Liz Bentley being Comforted by the Tesco Delivery Man

Liz Bentley being comforted by the Tesco delivery man
 Large comfort from Tesco delivery man

I’ve been away, it was good to come home to a Tesco Delivery. One of the issues of internet shopping is sizing. I have in the past got excited about offers on wine, only to find when delivered they were little bottles, the same with coleslaw, and silver hoop earrings from Amazon. Today, it was Comfort. Look how big it is. It doesn’t fit in my cupboard under the sink, and I can hardly lift it, but it will last for a very long time and it was on a very special offer.

Just seeing the word ‘Comfort’ gives me a self hug. I was doing an Adrienne home yoga session this morning and she got me to wrap my arms around myself and hug myself. Self self self. All very lonely though. Adrienne has a dog called Benji, I’ve never heard her talk about a partner, I worry how she will deal with her online yoga sessions when her dog gets ill and dies, it will be extremely upsetting for her and her millions of followers.

For years I did Bikram hot yoga, until I tore my meniscus during a class with a crap teacher, and had to stop everything again. Bikram yoga attracts vulnerable young women, including myself (but I’m an older woman). I recently watched the Bikram documentary on Netflix. When Mr Bikram Choudhry was arrested for sexual assault and rape, our studio at London Bridge took down his photo and changed the name of the studio. Oh how the ego interferes and then interferes. A vicious cycle of abuse.

More of that another time, but while we’re on the subject of perversion, Perverse Verse (the night I run at The Ivy House in Nunhead), is back on Thursday 27th February for a post Valentine’s Day massacre themed event.  I usually write my own songs, but on this occasion I am learning Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Clair’. When Clair was number one in 1972, I was eight, I remember it well, endlessly played on radio 2, in my parents kitchen. Check out the lyrics , they haunt me, especially when the child laughs at the end.

Do come along to Perverse Verse if you are able, there is an accessible toilet for a women and the pub have a ramp for the lip at the door for scooters/wheel chairs. The show will be good for your mental health. I am exploring my most chronic valentines of which there are many. Here is a poem about valentines day.

Perverse Verse flyer for Anti Valenties day Massacre on 27th Feb
 Liz Bentley hosting another Perverse Verse

Valentines Day

Valentines day, valentines day
Don’t ever go away
Don’t go away because I want you to stay
Not because I like you
But because I like things I don’t like

My boyfriend uses a pedometer everyday
I suggested he wear it in bed
He told me it rattles and is disinclined to wear it in bed

Valentines day, valentines day
Don’t buy me flowers today
You will pay more than they will cost tomorrow

All I want for Christmas is a shed put up

Thoughts on how I would ‘pick myself up’ while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man

Tesco delivery man and Liz

I love Ken Loach, I really, really love him. I’ve seen ‘Sorry We Missed You’ and ‘I Daniel Blake’ and last week I saw him on a chat show talking with a council tenant about the squalid accommodation and homelessness in our country. A man on the ‘phone-in’ to Ken said “20 years ago I had social issues and became homeless, through council housing, help with benefits and working at £5 a week, I eventually got a job £21,000 a year, if I hadn’t had social housing and help I would not have been able to pick myself up.”

After moving to London, then escaping from my heroin addict boyfriend’s flat (where we sub-rented a flat on the 15th floor of one of those blocks in Gunnersbury, near to the Steam museum, the ones used in the comedy ‘People do Nothing’, they stand out when you’re driving out of London and onto the M4), I ended up sleeping on a friend’s living room floor. Going back to my home town in Essex wasn’t an option, I had just started in therapy and was beginning to make sense of my childhood in relation to the ‘wild’ Liz I’d turned out to be. I was at the time desperate to keep my new job as a clinic assistant at a Marie Stopes abortion clinic in the West End, they were funding my counselling training, however wild I was, I was good at listening.

I slept on the floor at my friend’s flat for 9 months, it was very kind of her to let me do this, I was jeopardising her tenancy agreement, but it wasn’t just the floor that was hard. I had MS symptoms and rheumatic pains, I was under the Lupus clinic at St Thomas’s and the Neurology and Rheumatology clinics at Guy’s. Everything was painful and uncomfortable, inside and out. It was my new, very wonderful psychotherapist who had taken me on as a low-cost patient, who helped me write a letter to Southwark housing. Three months later I was offered a one-bedroom flat in Bermondsey, a hard to let flat on a troubled estate, but it was home and from then on, I was able to transfer, and like Ken’s caller, my career took off and I was able to get a mortgage when my first child was born, with a deposit (courtesy of a friend who had died age 53 I’d met through the MS society). Having been able to receive this help at this time in my life, I was on the housing ladder, and truly grateful, I am very fortunate.

Now, now?  Now, sadly, my story would be very different.

Tower Blocks

I wanted to live in a tower block

A buzzer instead of a knock

As a child I envied Mary, Mungo and Midge (1960’s cartoons)

I wondered that if people lived in closer proximity

They may share more intimacy

In London I moved in with my Scots carpenter whose beauty deteriorated as his heroin addiction was built upon

Jokingly, he picked me up one day and dangled me out of the window of the 15thfloor tower block

This was not the intimacy I had been longing for

But my psychotherapist taught me there was more

Liz Bentley doing a jigsaw and dry January while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man

If I’d have known giving up alcohol would have this effect, I would be a different person. I wouldn’t have had so many mental fun times, boyfriends and tales to tell, but who knows what I may have been capable of? It’s early days but re sleep, the first week it didn’t make much difference, but on night 6, I slept through and have been sleeping through mostly ever since. Although last night was shite due to anxiety about stuff.

While I have been so sober, I have got a large way through a re edit of my 60,000 word auto-fiction book entitled ‘Jigsaw’. The book was inspired by writing my 2018 blog ‘From Essex to London in 101 Boyfriends’. I have been working on it since then, during this time I was short listed for the Arvon/Jerwood mentoring scheme and was very fortunate to be accepted via Shape Arts to have my work sent to a reader/editor via The Literary Consultancy.

With the advice from TLC I am editing away. Whatever happens, I will publish ‘Jigsaw’. It will never be perfect, but I have enough feedback from the original blog to suggest people will enjoy reading.

New Years revolutions are;

  1. Go with my gut feelings on everything.
  2. Finish my jigsaw of Europe (I was doing well during the Christmas break but haven’t had a chance to get back into it).
  3. Use less plastic, eat more organic.
  4. Try not to let politics, Brexit and the state of our world affect me too much.
liz with Tesco delivery man and 1000 piece jigsaw of Europe
 jigsaw ahoy

It is annoying that some things aren’t recyclable. Last year I bought a new mattress from Dreams. The deal I got meant that they would take away my old mattress and recycle it. The man that delivered the mattress came on his own, I was worried he would have trouble to get it up our spiral staircase. I expressed my worry to him and he said it wouldn’t be a problem, he was used to carrying mattresses. This is what he wrote to me in an email later for me to leave feedback on his site.

“Hi Liz, it was really great working with you today even if at first you did doubt I would be able to get it up, I always get it up J.”

The mattress delivery man’s name was Kevin, nothing beginning with J. I thought this was cheeky, rude, but then tried to remember that we were of a certain age when Carry On films were indeed the thing, it was just the J that disturbed me, I’d have been ok without that.

I was most put out that I got a parking ticket in the car park outside Dreams. I didn’t know you couldn’t stay there longer than 2 hours, in Curry’s I was warned about this. It takes a long long time for me to buy things.

Here is a poem I wrote after getting my mattress the one before last.

Ian Part 1

A man came to look at the stains on my mattress today
He’d seen the advertisement in Sainsbury’s East Dulwich
I’d lied originally, said the mattress was new
But after the first caller, who questioned its newness
I inspected the mattress further to find milk stains that would have dribbled from my breasts some years ago
So, I rang the council, and a date was booked for removal
Then, Ian rang

I told him what I was doing with the mattress, but his futon was hard and was giving him back trouble
I thought, if we built up a relationship on the phone, maybe the stains wouldn’t matter
I responded to Ian’s back problems in an older, sister-type way
I was nurturing, but not too maternal
Ian probably wouldn’t want to sleep on his mother’s mattress
But I was wrong

(There is a part 2 two this poem, maybe I’ll blog it next time if appropriate)

Liz Bentley wishes you a Happy New Year while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man

Happy newish year. Fenton was my first Tesco delivery man of 2010. In the photo I am holding my 2020 diary. I always buy a Redstone diary and this year, the theme is ‘Dreams of Europe’. The cover photo is a semi-naked Bridget Bardot sunbathing, on what looks like a Greek nudist beach in the ’70s. I used to hang out on Greek nudist beaches, it’s all so familiar to me, but I am in a dilemma that this years diary, may not be entirely appropriate to have on my table, when clients are booking appointments during therapy sessions.

Liz Bentley with Tesco delivery man and 2020 diary
 Liz Bentley with Fenton, first delivery man of the year

What’s new this year? I shall miss visits from the Thames Water and Eon man. Smart meters are the thing now, another meaningful exchange I will miss. More isolation.

But, I have started swimming lessons again and I’m going to Peckham Pulse. After my lesson, I sneak into the sauna by the side of the pool. There is always chit chatter in the sauna, it’s sociable and I like the cultural mix of people.

My friend Jolie Goodman has an art exhibition at JAG’s swimming pool, in Dulwich. It’s called ‘Swimming in the slow lane’. Jolie also has MS, and works for Mental Health Foundation, you may know of her work its fab. We’d met before, but our relationship developed since meeting her at East Dulwich swimming pool. Jolie asked me to speak at the launch of her exhibition before Christmas. I was delighted to talk about her art and I wrote and performed this poem.

Liz Bentley-on-Sea

With a hole in my heart I was born in Leigh on Sea

Learnt to swim in the Thames estuary

Great Ormond Street said to my mum and dad

“If she swims, things may not turn out that bad”

I did all the laps I was encouraged to do

And the hole in my heart closed too

With no-one to watch me at galas, I gave up

Switched my attention to boys

Written in my school autograph book, twice

“If all the boys lived over the sea

What a good swimmer Lizzy would be”

I travelled the world and swam in the seas

Moved to London, then the diagnoses

Multiple sclerosis

Just keep moving, reverse it, reverse it

I meditate up and down the ‘middle’ lane

In therapy and creativity

I focus on the body and brain

At home I gave birth in the birthing pool

I pulled out my own placenta, that was cool

As a performer, trying to find a venue for a show

Sweet Entertainment said ‘I’ve got the apex hotel pool’  Oh?

I wrote and performed in Camberwell on Sea, Edinburgh fringe on Sea, Hackney on Sea, in the pools with my boyfriend who wasn’t called Paul but was the lifeguard of these pool shows and we bought a house in Peckham-on-sea, in the Pioneer health centre and we swam around the embryonic sac of a dysfunctional rebound relationship

Then, I did a master’s degree on mind/body psychotherapy, got married to my husband who isn’t called Paul either and the Pioneer pool needed a new roof

So, I took to East Dulwich on sea and one Monday, I reconnected with Jolie

She swims in the slow lane, I am competitive, I swim in the middle lane and I’m having lessons

(I have 4 years to get up to speed to compete in the over 60’s Paralympics, I have a long way to go, my instructor is very positive, who knows?)

Waiting for the Xmas Tesco Delivery Man

Liz Bentley and Xmas Tesco Delivery Man

I struggle with Xmas, but try my best to do the ‘Merry Xmas’ thing. It’s exhausting to be happy, excited and full of joy, when inside the familiar feelings of isolation and detachment whirl around my head. I have to fight to them off as best I can, I don’t want to upset or have an affect on the merriment of others around me. Xmas is hard bloody work.

In the old days I would drink, but now I only drink when I’m genuinely happy, I can’t mask it in the same way. While I’m wrapping presents for others, I’m thinking of climate change, the homeless and all the stuff and how grateful I am that I can have all the stuff, but I’m conflicted, I hate the stuff. I’m thinking of austerity and racism and sexism and other things that are going on outside of Xmas cheer. At Tesco Metro (re my last blog) I gave the homeless man sitting outside, a pound.

“How long have you been homeless?” I asked.
“A year,” he said.
“What happened?’
“I was a carer for my granddad, I lived with him in his council flat. I wasn’t on the tenancy, I went away for four nights, a few weeks after he died, when I came back, I couldn’t get into the flat. I had nowhere to go. I’m waiting for a hostel.”

All the parcels I have ordered for Xmas have arrived. The only one that hasn’t, was a dress I’d bought to wear on Xmas day. It’s been signed by someone, apparently its been delivered, but I was here and I didn’t get it, no-one recognises the signature, most confusing, and sods law. I rarely buy anything new for myself, but I was making an effort, treating myself, nothing too special.  I tell myself it wouldn’t have fit anyway, it was a size small, I’m an extra small, but they didn’t have extra small.

I’m small because I’m small, always been small from birth with my defect of having a hole in the heart. I don’t eat much. I mainly stick with the MS recovery diet, but even before then, I was never a foodie. I don’t look forward to food, I don’t look forward to ordering it from Tesco, buying it or cooking it. I eat to live. But I enjoy my meaningful interactions with the Tesco Delivery drivers.

Food was always an issue for me, as a baby, a child and adolescent. When I was old enough to be really conscious of my appearance, I became bulimic. Xmas was a difficult time because of this. Here is my Xmas medley about Peace.

Peas

Xmas is coming, I won’t be getting fat
I’ll be far too busy, playing with my twat
(wrong song, I’ll start again)

Xmas is coming, bulimics don’t get fat
I make sure the sick doesn’t soil the bathroom mat

Back at the Xmas table, I’m smelling like a rose
But I’ve left a bit of puke that’s hanging from my nose

Food glorious food, hot sausage and mustard
While we’re in the mood, regurgitate the custard

Peas

On my plate one solitary brussel sprout is left
Dad talks of starving Africans and gives it to the pet
Dog, who swallows it in one and puts it’s head upon my knee
I wipe my nose with a serviette and the dog crouches down and pees

Eat the world, don’t they know its Xmas cake
Eat the world, salivate and masticate the peas

I wish you a merry Xmas, I wish you a merry Xmas
I wish you a merry Xmas, and a happy new year

Let’s throw up some figgy pudding, lets throw up some figgy pudding,
Let’s throw up some figgy pudding, and bring up good cheer

Peas on earth good will to men

Thoughts on the election and accessible shopping , no delivery men this time

These last few weeks have been difficult. Chronic insomnia and flu viruses affecting me and most of my family.  The general election on Thursday falls on ‘Perverse Verse’ my show I host at the Ivyhouse in Nunhead. It was supposed to be our Xmas Stocking show, it’s changed into something more befitting to the occasion. I had no choice.

Liz with Tesco Metro staff

for more accessible shopping at Tesco

On ‘Int’l day of persons with disabilities’ I was due to host a night of celebration with ‘Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts’ but I was ill. I was also supposed to be exhibiting my work at Wierdo zine fest at Science Gallery,  but because of the incident at London Bridge, it was cancelled.

The highlight of my week was popping into Tesco Metro, not to shop, I needed to get cash from the cash point, but I wanted a photo, and to have a meaningful exchange outside of my house.

The shop was virtually empty, it was like I had Tesco metro all to myself.

“Hi,” I said to the one cashier. “I write a blog for Disability Arts Online about waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man, they brighten up my day and today, I’m excited to be out of the house, and inside a real shop with other shoppers” I looked around and saw that there were a few people musing the isles. “And cashiers. I love cashiers,” I smiled at her. “It’s a shame that there are fewer of you, I notice that younger people prefer the machines, I think it’s to do with having grown up with computers, they struggle with intimacy and communication, I’m a psychotherapist and see more young people than ever before.” The woman nodded. “The few times I have used the machines, I’ve got it wrong and have had to call a cashier, so it seems like a waste of time, either that, or I have confirm that I am over 18. But I have MS, I rarely shop anyway.”

Liz with Tesco Metro store manager, posing for photo in the aisles

Lanyard’s ahoy

The cashier beamed at me and produced a Lanyard and a flyer from beside her till, she handed it to me. It read “The Sunflower Lanyard Scheme, some people with hidden disabilities such as autism, MS and hearing loss, might need help while in store…..” Within seconds the manager and another member of staff wanted to pose with me and here they are. I love that Tesco are now offering shopping help like this. As they say, ‘every little helps’, and it may result in me getting out of the house more often, although the traffic was road raged and I am a slow driver.

Now here’s a question, two families brought up in the same town, living in the same street, kids go to the same school, the eldest of the children vote Tory and the younger siblings vote Labour. Do you think this is because the youngest have always had to share and the eldest know what it’s like to have parental support all to themselves and want to recreate that feeling? Hmm.

We are in a state of ‘splitting’ as the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein might say.  It’s like being in labour, the intensity before the birth, then after the long and difficult pregnancy this thing comes out and we have no idea what it will be like.

Talking of babies, here is a poem I wrote and performed (my voice over while I was underwater with a breathing tank that lasted 7 minutes, in a dolphin patterned duvet, floating about, until I rebirth into the Edinburgh Apex hotel swimming pool, 2008, Edinburgh Fringe). The poem is published in my anthology “£500 a line and other poems”.

Birth Story

Thank God it’s nearly over, it’s been really stressful here these last few months, growing, sudden UV lighting and shit music.  If I ever hear “Building baby’s brains” or “Mozart” one more time I’ll do a stillbirth.

I wish she hadn’t given up smoking. I could do with a fag and I could murder a drink. Three glasses of shit CAVA at a wedding then dealing with her guilt for 8 months.That was worse than the gastro enteritis.

I’m really looking forward to going through that deep dark tunnel and getting into the pool.  Soon I’ll be pissing in someone else’s water rather than my own stinky sac, and it’s getting pretty stinky in here.  Just got to hold off from shitting, just for a few more minutes otherwise it could all go horribly wrong and I’ll end up with Dr Bari doing a caesarean, that’s what happened to my brother and he’s never recovered.  They took him to a cranial osteopath but he’s still got a flat head.  It’s difficult to airbrush baby’s heads.

I’ve done my stretch in this old cell, some have made it through the other side – some haven’t. It’s pretty hardcore to survive in these conditions.  It’s dark all the time and very basic.  She could have done it up a bit, she’s 41, she’s had plenty of time, some pictures on the womb wall, wouldn’t have to be anyone too raunchy, Helen Mirren perhaps.  An internal tattoo would have been nice, but maybe that would have stopped my concentration and deep exploration of my inner child.

Thank God the sex stopped. Most unsettling.  Then all of a sudden, it began again and she started taking it up the arse.  That was only two weeks ago and by then it had got so tight that I couldn’t move around, my arse was right by her arse.  I’m going to be a poet when I grow up and write shit like this….

I’m a baby stuck in a womb

I’ll be out soon

Thank God they rolled the dice again

Otherwise Boris would have been my name

Apparently, Boris Johnson’s buttocks are similar to those of Adolph Hitler’s

I heard that at a gig she did

That’s when the arse thing kicked off and my kicking stopped

Now it’s my turn to help her out

Otherwise she’ll have to shout – more

So, here we go, I’m really shitting myself now ….

Thoughts about my time working in the NHS while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man

I worked for over 10 years as a psychotherapist in the NHS, managing a counselling service at a Bermondsey GP surgery. My job consisted of giving all patients who were referred for counselling as much support as they needed.  We had good links with the Maudesly, the community mental health teams and other charitable low-cost therapy centres like The Lorrimore and Charterhouse (both of which lost funding some years ago). I was also part of a counselling development group where I led meetings with other counsellors in the borough. We looked after each other and loved our jobs. We were all ‘let go’, and this poem is how I ‘let go’ of my beloved job in the NHS.

Liz with Tesco delivery man and big ben advent calendar

‘the time is ticking’

The People’s NHS

For me, things started to change in 2006
I was required to ignore free association and dreams
Focus on CBT
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cock and Bull Torture and reams
Of paperwork

Change your thoughts
Don’t believe
Leave the webs to weave
Unwoven for another life

I arrived one day at my office to find that my new
computer was bigger than my therapy chair
From that day on, I learned more about our computer
man’s relationships
Than that of my own patients

I checked my emails
‘Benefits advisor, cut, dietian, cut’
Then a knock at the door
Three nice young men in overalls
“We have come to measure your radiator” they chimed
It was the end of the tax year
Health and safety pockets lined
The excuse, someone had died
Falling out of bed onto a radiator

Once the radiator cover was built and installed into my
counsellor’s shrine
(and into every consulting room, not just mine)
I noticed the nice men had omitted to cut a hole where
I would be able to change the temperature
It took time to get the key to unlock the cover of the radiator
To take it off
Every time it was hot
Or cold or cold or hot

That key and cover were so stiff
I needed my computer man to shift
To turn it up or down
Down or up

Then ….

The forms came marching 2 by 2 hoorah, hoorah
The forms came marching 4 by 4 hoorah, hoorah
The forms came marching 6 by 6
There’s only time for a temporary fix
And they all went marching, down, to the arc, to get out
Of the cuts
Boom boom boom

The ship of relations became an arc of robotics
Clinical supervision was questioned and funds taken away
Management supervision now, more forms and box ticking
Volunteers gone, no funds to support them
And as my support was taken from me
It was easy to see
Why my MS kicked in
I had to use my stick to get myself in
To work
Or not to work?
That was the question

As for the patients
My needs took over from theirs
The new psychologists weren’t aware
It’s not their fault
They are required to vault
From box to box
Helpless to helpless

With nowhere to refer
The arc almost sank
Thank God for the food bank
And suicide note
That keeps the helpers afloat

You need to vote
And protest
Before you are bereft
Of the NHS