Friday 19 May 2017

Friday Photos

SD suggested a walk last night.

I hadn't been out of the house much all day and it was a lovely evening so it seemed like a good idea.

We are so lucky in where we live.  We have the canal and the river literally at the end of the road.

Last night we settled on a walk along the river.

Our path took us through Goodlands Gardens

Into French Weir Park:

With views across Longrun Meadow:

Then back along the river towards the town centre:

I don't need to be told how lucky I am to have all of this on my doorstep.

I already know but it was so nice to spend a couple of hours reminding myself.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Chaztastic (Because There's Always Something To Smile About)

Stepping away from my story for a while because there's so much more to life than that isn't there?

Good things are still happening and it's important not to forget that.

There's been a lot of furniture renovation going on around here and there are a couple of projects I want to blog about.

The first one is this:

I've pulled these images straight from Ebay.

SD and I had been keeping an eye on this cabinet for a while.  It fits in with our style and the dimensions seemed right.  Finally we made an offer and it was accepted.

When we went to pick it up we realised that the measurements we had been given were across the front of the doors.  This meant that the base was slightly wider and about an inch or so too wide to fit in the alcove we had planned to put it in.

Fortunately the lovely man we bought it from has his own workshop and he took a section out of the base and put it together again to make it the right size.

So now it was ALMOST perfect.

Although I liked the fact that the shelves and inside had been left as bare wood it was going to mean that when it was in the alcove anything in it would just disappear, it was far too dark!

I set to with a pot of paint:

Giving the sides and the base along with the shelves 3 coats of moonlight white which was pretty much a perfect match for the outside.

As you can see, I didn't paint the back.

That's because I bought this:

How pretty is this paper?

It's got just a touch of glitter without being over the top and it will catch the light and reflect it back into the cupboard.

I'm not the best at papering as you can see but the bits around the batons that the shelves fit on won't be seen once the shelves are in place.

I also decided to leave the inside of the doors as wood.  When the doors are shut it gives a bit of a border which I like.

Then we put the shelves back in:

SD has moved the shelves slightly.  He has also made a half depth shelf that will go at the top but we are still waiting for the right screws to arrive so he can put it in.  The gap at the bottom has been left deliberately large as I have some taller things I want to display.

All we need to do now is to put the cabinet into the alcove and fill it with other chazzing finds.

Friday 12 May 2017

How Does It Happen?

How does a mother who loves her children so much end up loosing them?

How does a mother who never raised a hand to her child, who rarely raised her voice, who took them into her bed if they were unwell.  Who attended every sharing assembly, every parents evening, every sports day.

Who was actively involved in the PTA because she cared about her children's education.  Who spent hours sitting with them helping them with homework.

Who fought their battles with them and comforted them when they were unhappy.

Who loved them so much she would happily lay down her life for them.

Who did nearly all of this on her own.

How did that happen?

HOW did that happen ...

How does that honestly happen if that mother is and does all of the above?

It COULDN'T happen could it?

Except, it did ...

Ex Lax and I separated in November 2009. In March 2010 he started a new job in Southampton.  Far enough away that I would only ever see him when he came to visit the children.

I was so grateful for that.  I was sad for the children and promised that I would do everything in my power to make sure they kept in contact with their Dad.

They were 11 and 12 at the time.

Master Mac took his fathers leaving particularly badly.  He focused on the fact that I had told him to go.  The very valid reasons for me doing this were irrelevant to him.  I made his Dad leave home and now he had moved away.

He didn't behave badly but he did become very withdrawn.  He spent a lot of time in his room playing on his Xbox.

I am guilty of not doing more.  I was very unwell both emotionally and physically.  I felt like I couldn't reach him.  I would put my arms around him and hold him close.  He would let me but he still felt distant.

I guess I thought that as long as he was fed, had clean clothes and was nearby then he was safe.

I guess I hoped that he would find a way out of all of this with my support.

He did to a certain extent.  He started having friends over again.  He started going out with friends.  He still spent far too much time alone in his room playing on the Xbox.

I should have done more.

He missed his Dad desperately.  I struggled to talk to him about his Dad.  I was still very hurt.  I was traumatised by things that had happened.  I was so bloody grateful that he had gone and Master Mac KNEW this and resented me feeling that way.

They saw very little of their Dad in the first year.  He had been adamant that if I claimed child support he would not see the children and he would tell them it was my fault he couldn't afford to.

I believed him so I didn't make that claim.

He saw them 3 or 4 times during that year.

At the end of 2010 he started a new relationship.  this wasn't the same person he had been seeing before I told him to leave (again, that's another story).

She seemed nice.  She encouraged him to have proper contact with the children.

At this time my finances were such that I had no option but to make a claim to the CSA for child maintenance.

Ex Lax was very angry about this despite that fact that he had had a year where he had offered no help.  A year in which I had been willing to make an informal arrangement with him.  He was furious that I didn't do as I was told.

Just after I made the claim I was at the supermarket with the children.

Master Mac got a phone call from his Dad.  I remember he was so pleased when he saw the caller display saying it was his Dad.  He didn't hear from him very often.

He walked away to take the call.

Very soon he was back confused and almost tearful.  He handed the phone to me.  I don't understand what Dad is saying he told me.  He's really angry but I don't understand what it's about.

I took the phone.

Ex Lax was almost incandescent with rage.

What have you told the CSA he shouted at me.

I had no idea what he was taking about at first then it transpired that he had applied for a 'shared care' arrangement telling the CSA that he had the children every other weekend.

Based on this they had reduced the amount of maintenance he was liable to pay.

I had received a phone call from them a few days before.  They had asked when he saw the children, how often they stayed with him.  I told them the truth.

I had no idea at the time that a 'shared care' arrangement existed.  I knew nothing about it and I didn't know what he had told them.

Based on the information I had given them they had contacted him and told him that they would not apply the shared care.  That until he had been having the children for at least 3 months on a shared care basis they would not review the situation.

He had clearly thought that they would take his word for things, that they wouldn't check with me.  If he had thought they would I would have heard from him before.

I stood in the supermarket as he ranted and raved at me.  The children could hear everything he said.  He said again that if I didn't call the CSA and tell them to apply the shared care immediately AND to have it applied to the arrears he had accrued while the case was being sorted out that he wouldn't see the children and it would be my fault.

Both of the children were so upset that I went straight home and did what he told me to do.

Again he was happy for his children to go without, I needed every penny of that money just to keep us afloat but he didn't see why he should have to pay at all.

Because of the circumstances he wasn't given the option to pay voluntarily.  The money was deducted at source from his salary and paid to me.  He was given no choice.

He never forgave me for that.

He did start having the children every other weekend.  Sometimes his girlfriend would pick them up in the car I had bought.

At this time I quite liked his girlfriend.  She seemed to care for my children and I thought she made him a better Dad.

He was often 2 or three hours late to pick them up.  They would sit with their bags packed and ready asking me when he was going to be there.  He never answered his phone or texts when I asked him how long he would be.

Master Mac in particular found this very stressful.

If I became angry about it, if I confronted his father and said it wasn't fair he became very agitated, he worried that his Dad would stop coming at all.  He told me to stop always having a go at his Dad.

I couldn't really win.  He could behave exactly as he wanted and I wasn't allowed to complain.  I just had to pick up the pieces.

During the next year he had them on most agreed weekends.  There were times when he cancelled, times when he brought them home early and, on two occasions he brought them home early and, when I wasn't there, left them on the doorstep with their bags and drove off.

I had issues with the care they were receiving.

I knew that he and his girlfriend both drank, he heavily and her, well, I'm not sure.  I rarely drink and I never get drunk.  It's not something I do but I was concerned that on more than one occasion the children came home not having been fed because both Ex Lax and his girlfriend had been in bed all day.  I was also concerned the Ex Lax might still be over the limit for driving when he brought the children home.

Miss Mac suffered a burn on her arm from an iron whilst in his care.  I am sure this was an accident but I wasn't informed and no first aid was given.  She still has a small mark where the burn was.

One weekend Miss Mac left here with strawberry blond hair past her shoulders.  She returned with cropped hair dyed black.

I had NOT given my permission for this and Ex Lax took great delight in telling me he didn't have to answer to me.

I have no doubt that Miss Mac had said she wanted this hair style.  She was a big fan of The Saturdays at this time and it was similar to the hair of one of the girls in the band.

But she was 11.

It wasn't suitable, it wasn't appropriate, I hadn't given permission.

It was also clearly going to be expensive to maintain. It was an asymmetrical cut, closely cropped on one side and longer on the other.  It was also BLACK.

Within weeks it looked terrible.  The colour and the cut were growing out.

I didn't have they money to maintain this style.

Ex Lax refused to help.  Miss Mac's hair has a natural wave but for this style it needed to be straightened.  She was 11 years old for Christs sake. Far too young to be worrying about this.  My straighteners were designed for long hair, they were far too wide for her hair cut.  Ex Lax wouldn't buy her an appropriate set.  He wouldn't pay for her hair to be cut.  He wouldn't pay for her hair to be coloured again.

She got teased a lot at school.

I paid for it to be done once.  After that I simply couldn't afford to and she had to wait it out and let it grow.  I did get it trimmed as often as I could to cut out the colour and even up the cut but it was a nightmare and she was very unhappy.

Possibly the worst thing that happened was during the summer of 2011.

It was a hot weekend and Ex lax and his girlfriend had taken the children to the beach.

When they got home Master Mac said he felt unwell.

He was very hot and had clearly spent far too much time in the sun.  His shoulders were badly burnt.

I rushed out to buy something to help with the pain.  I put him to bed with plenty of fluids and eventually he went to sleep.

The next morning I went in to see him and I was horrified to see blisters beginning to form across his back.

I took him to the doctors and was given some cream to apply.

The blisters got worse.

Master Mac had suffered 2nd degree burns across his back and both shoulders.

I text Ex Lax.  I asked him how this could have happened.

He told me it was Master Macs own fault.  That he should have taken more care of himself.

My son was 12 years old.  What 12 year old applies sunscreen even if it is provided without being nagged?  I don't even know if it WAS provided.

Ex lax and his girlfriend denied any responsibility.

I sent him this photo:

This was only a small part of the damage.

His response was to send me several abusive messages and a series of photos of himself with other women with very few clothes on.

Master Mac had a week off school.  A week of intense pain.  A week where nothing could touch his skin.  A week of me having to try to carefully apply cream to his burns.

A week where I lay in bed beside him being careful not to touch any part that hurt, we just looked at each other not talking much.  He couldn't do anything, he even lost interest in his Xbox the pain was so bad.

All I could do was hold his hand and be there.

Ex lax didn't phone or text once during this time.

None of this really explains what happened next.  I didn't realise it would be such a long post so I'm going to stop now and tell you more another time.

Thursday 11 May 2017

"We Are All A Little Bit Broken

But last time I checked broken crayons still colour the same"

That's a quote by someone called Trent Shelton.

Now I don't know where or when I heard it and I had no idea until I just googled it who had said it.

It turns out that Trent Shelton is a former American football wide receiver who is currently the founder and president of a Christian-based non-profit organization, RehabTime.

I don't even know what a football wide receiver IS.

I once bought Miss Mac a thing that melted broken crayons and made them into new ones.  You could mix or swirl the crayons to make a multi coloured new one.  You could save up all the small bits when the crayon was worn down and make something usable again.

I don't know if you ever saw them but a few years ago there was a craze for lipsticks that changed colour as you wore them.

They didn't colour the same ...

And what about people who are colour blind?

Some of them are going round colouring grass in red.

So, while I think that is quite a cool quote (and other than Winnie the Pooh, Groucho Marx and the odd Erma Bombeck quote) I'm really not a huge fan of quotes and I still think it's a bit bollocks when you look at it closely.

Where am I going with this ...

God, I don't really know.  I think when I started it was all about how people see things differently.

If you asked Ex Lax his story it would be very different to mine.

He would colour his grass in red.

In a previous post I talked about Master Mac.  A son many of you may have had no idea I had.

Master Mac was born in the early morning on 11th March 1997, 9 days late.

This was the first indication that he would do things in his own good time.

The very first time I looked into his face I was struck by his eye lashes.  They were SO long, so dark and curled up at the ends.

The kind of lashes that women spend so much money having infills, perms and extensions to have.

So long that when his eyes were closed they cast a shadow half way down his soft, plump cheek.

He was perfect.  He was beautiful.  I felt (as I have with all my children) that I was born to be his mother.

I fell totally and completely in love with him.

Nothing that has happened and nothing that will happen has or could ever change how I feel.

Master Mac was a happy child.  He loved his little sister who was born when he was just 13 months old.

But, as I said before, he did things in his own way and in his own time.

He was a little slow to walk and talk.  Nothing too concerning but I guess that it was more noticeable because Miss Mac was in such a hurry to do everything.  The gap between them often seemed less because the distance between childhood milestones was often less than their age gap.

Master Mac didn't have any developmental problems, he just did things when HE was ready.

I guess one of the most noticeable thing (and he probably wouldn't thank me for telling you this) was toilet training.

I tried several times to toilet train Master Mac from the age of about 18 months but he wasn't interested.  It didn't matter too much.  I wasn't in a hurry.  I didn't feel the need to compete in the way some Mums do.  He just wasn't ready.

In fact, when Master Mac was about 3 and able to talk to me, to tell me how he felt and what he wanted I asked him why he didn't want to use the toilet.

'I'll do it when I go to school' he told me.  'I'll be a big boy then'.

You know, that's exactly what he did!

Right up until the very day he started school aged 4 and a bit Master Mac was in nappies.

The morning he went to school he worn proper pants and never wore a nappy day or night from that day. 

Never once did he have an accident.

Master Mac decided when he was a big boy.

The other thing that was a little different about Master Mac was that he spoke to only a very few people.

I don't know how or why he decided who he would speak to.

I suspect now that he had some kind of selective mutism , something I knew nothing about until much later and, at the time, it was just seen as one of his little quirks, no one flagged it up for concern, it was just Master Mac.

In the entire 2 years or so that he was at nursery he spoke to no one there.  He was well behaved.  He played with other children. He pointed to things he wanted.  He appeared happy and content.  He just didn't speak.

Again, before he started school I spoke to him about this.  I didn't understand it and obviously neither did he but I did ask him how he felt about talking to people once he started school.

'I'll be fine' he told me.  'I'll talk to people at school'.

And he did!

He was never a big talker.  He struggled a little to express himself at times.  He was never going to be a chatterbox but he was fine.  He spoke when he needed to and he spoke when he was spoken to.  He was well behaved and played with other children.

Master Mac has always been popular.  People like him, other children liked him.  I don't know if it was the air of not really being concerned if people liked him that drew them to him.  He DID care but he didn't push himself forward and so people came to him.

He formed some very close friendships in those early years.  Four or five other boys who became almost like family to us they were here so often.  He still maintains those friendships.  I still have a huge soft spot for those boys.

Master Mac idolised his Dad.

He saw him as big and strong.  The life and soul of the party.  The fun parent.

It's very true to say that Ex Lax could be ALL of those things.

He wasn't all bad all of the time and I fully understood my little boys adulation.

In 2012 after a very difficult year, after court case after court case. After some terrible things happened.  When I was worn down, very ill and completely broken.  Both of my children went to live with their father.

I will blog the full story soon but for now I'll just leave it at that.

Miss Mac very quickly wanted to come home.

Master Mac chose not to for so many very convoluted reasons.

I desperately wanted them both home.

Master Mac never came home.  I miss him every day.  I love him more than words can say.  He knows how I feel.

Since April 2012 the only contact I have had with Master Mac has been through others.  I've seen him on a couple of occasions when circumstances have meant we are in the same place.  He doesn't acknowledge Christmas and Birthday presents although Miss Mac tells me he receives them.  We have no direct contact but I know he is ok, I know he is well and I have learned to cope with that.

That's not entirely true ...

I DO find ways to cope with it.  I have to so that I can function.

I even understand why he does this.  I know it's not because he doesn't love me and I know he knows I love him.

It's incredibly complex but one thing I do know.  I don't apportion any blame to him.  I understand.  I love him unconditionally.  My door is and always will be open to him.

He is and always will be my 'Best Boy'.

I love you best boy

Wednesday 10 May 2017

If You Only Do One Thing Today

Then go and read this post.

Before you do I will tell you that this lady (who I find seriously funny) doesn't mince her words.

I'm fairly sure that no one who reads my blog is easily offended by the odd expletive and I'm fairly sure you all share my sense of humour so I am certain you will find her funny too.

Even in the midst of a pretty crappy time there is always something to make you smile isn't there and she certainly does it for me.

I'm am realising that I have many more reasons to smile than I have to be sad.

All of the supportive comments you've given me lately are reasons.

The book Audrey gave me and the lovely ring from Miss Mac, more reasons.

This beautiful hand made card that popped through my door yesterday from the wonderful Sarn with such a touching and positive message inside really made my day!

Sitting in the van waiting for SD last night in a quiet country lane, breathing in the scent of newly mown grass and listening to the song of a thousand birds.  The sun warm on my face.  A pheasant wandering down the farm track on the other side of the road, the golden light of a late afternoon in Spring.

This sunset over the farm on Saturday evening (the photo doesn't do it justice, it was so BEAUTIFUL!)

These are the things that keep me going.  These are the things that will be there long after this horrible time has past.  These are the things that no one can take away.

These are the things that REALLY matter.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

It's The Little Things

I've so much more to say but time is short today and, to be honest, cathartic though it is to tell my story, it's also draining. 

Having to remember painful things from the past, things I would rather not re-live but things that are always there spoken or unspoken is hard.

I have to remember these things even if I don't blog about them.  The blogging part isn't the hard part.  The fact that they exist to be blogged about is the hard part.

There are distractions though.  Small things that mean so much.

The book that Audrey gave me.  I'll treasure that book and I'll use it.  I'm going to keep it in the cabinet I'm in the process of renovating (blog post on that and other things soon).

Yesterday Miss Mac was late home from college.

I know she's 18 now and I know she has her own life to lead.  I don't think I'm an over anxious parent.  I like to think I give her just the right amount of freedom while still showing an interest in her life.

But I like to know where she is, that she is safe, that she is happy, that she is ok.

So I send her a text.

'Hey Pops' (Pops is my nickname for her) 'What time you home xx'

'Won't be long' she replies  'just having a wander around town,' and I breath easy again.   She is ok, she is safe.

An hour or so later she is home.

'I bought you a present' she tells me.

'You've been so sad lately, I wanted to cheer you up - I hope you like it but, if you don't I can change it'.

What's not to like?

What's not to LOVE about the pretty, delicate silver ring with tiny flowers?

I don't like to think that my Pops worries about me but I know she is grown up enough now to understand, to be told what is happening and how I feel. 

I don't want her to feel responsible for me, it's still my job to look after her but I do love the beautiful, caring, thoughtful young woman she has become and, like Audrey's book, this ring is something I will always treasure.

Monday 8 May 2017

Twenty Thousand Reasons

In my last post I told you that my proposals for the divorce included Ex Lax signing the house back to me in it's entirely and, in addition, giving me the sum of twenty thousand pounds.

I told you that on the face of it I agreed that this sounded greedy and grasping.

I also said that I felt I had good reason to believe that this was only fair and just.

I will explain now why I feel this way.

As I explained.  I had bought the house many years earlier with my ex partner Big D's Father.  The mortgage stood at £23000.

Unless you have read my blog for a very long time you may have thought that my dates don't add up.  You may have realised that in telling you I became pregnant very quickly in 2007 must mean that I have a child who would now be aged 19 not 18 as I have told you Miss Mac is.

You would be right.  In March 1998 I had a son, I've referred to him in the past as Master Mac but I haven't blogged about him for a very long time.  I will tell his story and the reasons why in my next post but for now I will just say that he is well, he is healthy and I love him more than words can say.

When Master Mac was about 4 months old I fell pregnant again. Again the pregnancy was unplanned and had a very sad beginning (you can read about it here if you wish).

After Miss Mac was born the government introduced  Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits meaning that I could change my working hours from full time to part time without incurring a huge change to my financial situation.

I really don't know how I would have physically coped with two children 13 months apart in age had this not been an option.  In those days maternity leave was 12 weeks when I had Master Mac and 16 weeks when Miss Mac was born.

It has subsequently been raised to 26 weeks.

So, back to the twenty thousand pounds ...

In 2002 after gaining another promotion I was finally in a position to raise my mortgage and buy out Big D's  dad's share in the house.

How incredibly patient he had been!  I will forever be grateful for this kind and caring man who has offered me his support and care through all of the years that I have know him and who remains a firm friend to this day.

The mortgage remained in my sole name and I continued to make every payment myself.

I also paid for all the childcare which at time was as much as £800 a month as well as paying the gas and electric bills from my wages.

Ex Lax's contribution was to pay the water rates (about £30 a month), the Council Tax (at that point about £60 a month), the TV licence (I think about £7 a month) and he bought the majority of the food although I still shopped on a regular basis myself.  Ex Lax was also mainly responsible for any expenses regarding the car.

Looking back this really doesn't seem like a fair division but at the time it was just what I did.

In 2005 we looked at raising the mortgage again.  The house in which I live is a Victorian terrace built just before the turn of the last century.

There are many things to love about this house.  It's not large, only 3 bedrooms.  The only bathroom is downstairs.  There is no off road parking and the garden is smaller than I would like.

But ...

The rooms are spacious.  Even the smallest room is big enough for a double bed and a few other pieces of furniture.  Miss Mac and I have made it into a beautiful room which I will blog about soon.

The ceilings are high giving an airy feel to the rooms and we are within walking distance of the town while still living in a fairly quite road.

There are also many problems.  These houses suffer with damp.  Even a damp course hasn't manage to completely eradicate it and I have had to use damp repelling paint downstairs.  Re-plaster parts of the dining room. Clad the bathroom (which is single skinned) and use a specialist mould killing paint on several ceilings.

There are unexplained drafts in most of the rooms and no floor or doorway is square.  In one alcove we have a display cabinet which on one side has risers that are about 2cm high under the legs so that it sits level.  But I'm used to these things, I don't mind.

I DO mind that since it was built there has been no major work (just a few repairs) to the roof.  In fact we have 3 roofs.  The main roof over the majority of the house.  A roof over Miss Mac's bedroom which extends from the back of the house and another roof over the bathroom which is at the end of the kitchen.

All of these have needed replacing for many years.

Extending the mortgage was intended to cover the cost of having this work done.

It didn't happen.  This was the first time I became aware of Ex Lax's debts.  This was the first time I paid off a substantial debt solely incurred by him (these debts predated our relationship and I had been totally unaware of them until now).

In order to raise the money to do the work to the house I had to add Ex Lax to my mortgage.  I didn't know until after doing this that his debts existed and now he had an asset, my house that creditors could take if he didn't pay them back.

His creditors became MY creditors.

I paid the debts ...

Foolishly I also married him that year (again, more on that later).

So now I had a much larger mortgage.  I now in fact owed more than I had bought the house for many years before.

Fast forwarding a few years.

In 2008 I was offered voluntary redundancy from my job in the civil service.

I had been working there for about 15 years steadily working my way up the ladder.  I hadn't reached any dizzy heights, I was at the bottom end of middle management but it was a good job with excellent conditions and great benefits.

The tide was beginning to turn regarding jobs in the civil service.  For a long time it had been an easy ride in many ways.  All the jokes your hear about civil servants do have a basis in fact.  That doesn't in any way detract from the very real work most departments do and the thousands of dedicated, hard working people it employs.

But it is true to say that compared to many ,civil servants had enjoyed all of those benefits and were cocooned from many of the difficulties others had to face.

As I said, the tide was turning.  Things were not as they were.  This was a good time to move on.  My pension would be protected and I was being offered a substantial sum in compensation.

The idea was that I would take a couple of months off to organise repairs to the roof etc and then look for another job.

I left my job at the end of March 2008 and on the 1st April 2008 my redundancy money was paid into my account.

I've talked about Tax Credits and that fact that they enabled me to work part time.  What I haven't mentioned is the real difficulties and problems Tax Credits caused many people in the early years.  There are many well documented cases where people were over paid resulting in huge amounts to be paid back. There were many mistakes made and these over payments were challenged and often found to be incorrect.

During the period between 1997 and 2008 Ex Lax and I separated  on several occasions due to his behaviour.  During these times I, when applicable, claimed Tax Credits as a single person.  This was well within my rights and, as Ex Lax refused to help financially during these times it was a lifeline.  I could not have supported myself and my children without them.

At some point the Tax Office queried the payments I claimed as a single parent.  They were not suggesting that there was anything untoward about them but they did request proof that Ex Lax was living elsewhere.  They wanted some kind of record, a rent book, anything that showed he was not living with me.

Ex Lax refused to provide this information.  He said he was living with friends, didn't have a rent book, paid them in cash (I don't know if any of this is true) and, on at least one occasion he told me that his friend was not supposed to sublet and wouldn't provide him with any proof in case he got into trouble about it.

Consequently the Tax Office informed me that ALL of the payments over those years would be considered an overpayment.  They sent me a bill for £11000.

I had no way of paying this bill and so it went to court and a charge for that amount was placed against my house to be paid at the point where the house was sold.

This still exists.

When I was offered redundancy my first thought was that I was now in a position to pay back this debt and have the charge removed.

Along with repairs to the house etc, it would mean that there would only be a small amount of money left but as I was going to look for another job anyway I felt it would give us a fresh start, a clean slate.

I was aware that a a couple of years previously Ex Lax had taken out a loan.  I don't know what it was for.  I have my suspicions but all I can say is that it was not to benefit his family.

I thought the loan was for £4000 because this is what he told me. He continued to tell me that was the amount until later. I also thought that as he had been paying it for a couple of years it must have been greatly reduced by that point.  I agreed that I would pay it off.

The day after my redundancy money came through Ex Lax told me he had debts of £9000.

I was shocked.

I didn't want to use my money to pay off this debt but such was his controlling and bullying behaviour that I transferred £9000 into his account. 

Later that SAME DAY he told me he needed another £2000 to clear his debts.

I transferred the money.

In one day he had taken the money I needed to clear the debt against my house promising me that he would work to pay it off now that he had no other debts.

Foolishly I believed him.

Later that month he wanted another £500.

A couple of months later he wanted to buy a new car.

He called me from the car dealership.  It wasn't a brand new car, it was a few years old.  It was still a huge step up from anything he had owned before.

When I got there all the paperwork had been done, all I needed to do was hand over my card and pay for it.

I didn't and still don't drive.  It never occurred to me that it was possible or sensible to have the car registered in my name.  I didn't know you could even do that unless you could drive.

I also thought we were buying a family car.  We were married. Why WOULD I think it was necessary?

I'll gloss over the next 18 months.  They are not part of this post but they will be a future one.

Suffice to say things were not good.  Things were very bad ...

In November 2009 I had no option but to tell Ex Lax to leave.

He was emotionally abusive and physically threatening.

I was worn down, scared of him and very unwell.

I hadn't worked since taking redundancy.  All of my plans for a better life were gone.

He took the car.  I asked for it back, he refused.  He paid no child support for a year threatening that if I persued it he would stop seeing the children (he saw them maybe 3 or 4 times during that year) and he would tell them it was my fault he couldn't seem them because I was a money grabbing bitch.

In March 2010 he took a job in his home town of Southampton.

The relief I felt when he left is impossible to explain.  I finally felt safe.

But I had no money, no job, no car and two very hurt and upset children one of whom was having problems at school with bullying.

I was also in a very poor state emotionally and physically.  I've documented some of my ill health here on the blog in the past without really going into detail about why I was so ill.

It was a very difficult few years and it got far worse.

But this is the reason for the twenty thousand pounds.

£11,500 of my redundancy.  Just under £5000 for the car.  Based on the subsequent CSA assessment roughly £4000 in unpaid maintenance for the children.

As for the house.  Well, I owned it for 12 years before I met Ex Lax.  I have made every single payment on the mortgage and the increased mortgage when we were together and since he left.  He was only on the mortgage and living in the house for 4 years.

Without me there would have been no house to start with.  There would have been no house to borrow money against to pay off his debts.  There would be no house now had I not gone without almost every luxury for the last 8 years in order to pay the mortgage.

If he gets nothing more from it he has already had thousands of pounds of personal debt paid off from it.

I will still be left with a substantial mortgage to pay off, a mortgage that wouldn't exist at all had I never met him. I will still have an £11000 charge against my house after the mortgage is fully paid off.

I should be mortgage free.  I should have a new roof and other improvements to the house.  I should have money in the bank.

Ex Lax as mentioned before is on holiday.  His second holiday so far this year.  He is living in his girlfriends house.  They now have a combined income far above anything we have.  He is having some of Miss Macs maintenance diverted claiming he is supporting his girlfriends 16 year old son.  He has managed to run up another £10,000 of debt.  He claims he drives a car worth less that £400.

You have to make your own minds up about what is fair.

I know how I feel.

Friday 5 May 2017

Where To Start ...

The more I've thought about it the more I've felt that writing about my life with and post Ex Lax is something that might actually be good for me.

It's a huge departure from the things I normally write about but it is also a part of me.

I think if I get it out there I can finally move on properly.  I hate that his legacy hangs over me and I know that despite my best efforts it still has an impact on my daily life.

I'll fully understand if people choose not to read the posts or feel unable to comment.  I think the only thing I would ask is that people are kind (and they always have been). I can only tell my story from my point of view.  I can only tell you what happened to me and how it made me feel.  I can only surmise the why and the how for others and I'll try not to do too much of that.

But where to start?

Twenty years ago when it all began?  That's a long story ...

In the here and now when yet again it seems he is setting out to try to destroy me?

Will the here and now make any sense without the before?

Ok, I'll start by saying that right now Ex Lax is in Tenerife having his second holiday of the year.

I can only assume that he would feel it was perfectly reasonable to have ignored his daughters 18th Birthday in all the excitement.  Or may be he just couldn't afford to send her a card or a present without compromising how many beers he drinks whilst he's away.

Who knows, I'm sure he will have a lovely time ...

I think I have to start with the here and now and then explain the background.

I am divorcing Ex Lax as mentioned before.

We have attended mediation.  Provided financial statements and given our proposals.

Ex Lax proposes that I should release 50% of the equity in my house and give it to him.

I propose that he should sign the house over to me in it's entirety and in addition give me the sum of £20000.

On the face of it my proposal sounds outrageous doesn't it?  I sound greedy and grasping and out for what I can get.  I can see that.  I can see why, on the face of it ANYONE would think I'm being completely unreasonable.

So you need to know why I feel this is only fair and just.

In 1997 I met Ex Lax.  At that time I was living in this house that I bought with my ex partner Big D's dad in 1986.  I had owned the house for nearly 12 years.

The house had a very small mortgage as Big D's father had been left some money by his grandmother which we had used to put down a large deposit.

The mortgage at this time was £23000.

I had a good job in the civil service and was working my way up the ladder and had recently been promoted.  The pay, the conditions and the pension were all good.

I had no debts.  No credit cards, no loans, not even a store card and my bills were all up to date.

I should add that Big D's dad and I were just sharing the house at this time, we were not in a relationship as such.  We had met when I was 16.  Big D's was born shortly before my 18th Birthday.  We had lived together for 18 months after Big D was born and then separated (although remaining good friends ) for about 2 years.  We rekindled our relationship for many reasons and shortly after we did he was left the money which we bought the house with.  Fairly soon after we realised that although we had a huge amount of respect and affection for each other we had simply outgrown our relationship.

There were many reasons we decided to stay together.  It suited us both financially.  No one else was involved and we had a son together who we both loved and wanted to parent.

It may have been unorthodox but it worked for us and we were happy for many years.

Ex Lax was renting an annex in a friends house.  He had moved down from Southampton, changed his name, started a new life and had no contact with family or friends from his previous life.

That should have worried me but I believed his version of events which I wont go into now.  All I will say is that he made me believe that he had suffered a terrible time and completely cutting off that part of his life was his only option.

He was working cash in hand when I met him.

I very quickly (and accidentally) became pregnant. Ex  Lax would have preferred me to have an abortion (which incidentally I DO understand) but that was never an option for me.

Obviously this was the first time I should have walked away.  His controlling behaviour and bullying started to become apparent almost straight away.

He was very angry one evening that rather than be with him I spent the evening with a friends who's relationship was breaking down and who had very recently discovered she was pregnant.

He was very angry when I arranged to go out with friends and meet him at the same time that I didn't leave my friends and spend the entire evening with just him.

He was very angry that I cancelled a date because my pregnant friend called to say she was having a miscarriage and could I be with her.

He was very angry that the following day I cancelled again so I could go with my friend to the hospital to have a medical procedure as a result of the miscarriage.

He didn't care that my friends mother also died on the day that she was having that procedure and that while I was waiting in the hospital for her to come out of the operating theatre her Father came in to tell me that her mother had died.

He DID care that I had cancelled him because of it.

Why didn't I walk away at that point?

I honestly can't tell you.  I had never come across someone like this.  I was newly pregnant.  Scared for the future. Devastated for my friend.  He made me feel guilty.  Like I was letting him down.

I made the wrong choice.

Ex Lax had to move from where he was living as his friends wanted to sell their house.

He wanted to move in with me but at that time I was still sharing the house with my ex partner.  It wasn't an option to move quickly.

Big D's dad and I agreed that he would move out and rent somewhere and I would remain in the house but this took time.

Meanwhile Ex lax lost his job so he was jobless and soon to be homeless.  This, he made me feel was my responsibility.

I found him a house share close by, it wasn't ideal but it was something.  I paid his rent for several months and cashed in an ISA I had to buy him a car (only a cheap one, but a car).  I had wanted to use that money to buy things for the baby.

Big D's dad found somewhere he was happy with after a couple of months and moved out.

We agreed that for the time being I would pay the mortgage and, at some point would raise the money to buy him out of his share.

Throughout all of this we stayed friends.  It sounds like a terrible thing to do to him but it honestly wasn't like that.  I had immediately offered to sell the house, to release his much larger share of the equity to enable him to buy something else if that was what he wanted.

It says a lot for him that he refused.  That he didn't want me to go through that upheaval when I was pregnant.  That he was happy to wait until things were more settled.

He is SUCH a good man and still one of the few people I would turn to in times of trouble and someone I will always be there for.  

He is family.

I didn't know at this time that Ex Lax had debts.  A fact he kept that hidden from me for several years.  I also had no idea that he was a heavy cannabis user and a gambler which is why he was in debt.

Looking back I find it hard to believe I didn't know about the cannabis.  In my defence, I had no knowledge of the stuff.  I didn't recognise the smell on him.  I didn't know the signs of a user.  I had had no previous experience of it myself or with my friends.  It wasn't something we did.

The debt and the gambling he kept hidden for many years.

 So, in the November he moved in.  I was about 5 months pregnant.

It very soon became apparent that Ex Lax was a heavy drinker.  I would say he is on some level an alcoholic.  He drinks to get drunk.  Not every day but every time he drinks.  His father was an alcoholic and died from related illnesses.  His brother is a recovering alcoholic who was frankly quite vile in the time I knew him, violent and abusive.  I believe that alcoholism may run in families.  I don't know if this is true but it seems that way in this case.

Ex Lax blamed most things on an abusive childhood.  He also claims to have had a terrible first marriage which led to him leaving his childhood town and reinventing himself here.

I still believe that at that time he wanted to build a different life.  He had grown up surrounded by people who didn't work, drank heavily, were unable to form loving relationships and didn't care for their children.

In me he saw something else.  Someone with values, someone who wanted a proper family, someone so far from the was he was used to and he wanted that too.

But his past was ingrained in him.  He wasn't capable of being the person he said he wanted to be and he resented me being the person I was.

He often told me that I thought I was too good for him.  The truth is that HE knew I was too good for him so he wanted to punish me for it.

He did.

The twelve years we spend together were some of the worst of my life.

That's probably enough for one blog post but I will revisit the reasons why I have made my proposals for the divorce in my next post because right now you would have every reason to feel that I was being unfair in my demands despite everything else I have told you.  I hope when I explain more you will understand why I feel I'm being more than fair.

Thursday 4 May 2017

Distractions And Unexpected Presents

I started writing my story this morning.

It was hard.

It was hard to know where to begin.  It was hard to know what to include. It was hard to know when to stop.

I still intend to write it but I was very glad this morning when Bob phoned and asked me to go and see Audrey with him.  I needed the break from it.

Audrey is a lovely elderly lady who comes to our Bingo and often stops by to chat when we are gardening at the park.

I have developed a deep fondness for her and have been helping her sort a few things out.  Her husband who is a double amputee had to go into a nursing home last year.  He has dementia.

Audrey is a very sprightly, extremely well groomed and very gently lady.  I have a lot of time for her and pop round frequently for a cup of tea and a chat.

Audrey lives in what should be a very pleasant flat.  It WAS a very pleasant flat until a drug user moved in next door.  Now Audrey is afraid.  She has addicts sitting on a low wall just outside her house and she feels unsafe.  We are working to try and change things for her and we will!

Audrey's husband had a mobility scooter, this is kept in a 'safe' lock up within the flats.  Unfortunately the drug user also has access to the lock up.

A few days ago someone tampered with the mobility scooter attempting to force the ignition.

Today Bob and I moved the scooter to the pavilion where it will be safe and Bob will mend the ignition for her.

Just before I left Audrey told me she had something for me and she gave me this:

How lovely is this?

Audrey knows about my love of baking and she knew how much I would treasure this book.

I don't know how old it is but it has an inscription inside which although rather faded appears to be wishing her a Happy Christmas in 1966 (which just happens to be the year I was born).

The book is in imperial measurements and the UK parliament announced plans to go metric is 1965 so I think that date probably is correct and anyway, I think in imperial as I was taught to cook by my Grandmother so I always have to use a conversion table for metric recipes.

After helping Audrey Bob invited me round for a cup of coffee at his house.  I stayed for an hour or so chatting and playing with Charlie his little terrier.

On my way home I passed Sue putting rubbish into her bin.  Or maybe she was taking it out ...  Maybe it wasn't her bin at all - who knows?

She waved and shouted a cheery hello to me as I passed.

As I approached my house I saw Nigel who lives across the road chatting to the postman.  He also waved and asked how I was.

As I stopped outside on my bike Roger who lives a few doors down pulled up and stopped to chat for a bit.

As I put my key in the door I heard another person greet me.  It was Sam who used to have a lovely dog who was blind.  I used to walk around the park with him when I was taking Gus out.  He stopped to ask after Gus and to see how I was.

Eventually I came in and sat down and inexplicably started to cry.

All of these lovely people who waved so cheerfully or stopped to talk to me.

They are all my friends and neighbours.

Some are a little odd - some VERY odd - all of them are kind and caring and a part of my life in some small (and sometimes bigger) way.

If Ex Lax gets his way they will soon no longer be my neighbours because I will have to sell the house I have lived in for 31 years.

If Ex Lax gets what he wants then Miss Mac and I will soon be homeless.

That is what I started to write about this morning before Bob's phone call.

I'm so glad he phoned.  If I hadn't gone out I wouldn't have been reminded how kind and caring most people are.

I think that's what made me cry - I don't cry easily you know.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Legislation ...

I wrote the post below a couple of weeks ago, published it and then put it back into draft.

Why did I put it back into draft?

Well, I have a horror of sounding bitter or grasping.  I don't believe I am either of those things but sometimes you are so close to something it can squew your judgement - I can't guarantee that hasn't happened to me.

So why publish now?

For a couple of reasons.  Things have changed (not with anything below, that remains the same.) and things have happened.

The major event in my life recently is that my beautiful daughter Miss Mac turned 18.

I'm so proud of her and I love her so much.

She didn't even get a card from her father let alone a present.  The only acknowledgement of her Birthday was a public message on Facebook sent late in the day when clearly Facebook had prompted him that it was his daughters Birthday.

I shouldn't be surprised really.  She got nothing last year either and no Christmas present or card.

She has seen him just once in over a year despite that fact that he visits friends locally on a regular basis and despite the fact that she took time off work to go and visit him (funded by me) and he cancelled at the last minute because he was 'busy'.

She saw him for a couple of hours a couple of months ago when he had already been in the same county for the weekend with friends.  He had only come down to introduce the latest in a very long line of girlfriends to his friends.  He brought her with him when he saw Miss Mac.  He had no interest in spending time with just her.

Like I said, other things have happened too.  I may talk about them at some point.  Believe it or not, they consist of even worse behaviour on his part.

I don't generally talk about him here but there is no one left to protect and there is no reason to stay quiet.

Staying quiet is how people like him continue to try to destroy people and that's not happening to me or my girl any more ...

'The act of making or enacting laws'.

Occasionally I write a serious post.

Today is one of those days.

I mentioned before that I am in the process of obtaining a long over due divorce.  I've also said that I probably won't blog about it very much.

The reason I won't blog about it very much is that it's a very emotive subject.  It's also very subjective.

Many of you will have had your own experience of divorce.  If you were lucky it will have been amicable, straight forward and ultimately fair.

I strongly suspect that mine will not be the first two so the best I can hope for is that it will be the last.

But that's really the subjective part isn't it?

Here in the UK you are now strongly advised (and in some cases compelled) to attend mediation before you can progress a divorce.

I see the sense in this.

Since Legal Aid is no longer available for divorce in this country (other than in exceptional circumstances) it can be a lengthy and expensive process with the main beneficiaries being the lawyers.

Mediation gives each party a stronger voice.  It hopefully allows you (alongside legal advice) to reach and agreement with which everyone is, if not exactly happy, then satisfied and, if the process works then the final cost is much less than it otherwise would have been.

It makes sense doesn't it?

So I have started this process.

The first stage is independent meetings with a mediator to discuss the process and, if applicable, to assess if either party is entitled to Legal Aid.

I had my meeting in February.  Ex Lax initially objected to a) having to travel here to have his meeting and b) to having to pay for his meeting.

It was agreed that he could have a telephone meeting and, having been informed that a judge would almost certainly insist that he had the meeting he agreed to pay.

The second meeting is where you are expected to give a full financial disclosure.  This involves quite a lot of work.  There are potentially 14 different documents you need to provide (although not all are applicable to all people) and many of them require a 3rd party to provide information on your behalf.  It's a bit of a slog to be honest.

I treated it as a job.  I listed all the things I needed to do and get.  I bought folders to house paperwork.  I sifted through all the paperwork I had here at home and I collated everything.

By the time of the next meeting I had all but one of the required pieces of paperwork ready.  The only thing missing was my state pension valuation which I applied for in February but which can take (and has taken) up to 12 weeks to arrive.

Ex Lax, as expected had very little but just sufficient for the meeting to go ahead.

The meeting falls into two parts.  The first being the financial disclosure where each document is given in the listed order by each party so that at the end you have two columns that should mirror each other and a full financial picture of each party.

Our meeting was a little more complex due to Ex Lax insisting he wouldn't be in the same room as me.  We therefore had to have what they called a 'shuttle' meeting where the mediator literally had to shuttle between two rooms taking his flip chart with him and go through everything twice.

This incidentally increased the cost of the meeting by roughly 30% for each of us as two meeting rooms had to be booked and the meeting time extended by an hour to allow the mediator to go between the two rooms.

I have to admit that I felt this substantial increase in cost to me was a little unfair given that I wasn't the one insisting on being in a different room but I sucked it up because it's the end result that matters isn't it?

The second part of the meeting is where you say what it is that you want from the divorce.  That could involve (but didn't in our case) any child care arrangements you want to make.  It's also your opportunity to discuss what you want from the divorce financially.

This was always where Ex Lax and I were going to have very different views so it was no surprise when, having talked to him first, the mediator told me what Ex Lax wanted.

EX Lax was probably slightly surprised and was certainly not very happy with my counter offer.

Ex Lax has a serious case of entitlement.  I'm not entirely sure what he bases this on.  Certainly not any input financially, emotionally or morally by him.

However, no matter, it was disappointing but expected.

My offer is based on facts.  It's based on documentation. It's also based on what I believe to be morally right and fair.

I appreciate that the last part may not be legally binding.

At the moment it's not prudent to share any more detail than that.  I may when this is all over, I have nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, I want nothing more than to move on and live my life.

This wasn't actually supposed to be a post about my divorce at all.

I was planning on telling you about something that I feel is very wrong with our legal system.  You may or may not agree with me and that's ok but my conviction will not waver.

Ex Lax has always tried to avoid financial responsibility for his children.

He paid no maintenance for the first year we were apart using bullying tactics and emotional blackmail to stop me from claiming it.

When my financial situation became so desperate that I was forced to make a claim things got very ugly in ways that I don't even want to think about let alone talk about but. when I've said previously that SD probably saved my life, it wasn't an exaggeration, I genuinely think there is a chance I may not have been here today had he not come back into my life.

Enough of the drama queen!

Today I received a letter from the Child Maintenance Department.  They have taken over from the CSA (Child Support Agency) and slowly all cases are being transferred to them.

It's been an arduous process with many mistakes being made and, as the paying parent now has to be given the option of making voluntary payments (previously Ex Lax's payment were taken directly from his pay) it has meant a series of late payments, under payments, objections and even misleading information from Ex Lax.

It's been another struggle!

When I received the first schedule of payments in February I noticed that on page 4 it  said that a reduction had been made because Ex Lax had a child living with him who he received Child Benefit.  They call this 'other children a paying parent supports'.

If a paying parent supports another child a 15% reduction is made to their assessable income before any payable child maintenance is calculated.


I informed the Child Maintenance team that this was the case and they told me  that they had received their information directly from the Child Benefit Office which Ex Lax was apparently claiming but that they would follow it up.

Finally, at the beginning of April I had a letter from them stating that they now had evidence that Ex Lax had a total of 0 children that he supported and the adjustment was made to the maintenance due as well as it being backdated to December when my case had transferred.

Cool ...  Or so I thought!

The letter I received yesterday stated that my child maintenance payments had been changed as they had been given evidence that Ex Lax had a total of 1 other child that he supported and my maintenance payments would be reduced accordingly.

I was confused ...

I phoned them - THEY were confused - had Ex Lax actually fathered ANOTHER child that I knew nothing about???

It seems not.

The child in question is the child of his latest girlfriend. 

Apparently Ex Lax is now 'supporting' the child of his girlfriend of a few months and is therefore entitled to a reduction in the amount of maintenance he pays for his own child.

There are several things that strike me as wrong about this.

None of them are about the actual money.  As SD says, the money is not the issue, we managed, we WILL manage, we are good at managing.  Yes, we are on a low income compared to many but if you read my blog you know that we do without very little.  We work hard, we play hard and we get out and about far more than most.  I do not in any way feel cheated because we don't have a lot of spare cash.

But I DO feel that Miss Mac is being cheated in this instance.

Every penny of maintenance I get for her is invested in her in some way and now some of it is being diverted.

I really can't understand the reasoning behind this.

Ex Lax's girlfriend has a job and a house.  He has moved into her house.  This means they now have a joint income meaning they are both presumably better off.

I don't have a problem with that, it is none of my business.

His girlfriend has a child.

I don't have a problem with that, it is none of my business.

Her child has a father who presumably pays maintenance for her child.

I don't have a problem with that, it is none of my business.

Some of Miss Mac's maintenance will now (in theory but almost certainly not in practise) be diverted to that child.

I DO have a problem with that, she IS my business!

The child father won't receive a reduction in his maintenance payments because Ex Lax is (in theory but almost certainly not in practise) helping to support his child.

So effectively, in situations like this, not only is the father of a child helping to support his child but a totally unrelated child is expected to give up some of the money that should come to them in order to support this child.

I DO have a problem with that!

Once again, it REALLY isn't the money, of COURSE the money matter but we WILL manage.

It's the principle.

Why is Miss Mac being made to pay for the child of her fathers girlfriend?

How can that EVER be right?

(By the way, this isn't something that happens automatically.  This is something Ex Lax applied for.  He had a choice.  He chose to do this.)

My heart breaks that in all of this he has not once thought of his daughter.  Not the financial impact so much but the fact that once again he has shown how very little care he has for his own child.
My beautiful, bright, clever and loving girl ...

How could someone not want to do the very best for their child?

It beggars belief ...

Like I said earlier, you may or may not agree with me.  You may feel this system is perfectly fair.  You may be on the other side of this argument and have a very different view.

I accept that.  This is close to me and affect someone I love will all my heart.  I may not be objective.

My feeling is that Ex Lax AND his girlfriend should be deeply, DEEPLY ashamed of themselves.