Sunday, 12 February 2017

chapter 4

Chapter 4

I received a phone call from Andy telling me that Kate no longer wants Vonny in the house.   Apparently he’d reached some kind of compromise with Kate so that he could take Vonny out once a month - so being a parent I went mental.   I was far from happy with that situation and Vonny was pretty clueless as to what was really going on.   Andy wouldn’t take Vonny to his house when he would collect her for a couple of hours every other week.  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 with a previous partner - getting pregnant can turn into an obsession, which it was with her.  She’d had a miscarriage a year or so ago and it was me who got the blame for it.  They had a girl called Madeleine 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 got the wrapped knuckles.  It would be my fault that I disagreed that Vonny’s dad would visit her once a month for a couple of hours rather than Vonny staying with her dad for weekend visits that had been arranged by court.  Andy would chop and change as he pleased.  In reality a few hours a month was not adequate to develop a ‘strong bond’ which he believes that he had.
     Things in the Johnstone camp were pretty good without the interference from the Hawgood’s.  Shivon and I began to go out more than what we normally did and she was becoming more secure and happier.  It was a few months after that that Andy took me to court to get access.  I represented myself.  I thought I’d finished going back and forth to the solicitor’s 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’.
     A few months went by.  People that I once left behind started to come out of the wood work.  Margaret came to ‘visit’ and was being ‘nice’ which was a rather big change for her.  Actually, I got the feeling that she was feeling rather ‘left out’ as well as there must have been some kind of ulterior motive for her visit.  I also had a visit from Sue.  I hadn’t seen Sue since before the divorce so the whole experience was rather bizarre.
     Sue wanted to visit Vonny at home 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 me; she was pretty clueless as to what he’d really been up to.  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. 
     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.  They’d be asking prying questions that instantly gave me the impression that something wasn’t quite right.               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, “Kate’s pregnant”, she said.   It wasn’t that serious as I had thought there might actually 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 hadn’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’.  How long did they think they could keep it ‘secret’ for?
     Vonny has absolutely no idea that she had 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 the mentality.  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 saying “Sorry we left you out, sorry we didn’t tell you about your stepbrother, I made a bad judgement.”
     I listened to his speech about me not having any rights to tell Vonny about the newborn.  I asked him if he really thought 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 her father was willing to forget about her and leave her out.  After 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, telling me 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 started to have babies, Kate won’t want Vonny 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 believed him.  I wondered how he actually planned to tell Vonny, was he going to keep it a ‘secret’ forever?
     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.  Things carried on for quite a while and while I did my best to defend myself as to why Andy brought me before the court to seek visitation in the first place - in court the Judge (who looked as if she really was going to say ‘you are the weakest link - goodbye’) went on to 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 completely worn out.  Andy was still persistent with disrupting both our lives.  He drove past as I was walking Vonny to school one day, Vonny waved at him and he just looked at her without any facial expressions at all.  It was a few days later that Vonny was in a school play and he arrived at the school.  The Head Teacher had apparently phoned him and invited him without any consent from myself and neglected to say anything.  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 just burst out crying in front of the vast majority of her peers and Andy scarpered - he just walked straight past me and out the door - Vonny shortly followed in floods of tears.
     The Head Teacher 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’.  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 a teacher in the office asking for him to ask Andy to leave, he turned to me and said “Well, you can always change schools.”  It was at that moment 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.  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 changed schools.  I got the normal spiel about being a bad parent and not asking permission from Vonny’s father to change schools but after that there was no other alternative apart from home schooling - which I did try but really wasn’t an ideal situation.  Within weeks of Vonny being at a different school - the change in her was remarkable.  She was becoming more secure, happier and slowly becoming her normal chatty self again.
     Andy would dictate as and when he’d see Vonny.  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 could do about it.  That happened a lot.  Normally times when he knew that I was going away or had made 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, the car was on its last legs.  There were times when I thought that I wouldn’t make it back from Sally’s.  So I sold it and raised some 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.  I gave her some petrol money and before long we had found my new car.  I knocked on the door and he led me over to the garage, he lifted up the garage door and there it was - gleaming black; roof down and a big red bow wrapped around it.  It was just like Christmas only better.  I had said to the guy that this was my birthday present and Christmas presents for the previous five years so he went out and bought a big red ribbon and wrapped the car with it.  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.
     I was quite nervous about the drive back to Hemel.  Tina was off and I was busy getting used to smaller pedals and a racing engine sound.   Also concentrating on where I was going. We got back to Hemel, parked up and once inside - I couldn’t help looking out of the window every few minutes pinching myself – yes – it’s my car.
     It wasn’t too long that the idiot neighbours got hold of it.  My tyres were slashed, the roof got slashed, ping pong balls were stuffed in the exhaust pipe - even a stick of wood was shoved up the exhaust pipe 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 their kids has the same forename and surname which I found quite odd), Nikki and her other half lived at number four with her son Harry, then Sam at number five with her daughter Megan.  I didn’t know the names of the people at number two. Houses two, three, four and five were the ‘clicky crew’.  I began speaking to Nikki at number three.  She would be knocking on my door on a regular basis asking me to do something for her - normally to fix her computer.
     On one occasion I was having an IBS attack and was in complete agony, 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.
      Sam 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.
     Their kids would be out playing out the front and so would Vonny - that was until I was in the kitchen working on the computer and I could see what was going on outside.  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 heard you, I saw you, I was in my kitchen” I said.
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 weirdo.” 
     Jim then started walking towards me with the ‘hard-man’ walk.  I picked Vonny’s bike up from off the front garden and told Vonny to get inside as she was sitting there watching.  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 accepted into the ‘popular crowd’.  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 went inside, shut the door and lit up a cigarette.  My hands were shaking and I was really just completely stunned.  They were all 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 its ugliest as these were grown men, grown women, more importantly - parents.  Never mind the fact that it was Nikki and Jim that gave me the weed in the first place.
     Harrison started kicking his football out the front with his hooligan dad, attempting to make the point that this was their street and they can do what they like.  
     I phoned the police and reported the incident.  The Police came to the house and took a statement and also asked what the Housing Association were doing about the situation.  I phoned the Housing Association who simply said “What do you want me to do about it?”  “Pardon” I said.  She went on to say that she’d send me a complaint form to fill in.
      Unfortunately the intimidation didn’t stop there.  It carried on for months.  Every morning when 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, the ball would make a loud booming sound and it was even worse when he’d kick it against the side gate which was 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 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 all he can say is “fuck off”.  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 fell backwards.  If I didn’t grab onto the doorframe I would’ve fallen over.  He left and I phoned the police.
     I 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 nosey neighbour so one day when the nosey neighbour was peering over the fence Tracy flashed her boobs at her - the peering neighbour didn’t peer again.  I doubt if it would’ve worked for me in this instance.
     Pretty soon the Police arrived 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 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 get 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 become mandatory.  Still getting ‘eyeballed’ as I walked past their houses, still getting told to ‘fuck off’ and now, the residents of number seven were in with the ‘in’ crowd and began to follow in the footsteps.
     The police community support officer came round.  The extent of the problem could be seen all over the front door as there were football marks all over it.  He asked me what was going on so I told him.  He went down to Nikki and Jim’s and had a talk with them. They said “he’s just kicking his ball out the front and sometimes it goes on to her garden” and they finished the conversation with the police officer with “well we just won’t talk to her then”.  I thought ‘fucking brilliant!’  Before the officer left I said 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 kicked 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 in a row of houses at the back of 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.  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 the boy had said “Jim’s boy told him to do it.”
     It was funny –but not - 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.  Tracy piped up “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, Jim walked past again and gave me a smuggest evil stare so I just made a stupid face back.
     I spent months of filling out poxy report forms for the Housing Association and their Anti-Social behaviour process.  I eventually had a visit from the ASBO Officer who 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.  It was ironic that at the same time of this happening, with the whole ‘fuck off back to your own country’ thing – Shivon’s dad was trying to have me arrested for kidnapping.  I was really at the end of my tether.  I hadn’t been home for several years now, with all that’d happened; I just needed to get away.  Jim’s advice was ‘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’d told the police that I had distinctly said “I was going to New Zealand and not coming back.”  That would be regarded as ‘child abduction’, where ‘port alerts’ are put out if I tried to leave the country with my daughter.
     A police officer 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 reason that I knew that Andy was doing this out of spite and revenge.  It was pretty clear to see that the house still remained ‘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.
     I was sat in his office not knowing whether we were going to get ‘permission’ to go ‘home’.  I had to explain where I was planning on going and the phone numbers of where we’d be etc.  I told Mr Lishak that Andy knew that I have no relationship with my mother, he knew where Aunt Carole and Peter were and he also knew 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 the route that I had planned to take Vonny, 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.  So really, in all fairness, he was just being a shmuck and had a very severe ‘control issues’.
     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 ‘branded’ again 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 boarded 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 out.
     We stopped in Bangkok on route to Christchurch.   Bangkok is a place where it’s best to sit on your bags – just in case.  In Christchurch - getting through customs was quick and painless.  I spotted Aunt Carole and Peter so wandered over and it was hugs all round. They’d changed - got older as people do.  It was when I stepped out of Christchurch airport that the sense of being ‘home’ hit.  The air, the warmth and the space.  I just stood there for a few minutes collecting myself and just embracing the moment.
     Aunt Carole and Peter had rented a hotel room in Christchurch so we could stay with them for a few days before they headed 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.  It’d be pretty pointless to still be based in Invercargill so Vonny and I bunked up with Aunt Carole and Peter and their three kids.
     I went with them to have a look at the pub that they’d recently acquired 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 improvement 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.  They had appointed Uncle Russell to run the place when they weren’t there.  He’d not long got back from Australia and he revelled in the fact that ‘he knows a lot of people in the music industry’. 
     That evening we went for a drink and it was at that point I knew that they had to change their views, ideas and staff otherwise the whole venue was 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 was living in an empty office block opposite the pub.  He’d said that he’d bought the lease and was considering getting the lower floor.  The office block had little offices and backrooms and the smell was rank and he’d have his dogs and cats in there all day.  It was 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 Aunt 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 amphibious vehicle that’s used in the Antarctic.  We strapped in and away we went.  We were chugging along ... 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.  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 Aunt Carole and Peter and the kids as we were going to stay at Uncle Russell’s warehouse.  I don’t know why I opted to stay there for a couple of days with Vonny.  I must’ve been out of my mind.   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.  He was just acting like a complete dick.
     I was standing behind Uncle Russell when he was talking to a member of staff and he began slagging off his brother (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 ranting an important customer was sitting right behind him.  The customer heard “where is the fucking prick, he’s bloody late; I’m not waiting for him!’’ with his arms waving around the air.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the pub lost business at that exact moment.
     I phoned Aunt Carole and Peter and ended up speaking to Peter.  I told him that Uncle Russell is being an absolute dick and him being ‘Manager’ had gone completely to his head.  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.
     Continuing on with our New Zealand trip, Shivon and I travelled up to Nelson and stayed with Aunty Christine and her husband Graham before heading to Kaiteriteri and chilling out for a wee while.  It’s a secluded spot with an abundance of wildlife.  Kaiteriteri has a lovely little beach (as everywhere in New Zealand) and has a small park with a flying fox.  They have other activities that one would expect to find such as whale watching and dolphin watching, swim with the whales and dolphins or go visit seal and penguin colonies.  The hotel was equipped with a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi steam room and other mod-cons. In the evening when it was pitch black I took Vonny on the trail to go see the Glow Worms which would obviously glow like bright little stars.  It was pretty amazing.
     Afterwards we headed to Picton.  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 the post.  I took Vonny on that ride instead of catching the ferry 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.  I took Vonny to the local school and she was ‘lucky’ enough to have the full kiwi experience of 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.  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 were only a couple of days left before we had to head back to the UK.  We headed back to Christchurch and stayed there for the last few days.  We never heard from Aunt 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 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 at Singapore 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.  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 sent me on a ‘downer’ instantly.  We caught a cab back to the house from the airport.  I couldn’t believe how much the front garden had grown; it looked like a jungle within the space of a month.
     Vonny was soon back at school 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.  We’d arranged to meet up at Café Nero’s for a catch up.  She wasn’t familiar with my ‘issues’ with the ex-family 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 Aunt 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 solicitor’s office and prepare for yet another court visit.  Firstly, I had to prove that I was back in the country and then 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 a piece of paper for him.  The solicitor asked me if I had plans for those weeks and I didn’t.  I said it really wouldn’t matter what weeks of the year that they were.  I told him it wouldn’t matter because 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 the Denim car boot sale.  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 it in one of the boxes underneath her bed.  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.  The grant was meant to be one year’s worth of books for my psychology degree (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 bad move financially (but an essential one).
     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 the vilest snot-green clutch bag that I had ever clapped eyes on.  It cost me 50 pence in the sale.  I wrapped it 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, Andy asked the judge to make an order stating that I have to pay his court costs.  I was beside myself with astonishment.  The Judge refused and Andy was more than irritated as he stormed off in a huff.
     Meanwhile 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.  I counted down the seconds until 2006 arrived hoping that I wouldn’t have a repeat of 2005.
     2006 was off to a relatively good start.  Sally had invited Carolyn and me 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 at the amount of cocaine that was being ‘chopped up’.  Once we were out Sally’s crew wanted to go back to the house after about three drinks to do some more cocaine.  So the night was quite crap.  Carolyn was itching to leave as soon as we got back to Sally’s, 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.  It wasn’t at all what I expected.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Mayfair and hunted around for a place to go.  I’d never been out in London before and really didn’t have a clue where the ‘happening’ places were.
     We looked around and decided on some place in Soho.  It was alright, it had 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 owned 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 into 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!’
     When Carolyn and her new found squeeze came out of the bedroom looking rather happy with themselves – I was sitting on the couch 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 to the guys flat on her own.  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.  I couldn’t keep up with her growing list of conquests.  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.
     I thought to myself that she might only be going through a phase or some kind of mid-life crisis so I went out with her one last time in Dunstable.  Turns out 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.
     The guy that Carolyn had been snogging had been 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 by the neighbours.  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 had been 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 then 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.  I did speak to her afterwards with a goodbye sentence of “I hope you get something arranged” – in Carolyn’s language it meant ‘I hope you get laid’.
     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.
     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 a drink.
     My first outing after the whole Carolyn thing was meeting Janet Jackson at the Met Bar in London.  I’d won a competition to meet Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri.  They were introducing the release of their new 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.  We had to queue 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.
     The cocktails were lined up on the bar as well as some little canapés; my first impression of the Met Bar was it was just so tiny.  It dawned on me that when celebrities go out to these kinds of places there’s no way that one could get out of the way easily.  They’ll have to clap eyes on each other at some point of the night resulting in some kind of ruckus which gets read about in the media.  About an hour later Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri arrived with her entourage followed by a flurry of flashes. 
     She was chaperoned to a closed off seat in the corner and her security team stood ‘on guard’.  Jermaine began to fiddle about with the decks in the DJ booth.  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 of Janet Jackson and the impression I got of her was that she resembled something that of a wet fish - rather sour looking and it was 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, being a Janet Jackson ‘fan’ as it were.  I thought maybe she’d be a little bit chirpier.  Well at least smiling would’ve been nice.
     She 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.  I know if I like a song or not in the first few seconds of hearing it and this particular song didn’t ‘ring my bell’.
     If it wasn't for Nelly the song would’ve plummeted in the charts like all the other ‘comeback’ songs that other ‘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 was leaving, her security was apparently a bit slow as she looked at them as if to say ‘where are you, why are you not in front of me?’  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 in the media 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 second’s notice.  However from when that photo was taken to when she walked through the door was the 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 when she was overweight and running on the beach, I wondered where all that spare skin went.  It’s got to go somewhere.  There must be a rather splendid plastic surgeon.
     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 stress-free on my own.  There weren’t any restrictions set on me by someone else nor were there any expectations 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.  There were opportunities to see and do things for free.  Visiting certain places that, for a ‘commoner’ like me, I didn’t think would be possible. 
     Vonny and I had our first photo shoot at Venture Studios.  Being the first photo shoot 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 I had to be responsible as Vonny was with me and I’m not that ‘kind of girl’.  Carolyn would’ve though. We got some great photos only they were way out of my price range and I was only able to pick the free one.
     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 had a new single out with Groove Armada.  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’.  We were 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 stayed put.  It wasn’t long before the cars started to appear and famous people were arriving.  Vanessa Feltz and her boyfriend Ben Ofoedu arrived followed by Tara Palmer-Tomkinson (who was off her face).  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 turned into somewhat of a lifelong quest for me to find the ‘perfect jacket’.  I didn’t know who Holly was at the time.  It was Vonny that recognised her as she was on the programme ‘Feel the Fear’ that she loved.  She was followed by Kelly Brian and her guest who was really lovely and she signed Vonny’s book.  Shane Lynch was, dare I say it, stoned.  Lisa Butcher arrived with her young daughter although looking rather glum. There were others that arrived but 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 aisles 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’.
     At the end of the evening I went outside to have a cigarette.  A rather agitated man came storming out and said “That was the most horrendous shit that I ever saw!”   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’.  Waking up every day not knowing what to expect was exciting.
     We got tickets to see the Blue Man Group in London.  Had another photo shoot with Kodak and I also went to the launch of the new LG Chocolate phone in London. We also got tickets to see the Polar Express at the Imax 3d cinema in London.  It’s a great place.  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.  At that moment another guy came along, spotted the bag of chips and stole 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’s 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’.
     The ‘Cirque de Celebrite’ tv show was nearing an end and we got tickets to go and see the final show.  It was funny watching Ruby Wax do her rehearsals while 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 Sophie Anderton had signed it with a little love heart.  I was so impressed.  I thought it was rather magnanimous of her – it’s pinned up on my ‘trophy’ board.
     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.

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