday, 6 May 2007


We walked up Moel Famau in Wales yesterday. My other de-stressor is walking. It's our hobby. Dan and I started hiking about 20 years ago. Although I'd been in a rambling society at the age of 16. The Woodend it was called, nicknamed the Deadend. We camped at Snowdonia in the snow one November. I can't imagine doing that now. Run by two university students, who organised walks all over England and Wales, it ended sadly with arguments and accusations over individuals not clearing up the campsite before their departure. It was a good introduction to the outdoor life.

The kids were teenagers when Dan and I started walking, and they wanted nothing to do with it. You have to start them young. Kathryn did come camping in Derbyshire with us once, but never really got into it, but recently her and Aaron came with us on a walking holiday to the Cotswolds. Over the years we've progressed to higher and harder and longer walks. Now it's nothing less than 2000 ft. (Moel Famau at 1,800 is an afternoon stroll).

The harder the walk, the more the tension lifts from my body. I forget myself in the expanse of open space; the feeling of oneness with nature, and the awe inspiring views from the top of a mountain. The indescribable beauty. There's the challenge and the elation when you finally reach the summit. I love to get back home physically exhausted and drained of stress.

Perhaps Jon will join us on some walks. He loved nature as a young child. Dan used to take him and his grandad to local beauty spots, while I ferried Kathryn back and to from her dance class. Perhaps he'll appreciate nature again after his long incarceration.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Aromatherapy Massage

For my friend, Jayne's birthday I'd booked her and myself an aromatherapy massage: full body and facial in the college's holistic therapy department. It coincided nicely with the end of observation week. I desperately needed a de-stressor and so did Jayne as she's got further problems with her errant son.
"It's pot luck who you get," I said to Jayne. "Even though they're all level 3s some are better than others. Enjoy."

Elaine, the student beautician assigned to me, filled out a client card. In order to mix the appropriate oils, she needed to know what problems I wanted massaging away. I asked her if she had three hours to spare. She laughed, telling me to just give her a general idea. "I've got extremely dry skin, which soaks up moisture like a sponge," I said, showing her patches of dryness. "I have shoulder and neck pain, due to a double frozen shoulder I had four years ago, which left the area weak. I have IBS, but mostly I have stress, anxiety and depression."
"Is the stress work related?" she asked.
"Some of it is."
"And the rest?"
"It's a long story, let's leave it at that."
She smiled and left the cubicle, asking me to strip down to my knickers, and cover myself with brown towels; returning a few minutes later with little dishes containing combinations of the strong smelling oils.
"This one's for your facial. Do you like the smell?" she asked shoving it under my nose.
"Mm mm, " I said. "It smells powerful."

She didn't talk throughout the treatment, which I really like. You can't relax if you're constantly trying to make conversation with someone you don't really know. Her hands were warm and healing and strong. The heady aromas and her firm, soothing technique put me in a trance somewhere between sleep and meditation.

'Excellent' I wrote on her client care card. I asked if she did Reiki because her hands were so warm and comforting, almost healing. "Other people have said that. I'm going to do a course when I've finished this one."
"You really must. You have a gift."
"Thanks. Don't overdo it for the rest of the day," she warned. "No. tea, coffee or alcohol, just drink water and eat light meals. It's all part of the detox."

Disappointed, Jayne and I were intending to go for lunch, but the prospect of a light meal and no wine, added to the fact that our hair was so full of oil from the facial and scalp massage, we looked as though we had just finished a shift in a chippy, we decided to go home.

Next thing I heard was Dan shouting, "How was the massage?" I looked at the alarm clock on my beside table. I'd slept for three hours.
"Wonderful," I shouted back.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

Friday, 4 May 2007


Last week was our department's yearly observation week. I could have got out of it because of my 'personal problems' but not wanting special treatment, I went for it. Silly me. I spent most of my days off and the previous weekend sitting at my computer perfecting lesson plans, scheme of work, differentiation plans, handouts and worksheets, which were all printed off in perfect colour on my printer. My stress levels soared. We are not told which class the observer is going to come in to. The uncertainly creates mega tension. Phillip, the observer assigned to me, is reported to have said that he's never given anyone a grade 1. Whether this is some kind of macho thing or perhaps he's never seen a grade 1 lesson I don't know. It is off putting.

It got to Wednesday, my last teaching day, and Phillip, hadn't appeared. I was therefore convinced he would come to my evening 6-9.00pm group. I was well prepared and totally hyped up. I'd phoned all the students to be early. I was wearing cool, comfortable, smart and attractive, confidence boosting clothes. I'd single-handedly dragged in an extra table, telling my manager to pretend she'd not seen me, as she started muttering about Health and Safety. I had all my handouts and activities placed carefully in order on the desk, together with coloured wipe board pens and flip chart markers. Adrenalin was racing through my veins.

He didn't turn up.

That I was furious, after all my hard work, is an understatement. The good news however is - if your observer doesn't turn up, you can keep the grade you got last year, which was a grade 1. The guy who never gives grade 1s, inadvertently gave me a grade 1 - thanks Phillip.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood
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