No cash no clout

This is the first in a possible series of miserable old cow posts.  So you're welcome to pop off somewhere else, make a cup of tea, and read something more entertaining.

Now where was I?  Oh Yes...

The year is 2030.  Like most people you're a contract worker.  Your wife stays at home with the children, as all workers are now expected to be completely flexible - after all, the market never sleeps - so you're on call 24/7, thanks to the iphone23.  It no longer makes financial sense for mothers to work as there's very little State support for children now: the Government started cutting child benefit in 2009 to help bail out the Irish banks, and eventually it was abolished completely.  A small welfare payment  is still available to the children of "the most vulnerable" but since you have a job, your family doesn't get it.  

Anyone from 2010 would think that you have a great life: a nice house, a good job and a happy family.  But your house is rented, because almost no-one can get a mortgage any more - like most people your income varies from month to month.  Your most precious possession is your bank card: despite the €1,000 tax you have to pay the Government for the pleasure of owning one.  So why have one at all? Everyone has to have one, because cash and cheques have been abolished.

That's right, no more money.  

EU and business interests started pushing for this way back in the early years of the 21st century, and after a spate of Tiger Kidnappings of bank officials, the idea started to gain momentum in Ireland.  Cheques were the first to go and over a period of ten years cash transactions were gradually replaced by electronic transfers.  There was very little protest: consumers were told that a cashless society would be cheaper, safer, more efficient and more convenient. 

They weren't told about the drawbacks.  No cash = no power.  And if there is no power, there will be no cash: imagine how much money ESB workers will be earning in 2030?  They will be the landlords of the future.  Everything you purchase will be recorded on-line, for every hacker to find.  Bank charges will be 'regulated' no doubt, but in whose interest?  All companies will demand payment by direct debit 'for your convenience'.  If the direct debit means you go overdrawn, you pay.  If you lose your bank card, you pay.  If the banks computers accidently wipe out your balance, you have no money for food.  If you have no work, the bank charges pile up and you still have no money for food.

This was the situation facing you in September 2030 when you're called into the office one Monday morning.  It's bad news, there will be no work for 3 weeks.  Your head starts to spin.  This is really really bad.  As a contract worker you won't get any unemployment assistance.  Suddenly you've no income.  But all those direct debits will just keep on rolling out and as you go into the red, the bank piles charge upon charge.  Your parents can't help, they're still stuck in negative equity after the house price crash that followed the Irish bank crisis in 2007.

Nightmare time, so what do you do?  

I hope that it won't come to this.  And even if it does, I think that a subculture will develop, everyone will barter, car boot sales and farmer's markets will be huge, and perhaps an alternative currency will be introduced.  People always find a way to cope.  But I want to hang onto my money!

My baby girl is 18 today!

One down two to go.  Officially my parenting duties to Angel end today.  It's a funny feeling.  Everything people say to you is true: the years just fly by.  You were still my little girl even 3 years ago.  Now you are taller than me and a proper grown up person, kind of.  There will be interesting times ahead: How do I parent an 'adult' who is still in school and still dependent?  Did I sign up for this?  I never thought so far ahead when I held my gorgeous baby girl in my arms.

We're similar and so different too.  You love listening to music, you're artistic and creative - I admire your style and I'm in awe of what you can achieve with make-up, a hairdryer and a GHD.  We both live on our laptops, but you makes videos that are viewed by thousands.

You've always supported me, and you say you don't need to lie to me.  I so hope that continues.  I think it will. 

Your childhood did not turn out the way I would have hoped.  Your idyllic baby and toddler years ended abruptly in October 1996 when Smiley was born.  You didn't complain, you just gave lots of love and time to your tiny sister.  I will always remember the day you visited the Intensive Care Unit in your fairy wings and white tutu.  You waved your wand around as though trying to make the babies well again, and sang at the top of your four-year old voice: "To make them happy, Mammy."

You've always been thoughtful and considerate - even in the manner of your birth on the second day of my maternity leave at just 38 weeks.  At 8am you signalled your arrival and I finally got to meet you 12 hours later.  At just 5lb 3 oz you were a little scrap of a thing with a mop of black hair and I fell in love straight away.  "Bring me back my baby!" was the first thing I said as they whisked you off to check you.  Later you were taken to the nursery as was the custom then.  I checked on you throughout the night: easy to do, there was a sea of babies in the nursery, but right in the middle was a teeny tiny baby with a hat on, to keep you extra warm.

Today you turn 18, and there's a lots of things I'd love to say, but I'm not great at expressing how I feel.  If I was, I would like to have written a post like this, by auntiegwen.  But there's one thing I do have to say:

Happy Birthday Angel! 

Note: some of you may have seen this photo before, but sadly I've lost my scanner!

Who mentioned Christmas?

It certainly wasn't me... are they talking about Christmas in school?  Are there ads on the telly?  Shop window displays?  Where is he getting it from?  I just don't know.  But what I do know is that CD is now talking about Christmas non-stop, and revising his Christmas list every few hours.

If the last few years are anything to go by, this is only the start of the big Festive build-up.  And I don't mean the excitement and anticipation about everything Christmassy.  I'm talking about severe stress and tantrums and tension that builds and builds - like the Irish property bubble - with Christmas Eve being almost unbearable and sleep-free.  Then the bubble bursts on Christmas morning with the opening of the presents.  Suddenly all is well in his world again.

He will be the happiest child in Dublin on Christmas Day.  His Mammy will feel like an old dish cloth: grey, saggy and wrung out.  Do not ask me to cook the dinner, I will not be able.

I don't know if this is a typical Asperger's issue, but I'm so hoping I can handle it better this year.  There's less stress in my life, so that should help.  He is calmer, and that should make things better as well. 

I will humour him.  We will send a letter to Santa in October/November, and then regular revisions and updates and pleas and entreaties every week or two (do letters to Santa really need stamps?).  I may even succumb and let him choose a couple of new computer games in the run-up to Christmas when the waiting becomes unbearable for him - because of course it's all about computer games, and choosing between them.

Perhaps distraction will help?  There is a whole programme of aspie-friendly afterschool activities at his new school such as chess, judo and basketball. If I can get him to do these, and see more of his growing collection of friends, maybe Christmas will be less of an obsession.

At the moment all I can do is try to stay calm, keep him occupied and cross my fingers and toes!  I don't think that Christmas will be very different this year, but I'm planning on it being better. 

10 Books I love

I'm not sure where I am going with this blog at the moment: I'm worrying that I can't do funny, except by accident.  Not funny = not worth reading, at least that's the way blogs seem to be judged.  I thought of setting up another blog that would clearly state that it was not trying to be funny, so the pressure would be off....but then I'd have to decide what to put where and I'd probably never do anything at all.  So I'll carry on here but maybe keep a low profile most of the time....

Anyway, I've borrowed this from Becca Brown's Blog.  It's a challenge from writer Nik Perring to recommend some books on your blog.  He wants to 'spread the word of good writing', but I'd like to share some books that made an impact on me.  I generally like books that inspire me, give me hope or make me think, and they don't have to be well-written to do that. Oh and lots of escapism!

So, in no particular order, here are ten of my favourite books:

1984 by George Orwell
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien

Frenchman's Creek by Daphne Du Maurier
No Enemy But Time by Evelyn Anthony
A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford
The Ice People by Maggie Gee

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

I also love children's books and autobiographies by ordinary people, but I'll save them for another day..

My perfectly boring life

Who knew it could ever happen?  I'm back home, and all the children are now pretty happy: they really seem to like living here.  School is going well:  even Angel is coping with the stress of her final year exams looming in 8 months time.  Perhaps because she has dealt with far worse.  And CD hasn't had a meltdown for over a week.  He's even discovering the benefits of being nice to people:

"How was your day today Mum?" he'll ask as he comes in the door.  And then he actually listens to the answer.

Finally, we seem to be settled.  No-one has said: "Calm down Mammy," for weeks.  A lot of it is due to being back home: I hadn't realised how much it meant to me.  During the bad times, I kept saying: "It's just bricks and mortar, it doesn't matter," but I was wrong.  And it makes me believe even more that no-one should be put out of their house - whether through the recession or for other reasons - except as an absolute last resort.  The stress of the last 8 years or so has nearly destroyed this family.  I'm hoping that's all behind me, and life will be a little more humdrum and boring: Maybe I should rename my blog? 

It's ordinary problems for me now I hope: getting a job, getting my back fixed, getting the kids to eat their vegetables.  Maybe I'll start making jam again or take up knitting?  Though somehow I don't think I'm going to settle down that much.  Give me another cause, and I'll pull my marching boots on again....

Old School, New School

We've made it to Friday night, and the house is a lot calmer than this time seven days ago.  They're all back at school now, and it's gone better than I could have hoped.  Smiley sailed through the last week in her usual happy bubble, delighted to be back with her friends and in her routine.  

Going back to school was a little more traumatic for the other two:  Angel is doing her Leaving this year - and this is not a Celtic farewell ritual.  It's actually the end of school exams.  If you listen to the Irish media too much - and I do - you'd think that this is the most stressful thing that ever happened to anybody.  Really?  Worse than divorce?  Having your house repossessed?  Serious illness?  Somehow I don't think so.   But just in case I'll take any advice on surviving the year...

CD finally started his new school on Wednesday: chosen for its fabulous Asperger Outreach Unit not its good looks...

After his big sister went back to school, CD began to get nervous.  So I tried to do all the right things:  we talked about it, I prepared a schedule for the day, explaining exactly what would happen and when.  There were no arguments about the uniform either : it's exactly the same as his old school except for an extra stripe in the tie.  When the bus arrived on Day One, he went off without a backwards glance, but of course I've been interrogating him ever since:

Me (before he even got in the door on the first day): how did you get on?

Him: Good.

Me: What did you do?

Him: Well I didn't learn anything.

Hmm, interesting that that bothered him I thought.

On the morning of the second day he asked about going back to the other school if it didn't work out...and when he came home he was a bit down.

But today he bounded in after school:

Him: Guess what Mum?

Me:  What?

Him: You know that friend I told you about?  Well he was on my bus today, and he's stuck at the same level in Dragonquest 9!

And so a new friendship is forged....somehow I think the school move is going to work :)

The perfect shop

Ssh! Smiley and I still like shopping, even in a recession. But we're quite fussy, especially as she has a very large wheelchair. This is what we like:

Lots of free parking.

Wide aisles, so I'm not saying 'sorry' every few seconds.

Peace and quiet ... I hate piped music.

Cool: Too hot and my head gets in a spin.

Quality and value (now I'm starting to sound like a supermarket ad)

Not too much choice, or I just lose the will to shop.

A lovely cafe with cheap coffee and scrummy cakes and plenty of room for buggies and wheelchairs. Essential while I try to decide to spend some money. And obviously one of the highlights of any shopping trip for Smiley :D

Lots of large toilets and lifts so that my queueing phobia does not get triggered. Lifts made of glass are good, but shops on one floor are even better. Like plane crashes, I keep wondering what are the odds of getting stuck in a lift as I have to use them so often.

Friendly staff who wander around looking busy but are actually available to help me carry stuff/push trolleys.

Shops that say they'll deliver the next day. And it arrives.

The last time we went to one of our favourite shops, we came home with some packages like this:

After a number of hours, I ended up with this:

And this:

Please don't laugh at the rabbit ears or my telly, they are both temporary since the kids insist on something bigger with more channels. Oddly enough, I am quite happy :)

Would you add or delete anything from this list?