Roots & Wings

Recently I have found my eyes welling up and emotions spilling out at the most inappropriate moments. For example; sitting on the bed, pegging the washing out, waiting at traffic lights, trying to park the bloody car in the narrow spaces in the car park, the self-service till in Sainsburys, signing in to reception at work, and while cooking dinner. For heaven sake woman…GET A RUDDY GRIP!

I’ve been a mother for 22 years. In fact, I don’t consider that I have been a mother at all- I have an aversion to the word and hate to be called “mother”, it sounds harsh & formal and hopefully not like me at all. Generally, I answer to a simple “mum”, but often Muma or Mumma, occasionally Mummy, Mumsie or even sometimes Mumma Evs, you get the picture. I adore all of those names and all of the roles I associate with them. I have felt loved by my children and a few others who might associate the labels to me.

For more than half of my time as a parent, I have been a single parent and no, it’s not been easy. I’m sure that even in a two parent family it’s tough as well. I didn’t intentionally set out to have a fundamental goal as a parent, initially I just had to cope & get by and I can’t imagine that this is any different to anyone else. Over time, and as life became clearer, the notion of giving my children Roots and Wings became part of our family values. I wanted to raise them so that they nurtured a strong sense of self and belonging, grounded in manners & respect for others, with a strong understanding of how everyone can be different, yet we are all the same.

I am incredibly proud of how they have taken our ground rules and flourished as individuals. They are both passionate in their own way, they will speak up for injustices even if their opinions differ strongly form their peers, that can be hard to do. If they ever have children of their own (the jury is very much out on THAT topic), then it will be interesting to see how that is passed down to future generations. Will they be as strong willed? Independent? Fiesty? Bold? Anyway, I digress.

So, one has already left home and the other, I doubt will be far behind her only yesterday he said “can she take me too” (more on that in a minute). Back to this concept of roots and wings; roots to know where you are from, wings to be bold enough to be your own person & follow your own dreams and ambitions.

Roots are not a place, but a sense of belonging, they are by definition what grounds you. A strong sense of home but not the actual bricks, more the people in your life who make you feel “at home”. Roots are the part of your core foundation where you soak up the unconditional love and innate sense of belonging, where you gravitate back to when the storms shake you. It is the understanding of family and of values. It is your safe place.

If you think of it literally, in terms of nature itself, anything will grow strong with the right conditions, food, water and care. Look at the trees, those with the strongest root systems will endure the drought, floods, wind & rain and still KEEP GROWING.

Wings; what the hell was I thinking about giving them wings. There are times when I have wanted to clip their wings. To keep my children forever by my side; to keep them safe, safe from all harm and not let them hurt or be harmed by anything. It’s damn hard not to clip wings!

To let them spread their wings you have to love them and trust them totally and unconditionally. You have to help them find their path but also let them choose their own direction even when you feel that the other way might be quicker, safer, and more secure. This is your ultimate gift to them. Unclipped wings.

This month has seen each of my children book a one way flight. Thankfully for now, the youngest is sailing from home and flying back, but the eldest has booked a one way flight to start her own journey. At the moment there is no end date to this particular journey and I have to keep telling myself that it’ll be OK. That she will be OK. That I will be OK. I will won’t I?

I love you both to the ends of the earth. Have the adventures & live the adventures but please, please, please come back & get your roots watered from time to time.

Mum xxx

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Something Happened in Bali

Offerings

Anyone who knows me knows that I looked forward to visiting Bali with such excitement that I could hardly contain it. If someone mentioned the word Bali or holiday to me, I broke into this Cheshire cat grin and couldn’t string a complete sentence together. I am not well traveled and my income lies somewhere between minimum wage and living wage so the fact that I had the opportunity to visit somewhere so exotic was the stuff that dreams are made of.

Did Bali live up to my expectations? In short, no it didn’t. Generally speaking if people have asked me if I had a good holiday, I have given a polite society response of “Yes, it was brilliant thanks” for most people, this is satisfying enough. The same applies if someone asks “How are you?” and you respond “Fine thanks”. The conversation then ends and everyone goes on with their business.

If my trip to New York in 2014 made me feel bold & brave then Bali has unsettled me to such a point that at times I feel like I have taken at least five steps back in the progress that I have made over the last eighteen months. The thoughts in my head ricochet like a game of pinball stopping me from concentrating on any one task for longer than a few fleeting moments. Although I know that writing down & organising my thoughts would help; I have done everything I can do avoid doing so, including ironing & washing my car!

The last thing that I should have encountered on this holiday was conflict and yet we did; not between our unit of three I hasten to add. It serves no purpose to share details with you here in much the same way that I haven’t shared details about my ex-husband. Some of you know the story and some of you do not, it’s best that way.

Out of the drama that unfolded I have learned that my daughter has picked up my ability to go into ‘emergency mode’ and by that I mean put emotions aside, find and execute practical solutions very quickly. Can someone please remind me of this when she wants to go travelling next year! Tell me that she is a strong & capable young woman who can handle herself well, with integrity and confidence no matter how scared and hurt she is feeling inside.

For while I saw my son retreat into his own autistic world again, non-communicative and withdrawn, having worked so hard on his social skills and his belief in himself, to see this destroyed by one person’s lack of awareness was heartbreaking. The single mother’s guilt and loneliness I felt for taking them almost to the other side of the world, just to face distress on what should have been an idyllic holiday, reappeared and made me vulnerable. I didn’t like feeling that way at all.

I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger; the relative of a friend who stepped in to help us. I felt gratitude for my family & friends for the offer of money to assist us, it came immediately and without question and in total trust (although I was too proud to accept). I also felt less alone in a foreign country with the daily messages from those in the know back home who wanted nothing else but to just keep me grounded.

I will have to come to terms with what happened and this is going to take far longer than the week that has passed since we returned. It’s not the worst thing that has happened to me, not by far, but it has left wounds and they need to heal. The process has started by being back home, feeling love from family and friends, being reassured, being hugged, and being told ‘not to be a dick’ when appropriate! Sleeping (or in my case, not sleeping) in your own bed also helps.

So what else happened in Bali?

I should probably start (BD – Before Drama) with Tirta Empul. Tirta Empul (to quote Wikipedia) is a Hindu Balinese water temple located near the town of Tampaksiring, famous for its holy spring water with curative powers.

Of all the temples that we saw or visited, the experience here will say with me forever. We traveled to Tirta Empul as part of a private tour with an English speaking Balinese driver called Ketut (Balinese names explained), we didn’t expect to stay very long but events overtook us. I don’t really know how but Putu, one of the Temple custodians sought us out. Was he skilled at ‘working’ the tourists or was there something else far more spiritual and unexplainable at work? I think the latter.

Water TempleBlimey could Putu talk! He guided Emma through the ablution & blessing process. He then sat and talked to me, he shared part of his life story at first I was extremely skeptical but he quickly (intuitively?) up on my past, mentioning specific things that he could never have known, it disturbed me and I was very guarded but emotion took hold and tears flowed; how can a stranger have such an effect on me?

He escorted us through the Temple explaining this & that (it’s a bit of a blur to me) but every so often he would turn his attention back to me. He was not going to give up on his mission! I am not a religious person, but I do have respect for faith, Putu explained the Hindu belief of Karma & Dharma to me. We think of Karma as someone getting what’s coming to them, but it’s nothing like that! Karma is the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds; and dharma, which has no single word western translation but simply put is the eternal law of the cosmos, inherent in the very nature of things – that we are all connected. At times during our visit Putu took my hand; towards the end of our visit he insisted that he could help me and he took my head in his hands, he spoke softly to me (a deeply personal message), and he applied very specific pressure to the back of my neck. I wish I could tell you what I felt; but I can’t even begin to understand it.

Anything else?

I completed two of the items on my bucket list! Whitewater rafting & having a cream tea! I have decided that a cream tea in Bali (lovely though it was) doesn’t count and I haven’t crossed it off yet- I’m looking for the fully English experience with that one, either in a pretty tea room or a house with a history.

Emma & Matt went Canyoning (with Adventure & Spirit)! I did not. They have balls of steel. I do not. I have seen the Go-Pro footage & that was enough adrenaline for me. This was the highlight of the trip for them and the company deserve their Trip Advisor rating.

Is there more? Hell yes!

I have had a massage on the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean! I have worn a bikini in the first time in…well about forever! I have seen Volcanoes, bathed in hot springs, cooled down in waterfalls. Stared in awe at rice field upon rice field, pondered the human endeavour in building the terraces, contemplated the success of the irrigation and water management vs the UK’s hopeless flood/drought methods and wondered why we cannot learn from a system that has worked for over a thousand years.

Rice Terraces

I have been disturbed by the gluttony, extravagance and overindulgence of some of the resorts vs the poverty experienced by many of the island inhabitants. I have felt guilty for enjoying some beautiful meals when others have nothing.

I have always been fascinated by creative people and Bali has more than its fair share of talented painters, woodcarvers, silversmiths, stone carvers, every imaginable style of textile work there could possibly be. Every single village that you pass through bears testament to this.

FlowersBali has many sides and many, many colours. It has a unique landscape and feel to it; grey volcanic ash, lush tropical forests, green paddy fields, golden beaches, blue skies, turquoise sea, vibrant ceremonial clothing, a black undertone of corruption, flowers, flags & kites everywhere. Oh and scooters…nothing can prepare you for the scooters and the ‘no rules’ traffic management! Bali also has a serious waste crisis. The Balinese traditionally used only organic materials, leaving no waste behind. With the introduction of plastics the island is covered in non-degradable waste from head to toe. The blame doesn’t lie entirely with the tourists either.

Catpooccino!
Catpooccino!

What about the coffee?

I don’t like coffee, thankfully! Just Google Kopi Luwak & you will see what I mean!

Final thought?

I am still in awe of the lovely Balinese people that we met on our visits, tours, outings, meals & excursions, many who guided us through our adventures, or who served us beautiful meals or spent time bartering with us when we bought our souvenirs. They are the happiest and kindest people that I have ever met.

Will I go back? I doubt it very much.

Eat, Pray, Love, Hope

Someone told me yesterday that a blog post was well overdue. He’s a good friend, a wonderful friend and I have shared many secrets with him (and him me), late night conversations, tears and laughter.  Our pasts have included ex-partners with similar traits and we understand each other…

Eat, Pray, Love – one of my daughter’s favourite books and a go to film for restoring a good mood. It’s also responsible for her fascination with Bali. This feisty, young, feminist woman was seduced by a book about the pleasures of eating good food, about meeting people, about looking at yourself and learning, about using travel to heal and about finding love…I digress, but bear with me.

My friend lives in Bali (see the connection now?) and despite moving there in 2012 he makes more effort than people on my doorstep to keep our friendship alive. He’s asked me to go and visit him many times. The invitation has always been on the table. One day in October 2014 he told me that it was likely that he was returning to the UK and if I wanted to visit it had to be soon(ish). Oh shit! I hate being put under pressure to make expensive decisions AND I was in the middle of having work done on the house.

This is how the decision process went…

Oh shit.

Oh shit, how can I not go?

Oh shit, the daughter will hate me if I go to Bali without her.

Oh shit, the son won’t want to go!

Oh, bugger I can’t take one without the other and still enjoy myself.

How can I afford it? I could afford to take myself (just) but not three of us.

Bollocks- I can’t go.

Fuck it, I have to go! We’re all going. Decision made…

Steamed Duck
Steamed Duck

EAT – He constantly share photos of food with me. I wake up in the mornings to photos of what they had for dinner the previous night. The food looks incredible.

PRAY – I am praying that Mount Raung behaves itself. The ash cloud from the erupting volcano is playing havoc with flights in and out of Bali.

The Bali Squad
The Bali Squad

LOVE  – I will be with people who I love.

HOPE – We all long for genuine human connections and without it our lives can feel very empty. I have a beautiful family and I have lovely friends and I am grateful. Every.Single.Day. I know the trials and tribulations that my friend in Bali has been through and I know he has found the happiness that he deserves. I have shared my internet dating horrors with him, I have spared him some of the details, but this morning he said “There’s a normal one out there somewhere for you”. I hope he is right.

Finn’s Beach Club ~ Bali

“People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert

So that’s it…I am going to Eat, Pray, Love, Hope, and participate relentlessly.

Situation Overload

Sometimes I think my life is so boring and other times I crave something more normal, with less drama and some tranquility. I have been quiet for a few weeks because the drama took hold of us. I’m not sure you would believe me if I told you the events of the past few weeks. My friend called it “situation overload”.

When someone asked me “how are you?” or “how’s things?” I could barely string a sentence together. I couldn’t even respond with the standard stiff upper lip of “fine thanks”.  At one point I literally went and hid when someone asked me.

My son had Situation Overload.

My daughter had Situation Overload

Me? I had Situation Overload AND Situation Overload by Default.

My advice to my children- you have to go through shit in your lives. You have to learn that it’s okay to feel negative emotions of anger, fear, sadness, frustration, doubt and guilt to name but a few. You have to learn that these feelings do generally pass IF you allow yourself time to feel these emotions and know that with strength and tenacity you will get through it.

I’m not telling them to pull themselves together; I’m definitely not telling them to Man Up (a phrase that I actually abhor). I have told them that they are awesome, they have conducted themselves with dignity, they have cried and smiled, and their relationship has developed another layer of closeness.

In amongst all of the drama here are some of the simple things that reduced Situation Overload to a mere Situation:

  • Watching Pitch Perfect 2 with the daughter- whilst eating vanilla popcorn.
  • Ice Cream- it’s always a feature.
  • Friends who touched base, but knew that I needed time- I am so grateful.
  • The Bali Squad and the huge hug I received- what a lovely evening we had making plans together and eating Chinese food.
  • Watching Untouchable for the third time- this is my all time favourite film.
  • Laughing so hard when I just overheard my 14yr old ordering pizza with his friend “do you want a stripper combo?”

And finally… getting the opportunity to write some thoughts down. Breathe.

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Unite & Be Awesome

A weekend coffee share

If we were having coffee (or if I was having fruit tea), I would tell you that I have been really out of sorts this week.

If we were having coffee, I would want to talk about what had been happening in your week. I would want to avoid so much of what has been happening in my world.

It’s not major stuff (well actually some of it is), but I would hope that instead of dwelling on it we could sit and chat and put the world to rights. So much dialogue goes on in my head that it would be good to sit and just talk!

I cancelled our coffee date last week because things were getting on top of me, I took a rain check and rescheduled to this week to see if it would help my mood. It didn’t.

I’m feeling angry and tense, it’s been hard work getting my life back together and in one fell swoop someone called me “needy” and I lashed out. If I was needy do you think I would have spent all these years alone? Do you think I would have done something about the loneliness before now? If I were “needy” maybe I would have looked for a man to supplement my less than living wage income? Or maybe just had casual sex, if my needs were not being met by a man? If I were needy do you think I would have coped so fucking well with bringing up my children?

But then I got to thinking…What if being needy wasn’t an insult?

Surely it’s part of the human condition to want to be with someone else? We can tell ourselves that we don’t, but there is so much research out there that proves otherwise. Wait a minute…I used the words ‘want to be’ NOT ‘need to be’. Therein lies the difference.

So what else has been going on? Would you like another coffee? How much time do you have left?

If we were having another coffee I would tell you that I resigned from my voluntary position. I didn’t want to; I wanted to make a difference. I think I did for a while, but to make a difference even on a small scale you need other people to help you. Yes NEED.

I would also tell you that linked to that decision was the fact that my son is anxious again and that means that I don’t get much sleep. A fourteen year old will pace the house into the very early hours if he is troubled and anxious. He will lash out at you because you are the one who is always there, He NEEDS you.

He’s anxious because his safe place, with people he trusts, and activities that he enjoys, and is very good at, is under threat. Why is that? He’s anxious because the social situations are challenging him. He sees only black and white, he’s extremely literal. He can’t easily identify that he’s being bullied by someone because they might see him as a threat; they might resent his single minded drive to achieve. They most definitely do not understand any aspect of autism.

If we were still drinking coffee, I would tell you that I fought back. Publicly, on Facebook. I NEED to protect my young. I NEED them to know that I have their back. They NEED to know that I have their corner.

So this happened- I took over my son’s Facebook account.

But then the messages of support for him started pouring in…

Matt’s a cool guy and if anyone is doing such ridiculous things we’re always here even though we don’t speak a lot!
Here for u Matt…you’re a nice guy and them who bring u down don’t let em cuz u will achieve something and will gain things mate
People only need to bully if they are lacking I’m their own lives, it is no true reflection of Matt, as the entire Evans family is frankly nothing but kind and genuine.
Luv ya Matt
Always here for you Matt u was was one of my first friends at school
You know how proud I am of you (from his sister)
 I’m here for u m8 
Unite and be awesome my friends (my personal favourite comment) 
Do not listen to them they are just being dicks ur a good person and a good mate  
stay strong ma friend

…And so it went on and on without a negative comment amongst them. He NEEDED that. I NEEDED to see that happen.

So the way I see it is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with needing other people. And thank you, I really needed that fruit tea and chat.

’til next time then xx

Courage, Bravery, Daring, Bold

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What is the difference between “courage” and “bravery“? Are “bravery” and “daring” the same thing? Then of course, there is also boldness.

On Tuesday last week, my daughter (ENFJ) really unsettled me with her courage, bravery, daring and boldness. This is not a new thing where she is concerned but this time it was very different. I watched her perform a piece of work for a fellow student’s dissertation choreography; in dance and dialogue she recounted the memories of the day, no, not the day, but the moment that my ex-husband told my children that he was leaving.

The intricate detail that she recalled shocked me. She could remember precisely where she was sat, how she was sitting, what she was wearing, where I was in the room, where he was stood, and the exact placement of inanimate items in the room. She told this to a theatre full of people. I wasn’t the only one crying. Daring? Brave? Bold? Courageous? I think all of these and I am incredibly proud.

I think that both of my children have faced their changed world bravely, showing their courage in some very difficult situations. They have both dared to be different in their own way and boldly faced things head on.

 “What’s the most daring thing you have ever done?”

This was a question posed to me by a potential date at the end of last week. Had I been looking at one of those Bear GryllsAction Man, no-time-for-a-real-woman-in-my-life-I’m-too-busy-sliding-down-mountains type profiles I might have read the question slightly differently than I did. Of all of the questions that I have been asked during this strange experience of internet dating, this is the one that I found the hardest to answer and also the one that, being INFJ, I have thought about most.

For the curious* person reading, this was my reply, or more accurately, they way that I dodged the question:

Tough question because this very much depends on your definition of daring! I think there are many things that I have done that are brave and I think this is a good conversation piece to really get to know someone. Occasionally, I need a metaphorical shove to be brave. That said, jumping out of aircraft or off high things on a piece of elastic? Ain’t never going to happen!!

So on reflection, no, I don’t think I am daring at all- but I am trying to find out if there’s a part of me that is and maybe it’s been hidden away. Courageous? No, I don’t think so. I am possibly bold at times. But brave, yes, I do think I have been brave and I have battle scars (real and metaphorical) to prove it.

But most of all, I’d like to know how you define these words, whether you think they apply to you and how would YOU answer the dreaded question…

 “What’s the most daring/bravest/bold/courageous thing you have done?”

*just plain nosey

The Only Thing That Matters…

IMG_20141218_181910…are the people in your life.

Unlike some people, I prefer to reflect in Autumn and I find New Year celebrations a challenge. What changes can possibly happen over just one night? Well nine years ago tonight my then husband told our children that he was leaving. I choose not to write too much about him because no good would ever come of it and this is my place for healing.

I am introverted. I have again chosen to be at home on 31st December; I am happy with that choice. According to famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung- an introvert is most obvious and vulnerable when he or she is in an overstimulating environment. As an introvert, parties are hell for me. I don’t like drunk people- I had a hideous experience with a drunk at a work Christmas party. I am not shy, I am just happiest with a close circle of people around me. I like to socialise, but with beloved friends and family and above all I like to laugh and love, passionately and unconditionally.

I hit rock bottom in March of this year, there was no major trigger point, I just fell apart and sobbed and sobbed whilst in the middle of a pile of ironing (maybe that WAS the trigger). My grief and loneliness had overwhelmed me, I was bogged down by work, the house, bills and the thought that life would never get any better, I no longer had any joy in life and it had to change. My daughter found me and the look on her face when she said ‘Mumma, please get help’ was enough to galvanize me into action. She tells me that I often go into automatic pilot and find solutions when challenges are thrown at me and this was no different.

I had to challenge the introvert in me, expose my thoughts and feelings, reach out. Guess what? I succeeded!

New York made me feel brave.

I have met (and not met) some wonderful people and a special friend that I hope I will have for life.

I realised that I have experienced great love and although I miss him, nothing can erase memories.

I have been educated in Doric, the dialogue of North East Scotland. It’s not lost on me that my partner was Scottish and I have somehow been drawn into a part of the world that he wanted to share with me.WP_000367

I struggle to thrive in any kind of chaos and I had some work done on the house, this proved to be great therapy in so many ways!

I have enjoyed watching my children grow and develop into practicing adults. It has been a real pleasure for me to see their closeness grow now that they don’t have to live together! I can see that I have been a good role model and mother (oh yeah, middle finger to the ex mother-in-law who said I would fail and lose my kids).

If I had to give a name to 2014 it would be The Year the Laughter Returned.

Family Ticket

Why are family tickets mostly available for 2 adults and 2 children?

I appreciate that offering a discount is a good thing, but how about just reducing prices generally? What about proportionately reducing entrance fees the more people that you have in your party?

On a recent day out we decided that the historical venue that we wanted to visit was really just too expensive for us and over lunch we discussed the pros and cons of reduced entrance fees and the undoubtedly high cost of opening stately homes, castles and places of interest to the public. Is it just me or are days out just becoming prohibitively expensive?

I think it’s really sad. My son is a visual learner and these kind of days out can increase his knowledge of say, history, in a way that he really enjoys. It enthuses him and inspires his desire to learn more.

My family does consist of two adults now, it’s just that one is my daughter, yet we are still very much a family, we just don’t ‘fit’ the prescribed format to qualify for discounted tickets! Strangely enough, my son is also classed as an adult at some theme parks and also on some forms of transport. He has also reached the age where it seems I now need to buy him adult clothing (oh and pay the increased tax on them too)!

Life is complicated enough. Families come in all shapes and sizes and children should be classed as such until they are legally adult. End of rant.

What is Normal?

 

picture-in-your-mind

Is any family normal?

If the opposite of normal is abnormal where do you draw the lines?

Synonyms of normal might include usual, standard, typical, common, ordinary, conventional, to name a few. Do they describe your family? Those words don’t describe my family and for that I am quite grateful.

I have an autistic son; I have no idea what it’s like to have a ‘normal’ son because he is MY normal. In much the same way I have a fiercely tenacious daughter, it scares me at times but it’s quite ‘normal’ in our house. I really don’t consider either of them normal; they are exceptional in every way.

One of my biggest frustrations has been the measuring stick that is used in schools these days. My daughter was constantly told that she should be less sensitive. WHY? Don’t we need sensitive people in the world? My son had to learn to read from fiction books that didn’t make any sense to him, they seemed pointless. But give him a technical article about a ship or boat or train and he could read every word and remember every fact. Why was this so much of a problem?

At times I have craved normality, feeling  that we just limp from one drama to another, each one requiring more tolerance, patience and strength than the last and taking what little energy that I seem to have left these days. But I don’t think there is one that we haven’t conquered. I realise now that doesn’t make us normal – that makes us successful. But I am only just beginning to see this.

Discrimination

the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people

Is it possible for a white girl from a middle class village to experience discrimination?  A little while back, I read my friend Pavla’s blog Small is Really Beautiful and it got me thinking about my own childhood home. It was so interesting to read her views on racism in my own country.

Chobham

I lived in a small affluent Surrey village between ages 9-18, in the only social housing in the village. As a teenager I found it very isolating as the “council house” kids were not considered appropriate friends for other wealthy villager’s children. My school was miles away, as was the nearest town. Transport out of the village was a single bus daily, miss it and you had a long walk! I hated it!

Without a doubt I have been discriminated against as a single mother. There will always be some article or report somewhere blaming a heap of issues on broken homes and single parents. Even people who I thought were friends distanced themselves when I became single.

It’s my experience that any small “difference” from the norm will get noticed, discriminated against or become the target of bullies. My son has been bullied at school because of his autism. My daughter has been isolated at University by a group that quite literally tormented her because of her drive and determination (she didn’t want to take part in the constant drinking).

I have a few questions for you all. What is the difference between bullies, racists, homophobes, misogynists and the like? Are they simply people who never outgrew the playground? Do they ever choose to grow up and think about their past and change or apologise?

Would you agree that education is the key? I think it is, but not formal education. It’s OUR responsibility as parents to teach our children respect for all human beings. To help them find the joys of being with people with different outlooks and experiences. Help them to learn that, for the most part, each individual wants a good life just as we all do. The countries that we wage war with – they have people there with families too, just the same as you and I.

My life has been enriched by people who are categorised as foreign, gay, autistic, disabled, but to me they are just my friends and family.