Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Bedtime Story (14/2/2018)


Seeing as it's Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share a bedtime story celebrating everyone who makes a difference to our lives.

You can also listen to this story as a podcast.


"For EVERYONE I Love!"

For weeks, Clare had been beavering away,
Secretly working hard.
Now, finally, it was Valentine's Day,
And she wanted to give EVERYONE cards!

"What's that pile on the kitchen table?"
Mum asked, when she came downstairs.
"I've made as many Valentine's cards as I'm able,"
Came the proud answer from Clare.

Throughout the day, she gave out her cards,
With a broad smile, bright on her face.
Pieces of paper, decorated with hearts,
Were handed out all over the place!

Of course, there was one for Mum and Dad:
The biggest and prettiest of the lot!
It read: "You make me happy whenever I'm sad,
You're the best parents anyone's got!"

Then came the second biggest card of all,
Addressed to the family dog, Beau.
It said: "I love it when we play with your ball,
And you excitedly wait for the throw!"

A card for Clare's grandparents was in the pile, too,
A pink one, with bright purple spots.
Clare said: "It's fun coming over to stay with you!
So this card shows I love you both, lots."

After that, the cards went all over town,
There were many more than you'd think!
And Clare gave them all with a smile, not a frown,
And even the odd cheeky wink!

There was one for the baker, whose cakes Clare adored,
And a card for her doctor as well.
One for the librarian, whose books Clare loved to hoard,
And for her nursery teacher, Michelle.

She gave a card to the old lady who lived down the road,
Who didn't get out all that much.
The old lady smiled so wide, her cheeks glowed;
And she told Clare she was "very touched."

There was a card for the policeman who'd found Mum's lost purse,
And for Dave, who played football with Dad.
One for Mum's friend Tara, the district nurse,
Who called it the best card she'd had!

When the last card was finally given away,
Clare yawned and snuggled up to her Mum.
She'd had a tiring, but really lovely day,
And what she set out to do, she had done.

"Now all those people who make a difference to me,
Know I simply can't thank them enough.
And what better way to say thanks could there be,
Than giving cards to EVERYONE I love?"

Clare was so tired from her busy day,
That once home, she went straight up to bed.
And as tucked under her duvet, she cosily lay,
Her Mum gently kissed young Clare's head.

"You're so thoughtful," Mum said with a beam.
"That was such a kind thing to do."
And as she tiptoed away, leaving Clare to dream,
She added: "We all love you, too."


THE END





Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Bedtime Story (7/2/2018)


Welcome back to the weekly bedtime story!  

I hope everyone is well as they read this.  Unfortunately, it's that time of year when coughs, colds and Winter viruses are still everywhere - as I write this, my throat feels as though I've been gargling with razor blades.  Ugh!  

But what happens when you simply refuse to admit that you're not well?!  I thought I'd write a story to find out...

Fancy listening to this story as a podcast?  Just click here!


"Go Back To Bed, Lottie!"

Lottie never sat still for long.  There was too much to do, too much to see, too many games to play...

But Lottie had been a little under the weather for a few days.  She found that running around made her tired much quicker than usual, and it made her cough, too.  Her face felt hot and she was rather sniffly.  Each day, when Lottie got up and began noisily playing, her mum would tut to herself.  "I think you're coming down with something," she'd say, pulling a worried face that made her forehead go all crinkly.

Then, one day, after a particularly bad coughing fit, Lottie looked up at her mum and knew exactly what Mum was going to say, before the words even had chance to leave her mouth.

"Go back to bed, Lottie," Mum told her.  "Your face is all red, your chest sounds rattly and I don't want you to get worse."

Despite Lottie's protests, her mum ushered her up the stairs.  "We'll see if a day of bed rest helps you feel better.  If not, I think we'll have to go to the doctors, tomorrow."  She tucked Lottie into bed and left her to lie there, staring at the ceiling.

Lottie's bed was very comfy.  And her head didn't ache so much when she was lying down.  But Lottie wasn't a "stay in one place all day" type of girl.  Within minutes, she was bored.  She threw back the covers, kicked her legs over the edge of the bed and began scanning her bedroom for something to do.

Eventually, she decided to play with the dollhouse she'd got for Christmas.  Sitting up made her feel a bit wobbly, but she curled her legs beneath her on her bedroom rug and began playing.  She was just getting into a really good game, where one of the dolls was bouncing on the bed and making lots of noise, when she heard her mum's footsteps on the stairs...

"Go back to bed, Lottie!"  Mum insisted, as she opened the door to Lottie's room.  "Your cheeks look flushed and you need to rest!"

After much huffing and puffing,  Lottie eventually crawled back beneath her duvet and waited until her mum had gone back downstairs, before she let out a long sigh.  She was really fed up, now.  Her eyes felt tired and her throat was scratchy, but if she just stayed in bed, surely she'd only end up bored, rather than better?!  And so, Lottie decided she'd go to her bookshelf and choose something to read.

Lottie's favourite book was wedged between a thick colouring book and a collection of bedtime stories that Mum read from, sometimes.  It was stuck firmly and it took Lottie a lot of effort to pull it out.  She tugged and tugged, making herself cough more and more in the process.  By the time the book finally became unstuck, the force made Lottie fall backwards to the floor with a bump, bringing several other books down from the shelf at the same time.

Within seconds of the crash, the sound of footsteps on the stairs made Lottie's ears prick up once more.  Mum burst through the door.  "What on Earth are you doing?!  Go back to bed, Lottie!"

She put a hand on Lottie's forehead and pulled a face.  "You're burning up and your skin's all clammy."  She hurried to open the window a crack.  "No more playing around.  You have to go to sleep and get some rest!"

Lottie dragged herself back to bed, frowning and protesting all the way.  Her chest hurt and her whole body felt much heavier than normal.  Her bed was so soft and the temptation to close her eyes was huge, but Lottie was worried she'd miss out on a day of playing.  So, as soon as the coast was clear, she crept out of bed and decided to play dress-up.

She opened the cupboard where her fancy dress box was stored and began searching for something to put on.  Every time she bent down, she went dizzy and there was a strange buzzing in her ears, but Lottie was sure she'd be fine if she just had some time to play.  She tugged out a feather boa from the bottom of the fancy dress box.  The feathers tickled her nose and she sneezed once, twice, three times.  The third one was such a big sneeze, Lottie tripped over her own feet in her rush to grab a tissue.

"LOTTIE!"  Mum's voice yelled up the stairs, when she heard the crash.  

Lottie scrambled back to bed, before the bedroom door opened.  "I thought you were out of bed, again," Mum frowned.

"No," Lottie said, with a grin.  She sank down against the soft pillows, pulling the warm duvet up beneath her chin.  Suddenly, her bed felt like the perfect place to be.

"Well, that's good," Mum replied.  "Because you really do need to rest."

Lottie nodded.  Her eyes felt ever so heavy and her ears were sore.  Her face was hot, but she shivered, as she wrapped the duvet around herself.  "I think..." She began, with a yawn.  "I think I might go to sleep."

"Promise?"  Mum asked.  She turned away to clear up Lottie's dressing up things.  "Because you ought to be resting," she continued.  "You'll feel much better after a nice, long sleep, I'm sure.  That's why  I kept telling you to get back into..."  She turned back and smiled.  "Bed."

Tucked up under the covers, Lottie was fast asleep.  And this time, she wouldn't get out again until she'd had a proper rest.

"Feel better soon, Lottie," Mum whispered.  She closed the door, tiptoed down the stairs and settled herself on the sofa, to enjoy some peace and quiet at last.

THE END




Wednesday, 31 January 2018

How's Your 2018 Going So Far?!


So, we've reached the end of January!  This month is always a strange one.  By the time you reach the end of it, you feel certain that it must have lasted at least seven weeks, and yet you're also stunned that February is already upon you.  Not to mention, there will be people who, on January 25th, felt compelled to post "ONLY ELEVEN MONTHS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!" all over social media...

I sat this morning, staring at a blank screen, wondering what to write about and, as is my wont, I inevitably started thinking back to this time last year.  Life was in a massively different place, at the end of January 2017.  So much so, that comparing seems unfair.  It would be like producing a smoothie made of dog poo and toenail clippings and placing it next to a really delicious chocolate malt shake and asking me which one I'd rather drink.

Regular readers may be aware of my fervent love of chocolate malt shakes.  And, er, even new readers should probably be aware that I don't tend to consume dog poo, as a general rule...




I've also started to realise that when I look back over the events of 2017, it's less a case of wistfully gazing over my shoulder, these days and more one of rubber-necking at a particularly horrific car crash.  I find that emotional outbursts of "I'm still so saaaaad" have been replaced with a stunned: HOW did I get out of that alive?!"

Case in point: this morning, as I was doing that half-curious, half-masochistic thing of checking Facebook's On This Day feature, I spotted a photo of me and a girl who was once one of the closest people on the planet, to me.  It was actually a very old picture, from one of our first ever days out, together.  And the first thing I thought upon seeing it was: "Man, I miss that hairband I'm wearing in this photo."

Go me?

I've said this a lot, especially in the last six months, so I don't want to repeat myself like a BBC Christmas schedule, but life is about rebuilding.  It's about filling the gaps and strengthening your foundations, even after the most traumatic of personal earthquakes.  


My plan for 2018 was always to get to a point where I'm no longer looking back over my shoulder (as much as I like Mike & The Mechanics).  It feels refreshing to have my eyes firmly fixed on the present and the future, rather than sullenly locked on the past.

I had a few goals to achieve in the first few weeks of 2018 and I feel like I'm on track with them, so far:

I told myself I'd join the ladies barbershop chorus I did a singing course with last year and I have (passed my audition, joined the committee and everything - they're well and truly stuck with me, now!).

I told myself I was going to branch out and meet new people this year and thanks to the above band of awesome singing ladies, I can tick that one off, too!

I told myself I'd spend more time with the friends I'd not seen anywhere near enough of due to my general wallowing throughout the first half of 2017 and I think it's fair to say I'm doing pretty well with that (my lovely friend Louise has even seen me scoff way too much pizza and then dramatically perform a song from Les Mis this month, so...result?!  Possibly for me more than her...).

I mean, I told myself I'd find a new job and improve my non-existent love life as well, but you know... I guess you can't have everything all at once...



My point is, whilst January has been a long month and the endless rain we've had down here in Cornwall has had me seriously considering building an Ark, it's actually been a pretty successful month, in terms of achievements.  Of course, saying all of this could bring forth some kind of harbinger of doom, to defecate all over the month of February, but...  Fingers crossed not, eh?!

I hope your 2018 is going okay so far.  And if it's not?  Have a look at what needs to change and get rebuilding.  I promise you, it'll be worth it.






Monday, 22 January 2018

Don't Risk Dying of Embarrassment...


Today, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust revealed that in a recent study, a third of women had admitted to avoiding having a regular smear test.  Concerns about body shape, appearance of genitals/pubic region and smells topped the list of reasons why women were putting off having the test.

Whilst this news is undoubtedly troubling - cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women under 35 - I found it depressingly unsurprising.

Despite all the massive progress feminism has made in recent years, and in spite of the empowering #metoo movement, too many women still feel pressured into trying to conform to the media's "rules" about how we should look and behave.  When we live in a world in which glossy magazines gleefully publish photos of celebrities with cellulite on show, as though it's a crime worthy of being called out in the most public way possible, it's no great shock to discover that many women still have huge problems accepting their body shape and don't want to feel vulnerable, even in front of a medical professional.

Delaying or putting off your smear test all together can have serious consequences.  I know several women who've had pre-cancerous cells picked up during a routine smear test.  Having those cells monitored - and having additional procedures where necessary - has almost certainly prevented those women from developing a disease that can be fatal.


In 2009, the death of reality TV star Jade Goody at the age of just 27, triggered an upturn in the number of women ensuring they attended their regular smear tests.  Cervical cancer was talked about openly and the government discussed bringing the age of initial smear tests for women in England down from 25 (sadly, 25 remains the age at which most women begin having regular tests).

In the years since, however, the number of women regularly attending their smear tests has decreased once more and I find that horribly frightening.

Worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth most common fatal cancer in women.  It can lie undiscovered, with very few obvious symptoms.  Cervical cancer has the capacity to spread and to do so rapidly.  Avoiding it with a regular smear test sounds like an obvious thing to want to do, yet we find ourselves in a situation where women are actively risking their health by not attending check ups.  In fact, despite women under 35 being the most at risk of this form of cancer, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust discovered that 61% of the women they surveyed had no idea that they fell into the age bracket most likely to contract the disease.

Are we really going to risk dying of embarrassment?!


The nurses who carry out smear tests have seen it all before, ladies, I promise.  They don't care whether you're waxed to within an inch of your life, or whether you're carrying enough fluff down there to stuff a cushion.  

It doesn't matter whether you've got wobbly thighs, or if you're not wearing your best knickers, that day.  

All the worries you have about shape, size, odour and neatness are trivial in comparison to the much bigger worries caused by discovering cancer much too late.

And it doesn't really hurt.  At least not anywhere near as much as you might be imagining.  It's not 100% comfortable, I grant you, but I've had far worse medical procedures in my lifetime.  I've had a lumbar puncture.  Believe me, a smear test is a picnic in the park, in comparison to that.  Just try to relax as much as possible (nerves won't help the situation, to be fair).

You'll also find that nurses, doctors and other medical professionals are really understanding about the reasons you might have for feeling scared about stripping off for an intimate procedure.  They'll take the time to put you at ease.  And if you have a really serious reason for being afraid - someone on Twitter earlier suggested that survivors of rape or sexual assault could have obvious problems with having an invasive, intimate procedure - talk those concerns through.  You will be taken seriously by any decent medical professional.  

At the end of the day, if what's stopping you from having a potentially life-saving, five minute check up is embarrassment, then to quote the song from Frozen, we all need to let it go.



I hate to break it to you, dear reader, but your vagina is not going to be the one that makes a nurse leap from her chair, throwing the speculum across the room in horror.  It's just not that special.  Whoever does your smear test will have seen (and, if you're worried about it, probably smelled) hundreds of female genitals before and, when they see you on the bed, they genuinely won't care whether you've got a bit of perfectly normal cellulite, or whether you have the enviable thighs and bum of a toned Goddess.  All they want to do is get the test done and ascertain whether you're healthy, or whether there might be a risk.  That's it.  They're really not going to comment on your downstairs topiary.

It's five minutes of your life - even if it is five minutes of embarrassment - to potentially save the rest of it.   So, when that letter arrives, ladies: PLEASE don't ignore it.




Monday, 15 January 2018

Blue Monday (And How To Beat It!)



When I went to bed last night, I did so secure in the knowledge that I didn't have to start work until 1pm today, so I could have a lie-in, this morning.  This was, in itself, a case of me looking on the bright side, seeing as I loathe afternoon shifts, but I was determined to find a silver lining to the situation and, well, anyone who knows me, knows that I'm in a very serious, deeply committed relationship with my duvet...

And then the rain came.  Not in a metaphorical sense; this isn't a poetic way of saying I was suddenly hit by an emotional crisis.  No, I mean it very literally.  It started raining in the small hours of this morning and it woke me up.  Seeing as sleeping is one of my most favourite hobbies, I wasn't especially thrilled by this turn of events.  The term "like a bear with a sore head" pales into insignificance when compared to "like a sleepy short girl whose weird dreams have been unceremoniously interrupted by the weather."  Admittedly, it's not quite as catchy, but still.  Accurate.

So, I did what I usually do in these sorts of situations: I took to Twitter, to moan about it.

It was there that I discovered that today is apparently "Blue Monday" - supposedly the most depressing day of the year.  Yay...?

I could have used that fact to allow myself to moan excessively about my lack of sleep and to stomp around the house, looking for additional reasons to be mardy or sad.  But the gloomy fact is, I don't need a specific day in order to be stressed, anxious or depressed.  None of us do.  Depression can affect anyone, for any reason (or, indeed, seemingly without any reason at all) on literally any day.  That's the very nature of depression.  It doesn't wait, like some incredibly patient monster underneath your bed, for the one day a year it's allowed to leap out and roar in your face.  It'll do that whenever it likes.

And, of course, depression isn't necessarily a case of feeling blue.  Sometimes, you don't feel anything.  Not happy, not sad, not angry, just... Devoid of any emotion.  

But the good news is, there are ways to keep on top of your mental health, regardless of the date.  So, I thought I'd share a few of the ways I keep the monster under my bed at bay, whether it happens to be the most depressing day of the year or not.

This puppy is here because I Google image searched "monster under the bed" and genuinely scared myself.  Yes, I am a train wreck of a human.  So, anyway... Have a puppy, whilst I try to forget the many gifs of Pennywise from It I've just sifted through (I love that film, but now I have THE FEAR).


Talk To Someone.

Yep, the simplest answer is often the best one.

Depression can make you feel incredibly isolated from the rest of the world.  You can start thinking you're the only person who feels the way you do, or that you're not worth anything to anyone.  And I promise you, both of those thoughts are always wrong.

The first step towards getting yourself to a better mental place is finding someone you can trust - whether it's a family member, friend, partner or even your GP - and telling them how you feel.  Never, ever keep things to yourself, if you're feeling depressed or considering harming yourself in any way.  There are all sorts of ways to help you feel better, but it all starts with talking to someone.

If you really don't feel that you can talk to anyone in your family or friendship circle, you can call the Samaritans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by using their free phone line: 116-123.

Sometimes, you'll discover that just talking your worries through with someone else, gives you a different perspective on things and helps ease the load.  Sometimes, it'll take more than that, but talking to someone will be the catalyst to you getting the further help you need.  So, never keep things inside.  Always find someone to talk to.


Take care of yourself and be "selfish" if you need to be.


You can't be there for everyone else, if you're not looking after yourself.  Sometimes, as much as you might want to say "yes" to helping out everyone who asks, or to attending everything you're invited to, you have to retreat into yourself and have a little "me-time."

I've put "selfish" in air-quotes with good reason: there is nothing selfish about realising that you need to put yourself first, for a while.  Whether that simply means having a quiet night in by yourself, enjoying a bubble bath and your favourite dinner, or whether it's a case of barricading yourself in your room and playing Mario Kart for three hours, whilst you ignore every text message you receive, so be it.  Do whatever it takes to make you feel less pressured and more in tune with yourself.

Remember that mental health and physical health are often closely linked; if you're looking after yourself in terms of getting enough sleep, eating properly, getting some kind of exercise (I find walking the dog helps!) and paying attention to any aches or pains, you're more likely to be in a better position to kick depression's butt when it arises.


Find something you love and indulge in it!


When you're really low, it can be hard to find much joy in anything.  That's why it's important to work out what makes you happiest when you're on an even keel, and keep doing whatever that is when you're down, too.

For me, it's singing.  There are few things that can't be solved by a good warbling session.  If I want to shake off a bad mood, I'll do a bit of YouTube karaoke and stick firmly to cheesy, upbeat tunes.  If I feel like I need to wallow for a while, I'll break out the Les Mis soundtrack and sing Eponine's parts.  Yes, I am that kind of musical theatre nerd...

Now that I sing in a group as well, I find that's even better for lifting me out of a grump; it's hard to feel sad, mad or otherwise blue, when there's a chorus of fab people, singing in harmony with you and all you can think is: "Blimey, we sound awesome!"

It doesn't matter what it is that makes you happy.  It might be dancing, binge-watching your favourite TV show, painting, baking or even extreme ironing, for all I care - just find what makes you smile, what makes you feel good inside, and do more of it when your mood starts to drop.  


Spend some time with friends.


Yes, you need to put yourself first and it's fine to turn down invitations and not put yourself under too much pressure to be sociable, but don't cut yourself off completely.  Spending time with people you care about - and, crucially, who care about you (even when you don't) - can be a fantastic medicine.  Sometimes, just making the effort to get out and have a cuppa with a mate can be the difference between a bad day and an actually-not-so-bad one.  Besides, depression can make you feel incredibly isolated, so it's always a good thing to remind yourself that there are people who want to spend time with you and who are there to listen to you, too.


Make some simple plans.

When life feels tough, it can be hard to consider the future, especially if uncertainty about your personal future is contributing to your depression in the first place.  But one way to stay on top of things is by taking control as much as you can.  Plan something - even something really small, like "tomorrow, I will make my bed" - and try hard to stick to it.  When you do stick to it, it's a small way of proving to yourself that you're still able to accomplish small goals.  You can eventually build up to bigger things, like a day out somewhere or even a trip away.  Don't rush yourself, but encourage yourself to have little things to do, so that you have something to aim for.

Having a simple plan for your day set in place is also a good way of ensuring you don't feel quite so out of control.  Depression can make you feel as though your whole life is out of your hands.  But making plans, however small, is a way to remind yourself that you still have some power to decide what happens during your day.

On good days, plan exciting things for the future.  I always find, even when I'm really down, that if I know I have a trip to the theatre or a dinner out with a friend planned, I want to stick to it, because I know it will cheer me up.  Having something to look forward to can be a really good way of keeping you going when things get you down.


Challenge yourself.


I don't mean you have to start setting yourself a goal to climb Mount Everest, when I say this (unless that's something you're really keen on doing...).  But when those negative thoughts start creeping into your head, challenge them.  

Depression makes it very easy to agree with self-hating thoughts.  You can easily decide "yep, I am unlovable, stupid and a total failure."  But instead of agreeing with the part of your subconscious that's making you feel that way, stand up to it.  Write down all the ways in which you're a good friend to people.  Make a list of the accomplishments you're most proud of.  Even if you're convinced you have nothing positive to say about yourself, you will find something, if you look hard enough.  


Remember it CAN and WILL get better.

There is always a positive way out of a negative situation, no matter how hard you sometimes have to look for it.  When you're feeling low, remember that it's probably not the first time you've felt that way and that you managed to shake it off before, so you know you can do it again.  If it is the first time you've ever experienced really serious depression, remember how you felt before it came on; you have been happy, excited, positive and calm before, and they are all emotions you can work towards finding again.

It might take time.  Sometimes, we have a bad day and then wake up the following morning, wondering why we made such a fuss.  Other times, we find that our dark mood lasts a lot longer.  But however long it takes, it can get better.  You just need to take care of yourself, reach out for support and work on getting yourself back on an even keel.

These are just the things that work for me.  You might have totally different ways of keeping the monster firmly under the bed.  But whatever works for you, keep at it.

And here's to a Monday that's distinctly un-blue.








    


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

5 Things I'd Like To See The Back Of In 2018!


Here we are in a shiny new year!  2017 was a hard year for a lot of us, for all sorts of reasons, so it's no wonder that we've greeted 2018's arrival with not only glee, but a steely resolve to improve on the last twelve months.  With that in mind, I thought it was time to come up with a few things I definitely don't want to take into the new year with me.  So, here are five things I would like to see the back of in 2018...

1. Donald Trump's sorry excuse for a Presidency


Okay, America.  You've had your fun, now.  You did the thing nobody thought you'd be daft enough to do: you elected an emotionally stunted, racist, tantrum-throwing, misogynistic reality TV star with literally no political experience, to the highest office your country had to offer.  Well done.

But really, with ongoing investigations into possible collusion with Russia, let alone his constant penis-measuring contest with North Korea (which has the capacity to destroy the freaking planet) how are people still supporting this maniac?!

Having someone this unstable in a position of enormous power is dangerous and has emboldened a whole sorry heap of white-supremacists and actual Nazis to come crawling out of the woodwork, praising Trump's name.  If he's not impeached in 2018, at least let someone do a bit of damage control and teach him how to be President without coming across as a spoilt, arrogant, unrepentant toddler with Mommy issues.

I really must stop sitting on the fence and say how I really feel...


2. Leave Voters Acting as Though Not Wanting BREXIT Makes Remainers Somehow "Unpatriotic."

Damn right we are.

When melty-faced hate-stirrer Nigel Farage was busily campaigning for the Leave campaign, he frequently said that if the result was close, say 48-52% in favour of Remain, then we'd have to take the wishes of those 48% into consideration, as it would be almost half the country who wanted out of the EU and it would be wrong to ignore them, completely.  How funny that when the result turned out to be 48-52% in favour of Leave, there has been no such concession at all.  WHO SAW THAT COMING, EH??!!

Almost half the country want to remain in the EU.  Almost half the country saw through the outright lies (£350million to the NHS) and the manipulation ("Let's take our country back!" - erm, I wasn't aware we'd lost it...) thrown at us by the Leave campaign.   And just like with Trump's victory in America, almost half the country was aware that this whole referendum was going to bring the knuckle-dragging racists out of their caves.  Sure enough, it did.  When I spoke out as a Remainer on Twitter, I was told by a barely literate Leave voter that my surname (which comes from my Greek-Cypriot grandfather, who came to the UK as an immigrant and worked hard to build himself and his family a life here), makes me "not as British as me, so I'm shutting your ARSE out of this conversation."  Yep, I don't get to have an opinion, because my blood is not 100% British bulldog fighting spirit, tea and clotted cream.  I've lived here all my life (besides a couple of years in Germany whilst Dad was in the RAF), I am patriotic and I consider myself British, but that pesky quarter Greek-Cypriot part of me means I have no right to air my views.  Because damnit, this is Britain and we don't want immigrants here, anymore - we're taking back our country!


Except, you know, those immigrants often do the jobs we don't want to.  And they frequently work long hours, dedicating themselves to our crippled NHS.  They've brought multiculturalism to our country and made it - at least once - a more tolerant, community-minded society.  They're our friends, neighbours, partners, workmates...  And a quick DNA test will lead most of the people roaring "BRITAIN FOR THE BRITISH" to discover that their blood isn't "pure" British, anyway.

And yes, I know not all Leave voters are racist and me talking in this way might rub those who aren't up the wrong way.  Unfortunately, the fact remains (ha!) that a lot of people have taken the "Leave" vote to mean that they can openly voice their intolerance for minorities, immigrants and even certain religions with impunity.  And that needs to be called out.

But, casual racism aside, one of the most irritating claims made by Leave voters is that Remainers are somehow "unpatriotic" for wanting to stay in the EU.  And that, my friends, is utter rubbish.

I wanted to remain because I'm patriotic.  I wanted to see the country prosper through trade and through free movement of skilled workers.  I wanted to remain because I didn't want to see vile racists believing they now have carte blanche to air their despicable views.  That's not the country I'm proud of.

Obviously, if I could see the back of BREXIT full STOP in 2018, that would be flipping marvellous.  But if that's impossible, then at the very least, I don't want to hear any more Leave voters calling people like me "unpatriotic" for having a view that isn't buried in colonialism or xenophobia.  And I certainly don't want to see BREXIT used as an opportunity for racism.


3. Corruption in Hollywood, the Pervasion of Abuse Against Women - And Victim-Blaming!


2017 was the year that #MeToo took off as a hashtag on Twitter.  I read hundreds of those tweets.  I wrote several of my own.  It saddened me that so many women - and indeed several men - had experienced sexual harassment, assault or some other form of abuse, be it physical, psychological or emotional.  It saddened me.  But it didn't shock me.

It didn't shock me because, unfortunately, my own experience of an abusive relationship earlier in the 2010s, opened my eyes as to just how common it is.  Just how frequently this stuff actually happens.  It's frightening.  And it has to stop.

I also wasn't shocked by the accusations against major Hollywood actors and producers.  Why?  Because Hollywood is the capital of an industry that has long placed men in positions of enormous power, yet graded women on nothing but their sexual appeal.  If a girl wants to make it in movies, she has to be pretty, slim and willing.  That's been the not-so-tongue-in-cheek "joke" for years.

But what was almost as depressing as the sheer scale of the corruption in Hollywood and the pervasion of abuse against people from all walks of life, was the victim-blaming and the hand-wringing done by certain sections of society.  From creepy trolls on social media, bad-mouthing the women who came forward, as though finding themselves in the position to be abused in the first place was entirely their own fault, to guys like Matt Damon, who became the poster-child for all guys moaning about not being able to grope strangers anymore, when he said: 

"I do believe that there’s a spectrum of behavior, right? And we’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?"

Depends on whose butt you're patting, moron.  If it's a random girl you've never spoken to, how do you know she's of the age of consent?  How do you know you haven't just molested a child?  More importantly, regardless of her age, how do you know she's okay with you touching an intimate part of her body?!  Why was it ever generally accepted that a guy can just start groping a woman he's not remotely familiar with?   Why is it even okay for guys to send sexual messages to women they don't know on social media (like the guy who, when I tweeted a photo of a bruise acquired during paint-balling, felt it was appropriate to DM me to ask whether I actually got bruised in a kinkier way)?!

For weeks after the Harvey Weinstein news broke, I kept seeing guys moaning on social media: "Well, how are we supposed to know if a girl's interested, if we're suddenly not allowed to touch her?!"  USE YOUR WORDS, IDIOT.  Ask if she wants a drink.  Flirt in a way that isn't massively crossing borders.  Read her body language.  All we're asking is that you don't just randomly come up to us as a total stranger and put your hands on intimate parts of our bodies without asking.  It's NOT that hard.

JUST STOP BEING CREEPS IN 2018, OKAY???!!! 


4. People Who Just Can't Accept The Doctor Being A Woman.

When Jodie Whittaker was announced as taking over from Peter Capaldi as The Doctor in Doctor Who last year, I cried.  I cried because I've been besotted with the show for the last 12 going on 13 years and I couldn't believe that I was finally going to see a woman in the title role.  

Then I got mad.  Because, predictably and frankly boringly, out came the misogynists.

"What next?!  Pink, fluffy dice in the TARDIS?!"  Shrieked the horrified Daily Mail readers.

"I'll never watch the show again - the BBC has ruined it!  IT'S POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD!" Screamed men with daleks tattooed on their arms (right next to their UKIP tats, probably).

How dare a woman play the role of an alien who can, canonically, change their entire body in order to avoid death.  That's not realistic!  How can the Doctor possibly have a vagina?!  What if she chips a nail whilst running away from a Cyberman and bursts into tears because it's her time of the month?!

It was depressingly obvious that this would happen.  And the people yelling and screaming (not all of them men, it must sadly be said), are so totally transparent in their misogyny, it's laughable.

"Oh no, it's not because she's a woman.  It's because she's such a bad actress," insisted one Facebook user who has clearly never seen Broadchurch.

"They've deliberately chosen an ugly actress who looks like a man," spat another person who has blatantly never seen Jodie Whittaker.

Guys.  Guys and weirdly misogynistic girls... Calm down.  Jodie's spoken two words on screen, so far.  We haven't got a freaking clue what sort of Doctor she's going to be.  So, if you really are the "lifelong fan of the show" that you claim to be, how about you get over your aversion to female anatomy and give her a chance?  How about you consider for just a second, that you're not the only Whovian in the universe and that the show doesn't bend to your rule?  Perhaps you'd like to consider for a brief moment, the fact that there are young girls who watch the show who are now being given the subtle message that they can aim higher.  That they are equal.  That they don't have to be the sidekick; they can be the hero.  And if that really upsets you, then mate... You need to have a serious word with yourself and find out why you're so anti-women.  Because it's 2018.  We can vote and everything.  You're going to have to get used to it, because we're not going anywhere.

And we've got the keys to the TARDIS.  If you don't like it, the door is right over there.  Except I think you'll find your world will most definitely be smaller on the outside.

For the record, after just two words in the role, I believed 100% in Jodie's Doctor.  She's going to be...



5. People who throw insults at anyone they disagree with.


Yeah, yeah, I know I've used the term "knuckle-draggers" to describe people I disagree with in this very blog post, but in my defence, I'm using it against racists, misogynists and people who victim-blame.  Oh, and Donald Trump.  So...  The term stands.

What I can't stand - and what I vehemently want to see an end to in 2018 - is the tendency, particular on social media, for people to resort to insults the very second they see a harmless opinion that differs from their own.

Example:

Me: I really dislike Little Mix.
Random Little Mix Fan: YOU ARE UGLY AND FAT AND I HOPE YOU DIE.


There's an air of anonymity given to all of us when we browse social media.  Even if we're using our real name and photo, we're still talking to someone from behind a screen.  Someone who we'll probably never come into contact with in real life.  That counts double for the people who use a made-up name and whose avatar is a picture of a cartoon, or a dog or basically anything other than their actual face.

But none of that means that you have the right to abuse someone because they happen to dislike a movie you really enjoyed, or because they dissed a musician you're a fan of.  

It happens way too often and much, much too easily these days and I hate it.  We're losing our ability to have reasonable debate.  We're losing our respect for differences.  And all because far too many of us are desperate to be RIGHT ALL THE TIME and to hurl insults at someone is apparently easier than being grown up enough to accept that they're entitled to have a view that we don't share.

When you think about it, it's utterly stupid:

Person 1: I didn't enjoy that episode of Eastenders.
Person 2: YOU STINK OF CHEESE AND I HOPE SOMEONE SMACKS YOU IN THE FACE.


Who knows, maybe 2018 will be the year that we all grow up just enough to allow other people to express an opinion, without us feeling the need to insult them in reply.

Side note: if the person expressing the opinion in the first place is being racist, sexist etc, then of course feel free to be creative in your insulting responses.  I know you're not supposed to sink to their level, but we have a troll in the White House: all bets are off.

Yep, I went there.



Look, the reality is that none of these things will probably disappear in 2018, no matter how much I want them to.  But having a rant about them all has made me feel a bit better, so...  I'm chalking that up as a win.

Happy new year, everyone.  Let's make 2018 a good one.










Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Bedtime Story (27/12/2017)


With the Christmas festivities all over and done with, this is the time of year I like to start thinking of all the other things I have to look forward to (it staves off the post-Christmas blues!).  So, this story was written with that in mind!

Please remember that this is the last bedtime story before I take a month off in January.  The weekly feature will return in February!

If you'd like to listen to me read this story as a podcast, just click here!


"What Will We Do Next Year?!"

Chrissie was feeling a little blue.
Christmas was over and Boxing Day, too!
She sighed at her big sister and whispered in her ear:
"Carolyn?  What will we do next year?"

Carolyn shrugged and simply replied:
"Think of all the ideas you have inside.
A new year's a blank canvass for you to paint on.
We can do whatever you like, when this year has gone!"

Chrissie frowned: "Anything at all?
Even ride my skateboard along the garden wall?
Because I can't do that yet, but I'd like to try.
Can I do it next year?"  Came Chrissie's reply.

"You can give it a go," Carolyn said,
As thoughts went whizzing around Chrissie's head.
"With another year, you'll be older and wiser,
But I'll still be here, to be your adviser."

"Can we invent new games and find new things to do?
And maybe visit some new places, too?"
Chrissie was suddenly losing her fears,
As she filled the new year with so many ideas.

"We'll think of somewhere to go on holiday,"
Carolyn said.  "And of course we can play!
The new year is ours, we can do what we choose;
Twelve brand new months, for you and I to use."

"Will we go down to the park, together?
And play outside, no matter the weather?
Will the trees grow new, fresh green leaves?"
Chrissie beamed.  "Oh, say they will, please!"

"We'll have brand new seasons to watch," Carolyn said.
"From Spring back to Winter; it's all ahead!
The days will grow longer and warmer and then,
They'll suddenly grow shorter and colder again."

"What about all the things that happened this year?"
Chrissie asked into Carolyn's ear.
"Can I keep all the friends I made and the fun that I had?"
If she could, then the new year didn't seem so bad.

Carolyn nodded: "Those things are yours.
So, yes, you can keep them.  Yes, of course!
When an old year ends and a new one starts,
You carry all you need, safe in your heart."

"But will things change, when the new year begins?
What if I forget all the things that have been?
What if the world moves on and I'm left behind?"
All these worries preyed on young Chrissie's mind.

Carolyn smiled: "The whole world will change,
And yet really, it will somehow still stay the same.
The world will seem big and we'll feel much smaller,
But we'll have birthdays and get older and taller."

"So I don't need to worry about the year being new?"
Chrissie asked her sister, thinking things through.
"Because a new year is just like fresh start,
So we should welcome it with an open heart?"

"A new year brings hope and the prospect of change,
But if you're happy it can offer you more of the same.
Carolyn gave Chrissie a sisterly squish:
"A new year is yours to do with as you wish."

Chrissie looked at her sister and gave her a grin.
She suddenly couldn't wait for the new year to begin!
"You know, Carolyn, it doesn't matter what we do,
As long as next year, I still have you."

THE END