One Love

Two weeks ago, a suicide bomber targeted the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. He chose to detonate his bomb as people were leaving the arena. 22 people were killed, many of whom were young. 116 people were injured. Manchester mourned its dead and the rest of the world mourned with them.

My heart ached with sadness that a human being could deliberately set out to do this. That he could stand next to people throughout those hours just waiting for his moment to devastate lives. It’s beyond comprehension..

I know I should avoid the news. It affects me long after it’s no longer ‘news’. It sends my anxiety spiralling and is bad for my health but sometimes I get caught up in things and I got caught up in this.

Whatever life has thrown at me.. music has been there to comfort me in a way that nobody ever can because music speaks where words fail. Having gone to concerts myself, I understand the feeling of euphoria that comes with seeing your idols perform live and I take comfort in the knowledge that those kids got themselves some happy in their last hours on this earth. That means something to me.

As a parent, my heart broke. So many lives cut short and for what? Ariana Grande was also in my thoughts. Most artists live for what they do and making people feel good is a huge part of why they do it. They want people to leave their concerts feeling happy with memories that will last a lifetime. Imagine being Ariana, knowing that children died in the worst way after seeing her perform? That must have been incredibly hard to cope with. Lets not forget that she is only 23 years old herself.

When the attack happened, I’d never heard of Ariana. I love my music but I am out of touch with what’s in the charts. To look at her, you’d think a decent gust of wind would pick her up and carry her off but last night she proved just what she’d made of as just TWO weeks after the attack she came back to Manchester to play a benefit concert for the 50,000 people with anybody who could prove they were at the original concert getting free tickets.

I watched it via live stream on Twitter. I was an emotional wreck watching it this way. I can only imagine how emotionally charged the atmosphere was at Old Trafford. It wasn’t your average concert, you see. It was special. It was about musicians and people coming together and sticking the Vs up to the terrorists. It took guts to be there. Ariana would have been forgiven if she’d have disappeared off the radar for a while. Not this lady. Not only did she come back, she also brought people with her.

The likes of Katy Perry (who I thought was Annie Lennox until I shoved my specs on), Little Mix and Miley Cyrus may not be my cup of tea but they all showed courage last night, especially as London had been attacked the day before. Even though I don’t connect with their particular style of music, I enjoyed watching the faces of those who do. The infinity you feel to someone who speaks to you via music is something I can definitely identify with.

The highlights for me were Robbie Williams, Coldplay and most of all, Liam Gallagher –¬† Mr Rock and Roll star himself – who flew in from Germany to support his city. The music changed to a distinct ‘rock like feel’ and my first thought was, ‘OMG, Oasis?’ Just as I was about to reach for my Beta-Blockers, Liam strolled on stage wearing his orange¬†cagoule. No Noel, but we got to see Chris Martin perform with him on Live Forever which I thought was kind of cool given that Liam once compared him with a geography teacher but I guess even rock and roll stars grow up, eh?

Tweet of the night had to be this by Dean Lane about LG.

Daughter: Who’s that in the big coat, daddy?

Dad: That’s an absolute fucking legend, sweetie.

There’s been a lot of flack for Noel about him not reuniting with his brother for this concert. Personally, I feel it wasn’t the right time for an Oasis reunion. Why? Because they are one of the biggest and most iconic rock bands, ever. For Liam and Noel to share the same stage again would have overshadowed everything else. It was Ariana’s night, not theirs. It was right that a concert in support of Manchester should have Mancunian artists on the set list. Chris Martin, singing part of James’ ‘Sit Down’ wasn’t lost on me as James are a Manchester band. Take That were formed in Manchester..

Seeing Ariana sing with the Parrs Wood school choir gave me proper panda eyes. She held a girls hand and when she started to lose her composure, Ariana held her closely. Not a dry in the place. It was an act of love from one human to another but the night was all about love. People connected by a love of music and a determination that no arseholes will dictate their lives for them. The point of terrorism is to strike fear into people, divide them, and to stop them from living their lives. The One Love concert was proof that they have failed to accomplish it. Manchester’s response to terrorism was to sing it’s heart out.

What Ariana accomplished is nothing short of amazing. Any concert takes time and planning but when it involves numerous artists it’s a huge undertaking but she pulled it together in a week. Ariana has my utmost respect. Respect for how she’s found the courage to come back after what must have been a tremendously traumatic time for her, but also her ability to stay vertical in her eight inch heels- an amazing feat in itself.

Her song, ‘One Last Time’ is beautiful in it’s own right but after May 22nd the lyrics took on a different meaning as it was one of the last songs (if not THE last song) those kids ever heard before they went ‘home’.

So one last time
I need to be the one who takes you home
One more time
I promise after that, I’ll let you go

A good thing happened in Manchester yesterday. In the space of two weeks we’ve seen humanity at its worst with the bomber and at its very best in the aftermath. Music has united us in the way that only music can and from my little corner of the world, I was part of it.

Blessings to Ariana and everybody who took part in the One Love concert, including the policeman who was filmed skipping with some children. You Sir, are a legend. This is what the world needs to combat the evil. Love will beat evil, every time.

I’ll leave the last word with Liam, the voice of my generation and one of Manchester’s own.

Misfits and Meetings

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When it comes to school – I do the necessary. I drop The Boy off in the morning and pick him up at home time. Sometimes I go in to calm him down if he’s having a particularly difficult day, though I should add that it’s at my request that they phone me.

Some parents do other stuff like going in to read with the children and going on school trips etc., I don’t. Not because I’m a lazy cow who’d rather be sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle point at chavs – no- it’s because I have social, sensory and anxiety problems.

In every playground you will see the ‘perimeter ‘hoggers’. These are the lone wolf parents who lean against walls and railings looking at their phones trying to be invisible. I am one of those people.

My coats have pockets which disguise the fact that I am constantly fiddling with my keys. If I’m not fiddling with my keys I am looking at my phone – sometimes I am doing both. I look at the parents who socialise with ease and know it will never be me, not unless I have lobotomy anyway.

The thought of being jammed on a school bus with noisy kids is my idea of hell and when I was asked if I could help out I had no choice but to tell the truth.

‘I’m having a panic attack just imagining it. I’m not great with crowds and I have anxiety problems, you see. Sorry!

The school are understanding of this now and don’t ask anymore. I feel sad but accept that I have limitations and to push beyond those would do more harm than good as they would have a hyperventilating lunatic to look after as well as the children.

Thankfully The Boy has his SSA and he probably copes better without me in those situations as he could pick up on my anxieties no matter how much I tried to mask them – especially if a full blown panic attack was to occur.

However, when I heard that our SENCo was setting up a group with the parents of children with special needs, I knew I had to be part of it. I was apprehensive but knew the group would be small and that my friend would be there. She’s very lovely and reassuring, bless ‘er.

Having missed the first two meetings due to being elsewhere and, er, mixing the date up – I finally made the third.

Even something as trivial as this causes me anxiety especially when it’s something I haven’t done before, (fear of the unknown), but my mind was made up. I was going to do it because the school has given us so much support and I wanted to give something back.

So the day came and I ran through my notes.

Have something to eat so tummy doesn’t growl like a bastard.

Take reading specs.

Pen and paper because you know you’ll totally forget everything that’s said.

Wear hearing-aid to avoid saying ‘Eh?’ all the time.

Have massive wee before you go.

Drawing on my years of coping skills I went in earlier than the others. I find it hard to walk into a room with people in it I aim to be first in whenever possible. There were six of us in total – so a nice small group which I can cope with.

Heart clanging away I waited for the others to arrive.

I recognised one of the other mothers as a lady who used to work at The Boy’s nursery, (where he was first suspected of being autistic), so there was only one parent there who I didn’t know, at least by sight.

First job – tea and cake.

After years of practice I can now drink in front of strangers but food is still iffy. So the flapjacks were a no-go area for me. Better safe than choking to death having breathed in whilst trying to swallow, eh?

I may not have felt entirely comfortable but I was there.

Most people will consider this an insignificant thing. ‘It’s only a little meeting yer silly mare!’ but I know there will be others who will nod like mad. ‘Oh yes! That’s me too!’

It felt good to be in the presence of people who understand what it’s like to have a child with conditions like autism. They understand the daily challenges and judgement by ignorant gits. I’m used to the feeling of not belonging because I’ve never fitted in anywhere, (hence the misfit reference), but for the hour and a half I was there I didn’t feel quite the “misfit missy”as I usually do.

The school supports our son but they also support me. If I go into school to comfort him and the hall is full of kids catapulting themselves over the vaulting equipment the receptionist takes me around another way to avoid my anxiety levels going orbital. It’s a small thing but means that I am better mentally equipped to deal with my son’s meltdown.

I’m passionate about autism awareness so I really need to be as proactive as I can. My next goal is to attend the autism show. Don’t get me wrong I have been to crowded venues in my time – sometimes it’s required a nip of the hard stuff and sometimes I’ve gone in cold but it’s always been a struggle which is why I tend not to bother now.

It will be crowded and my anxiety will be off the scale both before, during and after but I figure that even if I was to lose the plot – it wouldn’t really matter because most people there will have seen much worse.

My drive comes from years of being ignored or misunderstood at school. Without doubt I have a learning disability and struggled every day of the ten years I was there. Nobody saw my distress and as a result I left school with nothing to show for it. Going through the SEN process makes me realise that, with support, I’d have been capable of much more. As it is all I have are a bunch of ‘if onlys’.

If only I’d have been allowed to stay in at play-times my anxiety might have lessened to a degree where I could take in information in order to learn.

If only I could have entered the class early and left after everybody else then I would have been spared the anxiety of being pushed and shoved in crowded corridors.

If only I could have worked in small groups – I might have learned something except fear.

If only I’d have had somewhere to escape to when it became too much instead of having to endure the stress, the stimulus and the bullying.

If only somebody would have seen beyond ‘shyness’ and recognised that I needed help.

How different my life might have been..

I point blank refuse for my son to go through that.

But thanks to an amazing school with teachers who care.. he hasn’t.

Image Credit Public Domain CC

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon