Monday, 25 March 2019

Book Review: The Clouds Beyond Us by Rahf AlRashidi

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to read and review this stunning collection of short stories and poetic verses by Rahf AlRashidi. 


A beautiful and eclectic mix of stories and poetry, as presented by new and exciting author Rahf AlRashidi. This collection of insights into the author’s soul takes the reader on a melancholy journey of loss, heartache and ill treatment, whilst at once telling the story of strength and showing the joy to be found in the aftermath of sorrow. An inspirational read for women across the world.
I'm gonna say right off the bat that despite this book being somewhat small it is full to the brim with emotional stories and poems all written in the first person. I adore poetry, I write it myself and I found glimpses of my self written in the words on these pages. It's really quite a magical and heartfelt read in all honesty. It was tough to read is certain places but my goodness am I'm glad I saw it right through to the final page 
Whilst the book as I mentioned is relatively shorter than most I've read and reviewed before it is probably one of the fullest I've read in a long time. It made me want to sit back and look at my life and what's lead me to where I am. 
I urge anyone out there, whether you're a fan of poetry or not to simply pick up this book and give it a read. I can promise you that the words will stay with you for a while. 
Author Bio
Rahf AlRashidi is a multi-genre author of short stories and poetry. A medical student from Kuwait, she currently lives abroad to pursue her medical degree. She first began writing short stories at the age of nine, when she lived in Texas, USA. In 2009, the journey towards her dreams began, with writing becoming a part of her life after showcasing her talents as an artist and writer in the District PTA contest in Denton, going on to win first place.
Her mother, a psychologist and an author, has always been and continues to be her source of inspiration and her faithful guide. Rahf is currently working on her next book.

Author links:

Purchase Links:

I hope you enjoyed my brief review, honestly nothing I could say about this book would do it justice. 

Saturday, 16 March 2019

My Top 15 Comedy Shows!

They say laughter is the best medicine, so here's my little round up of my personal Top 15 Comedy Shows (in no particular order)

1. Only Fools and Horses

This classic British comedy ran from1981 to 1991 for 7 unforgettable series, 16 Christmas Specials also aired up until 2003. The series is set in Peckham and follows Derek (Del Boy) Trotter and his younger brother Rodney as they wheel and deal their way through life aiming to reach the top and get rich! The show also starred the late and great Buster Merryfield as Uncle Albert.

I don't think there is a person alive who hasn't watched or at least heard of this show, who can forget the hilarious scene where Del Boy falls through the bar or when Rodney has to pretend he's a teenager to bag them a free holiday? I still love watching reruns on the TV, this show is comedy genius and just never gets old.

2. The Vicar of Dibley.

The Vicar of Dibley ran from 1994 to 1998 with specials being aired up until 2007. It's set in the fictional village of Dibley and follows female Vicar Geraldine Granger played by Dawn French and her quirky parishioners. The highlight of every single episode was the joke at the very end often between Geraldine and Alice the Vicarages Verger. Alice was played by the late and always hilarious Emma Chambers who played Alice with childlike charm and innocence. The jokes were often completely lost on Alice as was pretty much everything. Stand out scenes have got to be when Alice and Hugo finally tied the knot and her bridesmaids were dressed up as Teletubbies or when Geraldine goes to jump in a puddle during a walk with her new love interest and ultimately ends up almost neck-deep in muddy water.  I have fond memories of watching this show every week with my late Auntie and I still watch reruns with my children now. 

3. The Inbetweeners

The Inbetweeners is an often crass coming of age comedy show. It aired from 2008 to 2010 and spawned 2 sequels in 2011 and 2014. It follows new student Will and his friends Simon, Neil and Jay on their misadventures and goal of getting laid at fictional school Rudge Park Comprehensive. The show also stars Greg Davies as the boys principal.
The series is rude, hilarious, cringy and at times quite touching. The follow up films are a nice token to see the boys growing up after their time at  6th comes to an end. 
Stand out moments for me, are probably Will trying to impress an older girl and having to shove a wig down his pants because his friends used hair removal cream on his pubes whilst he was asleep, or when Will shits himself during his exams and wails 'I thought it was a fart'

4. Keeping Up Appearances

Keeping Up Appearances ran from 1990 to 1995. It stars Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket who insists its pronounced Bouquet and her long-suffering husband Richard. Hyacinth prides herself on being upper class when in actual fact she hails from a common lower class family who are always there to throw a spanner in the works. Hyacinth always ends up a sticky situation whilst trying to keep up the appearance of her social superiority. 
Stand out moments are pretty much any scene where her extended family make an appearance or when she gets repetitive phone calls for a Chinese Takeaway. She always answers the phone by saying 'Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking' 

5. Men Behaving Badly

This little gem ran from 1992 to 1998 and followed Gary played by Martin Clunes and his flatmate Tony played by Neil Morrissey as they drink beer and amble through life. Caroline Quentin plays Dorothy who is Gary's significant other and Deborah played by Leslie Ash who lives in the flat above and catches Tony's eye. The men are pretty much living their second childhood and winging things. 
Stand out moments are Tony and Gary getting utterly shit faced after the gang discovers that Gary actually has quite a bit of money so he goes on a spending spree for lots of useless crap or when Dorothy gives birth to Gary's baby and Gary Knocks the midwife out or maybe the great BBQ disaster?!

6. Bottom

Bottom ran from 1991 until 1995. It spawned 5 stage shows and a feature-length movie called 'Guest House Paradiso' It follows Eddie and Richie played by comedy double act Adrian Edmondson and the late Rik Mayall. The due are crass and the series is noted for it's chaotic and violent slapstick type comedy. It's absolutely hilarious and will forever be a classic. 

Stand out moments are probably the pair accidentally beating up the Gas Man or perhaps when the duo decide to go Trick or Treating. 

7. 2 Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps

2 Pints ran from 2001 until 2011, it followed the lives of 5 Twenty-somethings and all the ups and downs of life, relationships, death and becoming a parent. It's hilarious yet also quite emotional in some places. The series was eventually canceled in 2011 when the majority of the main cast had departed for other projects. It stars Will Mellor as Gaz Wilkinson a self-proclaimed ladies man and his best pal Jonny Keogh played by Ralph Little. Sheridan Smith stars as Janet who ends up married to Jonny. Natalie Cassidy stars as Donna Henshaw who eventually manages to tame ladies man Gaz and Kathryn Drysdale as air-headed and conceited Louise Brooks.
Stand out moments are pretty much any scene from their spooky Halloween special or the musical episode!

8. The Mighty Boosh

The Mighty Boosh aired from 2004 until 2007. It originated as a set of radio shows and live shows performed by Julien Barratt and Noel Fielding. The series isn't for everybody but I love it. It's quirky and pretty crazy to be honest, it follows Howard Moon and Vince Noir on their adventures at firstly a Zoo and then at an Antique Shop, the series incorporates various characters all portrayed by Barratt and Fielding. Each episode features a song of some sort and it's just fucking awesome ok, go watch it. 

Stand out moments for me will forever be Vince Noir singing 'Electro Boy' or the Crack Fox. 

9. Absolutely Fabulous

Ab Fab originally ran from 1992 until 1996 before coming back again for a revival between 2001 and 2004. A few 20th-anniversary specials aired between 2011 and 2012 and a feature-length movie was released in 2016.
The series follows Edina Monsoon played by Jennifer Saunders and Patsy Stone played by Joanna Lumley. The pair despite being high powered business women in the fashion industry, often rely on alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs to help them on their quest to regain their youth. 

Stand out moments for me are Patsy smoking 4 cigarettes at once because clearly, one isn't good enough and when the pair get utterly shit faced on a plane. 

10. Gimme Gimme Gimme

Gimme Gimme Gimme ran from 1999 until 2001. It starred Kathy Burke as outrageous Londoner Linda La Hughes and her gay flat may Tom Farrell played by James Dreyfus on their quest to find a man. Linda and Tom apparently met one night in a nightclub whilst both high on Ecstacy and decided to live together, the ensuing years have been described by the series writer Jonathan Harvey as one long come down.  Linda is a loud-mouthed, orange permed and perverted woman and Tom is a melodramatic wannabe actor. It's rude and full of innuendos and it's classic comedy gold. If you haven't watched it then it's must-see. The sad thing is that nowadays it probably wouldn't get made for fear of offending somebody. 

Stand out moments for me are ALL of it. 

11. The Royle Family

The Royle Family aired from 1998 until 2000 and then several specials aired between 2006 and 2012.  It follows the lives of a TV watching obsessed family Manchester. The series was created and written by Craig Cash and the late Caroline Aherne who both star in the series as Denise Royle and her fiance David and her parents Jim and Barbara played by Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston and her younger brother Anthony played by Ralph Little. It's an easy going comedy which relies heavily on normal conversational topics that you'd find yourself having.

Stand out moments are when Denise attempts to cook Christmas Dinner for her family and when Gran offers Anthony's vegetarian girlfriend a ham sandwich. 

12. Man Down

The first season of Man Down aired in 2013 and a 5th season is expected to air hopefully this year. It stars Greg Davies as Dan a man who lives with his parents and has recently split up from his long term girlfriend. He despises his job as a teacher and often gets dragged into his friends' dramas. Greg Davies was a teacher in real life before embarking on a career as a comedian. The late Rik Mayall stars as his dad which Greg Davies said was a dream come true as he'd always looked up to Rik. 
Stand out moments are any of the drama lessons Dan teaches at his school or any scene that has his friend Jo played by comedian Roisin Conaty.

13. Peep Show

Peep Show aired from 2003 until 2015 and became the longest running comedy in channel four history. It follows characters Mark Corrigan an uptight and socially awkward loan manager and his flatmate Jeremy (Jez) Usborne who is an aspiring muscian and full-time slacker. The show gets its title from various points of view shots and also voiceovers from both characters as they narrate the events around them. 
Standout moments are any scene involving Jeremy's friend Super Hans and the entire episode of Mark trying to evade his own wedding.

14. Still Game

Scottish comedy series Still Game first aired in 2002 with its final series being aired this year (Feb 2019 to be exact) The characters of Victor McDade and Jack Jarvis first appeared in the stage show of Still Game, with the characters then coming to the small screen in comedy series Chewin' The Fat. Still Game follows a group of Glaswegian Pensioners, the characters of Victor and Jack are played by Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill. 
The entire series is set in the fictional town of Craiglang in Glasgow. 
Still Game is a rare gem in the comedy world, people of all ages can enjoy it. It doesn't have overly adult themes and the characters are endearing. 
Stand out moments are pretty much any time that Jack and Victor enter their local Pub and take the piss out of Bobby the Barman...especially when they discovered that back in the day he filmed a blue movie.

15. The IT Crowd

The IT Crowd ran from 2006 until 2013. The series is set in the offices of a large company and focuses on three members from its Information Technology department. The show follows the characters of Maurice Moss, Roy Trenneman and Jen Barber played by Richard Ayoade, Chris O'Dowd and Katherine Parkinson. The show pretty much relies on the steriotypical geek/nerd type charactisations expertly brought to life by Ayoade and O'dowd. Noel Fielding also stars in several episodes as Goth IT technician Richmond Avenal. Each of the characters is pretyy much socially inept and thier hijinks and interactions with others never end well.
Stand out moments are any time they answer their phones with queries from the offices above and their reply is always 'have you tried turning it off and back on again' 

So there we have it folks, my round up of my Top 15 Comedy shows, some old and gold, and some newer ones.

What's your favourite comedy show? 

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Losing friends and moving on.

This week saw me cutting ties and blocking someone who I had thought of as a best friend. Someone who in the last 3 and half years had become a pillar of strength and support. However, as the saying goes 'All good things must come to an end' 

Let me fill you in, basically since my husbands stroke last summer our 5 year olds behaviour has increasingly gotten worse, I don't want to make light of his behaviour or make excuses for him so I will be completely honest and transparent. He unfortunately mimics and embodies a lot of our Autistic sons traits and behaviours, he also has his own behaviour problems buried beneath the learnt behaviour patterns. He has spiralled at an alarming rate and to be honest has become someone I barely recognise. My laid back, chilled out and loving little boy has been replaced with this angry, spiteful and quite unpleasant child who to be honest I struggle to like at times. He has little to no empathy for how he makes other people feel and he doesn't think twice about lashing out and hurting those closest to him, going so far as to tell me, his Mother, to go and die.

I'm used to some of these types of behaviours as I've had 7+ years of the anger and lack of empathy from our Autistic son, but unlike our son on the spectrum who has always masked his traits at school and instead blown up at home in his safe space, our 5 year old thinks nothing of picking up a chair and hurling it at his teacher, or laughing in the face of his headteacher when he is approached about his behaviour. I've literally lost count of the amount of times since September that I've been called in to school by his teacher to discuss new strategies or the things he's done that day that don't fall in line with the conduct that the school requires. 

At home I have been working closely with him, trying desperately to instil in him the right and wrong behaviours that other children seem to easily grasp. I've bought in the same system at home that school use with him...the art of payback, so for example if he throws all of his toys on the floor in a temper and refuses to then tidy it up, he earns a minute of payback for each minute he defiantly refuses to cooperate. It sounds strict and it is but it's what he needs, he is at times completely beyond my control.

So, by now you're probably sat there wondering how and why this has anything to do with the loss of an apparent good friend? 

Let's continue shall we. My  9 year old whilst he is in meltdown mode regularly will shout 'go kill yourself' at me or say he's 'going to kill himself', he has absolutely no idea what he's saying in that moment, when an Autistic child enters a meltdown the world around them doesn't exist anymore and all they feel is rage or a wave of confusion and a sensory overload that pretty much blinds them. Once the meltdown is over he will curl up on my lap sobbing and apologising over and over again for the hurtful words he has said to me, he doesn't really 'get' empathy and often his apologies are somewhat empty as he doesn't really understand what he's apologising for. Anyway, my 5 year old got into an altercation at school with my friends son who for many years has been his best buddy, now the school and I have no idea what may have lead to the following chain of events as we just have an account of what two 5 year olds think happened. My friends son in her words was cornered by another chid who was upsetting him and my son was there too, the other child was being unpleasant to her chid and then my son came out with 'go kill yourself' this is where things get hard, my friend approached me and explained the situation, going so far as to say that her son was seriously contemplating suicide, a term that I don't think any 5 year old should know about let alone be thinking about so I was heartbroken that my son would say such a vile thing to his friend.

 I obviously instantly dealt with the situation as did the school. I once again had to sit down my chid and explain to him that words hurt. He denied saying anything but because our other son says it at home I had no choice but to believe that he did indeed say something as hurtful as that to another child. I will never allow my child to be a bully to another child so I made sure he was dealt with accordingly.

My friend at the time reassured me that the situation wouldn't hinder our friendship, I messaged her daily to see how her son was doing and all appeared to be well until her dad approached me one afternoon when I was sat on my own but surrounded by various other parents and loudly proclaimed that all my children should be expelled, that they're all bullies who need some proper parenting. I was humiliated and attempted to laugh it off until I got into the playground and cried on my sons teacher and one of my other friends. 

I explained to my friend that her dad had really upset me, as you all know I suffer from mental health issues such as Anxiety, Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder and Emotional Instability Disorder. The words and actions of others quite often are what trigger episodes of extreme lows, lack of sleep and severe anxiety to the point where I can't do the school run on my own. My friend once again assured me that what her dad had said was not from her it was entirely his own opinion, she seemed perfectly fine with me until my husband and I had a meeting with the school.

The school reassured me that his behaviour issues were not a direct result of my parenting which I must admit was something I needed to hear. His behaviour they believe is simply down to a whole host of learnt behaviours from our other son that had embedded themselves deep within him coupled with layers and layers of his own behaviour problems, they decided to place him in their nurture group and push through a referral to the community paediatrician to start the ball rolling on an assessment to see if perhaps he does fit somewhere on the spectrum. For the last 18 months I have always stated that he is simply a naughty child and I have never once defended his actions or made excuses for his behaviour, but after his actions toward his best friend I decided to do some research of my own and came across two spectrum disorders that aren't as well know as Autism or ADHD, they are PDA (Pathological demand avoidance) and ODD (Oppositional defiance disorder) now I wasn't suggesting to anyone that that was 100% what I thought my soon could have, I said he certainly ticked many of the boxes but I still simply believed him to still be just naughty, so hearing from the school that actually he might not be naughty, he might actually be suffering silently really hit me hard, and then the guilt set in.

 Had I really spent 7 years focusing on one child and ignored the others pleas for help? They discussed the possibility that he may have a defiance disorder which as I mentioned was something I'd already researched. I explained to them that I have done numerous courses and workshops on Autism and Spectrum related behaviours and disorders plus different parenting and anxiety classes, basically I have done everything I can think of to learn more abut the spectrum to better help my son and learn coping mechanisms and strategies for him, but nothing that I had learnt worked on my 5 year old, he pushes against everything I try and put in place for him. That seemed to further enhance to the school that there could truly be something spectrum related going on with him. 

After the meeting my friend of course asked how it went and I divulged everything too her because I genuinely believed she cared. I went on about my day and didn't think anything else about it until the next day her sister posted a meme on Facebook that went something like this: Back in my day there was no such thing as ADHD it was just known as little bastard syndrome, she had even captioned it with 'some people seek out a diagnosis just to excuse their shit parenting' Now clearly that was aimed at me as after school that day I had bumped into a mutual friend and told her what the school had said and mentioned ODD and how it could possibly explain his actions towards our friends little boy. After what her sister posted I confronted my friend who assured me it wasn't aimed at me. I once again just carried on with what I was doing and then later that evening another post popped up, this time on twitter from the mutual friend that I had bumped into, she stated words to this effect: 'why is it the bullies who get all the praise' and 'it's so funny when someone plays the victim when they're really not' Once again I confronted my friend and that is when it all came spilling out, she decided she could no longer continue with out friendship as she couldn't stand seeing any positive posts about our 5 year old because it felt like she was letting her son down. She went on to explain that she couldn't be happy for the help we were receiving and seemed to further confirm that her family believed my son was simply a bully. 

I understood where she was coming from and accepted that she felt it necessary to take a step back and focus on her child's needs. It hurt obviously as I valued her friendship and support and I also felt let down as I have supported her wholeheartedly through everything she has gone through both good and bad over the last few years including her sons own behaviour issues, I aided her in finding tactics and coping mechanisms for him and made her a behaviour reward chart for him amongst other things.  I felt as though my son was simply being used now as a scapegoat, someone who was easy to blame for the actions of others. It was as if she was in some way offended  that the school were offering us support for our son. I spoke openly to her sister and explained how hurtful the meme that she posted was and tried to educate her on a few things such as, a shit parent wouldn't fight as hard as I have to get answers for her son, a shit parent wouldn't sit up all night when her child is struggling to wind down, a shit parent wouldn't take it on the chin every time her son lashes out at her. I explained that everything the school were putting in place was their choice, their decisions...not mine. I didn't walk into that meeting with a list of demands and not once did I suggest that his actions are solely down to being on the spectrum.

 I didn't once make excuses for his behaviours, instead I decided to do yet another course to try and combat his behaviours, off my own back I started an online course for 'Anger in children' and signed up for a 2 hour workshop called 'Challenging behaviour in children' these aren't the actions of a shit parent ok, no one understands how unbelievably hard and draining it is living with a child on the spectrum, I have spent 7 long years full of tears and heartache fighting to get heard, fighting to get answers for my 9 year old son, I honest to God don't think I've got another 7 years of fight left in me to start the process all over again with our 5 year old. 

I needed my friend to be there for me like I was there for her, instead I was left feeling cast out. In the days that followed I quickly realised that things between her and I were unlikely to ever smooth themselves out. I avoided the playground, instead choosing to collect my 5 year old from the office, I didn't feel able to be in the same space as her as she was always either with her dad or the mutual friend that had cruelly called my son a bully on Twitter, therefor becoming a bully herself against a child who can't defend himself. 

I spoke to the pastoral worker at his school and explained to her what had been said on social media and asked her outright is my son a bully, she told me straight that he is not a bully, he is simply a very complex little boy who saw his daddy get blue lighted away in an ambulance and since then has been fighting to understand why everything around him has changed, why daddy has changed. You see, he has always been more of a daddy's boy than the others, daddy is his hero and though he was tricky to handle before, what happened to his daddy simply tipped him over the edge and he became hostile.

It's heart breaking to start unpicking the events of the last 6 months and realise that I didn't see what was clearly in front of me, a child that is in need of guidance and help, but you better believe that I see it now.  He may not be on the spectrum, I don't know, he simply may just need some support from CAHMS, but whatever it is that's going on with him, I will endeavour to be there every step of the way to help him, to fix him, to guide and to teach him. 

I wish my friend was taking this journey with me, I wish we still had one another to rely on and to support one another, but it seems likely that the friendship can not be fixed. I wish her nothing but the best, I don't harbour any hard feeling towards her but I am disappointed that she felt it necessary to get other people to say hurtful things to me instead of being transparent and honest with me from the start. 

I will say that now, just a week after we cut ties that I am seeing clearly and with a new found clarity. I have had some truly wonderful friends rally around me, friends who don't judge or belittle me, friends who don't twist the truth and turn the knife, friends who see my son for what he is and don't try and label him or bully him, friends who do not judge my parenting or call into question my reasoning behind the requested spectrum assessment. No one in their right mind wants a diagnosis of Autism or any other spectrum related disorder for their child, what they want is for their child to be happy, healthy and not plagued with complex sensory issues that make eating certain things or hearing a certain sound traumatising. 

I may have lost someone who I thought was a good friend but what I've gained is a new determination to fight even harder for my children, to take the help that is offered to me and to help mould them into fully functioning, empathetic and kind human beings. 

The road ahead will be bumpy, but even if I'm trundling down it all on my own I know for certain that I'm on the right path.