The Incident

Hello again.

Winter is here, as they, now, say in my favorite TV show, Game of Thrones.  It is cold and wet, and I expect to see some Whitewalkers strolling around in Sale before too long.

Alan has gone to the dentist (lucky him) and I am spending the day inside (actually, lucky me)

I thought that, today, I would share a story from my past.  Something that happened when I was a child.

first, let me explain something.  When my mother was a child, she was a champion swimmer.  She used to win every race she entered, and she almost qualified as a lifesaver.  She could have become a lifeguard if things had been different.

Just as she moved into her teenage years, she began to have trouble with her skin.  She developed a weird kind of rash all over her body.  By the time I was diagnosed with the genetic condition, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, my mother had died, so she never knew that her skin problem had happened because she had had the condition, and then had passed it on to me through no fault of her own.

Mum stopped going to the baths, because of her skin condition.  If she had continued to go to the baths, then the incident I am going to talk about, would never have happened.

Until I was ten years old I had never set foot inside a swimming baths.  I had heard my mother’s tales of triumph, when she was young, and had always wanted to go and learn to swim.  My Dad could swim, but he was working most of the time and when he wasn’t, he was tired.  He had a very hard manual job, laying and maintaining the railway tracks, so when he got home, the last thing he wanted to do was take his daughters to learn to swim.

Then came the time when I was due to go to the baths, with the school.  I was so excited and someone in the family gave me a swimsuit.  I arrived at the baths in Altrincham, got changed and then started to walk down the steps into the water.  I don’t know how it happened, but I was suddenly UNDER the water!  I was drowning!

I really thought I was going to die.  I seemed to be under for ages and the bubbles of my breath were all around me.  Then, a hand gripped me from behind, and I was saved.

I never really got over the experience of almost drowning.  A few weeks later I was at our local shops when a torrential downpour happened.  It was one of those monsoon-like storms that we sometimes get in the Summer time, and the big drops looked, to me, like the bubbles I had seen all around me when I was drowning.  I experienced my first panic-attack.

Of course, I knew what had caused the attack.  I didn’t need a psychologist to tell me it was linked to my experience of almost drowning.  But, for a time, I was furious inside.  I blamed my mum and dad.  I felt that if Mum had not been bothered about her skin problem, and had taken me to learn to swim when I was younger, I would not have had that drowning incident.  I also felt that my Dad had let me down.  He could have taken me instead.

The thing is that, because, my first time in the baths had been with my class at school, no one had noticed me going under.  There were so many children, they couldn’t see them all at once.  If my first time had been with my mother, or father, both strong swimmers, the incident would not have happened.  If I had slipped under, they would have just pulled me back up quickly, and I would have been okay.

I did not know, at the time, that Mum had been thinking the same thing.  She wished she had taken me to learn to swim, and had  ignored the rash on her body.

Of course, I learned to put the incident in the past, but it left me with two longtime effects.  I can not go out in monsoon-like rain.  If I am outside, and caught in a sudden downpour, I have a panic-attack.  I have also, never learned to swim.

However, I did force myself to go into the water, so that I could take my son.  After he was born I swore that he would learn to swim, and I took him into the swimming baths myself.  Then, when he was five years old, I took him for lessons, and he did learn to swim, even though he hates it.  But I know that if he fell into some water, he would be okay.

I always hope my son knows that I did my best for him.

I did not continue to be angry at my parents.  I think every parent looks back and wishes they had done something different.  My parents were fine people who did their best in difficult conditions.  Neither of them were healthy.  Mum had undiagnosed Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, and Dad had a very bad stomach ulcer which affected his health badly.  They both, also developed heart problems which killed them both, in the end.

They were named, Sam, and Vera, and they were both kind, good people.  I know I will see them again someday, when I go to the place where they both are.

Advertisements

A Man Who Is Forever Golden

Hello again.  I hope, if you are reading my blog posts, that I am keeping them interesting.  I like to write about many different things.

This time, I wish to talk to you about the time I heard a wonderful singing voice.

If you have been reading my posts, you will know that I rely a lot on voices.  I don’t recognize faces, but voices, I can recognize.  However, there was a time when I heard a voice I did not recognize and I was desperate to know who that voice belonged to.  When I found out the identity of the man with the golden voice, it kind-of changed my life.

I was working in a charity shop at the time.  It was 2007, and it was the year of the big floods in the UK, but I heard a man singing on the radio, and it was like, he brought the sun with him, in his voice.  I knew I had never heard his voice before, or the lovely song he was singing, but I knew, I had to find out who he was.

Let’s cut a long story short.  I learned that his full name is Michael Holbrook Penniman Junior.  He is half American, and half Lebanese and his home is in the UK.  All of this is encapsulated in one short word.

MIKA

His was the voice I was listening to.  Until that time I had never heard of Mika, but he had already had a huge hit with a song called ‘Grace Kelly’.  I had been listening to his 2nd UK hit, ‘Love Today’.  Of course, I got onto the computer at home and looked him up.  I saw different concerts he had performed, on You Tube, and I became a huge fan of this charismatic, curly-haired young man, with the beautiful smile and stratespheric vocals.

In 2007, Mika was very well known in the UK.  His first album, ‘Life In Cartoon Motion’, sold over 6 million copies worldwide.  He won four World Music Awards, that year, and it seemed his career was really taking off.  I envisioned him performing in The O2 in London before too long, but sadly, that never happened.

Why did Mika not remain a driving force in music in the UK?  Well, I think there were several reasons.

First, he was a bit of a loose cannon.  He wanted to make the kinds of music which suited him.  He wasn’t interested in the commercial aspect of the pop industry.  He wrote his own music so he could not bring out his albums as quickly as someone who could get someone else to write their songs and the people he collaborated with, in the early days, were not well known.  .

This should not have mattered as there are other songwriters who don’t produce albums every year, and don’t necessarily colaborate with people who are famous, but I think there were other reasons, for Mika not remaining in the media spotlight.

For some reason The Powers That Be, and the media, made a big thing about the people who had influenced Mika’s music.  People like Elton John and Freddie Mercury, who he was always being compared to.  But the thing is, every pop star is influenced by someone who came before, but usually no one bothers about those influences.  With Mika, however, people were always writing that he was channeling Freddie Mercury, or that his music had this, or that, influence.  No one gave him credit for the wonderful songs he wrote and sang.  To be honest.  I think Mika’s music is unique and it’s a shame the whole world does not hear it.

There was something else that the UK media did not like about Mika in 2007.  They did not like the fact that he would not utter these three little words to them…

“I am gay”

If he had said those three little words, they may not have been so hard on him.  But Mika would not say them.  For heavens sake!  It was none of anyone’s business.  Of course his fans had mostly guessed, and we were fine about it, but Mika took his time.  He was not going to come-out to order.  He came out when the time was right for him to do it.  By the time he came out, in 2012, the UK press were no longer interested in him, so it’s possible that UK people who were not following Mika’s career, did not know that he finally said that he is gay.  He has a long-time partner and his song ‘Origin of Love’, from his third album ‘The Origin of Love’ is dedicated to the man Mika loves.

Actually, Mika is the gay icon that the world’s gay population do not seem to know exists. His music was always influenced by his sexuality, and songs like ‘Billy Brown’, from the album ‘Life In Cartoon Motion’, and ‘Toy Boy’, from the second album, ‘The Boy Who Knew Too Much’, are very obviously about gay relationships.  But in his fourth album, ‘No Place In Heaven’, there is a song called ‘Good Guys’, and it has a line which says.  “Where have all the gay guys gone?”  It’s about all of the gay guys who influenced Mika when he was young.

He also never managed to break America.  If a UK act breaks America it garners great respect for them in the UK.  Adele and One Direction broke into the American market and the UK media were thrilled about it, but Mika never managed to make it big in The States.  American radio did play Grace Kelly, but there is a line in it where Mika says “I tried to be like Grace Kelly,” and the DJs thought he wanted to be a woman, so they wouldn’t play the song enough to make it a hit in the US.  It didn’t occur to them that the song is metaphoric, not literal.  It is, in fact, a wonderful song about finding one’s own place in the world.  Not being dictated to by other people.

Mika, who is multi-lingual, has spent the last few years judging The X factor in Italy, and The voice, in France.  He has also hosted an occasional radio series in the UK, called ‘The Art Of Song’, where he plays the songs of the artists which have meant something to him over the years.  He plays a wide variety of wonderful music on the show, and also performs some of them himself, at a piano, donated by Elton John.

The radio show has received critical acclaim in the UK, and I’m so proud of Mika.

The latest episodes of his UK radio show are on BBC Radio 2, on the 8th and 15th of November, from 22:00-23:00

I wish more people knew about Mika and would listen to his work.  I have found a link to a great article, which also has some of his best known videos included in it.

http://www.digitalspy.com/music/feature/a808656/whatever-happened-to-mika/

Here is one of my favourite Mika song.  No Place In Heaven, from the album of the same name.

I urge you all to look up this wonderful, sadly overlooked singer-songwriter.  You will not be sorry if you do.  Like he did for me, he will put the sunshine into your life.

Will post again soon

Love from Mari

Halloween: Is it Evil?

Hello again.  It’s Halloween today.  A lot of Christians consider the day to be evil, and want nothing to do with it.  Well I’ve done a bit of research, and this is what I’ve found out, about the origins of this controversial holiday.

It’s actually a mixture of a pagan holiday, and a Christian one.  This is not unusual.  Most of the man-made Christian Holy Days are mixed with paganism.  It was a way of the early church, making Christianity more palatable for the masses who had always followed Pagan Rituals.  Do you remember me mentioning Easter in my last post?  Well Easter is a case in point.

Easter is mixed up with the worship of an Egyptian fertility goddess called Eostre  Her symbol was a rabbit.  This rabbit is now world famous, and we call him, ‘The Easter Bunny’.  So do you see how our so-called holy times become corrupted?

Getting back to Halloween.  Early Christians created a time to remember the Christian Martyrs.  It is called, All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day, or Hallowmas.  The day before is called, All Hallows Eve, which we now refer to mostly, as Halloween.

This holy time became mixed up with an Irish pagan harvest festival, called Samhain.  Samhain means, Summer’s End.

It is said, in Irish legend, that Samhain is the time when the walls of the spirit world grow thin, and spirits walk the Earth.  This ties in to my late Irish Nana’s belief that the souls of the dead visit the living on the evening of All Saints Day (All Hallows Day) In her family, they used to put out chairs before they went to bed, so that the souls of the departed would have somewhere to sit.  I kid you not!

It doesn’t take much imagination therefore, to believe that if good spirits can walk the Earth, then so can evil ones, and for the idea of evil spirits walking the Earth on Halloween, to become much more of an issue to people.  So now we get Halloween, depicting the time when evil can come to Earth and posses people.

Is Halloween evil?  Well, and this is just my opinion, it is no more evil than any other day of the year.  If people want to bring evil spirits out into the open, they are going to do that anyway.  They are not going to wait for October 31st.

Even the holy days, All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day, are not true holy days.  The only true holy days are the ones talked about in The Bible.  All else is man-created, not God-created, so there is no proof that the souls of the dead actually do come to Earth, or that the spirit world is more accessible to us at this particular time.

The spirit world is accessible to us, if we pray to Jesus.  That’s how we access the world beyond this life.  We can really do it, no other way.  If we try to, then we may invoke demons, and that is not a good idea at any time of year.

So, should we shun Halloween?  Well my opinion is that we don’t really need to worry about the day itself.  For most people, Halloween is a chance to have some fun.  Most people aren’t interested in bringing out any evil spirits, they just want to dress up in costumes and have a laugh.  If that is all they are doing, then, in my opinion, no harm is being done.

When I was a child in the 1960s, we did not bother with Halloween.  The idea behind making a big thing of Halloween, originated in the USA.  They started the ritual of knocking on doors saying,  “trick-or-treat”, and the dressing up in costumes.  We copied America, just as we always seem to do.  But in my day, Bonfire night was the time we got excited about.

Instead of knocking on doors saying “trick-or-treat”, us kids used to make an effigy of Guy Fawkes out of old material, stuffed with old socks and other rags, then, we would wheel the effigy around in an old child’s stroller (then called a trolly) and knock on doors, saying, “a penny for the guy.”  People would give us one old penny which we could put towards sweets or fireworks.  On Bonfire night itself, Mum used to bake potatoes in the oven and then we would light the bonfire and set off our fireworks.

So, I hope I’ve given you some good information.  Everything I write is only my own opinion.  I don’t personally think Halloween is threatening.  Like any other day of the year, it is, what you make of it.  Evil will always beget evil, no matter the time of year, and at all times of the year, we can always pray to Jesus.  He is our only safe haven and always will be.

I will post again soon

Love from Mari

 

To perform, or not? That is the question

Hello again.  I had a great time last night!  I’ve joined a storyteller’s club in Sale, and there was a get-together last night.  I have to tell you all that I love to perform.

I was told, last night, that I am a natural performance artist.  It meant so much to me.  I performed a story which I had written especially for that night.  It is a horror story called, ‘Fresh Young Meat’.  It’s on my portfolio on writing.com.  I have several  pieces of writing listed there, which you can read if you wish.

Mastin at writing.com/portfolio

My sister Joan, who I am not in contact with anymore, has always been dismissive of my talents.  She was not the only one who dismissed me either.  I used to go to church, because I am a Christian, and I would always tend to volunteer as a worship leader, since I speak well in public and really felt called, by God, to do that kind of thing, or I would wish to sing, either in the choir, or maybe, I would ask to do a solo.

I always felt, in the churches we attended, that I was tolerated at best, or frozen-out, at worst.  There were always people in whatever church Alan and I joined, who were the ones who did everything and woe-betide anyone who wished to upset the apple-cart.  I might get a chance, in order to keep me sweet, but there was a problem, I was good at what I did.  I honestly think they saw me as a threat to their positions of power, even though I really wasn’t.

I don’t say that they were threatened by me, in order to be vain about myself, or in order to say that I’m better than the next person.  I have always been a team player and I know when to step back, but my talents have always lain in things which put me on show.  I’ve never been that good at stuff which is behind the scenes.  It’s just how I am.  It is ME.  I love to use my talents which, I believe, God has given me to use.

If I perform a song, or speak in public, I always give the glory to the God who gave me the gifts to do that, but for all of my life I have been made to feel that I’m showing off, when other people, who do the same thing as me, are not made to feel that way.

There was a lay-preacher in one of the churches I attended, who would insist on bringing his violin with him, every time  he conducted a service.  He played with a big orchestra  and I’m not sure if he still does, or if he is retired.  That is not important.  What is important is that everyone was (and probably still is) really supportive and no one has ever said.  “Why is he bringing his fiddle with him again?”  They just always accepted that this is what he does.

There was another lay preacher.  A woman who had a lovely singing voice.  When she used to come to preach, she always sang, and people used to natter behind her back.  “Why does she always have to sing?  Why is she showing off every time she comes?”  This double standard really got on my nerves, and I just knew that many of them would have said the same thing about me, so I tended not to push myself.   But sometimes the urge to get up and use my talents was so strong.  If you are a singer, actor or performance artist yourself, you will understand how I felt and the dilemma I was in.

In the end, Alan and I stopped going to church.  We are still Christians and do our own Bible Studies at home.  We also celebrate our Sabbath on a Saturday, which is the day that the Sabbath was always held on, until Emperor Constantine mixed Christianity with the worship of the sun, and changed the day to Sunday (the sun’s day)

We don’t call Easter Sunday, “Easter Sunday”, either.  We call it Resurrection Day.  When you think about it, Easter, as it is celebrated in our Christian churches, is not accurate.  The Bible never states what day it was, when Our Lord was crucified, but it does state that Jesus was in the tomb for three days, before he was resurrected.  Alan researched the real story, so I am confident of what I write.  Jesus was crucified on the Wednesday, not the Friday.  there was an extra holy-day that week, on the Thursday, and that was why they had to hurry up and get Jesus’s body out of the way.  He came back to life sometime after the normal Saturday Sabbath.  Somewhere between sunset on Saturday, and sunrise on Sunday.  Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to prepare the body, on the Sunday Morning, and met the risen Christ, as everyone knows.  Therefore, from Wednesday evening, to Sunday morning, we have the right time frame, which agrees with what is actually written in The Bible.

I don’t mention all of this to rain on anyone’s deeply held beliefs, but I don’t see any harm in mentioning what we discovered, when Alan looked into the background of aspects of Christianity.  It’s worse to hide things, better to talk about them and bring things into the open.

Anyway, this blog-post is a bit different, I know.  But I think it is good to share different things about myself.  I am not just someone who is face-blind, I am a whole person, with wishes, dreams, beliefs and hopes.

That’s all for now.  I will post again soon.

Love from Mari

 

How I cope with Faceblindness

The official website for face blindness is http://www.faceblind.org  and they can direct you to a test to determined how face-blind you are.  I took the test and I am in the upper-top-half.

Okay, so last time I told you all that I have Prosopagnosia.  I cannot recognize faces.  Well… In my case it’s not exactly true.  I have the type of Prosopagnosia which is connected to memory.  It’s like writing something on a computer, and forgetting to click ‘save’.  Once the face is out of my sight, the memory of it is lost within seconds.

I can make myself remember certain things.  For example; Jane and Anne are similar looking, but Jane has a mole on her cheek.  Gary and Mark both have dark hair, but Gary is thin, Mark is heavier set.  That kind of thing.

To explain other ways of coping with face-blindness, I’ll talk about something which will be familiar to all of you.

You are in the street and someone comes up to you.  They call you by your name and are excited to see you again after such a long time.  They ask how you are doing.  You paste a smile on your face and answer their questions, all the time you are thinking… “Who the hell is it?”

Then you try to find something in their face, or voice, or something in what they are saying to you, in order to place-the-face.  Did you know them from work?  From School?  From somewhere else?

You don’t want to tell them you can’t recognize them, because you think it would be rude not to be able to place them.  Maybe you get away with it.  Maybe they say something which triggers a memory for you, and suddenly everything is clear.  “It’s Mavis, who used to live in our road!  Thank God for that”.

I’ve had that experience too.  But I also have it with people I saw yesterday.  Before I realized that face-blindness was a recognized condition, called Prosopagnosia, I used to do what I described above, with everyone.  But I got really good at it.  When I see a face, my brain doesn’t just concentrate on the face.  I look for other signs.  I also rely a lot on the person’s voice.  Not just on what they are saying, but on the voice itself. I can recognize voices where others can’t.

Here’s a true story for you:  My favorite actress is called Jeri Ryan.  she is best known for her role as the unique Borg Drone Seven of Nine, in Star Trek Voyager.

Let me digress here, to tell you that all of my favorite TV characters have looked different from the norm.  I did not even realize this, until I began to talk about face-blindness.  It was when I started watching black-and-white TV, that my family recognized that I had a problem.  I could not tell the characters apart.  One dark-haired cowboy looked just like the next one to me, unless they were in the same scene and I could see both of them at once.  I was continually asking my family, who was who?  The fact that they knew who was who and  I did not, told me and my family that I had a difficulty that they did not have.  Mum suddenly understood why people we all knew well, were coming up to her in the street and telling her that I was rude and ill-mannered.  I had walked right past them without letting on to them.

So my favorite TV characters and actors have always had something distinctive about them, and I have always loved shows like Star Trek, where the faces have distinctive make-up.  Mr Spock, for example, was my very first teenage crush.

I recognize Seven of Nine.  She has a crescent shaped implant above her left eye, and a star-shaped one near her right ear.  She also has a distinctive voice.  At least, I think so.  So I love to see Jeri Ryan in other work, because I love her voice.

Alan, Steve and I were watching a documentary one night, more than ten years ago.  It was called, I think, UFOs and Aliens.  My husband and son were wrapped up in the documentary, but my ears had moved (my ears do move by the way) and I was listening intently.  Suddenly I got up and hunted for the Star Trek mag.  Alan and Steve thought I was nuts, but I found it and looked up stuff that Jeri had done.  There it was!  Jeri was narrating the documentary.  I was the only one in our house who had realized.  I had recognized the unique inflections of her voice.

I hope you liked that story, and it helps you to understand the skills which prosopagnosiacs use.  We are like detectives in-a-way, and the fact is that people often don’t realize we have a problem, because we get so good at hiding it.

However, we shouldn’t have to hide it, which is why I try to raise awareness of the condition.  Now, if I see someone I can’t recognize, I just tell them I am face-blind.  It makes things so much easier for me.

I have an article:  ‘When Everyone Is A Stranger’ and other writing I have done.  You can access it at  mastin at writing.com/portfolio  I think the Prosopagnosia article is also published separate from the portfolio.

Enjoy, and I’ll post again son.

Love from Mari

My Complex Life

Hi there.

My name is Mari.  I am an ordinary housewife.  I am 62 years old.  I am married to Alan who is also 62 at the moment.  He will be 63 in November.  Since I was born in August, 9 months before him, I always joke that he was going in, as I was coming out.

I have started my blog for two reasons.  First, I love to write.  A few months ago I joined a writing group in Sale, which has fired up my interest in writing again  Sale is where I’m from.  It’s a town in Greater Manchester (that’s just in case I get nationwide readership) ha ha.  Anyway, I’ve lived in Sale since I was married, 35 years ago, but I briefly lived in Sale when I was very young.  After that, my family moved to Timperley and we lived on a council estate called, The Broomwood.  I have stories about my past which I would love to share, and will do so, on here.

Here is my second reason for my blog.  I wish to raise awareness of two rare medical conditions, which I have, and I will share with you about them, how I cope with them.  The first is the umbrella condition, for want of a better word.  It’s basically, what causes everything else that’s wrong with me (including the second condition) and the umbrella condition is called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.  It’s a syndrome, and it is also known as Epiloia. It causes calcified tumors to form in various organs.  Mine are in my brain and central nervous system.  Until I was 45, I never knew what was wrong with me, but a brain scan gave me the answer in my middle-age.  I lived all my life before the age of 45, not knowing what was causing my problems.  There was misdiagnosis, there were people who thought I was “putting it on”.  If there is anything like that, that any of you have had to put up with, before you got your correct diagnosis, I understand and I’ve lived with it.  You can share with me and talk about it.  I’ve been there.

The second rare condition is Prosopagnosia.  It’s the inability to recognize faces.  this is not the usual thing of going up to the wrong person in the street.  Everyone does that sometimes.  Prosopagnosia is saying hello to your neighbour, when you see them in their own garden, and then, half an hour later, walking past them in the street, because you can’t recognize them when they are not where you expect them to be.

Any prosopagnosiac will recognize this story.  When my son started nursery school I was terrified of going to pick him up.  I told my mum why.  The truth is, I was terrified I would not recognize him if he was playing with a group of other brown-haired children.  I had brought him up and he was 18 months old.  I had played with him, changed his nappy and I was his mother, yet I feared I wouldn’t recognize him.

Yet my mother understood.  She was used to my condition.  She calmly told me to remember what clothes I had put him into, that day, then just look out for the clothes.  So that’s what I did.

I cannot retain the memory of a face.  It doesn’t get filed away in the memory centre of my brain.  There is another kind of Prosopagnosia which can come on after someone has a stroke, or other sudden brain trauma.  That type of Prosopagnosia means that every face looks blank and that’s why they can’t tell people apart.  That’s not the kind I have.  With my type of the condition, it’s to do with my memory not working right.  I can tell people apart if they are right there, and I can see them all at once, but once they go out of my sight, I loose the memory, so I’ll see someone again, and not know them.  Every time I see a face, I’m seeing it for the first time.

I’ll share more, and talk a bit about coping strategies, next time I post.  I’ll also tell a story from my past

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and that you will come back and read any subsequent posts.  Please feel free to leave a comment.

By for now.  Love from Mari