Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Bedtime Story (30/8/2017)

As I write this, I'm struggling to stay awake, following a couple of late nights and poor sleep (guess who seems to have caught some kind of cough/throat infection combo?!).  They say write about what you know, so...

Unfortunately, this week's story can't be listened to as a podcast, as I've been losing my voice, lately!  Sorry!

Pearl Stays Up

Pearl was so excited:
Her dad was coming home!
For the last three months it had just been
Pearl and her mum on their own.
Dad had been working away, 
But tonight, he'd be back at last.
And every time Pearl spoke to Mum,
There was just one question she'd ask:

"Can I stay up to see Daddy?
I know he's getting home very late,
But I won't sleep until I've seen him.
You know I really can't wait!"
And with all Pearl's constant badgering,
Her mum gave her head a shake.
"Fine, you can stay up to see him,
Providing you can stay awake!"

So, Pearl played only quiet games,
To be sure that she wasn't worn out.
She didn't run round the garden.
She didn't sing, scream or shout.
And her plan seemed to be working,
For she didn't feel sleepy at all.
But it was still the middle of the afternoon,
According to the clock on the wall...

So, Pearl tried to have an afternoon nap,
To get her sleep out of the way.
Then, she reckoned she could stay up all night,
Right through to the very next day!
But the sun outside was shining,
And her room was far too bright for sleep.
Poor Pearl tried all she could think of;
She even tried counting sheep!

But it was no use and she got back up,
Deciding she'd just stay awake.
Besides, the time she'd been trying to sleep,
Surely counted as a rest, or a break?
Pearl was determined to be up,
When her beloved Dad walked through the door.
"I won't even let myself yawn,"
An excited and earnest Pearl swore.

By the time Pearl ate her dinner,
She'd usually be feeling quite tired.
But today she'd come up with a plan,
Which she felt was truly inspired:
She'd make a welcome home card,
At the time when she'd usually sleep.
It would help to ensure she stayed awake,
And give her Dad something special to keep.

So, once her dinner was finished,
Pearl grabbed card, pens and glitter.
By this point her eyes felt quite heavy,
But brave, young Pearl was no quitter!
She worked hard on her creation,
Blinking fast to stay awake.
She decided she needed another project:
What else could she make?!

Before she could think of anything,
Mum hurried Pearl up the stairs.
"You still need to have your bath,"
She said.  "And I need to wash your hair."
The bath water was lovely and warm,
And Pearl felt so very relaxed,
That by the time she got into her pyjamas,
She felt like she might just collapse...

But bed was the last thing on Pearl's mind,
And each time her eyes threatened to close,
She'd say to herself "no!" in a very cross voice,
And bop herself right on the nose!
Daddy was getting home ever so late,
But Pearl so wanted to be up when he did,
That she refused to let herself go to sleep:
There really was no stopping this kid!

She climbed up on the sofa with Mum,
And watched a little bit of TV.
"Do you want to snuggle up?" Mum asked.
"You could come and sit on my knee?"
But Pearl shook her head. "No!
If I cuddle up, I'll go to sleep!
And I have to be up when Daddy comes home.
I've got a promise to keep."

The sofa was ever so cosy, though.
It felt soft and warm, like a bed.
And Pearl was so tired, she could barely think;
As though there was fog in her head.
She couldn't focus on the TV, anymore.
The pictures kept going all blurry.
But no, Pearl couldn't fall asleep now;
It was still very much too early!

Pearl thrashed her arms and her legs,
To stop them from lying too still.
"I said I'd stay up until Daddy got home,"
Pearl said.  "And I will!"
But her eyes were longing to close, now.
She shut them, just for a while.
She could stay awake with her eyes closed,
Pearl told herself, with a smile.

She tried to think of noisy thoughts,
To keep her mind wide awake.
She even thought of things she was scared of,
Like spiders and needles, or snakes.
Anything to stop her from drifting,
Into a peaceful, dreamy state.
Daddy would be home soon,
Pearl just had to wait...

She thought of Daddy's cuddles,
That felt so warm and snug.
She could surely stay up a little longer,
To give him a welcome home hug?!
"I'll open my eyes again now,"
Pearl thought to herself, as she dozed.
But no matter how hard she tried,
Her eyes stayed stubbornly closed.

Pearl sank against the cushions.
She'd really tried her best!
But she was fast asleep now;
And she needed her rest.
Mum placed a blanket over Pearl,
So that she wouldn't get cold.
She fetched the teddy from Pearl's bed,
And slipped it into her hand, to hold.

Pearl didn't hear the soft click of the door,
Or see her daddy come walking through.
She thought she dreamed him whisper
A very soft "I love you."
Her eyes didn't even flicker, 
As he gently kissed her head.
Dad scooped his little girl up in his arms,
And carried her off to bed.


Friday, 25 August 2017

Am I TOO Forgiving?!

Last night, I couldn't sleep.  And as usual, it wasn't any kind of outside noise or external circumstances keeping me awake.  Nope, it was my own brain and its constant refusal to just shut up.

The theme of last night's unwanted pondering was forgiveness.  More specifically, my own forgiving nature and whether I'm too quick to forgive, or whether maybe, other people aren't forgiving enough

 The question had been looming in my thoughts for a while, to be fair.  A few little non-incidents had played on my mind and brought the subject of forgiveness to the fore.

Recently, I came up with a tattoo design I wanted to have inked over a friendship tattoo I had done with someone who is now not my friend.  It has been really upsetting to look down at my foot and see words that stopped representing our friendship and became utterly meaningless, as things irretrievably broke down over a period of several months.  The increasing sense of isolation and the feeling that I was somehow always in the wrong in her eyes, weren't things I wanted to be reminded of.  So, I wanted the tattoo gone.  And, after much thought, I decided on the idea of a feather, with birds flying out of it, to represent freedom, as well as the transient nature of some of the relationships we have in life.  After talking to my tattoo artist, it was agreed that we'd keep the two, interlinked hearts that formed part of the original friendship tattoo, and amongst the birds flying away from the feather, there would be small hearts, to connect the new design to the old one.  I was really pleased with the design discussed and I'm very much looking forward to seeing it drawn up and having it inked.  But, when I told people about my plans, a few of them were surprised I was having the original tattoo covered up at all.  They were convinced that this former friend would need only ask and I'd go running back to her side, because, they told me: "You've always been almost too forgiving."

I am very forgiving.  I don't believe in holding a grudge.  I try not to hold onto anger, because doing so is like punching yourself in the face and expecting the person you're mad at to feel it.  And whilst the people who suggested that I'd rush back to my former friend and just carry on where we left off were wrong (I couldn't do that), it's fair to say that I would politely respond to her, if she got in touch.  She hurt me badly, but I've forgiven that and I've moved on from the situation.  I didn't have to forgive her, in order to move on (because, as I've written about before, I don't actually believe in the idea that you must forgive someone who hurts you, in order to move on with your life), but I'm aware that the situation was a complex one and can't be casually explained by just lumping blame onto her shoulders.  We both made mistakes.

So, when a couple of people were shocked at my willingness to ink over the original friendship tattoo, I found myself conversely unsurprised by their reactions.  I've never been particularly tough when it comes to closing doors on people.  I've always been a second-chance-giver.  Often, I'm a third or even fourth chance-giver, before I eventually walk away.  And yes, that's led to me getting hurt.  Probably more than I care to admit to...

Maybe I am too forgiving.  Maybe I see good in people who are anything but.  Bizarrely, aside from a select few (my abuser included, obviously), the people who I can't and won't forgive, are usually those who've hurt my family or friends, rather than those who've hurt me.  And those people who have hurt me to an unforgivable degree are usually people whose "crimes" have been way more serious than just "we fell out," or "they made me mad."  If I don't forgive you, generally speaking, you've got to have done something pretty awful to me.

Some would call me weak.  But for me, the alternative - holding grudges and never forgiving anyone - would be far worse.

I can remember saying - possibly even here on this blog - that I would never forgive one of my best friends, after we had an argument that blew up into way more than it ever should have been.   I was deeply hurt by the aftermath of the argument; far more than I ever was by the argument itself, which, had we both been more sensible, could have been done and dusted and forgotten about within a day or two.  And, because I was angry and upset, I told myself - and others - that that was it.  I could never forgive that friend for how painful that whole experience was.  

And yet, I'm sitting here and I can say, with my hand on my heart, that if she messaged me now and said "hey, want to meet up and talk things through?" I'd absolutely say "yes."

That's not because I'm weak.  It's because I realise that the actions that hurt me came from a place in which she was hurting, too.  It's because there are two sides in every argument and, whilst I'm obviously still on mine, I can see hers.  It's because I've taken time to look at the situation from every angle, including the ones that don't paint me in the most flattering light.  I made mistakes, just as much as she did.  I bear just as much responsibility as she does.  But more importantly than anything else, it's because the friendship we had outweighs the fallout.  The many years of closeness, in-jokes and mutual support were and are more important than the bitterness and passive-aggression of an argument gone too far.

Forgiveness, for me, isn't about being too soft, or overlooking everything a person has done wrong.  It's about understanding why something has happened and being able to analyse my part in it (if I have one; there's a reason I don't forgive my abuser, after all...).  It's about processing the anger I'm feeling and neutralising it so that it can't hurt me, anymore.  Because that's all that really happens when you hold onto anger for too long; it becomes the stick you beat yourself with, rather than anyone else.

I'm not, of course, saying that I have the definitive, right approach.  Forgiveness (or non-forgiveness) is such a personal matter, that I don't believe that there even is a right or a wrong attitude to have towards it.  That's why I get so angry by people who blindly post statuses on social media, insisting that you must forgive those who've hurt you, as though doing so somehow makes you a better person than those who don't or can't forgive.

Everyone's threshold is different, in terms of what they can be put through and still forgive.  Time is also a factor; sometimes, a significant length of time needs to pass, before forgiveness is possible.  That old adage that "time is a healer" has a lot of truth to it, when you're talking about forgiveness.  It's like moving further away from a bright light; you need to be a safe distance, before you can fully open your eyes and see things clearly, again.

And of course, sometimes we find ourselves on the other side of things.  Sometimes, we find ourselves either in genuine need of being forgiven for our own bad behaviour, or - worse - we discover that someone we had a mutual disagreement with, holds us entirely responsible and has opted not to forgive us.  That can be enormously frustrating, particularly if we've struggled to reach a point where we forgive the person who cannot give us the same.  It can reignite feelings of unwarranted self-blame.  It can make us question ourselves, unnecessarily.

Maybe that's why I'm so quick to forgive - or at least, perhaps that's part of the reason.  I know that, as a fallible human being, there will be times in my life when I say or do something that unintentionally causes upset to someone.  There's nobody on this planet who can say they've never hurt anyone, after all.  And when that happens, I will hope that those who know and love me will accept my apologies and forgive me for whatever it is I've said or done.  If I hope for forgiveness for myself, surely I can't be someone who denies it to others?!

I guess the answer to last night's question in my head - am I too forgiving, or are others not forgiving enough? - is... Both.  At different times and in different situations.  There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to forgiveness.  You can't have a standardised response to something which is ultimately so personal.  

And the fact is, you won't always get it right.

There have most definitely been situations in my life, when I've forgiven someone who has hurt me, only for them to do it again - and worse.  But equally, there have been times when I've forgiven someone (or vice versa) and our friendship has been strengthened as a result.

Every situation is different and all anyone can do is what feels right to them, at the time.  What we mustn't do, is try to force our views onto others.  If someone wants to forgive a person we don't think deserves a second chance, we can voice our concerns, but we can't insist that they change their mind (cases of abuse being the only exception I can think of to that rule).  Equally, if someone is unforgiving towards a person we think deserves forgiveness - or, if they're unforgiving towards us - we can't force them to do what we want them to.

Forgiveness is far too complicated an issue to really untangle in one, relatively short blog post.

Am I too forgiving?  Well, yes.  And also, no.  And if you're horribly confused by this post, which is essentially a case of me trying to untie the knots my brain tied itself up in last night when I should have been asleep, then don't worry.  

I forgive you. ;-)

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Bedtime Story (23/8/2017)

I've been thinking a lot, recently, about how we sometimes get so used to certain sights, that we need to take a step back, change our perspective and see them again as though for the first time, to stop us from taking them for granted.  I wrote this story with that idea in mind.

This story is, as always, also available as a podcast.

"Open Your Eyes!"

Toby's face crumpled into a frown, as Mum and Nan settled into their deckchairs.   "Are you serious?!"  He pouted.  "We're really not going out for the day?!"

Mum rolled her eyes.  "I've told you a hundred times; Grandad has the car, so the furthest we could go is the park, anyway.  And last time we went, you said you were getting too old to play there, anymore."

Toby folded his arms.  "But that doesn't mean I don't want to go anywhere," he insisted.  "We could get a bus and go into town!  We could go to the cinema, or the swimming pool, or..."

Nan motioned to Toby's little sister, Mabel.  "Why don't you help her build castles in the sandpit?"  She suggested.  "She's perfectly happy staying at home, today.  It's a nice day, so we thought we'd sit in the sunshine and have lunch in the garden, later."

Toby groaned to himself.  "There's nothing to do, here.  It's all boring."

Mabel sat, quietly playing in the sand.  She wrinkled her nose at her brother, unable to understand what all the fuss was about.  "I'm going to make a really huge castle," she told him.  "Why don't you look for pebbles and stones to decorate it?"

Toby plonked himself down in the grass and shook his head.  "I may as well do nothing," he huffed.

Mum sighed.  "Don't be like that, Toby.  I'm sure you can think of something fun to do, in the garden."

"How?!"  Toby exclaimed.  "I've been in this garden a million times.  I know everything you can do in it.  I've seen everything there is to see in it.  It's dull."

"Okay then, smarty pants," Nan replied.  "What are those scratches on the fence post, over there?"  She pointed to a wooden post, with deep grooves cut into it.  It looked like someone had tried to carve writing next to the grooves, too, but from where he was sitting, Toby couldn't see what it said.  He turned to Nan and shrugged.  Nan smiled.  "It's where your grandad used to measure how tall your mum and uncle Jack were getting, each year on their birthdays.  If you look closely, you'll see her initials and the number 7 next to one of the lines, and you can see how tall your mum was when she was your age."

Toby strode across to the fence post and squinted at the carvings in the wood.  He found the one he was looking for and put a hand to it, laughing to himself.  "Look, I'm taller than you were when you were seven, Mum!"

Mum grinned.  "That's because your dad was much taller than me," she reminded him.

Toby bit his lip.  "Do you think we could measure me?"

"I don't see why not," Mum said.  "I'll go in and get the tape measure."  She got up and wandered back into the house, whilst Toby carried on looking at the fence.  

"There's a big dent, here," he told Nan.  "Like something has hit the wood."

Nan chuckled to herself.  "Oh, your dad did that, years ago!  Grandad keeps saying he'll fix it, but he's never gotten around to it.  I think your mum likes it like that, to be honest."

"How did it happen?"  Toby asked.

"You were a toddler," Nan explained.  "And your dad was showing off to you, flying this remote-control helicopter around the garden.  He tripped over one of your toys and the helicopter flew straight into the fence!"

Toby giggled.  It was nice hearing funny stories about Dad.  He shuffled his feet and blew out a puff of air.  It was going to be cool to be measured and mark his height on the fence, but once that was over, he was still going to have nothing to do.  He glanced around at the plants and flowers.  "Can I water the garden?"

Nan nodded.  "The watering can's in the shed," she told him.  "And you can use the outside tap to fill it up."

Toby headed for the shed, then paused, realising there was something he had never asked Nan.  "Why is your shed concrete, not made out of wood or plastic?"  He patted the outside wall with his hand.  "And why does it have that curved roof?"

Nan smiled.  "It used to be an Anderson shelter," she explained.  They were used in the second World War, to hide in when the bombs fell.  Usually, they were made of metal and covered with earth and mud, but whoever lived in this house before us, decided to cover theirs with concrete and add a proper window and door, probably after the war was over.  When we moved in, we decided to keep it, because it's a little bit of history."

Toby opened the door to the shed.  "So... People hid in here, during the war?"

"Oh, yes," Nan said.  There would have been beds and tins of food and drinks stashed away in there, and the whole family would have to huddle together.  It was safer than staying in the house, you see."

Toby gazed at the inside of the shed.  It was full of gardening things now, but in his mind's eye, Toby was picturing beds and blankets and wondering what it must have been like to hide in there.  It gave him an idea for a game to play, later...

Toby grabbed the watering can and headed over to the outside tap, close to where Nan was sitting.  "Why is the tap covered in little chips of red paint?"

Nan giggled.  "Oh, your uncle Jack used to turn it on all the time, when he was little," she grinned.  "He'd flood the patio over and over and then he and your mum would splash around.  Your grandad got so fed up with them doing it, he painted it red, to mean "stop."  But it didn't really work and the paint's almost all gone, now."

Toby smiled.  He liked imagining his mum and uncle being silly kids, once upon a time.

Mum arrived with the tape measure.  "Ready to see how tall you are?"  

Toby nodded.  "Mum, did you know the shed used to be a shelter, during the war?"

Mum glanced over.  "I did," she said.  "But did Nan tell you that your uncle Jack and I used to climb onto the roof when we were kids?  There used to be an apple tree next to it and we used to climb the tree and then sit on the roof of the shed!"

Toby gasped, wishing there was still a tree, so he could try climbing up there, too!  He wandered over to the fence post, ready to be measured.  As Mum unfurled the tape measure, Toby smiled at her.  "I never noticed the shed being different to other people's," he said.  "Or the red paint on the tap, or the marks on the fence post, here."  He giggled to himself, adding: "Or the dent in the fence, from Dad's remote control helicopter..."

"Oh, he was so funny with that thing," Mum sighed, fondly.  

"Can I have a remote control helicopter?!"  Toby asked.

Mum smiled.  "Maybe for your birthday."

Toby grinned for a moment, then frowned again.  "Mum, why didn't I notice any of those things?!"

From over in her deckchair, Toby heard Nan laugh.  "Because you're always too busy, searching for the next fun and exciting thing," she called.  "You never stop long enough to open your eyes and really look around you.  And you'll be surprised how much you learn, when you do."

Toby stood back and admired the groove Mum was making in the fence post, with a little stone.  "Can I carve my initials on there?"

"Go on, then," Mum stepped back.  She passed him the stone.  "So, are you still bored?"

Toby shook his head.  "No, I'm going to water the plants, then I'm going to pretend I'm hiding in a shelter, from the bad guys outside."

And with that, Toby rushed off to start his new game, in the same old surroundings he'd always known, but with his eyes wide open, as if seeing them for the very first time.


Monday, 21 August 2017

Irrational(?!) Hatred...

Look, the world is a scary place, right now.  This morning, I watched a video of a white woman, casually bouncing a baby on her knee as she talked about how much she wants "a new genocide" of black people.  That's the level of hate that's being given airtime, lately.

And it's frightening.  It's frightening, because to a decent person like you or I, that kind of hatred is despicable.  But to the people spouting it, it's "justified."  They believe they're entirely right, because they refuse to acknowledge any opposite viewpoint that might actually, you know, educate them.

Hate to that level - when you loathe an entire group of people based on something like skin colour, or sexuality - is deplorable.  That's why we fight against it and work towards a more tolerant and inclusive society.

But hate, whilst scary, is also ridiculous, in a way.  I know this, because whilst I would never dream of hating someone because of the colour of their skin, their religion, their sexuality or anything equally horrendous, I have been known to take an instant dislike to a person or thing for the most stupid of reasons.

And, because what we need right now is a giggle, to take our minds off the genuine, frightening levels of hate going on in the world, I want to talk to you all about irrational hatred.

Most dislikes stem from something.  We might, for example, dislike mushrooms because we don't like the taste of them (or the texture, or the way they look, or... Okay, I'll stop).  It's only when the original reason for disliking something gets lost amongst the general sense of rage that thing induces within you that it becomes a tad irrational.

Take, for example, raisins.  I like raisins.  I mean, they're not my absolute favourite food and I wouldn't go crazy if I never ate one again, but I have no ill feeling towards them, whatsoever.

But if you put them in a salad?  THAT IS WRONG AND YOU MUST PAY.

Don't make me angry.  You won't like me when I'm angry.

All of this stems from the fact that I have something called emetophobia, otherwise known as a fear of vomit/vomiting.  

Many years ago, I ate a salad that had apples and raisins in it.  Unbeknown to me at the time of eating, I was also harbouring a stomach bug that was about to make me very, very sick.  The last thing I remembered eating was that salad.  And to this day, if I see raisins in a salad, it turns my stomach.

That's understandable, right?  Sure.  But my sheer hatred of seeing raisins in a salad is maybe a smidgen OTT.  I can vividly recall being very excited to try a new burger place and receiving coleslaw on the side of my plate, which had raisins in.  I even managed to eat one or two of the raisins, before I decided that if I finished the whole portion, complete with raisins, I would be so ill I might actually die.  And, whilst I kept my cool and simply left the raisins after that (because I'm not a total psychopath), inside I was seething with a quiet rage, at the mere idea that someone would bring me something so horrific and expect me to ingest it.


But my hatred of raisins in salads is still almost understandable.  I have a phobia of being sick and I was once sick after eating a salad that had raisins in it.  It's fairly common to develop a dislike of the last thing you ate before throwing up, so I'm not about to be too hard on myself for this one.

No, for really HUGE levels of irrational hatred, you have to go further.  In fact, you have to go all the way to South Korea.

Because I freaking despise Kpop.

I know, it's ironic...  I am notoriously fond of cheesy pop music.  I love to see a boyband with polished dance routines.  I like all things cute and kitsch.  

Aside from Kpop, which is literally an abomination in my eyes.

Again, as with most dislikes, this one has a perfectly understandable root cause.  The short version of which is: my "best friend" ditched me, after a decade of friendship, for a bunch of Kpop fans she met online, because they were there for her, in a way I hadn't been.  Aside from all the times I very much was.  And they weren't.  But we'll gloss over that...

Yes, for many months, I watched as my once ludicrously close friendship evaporated into literally nothing, amongst a cacophony of in-jokes about Kpop bands that I didn't understand.  Phone calls that were once a chance to chat about our lives became an opportunity for me to be told endless tales about something J-Hope from BTS had done that I was supposed to find utterly hilarious.  Obviously there was a lot more to the situation and I won't talk about it all in detail here, but in amongst the inevitable pain of a fallout with someone you once loved, I fixated on the Kpop thing.  That was the all-consuming love of this person's life now, after all.  Getting into that had led my former friend to these new, shiny online friends who she openly admitted had replaced me.  

So, in my head, BTS had stolen my best friend.  Even though I knew that the reality was much more complicated and it was nonsensical to blame a Kpop boyband and their incredibly (arguably unhealthily) obsessive fandom, that's exactly what I did.

And even now, several months after the whole thing was done and dusted and I realised how much better off we are apart, I still utterly detest Kpop and BTS in particular.  Yes, I know it's irrational.  No, that won't stop me.



I literally despise BTS so much, that very recently, whilst watching one of Phil Lester's weekly live shows on YouNow, when I noticed someone in the chat type: "Listen to BTS and talk about Kpop!!!!" I quite genuinely YELLED into the silence of my bedroom: 


I know, I know.  But I can't help it.  Kpop was a massive part in destroying something that meant a lot to me.  And I hate it.  I HATE IT.

But of course, the truly irrational form of hatred is the kind that comes from seemingly nowhere and can't be easily explained.

Such as my Mum's wild dislike of the cleaning lady on the Emmerdale intros, sponsored by McCain...

Seriously, there is something about this seemingly harmless older lady, patting people on the shoulder and giving her little pep-talks, that drives my mother insane.  I have quite genuinely walked in on her yelling at the TV when the cleaning lady appears.  Why?  She doesn't seem to know.  She just can't stand her.

Now that is irrational, right?!  I mean, as much as I love my Mum and will take her side over anyone in most circumstances, that's... A bit bizarre?!

But, when I pointed this out to her, I was simply reminded of my own intense dislike for TV presenter Tess Daly.


Give me Claudia any day.

Look, I guess what I'm saying is that tastes are subjective and our experiences in life often cause us to have strong feelings about something that we might otherwise be rather "meh" about.  How we deal with those feelings is up to us.  If I was going around posting vile insults about Tess Daly, or wishing physical harm on BTS, then I would be no better than the racists hurling abuse at other people based only on their skin colour.  Hate is a poisonous emotion and when we use it to harm others, whether verbally or physically, we become the ones worthy of that hate from others.

We all have things we dislike, for various reasons.  Many of us even have a list of things we can't stand, for reasons we aren't entirely able to put our fingers on (like me with TOWIE, or Made In Chelsea, or any other such show - although in fairness, my reason for hating those shows is usually: "everyone on them is awful.").

But dislike is massively different to actual, outright hate.  Hate is dangerous.  And, frankly, hate is always irrational.  We live short little lives on a planet that will eventually die.  Filling up that brief time with hatred seems like a ridiculous waste.

So, from the petty dislikes to the huge hates, I say it's time to be more positive and stamp out nastiness and hatred wherever we see it.  And that's exactly what I intend to do.

Just don't play me any Kpop.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Bedtime Story (16/8/2017)

As we go on through the Summer holidays, I hope your little ones are continuing to have fun! This story came to me as I reminisced about the games I played with friends as a child.  I hope you enjoy it! Don't forget, a new, free bedtime story goes live here every Wednesday at 6pm.

If you'd like to hear this story as a podcast, you can do so by clicking here.

Ted's Den

Ted was feeling hot and a little grumpy, too.
He didn't want to moan, but what else could he do?
His big brother's music was too loud,
His little sister was too clingy.
There was no doubt about it: Ted needed something new!

So, Ted went out to play, in the field behind their home.
He needed somewhere quiet, where he could be alone.
And there, he found an open bush,
With lots of space to play inside.
A perfect den to sneak away to, when family made him groan!

Ted moved twigs and leaves to clear more space,
Then ran home to grab things for the place.
He found a blanket to sit on,
Snacks and drinks to take there, too,
Then back to his new den, Ted excitedly raced.

Ted loved his new den; it gave him peace at last!
He could no longer hear his brother's music at full blast.
And if he ever got bored,
Of sitting, hidden in the bush,
He could run freely around the field so very vast.

But it wasn't long before Ted's newfound peace was shattered;
When into the field, his little sister and her friends all clattered.
They spotted him straight away,
And came rushing over to play,
Leaving Ted's dream of solitude well and truly battered.

"Is this your new den?" His little sister cried.
"Wow! This is an amazing place for us to hide!"
Ted's face began to droop a little.
His den didn't feel so peaceful,
With his sister and all her friends chattering inside.

"We'll decorate it with flowers," his little sister said,
As Ted stared wide-eyed at her and vainly shook his head.
The girls all started rushing,
Bringing flowers from the field,
Changing the den that had been so right for Ted.

"We could have a picnic," the little friends cried out,
Spying Ted's snacks and drinks, scattered all about.
And they'd opened the packets,
Before Ted could say a word.
All he could do was sadly watch and give a little pout.

The girls were being noisy, with their loud chat and their games.
Ted longed to be alone again - that had been his aim!
"So much for peace and quiet!"
Ted thought, with a long sigh.
His perfect place was overrun - Ted thought it was a shame.

But more noise was already heading to the den,
In the form of an mp3 player, and Ted's big brother, Ben!
"You can't have a den party,
Without some cool music,"
Ben announced, breaking Ted's quiet plans all over again...

Before Ted could even say a word, the den party was in full swing,
With party food, party games, music and everything!
Ted wanted to be cross,
At all the havoc and the noise,
But then his favourite song came on and he suddenly wanted to sing...

His little sister and her friends just wanted to have fun,
And Ted really didn't blame them, as they played out in the sun.
Suddenly, he realised,
He might have got things wrong;
His quiet den was much more fun when it was shared with everyone!

Their little party lasted hours; they ate and drank and danced.
Ted saw how cool his siblings were and he watched them both, entranced!
He hadn't wanted them in his den,
He was cross when they came in.
But now Ted felt so glad he'd given everyone a chance.

In fact, Ted felt rather lucky to have so many friends around.
And he no longer felt so cross about all their noisy sounds.
They were just having fun,
And that really wasn't so bad.
Ted smiled a happy smile; turning his frown upside down! 

Eventually, the time came for Ted's sister's friends to go home.
They all thanked Ted very much for the party he had thrown.
Ted's brother and sister left the den,
But before Ted followed them to their house,
He finally enjoyed some peace and quiet in his den, all on his own.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Why What's Happening in Charlottesville TERRIFIES Me...

Photo via Getty Images.

I'll be honest.  I hadn't heard of Charlottesville, before this morning.  The small college city had never entered my radar; I'm thousands of miles away, down in Cornwall, England, after all.

But by now, it's becoming a name that many recognise.  They recognise it from the news.  From the horrific photos of so-called "alt-right" activists, beating those who don't share their twisted views, with the torches they carried as they marched.  From the images of these racist thugs (many of whom claim to balk at being called Nazis) performing Nazi salutes.

So, why were so many "disaffected young white men" marching through Charlottesville, last night?  

Well, it was all part of something called Unite The Right.  This is a gathering of groups whose members all claim that white history is being erased in the United States and that they are persecuted simply for the colour of their skin.

Yes.  America, which has become disturbingly notorious for police killings of black people, is apparently persecuting its white folk.

Now, I'm a white person (1/4 Greek Cypriot, 3/4 very pale white British).  I can tell you, with my hand on my heart, that I have never, ever thought: "Good God, I am so persecuted.  I have no rights.  I have no voice.  And it's all because I'm white."

That's because I know history.  It's because I experience white privilege enough to realise that my skin colour, more often than not, protects me rather than leaves me at risk of persecution.  The need for "White Lives Matter" (as these goons in Charlottesville were chanting) is akin to "Straight Pride," in as much as history has given us a whole heap of reasons why it's just not necessary, whereas the reverse very much is.

But since when have racists listened to reason?

White men, in their 20s and 30s (and some who onlookers suggested may have only been in their teens), therefore swarmed through the University of Virginia campus last night, chanting slogans such as "jews will never replace us!" and claiming to be standing up for the poor, voiceless white man.

Because, you know, white men are the least privileged in society.  They get paid less, they never get top jobs, predominantly white neighbourhoods are often referred to as "no-go areas" and woe betide a white man if he's stopped by the police...

Oh, wait.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm sure there are people in America who feel they've never been listened to, just as there are plenty of folk here in the UK who say their voices aren't heard.  And when they're talking about important social issues, such as crime, housing or welfare etc, they have just as much right to be listened to as you or I.  That's what a democracy is; everyone is supposed to be able to have their say.

The trouble is, what a lot of these people want to say, are things that we literally fought two wars against.  It's inciting hatred against a race or religion.  It's claiming white superiority and treating anyone of any other ethnicity as somehow "other" or wrong.  It's talking about those important social issues, but pinning the blame for all social problems on immigration, or "political correctness gone mad."

But here's the thing: political correctness and humanity are two different things.  Over the last few years in particular, the lines between the two have become blurred so that they bleed into one another.  For example, if you say "hang on, don't call all Mexicans rapists," you're told by these alt-right morons that you're "being politically correct,"whilst they praise Donald Trump for "telling it like it is," as though he's being somehow brave by inaccurately labelling every single Mexican a sexual abuser (which is rich coming from him, let's face it).  It's not political correctness to say "no, that's not true," it's simply stating a fact, whilst respecting our fellow humans enough to understand that judging an entire group based on the actions of a few is just as unhelpful as wielding torches and claiming that white people are somehow the ones who are being maligned.  

And I'm not going to sit here and say there aren't problems when people move too far to the political left, either.  Because of course any form of extremism - whatever side you lean towards - causes problems.  But far-right extremism has a long and dangerous history and as I watched the news flooding onto Twitter this morning - far-right, torch-wielding racists, encircling protestors against their hateful rhetoric and using those torches as weapons - I realised why this feels so frightening.

Because it's so brazen, now.  Because these people, who once hid beneath ridiculous white hoods, now show their faces quite happily.  Because their abhorrent views are becoming so commonplace, they no longer feel they have to whisper them, but instead flood social media with them, yell them at rallies and take pride in their hatred.

The use of the Internet and social media has no doubt helped these formerly underground, almost cultish groups to come out into the open.  And, as they reach a wider audience, their language and imagery has been emboldened.  A recent Daily Stormer (an alt-right website) article, even ended with the sickening words:

"We will eventually win this struggle and secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.   It is our destiny.   Next stop: Charlottesville.  Final stop: Auschwitz."


Where so many Jews were gassed to death during the Holocaust.  These vultures are taking their "fight" to a place that has come to stand as a permanent reminder that we must never allow fascism or hatred to take us to such a dark place ever again.  And they are going there out of hatred, themselves.  Embodying all that the Nazis stood for, yet speaking as though they are the victims.

What is this world they speak of?  Do you live in it?  Because I sure as hell don't.  I know - because my brain cells function correctly - that white people are not about to be erased from history.  I know that we are not being treated like second class citizens on a global scale, the way that so many other cultures have been.  I can see that we are not being demonised or blanket-labelled terrorists (despite the fact that these white scumbags, who are still parading through Charlottesville spouting their nasty crap as I type this, deserve that label entirely).

These mindless, hateful idiots are fighting a war that does not exist.  White people are not being marginalised, enslaved or persecuted.  We are merely living in a multicultural world and the vast majority of people accept the differences among us.  We do not cast hate at those who don't share our skin colour.   We don't tar every member of a community with the same brush when someone from that community commits an atrocity.  The world has - on the whole - moved forwards.

But these people cannot move forwards, because to do so would be to leave their hateful ideology in the past, where it belongs.  And they are emboldened by a President, whose campaign was run amid racial slurs, misogyny and "anti politically-correct" statements.  A president who, at the time of writing, has yet to condemn the white supremacists and their bullying behaviour.

And why would he, when live footage from Charlottesville just now showed David Duke (notorious white supremacist) saying to the camera: "We're determined to take our country back, to fulfil the promises made by Donald Trump.  That's why we voted for him."

Quick question, David:


It's the bit in red, see??!!

It's always the same script.  We need to "take our country back."  Just as American racists have been buoyed by the success of Donald Trump, so the British far-right, boosted by the Brexit result, have been spouting this nonsense.

Our country is our country.  It's just a more multicultural place than it was thirty, forty years ago.  Same goes for America.  Society is mixed to a greater degree than ever before and we have made enormous strides in the fight for equality for all, regardless of gender, sexuality, race or religion.  That these are good things never seem to enter the heads of these thickies with their banners and torches.  In fact, earlier today, I actually saw some white guy on Twitter (I blocked him, so I can't quote directly)say something along the lines of:

"White culture is being erased, when it's white culture that gave us everything good.  Black culture has given society nothing."

Remember that, next time you're listening to... I don't know, most music ever.  

And it's the brazenness of these trolls (because I refuse to call them anything else, when I encounter them online) that I find so disturbing.  The hoodless racists marching through Charlottesville are just a more visual reminder that these people no longer believe that they have to hide their despicable views from the public gaze.  Islamophobia, racism, anti-Semitism is just casually spoken now, and I find that terrifying.

I also think it is of paramount importance that we, as fellow white people, speak up against this horror.  Lord knows, too many of us (those marching in Charlottesville, for sure) expect Muslims to condemn the actions of terrorists, rather than appreciate that a violent minority group do not represent Islam as a whole.  Just as ISIS falsely claim to be representing Islam, these racism scumbags claim to be defending white people.

Well, I'm white.  And I don't need your defence.  I will never need your defence, because I will never stand alongside you.  I abhor all that you stand for.  You claim to represent me, but I will shout back against you as long as there is still air in my lungs.

We are people.  We are all people, no matter what colour skin we have, or what religion we do or not ascribe to.  Regardless of gender, sexuality or anything else that may separate us, we are all people.  There is no superior race.  How can anyone claim white people are superior, when there's a vile white man in the White House, who openly mocked the disabled and bragged about sexually assaulting women during his presidential campaign?!  Get stuffed.  White people are not superior to anyone.  No race is superior to any other.

Thankfully, if you go onto Twitter and look at the news as it rolls in from Charlottesville right now, the vast majority of people - of all ethnicities - are condemning the racists chanting hateful rhetoric.  But in amongst them, are those who praise their actions.  Those who are proud to describe themselves as "far-right," both in America and over here.  Those who literally carry Swastika flags and wear Adolf Hitler quotes on their clothing.

They are brazen in their hatred.  They no longer need to hide it.

And that should horrify us all enough to ensure that we act to condemn them, once and for all.  To silence them, if possible, or - at the very least - to ensure we push them back into the shadows.  Back into their cowardly hoods.

Because hatred and intolerance have no place in our world.  To see it displayed so brazenly is utterly shameful.