Thursday, 1 May 2014

Chapter 1 to 7

Chapter 1

 

A dishevelled young lady sat quietly in the corner of a government interview room. She had been sitting in silence for a little while; long enough to hear people scurrying along the corridor and mumbles of peoples voices on the other side of the door; however, couldn’t decipher what they were discussing. She began to drift deep in thought while dazing out of the window wondering what kind of past life she once had to now be faced with such chaos and disillusionment; perhaps it was some ‘divine path’ that she had to travel; perhaps a sequence of ‘pre-destined’ events that would lead her to the so-called path of ‘righteousness’ or ‘enlightenment’. Whatever the case may be; being in a closed room by herself was very symbolic of where she was at during that period of her life.

The voices on the other side of the door got louder and distracted her from her deep thoughts, she could see shadows loitering under the rim of the door and the door slowly began to open. A lady walked in to the room and closed the door carefully behind her. She looked at me and smiled, yes; that dishevelled young lady; deep in thought about the ‘meaning of life’; was me.

“So, are you settled into a comfortable home?” Mrs Ryan asked warmly.

Mrs Ryan was an older woman in her forties with silvery grey hair, huge forgiving eyes and a soft voice. Almost like a mirage as she seemed to have a calming aura about her, a woman who seemed to be at peace with herself and her ‘lot’ in life.

Scrambled thoughts were running through my mind, I just gazed out the window and reflected on my so-called life. It was at that point a complete mess, feelings of loneliness, heartache and tremendous grief just seemed to drain any enthusiasm I had for life and left me feeling quite numb. There were however, little tiny specks of happiness dotted here and there which I desperately tried to focus on to make ‘living’ a little easier. I looked into Mrs Ryan's sympathetic eyes and replied,

“Well, at the moment, I’m living in a squat here in Dunedin, its okay I guess”.

“Are you planning on shifting?”

“Maybe, probably, can’t stay there forever I guess”

“How do you feel about where you are? I mean; have you come to any decisions about how you are going to take responsibility for your future?” she quizzed.

I remembered the first time I arrived in Dunedin. It was the early hours of a foggy morning, there was hardly any traffic and I headed straight to the hospital where I was ushered into the intensive care unit where my brother lay there lifeless. I could smell and almost taste the stench of dried blood mixed with antiseptic which made me gag a bit. I didn’t take much notice of the town at first because I wasn’t planning on staying for too long, it was the first time I’d ever been to Dunedin.

“It’s hard to say really; I guess, at the minute, no”.

“Is there anything in your life that you would like to achieve?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t thought ahead that far”

“Okay”, Mrs Ryan took a breath in as if to deliver some bad news (god knows I was used to that), “I am a counsellor and my job is to gather as much information as possible in order for it to be passed to the adoptive parents of Russell’s child, I have read your case notes and I do realise things in general haven’t been easy for you”

I just started to stare out into space again. I have a nephew, of whom I will probably never get to know. The thought of just simply getting used for information made me instantly tense and the seemingly caring attitude of Mrs Ryan seemed to fade away. A huge mound of frustration and anger weighed my body down; so much so, that the rumbles of aggravated energy seemed to be ticking away and was liable to explode at any minute.

“Tell me about your childhood”.

“Okay”, I took a deep breath in knowing full well that she knew the history anyway; nonetheless I carried on and if it was a sales pitch, “I grew up in Invercargill, Russell and I had the same dad; Allan Earnest James Neil, he’s on my brothers birth certificate but not on mine because Mum left him before she found out that she was pregnant with me. Mum was living in Queenstown when she met him; he worked in the RAAF and was based there. They moved in together and Russell was born in Queenstown on the 1st December, 1972. Shortly after that, Mum found out that he was already married and that he already had a family in Australia so she left. When she got back to Invercargill; she found out that she was pregnant with me and I came into the world on the 30th May, 1974. Russell and I made an attempt to locate him once but failed, when I look back now I’m not really sure that I wanted to find him”, I twiddled my fingers remembering my brother, “Russell gave up hope, he told me when he was in Corrective Training”

“I realise his death was very traumatic and this has made a huge impact on your life, were you and your brother close?”

“Yes”.

I looked up at Mrs Ryan with a watery shimmer in my eyes, my voice became shaky.

“I took it badly to say the least – but then I’m not particularly sure how I should be ‘taking’ it”

Russell was murdered. Not in a car accident, not a disease; someone actually beat him to a pulp. His ear was severed and there was a gaping hole in the back of his head, cold blooded murder. I have never experienced anything so painful like that. It’s just like having a living organism ripped out of your body and it’s just so hard to breathe.

“Yes, we were close. At the funeral, his friends said that he called me his ‘twin’”

I remembered us going to a funeral when we were really young, Russell and I just looked into each others eyes at the end of the eulogy, I could see a tremendous sadness in his eyes and we both felt the heartache, that big lump at the back of your throat that emerges from nowhere which almost causes the airwaves to close. It’s difficult to escape the all consuming tennis ball lodged in the oesophagus and no matter how hard you try to cough it away, you have to breathe, so you take in a breath of air and that’s when the tears start to flow. We stood there in the crematorium crying, it was the first time I’d seen Russell cry. I don’t know why I remember that so well, it was very rare that you’d see Russell cry. Well both of us for that matter, we never cried as kids; well, tried bloody hard not to, if we were hurting we’d try and swallow it and push it back down, if we did get caught having a snivel we would get shouted at by Mum telling us that she would “Give us something to cry about”.

“Could you just confirm that that would make you 16 and Russell 17, yes?” Mrs Ryan asked as she was scribbling down some notes.

I just nodded in response and once again found myself drifting back in time reminiscing the times that I’d spent with my brother. I remembered our last conversation like it was yesterday; it was the year of my school exams, I had not long shifted back home with my mother after spending a long period of time being shifted from one foster family to the next. He phoned to say that he was going to be a father, I was just so happy to hear his voice. I told him that I missed him and a gap of silence came across the phone. He was really excited about being a father and to this day I am convinced he would’ve been a wonderful dad.

I looked at the ceiling and wiped away the tears that emerged with my finger.

“I can see you’re in a great deal of pain and the healing process is going to take some time, did you get any support when your brother died?”

“Ha!” I said sarcastically, “Hardly! When I last spoke to Russell it almost felt like... in a strange way.... he seemed to be running from the thought of someone actually caring for him. We’ve had to fend for ourselves basically - no matter what happened, so once Russell had gone it felt like my whole family had gone too; I’ve got nobody. Russell was living here in Dunedin and I was in foster care, I saw mum and she just said to me “If you come back and live with me that means that I can go on benefit”, I thought about it for a bit and then came to the conclusion that well; she is my mum. Soon as the funeral was over I was out on my arse again. She sucks so badly”.

The room was filled with an uncomfortable silence; Mrs Ryan looked mortified that a parent could say that.

“Do you still think about the way he died?” Mrs Ryan leaned forward, prying deep into my mind.

I paused for a second as I reiterated the question asking myself if she really did just ask the question about ‘thinking’ about the ‘way’ he died, “How do you mean? All the time, it never goes away”

As if I would or could forget; such bizarre questions that she was firing at me. I never used to believe in the paranormal, but now I do. Before Russell died I started to have premonitions about his death night after night after night. I thought I was going crazy; I would wake up with tears in my eyes and in a cold sweat. I woke up one night and told myself; ‘this is my dream and I can change it!’, but I couldn’t. I desperately tried to contact him, write to him, phone him, but it was no good; I couldn’t get in touch with him. Then one still morning, I suddenly woke; as if someone had told me to wake up, I hadn’t dreamt that night and it was still the early hours of the morning, the sound of silence was haunting. I looked out the window to see a police car pull up outside and two police officers get out and approach the house. The loud knock on the wooden door echoed in the silence. I answered the door and shortly after confirming that they were at the right address they asked us to take a seat, took their hats off and broke the news. Russell was in critical condition and that they suspected it was homicide. Mum was taken to the airport by the police and she got the next flight to Dunedin, I was left behind on my own; I couldn’t understand why I was left behind. A short time afterwards my Aunt and Grandmother came, I was in the bathroom brushing my hair frantically, my eyes were stinging as I’d been crying so much, they asked what was happening and I burst out into a fit of tears and blubbered “They told me he was going to die”. I saw an image of his face and thought he’d been in a car accident and that’s what I told my Aunt and Grandmother.

A few hours later I was staring out of my Uncle’s car window heading for Dunedin Hospital, I believed it was my fault this had happened, thinking maybe I could have changed this event.

As I was by his bedside at the hospital I was holding his hand and his fingers twitched so I thought he’d be okay; I was so wrong. His head was bleeding that badly that the nurse had to change the pillow case every five minutes or so. I remember having a kind of, telepathic conversation with him, I asked him, “Who did this to you?”, and his voice was saying “It’s all right, I’m all right”. I hated myself, my brother was lying helplessly on a hospital bed with only the life support machine pumping his heart, no sign of life, his hair was stiff from dried blood, his left ear had been ripped off and his head cracked open but yet he was ‘telling’ me that he was ‘alright’. The life support machine attached to him was trying desperately to give him an edge on survival; but it was hopeless, the damage had been done, he was gone; he was considered ‘brain dead’. That’s when the doctor informed the nurse that it was time to turn the life support machine off. When she did his body went a kind of yellowy colour; must have been all the drugs they’d been pumping into his body to try and keep him alive, my mum turned round to everyone and said that she thought he had AIDS. It was a strange feeling when they turned the machine off, the sound of the flatline permanently ringing in my ear as I stayed and held his hand, then I felt the most bizarre feeling which made me feel guilty and angry with myself for years; it was a consuming feeling of warmth and love, I can’t explain it. When people have near death experiences they describe the sensation of being ‘pulled’ toward a ‘bright light’, could it be possible for other people to feel or sense the pure power of this loving glow because that is what I felt. It was ‘pure’, it lasted seconds but felt as if it was in slow motion. We were always close, and in a strange way I know he’s watching over me.

“How are you coping with everyday life? I mean do you keep in touch with any members of your family like Aunts and Uncles for example?” she asked

“I don’t have any contact with my mother, I keep in touch with my Aunt, but it’s not the same is it, she’s not my Mum; it’s better just to say that I don’t have a mother, don’t have a father and brother is now dead; an orphan, and I am in Social’ Welfare’s eyes”.

“How do you feel now that the trial is over?” Mrs Ryan quizzed

“I still feel the same, nothing has changed really apart from somebody getting life for murder but only doing half the sentence for good behaviour, seems pointless really; I would’ve rather got a gun and shot the fucker, or perhaps make him a cripple so he’d have to live the rest of his life paralyzed and unable to commit suicide, get spoon-fed; you know”.

Mrs Ryan didn’t say anything just jotted a few notes down, I suspect that she wrote something like ‘emotionally damaged sister of Russell Warren Neill seeks revenge’ as a personality reference.

“Did Russell have any illnesses or accidents when he was younger?” she asked changing the subject completely

“He had a thing called ‘stiff-neck’ or ‘elephant-neck’ or something, he couldn’t move his neck for a bit, it was really funny. Oh; and when he was living in Ohai he double-backed a mate on Pascoe (horse) who doesn’t like it so he bucked him off, Russell landed on a steel pipe which went into his stomach and his mate landed on top of him. It was quite gross really, his intestines were hanging out when they pulled him off and he wasn’t allowed to eat for a couple of days, the scar on his stomach was from about here to here” I said whilst pointing from my midriff down to my belly button. “Apart from that; no he didn’t have that much physically wrong with him”

“And what about you, did you have any accidents or illnesses?”

“I had German measles when I was about five years old, I wasn’t allowed to look at the light apparently as they said that I’d go blind, I’ve had mumps, measles and chickenpox and I have a dented cheekbone”

“How did that happen?” Mrs Ryan looked alarmed

“Well, when we were living in Tisbury we had one of those swingy-round see-saw things, Russell was just swinging it around and I walked straight into it, I now have a dent in my cheekbone and the scar ends just underneath my chin”, I said pointing out the semi-circumference of half my face.

“What about medical conditions that run in the family, i.e.; hereditary conditions, are you aware of any?”

“My Grandad died of Cancer and Mum has a heart murmur – not really sure about anything else”

“I do realise that this is hard for you Michelle, however nearly all of the information that I need for the potential Adoptive parents is now ready and I must concentrate on the matter at hand”, Mrs Ryan put her pen and clipboard down beside her and placed her hands on her lap looking somewhat sincere. “If you would like me to give you a number for further counselling I would be more than happy to provide you with that, would you like me to get the number for you?”

I just agreed as I knew that time was indeed money and Mrs Ryan was just simply doing her job, however; the feeling of getting used just to tick some boxes and fill in some blank spaces on a form was just pitiful. I left the Social Welfare office in Dunedin feeling the same if not worse than when I went in. My brother is still dead; I am still grieving and still feel incredibly shit with no immediate support apart from that of the Samaritans and Salvation Army. I made my way back to the squat above the bakery shop which was just five minutes walk from the city centre with the thought lingering in my head “What am I going to do with my life?”; after all I was 16; surely that must mean that I’m ‘wise of the ways of the world’ – even though I was still considered an ‘orphan’ in Social Welfare’s eyes.

The real challenge after Russell died was facing life on a day-to-day basis, like when we got back to Invercargill that evening from Dunedin hospital I decided to go to school the next day, I couldn’t stomach the thought of staying home; I had to do something with my mind. When I was at school I couldn’t focus, I didn’t tell anybody what had happened and nobody knew; I just drifted off into my own world. It was in the form room that things changed, I saw Wendy who knew Russell so I went out of the class room and told her. It was extremely emotional as I told her that Russell had died yesterday. After I had somewhat ‘collected’ myself I went back into the form room, the form teacher held me behind as everyone else left to go to their classes – he just looked at me and said “I know”, of course all I could do was start to cry again. It took a few minutes to kill the tears before I left to go to science.

A few minutes later I was sitting in the science room trying to act ‘normal’ (if there was such a thing) when the schools guidance counsellor came and pulled me out of class, we were standing in the corridor and she proceeded to ask how I was; I just broke down but this time I could no longer contain my tears. I went back into the science class to get my bag as I couldn’t stay in school for the whole day as I thought I could, as I did the whole class stared at me, I had tears streaming down my face and found it hard to look at my classmates as I was somewhat embarrassed because of my tears, I caught a quick glimpse of some of them and some faces had genuine concern, some were just curious. The whole class went silent, silent enough to hear the birds chirping outside. I got my things and headed home.

A few days later I was sitting in the funeral director’s office with my mother, he was asking questions like “What is his favourite music, his favourite flower” in order to get the funeral underway. Mum didn’t know anything so I had to tell him, the funeral director was rather taken back by mum’s ignorance towards her dead son.
At the wake he was dressed in a dark suit and holding a red carnation while he lay peacefully in the decorated coffin. They had performed an autopsy and had cut his head open; they disguised it with a toupee of course but it was the idea of him getting treated like an obsolete carcass just by the way that they’d chopped him up and slapped on a pathetic horse haired toupee to disguise it, almost like it was a botched attempt made by trainees working at the morgue. I stood by his coffin and looked down onto my brother; only he was not my brother anymore, my brother had gone and his body was left behind. The vessel he used to be in was cold and stiff lying dormant before me; covered with cuts and stitches and part of the pillow was rested up against his head disguising his missing ear. Our cousin Brendon was there, he came over to the coffin and hesitantly looked, as he did the tears in his eyes started well up. He’d spent a lot of time with Russell also, they used to go off and do the ‘boy’ thing together before Russell ended up where he was in Dunedin.

By the time it was the day of the funeral, everyone knew about 88 Dundas Street. It was front page news for a couple of weeks back home, all over the papers, the television, everywhere you went everyone knew about it, I found it harder when reporters started to ask mum questions about Russell’s background, everything seemed to just close in around my head. Mum would be receiving sympathy cards from members of the public and she also appeared on the front page of the newspaper making out like she was the most devoted caring mother that there ever was. It sickened me.

While she was receiving a phenomenal amount of condolences from people all over New Zealand she remained oblivious to the fact that what Russell dearly wanted was a ‘family’, a mum who he could trust and count on whenever or whatever problems were plaguing him he had someone to lean on, that never came to pass as both Russell and I were treated with utter contempt and leading up to the final stages of his life he found that ‘family’ amongst Skinheads living in Dunedin which resulted in a premature horrific death where the only apparent ‘victim’ was – mum.

I had friends that came to the funeral to support me and without that support from them I would’ve been completely lost.

There were a couple of dedications on the radio for me put on by school friends, both really sad songs; Elton John’s song called ‘Daniel’ and ‘He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother’, I know that their heart’s were in the ‘right place’, but whenever those songs come on now, I just tend to well up or go incredibly quiet.

After the funeral mum spoke to me briefly, she said “This kind of thing can either make you closer or pull you apart, you have to leave”.

There was no sign of emotion, I was to pack my things yet again and move out of her house.

The moment of disposal was within about a week of the funeral – there it was – the black bin liner filled with my clothes and worldly belongings ready for ‘shipment’ by the front door, I ended up staying with a friend and her mum.

While I was there mum had found out that she could get money for her so-called grief, she wanted the hand out for the ‘deeply traumatic’ time that she was having with the sudden death of her son, but – she needed my testimony apparently. She picked me up and drove me to the Social Welfare office and told me to say that I’m very upset and that I needed a break. She certainly wasn’t wrong there. I didn’t have the energy to argue so I just said it – it was true for me anyway. She got the money and had arranged to go to her boyfriend’s friend’s house in Palmerston North. I don’t remember much of it, everything was just a bit of a blur - I was only there because it was a financial requirement. I just remember getting absolutely off my face on Coruba Rum, it was terrible; the room was spinning vertically as well as horizontally – and then it came up with unbridled fury. Of course it wasn’t mum that came in to help me – the friends girlfriend came in and pulled my hair back, made sure that I had access to the toilet and I wouldn’t trip over anything and even made sure that I was tucked up in bed sleeping on my side.

It was a quiet journey back to Invercargill, it was clear to mum’s boyfriend’s friends that my mother and I aren’t particularly close and she really hasn’t got a maternal bone in her body. It was apparent when we left as I got a big hug and she was snubbed with polite smiles and a wave. I had grown quite used to it by this stage but for other people to actually witness it first hand must be quite taken back and unsure of what to say or do. There was a much more memorable moment during the drive back to Invercargill which is what I remember most about the trip to Palmerston North and that was – the black cat. We were in the middle of nowhere when a black cat jumped in front of the car – it was a very ‘Doors’ moment and I felt like singing ‘Riders on the storm’. It was an incredibly strange moment, in the middle of the sticks and this fucking black cat comes out onto the road from absolutely nowhere. Slammed on the breaks to avoid it and the cat ran into the scrub.

We’d arrived back in Invercargill and I got the heave-ho, I didn’t go and stay with my school friend this time – I headed for Dunedin. It was to me; the last place where Russell was and I felt like I had to go there, I ended up staying in a woman’s refuge full of battered and abused women when I first arrived. While I was in Dunedin I went to the house that the students now call ‘the haunted house’, the tenants were in and allowed me to look around. It was a feeling of dejavu for me as to how the place was set up; the banisters and the fireplace were hauntingly similar if not identical to the way it was in my nightmares; it was just all very spooky. The banisters that were once slammed into the back of my brother’s head had since been replaced. I looked into his bedroom and as if he was there with me felt a tremendous sadness and feeling of ‘being lost’. I had to accept the cold hard fact that I’m on my own now, I mean... really on my own.

It was about eight months later that the trial had come around and the journalists were buzzing once again, the trial coverage was on the front page of the Southland Times and headlined the 6 O’clock news as well; there it was, in big bold black and white as well as being spoken about on television, after all – it was pretty much the first teen killing in New Zealand. At court I remember looking through a small window on the door where my Aunts and Uncles were; as well as mum; listening to the evidence, I wasn’t allowed in as they thought it would ‘distress me too much’, so I sat there, on the stairs, alone. When the killer, George Trounson, took the stand in court; again I had to leave as apparently according to him I looked too much like my brother and was ‘distressing him too much’. So there I was once again, banished to the stairs in the foyer.
Our mother was in the room making out like she was the perfect mother, the caring devoted type who’d done everything in her power to protect and nurture her kids, she absolutely loved the attention that Russell’s death gave her. Members of the public, reporters, journalists, Joe Bloggs walking down the street; were sending her condolence cards. She neglected to mention the fact that Russell did in fact have a sister, she also neglected to tell the press that Russell wanted to go home before he died however Mum wouldn’t even let him in the house let alone move back in, like many other ‘forgetful’ memories that she had, like telling us that she should’ve had an abortion, we were black sheep and we were going to be losers because our Nana said so and that no-one in the family liked us. Explains why she ditched us I guess. So I sat there with the anger boiling up inside me, I just looked straight ahead and thought “I have to get out of here”; so I went. As I began walking out of the court house the hypocrisy of the whole ‘caring mother’ routine pissed me off even more. At the same time that the trial was in full swing, I had a friend that was diagnosed with Acute Leukaemia, his condition was quite grim and he’d been told that he had approximately six months to live (the third schoolmate that had cancer of the blood). I didn’t really know what it’d be like if I went to see him or even if he felt like having any visitors but I bit the bullet and paid him a visit. He seemed happy to have a visitor, in saying that all his mates were down in Invercargill and he was stuck there in Dunedin which was a three hour trip. I was speechless when I saw him. Of course, I tried to have a ‘normal’ conversation without death being mentioned but it still arose. He lay there contemplating his options and asked me “What do you think I should do?” he took his cap off and just began to pick handfuls of his once full and healthy bonnet of hair off, “It’s just falling out all over the place, should I let it drop off or should I shave it off? I don’t know what to do, what do you think?” I was speechless, to this day I can’t remember what I said however it’s one sentence that has stuck with me, it’s the manner in which it was asked, a once brilliant athlete lay there helpless and dying. From sudden death to a painfully slow one; I couldn’t help but ask myself “Is this what this life is all about then? Doom and bloody gloom?”

After that it was just idle chit chat and after I left I headed back to court, I got back to court and got a bollocking as I was no longer sitting on the stairs. Once the bollocking was over, they all left and I wandered back to the good old squat above the bakers, home sweet home.

In the Otago Daily Times, around the end of February 1991, the front page news read sentences like “Student charged with beating youth to death in Dunedin”, “Blood staining found in flat, scientist tells murder trial of scene examination”, “Beaten youth’s condition was ‘hopeless’”, “Youth’s outlook ‘hopeless’ when admitted to hospital”, “Youth beaten on head, told trial”, until finally the verdict was in black and white for all to see in the Otago Daily Times, on February 27th 1991 which was a Wednesday, and it read:

“Man found guilty of murder, jailed for life”

“A 19 year-old Dunedin man has been jailed for life for the murder of a youth who received fatal head injuries in an incident last June”

The article continued;

“George Charles Trounson, a polytechnic student, was yesterday found guilty by a jury at the end of a six and a half day trial in the Dunedin High Court.
Trounson had denied murdering 17-year-old Russell Warren Neil on June 24 last year. Mr Neil died in Dunedin Hospital as a result of severe head injuries inflicted several hours earlier at the flat where he lived.
The jury was out for just over four and a-half hours before returning to the courtroom to give its verdict.
Trounson showed no sign of emotion as the foreman announced the jury’s decision to the hushed courtroom.
On the finding of guilty, Trounson was convicted by Justice Roper and sentenced to life imprisonment, the only penalty available for murder.
Some members of Trounson’s family left the court in tears and several jurors showed signs of emotion.
The judge thanked them for the careful consideration they had given the case. Their task had been sad, he said.
But jury service was an important duty and courts could not function without the efforts of jurors, the judge told them.
In the trial, the Crown called evidence to show Trounson had caused Mr Neil’s death by beating him several times about the head with a piece of broken stair baluster.
The defence argued that Trounson had punched Mr Neil once, and pushed him with his foot, and that the fatal injuries had been caused in an incident a short time beforehand, when Mr Neil become involved in an altercation with a group of students.
Trounson claimed he struck Mr Neil only to prevent him going downstairs and stirring up trouble again.
On the final day of the trial, Mr Justice Roper summed up the case to the jury of eight women and four men, reminding them the Crown had the duty of proving its allegation that Trounson was responsible for Mr Neil’s death.
Jurors had to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Trounson either intended to kill Mr Neil when he struck him, or that he intended to cause injuries which he knew where likely to cause him serious injury, and was reckless as to whether the youth died or not.
The judge said they could find Trounson guilty of murder even if they found he did not intend to kill Mr Neil, but if they were satisfied he knew at the time of raining blows on the youth that there was a real risk of death and he continued hitting.
Both a murder and a manslaughter verdict were concerned with Trounson’s state of mind at the time of the assault. And a person’s intention could only be determined from all the circumstances, from what he said and did, the nature of the attack, whether a weapon was used, and the location of the blows.
If the jury was not satisfied Trounson intended to kill or cause death, the verdict should be guilty of manslaughter.
Should the jurors find proved the charge of murder; they should look at the question of provocation. Such a defence could only reduce a finding of murder to one of manslaughter. It was not a complete defence, the judge said.
The test was whether the fear of Mr Neil continuing the earlier fight with the students, and what it might lead to, having regard to what had already happened, was sufficient to deprive an ordinary run-of-the-mill New Zealander of the power of self control.

Was Trounson in fact deprived of his self control, or did he simply lose his temper with Mr Neil for the problems that he was causing.
The judge said it was essential the Crown should prove Trounson actually caused Mr Neil’s death. The defence had raised the possibility the fatal blow had been struck earlier with a piece of broken door thrown up the stairs, or in another assault. The jury had to look to see if there was any acceptable evidence to support these contentions. Mr Robin Bates and Ms Sally McMillan prosecuted the case for the Crown, while Mrs Judith Ablett-Kerr and Mr Gerard deCourcy represented Trounson”.

It later came to light that Trounson had said that he was going to kill him in order to gain recognition with his skinhead peers. I didn’t get any support from family members, Aunts and Uncles as such, Mum didn’t want to know; naturally, I mean what was I expecting? Miracles? I think not Michelle! C’mon now!

I went through a fair amount of dodgy situations living in Dunedin, like being pinned up against the wall and having my clothes torn off by skinheads. Thought that was ‘it’ for me, until the girlfriend of one the ‘skins’ walked in and started calling him a rapist, that’s when I saw the most brutal beating a man could ever give a woman. She was thrown to the ground and they were kicking her in the head, in the stomach, everywhere. I had a panic attack and while the lady was getting kicked in the head – another lady came in and got me out of the room. After the beating - her face looked like she’d been beaten with a bat and the sole marks of his Doc Martin boots were engraved on her face. She had severely bruised, split and bleeding lips, her cheeks were badly grazed and her eyes resembled a panda that had not long woken up. I dread to think of what kind of bruises she would’ve had on her body as well as a few broken bones that she might’ve been concealing. So, yes; some rather jeopardous situations arose during my time in Dunedin, I felt strangely lucky as well as guilty, going to the police and reporting that would just be suicide. They knew where me and my ‘squat-mate’ were living and even tried to ‘pimp’ us. The Dunedin ‘Skins’ were a cross between the main characters from the movie Trainspotting and Romper Stomper, Romper Stomper still gives me chills when I watch it as it is quite realistic. The best course of action to be free of their unadulterated carnage was to hightail it out of town as I did get told that killing a brother as well as a sister would put you at the top of the hierarchy, in all fairness – I was 16, my 17 year old brother had just been murdered by the hands of the Skinheads, people who he turned to who he thought he had some kind of ‘connection’ with, I was there on my own, nobody was looking for me – I hadn’t run away as I was turfed out, I didn’t want to go back into foster care and quite bluntly – no-one gave a shit – so if I was to ‘disappear’ it would’ve been easily disguised, that thought alone scared the living shit out of me.

After the trial ended the killer got life, of course he’d only serve half the sentence due to good behaviour which baffles me; life should mean life. Nonetheless, things seemed to calm down a bit. My friend that I was squatting with moved back to her parents and I got a room in Ravensbourne which is about ten minutes drive out of Dunedin, it wasn’t that far away from Aramoana, where yet another wanna-be-nazi took his rifle and shot nearly the whole town, all 13 of them. There were different rumours floating around about why he’d done it such as he was pissed off about a $2.00 bank charge, also that he had images of swastika’s in his little shed and turned into a fanatic ‘white power’ personage. Then other stories about the area; such as that the Aramoana area was a Maori burial ground which meant that the land was sacred and ‘unliveable’’. To the opposite of being the spot where no-one should live as Maoris and Moriori’s died in combat there which turned into a massacre and the now the area is cursed - certainly will be now. It’s New Zealand, early ‘90’s and people seem to be dropping like flies.
It was quite a sombre time in Dunedin, Ravensbourne was just a very small suburb overlooking the peninsula and the views were pretty awesome. I had no job and no prospects and I had not long turned 17. I left school shortly before school certificate exams which was when Russell died and I didn’t plan on going back. I was looking for work constantly however with my age along with the lack of qualifications my prospects were rather grim. While flicking through the situations vacant section of the newspaper one day I came across an ad that said ‘Sales people required, commission only basis, over 18, free travel and free accommodation’. I knew that you had to be 18 but who’s going to know? So I phoned up and went for an interview, I took along my reference from the guidance counsellor at Cargill High School hoping that that would excuse me for not having completed my school certificate. It read:
To Whom It May Concern

Regarding: Michelle Johnstone

I have known Michelle Johnstone for three years while she attended Cargill High School. I am the Guidance Counsellor at Cargill. Despite the fact that Michelle has experienced very difficult family problems, she has always shown herself to be an intelligent and able worker. Michelle can write and present a very good report. Her work is neat and well-presented. In nearly all subject areas, Michelle is capable of an above-average standing. She is especially good orally and can communicate before a group with ease. Cargill would have honestly have preferred Michelle to continue her education, however, we do appreciate that she does need to live away from home and that perhaps a period of work and part-time study is her best option for now. In the work situation Michelle would be a quick learner and a good communicator. She would present her work well and work easily with others. Michelle can handle equipment with care, she would be keen to succeed and gain approval from her supervisor. Michelle is generally a reliable and sensible person. She has a high degree of energy and individual initiative. I wish her the best in her career plans and recommend her to employment.

Signed: Nina Head, Guidance Counsellor.

I went for the interview in a hotel in St Clairs, rather unusual I thought; having an interview in a hotel room. Her name was Judy and she explained that I would need to sell a cleaning product called ‘Wizard’ on a door-to-door basis and that I would receive commission for every bottle that I sold, I’d get also to travel all over New Zealand and stay in hotels. She took my reference and muttered “Oh a reference, well they only say good things about you anyway”, which was a true statement. She read it quietly and handed it back in a rather subdued way. She then asked me if I would be prepared to partake in a one week’s trial starting the next day so I jumped at the chance. I headed home with a spring in my step after landing my first job, okay it was sales; and it was commissioned based, but then I get to travel and stay in hotels - provided I get through the first week.

The next day, Judy picked me up from my flat in Ravensbourne and off to work I went. At first it was rather scary as I had to practise a spiel in front of people that I didn’t know then later on to people in their homes, walking into shops and demonstrating it in front of whoever may be there at the time. Needless to say I had to be quite gutsy. My first day as a door-to-door sales person was daunting, I did manage to sell a couple of bottles however I couldn’t help shaking the first couple of times as well as forgetting what I was supposed to say and attempting to answer questions that I hadn’t got a clue about. So, I took the bottle, the cloths and the bag back to my flat and practised. Once I had the spiel down-pat it was easy “Do you know how hard it is to remove ink?” was the opening sentence, followed by “Good isn’t it?”, and then I would lead them over to the window or any glass around and show them the fabulous streak-free glass cleaner. Upon amazing them with the streak-free glass I was to pick a mucky spot on the carpet where I would magically remove a mark or a stain leaving one little clean patch on the floor and an amazed potential customer. I have to admit I did get some ‘proper’ muck from some people’s carpets and yes; even chewing gum. My second day was naturally easier than my first and I managed to sell a record 18 bottles in one day in Balclutha. When the day came to an end we all hopped in the van and headed back to Dunedin, Judy asked me “How old are you again?”, I said “17.. Uh… I mean 18”, so I was busted. As it turns out she knew that I wasn’t 18. By the end of the week I was offered a position with the team of salespeople and we were off travelling New Zealand, staying in hotels and making money at the same time.

To finally have some sort of real job that involves constant travelling and being able to get away from it all, to not have all the chaos and constant drama staring at me in the face wherever I went forcing me to ‘just get over it’’ was a bonus in itself. I couldn’t talk to anybody about my whole experience of life up to that point as their opinions would change and they wouldn’t know how to talk to me - as I learned. It didn’t take me very long to find that ‘happy’ smile and my ‘front’ was on perfect form.

After all you have to be ‘tough’ to a certain degree, bite the proverbial bullet and say to yourself ‘forget that shit’, like whenever my mum told me that ‘she wished she had an abortion’ over and over again – it took me a little while to become thick skinned and not let it bother me too much. To me, court was the easy part in that there was never allowed to be any sign of emotion when Russell and I were younger as if we did we’d have to run, duck and hide. In court; in order to get the case across you must remove all sign of emotion - however in my case - they just removed me because I looked like my brother too much as was ‘distressing’ the guy that killed him. So yes, not just any job – it was a life-changing job. One that I could be good at and have an opportunity to succeed in as after all, according to our mother we ‘would always be losers’ and ‘never amount to much’.

Coming from the woman that booted me when I was just five months old, it’s the very first thing I remember. I quizzed mum about it and apparently that happened when I was five months old and we were staying at Nana’s, so Mum being the person that she is - got annoyed and gave me a swift kick, I still remember it well as it felt like an electricity bolt.

I’d have flashes of memories rather than ‘flowing’ ones and I do remember bits and pieces of Nana’s house like the orange and brown rug on the floor, my uncles drum kit in a room and on the other side of the hall was the kitchen. I remember the drum kit well as I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sticks and have a good bash – I did but then got told off and made to sit on the couch and wait again.

We lived in Tisbury by that stage, I don’t know when we moved there but I’m guessing it was when Russell and I were around two and three years old. We had a couple of scraps with metal, we had one of those swing round see-saw things in the garden, Russell was just swinging it around and I walked straight into it and it clobbered me straight in the face and I went flying – I now I have a dent in my cheekbone. I had stitches in my face and the scar is on the top of my cheekbone to underneath my chin. I do remember the pain as I was knocked out for a little while, as it hit me I just felt a massive pain in my cheek and then everything just seemed to go really still. Almost as if time itself had frozen. Russell’s argument with metal came when he went on the tractor and ended up getting jabbed with a pitch fork in his rear end. His pitch fork wound was open and bleeding but nobody noticed until mum picked him up and there was blood everywhere. He let out a little ‘wince’ and ended up having some stitches in his bottom – and all without crying. Although we were incredibly young the preconditioning methods of child behaviour that mum bestowed on us was sinking in, ‘Don’t you fucking cry, I’ll give you something to cry about – wait ‘til you get home’ she would say in this demonic voice, as if she was looking forward to belting us.

I hated going to Nana’s, we had to sit on the couch for ages and not do anything and when we got home it was worse as we’d have to go to our bedrooms. At that time all mum’s brothers and sisters were around, they were; Kevin, Joe, Peter and Russell and the girls were; Anne (mum), Christine, Carole and Gayna – and of course Nana. The one that told mum to get an abortion - as mum had told us. The uncles were playing guitar in the lounge and the Aunts were normally in the kitchen.

It was our uncle Peter’s wedding to Sharon is the next thing that I remember, Russell and I were page boy and flower girl respectively, it was great fun getting dressed up to go to a party. The dress had an oriental flavour around the neckline and was a light blue colour with lace all the way down the front; Russell had his little suit with the matching cushion carrying the ring. I even remember doing the rehearsals for the walk down the isle prior to the wedding – at the time I thought it was really quite strange that the process before the party had to be done more than once - I didn’t quite get the idea that we weren’t allowed to party after the first time that they swapped rings, I asked and was told that they wouldn’t be dancing tonight as ‘they forgot to dress up’. But when we got home I remember the beating and getting sent to my room for being rude, we also got the ‘behave yourself otherwise I’ll beat you ‘til you’re black and blue’ lecture. It was when it came to the photos that both Russell and I were rather anxious as the ‘stand still and smile’ command from our mother was a rather terrifying one. We smiled, although it’s more of a ‘I’m trying to smile the best I can without getting the crap kicked out of me’ smile.

A few years later we moved to Adamson Crescent which was in Invercargill, mum had met David and they had a son called Justin. I don’t remember Justin being around that much but David used to bring him to the house to visit, turned out mum didn’t want him so he went to live with David. David had three sons from a previous relationship’ John, Timothy and Matthew. I don’t really know what was happening as Russell and I used to spend the vast majority of time together on our own, mum seemed to be always out. On one occasion she was out and Russell and I were mucking about in the garden, I went inside to make a cup of Milo but instead ended up eating some, just as I had eaten a teaspoon of it mum walked in and caught me – not only was I inside the house but I was also eating Milo which was a cardinal sin. She screamed and yelled whilst whacking me around the head and then the order to put my hands out came; it was the jug cord – again. My hands were bright red from being whipped by the cable, the sting seemed to last forever and once it was over it just kept throbbing, I couldn’t close my hand. The marks on my hands would come up in lined bumps and would stay there for quite some time before they were ‘back to normal’. After that Russell and I talked a lot about running away, trying to find our father and perhaps getting rescued from this beast of a woman who just happens to be our mother. The life of getting beaten, whipped and sent to our bedrooms for solitary confinement was a rather depressing way to live however I seemed to learn the slow way that mum didn’t really give a shit about us whereas Russell was quite aware of it way before I was. We were 7 and 8 years old at the time and under the impression that nobody wanted us, as we were ‘black sheep’, we would always be ‘losers’, ‘never amount to much’ and those words ‘I should’ve had an abortion when I had the chance’ were being snarled at us on a daily basis.

School was good, it was escapism more than anything else – it was home that was bad. Russell had started to rebel at school and ended up in a fight, he punched someone in the face although his knuckles caught his opponents teeth so he had tooth-grazed knuckles. I don’t know what had happened surrounding the fight but I seen him sitting in the office and he showed me his fist with a somewhat proud look on his face – for him, it was the first opportunity he had of sticking up for himself and fighting back – which he did do but ultimately resulted in a kicking when he got home. Since that moment Mum found it easier to tell people that he was a trouble maker and difficult to handle. Of course; we instinctively knew that if we told anyone what goes on at home nobody would believe us and nobody would care and it would just result in more lashings. The motherly words of ‘I love you’, or ‘I’m proud of you’ were never ever said. A little while later, Russell had got a part in the school play of ‘Joseph and the Technicolor raincoat’, he was really proud of himself and I was looking forward to seeing him on stage – but; mum had other plans. She complained to the school that we were both difficult to handle, unruly etc so she had arranged to send me to a ‘Health Camp’, it was a place where ‘young misfits’ go, a bit like a boarding school. It was in Roxburgh which was a wee way away from Invercargill and I remember thinking that it’s really strange with no-one telling me that I’m useless. I’d get letters from Russell while I was there – none from mum. We’d sleep in a dormitory, go to school etc. I don’t know how long I was there but it did feel like ages and when I got back to Invercargill it felt like everything had changed. Almost like I was a stranger to mum and ‘wasn’t supposed to go back there’, whereas Russell was as great as a brother could be, gave me a huge hug and started telling me all the stuff that he’d been up to since I was away.

Things were just strange. It took about a week for the beatings to start again. At that point mum had met a guy called Paul and they would go out playing darts at the local pub, again – we seemed to be on our own the majority of the time. It was one night that they came home and were playing darts in the lounge, Russell and I were just sitting and watching them when mum turned to us and said ‘Don’t you know?’, we both shook our heads, ‘I’m pregnant, I’m going to have a baby’. Paul looked at us and smiled and mum smiled back at him then they just continued to play darts. Russell was rather taken back by it as Justin wasn’t wanted and she made it pretty loud and clear that we weren’t wanted – so to have another baby was just – confusing. I thought that if/when Paul saw the beatings that she gives us he would change his mind about having a baby with this woman, however that never came to pass as once Lance came along Russell and I were a ‘hassle’ and from a ‘past relationship and unnecessary baggage that needed to be discarded’.

That was roundabout the time when I thought I might try and be a little bit more independent and use my initiative, it was painfully clear that my flappy shoes weren’t going to be replaced in a hurry let alone ever have a Barbie doll. I went into the dairy (corner shop) and admired a Barbie doll that they had on the shelf behind the counter, it was a vision of beauty – she had a gorgeous pink necklace on, long blonde hair, a permanent smile and thee most stunning gown on. I went to look at her on a daily basis everyday after school just to admire her and dream a little more – it was then that the lightbulb moment came. I decided to sell raffle tickets on behalf of the school to win – you guessed it – a Barbie doll, of course there really was no prize of a Barbie doll until I’d sold enough raffle tickets, ingenious plan for a 6 year old don’t you think? Well – that was until I got busted. I was out selling my phoney raffle tickets everyday after school and would count the cents on the diary’s counter, given the fact that I didn’t really understand money the guy behind the counter looked at me with sympathy as he explained to me that I still didn’t have enough. When I got home that evening mum was waiting with the jug-cord in hand, a lady phoned the school and asked who had won the raffle – of course the school wasn’t running any raffles at the time and given my description… sooo busted. Nope – never got Barbie.

From Adamson Crescent we shifted over to a suburb in Invercargill called Newfield. To get to school we would walk over a bit of a hill, Newfield was right on the edge of town and new houses were still being built. It took about 15 minutes to get over it and then we had to walk a few more minutes down the road to get to school. It was Newfield School where Russell introduced me as ‘Shelley’ and the name stuck with me all throughout primary school. With the family it’d be ‘Russell and Shelley’, never ‘Russell and Michelle’. Mum had told me that when I was born she didn’t know what to call me (nice) and my Uncle Joe walked in, he looked at me while I was laying in the bassinette and said ‘Nah she looks like a Michelle’, and so it was. I was only called ‘Shelley’ at Newfield because as we were sitting in the headmasters office and the headmaster asked me ‘And what’s your name?’ Russell pipes up ‘Her name’s Shelley, that’s her name’. I never said anything because I thought it was rather funny.

Newfield School was okay, just like any other school – go to school, don’t talk about home life, don’t ask anyone back to the house, go to school to play sport and pass the time until it was time to go home.

I played hockey and used to play for the school team as well as the Southland team. I also did gymnastics where I got on the team and had to compete with the other schools, although that’s how I got my tooth scar in my knee. I was attempting to do a flip – but I didn’t bring my feet down fast enough and I landed on my arse with my front tooth catapulted into my knee. It was rather sore and I have never attempted to do a flip ever again. Russell played rugby for the Pirates and in summer he played cricket (and even met some Indian cricket player who was really big at the time, I didn’t have a clue who he was) while I played softball for the Cardinals in the summer.

Mum was indeed - pregnant again - and Michael was born, mum had married Paul and the beatings continued – Paul was even starting to join in. Russell and I were segregated from the other two kids the majority of the time as we had to do the housework and they would often go out and we would have to stay at home. When they’d get back, we’d have to either go out or go to our bedroom depending or not on whether we had cleaned the house to the desired standard.

Russell and I would always just muck about together, he was also getting older by this stage and was getting really pissed off that mum was lecturing him all the time -it was always the same thing over and over again, that; ‘She should’ve got rid of us when she had the chance and nobody in the family likes us’, so he’d sneak out to go hang out with his mates. I closed the bedroom window when he left and when he wanted back in he’d tap on the window so that I’d let him in, there were a couple of pillows stuffed in his bed for safe measure. Mum was none the wiser at the time as she’d never come into the bedroom anyway. A fine example of this was when I was sick. I was about nine or ten; I woke during the night feeling incredibly sick and indeed - was sick. It was vile, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t go to the bathroom, I was aching all over and began to cry, it took what felt like forever for mum to come in. When she came in, she opened the door, flicked the light on and said “What the fuck is wrong with you?”, “I’m sick” I said in a way that a sick child cries and says at the same time. She looked and said “Clean it up yourself” then she flicked off the light, shut the door and went back to bed. After that I managed to get the sick sheets off the bed and ended up sleeping on a blanket. The next day, still feeling sick, I had to clean up the room. I must’ve been projectile vomiting as it was on the walls, the skirting boards, the sheets, everywhere. I was there cleaning it up with a bucket of water and a cloth, dry reaching at the same time.

There was only one occasion that Russell was caught, mum went nuts of course but instead of the normal beating and verbal abuse she locked him out so he had to stay out for the whole night. I was told that if I let him in she’d knock my teeth out – I still let him in.

Russell hated mum, he was fed up of being told the same thing over and over again, he was completely tired of it and couldn’t wait till he was not around mum anymore – he was 11. We were always talking about what we were going to do when were grown up and how we would never treat our kids the way that she has treated us. Mum had caused so much damage that it was irreversible and for the next two years it built up, Russell would try and be gone a lot until he had to come home to go to sleep. It was a bad situation as it seemed that mum would never pay any positive attention it was always with the jug cord or swearing at us. Although we did have a ‘family’ day out if you’d like to call it that, it was a ‘day out’ with Paul - that was a visit to the freezing works where we were given a tour of how sheep are slaughtered, aged 10 and 11; not really ideal. The sheep would be marked with black chalk before they would be electrocuted, have their throats slit and then get ‘drained’ with their entrails removed. I can’t remember where the ‘skinning’ machine fits into the conveyor-like production but to see a half dead animal that has mucus running from it’s snout uncontrollably from being electrocuted then put into a machine where it just rips the skin off was… nightmarish. After all that was done the carcasses would be put into ‘hanging’ ready for carving. That was our ‘big day out’. Russell and I had a chalk fight and ended up getting absolutely covered in black chalk – it was great fun away from all the carnage and it’s a wonder that we weren’t stunned, drained and quartered ourselves but then again – there were other people there.

When we were kicked out of the house and didn’t have anywhere to go we’d head up to the forest where we made a tree hut and just generally muck about, collect pinecones for the fire, go tadpoling down at the estuary – just general outdoor things. We were lucky enough to get second hand bikes for Christmas one year so we’d bike out to Oreti Beach and spend the day there. It was a breath of fresh air not being at home, we’d either be out just mucking about, at school or playing sport. Russell and I were quite active; probably because it meant less time in the house and mum never came to watch us so we were pretty safe. On one occasion while we were living in Newfield (still 10 and 11 years old), Russell and I had to babysit Lance and Michael while Mum and Paul went to the speedway for the day. She returned later in the evening quite drunk and due to her heavy size (approx size 18/20) all she could manage to do was to slump in the chair in the lounge. The next day she could barely walk, she had third degree burns on her legs due to having them in the sun all day. All I remember of that incident was her in the lounge, a fat lump slumped in the chair screeching “Do the fucking dishes, make me a coffee, do the luxing (southerners term for vacuuming), change Michael’s nappy, hurry up, you two are just fucking useless, should’ve got rid of yah’s when I had the chance”. The screeching wouldn’t stop and the smell of the lotion that the doctor gave her absolutely reeked. It stunk. The smell lingered in the house for months.

It was funny because when anybody came over - which was very rare; she’d be nice, we’d just get the beating afterwards. If it was ‘controlled anger’ then our hands would be stinging – however if it was ‘uncontrollable anger’, or if we pulled our hands back she’d go for our legs, thighs, hips – anywhere really. It was alright for Russell as he normally had jeans on but for me; wearing a skirt the cord would be lashing my skin directly. The lashings would come up in painful red bumps that stung for hours and felt like forever before I could use my hands again, even holding a pen hurt like hell. The marks on my legs would also be bright red lumps; I couldn’t go outside without getting changed as the marks were too visible.

It wasn’t long until mum was pregnant again. I remember she was sitting at the kitchen table talking to her sisters; all I kept thinking was ‘Why are you so fat?’, so I asked “Are you pregnant again?” Bearing in mind that I was 10 or 11 years old and it seemed to me that that’s all mum wanted to do was have babies. Looking back it was quite funny but also another easy copout for mum to display my ‘difficult’ side to the other members of the family. Turns out that she was indeed pregnant and a few months later Darlene was born. Things still remained the same in the Johnstone house up to this point, still separated from Lance, Michael and Darlene – the phrase ‘we didn’t get raised, we got dragged up’ is indeed true. Russell and I made a pact that we would never treat our kids the way that she has treated us. The times when Mum would go into a rant and tell us that her dad molested her when she was younger, he would go into her bedroom in the small hours of the night along with the long lecture about having to look after her brothers and sisters and she was only allowed to have her tea once Uncle Russell had been fed. It’s all very sad however not something that one should share with ones own kids at a very young age, nor allows her boyfriends to do the same to me when I was younger. She’d had quite a few boyfriends before David and Paul came along, since then the whole focus of her being was on her boyfriend/s along with the resentment of two illegitimate children that she was stuck with after a deceitful relationship, and also pining after things that ‘she could’ve done’ or ‘could’ve had’. Most days when we weren’t at school or playing sport we’d literally be kicked out of the house and not allowed back in until tea time, needless to say that Russell and I spent much of our time together when we were kids. Our neighbour in Newfield knew about the beatings as she’d hear it, Russell and I befriended her as she was really good at making cakes and was quite ‘mumsy’, she’d told us to laugh when she’d hit us but that only made things worse as it almost like she’d beat us within an inch of our lives in order to get the desired effect of tears from the both of us. Unfortunately our neighbour had a baby girl that was born with Spinabifida and sadly later died - she went a bit ‘doolallee’ after that.

When we got back to the house it seemed like she’d find any excuse to give us a beating whether it was being late for tea to not picking up a sock in the hallway, the jug cord would come out and pretty soon both of our hands would be bright red and throbbing along with our legs, thighs, hips or wherever she felt like whipping. After she’d finished she’d tell us to “Go on, get the fuck out”, so we did. It seemed to be either to get out of the house or stay in our bedrooms for a day of solitary confinement. Paul would often have a go as well, there was an occasion when Russell and I were doing the dishes and we were just mucking about with the tea towels flicking each other, Paul walked in and we both got a beating, not with the jug cord but whacked around the head with force and literally thrown into our bedrooms. Carole once said to me that when Mum and Paul had a party I’d done something to annoy him and he gave me the biggest whack around the head which Carole saw, although I don’t remember it. Russell found it hard to cope with the constant beatings and emotional torment so started to rebel. He went off and started shoplifting, started smoking and would try and stay away from the house as much as he could. One day he was brought back to the house by Police and he’d told them that he gets beaten up at home, of course; when the Officer told Mum about what Russell had said she turned on the tears and it seemed to be the conclusion that Russell was ‘just a little shit’. However, once the police officer left both Mum and Paul beat the crap out of him. It wasn’t long after that that mum was putting away some clothes in his draw and found a packet of cigarettes - she went absolutely ballistic. She packed all his clothes into a black bin liner and threw them out of the house – he was 13 years old. Russell had been kicked out of the Newfield home when he was 13 due to the fact that there was a packet of cigarettes in his draw, Russell was out at the time she found them; I wasn’t. She went absolutely nuts, screeching and stomping about. She rammed everything from his draws into the bag and threw them outside as if it was everyday rubbish. Turned out Russell was at David’s, so Mum rang him and told him to come and get his stuff as he’s not welcome back. So that was it, Russell at age 13 was made homeless; already unwanted and severely unloved. Paul seemed quite happy that he’d gone as he was leaning over Darlene’s cot one day and said “They’re not part of our family are they, no, no they’re not”, talking about Russell and I in a babyish voice to his not even a year old daughter. Apart from thinking to myself that he was complete fucking wanker; there was nothing that I could do about it, just go to my room and say nothing as it would’ve resulted in a beating if I did.

It was David that came and got his stuff so Russell started to live with him for a bit. From then onwards Russell didn’t really care, he moved from place to place. Starting at David’s, then out to Carole and Peter’s (Carole’s husband), then up to Nightcaps and Ohai to stay with Sue (ex wife of Uncle Joe’s).

I missed Russell terribly; he’d escaped the verbal and physical torture and was living in the sticks. Mum was still telling me the same old story so one day I packed my bags and rode my bike all the way to Nightcaps to see him. I arrived there very late at night but pleased to see him and vice versa although he was a little shocked, after all – it was an 8 hour journey by bike. I realised that I couldn’t stay there and so I was ushered back to Invercargill after a couple of days. Mum had told Sue ‘Well she can stay there then’, but unfortunately she couldn’t take me on as well as Russell as she did have a family of her own. When I got back to Invercargill mum took me to have lunch with her sisters in H&J’s (a department store), she’d told them that I ran away and was misbehaving and all I remember getting was a whole bunch of glares of the silent slap kind.

It was in Nightcaps where Russell had his first gruesome accident, he was double backing Sue’s horse called Pascoe whom doesn’t like more than one rider so bucked him off. Russell landed on a steel pipe and his mate landed on top of him making the pipe go deeper into his stomach. I went to see him at Invercargill hospital where he was on the drip, had his stitches sewn up and also had to suck weird flavoured cotton balls as he wasn’t allowed to eat for a couple of days. I was relieved that he was alright and not seriously injured. Sue asked mum to help pay for the ambulance bill – she point blank refused and told Sue “He’s your problem now”.

Needless to say that Sue doesn’t think a great deal of our mum. After Russell got better and was discharged from hospital he went back to Nightcaps and I guess tried to carry on as normal until he left Takitimu Area School when he was 15.

The dynamics in the Johnstone household were changing again, the family had moved to Tweed Street. There wasn’t enough room for me in the house so I got to sleep in the garage. Bearing in mind I was 12 when we had our ‘upgrade’, they get a house; I get a garage! Really, it wasn’t as great as it sounds, it was bloody cold. Every night I would sleep with a car! It was a basic corrugated iron garage with no heating or insulation along with concrete floors so not only was it bloody cold; it was really noisy as well. The wind would whistle through the window pains and my single bed was nested in the corner with a single plain bed sheet pinned up on the rafters to make make-shift walls. I wasn’t allowed to go into the house at all, the only place I was ‘allowed’ in the house was the laundry room which had a separate outside door, the door that leads to the kitchen from the laundry room on the inside would be locked so I couldn’t get in. Well, not unless I’d sneak in and there was one time that I did get in while mum wasn’t there and I started watching ‘Shazam’ on television, I phoned up to enter a competition and actually won it! I spoke to Phillip Schofield live on television and he said that “a Chris Rea album would be with you in a couple of days”. Unfortunately mum caught me in the house that day and needless to say that my hands were rather sore after that. So really; all I won was a bloody good kicking. I never got it, I waited absolutely ages and it never arrived. I kept checking the mailbox for a strange looking package but there never was (mailboxes in NZ are down the bottom of the front path, not through the hole in the door like England).

It didn’t stop me though from getting into the house occasionally though – I learnt the sound of her car and worked out how long it took her to get out of the car and into the house with giving me enough time to go out the front door while ensuring that nothing looked like it was out of place. Trying to watch television was like a military undercover operation. I used an unravelled wire coat hanger to unhinge the door to the kitchen from the laundry room – making sure that I’d lock it behind me. For a few moments I could watch television in peace, watching bands on television thinking ‘No-one ever comes here’, but before too long I was on my way out the front door and mum would be unlocking the back door.

Lance, Michael and Darlene had the run of the house and Paul was still working at the freezing works.

I began to write a diary about my life up to that point unfortunately Paul found it one day and showed mum, they both didn’t like what they read and that also resulted in another beating. I didn’t talk to anyone at school about my homelife, mum never got involved with any aspect of my life whether it be sport at school, parent/teacher meetings – anything, same with Russell – no involvement at all. The only time I can think of was when I came second in the cross country and I heard mum saying to Uncle Joe and his wife Margo that I had come second, however the praise was short lived as it was like she was competing with Margo’s kids in the ‘winning’ department. Margo had three kids; Deon, Brendon and Rebecca. Russell used to hang out with Brendon before he got thrown out and I used to hang out with Rebecca. Mum also pointed out that Deon lived in the garage too so I thought it must’ve been ‘normal’, until I actually seen his room in the garage; it was more like a deluxe apartment. It was completely kitted out; it was heated, wooden walls, a door even; absolutely nothing like my concrete floored shack. Uncle Joe had converted his garage into three rooms, one was Deon’s room, another for his office and the other just a mucking about room where a pool table could go.

Life continued on for a bit longer until change happened once again, it was a relatively ‘normal’ day and I had arrived back from school to see a different car in the driveway. She had a visitor and curiosity got the better of me. There was nothing in the house that was mine however just made something up so I could be nosey so I opened the door. Mum jumped up out of her seat and ran over to the door and tried to shut the door in my face, I said “Let me in”, she didn’t say anything to me but turned to the lady sitting at the table watching and exclaimed “Look, see what she’s doing, see how she is”. I kind’ve froze after that statement and thought to myself, “What the fuck?” My foot was in the door and I stood there rather dumbfounded as she still was screaming “Move your foot, let me close the door”, I took my foot away then the door slammed in my face and I just went. Turned out the lady was from social welfare as mum had been saying that I was too difficult to handle and would abuse my mother so I needed to be put into care.

Social Welfare didn’t place me in foster care straight away, all I remember was David loading my clothes etc onto the back of the ute and staying with David and his family for a couple of weeks. It was all a bit of a blur at that stage, all I kept hearing from David’s partner was that she was tired of me crying all the time and I couldn’t stay there. I got told that mum said that I was old enough to fend for myself and she was sick of the sight of me, I’d not long turned 13 and the similarities of me and Russell getting kicked out at the same age was pretty astounding.

A little while later I was placed in a temporary foster care home, the family bred Persian cats and also worked with kids that had Down Syndrome. The cats were a nightmare; screeching, shitting, having babies all over the place – and they stunk. The feeling of being ‘the odd one out’ was ever present as well as the feeling of being in the way. I didn’t like it, living with a strange family, trying to do the ‘family’ thing but not really knowing what it meant.

The next temporary foster care family was with a family that had ‘cool’ kids, the daughter was 15 and it was her mission not to get pregnant by the time that she was 16, they always had kids at the house so mingling was just okay.

The next foster care family was in Ohai, near Sue’s in Nightcaps. It was a very religious family that had a pet opossum, a fat horse, one son at home and one daughter grown up and moved out. I had to look after the horse and exercise it which was great but the downfall of bible-bashing was too much. Nightcaps was in the ‘sticks’, I lived next door a deer farm and the stags would be making a racket at night, the opossums would be jumping on the roof every five minutes and to top it off there was also a Canadian religious group that came and stayed – no matter how hard they tried – I didn’t and refused to convert. One of the girls said that she ‘speaks in tongues with God’, she began speaking to God in a kind of gibberish way and then pronounced that I am a ‘lighthouse’, thought that was really weird.

By the time that I was living in Nightcaps with the Kingi family, Russell had gotten into a few scrapes and was a bit of a bad boy, he’d moved to Carole and Peter’s, then back to David’s and left there a few months before Timothy shot his arm off (David and one of his other son’s had an argument so his son just went and got the shot gun and shot him which resulted in David losing an arm). After leaving David’s he headed for Dunedin and got caught for burglary so was sent to CT (Corrective Training) up north. When we were younger Russell always seemed to be the favourite and although she’d say exactly the same to him about how she should’ve got rid of him too when she had the chance; I was the biggest mistake, probably because of my timing into the whole situation – at least Russell had some flicker of legitimacy as when she had him she didn’t know that our dad was already married and already had a family in Queensland somewhere.

We wrote to each other and remained in touch, he was happy due to the fact that he was doing his thing and he was getting praised for good work. Sounds silly really but in reality neither he nor I had any positive feedback so his time in CT was indeed beneficial for his state of mind and confidence. He was pleased about working that hard that his hands were covered in blisters and he couldn’t wait to do it all again the next day.

It was quite a few months later that I had a phone call from mum, she’d phoned the foster care place where I was living and invited me to her house. When I got there she was being rather nice to me, it was a nice feeling; made a huge change, despite the fact that I was incredibly suspicious. She said “If you come back and live with me that means that I can go on benefit, you can have your own room”. I thought “And the truth shall set you free”.

Never thought of myself as a ‘meal ticket’ before, my first reaction was to tell her to fuck right off however I then thought, well, she is my mum so I went back to live with her. It turned out that Paul had left and was living in Wellington, before too long mum had had enough of Lance, Michael and Darlene so she put them on a plane and sent them to their dad’s in Wellington. She was on her own.

I moved back to live with mum and got Darlene’s old room, it was a couple of months that I heard from Russell again when he told me that he was going to be a dad. He was back in Dunedin after his stint at CT and was hoping that mum would let him stay with her but mum refused, she didn’t want him near the house even. I felt guilty about me being in the house and not him – although Russell wouldn’t have liked it for too long as it wasn’t out of love that I was there and that was all he ever wanted ; well both of us, just to be loved.

Not long after I’d spoken to him on the phone I started to get the dreams, I say dreams but really they were fucking nightmares. Premonitions if you like. I saw Russell die while I was sleeping and couldn’t do jack to prevent it.

It was the morning of 24 June 1990 that I woke nearly simultaneously as the cop car pulled up outside. Within six months of me moving back ‘home’ Russell was dead. After he died and just after the funeral she just looked at me and said “These kinds of things can either bring you closer or tear you apart – you have to leave”. So, yet again, I was homeless. I ended up staying at a friend’s house in Invercargill before I left for Dunedin.

When Russell died and it was front page national news, in all the newspapers and television, listening to Mum going on about the trouble with youth just sickened me, in one of her interviews she had said that all unruly teenagers should be sent off to some military training camp to straighten them out. Of course, the papers didn’t know that Russell had already been to CT however certainly wasn’t wanted at home after the time that he’d spent there, or wanted at home; period. She lapped up the attention. I went to see Russell’s plaque at the cemetery before I left, his ashes are buried in the cemetery not far from Ascot Racecourse (where we loved going) and a few paddocks away from the stud farm where he used to muck out the horses. The encryption on the plaque still irritates me “Love Mum and family”.

The cold harsh fact that I was completely on my own had sunk in; as well as the realisation that if I was going to make anything of my life that I would have to leave those memories behind me; wipe the slate clean and start afresh. I became more determined to make something of my life rather than to see it just waste away, if not for my own self-worth; in memory of Russell. Being repetitively told that we “Would always be losers”, and, “You’ll never amount to much” was a prophecy that needed to be broken; forever. Russell had the right idea from the beginning by way of getting as far away from her and her malevolent streak as possible – only he cared too much and he was heartbroken when she’d said that she didn’t want him near the house after his time in CT.

It struck me just before the interview at the hotel – the thought of not wanting to turn into a ‘statistic’. It was a very dark time in Dunedin and there were many times that perhaps I was ‘meant’ to go the same way as my brother – not giving a shit anymore, I mean really – who the fuck cares anyway? I began thinking to myself that if/when our eyes met again; Russell would be disappointed if I didn’t have any stories to share.




 

Chapter 2

 

 

 

Selling ‘Wizard’ could be compared to a ‘poor-man’s well-paid’ actress, there were days when I really didn’t feel like putting the ‘show’ face on. Days where I just wanted to hang out at the beach and do something that was much less ‘robotical’. The novelty of the job meant that I could discover the country that I call ‘home’ – and that beat the ‘sales-blues’ all the time.

A normal day would be getting up at 7am and ready for the team meeting in the lounge of the hotel at 8am. Judy would come into the room and give her ‘motivational’ spiel but it would ultimately lead to a grilling for someone, she’d then compare the sales charts – first individually and then between the group. Finally, she’d tell us what our targets were and then we’d pack the van. The boxes of ‘Wizard’ needed to be packed and unpacked on a daily basis, we’d also have medium sized satchels that we’d pack with a pre-mixed spray gun bottle of cleaner, some cotton material (pen demonstration), some towelling cloths (the carpet and glass demo), 2 small (500mls) bottles and 2 large bottles (1 litre) of ‘Wizard’, a pen and a receipt book. Once our satchels were packed and the team were in the van we’d be on the road - Judy had full control of where we’d be working. Each team member had designated areas to avoid overlapping, the system would work in blocks - Judy would have a street map and use different coloured pens for each team member so that she could mark the areas that had been worked and knew whether or not to put any of the team there. We’d do our demonstrations to people in main streets, shopping malls, offices, suburbia, schools – anywhere where there were people.

We’d go ‘door-knocking’ individually on our designated ‘patch’ and would meet Judy again in an hour or thereabouts at a specific time and place. During the meeting time we would restock our bags if needed, give Judy the cash/cheques from any sales then be given another designated area as well as a new meeting time and place – normally in another hour or so, the meeting would be very brief; just long enough to reload.

This routine would be begin at 9am and finish between 6-7pm with an hour break for lunch. When it was lunch time the team would be picked up by Judy one by one and we’d all do ‘lunch’ together in a café or somewhere – generally decided by Judy. Of course- we’d all get dropped off again one by one when the break was over. When the last person had been collected at the end of the day – we’d all be driven back to the hotel/motel and get on with the rest of the chores that were required when living with the ‘Wizard’.

Back at the hotel/motel we would be ‘slaves to the roster’. We’d all have specific jobs to do at the end of every day – whether it be washing the cloths, folding the cloths, cooking tea or doing the dishes – the day didn’t finish 'til around 8pm –ish and in which case the sales chart would be positioned by the TV or somewhere where visibility was paramount.

For one night a week (normally a Wednesday), we’d all go out to dinner as a team, ‘team-bonding’ apparently – I enjoyed it, it was a fabulous novelty. We’d generally had the weekends off, sometimes we would work on a Saturday morning depending on the state of the sales figures and someone would also have to sort out the cloths and make extra cleaner for our spray guns.

While I was working with the ‘Wizard’ there were quite a few ‘newbie’s’ who’d had enough by the second day and left, the staff turnover was immense. My sales were pretty consistent – even when I’d be having the worst head-fuck (‘HF’) days ever. I was the youngest on the team – 17 years old and nobody to ring. Everyone else would be calling their relatives and vice/versa, I opted to ring Carole - a lot; it was never a ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ and no longer a ‘brother’, some days that would be enough to make me somewhat detached – but – I’d generally hit my sales target nonetheless. I had developed and fine-tuned a skill where I could appear happy on the outside but fucking miserable within. On one particular occasion I was having a ‘HF’ moment while we were in Picton. To avoid questions I just went down to the local park and sat on the swing, it was a calm evening, the stars were bright in the sky and it was nice to be able to ‘deal with my issues’ without being questioned by my work mates. My last memories of school were bad enough to leave a haunting memory just of me in floods of tears – I didn’t want that to happen again as it would probably change their perception of me as none of them knew about my emotional ‘baggage’ and would perhaps think that I’m just a cry baby.

Judy followed me down to the park and we got talking, it had been an employer/staff relationship up to that point, she’d told me that she’d not long lost her boyfriend in a car accident and pointed out that we had something in common as she said ‘You’ve lost a brother, I’ve lost a lover’, I found that reassuring, someone to understand a sudden loss but at the same time not venturing too ‘deep’ with the conversation, someone understanding enough just to allow me that little bit extra time and room to recoup from the emotional onslaught that I was in the process of leaving behind. We wandered down to a restaurant, then later back to the hotel where the other girls were. At the time there was Peggy (mid twenties Maori girl who was ‘up’ for anything), Kate (early twenties ‘Pakeha’ girl), Gina (late teens, giggly Maori girl), and there was someone else but I can’t remember. Peggy and Gina both came from Auckland and I think Kate was from Christchurch.

We stopped in Picton before we caught the ferry over to Wellington and continued up to Auckland - it was as if my past in Invercargill/Dunedin was becoming a distant memory and the possibility that perhaps they could be deleted from my memory altogether was starting to look promising as not-so-good memories were being faded out and replaced steadily with different parts of the country. I’d never been past Dunedin (well, I tell a white lie – there have been two ‘out-of-town’ experiences, the first to Palmerston North which I don’t remember that much of it and I was indeed ‘baggage’, and the other when I was living in Dunedin with my squat-mate. We hitched up to Christchurch and got there when it was quite late but ended up getting locked up some kind of rehab place so we had to do a runner in the early hours of the morning – so those two experiences don’t really count).

When we got to Auckland I was in absolute amazement as I’d never seen a ‘city’ with skyscrapers or more than one motorway. I found myself being amazed by a few stretches of concrete. Wellington is the capital so I’d always assumed that it would be bigger but it’s quite compact and situated roughly around one area whereas Auckland is quite spread out and with a bigger population (at the time the population of New Zealand was approximately 3 million; 1 million in Auckland, 1 million in the rest of the North Island and 1 million scattered around the South Island).

Even more bizarre was spending my 17th birthday at the Road Nights Pad in Auckland, behind the razor wire was a completely kitted out bar, a bike shed dedicated to boy mechanical stuff. Although I did get told off for using the word ‘gang’.. they prefer ‘club’.

I also was feeling rather proud of myself that I’d achieved what I had done for obvious reasons so I began to think that I was a little bit more ‘emotionally stronger’ to deal with the harsh criticisms if I saw my mother as I was missing ‘home’ a little bit. I arranged a break for me to fly down to Invercargill, catch the train from Invercargill to Dunedin – then back to Invercargill, then fly from Invercargill over to Nelson via Christchurch - as that was where the team would be when my time was up. It was a weird feeling, missing ‘home’, missing Invercargill and even more strange that I was paying for my first ever plane trip – on my own. I’d never been on a plane before either.

Time had moved on a bit, the trial was over, I thought that perhaps mum would be proud of me as I am doing something constructive and she would no longer class me as a nuisance to her life.

The actual rush was the plane trip itself, getting to fly over New Zealand and see if from an aerial perspective, I loved it, I love the way it pushes you back into your seat and before you know it – you’re airborne. The landing can be a little scary though, especially Wellington where the plane had nearly finished it’s descent and was going into land, the wings were going to side to side along with phenomenal turbulence – I looked out the little window and all I could see - was sea. The little air masks came down and everyone cheered as we were safe on the ground; I cheered but was also cheering because I’d get to do that again! I walked onto the tarmac at Invercargill airport absolutely buzzing – I love flying. Plus – I was ‘home’ - but without a real sense of the meaning of the word.

I didn’t spend a great deal of time with mum as she had become a country and western music fanatic and was busy with her ‘new’ boyfriend, a goof of a man. All this time and there was still no change; exactly the same shit. I’m not sure whether its ‘normal’ to completely draw a blank with chunks of your life – chunks that strangely disappear into what seems the abyss of blackness, every now and then there’s little bubbles of memories that make it to the surface that force you reminisce for a moment or two - those are my memories of my childhood, they come from nowhere but are just suddenly there. I remembered our ‘family’ holiday, Russell and me were to look after Lance on a trip to Queenstown via The Devils Staircase on a bus – mum not included. Lance was about 2 years old and we were living in Newfield so Russell and I would’ve been around the 7/8 years old mark - apparently it was cheaper just to send the kids. We waited for the bus to pull up then mum took our bags to the driver and we were off driving away – responsible for a two year old as well as being on a bus with a whole bunch of older and strange people, the questions were generally the same thing “Where’s your mum?” The Devils Staircase is quite scary, quite a few people died when they made the road which the edge of Lake Wakitipu; a lake where they say that they haven’t found the bottom of, it’s a sheer drop on the left hand side of the road which is very narrow and windy. The bus had major trouble getting across a little bridge and got stuck which resulted in some body damage to the side of the bus; it’s a one-way bridge so the people driving from Queenstown down to Kingston had to wait before the screeching of metal was over in order to carry on with their journeys. There were moments when I missed mum as did Russell, Lance was too young to understand. Russell was pissed off more than anything else, it was a crucial moment in Russell’s life where he actually wanted a holiday with his mum rather than be put on kid-duty; out of Invercargill and as young as we were yes - it must’ve been quite an eye-brow raiser for the other passengers. Russell and I both soon realised that we really didn’t need her anyway, we both looked after Lance and we had a great day, one that was fun and different – the only disappointment to it would be how mum would be when we got back to Invercargill.

Sure enough, we walked in the door only to hear the same words repeat themselves over and over – we just looked at each other and rolled our eyes at the same time. It was quite confusing at the time as we behaved ourselves and we were thee most responsible kids ever – looking after a two year old etc, even the bus driver told mum that she should be very proud of us; although she wasn’t particularly happy about that as I think he could sense that she didn’t really care and it might’ve come across that way. Some things never change on the ‘mum’ front. I filed my memory and was back in the present – in mum’s car… with her… staring out into space - almost instantaneously regretting my decision to return.

We had pulled up at a pub and unfortunately my suitcase was still in the back seat of mum’s car. As I got the drinks in she was still giving me the same spiel only it had changed slightly; “My mum always said that I should get an abortion when I was pregnant with you”, talking about her mum (nana), I asked her “Why didn’t you then?” and she replied “It was too late and I couldn’t do that to Russell”. I don’t know what she meant by that and I didn’t even want to ask - and now the person that really wanted me to not exist is my Nana. Although, mum had changed her tune as she’d say that she ‘wished she had an abortion’, whereas with Nana it was a ‘should’ve got an abortion’; I’m still undecided about which statement is the worst, ‘wished – or - should’ve’.

I flirted with the question about having a ‘normal’ childhood with mum and said there were quite a few times that things didn’t feel ‘normal’ in comparison to other kids and their relationships with their parents, she glared at me while brushing the imaginary dust off my shoulder and stated ‘You had a normal childhood’, all of a sudden it felt like I was 7 again and was ready to duck at any moment – it was at that moment it was crystal clear that I couldn’t even attempt to stay with mum. I can just see the normal spiel, after repeatedly talking about her past and present desire to have an abortion she would line up her medication on the coffee table and say ‘Look what you kids did to me, I have to take these to stay alive’, she’d then swallow her pills with a glass of water feeling somewhat elated that she had managed to degrade at least one kid of hers just one more time. She was taking pills for Angina, an ‘irregular’ heart beat and was fitted with a pacemaker by the doctor to make sure that there was in fact nothing seriously wrong with her heart. That all started with a heart murmur which of course Russell & I were both blamed for giving her the condition.

I left her to it and ended up staying with my Aunt Carole and her husband Peter on their farm in Branxholme. It was quite a big farm about 15 minutes drive out of Invercargill. I went back out to the car to get my case but the car was broken into and the only things that were missing were all my photos of where I’d been along with the letters that I kept from Russell when he was in CT. My brothers letters that I had carried everywhere with me since he sent them to me when I was living in Nightcaps - vanished. An ordinary run-of-the-mill thief wouldn’t piss about with photos – quite freaky, bizarre and also furiating. My brother’s letters were gone.

I told Carole what had happened and before long she told me that Russell had told her about the abuse as she said “Yes, that’s what Russell said”. I was taken back as I thought ‘Didn’t you believe him?’, and then I was thinking ‘You knew and you didn’t do anything?’ She then went on to say “That you and Russell were always good kids”, “yeh, why do you think that is?” I asked. “You could’ve always said something Shelley”, she said, my answer was “When you’re a kid – you don’t feel as if you have a voice”. There was a pause during our conversation. Russell spent some time with Carole and Peter after he’d been round the block and stayed at many places, he did like the farm life, lots of boy stuff to do I guess. The gap of silence was broken when Carole told me about mum accusing Russell of arson. Uncle Peter’s house burnt down in Invercargill some time in the late 1980’s, rumours were rife that it was arson in order to get insurance as they were struggling financially. One day mum and her brothers and sisters were having lunch and the topic of the house fire was mentioned, mum piped up “It must have been Russell”. I couldn’t believe that she had actually blamed her own son of arson and neither could they. She made damn sure that Russell knew that his mum thought that he’d turned into a pyromaniac; she’d succeeded in demeaning him yet again to whomever that would listen.

Seeing Carole and Peter was great, at least I had some kind of family connection, it was obvious to see though that me being there was putting the relationship between mum and Carole in turbulent waters - must’ve been a ‘loyalty’ thing. I took the time on Carole & Peter’s farm to chill out and before I knew it - it was time to get back to work - relieved that I had somewhere else to go. I went to the airport with Carole & Peter and the rest of the Aunts and Uncles came to say goodbye, Mum never came.

I flew to Christchurch and then over to Nelson on a six-seater plane that was really playing havoc with my internal organs as it was playing hop-skotch with the clouds, so to touch down at Nelson airport was another relief. Judy was waiting for me at the airport and there we all were, ready to ‘hit the road’ again.

We worked our way over to Christchurch and that’s where we were introduced to Stan. He was Judy’s boss that came over from Canada to see how things were going and to give Judy some time off. We were all sat down after work having a meeting when the topic of working in other countries came up. I was offered a job in Australia - so I took it.

The first few months of selling door-to-door was even more than what I imagined it could’ve been; I made new friends; was part of a group and fast falling in love with my own country. I’d never been past Christchurch (when sober or happy) but now I’d made it to Auckland and was living there in the ‘big smoke’. We travelled all over New Zealand doing our little spiels; our little cleaning cloths were in our bags and we were on a mission to ‘clean up the country’.

Within three months of selling ‘Wizard’ I had the opportunity to go to Australia and sell it over there paid for by the ‘company’. How lucky could I be?

I didn’t actually have a passport nor did I have any of the I.D that was required to get one so it was a race against time as I had to apply for my birth certificate and wait around for that to come through first, I also had slight difficulty filling in the ‘next of kin’ bit on the form - so Judy was it for the time being. My passport was issued in Rotorua and there was no way that I could get down there from Auckland in time to pick it up so it had to be couriered up to Auckland. It showed up just in the nick of time as it arrived within a couple of hours that we were due to fly out.

After the panic and a three hour international flight later; the first glimpse of the Australian shores could be seen from the planes window. The land got closer and closer and a few minutes later all that could be seen was red roofs as we flew over - it dawned on me that I’m 17 years old, not even ‘legal’ drinking age and headed into a completely different country with a job and accommodation sorted before I even land – holy shit!

I landed in Sydney and stayed in the Warratah Apartments which was located just behind Kings Cross; the place was rather lush and had an absolutely wicked view of the Sydney tower, getting up in the morning and having a coffee while look out over the city was amazing. My first taste of being a party animal was unleashed in Kings Cross; we’d all go to the clubs and then leave at about 6am giving us an hour to get ready for work. Probably explains why sales were so poor...

In Kings Cross there were many bars to choose from on just one little stretch of road, the days of going to clubs after work and walking out when it was daylight with just enough time to get washed, dressed and ready for work was just hilarious; although probably not ideal as it certainly will prevent you from being on best form and will most certainly put a stop to making an money at all; needless to say that sales weren’t too hot; however, I was still 17. Unfortunately there were some bars that I couldn’t get in to as I was underage (at the time the drinking age in Australia was 18 and in New Zealand it was 21 so I don’t need to go into great detail when I say – Sydney was fucking brilliant) and I did still look very young.

I had the best ever day exploring Sydney - much to the bemusement of my boss (a big burly Canadian called Stan) who had told me to go back to the apartment and do the dishes, I thought ‘Am I hearing right?’ So, I wandered back to the apartment, looked at the dishes and looked out the window – Sydney was calling me. It was a glorious day, the sun was blazing in the sky, it was the weekend - and there was the Sydney Tower looking at me - it was speaking to me, it was saying “Michelle, there’s a dishwasher behind you, use it”, followed by an invisible force field that was tugging and enticing my exploring urges – just luring me in. Unfortunately I had no idea how to use a dishwasher as I’d never come across one before. So – seeing that the apartment had a dishwasher – I loaded up the machine and poured some liquid into it, turned it on – and then I was off to explore Sydney.

I walked everywhere that day, I went to the Woolloomooloo bar, Darling Harbour, the Sydney tower and finished off listening to some amazing wind acoustics whilst sitting on the steps of the Opera House with the sun setting magically in the background; absolutely amazing, breath-taking in fact. After the sun had set I casually wandered back to the apartment. When I got back to the apartment my team mates were all sitting on the couch with their arms crossed in a silent manner, I asked them what was wrong and their eyes flicked over to the other side of the room. All of a sudden there was a deep-voiced rant and I walked a few paces more so that I could see – it was Stan, swearing his head off, he had a pot in one hand and the other rested on the counter for support as he was scooping up all the soaps suds and slamming them back into the sink. The soap suds were about 1ft deep. Ooops. I couldn’t help but laugh as it was one of the highlights of my Sydney trip. Word of caution – never used dishwashing liquid in a dishwasher – always use the capsules.

I tried desperately hard to keep a straight face however a little giggle did emerge; I had never used a dishwasher before and Stan; knee-deep in soaps suds scooping them up; was rather comical.

Sydney was great; I hadn’t had very much time to explore it as we were working from 8am to 6pm during the week so weekends were a blessing and the swearing and cursing from Stan was worth it as I would’ve missed out. We were due to leave Sydney soon and we’d be working our way up to Brisbane where another boss would take over from Stan so that he could head back to Canada.



A short time later we were making our way towards Surfers Paradise. One town that we stopped at (I can’t remember the name), somewhere near Taree in New South Wales turned out to be another ‘trippy’ ‘Doors’ moment. The town had a drunken masochistic vibe to it with not a whole lot going on – that is – apart from the police officers that would come and just scoop the intoxicated Aborigines up from the pavement – ‘load’ them into their vans and drove them off to wherever. It was carried out in a manner like the officers were ‘used’ to it, it was their daily routine - to them it seemed ‘normal’ (which it isn’t in modern day Australia). I walked into a bar; I was frozen for a few seconds as the whole bar just turned and snarled at me; I turned to leave immediately but as I was nearly out the door - I got spat on. Walking into that bar was a huge mistake, it was indeed an anti-white town and only the locals would know to avoid the place at all costs, I was ecstatic when we left. It reminded me of something out of the Doors movie where most of the people were just tripping out on acid or some mind-altering drug and living their lives almost in animation. If you said the wrong thing accidentally they certainly wouldn’t be ‘hospitable’ in a ‘western’ sense, it’s an Aborigine town and they are not liking people of the white kind... ‘Riders on the storm’... (as the Tumbleweed rolls down the main drag).

We made it to Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast) safely and with a huge sigh of relief. We stayed at Stan’s pad in Surfers, it was an apartment in a new block of flats that was positioned not far from the beach front, the veranda looks out onto the beach and every morning a tractor could be seen sweeping the beach; the sand was indeed golden and so soft, it was kept pristine at all times, the town itself was ‘glossy’ and the area is owned by the ‘super-rich’; unfortunately that was bad news sales wise as most people had cleaners. The club life was fun though, one night at a bar called “Coco’s” we all had to do a line dance and make complete fools of ourselves, but who cares; nobody knew us and we probably wouldn’t see them again, besides; everyone was doing it. We didn’t stay in Surfers for very long, it was soon time to hit the road again and head for Brisbane. Before we got there we stopped at a few places on the way, sometimes to look and sometimes to work, we stopped at 'The Big Banana'; a banana plantation at Coffs Harbour where everyone does the touristy thing and gets their photo taken with a giant banana. When we were working in the sticks I’d be surrounded by Eucalyptus trees, flocks of Cockatoos squawking as load as possible from the tops of the trees while the Kookaburra or Woodpecker would be half way down, my shoes would always be covered in red sand – the kind that stains.

By the time that we got to Brisbane I was really starting become sick of trying to sell it as sales were absolutely atrocious. It was completely different compared to New Zealand, the New Zealand people loved to chit chat, take the time, trusting – whereas Australia seemed to be to have not too much time and a quicker pace of life in general. I wasn’t that particularly thrilled about Brisbane, we were staying on Kingsfordsmith Drive and opposite the river which looked as if it was massively polluted with plastic bags but in fact; what I thought were plastic bags were indeed jellyfish - they were everywhere. My rotten days in Brisbane were quite frequent, there was one lady sitting behind a desk – whom I presumed to be a receptionist. She was wearing a lot of makeup and looked as if she’d spent hours just getting her physical appearance perfect, well what she thought was perfection. To look at her - my first impression was that she was an Australian Aristocrat-wannabe. So, in my polite voice I began to ask her if she had a spare minute she pipes up “How dare you”, “Pardon”, she carried on “How dare you show me a cleaning product – I don’t clean!”

Kind of freaked me out a bit as I’d never came across anyone so living in a dream world. Speaking of Dream World – that was my first ever theme park that I visited, it’s not far from Brisbane so I booked a day trip to Dream World – my first ever theme park on the Gold Coast of Australia. I was overflowing with excitement – must’ve been the ‘inner child’. No-one wanted to come with me so I went on my own, one thing that I’ve learned is; if the opportunity is there – take it, if you’d like to go somewhere but don’t because there’s no-one to go with – you will MISS OUT! Never miss out through fear of exploring individually.

I found out what my maximum temperature is in Brisbane and that’s 42 degrees Celsius, I was out in it all day - didn’t have a hat, had to carry a bag with 4 litres in it all day and when it came to the meeting time I’d be standing around waiting for longer in the sun with no shade. It was later during this particular day that I walked into a café and nearly collapsed. I was suffering from heat exhaustion so the café’s owner walked me into the stand-in freezer so that I could cool down a bit. I took the rest of the day off and the next day when I woke up I had little itchy spots all over me, and that’s when I found out what ‘prickly heat’ is.

I started travelling with a different team from Brisbane to further up Queensland, I often wondered if I would make it to Cairns – as that was where our dad was meant to be from but I didn’t, I really did have enough and I just could not attempt to demonstrate it to one more person as really – I just couldn’t be arsed. The moment came in Maroochydore when I put my bag down and wandered down to the beach. I sat on the beach amongst the scattered rushes watching the day go by a bit and knew that I’d made the right decision. I got as far as Bundaberg before heading back to Brisbane then catch a flight from Brisbane to Sydney.

On the last night in Brisbane, one of the girls that I was working with at the time and her boyfriend were going to meet me down at the pub for some drinks (she was really tiny; approx 5.2” and about a size 8). I had trouble getting in that night because the doorman asked me for ID and I didn’t have any that said that I was of the ‘legal drinking age’ and I got turned away so I snuck in through the restaurant and was soon drinking Sambucca’s with my workmates. We toddled off to the bathroom, she was sitting up on the cabinet, the mirror was behind her as well as a little ledge, I came out of the toilet and just as I did saw another girl push her and her back went straight into the ledge so I grabbed her hair and started to knee her in the face, the girl fight continued until the doormen came in and stopped it by which time I had chunks of her hair in my hand. It turned out that the woman that pushed my workmate was known for causing fights in the ladies and normally gets her ‘victim’ thrown out; who knows why. However, on this particular night that wasn’t the case, as the doormen were asking what had happened she began to cry and began to try and lie her way out of it. They saw straight through it and kicked her out – I was left in the pub – ‘hurrah!’ I was thinking, ‘Time for a drink!’ It was a great night that night and to top it off as I was leaving the original doorman who was at the front door clocked me, he said to his workmate “Who let her in here, she’s underage”, the other guy shrugged and then he said “Don’t let her in here again”. I just thought “Not a problem” while giggling to myself.



The Wizard team were on a break in New Zealand when I got back from Australia and Judy was planning a trip to South Africa but had no-one to deal with the admin side of things so I agreed to do that for her. I’d have to go to the ‘office’ (rent-a-secretary/office-space), collect the mail and messages, send out any bottles of cleaner; normal day-to-day running a business type stuff. Judy seemed confident in letting me ‘look after the business’ and then before I knew it she was on her way to South Africa and excited about seeing the Gorillas. I was living with Pete (Judy’s cousin); he had his own pad in the basement. There was Pete and his girlfriend Donna, Helene (friend) and her newly acquired British husband Bruce (got married to stay in NZ although Bruce didn’t love Helene but Helene loved Bruce… messy situation) and me. I hooked up with Donna’s brother Roydon who was a deep sea fisherman, he’d be gone for 3-4 weeks at a time and while he was away Helene and I would go out clubbing.

I was living in Avondale, home of the Avondale Spider that was used for the movie ‘Arachnophobia’. I had one just underneath my light switch in my bedroom one night – we were subtly acquainted. Helene was over with Bruce just having a few drinks and as I walked into my bedroom and inadvertently switched the light on – got what I needed then turned around to turn the light back off there was a leggy hairy thing right underneath the light switch, I pulled my hand back sharpish and shouted “What the bloody hell is that?” Helene came in followed by Bruce and when Helene seen it that was it – she just climbed on to the top of table and refused to budge until it was gone, I got the newspaper and rolled it up ready to bring it to its untimely end however Bruce got an empty bowl and was hell bent on saving it and setting it free outside. He’d said that Avondale’s come back so you have to take them a few houses down the road and set them free – I just thought that that was even more reason to say goodnight to it. The actual spider on my bedroom wall was the size of a starter plate, I’ve been told that they grow to the size of a dinner plate – they also carry a knife and fork. It’s hairy and it creeps with its legs and it also jumps – quite the athletic creature.

Another creature that resides in NZ is the Weta, it’s a bit like a giant stick insect that sticks to everything, when it’s on your hand it just won’t come off no matter how vigorously you shake it, you wind up having to prize it off gently and hope that you don’t snap it in half otherwise it lays eggs that will seep into your skin and eat you from the inside. Only kidding, it won’t! It’s completely harmless, it just sticks! The bloody things won’t come off without a fight.

My Uncle Russell had been living in Herne Bay; I hadn’t had that much contact with him since I was in Auckland. I had quite a long conversation on the phone one day about Brother Russell and living with Mum. It had only been a couple of years since his death and I was still feeling the strain of it although I was getting really good at disguising it – however there were moments where the ‘sales persona’ was switched off and I really would have my ‘down’ moments. Uncle Russell had no idea of the shit that mum had been saying over the years – or at least if he did know – he was really good at disguising it. I went over to Uncle Russell’s a couple of times before he left for Sydney.

I also decided while I was living in Auckland that it’d be a good idea to get my drivers licence. The learner drivers permit is a written test and the learner licence lasts for 18 months before you move onto the ‘restricted’ licence – which means just that. It’s not that different from a ‘learners’ whereby a ‘learner’ is only able to drive if a person over 25 with a full licence for over 5 years is your passenger – and also between certain hours of the day, restricted was a little better than learners with respect to driving hours. A full licence - the final part of the licence meant taking a drive with a fully uniformed traffic officer – quite a terrifying prospect. I got my ‘learner’ licence on the second attempt and bought a car for $350, it was a mark II Cortina with column steering and it was red. I took it into the car park and practised driving it around and pretty soon starting driving all over Auckland. Tut Tut me. I’d had a little bit of practise behind the wheel previously as I started getting a bit wiser in my earlier years when I was living in the garage. I knew that I wouldn’t be living in the garage for too much longer and as I listened to music and danced around the car all of a sudden it was clear to me - how could I sleep with a car every night and not know how to drive it? It was a little red thing – not bigger than a Cortina, so I did, I made it my mission to learn how to drive. I had a spare key and took it down to the end of Tweed Street and back when mum was out, whenever I was in a car I paid attention to the foot gears. After a little while I’d done it a few times but unfortunately since the driveway was on an angle and had a concrete post on one side and on the other side was a wooden fence – I was panicking as I thought I saw mum and I fuckin' crashed it in the driveway. I look back now and think to myself ‘Well, I guess that was worth a beating’. Funny. Of course it’s not the wisest of ideas to take my self-taught driving skills onto the roads of Invercargill but crashing into a fence, getting a beating - wasn’t that big of a deal in comparison with the adrenaline rush. There wasn’t that much damage to the car and only two fence posts needed to be replaced, the neighbours were pretty cool about it – surprisingly. The lady next door laughed about it as she thought it was funny, she was a nice lady – she used to make strawberry jelly and put strawberries in it. She fell out with mum around the time that I had the crash, I just had to ask her whether she did call the police on me or press charges against me. Mum had told me after the beating that the next door neighbour was complaining about me and had ‘pressed charges’ against me. That was a lie but unfortunately for mum she wasn’t the kind of lady that appreciated being dragged into bullshit. Around the same time it was Aunty Gayna’s and Tony’s wedding, mum didn’t want me around so I was put on a bus and sent to Waihola (which is not far south of Dunedin). I wasn’t there for the wedding; it was Aunt Gayna that said something to mum about the whereabouts of both Russell and Shelley. The conversation went “Anne (mum), where’s Russell?”, “I don’t know”, “Oh, yes – he’s your son isn’t he?” Amongst other things that were said it was one of the first that filtered back through to me via other family members after I’d crashed her car. Waihola was a religious kind of place, I think it was one of those ‘tough love’ places where little misfits get sent when the parent/s have had too much. No surprises there then. I was only 12 years old – not quite ready to get booted out. We had to pray and sleep in dorms etc, the normal thing like chores and charts etc. There was some fun stuff as well like go-karting around hay stacks – now that was what I’m talking about. From my mother’s banger to a racy little go-kart going full throttle. I made a couple of friends there and kept in touch for a short while, when I left I was given a white bible and the lady wrote something on the inside cover – I don’t remember what it said as it went walkabouts and wasn’t with my stuff when I was kicked out shortly after I’d got back to Invercargill.

Unfortunately the same fate happened to my first car – I crashed it into a wall. As I was pulling out of Henry Street and started going down the hill to the main road (Great North Road) I discovered – I had no breaks! So I swerved, took out the stop sign and crashed into a concrete wall. I missed the car in front of me that was parked at the intersection – all I saw at the time was a little boys face on the back window looking at me and he was coming closer... and closer.

I was a bit shaken up at the thought of nearly crashing into someone else as people have always told me that everyone crashes their first car – I really did think that was an urban myth. The traffic officer came and got a statement, checked the breaks and sure enough – there weren’t any and it was considered an ‘accident’. My car was pretty much totalled and the bonnet was quite pushed in, there wasn’t a great deal that I could do really as I didn’t have insurance (wasn’t obligatory at the time) – and even if I did it wouldn’t be worth claiming for anyway. I ended up selling it for $300, only lost $50 – bargain for a smash-up derby and a ‘Stop’ sign souvenir.

While I was in Avalon with Pete and Judy was still in Africa leaving me responsible for looking after the ‘business’, I had a strange dream. I was at the house and we were all out in the back garden having a barbeque and a few drinks when it started raining. Everyone ran inside and I got caught under the garage door as the rain had turned into little rays. I looked up and there thing spacey type things having a fight in the sky and shooting each other with their laser beams. We were all watching it and then one of them got shot and landed right in front of me. It looked at me - smiled and then flew off back into the sky. There was a blank after that until I saw myself giving a speech at the racecourse.

It was thee most bizarre dream that I ever had. I found an article in the Australians Woman’s Weekly magazine about a ‘Dream Doctor’, so I sent him a letter. I received a reply back saying something positive about me and that I have a lot to teach/give people. ‘Okay’, I thought.

After a fair amount of time Judy arrived back in Auckland from South Africa. She’d fallen out with her friends and smashed their car up while she was on a bender there so wasn’t in the best of moods when she landed. She looked over the business stuff and was happy with regards to the condition that sales were in etc. I was just thinking it must’ve been a bit of a car-crash month, pardon the pun.

Once her stroppiness subsided she began to get a new team together and start door-to-door canvassing. This time the team was Gina, Bonny, Diesha and Jacqui. We went to Napier, Gisbourne, covered the bay of Plenty, over the Waioeka Gorge, the Coromandel, Mt Manganui and past White Island. On the way back to Wellington we took a detour to go see Huka Falls. When we got to Wellington and caught the ferry to Picton we headed off down the West Coast of the South Island, I could then say that I had covered pretty much all of New Zealand – all except the very north tip of the North Island and Stewart Island. It was a little hard to comprehend that I’d never been to Stewart Island which is an island that’s a stones-throw away from Invercargill - yet been pretty much nearly everywhere else.

The ‘Wizard’ spiel was becoming mind numbingly boring and tedious so I quit when we got back to Auckland. I needed some time off from the ‘Wizard’ as I’d been doing it quite a while without a descent break. I came to realise that when living with work - sooner or later it eventually develops into this all compassing thing that gobbles you up, it was there when I went to bed; it was there when I woke up; the sales chart was permanently stuck in my face and if I clapped sight of any more bloody cleaner I would have no option but to have an emotional breakdown. Yes; I was becoming suffocated by a cleaning product. I didn’t want to be out selling anymore – of course that went down like a led balloon with Judy and we fell out so I moved out. I didn’t leave on ‘good’ terms - I guess that comes with all ‘break ups’, so I moved out of the ‘wizard’ premises and rented a one bedroom flat in Blockhouse Bay; still remaining in Auckland.

Within a short time I’d got another job working as a waitress for a company that caters for weddings and other formal functions, it was okay; nothing to shout about. I still remained in touch with Judy and a couple of months went by before she asked me to return to work for her and train some people that had come over from the UK for a working holiday. That was when I was introduced to Andy; he was a bit of a long-haired lout really, a lanky surfy looking guy that spoke with a weird accent. He was also really quiet so I ended up getting him to do shouting exercises before he went in to his sales pitch on people. Things were going okay, I wasn’t living with the ‘Wizard’ crew which was a good thing as I’d get the space that I needed, I’d get picked up in the morning and dropped off after work; it was almost like a ‘normal’ job, however the time was coming once again that we’d need to be back on the road and before I knew it; we were.

Just before I was about to go on the road I had phone call from my Uncle Joe, it was about Mum, she’d been beaten up by her boyfriend and needed a break so he thought it would be a good idea for her to come up and stay with me for a bit. I did tell him that I would be away working but would only be gone a couple of extra days and that I’d ask some friends of mine to see whether she could be picked up from the airport or not. So I asked some friends of mine if they could pick her up and it was no problem, I didn’t tell them the extent of the animosity toward my mother; just that we didn’t get on. It was clear that my Uncle was just playing the ‘go-between’ and trying to end a long standing rift that was painfully obvious as I hadn’t spoken to her since the last ‘should’ve got an abortion’ statement. From my understanding of what other family members had said via word of mouth is that Russell and I were just ungrateful little monsters that were difficult. The only person in the family that seemed to know mothers resentment toward us was Carole; I’m unsure as to whether she kept that information to herself though, especially after Russell died.

When I got back from working away, my friends had told me that mum was a complete bitch when they picked her up from the airport, they made a special sign saying ‘Michelle’s Mum’; she went up to them and said “Oh she’s not here, I’m going to catch the next flight back then”. They convinced her to go to the flat as it was only just a couple more days, so they drove her to the flat and she didn’t even say as much as “Thank You” to them. I got back and walked in the front door - the floor just looked as if was literally jumping, it was absolutely riddled with fleas and there was mum, sitting up in my bed giving me orders once more. I asked her why she didn’t go and get a flea bomb (Pak ‘n’ Save was only a short walk away) but she made some excuse pertaining to how much money she had as she’d come to Auckland with no money and I was expected to give her some. It made me laugh; she’d not long won an obscene amount of money on a scratch card and bought a house in Waiau Crescent with it (which was on the other end of Invercargill). I wasn’t in the mood to have an argument with this person sitting in my bed so I wandered down to the supermarket and got a couple of flea bombs, when I got back mum had gone out so I lit the bombs, locked up and went over to a friends for a couple of hours.

Later that evening I returned back to the flat to find mum once again sitting up in my bed, this time clutching a piece of paper and looking rather agitated, I asked her if she wanted a coffee and she didn’t respond, so I made myself a cuppa. It was then that she started to have a go,

“You told Social Welfare that I was living with someone didn’t you?”

“Pardon?” I said

“I got a letter saying that Paul’s doing me for maintenance”.

It was if my question fell on deaf ears as she blatantly ignored me while shouting over the top of me “You fuckin' told Social Welfare didn’t you!”

“What’s that got to do with me?” I bellowed back

She didn’t answer that question but insistently started shouting “You fucking told them that I was living with someone!”

I blew up and shouted back “It’s got nothing to do with me and I fucking didn’t, I didn’t know that you were living with someone and I really don’t give a fuck! Did you actually bring that letter with you, all the way up from Invercargill so you could have a go at me?”

She just kept going on and on, I could’ve gone blue in the face saying the same thing over and over like “no”; it wouldn’t of made the slightest bit of difference as she was hell bent on blaming me for something that I hadn’t done - yet again, so I rang a friend of mine and crashed at theirs for the night. The next day when I got back to the flat, the front door was wide open and all my stuff was gone; apart from the bed and the sofa. Man I was pissed, but good riddance to her if that’s what it took for that abusive leach to leave. I phoned Carole a few days later and she’d said that mum had got back to Invercargill alright; she’d asked mum why her trip was cut short and what had happened but all she said to Carole was “Why don’t you ask Shelley?” I let out a sigh of frustration; ‘It’s just never-ending bullshit with that woman’, I thought.

Looking around the empty shell with my few bits of ‘treasured’ possessions; namely a couple of cassette tapes, some clothes and my suitcase was all that was left, I thought – could this really be ‘it’ then? I knew Wizard wasn’t going to last forever – was I now destined to become a waitress? The ‘Wizard’ team were due to leave Auckland soon and head down south; it was a blessing in disguise since my stuff had been nicked so there certainly wasn’t a problem with packing or storage – or trips to the tip for that matter.

The new ‘Wizard’ team were the ‘brit’ boys (Andy, Alistair and Asif) and the girls (Gina, Lisa1 and me). The atmosphere was so much more relaxed as previous travels as it had always been an all girl team and the bitching could be quite ruthless. We headed south via Kaikoura, Christchurch, Alexandra, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Kingston all the way to Bluff, then stopped off in Invercargill then en route to Ohai and Nightcaps – a little mining town where both Russell and I called ‘home’ for a short time. A strange thing happened when we were all in Invercargill, we were all ready to go to work when I had a quick glance at the paper, on the front page of Southland Times there was a medium sized write up about a fatal collision on the road between Nightcaps and Ohai, as I read the article my hand covered my mouth in shock as it was the Kingi family as well as Shelley (an old girlfriend of Russell’s) that were all involved. Jamie was riding the motorbike back to Nightcaps while Shelley and Jamie’s sisters were heading the other way back to Ohai. The road between the two towns is very windy, very dark and there is a severe problem with fog as it’s in the middle of nowhere and not far from the Takitimu ranges so the combination of driving conditions is very hazardous to begin with. At one point or another Shelley decided to do a ‘u-e’ and turn around as the fog was that bad that she couldn’t see, she could probably see about 1 metre in front of her and with the lights on full beam the fog looked like clouds, very dense. Right at that moment when she decided to turn around Jamie slammed into the side of the car on his motorbike and subsequently died. Both Shelley and Jamie’s sisters were all hospitalised as well as Shelley’s sister that was also in the car. I was in shock. I was mates with Jamie’s sisters and Shelley, I used to go to school with Vicki Kingi as well as have to go to the religious group that my foster parents did, they would pick everyone up and go sing songs about god. Fucking hated it – always a good opportunity for a farting contest between the boys nonetheless.

I was in shock for most of the day, my finely tuned ‘sales persona’ could be switched on and off, I still got my sales target that day but also did a lot of staring into space when I was waiting to be picked up by Judy. It was reaching later in the day that I knocked on the door of one particular house and a girl came to the door, I can’t remember what she said but she led me into the house and there she was – there was Shelley sitting at the dining table with her mind driving her insane from ‘memory flashes’, all she kept seeing when she shut her eyes was the expression on Jamie’s face. She was a mess, her face was almost unrecognisable – in fact she had about the same injuries as the skinhead woman beating in Dunedin – and that was severe. I left when the Doctor came to give her some more valium.

It wasn’t the last time that I saw Shelley, a couple of weeks later we headed back down that way again, back to Invercargill before heading back to Auckland. We all went out to the pub on the edge of town, just before the turn off to the abattoir and the beginning of the journey to ‘middle earth’. I was dancing and this person was banging into me, me being me - thought ‘I’m not friggin' moving’ so stayed where I was and banged her back, she banged me again so I turned around with my ‘pissed off’ expression and it was Shelley – so what could’ve turned out to be a girly brawl in the middle of the dance floor turned into a great surprise with huge hugs and then a giggle as she was thinking the same thing I was – ‘I’m not fuckin’ moving’. And that was the last time I saw Shelley – much better than being destroyed by haunting images that will never go away although that’s not to say that narcotics or alcohol helps; it merely just dulls the pain for a little while. The moment when you realise when people say ‘You’ll get over it’ and ‘times a great healer’ is a complete ‘HF’ as when you don’t just ‘get over it’ the insecurity of feeling as if you’re ‘mentally weak’ makes the grieving process even worse as deep down you realise you will never get over it – and to be told to get over it is just completely insensitive, it’s more learning to accept, learn to accept the fact that he/she is dead and there’s absolutely nothing that no-one can do to change that.

Jamie was a Maori and the funeral took place in the burial ground in Ohai/Nightcaps, the family stayed with his body for 12 hours before they buried him, it was Maori tradition allowing enough time for the spirit to leave before his body was given to the earth.

We arrived back in Christchurch at the same time that Split Enz were doing their 20th Anniversary tour so we all got tickets and went to see them in their full glory, it was an absolutely superb kiwi experience. The Jack Daniels was being passed around followed by tobacco with something special in it; absolutely superb. The next day we ventured out to Orana Park, it’s a wildlife park that boasts animals being in their natural habitat; well as close as they could get to considering there were Tigers, Lions, Cheetahs, Rhino etc and being in New Zealand and all. When it was time to witness the lions being fed we had to drive into an enclosed paddock and park our cars side by side, we sat in the car as instructed by the keepers (after all it was rather dodgy if anyone got out, you’d run the risk of being mauled to death). The feeder was in an enclosed cage on the back of a tractor and giving the big cats the raw meat through a retractable flap as the vehicle slowly drove by. The Cheetahs would also get their exercise as they raced after their food with the aid of a ‘rabbit run’ contraption that they use for greyhound racing, it was amazing to get that close to a Cheetah to actually hear it meow like a cat – well – it is a cat – but certainly not one that’s going to be lounging on your sofa. Christchurch was great and I loved it. It was Christchurch that a couple of sparks flew between Andy and I, we both thought it’d be good idea to get away from ‘Wizard’ for the weekend so we hired a car and embarked on a little adventure down to Queenstown, up to Mt Cook National Park and Lake Tekapo and across to the Moeraki boulders then back to work in Christchurch. Our little excursion was great fun.

Once we got back to Christchurch we headed to Queenstown where the choice of jumping off a bridge or doing loop-the-loop above Queenstown in a Bi-plane was served up to our adrenaline urges. I opted for the loop-the-loop.

I had my 19th birthday when we were in Wellington and I was with Andy, we’d got a separate hotel so that we were away from the ‘Wizard’ and did the ‘off’ for the weekend. Wellington was wear I bought my first designer dress, at Thornton & Hall I found a gorgeous black velvet dress, it had sleeves and a keyhole on the front, the skirt was slightly flared and it was superb with boots or heels. I was a constant boot wearer, I had a pair of knee/thigh length black flat boots that I would wear with everything, and I didn’t own a pair of heels. In my suitcase would be my sneakers and jandals – I’d be wearing my boots non-stop. Sneakers had to be worn when we were out with the wizard because we could get the muck out of the carpets better than sole-less heels. Plus there was the feet factor. I paid $350 for my gorgeous designer dress and I even wore it with my boots. Andy had made a birthday cake from a box of chocolates and then we went out to dinner. It was a lovely time.

By the time we all got back to Auckland, Andy had convinced me to go on a working holiday with him; seemed like a great idea so I sorted out my visa’s and went. I departed New Zealand leaving my memories; good and bad behind me. I boarded the plane with a one way ticket to England, a loan of £2000 in order to get a working visa for a year in England, approximately $500 and my trusty MasterCard; also not forgetting my St. Christopher gently hanging around my neck.

Not only was it the beginning of a new era in my life but it was also going to be one hell of an adventure; and also quite a dangerous one with many risks involved. There was no ‘backup’ or ‘support’ along the way; this was a trip of survival, to see how far I could make it, to find out where I would end up on my travels. The biggest adrenaline rush I would experience to date because with next to no money and no way of getting home once the funding had gone, I was completely dependent on working and finding a job as soon as I could.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chapter 3

 

 

 

We were to start off in Sydney and somehow travel up to Perth, from there we would go on to Singapore and then across to London. Accommodation had been arranged in Singapore so only the problem of travelling to Perth was to be resolved, as well as checking into some Backpackers Hostels which wouldn’t of been as problematic as the money issue.

I boarded the plane and closed my eyes as the G-force threw me back into my seat; the feeling of power always overwhelms me and I’m somewhat addicted to flying now. As the luscious greenery of my homeland grew further and further away, the realisation that this adventure could turn out to be a trip of a lifetime or a disaster waiting to happen made me quite anxious as well as excited. This was the beginning of a new way of life. Anything could happen, anything could go wrong and I would have no-one to run to, no-one would ever come to my rescue if a disaster happened or if I was stranded in a foreign country with no money, nowhere to stay and definitely no way of getting back home; which would be on the other side of the planet, although I was with Andy at the time; relationships don’t always last.

Three hours later I arrived in Sydney. A great swarm of nervous, anxious and excited people buzzed passed me outside the terminal building, I stood there for a few minutes and allowed the bright hot sun greet me with warmth. I was pleased to back in Australia once again but also relieved that I didn’t have to contend with any more ‘Wizard’. Andy soon landed and we picked up our bags and hopped onto the bus that would take us into Sydney city. The bus that we had taken drove around dropping everyone off at their lush hotels, whereas we; being backpackers, were dropped off at the not-so-glam backpackers at the back of Kings Cross; not very far away from the Warratah Apartments.

While we were in Kings Cross I went and said hello to my Uncle Russell who was living there at the time with his girlfriend, he spent most of his time off his face and his head permanently stuck in a bong, I often wondered how he managed to live out the ‘rock and roll’ lifestyle during the day and still be able to hit the right notes 'til early hours of the morning while playing in his band; turns out he couldn’t. In fact, it was the first time that I had experienced someone in the ‘family’ other than mum asking me if they could ‘borrow’ money, so I lent him some money with the realisation that I would never see it again. Uncle Russell played bass guitar in Graham Brazier’s band when he was living in New Zealand and he also shared the same stage with Bob Geldof (once) when he was in Auckland doing a gig. The last time I’d seen my Uncle Russell was when I was working in a town selling ‘Wizard’ and they just happened to be playing so I stopped by and said hello, went backstage; did the groupy thing if you’d like to call it that. It was quite a pokey little room filled with smoke and stunk of B.O; not that glamorous. The band broke up shortly after that so he headed for Australia to ‘find fame’, only it wasn’t working out the way that he’d planned and in reality; turned into a ‘dead beat’. He’d continually tell me stories about the people that he met and the people that he used to hang out with but seeing him being in the position that he was in made me a little less gullible and I didn’t believe him. We took a trip out to Bondi beach and hung out for a little bit, the beach was literally deserted and the full moon was up, it was just nice.

Back in the red light district of Kings Cross I sat in the MacDonald’s restaurant on the corner and did a spot of ‘people-watching’. The prostitutes strutted their stuff down the street, most of them didn’t care how they were dressed, one was wearing a see through red dress with white panties and no bra - definitely dressed to thrill. I admired them in a way; they seemed to have in their lives what I was missing in mine, like having enough self-esteem to walk down the street half naked and not conforming to social ideals. But on the same token; it gave me frightening shivers to think about what happened afterwards when the newly acquainted pair drove off into the unknown. There were of course downsides to Kings Cross, there were times that I wasn’t sure what to do and had no option other than to play the part of the ‘bystander’, one lady just literally dropped dead in the middle of the street due to a drugs overdose along with other drunks that would fall unconscious wherever they fell. It hadn’t changed a great deal since I’d been there last.

We had a couple of day’s lee-way to find a job; it wasn’t that difficult as seasonal and temporary jobs were listed on the notice-board’s of the backpackers hostels wanting workers. I phoned one the advertisers up and went for an interview in Avalon. The bus journey there took a little while and not before long I was out of the hustle and bustle of Sydney and had arrived in a quaint little town with a stunningly gorgeous beach. It turned out that that’s where Home and Away was filmed. I got the job and also discovered that there was a backpackers hostel pretty much just across the road which was a blessing; literally a hassle free job making gift bags with cheap accommodation just over the road. What more could I possibly want?

It took about an hour to travel to Avalon the next day by bus, driving through winding roads and beautiful scenery. We checked into the backpackers there. The job paid $350 per week, which was enough to pay the accommodation and general living expenses as well as save a bit for the trip to Perth.

Avalon had a golden beach with luxurious soft sand; it was a quiet town with very few shops. One night at the Youth Hostel, we were sitting in the common room and had just finished laughing hysterically at some guy who genuinely thought that the Beverly Hills 90210 was pronounced: ninety thousand two hundred and ten, when an enormous crack of lightening lit the dark cloudy sky. I wandered over to the door and watched the spectacular tropical storm pass by with all its anger. The storm only lasted for about twenty minutes but I was amazed to see such power and spectacular visions of ferocious fork lightening, it cracked loudly when it connected to the earth, the giant rumbles of thunder echoed throughout my entire body and the vibrations from it gave my feet a mini-massage. I loved the intense power of a wild storm and afterwards once the last rumbles had disappeared the sky would be calm and silent; at peace.

We stayed in Avalon for a good couple of months before making our way towards Perth. Before it was time to leave, we spent one last day in Sydney enjoying the breath taking scenery. Since I’d been there before I knew the city roughly. We walked for miles; we went up the Sydney observation tower and gazed out at the spectacular harbour and famous landmarks, truly a remarkable city. Some call it the ‘Gay Capital’ or the ‘Party Capital’ of the world with it’s Gay Mardigra that happens once every year as well as the clubs that open in the early evening and don’t shut ‘til it’s time to go to work. Everyone comes out of their civilian hard working tax paying shell and dressed up to their eye balls in anything... plastic, rubber, chains; you name it; someone will be wearing it. The people of Sydney are proud of their reputation of being the best party capital in the world; and rightfully so.

It was time to arrange the travel plans for getting to Perth. We’d be catching a bus from Sydney to Melbourne, Melbourne to Adelaide and then from Adelaide across the Nullarbor Plains to Perth. We said our goodbyes to Avalon and set off to Sydney’s bus station where we boarded the bus on route to Melbourne. It was a night journey; we’d both be able to sleep on the way and be relatively fresh when we arrived in Melbourne in the morning.

The sun was rising slowly behind scattered clouds as the bus entered Melbourne fifteen hours later. We pulled into the bus station and the cold hit me hard in the face the minute I stepped off, my feet were swollen, my neck was stiff and my bottom was aching from sitting down for too long. We were greeted by Andy’s sister Carol who was married to an Australian and had a couple of kids. So I did the whole ‘family-bonding’ thing and it was also a chance for Andy and Carol to spend some time together before he went back to the UK. Melbourne was an amazing city, with its old fashioned electric trams, the mellow buzz of shoppers hunting out a bargain, and the weather; I was pre-warned that Melbourne was renowned for its rainy weather but it was the total opposite.

Time passed by quickly and we found ourselves loading our backpacks onto the bus once more as we made our way to Adelaide, it was another gruelling ten hour aching trip and I was just praying I could sleep the whole time so I’d get there quicker. I found it rather bizarre that when we were staying in places time just whizzed by whereas when we were on the bus it just dragged on and on. I was literally a walking zombie by the time we got there, we wandered around and compared to Sydney and Melbourne, the place was quite subdued. We came across some Koalas in the middle of the shopping mall which is always a good photo opportunity then onwards to a lovely garden where the wisteria was growing wild. We didn’t stay in Adelaide for too long before boarding the bus and heading across the Nullarbor Plains to Perth which was miles and miles of sheer nothing, wildlife ran free making Kangaroos a hazard for drivers; especially at night. It was like slow torture, 35 hours on a bus with nothing to look at but red sand that stained your shoes and stung when it was windy as discovered when we had a pit stop. It took two days and one night to get there by coach, every inch of my body was swollen and I swear my feet must’ve grown two sizes. It’s Australia’s longest straight road, namely the ’90 mile straight’, and while there’s nothing for miles bar the occasional kangaroo hopping about, all I could think of was perhaps having a top of the range sports car and just flooring it; seeing how fast I could go. It is the perfect spot for it, with the outback’s’ temperatures heading into the late forty degree mark; no-one would want to be hanging around out there for too long which means hardly any people, traffic or speed cameras. The sun set was absolutely amazing; it set in an orange ball of fire that made the desert look smooth and golden. I wasn’t prepared for the effects of such a gruelling bus trip, my neck ached tremendously at any angle that I tilted my head in so I found it difficult to sleep and my buttocks were in sheer agony.

Eventually, the first glimpse of Perth was seen, I was incredibly eager to get off the bus and would be quite happy never to step foot on one again. The time it took from spotting Perth to pulling in at the bus station seemed to be in slow motion.

As I attempted to lift my pack it just pulled me straight back down, when I eventually summoned the strength and got it on my back it just felt as if it was going to make me to keel over backwards, it took a few minutes to find my feet and the ability to balance, it was almost like my feet had mysteriously turned into flippers and my muscle capabilities had deceased along the way. A short while later, a scout from one of the Backpackers Hostels collected us and I was having a hot shower to relieve my senses from such an exhausting trip.

It was a Saturday in Perth and nearly everything was closed for the day so we had no option but to chill out, which suited me fine, I wasn’t up for doing the touristy thing; not after such a nightmare journey full of nothingness.

We wandered around the next day, avoided the pelicans and slowly began to become human once more.

After collecting ourselves it was once again time for some more travelling; however, this time, thankfully involving a plane. We still had to get on a bus though to get to Perth Airport early in the morning; at least it’d be the last one for a long time. Andy was flying with a different airline to me which meant that I’d be the first one to get to Singapore and I’d just meet him there when he arrived, flying time was relatively short; five and a bit hours, compared to the mammoth bus trips it was a walk in the park.

Just before we were due to land in Singapore, the air stewards handed out the boarding cards along with little warning cards with a skull and crossbones picture on it saying ‘smuggling drugs results in the death penalty’ beneath it. It’s the first time I’d ever encountered a modern-day pirate-like warning about drugs. Then when walking off the plane I noticed that the guards were fully equipped with machine guns and compared to the Australian and New Zealand’s basic guns; it was certainly a bit of a shell shock, I certainly didn’t want to annoy them.

Once I’d left the terminal building the extreme humidity threw me back a little bit, the taxi drivers were waiting patiently just outside the terminal doors for their customers to arrive so I jumped in and off I went to a hotel for the next few nights. I was in heaven as I got to the hotel and went into my room, it was absolute bliss after spending nights on stiff beds with just my sleeping bag, communal wash rooms, no air conditioning and of course the creepy crawlies like cockroaches, flies and mosquitoes. I had a nice comfy bed with a duvet, my own shower and best of all; it was private.

After I’d had a shower and got refreshed I went for a wander. Walking down the main drag in Singapore everything was pristine; there were little ashtrays on top of rubbish bins along with little notices warning you that if you got caught littering or dropping your cigarette you would be fined fifty dollars.

Singapore’s back streets were rough and ready, with market stalls everywhere and street beggars sitting contentedly on corners with deformed limbs. This was my first glimpse of real poverty; from the corrugated iron shacks that were ready-made homes to the skinned dog carcases hanging in windows; such a far cry away from a different world only a couple of blocks away. There were absolutely hundreds of cats, cats everywhere; and when it rained, the whole place just stunk of cat urine. The rain was almost monsoon-ish, it would lash down for about ten to fifteen minutes and suddenly just stop, and after a relatively short time everything would be dry again. I didn’t venture very far; I knew it would be too dangerous to leave the crowds. I was walking past Raffles hotel when I heard voices behind me, there were three men following me yelling “Where do you come from? Where are you staying? Where are you going?” They followed me for quite a distance, and as I passed a little row of shops an old woman grabbed my arm and tried to pull me into her shop saying “You buy, you buy”. I snatched my arm back and just bolted. Whether I lost them or they gave up I don’t know, all I know is it was an experience that I didn’t want to repeat so I found my way back to the hotel. That evening Andy arrived.

While we were there we went to the Chinese Gardens and Jurong Bird Park. The Chinese gardens were full of bonsai, stone lions, and everything as one would expect to find in a Chinese garden including the statue of Confucius. The downside to the gardens were no doubtedly the mosquitoes, they seemed to be in love with my blood; maybe it was because I have a rare blood type; who knows, but the bites on my legs were the size of a 50p piece. They were very painful and itchy indeed. The Bird park was really impressive, they even had a crocodile farm where they bred them, the young’s ones would be handled by the workers by putting ropes around their snouts, the crocs would try and spin to get free and the workers would end up with bite marks on their toes and fingers, the larger ones were in a secure compound that resembled their habitat, there was a tunnel where you could walk underneath them and it was rather scary as the white belly just lay there above you.

After the dodgy incident in Singapore with being followed, I decided it was definitely not my most favourite place to be and was getting rather giddy of the thought of actually making it all the way to London. The time finally came after hanging around Singapore International Airport for a little while; we were boarding separate planes again on route to London and we’d meet each other at the other end. It was when I was asked to pay the departure tax that disaster and panic struck. I searched my bag frantically for any loose Singapore change. My heart was literally in my mouth as the thought of being stuck in Singapore with no money loomed over me like a dark cloud. Luckily, there was just enough to leave the country with two Singapore cents to spare! (They didn’t accept MasterCard; strictly cash only, which means that I would’ve missed my flight getting the cash to pay the departure tax).

At last, I was on my way to England. All the excitement, anxiety and dreams of making it to England had snowballed inside, the rush of adrenaline made me burst into a fit of laughter like that of a giggly schoolgirl. I couldn’t hold back even at the slightest comment or thought.

I had arrived in England on a cold icy day, the temperature was minus one and I was unprepared for such a dramatic change of climate. I wandered around the airport, not tempted to face the sub zero temperatures that awaited me outside. This was the time of reckoning, I had made it; I had arrived.

We were picked up from Heathrow by Andy’s mum Margaret and her partner Alan, they seemed nice, Andy had already asked if we could stay there for a few days before we got a flat and that was okay.

Before we got started looking for work he took me around his sisters to meet them, starting with Sue and then Elaine. They were complete opposites, Sue was a little bit hippy-ish and had three kids and a husband living in Kent and then there was Elaine, whom was married and were social climbers that lived in Bath. Andy’s dad lived in Wales and was a bit on the eccentric side, his tool shed was the kitchen and he’d even stuck carpet to the fridge/freezer in order to make it more insulated. I didn’t mention anything about my family, they didn’t ask so I didn’t tell them. Andy knew bits and pieces but not the whole story.

It took a little bit longer to get a job in Hemel Hempstead than I’d anticipated; my first job came at MasterCare two weeks later as a Customer Service Advisor which was in the industrial estate. I absolutely hated it. After a few months there we’d got a flat in Adeyfield, Andy was beginning to launch his business and all of a sudden the great travelling holiday was turning into some kind of ‘normal’ life scenario and Andy had opted out of doing any more travelling without actually telling me.

Every day I’d get up; get dressed, go to work, deal with arsehole people all day, get a headache from the air conditioning; go back to the flat, cook tea, and that was it. Big fat boring. We didn’t go out to clubs or anything as it wasn’t Andy’s ‘cup of tea’ however he didn’t really seem to have a problem with it in NZ, we’d go to sit down country pubs where I would literally be bored out of my brain; however would do the polite thing and join him.

This particular day was no different to any other, I got up, got dressed, went to work only for a work colleague to say “Well? well?” in anticipation. Andy was going to propose but had forgotten to tell me about it, instead told his mate and it just so happened that his mate’s girlfriend was a work colleague of mine. So, he proposed over a candlelit meal that evening and I hesitantly accepted.

A few months had passed while in the ‘domestic bliss’ routine when I had a phone call from Carole; it was bad news about Brendon (my cousin), he’d committed suicide and his family found him hanging in the garage. It was a huge shock as I’d never thought for a moment that Brendon would give up on life; he had it all; good looks, a caring family, so many positive things in his life that I was absolutely stunned. The last time I seen him was at Russell’s wake and damned if I was going back to see another dead body. His girlfriend had died in a motorbike accident and unfortunately he was hurting that much that voluntary death was the only option. Once I’d said goodbye to Carole after the news I looked out the window to see everything was white outside; it had been snowing and still was. It was a very sad day.

Brendon’s unexpected death was yet another catalyst to discover the world and experience everything that it could throw at me; with Andy not included - I was soon to learn that Andy had started seeing his ex-girlfriend so in turn, I chucked the ring back in his face and left.

I got a live-in job in a rough and ready pub in Hammersmith, the place was okay; it really didn’t matter as I was in London which was where I wanted to be and I could go discover London at my leisure. Andy would write love letters and tell me that he missed me and all that jazz, asking me to come back. It was a good couple of months before I started going to Hemel Hempstead for the weekends and staying with Andy, also it was a good couple of month’s wages that the bar owed me. They didn’t pay me so I ended up having to take ‘IOU’s’ from the till, I’d write it on a bit of paper and stick it in the till so that they knew. One night I was working on the bar and a relatively old man began talking to me saying that he liked my style and asked if I would work for him. I asked him if the job was live-in and if he pays his staff on a regular basis, he was a bit shocked to learn that I was having problems trying to get wages from the bar I was currently working in. He said yes then he gave me his card and told me to ring him. So the next day I rang him and he asked if I was able to start the next evening. That morning I was packing my bags to leave Hammersmith when the boss came in, I asked him for my wages and he just made some excuse that I’d given a pint of Guinness away and that I was fired without pay. Well; if I didn’t get fired I would’ve quit anyway, still; it happens regularly so I’ve heard, that particular pub hired foreigners in order to string them out for as long as they can without paying them, one way of getting free workers I guess as if they don’t have working visa’s; there’s no real risk that they are going to go running to an employment tribunal and people like myself who are given a years working visa; don’t have the time to deal with all the bureaucracy. My replacement was also foreign. So I got the tube over to Camden, found the pub, went in and asked for a guy called Dennis. He was to be my new boss. The pub in Camden was absolutely busting at the seams over the weekend, just so busy; busier than what I’d been used to and when the end of the night came I’d need a shower as I’d be all sweaty from working a full throttle. It was a ‘traditional’ Irish bar with a Thai restaurant out the back, they’d have bands come in during the weekends and during the summer days everyone would just be sprawled out everywhere outside with fire-eaters and people just mucking about; it was great. There was a regular customer that came in and for some reason he kept calling me ‘Siobhan’, I lost count of the amount of times that I corrected him but he insisted that I ‘looked’ Irish and that I ‘looked’ like a ‘Siobhan’ to him. We got chatting and he would tell me stories about his Hollywood friends, I didn’t believe him but listened anyway. It wasn’t long after that that I had a bit of a shock, Patrick Bergen (Sleeping with the Enemy) came in with him; I thought that he was pretty ‘out there’ and a little eccentric. He was quite unusual, he wore a cowboy hat and a coat that looked like Australia’s drizabone one, he ordered a bottle of beer and asked for a shot glass, he’d pour the beer into the shot glass and drink it as if it was a shot. Rather intriguing I thought. I just kept thinking to myself “I know what you did to Julia Roberts”, but didn’t say anything. Shortly after that Johnny Rotten came in, he sat in the corner of the bar talking to his friends, I went upstairs after he shortly did a huge spit on the floor, ‘nice chap’ I thought. ‘NOT!’ I really liked working in the bar in Camden, granted I didn’t get a lot of time off work but it was great fun.

Things were improving between Andy and I, I would go back to his on the weekends and just hang out. Maybe improving a bit too much as I soon discovered that I was pregnant, I went back to work for a short time until I decided to leave as lifting kegs (although empty) didn’t seem like the right thing to be doing. I ended up having a miscarriage shortly after I left which was rather disheartening and the whole experience of having a D&C at Hemel Hempstead hospital was not only painful but upsetting. Andy and I talked about it and decided that we would try for another baby soon. A couple of months drifted by and my time in England was nearing an end.

We did a little tour of Paris and Amsterdam which was great and standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower was pretty awesome, the Notre Dame had scaffolding around it at the time but the detail was amazing and the choir boys inside that were singing were; heavenly - rather corny to describe them in those terms but they were. Amsterdam was great fun although I only remember bits and pieces of it, Andy just crashed out for most of the time that we were there. I had the experience of just one man chasing me this time, I’d just come out of a shop and a guy started grabbing me by the arm saying “Policia! Policia! Come back to shop! Come back to shop!” He tried to drag me back towards the shop but I retracted my arm and asked him for ID, after that he decided that he couldn’t speak English and disappeared.

When we got back to Hemel Hempstead I discovered that I had fallen pregnant, I freaked out a little bit as it all seemed to happen really fast. So it was decided that we would both return to New Zealand and settle there.

Attempting to live in the UK would prove somewhat difficult for me as it was bitterly cold (almost too cold to function) and I would suffer tremendously; besides I had no intention of living in the UK - it was just a working holiday. Living in the UK and holidaying in the UK are two completely different things.

Before we went back to New Zealand we did a mini-tour of England for a week, we drove up to Stratford-upon-Avon and had a look at William Shakespeare’s pad, Blackpool then onto Liverpool and into Scotland stopping at Edinburgh. On the way back I convinced Andy to find a place called ‘Johnstone’ as apparently it was where Johnstone castle is, we found it and it was a rather disappointing venture; it was the smallest of castles located in the middle of a housing estate. A few moments later as we left there was the sudden screech of breaks and a giant thud - we had a car accident. All I remember was the others drivers face being really close and the expression on his face was just bracing himself for one almighty collision. We all had whiplash and ended up at the hospital and I had to have a scan to make sure that the baby was okay, everything seemed to be fine and so instead of driving back to Hemel Hempstead - we got towed back.

We were dropped back at Margaret and Alan’s where we stayed for a couple of nights before heading back to New Zealand.

The journey back home was rather exciting; we’d be stopping at Los Angeles, Hawaii and Fiji before arriving in NZ.

We touched down at LAX and headed for the hotel in Anaheim, soon as we dumped our bags I flicked on the television and couldn’t believe the amount of channels they had. Most of them had political adverts degrading and belittling other members of opposition parties, it was also Halloween coming up so there were programmes about pumpkins by the masses. I’d never encountered Halloween before, after all; it is American and they don’t hold back. The next day as we were sitting in a diner having breakfast when we heard a competition on the local radio station, it was for the first 50 or 100 people to be dressed up in full Halloween costume were allowed into Disneyland for free. I sat there and was amazed at the amount of witches, ghosts and goblins hurriedly walking towards Disneyland eager to be one of the winners – within such a short period of time, thinking that they must’ve been dressed in costume already. Never in my life had I seen such enthusiasm. We just moseyed into Disneyland at a leisurely pace and had to pay to get in, unfortunately I wasn’t allowed on many of the rides because I was pregnant, still; ‘Toontown’ was a hoon, ‘It’s a Small World’ was of course annoying (there’s only so many times one can sing that song) and the Disney train was fun too. I became quite frustrated as I had to wait around for Andy to finish all the rides, the worst one was the ‘Back to the Future’ ride. They had the original De Lorean DMC sitting outside the building with the virtual ride inside, I had the pleasure of looking at that while Andy got to speed through the tower’s clock and go back and forwards in time, he was absolutely buzzing when he came back out. I would’ve loved it but perhaps there’ll be another time. After the ‘Back to the Future’ we went off to watch the ‘Miami Vice’ stunt show, Crockett and Tubbs would be zooming around on jet skis trying to get the bad guys who would in turn be shooting at them and trying blow them up and it finished with a rigged helicopter explosion at the end. Disneyland was great; it would’ve been greater had I been able to enjoy the rides though.

The next day we went to Universal Studios where we were indulged with ‘old sets’, ‘hot sets’, and all things movies. It was quite amazing to see the old buildings such as the Munster’s house, the town clock out of Back to the Future, Psycho’s house, feeding Jaws and seeing how they actually parted the river based on when Moses parted the Red Sea. Definitely a must for all movie fans to go and be able to live some cinema-tastic moments. As we left, driving past where they filmed the car race from Grease, I spotted the Hollywood sign but couldn’t get a picture.

Before too long it was onwards to Hawaii. It was the early hours of the morning by the time we landed and we were both greeted by ‘Aloha!’ and a lei of flowers were hung around our necks from the ‘welcoming party’.

We were both feeling rather tired and little dopey from the flight so Hawaii was a good place just to kick back and enjoy the island’s way of life. We headed down to the beach and chilled out for as long as the waves allowed us, the beach front drops so dramatically that when a wave is coming you have no way of knowing how big it’s going to be until it’s too late as it’s swamped you and drenched everything around you. The weather was gorgeous and the island was very laid back, we ended up hiring a jeep and drove around the island stopping at little picture spots along the way, the whole island is just very lush, it wasn’t until we reached Pearl Harbour that I realised that this little island has seem some disastrous atrocities in it’s day, however has sprung back to life like that of a blossoming flower.

Next stop was Fiji, when we landed in the rather small airport at Suva we were greeted with ‘Bula!’ and wreaths of flowers were then draped around our necks by the Fijian ‘welcoming party’. We drove a little way out of the capital to get to our resort and once we got there we could just do nothing at our leisure. It was great. Of course we ventured into Suva and had a look around but preferred to hang out at the resort where we had the luxury of the pool as well as the reefs etc. It was quite hot in Fiji and I ended up getting sunburnt feet as my feet were dangling in the pool; they ached tremendously on the flight between Fiji and Christchurch. We’d arranged a connecting flight from Christchurch to Invercargill and by the time we were approaching the landing strip at Invercargill airport I was beginning to have mixed emotions about being back.

After all I had left Invercargill shortly after Russell died and only been back a couple of times since for a short amount of time, during all the visits there had been some kind of family dispute involving my mother. The concept of living there again, raising a family of my own hadn’t completely sunk in, almost like I’d gone so far but nowhere at all.

We stayed with Carole and Peter on the farm until we rented a small flat in Invercargill, from there we looked around and ended up buying a two bedroom house with half an acre of land in Wyndham which was about a half hour drive from Invercargill. My mother hadn’t changed, her views about life in general were still the same, the world had done her wrong and she was owed huge favours which everyone around her must succumb to. She was still in the country and western group and was a hard core tussock jumper. While Andy was around she behaved herself in a way where she would keep her comments to herself as she tried to portray the loving and caring mother; of which she wasn’t.

In between the flat in Invercargill and buying the house in Wyndham I was getting larger and larger, I was six months pregnant when we got married in the Rose Gardens in Invercargill, I was struggling to fit into the meringue dress on the day as I seemed to swell quite dramatically within just a week of the dress fitting to actually wearing it on the day. On the day it was 34 degrees and my makeup was just melting away. Andy’s dad Berkeley came over from Wales to the wedding, and once we got married, he ended up coming with us on honeymoon; which wasn’t the greatest of experiences. We bought the house just a couple of months before Shivon was born and it had to undergo some major work which involved digging up the kitchen and replacing the foundations, the house was a complete shambles and meanwhile I was just growing larger and larger; luckily the majority of work to the house was finished by the time Shivon came along. Andy told me that my belly button would pop out soon but I didn’t believe him, it wasn’t long after that; that it most certainly did. I was becoming tired with the weight, I couldn’t shave my legs nor could I sleep properly as my body was preparing me for the arrival of a newborn; I’d be awake every couple of hours. Meanwhile, Andy was building his little farm out the back and was quite content with his four calves, his motorbike and his fabulous outdoor tool shed. With only days til the expected birth it was a mad panic; especially with Braxton Hicks as there were a couple of false alarms. I thought I was going to give birth by the side of the road at one point, eventually the time came and I found myself permanently attached to the gas and air mask at Kew Hospital. I was literally begging for a caesarean, but being ‘traditional’, my doctor refused. I was in labour for two days and I really did think that Shivon was coming in to the world and I was on my way out. I also had all of the above drugs plus more, gas and air, two shots of pethidine, epidural; of which they had to give me a double dose, it was reaching a critical point when my doctor said to give me a c-section but almost at the same time that she gave the instruction - apparently I’d dilated, so a few more hours later and Shivon was born on the morning of 29th May, 1995. When we went to Births, Deaths and Marriages to officially name her, I’d forgotten how to spell Siobhan so instead I opted for Shivon, it’s better; more original. I called her Shivon due to the old guy from the Camden Pub, I quite liked that name, Andy said he was okay with it and liked it; just so long as she has Sue as her middle name.

I turned the big 21 the next day and I was still absolutely exhausted, Vonny (Shivon) was a sucky baby and seemed to want to nuzzle all the time; to the point where I would tense up when it would time for her to feed. My nipples were so sore with blisters and cracks; I just couldn’t breast feed anymore so she went on to being bottle fed.

It wasn’t too long after Vonny came along that I started hearing the same old spiel from Mum, she’d slipped back into her venomous ways as well try to demean and belittle everything that I was doing; that is; along with being a loser, a black sheep and an unwanted child. She started up at the hospital and it just so happened my doctor had a case of immaculate timing and came into the room, mum decided to refrain from what she was saying very quickly.

Life back in Wyndham was quite boring, there wasn’t a great deal there and it’s miles away from any nightlife, all there is to do is do the ‘farmers wife’ routine; which isn’t me at all. Plus, I was being bombarded with memories that I didn’t want to have anymore, I kept looking at Vonny thinking that there’s no way that I could put her through the same shit as Russell and I went through. It’s all about breaking the cycle. I wanted to move to Christchurch but Andy insisted that we have to be near family for some strange reason so it was a choice between Invercargill or Hemel Hempstead; I felt like I had no choice but to opt for Hemel Hempstead. So, three months later we were off again, we’d only been there less than a year.

So it was back to Hemel Hempstead, we’d put the house up for sale and it was snapped up pretty quickly and Allied Pickfords came and packed our household belongings to have them shipped to England.

Time was nearly up in Invercargill and once again I found myself boarding a plane ready to leave only this time I had a three month old baby girl to care for along the way. It was going to be a painfully long flight, from Invercargill to Christchurch, Christchurch to Tahiti, Tahiti to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Amsterdam and then from Amsterdam to London - such a mammoth trip. I caught Air New Zealand on the first leg of the journey through to Los Angeles. Then KLM from Los Angeles to Amsterdam then back to London. Air New Zealand were great but KLM were a different story altogether. I’d booked the bassinette seat on all flights however when we boarded in Los Angeles they asked me to sit in an ordinary isle seat and put Vonny on the floor because an overweight person was sitting in the seat where the bassinette was. I huffed and puffed and they eventually gave in, however wouldn’t help me with anything after that, they refused to warm Vonny’s milk as they said that they might get sued and were just completely rude. I got told that I would have to heat her milk up myself so I had to leave her when she was hungry while I made my way around the kitchen on the aircraft to heat up her milk. Vonny was screaming when I left her, I felt sorry for the other passengers however I couldn’t do a lot about it at the time as I wasn’t getting any ‘service’. It was the most horrible trip that I had been on in all my life, Vonny screamed that much that she got off the plane with a chest infection and took a little while to recover. I did send a letter of complaint to KLM but all I got back from them was ‘the Airline Steward’s have no recollection of this matter’.

When we got off the plane at Heathrow I was nearly kissing the ground but hygiene had to come first; I had to change Vonny’s nappy as well as freshen myself up a little bit because she was sick on me and I stank to high heaven, I have never stunk so bad in my entire life, I’d remembered all of Vonny’s things but forgot to pack things for me.

Shortly after, Andy was extra pleased to see us as it soon emerged that just after we’d left Tahiti people demolished the airport terminal with bulldozers and began to set fire to planes on the tarmac because of the French’s nuclear testing at Mururoa Atol. We were bloody lucky to escape it. I’d heard a rumour about riots but didn’t think it was to that extent.

We had arrived in a very cold England and headed back to Margaret and Alans. Andy hadn’t got a place for us to stay at that time so we stayed there for a couple of weeks, we soon rented a house in Highfield and had to ‘make do’ until our stuff arrived courtesy of Allied Pickfords. It was about six months that our furniture arrived from Allied Pickfords; only to find that our fridge/freezer had gone walkabouts; that was also a headache. During the meantime we ‘made do’ with cardboard boxes, I’d made a big one into a temporary cot for Vonny and got another bigger box and made it into a changing table and Andy and I just got a spare mattress and slept on the floor. It was between six and twelve months before we got properly organised and before we moved again to another rented place in Grovehill. I guess that’s where the real problems began. Andy and I were becoming more distant, he’d be off working and when he got home in the evening I’d go to work at the local nightclub so we really didn’t see each other that much. Along with the comments by a couple of his friends of how ‘I only married him to stay in the country’, the tension between us was a ticking time bomb. I’d made a couple of friends who I used to work with as well as another girl called Becky who took her son to the local playgroup. Vonny was two years old by this stage and I was absolutely knackered, I’d work from 8.30pm up to 3.30am go back home and then be up to Vonny in the morning between 6 – 7am, I’d get Wednesday and Sunday off which left little time to recoup. Sometimes I’d get home in the early hours of the morning to find Vonny crying as Andy couldn’t be bothered getting out of bed to put her back into bed, needless to say that I got pissed off with him for not making an effort. He soon became mega controlling towards money and the breaking point was him telling me not to spend any money unfortunately I needed some basics such as bread and milk so I went and got them, I’d spent £5. That was it, he marched upstairs with Vonny in his arms and started having a go at me, I just sighed and said “I want a divorce Andy”, he said “Right, you want a divorce, you got one”, and so it began. He moved out and went to stay with Margaret and Alan telling them that I’d kicked him out. Andy was looking after Vonny when I went to work, right up to the point when my appendix ruptured. I was working one night and just thought that I had period pain so took a couple of strong painkillers, I carried on working until I finished and went home as normal. The next day I could hardly walk so I went to hospital only to find that I had to have an operation to get my appendix removed. I remember coming round after the operation, the doctor and nurse were beside the bed and the doctor said “We’ve just removed a nasty appendix”, just as he’d said that the needle in my hand came out and blood was spurting out of it, the nurse fixed it and I crashed out. Andy bought Vonny to the hospital the next day, I didn’t really get a chance to spend any time with Vonny as all he said was that he wanted the oak cabinet that we bought back from Invercargill, I said “What? No”, so he just picked Vonny up and left. The next day I checked myself out and went back to the house in Grovehill and shortly after Vonny came home. I couldn’t work straight away and had to accept statutory sick pay of £40 a week while still paying legal aid and household bills, I was just starting to get more and more into debt every week. I found it hard to recover from the operation and look after Vonny on my own; it was difficult carrying her up the stairs and doing the normal things that one takes for granted when physically fit. I phoned Andy to see if he could help but all he said was that I was incapable of looking after her, I’m a bad parent and that he was going to be seeking custody. That day he came and got her and didn’t bring her back, I just got a phone call saying the same thing; that he’s going to get custody. It didn’t last for too long as he dropped her off the next day.

Shortly after that I spoke to Becky from the playgroup, to my horror it turned out that Andy was seeing a woman called Kate whom was related to Becky and that they had been seeing each other even before Andy had moved out, she would be asking Becky “What do you know about Michelle?”

They had since moved in together in a little cottage in Great Gaddesden and Vonny was told “This is your new mum”. I confronted Andy about it and he just denied it, unfortunately he couldn’t deny it for too long as he just couldn’t help himself from saying “We are a family unit, we have our own place, we are getting married and we are going to get custody of Shivon, you have nothing”.

I just thought to myself ‘Bloody great, from one abusive relationship to the next’. There were a couple of times that I’d asked for help but he just simply said “Life’s hard isn’t it”.

I went back to work for a little while only to find myself struggling with childcare, on one occasion Margaret and Alan were looking after Vonny as Andy couldn’t and I was to pick her up from Margaret and Alan’s the next day. Unfortunately I slept in the next day and I woke up to the doorbell constantly going ‘Dingdingdingding’, I answered to find Alan standing at the door yelling “What are you doing with your life, what do you think you’re doing?”, I asked “Where’s Vonny, is she here?” he said “No, she’s waiting at the house for you to go and pick her up”. I was confused, why come over and do that? I got dressed and was soon on my way to go and pick her up and as I got more and more agitated, I’d said sorry for sleeping in but still got an ear bashing. I thought, well, if it’s good enough for me then it’s got to be good enough for you, so when I got there I did the same thing to their doorbell as he did to mine. Alan was already back at the house which really didn’t make a lot of sense to me, Vonny came out and then Margaret and Alan proceeded to have a go in the middle of the street; so I had a go back, as I was putting Vonny in the car. Margaret had said “You should be thanking me”, I said “It’s Andy that should be thanking you, it’s his weekend”. The funny thing is that they seemed to like seeing me lose my temper as they would then ask “Why are you so angry?” in a patronising way.

Shortly after Andy rang to have another rant, I’d had enough so when he said that he was going to be having Vonny for a week I just said fine, one of my work colleagues had asked me to go on holiday with them to Cyprus so I thought ‘fuck it, I’m going’. Of course I was incredibly selfish according to Andy but it was a good opportunity just to get away and chill out a bit.

When I got back I had more bad news, I had been evicted from the rented house in Grovehill, the rental agreement had done its course and the family that owned it were expanding, I was effectively homeless.

So with complete despair I had to wait and depend on the council, I’d heard horror stories about where they put you and being a council tenant rather than a private one had its many downfalls. Within a few months we had got a two bedroom flat in a place called Gade Tower in Nash Mills, we lived there for about three to four years, during which time the nonsense with the custody was still going on, I was continually getting called a ‘bad parent’ and verbally abused on a regular basis. Gade Tower wasn’t the nicest of places, there’d be used needles and blood on the floor, once the door was shut – that’s it – visitors make an appointment. Of course, I didn’t have that many because it was Gade Tower, ‘drop out city’, and unfortunately if you live in a place like that – you’re automatically branded as being ‘one of them’. One night when Vonny was with Andy I had a knock at the door, it was a drunk Kate; she invited herself in and proceeded to tell me how I should be raising Vonny and how I should be living my life, she even went as far as coming inches away from my face and trying to intimidate me that much that I would have no option but to deck her, it would give her some extra ‘ammunition’ against me if I did by way of running back to Andy saying “Look what she did to me”, her sister was waiting for her in the car outside and when she eventually left she said “This is our little secret”. She was hell bent on having a baby almost to the point of it becoming an obsession and she looked at Vonny as if she was her own. It was clear to me that once she started to have babies with Andy, Vonny would ultimately be pushed out of the equation, perhaps a good thing for me but not fair at all on Vonny.

There were many times when he’d use Vonny just to get back at me. He was a male version of my mother; absolutely full of bitterness. Once again I found myself completely worn out and sick to death of being branded as the ‘bitter ex-wife’ so I went and got a loan and booked the return flights home to NZ, we both needed a break. I had a letter from his solicitor saying that it was against the law to take Vonny out of the country without permission however; informed them that it is indeed within the law to take my daughter out of the country for a period of no longer than 4 weeks so we would be staying in NZ for the maximum time that we are ‘allowed’. It falls under something called ‘The Hague Convention’.

I didn’t tell anyone that I was going to New Zealand, we had a long flight and once we landed in Invercargill I hired a care and drove out to Carole and Peters, knocked on the door and gave her a huge surprise. It turned very emotional. We stayed with Carole and Peter for a bit, and then for some strange reason tried to rekindle some kind of relationship with my mother so went to hers. While we were there she was still saying “Should’ve had an abortion” in front of Vonny and all the other shit so I left there quick smart. I took Vonny around Invercargill through to Queenstown, over to Dunedin and back down to Invercargill. The time that we had flew by and before I knew it, it was time to return back to England.

We got back to England and I did feel somewhat refreshed and recharged. Although I hated the tower and quite often there’d be syringes along with blood splatters lying around outside, once we got inside the flat, the door would be locked. Vonny had started Nash Mills School and generally we were going about our ‘normal’ business. Andy was still being a complete dick but then, things don’t change overnight; if at all. I’d started to work weekends at a local pub while Vonny would be at her dads and it was at the pub where I met a guy who was looking for a travel buddy to go to Jamaica with him, so I stuck my hand up. Travel buddy as in travel buddy only. We stayed just outside of Negril in a little shack that his friend owned, took a drive out to Dunn’s River falls where I climbed up them and generally just hung out on the beach. He was a bit silly one night as he went out and ended up getting his drink spiked and then mugged and dumped so I had to find him the next day and it ended up as a rescue mission where I turned into a babysitter instead. Not that much fun; the wildlife and people that I had encountered though were great, I would hear “Hey white girl” as I was going down the road. The place we were staying wasn’t in the touristy bit and we were amongst the locals. I wandered on to a different part of the beach and ended up being asked to leave as I wasn’t staying in the hotel; which looked really nice, it was ‘private’, I was jealous. The Hummingbirds were so tiny and there was a moth the size of my hand positioned on a door of a shop, it was lovely and warm and so ‘yeh mon, I-ree’.

We got back to England and I went back to work at the local pub only to hear stories that weren’t true and ended up leaving the pub because I was naughty and was a very bad girl. I retaliated at his stories and was sick of people taking the piss out of me so I used his credit card on the internet fraudulently just to piss him off, I was caught and cautioned, painfully obvious that it was me as I’d also clean his house once a week. We all live and learn I guess. That meant that I no longer worked weekends and didn’t clean his house ever again.

After a couple of months Vonny and I had our first English holiday, I found a cheap deal at Butlins in Bognor Regis. Vonny was at an age where she would love spending time with Noddy, I certainly learnt my lesson after the fifth day though; needless to say, I really don’t like Noddy.

Time kept drifting by and not before long I had found a boyfriend. It had been a while since I had a ‘meaningful’ relationship with anyone after Andy and the whole scenario made me somewhat nervous. He didn’t last for too long either, he was rather possessive and needy and it ended on Mothers day, it lasted for about three months. The next one came along a little while later, his name was Russell - freakish really. Our first date was at the Red Lion and we seemed to get on okay.

Russell was a hard-core festival fan and I had never been to one before so our first trip was to the Virgin Festival in 2001. It was a great experience, Texas were playing along with Nelly Furtado, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Faithless, David Grey and Crowded House. Kylie Minogue also played but we missed her performance, apparently the dancers dropped her that year. When we got back to Hemel Hempstead, Andy started to interfere and become jealous as Vonny was talking about Russell all the time, he just generally made things difficult so I’d get irritated a vast majority of the time. It was difficult to deal with, it seemed; if I was single Kate would be ‘funny’ and if I was seeing someone Andy would be ‘funny’, it was a no-win situation. That aside, we carried on being a ‘couple’, our first ‘family’ holiday was a camping trip in the New Forest. It was quite weird to be involved with someone and be away with someone with my daughter in tow, we went to Bournemouth beach and had a muck about, went out for dinner; did all the stuff that ‘families’ normally do, quite a bizarre experience that I hadn’t been accustomed to that for quite some time.

Luck was certainly changing, I was starting to feel happy once again, and even happier when I got a letter from the Council saying that I had been offered a tenancy with a Housing Association on a new development in Apsley Lock. It’s a two bedroom house with a garden, close to school, close to the train station and right by the Grand Union canal; absolute heaven compared to the tower.

I moved in a few months later looking forward to a fresh start in our new home.

Russell and I finished the year by going to Rome. It was absolutely amazing, I was just in absolute awe of the whole city; the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the fact that everything is built on top of the old buildings so the old buildings are literally underground. All I kept saying was “Wow”.

2002 started okay, it was quite a mellow beginning, in March we went and seen Faithless at Wembley; it was brilliant, we got right up to the front and Sister Bliss looked at me; I felt like an over-excited little kid running up to his/her parents saying “She looked at me she looked at me”. It was a brilliant gig. I felt like Vonny where her enthusiasm bubbled over when I took her to see the Wiggles at the Dacorum Civic, she went up to the front of the stage and came running back shouting “He smiled at me mummy, he smiled at me!” She was star-struck.

That was the first year that I was able to give Vonny a birthday party. It was just full-on stress for three excruciatingly traumatic hours, things that I planned that should’ve lasted for 15 minutes lasted for five, 20 odd kids screaming and shouting and demanding to be amused; I sure did appreciate peace after they all went home. Russell had given us tickets to go and see Kylie at Wembley as a present to both of us, Vonny was quite impressed when we seen Kylie, the audience sang her ‘Happy Birthday’ and Vonny said “Oh mum, it’s Kylies birthday today, it’s my birthday tomorrow and then it’s yours!” That evening when she fell asleep she was clutching her Kylie Minogue book with a little cherub smile.

Shortly after that we went to the Queens Jubilee, all the flags were up and I was blown away by Brian May playing his guitar on the roof of Buckingham Palace with hoards of people lining the streets. A few months later, things starting to fizzle out between Russell and I, by the time that Glastonbury arrived things were starting to get strained between us. We ended up breaking up a week before we were due to go on a ‘family’ holiday to Woolacombe not long after we got back from Glastonbury; I was heartbroken.

I ended up taking Vonny on my own down to Woolacombe, I bought a tent and off we went. Vonny enjoyed her time on the beach and seeing what the area had to offer whereas me; I was just trying to hold myself together. I ended up becoming quite ill in Woolacombe and lost a bit of weight, when we got back to Hemel Hempstead I had to go into hospital for some examinations and it turned out to be Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Nothing life threatening but certainly bloody painful. It would come in bouts rather than just a constant illness, one minute I’d think to myself that I’m fit and healthy; the next I would be in complete agony and have a major flatulence problem.

It wasn’t very long after the whole drama that a friend said that they were going to Prague and asked if I’d like to join them, it didn’t occur to me at the time that the moby-lookalike friend actually wanted something else rather than just friendship, the day before we were due to fly out I got an email from him with ‘dinner’ and ‘date’ in the same sentence; my first reaction was to back out from going as I thought to myself ‘I don’t want to go’, it certainly made things awkward. I went to Prague anyway and was quite freaked out by the place, the whole history, just spooky. I didn’t speak to the moby-lookalike again after that.

That year I also met Sally, she was a friend of a friend and shared the same birthday as me, I also met Tracy who had not long shifted into Hemel Hempstead, I asked her round for a drink and unbeknown to her I didn’t actually mean coffee; I meant vodka, and I met Tina that year as well; Tina was a kiwi living in Hemel Hempstead who I met at Yoga. Sally was in her forties and married with two children, she was quite ‘well-to-do’, had millionaire parents while her husband was in the property market, it seemed when she was stuck for cash she’d ask her mum. If only I had one of those. Sally’s parents used to live near her however one night when her parents were babysitting, they got back and stayed up while her mum went to bed, after they’d finished and all went off they’d mistakenly left some cocaine in the kitchen and her mum found it the next day; she told Sally to literally sort her shit out and that’s how they came to be living somewhere in Cornwall. At the time that I met Sally she was going out and she asked me to join them so I obliged. At the time Sally had a best friend called Freddy who resembled something of an Italian beauty queen and she knew it, she worked with Virgin Airlines and was rather pleased with herself when Sir Richard Branson made a bee line for her at a meeting; allegedly. There were a couple of other people that were part of the ‘group’ at the time, they were quite young but we’d end up all going out and all ending up back at Sally’s finishing the night off with yet another line. I lost count of the amount of times that lines were cut in one evening. I had a go but think I must’ve nearly overdosed as I had trouble breathing; needless to say that I wasn’t tempted again. I still continued to go out with them and it was more obvious that they were off their faces when I was ‘straight’ as Sally would have a protruding jaw and sporting a rather insane look on her face which was quite freaky. Going out in Watford was great, much better than the drab Hemel Hempstead night life, the pubs in Watford just seemed to have a better ambience with somewhat respectable people in comparison. Whereas Hemel; well one might say that the words ‘crap’ and ‘scrap’ would be involved in the same short sentence. When we’d go out I’d drive over to Sally’s and crash there then drive home in the early hours of the next morning.

I enjoy the company of women, although sometimes not all women like other women and sometimes the bitching can be worse than the school years. Single women see other single women as a threat, married women see single women as well as other married women as a threat, women compare themselves to other women and of course women don’t dress to impress men; the vast majority of the time they dress up to impress other women, one can compare this to the ‘status’ of how one dresses on a day to day basis, whether it’s so they can gloat inwardly of how other women dress or to get the man; or just simply to show off. Sally introduced me to a world of materialism and sheer pretentiousness where image was the main focus and everything else centred around it. Unfortunately for Sally it seemed everyone else could see straight through the façade that she was so proud of and uninterested with the abundance of superficiality that was constantly on display. It was a rather tiresome endeavour to endure listening to her self-praising ways. Of course appearance is important and self esteem is important however sometimes one can take that over the top and beyond leading to a place where nobody really gives a shit anyway. Perhaps it was the amount of cocaine that she was snorting that made her that way, perhaps it was her own expectations of life in general; who knows. If she was planning on doing something she’d make double sure that there was a brochure positioned carefully on the bench in the kitchen so that everyone would be unconsciously summoned to ask about it; it was a great way to start conversation apparently. Freddy and Sally were best friends at the time, they both snorted, lived not far away from each other and it seemed to be a legitimate friendship. That was until it came to light that Freddy who was living in one of their flats didn’t pay rent or was in rent arrears and expected Sally to take her here, there and everywhere at short notice which Sally would moan to me about. Freddy was just another superficial blip on the radar circling around wealthy men and depending entirely on her looks in order to land the ‘wallet’. She’d even tried it on with Sally’s father-in-law which was rather disgusting.

I thought it was a great giggle at the time; I’d never met other women that were so infatuated with themselves. Tina was the complete opposite, she hardly wore makeup, she didn’t have any designer clothes and didn’t like to ‘borrow’ money from her other half Howard whom she was living with as well as their three kids; although she did fall into the ‘private’ category and drove a bloody nice BMW car. They’d not long had their back garden renovated by Diarmuid Gavin’s team from the BBC, they paid approximately £10 grand to have it done but; on the plus side; at least they got to have a look at the plans before construction began. It was quite a major job and quite a headache for Tina. While the BBC team were there they would be constantly arguing and slagging each other off, of course when the cameras were rolling conversations were on a more pleasant level. I went over to Tina’s a couple of times when the BBC were still there, Diarmuid was sitting in the garden chair overlooking the garden and I have to say he was a really bad flirt. The gardeners were in the process of installing a weaving wooden walkway that was elevated off the ground and lead to a large shed that resembled an armadillo at the back, there was a metal ball/sphere to the left and a place for the hammock to go on the right, along the pathway were rushes and ferns which meant that the only lawn that they had in the garden was a very small circle hardly big enough to do a kart-wheel in. This was all happening while Diarmuid just sat and watched for a few minutes. Once he’d done his filming he left. He was a ‘designer’, which means that he came up with the designs and that was it. One day I went over there and I passed the prefab that was positioned at the front of the house, I peered inside the open window to see one of the female ‘supervisors’ engrossed in a magazine, the power of surprise was too tempting for me so I said “Are they in?” quite loudly in order to startle her; it worked, I’ve never seen someone leap so high from their chair in complete shock, I just couldn’t resist laughing quite hysterically either; that was the highlight of my morning. It was quite a wee while before the garden was completed and there were quite a few teething problems that were left behind, the armadillo shed had no weather protector and began to go mouldy almost straight away; it needed to be painted as soon as possible so I helped Tina with that and also the pathetic excuse of a lawn sank as well so when it rained it resembled a pond. The plants began to die within the space of a couple of months and much to Tina’s dismay she’d asked for all indigenous plants of New Zealand however they came from all over the globe and lastly; the deck and wooden walkway had begun to develop mysterious bore holes which Tina freaked out about because if it was some kind of foreign wood louse; they/it might decide that the house tastes quite nice too. Tina didn’t have a lot of options left as she’d already spent an obscene amount of money on the development and after it had finished Diarmuid was ‘uncontactable’ so she had go through the BBC which in turn proved quite fruitless. Shortly after that the programme was taken off air due to the programme getting sued; allegedly. Someone in Manchester or thereabouts had taken offence to Diarmuid’s comments relating to washing on the clothes line on someone else’s property. So the programme was no more. On appearance the garden was nice; just a complete shame with all the shenanigans during the process and faults that were left behind.

I’d asked Tina if she’d like to have lunch with Sally which was accepted so we made a date to do lunch. It had been arranged that Sally and Freddy would come to mine and we’d all go over to Tina’s and cook lunch there. It started off nice, it was a great opportunity for Tina to show off her garden as well as being in a girly group; which she really had no time for; but all the same, it was nice. Tina cooked her chicken Caesar salad, I cooked my Mussel chowder, and Sally cheated and brought a cheesecake from Marks and Spencer’s, while Freddy brought a bottle of wine. While we were having lunch it became apparent that Sally wasn’t Tina’s ‘cup of tea’ and vice versa so while the atmosphere was ‘pleasant’ for the duration it ultimately led to Sally getting rather bitchy about Tina and Tina getting rather bitchy about Sally. It was the first time I’d ever been ‘piggy in the middle’ with females and while it was disheartening to hear Sally commenting on the way Tina looks and what she resembles it also gave me an insight with a shocking revelation, I began thinking ‘If she can say that about someone that she was ‘nice’ to, what is she saying about me?’. I told Tracy about what Sally had said about Tina as she hadn’t met them, she agreed with my concerns. Tina moved away not long after that, she had fallen out with her other half and wanted to leave Hemel Hempstead as it just got her down so she decided to shift to Wales. In Sally’s eyes she was making a bad decision, while she compared Tina to an Apache Indian and proceeded to go on about her controlling and possessive eyes that she thought Tina had. In her words ‘Good Riddance’. I went over to see Tina the day before she left and the atmosphere in the house was awkward to say the least, I went because Tina had asked me but as I was over there; she disappeared upstairs. Howard was looking rather sorry for himself and we ended up sitting at the garden table with their son. Their son pipes up “And where is your spawn?” I just laughed as I thought it was completely bloody pig headed, obnoxious and just downright rude of him to even use the term ‘spawn’ in relation to a child (he was 15 so he knew it would be offensive), he then asked “Hey, since Mum’s going we need a cleaner, would you like to clean the house?”. Howard softly told him off while I just laughed it off and refused. I’d said to Howard that there was a children’s festival on at Hatfield and if he’d like to go; as a way of extending the arm of friendship; there was no ulterior motive, besides; as if. He refused as I expected him to so I said my goodbyes, went and said goodbye to Tina and left.

I didn’t hear from Tina again, I sent an email to Howard to ask if she’d settled in etcetera but was hard pushed to get a reply. Yes, Tina was about to turn into ‘someone that I once knew’, that was until Sally and I had just finished a cappuccino in Watford quite a few months later only to bump into Tina, Howard and the kids at the bottom of the escalator. It was an incredibly weird moment. I said hello and she said “Oh, hi, I’ve been meaning to have a word with you, do you want to come over to the house?” Sally butted in and said “Ooh, can I come?”. I just instantly felt as if I’d done something wrong and was about to be told off by the head master. Tina just glared at Sally when she invited herself. Before too long I was talking to Tina and apparently I’d pissed her off because I had invited Howard to a children’s festival. I was quite stunned as I drifted off into a world of disbelief. Tina was due to go back to Wales within the next couple of days, she said that she’d stay in touch but she didn’t. During the meantime I stopped going out with Sally, Tracy came over more; well; pretty much every day during the week and I started going to boot sales at the weekends. While I missed going out; I didn’t miss the crap that went with it.

I took Tracy with me once to have a coffee with Sally; exactly the same scenario as lunch with Tina only Tracy just said that she was rather materialistic and ‘fake as fuck’ and she was done. Sally just seemed to want to talk about Tracy’s weight problem for what seemed like non-stop verbal vomit for two weeks solid, so it became clear to me; if I happen to make more friends, they cannot be in the same room together.

Putting the new found bitchiness aside, I began thinking about my ‘career’ and what I would end up doing with my life so I enrolled on an online degree course for Psychology with the University of Derby, I had the idea in my head that I would really like to be involved with forensic psychology; after all, I was used to all kinds of blood and gore and would just love to ‘sniff out the bad guy’ as I’d had enough of those in my life already. If I could possibly become a criminal profiler; well, that would be absolutely fucking marvellous. I was on Income Support so all the books required for the course had to come from the weekly allowance that I was already getting. The conditions of the degree in order to get my university fees waived was that I had to complete three modules per semester, it was pretty rough going and I’d never been so broke in all my life; it was actually worse than when I was homeless as I didn’t have any credit then. My books (which were rather expensive) had to go on my credit card so I was becoming more and more in debt every semester. On the upside; I knew that when I completed this course that my ‘opportunities’ would offer me so much more than just owing quite a few quid. The prospect of a career was so much more important, so I began to study my arse off.

One weekend Tracy and I went to a boot sale in Wendover and as we were sitting down with a cup of hot coffee trying desperately to defrost our freezing hands I was rather shocked to see none other than Tina there. Tina; the die-hard mystery woman that likes to keep one guessing, I was most certainly pissed off as she didn’t even ring to let me know that she was back in Hemel. ‘Okay; fine, it is rather selfish of me to be thinking that you really should’ve rung me already; but isn’t that what ‘friends’ normally do?’ I was thinking. We didn’t speak for too long, she’d said that she had moved back to Hemel, I just said “Oh right”; with an underlying tone that really means “Who gives a shit anyway”.

Tracy could tell that I was disappointed and upset at the fact that I just ‘happen’ to bump into her again, we came back to mine afterwards and carried on as normal. It was a few days later that I had a phone call from Tina. We met up and had a chat at Café Nero’s; over a cappuccino she told me that she was having problems in Wales with other people. She totalled the car and ended up falling out with her half a dozen or so of her neighbours and before too long couldn’t even step into the pub without getting snarled at.

Around the same time, Tracy was busy studying for her beautician’s diploma and needed a couple of crash test dummies to undergo a manicure and pedicure. I automatically stuck my hand up in the air and volunteered, I also asked Tina if she’d like to partake in a luxurious hand and foot fondle and she agreed. That’s when Tracy and Tina got to meet each other in a seemingly normal and relaxed way and they got on which was a huge relief. While Tracy and I were at Tina’s, Andy was beginning to become a dick again. Just when I thought things had calmed down and we were heading down separate paths; he’d erupt over something and then threaten me with court proceedings and a whole bunch of verbal abuse would come my way. Little did I know that the storm was just brewing once again.

Tina had invited Vonny and I over for Christmas that year so we went over and it was a really lovely day, I’d had too much to drink so ended up crashing there, the next day we got up and heard the news that there was an earthquake which in turn had caused the Asian Tsunami with catastrophic consequences; it was thee most depressing ending and beginning of any year.


 

Chapter 4

 

 

I received a phone call from Andy saying that Kate no longer wants to have Vonny in the house and that he’s reached a compromise with her so that he could take her out once a month; so being a parent I went mental. I was far from happy with that situation and Vonny being a naive and innocent child; was pretty clueless as to what was really going on. Kate was hell bent on having a baby and sometimes when a woman who is childless ends up with a partner who has child/ren to a previous partner.; getting pregnant can turn into an obsession, which it was with her. She’d had a miscarriage the previous year or so ago and it was me who got the blame for it. They now have Madelaine and it seemed Vonny was ‘old news’, which not only did I find disturbing, I was also mortified at the fact that Andy could and would turn his back on his daughter so easily, especially with all the ‘custody’ speeches and spiels that he’d given me.

I disagreed completely and kept Vonny at home and yes I prevented her from going with her dad once a month for a couple of hours, in this situation; in the eyes of the law, it would be me that has the wrapped knuckles however in reality a few hours a month is just not adequate to develop a ‘strong bond’ which he believes that he had. Things in the Johnstone camp were pretty good without the interference of the Hawgood’s, Vonny and I began to go to out more than we normally did and she was becoming more secure and happier. It was a few months after that that he took me to court to get access, I represented myself as to be honest, I’d thought I’d finished going back and forth to the solicitors office and really; it’s not my idea of fun at all. The ‘my people can talk to your people’ seemed to be never-ending and the custody battle had dragged on for years already.

It was deemed by the court that I would have to make her ‘available for contact’ at a contact centre in Hemel Hempstead, I would drop her off at the contact centre for an hour while he could see Vonny; the visit would be ‘supervised’. As with all things, when someone is put in a position where they are fully aware that big brother is watching; of course they’re going to be on their best behaviour, and so he was. A few months went by and before too long people that I once left behind started to come out of the wood work; Margaret came over and was being ‘nice’ which was a rather big change for her; actually, I got the feeling that she was feeling rather ‘left out’. I also had a visit from Sue. I hadn’t seen Sue since before the divorce so the whole experience was rather bizarre. She came over to the house to see Vonny so I agreed, she hadn’t really changed much. I was rather surprised when she’d said that she wasn’t too keen on Kate and she thought something was mentally wrong with her. The whole ‘Sue visiting’ was okay, she was pleasant enough although I did feel that I couldn’t be totally honest with her. We talked about the animosity between Andy, Kate and I and she was pretty clueless as to what he’d really been up. She took note of the fact that I was busy studying for my degree as I had paperwork all over the place and mathematical formulas stuck all over the kitchen cabinets so she realised that I was just too busy for causing ‘grief’ as Andy and Kate had suggested.

A few days later, Margaret came over. This was becoming a bit too close for comfort for my liking, from years of nastiness to all of a sudden being ‘nice’, she asked me about the ‘friends’ that I once had that were also funnily enough ‘friends’ of Kate’s, very prying questions that instantly gave me the impression that something wasn’t quite right. At the stage, Andy would take Vonny out for a couple of hours every couple of weeks, he wouldn’t take her to his house and it was just all becoming very ‘cloak and dagger’.

I had another visit from Sue, she seemed rather hesitant about something. She sat down and said “I have to tell you something”, in turn I asked what it was, she then went on to say “Kate’s pregnant”, it wasn’t that serious as I’d thought as I was beginning to think that there actually may be something medically wrong, so I asked her when the baby was due, she replied “She’s had it, a baby boy, called Ben – jamin”. She then went on to say that Andy didn’t know that she had told me and that she hasn’t seen Kate right throughout the pregnancy; which I didn’t believe, along with the whole secrecy issue of “Don’t tell Andy that I told you”. I thought what a croc of shit. Vonny has absolutely no idea that she has a step-brother. As a mother; as a parent; withholding such information from a child is just downright cruel. There are no words to describe it, just absolutely bloody sinful. Apparently Andy hadn’t told Vonny as it was suggested that I would be ‘overwhelmed with jealousy’, I just laughed when that was suggested. Andy phoned and I asked him whether it was true; he started shouting “Who told you, who told you, was it Sue?” as if she was the one that had committed a crime and I was her accomplice. He then came over to the house with a bunch of flowers and gave them to Vonny, a bunch of flowers for a nine year old child to say “Sorry we left you out, sorry we didn’t tell you about your stepbrother, I made a bad judgement”. Once I listened to his speech about me not having any rights to tell Vonny about the newborn I asked him if he really thinks that this would have no effect on her at all, his response was that she wouldn’t understand. I shook my head in disbelief as the only thing that it showed Vonny was that he was willing to forget about her and leave her out. Over all the years of him phoning and coming to the house uninvited, shouting, shoving his superiority in my face, telling that he was going to get custody, that I have no rights and boasting in his own reflected glory as he ordered me around while smirking and saying ‘Life’s hard isn’t it’; it had eventually happened, I reminded him of what I’d said to him after Kate introduced herself when she was drunk and up in my face in my flat; I distinctly said “Don’t leave Vonny out”, I’d also said to him that once the pair of them start to have babies, Kate won’t want her around; which turned out to be painfully true. He promised me at the time that that wouldn’t happen; and with all the ‘custody’ speeches, I did believe him. Until now. I wondered how he actually planned to tell Vonny, was he going to keep it a secret for ever?

The whole visitation scenario with Andy and Vonny stopped again and before too long I found myself back in court staring out the window hearing the same thing “I have a responsibility to ensure that Vonny is available for contact”, yet again; I was at fault.

Andy had said that I was abusive to Vonny and had mental problems amongst other things, he also went on to say that I often fell out with my friends (meaning the ‘fake friends’ that were courier pigeons for Kate), that my mother was also abusive and it turned into a modern day witch hunt ‘Like mother like daughter’ scenario.

I had a visit from a child health worker from CAFCAS whose first question to me was “So, why do they think you’re nuts?” I just looked at her and asked “You really don’t expect me to answer that do you?”

It seemed to me that she had already completed the paperwork even before she had knocked on the door, the stereotypical bitter ex-wife. Things carried on for quite a while and while I did my best to defend myself in court the judge (who looked as if she really was going to say “You are the weakest link; goodbye) went onto say that there was no ‘cultural difference’ between New Zealanders and the English as well as suggesting again that I must make Vonny available for contact and also if I would like Andy to have Vonny at any given time; I would have to give him a whopping three months notice.

This was all happening at exactly the same time that I was sitting my psychology exams; I was indeed, completely worn out. Andy was still persistent with disrupting both Vonny’s and my life, after all this had happened he drove past as I was walking Vonny to school. Vonny waved at him and he just looked at her, it was a few days later that Vonny was doing a school play and he walked straight into the hall. Vonny spotted him so ran over, she asked him “Why didn’t you wave?” he said “I didn’t recognise you”. That was it, Vonny was in floods of tears in front of the vast majority of her peers and Andy scarpered. It turned out that the interfering head teacher had phoned him up and invited him without my knowledge, she was rather a conniving lady that had problems dealing with bullies in her school and made it obvious that she ‘wasn’t there to help’ as if a problem within the school arose, she conveniently wouldn’t be there; she’d let another teacher deal with it. So while I was talking to the other teacher in the office asking for him to ask Andy to leave, he turned to me and said “Well, you can always change schools”, just as he said that Andy walked straight past and hightailed it out the door, followed by a very upset little girl; the tears were streaming down her face, she couldn’t understand why her dad had said that he ‘didn’t recognise her’, she hadn’t changed that much in the space of a couple of weeks; if at all, she wasn’t in fancy dress, she certainly wasn’t wearing a bag over her head. Needless to say that I had a major blow out with the Head Teacher and managed to change schools, of course; I got the normal spiel about being a bad parent and not asking permission from Vonny’s father to change schools, however; now, after that; there was no other alternative apart from home schooling; which I did try but really wasn’t an ideal situation.

I changed her schools and within weeks the change in Vonny was remarkable, she was becoming more secure, happier and slowly becoming her normal chatty self again.

Andy was still floating around, he would dictate as and when he’d see Vonny as if I refused I would only find myself in court once again failing to comply with a court order. However; if there was a time instructed by the court for him to see her; if he didn’t bother, there’s nothing that I can do about it. That happened a lot, normally times where he knew that I was going away or had plans; Glastonbury was a prime example as well as my psychology exams.

Things seemed to be starting to get back on track slowly, my prelude was starting to cough and splutter and the beast was on its last legs, there were times when I’d be coming back from Sally’s thinking it’s not going to make it. So I sold it and raised a bit of money selling all my unwanted stuff on Ebay and bought a sexy new black MX5. Only problem was that I had to go up to Oxford to get it and with no wheels, I was rather stuck. Tina gave me a lift there which was great, gave her some petrol money and before long we had found where the new beast lived. I knocked on the door and he led me over to the garage, lifted the door and there it was, gleaming black; roof down and a big red bow wrapped around it. It was just like Christmas only better, since I said to the guy that this was my birthday present and Christmas presents for the previous five years he went out and bought a big red ribbon. The most fantastic moment ever, although I did have to hand over some cold hard cash in the form of a banker’s draft, the money didn’t have any value; it was the car and the way it was presented. What a stunner. I was quite nervous about the drive back to Hemel, Tina was off and I was busy getting used to smaller pedals, a racing engine sound and trying to concentrate on where I was going. We got back to Hemel, parked her up and I couldn’t help looking out of the window every few minutes pinching myself, yes; it was all mine.

It wasn’t too long that the idiot neighbours got hold of it, my tyres let down, the roof slashed, ping pong balls stuffed in the exhaust pipe, even a stick of wood at one point. I developed a habit of circling the car checking it before I got into it.

When I first shifted to Apsley Lock it was great, there didn’t seem to be any agro and people seemed to be somewhat friendly. It’s a row of ten houses situated on the edge of an estate with ‘private’ dwellings as well as housing association houses and flats. After I broke up with Russell I started talking to the neighbours which is probably the worst mistake I made. Nikki and Jim lived at number three and had two sons, one of them his name was both his forename and surname which I found quite odd. Another Nikki and her other half at number four with her son Harry, then Sam at number five with her daughter Megan. I don’t know the names of the people at number two. These houses; two, three, four and five were the ‘clicky crew’. I began speaking to Nikki at number three who would be knocking on my door on a regular basis with her asking me to do something for her which was normally to fix the computer. The last occasion was when I was in complete agony with Irritable Bowel and was really feeling the pain, she knocked on my door and asked if I could fix her computer, I said no as I couldn’t sit down. It was the first time that I’d said no along with the fact that I was having a medicinal roll-up; which was the only thing that seemed to relax me. Then there was Sam, who was going through a break up with Megan’s dad and was just curious to know whether I was still friends with the friends I had when I was married, idle chit chat really. It got a bit weird when I went out my front door and they’d be huddled in a little group and looked at me in a way that ‘mean girls’ do. I’d walk passed, say hello and they would just smile back. So, the idle chit chat just stopped. Their kids would be out playing and at that point so was Vonny; that was until I was in the kitchen on the computer and I could see what was going on, I could also hear what was being said. The two girls (who lived at number two) had said to each other to try and kick the football at Vonny’s head; so they proceeded to. I didn’t do anything at first as I couldn’t believe my ears really and just had to see if they would actually do it, they did. It hit her shoulder and I was out there like a shot.

“I saw what you did, how could you?” They responded with “We didn’t do anything; we were just kicking our ball”.

I guess when a child does something wrong, they’ll always deny it until they’re blue in the face; however I went on “I heard you, I saw you, I was in my kitchen”.

Next thing I knew Jim came out and shouted “What are you shouting about?” So I said that they were using Vonny’s head as target practise, he then went on to say “Oh why don’t you just fuck off, everyone wants you to move”.

I was startled at that point and just stood there with a dumbfounded look on my face, then Nikki (number three) pipes up, “No-one’s saying anything about you, we’re all just bloody sick of you!”, which I thought was a really strange thing to say; it didn’t make any sense at all and completely irrelevant to what was going on out the front with the kids bullying my daughter. Then Jim carried on “Why don’t you just fuck off back to your own country, go on, fuck off, you been smoking that shit again, fuck off you wierdo”, at this point he was starting to walk towards me with the ‘hard-man’ walk, so I began to pick Vonny’s bike up from off the front garden, told Vonny to get inside as she was sitting there watching and tried to calmly go inside. As I did that, Nikki’s other half from number four walked right up to me and stuck his face within inches of mine and said ‘Stay off the drugs’ then walked off. He thought it was really funny and must’ve felt as if he’d been officially been accepted into the ‘popular crowd’ campaign. As I carried on getting the bike and Vonny inside I tripped slightly on the pavement then Jim piped up; “Look at you you fucking weirdo, can’t even walk properly, go on fuck off”.

I came inside, shut the door and lit up a cigarette. My hands were shaking and I was really just completely stunned. The whole lot were just standing there watching as Jim was swearing at me, telling me to fuck off back to my own country, pack bullying; but pack-bullying at it’s ugliest as these were grown men, grown women and more importantly; parents. Never mind the fact that it was Nikki and Jim that gave me the grass in the first place.

It took me a while to stop shaking and before too long; Harrison was out kicking his football with his hooligan dad, trying to make the point that this was ‘their’ street and ‘they’ can do what they like. The next day I phoned the Housing Association whom simply said “What do you want me to do about it?”, “Pardon” I said. She later went on to say that she’d send me a complaint form to fill in that was it. I later phoned the police and reported the incident, they came to the house and took a statement and asked what the Housing Association were doing about the situation. At that time, absolutely nothing. Unfortunately the intimidation didn’t stop there, it carried on for months. Every time I walked Vonny to school, Jim would slow down as he drove past me and mouth the words “Fuck off”. His son Harrison took a liking to kicking the ball against the house once more, the ball would make a loud booming sound and it was even worse when he’d kick it against the side gate which is attached to the house; the ‘booming’ was even louder. I became frustrated with it one day and plucked up the courage to go out the front and ask them to stop it, however since Jim thinking that he was the ‘boss’ of the street starting swearing at me again, this time I yelled back “You fuck off”, he then yelled back “Don’t you fucking swear in front of my kids”. I just laughed. He started to walk towards the house and eventually came right up to my front door within inches of my face and started repeating “fuck off”, I said “You fuck off”, he just couldn’t seem to say nothing else except “Fuck off”, I said “I’m not going anywhere, you’re standing on my doorstep”, again, “Fuck off”, this time I yelled “You’re standing on my fucking doorstop!”. He continued “You’re just a... a... “, and without giving him a chance to finish I yelled “Well you’re just a fucking dickhead!” It was then that he shoved me back and I nearly fell backwards, if I didn’t grab onto the doorframe I would’ve fallen over. He left and I phoned the police. I also sent a text to Tracy saying “Help, the neighbours are picking on me, should I show them my boobs?” Tracy had a small spot of bother with a noisy neighbour so one day when the noisy neighbour was peering over the fence, she flashed her boobs at her; the peering neighbour didn’t peer again. I doubt if it would’ve worked in this instance though.

Pretty soon the Police were here and Tracy came down, the Police then informed me that ‘fuck off back to your own country’ wasn’t a racist remark purely because of the colour of my skin, I’m white. Vonny was playing at the park at the time so she didn’t have to witness it this time. After the police had finished taking a statement they went down to Nikki and Jims however Jim had conveniently gone out, Tracy and I went for a coffee and to try and find Vonny. We sat in the café by the canal, had a coffee and a cigarette and talked about shit in general before walking home.

The kicking of the football against the house and side gate had now become mandatory, still; nothing had changed. Still getting ‘eyeballed’ as I walked past their houses, still getting told to ‘fuck off’ and now, the residents of number seven were in the with ‘in’ crowd and began to follow in the footsteps.

I got hold of the police community officer who came around, instantly he realised the extent as there were football marks all over the front door which I didn’t realise were there. He asked me what was going on so I told him; he later went down to Nikki and Jims’ and had a talk with them. Once again, they were saying that ‘he’s just kicking his ball out the front and sometimes it goes on to her garden’, the police officer questioned about the remarks and the response was ‘well we just won’t talk to her then’. I thought ‘fucking brilliant!’

Before the officer left I made the remark that he should come over one morning to catch them in the act, so he did. It was a Saturday and he kept to his word and came over. He didn’t have to wait for too long before it started, all of ten minutes. The kitchen window was open and all of a sudden there was a kid yelling “Come out and fucking play you bitch” with a boom of the ball being kicking against the house. The officer asked me to go out there and ask him to stop it, so I did; I went out and said “Can you not kick the ball against the house please”. He started to walk away with a grin and said “Okay”, as he was half way down the path we just heard an echoing “New Zealand suck”. It wasn’t Jim’s kid this time; it was a child that lives a row of houses back on the estate. I said to the officer to hang around for a bit for the ring leader to start as he would’ve put him up to it in the first place. However, it was too late; the other child came back and began to kick the ball against the house again, so he got the shock of his life when a fully dressed officer walked out the front door to tell him off. The Officer took the child back to the parents and had a chat with them and came back to let me know what was going on, and he confirmed that ‘Yes Jim’s boy told him to do it’. Unfortunately this child suffers from ADHD and if he got told to do something by the other kids; he would. So, it was rather unfortunate that he was the one to get busted.

It was funny at Sainsbury’s, Tracy and I had gone to the supermarket, as I was standing in the queue to get some cash, Jim walked past and said “You fucking phoned the police again”, the lady standing behind me thought he was talking to her, it was Tracy that piped up and shouted “Just leave her alone you fucking bully, you’re a fucking bully”. I said nothing. When I was at the cigarette counter in the supermarket, he walked past again and gave me a smuggest evil stare so I just made a stupid face back.

After months of filling out poxy report forms for the Housing Association and their Anti-Social behaviour process, I had a visit from the ASBO Officer whom was ‘investigating’ the situation. She went down to number three and interviewed them also, I’m not quite sure what happened, I was just told that he may get an ‘ASBO’. Things seemed to quieten down after that. The most ironic thing at the same time when this was all happening, the whole ‘fuck off back to your own country’ thing; Vonny’s dad was trying to have me arrested for kidnapping. I was really at my tether, I hadn’t been home for several years now, with all that’s been happening and happened; I just needed to get away, taking Jim’s advice I guess; ‘Fuck off back to your own country’, so I was! It was also Andy’s way of revenge. I had told him about four weeks previous that Vonny and I were going home for a month and asked if he could help towards the airfare, his answers were “Okay”, and “No”. So I paid for the tickets and was gearing up to go. However, unbeknown to me he told the police that I had distinctively said “I was going to New Zealand and not coming back”, which then turns into an abduction case where port alerts are out if I try to leave the country with my daughter. A police officer actually came to the house to see the return tickets and to see that the house wasn’t empty; no evidence of leaving permanently. I refused to show the officer the tickets; purely for the fact that I knew that Andy was doing this purely out of spite and revenge, it was pretty clear to see that the house still remains ‘lived in’. I was served with papers from the court three days before we were due to fly out, I had to surrender our passports at Watford County Court and hurry up and find a good solicitor. I found one; his name was Mr Lishak.

As I was sitting in his office not knowing whether we were going to get ‘permission’ to go home I still had to explain where I was planning on going and the phone numbers etc. I told Mr Lishak that Andy knows that I have no relationship with my mother, he knows where Carole and Peter are and he also knows that I’d be trying to take Vonny around as much as New Zealand as I possibly could rather than stay in one place for the whole four weeks that I was ‘allowed’. The whole situation was absolutely insane! I explained to Mr Lishak of the route that I had planned to take Vonny, first starting in Christchurch then heading up to Nelson, over to Picton, down to Hamner Springs and then back to Christchurch, I also explained to him that he’d not long bought Vonny a mobile phone and could contact her any time that he’d like to; so really, in all fairness, he was just being a shmuck and had a very severe ‘control issues’.

The next day I was staring out of the window of the small court room once more, Andy’s solicitor had tried to say that it was me that was controlling and refusing to allow Andy any access or let him contact Shivon in any way. Finding myself once again branded as ‘the bitter ex-wife. I got ‘permission’ to go home for the time that I was ‘allowed’ and the next day we flew out. When I got on board the flight and left UK soil, I was relieved, Vonny was excited and also relieved as the thought of her mum ending up in Prison freaked her quite a lot.

We stopped in Bangkok on route and before too long we were touching down in Christchurch. Getting through customs was quick and painless and I’d spotted Carole and Peter so wandered over and hugs all round. They’d changed, got older; as people do. It was the moment that I stepped out of Christchurch airport that the sense of being home hit, the air, the warmth, the space; so I just stood there for a few minutes collecting myself and just embracing the moment.

Carole and Peter had rented a hotel room in Christchurch so we could stay with them for a few days before they planned on heading back down to Invercargill, they were in the process of selling the Invercargill pad and moving to Christchurch as the pub that they were running was in Christchurch so it was pretty pointless to still be based In Invercargill. So, Vonny and I bunked up with Carole and Peter with their three kids. I went with them to have a look at the pub they had recently got and I was rather taken back, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. It was attached to the Civic Centre so there couldn’t be very much improvements to the place which left it totally dependent on the café, the bar and a small nightclub located at the rear. Unfortunately it had seen better days. At the time, they had appointed my Uncle Russell to run the place when they weren’t there, he’d not long got back from Australia, he revelled in the fact that ‘he knows a lot of people in the music industry’, and played bass guitar for Graham Brazier (a New Zealand artist who had a couple of hits in the charts), and once played with Bob Geldof when he came to New Zealand back in the days. It turns out that he gave Carole and Peter a great sales pitch and they bought it which is how they came to now own a pub. That evening we went for a drink and it was at the point I knew that they had to change their views, ideas and staff otherwise the whole venue it’s just going to go down the toilet. It was the first time I’d seen Uncle Russell since I visited him in Sydney when I was doing the working holiday with Andy. He’d lost a lot of weight and was hooked on ‘herbal highs’, he was literally going through a bottle of pills a day as well as still smoking his bong pretty much non-stop. He’d got a floor in a warehouse just opposite the pub which he said that he’d bought the lease and was considering getting the lower floor. The warehouse was an old office block that little offices and backrooms, the smell was rank as he’d have his dogs and cats in there all day, that bad it made me gag.

During our time in Christchurch we went and played mini-golf, went on the trams, went up the Gondola and did quite a few touristy things. Just before Carole and Peter headed back to Invercargill we all paid a visit to the Antarctic Centre where Vonny experienced an Antarctic storm in the specially designed polar room. It was a simulation of polar weather where the temperature was kept at a constant temperature of -5 degrees Celsius but when the ‘storm’ picked up the temperature dropped to -18 degrees Celsius with a wind speed of 40 km per hour, I don’t think Vonny would’ve liked to repeat the experience in a hurry as it was rather cold and a bit noisy. After that we ventured on to the Hagglund, it’s an all-terrain amphibian vehicle that’s used in the Antarctic. We strapped in and away we went, at first we were chugging along and then we came to the first hurdle of going up and down hills and over a crevasse which resembled a crack in the ice before literally swimming through a pool of water and watching the water splash up the sides of the windows while still remaining dry when nearing the end of the ride. It was like an exhilarating roller-coaster ride that didn’t leave the ground; all of us were laughing and screaming, it was really great fun.

The next day we waved goodbye to Carole and Peter and the kids from Uncle Russell’s warehouse, I don’t know why I opted to stay there for a couple of days with Vonny, must’ve been out of my mind.

Needless to stay the fumes made me feel quite sick so the next morning we checked into a hotel around the corner; much to Uncle Russell’s disapproval. It was only then that the problems with the pub were becoming clear; it wasn’t as great as Russell had made it out to be and he was just acting like a complete dick. I was standing behind him when he was talking to a member of staff and he just began slagging off his brother (my Uncle Joe); then he made a big hoo-ha over my suitcase being stored in the washroom while Vonny and I would be travelling around for a bit, unfortunately when he was going into his raving, and important customer was sitting right behind him, to the bemusement of the new client hearing ‘Where is the fucking prick, he’s bloody late; I’m not waiting for him!’’ with his arms waving around the air it; needless to day it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the pub lost business at that exact moment.

I phoned Carole and Peter and ended up speaking to Peter, I told him that he’s absolute dick and him being ‘Manager’ has gone to completely to his head and they would wind up losing everything if they couldn’t sort it out with him. Unfortunately I think my opinion went down like a lead balloon.

So continuing on with our little New Zealand trip, Vonny and I travelled up to Nelson and stayed with Aunty Christine and her husband Graham before heading through to Kaiteriteri and chilling out for a wee while. It’s a secluded spot with an abundance of wildlife, a lovely little beach (as everywhere) and a small park along with all those other outdoor activities that one would expect to find. The hotel was equipped with a swimming pool along with a Jacuzzi, steam room and other mod-cons. In the evening when it was pitch black, I took Vonny on the trail to go find the Glow Worms which would obviously glow like bright little stars, it was pretty amazing.

Soon afterwards we were heading through to Picton where I took Vonny on a mail boat ride, in some parts of New Zealand you can’t get post normally, the only option is to have a boat deliver it so I took Vonny on that ride instead of going across to Wellington; a post ride seemed like more fun, and it was. When we stayed at Hamner Springs I found myself just wanting some ‘me’ time, so I took Vonny to the local school and she was ‘lucky’ enough to have the full kiwi experience and going to school for a couple of days; while she was at school I went horse-riding. To this day she hasn’t forgiven me. Hamner is a small thermal town where there are hot pools and all the like, house prices have sky rocketed and it won’t be long before it becomes the South Island’s Rotorua. There’s some great adrenaline fuelled activities like bungee jumping and jet boats; however Vonny and I opted for the go-karts on the banks of the Waiau River (Lord of the Rings territory).

Time was flying by and before I knew it there was only a couple of days left before we had to head back to the UK, we headed back to Christchurch and stayed for a few days; never heard from Carole or Peter which upset me a little bit.

I was quite sad to leave New Zealand, an element of depression and being trapped loomed over me as the plane left the tarmac, I got asked “so, what’s it like being a fugitive in your own country?”, that question didn’t get a response. While I was in Hamner a woman was actually arrested for kidnapping, she’d left and not told her boyfriend and her boyfriend inadvertently dobbed her in. I may not have a ‘family’ but I sure do love my country.

The only cigarette break arrived approximately 12 hours later in Singapore, Vonny was rather astonished as she couldn’t believe how hot it was outside at night, there’s an outside part of the airport where smokers are able to congregate and indulge in as much nicotine as they can handle before boarding again. I certainly did and felt drunk and giggly afterwards. Then, approximately 15 hours later the cold British air hit me once more, in a way I was happy to be back but then the thought of going back to court again, dealing with the bully neighbours and also dealing with mundane shit day in and day out sending me on a ‘downer’ instantly.

We caught a cab back to the house from the airport, when I saw the state of the front garden I couldn’t believe how much it had grown. It was a couple of days before Vonny was back at school again and back into the ‘normal’ swing of things. Before I left to go to New Zealand I met a lady called Carolyn in a nail bar, she seemed okay; so I gave her a ring to say ‘Hi’ and we arranged to meet up at Café Nero’s for a catch up, she wasn’t familiar with my ‘issues’ at the time. It wasn’t long after that there was a terrorist attack in London where a bus had been blown up along with threats on the underground and all the panic and anguish that followed. That was the last time I heard from Carole as she phoned to see if I was okay. I asked her how things were and she admitted that things weren’t good as they had no bands booked for the pub or anything.

Meanwhile I had to go back to the solicitors office and prepare for yet another court visit, firstly; I had to prove that I was back in the country as well as finish the visitation rules once again. I said to the solicitor that having a baby is just like working and working people normally get five to six weeks off a year so I think it’s only fair if I get that much time off. I jotted some dates down on the piece of paper, he asked me if I had plans for those weeks that I’d mentioned and I didn’t and then he confirmed that it really wouldn’t matter what weeks of the year that they were. I told him; it wouldn’t matter at the end of the day as if you gave Andy what he wanted which was meant to be ‘time’ and ‘contact’, he wouldn’t want it; he’d find some excuse. Things were certainly busy;busy;busy.

That weekend Vonny was with Andy and I was on my way down to Denim, I had a phone call from Vonny saying that Kate had lent her a handbag and that she wants it back ‘NOW!’, I told Vonny that I couldn’t find it as I wasn’t at home and apparently Vonny got quite a grilling from Kate. I really didn’t know what the big deal was; if the bag was so bloody important to her she wouldn't of allowed a ten year old to play ‘dress-ups’ with it in the first place. Vonny came home rather upset about it and eventually found in one of the boxes underneath her bead; it was a £2 silver kiddies bag that is readily available everywhere; even in the pound shops. ‘It’s hardly bloody Karen Millen’ I thought.

The same weekend I’d also got a bit of a shock, I had a letter from social security informing me that I was under investigation for illegally claiming benefits and that I was to go for an interview. Turned out that when I had got a grant of £250 I had told the local council but not the social security people; that was meant to be one years worth of books but more like six months worth; either way, I was getting put under a spotlight for making an effort. I was due to start back studying but unfortunately with time, court, money, childcare and stress I had to stop. My finances were absolutely shot to bits as I’d just put going home on my visa; at the time I really didn’t care as we both needed to get away but in reality; it was a very very bad move financially but an essential one.

So anyway, struggling onwards; I still had court to attend. On the last day of court I went down to Primark and got Kate a Christmas present as it was that time of year again. I chose thee most vile snot-green clutch bag that I had ever clapped eyes on, it cost me 50 pence in the sale, I wrapped that one up and put it to the side. I took her other silver bag to court with me and ensured that my barrister held it like a lady carries a hand bag and insisted that he pretend to be gay for five minutes while he gave it to Andy in the next room. He came back laughing; the look on Andy’s face must’ve been a picture. There was a lot of ‘negotiating’ going on and a few hours later we were in the process of wrapping everything up in court with a better Judge. My solicitor had mentioned to the judge that Andy was given the choice of five weeks of the year that Vonny was able to stay with him however Andy had refused; as I’d predicted. At the end of the hearing, he’d actually asked the judge to make an order stating that I have to pay his court costs. I was actually beside myself with astonishment, of course; the Judge refused and Andy was more than irritated as he stormed off in a huff.

Tracy had moved away, I’d fallen out with Tina because of the kids; it turned into a ‘he said she said’ scenario, Sally was still around but I wasn’t seeing her as much and I began to go out with Carolyn.

At the end of the year the Buncefield incident happened, an oil depot in the Industrial Estate exploded and I did feel it shake the house; I didn’t know what it was at the time but knew that it wasn’t an earthquake so I drifted off to sleep again; there was another smaller explosion a few minutes later.

I spent the end of the year celebrating in Dunstable with Carolyn, it was quite a rough year with many disappointments; and as I counted down the seconds until 2006 was here, I hoped that I wouldn’t have a repeat of 2005; it’s going to be new, got to be bigger and better please, thank you very much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chapter 5

 

 

 

2006 was off to a relatively good start; Sally had invited Carolyn and I for a night out although it turned out to be disappointing and awkward. We went over to Sally’s and sat around for quite some time before we were ready to go out (Carolyn was cringing by the amount of cocaine that was being chopped up) and once we were out; Sally’s crew wanted to go back to the house after about three drinks in order to do some more cocaine; so the night was quite crap. Carolyn was itching to leave so as soon as we got back to Sally’s we left as we weren’t anywhere near the illegal alcohol limit. So that night pretty much fell flat on its face.

A few weeks later, Carolyn and I had arranged to go out into London for a girly night out; only it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Mayfair and hunted around for a place to go out as I’d never been out in London before and really didn’t have a clue where the ‘happening’ places were. So we looked around and decided on some place in Soho, it was alright with a youngish atmosphere and average music. We went to the bar and got some drinks and within five minutes Carolyn had already pulled some guy that was sat behind us and was busy playing tonsil hockey. That was her for the rest of the night; I was put into a position where I found myself saying ‘I’m not like that’ to his friends. When the bar closed Carolyn was led to believe that the guy that she was busy snogging for the whole night had a lush pad on the Thames, I wasn’t really up for going back to his however she was adamant that he was ‘well off’ and above all – she’d ‘pulled’. So; off we went, except it wasn’t a lush pad on the Thames it was a rented student flat way out in Greenwich. Carolyn and her new squeeze disappeared in the bedroom while his other mate was busy ‘working’ on me in the lounge, I thought it was absolutely disgustingly minging of Carolyn to do anything with this guy as she had her period and dare I say it – she was a ‘slapper’. The other guy had apparently gone into the bedroom and said “Time for you guys to get out as it’s our turn”, I thought “Fucking what? No Bloody Way!” Later when they came out of the bedroom looking rather happy with themselves – I was sitting there looking rather defensive and highly irritated. It took quite a while for a taxi to get ordered and later rather than sooner – it turned up and we were taxiing back to the hotel. I explained to Carolyn that I didn’t appreciate the whole business of ‘bed swapping’ but she just got on the offensive and said that she should’ve gone on her own – which is fair enough, but then – what if something had happened to her? The taxi driver made me laugh, he said “English girls – you buy them a drink and they’re yours whereas Kiwi girls – you have to try a bit harder”, I was in hysterics; I couldn’t of put it better myself.

Maybe some English girls are less prone to bed hopping or sleeping with whoever comes along, maybe it was just Carolyn – I lost track of the amount of guys that she was sleeping with, the last time I could keep up it was about several in the space of three weeks. From a young 17 year old to a mid 40 year old; considering she was in her early forties, getting divorced and contemplating on opting out of parental responsibility – it was quite sad, she’s the only woman that I have met where her head literally does a 360 in search of the next sex session.

Having thought to myself that she may only be going through a faze I went out with her one last time in Dunstable – although she does have a ‘reputation’. I went out with her as well as her ex-sister-in-law who just happened to be a religious nut as it turned out. We started off in a pub and then headed over to the nightclub, within twenty minutes she had ‘pulled’ once again, but the story doesn’t end there. They guy was invited back to her house and the two of them disappeared upstairs while myself and the ex-sister-in-law were downstairs in the lounge, it was the most uncomfortable position I had been in for a very long time, Carolyn was going for it upstairs and the banging of the bedposts could probably be heard from the neighbours while her ex-sister-in-law was downstairs preaching to me about ‘her God’. At first, I didn’t think she was serious but she was – 100%. She went on to tell me that she’d had sex the other week on the couch that I was sitting on but the tampon got stuck, again – she was in her late ‘40’s and I just cringed – if I was able to drive I would’ve gone but I had drunk too much and couldn’t run the risk of driving back to Hemel Hempstead.

The next morning, Carolyn’s one-nighter left very discreetly and she began to fret about how she might be pregnant or if she’d caught any sexual diseases - I was so relieved to get home after that. I didn’t go out with Carolyn again after that experience although I did speak to her afterwards with a goodbye sentence of “I hope you get something arranged” – meaning in Carolyn’s terms “I hope you get laid”.

With a sigh of relief I thought to myself “Yes, I would love to get laid – preferably not by being a slapper and playing lucky-dip”.

It was funny out it all panned out – whether it’s drugs or sex, everybody has some kind of an addiction.

My social life had come to an end; well – if it was really a ‘social’ life by way of witnessing Sally’s protruding jaw or having to fend off men that thought I was ‘easy’ by being with a number one slapper. I guess it wasn’t really – I still had to be on the ‘defensive’ to some extent.

All I wanted to do was to go out and have a good time, my ‘good time’ means to dance, have a few drinks, be ‘social’, mingle – not snort as much you can in a short amount of time or have sex with the first guy that buys you a drink. If a guy showed an interest; bloody – take me out to dinner, what is so wrong with that? Higher standards perhaps? Not a good thing in ‘suburbia’?

My first outing after the whole Carolyn thing was meeting Janet Jackson at the Met Bar in London – O My God!!

I was off to meet Janet Jackson along with Jermaine Dupri; they were introducing the new release of their music video ‘Call on Me’ featuring Nelly. It was a bit of a shame that Nelly wasn’t there. I went along on my own and when we got there the other guests and myself ended up having to que outside for quite some time before we were allowed in. When we did finally did get in we got searched and had to surrender all our belongings to the cloakroom and also sign a release form to say that if we took any photos we’d be liable for prosecution. It was a rather bizarre - after all - it wasn’t the Queen, it was only Janet Jackson (snigger snigger). The resident cocktails were lined up on the bar along with little snacks and my first impression of the Met Bar was it was just so tiny, it dawned on me that when celebrities go out to these kind of places there’s no way that one could get out of the way; they’ll have to clap eyes on each other at some point of the night and therefore; results in some kind of ruckus which gets read about in the press. About an hour later Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri arrived with a flurry of flashes, along with her entourage of security men as well as friends. She was chaperoned to a closed off seat in the corner, sat down and looked down whilst talking to her cronies at the time ignoring everyone else around her and her security men were standing at certain positions . Jermaine went around to fiddle about with the deck and it was rather silent for about half an hour as people were standing muttering and commenting on how she looked when she came in. The first glimpse I got of Janet Jackson resembled something that of a wet fish; rather sour looking and pretty obvious that she didn’t want to be there or - wasn’t as her eyes were rather… ‘out there’. I was rather disappointed with first impressions as being a Janet Jackson ‘fan’ as it were; I somehow envisioned her being a little bit chirpier; well at least smiling would’ve been nice. She got up and announced that we would be the first people in the world to see her new video featuring Nelly and proceeded to press the ‘play’ button. I found it hard not to pass judgement quickly as some songs don’t ‘ring my bell’ the first time I hear them and to me at the time of listening; if it wasn't for Nelly the song would’ve fell into a big giant heap along with all the other ‘comeback’ songs that previous stars had made. After the song had finished, she said ‘I hope you like it and now it’s time to go as it’s going to be a long night’, the people at the club went ‘Oaah’ as if it was way past her bedtime and soon enough she was heading for the door. As she left the security was a bit slow on it as she looked around to them as if to say “Where are you, why are you not in front of me?”, the thing was that there wasn’t busted at the seams within this venue and everyone there was respectable enough to let her walk by without being mauled. My opinion of Janet Jackson changed after that; I saw the pictures of her going into the venue when she was ‘papped’ and the smile was from ear to ear, that big huge smile that she can give within a seconds notice however the minute from when that photo was taken to when she walked through the door looked as if it was a complete opposite; absolutely miserable. I’d often thought that Janet Jackson was the ultimate fitness freak with her rippling abs and toned physique however seeing the pictures of her running on the beach and the after result; I wondered where all that spare skin went, it’s got to go somewhere; it’s a rather splendid plastic surgeon isn’t it?

It was a huge change for me to go and actually be in the same room as a celebrity rather than to go out with Sally or Carolyn, it was actually rather stress-free on my own as well, there wasn’t any restrictions set on me by someone else nor was the expectation to sleep with the first person that came along – everyone was there for the same thing and that was just to have a good time and mingle with JANET JACKSON!

I became addicted to saying ‘Yes’ on the internet, opportunities for things to do and visiting places that a ‘commoner’ like myself didn’t think would be possible, it wasn’t long before Vonny and I went for our first photo shoot at Venture – being the first one I hadn’t a clue what to expect. The photographer was really nice and I remember thinking to myself as he was on the floor taking pictures “Yes – I’ll have sex with you!!”, however had to be responsible as Vonny was with me. We got some great photos only they were way out of my price range and was only able to pick the free one.

Then a few months later - thanks to Capital Radio we were off to see Sugababes perform at Dominion Theatre. It wasn’t long after Amelle had joined the band and Mutya later had a new single out with Groove Armada that suggested something more sinister had gone on resulting in her departure from the band. As we were waiting outside to get in the staff there began to roll out the red carpet. I had no idea that there would be any ‘celebrities’ there so was quite taken back, and also in fits of giggles as the staff couldn’t make the red carpet straight and didn’t think of getting duck tape or something of that nature to make sure it stays put. It wasn’t long before the cars started to appear and people were arriving, Vanessa Feltz and her boyfriend Ben Ofoedu arrived followed by Tara Palmer-Tomkinson who was rather off her face whether it was alcohol or drugs I’m not quite sure, she was signing Vonny’s autograph book and posing with the cameras at the same time with the whole looking over your shoulder technique; unfortunately she didn’t bother to check her top before she headed out the door as there was food stuffs down it. Holly Willoughby arrived in a lovely red jacket; I remember the red jacket as it’s turned into somewhat of a lifelong quest for me to find the ‘perfect jacket’. I didn’t actually know who Holly was at the time; it was Vonny that recognised her as she was on ‘Feel the Fear’ which she loves. She was followed by Kelly Brian and her guest who was really lovely as she signed Vonny’s book, Shane Lynch who was dare I say it – stoned. Lisa Butcher arrived with her young daughter although looking rather glum. There were others that arrived however I’m unsure who they were.

After the excitement of seeing who arrived and if we recognised them or not - we made our way indoors to take our seats and watch the Sugababes. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best gig in the world and the girls were just standing on the stage singing not doing a whole lot, Amelle would seemingly have her hand in her pocket the whole time and occasionally do a little move to the guys in the front, Heidi would lift her arm in the air quite a bit and Keisha was the only one that seemed to be at ease with performing on stage, sad; but true. We danced in the isles but were told to stay seated by the staff which I thought was very naff; I carried on dancing and thought “As if I’m going to listen to you”. As I was outside having a quick cigarette near the end of the show, a rather agitated man came storming out and said “That was the most horrendous shit that I ever saw!” as he left, I presumed that he meant boring and was a huge Sugababes fan that had been sorely disappointed. Shortly after Lisa Butcher left with her youngster and pretty soon everyone else was leaving. On the train home both Vonny and I agreed that our lives had become ‘exciting’ and waking up everyday with not knowing what to expect in a positive way was also exciting.

As time steamed on Vonny and I went to see the Blue Man Group, had another photo shoot with Kodak and I also went to the launch of the new LG Chocolate phone in London. We got tickets to see the Polar Express at the Imax 3d cinema in London, it’s a great place, only when we came out Vonny noticed a homeless man who was sleeping in the walkway, she went over and gave him a packet of chips (crisps) and came back thinking that he’d have something to eat when he woke up, only another guy came along – spotted the bag of chips and nicked them. As he walked off he opened the bag and started to eat them and Vonny was heartbroken, the whole experience of watching someone else nicking something off someone who had nothing made her cry. She wanted to go up to the man and tell him to put them back but I wouldn’t let her; for her own safety sake. It’s a hard lesson to learn that not everyone is this world is ‘nice’, but then again.. can’t always ‘tarnish people with the same brush’.

During that time Cirque de Celebrite was nearing an end and we got tickets to go and see the final show, it was funny watching Ruby Wax do her run throughs and swearing at the camera. Sophie Anderton had pulled out due to medical reasons but she was there on the final night – I missed her as she went into the VIP section. I wrote on a piece of paper “Would you be a darling and sign this please?” and gave it to one of the bar stewards who took it into the VIP section, she came back and she’d signed it with a little love heart – I was so impressed, I thought it was rather magnanimous of her – it’s still pinned up on my notice board in the kitchen.

We were also lucky enough to get tickets to go to the outdoor ice skating rink at the Natural History Museum, it was wonderful with fairy lights in the trees and it was all just very Christmassy.

It was the perfect ending to an eventful year, I even bought a turkey and did the whole ‘Christmas at home’ thing, I had never cooked a turkey before and it was the best, we had enough food to last us a month – it was certainly a feast.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chapter 6

 

 

 

With everything else in life – it always comes back to the power of chance, the luck of the draw – or karma. Besides all the bad shit that has happened in my life, I feel as if I’ve had my shit – thank you very much, kinda dealt with it and concentrating on being the best parent I could possibly be. During the psychology degree course I read Richard Wiseman’s book about ‘Luck’, although the majority of it was statistical analysis – it makes a lot of sense. Am I a – glass half empty – or half full kinda gal? Well, the obvious answer to that is – it’s half full as I didn’t have anything in it prior anyway. From then on I was able to take Vonny to Disneyland in Paris, Guilfest, and go and see Jamelia at a festival in London. Of course with Vonny being young I had to explain to her that these opportunities don’t come along every day - although she was rather oblivious to that comment which went flying straight over her head, the excitement of being in Disneyland was just all too much as she was just bursting with enthusiasm and literally running to join the queue for the next ride. To see a beautiful young girl with a magnificent beaming smile was a brilliant experience and adventure for us both as it was after all – our family holiday, a happy time without any stress or agro from anyone. I guess there had always been a ‘lucky’ element in my life, lucky in some parts and not in others, heaven forbid what the statistic book says about people with my background – as it was something that I had to prove in court. My past had been used against me and every little spec of abuse, neglect and the animosity of a parent had been bestowed on me and it was somehow deemed that I would indeed turn out to be the same, given the fact that I’d already travelled and left it all behind – I found myself staring out the window of a court room thinking ‘Wow, shit does really follow you’, what can I say, I trusted the guy. A very severe lesson learned. I’ve now reached my 30’s and about now – really, in all fairness – I’m supposed to be a complete waster, hooked on crack or whatever comes my way, drugs to blank out everything and – and straight from my mother’s mouth ‘a loser’, ‘wouldn’t amount to much’, ‘not good enough’, ‘black sheep’.. Actually it took me a while to work what the last one meant because I’m white and I was very very young when I first heard that expression.

There were a few moments that year that I thought were rather amazing, like the VIP trip to a Big Brother eviction, it was rather insane – especially when I get to rock up and head to the bar before being chaperoned to a segregated bit to watch Davina do her thing. The rest of the crowd had been queuing literally all day outside the gate and only a few of them actually got in, I spoke to Davina briefly as I asked her if she could sign my daughters book, he replied “If I sign it for you that means I have to sign it for everyone else, sorry” and walked off. It’s probably true, who needs fans? Ohh well... it’d more than likely get turfed in the bin for lying around on the floor – so no big bother really..

Then along came my very first movie premiere; Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I invited a friend and it was held at Leicester Square and rather than being red carpet it was blue; so I guess that didn’t count. As we walked into the entrance and started to stroll down the carpet my first reaction was to pretty much race to the end, as we did; we passed Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis and Ioan Gruffudd huddled in a little circle talking to the press. At first I didn’t recognise them; the main person that I wanted to lust after was indeed Julian McMahon but unfortunately much to my disappointment he wasn’t there. Both Laurence Fishburne and Julian McMahon attended the premiere in America and both of them are rather groupie worthy. Along the blue carpet there were life statues that portrayed the silver surfer in the movie with the press on the left and fans on the right. We went into the theatre where we were ushered along by security and had to go downstairs to the seating area in the theatre. Upon talking to the attendant, she informed us that we could go out and come back down the carpet again; so we did. We went out the back door, strolled past all the fans that were at this stage; resembled sardines squished up against the fence in order to get a glimpse of the stars and other celebrities that attended. This time I took my time about walking down the blue carpet, taking a leisurely stroll; dum de dum de dum. We past Jessica Alba again and this time I managed to get a good look as she was talking to a person of the press, her dress was fabulous and she did look stunning, then I spotted Chris Evans and Ioan Gruffudd but by this time a security guard had started to usher us away like a farmer herding sheep. So I teased him and began to move one foot at a time; very slowly while laughing and still teasing him, it must’ve looked rather comical to those that saw the little side stepping performance. Next thing we knew we were taking our seats in the theatre and waiting for the movie to start. I’d been told previously that ‘normally’ at premiere’s the director or other actors come on and give a little speech about the movie before it starts however with this one; they just hit the ‘play’ button. Within about twenty minutes into the movie I became incredibly bored and probably would’ve left if it hadn’t been for my guest staying in there. So I got up and went outside for a cigarette; when I did I noticed that the fans were still there, waiting patiently in order to just catch a glimpse of ‘famous people’ as nobody knows who’s expected to turn up to these events, I was just amazed with the sheer dedication of these people who were still literally squished up against the fence waiting for something but not really knowing what. The movie soon ended (I was rather relieved) and we made our way to the exit, the fans were still there and by now the vehicles had been driven up to collect the stars. As we walked behind the crowd there were two ladies that were in full ball gown dresses, we stopped and asked them if they’d been to the premiere and they had. They were magazine winners that were told that they’d also have entrance to the after-party however were refused entry, my guest wondered if whether they weren’t allowed to attend because of their size; in saying that, if I had a ticket to an after-party that was heaving with glamorous people and champagne falling from the heavens but was refused entry; I would have no option but to throw a major tantrum and throw myself on the ground screaming at the very top of my lungs and as a result would have to be removed by police; I would just be so heartbroken! Amazing, but unfortunately a couple of months later I fell out with my guest friend because I didn’t buy her a drink.

Shortly after that there was the Metro Weekender – VIP style - it was a whole day of fab DJ’s and it was also VIP; having never been into the VIP section at a festival before I didn’t really know what to expect. I was really looking forward to seeing Roger Sanchez as I’d missed his recent gig at Koko’s, along with Paul van Dyk, Sasha and Pete Tong. My guest friend from Silver Surfer’s 18 year old daughter-in-law had pulled out at the last minute so I ended up going on my own, when I got there I was amazed at the little VIP section as to how it was layed out, it was set up like a little tropical beach bar with a complimentary bar (naturally), a burger bar and our own private portaloos. There were journalists tapping away on their laptops, different artists that’d come and go and a little viewing platform that was to the right of the stage. Id’ arrived just in time to see Roger Sanchez which was great and I was really pleased to be able to have a drink, a ciggy and dance away without getting elbowed in the face by other party revellers. I had become rather intoxicated by about 2pm due to the fact that I wasn’t used to drinking during the day as well as not having very much to eat, the sun was out; the music was banging and the people that were in the tented section were generally really friendly. There was only one instance that a rather obnoxious female looked ‘down’ on me, a new friend and I were playing on the football table and a lady came over and said that she wanted to take a photo there as it ‘looked natural’, I asked the lady that was posing to watch my drink; twice in fact, but she didn’t seem to pay any attention. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was expected of us to stop playing our game however the girl that was challenging me insisted that I kept playing; so I did. As she left I asked her “Who are you?”, “Oh we’re the Shapeshifters” she replied in a ‘matter of fact’ way, she then turned to the girl playing against me and said “I hope you win” and walked off. I thought it was rather funny the way that the whole ‘natural’ looking thing was indeed forced, the two guys that stood either side of her didn’t say a word and she thought that she was just the bee’s knees.

As I thought about Shapeshifters for a split second I became somewhat confused as there are in fact two bands that go by the name of ‘Shapeshifters’; one sings ‘I’m a different person, turn my world around’ which isn’t what she looked like at all while the other is a New Zealand band and I doubt very much that the female would be as arsey as she was.

Apart from that it was a fabulous day full of great music and great people, it ended with Paul van Dyk and I wasn’t really familiar with his music; needless to say that I am now; he ROCKS! It was thee best ever finale to a fucking fantastic day!

I guess – ‘Who are you?’... Maybe not quite in an interview sheet... perhaps, however – if I had said ‘Wow, you’re awesome!’ she would’ve said to me that she’d preferred me to win... either way, it’s amazing how much credibility you can gain from bullshitting at these ‘VIP’ things.

Then came the Fashion Fringe in Covent Garden, the place where up and coming designers get to show case their gear in front of the fashion folk, the press and more importantly – the judges. I’m not familiar who the judges were but anything to do with fashion – I’m raising my hand! I need an education - serious. Vonny and I went along and I ended up eating pansies, yes they had edible pansies in the cocktails; they tasted like - flowers. That was certainly an experience in itself. We mingled, got fake eyelashes, our nails painted and mingled some more. There were a couple of OMG! Moments; Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Skin from Skunk Ananse and of course the ever so lovely Zandra Rhodes and her guest. Vonny had her picture taken with Claudia Schiffer, she looked like a little dwarf beside Claudia as she only came up to about her waist, and I just felt really short, lovely lady. Zandra was busy with a photographer getting press shots and while we stood by to see if we could get a picture I began talking to her guest however when the opportunity came along to actually take a picture my camera ran out of battery power. Sod’s law. So we left to go mingle while the photographer insisted that she required more photos. I had another cocktail with a pansies, Vonny had an orange juice and pretty soon it was time to go watch the show, as we were leaving the building and heading over to the tent where the runway was Zandra and her guest were standing by the door, I smiled at them both and then she asked me ‘Did you get your photo?’, I said ‘No, I’ve run out of battery’, she then went on to say ‘Do you have a camera on your phone?’ and we then posed and took a great picture on Vonny’s phone – something that had completely passed my mind, of course! A camera phone! Duh Michelle! How come I didn’t think of that? Zandra’s absolutely fabulous and to even ask whether or not some Joe blogs got a photo is just outta this world. It was definitely an OMG! moment.

Once our very surreal moment was over we went over to the tent to watch the show, we got our seats (behind Louise Redknapp and a fashion guru) and shortly after that the flurry of flashes and murmuring drama erupted while Naomi, Claudia and Zandra entered the building. The press were situated at the back (at the end of the runway) and the show began. The show was – amazing, the models were absolutely stunning and I was rather sad when it ended. Vonny was in absolute awe, she absolutely loved it and so did I – every minute. She wasn’t aware who she met that day until afterwards – now everytime she sees Zandra, Naomi or Claudia she shrills with ‘I’ve been in the same room as her! OMG!’ It reminds me of her ‘Wiggles’ moment, when I took her to see the Wiggles show and she went to the front of the stage – one of them looked at her and smiled and she came running back squealing ‘Mummy, mummy, he looked at me – he looked at me!’ So funny.

Apart from the exciting stuff now beginning to occur I was also toying with my employment opportunities, I began life as a self employed vintage clothing dealer – the psychology degree had to go by the by as it was just too expensive for me and with everything else going on at the time – not practical – as I have learnt; I can’t do everything on my own.

Directions being one of those things – especially without a map. I was off into London to go to an unsigned band awards thing where UB40 were to be playing, unfortunately I was too late to see UB40 and I did get lost trying to find this well hidden place. I stopped to ask people on the street and it was shortly after that a guy on a bike said that he knew where it was and would take me. I felt a little bit suspicious at first however – he walked me and his bike to the place where the gig was, took about 15 minutes – I offered to buy him a drink, he refused and biked away. That was pretty amazing; the ‘Knight in shining armour’ does exist! The ‘English Gentleman’, found lurking on a bike somewhere in London. Reminding me – just subtly – that there are indeed nice people in London, they’re not always ‘out for what they can get’.

Just when I thought those moments would be ‘an extraordinary moment in my life’, next came the launch of the Samsung F210 phone at Sketch in London; the evening included a complimentary bar at Sketch, an exclusive performance by Girls Aloud, a limousine to the venue, spending the night in the Westbury Hotel and also a brand spanking new Samsung F210 Purple as well as Girls Aloud merchandise. Absolutely fantastic as I just love parties and also a new phone too, I had my same old mobile phone for the past several years; I was thinking about getting a new one however not a priority and simply couldn’t afford to get one. I phoned Vonny’s dad to see if he could have her for the night as it was a school night, he stopped and started as he said “I’ll let you know”, so I phoned one of Vonny’s friend’s mums who said pretty straight away “That’s no problem”. Couldn’t believe my luck, it was actually the first time in a long time that I’d asked someone if they could look after Vonny for the night and they actually said “Yes”. Wow!

I was given a name and contact number and told to meet the PR lady in the lobby of the Westbury at 5pm. The next day Vonny went off to school and I had my overnight bag packed and ready to go; so off I went. The lobby was very nice, there were a couple of photographers lingering around outside that seemed to be very chit chatty with the concierge, on the left of the entrance was The Polo Bar and on the right was just a waiting area; both oozing the ‘only for the members of the upper class society’ vibe. When I checked in at the Westbury they had me under a wrong name so I phoned the contact number up and within twenty minutes I was checked in and eager to see what awaited me. I tottered off to the lift to become acquainted with my new room, very nice on first impressions and let out a small squeal of delight when I found the Molton Brown toiletries in the bathroom. On the table was a silver bag with purple ribbon with a letter saying “Congratulations you’re Winner”, I opened the bag to find the brand spanking new Samsung F210 purple along with a CD single signed by the girls, I could make out Kimberley’s signature but none of the others as it was written in purple marker and the cover was purple so it made me squint a bit. I couldn’t wait to play with the phone so I took it out of the box and began to charge it up. I then proceeded to have a nosey at the mini bar so I opened the fridge and had a look; looked at the prices and instantly decided that there would be no way I would be tempted, I flicked on the tele (which was still coming up as a different name to my own) and had a look through, it was when I came to the ‘account’ section on the ‘view your bill’ when I realised that I’d been charged for something out of the mini-bar. I only opened the door and I was charged! So I phoned reception however couldn’t really make heads or tails of what she was saying so I went down there to sort it out, while I was patiently waiting a disgruntled customer was starting to get very irate about the room he was in and the noise directly opposite his bedroom. Couldn’t help to think that he got fobbed off as reception just simply said ‘We’ll look into it for you”. So he stomped off and then it was my turn, it did take a bit of sorting out and apparently they had to reset the mini-bar; merely because I just did a simple thing, like opening the fridge.

I went back up to my room and within five minutes had a knock at the door; they only wanted to check the fridge!

After all the kafuffle I jumped in the shower and started to get ready to go and have a party. I went downstairs and waited however there was some kind of delay and I ended up waiting for quite a while, sat in the chair just outside The Polo Bar and by this stage was becoming quite thirsty. I had a look at the menu and everything was over £10; I couldn’t resist anymore so ordered a glass of wine. I sat and drank it quietly, I was about half way through before the others had arrived, I walked over to them with my glass of wine and introduced myself only to turn around and see a very panic-stricken waitress whom thought I had done a runner, I had to laugh; the Westbury, world of the ‘upper-crust’; were still paranoid about people leaving and forgetting to pay the bar bill. I called her over and if she could’ve ran; she would’ve, “Would you like the bill”, I said “Yes please”. She came back with her tray and wallet, I opened it up to find that a ‘service fee’ had already been put on to the bill making my glass of £10 wine an £11 one, while I realise that this is no bother for the ‘normal’ people that frequent these premises, all I had on me was £10 and I didn’t plan on putting it on my room so I asked her to take the service fee off. While most people have no problem with the automatic ‘service fee’, sometimes I do; especially when it should be a voluntary thing as to how your service is and more importantly if you don’t have enough cash to pay the whole bill.

I began talking to the other half a dozen people that were there and also a girl that travelled all the way down from Manchester who had to make a riddle as to why she’d like to see Girls Aloud, it was very ingenious and funny. We all hadn’t realised that we’d actually get to meet Girls Aloud and one of the guys nearly wet himself when I told him. At that point I didn’t have any idea as to where Sketch was and neither did anyone else that was in the limo, I really did think it was a bit of a trek away. We all got in the limo and the photographer from Samsung took some snaps of us sipping on glasses of champagne and off we went. We had a touristy ride through London going into Westminster past Big Ben and round the corner for a good half an hour; it was when we drove past the hotel we all realised that Sketch is only across the road! I was starting to get a little bit giggly due the champagne and no food since breakfast, we all got out of the limo and chaperoned into Sketch. Once we were inside I noticed that there was a bar up some stairs to the left and another part down some stairs in front of us, we all got our wristbands on and was then once more chaperoned down the stairs into a back room and into another bar. This, at first thought; was indeed the VIP area. I couldn’t help but smile as I noticed the complimentary cocktails lined up around the circular sunken bar, the cocktail mixer’s head was by my knees - the bar was actually below us. We sat down and waited patiently unsure what was happening next. One of the girls said “Hey, have you been to the toilet yet?” with a tone of excitement in her voice, “It’s really weird, it’s upstairs, you got to go have a look”. So I did, I went up the stairs and there they were, it was like walking into a room that resembled a ‘hot set’ that was a mish mash of Dr. Who and Mork and Mindy. The attendants had pinafores on like back in the old days, the lights were dimmed and the loos; well, they were pods. I giggled as I said to one of the other ladies “Peeing in a pod, never done that before”. They were big white egg shaped pods like the one Mork used to transport himself to earth in, really quite surreal and bizarre; such a novelty.

By the time we went back down the stairs and got back into the VIP area, Girls Aloud were already in there, we both looked at each other as if to say “Shit, shouldn’t of gone”. Sam, Amanda and Brian from Big Brother were in there talking to Kimberley, Nadine was talking to the folks over at where I was originally sitting and Sarah and Nicola were busy mingling and talking away to other guests. I didn’t see Cheryl anywhere at that point. I walked over to my drink and said hello to Nadine; as one would do; of course. She spoke in a very very soft voice and I found it difficult to hear or understand her, I think she found the same problem when speaking to me as I asked if she’d got off her flight from LA in the afternoon, she instantly replied “Yes”, followed by “I’m sorry, what was the question?”
I thought I better leave it there and let other people talk to her as I lent over and got my drink, Nadine soon left and Sarah wandered over. Within minutes of talking to Sarah I came to the conclusion that she must be the greatest chick to have at a party with ever, she was well in the ‘party zone’, really chatty and seemed like great fun. At that particular time she was getting a lot of grief from the press about her Dr. Spock haircut and looking thin etc, I thought about it for a second and I have to say that she was in proportion and at least her hairdo was original. I said that I had taken my daughter and her friends to the recent gig at Wembley and she asked me what I thought, all I could say was “It was fucking brilliant!” Sarah was great fun, after talking to Sarah I tottered over to Nicola and the first thing she said to me was “Have you seen our new video?” I hadn’t at the time and I didn’t actually know what the new song was called, obviously I didn’t say that I didn’t have a clue; just “No”. She then went on to say that I had my hair the same as she did in the video. My hair was a bit of a mess, there was no time to dry it properly after having a shower and when I put the GHD’s through it, it was making a hissing sound, it’s not a good idea to straightening damp hair with GHD’s as it winds up all dry and coarse, so I stopped straightening it and just braided the front. Unfortunately by the time that I began talking to Nicola I was starting to babble and was well into ‘party mode’. The sensible conversations had well and truly finished and I was very happy due to the amount of cocktails and champagne that I had consumed. Nicola is cool, I really liked her; just unfortunate that I wasn’t making any sense. As it was time for the girls to go and get ready for the show I held my camera up in the air and got a shot of Samanda with me grinning; as one does, when I had a look at the picture she was smiling at me which I thought was rather nice. I saw Kimberley and Cheryl right at the end but by then they had to go so I didn’t get a chance to say hello; which was probably a good thing as by this stage now; I just wanted to party.

We left the VIP area and went into the next room where there were even more cocktails lined up just begging to be consumed, the DJ was playing and the venue began to get busy as more and more people were coming in. I went straight to the cocktails (of course; ‘cos I just love ‘em) and the waiter smiled nicely and handed it to me, I was sipping quite merrily away when a guy came up with the new phone on a little display board and asked me “What do think of the new Samsung F210?”. I could answer this question quite easily as I’d already charged the phone up and had a look, I told him that it was a bit of a pain as when you want to take a photo you still have to open the whole thing up and get into the camera function first, however it looks very sexy. He got offended because I asked him if he was a model, apparently that’s not a compliment, not all models are gay; obviously I didn’t say “Are you a gay model?”, or “Are you a model, is it true they’re all gay?”, or just “Are you gay?” So he got quite stroppy and moved away. I thought to myself ‘Hey-ho, not to worry’. I saw the other folk that were on the limo by the front of the stage so I wandered over and started mingling; it wasn’t long after that that I spotted Sinita. Wow! I remember those days when Sinita was one the singers that I’d listen to in my garage, there was me; bopping away in my little concrete floored, corrugated iron roofed, draftee make-shift bedroom. It was such a buzz to meet her, she was there with her partner and they were both really lovely, we began chatting about the phone so I showed her mine and she was rather taken back at the fact that I already had one and she didn’t. It was a great giggle. The show was about to start so I shimmied over to the middle to try and get a good spot, it just so happened that I got stuck behind Brian from Big Brother, all I could see was his balding head. Girls Aloud came on and the show began, a few songs later and Brian had started to get a spot of bother from a seemingly hard core girl photographer who’d accused him of stealing her bag. She was rather intoxicated and began to say that she’d been mugged in London previously, dare I say it that if I hadn’t of talked to her, Brian would’ve got nutted (probably ending up with a broken nose), as he didn’t really have any clue of how to talk to her, just the kind of reaction that would instinctively cause the girl to get defensive and lash out. So, it was me that began to talk to her, I spoke to her for a bit and was rather relieved when she went and got some drinks, she came back though, which was a bit of a bummer. The Girls Aloud show was awesome, they did their thing and looked shit hot, sang great and left shortly after they finished. I went over to the make shift bar where the cocktail were lined up and I felt rather privileged as the waiter handed me a drink as soon as I went up, especially when there were loads of people waiting, so I smiled nicely and proceeded to go out for a cigarette; only to realise that I had to down my drink as there’s no drinks allowed outside, ‘cor; things I forget!

So, after finishing my drink I ventured outside to have a cigarette, really quite tipsy by now; as well as incredibly giggly. All of a sudden there was a little flurry of photographers and I soon heard “Over here Danielle, over here”. It was Danielle Lloyd along with a couple of other people. It wasn’t long after that the party-goers all began to disappear and the dance floor was emptying, I stayed right to the end and danced as much as I could; indeed I was having a great time. When the bar had closed, I hung about for a little bit above the stairs just so I could finish off my drink, as I did there were two ladies that were asked by the photographer to pose with the phone in front of the Samsung logo sheet, so they did. The photographer went and spoke to someone and one of the ladies said that she’d like one of the phones that she was holding so I just said to her “Just put it in your bag”, so she did. I really wasn’t expected her to but honesty got the better of her as the photographer came back and asked where the phone was and she bent down to her bag, got it out and said “Here it is”. We started giggling about it as she could’ve got away with getting a brand new phone. They were great fun, I found out later it was Liz Cundy and Chief of Ann Summers. A few minutes later Danielle came back out so I got a picture with her, then Gok Wan appeared and posed with me which was really great. However; this time it was really time to go as we had started to get the marching orders from the door staff. As I walked out into the cold, the same chick that accused Brian of stealing her bag was starting up on someone else outside and a couple of death stares and snarls were exchanged, she was last seen screaming obscenities down the road whilst heading away. It was such a novelty just wandering across the road to go to bed.

The next morning I was rudely woken at 8am by the cleaner, I forgot to put the bloody “Do not disturb” sign on the door! That was a painful experience, first hotel I’ve stayed at where the cleaners enter the room so early in the morning. Pretty soon I was heading home – back to reality with a thud.

By about this stage it began to occur to me that people really don’t like the kind of adventures that I like, or perhaps it was just a case of jealousy – who knows. Either way – it was fun for me and people wanted to copy me so I stopped talking about what I’d been up to – just revert back to the old conversations like ‘What have you been up to?’, ‘Oh not much, cooking, cleaning, selling’, I could see the smiles on their faces creep in as the thought of me being a depressed single parent suited the purpose of the conversation better – and as ‘they’ say – whatever rocks your boat and ‘It is what it is’.

So I didn’t tell anybody about the MTV award pre party tickets, it was at the Bloomsbury Ballroom and music by the Gorillaz sound system, so of course I went. I arrived to be greeted by Swedish hostess with the full kit and a lovely glass of champas, did a little bit of mingling and lord behold – there was my now ex-friend who indeed copied me and fell out with me – because I didn’t buy her a drink.. Shame on me... how could I? Tut tut. I went and said hello anyway which was when Jack Tweedy came in so I had a little convo with him – better conversation than ‘what can you get me’ woman. At the time I could only remember his first name and said ‘Oh you’re with Jade aren’t you’, ‘Not now I’m not’, as awkward was that was he was alright, said bye and then went to his little ‘vip’ area – it was just a little corner in the corner of the room with a bit of rope sectioning it off.. then Jade came in. I think – who’s to say really – they got together again that night. There was a couple of Eastenders cast in there and of course the worst case of egotism and pratness I’ve come across up to that point – Hannah Spearitt and her dickhead boyfriend who is in the show ‘Primeval’, they were there with the writer of the show, she had her back leant up against the bar with both her elbows on the bar facing the rest of the room while her boyfriend was beside her on one side and the writer on the other. I said hello, the writer was nice enough however I began talking... bad Michelle – just bad! I paid her a compliment – as you do and her boyfriend actually got in my face and said ‘No-one talks to my girlfriend like that’, I was a bit confused and of course the confused expression was very clear on my face, he then backed down and said ‘Nevermind, forget it’. I was even more confused – what a wanker. So I got my camera out and asked for a photo – as he was himming and harring about it I said ‘Oh no, I’ve run out of battery... nevermind’, quite sad of me but who cares. I got a drink from the bar and went dancing, the music was alright, there ended up being a bunch of us dancing the night away, that was until a guy that says he was from MTV Germany tried to pull me, like... noooooo. Funny all the same.

And then - back to reality once more... being self employed does have its bonus’, although – the downside is – you don’t work – you don’t get paid, have to work twice as hard to make any money and at that point it was difficult trying to sell tops for £3.99, even if they did sell the buyers weren’t very patient, seemed like they wanted next day delivery and even go as far as asking for the 79p back because the stamp on the parcel came up less than what they paid.

Time went by and then out of the blue I had a phone call from Tracy saying that she’ d got tickets to a ball in London but she didn’t know which one, the only one I knew that was happening at that time was La Dolce Vita Ball in Battersea, London. She phoned about half an hour later confirming that it was indeed the La Dolce Vita ball and the excitement rushed through me like a freight train while Tracy was teasing me about staying at home wanting to watch Eastenders. As if! I was completely wrapped that she’d invited me; never been to a ball before. La Dolce Vita is a charity event that’s held every year and this particular one was to raise money for DebRA (national charity raising money for afflicted individuals and families of a genetic skin blistering condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa or ‘EB’ ), full of ‘celebs’.

We both agreed that we didn’t want to make like Cinderella and leave the ball at midnight in order to catch the last train home so I phoned around and found a taxi company that charged £60 for the ride back to Hemel, cutting it down the middle; it’s pretty much the same as going out for dinner, except this time it was going out for dinner and a party to boot.

That evening we got dressed up although not in floor length dresses, I had a look on the internet and judging from previous years the guests dress up but not always in ball gowns; which was good. Can’t imagine traipsing through London wearing a ball gown. It wasn’t before long that we were on the train heading for Euston, got to Euston then got the tube to Waterloo. It was the first time that I got told off for smoking at Waterloo, we were waiting at the taxi rank outside the station and I lit up a cigarette, a guard came over and told me that I had to stand a few feet from where I was as way above us was a canopy. I just laughed and thought ‘No way!’ Tracy stayed in the queue and I took my cigarette and myself over to the edge of the canopy and smoked there while giggling to myself. Other people thought it was rather amusing also as they were laughing with the odd comment “Out of the canopy please” in a piss-taking kind of way. Out of the whole evening the most annoying thing would’ve been the London cabs, not only did we wait for a good 45 minutes, it took 20 minutes and £20 later to get to the ball. We made it to the park only to find that it was the wrong entrance and while turning around to go to the other entrance a man stopped the cab to ask for directions. He was going to the ball also so we said he could jump in the cab, he didn’t really know what it was all about as he’d only found out that afternoon that he was going. It turns out that he was friends with Ian Wright and when he got out of the cab at the venue he offered to pay, Tracy said “That’s okay”, he then said “I’ll buy you a drink inside”, we all laughed as we all knew that it was a complimentary bar. Well, at £750 odd pounds for a single ticket; it ought to be.

The red carpet was there however it was only a short one and to the left of the entrance was the ‘smoking section’ which had tall tables and patio heaters and which also was; underneath a canopy. We walked in and didn’t really have any clue where to go, inside the photographers were lined up on the right and behind them were the ladies and gents bathrooms as well as the cloakroom, so we proceeded to go over and hand our jackets in. As we’d finished, we turned around to see Lady Victoria Hervey come strolling in and began posing in front of the paparazzi, I can’t say that I was impressed with what she was wearing at all. I still feel that she should have had a push up bra with fish fillets or something as her boobs looked unflattering and looked to be in the wrong place in the long clingy dress that she was wearing. However; who am I to judge? My green bra was trying to escape me throughout the evening, so I guess that makes us even; along with the fact that I don’t have the title of ‘Lady’. I am merely just a ‘civilian’.

After the photographers had finished we walked over to the entrance, there were two sexy Radical SR3 race cars that were just aching for the track, while I was drooling over them I noticed a bizarre thing which was the fire extinguisher located right down by the pedals and chuckled to myself as I imagined it’d be quite an effort trying to get to it if the car happened to catch fire. Health and safety I presume. The entrance to the bar was rather magical, the venue had fairy lights on the roof and it looked like a star packed sky. The bar was incredible, at every corner of the rectangle bar were cylinders of cocktails that would be poured into glasses with a long tube; they were quite powerful as well. We mooched around and had a look at the ‘silent-auction’ tables, up for auction were bottles of drink signed by Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and other people, on the other table were paintings by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and other artists.

When the time came to go to our tables there was an announcement “Ladies and gentlemen, dinner is served” and with a loud bang the curtain that was blocking the dining area came down and revealed the most impressively dressed tables with the fairy light sky, truly fabulous. We found our table which was located on the right side of the stage, all tables had a magnum of Veuve Clicquot Champagne in an ice bucket, bottles of red and white wine, water and a huge ice sculpture in the centre of the table with a bottle of Belvedere Vodka sitting in it; I thought to myself ‘So this is how you dress a table’.

Around the edges of the seating area were dancers and impressionists, the dancers I got told were from Stringfellows who were doing their clubbing routine and the impressionists were taking on the form of swans, peacocks and other animals of elegance.

With what seemed everyone sitting down at our table it was almost as if the people sitting with us were too scared to touch the alcohol so I got up out of my chair and lifted up the magnum of champagne, I poured myself one and offered the other guests glasses. I moaned and joked a little bit saying that the bottle is a bit heavy so one of the gents took it from me and poured everyone a drink.

Shortly after everyone was seated, the entrée was served and Michael Portillo got up and welcomed everyone as well as give his spiel on the genetic disorder then proceeded to introduce the entertainment, needless to say it was brilliant. Amici Forever were fantastic and I was awe of their performance, so was Tracy as she’d never really taken an interest in that style of music but had now been converted, she was also impressed with the Chicago performance as again, she’d never had the opportunity to go to theatre so never expressed an interest; until now. To finish off the evening entertainment there was a surprise performance by Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Stepping back in time indeed.

We were talking and munching away quite merrily and generally having a wonderful evening.

At the end of the dinner entertainment a spokesperson got up and began to talk about the disability as well as a couple whom had lost their daughter which became very emotional, at that time I decided to go out for a cigarette. While I was having a cigarette there was another lady whom had a daughter with the condition and she was talking about her life; all of a sudden I found myself becoming rather gloomy and glum which wasn’t a good thing, after all; not many people spend money when they’re sad. She soon left and I finished my cigarette whilst talking to another gent whom was scared about spending money. He said that he always seems to go a bit nuts when it comes to auctions and he can’t sleep in the marital bed for a week as his wife is intolerant regarding his overzealous attitude with bidding wars as he has to win. As we went back in the auctions had begun and Tracy later told me that the man that I was talking to had indeed ended up spending an obscene amount of money.

Both flabbergasted really as my overdraft, visa bill and loan would be considered as ‘peanuts’ and something these people would seemingly spend quite happily on a new outfit or a night out clubbing.

The dinner entertainment and auctions had come to an end and while everyone was waiting for Jamelia to perform it gave the crowd a chance to network. The DJ began to play his set, which was fab; I even asked if I could get a disc off him but forgot to go back and get it, as we mingled I passed a Channel 4 news presenter and all I could say was ‘Hey, it’s the news guy’, he smiled as I walked by in my merry way. Shortly after that I spotted Peter Stringfellow, I walked over and asked if we could get our photo taken and he obliged so we posed - shorter than what I thought he’d be, after I thanked his associate for taking the photo a guy walked up and said to him “Hey you look like a really old devil, can I get a photo”, I couldn’t help but laugh and said “That’s really bad isn’t it”, I didn’t actually mean to say it out loud so Mr Stringfellow’s associate heard me and we both laughed. After our little spot of mingling we ventured outside for yet another cigarette, this time Ross Kemp was outside. He was acting like he was a ‘superstar’ and had hired bodyguards to shield off the supposed admirers; I stayed at the table having my fix of nicotine while Tracy went over to ask for a photo. She came back to the table rather pissed off as he’d refused to get his photo taken, told her to ‘p off’ and seemed to be off his face; no alcohol involved. So not only is he rude and obnoxious, he’s so far up his own glutamous maximus that he can’t even smile and say cheese, just so many people were ‘beneath’ him at that function. After all; it was only crammed full of celebrities, sports stars and public figures.

Finally Jamelia came on and sang a couple of songs; she wasn’t on for that long which was a little disappointing, followed by a fabulous performance from Billy Ocean. By this time we were upstairs looking down onto the stage and the dance floor, there weren’t that many people upstairs so we were both dancing the night away without a care in the world. I ended up snogging a rather sexy rugby chap with very nice shoulders, bit too much tongues for my liking but hey ho!

I was rather sad when the ball finished as I just wanted to party some more, we got our coats and waited for the taxi guy to ring me to let me know he was there, he did and the trip home was hassle-free. Still buzzing from the night before, Tracy discovered that we were sitting at the table with Princess Tamara Czartoryski-Bourbon; Tracy was beside herself to find out that there was a Princess at our table and then we began debating over whether she was named after an alcoholic drink or a biscuit. We still haven’t decided.

Back to reality once more, sometimes I feel like an over-eager school kid as when there are tickets for parties I just get the urge to stick my hands straight up in the air lifting those imaginary weights above my head shouting “Pick me! Pick me! Ooh ooh Pick Me!”

Vonny and I went to India that year for New Year with Cox & Kings, a tailor made holiday where you are escorted the whole way, everything is done for you and you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Taking Vonny to India was a nerve-wrecking thought for me, I haven’t had any urge to go there as Singapore and Bangkok was enough for me, going backpacking there - for me - would just simply be out of the question. We were set to take a trip around the golden triangle which is Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur in a week. Mammoth amounts of travel and a wealth of travel experience for Vonny. I spoke to the travel agent about Vonny’s age – she could go although very rarely do children go on these journeys, they’re more for the discerning traveller that are nearing the lazy age – I say lazy age as it is like someone is holding your hand along the way. I went to the Indian Embassy in London and got the visas, travel insurance from the bank and some travellers cheques as I didn’t want to use my credit card out there – and also the injections/vaccinations, it was nice to be away for New Years in a different country that I’d never been before, welcoming the New Year in with some new experiences etc.

It eventually came to the time we were due to leave so I ordered a cab to the airport and a friend offered to look after ‘Dutch’, Vonny’s dog – he’s a miniature Jack Russell / long haired Chihuahua cross, we found him at a boot sale in Denim. Pretty sure there’s a law about selling ‘livestock’ at a boot sale – he was the cutest lil thing I ever saw and I couldn’t leave him - at a boot sale, I’d never thought I’d get a little dog, if I did get a dog it’d be a Rottweiler, however I wouldn’t because the house isn’t big enough and it’s not really fair - whereas Dutch was the exception.

We were on the plane en route to Delhi, it was a mixture of emotions; excited, nervous, anxious. I was asleep when we flew over the Himalayas, Vonny woke me up as she was really impressed and the view from the air was absolutely amazing. To see the Caspian Sea which is really the brightest blue then over Afghanistan where it’s just all desert and mountains then of course the Himalayas and into Delhi was an experience in itself. The best ever sunrise I have seen was flying into Fiji where were literally chasing the sun – the great ball of fire was glowing with yellow and orange with a pinky tint, I was hoping I could see a sunset on the way back to England.

We arrived in Delhi, the airport was under construction and it was just hectic, went to the baggage claim, got our bags and then started looking for the sign that said ‘Cox & Kings’. Once everyone arrived the group were led to the bus, this is the really funny part – especially when you try to ‘blend in’, it’s hard enough being western but when it has ‘tourist’ written in big black bold writing on the side of a white bus – it stands out like a flashing beacon that can be seen for miles. Vonny and I just stared out the window in amazement, taking in all that was around us like a sponge – we took the ‘scenic route’ - (if you can class it as being ‘scenic’) to the hotel, passed a dentist who was busy pulling someone’s tooth out at the side of the road, passed the ‘charity’ shop – where the clothes people give and that are sent over there – they have to pay for them which I most miffed about. Through markets, ‘bizarre’s’, places where livestock is in cages on the side of the road, car parts of all kinds are hung on the front of buildings – this is where the stolen cars are stripped and sold within 4-5 hours end up. The bike taxis, the cows, the family motorbikes with five or six people sitting on the back, the monkeys and of course the masses of people.
We arrived at the hotel and it was very very lush, it had a huge swimming pool out the back so we dumped our stuff and went and sat by the pool. It was a bit too cold for a swim but we spotted some gheko’s and Chipmunks, cute little things, it’s ‘Alvin, Simon... Theodore... do do dodododoo’ I was singing. One thing that did surprise me was the cloud of pollution just literally hanging in the sky when especially it didn’t seem ‘industrialised’, although there was a Primark store opening as well as Marks & Spencer and of course – Macdonald’s (the ‘maharaja mac’, aka: big mac), and also where the women road layers who build roads brick by brick and sleep on the side of the road didn’t seem to have or use aluminium smelters or smoke pummelling from any chimneys, I could literally taste it.

The next day the group piled onto the bus early to take in a full day tour of Delhi, we overloaded on monuments, buildings, temples and palaces. The group was really nice and everyone in the group got on and Raj (our tour leader) even said that he was impressed with Vonny’s behaviour which was a very proud moment. She was taking it all in and had left the stroppiness at home which was very very relieving. Her mind was constantly busy – witnessing the poor, the very poor and the very very very poor and realising how lucky we both are. Things could be very different indeed – it’s luck of the draw of what country you’re born in. From seeing a lady scoop up cow dung, pat it into circle like formations and put it on the roof to dry in order for it to be used as fuel (we think) to little girls and boys deformed and maimed in order to beg for a living – yes it certainly could be a whole lot different. Of course the impact on Vonny at the time was – mortified – I was most certainly impressed with her compassion, it certainly opened her eyes with a life changing realisation that she is indeed very lucky in all elements and the struggles we have both faced are nothing in comparison.

We were pretty much on the road and visiting places during our seven days touring the ‘Golden Triangle’, a couple of people got incredibly sick and the doctor had to be phoned, Vonny and myself had a case of ‘food adjustment’ although not severe and tummy settlers were doing a pretty good job, uncomfortable but not life threatening.

The time came – the Taj Mahal – one of the seven wonders of the world, as I was singing Stevie Nicks’ song ‘The Seven Wonders’ in my head, Vonny didn’t really realise what all the fuss was about – until this enormous white temple could be seen through a little walkway, every moment was a photo opportunity. It had not long been cleaned so the gleaming whiteness was brighter and indeed it was amazing. Sitting in the seat where Princess Diana once sat taking novelty photos and really just being in awe. It didn’t matter what we saw after that – nothing seemed to match the grandeur. Then again – another experience that we’ll never forget is the Elephant ride, passing herds of camels and learning how to ‘Bollywood’ dance.

New Years was fabulous, we danced the night away to Bollywood music and we both had a great time – it was certainly a whole lot different to our normal New Year’s celebrations which normally involved me getting hammered and trying to get Vonny to dance like a lunatic.

Our time in India had come to an end and it was time to head to the airport and leave, it was hectic as per normal and while we were going through a rather ridiculous amount of checks and trying to understand their love of stamps – (everything got stamped), and getting searched in a makeshift room before heading into the departure lounge – it felt as if we were coming into the country not out of it. What felt like forever was only a short time and we were in the air heading back to the UK (where we’d seen on the news the very very cold snap, -24 in some parts apparently), sure glad I missed that one. It was flying over Ukraine and Poland that we saw the most amazing sunset, it was setting over what looked like ice shelves and snow so it made it more intense that normal, the fiery ball could be clearly seen with the multi-coloured rays filtering outward and reflecting off the snow. Of course – I had my sunnies on as it was a ‘full frontal’ and I’ve heard about radiation sickness that can be got on planes or excessive flying.


 

Chapter 7

 

 

It was superb to be back in my own bed, my own house with my own treasured possessions, and to be able to do just the simplest of things like have my morning dose of caffeine and nicotine in the morning without walking for miles to a designated smoking section – although in saying that we were allowed to smoke indoors in India, kinda weird as I’ve gotten used to smoking outside and it seemed somewhat awkward smoking inside so it becomes a battle of the conscious, it can be compared to sitting outside in Amsterdam having a spliff while a police officer walks past – know it’s normally very naughty – however it is within the law. There are no wandering ‘sacred’ monkeys other than those that can walk and talk and no ‘sacred’ cows coming in and out of wherever they want to. One of the last memories of leaving India was the morning we left we heard a gigantic ‘pop’, Vonny thought it was a gun but it wasn’t – a monkey had jumped onto some live wires and blew itself up, of course nobody wanted to pull it down as the wires are live so it was still hanging there when we left.

The comforts of home were warmly greeted by us both and ready to take on the world once more.

It was January that we found ourselves in the first class carriage of a Virgin train heading to Liverpool for the City of Culture event, we stayed at the Radisson where the centre of the building looked like a beehive or perhaps a space ship with rooms round the edge of a hollow centre so that every floor could see the lobby, Vonny loved it as it was quite surreal.

Vonny opted to stay in the Radisson while I went to the VIP drinking session before the opening of the ‘Liverpool – City of Culture’ show opened, I say drinking session – it was for me but for others – purely a networking thing. At first it seemed everyone was quite snobbish and subdued, I had a few classes of Rose wine and chatted to a few people, it seemed I had forgotten who the fifth Beatle was, it came up in a couple of conversations with different people – and only one person laughed the others seemed to forget also as they tried really hard to remember – it turns out – there is no fifth Beatle – which I found hilarious since I’m not even from Liverpool but they are! The show started with Ringo Starr on drums and Dave Stewart on guitar, Ringo Starr sang his ‘Liverpool I love you’ song while others around me hissed as he’d recently said on a television interview that he doesn’t even like Liverpool and would never go back so I guess the Liverpudlians found that rather hypocritical. The most impressive band to play was The Wombats, they were great, certainly had me jigging about and getting into the party mood, after they finished it seemed they had a ‘parade’ of all the famous people that came from Liverpool to wave to the crowd of people. A little bit strange ‘cos in all fairness – considering that Ken Dodd wasn’t even invited to this event but I guess they couldn’t flaunt Ken because of his tax evasion scandal. Whatever reason – you don’t have to be famous to make something of your life or have extraordinary achievements. I was a bit bored at this shindig, a few giggles for me but it seemed everyone was concentrating on whose arse they could lick so I figured I’ll have one for the road and head back to the hotel. Just as I was getting one for the road one of the Atomic Kittens; pretty sure it was Liz McClannon and her ‘guest’ were behind me in the queue, I said hi and had meaningless chit chat, one of the questions I remember asking was ‘Do you get annoyed if people don’t recognise you’, Liz’ guest laughed and said it was refreshing, worth a giggle.

After I’d had my drink for the road it was time to depart this disappointing Liverpool party and catch a cab back to the hotel. I was fine when I walked down the stairs, felt pretty sober when I got in the cab – all things seemed pretty normal... that was until.. the motocross driver cabby thinking that his ‘cab corners like it’s on rails’ and really he was at Silverstone not the streets of Liverpool. My face was pressed up against the window then sliding over to the other side and then sliding back to the other side where my face on the window seemed to be the breaks – again, it was nothing short of a roller coaster ride and my stomach was swishing and swaying and swirling away and then – it happened I couldn’t contain it no more, said to the cabby I’m going to be sick and got as far as opening the door and was unfortunately sick on the outside step – pretty much straight away the cabby said that he wanted £30 for that. At that point I wasn’t sure whether he was driving erratically in order to make me sick or whether that was indeed the normal way they drove, ether way I was sick. I said to him that I have to go get my switch to get some money out for him so went inside the Radisson and asked the guy at the desk if there was a way to get money out as I had an accident in a cab. There was a tall, dark haired man by the desk, he saw me and I remember him saying ‘Look at her, she’s sick’, I just wanted to crawl in a very small hole as the guy was nice and OMG! The bloody state of me! The tall, dark haired unnamed stranger actually went out to the cab and paid the cabby for me – then was never to be seen again. I miss him but jeez – that has to be one of theeee most embarrassing moments in my whole entire life, others include; my skirt falling off in front of everyone when I was playing hockey, teaching the girls how to pole dance on the train after the Girls Aloud concert at Wembley and unfortunately having a bout of travel sickness on the train which landed on some guys backpack as he was getting off the train... brought about by Rose Wine.

Drinking Rose Wine is probably not the best choice of drink for me, perhaps no wine at all.

I got in the lift and headed for the room with my eyes not really leaving the floor, feeling very shamed but very rescued, I got to the room and tried aiming for the bed but unfortunately I found the comfort of the floor more appealing as that’s where I ended up. Vonny started panicking a little bit as she’s never seen me in such a state where I loved the floor so much and starting muttering about the guy in the lobby and the arsehole cabby and... who the hell is the fifth Beatle! I know there is one! Then I had a case of the giggles before snoring the night away.

Vonny woke me up the next day and she was pretty cool, not stroppy at all which was a major relief. We went and got breakfast and as we were heading back to the room one of the guys from ‘Only Fools and Horses’ was in the lift also, pleasant chit chat not drunken rubbish. I got my nicotine and headed outside for a ciggy, while I was out there a couple of people came out and seemed quite friendly with ‘How are you, yes I saw you last night, giggling’, of course I laughed when she said that. When another conversation with a guy from Dublin about how floors are actually really comfortable and really – we’re not really aiming for the bed to begin with, then Sven went past with his very young school-boyish squad Manchester City, they looked so young, or... I’m getting on a bit now.

Whatever conversation it was for other people it was ‘memorable’ to say the least, like the lady at the bar who ended up in fits of giggles when she was asked to put her room number/name on the bar tab, I just said ‘Sign it Mickey Mouse’, that was it – enough to set her into a fit of giggles. But no more sightings of the man in black – the ‘knight in shining armour’ that rescued my sorry ass. But then – if I did see him I would just want to hide because it was rather embarrassing.

We spent the day in Liverpool before we headed to have a celebration dinner at a church, it was really strange to be seated in a church – eating. The food was rather... pallet specific is a nice way of wording that however – Ken Dodd was at that event and we both had a look around little bits of an exhibition which included the actual Anne Frank diary. Later than evening we headed off to the arena to watch the ‘Liverpool Show’, the show started off funny as the ‘L’ fell off the end and we both thought we were in for some giggles however it just went on about the Titanic and very very old old old history which became mind numbingly boring so we left. Unfortunately with the place being new it seemed none of the security knew how to leave the building so we ended up walking completely around the whole arena – in the rain. Not impressed. I got Vonny back to the hotel and himmed and haa’d about going to the ‘party’ at the docks. I went however it was only for a short time, I liked it ... but. The good things; the ice sculpture which vodka would come out of its mouth, two groupie girlies that were giggling and screeching ‘he’s really fit’.

I was standing outside and a couple of guys came and stood next to me, I didn’t have a clue who they were but two giggling girls came running up said to one of them ‘You’re so fit, you’re so fit! Can we take a picture?’, so they asked me and I took a picture of them while giggling – once the girls had gone I asked him politely ‘What do you do?’ he then asked a question in return ‘Where are you from?’ – the conversation turned into something cryptic and I had to solve a puzzle, I said I’m originally from New Zealand and he said ‘Oh you get it over there’, ‘Get what?’, while thinking ‘oh for fuck sake – surely it’s not that difficult’, ‘Yeah you get it’, ‘Get what’, he then said ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Ohh’, I said while my face had the expression of an imaginary light bulb, ‘I don’t watch that’, he laughed sarcastically as he started to walk off - his mate was alright, less egotistical than he was, as he was walking away he said loudly ‘Oh roll ups eh?’ – Yes I smoke roll ups... ooooo..... some people ask whether I have anything other than tobacco in it – others such as the up-himself-actor made a weak attempt to try and put it in a way which is demeaning in order to claim back their ‘imaginary power’ – obviously he was offended as I didn’t know who he was and asked him. Grimbsy or something character; I googled. Ryan Thomas his name was.

That was about the end of the night for me and soon back on the train heading home. It was a rather strange weekend to say the least.

Next up was another fashion show, it was the Deryk Walker catwalk show during On/Off as part of London Fashion Week. I was rather excited as I expected it to be fabulous having gone to the Fashion Fringe last year and had a taster as to what catwalk shows are all about. Vonny was looking forward to it also as she was also blown away by the whole thing last year. We found it and met up with a couple of others and then were shown around the venue, the other designers clothing and then we were led into a ‘holding area’ where anyone could get a hand massage and one; yes – just one, glass of champagne. Just before the show was about to start we were led to the seating area, Vonny was placed at the back however she had just enough room to see and within a short time; it began. The models came out and it was then that I realised that this catwalk is by no way a standard that should ever be repeated, the models couldn’t walk properly, they were indeed stick thin as the girls shoulder blades were protruding from their undernourished bodies, the male models were just as bad. The female models were fighting with themselves as they were attempting to strut down the catwalk but had great difficulty in walking as the pencil skirts that they had on had no split at the back, or front or side - making it rather a tricky affair to walk, the only thing about these skirts was that there was what seemed to be a colostomy bag around about where the arse is; I have no idea what he was thinking but it was protruding outwards which gave the impression that along with the downside of being models; if you have to go to the toilet but do not have enough time; there is another option.. nobody would know... The calibre of these models was horrendous and compared to the models at the Fashion Fringe; it was indeed ‘Skinny write-up worthy’. These are the kind of models that are repelled by the press and parents and to see it right before my eyes was rather sickening. The lingering odour of shit and vomit from the ladies bathroom was attempting to make itself fashionable on the catwalk by some ‘fabulous’ designer and proclaimed as being ‘one of the best designers from the UK in a long time’.

Fool me – I thought it was a bit dire. I was disappointed and told the rep so, I think she got a bit annoyed as not many people are ‘honest’ at these events; it’s all about arse-kissing and networking. I was honest, others weren’t, and my point was proven as the other guests told me that they too were disappointed after the rep had left. There’s a bizarre twist knowing that his collection was named ‘A wolf in sheep’s clothing’. Glad to leave that one and relieved that I could now stop lecturing Vonny about her weight as she was ‘grossed out’.

Life goes on a little bit longer then the opportunity to go have a meal with four guys came up – so obviously I went, they were ‘Teatro’. They were being billed as ‘Theatreland’s First Supergroup’, as well as a ‘Theatreslashpop-group’, well; that’s what the television interviews were suggesting.

Sony BMG had got hold of me over the phone and asked if I knew who they were, she went on to say that they had invited other guests previously only to find that a rather elderly lady showed up whom didn’t have a clue who they were, in fact; thought that the band were guests. I felt quite sorry for them; that has got to be the absolute pits. I first caught them in action while they were singing on BBC’s One Show, it was just before Christmas and Shivon was at her dads; there wasn’t a lot to do apart from get hammered, so I cracked open the bottle of champagne that I’d been saving and drank it whilst singing “Walking in a winter wonderland”. It felt like I had that tune permanently stuck in my head and unfortunately; I was getting rather irritated by it when I met them; go figure; isn’t that one for the books? I’d not long seen the guys on television and now - dinner with them

Teatro consists of four guys; Simon Bailey (lead man in Les Miserables), Stephen Rahman-Huges (Bombay Dreams), Jeremiah James (New Yorker) and Andrew Alexander who was a recent Royal Academy of Music graduate. They’d not long met the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance and were busy doing their publicity stints with interviews on television etc. Their self entitled debut album is a mix of theatrical songs, ‘Winter Wonderland’ wasn’t on there but there was one that I did really like and that was ‘Lady Luck’.

I was to meet them in a restaurant in Covent Garden; Tracy (who I’d invited) couldn’t make it as she was rather ill so I trotted off on my own. It was quite a tricky restaurant to find and I arrived there a few minutes late, I was actually quite nervous when I walked in and introduced myself and vice versa. The evening began with “Hi! Sorry I’m late”, then I proceeded to give everyone a kiss whilst working my way round the table, I might’ve gave the impression that I was oozing with confidence however it was the complete opposite; I desperately needed a drink to calm my nerves as the shakes were starting to kick in, after all; it’s not every day that I get to go out to dinner with four guys (as well as a ‘+1’ as the PA was there) and who also just happen to be ‘famous strangers’.

I was rather hesitant about meeting them as I was thinking that perhaps they might’ve been ‘stuffy’; perhaps share the same egotistical tendencies as the Coronation Street guy had so charmingly displayed in Liverpool, or maybe the same narcissistic tendencies as Hannah Spearitt’s dropkick boyfriend had, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Nice chaps although I don’t know what happened to the band, bummer they didn’t do a swing type Rat Pack number ‘cos I like that.

Then with the luck of the draw – it was my turn to be in a magazine, none other than OK! Magazine, I had a phone call from a man representing OK! Magazine and he gave me a brief interview over the phone in order to take part in a ‘reader’s panel’ for the new Diva TV Channel which would be featured in the magazine. He fired some questions at me so I answered them with the first thing that came in to my head; probably not a good thing as one needs to think before one speaks to the press. The next day a photographer stopped by and he brought his brief of what he needed to do. He took a few pictures with me in the house trying to pose the best I could; given that I hadn’t had any ‘posing training’ before, we later ventured down out to the car park and I posed in my car and then later to the canal where I posed some more. He’s the second person that has said that I look similar to Catherine Zeta-Jones; I can’t pick it myself, however he went on to say that he has actually seen her as well as photographed her. It was about a week later that I was in Sainsbury’s having a flick through the latest issue of OK! Magazine to see if it was in - and there it was. I started shaking and giggling at the same time thinking ‘Ooh Look! There’s me!!’ Closed it and found my composure once again then flick it open again ‘Ooh Look! There’s me again!’ People must’ve thought I was quite strange standing in the isle while giggling and making exciteable faces at a magazine. I hurried off to the checkout, bought it and scurried home to have a good nosey. Yes indeed, issue 612 on March the 4th with Jordan and Harvey on the front cover, flicking through and there was me on page 85. There were three other ladies on the panel; Sarah Hendypartridge (a 30 year old married mother to two young children who lives in Bristol), Karen Peaurt (a 39 year old lady with two teenagers who lives with her partner in North Yorkshire) and Sarah Foran (a 31 year old lady with two toddlers and lives with her partner in Manchester). My picture was quite amusing as I sat and began to be critical about how I looked in such a glossy magazine; I looked as if I was in the process of having some kind of debate; when really the photographer was sitting beside me as I was pretending to type and I was making out that I was in the classroom again saying out loud “I remember this in school, it goes; a, s, d, f, semi, l, k, j”. As I read the article it dawned on me that it didn’t really make a lot of sense, the questions were:

“Who do you think is the most stylish female celeb around today, and why?” and the response was:

“Victoria Beckham – it’s her job to look good. Stars like Kate Moss look too grungy. Victoria has taste. She’s a real lady with a bit of class and she’s obviously passionate about clothes. I like her jeans and her skinniness doesn’t bother me – even though I’ve got hips. Of course even Victoria has off days like wearing that green Ninja Turtle style dress!”

“Do you think being judged on how you look is fair?”

Yes. People ought to have pride in their appearance. I also don’t think people should be embarrassed about having cosmetic surgery when age starts to take its toll. I’ve recently had electrolysis on my upper lip”

“What was your worst fashion faux pas?”

“I went to a party which Girls Aloud also attended. I wore a pencil skirt and a purple top and my hair was a mess”

I read it and giggled, I’m sure that I didn’t say that Victoria has taste, she’s a real lady with a bit of class and she’s obviously passionate about clothes or the comment about her jeans or skinniness not bothering me. What I did say was that I didn’t fit into her jeans range as I have hips; they had just tweaked it a little bit. The comment about the Ninja Turtle dress was true as it was rather luminous and I did say that ‘normally’ she gets it right and looks great. As far as the Kate Moss and Sienna Miller wannabes of the world; yes they all look grungy for my liking.

Meanwhile the other ladies had varied comments, Sarah had said that she thinks Sienna Miller is the most stylish, that you should be judged on how you look ‘up to a point’ and her fashion faux pas was wearing men’s jeans. Karen went for Coleen McLoughlin as having a great fashion sense and ‘girl next door’ look while suggesting that you should only judge a person if they are ‘scruffy’ ; not if they are overweight or thin and her fashion no-no was wearing a green polka dot ra-ra skirt to a party. Which left Sarah opting for Kylie Minogue as stylish, saying that it’s not fair when she is judged due to the fact that she is overweight, and the embarrassing attire was the lilac with green side striped shellsuit along with matching trainers.



The next issue came out so I wandered down to Sainsbury’s to get it, same thing again; flick flick flick... “Oooh Look! There’s Me!!”

Victoria and David were on the front cover this time along with Nicole Richie and her newborn, Wayne and Coleen and Jordan. I found myself on page 116, it was the photo of me trying to pose in my car, I had my sunnies on and my hands looked really weird as I was holding onto the steering wheel. That picture was quite comical in comparison to the other ladies; I looked ‘cool’.

This week’s questions were:

“What’s your philosophy when it comes to children’s diets and the threat of obesity?”

“It goes from one extremity to the other with girls. One moment they want to pig out the next they want to go on a diet. So it’s about having things in moderation and making them more attractive. If they want to have chips let them – but make them homemade. The same with pizza – it can be done much healthier at home”

“With worries about the internet and street crime, what do you think is the biggest threat to children today?”

“It’s quite scary to see what children have been talking about online and I’ve banned chat sites. It’s easy for an adult to chat to them anonymously and banning this kind of site can have added benefits – my child now reads more”

“Which celebrity do you most admire for raising their children?”

“Hats off to Angelina Jolie for adopting. She was doing it long before Madonna and seems determined that they should know all about where they came from”


Well; it didn’t make any sense to me when I read that and I instantly thought that the editor in charge had been on a coffee break. “One moment they want to pig out the next they want to go on a diet” and “Having things in moderation and making them more attractive”; didn’t make any sense at all. What I’d said was that it goes from one extreme to the other, they either eat too much or they try not to eat; there’s never any ‘in-between’. Perhaps I didn’t explain myself clearly as I was describing two sets of groups. Of course it’s all about having what you’d like; in moderation, but as far as ‘making them more attractive’; that was just weird.

There are obvious things that I could’ve said pertaining to the biggest threat to children today and that would’ve been parents not giving a shit of what their child is up to either at school or after school. I opted for the most obvious answer and of course celeb mum; Angelina Jolie, of course. “She was doing it long before Madonna” could’ve been taken in any (if not provocative) context and due to Madonna’s controversialist behaviour; I’m sure she’d disagree. The actual meaning of that rather bizarre response was that Angelina has been doing her charity work in third world countries way before the controversial ‘buying a baby’ hit the press courtesy of Madonna. And yes, she still does charity work as well as look after her kids and not forgetting that she works her arse off. Her adopted kids are safe in the knowledge that both mum and dad are bringing the third world to the front page on a regular basis in order to help others that remain there. I’m sure if Angelina was allowed to adopt a country; she would. There are seemingly two very different reasons (that I believe) behind Madonna adopting and Angelina adopting
When reading the others comments; they all seemed to make more sense than mine. So unfair.

Sarah stated that exercise along with five-a-day was essential, she blames bad discipline from parents as the biggest threat to kids and she admires Princess Diana for raising her kids. Karen has a ‘if you don’t eat it you go without’ approach to children’s diets; she worries about suicide cults and cyber-bullying and admires Bob Geldof as a celebrity parent. Lastly; Sarah would like to see more regulation to be brought in regarding children’s food and is a Jamie Oliver fan, she thinks that the government needs to put in more resources into the internet to help prevent the children from looking at ‘bad stuff’ and she admires Katie Price and stated “She’s a strong mum who copes very well given the fact that one of her children has a disability”.

Roll on week 3…

As I picked up the issue of OK! Magazine I was quite nervous about opening it while thinking “Would it make any sense?” , “Is my picture going to be alright this week?” and wondering if any other celebrities buy glossy magazines just to see themselves featured in it, do they inspect how they look and what they’d said and compare it to what had been printed. Cheryl, Nicola and Kimberley were on the front cover this time along with Victoria Beckham and her son, and once again; Jordan: AKA; Katie Price.

I opened it and had a flick and there I was; opposite the horoscope page. My photo was ‘okay’ this time; I was sat in my car and was grinning like a Cheshire cat. I let out a little sigh as I began to read it as I was dreading that it wouldn’t make any sense, this week the questions were:

“What is your biggest ambition when it comes to keeping fit?”

“To look good for my own self esteem and also to set an example to my own daughter. I think it’s important to be in proportion as a mum. Having a little bit of meat on you is a good thing unlike some of these skinny models you see around with protruding shoulders”

“What do you think of alternative medicine?”

“I’m not keen on Chinese herbal medicine but I think things like aromatherapy can work in conjunction with ordinary medicine. Scents can be quite powerful. I also get down when it’s grey so I take zinc pills during the winter to give my system a boost”

“What would you most like to change about your body?”

“My bum. I’ve got a double bum no matter how many press ups or other exercises I do”

I thought ‘Not again’, I remember the first question quite well as he’d asked me what I thought of the size zero phenomena and after being to the Deryk Walker show, the models there were absolutely grotesque and did in fact have protruding shoulder blades, shoulder blades; not protruding shoulders and how can my bum to press ups. I’d mentioned that when I met Sarah Harding it was around about the same time that she was getting rapped for being ‘too skinny’ along with her ‘Spock’ haircut; however to me; she looked in proportion, and my response was accordingly so; it’s important to be in proportion, rather than ‘important to be in proportion as a mum’; I’d said that being a mum it’s my obligation to set an example. The ‘having a bit of meat on you’ got a little graphic as I’d told him what a male friend had told me regarding wafer thin ladies, he’d said that “It was like shagging a plank, feels like you’re banging a plank of wood”; obviously that couldn’t be printed.

And of course; my bottom, yes I have a ‘double bum’ because; I’m greedy. I did actually say squats; not press ups; as everyone knows that press ups build strength on the upper half of the body; not the rear end. Yeesh!

The other ladies commented on the same questions, Sarah had said that she needs to lose weight and researches mainstream medicine and that she would like to have laser surgery on her eyes but is too scared. Karen had said that she was on a mission to keep fit as she has a kidney disease and thinks alternative medicine is rubbish, and also that she’d like to change her stomach as its ‘flabby’ after having the children. And Sarah suggests that she drinks a bottle of water a day and detoxes on a regular basis, she gave a diplomatic response regarding the alternative medicine and that she’d like to change her nose but doesn’t think that she’ll have plastic surgery.

The fourth week came round and Issue 615 was on the shelf, “Lucky last” I thought as I picked it up and couldn’t resist flicking. Kerry Katona was on the front cover with headlines “Kerry breaks down”, and “I’m the most hated person in Britain”. News to me I thought, I thought Chanelle was, as well as Charlie, and of course not forgetting Nicki; they just seem to be scrapping an awful lot in order to get those ‘column inches’. Then again, there’s always Jade that used to be the most hated person in Britain, so I guess being hated has it’s bonus’; it’ll get you on the front cover at least.

I opened it up and my first reaction was “Ooooo, it’s a full frontal this time”, somewhat proud of the fact that I looked half descent and definitely thankful that I was the better looking of the bunch (being bias of course).

The questions were:

“What would you do if a man cheated on you?”

“A partner once cheated on me and I left him. But it hasn’t put me off men. In fact I think women are just as bad when it comes to having affairs. In terms of whether people should leave someone who strays – I think it depends on them and the situation. When it comes to one night stands I don’t think people pay enough attention to what diseases they might be catching”

“Do famous women do enough in todays society?”

“A lot of women seem to be spending their time in rehab treating it like a spa holiday or like a visit to church. I think a lot of them would do better to go travelling for a while and sorting themselves out”

“Which woman would you most like to have round for coffee?”

“Sarah Harding. She’d bring champagne! Sarah parties hard but still stays level headed”

Well, it’s the last week being featured in the magazine and I was somewhat pleased with my responses this time.

Although I asked if I could have a party rather than a coffee and I had to pick one only; seemed unfair. A ‘responsible’ answer regarding sexual diseases and of course the last question that I got asked was what I thought about celeb’s going into rehab.

All the other ladies; Sarah, Karen and the other Sarah; had all said that there was no excuse carrying on the relationship once a partner has strayed and would dump him immediately. Sarah also said that some women do enough in todays society but couldn’t understand why Rebecca Loos was considered ‘famous’ as fame should be dependent on talent, and she’d have Sharon Osbourne over for coffee.

Karen didn’t think famous women do enough; especially ‘wags’ and would like to have Lauren Bacall over and lastly, Sarah gave another diplomatic answer regarding the question of whether famous women do enough in society and she’d like to have Dawn French over saying that “She’d keep you entertained an she’s the sort of person you could pour your heart out to as well”. It gave me the impression that Sarah might be a little depressed.

I was quite intrigued at how the glossy magazine made the questions and answers gel in away that could portray you in a way that they see fit. Sure they were my answers vaguely, however some of the answers were to different questions; so what they’d done is ask a question which I would answer accordingly then they’d take my answer and put another question to the answer that I had given then tweaked it a little. In the first week that I was in OK! Magazine it had “Corr” in brackets beside my name, I didn’t actually know what that meant so I asked; it turned out that ‘corr’ is short for ‘correct spelling’ which the editors didn’t bother to take off. I would’ve rather kept on thinking that the ‘corr’ meant ‘she’s really hot’ type thing; but sadly it wasn’t. So when other celebrities claim that ‘they didn’t say that’, they probably did; it was just probably the response to a different question to what they were asked at the time or taken out of context.

Then one sunny afternoon I had a phone call from Capital Radio and apparently I had been shortlisted to win a date with Calum Best, I was to do a short video which would be published on the internet site and a couple of people would have to vote for the winner. There were 10 girls; some who knew who Calum Best was and others who didn’t, it also involved going on a shopping spree at Topshop and having your hair and makeup done by the professionals – all of which would be filmed and again published on the website for all to see. My filming was done by the canal and with people walking past and making comments I couldn’t help but giggle and that was on the final cut.. me – giggling. I watched the video and had yet another giggle and also had a look at whom I was competing with. It was the following Wednesday when the top three were listed on the site and I wasn’t even on the board, I thought to myself – do I really want to go and have dinner with Mr Best? Could I afford to lose a bloody good Christmas present for Vonny? How bad do I want this? I mean – really? Then that all guiding little voice inside my head said ‘Do it, you can win’, so I employed some teenage staff with bribery and began spamming the internet scrounging for votes. Fiona was busy clicking away and leaving comments on the board which I enjoyed reading and from then on it was more ‘May be the best woman win’. The voting was to finish on the Sunday evening at midnight and I had a look on the Monday morning however I wasn’t on the board so I presumed that I had lost – however, just before I was about to go down to Sainsbury’s and get the shopping I had the phone call from Sam at Capital radio telling me that I had won and I was to be at Capital Radio headquarters in Leicester Square at 10am the following day. I had to organise Vonny etc, gave the ‘babysitter’ a bottle of vodka and off I went the following morning.                                                                                                                                                    

It wasn’t at all what I was expecting – well I don’t really know what I was expecting, perhaps a few hours to mooch around, nice and casually try on some new clothes. It was the complete opposite – to me it felt like work experience. The well rehearsed smile of Janet Jackson was to rear its head again as Sam had a permanent smile and of course – wrinkle free and white teeth, the day of constant filming had begun with walking down the stairs of Capital Radio and then into the Peugeot car that sat outside. Once we got to Topshop the stylist had picked out some clothes as I was asked what my dress and shoe size was the previous day (I said size 10/12, shoe size 6), however to my despair I seemed to be having a ‘fat day’ as nothing fit and was all pretty much ‘hideous’ as Vonny would put it. Apparently the stylist had dressed Jordan and Kate Moss previously, well; the vast majority of us would know that with shit loads of plastic surgery and with the help of a few lines (not the ones that are drawn with a pen) work wonders for the physique and the press factor – however, for most of us ladies whom are swimming in the smaller/lack funding pond – a fat day with crap clothes is the reason why women shout ‘Oh for fuck sake!’. .. very very quietly of course. I wasn’t asked what kind of style I liked or the colours or anything etc so the line of fashion that she had on the rail was just way off track for me completely. I was told that I had about ten minutes to find an outfit for the ‘date’ so like a ferret I began scanning the floor for something to wear. I ended up getting a rouched black dress that made me look a bit on the tarty side, it had a sequinned shoulder strap that didn’t quite sit where it was supposed to be sitting and I began to think to myself – this is really going to piss me off, I’d be sitting there twitching and not being very comfortable at all. As I tried it on one of the girls said to me ‘Smile, this is happy, happy, happy, happy’. I just thought to myself – just completely fuck off, I’m sure that she’d be stressed if she couldn’t find anything to wear in the space of 10 minutes. As she wandered off to go get whatever I asked the camera-man again how I was doing for time and he said that I had about 20 minutes – not 10 as previously told. By this time it was reaching about 1pm – ish and I was in great need of some form of alcohol.

Pretty soon after that we did some more filming and was then to go have lunch somewhere in Chelsea, as I sat down at the table feeling somewhat awkward, stressed and frustrated.  I decided to go and see if I could find an outfit with a time limit of about twenty minutes, off I trotted and indeed I found an outfit, bought it and even had enough time for a ciggerette – which I was most certainly proud of and left me with a great feeling of achievement. Yes it is true I should’ve taken my own outfit to wear however I was under the impression that I would’ve had a little time to shop – perhaps a couple of hours not ten or twenty minutes, and it’s always nice to get something new to wear out.

After lunch it was time to get the hair and makeup done – all of which was filmed. The camera turned into a stalker, there is no other way to put it, and before too long it was the ‘date’ time – which was all filmed as well. No rest for the wicked. It began to rain softly as we were outside the Aldo Zilli’s Restaurant and I had to do a couple of takes getting out of the car and walking across the road. As I stood and waited outside the restaurant with the driver I strongly requested a drink – tequila please! My first drink was around 7pmish and it went down very very easily – probably could’ve done with another one actually but the camera man was on his way downstairs to catch ‘the entrance’. So I followed him down the steep stairs in my stilettos and soon there was a voice saying ‘Hey you’. It was Mr Calum climbing over the seat to give me a hug. 

I wasn’t very ‘lady like’ and I pretty much fell into the little booth type set up and the camera man positioned the camera directly in front of me which made the whole experience rather strange. I did feel like asking the camera if it wanted a drink; after all they say that the camera ‘is your friend’, ‘be one with the camera’ – however probably not the best questions to ask and I did really feel like hitting it out of the proverbial park.

He gave me some roses, all very nice but not so when I know that he didn’t actually go out of his way to get them – the lady from Capital Radio made it quite obvious when I was getting my hair done. I asked him ‘Did you get these yourself or did you get someone to get them for you’, he muttered something about having the thorns cut off and avoided eye contact. I began to think ‘should I impress him with my drinking skills?’ – probably not the best thing to do. But then again – it’s a ‘fake’ date, a PR stunt, nothing more than a pay cheque for the people involved – so did it really matter?  

I knew a little bit about him, I knew that he was on ‘Love Island’ but Brendan was getting on my nerves and the last I remember of that show was when no-one knew where the Falkland Islands is on the world map so I switched over. I’d watched the episode of his self titled documentary or sexless test programme ‘The best is yet to come’, the one that I seen was when his mate took him to the desert and did some ‘spiritual’ stuff and some sperm kicking exercises. I asked him how long ago that was filmed and it turns out it was about two or three years ago. 

He did ask about my past but all I said about it was “It was pretty hard core”.  He didn’t say much after that and carried on playing with his phone.  Apparently he was going to meet a friend and he was running late.  In Aldo Zilli’s restaurant the ‘VIP’s’ normally go downstairs, the stairs are steep and with heels the focus is on getting to the bottom in one piece, there was a fish tank with some fish in it and that’s about all.  He showed me his tattoos, not overly impresssed however I did find myself being slightly fixated on the ‘Karma’ one he had on his arm.  He had a ring and it said “Sex, drugs and rocknroll”, or something.  As he caught me out staring he said something and I looked at him and had to take in a gasp of air and look away as it was the same ‘poor boy lost look’ just like the ‘heartbroken questioning everything’ look that my brother had at our first funeral.

Nearing the end Calum asked me what my number was - I was still yaddering about something completely unrelated apparently, he looked at me and said ‘Don’t make this difficult’, so I gave him my mobile number. It was almost as if I’d done something wrong and I should be throwing my number at him, forever grateful that he’d asked for my number. 

At the end of the ‘date’, I was standing outside the restaurant and getting leered at by guys walking past, I said to Calum off the cuff that I get a lot of attention and he just muttered ‘Yeah I bet’ with a smug grin while he carried on texting, incredibly subtle but yet so much just like the proverbial pimp.  Soon after that we said our goodbyes, got our photo taken and then I was in the cab going home. It’s now on a Capital Radio’s podcast on itunes, don’t know when it’ll be deleted.

When the picture of Calum and I appeared on the website – it was the strangest thing ever, not only was it kinda weird being a ‘pop-up’ on Capital’s website but Calum looked like an ex-boyfriend, so much so that even Vonny said that he looked like an ex.

Vonny was impressed that I had Calum’s number on my phone, I tried to explain to her that it really doesn’t ‘mean’ anything as it was ‘just for the camera’and in reality these people really don’t give a fuck but not only that – how many thousands of people does he have on his phone, most people have at least a couple of hundred whereas me – I have five.

Calum was off, scurrying down the street with other things on his mind, people to see – places to be, a completely different ‘walk off life’ to me and in all reality I’d be forgotten the next day.  Besides the fact that he’d had a death to deal with that was in the public eye and made some bad decisions at the time I was still made to feel like I should be grateful, after all he’s more famous than me.  When the after-interview came you’re even more put into a position where you feel guilty for saying “it wasn’t the best day I’ve had” for the fear of pissing other people off which is also confusing because it is a competition, I won it, however was more focused on the marketing & PR to really give a fuck about how I felt during the day.

In all fairness, Calum had an alcoholic dad which is a little different to sudden death and a massacre etc.   It’s been written numerous times where the ‘survey says’, or ‘study shows’ that ‘people’ like myself either turn to crime, drugs or have other devious and destructive tendencies whereby what has been shown or demonstrated to ‘us’ during our childhood etc is then passed on to our kids and so on and so forth, commonly referred to as the cycle of abuse.  It takes an enormous amount of energy defending yourself in front of judges and scheming ex-husband’s as well as people that like to meddle in order to prove that you aren’t.  But then you’re put into a position where you can’t do anything because you’ve been labelled as a bad parent and have a rather violent past which all of a sudden makes you responsible, in all fairness what that does is just brand you a criminal because of what someone else did and you have less time enjoying being a parent because everything you say or do in held in evidence against you.  You are always made to feel like you are in the wrong and even if you need a shit – you need to get permission.

Which is bizarre because what tends to happen more often than not is the victims get more abuse rather than support.  Or completely written off.

It was the ‘Calum thing’ that made things ‘click’ into place, on one side it was quite cruel, it made me quite sick.

Fiona, I noticed, turned into my main ‘stalker’

It made me quite ill, the IBS kicked in and I was in that much pain that I went down to the A&E – not that that helped any and they said that there was nothing that they could do so that was pretty much a waste of time altogether.
 

Chapter 8

That was 2008; it’s now April 2011... Three years ago.



Briefly, In 2009 Tracy & I went to the Baftas, it was Tracy’s first red carpet experience and she bolted, funny – I did say that it was quite freaky and the first time you walk the ‘red carpet’ you just tend to race down the other end, she insisted she wasn’t going to – but she did and I was left in her dust – in the middle of the red carpet.. in front of the press quietly shouting ‘wait, wait up’ – but no – she was gone, Tracy was the clear winner.

Pendulum signed our Wakestock ticket and sent it back to us – in the post, thought that was pretty wicked and Groove Armada signed Vonny’s photo that she took and also popped it back into the post to us, saw Sam Sparro & The Pretenders at Koko’s, went to the Prince of Narnia Premiere at the O2 (apparently the biggest premiere ever) and I saw The Bangles (!!) & The Police at Hard Rock (although that might’ve been the year before). Went to the Nuts Football awards at Cafe de Paris where Mark Bright told me off for smoking and Chanelle looked as if she was going to burst into tears – and it was me that got that party started. Met the Saturdays where Vonny had her picture taken with them and ended up in a teen magazine, took the girls to 17 Again premiere where they couldn’t believe that they were in the same room as Zac Effron.

But nothing.. I say nothing – had me prepared for the phone call I got from Marie Claire magazine telling me that I had been chosen for a makeover/photoshoot for the Clairol Perfect 10 campaign. That was truly amazing, I’m getting a bit older – not a spring chicken as they say and I got picked!! Hurrah!

I trotted off to London where my hair was straightened and my makeup had been immaculately applied and ready to poise in front of the camera – about a month or so later the photo was in Marie Claire and then after another month or so – there was me again – a whole page all to myself, a huge deal for me but unfortunately had comments saying ‘That’s not you’ from women generally to ‘That is a really good likeness’, I figured at that point it’s probably not wise to let people know what I’m up to – just seem to get shit or it’s a jealousy thing. I loved it either way. Something that I thought that could never be possible becoming a reality – truly an amazing experience and it is now firmly placed on my ‘trophy’ wall.

Next up was my first tele ad, I did it for free – thought it’d be a good experience – wouldn’t normally do it, never had that opportunity.. well.. not until now – so off I trotted into London. I didn’t really know what to expect – however that day I found out that I can do the cancan - in hotpants even, hair bouncing everywhere, my arse too big for the chair (big sigh), my potbelly and spotty face dancing around in hotpants. I do have a pair of shorts however they are for decoration purposes only – I look at them, never wear them – only to find myself in tight high waisted hot pants.. cough cough. I never did see the ad, of what I did see was a blip during rehearsals on youtube. It featured Katie Green and slim water.. or something. 

The worst thing about 2009 would have to be Pixie Lott’s album launch in Berlin. I took Vonny, we had to be at Stansted Airport at 5am or some stupid hour ready to board ‘Pixie’s private jet’ to Berlin where she would be doing her album launch. All very exciting – I was thinking it’d be a wicked party, but it was quite the opposite. We stayed at the hotel as it would be an absolute nightmare to try and there at some obscene hour of the morning so we were good little individuals ready and waiting. After numerous check in’s, waiting around, being herded from one place to another we caught sight of ‘Pixie’s private jet’ – it was actually a 747 that’d been branded ‘Pixie Lott’, made me laugh. We got on board and were still excited; friends/family up the front, the bulk of the plane was press and at the rear of the plane were her patient fans - including us. Kinda ‘out of sight out of mind’ it would seem as once the press got their photos she boarded the plane, stood up and said hello then disappeared out of sight, didn’t say gidday to any of us down the back.

We arrived in Berlin and I did indeed turn into a tourist, It’s the Berlin Wall. Well – what’s left of it anyway.

It was quite a tedious day, arrived at the venue, Pixie did her set, and we left. I had two beers in Berlin that day, Vonny danced, took photos and during the hour performance she was incredibly happy – until we headed back to London and the lady gave us the wrong gate information for the airport in Berlin, said Vonny could get her picture taken with Pixie – but Pixie was already on the plane and didn’t socialise as per normal, the ‘on board entertainment’ was watching the chorus of ‘boys and girls’ video over and over and over... and over and over.. I cannot describe how I now hate that song. Got to Stansted, got on a bus to go to London then sit and wait for her to do a show somewhere in London. 12 hours later.. no food (well actually I tell a lie, a cake thing on the plane), no drink – actually – another lie – Two beers in Berlin, Vonny had water. I said to one of the PR guys was there or would there be an opportunity for Vonny to get a photo with her – he then shouted at me because apparently ‘his colleague had no right to tell you that’, he was an arsehole. As Vonny and myself were about to head home we stopped and chatted to one of the other girls who went to the album launch in Berlin, she’d come from Liverpool and also stayed at the hotel in Stansted at her expense and was pretty livered, she reminded me that we didn’t do anything wrong, the PR people are indeed wankers and Pixie is indeed ignorant for being so completely oblivious to her fans that were indeed treated like shit / extra baggage if you like. Soooo not good.

Pleased to be back home and disappointed about the whole Pixie thing – next up the Clothes Show... yay! We had a chinwag to George Lamb whom wished Vonny a happy birthday which she was most happy about and made up for the Pixie thing and best of all... shopping.

It was shortly after that that I found myself on Mars.

I was only on Mars for three days and by the time I landed back on earth in a pair of ugg’s my feet were trashed, fake tan stained my fingernails and toenails and when they took the wig off at the end of the day my head felt weightless.  It was my first movie and there must’ve been at least 200 other extras there.  I was an alien woman being all alieny on a Disney Movie called John Carter of Mars.

You. White slave.  Bring me my nuts on a silver platter.. no it wasn’t it was: You.  In flight slave, bring me my nuts on a silvahh plattaah.  I am unsure about why I said that, maybe it was the naked men.  I instantly claimed the planet as my own.  Mars in mine – I think I convinced them.  The set was kitted out with a few massive green screens, pretend martian animals and some freaky looking people, I mean aliens.  Mars was my first marriage, it took five minutes to get an annulment and jump over to the fun side.  One of the AD’s (assistant director) came over and just starting pairing people up and unfortunately being as nice as I can he really did talk martian.  We just had to walk around the spaceship and be all like “Oh look whats that!” but the guy that I instantly divorced took it to extremes and began pointing at absolutely everything, so we’re walking around the spaceship bearing in mind I’m walking as quickly as I can just to get away from the pointy martian guy and my wig got stuck in the spaceship and all of a sudden my head was stuck and “Aaaaahhh help me help save me save I’m stuck on the spaceship”, and just at the moment the two main actors walk by and I’m supposed to be walking but can’t move.  Hands just waving around ever so slightly.

One of the actors arrived on set but being bald I didn’t recognise him, it took a while to work out who he was as just the name ‘Mark Strong’ didn’t ring any bells for me.. I eventually worked it out with the statement ‘Ohh.. Rock’n’Rolla!!’ while pointing at him. Quite embarrassing that little flash bulb, I now know who Mark Strong is... and I certainly do – recognise the name. There was a little group of us martians that ended up behind Mark Strong and another guy called Taylor Kitsch, we were coming down the stairs and then.. there was a random ‘Hello’, it was Taylor Kitsch saying hello to me – I checked behind me first just to double check, so... obviously I said something stupid like ‘How yah goin’... instead of ‘hello and/or trip down the stairs or something for not watching where my feet and dress were going. The ‘Ak ak ak’ didn’t quite catch on (Mars attacks... different movie). Because you’re not supposed to talk to them – remain silent at all times etc.  After that brief introduction it was back for the next take, running up the stairs behind both Taylor & Mark Strong - trying very hard not to perve at his bottom. There weren’t many other places anyone could look, guys everywhere, most of them strippers and most of them half naked.

Given the fact it’s not very often one has the opportunity just to simply admire the scenery of half naked stripper martian men (I think they all wax their chests), I took full advantage while I was there. 

The next day was more running up the stairs, this time it turned into a staring competition with myself and Taylor Kitsch, he giggled first - he loses! And then the third day was Stunt day, I got very excited – I even went as far as offering my services of cartwheels and rolly polly’s however it wasn’t wanted and I was completely bummed.

Some guy did stomp on my poor cut-to-shreds, blistered smothered foot though and it was indeed painful and left a gigantic bruise that took two weeks before it started to disappear. The gladiator sandals drew blood and it was horrendously cold.  The guy that stomped on my foot was in a hurry to jump in front of the stunt camera car (it’s a car with an arm on it for swoopy zoomy stuff I think), he thought it was a good idea to do a dive bomb in front of it while using my foot as a spring board with a ringing sentence of “Aaaahh we’re gunna be famous”.  The car missed.  Unfortunately.

I’ve worked on little things since then but the next big thing was indeed – my Chelsea Garden. I have an award winning garden in my back garden thanks to the Times Newspaper & Bradstone, it is the ‘Bradstone Diversity Garden’, it’s wicked – a complete headache and the paper quoted me as being ‘a kiwi farmers’ daughter’ which I have no clue as to where he got that from, I said we had a farm and that’s it, I don’t have a dad – I laughed so much it’s unreal. Write 100 words why you deserve a garden, there wasn’t any sob stories it was just pretty much – I’m busy and my spa house never really worked out. Other parties include the Cocktail Awards (got pretty hammered), getting our picture taken with the World Cup in London (not into soccer but hey ho – never miss an experience) and going to the Benefit gig on the same day. The Benefit gig was quite amusing, met Rachel Stevens there so I asked her if I could get a picture – I think it was her agent or manager possibly that grilled me, he asked ‘Do you work for a magazine?’, I wasn’t quite sure what that was about so I said ‘Is that a trick question?’, anyway – it lasted for a good five minutes and I really did feel as if I was at an interview room with the lights pointed directly in my eyes, I did say no I’m not from a magazine but it continued... I gave up, I said to Rachel, ‘Really sorry, doesn’t matter, sorry to bother you I didn’t realise it would turn into a headache’, she then said something along the lines of yes we’ll take a picture – he’s all bark. Awww such a schweety and hand on heart – that is the first time I’ve ever been grilled about being from a magazine – rather than the shit that goes in it... aka: Ok! Magazine.

Other events in 2010 is attending the Grand Prix Ball where I practised pouting with Liz McClarnon and wanted to do a ‘Bond’ poise with Darius, Campbell (Danish) but he wasn’t having none of it, met the Sugababes there also - took the girls to see JLS and also wandered along to a Keane gig at XFM studios in London – met them, said gidday and Tom drew a little heart on my wristband.. wahey – it’s now pride of place along with Pendulum & Groove Armada. Another interesting moment was at Lovebox festival in London, Chase & Status were playing and the ‘mosh pit’ was growing steadily, Vonny got hit with a flying plastic bottle so we exited really quickly – hung out by the side and I swear the Chase fulla asked if we were okay – from the stage, Vonny said ‘Was he talking to you mum?’, funny. Considerate guy – and band with a very interesting insight to a talk show host in their latest video.

Had a private dance class with peeps from Burn the Floor show in London and had a small chinwag with Professor Green at LED festival in Londontown. Goldfrapp were simply – awesome, so were Friendly Fires. I spotted Mr Professor Green in the guest area, and after listening to a favourite INXS track which he’d remixed.. I felt it necessary to say something about that – so I did. I started the conversation (bearing in mind that I’d had a few), somebody asked him for money (and he didn’t look like his son) – he gave the guy some money and then said ‘So you thought it was shit?’ ‘Nah’ I said, ‘It’s good - I like the lucky on neck’, he then showed me the scars on his neck and I guess why he has the tattoo, some one glassed him or bottled him – went straight for the jugular, I guess lucky – because he lives to tell the tale BUT luck – luck is – it not happening in the first place.

I am a firm believer of ‘Luck’. He’s a nice bloke, lots of patience, honest and seems genuine since I am only a mere random person collaring him at a gig.

I met Steven Speilberg on set Warhorse (first movie that my brother and I ever saw was ET ) and then Ewan McGregor and Emily blunt in the same week. With Ewan and Emily it was hilarious – well I thought it was. It was at the Blue Fin Building in London where IPC Media is located – I thought it was absolutely hysterical and ironic that two stars were in the building and they couldn’t get hold of them.

______________________________



26 December 2011
 
 









 
 
 


4 April 2014
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
Hi Michelle
Thanks for emailing us, we will make sure he is added to our offender data base but I have also cc this to Debbie Marlow who is trying to improve treatment of victims……I think this letter from Corrections to you is appalling and they should be taken to task.
Debbie will contact you to see if you agree with her taking this up on your behalf.
 
Regards
 Garth McVicar
 
Sensible Sentencing Trust
(M) 027 248 7919
(W) 06 835 5521
(F) 06 835 5520
 
Hello Ms Johnstone
We have received your submission in which you have asked us to refer to your Bio  at http://mxenaj.blogspot.com . While this address appears to be a valid link we are unable to obtain any information other than a header entitled My Lil Bio.
Perhaps you could instead email a copy of the information to this address and we can then ensure that the Board members receive it.
Jonathan Gee
Operations Manager - Southern
New Zealand Parole Board
 
From Bruce Ross – Police
I received your e-mail today.  After reading it, I'm not entirely sure what your gripe is. 
What I would like you to appreciate is that police investigated your brother's murder and successfully prosecuted Trounson.  He's now in the Justice system.  Any parole he may get, and breaches of that parole are dealt with by the Justice Department.  This is their jurisdiction.  The only involvement police have is when he commits any offence, police will arrest him.  As you rightly mentioned he has breached his parole on five occasions and each time police have arrested him.  What happens after police place him before the Court is in the hands of the Justice Department..  The police have nothing to do with decisions to release on parole or the revocation of parole. 
I'm not familia with VNR so I'm not in a position to comment.
You asked if police have hacked someone's e-mail.  I can assure you police do not hack into other peoples e-mails and or phone calls. 
 
If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask them.  I'll do my best to answer them.
Bruce Ross
Senior Sergeant
Dunedin
 
and from the governor-generals office of which they deleted me and copied my book, used it in their speeches and all kinds
Dear Ms Johnstone
Thank you for your email, which has been received by Government House, the Office of the Governor-General.  On reading your email, I have formally referred your email to the Parole Board, as an independent authority, to reply. 
Thank you again for taking the time to write and for raising your concerns.
Regards
Antony Paltridge
Public Affairs Manager
Government House


and the reply from the Police after I said I'd like to sue them:

Good afternoon Ms Johnstone

I refer to your email below.

If you wish to sue the New Zealand Government, please contact your lawyer and obtain appropriate legal advice.

There is no matter of interest to the Authority in your email and we will not be taking further action on it.

 
Pieter Roozendaal

Manager: Complaints

Independent Police Conduct Authority

M: 0274 341138 +T: (04) 499 2050 +F: (04) 4992053

P O Box  5025

Wellington  6145

IPCA lOGO_280x68pixels_RGB


5 April 2014



Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 6:48pm UTC+01
Michelle Johnstone joined the group Mad Dog Casting Members.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 7:03pm UTC+01
Michelle Johnstone and Shivon Johnstone are now friends.

Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 11:39am UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey :) How the hell are ya?? Gr8 that your back on facebook!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 9:31am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey :) How did ya mission go?? Any luck??

Monday, November 9, 2009 at 1:45am UT
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Thats cool :) Happy 4 you eh. Any idea when you will visiting or returning to NZ?? Miss ya gal. Havn,t our girls grown up...Lana was going to be Jamiee Lee & you liked the name Candace i think. Is that right?

Monday, November 16, 2009 at 11:03am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Why is he crying on ya doorstep?? Maybe he,s in luv with you :) ??

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 11:04am UTC
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
Looking for adopted son of Russell Warren Neill, DOB: 01/12/1972, adopted boy in Dunedin, NZ, 1990, year of your dads death. You have an Aunty and a Niece! COME FIND ME! Happy Chrissy & New Year 2009 x

 
Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 12:34pm UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey, I think i MAY know who is mother is, her sister & i went to High School together, havn,t talked to her for years though. 1st name is Leah. You want me to do some detective work??

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 7:33am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Happy Xmas & Merry New Year, May all your dreams come true XX
 
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 11:02am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Ha low from a freezing day in dunners. Weve had hail today & "they who talk alot" call this summer>LOL!! How you doing??

Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 12:12pm UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey girlee, Hows ya day going? You want me to send over front page of ODT? You keeping well?

Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 10:20am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey :) Hows things over there today? Whats your address so i can send this odt? If its any consulation weve had crap weather too :( One day may be stinking hot next its hailing. Have you been on the Astromandir website? Really interesting & so accurate.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 12:21pm UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey, Girlee, Howz it going?? How did the Eastenders thing go? We get it over here so would be gr8 to see you on it. Weve still got another 2 weeks of school holidays left, weather been bit better. Had a gr8 day yesterday {13th} got to bed about 4ish. Thanks for your good wishes. ODT article in my bag ready 2 post to you, just been slack..Sorry!!

Friday, January 15, 2010 at 4:36am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey :) I sent you that article today...finally. Let me know your thoughts. XX
 
Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 9:48am UTC
Michelle Johnstone posted something via mobile.
I just got the otago daily times - Stonehenge looks wicked, thanks fiona- I'd forgotten how big the newspaper is, lol- I'm also loving the stamp, year of the tiger.. Def must be my year :-) x. Flashbacks of mitre 10 ads & warehouse ads on the other side lol

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 10:19am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey :) Has that dam letter arrived yet?? Its not coming from Mars {or is it } lol.
 
Monday, February 8, 2010 at 9:03am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
BUGAR!!!! JUST WROTE A HUGE EFFIN MESSAGE TO YOU AND WHEN I REFRESHED THE PAGE COS IT WOULDN,T SHARE AND I LOST IT!! :( ANY-WHO HOW ARE U?? AND SHIVON?? BEHAVING??

Friday, May 21, 2010 at 12:46pm UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Your so gr8 lol, love waking up to your comments :) Hey...when we going to get together?? {u dirty minded pricks who misread that...,shell & i are effin gr8 m8s...& not that kinda m8 m8} lol, cos its way over due eh

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 7:59am UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline. Hiya, Think i might meet you in China in 2012...Meet a Feng Shui master & "Find Myself" XX Im sure we,ll have a blast just like the old days..Oh the memories. We were so young & not so innocent lol.

Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 10:33am UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey, tried to send e-mail but too much too say, can we chat online??

Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 11:42am UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hiya :) Quake was 7.5 in ChCh, then scaled downed to 7.1, Damage was awful from what ive seen  

Monday, September 20, 2010 at 4:38am UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey :) Hope theyve given you some decent pain relief for ya foot, Rest Up!! Weve been watching the Jeremy Kyle show & Jerry said how can Michelle live over there with "that lot" (English) most the people on the show are total retards...Just his opinion...Hope the sun is shining & your ,laxing out xx

Friday, October 1, 2010 at 1:59pm UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey :) Have u heard the new song from "pretty reckless"< called u make me wanna die... so good i <3 font="">
 
Monday, October 25, 2010 at 9:38pm UTC+01
Darlene Johnstone wrote on your timeline.
Im good, but i might have 2 send you a long email telling ya what shit i have been through lol. How have you been?

Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 9:15am UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hope all goes according to plan at Botox clinic. Let me know how it goes. Just PLZ don,t go to extremes like Priscilla Presley.


Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 12:26am UTC+01
Michelle Johnstone was tagged in Shivon Johnstone's status.
my mums like a bloody teenager. Michelle Johnstone - turn it down, it's been playing for four hours straight.

Monday, November 22, 2010 at 7:02am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Had a dream with you & Shivon in it last night, You & her were on a shopping spree & both bought some brown cowboy boots with wheels on them, like the roller sneakers & ya,s were skating around the shops :)

Monday, January 10, 2011 at 11:21am UTC
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
O how I love planes :-D I'm going to Madrid

Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:32pm UTC
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
captains log: 16.31 hrs: met granny rocker today, laughed that much I nearly went flying off the treadmill

Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:41pm UTC
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
captains log: 16:38 hrs: dammit, secret covert operation to become invisible parent hasn't worked.. been called in to mingle with the masses tomorrow.. must remember to put stroppy face on
 
Monday, January 10, 2011 at 9:06pm UTC
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
Don't have sex - you will get pregnant - and die

Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:17pm UTC
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
Yup - I'm obsessed- temper trap sweet disposition , up there with pink floyd learning to fly

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 5:51pm UTC
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
captains log: 17:49 hrs successfully fled mass lecture society with package in tow, stopped at local supermarket en route home and unwittingly copied a guys deep voice when he said 'thank you', I replied 'your welcome' .. mass hysterics at the till to the point of crying

Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 4:40am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Most of lifes problems start with MEN...menapause, mental anxiety etc...coincedence i think not

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 7:23am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
So how was ya holiday luvlee?? Theres an auction over here online & the winner gets a date with Mr Richie McCaw.

Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 7:31am UTC
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
Vroom vroom

Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 10:28am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
This is a hug (((hug))) from outta the blue, too let you know im thinking of you & even though ive got nothing to say, You know i thought of you today :)


Friday, April 8, 2011 at 6:52am UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey, How u doing on the other side of the planet?? Keeping well i hope.

 
Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 12:49pm UTC+01
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
I'm 'in' NYC!! Noooo yawwwkk

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 12:14pm UTC+01
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey :) How are ya chook? Hope your keeping well & looking after yourself. Bloody cold over here :( Lana got her 1st tattoo & it looks amazing.
 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 8:10pm UTC+01
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
Fiona! I DO NOT want to talk about the fucking past! K

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 8:30pm UTC+01
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
victim information manager says "I thought you might find this interesting, cheers" Fe Miller - how could you not fuckin tell me?
 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 9:19pm UTC+01
Michelle Johnstone shared a link.
Kirsty Robertson Nigel Trounson? wtf is he? George Trounson murdered my brother - I'm not in the fkn best of moods so if you are related/married to a fkn skinhead - please vacate the premises

 
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 9:47pm UTC+01
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
IT GETS FUCKIN WORSE!! "I went to primary school with the trounson boys in alexandra and then to high school with THE GIRL THAT HARBOURED HIM PRIOR TO GOING BACK TO JAIL" - HOW THE FUCK AM I SPOSED TO STAY FUCKIN SANE?

 
Monday, December 19, 2011 at 7:45pm UTC
Pamela Johnstone wrote on your timeline.
hay how r ya?bn alotta years haha :)

 
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 11:29am UTC
Fe Miller wrote on your timeline.
Hey :g Had a vivid dream last night, you came back too Kiwiland for a holiday, Any thoughts in that direction??

 
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 10:44am UTC
Michelle Johnstone updated her status.
Is going to the Premiere of John Carter tomoz ;-D

 

November 25, 2012


Fe Miller : Hey, How are ya?? I was browsing through the midweek & found something that may or may not interest you....Anyway Ive sent it over & you can do with what ever ya want, Hope it doesn,t hit a nerve or anything cos thats in no way my intention.

Michelle Johnstone: hey xx yeah not too bad, what's that then.. nothing shocks me anymore x

Fe Miller :Its about a Johnstone history thing, I didn,t read the whole thing but thought of you immediately & shoved it in an envelope Was posted last friday after my mammogram {fuck that hurt} so should arrive any day now, How you been any-way?.

Fe Miller: Glad too hear your ok, Your garden must be looking amazing. Love the pics of you dressed up in Victorian gear, Really proud of you, So whats the new occupation?? I get the mind blank thing ALL the time, can remember songs of the 80s easily but everything else...is being tested. Jerry reckons Im pill fucked but i think i, would be worse without them & if i wasn,t crook i wouldn,t need the 176 dam pills a week excluding my angina spray & $900 Humira shot every fortnight....Any-who Its great being a nana havn,t babysat Sativa Rosalee Deans yet but looking forward too it :) Shes exactly like Lana was, chubby cheeks & blue eyes, Just love her too bits. Hows your girl? NZ gone mental over the hobbit, not my cup of tea. Unsure re Tall Poppy Syndrome :/

Fe Miller: I didn,t realise there was a feud, Its 12;25am over here & Im waiting on jerry too get back from the pub, he said he was going down for 1 handle about 4ish so i cooked tea, made looie cake, did the dishes bla bla he came home quite pissed asked for some money, gave him the last 5 i had as he said he was going too enter a pool/darts comp & havn,t seen him since :/ Its doing my head in, why can,t he just say...Im going too the pub for 8 hours too drown my sorrows....GRRRR

Thats meant too be lollie cake lol

Maybe he,s met someone else again he hasn,t got his wedding ring fixed since we moved, The pub would be shut by now probably so may have gone for drinks some where else....Lucky for some eh...Meanwhile Im here door is unlocked so could get donked on the head or stabbed anytime {happened recently dunedin} if i lock the door jerry might take that the wrong way...he hasn,t got a key so have too stay awake till he gets home. Hows your week been??

Fe Miller: jeez, thats heavy shit :? Hows things over there? Getting colder eh, I hope we get a decent summer but hey its dunedin. How old is shivon now?

Michelle Johnstone: just a thought - why would you put something about getting stabbed and having the door unlocked fiona? are you missing the whole skinhead thing? Mind you it probably could happen since you married one of them
it's called Stockholm syndrome

 November 30, 2012


Fe Miller: Im one fucked up woman, thats for dam sure...Thank gawd my kids are all normal

Fe Miller: Jerry was across the road at the time, but yeah definitely have that stockholm syndrome....{just googled it} Bizarre, ya learn something every day.
 

December 1, 2012:

Michelle Johnstone: watch the rugby x
Fe Miller: Will be, Not on here till tomorrow :( So its a good game eh

Michelle Johnstone: yah.. sooooo much better than the freakin hobbits.. there are sexier things that come out of new zealand yah know.
http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4675251/Pranksters-calendar-shows-his-bad-parenting-in-spoof-snaps.html - this is so funny

 Fe Miller: Yeah, Hobbits shobbits i ca,t be bothered with any of it, Waiting on results....Health going down hill fast, Husband drinking any chance he can get :? Just wanna scream....This isn,t how I planned my life at the ripe old age of 16...I had a plan....model for a bit, get a job, car, travel, go too rock concerts...meet a guy who would ask me 2 marry him in the most romantic/original way...........Nope got a ring chucked at me with the words here ya......FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!!!!!!!

 
Fe Miller: How did andy propose too you??
 
Michelle Johnstone: oh farrkk - how shittty is this - the rugby isn't even on the fucking tele! It's on fucking sky. yay. oh fucking yay. I'm so oooo ooooo not impressed. I wanna watch it - maybe there's a link or something - free stream or something. I know chick..,. Thelma & Louise - bring it onnnnnnn


Fe Miller: can you watch it & your local??

Michelle Johnstone: they do soccer in one and the other one is a kind of like that cafe off friends but with old people - plus the other thing is I wouldn't like to sit and try and watch the game and then have some drip ask me if I was local and try and start a "so where do you come from" questions - it'd be the most irritating thing ever

 FeMiller: I bet, Must you must have a full english accent by now, I noticed it 13 years ago...do they reckon say sound kiwi?? Jerrys in a crap mood again...I swear Im not feeling loved...I read magazines & watch tv bla bla...And people in love don,t interact like we do...nothing is worth feeling this bad ;(

Michelle Johnstone: I like to think of as "posh english".. altho they laughed at me when I said that. well - hasn't he got something medically wrong with him - I dunno - did you ever get counselling after the rape?

Fe Miller: Its all2 much 4 much 4 my olld bfain.................see u in2016


Michelle Johnstone: whats happening in 2016?

Michelle Johnstone: there's even a kidnapping party.. y'know blindfold 'em, tie them to a chair& amp; fuck 'em - you didn't tell me if you got counselling for the rape chick or - were you lying to me?

 Fe Miller: I had councelling for years with Jill Carodoc Davies, she was good but this time of year brings it all back.

 Its now the 1-1-2013 & I must apologise for that crap, we went too our local& amp; I got really hammered {obviously} I don,t even remember us chatting last night, god knows whats happening in 2016 :/ But the rape happened in december 1990 then that scumbag rob stole my docs when i went too the drs with mum, jerry said he remembers him taking them up 2 them & trying too sell them.

Michelle Johnstone: IT'S 20FIRTEEEN. apologise for what? i can't remember names

Fe Miller: That all sounds bloody awful, what are the indian police doing about it?? Mass Carnage would be a understatement, I totally understand your worrying about your child, I always do & always will & now about Sativa. I didn,t press charges against those wankers out of plain fear, but karma will sort them out 1 way or another I heard one of them got stabbed in the balls HaHa Ha ha!!!!

Fe Miller: Whats the world coming too?? Jim Morrison had it right years ago when he wrote "People are Strange" chat later after a cuppa

 Michelle Johnstone: People didn't give a shit back then - what'd yah think that's like now man . See - when people say "what's the world coming to " "it's a fucked up world we live in" generally means its an excuse not to give a fuck because you did nothing to prevent the sick fucks fucking over someone else

 Fe Miller: Its totally fucked, Sad really no-one seems too give a shit,

 Michelle Johnstone: Includes you init - you got gang raped - you did nothing to prevent that from happening to other people .

Fe Miller: your right & ive got no excuse except they put fear in me & 2 this day I get chills if i see any shaved men, jerrys got a good crop of hair now, Thank gawd.

Michelle Johnstone: don't bullshit otherwise you wouldve never married one in the first place or fucked one voluntarily. Whatever reason its fucking strange you've had no inclination to help other women who've been through the same thing. Or protested.

 Michelle Johnstone: with most victims there's an innate need to let other victims know that they're not on thier own. Not a little snitch for other skinheads fiona.

 Fe Miller: Have i said or done something 2 upset you? Why are you bringing that awful time so many years later?

 Michelle Johnstone: work it out. and actually - as a matter of factly - you've been bringing it up for years so yah know shrugs shoulders, when the shitteth hitteth the fanneth - you did nothing but watched, you keep going on about your husband when you know I fucking hate them. and to top it off there's something in you that fucking likes bringing up the past but let other people deal with it - why would you send me something about the johnstones - on my brothers birthday? why would you disguise the fact that you know trounsons mrs and didn't say nothing when she harboured him? you can't say you didn't know.

 that kinda makes you a traitor and just as bad as a rapist

 years it's been a non-stop 'remember this, remember that' - fucking hardly. they shaved your hair off, they beat the other women black and blue and proabably wouldve killed her too. And you think everything is normal. You didn't see a need to protest to get the scum off the streets. I mean - for fuck sake - I can't believe you didn't do anything. And I'm guessing you go on about it to me cos noone would believe you. It's also fucking strange the only opportunity I had to shout I was stomped down by the whole of nz. Says alot for NZ.

 Fe Miller: I had no idea it arrived on your brothers birthday as don,t know when that is, Whose trounsens mrs??

 Fe Miller: I felt you & I had a close enough friendship that I could confide in you about how we somehow got through that time. Do mean Jodi?? Ive only met the woman once at a party last year, And she was married with a kid on the way& amp; it wasn,t too George

______________________________________________________________________________________

Fiona is a witch.  I met her in Dunedin when I went to find out about my brother and she wanted to be a skinhead and yes she lied about the rape - I have never asked her about the rape  EVER.  The day after she told me she was smiling about it and considering there was meant to be bottles, carrots and god knows what there was no mention of visiting a doctor or going to the hospital or feeling 'invaded'.  I am not a lesbian and I don't know what pills she was taking.  When the massacre happened I remember where I was - I was outside Dunedin Court mystified by people wearing tshirts happily declaring "We survived Aramoana".  Two days it took for someone to make them.  He was fascinated with Nazi's and I always thought he shot himself. 
Fiona was the only one I knew at the time as obviously I was labelled as an 'orphan' by the state and all my pictures were stolen and the Johnstone family was a 'common enemy' - almost as if I was a girl without a past.  I had a kind've 'warning' when I went on a "Love of your life" promotion with Calum Best at Aldo Zilli's which explains why I felt a need to be sick.  Must've been his tattoo.  And by some strange reason the proof of her being a Nazi along with the fascination with the esoteric is a wedding photo at the Invercargill Rose Gardens.  They were never invited to my brothers funeral, they just showed up.  At the time of when the Norway Massacre happened I was working on Dark Shadows.  It's almost like a movie in a movie.. but not.  Just like it's like Scotland won the 2011 Rugby World Cup.  I’m allowed not to like Peter Jackson.  It just so happens I like my version of Lovely Bones better, and it’s just a random coincidence that I happened to meet an All Black while being an extra on a pirate movie in a proverbial tardis that is Greenwich who funnily enough involved with the subject of “Life After Death” and “Dark Shadows” (It was more than just static, it was a zap, just like a lightening bolt). 


___________________________________________________________________________


Why take 5 months to announce there is a murderer on the run and on my birthday?

He is in Invercargill Prison, and with such a thing as a 'clean slate'.  My victim impact statement and book went in the bin (not before they copied it first, then joked about it, see John Key's 'out of body' experience).

Trounson was jailed for life in 1991 after being found guilty of murdering Russell Neil in Dunedin.
A 19-year-old student at the time, Trounson bashed Neil, 17, in the head with a large piece of wood broken from a staircase.

This was Trounson's sixth recall application since he was first released in 2001.
In the latest Parole Board decision in October last year regarding Trounson's liberty, an application to recall from Corrections was declined by the board, acknowledging that although he had made some errors in judgement he still had considerable support to help him reintegrate into the community.

The decision came with a warning though.
"In future Mr Trounson needs to be very mindful of how his actions will impact upon his liberty in the future."

But another request for interim recall was made in January, and Trounson has not been seen by authorities since then. It is not known why that request was made.
He said although there was no evidence to suggest Trounson would act violently to members of the public, he had had violence issues in the past and it was common sense not to approach him.

Police said Trounson was of  solid build, and about 177cm tall. He had fish scales tattooed on the back of his left hand and the word "love" tattooed on his right fingers.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

I don’t think there’s many people that I didn’t email – it was blunt and straight to the point and never got a reply, apart from the emails from the Police, the Governor Generals office and Victim Support.  The Parole Board says (they also said that they work *for* Trounson when I rang them - and my conversation was taped without permission), who murdered who?

 

"When he consumes alcohol or even food with alcohol in it he becomes ill. Understandably he does not like it but he accepts that that is a small price to pay for living a law abiding and productive life in the community" and "he does very well on parole". And also - he is actually registered on dating website so watch it ladies. His mother - a mental health worker - should be ashamed.
*For those that do not understand a lawyers/psychologist 'terms' for *ill* - it means violent*

Board Previously said:
"If he is recalled, he is back, of course, for an indefinite time, including the possibility of the whole of the rest of his life there," the board said "Alcohol has been such a central ingredient to his offending, including the index offence of murder, that it is essential that he commits himself completely to complete abstinence for life."
"When you are on a life sentence, any breach of conditions is considered a risk, and any risk to the community is grounds for a recall."

However:

7. The last two recall applications against Mr Trounson followed his decision to stop taking Antabuse. Some time later, but inevitably, he drank alcohol again. Fortunately he did not reoffend.


Of course I went a bit mental due to the response or rather lack of it.  It’s such a long story to explain to someone that wasn’t around but thinks they know everything.


It clearly demonstrated to me the complete naivety of New Zealand and in general others that haven’t been on the brunt of violent crime, needless to say reliving trauma caused a few problems and indeed it has robbed me of my country.  It has also demonstrated very clearly the separation between the Police, the Government, the Parole Board and the Sensible Sentencing database and the people.
The faults of the justice system are obvious to point out, such as the victims get treated like criminals, the defence team will attempt to destroy your credibility and rather focus on winning rather than – what’s right.  The Parole Board gives notifications to the press without consulting the victim and the press are rather ignorant of the victim as obviously it’s much better to talk about the victims rather than to them.

Needless to say I swore alot:


MeXenaJ Michelle Johnstone
@johnkeypm waaannkkeerrrrr wankerwankerwankerwankerwanker wwaannnnkkkeerrrrrrr - did you get that since your fucking stupid - it says WANKER


I emailed the Police to complain as it has breached my human rights, I have none.  Simply – I would like to sue them, so I emailed and this is the response I got dated 4/4/2014:


 
Good afternoon Ms Johnstone
I refer to your email below.
If you wish to sue the New Zealand Government, please contact your lawyer and obtain appropriate legal advice.
There is no matter of interest to the Authority in your email and we will not be taking further action on it.

 Pieter Roozendaal
Manager: Complaints
Independent Police Conduct Authority
M: 0274 341138 +T: (04) 499 2050 +F: (04) 4992053
P O Box  5025
Wellington  6145



 Interesting

Snippet from the book that was written in a rush:




THURSDAY, 14 APRIL 2011


Chapter Eight

That was 2008; it’s now April 2011... Three years ago.

Briefly, In 2009 Tracy & I went to the Baftas, it was Tracy’s first red carpet experience and she bolted, funny – I did say that it was quite freaky and the first time you walk the ‘red carpet’ you just tend to race down the other end, she insisted she wasn’t going to – but she did and I was left in her dust – in the middle of the red carpet.. in front of the press quietly shouting ‘wait, wait up’ – but no – she was gone, Tracy was the clear winner.

Wonder where they got the idea from

 
 

since when has abuse, rape, murder, and massacres been funny?
and then delete the victims and brush it under the carpet

Why did it take so long for them to report there is a murderer on the run?

Because - they made a mistake

________________

Another snippet from the book (and funnily enough I got told that people just turn into 'grains of sand':

One of the actors arrived on set but being bald I didn’t recognise him, it took a while to work out who he was as just the name * didn’t ring any bells for me.. I eventually worked it out with the statement ‘Ohh.. Rock’n’Rolla!!’ while pointing at him. Quite embarrassing that little flash bulb moment. 

Grains of sand
 
 ____________
annnnd another little experience from Monaco Grand Prix 2011, where this guy says he's never been rejected:
 
 
 
 
 
Got something to hide maybe:
 
 
And for the Kingi's:


and what the Human Rights Commission says:

I write in response to your two emails received by the Human Rights Commission on 8 April.

The Commission is able to progress complaints of unlawful discrimination where there is some information to show that a person has been treated differently from other people in a way that is unfair and disadvantages them, when:

·         the reason for that treatment is related to one of the 13 grounds which are identified as being unlawful (such as age, race, sex, marital status, disability etc), and

·         the treatment complained about happened in an area of public life (such as government activity, the provision of goods and services, employment etc). 

 
More information about these grounds and areas is provided in the attached factsheet. 

The situation you describe does not meet the required criteria, and for that reason it is not a matter on which the Commission can take further action as a complaint of unlawful discrimination.
 
Helen Clark - ROFL

Helen Clark : Indeed, the Human Rights Commission 2012 New Zealand Census of Women's Participation starts with the cautious phrase: "New Zealand is making slow, incremental but unspectacular progress for women in many areas."


then - this:



oh.. and this:




why is that?

and then there's something about a copyright case:





I don't know whether Beyoncé was in a real life murder investigation or a real life massacre or whatever but judging from this - she owes me a few million quid.


 







16 April 2014
 

And this guy is my hero (can't remember the last time I laughed so much)


How come it got chucked in the bin and copied then?

and this is the result of your mistake.. but no matter it's great for PR:

 
 
 
 
21 April 2014:

©Michelle Johnstone 2009

 
 
I was a wench in Pirates of the Caribean: Stranger Tides.  For two weeks we were at Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich smiling and waving to the passing public, it occurred to me when a ‘civilian’ asked me what I did for a living, “I’m a wench” was probably not a good answer in hindsight but I was at the time.  I didn’t look overly attractive, I did have a corset but somehow it made me look bigger, my cleavage was covered up, in fact rather than looking like a wench I could of easily of passed as something else but not a wench.  I got a nickname of apples – not because of my boobs but because it was the only prop I had at the time, as well as a little red riding hood type basket. 
 
 
 
They’d cut the venue off to the general public and had dressed it with a mixture of what appeared to be horse manure and sand, to get the full effect of it being old and everything along with a few banners, some carts, a couple of security people dotted about the place and a few random unidentified guests that security thought really was the real Johnny Depp.  Some woman went loony and chased after him, it was her husband and the security guy ended up having to have her in a head lock – even though, I don’t think she knew for sure it was the real Johnny Depp.  Personally, I think the real Johnny Depp is a bit ready.  As in – tries to read people but makes it obvious.  Who knows, perhaps he was just deep in thought. 
 
I developed a new skill while working on Pirates, I discovered that I could sleep whilst standing up, the on-set photographer also thought this was amusing and just as I opened my eyes I saw him giggling and walking off, one of the guys said he just took a photo of me and the first thing I asked him was “Did I have my mouth open”, and as it happens apparently it was, I’m pleased there was no dribble but still rather embarrassing and again pleased it’ll probably be on the cutting room floor somewhere.  Another guy took my photo – for now, I’ll call him an arsehole but his real name is Steve, he just came over to where I was standing and asked me to look over there, I looked over there, he took a photo and off he went.  I asked him if he could send it to me but he never did.  Disappeared onto someone’s hard drive probably.
 
The guy that drove the car from Mars was there, wasn’t wearing any martian attire though, just 21st century jeans and a jacket with two moons on the back.  After a couple of weeks of being in a tardis like situation where there was a spooky type vibe going on, sometimes you can in fact tell a person’s personality just by looking at them – I tested it with a couple of University Scholars who were mixing with the poor people and the wenches.  And sometimes you know when something isn’t right.  Let’s call it – intuition. 
 
I did get called over to do a shocked face on the camera but really – as much as I wanted to I would’ve preferred to run the other way, just envision Jack Sparrow running right at that very moment.  I looked to the ground and hid behind the model whom was focusing on her claim to fame, “this is my big break, how should I react, is this good?”. Rob Marshall said mine was a good, I thought “awesome, can I go sit down now”.  So I did, I went and sat down and all of a sudden the crowd starting singing Happy Birthday to one of the crew. 
I was sat over in the sun feeling a bit uncomfortable because it was a feeling of something is not quite right but you don’t know what and don’t how to explain it.


Nearing the end of the two weeks at Greenwich tempers start to fray, the extras were tired etc, a mother brought her daughter along, they ended up arguing and apparently the mother slapped her daughter.  Then there was another first thing in the morning argument where one of the extras didn’t like being told what to do regarding getting into costume or getting her hair done first.  She was at the front of the costume que when she was asked to get her hair and makeup done first, so in protest she stripped off down to her under garments to make a point.  Depending on the type of corset it is difficult to manoeuvre into some kind of comfortable position while attempting to get some kind of sleep because you can’t slouch, and first thing in the morning I don’t think anyone would be in a rush to get one on.  Sleep wise, only a handful of women could bend over without the corset digging in and once you finally get into some kind of remotely comfortable position it’s a bit of a shock when a megaphone gets blasted in your ear with “Head back to set”, makes tired people jump a bit.  A bit like Patsy off Absolutely Fabulous when Edwina discovered that she’d set the kitchen on fire and slept through it.  Jump to attention “What, whaaaattt”.  Everyone was pretty much walking zombies by the end of it.  I was actually suffering from a fracture in my ankle during pirates, it was supposed be in a cast however work is work so I had a boot that I was given from the hospital, unfortunately I couldn’t wear it on set and the support on my ankle wasn’t that great. 
   
With early call time of around 4am and getting home at around 9pm/10pm with an hour drive each way was knackering.  One of the guys I was working with was catching a bus in and even when he got home, straight to bed, wake up, get dressed and out the door, however on this particular day he hadn’t realised that his boxers were still in his jeans from the day before and were poking out of the bottom when he strolled in.  And it also messes with your insides or ‘regularity’ rather, one lady was telling me she hadn’t had a shit for the whole two weeks she was there.  The wardrobe lady was funny, they call it a ‘line up’, she was like the real life version of the wardrobe lady off the Incredibles, “Hellllooo darrrllinngsss, yes you look marvellous you can go”, to “Who made this woman look like she’s been in a chimney”, and when they came to put the tobacco staining on our teeth I tried to hide the best I could but always got caught which was rather unfortunate.  I liked the AD’s accent, it was Irish and I got him to say “Scrooo yoooo”, he was slightly bemused that I was amused but then when you’re a walking wench zombie anything is amusing.

On my last night at Greenwich when I was driving home it was torrential rain and I couldn’t see anything as the wipers weren’t quick enough and there was a crash in the Blackwall Tunnel or something and people were saying they were stuck there for about four hours or so.  I opted for the sat nav to take me through London, however with torrential rain and the traffic it was horrendous.  I was so tired, dangerously tired, I’m on the home stretch and I look at my speedometer which was actually below the limit, 20mph in the slow lane – might i add.  Just thinking to myself “Go round me go round me” to the drivers coming up behind me, then much to my surprise there was a traffic cop so I just followed him, kind’ve like a “just follow the liggghhht” type thing.


Working on Pirates came to an end and it took some time to get into some kind of ‘normal’ sleeping routine as I was still waking up at 3am for a good few months afterwards. We were at a park in London filming and being a tourist attraction at the same time.   One of the boys looked like Justin Bieber and he had the swishing of the hair thing down pat.

It was while we were in Kensington that I met Richie McCaw (All Black Captain) for lunch, which is funny because I touched him and it was like an electricity bolt.  Sometimes there is static but this was Richie’s turn for a ‘shocked face’.  Who knows, Rob Marshall might’ve liked it. 



 

 
Just had a general chit chat about New Zealand, the country, the earthquakes, general stuff.  He asked the family question and I just skipped it.

I was called again for Pirates at Pinewood, we were doing a scene in a courtroom with an imposter judge and his actor friend, I think I told Steve that I met Richie, can’t remember but I did ask him “Have you ever read that book a child called ‘it’?”  I don’t think I went into a big discussion about my life or anything and we carried on throwing potatoes, carrots and a random shoe at the judge.  Between filming on our ciggy break we all did a line up on either side of the footpath by the entrance door and the crew had to walk through – you could liken to it walking the gauntlet, getting into character and all that.  There were a few men covered in pirate tattoos and piercings and what not floating in and out of the 007 building.

Shortly after that there came extended Johnstone family members who wanted to know about Russell, the ‘family’, their ‘connections’, and obviously what have I done with my life. Still alive type thing. Fiona, who I met in Dunedin when I went there always found a need to remind me such as “Remember this place?”, she’d sent me a newspaper article about Dundas Street, I can’t remember how long ago that was.  1990 was the year from hell, bits are still a bit blurry and when remembered – very raw emotionally and physically taxing, and I left after the trial finished.
 
Turns out that Nana had not long died, Carole & Peter lost the club/pub at the Civic Centre in Christchurch, they fell out with Uncle Kevin and Uncle Kevin was looking down the barrel of a gun courtesy of Peter. Uncle Russell was in prison for growing marijuana.  Funnily enough it wasn’t my aunts or uncles that told me Nana had died, it was my cousin Jenna (Uncle Kevin’s and Tracy’s daughter who lives in Australia via facebook). 

Jenna was about to and was in the process of getting a Pheonix tattoo on her back, which is roughly about the time that the proverbial shit hit the fan because the guy that murdered my brother had broken parole no less that 15 or 16 times and been in and out of prison several times with offenses such as assaulting a police officer, assaulting a woman, drunk driving to name but a few.  It turns out that he was out of prison and the reports were saying that this is the ‘last time’ he would be allowed out, once he goes back into prison he’ll stay there for life.  They even went as far as having undercover police officers working at a wedding in which the convict was attending whom gave evidence in court about his violent nature.  It would seem that the New Zealand Corrections & Parole Board were trying to ‘cure’ him for ‘reintegration’ and ‘rehabilitation’ purposes.  It’s not like he’s a homicidal maniac with a temper problem along with a premeditated murder under his belt and quite a few other convictions as well as a fascination with the fourth reich or anything (I say with sarcastic honesty, the sarcasm in my voice is like the bite of a thousand pissed off wasps).
   









 

 It's human nature - don't expect anything different:

Also owes me a few million POUNDS

this is actually a real robin - on a light - in my lounge
 (taken 18 April, 2014)

 



lowest crime rate since 1978 - ROFL



not from where I'm standing it isn't - how are those speeches going I wonder:

 

 




 
 

More to come in Part two, in the meantime: http://mxenaj.blogspot.co.uk/










NZ can teach the world that rape is fine, abuse is fine, massacres are funny, even funnier when someone gets murdered.  Suicide is also funny. They have the 'best' crime rate since 1978 and the worst report from the UN, although the UN doesn't have any credibility.  The prime minister is a shafeshifting alien - although it's not been proven.

And if you disagree - they delete you.  Then joke about it. 

Rofl  and this Isn't really good for the UN

And this is laughable and hhmm what do I want, lotsa cash and great sex possibly as those two things just seem to elude me all the friggin time - I really am missing out I think.  But who knows.  I'm a virgin, never been laid properly.  Also compensation for stress and aggravation which also includes  monumental breaches of my human rights (which human rights deny), take this for example, the reply from the Human Rights Commission:
 
_________

 

The Commission is able to progress complaints of unlawful discrimination where there is some information to show that a person has been treated differently from other people in a way that is unfair and disadvantages them, when:


 ·         the reason for that treatment is related to one of the 13 grounds which are identified as being unlawful such as age, race, status, disability etc), and

 ·         the treatment complained about happened in an area of public life (such as government activity, the provision of goods and services, employment etc). 
 More information about these grounds and areas is provided in the attached factsheet. 
The situation you describe does not meet the required criteria, and for that reason it is not a matter on which the Commission can take further action as a complaint of unlawful discrimination.
___________
- Noteably, all the boxes have been ticked when it comes to breaching every human right a person is supposed to have:

Also taking into account that the blog was copied and used in speeches etc, (Seth Macfarlane's Harvard University speech and the Governor General et al) I was also an extra and had the pleasure of being told "everyone just turns into grains of sand", "No one gets out alive" on "Life's too short" - by Ricky Gervais whom also found it hilarious to take the piss about it on Comic Relief. 
Just like Max Clifford, Jimmy Saville, Simon Cowell et al, they all look at the camera and make out that they haven't done anything criminally or morally wrong.
"Indeed, the Human Rights Commission 2012 New Zealand Census of Women's Participation starts with the cautious phrase: "New Zealand is making slow, incremental but unspectacular progress for women in many areas." - I can't imagine why.

And this is just generally what they do to victims - all for PR of course. 




Same applies with America and the UK actually.  It's hilarious.



part 2 contin... (it's still copyright.. by the way):


May 2011: Garnier  /Ascot

I was a background body for the Garnier tv ad campaign, it was at Ascot Racecourse (pronounced Ass-kit), you can’t get any better experiences that being allowed to have a look around when there are no ‘punters’ there, it was pretty much empty apart from the background, the security,  the crew and Davina McCall.  I never spoke to her, just watched her do her thing from above whilst talking to Xena, the Warrior Princess’s double (although Xena isn’t her real name) and getting the tag line confused, it’s not ‘because you’re worth it’, it’s ‘you take care, garnier’.   All we had to do was walk up and down the escalators for a good chunk of the day.  Not particularly fussed about Davina, considering the experience from Big Brother, I can’t even remember who won it that year – or who was in it.  All I asked was “can you sign my daughter’s book please”, and the answer “no, if I do it for you I have to do it for everyone else”.  So I spent my day outside in the sun taking in the vibe of Ascot when  I wasn’t walking up and down escalators, my brother and I used to go to the track often when we were kids, Ascot in Invercargill that is, not England.  Horses have always been around in the Johnstone family, whether it be owners, trainers, jockeys or just general riders, and certainly certain members have had a few accidents whilst riding them or breaking them in.

May 2011: Monaco

May 2011: NYC


____________________________________________________________________________




 
 

 
 





 
 
 
 
 
 
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20 comments:

  1. Hi Michelle,
    I came across your blog while trying to research my Johnstone family genealogy, it turns out I’m your second cousin. I just wanted to say you write extremely well (I’m actually jealous) and I’m sorry to hear about what happened to your brother, and for how you were treated as a child. I was going to invite you to my Johnstone family group on Facebook – a group for all descendants of Robert and Johanna Johnstone (https://www.facebook.com/groups/Johnstonefamilynz/) - but I completely understand if you don’t want anything to do with that side of your family. Anyway really just wanted to say you’re an excellent writer and to wish you the best.

    ReplyDelete
  2. lol, you forgot to mention how the nz government treated me as well as their Hollywood friends & politicians over the past couple of years and how NZ did fuck all about it but laugh. Spose it's better than the last comment about how I should be talking to Frank. Sue 'em or nuke 'em. By the way - the Johnstone genealogy, starts and ends with gilbert.

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  3. and how do you know that you are my second cousin? and if you - whatever your name is - did some research to somehow find out that this invisible non existant person like myself is your second cousin WHY THE FUCK DIDN'T YOU DO ANYTHING

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  4. or much rather listen to that dick sucking Nazi prime minister of yours talk about having a fucking out of body experience

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  5. Millie Dowlers parents got £3 million in compensation because they hacked into her phone and deleted her messages. They all knew but pretended that they didn't. Like Key says - how can you talk about someone when you don't know they exist. The logic of liars.

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  6. Gilbert was absolutely loyal to Robert the Bruce and vice versa, much to be said about loyalties of today.

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  7. it's like they lost a son. What was the battle of Bannockburn all about cos - being fucked in the head etc - I personally, haven't got a fucking clue. It might have something to do with a white feather. maybe. I'm just guessing. Loyalty paid back in kind.

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  8. rofl: http://www.essentialmums.co.nz/family-life/books/10077288/Conspiracy-theorist-writes-9-11-book-for-kids. Yes, they knew - and didn't do a fucking thing.

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  9. to prevent it I mean.. how long has it been now -= they should just let it go and get over it already.

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  10. I'm not sure whether you've deleted comments or what? Your comments don't make much sense to me. Who is Gilbert and Frank? And I'm not sure whether you were directing "WHY THE FUCK DIDN'T YOU DO ANYTHING?" at me? I've been tracing the family tree for 8 years, I've only really managed to get the names of my second cousins just now. If you're referring to why I didn't do anything when your brother was murdered, I was 6 years old and didn't know much about this side of my family. My Johnstone group on Facebook is really to gather information: birth dates, middle names, married/maiden names and an offshoot of that is for people to reconnect. There are 115 members and I actually only know a handful of them. Your Grandfather Owen and my Nana Claire were siblings. I'm sorry if I've offended you in any way, but just wanted to say that my interest is about my family tree and I guess for future generations to be able to remember our ancestors. Regards, Linda

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  11. if you don't know who Gilbert is - you are absolutely shit at research and what future generations would you be talking about? what country are you in? Then next question - how did you 'manage' to find this blog? and then who told you my granddads name was Owen because even I didn't know that. And If you've just managed to find it 'just now' the only place where it's linked is the fucking sensible sentencing website you doosh.

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  12. so you were 6 years old last year? http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/news/8737283/Dunedin-murderer-on-the-run

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  13. or think of this sentence when you go to sleep "There's a dead body there - show some emotion"

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  14. http://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/247523/community-work-vandalism-jewish-graves - and there's no particular reason why this random number ended up on some random headstones is there. Just so you can find out about a family tree - that you've been researching for the past 8 years. Pathetic.

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  15. jokes: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10118134/Killed-terrorists-radicalised-in-Christchurch

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  16. wonder what that so called gang researcher gilbert nobhead thinks about that then.

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  17. "I didn't see a sign of that coming," the imam said. Depending on how you look at it - it sounds just like a king punch.

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  18. there's a dead body there - show some emotion: http://fanzone50.com/Julian/Nig.html

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  19. wonder if that idiot gilbert knows the difference between a gang initiation and a sacrificial premeditated murder

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  20. Meet Frank. He's now dead - in real life: ROFL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27676669

    ReplyDelete