Why I Write

I’d like to start by saying a big thanks to Amy Good for tagging me in this blog hop. Amy had some extremely kind words to say about my blog on her own “Why I Write” post. Thank you Amy!  You should go and take a look at her fantastic blog on http://www.amicgood.com/ Amy is a person who I very much look up to in the writing world. She is someone who has overcome difficult obstacles to pursue writing, and so she is a bit of a heroine of mine. Not only for that, but also for being the brains behind Twitter’s most fun Friday writing game: Friday Phrases as well as being our very own Story Bandit!


So why do I write? When Amy asked me to do this, almost immediately a string of thoughts popped into my head, and as is often the case, a string of rhyming thoughts. So I decided to do this in my rhyme style. (I’d call it poetry but I think we’d be stretching the term too far there for the purists.) So here it is…

2014-09-14 19.51.08


 I write because I want to

I write because I can,

I write to create a fantasy world

Just like that of Peter Pan.

I write to escape reality

Of what this life has to give,

I write because I’ve found

No better way to live.

I write so I can create

A world’s that’s never been,

 I write to show the universe

Images yet unseen.

I write because I have stories

Buried deep inside,

I write to unlock their treasures

So they’re remembered once I’ve died.

I write to entertain

I write to make us think,

I write to spark thoughts and ideas

To provide a missing link.

I write because I like to

See words form upon the page,

I write because just sometimes

It’s the best way to release the rage.

I write because our language

Is varied, rich and fun,

 I write to play around with words

And find the perfect pun.

I write to reach out to others

So they might hear my words,

Perhaps what I say will help them

To find freedom with the birds.

I write to make a difference

In hope somebody will hear,

A message which may overcome

Their sadness or their fear.

I write to express the thoughts

Which get tangled in my head

The ones I can’t express out loud

The ones which would never get said.

I write in hope that one day, maybe,

I’ll make money from my art,

That way I’ll be able to spend more time

Following what is here, within my heart.


So they are all my reasons for writing. Yes, even the honest one about trying to make a living from it. I guess the main reason comes in the line “I write to express the thoughts which get tangled in my head.” I’ve always written, just not for an audience. Therefore I’d say this is my primary reason for writing. I’ve simply chosen, more recently, to share those thoughts with others.

I think the reasons I write are probably very similar to why others write. I don’t think people’s reasons for writing vary too much. Perhaps their reasons for why they took it up may be different, and if you want to know more about why I started writing then you can find out more by visiting the other pages of this blog.

In the meantime I need to point you in the direction of these fine writers/bloggers and hopefully they will tell you in more in depth detail about why they write than I’ve managed. :)

Callie Armstrong: Callie writes and reads more than I have hot dinners. Writing I know is in her blood and her main passion. On her blog you will find many great examples of heart-wrenching stories, most with an historical bias, which she insists are ‘rough drafts.’ The inverted commas there will tell you I think otherwise. You can find her magnificent work at http://calliedeanne.com/

Siofra Alexander: Keeper of the most extraordinary imagination and writer of dream diaries which should have us all in envy for the plethora of ideas which they must generate for stories. Siofra is a writer who specialises in fantasy and beautiful poetry. You can find out more about her, her writing and her fantastical dreams on her blog at http://siofraalexander.com/


Filed under First post

Forever Autumn

“The summer sun is fading as the year grows old,
and darker days are drawing near.”

(Forever Autumn ~ Justin Hayward)

It doesn’t seem five minutes since I was blogging about the height and heat of summer, having a good old moan about how much I detest the season. (If you missed that and want to remember the reasons why you may love or loathe it, you can find that post here.)

And now, here we are, on the cusp of Autumn already; the tree’s summer greens already looking tired and worn, ready to be transformed into something new, like a well-worn pair of  flip flops or the barbecue. (Okay, maybe not the barbecue as this is Britain and you probably only used it twice, but still.)

I love Autumn. It has always been my favourite season. I often wonder if it is perhaps because I was an autumn baby, and so have a natural affiliation with the season. Or is it simply that I appreciate the fresher mornings, the cooler evenings, the golden hue which slowly spreads itself across the skyline as September merges into October, the smouldering, smoky scents? Is it the fact I can wear socks and boots, cover up my feet and wear scarves again?  Is it the promise of curling up in front of a fire with a dram of whisky or a schooner of port or a mug of hot chocolate once more?

Well, it’s all these things and more. It is, for me as well as many other teachers I’m sure, the start of the new year. Yes, I know that January is the start of the actual year, but September 1st, for me, marks out a time of new beginnings, new stationary, clean exercise books with blank pages waiting to be filled, a new work wardrobe in the muted autumnal tones of nature. I like a good summer holiday off from the grind of work as much as the next person, but I love returning to work after the summer. Seeing people I’ve not seen for six weeks; seeing the children in their new uniforms ready to embark on their next year, all seeming to have grown exponentially over six weeks.

Autumn is the season of change and change is, for the most part, good. I like the small, naturally occurring transitional changes time brings and Autumn is the time of year which shows us quite starkly that nothing, not even nature, remains static or stationary. It evolves and changes rapidly, propelling us forward and keeping us alive and on our toes. It happens more rapidly than the changes Spring brings, which is more of a slow blossoming. Autumn is, at least for me, a time of reflection of what has passed through the year and what do I want to change now we’re into the final quarter? What is there left to achieve before the late December hibernation starts?  It is the time of year when I make my new year resolutions. Let’s face it, better now than in the deep, dark depths of Winter when you just want to curl up and pretend you can even remember what light looks like.

With Autumn comes cosy, comforting home cooking after the summer salads. The game season starts, which means the best of what nature’s larder has to offer. Crumbles and casseroles, crumpets and Cumberland sausages . Stodge is almost allowed, excused even, though we have no need to store up our fats in this modern age. We can’t help but do it anyhow. Then there is the excitement of bonfire night with all its glorious smells and crackling onomatopoeia of sounds. Christmas looms ever closer, bringing with it the hope and anticipation of love and a better day for humanity. (Okay, admittedly there’s also Halloween, but we’ll skip over that; nothing, not even Autumn is perfect.)



So, despite the fact I love Autumn with a capital L, why is it that I find myself teetering on the brink of trepidation as I watch the nights draw in and the morning dew drops form? Even though I realise mowing the lawn will soon be a long forgotten chore for at least the next five months?

One reason may be that the new school year hasn’t had the start we usually have. Last week we returned to a building site and will be working in one until the Spring time at least. So rather than feeling that “fresh start” feeling which September usually brings in school, we remain in a state of uncertain flux. I am working with no fixed base (even more so than usual) and that is something which is at times challenging. This start to the new school year in itself is a little unsettling, but I do not think it’s the primary reason for the anxiety.

No, more than this difference, I believe my misgivings as I approach this Autumn have more to do with the previous five. Despite, in each of those past years, Autumn offering me all it’s usual promise and I, being ever optimistic and excited by its prospects, each one since 2009 has, instead, offered me life altering challenges. Therefore I am feeling a little nervous that 2014 is quite capable of going the same way.

Each Autumn, since and including 2009, has marked some big events in my life which I’d rather forget. Ones not always of my choosing. The memories of the five Autumns past are dark and painful ones, especially the odd numbered years of 09, 11 and 13. For a time of year when I always embrace possibilities, renewal and the start of things to come, the last five have been full of disappointment and hurt and things ending quite suddenly, when I’ve not been ready for them to end.

“like the sun through the trees you came to love me
like a leaf on a breeze you blew away”


As this Autumn approaches, a slight feeling of melancholy pervades. I am now, as September deepens, coming up to the anniversary of the betrayals and lies a friend put me through this time last year and what that has meant for me this year. The depression, which ensued for the first half of 2014, was primarily caused by the loss of this friend who I believed in so fully and whom I loved so wholeheartedly, that their severance of our relationship has hit hard. Someone whom I know felt the same for me at some point.  Someone whom I still miss at times, despite it all, despite the false hope he gave me for so long only to turn away from me so abruptly and completely. My birthday this year is going to be particularly tough because of the bittersweet memories it will evoke, but I know I will come through the other side okay. He loves Autumn too and so I will always think of him, I think, at this time of year. Our birthdays only being ten days apart won’t help there.

But by January the anniversaries of last year will be gone and the real New Year will start. By then, I might even also have a brand new classroom! Who knows?

I may not be ready to embrace this Autumn as wholeheartedly as I usually do, but I will embrace it nevertheless. I have spent the summer on a track of positivity, of living in the moment and of looking forward, rather than back. That’s not to say my memories don’t try to haunt me, of course they do. But this year, if autumn does turn out to throw some life rubbish at me, maybe I’ll be better at shrugging it off.

Maybe this one will be totally different anyway.

Maybe it will be a time of beginnings rather than the endings the last few have brought.

Despite my misgivings about the prevous five, I remain hopeful and optimistic as always at the start of my favourite season. And I know my heart will belong forever to Autumn, for all the best reasons, not the worst.


Thanks as always for reading. Watch out soon for a rant about Halloween! ;)


Filed under General Rambliings

One Lovely Blog Award

Thanks to the lovely ravenous Raven ladies at C.L Raven for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog award. Much appreciated. :)  (As only some of my posts could actually be deemed as ‘lovely’, I am doubly grateful to them.  Check their awesomeness out: Horror writers, ghost hunters extraordinaire, lovely, witty Welsh girls with a great blog which you can find here :)

So, in order to fulfill the requirements of this nomination I now have to tell you, dear readers, seven facts about myself which may be deemed ‘interesting’.

Hmmmmm…As I’m quite open on my blog, I’m wondering if there’s much more left to tell, or that I’d want to tell, or that’d be interesting enough to tell, which you don’t already know.

Therefore, I thought I’d make this a little more of an interesting and interactive experience, so I’m going to do this in a “Would I lie to You?” or “Call my Bluff” kind of way.

As such, I will present to you ten facts about myself, seven of which will be true, three of which will be made up. Then you can have some fun in the comments section guessing which ones are not true. Or just have a little wager with yourself. Or make up which ones you’d like to be true.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  I’m not going to elaborate on each ‘fact’. Part of the fun of “Would I lie to You” or “Call My Bluff” is trying to catch out which ones aren’t true by asking questions. I will say though, that there is an element of truth to them all. Making up lies about oneself, turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it’d be!

NB: People I actually know well cannot take part!

So here we go: Seven facts about me and three lies about me:


1)  I have a tattoo on my lower back of an eagle, because ‘Eagle’ is my favourite Abba track.

2) I have an accreditation in teaching sex education.

3) I can’t ride a bicycle

4) I was once interviewed for a teen magazine about student life, and featured in a double page spread.

5) I once bought cannabis from a man I didn’t know from a twelfth floor flat in the city centre.

6) I take the same cuddly toy to bed with me that I’ve had since my second Christmas when I was just one year old.

7) I once met Rolf Harris and his pen ran out whilst signing autographs, so I gave him mine and he kept it.

8) I’ve never tried smoking a cigarette.

9) I was once stopped and searched in my car by police at 1am on suspicion of being involved in a robbery.

10) I dated a guy who was a roadie for the band Coldplay.

So, which of these are true and which are porky pies? I’ll leave it to you to decide. ;)

The next thing to do is to nominate four bloggers to pass on the Lovely Blog award to. These are just a few of my favourites who do indeed have quite lovely blogs. (Please note nominees, there is absolutely no obligation to do this too. You may just bask in having your blog linked to, because, readers, you should check these guys out anyway, three of whom have featured on Freshly Pressed, no less! (I know!)  So, without further ado, may I present:

1) Graham Milne (Graham’s Crackers). Graham is just a phenomenal blogger who regularly has me fighting back a tear in the eye or a lump in the throat. Just an awesome guy with an awesome blog.

2) Amira Makansi (The Z Axis). Amira blogs about writing and about issues of this ever baffling world we live in with a no nonsense approach. There is also wonderful fiction and poetry to be found there. A truly lovely blog with something for everyone.

3) Nancy Gedge: (Diary of a not so Ordinary Boy) Nancy blogs about parenting, teaching and Down Syndrome as well as a few other pressing issues with style, grace and a dollop of much needed reality. A mainstay of my blog visits.

4) Drew Chial: (Drew Chial) Drew is absolutely one of my favourite bloggers, and if you’re looking for a little bit of everything, then Drew’s blog is the place to go. Lots on writing and blogging as well as social media, but mixed in with satire, fictional shorts and the best, most unique, supporting picture gallery you’re ever likely to find!

Hopefully you’ll check out these other bloggers too, now you know a little more about me….Or do you…? ;)

Thanks, as ever, for reading.


Filed under General Rambliings

Ice, Ice Baby

I temporarily deactivated my Facebook account last night.


Because if I see one more person having iced water thrown over their head, I might well just say something in the heat of the moment I regret.

So instead I’ll say it here, in a (hopefully) more measured way.

Image from: Martin4x4 http://www.pistonheads.com

“Er actually, in all honesty I’m not sure anymore.”

Now, before anyone has me down for an uncharitable, misery guts, out to spoil the chain gang fun, I’d just like to point out I am not in any way uncharitable. I am a misery at times, yes, but I am not trying to spoil anybody’s fun. Rather I am trying to stick to the principles I have held on to all of my life. And they are: to not be a sheep and to never be bullied or coerced into doing things I do not want to do or which go against my principles in any way.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the fact that ALS/MND has been highlighted and been given so much publicity is a truly great thing and I think the ice bucket thing was, at least to begin with, more unique than the “no make up selfie” thing for breast cancer awareness. It is also great so much money has been raised for this one cause.

Unfortunately it seems Macmillan (a massive UK based cancer charity) have hijacked the idea with “TextIce to… and so MNDA are not getting the funds maybe they could have from the efforts. MNDA is a much lesser known charity, in need of more exposure. I also read somewhere that the idea of the ice bucket was that it was iced to give the recipient’s body a similar shock to that of some one suffering from MND. I don’t know how true this is as other sites say the original ice bucket idea was promoted by certain cancer research charities. However…

As always with these things which go viral on the internet, there becomes a lost in translation element to them.

I was led to believe initially you donated or faced the ice bucket forfeit. (In itself a little bit of a bullying tactic if you ask me.) Anyway, that made sense. Sort of.

However quite quickly it seems the thing to do became to be soaked in water whilst been filmed of course as every charitable event these days seems to have some element of narcissm attached to it, and then also make your donation.

Er…so if you feel so strongly about this charity, why not just give a donation. Why have yourself filmed and covered in ice cold water?

I can’t help but note there has been a sudden upsurge in end of summer colds recently. Co-incidence?? Hmmmm.

Anyway, as I say, great. Lots of money and awareness raised for a good cause.

Will I be taking part if nominated?


Why not?

Because I’m scared of having iced water poured over my head? Haha! Don’t be ridiculous. (Oh and whilst I think of it, it is not “brave” to have it done, as I read on one feed. Just as it wasn’t brave to post a selfie with no make up on to your feed a few months back. Talk about first world problems.)

No, the reason I will not be taking part is I don’t feel the need to be yet another person sitting on a plastic chair in a poky back garden having someone pour water on me, just to give my mates a laugh. For that is what it has become. Pure and simple narcissistic voyeurism. I’d be just another ‘slacktivist’ adding to the social media clickety, click obsession. I can hear my critics now   “It’s only a bit of a laugh, don’t me miserable.” Oh ha, ha, ha. Yes, motor neuron disease is hilarious. Also it was funny the first two times I saw it but after 2 million I’m bored. It’s just become another thing for people to have one-up-man-ship on hasn’t it? Who can make theirs bigger, better, funnier? It has become, for the most part, a self congratulatory activity, focused on fun rather than with a focus on charity.

Granted, some have made me laugh and actually look on in awe. Some have caused a wry smile to creep over my face as some don’t bow to the online pressure of their friends and find an alternative. I hope the builder who had two buckets and then two diggers full of water poured over him had all his mates sponsor him for it and raise a load of cash. I know of others who have done it in name of publicising other lesser known charities and been original in that.

But mainly I see just ordinary folk have a little bucket of water chucked over them and they nominate their mates and then give £5. Job done, move on and we’ll talk about it down the pub later. Hahaha.

Then there are the people getting their small children in on it. Oh and I’m not talking about the child doing the pouring. No, I’m talking about the 2 year old girl who appeared on my FaceBook feed having a whole bucket of water poured over her head. Not slowly or delicately or anything either. A two year old has no idea what they are doing it for. Their consent is because they trust you as their parent. Kind of like a baptism into the church I suppose but with a different, but no less confusing moral significance. You then video it and shove it on You Tube or Facebook for a laugh, not because you care about people with muscle wasting diseases. It is tacky at best and a form of child abuse at worst. It was this, more than anything, which prompted my exit from Facebook and this blog post. I will return when the hoopla and circus is done.

These people then post “You have 24 hrs, lol!” onto the video. Like if you don’t do it within that time scale something dreadful will happen. Someone telling me that is, to my mind,  tantamount to bullying. So no, I will not be following the herd. Sorry, if I want to give to charity I will. I won’t be bullied into it. Not by my friends, not by anyone. It’s called living in a free society.

Oh and not to mention the ‘oh so hilarious’ waste of water this activity promotes. Irony then when there are adverts on TV asking for you to donate to Water Aid… I’ll say no more.

So will I be donating money instead?


And why not?

Simply put, I can’t afford it. Recently I have given quite a lot of money to charitable organisations which I have chosen to give to. Money donated to individuals who have stuck their neck out and done something more incredible than having their spouse pour water on their head. For example a 300 mile bike ride, jumping out of a plane when you have a massive fear of heights, climbing a mountain, or having all your hair shaved off. Just four examples I can think of recently. And yes, I shared links to these events and even, in a tongue and cheek way, tried encouraging my friends to give, especially to my brother’s recent epic bike ride for a local charity, but I wouldn’t ever expect people to if they didn’t want to. This new trend, like the no make up selfies and ice-bucket challenge, whereby we ‘nominate’ people to take part is, yes, harmless I suppose and does great things to raise awareness and cash, but I personally find them tasteless and, like I say, a little bit lost in translation. They become less about the charity and more about the “look at me” element.

Besides, if I gave money to every single charity who came knocking at my door for subscriptions, every single money box shook in my face whilst out and about, to everyone who did something for sponsorship or to any cause to go viral on Facebook, I’d become a charity case myself. I am not Patrick Stewart. (Nicely done by the way, sir), but I give spare cash wherever and when ever I can. To charities I feel in some way attached to, for whatever reason. This doesn’t mean I won’t ever give to the MNDA, I’m just not going to do it because I’m told to.

If you want to give to this particularly charity, great. Carry on. (But you don’t need to have water poured on you or be filmed doing so.) If you don’t want to give to MND/Macmillan/ALS why not just give your five pounds to a cause closer to your heart, rather than following the sheep, (as some I know have.) Or give to  both if you can afford it. Just a thought.

Here endeth the rant.

As you were. (That’ll be cold, wet and with an ice bucket on your head then.)







Filed under First post

A Child’s Grief.

We can never plan for the uncertainty of what life may throw in our direction. How one small incident can change the course of our day, our week, our life. Today something happened to my six year old little boy which affected him greatly. Something which, to an adult, would be insignificant and trivial, but for him altered the entire feel of his day.

After lunch we decided to take a walk down by the river which runs at the back of the housing estate on which we live. He took his scooter and, as ever the case when we leave the house, a toy from his room. (It’s a security, comfort thing he has always had since his move here.) Today he decided to take his fluffy duck/chick pencil case. He doesn’t use it as a pencil case, he uses it as a cuddly toy.

Anyway, as we left the house he popped it into his jeans pocket with the cute head poking out and set off down the street. He said to me: “Think of a name for Zip Chick” (as this has all it has ever been known as). I declined, saying whatever I named it, he would disagree with and name it something else anyway. He laughed and said I was right, and promptly announced he would name the chick “Barry” (after his favourite book character Barry Loser). I stifled a snortle but at that moment Barry the baby chick/duck pencil case was born.

We scooted/walked down the path, happily laughing, stopping every now and then to stroke baby Barry’s little tuft of white hair, before popping him back in the jeans’ pocket. Ominous black clouds were gathering in from the North West but the sunshine seemed to be winning through so we didn’t hurry and we headed further on down the path.

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After a few minutes we reached the part of the stream where you can cross some large, flat boulder type stepping stones. “Let’s see if there are any damsel flies around today,” little one says, and set down his scooter, ready to cross.

His legs are not yet long enough to stretch from stepping stone to stepping stone so I have to carry him to the other side, which I did. However, no sooner did I set him down when we both turned to face the stream only to behold the sight of Barry the baby chick/duck pencil case floating off downstream in the current.

You can only imagine the horror.

Now it’s not a deep stream at this time of year, but it is fast flowing and so I had no time to dive in and rescue Barry. So from there on in, I felt like a useless parent. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion, and I hate to admit this, but my first reaction (after saying “Oh no” out loud) was to laugh a little because the sight of this bright yellow fluffy duck pencil case floating away was momentarily quite funny and ironic. I couldn’t help think about how he was free in his natural environment and of course I tried this as a form of explanation for the tragedy later on.

However, all these thoughts disappeared at the realization that  little one was more distraught than I have ever seen him.

After the initial shock of seeing the lifeless body of the fluffy toy floating further and further from reach, the high pitched wails  of “noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” echoed around the open space over and over. The tears flowed and the grief cycle set into dramatic motion.

“I hope this is a dream,” the poor little distraught figure next to me howled, as I gently carried him back across the river. “Poor Baaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy, he neeeeeeeeeeeds meeeeeeeee. He’ll be lonely,” he sobbed over and over. “He’s only a baby. He doesn’t like water. Come back Baaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyy!” his little voice wailed, his arms outstretched towards the river.

We watched as Barry became a smaller and smaller yellow dot. M’s sobs continued coming in short sharp bursts.

I’ve mentioned before how useless I am when it comes to helping others deal with loss and grief. So I did the only thing I know to do. Hug him. It’s all I had. I told him to let it all out, though he needed little encouragement, such was the emotion of his grief at the loss. More hugs and kisses, as we sat down on the bench and let the reality of what had happened sink in. No words. We sat like that for a while.  Then came the only other thing I know to do: be practical.

“How about we walk along the rest of the river bank? Perhaps Barry has become caught in the reeds on the bank and there might be a chance to get him back?”

“I just want to go home,” M’s little sad face looked up, his heart so utterly broken.

“Okay, if that’s what you want to do, but we could try, you never know. There is never any harm in trying.”

“Okay, we’ll try. Poor Barry. He’ll be all wet and dirty,” lamented little one.

“Well if we do recover him, and I can’t promise we will, he can be washed.”

The other side of the river was impossible to navigate, as there was no way down to the bank for the overgrown nettles and high path. We crossed back over again and tried the opposite side to where Barry had floated towards. Sure enough we came to a clearing on the bank, and there, on the opposite side, caught in the reeds, lay Barry.

2014-08-22 13.49.36

The little yellow dot is Barry :(

The sobs started over again, as it dawned on little one, that there was no way we could reach Barry.

“At least we can say goodbye to him properly here,” I said.

“I don’t want tooooooooooo. Noooooooooooo! Poor Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyy.”

“It’s too deep here and too fast flowing for me to go in and get him,” I said. “Listen, how about when we get home, I’ll look on the internet and see if we can get a new one. It won’t bring Barry back, but it might help make you feel better.”

(Is this the right thing to do? I don’t know, but when someone you love is hurting so much, you do anything in your power to make that hurt go away.)

Sniffs and sobs continued, followed by a reluctant “Yes, okay.”

We turned from the river bank to head home as the clouds had  moved over head now. M turned to the river and whispered “Bye Barry,” before climbing back onto his scooter.

“I was going to cuddle him in bed tonight and now I can’t,” he said as we slowly and solemnly strolled back towards home, the summer shower beginning to plip-plop from the sky. “This was going to be the best day ever, but it’s just turned out to be horrible.” His solemness tore at my heart and I just let him talk it out.

As we sheltered from the sharp shower between two sycamore trees, he cheered a little. He found a stick and said he would keep it so as to keep him company in place of Barry. The thought of finding a new Barry on the internet, also helping to keep his mind focused on something else when we got home. As we walked up the grassy bank towards the house, he said “I will keep this stick as a reminder of this day, and of Barry.”

2014-08-22 13.57.59

Two hours on since the incident, he is still clearly sad. He has sat and watched the TV cuddled up to me, whilst I write this epitaph. Even sweets did little to lift his mood. Every now and then he mentions Barry again. Just a few moments ago he said again:  “I really just hope this day has all been a dream.”

Thankfully we have located a replacement Barry. He’s not exactly the same, but similar. He is yellow, has the same eyes and the same tuft of white hair. He has a larger beak and flippers, which Barry didn’t have. He has to come from the USA though, so the wait is a few weeks. He won’t replace Barry, but hopefully the new one will help to take away the pain a little and help M move on.

Today, although my initial reaction was to giggle and trivialise the incident, I had to think about how I would have felt if something precious to me had fallen in the stream and floated away, irretrievably. I had to recall being a child too. It also helped me to remember that loss of a toy for a child is the same as the loss an adult may face when losing a loved one, only on a micro scale. He’s been through the whole spectrum of grief this afternoon. He’s now just identified with one of the characters on a TV programme who has lost something.

“Oh, that’s like me with Barry today,” he so wisely reflected. He then said :”I’m so tired.”

And I thought about that. He has been through the equivalent of a few months grieving this afternoon. He’s had the shock, the anger, the denial, the bargaining, the depression but already he is coming to acceptance.

It’s been a lot of emotion to deal with for one small person in an afternoon.

Hell, it’s sent me on a learning curve as a parent too.


Filed under General Rambliings

The Human Zoo

I’m breaking both my new blog post rules today. First this has nothing to do with writing. Second; it’s a long one. Enjoy!

For those of you familiar with my blog, or me in any way, you will know I have a thing about the ever growing human population, its effect on the planet and so on and so forth. (See here and here for linked musings.)

I also have my theories on many aspects of human behaviour and why, as a ‘civilised’ society we really haven’t come as far as we think we have in terms of distancing ourselves from our base core as animals.

Sure, we are intelligent (though there are times I would argue our intelligence is our biggest downfall as a species.) Sure we don’t toilet ourselves out in the wild, unless we are on a camping holiday, up a mountain, in a traffic jam, or three years old. We like to think ourselves as above the rest of the animal kingdom because we have managed to survive and thrive for nearly a million years now (which is nothing given we’ll probably be extinct in another hundred if we carry on). We believe we are superior because we’ve developed a whole bunch of pretty much pointless technology (if you stop to think about it for half a second.) When I speak of humans in this way I speak of ‘Western’ societies and cultures, who yes, may be more ‘civilised’, whatever that means, but I have a theory that we as a species are not so far removed from our animal instincts as we like to believe, at least in one area of our behaviour.

And to make my point for this ramble I am going to refer you to the city of London (or any other sprawling metropolis you care to live near, or are familiar with.)

Some of you may not know this, but I have a little bit of an aversion to people. I don’t mean people as individuals, I know some very lovely people and I like company otherwise  get lonely. No, I am speaking more in terms of society, people en mass, as a concept: a Western society; a consumer, capitalist society; a modern society. We are a conceited animal and this bothers me as a member of the species and it seems to me that when people gather together en mass, for any reason whatsoever our animal instincts become all the more apparent and this hypocrisy that we are so high above other species bugs me, because we’re not. Not really.

Now, if I find myself in a crowd of people I can become quite claustrophobic, as I’m sure an awful lot of others can do too. If I spend time with a large group of friends, I retreat into myself more than I do if with only a few, and the introvert in me needs days alone to recover from the ordeal. In general I am not the most tolerant human of other humans. I will admit that. I don’t like it about myself, in fact I regularly beat myself up about it, because society deems I should be all loving, all caring, all embracing of my fellow man. However, I just cannot abide people en mass. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an evil, human hater, wishing ill on all who cross my path. I have developed the social skills I need and have a moral compass which wishes well and goodness to all, (okay, almost all.) I am polite, amiable, affable, conversational, kind, sensitive (not all at the same time I hasten to add), even in the face of extreme adversity. I tolerate the sometimes baffling behaviour of other humans because I realise I am not perfect and  I’m human and others tolerate my baffling idiosyncrasies so all’s fair. No, I am a grumpy, intolerant, snappy, boring, judgmental, selfish human too when I want to be. I have no illusions that others won’t find me irritating, rude,even obnoxious at times, but all this does not stop me absolutely detesting other humans when there are too many of them around. This I believe is pretty much a base animal instinct. Some of us simply control the uncomfortable feeling being around crowds of people better than others.

Here’s the thing which got me re-thinking this issue again.

Yesterday I visited London for the day. I have been to London before and always thought  what a hell hole it is. (Sorry if you love London as I realise many do, but uuurghh, it isn’t for me.)  I had, after years of not visiting, kind of forgotten how bad it was, but yesterday it all came flooding back.

Now I am no country bumpkin who simply hates cities from sheer ignorance. Quite the opposite. I was born and raised in England’s second city. No, not Manchester; Birmingham. I could also spend many a week wandering the streets of Edinburgh and I have always liked the times I have visited other UK cities. But, but, but…London is a different kettle of fish altogether. It isn’t that it is just  so much bigger, it is, at least it appears that the people there are just so, well, rude, for want of a better word. I know I am now going to get Londoners from all over say this is not so, but just hear me out as I don’t blame you. You see it’s probably not your fault.

In Britain we hold a theory that the further north you travel, the nicer folk are generally speaking. I wholeheartedly agree with this from my experiences and here’s my theory as to why this holds true.

Generally speaking, the further north and west you go in the UK, the less people there are. It’s that simple. The further South-East you go, the more there are.

I personally don’t believe human beings were designed to live in anything bigger than villages or small towns. I really don’t.

All that our ‘survival of the fittest, dominant species, transport linked, global community’ crap has done is encourage us to live in massive, overcrowded communities which, from what I see, only make us extremely miserable. Why else do we have a TV programme called “Escape To The Country?”

This misery of overpopulated communities I evidence every time I travel to London.

Take yesterday for example. I arrived at London Marylebone station mid morning. I felt calm and relaxed after a pleasant train trip down on a Chiltern train from The Midlands. The first thing I had to do was find toilet facilities, which I located quickly, only to discover I had to pay 30 pence for the privilege. (Yes, I had forgotten about this particular quirk of the  capital’s public restrooms.) I can only assume the reason there is a charge is, due to the sheer volume of people needing to use these facilities, the council, or whoever, have to ensure they are not been misused. The more people there are to mistreat them, the more need there is for a charge to deter ‘undesirables’. How depressing. Large communities cannot be trusted it seems. (Either that or the charge is to pay for the upkeep of the wonderful decor of a perspex Monopoly Board on the back wall – nice but pretty pointless use of public money when a short walk away, homeless people camp.)

Anyway, having no change, I hopped on over to the WHSmiths on the other side of the concourse and bought a flapjack for me and a KitKat for the little one. Whilst we were in the queue, getting in the way most likely, those ahead of us and around us were practically throwing their money down at the cashier before she even had a chance to see what they were buying. So in rush they were. Why is it people in London are always in a rush? Do Londoners have such bad time management skills that they never leave enough time to casually stroll into a train station and catch a train at a leisurely pace? I’m surprised there aren’t more dead bodies from heart attacks littering the place.

Anyway, I digress, again. The next job was to hit the tube. With a six year old. Now this wasn’t too bad in the morning but later on. Well. I’ll come to that shortly.

The first thing you notice about people travelling on the tube is the lack of eye contact anyone human will have with any other human and the air hanging heavy with suspicious minds. No one is relaxed. Hackles are up, eyes are alert to the surroundings but dead to other humans, ears pricked because everyone is a stranger and anyone can pose danger. The drunk, the mentally ill, the mugger. Any one of these people around you might have a bomb strapped to them, a gun in their pocket or a knife at their belt. You begin your day happy and relaxed, being the same old trusting self but after ten minutes on the underground you find yourself merging in with this suspicious, nervous menagerie of people. You know no-one. You trust no-one and survival in the metropolis jungle becomes your only concern.

This atmosphere of suspicion and fear leads to an almost eerie quietness throughout the underground which I find odd in a place so heaving with people. All that is heard is the clatter of heels on stairs, shuffling footsteps, suitcase wheels bouncing down escalators and the screech of the trains themselves. But there are no human voices. Or at least, very few.  This eerie quietness of a place packed with so many people is disconcerting and telling.  No one says please or thank you. No one smiles and this, I believe, is our animal instincts kicking in. All we are interested in is protecting our own space, and no one does that quite like the locals.

You can spot them a mile off.

They will be the ones marking their territory like a dog.

Heads held high, shoulders back, eyes forward, focused, running down/up the left hand side of the escalators, crossing the yellow safety line in a move no tourist would dare try. They don’t stop and consult underground maps, or falter at the barrier for their ticket, and they don’t care if you were next to the empty seat first. They are quicker than a whippet out of a trap when it comes to snatching that elusive seat as soon as the previous occupant has lifted their bottom from it. It’s quite a sight to behold. They must have been champions at every game of musical chairs when younger. In fact I wonder if Musical Chair Champion has to be a prerequisite of acquiring a job in London.

Then there were the two women in the queue for the escalator: “It’s busy isn’t it?” says one to the other “Oh yes” says the other one very pointedly:  “It’s the Museum Crowd isn’t it?” as though tourists were the scourge of their city, rather than part of it’s lifeblood. After which, they jump the queue as, of course, they have more right than we to be at the front. Some locals do speak, but generally only to mark their territory, show the tourists and outsiders who’s boss.

Once on the train, there spouted the word of a poncy young adult very loudly organising his trip to America with his friends. They were sat opposite him but  happened to have a can of squashed human sardines standing up, swaying backwards and forwards, between them. “Right, yah, my father lives in Floridaaah yah; he’ll let us know the cool places to stay…blah blah blah blah….. Yah, that’s the kinda vibe.” (The vibe? Who even speaks like that?)  “Oh we can pop down to Mexico from Floridaah yah?” Yes, because Florida to Mexico is akin to a trip through the Blackwall tunnel. Maybe it is if you have daddy’s private jet to borrow, who knows? Again, marking his territory. Subtext: “I don’t care I’m on a packed tube train. I’m quite comfortable with this because I do it all the time and I’m young, hip and happening. It doesn’t matter that everyone can hear me and that I’m basically talking at someone’s groin. I’m from London and I laugh in the face of the Tube crowds.” All I could think was “Tosser.”

See this is what being around people in crowds does to me. I become an intolerant, sarcastic cow.

Depressingly, other than this one individual, I saw not one smile on four different tube journeys. Not one. Not even his friends. If they were his friends.

Not that I blame people for not smiling. It’s hotter than hell on the underground and you’re surrounded by all manner of odd humans. Really odd. It’s like a pressure cooker. There is nothing much to smile about as people pour in and out of the doors like a can of coca cola that’s been shook up too much.

This however doesn’t account for the rudeness one encounters. The woman with the suitcase who thought it perfectly okay to barge her way thought the queue to the escalator for example. Seriously, what makes her better than me, the next person or the next? Though actually, again this rudeness, this abruptness of Londoners, I think, comes down to basic animal survival instincts. The aim is to get from one point to the next as quickly as possible, but there are all these other millions of humans trying to do the same. In conflicting directions most of the time. Then of course there are the bumbling tourists with their children strolling though the barriers to navigate. Shoulder barging seems the quickest and most effective form of communication it appears.

On top of it all, there is just simply the mad, fast paced rush of the entire place. Those who run up or down the left hand side of the escalator, because tube trains don’t run every three minutes. It’s like some sort of disease that people using the underground have. “Must not ever wait for a tube train: I must run and ensure I arrive just as it is pulling in, then jump on board, regardless of how many people are in it already. I couldn’t possibly wait for the next one.”

It is just an alien world to me. Humanity seems desperately lacking. No one surely likes it? Everyone is miserable and rude and intolerant of others and the worst thing is it is so easy to find yourself quickly getting sucked into the mentality of basic my ‘survival’ matters above all else. But instead of your survival being about avoiding the jaws of a Sabre toothed cat, it is being first to the train, to a seat, to your destination.

And it is all, to my mind completely pointless and unnecessary.

Those commuting on the tube are doing so for their jobs which earn them a wage to help them live in the most expensive city in Britain. And they rush about like blue arsed flies to do this. They do this so they can buy lots of stuff. All the stuff no one really actually needs. The stuff our intelligent, civilized, developed society tells us we need.

This is why I don’t like humans much and going to London in particular just brings it home to me more. I just can’t help but despair at our species when I am in large crowds, be that in a tube station, in a shopping center or even on social media. The constant rush and white noise of so much unimportant stuff. I reflect and can’t help but think: “Oh Good Lord there are just so, so, so many of us. Too many of us, clogging up the planet, destroying it with consumerism and planet wrecking stuff.” It scares me, truth be told.

And thus I just don’t think we are designed to live crowded together in big cities. It clearly makes us all hateful and miserable and intolerant. It is also why we generally only have a few close friends and family. Humans, like other animals are not, I believe,  designed to cope with too many other around. Too many other animals in the pack creates competition, suspicion and intolerance.

Humans, in this respect, despite all our intelligence, are no different to other animals. The main difference is that other animals live in herds which don’t go into the millions crammed into ridiculously small spaces.  Animals, when they have their territory threatened by other herds kill and maim other animals.  Out intelligence and humanity prevents us from this, to a certain degree, but tell me, why do you never hear of rioting in small Scottish coastal towns? Hmmmmm? I think the rudeness and utter misery conveyed by the majority of people I saw in London, especially on the underground, simply echoes this on a mini, repressed level. It only takes one small incident for the pressure cooker to blow.  We want/need to claim our territory, even if it’s just that tiny corner of the tube train and we’ll beat any one down if they try to get to it first. I saw it in queues for the toilets, queues in the museum, (crikey, I even felt myself ready to blow at the woman in the queue behind me who had no concept of personal space and continually bumped into my back).  I saw it as people jostled and vied for the best seats on the train home. It is the same in any environment where many people are gathered. If we are honest in these situations we, at best, tolerate our fellow humans. We don’t embrace and love them. As I’ve said before, we look out for ourselves, then our own tribe (family, close friends, those we have specially selected to be a part of our lives). We care very little for anyone else. We don’t have the capacity to.

We’re animals.

And to me, London is just one massive, human zoo.


NB all ramblings are my own opinions. Feel free to add yours in the comments box below and thanks as always for reading.


Filed under General Rambliings

99-Word Flash Fiction

One of my minor goals lately has been to attempt a piece of 99 word Flash Fiction. I didn’t want to force it and so I didn’t. However, when Story Bandit on Twitter (@storybandit) laid down a writing dare to write a piece of 99 word flash fiction, incorporating the words: bumpy, enthused, long-haul trucker and damning, a story sprang to mind immediately. I had a lot of fun teasing the words to get to 99. Oddly enough, I found it’s  much harder even than  writing the 140 character micro fiction pieces for Friday Phrases on Twitter. Anyhow, I hope I’ve managed to pull something off with this piece.

Thoughts always welcome from anyone who knows more about Flash Fiction than I do in the comments section. Thanks :)

Survival of the Fittest

We warn all motorists not to drive there, unless confident of their survival skills.’

Ed laughed at the damning magazine article describing ‘America’s Loneliest Road.’

Undeterred, enthused for the trip east, he took Highway 50 across Nevada.

It lived up to its name; desolate, bar the lone long-haul trucker who passed him near Austin.

Eventually, almost hypnotised by the monotonous procession of telegraph poles rising from expanses of bleached desert, and concerned upon reading ‘no services for 88 miles’, Ed headed for the bumpy, more scenic Pony Express Trail.

There the trucker waited in the sagebrush, ready to feed.


Filed under Writing