Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Roll on May, April’s been acting the fool for quite some time

April 2013 has been a month of anniversaries for me, none of which I've particularly felt like celebrating.

Ten years since my husband of 15 years and I split for good; ten years of being a single parent; five years since we got divorced and five years since he remarried.

There were no cakes cut, no bottles of champagne popped and not a single card to mark the occasion. In fact I decided not to tell anyone until afterwards, in the hope the whole thing passed off without incident, as the PSNI would say.

I did make one small gesture of remembrance, though. In true 21st-century style, I simply updated my Facebook status: “A whole decade since it all went t**s up, but I'm still standing” and then followed that with a link to the Elton John song of the same name.

As I watched the video of Elton and numerous semi-naked nubile men cavorting on a faraway tropical beach, the thought momentarily crossed my mind that how much simpler life would be if I'd been a gay man.

Fortunately, on the actual anniversary of D-Day itself (D for Divorce), there was something pretty all-consuming to keep my mind occupied — a new part-time job. A job I really loved and I knew I was good at.

If you read this column two weeks ago you would know that this job entailed working with the elderly, many of whom were suffering from Alzheimers, as an arts and activity therapist. This was proving a challenge, but incredibly rewarding.

I'd always had a fondness for and affinity with old people since I was a kid listening intently to my grandma and grandad. I loved talking to them and hearing their tales of the past and all their unique life stories and this was renewing that whole fascination all over again.

In turn I was helping them to express themselves in new and creative ways. Some days we would sit in a group with old facsimile newspapers from the past and share the memories these evoked. Other times we would sing songs together, read poems or even recite old sayings and proverbs together .

My favourite activities, though — and the ones that they clearly loved too — usually involved both discussion and art in some medium or other.

Each day I had been learning more and more about what they responded to and how I could use my various arts, crafts and performance skills to reach them and inspire them in different ways. Every day the bond between us grew stronger. It began to feel like one big extended family with me as a kind of catalyst bringing everyone together as one whole and out of themselves individually. I couldn't have been happier or felt more enthusiastic with how it was all coming together.

But then, on my personal D-Day anniversary, it all fell apart. I was summoned into the office and promptly dismissed.

It seems the fact that I was also a writer in a newspaper was seen as a conflict of interests. Indeed, my very reason for being there was called into question; almost like they suspected a sinister ulterior motive to all my interest, and so, without so much as a by-your-leave, I was shown to the door. I didn't even get to say goodbye to all my lovely new and very dear friends or to explain why all the plans we talked about — picnics, parties, trips, etc — weren't going to happen after all.

As for me, I think I might try and avoid April altogether in future.

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