Reader, I Married Him

This weekend, the husband and I will celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary.

I don’t know where the time has gone.  It seems like only yesterday that I remember telling friends I was getting married, when just a few days before I had been very much single!!

Yes! Ours was a bit of a whirlwind romance…

In early January 1990, my parents told me that they were going to a dinner party and I had been invited too.  I knew immediately it was just a wheeze for my mother to introduce me to another “suitable” man.  She had been introducing me to them from my 21st birthday, although I kept telling her there was no need as we weren’t part of a Jane Austen novel.  She wouldn’t stop though and I met a number of doctors, lawyers, doctors, engineers, doctors and more doctors.  It was highly embarrassing as these men were usually half my height, boring and bizarrely, most of them looked like Charlie Chaplin!  After each contrived meeting, my mother would look at me hopefully and expectantly until I dismissed each of them with a pointed “No”

If I ever brought a boy back home, she would cook him a veritable banquet in the hope he would then whisk me down the aisle.  In fact, she seemed to be so desperate for me to find someone that once, she actually asked me to look closely on my tube journey to work to see if there were any suitable doctors getting off at my stop for Hammersmith Hospital ! 

Anyway, my mother’s friend had invited us all to a dinner party and she said another friend was bringing his young brother along who was on holiday here from America.  I categorically said no as it was mid-week and at that time, I was working overnight on BBC1’s “Breakfast News”.  However, even though my dad was sympathetic, my mother wore me down and I ended up going, even though I was tired and grumpy.  I made no effort, and I turned up in an old black dress with my unwashed hair scraped back into a ponytail and no make up whatsoever.

And there he was.  Surprisingly tall and broad, like a rugby player….and nothing like Charlie Chaplin!  In fact, he had a lovely, kind face with smiling brown eyes

We hit it off straight away and spent the whole evening chatting to each other, completely oblivious to the other guests.  He was very easy to be with. This was no Jack-the-lad that I was normally used to, but a really warm, genuine man.  He wasn’t setting out to impress, which actually made him highly impressive.

We arranged to meet the next day as he was flying back to America the morning after that. We had another lovely evening talking openly and easily about past relationships and what we wanted in our future partners, unspeakingly realising that we were a perfect match.  As I was giving him a lift back to the station, we stopped at some traffic lights and he just looked at me and simply asked “I don’t suppose you’d be interested in marrying me, would you”. I was so shocked that I just blurted out “Yes, OK then” because it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to say.

I took him home then, as he wanted to ask my Dad for permission and do everything properly.  Fortunately, my dad said yes as if he had known him for ever and my mother…. passed out!

He went back to America and the wedding was set for the 21st July.  But actually, although we spoke and wrote every day, we didn’t meet again until late June, when he returned to get ready for the Big Day.  When I think of it all now, it was so risky.  I said yes to someone who I hardly knew but the thing was, I did know that he was The One as soon as I met him.  And he says he felt exactly the same.  Twenty-three years on, I guess those gut instincts must have been pretty good as we are still together.

I admit to being a difficult woman to live with – a bit high maintenance perhaps, but he’s very laid back and very attentive and always makes me believe that he is so proud to be with me. My friends all seem to love him and often tell him they feel sorry for him having to put up with me.  But I say he is lucky to have me….and he smiles because he knows it’s true !

He is a great dad to our two children and over the years, we have settled into a comfortable family routine together.  Some may call it a rut but it seems to suit all of us.  We get on well and enjoy each others’ company…..most of the time!

It’s a simple life where we get by – living together and looking out for each other

I would like to say our marriage is a blissful union full of almost unimaginable love and fulfilment ! I’d like to say that but fairly regularly, our idyll is shattered with a massive argument.  At these times I am sure we must be a living, breathing reassurance to all our single friends, who suddenly realise that they may have made an excellent lifestyle decision

Our sources of conflict are many – usually centering around money, or his lax attitude to timekeeping, or his refusal to follow my directions in the car and then daring to blame my weakness with my lefts and rights…

But then on occasion, I quite like him.  For instance, as I was watering the garden last night, he came out and gave me a very sweet kiss, telling me that I was still a beautiful woman.

That’s the sort of thing I like to hear and it makes me realise that after twenty-three years, I don’t want to be without him. 

In fact, if I’m honest, I can barely remember what life was like before him.

Advertisements

Farewell, Alison Ford

Tomorrow, I’m going to a funeral.

I shouldn’t be and it doesn’t make sense because Alison was young, gorgeous, passionate and full of life. I still can’t believe she’s gone.

She died last Tuesday 2nd July 2013 after a long battle with cancer.  And when I say battle, I mean she really fought back – more than anyone I’ve ever known.  She was truly inspirational.

Alison Ford was the editor of BBC Breakfast which goes out every morning on BBC1 and the News Channel from 0600 and in the last six years, under her leadership, she made it more successful than it has ever been in its thirty year history.  The BBC Director-General Tony Hall, called her a “brilliant editor” and of course, she was.  But so much more than that, she was a wonderful manager and a great friend to many.

And I’m so very proud to say, that I’m one of them

She joined the BBC as a trainee reporter in 1991 but it wasn’t long before her management skills were spotted and she held a number of senior roles in BBC News, including Editor of Midlands Today, before becoming Head of BBC East Midlands, responsible for all radio, TV and online output in that region.

From there, she became UK Newsgathering Editor and more importantly, my boss !

I remember when I first saw her.  It was after she had got the job but before she had taken up the post and she had come to look round the newsroom, see her new office and chat to management.  She was bright blonde and gorgeous and the rest of us were all appraising her, ready to make our first judgements just on her appearance.  As I was musing on how young she was, a rather forthright (well let’s be honest, downright bitchy) colleague sidled up to me and said “ she’s a bit brassy, isn’t she” and as I considered that comment, Alison turned round to look at the team and caught me looking at her.  She gave me the most beautiful smile and I was instantly hooked.  As she walked into her office, I turned to my colleague and said quite simply “I like her” and from that point on I wouldn’t hear a word against her.  Not that there ever was one.  She won everyone over pretty quickly with her big personality and natural warmth

She joined Newsgathering at a time when we were in a bit of a mess.  In fact, it was so bad that I was actively looking for other jobs within the BBC in a bid to escape the management.  However, Alison came along at just the right moment, took one look at the place, saw what was wrong and rectified it immediately.  She simply merged two departments together to get rid of some very weak managers and a lot of duplication.  Within weeks, she had streamlined our area, and had us all working more efficiently. Almost overnight, I enjoyed my job again and under her leadership we enjoyed somewhat of a golden era

I got to know her personally quite soon after she started the job.  I had gone for a drink one evening with Jim, my immediate manager who was already close friends with Alison, and unexpectedly she suddenly came and joined us.  I remember being on my best behaviour at first, as I wanted to impress her but by our second drink, I realised there was no need as she was such an easy person to be with.  That first evening, we spoke quite frankly about the difficulties of being working mothers and she opened up with complete honesty about how hard it was for her being away from her family in Nottingham for much of the week. But then, we both agreed that however hard it was, the fact that we worked and had jobs that we enjoyed, actually made us better mums….and we got yet another round in to drink to that !

She got to know her vast team and became familiar with their strengths.  She told people that they could come and talk to her about problems or worries and she genuinely meant that – they weren’t just empty words.  Bizarrely, because I knew I could complain to her at any time if I wanted to, I suddenly never needed to. In fact, under her management, I never had any complaints.  And whatsmore, I watched how she dealt with some notoriously difficult people and marvelled at how absolutely brilliant she was at placating them all.

As well as being a fabulous manager, she had great news judgement too and at our editorial meetings, she was never afraid of taking a story back to basics to make sure we were covering it properly

All too soon, it seemed, the post of Breakfast Editor came up and of course she got it.  I couldn’t bear the fact that she was leaving us, but she gave me a hug and said that she’d had to apply for it as it was her dream job and her eyes were so bright and excited about the prospect that it was impossible not to be happy for her.  And the Breakfast desks were just next to ours so it wasn’t as if we wouldn’t still have her around.  And sure enough, the drinks after work and joining her outside for a chat while she was having a quick cigarette break, still continued.

I realise now as I write this that I pretty much idolised her and I guess that’s how everyone else felt too because she had this unique talent of making everyone feel special

And she seemed so unaware of how great she was.  I was fortunate enough to get on to a BBC management scheme a few years back and it was great with lots of really interesting courses.  One of our tasks was to facilitate a day of workshops and find an inspiring BBC manager to give a talk.  It said a lot that the rest of the group didn’t feel they knew any good managers to ask and I was jumping up and down suggesting Alison.  When I asked her if she’d do it, she was thrilled but seemed a little bewildered as to why I thought she was right and kept suggesting other senior managers.

She was so beautiful and really cool and very funny. We were always discussing different diets and there was one that involved only ever eating half-portions. I walked into her office late one afternoon, just as she was fishing out half a sandwich from the bin that she’d discarded earlier as part of her regime.  But because she hadn’t had a chance to eat since, she needed to rescue it!  I hasten to add it was still in the wrapper but she couldn’t stop laughing at my face and assured me it was a one off.  I don’t think it was that particular diet but she did end up losing loads of weight and she looked amazing.  She came in one day in tight black trousers and heels and she looked more like a rock chick than a mother of two growing young men.  I was in complete awe of her

When she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, it was such a shock but she was amazing.  She was determined not to let it beat her and at first it seemed that the cancer wouldn’t stand a chance.  The gruelling treatment didn’t seem to affect her in the beginning and it was just another thing to do in her already busy schedule. When she lost her hair, she wore a wig for a bit but then discarded it as soon as her hair started to grow back.  And she wore that look so well. Closely cropped hair really suited her strong features

When it was decided that Breakfast was to move from London to the new BBC centre in Salford, she led the project even though she wasn’t well.  She had a great team supporting her of course, but she was so determined.

I saw a lot less of her after the move, although she had to come to back down to London fairly regularly. Everytime I saw her, she insisted she was well and to be fair, she looked great.

Then at the beginning of this year, I saw her in the ladies’ loo at work and after hugging and both squealing at each other, she admitted that she was tired.  That the return of the cancer and the treatment was taking it out of her. It was the first time I had ever heard her talking about her illness in such a downbeat way and then in typical Alison fashion she said she was sorry for bringing me down and that she was fine really and that she was just a bit tired.  But I went home worried about her and really prayed that she would be OK.

Last Tuesday evening, I was out for drinks with Jim and he said that he had seen her a couple of weeks ago in hospital and then again at her home, last Saturday and that she was now really very poorly.  It seems fitting that it was probably while we were on our second bottle of wine and talking about her that she slipped away. When Jim told me the next morning, I burst into tears.  It seems so unfair that such a vibrant young mother should be taken so early and my heart went out to her boys who she was so proud of.

I spent the day on Twitter as the tributes flooded in, all saying what a great woman she was – fearless, brilliant, honest, inspiring, intelligent, incredible, nurturing, beautiful & loved by all who knew her.

They had a minute’s silence for her just above that huge London newsroom on Wednesday and on Thursday, a simple tribute at the end of her programme on BBC1 had me in tears again as it conveyed just what a wonderful person she is.

I’ll end this post with the last exchange we ever had.  She was too ill to make my leaving do back in March but in my speech I said she was the best manager I had ever had in my thirty years there.  Almost as soon as I had sat down, I received this text:

Sweetheart,

I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to say goodbye to you.  I’ve had a dreadful few days of chemo and am bedridden, again!!  I’ve heard you said some lovely, lovely things about me tonight.  I can’t tell you what it means to me to have your respect.  I wish you an awesomely good next stage of your life.  You deserve lots of love, success and happiness.  I’m sure you’ll be showered by love tonight.  And I know it’ll be totally heartfelt.  Massive hugs, kisses and love from me too.

Alison xxxx

To my shame, it took me a few days to reply with the following:

Oh Alison, 

how lovely to hear from you and I’m so sorry that the chemo is taking it out of you. You have been through such a lot and whenever I have seen you, you have been nothing but positive and upbeat, even when I’m sure you have felt anything but. That’s what makes you so extraordinarily special and why I put you up there at the top of the list of my favourite managers…..much to Jim’s huffing and puffing!!  It was a lovely evening, marred only by you not being there. It has taken me this long to feel vaguely normal again and to be able to focus on the small font of my texts, hence this late reply!! Please know that I love you to bits and that whether you realise it or not, you were responsible for making me believe in myself again. I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you fit and healthy again soon. KEEP FIGHTING

Rekha xxxxx

I will miss her terribly but shall always be thankful to her for turning around my career and for always being there with her advice and kindness

Image

Thank you for everything, Alison.  You truly were the best xx

Defending My New Habit

A little while ago when I was at the dentist, I read an article, admittedly from a very old magazine, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since.

Basically it was a piece by someone who was clearly irritated by the whole social networking trend. It was quite witty and well-observed, I suppose!  He said Facebook was just a platform for people to show off and as a result they had stopped enjoying the best moments in their lives because they are always too busy thinking how best to encapsulate them in their next update.  I suppose I share that view to an extent as I’m not a huge fan, and I admit to maybe being guilty of what he said.

But then he moved on to Twitter and what he saw as the complete futility of  “micro-blogging”. He said it comes from living in a very narcissistic age where unless people are recognised, they cease to exist – hence the need for a huge following. He said that in the real world, most tweeters were probably very uninteresting little people. I took great exception to that!

Most of his bile, however, was reserved for the blogging community which he said was an utter waste of time.

He questioned exactly what sort of person feels the need to give information to the world in a blog and then he went on to answer by saying it was losers who clearly have a lack of identity because they need to share who they are. Blogging, he said, was a way of making sure you are connected to someone and most bloggers are the types who secretly wish they had the guts to be on Big Brother.

I was a bit miffed. Maybe because I recognised something in what he said, but certainly not all of it.

Why have I started writing a blog? Is it to do with proving I have some sort of identity, now that I am not working ??  I don’t think so. I think it’s more about feeling safe enough to share what I am up to or how I feel about stuff.  But why do I need to do that? Is it narcissm to want to document that for public consumption? I’m not sure now. 

As for Big Brother, I gave up watching that a long, long time ago when it stopped being a vaguely interesting social experiment and became a showcase for a group of loons that just want to be famous for the sake of being famous.  Bloggers aren’t like that….are they?  I certainly have no desire to be on that or any other reality show. I’m not that much of a wannabe.

But, if I’m really honest, I suppose deep down I do wish I was a “someone”. Which is why, maybe, since stopping work I have spent some considerable time exploring my creative side with lots of writing and acting.  Maybe, that’s why I have strongly encouraged my son in his desire to perform and create. I’ve done my motherly duty in warning him that he is entering a cut-throat industry where few make it but I also feel I owe it to him to encourage his dreams. And of course if he does make it, I’ll be a “someone” through him….

However, I don’t think that’s what my blog is about and I have taken that article quite personally because it seemed to demean and mock my desire to just write.

I only started this online diary in March and haven’t had time to post more than once a week but I have enjoyed writing my little entries and the one on my Dad I found most therapeutic.

I’ve always believed that writing really helps improve emotional wellbeing. I’ve known from when I used to keep a handwritten journal, that the act of writing allows you to explore your inner self in a deep and intimate way. My blog will never become a public confessional but I think, over the weeks and months it will become a great sounding board.

I love that I am already part of a little community that put out all sorts of blogs. Ones that are quite personal and moving, ones that invite discussion, records of parenthood, ones that contain the most amazing poetry, and so on.  There are no rules but each one satisfies the writer ….and me, the reader.

For me, this community offers a good platform to vent fear, anger, humour or depression, and it’s also a good way to get different perspectives.

So, now I have given it some thought, I’ve decided that actually, I don’t care what that grumpy bloke said – I’m not going to give up my blog anytime soon!