Category Archives: lifelong learning

Climate of change

I keep meaning to write a blog relating to my fitness journey – I mean honestly I just keep meaning to write anything at all. So this is going to be a little bit of an odd approach but please bear with me…

I was walking to work, thinking about how I am trying to be as waste free as possible, and this led me to thinking, wouldn’t be awesome if places like Lush gave you the opportunity to refill instead of having to buy another bottle, jar, pot. Specifically I was thinking about their face masks.

Now, this led me to think about how things have changed, exercises was where this thought led. These days, going to the gym is normal. How many people do you know that don’t have some sort of fitness schedule, either classes, or the gym, maybe its cycling, running. We have all realised that with our lifestyle changes, and the ease of access to quick fix food.. we need to look after our bodies. Indeed, my mother would probably be the first to point out that it is better to do this as a preventative measure.

So … this brings be around to the title. You are getting 2 for the price of one with this – climate change. We have been blissfully, or willfully ignoring what is painfully obvious. Plastic is everywhere, and it is killing the planet. In Germany, for as long as I remember, recycling is standard, taking back bottles, normal, reusing bags…. you get me? But we are all so immune to what happens to the plastic we throw away. We are all so blind to the fact that it isn’t somleone elses problem, that having 2 bins instead of one is not actually such an issue.

The plain fact is that we have gotten so used to everything being ..easy. The point for me that I realise the level of reliance on convince is when StarBucks opened a drive through locally. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to spend time in a cafe, chatting with a friend and enjoying cake. But StarBucks (and all the other coffee shops it seemingly spawned) created the take away coffee in a way that was previously unseen.

Now I am not ANTI starbucks as such, I even spend money in their cafe’s – now i am not sure if it is because I don’t drink coffee, but a lot of the attraction is lost on me. I mean, surely you can wait to get to your destination to have a coffee if you aren’t going to stick around? But also, think about the amount of waste this generates. This alone, I mean if we are going after straws… take away coffee with it has so many elements, the cup, the lip, the stirrer, and i could go on. But does any of this get recycled? Because if you are on the go, and so desperate for a coffee fix, are you going to be able to dispose of it properly or are you going to dump it in the nearest bin?

There are so many elements to recycling, why we need to do more, but it feels as if we are doing less, but lets stay with fast food – not long ago, we would bring in lunch and maybe have a treat on a Friday and go get something locally. Now, it is normal to pick someone on our way in, say a coffee. At lunch, go to SubWay, Greggs etc and for our way home? Why not pick up pizza or a burger. This is not only extremely wasteful but how much more additional packaging is needed? Even if you go pick up lunch in a store, a prepacked sandwich, a drink, it is all packaging that isn’t needed. And let us now forget how expensive this is.

Honestly like most things, exercise, recycling, climate change, cutting meat, it isn’t about a grand gesture that seems difficult, insurmountable, and your brain breaks figuring out where to begin. It is about small gestures, don’t have that coffee, use a paper or metal straw, cut down meat to a day or 2 a week, try getting off the bus stop early, try working out with a friend. I am not preaching, it is merely personal experience. So many people come accross as … all or nothing. A gym instructor at a previous gym once told me that if i wasn’t in the gym at least 4 times a week, why bother. If you are not completely over hauling your diet, why bother, if you are not sorting and washing every recyclable… why bother. Well the answer is that, collectively small changes amount to big changes and if everyone made a couple of adjustments it would really make a difference.

The V word…

Vagina, vixen, vaccination, vinyl….. I won’t go on.

What i would like to talk about Vegan products. Disclaimer: I am not vegan.

I have a number of vegan friends, and the reason for their diet is varied, it can be down to health, going ‘free from’, not liking meat, animal rights and everything inbetween.

Now this isn’t the first time that I have spoken about being Vegan – and i was of a mind to write this in January when we were all having the benefits of joining in on Veganuary but you know, life happens!

One of the things that I came accross and that seems to garner a lot of backlash, is Holland & Barrett’s Veganuary campaign. The idea was that you could be a vegan part time. Either you chose to go down the cruelty free makeup route (there is a difference between vegan and cruelty free) or you are vegan only when you are at home. There were a lot of other examples, like I said, an entire advertising campaign was designed around this idea that you could be ‘Vegan: your way’. This seemed especially abhorrent to be people, on both sides of the fence.

Now there is an argument, for example, people not using a brand (Urban Decay, Body Shop) because they are owned by a company that isn’t vegan or still uses animal testing. But this argument for me, fails. SImply because these same people are still shopping in supermarkets that sell animal products, buying a latte in a coffee shop that serves 90% of their hot drinks with cows milk.

Like my previous blog, I would say that buying vegan/cruelty free products no matter where, sends a clear message to companies that this is something to invest in. Now like I have said, I am not vegan, but try my best to buy vegan as and where I can (to the point i rope the fiance into it by making him vegan meals). I don’t like meat, I don’t like the smell, texture, flavour. So for the longest time, I couldn’t understand why people would eat ‘fake meat’. I mean if you won’t want to eat meat, why would you want to eat something that reminds you of meat.

Well it is pretty simple. The meat industry is failing, the amount of stock needed to break even, let alone make a profit makes the farm a bad business model. We don’t have the space either, and with leaving the EU soon, farmers will be losing the EU subsidies that they have become reliant on. That is just the UK. Globally the population continues to rise, and we aren’t able to produce enough food.

So yes, the idea would be that we all become vegan, it would be great if we could help our planet, our selves, stem global warming, and be kinder. But lets be realistic, as anyone who had attempted to diet will tell you, the moment your restrict access to a certain food; the more you want it.

So what do we do? Well we start looking at alternatives, we start looking at like for like swaps, so that people won’t miss the animal by products. And you know what, I am all for it – I am here for the vegan cheese, the vegan pain au chocolate, for the vegan burgers. And I would honestly encourage you to try some. Even if you just do it for one meal. Pop into a super market ( I personally recommend M&S and their fab range) and grab a vegan meal. Sit down with friends or family (both) and see how you enjoy it. Because trust me, you will.

And every item sold, encourages the company to make more, try more, invest more. Which can only be a good thing.

Boys, girls, sex

This morning I watched a man break down toward the end of an interview about having ‘come out’ as being sexually abused as a young footballer. He was asked if he had felt that it was safer now, for children going into football. No, he felt it wasn’t any safer. And is it surprising when you look at the figures?

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In the last year, 748 victims have stepped forward, and 285 people coaches, and otherwise connected with football, have been named. That is a lot of people. This spans decades, the majority of cases from 70/80 and 90’s but there are earlier. And I imagine that there will be more recent.

So is it surprising that Andy suggested that little, if anything had changed? Not only does change take time, statements are still being taken. When you look at those involved, we are looking at people who have since passed and you can’t ask a dead man to give evidence or stand accountable for their actions. And on the other side, we have victims who are older, are parents, potentially even grandparents who have moved on with their lives and don’t want to drag up things from the past.

I admire the strength it has taken this man, to stand up in a very macho environment and call out abuse. He has risked everything in doing so, he has bought a spotlight onto his life, his family, and meant that the last 30+ of his existence has been pulled apart by the media. He has been questioned, risked ridicule, abuse, loss of friendship and breakdowns in his family.

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This is the same old story, one we see played out again and again. Money and power, people are afraid to said something because the people involved are powerful and often, good at their jobs. This can lead to collusion and a witch hunt again the accuser to ensure they are not a believable source. And on top of this we have to remember how slow these things are to move. Is it worth the years of going through questioning, courts, giving evidence and having it all dragged up repeatedly, have to relive stuff that you have spent so long trying to forget, trying to bury, trying not to effect your everyday life.

Now, this bothers me on several levels but as you know, I have a keep interest in banishing mental health stigma, especially among men. And this is what concerns me. This is a footballer, and call them what you like, it is a male institution and concern. 

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I started writing this post in 2017. So really I should be trashing it, starting over, rethinking. This blog was initially written in the pre #metoo world. Now you might think, considering some of the things that i have written about, that I would not really concern myself with things being pre or post such a movement. That it was a long time coming, that eyes should have been open to this a long time ago. 

However, one of the big names to have come out of this is Amanda Heard. We all remember the images of her bruised face, of her harrowing tales of life with Johnny Depp. How the papers salaciously rooted around in their life together, that he didn’t have any money. That one of the reasons that he didn’t have any money is because he was spending an obscene amount on wine. Which in a round about way, was explaining his behavior. 

So what relevance does this have? We have spent at least a year of reports about Johnny Depp losing the plot. that he is putting on weight, he looks haggard, what has happened, how the mighty have fallen. And fall he did – work dried up, and the fact he wasn’t sacked from the Harry Potter films was questioned with some enthusiasm. 

Meanwhile, Amanda has gone from strength to strength, going from a relatively unknown actress, to the sweetheart of Hollywood, a survivor of domestic abuse, the perfect spokes person. 

Well, a couple of weeks ago, there was a whisper that Johnny Depp had filed a defamation claim against Amanda. I searched and couldn’t find anything. Nearly a week went by before I found a couple of articles. The basis of Johnny Depps claim is that Amanda had gone ahead and written an article regarding being in an abusive relationship. This went against the agreement on their previous court case, and subsequent divorce, which was one of none disclosure. 

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Now what this also includes is proof, ranging from impartial witnesses through to surveillance videos that it was Amanda who was the violent partner.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with the beginnings of this article,  but this is it. Men do not get believed. There has been extreme silence on Johnny Depp and his court case. On the possibility that he was not him, but his partner, his wife, a woman, who was the aggressor. There have been a lot of sympathetic articles, pointing out that he was doing his best to protect her. That he allowed it all to play out – in front of the world, took it, and lived with the consequences. Right up until she decided to continue following the settlement. But there have been as many articles questioning why he waiting, why not make a big deal. Why not call her out. 

But mostly, everything is quiet, is there a degree of embarrassment about everyone having turned their back on him. Not believing him, throwing him away. 

And that really is what it is to me, men do not come forward because like Terry Crews who was asked why he didn’t stand up to sexual aggression, there is an unbalance of power. 

Women often are not able to fend off, be it due to physical circumstances, maybe it is down to financial, or any number of reasons, but a man? Who would believe them? They will have their entire being questioned. What man isn’t able to fend an assault off, what man allows themselves to find themselves in that situation, that isn’t able to get out of it, what man allows themselves to be emasculated. 

Say hallo to toxic masculinity. 

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Unisex toilets

Are actually a thing! Did you know? Really? Because they have been around for quite a while. So really what does this accomplish? No more or less than the rest of this series, #fakenews.

If a woman walks in to a bathroom, it is no different from a man walking into a bathroom. It is innocent. Most of the time. The difference is nothing to do with gender, it is to do with intent. Genuine mistakes do happen, and everyone is understanding of them.

The reason that this is being talked about again is because of laws being debated, passed, revoked in America. There are a lot of people that believe that homosexuality is wrong, that trans, gender fluidity anything that isn’t cis-normative is some sort of conspiracy, lies, a millennial joke. Because of this background, there is now a growing argument for people having to use the toilets of their ‘birth gender’ under the idea that is makes people safer. Whom exactly? Because doing this puts a lot of people in danger. If someone is living as say, female. For all intents, and purposes, is female, why on earth should they be forced to go into the male toilets. And doesn’t that put them in as much danger, as when a man is in the female toilets? Isn’t that the argument that is used? That sexual predictors will use these situations to prey on women.

And what age does the separation start? When you are a parent, what age is it safe, or appreciate to ask your child to go into a bathroom by themselves? Is there a cut off for this? And are we not at all concerned about children going into bathrooms by themselves.

But to go back to the cover image of this post. Unisex bathrooms. In America Pence seems to be rather incensed by the very idea of a unisex bathroom. But definition every bathroom, not explicitly gendered, is unisex. STOP PRESS your home bathroom….. is UNISEX. And single cubicle is unisex. The issue it appears, is that is is somehow on the LGBTQ+ agenda to make public bathrooms a den of iniquity, a place for sexual debauchery.

This is because anything that is not cis-normative is obviously depraved, it is full of perverts, it will cause the downfall of society. The retelling of Sodom and Gomorrah, but instead of it being just 2 cities, instead it is a world wide epidemic. I may be being every so melodramatic but this is basically how i am trying to understand what the big issue is with unisex toilets.

Sidebar for a little history lesson – I am not going to go  full verse here – basically a deal was made with God that if a few good men could be found in Sodom, the town would be spared. So emissaries were dispatched. And this happened : Then all the men of the city surrounded Lot’s house and said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” (Genesis 19:5, NIV) Lot was so infected by the wickedness of Sodom that he offered the homosexuals his two virgin daughters instead.

I mean you can see the obvious issues with this reading, and I am not sure how much if down to the numerous translations and agenda of those carrying out or requesting the translation. And sodomy means ‘crimes against nature’ which is a much bigger melting pot of understanding than we usual understand it to mean.

So are men understood to be perverts when they go into a ladies toilet? Nope, not generally. The argument is actually double edged, because people using this arguement about double standards are the same people who will be asking for people to use bathrooms based on their birth gender. Women do not, and I cannot stress this enough, do not choose to use a male bathroom UNLESS there is no other way. There is always a massive queue for the ladies, on top of the fact that we have to fight layers just to releive ourselves, there will be numerous other things that we are doing in that cubicle, that require a little privacy, if we are taking babies or children in with us, that is another issue. So we end up causing a hold up. So if you really, really need to pee, yes we go into the gents. We have probably all done it. But omg the mess, the smell, it just… eww. So no, we don’t do it through choice. And why do men not use the ladies to the same degree… I think I just explained it, we have massive queues. 

At the end of the day, any arguments for or against who is using toilets, is down to someone’s agenda. So we just need to be clear as to what the motivation is to help us understand a persons point of view.

The terrorism of Feminism

So as we all know, 2018 is a big year in the feminist calendar – in 1918 there was a big push to offer some women – not all, but some, the right to vote. Some might argue that as there were so many restrictions in place, it wasn’t something to celebrate. 

However, I would say that this was a massive step which leads us to the present day where most of us take being able to vote for granted. To the point that the right to vote is something so ingrained that people need to be pushed to vote in the first place. That we  are reminded that people actually died for our right to vote. 

And now we come to what I want to write about. 

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Emily Davison throwing herself under the Kings Horse in the 1913 Derby. She was killed.

What led to our right to vote, how did it come about and why are we quick to remind ourselves and others that Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under a horse in order to raise awareness to the cause that others like her were fighting for. 

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Fighting for. 

This is one aspect that seems to have been sanitised and I don’t want to go down the ‘because it is women’ road.  I really don’t. The fact of the matter is that the Suffragettes were terrorists, their intention was the terrorise the British people to force the government to take notice. 

Why and when did this happen and can we not take ownership of this part of British History? Women took extreme measures because that was the only way that they felt that they would be able to be heard, to be treated like human beings and not merely property.

A 'Lancashire lassie' escorted through the palace yard, Westminster Palace, London, March 1907.
A ‘Lancashire lassie’ being escorted through the palace yard, Westminster Palace, London, 20th March 1907. A young woman is reluctantly escorted by two policeman who are holding her by the arms. The woman is still protesting as she is led away. The last line of the verse at the bottom says ‘For Women’s Rights anything we will dare; Palace Yard, take me there!’ (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

There were women like Kitty Marion, who was not looking for the vote. Instead she was looking at changing the acting industry for reasons that echo #metoo and shows that in 100 years little changes and that is why we NEED extremists. Kitty carried out a nationwide campaign of arson and bombings. I am not suggesting she was alone, but that she was one of a number of extremists within a group (groups, there were several groups with similar aims). Or should I say, she was one of a number of disenfranchised women that had tried everything to make a change in a mans world and nothing worked. 

Does that sound familiar? Being pushed so far and reaching a breaking point, where suddenly everyone is forced to stop and look, listen, change is ushered through? 

We see it even now, time and again, where voices join together and manage to push something to the foreground. Where hushed whispers in corridors, the nudges, winks, the unspoken is suddenly out in the open. But where we have media, social and traditional to help promote a cause, and able to reach millions of people without much effort.. One hundred years ago, it was much more difficult to gain attention any further than locally. 

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Extreme measures had to be taken, and people, and property were killed, maimed and destroyed during the cause. Let us not sanitise this. I am not for a moment excusing or romanticising the violence that was used to make a point, to make noise, to get the Government to listen. I am not saying, that with enough distance and time having passed, that it was okay because it worked out in the end, I have rights, and can vote, drive, own my own property, I am not beholden to men, I can work and earn my own money. 

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I am not for a moment excusing the terrorism, what I am saying is that if we don’t talk about it, discuss it, review it, we will never understand the context, the history, we will not be able to understand what caused the extreme violence, why the participants felt it was the only way to get their point made, what pushed them to violence in the first place. 

“History shouldn’t be comfortable and safe, it should always challenge you and always be challenged.”

 

Grief or guilt?

When my great aunt died, it was a massive shock, as I had said in my last blog. I was not something I was at all prepared for. Not that I didn’t realise that she has been unwell, or that she was old, but that I had managed to convince myself that she was just always going to be there.

I am going to assume that this is a fairly normal reaction – that you just can’t see a time when someone isn’t around. That they are just so, present, that life without them just doesn’t seem right?

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I have been grieving for over 2 months. It took almost all that time to stop crying at the drop of a hat. That even thinking about Tante Hilde would mean that I would either expend a lot of energy forcing the tears back, or running and hiding.

The thing, for me, when I reflect on my feelings and consider what I am going though. It is guilt. Like I said in my last blog, I have managed to escape dealing with grief for most of my life so this has hit me hard, I just don’t have the coping skills, or frankly the emotional support network.

Why was I guilty? Was it the fact I couldn’t remember whether I had sent anything at Christmas? Or that I had ignored her phone calls last year – she had left voicemails on my mobile because although I have a landline, I didn’t had an actual phone plugged in. And if I had, no doubt I would have spoken to her. But you know how quickly time passes, you just … forget. days turn into weeks and into months, then you realise that she had last called you to wish you a happy birthday. Last July.

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Or was the guilt over not having been to see her? I recall her comments coming up to her 90th Birthday, that she kept saying that she wasn’t going to see my before she died. And boy, if I thought that cut deep at the time? Nothing compared to how I feel writing that. Realising that although she was saying it to get a reaction, her was making a prophecy.

She was supposed to be alive for longer, she was supposed to at least wait until I got to see her in August. Until I had made my prodigal return to the home I had not seen in over 2 decades. The home I loved and selfishly assumed would just continue to be there. Patiently waiting for my return at a time that suits me.

Guilt because times waits for no man. Time doesn’t give us a reprieve, it doesn’t slow because we are juggling too many things and just need an extra moment. Time just marches on and we are left holding the pieces after everything comes crashing down. That is it, isn’t it? Guilt is for the survivors, the ones that were left behind. The ones that are still here, still working through memories. Wondering what they could or should have done differently.

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It is more than clear to me, that I shouldn’t have kept putting off getting my passport, that a ticket to Germany isn’t all that expensive and staying with my aunt would have been at minimal cost and would have made both of us happy. And because I could only think of myself, because I expected the world to wait until I was ready, she lost out on seeing me and I lost out on precious memories with my great aunt. My grandmother, my hero.

That is the thing, she isn’t close just because I would spend summers with her, Christmas holidays, evening visiting on my own. It wasn’t a relationship of convenience. I really loved her and looked up to her and understood some of her quirks and shared similarities. She was stubborn, headstrong, independent and fierce. I look over her old photos, and I see her smile, her love for animals, I see her climbing trees and I see some of myself in her. I may just be finding things because I want them to be there, I want a small part of her to be reflected in me.

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Because I am guilty that I didn’t spend more time with her. Not that I didn’t have more time with her, I didn’t spend the time I could have had, with her. That was my choice. I could wax lyrical about how obtaining a German passport is a massive ball ache, how the Brits are staunch in their refusal and dragged my heels over an Irish passport.

See? How easy did those excused slip out? Because that is what they are. I am an inherently self absorbed and self centred person. Over the last 3 months I have had reason to reevaluate some of the things I have done, how through laziness (no better word) I had allowed things to happen. And how to build relationships. And while I type this I realise that it has been 2 days since I last spoke to my mother and am going to cut this short to go call her….

 

#metoo

Well what a shit storm this has created. 

Not long ago, I was open about some of the abuse that I have received – and it took A LOT for me to commit that to a blog. I never talk about it. Ever. I don’t talk about the guys who have grabbed by boobs, my ass, pushed their hands into my crotch, who have pushed the hands up my skirt, who have molested me, who haven’t even asked let along ignored ‘no’.

#Metoo is important. We need to voice this sort of thing, because like I said in previous posts, we are continuously conditioned to keep quiet, to find a reason why it happened. We are told that we must have done or said something, that we should be ashamed over what happened. 

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This hashtag is supposed to highlight how many people are effected, to show that is isn’t just some bint that is featured in a news report or writes a blog or is featured on a documentary. That is is your mother, your sister, your coworker, you neighbour, it is your bus driver, your postie. It is anyone and everyone and these are not isolated. 

And you know what else, it doesn’t matter if that person misinterpreted advances. Because … oh hey there, advances, you were unwelcome. Your cat call, unwanted, you comment over the cut of the dress, unneeded. That hand on the boob over the line, the time you forced yourself on her, unforgivable. 

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Now, what else have we had over recent DAYS because of this, we have have the men complaining that it isn’t just women that are assaulted, although to be honest I think it is more women pointing this out… so okay. Sure. I get it, I really do. But one step at a time. I am all about inclusion but could we not just appreciate this for a moment before … no? Oh okay… lets all quietly change the wording on the blurb we are busily copying and pasting. 

Then we have that the men stepping up and apologising for any time they made a woman uncomfortable or if after reflection they did take things too far, didn’t listen, didn’t stop. These men have reflected, using the benefit of hindsight and been brutal in their analysis. And brave. Really fucking brave. Not only are they admitting they were wrong, they are not hiding behind ignorance or youth. They are not hiding. 

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Well, now let us move onto something else that quickly happened, to do with hiding. Women, who, like me just cut and pasted the blurb and didn’t go into their own story. Because to us, just saying #metoo was enough. It was enough to stand in solidarity to show that we are not lone, not the exception to the rule. But no, we are then told that we are faking, or hiding, or not being forthright, that we are jumping on the bandwagon. You know what. SO WHAT IF THERE ARE WOMEN OUT THERE USING THE HASHTAG ERRONEOUSLY it got us talking about it and for each woman who is just joining for solidarity’s sake, 10 more are sitting in the shadows ashamed of what might happen if they stand up.

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Oh then, yes, then we had (let us all remember this is a matter of what, 3 days?) men using the #methree hashtag. Men that have been FRIENDZONED and let us not get me started Nice guys finish last Welcome to the friend zone… and a few other blogs have covered my feelings on the matter. Or that women have had a free meal, a night out, a trip to the theatre, or a new bag out of a man and … and … get this. THEY DID NOT RETURN THE FAVOUR WITH SEX. Yes, yes I am shouting because I can honestly not fathom a time, reason, or excuse for this mentality and so I think I will leave this point alone before I do something silly. 

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Well, just when I thought that things couldn’t get worse, bear in mind every time it pops up on my news feed there is a different take on it, a friend sharing their own opinion, experience, their feelings or an article. 

This woman, I won’t utter her name. I am leaving this here. I have said quite enough about it on my own FB page, and if you are friends with me, I am sure if has popped up and I appreciate your comments on it. dickmove

Copp a feel

and think of me.

So at the end of the month, I will be having my hair shaved off for charity along with a friend/coworker.

Kevin Murphy are supporting Coppafeel through out October to raise awareness and promote self checks in young women. Breast cancer is something we have all been directly or indirectly been touched by, who hasn’t had that doctors appointment, had a family member, friend, colleague.

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We all know about the Race for Life, we wear pink, we wear our ribbons of support. But the problem, is two fold.

We don’t check our own breasts. We are still coming to terms with our own bodies, that it is okay to be confident in them, to talk about them. We don’t know what looks normal, where are we going to gauge this. We look at the media, we see augmented, photo-shopped, we see cosmetically enhanced. We don’t know that our own breasts are just that. Our own. But what we need to do is get used to them, we need to learn to love them and spot changes in them.

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We need to learn to go and speak to someone if you spot any changes. Don’t think you are being a bother, or a worrier, or that you will be dismissed out of hand. You are the only one who knows if there is something different. 

One thing that people have mentioned to me as I pass out cards at work. They know they should be checking their breasts but they don’t know how. They don’t know what to look for. What should be a trigger. Well honestly anything that isn’t normal – ask your partner if they notice changes as well. 

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If you go to CoppaFeel they have a range of resources to help you – including guides to check your breasts and even a text reminder so you will never forget to check. 

Like I said, I will be shaving my hair off at at the end of the month to help support and raise awareness – if you can spare a £1 please CLICK HERE to go to my Just Giving page. 

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Conditioned to say YES

to the dress…. and anything else that comes along.

Have you read about the chap in Bristol who set up a piano and explained to media, far and wide, that he would continue to play until his lady love until she came back to him.

Sounds like something out of a movie… anything from Princess Bride to Love Actually which a fair few infamous episodes from various sitcoms. And let us not forget the knight in white shining armour narrative which is barely questioned. It was only in the 70’s with authors like Margaret Atwood (Bloody Chamber) not questioning that someone might need saving, but rewriting the narrative as to whom is doing the rescuing.

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But let us not forget, as many men are growing up with the idea that they are the protector, the rescuer, the one who ‘does’ that is their narrative. The fact that there are more single parent families than ever has done little to disqualify this sentiment, in some cases, it could be argued that it is causing the idea that boys, need to become men who can look after their mother. A lovely sentiment but would this be the case if their father was the primary caregiver?

I digress, let us look at the Piano Dude, misguided? Enthusiastic? A Romantic? I mean what was he actually doing wrong?? Nothing! I mean what on earth, why am I taking such exception to him doing something entirely harmless, he is playing a piano. The world is watching. The media is primed to see him reunited with his love. And if that doesn’t raise any red flag for you, well… take a seat.

Some of the comments made when I shared the post : Inviting the media? It screams “Hey look at me ladies I’m a vulnerable romantic that has broken heart. I’M AVAILABLE!” At the same time it is also inviting intimidation with a crowd to take him back. There is just so much wrong with all of this.

Yup! If someone says they’re not interested just leave them alone. Being in a relationship and asking them to marry you is a bit different. Unless you just don’t want to get married ever. I’m happy just being with my boyfriend.

Yuk, he seems like a bit of a creep…perhaps why she left him in the first place, if a guy did this to me the only thing he would get is a restraining order

The way to win a woman’s affection isn’t ultimatums.

d3

Basically as someone who has suffered from violent unwanted advances and stalking. This is a big nope.

A. It screams of entitlement. What right does this woman have to say no. Now she can’t say no. I will embarrass her into compliance.

Compliance, this is slowly grooming a person into acting, saying or doing something you want to them to do. This can be by positive reinforcement (a la Penny and Sheldon in TBBT) offering a reward for doing as requested or wanted, or negative reinforcement where the result from stepping out of line can be physically or emotionally unsavoury. Telling an employer/friend/family member something, making fun of a person, breaking, damaging or removing something. You get the idea. 

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B. It gives others the impression that this is good idea. Either as the suitor or the victim. That big declarations of love are the way forward. That no, does not need to say no. And hell, make sure she was really sure that she is sure by repeatedly asking until she complies.

Like i said, it is wearing someone down – look I get that declarations and expressions of love are great. They really are. But they are also personal. You need to read a person. Four months is not long enough to know a person and certainly not long enough to warrant such a declaration of love. But again, it is wearing someone down and making them eventually agree. What about gut instincts. Yes, she/she may have ticked all the boxes, at the time. But no one, NO ONE is irreplaceable. And while I type that I understand that part of the grand gesture is to make that person feel that they are special. But it just continues to generate unrealistic standards. 

d8

C. Unrealistic romantic standards a la Hollywood are continued to be perpetuated and normalised meaning violent and abusive relationships are harder to spot and remove oneself from because, isn’t this the dream.

I was thinking about this when I switched my TV on this morning and saw Sleeping with the Enemy on. I have been accused of many things in the course of the discussion of this Piano Player. But my argument here is that he is just a lesson, as a person? Sure we don’t know much about him, but do we know any more about the characters we watch in movies, sitcoms, read about in books? They are all as one dimensional but their actions, never the less, impact on how we then interact. This isn’t to say, NO MORE ROMCOMS but that we open dialogue to understand damaging behaviours that could easily be a subtext and how they influence and how to spot when they become toxic.

d7

D. Yes I will stand by entitled and frankly women being shot for saying no is enough evidence.

Every day, women are attacked, physically, verbally, and mentally for expressing an opinion. For having a mind of her own, her own strategy, agenda, her own agency. Women are expected to tow the line, to comply. To be agreeable and quiet. Now I want to say, yeah know you. It is just in relationships, it is that ‘9 out of 10 know their …’ but no. No it isn’t the case. women are cat called, shouted at, grabbed by complete strangers because they are still seen a commodity that can be bought and sold and worse (?) still, that has no agency. Remember the shooting a couple of years ago in America because a girl refused the shooters advances? Or my favourite – Brock Turner who decided having merely interacted with a girl at a party gave bum the right to violently rape her? Oh and it was violent and pre meditated and he was trying to hurt her. Power play.

d5

Now my argument has been thrown back at me, telling me that I am over reacting and that if this is how I feel then like I said above, rom coms should be banned, and a litany of other things. Think banning violent video games and music in the wake of school shootings. That is not what is meant by this discussion and this discourse. This is merely an example to allow points to be made, issues to be highlighted. To open the dialogue about what could be potentially damaging behaviour.

As always, I can only use my female gaze and experience, I full acknowledge that this is not a gender issue and welcome discussion and discourse on this subject.

d6

 

Grooming into submission

So let us take a moment to discuss grooming. We are well aware of the word, it is bandied around a lot. We may have a shiver run down the spine as the connotations become clear.

But what isn’t clear is the wider implication of the term. It is no different than the children that we hear about. We stop and think. How did this happen. Why did no one realise, why did no one notice? Put a stop to it, what were the red flags… surely it was obvious?

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Hindsight is 20/20 = that is something we all hear a lot but it is very true. We are able to make logical and reasoned conclusions when the information is laid out for us.

October is the month we will discuss domestic violence. It is not an easy topic. It is not clean, simple, it is not easy. And I want to discuss my own experiences. I have discussed it to a degree over several blogs. It is not something I enjoy discussing. Far from. But I want to give you an insight. What I experienced? Nothing. It is nothing in comparison to what others have experienced.

However, I will share a few things that have happened, with the benefit of hindsight and I am hoping that will help open the conversation up a little.

dv6

I grew up in a violent house hold. This is something that was not really discussed at the time or for a long period afterwards. I remember one afternoon, after dinner. Something had set an argument off between my parents. We were all sitting at the dinner table, the meal had finished. There was a teapot on the table. The plates had been cleared. My brother was sent to his room. I have my back to the rest of the room and parents on either side. There was shouting, screaming. The teapot was thrown. The tea marked the ceiling after that day. The cupboards behind my fathers chair were slammed hard enough for glass to break.

This was far from isolated. My father was a very angry person. If things were not done just so, or when he said there was a raised voice. Hands were raised. Against each other? I don’t think so. I am sure that it was voices and emotional abuse. But that is my mother’s story and not mine to tell. She left with us, when I was 12 years old and not a moment too soon.

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Now fast forward a year or so. I used to go to school in Cornwall and lived in Devon, and not just over the bridge. It took well over an hour to get home. The second bus often had Dockyard workers. One man got talking to me about … look honestly I can’t remember. But he was very complimentary. He liked my purple eye shadow (I loved purple, don’t judge!) and would always make sure to sit next me to talk. Now, at the time I didn’t give it a second though. I was clearly in school uniform the first time he spoke to me and that was always a topic of conversation. I didn’t think there was anything more to it and didn’t for a moment think that I got off the bus practically on my door step was anything to concern myself with. Luckily I got chatting to a couple of kids my own age and this put a stop to anything that may have happened. I am not saying anything would have happened. But does it show you how easy it is?

dv8

Let us move forward to someone I used to spend time with at 16. I had known him casually for a while, we shared similar interests and he met my friends, he was 10 years older than me. I had spent time at his home a number of times and there was never a thought it would be at all inappropriate. He had a live in girlfriend and seemed pleasant, laid back. One day I was hanging out at his house and we where both on the sofa. I was lying down and somehow he ended up lying down behind me. He made a comment about my perfume and I really didn’t know what to say or do. We finished the movie and I went home as planned. A few weeks later, he popped over to my house and we went for a drive. Nothing unusual about this, and I didn’t give it a second thought. Until we had driven to an out of the way car park and he started sliding his hands over my top, on my thigh. Now I was not stupid. I knew what was going on. I didn’t want it to happen and luckily he stopped and we went home. He wasn’t happy and yes, it was my fault, I had led him on and how I better not mention it to his girlfriend or he would tell my mother what a whore his daughter was.

dv4

Now let us move onto the biggie. You see, I had met someone and dating him on and off. Ended up living with him. To say the relationship was complicated was somewhat of an understatement. We dated, we stopped dating, he slept with someone, we slept together, I was completely at his mercy.

This is the one. This is the big one. You see, in both previous (there are other incidents but 3 is the right number I guess) there was a degree of grooming involved. Compliments, listening, just keeping someone company. Similar interests. In older men – when you don’t have experience it is easy to be blamed for leading them on because you may be doing something they expect someone to do if interested. But I will say this. That is an excuse whatever your age and NEVER EVER let someone make you believe it. Well.

This last one, it was over a period of time, and started in my home town, he moved to London. I ended up in London and because I had never really lost contact, we started hanging out again. I knew a lot of his friends group so it was natural that I would fit into his social group again. He worked in the financial district and because I was very much in the PVC and lace goth period, I was somewhat of a novelty. He paraded me around like some toy. Luckily I can hold a fairly civilised conversation and got on well with his colleagues so I was never an embarrassment. But I helped add to his mystique. And all the time he told me I was stupid. Worthless. I worked in a hotel to begin with, then I moved and worked in a bar. I then moved back home and lived with a friend. He couldn’t let me go, this isn’t conceit on my side. He couldn’t let go because I had gone. He hadn’t had a say in the matter. I ended up agreeing to pop up for the weekend. That turned into a week.  I moved in. I can’t even remember it being an actual conversation. Isn’t that the excuse? ‘Oh well she just moved herself in, I felt trapped’. How he only cheated on me because I assumed he already had (he had) but honestly? I was past caring by this point. His flatmate (a mutual friend) had moved out. We moved house. I ended up sleeping on the sofa. It wasn’t something we discussed. I just did it. I needed to give myself some space. He was still sleeping around. He did it with intent. Always from our friends circle. Which shows how fucked up our relationship was. No one knew our status and clearly some people didn’t give a fuck.

dv3

I am editing a lot here, I am sorry. But this is difficult enough as it is and I don’t know anyone wold want to read an even longer blog but please, feel free to contact me if you want to discuss.

So the final move, my boss had recently moved and his house was on the market. So we moved in. We had separate rooms by this point and led fairly independent lives. Up to a point. I remember my close friend spending time with us during all of this and would say what a lovely couple we made, how lovely we were, comfortable together. Well, we knew each other intimately, inside out. He had known me since I was 15. By the time I left? I was 23. That is a big chunk of time to know someone. And formative years. I wasn’t in a relationship with him the entire time but he was there, in the background.

One day, I remember, I was in the kitchen, and chatting to my friends, I had made 2 calls one after the other. I had expressed that I wasn’t happy. One was a good friend, one a relatively new one. Now I honestly can’t tell you who it was at the time. But I was just saying how unhappy I was. There were a number of reasons, failed relationship, money, sleeping on the sofa. I didn’t even realise that he was there. Suddenly he flew into the kitchen. Punched me. While I was on the phone. When I finished my call he called me out for acting shy around him. How I should know he wouldn’t hit me without reason. What always comes back to me especially with this one. The language. The cute names, the terms of endearment. There is something very sinister about someone using a cute name for you. Never using your given name. You know how if someone uses your full name at school? That the headmaster is calling? Or your mother calling your name and if she uses your entire name you may as well dress for your funeral? Well this is the same. The cuter the name, I can’t say them even now. But I remember at the time, I even thought… he cares enough to give me cute names. Social conditioning? It has taken a long time to get over my issue with it. And Batman knows I do it myself. Often I will use an ‘anti’ cute name for people or a level of sarcasm as somewhat of a defence mode. This isn’t to say don’t call your girlfriend ‘cupcake’ ‘sugartits’  whatever, but it is just another little part of the grooming that I endured and I am sure I am not alone but I don’t for a moment assume to project my own experience onto another.

Fighting Fit part 4

What utterly broke me – what was the straw? It was a mutual friend, whom I had spoken to about my issues with him. She knew more than … actually anyone. Because she had known him almost as long as I had, who had dated his best friend. We had an argument and she threw it all back in my face. The argument was not even directly related to me, it was to do with her BF and a mutual friend. So why it got so vicious. I don’t know. But she didn’t believe me. Had she ever? Was she just saying it to hurt me? Clearly I was such a good actress as she questioned it. Why would I still be there? Why would I live there? Why had I not said or done something. I mean… it wasn’t bad he wasn’t hitting me. We weren’t even dating at this point, what was stopping me.

DV1

But all of this? It comes down to grooming. I am sorry, this has been more of a release of information that something more informative. But are you reading this as someone who had suffered from mental or physical abuse. To be told, no one would want you, you are useless, stupid, you did this, you caused this, you are responsible, that somehow, it is your fault. And this is from friends, family, strangers, society let alone your abuser ? When people stand around saying ‘once is enough, I would leave’ and make you feel like shit for staying. For not realising how difficult this is. That is isn’t always as simple as walking away, even if children are not involved? That your life is more than just who you are in a relationship with. It is more people. It is all those friends who you see all the time but don’t see a problem. That hell, might even whisper in his ear, she is no good, you can do better. Who don’t for a moment see the haunted look in your eye.

Because the problem is, behind closed doors people behave differently, when they are at work, when they are with their friends, family, when they are chatting to the barman? That isn’t always the person you see at bed time first thing in the morning, when the dinner isn’t just right, or you hadn’t had a chance to hoover because you were doing over time. Because your friend’s mutual or otherwise will have been won over by them, your family will have gotten to know them over a period of time. Maybe they didn’t agree with them to begin with, maybe now they are part of the furniture. Or won them over, after all you are still with them ?

Grooming is about slowing introducing behaviour that you would not normally tolerate, of changing your tolerance, your habits, of converting your social circle, friends, family. So that the changes are not noticed. It is not over night, it isn’t something that happens over a weekend, it is a long game. It is something that happens slowly, and this is where the danger is.

If you are in a position where you feel you are out of your depth, you need help or support? Or do you suspect someone needs helps?

Please, the worst thing you can do is say ‘well I managed/it is easy/why didn’t you’

Because every story is different, everyone has their own path.

Some places that can help :

Victim Support UK

Women’s Aid UK

Refuge UK