Sexuality through the ages – part II

ring

Following on from yesterday’s post, I got married at 21 to Teddy and 33 years later we are still together, rather surprisingly. Perhaps I won’t be for much longer once he reads this series… 🙂 Relax; he has heard it all – I talk a lot.

I have a theory about one of the reasons why I put on weight when younger. When I married I was slim, attractive and sexually on form. I was truly concerned that I might slip back into my alley cat ways and be unfaithful as I had been to the previous boyfriend/fiancé. Teddy told me that he loved me, however I looked, and I slipped into not caring for my appearance, putting on weight and becoming unattractive both to me and potential suitors. It worked – men weren’t asking me out at bus stops! We had a hard start to married life with an almost immediate lay off for Teddy and Bunny struggling to work with a mental illness, as yet not diagnosed. We moved 6 times in our first 8 years of marriage.

My mood, attractiveness or life was not static over the decades. I lost weight and put it on, several times. Curiously, I was about 30 this first time I got slim again and the men were like flies around honey and it frightened me. I was very aware that Teddy was attractive to women. At one of the companies that we both worked at, one of the laboratory techs had a fancy for him and made it very obvious. One time in the canteen, she said in front of all the staff (including me and Ted) that he really loved her. She was making a joke and being territorial. She was also slim and pretty. I couldn’t resist my inner bitch and said loudly, “I am sorry, Kirsty, but my husband can’t love you because you have no boobs”. The canteen collapsed, as did her ego. Don’t mess with Kerry…

Even worse, Teddy really had a crush on another tech. To this day he refutes this but he came home every day telling me about what she had said, how funny she was and how pretty she looked. I now know this is normal part of married life and I have had a few crushes of my own since then. I was devastated and have never recovered from this blow to my confidence. It was clearly innocent or he wouldn’t have openly talked about her. How hard it is to attain maturity. A couple of years ago, Teddy said that his crush had contacted him via Linkedin. My hackles raised but I said nothing. He asked if I would email her from both of us. I did that and she never replied… My suspicions were raised and I asked him what she looked like on her Linkedin photo. As soon as he told me, I realized that she hadn’t fulfilled her early promise and he was disappointed. Schadenfreude made me delighted that I have matured like a fine wine (or cheese or Lambrusco, take your pick 🙂 ).

Life was not easy through the decades with both the ups and downs of health and work. Then I turned 40, within 2 years my mother had died, our remaining elderly cats and we moved to Egypt. More on that in this post Letters from Cairo. Strangely, this catastrophic journey made us more intimate physically and mentally. I had finally lost most of my excess weight and was edging slowly towards another sexual peak. Egypt made me so confident in my attractiveness although my mental health was reaching a breaking point. Expat and local men were saying openly to Teddy that his wife was very attractive and I could see him preening with pride.

We moved from Egypt to Texas life-changing moment when I shaved off my very long hair to raise money for breast cancer. I did this to celebrate my 50th birthday because I was jaded with the excess of our affluent little city. Ted posted the video and it was an immediate hit with many curious male admirers. See the video – Kerry is Bald

Just after my 52nd birthday, my sexual button switched back on again. ZING! I went on a solo trip to Savannah and the female taxi driver was telling me how beautiful I was. I wondered if this was a rainbow taxi but then she told me all about her sex life (she was much older than me). Whoa – Savannah is swinging! I went on a paddle steamer and met up with a lovely lady from Jamaica who I was going to meet for dinner at a swanky hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant. Then the heavens opened and we got drenched. This is a disaster for a black lady and she now had to work on her hair before her conference the next day. Savannah seemed safe so I just went alone. Did you know there are many single men in Savannah? The predation started immediately although they were much younger than me. I was perplexed, flattered and a little unnerved especially since there were young woman all around me, obviously on the prowl.

I was unable to see that the sexual button had switched on and I was giving out those old vibes. It became more obvious at work (a marriage proposal from a complete stranger) and on other trips. I thought the Scottish accent was the main factor but I was predated by a much younger man on a train in Scotland. Good Lord, he could have taken some lessons in subtlety from a southern gentleman. I had to send a letter of complaint about a male nurse who made a pass at me. Finally, I realized that I actually wanted sex, all the time. Bear in mind that Teddy is two years older than me and on a number of medications. Initially he was excited about this new Duracell Bunny but then started feeling stressed.

At this point, he was traveling overseas for work regularly and I accompanied him. It was like a second honeymoon. I was fit and gymnastic… For a year or so, we were having sex morning and night and then some. I had to take daily antibiotics to ward off the UTIs but all was well until it wasn’t. This post explained what happened next –vajazzling You will be happy to know that we are back to behaving like a normal couple of our age, more sleep and less sex. I still get unusual propositions and I am enjoying every minute until it stops.

Tomorrow’s topic is gay boyfriends…

Body Image

KERRY PR cleavage
This blog is the result of a dare from Stephanie and refers to her post To Cleave or not, that is the question. It is a hilarious but thoughtful post about how we feel about displaying our body. Read the comments, it is very revealing. I dared to show how much cleavage I bare and the evidence is above. I said an inch but methinks it might be two or three…

In general, my feeling is if you’ve got it, flaunt it but then you have to do it with confidence and ignore the inevitable comments. One of my male colleagues quite often makes hilarious but demeaning comments about women wearing what HE thinks is inappropriate clothing. He will say things like, “she is too old to be wearing a pleather mini-skirt” while I am wearing a black mini-skirt as part of my uniform, along with sexy lacy tights? I guess it makes a difference if you desire/fancy the person. My husband is exactly the same and loves it when I wear something provocative.

I spent the majority of my adult life fighting obesity and missed out on many opportunities to wear clothing that was perhaps a bit more appropriate in my 20s or 30s. It was incredibly hard work to get my mental health better which was the root cause of my obesity. Stress loves carbohydrates. I was over 50 when I suddenly looked amazing after a lifetime of nasty sideways glances or doctor’s notes referring to my weight. My cousin refers to me as Benjamin Button and there is a strange element of that. The two photographs below demonstrate this. One was taken a couple of months ago when I was modelling clothes while researching my boutique article, the other one was when I was in my 20s. Even with an element of body dysmorphia I can see that the slim, confident 55 year old looks much better than the sad, fat Kerry.

mainstream kerry3 fatkerry2

For the most part, I think you should whatever you want to as long as it doesn’t break any laws or truly offend anyone. You should dress with respect when entering a house of worship or a country with a different culture. I had to wear very different clothes when living in Egypt or face the consequences (usually unpleasant remarks, looks or a quick feel). We live in a democratic country and, in theory, women are equal. By the same token, I have no problem with you wearing a hijab, turtleneck or ninja outfit. 🙂

PS Buy the Ebook! Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan. It is free to subscribers and very inexpensive for everyone else.

Toffee – our baby cat

Toffee on the mantel

Aaawww – that cute little face. She doesn’t look like she has the capacity to reduce you to a whimpering wreck, does she? Not a day goes by when she doesn’t whine, beg, look at you as though you torture her and then cuddle me obsessively. It must be my fault but I don’t know how it happened.

Toffee, aka Toffee Tiddles or Baby girl, is our baby. She is going to be 13 this spring but is still our baby and behaves like it. We were introduced to Toffee when she was about 6 weeks old, so she has known us forever. At some point, before she was a year old, something traumatic happened to her. We have no idea what it was but it changed her personality. She was injured but was too upset for us to take her to the vet in Egypt. Our gardener found her and kept her in his room. We would like to think that she fell off the balcony but we think that a human did something bad to her, perhaps unintentionally. Most Egyptians love cats so it is hard to imagine that anyone deliberately did anything bad but they may have shooed her into the path of a car, perhaps.

I watched her mother, Mrs. Stripe, play with Toffee and her sibling Treacle (coal black), for hours in the garden. The play was really a lesson in how to hunt and it was usually mom’s tail. As they grew older, the siblings would play fight with each other but as feral kittens didn’t utter a sound. It was the weirdest experience to watch them hurt each other and squeak silently! Toffee was the dominant kitten and came into the house soonest. She loved to chase balls around the house and kick-started by putting her back legs up the wall. Those little paw marks on white-washed walls were so difficult to remove. Although her mum was not a hunter, more a scavenger, Toffee has a natural hunting ability and is literally addicted to lizards. They have some LSD type substance on their skin. Over the years I have rescued hundreds of lizards including a big black one that bit me!!

Her first proper toy was a handmade tartan teddy knitted by an American expat. It was a few inches long and she carried it everywhere. It was hard to get either toys or cat food in Egypt but we managed with ping-pong balls. Her absolute favorite was a toy that I bought for myself. This was another hand-knitted doll who was a genial witch, dressed in a purple outfit and a knitted broomstick. It was Halloween and I was just so delighted to find something so cute. Toffee took one look at it and ran off with Nanny Ogg in her mouth – it was as big as she was!

When we finally managed to get her to the vet for vaccinations and neutering, she was the worst patient ever – even worse than Zhenny… Our veterinarian had an assistant that looked like an Egyptian Lurch. His size and temperament calmed/scared most animals but not Toffee. She totally trashed Dr. Farouk’s office – she escaped from Lurch/Mohammed’s grasp, ran around like a mini tornado, breaking everything as she went. We finally found her inside one of his desk drawers. It was the only time I saw Dr. Farouk close to losing his cool. He wanted to know why we were looking after a wild animal but by that time, she was injured and we had no choice. She has rarely visited any vet in her 12⅔rd years and we hope she just drops dead someday. Apart from us adoring our little baby, she is has been a fabulous intermediary between Zhenny and Mrs. Stripe who both consider themselves alpha females. Toffee will play with them both, particularly Zhenny who she treats as a sibling.

She didn’t find her voice for years but now has a really loud, annoying squeak. I will put up with it for ages and then speak to her in Arabic. She puts her tail between her legs and then runs under the bed. Sigh. Then I have to go persuade her than Mummy is not an ogre (she should have met her Grandma) and please come out for some organic chicken. By now you should realize who the problem is…

Toffee with Mummy in Egypt

Toffee with Mummy in Egypt

Liebster Award

liebster5A big thank you to Lisa, Life of an El Paso Woman who nominated me for a Liebster Award. I was going to say this is a No Award site but the Grinch has left my soul after a lovely day working on Christmas Day and I will accept with gracious appreciation.

The rules are: 1. Say thank you to the person who nominated you. 2.Pick 5 people to nominate 3. Ask 5 questions. 4. Post the pic in the post.

These are Lisa’s 10 questions –

1. What’s your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. Everyone can celebrate it, no one needs to fight about what they should call the holiday (yes, it’s a happy holiday :)). There are no presents and most of us have something to be thankful about.

2. What is your favorite thing to cook or bake?
Nothing at all. Does salad out of a packet count with bottled dressing?

3. What’s the best thing about the city where you live?
My city is built in an indigenous forest. There are critters everywhere. We had the infra red camera out on Christmas and counted Betsy Sue the Possum and her two kids, Louanne and Chuck, two Woodrats, Willie and Winnie, the Raccoon twins, Rocky and Robbie, KATNISS, our feral cat who came back for Christmas. We think that Betsy Sue’s ‘husband’ was there too – Travis?

4. What are some of your favorite movies?
The Wizard of Oz and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. How is that for a contrast but they both have a moral tale…

5. What was one of the hardest thing you’ve ever done in life so far?
Move to Egypt and stay there after the Gulf War started.

6. Who are you the closest with in your family?
Does my husband count? If not, probably my dead mother, I see her in the mirror every day and somehow her words come out of my mouth in an involuntary manner. “Do you want a smack?”

7. Why did you start blogging?
To make me finish and publish my book. Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan

8. Is the glass half empty or half full?
Mostly half full but I am happily medicated…

9. Are you a Star Wars fan?
Of course! Can’t you see my uncanny resemblance to Princess Leia? You should see me in a gold bikini and chains…

10. What was your favorite toy growing up?
BEBE! The doll that Daddy sent me

Now I nominate five people and give them five questions to answer.  I nominate –

A Vegan in Las Vegas
Tomorrow Definitely
The Ardross-man
Weird Guy With The Dog
New England Nomad

Here are my questions –
1. Who was your first TV/Film hero or crush?
2. What other place in the world do you think you could live in?
3. What would you like engraved on your tombstone or written on your obituary?
4. What food to you hate to eat?
5. Star Wars or Star Trek?

Zhenny – the crazy cat

ZnK_Sept1

I had such a sad day yesterday. Our beautiful Zhenny’s heart stopped during a routine dental procedure and she is now buried in the garden with Mrs. Stripe who died earlier in the year. She was geriatric and had some cognitive difficulties but it was an unexpected death.  Teddy and I are distraught despite knowing that she didn’t have much longer. She was so funny, loving and crazy, RIP our special girl. This is my original post about her.

I know – she is utterly beautiful. Her eyes are exquisite and she looks like a cat on a pyramid. That’s the problem… I first encountered her at the cat shelter where my husband and I volunteered in Cairo, Egypt. Her owner was moving from an American military base in Cairo to another in Korea and couldn’t take her fur baby. I can only imagine how her owner felt but Zhenny was distraught. She wouldn’t eat anything, despite our endless treats and pleading. The veterinarian put an IV drip in but she thought she was being tortured. We already had Mrs. Stripe and her daughter, Toffee, our garden cats, so we certainly didn’t want another one. We thought that Stripe would attack her anyway as she is so territorial. Then one day it was obvious that Zhenny was dying and I just put her in a crate, took her home so that she could die somewhere nice.

She was so skinny that we bought her a little cat nest with a hood so that she could feel safe and comfortable in her final days. To my surprise, when I introduced Stripe and Toffee to her, I could see them saying, ‘Poor little soul’ and thus she was accepted. The fight for her life went on for about a week with me forcing baby food into her mouth. In desperation I bought some minced beef and cooked it for her. For the first time, she seemed to have an appetite and started eating properly. By that time we were all bonded or used to each other’s scents and it was too late… That was 12 years ago and she was 18 months old. She is still alive but I have saved her life on another occasion when the veterinarian hospital could not look after her. We believe she may have sent someone to ER…

Stripe and Toffee are likely half Mau but completely feral. Zhenny looks like a tabby oriental but may as well be from Planet Zed. Even the vet said that she is just loco. I have looked after many cats but this one is an enigma. Only I can lift her, and only in special circumstances. Her Dad may only kiss her but not stroke her. He is also the only one who is allowed to play with her in a precise OCD way. Mum is just for cuddles and care-giving. The other two cats were utterly silent for years, as feral cats can be, but Zhenny is astonishingly vocal. I will be on the phone with my aunt in Ireland, Zhenny will be three rooms away and she can hear her screaming. After all these years we can tell the difference between her distress and laughter. The vet suggested that we give her Xanax – I looked at him and said, “How precisely should I do that, with a blow-dart, perhaps?”

She can be hysterically funny or drive us to tears. If she is upset she creeps along the floor, sobbing. Have you ever heard a cat sob? All treats have to be thrown like live prey and yet she is not a hunter. We discovered much later that she had kittens before we took her in but still hadn’t been neutered. Shortly after I saved her life in Cairo, she went into heat. Our villa was three houses from the baker’s shop at the end of the street and I could hear her howling inside our house. No wonder our neighbors had some issues with us… One time she was halfway up the stairs, with her head peeping through the balustrade and started ‘in heat howling’. Even she looked astonished at the guttural sound that came out of her mouth and we burst out laughing.

She should not have lived this long but Mummy is just so good at saving her life. Sigh. Our vet looks at me in horror when I say very firmly DO NOT RESUSCITATE! She is so difficult to handle that we know that she would not be able to cope with a chronic illness or disability so it would be a kindness. She has the early stages of kidney dysfunction but I suspect she has at least another year in her. Oh we will miss these beautiful green blue eyes and her funny vocalizations.

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo

Read more about her in Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan

Christmas in Egypt

Happy New Year

Christmas was different in Egypt, for all sorts of reasons. At the time we were there it was close to Ramadan on two consecutive years. Ramadan is celebrated on the ninth month of the Muslim year and their calendar is different from our Roman one. Muslims have to fast from sunrise to sunset. Each country celebrates this religious event in a different way but in Egypt it was party central. As soon as sun set everyone crowded restaurants, ate delicious meals at home and stayed up all hours. We all dreaded the festival because, quite naturally, everyone was a tad grumpy while fasting. They had also eaten too much and slept too little making the driving more chaotic than usual.

Most households light little blue glass Ramadan lanterns which were hung from balconies. As it was approaching Christmas it gave Cairo a festive feel. We lived on the edge of the city at that time, close to the desert, and on a cold winter night you could see the stars so brightly in the sky. It was endlessly fascinating because we were in a different position of the world, as was our view of the constellations. There is a large minority of Coptic Christians who are believed to be the original Christians. They have their own Pope who I had the privilege of seeing at the airport. They celebrate Christianity in a more Orthodox manner and Christmas Day is on January 7th. So we had three festivals one after the other – it was a wonder the country functioned…

One crisp cool night, I remember looking up at the stars and thinking how close we were to the place of Jesus’ birth. Did it look, smell and sound similar? It was as close as I was going to get to the Holy Land as your passport could not have both Israeli and Middle-Eastern stamps on it. My husband had two separate passports to travel on for work. The desert has a magical feel, especially in the winter. It can reach almost freezing but warms up dramatically during the day. You can easily image djinns or genies as the westerners say. Our Egyptian friend who was a strict Muslim still believed in djinns and thought to them with some fear. In general Egyptians were superstitious especially if they were Bedouin and many were.

One Christmas party I met an Algerian lady who was very pretty with brown eyes and blonde hair. Her brown eyes came from her French Algerian mother but her blonde hair came from her blonde, blue eyed Berber farther. Apparently it is quite common – Vikings, I assume? I would have loved to have visited Algeria and Berber villages but it was just too dangerous especially in the middle of the Gulf War. Most of the expats left Cairo desperately at Christmas time to have some normality at home but we had nowhere to go and the flights were expensive. It was really quite nice spending the holidays in such an exotic place.

One more opportunity to market my book –Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan.

My Charismatic Father

My father as a beautiful boy

My father on the right as a beautiful boy

As I have been browsing other bloggers posts, I have noticed some lovely memorials to fathers who have passed on. It struck me that although my Dad died in 1990, I have no similar memories. He disappeared from my life when I was about 2 years old and, to all intents and purposes, abandoned us in Glasgow at my Grandmother’s home. Not only that, he ‘borrowed’ money from my mum’s family, never to be repaid.

My mum was a very complicated person with a mental illness and alcohol problem. When I was younger she invariably tried to boost the image of my Dad – told me how handsome, talented, clever and creative he was. I was aware that the rest of her family did not share that opinion. Then, one wonderful day, a giant package arrived from the States. Usually the parcels at Christmas were from my two single maternal aunts and one relative of my father. This one was from my father and it was full of a strange mixture of toys including a pink Cadillac, a fire engine and a large baby doll. I was so excited to receive something from this elusive father. I wasn’t quite old enough to figure out why my mum was conflicted about the parcel – we never did receive any alimony.

As the years passed, a clearer picture of my father emerged. He was a deeply flawed but utterly charismatic man who may well have had mental health issues – certainly he was an alcoholic. In one awful drunken revelation, my mum wailed at me that my Dad had wanted her to get an illegal abortion in 1959. I can still remember how devastating that was to me – not only was I an unwanted burden to my mother but my father probably only married my mother because of my existence. To make things worse I also knew that my father’s cousin, my aunt Jackie, wanted to adopt me because of the circumstances of my birth. How I longed that she had.

Time moved on, I had inherited not just a damaged psyche but a genetic mental illness. I married very young and when I was around 30 found out that we could not have children. That must have triggered something in my head and I asked my mum if she would be upset if I tried to trace my Dad but she was surprisingly keen. Long story short, I found him and he was happy to have reconnected. In essence, I had never met him and was struck by how sexy and alluring his voice was. It resonated beautifully.

There is no happy ending. Eventually, I couldn’t stand to even speak to him after many drunken calls in the middle of the night. He died in desperately sad circumstances, alone, and I am just sad that I don’t have a wonderful Dad to pay tribute to. The one person, who knew him intimately and did not dislike him, told me that I inherited his charisma. I have been told that I have a sexy and alluring voice, too.

I have written some more about him in my Kindle Book –
Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan

PS. After I wrote this I looked at my avatar and my Dad as a child and realized our faces are identical.

Mrs. Stripe

2002

2002

Mrs. Stripe was the first cat we truly noticed in Cairo. We had left Britain with absolute certainty that we would never have pets again…freedom at last. Sigh. She was an exquisite cat, brown tabby with gorgeous titian highlights. We admired her beauty but left her to her own devices. After I had started volunteering at the cat shelter, I noticed that she was limping. I asked the Sudanese manager of the cat shelter to help my husband and I trap her so that we could take her to Dr. Farouk, the local veterinarian.

That sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Well, we trapped her in our bedroom and all three of us tried to catch her. It was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She must have been walking on the ceiling because how else did she spray liquid poo all over it, the walls, the carpet, the bed and the furniture? Time stopped, a la Matrix, but still we couldn’t catch her. We were all so traumatized that I called time out, while sobbing, and we all left the bedroom, leaving the door open for her to escape.

I was beside myself with grief, worried about her injury and certain that she would never visit us again. Why should I care when we were never going to have pets again…? The next day I caught my breath when I saw her coming through the hedge followed by two 6 week old kittens. I started crying because it was obvious that she was telling me that she couldn’t allow us to trap her because she had kittens to feed. So then we had Mrs. Stripe, Toffee and Treacle. Miraculously, her chase around the bedroom had increased her adrenaline so much that the injury had healed overnight.

If you would like to read more about Mrs. Stripe and our other street animals in Cairo please check out my Kindle book about our 2 years in Cairo during the 2nd Gulf War.
http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Cairo-This-memoir-travelogue-ebook/dp/B015JFY1F0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1448745950&sr=1-1&keywords=letters+from+cairo

We still have geriatric Mrs. Stripe who is almost 14 years old, her daughter Toffee and another weird one that we picked up along the way. This time we said absolutely no more pets until my husband just named the outside feral cat that has recently had kittens. I am trying to feed her up so I can neuter and release her. After some argument (he wanted to call her Tess – really?), she has been named Katniss which is much more appropriate to her feral and predatory nature. On a tangential note, Mrs. Stripe has bad muscle deterioration from her early gymnastic life and now has to take Gabapentin. We decided to use some of our stock – we have a small pharmacy at home – but that involved opening a 100 mg capsule and dividing into 10 for a cat dosage. I was flummoxed but looked in amazement as my husband started using a pen knife to divide it up like cocaine. Is he having a Breaking Bad experience or did we just watch too much of it?

2015

2015

The day the Canadians took over Maadi

canadian-flag-large

When the second Gulf War broke out, we were living in Cairo, Egypt – specifically in a small suburb called Maadi. Many of the consulates were based there, including the Israeli consulate. It was very scary walking past there – Mossad agents look just like they do in TV programs. Westerners and other expats flocked to Maadi for the housing, situation and the Cairo American School.

Despite all the fear of the first few days, I was highly amused by how many Canadian stickers suddenly appeared on local cars. Were they really all Canadian or were they wussy ‘mericans? I stand out like a sore thumb anyway so there was no point in pretending I was anything other than American but I wasn’t stupid enough to shout it from the rooftops.

Even funnier, in my eyes, was that would be terrorists didn’t really care if you were Canadian or American. We all sound the same, don’t we, eh? I did think it was remarkably negligent that the American school had bright yellow school buses that stood out like a target.

On a more serious note, I feel so sad for all the innocent holiday makers that died on the Russian charter plane leaving from Sharm el Sheik. It is a lovely resort on the Red Sea that in happier times was incredibly popular with Israelis, would you believe? Russians and Europeans took advantage of the inexpensive vacations in a beautiful place.

Security is always high in Cairo International Airport but terrorists often look for softer targets which this would have been. RIP.

Letters from Cairo, A Kindle Book by Kerry Duncan

The day I knew I could write….

feather_pen_311122

As soon as I started writing this, I realized there were three days. The first one was a family secret. When I was about 7 years old my writing and reading skills were so above average that I spent most of my time in class helping those having difficulties (at the request of the overworked teacher). Then my mum got a letter asking her to come in to see the teacher. I had been asked to write a story and unlike the other children who wrote about spaceships, playing and houses; mine was a disturbing tale of a grandmother rocking in a chair when she died. My Nana was my other caregiver, as my mum had to work and she had recently had a stroke. I was smart enough to know that she could die and this was my therapy. The teacher suggested they take me to a child psychologist but my family were horrified that I would be stigmatized. It was the first of many incidents when my mental illness peeked above the parapet.

Life moved on and my beloved Nana died when I was 13 years old. A couple of years later there was a city wide competition to write an affecting speech and then read it publicly. I wrote a moving piece about how the world could be much better with more compassion and less corruption, especially within the Catholic Church. My teacher made me read it in class and I blushed furiously because I am really shy despite the chattiness. The class, unusually, listened in stunned silence and then applauded. I was delighted and mortified at the same time. I eventually went on to read it in a public forum and came in second. The English principal pulled me aside and told me it was really excellent and I should have won were it not for the winning speech focusing on Nationalism (very popular in the 70s). I joined the debating society but soon realized that I couldn’t effectively talk about anything that I wasn’t passionate about.

The third time was when I was asked to take a temporary job as a researcher to create a plan and grant application to start a rural transportation system primarily for elderly and disabled people. The original researcher had dropped out at the last minute and they needed someone quickly. I was recommended by one of the committee members who didn’t really know the full breadth of my skill in writing but knew I was smart. The other volunteers were suspicious but I brought them all around eventually. The application form was ridiculously short to fully present your project so I added a thesis. It was incredibly complete with statistical analysis, case studies and a little bit of humor. We had an advisor (he was and still is useless, if he even has a job). He created a fire-breathing dragon (aka me) when he said dismissively, “they will just look at the summary”.

Well he was wrong: unknown to me and everyone else connected with the project the Scottish government was very happy with one of the best proposals for this funding. Once the grant application had been submitted, I went straight into another community project. The original project used borrowed buses, volunteer drivers and helpers and had about $20 in the bank. My friend (who had recommended me) came racing through with a fax, one December day, that stated that not only were they giving us the equivalent of about $400,000 for a new bus, staff and all the rest but they had voluntarily added on about $50,000 extra because they thought we had underestimated our costs slightly. As she showed it to me, I just burst into tears, knowing what an accomplishment it was and how much good it would do our relatively poor, rural community. I never cry at work. The committee members were flabbergasted.

My OCD became useful, and I really helped at the beginning stages of the project which went from strength to strength. By the time I had moved on, it was winning awards for its excellence, flexibility and uniqueness. I could claim only a small part of all this success but this was the crowning achievement in my career when I worked for a variety of non-profits. My memoir is available on Kindle – “Letters from Cairo” by Kerry Duncan.