Monday, 18 November 2019

Being a woman, being a man..just being yourself...

Hello everyone, I know it's been a while since I've been here, but as can often happen, Life takes over and time becomes something you don't seem to have any control - but thankfully, I'm experiencing a brief pause and so came here. I hope you're all well and not too caught up in the festive madness just yet. The theme for today's post came from a recent conversation I had about how people identify themselves which is not a quandary I have faced in my own life but has certainly become a major issue for many others. From what I understand, there can often be a degree of being dismissive or even ridiculing someone who is struggling to understand themselves when it comes to gender identity - I want no part in making anyone feel 'wrong' in their quest for resolution, so hence this post...

Let me begin by saying, I have always enjoyed being a woman, if it were a suit of clothes, it fits me perfectly. I grew up in a time when it was deemed acceptable to refer to women as 'the weaker sex', which was undoubtedly one of the reasons the womens' movement began. Women are not weak, there can be no question, some men are always going to be physically stronger but that's where it ends when it comes to strength between the sexes. I have always felt both men and women have their qualities which should be appreciated, although their roles in society are far less defined than perhaps they once were, which is largely a good thing. I have to say, I do disagree with the more extreme views some hold, that one is somehow superior to the other - it genuinely saddens me to hear women attempt to emasculate men, just as it does when I hear a man treat a woman as little more than an ornament. I would hope those out-dated views soon become a thing of the past and we can all appreciate and respect each other. But I am well aware, for an increasing number of people, their gender identity is not so clear cut, in fact, for some, they do not wholly identify with being either. They feel trapped in the wrong body, they know in their hearts they are one but their reflection shows them to be the other. It must be a hard and frustrating part of your life to feel somehow out of place, especially something as defining as how you identify to the world.

I readily admit, when I have seen the lists of possible gender identities, I have felt total confusion, so I can only imagine what it must be like for those going through this process. But, as always, they have my complete support as they find their way, and I have nothing but condemnation for those who criticise or attempt to demean. Unfortunately, I have seen a similar kind of prejudice before, when those who identified as gay were treated with suspicion and derision. I saw people hurt, both physically and emotionally by the callous ignorance of others who frankly should have known better. As I've already said, I cannot pretend to be fully cognisant of all the possible gender identities, but the onus is on me to try - it is not for those in this situation, to have to 'prove' anything', least of all, that their struggle is a real one. I am aware, many have reached the point where they know who and what they are, they have found their way through this particular maze and have emerged triumphant, comfortable in their own skin and I wish them nothing but well. My sincere wish for those who might still feel slightly lost, is they never feel alone.

But what of their parents ? Well, I have watched many documentaries and had multiple conversations on this subject and it's blindingly apparent, there seem to be roughly three groups. The first are parents who flatly refuse to believe their child is anything but what they expected it to be, i.e. if they gave birth to a girl, she would grow up, get married, provide grandchildren and live a 'normal' life. On the other hand, if they had a boy, he would grow into a 'fine' man who would have several girlfriends before finding the 'right one' whereupon he would settle down and have a family. Now you may be thinking those opinions should have died out long ago, but they are very much alive for some people. After all, there are so many incidences of children being thrown out of the family home when it becomes clear they are not going to be what was wanted - a reflection of entrenched ignorance with a heavy dose of 'what will people think' added for good measure. (As a parent myself, I cannot even begin to imagine throwing my children out because of who they are - but that's just my opinion). So, the second group, well despite the fact they don't entirely understand the gender identity question, they fiercely defend their child against any detractors. I suppose it could be argued, they shouldn't be fighting for a cause if they have no real idea what it means, but I think that's unfair. It should be an inescapable part of being a good parent, to protect your children, so although I might suggest they learn more, I cannot fault their deep-seated need to be on side. Finally, the third group, who have a total understanding of their children's struggle and will do anything to help them through that maze I previously mentioned. From what I've learned, this group is the smallest of the three, but hopefully, that will change with time. So where am I ? Well, I know -without question- I love my children unconditionally, so if either came to me and said they were unsure of who they are, I would try and help in any way possible. As I write those words, it sounds very simplistic but it happens to be the truth.

As an aside, I am constantly surprised by how some attitudes from the past still find their way into the minds of today's population. As an example, I have been fortunate to have received many messages through my author page from readers who have read my first book, 'Hidden Within.' So many times, I can feel their hesitancy about admitting they found the sex scenes between two of the main female characters both arousing and confusing. They prefix each statement by telling me they are 'absolutely straight' before going into a sometimes lengthy description of how they felt when they read those particular scenes. I always reply by thanking them for getting in touch before reassuring them, there is absolutely nothing wrong with how they have reacted, that they should be open about what and who they are and to never feel even the slightest degree of shame or embarrassment. Fortunately, this does seem to reassure some, but for the most part, I am asked to never tell anyone what they have shared with me. I am always left feeling an acute sadness, there is still a need for some people to hide even a small part of their 'real' selves because of the desire to conform or worse still, the fear of being 'found out.'

I am including this slight thought detour, only to reinforce my original point, however someone might identitfy themselves, we should all be supportive, replace our ignorance with knowledge and embrace the diversity of our shared human experience. As I said at the beginning of this post, despite being painfully insecure in many ways, I have never experienced any doubt about being a woman. But for those who are embarking on their own journey, I wish you nothing but good things - but especially I hope you have a moment when you look at your own reflection and see exactly who you feel you are - a beautiful soul who only adds even more colour to the world....until the next time...

Take care out there xx

Monday, 21 October 2019

A Day to Look Forward

Well, here we are again, I am sorry it's been a while since I've been able to write to you but, as often happens, life has a way of getting in the way. Anyway, if you're mad at me for being absent, you'll have to put that feeling to one side as today is my birthday ! Yes, somehow despite all the odds, I have reached another one, although, before you ask, I have absolutely no intention of revealing just how many there have been - mainly because some days I wake up and feel about 23 and others I crawl out of bed feeling 90. For me, age is all about how you feel and not how many years you've lived, after all, I think we've all met people who defy the conventions of their age. I have personally known, teenagers who talk of nothing but their aches and pains, while, at the other end of the scale, I've known people in their 70's who could hop, skip and jump with more vitality than the average child. In my 20's, I made the mistake of thinking I could out-party one of my aunts, who was, by then, in her 50's - perhaps it's enough to say, she outplayed me completely, leaving me a wreck as she dominated the dancefloor.

As my daughters could tell you, my birthdays are not known for being especially 'lucky' times, over the years, they have often been blighted by illness, accident or just plain bad luck. I have to confess, today is living up to the legacy, as I am sitting here, wrapped in a blanket with a streaming cold. But do feel sorry for myself? Hell yeah ! But will my spirit be crushed by this small setback ? Hell No! As it happens, my current state has given me some time for reflection, after all, this passing year has been anything but dull. Aside from many other events, I have released two novels which have thankfully been relatively well-received and I can now truthfully state I am a professional author. It's true, the royalties I receive will not buy me a luxury apartment or a sports car, but the fact they exist at all, is a step forward. As regular readers will know, I am very keen on stepping forward, even if the step is a tiny one - it beats standing still! I am also on the brink of possibly moving forward in another way too, I cannot say too much at the moment, but, there is a potential breakthrough on the horizon which could change everything - so that's exciting. So even though, there are still challenges to face, life is really not so bad - which is not easy to say when you're typing between wheezing !

When I look back, which is not something I like doing too often, I can see just how blessed I have been - even though on the face of it, there have been some impossibly hard times, much like all of your lives. I have dealt with loss, bereavement, periods of great financial hardship and crippling self-doubt, all of which have left their mark. But I do not believe myself to be especially resilient or strong, I have just always tried to maintain the thought, however bad something is, it won't last forever, so you just have to keep going. I will freely admit, this idea has not been easy to accept when things have seemed to be impossible - oh yes, I have had days when it felt as if it was too hard to keep going. Those are dark days and I know many people suffer in the same way, it's draining to feel life is hopeless, as if your life will never change and the prospect of even waking up the next morning, fills you with dread. Sadly, some of us will always have those times in our lives, but, the one glimmer of hope, at least in my case, is they become slightly easier to predict and so you can prepare for the worst. It's a bit like when a storm is coming, you can feel the change in the air, see the dark clouds forming over your head and the onset of the rain. I have never found a way to avoid them completely but I consciously try to not allow myself to slide too far down, as I know from experience, how hard it is to clamber back up once the 'storm' has passed. But even though there is no real cure, if nothing else, I can say, if you can hold on, the sun will reappear eventually - perhaps not as bright as you would like, but it will come.

But on a lighter note, what else springs to my addled mind on this day of days ? Well, obviously one of the key roles I have played is being a mother - with varying degrees of success. I know, for both of my daughters, there have been days when they would say I did not do the best job - in fact, I failed dismally and they would not be wrong. I look back and wonder what I was thinking, but at the time, I must have misguidedly decided I was doing the right thing. But equally, I would hope there are times when they look back and think I was the best I could be for them. If nothing else, they can never doubt, I loved them more than anyone else I have ever known - I still do and I always will. When I think of them as they are, grown women, I know its been a rare privilege to watch them develop from those tiny babies to unstoppable forces of nature. They are not alike in many ways, but they have some shared characteristics which I believe will get them through life - they're opinionated, strong, with good hearts and a quirky sense of humour which might sometimes escape others, but never fails to entertain themselves. It saddens me when I hear people say they don't like spending time with their children, in fact, make a concerted effort to do as little as possible with them. It feels as if those parents do not know how unbelievably fortunate they are, to be a part in shaping a life is a gift to be appreciated.

While on the topic of appreciation, I cannot write a piece about my birthday without mentioning my extended family, sadly, most of whom have since passed on. They were a huge influence on my life, their seemingly boundless humour and blunt refusal to allow anything to beat them has undoubtedly been a cornerstone of my own approach to life. When many of them were facing serious illness, they still had the glow of mischief and, given even half a chance, would gleefully defy doctor's orders and do something they should not have done - be that drinking a huge glass of wine or demolishing a rich dessert. Just being in their company lifted your spirits and I never take for granted, just how lucky I was to have been a spectator as they showed how life should be lived.

So with acknowledging the past, what about the future? Well, as I said earlier, there are potentially new opportunities opening up for me within my writing world and they will be my focus, dreams can come true, but only if you take the right steps to make them possible - a bit like leaving the window open, after all, if you keep everything tightly shut, there's no way for anything to get in. Obviously, owing to my current state, I am also going to be a bit more mindful about my health - not in an obsessive way but perhaps be slightly kinder to my body and give it a few more things it needs to function. But most importantly, I am going to keep moving forward - yes, there will be times when it will be at the pace of the average snail - but forward is the only way to go. As the saying goes, 'its ok to look back at the past as long as you don't live in it.'

As tradition dictates, I will leave you with my birthday wishes for you all, I hope you find reasons to smile, I hope you find the courage to face difficult days, I hope you remember to keep those dreams safe with a belief they could happen. But most of all, I hope you manage to keep your heads up even when it feels easier to look down because then, when you can see the way forward, you won't feel as if you will always be stuck in one place. I am sending birthday love and good wishes to all of you, thank you for sharing this year with me and let's make the next one even better...until the next time...

Take care out there xxxx

Monday, 7 October 2019

Defying Gravity

Hello everyone, it's been a bit of a time recently but thankfully, the madness seems to have temporarily subsided which has given me time to sit down and catch up with you all. I hope you're all doing well, I know some of you are now looking forward to Summer, whereas here in the Northern Hemisphere we are heading into Autumn. So whichever end of this glorious planet is yours, I hope you can either stay warm or cool ! Anyway, today's post was inspired by a young person at work who was looking through the movie listings as she was trying to choose a film to see. As some of you may know, there is a new movie about Judy Garland, my young colleague looked puzzled and asked me who she was - at first, I was stunned but then, realising she was barely out of her teens, her lack of knowledge wasn't quite so surprising. After all, the world lost Ms Garland back in the 1960's so perhaps it is understandable some of the younger generation aren't familiar with her career. Anyway, I proceeded to explain what was so special about the star and it was hearing myself talk, which prompted this post as wider thoughts sprung from the original conversation.

For me, even though Judy Garland might not have been the greatest singer when considering the technicalities of the art, but, quite honestly, those pale into insignificance when compared to her true genius. When she sang, you believed she had been through every word in her own life - so if the song was about heartbreak, you felt she knew exactly what that was like, equally, when she sang about falling in love, being happy, life itself - well, as you listen you her, you believe she is drawing on experiences she knows well. She has to be one of the most relatable performers ever to grace a stage, if you have a chance, watch how she interacts with the audience - it's far removed from 'look at how talented I am' and so much closer to 'yes, I've been through it all, just like you.' Sadly much of the focus when her name appears, is linked to her mental health problems but this seems grossly unfair to me. Despite everything that happened to her, she had this amazing ability not to lose hope that things would improve- after all, she sang 'Over the Rainbow' which is practically an anthem for the belief there is a better world. If I sound like a fan, I make no apology for it, growing up, I read every book and watched all her films, always in awe of her wide range of talent. Not only could she sing and dance, but, at times, a truly gifted actress - if you cannot watch the last few scenes of her version of 'A Star is Born' without reaching for the tissues then there is something very wrong. Unlike so many performers now, she had no autotune, no backing tracks when she was onstage, it was just her and an orchestra - yet she could keep an audience mesmerised with not only her singing but just for being herself.

As someone who is trying to be a creative person, I have learned a great deal from Ms Garland when it comes to being authentic. I have had many times when I have written several thousand words and thought they were  a 'clever use of the phrase' or 'enlightened prose'. Naturally, when I re-read those same passages, I can see them for what they really are, meaningless BS with nothing real underneath, despite all the apparent wisdom. So I scrap them and start again, which is not easy to do when there are 10,000 to be deleted ! But I am always reminded of why I admire Judy so much, like her, I want my audience to feel I know what I'm talking about. I want them to read my words and find the truth within them - my life has been no picnic, so I have plenty of experience to draw on.

I genuinely believe, she felt it was somehow 'cheating', not to be open and honest with her audience and I strive to be the same. I am very fortunate, readers do get in touch with me via my FB page and share their experiences and thoughts about my books. Owing to the subject matter, very often they tell me about how they went through a similar time as one of my characters - and it's the fact they share with me which keeps me writing. Every book is personal to me, when someone reads my words, I want them to know - without question- what they are reading is my truth. My heart has been broken, I've met people who have changed my life, I understand the pain of loss, the joy of love - yes, most of what can happen to all of us. I think we have all read books where characters act in a way that is so far removed from credible, of course, there can be a degree of fantasy but, speaking personally, there has to be a core of truth. Whatever the protagonist might be, whether a fallen angel, vampire, fairy, CEO of a major company or a waitress - they need to be believable, they need to show emotions which are familiar to the audience otherwise it seems almost 'fake.' Of course everyone can show courage, weakness, love, hate, jealousy - but not within the space of a few paragraphs, because, as I've said, as a reader, you can't help but think, 'well that would never happen.' I cannot think of anything worse than someone contacting me and saying they felt cheated in this way. I have had people who have been outspoken with their disapproval of the actions of some of my characters. I am fine with hearing those views too, everyone has a right to their opinion and sometimes, when I've been challenged, it has made me take a moment to think again. But not one of those negative responses has ever been, they feel there is no truth in the story - and I hope I never do receive that criticism.

I called this post 'defying gravity' in honour of Judy, as when everything around her seemed hellbent on dragging her down, she kept going, aiming to be the best she could be - in my small way, I intend to try and follow in her footsteps with my own creativity.

Well, as always, time has run away and I have to try and catch up, thank you again for everything, the support and the good wishes....until the next time....

Take care out there xx

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Gift of Loyalty

Hello everyone, I am sorry I haven't been able to get here sooner, I had a small accident at work which caused a few issues which kept me away from doing a lot of things which I consider essential - one of these, being here. Anyway, thankfully, the worst has passed and so I can sit down and write to you. I am not entirely sure this post is necessarily going to make a whole heap of sense, but I'm going to write it anyway, and hope you see what I'm trying to say. As the title suggests, its about loyalty because, over the years, I have been faced with incidents which have made me think about its importance and in light of current times, a true understanding of the concept seems even more essential So without further delay, let me explain...

As I'm sure many of you know, there are times when we are faced with a choice to do either the right thing or the easiest - in my experience, there two aren't always the same thing. Some time ago, I was put in such a position and this triggered my thoughts about the whole subject of loyalty. Someone in a relatively senior position at their workplace was accused of bullying, it was alleged they were abrasive, unhelpful, in fact, the word 'intimidating' was used. The person who made this complaint, had previously made a number of errors within the department and had, in some ways, not been overly keen to accept the responsibility for their mistakes. I was approached by both people involved which, as you can imagine, was not the ideal place to be, but I quickly realised the only way for me to consider the situation was to look dispassionately  at the whole picture rather than just one side of the story. Now, although it was true, the senior person could be a little sharp on occasion, I had never witnessed any behaviour which could be described as bullying. In fact, I had been helped by them on many occasions, they had taken time to explain things which had been problematic and shown me correct procedures without ever watching the clock or making me feel stupid. As for the person with the issues ? Well, although I did like them on a personal level, it did seem wrong not to have at least tried to discuss the problem before racing off to register a formal complaint. But obviously, I did sympathise with the fact they were clearly feeling they had not been treated fairly. So, as you can imagine, it was difficult to really see any one side more favourably than the other - until I took out the personalities of those involved. Suddenly, I could see, my loyalty should be to the truth - untouched by any personal feelings I might have for either of the parties involved. When I realised this was the way ahead, I supported the senior person - I had never witnessed bullying, never felt intimidated and so, the choice was ultimately a simple one.

In the second instance, again, some years ago, I was a part of a team who were showcasing a whole new development. An expensive makeover had taken place and now, it was down to the team, to show the money had been well spent. As you can imagine, senior staff visited in a constant stream which put considerable stress on us all but none more so, than our supervisor. This person worked ridiculously long hours, engaged us all in training and, to even the most casual observer, appeared to be everywhere, all the time. They were 100% committed to the success of the project and clearly believed, we would all understand the importance of showing only the best. On one particular day, the supervisor was away and we were left to run the project alone. During the afternoon, we were told yet more senior staff were arriving any moment, as you can imagine, this news created a degree of tension - but surprisingly, (at least to me), that feeling did not last long. When the senior staff appeared, almost immediately, some of our team seemed to see this as an opportunity to air certain grievances which were entirely trivial. As I and a few others looked on, in horror, we watched them complain and, in one case,give the impression they were overqualified to even be in the project at all! When we all asked about why we felt the project was going so well, I spoke and mentioned the drive and ambition of our supervisor. I added I felt without her, things would not have reached the level they had achieved. As I spoke, I could feel other members of the team watching me, some were nodding in agreement while others shook their heads in disbelief. After the senior staff left, I was asked why I had been such a 'suck up' to our absent supervisor, after all, they hadn't even been there to hear what I'd said. Now, I should say, the supervisor could be frustrating to work with, especially when they made it clear, they believed they were the only person who could do any part of the job properly. But, to me, those issues could be handled within the group, not to be shared with senior staff, our role should be to present the best possible front - not talk behind someone's back.

Again, as I walked home, I thought about the day, had I been nothing more than a 'suck up'? Had I spoken up to make myself look good in some way? But then, and still to this day so many years later, I do not believe either of those was my motivation. I had just spoken the truth, the single-mindedness of our supervisor had been the driving force towards success, there could be no argument to dispute that plain fact. So this was another occasion, where my loyalty was not for a person but for the truth. I honestly believe, despite my countless other flaws and failings, the way I approach loyalty is one of my few attributes. I have seen people casually sidestep facts to support a friend - even when they know the friend is wrong, even when they cannot possibly ignore the detrimental consequences their complicity could have for an innocent person - that, to me, is not real loyalty.

In these times, especially in the political arena, the truth seems to be something which is a choice for some in positions of power. Even though they were originally elected by the mass population, their loyalty to those people quickly fades to be replaced by their own greed for yet more power coupled with financial gains. Sadly, it does appear, some politicians have more loyalty to their own political ambitions than to actually serve the people they're supposed to represent. It may be naïve, but I feel our world would be in a far better state, if there was more emphasis placed on the truth and less on how much money and privilege can be scammed by a few powerful people.

Like many words, 'loyalty' is one which is overused, particularly by those powerful people who have none for anyone else other than themselves. But in the general population, the story is a different one - people do stand up for each other even when faced with difficult times. They will fight for those who are vulnerable, they will take action when they see injustice - in fact, they show their loyalty to what's right and what's true on a daily basis. This is why, despite everything, there is hope for this world we share, simply because most of us try to do the right thing....on that positive note, I shall let you get on with your day...until the next time...

Take care out there xx

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Mental Health Education and Awareness - not the same thing

Hello everyone, I hope you've all had a good week and are facing at least some time to relax over the weekend. Now, this post is a little unlike previous ones, but I wanted to write it and I'm hoping some of what I say will make sense. Now, for those of you who know, my latest book revolves around mental health but this post is not one long advertisement - you will see, no links, no cover pictures because this subject is far more important to me. Now with that said, I'll get started...

To begin with, I 'd like to say, I am completely supportive for mental health awareness becoming such an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Perhaps more than in any other time, society is far more used to hearing the various terms for different mental illnesses, which has to be a good thing. Like many of you, I'm sure, I hope this means the stigma that used to be attached by declaring yourself a sufferer, will also be a thing of the past. I hope employers will exercise a degree of compassion when a worker comes to them, explaining their particular issue - that might seem unlikely, but I believe it will happen.

Amidst all this positive change, I am concerned when 'mental health issues' are used to describe criminal behaviour. Recently we must have all been shocked by the mass shootings in the USA, coming from a country where guns are not commonplace, it seems like something that would only happen in a movie. But tragically, this is reality and we all share thoughts for those who were injured or killed. I was also saddened when mental health issues were described as  root of the 'problem'. If that's true, how could someone who has received that diagnosis even be able to get their hands on a gun? But this is not a post about the rights and wrongs of gun control so I won't pursue that thought. However, what does concern me, is when someone says a perpetrator was suffering from, as an example, depression, bipolar, anxiety etc it suggests everyone with one or more of those conditions could well grab the nearest firearm and start shooting. This is blatantly untrue ! The vast majority of people with diagnosed issues would never hurt anyone. But to a portion of society who have never really understood the terms, it could well seem as if it was a real possibility. Furthermore, when I read about another perpetrator who was described as possibly having 'a little bit of autism' - well the only thing that remark shows is pure ignorance.
So you see, my point is, yes, we need mental health awareness but we also need the education that should be readily available.
The other side of the mental health coin is self-diagnosis, which can be equally damaging when it comes to mental health awareness. It has become, to some, almost fashionable to describe yourself as having something - which only acts to demean those who really do suffer. As an example, I am always disappointed when someone will post on social media about how they are having a panic attack - at the very time they are typing away, finding an appropriate image or meme and answering comments. I am fortunate, I do not suffer myself, but I am close to people who do and I can assure you, when the attack hits - they could no more type than fly. It's an awful thing to watch because you feel so helpless, as the sufferer struggles to breathe, can't focus at all and is basically incapacitated. Posts like those do nothing but make others feel panic attacks aren't really so bad, after all, how can they be? When a sufferer is still able to do everything even while they're in the midst of an episode! Other issues like depression seem to appear on an almost daily basis, the person posting will describe feeling sad and a bit down - those are not symptoms of anything other than having a low mood which will pass. Depression leaves sufferers incapable of even getting out of bed, the world feels like a hopeless, dark place and everything around them holds no real meaning any more. These depressive periods can last days, weeks, months or even years - not something to even try to compare to having a 'bad day.' I want to add, I think some of the Facebook pages run by communities of genuine sufferers are such an amazing way of bringing people together where experiences and knowledge can be shared. But the important words there are 'genuine sufferers.'

I feel very strongly, the way mental health is portrayed is vital to understanding, so if you do suffer, tell others the truth about what it feels like, share the experience - if you haven't ever received a diagnosis from a professional, then seek one out if you're struggling - don't just Google a few terms and try to make one of them fit you. As I said at the beginning of this post, awareness and education must go together, otherwise ignorance will remain in control which is detrimental to everyone.

Finally, as I hope you can see, this is an issue close to my heart which is why I feel so strongly, compassion for each other comes from understanding. The times we are living in seem to contain people who want to create divisions within society and this is nothing less than harmful. People with mental health issues can be anyone, from any walk of life, any skin colour, age, gender - so they cannot all be put in one 'convenient' group. They are not more likely to be responsible for crime because 'they' are all of us, so we all need to learn more so we can help each other more. The world is a scary place - even if you have no mental health issues at all - so it's up to all of us to help each other not only survive but thrive....until next time...

Take care out there xx

Friday, 16 August 2019

Being out in the world

Well, my friends, here we are again, I hope this post finds you well and ready to enjoy the weekend. Although, if you're like me, work doesn't stop because it's Friday, so if you are heading out, I hope your shift goes swiftly and smoothly. As some of you might know, I've just released a new book, so my thoughts and emotions are out there - for everyone to read ! This is quite an intimidating thought, after all, I'm allowing complete strangers into my mind and, once they've visited, they are free to write a review - even publish one ! So, in turn, the world gets a glimpse into their mind too. After all, if they write a horribly abusive piece, others who read their words are going to see them in a different light. But equally, if they hail the book a 'work of genius', others might well suspect the reviewer is either sleeping with the author or hopes too ! So putting yourself in the public gaze could be said to have some similarities to willingly going into the firing line.

My book is about the world really, how we see ourselves within it and, in the case of my central character, how we are seen. We all perhaps dream we could be one of those people who genuinely doesn't care about what people think, many say that's what they're like, but I do wonder. Obviously, when you put something creative out there, you have to know, not everyone is going to like it, in fact, there's the distinct possibility, they will hate it - but, if it's important to you, you do it anyway. But it's safe - even when it gets criticised, you're not left feeling personally demeaned or attacked, as you have to accept the basic fact, you just can't please everyone, all the time.

Hopefully not the reaction to my new book !
I do feel, it's a very different situation when people put themselves into the public domain, by posting endless selfies, sharing every detail of their day-to-day lives and all their thoughts and beliefs. Of course, I feel very strongly, they have every right to share whatever they wish, but I do worry about them. There have been many cases where people have suffered quite severe mental anguish, some even driven to suicide, because of the cruelty of so-called 'trolls.' These are people who spend their days, being horribly abusive to those who share their lives online - they criticise to a level way beyond any decent person would ever dream about. As I researched my book, I was horrified to read some cases, as an example, a lady posted a picture of herself when pregnant, she received several absolutely awful messages ranging from how 'fat and disgusting' she was, to 'she was so ugly, she should have an abortion because her baby could be even worse.' I should add, the lady also received a tide of compliments and loving support - and rightly so !

But you have to wonder, what kind of person would write something so awful to a pregnant woman, or in fact anyone ? Who would be quite so keen to show just how horrible they are ? It seems their argument stems from their misguided belief 'it doesn't count online.' Have you ever heard a weaker or more pathetic excuse for bullying ? No? Me neither. They will go on to explain, 'it's only a bit of fun' and their victims can 'always delete the comment.' For me, only the second statement is true, but even when those words are removed, they have been read and their impact has been felt - and those cannot be deleted. Now I am the first to admit, I am no saint, I can be less than pleasant at times, but to intentionally hurt someone, without a grain of concern as to how they might be affected, is something I would never do. Sadly, like all of you, I have hurt people, I've said the wrong thing or done something tactless, but I have never bullied anyone. I cannot imagine what kind of life a 'troll' must lead, after all, to wake up every morning with the sole purpose of attempting to bring people down - very often complete strangers- it must be a pretty soulless way to live a life.

I really do feel Disney's Thumper had it partly right when he said, 'if you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all'. I say partly right because as someone who puts their work in the public domain, I should receive criticism, if it's constructive, it is truly very helpful. I want to improve with every book and to hear readers' opinions is incredibly valuable. But, for me, that's a world away from being an abusive bully. So far, I have been extremely fortunate, it's true, I have received comments and messages from people who have completely disagreed with a blog post. They have written - sometimes very long- letters to me about how misguided or simplistic they feel I am. Do you know something ? I am fine with hearing their viewpoint, in fact, I welcome it, as it does make me reconsider my own thoughts on a given subject. On the down side, I have also received some pretty abusive things too, but these have all been from people with very extremist views, ranging from rampant homophobia to blatant racism.So, of course, I was absolutely horrified to read their beliefs, but I have to acknowledge, I did not feel personally bullied by reading them. I believe, there is no place for their kind of ideology in our world, but if they want to express their opinion, I suppose, if we want free speech, we have to accept what some say, might not be what we want to hear.

Finally, I think if nothing else comes from writing this book, it has made me think about how we treat each other. As I said earlier, just because something is said online, doesn't mean its impact is any less than if it was said face-to-face. Although I suspect most of these trolls are way too cowardly to actually say anything at all, if they were in the same room as their victim. We do have to try and be mindful of our words so even if we disagree with an opinion, we don't resort to personal insults in the place of sensible debate. We will never all agree on everything, but we are all capable of respecting each other and that's something there can be no debate about.....until next time..

Take care out there xx

Thursday, 8 August 2019

When Life gives you lemons....

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you and you're enjoying, (if you're in the Northern Hemisphere) the Summer - although if you have tried to fly anywhere from the UK, that's probably unlikely thanks to strike action from various groups, IT 'glitches' and general obstacles which have been hurled at the average traveller.

It does seem amazing, in an age where there are so many different forms of communication, it seems to have become so difficult to gain any information from anywhere. As an example, British Airways, a multi-million pound company, which proudly bears the UK flag on every single plane, merchandise etc cannot manage to find a computer system that works efficiently ! Speaking personally, the pilots who have been happily disrupting everyone's summer so they can have a pay rise ? Perhaps that money could be better spent on developing a level of technology that allows passengers who have checked in online to get on an actual plane ! After all, even if the pilots do get a ridiculous amount added on to their pay, they will soon be facing redundancy when there is nobody to fly anywhere. As for the communication issue I mentioned? Well, call me old fashioned, but it might help, if BA trained some staff to talk to passengers - not via an app, or an 'online messenger service' but really stand, face-to-face, with up to date information and the resources to really help anyone struggling rather than hiding away in an office somewhere out of sight.

The scenes at the major UK airports are an embarrassment, not just nationally but globally - I say globally, because there are people stranded across the world now, who aren't able to get home, not to mention, thousands of foreign tourists who can't get here at all. There seems to be an almost casual disregard by the senior management too, of yes, we have been treated to a parade of  'senior executives' who express their 'regrets', but what possible benefit do their empty words offer ? A couple have even suggested relying on the traditional British spirit of 'making the best of it' and finding 'fun things to do' at the airport, while you wait for a plane that might never take off ! (hopefully that explains the title of this post).

Oh and it gets worse, if you are a passenger who cannot get to business meetings, weddings, family reunions, the one family vacation etc, you don't immediately receive compensation for money that's been lost - oh dear me no! You have to write a letter, fill in some forms and send them in - even then you might well not receive even half of what you've lost, if BA can find a way of blaming someone else other than themselves. Frankly, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn, they have countless staff looking for loopholes as I'm typing this to you.

Aside from the obvious frustration this has caused so many people, even if they do get some kind of financial compensation, will that mean anything if they have missed an event which won't happen again ? The simple answer is a resounding 'NO.' Am I convinced the management of BA care ? Not really, their main concern seems to be focusing on arguing with their own staff about how many more thousand pounds should or shouldn't be paid in wages. But what about the other airport staff, the other airline staff ?You would hope they would be rallying round, helping out stranded people - again, sadly not, they are gleefully enjoying BA's embarrassment while offering as little as possible to passengers. Some workers are planning strike action of their own, while some airlines allegedly are offering flights at inflated prices ( I should stress, this is a current rumour which I am not presenting as fact).

So what does this whole mess mean ? Well, families who have saved up all year for their two week holiday, some have understandably given up and gone home, after all, who could find anything appealing about sleeping on an airport floor with young children? Can you imagine reaching your front door, having gone nowhere and facing a potentially long battle to receive any compensation ? Not to mention, knowing you won't have the opportunity to have another holiday until 2020, as parents will have to return to work. For others, it means missed opportunities, possibly life-changing experiences which now might be gone, leaving some with nothing but the hope, those chances might come again. Heart-breaking for all concerned, but the 'good news' is, the BA executives will still receive their exorbitant salaries for not realising their computer system is not fit for purpose - so while the rest get the lemons, they will be joyfully guzzling the lemonade.

I apologise if this post seems more of a vent for frustration than an eloquent piece of prose, but, this level of blatant injustice makes my blood boil - when will large corporations realise, it's the people who use their service, shop at their store, spend their hard-earned money - who keep the business going ? Let's hope sooner rather than later....until the next time...

Take care out there xxx