Bullying. In all its evil forms.

This is a blog which has been building in my head for a long time now. I’m going to talk about bullying at work, racism, homophobia, snobbery, and anything else which pops into my head while I’m at it.

Years ago, in 1997, I worked for a Council where I was really badly bullied. During that time I had a nervous breakdown, which involved crying, a lot, in a little heap on the floor. I was actually considering smashing my car into a wall because I’m just not brave enough to commit suicide any other way. Fortunately, though, my doctor was helpful, kind and supportive, and when he diagnosed me with asthma at the same time as the depression, he put asthma as the cause of the absence, rather than depression.

This was because I was not welcome where I worked. Everybody expected somebody else to get the job, somebody who already worked there, and who was junior to me. Nobody else on the team had children, and for some reason this was also a reason for resentment. I was excluded from conversations, regularly ignored when asking for help, nobody picked my phone up when I was out, so schools couldn’t contact me, and I was deliberately excluded from meetings, which I mostly discovered by chance. The other thing was that I would get up to make a cup of tea or coffee, ask if anyone wanted one as well, and they would all say no. Immediately I had made my cuppa, somebody else would get up and make them all a drink. Finally, we all used to have a small section on a whiteboard where we wrote our appointments. I wrote mine on the day before, so that if I had six schools to get round, I could go to one before going into the office. Regularly I would find my appointments erased, and the day I left, I found my name erased at the beginning of the day, as if to say “f*ck off, bitch”.

When I had the breakdown, I was off sick for six weeks. Nobody phoned. Nobody sent me a card. There had been somebody else on the team off with stress, who received cards, flowers, the lot. When I got back to work, nobody asked how I was. The schools did, the school staff were lovely. I had phoned my boss every time I went to the doctor, which was every two weeks, to tell him how much longer I was signed off for.

I was absolutely furious when I got back to work. I slammed around, didn’t tell anybody anything, didn’t bother saying “good morning” because I was always ignored anyway, didn’t offer to make them drinks – and my boss, bless him, asked me to be nicer to them, because, he said, “I was lowering myself to their level”. My response was “you are joking, aren’t you”, but he wasn’t.

How is it ok to treat people like this? when I left, lots of other people, in different sections of the same department, said they knew what had been going on, because they’d heard the team bitching about me. I should have gone to my union rep, but had no idea who that was, and anyway, had no strength to fight.

Anyway, I only had to work there for 10 months, then got a much nicer job, at a much nicer council, where I worked happily for five years until I was medically retired.

I’m fairly sure all the problems arose because they didn’t want a stranger from another area getting the job their friend wanted. And anything else about me was just another irritant. I heard somebody once (the ringleader, in my view) complaining bitterly that my children phoned every day to tell me they were safely home from school. Apparently this was a Bad Thing. I was working 20 miles away from home, and I needed to know they were all right. I don’t care what colleagues thought, my children were much more important to me than they were.

Now then. Why does anybody care what colour anybody’s skin is? why? we all came from Africa originally, and we’re only pale because we live in the northern hemisphere. That’s no great achievement, really. It’s much harder to live in Africa, where the weather is unforgivingly hot, than it is to live in northern Europe. Being white is no big deal. Being a different colour from somebody else, whether you’re pale brown,  dark brown, whatever, is just no big deal. And why, then, if it is a big deal, do white people spend such a long time ruining their skin and health trying to get browner? I just don’t get it. It’s wrong, unfair, childish, and just horrible to see racism in practice.

Here’s another thing that gets my goat. In this country, in the UK, we almost have a caste system. There are the very rich people who have inherited their wealth, who look down on the very rich people who have earned their wealth, and they all look down on middle-class people, who, in turn, look down on working class people, who, in turn, look down on the people who have no job, either because they can’t find one, they’re not qualified for the ones that might be out there, or because they have health problems which mean they can’t work.

Our media does nothing to help put people straight on this. In the view of some of the media, mostly the right-wing media, there are “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor”, but most of the poor are poor because they’re just stupid.

In my view, we’re all just people. Some of us are better educated. Some of us are rich, some aren’t. Some people are good at practical things, some people are good at academic stuff, some of us are artistic, and so on and so on. But none of those things make us “better” than others. It makes us luckier, maybe.

Is it not true that at bottom, what we all want is a comfortable house, to be able to afford to keep ourselves and our children fed, warm, healthy and happy? why does it matter if some of us live in great big castles, and some of us in tiny little houses? the only way it matters to me is that it’s grossly unfair – I’m not completely sure of the statistics here, but something like 10% of the population of this country own 90% of the wealth/land. Now, how is that fair? How?

There is enough wealth in the world, owned by the privileged few, to pay off all the debts of the masses. There is enough food in the world to feed us all. But because of the way the “system” works, millions of people go hungry, while a few people live in obscene luxury.

That’s one aspect of wealth vs poverty.

What is equally vile is when rich people look down on people less rich than they are, and make them feel bad about being less rich. That’s just spiteful, mean and unforgivable. There’s almost a “if you do as we do, and do as we say, you could live like we do” attitude amongst the middle classes – but who says anybody wants to live like that? What’s wrong with living your life the way you want to? as long as nobody gets hurt, and everybody’s happy, why not?

I remember being repeatedly told, as a child, that we were “upper middle class” and resenting it completely. So what? why do people have to be divided into “classes”?  so that the “class” at the top can look down on and make everybody else feel awful? wouldn’t it be nicer and kinder if everybody was just kind to everybody else? and didn’t make sneery comments about other people’s lives?

In my view, every sort of job is necessary. We really need the refuse collectors  – look at Naples where the rubbish piles up, smells, and is a public health hazard. We need shop assistants, hairdressers, beauticians, street cleaners, all the jobs that exist, we need people to do. So why do some people look down on people who do those jobs?

And don’t even get me started on homophobia. Who cares what other people do in bed? who? why? as long as it’s consenting adults, it’s nobody else’s business. And why are people so exercised by the thought of gay marriage? if two people who love each other get married, how does that affect anybody else? why is it anybody else’s business? and don’t quote the bible at me. That’s just a collection of stories, written by various people, hundreds of years after the event, and in most cases, the events were made up anyway.

I don’t understand, and get very cross indeed, when people are nasty to others because they’re different in some way.

I think that’s about it. There’s probably more bubbling away in my head, but I think 1500 words is enough . . .

Getting Older.

On Saturday last it was my birthday. I am now 58 years old. I’m guessing lots of you will be much, much younger than that.

You know what, though? as I’ve got older, I’ve relaxed, become calmer, steadier, much less likely to get stressed or angry (though that might have something to do with being retired and not having to go to work every day), and much, much happier.

Childhood I found fraught and difficult. Teenagerhood was worse. Young adulthood – well, I was married for the first time at 20, and although we have two wonderful grown up daughters, the marriage didn’t work out. Motherhood I loved. Loved it. I fed both my children myself, for a long time, and loved that too.

Working part time while they were younger was hard work but fun. I loved the days off as well as the work days. Working full time while they were older was much much harder. I was always exhausted, and at one point, when I was being badly bullied at work, I had a nervous breakdown.

Now, in my late fifties, retired, very happily married, I love my life. We have five grown up offspring between us, two daughters and three sons. We have five grandchildren, who are just a joy. A small cat lives with us and seems to regard us as “the staff”. She’s lived here since she was an 8 week old kitten, and we love her to bits.

Soon I will be able to knit again, when I’m recovered properly from my last operation. Hubby’s music server, after a frustrating six week hiatus, has arrived, is installed, and working. Thank goodness I back up regularly, or we might have lost his whole music collection.

I’m quite happy for anybody to know how old I am, I really don’t have a problem with ageing. I’m starting to understand why my grandparents used to say “it’ll all pass” or “it’ll all come out in the wash”. Nowadays I’m much better at waiting to see what happens with a problem. If the washing machine leaked, or burst into flames, clearly I’d do something about that straight away, but stuff that can be left, is left, and more often than not just sorts itself out.

There is more time to plan projects (for example the re-decorating and furnishing of the craft room). There’s more time to just sit and have a cup of tea, or sit and think, or look through my knitting magazines and books. Or read – just finished Timeline by Michael Crichton. Excellent. Just discovered there’s a film! hooray! will put it on our list to rent.

Healthwise – well, there’s a whole can of worms. I used to be quite fit. I would swim 30 lengths a week, easily, sometimes twice. The first time I swam a mile I was 12, the next time I was 30 I think, and then I did another one when I was 42, the latter two for charity. Loved swimming, always have. But now, if I go to a public swimming baths, the chances are that I will get a chest infection. I’m lucky if I don’t, let’s put it that way. So I don’t go swimming any more in public baths. When I get the chance, I swim in the sea, no matter how cold it is.

I do have some arthritis, mostly in my hands. I have had a bad back for 35 years now, and 20 years ago they removed the offending disc, which had prolapsed. That made a huge difference, but I still have to be careful because now there are two vertebrae right up against each other.

Generally, though, apart from the M.E. which is the main problem, and not age-related, I manage ok. I sleep a lot. At least 15 hours a day, sometimes 18. But that’s ok because I’m retired. I can’t do things like vacuuming, or drive for more than 20 minutes at a time. But you don’t want a litany of what’s wrong with me. This started out as how fabulous ageing is. And it is!

Trapeziectomy progress.

Well, this weekend I do feel I’ve turned a corner. The pain seems to have reduced to a much smaller area, and I haven’t needed any Tramadol for several days now. It’s still swollen, and bluish looking, and I’m still wearing my pressure glove (which is starting to disintegrate!) and the wrist/thumb splint. It’s six and a half weeks since the op now, so that’s really encouraging. The first time I’ve felt that I might actually recover properly from this operation and am looking forward to knitting again.

Occupational Therapy have been absolutely wonderful. I can’t praise them enough. My next appointment is on 8th April, a week on Monday.

Yesterday and tonight I was able to clear up after dinner too. Hubby does all the cooking and I do the clearing away and any washing up that needs doing. I need to use “his” rubber glove for the left hand though, my own rubber gloves are too small just yet. But that works. And I’m hoping that today was the last time hubby will have to do my ironing too. Poor hubby! All the cooking, all the cleaning, all the vacuuming and dusting, my ironing, helping me shower and dress for 5 weeks! gradually getting back to normal though.

I have been taking a small walk most days – even in the snow! because The Shop is five minutes’ walk away. Excellent. Unbelievable. I’m so lucky. A local yarn shop, run by friends I love, full of beautiful yarns. What’s not to like?

Today I met my school friend for lunch. We went to Notcutts, which is just in front of The Shop, talked and talked and talked, then went to The Shop, and then . . . . we went to see some lambs! I actually held a little baby lamb in my arms! Now, lambs are very, very cute indeed, very cuddly and sweet, but not terribly bright. They sort of stagger about enthusiastically, bumbling around, and they’re really not bothered about being picked up and cuddled. They head butt you, they sit there calmly in your arms just being cuddled – not like my cat, who barely submits to being held at all, although she will eventually give up struggling and purr – so what’s that about then?

Then we bought some buttons from The Shop (not having intended to buy anything at all, but just gaze at its splendour), came home to my house and had a nice cup of tea. How very British.

The Shop.

For two weeks now I’ve been trying, and failing, to get back into this blog. Eventually I emailed WordPress support, who are working on Pacific Time, whereas I’m on GMT. Nevertheless, it was all sorted within two days. Thank you WordPress!

First of all, I think, some pictures of The Shop. The first two are the little bag of goodies I bought yesterday. The rest are self-explanatory I think.

If you live in the West Midlands, it’s just off the M42 Junction 4. You’ll see a “Superstore” sign – turn in there. There’s a Notcutts and a Tescos on the site. Plenty of parking. Go into Notcutts, through the shop, outside at the back, turn right, and there it is. Stitch Solihull. (that’s the facebook link).


Look at all the lovely yarns! and there’s fabric too – must take some photos next time I’m in there. The photo above is the “snug” where Stitch groups will be held. I just love it. Go Ana, go Vickie! good for you.

Next blog – trapeziectomy progress. In a few minutes . . .

Occupational Therapy

went to the hospital today to see the OT. wonderful, wonderful people. understanding, practical, reassuring, new pressure glove (to reduce the swelling) and much better splint, moulded to fit me. also silicon strip for under the pressure glove at night – to make sure the scar stays flat and heals well).  pain is normal for a long time after a trapeziectomy, so i feel reassured on that level as well.Image

just a short post this time

hi guys

had the cast removed on friday – thank goodness – after many problems trying to actually get the appointment. now have a temporary splint and am off to physio tomorrow. it’s swollen, very tender to the touch, and very weak. physio will give me some exercises to do. meanwhile, i use the splint when i’m doing stuff – eating, etc – and an ice pack when i’m not!


just a quickie

have been for a little walk today! just round the block, only 10 minutes, but the weather is dry, and not quite sunny. nice wind blowing so all the cobwebs have gone!

can now dress myself (if hubby does up my bra), even though i still need help showering. a bit low mood-wise but hopefully that will sort itself out. in fact, a bit weepy, then next minute i’m singing, so mood swings i guess.

pain control – 2 x paracetamol 3 times a day, one or two tramadol as necessary, but very much ad hoc instead of regularly. so marked improvement there.

still no appointment with the hospital to remove cast and see physio – actually that needs two appointments, believe it or not, and the departments don’t seem to co-ordinate such things. so tomorrow, before the steroid injection in my foot, i’m going to phone them. am actually very anxious and cross about it, probably more than necessary, so must remain calm.

and here are a couple of photos of a very relaxed cat . . . it must be such a hard life!ImageImageImage