Sunday, 29 April 2018

We Need To Hang On To Our NHS

"Don't bother coming with me," Dad told Mum, when his appointment for a pacemaker check came through the post.  "It's a bit earlier than expected, but it's just routine."

Nobody thought any more of it, really.  Sure, we hadn't thought Dad would need a pacemaker check for several months, yet, but at least they were keeping an eye on him.  So, it came as something of a shock when, on the day of his appointment, Dad phoned home to tell us he was being admitted as an emergency.

It turned out that there had been some software glitches and the hospital had called Dad in earlier than planned, in order to ensure the software in his pacemaker was working properly and sending out the correct readings.  Sure enough, his software was working fine, but the technician checking it spotted that the readings themselves didn't look right.  A medic was called.  Tests were done.  It was concluded that a wire had frayed and come away, meaning there was a danger of the pacemaker not working properly, or stopping altogether.  For reference, Dad's heart doesn't work without a pacemaker.  If the pacemaker stopped, he would stop, unless he was in a place where he had medics on hand to pace his heart externally until surgery could be carried out.  Had there not been a software glitch that meant he was called in much earlier than expected for a check-up, the wire could have come apart completely at any time, causing the pacemaker to fail and that would have been it.

The stress caused to everyone in a family when someone has an unexpected medical emergency is huge.  You worry about whether they're going to be okay.  For us, distance was an issue, too - we live 40 miles away from the hospital he was admitted to, so it wasn't a quick trip to get there.  You panic about the practicalities; calling people to let them know someone won't be at work or at a planned event.  Explaining what's happened, to other family members.  

The one thing we didn't have to worry about was the cost of Dad's treatment.


That's because our National Health Service provides free healthcare for all.  Unlike systems such as the one used in America, where rising insurance premiums mean that millions of people cannot afford health care and will sometimes even neglect symptoms rather than face enormous costs for their treatment, at no point during Dad's hospital stay (8 days), did we have to work out the cost of his tests, his eventual surgery or any additional medication he may have been given during his time there.  We didn't have to worry about something not being covered by our health insurance package.  We didn't have to fret that his sudden medical emergency was going to lead to a financial crisis for our family.

And that is how it SHOULD be.

Our National Health Service was set up to provide universal health care, free at the point of use.  Whoever you are, whatever your financial situation, you can walk into a hospital and receive treatment, without any financial burden to you or your family.

Back in February, Donald Trump tweeted that the UK system was "going broke and not working" and used it as an example of why America should not follow suit and have a free, universal healthcare system.  He claimed the people of the UK were marching in the streets because our system is not working.  He was wrong.  

The people were marching to protect our NHS.  They were marching because they love our NHS and are proud of it.  They were marching because we need to hang on to it.  Yes there are problems with the system, yes it is suffering from being underfunded, from staffing cuts and from the threat of privatisation, but free, universal healthcare is something the people marching on the streets wanted to defend, not curse.


Our health service should never be a privatised organisation, driven by profits, rather than patient care.  Our health service should be a system in which patients are safe and those who work tirelessly to treat patients are rewarded with equally safe working conditions and a decent level of pay.

Yes, there are problems.  The NHS has been hacked at by a succession of governments who have not protected it the way it deserves.  The threat of privatisation looms large and there is an understandable fear that companies rivalling one another for NHS contracts will not result in greater choice for patients, but a system which values profits, first and foremost.

During Dad's 8 day stay in hospital, we saw staff working long shifts, showing extraordinary dedication.  We saw nurses and doctors going above and beyond for their patients.

We also saw technicians having to work as porters, because there were no porters available, thus cutting down the number of scans etc that those technicians were able to carry out.  We saw the frustration etched on the faces of hardworking medical professionals, who were having to send home people who needed treatment, because there simply wasn't the space for them.

The right wing press will insist that the strain on our health service is caused by so-called "health tourism" and excessive levels of immigration.  But we live in an ageing population.  A growing society.  Our health service hasn't been given the funds to catch up with those things.  The truth is, there's not merely one reason our NHS has been struggling.  The reasons are multiple.  But the answer is not privatisation.  The answer is not a system in which the poorest in society cannot afford to become ill.


During Dad's 8 day stay in hospital, my mum worked out that she'd probably paid well in excess of £50 just on parking.  All of that goes to a private company - the NHS doesn't see a penny.  Why?  Why can't we have a percentage of the ludicrous fees charged to park outside a hospital put back into the hospital itself?  It wouldn't feel so galling to spend £6 to sit by your sick relative's bed for a few hours, if you knew some of that money would eventually go towards the care of patients.

Taxation is the main way the government are likely to find extra cash for the NHS and I was one of the people who fully agreed with the Lib Dem's suggestion of adding an extra 1p in every pound onto income tax, to be spent on the health service.  It needs funding.  It has to be protected.

People like Trump might think a free healthcare system is something terrible.  Something to be mocked.  But they misunderstand.  A healthcare system which is universal and free at the point of delivery is something to be so, so proud of.  It's just that you have to look after it and keep it properly funded in order to keep it working.  And that's where governments have failed our NHS.  They've not listened to those working within it.  They've penny-pinched.

Those whose jobs involve looking after patients just want a better system to work in.  We spoke to one nurse on the day Dad was admitted, who confessed: "If you come into this job for the money, you're going to be disappointed.  But then again, if you come into it for the money, you're not the right person to be doing this job, full stop.  It's about wanting to help people.  It's about caring.  I'd rather any money went on equipment and employing extra staff, than getting a huge pay rise for me."


But for all the complaining I have done - and will do - about cuts to services, underfunding and waiting times etc, I still feel passionately proud of our FREE National Health Service.

Yesterday, I was in a car accident (yeah, it's been a great couple of weeks!).  The car was drivable, I made an insurance claim and figured I was fine.  Within hours, I started to get sharp pains down my spine and across my neck and shoulders.  By this morning, it was really hurting.  So, I nipped to my local Minor Injuries Unit, where I was checked over by a nurse, given painkillers and advised as to how best to treat the acute neck sprain caused by the crash.  

I didn't pay a single penny.

When someone you love becomes unwell - or, indeed, when you are taken ill - there is enough to worry about, without also panicking about the mounting cost of treatment, potentially running into thousands.  Free healthcare is something to be so proud of.  

We must hang onto our NHS with everything we've got.  





Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Bedtime Story (25/04/2018)


Sometimes, a story is inspired by the strangest things.  In this case, today's story was inspired by the above gif, which is just so deliciously satisfying, I felt the need to stare at it for a long, long time!

If you'd rather listen to this story as a podcast, just click here!


"COOKIES!"

Outside, the rain was pouring.  Annie and her sister, Bella, were feeling bored.  Their mum had a cold and was napping on the sofa, so Annie, who at almost nine was the oldest, was in charge.  Mum had put on a DVD for the girls to watch, but Annie wasn't interested in it and Bella kept moaning that she was hungry.

"Shall we bake some cookies?"  Annie suggested, the idea suddenly popping into her head.  

Bella frowned and gestured towards their sleeping mother.  "We said we'd stay here, watching the film.  Besides, we're not allowed to touch the oven."

Annie shrugged.  "We'll use the microwave, then," she said.  "Anyway, Mum's tired and not feeling well.  If we go into the kitchen, we won't be in here to disturb her.  And when she wakes up, she'll have some delicious cookies to eat!"

Bella was hungry and the thought of freshly baked cookies was too much to resist.  She quickly nodded and followed Annie into the kitchen.  "Shall I get one of Mum's recipe books down from the shelf?"  She asked, reaching for a stool to stand on.

Annie shook her head.  "We made cookies at school a while ago," she said.  "I think I remember how to do it.  We need flour, first."

She reached into a cupboard and pulled out a bag of flour.  The bag was heavy and the side split as Annie heaved it onto the kitchen counter, sending clouds of flour all over the place.  When the floury dust had finally settled, Annie's hair looked white.

"What do we do now?"  Bella asked.

"Mix the flour with some butter," Annie said, knowingly.  She wasn't sure how much of the flour they needed, so she tipped half the bag into a mixing bowl, creating another cloud in the process.  She didn't quite know how much butter to use either, so she instructed Bella to "finish whatever's in the tub - we've got another one in the fridge, anyway."

It was hard work, trying to mix the flour and butter together.  "It went all creamy when we did it at school," Annie insisted.  "This looks more like breadcrumbs..."

"Are you sure it was flour and butter you mixed together?"  Bella asked, frowning as she watched her sister trying to mix the ingredients with a big, wooden spoon.

"Oh," Annie blushed.  "Actually...  It might have been sugar and butter, instead."  She turned to her sister.  "Quick, get the sugar out of the cupboard!  I'll tip it in, now."

"How much do you need?"  Bella asked, grabbing the sugar.  "All of it?!"

Annie shook her head.  "Let's try one spoonful for every cookie we want to make."  She paused and stared into the bowl.  "How many do we want to make?"

Bella counted on her fingers.  "Well, one for me, one for you, one for Mum, one for Dad when he gets home from work...  And maybe one for Granny and Grandad when they visit at the weekend?  That makes six."

Annie frowned at her sister.  "Do you really only want one cookie?!"  She plucked a random number out of the air.  "Let's put in twenty five spoonfuls.  Then we'll have loads of cookies to share."

It took a long time, adding all the spoonfuls of sugar.  Annie let Bella do it and her hands were a bit shaky, so lots of sugar ended up all over the counter and the kitchen floor.  When they'd finally reached twenty five, Annie started stirring again.  The mixture seemed ever so dry.  It wasn't sticking together at all.

"Isn't the dough supposed to be a bit wetter than this?"  Bella asked.  "Are we supposed to add some milk or something?"

Annie shrugged.  "Maybe?"  She bit her lip.  "Perhaps we should add some, just in case."

Bella fetched the milk bottle from the fridge and poured some into the bowl.  But no matter how hard Annie stirred, the mixture just wasn't sticking together, properly.  "Eggs!"  Annie cried, suddenly.  "I think we used eggs at school!"  She grabbed two eggs and passed them to Bella.  "Crack those into the bowl and I'll keep stirring."

Bella did as she was told, but she'd never cracked an egg, before.  She wasn't sure how to do it.  She hit an egg against the rim of the bowl, like she'd seen Mum do, sometimes.  But the shell didn't break.  "This is a very hard egg," Bella groaned.  She tried again, hitting it harder, this time.  "It won't crack!"  Finally, Bella tried tapping it against the kitchen counter.  That worked!  The shell split open and egg yolk and sticky see-through stuff went seeping out all over the place.

"Quick," Annie yelled.  "Try to catch it so you can put it in the bowl!"

Bella grabbed at the slimy stuff and dribbled it through her fingers into the bowl.  Or rather, she dribbled as much of it as she could actually catch, anyway.  "My hands feel yucky now," she moaned.  "I think we'll only use one egg.  I don't want to do that again."

The kitchen counter was now very messy.  The spilt flour and sugar was mixing with the egg and creating a strange, sticky paste.  And try as Annie might, the mixture in the bowl still wasn't sticking together the way it was supposed to.  It had gone from being too dry, to looking suspiciously like it might be too wet.

"We need some chocolate chips," Annie decided.  "That might make it go thicker."

"Do we have any chocolate chips?"  Bella asked.

Annie wasn't sure.  "We do have some chocolate bars," she told her sister.  "Maybe we can break those up and stick the pieces into the bowl?"

Bella fetched the bars and unwrapped one.  She and Annie broke several big pieces off and chucked them into the mixing bowl.  Annie stirred with her spoon, until she decided enough was enough: "It'll go thicker when it cooks," she declared.  "We just need to put blobs on a plate and we'll cook it in the microwave.  That way, we haven't touched the oven, so Mum can't be cross."

Bella held out a plate, whilst Annie splatted small spoonfuls of the mixture onto it.  The mixture immediately spread around and joined together.  Bella frowned.  "Maybe we'll just make one big cookie?!"

Annie placed the plate into the microwave.  "How long do cookies need to bake for?"  She asked to nobody in particular.  "I think maybe half an hour?"  She fiddled with the dial on the microwave, then pressed the start button.

After a couple of minutes, a strange smell came from the microwave.  And the runny mixture on the plate seemed to be seeping over the edges and out of the microwave door.  "Uh-oh," Annie frowned.  "We'll need to clean that up, before..."

"Before what?!"  Mum's voice jolted the girls out of their thoughts.  Mum glanced around the kitchen, at the spilt flour, the sugar and egg all over the counter and the gloopy mess coming out of the microwave.  "Girls, haven't I always told you not to try to cook anything, without me?!  It's not safe!"  She paused, shaking her head at all the mess.  "What were you even trying to do?!"

"Bake cookies," Bella sighed.  "Annie thought she could remember the recipe, but..."

Mum chuckled to herself.  "You're very lucky that strange smell woke me up," she said.  "I mean it, you mustn't touch the microwave again, until you're old enough to know what you're doing."

"Sorry Mum," Annie mumbled.  "We were just trying to bake some cookies to cheer you up, because you weren't feeling well..."

Mum smiled.  "Well, I'm feeling lots better, now," she assured them.  "And cookies sound wonderful.  Why don't we clear all this mess up and start again from scratch?"

Both the girls thought that was a wonderful idea!

Once the kitchen was clean again, Mum showed them how to cream butter and sugar together.  She demonstrated how to properly - gently - crack an egg into a bowl.  She taught them how to follow a recipe and use the scales to make sure they had the right amount of everything.  Before long, they were all sitting back on the sofa, eating warm chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the oven.

"These are delicious," Bella grinned.  

"See how well things turn out when you do them properly?!"  Mum laughed.

Annie rolled her eyes.  "I think my cookies would have been fine, if I'd just remembered what order the ingredients went," she insisted.  "And anyway, I helped make these, so I must be quite good at baking."  She sighed to herself.  "I think I'll try making a cake, next."

Mum and Bella grinned at one another.  "Have another cookie, Annie," Mum said.  "I think we've all earned them."


THE END


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Bedtime Story (18/04/2018)


It's been a while since I wrote a silly story, so...  Let's break that drought, shall we?!

You can also listen to this story as a podcast.

Harriet's Heavenly Hair

Everywhere Harriet went, people admired her hair.  It was golden caramel coloured and fell almost perfectly straight, until it formed pretty waves near the bottom.  It was long, too.  her hair fell way below her shoulders, halfway down her back.  People would tell her how thick and healthy it looked.  How neat and shiny it was.  How heavenly.

The trouble was, Harriet was starting to rather like being told how fabulous her hair was.  In fact, the more people told her how pretty it looked, the more she wanted to hear it.  It made Harriet feel special and she liked feeling special.

Then, one day, Harriet went to a sleepover with her friends.  Before bed, they all watched movies and ate popcorn.  It was great, until someone suggested one last film, all about a girl called Rapunzel.  

Rapunzel had gorgeous, long, blonde hair.  It didn't just fall halfway down her back and then stop.  No, Rapunzel's hair carried on, all the way to the floor and then some.  It was long enough to wrap around herself like a blanket.  It was long enough to dangle out of a top floor window and let a handsome prince climb up it.  It made Harriet's hair almost look short.

Once the movie had ended, all anyone could talk about was Rapunzel's amazing hair.  That didn't please Harriet one little bit.  And so, after the lights went out and everyone had gone to sleep, she lay awake, thinking.  By morning, her mind was made up.

"I'm going to grow my hair really long," Harriet announced to her parents, when they picked her up, later that day.  "I want it to be long enough to sit on.  Long enough to dangle out of windows.  Long enough that everyone says how amazing it is."

Harriet's mother was very confused.  "People already tell you how amazing your hair is," she insisted.  "And I don't think growing it that long sounds very practical..."

"I don't care," Harriet snapped.  "I need to have the best hair ever.  Better than some princess in a film.  So, I'm not having it cut ever again."

Weeks went by and Harriet's friends were still talking about Rapunzel.  They all wanted hair that touched the ground.  Harriet was furious, but she was determined.  When her mother tried to take her for a haircut, Harriet screamed so loudly, you'd have thought the poor hairdresser was trying to shave her head, completely.

And so, slowly, Harriet's hair began to grow longer.

Soon, it reached her waist.  It took longer to brush in the mornings and much longer to wash in the bath, but Harriet didn't care.  

And still, her hair continued to grow.

By the Summer, Harriet's hair was nearly long enough to sit on.  Having so much of it meant that her head - and back - were almost constantly too hot.  She didn't like to wear it tied back, in case people couldn't see how gloriously long it was, so as the weather got ever warmer, Harriet took to swishing her head around, desperately trying to keep herself cool.

And still, her hair continued to grow.

When the new school year started in September, Harriet could finally sit on her hair.  It actually hurt her head, as it tugged on the roots, but she didn't mind.  Her friends had started calling her Rapunzel and that was all Harriet cared about.  Even when the ends got stuck in her chair and yanked several hairs straight out of her head, she still refused to have it cut.

And still, her hair continued to grow.

As the Autumn leaves began falling from the trees, Harriet and her friends went stomping through piles, kicking crisp leaves in every direction.  They built dens to shelter from the rain and they climbed the trees, calling to one another.  Harriet couldn't climb the trees.  She still refused to tie her hair back and it kept getting wound around branches.  One day, she was stuck for a full half an hour, whilst her friends tried to unknot a large clump of hair from a particularly thorny bush.  And when it rained, Harriet's hair got stuck everywhere - on her arms, legs and back.  But she couldn't cut it.  She had to have the longest hair!  The best hair!

And so, her hair continued to grow.

In October, the school sent a letter to Harriet's parents, telling her she had to either have her hair cut, or tied back.  It was causing too many problems!  People kept getting their school bags caught on it as they walked past her in the corridor.  It was splaying out over the tables at lunchtime and ending up in people's dinner.

Harriet was furious.  But when she tied her hair back, it did stop it getting caught on things quite so often.  And having it off her shoulders felt strangely nice.  Still, if she stopped having hair almost as long as Rapunzel, she wouldn't be special, would she?!

And so, her hair continued to grow.

On Bonfire Night, nobody would let Harriet hold a sparkler, or stand anywhere near the bonfire itself.  Her hair was now so long, that the slightest spark might set it alight.  Harriet watched her friends, drawing shapes in the night sky with their sparklers and she felt fed up.  Every time she sat down, her hair landed beneath her bottom and tugged painfully on her head.  And each time she stood back up, she found crunched up leaves and twigs tangled in the ends.  What was worse, nobody stopped her in the street to say how lovely her hair looked, anymore.  Instead, she got a lot of strange glances.  It wasn't surprising, really - her hair was now only a few inches short of her knees.  She had to brush it before bed as well as in the morning and no matter how long she brushed it for, she still woke up with it all in knots, the next day.  She was using three towels every morning, just to dry her hair, after washing it.  Plaiting it took ages.  Even just tying it back was a struggle, because there was so much of it.

The very next day, Harriet asked her mother to take her to the hairdressers.

Her mother was a bit nervous, considering how badly their last trip had gone, but this time, Harriet was as good as gold.  She climbed up into the chair, smiled sweetly at the hairdresser and asked: "Can you please just cut it all off?!"

Snip by snip, Harriet's hair got shorter and shorter.  It took ages, but eventually, Harriet was sitting, looking at herself in the mirror, with her hair back to its old length, halfway down her back.  She took a deep breath.  "More," she said, simply.  "I need more off."

The hairdresser went back to work with her scissors, cutting and trimming until Harriet's hair stopped at her shoulders.

"Still more," Harriet insisted.

Finally, Harriet's hair was cut into a neat, glossy bob, that reached her chin.  It was the shortest Harriet had ever had it.  She shook her head from side to side, feeling the lightness of such a short haircut and grinning, broadly.  

When her mother had paid and they stepped out into the street, a passing lady glanced at Harriet and smiled: "Ooh, what a lovely hairdo!"

Harriet beamed back at her.  "Thank you!"

And so, Harriet and her mother went back home.  Harriet's hair no longer swished around her, like a golden cape.  It wasn't long enough to sit on.  But she did feel pretty special, all the same.  She'd realised that sometimes, you need to be careful what you wish for.  Her dream of having hair that reached the floor had brought all kinds of problems with it, after all. 

Harriet didn't stop smiling for days.  She kept glancing at herself in the mirror and beaming at her reflection.  She might not look like Rapunzel anymore, but she looked like a new version of herself.  And suddenly, that was all she wanted to be!


THE END





Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Bedtime Story (11/04/2018)


Lately, I've been thinking about how much of ourselves we sometimes keep hidden and how easy it is to judge someone based on only a fraction of their personality.  With that in mind, I wanted to write a story about acknowledging a person as a whole, not by only one aspect of who we think they are.  I think that's a pretty important lesson to teach little ones and I hope you enjoy this week's story.

You can also listen to this story as a podcast.


Alex Is The Bravest Boy

Alex is the bravest boy, 
Perhaps in the whole school.
He's the first to go exploring,
The first to dive into the pool.
He isn't scared of bugs or ghosts,
Or anything at all!
He's never one to shy away,
He's always standing tall.

But Alex has a big fear,
That keeps him up at night.
The thought of looking scared
Makes him quiver with such fright!
He thinks he has to be the bravest,
Because it's what his friends expect.
If he admits to being frightened,
His reputation would be wrecked!

Leila is the funny one,
She's always telling jokes!
If you sit next to her at lunch,
She'll make you giggle 'til you croak!
She never takes life seriously,
She's always up for a laugh.
When you hear a joke from Leila,
Your day improves by half!

But Leila's jokes are armour,
To protect her from the world.
"Because sometimes life is scary,"
She thinks, with her lip curled.
"And sometimes life is sad as well,
With troubles heaped on in piles.
And all you can do is tell a joke
To try to make people smile."

Then there's Chris, the quiet one.
He doesn't have much to say.
He keeps himself to himself,
Doesn't like to get in the way.
He doesn't like to take charge of games,
He's not a boy who leads.
He'd much rather sit all by himself,
In a quiet corner and read.

But Chris isn't actually quiet,
He's just ever so shy.
He'd love to really get involved;
He feels life just passes him by.
He's not sure how to leave his shell,
So he watches the others roaring,
As he peeps over the top of his book,
And hopes they don't think he's boring.

People are just like icebergs,
With only the tip above the sea.
There's more to them than meets the eye,
So much more than you first see.
So try to get to know some more:
Find out who they really are.
When a person is more than just one thing,
They become more exciting by far!

They might still be brave, or funny or shy,
But they'll have a lot more to them, too.
So getting to know your friends a bit better
Is what I encourage you all to do.


THE END




Saturday, 7 April 2018

I CANNOT Find My Chill...



My brain is a strange - and not always pleasant - place.  As a result, I have something of a love/hate relationship with my own mind.  There are days when my brain takes particularly cruel pride in reminding me of all the things that have gone wrong in my life.  There are nights when I'm trying to sleep, during which my brain will replay all the things I've done wrong in my life.  I'll have moments when, thanks to the little sadist in my head, I'll convince myself that I'm useless at everything, have no actual friends and that if I tell anyone I'm feeling that way, they'll think I'm an attention-seeking drama queen and immediately lose any smidgeon of respect for me they might have otherwise had.

GEE, THANKS, BRAIN!

As a side note, my method for cheering myself up again, when my brain is in full-on sadistic mode, is to sing along with this song until I laugh at myself:

And then I binge-watch Crazy Ex Girlfriend and just adore Rachel Bloom for a while.

The thing is, my brain has a flip-side.  The sadistic "you are rubbish and everyone hates you" part of it is sometimes overshadowed by a weird, desperate need to do ALL THE THINGS AT ONCE.  Consequently, I might have a day during which I have to fight the urge to contact everyone I know and arrange lunch, dinner and a night out.  I'll randomly want a holiday.  But not in the usual "ooh, work has been stressful, I could use a break" way that most of us feel, from time to time.  I'm talking: "OH MY GOD, I SHOULD BOOK A TRIP SOMEWHERE!   I WANT TO GO AWAY.  I WANT TO RIDE A ROLLERCOASTER.  I SHOULD MAYBE TAKE UP AN EXTREME SPORT.  PERHAPS I'LL DO A PARACHUTE JUMP!"

 This ludicrous desire to do everything, all at once, almost always follows a period of "everyone hates you."  It's taken me years to realise that, weird though it is, this is actually my brain's way of protecting myself and bringing me out of that mopey, depressive phase.  It doesn't work for everyone - anxiety is a right mare and sometimes it, combined with depression, can make plans seem terrifying and unachievable - but it works for me.  The best way of bringing me out of a mood slump is by... Well, bringing me out, full stop.  Taking me somewhere for lunch.  Arranging drinks, somewhere.  Going on a day trip.

I know this, so naturally, if I don't have any upcoming plans, I guess it makes sense that I might start wanting to make some.  It makes slightly less sense that I decide I absolutely need to go everywhere and do everything, ideally on the same day, but hey...  Essentially, what I need to do is keep myself busy, do things that I find fun, with people I feel comfortable around.  If I can do that, I'll be fine.  If for any reason I can't (lack of money, friends being busy with other plans etc), I just kind of lose my chill.

Completely.



I can go stir-crazy, even if I've only been sitting around doing nothing for as little as half an hour, when my brain is in "chill-free" mode.  I need to go for a walk.  Except no, I actually need to go out for lunch with a friend.  Except no, I really want to visit a theme park.  Except...

Thankfully, this phase doesn't last too long.  At least, it tends to only last as long as it takes to get over the mopey/depressive phase that preceded it.  Before long, I rediscover my ability to laze about, binge-watching something on Netflix, or reading a book for hours.  I guess that's probably because eventually, I'm able to be alone with my own thoughts, without those thoughts being:" Remember how rubbish a human you are?!"  At the end of the day, my lack of chill and my drastic desire to constantly be doing things is almost certainly a way of stopping myself from thinking too much.  Specifically, stopping myself from thinking really mean thoughts about... Well, me.

So, yesterday was one of those "I'm rubbish" days.  Meaning that today, I've constantly been wanting to make plans and occupy myself with literally anything.  Sitting around doing nothing was not an option for my brain, today.



Of course, the irony is, sitting down to write this blog has actually forced me to think about all the things I'd usually be trying to avoid (probably through desperately attempting to persuade people to go and play crazy golf, or something).

Maybe I will find my chill, after all.  I'm off to look behind the sofa...




Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Bedtime Story (4/4/2018)


A bit of a deep subject this week, but I've been thinking about the different places that anger can come from and the other emotions that often hide behind it.  I'm a strong believer that no subject should be off-limits, in terms of children's stories, so I decided to write about this one!

You can listen to this story as a podcast by clicking here.

The Angry Kid

In Jackson's class, there was a boy,
Who always seemed to be mad.
His face was like thunder, his hands were in fists.
He was a very angry lad.

The boy was always stomping his feet,
And giving out furious glares.
Jackson and his friends would cower and shrink
Beneath the weight of the angry kid's stares.

But behind his fury was a different feeling.
One day, Jackson heard him cry:
"My Gran's in hospital, really ill.
I'm just so scared she might die."

Suddenly, the angry kid in his class
Wasn't a tough boy with no cares.
He was a young lad, frightened by realising
That sometimes, life isn't fair.

So, Jackson gently spoke to the boy,
Who admitted that he felt really sad.
"Sometimes," the boy said, "I feel so afraid,
It bubbles over and makes me feel mad."

"Does that sound stupid?" The boy asked.
"To be angry because I feel scared?"
But he didn't seem so cross anymore,
Because he knew now that somebody cared.

"All kinds of feelings can make us mad,"
Jackson smiled as he softly replied.
"If a feeling is bad, it can tangle your mind
And make you feel stormy inside."

"Sometimes if I feel embarrassed," he said,
"I get grumpy and cross with my friends.
I end up frowning and sulking until
The angry feeling inside of me ends."

"I get grouchy when I'm tired as well,
Because then my temper is short.
I feel like I want to block out the whole world
And just be alone with my thoughts."

"We might be cross because we don't feel well,
Or frustrated because something went wrong.
And sometimes that anger can stay a while,
But other times it doesn't last long."

"The important thing is to know how you feel;
What's the reason you're feeling so mad?
Then you can work out what to do next,
To stop yourself feeling so bad."

"You might need to talk to your family or friends,
Or you may need some time on your own.
You might have energy you've got to burn off,
Or you might want quiet time, safe at home."

"Just remember being angry doesn't feel nice.
That feeling can tie you in knots.
It might cause you to make some bad choices.
It can make you feel breathless and hot."

"Being angry happens to everyone.
It's a perfectly normal thing for you to feel.
But if you can find out what's making you so mad,
You'll soon be back on an even keel."

The boy didn't look so incensed, anymore,
Although he did still look rather sad.
But he managed a smile at Jackson;
Just having talked it through made him glad.

So, next time you start feeling angry,
Remember to ask yourself why.
Then do whatever you need to do,
To wave those cross feelings goodbye.

Count to ten, take a deep breath,
Or sit quietly up in your room.
Hit a pillow, or play music loud,
You could even howl at the moon!

Just don't let that angry feeling
Drive you totally mad.
Remember family and friends are there
To help when things feel bad.

And you can help others too, sometimes,
As through life you are travelling along.
Perhaps next time someone seems upset,
You could start by asking: "What's wrong?"


THE END

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Time Heals


Yep.  I've shared a Jason Donovan album track from the 80s.  I'm just that cool.

The thing is: Time, as Jason sings in his lilting Aussie accent, really heals.

I recently made a video on my YouTube channel, in which I talked about learning who I really am and realising how we change and grow over the years, even without knowing it.  As such, we can sometimes look at ourselves and suddenly notice that we're not the same person now as we were a year ago.  The experiences we go through in life have the capacity to change us and that's not something to be scared of; it's something to embrace.

As usual this morning, I was doing my mildly masochistic thing of looking at my "On This Day" memories on Facebook.  And - not for the first time, recently - I barely recognised the girl who was posting statuses just twelve months ago.


The thing is, a year ago, I was drowning.  Every single day was a struggle to keep my head above water and I couldn't see any way of things getting better.  How could I?!  My supposed best friends were all gone and nothing would ever be the same again.  

But here's the thing:  They didn't need to be the same again.  I just had to get used to a different life.  I had to go out and make that different life.

The Emma of a year ago believed that she was permanently in the wrong.  She thought she was worthy of hate, she believed she wasn't good enough.  More than anything else, she believed that she was going to be alone and depressed forever.  And I can't stress enough: Emma from a year ago?  WAS WRONG.

And if you're reading this and you're in a place where you believe you aren't good enough and that things will never get better, I promise you, you're wrong, too.  I know, I know.  Nobody believes that things will get better, when they're in the thick of things being utterly horrendous.  I didn't, so if you're reading this and you don't, I get it.

But they will get better.


We all have this inbuilt desire to fix things that are broken.  Somehow, we think if we can only stick things back together - be they objects, situations or people - everything will fall back into place, again.  The truth is, sometimes life isn't about fixing what's broken.  It's about realising that a broken thing can't always be mended and putting your energy into something else, instead.

The second I stopped trying to fix the situation that held my head beneath the waves, I started finding ways to kick a bit harder and keep myself afloat.  I slowly started to realise that there wasn't a fix.  I'd tried everything and nothing had worked.  It was time to let go.

Instead of fixing something broken, I set about building something from scratch.  Namely me and my life.  No biggie, obvs...

But everything seems scary until you do it.  And even when things are scary after you actually do them, they're usually only scary for a while, then they get easier.  Eventually, you realise you're doing things you'd put off for ages and you haven't, you know, died or anything.  It's just taking that first step that's often the terrifying part.

Of course, you can't take that first step until you're ready.  And that's where we come back to the whole "time heals" thing.  Because for one person, it might only be a few weeks before they're feeling up to moving on.  For another, it could be months or even years.  There's no right or wrong - it's different for everyone.  But it will happen.  It could happen slowly, or it could suddenly happen at all once: you'll just realise you're ready to let go and move forwards.


All I know for sure is that it does get better.  Bad things inevitably lose their impact over time - however enormous and awful the thing may be - and good things will always come along, often when you least expect it.  Learning to balance the good and bad things in life is just part of the ebb and flow of human existence, after all.

I would love to be able to travel back a year and tell 2017 Emma that she's going to be okay.  That someday, she'll look back and memories won't hurt so much.  That newer, better things are coming for her.  But what I can do is tell you.

You're going to be okay.  You're fine, you're worthy of good things and those good things are out there for you.  Keep kicking, keep holding your head up.  The tide will change.  Sometimes, you just have to wait a while.

Time heals.