Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Bedtime Story (30/5/2018)

As I write this, I'm very aware that it's almost my bedtime.  My brain is going to strange places, as is often the case when we're overtired!  So, naturally, that's the theme of this week's story...

You can also listen to this story as a podcast.

Overtired Oliver

Oliver had gone past sleepy,
But he still wasn't in bed.
And now a fuzzy feeling
Swirled around his head.

His thoughts were jumbled up,
His words all came out wrong.
He wanted to stay awake,
But knew he wouldn't last that long.

"Can I have some toast and toothpaste?"
He asked Mum, in a sleepy mutter.
"Then I promise to go and clean my teeth,
With lots of minty butter."

"I need to put my slippers on
Over my sleepy head.
And get my pyjamas on my feet,"
An overtired Oliver said.

"Will Dad sing me a story?
And then read a lullaby?
Then I can make a wish
On the brightest cloud in the sky."

Oliver wasn't making much sense,
He'd gone way past tired, now!
His poor Mum was rather confused
And a crease appeared on her brow.

"Oliver, I think you need your bed,
It's getting late, you know!
You're acting rather peculiarly,
So off to your room you should go!"

But Oliver wanted to stay up later.
He tried to force his eyes open wide.
"I'm making perfect sense, Dad!
I'm not even tired!" He cried.

Mum rolled her eyes and shook her head,
As Oliver carried on rambling.
She watched him try to swallow a yawn;
He was swaying where he was standing!

"Why don't we watch the radio?
Or play songs on the TV?"
Oliver switched on the evening news.
"Come on, Mum, dance with me!"

But Mum stood firm, for Oliver
Was all over the place!
"I'll just scrub my hair," he said.
"Then I can brush my face."

Dad came in from the kitchen.
"Oliver, you should be asleep!"
"I tried counting tired," Oliver insisted.
"But I'm really not that sheep!"

He started picking up his toys.
"I'll put these in my bed.
Then I'll snuggle up in my toy chest,"
Overtired Oliver said.

"I need to switch on my teddy,
So my bedroom's nice and bright.
Then I can climb under the covers
And cuddle my nightlight."

Oliver's eyes were getting heavy,
He gazed out at the moon.
Try as he might, deep down he knew,
He'd have to go to sleep, soon.

"I'd like a plate of warm milk,"
He yawned.  "I'll get it from the loo."
Oliver stumbled down the corridor;
Mum and Dad followed him, too.

Oliver made it to his room,
Then there came one final peep:
"Good morning," he told his parents,
Then he fell fast asleep.


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Bedtime Story 23/5/2018

It's getting to the time of year that the weather will hopefully be getting nice and warm and walks through the woods or along the beach become a favourite pastime for many.  I can remember family walks as a child - I was often found collecting "treasure" as I went, just like the little girl in this story!

Listen to this week's story as a podcast by clicking here.

Polly's Treasure

Polly loved going for walks with her mum, dad, big brother, Ben and big sister, Penny.  She loved feeling the warm sun on her face, watching the fluffy clouds roll across the blue sky and exploring brand new places.  But most of all, Polly loved collecting treasure.

In fact, Polly loved collecting treasure a little too much.  So much so, that she was always lagging behind everyone else.  "One of these days, you'll end up lost!"  Penny would say.  But Polly never listened.  She just loved to collect things!

One bright, sunny morning, Mum and Dad packed a picnic into a rucksack and announced that the whole family were going on a walk through the woods.  Ben, Penny and Polly hurried to get themselves ready.  Polly grabbed a little, pink bag.  "What's that for?"  Ben asked.

"To put all my treasure in, of course!"  Polly beamed.

The family set off and before long, the houses and shops of their village gave way to wide open fields.  Polly noticed a particularly pretty bluebell, growing on a verge.  She stopped to pick it, gently placing it in her bag.  Mum, Dad, Ben and Penny carried on walking ahead, but Polly didn't mind.  They were only a few steps in front of her.

Soon, the pavement changed to a dusty track, leading up through the fields, towards the woods.  Polly noticed a very shiny pebble on the ground.  She picked it up and paused a while, feeling its smooth edges and enjoying its coolness against her skin.  She popped it into her bag with the bluebell.  Mum, Dad, Ben and Penny were a little further ahead, now, but Polly knew she could easily catch up if she jogged.  She was enjoying herself, taking her time, looking for treasure.

The sun shone down and something glinted on the path.  Polly gasped: "REAL treasure!"  It was a small, pink gem.  It had probably fallen off a bag or a piece of clothing.  Polly picked it up and put it in her bag with the pebble and the bluebell.  Mum, Dad, Ben and Penny were just entering the woods.  They were quite far ahead, but Polly could still see them, so she wasn't worried.  

When Polly entered the woods, she smiled at the shards of sunlight breaking through the trees and painting strips of white all around.  It was cooler underneath the trees and there were lots of interesting things to look at.  Polly noticed a twig on the ground, with a pretty little bud on the end of it.  She thought it looked a little bit like a magic wand, so she stopped, picked it up and put it in her bag, along with the gem, the pebble and the bluebell.  Mum, Dad, Ben and Penny were slowly becoming figures in the distance.  Polly thought maybe she ought to try to catch them up.

Just as Polly started to walk a little faster, however, she spotted a rather unusual looking leaf, lying curled up on the ground.  It was dark green, with lighter green spots.  It was so strange looking, that Polly couldn't resist adding it to her treasure collection.  She opened up her bag and dropped the leaf in with the twig, the gem, the pebble and the bluebell.

Polly closed the bag and looked up.  Suddenly, she couldn't see Mum, Dad, Ben or Penny.  Where were they?!

Polly looked all around her.  The friendly looking woods, with bright sunlight dappling the trees, suddenly seemed dark and scary.  Her family were nowhere to be seen and Polly suddenly wished she could trade all of her treasures for a glimpse of them.  She started to run, her feet crunching on twigs as she went.  Her heart hammered in her chest and her breath came out in short bursts.

Then, finally, she spotted them.

Mum, Dad, Ben and Penny were all standing still in a little clearing, glancing all around them, with worried looks on their faces.  Mum spotted Polly first and cried out her name.  Polly went rushing into her arms, as though she hadn't seen her in a year.

"Where on Earth did you get to?"  Mum exclaimed.  "One minute you were just behind us and the next..."

Polly sighed.  "I got distracted, looking for treasure," she confessed.  "And then when I thought I'd lost you all, I was really scared."

Polly stared into her little, pink bag.  Suddenly, none of her treasures seemed that important, anymore.  The best treasures in the world were right in front of her.

From then on, Polly stayed close to her family as they continued their walk.  When they finally stopped in a pretty little clearing, to share their picnic, Penny asked to see the treasure her sister had collected.  "Wow, you've got some nice things," she smiled, looking into the bag.  "Are you going to get some more on the way home?"

Polly laughed as she shook her head.  "I think I've got quite enough treasure, now," she smiled.  And as the sun continued to break through the trees, the family walked together - all of them - smiling and laughing the whole way.


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Bedtime Story (16/5/2018)

This story goes live two days before I meet my YouTube heroes, Dan and Phil (the reasons I have my own YouTube channel!).  So, this week, I've written something a bit different.  Instead of a story, this is a piece about friendship and it is dedicated to Dan and Phil, as well as to the closest friends in my own life, who hopefully all know who they are - love you all loads. xx

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

What Is A Best Friend?

What is a best friend?

Best friends are pretty special.  A friend is someone who will play with you and make you laugh, but a best friend is someone who knows when you need to be quiet or talk things through.  They're there for you not only when you're doing fun things, or feeling happy, but when you're feeling sad and you don't want to do anything.

Best friends tell you the truth.  Sometimes, it's not always what you want to hear, but a best friend will try to say things in a nice way, so they don't upset you.  They won't tell you lies and they'll listen if you ever have to tell them something important.

A best friend is someone who won't let you down.  They will be there for you in good times and bad.  They won't stop being your friend, just because you make a silly mistake.  You might have an argument, but best friends will always work things out again and say sorry to one another.  Best friends forgive each other when they make mistakes.  A best friend knows you are a good person and that you will always do your best for them.

Best friends don't judge one another.  If you get something wrong, or do something silly, a best friend will still love you just the same.  They'll be the person you end up laughing over the mistake with, too, once you're ready to!

You don't have to have everything in common with your best friend.  You might like lots of the same things, but it doesn't matter if you like something that they don't, or if they are very quiet, whilst you like to be loud.  Sometimes, having differences can make your friendship even stronger.  The important thing is that you can be yourself completely around your best friend - and they can do the same with you!

A best friend will support you when you're in trouble.  They'll laugh with you when you're having fun.  They'll ask if you're okay, if they think you might not be.

Having a best friend makes you very lucky.  And being a best friend makes you even luckier, still.

Who's your best friend?


Monday, 14 May 2018

Breaking The Silence - Thank You, Coronation Street

I've always watched the soaps.  Mainly because my Mum has always watched the soaps.  I'm not remotely religious about it and, just like Mum, I stick to the three main ones - Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Eastenders.  Of the three, if I had to pick a favourite, it would always be Corrie (with Emmerdale in second place and Eastenders being the one I half-watch, largely so I can moan about it...).

Soaps get a bit of a bad press, sometimes.  They're often unrealistic, with their frequent murders and characters who seem to have all had affairs with each other at some point or other.  But, despite the occasionally over-the-top storylines, soaps are supposed to depict everyday life.  Life, with all its complex ups and downs.  And so, over the years, we've seen some major topics covered, from racism to assisted dying.

These storylines often hit harder in a soap than they might in a one-off drama, for the simple reason that the characters in soaps are people we see on TV several times a week.  They're characters we've come to know and love.  We've often followed their lives for several years, seen them get married, have kids, go through various struggles and come out the other side.  We care about what happens to them, because, through watching them so often, these characters have subconsciously become a part of our lives.  We watch them experience love and tragedy.  We see them struggle with their sexuality.  We've been there through their highs and lows.

But, until last week, there was one major subject that none of the main three soaps had really covered: suicide and its devastating after-effects.

Last Monday night, viewers saw Coronation Street regular, Aidan Connor, appear increasingly detached from those around him, as he attended a leaving party in the pub, held for his father and his father's wife, who were intending to move to Spain.  In heartbreaking, yet sensitively portrayed scenes, we saw Aidan looking oblivious to everything and everyone around him, before the screen went black and we cut to him sitting alone on his sofa at home, sobbing.  Then the screen went black a final time and we knew he'd taken his own life.

Wednesday's hour-long episode dealt with the fallout.  We saw devastating scenes in which Aidan's father Johnny went to Aidan's flat, after his son failed to turn up for work, only to find a note instructing him not to go into the bathroom, but to call the police.  Johnny then rushed to the bathroom, where he found his son. 

Coronation Street did well to avoid sensationalising the storyline; we never saw Aidan's body, nor were we told the manner in which he killed himself.  None of that was necessary.  What was shown, was the massive impact the suicide had on everyone living on the street, regardless of whether they were particularly close to Aidan or not.

We saw Aidan's former fiancĂ© Eva, absolutely shattered by the news; particularly as Aidan had come to see her the previous evening and given her back her engagement ring.  Eva had thought they might be getting back together.  Now, she realised he'd gone to say goodbye.

We saw Aidan's sister Kate, first refuse to believe that her brother could have taken his own life, before becoming gripped with anger that he could put his family through such pain.

In a beautifully written monologue, we saw Corrie stalwart Gail, highlight the fact that whilst we like to think we know our friends and neighbours, we can never know what's going on inside their minds.  People can appear fine, only to be struggling with terrible, internal demons.  All we can do is be kind and supportive to one another.  Whilst Gail was talking, we saw scenes of other characters being told the news of Aidan's death, making it all the more poignant.  I've linked to the scene here, because I think it was absolutely perfectly done.

Not only were the reactions of characters closest to Aidan perfectly executed in the aftermath of his suicide being revealed, we saw many suicide myths busted by the writers, whilst also witnessing hugely realistic reactions to what happened.  We saw loudmouth Beth refer to Aidan as selfish for taking his own life, whilst another character, Gina, explained that he would have been in so much pain, all he'd have wanted was to find a way to make it stop.  There wouldn't have been any deliberate selfishness in his actions.

We saw Daniel tell Robert about a "friend" who had considered suicide, but who had kept his feelings of depression to himself.  Robert, realising that Daniel was talking about himself and having already mentioned having lost someone to suicide in the past, told Daniel to tell his "friend" that he would always be willing to listen, if they needed someone to talk to.

In a genius snippet of writing that could easily have been missed, had you not been looking out for signs that the writer of this episode - Jonathan Harvey - wanted to get a very important message across, we even saw David Platt's solicitor tell him to "man up," when David became obviously upset.  Cleverly, it was David who had the climax of the episode, when he finally confessed to ex girlfriend Shona that he'd been raped and had had his own moments of feeling suicidal, but that he felt better for having told someone and that he had realised he wanted to live.

To end the show on a positive, uplifting note such as that was incredibly powerful.  To finish a heartbreaking episode by displaying a character reaching out and confessing to how lost and alone he'd been feeling, but that he was now going to seek help, was absolutely the right way to leave things.

But Monday and Wednesday's episodes were more than just brilliantly written, directed and acted.  They were hugely, critically important.

One criticism given by a smattering of viewers (it's important to say how widely praised the storyline has been - and rightly so), was that Aidan's suicide "came out of the blue."  He didn't seem depressed.

I have two responses to that.  Firstly, 45% of men who suffer with depression don't speak out about it.  Toxic messages such as "man up," cause men in emotional pain to bottle up their feelings.  It's this pressure to keep things hidden that contributes to our enormous suicide rate.  Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.  In the UK alone, 84 men take their own lives every week.  Many of those won't have spoken out about their feelings.  Therefore, when men like Aidan take their own lives, all too often it does seem to come out of the blue, even though the reality is that that person has probably been suffering for quite some time.  In making Aidan seem okay on the surface, whilst holding so much pain inside, Coronation Street have depicted his depression and subsequent suicide with painful accuracy. 

Secondly, if you know the signs, they have been there, all along.  Aidan had been increasingly distracted.  He'd been clearly portrayed as mulling things over in his mind, looking distant or forlorn.  His sister Kate had asked, just days before his suicide, why he hadn't unpacked the boxes that still littered his flat.  He'd given ex lover Maria's son Liam his expensive watch, despite Liam only being a young child.  He gave his father an expensive gift - membership of a snazzy golf club in Spain, as a "goodbye present."  He'd made comments about Eva's baby deserving better than a father like him.  In recent months, he'd put himself down, saying what a bad man he was.  And (SPOILER) back in February, we saw him post a letter to his father, only to intercept the letter and take it back to his flat, when he realised his sister Carla needed a kidney transplant.  In tonight's episode, we discover that that letter was actually a suicide note and that he'd been planning to take his own life for several months, keeping himself alive only so that he could save his sister by donating a kidney.

The signs were there. 

Too often, our image of what "depression" actually is, is rooted in some kind of parody.  A person who never smiles, someone with visible self-harm scars, who openly talks about wanting to die.  But that is just not always the case.  More often than not, those who are suicidally depressed - particularly men, who have such pressure on them to be "strong" and not show emotion, lest it be confused as "weakness" - keep those horrendous feelings to themselves.  Depression isn't just sadness.  It can - in either gender - present itself as exhaustion, an inability to find enjoyment in things, feeling on edge or anxious, not looking after yourself properly, suffering physical aches and pains or feeling hopeless. What Coronation Street has done is lift the veil on this taboo.  They've broken the silence.  They've shown what happens when a young man, with his whole life ahead of him, keeps his demons bottled up inside and eventually feels so hopeless that he can't go on.  They've shown how suicide affects those left behind.  The anger, confusion, despair and guilt that loved ones feel, when they realise they had no idea of the enormous pain that someone they cared for was keeping to themselves.

This needed to be done.  For every man keeping his feelings inside and contemplating suicide as a way out.  For every person battling depression, who needs to be shown that there is help and support out there, if you speak out (as David did, at the end of the episode).  For every family struggling in the aftermath of a loved one's suicide.

The silence has to be broken.  Only if we speak out about this, provide channels of support and understanding for those in need and break down the stigma attached to mental health issues, can we reduce that horrendous statistic.  84 men per week.  That's twelve men taking their own lives every single day.  One every other hour.

It's time to speak out.  We have to stop the ludicrous idea that men are somehow weak if they show their emotions.  That depression is something that happens to other people, when the truth is, it can affect anyone.

Corrie star Simon Gregson, who plays hapless cabbie Steve McDonald, lashed out this week at a "fan" who ludicrously  claimed that the portrayal of Johnny Connor - Aidan's father - weeping uncontrollably at the suicide of his son, was over the top and "unBritish."  I'm glad Simon responded.  Because that attitude is exactly why this storyline was so important.

It's not "unBritish" to cry, any more than it is "unmanly" to feel lost, depressed or even suicidal.  We have to shake off this toxic masculinity.  It does men no more good than it does women.  It contributes to a culture in which almost half of men who experience depression, feel unable or unwilling to speak to anyone about it, or reach out for help.  That in turn, contributes to our horrendously high suicide rate.  That outdated, pathetic attitude - that men don't cry, that we Brits must always keep a stiff upper lip, even in the face of heart-wrenching tragedy - is causing people to bottle up emotions until they explode.  That attitude is killing people.

I wholeheartedly applaud Coronation Street for their sensitive handling of an incredibly powerful, important subject.  I can't praise the actors, writers and directors enough.  

The silence has been broken.  Let's keep it that way.  If you need help, there is no shame in asking for it.

Let's break the stigma.

Samaritans: Free 24hr telephone number (available 356 days a year): 116 123  Email:

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Bedtime Story (9/2/2018)

Following on from last week's story about a sore throat, I now have some strange looking medicine to take and it has most definitely inspired THIS week's story, too!

As always, the story is also available to listen to as a podcast.

Sid's Medicine

Sid had been poorly in bed all day.
Nothing seemed to be going his way!
His head hurt, his throat hurt, his ears hurt as well.
Would he ever feel better?!  Sid couldn't tell.

But Sid had been to see a doctor, with Dad.
Dad told the doctor that poor Sid felt bad.
Sid had come home with medicine to take.
He hoped swallowing it down would cure every ache!

But when he opened the bottle, Sid frowned.
All his hopes were turned upside down.
The medicine inside had a sickly sweet smell.
It didn't make Sid feel particularly well.

And so "I can't drink this," Sid said,
And he folded his arms and shook his head.
There had to be something else to take, surely?
If this was the only choice, he'd rather stay poorly!

The liquid in the bottle was yellow and pale.
"What if it makes me grow fur and a tail?!
What if I drink it and spots break out on my head?!"
Sid cried out, as he hid in his bed.

"What if I drink this and it makes me sick?
That's no good; I want to get better, and quick!
Can't I go back and see some other nurse?
If I take this medicine, I think I'll feel worse!"

Dad poured some medicine onto a spoon.
"I'm sure you'll be feeling right as rain, soon.
Come on Sid, open up nice and wide!"
Sid clamped his mouth shut, keeping the medicine outside.

"It looks disgusting," Sid said through pressed lips.
"I don't want to take the tiniest of sips.
What if it makes all my hair fall out?"
He added, his face wrinkled with doubt.

"It'll make you better," Dad promised his son.
"Take a spoonful, Sid, please.  Just one!"
Sid pulled a face and turned his head away.
A defiant "no" was all he would say.

But Sid's head was really pounding, now.
He wanted to feel better - and soon - but how?
He took a deep breath and, pale and grim-faced,
Sid gave the medicine one tiny taste.

His eyes opened wide and he swallowed the lot.
"I thought it would be horrid, but it's really not!"
The medicine was actually far from gross!
In fact Sid couldn't wait for his next dose!

And sure enough, the medicine started to work.
Soon, Sid was sat up in bed with a smirk.
There were no nasty side-effects to worry about,
And before long Sid was well enough to play out.

Now Sid follows his doctors' advice to the letter!
He knows if he takes his medicine, he'll get better.
Whether it's gloopy, runny, yellow or brown,
Sid patiently swallows his medicine down.

And that's what all of you should do, too,
If you've got an infection, or even the Flu.
Just swallow that medicine, straight from the spoon,
And you'll be feeling much better, soon!


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Bedtime Story (2/5/2018)

As I write this, I've been struggling with a sore throat for what feels like MONTHS.  Naturally, it's on my mind a lot, so I figured I'd write a story about it...

The podcast version of this story is here!

Tilly Can't Talk!

Tilly woke up one morning,
Feeling horribly weak.
Her throat felt sore
And when she opened her mouth,
Tilly couldn't speak!

Tilly's eyes bulged wide and then,
She bounded out of her bed.
She swallowed hard,
Then again tried to talk,
But she just squeaked, instead!

When words came out at last,
They sounded as quiet as a mouse.
Tilly's head pounded.
There was a lump in her throat,
As she ran through the house.

She burst into her parents' room,
To try to say what was wrong.
Mum and Dad frowned,
They could barely hear Tilly,
So she stopped trying, before long.

Tilly was told to stay home,
Whilst her sisters went to school.
Her throat really hurt
And not being able to talk
Was by now, definitely not cool.

Tilly tried eating a bowl of ice cream,
To make her throat hurt less.
But she still had pain
And when she'd talk again
Was really anyone's guess!

Tilly wanted to chat to her mum,
Or sing her favourite song.
But her voice was gone
And her throat was so sore,
Tilly wondered what had gone wrong.

Mum took her to a doctor,
Who made Tilly try to say "aah."
Her throat was red,
The nice doctor said.
Redder than it should be, by far!

So, Tilly was given medicine
And told to go back to bed.
She still couldn't talk,
So she just went to sleep,
In the hope of mending her head.

It was very quiet that day,
With Tilly not making a peep.
She didn't talk or sing,
She just read her books,
In between dreamless sleep.

Tilly didn't like not having a voice.
It made her feel all alone.
Nobody knew
What she was trying to say
And she got bored of being at home.

She got bored of medicine
And of not being able to sing.
She even got bored
Of eating ice cream,
If you can imagine such a thing!

She hated flapping her arms about,
To make clear what she wanted to say.
She missed talking
To her sisters at home
And her friends at school, through the day.

Tilly hadn't realised just how much
She relied on being able to speak.
She wanted nothing else
Than to get her voice back.
Without it, the future seemed bleak.

So, imagine the joy a few days later,
When Tilly awoke with her voice!
She talked, sang and shouted
And everyone listened
- they didn't have much of a choice!

It felt so good to talk again,
And for her throat to not feel sore.
Tilly rejoiced
In her newfound voice
And would do so forever more!