Monday, 27 January 2020

No justice in the world...One girls story of a night she can't remember

I wanted to share this story because nowadays this kind of story is becoming more and more common.

Women and men can be victims of this kind of crime and most go unreported or never get the justice required. It is close to my heart, especially as I have worked in mental health and seen the effect that this kind of event can have upon people.

A girl I know went through quite a surreal yet horrific experience. She is able to talk to me about it because she is unable to attach the emotion she is supposed to feel to the situation she went through.

She went on to tell me her story...Lets call her Scarlet.

Scarlet was and still is an average girl. She is average looking, with mousey hair and greeny coloured eyes. She has never been overly popular and had limited friends. She never really had much confidence. 

It was 6pm on a Sunday evening and she was out at a local bar with a male friend, having a catch up. She reports having had a couple of large vinos, which to Scarlet wasn't an excessive amount as she drank regularly.

The bar was quiet and her and her friend were talking about the weekend just gone, which had been quiet for them both and the week ahead.

Scarlet's friend asked her if would she mind if he popped over to the pub over the road as he needed to ask about some work and wouldn't be long, Scarlet was fine with this as she was a regular in the pub and she glanced at the bar and saw a guy that she knew through a member of her extended family.

Her friend left the bar and Scarlet grabbed her second glass of wine and headed over to chat to the guy she was familiar with at the bar. He was with another bloke who she didn't know. Scarlet stated that she felt comfortable and was relaxed just waiting for her friend to return. 

The two men who she was chatting with asked her if she fancied a shot. Now Scarlet reports at the time, she knew she hadn't work tomorrow and to be social agreed.

The remaining part of the story isn't in fact Scarlet's story because Scarlet sadly, but she also tells me that in reflection is quite grateful that she cannot recall the following events that occurred.

Scarlet reports awaking at approximately at 10am the following morning on her friends living room floor  surrounded by bowls of vomit and towels. Her friend came into her and asked if she was ok. Scarlet explained to me at that moment she felt, albeit very tired and a bit of a headache but generally fine and had no idea what the hell was going on.

Her friend asked if she could remember any thing about what happened the night before. Scarlet said that she couldn't remember anything bad but was concerned that she cannot remember getting back to his house. She stated that the last thing she remembers was being stood at the bar with the two men.

Her friend advised her that she needed to speak with the barmaid of the pub she had been in and was very reluctant to tell Scarlet why. Scarlet stated that she felt extremely confused and a little annoyed at what seemed like a load of drama over nothing.

About 4pm on the Monday Scarlet eventually got hold of the local bar maid who gave her an account of what she had seen the night before.

Scarlet reports that the bar maid was kind but quite direct. The bar maid went on to tell Scarlet that she was concerned for her on that evening as Scarlet had disappeared from the bar leaving her handbag open on the bar area. Scarlet thought that was really strange as she didn't usually do things like that. Scarlet stated that this was beginning to sound really surreal and just could not recall this from the pervious evening.

Scarlet states that she is able to tell me this story because it isn't her account and she feels like she is telling the story about someone else.

The bar maid said to Scarlet that she was so concerned of her disappearance she went outside to look for her and to pop into the next pub to ask the friend Scarlet had arrived with if he knew where she was, he didn't.

It was a snowy November evening and freezing cold. Snow lay on the floor and continued to settle.

The barmaid and Scarlet's friend saw one of the men who Scarlet was with walking back over to the pub, he had come from an alley way. The barmaid walked towards the alley way, and could see a figure lying on the floor covered in snowflakes. 

The barmaid told Scarlet that she had found her lying semi naked in the snow and said that Scarlet was totally incoherent.

When Scarlet was telling me this, she seemed a bit detached to the words that were coming out of her mouth. She was able to articulate them clearly without really showing any emotion. Something that I'm sure usually would give anyone a glimpse of distress.

The barmaid told Scarlet the name of the man walking across the road from where she had been found and to do what she wished with this information. Scarlet said that she felt numb and felt nothing and totally baffled with what she was hearing. It just didn't add up to her and could not remember no matter how hard she tried to recall the events of the night before.

Scarlet went back to her parents house and sat up a lot of the night thinking about the information that she had been told. Scarlet said she felt like she had been listening to a story about someone else.

The following morning was Tuesday, Scarlet reports still trying to process the information she was provided by the barmaid. Eventually she decides to call her boyfriend and says "hypothetically if you were told this" she gave him the information that she had been told, "what would you do?". Scarlet's boyfriend immediately questioned her and asked what had happened. Scarlet stated that she regurgitated the information to him, again with no emotion. He told her to tell her parents and inform the police. 

At this point Scarlet said she started to become emotional, she stated not because she can remember anything but because the story is so sad and she knows that she has to do something, for if this really did happen, this man needs to be reported.

Scarlet went on to tell me that she told her mum, who in her typical mum style was very diplomatic and appeared unemotional herself. Scarlet informed her dad, who she states must have been in shock as she remembers him waffling on about going out drinking and what she was wearing. Scarlet states that to this very day she can remember exactly what she was wearing that night.

Scarlet called the police, she states that two plain clothed women officers arrived at her parents house, they were very nice and extremely patient and supportive with her. They took the name of her friend, the barmaid and the two guys that Scarlet had been talking to. The officers immediately said that they knew of the accused man and his family and were not surprised.

The officers went on to tell Scarlet that she would need to have tests. They were booked at a special clinic for 7pm that evening, where the police would take her.

Scarlet states that she hadn't had a shower since Sunday, purely as Monday and the Tuesday had been somewhat chaotic and once she had told the police on Tuesday morning they told her not to have one.

Scarlet had to have her hair cut, swabs taken and generally not very nice personal tests completed.

The investigation went on for several weeks. The accused man's dna came back to being all over Scarlet, something Scarlet, to this day says that she cannot get her head around. 

The accused man reported that the sexual acts had been consensual. To which Scarlet was horrified, because she knows that there was no way on this earth she would have had sex or anything sexual related with this man and no matter how much she loved her boyfriend at the time would not ever have contemplated getting naked in the snow to have sex down an alley way, let alone with a stranger.

Scarlet reports that she felt sick and although cannot recall any of the event said that she felt angry about it.

Scarlet's blood results came back negative for any type of "date rape" drug. The police said that it was probably because by the time the blood was taken and tested it was likely to not be in her system, as some of the well known "date rape" drugs can leave the system as soon as 12 hours after taking. Most have no trace between 48-72 hours.

Scarlet's case was dismissed by the Crime Prosecution Service (CPS) due to not enough evidence and the fact that it came down to Scarlet's word against this man.

Scarlet reports that the police were really supportive and said that this sadly happens frequently and that they would keep the man's name on file in case other cases came up.

Scarlet reports although that she cannot remember the event, which she is actually really grateful for and feels so sorry for women and men that can remember the ordeal. She did say that she gets emotional when she talks about it, purely for the sadness of feeling so vulnerable back then and that there isn't any justice for her and other victims of the same or similar crimes.

Sadly for Scarlet, she lived in the same town as the accused so she reports avoiding going out socially and certainly to those pubs for some years after. She states that on occasion she has seen the accused or his friends to which she has been on the receiving end of being ridiculed in public. Scarlet is by no means an idiot and has reported each of those incidents to the police to build a case, just in case he should do something else to either her or someone else in the future.

Scarlet reports that she has the occasional flashback, but is unsure whether it is actually from that night or whether it is because it is something that she has noticed when she has seen him since. 

Scarlet states that she just gets on with her life and it doesn't effect aspects of her life like it possibly could of if she could have remembered that night, although the facts of it will stay with her forever. She does report that she does still try to avoid her home town for the fear of bumping into him and says that if she did see him she would probably get out and escape as quickly as possible, even the thought of it she says gives her anxiety.


Scarlet said that she would like to get her story out there, in case other people have been in similar situations. She says that if you were like her and cannot remember and have only other peoples words to go on. Report it as soon as possible, regardless of the outcome because they might be the statistic that does get caught and punished for their despicable crime.


#unashamed #Iamscarlet



















Sunday, 26 January 2020

At Her Majesty's Pleasure...The first 8 days

The room was bright although the sky was dull, no curtains. My eyes were puffy and sore and my head was banging. I'd had very limited sleep on what I can only describe as a piece of sponge covered in blue sweaty crash mat plastic material. It felt sweaty and smelt of old sweat. The noise I could here was unfamiliar. I felt sick and numb. Was I dreaming? I lay there for a while, emotions and adrenaline kicking in. I heard a loud clunk and my heart started to beat through my chest. I could hear it pounding so clearly in my head. My mouth was dry and I was dying for a sip of water. 

I sat up and went over to the sink to rinse my face and to take a sip of water above it was something that resembled a mirror but all I saw in it was a distorted smudged version of myself. It was that sort of mirror small children have in dolls houses, kind of like a shiny paper.

The noise outside was getting louder and I paced back and forth wondering what to do? I could see a "call for assistance/emergency button" on the wall. Should I pull it? The door was ajar but no longer bolted as it had been all night. That's what that loud clunk was. 
I was pumped full of adrenaline and the nausea was getting worse. I felt like my insides were about to either come flying up out of my mouth or from the other end. There was a steel toilet at the bottom of the bed, but it didn't have a seat, it was very basic. I sat back down and attempted to regulate my breathing. 
After a few minutes my stomach seemed to settle and I decided it was now or never. I pulled the a jar door and poked my face in the gap of the door and wall and looked left and right. 

I could see for what seemed for a mile, doors like mine open and closed with a combination of girls shouting, laughing, generally talking and some running up and down the corridors. It was busy. 

I closed my door I retreated back to sit on the sweaty bed. At that point reality started to sink in and I sat and cried. After 10 minutes of trying to sob quietly. I decided I had to do something. So I pressed the call button. Within a few minutes a woman in a uniform and a walkie talkie that kept bleeping, a sound soon to become accustomed to, peered at me through the small window in the door before entering the room. I said " I arrived last night and I don't know what to do" She told me to have a shower and reminded me of the pile of items I'd got in my room, which included a towel, she told me where they were and then Said I would be called to have breakfast. I felt like I was in a foreign country. She said if I required a razor to shave I'd have to collect one from the member of staff stood outside the shower and they would provide me with one for a  limited time in which I had to sign for having the blade on my person.

Upon my arrival, the night before, I'd been provided with a pile of items I would need. In it was a bed sheet, pillow case, a towel, a blanket, some pants, bra, flip flops, and a grey tracksuit, a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, soap, a blue plastic cup, plate and bowl, and a knit comb. 

I grabbed the towel and soap and proceeded down the corridor and down a metal flight of stairs towards the showers. I'd never felt so alone and out of place. Everyone seemed to appear to know what the hell they were doing. Whilst queing for the shower, fortunately I started to chat with another girl, she too had arrived the previous day, albeit earlier on in the day than my 8pm arrival. Suddenly it dawned upon me I'd made an alli in this new world which had been thrown upon me. She was my new best friend for the foreseeable future. I will refer to her as "Tammy".

I'd taken a few packets of cigarettes with me which proved to be some what handy. Tammy already seemed like a pro and got me to trade some fags in for a pair of jeans, which I'm thankful for as it seemed only the "unpopular girls" were wearing the grey tracksuit all day and the only other item of clothing I had was a smart dress with high heels that I had worn the day before. Not really the kind of attire you want to be wearing in this type of establishment! 
I became quite popular, as word spread that the new girl had got real fags! Instead of the nastiest pipe tobacco you'd roll because it was the cheapest.

So to breakfast I went. We were provided with a schedule for the day with certain times and places for where I had to be and when on a scrap of paper. "Apps and questions, Shower time, breakfast, exercise, lock up, lunch time, library, lock up, tea time and phone calls and back to lock up" 

I collected a tray and was provided with a semi warm breakfast, I really didn't feel like eating it and managed to have half an apple and cold toast with scrambled egg. After that it was time to go to the exercise yard. It was exactly like I had seen on the films, women walking around a high fenced tarmacked playground. We were allowed 10 minutes before I was told I needed to visit the medical centre to discuss if I required any medications with the Doctor. 

At that time I was on an anti depressant medication, and needed to ask for a prescription. I think everyone was on them. Women queued up awaiting their meds. You weren't allowed to keep the medication on you so every morning and night and lunch time if required, you could go and collect your medication. It was like something off "One flew over the cuckoos nest" you had to put the medication on your tongue and then swallow with a glass of water they provided and then allow a member of staff to peer into your mouth, ensuring you had indeed swallowed it. I'm guessing that bit is like the part you see on films when girls keep back their medication to trade in for other things, I did in fact learn that this actually was a done thing and learnt to realise many of the girls did it.

After that we all told to return to the landing we had come from. During this period I had spoken to several girls, many who wanted to exchange stuff for cigarettes. On the landing we had about 20 minutes before having to go behind our locked door. I had been provided with a kettle, some milk and tea bags the same tea bags that very soon were to put me off drinking tea for the best part of the next year. 

I have no idea what brand the teabags were but I am sure there was more tea in an old sock. They were grim. It was at that point when I suddenly became a fan of coffee, at least you could taste it more than just water and milk.

I sat behind closed doors for a few hours on my sweaty mattress. I had a book to read, I can't actually remember the name of it, but I still have it stored away in a box somewhere, it was a romantic novel with a pink and black cover. I had traded a couple of cigarettes for it. I had also been shown where the library was, so at least I could fill my days with some reading.

Everything seemed to feel so surreal, I couldn't really focus and I just felt emotionally numb.

After the couple of hours had past, my door unlocked whilst the walkie talkie bleeped its way down the corridor. Tammy knocked my door and asked If I was going to go down to get my dinner bag, which consisted of a sandwich or packet of super noodles with an apple, yoghurt and a bag of crisps. I walked with Tammy and we sat chatting with some other girls near the pool table. Tammy suggested that we get in queue for the phone boxes. I stood and waited my turn, which seemed an eternity before I could call my parents. This was a really important part of the day for the girls. Communication with their loved ones. Some girls cried, others were smiling, others shouting. I was told at that point that all the phone calls were recorded or listened to, so your privacy had been taken straight away. 

I cant really remember how the conversation went with them or who I even spoke to, likely to have been my mum but it seems such a distant memory now. I am sure it went something like this, "I am so sorry, It's Ok here, I have made a friend, Please come and see me. Please can you bring some belongings in, I am OK, I am so sorry". I seem to remember at that point in my life continuously apologising for everything. 

I returned back to the landing for the long and lonely night ahead and I heard that all too familiar sound of the clunk of the door, as the key locked me in. That night was long and I tossed and turned, my life didn't seem like my own. It flashed before me, cliché as it sounds, like it does on the films, my mind racing with all the thoughts and images I had seen and had over the past 48 hours. 

It was only 2 days ago I was preparing for my day at  Crown Court, I'd had my last meal in a shitty wetherspoons, if I'd have realised it would have been my last meal in the real world, I would have chosen somewhere slightly more upmarket! I did not see it coming.  

I had waited an entire day for my case to be held, as the time kept getting pushed back. Right up until that very moment when the Judge stated I was getting a custodial sentence of 30 months, thinking initially and hoping he actually said 13 months, my barrister had assured me that I would be walking away with a suspended sentence. I cannot believe they do actually say "send her down" and down I went.

I cried and cried and saw my friends and some of my families faces for the last time in the real world. I was escorted down these concreate steps where I was asked to sit in a holding room. In there was a girl already, awaiting to be sentenced for stabbing her boyfriend. I felt like at any moment a games show host was going to jump out and say "just kidding" but nope, this was it, as surreal as it was this was my new life.

I had gone from being a regular girl who had never been in trouble with the police, I hadn't even shoplifted mascara from Superdrug, a local shop, that many of the girls did in my school days. To suddenly being given a custodial sentence.

The night was long and as I drifted off to sleep I could here the girls on my landing shouting to one another, telling jokes from behind their own individual doors on the landing. Some would sing, some would say how much they loved each other. Some of the girls had televisions and had picked up a daily printed TV guide from the library to tell the other girls with TVs what channel to watch and then, or to simply give a running commentary of what was on TV. 

The next morning wasn't quite as scary, it is amazing how quickly you fall into a routine. Tammy and some of the other girls suggested I put an "app" in to request moving to a different place, as I was quite far away from home and most people only stayed at that place when on remand and waiting for a court case or those on trial. I had no idea what an app was, back then you didn't even have mobile phones with "apps" on. Turns out its as simple as it sounds an app was an application. So with guidance from the other girls, I put in the "app" to ask for a transfer closer to home.

That week I became quite accustomed to the routine. I learnt if you didn't want the sun shining in your eyes, to stick toilet roll to your window with toothpaste to form a blind. In fact toothpaste was fabulous and could be used as glue for many things! Toilet roll tubes could be made into pen holders and toothbrush holders with the help of the toothpaste/glue. I learnt how to boil an egg in an kettle, how to trade cigarettes, or in fact any type of tobacco for pretty much anything you wanted. In one week, I had read more books than I had in my entire life. I learnt the words to the sound of music "Do-Re-Mi, which the girls on my landing harmoniously sang in harmonies with each other!

I was at this place for 8 days before I moved closer to home and to where I would call HMP Drakehall my home for the next ten and a half months.

I have many stories of those ten and a half months at HMP Drakehall, some good, some bad, some hilarious and some horrific. Perhaps I will share some of my experiences soon.

And as for what crime was committed and to whether I was guilty or not, as all the best convicts say...I am innocent!!! But that I suppose is another story...

"There is so much of my past self that I don't resonate with at all anymore, but I love her just the same. She was growing. She was doing her best. She fought hard to get me here"



Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Grandparents

Most people are born into having a set of grandparents or grandparent or sometimes more.

I never met my grandad on my dads side of the family as he passed away when my dad was only eighteen and I was never really close to my nan on my dads side but then my dad isn't particularly close to his sisters, maybe because he is the only male. I am not quite sure. My nan lived long into her 90s and eventually passed a way in a nursing home. I don't feel to guilty for not being close as an adult, mainly as I rarely saw her as a child and was never close to that side of my family.

My mum's parents, I was extremely close to. They are the welsh side of my family. My grandad who I doted on was originally a coal miner, my nan originally worked in the kitchens at an Orphanage following learning to be a dress maker. They moved to Birmingham in the ww2.

My dad always worked hard and wasn't around much when I was growing up and my mum predominately looked after me but mum soon got a job so my grandparents looked after me.

I spent a lot of time with them growing up. My grandad taught me how to play table tennis, dominoes; for money, so my first kind of gambling! He taught me the national anthem of England and Wales. He taught me how to grow runner beans and grow strawberries. I spent most of my days with my grandad as nan was usually baking her famous jam tarts! 

Grandad used to take me to the local reservoir and tried to teach my how to catch fish with nothing more than a stick, piece of string and a maggot...I never really caught anything! He would take me to the park, feed the ducks and geese and used to give me sweets out of a secret tin when my nan wasn't looking. 

I used to sit for hours listening to the same stories over and over again about how he got coal dust under his skin, which was kind of a weird blue colour. He used to tickle me and make me laugh by placing his recently shaved face onto my face to make it burn...he used to call it his "dry shave". He had a very distinctive smell. A mix of Brylcream and Oldspice or Brut. I used to wear his flat caps,  very cool now since the series Peaky Blinders took off, they were always so greasy and smelt inside from his Brylcreamed hair.

As I got older I visited my grandparents frequently and no matter what time it was, grandad would always peel some potatoes and make his special chips whilst I was scoffing my nans jamtarts. I loved my grandparents.

My parents had them round most Sundays for Sunday roast and we entertained them most Christmas's. 

Sadly, when I was in my very early twenties, my grandad got taken poorly and went into hospital, he never came out. He was being treated for bladder cancer, which I didn't know at the time and in ended up having a myo cardial infarction, basically a heart attack. I remember visiting him not long before he passed away and he seemed so scared and agitated and in pain. His sparkly blue eyes, seemed dull and glazed. Grandad passed away. I was heart broken. 

My nan deteriorated very quickly and within 18 months of grandad passing, her memory suddenly became really poor and she could no longer look after herself and went into a home, where she too passed away. 

I actually live only a mile or so from where they lived in Birmingham, maybe another reason why I chose to move to this area of Birmingham. I miss them a lot and wish I could just pop in and be welcomed with open arms and have a cuddle once more.

Death is the only certain thing in life and we have all at some point had to come to terms with a death of a loved one or at some point will have to go through it.

I have no grandparents now which saddens me but that is life.

My Parents are both elderly and in their 80s. They are in good health and seem far younger than their years but the reality of them actually being as old as they are, scares the living shit out of me.

I feel very sad for my parents as they have 9 grandchildren. Three of them are still children and don't live locally but the older 6, don't really seem to have any time to spend with them, minus one of them who goes every week for dinner, which I am so very grateful for. I feel sad for my parents as when my siblings went back to work following having their children my parents looked after the kids but now don't hear off them. I would hate them to regret not spending time with them, especially as my parents did so much for them as children.

I am forever grateful that I spent the time with mine, not only as a child growing up but  as a young adult. I have no regrets. 





Monday, 20 January 2020

Multicultural

I grew up in the county of Worcestershire. According to the 2001 census, over 96% of the population were white and over 94% of the population were white British. The area I lived was a typical white middle class area with majority of the population being Christian.

I never really thought too much of it growing up because I didn't know any different but as I became older I started to feel a little fed up of the typical faces, culture and general ways of living. 

From 2008 - 2015, I moved to a council flat as a council tenant in an area in my town which was classed as the most multicultural part of the town and I loved it. My neighbours were made up of Black, Asian, Chinese and Polish with other smaller amounts of other Eastern European countries.

I used to love how the Asian ladies swept the path outside their street and the waft of ethnic food was always in the air. I found the local "international" corner shops sold some of the best spices and different pastries that I had ever been used to. People were far more approachable.

It was a friendly neighbourhood and upon reflection I felt more at ease and comfortable with my surroundings and people than I ever did in the white middle class area I had grown up. I always felt the residents there to be somewhat judgemental and it was apparent from various housing that people had the mentality of "keeping up with the Jones". Who had the better car on the drive, the best double glazing and so on.

Following on from that, I moved to South Birmingham, not the most multicultural part of the city but still far more multicultural than Worcestershire. I like to hear about different cultures and religions and how different cultures live along side one another. I find peace and solidarity in watching school kids hang about with one another of different race and ethnicity. Something I never had growing up.

It was very rare to see any other race or ethnicity where I grew up other than white Christian but now I walk down the street in comfort, surrounded by an entire mix bag of people from all different creeds and colours. 

I am not sure if I will ever have children, chances are unlikely unless I meet the man of my dreams anytime soon and my biological clock is on my side. But, If I were to have children, I can honestly say I would want to bring my children up in a multicultural society. I think it is so important for children to be around all different nationalities. It might even reduce racism and lack of understanding as adults, of course it might not but I certainly think it could help.

If I move again, I will definitely not be moving to a typical white middle class area. It actually bores me. People all looking the same and sharing many of the same views. 

I think that too many people sit in their comfort zone and are too scared to mix it up a bit and socialise with other cultures. Ignorance really and lack of understanding, assuming they will have nothing in common because they don't share the same religion or have the same colour skin. 

I am not a worldly traveller by any means and am still very naive to so many cultures but I think the important thing is that I am trying to understand and mix with all different ways of life.

If you are content with your comfort zone, by all means stick to it. But if you have any doubt what so ever change your surroundings because you might just prefer it.

My next move will definitely be far more multicultural than it is right now.



Sunday, 19 January 2020

Superficial chit chat

It may be considered polite but I call it a waste of energy. For some, superficial chit chat might provide some kind of beneficial outcome like reducing the feeling of loneliness, to diminish their curiosity and maybe even an ego boost. But for me it feels like a total waste of energy.

Superficial chit chat, to me, is people having to be either polite or nosey for no apparent reason. It shows zero depth, compassion or genuine interest. Superficial chit chat is a bit like having loads of friends on social media but not actually knowing anything truly "real" about them. It feels more of a statement and the thing to do than any kind actual caring kindness or interest.

I dread going back to my home town and having to walk through the shopping centre for the apprehension of having to answer and engage in the dumb ass questions like "You ok?" How's life treating you?" What you doing now?" Because generally speaking these people that you aren't actually "friends" with anymore or never really knew in the first place aren't actually bothered. 

I for one, find the encounter all rather energy zapping and ridiculous. I actually couldn't give a shit if a friend of a friend from back in my school days is married, had an affair, lost weight, gained weight, is a millionaire or back at home with the parents or that they are working in the same job doing the same thing they've done everyday for the past 10 years. The monotonous questions of "Are you married"? "Where do you work?" are such boring questions. 

Going back to the social media "friends" list. How many of those people do you actually really care about? and how many of them do you walk past in real life and not even speak to or just engage in this weird uncomfortable superficial chit chat? I bet so many of you do! 

I have never been a fan of adding people on social media just for the sake of it. In fact the only people on my social media are either close friends, family and the odd acquaintance that I actually cared a lot about once whom I genuinely are interested in. So if I chose to ignore these other people online then why would I have superficial chit chat with them in real life in the local shopping centre?

Now I love to catch up with people I care about and maybe I wouldn't be in so much of a rush to dodge the chit chat if the chit chat was of least of any interest to me and of meaningful content. 

I would most happily engage in a chit chat conversation with people I once knew if the usual boring questions were ditched and replaced with interesting, more meaningful questions. For example, instead of "What job do you do?" why not ask "What would be your dream job?"  Or at least if the first question was asked and replied, follow it up with the dream question. Instead of the usual response "Oh I am still working at blah blah" and the other person says "oh right". And then feels awkward and the conversation really needs to end and you just want to walk away but it seems all a bit uncomfortable. I mean does anyone really give a shit if you still work in the office you've worked in for the last 7 years? It's a conversation stopper. Lets in still some passion into our conversations.

Instead of asking, "Going on holiday this year?" and the usual response being something like "Yeah just the usual Costa Blanca, where we go every year", Why not ask this afterwards "If you could go on holiday anywhere this year, where would you really like to go?"
Without a shadow of doubt the answers are going to be far more stimulating! I am sure it would show a genuine interest in people rather than the usual mind numbing, painstakingly boring questions that quite honestly I would rather avoid.

So make the choice. If you really don't want to engage in conversation with certain people, perhaps smile and carry on your day and avoid any form of conversation and that is OK to do, we don't have to want talk to everyone! Or if their are people who you would quite like to catch up with why not change how you engage in conversation. By asking far more meaningful questions. It is so much more fun and interesting. Seriously give it a go.

Ditch the chit chat and become far more interesting people.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

In love with beautiful women

It has to be said women are beautiful. The female form is that of a striking figure and what generally goes with the figure is a nurturing soul.

I have met some of the most beautiful women on the planet. When I say beautiful I don't necessarily mean purely cosmetic, for the women I am on about their beauty runs far deeper. Yes, I know many cosmetically, easy on the eye women but I know women who not only have that external beauty but they have so much more. 

We have all heard of the saying "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and "Beauty is skin deep" and I stand by these statements. They are beautiful to me, maybe not to you but to me they are sensational. 

The women I am talking about are beautiful to me both inside and out. There is a very small percentage of women that I truly believe fall into both categories. Beautiful inside and out but to me those women are legendary. Goddesses if you like.

They are a breed of women that are few and far between. The ones that go the extra mile, their smiles and laughter light up the room. Their warmth is radiated where ever they go. They give others time and reassurance even if they are struggling to keep their own lives in check from feeling overwhelmingly busy. Nothing is too much trouble.

Other women envy them, men generally want to shag them. Yet these knockouts rarely know their own worth. 

I have probably met a handful or two of these rare species in my adulthood. And it is those women I admire the most.

These women are strong women and don't let a knock or two get them down for too long. They not only provide emotional and financial support to their loved ones but offer good humour and experiences some people never get. I don't mean always providing materialistic things either. I mean encouragement, support, teaching and enabling their loved ones to indulge into the world of creativity.

Being creative, to me, is probably one of the key concepts in life. By that I don't mean you have to be a dab hand with an art brush or be able to write music.  Although those things to are amazing. I am talking about something much deeper than that. Allowing themselves and their loved ones to grow through expressing themselves in unconventional ways. To me that is beauty right there.

They allow their loved ones to express themselves in any form of creativity they can and they certainly don't hold them back if it is somewhat different to the social norm. Their lives are meaningful and full of life and colour, albeit if sometimes they are struggling themselves and in despair.

These women manage to provide this for their loved ones whilst holding together their own demons in life and still rock up looking fabulous. Nothing seems to phase them.

I salute these beautiful specimens and only wish that they could look into the mirror and see what I see.

These women never give up hope in their busy lives yet still apply the eyeliner and lippy even as the tears have fallen.

I wish more women could be like this. Naturally not giving a damn about what others think of them because as women we are always seeking validity from others but these women just get on with it. With out even thinking about what they are doing. 

They shine from head to toe, inside and out and always look pretty cool in what they are wearing, even though they have just pulled their clothes from the bottom of a pile of washing on the floor and given it a quick smell to see if another day of wearing it is ok. Yet they look stunning.

I am in love with these women.











Friday, 17 January 2020

Behind the screen....the waiting game

As I sit and stare at the screen, I have a multitude of mixed emotions. I am waiting. I could be waiting forever, yet it doesn't seem to stop me. I continue to stare and check and wait some more...

We have all been there, either waiting for that text, email, WhatsApp, "like" comment, phone call and it never appears. It is like waiting for a kettle to boil but even that is much quicker than waiting for the unknown communication that we want and even fantasise about.

We are a nation obsessed. Constantly attached to our phones, laptops and tablets. Waiting for some kind of response or connection to another person. Whether it be an employer, prospective employer, our crush, our date, our friend, our family member, doctor. We sit and wait for some sort of communication.

Is this healthy? Aren't we just putting our lives on hold when we could actually be doing something far more productive? Is this notion of waiting just feeding into our negative thought process?

We have become a nation of screen viewers always waiting for something to happen on the screen, whether it be a phone or computer. Does it make us feel better? Chances are probably not but it has becomes a craze, an addiction a habit that proves somewhat difficult to break.

I have spoken to many people over the past few years, as social media and technology has become into full bloom, about this concept of screen watching and waiting. It appears we have all done it at some point. It might feel like it gives us some kind of temporary relief  and comfort but long term I believe it actually causes us to feel a whole lot worse.

For example, imagine you are waiting for an important call from a medic with test results. Does starring at the screen help with that anxiety you are feeling and make the call come sooner? Unlikely.

Does checking your emails over and over and staring vacantly into the screen make the prospective employer send that email any quicker, probably not.

And finally, does re checking WhatsApp to see if they are "online" make that person message you more hastily, nope, it really doesn't.

We could potentially be waiting forever, waiting for something to never actually arrive. Sounds like a total waste of time doesn't it? Yet we all can still do it.

Do we get comfort knowing that the other person is just at the other end of their device but not actually communicating with us? For that brief moment, I think it can. If you have been distant from a loved one, just to get that glimpse of that they are alive and kicking being  "online" can provide a very fleeting amount of comfort but before long those negative thoughts can start to creep in. "Why are they online?" "Who are they communicating with?" and so on. Our thoughts seem to run away with us. We have this incredible ability to start to catastrophise and before we know it we have invented a whole a ray of unhelpful thoughts and situations up in our own heads without actually basing anything on the true facts.

How do we even break that habit, especially as it enables us momentary comfort or relief. I guess we need to sit with that discomfort and the feeling will eventually pass. It has to, a state of anxiety is physiologically impossible to keep on going, it will pass. 

This unhelpful behaviour of checking is fuelling the fire which has an enormous amount of impact upon how we feel emotionally and the way we think. Checking the screen is giving us symptoms of anxiety so why do we want to cause ourselves anxiety? I guess it seems  easier to quickly check than it is to ignore. 

If we choose to ignore and not check and sit starring at our screens and scrolling through various social media platforms and messaging services, initially, we might have that sense of "what if they make some sort of contact" but actually siting with that discomfort and repeating that as often as we can will result in us accepting that it is ok not to check and the outcome is still the same if not more proportionally easier or better. 

We as humans need to accept uncertainty before we become a nation of highly strung anxious people. Easier said than done and it does take practice. I am sure there will be days when it is easier to check than not to and in certain situations. But I think for our own sanity we must try .

I for one, if I am honest, have subjected myself into the staring at my screen and the checking game and waiting for that communication to never arrive, does it make me feel better? Yes, but only temporarily, in the long run does it make me feel worse? Yes. So like most of us, I need to try and not to give into temptation and even for a short period put the screen down by making changes. Those changes might be engaging in other activities in the so called "real" world.

Fortunately for me the screen I use to write this on, isn't linked to any email, phone or messaging service so I can feel at ease and comfort when writing my blog without any form of mentally tortuous distraction, well minus intermittently the landline ringing, but as no one has that number I would assume that it is just a robotic telesales call. 

So go on, give it a go. Try putting that screen down, try not checking, yes it will hurt but the question is...."What hurts more?"






Thursday, 16 January 2020

Incarceration - the state of being confined in prison; imprisonment

People often feel like they are prisoners in their own lives, own minds and own bodies. Feeling out of control in their own personal world. Not being able to move freely in their lives in case they do the wrong thing or upset someone. Not being able to make decisions or escape negative thoughts whirling around their minds. A victim, if you like, of their own mental illness and the feeling of not being able to escape.

But imagine being a prisoner of all of those things and actually being incarcerated. Not only in your own mind but also in the physical sense of being under lock and key in an actual prison?

Now there isn't much sympathy for being in prison because lets face it, you are usually in there for a very good reason.

People are convicted every day for various crimes. Different countries have different punishments and ways of dealing with people who break the law. 

The UK's criminal justice system is far from perfect and there are many flaw within the system. Sometimes it goes in the victims favour, other times the criminals. Sometimes there is never really a good outcome for either parties.

For now I will look at the people behind the bars, the people who have been convicted of doing wrong. Those people, unless complete sociopaths/serial killers/psychos or just general arseholes who have no remorse...they are not included in my surmise, for that takes years of psychotherapy and studies and evidence to even contemplate the debate.

I am talking about average Joe who ended up being incarcerated for a crime s/he regrets or at least wishes s/he hadn't been caught for (just kidding)!

For many of these people (I'm not saying all) they have made a mistake, a big one. They have trusted the wrong person, needed a quick fix, fast money, fast sex, feeding an addiction, fell in love, turned a blind eye, did something only others could fantasise of and overall bad timing.

Generally people have been caught because they were trying to achieve something in a moment of madness or to protect someone or something. What they were trying to achieve is rarely a good thing but for them at that very moment it felt the right thing.

I am far from judgmental and I personally think glassing someone, stabbing someone and kicking the shit out of someone is horrendous but I am not talking about those people. Like I said I am talking about average Joe. I would say "petty crime" but that's a whole definition to debate itself, what crime might be worse to one person is considered less severe to someone else.

I for one have been bought up with morals and do understand the difference between right and wrong but it doesn't mean we are liable to not make any bad judgement calls.

Every criminal will have mitigating circumstances and whether the lay person or the authorities buy into their mitigation comes down to how they are treated.

I spent almost a year learning from other women as to why they had been sentenced to imprisonment and what their crimes and mitigating circumstances were.

For most if not all of these women I encountered were not only suffering with the emotional battle of being in prison to their own thoughts and lives but also now behind lock and key. A double imprisonment if you wish.

Not everyone in prison suffers with mental illness and not every women is suffering with it prior to being imprisoned. But as a statistic (that is probably out of date), 1 in every 3rd person in a GP waiting room is there for depression and that is an old statistic and also only accounts for the people who have seen a GP to even be a statistic! Sadly, that is a lot of depressed people. 

So the chances of most women in a prison are likely to have had depression at some point. So many of them attempted to self harm or attempt suicide. Many were on anti -depressants or having some kind of therapy. Some of them turned to religion or became suddenly attracted to women as a form of comfort. Everyone was dealing with their own mind imprisonment under lock and key.

A common theme as to why the women I chatted to stated they were in prison is because of men or their families.  Their crimes varied from get away drivers, drug mules, robbery, fraud, importation and so on. Most at some point struggled. Many women had been separated from their children, yet they were attempting to commit the crime to provide for the children.

Several women from South Africa, South America and the Caribbean islands were in for importation of drugs. Most say it was to get money for their family, to stop being killed, protect their loved ones or prevent being raped. It was very sad hearing their stories.

What I noticed was that the women formed an alliance. No matter where they came from or what crime they committed they stuck together "Us against the world" type mantra. Of course there were arguments, bitchiness and sometimes plane cruelty but nothing too dissimilar to what you get in real life, it is just exacerbated because they couldn't escape. But the women generally settled down and re formed their alliance once more.

Inside the prison, the women were made to either work or gain education, this is part of the UK's rehabilitation system inside HM prisons. Many of the women got qualifications and did what they needed to do to pass as much time as possible and yes they did have fun at times, celebrate birthdays and Christmas if even in the non celebratory conventional way!

They all seemed to make the most of a bad situation. It proved to me even when feelings of desperation and utmost sadness crept in they still coped. People are far more resilient than they give themselves credit for.

I guess what I am trying to say is before you judge, slander or dismiss people who have been in prison (minus the categories I mentioned at the start, that is your personal choice) Please support and encourage them to move on from their period of incarceration as it is something they will never forget. It is now part of their personality and in bedded in their soul. It was a time in their lives when they were suffering most and having the double misfortune of being imprisoned not only in their own minds but inside four walls too.

The women I met were probably the strongest women I have ever had the pleasure in meeting. This is such a positive thing because the world is cruel when you have a criminal record. It has effected the women I know in so many ways. Ways in which you wouldn't even think of. So although they did their "time" behind bars they will also be imprisoned by society and punished for years to come, probably the rest of their lives in some cases.

Spare a thought for them upon their release, as so many people end up doing something they shouldn't have done due to fear, greed or plain stupidness.

People commit crimes every day and don't get caught. You, reading this, might end up in prison because you were harmlessly speeding after a large glass of wine at the works lunch and knock a pedestrian down...suddenly you find yourself in front of the magistrate and being sentenced to man slaughter and drink/wreckless driving (yes this happened to one of the women, I spoke too) How often do you do something without thinking through the consequences rationally in your minds. It is no different really. Be kind.







Maternity leave, baby showers and wedding gifts...equality for all

As traditions go in the UK, couples have invited family and friends to their weddings to celebrate their special day. 

I have attended many weddings and I have noticed a theme that arises in most if not all of the invitations.

The couple ask you to attend on a certain day at a certain time at a certain place and then just as you are thinking I better buy myself a new dress, how much is that going to cost?

The sentence that follows frequently goes something a little like this.....
"We have all the household appliances that we need so please don't purchase a toaster, kettle, sandwich maker or cutlery, we would love to just to have  your company to celebrate our wedding together"

I think that's kind and how very sweet and thoughtful. But out of nowhere the next part of the sentence cripples me and says something like "If you would like to contribute to the honeymoon/campervan/the new car/conservatory we would be eternally grateful." (eyes roll)!

At that point I spit my coffee out and start to worry about how much to contribute. I mean I am not exactly flush. So the thoughts run through my mind "Does it look better to give nothing? or to give twenty quid?" Then I go into a state of panic and think "Twenty quid, maybe that is not enough, if they are wanting some kind of luxurious car or holiday maybe fifty or a hundred?" Panic!

So years ago, it was far easier, couples didn't seem to live together prior to the wedding day, so it was easy to purchase some kind of household appliance. In America or the fairly wealthy British, some couples provide you with a wedding list of appliances that they like. So not to get repeat presents. No one wants 20 toasters. I am sure people battle to purchase the cheapest option on said list!

I am no scrooge and of course it is a nice thing to do, to buy the newly weds a gift or contribute to the honeymoon/campervan /new car/conservatory! But some people get married once, twice even three times in a life time. And then some of us, never get married at all! So tell me, why do these people get financial help with the holiday of a lifetime and other "new" materialistic things that I would also like but can't have because I have never been married! How is that fair?!

This too applies to baby showers, not that I am a great fan of these parties because I think gifts and celebrations should happen post birth. However it does seem to be the latest craze once expecting. So again, a party is thrown, gifts are bought and everyone has a wonderful time. The child to be is the love of the mothers life and it hasn't even been born yet and already gifts come flying in to help save the pennies of the prospective parent/s. 

Again, some people have more than one child. That is a lot of gifts and parties held especially for them!

So I ask again, is this fair? Their passion is their child/ren and mine is my dog, drumming, travel, tropical fish, the gym to name but a few. Do I get parties and gifts to help me towards enjoying my passions....ermmmmm....nope!

Which brings me onto my final gripe. If you have a child and are working you are entitled to time off work and to be paid for the privilege of pursuing your dream, your passion which is bringing a child into the world.

The only time I get off work is if I am sick or on annual leave, but pregnant women are also entitled to that. Some women have many children. If I toted up the amount of time they have had off for having three children (lets say 6 months per pregnancy, and some have even longer) and had that time paid for to pursue the dream of motherhood. Then why can't I have 18 months off work fully paid and the security of my job still being available to me upon my return to pursue my dream of travelling the world? Which I could use my "wedding fund for!"

Just saying.....



Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Buying the boy...

Just over 12 years a go. I was sat in my flat alone and although I can't remember my specific emotion at the time, I was likely to be feeling pretty skittish because back in those days I was probably even more impulsive than I am now. 

I remember sitting at my Argos built flat packed table on probably the most uncomfortable broken chairs known to man surfing the internet looking at the usual crap you find online to read!!!! 

I accessed a website called "Preloved.com" On this website was items like furniture, cars and the usual crap on any second hand website. Instead of looking for a chair to replace the broken one I was sat on. I decided to look up animals. Not the brightest idea I had at the time. I looked at turtles, fish, kittens, dogs and other small furry creatures that all looked adorably cute as I skimmed through the endless pages of poor animals that desperately required a loving home.

Me being me and the impulsive side of my personality getting the better of me. I decided to buy a Puppy! I am not quite sure why I didn't head back to the chair pages, or would that be as boring as the table top dishwasher I had once purchased when I arrived home drunk to find endless amounts of washing up I couldn't be bothered to wash? Me and my impulsivity sure do the strangest of things at times. 

So the puppy. I had never owned a dog before, even after years of trying to persuade my parents to buy a welsh collie every time I entered welsh land on holiday. I did get rabbits one year so cant complain too much. But, I had never had a dog! So there I was going through pages of puppies and dogs. I saw one named Ruby, she was a 6 month old staffy cross English mastiff but I did see sense when I thought of my small one bedroomed little council flat with no garden. I do hope Ruby found a loving home. 

So there he was this little 4 month old puppy, what was advertised as what is now known not to be a fully fledged black male staffy. He had little tap dancing shoes (white paws). His pictures were amazingly cute, not dislike any puppy really. What convinced me that I had to have him was the fact the owners had advertised him on a webcam...something back then that wasn't like face time and WhatsApp video like we do now. I was in love...

I immediately contacted the the owners, who lived in Cardiff and said he was just what I was looking for, as if I had been searching for the right puppy for weeks!

I called my mum, to her surprise I announced I was driving to Cardiff this very moment to collect a puppy. Well I cannot actually remember her words but I can imagine the other end of the phone she was shaking her head and rolling her eyes as mothers do.

We set off that night in the pouring down rain and drove to probably the roughest council estate in Cardiff.

Upon arrival and knocking the door, soaking wet, tired from the drive in the storm and needing a wee. (I am surprised I held it in that long, with my bladder!) This dodgy looking couple showed us in. Not so much of a warm welcome, offering my mum and I a cup of tea but rather a look longing for us to get in and out as soon as feasibly possible with no consideration for the terrible long journey we had in the rain.

There were dogs running around everywhere, labs, jack russells and staffies and then I saw him.... This bundle of energy (4 month old puppies are very lively) bombing towards me at a million miles an hour, legs skidding on the wet laminate floor before landing, with steam coming off his feet to a ground halt next to my handbag on the sofa where I perched. It was love at first sight. I think it had something to do with the fact he pulled my cigarette box, Marlborough lights, straight out of my handbag. A man after my own heart, I really could have done with a fag right at that moment!

The owners introduced me to "Tyson" I mean I have hung around with some rough necks in my life but none of them had a dog called Tyson. I mean he definitely didn't resemble some big burly boxing champion who goes around biting off ears. Although he certainly did learn to bite, fortunately it was never my ear. 

The couple were dodgy and conveniently couldn't find his papers or even remember what vet he had gone to for his injections. I passed over the wod of cash for this 4 month old "genuine" staffy. Little did I know....

I am sure to this day that the owners would have put his in a bin bag full of rocks and thrown him in the river. It was very apparent they didn't want him.

He was a good as gold on the drive home, fell asleep the entire way and that is when he arrived at his new forever home. He was my boy, turns out he is the bestest boy actually! 

So first things first the name change. Having an alter ego of an alternative hippy type chick and of the spiritual nature that I am I chose the name Bodhi. Well Bodhisattva if you want the long version. For those of you who have no idea what a Bodhisattva is, it is one of two things....

The first is this, a reason that I believe I hoped and prayed that my new puppy would be in some shape or form. Something that I inspire to be myself, with a lot of misguided failings. But I try to keep the mind of a Bodhisattva as much as possible, even if I struggle to do it. The practice of the Bodhisattva is something that is a life skill for eternity and is a constantly fluctuating state of mind....You'll see...


The next is one of the best films I have ever watched growing up and inspired me into the start of my soul searching ways from feeling like an inadequate, alternative, awkward teenage rock chick looking to be no longer lost.....



So there you have the introduction to my best friend, my fur baby. The most loyal, handsome (albeit old and grey now) puppy....Bodhi!