Friday, 1 August 2014

Armley Mills

This past Tuesday (29th July) Paul and I went to Leeds Industrial Museum. The museum is located on the grounds of the old Armley Mills in Leeds. Armley Mills, for those who may be interested, was once the world's largest woollen mill. Exhibits cover 3 floors, in addition to outside areas. Admission is £3.60 for adults, £1.80 for children over 5, £2.90 for concession tickets (students and OAPs), and £7.60 for families. Saying this, Paul and I got in for free as he's disabled/special needs and I'm his carer. It might be worthwhile to bring a letter from the DWP to prove that your child is in receipt of DLA, if this applies to you as well.

When we first walked into the museum, I was concerned that it looked quite small. As I said before though, the museum is larger than it looks and there's quite a bit to see and do there. You enter the museum via the gift shop. To your right is the café which serves biscuits and hot drinks, to your left is the museum proper. The gift shop is well worth looking around. There are several items there from toys to books to mugs and tea towels. All of which are high quality and would make wonderful souvenirs. Paul chose a model train which makes train noises. It's just the right size for his wooden train tracks.

The first room you enter after the gift shop has several exhibits as well as a few activities. Paul really enjoyed playing with the train tracks.


Further into the museum is a small playhouse which is made completely of material knitted by the public. I thought it was pretty neat; Paul didn't seem too impressed by it, though he did go inside and sat down for a minute.


A few of the more hands on activities consisted of a faux phone operator's control panel and some optical illusions. Paul listened to one of the operator recordings, but they didn't hold his interest. He did love the optical illusions however. He loves spinning things, so that's what he started doing. After I showed him how to see the pictures "move", his response was "Wow. That's cool".


Armley Mills also has a working replica of a 1920's cinema. You can sit down and watch a short film clip from that era. Most kids aren't going to be impressed by this, unless they're history buffs. Paul just wanted to completely bypass the whole thing, but I convinced him to sit down long enough for a photo. You can probably tell he was just humouring me at this stage!


Paul's favourite exhibits of the museum by far were the trains. They had several restored engines inside and several more outside. Paul really enjoyed looking at them all. He was a bit disappointed that he couldn't ride on any of them, but that didn't stop him from walking along the short length of disused track and making train noises!


If you visit the museum, you'll want to bring a picnic lunch (or get takeaway from the nearby Pizza Hut) in order to take advantage of the beautiful outdoor picnic area.

Overall, the museum is quite nice. Whilst it might not hold the interest of really young children, there are enough hands on activities to keep slightly older children occupied. Paul certainly seemed to enjoy the outing and we spent just over an hour walking around looking at things. If you do the activities, read the exhibit signs, and watch the film, it will probably take upwards of two to three hours to get all the way through the building.







Sunday, 15 June 2014

R.I.P. Dad

 (TW: death, rape, childhood trauma)

On the 13th of June, 2014, my Dad passed away from advanced lung cancer. He was 69 years old.

I found out about his death from my mother, via an email on Facebook. Don't judge - I live in England, while the rest of my family live in The United States of America; Facebook is pretty much the only way they can contact me. Mom also has cancer, but unlike my Dad, she hasn't given up and is fighting it with every ounce of stubbornness she possesses - which believe me, is a very large amount.

When I read Mom's message, I experienced a bit of shock, as you can probably imagine. The knowledge that someone you knew from a very early age has died always comes as a shock, the death of a family member even more so. If this was a typical story, one would probably expect the next few paragraphs of this blog entry to say what a great man my Dad was and how much I grieve his passing and that I'm going to miss him terribly.

This isn't a typical story.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't grieved at all. Not one tiny bit. When, a few weeks ago, I learned that he had cancer, I did cry. It wasn't a "I'm sad because my Dad has cancer" thing though, but rather an "I'm crying because I should be sad, but I'm not and everything inside of me says I should be so I'm really confused" thing.

To those of you reading this who are thinking "What an unfeeling, uncaring bastard." - I'm not a sociopath and had it been anyone else in my family who had died, I would still be in extreme mourning. It just so happens however, that the person who died was my Dad and well, I just don't feel sadness at his passing.

Don't get me wrong, I have lots of good memories of my Dad. He got me interested in Dungeons & Dragons and table-top games, he bought me my first games console, he taught me how to ride a bike, and he loved roller coasters and going to Six Flags Theme Park in Eureka, Missouri as much as I did. But sadness at him dying? Nope. Not even a sliver.

I've actually been puzzling about this over the last few days, because society demands that we mourn over the loss of our loved ones. It was while reading Laurell K. Hamilton's A Shiver of Light earlier this evening, that I realised exactly why I haven't grieved and probably will never do so.

I mourned the loss of my Dad back when I was a kid. 

When I was between the ages of 9 and 10 years of age (I can't say exactly how old I was because I've found that my memories from 7 - 13 years old are quite hazy and indistinct), my Dad moved back to the state of Missouri from a 2 - 3 year stint of living in Florida. My parents split up when I was 7 - 8 years old; my sisters and I stayed with our Mom in Missouri while my Dad moved to Florida. Their divorce was finalised soon after he came back.

It was during this time that my Dad sexually molested me. Actions which continued off and on until I was 13 years old and a series of events put him in prison for a total of 10 years.  It was at this point that I grieved over the loss of a parent. From the moment he took the last bits of my innocence - that is when I lost my Dad.

The grieving process lasted years for me, even though it's only now that I realise that's what I was going through. All the stages of grief and mourning were there (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), but neither I nor any one around me at the time picked up on it. These stages followed me well into my late 20's and early 30's; some of them repeating several times, due to all the self-confidence and self-doubt issues his actions caused me.

I've already grieved. Not only over the loss of my Dad, but also over the loss of myself because to claim that what happened didn't change who I am would be lying. My entire being - everything that makes me ME - changed on the day my paedophile father decided to act out his perverse fantasies on me.

Everyone else in my family can mourn his death; it's their right to do so. But the man who died? He wasn't my father and hadn't been for a very long time.

It's funny how a make-believe world can show you truths.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Leeds Museum

My boyfriend and I took Paul to the Leeds Museum yesterday. I was pleased by how well he handled the crowds and loved that he really seemed to be enjoying himself. All of the staff we came in contact with were really nice and understanding as well.

The only thing that caused a bit of a problem was they had some of their "do not touch" exhibits right out in the open and often right next to a hands on exhibit. Needless to say, this confused Paul to no end. He just couldn't understand why he could touch the little blocks, but not the big ones in the Ancient Worlds exhibit (as an example).

For anyone who may be thinking about going, it's a nice day out, but you may want to prep your child before hand so they will know what they can touch and what they can't. I was thinking a social story might work in this instance. Something to explain how we look for "do not touch" signs on exhibits and if there isn't one, it's OK to gently touch the object.

Here are a few photos of our visit.

A photo of a photo of a fox with chicken egg

Paul
Me