Now for some Good News

Last week 2 news stories caught my attention, that were just…sickening. I’m struggling to truly put into words the emotions that were stirred by the events.

I’m not going to share any pictures or links to the events, I don’t want to give the perpetrators any notoriety.

So very briefly, on Monday a video was share which showed people burning an effigy of the Grenfell Tower with cut outs of people trapped inside their flats. Then on Friday I watched a news report which showed how a school for people with learning disabilities had been vandalised. The criminals had destroyed toys, the minibuses, graffitied offensive language across the playground – you get the picture.

Your moral compass is seriously off point if you carried out these crimes or thought them funny, especially to target a place where vulnerable children feel safe, secure and happy.

The world is struggling, hate crime is on the rise – especially towards disabled people, racists are more bold and confident to spread their disgusting ideologies, our democracy is under threat from foreign interference and in Britain it looks like we’re are about to voluntarily distance ourselves from our neighbours and make ourselves poorer.

It’s more important than ever to remind ourselves that the world is actually an amazing place and that we are amazing. The two stories I mentioned, 99.999% of people will have found it sickening (no scientific evidence to back this up so don’t quote me)! People were asking, “what can I do to help the school and the children”?As it turned out, a group of volunteers had already come together to repair the damage. When tragedies like Grenfell occur or terrorists attack our way of life people come together, people support each other, the vast majority of us turn to love and compassion not hate or ignorance. We are reminded just how heroic our emergency services are.

It’s so easy to find bad news, we are conditioned to live in fear. Fear sells newspapers, fear sells full stop. If we live in fear we are more likely to spend money on things that we don’t necessarily need but will make us feel a bit better about ourselves and the world.

Good news is harder to find, but it’s there, all around us. Every day millions of people will do something kind. Communities will come together, people will give up their time to help others, a stranger will have done something today to save somebody’s life – and they might not even realise it. You are amazing, always remember that. Never let fear or hate win. Share good news, carry out random acts of kindness, make somebody smile.

As I started with bad news stories, it’s only fair that I redress that and share some stories of kindness and positivity. But first, I want to share a clip that always make me smile and cheers me up!

Guy Goma Interview

Now for the good news;

Acts of Kindness

and some more!

Let’s keep this going. Feel free to share your good news stories, your random acts of kindness.

Spread the love! x

How is it Bonfire Night already?!

man with fireworks
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Happy 5th November!

Is it just me or does this time of year go scarily fast? I get to the end of September and start getting constant reminders that Christmas is approaching and before you know it it’s a New Year! Every week seems to fly by and just merge into one. We set ourselves tasks and lists that we just have to get through before the end of the year.

So last week i took 2 days off and took the opportunity to have a breather to relax and to recharge. I spent some time at home watching some tv and movies that i have been meaning to watch for ages, I caught up with some reading and took the chance to go for some walks in the amazing Autumn sunshine and take in the colours that we are treated to at this time of year. It was amazing and made me appreciate what amazing scenery I have right on my doorstep.

There are some spaces and some views that have such a calming effect. There can be two people sat on a bench both taking in the scenery, one can be loaded and the other homeless but for that moment they are both equal. They both have the things that money can’t buy, tranquility, stillness, the beauty of natural surroundings, the chorus of birdsong, the sound of the leaves rustling, or the waves crashing. None of these things need to be bought, they’re out there for all for us and for free!

Next time you need to take a break and you feel that things are getting on top of you. Go and find your space, your view, your scenery. It doesn’t have to be far away and you don’t have to go for long to appreciate it but it’ll be worth it. I will wager you any money that you will still get through your list by Christmas!

The Power of Protest

This weekend I was sent a couple of reminders of the powers of protest, of taking a stand and taking action when something isn’t right.

On Sunday Dr Who’s episode focused on Rosa Parks and the action she took in refusing to give up her seat on a bus. It’s a programme I don’t normally watch and I haven’t even seen the episode yet but it has received wide critical acclaim and I will be watching it very soon.

I’ve always been deeply fascinated and inspired by the story of Rosa Parks. I really hope you all know her story. On 1st Dec 1955, travelling home from her job in Montgomery, Alabama she was already sitting in the part of the bus that was segregated off for black passengers when she was ordered by the driver to give up her seat to a white passenger as all the seats for whites at the front of the bus were taken. She refused, she said no. She was thrown off the bus and arrested even though she had not broken any law. The Jim Crow laws at the time which made segregation legal were applied very liberally.

The incident galvanised the civil rights movement in the area and they announced a bus boycott which lasted over a year and brought about a change in the law . The strike attracted wider attention and sparked other movements and also galvanised a young preacher by the name of Martin Luther King into becoming the figurehead and leader of the civil rights movement.

One woman, one action, one word – no, can change the world. Rosa died 13 years ago today – 24th Oct, but her legacy and her spirit will never die.

On Saturday, over half a million people gathered in central London to take part in a march calling for a People’s Vote on the outcome of negotiations regarding our decision leaving the EU. These were people from all parts of the country and all walks of life. It is a movement that I am proud to support and it is a cause that I have marched for previously.

There are so many arguments going backwards and forwards about Brexit but in this writers opinion Brexit is wrong, we made a very bad decision and I feel passionately enough about it to do what I can to persuade politicians to put the decision back to the public.

A decision was made to leave the EU that was based on lies, false promises and mis-information. It has been proven that the leave campaign cheated and broke the law. The decision means that we will make ourselves poorer and cut ourselves off from our friends and neighbours. Future generations will not have the right to live, travel, work or study freely in other European countries and we have put the lives of EU friends colleagues and neighbours into Limbo – it just isn’t right. No system is perfect and I would never pretend that the EU was. When there is no evidence at all to suggest that any deal will be better than what we already have then we need to take a deep breath, pause and ask ourselves “are we sure we want to go ahead with this”? It makes perfect sense and is very democratic!

Peaceful well organised and co-ordinated protests can be very effective. These images and reports from Saturday cannot fail to have made an impact even if the powers that be won’t admit it. Sometimes it takes thousands of people to come together but sometimes a single, simple action, a word can be the snowball that starts an avalanche.

My message to Youth (mainly an apology but also a message of hope).

Today is World Mental Health Day with the focus on Young peoples mental health. I’m struggling to find the latest statistics regarding mental health and young people. The Children’s Society in 2008 reported that 10% of young people (aged 5-16) have a diagnosable mental health problem yet 75% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. Ten years on I would strongly expect these figures to have risen and I imagine that the true figure is cleverly hidden somewhere.

How have we got to this situation? Lots of reasons I guess but I will attempt to cover some of them in my message to youth.

Hello young people (i’m down with the youth),

Today is world mental health day and you may hear about how mental illness is a very big issue for young people, and it’s true, it is. It’s not your fault, let me start by saying sorry. You have been very, very badly let down by a lot of different people. You will have heard that there are different factors that can help improve your mental health and reduce the risk of becoming ill. Let’s look at some of them.

  • A good diet and exercise – No arguing with this. Eating healthily and taking exercise helps your body produce lots of good stuff which helps your mind and body.

Yet – you’re bombarded with adverts for food which isn’t great even though it might taste nice and doesn’t cost much. We sell you chocolate bars that are “king-size” or doubled. We give you more and more choice and sell you energy drinks that are packed with tons of sugar and crap which can get you addicted to them. We sell off playing fields, playgrounds and leisure centres making it harder or more expensive for you to get exercise.

  • Attend a supportive school – Despite what you might think schools are good, you make friends, you learn and compared to work the hours and holidays are fantastic!

Yet – schools tell you what to wear when to wear and how to wear it. What pens and pencils you must have, what bags you are allowed. You are inspected before you get past the school gate. You do learn but your school might place more importance on teaching you the stuff that will get you through the sats, mocks and GCSE’s and get the grades which will help the big bosses of the school look good. There may be less opportunity to allow you to be a bit creative, to learn a musical instrument to find a hidden talent that you didn’t know you have that will give you the confidence to grow. As I said though, schools are great and if you are struggling please, please, please find someone you trust who you can speak to. They will believe you and they do want to help.

Hopefully after school you will go home to a supportive and stable family home. I wish that you have  parents who make you feel safe and loved, who encourage you. Times are hard for us adults, it maybe that jobs are under threat or the money that your parents make doesn’t go as far. This makes it harder for us to give you the time and attention you deserve. It maybe that unfortunately your parents are divorced and you feel under pressure to pick a side, that’s tough. I really hope this isn’t the case but I would imagine it is for some of you. Again please speak to someone if you’re struggling.

We’ve invented some amazing phones, computers, games consoles, tablets, apps, filters and games. I love them, I spend too much time on my phone and I know you probably do too but who can blame you, the technology is amazing! Us adults would love for you to spend a bit less time on them. Too much time spent on them can affect your mental health and there are some people out there who will try to take advantage of you. When I ask my kids to maybe spend less time in front of a screen, I get asked “what else is there to do”. After telling them off for answering me back(!) I stop and realise that they might have a point. We used to have youth clubs and community centres. But a lot of them have been shut along with the playing fields and playgrounds! When they do go out we worry about who they’re with, what they’re doing, how long they’ve been out. We have been conditioned to live in fear and to fear the worst.

We’ve made it harder for you to get a job when you have finally navigated your childhood and adolescence we’ve also made it a lot harder to get a house. You will probably start off in debt because you chose to go to uni get an education and get the best qualifications you can. We’re handing over a planet that’s in a bad way and we look to you to come up with some solutions. We are about to take away your right to travel, live, work and study freely in some amazing and beautiful European countries. They’re a lot of us trying our very best to stop this.

So I truly and sincerely apologise for making life a lot harder than it should be for you. But you know what – I look around at your generation and it fills me with hope and pride. I see young people all the time accepting their friends and peers for who they are and who they want to be. I see your generation being a lot more inclusive and accepting people of different beliefs, of different orientations (I hate that word) of different abilities. I see young people not swallowing the lies and bull that our generation have been fed from the media. You question people and you stand up to authority  – keep it up. You are so resilient and talented. Bottle your resilience, develop and be proud of your talent. Think for yourselves, when you become future leaders, future scientists, future influencers we are going to need innovation and new ways of working. Learn from our mistakes.

We trust you and we love you x

My Country is Broke

Just over 6 years ago London hosted the Olympics. My country welcomed the world with open arms. The games makers were volunteers who came together from all walks of life to help visitors feel welcome and showed the best of Britain. In the opening ceremony we celebrated the NHS and the Windrush Generation. During the games we cheered for the winner and we commiserated the loser. In the Paralympics we were truly inspired by some outstanding feats of human endeavour and bravery. People with disabilities were seen as equals. I have never felt prouder to be British and that summer of 2012 felt like a game changer.

6 years later the NHS passed the point of being on it’s knees a long time ago. This amazing institution which should be our country’s proudest achievement is in danger of being sold off to the highest bidder. It’s staff who are angels and heroes walking amongst us are demoralised, deflated and defeated. They finally got a pay rise again this year after 6(?) years but it was immediately swallowed up by the NHS pension scheme. We have nurses having to use foodbanks to feed their families Just think about the NHS for a minute. Free at the point of delivery, regardless of wealth. Think about the times when you or loved ones have had to use it. Now imagine it not being there and instead we have private healthcare ran by the rich for the rich. Not great.

The Windrush Generation – a group of people who answered a call from the UK to make a life here and help rebuild the country after the devastation of the Second World War. A generation now caught up in a “hostile environment” policy which means they may have to provide documentation to prove they have a right to live and work here. Not just one document but enough paperwork to prove where they were each year they have lived here! People who have made a life here, raised families, contributed to society, paid taxes no longer made to feel welcome.

Instead of supporting disabled people and people with mental and physical health conditions we call them in for assessments so somebody with no understanding or knowledge of what it’s like to live with their condition on a day to day basis can make an arbitrary decision on how disabled they are and whether they are fit for work. A quick google search reveals countless examples of people who have taken their life after having to go through this process and having their support suddenly stopped.

Then we have Brexit – don’t get me f**”@^g started! One of the worst decisions a country has ever made. I could write many a blog on how we got here. Yes  – we made a democratic decision, but it was a bad decision, very bad. It was a decision made on the back of lies, false promises, bad advice. The Leave campaign is under investigation and should face criminal charges for over spending. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the process was interfered with by Russia, except the government isn’t interested in exploring it.

Carole Cadwalldr – Brexit

We have made a decision to isolate ourselves and to make ourselves poorer, well I say we, the rich won’t be poorer, they’re already making contingencies to protect themselves whilst telling everyone else that we have to leave. The thing is, we were never dictated to, we are soverign and always were soverign. Any new PM has to go and bow before the Queen and get permission to form a government!! We had a say in any law and decision passed by the EU. I’ve yet to see or hear one valid benefit that we will get from leaving and nobody can seem to name any law that has a negative impact on them.

Aswell as making ourselves poorer the decision to leave has given rise to a lot more hate crime. We are not a united country, we’re well and truly divided. The far right feel confident to take to the streets to make their opinions known leading to clashes with police and we get some horrifying images. We get a known racist Stephen Yaxley Lennon hailed as a hero.

I’ve also taken to the streets (things are that bad) and joined in peaceful and friendly protests to try and stop Brexit. I’ve met some inspiring and beautiful people who give me hope that we can turn things round and bring about a second referendum or a people’s vote, I don’t care what you call it. Everybody I meet just wants our country to go back to that spirit of 2012 where we were equal and we welcomed everybody. We know how good our country can be and at the moment we are a long way from it. Whether we succeed or not at least we will be able to look the next generation in the eye and say “we tried”.

Keep smiling x

Toxic Masculinity

black and white people bar men
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

I’m still new to this blogging game and I still find it hard to write about the things that I want to say and get off my chest – if that makes sense? Once I press publish that’s it, i’ve opened myself up which I have always struggled to do. I invite criticism, judgement, I instantly worry about what people might think, whether they agree or disagree. Blogging and social media have given me a voice that I haven’t always been confident to use in other areas of life. Thankfully, people are being very kind which is giving me the confidence to continue.

There is still a lot I want to say about what I’ve been through and how I’ve changed as a result and I’m sure I’ll get round to it. Today I want to talk about something that I picked up on yesterday which has got me thinking.

One of my favourite writers is Matt Haig. He writes about living with depression and mental illness and how today’s society makes some things better and some things worse. This weekend there has been a lively debate and discussion and Twitter feed about Toxic Masculinity.

I’d heard about the phrase without knowing too much about it. There are lots of theories and definitions flying around but from what I can gather Toxic Masculinity is basically a negative set of beliefs and behaviours that society applies to men which means that falling short of these behaviours  may make them less of a man – I think!

Matt has been leading the campaign against Toxic Masculinity and consistently reminds us that it’s ok to cry – that’s why we have tear glands. That it’s a lot healthier to be who you are, rather than who you feel you should be. This is not a threat to our manhood, it’s about being yourself and not trying to live up to a set of ideals and behaviours imposed by others.

I’m past 40 now and one of the advantages about getting older is that I’m becoming more comfortable in my skin. I feel confident to write on here that I love football (even though I could never play it) but I also love a good musical. Les Mis is my favourite, I cry every time! I use moisturiser, I’m particular about which shower gels and face washes I use. I spend more time in the bathroom than ever before. If I feel clean and good about myself, I feel more confident. I’m crap at DIY (really bad) but I’ll try my best  and don’t feel ashamed asking for help. I can just about change a tyre on a car, but that’s as far as it goes. It holds no interest for me. I’ve never punched someone or had a fight in my life, I don’t have it in me. All these things go towards who I am and I’m not going to challenge a trait or a characteristic if I don’t have a problem with it.

The danger comes when we suppress or bottle up our emotions. When we  “Man-up” – I hate that phrase. The danger comes when violence is encouraged as a way of sorting a problem and when seeking help is seen as a sign of weakness We get homophobia and we get misogyny. We also get issues with mental health and increases in male suicide.

Come on guys, open up, be who you want to be not who you think others want you to be. We’re not under threat or in danger of becoming extinct. The future belongs to all of us and we can make it great.

backlit dawn foggy friendship
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

 

 

Find Your Passion

Staithes

 

Last weekend I visited one of my favourite places – Staithes, on the North Yorkshire Coast. It’s a fishing village steeped in history and tradition with cobbled streets and rows of beautiful cottages. Whenever I visit it has an instant calming effect, it’s a form of therapy! You park at the top of a steep bank and as you walk down towards the village and the harbour you find yourself leaving your troubles at the top and entering a place where you can switch off for however long your stay happens to be.

Every year Staithes holds an arts festival. Artists are encouraged to book a cottage for the weekend and use their space to exhibit their work. It’s fantastic being able to walk around the streets and alleyways and wander into the beautiful cottages and explore some art. On the streets outside are buskers, street theatre, walking tours, food stalls. On the evening lights illuminate the cliffs and other landmarks, it really is worth going to see.

That’s my bit done for Staithes tourism, I now want to talk about one of the artists who has been exhibiting his work since the festival started about 6 years ago, my brother-in-law, Stephen Stott.

Ste has always loved painting and was always told he had a real talent and should “do something with it”. So he did. He enrolled as a mature student on a Fine Art course, gained a degree and recieved great praise for his final exhibition. The first year he exhibited at Staithes he received lots of great feedback, and maybe sold one print, enough for a meal at the end of the weekend. The following year he returned to the same cottage, generated more interest, sold a few more and just about broke even on the cost of hiring the cottage and the materials he needed.

Ste always explained that it wasn’t about making money, he loved people coming in, chatting to him and taking an interest in his work. He kept developing, taking new paintings to exhibit each year and sticking to the type of painting that he wanted to do.

This year, by the time I had visited the festival on Sunday lunchtime he had practically sold out of paintings and prints! He now has people commissioning him to do pieces of art and his work is on display in galleries both nationally and internationally. He has hired the same cottage each year, slowly building his profile and developing his reputation. He also has the opportunity to pass on his skills and knowledge to the younger generation by working with groups of primary school children.

This is not a promotion piece for Ste but if you did want to check out his work…

StephenStottFineArt

The message I’m trying to get across today (probably not very clearly) is if you have a talent and a passion for something, do it, see where it leads you and takes you. Life is short, and life is busy. Find time to do something you love, something you enjoy, something that gives you confidence and that energy boost. If you have a musical instrument buried away in the loft, get it out clean it up. If you enjoyed playing years ago, you will soon pick it back up. If you loved singing, join a choir, if you’ve always wanted to act, join a theatre group. The great thing about being older is there’s less pressure, you’re doing it for you and not anybody else. It’s also great for your mental health to find something that allows you the time and space you need to escape for a bit.

The brilliant Jay Shetty produced this inspirational video which everyone should watch.

Find Your Passion – Jay Shetty

I’m off to practice my piano – see you at the Albert Hall!!

 

Staithes Festival