Posted in achievement, Art, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, Environment, goals, Health, Health Promotion. Diet, Ideas, Liberation, Modern society, Personal Growth, Psychology, Skills, Thoughts, Writing

Mindfulness: the Way to Declutter your Head.

I was in a newsagents last week when I spotted a new magazine called Breathe:it was the first issue.

  This magazine is written for a growing sector of readership, just like myself,whose desire is to enhance their physical,social and mental well-being. Designed to include four aspects of living: wellbeing, mindfulness, creativeness and escapism, the magazine is beautifully presented and covers a wide range of related topics, all of which are highly interesting and fresh in presentation. I am already eager to see the next issue on sale, September 22nd and have it marked on my calender. 

But what does it say about the reading habits, especially of women, and of a movement ( gathering an ever greater momentum ) where there are now courses and qualifications for a different type of practitioner? I am talking about the subject of mindfulness, and the interest clearly is growing enough for a publisher to create a new magazine, to include this subject, to live calmer, less stressed and more meaningful lives- lived in the present moment.

For someone who has experienced anxiety and stress, sufficient to have produced depression in the past, mindfulness is helping me now in a number of ways; the main benefit being in the unclutering of the mind. This mental dejunking has had several spin offs and I would like to share those here:

It keeps my anxiety into perspective and I will only focus on a concern in the present moment. A worry about a potential, confrontational meeting, regarding a thorny issue next week, can wait until then.

It has empowered me in my relationships. I am finally shaking off the need to be liked. Believe me, this has taken me years! I can be proud of who I am and have no need to seek others approval. I recognise my own power and this power has yielded results, so that gives me more courage to be assertive. This spiral is on a trajectory of only one way which is up. This excites me.

It has helped me to think more creatively. As a result, I am now starting to doodle mindfulness scribbles and pictures. I intend to share some.

It has helped me develop new hobbies. I have taken up drawing and really enjoy it. It does not matter about the level of skill. When I draw I forget everything. The concentration of the drawing keeps me totally in the present.

As a result of drawing, I have taken up postcard colouring. This is a nice spin off. This has brought joy to my family – so much so that one has been framed. This has brought me happiness, knowing that such a simple thing can bring other people joy.

I listen more, but realise I still don’t really listen at all well. There are gaps in people’s conversations that I don’t always pick up. This has been a shock. I am tuining in more to people and can respond better to them. Challenge yourself on this next time you listen to someone. Is your mind mentally on to the next task of what to cook for dinner?

I have started meditations and have returned to a much simpler form of Christian faith which includes prayer. I am beyond astonished that how these prayers have been recently answered. I search out quiet space, churches, under skies, on my walks for these types of moments. I am grateful so much for this.

I have found time to take up blogging again and to really think about what I want to write. Words jump out of my head randomly for future blog post. In the space of my mind, a book idea and even its title is already taking shape. I just need the belief to write it now and to say I am good enough to do it.

I have uncluttered the house. This has been going on for two years now since moving and embraces the minimalist movement. I like simplicity and space. Even my clothes tastes have changed. I like minimalism and follow Joshua Becker and his minimalist blog site.

Over thinking for me has been a real problem. I think too much most of the time. This is a hard habit to break. Recycling your thoughts have a shelf-life. Sometimes, you just have to bin the trash once and for all.

So these are the main changes and observations to date and these won’t be by far the end, of that I am certain . In the meantime, I am looking forward to reading Breathe and wish the magazine every success. My close friend tells me that when you are in tune with your heartfelt desires, things like books find you. I wish I had found mindfulness years ago but am glad to have discovered it now.

Go out and find out for yourself. You might be in for a few surprises! I would like to hear what you find.

 

Posted in achievement, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, Liberation, Modern society, Politics, Thoughts, Uncategorized

So We Left

I have decided to write a post concerning the UK’s decision to leave the EU and why, against the astonishment of my own husband and some friends, I decided to vote Leave.

The Brexit camp have been accused of right-wing prejudice, racism and divisiveness, and indeed there will be some who have these motives; a kind of selfishness against humanity of which there is no dignity. However, I wish to defend myself and others here who have been branded by this one brush of darkness.

I am a humanitarian and centre – left in politics. I volunteer for an NGO, am an environmentalist and against neo-liberalist policies. I have never voted for UKIP, nor even the Tories in the last three elections.It has been breathtaking to read the strength of feeling in this debate, some of which has been nasty and potentially patronising, because we dare to ask for controlled and responsible immigration and to take back control of our own destiny.

Decent people with passionate feelings and concerns, as to why we should have stayed have vented this anger;that by denying the Brussels State Machine of Federalism we should be denying the very heart of compassion, love and care for which the majority of people are aligned to. But let’s get to the heart of this debate and why people decided to vote Brexit with three words: beaucocracy , globalisation and immigration.

1) I think we can all agree, that the then Common Market back in the seventies was about free-trade. It wasn’t about stopping another World War, ( NATO was largely formed for that purpose.) Neither was it about creating a single currency, with ever greater political integration. Along with the trade agreements came rules and regulations, and as the years wore on the rules became longer, with more red tape and countless counter clauses and more strangulation with it.

Recently, I drove past some old orchards in Suffolk. My Dad told me that when we joined the EU, the orchards along with the apples were dug up and destroyed. Why? Because we had to accept the French Golden Delicious imports instead. We weren’t allowed these apples grown for years on our own soil anymore.

The same can be said with the decimation of our fishing industry with the Agricultural and Fishing policies, enforced quotas and a sharing of maritime waters.  Lowestoft, my home town, was a thriving fishing community, now this is all but dead. No wonder then, that as early as 1975, people were uneasy and we had a re-think to stay. However, we were in the grip of a recession ( The Three Day Week loomed large in people’s minds),so we decided It was best to hang -on -in- there and stay and hope for the best.

2) You have to ask the question. Why when one country decides to leave a club of traders should there be so much fury, economic blackmail, worry and anxiety? This is of course tied into globalisation. This leads to one pivotal question. Has the EU become so powerful that to dare leave it creates such a horrific reaction of market forces of doom and despair? Of stock market collapses, shoring up of the pound against the Euro and economic fall-out. Should one institution ( comprised of now 28 nations) hold that much dominance, that much power in the world? To want to trade more freely with the rest of the world comes a robust no, like you have no right to ask. How dare you! That the cost is so high no one dares to do it because of your pension fund. Market forces and capitalism at its worst is what springs to mind here.

When Greece was at the mercy of the EU, after it elected a government to address its virtual bankruptcy and collapsing Euro, what happened next?  The newly elected Prime Minster wad told by Merkel this is what you will comply with, or you won’t get your bailout and you will go bankrupt. How many days did they have to shut their banks for, nearly a week? Where was their democracy in all of this? The Greek government wanted a different way, whether that way was right or wrong is not the issue here, but to not have any control was, and still is. Thank God, we did not join the Euro in 1992. That situation could well have been us.

Therefore, You can not wonder why comments were raised about Germany winning the war, by the back door. This is not working together for the common good of man. This felt like a dictatorial superstate. I didn’t like it one bit.

3) Now, let’s talk about immigration and let’s start with Gt Yarmouth. 71.5% of the town voted to leave. Yarmouth has a large immigrant population, run down, depressed and poor. Like Thetford and Boston of which the later had the highest vote to leave of 75.6%, It has a high non-British- born population. Ok, nothing wrong with people’s from other countries coming to live and work here in principle ,but I do have a problem with Gt Yarmouth and Boston for two good reasons which is repeated, especially in inner cities.

Firstly, the creation of ethnic ghettos where you walk the street after nine at your peril. The English man just does not do this there. This is repeated in Luton, Northampton and Bedford, ( that I know of ) because my brother and parents have either worked or lived close to these areas. They have been exposed to it. This is not a racist statement, this is a simply a fact.

An example of this being that my Mother was told by my Dad to keep her eyes down and walk quickly past a gang of East European men raiding cars in broad daylight in Gt Yarmouth. No one did anything for fear they would get a knife in their back. Ok, we can’t say this one action reflects the majority’s behaviour by  these ethnic group. I work with some of these people and they are great but you can see why society is sick and tired of unremitting, unrelenting immigration, given this situation and why right- wing factions seize upon this example.

These passions continue to run high when welfare benefits are sent back home to renovate a house in Romania ( in a documentary last week) or child benefit.  This is against a backdrop of our own homelessness – a national disgrace of which over 300,000 are left on the street or in hostels and savage disability benefit cuts. Mr Cameron wanted to stop much of this welfare going abroad but most of you will know the outcome of his renegotiations on this issue. Mr Brussels said once again,no.

Secondly,  today I learned of an individual having no district nursing cover at their surgery. An A/E department recently asking for only life-threatening injuries to come in because services were at breaking point. Are you seriously suggesting those of you in the Remain camp that we continue to have unlimited free-movements of labour, across 28 member states, not even addressing the huge refugee crisis ( another topic entirely) given the resources we have in schools, hospitals, surgery and housing? Ok, this is a government funding issue, yes it is, but we still don’t have the infrastructure whose ever fault it is. I want to see controlled immigration and I resent being called a racist for it.

To conclude: no, I am not a brain-dead, bigot, nit-wit having a fit of madness to vote leave. I have read widely on this subject. I have given consent based on informed information to the best of my knowledge. I have listened to both sides, even read a whole book about it.

Ultimately, I don’t wish to be part a United States of Europe, at Brussels’ mercy, of seeing TTIP ( sanctioned by the EU ) to erode our already precarious NHS. I don’t want to pay my hard earned taxes to shore up Brussels, their sub committees, beaucocracy, for MEP expenses, etc,etc. I don’t want to see exploitation of migrant workers on low wages, living in container blocks like battery farm hens, such as those in our Eastern ports. I don’t want to see depressed wages for the rest of us as a result.

Yesterday, contrary to feeling ashamed, I was proud to be British. To stand up, be counted and have courage against the hysteria and the scare-mongering. I am European, want to trade with Europe, be friends with Europe, work together with Europe against war, climate change, famine and disaster. I just don’t want to be a part of a federalist super state. For that I am maligned and chastised today by those in the Remain camp.

If we in the Leave side are so wrong and the EU is such a sound institution, then why have we got a domino effect rippling across the continent after 24hrs. France, Denmark and Holland are asking for the vote too. We dared to question. We stood up for the true meaning of liberty, equality, fraternity. Yes, there will be extreme right-wing factions seizing the chance to promote their dangerous ideology but in reality it is going to be the Common Man, the Working Man, without an extreme political agenda that will seize the day and have the deciding vote.
Make no mistake, the EU will change as a result of this vote, it has to. PIty Brussels never gave us a chance to change it from the inside. It will change and secure its future because we Brexits were brave enough, against the tidal flood of criticism, to vote for a new path. The British vote was the catalyst. Perhaps then, for once in a very long time we can say, that this may not be defined as our finest hour ( I am not comparing myself to Churchill) but it certainly wasn’t the darkest one by a long shot.

Go on Britain, let’s come together and make this work!

Posted in achievement, Change, Debate, Development, goals, Human Rights, Ideas, Liberation, lonelyness, Modern society, Personal Growth, Skills, Sport, Thoughts

Gold or Tin: some thoughts on disability as the Paralympic Games commence.

Watched the opening of the Paralympic games last night. The theme was enlightenment and it was quite spectacular. I know this post isn’t exactly going to be original because what I am about to say, though with different words, is being said by others at present. Steve Birrell’s article in the London Evening Standard, two evenings ago, is one excellent example. We might be giving Gold to our Paralympic champions from today, but in reality many disabled people are receiving Tin. This not just in financial terms, as benefits are squeezed and assessments for Disability Living Allowances become a mile field of impossibility, but in the attitudes of people and what opportunities those with disability really do have in society.

Steve Birrell told many facts I didn’t know. However, one of them, having recently worked with a child with Special Educational Needs, stood out for me. That only one in 12 adults will learning difficulties are actually in employment. Most people know very little about the real issues of those facing disability and may have never worked with, nor had an honest conversation with them. Last night, we saw amazing and brave people flying on trip wires with limbs missing and gliding through the sky with effortless simplicity. In reality, if you are in a wheelchair you have to face the problem of sometimes to few disabled parking slots and negotiating a mind field of obstacles; of pushing crowds too busy to stop or help another disabled person. It’s amazing what you find out when you have to actually do it for yourself. You are on two legs pushing the wheelchair or trying to find the parking pace in a popular tourist attraction. You quickly come into difficulty with frustration.

The question I want to ask is, do we really care about disabled people? Ask yourself that question honestly. An elderly friend recently returned from the Philippines was negotiating heavy luggage on the Tube on his way home. In the country where we had come from, a different kind of respect and tolerance is shown to the infirm and to those who need assistance. My friend had been back in the UK for only a few minutes when he was nearly trampled down by people pushing past his suitcase as he was hurled some insults about “getting out-of-the-way granddad” and he isn’t even classed as disabled. Do our society really champion those who don’t quite fit the “norm” in society or who appear weaker and infirm?

While I worked in the NHS there was a huge emphasis, within my mandatory training, on respecting diversity, equality and disability. In fact, on applications forms you are encouraged to declare your disability, even when it comes to mental health. Depression can now be on such a tick list, if you feel it has or does severely impact upon your life. Indeed, much has been done to potentially give equal opportunities to all disabled people with employment legislation. The promotion of an attitude, “you can come out of the closet and say how this disability has affected you and we will care and understand.” (However,whether you actually get the job or promotion is another matter)! There are aids for the disabled person that are imaginative and extremely useful like never before. My own father who is now registered partially sighted has discovered this and the support and practical help he has received has been excellent.

However, for myself, even with nearly 30 years of caring for others in the Health Service, it wasn’t until the last six months that I realised, even more the harsh realities, the struggle and for carers the loneliness of what living with disability can actually mean. I have said to most friends that the child I worked with in education taught me far more than I could ever teach him. The complexity of character, the uniqueness of the human being. The challenge of  my own mind set of  thinking of what I thought was “normal.” What is normal anyway? And how the blueprint of living is not the same, and to be happy can take on many facets. I learnt further patience, humility, compassion, new-found fun and laughter more than I had ever done before. It was an honour and a great experience to be part of that young person’s life and one, even though that period has now ended, of whom I shall still keep in touch with I hope for a very long time.

What has this got to do with the Paralympics? My message is simple. Examine your real attitudes towards those with disability as you watch those games. Really look closer at what the government is really doing to the lives of genuine disabled people and speak out against it. Go out and meet, connect with a disabled person if you have little or no experience of them. Look at the wider picture of how we treat people who may need help, or who appear frailer or weaker than ourselves. Acknowledge  the incredible strength, character and fortitude of a disabled person but also the power of our minds to help us adapt when disability strikes. How we can overcome the most appalling circumstances and injuries to still survive and to live with purpose. How disability could open doors and new ways of living and thinking, not close them?

Most disabled people do not expect to get a Gold medal or are a Paralympic champion. They have no need to prove they are worth Gold as they are that already. But let’s not give them the medal of Tin, of being let down, ignored, marginalised and really on the edges of society. As we clap and applaud them over the next 11 days, let’s make sure that once all the hype has died down and all games packed away, that we continue to really give the disabled person the respect and the attention they deserve. For them not to go back into the shadows and be forgotten as we, the  so-called “able-bodied”, get on with our lives.

I hope this blog will inspire you to think more about the lives of disabled people and how we can help them to achieve their full potential. Thank you for reading.

( The above image I know does not represent the Paralympic flag or movement but was the closest image I had, with an Olympic theme, to be appropriate for this blog’s content)

Posted in achievement, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, goals, Health, Ideas, Learning, Liberation, Modern society, Personal Growth, Psychology, Thoughts, Time, Women

So what’s new to the thinking?

Following on from my thoughts on the last post, I have had time to discuss and make some progress, at least in the ideas stake. This is what I have come up with so far.

1) Photography has  been a real plus and some images have been spotted by others for good works and greater promotion. This has not been sought after at all. It has just come my way. Call it luck or call it good exposure, probably both. www.flickr.com has done a lot of good for many image takers and the internet is a good way at getting your shots on a greater public viewing gallery. I should explore this further. There are many out there who would wish to make an income, many competitors but not to be overlooked. Photography is an art form that needs to be worked on as a skill. I could perhaps have this as one small income source. It could compliment other aspects of work.

2) I can’t sit around and expect the lucky break, someone to take notice or give me a leg up. I have to make my own luck and give myself a leg up. Have one big idea as to how I wish to do that. It is ambitious and sadly at this point requires a good bit of investment which I don’t have. Call it my long-term aim for the next five years. I have had it sitting on the back-burner of my brain for about 3-4 years and have turned away from it, afraid of the time and investment it would take. The risk of it coming to nothing. It pulls me back though as there is a need and I think a market for it. You shall just have to wait and see what it is, as I don’t want people stealing my ideas or plans:). It’s totally a health based issue where my knowledge on certain things could be utilised. This would be very meaningful to me.

3) Must not be side tracked. I have been up more than one wrong wall. Women’s health and education are at the centre of who I am. I can be nothing else now. It would be to deny myself. I can not do this.

4) Being organised and tidy in my life is very important, especially to my own mental well-being. Need to still get a grip on work-life balance. I need some order not chaos as sometimes this can happen. Less so but potential to be there. My evernote account is one good thing I have now to control and organise information. Still need to work on others.

5) My charity involvements should stop at the weekends unless it is very urgent. A friend would call it, a much-needed boundary. Weekends should be time out from it. The constant access to e-mails can be a disadvantage, especially if a partner engages in work which involves you. Tell them and him that weekend are now off the agenda for “good works.” It can wait until Monday.

6) Ideas are still coming in from the work front and an appraisal today was enormously helpful. At least someone has spotted that I could do so much more. That was uplifting. I am pursuing some avenues and another job application for a job that would start in September.

Finally one point from today. My daughter is studying psychology and wants to focus on depression for her specialist module next year. I asked her a frank question and got a frank response which I feel happy to share.

Question: Why do you think I may have been depressed in the past. The root cause of it?

Answer: Because you feel you haven’t got anywhere with your job, your money or your house? The frustration of it.

She’s not far off the mark. There are other reason of course. I think being in control and not having that taken away is important. Like you have no say in anything. You need a say in all things.

My daughter is one smart girl. She’ll do well. I am sure of it.

Next time, I may be ready to talk more about depression, though it is a little scary and exposes the vulnerable side.

We will see.

Posted in achievement, Change, Children, Debate, Development, goals, God, Human Rights, Ideas, Liberation, Modern society, Personal Growth, Psychology, Skills, Thoughts, Women

Revelation

Went to bed last night and gave my posting of yesterday evening some thought.

Revelation: I actually feel guilty if I am successful, richer or more powerful. Keeping humble and meek is after all a more virtuous option?

Today, I read all about Michael Gove and the King James Bible he has given to every school. I have recently been in an assembly where I was shown this large and beautiful book and how it arrived there as a present from HM Government. You see, I do have Christian roots. In my twenty’s I was part of a small evangelical church. While my faith has very much changed, ( I admitted to myself recently that I don’t attend church regularly because I find it too dull, ritualistic and boring) the essence of Christian thinking is still with me. Essentially, there is a faith there inside me. I don’t go to church preferring to do God’s work in the real world of charity, contribution and looking after God’s animals. Currently, a sick hen. This is where I fit in the Christian world. This is my work to God, not singing hymns.

Deeply ingrained in my mind-set is simply this. God teaches us that being humble, poor and mild, we will inherit the Earth. God likes” little people” like me, never boastful, never proud,( I think that came from St Paul). The idea that I should aspire to a four bedroomed house, double my salary, go for promotion or exactly say I am good at something that does not quite fit the script. After all Jesus hung out with the poor fisherman not the tax-collectors. He never sought fame of fortune. If we are to look at these texts we are told that money is the root of all evil and being ruthless for that job promotion is not at all cool In the eyes of God. We should not have avarice or greed and instead give our money away to those less fortunate- which I have.

Coming away from the Christian perspective, my own interest in equality, human rights, poverty and empowerment gives this view a double stamp of approval. How can I be seen to want to earn or have more when so many are starving? Each night, I thank God for my hot meal and my glass of fresh drink knowing I am the lucky one; even if I have to use the calculator to scrape some shopping together on dwindling reserves, seriously, I do this. I still say I am lucky to have. It’s a bit of a mind-set I have got into.

So to sum it all up in one sentence. My block to progress is my supposed guilt at wanting more. That I should not seek it, that I should never try to make money out of pictures or works. To legitimately sell goods on Amazon and e-bay is one thing, that is recycling and I can live with that. Someone else benefits and most are going at bargain prices. I will have to think how I can shape this attitude a little differently if I am to get further on in life.

And by-the-way Gove recommends Children should read St James as a good moral compass. I wonder what their little minds would think of it all if they did? Would they end up like me or reject it?

Hoping this picture would be at the start:) Try again next time. A posh house. The Petit Trianon of Marie Antoinette’s. You know what happened to her and why!

Posted in achievement, Change, Debate, History, Ideas, Learning, Liberation, Modern society, Politics, Role of women, Skills, Thoughts, Time, Uncategorized, Women

Titanic disaster: class division and inequality. One hundred years on has anything really changed?

This is my 100th blog post on WordPress and the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage. To commemorate both of these anniversaries, I decided to write this blog around the theme of this maritime disaster. A topic that still ievokes passion today, as it did back then in the previous century. It is the subject of class: social class and the huge inequality between rich and poor. The divide of wealth against poverty, privilege against opportunity, social fortune against hardship.

In the cold, iceberg littered waters in the North Atlantic sea, approx 1,500 people perished on the night of the 14th/15th April, 1912. At 11.40 pm, an iceberg blew five of the 16 compartments, the design of which was to prevent the ship from sinking. Had there been one less damaged, the ship would have stayed afloat. The sinking was cruel and quick. At just before 02.20am, the ship cracked in two, against the opposing forces of water pressure, against the lean of the ship.  The odds of dying were very much marked by where, depending on which class of deck you travelled. The lack of lifeboats, their half filled capacity and lack of organisation in the evacuation meant that less than a third on board survived. No truly accurate figures are known of how many survived, given the ship’s passenger logging system at the time. And paradoxically, whether you were a woman or a child for once did have an advantage. Against the tide of the women in the suffragette movement who were risking their lives and freedom in another way to gain the vote and a voice. Men being a dominant force in an unequal society towards being female was centuries old. However, being a women not a man, for once, was a huge advantage that night.

I have been following the ITV1 series of Titanic, the focus of which has been the stark snobbery and deep class division and segregation of those who had, against those who had little or nothing.This rigid British society was based on the have and have-nots and men versus women. The rich and the poor, the titled and the unknown. The pecking order of who was who, the hypocrisy of the people of the time. Even the hierarchy of the servants in first class, to second, from second to third. The locking of the ship’s deck doors so the rich did not have to mingle with the poorer travellers. This factor alone was a disaster for those in 3rd class who may have survived. The ship’s church service, the only time that these second and third class passengers could venture upstairs and worship together-obviously God did not mind such integration on that occasion. And God’s people allowed that!

When it came to the lifeboats, it was women and children first, but class was a central factor. You needed to be a first-class traveller and female on that night. Only three percent of first-class women died compared to 54% of third-class women. 92% of second- class men perished and 84% of third. You can see here the account of the disaster, how and why and who survived from which class.  At the time, there was public outrage at what happened but also the fact that the poor died in the highest numbers. Sweeping changes were made in maritime law which still exist today.The question I asked myself before writing this blog was, has anything really changed with inequality and class division? Hence, I started to pursue this question and wish to share my thoughts.

The start of the 20th century saw a tide of rebellion against inequality, privilege, and class division. I have already mentioned the suffragette movement in the UK, and in Russia the autocratic monarchy in 1912 was about to lose its grip in a furious revolution in 1917. A country, inspired by Lenin’s leadership ousted the old guard of plenty, in supposed favour of the peasants in the field scrapping a living from the soil.

Karl Max had a vision and he writes :

”  A classless society is the ultimate condition of social organisation expected to occur when true communism is achieved.”

Everyone being equal and all the same? We will mention this briefly later.

When we talk of a classless society, another more recent political figure immediately popped to mind. This is what another person said:

“We will have to make changes so that across the whole country we have a genuinely classless society so that people, according to their ability or good fortune, can rise to what ever position.”

John Major, 24th Nov 1990: Prime Minister of the Conservative Party, 1990-1997.

He went on further to say he wanted to see a country at ease with itself.

In 2011, we hardly saw a country at ease with itself, as riots saw a nation’s confidence in pride, law and self-respect take a battering as strong as the iceberg that hit the Titanic. Nights of rioting left the police force, the politicians, the think-tanks and ordinary people wonder what had befallen this country. Many causes were blamed but one central fact was stated. It was the disadvantaged and disenfranchised members of society who felt they had nothing to lose, because they felt they had nothing and no future. So they took what they could get and hang the consequences for a few fleeting nights.

I passionately believe in education and a skills base as a means of self-advancement. As a child of one low-wage earner in a manual job, with an outside toilet and a tin bath as a means of washing, I strove to become something better through hard work at school and by going on to further education. I trained in a profession, the nursing profession and this had led me to break free from very low-wages become a home owner, something my parents have never done. I have attended University and embraced higher education. I am very thankful never to have known unemployment, well, only for four days just recently, at my own volition, and have never had to sign on and collect any state benefit. I am perhaps a true example of the John Major vision?

But in 2012 what is the reality? Another Tory government in coalition with the Lib,Dems but John Major’s words seem hollow somehow. Tuition fees which have recently trebled from £3,000 to £9,000, per year, has brought debate about how the poor can finance a University education. Headlines from The Telegraph, 30th Jan 2012″ Thousands give up on University because of tuition fees.” My own daughter is wary about taking on such debt but knows if she has any chance at all of a future that pays anything she sees little alternative. Youth unemployment is at its highest in the 16-19 age group. A recent BBC, Panorama programme looked at the Government’s apprenticeship programme and found poorly organised skill provision, courses that were virtually worthless and Government contracts which saw a few companies make a lot of money but left the young still largely unemployed and no better off.

Along side this subject, I wanted to dig deeper into the data about how much wealth people really had. I turned to the Institute of Fiscal Studies Paper, “Poverty and Inequality in the UK 2011.” This is a brief summary of some of the points found:

  • UK income distribution 2009-2010. 65% of households having an income below the national mean of £517 per week.( Based on a couple with no children).
  • 1.4 million individuals out of a private household have an income of above £1,500 per week.
  • Late 1990’s saw a boom in income in the top 1% of earners due to the financial boom at the time.
  • Poverty of working age adults without children is at its highest since the start of the institutes data from 1961.
  • There has been growth across much of the income distribution with the highest at the very top and relatively vigorous growth at the bottom of the income bracket. However, this income rise in the lower group was due to increases in benefits and tax-credits seen over this time period. ( Note, not because of decent wages).

In conclusion: The report states, beyond 2010, it is acknowledged that the proposed deep cuts to welfare and tax credits are likely to increase inequality year on year. This is where we are now. We know too well how much this is hurting many people and there are not enough words left for me to keep this blog relatively contained to dwell upon the misery and unfairness this is causing.

So what do I make of all of this to sum up the question I set myself. Can there be true class equality? I would like to think so but history tells me otherwise. Take Communism, as one example, I mentioned. The ethos of everyone being the same. In the present time, we have a call of the Republican movement to abolish the UK monarchy. Whether it was Lenin or now Putin, Obama or the Queen, they all reside in large presidential or palaces of residence. They all have advantage and privilege. There is so such thing as true Communism, based on all having the same. For us back in the UK, we could argue that we would pay less tax to not keep a Queen. However a new governing body would still be living in style whilst we live in our ex council houses or semi-detached properties. No, there will always be class division as unfair as it seems. But what I would like to see is where there is more wealth distribution and greater opportunities. Less of the I have it all and you have little: a more equal society. OK, we are not back in 1912 when you worked or starved, you paid a medical bill or you might die. There have been great advances in the lives of people, both socially, medically and financially. If we were in the Titanic tonight we would all have an equal chance of surviving, or would we? So indeed, you could call that social progress, fairness and humanity. However, we can acknowledge that class still exist and inequality flourishes. And I personally can see no legislation or sweeping reform, that occurred after the Titanic disaster in maritime law, to prevent that tide from turning.

This is my own conclusion but you might disagree. You also might think there is another way of creating a more equal society. I welcome your comments and thank you for reading. Personally, I have very much enjoyed researching and writing my 100th blog on this 100th anniversary of the Titanic disater. And it seemed fitting that I should mark it in this way with this important subject.

Posted in achievement, Change, Children, Commitment, Development, goals, Health, Human Rights, Learning, Liberation, Personal Growth, Relationships, Role of women, Skills, Thoughts, Women

The Story so Far: Tareto Maa. A post for FGM/C International Day 6th February 2012.

  I recently asked a core supporter of Tareto Maa, as he had recently re-visited the project over the New Year, what had changed since his first visit in the early days of the centre’s birth and emergence. He said quite simply this:

” Then it was more like visiting a group of girls in a family, brought together over one core aim, to remain uncut and to have a better future, where they were safe from harm and from female genital cutting. Now, it feels so different. This time, it feels like an organisation, a refuge, an NGO, organised, structured, where there are now many girls and a team of people taking care of them.”

Since the rescue centre’s first origins back in 2009, when it first became a Kenyan NGO, a lot of water has gone under the bridge; a phrase the English say which means, a lot has happened. There is now a real bridge in Tareto Maa, one which was constructed this last year, so the girls could cross over from the refuge site, so that they can go to school, without fear of being drowned. Yes, this has happened. Who could think that in our Western World that a river stops someone from going to school, let alone them drowning.

This and many more obstacles are there in the lives of the girls and the hardworking and dedicated team of people working for them and with them. When I decided to write this blog post, it was suggested that an overview of key events to date would be a good way of commemorating International FGM/C Day 6th Feb but so much has happened. I have decided to look at events from Jan 2011, when the temporary new refuge was opened. This was to originally house about 35 girls in total after the circumcision season was over in the Christmas school holidays of 2010, in reality that number became 70. The sudden increase of girls, who had heard of the project from leaflets and posters that Tareto Maa has circulated amongst the community, caused its international supporters probably its biggest challenge and one of their biggest tests. To potentially turn girls away, after giving them hope. Or to keep accepting them but then not be able to deliver the promise of safety, shelter, food and an opportunity to go to school. We could not let them down and there were many late night discussions on the subject both in our home and with other key supporters. It was one of those exciting, agonising and tense times. No- one underestimated the seriousness of what we had done. For me, this was real. This wasn’t just writing or talking about it anymore. This was doing, and real lives were at stake.

To talk effectively about what was happening in Kenya, supporters in Germany and in the UK, first communicated by e-mail, then by phone, by text and now by Skype as the effectiveness and frequency of communication meant that once e-mails could fly to in boxes once a month, then every two weeks, 10 days, a week. Now, the change is such that e-mails fly into and out of in boxes daily. Net-working and constantly keeping in touch has been one of the biggest growth factors of Tareto Maa by those supporting it outside Kenya, as support grew and emerged, creating with it new ideas, new goals, new problems, headaches, heartaches, tensions, yes some fierce debate but a deep-rooted passion and commitment. The activites of this grass-roots project now spread among many nations, including the USA, its supporters were a key player in the fund-raising for the new Naitswang Riverside Academy, (Tareto Maa’s first school classroom) which opened in the New Year of 2012. www.Kiva.org was a central organisation in this development, with now over 800 members which brought in new supporters and new energy, as well as much welcomed funds to make the idea of a school a reality.

For me, one of the most incredible times of such a generous and magnificent effort both on www.betterplace.org and on www.Kiva.org was when the Horn of Africa was struck with famine in the summer of 2011. Whilst in England, London and major cities were seeing riots and burning, the heat and drought had seen the crops in Kenya dry to a cinder and fail, precipitating an international response to this crisis. The cheapest food in Kenya is Ugali, a maze meal. Its price had soared from 3,000 Kenyan Shillings to 10,000 Shillings. East Africa was in the grip of this food shortage and soaring prices. What was so remarkable was, not just about how much money was raised in such a short time, but that a far wider population could benefit from the effects of Tareto Maa. Food was not just reserved for the girls and the project, how could it be when the whole community was affected. Everyone could benefit.  I realised then this wasn’t just about FGM/C anymore. This was so much more. This event was amazing for me personally.

The rains came and the Well build, that has been started, came to a halt as part of the walls fell in. Such is the fight of the elements. Roads soon became a mud bath. At the same time, the girls needed dry shoes,( trainers were donated by a German company in 2010)  dry mattresses, ante-malaria protection with mosquito nets and de-worming tablets. People still die of HIV/Aids, a much taboo subject and the team now have run lectures and discussions about HIV awareness. While, there are many life lines of hope, death and illness can soon strike the heart of Tareto Maa. Our German friend and central supporter said to me awhile ago, that he had met a man over there who had since dies of Aids. And we have had girls with colds, malaria needing medical treatment and the need to sleep on dry beds. A solar panel, a fence and a security guard have all been added additions to the project this last year, along with Daisy the cow. One problem solved but another can be soon around the corner.

The challenge and opportunity of being part of Global Giving was a big break for us all. This competition to raise money on such a global stage was not to be missed. Months of hard work and preparation to be accepted went into it. The first two opening days were exciting as we leapt into an early lead but the struggle to keep the $2000 dollar bonus at the end was a fight like no other, where all forces were mobilised to find unique donors. A magnificent team effort was displayed.The team was so happy, when we in the UK were able to text a remote part of Kenya On New Year’s day to say what we had achieved, that we had secured that hard-fought bonus. We had reports that the girls sang and danced all day. A total of over $9000 jhas been raised currently on Global Giving so far.

The team in Kenya do not sit by and wait for the money to come in from the West. There is a common picture that Africa just waits for aid. A Harambee meaning “let us all pull together” was being conducted In November. This was an open day celebrating what Tareto Maa was all about and where local leaders, politicians and the community were invited to see the project. It generated 4,500 Euros. The future vision of the school is where fees can provide an income to Tareto Maa, as well as for educating the girls themselves without having to pay school fees. There has been a major effort to reach out to individual sponsors who can sponsor a child in return for two letters a year, news and progress about their child’s education. We have already seen girls grades improve since the rescue centre was opened,as they support and help each other in their studies. We have over 30 individual sponsors at present. But more are urgently needed. Get in touch with me by leaving a comment if you wish to know more about this.

The coming year: the aims are for a permanent rescue shelter, more sponsorships for the girls and forging links with other NGO’S and Foundations. The latter was started last year with a small response. We certainly need more success in this area. To sum it all up, one comment read on http://www. betterplace.org  by a villager of Kenya stood out for me the most when they said:

” At first, we thought it was all talk, but once we saw the rescue centre going up, we thought this is happening. This is not just talk anymore but real and true.” As as result, the village donated clothes and food to the children. Since them Tareto Maa has become an established place in the Kilgoris community, where the church is a major focal point and hub of the work, and where real things do happen. Some of these events have been tremendously positive and some of real hardship and problems. But I and the whole team from inside Kenya to its supporters of the outside world are behind it every step of the way.

Posted in Children, Commitment, Development, goals, Health, Human Rights, Learning, Liberation, Modern society, Role of women, Thoughts, Women

Global Giving Challenge. Tareto Maa.

I can’t quite remember where I first read about female genital mutilation/cutting,( FGM/C) otherwise known as female circumcision, but the whole horror of it touched me and stayed with me. I had to find out more. Time passed and nothing more had reached the surface for me. Looking back, I found the other day some personal writing I had made in 2005. A time of great divide, challenges and difficulties for the family. We were emerging from this phase of our lives. I had written, almost in prayer form, that all David and I wanted to do was to serve. This is the extract from my notes:

” Finally, it is my hope for the future that David and I, with our beautiful daughter, will go on together to find happiness, contentment, and fulfillment in what ever we do. There is a genuine need to serve, to do something and I/we are waiting to know what it is?”

In 2010, the waiting was over and the answer was given. We had already discovered Tareto Maa the previous year but contact had been scarce, due to internet connections and language barriers. Many of our friends will already know this story. I won’t repeat it here. But the impact of an e-mail, with photos of girls living within a grass-roots project setting caught our imagination, excitement, admiration and an urgent need to say, “yes, here it is in the flesh. This is the work we are meant to do”.

Now, in 2011, and a lot of water under the bridge, as us English would say, here I am again writing on behalf of our girls in Kenya for the Global Giving Challenge. I say our girls, not because we feel we own them, or for them to feel they owe us anything. We say “our girls” because they have become our responsibility and we take their welfare seriously. Along, with many others and you can read all about the project, they have been plucked from the horrendous consequences of FGM/C and given an alternative future. One based on an education, of being looked after, of being in a community of safety, shelter and what we now need, security for the longer-term.

That is why we are part of the Global Giving challenge. You can read about what this is all about with the link below. How it will help us, not only with donations, but by being on a wider world-wide platform. This gives us the publicity we need. Take a look at the groups linked on the webpage. The Kiva group  with over 700 members. This has been the work of Davids’ to spread the message of what we are trying to do. The link with betterplace has been vital- coordinated and managed by Armin Erkins, the European  hub of activity. Without him, none of this would have been possible. BUT, we acknowledge most of all, Gladys Kiranto- our founder and leader. It is through her vision and efforts that Tareto maa was born and the success of this whole project, transpired by her and her people. The project team who work 24hrs a day on the ground. Read about our refuge, the school building and the work so far.

I personally am so proud to realise a dream of helping these girls in this situation. This is my life blood and my passion. It is others too. Please help us and take a look at the webpage given below and give anything that you can as we approach Christmas. A traditional time of giving and sparing a thought for a charity you might wish to contribute to.

On behalf of myself, and the whole Tareto Maa team, we say a very big thank you. And the girls say the biggest thank you of all.

You are giving them a life!

See us here: http://goto.gg/9169 The Global Giving Challenge. It has begun today. And a great day to start. On our daughter’s birthday.

Posted in achievement, Change, Commitment, Health, Liberation, Personal Growth, Psychology, Skills, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Joining In

I have loved reading Stephen Fry’s book Moab is My Washpot and have only about  70 pages to go to completion. I can identify so much with him, really I can. This blog isn’t a book review. I don’t doubt I will say more about this early autobiography in a later blog. No, this piece of writing is about identifying with the need to join in.

You see, like Stephen Fry, I loathed, despised, hated, dreaded PE or games, as I refered to it at school. For Stephen Fry there was one reason for this. He just couldn’t do it but so badly wanted to join in. For me there were two reasons. 1) Because I was a shinny runt and everyone, especially the boys, laughed at me and made me as their sport. 2) I, like Fry, was rubbish at it. Well, that was hardly surprising was it?

So all my life me and sports of any kind just never mixed ever, ever. This world belonged to others. How could I possibly fit in, join in? But then last year in a fit of what seemed then madness I decided to run for GEAR. Many of you know my journey and I am not going to bore with another blog about how it all started. I just want to share this.

I was training with GEAR last Wednesday. In the middle of the session, we had to pair up and do a 200 metre faster run around the track  three times. The baton was handed to me and the guy next to me realised, that he was going to be my partner given our position standing in the crowd.

” Looks like you got me then I said.”

I’m sure perhaps it was my imagination, but maybe not. I perceived the look of disappointment on his face when he knew that me, old slow coach, would mean we would likely come in last. No criticism here intended but it was horrible feeling. I was transported back to school and could see myself on the games pitch. How I hated those team games when I was never picked. My stupid, stupid school elected to select two people at random always to pick  the teams. I was never picked and ended up just filing in to which ever queue was left. How dumb was my school for thinking up that psychological downer. (It was even more cringe-withering when I had to pick a team as I knew no-one wanted to be in my team, never to join in with me).

The sports field can be a cruel world.

But I ran with him and ran my best, Of course, I came last into the first handover and as he was waiting  I said:

” Sorry, you have got me, the slow one ” 

I thought drat why did I say that. I am not apologising. I am here and I am trying. Many competitors are not here because they feel just as self-conscious as I do now and don’t come. DAMN IT , don’t apologise.

I did all the running and kept up.  On the last final excercise later, I passed someone and thought, I am not going to be damn well last every time. I felt brilliant at the end for doing  it all and the trainer said she should see how much more confident  I was.

So this time next week, I am going to be doing everything I trained for 10 months to do. GEAR is next Sunday, 10.30 and I am going to be as nervous as hell. But, I feel good because I truly believe that at last I can and am joining in. I belong now to the world of running. You can’t imagine how good that feels.

I am joining in. Iam ACTUALLY ABLE  TO JOIN IN!

Please consider giving to my Just Giving site and help me along  my 6.25 mile race. Many thanks.

Posted in Change, families, God, Health, Home, Liberation, Modern society, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Religion, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Women

The 29th August.

A rather frightening and sobering thought occurred to me late yesterday evening. It was the 29th August, a date that will always stick in my memory, etched into my being for as long as I dwell upon this earth.

On August 29th 1984, I met and walked into a relationship that was to have the most apocalyptic consequences.

On August 29th 1987, I married into that terrible relationship for all sorts of insane and nonsensical reasons, that even now I can not begin to understand, WHY I was prepared to sacrifice myself to a life that only became more and more of a nightmare with each passing day.

On May 6th 1991, I left that relationship quietly, like a “normal day” as if anything then about my life could ever be considered normal. Taken to work with me was an apple, underwear and a toothbrush, knowing I was probably going to be homeless that night; knowing I was leaving that nightmare forever. It was very calm, no hint of anything wrong to raise or alert suspicion that I was leaving. It felt like the great escape. I remember turning to look at the back of the house, as I backed out of the drive in my car, and with a deep breath knew nothing was going to be the same again. My stomach turned over and hy heart missed a beat: Can still feel it now.

 I knew my christian evangelical church would try and drive me back, divorce was never an option I thought only death. The problem was I could not kill myself either, something that had crossed my mind, because sucide was a sin and an automatic exclusion from heaven. I had asked God on several ocassions to just let me die but the problem was I just kept being alive and he wasn’t answering my prayers. I asked God to take my husband from me, then feeling so wickard about my feelings, but God wasn’t doing that either. I knew my family would be shocked and hoping me not to cause them worry and agro, that I would just return and carry on, so I was no bother to anyone. But I could not let my life go this way at just age 27. It had to be different. I changed my course of history, of destiny and my life took a different journey.

Yesterday, I realised that if I had stayed I would have been married to a nightmare for 21 yrs. Then it hit me. I had spared myself 17 yrs of that situation. What would have become of me if I had stayed? Well, probably death or insanity. Either that or I could have killed him, in a shere freezy of mental torture and I would now be in prison doing time for manslaughter on grounds of diminshed responsibility or tried for murder. I do understand how this can happen. I really, really do mean that. My career would have long since gone, it was close to collapse as it was when I left. My health would be in pieces, it was all but in pieces anyway then. My nerves long since gone, they were already shattered. No children and an old face. A hatred of God, that would have been certain. A bitter twisted piece of humanity, that fact is also certain. That day when I left was certainly the best days work I will ever do in my life. The prospect of that life being real is something that haunts me, to a point, even now and send shivers down my spine thinking about it.

I had a lucky escape. My life has not been without its problems since, and my second marriage has certainly faced many low points. BUT I do have a normal life, a child and a family. I have my health and strength, a career I love and now with family growing up starting to really take off again. I am two modules away from a higher education Diploma qualification and working towards a degree. I take pictures, write, have my blog and walk in peace and quiet. I am not a prisoner in my own home. I no longer take on a carer’s role which was all I did in my first marriage. In many ways my life is just normal, like many others facing ups and downs. I have things to hope and to look foreword to and to worry about. My christian faith is all but dust, though I cling onto it in the hope that it still may be relevant and true.

The 29th August, once again has come and gone and I am still here, in one piece and for that I am thankful. I saved myself from a terrible and dreadful life, that would never have got any better. I am the lucky one. For anyone facing a similar situation, I would say one thing. Whether you believe in a heaven or a hell, one thing is for certain. You have only one life on this earth and only one. Don’t look back and wish the clock could be turned back because it can’t. Only you can walk away as I did then and change the way the time goes, as the clock of life ticks on.

Leaving a relationship can be the hardest thing, the bravest thing but the best thing you can do for your life. It certainly was in my case. I have not an atom of shame or regret, only relieve in my heart.