Just after Glasgow Pride I was asked to answer a few questions about my perspective on gay life in Glasgow. I identify as bisexual although the article did erroneously label me as straight, which they apologised for and offered to clarify (I thanked them and told them it was fine), but aside that, I really enjoyed talking to Jonathan (new friend alert!) and was absolutely overjoyed to be offered a writing position on the strength of that interview! I’ll link any work I do there here, but I figure I’ll let you see this great interview first, and hopefully introduce some of you to the brilliant work KaleidoScot have done! Let me know what you think!
So a last minute family thing meant last Monday I woke up in Cardiff. Don’t worry, I meant to be there! I came down after I decided I needed to see my awesome sister, she was a few days post partum after giving a wonderful couple their longed for child and I just wanted to…. Well, I’ll be honest, I wanted to get drunk with her! So, large bottle of gin in hand (courtesy of the fabulous Maclean-Greavey’s!) I booked a sleeper coach down to Wales -a bargain at twice the price at £15 – I left on Sunday night and cosied in to my bunk and watched movies until I fell asleep.
Side note – Megabus have seriously upped their game with these new(ish) sleeper coaches. Warm, clean, free wifi and a socket for each customer, I would have paid more than £15 to travel down considering I usually pay much more to travel by train and that usually involves a 5 hour stop over in Crewe to save money! Will be using again 🙂
Monday morning was wonderful, I got to see the kids before they went to school and I caught up with Lyndsay, who I’ve not seen since my wedding 3 months ago. When she was still very pregnant. On the hottest day of the year. Oops. She wasn’t best pleased, obviously. The rest of the week has past in a blur of late night gin, playing with the kids, bursting with pride at hearing them read, kicking my sister and brother-in-law out for the whole day (then night ;p), and falling asleep listening to Rhi the hamster spin in her wheel.
I’m staying at my mums tonight, and tomorrow we’re driving back to Glasgow. I’m sad to leave, but home is calling me and I miss my husband. (Squee!) the time away has helped me recharge my batteries and I’m raring to go, hit the ground running etc etc. I need to find a new job, restart taking care of myself and stop letting things overwhelm me. I’ve let myself spiral back down without really noticing and pretty much every aspect of my life has suffered. Being in Wales this week has crystallised my mind and reaffirmed my commitment to myself and my mental health. It’s funny, I came here to be there for my sister and she ended up helping me more. As usual. Of course, I still fed her gin though!
So yeah. Home. And when I’m home – things are changing. For the better. And when I’m feeling down, I know now only £15 will find me back in gorgeous Wales, my second home, to regroup. It’s a lovely thought.
I usually do a list on facebook about what I liked and didn’t like about the Gathering, and I’m starting to see other people put their lists up. But for me, there was not one second I would want to change. Not one. I loved every single second because we nearly weren’t there at all.
You see, with Gof being sick and on leave from work, and me unable to find work after La Senza couldn’t keep me on after Christmas, we have been so low on funds we were incredibly lucky to be able to just make ends meet. So as much as we wanted to, the Gathering couldn’t be a priority of us this year. We tried to make it work, I even told Gof to go alone to save money as he’d never missed it and I’ve only been going 5 years (he refused to consider going without me, the big softie), but in the end the game was a boogey and we had to deal with not attending this year.
See, its not just about the role-playing for us. Although I love my character, I love seeing the people we see all too little of, at least once a year, and having a great time with them. Gof has had these people in his life for so long, and like the distance that separates me to the MMM (the Mad Mental Mob, aka mama, sis and kids), he mourns each mile that takes him far away from them. I’ve grown to, too.
In July, our friends (both here and elsewhere), these gorgeous, generous and frankly awesome (in the very truest sense of the world) people dropped a hell of a shock on us. We would be going to the ball, or at least the G, after all.
Tickets – paid for Extra night camping –paid for Travel – paid for Food for both for 4 days – paid for
Extra spending money since so much was donated – here you go
Love – freely given, and lots of it
Gof has been through so much this year, they reasoned. He needed, after the dust has settled, a get away and to be surrounded by the loved ones he so rarely has a chance to see. Hell, we both did. To articulate how this overwhelming show of support affected us would be a task even Shakespeare himself would find difficult. We were in parts speechless, shocked, and warmed to the core. But it would be Thursday night, onsite, before I really broke down.
And then Friday. And Saturday. By Sunday I’d be emotional but too busy being Nessa to cry, thankfully. I was cried out. Almost.
I cried a bit on Monday again, bidding everyone farewell. I thought my heart would burst with so much love, both inside and out.
There is always a word that sums up each event perfectly, and in this year, both in character and out, that word was family. The family you create, the strength you find in the rag tag bunch of misfits you find make you a better version of you. Blood and bond, the lines blur until you see no difference in those you were born to and those your heart found. In loving Gof, I found family. In loving them, I find myself happier than I’ve ever been. My heart and world view have been widened by their presense. Nessa found family in the Crew, which is why she got dangerously upset by the bickering and potential fracture of that family. She will not suffer that to happen without a fight. Be warned!
I will never get over, in the best possible way, the Gathering and the events leading up to it. Neither will Gof, but that’s his story to tell. Over 30 people were involved in this scheme to surprise us – and more than the money (which was gratefully received!), it was the action of our loved ones… no, family, pulling together and making sure we knew exactly how loved we are that makes this so special. We have a card, signed with the names of all that took part, that contains the words that will now never fail to make me sob with pure joy.
Have I ever told you the story of how Gof and I got engaged? I’m not talking about how after a few years (and several difficulties) we decided not hate marriage anymore and tie the knot, but the moments where the proposal actually happened?
I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t a proposal.
See, Gof had just officially moved in. We were officially, after 2 years of my constant moving around, cohabitees. My shoes and his trainers. His comics and my classics. My video games and his dolls. Sorry, figurines. No, I didn’t mix the last two up.
I hadn’t lived WITH A BOY since my last relationship ended in 2003. At least not with a boy I also shared a bed with. (*side note, he’s actually not a boy, but a manly man of some years senior to mine. Just so that’s clear!) It was oddly anti-climatic, having him move all his stuff in as I called around the various companies who quite rudely demand payment each month, like the electricity people, the cable, etc. and told them they could also chase HIM up for money. We signed the paperwork that allowed us to legally live together in the little local authority flat we both already called home. I kept expecting the OH MY LORDI WHAT HAVE WE DONE moment to happen, like we would run screaming from this relationship upgrade. I mean, on paper we would have never worked. Two years previously, he was a man just months out of a marriage, such a painful break up that he promised never to contemplate marriage again. I was a bit of mess (ah, the wander slut years… memories) who didn’t sleep with him straight away because I actually liked him. I was also weeks away from being evicted from my flat, jobless, and drunk 80% of the time. In what wacky romcom would that turn into true lurve? And yet, it did. He got over his previous relationship in his own time (thankfully, peacefully, and the pair remain good friends which is incredibly sweet), and in that time, I reached a place, mentally speaking, that was somewhere between completely bonkers and trying to improve my life. I stopped using alcohol as a crutch before it became a serious issue. Between us, we worked into each other, turning closer into the people we are by just being with another. I truly do believe that.
Anyway, it worked. We were working. It wasn’t always easy, life seemed to throw more than I thought we could handle in those days. No matter what the problem though, it was never with each other. We were a team against all the world threw at us. And as we settled into a routine that was natural as it was normal, I began to want to celebrate that. I finally had a roof over my head. We lived together. I could access his comics at any time! But how? I didn’t believe in marriage, and Gof was decidedly allergic.
One night in January 2010, we were getting ready to go to a friend’s birthday night out. We were in the kitchen, I was putting on my make up over the dining table and he was keeping us both topped up in cheap booze. We began to talk about how happy we both were. How life, quite happily, didn’t turn out so bad after all. Sure we didn’t know where things were going next, but it was exciting rather than scary. We knew, just knew, that we would be together.Step by step, we had already embarked on the trip of two lifetimes. We already have a marriage, in everything but paperwork, we said. No need for an expensive trip into more debt for one day. And yet, it’d be nice to celebrate the milestone. Look how far we’ve come, watch us go! Yeah, we agreed, it’d be cool to be surrounded with our loved ones and just be us.
Hang on, I said. Did we just get engaged? There was a laugh already in my throat, a joke of how cheesy and lovey dovey we were being. My make up was only half on, but something in me stopped, and I looked at Gof.
Yeah, he said. I think we did. His face was serious, almost in shock.
So we’re getting married? I asked, not quite sure what to make of this.
The wedding is next year.
I’m looking forward to it, of course – but I’m already his partner in crime. We already feel married. That may change, I’ve known people who say it really does feel different, but for now, to me, the wedding will be happening 6 years into our marriage. I’ll let you know if it’s any different on the other side.
I asked my sister if there was ever a wow moment. A moment when she finally understood how fantastic she was for giving this gift.
“No”, she said. “I’m pretty awesome already”.
My sister isn’t the first person you’d think of to have a heart big and strong enough to carry a child for someone else. Baking a baby, she calls it. Even though she’s a fantastic mother of two children, she also isn’t fussed about children who aren’t her own. It’s not really in her nature to be a goo goo gaga kind of woman. So when she called to tell me that she was considering surrogacy, my first thought was, really? You?
It turned out she was practically perfect as a surrogate. She understood the pull to have children, and empathised with people who had struggled to conceive. She wasn’t overly emotional about it, she just knew she loved her children beyond all reason and wanted to help people realise that dream too. In essence, it was ‘just because she could help’.
And help she did.
Searching ‘surrogacy’ online during a break at work, Lyndsay found the COTS agency and started her application. As she went through it, knowing she could still change her mind at any time, she found herself more and more determined to help a couple. She registered and was eventually given case files of couples who wanted to have children.
Joy and Dev had been trying for years to have a child of their own. Six failed IVF treatments and 1 miscarriage (6 weeks, twins) later; Joy was gearing up for attempt number 8, when she discovered she had breast cancer. To get rid of the aggressive cancer she had a mastectomy and with chemotherapy her success rate was 90%, but she refused treatment until she was sure of a baby. Joy and Dev signed with the agency, and a few days later their file landed on my sister’s doorstep.
Lyndsay was struck by the couple’s sheer tenacity, their refusal to give up and give in. These were the sort of people she really felt for; a loving, hard working family unit without the child they so craved. She wanted to give them some sort of hope after the pain, disappointment and tragedy they both fought through for so many years.
Joy, Dev and my sister arranged to meet and discuss their ideas and views on how to go forward. Lyndsay was very sure she only wanted to be a host surrogate, she didn’t want a child biologically hers to be raised by other people. She wanted the detachment straight away, the idea that this baby wasn’t hers, she was just holding it a while. This fitted with Joy and Dev’s plans perfectly; they both wanted a full biological link to their child.
Treatment began straight away. It had to, with Joy refusing chemo until her eggs had been collected and fertilised. Lyndsay, like the true star she is, got pregnant on the first attempt, enabling Joy to begin her treatment. Finally, all the talk of surrogacy became very real. Joy and Dev were going to be parents. Lyndsay was having their baby.
If you live in the UK, you may have seen the documentary ‘I’m Pregnant With Their Baby.’ Lyndsay, Joy and Dev were asked to document their journey for the BBC and in the end, they were considered the ‘success’ story of the 3 stories in the programme. Lyndsay went through the pregnancy always feeling that she was serving a purpose. She felt the pregnancy was different from her own pregnancies, having to take medication and injections daily to ensure her body kept hold of the baby even it knew wasn’t hers. She kept in close contact with Joy and Dev as they prepared for the ‘surrobub’, and Joy went through her own treatment.
On the August 11th 2010, the BBC cameras watched as my sister pushed Tom into the world in her bedroom. It had been decided that a home birth worked best for them all, intimate as it could be given the cameras! Lyndsay wanted Joy to have an instant connection to the baby and the best way of ensuring that was the case. They had a great team who knew to give the baby straight to his mother, instead of to Lyndsay. Dev waited outside and Joy stayed with her, holding her hand as she encouraged her and told her how amazing she was.
Of course, she was right. But Joy was amazing too. I’ve never asked how she felt in those moments, a life time of tragedy and fight finally leading to this moment. Even with the cameras present, Joy was a picture of calm, stroking my sister gently as she was moments away from holding the baby she needed after all that time. Her entire focus was on comforting my sister and the bond between surrogate and mother seemed never more intense or natural.
At my sister’s suggestion, Joy whipped off her shirt and held her new son to her skin the moment he was handed to her. As Lyndsay was taken care of, the first few moments of Tom’s life was spent with his parents. There was a quiet glance, a soft thank you. Then Lyndsay went into her children’s bedroom to sleep a while. When she woke up, she went downstairs to visit her friends and meet their new son.
Joy, Dev and Lyndsay have remained friends to this day. She took her children to Tom’s birthday party and celebrated his first year. When she sees him, she doesn’t think about the nine months of pregnancy, the doctor’s appointments or the medications. She only sees her friend’s son, an honorary nephew. He’s a lovely little boy.
She’s doing it again, this time for another couple. We all have our fingers and toes crossed that she’s baking up another baby, for parents that don’t have a child yet. She decided to do it again after months of thought, although she does intend her surrogacy career to be over once she hands her new friends their baby.
My sister is the most amazing person I know. Surrogacy is only for the strong, the people with a firm sense of self and an iron will. When you can decide you can become a surrogate you become the best sort of superhero.
So today is July 14th. A date forever burned into my heart as the day, now 27 years ago, we were given Paul for a short while. Paul had Cystic Fibrosis and lost his battle in 1997, 2 months after he turned 13. Even though we knew all along that he would die young, and his doctors constantly told us “only a few month left” – it was still sudden. We’d gotten so used to hearing he was dying we forgot he was going to die.
The last time I had the chance to see him, my mum and sisters were going to visit, and I wanted to go see my friend instead, so I went there. I can’t really regret it – I spent my whole life treating him like any one of my family and sometimes I was too selfish to do the family rounds. I was 13! I’m sure he forgave me. I usually hit him a lot, and said I was giving him physio! We knocked lumps out of each other really, but I had the upper hand (and used it!) since I didn’t tire easy. Evil, wasn’t I!
Really, we were just cousins. The whole dying thing was always there (and you bet your ass he used that fact!) but there is no greater power than the need to have fun when you’re a kid. We spoke about it, sure, but everything else was more important. Things like Celtic Football Club, Michael Jackson, WWF (before it was WWE!) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
So yeah, it was sudden. It’s always sudden. The day I found out, I cried with my family, went round to my friend’s house and drank alcohol until I passed out on the bathroom floor. I was 13 and it was the first time I’d ever got drunk. I kept thinking how Paul would never get illegally drunk with me. We wouldn’t celebrate out 18th and have a legal drink together. I wouldn’t hate and judge his girlfriends. I wouldn’t kick him ever again. Wouldn’t tease him.
The day after the sun rose and life went on. I haltingly told my Year Head teacher that my cousin… was gone. She said words that I’m sure were meant to show comfort and sorrow, but I was in a bubble. I didn’t hear a word anyone said until the day my mother woke me up to tell me to get ready for the funeral.
My 13 year old cousin had over 100 people show to pay their respects. It seemed like more. Maybe it was. We listened to Michael Jackson songs and sang You’ll Never Walk Alone. We laughed, and it wasn’t forced. We enjoyed his life, and the impact he had on ours. Someone remembered he owed Paul a fiver and we giggled.
It’s hard to know that he’s been dead longer than he was alive. He should be here. Paul is still so present in my mind that I hate using the past tense to talk about him. I can’t imagine the person he would be and yet, when things get tough I use his memory as my less crazy side. He gets me through, simply by not being here. I can say to myself, Paul isn’t here to live his life, so YOU should. It should work more than it does, but I’m getting there. I know I can’t live his life for him, or worse, live my life for him – but it’s a reminder that I’m capable of so much more, if only I try. I don’t have the troubles he did.
That’s why I’m doing the gig tomorrow. To honour his memory, I’m not doing it simply to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, although it’s definitely a plus. I’m doing it because I love music, I believe in my friends. I enjoy gigs. I’ve enjoyed putting it together. It’s gave me something to focus on. When I’ve dealt with difficult things about it, it made me happy. I think I’ll do it again. To honour him, I will honour myself.
I went to your funeral Yet I see you everyday In the faces of strangers
And they'll never know the beauty they possess Was once yours alone
I hate looking at faded photos Of who you used to be And memories lose colour over time I learned the lessons You don't know you taught
You're a bigger part of my life Than you were before Every second now is a breath You haven't took
Yet you're more alive to me than before
The colours still fade though And time takes you further than I can reach Every moment I know you're gone Because I went to your funeral But I still see you everyday
So, a day before Father’s day I posted a sort of farewell letter to a man who used to be very important to me. Today, I say goodbye to the biological one.
You’re a child.
When things don’t go your way you toss your dummy, scream and huff about how unfair the world is to you. Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that all those injustices have only one thing in common? Take a bow Mr Matthews, you’re the star of the show!
I always knew too much about you. You wear your heart on your sleeve and your lies on your face. You treated me as a confidant, not a daughter, and I gave up so much for you. One by one the children you fathered fell away, unable and unwilling to deal with your pouting – but I stuck around. I made excuses for you. I felt sorry for you. I lost a great friendship and a brother for you. Twice.
I gave up, finally. I had to. I didn’t agree with you on our last meeting. I held my tongue. I cared for my sister, after you left – she was a young woman just hours past a traumatic labour, and you made her cry. You walked in and you MADE HER CRY.
I’ve never been so angry with you in my life, and I have had plenty of experience in that. Don’t worry, I won’t elaborate. I don’t have that much free time… and I’m unemployed.
That was the one time you should not have made it all about you. The one time you could have acted like a father. That night I left the hospital and walked 4 miles and didn’t even notice. I was disgusted with you. Again, I’ve plenty of experience in that with you.
And yet, I still tried. I called. I texted. I spoke to you about my wedding. And yet I’ve not heard from you at all. I’m done trying.
Your girlfriend walked right by me yesterday. I’ve got bright red hair and she didn’t miss me. Neither did her mother. Your youngest daughter, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt too, since she hasn’t seen her oldest sister since November. Today I tried to contact your girlfriend on facebook. I’m off her friends list. When did that happen? I texted you my new number two weeks ago. Nothing. I just called you, to be sure. Well, you’re certainly not using that number anymore, are you?
You chicken shit.You couldn’t even face me to tell me how much of a coward you are. It’s ok though. I knew all along.
You’re going to die alone Roy. You’ll fuck this little family up too. Why change the habit of a lifetime? And I’ve gave up caring.
I will never contact you again. You’ve just lost the one person in the world who understood you and tried to love you anyway.